Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tsuyoshi Nishioka: Good or Bad Move?



When the off-season began, I mentioned via Twitter that I had hoped the Twins would target a specific Japanese middle infielder to fill their second base hole. Unfortunately, my preference was Hiroyuki Nakajima, who from 2005-2009 had posted OPS' of .849, .801, .937 and .891. His Japanese team decided not to post him, though, and he wasn't available this off-season. The Twins did however win the bidding for a different Japanese middle infielder, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. For the sake of easiness, I'm going to be calling him Yoshi for the rest of the time I write about him.

From 2005-2009, Yoshi posted OPS' of .748, .759, .820 and .787. Last season, though, Yoshi had a breakout year in which he hit .346/.423/.482 and became the first player since Ichiro to finish with over 200 hits in a season. The Japanese season is only 144 games, so Yoshi's 209 hits are impressive any way you slice it. However, early signs seem to suggest that Nishioka was more lucky than good last year, as he hit an amazing .399 on balls in play. Someone with great speed and slap-hitting ability, like Ichiro, will often have a very high average on balls in play. But unfortunately Yoshi doesn't appear to have the same lightening quick speed as Ichiro, as he was only successful on about 70% of his steal attempts while in Japan over his career. That's not all that impressive, and it should be even worse playing with better players in the United States.

Also, while those OPS' look solid compared to middle infielders in the states, the fact is they can be expected to take a pretty big drop off when he arrives here and faces better competition. Both Akinori Iwamura and Kaz Matsui were elite power hitters in Japan before coming to play over here, and their power disappeared. The fact that Yoshi has never even had power in Japan is worrisome, and there's at least a chance that he never has even a decent season with the bat. An OPS approaching .700 next season would be a best-case scenario in my opinion, but I hope I'm wrong and he's much, much better.

The Twins have been predicted to sign Yoshi for anywhere between $9 and $18MM total over three years, and I think it will be much closer to if not exactly $9MM. That would put the Twins financial commitment at $14MM over three years, or just under the $5MM Orlando Hudson made last year. If the team is planning on moving Yoshi to second base and having him replace Hudson, I like the move. I don't think he's going to be a superstar or even an all-star caliber player, but he should be at least a good defensive second baseman and if he can hit .275/.335/.345 he'll be worth the money and still likely an upgrade over what Alexi Casilla would provide next season.

The Twins however are apparently at least considering leaving Yoshi at shortstop, and then trading JJ Hardy to save money and give Alexi Casilla the starting second base job. I already explained in great detail why Hardy is actually a bargain at $7MM and if he stays healthy next season he could be a top three shortstop in baseball. Replacing that with a relatively unknown middle infielder who's impressive 2010 season in Japan looks more like a fluke than anything would be a huge mistake for a team hoping to win yet another division title and hopefully avoid being swept in the playoffs again.

If the team keeps Hardy, uses Yoshi at second, and Casilla as a utility man, I'm on board with the move. If the team uses Yoshi at short, Casilla at second and trades Hardy for bullpen help or prospects, I will consider the signing a colossal mistake. Here's to hoping the Twins keep Hardy around and use Casilla where he's best suited, in a utility role. That would also keep Matt Tolbert off the roster, which is nothing but a good thing. We should know within the next week or two just how the middle infield will look in the spring, so count me among those who hopes the Twins keep Hardy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bullet Points: Victor, J Upton & Jeter



The Detroit Tigers agreed to a four year, $50MM contract with Victor Martinez yesterday.
  • If the Tigers plan to play Martinez almost exclusively at catcher, the deal is a steal. Martinez hit .303/.381/.480 in 2009 and followed that up with a .302/.351/.493 season in 2010. For comparison's sake, Mauer's career line of .327/.407/.481 is close to Martinez's last two seasons offensively. Mauer is entering year one of an eight-year, $184MM contract. Of course, Mauer is leaps and bounds better than Victor defensively and has actually been quite a bit healthier over the last several years. 
  • Martinez would be a huge upgrade offensively over Gerald Laird (.207/.263/.304 last year) and Alex Avila (.228/.316/.340), although Laird is probably the best defensive catcher in baseball. Detroit is expected to continue to platoon Avila and Laird, while giving Martinez maybe 15 starts at catcher with almost all the rest of his starts coming as a designated hitter because of Martinez's lack of defense at the catcher position. 
  • Detroit got only a .259/.341/.373 line out of the DH position last year, so even if Martinez doesn't improve upon his season from a year ago his .302/.351/.493 line would be a major upgrade offensively with zero risk on the defensive side since, obviously, the DH doesn't play defense. However, with several aging, very good hitters on the market, the Tigers could have potentially signed someone like Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero or even Jim Thome to DH while giving Martinez most of the starts at catcher. As a Twins fan, it's tough to see such a good player like Martinez sign with the Tigers, but hearing they plan on using him almost exclusively at DH softens the blow.
  • Regardless, getting Victor Martinez for four years and just over $12MM per year is a steal, and his poor defense undoubtedly cost him a chance to probably double his money. The Tigers will benefit quite a bit from this signing, hopefully not enough to surpass our Twins anytime soon though.


The Arizona Diamondbacks are apparently willing to trade 23-year-old superstar Justin Upton, although they reportedly need to "clearly win the trade." (And just ignore the fact that the Twitter link has Jon Heyman calling Upton a 21-year-old. It's not like he covers baseball for a living. Oh wait.)
  • This is why it's extremely dangerous to give a new GM only a two-year contract. Kevin Towers knows if he doesn't win in the next two years, or at least show substantial progress, he'll need another job. Arizona likely won't bring back Brandon Webb, who's been hurt for almost two years anyways, and they have several gaping holes to fill. The only way this team may contend soon is if they trade Upton for solid young players AND one or two proven, above-average veterans. So Towers is pushing his best asset to the middle of the table and hoping he gets an offer he can't refuse. I think it will be a mistake if they trade him.
  • As a 21-year-old in 2009, Upton hit .300/.366/.532, adding 26 home runs and 20 steals. Just because he's young doesn't mean he's necessarily going to improve over the next four years, and he's undoubtedly only available because he regressed slightly this past season. However, even if Upton just matches his 2009 season, he's a legitimate 5-tool star and he's signed to a team-friendly contract that will pay him $51MM over the next four years.
  • Can the Twins make an offer for Upton that would be considered? I don't think so. Arizona likely would prefer a solid mid-rotation starter, which I think the Twins could part with in Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn or Kevin Slowey. However, that would be just a starting point. I think the Twins would need to offer something like Kevin Slowey, Denard Span, One of Aaron Hicks or Kyle Gibson, and probably a slightly lower tier prospect like Ben Revere. That's an awful lot to give up for one player, and even then I'm not sure Arizona wouldn't receive a better offer. Sorry, Twins fans, I think we need to cross Justin Upton off of our Christmas lists.


The Yankees have reportedly offered Derek Jeter a 3-year, $45MM contract, but Jeter and his agent are looking for "more money and more years." Brian Cashman apparently has told Jeter to test the market.
  • This is getting ridiculous. Jeter is likely looking for something like 5 years and $100MM, but that's outrageous. Despite winning yet another gold glove this year, Jeter remains a below average defensive shortstop according to every defensive statistic there is, as well as scouts who continue to watch him play. He wins gold gloves because he's highly respected by the players and coaches who vote for them.
  • I love Jeter. He's certainly one of my favorite athletes in sports, but the facts are the facts. He's coming off the worst season of his career, hitting just .270/.340/.370. (JJ Hardy had a better OPS, although in less games, for comparison's sake.) He'll be 37 years old for the 2011 season. The argument that 2010 was "just an off year for him" is silly in my opinion, because if anything 2009 would seem to be the outlier over the last three years. As a 35-year-old Jeter in 2008 hit just .300/.363/.408, and at the time his .771 OPS was his worst since his 15 game cup of coffee as a rookie in 1995. He bounced back with a very good .334/.406/.465 season in 2009, before really falling off this year.
  • There's only one team that may give Jeter more than $15MM a year for three years. The Boston Red Sox. I don't think they will, because Jeter is clearly declining and Boston definitely doesn't want to pay a .250 hitter with no power $20MM a year or close to it when he's 40 years old. However, with Beltre unlikely to re-sign there, they will need a third baseman. If they offered Jeter something like 4 years and $68MM, I think Jeter would seriously consider it. If nothing else, the Yankees would match the contract, and Boston would now have forced their biggest rival to pay an extra $20-25MM to a declining player.
  • Ultimately, I think Jeter re-signs in New York for something like three years and $50MM. The Yankees have the deepest pockets in baseball, and even if Jeter continues to decline, he's worth $17MM a year to that franchise on name recognition alone. These negotiations might get messy, but like everyone else, I'd be shocked if Jeter wasn't a Yankee on opening day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Childress Firing Creating False Optimism



Viking fans have been rejoicing all day upon hearing the news that Brad Childress has been relieved of his duties as the team's head coach. As fans we grew tired of Childress because the team has terribly underachieved this year, Childress seems to have absolutely terrible people skills, and most of the players reportedly had no respect for him. Naturally, I was happy to hear the team had gotten rid of Childress. There's no doubting he had worn out his welcome here, and after getting embarrassed 31-3 on Sunday Vikings owner Zygi Wilf had little choice but to fire Childress. It was absolutely the right choice.

