It's Friday. It's mailbag. From the "College Football Rules Studios," here we go...
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander during a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
From Eustice Chase
I hope this message finds you doing well and if not, my apologies for the awful timing.
First of all great work on the College Blitz an outstanding piece of journalism. Now onto more pressing things, for instance, when will there be more MMA coverage in the Timez Free Prez? Now for my question and it's probable mailbag worthiness... In the current issue of SI the Magazine there is an article about baseball going back to it's original 154 game schedule. Do you think with the likely extension of the MLB playoff with the addition to another wild card team, that 154 games is good for the game of baseball? Why or why not?
Follow-up: Is Verlander not a lock to win AL Cy Young honors? This guy is even making the Ace for the Phillies look like a Tommy-John rehaber... I say give Verlander the AL MVP while they are at it... But i know that's unlikely.
Thanks for the questions — and the praise for the Blitz, our staff does great work and takes a lot of pride in the Blitz. EC was given a little extra leeway since his job recently changed his ability to comment during the day. So this feels a little like catching up.
Sooooo, how's your momma and 'em? Great.
As for the 154-game schedule, we believe it will happen. The goal is an expanded postseason, which we know means more money and keeps more teams in the race for longer periods. (Case in point, look at the standings this morning: With a month to go in the season, there's only one race that's less than a four-game lead, and that's the AL East where the Red Sox lead the Yankees by a half-game and the Yankees lead the AL wildcard race by a mile.) And if they are going to expand the postseason, they have to shorten the regular season, because World Series games in November are not cool.
That said, we have always believed in baseball having a long season and that you have to trust it. Adding an extra playoff team or two devalues the regular season. It does.
Plus, this starts us headed into the "Everyone gets a trophy" area that makes the 5-at-10 spit up in our mouth a little bit. What's next, every team getting in the playoffs and season-ticket holders getting bumper stickers that say "Proud fan of an outstanding NL first-round playoff competitor." So it goes, and money talks.
As for the AL Cy Young, yes, Justin Verlander is a dunk. In fact, he's kind of approaching that Nolan Ryan area where he may throw a no-hitter any time he takes the mound. His stuff is that good.
With a month left, here are the 5-at-10 baseball award frontrunners (Sidenote: We have always viewed the MVP award as having the word 'Valuable' as its most important piece. So, like when A-Rod won the 2003 MVP for the last-place Rangers, that should never happen since how valuable is a guy on a last place team. We're pretty sure they could finish last with or without him, so his value is relatively low. In turn, the one or two players that have carried contending teams have more 'value.' Well, that is until every team makes the postseason and then, heck everyone can get an MVP. Anyhoo) :
AL Cy Young: Verlander
AL MVP: Curtis Granderson, Yankees (Yes, BIspy and Jefe, we know the Red Sox have a trio of candidates, but that strength in numbers weakens each of their cases.)
AL Rookie of the Year: Eric Hosmer, Royals (Look him up)
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Phillies (Clayton Kershaw has been great, but nobody's better than the Doc)
NL MVP: Ryan Braun, Brewers (Matt Kemp has been the best player, but the Dodgers stink)
NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, Braves (And if he goes the rest of the way without giving up a run, he could make a run on Halladay. Seriously)
This Oct. 18, 2010 file photo shows Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) running for a 35-yard touchdown past Jacksonville Jaguars safety Courtney Greene (36) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Jacksonville, Fla. The Titans say they will make the three-time Pro Bowler the highest paid running back in the NFL. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
From P-Davi (On Wednesday)
So I was all ready for my fantasy draft this week and got slapped with a middle of the pack draw. Long story short, I made a game time decision and took Titans running back Chris Johnson with my first pick. Yes the same Chris Johnson who's technically not in the NFL right now because he's holding out for more money. What are your thoughts about the decision?
We feel a lot better about that pick this morning than we did Wednesday when you sent your question.
Chris Johnson, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL and may be on the soon-to-be-formed international committee for social media obtuseness (along with Charlie Sheen and Brett Favre), signed an extenstion with Titans on Thursday and will be back to work soon. He is far and away the best player on Tennessee's roster and is one of the few running backs that will get 80-percent or more of his team's rushes. (The two-back systems have really changed fantasy football.) So he's going to get a ton of touches.
In three weeks, if Johnson is back up to speed (see what we did there — Johnson is a "speed" back but he has to get... oh nevermind), you got a top-three pick in the middle of the first round. If the holdout holds him out (see what we did...yeah you did see it, OK, moving on), then here's hoping you're later-round picks keep you in the running until Johnson's all the way back.
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday. (AP)
Over the weekend I read Alexander Wolff’s (Sports Illustrated) open letter to University of Miami president, Donna Shalala. In the letter, Wolff quotes Nevin Shapiro as saying, “Cheating is even worse in the SEC where the money is an endless river.” Do you think there’s any truth to that quote? As a Tennessee fan, shouldn’t I feel comforted in knowing that the NCAA just completed a 22 month long investigation and found nothing remotely close as to what transpired at Miami? One more thing 5@10, the NCAA gave UT’s compliance department glowing reviews on their handling of the investigation. Hey Chancellor Cheek, if you’re reading this, please halt the AD hiring search right now. The next University of Tennessee Athletic Director is sitting right underneath your nose. Mr. David Blackburn.
