Tuesday, October 28, 2014

9 comments MMQB Review: J.J. Watt: NFL Off-the-Field Behavior Police Edition

Peter King had quite a few thoughts on Percy Harvin in last week's MMQB. He was fine with the Jets giving Harvin a shot at $6 million-plus for the season, because it's only a one year deal and then they can just get rid of Harvin with no cost to them. I mean that's a good point, but what about Peter's whipping boy, Josh Freeman? This also reminds me the Raiders are paying Matt Schaub $8 million this year to sit the bench. Where is Peter's outrage over this like he was outraged over the Vikings paying Freeman $2 million to sit the bench last year? I'm beating the hell out of that horse and promise to stop soon. Peter also discussed Peyton Manning breaking records and had some semi-nonsensical MLB free agency ideas. This week Peter talks about Ben Roethlisberger's record-setting day, asks Russell Wilson if he is indeed "black enough," reveals Dallas has lost the top spot in the Fine Fifteen without having played a game since last week (as of Monday, when Peter wrote MMQB), and reassures his readers he does love the train in the Northeast corridor. Whew, that's a load off my mind.

There was a time when the 4,000-yard passing season was special. In 2005, there were two of them—Tom Brady and Trent Green. In this pyrotechnic season in the NFL, 13 quarterbacks are on pace to throw for 4,000 yards.

The game is changing before our eyes. It has changed.

A few weeks ago I thought Peter allowed Bill Simmons to ghost write MMQB and this week it seems he is allowing Gregg Easterbrook to ghost write MMQB. NFL teams are scoring a lot of points and throwing for a lot of yardage. This isn't really news anymore.

On Sunday, for the first time in NFL history, four players threw for 400 yards or more on the same day. Tom Brady threw as many incompletions, five, as touchdown passes. Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck combined for 922 yards. The day, really, belonged to Roethlisberger. He has transitioned to a brand new wide-receiving corps in the last four years, all chosen in the middle to late rounds (Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant), and you can see how his comfort level increases with them weekly.

Well, he is a really good quarterback and the Steelers have traditionally (Linus Sweed aside) drafted good wide receivers for their offensive system. Good quarterback and good coaching makes good wide receivers. It's almost like there is a plan.

The Steelers have been alive since 1933,

They are an NFL team that has no beating heart and exists only as a business. They are not alive. Would Peter say that Microsoft has been "alive" for however many years? Would Peter refer to any other business or company as being "alive"? Probably not, and other companies also have human employees working for them just like the Steelers do.

We often forget Roethlisberger when we speak of the great passers in the game.

That's right, Peter was wrong so "we" forget about Roethlisberger when speaking of the great passers in the game. "We" are so stupid when "we" do things like this in the national NFL column "we" write every week.

He’s fearless in and out of the pocket, can make every throw, will always have a chip on his shoulder about being overlooked in the Brady-Manning-Rodgers-Brees conversation of the greats, and produces no matter who’s out on the flank for him.

Honestly, I think part of the reason for this is Roethlisberger's past issues that have resulted in this happening. Plus, he plays the quarterback position different from these other four guys, so he's not seen as being exactly the same by "us."

Pittsburgh has been looking for a bookend for Brown, and they may have found one. Or two. Bryant—a raw 6-4 kid from Clemson who played in the shadow of Sammy Watkins—and Wheaton had been non-factors much of the year until last week, but they combined for 10 catches, 139 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts. Brown is 26, Bryant 22 and Wheaton 23. They’re the future, and the future is now in a division that doesn’t have a dominant team.

Doesn't this feel like the typical Peter King overreaction to a fantastic game by an NFL team? Last week Peter didn't even have Pittsburgh in his Fine Fifteen, yet this week after a great game against the Colts he's talking about how the Steelers have a great receiving group for the future and could win the AFC North. Peter does this every week in MMQB. Whatever happens during that past weekend in the NFL, he overreacts to it. What was once a struggling Steelers team is now a team with one of the great passers in the game and two bookend receivers for Antonio Brown. The overreaction from week-to-week is always fun to read.

As was their quarterback. “A.B. [Brown] would say some things to me in the huddle about the kind of day I was having,” Roethlisberger said, “but I don’t know my stats. I never do. I’ve never been a stat guy. I’m just trying to make plays to help us win.”

Peter eats up this "humble quarterback who doesn't care about stats" shit, while Peter fawns and marvels over the statistics that quarterback has put up. The more humble a player tries to appear, the more Peter eats it up. Peter would retire and become the personal assistant for an NFL player who kneels before Peter and says he isn't very good at football, just wants his team to win, and he has no idea he even plays in the NFL because he doesn't own a television, a cell phone, nor has running water in his house, because all he cares about his playing football.

“Was this the best day you’ve ever had in the NFL, personally?” I asked.
“If you’re a numbers guy—and I’m not—I guess you’d say yes. But I still see two or three plays I left out on the field that bug me a little bit. I can make more plays.”

(Ben Roethlisberger) "I don't know my stats. I never do."

(Peter King) "Let's talk about those stats you don't know. Is this the best day you have had in the NFL, while keeping in mind you have won two Super Bowls which is probably something I should have thought of before asking the question but I won't because I don't give a fuck about asking questions and just want you to provide me with a quote to run in MMQB."

(Ben Roethlisberger) "If you base it on those stats I don't know, yes, this was my best day."

“Why does it have to stop here?” Roethlisberger said he told the team afterward. “Why can’t we keep doing this?”

If I were an asshole who brought up past events that play no part in who Ben Roethlisberger is today then I would re-write this sentence as:

“Why does it have to stop here?” Roethlisberger said he told the girl in the bathroom with him. “Why can’t we keep doing this?”

But I won't do that, because I have family members who are Steelers fans and they are mean to me when I'm mean to them.

In a very strange Week 8, all things seem possible, particularly when you’ve got a great quarterback. Pittsburgh does, and he’s not going to let us ever forget it.

Yes, "we" know what a great quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is now that Peter has informed "us." If only "we" knew prior to Peter informing us of Roethlisberger's greatness. It just sucks that when Peter is wrong or not aware of something, "we" are all wrong or not aware of something.

John Brown has no business doing what he’s doing right now.

No business. None at all. Remember, Peter King has won awards for this type of writing. It's a low bar to clear apparently.

What an absolutely perfect match Brown is with Bruce Arians and his daring ways. Sunday was the first time America got to see it on the national stage, and it lifted the surprising Cardinals to a two-game lead over San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West at the season’s midway point.

"We" didn't know the Cardinals would be this good! Peter didn't know, so "we" didn't know either.

I’ve told the story of Keim dealing the 20th pick in the draft to New Orleans for the 27th and 91st picks, selecting safety Deone Bucannon at 27 and hoping, praying that Brown would last until the 91st pick.

And because God not only cares about sports, but cares about sports so much that he paid special attention to the Cardinals' prayers being answered in order to help their team win more games, he granted this prayer.

“I remember telling them I’m a very hard worker,” Brown recalled Sunday night. “I told them, ‘I’ll get there and from the first day I’ll follow Larry [Fitzgerald] around and learn everything I have to learn to be a good player.’ I was convinced I could do it. It’s football. And I love football.”

It's pretty impressive, but are there wide receivers who meet with NFL teams and say, "Nah, I'm a lazy jerk who doesn't think he has anything else to learn. I'm not really going to work hard and will probably coast on the talent I perceive that I have. I don't even know who Larry Fitzgerald is." Are there players coming out of college who say this to NFL teams?

Clearly, Philadelphia wouldn’t have expected Palmer to go for it all there; the Eagles would be expecting Palmer to be thinking first down, and just move the sticks.

But that has never been Arians’ way.
“We had three [receivers] at eight yards for the first down,” Arians said later, “but when there’s a touchdown involved in the play, never pass it up. Don’t play scared; play smart.”

Mike Shula says, what about that play we ran a few plays ago? Should we run that one again? If not, which of the 7 plays that I like to run should we run in this situation?

And Palmer, who has learned to take shots even when logic tells him not to, threw a high-arcing bomb way downfield.

I'm just going to try and leave that comment out there since it was considered a compliment to Palmer. Just imagine if "Geno Smith" is inserted in there and then see how quickly this goes from a compliment to a criticism if the play didn't turn out to be a touchdown.

Watching it over his shoulder, Brown gathered it in … just barely, on the tips of both hands. “A Willie Mays catch over his shoulder,” said Arians, even though most of his players would have no idea what he’s talking about. They’re not versed in 1954 World Series history.

Yes, very few people are well-versed in 1954 World Series history like Peter King. I seriously doubt Peter could say who threw the pitch that ended up as a fly ball in Mays' glove without looking it up.

Now for the annual Seattle-at-Carolina game (even though they’re not in the same division) that sets offensive football back to the 1950s.

Then there were the locker-room questions, the ones about Russell Wilson’s leadership, about Marshawn Lynch being on his last legs and not in the team’s 2015 plans, about the hangover from Percy Harvin’s divisive presence. So I touched base with one of the team’s most prominent leaders, safety Earl Thomas, to get an idea of the pulse of the Seahawks.
“I’ve been so much in my zone,” he said, “that I haven’t really followed all that.”

You weren't in your zone when Kelvin Benjamin caught a long pass over you and Richard Sherman two days ago.

That's all I got to give since it was the sole offensive highlight I could point out. Let's move on to the question about whether Russell Wilson is "black enough." The world must know.

I asked him if he’d heard about the Bleacher Report piece that had a teammate saying Wilson wasn’t “black enough,” and about the Chris Mortensen report that Marshawn Lynch wouldn’t be back with the team in 2015.

“I didn’t know those things,” he said. Which puzzled me quite a bit.
“My reaction [to the Wilson story] is that it’s an insult to our race. And Russell is the ultimate competitor. He always works as hard as anyone, and he handles himself with poise. He represents our team and our organization very well. I don’t think there’s any problem with him in our locker room at all.”

For someone who said he didn't know those things, Earl Thomas sure seemed to be right on the nose in response to the Mike Freeman article that he didn't read or know anything about. Earl Thomas must just be really good at guessing what articles are about without actually reading them.

