Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vick inks second $100M deal

By Jeff

For the second time in his career, Michael Vick has signed a contract that could pay him up to $100 million. His most recent one was givn to him by the Philadelphia Eagles. The is for 6 years and guarantees Vick $40 million.

As sweet as that sounds, that $40 million will not cover Vick's debts to creditors. How much would that suck? You just sign a contract that guarantees you more money than the vast majority of humans will never see, and you have to pay it to other people.

But I digress.

The question one must ask after seeing this deal is whether Vick is worth it? There is no questioning how exciting the man is and how diffifcult it is for defenses to try and create a gameplan for him, but he's never thrown for more than 21 touchdowns in a season. He's also only topped 3,000 yards passing (3,018 in 2010) once in his career.

You can't mention Vick without mentioning what a good runner he is. Last year he topped 600 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. That was last year though. Have you seen the Eagles' line so far? Vick has been under constant pressure. He could die this year. He looked to have worn down by the end of last year's dream season and I'm concerned about him playing at a high level all year and into the playoffs.

Vick has a career completion percentage of 55.3, not exactly mind blowing. Last season he had a career high with 62.6, but can he repeat that?

This contract makes you look back at all the other quarterback contracts that are $100 million or more, and in hindsight, some of them are really terrible.
  • Carson Palmer: The now-retired Cincinnati Bengal signed a 6-year extension in 2005 that upped his contract to 9 years, $118.75 million. The Bengals never won a playoff game with Palmer behind the helm. Hell, they only had one winning record after he signed the deal.
  • Donovan McNabb: This one made sense. McNabb signed a 7-year, $115 million contract after the 2001 season. He then led the team to several playoff appearances, including a few NFC Championships and a Super Bowl, but never won the big game.
  • Daunte Culpepper: In 2003, Culpepper cashed in a 10-year, $102 million deal. This was after a 7-7 season where he threw 25 touchdowns. But in 2004 he was incredible with 39 TD passes and more than 4,700 yards. Then he went to suck really fast. He blew out his knee the next season and never started more than seven games in a season.
  • Brett Favre: Possibly the most annoying player in the past 5 years signed a 10-year, $101 million deal in 2001. Inappropriate text messages aside, this was a pretty good deal. From 2002-2008 (when he retired the first time), Favre had five winning seasons, one losing season and one 8-8 season. He mad the playoffs four times and almost had a miracle final season in Green Bay.
  • Drew Bledsoe: The New England Patriots gave Bledsoe a monster deal in 2011 worth $103 million for 10 years. Bledsoe responded by going 0-2 to start the 2001 season before he got hurt and Tom Brady took the reigns. Bledsoe was then traded to Buffalo and never made the playoffs again. Totally worth it, right?
  • Michael Vick: This deal was with the Atlanta Falcons and was worth a whopping $130 million for 10 years. Signed late in the 2004 season, this was the largest deal in NFL history and led us all to believe Vick would be a Falcon for life. Well, we know the rest of the story. Vick had mediocre seasons in 2005 and 2006, and then he was arrested, thrown in jail, released and put in a ton of debt.
  • Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben put the Pitsburgh Steelers in a tough spot last offseason, but you can't say he hasn't lived up to the 8-year, $102 million deal he signed prior to the 2008 season. Since the deal, Roethlisberger led the Steelers to one Super Bowl win and another appearance. In the win, he led the team down the field in the final moments to claim victory. You'll notice he is the only man on this list with a Super Bowl win.
Dire Straits - Money for Nothing

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pirates spending too much?

By Jeff

OK, I'm a little late with this one, but it is certainly a story that would confuse any Pittsburgh Pirates fans.

Jon Heyman wrote a story last week for SI that said MLB commissioner Bud Selig is not happy with the amounts of money some teams are spending on draft picks. He singled out the Pirates and Washington Nationals for handing out bonuses of $17 million and $15 million, respectively. Apparently, Selig wants to put a cap on how much you can pay draft picks.

That's right. Selig is upset because the Pirates are spending too much money. Tell that to any Pirates fan and you'll be laughed at and called stupid by people who think Charlie Batch should be the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Or called a jagoff by someone who thought the Pirates could have traded Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay and Ronny Cedeno to the New York Mets for Jose Reyes.

The Pirates consistently have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Local and national media alike tear the team to pieces because they never pay big money for free agents, or they trade away their top players rather than give them big pay days.

