Monthly Archives: November 2008

PLAXICO (AT LEAST) HIRES THE RIGHT LAWYER

                             Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

While Plaxico Burress apparently can’t hold onto his gun like he holds onto Eli Manning’s passes, he finally did something right by hiring heavyweight attorney Benjamin Brafman to defend him on probable gun charges relating to the problems he caused (himself, among others) at the Latin Quarter in Manhattan on Friday night/Saturday morning.   

As you probably know by now, Burress, who, according to published reports, talked security guards at the club into letting him keep his weapon for “protection,” later shot himself in the thigh.  While the injuries don’t seem to be very serious, Burress has also put his good friend, Giant linebacker Antonio Pierce, in some possible legal jeopardy of his own.  According to published reports, Pierce helped stop the bleeding, took Burress to the hospital and tried to “hide” the gun. 

There are potential problems all around on this fact pattern.

WHAT’S A LAWYER TO DO?

 

While we don’t know when Brafman was actually retained (this is being written Sunday afternoon), someone probably advised Burress not to talk to the New York City detectives who showed up at his mansion in Totowa, New Jersey twice on Saturday.  While that won’t please the authorities, it absolutely was the right thing to do from a defense perspective.  Indeed, during the Giant game, announcer Kenny Albert stated that Brafman told the AP that Burress will surrender tomorrow (Monday) morning and (not surprisingly) will not make any statement.

    

Brafman seems, at first blush, to have a tough case to defend here.  But this guy has been in gun cases before.  He got Sean Combs (P. Diddy, now, I think) acquitted of gun charges arising out of a 1999 shooting in a Manhattan club despite the fact that three witnesses testified Combs held a loaded gun.  That result was a minor miracle (on cross-examination, Brafman, co-counsel with the late Johnnie Cochran, Jr., elicited testimony that every gun witness against his client had already filed a multi-million dollar civil suit against his client so the jury didn’t believe those witnesses and acquitted Combs of the gun charges).

    

This case, if the facts are as published in the press (and if it ever goes to trial, a whole separate issue), might be even more difficult.  Apparently, multiple security guards at the Latin Quarter knew Burress had a loaded gun.  Antonio Pierce apparently knew (at some point) that Burress had a loaded gun.  Plaxico Burress certainly knew it.  And none of these guards or Pierce is going to have a lawsuit against Burress because Burress shot himself (you can’t make this fact pattern up – nobody would believe it).

 

THE WHOLE CASE MIGHT BE BFORE TRIAL OR EVEN INDICTMENT

 

If there’s going to be some magic in this case, it might have to be before trial or even before indictment.  Again, according to published reports, it seems that Burress will be charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree.  The law states:

“A person is guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree when: (3) such person possesses any loaded firearm.” 

There’s an exception for possession at your home or business that doesn’t apply to Burress at a New York club.

    

That’s a pretty simple law.  And, as a class C violent felony, a conviction, whether by plea or trial, results in at least three-and-a-half years in prison.  The problem for Burress is, as of two years ago, the law was changed to reclassify possession of a firearm as a class C violent felony.  Under the former law, possession of a loaded firearm was a class D felony for which, under certain circumstances (where a talented lawyer like Ben Brafman would have shined, convincing a judge that those circumstances existed), a sentence of probation could have been warranted.  But that door was closed two years ago and now, even if the prosecutor’s office exercises discretion to permit a plea to a class D violent felony (which is the lowest plea the prosecutor is permitted to offer if Burress is indicted for possession of a loaded firearm), the minimum sentence would still be two years in prison.  Prior to two years ago, a conviction for possession of a loaded firearm could have resulted in a non-jail sentence.  But not anymore.

    

So maybe Ben Brafman can head off a trial with a pre-indictment plea to a lesser charge.  But that’s a big hill to climb when every move, by both the prosecution and defense, will be watched and scrutinized by the New York and national media.  Post-indictment, unless the prosecution decides to ignore the plea-restriction laws, Plaxico Burress is either going to trial or prison and, maybe, both.

 

WHAT ABOUT ANTONIO PIERCE?

 

Well, he’s got some issues as well.  Apparently, Pierce took the (now unloaded) gun since, apparently, the security guards finally emptied it of bullets (after Burress accidentally shot himself) and tried to “hide” it, whatever that means.  If he did have it, at least it was unloaded by then so, unless Pearce has a prior conviction, his exposure is only to a misdemeanor on which, in all likelihood, he would not receive a jail sentence.  If he took the gun to New Jersey, however, there could be either federal law or New Jersey state law issues across state lines (one report I saw said the gun was in New York, another said a Giant “representative” picked it up in New Jersey), but that seems unlikely.

