Monthly Archives: August 2009

Steve on Rick Wolff’s The Sports Edge 8/30/09

s28671Rick Wolff and Steve discuss Little League pitch counts in the 2009 Williamsport Little League tournament.

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SANCHEZ JETS’ QB BY DEFAULT; TIME FOR REX RYAN TO BE QUIET AND WIN SOME GAMES

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Nobody was really surprised when Jet coach Rex Ryan named rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez the starter for now and the future.  Kellen Clemens was, of course, disappointed, but he was in no position to complain.  The only way he could have been named the starter was to play out of his mind and have Sanchez fall on his face.  While Sanchez almost (but not quite) fell on his face, Clemens never rose above mediocrity.  So, it’s Sanchez’s job. 

WHAT IF? 

It might have been a more interesting (closer?) decision if Ray Lewis could have caught a Sanchez pass that hit him in the hands.  Sanchez had already thrown an interception for a touchdown and, while dropping back to pass on his next possession, never looked Lewis off and literally threw a pass right to him.  But Lewis dropped the ball (it looked like he would have easily returned it for a touchdown).

Everyone (announcers, coaches, players) seemed really excited that Sanchez “came back from adversity” to hit Leon Washington for a touchdown later in the first half.  While not to take anything away from Sanchez (he did show a lot of poise and the Ravens started the game with more of a regular-season edge), the reality is that, when he threw that TD pass, Ray Lewis was on the sidelines, Ed Reed was on the sidelines and Terrell Suggs hadn’t played at all.

 WHAT ABOUT KELLEN CLEMENS?

 Well, Kellen Clemens really has nothing to complain about.  Everybody knew he had to win the job hands down.  And it certainly was there for the taking given the play of Mark Sanchez.  But Clemens came in and immediately threw his own bad interception that was returned for a touchdown. 

Rex Ryan called his decision a “gut” decision to give the job to Sanchez and Clemens, frankly, never did much to make it a close call.  Some have noted Clemens 12 interceptions in scrimmages to Sanchez’s five, but it’s a little scary that intra-squad scrimmage statistics are being kept and, arguably, were a major factor in the decision (because they both played so poorly against the Ravens). 

WHY DOES REX RYAN FEEL SO COMPELLED TO TALK ABOUT THE PATRIOTS?

 It’s almost bizarre that, since the day of his first press conference (where he, essentially, promised a Super Bowl in the next couple of seasons), Rex Ryan feels that it’s necessary to take shots at Bill Belichick and the Patriots.  He said things like he’s not going to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings, that “I’m just letting him know I’m not intimidated by him” and “you don’t win and beat a Bill Belichick-coached team by tiptoeing up there.”

While all Jet fans agree with that sentiment, it’s been, for the most part, decades of talk and very little action.  Why upset Belichick (assuming he even cares what Ryan says, a big assumption)?  Belichick makes his living by eating up young quarterbacks.  And while the Patriots clearly don’t have the greatest defense (although they do have the greatest offense), you know it’s the scheme that Belichick puts in place to confuse these quarterbacks almost as much as the personnel.  Somehow, you have to think there’s going to be a little extra put into the game plan against the Jets.  That’s not a good thing for Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez or any Jet player. 

I don’t recall seeing a Bill Belichick-quote that said Rex Ryan is going to be intimidated by anyone.  So, if you’re Rex Ryan, why even bring it up? 

DOES MARK SANCHEZ = JOE FLACCO? 

Actually, the better question is does the Jets defense and the other offensive players (besides the QB) equal the Ravens defense and the other offensive players (besides the QB).  The answer here is no.  

When Kris Jenkins and Darrelle Revis actually play, the Jets have a chance to be a very good defense.  But they’re not the Ravens.  Offensively, well, even if it’s a wash (and it probably isn’t), Sanchez is going to have to step up like Flacco did.  And while the Ravens didn’t ask Flacco to “do too much,” he’s a physical specimen with an excellent arm who did plenty to help the Ravens win. 

That’s a lot to ask of the Jets and Mark Sanchez this season.  

