Passionless Managing, Numbers Crunching and Outsiders

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The new managerial template of eschewing experienced minor league managers or veteran big league managers and bringing in the likes of Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura has developed into a two-way street. Teams are making the hires and the managers aren’t fully invested in doing the job, putting forth an almost blasé sense of, “Oh, I’ll manage the team if that’s what your really want me to do until something better comes along.”

According to Matheny’s own account during the revelation of his financial issues, he had no intention of returning to the dugout if he didn’t have to find work. Intentional or not, Matheny saying that he wouldn’t be managing had he not lost all his money in real estate came across as arrogant and condescending. Considering that everything the Cardinals accomplished last season had more to do with the foundation left by Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan than with Matheny, it’s not the right attitude to have.

In a similar vein, Ventura turned down a contract extension because he wasn’t sure how long he wanted to manage. For a lifer such as Jim Leyland and Terry Francona, this would be totally foreign tack for a relatively young man such as the 45-year-old Ventura. Lifers manage, of course, for the money. They also love the competition and, in spite of the success they’ve had, there’s a certain amount of insecurity that comes from the journeyman way they were reared in baseball. Leyland rode minor league buses forever as a player and manager, got his chance as a coach with LaRussa, then began his long ride between Pittsburgh, Florida and Colorado. He spent several years as a semi-retired adviser/observer insisting he was done managing, then returned to take over the Tigers in 2006 and has been there ever since. With all he’s accomplished and his resume, there’s still regular talk that his job is on the line.

Francona is fending off the perception that his two championships managing the Red Sox were a byproduct of the organization and he was an on-field functionary. As was detailed in his new book (my review is here), the reputation-bashing he endured when he left Boston was such that it could have festered into him becoming toxic to other clubs. I believe he took the Indians job in large part to put that talk to rest.

Both Matheny and Ventura were old-school as players, but this new school of managing is something that front office people have to decide is worth it.

The tree of coaches and managers has branches that sometimes grow in strange ways. In football, Bill Parcells was known as much for his brilliance as his constant vacillation, threats of retirement and resignations only to rise again in a different location. Two of his most successful assistants—Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin—have been on the sidelines constantly without needing a break due to burnout, failing health or exhaustion. Some clubs prefer short-term contracts with their managers and coaches and can live with not knowing one day to the next whether they’re going to stay or go. Others want a full commitment. I believe it helps the organization to have a coach/manager who wants to be there and has a passion for doing the job.

Passion. It must be there for long-term success. The job isn’t a hobby or a pleasant and brief diversion like going to the park and having a picnic. As Bill James said in his guest appearance on The Simpsons, “I made baseball as much fun as doing your taxes.” It’s the truth. With the new age people like Jeff Luhnow running the Astros like an ambitious startup, is there a love for the game or is it something they enjoy and see as a challenge, but don’t have a deep wellspring of passion for?

I don’t get the sense of passion from Matheny or Ventura. With Ventura, he’s so laid back that there are times that he looks like he needs to have a mirror placed under his nose to see if he’s still breathing. The White Sox functioned for so long under the volcanic Ozzie Guillen, that they sought someone who wasn’t going to create a crisis every time he opened his mouth. That’s exactly what they—from GM Ken Williams on through the coaches and players—needed. By 2014, Ventura might not have a choice in staying or going if the team looks disinterested and needs a spark.

Some veteran managers use their growing reputations and success to exact some revenge for years of subservience. Joe Torre and Francona took short money contracts to get their opportunities with the Yankees and Red Sox and when the time came to get paid and accumulate say-so as to the construction of their clubs—no rebuilding projects for them anymore—they took them.

We can debate the baseball qualifications and merits of hiring outsiders to work in front offices or run a baseball team. Many of these individuals are people with degrees from impressive universities who never picked up a ball themselves and haven’t the faintest idea about the social hierarchy and nuance necessary to handle a big league clubhouse or put a cohesive club together not just on the field, but off it as well.

Crunching numbers isn’t analysis and is decidedly not all there is to running a baseball team, nor the final word in determining the future. This is how we end up with the Pirates’ assistant Kyle Stark living out his tough guy fantasies by entreating his minor league players to follow Navy SEALs training techniques and telling them to think like a Hell’s Angel without understanding what that truly entails. It’s how insecure “analysts” such as Keith Law continually try to find excuses for the Orioles’ success in 2012 and why he and other “experts” were “right” in spirit about them having a prototypically terrible Orioles year, but the Orioles made up for their lack of talent with luck. Rather than simply enjoying an unexpected rise for a historic franchise as a baseball fan would, it turns into an egocentric treatise to bolster one’s own credentials and dissect why it’s not “real.” Is it necessary to find a “why” to justify the Orioles being lucky complete with turning one’s nose up in a pompous, snobby, sighing and eye-rolling dismissiveness?