But just because it was the right decision at this time doesn't mean it's going to benefit the team in the future. First, and foremost, the Vikings need a franchise QB. The only realistic way they will get that franchise QB is if they continue to lose games at a high-rate, to put them in the best position to land a high draft pick and use that pick on a highly regarded rookie QB. Every game the Vikings win will obviously lower their chances to land this potential franchise QB. There's no doubt the team has looked terrible under Childress pretty much all season, and that certainly wasn't going to change over the next six games if he remained head coach. So, oddly enough, the Vikings have now given themselves a better chance to win, but considering the team is all but mathematically eliminated, winning now isn't what this team needs to contend next season and into the future.

Second, I don't think Leslie Frazier is the answer. He's been hyped and hyped over the last several years as a future head coach, but despite getting seven interviews for head coaching vacancies in the last few years, he was never chosen. However, he's in a very good position to look good auditioning for this job for the rest of the season. The team's schedule is fairly weak for the rest of the year. I think the team will play very well this week against Washington, because first of all Washington isn't good and secondly the team will come out with energy thanks to the ouster of Childress just like the Cowboys did a few weeks ago. This is going to cause some issues for the organization; if the Vikings go 3-3 under Frazier, losing to likely playoff-bound Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, the decision to replace him shouldn't be all that difficult. However, if the team beats Washington, Buffalo and Detroit, along with pulling off one or two upsets, the decision will be a lot tougher. I'm hoping Zygi is targeting Jon Gruden or a similar big name coach to take over after the season, but if Frazier leads this team to a 4-2 or 5-1 record against a watered down schedule, I find it hard to believe he'd let Frazier go.

Fans always talk about what a great coach Mike Tomlin is. That's true. However, these same people tend to think that because Tomlin is both black and a former Vikings defensive coordinator that Leslie Frazier is going to be just as successful. Frazier may end up being a great coach, but he also may end up being terrible. If Childress deserved to be fired because the team has played poorly, it seems silly that Leslie Frazier was promoted to replace him when the defense hasn't been very good either. Frazier deserves criticism for a defense that has vastly underperformed, and I doubt he's going to be a successful head coach in this league. If the Vikings retain him after this year, I hope I'm wrong and he becomes a good coach. His track record though seems to suggest that he's not going to be the kind of coach this team needs to become a good team again in the near future.

Lastly, Leslie Frazier is committed to Brett Favre. Frazier already said today Favre was going to be his starting quarterback, which is bad news for Vikings fans. The team needs to start looking towards the future. Favre will retire at season's end, if not sooner, and with the season all but over, it's time to see if Tarvaris Jackson could be the starter next year. He's a free agent to be, and if the team was able to start him for the last six games they would have a good idea if he would be capable of starting for this team next season. With Frazier convinced Favre gives the team the best chance to win (I disagree) he's going to continue to start Favre because he's auditioning for the team's head coaching job into the future. Favre has been terrible, and replacing him now is what would be best for the organization; unfortunately, as long as Frazier is running the ship and Favre is on the roster, that won't be the case.

The firing of Childress has created a false optimism among us fans. We are excited that our least favorite person in sports is no longer connected to one of our favorite teams; who can blame us? However, we need to realize as fans that this team has a long ways to go to actually get back to the level they were at even last year, and replacing Childress with Frazier at this point in the season may actually hurt this team more in the future than it helps. Not because Childress was going to lead this team anywhere, but because now the team may choose to keep Frazier around next season as the head coach. They also will spend the majority or all of the season watching Brett Favre play without getting even a glimpse at Tarvaris Jackson or Joe Webb. And, of course, they will probably win more games now under Frazier than they would have under Childress, costing them a franchise QB. Sometimes, what we want as fans and what is absolutely the right decision at the time, is not the answer for the future of the team. Unfortunately, this looks like it's going to end up being one of those cases.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Michael Vick


On Monday night, Eagles QB Mike Vick had one of the greatest games in NFL History. He threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 80 yards and another two touchdowns. Vick had over 400 yards of total offense and SIX touchdowns, an amazing game by any player under any circumstances. However, Vick's performance was even more eye-opening than usual, because of his checkered past both on and off the field.

Vick's performance this season has been a pleasure to watch; there's no doubting that. He's finally learning how to go through his progressions, remain patient in the pocket, and he seems to make at least one or two huge plays every game. If he can continue to stay healthy he's the favorite to win the NFL MVP Award, and that would truly be an amazing turn around from where this guy was two years ago.

We all know the story. Vick was caught running an illegal dog-fighting operation at one of his homes in Virginia. He admitted to killing innocent dogs, sometimes because they were too hurt after a fight, and other times simply because they lost. No matter how many great things Vick does from this point forward, on or off the field, it's impossible to just look past the fact that Vick got joy and entertainment out of killing of innocent animals.

Personally, I think Vick simply surrounded himself with the wrong people, and he grew up in a culture that most of us can't believe. Vick was never truly taught what was right and wrong. That's not an excuse, because someone shouldn't have to tell a person that fighting and killing innocent dogs is wrong. It's a terrible thing, and anyone who thinks otherwise is flat out stupid.

I've seen a lot of people over the last two days talking about Vick; everyone seems to be jumping back on the bandwagon. That's not surprising at all, and in my opinion there's nothing wrong with it. Vick appears to be a changed person. He's talking to youths all across the country about the negative effects of his decisions, and while the message is clearly to avoid animal cruelty, he's teaching these kids that every poor decision they make will have consequences no matter who they are. Vick lost a $100MM contract, was forced to file for bankruptcy, and spent nearly two years during what should have been the prime of his career in jail. As far as poor decisions having consequences go, Vick's poor decision couldn't have cost him more aside from his life.

What bothers me is the people who say they've 'always been a Vick fan.' Look, the guy is a joy to watch on the field this year. He's as quick as ever, and he can make anyone miss in the open field. His throw on Monday night to open the game to DeSean Jackson was a thing of beauty, and the rest of the night wasn't much different. He appears to have finally reached his potential, as a 30-year-old who has been through more than he needed to be. Anyone that remained a loyal Vick fan while he was on trial, or in jail, should be ashamed. Imagine if Vick had killed your dog? The dogs they rescued were so scared of human interaction that several of them had to be put down because they were deemed incurable. It's terribly sad to think of these poor innocent dogs being electrocuted or drowned because they either lost a fight or refused to fight. Anyone that can be a fan of someone during that time isn't loyal; they're obsessed and not in a good way.

Look, Vick served his time and he lost more money than I'll probably ever make in my lifetime. Going to jail seems like the best thing that could have happened to Mike Vick the football player, because now he understands just how blessed he is. He's working harder, listening to his coaches, and the results are eye-opening. He's been the best player in football this year when healthy and the Eagles are a legitimate Super Bowl contender as long as Vick is behind center.

He absolutely deserved a second chance. I believe everyone does, and it does seem that Vick is in fact a completely different person. He understands what he did was terrible, and when he thinks about all the stuff he lost, he knows how dumb it was. I'm rooting for Vick to make it all the way back, to win the NFL MVP Award, and take the Eagles to a place Donovan McNabb never could. I love watching Vick, and when he's been interviewed this year he comes off as humble and as someone who finally gets it. There aren't many stories that are more inspirational than someone who loses everything battling his way back to the top; the fact that Vick is doing it with such flare and humility makes it that much better to watch.

However, I will never fully be a Michael Vick fan. I've gone from despising him to putting up with him to now, finally, rooting for him. But I can't get past what he did. I can't relate to what Kobe Bryant did, and cheating on your wife is a terrible mistake, but I don't think he actually raped that girl in the Colorado hotel room so it's much easier for me to watch him and cheer for him. The fact that he's a pompous asshole is more of a reason for people to dislike him than cheating on his wife; right or wrong, that's the culture we live in. But killing innocent dogs is something that cannot be overstated. Some of the images that were shown in the immediate aftermath of the allegations were stunning. I'm not going to post any here, because trust me it's nothing anyone wants to see, but if you haven't seen them a simple Google search will find them.

Mike Vick appears to be a changed man off the field, and he's absolutely a changed man on the field. If you want to be a Vick fan, that's fine. The better he plays over time, the more and more people there will be that forgive him for what he did. But just because he's remorseful for what he did doesn't mean we all should instantly forgive him. I'm willing to bet there's a lot of criminals in prison that are remorseful for what they did, but none of us are willing to forgive a convicted rapist or murderer simply because they know what they did was wrong. The only reason some people are willing to forgive Vick completely for what he did is because he's playing at a high level again. Sometimes sports can feel like they are a way of life; the way fans have unwavering support for the team through good times and bad, the way people schedule their days and nights around their favorite teams game that week, etc. But we can't forget as a society that there is a lot more to life than sports, and Mike Vick is living proof.

I will continue to root for the man, and hope he has actually changed. But as someone who loves dogs, I will never forgive him for killing them. I'd hope that most people will agree Vick can never be forgiven for what he did, but the sad fact is our culture would rather watch Mike Vick do what he did on Monday and forgive him for what he did two years ago, while mocking Tim Tebow for going overseas and helping perform circumcisions in third-world countries. Vick is electric, Tebow at this point throws like my grandma. It's unfortunate that we lose sight of the real important things in life simply because someone can do things on a football field we only dream of. When I have a kid, all I know is I hope he turns out like Tim Tebow, not Michael Vick. I think most people would agree with that, but everyone should.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pete Rose: Hall of Famer


This was a paper I wrote for an English class about two years ago... certainly nice to get to choose our own topics. And yes, this is a repost, although based on traffic numbers, very few of you actually saw this when I posted it 10 months ago. Enjoy, and post in the comments what you think Rose's ultimate fate should be: Hall of Famer or not?