There are also problems down the road. If Lynch understands—and he certainly must have an inkling about it—that the Seahawks weren’t going to pay him the $6.5 million he is due in 2015, never mind a re-done contract, he’s going to be even more enigmatic than normal.

Oh, so I see. Now the story is sports media like Peter King are going to make Marshawn Lynch the bad guy since he liked Percy Harvin and dares to want a contract extension.

Lynch almost cost Seattle the game Sunday. A pass from Wilson went through his hands in the end zone just before the half, and instead of a touchdown, Carolina’s Josh Norman intercepted it. Seattle trailed 6-3 at halftime instead of going up 10-6. It was a stunning miss by the sure-handed Lynch, and Seattle was fortunate to overcome it.

There were like three or four sure touchdowns in that game that were dropped or not caught due to bad passes, but yeah, let's blame Marshawn Lynch for the Seahawks almost losing. Kelvin Benjamin dropped a touchdown in the end zone, Steve Schilling fumbled a snap that led to the Panthers recovering the fumble and Russell Wilson one-hopped a pass (I KNOW! He's not perfect! Who knew?) to a wide open tight end that would have been an easy touchdown. But yeah, let's blame Lynch for almost losing the game for the Seahawks since that's the way the narrative is going.

In the coming weeks, they’ll need Lynch, and it’ll be interesting to see if he throws all of himself into his work knowing his future with the team is very likely a short-term one.

There has to be a bad guy in this story and I guess since Lynch wants a new contract and liked Percy Harvin then he will be proclaimed the bad guy. The foil to Russell Wilson's good guy.

Peter then talks briefly about Brady and Manning facing each other. It's just a story that I've heard plenty about over the years. I'm interested in the game, not the lead up to the game.

The Jets have no choice: They have to start Michael Vick. Geno Smith has lost seven starts in a row. It’s a mercy-yanking—Rex Ryan has to give Vick his shot next Sunday at the Chiefs, and for several Sundays into the future.

Here's a great example of the overreactions from Peter King week-to-week. Two weeks ago in MMQB:

6. I think the best point made about Jets quarterback Geno Smith in the past week came from Jon Gruden, after Smith somehow got the time wrong and missed a meeting the night before the Week 5 31-0 debacle of a loss at San Diego. “You’re playing Philip Rivers, and then Peyton Manning and Tom Brady,” said Gruden, referring to Smith’s foes in Weeks 5-7. “Those guys don’t miss meetings. They run meetings.”

Welp, Smith is no good. He misses meetings and shouldn't (which is true) do this.

Last week in MMQB:

g. Geno Smith going toe to toe with Tom Brady. Smith provided a glimpse of what might be for the Jets. Now he’s got nine games to prove that was legitimate.

Geno Smith had a good game. Maybe he's legitimate and could be a starter for the Jets!

This week it's time to replace Geno Smith. I mention all of this because Peter seems to only react to what Smith has done that previous week and his take depends on what Smith did that week and only that week. Smith had a good game against the Patriots. Is this a sign of the future? One week later Peter wants Smith replaced with Vick.

As one of the nine voters on a subcommittee of the 46-member voting board for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I wanted to take a few sentences to explain what exactly happened last Wednesday in Washington when we met to select the first two nominees for the Hall in the new Contributors category. We selected former Buffalo, Carolina and Indianapolis GM Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, the longtime Raiders scout, Tampa Bay personnel executive and Green Bay GM.

Polian and Wolf will have to get 80 percent of the vote from the cull group when the Hall voters meet in Arizona to elect the Class of 2015 on Jan. 31, 2015. I love both picks. Franchise architects had always been forgotten before the Contributors category was established earlier this year. As I wrote the other day, Polian built two Super Bowl teams and got an expansion team good in near-record time.

Ah yes, the great Bill Polian that built an expansion franchise for success in record time by signing aging players at the expense of the long-term development of the team, then bailed once he realized shit was going downhill. Definitely a Hall of Fame move. Then he got a promotion, went to the Colts and built that team through the draft. But hey, he did something great one year for an expansion team and that's all that is remembered. Peter King won't ask questions like, "Was Polian's job to build a team that will win now and in the future or was Polian's job to build a team that will win now, get him a chance at a promotion and then use this promotion to bail and leave a mess in his wake?"

I'm fine with Polian being in the Hall of Fame. The whole "built an expansion team in record time" is a tricky issue though. I'm sure a bridge can be built very quickly, but if it breaks after three years should the architect receive an award for building the bridge?

How great was J.J. Watt laying the verbal wood to Tennessee quarterback Zach Mettenberger, after the rookie QB took a few look-at-me selfies? “This is the National Football League, not high school,” said Watt. “Welcome to the show.”

It wasn't great at all you dipshit. Mettenberger took a few selfies with his new haircut and J.J. Watt, who the media absolutely adores, acted immature in mocking those selfies. Mettenberger took selfies, who cares? Of course, this is J.J. Watt, who could NEVER be a hypocrite about taking look-at-me pictures, could he?





Never.




Watt doesn't do that.




Because taking selfies is just so immature.




He would NEVER take one.




Mettenberger needs to stop being all "look at me" in pictures. It's not high school and no one wears letterman jackets in the NFL.

But of course Peter is tickled pink that J.J. Watt has appointed himself the guy who is in charge of making sure everyone knows what is the right and wrong thing to do off the football field. The NFL needs Watt as the Off-the-Field Behavior Police. Peter King loves himself some J.J. Watt too much to actually investigate any hypocrisy on Watt's part.

The Fine Fifteen

The Cowboys were #1 last week and had not played as Peter wrote MMQB. So naturally, they were moved out of the #1 spot. I mean, obviously.

1. Denver (6-1). Now comes the tough part of the schedule. Denver has one home game in the next 41 days. Six road, three home the rest of the season, and the first one’s a battle: next Sunday in Foxboro. Brady-Manning XVI (Brady 10, Manning 5) is Sunday in the late-afternoon window, and Manning enters this duel with the best chance to beat Brady in Foxboro in years.
2. Dallas (6-1). Not a lot of time to breathe easy after tonight’s game with Washington. Arizona comes to Texas next Sunday for the game of the week in the NFC.

This is much like how Peter had Kansas City ranked #1 in last year's Fine Fifteen, then moved them to #2 the week they were playing the Broncos because Peter thought the Broncos would win the game. The Chiefs were the best team in the NFL, until Peter decided they weren't because he thought the Broncos could beat the Chiefs head-to-head...which logically would have made the Broncos the #1 team in the Fine Fifteen even if the Chiefs and Broncos weren't playing that week, right?

3. Arizona (6-1). What a story these Cards are becoming. What a story John Brown is. And what a day Todd Bowles had, sending blitzers from everywhere.

Oh boy, how is Gregg Easterbrook going to make it seem like blitzing is a terrible idea this week? I know! He'll just ignore that the Cardinals succeeded by blitzing.

5. Philadelphia (5-2). If the field is 12 inches wider, Jordan Matthews catches that touchdown inbounds on the last play at Arizona and it’s the Eagles who leave the desert dancing.

But the field isn't 12 inches wider, plus he didn't have possession all the way to the ground so it was incomplete anyway.

8. Cincinnati (4-2-1). Not a very impressive win, all in all, but the Ravens can make a team play ugly. What’s good about this win for the Bengals is they’d been playing in quicksand all month (0-2-1) before Sunday, and sweeping the team that looked like the best in the division (23-16 in Week 1, 27-24 Sunday) puts Cincinnati in the driver’s seat to win the AFC North.

Page 1 of this MMQB had the Steelers and Ravens alongside the Ravens in the AFC North race. Now the Bengals are on the driver's seat on page 3 of MMQB. It's the NFL, things change quickly.

13. Seattle (4-3). Know why that game in Charlotte was such an important win for the defending champs? The Week 12 through 16 schedule for the Seahawks: Arizona, at San Francisco, at Philadelphia, San Francisco, at Arizona.

But when the Seahawks end the season at 11-5 will Peter say "we" counted them out? That's all I want to know.

14. Pittsburgh (5-3). You figure out the team that, in the past four weeks, has lost to Tampa Bay at home, struggled to beat the Jaguars on the road, got routed by the Browns in Cleveland, had the bizarre burst of points to beat Houston at home, and then blew up the Colts (who shut out Cincinnati last week) at Heinz Field on Sunday. You figure it out, because I can’t.

Peter wants us to figure out the Steelers, just like he wants someone else to figure out whether Roger Goodell lied about seeing the videotape of Ray Rice knocking his wife out in an elevator. Peter initially reported on that story and then got called out for bad sourcing, so he'll just give up doing his job regarding that Goodell story. Peter is sure someone else will figure it out at some point.

Offensive Player of the Week
Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh. A historic day for the Big One, and not just because he went 40 of 49 for 522 yards—the fourth-most prolific day for a quarterback in the 95-season history of the game—with six touchdowns, no interceptions. Historic, too, for its symmetry. Roethlisberger is now 100-50 in his regular-season professional career.

Yes, the day wasn't historic for Roethlisberger's historic performance, but historic because he now has career symmetry. Now THAT'S true history.

Anthony Barr, outside linebacker, Minnesota. On the first play of overtime in Tampa, Barr stripped fellow rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Bucs tight end, after a pass reception, recovered the fumble at the Tampa 27-yard line, and rumbled in for the winning touchdown.

Greg Schiano would never have allowed this to happen.

For the game, the precocious linebacker from UCLA had eight tackles, one sack and one pass defensed.

There it is! The word "precocious" makes a return in MMQB after a hibernation of many weeks. Anthony Barr is precocious because he's showing characteristics of a person much older than he really is. He's a rookie and he is tackling opposing players, recovering/creating fumbles, and getting sacks! No other rookie does this. How precocious of him! Peter is surprised Barr even knows what a football looks like.

“Not black enough? I don’t even know what that means. I think I’m an educated male trying to lead this team.”
—Seattle quarterback Russell after the 13-9 victory over Carolina. A Bleacher Report story last week said some veterans on the Seahawks didn’t consider Wilson “black enough.”

This is a good response to the story. I know what "not black enough" means in this frame of reference, so maybe Russell Wilson should get a little more educated about what that means.

“I take my job very seriously, and if I was a rookie quarterback named starter for the first time in the league, I feel like I’d be a little more focused than that. Maybe he’ll learn from it, maybe not.”
—Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, on the perceived pre-game flippancy of first-time starter Zach Mettenberger of the Titans.

