Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nationals Shutting Down Strasburg

The Washington Nationals may be the best surprise in baseball. Young talent was obvious in Washington, yet baseball did not expect what they got from the Nationals. As of now the Nationals are in first place in the National League East and are in great position entering the playoffs. The core of the Nationals success is pitching. The young pitching staff has won the team many games. The most popular pitcher for the Nationals is Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg is coming off of Tommy John surgery last season and the Nationals plan on being very careful with him. For most of the year general manager, Mike Rizzo, has said that Strasburg will be shut down before the season ended. He now says Strasburg will be shut down when he feels he needs to be. Rizzo is relying on some type of intuition for knowing when Strasburg has had enough. Manager Davey Johnson said that Strasburg is probably down to "two or three" starts.

Nationals fans (as few as there are) have reason to be upset about the decision to shut down Stephen. Strasburg has been the leader of a shocking season that has the Nationals in position to make a run in the playoffs. Although the Nationals have other pitchers who have proven they can perform, it is obvious that Washington will not be the same team once Strasburg is shut down.

Packed Stadium...

The Nationals signed Stephen Strasburg to a four year contract worth about $15 million. For this reason, Mike Rizzo has reason to protect his investment. If Rizzo allows him to pitch and he suffers a long term or potentially career threatening injury, the Nationals could be in a lot of trouble financially and on the field.

This season the Nationals attendance has been poor for a team in the position that they are in. When Strasburg pitches, attendance has oddly shown no signs of increasing. If attendance during the home games that Strasburg pitches showed obvious increase, Rizzo may have a differing view on shutting down Strasburg.

Final Thought
Washington National fans have shown no reason for Rizzo to change his mind. The embarrassing attendance for the Nationals plays a larger role in shutting down Strasburg then people think. Either way, the Nationals are in position to make a run in the playoffs. They have decided that they are going to shut down their ace. For the future of the organization and the future of Stephen Strasburg, it is a good move.


Replacement Officials to Start Season

I always start my Sundays asking two questions. One: Which game is Gus Johnson calling?  Two: Which game is Ed Hochuli officiating? 
We are all going to miss the gun show.
Well I can scratch number two off of that list because well… he won’t be officiating.  At least not at the start of the season.  None of the usual officials will because the NFL won’t give them a small pay raise.

We all know the ongoing battle between the NFL and its officials.  The officials want more money.  The NFL said we’ll use replacement officials.  The replacement officials are not very good.  The fans are unhappy.  Why the NFL would pick this situation to lay down the iron fist is baffling to me, but who am I anyway.

One of the biggest reasons that this battle baffles me is the fact that the NFL is so “concerned” about player safety.  If (big if) the NFL was so concerned about player safety, then why would they be rolling out officials that don’t even know which way to stand to make a call let alone make a judgment call on a helmet-to-helmet hit at game speed?  It doesn’t make much sense to me and it surely isn’t going over well PR wise. 

The whole player safety ordeal was a PR move in the first place.  The NFL knows that violence is a part of the game and the violence is what sells the league.  With revenues around $9 billion, does the NFL really want to change?

For players to be “safe”, the game would need to undergo a revolutionary transformation that, understandably, nobody wants to do.  But the NFL should be doing all they can in their power to keep the players as safe as possible under the current pretences.  Giving in to the demands of the referees would be a great start. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yadier Molina's Nasty Collision

Last night, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina took a huge blow when blocking the plate from Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  There has been some controversy surrounding the collision because of the injury that Molina suffered and the possible malicious intent from Harrison.  Watch the video and decide for yourself.

Personally, I think that there was some sort of malicious intent on the part of Harrison.  He lowered his shoulder, possibly left his feet, and hit Molina right in the head.  There is a difference between trying to knock the ball free to score a run and trying to injure somebody.

It must be something in the water out in Pittsburgh that just turns those Harrisons into violent people.

Share your thoughts on the collision in the comments!  I'm very interested to see other views on the situation.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cowboys Keeping an Eye on Bryant

Last week I wrote an article on the relationship problems for Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and his former agent Drew Rosenhaus. Lately, Dez has had more problems than his agent to worry about. This offseason, Dez was charged with a misdemeanor for assaulting his mother. The NFL has not imposed any penalties as of now, but the Cowboys took action yesterday to ensure Bryant is on his best behavior.

The Cowboys have set off-the-field guidelines for Dez Bryant to follow. The guidelines include a midnight curfew, restriction to night clubs that the team approve, no alcohol consumption, he cannot attend strip clubs, he must attend weekly counseling sessions, and he will have full time security.

So far, Dez seems to have no issues being compliant with the new guidelines. He can't give comment because of his pending legal issue. The full time security will consist of a rotating three man team that will drive Dez to practice, games and team functions. Dez will have to pay up for the security. The Cowboys are not allowed to pay for Dez's security because it would constitute a violation of salary cap rules.

Coach Garrett believes these regulations will help Bryant and also hold him accountable for his previous actions. Jason Garrett said about the new guidelines, "We want to support our players, we want to support Dez and we want to support his family, and the same time hold him accountable to what he needs to do."

Although the Cowboys have imposed these rules, they are yet to give details on what consequences would include if the rules were broken. Dez signed a 5 year contract in 2010 worth $11.8 million, $8.63 million of that being guaranteed. He is set to earn $1.335 million in salary for the 2012 season. Although it would be difficult to imagine a way that Dez's salary could be effected currently, he should be careful for the future. If teams witness Dez's behavioral issues dating back to college, they will be less likely to give him longer term deals.