Great question, as usual. Do we believe there is "risky" or "shady" recruiting practices going on across the college football landscape that range from mild secondary violations to serious scandals? Yes, yes we do. Do we believe everyone cheats? No we don't.
That said, there are three things we know to be true about college football cheating: One, if the Yahoo! Sports boys show up on your campus, prepare for the worst; Two, the NCAA is about enforcement more than investigation, so they almost always show up after the stories have been broken; Three, and Brent Musberger said this best, "When the local media turns on you, you're cooked," (just ask Jim Tressell and THE Ohio State University).
The stakes are so high that risks are taken and administrators' heads have been turned when cheating has occurred. One for the biggest changes the NCAA must make ASAP is to change the penalties so the rule-breakers are the ones punished. Be it Nevin Shapiro or Jim Tressell or Bruce Pearl or firing an entire athletic department, the rule-breakers must have some sort of punishment that at least makes them think twice before breaking said rules.
As for Nevin Shapiro, well, his credibility is worse than anyone's in recent memory. Plus, he falls directly into phase two of the three-phase plan for the modern-day rationalization of any negative story. (Here's that three-phase plan — Step 1: Deny, focusing on how a minute detail may be not 100-percent accurate; Step 2: "The everyone's doing it," defense; Step 3: Try to discredit the story-teller by saying they were biased or out to get you and/or your program.)
And yes, C-Vol, that the NCAA just concluded a 22-month investigation into UT's athletic department looking into the tenure of the Vols' two most rogue coaches ever and left Knoxville without slapping UT is a very, Very, VERY good sign. We'd have to believe that the NCAA closing the book and praising UT's compliance folks is not unlike double jeopardy in a real court — the Vols are in the clear.
FYI — Dude, you know Jimmy C. is reading the 5-at-10. He's got to stay in the loop. And he could do way worse that hiring David Blackburn. That said, we don't know what to make of Thursday night's rumbling about Dave Hart — Rick's dad — being the top candidate. We'll see.
From UTC Guy,
College football has started and I know you are excited. Everyone is.
I have seen your predictions (I think Alabama is overrated, FWIW). But I have not read any 5-at-10 forecasts about UTC. What do you think about the Mocs?
Thanks. (PS — If you went to Auburn, why are you such a UTK homer? Just curious.)
Second part first: Uh, we don't really feel like a UT homer or any homer for that matter. In fact, we got a call just last night asking why do we hate the Vols so much. So it goes.
(Sidenote: That's a popular misconception: Almost all sports writers don't root for teams or players as much as we root for good stories to develop so we can try to tell the good stories well. That's what we root for.)
As far as UTC goes, we're huge, Huge, HUGE fans of what Russ Huesman is doing with your Mocs. We think they will make the playoffs this year, and if things bounce the right way, could host a playoff game. And considering where this program was five years ago, there hasn't been that type of comeback since Jordan and Bugs and the rest of the cartoons rallied in "Space Jam."
Individually, we're expecting a huge year for B.J. Coleman — something along the lines of 3,500 yards and 30-plus TDs and maybe an invite to the Payton ceremony in January.
Thanks for the question and feel free to drop by any time.
You get to attend a lot of sports events. That must be awesome.
What's your favorite and is there one out there that you haven't been to that you would like to?
Thanks, and thanks for the 5-at-10 -- it's a good way to pass the time in the morning.
Great question. Our two favorite events to cover are the Masters and high school football. Crazy, huh?
Either professionally or as a fan (and we spent a lot of our college years focused on a lot of things that were not college, including attending some awesome sporting events) we have been to:
The World Series, a Super Bowl, Olympics (Dream Team basketball gold-medal game and the gold-medal baseball game in 1996), Kentucky Derby, MLB, NBA and NFL games of all sorts, every SEC stadium except Arkansas, the College World Series, a lot of NASCAR events (though not Bristol yet) and a lot more.
Our three favorite fan trips (this list is more about the trips/environment than the actual game or Auburn-Alabama in 1989 would be on the list):
1) Spring training tour in 1994 with 5-at-10 Sr., our cousin and several college buddies, including regular 5-at-10 visitor Weena. This was a high-water year for sports trips for the young at 5-at-10. Spent spring break touring through Florida in an RV and saw a young Chipper Jones blowout his knee and a bad minor league outfielder named Michael Jordan, followed the Auburn baseball team to Omaha that June and went to Gainesville for a last-second touchdown pass (Nix to Sanders) as the Tigers beat then-No. 1-ranked Florida 36-33.
2) Rams-Titans Super Bowl in a luxury suite at the Georgia Dome — everyone says I really enjoyed it and the free "beverages."
3) The Derby in 1992. That was awesome. Lil E. Tee wins in a stunner and we were stunned by the crowd, the pomp and the cirmcumstances.
We would love to see a British Open at St. Andrew's. And a game at Lambeau. Or maybe one of the great pro rivalries in a Game 7 like the Lakers-Celtics in the Staples Center or the TD Garden (the old Garden would definitely be on the list) or Yanks-Sox in Fenway.
Great question, and enjoy the weekend. See you back here Monday.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...