If you frequent the House of Georges, or even if this is your first time here, there's one thing you should know: We like to argue. We've made this our bread and butter for two and-a-half years now, and we don't have plans to change anytime soon. Thus far in this particular series, we've covered quarterbacks, movies, hitters, books, starting pitchers, and now it's time for us to tackle some boob tube. Please, join us after the jump for the first of two parts of what we've deemed the best television programs for the past quarter century.
25. The Tom Green Show
Bankmeister: I took a lot of grief for drafting The Tom Green Show. Sure. It had a large ridiculous element to it. Sure. It might’ve gotten old quicker than most hits. Sure. Other efforts -– see: Jackass and Crank Yankers -– at real-life absurdity may’ve been more popular, even though they debuted long after TTGS, but Green’s show was the first of its kind, that kind being a brand of television that would bust your guts and make your cheeks sore with laughter. When the program first aired in 1994, there was a lot more on-set conversation than skits, a ratio that would sway heavily in the opposite direction. It was in these early years, however, that the content of the show, with very little actually happening on it was so damn funny that it frequently made me tear up.
There’s something to be said about genuine laughter, too. I’m a big fan of stand-up comedy, and one of the first to admit that there are very few comics that can just kill it. I don’t mean to compare Green or his show to the efforts of some of comedy’s best, but the ability to instill such horrific laughter is praiseworthy at best. The Tom Green Show, as egocentric as it might’ve come across, attempted to do nothing more than to make people laugh, and for that I applaud it.
The low-budget set featured Green at his desk, pal/co-host Glenn Humplik in a neighboring chair, and other buddy/co-host Phil Giroux behind a window behind Green and Humplik. Giroux seldom did much beyond sip his coffee and chuckle, but that was all it took; it was God-damned hilarious.
If I could find more clips like that, I’d finish all of my selections with them and little more. But the show progressed and they hit the streets. There was the time he pretended to be a cripple:
The time he spent in Japan, where he most notably rode the subway:
And the list goes on:
It would be foolish of me not to mention the tens of dozens of pranks he pulled on his parents, which he’s probably most remembered for, but I would argue that these bits were very far from his best work. The idea for the show was original, bold, daring, and frankly, one of the funniest (at times) bits of television ever recorded. I’ve never looked at ratings or tried to gauge its popularity, but for a moment, The Tom Green Show was one of the best damn things on television, period.
24: Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
Cecil: Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood has no equal in the history of children's television -- well, OK, you can make a very tight case for Sesame Street, but don't be bringing any Captain Kangaroo or Electric Company up in this piece, because we will fight. Nothing but love for those shows, but step away from Fred Rogers. That means you too, Sid & Marty Krofft supporters, with your sandal-socks combos and single-room apartments filled with He-Man action figures. If you mention Blue's Clues or Dora the Explorer, our security guards will escort you from the premises.
There is no equivalent in today's market. Can you imagine any kind of television executive, even one who works on the public airwaves, greenlighting a show that features a middle-aged man in a cardigan talking directly to very young children? But MRN worked because Fred himself was the real deal, a minister who approached this work with genuine grandfatherly affection for his little viewing audience. He never talked down to you, he never pandered to you. He calmly and patiently showed you the value of being kind, of listening to the opinions of others, of being respectful to the world. I would like to take this opportunity to quote from a column by the excellent Leonard Pitts, one he wrote following Rogers' death:
Consider something Rogers told Nightline when he retired from his program two years ago. He mentioned a letter he had received from a woman who had been abused and raped as a child. "She would find her solace," he said, "in going into a little room that had the television. And she said, "'I really believed it when you said that people could like me exactly as I was, because I really didn't like myself that much at first. But I really came to believe you."'
"The space between the television and the girl became," said Rogers, "holy ground. A place where she could believe she was seen. And that somebody cared."
And that's why you don't fuck with Fred Rogers.
23: Quantum Leap
Bankmeister: Quantum Leap was one of my favorite shows as a kid. I never really knew anyone that watched it religiously, so I didn’t get much opportunity to talk about it, but I thought it was fantastic, and still fondly reflect upon it. My reasons for holding it in such high regard are several:
Originality: While the concept of time travel has been written about, produced, and recorded in many ways throughout pop culture, it has never been done with the eternal desire to make right what once was wrong. That is, many characters in time-travel stories engage in the activity for personal betterment, be it past, present, or future. In Leap, however, Dr. Sam Beckett (Editor’s Note: Excellent name choice), played by Scott Bakula, participates in the project in order to save the life of an individual not related to Beckett himself. The project, though successful, goes a bit haywire, sending Sam into perpetual travel, ultimately making many things that once went wrong into potential corrections.
With the help of Al (Dean Stockwell) and Al’s device that connects him with Ziggy, Sam is left to figure out what situation he’s in, how he might go about fixing it, and of course, who he is.
Benevolence: Sam, Al, and Ziggy, regardless of the embarrassing nature of each situation, become invested, albeit in varying degrees, in each episode to be successful. Of course the ultimate goal is to get Sam home to his own body and life, but they (mostly Sam) wind up caring for those involved.
Twists: Sam lands in the bodies of many different folks, and often times is, or encounters a person of historical significance, almost always lending to an educational aspect for the viewer. Frequently, there is a love interest involved, which, if I remember correctly, happened exclusively in situations where Sam inhabited a male’s body and therefore found himself sought by an attractive female. As an adolescent, I likey-d the spice. Finally, with most shows, a conflict arises, and it is solved by the episode’s end, or it is long, and drawn-out through an entire season, if not multiple ones. The ability to resolve each extremely unique situation, move on, and continue to demand viewer investment with only two real characters, was a move seldom seen in television of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s.
I really enjoyed looking forward to where Sam and Al would find themselves next week, and with the snippets the last few moments of each show would give, always found myself mirroring Sam’s thoughts: “Oh, boy.”
22: NHL 2Night
Bankmeister: It’s not easy being a hockey fan in America. I won’t get into why: That horse’s good and beated dead. I’ll say this, though: Most everyone loves football. A lot of us love baseball. Some of us love basketball. I’m speaking of the professional organizations. We grew up either playing these games, watching them, or both. We get the rules. We’re, to some degree, inherently good at at least one aspect of one of those three games. Most of us didn’t grow up around hockey, so we don’t get it, we don’t think we’ll like it, or simply have zero vested interest in trying. I love hockey. I’ve been a fan of the game for many years. I pull for the St. Louis Blues, and, before I was married, I watched a ton of their games. Now I see fewer of them, but I watch when I can, I attend one or two a season, I still play recreationally, and I follow the National Hockey League.
Ten years ago, and actually even more recently than that, ESPN televised a lot of hockey. There were nights that games were on ESPN and on the deuce as well. The lockout happened, ESPN said “no thanks” to a contract renewal with the league, and thusly cancelled NHL 2Night. It had a great 10-year run (1995-2004) and was super-entertaining, even, I posit, to the non-hockey fan. I watch ESPN’s NFL programs. I find their baseball and basketball programs far from stimulating and tiresome, mostly because I catch the highlights, blips, and news bits I need either before those shows air, or elsewhere. Hockey was never given a ton of time on SportsCenter, and it gets even less now. But, when NHL 2Night was on, it was poignant, full of incredible highlights from all the game, and it was damn witty.
John Buccigross is probably my favorite anchor of all time. He’s educated, meshes well with all of his co-hosts, and he’s funny. He would oftentimes draw comparisons of key players to musicians, and he always killed it, leaving one with the impression that he’s got a wide taste in music. For example, and I’m totally making this one up, they’d show a killer game-winning goal by Joe Sakic, and Bucc’ would say “What Thom Yorke is to Radiohead, Joe Sakic is to the Colorado Avalanche.” He had many other varieties of clever sayings as well. Like, a clip with an amazing save from Martin Brodeur, and he’d hype the shot leading up to the save, and then holler, “Brodeur! Groovy kind of glove.” Of course, it sounds dumb and cheesy reading it, but when he did it, it was impressive.