    

As of this writing, Pierce already had his lawyer talk to the New York authorities while he (Pierce) was in Washington beating the Redskins.  If Pierce decides to cooperate with authorities and he testifies before a grand jury, he receives immunity from (New York) prosecution for his (alleged) temporary possession of the gun.  This would ensure that he would be available as a witness in any future trial; if there is a trial and Pierce is not indicted, he would probably be expected to testify.  If Pierce does not receive immunity and is called to testify at trial, he would likely assert his fifth-amendment privilege against self-incrimination.  If Pierce does testify in the grand jury, it would be a good development for him and a bad development for Burress.  Of course, if it turns out that Pierce, contrary to what’s already been reported, never took possession of the gun, then obviously, that will be great for him.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE NFL AND THE GIANTS?

 

Well, the NFL gun restrictions seem to apply only to NFL games, practices and sanctioned NFL events.  While there is, generally, a policy against guns at any time, certainly, if properly licensed (apparently not the case here), there’s little they could do.

    

But the team could step in and do something and that’s a fascinating dilemma.  People like Mike Francesa are already saying this is the last straw for the Giants.  And he might be right.  But the Giants, who can obviously win without Burress, could still use that 6’5” leaper in the end zone to make big plays like he did last year.

    

The Giants could also, rightfully, say Burress is innocent until proven guilty (because he is innocent until proven guilty), suspend him for a game or two and bring him back (if he’s healed) for the end of the year and the playoffs. 

    

It’s a tough spot for the Giants, who have always presented themselves as a class organization but have had to deal with minor issue after minor issue with Burress.  This, obviously, is now a major issue.

    

Also interesting will be the reaction to Burress of his teammates.  Pierce is a leader and, if he sides with Burress (a difficult issue right now, depending upon what happens to Pierce), the locker room will be fine.  But if the Giant players think there’s any chance that Pierce, an acknowledged good guy who was trying to help out a good friend, is going to get in any trouble over this, Burress will be persona non grata in the locker room.

    

Giant management might solve this problem quickly, but we’ll just have to wait and see what, if anything, they do to Burress.

    

The Giants seem to be marching towards another Super Bowl appearance and, right now, they would be the Super Bowl favorite.  But this case could undermine the magic that (to date) has been this season for the New York Giants.  Whether Plaxico Burress’s new lawyer can work some magic of his own remains to be seen.       

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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THE MARBURY PROBLEM: IS IT MARBURY-D’ANTONI, D’ANTONI-WALSH, D’ANTONI-DOLAN, WALSH-DOLAN OR SOME COMBINATION THEREOF?

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

Oh, there’s some fascinating stuff going on in the Stephon Marbury caper:  Intrigue, lying, back-door dealing, money, the whole bit.  All we’re missing is some sex, but that’s already happened in a previous caper.

    

Here’s what jumps out:  How is it that head coach Mike D’Antoni “asked” Stephon to play?  How is it that D’Antoni “requested” that Marbury play?  When Marbury was in uniform, how is it that D’Antoni didn’t walk over to him and, in front of dozens (hundreds?) of witnesses, simply say, “Marbury, get in the game NOW.”?  Clearly, if the latter had happened and Marbury outrightly refused to play, he would have been properly suspended immediately.

    

So, what do we have now?  We have a he said-he said.  D’Antoni said Marbury refused to play.  Marbury said that D’Antoni never told him he had to play (indeed, Marbury said he would have played if told directly to do so) but simply asked him if he wanted to (and he didn’t).  It’s perfectly believable that Marbury, who wants to keep every nickel, would know (or have been told) not to disobey a direct order.   

    

Stunning stuff.

 

D’ANTONI-WALSH

    

When I wrote a few weeks back (see Kallas Remarks, 11/4/08) that Walsh and D’Antoni had to get on the same page, I didn’t realize there were so many pages.  Clearly, Walsh wanted Marbury to play so, at a minimum, he (Marbury) might have some trade value.  Walsh seemed stunned that D’Antoni, after giving Marbury 20 minutes a game in the exhibition season, simply shut him down (and out) once the regular season began.  What’s equally stunning is that D’Antoni told Quentin Richardson that Marbury wouldn’t play before the first game and didn’t bother to tell Marbury (and, it seems, Walsh as well).  While Walsh is looking at the long-term, big picture, he can’t be happy at the way D’Antoni’s handled this situation.