Again, while I agree that Mettenberger needs to be more focused on his job, he took a couple pictures and posted them on Twitter. It's not a sin against football and J.J. Watt has plenty of instances on his Twitter account of him interacting and taking silly pictures during the NFL season. So he's a bit of a hypocrite who needs to worry less about looking at the Twitter account of others and more about continuing to dominate the next game. He's not the NFL Off-the-Field Behavior Police and it's not his job to teach other NFL players lessons about how to and not to act when preparing for a game. Don't be a douche.

Of course J.J. Watt fan-boy Peter King loves that Watt is policing other NFL players. Naturally. Peter loves policing how others live their lives as well. Watt is telling other NFL players to be more focused while Watt is cruising the Twitter account of other NFL players and shooting commercials in his spare time.

“Here’s the amazing thing about Peyton Manning: He’s an ascending player at the age of, what, 38 years old? I have never seen a great player on that level ascending at that age.”
—NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, to me, on Saturday.

I have so much fun with quotes like this. Just insert "Barry Bonds" in there. Insert "Roger Clemens" in there. If a baseball player was ascending at the age of 38 then baseball media would have their pitchforks out ready to declare that player a PED user.

Eddie Vedder, playing a Pearl Jam concert in Milwaukee the other night, wore a Packers No. 10 jersey in honor of the current Packer who wears it—and who was in the middle of the mass of humanity on the floor of the Bradley Center for the show: backup quarterback Matt Flynn.
It’s possible, I suppose, that Vedder thinks Flynn is a Better Man than Aaron Rodgers, more Alive than Clay Matthews, and in Future Days will come off the bench, play like an Animal and lead the Pack Around The Bend to another title.
That’s The End of this horrible note.

Oh God, Peter King is a Pearl Jam fan. Life is ruined for me now.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Raining hard the other day on the East Coast.

That's how you know this story is going to be good. It starts with a weather update.

I had to go to Washington for a Hall of Fame meeting at a hotel right near Reagan Airport. I chose the train. Left New York at 2 p.m. Got a table/desk and worked all the way to Washington. Train was due into the Washington train station at 4:53. It arrived at 4:55. I walked to the Metro stop at Union Station in Washington and, after a change of trains, got to Crystal City and my hotel at 5:35.

The only thing less interesting than seeing pictures of a person's vacation is getting the play-by-play of a person's travel itinerary. No really Peter, how late was the train? Tell us! Your readers care! MMQB is about you, after all.

Meanwhile, a couple of the other voters got weather-delayed coming into town. It was foggy, windy and rainy.
Just another reason to love the train in the Northeast Corridor, which I do.

Until one day two teenagers are on the train reading iPads and commenting to each other loudly, and Peter can't focus because he is too busy staring intently at them, and he feels the need to be the Northeast Train Behavior Police by remarking in MMQB how loud these two teenagers were being. I think Peter King and J.J. Watt should just go around the country telling individuals how they should and should not behave in public.

TMI Tweet of the Week





And because this Tweet was TMI, Peter just has to share it with as many people as possible. I have to say, the thought of Ross Tucker listening to a high school football game in his underwear feels pretty damn creepy to me. Don't Tweet about it or go put some pants on. Otherwise, somebody may get the wrong idea.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think this is what I liked about Week 8:

j. Louis Delmas’ long interception return—the kind of play Detroit never saw enough—for Miami. Brent Grimes also returned an interception for a touchdown in the same game.

But Blake Bortles had a great preseason! He was great in the preseason, there's no way he struggles in the regular season.

m. The rebound of Carolina’s defense, which had allowed 75 points in the previous two games.

It's not like they were playing an offensive juggernaut or anything like that. The Seahawks manage to win games despite having a distinct lack of great offensive weapons. It's fine to give the Panthers' defense credit, but understand the Seahawks aren't exactly trotting out a fantastic offense. They are middle-of-the-pack in yards per game and points per game.

2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 8:

What Peter liked about the Lions:

a. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell resting Calvin Johnson and his recovering ankle sprain. Johnson could have played Sunday in London, but he shouldn’t have—not with the bye coming up and the risk of Johnson re-injuring the ankle.

Now what he didn't like: 

d. Whoa: the Lions’ inactives … starting running back (Reggie Bush), franchise receiver (Calvin Johnson), and the top three tight ends (Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron, Joe Fauria).

So I guess Peter likes that Calvin Johnson didn't play, but didn't like that Johnson was inactive? Maybe Peter doesn't like Johnson being too injured to play, but likes that he didn't play?

f. Matthew Stafford missing at least four receivers with low throws Sunday. He was just off his game.

And yet, Stafford wasn't off his game so much that he didn't throw for 325 yards without any of his top three tight ends, his best receiver, and his starting running back. I wonder if Peter thinks that Stafford was off his game because he had very few of his starting offensive weapons available to him? Nah, that couldn't be it.

g. The field at Wembley Stadium, slippery and slipshod, led to a Matthew Stafford interception when the receiver fell down on an incut. “The conditions of this field … were a factor on that interception,” Troy Aikman said, correctly, on FOX.

And despite the only interception he threw not being his fault as well, Peter still thinks Stafford was off. Again, it sounds like there are other factors that contributed to Stafford's performance.

q. How does a defense that reputable give up 37 points in one half of football? To paraphrase Tony Dungy, if Brandon Marshall thought last week was unacceptable, what’s he’s going to think this morning?

Great insight there from Tony Dungy. Maybe he can offer to mentor Brandon Marshall or the entire Chicago Bears defense.

4. I think that Roger Goodell and the Ravens are both wrong, in reference to neither talking to the NFL Players Association’s investigator into the Ray Rice flap (as the Associated Press reported over the weekend). This is supposed to be the most transparent of processes. I think Goodell should have been open with the press about what exactly Ray Rice said to him in the June 16 disciplinary hearing. I think he should be open with the NFL investigator. And I think he should be open with the NFLPA investigation. There should be nothing to hide, from anyone.

Gee Peter, why would Roger Goodell have something to hide though? I can't figure out why. I like Peter taking a hard line against Goodell here, just a couple of months after getting embarrassed by his "sources" who said Goodell saw the videotape and then Peter changing his story once Goodell claimed he had not seen the videotape. I can't figure out why there should be something to hide.

5. I think Shonn Greene channeled his inner Costanza Friday night. And it’s never good to fool around with handicapped parking spots.

Where is J.J. Watt at to teach Greene a lesson about parking in handicapped parking spots? Where's the NFL Off-the-Field Behavior Policeman when he's needed?

6. I think—and I know this is a week old, but I just love the inside-football nature of it, and wanted to share it with you—that the most interesting thing I learned about football in the past few days came from St. Louis punter Johnny Hekker. You recall the Rams’ special-teams-prompted win over Seattle eight days ago, with the Stedman Bailey 90-yard return for touchdown on the misdirection-punt-team play. But the derring-do fake punt with 2:55 left in the game was significantly more risky, and I loved it.

Then Peter spends two more paragraphs marveling over the gutsy play-call and how the Rams coaching staff had the balls to make this call and not give Hekker a lot of time to think about having to throw the football. It's a nice way of recalling a smart play by the Rams while also glossing over the Rams came off a great game against the Seahawks to lay up a turd against the Chiefs. Jeff Fisher taketh, Jeff Fisher taketh away. Peter preferth to focuseth on the gutsy nature of Jeff Fisher and not the fact Fisher took the Rams a step forward last week and then another step back this week.

7. I think we should all prepare for a week’s worth of Manning-Brady fodder, for this Sunday marks the 16th game matching the two greats. Peyton Manning is just 5-10 versus Tom Brady, and just 2-7 when the game happens in Foxboro.

Oh yes Peter, "we" should prepare for a week's worth of Manning-Brady fodder. Because Peter is just like his readers in that he can't control what Manning-Brady stuff gets written during the upcoming week. He's just along for the ride and certainly would never contribute to this fodder. I enjoy how Peter writes "we" should prepare for this fodder as if he is in no way responsible for contributing to this discussion of Manning and Brady. Peter has NO CONTROL over what gets written on THE MMQB about Manning and Brady over the upcoming week.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Peace be with you, Thomas Menino. The former Boston mayor, such a legend in one of the great American cities, is seriously ill with cancer. Everyone who lives in Boston, or has lived there, has a good Menino story, and mine is this: Soon after I moved to Boston in 2009 (lived there for two and a half years), I wrote about how depressing the littering was there. He saw me at a Little League game in my neighborhood, commented on what I’d written and wanted me to know they’d been working on it. Quite a guy.

Thomas Menino did what Peter King told him to do. What a peach of a guy! He followed Peter's directions so well. I'm sure J.J. Watt would approve.

f. I don’t know why he isn’t the manager of the Cubs already. Perfect spot for him. He’s a great thinker, and he’ll be good for National League baseball.

That sounds condescending as hell. What does "good for National League baseball" even mean? The National League hasn't had any issues winning World Series titles lately, but I do understand Peter is an American League snob.

i. Who’d have thought two of the top five candidates for MVP of the postseason (not just the World Series) would be relief pitchers who are not closers—Yusmeiro Petit of the Giants and Kelvin Herrera of the Royals?

"We" certainly didn't think this would happen. Only some guy in Kansas named Fred thought two of the top five candidates for MVP of the postseason (there is no such thing) would be relief pitchers who aren't closers. Of course, Fred from Kansas also likes National League baseball, so he's an idiot.

l. Coffeenerdness: Thanks for your hospitality this fall, Greenwich (Conn.) Starbucks. I’ve done quite a bit of writing there. Good atmosphere.

By "good atmosphere" I assume Peter means "the atmosphere of a coffee shop." 

n. By the way, not all New Yorkers are cowering because of Ebola. In fact, I haven’t met one.

You haven't met a New Yorker? Don't you live in New York?

The Adieu Haiku

The Chicago Bears.
Looking a lot like the Jags.
Somewhere, Halas weeps.