In an 82-game season that has baseball playoffs at the beginning and football happening through roughly the first half, it’s hard to keep up with what the rest of the league is doing. NHL 2Night iced that cake eloquently and what better to pair Buccigross with than Barry Melrose. Barry Melrose might’ve worn 15 different styles of mullet in his day. He might be a Canadian. He might wear his hair greasy, and he might be a prick. But, the man knows his hockey inside and out, and he’s a damn fine television personality. With Melrose, Bucc’, and the content of the show, it was one of the best around, and certainly one of the best sports shows on in the last 25 years.
Cecil: Friends gets a lot of crap, and rightfully so. It basically set the template for bad '90s relationship comedies, of which there were a metric shit-tonne. (Yeah, tonne. I'm thinking of moving to Montreal.) While it's hard to forgive the dreck that it inspired, there are two reasons to give it a spot on this list, this list which features no Night Court or Murder She Wrote:
1. Sure it's easy to make fun of in retrospect, but admit it, you laughed. There were moments. Joey was appealingly stupid. Ross wasn't too bad before David Schwimmer started getting movie roles and Chandler, played by whatsisface, was a character on a sitcom. It batted about .285, 75 RsBI a year, solid glove.
2. Jennifer Aniston. Seriously the only reason that most guys would watch this show without a girlfriend's insistence. She might be kind of a pop cultural meta-joke these days, but we have to remember just how absolutely smoking she was in the mid-'90s. Yeezow. Assuming, that is, that you could make it through the umbrella-dancing opening before switching back to scrambled pornography.
So, there you have it. Friends. Not exactly The Rockford Files, but that one didn't make the generational cut.
Old No. 7: All right, I'll just go ahead and say it now. Comparing premium-cable shows like Dexter to broadcast programs is completely unfair. If you're on HBO or Showtime, you get three massive advantages over appearing on a network: You get to cuss, you get to show boobs, and you don't have commercials. The difference between a premium-cable show and a network show is greater than the difference between the superior American League and the inferior National League. It's more like comparing the majors with Single-A.
For this reason, I have a ton of respect for network shows that are good. The folks that make them essentially have one hand tied behind their back. That being said, Dexter is pretty fucking awesome. You see what I did there? I cussed. Like they do on Showtime. Unregulated sports blogs have advantages that corporate Web sites do not -- quick, post some nudity.
Although it's only been on the air for a couple years (Season 4 just premiered, yo!), Dexter deserves placement alongside these classic programs. It's got a clever premise -- forensic investigator moonlights as vigilante serial killer -- but what makes it great is its constant challenging of its viewers. Dexter Morgan (played by Six Feet Under's Michael C. Hall) is extremely likeable and charming, yet every once in a while he veers down a road that makes you wonder why you're rooting for him.
19: Liquid Television
Bankmeister: Let me state for the record that I absolutely hate MTV. It pisses me off when that channel is on in my home, or anyone else’s for that matter. The programming that airs on MTV is nothing but fake, retarded, mind-numbing crap, and I wish it would go away. I do, however, love the original concept of the channel. I have really enjoyed some of its productions over the years, but now I don’t even understand the point of it, its design, if you will. Part of that problem is the larger topic of television, which has gotten -– and admittedly based on demand -- so out of control, that networks make spinoffs of their own shows and programs and channels and the consumer eats it up. All of this, of course, costs more money, and I, am not willing to spend more than it costs to have the good old-fashioned basic-cable package. Therefore, I don’t even know where one goes nowadays to see music videos.
But now that that’s out of the way, Liquid Television opened up the viewing minds of America in 1991, and remains a cornerstone for off-the-wall, somehow-intellectual, creative television that you still see debuting and airing today, some 18 years later. I remember, somewhere beyond the baked cobwebs in my brain, this program coming on in the late evenings, stacked next to Unplugged, and feeling as if it was the best one-two punch on television, the Diff’rent Strokes/Silver Spoons of the new generation of you will. It gave us music videos, bizarre skits like Aeon Flux, Dog-Boy, Stick-Figure Theater, and of course, Beavis and Butt-Head. There were, of course, many others, all respectable in their own regards, but it was Beavis and Butt-Head that became the icon of the show in a fashion not comparable, but similar to The Simpsons coming from The Tracey Ullman Show.
Beavis and Butt-Head, uh, ruled and stuff. It was low-brow, mindless humor that somehow, reached millions of viewers and put Mike Judge on the Hollywood map. The two teen boys, with their rock tees and their dreams of stardom, poked around their unidentifiable-yet-familiar neck of the American woods with a timid-while-daring stupidity that always equaled a good laugh. They were, perhaps, the touchstone for dick- and fart-jokes seeping in to today’s media. They made boners and bowel movements more laughable than they already were, yet had the acuteness for pointing out other areas of an intelligence-challenged society. If I’d had the foresight to create a character that once called himself The Great Cornholio, I could probably hire someone to clean my bunghole with t.p.
18. In Living Colour
Bankmeister: Ah, the Wayans brothers. For a moment in time, they were the most innovative crew in television. Their program was like a new, shorter version of Saturday Night Live but with quicker, wittier sketches. Like SNL, they had live musical guests, but they also had Fly Girls. More on that, though, in a moment. The reason In Living Colour merits a presence on this list is because of its raw brand of comedy. The Wayans Brothers put together an incredible cast of up-and-coming stars that included Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx, and Tommy Davidson to say the least.
The show’s more memorable sketches included: Homey the Clown, in which Damon Wayans would utter his token phrase, “I don’t think so…Homey don’t play ‘dat.”; Men on Film, in which Wayans and Grier were two gay film critics and would snap their synchronized fingers to movies heavy on the dudes, and offer their “Hated it!” in the direction of pictures that were not; the Homeboy Shopping Network, in which Wayans brothers Damon and Keenen Ivory would attempt to peddle stolen goods ("Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money!") until the cops arrived; Fire Marshall Bill, in which Carrey would portray a cooky fire marshall that always caused injury to himself, just after saying “Letmeshowyousomething!”; and of course Hey Mon, in which multiple cast members resembled a family who did nothing but work. They would frequently argue about who had more jobs and call each other lazy by saying something like, “You only got five job, mon.”
There were a number of other great sketches, like Great Moments in Black History, and several one-time pieces, like the guest appearance from Chris Rock, wherein his character could never afford anything and try to finagle his way into deals, always saying “My Lord! That’s a lot of money!” when told the actual price of an item. And of course, the Fly Girls. They were choreographed in the likes of a Madonna show or a Janet Jackson video: quick, flashy, and impressive. And they were all very fly indeed. In Living Colour was something to look forward to each week for a solid five years.
17: The X-Files
Bankmeister: The reasons why The X-Files kicked all the ass are many. First and foremost is the ongoing theme centered on the possibility of other life forms in the universe. If you haven’t thought about that at least once in your life, then there’s probably something wrong with you. The next is conspiracy theory. Never have I seen a show take its primary idea -– the paranormal, the extra-terrestrial –- and so successfully wrap it around the possibility of government cover-up. The third is the two main cast members, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. I’m not gonna lie: If I was held at gunpoint and it was demanded of me to name a man-crush, Duchovny would be at the top of the list. Honestly, I think he’s a great actor. I’ve enjoyed most every role he’s played, and specifically, the fact that he pulls a ton of wool in every one of them. For the most recent, check out Showtime’s Californication. The bigger part though, is Anderson.
I’ve had a pitched-tent that wouldn’t fit into Woodstock for her since the first time I laid eyes on her. She’s gorgeous, intelligent, and skilled at her trade. And gorgeous. The pairing of the two was a phenomenal move by show producer Chris Carter. Duchovny’s Fox Mulder is the believer in the paranormal, the poster boy behind the phrase “The truth is out there,” and Anderson’s Dana Scully is the doctor, the scientist, the realist, assigned to Mulder’s X-files to basically disprove every theory and idea he has. I became obsessed for a time with this program. I didn’t much care for the episodes that involved monsters and werewolves and the like, filler for the true plot in my mind. But it was the idea of aliens, abduction, the plan for colonizing earth and human beings for the greater advancement of alien life that hooked me.