Matheny and Ventura are running toward the mistaken path that other coaches and managers have taken in assuming that because they did what can be perceived as a good job, that they’ll always have another opportunity to manage if they need it. It’s not the case. The attitude of “I’m doing you a favor by being here” only lasts for so long. Perhaps Ventura doesn’t need to manage or to have the job, but with Matheny’s financial plight now known, he does need the job, making that attitude worse.

As Parcells repeatedly showed, it’s a tradeoff to take his ambiguity from one year to the next to have his coaching expertise. With Ventura and Matheny, it can be seen as an advantage to have a replaceable overseer rather than a difficult and well-compensated manager with a track record like LaRussa. Whether they realize that it won’t cost much to fire them is the question. Maybe Matheny will think about that if the transition from the veterans that performed under LaRussa and maintained that performance under Matheny evolves into youngsters who must to be nurtured and guided with strategies a legitimate manager must impart. His strategic work was wanting in 2012 even though the Cardinals made it to game 7 of the NLCS. If it becomes clear that the Cardinals don’t need him, that flippancy will dissolve, but it might be too late. Front offices will tolerate it while it’s working. When it’s not, they won’t. It could come back to haunt them. When they realize the job wasn’t such a bad deal after all, it will no longer be theirs to keep at their discretion.

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Darren Oliver’s Been Retiring For Six Years

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Darren Oliver is the Brett Favre of useful journeyman middle relievers.

For individuals like Favre, Michael Jordan, Bill Parcells and Oliver, retirement is a state of mind, state of being, alluring option, threat, or all of the above.

But there are differences in status and need.

The Packers had to take Favre’s annual vacillation because they had no choice. The last time he tried it with them in 2008, they walked away, shunning Favre and avoiding the organization-wide distraction that had the potential to split the club into destructive factions. If they let him do it again, they knew it would repeat in 2009, 2010, 2011 and possibly never end until Favre was carted off the field once and for all. Most importantly, the last time Favre pulled the trick (with the Packers anyway—he did it twice more with the Jets and Vikings), Aaron Rodgers was ready and they finally told Favre to take a hike.

Jordan’s return with the Bulls was understandable considering that he retired at age 29 and did so, in part, because of his father’s death. When he came back again, it was with the Wizards and he was a part owner of the club with the biggest selling point he had to make more money for himself was…himself.

Parcells’s personality and energy levels were such that a team could only deal with him for 3-4 years and he’d only last there for 3-4 years. It was a trade they made for his acumen at rebuilding moribund franchises in exchange for the public insubordination, power struggles and behind the scenes complaints about the one thing that was always first and foremost in his mind: money.

Oliver isn’t in the conversation with the above examples and isn’t as costly. He’s a reliable, versatile veteran reliever who’s well-liked by his teammates and by baseball in general. The Blue Jays would miss him, but would there be a drastic difference in the clubhouse or on the field if he’s not there? Probably not.

But Oliver is making an unreasonable demand/threat to be traded to Texas to pitch closer to home for the Rangers or he’ll simply retire from the Blue Jays. It’s nervy of Oliver to make a request for a raise when he signed the contract with the Blue Jays for a guaranteed $4.5 million after 2011 and was leaving the club he wants to rejoin, the Rangers. He made $4 million in 2012, had a buyout for $500,000 and an option for 2013 at $3 million. Oliver equates this as a paycut, but would he not have signed if the deal was reversed and he got $3 million in 2012 with $4 million in 2013? He could have stayed in Texas after 2011 if he wanted so badly to be in Texas. That he went all the way to Canada isn’t the same thing as him having signed with, for example, the Cardinals. He went to the Blue Jays for the money. Now he wants more money or to be sent back to the Rangers. There’s no harm in asking, but it speaks of an entitlement that, in other industries and for a non-essential cog, would be responded to with an angry frown and a “get outta here” reply. In sports, it’s seen as nothing unusual.

With the new thinking in baseball having been imported from other industries using data, corporate terminology and separation of channels, the one remaining obstacle to that complete transformation is the athletic ego and short-term nature of an athlete’s ability to contribute. In banking, Oliver’s age of 42 is judged as in his prime; in sports, it’s ancient. As lucrative as his contract seems, perhaps he’d like to go back to Texas to take advantage of the no-state income tax and not have to pay to live away from home, amid other factors that are costing him more money and giving him less take-home pay.

Oliver has “retired” and unretired when it’s suited him. Now he’s again telling the Blue Jays that he’s not going to pitch for them one way or the other, so they might as well trade him to Texas.

It’s an empty threat that the Blue Jays aren’t going to bow to. In fact, given his history and that he’ll have the option of collecting $3 million plus the very real opportunity at a post-season share or going home, he’ll shrug and pitch for the Blue Jays and then sign with the Rangers again after the season after “contemplating” retirment.

There’s no reason for the Blue Jays to entertain this somewhat absurd request because, in the end, Oliver will likely be sitting in their bullpen on opening day.

