Thursday, August 26, 2010

With divorce finalized, Tiger leading at The Barclays

Coincidence? I think not.

Anybody who expected Tiger Woods to return to the golf course and start dominating right away was out of their mind. If there's one thing that can mess with the head of a professional athlete, it's problems at home. And when those problems are as public as Woods' were? Forget about it.

We all know what transpired with Woods and his many, many mistresses and it's understandable that Elin would not want to try and work things out, whether she hit him with his own driver or not. I will say this about her: Good for her for not being like 90% of wives of professional athletes, who would have stayed with Tiger strictly for the ridiculous amount of money he makes. Good for her for not being a gold digger and stressing true love in a marriage over financial security. But I digress.

It took Tiger a few months to get back into the swing of things, but now with his divorce finalized he can focus more of his attention on the game he plays so well. With all these issues looming over his head, no wonder he couldn't shoot or putt straight. And I'm not saying that the issues between him and Elin are completely behind him. He still has his children to worry about, and that is a big concern.

But maybe this was exactly what Woods needed. A weight has been lifted off his shoulders and while that weight is unlikely to completely disappear anytime soon (or ever), it seems to have relaxed him enough to have his best round of the year.

It takes a lot of concentration to hit a tiny little golf ball 300+ yards and if your focus wavers at all, you won't hit the ball square or straight. If his concentration truly is back and he is able to begin to focus on the game again rather than the issues surrounding his personal life, Woods should be able to return to his perch atop the golf world very soon, if not this weekend.

Then maybe, just maybe, anything we hear in the future about Tiger Woods will have to do with golf and not how many women he cheated on the mother of his children with. And as sick as I am of hearing about his personal life, here I am writing about it. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mangold's class gets him contract before Revis

Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis were in similar boats this offseason. Both wanted new contracts; Mangold because he was entering the final year of his and Revis because he outperformed the $1 million he was set to make.

But they went about it in different ways and for once, it's nice to see somebody rewarded for being a team player. Unlike Revis, who is holding out and hasn't stepped on the field for the Jets this preseason, Mangold was a good soldier and reported to camp despite his contract issues.

Mangold obviously understood the high hopes this team has and knew that without arguably the NFL's best center at training camp it would be tough to develop chemistry along the offensive line, especially with the Jets introducing a new left guard to replace Pro Bowler Alan Faneca (either rookie Vladimir Ducasse or Matthew Slauson).

Mangold put the team first and as a result the team put him ahead of Revis in terms of getting a contract done. Mangold got his 7 years, $55 million and now it's time to see what the team does with Revis, whose ridiculous demands are starting to irk even his biggest fans (count me in that boat).

Everyone knows Revis has a lot of leverage in the situation, especially considering the performance of the Jets' secondary backups against the Giants nine days ago. Peyton Manning carved up the Jets secondary in the AFC Championship Game last season, leading New York to trade for Antonio Cromartie and draft Kyle Wilson to shore up those holes. But without Revis, those holes behind Cromartie and Wilson, namely Drew Coleman, still exist.

But maybe Revis should look in the mirror. The Jets aren't budging and the two sides are still far apart. The team is prepared to play the season without him, whether they like it or not. They seem to have moved on to paying the players who want to wear a Jets uniform, and rightfully so.

If Revis really wants to get paid, he will report to camp and start proving his undeniable worth on the field once again. That seems unlikely at this point, as it would be an admission that he was wrong to hold out and misjudged the leverage he thought he had.

With Mangold now signed, the Jets will likely turn their efforts toward middle linebacker David Harris, who is also in the final year of his contract. And as nice as it would be to get Revis back, I'm starting to realize it just may not happen. It's too bad he couldn't have taken the classy road like Mangold and Harris. Maybe then, the Jets brass would've stretched their budget to keep him around and fans could continue talk about a potential deep playoff run.

But for now, we sit and we wait to see which side budges first. My gut still believes Revis will play this season, but I've been wrong before and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if I was wrong again. I just don't want to be.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Clemens headed to jail instead of the Hall?

I would write about what I expect to happen in the season's final month and a half in terms of playoff scenarios, but I think the possibilities are few and far between. Texas and Minnesota are beginning to run away with the AL West and AL Central, respectively, while the Yankees and Rays should both make the playoffs while battling for the AL East crown. Booooooriiiiiing!

In the NL, the Padres are cruising atop the NL West while the Braves and Phillies battle in the East and the Reds and Cardinals in the Central. The Giants are in contention for the Wild Card as well, but I think Chase Utley's return and superior talent will get the Phillies into the playoffs, whether by winning the division or as the Wild Card. Reds-Cardinals should be interesting down the stretch but with only three games left against each other, it may be hard for St. Louis to gain 3.5 games on a good-looking Reds team with an easy schedule.