Somewhere whoever is best known for writing haikus, well, he is weeping too. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

2 comments Skip Bayless Knew The Dallas Cowboys Would Win The NFC East This Year Except For When He Said They Would Go 6-10

Skip Bayless is a joke. He's a clown and should have no place in the sporting world with his ridiculous views and junior high debate class antics. He has no point of view or belief outside of whatever point of view or belief he thinks will get him the most attention. He's the 6th grader pulling girls' hair and pretending to fart in class solely for the basis of gaining attention for himself. Unfortunately, Skip is a grown 62-year old man and not in 6th grade. Skip thrives on attention, which means he can often contradict himself when he espouses two opposing viewpoints that both eventually lead to him getting attention. So Skip says the Cowboys are for real, just a few months after saying they were going 6-10. Life as a sportswriter must be fun and easy when you have no determined beliefs and can change your opinion as often as the wind blows.

You may not believe this, but Skip makes the Cowboys' hot start completely about him. I know, it's shocking that Skip brings the focus back on himself. 

Feel free to dismiss me as just another desperate Dallas Cowboys fan again falling for America's Tease.

I will feel free to dismiss you totally as another desperate attention-seeking troll who insists on playing the villain because it beats working hard for a living.

I talked my uncle, a high school football coach, into taking me to my first Cowboys game, at the Cotton Bowl on Nov. 5, 1961, when I was in fourth grade. Quarterback Eddie LeBaron's Cowboys lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 31-17 -- hey, Eddie Football was only 5 feet, 7 inches tall -- but I was hooked for life.

Great story, don't care. This isn't about you, it's about the Dallas Cowboys.

But I did manage to maintain objectivity in writing three books about America's Team -- three inside looks far too revealing for some fans.

What Skip may mean about "far too revealing" is he stated that Barry Switzer claimed Troy Aikman was gay, and Skip found no proof this was true and Aikman denied it, but Bayless included this in his third book on the Cowboys anyway because controversy equals book sales. A whore has to put out and a shill has to shill.

So maybe I'm not writing just with my heart when I say I believe in this Cowboys team more than any since the 1995 Super Bowl champion about which I wrote my last book.

Skip KNOWS the Cowboys are for real this year. He didn't know earlier during the summer, but he totally knows now.

This team is different from the many since then that have inspired predictions (and delusions) of grandeur.

You know how Skip knows this Cowboys team is different? They are winning games. It's a dead giveaway only he can notice.

This team -- if it stays reasonably healthy -- will win the NFC East.

Skip has to put that qualifier on there, just in case the need to backpedal at a furious speed should the need arise.

That's what I predicted on air on the Thursday this NFL season opened. My prediction so stunned and disgusted Stephen A. -- who grew up a Cowboys-hating New York Giants fan -- that he got up and walked off the set babbling about how I had lost my mind.

So dramatic! So scandalous! It's like the "Jerry Springer Show" for sports. Stephen A. had to walk away because Skip's view was so stunning. I'm so dismayed I couldn't view this circus first hand, but will have to settle for not watching it on YouTube.

He had no idea that was coming because I had spent the entire preseason saying this Cowboy team had 6-10 written all over it.

But you knew this team was different. You...you...you...are going all-in on the Cowboys winning the NFC East like you knew this would be happen, but your words didn't always back this prediction up. This is what is known as "flip-flopping" and having a contradictory opinion. Skip will get no credit for stating the Cowboys will win the NFC East because he said all preseason the Cowboys would go 6-10. He can't have it both ways. Now if the Cowboys suffer injuries (and I like how Skip throws in the qualifier that the Cowboys have to say "reasonably healthy" as if they hadn't been hit hard by injuries on defense before the season began), Skip can weasel out of this prediction and fall back on his "Dallas Cowboys will go 6-10" prediction. I'm sure there will be a gratuitous mention of Tim Tebow in there somewhere.

So why did I suddenly reverse field and book it that Dallas would go 10-6 and win the division?

Because you are a clown who holds no opinion which doesn't gain attention for yourself and you thought stating the Cowboys would go 10-6 was a good way of self-promotion?

It started two days earlier, during a round of golf, when a friend listened to my rant about how last year's historically bad Cowboy defense (which allowed an NFL-record 40 first downs at New Orleans) could be even worse without Sean Lee, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.

Remember, Skip is working under the theory the Cowboys will win the NFC East if they stay reasonably healthy. So naturally, his conclusion the Cowboys will win the NFC East is reached based upon knowing the Cowboys most important defensive player is lost for the season.

My friend's response was so simply profound that I cold-topped my next shot: "You wonder if those guys will finally get so sick and tired of hearing how historically bad they are."


Wait, he was talking while you were putting? Or is Skip being overly-dramatic again like he was when he mentioned Stephen A. walking off the set so stunned by Skip's prediction the Cowboys would win the NFC East? I'm guessing the latter. Either way, this is how Skip Bayless works. Reason goes out the window for the sake of hot sports takes and attention-seeking comments.

Herm said: "Trust me on this: Rod will get them to play hard. If they don't" Herm's famed emotions rose. "... Rod WILL get in their face."

Oh, well I didn't know Rod Marinelli would get in his players' faces. That totally changes my opinion on the Cowboys. If I had known Marinelli would get in his players' faces in the same manner that helped him achieve a 10-38 lifetime heading coaching record in the NFL then I would have predicted the Cowboys to go 16-1. Yes, the Cowboys players would be so motivated by their coach yelling at them they would play an extra game during the season just so they could claim they won 16 games.

For the first time in forever, nobody was picking the Dallas Cowboys to do anything. At least, nobody I knew of...Seriously, you'd have to go back to 1989 and 1990, the first two expansion-like seasons of the Jimmy Johnson/Jerry Jones Cowboys, to find a year in which nobody thought the Cowboys had a chance.

So then Skip Bayless saw a void where he could troll and knew he had to fill that void. He can get attention, not by bashing the Cowboys as he had done all preseason, but predicting them to win the NFC East. Skip was going to differentiate himself by being positive about the Cowboys rather than negative, because that's how he could get attention. He would just ignore that he said they looked like a 6-10 team in the preseason, because who cares?

Leading up to this season, many of their own fans had given up on them. That's why, for the home opener, JerryWorld appeared to reporters to be half-filled with 49ers fans, and why during the home game against Houston, Texans fans made so much noise they forced Tony Romo to resort to a silent count.
At "HOME!"

The Cowboys were 3-1 when they faced the Texans. It seems kind of funny that Skip is using reasoning like Cowboys fans giving up on the team as the reason Texans fans made so much noise.

Perfect: Zero expectations for this Cowboy team.

Yeah, but Skip didn't know that Cowboys fans had given up on the team when he made the 10-6 prediction. That prediction came before the 49ers and Texans games. So he couldn't have known then the fans gave up on them and this wouldn't have affected his prediction. Seems like Skip is working hard to link a narrative to his trolling attempt at getting attention. He's taking information he knows now and tries to pretend he knew it before the season began when he could not have. That is unless Skip Bayless is omniscient or psychic. Obviously he is not. 

When I reminded Stephen A. that if Romo hadn't hurt his back in the big win at Washington, the Cowboys very possibly would've beaten Philadelphia in the 2013 regular-season finale at home and would've gone 6-0 in the division, Stephen A. reminded me they went 8-8. Again.

Well, it is all about you and conversations you have with Stephen A. Smith.

Yet ... even with that historically bad defense, in week 7 last year the Cowboys somehow held Chip Kelly's attack to three points in Philly, winning 17-3. Hmmm. Wasn't last year's near-flawless division record a quiet little building block toward winning this year's East?

Apparently you didn't think so, because you said the Cowboys looked like a 6-10 team during the preseason. Aren't all of these observations simply hindsight on your part? And focusing on one game where the Cowboys defense played badly with Demarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher doesn't explain how the "building block" game involved this same Cowboys defense giving up 31, 49, 31, 45, and 37 points after Week 7. This explanation for the Week 7 game being a "building block" makes not of sense.

I plunged. Eli Manning and Robert Griffin III had struggled through preseason games, and I was sure the Eagles would ultimately miss DeSean Jackson's deep speed, so I predicted the Dallas Cowboys would go 10-6 and win the division "by default."

That was as insanely bold as I could go.

But now that Skip sees he could end up being correct, he's doubling down and explaining why he believed all those things he didn't believe at the time which led to him making his prediction the Cowboys would go 10-6. This wasn't simple trolling on Skip's part, it was him knowing things that either (a) he couldn't know, like Cowboys fans had given up on the team or (b) claiming conclusions that don't make sense, like the Cowboys defense had a "building block" game in Week 7 of last year, while ignoring all the points the defense gave up after that week.

But it happened again, two Sundays later at St. Louis. Murray fumble, Romo pick-six: Rams, 21-0. Final score: Dallas, 34-31.

Last year, Dallas would've lost that game. Last year's Cowboys would've lost to Houston after blowing a 17-7 fourth-quarter lead and finding themselves in overtime. Dallas 20, Houston 17.

This was a resilient Cowboys team, which Skip knew when he made his prediction of the Cowboys winning the NFC East "by default." By the way, the Cowboys were tied with the Eagles for the NFC East lead when Skip wrote this, so they weren't even winning the NFC East as he had predicted and the Eagles do not miss DeSean Jackson's deep speed, as Skip predicted. Skip would rather we focus on his correct predictions though, while ignoring any prediction that may have been off-base a little bit.

This year's Cowboys keep facing down past demons. On a Sunday night last season in New Orleans, they suffered what I called "the biggest humiliation I can ever remember as a Cowboy fan" -- Saints, 49-17. On a Sunday night this season, they led the Saints 24-0 at half on the way to 38-17 retribution. Backbone. Then, at Seattle last Sunday, they basically recreated past nightmares up there -- blocked punt for a TD, fumbled punt, fumbled snap -- and bounced right back to bully the bullies in their backyard 30-23.

It's always fun how the conclusion here can't simply be, "The Cowboys are a good team who are getting a great year rushing the football from DeMarco Murray with a surprisingly good defense," there has to be a narrative running through all of these victories. They got retribution on the Saints, they were getting over past nightmares against the Seahawks. That's the narrative Skip wants to further.