 

D’ANTONI-DOLAN

 

Another fascinating and different page.  Dolan’s page is from the Larry Brown book:  wear him down over time and he won’t need every nickel to go away.  Larry Brown, you’ll recall, was guaranteed $40 million after completing his dreadful first Knick season.  But after leaving Larry twisting in the wind, and then threatening Larry at meetings and hearings with his “breach” (what? talking to the media outside the Greenburgh facility?), somehow, Larry Brown took less than 50 cents on the dollar and walked away with $18 million of the remaining $40 million, a stunning $22 million dollar win for the Knicks (of course, others would say that Larry got $28 million to coach one terrible season, which is also true).

     

It says here that James Dolan simply doesn’t want to pay Marbury his full salary AND see him back in the league next week on another team.  And, to some degree, Dolan has, arguably, won.  In Saturday’s New York Post (via Marc Berman), Marbury is quoted as saying he’s already offered to leave one million dollars of this year’s $21.9 million salary on the table for his freedom.  That’s certainly a crack that Dolan will try and turn into five or ten million.  We’ll see.

    

So D’Antoni was in a bind.  Maybe he was told to play Marbury.  Maybe he had a change of heart.  But it says here that D’Antoni didn’t want Marbury to play, so he “asked” him, rather than “told” him, and it worked – Marbury said he didn’t want to.  However, from a legal perspective, asking and telling are two different things.  That’s the legal conundrum the Knicks are in right now.  And don’t forget, according to varied reports, D’Antoni not only didn’t want to play Marbury, he was hoping Marbury would be gone before training camp began.  

 

WALSH-DOLAN

 

These two are the closest to being on the same page.  But the sticking point might be, at this stage, Walsh wants to get rid of Marbury because of the circus atmosphere this has created in New York and around the NBA.  But Dolan, again, wants Marbury to take much less (see Larry Brown) and doesn’t mind having Marbury twist in the wind for a while longer.  Again, there’s a million-dollar crack in Marbury’s position that may increase over the next few days.

  

MARBURY-D’ANTONI

 

See the first three paragraphs of this post.  Marbury, at one point, did want to play.  D’Antoni, certainly originally, NEVER wanted him to play.  While D’Antoni might have felt pressure (injuries, trades, Walsh, Dolan or some combination thereof) to play Marbury, it certainly seemed like he wanted him gone – then and now.  But the key point still is:  why ASK a player if he wants to play; why not TELL him that he has to play?  A fascinating question.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

 

So what do we have?  We have a player who wants out with virtually all of his money (less, for now, $1 million).  We have a coach who doesn’t want to play the player and who never wanted to play the player.  We have a general manager who wanted the player to play (for trade value purposes) but never got his wish.  And we have an owner who doesn’t want to cave to a player and have him play somewhere else next week.

    

It says here that the middle ground is Marbury gives up a little more money and everyone tries to save a little face.  It also says here that everybody winds up with egg on their face.  It’s a disgrace what’s happened here and to this franchise.  There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    

Maybe Lebron was right.  Maybe we should all go to sleep and wake up on July 1, 2010.  And, yes, this is written by a life-long Knicks fan.  

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

WILL NBA PLAYERS (AND COACHES) EVER LEARN HOW TO DEFEND A THREE LATE IN THE GAME?

                                        Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It happens about 50 times a year (probably more).  It’s the same situation time and again.  It happens in the NBA, in all levels of college and even in high school.  Here’s the situation:  Your team is up by three, very late in the game (in our example to come, 3.2 seconds).  The other team has the ball, taking it out on the side, needing a three to tie.  Somehow, inexplicably, the other team’s star shooter shakes loose, runs behind the three-point line, gets a pass and buries a three to force overtime.  How could this happen?

IT HAPPENED LAST FRIDAY

 

The most recent example was last Friday, Nets-Raptors.  While it’s one of the great regular season games you will ever see (Vince Carter hits a three with 0.8 left in regulation to tie and throws down a backwards dunk with 2.1 seconds left in OT to win the game), we’ll focus on the end of regulation where Toronto allowed the Nets a chance to win a game in OT that they (the Raptors) should have won in regulation. 

    

The Raptors are up 111-108, 3.2 seconds left, the Nets taking the ball out on the side just past half-court in their offensive zone.  Big Net center Brook Lopez is at the foul line being guarded by Chris Bosh.  Net superstar Vince Carter is below Lopez, just inside the foul line and he is being guarded by Toronto’s Anthony Parker.  Lopez sets a pick on Parker as Carter pops out to the top of the key and then past the three-point line, gets the inbounds pass, Parker gets there a step late and Carter buries a three.  What’s incredibly wrong (stupid?) with this picture?