Final Thought
While I'm not in favor of putting restrictions on players in most situations, I think this is a great move by the Cowboys. Hopefully the restrictions will help to keep Dez out of trouble. Not only can these restriction be beneficial for the Cowboys on the field, it could potentially be vital for Dez's career in the NFL. If the restrictions prove to be helpful, it will be interesting to see if teams with players who have bad off-the-field history try and enact similar rules. It seems likely.

Dollars & Sense - Dana White Steals the Show

Dear Dana White,

I hung up my Tap Out t-shirt.  I cancelled my Pay-Per-View buy.  I told my boys to stay home.  But I still don’t believe this public charade that you’re putting forward.

Sure I believe that Dan Henderson, the guy that was scheduled to challenge the light heavyweight champion of the world Jon “Bones” Jones, tore his ACL and had to pull out of the event.  It happens all the time!  Guys train too hard and get hurt.  Maybe he was too old to compete in the first place, but so be it. 

I even believe that you offered Henderson’s spot to Chael Sonnen.  He would have had to move up a weight class, but he’s always looking for a fight.  Since then he has run his mouth and called out Jon Jones on multiple occasions, but what else are we to expect of Chael Sonnen.

Apparently you even offered up the spot to Anderson Silva.  Of course he wouldn’t fight Jon Jones because then we would have had a blockbuster fight that many of us couldn’t even dream of.  Either way, he accepted to become the new main event, even fighting up a weight class.  But you said no…

Now my weekend was ruined.  There was no UFC 151.  Not only was there no Jon Jones, no Chael Sonnen, no Anderson Silva, there was no nothing at all!  How could you ever do that?

I’m beginning to wonder whether you really are the guy to lead the UFC into the future.  Sure you were great when the UFC was trending upwards, but now the UFC seems to have plateaued a bit.  You have brought the UFC to multiple continents with unparalleled success.  You worked toward bringing UFC to the mainstream.  There is the TV contract with Fox, but has it even been that successful?  The ratings have been going down the past few fights and now you have to offer one of your biggest fights of the year just to boost them back up (Benson Henderson title defense versus Nate Diaz). 

Now you have not only ruined the plans for my past Saturday night, you seem to have the UFC trended downwards.  You rescheduled Jon Jones to fight at UFC 152 to fight Vitor Belfort even though you tried to get a huge fight with Lyoto Machida, but he wisely declined on short notice.

In a sport that timing and opportunities matter the most, you seem to have ignored that these things make a huge difference.  Guys are considered the greatest or wither away in the shadow of another guy all depending on timing.  It’s about matchups.  You can’t just pretend like these things don’t matter.

Not only did you ignore these things, you launched a whole "UFC versus Jon Jones" public relations assault.  You asked Chael Sonnen to fight him.  Jon Jones declined (making the right decision, IMO).  You knew that Sonnen would run his mouth; call out Jones in every way possible.  You wanted Jon Jones to take the blame for the cancelled UFC 151 before you had to take it.  Now you got what you wanted.  Let’s own up to the mistakes.  This mistake could be one that alienates parts of the fan base.  That is why I wonder if you, Mr. White, are the guy to lead UFC further. 

Alienating fans is a poor business strategy in any sport.  Any businessman knows that and I thought you did.  But I was wrong.  You clearly had it wrong.  Now you have some fixing to do and I mean more than just giving me Jon Jones versus Vitor Belfort.  I mean publically admitting your wrongdoing and I mean giving the people another fight for free. 

Although the cancelled UFC 151 makes no sense and is a stupid move on your part, that isn’t what I’m mad about.  I’m mad that you would turn against one of your own champions, your own fighters, and your own guys so easily, so mercilessly. 

I’m disappointed in you Mr. White, and I hope you will make it up to not just me, but all UFC fans.  There surely are a lot of us.  And you definitely disappointed every single one of us this past weekend.

Angry UFC Fan

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Debate - Jacksonville Jaguars

Do you think it is a good or bad idea for the Jacksonville Jaguars to play multiple home games in London?

Kevin Rossi
I totally think it depends on a couple of factors for whether the Jaguars’ move to play some home games in London is a good one or not.  I promise this isn’t a cop-out.  It is a good idea if the team is planning on moving to play overseas full-time.  It is a bad idea if the team plans to remain in Jacksonville.  If the team made this move with the intention of staying in Jacksonville, they would essentially be fighting fire (low attendance figures) with fire (taking away games and essentially dangling the team in front of the fans in a last ditch effort to see if they care).  That would obviously be a terrible idea because that would alienate the few fans that are still left.  If the Jags do move, owner Khan would be going against his word when he said he wasn’t moving the team.  Clearly he meant to add “yet” to the end of that statement.  I do think it is very interesting that arguably the least popular team in the NFL is set to be the guinea pig in testing the long term European waters.  It is just going to be an uphill battle to gain popularity.  But then again, if there is a league that can do it, it is the NFL.  So for the question, I think we need to know more information.  We need to know the 5 year and 10 year plans for the Jaguars.  Maybe it will work.  Maybe it will blow up in their face.  Only time will tell.