So hearing someone say the Pirates are spending too much money is a bit odd. I understand that Selig doesn't want unproven players getting huge deals, but with the way baseball works right now, this is how teams like the Pirates and Nationals have to operate if they want to build winning teams. They have to build through the draft, and they have to pay a lot of money to ensure these players sign.

By putting a cap on the draft, MLB would be putting small market teams at an even greater disadvantage than they already are with an uncapped league. Heyman makes a great point at the end of the article. Small market teams have to overpay for everything. From mediocre to star players, the smaller markets have to throw more money at players to entice them to play there. These contracts for good major league players are often greater than an entire draft class. I think it's much worse for a team like Minnesota Twins to wildly overpay Joe Mauer than for the Pirates or Nationals to overpay draft picks, considering the Twins are committing almost $200 million to Mauer and the Pirates and Nationals aren't spending $20 million on draft picks.

The Mauer, Jayson Werth, Vernon Wells, Barry Zito contracts are what Selig should be pissed about. All these guys are making way more than they should, which then drives the price up for everyone. And what is the cause of the these huge deals? The fact there is no salary cap in baseball. Every mid or small market team fears that they will lose their star players to the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox because they teams spend around $200 million every year to buy winning teams.

So until there is a salary cap for the league, which I doubt the union will ever allow, there should not be a cap for the draft. It is the only place where the smaller teams have a chance at the most highly regarded talent.

Aerosmith - Hole in my Soul

Dan Shaugnessy is a tool

By Jeff

Let's cut right to the point. Dan Shaugnessy's most recent Sports Illustrated column is ridiculous.

The whole thing is a giant set of lips that is puckering up for Bill Belichick's ass. The basic point is the New England Patriots have looked really good in the preseason, which obviously signifies Belichick is sick of losing and is ready to get back to winning football games in January. Yes, because the Patriots destroyed the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Bucs in the preseason, Shaugnessy is saying the Patriots are poised for a deep playoff run.

How does he justify this? With a quote from an anonymous NFC executive who said how the Pats are playing "is a complete departure from what we saw last season. They're not reacting, they're dictating."

NFL teams have dozens of executives. Gregg Easterbrook consistently makes a great point about how over-staffed NFL front offices are in his TMQ column. This anonymous NFC exec could be a random VP for the Detroit Lions for all we know. In all honesty, I'm pretty sure dictating the pace of the game with a quick strike passing game is what the Patriots have been doing since Randy Moss and Wes Welker came to New England. So I don't see that as a departure from last season, just more of the same.

OK, so the offense is pretty much the same, but that's not why teams should worry, Shaugnessy writes. Teams should fear the Patriots because of their new commitment to getting to the quarterback. Why? Well, because they gave the Bucs fits in the second preseason game. Let me reiterate, this is the preseason. You know, the time when teams don't watch film on each other to prepare and usually defenses go very vanilla so they don't give away anything they're going to do in the regular season. The fact the Pats were swarming and confusing the Bucs was probably because the Bucs didn't expect anything like that in the preseason.

Just look at the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last season they led the league with 48 sacks. That's three per game they averaged. They have one in two preseason contests. Not because they are going to struggle to pressure quarterbacks this year, but because defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau saves his crazy blitz schemes for the regular season, as most teams do.

Shaugnessy is at least aware that the Patriots dominated the regular season last year and choked in the playoffs. But this year he says Belichick is "back with a vengeance." As opposed to to the 2009 season, where the Pats dominated the regular season and got stomped in the playoffs. Why didn't Belichick come back with a vengeance then?

I wonder if Shaugnessy said the same thing about Steve Spurrier entering the 2003 season? After all, Spurrier never lost a preseason game.

The Patriots are going to be a Super Bowl contender, it pains me to say it, but it's true. In fact, as long as they have Tom Brady at quarterback, they are a Super Bowl contender. But the thought that the preseason is what validates that idea is a joke. And so is Shaugnessy.

Steve Miller Band - The Joker

Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie reviews: Captain America, Harry Potter, 30 Minutes or Less

By Jeff

I don't know why, but I have a strange need to see as many comic book movies as possible. This would make sense if I read a lot of comic books, but I own all of two. So really, there is no reason for this obsession that usually leads me to see meh movies that I would avoid if they weren't based on comics.

With this in mind, I checked out "Captain America: The First Avenger". Aside from my need to see comic movies, I was drawn to "Captain" because Hugo Weaving was cast as the bad guy, Red Skull. Weaving is an awesome bad guy. He looks like a bad guy, he talks like a bad guy and he can act. He doesn't disappoint and has the best performance.