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

PEDRO BELOW AVERAGE (AT BEST); JAMIE MOYER KICKED TO THE CURB

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It’s hard to believe what’s been done to Jamie Moyer.  A true professional, a “junk ball” pitcher for what seems like forever, Moyer was 16-7 last year for the World Champion Phillies.  But Pedro Martinez, one of the greatest pitchers ever (but not in, at least, the last four seasons), somehow got a contract, worked hard and was placed in the Phillies’ rotation instead of Moyer.  Moyer was, reportedly, very upset.  And it says here that he has every right to be upset.

HOW’S THAT WORKING OUT?

Well, if you look at it objectively, not very well.  What you’ll here from the pro-Pedro guys is that he’s 2-0.  True enough, but let’s take a look at his three starts.  On August 12, Pedro got the start against the Cubs.  He was staked to a 2-0 lead after one, a 4-1 lead after three and a 12-1 lead after four.  Not much pressure there.  Pedro gave up seven hits and three runs (all earned) in his five-inning debut and got the win.  But certainly he wasn’t very impressive.

Start number two, against Arizona on August 18, was better.  But, because of a rain delay, Pedro only pitched three innings, giving up one run (on a homer) and two hits as he got a no-decision.  Start number three, in this writer’s opinion (and, remember, this writer thinks Pedro is one of the greatest pitchers ever and the only one in the last 20 years who can approach the great Koufax – see 1999 and 2000), really exposed Pedro. 

Against what can generously be described as a weak hitting Mets team (even Met announcer Gary Cohen stated that “the depth of their batting order is so shallow”), Pedro was pummeled by the top of the Mets order, as their first three hitters went 6-9 with three extra base hits.  And those three hitters (Pagan, Castillo and Murphy) won’t ever be confused with Damon, Jeter and Teixeira.  Throw in clean-up hitter (?) Jeff Francoeur’s long triple and the top four went 7-12 against Pedro with four extra base-hits.

But Pedro pitches in the National League now and, with the bottom of the Mets order essentially an excellent AAA team (offensively), Pedro was able to hang around to get the win.  The Phillies had two guys warming up in the third inning (including the disappearing Jamie Moyer) but, once Pedro got to the bottom of the order, he was OK.  In fact, Gary Cohen, in the third, wondered out loud what it must be like to watch the great Pedro being threatened with maybe coming out of a game where he led 6-0 and then 8-2 and then 8-4.  Cohen said (about Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel) that “it’s all about managing with your head and not your heart.”

Pedro was lights out against Brian Schneider (4 for his last 46 before he took Pedro to the warning track in deep right), Anderson Hernandez (0 for his last 16) and the pitcher.  This is what kept him in the game and got him the win.  If you’ve ever tried to understand the difference between pitching in the AL and pitching in the NL, here was Exhibit A.

WHERE ART THOU, JAMIE MOYER?

So what’s happened to Jamie Moyer?  Here’s a guy who, before this year, was 35-21 for the Phillies for the last three seasons.  He, essentially, hadn’t missed a start in three years, starting 33 times in both 2007 and 2008 and 22 times this year before the plug was pulled on him.

Despite being (rightfully) upset, Moyer continues to do his job in the (rare) instance that he is called upon to pitch.  Moyer last started for the Phillies on August 9 against the Marlins.  He gave up three runs (two earned) in five innings and took the loss (the bullpen gave up nine runs after Moyer was removed).  Then, there were no appearances of any kind once Pedro entered the rotation – until Pedro’s second start on August 18 against the Diamondbacks. 

All Moyer did in his first relief appearance was to throw six shutout innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up only two hits and getting the win.

Shouldn’t that have earned him his starting job back?  Apparently not.

WHERE’S CHARLIE MANUEL IN ALL OF THIS?

Well, this move originally was presented as a general manager’s move.  But Manuel seems to have at least tacitly gone along with it.  On WFAN radio in New York City this past Sunday, Manuel said things like “we felt we owed it to Pedro to let him start” (huh?) and “Don’t worry, Jamie Moyer will pitch again for this team again.” (Yeah, but when?).