Drew Rosen
I think it would be a great idea for the Jaguars to play in London. If they do agree to play games in London, it will most likely be one game a year. It is difficult for them to play more than that because of travel. Not only do they have to travel, but the opposing team will have travel as well. The positives for the Jaguars and the league include a broader market and guaranteed sell outs. NFL games have been very successful when playing overseas. If the Jaguars commit to a long term deal to play games in London, fans will surely root for them. Jaguars are at a point where they could use some fans, and fans from abroad could help them as an organization. Playing a game in London is also a guaranteed sell out. If football fans in London only get to see one live game a year, they will be sure to fill the stadium. The Jaguars would like to see what it feels like to sell out a home game.

For the Jacksonville Jaguars, I think it would be great for the team to play a couple games in London. They can’t sell out their games at their own venue or draw a consistent crowd. Extending their brand, exposing the Jaguars to more viewers/fans couldn’t hurt their organization...It doesn’t hurt that they won’t have any other American football games with which to compete for fans in London either. If Londoners want to attend an NFL game, well, they’re going to have to watch the Jags. Good for the Jags, not so good for Londoners, but it is what it is (sorry Londoners, wish you could watch a better American football team). I’m also not sure it’s a good move for the Jags to take home games away from the few loyal fans that they do have...then again, that might not be too many fans compared to the other teams around the league. All in all, the Jacksonville Jaguars are hurting for ticket sales and playing in London gives them a easy way to makes some’s a good deal for the team, just not so much the fanbase or Londoners.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Quick Hits

Augusta National accepts its first female members.

Phillies merchandise sales have seen a steep decline in 2012.

Ticketmaster chosen to aggregate NBA’s primary and secondary ticket markets on one site.

Charles Pierce says that there’s little not to love about the Washington Nationals.

Wright Thompson writes in detail about the chilling events that lead to former Mariners’ prospect Greg Halman’s death.

Jeff MacGregor takes a new view on the NFL replacement referees.

Photo Of The Week:

Who has a caption for this one!? (via Sports Nation on Facebook)

Introducing the Houston Dislastros

Coming down to the final month of the MLB regular season, we begin to see the separation between the contenders and the pretenders. While teams like the Tampa Bay Rays are emerging, teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates are fading fast.

Sorry #PRNW

There are teams that we thought were out out of it, like the Seattle Mariners and the Detroit Tigers, and there are teams that are definitely out of it, like the Cleveland Indians and the Miami Marlins.

Then there are the Houston Astros. I mean Lastros. Well, actually more like Disastros. The Astros are in a league of their own, for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, this was a thing that happened.

As of August 23, the Astros are 39-86 and 36.5 games behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. To put it in perspective, the Astros would have to win their final 37 games and the Reds would have to lose their final 36 games just to tie for first place!

This is not just some string of bad luck or an under-performing team, this Astros team has to boast one of the worst rosters in MLB history. By my count, only three (Jose Altuve, Brett Wallace and injured Jed Lowrie) of the Astros eight position players are legitimate MLB players.

@HowManyAltuves in an Altuve?

Only one pitcher on their current staff has more than three years of MLB experience. Bud Norris has regressed from an average pitcher to a disappointment and 21-year-old Jordan Lyles seems completely over matched at the MLB level. The only pitcher on the current roster with any shred of hope to become a decent starter is Lucas Harrell who has ten of the team's 39 wins by himself.

The Astros current roster is just a shade of what it was at the beginning of the season. JA Happ, Brandon Lyon, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez have been traded from the pitching staff. Meanwhile, Carlos Lee and Chris Johnson have been traded from the every day line up.

Hugs in the dugout = YOU ARE TRADED BRO.

Five of the most recognizable names of the team, gone to contending teams throughout the MLB for prospects in return. The Astros did not receive any impact prospects in return for those players, but they began the road to rebuilding.

The Astros were able to acquire depth in their MiLB system, which is arguably more valuable to an organization than just one or two impact players. Depth breeds clusters for playing time, which in turn breeds competition, which brings out the best in young players.

From 1997-2005, the Astros reached the playoffs six times and even appeared in the World Series before losing to the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 Fall Classic. From 2006-2010, the Astros averaged a 78-84 record and did not make the playoffs in any of those years.

To summarize it in one word, the Astros were mediocre. In professional sports, it does not pay to be mediocre. In the MLB, teams who spend less are basically rewarded with revenue sharing and teams who finish with horrible records are rewarded with high draft picks.

Note: DO NOT draft Bryan Bullington with any of them.

During those five years, the Astros organization was in limbo to the max. Old players filled the rosters and big contracts filled the pay checks, but why? They were not winning enough to be relevant and they were not losing enough to build for the future.

After a terrible 56-106 season in 2011, the Astros earned the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. They used that pick to select Carlos Correa, who could end up being the team's short stop of the future. With the stripping of the old roster to make way for the younger players, the Astros are finally headed in the right direction.

"I got drafted by who?"

A rebuilding process in the MLB takes more than just one year of struggling, such as the New Orleans Hornets in the NBA, but it is a necessary process for a franchise like the Astros. A franchise that has dug their own grave in this regard.

Hopefully in a few years, the Astros will be back up and running in the weak NL Central. Wait, they are moving to the AL West next year? Yikes. Good luck with that!