To this day, Pete Rose has the most hits in Major League Baseball History. Only two players in the history of Major League Baseball have finished their careers with 4,000 hits. Those two players are Ty Cobb, who is in the Hall of Fame and currently second on the all-time hit list, and Pete Rose. Despite this incredible record, since 1986, baseball has banned Rose from even being considered for baseball’s Hall of Fame. While Rose was managing, after he had retired, he committed what is considered to be the cardinal sin of America’s pastime: betting on baseball. Rule 21 in the MLB Rule Book is lengthy and verbose but essentially states anyone affiliated with any Major League Baseball team is forbidden from betting on baseball, with the punishment resulting in a lifetime ban from the game. This rule is misguided and oftentimes misinterpreted, which has kept Rose from being enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Major League Baseball is acting hypocritically in its interpretation, as are the sports writers who vote for the Hall of Fame nominees. The Hall of Fame includes multiple admitted rule-breakers such as Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford. Rose was caught betting on baseball during his managing career, not his playing career by which he should be remembered. Rose is a Hall-of-Fame caliber player, not a Hall-of-Fame caliber manager. Major League Baseball is committing an injustice not allowing this former marquee player into its Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose finished his playing career with 4,256 hits, the most in Major League Baseball history. He finished his managing career with a slightly above average record of 412-373. Rose committed his offense as a manager and was banned from baseball for life because of it. However, his accomplishments prior to the ban are important and should be a serious part of the conversation. While Rose does admit to betting on his team while managing, he is adamant that he never bet against it and there is no proof to suggest otherwise. In an interview with ESPN’s Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (both now of NBC), Rose said, "I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team. I did everything in my power every night to win that game." No one has disputed these claims. Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame for what he achieved as a player, not a manager. He bet as a manager, he hit as a player.

Pitchers Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford both currently have plaques in the Hall of Fame. However, both admitted to breaking MLB rules during their playing careers. In 1920, baseball banned any doctoring of the baseball, as it gave an unfair advantage to the pitcher. Throughout his career and prior to his 1967 retirement it was widely known that Ford doctored the ball in order to gain a competitive advantage. Following the 1963 World Series, in which Ford’s Yankees were swept in four games by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ford was quoted as saying, according to ESPN, "I used enough mud to build a dam.” He was referring to using mud to doctor the baseball. Ford was the starting pitcher in games one and four.

Perry retired following the 1983 season, yet in a 1977 interview with Newsweek, Perry was quoted as saying "Greaseball, greaseball, greaseball, that's all I throw him [Rod Carew], and he still hits them. He's the only player in baseball who consistently hits my grease. He sees the ball so well, I guess he can pick out the dry side." Perry was clearly referring to his famous Vaseline ball, in which he would put Vaseline from inside his jersey that he had placed on his chest all over the ball. Both of these pitchers had very successful playing careers and sports writers voted both into the Hall of Fame. However, both admitted to cheating while still playing, yet Pete Rose isn’t allowed into the Hall of Fame for breaking a rule of the same caliber while he was managing. As long as Major League Baseball celebrates certain cheaters and bans others, it will be an organization marred by hypocrisy.

There are those who believe what Rose did does not compare to what Perry and Ford did. They claim a much fairer comparison is that of one ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson. Jackson was the star player on the notorious 1919 Chicago Black Sox team that willingly threw the World Series in exchange for payment from Arnold Rothstein. Eight of the nine starting players accepted the payment, including Jackson. The heavily favored White Sox lost the best-of-nine series five games to three. Despite Jackson’s denials of throwing the Series, the league banned him from baseball during his prime, although he likely would have been a Hall of Famer. Those who believe Rose doesn’t belong argue this as an example that the principle of the two crimes is ultimately the same. Both bet on their teams, and both were banned from baseball.

However, there are critical differences between the two players and situations. First, Rose bet on his team to win while Jackson accepted a cash payment to ensure his team lost the World Series. Also, Jackson committed the offense in the middle of his career, and therefore was unable to increase his statistics. Therefore, Jackson’s career numbers don’t provide a legitimate case for Hall of Fame consideration. Pete Rose finished his playing career outright with nearly 2,500 more hits than Shoeless Joe did. Although both broke the same general rule, common sense dictates that is where the similarities between the offenses end. Additionally the issue is clearly more complicated and not black and white.

Over his 24-year playing career, Pete Rose earned a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, he is being kept out for an offense he committed during his managing career. Clearly the Hall of Fame does not deal in moral absolutes when it allows the plaques of Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford to be prominently placed in the Hall of Fame with no mention of their offenses. It is unfair and duplicitous to leave Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Like all inductees, he deserves to be honored for his extraordinary accomplishments during his playing career and not remembered for the mistakes he made after his retirement.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your Next Vikings QB

While the Vikings aren't entirely out of contention for a playoff spot and even a division title this year, a 3-5 start for a team that was so good last season has a lot of fans looking towards the future. The future of the team is a big issue, as the team has sacrificed some youth over the last few years to try and make a last-ditch Super Bowl run with some of their veterans. While there are several major issues, the biggest and most important decision is who the Vikings will ultimately target to be their starting QB next season. It seems like a virtual certainty this is Brett Favre's last season, and while we really never know with him, I'm just going to assume he's not returning.

There are going to be several options for the organization to choose from, although it's unlikely the team will be acquiring a sure-fire pro bowler. Former 2nd-round pick and 'future franchise QB' Tarvaris Jackson is a free-agent-to-be. Joe Webb was a 6th round pick drafted to be a receiver until the coaching staff saw him throw in mini-camp. Michael Vick is going to be a free agent. Donovan McNabb is going to be a free agent. Ryan Mallet, Andrew Luck and Jake Locker currently all have first round grades from most draft experts, so the team could look to finally draft a first round quarterback again. That's at least seven options the team will undoubtedly consider. I'll take a look at the three rookies in the near future; so for now let's just look at Jackson, Webb, Vick and McNabb.*

*It's interesting to me that the Vikings have a history over the last ten-fifteen years of great black quarterbacks. They signed Warren Moon, saw Randall Cunningham revive his career on the second greatest offensive team in NFL history, and then drafted and developed Daunte Culpepper into a pro-bowl, MVP caliber quarterback before injuries and coaching changes ruined his career. The four non-rookie options for this team for this coming season in my opinion are also all black. There's not a point to this random sidebar, but it's interesting nonetheless in a league in which most quarterbacks are white.*


Tarvaris Jackson: Jackson was drafted at the end of the 2nd round in 2006, Brad Childress' first draft as head coach. When he was drafted the organization warned that he was a project, and he likely wouldn't see the field in his first season on the team. Well, Brad Johnson was brutal enough that Childress decided to give Jackson the starting job for the final two games of the season. Jackson played in four games as a rookie, posting a very poor QB rating of 62.5 in 81 pass attempts. He did manage to run for 77 yards though on just 15 carries, good for a 5.1 average.

It was clear Jackson had the tools to one day be a good player, but as a rookie he wasn't anywhere close to being an NFL caliber quarterback. Jackson went into 2007 as the team's starting QB, and he battled a few injuries that held him to 12 games. While fans were optimistic that Jackson's athleticism would mask just how raw his talent was, that wasn't the case. Jackson threw nine touchdowns and twelve interceptions in his second year, posting a QB rating of 70.8. At this point, many fans wanted a new QB already, despite the fact that Jackson was a former D-1 AA player who had been called a project the day he was drafted. For these fans to expect Jackson to excel immediately was foolish, but again, sports can turn even the most rational people into irrational fools.

In 2008, Jackson was again the starter, although the team brought in Gus Frerotte to at least challenge Jackson and provide a 'stable' veteran if needed. Whether Frerotte was good enough to bring in at all is a debate for another time, but it's my opinion that Frerotte was brutal and the team really made a misguided decision when they benched Jackson after two games for Gus. The Vikings started 0-2, and Jackson didn't play great, but a Visanthe Shiancoe dropped TD in the red zone was ultimately the difference between 0-2 and 1-1, and in my opinion it wasn't the right move. Frerotte predictably struggled, to the point where I legitimately cheered when he left injured against Chicago, but the team was talented elsewhere and won games in spite of Gus. Jackson was reinserted as the starter near the end of the year, and his final stats were solid: nine touchdowns and just two interceptions, good for a QB rating of 95.4, including a four touchdown-zero interception performance against the Arizona Cardinals. His completion percentage was still under 60%, which isn't a great sign, but his ability to make plays with his feet more than made up for it. Jackson seemed on his way to turning the corner after the '08 season, even if most Vikings fans refused to notice.

In 2009, the Vikings failed to learn from the Gus Frerotte mistake and traded a fourth round pick for Sage Rosenfels to compete with T-Jack. T-Jack still appeared to be the starter, though, until Lord Favre decided he'd unretire and sign with the Vikings. Signing Favre was a no-brainer, and Jackson was obviously relegated to back up duty. He has held that position since. In extremely limited playing time over the last two years, Jackson is 18-27 with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He looked solid when he played near the end of the Patriots game a few weeks ago.

