Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Mailbag

How much is a championship worth? With the recent movements in the NFL, I wonder what goes through a player's mind when he goes to a team that seems to have no chance at a title but is willing to pay him an extra few million dollars. We know what teams are looking for in a quarterback, but what is Peyton Manning, or any other elite free agent, looking for in a team? - Ben K., Slidell, LA
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You know I really think it depends on where a player is in his career. A guy in his prime might be more inclined to go after the big payday because he assumes he'll have plenty of time to get that title. However, an older guy who has never won or wants to win one more time might be more willing to sacrifice some money to play for a winning team. You see this a lot in basketball. Last year you saw Mike Bibby join up with the Miami Heat. Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown signed with Boston a couple years back... There are examples in every sport though.

Let's look specifically at Peyton Manning since he just apparently signed with the Denver Broncos. If I'm Manning this is what I'm looking at in terms of where I want to play football:

*Offensive line play. With all the neck surgeries, the last thing I'd want is to play for a team that gives up 5 or 6 sacks a game. The ability to protect the quarterback cannot be undervalued.

*Surrounding talent. At this stage in my career I am only playing because I want to win. I'm not going to sign on to play for a team like Cleveland that is a lot more than a good quarterback away from contending.

*Coaching/Front Office situation. I want to go into a stable situation where I have a good relationship with the coaches and the front office.

*Team philosophy. I want to go somewhere where my style of play will fit into the team concept. As a prolific passer I'm not looking to hand the ball off 40 times a game.

So how did Denver stack up?

O-Line: Well, they did allow over 40 sacks last year, but that was with Tim Tebow under center. Despite his mobility, Tebow was sacked a lot where a better quarterback may have been able to see a throw sooner.

Talent: You can argue that Denver isn't loaded in talent, but they did make the playoffs - albeit in a weak division - AND they won a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Apparently Denver has a free agency plan in place that they drew up in the event Manning signed with them. We'll see how all that comes together.

Front Office: Two words. John. Elway.

Philosophy: Obviously the Broncos aren't going to run the offense like they did with Tim Tebow. With that in mind, you'd expect Manning to get the freedom to run his style of offense.

All in all, I still think if I'm Manning I would've gone to San Francisco. Great defense, great tight end, decent receiver situation with Manningham, Moss and Crabtree, weak division... I dunno, maybe he thinks the road to the Super Bowl is easier going through the AFC. Maybe John Elway is a personal hero of his. Maybe his wife is an avid skier. Who knows. So I guess in summary, there's any number of factors, football related and otherwise, that affect these guys' decisions, and those of us on the outside may never really understand what exactly goes into making them.

Fantasy baseball draft next week!!! Who's looking hot? Also, don't misdirect me because we're in the same league and you want me to get a bad team. (Feel free to make fun of me for being so bold as to ask for advice from my competition.) I did a mock draft, and can't keep from getting so many Braves. I still pick them despite how terrible they're doing in spring training. Also, why are the Braves doing so poorly? I want to blame the players that are being "tried" since it's spring training, but the starters are playing and also doing terrible. Can spring training performance be used to determine how the season will go? - Bama Slammas, Lushbucket Baseball League
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Bold move, Bama. I suppose it's been a while since you've won the Lushbucket title (2005) so maybe I can give you SOME advice. Let's take a look at who's been hot this spring:

*Ryan Raburn - Detroit Tigers - Heading into play today, Raburn leads the majors this spring with 5 home runs and 16 runs batted in.

*Delmon Young - Detroit Tigers - Young has 14 hits in his first 27 at bats this spring (.519) with half of those hits going for extra bases.

*Lorenzo Cain - Kansas City Royals - One of the pieces in the Zack Greinke trade, Cain is 15 for 29 (.517) with 6 doubles and a pair of home runs.

*Dustin Ackley - Seattle Mariners - Ackley has ten hits this spring, but just one single. The young second baseman also has six doubles, two triples and a home run.

*Daniel Descalso - St. Louis Cardinals - Descalso is hitting .385 this spring and leads the majors with 10 walks.