Chris Evans was a curious choice as the Captain, simply because he was already in the atrocious Fantastic Four movies. In Evans' defense, he was good as Johnny Storm, the writing was just terrible. Anyway, Evans made a good Captain. He didn't really have a lot of lines once he dawned the suit and persona, but he looked and played the part of a hero well.

Now the main problem I had with the film was the ray guns the bad guys had. Actually, I was OK with these weapons, it was the fact that they disintegrated people, yet a group of unarmed POWs escaped a prison camp loaded with bad guys toting these weapons.

The story was solid enough. Red Skull leads a terrorist cell within the Nazis called Hydra, they find an artifact that gives them the power to make ray guns and other weapons that Red Skull plans to use to take over the world. I actually giggled because they do a "Heil Hydra" salute that resembles the Nazi salute, but they use both arms. You know, because the hydra has multiple heads. I giggled because I imagined them and the Nazis then doing the chicken dance.

It wasn't "Iron Man" or "The Dark Knight", but "Captain America" gets a B.

Now I told readers last week that I've read the Harry Potter books after years of refusing to do so, now I've caught up with the movies. I'm just going to give you my thoughts on "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2".

Whenever you see movies based on popular books, you have to go in telling yourself it's OK if they don't follow the book to the letter. In fact, it's better if they don't. The movie can never be exactly like the book, so give the filmmaker a break and just enjoy it as a different entity.

The last Harry Potter movie was the best. Not because it had the most action, but because it didn't have to try and squeeze 700 pages of material into 140 minutes. The plot wasn't rushed and the movie was paced very well, unlike the majority of the other Potter movies. Remember the first two movies in the series and how they took what seemed like forever for anything to happen?

The acting was solid and it's really amazing to see how far Daniel Radcliffe and the other child actors have come during the course of the franchise. Alan Rickman was excellent as always, but just never seems to be on the screen enough.

The action sequences were a lot of fun, but not as satisfying as the duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort in "The Order of the Phoenix". It was really neat in that action scene to see how the wizards were using all of their surroundings like water from a fountain and glass from the windows. There was no utilizing the environment and any neat ideas during the duels in this movie, just lots of lights and "Stupefy!", but it was still entertaining.

The final battle of Hogwarts was grander in scale than the movie, but the movie still did a nice job of adding its own elements, like blowing up a bridge with a ton of werewolves on it.

Now I know I said you can't get mad at a movie for not incorporating everything from the book in the movie, but there are some plot details that were left out that should have been included here. The one that stands out to me is that the movie audience never learns how the death eaters knew when Harry was being moved from the Dursleys (This scene occurs in Part 1, but the reveal doesn't happen until near the end of the book and during the events of Part 2). They talk about having a traitor in their midst in Part 1, but then it is never discussed again. I also think it silly that you never see what happens to Wormtail in the movies. He gets stunned in Part 1 and is never seen again.

OK, so I explained how the movie lacked some vital scenes from the book, now I have one big issue with what the book left out and the movie could have improved on. There are two main characters that meet there demise during the battle for Hogwarts. Both in the book and in the movie, you never see how they meet their end. At least one of these characters deserved a more honorable end than just Harry seeing them dead on the ground. The movie could have added a quick scene showing these characters losing duels or sacrificing themselves or something. Instead the audience just sees them lined up with the rest of the bodies. Lame.

With that being said, the movie was still very entertaining and was a great end to the franchise. It gets a B+.

And I saved the worst for last. I had high hopes for "30 Minutes or Less". The cast was full of funny people and the previews had me laughing my ass off. Too bad those were almost the only funny parts of the movie.

Usually I enjoy Danny McBride, he wasn't funny at all in this film. His character just spouted out obscenities that weren't funny. Aziz Ansari was the only thing that went right in this movie. Jesse Eisenberg wasn't bad, but he was nothing special. That's really all I have to say. It was just really disappointing. C-.

Billy Idol - Rebel Yell

Goodell still sucks

By Jeff

Roger Goodell is a joke that just never ends. A bad joke that your friend is telling and you listen to because you're either to nice to cut him short or there is no escape and you're forced to withstand it.

So what has Goodell done now? He's suspended Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of the season. Goodell's reasoning is Pryor made "decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft." What does that even mean?

Apparently he "didn't cooperate with the NCAA and hiring of an agent in violation of NCAA rules. Notice that the organization he didn't had issues with was not the NFL. Since when has the NFL punished players for the way they acted in college? And how can a league suspend a player before he is even a part of the league?