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Francesa’s Mets Rant Was Preplanned And Absurd

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It took two losses to light the fire under Mike Francesa that exploded with a comical rant against the Mets? Two losses from 24 hours earlier when he had as guests both Mets’ manager Terry Collins and General Manager Sandy Alderson that led to this “passionate” and “angry” fit of screaming? Was this the playoffs? Did the Mets, playing the Rockies needing one win in four games to secure a spot in the playoffs, lose all four games?

No.

It was four games played by two also-ran teams that are looking ahead toward 2013. So why this faux outrage? And why didn’t Francesa address these concerns with the Mets braintrust when he had them on the show? Instead of screaming in their faces, he acted as he always does when Alderson is a guest: like a cowering Marine recruit or fresh out of law school attorney talking to a combat veteran and experienced, Ivy League-educated partner at his firm. He was servile and bottom line intimidated by Alderson because every word Alderson says to him is underscored with the unsaid, “You don’t know anything and you’re a baseball idiot.”

On a day when the Yankees lead in the American League East was cut to 2 ½ games by the onrushing Rays and after Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi had a public meltdown of his own telling a heckler in Chicago to “shut up,” Francesa decided (and it was preplanned despite any allusions to the contrary) to unleash with both barrels on the Mets organization.

I CAN SIT HERE AND TYPE IN ALL CAPS AND ACT ENRAGED AT THE LACK OF BASEBALL SENSE AND POST-ALL-STAR-BREAK TUMBLE THE METS HAVE TAKEN!!!! I CAN TRY TO ACCUMULATE LISTENERS, WEBHITS WITH MY SCREAMING!!!!

But what good does it do? It would be transparent and stupid, drawing attention for the wrong reasons with a short-term burst and no legitimacy.

Francesa, the same man who said for a month that manager Collins deserved a contract extension without bothering to check or have it checked what Collins’s contract situation was (the Mets exercised Collins’s 2013 option last September), now compares Collins to one of Francesa’s favorite targets from years gone by, former Jets’ coach Rich Kotite?

How’s that work? He went from deserving a guarantee of employment to the blackest mark on a Jets franchise that has blocks of black like a partially declassified government document?

Like the callers who wait on hold for an eternity for the opportunity to “discuss” sports with the “knowledgeable” hosts on any sport-talk show, there was plenty of shouting to “do something” with no viable suggestions of precisely what should be done. What would he like them to do? All he did was reference runs scored, their record since the break, ridicule the young pitchers without knowing one thing about them, and tear into Collins.

Where’s the solution?

Could he come up with one?

In the act, Francesa sounds like a fool on the verge of a stroke. What makes it worse is that it’s fake.

The one thing Mets fans and personnel don’t need to hear is how bad the team is from those who had predicted that this same roster was going to lose somewhere between 90 and 110 games. Those same people who were strangely silent when the Mets were playing solid baseball and were one of the surprise stories of the first half of the season. All of a sudden, those silent voices—Francesa, Joel Sherman, Michael Kay—are going to pop up like the weasels that they are and pick at the bones with ego-propping exhortations of how “right” they were. But where were they back then? Were they waiting for the bottom to drop out “knowing” this would happen or were they simply hoping it would to boost their own poorly-disguised agendas?

It’s easier for Francesa to sit by like the lonely girl at the school dance hoping someone will pay attention to him and, when no one does, to strip off all his clothes and cause a humiliating scene that people are going to talk about—and ridicule—in its aftermath than to intelligently retort what the GM himself said to him directly the day before.

Are the Mets supposed to spend money they don’t have in the middle of a rebuild to keep the media off their backs when it’s been known since Alderson took over that the entire organization from top-to-bottom needed a total reconstruction? Which players did he want? No answer is given.

He wants them to spend money as if that’s the end-all/be-all of formulating a winning team after having watched the Yankees of the 1980s toss money at the wall, change managers and general managers and placate the fans with name players in free agency and trades that did little more than speed their descent to the depths. Did spending money help the Red Sox this season? The Angels? The Marlins? The Tigers? The Phillies?

In one breath he says something to the tune of “nobody knows with bullpens,” and in the next, he wants them to spend money on said bullpen. They did that and it hasn’t worked. Did he want Heath Bell? Jonathan Papelbon? Rafael Soriano was essentially useless to the Yankees until Mariano Rivera got hurt, now everyone’s in love with Soriano because he’s doing a job that he can do, a job that the Yankees only gave him because their designated replacement for Rivera, David Robertson, got hurt and looked like he needed to rush to the toilet when he was pitching the ninth inning instead of the eighth.

I didn’t hear one predictably negative word from Francesa about David Wright while Wright was carrying the team and playing like an MVP candidate in the first half, but now Wright’s not Evan Longoria; he’s not a player that can carry a team; he’s not a “superstar”. But why didn’t he say it then? Was he waiting until the inevitable slump?