*Adam Wainwright - St. Louis Cardinals - Back from Tommy John surgery, the former ace has tossed 9 innings this spring without allowing an earned run.

*Mike Minor - Atlanta Braves - Minor leads the majors this spring with 14 shutout innings over 4 starts.

*Wade LeBlanc - Miami Marlins - Opposing hitters are batting just .030 against LeBlanc this spring. 10 innings, 1 hit, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts.

Ultimately, I don't know how much you can really read into any of this though. Last year Jake Fox led the majors with 10 spring training home runs, and then went on to hit 2 in 61 at bats for the Orioles and spent a majority of the year in AAA. So use some discretion when evaluating the small sample size. Along those lines I wouldn't worry too much about your Braves. Unless you're looking at a guy who struggled last year and is still struggling this spring, I think you give the benefit of the doubt to past performance. Good luck in the draft this week, but be forewarned the Flying Cave Donkies are looking to get back to winning championships.

Ok, let's go ahead and talk about the 800lb gorilla in the room, "BountyGate". What are your thoughts about the whole situation and how bad could this screw up the Saints' chances of winning a Superbowl in their home stadium next year? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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For starters, let me be clear on one thing. I absolutely love the hard hitting aspect of football. I have no problem with guys getting excited over big hits. I'm not even upset about players getting rewarded for delivering big hits. For me this issue comes down to one thing: the Saints were (allegedly) rewarding players for injuring players on the opposing team. Whether it's putting bounties on player's heads, or giving a guy a bonus for sending an opposing player off on a stretcher, this stuff is deplorable, and it needs to be eliminated from the game. We wouldn't tolerate this in any other sport. Anyone remember Temple Basketball and 'The Goon Game'? Temple Head Coach John Chaney was suspended for the remainder of that season when that happened. Shoot, in the movie The Mighty Ducks, everyone knows that when Coach Reilly sends McGill into the game to take out Adam Banks that there was something morally wrong with that. Adding money on top of that just compounds the wrongdoing. So that's where I stand on that.
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Now whether or not this sort of thing is commonplace in the league or not, the commissioner has to come down hard, and how hard he comes down will impact how much this affects the Saints. It's really going to come down to whether or not any of the defensive players involved are dealt suspensions. Losing draft picks will hurt them in the long run, but playing short-handed hurts them right now. The NFC South is quickly becoming one of the league's most competitive divisions and the Saints 2012 schedule is far from a cakewalk. In addition to their divisional games the Saints play at Green Bay, at the Giants, at the Cowboys, and at the Broncos (who suddenly have Peyton Manning). AND they have tough home games against the Chargers, 49ers and Eagles. That's a lot of losable games. Given how much better New Orleans is at home than they are on the road, playing without some of their key defenders could greatly impact any hopes they have for homefield advantage in the NFC, which in turn could keep them out of the Super Bowl.

Herculez Gomez is on fire right now, scoring goals like it's nobody's business in Mexico. he's showing poise and creativity in front of goal, along with an extremely deft first touch. How long could it be before we see him back in a U.S. jersey, and what kind of impact could he have in his current form? - Cory L., Raceland, LA

I sure hope Jurgen Klinsmann is watching because this guy is red hot right now. Edson Buddle's recent benching in L.A. could result in him moving down on the National Team depth chart as well, so this would seem like a perfect opportunity for Gomez to swoop in and get a shot, no pun intended. If you haven't been following Gomez lately, the 29 year old Santos Laguna striker has scored in the last 5 matches he's played in tallying a total of 7 goals. Three of those came in two matches against the Seattle Sounders in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals. Say what you want about the quality of goals or opponents or what not, but you can't deny the fact that Herculez is getting the job done. With the U.S.'s lack of gifted finishers and capable 1v1 attackers, Gomez could be a great asset coming off the USA bench moving forward. Hopefully he gets an opportunity during the next round of friendlies to show what he can do.

