Good News and Interesting Stuff
Right now the baseball winter meetings are going on. All of the general managers and agents meet here in Florida to catch up and discuss business. It's the time when most major free agent signings go on, basically. ESPN has put together a top-50 free agents list, and there is some bad news (Carlos Beltran will probably end up a Yankee). However, there is some good news as the experts there seem to think that the Orioles will get both Carl Pavano and Derek Lowe. Pitching is what the Orioles have needed in recent years, so getting both of those guys would be excellent for the ballclub. Either one of those guys has the ability to be a staff ace (Pavano moreso than Lowe these days), and the emergence of one of them in that role would allow Sidney Ponson to drop back in the rotation. Sir Sidney has never seemed all that comfortable in the number 1 starter position, and he just doesn't the stuff or the mental makeup to be an ace. The offense neevr was the problem last year, so with a revamped rotation, they could hang around a lot longer than they did.
There is a comprehensive article on the Maurice Clarett - Ohio State saga right now available too that is a long but interesting read. As it turns out, anyone who knew about Jim Tressel back at Youngstown State would not be surprised at the allegations of misconduct in regards to boosters giving atheletes a few extras. Maurice Clarett's father even compared Tressel to Sargeant Schultz. It's a story with no happy ending. It softens the perception of Clarett some, and certainly makes Tressel look much, much worse in regards to following the rules.
Anybody got a spare $10,000? The University of Iowa has put its football stadium scoreboard up for auction. Not only that, but they put it on eBay. I realize that if they're going to replace it, they would probably want to get something for the old one, but eBay? Wow. They even will take personal checks for it. The description says "It has recorded some of the most memorable victories in football history." Like what? Ben Roethlisberger's last loss as a starter? I have nothing against Iowa football, but it's not like this is the Rose Bowl scoreboard or anything.
Speaking of getting money for something, NCAA President Myles Brand says he really would like to reform the finacial structure of college sports, citing the "escalation of success" being a significant problem. Basically, he has finally realized, at least publically, that college football and men's college basketball are becoming dangerously commercialized, threatening the mantle of amateurism that the NCAA likes to wear. Rising TV contracts have led to rampant corruption and the BCS... ah, but I repeat myself. The rewards for the risks of breaking the rules keeps rising, meaning that more people are willing to take the risks. Look at the recent Colorado recruiting scandal or what Maurice Clarett has alledged about Ohio State boosters giving him money and cars. There is little the NCAA can do to fix the financial problem, and to his credit he does acknowledges that.
Finally, if you haven't seen the pictures of Curt Schilling's ankle that were taken before he pitched in the World Series (and you aren't too squeamish) take a look at them courtesy of Jayson Stark. If these pictures don't convince you that his 7-inning shutout performance on that ankle against one of the most potent offenses in all of baseball was one of the most incredible sports feats ever, nothing will.
Well, I thought I was done talking about the UF head coaching job until it gets filled, but I was wrong. First, the position has been listed on the University Athletics Association website right along with two computer positions. The job requirements include a bachelor's degree, something I have not gotten yet, so unfortunately I can't apply.
Second, Ron Zook has finally started to stick up for himself. During his weekely press conference he let off some steam:
"Offensively, they have done a pretty nice job. [We have the] number one running back in the SEC, the number one quarterback in the SEC, the number one receiver in the SEC, number one player in all-purpose yards in the SEC. [We're] first in the SEC in pass offense, first in first downs - which is a big one - first in third downs, second in scoring, and the first staff to be fired."Notice he didn't say anything about the defense or special teams, two units that have struggled and are supposed to be his specialties. Granted, graduating eight defensive starters can do that to you. I will probably use these stats he's thrown out in a full-fledged case for keeping Ron Zook, because there's enough stuff out there to make it compelling, even though I am fine with him leaving.
Finally, the latest rumor on Steve Spurrier is that he might succeed Lou Holtz at South Carolina. There has to be something cooked up about him since the Miami Dolphins have said they do not plan to talk to him about the job. I think it's more wishful thinking than anything else after reading the whole article. You have to love Spurrier's humor though. In reference to other rumors that have been thrown around, when asked about the South Carolina job, he responded, "South Carolina? What happened to North Carolina?"