Cowboy glitz has turned back into Cowboy guts. The primary architect of the new resolve: Marinelli, a far better coordinator than he was a head coach in Detroit. Same for play-caller Scott Linehan, who failed as a head coach in St. Louis. Bill Callahan had his moments as a head coach, but he just might be the NFL's best offensive line coach. Head coach Jason Garrett? Shaky play-caller but not a bad buffer between the team and frustrated coach Jerry Jones.

Everything is awesome now! Skip knew the Cowboys would bounce back this season because of these coaches, it's just he didn't know it earlier in the preseason when he thought the Cowboys, with these exact same coaches, looked like a 6-10 team. It turns out one of Skip's trolling attempts has turned out to be correct so far.

Skip is full of shit. He's very much full of shit. He's so full of shit that he's not actually full of shit, but he's just made of shit and it's overtaken his body to where all he is now is shit. Skip claims that the Week 7 game in 2013 was a turning point. Yet, on November 1, 2013 Skip Bayless wrote a column stating "Why Jerry Jones' team won't win." He made the following points (and I'll try to keep my comments to a minimum because you guys are smart enough to see the contradictions in his current position and his position less than a year ago after the "building block" game in Week 7):

That said, I've reached this painful conclusion: I'll be surprised if one of Jerry Jones' teams ever even comes close to winning another Super Bowl.

His Cowboys remain America's Team, in large part, because Cowboys lovers and the many, many Cowboys haters know that just when they start looking like a Super Bowl team, oh my god, did you see that?

The Cowboys fan in me is getting increasingly sick and tired of watching Jerry Jones enable his team to lose without fear. Super nice guys Romo, Jason Garrett, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware now lead the league in post-loss patience -- in handling tougher and tougher media questions with shrugging imperturbability -- because they aren't afraid of being held accountable by the owner. 

Who really cares? Jerry is still able to sell the illusion of hope because -- gusher luck! -- his team still leads the NFL's worst division at .500. But it isn't really based on quality. The Cowboys have lost to four over-.500 teams and beaten four under-.500 teams.

The Cowboys were 3-0 in the division at this point. They had their "building block" game that Skip didn't recognize as a "building block" game at the time.

And don't forget that Skip was on the Johnny Manziel train and wanted the Cowboys to trade Tony Romo to draft Manziel.

And this bullshit about the Cowboys winning the NFC East by default because the NFC East isn't strong? Well, that's typical bullshit from Skip because he was singing a different tune in May. From Skip:

“It says that the oddsmakers have little to no respect for next year’s NFC East, because the oddsmakers are saying that only one team in the East is even going to be slightly above .500 when all is said and done,” Bayless said. 

So the Cowboys would win the division "by default" at 10-6? But there's more...

“That would be the Eagles at around 9-7, and yet I think the oddsmakers at this moment … are overestimating Dallas to win eight games and go 8-8 again. I think that’s high. And I think the Redskins at about seven-and-a-half wins — projected — I think that’s low. Right now, if you backed me into a corner, I’m picking the Redskins to win the NFC East.

As if you needed proof that Skip was changing his position on the Cowboys. Remember, the Cowboys had Linehan, Callahan, and Marinelli on the coaching staff at this point. Also, remember that Skip moved the Cowboys up from 6-10 to 10-6 after a bad preseason, but then moved the Redskins down from 8 or more wins because of a bad preseason from Robert Griffin. So the preseason matters to Skip, unless the preseason doesn't matter at all to Skip. It depends on which way he wants to troll.

I think that will really help mold that defensive secondary and I like where they’re headed if RGIII is RGIII, and I believe with all my heart he will bounce completely back. So I have the Redskins winning 10 games next year.”

Smith also predicted the Cowboys will finish in last place and Bayless said he can’t see Dallas winning more than six games.

Boy, this is awkward. 

It's almost like all these things Skip claims he knew which would lead to success for the Cowboys during the 2014 season, the Cowboys having a "building block" game in Week 7 against the Eagles, the Cowboys having a good coaching staff and almost going 6-0 against the NFC East during the 2013, are things he knew prior to making the 6-10 prediction in May prior to the preseason. Yet, Skip still thought the Cowboys would win 6 games in May. That is, until he saw a chance to troll and differentiate himself from everyone else for the sake of gaining attention and claiming the Cowboys would win the NFC East. When it turned out Skip looked smart when the Cowboys started the season 5-1, but OF COURSE he knew the Cowboys would win the NFC East. Look at all these reasons on why his prediction was fact-based and not attention-based! Too bad reality doesn't match up with Skip's claims. Of course Skip isn't interested in reality, he is interested in attention.

Yep, Romo's offense leads the NFL in third-down conversions. Something also is different about Romo this season. Maybe he faced his NFL mortality for the first time. At 34, as he underwent his second back surgery, he had to suffer through owner/general manager Jones' painfully public fascination with Johnny Manziel -- and the regret Jones expressed over not drafting Manziel, sometimes within earshot of Romo.

Yes, Tony Romo is totally different now due to Jerry Jones' painful public fascination with Johnny Manziel. Remember when Jones said:

"If Texans would take Romo for Manziel, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Romo will tease w/ near-greatness then break your heart. Manziel=winner."

Ugh, that is a painful public fascination. I can't believe Jerry Jones said that. Wait, Jerry Jones didn't say that! That was Skip Bayless who said those words.

Maybe Romo is finally worried enough about losing his job that he's no longer treating it with shrugging carelessness.

Romo has a great running game and a defense that is stopping the opponent from scoring, so naturally this means Tony Romo has changed in some way. Narratives, people! Stick to the narratives! It all has to come back to how Romo has changed. Do not focus on how anything around Romo may have changed.

On third-and-8 in overtime against Houston, his spin-away heave was high and far enough that only power leaper Dez Bryant had a shot at coming down with it. And his third-and-20 escape at Seattle -- the NFL's play of the year so far -- was thrown where only Terrance Williams could snag it and toe-tap it in bounds.

Romo, finally matching his talent and toughness with ... maturity?

That's the narrative. Must stick to it. Romo, finally matching his talent with a good offensive line, good defense and an excellent running game? BORING! Let's talk about how Romo is more mature now. That'll get pageviews.

This team WILL last ... if Murray does. This man sets the backbone tone. Yet, while Cowboy great Emmitt Smith was the greatest I ever saw at avoiding injurious contact, Murray keeps attacking as if his offense and defense need his every punishing yard.

His history and logic would dictate that DeMarco Murray will not make it the entire 16 game schedule at this pace. Once/If Murray gets injured then the "It's the same Tony Romo who chokes in the clutch and is careless with the football" stories can start up again with no sense of irony.

Maybe underrated backup Joseph Randle will stay out of trouble long enough to give Murray just enough rest. Maybe the injury gods will smile on him. Maybe this season is just meant to be for the "historically bad defense" and the "accident waiting to happen" that has been Romo.

Maybe, but Skip certainly didn't think this was true prior to or during the preseason. Only when he saw the opportunity to troll and have a controversial hot sports take did he decide that the Cowboys would win the NFC East. For a guy who makes his living voicing his opinion, Skip's opinion should does fail to stay consistent or even seem to be based on the facts he claims his opinion is based upon when changing his opinion. It's always about attention to Skip.

And maybe I'm being set up for the biggest letdown of my Cowboy-loving life.

Maybe, it is after all completely about you. In your mind, it always will be. Skip Bayless is an embarrassment to AARP members everywhere. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

0 comments Skip Bayless Should Be Suspended If Bill Simmons Got Suspended...But Of Course He Won't Be

I wrote this post a few weeks back about Bill Simmons and his attempt to get suspended by inserting himself into the conversation about Roger Goodell. As everyone probably knows already, he called Goodell a "liar" and opened up both barrels on Goodell (in my opinion) partially to gain attention. It worked and Simmons was suspended for three weeks by ESPN. Bill Simmons, as anyone who reads this blog regularly or semi-regularly knows, annoys the shit out of me. He's so full of himself and I think he displays immature qualities when staring at the prospect of being wrong. It's well-documented he doesn't like to be edited, in his columns when something is wrong he says "we" are wrong due to the fact he can't face the prospect of being wrong, and he enjoys the idea of being the ESPN rebel while staying safely in the cocoon of ESPN when taking risks. It's not a knock against him, just my point of view. It's easy to say you like to take risks when you have the golden parachute of ESPN backing your risks. Still, he has vision and is probably the type of employee ESPN wants, even if Bill doesn't always claim ESPN is the type of employer he wants.

This post isn't really about Bill Simmons though. It's about Skip Bayless. While being about Skip Bayless, it's also about Bill Simmons and his being suspended for spouting his opinion in a loud fashion. While Bill Simmons annoys the shit out of me, I think Skip Bayless is dangerous. His opinions aren't dangerous necessarily on their own, but the type of discourse and reasoning Skip Bayless tends to use in voicing his opinions is dangerous. The protection Skip receives from ESPN is dangerous. He favors attention over anything else and he has the backing of ESPN through all of this. The problem with getting attention is the process through which Bayless gains attention. He lies on air and an environment is created where he and Stephen A. Smith are encouraged to toe the line of decency and common sense, then receive a pat on the back if they accidentally step over it once in a while.

The reason Skip Bayless is dangerous is that he has ESPN's backing when he makes bold statements that gain negative attention, while Bill Simmons and others (it's just not about Bill, but Scott Van Pelt, Dana Jacobson, Rob Parker, Lou Holtz, and Jemele Hill as well) are suspended/fired when they go even slightly over the line of what is considered decency. They made dumb comments, but they paid a price for it. Skip Bayless makes dumb comments, but he only seems to be furthered encouraged by ESPN and never has been suspended for lying on the air or any of his other nonsensical comments. It gives the appearance ESPN supports his position. While ESPN is glad to punish others for stepping over the line of decency, they not only refuse to suspend Bayless for any comments/lies he's stated during his career at ESPN, but as you can see in that Richard Deitsch interview, he is encouraged to be controversial. The story during Bill Simmons' suspension was that others in the ESPN organization felt there were different rules for Bill than others. This may be true, but there are different rules for Skip Bayless as well. The rules of journalistic integrity are thrown out the window when Skip begins speaking. Such is the price of "Embrace Debate."