"Haha, good one guys!"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Drew and Dez

Drew Rosenhaus may be the most prominent name of sport agents. He certainly is the most prominent NFL agent. Rosenhaus is the only agent ever to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he has negotiated over 2 billion dollars worth of NFL contracts, and is reportedly worth $65 million. Rosenhaus also reportedly offered Dez Bryant some benefits to sign with him before the 2010 NFL draft.

David Wells who is a long time advisor to Dez Bryant, said that Drew Rosenhaus offered him $10,000 for a charity that he worked with. Wells also says that Rosenhaus offered to fly them down to Miami to get the deal signed. Text messages exchanged between Wells and Rosenhaus between December 2009 and January 2010 reveal clear violations of the NFL Player Association policy on agents.

David Wells says he decided to share the text messages now because he is tired of a system that, "takes advantage of athletes, particularly African-American athletes." The timing of the release of the text messages does seem a little suspicious. Dez Bryant decided to switch agents and hire Rosenhaus in December. Recently before Wells decided to release the text messages, Dez Bryant fired Rosenhaus and rehired his original agent Eugene Parker. It is no coincident that Wells decided to call out Rosenhaus after Bryant decided to fire him.

Reportedly, Drew Rosenhaus advanced large sums of money to Dez Bryant after he decided to hire him. Once Bryant fired Rosenhaus and rehired Eugene Parker, Rosenhaus wanted his money back. Rosenhaus contacted contacted Wells looking for the money. It has been reported that Rosenhaus' empire is under some financial problems.

We need agents like Jerry...

Final Thought
As unfortunate as this story is, this is just a small sample of the problems with the sport agency business. A lot of problems exist with college kids entering the professional levels. A significant number of the soon to be professional athletes have never seen the money that they are in line to make. Some powerful agents see these kids as an easy target to exploit. Agents can offer benefits to entice players to sign with them. At the professional level, misconduct by agents still exist, but exist at a lesser level because some of the athletes already have money. If done correctly, sport agency is an important business because agents have power to get the most lucrative contracts for the players they represent.


FedEx Playoff Approaches With Little Buzz

Wait… Did you hear that?  Neither did I.

That silence is the lack of buzz that the PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoff is generating. 

The FedExCup playoff system is very similar to NASCAR’s playoff system in that competitors earn points based on finishes in regular season events.  After the final event of the regular season, the top 125 golfers in the standings qualify for the first playoff event.
Last week’s Wyndham Championship (won by Sergio Garcia on the same day that Augusta announced their acceptance of their first woman members) was the final event of the PGA Tour’s regular season.  A big reason that the lack of buzz is surprising (at least to me) is the fire power among the top five in the standings.  Fifth place currently belongs to Bubba Watson who really became a crowd favorite this year at The Masters.  Third place belongs to Rory McIlroy who is coming off of an impressive eight stroke victory at the PGA Championship.  First place belongs to none other than Tiger Woods.  Enduring intense scrutiny for not winning a major championship this yes, Tiger has put together a solid season winning three events (more than any other player on the PGA Tour this year). 

This week’s event The Barclays will be the first event of the FedExCup playoffs.  Bethpage Black in New York will play host to event and is widely considered to be one of the tougher courses on the PGA Tour schedule.  It is at The Barclays this week that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be paired together in a group for rounds one and two for the first time in their careers.  You can bet the house that that group will be the most followed grouping on TV.
After The Barclays, the second leg of the FedExCup playoff moves to the Deutsche Bank Championship played at TPC Boston.  TPC Boston typically sees lower scores with tournament winners shooting around 20-under.  Unlike the first round at The Barclays where the top 125 players compete, the Deutsche Bank Championship whittles the field down to the top 100. 
The BMW Championship is the third leg of the playoff where the field is cut even further down to the top 70 players in the FedExCup standings.  The BMW Championship will be played at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana after a run at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club. 
Finally, the FedExCup playoffs come down the Tour Championship which takes the top 30 players in the standings.  Taking place at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA, the winner of the season long PGA Tour FedExCup is crowned.  Last year Bill Haas took the Tour Championship which won him the FedExCup in dramatic fashion.
Prize money is a huge reward of the FedExCup playoff.  With total prize money in the neighborhood of $35 million, the winner takes home a whopping $10 million for the season’s worth of work.  The second place finisher brings in $3 million; third place gets $2 million all the way through the top 150 players. 

 Although the prize money is big, the stakes just don’t seem to be taken too seriously by the fans and media.  There is very little build up going into these playoffs.  Moving into next year, the stakes could be raised to a point that could garner more attention among golf fans.  Starting in 2013, the FedExCup standings will essentially replace the PGA Tour Money List as the determining factor for the Tour cards the following season.  This raises the stakes much, much higher because now the top 125 spots matter as opposed to maybe the number one spot.

FedEx’s dealings with the PGA Tour began back in 1986, where it started out as a tournament sponsor (FedEx St. Jude Classic).  The FedExCup began in 2007, and prior to this year, the PGA Tour and FedEx extended the agreement containing the FedExCup playoffs through 2017. 

The change for the future that will place importance on the top 125 spots will probably not bring too much extra coverage to the playoff.  However, if the big names at the top of this year’s FedExCup standings can stay in contention (Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Bubba Watson), then the playoff is sure to gain media and fan momentum by the time the Tour Championship rolls around on September 20 to 23.  For now we can enjoy The Barclays because I think most of us can agree that any golf is better than no golf at all.