Throw in mysterious characters like the Cigarette-Smoking Man and his band of know-all, beat-you-to-the-punch henchmen and the suspense couldn’t be any greater. I dug The Lone Gunmen. I dug most everything about the show until agents Monica Reyes and John Doggett were introduced. I stayed on board because it was good enough to warrant it, but I was massively disappointed by the series finale. I still find myself intrigued, however, by the occasional rerun, especially if involves the sultry Scully toying with the notion of finally giving Mulder a piece. This series had a huge following for a reason, and could’ve tapped an even larger audience had they gone the route of soft porn with the two agents. Fantastic show.
16: Six Feet Under
Cecil: If The Sopranos started that great run of HBO dramatic programming that continues to this day, then Six Feet Under took the anchor leg. Aside from the aforementioned show, it's the best thing that HBO has ever done -- and consider, upon reading the previous, that I'm a huge Deadwood fanboy.
The simple plot, a family who runs a funeral business and deals with (for the most part) the relatively normal ups and downs of life, belies the depth with which Alan Ball and company wrote it. Sure, he occasionally went to the well of complete ridiculousness -- the bit a few seasons in about the murder of David's wife, for instance -- but for the most part he worked with situations that were sometimes banal, sometimes brutal, sometimes revelatory, but always deeply rooted in the familiar. We could identify with the responsible son feeling pissed at his Peter Pan brother while dealing with his own closeted nature, with the teenage daughter who couldn't believe this family was hers, with the mom who finally took charge of her own life after years of giving care to everybody else and thinking of herself last.
The dead frequently spoke to the living in SFU, which might seem ham-handed on the surface but really acted as a nifty way of expressing a kind of poetic reflection that never resorted to any overt and simple-minded ghost story tricks. These scenes were some of the most poignant, such as when Ruth re-marries and her deceased husband -- one of the major characters, even though he dies about 3 minutes into the very first episode -- is shown sitting on the porch with his head in his hands, smoking a cigarette. Six Feet Under was a masterpiece of writing and acting and, probably, deserves an even higher mark than we're giving it here.
15: Friday Night Lights
Old No. 7: If there is a more misunderstood television show out there I'm not aware of it. Try to follow along, please.
The original Friday Night Lights was a 1990 nonfiction book written by Buzz Bissinger. Yes, the same Buzz Bissinger who completely lost his mind while appearing on a forum with former Deadspin editor Will Leitch. Bissinger's book spent a year in the life of the football team at Odessa Permian High in West Texas, and was excellent (I'm familiar with the area; my dad's alma mater plays in the same conference as Permian). But that's not the Friday Night Lights we're talking about here.
Then a movie was made based on the Bissinger book in 2004, directed by Peter Berg. It used actors playing the real characters from Permian, and it kind of sucked. Football's a difficult sport to turn into filmed drama, which is why there's never really been a good football movie.
Then Berg decided to create a TV version of Friday Night Lights, but instead of real-life Odessa Permian he manufactured fictional Dillon High. This is what gets confusing, especially for folks that either read the original book or watched the movie. It's also a little misleading to even say that the show is about football, or sports. FNL sidesteps the difficulty of recreating football onscreen by nearly ignoring the Dillon Panthers and focusing almost exclusively on the characters and struggles surrounding the team, the school and the town.
It's a truly remarkable show, but anything I write about it will be less impactful than this passage from Chuck Klosterman:
Friday Night Lights is such a brilliant, effective TV show that — sometimes — I don’t enjoy watching it. Very often, I will feel on the verge of tears throughout an entire episode; it is the most emotionally manipulative show ever made. Part of it has to do with its brilliant use of music; if you play "Explosions in the Sky" loud enough, the process of hanging drywall can be a life-altering experience. But the larger reason Friday Night Lights is so moving is the way it taps into all the conservative impulses most mediacentric intellectuals try to ignore. The show’s moral code is so traditional and pure that it borders on cliché. It’s reactionary in the best possible way. Whenever I watch it, I find myself thinking, I bet my parents would love this.
I don't know a single person who has given this show a chance and hasn't loved it. It is a critical favorite, yet has never received high ratings. This is surely due to the confusion about the book and movie, as well as women not wanting to watch a football show (and men thinking a football show will be weak). But my theory as to why FNL has never caught on is simple: NBC is basically locked into airing the show on Friday nights, and almost everyone has better things to do on Friday nights than watch TV.
14: The Office
Old No. 7: Yes, I've seen the original British version, but you'll never convince me that it's better. Steve Carrell's Michael Scott is simply one of the finest television characters ever created, Everyone has had a boss like Michael Scott at some point. If you haven't, I hate to be the one to break this to you: You are somebody's Michael Scott.
The thing that impresses me the most about this show is its ability to bring new characters in and ditch old ones yet never miss a step. I was a huge Toby fan, yet his absence is inconsequential. Adding Andy was awesome. Even additions that haven't worked, like when Stringer Bell had an arc and fellow Wire alum Amy Ryan played Michael's girlfriend Holly, were quickly dismissed and forgotten. I'm positive that even mainstays like Dwight Schrute, Jim Halpert or Pam Beesly could move on and the show would still kick ass. Only Michael is indispensable.
This is surely a testament to great comedic writing. I have no idea if Michael Schur (the brains behind Fire Joe Morgan and currently head writer on the dreadful Parks And Recreation) is still working on The Office, but whoever's cranking out these lines gets three cheers from me.
13: Family Guy
Bankmeister: When Family Guy first aired in 1999, it was so good that I was baffled when Fox canceled it after just a few episodes aired in its second season. Fox obviously realized its mistake and brought the show back, and it has been uber-successful ever since. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, then shame on you. It’s cast includes the family who, most notably include the talking dog Brian and the clever, British-accented baby Stewie. There’s the paraplegic neighbor, the lecher neighbor, the actual pedophile neighbor, and the black neighbor. There are others, too, but mostly the family has a conflict to resolve in each episode, and the means they take to get there are mostly in contrast to what normal problem-solving skills might resemble.
In addition, the dialogue in the episodes manipulate language in order to make innuendos and crude jokes, which, if you don’t find humorous, shame on you. There are the asides, as I like to call them, as well. Or tangents, if you will, in which various cast members are having a conversation about one thing or another, and decide that one choice would not be wise, as it might resemble “that time I…” and the segment breaks away into something unrelated, but typically funny. These bits, along with others, are often used to draw numerous pop-culture and ‘80s references into the program, which are pretty hilarious.
I understand that the show has been criticized for myriad reasons, but those critics are idiots. If you can’t embrace the horny, drunken dog, or the conniving, hysterical talking baby, then really, what’s left for you in life? Family Guy is the bizzle, dizzle.
12: 30 Rock
Cecil: Tina Fey is the shizzle. Not only is she one of the most deft writers currently working in television comedy, but that librarian-glasses-smart thing works for us in a big way. So does her current project 30 Rock, which I humbly submit to be the best show currently on any non-cable network.
It's so tight, so ridden with subtlety and sneaky jokes that it has achieved that rarified air, occupied in my viewing lifetime only by the glory years of The Simpsons, where I just can't get 'em all because I'm too busy laughing and have to wait for the re-run to see what I've missed. (Since I also mention this in my (redacted) bit, you should know that it's a very serious indicator in my eyes. I don't take this humor shit lightly.) Tracy Morgan has the role of his lifetime as Tracy Jordan, and its possibly because, according to pretty much every source I've ever seen, he's simply playing himself. The guy is a flipping loon. Alex Baldwin continues to prove that he is better than every single other Baldwin combined, and twice so in Stephen's case. Even Judah Friedlander has a role in which I don't find him obnoxious, which is something by itself.