So the shit that Skip stepped in this time is that he said the rape charges against Kobe Bryant gave him "sizzle." At the moment I write this, Skip has not been suspended and no public admonishment has been reported on. Essentially, Skip is saying that being accused of rape gave Kobe street cred and helped him out in terms of marketing. Not only is this an unfathomably stupid thing to say, but it's also insulting to the public and slightly racist as well. Skip seems to have such little respect for those people who purchase products endorsed by Kobe that he thinks they will be more encouraged to purchase those products if Kobe has been accused of rape. As if Kobe needed some gang-type initiation of committing a violent crime in order to be considered cool enough to sell sneakers to teenagers. And yes, the slightly racist part comes in because the NBA has predominantly black players that undoubtedly appeal to black teenagers (and other races obviously, I'm not stereotyping, simply acknowledging black teenagers buy more athletic shoes sold by basketball players than by baseball players or football players) who want to purchase the shoes their favorite player may wear. So to indicate Kobe has "sizzle" is to indicate these teenagers purchasing the shoes think "Oh rape is great and now I will buy Kobe's shoes, because to be accepted into the culture I am in, one has to have a violent crime they are accused of and he has met this criteria."

I don't think Skip's comment was overtly racist and this isn't the main point of what I'm writing. I am simply pointing out Skip knows what he was saying and Skip knows who buys athletic shoes that Kobe Bryant would sell. It's insulting to that population to indicate they are depraved enough as to want to purchase Kobe's shoes only after he has street cred with a rape accusation on his record. But see, this is all part of his act. Skip plays the role of provocateur for ESPN and they support him in this role. In fact, ESPN goes out of it's way to defend Bayless when he is playing this role, while they rolled over as quickly as possible when Bill Simmons dared to call Roger Goodell a liar. It seems offending people who buy athletic shoes is fine, but offending Roger Goodell is over the line. I'll give it to Skip, he knows how to play the game.

It's ridiculous to say the rape accusation against Kobe gave him "sizzle." If Skip had a daughter or son, I doubt he would be saying that his son being accused of rape would give him "sizzle" among his friends. Just like I doubt he would high-five the guy his daughter accuses of raping her, while acknowledging rape is a serious crime, but also acknowledging this could totally help him with his street cred and give him an edge. That's the issue at hand. To indicate any rape accusation brought against an athlete in any way is a positive or could be perceived as a positive is worse than calling someone a liar in my opinion. Again, that's where Skip Bayless is dangerous and Bill Simmons is just annoying. Skip is inserting positive attributes about a rape accusation into the public's eye and there are no repercussions for doing so. This isn't a "What about the kids?" situation. This is a "What about decency, respect for victims of rape, and respect for people who purchase athletic shoes or any other product endorsed by Kobe Bryant?"

Here is the statement ESPN put out when suspending Bill Simmons: 

“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result we have suspended him for three weeks.”

But every employee isn't accountable to ESPN. Bill Simmons wasn't being accountable because he said something ESPN didn't like. Skip Bayless has been accountable to ESPN's journalistic standards because he was hired to say rape gave an athlete "sizzle." This is what ESPN wants him to do and they encourage him to do this. So in a way, I guess Skip is being accountable to ESPN. He's accountable in making sure he draws ratings and gets ESPN publicity for the things he says on "First Take." I just have a different version of what "accountable" means. ESPN's journalistic standards seem to have some give to them as it pertains to what Skip Bayless says and what others at ESPN may say. Just because Skip Bayless has been hired to say crazy shit and he follows through doesn't make it all right. If Bill Simmons says Kobe Bryant got "sizzle" from a rape accusation, can you imagine a scenario where he isn't suspended? I can't.

Skip doesn't do anything at ESPN but editorialize. He is the poster child for editorializing at ESPN. He very rarely tries to deal in facts, but prefers to deal in hot sports takes yelled as loudly as possible into the face of his debate sparring partner and the viewer at home's ears. So I would think he would be required to operate within ESPN's journalistic standards. Apparently "First Take" has lower standards than other arms of the ESPN operation. Lies, trolling, and demeaning victims of violent crimes by awarding positive attributes on the perpetrator of the crime (or even accused perpetrator) are considered to be within ESPN's journalistic standards. Maybe Skip didn't undermine any of ESPN's reporting on Kobe Bryant and that's why he's not been suspended. Perhaps ESPN thinks 10 years have gone by and it's fine to speculate on the street cred Kobe has received from the rape accusations against him. That's how it seems to me.

From the ombudsman's September 25 column on Simmons being suspended.

A case could be made that Simmons, who had done excellent work taking Goodell and the NFL to task up to this point, undermined ESPN’s solid journalistic efforts on the Rice story with some Grantland grandstanding. I don’t think that was his intent; Simmons tends to follow his passions as if they were truths, especially in podcasts, where he seems to act as if he is alone with a friend at the bar. 

I think the exact same could be said for Skip Bayless and comments he makes on "First Take." Bayless takes his passions (or trolling attempts as I think of them) and grandstands them into truths, and not only truths, but truths about Skip Bayless as he inserts himself into the story. It's Skip being alone with a friend at the bar.

But Skipper certainly thought it was, and that insubordination was one of the main two reasons for the severity of the suspension. Particularly on podcasts, Skipper said, Simmons has a tendency to slip back into his “bad boy, let’s-go-to-Vegas” persona.

It's easy to see what is really important here. Simmons challenged ESPN to suspend him, almost daring them to do so. That's part of the reason a suspension resulted. He was being insubordinate and ESPN can't have employees being insubordinate like this. Fortunately for Skip Bayless, in stating that a rape accusation gave Kobe "sizzle" he wasn't only not being insubordinate, he was doing exactly what ESPN has hired him to do and they support him with almost zero public questions about his act and it's impact on the viewer. Who cares? Ratings are king. Skip didn't challenge ESPN, he only challenged the idea of journalistic decency, and that doesn't matter because ESPN hired him to piss on the grave of journalistic decency in the first place. That's what makes Skip dangerous in my opinion. He's got the full backing of ESPN to keep his act going.

Simmons, Skipper believes, is transitioning into an important influence and mentor at Grantland and needs to leave his well-worn punkishness behind. 

Skip Bayless is 62 years old by the way. It's okay for his punkishness to be front and center even though he gets an "AARP" magazine in the mail.

The more important reason for the suspension, Skipper said, had to do with fairness and the difference between commentary and reporting...Skipper said Simmons had to advance the story, bring some evidence, before he could make flat-out charges against anyone. 

I'm guessing that evidence of this "sizzle" Skip Bayless spoke of was not required. After all, Skip is just shooting the shit on the air. No need to take him so seriously. He didn't challenge ESPN to do something about his comments and got his name out there on the Internet and blogs. He's done his job. No evidence is required and it's perfectly fine for a 62-year old man to believe a rape accusation can help an NBA star sell products.

But the big issues here are some of the same discussed in recent Ombudsman columns. Is anybody watching the baby? Who reviews content, such as podcasts, before posting? Do the people who review Simmons’ work report to him? Producers and editors are supposed to vet content before it hits the fans, even if the content is generated by a franchise player. 

And what makes Bayless so dangerous is that he isn't recording a podcast or writing a column that can be edited. He's just speaking, debating in a furious fashion on the air, so there is an air of "whatever happens, happens" about "First Take" that lends itself to idiotic comments. The ombudsman thinks ESPN should vet content before it hits the fans, but there's no way to vet what Skip Bayless says. Therefore his license for stupidity won't be revoked and he can tread in waters that others aren't allowed to tread in. Journalistic integrity is important, unless ESPN has hired you specifically to work against that purpose for the sake of ratings.

Sometimes that means keeping the reins on network superstars, challenging them, holding them to the highest of standards. 

Or this problem can simply be avoided by holding these network superstars to no standards. In the video, you can see Skip Bayless saying what happened in Colorado gave Kobe "sizzle" and he pauses repeatedly on his way to saying this. Why? I think because he knows it's wrong, he knows it is inappropriate, and he knows he's basically saying, "Hey rape is a tough crime, but boy look at all the athletic apparel you can sell with a rape accusation on your resume! You can only be tough and worthy in the eyes of people who buy sneakers if you have been accused of a violent crime."

Skip knows what he is saying isn't right and he knows it sounds terrible. Yet, he kept going because he also knew there would be no repercussion for finishing that sentence. Probably because while Skip Bayless thinks what happened in Colorado gave Kobe "sizzle," ESPN thinks comments like this that should offend the public give Skip his "sizzle."

This isn't the first time Skip has tried to argue that Kobe's rape accusation helped him with endorsements. He wrote a column essentially saying this in 2004 (I think that was the year). 

And pre-Eagle, it appeared to irritate Kobe that he was viewed as so suburban by so many urban NBA fans. As too upper-middle-class privileged to be street cool. As lacking the edge the shoe companies want from their primary pitchman.

Sluggish sales prompted a split between Kobe and adidas. Shortly before Eagle, Kobe signed with Nike for about $45 million over five years. That's a pittance next to the $90 million over seven years that Nike gave LeBron James, a kid who hadn't played anything but high-school ball. 

A Los Angeles Times story examined the question of Kobe's "street credibility." Several marketing experts were quoted as saying Kobe hadn't proven to have sneaker-selling power. 

David Carter of Sports Business Corporation in Los Angeles said: "You've heard a lot being made about street credibility the last month or so. I think both those guys (Kobe and LeBron) have street credibility. It's just that their streets are in different neighborhoods." 

Nevermind that another expert basically said, "Well, Kobe has street cred, but just in a different way." Skip rejects this conclusion.

Now that the rape case has been dismissed, you could argue that Kobe has at least added enough controversial aura to sell the products that anti-hero-worshipping kids buy -- sneakers, especially. Yet Bob Williams, CEO of Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing, argues otherwise.

"Kobe Bryant is not from the street," Williams said Friday, "and people on the street know that. He hasn't ever appealed to that group. Just being controversial in and of itself isn't enough to give him a significant increase in being able to sell shoes." 

Because we all know kids who buy sneakers want to know how many rape accusations a player has before purchasing those sneakers.