But that begs the question:  How did a 257-game winner who had as much to do with his team making the playoffs last year as anyone, get kicked to the curb?  Well, it always seems to be the junk ball pitcher, the guy who always looks like he’s going to be hammered, the guy who everyone swears they can hit (until they go 0-4 against him), who gets knocked out of the rotation.

Charlie Manuel may not like it, but he seems to be going along with it.  By the way, who do the Phillies owe more to:  the guy who won 16 games last year (and has been there for over three seasons) or the guy who just showed up?  It’s bizarre, to say the least.

WHO HAS THE MOST WINS FOR THE PHILLIES THIS YEAR?

Maybe on TV this weekend you saw the list of pitchers in the Phillies starting rotation now.  Cliff Lee is 4-0 and is clearly the ace of the staff.  The highest winner in the present staff is the rookie J.A. Happ with 10 followed by Joe Blanton with 8 wins.  Cole Hamels (of all people) is having a sub-par year at 7-8 and Pedro is now 2-0. 

Did I forget to mention who leads the Phillies in wins in 2009?  Oh, yeah, it’s Jamie Moyer with 11.  Enough said, don’t you think?

Jamie Moyer, with 257 wins, has already reached the equivalent of 300 wins in the world of the five-man pitching rotation (see Kallas Remarks, 5/14/08).   But every time the Phillies give Pedro a huge lead, Moyer must be thinking about losing another win.  It’s just not right.  Hopefully, the Phillies will put him back in the rotation sooner rather than later.

And then maybe Cole Hamels will get kicked to the curb (but don’t bet on it).     

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

Steve on WFAN Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts Show

Thursday August 20th – NYC based attorney Steve Kallas tells us how the Plax plea deal went down.

PLAXICO BURRESS: END OF AN ERROR, PART II

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

Whether it was last year, right after Plaxico Burress shot himself with his own unlicensed gun in a New York City nightclub (Kallas Remarks, 11/30/08), or two weeks ago, when Burress was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury (Kallas Remarks, 8/3/09), it always seemed like Plaxico was going to do jail time and, probably, two years.

        

Well, that came true today when Burress pleaded guilty to the Class D felony of attempted criminal possession of a weapon.  That crime carries with it a mandatory minimum of two years in prison (as opposed to the three-and-a-half year mandatory minimum he would have faced if convicted at trial on the Class C felony that he was charged with).  His sentencing day is September 22.

      

HOW DID PLAXICO GET HERE?

             

There’s been much talk about how this has happened because Plaxico is a celebrity.  For example, Burress’ attorney, Benjamin Brafman, stated that if Plaxico wasn’t a celebrity, he would never have been arrested because nobody would have found out about it. 

               

But that begs the question:  A crime was still committed, so who really knows what would have happened?  Burress’ celebrity really hurt him because he [Burress] was able to talk his way into the club with his gun even though the security guards knew he had a gun.  If that were you or me, we’d have had no chance to get into the club with a gun and, thus, no chance to shoot ourselves in the thigh (stupidity aside) while trying to balance a drink in the other hand.

      

People seem to forget that the crime was committed when Burress was simply in New York City with an unlicensed firearm (no intent to harm anyone necessary).  If he hadn’t shot himself (DA Morgenthau said the bullet almost hit a security guard after passing through Burress’ thigh), it would probably not have been discovered.  But he did shoot himself and, attempted cover-ups aside, it was pretty clear that even Joe Blow would have been arrested and prosecuted on this fact pattern.

                        

HOW MUCH TIME WILL PLAXICO REALLY DO?

                        

Generally speaking, a criminal defendant in the New York State system will serve 6/7 of his time (assuming he behaves in prison).  Even though there has been some discussion that Plaxico could get out earlier under the difficult Shock Incarceration program, the reality is that, according to his lawyer, Plaxico will go in on September 22nd and do his “20 months” in prison.

                     

Thus he’s looking at missing two full NFL seasons.

                       

HAS PLAXICO BURRESS BEEN TREATED DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE HE’S A CELEBRITY?