Is it gonna take a miracle of biblical proportions for Cypriot-Side APOEL Nicosia to win the Champions League? I'm not really a fan, but I'm always up for a good underdog story. - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Wow. You're talking Miracle on Ice times like a billion. Not only do they have to get by Real Madrid, but then they could conceivably play Bayern Munich in the semifinals, and THEN they'd likely meet defending champion Barcelona in the finals. And this isn't like March Madness where you could steal a fluke win and advance. You have to outscore these powerhouses over TWO matches. Could Nicosia shock one of these teams once? Absolutely. Twice? Highly unlikely. Shock THREE of these teams twice? Put it this way. The former Miss South Carolina would have a better chance of finding Cyprus on a map than Nicosia has of winning the Champions League.

Diego Forlan is one of my favorite strikers. However, he seems to be not really suited to the kind of soccer that Inter plays. Where do you think would be a better fit for him and why? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Forlán replaced Samuel Eto'o at Inter in August and to say the results have been disappointing would be an understatement. He scored in his first goal in his debut on September 11th, but then didn't score again until March. That's like six months. Eto'o scored 37 goals and had 15 assists across all competitions a season ago. Forlán has two goals and one assist this year. That's not going to cut it. Especially when you consider that Inter isn't a 'don't worry, we'll get 'em next year' kind of team. Now I know there have been injury issues that have kept Forlán off the pitch, but the question remains as to whether or not he fits into Inter's system. There's also the fact that the Uruguayan striker will be 33 in May, and with younger options available he may not even be a fit for the club after this year. If that's the case, then what? My opinion? Three words. Major. League. Soccer. Ok, maybe not. Forlán is still good enough to catch on somewhere in Europe if that's what he desires. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go to a mid-level club, like a Fulham or PSG or something, somewhere where they could use a legitimate striker, but there's a little bit less pressure on him. One thing's for sure. With Inter sitting on 11 losses in 7th place in the Serie A, there are definitely going to be changes. 

Why do college players wear t-shirts under their jerseys? - Garrett M., Boston, MA
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I know you and I brainstormed this a bit the other day. Some of our better ideas:

*They don't want their mom and dad to see their tattoos.
*To hide back acne.
*To avoid chafed nipples.
*Hides the lack of muscles.
*Jerseys are too big.
*Economics. A 6-pack of t-shirts from Walmart is like $3.
*Limits opposing players' access to chest hair.
*Absorbs sweat better than jersey does keeping hands dry.
*Advertising. Hanes pays the bills.
*Sex appeal. Sometimes showing less skin is worth more.
*Some of the gyms are really, really cold.
*Longer sleeves go better with longer shorts.

Anyone out there know the real reason? Assuming of course that we didn't already nail it with one of our guesses.

Was Charles Barkley good at basketball? What made him effective? I don't remember him being super athletic even in his prime, but he was highly effective. - Garrett M., Boston, MA

Let's go to the video tape:

Charles Barkley was an absolute beast in his heyday. In 16 NBA seasons, he averaged at least 10 rebounds per game 15 times and is the shortest player in league history to lead the league in rebounding which he did during the 1986-87 season with 14.6 a game. Dwight Howard (14.9 rpg) is the only player this season averaging more rebounds than that.

A prolific and proficient scorer, Sir Charles shot 54% from the field including a ridiculous 60% during the 1989-90 season. He played in 11 All-Star Games, won an MVP, won two Gold Medals... He was even a good passer averaging nearly 4 assists a game over his career. The guy did it all.

So how did he do it? This guy was the ultimate mismatch. He was too strong for the smaller players to handle him and he was too quick for the bigger players to stay with him. He's kind of the shorter stockier version of the Ron Artest/LeBron James breed of athlete. So Barkley was like the Defensive Tackle to LeBron's Defensive End. The biggest difference with Barkley though is wherever he lacked in skill, he made up for it in desire. He said it himself in the video. No one worked harder than him.

So to make a long story short yes, the Round Mound of Rebound was good at basketball. To say anything less would be uncivilized.

Special thanks as always to everyone who wrote in this week. Also a big shoutout to G$ Meyer for the mailbag's new tagline: "Reading is for Winners, especially when you read Smitty's Mailbag." Got a question for the mailbag? Click on the link at the top of the page or email us directly at

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