My first assumption is that it's simply a small sample size; Jackson is an average quarterback who will never be the guy to lead the Vikings atop the NFL ladder. The fact that he's going to be 28 when next season starts seems to suggest to me that he's no longer a 'project' and he needs to start producing. Of course, it's difficult to produce when you aren't given an opportunity, and in his very limited opportunities he's been very good over the last two years.

I think it's clear Jackson deserves a chance to start somewhere, and I do think if the Vikings offered Jackson a contract and told him he was the team's starting QB next season, he'd re-sign here without much thought. However, complicating matters is the status of Brad Childress. I don't think Jackson likes Childress, like most Vikings players and fans, but if the team brings in a different coach, it's possible that the coaches system won't be a fit for Jackson. It's my opinion, though, that good quarterbacks will do well in any system. If Jackson is indeed considered a starting-caliber player by those who make decisions, the team's offensive playbook shouldn't keep them from retaining him.


Joe Webb : Webb was an athletic specimen at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) and was among the best players in college football. UAB used him at quarterback, but early scouting reports suggested that he'd have to transition elsewhere in the NFL because his arm wasn't NFL-caliber. He was considered a potential late round steal if he could adjust to being a receiver, and the Vikings decided to take a gamble on him in the sixth round last year.

Favre's decision to sit out all of the mini-camps and most of training camp actually really benefited Webb, and if he develops into a starting caliber quarterback it will also really benefit the future of this team. The Vikings needed an extra arm to throw balls to the many receivers, and while originally they had wanted to bring someone in to do that to allow Webb to stay at receiver, things changed. Childress saw Webb throwing the ball around and decided to give him a long look at QB. The thinking was that Webb was a long ways away even as a receiver, and if he had the chance to develop into a quarterback, that would be much more valuable down the line.

Webb looked very good in the pre-season, and many fans have been calling for Joe Webb to replace Favre. These fans undoubtedly dislike Jackson because of his early struggles, and want to see what Webb can do. Of course, all that would likely lead to is these same fans jumping off the Webb bandwagon in the near future when he struggles. He's not yet ready to be an NFL QB, and I think it's silly for fans to expect Webb to be the future of this team. The fact is most sixth round quarterbacks don't develop into anything; for every Tom Brady there are hundreds of Ken Dorsey's.

Webb is a special case, though. There's no doubting his ridiculous athleticism; and if he can learn to read defenses and his arm is even average, he could be special. That said, I think it would be a mistake to expect Joe Webb to be the starter next season when the team will still have some talented veterans. If the Vikings decide to rebuild and are willing to endure a losing season, Webb is the right guy because he will develop more by playing and the tools are there to be great. I just don't think he's going to be a starting-caliber QB next season. I am optimistic he will one day develop into a solid player, though.


Michael Vick : Michael Vick has had probably the strangest career of anyone currently playing professional sports. He was considered a sure-thing when he was taken #1 overall by the Falcons, and even before all of his legal issues, he wasn't a great quarterback. He was loved by the fans because of how electric he could be, and 2007 Mike Vick will always be the greatest video game player of my lifetime. The only one who compares is Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl, but I wasn't yet alive. Look, I'm not here to defend or criticize what he did. It was a terrible thing; some will say unforgivable, and I won't argue or try to persuade people to feel differently. Bill Simmons did a great job explaining Vick's situation and I feel basically exactly the same way he does.

Vick is having a sensational comeback year in Philadelphia. After an injury to Kevin Kolb against Green Bay opened the door for a Vick return, he hasn't looked back. Vick did get hurt a few weeks ago, breaking some ribs, but he's returned to the field now and he swears he'll be better about avoiding unnecessary contact to prevent future injuries. Vick has always been fantastic to watch because of his unbelievable arm strength/speed combination. He can outrun defensive backs consistently, and he sometimes has to harness his arm strength to avoid overthrowing even the fastest of receivers. He's extremely talented and always has been.

He didn't really ever put it all together though, until this year. Now, he's only played in 5 games this season, so it's possible it's simply an example of a small sample size confusing us. I don't think that's the case though, and most people tend to agree with me. Vick has looked much smarter, much calmer, and he's made much better decisions all year. Andy Reid seems to have really gotten through to Vick in ways his previous coaches couldn't; and of course spending almost two years in jail will make you more receptive to your coaches advice.

Vick has thrown for over 1,000 yards, ran for another 261, thrown seven touchdowns and most importantly he has no interceptions. He's arguably been the league MVP to this point, and if he continues to excel, the Eagles will likely look to lock Vick up (excuse the pun) long-term. It's a tricky situation with absolutely no parallels to learn from, so I wouldn't be surprised by anything. If Vick was to re-sign for $10MM a year for four years, or more, I'd understand. If he became a free agent, the bidding war would be interesting. Zygi has proven in the past he'll spend money when necessary. If the team feels Vick is the answer, I think the Vikings have to be among the favorites to land him. It would certainly sell tickets, although some fans would likely refuse to support a team with a convicted dog-killer at quarterback.

Vick is hands down the best option of the ones covered in this piece, which is also why it's very difficult to predict just what will happen with him. I would love to see Vick in purple next year, but at this point I'd guess he doesn't even hit the market and the Eagles lock him up, creating yet another QB controversy in Philly. That could make Kevin Kolb available, but for now that's just speculation and the Vikings really can't afford to trade away anymore draft picks, so Kolb isn't a legitimate target in my opinion if he becomes available.


Donovan McNabb : McNabb has had a very good career. However, he has been substantially overrated for many years. His career QB rating of 85.9 is respectable, but it's not anywhere close to an elite level like he's been portrayed throughout his career. He has had great years, just not enough to make him truly elite.

He has struggled this season, even getting benched at the end of the game against Detroit for Rex Grossman. Yes, Rex Grossman. Obviously that was simply a foolish decision by an even more overrated head coach in Mike Shanahan. McNabb is likely having trouble because it's difficult to learn a new system in one year, especially after playing in the same system for so long. Again, though, I think a good quarterback will be a good quarterback in any system, and there's no arguing McNabb is struggling this year. He has terrible receivers and no running game, though, so that's undoubtedly part of the issue.

Personally, I don't want the Vikings to go after McNabb if he's a free agent. He'll be 35 in a week, and his struggles at this point in his career are a red flag to me. It's rare for quarterbacks to continue to play at a high level past their 35th birthday; the only ones that really have are the truly elite ones or in Rich Gannon's case, the fluky ones. But McNabb doesn't strike me as likely to be a 'fluke' because those kinds of things only happen when the right player finds the right coach at just the right time. Gannon and Jon Gruden were sensational together. I don't think McNabb and any head coach, even Gruden, would have that same magic. And as I mentioned previously, McNabb is not an elite quarterback and really hasn't been since 2004.

He'll command more money than he's worth, and the truth is it's very likely Jackson would outperform McNabb over a full season if given the opportunity. For that reason, I'd much rather have a 28-year-old Jackson making about half the money that McNabb will be.

So, what should happen? If Vick becomes a free agent, the Vikings should sell the farm to bring him to Minnesota. He's playing at an elite level right now, and spending two years in prison means his body is far less beat up than most 30-year-old NFL QB's. If not, the team should simply re-sign T-Jack and finally give him the opportunity to show the organization and the fans what he can do.

Regardless, I think the team needs to determine if Joe Webb is the future of this team or not. If he isn't, which is the way I tend to lean, they need to draft an elite QB prospect and let him develop behind Jackson or Vick. This team needs a young, franchise QB to build around as they age; I'll take a look at some of those prospects in the near future. For now, as a Vikings fan, my 2011 wish list is: Vick, T-Jack. No McNabb. And no Webb, yet.

And of course, no Childress.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learning From Our Mistakes



Every single one of us makes mistakes on a daily basis. Some days those mistakes are bigger than others, but since we all make mistakes, most people tend to be forgiving when we do make a mistake. As a culture, we tend to get more annoyed and frustrated though when the same people continue to make the same mistakes. This is human nature; if someone can't learn from their mistakes, it's natural for us to get angry because it seems as if the person isn't trying to improve their issues, whatever they may be.

Over the past decade, the Twins have been a very well-run organization and they have (rightfully so) been given an awful lot of credit for it. They draft well, develop talent well, and even when they aren't all that talented they always seem to at least find a way to be in the division race late in the year. It's fantastic that they have drafted well, because if a team drafts well they can mask even a colossal mistake that the front-office may have made with a free agent or trade.

Look at the San Francisco Giants. They're the defending World Series champions now, yet they spent $18MM this year on a starting pitcher who didn't pitch one inning in the post-season despite being healthy in Barry Zito. The Giants payroll was just under $100MM, so that means they spent about 20% of their payroll on someone who was useless during the playoffs. But since they drafted Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Brian Wilson, they were able to make up for Zito's bloated contract with home-grown stars.

The Twins, thankfully, don't have a colossal mistake on their roster like Barry Zito. Michael Cuddyer is fairly overpaid, but he's a free agent at the end of the year and he was worth the money as recently as two seasons ago. However, the Twins seem to continue to make the same mistakes off-season after off-season. Last off-season, the team was pretty much flawless, although that's in large part due more to luck than anything. They did waste almost $1MM on Clay Condrey, who was never healthy, and Jarrod Washburn misguidedly turned down the team's $5MM offer which saved the team enough money to fill an actual need at second base. They spent that money on Orlando Hudson instead.