--Information gathered from and Sports Business Journal.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter at @kevin_rossi.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stinging the Rebuilding Process

Welcome to the Route 30 Detour! US Route 30 intersects at I-95 in Philadelphia and goes from coast to coast, including passing through Pittsburgh and the home of Drexel University SMT student and blog contributor, Bryan Fyalkowski (@fyalkowski)...

The NBA Draft Lottery is always an exciting event. Not for the entertainment value, mind you, but the fact that opportunity is in the air. On May 30, 2012, just before the Miami Heat would take on the Boston Celtics in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Draft Lottery was held in New York City.

As the competitive NBA teams play towards a championship, the bottom feeders look to receive a high draft pick to build their team for the future. Representatives from the 14 non-playoff NBA teams attend the event, like Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's son, Nick Gilbert, who always looks hip in his nerdy garb.


One of those bottom feeders was the New Orleans Hornets who, at the time, were owned by the NBA and finished the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season with a 21-45 record, tied for the third-worst in the league. Although the Hornets had only a the fourth-best chance (13.7%) of getting the top pick, the ping pong balls came up in their favor.

Aside from conspiracy theories and other concerns about an NBA-owned team winning the Draft Lottery, it was the beginning of a very busy summer for the Hornets. On June 15, the NBA completed the sale of the Hornets to New Orleans Saints' owner Tom Benson for the price of $338 million, a sale that had been in process for two months.

During the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28, in addition to first-overall pick Anthony Davis, the Hornets drafted Austin Rivers in the tenth slot and Darius Miller in the second round. Rivers was taken with a draft pick the Hornets got in return for Chris Paul, who they traded to the Los Angeles Clippers before the season began.

 Note: That is NOT Darius Miller in the center.

In July, the Hornets completed two trades that drastically improved their front court. Putting out a lineup last season that included Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman was not getting it done, so the Hornets went out and traded for Ryan Anderson from the Orlando Magic, and Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick from the Phoenix Suns.

These moves allowed the Hornets to dump Okafor and Kaman, while getting solid depth to take some weight off of the Davis' 19-year-old shoulders. The acquisition of Lopez will allow Davis to play his natural position of power forward when matched up with a over sized center, such as Dwight Howard or Marc Gasol. Meanwhile, Warrick has been a valuable bench player since he has come into the league.

Threes on threes on threes on threes on threes...

Anderson agreed to a four-year, $36-million sign-and-trade to the Hornets, which will allow the 24-year-old breakout star to provide some continuity in the lineup. To add even more stability in the lineup, the Hornets matched a four-year, $59-million maximum offer sheet that the Suns gave to restricted free agent Eric Gordon.

Gordon was the key piece that the Hornets got in return for Paul. He is a 23-year-old star guard, but his career effectiveness on the court has taken a hit due to his continual visits to the IR. Although Gordon said he wanted to go to Phoenix and start anew, matching the offer sheet was absolutely the right thing to do for the Hornets.

Unfortunately a very common sight.

With a manageable roster on paper, the Hornets now needed to lock up one of the most promising young coaches in the league. Monty Williams came from the Nate McMillan coaching tree, having served as assistant coach under him for five seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Williams was offered the head coaching job with the Hornets for the 2010-11 season and did not disappoint, leading the team to the seventh seed in the Western Conference with a 46-36 record and an eventual 4-2 loss in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kobe absolutely torches the team that originally drafted him.

Even after a disappointing 2011-12 season, in which the Hornets went 21-45, new ownership still has confidence in Williams, and they proved it by locking him up with a four-year extension on August 19, which will run through 2015-16. This was absolutely the right thing to do as Williams has the confidence and coaching ability to lead this group of young players to become a competitive team for years to come.

As Kevin Rossi touched upon in his I-95 article last week, NBA teams who are not the Lakers or the Heat need to find ways to rebuild and become competitive again. While the Magic have just begun the rebuilding process, the Hornets endured one terrible season and come come through the other end of the tunnel.

You got traded, can you shut up now please?

With young talent such as Davis, Rivers, Anderson and Gordon locked up for the next four seasons expect the Hornets to be in the playoff hunt during that time. This team is young, but supremely talented, which is all you can ask for when building the nucleus of a roster.

Sprinkle in some solid role players, such as Miller and Warrick, and some viable bench options, such as Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu, and that builds a legitimate contender. Plus, Williams is only 40-years-old and is likely to emerge as a great coach and leader for many years.


Things like the draft and the salary cap exist so that teams have a chance to pick themselves up from the dumps and become relevant again. Franchises hurt themselves by not taking full advantage of these things while the team is not championship caliber, and that is why they struggle for many years.

It is always difficult to face the fact of rebuilding as a professional sports franchise, but the Hornets are an excellent example of what can happen if you swallow your pride and accept that things have to get worse in order for them to get better.

Enjoy your trip back to I-95 and I'll see you next week!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Augusta Makes the Change

What could be considered the most private golf club in the world, Augusta National Golf Club, made a big change to their membership. Over the past 80 years, Augusta National has failed to open its membership to women. This has changed. Former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and South Carolina businesswoman, Daria Moore, have been admitted to Augusta.