 

WHAT SHOULD THEY DO IN THIS SITUATION?

 

When you’re up three very late in the game (and certainly with 3.2 seconds left), your goal defensively has to be no three-point shot or, at least, an incredibly difficult three-point shot.  So why would someone guarding Vince Carter guard him below the foul line and stand between Carter and the basket?  While we are all taught to play between our man and the basket, the reality is that, in this situation (up three very late in the game), you should stand between your man and THE THREE-POINT LINE!!  Counter-intuitive, you say?  Absolutely.

    

But think it through to the end.  If Parker isn’t below the foul line (remember if Carter gets the ball near the basket and scores a two, you thank him cause your team wins), he can’t get picked by Lopez.  In fact, in that situation, both Parker AND Chris Bosh should just run out with Carter past the three-point line.  If the inbounds pass goes into Brook Lopez 15 feet from the basket, the game’s over.

    

Again, in this situation, if you can get the other side to get the ball inside the three-point line, you only need to defend the line (and the opponents behind the line), not the guy with the ball.  If he loses his mind and goes in and dunks, you thank him because you win by one.

    

Counter-intuitve, yes, but not difficult to understand.  So when Parker gets picked by Lopez, you shake your head.  When Bosh doesn’t run out as soon as the pick is set (remember if Carter can even catch the ball and touch-passes it to Lopez at the foul line, the game is over), you shake your head.  Instead, Parker gets picked, Bosh doesn’t move to the shooter, Parker gets there late and, as Carter shoots, Bosh BOXES OUT Lopez, a waste of time.  All players on the team, when a shot like Carter’s goes up, should, once again, defend the three-point line and the guys standing behind it.  If someone on the other team gets the rebound and lays it in, you win by one.  If the rebound is a very long one, time will probably run out.  But if it doesn’t, you’ve got your guys boxing out their guys AT THE THREE-POINT LINE.  Get it?  Everything else is irrelevant, especially the rebound put-back.

    

Why is this so difficult to understand?  The NBA (or college or even high school) coach who figures this out first will be considered a “genius” who discovered something that changed the game.  But this has been going on for 20 years or so and, it appears, nobody can see the obvious:  Defend the three-point line, NOT the basket.

 

WHY NOT (AT LEAST) FOUL?

 

Many people who don’t even understand the above always raise the why-don’t-you-put-him-on-the-line-for-two theory since you’re up three.  It seems the reasons that many coaches don’t (although some do) are: 1) you never, as a coach, want to stop the clock late in the game when you’re winning and 2) (more importantly, I believe) is the fact that some coaches fear (rightly or wrongly) that, if they foul, the shooter makes the first, misses the second on purpose and then (at least in theory) can make a two to tie or even a three to win (assuming the offense can get the rebound, a big assumption).  I think the key there is the fact that it’s the only way (short of fouling the opposition as he takes a three) you, as coach, can LOSE the game when you’re up three.  Then, of course, you’d be slaughtered in the media for turning a win into a loss.  And, if your job was on the line to begin with, it’s a very short step to getting fired.

    

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to talk with a few NBA coaches about this (especially one of my former coaches at Power Memorial, Brendan Malone, now Stan Van Gundy’s assistant at Orlando).  Coach Malone, when he was a Pacers assistant, told me it’s an interesting idea but that most NBA teams choose to foul.  In fact, Don Chaney, then coach of the Knicks (remember now, he was a great defender as a player), who thought that his team should play great defense, started having the Knicks foul on purpose after they lost multiple three-point leads late in games by getting picked at the foul line.  It actually helped the Knicks win a few games at the time.

    

But here’s hoping that someone, somewhere will teach an athletic team to defend the three-point line up three very late in the game.  That will change the way the game is played in the 21st Century.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

IS MIKE MUSSINA A HALL OF FAMER? YOU BETCHA

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

 

You’ve heard the arguments as to why Mike Mussina, who announced his retirement this week, is not a Hall of Famer:  He never won a World Series (getting to the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with a one-run lead doesn’t count), he never won a Cy Young, he didn’t win 300 games and, of course, until this season, he never won 20.  The following will point out the reasons why he is a Hall of Famer.

 

100 WINS OVER .500

 

Pitchers with over 200 wins who are also 100 wins over .500 are Hall of Fame pitchers.  And while Roger Clemens (354-184) may not make the Hall of Fame, that will be for different reasons.  Mussina, at 270-153, is a staggering 117 games over .500.  A stunning statistic.

