Ah, the joys of August! Vacations, time off, sunshine, relaxation, it’s all part of this month. Of course, it also means baseball (this is an A-Fraud free zone) is rounding the corner on the month and heading for the home stretch in September. How that plays out with the additional wild card team in each league and whether there is a bump in attendance, television ratings, and overall interest is yet to be seen. For certain, it affected the non-waiver trading deadline as many more teams hung on to players rather than be sellers. With another few weeks of games, perhaps the August 31st deadline for trading players claimed/cleared through waivers will yield excitement like the Boston-Los Angeles salary dump/shocking trade of Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez.
Of course, with August also comes preseason football, where the tickets are full price and the action is dominated by players whose years of sacrifice, dreams of playing professionally, and support and encouragement from scores of family, friends, coaches and teammates comes to a sad ending. I know that on the cutdown days I take extra time to note each player, and read each team’s list of released players one by one. I know in the long run it really doesn’t mean much, but for me I feel it is important to recognize those who got so much farther than anyone I personally know to reaching their dream of NFL success. There is always the hope that the player may yet get another shot, catch on a practice squad, or be the next Kurt Warner and skyrocket from obscurity to stardom. To work so hard and come so close, I can only imagine the heartbreak.
Jim Bowden at ESPN (Insider subscription required) had a piece on the next Cuban sensation, Jose Abreu and where will he land. Some of the names coming out of Cuba have been legitimate stars that have teams kicking themselves (Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, and especially Yasiel Puig). Bowden had this to say about Abreu:
Because he's older than 23, Abreu will not be subject to MLB's spending restrictions for international free agents, and because of the success of Puig, Cespedes and Chapman, I expect him to get a deal somewhere in the range of $54 million over six years, which would exceed Puig’s seven-year, $42 million contract.
First off, Puig needs to fire his agent...the Dodgers have him six more years for $6 mil per? That’s a fantastic deal for the team in retrospect. Just kidding about firing the agent. To get a player $42 million guaranteed with little film/scouting is pretty good. Second, as a 26 year old power hitting first baseman/designated hitter there are at least a dozen teams that will pay the asking price that Bowden anticipates (and another dozen that likely wish they did).
With Jacoby Ellsbury likely out the door in free agency and first baseman Mike Napoli a free agent as well, Abreu should be a target for the Boston Red Sox. Power hitting first basemen in their prime with legitimate 30+ home run potential and only monetary compensation due do not fall out of trees.
Of course, Bowden lists Miami (freed up a ton of cash), Texas (especially with Nelson Cruz a question mark after his PED suspension), Seattle (Smoak Shmoke), Oakland (Cespedes is already there, why not?), Washington (tons of cash available, need to win now), and Colorado (still need Todd Helton replacement).
I would add the Dodgers (why wouldn’t they?), the Yankees (they’re always in the bidding for anyone), the Mets (see Yankees), the Orioles (DH/1B), the Astros (they have money to burn, why not?), the Angels (they spend like the Yankees lately, and Arte Moreno must hate Puig-mania running wild in his town), the Braves (why not?) and the Cardinals (smart organizations make smart moves).
Really, after the success of Puig, Cespedes, and Chapman, EVERY team should be bidding for Abreu.
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Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the 49ers believe 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins has talent, but that he lacks confidence and “swag.”:
Oh geez, aren’t there laws about people over 30 using words like “swag” and “yolo”? I know I would never use them (fortunately my kids are big on the “moustache” trend and actively disdain the yolo/swag trends), but let’s focus on the “confidence” and A.J. Jenkins. To think a 2012 first-round pick is in danger of being cut seems incredulous, but appears to be true. At this point, Jenkins has barely stepped on the field, and when he has, it has not been positive (he fumbled his only reception last week). At this point, he is buried behind Mario Manningham, Anquan Boldin, and Kyle Williams on the 49ers depth chart. In addition, he’s likely losing snaps to Quinton Patton and is fighting Austin Collie, Kassim Osgood, and Marlon Moore for a roster spot. Marlon Moore? Kyle “torn ACL” Williams? Seriously?
Professional football finally has returned to Los Angeles. The Arena Football League will place a new franchise in L.A., partially owned by and named for the hottest band in the world, KISS.
Wow. This would have sounded more likely in 1976 than today, but football in Los Angeles is good for the sport, whether NFL or Arena League. You know what, this sounds more like something you’d have seen in the XFL (God, I LOVED the XFL).
Guess what, I can’t let go of the XFL. I thought it was cheesy and stupid, but the league should have been a success. Allowing touchdown celebrations, the silly names on the jersey (Remember “HE HATE ME”?), a few rule tweaks, that was all good. The league killed themselves by not having a proper preseason and the quality of play was HORRIBLE since most teams had a week or two of training before the season. By the end of the season, the broadcasts were desperate and full of gimmicks, but the play was so much better. The FOOTBALL was better. It could have been something, but bad planning, rushing the product, and too much stupidity killed a decent product. (p.s., I still have my tie-die XFL t-shirt with all the teams logos on it! )
The left knee injury that kept Steelers rookie running back Le’Veon Bell out of the lineup in the club’s preseason opener has again become an issue. Bell’s left knee flared up on Thursday, head coach Mike Tomlin indicated, according to the club’s official Twitter feed.
Not good for the Steelers resurgence this season. Isaac Redman is a bum, and Jonathan Dwyer was not much better last season (can you tell from my disdain that I had both these bozos on a fantasy football team?). Without a running game, Pittsburgh has to put too much pressure on Big Ben Roethlisberger to win the game. He operates best off of play action and NO ONE bit on play action last season. Bell needs to get in sync with the offense and offensive line soon for the Steelers to challenge Cincinnati and Baltimore in the AFC North.
Phillip Hunt, a third-year backup who is transitioning from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, has suffered a torn ACL. Eagles receivers Arrelious Benn and Jeremy Maclin and linebacker Jason Phillips have also suffered torn ACLs in the last three weeks.
Wow. I need a running count of torn ACLs in Philly every week here. This is beyond ridiculous bad luck/crappy turf.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said on “Mike and Mike in the Morning” that he loves the way the Ravens’ defense gets after him in practice, and he thinks Baltimore can dominate opposing offenses this season.
Hmmm. Time for the rundown: the Ravens lost LB Ray Lewis, LB Dannell Ellerbe, DE/LB Paul Kruger, S Ed Reed and S Bernard Pollard from last year’s Super Bowl winning defense, and this offseason they have brought in OLD/DE Elvis Dumervil, S Michael Huff, DE Chris Canty, DE Marcus Spears and LB Daryl Smith, plus five draft picks on defense. Granted, Lewis and Reed are going to the Hall of Fame, and Kruger and Ellerbee were perfect fits for this defense (I’m withholding judgement on their fit and performance for their new teams), but this is a big influx of talent to not rebuild a defense, but to reload. General Manager Ozzie Newsome is no dummy: he learned at the knee of Bill Belichick in Cleveland, has a keen, analytical mind, and knows how to find players that fit his coach’s needs. It may take some time to gel, but by the post-season, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh had best hope they built a big enough cushion over the World Champions to get themselves a home playoff game, if necessary.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the best defensive prospect to come out of college football in at least the last 10 years, according to a survey of NFL personnel people conducted by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com.
Where have I heard this before? Hmm. Mario Williams? Ndamukong Suh? Every single year or so, the best “whatever” stories come about about players before college football season. Somehow, I’m going to wait until the Gamecocks’ season is over before making a decision about where Clowney ranks.
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OK, Gabbers. Thanks as always for giving me the opportunity to sound off, and especially thank you for reading. Have a great weekend!