Good to be Back
After a long weekend up in Nashville, it's good to be back in Florida. I just wish I could take the weather from up there and bring it back down here. It was good to see the Gators get back on the right track despite a first half full of turnovers and more questionable calls against Florida. It's almost as if after all of the furor over the ACC refs last year, the SEC refs wanted to remind everone that they don't like Florida either (and never have). Vandy's starting QB Jay Cutler was injured on the first series of the game, which should have ended their chances of scoring on offense (and for the most part did). The Commodores earned their first 10 points, but there was no reason for their second touchdown to happen. It probably seems trite to complain about officiating when the Gators won, and over Vandy no less, but it is just another part of a long and frustrating season for UF that reared it's ugly head again on Saturday. In a season that's been embarassing enough, it was not pleasant looking at the scoreboard at halftime knowing that on stadium scoreboards and on television and computer screens across the country people were seeing "Vanderbilt 17 Florida 14 H."
Speaking of embarassing, the Magic became the wrong part of a trivia question when they became the first team to lose to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. It had to happen to someone sometime, but you just hate it when it's your team that does it. The Magic's first ever win? Over the defending NBA champion Pistons. Perhaps it's some kind of karma for the team beating the champs in its first win, or maybe they still don't have an inside game and let Charlotte's starting frontcourt of Primoz Brezec, Gerald Wallace, and Emeka Okafor score 50 points and grab 34 rebounds combined (compare with 24 points and 21 rebounds for Orlando's starting frontcourt, with 16 of those points coming from Grant Hill and 12 of the rebounds from Dwight Howard).
The Denver Nuggets have surprised a lot of people by starting off 1-2 despite the addition of Kenyon Martin to make a tantalizing starting 5 of Martin, Nene, and Marcus Camby, Carmelo Anthony, and Andre Miller. The problem though is that Nene has been hurt, and CarMElo is shooting a putrid .254 from the field. His best shooting game so far has been the opener against the Lakers in which he went an Antoine Walker-esque 9-22, and it's been downhill since (5-25, 3-20). They will need him to make more shots (and take fewer of them) if they plan on fulfilling their lofty expectations.
Well, my fantasy team got as high as 3rd place after a stellar Saturday, but fell back to 6th after having only Chris Bosh playing last night. Such volatility is to be expected in a season so young. I have made several roster changes involving my utility and bench players in response to events that have transpired so far and to address my needs. The slots stand as follows:
Util Grant Hill
Util Austin Croshere
Bench Maurice Taylor
Bench Charlie Ward
Bench Brendan Haywood
It makes me feel bad to have Charlie Freaking Ward on my team, one of the worst in the Seminole Pantheon for Gator fans, but he's putting up better numbers than Steve Smith is, and plus, there's no rule saying you have to like the people on your fantasy team (plus he'll go when Carlos Arroyo is healthy). Taylor might overtake Hill for the utility spot too if Hill doesn't pick it up in the rebounding category.
Also, one of the other guys in the league keeps pestering me with trade deals that aren't any good for me, or generally for him either. I don't want to be rude in case I need to deal with him later (or scare anyone else off from dealing with me), but it's starting to get annoying. Essentially he keeps offering me guys who have good names but have seen their production fall off and would just sit my bench, like Latrell Sprewell and Jason Williams, plus usually Stromile Swift, for either Elton Brand or Kenyon Martin. Overall, Martin and Brand have better numbers than Swift, Ward has better numbers than Williams, and Taylor has better numbers than Sprewell, so it would not improve my team. I don't know why he picked me to try to trade with. Perhaps he thinks I'm a moron because I have done the most transactions in the league (mostly due sorting out the problems with what I got from AutoDraft) and wants to take advantage of me, but I'm not going to consent to a bad trade. He just seems bent on trading for the sake of trading as he posted on the league message board that anyone should ask him if they're interested in dealing. My two biggest needs are FT% and 3-pointers, both of which Croshere helps with tremendously, and my FT% is bad mainly because Brand is struggling early at the line, something he'll get sorted out.