This comedy that expects you to keep up, comedy that doesn't beat you over the head with cleverness -- because it doesn't need to. This is Jordan in his prime, Ted Williams in '41, Traci Lords pre-scandal.
11: NFL Countdown
Cecil: NFL Countdown was must-watch viewing for the entire run of its existence. That, it need not be said (though I am anyway, because I'm a contrarian asshole), is an unusual quality for any show, much less one with such a narrow scope.
Or was it, really? After all, practically everyone in America who isn't a gay terrorist loves football. They like to watch football, think about football, talk about football, slur insults under their breath to football players they see at bars. They even like to watch highlights of games they may have no rooting interest in -- maybe because they have a few bills on the Bills or a couple of bucks on the Ducks, sure, but also because fans of NFL football will generally watch anything remotely related to the sport. I know, I've willingly sat through at least 10 NFL skills challenges.
It's hard to remember, now, but Chris Berman wasn't always so creepy and lame. There was a time when he seemed like a jovial ringmaster, the comic foil to the deadly serious tone taken by so many analysts and anchors. He kept the show moving, hit his cues and you could hardly imagine him finding a better fit in his professional career. Tommy Jackson, of course, is an absolute hero whose name should never be taken in vain by any football fan anywhere ever. NFL Countdown was the perfect confluence of subject and personality; it's hard to believe that they decided it needed the shelf after such a run. I blame Berman.
There you have part one, folks. C'mon back tomorrow for the top 10. We'll be waiting for you.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Welcome, boys and girls, to the very last Baseball In The Daytime of September. Tomorrow we hit the month that Reggie Jackson made famous, the month that includes the playoffs--unless of course the World Series goes longer than five games.
Today we're starting off with the front ends of two doubleheaders necessitated by rainouts, and then wrapping up the day slate with a Mets-Nats tilt from DC. Every single team playing today has been eliminated from postseason consideration, these games are beneath meaning. Not even degenerate gamblers or fantasy geeks care--if you're betting on games involving the Pirates, Cubs, White Sox, Indians, Mets or Nats, you're probably also living under a bridge. And if your fantasy team contains players from any of those teams, your season is most likely done.
But hey, let's celebrate the pastime anyway! Joyous previews and sunshiney trivia after the jump!
Pittsburgh @ Chicago Cubs, 12:05 Mountain At least the Pirates are still trying--they took three of four from the Dodgers over the weekend to delay LA's not-quite-inevitable division championship a few days. In the final game of that series Monday, Zach Duke took an 11-0 shutout into the ninth. He yielded a run in that frame, yet one out away from a complete game blowout manager John Russell yanked him.
Look, we keep tabs on the Kansas City Royals in this space, so we know a little something about bad baseball teams and thickheaded management making not-smart decisions. But these Pirates--wow. Just wow. Charlie Morton gets the nod from Russell today opposite Ted Lilly.
Chicago White Sox @ Cleveland. 2:05 The other Windy City failure sets up shop next to Lake Erie this afternoon, as some kid who goes by the name of Carlos Torres dons the uniform of Eddie Cicotte and Horacio Ramirez. Will Torres throw the World Series and/or post a WHIP of 2.50? You'll have to watch to find out, as he battles Fausto Carmona in front of several dozen fans.
Los Mets @ Washington, 2:35 Tim Redding and John Lannan pitch, you decide. That's my little Fox News intro for this game. Take care, folks, we'll see you during Rocktober!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Well, well. We're down folks, down to four days left of day baseball, and frankly, we couldn't be sadder about it. Major League Baseball's post-season is shaping up quickly, and most of the division titles have been clinched. In the American League, the New York Yankees boast baseball's best record, and have sealed up the East. The day before yesterday, they demonstrated their happiness by dousing each other with
simmering viles of semen bubbly wine and joy. Out west, Los Anaheim has done the same thing. In the National League, St. Louis celebrated Saturday night with a victory over Colorado, one that game them N.L. Central bragging rights. In the West, the Dodgers have qualified for the post-season, but still have one pesky win to earn before they can call themselves division champs. In the East, Philadelphia needs but a pubic hair of a win to call the division theirs. For today's day baseball, however, we go back to the American League Central Division. Details on how Jim Leyland and company just might piss their near-season-long division stronghold away, after the jump.
Minnesota @ Detroit, 11:05 Central: In our lone unit of action this afternoon, Nick Blackburn takes on Nick Porcello in one of the most important (and last) series of the season. Both right-handers are either .500 or better, and both have E.R.A.s just over four. Two games separate these two clubs from a division title; it's there for the taking, and we'll know a lot more at the day's end as these clubs will square off again this evening after being rained out last night. Neither DirecTV or XM has the afternoon tilt listed on their schedule, but I'd nose around for myself if I was you.
Today's contest is one of four between the Twins and Tigers at Comerica Park. Detroit will wrap up regular-season play with a three-game stand against the White Sox. Take an early lunch today and cash in on what will surely be a battle. Enjoy.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Welcome, welcome. It's Friday, and that means it's time for another edition of "Sleeping with the Enemy" here inside the House of Georges. This week's edition kicks of the NFC East ass-kicking on which the Kansas City Chiefs are about to embark. They take their sorry 0-2 asses up to Veteran's Stadium for a contest of futbol Americano against the ol' Philadelphia Eagles. Should be a good time.
Our guest this week is none other than the wily HoG veteran, Johnny Utah. You might remember him from such features as the N.L. West mid-season report card, both this season and last. Anyway, we had him over to the House for a quick chat about Pennsylvania pigskin, and you can peep it, post-jump.
Bankmeister: Thank you, as always, Johnny Utah, for taking time out of your day to join us. We've gotten together to chat baseball in the past, but our football conversations have been little to non-existent. Kindly let our readers know exactly how one comes to be a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Would you say you like one sport better than the other? Do you like either team more than the other? Who, assuming you have some, are your other favorites? I heard through the grapevine that you like Iowa college football. This pretty much covers most of the country for you. Who's your college basketball team? The Hawaii Warriors? Pros? Miami Heat?
Johnny Utah: Tis my pleasure to once again visit HoG for a little friendly banter. Ok, my pops played for the Dodger organization in the mid 60's. That's where my love for the Boys in Blue came from. I was born and raised in Philly, always a huge Eagles fan. It's tough for me to say if I prefer one over the other since I'm passionate about both. Baseball is a beautiful science. Football is a brutal sport for gladiators. How can you lose with either? I don't really have an other team I favor, except for the Lovable Losers that play at the K. But, I have watched less Royals ball this year since the departure of the steely-eyed wonder known as Ross Fucking Gload.
Indeed, your grapevine is once again correct. I do love me some Hawkeye football, and hoops. I'm pretty stoked that I will be seeing the Iowa basketball team right here in KC in Novemeber at the CBE Classic. Plenty of good seats still available...
I can honestly say that I haven't watched a full NBA game in at least a decade. It does nothing for me. Back in the LA Showtime days, I was all about Magic,Kareem, and of course Kurt Rambis a.k.a. Superman.
B: Fascinating. So, then -- I guy like myself that only follows Philly from a distance thinks this: Donovan McNabb is better than average. He's actually pretty good. We took a lot of heat, perhaps rightfully so, for not including him in the HoG 25's Best Quarterbacks of the Last 25 Years. There are reasons for including him and reasons for excluding him. Being a pretty big fan of Brodie Croyle, I hate the fact that a guy gets judged based on fragility, but to me, that's what Donnie Mac is: the most Super-Philly fragilistic, expiali-chokemaster in recent years. He's shown us, over the years, that he can be fantastic with his feet, arm, and mind, but there is some missing element, some invisible particular about his resume, that leaves him unqualified for a status of greatness. While I know your defense of him will be biased, I want an Eagles fan to give us the inside scoop on Mediocre No. 5.
The other two things about this team are different but similar: Brian Westbrook and Andy Reid. Sixty percent of the time, they're great all the time. The rest of the time, the tailback's hurt, or overworked, and the coach -- I like the guy, but he just can't seem to catch a break anywhere. My question, then, is this: Do the Philadelphia Eagles have all the right things in place to be an elite squad? It seems like they've had the right things for most of this decade, but, you know -- shit happens, I guess.