 

JIM PALMER

 

Nobody would confuse Mike Mussina with Jim Palmer.  Although they have virtually identical won-loss numbers (Mussina 270-153, Palmer 268-152), Palmer’s three Cy Youngs and three World Series rings put him on another level.  In fact, the only person who might confuse Mike Mussina with Jim Palmer is … Jim Palmer.

    

Interestingly, Palmer was interviewed by Suzyn Waldman before a Yankees-Orioles game a few years ago (before Mussina won 20).  When asked about Mussina, Palmer said he was a Hall of Fame pitcher.  In fact, Palmer said that “you really had to see Mike pitch week-in and week-out for the Orioles [as Palmer did] to understand his greatness.”

    

Palmer has been quoted elsewhere as saying if Mike Mussina had stayed an Oriole, “he would have been the greatest Oriole pitcher ever.”  While none of us who saw Palmer (and Mussina) pitch will agree, the point is an interesting one because it comes from the greatest Oriole pitcher ever.

 

SEVEN GOLD GLOVES

 

With all the emphasis on hitting in the last 20 years, and the number of starting pitchers doubling (tripling?) over the last few decades due to expansion, five-man (v. four- man) rotations and injuries, seven Gold Gloves is a stunning number for this position.

 

10 SEASONS WITH AN ERA OF 3.50 OR LESS

 

It’s hard to equate ERA today with ERA in the past, especially with the common knowledge about the existence (but not the depth) of the steroids era.  The rule of thumb on National League ERA v. American League ERA is about a half-a-run (due to the pitcher hitting, the number eight hitter, the existence of the AL designated hitter, etc.).  Back in the “glory” days of baseball (before they lowered the mound in the late ‘60s), under a 3.00 ERA was considered very good.  Today, that’s virtually unheard of.  For Mussina to have 10 seasons at 3.50 or less (and one season of 3.51) is an amazing stat.

 

THE MYTH OF 20 WINS IN A SEASON AND 300 WINS IN TODAY’S GAME

 

This is old news, but people have trouble grasping the concept.  I was fortunate to interview Jim Kaat in 2001, as he was, at the time, doing Yankee games on MSG.  Kaat said that, because the Mets, in the late 1960s, to protect their young arms (Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, etc.), changed their rotation from a four-man to a five-man, they also changed the dynamic of the number of wins starting pitchers could have over the course of a season and a career.

    

Kaat said that all great pitchers strive to win half of their starts to win 20 games.  In a four-man rotation, the starters get 40-41 starts a year.  Thus, a top pitcher could win 20 games by winning half of his starts.  In a five-man rotation, that same starter would get only 33-34 starts a year.  Thus, without even discussing the fact that starters don’t complete games and the rise of the relief pitcher as a virtually every-game appearance, simple math shows you that, since the starters before (we’ll say the 1980s) started 15% more games than today’s starters (40 v. 34), by simple math the equivalent of 20 wins then is 17 wins now.

    

Where are the “stat experts” on this simple example?

    

I wrote about this at length when Mike Mussina won his 255th game on May 8, 2008 (see Kallas Remarks, 5/14/08).  In fact, based on Jim Kaat’s statements in 2001, I wrote that Mike Mussina winning 255 in the five-man rotation era is just like winning 300 in the four-man rotation era (300 less 15% equals 255).  And nobody knew.  You don’t have to be a brain surgeon, a mathematician or even a knowledgeable baseball person to figure this out.

    

If you ask, today (and a stunning number of people do), how many times did he win 20?, you lack the basic knowledge of what happened to baseball over the last 25 years or so.  And, again, that’s before there is any discussion of six-inning pitchers and multiple relievers.

    

If you’re going the 20-win question route, understand that the question should be “How many times did Mike Mussina win 17 or more?”  The answer is eight (17 twice, 18 three times, 19 twice and 20 in 2008).  Imagine if Mussina pitched in a four-man rotation era and won 20 eight times?  Nobody would deny that he’s a sure Hall of Famer.

 

WON OVER 50% OF HIS STARTS

 

Back to the Jim Kaat example of what great pitchers set out to do every season (win half of their starts (20 wins before the 1980s, 17 wins nowadays)).  Mike Mussina started 536 games in his career.  He won 270.  That’s greater than 50% and a staggering stat.