So now that I exhausted all I could write about how the playoffs might shape up, it's time to get to baseball's most recent criminal. I know people love to talk about the records Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez have and will put up in the midst of the steroid era and, while Bonds has never admitted using performance-enhancing drugs like A-Rod, neither of them hold a candle to Clemens right now.

Essentially, Clemens requested a congressional hearing in 2008 so that he could lie under oath about never using steroids or HGH. The irony in this is that Clemens could spend almost two years in prison if found guilty of perjury WHEN HE DIDN'T HAVE TO APPEAR IN FRONT OF CONGRESS IN THE FIRST PLACE! How stupid and arrogant can you be?

Everyone knows (or rightfully assumes) that Clemens used performance-enhancers. That doesn't mean he didn't have a great work ethic and train extremely hard in the weight room, but that can only go so far. Combined with steroids and/or HGH, a heavy workout routine produces even more drastic results, results that allowed Clemens to make millions upon millions of dollars when most pitchers' careers would've been over.

Now I ask, was it worth it? Most people would say yes because, let's face it, very few of us get the opportunity to make the kind of money Clemens made by prolonging his career with performance-enhancing drugs. And even if he has to spend 15-21 months in prison, that money will still be there when he gets out.

But was it worth it in terms of Clemens' legacy in baseball? If he is found guilty of perjury, he can kiss the Hall of Fame goodbye. Some players from the steroid era will inevitably make the Hall, but one who perjured himself under oath at a congressional meeting that he himself requested will not be one of them. His talent is unquestionable and without this dark cloud he would be a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. But that's a lot to remove from the equation.

The sad thing is, there's nothing Clemens can really do at this point to salvage his image or his Hall of Fame credentials. The hole has been dug too deep and his vehement denials in the face of damning evidence presented by former trainer Brian McNamee's side prove that Clemens' arrogance has once again gotten the best of him.

Many people have always disliked Clemens for being a headhunter. Mike Piazza wouldn't disagree, especially after Clemens flung a broken bat in his direction in 2000, just three months after Clemens hit him in the head with a pitch. This turn of events will only do more damage to the public perception of Clemens, and rightfully so.

This situation shows more about the character of Clemens than anything he ever did on the field, good or bad. While players like Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte (a friend of Clemens) have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs and at least have a modicum of respect from the public for their candid admissions, Clemens does not. And if he's found guilty of perjury, which I think he will be, he will lose whatever backers he still may have at this point. I'm just not sure it matters either way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In terms of NY, Carmelo > LeBron

By no means am I saying Carmelo Anthony is a better basketball player than LeBron James. To say that would be to misconstrue the title of this post.

But what I am saying is that there is a very realistic chance that Carmelo, who NBA sources say will leave Denver after this season (or earlier), is interested in playing in New York. A much more realistic chance than the Knicks ever had of landing LeBron. Everybody knows how I felt about that from the start.

Now not all of this is based on Chris Paul's toast to a "Big Three" including himself, Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire at Anthony's wedding. But it certainly doesn't hurt.

Anthony went to college at Syracuse, granted for just one season, but he also grew up in Baltimore and has plenty of ties to the eastern seaboard. I know the Hornets just traded Darren Collison, which makes it even more difficult for them to handle the loss of Paul to another team, but even without Paul I think Anthony is intrigued by the Knicks.

The only real issue I see that could block this from happening would be the Knicks' glut of small forwards. Danilo Gallinari, while able to play shooting guard, is a better fit at small forward defensively as is Wilson Chandler, who doesn't have the post game to be a power forward or the jump shot for shooting guard. The Knicks would need to get rid of one of those players if Anthony came on board or have multiple players playing out of position.

The other question is how Melo would end up in the Big Apple. It's doubtful that the Nuggets, who recognize they will most likely not be able to keep Anthony, will let him go to free agency and receive nothing in return. This means a trade is the most likely scenario and any deal with the Knicks would most likely include Gallinari, eliminating the overcrowding issues at small forward.

But what else would the Knicks have to move besides Gallinari? They don't have a first-round pick in 2012 (unless it's in the top five) and will most likely be swapping their 2011 pick with Houston thanks to the Tracy McGrady trade, so the best pick the Knicks could offer would be a 2013 first-round pick, which seems too far away to be legitimately discussed.

That leaves other players who may need to be involved. Chandler is a definite possibility, as he would find himself out of position in any scenario with him and Anthony on the court. Toney Douglas is also a possibility, but the Knicks don't have much in the way of young talent outside of those three players (sorry, Andy Rautins) to get a deal done.