This is an organization that signed Livan Hernandez and Ramon Ortiz when they had better, cheaper, younger options in their system already. They signed Tony Batista and Rondell White despite very little evidence that either would be even remotely productive. The Twins organization never seems to make the gigantic mistake, but rather a series of small mistakes. Even spending the money they spent last year on Clay Condrey on the amateur draft may have allowed the team to target a high-schooler who had slipped due to bonus demands. $950K is two or three signings of very good high school players; it would be better business and it would make the team better if the silly signings would stop.

Unfortunately, three days into the off-season, the signs seem to point towards those same old Twins.

It was announced yesterday that the Twins had agreed on a major-league deal with starting pitcher Eric Hacker. My thoughts upon hearing the news, much like your reaction to hearing that name now, was "Who?" So who is Eric Hacker and why are the Twins signing him to a major league contract?

Hacker was a 27-year-old starter in AAA last year who put up rather pedestrian numbers. He posted an ERA over 4, struck out just 128 in over 170 innings pitched, and he allowed over a hit an inning. Hacker isn't anything more than a bottom of the rotation starter in AAA, and it seemed silly to me that the team would be spending any sort of money on this player when they have better options all throughout the system.

Well, as it turns out, the team likely won't lose any money on this deal. Hacker was given a major league contract because he had to be based on his service time, but there's less than a zero percent chance he makes the opening day roster in my opinion. As long as he doesn't start the season on the Twins 25-man roster, he won't be making anything more than what a AAA pitcher would make, so strictly from a monetary perspective the Twins will likely lose nothing more than they already would have.

However, Hacker is now filling a spot on the Twins 40-man roster. Any player that has played at least three seasons in the minor leagues is subject to the Rule V draft. The Rule V draft is where the Twins landed Johan Santana for a measly $50K, and the Marlins landed Dan Uggla, among others. You can protect players in your own organization by placing them on the 40-man roster. However, generally, the Rule V draft doesn't garner much attention. That said, it seems silly to me that this team would waste a 40-man roster spot on a 27-year-old pitcher that not only has little chance to crack the opening day roster, he's likely to be at best a #4 starter in Rochester.

Nothing about his stats suggest he's a power arm that could be converted to a reliever; he seems to be a pitch-to-contact type starter. The Twins love those kinds of pitchers, but Hacker does nothing exceptionally well and to be blunt he doesn't do much even league-average, either. He gave up 21 home runs last season in 29 starts, which seems like even more proof that his stuff is well below average.

Again, signing Eric Hacker to the contract they did isn't likely going to cost the team a divisional title or anything along those lines; but if enough of these silly mistakes continue to happen, it could eventually cost the team a talented prospect or even worse a solid veteran that could help during the season.

The more worrisome 'mistake' this team almost made, though, was bidding on Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Sure, it would have been interesting to see the the Twins go after a Japanese star. He posted an ERA under 3 last year in Japan, and he was widely considered the second best pitcher in Japan behind Yu Darvish. However, scouts that have seen him play believe he projects as a #4 starter in the big leagues, a borderline #3 at his absolute best. The A's reportedly won the bidding by putting in a bid of $17MM or so, and that's before they have to pay Iwakuma anything. I would expect the A's to eventually sign Iwakuma to a 4-year, $35MM contract. That's entirely a guess, but it seems in the ballpark; and it might even be higher.

If the Twins had instead spent that money, they'd have a log-jam of starters again and top prospect Kyle Gibson would likely need not one but two starters to struggle or get hurt to get his chance to show what he can do. The Twins have enough needs without spending any money on another starter, as I've explained before, so it's disheartening to see this team target two starting pitchers in the first few days of free agency. The team could use an ace to pair with Francisco Liriano, no doubt, but Cliff Lee isn't going to be a Twin so it seems very foolish to target any other free agent starters.

Hopefully the team doesn't feel the need to bring in a 'veteran' starter for the pitching staff, wasting valuable resources that could be used to improve a very weak bench or to find a starting second baseman. One of these years the Twins will have to learn from their mistakes, right? Don't count on it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Links

- To the surprise of zero Twins fans, Bud Selig is kind of a dope.

- The mute button on my remote is no longer needed while watching Sunday Night Baseball.

- Finally, a dating site for Tim Tebow and Aaron Rodgers.

- And some advice for those two when that special time arrives.

- When Zygi Wilf finally does fire Brad Childress, hopefully he'll at least consider one of these former greats.

- The Twins seemed to prove they're willing to spend money again this off-season, bidding on Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma but ultimately coming up short.

- Former Tigers manager George 'Sparky' Anderson died this past week at 76.

- Aidan is a 5-year-old with Leukemia. If you'd like to support the family, Aidan draws pictures and they are for sale here.

- Science really is amazing, even if I don't understand it at all.

- I'd like to spend my summer visiting several of these places, if anyone wants to fund the trip let me know.

- I want to write stories like this and get paid for it, too.

- Boom Shockalocka, coming November 17 to the only two systems guys actually play.

- I'm not sure if I should laugh at the creativity or cry at the lack of security.

- And finally, Uhh, what?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rationality



Sports can cause even the most rational of people to become irrational. I'm sure there were Patriots fans yesterday that were watching their Pats get handled fairly easily by the Browns (and the Belichick-hated Eric Mangini) and were shouting at the TV angry with Belichick's coaching because they were losing 34-14. Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history; he's at least top-five though. The point is that all fans are irrational in the heat of the moment. These emotions, even in us fans, are what make sports so great. One minute you can be watching your favorite team trailing by two touchdowns with four minutes left and the next minute they've tied the game and are headed to overtime. When people are upset in the heat of the moment and aren't rational, I understand it. I rarely agree with these people and often find myself defending someone I really don't want to be defending, but I do understand where the irrationality comes from. Sometimes it's Ron Gardenhire, sometimes it's Bill Smith, but more often than not it's Brad Childress.

I don't want to defend Brad Childess. Of all the people that currently have anything to do with any of my favorite teams, Childress is by far my least favorite person. Aside from several poor in-game coaching decisions over the years, Childress seems to have worse people skills than Hannibal Lecter. He's got a huge ego, and there's no doubt he believes that he truly is a great coach. He obviously isn't. Once he released Randy Moss, my favorite athlete of all-time, I turned to the 'fire Childress now' camp and I had no plans on defending him ever again.

His fourth and goal calls have been brutal, but the hypocrisy of many fans today was laughable. Adrian Peterson had been given the ball every time they went for it on fourth and goal from inside the 3-yard-line all year, and he had been stopped all three times. Every time fans complained and said things like "Don't give it to AP you're too predictable!" at their TV's directed towards Brad Childress. Then today these same people were angry when the team decided to throw it, wondering aloud why they didn't give the ball to their best player to gain half a yard. Don't worry, if you were one of these people, you weren't alone. Facebook statuses, text messages, phone calls---I talked to several people who were being hypocritical. I understood it, though. The failed fourth down seemed like it was going to be the final nail in the coffin for the team's season. It wasn't, and nobody seems to remember that point of the game.

First, and foremost, this win is not all that impressive. Yes, the team looked absolutely sensational during the final four minutes of regulation and overtime. That was impressive, and it was about time some of the key players on this team stepped up when it was necessary. However, the team was playing a very mediocre Arizona team that doesn't have an NFL, starting-quality quarterback. Mistake after mistake hurt the Vikings until the last four minutes, and a game that really shouldn't have been all that close went into overtime. Yes, technically, it saved the season. The Vikings still have a chance at the playoffs, especially in a very tight NFC that has yet to really see a team pull away from the field. But if the team doesn't win at Chicago next week and then again at home against Green Bay, the season is likely still over. So this win was a small step in the right direction, but if they don't take care of business over the next few weeks it will ultimately be meaningless.

Now, after the game, Brad Childress was asked how he was holding up emotionally with everything that has happened this week, including his job security being talked about all week. Childress made what was a pretty good joke; he simply said "I'm not gonna stand up here like Brett and say I need a hug. I'm fine." Some members of the media went crazy. I saw Tony Dungy react* during NBC's Football Night in America, and it angered me. Pro Football Talk had a story about it within hours of the game ending.

*Tony Dungy is a great man. He was a good not great coach who couldn't carry a solid Tampa Bay team far enough. He lost his job, the Bucs traded multiple draft picks for Jon Gruden and he led them to a Super Bowl victory. Dungy latched on in Indianapolis with the best quarterback in football and arguably in the history of the NFL and managed to win one finally. However, the more I see him discussing other coaches/players/etc the more I want to see someone hit him in the face. He doesn't deserve to be hit in the face; but that's the feeling I get. He ALWAYS is talking like he's so much better than everyone else in football. He criticized Rex Ryan for swearing too much on Hard Knocks. Mr. Dungy, are you JOKING? Just because you chose not to swear often (if at all) doesn't mean Rex Ryan is wrong in the way he goes about coaching his football team. Dungy was the EXCEPTION, not the rule. Every football coach at pretty much every level swears. It's not a big deal.

The media seemed to think Childress took an unwarranted shot at Brett Favre. Look, the timing of the joke was idiotic. Nobody besides maybe a few local media guys are backing up Childress, and since the media always defends Brett Favre (even when he sends text messages to a 24-year-old woman while married with children) Childress had to know a joke about Favre wouldn't go over well.