 

THE CONCLUSION   

  

We’ll go back to Jim Palmer, who might have seen Mike Mussina pitch more than anyone over the course of Mussina’s career.  Palmer recently told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that Mussina was “one of the most gifted guys I ever saw.”  That should help a deserving Mike Mussina get into the Hall of Fame.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

ONCE AGAIN, THE NL MVP GOES TO THE NL MOP

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Maybe it’s a National League thing, but it’s stunning how often the wrong person gets the Most Valuable Player Award.  While the rules allow for players who don’t make the post-season to win the award, it’s hard to believe that, especially in today’s watered-down playoff system, a player on a team that makes the post-season should not get the award.  I guess one could argue that, if there’s no player who had an excellent season on every team that did make the post-season, maybe a non-playoff player should get the award.  But, now, with four teams making it, it’s hard to believe that that ever happens.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER OR MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER?

 

The reality is that, for decades, writers have voted for the most outstanding player in the league as the most valuable player in the league.  You don’t need a brain or a dictionary to know the difference between “valuable” and “outstanding.”  If you have a great season and your team goes nowhere, you shouldn’t get the award.

    

albert-pujolsWhich brings us to the 2008 NL MVP Award.  Given to Albert Pujols, a superstar if there ever was one, Pujols had a magnificent year, hitting .357 with 37 home runs and 116 runs batted in.  But he led the Cardinals to …, to …, well, to nowhere.  The Cardinals finished fourth in the NL Central, eleven-and-a-half games behind the Cubs.  They were never a threat to the division-winning Cubs and finished fourth in the wild card race.

    

On the other hand, Ryan Howard put the Phillies on his back and carried them to an NL East Division title (don’t forget that, even though the Phillies won the World Series, that’s irrelevant for MVP because the votes are cast before the playoffs begin).  Howard certainly wasn’t very good for much of the season.  But, come crunch time, Howard was the man, winding up with a major league-leading 46 home runs and a major league-leading 146 runs batted in, staggering numbers in the post-steroids era (although he only hit .251), as he led the Phillies to the playoffs by overtaking the New York Mets.

    

Yet, when the votes came out, Pujols, with 18 first-place and 10 second-place votes, beat Howard, with 12 first-place votes and 8 second-place votes (one brilliant writer didn’t have Howard in the top ten – seriously).

    

It’s a simple concept – valuable can’t really equate to a middle-of-the-pack team.

 

IT’S CERTAINLY HAPPENED IN THE PAST

 

But this is old news if you follow the National League.  The most stirring examples are the great Ernie Banks and Andre Dawson.  In 1958 and 1959, Banks was the NL MVP.  He must have been the best player in the NL (and that’s a big statement when you consider Mays, Aaron, etc.).  But there’s no chance he was the most valuable as his Cubs finished fifth in an eight-team league, under .500 in both seasons (they were called, back then, a “second-division” club, the name for the bottom half of each eight-team league prior to 1960s expansion).  In 1987, Andre Dawson’s Cubs finished in last place in the NL East (two divisions per league by then) with a sub .500 record as well.  But he was given the MVP, again as the Most Outstanding Player.

 

MAYBE THERE’S SOME JUSTICE IN PUJOLS’ SELECTION

 

If you follow the National League, however, maybe there’s some justice in the 2008 selection.  You see, in 2006, Ryan Howard was the MVP and Albert Pujols finished second.  The funny thing, of course, was that Pujols’ Cardinals won their division (and would be an unlikely World Series winner) and Howard’s Phillies finished 12 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East and three games out of the Wild Card.

    

But Pujols, who hit .331 with 49 homers and 137 runs batted in for a division-winner in 2006, couldn’t beat Howard, who hit .313 with 58 homers and 149 runs batted in for a non-playoff team.  Indeed, Pujols was quoted at the time as saying that Howard shouldn’t be the MVP because his team didn’t make the playoffs.  Interesting, no?

    

So maybe that’s what happened.  Maybe some writers were unhappy that a non-winner (a guy on a non-playoff team, I should say) won the MVP Award in 2006.  So, with the same two players in play in 2008, maybe some writers voted for their 2006 division-winner who lost the award (Pujols) even though he was not a post-season guy in 2008.  Turnabout is fair play, isn’t that what they say?

 

WHAT ABOUT THE CY YOUNG AWARD?

 

Well, the Cy Young Award, unlike the MVP, is simply for the best pitcher.  It’s not called an MVP Award.  That’s why it doesn’t matter if Cliff Lee wins it, because he was clearly the best pitcher in the American League.  If you’re going to give the award for MVP to the MOP, change the name and call it the Most Outstanding Player Award. 

