Friday, October 14, 2005

The Love Boat

Mike Tice and the Minnesota Vikings season has been a sinking ship long before a bunch of his players boarded two cruise boats last Thursday on Lake Minnetonka. The reports say that about 90 people were on these boats that returned to shore more than two hours earlier than scheduled when crew members complained about nudity and visible sexual activity from many of the party goers. Some of the Vikings players are denying that anything happened like what has been reported.

No criminal charges had been filed as of yesterday, and it might be several weeks before investigators finish interviewing all of the party-goers. Rumors are swirling that Cornerback Fred Smoot paid for one of the cruise boats – but his agent and he are vehemently denying those claims. The Vikings front office has been given the names of 17 players who may have been involved, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Mike Tice said he exchanged a handshake at the start of the season with new owner Zygi Wilf that he will coach the Vikings throughout this season, regardless of the team's record. Earlier this week Wilf reitterated his feelings, saying that Tice would not be the “scapegoat for bad decisions made by some players.”

For some reason I didn’t expect the fellas to just open right up about this one. This is just flat-out stupid. If a group of players wanted to do some kinky stuff they should do it in the privacy of one of their own homes – not on a cruise boat in the middle of a popular lake where other boats are. This story will continue to develop over the next several weeks, but I’m very interested to find out more details. Another crazy situation in Viking-Land…maybe Wilf should think strongly about not having a “handshake” before next season?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dressed to Impress

NBA Commissioner David Stern has given the league and the game of basketball years of great service. His ideas have been brilliant at times and he has helped take the NBA and many of its players to an incredible popularity – both in the U.S. and internationally. But recently David Stern has a new plan for the NBA…a dress code. Commissioner Stern is ready to implement a dress code for all players. This idea is ridiculous and stupid and I’m in loud agreement with several players that have voiced their displeasure with Stern’s proposal.

Allen Iverson has been one of the most vocal critics of the new dress code saying, “It sends a bad message to kids. If you don't have a suit when you go to school, is your teacher going to think you're a bad kid because you don't have a suit on?"

I agree with AI. The NBA isn’t Wall Street. Sure, the league minimum is more than most people on Wall Street make per year, but it’s a game that’s played in sneakers and shorts…and after the game you’re usually very tired and the most comfortable thing might be to wear a nice pear of sweatpants.

Rasheed Wallace said that the idea was just stupid and that he would fight it. Marcus Camby thinks if the league wants players to wear suits they should give them a ‘stipend to buy clothes’. I agree that ‘Sheed should fight it – but think Camby might be going a bit overboard.

I know David Stern’s marketing dream (aka Michael Jordan) wore a suit before and after every game – but that was Mike, that was how he did his thing…that’s not AI or many of the leagues players of today.

If Stern was smart – he’d scrap this idea and stick to basketball matters. Maybe figure out a way to get more than a combined 155 points on the board in a playoff game?

If you were an NBA player how would you react to the proposed NBA dress code?
A) No way – I’m fighting it
B) Sure, suits are nice and it sets a good example
C) Whatever, just make sure I get my paycheck
D) Other

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Change is Coming

We were again reminded last night that having the highest payroll in the league will buy your team into the postseason, but it won’t buy a World Series Championship. Now that a fifth straight New York Yankees season has ended without the World Series title that is the organization's lone goal, things are going to get very interesting. There's one thing we can count on – Change is Coming.

In reality, the Angels were a better team than the Yankees and deserved to win the series. But I remember once upon a time when the Yankees would beat teams that were better than them just because they were the New York Yankees. Nowadays though, the Yanks can’t get themselves that World Series trophy that Owner George Steinbrenner wants so badly – and it might cost many people their jobs.

When the fans at Yankee Stadium serenaded long-time Yankee Bernie Williams with the chants of “Ber-nie Will-iams!” at the end of Game 4 they knew it would probably be the last time they would be able to cheer for the Yankee who’s been with the team since 1991. But there were no chants for General Manager Brian Cashman or Manager Joe Torre. They could’ve used them, because it wouldn’t surprise many if both are looking for other employment in the coming weeks. Cashman doesn’t have a contract next year and the openings in Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay must seem very inviting. Cashman grew up in Maryland in close proximity to both Baltimore and Washington, DC. As good of a job as I think Cashman has done in many regards, it’s very likely that he’ll be just one of Steinbrenner’s fall-guys. But even if he does get an offer from New York, it's also very possible that Cashman might decide on his own to leave for one of the previously mentioned opportunities.

Then we look at the Joe Torre situation. The Yankee Manager has two years and $13.1 million left on the three-year contract extension Steinbrenner gave him in spring training 2004. After another season of disappointment many believe that Torre might be fired before Thanksgiving. Lou Piniella, a Steinbrenner favorite, might be brought back to the Bronx to steer the ship next season. In all ten seasons that Torre managed the Yanks he took them to the playoffs. In four of his first five seasons they celebrated World Series Championships – but in the last five years, they’ve only made it to the Series twice and both times they lost. If there was a time for the firing of Torre – it would be now.

The Yankees have a ton of questions as far as player personnel goes too. Along with what to do about Bernie there are questions about whether or not to resign Tom Gordon and Tanyon Sturtze and where they can trade Tony Womack.

There is also a steady buzz going around that Hideki Matsui is interested in possibly signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants to be on the West Coast, closer to Japan. Losing Matsui could be huge and possibly catastrophic for the Yankee lineup. Many, including me, believe that he’s been the most clutch player in their lineup the last three seasons.

Another longtime Yankee might also be on the way out. Catcher Jorge Posada is 34-years old and has caught a lot of games for the Yankees, but might be trade bait this offseason. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of Posada – but I would think the Yankees could get some good players for him. Of course, like most Yankee players he’s overpaid – so it wouldn’t shock me if the Yankees had to eat some of his contract.

The pitching staff is in shambles. The ‘Shawn Chacon-Aaron Small Run’ isn’t going to carry them into the postseason again in 2006. Chacon might be the team’s fifth starter, but Small will probably be a reliever. That leaves the team with two older pitchers that are both getting paid way too much, Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina and two veteran pitchers who are both coming off of injuries, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. Funny thing is both Pavano and Wright are getting paid way too much too.

As long as the Yankees have Mariano Rivera healthy and closing games and Captain Derek Jeter commanding the team as their shortstop the Yankees will be good – especially in the AL East. But this team is getting older and older. They need a solid Centerfielder and they need some serious help in terms of pitching. Who will manage is still up in the air. I’m going to enjoy watching the offseason buzz and signings and we all know that Steinbrenner won’t sit back without slamming the hammer down on people after this lost season.

The Field Level seats at Yankee Stadium might be empty for the next few weeks, but they’ll surely be a lot of chatter coming from the owner’s box.