            

According to former Bronx Assistant District Attorney and current New York defense lawyer Joe Heinzmann, Burress has been treated like everyone else: 

“This was a routine disposition of a gun possession case.  People in Plaxico Burress’ situation are routinely allowed to plead to the lesser Class D felony and go to prison for two years [rather than the Class C three-and-a-half].  There was neither a celebrity advantage nor a celebrity disadvantage.”

Despite beliefs on either side of this argument, according to sources, this is how the Manhattan DA’s office is handling these gun possession cases.  That is, you can plead to the lesser Class D felony and get two years in prison.  Or you can go the distance, but, if you are convicted on the Class C charge, you will do at least three-and-a-half years in prison.

Essentially out of options, Plaxico chose the two years, which at least gives him a chance to get back in the league at age 34.

Even Ben Brafman seemed to acknowledge this when, wh ile answering a question posed to him that at least intimated that Plaxico was getting a good deal (two years) BECAUSE he is a celebrity, he stated:  “HE [Burress] GOT THE SAME PLEA IN THIS CASE THAT THE DA OFFERS EVERY DAY TO EVERYONE ELSE who is arrested for a weapon, who has no criminal record and [who] did not use the weapon in the commission of a crime.” (emphasis supplied).

WHERE’S THE NFL IN ALL OF THIS AND WHAT WILL THE COMMISSIONER DO?

Interesting question.  Plaxico’s lawyer has already made a public plea to Roger Goodell to announce any suspension now and have it run now or at least concurrently with the two-year term.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen, unless the Commissioner thinks these are two totally different cases.  If the Michael Vick and Donte’ Stallworth cases are at all helpful (in terms of how the NFL will act), you’ll probably here the “Plaxico’s not in the league now so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”  Remember, Stallworth wasn’t suspended for the season until after he reached his plea deal and did his time.  Michael Vick, with the help of Tony Dungy (don’t you think that Dungy will be part of Plaxico’s life in the next two years?), is back in the league but apparently will not be allowed to play for the first six weeks this year (although that could change).

In the Burress case, one would think that Goodell will take “everything” into consideration, but that he won’t enter a suspension now.  Rather, like with Vick, he will see where he is when his prison sentence is almost over and then make a determination as to what suspension, if any, will be imposed upon Burress.

It says here that it will be similar to the Vick situation where Tony Dungy will be involved and the conditional reinstatement/suspension, if any, will be like that of Michael Vick – a number of weeks that can be shortened for, in essence, good behavior.

We’ll see what happens in the future. 

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

THE RETURN OF TOM BRADY, THE SIGNING OF MICHAEL VICK AND THE DEBUT OF JULIAN EDELMAN (WHO?)

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

       

It was fascinating to be at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night, not just for the debut of Tom Brady after missing last year, but also for the in-stadium reaction to the signing of Michael Vick and the debut of the next great sleeper (arguably), Julian Edelman.

     

TOM BRADY RETURNS

             

It was obvious, if you were at the game, that Tom Brady was anxious to get back on the field after being injured in the season opener last year.  Brady was jumping up and down, ready to go.  It was (maybe) a disadvantage that the Patriots didn’t receive the opening kick as Brady was on the sidelines continuously throwing the ball.  Obviously, he couldn’t wait to get into the game.

                              

Once in the game, Brady looked smooth as ever, albeit a little rusty.  While he would throw a few deep balls with limited success, it was important (at least in this writer’s opinion), that he take a few hits just to get that aspect of the game out of the way.

                          

But it never happened.  Despite playing virtually the whole first-half (except for two Patriot kneel-downs in the last minute of the first half), Brady, 10-15 for 100 yards with two TDs and one INT, never really was hit.  In fact, the only time he was TOUCHED by the opposition was when he snuck it up the middle for a first down on third and very short.

                   

Separate from his injury, Brady is the one NFL quarterback that I’ve seen who always throws to stay loose – on the sidelines before he goes in, during time-outs, right before the game starts, etc.  If you’re at a Patriots game, watch how much he throws on the sidelines.  He’s almost like a pitcher who is afraid his arm will stiffen up if he doesn’t continuously throw the ball.

                           

Overall, he had a heck of a half.  But it was really a touch throw over a short defender and in front of a deep defender to Randy Moss for a 35-yard gain that, more than anything, showed that he’s already close to back.  By the first real game, absent injury, the rest of the NFL will be in deep trouble.