Augusta is best known for its privacy and for one of the four major golf tournaments it holds every year, the Masters. The Masters has an exclusivity to it that no other tournament can match. In the current days of huge television deals, and obnoxious amounts of sponsors. The Masters have kept their business with an enormous amount of privacy. Augusta only has three sponsors for the Masters. They include IBM, Exxon and AT&T. Augusta also tells CBS how much Masters coverage they can have and limit the commercials. Augusta allows four minutes of commercials per hour. This is four times less than any other tournament.

Augusta further proves its little care toward potential revenue dollars, with concession prices. Although it may seem like a small thing, $1 for cookies and coffee can't be beat. The seemingly care free attitude that is exhibited by Augusta when it comes to revenue has a deeper meaning. The lack of care puts the idea of admitting women to the golf club in perspective. Most companies give into social uproar because of finances. If customers don't approve of a companies decisions, the company risks losing customers. Augusta did not make the move because of social pressures.

An uproar came about recently when IBM promoted Virginia Rometty to CEO. Traditionally IBM CEO's were offered membership to Augusta. Virginia was the first female CEO for IBM, so Augusta was feeling pressure from the outside to extend her an invite. Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne did not give in, constantly saying that he would not talk about membership issues. Time will tell now if she gets in.

Final Thought
Augusta for years would constantly flex their muscles when it came to membership. The refusal to allow women to be members was a sticking point for many years. The change they made will not reflect a financial move, rather a move that is long overdue.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dollars & Sense - Little League World Series

Every year in the middle of August the baseball world removes its collective gaze from the Major League Baseball pennant races and places it on the small town of Williamsport, PA.  As many know, Williamsport is the home of the Little League World Series, the home of 12 year olds just being 12 year olds, and the home of feel-good stories (like Uganda making it farther than ever before).  Williamsport is also home of the now over-hyped, over-covered, and over-exaggerated Little League World Series. 

To many that may come as a slap in the face, but the bad must come with the good.  Living in the inevitable middle ground is simply a way of life that many people choose to ignore.  People like to live in extremes good or bad, which we have seen come to screeching halts time and time again.  

Uganda made it, but was a bit over-matched
The Little League World Series is no different.  Every year people tune in to see different regions and different countries come together to play in what seems to be a friendly yet intensely competitive series of baseball games.  Whether the kids are smiling or crying, the emotions are always raw.  There are ESPN Top 10 plays and there are boneheaded plays that every little leaguer makes.  Some parents cheer obnoxiously for their child and some can’t even make it to Williamsport due of financial restrictions (but the media always finds a way to turn those into feel-good, underdog stories). 

In life there is always good and bad living in harmony, living in the dreaded middle ground that we all want to ignore.  As humans, we see Little League baseball for its image of purity and childhood innocence.  But just like all the rest of us, Little League baseball has its share of demons.  No matter how hard the organization tries to hide them, they are there.  The demons are there in the overbearing parents, coaches, and media.  The demons are there in the parents and coaches that often lose sight of the ultimate goal of parenting and coaching all for the short term satisfaction of a win. 
Are parents teaching kids the right way to win?
Winning is the ever-present dark cloud that has, is, and will follow around every single competition in human history.  That same cloud looms more ominously than ever over the Little League World Series.  A win may produce another game to play in Williamsport, but does it produce anything more than a memory once there are no longer games left to play?  For some it may, but for many it probably does not.

I’ve been a part of the inner workings of a Little League organization.  I was in charge of 160 kids in Morrisville’s tee ball program for two years after playing for over a dozen years.  My dad was president of the league for four or five years and has coached another handful.  My brother played for over a dozen years.  My mom got involved with the concession stand for a couple.  My family has lived inside of a Little League organization.  We’ve seen how it works.  There is a lot of good that comes of it all, but you have to take some bad with the good.  Nothing is totally innocent.  There has to be a middle ground.

After sitting through countless meetings and being close with many of the parents of the league, I saw how much winning got to their heads.  It’s honestly disturbing.  We always hear about parents that are living out their dreams vicariously through their children in youth sports, and Little Leagues are a good place to start when looking for these types of parents.  You know the parents that take wanting the best for their child to an extent that their motives have to be questioned.  That’s not a healthy situation for kids to grow and develop under, and I’m talking athletically and in all other aspects of life. 

The problems all arise from the winning mentality.  We all want to win no matter our gender, race, age, religion, sexual orientation; it’s naturally in the human blood and bones.  And although we all want to win, we don’t all know how to win.  On the surface it’s easy to lie, cheat, cut corners, and make enemies all in the name of winning, but is that truly a win?  There is something much deeper to winning than there seems to be just on the surface. 
Is the post-game handshake genuine sportsmanship or mere formality?
There is winning the right way.  We know it’s there, but not many of us can wrap our minds around a firm answer to what kind of integrity, transparency, and honesty goes into the “right way.”  To me it all starts with fundamentals.  Many times when we are faced with a problem in life, we look to fix the immediate problem in front of us with as little time, effort, and steps as possible.  However, most of the time, the solution lies in the building blocks of it all.  Fixing the fundamentals takes time, effort, precision, and patience, but often goes undiagnosed or flat out ignored.