Francesa doesn’t know the plan of Alderson, but when this primal scream started, did Francesa have a plan behind the shouting? If so, he’s got it hidden as well as he accuses the Mets of hiding their plan. The Mets do have a plan and it’s obvious, albeit unpopular: wait until the expensive contracts expire; wait until the financial circumstances of the Wilpons improve; take the lumps; and spend for 2014. They won’t say it, but it is what it is. It’s a rebuild. That’s what happens in a rebuild, like it or not.

If Francesa were an actual inside baseball person and walked into the clubhouse like a raving lunatic, he’d be ostracized similarly to former Mets’ employee Tony Bernazard who was fired due to his decision to do exactly what Francesa did yesterday with a bunch of minor leaguers.

It was embarrassing, but would be acceptable if he simply came up with a viable solution!

But he didn’t.

Instead, he referenced sore spots in New York sports and said things that would twist the knife to anyone who was the object of said vitriol by saying the words, “Rich Kotite”.

It’s indicative of the Francesa mentality that the replacement for Kotite was Francesa’s friend Bill Parcells and upon the hiring of Parcells the Jets went from clueless to Francesa’s team to the point that he wore a Jets pullover during his show.

The Jets are back to being on his hit list. Their GM Mike Tannenbaum worked with Parcells and the reference of “Mr. T” has gone from a term of endearment to a clean curse. Coach Rex Ryan has brought on much of the animosity himself with his blatantly arrogant, bloviating statements of perceived greatness that doesn’t exist on or off the field. In fact, Rex Ryan’s team is taking the mirror image of his father Buddy Ryan’s teams as they had a short burst of success after the new coach took charge with the lax discipline and player love for the coach, and is now coming undone as a direct result of the reasons that the players wanted to play for the Ryans. Francesa will turn his attention to them soon. Judging from their disarray, the Jets are well on the way to a truly disappointing season, one in which the rest of football would see as a piled on comeuppance worse than what they got from the Giants’ Super Bowl victory.

It grates Francesa that Alderson won’t kowtow to him and calmly, coolly answers his questions with logic and intelligence rather than stammering and return fire. The Jets steer clear of Francesa’s show for the most part. That Alderson isn’t going to hide or act capriciously to take the heat off of his organization or his bosses and make a desperate mistake that Omar Minaya’s operation made with signing Jason Bay or that the Red Sox, Phillies, Tigers, Yankees and Angels made in tossing money at their problems feeds into Francesa’s feelings of inadequacy because he can’t bully this new Mets regime with his spewing and attempts to foment a revolution among the fanbase.

If the Mets hire a “Francesa-approved” manager (since Collins has lost said approval), would he then refrain from this type of hate speech? Or if the players—and it’s the players, not the manager—aren’t good enough to compete, would they be on the burner?

Minaya was never treated in this way because everyone liked him and, occasionally, felt sorry for him as it was so easy to get him flustered and repetitive due to his desire to be everyone’s friend and his difficulties with the intricacies of the English language. Francesa wasn’t Minaya’s friend. It was another tactic to have his voice heard and, perhaps, listened to in a reactive fashion. “Francesa’s on our case and getting the fans after us, so we’d better do something.” It’s a blatant and transparent altering of strategy that Alderson, with his Marine training and legal background, is going to see right through and roundly ignore.

The Mets themselves were surprised by their early season vault into contention. They knew that the team was going to have a hard time competing unless Johan Santana came back strong; unless Wright had an MVP season; unless R.A. Dickey was a solid, mid-rotation starter; unless the young players Ruben Tejada, Josh Thole, Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis stepped forward; and unless the revamped bullpen performed. It just so happened that in the first half of the season, much of that (aside from the bullpen) and more happened. Suddenly the Mets were a feel-good story who couldn’t be criticized specifically because they were operating under constraints of a rebuild and the lack of money available to buy players—players who would’ve done more harm than good in the long-term had they bought them.

Once the players came back to earth, injuries mounted and hot streaks ended, the team came undone. But how can anyone scream about it when nothing was expected in the first place? That they played as well as they did given the difficulty of the National League East and the hindrances and negativity surrounding the club is a minor miracle.

This is an explanation of why the team’s come apart as it has. It’s not yelling and screaming. It’s just fact. Facts are what Francesa was unable to coherently provide yesterday. The session was designed to exert his will on the franchise when they don’t care what he says and don’t think much of his baseball-intelligence to begin with. In the past, the Mets played defense with Francesa; now they just treat him as a North Korea-style agitator that has to be paid attention to in a “watch him” sort of way, but has limited weapons to deploy and doesn’t want to push too far because if Alderson truly decides to tell Francesa what he thinks of him, he’ll be left publicly cowering instead of validating the still deniable underlying fear he has of the Mets’ GM.

If Alderson fires back, Francesa won’t have a response because yesterday’s bellowing was the one weapon he has left. It was noisy and little else.

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Did The Dolphins Sign Ochocinco For Hard Knocks?