 

THE RECAP

 

So, to recap, the 2006 NL MVP should have gone to Albert Pujols, who had a great year and led his team to the post-season.  But he was beaten out in 2006 by Ryan Howard, who had a great year and didn’t lead his team to the post-season.  In 2008, the NL MVP should have gone to Ryan Howard, who had a great year and led his team to the post-season.  But he was beaten out in 2008 by Albert Pujols, who had a great year and didn’t lead his team to the post-season.

    

Hey, I guess you could say that now they are even.  Fortunately for both, each time they were wrongly denied the award, that player won the World Series; Pujols in 2006, Howard in 2008.  And both, I’m sure, would prefer the ring to the hardware.

    

As for the voters, maybe a dictionary is in order before they vote for next season’s MVP.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

MIKE SINGLETARY NEEDS TO HEED HIS OWN ADVICE

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Who doesn’t know Mike Singletary?  The middle linebacker of the Super Bowl-winning Bears (the Bears’ 1980s version of Dick Butkus), the intense eyes, the anchor of one of the greatest defenses of all-time, Singletary became a Hall of Fame player based on talent and desire and a passion for the game he loves.  Putting in his dues as an assistant, Singletary was promoted to head coach of the San Francisco 49ers after Mike Nolan’s firing a few weeks ago.

Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Singletary had a lot of people nodding their heads in agreement when, during his first game as head coach (against the lowly Seattle Seahawks), he sent tight end Vernon Davis to the locker room early after Davis got a stupid personal foul penalty after a play and then didn’t seem to care what Singletary had to say to him when he came off the field.  Singletary’s post-game rant (“I’d rather play with ten guys,” etc.) became an instant You Tube classic.

    

But, unbeknownst to virtually everyone at the time, Mike Singletary, in his first half-time speech to his team during his first game as an NFL head coach, pulled down his pants and turned around to have his butt face his team.  According to published reports, he then kept his pants around his ankles for three to four minutes as he spoke to his team about the game. 

    

Not surprisingly, it did no good as the 49ers were soundly beaten by the lowly Seahawks, 34-13. 

    

If you’re of a certain age (I’ll say 45 or older), you have an understanding of how crazy coaches can do such a thing.  Verbal abuse was commonplace among many coaches if you grew up in the 1970s or before.  In fact, coaches would do anything, including (sometimes) grab or even hit players (at levels going down to high school) to “get their point across.”  Pulling down one’s pants isn’t so crazy in the overall scheme of things if you understand where it’s coming from.

     

But that was then.  This is now.  That mentality of anything goes if you’re the coach has been on the outs for a decade or more.  The grabbing or hitting or choking of players has virtually disappeared and, in many areas (like high school), is grounds for immediate dismissal.  Which, of course, is how it should be.  But, in the ‘70s and before, it wouldn’t be shocking for a coach to pull down his pants and rant and rave for a few minutes. 

    

Coaches should have been aware when Fran Fraschilla lost his Division I basketball coaching job a few years ago for, among other reasons, pulling down his pants in front of his team.  And you can certainly argue that it’s different in the pros than in college.

    

But, for better or worse, it’s a new brand of kid and even a new brand of pro player.  Most are coddled from a young age.  Many have a sense of entitlement.  Virtually all don’t like to be screamed at or humiliated (we didn’t either but most of us dealt with it and moved on) by an over-the-top coach. 

     

Which brings us to game two of the Mike Singletary era.  Playing a good Arizona team very tough, the 49ers were down 29-24 very late in the game but had a chance to score the winning touchdown.  On second and goal from the one and 20 seconds left, Frank Gore ran left and maybe was down by contact, maybe not, before getting into the end zone.  The refs stopped the clock with four seconds left so the play could be reviewed.  It was determined that Gore had actually lost over a yard on the play.  With no timeouts and no knowledge that the ball was even going to be spotted over two yards (instead of one) from the goal line, offensive coordinator Mike Martz (you remember him from the Kurt Warner “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams) calls his second consecutive running play, this one for Michael Robinson (who?) and the game ends when Robinson is stopped before the goal line.

    

In his second post-game press conference as a head coach in the NFL, Singletary does worse than his first one.  He kills his own offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, by saying it was his (Martz’s) idea and his (Martz’s) play call on the final play.  Even if true, Singletary lost a lot of respect from a lot of coaches by not taking responsibility (no matter who made the call).  It wouldn’t come out until a day or two later that neither Martz nor Singletary knew that the ball was spotted on the two-and-a-half yard line, not the one.  Otherwise, they would have called a different play.