Skip Bayless and his act are dangerous in my opinion. What makes them dangerous is he has the full backing of ESPN and ESPN executives will even go out of their way to defend him from the idea he is a huge troll who is there to gain attention. While Bill Simmons is expected to provide a litany of proof that Roger Goodell is a liar, Skip Bayless is using rape as a tool to help increase Kobe Bryant's marketing prospects and no one at ESPN has blinked an eye. Skip should be suspended, though he will not be. Skip is too smart for that. He knows better than to bite the hand that feeds him. He will keep doing what brings in the ratings and being the circus clown ESPN has hired him to be. What makes Skip Bayless and his act dangerous is that Bill Simmons bit the hand that feeds him in making comments about Roger Goodell being a liar, but Skip Bayless was perfectly meeting the journalistic standards ESPN has for HIM by stating a rape accusation was a marketing opportunity for Kobe Bryant.

Therein lies the problem. ESPN claims to have journalistic and editorial standards, but only for those employees of ESPN who they feel like should be held to these standards. Skip Bayless, a man who was quoted in "Those Guys Have All the Fun" as saying, "No one at ESPN has ever told me 'no'" isn't being held to any standard, other than to bring in eyeballs to the network. That's an issue for a network who wants to preach about journalistic standards when one of their writers refers to cheering for the Celtics as being the same thing as cheering for Hitler, an employee calling Roger Goodell a liar, or an employee harshly criticizing Bud Selig on a radio show. Just like a child who has never been told "no," Skip Bayless knows he can get away with anything...and Skip Bayless is a child, so he will continue to be the pimple on the journalism side of ESPN's ass.

See, ESPN separates the "entertainment" and "journalism" side of the company from each other. Bill Simmons is "journalism," so he is held to a higher standard than Skip Bayless, who is part of the "entertainment" side of ESPN. ESPN is fine with their in-house circus clown using rape as a marketing opportunity because it's all in the act of a good debate. That's what is dangerous about Skip Bayless. He is a corporate-backed idiot who hasn't been told "no." Bill Simmons can't get away with giving his strong (and out of line) opinion on Roger Goodell without the great pimp hand of ESPN smacking him back, while they push Skip Bayless further up on the pedestal to preach his message to the masses. On the other hand, perhaps Skip has a point. You know, Major League Baseball is looking for a new "face of the sport." Maybe Mike Trout should look into raping someone in order to help the sport get the "sizzle" it needs to compete for attention and sell more merchandise.

Friday, October 24, 2014

5 comments The Kansas City Royals Are Making Sportswriters Go Insane and Write Crazy Things

I'm not sure if you have heard, but the Royals are in the World Series. I know, anyone who follows sports probably could have easily missed this story, but it's a factual one. Anyone can read the plethora of Royals stories out there which try so hard to create narratives and take disconnected events and tie them into a larger story. You can read Jason Whitlock say "Sure, Ned Yost sucks" but that means he's the perfect manager for this team. You can read other sportswriters point out that Yost is the answer to prayers from the anti-Saber crowd. But there are also slightly crazier articles that try to point out exactly which team this 2014 Royals team reminds the author of. Again, we are creating narratives here, so the mere suggestion the Royals were six outs away of not winning the Wild Card game is not acceptable. Only comparisons to previous World Series-winning teams and calling the Royals a team of destiny are accepted.

Tracy Ringolsby provides the most embarrassing headline. It says, I kid you not, "Like '85 Champs, Royals Know How to Win." This is essentially a "fuck it" headline. He can't explain why the team is winning, so fuck it, he'll just say the Royals know how to win games. When in doubt without an explanation, just make something up.

It turns out this squad has a lot in common with the Royals team from 29 years ago, which apparently was an untalented team who just "knew how to win" as well.

Twenty-nine years later, the Kansas City Royals have returned to the World Series. Shows how fickle baseball can be.

Or how bad the Royals have been in the interim. The 2014 postseason was the first postseason in over two decades where either the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves weren't represented. So baseball is fickle, but then not really fickle.

When the Royals hoisted that World Series championship trophy back in 1985, it was the seventh postseason appearance in 10 years. It wasn't that those Royals were dominating. They simply knew how to win.

There's no such thing as "knowing how to win." There is such a thing called "Having a good team and using the players on that team to win games." Saying a team "knows how to win" is probably the least analytical, most brain-dead way possible to explain a team's success.

It showed that postseason. The Royals rallied from 3-1 deficits in both the American League Championship Series, against the Blue Jays, and the World Series, against the Cardinals, becoming the first team to lose the first two games at home and rally to become World Series champions.

Did the Royals just forget how to win for a few games, then remember again, just in time to win the series? After all, if the 1985 Royals knew how to win then why didn't they put this knowledge to work before going down 3-1? Let me guess, they just wanted a challenge?

What is known is after Jorge Orta was called safe at first base, Steve Balboni hit a foul pop up that Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark watched drop to the ground. Balboni took advantage of the gift and eventually singled, moving Orta to second. After Jim Sundberg's sacrifice-bunt attempt was turned into a force of Orta at third,

Small-ball fail! This is a blatant small-ball fail!

The Royals had set the stage for the World Series in the ALCS. After losing the first two games at Toronto, they pulled out a 6-5 victory in Game 3, which became known as the game George Brett refused to lose.

This is as opposed to Games 1 and 2 which George Brett reluctantly conceded he wouldn't mind losing. After all, he knows how to win, so he can just do that anytime he wants.

Brett homered in the first for a 1-0 lead. He doubled and scored on a White sacrifice fly in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. Brett belted a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the game at 5. He hit a leadoff single in the eighth and then scored the game-winning run on a Balboni single.

"Refused to lose" = "Had a great night hitting the baseball"

Also, if George Brett was part of a Royals team that knew how to win, why hasn't he passed this knowledge down to the current Royals team prior to this year? This seems like really, really important information that he would want to pass on as quickly as possible to Royals teams for generations to come.

On a team short with power, Balboni, who was acquired from the Yankees, had one assignment -- swing hard and hit home runs. The 36 home runs Balboni hit in 1985 are still the franchise record.

Since these two Royals teams are so similar, who is the Balboni of the current Royals team? I mean, after all, these two teams are mirror images of each other because they both know how to win. I know how to win too. Score more runs than the opposing team.

"If we are within three games by Sept. 1, we are the division champions," McRae had said in late July.

Why?

"We know how to play in September, they don't," McRae said in reference to other AL West teams.

Much like the current Royals team knows how to play in October and other teams don't. Make moves that strategically look stupid, but count on the opposing team to screw up or just figure out how to win and score runs. Just figure it out. It can't be that hard.

Steve Farr was called up from Triple-A the day after a two-day August strike. He said he realized things were different with Kansas City the first game he was in uniform.

In the ninth inning, Detroit's Johnny Grubb doubled off Saberhagen to right-center.

"Willie [Wilson] has to catch that," Farr remembers muttering in the bullpen.

"Sabes has to finish off that pitch," said Quisenberry.

"The point was made," said Farr. "This wasn't about what any one player did. This was about what we did."

And that's how to win. I have no idea how the 2014 Royals are like the 1985 Royals and I suspect Tracy Ringolsby doesn't either. It sure made for a good headline when he had no other clue what to write about.

Their job was to win, no matter what the obstacle.

The Royals handled their job well.

And that's how to win. Just win. Just like the current Royals team is doing. There's no secret, know your job and go do it. Most other MLB teams don't know it's their job to win.

Terence Moore doesn't think the Royals look like the 1985 Royals at all. He thinks the Royals look like the 1969 Miracle Mets. I think Ringoslby and Moore should have a hyperbole-off to see which person is making the correct comparison. Because obviously the Royals can't just be the 2014 Royals, they have to be directly comparable to a baseball team from the past.

You watch the Royals shock reality these days, and you recall 45 years ago, when America featured everything from the dramatic to the improbable.

Yes, I do. I remember those days when I was negative years old very fondly. Back then, I didn't have to read articles forcing a comparison of one sports team to another.

"You had the Vietnam War and protesters everywhere, and the economy was booming," Ron Swoboda said, sounding like the definitive voice for 1969 over the phone from his home in New Orleans. "There was the aftermath of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ongoing Civil Rights movement. You had Woodstock, and you even had a man walking on the moon."

Swoboda chuckled, and then he added, "You know what? During that time, when it seemed as if anything was possible, probably the longest shot was the Mets winning the World Series, so we did that."

I'm chuckling too because this is exactly how it is now. It's like 1969 all over again, minus all of those specific events happening and the fact the Royals making the World Series wasn't exactly a miracle since they were an ever-improving team who specifically made moves to contend for a title over the next couple of years.

There was no Wild Card Game or League Division Series back then. Otherwise, the Mets would have dominated them, too. Just like these Royals, who are the 21st century version of those Mets.

Did the 1969 Mets just know how to win games? If so, then maybe the 1985 Royals were like the 1969 Mets and the 2014 Royals are just like the 1985 Royals who are just like the 1969 Mets. It's time to get these team comparison's correct for narrative's sake. How can the 2014 Royals be the 1969 Mets AND the 1985 Royals if the 1969 Mets didn't just know how to win? IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!

"It was real obvious they were packing the organization with quality young players, so this is not an accident," Swoboda said. 

So, it wasn't a miracle? It was a conspicuous effort by the Royals to put a quality team on the field? I don't get it, I thought the Royals' success was a miracle just like the 1969 Mets was a miracle.

"Most of those guys were homegrown, and for the most part, the Mets were homegrown."

Were the 1985 Royals homegrown? I need to know which World Series winning team the 2014 Royals are definitely exactly like. I can't sleep until I know.

"They have that whiff of destiny about them," Swoboda said,

You sure that's not champagne or just sweat? I've smelled destiny before and destiny smells an awful lot like the 2004 Anaheim Angels who didn't know how to win, so they weren't like the Royals, and weren't a miracle team like the 1969 Mets.

In fact, the Royals have won four times in extra innings during this postseason. They've also taken the lead three times after the ninth with home runs despite finishing the regular season last in the Major Leagues in homers.

See, it's not destiny because the Royals know how to win games...just like the 1985 Royals just knew how to win games. I feel like Tracy Ringolsby and Terence Moore need to compare notes and determine which narrative is correct. Are the 2014 Royals a team of destiny or just a team that knows to win? Destiny doesn't know how to win and knowing how to win involves just doing your job, with no involvement from destiny. Let's keep the stories straight at MLB.com.