I for one enjoyed the joke. Favre is tough as nails, no doubt, but he seems to have a NEED for everyone to know just how tough he is. The announcers during the game kept talking about Favre's foot and how painful it looked in the pre-game meetings players have with the announcers usually on Friday's. I kept wondering how they had seen his foot though; it likely was covered by a shoe, or a boot or something considering it was cold in Minnesota all week. Nope. Favre went to the meeting in flip flops. I understand that some people will say he was just wearing flip flops because it's more comfortable on his foot/ankle, and while I'm not going to argue with that defense, there's no denying that Favre loves to build the drama. It seems more likely to me that Favre wore the flip flops to subtly show the announcers his foot, leading to them gushing about his toughness on Sunday.

Favre has whined all year about his age; how injured he is, etc. If Favre is going to continue to talk about all of his ailments in order to try to explain away his problems this year, than I hope he understands it's fair game for others to point out how often he does it. Childress should not have made a joke about Favre with all the tension surrounding this team, it was idiotic, yes. But the joke wasn't nearly the big deal the media is trying to make it, and now that the Vikings finally won a game the media needs to continue to build the drama.

Childress still needs to be fired at season's end, or even sooner**, and the way he treated the Moss situation will always be a major embarrassment for any Vikings fan. But don't start making non-stories into major stories simply because it'll bring you better ratings either on TV or the internet. The people that criticized Childress today for his comments are obviously much more qualified to talk about football for a living than me, and it would have been nice if after an impressive comeback but generally a poor showing that the media was talking about that instead of Childress' ultimately meaningless comments.

**As fans, we couldn't comprehend how Wilf would keep Childress over Moss this week. It's not that simple, though. I think Wilf is planning on firing Childress at the end of the season unless this team makes some miracle run back to the NFC Championship game. It sends a terrible message to this team's next head coach if the owner sides with a player who has a history of issues (Moss) over the team's head coach who also has final say over any roster moves. Wilf undoubtedly wants to build positive buzz around this team so he can get them a new stadium. The best way to do that aside from deep playoff runs is by hiring a big name coach. I think Wilf will fire Childress and look to hire either Bill Parcells in a VP-type role like he had in Miami, or he'll hire Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. I don't think the Vikings go into the 2011 season without making a major coaching hire, and that hire would not be Leslie Frazier. Wilf is already planning for next year in my mind.**

It's much easier to be rational hours after the game, especially after a come from behind win. But Brad, just because I'm defending you for the misguided comments, I still hate you.

Update: Childress was jokingly referring to a joke Favre had made on Wednesday. That makes what he said even less of an issue, but I still expect most of the media to chastize Chilly for it. There's plenty of things that the media can criticize this pinhead for, just be fair and level-headed about it. Here's the link, the story is near the bottom of the article.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Simple 2B Solution



Over the years, the Twins two biggest weaknesses have undoubtedly been at third base and second base. Corey Koskie was the only major league caliber third baseman this team ever really started in the last decade, at least until Danny Valencia got called up and played very well during his rookie campaign. The team tried to fill their second base hole last year by signing Orlando Hudson, who actually was better than what they had gotten over the years but still was below average thanks to a brutal September in which he hit .202/.252/.253. With the Twins basically admitting they're going to let Orlando Hudson go, and Danny Valencia returning to fill the hole at third base, the Twins only considerable weakness as I've said over and over is going to be at second base.

I've taken a look at Alexi Casilla and concluded that giving the starting second base job to him would be a mistake, regardless of how much money the Twins would save. I understand their logic, because if they are simply going to replace Hudson with another veteran and get basically the same production for $5MM, Casilla is absolutely the better option. However, neither choice would be a 'good option' in my opinion. So what should the Twins do to fill the need?

Move Michael Cuddyer back to second base. Gardy gave Cuddyer a few starts at third base this year before giving Valencia the job full-time, and I was against the move then. Cuddyer's defense at third has always been among the worst in the league, and expecting him to suddenly go from a corner outfield spot to arguably the most difficult position on the field at the drop of a hat seemed ill-advised. Cuddyer looked terrible at third during his few starts, of course, and Gardy ultimately moved him back to the outfield before Justin Morneau's concussion forced Cuddyer to play first base.

Now, some of the worries that I had about Cuddyer going back to third base are absolutely still worrisome with him moving back to second. He hasn't played second base really at all since 2004, and even then he only played 48 games there. He's played a total of 62 games there in his career, and his UZR/150 over his career is a slightly below average -1.3. When he played second base most consistently in 2004, though, he posted a -5.6 UZR/150. Now it's been over six years since he last played the position, so it'd be silly for us to assume he's just going to automatically post that number again. While there's a slim chance Cuddyer understands the game much better and will now position himself better, that's probably extremely unlikely and the most likely result is that Cuddyer would take a month or so to get re-acclimated to the position. Even then, he's almost certainly lost a step or two, at least, so his range would also be hurt. Over a full season, I would expect Cuddyer to post about a -12 UZR/150. It's possible he'd be better, but defense has never been his strong suit and the evidence would suggest that he'd be poor as a defensive second baseman as well.

While Cuddyer would absolutely be a below-average defensive player, his offense would more than likely be well above average for a second baseman. This past season, Cuddyer was unable to match his 2009 season in which he hit .276/.342/.520 with 32 home runs. His final 2010 numbers aren't really all that close to his 2009 numbers, but he did hit .271/.336/.417. He dealt with both knee and shoulder injuries during the season though, and while a return to his 2009 numbers seems unlikely next season, his power should be helped with a healthier body.

Even if Cuddyer simply matches his numbers from last season, his .753 OPS would have ranked him 11th among all MLB second baseman who qualified for the batting title, but it would have been the second best OPS in the American League behind only Robinson Cano. (Cuddyer's 2009 season would have resulted in the 4th best mark among 2B)

The Twins have hinted that they are going to fill the second base position in-house to save money. Cuddyer's going to be making $11.5MM regardless of the position he plays, and rather than using that money on a below-average corner outfielder, Cuddyer would be a slightly above-average second baseman. Now, you may be wondering "Why does it matter where he plays? His numbers will be the same either way." This is correct. However, it's much easier to find someone to post an .800 OPS or so at a corner outfield spot than it would be at second base. The Twins have said they plan to try to bring back Jim Thome. He's going to be a bit more expensive this time around, as he only made $1.5MM before incentives last year, but $4MM seems like a fair amount of money for a part-time player who kills the ball against righties. He might even get less.

With Thome's return, though, the team would have five players for four positions if Cuddyer remains in the outfield. Justin Morneau would undoubtedly start basically every day at first base, leaving Cuddyer, Thome, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel to fight over the corner outfield positions and the DH. Neither Thome nor Kubel should play against lefties, but Gardy has shown over the years that he doesn't seem to understand the benefits of a platoon, as he continued to start Jacque Jones 150 times a year despite his inability to hit lefties as well. By moving Cuddyer to second base, the team could add someone like Marcus Thames who kills lefties for around $2MM. There are plenty of corner outfield/DH types that hit lefties well, and one of these days I'll take a look at those players.

It's worth mentioning that several local writers and even Ron Gardenhire at times has said that Cuddyer's breakout offensive season was due in large part to moving to the outfield. I'm not going to pretend to understand what goes through Cuddyer's mind, because it's definitely possible he simply felt more comfortable in the outfield and it translated to his at-bats as well. But I don't agree with that line of thinking at all. Cuddyer moved to the outfield pretty much full time in 2006 and he hit .284/.362/.504 for what is still his career high OPS of .867. So on the surface it seems to at least make some sense; Cuddyer moves to right field, gets consistent playing time, and his offensive output skyrockets. I understand why some people came to that conclusion; but the more likely reason his numbers improved so much are because, well, he finally figured it out.

Cuddyer was 27-years-old in 2006, his breakout year. That's the age that almost every single player will have his career year, at least the players who follow the norm. It makes sense, because by this point the player's body is at it's ultimate peak; Cuddyer to this point had spent almost ten years in the system and the last four years on a major league training plan. He also had spent parts of his first four years soaking up information. As a former top-10 pick and a top of the line prospect, it wasn't surprising to see Cuddyer hit as well as he did. The reason I don't think it had anything to do with moving to the outfield, though, is because Cuddyer posted an OPS of .790 in 2007 and then really struggled in 2008, posting a .699 OPS in just 71 games as he just couldn't stay healthy. He spent basically every inning in the outfield during those two years, as well, but yet his numbers were much more similar to his pre-2006 numbers. It was simply a coincidence that Cuddyer happened to move to the outfield the same year he basically entered his prime; I remain convinced he would have put up the same numbers at either second or third base that year.

His 2009 season was a great comeback year, as he stayed healthy and posted the .862 OPS I mentioned earlier. This was the first year since 2005 that he spent a decent amount of time in the infield, as he spent 34 games at first base while Justin Morneau missed time. I think it's safe to say we can put the whole 'He's a better hitter in the outfield' argument to rest once and for all. The best argument against it is that his defense could be even worse than expected, but even then his offense has at least the potential to more than make up for it. If the Twins simply try Cuddyer at second base for the first few months of the season and are at that point certain that it cannot work for whatever reason, they will still have Alexi Casilla ready to step in. Since Casilla appears to be the plan as of now anyways, the team really has nothing to lose by giving the job to Cuddyer instead. There's almost no chance that even at his absolute worst Cuddyer wouldn't still be a more valuable player than Casilla is likely to be this season.