How about the receiving corps? They were trying to unload someone -- Hank Baskett? -- to make roster room for Jeff Garcia last I heard. What's the latest development there? I haven't looked at the depth chart, but who, exactly, are the one-through-three route runners? I know about DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. What's the story with Kevin Curtis? Didn't he rupture a spleen or something last year?
Were you pleased with the Garcia signing? Are the Raiders as dumb as I think they were by letting him go?
J.U.: I was surprised that D-Mac wasn't included on your top 25, and in fact did express my displeasure. I guess I can see it either way when you talk about a QB that has the tendency to run risks being injured. Let's not forget that his last two significant injuries (this year and 2006) have occured on late hits. Just had to throw that in there. The missing element keeping him from greatness is jewelry. The man needs a ring. He will never be labeled as "elite" until he hoists the hardware. Up until a few years ago when the Eagles signed T.O. (which about gave me aneurysm) they never had a playmaking receiver. Philly also has always had a pretty suspect O-line. Given those lovely stats, #5 has a career 29,000 yards, a 196-91 TD-to-INT ratio, and a passer rating of 85.8. Not too shabby in my book. By the way, I have some love for Brodie as well.
Yes, the Iggles do have (and have) had what it takes to be an elite squad. It's no surprise if you ask any Philly fan what keeps this team from winning the big gamep Play calling. I love Fat Andy. Great coach, never places blame, takes the heat. But, he is way too pass-happy. I believe it's been a near 65-35 pass-run ratio over the Reid reign. Pretty staggering number.
They did fish Hank Baskett in the trade market, with no takers. He got cut, and signed by the Colts the next day. D-Jax, Curtis, Maclin, and Reggie Brown are the main WR targets for McNabb. Very young and fast receiving corps. Exciting to watch. I look forward to seeing all of these young dudes develop. Jury is still out on Kevin Curtis. After his 200-yard receiving game against the lowly Lions in 2007, he garnered alot of attention. Since then, he has been nothing more than a possession receiver, - poor man's Wes Welker. He runs horrible routes, with better-than-average hands. Uber-quick, especially for a white guy. And yes, he did rupture his spleen last year. Ouch!
I was shocked the Raiders cut Garcia. Although I shouldn't have been. Seems pretty much par for the course with the Gay Guys in Black. Fuck Al Davis. He can have JaMarcus "Fat Bastard/Wish I Could Complete A Pass" Russell. I'm elated they cut Jeff and Philly signed him. Great to have him back in Green. All he did after Donovan went down in 2006 was guide the team to win their last 5 games, three of which were division opponents on the road. Not an easy task in the NFC East.
B: Those are all fair takes. What do you know about this Kolb kid? I trust you watched Sunday's game. I did not, and I haven't even seen highlights or stats. I seem to recall him throwing a few picks, but I hear Fat Andy was mostly pleased with his performance. What'd this kid do at Houston? Was he decent? Naturally, the story everyone wants to make out of this game is Ookie's re-instatement. It's been made clear that he won't start. It's also been heavily speculated that he'll get in the game in some fashion.
Tell us, please, your thoughts when you first heard that the Eagles had inked Ron Mexico. Tell us how you feel about his existence on the roster with Donnie ailing, and tell us, if you would, where you imagine his game level to be. That is, same Vick that last donned a Falcons jersey, or rusty from not playing live snaps and being subjected to the prison showers?
J.U.: Well, for some reason the franchise has a massive hard-on for Kolb. He's the QB of the future. Playing time has been limited, but when he has made it in the game it's been disasterous. I will say that he does look improved after getting all the 1st team reps before the Saints game. He did show that he is capable of maintaining a drive. Most importantly, Kolb made better decisions. Getting rid of the rock under pressure. In the past, Kevie would take the sack and more often than not fumble. Kolb did have a great college career finishing with 85 TDs playing for the pass friendly U of Houston.
First initial thought with the Ookie signing was "Why?" After thinking about it what was there to lose. He's not getting paid much. He still has wheels. The Wildcat O is the new trend. The early report is that Philly has nine plays that involve Vick, none of which he lines up under center. I'm thinking that he will play in a few games before he takes direct snaps to allow him to readjust to NFL speed. I doubt he will make a game-changing play against KC. But, all eyes will be on him while on the field. Maybe as a decoy? We'll see.
Don't kid yourself. You know he was getting the preferential treatment in the pokie. No doubt he was getting quality time in the weight room by himself. He seems to be in good shape physically, so all rust will be mental. I have the upmost confidence that the coaching staff will have Ooks ready for battle.
B: Okay. Let's, for a minute, broaden the scope. I trust you saw She-Li and the Giants handle Dallas Sunday night. If you watched Washington/St. Louis, well, I feel sorry for you. What are your thoughts, though, on the rest of your division? When I speculated last year that Philly would wind up at the bottom of the NFC East heap, the Redskins team looked as if they wouldn't lay the egg that they did. This year, however, Washington is looking kinda crummy. How do you envision these standings will shape up? Who finishes with what record?
What about the AFC West? Is this the Chargers' division to lose? Will Denver surprise some folks and win a few more games than expected? Do the Chiefs improve upon last year's 2-14 mark? What about Oakland? Super Bowl champs with JaMarcus Russell as MVP?
J.U.: All the teams in the division will beat the tar out of each other the rest of the season. I see the Giants winning with a record of 11-5, Eagles 10-6, Dallas 9-7, and the Skins 7-9. Philly gets the wild card again and has to prove they belong by winning playoff road games.
I don't know what to make of the AFC West. The Chiefs schedule the first half of the season is down right brutal with all 4 NFC East team on consecutive weeks. Still I believe they should turn it around somewhat and finish with at least 5 wins. In the end the Chargers eek out the divion by a game over the Donks. And the Raiders, hmmm...Their D has been pretty impressive thus far. But, with my boy toy J-Marc, they will also finish with 5 Ws.
B: Alrighty, then. We'll narrow it back down: Give us your prediction on this weekend's game? Chiefs by seven touchdowns? And to broaden once more, how about your picks for divisions, playoffs, and championship games?
J.U.: All righty, my good man. First, I will give you me season predictions. AFC division winners: San Diego, Indy, New England, Baltimore. Wild cards: NY Jets and Pittsburgh. NFC division winners: NY Giants, Minnesota, New Orleans, and San Fran. Wild cards: Philly and the Atlanta. AFC Championship: Baltimore over Indy. NFC Championship: Iggles over New Orleans.
Now the prediction you've been waiting for. Taking in to account the fact that there is a two percent chance D-Mac plays in this game, I will give a slight QB edge to Le Chefs. Westbrook again is banged up with the same ankle injury that kept him from playing in the pre-season. Expect heavy doses of rookie LeSean McCoy. Slight RB edge to LJ and the Chiefs. Both teams have young, athletic receivers, but a heavy edge for Philly (sorry Bobby Wade!). Defense is a no-brainer.
With that being said, I have a feeling that Kevin Kolb will throw a pick early and be yanked by halftime for veteran Jeff Garcia. Also, Mike Vick gets a few carries and a reception. I will consume 8 Miller Lites, 1 shot of Southern Comfort, and eat a 10-inch Will Shields pizza form the comfort of my barstool at the 810 Zone located in the picturesque KC Plaza.
Final score: Eagles 27- Chiefs 13
B: Interesting. I'll say 20-17 Eagles. Thanks again for your time. We'll do it again soon.
Here's a fun mini-movie for everyone to watch:
Chris over at JustBlogBaby put it together and called it "JaMarcus Owns Denver."
It's a nice little movie of Russell completing passes against the Bronco defense both in Denver and in Oakland, although it doesn't make sense to me: I could've sworn the Raiders got smoked on Monday night against Denver in last year's season opener. We don't get to see that in the footage. Either that or I missed it.