"Their outfield is spectacular," Swoboda said. "Alex Gordon was a guy who was failing in the infield, and then he goes to the outfield and wins [three] Gold Gloves. Jarrod Dyson is a speedster in center field, and [Lorenzo] Cain is a legitimate center fielder who goes to right field and makes really good plays. 

Well, I mean they are destined to play well in the outfield so talent doesn't really matter does it?

"It was a different time back then, when starters such as Seaver, [Jerry] Koosman and [Gary] Gentry were out to finish games," Swoboda said. "The bullpen was where you went when you had to.

This is as opposed to modern managers who go to the bullpen because they get bored of seeing their starter on the mound dominating? The bullpen is still where a manager goes when he has to, it's just managers feel they have to go to the bullpen earlier than they used to.

Now the bullpen is where you go when you hit the seventh inning, with the setup guy for the setup guy, then the setup guy and then the closer."

But again, the 2014 Royals are the exact same as the 1969 Mets. Why do I get the feeling Terence Moore put out a call to 10-15 retired players from World Series-winning teams and just decided to compare the 2014 Royals to whichever team had a retired player respond to his phone call first?

Swoboda laughed, saying, "You have to pick the Royals, but I tell you what. [The Giants] will be ready for them, because what's been delightful for me to watch during these playoffs is that the intensity and the emotion have been so legitimate and absolutely authentic from all of these teams. But nobody has shown all of that more than the Kansas City Royals. That's why it's going to be hard to take destiny from them."

Plus the Royals know how to win. The Giants may have won two World Series titles recently, but they don't have destiny and they don't know how to win.

Not hard . . . impossible.

Well, if these Royals really are those Mets.

Even if the Royals win the World Series, they aren't the 1969 Mets. Stop comparing the Royals to historic teams out of pure laziness because you don't know how to analyze and explain a team's success. Crazy things happen in the playoffs and the Royals were six outs away from losing the Wild Card game, so maybe they aren't a team of destiny nor do they "know how to win." Maybe they are just on a hot streak. I know, I know, there has to be a running thread of commonality because sportswriters can't accept the randomness of the universe.

Sean Gregory of "Time" has decided that the Kansas City Royals are the future of baseball. Well then. At least he isn't overreacting to their World Series run or anything by mistaking one team's success during a given season as an example of a larger trend. Obviously the Royals can't just be successful this season. It has to mean something larger than just that.

Sure, the Kansas City Royals are an intriguing tale for the typical rags-to-riches reasons. A team that hasn’t made a post-season appearance in 29 years becomes the first team in baseball history to win its first eight games in the playoffs.

Sure, this would ordinarily be enough to gain the public's attention and allow them to enjoy the Royals' run to the World Series. But it's not enough for Sean Gregory. There has to be more. More! What do these eight games mean in the larger context of the direction baseball is moving? Nothing? Unacceptable, these eight games have to mean something.

But the Royals are more than just an enchanting small-market success story. They represent the changing game of baseball.

Of course they do. Sure, they were six outs away from losing the Wild Card game and baseball would forever be unchanged by the Royals and the narrative might go "Home runs are back!" if the Orioles managed to make the World Series. But that didn't happen, so obviously the Royals are changing the game of baseball. It's the only way to explain their success this season, while also blatantly ignoring that if the A's put the Royals away in the Wild Card game then the game of baseball would forever be unchanged. It's a thin line between a revolution and no revolution. It's almost like Sean Gregory is creating stories where there isn't one.

In the post-steroid era, the game is going through a remarkable transition. Power is out. Pitching, speed and defense are in.

Other MLB teams have won the World Series with good defense and great pitching. But yeah, this is the first season a team could win games by pitching really well and turning opponents batted balls into outs. Very astute.

Teams scored 4.07 runs per game during the 2014 regular season, according to stats site Baseball-Reference.com–the lowest total in 33 years. Runs-per-game are down 15% since 2007, and off 21% from their steroid-era high of 5.14 in 2000. Players are striking out 7.7 times per game, an all-time record, breaking the prior high of 7.55 set last season. In fact, in each of the past seven seasons, baseball set a new all-time high for strikeouts per game.

Three of the top 15 teams in the majors in strikeouts made the playoffs. Obviously striking out isn't a good thing and I don't think any hitting coach would advocate striking out. Striking out isn't the death-knell for scoring runs that Sean Gregory seems to believe it is though.

Enter the Royals. The Royals had the fewest home runs in the majors this past season, with 95.

The Royals were last in strikeouts and also last in walks. So they didn't strikeout, but they didn't walk either. They were ready to hit. 8 of the 10 playoff teams were in the Top 18 in home runs this year. The only teams that weren't were the Cardinals and the Royals. So I'm entirely sure not hitting home runs is a trend that is going to be repeated by successful teams.

But no team had more stolen bases,

True, but what's interesting is the teams that round up the Top 10 in stolen bases include the Dodgers, Reds, Astros, Yankees, Phillies, Tigers, Rangers, Indians, and Pirates. The majority of those teams didn't make the playoffs. Again, I won't say stolen bases aren't important, but Sean Gregory is looking for trends that don't exist. He's seeing the Royals didn't hit home runs and stole bases and figures that's what is important in baseball now. It may not be true. The Giants were 29th in the majors in stolen bases and the Cardinals were 28th. Baltimore was 30th. So of the four teams in the ALCS and NLCS, the Royals were a clear outlier in terms of stealing bases.

Sean Gregory is cherry-picking the information he chooses to present in an effort to create a narrative about how baseball has totally changed. He's reverse-engineering the Royals' success into a greater narrative. Rather than seeing the Royals as a team that took a certain strategy to the World Series, he is ignoring how other MLB teams succeeded during the season and points to the Royals' strategy as the new trend in baseball. The Giants didn't steal bases and were middle-of-the-pack in home runs, strikeouts and walks. Maybe the new way to win in the majors is to not steal bases and be middle-of-the-pack in most offensive categories.

The last big-league club to reach the World Series while finishing last in home runs, but first in swipes, was the 1987 St. Louis Cardinals. Those Cardinals teams of the 1980s played an exciting brand of “small-ball” throughout the decade: the ’82 Cards finished second in steals, and last in home runs, and won it all

But obviously it's a huge, new trend and not just an example of a team making it to the World Series without hitting a lot of home runs, while stealing a lot of bases.

For the Royals, that speed pays off in the field too. According to FanGraphs.com, Kansas City players collectively finished with the highest Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) – an advanced metric that measures defensive value – in the majors.

Oh sure, people embrace advanced statistics like UZR when it goes to help prove the furthering of silly narratives.

Kansas City’s outfield, with three-time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon in left, Lorenzo Cain in center, and defensive replacement Jarrod Dyson shoring up center field in the late innings (Cain then usually moves to right), have baseball analysts raving. “Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here,” wrote Sam Miller of Baseball Propectus. “We’re not just talking about a good outfield, or a great outfield. We’re talking about what one might decide to argue is the greatest defensive outfield of all time.”

This is part of the new formula for winning a World Series. Just put together one of the best defensive outfields of all time! Then find players who can run fast, don't strike out, and get on-base. Who would have thought this could work?

The Royals have found a winning formula. These days, if you swing for the fences, you’re more likely than ever to strike out.

Is this a factual statement? Is there really a correlation between striking out, swinging for home runs and then not scoring runs (which is what Sean Gregory is talking about...you can't score if you strike out)? Here are the top 10 teams in home runs for 2014 (number of homers in parenthesis) and their ranking in strikeouts, then their ranking in runs scored:

1. Baltimore (211)- 11th, 8th
2. Colorado (186)- 12th, 3rd
3. Toronto (177)- 24th, 5th
4. Houston (163)- 2nd, 21st
5. Chicago Cubs (157)- 1st, 26th
6. Pittsburgh (156)- 18th, 10th
7. LA Angels (155)- 13th, 1st
8. Chicago White Sox (155)- 5th, 13th
9. Detroit (155)- 25th, 2nd,
10. Washington (152)- 9th, 9th

So of the MLB teams in the Top 10 in home runs, four of these teams are in the Top 10 in strikeouts, while seven of these teams are in the Top 10 in runs scored. In fact, of the Top 10 teams in home runs, only two of these teams are ranked below 13th in the majors in run scored. So hitting home runs is a great way to score runs and while teams who strike out a lot may tend to strike out more, it doesn't mean those teams are scoring fewer runs. Basically, the home run isn't dead and there's not definitively a new way to play baseball.

So just put the ball in play – Royals hitters have both the lowest strikeout rate in the majors, and the lowest walk rate – and take your chances with your legs. Steal bases to eke out those diminishing runs.

Right, this is how they win games. It doesn't mean that's the "new" way to win games or this is how every team will win games. It's simply how the Royals do it. Plus, like Tracy Ringolsby says, the Royals just know how to win games. That has to be factored in too.

Since today’s pitchers are better keeping balls in the park, if your opponent does make contact, make sure you have players who turn these balls into outs. (Like third baseman Mike Moustakas diving into the stands).

That's a great idea, but the key is to find players who can turn these balls into outs while also hitting the baseball well and helping the team score runs. This isn't a new thing. MLB teams have always looked for good defensive players who can also hit. It's called "finding good baseball players" and MLB teams try to find them every single year in the draft, free agency or through trade. 

Let the big-market New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels overpay for aging sluggers who will inevitably depreciate at the back-end of their ludicrous contracts (Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols).

Apparently Sean Gregory thinks not overpaying for declining players is the new inefficiency. Again, this isn't new.

Small-ball is cheap, and effective.

This year it is cheap and effective. Next year, the new hot trend in baseball may be something completely different. It's not especially smart to take the success of the Royals and believe it has started a new trend in baseball. If the Royals had lost in the Wild Card game then how effective and cheap would small-ball be then?

This is where the game is heading. The Royals just do it best.

This is where the game is heading, but just ignore how the other playoff teams scored runs and won games this year. It's stupid to think there is one way to win baseball games and the Royals winning with small-ball is the start of a larger trend. It's just a desperate attempt to explain the unexplainable and create a narrative on the back of the Royals' success. By the way, the Red Sox were 8th in the majors in strikeouts last season and 6th in home runs. Why wasn't the game of baseball headed towards teams who strikeout a lot and hit a lot of home runs having the most success after the Red Sox won the World Series last year?