There is still much to be written about the possible arrival of Carmelo in New York, but it remains a realistic possibility that could help the Knicks at least reach the playoffs, if not make some noise once they get there. But without Paul joining Anthony and Stoudemire, I can't see them competing with the Heat in the East. Or even the Magic or Bulls.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jets look good despite 31-16 loss, absence of Revis

Darrelle who? That's the message the Jets defense was looking to send heading into their preseason opener with the Giants, and they were able to do just that.

The Giants managed just 73 total yards on six first-half drives, 67 of those coming on the team's fourth drive of the game that led to a field goal. The Jets brought pressure from all angles and didn't stray from the defensive strategy that served them well last season.

A major reason the Jets were able to keep the pressure on without the presence of Revis was the play of offseason acquisition Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie did his best Revis impression locking down Giants receivers and showed that he's serious about regaining his 2007 Pro Bowl form.

The Jets were able to prove that their defense won't completely fall apart without Revis, although the Giants don't have a true number-one receiver (Hakeem Nicks isn't there yet) who would likely dominate Cromartie. But the way the ex-Charger played last night will only make the Jets defense more dangerous if they can sign Revis.

Offensively, Mark Sanchez was intercepted on his first pass from scrimmage, a far cry from his first pass of last preseason which went for a 50-yard completion. But as Ron Jaworski said on the Monday Night Football broadcast, the second-year quarterback showed great "amnesia" the rest of the way, completing 13-of-16 passes for 119 yards and a short touchdown to Brad Smith.

Sanchez made some nice throws to the sideline, effectively used his eyes to move the Giants safeties away from his intended targets and checked down when nothing was open downfield, using another new acquisition, LaDainian Tomlinson, as a safety valve offensively.

Officially, Tomlinson had one reception for 14 yards on a third-and-13 to give the Jets a first down deep in Giants territory. LT showed good burst after the catch to keep Terrell Thomas at bay and reach the first-down marker. He ran for just 17 yards on 8 carries, but most of the rushing duties this season should go to Shonn Greene.

Greene ran for 26 yards on 5 carries and looked like an absolute bull, dragging tacklers and falling forward into defensive backs who couldn't stand him up, but rather had to catch him to bring him down to the ground. If he doesn't get 20 carries every game compared to 5-10 for Tomlinson, the Jets are crazy. This kid is the future of this backfield and is a younger, quicker, more powerful version of Thomas Jones. If he stays healthy, I'm thinking at least 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Jets' third big off-season acquisition, receiver Santonio Holmes, also made an impression. He saw lots of snaps since he won't be allowed near the team for the season's first four weeks, but showed the game-breaking ability the Jets haven't had since Santana Moss left.

Braylon Edwards is a great downfield threat who can make plays after the catch, but the stats show he catches less than 50 percent of the passes thrown his way. Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery catch around 60 percent, but Holmes has the big-play ability that Cotchery doesnt. Once he returns from suspension and develops chemistry with Sanchez, he should be the Jets' best receiver. And for only a fifth-round pick? What a steal.

Now I don't care much about the Giants, but Victor Cruz was the UMass rookie to talk about on this night (not Jets' guard Vladimir Ducasse). Cruz had 3 second-half touchdown catches, including one he caught one-handed around a defender. He also made a great play on a fade ball, jumping to grab the ball at its highest point while the defender's momentum took him past Cruz.

This kid deserves more work with the first- and second-team in the coming preseason weeks to see if he deserves a roster spot. He's in great company, as the last receiver to catch 3 touchdowns in a preseason game was potential Hall of Famer Terrell Owens.

And one more quick Giants note. After the game, Brandon Jacobs said their 31-16 victory proved who the kings of New York football were. Last I checked, the Jets won the game when the starters were in and if it weren't for some no-name undrafted rookie named Cruz dominating the Jets' secondary backups, the Giants would not have won.

Jacobs should stop talking and let his play on the field do it for him. Of course, when you run for just 2 yards on 4 carries and need three tries to punch in a touchdown from the one-yard-line, your play doesn't say much of anything. Ahmad Bradshaw showed more on his 51-yard reception than Jacobs did all game, and I think Bradshaw will be the most dynamic running back on the Giants' roster this season, barring good health.

There is still a 16-game season to be played but for now, despite the results of the game, anybody who knows football can see the Jets were the better team on this day (in terms of the players that will actually see the field during the season) without arguably their best player on the field. Jacobs is lucky the Giants won't face the Jets again this season, because I think Bart Scott, David Harris and company would humble him pretty quickly.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Revis vs. the Jets: Who's right?