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HBO’s Hard Knocks wanted to have the New York Jets on for a second straight season but after the loud mouth of coach Rex Ryan and the lax—at best—discipline and profound lack of team unity contributed to the team’s late-season stumble, they decided against doing the show. Of course HBO would’ve wanted the Rex whose bluster far outweighs reality; would’ve wanted the Tim Tebow sideshow; would’ve wanted the Mark Sanchez reaction as he tries to get past the fan vitriol and the media and fan lust for his less polished but far more likable backup; would’ve wanted to see what Santonio Holmes is going to do to rehabilitate his image with the team after his display in the final game of the season when he was essentially tossed off the field by his teammates.

But it wasn’t to be.

For the good of the organization, if not for the good of the viewing public and Rex-baiting media, the Jets are going to do things a bit quieter. Or as quiet as possible with Ryan, Tebow and company doing their thing.

We’ll see what happens with the Jets on the field and not on HBO.

HBO instead selected the Miami Dolphins as the star of their show.

No one seemed to understand why when the selection was made.

The Dolphins aren’t the annual championship contender they were under Don Shula. There’s no Dan Marino, Mark Clayton, Mark Duper combination to pile up points with a laser show aerial display. The larger-than-life football men that replaced Shula in running the club—Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells—aren’t with the organization. Longtime Dolphin Ricky Williams had spent his final season with the Ravens, but he’s remembered as a Dolphin and his quirky personality and existential musings are gone into retirement.

They have some flashy players in Reggie Bush, but he might’ve been more of a magnet if he were still dating Kim Kardashian. There’s rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but the jury is still split on whether he’s a true prospect or was a product of a high-powered college offense; he’s raw and will take time to develop in the NFL. New coach Joe Philbin comes from the Green Bay Packers where he oversaw the development of Aaron Rodgers and endured an unspeakable tragedy when his son drowned right before the divisional playoff game against the Giants that the 15-1 Packers lost.

Owner Stephen Ross has been somewhat out there in the media eye in an embarrassing fashion. In January of 2011 he met with then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh about becoming the Dolphins’ head coach without bothering to dismiss his coach at the time, Tony Sparano.

Harbaugh went to the 49ers and Sparano was given a contract extension as a way of apologizing for embarrassing him, but his time as Dolphins’ coach was coming to an end and everyone knew it. Sparano was fired with the team’s record at 4-9.

Interestingly, he’s now the offensive coordinator for the Jets and has to find some avenue to incorporate Tebow into his hard-nosed offense. Sparano was only the Dolphins’ head coach because he was a favorite of Parcells; had worked for him with the Cowboys; and would implement the Parcells-preferred method of running an offense. Once Parcells was gone, Sparano’s time was running out.

Even with Ross, Bush, Philbin and the other “name” Dolphins, there’s not much juice there apart from the cheerleaders and that they’re in Miami. With Brandon Marshall traded to the Bears, there’s an absence of people to watch and wait to see what they’re going to do.

That changed when the Dolphins signed Chad Ochocinco to a contract. But the question is whether Ochocinco was signed as a threat on the field or a ratings booster for HBO when there are few personalities with the Dolphins upon whom the show can be promoted.

There’s a perception that Ochocinco is a lockerroom malcontent who causes problems wherever he goes, but that’s not the case. He’s not Terrell Owens nor is he Randy Moss. He has been a good player and a good guy. The attention he’s generated has been somewhat like that garnered by the misunderstood types whose reputations were sullied by media dislike but weren’t the problems they were made out to be. It wasn’t a failure to assimilate to the attitude preferred by Bill Belichick in New England as was exhibited by Albert Haynesworth. Ochocinco didn’t fit in because the Patriots offense was centered around their two tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez; and quarterback Tom Brady’s possession receiver Wes Welker and his deep threat Deion Branch.

The Dolphins aren’t paying him a lot of money and didn’t give up any draft picks to get him, so he’s a “why not?” player who’s worth a look and might thrive in a pass-happy offense implemented by Philbin and run by Tannehill.

He can still play at 34 if he’s in the right situation. But he’s more of a signing that the old Cowboys would’ve made in the vein of veterans like Mike Ditka and Lance Alworth who had once known greatness and could help a team on the precipice of a championship win their title with a catch here, a block there, experience and leadership. The Raiders used to do it; the 49ers used to do it; and the Patriots do it.

In other words, he’s not a signing that the Dolphins would’ve made if they were looking for pure on-field use. Their planned appearance on Hard Knocks might’ve been the catalyst for the signing. Bringing in players for reasons other than what they can do on the field and how they can help is a mistake. Ochocinco won’t be dumped because he’s causing trouble or that he can’t play anymore; he’ll be dumped because the Dolphins are using him for HBO. Once the HBO-Dolphins marriage ends, so too will the marriage between the Dolphins and Ochocinco.

Hopefully, for his sake, Ochocinco is aware of this and prepared to look for work elsewhere if he wants to continue his career.