(Update: When I watched it on his site, there was music. Now I realize that the site logo is covering the Denver score, and the Raiders are getting worked in the early footage. Either way, I'll be on board with JaMarcus owning Denver. That's awesome.)
Thursday, September 24, 2009
They keep scheduling the day-baseball games, even though the sheer numbers of contests keep dwindling. But we here at the House of Georges, love us our day baseball, so we're gonna keep previewing these glorious matches. If you're not in agreeance with the awesomeness of being at the yard in the sun on a weekday, we might have to box, and if that's the case -- look out. We're scrappy. We mix our Scott Feldman with a touch of Kyle Farnsworth, a spot of Michael Barrett, a dash of Mike Sweeney, and (assuming you're an old, dumpy base coach) a twist of Pedro Martinez. So, go ahead: hit the heavy bag, run a few laps, but before you do, hop past the leap and see if today's matinees don't seem more enticing than losing a fight with us tough guys.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh, 11:35 Central: We kick things off today with a pair of righties, neither of whom has had a ton of luck on the hill this season. It's Bronson Arroyo (13-13, 4.04 E.R.A.) going for the visiting team, the 4-8 Charlie Morton for las Piratas. Morton's 4-8 with an even five earned-run average. These clubs'll take the PNC Park field today with visions of a better next year. They're 15 and 29 games out, respectively, essentially done for 2009. Listen in if you're so inclined, on XM 183.
Texas @ Oakland, 2:35: The second of two light-free contests today takes place at the Coliseum in Oaktown. Your starters include the 17-5 Scott Feldman for the A's, whose posted an impressive 3.62, and southpaw Brett Andeson for the Athletics, who sits at 10-10 with a 4.21. Oakland is like our previous two teams: done for the season, while Texas can't seem to get over that seven-game distance between them and first-place Los Anaheim. They're also seven games back of Boston for a Wild Card spot, so they'd ultimately need to play mistake-free baseball and maybe even get some help to get in. Hats off to them, though, for putting together an impressive campaign, and congratulations are in order to Mr. Feldman, who, headed into today, actually has as shot at a 20-win year. If you like you some Rangers-A's, 721's your DirecTV dial. If you're listening, it's XM 176.
There you have it. Day baseball at its finest. If you can't get away from the office, plug in the headphones and pretend you're on a really long conference call.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Yet again, but one day game highlights our major league calendar. I know the kids are back in school, and these clubs are simply trying to milk every last buck out of the season before shutting down for the winter. But I've got another reason for Baseball In The Daytime: It's cold!
The temperature at Coors Field for last night's Rockies-Padres game was Farenheit 45 at first pitch. By the end of the 11-10 home team win, stalagtites of snot were seen forming on Jason Giambi's handlebars. This is no way to play the game, use the daytime. That's the end of our public service announcement, join us for the game preview (and a little Cy Young political activism) after the jump...
NY Yankees @ Los Anaheim, 1:35 Scott Kazmir starts for Los Angels today, and there's a rumor working the circuit that Kazmir would be Mike Scoscia's choice to pitch Game 1 of the AL Division Series. This is a joke, right? I know that Kazmir has been solid since coming over from the Bay-Rays, and that he's a historic Red Sox killer, but going with Kazmir over John Lackey is cuckoo. Lackey is a horse, the ace of the staff, and a playoff veteran. I never thouhgt I'd call Mike scoscia a dope, but if he goes with Kazmir over Lackey the shoe might fit. A.J. Burnett is your Yankee pitcher, and Joe Girardi is desperately looking for a way to hide Burnett in his playoff rotation. Fun times at the Big A today.
In almost completely unrelated news, I saw a bit on Joe Posnanski's blog (last paragraph) about a gentleman named Patrick Reusse. Reusse is a sports columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and a part-time radio personality. Apparently while on the radio yesterday Reusse said that Zack Greinke will need to win at least 16 games to get consideration for his--Reusse's--Cy Young vote. I tried to listen to Posnanski's link to the broadcast but couldn't get it to work, so I have no idea about the accuracy of the statement or its context, but I'm still steamed.
The fact that this Reusse would deny Greinke the Cy, after Greinke has posted not only the indisputably best season of any pitcher in the AL but the best season of any pitcher this decade is nutty enough. But to announce to the world that his reason for potentially doing so is that he needs 16 wins (not 20, not 11, not 85, but 16) is completely bonkers. I know awards are stupid, and that they often go to undeserving recipients, but I see a unique opportunity in baseball history here. In the past the Patrick Reusses of the world worked solely for newspapers, and they were insulated from their readers and the world around them. No baseball writer ever discussed his votes for the Cy Young award or the MVP, never. The secret ballot was sacred.
Now, most of your Patrick Reusse types do what Patrick Reusse does, out of survival. They chatter on the radio. They pop up on television. They blog. They work
harder more, across more platforms, in order to make a living. As a result, they're forced to come up with more shit to discuss, more than would simply fill three 500-word columns a week. And if they're Cy Young voters, they have a golden fountain of interesting talk-radio fodder. I could care less about the spoken opinions of Pat Reusse, Twin Cities lunchbag sportswriter. But Pat Reusse, Baseball Writer of America Member and Cy Young Voter, let me hear that. That's interesting. Unfortunately, his voting method is idiotic.
So I emailed Pat Reusse, (you can too, firstname.lastname@example.org) with my feelings about this topic. I was polite, and I didn't call him a moron. If he gives his Cy vote to C.C. Sabathia, however, moron will be the nicest thing I label Patrick Reusse. The email:
I'm writing in regards to your vote for the American League Cy Young award. It's my understanding that you have gone on the record to say that Zack Greinke needs to win at least 16 games to garner your vote for the Cy. Now it's your vote, and your business what you do with it, but the fact is that you announced to the world some of your criteria for that vote, and I have an opinion about that. I respect you as a journalist and a baseball man, but I think saying that 16 wins is mandatory for a Cy Young season is not commensurate with the spirit of the award.
In your previous Cy Young votes have you imposed this 16-win standard? I wonder where, exactly, you arrived at this figure as the threshold for excellence. Perhaps you have a valid set of standards for doing so that I have missed. I've always been bothered by the rigid adherence to certain arbitrary counting numbers in the game of baseball.
20 wins, for instance, has over my lifetime always been the line of demarcation for a great pitching season--even though since we've set that standard we've changed the number of games teams play in a season from 154 to 162, we've gone from four-man rotations to the current five-, and we've radically altered usage patterns with relief pitchers. Yet 20 wins remains the benchmark for excellence. There's nothing inherently evil with that--20 wins is great, and is in fact significant. But what gets me is that if you don't reach that plateau you're downgraded too severely. Let's say we have three pitchers, and one wins 24 games, one wins 20 and one wins 19. The 24-game winner would be universally applauded, and rightfully so. The 20-game winner would also get many accolades, and probably more Cy Young votes, than the 19-game winner, because he simply notched one more victory. The reason he won that single contest could be that he's much better than the 19-game winner. But it could also be pure luck, more run support, a better defense, a pitcher's park, or any of a hundred reasons why one team beats another on a single day.
Same goes with hitting .300, or collecting 200 hits in a year, or 3,000 hits in a career, or winning 300 games as a pitcher. Doing any of these things requires great skill as a ballplayer, but falling just short sometimes condemns that player to baseball purgatory. In my opinion Bert Blyleven is better than at least a dozen pitchers in the Hall of Fame, yet the fact that he ended his career 13 wins shy of 300 has haunted him. Johan Santana won Cy Young awards in 2004 and 2006, but finished third in the voting in 2005 despite leading the AL in strikeouts, WHIP and ERA+. His ERA was second in the league that year, yet his win total of 16 was tied for fifth. Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young in 2005, despite finishing 8th in both ERA and strikeouts. But Colon led his league with 21 wins, thus trumping an obviously superior season from Santana. All because of a silly adherence to the magical value of 20 wins.