               

WHAT WAS THE VICK REACTION AT LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD?

                         

To be frank, it was very mixed.  During the second quarter, after Donovan McNabb, not very accurate all game, made one of those short throws off the mark, a fan in section 118 yelled out, “Bring in Vick.”  Just then my son, a Patriots fan, got a text from a friend that the Eagles had signed Vick.

                

By half-time, everybody in Lincoln Financial Field knew, and the back-and-forth among Eagles fans was fascinating:  from “we don’t need him” to “he’s a bad guy” to “think about him in the Wildcat” to “what if McNabb is horrible?”

               

I found the last one to be the most interesting.  Many forget that Donovan McNabb, franchise quarterback, was benched last year for virtual unknown Kevin Kolb.  While McNabb came back a week later and played well the rest of the way, it’s not at all a stretch to paint the picture, in a tough town like Philadelphia, where McNabb plays poorly and people (players?) start screaming for Vick.

                    

And where does that leave A.J. Feeley, a decent NFL quarterback in his own right?

            

We’ll see what happens.

          

WHERE WAS ANDY REID ON ALL OF THIS?

            

Well, Reid, like everyone else, said all the right things at the press conference the next morning.  But Reid, despite praising Vick, essentially told Chris Mortensen earlier this week that the Eagles had no need for Vick.  While one can argue that the injury (now, apparently, not very serious) to back-up quarterback Kevin Kolb opened the door to sign Vick, there seems to be some disconnect to what Reid told ESPN earlier this week (essentially no interest) and the reality which, according to Reid himself, included discussions with Vick and Tony Dungy ten days ago (Reid said he really did his homework on this one).

               

Whatever the truth, and while there’s no doubt that Vick deserves another chance, this has a potential big upside for the Eagles – and a potential big downside as well.

                

INTRODUCING THE NEW WES WELKER? – JULIAN EDELMAN

                   

Lost in the shuffle of all this news (the return of Brady, the signing of Vick) was, arguably, the best player on the field.  QB Julian Edelman, a seventh-round Patriots pick out of Kent State, is being converted to wide receiver/returner.  He couldn’t have been more impressive (75-yard punt return for a TD, 5 catches for 37 yards).  He instantly reminds you of Wes Welker, an excellent possession receiver, who finds open spots and will find open spots easier with a star like Randy Moss on the field. 

                 

But his intelligence was also apparent at the game on the punt return (how do the Patriots always find these guys?).  In the second quarter, the Eagles punted and Edelman caught the punt and, rather than going north/south for the six or eight yards he could get, decided to go east/west for no yardage.  But there was a flag on the play and the Eagles had to re-kick.  This time the punt was even tougher to return, as Edelman was pinned almost on the sideline.  But he ran north/south, faked out the first man down and then somehow found open space (with some good blocking) and returned the punt 75 yards for a touchdown.  For a converted QB (think of the Wildcat possibilities for this guy) to make that correction in one punt was amazing.  I think you’ll be hearing from this kid.  He can play.

     

BY THE WAY, WHERE WAS WES WELKER?

          

One of the reasons Julian Edelman probably got so much time was the absence of Wes Welker.  Apparently he didn’t play due to an “unspecified” injury.  But Edelman fooled one reporter who covered the game who noted that Welker caught Brady’s first completion (interestingly, if you do watch Edelman, he really does remind you of Welker, a great complement).

                

What was also fascinating is that before and during the game, there was a little guy in shorts and a t-shirt (and a baseball cap on backwards) who was catching with Brady or who would catch the ball for Brady when Brady was playing catch with Moss.  Of course, my son had to tell me that it was Welker playing catch – it seemed to me that half the men in the stadium were bigger than Welker.  But, as we all know, Wes Welker is a big-time football player.   

                     

CONCLUSION AFTER ONE EXHIBITION GAME

                  

That’s easy.  The Patriots will be clicking on all cylinders once the season gets underway.  It’s easy to see that Tom Brady will be back and, absent injury, as good as ever.  While the Patriots still have some work to do on defense, their offense (if this is possible) will be as good as it was two years ago.  And, if that’s the case (and it says here that it is), they will make their return to the top of the NFL.