The Darrelle Revis contract situation has been the biggest story of training camp so far, and with good reason. When the best player on one of the league's best teams (at least on paper) is out of the lineup with just a month to go until the regular-season opener, it's a big deal.

Jets owner Woody Johnson was recently quoted as saying he didn't expect Revis to play this season and coach Rex Ryan said the team would be fine without him. While Johnson's statement seems to have some truth to it at the moment, Ryan's stance is beyond absurd.

Ryan has already made a name for himself through previous blasphemy (because we all know the Jets really were the team to beat in last year's AFC playoffs, right?). But saying that the Jets would be fine without their best player is laughable.

Without Revis, the Jets' top corner would be the recently-acquired Antonio Cromartie. The same Antonio Cromartie who has struggled against some of the league's top wide receivers since his Pro Bowl 2007 season. That would leave second-year player Dwight Lowery and rookie Kyle Wilson to battle for the second corner spot and a position of strength for the Jets would turn to one of weakness rather quickly.

In the season's first three weeks, the Jets will face the Ravens, Patriots and Dolphins, all teams with legitimate number-one receivers (Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall). They also get Sisdney Rice and the Vikings, Greg Jennings and the Packers, Calvin Johnson and the Lions, Andre Johnson and the Texans and Chad Ochocinco (or Terrell Owens) and the Bengals, not to mention Moss and Marshall one more time for good measure.

We all know the Jets love to bring the blitz and force opposing quarterback into quick decisions. With Revis manning down what has become known as "Revis Island," quarterbacks who would normally look to their top target in the face of quick pressure have to find another option, because no receiver has proven they can consistently get open against Revis in 3-4 seconds.

Without Revis, the Jets' all-out blitzing packages become significantly less effective. The team would go from having arguably the league's best defense to one that sits barely inside the top 10 at best. New York simply doesn't have the defensive line to pressure the quarterback without blitzing multiple players from their back eight.

But the real question in this situation is: Who's right? What better way to look at it than by taking both sides.

The Jets side:
New York is offering Revis a 10-year, $120 million deal, about $40 million less than Revis and his agent are demanding. Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history, makes $15.5 million per season. Asomugha is an excellent player and one of the league's top 3-5 cornerbacks, but last season Revis was head-and-shoulders ahead of everyone else as a pure cover corner.

But Asomugha got paid by Al Davis, whose questionable decision-making in recent seasons has helped run the Raiders once-proud franchise into the ground. The Jets are run by people with brains, and their brains tell them that Revis is not worth $16 million per season, no matter how good he is. Not with players like Nick Mangold and David Harris entering the final seasons of their contracts.

The Jets feel Asomugha is overpaid and don't want to make the same mistake with Revis. Just because one idiot owner is willing to overpay a great corner doesn't mean the Jets have to.

Revis' side:
The arguments in favor of Revis are obvious. He's the game's best young corner whose breakout season in 2009 was the most important factor behind the Jets surge to the AFC Championship Game. He is a better player than Asomugha not to mention younger, meaning he deserves more money, right?

Revis also wants to get paid before the potential 2011 lockout and a new collective bargaining agreement, which will undoubtedly result in lower salaries for players across the board, particularly rookies.

Regardless of how ludicrous the demands of the Revis camp may seem, THEY HAVE ALL THE LEVERAGE. The Jets need Revis much more than Revis needs the Jets. If he sits out the season and finds his way into a different uniform, some owner will be glad to shell out $15+ million to get Revis. And without Revis this season, the Jets are the third-best team in their own division rather than the potential frontrunner.

My take:
To steal a quote from the character KGB in the movie "Rounders," PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY! Every owner's goal is to win a championship and many believe the Jets are one of the prime contenders to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl and possibly take home the hardware. But if that championship goal is to be realized, Revis needs to be on the field. Otherwise, the Jets are a 9-7 team at best that will be surpassed by the Patriots and Dolphins.

The demands may be slightly ridiculous, but Jets fans and management can thank Davis for that. When he threw $15.5 million Asomugha's way, he set a terrible precedent for elite cornerbacks in the league. Listening to what the Jets brass has to say (i.e. bashing Revis, saying they don't need him, etc.) just proves that they know how important he is to this team. They know they have little leverage in the situation, but they're trying their best to get Revis back to the team on their terms.

News flash: That's not going to happen. Pay Revis what he wants, pay Mangold as well (good centers are hard to come by) and let Harris go to free agency. Young, ball-hawking linebackers are easier to find than franchise cornerbacks. And once you pay Revis, enjoy the ride this season because it will be a fun one. But without Revis at home on his island, nobody will be celebrating anything in New York this season.