The fundamentals are how my whole roundabout point comes back to the Little League World Series.  At the Little League World Series (and in youth sports baseball in general), the parents and coaches call the shots.  When the minds of the parents and coaches are stuck in the murky, muddy waters of winning, the “right way” gets lost in translation.  The 12 year old kids at the mercy of the parents and coaches take on the winning attitude.  There are lies, shortcuts, and lessons gone unheard which causes underdevelopment and eventually problems in all parts of life.  A reevaluation and improvement of the fundamentals are the only way to make a meaningful, lasting change.  By then it's too late because the kids learned that the only thing that matters is winning the game.  Now they are stuck lacking the proper tools needed to make the fundamental changes.  The kids grow up with their newfound skewed view of winning and the vicious cycle continues when they pass it along to their kids (unless they catch it in time). 

I don’t blame Little League specifically for this problem.  The winning mentality can be found in all youth sports.  That’s just where we are as a society (and only one big societal change can fix it).  The Little League World Series just happens to be the pinnacle, the most visible part of the problem.  As you continue watching the Little League World Series, try to keep your mind in the middle.  Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. Enjoy the Little League World Series for what it is.  It isn't about which team won and which team lost.  It is about the excitement, energy, and emotions that these kids bring to the diamond.  That’s surely something that we don’t see every day.    

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Debate - NFL Replacement Referees

Should the NFL give in to the demands of the referees to avoid needing to use replacement referees in the regular season?

Kevin Rossi
We saw in week one of the NFL preseason that this whole replacement referee deal cannot continue into the regular season.  It would just make a mockery of the NFL, and being that the NFL is quite sensitive to public perception, it will change.  A deal must be reached as soon as possible.  We all know that deadlines spur action, but in this case there is no time to wait until the deadline.  The longer the NFL waits to come to an agreement with their referees, the more leverage the referees gain.  That’s how bad these replacement referees are.  These guys out there on NFL fields on television and all right now are the next best thing to what the NFL has now, and that’s a scary thought.  The replacements are so bad that they are proving the worth of the real referees minute by minute, call by call.  A deal must be reached.  The NFL must protect the integrity of the game and the integrity of their business.

Seth Breeden
I’m not so sure to “give in” to the demands of the referees is the right thing to do. Yes, the replacements have proven to be awful. And yes, as Kevin opined, the replacements are so terrible that they are proving the worth of the full-time referees. The league should not be the only party to have a vested interest in protecting the integrity and quality of the game. The players and the referees should also have a desire to preserve, and improve, the game.

The impasse needs to end. For one side to completely give in, that would be the wrong solution. Each side needs to give in on some aspects, stay strong on others, and compromise on some. That’s the only way a new deal is going to be worth it. This way, each side can be mutually happy with the deal and we won’t be right back at this same point in a few seasons.

Personally, all the lockout stuff and now the referee replacements has all made the game a little annoying. I just want football. I don’t wait another season or offseason of following lockouts, impasses, and contract negotiations. The two sides need to come to a new deal quick and they both need to stop holding up the whole process. Let’s get back to football!

Drew Rosen
In most negotiation situations, I believe it is imperative for both sides to give in on some issues. Not in this negotiation though. The NFL is being completely unreasonable when it comes to the referee situation. I wrote two articles detailing what the referees are looking for, and in my opinion the request are reasonable. A few request were a slight increase in money, the ability to work another job while officiating, and for the NFL not to add three more officiating crews. The longer it takes to get a deal done, the worse news it is for the NFL. To be frank, the replacement officials have been terrible. A true disgrace to the game. If the NFL does not give in, they risk compromising the integrity of the sport.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quick Hits

Bob Ryan says goodbye in his final column at the Boston Globe.

This CNN Money video looks at the business of minor baseball and features the Trenton Thunder.

Good read from Chris Jones about Michael Jordan and his sons.

Charles Pierce takes a break from tearing down Romney’s VP choice Paul Ryan to write about Patriots training camp.

London 2012 Olympics break NBC viewership records. Awful Announcing takes a look.

SI’s Thomas Lake looks at Michael Jordan’s high school coach who is currently in jail and receiving little help from MJ.

CBS’s Gregg Doyel says that something needs to be done about academic cheating in the NCAA.

The New Yorker has the cure for your London 2012 Olympic hangover.

The Guardian takes a look at data and the Olympics in a very cool piece.

Jerry Crasnick writes about Reds prospect Billy Hamilton moving closer to Vin Coleman’s stolen base record.

Joe Posnanski talks about the upcoming release of his biography about Joe Paterno.

Bill Barnwell of Grantland finds that surprisingly baseball players have died at a faster rate than football players.

Patrick Rishe of Forbes says that the Nationals should stick to the Strasburg Shutdown.

Does Notre Dame football really deserve the treatment they get? Rick Reilly doesn’t think so.

Photo Caption Contest:

Joe Posnanski’s Joe Paterno biography hits shelves on this Tuesday. Will you be reading?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Padres Sold!

After three years of trying to sell the San Diego Padres, John Moores finally got approved to sell the franchise. The franchise was sold to Ron Fowler and his group for $800 million. Ron Fowler is a San Diego businessman, although he might not be well known his group already has connections to professional sports.

Professional golfer, Phil Mickelson, is apart of the group. The group also includes the O'Malley family. The O'Malley family was a large part of baseball for a long time. The O'Malley family owned the Los Angles Dodgers for 48 years until they sold them in 1998. Peter O'Malley's sons, Kevin and Brian will run the team with O'Malley's nephews, Tom and Peter Seidler. The O'Malley family tried to purchase the Dodgers back when they became available, but lost the bid.