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The Tim Tebow Press Orgy

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Mike Francesa is the same person who relentlessly defended a ridiculous Bill Parcells decision to have Leon Johnson throw an option pass that was intercepted in the final game of the 1997 season to cost the Jets a playoff spot.

It was in that same game that Parcells did with Neil O’Donnell and Ray Lucas what the Jets are planning to do with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow by interchanging them based on the situation. Then came that idiotic option pass that was picked off.

You can read the game recap here on NYTimes.com from 12/22/1997 and see the boxscore here on Pro-Football Reference.

In the tone of an exasperated defense attorney/advocate, Francesa twisted himself into a pretzel (no small feat) to justify the Parcells decisions with: “He (Parcells) tried something and it didn’t work.”

If anyone else had done that, what would Francesa have said?

The Jets-Lions game was, for all intents and purposes, a playoff game for the Jets and Parcells botched it.

What if it were Rich Kotite? Ray Handley? Barry Switzer? Rex Ryan?

Francesa would’ve spent a month on the subject.

But it wasn’t any of those coaches. It was Parcells and objective reality was of no consequence and non-existent.

His criticisms of the current Jets have been valid, but there’s not even a hint of evenhandedness because: A) he dislikes the organization, its members and how they run things; and B) extended Jets rants help his flagging ratings.

Now it’s Tebow and the press conference that has drawn his ire.

But Tebow’s no ordinary backup.

The press conference was necessary and Tebow handled himself brilliantly.

In baseball, if you want attention you mention Tim Lincecum, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper or Alex Rodriguez; in basketball you mention Jeremy Lin; in football, you mention Tim Tebow.

Were the Jets not supposed to have a press conference?

This typhoon of lunacy is taking over the entire sports world and it doesn’t matter whether Tebow warrants the coverage or is talented enough to be accumulating this amount of press. It’s not about ability in the fame game, it’s about interest. Tebow generates interest and as long as the webhits and ratings come in when he’s the subject of the story, he’ll continue to be the subject of the story.

It’s a media firestorm with segments saying he can’t play; others saying he can. The Jets are being called a laughingstock that continually undermines their starting quarterbacks with desperation. The have a loundmouthed coach; an overmatched GM; and a meddlesome, starstruck, rich kid owner.

Bear in mind that Francesa also regularly defends Jim Dolan. Think about that.

The Jets were savaged for turning their back-to-back appearances (and losses) in AFC Championship Games as validation for their template “working”. It was that success that led to the perception that they were knocking at the door to something special and it was only a matter of time before they kicked it down. That, in part, was what gave Rex Ryan the basis to make his outrageous Super Bowl predictions. He probably would’ve made the same predictions anyway, but that’s irrelevant to the suggestion that because Sanchez won four road playoff games that the Jets shouldn’t have acquired Tebow.

Francesa referred to Tebow as a “competitive assassin” who’s going to want the starting job.

Isn’t that a good thing?

Or is Sanchez’s confidence so demolished that he has to have a clipboard backup who doesn’t want to play for his own ego not to be shattered?

The days of a quarterback being ensconced in his position because of his draft status, name recognition and fleeting success ended 20 years ago. Go up and down the league and find one that’s irreplaceable. Even the Patriots went 11-5 when Tom Brady was lost for the season and they did it with Matt Cassel who didn’t even start in college.

Increasingly, it’s become a system game. Would Joe Montana have become Joe Montana without Bill Walsh?

Tebow needs his Walsh and he needs an opportunity. If it’s not going to be given to him because of his Heisman Trophy and draft status, then he’s clearly going to try and take it.

This should be appreciated and not ridiculed.

No, Tebow currently can’t run a system, but he can do two things well: he can throw the deep ball and he can run. Is that not of any use? When he comes into the game, doesn’t the opposing defense have to prepare for a bomb or some gadget running play? Wouldn’t that make a mess of their defense? And wouldn’t a defensive whiz like Ryan know how hard that is to counteract?

There are armchair GMs, experts, draftniks and capologists on social media and the sports networks opining about every sport. Their opinions are given weight—without accountability— and it’s degenerated into a zero sum game. No matter what the Jets did with Tebow, it would’ve been wrong.

If they didn’t make a move to get him, a segment of the gallery would’ve wondered why.

If they didn’t have a press conference, the media would’ve screamed and shouted that they needed to talk to Tebow.

If the Jets moved forward with Sanchez and he struggled, it wouldn’t matter who the backup was, the fans would’ve called for the backup to get a chance to play.

The Patriots were supposedly considering drafting Tebow and might’ve had interest in him had the Jets and Jaguars not been after him—would that have been a “stupid” move by a “clown” organization? Or would it have been more geniusy geniusness from Bill Belichick for thinking outside the box?

Tebow wouldn’t have been a threat to Tom Brady because he’s Tom Brady.

He’s a threat to Mark Sanchez because he’s Mark Sanchez.