Now C.C. Sabathia will get two more starts this season, and in those he will have a chance to win his 19th and 20th games. Zack Greinke will also start twice more, and it's possible that he could end up stuck on 15 wins. Even if their win totals were to end up with that wide disparity, every other statistical measure says that Greinke is the better pitcher in 2009. Sabathia has the benefit of working for a team that will win over 100 games, Greinke labors for a club that is currently 25 games under .500. Even if you simply throw out all the stats and numbers, just watching Greinke pitch it's obvious that he's on a higher level than Sabathia (or Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay or Justin Verlander or anyone else in the AL). I would beg you, as a fan of the game of baseball, to reconsider your requirement of 16 wins for Greinke to earn your Cy Young vote. Up to this point he's been the finest pitcher in the American League, and he deserves it.
By the way, I'm not a Royals fan--I actually root for the Red Sox.
Thanks for your time,
I think most Chiefs fans would agree on two things so far: 1) It's great that week one in Baltimore was not a complete route, and 2) It was great to see the team dominate the Oakland Raiders, and atrocious, albeit not that surprising, to watch them lose that game at home. Beyond that, there isn't a whole lot that folks can file under the tab of agreeance. As I mentioned Monday, Bill Maas has stirred up quite the flavorful broth, and I, for one, love it. It isn't a matter of who Maas' source is, or whether or not his slant is correct. What it suggests, on the other hand, is that Todd Haley might be committed to the notion of every position on this roster being a must-earn job. Even the quarterback slot. It's not atypical of a coach to say this when honing his 53-man roster, but it is uncommon for a coach to mean it when it comes to the quarterback position; most head honchos will tab their guy, and make every effort to dispel the notion (among fans and media) of a quarterback controversy. Why this scenario could be unique in Kansas City, after the jump.
1) Pioli-Haley Relationship
Scott Pioli was hired by Clark Hunt on January 13 after a largely quiet, yet allegedly thorough search for the right candidate that was nothing less than a shrewd evaluator of football talent, a person skilled enough to bring championship-caliber competition to the organization. While the playoffs (playoffs?) continued, and Pioli still did not have his head coach tabbed, it began to appear that Arizona Cardinals Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley was Pioli's top choice. Five days (Feb. 6) after the Super Bowl, Haley was in fact hired. Photos of Hunt, Pioli, and Haley were taken. Press conferences were held. Articles were written, and bold statements under the umbrella of championship football, were made. The key phrase -- one that has been repeated over and over again -- centered around the notion of "not the best 53 guys, but the right 53 guys" will make this team. And so it went.
2) Cassel Signing
Ironically, the number 22 now comes into play for a couple of reasons. Chiefs left guard Brian Waters wanted to meet with his new bosses. Apparently he was disrespected. Some speculated that Waters might've been treated as expendable by the new brain trust. Several printed that Haley told Waters, "I could take 22 guys off the streets and win two games," which is of course a reference to the illustrious 2-14 2008 Chiefs team record, and to some, confirmation of the rumor that Todd Haley is a complete jerk. Twenty-two is also significant because that is exactly how many days after Pioli hired Haley, that Pioli sent a second-round draft pick to New England in exchange for Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel. Much like the speculations of Haley being Pioli's guy, it was widely rumored that Pioli was interested in pulling the trigger for Cassel before the move was actually made.
I got no beef with Cassel. Other than a horrible first half against the Raiders last week, he hasn't played nearly enough for me to form an opinion on him, but more on that in a minute. For the record, though, I'm not terribly concerned with Cassel's first-half-ending pass selection that conceivably prevented the Chiefs from attempting a field goal. What bothered me more were the two picks he threw, and what bothered me most were the multiple, ultimately drive-stalling throws at receivers feet. He can hopefully learn from making poor choices (the one pass and the INTs), but making awful throws to wide-open guys was nothing shy of frightening.
3) Elapsed Time of a Contract-less Cassel As a Chief
In my mind, one of the most peculiar things about the Cassel signing was how long it took for the Chiefs to sign him to a deal. Hours before the NFL draft started in April -- exactly two months after the Chiefs acquired Cassel -- it was widely reported that the Chiefs had signed Cassel to a huge deal, one comparable in numbers to those of Matt Ryan and Matt Stafford. Those reports turned out to be inaccurate. Nearly three months later, the deal was signed for real, a six-year, $63 million agreement. Many local media members felt that this deal was ridiculously unnecessary. The point, though, is that it took the franchise most of five months to make it happen. People wondered all the while why it took so long. When it was done, they wondered why the terms were what they were.
4) Cassel Contract
I've never been shy of proclaiming my love for Brodie Croyle as the Chiefs quarterback. I saw a moderate amount of film of him, purely by circumstance, before the 2006 draft happened, before he became a Kansas City Chief. The pick was immediately slammed by several local media members, specifically Cory "Cowboy" Anderson of KCSP 610 AM. His belief was in synch with numerous others that felt the guy's college numbers at Alabama were overrated, that his body of work in both Tuscaloosa and in high school was incomplete due to injuries. The latter part, of course, is true. I simply wanted the kid, along with his unmistakeably tangible arm and mind talents as a quarterback, to be given a shot on a good football team with a good offensive line, a good receiving corps, and a good running game. Since 2006, he has had neither.
He has a fragile body. That remains undisputed. What burns me though, is the repeated mentioning of his record as an NFL starter. When we assess quarterbacks, we seldom talk about wins right up front. We might mention that a guy led his team to this many wins, but ultimately, we're concerned with passing accuracy, TDs vs. INTs, pocket poise, leadership, and the specifics tied to the position. Wins is a category better left to starting pitchers in baseball. After Croyle's significant 2008 injuries, I figured he'd be gone from the team, perhaps the league, because frankly, very few are going to give such a guy another shot. But back to the contract.
The length and price tag associated with Cassel's contract were somewhat jaw-dropping. You throw a large pile of money like that at a mostly unproven kid, you'd better know what the heck you're doing. Anderson's slant on the thing was this: You didn't have to do that; you could've waited. He's right for one reason: the Chiefs could've waited. This wasn't a situation where the team had to draw up a long-term deal, and it certainly didn't have to be for all of those ($28 million) guranteed dollars. Even though it was peculiar that it took five months to get any kind of deal done, they were by no means obligated to pay him that type of cheddar. The flip side to the argument, however, boils down to confidence. You lock the dude up. You pay him like he's a top-tier young quarterback, and you clear his mind of worries of that nature; he can simply go out and play football to the best of his ability. Given that a) I don't like my Chiefs players distracted with off-the-field sorts of things, and b) the Chiefs were extremely below the salary cap for (roughly) the last 18 months, it made sense on most fronts to get it done. To most fans, it seems largely expensive, but what in the NFL isn't? Beer, parking, tickets, jerseys, the list goes on.
5) OTAs, Camp, and Pre-Season
Here's where things get interesting. Let's say that from basically spring through August, most media members, and occasionally even the head coach, whispered and sometimes spoke bluntly about the relatively consistent play of Brodie Croyle, and how it often-times appeared that he was out-performing Cassel. I didn't go to River Falls. I never attended a practice of any sort. I did attend one pre-season game, and watched most of the rest of them on TV. What I did see in the games mostly mirrored the typically faint suggestions that Cassel (at least in specific moments) didn't necessarily look like the best quarterback on this team. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Cassel and Croyle were, for the most part, equal, while fourth-stringer Matt Gutierrez looked second-best, and third-stringer Tyler Thigpen was last. That was the depth chart in my mind. Add to the mix the Thigpen trade rumors, and that depth chart makes even more sense.
So, when camp was broken, and it was time for the regular season to get underway, the general consensus was (and in many parts still is) this: Brodie Croyle is not a better quarterback than Matt Cassel. Matt Cassel will be the starter for this team. Nobody in their right mind benches a guy that is earning that kind of money. Throw in the sprained MCL that Cassel suffered in the Seattle pre-season game, though, and everything's up in the air again.