This is just another instance of Goodell being a tool. I would say he is overstepping his bounds, but he has no bounds when it comes to the NFL. He basically makes decisions and there is nothing anyone else can do but complain.

This is why the Pittsburgh Steelers almost unanimously voted against the new CBA. They were pissed about how much power was staying with Goodell.

There are countless college players that leave college amid some sort of controversy or after they are kicked out for poor grades. To my knowledge, none of these players have been suspended before they were drafted by the NFL.

And to say Pryor was undermining the draft is a bit of a joke to me. He was planning on returning to Ohio State next season and didn't enter the draft. Then Jim Tressel said he was not coming back and Pryor faced a barrage of criticism from media and OSU fans. He changed his mind and thought it best to go pro. Isn't that the whole reason there is a supplemental draft? For players who were planning on returning to school but then don't because of other circumstances?

I have no love for Pryor or Ohio State. I worked in Jeannette, Pa., for 18 months and it is a very depressing place that I have no positive feelings toward. But Pryor should not have been suspended. It's just Goodell flexing his muscles to prove he can.

By the way, Pryor got drafted by the Oakland Raiders. Isn't that enough punishment?

Josh Ritter - Good Man

Pirates' downward spiral getting worse

By Jeff

Pirates fans were so excited a month ago. The team was good! Well, kind of good. But the team is 5-14 in August and their hopes of a winning season, let alone a division crown, are pretty much spoiled.

The lineup has been a problem all season, but the starting rotation and bullpen were saving the team. Then the starting rotation went to hell. Then most of the bullpen went to hell, giving up late leads and not being able to bail out the struggling rotation. But the team still had closer Joel Hanrahan, if only they could get to him. Well, now he seems to be following the rest of the team, as he has given up runs in the three of his last four appearances and has a 4.82 ERA in the month of August.

You can't pinpoint one game that signaled the end of the Pirates unlikely run to the top of the NL Central. Some will point to the July 26 loss to the Atlanta Braves that went 19 innings and ended on a terrible call. That may have screwed up the bullpen, but it shouldn't have affected the rotation and the lineup.

And I'm not sure you can say it mentally drained the team. They went 19 innings with the second-best team (record wise) in the NL and lost on a bad call. I would think it would motivate the team. The Pittsburgh Steelers would use that game as a rallying cry, because the Steelers are best when they have the mentality that they are the underdogs and everyone is out to get them. I would hope the Pirates locker room would be similar after that tough loss.

So where does the team go from here? Well, nowhere this season. There aren't any young guys in the system that I'm excited to see with the September call-ups. I'll still watch all the games I can this season, but the excitement surrounding this team is gone. It was great while it lasted. No Pirates fans have been excited about the team in July for 18 years. It was nice to see that it was possible and that this town still has passion for this team.

The positives to take away is that the team is continuing its recent commitment to signing the best available draft picks, even if it takes ridiculous deals to do so. I have never heard of team spending $5 million on a second-round pick in baseball, but the Pirates did that to entice high school outfielder Josh Bell. Bell sent a letter out to every team before the draft telling them not to bother with him, as he was going to college. The Pirates drafted him anyway and then opened up their wallets.

Just to put into perspective how significant Bell's bonus is, the Pirates signed Pedro Alvarez to a $6 million deal when he was the second overall pick. Bell was the 61st overall pick. The Pirates' second-round pick in 2010, Stetson Allie, signed for $2.25 million. So it's pretty clear the Pirates really wanted Bell and sent a good message to their fans that they're willing to dish out the cash.

The only problem is Bell is only 18. Like Allie ad Jameson Taillon, it will probably be at least three to four years before we see this guy. I think building through the draft is the only way the team can compete in the future, but the franchise is asking a lot of their fans. This fanbase has waited 18 years for another winning team and keeps hearing about the future. There is a whole generation of fans who haven't seen a winning team. How much longer can the franchise expect these fans to wait?

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - The Waiting

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Breaking my silence with some thoughts

By Jeff

By now I have probably lost the seven readers I had as I haven't had a post in almost two weeks. Once again, there are no excuses other than I've been kinda lazy. My bad.