If they don’t want to have a controversy, then Sanchez has to perform.

They didn’t give up much to get Tebow; he’s garnering interest; they’re selling merchandise; and I’m not prepared to say that it’s not going to work because I don’t know. And nor do you.

He’s a backup to Sanchez—a player whom the fans don’t particularly like and is making his name on four road wins in the playoffs. It’s not an unimpeachable megastar that Tebow is competing with and he’s right to think he’s got a shot at the full-time job because Sanchez has never given anyone reason to think otherwise apart from draft status and some negligible success. If he can’t deal with this, then it’s on him and the Jets would probably have to go out and get someone else anyway. Maybe a little of what Tebow has can rub off on Sanchez or at least get him to work harder. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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Things To Watch In The Ozzie Guillen-Marlins Marriage

All Star Game, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires

The Loria/Samson/Guillen trio:

David Samson is a hands-on team president who uses his status as the son-in-law of the owner to throw his weight around.

Jeffrey Loria is notoriously short-tempered and petulant.

Ozzie Guillen is a loose cannon who says and does what he wants.

None of them are entirely wrong in their behaviors. Samson was well within his rights to tell Logan Morrison to calm down with his use of social media; Loria’s the owner of the team and the boss and if an employee steps out of line, he can fire said employee for whatever reason; Guillen’s “madness” is used as a prop.

There are going to be clashes and they’ll happen quickly, but if the Marlins give Guillen a 4-year contract, they’re not going to fire him no matter what happens.

Guillen and Hanley Ramirez:

I think back to the Bill Parcells-Keyshawn Johnson relationship when Parcells took over the Jets. It was repeatedly said that Parcells was going to light into Johnson for his selfishness and egomania; instead, Parcells took a gentle approach to Johnson and the two became off-field friends.

Guillen won’t tolerate Ramirez’s lackadaisical play and self-important “I’m the owner’s favorite; I’m the highest paid player on the team” nonsense, but if you’re expecting a dugout shouting match between the two, you can forget it. Guillen will be the big brother to Ramirez.

Whether that works is another matter.

Guillen and LoMo:

Guillen uses social media himself and is way more outrageous than Morrison. Morrison’s not outrageous at all—he’s simply out there all the time, saying stuff.

If Samson/Loria complain about LoMo’s tweeting, Guillen will wave it off.

Guillen and the fans:

The Marlins hired a big name manager in Jim Leyland in 1997 and few if any fans went to their games to watch him and only him. If there’s an increase in attendance, Guillen will be part of it in a larger framework with their decision to spend on name players and the new ballpark.

Guillen and the media:

The Florida media will pay attention to Guillen to get a story, but Florida’s media’s not as ravenous about baseball as they are in Chicago. They’ll use Guillen; he’ll use them; and everyone will be happy.

The team on the field:

Lost in all his intentional lunacy, it’s forgotten how fine a strategic manager Guillen is.

That said, the White Sox appeared to tune him out after awhile and the club underachieved for the last three seasons he was there.

The Marlins have a lot of talent but were oddly constructed with a terrible defense and feast-or-famine bats.

In the early stages of his tenure, he’ll get the most out of the Marlins’ talent.

White Sox GM Kenny Williams was well-equipped to deal with Guillen’s madness. Will Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill want to deal with the Ozzie Package?

They’re not going to have a choice. Because he’s the guy the owner wanted. And he got him.

From this day forward…for better or for worse….for richer (in Ozzie’s case)…or poorer (in the aggravation content of the front office)…’til controversy and an explosion do they part.

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Viewer Mail 6.24.2011

Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Players

Norm writes RE Tiki Barber and Mike Francesa:

I missed the interview but from what it sounds like, Mike was just being classic Mike— a bully who delights in ‘asking the tough questions’ from weak people on the downside…you won’t see Mike interrogating someone who just won something or who have their lives in order…then Mike reverts to obsequious, fawning Mike.

You can hear the interview here.

Francesa was being very hard on Tiki. I’m not sure why.

A large amount of the Francesa-vitriol seems jealousy-related; part of it is agenda-driven; the rest comes from people like you and me who don’t tolerate the hypocrisy of savaging people until they’re on the show when he’s nothing but complimentary.

In a different category are the people he’s truly going after like Tiki Barber. If you remember the interviews with Rich Kotite, they were in fact worse than what he did to Tiki.

On the opposite end were the love-fests with Bill Parcells.

Why?

Because Parcells was a Francesa friend and ally.

One thing that I have to ask of Tiki is why he’s going on this public relations blitz in the first place. It’s as if Tiki’s ego is such that he can’t take the negative press about his personal life, departure from the Today Show and questionable decision to try to return to the NFL.

He doesn’t have to defend himself for coming back to football for whatever reason—financial or the difficult to believe “he still loves football” bit put forth by his agent.

What’s the point of turning himself into a media circus?