                      

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

END OF AN ERA? JOHN SMOLTZ: RIGHTY SPECIALIST IN THE BULLPEN?

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

                          

 It’s hard to have watched John Smoltz throughout his Hall of Fame career and now have to watch him struggle mightily.  The guy with the best stuff of the Braves’ Golden Three (Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz) and one of the best post-season pitchers ever (15-4 post-season record, although only 2-2 in the World Series – but that’s for another time), it seems that the Atlanta Braves were right not to re-sign Smoltz.  But, being the competitor that he is, he got the shoulder surgery, went through the arduous rehab and signed with the Red Sox.            

                    

 CAN HE DO IT ANYMORE?

                         

Well, after (only?) eight starts, the answer seems to be no.  Smoltz has had (very) few good moments.  He beat Gil Meche and the Royals on July 11, giving up four hits and one run in five innings (97 pitches) while striking out seven and walking only one.  He’s started out very well a few times, often getting through the line-up the first time without problem and then getting hammered later in the game.

                            

But his last four starts have been brutal — giving up eight or nine hits and five or more earned runs in each start, never pitching past the sixth inning.  He’s 2-5 with an 8.32 earned run average, giving up 37 earned runs and 59 hits in only 40 innings.  As Smoltz knows, it’s a result-oriented world and he just hasn’t gotten the results.

 

IS IT TIME FOR THE RED SOX TO GIVE UP ON SMOLTZ?

                           

Not quite.  The Red Sox might have to give him one more start because they really don’t have anyone else.  But when Wakefield and/or Dice-K come back, there’s no room in the rotation for Smoltz.  Even if he could turn it around in his next start (unlikely, it says here), he’s been hammered virtually every start so it would still be hard to keep him in the starting rotation.

             

WHAT ABOUT HIS SHOULDER?

                   

Maybe Smoltz’s shoulder will improve with time (assuming he’s still recovering).  But, since he’s started for the Red Sox (eight in all), the reports have been that he’s had “good velocity” (low 90s), so velocity doesn’t seem to be the issue.

                      

An expert hitter like Paul O’Neill pointed out the real issue during the Red Sox-Yankees game on Thursday night.  A guy who played against Smoltz in the National League for Smoltz’s first five years in the majors (1988-1992), O’Neill spoke about, at the beginning of the game, how Smoltz had the nastiest slider that he threw inside to lefties and was virtually impossible to hit.

                 

As the game went on, and lefties would go 9-13 (with three walks) against Smoltz, O’Neill couldn’t believe it, finally stating the obvious:  that Smoltz simply can’t get lefties out.

                     

WHAT’S A TERRY FRANCONA TO DO?

                         

While you want to respect Smoltz’s Hall of Fame career, it’s hard to believe that Francona will trot Smoltz out there more than one more time.  Francona, who’s had his own managerial problems (it’s hard to believe that Francona would pitch to Evan Longoria the other night with a man on third and two out in extra innings.  Longoria hit a moonshot to give Tampa Bay a sweep of the mini-series), might have to consider moving Smoltz to the bullpen.

                        

With velocity in the low 90s and the competitive fire still there, as well as his fantastic experience as a closer for the Braves, Smoltz could certainly help the Red Sox out in the bullpen.  He’d have to be a right-handed relief specialist with the ability to only pitch against a lefty on a rare occasion (like in the middle of four or five righties). 

           

It says here that Smoltz could do that job and, IF his shoulder somehow has negatively hurt him and gets better and allows the 42-year-old to re-capture his prior greatness (or, at least, some semblance of it), then Francona could return him to the starting rotation (subject to how the other pitchers are doing).  But that’s a big “if.”

             

And, yes, this is being written by a Yankee fan.

    

We’ll see what happens.

 

POSTSCRIPT:  About eight hours after this was written, the Boston Red Sox designated John Smoltz for assignment.  According to ESPN, Smoltz will probably head to the minors and try and come back to Boston as a reliever.  SK

                               

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.