The only good thing about a hiatus of this length is that I have a lot of stuff on my mind, which is below.
  • Within a two-week span, the Pittsburgh Pirates went from first place in the National League Central to third place and 10.5 games back. What's worse is they've also dropped four game below .500. I wish there was just one aspect of the team to blame, but the hitting, fielding, starting pitching and bullpen have all gone down the crapper. Mike might owe me a Coke after all.
  • Bringing in Ryan Ludwick and Derek Lee for basically nothing were good moves. Too bad Lee has some nagging injuries and Ludwick isn't showing any pop yet. Neither guy will or should be back next year.
  • Heard some guys on The Fan telling listeners that the team should trade Paul Maholm, Ludwick and Lee before the season is over. Why? You're not going to get anything for them. They make the team better right now and will make the team more entertaining for fans. If these were really good players that could bring back some good prospects, I'd be all for it, but they're not going to bring back anything of value.
  • Baseball's unwritten rules are lame and make their players look like wusses. Hearing Justin Verlander bitch and moan because Erick Aybar tried to bunt in the seventh inning when Verlander had a no-hitter going. The game was 3-0 and still within reach. Why shouldn't Aybar bunt? He has bunted for hits in the past and is a speed guy. It's not like Mark Trumbo went up there and bunted. And the whole, a guy hits a home run so you plunk the next batter thing is stupid. Oh, and no stealing with a big lead is dumb. Games can change in an inning. What's wrong with a team trying to score more runs and get more insurance? 
  • I was watching First Take this morning and they were sharing the storylines for tonight's preseason games. Since when are their any real storylines in the first preseason games. The starters and those fighting for a starting spot aren't in the game for more than a series. You can't tell how new free agents or coaches fit with the team yet. 
  • I keep hearing people making fun of Pete Carroll's moves in Seattle and bringing up how he ruined the New England Patriots during his three years there. He was 10-6, 9-7 and 8-8 with the Patriots. That's not terrible. Hell, that's not even bad. If you want to make fun of him for thinking Tavaris Jackson can make it as a starter, I completely agree. But let's not bring up his New England stint and say he set that franchise back. He didn't.
  • Holdouts in the NFL bother me. Chris Johnson is an incredible running back. There is no disputing that. But show up at camp and play out your contract. You signed something and made a commitment. There was nothing in there that specifically said if you rushed for so many yards, you would be outplaying your contract. Show up already. Maybe I am just angry because I have the first pick in two fantasy drafts and would like to know what Johnson is up to. 
  • Can we stop using the term "Dream Team" to describe good teams? There was one dream team. The Philadelphia Eagles do have a great secondary, but it how can they be deemed the Dream Team without the best corner back in the league (Revis)? 
  • If you knew me in high school, you probably know I refused to read the Harry Potter books or even watch the movies. It was probably because so many people thought they were the greatest things ever and that kind of popularity bothers me. So I would rip Harry and his fans despite not reading a page of the books. Well, I'm older now and through five of the books. They're not bad. Still not a fan of the movies, but the books are decent.
  • I miss hockey.
  • "Breaking Bad" is kind of getting boring. Jesse is all sad because he killed a guy, Walt wants to protect Jesse and I still wish Skyler and Walter Jr. were killed off in Season 2. We're four or five episodes into the new season and nothing has happened that did not happen in Season 3. They are cooking meth, Walt has violent mood swings and Jesse is in danger of being killed. Maybe they should have killed him at the end of Season 1 like they were initially planning.
  • Does anyone actually care if NBA players go to Europe this year? I'm just not an NBA fan. If I don't care about these guys when they play in this country, I certainly follow them in Turkey.
  • Yigo just chased a fly across the yard, to the porch and then ate it. I'd be disgusted if I wasn't so impressed by his mouth-eye coordination and persistence.
  • "Final Fantasy 13" was by far the worst game in the series since "Final Fantasy 8". I beat it about a month ago and was thoroughly disappointed with story and game play. How can you have a Final Fantasy without a world map? Hell, the game didn't even have the steal ability. At least the antagonist wasn't a sorceress from the future who is possessing other sorceresses in present time. That was just lame.
  • Jerricho Cotchery just signed with the Steelers to be their 5th receiver. It's a nice signing for the Steelers. With Hines Ward in decline and uncertainty about the health of Emmanuel Sanders, Cotchery is a great depth signing who could step in and do well. He's only 29 and had decent production as a starter in his career. 
  • Why are we still talking about Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton? This has to be the most attention a 4-12 team has ever received.
  • Jim Rome is a tool.
  • Randy Moss has retied and it's a shame he never cared for an extended period of time. He had all the talent in the world and had an impressive career, minus his stint in Oakland, but will go down as a bit of a disappointment because he never lived up to his potential.
Roy Orbison - Only the Lonely