John Moores owned the Padres for 18 years. In 2009 Moores' divorce forced him to put the Padres up for sale. In his 18 seasons of ownership, the Padres have made the playoffs four times and they won the National League pennant in 1998. The Padres have failed to make the playoffs since 2006.

New ownership hopes to excite the fan base. The fan base hopes that new ownership means money will be spent. The Padres are consistently at the bottom of the league for payroll. Peter Seidler talks optimistically about the future of the franchise. Seidler said, "We're a combination thrilled to be in this position, but also feel a great sense of responsibility to the game and the community of t San Diego. We really look forward to going to work and doing everything we can to make the city of San Diego happy with our leadership, particularly the fans. Bottom line, we're just happy to get going, work hard and take a bunch of good steps in the right direction."

Commissioner Selig also seemed optimistic about the sale. He said, "I think Padres fans have a right to be very happy today. Very happy. This group knows what it takes to compete. They're very optimistic. I'm optimistic. I've gone over their projections, gone over everything. I think their projections are optimistic, but realistic. This is a good day for baseball."

Final Thought
Although many say the price tag of the Padres was inflated by the recent sale of the Dodgers, I believe the deal is great for the city of San Diego. The Padres have been difficult to watch in most of the recent years due to bad play. Hopefully the new ownership will come in and look to spend some money to improve the product on the field. With the Padres sitting in 4th place in the NL West, the fans need something to be optimistic about and this could be it.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ticket Sales Can Be Counterintuitive

Remember on Monday I wrote about the dust clearing in the Dwight Howard trade?  Well let’s stir it up a little bit, but the stir won’t necessarily have Howard as the centerpiece. 

When talking and listening to coworkers at Comcast-Spectacor throughout the week, a very interesting point dawned on me.  NBA season ticket sales are about extremes, and nobody wants to get stuck in the middle-of-the-road purgatory.  This idea could have been a basis for the deal that the Orlando Magic pulled off in dumping Howard.
Dwight Howard as a Laker
No matter what your opinion of Howard may be, on the court the man is a star.  He’s a freakishly athletic, highly talented, and highly skilled star, which are all reasons why the Magic, ESPN, and the NBA put up with his antics.  Point being, when teams deal star players, ownership is involved.  General Managers don’t wake up one day and decide to trade one of the most dominant players in the sport without involving the owners.

Why?  Because star players have many more implications than simply the on-court product.  Howard impacts both merchandise and ticket sales greatly.  I cannot italicize the text enough to stress Howard’s importance to merchandise and ticket sales.  To put it in perspective, when the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum in the same deal that Howard was dealt in, the Sixers had one of the best ticket sales days in franchise history.  I’ll let that sink in.
Andrew Bynum as a Sixer
Given the newfound perspective, the impact that Howard can have on ticket sales is almost unfathomable.  So clearly going for it all is one extreme, but what about the other extreme.  Hitting rock bottom, which must be noted is less than ideal for long term sustainability, can also be a selling point to boost season ticket sales.

Hitting rock bottom can be spun into hope.  Instead of saying “we had the worst team in the league last year so you should totally purchase a family plan for the season” a team in this position can say “hey look we didn’t have the year we were looking for but things are looking up.”  Most importantly to be added in is “oh yea and we have the most ping pong balls in the draft lottery” and when the top pick is a guy like Anthony Davis, season tickets get sold.  Of course, the impact is smaller than adding the proven star player, but it is better than being stuck in the perpetual middle ground.

The middle ground is somewhere that Philadelphia fans in particular are all too familiar with.  Barely missing out on the playoffs.  First round exits.  Year after year spent outside of the draft lottery.  Everybody’s goal, naturally, is to make the playoffs, but if a team goes to the playoffs and loses in the first round year after year, then the team’s season ticket sales group is going to have a tough time.  Many people don’t buy season tickets for first round exits and a lot more people than you expect don’t even buy season tickets for the team.  Aside from business purposes, people buy season tickets to see the next big thing or to see the team make a run through the playoffs (not to be confused with into the playoffs). 

This is where the theory gets applied to the Magic dealing Dwight Howard.  Many thought that the Magic did not get enough back in dealing their star.  Many thought that they should have gotten Pau Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers.  Gasol is a costly option at about $38.2 million over the next 2 seasons (Sham Sports), but is that why the Magic stayed away from him?  People may say yes, but I don’t think that’s true.  The Magic had the flexibility to pay Howard what he wanted, so with Howard out they would have just reallocated that money to Gasol. 
And look at that neck beard
Although Gasol is not the same star type player that Howard is, he is still worth a good number of wins.  That number of wins that he is worth could very well have pushed the Magic from hitting rock bottom to the middle ground.  But remember that you don’t want to be in the middle ground.  The additions of Afflalo, Harrington (whose contract may get bought out before he even plays), Vucevic, and Harkless are nothing compared to what Gasol would have been.  However, those 4 (or 3) give the Magic a young base to build on into the future especially with all those draft picks.  One of those draft picks could end up being a guy that sells tickets.  The Magic still have payroll flexibility so they could go after big name free agents in the coming years.  One thing is certain though, the Magic consciously chose the bottom over the middle ground in trading Dwight Howard.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.