This lineup:

Span, Mauer, Morneau, Young, Kubel, Thome, Cuddyer, Valencia, Hardy


Looks much better than this lineup:

Span, Casilla, Mauer, Morneau, Young, Thome, Cuddyer, Valencia, Hardy


I doubt the team decides to actually try this out, although it's not impossible to rule out considering Gardy was willing to try Cuddyer at third mid-season to get his best offensive players in the lineup last year. That gives me hope that the team will in fact realize Cuddyer at second base gives them their best chance to win on a nightly basis, and since the $11.5MM is already being spent on him, it's worthwhile to make him more valuable by simply moving him to a weaker position.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Team Chemistry is Overrated



Team chemistry to most people is considered to be a very important part of a team's success. The thinking seems to be that if the players get along and like each other, they'll work that much harder to accomplish their ultimate goals as a team. Some people think it's very difficult to win a championship, if not impossible, without great team chemistry. When the 2001 Patriots shocked the world and beat the greatest-show-on-turf St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl, team chemistry was cited over and over as to why they won the game.

I'm here to tell all of you that team chemistry is bullshit, at least on a professional level. Yes, a talented team with great chemistry is likely to be better than an equally talented team with no chemistry; but even as I write that I'm not positive that's the case. As fans, we try to relate to the players. Most of us played sports, and at one point or another we had a teammate or several teammates that made the team far less fun to play on. When you have a 14 or 15-year-old kid causing problems for the other youngsters, chemistry is a big issue. That's because we played these sports for fun; as an escape from the daily worries of a teenager. When someone ruins that experience for us, the natural inclination is to find something else that is more fun. Professional athletes don't have the option of simply doing something else, though. This is their job.

I've seen team chemistry believers argue over the last few weeks that chemistry is obviously very important because how else could you explain the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants making the World Series? Again, excuse my language, but that's bullshit. Both the Giants and Rangers deserve a lot more credit for what they accomplished this year; saying they won because they all got along is likely false in multiple ways. First off, there's no way everyone liked each other. That's simply impossible when 25 guys are trying to make a (well-paid) living and there's only nine positions to play. Secondly, and much more importantly, both teams are extremely talented.

Texas didn't make the World Series because they celebrated with ginger-ale to include Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson. Texas made the World Series because they rode Cliff Lee's dominance to victory after victory, and because Josh Hamilton was a monster in the ALCS. The Giants didn't make the World Series because Cody Ross is 'always having fun' and 'smiling a lot' they made the World Series because their pitching was downright dominant, and because Cody Ross hit home run after home run in the NLCS. There's a lot of talk about Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria coming up big--and yes, at times, they did. But both generally struggled during the playoffs (Renteria had a very good World Series, though) and without the pitching staff consistently allowing less than two runs a game, there's no way the Giants make the run they did. Any team with a playoff rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez has a very good chance at making a deep playoff run. If they like each other or not is irrelevant; they all want another contract, and they all know being able to put '2010 World Series Champion' on their resume is going to add a couple zeroes to any contract they sign.

Chemistry has been blamed for the Vikings struggles this season, and many people continue to say releasing Randy Moss will benefit the Vikings because the chemistry will be better. Most reports, though, suggested Moss was fairly well liked as a teammate during his brief second stint in Minnesota. Yes, berating the caterer was absolutely disgraceful and there is no excuse for Moss doing that. But it's now been three days since Moss was reportedly going to be waived and that's the only negative story that has come out. Moss berates a caterer and calls out a bone-head head coach so naturally the solution is to release him four weeks after giving up a third round pick for him.

The Vikings should be better over the next few weeks, at least in the win-loss column. No matter how the local media or the coaching staff tries to spin it, though, the team isn't as good without Moss commanding consistent double teams. They should post a much better record over the next several games, but that's because their schedule softens considerably.

The Vikings are not 2-5 because of team chemistry issues. There not even 2-5 because Childress is a bone-head. They're 2-5 because Brett Favre has been worse this season than Alex Smith and Bruce Gradkowski. (No, really, he has) They're 2-5 because Jared Allen has one sack in seven games. The entire defensive line has been a colossal disappointment this season, and the defensive backfield is consistently getting exposed because the quarterback has all day in the pocket.

While chemistry undoubtedly makes practices and games much easier for players to have fun at, the effect it has on winning in my opinion is very small. The Twins all seemed to love each other this season. They were always laughing in the dugout, they had a great time celebrating their AL Central Division crown, etc. The Yankees on the other hand were very professional, with only the awkward fake A-Rod celebrations on game winning hits. The Yankees were a team of current and former all-stars who hadn't played together for all that long. The Twins were a team of current and former all-stars who had been together for a while, and even the new guys seemed to fit right in to the locker room. (Except for maybe Hudson, but that's a different story for a different time)

The Yankees swept our Twins no problem. The Yanks weren't as talented this year as they were expected to be, mainly because AJ Burnett imploded and Phil Hughes was inconsistent, which is why they eventually lost to a very talented Rangers team. The talent level between the Twins and Yankees was as close as it's been over the last decade, and there's no arguing that the Twins clearly had better team chemistry. It didn't make a difference.

I get annoyed when I hear people talking about team chemistry being a major part of a team's success, obviously. Going back to the 2001 Patriots, they were simply better prepared for the game than the Rams were. Belichick will go down in history as one of the top five coaches of all time, and the only people who would argue that he isn't the greatest of all time are Packers fans who love Vince Lombardi. That 2001 Patriots team was shocking to us because they were a team of several no-name players coming together... except they ended up winning two more Super Bowls over the next few years and many of the players we had never heard of were in fact very good players. Tom Brady was a young, 6th round draft pick who nobody thought would be a star. He's been a top 3 quarterback since 2001.

Look at the Lakers' team that 3-peated in the early part of the 2000's. Kobe and Shaq admittedly hated each other, the locker room was divided between pro-Kobe and pro-Shaq sides, yet they cruised to three straight championships because they were extremely talented and the hatred Shaq and Kobe had for each other was always left off the court. They understand it's a business and at the time they both benefited from playing with one another. The fact that it likely wasn't a ton of fun didn't stop them from winning championship after championship.

Great team chemistry is always a great story for the fans to read about; it's heartwarming to those of us who want to relate to the players in anyway possible.* Unfortunately, it seems to take away from many fans realizing that these athletes are out-of-this-world type talents. San Francisco didn't win because Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey play video games on the road and talk about movies while eating lunch. They won because Tim Lincecum is arguably the best pitcher in baseball and Posey is one of the brightest young catchers in the history of baseball.

*"Hey, Moss is awesome! I smoke weed once in a blue-moon, too! I'd play when I wanna play!" Of course, just because you think you relate to them doesn't mean you do. I don't know of anyone who would berate someone serving lunch for the quality of the food, especially when most accounts of the story say the food was good. Randy Moss has a much better heart than the media portrays, and that's proven by how often he was at the St. Jude's Children Hospital since being traded back here. He loves kids, and I think it's because he knows they're pure. He can trust them, and he doesn't have to worry about issues coming from spending time at a hospital. Moss doesn't care about the positive press. He never has, and he likely never will. But that doesn't mean the local media needs to ignore anything nice this guy does because he treats the media poorly.

So, for my sanity, can we please drop the 'team chemistry' bullshit? Talent wins championships, and discipline, not chemistry, is what can turn a very talented team into a great team. The Vikings last year played disciplined, caught a few breaks, and were one Brett Favre interception from the Super Bowl. Now they commit penalties at all the wrong times and their all-pro players are playing like anything but all-pros. The team didn't go 1-3 because they had Randy Moss; they went 1-3 because they had Brett Favre and Jared Allen... or more accurately, because they didn't. Hopefully the all-pro versions of these players will return this week at home against Arizona, and the Vikings will improve to 3-5. Just don't tell me they won because they released Moss and the team chemistry improved. Please.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LeBron James is Really Good



LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world. Kobe lovers will point to his rings, his 81-point game, and his ability to make the clutch shots at the end of games. All of those things make Kobe Bryant a historically great player, and he was certainly the best player post-Jordan, pre-LeBron. But it's silly to me for anyone to attempt to argue that Kobe is a better player than James. James carried a below average Cavs team to the best record in basketball last season. When Kobe played with a group of misfits, the team won 35 games. Kobe is a great player and his abilities help the team win, but he isn't the kind of player who makes everyone around him better. Kobe is better playing with another elite player--there's a reason his teams have only been successful with Shaq in his prime and now Pau Gasol in his prime. James has a Magic Johnson-like ability to make his teammates better, and that's why the Cavs were so successful over the last several years with James leading the squad.

Whether you agree with me or not isn't the issue, though. I watched LeBron James last night simply tear apart our beloved Timberwolves. LeBron ran the point for most of the game, and he was a point guard in every meaning of the position. He didn't have a single rebound, which is amazing considering he's a 6'9 player, and more amazing when you consider that the Wolves are a below average rebounding team, and without Kevin Love on the floor they are downright brutal. The Heat won the game 129-97, so James didn't need to grab any boards to ensure victory, but you'd think over the course of the game James would find himself near the rim at least a few times. For whatever reason, James seemed to decide that since he was running the point, he wouldn't be rebounding that night.