    

During this second post-game press conference Singletary, who seems to speak with no filter for a very intelligent guy, blurted out that his team needs to “grow up.” in future weeks.

    

This came from a man who, in two post-game press conferences, went into a rambling and emotional rant after his first loss that was instant internet fodder and threw his offensive coordinator under the bus in his second post-game press conference.

    

Mike Singletary needs to lead by example.  He’s the first one on that team who needs to “grow up” in the next few weeks.  Then he can become what he has the potential to become — a good NFL coach.  We’ll see.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

ARMAGEDDON FOR THE NEW YORK JETS?

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

You have to be around New York City this week to believe the hype that the Jets-Patriots game is getting for Thursday night.  But the Jet fans have it all wrong.  They have to win this game because the Patriots are a shell of the team that they were even AFTER Tom Brady got hurt.  The notion that the Jets are “better” than the Patriots is absurd (although the Jets are better “on paper,” whatever that means).  The Patriots beat the Jets 19-10 at the Meadowlands in Week 2 in what was viewed, at the time, to be the great opportunity for the Jets since Brady had gone down in Week 1.

When Brady was injured, I wrote an article (see Kallas Remarks, 9/13/08) saying that the Patriots would still be 11-5.  While I won’t back off that now, since Brady was hurt, the Patriots have lost enough big-time players as to have made them questionable for a deep playoff run even if Brady had NOT been injured in Game 1. 

    

INJURIES, INJURIES, INJURIES

 

Give this a little thought:  The Patriots were LOADED at running back with Lawrence Maroney off a very good year in 2007, Sammy Morris, a quality back, Lamont Jordan, viewed a few years ago by Jet fans to be so good that he should have replaced Curtis Martin, and the ever-present, Troy Brown-like (in this writer’s opinion) Kevin Faulk.

But a funny thing happened on the way to having an excellent running game – other than Faulk, a third-down back, they all got hurt.  Not one, not two, but three quality backs.  The Patriots are starting with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a guy you never heard of before the season.

    

But it gets worse than that.  In addition to losing the right side of their line (Nick Kaczur and Stephen Neal) for a few games, the Patriots have now lost the heart of their secondary, Rodney Harrison, for the season.  Big-time linebacker Adalius Thomas is also down, probably for the season. 

 

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

 

With Harrison out, you can’t name three guys in their defensive backfield (Ellis Hobbs and who else?).  Yet they held the Colts to 18 points in a tough defeat on the road (and while their coach was correctly criticized for a few things, the critics couldn’t see the forest for the trees – it was a near-miracle that the Patriots almost won that game).

    

Frankly, even the back-ups in the secondary are hurt.  Terrence Wheatley won’t play against the Jets and it’s unclear whether Lewis Sanders will play (and don’t confuse him with safety James Sanders, who will play).

    

The point is, the Patriots have done it with smoke and mirrors (and a still very good defensive front seven) this year in a miracle coaching job by Bill Belichick.

 

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE THE JETS?

 

Well, if you believe the hype, this is the year for the New York Jets.  That’s hard to believe, but, despite one New York radio “expert” saying this game could start the “changing of the guard” (yes, that’s a quote) in the AFC East, the reality is that this is a very brief window of opportunity for the Jets.  The Brett Favre experiment has been OK to good, nothing more to date, and, if Tom Brady comes back anywhere near what he was before, the AFC East will be a cakewalk for the Patriots next season.

    

So, if there is a “changing of the guard,” it’s a 10-week thing, not a multi-year thing.

 

IS THIS ARMAGEDDON FOR THE JETS?

 

Well, yeah.  If they lose this game, with the Patriots down their All-World QB and about seven other guys who are really good, it’s all downhill for the Jets, even if they have a really easy schedule the rest of the year (after the Titans).  The real question is, how can they lose this game?  And the answer, as usual, is Bill Belichick.

    

But with the Patriots coming back to very good, not great, status this season, this is the only chance the Jets will have to make some noise.  Can they lose to the Patriots and the Titans and still make the playoffs.  Yes, but what does that mean?  It says here not very much.     

    

The reality is that, if the Jets beat the Patriots, it’s something that’s a nice stepping- stone for this season only.  If they don’t, it’s a terrible loss because this will be the weakest the Patriots will be for years to come (think how good they’ll be next year).

    

For the New York Jets, the future is now.  For the New England Patriots, they’re showing the league how to overcome great adversity even AFTER their great QB was lost for the season.

 

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.