Tiki didn’t deserve to be browbeaten that way, but in a way it was his own fault for being so forthright with his story.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Jim Riggleman:

Totally agree. What was he thinking? Goes to show that it’s not just young and dumb NBA superstars (*ahem, LeBron*) making completely stupid choices regarding their careers. Who would’ve said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea, Jim.”? Seriously.

Much like Tiki, I have to see how Riggleman’s spinning the details to save his reputation. Apparently Riggleman’s trying to frame it as a matter of “principle” that he wanted the contract settled.

But what about the “principle” of living up to the contract he signed? Isn’t there a “principle” involved in that? Or is it a matter of convenience as he threw a tantrum after not getting his way?

He signed the contract to manage the Nationals because no one else was going to hire him.

The circumstances are similar now except now no one is going to hire him—period.

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Your 2011 New York Mets

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Spring Training

We’ve seen this story before.

It’s gone on since 2007 when the rickety foundation showed cracks all season long before it came crashing down with the September collapse.

The Mets will waste good work from a few of their players with a late-inning stumble and embarrassing mishap on the bases, in the field or at the plate; they’ll mount a furious comeback only to fall short.

It’s the template and you’d better get used to it if you haven’t already.

Last night was another example of the Mets relentless self-sabotage. The failure to complete relatively simple pitcher-to-catcher force/tag plays is indicative of what’s gone on with the team since 2007. Both Ryota Igarashi and Bobby Parnell couldn’t execute a throw to the catcher on a grounder back to the mound—a play that is practiced ad nauseam in spring training and should be second nature to any big league competitor.

Igarashi’s errant throw with one out and the bases loaded caused catcher Josh Thole to jump off the plate; he had to scramble back to force the runner at home and had no chance for a 1-2-3 double play. The next batter, Carlos Gonzalez, broke his bat and singled through hole at shortstop due to the exaggerated shift; two runs scored to tie the game.

Parnell simply threw the ball over Thole’s head and allowed the go-ahead run to score in the top of the eighth inning. Troy Tulowitzki then homered to make the score 7-4.

As is customary, the Mets scored 2 runs in the bottom of the eighth to make the score 7-6 and that’s how it ended.

I’m not sure what people were expecting from this Mets team.

GM Sandy Alderson has done the right thing in eschewing the quick fix advocated by the likes of Mike Francesa and the newspaper writers.

What was he supposed to do? Repeat the mistakes of Omar Minaya and the prior regime and overspend to make a splash that wasn’t going to alter the team’s fate one way or the other?

The difference between a team like the Rockies and these Mets is that the Rockies take advantage of the other team’s mistakes and the Mets make the mistakes.

Anyone who looked at this transitioning group and thought they were going to contend was engaging in bizarre fantasy.

This season is about keeping the tradeable pieces like Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran healthy; finding a few scrapheap reclamation projects; and sifting through the various messes that accumulated since 2003.

Don’t act stunned or indignant because you were warned.

Regarding Francesa, you can hear the bitterness and vengeful attacks against the Mets as he ramps up the rhetoric and fans the flames of fan discontent.

Is it a true reaction to the team’s play and off-season inaction? Or is he being his normal two-faced self as he unleashes on the team on-air and is nothing by kind and conciliatory when a member of the organization is a guest on his show?

Francesa is a notorious frontrunner who used his relationship with Minaya as a justification for saying whatever he wanted about the former GM without fear of reprisal. The gentlemanly Minaya may have thought it was a legitimate “friendship” when it was Francesa triangulating his position.

“I like Omar,” as a Francesa justification for being “honest”.

Wariness with the media is the wise course of action in any circumstance, but this is worse because Francesa is clearly retaliating for the Mets new hierarchy refusing to kowtow to his bullying; not only that, Alderson and manager Terry Collins have had the sheer audacity to hit him back!

We’ve seen this for years with Francesa. The closeness with former Giants and Jets coach Bill Parcells was both inappropriate and mutually advantageous.

I couldn’t care less who’s friends with whom, but Parcells was also a bully whose demeanor intimidated the media at large; his success gave him a hammer to shun those who he perceived as threats to his autocratic rule over the city. Francesa had insider’s access to Parcells’s operation because of the relationship and never criticized “the coach”.

Naturally it undermined credibility.

The Francesa Mets bashing is going to grow incrementally worse by the summer, but if you look through the subterfuge you can see what’s going on.

On the bright side for the Mets, the new front office is neither reactionary nor desperate for the media/fan approval at the expense of doing what’s right for the organization. A large part of that is enduring the current atmosphere.

The Mets fans who are upset about the team’s play need to realize that it’s all for the greater good. The quick-fixes and coziness with the media—exacerbated by Minaya’s likability and desire to be liked—didn’t work.

They’re on the right track now whether it shows up immediately on the field or in the stands.

Endure.

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Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here (coincidentally, it’s the section about the Mets).

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

I’ve started a Facebook fan page. Click on the link.


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