James finished with 20 points and 12 assists in 32 minutes of play, but most notably he only turned the ball over one time. Now, of course, the Timberwolves should be among the worst teams in basketball this year, so the fact that LeBron James made them look like high school kids isn't all that impressive. But watching LeBron play field general last night, it was clear that the instincts are absolutely there. James sees plays way ahead of time, and because of his insane physical gifts, he can make plays that we haven't seen from a point guard ever. LeBron isn't officially the team's point guard, and each game will present a specific match-up that will determine how long James spends running the point. However, over the next few months, I fully expect James to spend the majority of his minutes running the show.

Prior to this season, I thought James would be okay as a point-forward, because they aren't required to handle the ball nearly as much as a point-guard. If you don't know what a point-forward is, it's what Scottie Pippen was during the great Bulls run in the 90's. A point-forward is rarely expected to take the ball up the court, but he will go get the ball once it crosses half court and will set up the offense. It's a difficult roll to fill because it requires specific skills that even most NBA players don't have. LeBron James has all the skills, though.

He isn't a great ball-handler when compared to point-guards, and against quicker, smaller teams any advantage LeBron has in the low block will be negated by his inability to take the ball up the court without turning it over multiple times a half. With that said though, it's clear to me LeBron James has the skill-set to in fact be one of the league's best point-guards. If he plays about 35 minutes a night and spends even 15 minutes at the point, he's even more valuable than anyone imagined. He can realistically play any position on the floor and at times will be the best player at each of those positions.

I still loathe LeBron for his terrible decision to have the ESPN special, but there's no denying just how talented this guy really is. He's probably going to go down in history as the most physically gifted player the league has ever seen, and if the Heat roll into four or five world championships, Jordan will absolutely have competition on the 'Greatest of All-Time' list.

James ability to morph into Scottie Pippen or Magic Johnson for a portion of the game before going back into a scoring mode is something the Heat will need if they want to win the title this year. While it seems like a lot to ask for a superstar like LeBron to change his game after playing one way for so many years, there's no doubting if anyone can do it, it's LeBron. He showed us fans a glimpse tonight of just how good he really is, and that there's no limit to what he could accomplish over the next six years.

One of these games James is going to get a triple double, and then he'll reel off something like four triple doubles in six games and everyone will realize that this guy is simply amazing. Kobe is more loved now, because of James terrible decision making and his handling of the situation in the immediate after math of the poor decision. But just because Kobe is liked more does not mean Kobe is in fact a better player. James is better in every way imaginable besides long-distance shooting.

LeBron, as I expected even during the summer, the better you play, the more and more I find myself rooting for you. My brain is telling me to hate you, you're unloyal, you left a fan base and an ownership out to dry... but my heart is telling me that you are THE once-in-a-generation talent, and one day I'm going to be telling my kids about LeBron James and how he was the greatest basketball player I ever saw. I'm guessing at that point in time I won't care that he screwed Cleveland, so the way I see it, if LeBron continues to dominate and play like the superstar he is, I'll just have to speed the process up quite a bit and enjoy watching the superstar. But he's still a front-runner.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Blithering Idiot



The Vikings have released Randy Moss. Technically they waived him, but in my opinion nobody is going to claim Moss and take on his nearly $4MM of remaining salary for this year. When Moss clears waivers, the Vikings will release him and they will officially be on the hook for the rest of his salary. Moss will then likely sign a veteran minimum contract for about $450K, so Moss will actually make more money by getting cut.

I've been one of Childress' biggest defenders over the last few years. I'm certainly not a supporter of him, as I agree there are much better options available. However, I've been realistic to this point. Childress turned a mediocre Vikings team into a very, very good one in three years. Childress had a lot to do with a lot of the acquisitions, and he deserved credit for that. When Childress was hired he said he was going to bring a 'kick-ass' offense with him. The offense struggled in his first few seasons here because the team didn't have a quarterback, and while people tend to blame Childress for that, the Vikings passed on a grand total of zero pro bowl quarterbacks since drafting T-Jack in the 2nd round. There simply hasn't been an opportunity to acquire or draft that franchise quarterback. Once the Vikings got Favre, it was pretty clear that Chilly's offense was indeed 'kick-ass' as long as it had a good quarterback running the ship. That's no surprise. Favre had his best season ever last year, and Childress deserves credit for that, too. Even if they didn't always agree, Favre clearly was no longer in his prime but still played like it last year.

However, Childress has consistently been a terrible in-game coach, often failing to make even minor adjustments when necessary. He feuds with players constantly, and he seems to think he's Bill Belichick when it comes to strategy. He's terrible at challenging, and for a team with Adrian Peterson they sure seem to fail on third and fourth and inches far too often. Before coming to Minnesota, Childress famously feuded with Terrell Owens on the Philadelphia sideline. T.O. was widely blamed for it, but the more and more we see of Childress the more likely it seems to me that Childress continued to add fuel to the fire and eventually T.O. snapped. When I found out about Moss, my first thought was "Damn, why couldn't Childress just have stayed in Afghanistan during that mission visiting the troops during the off-season?" But then I instantly realized he would have made idiotic decisions there too, and likely would have cost some soldiers their lives. Trouble and drama follows Brad Childress.

It's no secret I love Randy Moss. Even if the decision to waive him made sense from a football standpoint, I would have hated the move because of how much I love him. However, no matter how hard I try to think of ways this will benefit the team on the field, I can't think of any. When Randy Moss is lined up wide, the rest of the offense is playing 10 on 9. There was a safety lined up fifteen yards over Moss yesterday on basically every single play. That allowed Percy Harvin to utilize the middle of the field, and it opened up a lot of short passes for Adrian Peterson to catch and run. Even when Moss has just one catch for eight yards, he's providing more value than a box score can show.

Moss clearly doesn't like Childress. I get the feeling most of the players don't like him, but Moss knew he wasn't going to stay in Minnesota past this year, so he had no reason not to call out Childress yesterday. Moss comes in on his day off last Tuesday to help prep the defensive coaches on many of the tendencies and formations the Patriots offense would use. According to Moss, the team either ignored him completely or did very little to prepare for what Moss suggested. If true, Moss has every right to be pissed. It's inexcusable for an NFL coaching staff to take someone's advice who knows the offense probably better than anyone in football besides Brady and Belichick, and then decide not to implement what they learned into their own defensive schemes. Brad Childress did say he disagreed and thought they did a good job listening to Moss and implementing a game plan that was based off what Moss knew, but the results seem to be pretty black and white. The Patriots offense did what they needed to do against the Vikings all day. If they needed a first down on third and long, they got it. If they needed simply to get the ball 30 yards down the field to set up a better place to punt from, they did it. They weren't flashy, but they were clearly controlling the game and the defense looked helpless for most of the game. It would appear they didn't listen to Moss.

Percy Harvin is banged up, and now they release Moss. Sidney Rice still isn't all that close to returning, so if Harvin is indeed as banged up as he seemed after the game yesterday, the team could be looking at a receiving corps of Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis, and probably the return of Hank Baskett. The team is poised to go back to what Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio calls 'Chilly-ball.' The goal of Chilly-ball is to simply keep the game close, hope the other team makes a mistake, and then steal the game late. It works sometimes, no doubt, but it's not going to lead to very many playoff appearances. It's a strategy that will keep the team in the 7-9 to 9-7 range.

Jay Glazer reported that Percy Harvin is 'livid' with the decision, and rightfully so. He's been the biggest beneficiary of the Vikings acquiring Moss, and Moss has apparently gladly taken Percy under his wing and helped him read defenses even better. Without Moss, and Rice not yet healthy, Percy likely will be moved back to the outside and expect him to struggle again. He's simply not ready to be an outside target yet; he's great as a dynamic slot receiver, running crossing routes, screens, and even running the ball at times.

The Wilf's are about to cross a very dangerous line. Asking Vikings fans to watch Randy Moss leave again, while Brad Childress continues to be employed, is something that will not go over well. Moss is loved by the fans here, and he always will be regardless of what Brad Childress tries to do to that legacy. Moss' agent, Joel Segal had this to say about the move in an e-mail to the Star Tribune:

"Randy is very sad to find out about being waived by the Vikings this morning. He has and always will remain fond of the fans in Minnesota. We will let the process of the waiver wire take its course and we will move on from there."


There's really only one way that Childress gains any respect back, and that's if the Vikings improbably run the table, finish 11-5 and win the division. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that that's not going to happen. Childress appears to be on the hot-seat, and that will make all Vikings fans happy. If the team gets rid of Childress, though, Leslie Frazier cannot be the answer. If Zygi fires him mid-season, fine, let Frazier take over and see what he can do. But if they fire Chilly after the season, Frazier cannot be the replacement. They need a big name, proven coach, and there are plenty of those guys available. Jon Gruden would be my number one target, but others are available as well, including Bill Cowher.

When Moss clears waivers and re-signs with the Patriots, (not a certainty by any means, but I think it's going to happen) Belichick will again get the last laugh. Not only do the Patriots now own the Vikings 2011 third round pick, they also basically 'rented' Moss to the Vikings for four games and got the Vikings to pay Moss' entire salary for this year. It's possible someone claims him to keep him from returning to New England, but that seems like a pretty expensive gamble considering Moss is a headache if he doesn't want to be somewhere.

The Vikings gave up a third round pick and likely $4MM for four games of Randy Moss. And the reason appears to be because Brad Childress can't take criticism when he's clearly wrong. It's frustrating, and the Vikings will continue to fail at getting a new stadium no matter who becomes the next Governor unless they replace the bone-head.

Brad Childress, I hate you.