Brodie Croyle was taken off of the injured-reserve list on February 9 after tearing his MCL against the Tennessee Titans on October 19 of last year. The point of mentioning that is merely a time-frame reminder that Cassel joined the team 20 days after Croyle was deemed healthy enough to participate again at a professional level. Basically, both guys have had the exact same amount of time to prepare and compete for the starting job under the new Pioli/Haley regime. As the pre-season wound down, varying factors led to each of them starting in one of the team's first two regular-season games.
6) The Basis of Coaching = Competition at All Positions
I've said many, many times that Herman Edwards was a great man and a good coach, but very far from a great coach. In certain areas, he was a damn idiot. Game management is one. Establishing competition at all positions is another. See: Medlock, Justin. You have to do this at all positions. Edwards paid lip service to this notion, but seldom followed through. Every one knew, as sure as the sun rises, who Edwards' quarterback was going to be in almost every situation in which he was forced to consider it. What Todd Haley appears to be doing, is doing it the right way: forcing guys to compete for the starting job at every position, and even benching "should-be starters" when they under-perform. He's done it with Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley, Jamaal Charles, and it's speculated that he would like to do the same with Cassel. Again, I got no beef with Cassel, but if Haley thinks that right now, Croyle gives the Chiefs the better chance of winning a ball game, than let Brodie Bang.
7) Week One
Croyle's numbers: 16 of 24 for 177 yards, completion percentage of 66.7, 7.4 yards per attempt, 2:0 TD:INT, a rating of 116.1 against the eighth-best defense in the conference.
Sure. It's only one game.
8) Week Two
Cassel's numbers: 24 of 39 for 241 yards, completion percentage of 61.5, 6.2 yards per attempt, 1:2 TD:INT, a rating of 66.3 against the 11th-best defense in the conference.
Again: only one game.
9) Cassel vs. Croyle Pre-2009
It's true that Brodie Croyle has not won an NFL game as a starter. Neither have the other 48 guys that dressed with him on those nine-some occasions. It's true that he has been hurt, hurried, pressured, sacked, and razzled behind arguably some of the worst offensive lines in the league. It's also true that, in 16 games last year, Matt Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record. He did so while leading the league in sacks behind arguably one of the best offensive lines in the league and with arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL. If you look at pre-pro numbers however, you'll see that, in two high school seasons, Croyle threw for 6,625 yards and 82 touchdowns. In 2003, his first year as a starter at Alabama, he started all 11 games, threw for 2300 yards and 16 touchdowns, and did so while twice separating the same shoulder and cracking two ribs. Two seasons later, he went 202 of 339 for 2500 yards, 14 touchdowns, and a new low school-record 1.18 interception percentage.
Matt Cassel, on the other hand, played football and baseball in high school. As a senior, he was ranked the number eight quarterback in the nation. He was also his team's punter. At USC, he backed up Carson Palmer. When Palmer won the Heisman in 2002 and moved on, Cassel lost the starting-job competition to Matt Leinart, forcing Cassel to play a little tight end, a little wide receive, and even some halfback. His career USC passing totals are 19 of 33 for 192 yards, no touchdowns and one INT. Leinart, who hasn't been able to knock of the 38-year-old Kurt Warner for the starting job in Arizona, has a worse career TD:INT ratio and a worse completion percentage in the NFL than Brodie Croyle.
10) Haley's Presser Yesterday
The significance of Todd Haley's press conference yesterday is that he did not do the expected. He did not toss out the typical ringing endorsement of his starting quarterback, who everyone -- myself included -- agrees for the moment, is Matt Cassel. There, as I've mentioned, is speculation that Haley believes that Croyle gives the Chiefs the better chance to win, that he wants to start Croyle. Said speculation also says that Pioli is vetoing such a desire. Haley was put on the spot three times yesterday, given three opportunities to sweep away quarterback-controversy germinations, and he jumped at neither. Instead, he spoke of three different cities -- New York with Glenn Foley and Vinny Testaverde; Dallas with Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo; and Arizona with Leinart and Warner -- in which he was part of the coaching staff, and the coaching staff opted to go with either the less-expected or the lesser-paid quarterback. In each situation, it didn't appear to the public to be the best choice. In each situation, it turned out to be the right choice.
My stance then is this: I'd love for Croyle to get the shot to be the starter again, but only if he deserves it. I'd love to know that my head coach has the ability to make that decision without interference from his boss. I'd love to know that his mantra of top performers start at each position really means each position. I think that's a great foundation on which to build a team. A winning team at that.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
In a committee meeting to which I was not invited, it was decided that...
...writing about the Denver Broncos Football Club is no longer important. We will therefore adjust the rough focus of this blog to the Brodie Croyle Fan Club/Generally Overplayed Broncos slander.
Through two weeks the Kansas City Chiefs have lost two tough games against one tough opponent. In game one, they were completely dominated statistically, and chalked up a fourth-quarter epic fail, suggesting that the new regime might plan to live up to the misfortunes of most of the previous ones. In game two, they completely dominated statistically, then fell asleep with less than a minute to go, allowing the worst quarterback in professional football to complete the one and only pass he needed to for the afternoon, which set up the game-winning touchdown.
Denver lucked into a last-minute victory over the Bengals in week one, then flanked their Shannon Sharpe halftime weepfest with two halves of defensive domination over the pathetic Cleveland Browns. Though winless, the Chiefs are showing signs of heading down the path to success. Denver has nominated itself to be one of the worst 2-0 clubs in National Football League history.
I imagine neither club will go quietly into that gentle stretch of NFC East football, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Broncos get spanked worse by each club than the Chiefs do. Braggin' rights, count it, jackpot, stuffed-crust-Goatboy pizza, etc.
(image courtesy of Kissing Suzy Kolber by way of Yahoo Sports)
We're down to the last eight or nine games of the regular season for most teams, and this is where the shoestrings must be tied tight, the eye black painted thickly if your day baseball has implications of October in it. There's but one game on tap today. Details after the jump.
Philadelphia @ Florida, 3:10 Central: Today's lone feature contains the N.L. East first-place, and still defending-champion Philadelphia Phillies and the Florida Marlins. A pair of righties are your starters today, and they're a pair with great numbers on the season. Big Joe Blanton goes for the Phils. He's 10-7 with a 3.97 earned-run average. Okay, not great, but good. His counterpart, Josh Johnson, has won 15 while only losing for, averaging 3.01 earned runs per contest. The Marlins still have a chance to get into playoff baseball, but they'll need to play near-perfect baseball. As of today, they, along with Atlanta, sit five games back of the Rockies, and they have the four-games-back Giants to leapfrog in the Wild Card race. Today's match, available for viewing on DirecTV 732 (heard on XM 185) gives Florida one of their best shots to gain some ground, as they'll play two today with Philly. Jamie Moyer and Anibal Sanchez are slated to start game two.
Other N.L. standings news includes the St. Louis Cardinals 10 ahead of Chicago in the Central, while the Dodgers hold a five-game lead over the Rockies. In the American League, Los Angeles is eight games in front of the Rangers in the West, New York has five games over Boston in the East, and Detroit's Central lead has been whittled down to two and-a-half games. Minnesota has nothing but division road games left: two more with the White Sox, a three-spot with the Royals, and a season-closing visit to Detroit, which should be nothing shy of fantastic. Thw Twins have won five of six, while the Tigers have dropped six of their last 10.
That's the day-baseball news for now and I...am...outta here.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I don't usually spend much time perusing comments on other blogs, or hanging around in message-board chat rooms, but I wanted to share what commenter Rin Tin Tin had to say over on Bob Gretz's blog...
"Barry Manilow may have sung about those weekends New England but in here Kaycee it’s 0 for 40 and counting…
Croyle 116.7 QB RATING
ca$$el 66.3 QB RATING
Croyle 2 tds & 0 ints – 24 points ‘on the road’ against perhaps the best defense in the entire NFL.
ca$$el 1 td & 2 ints – 10 points ‘at home’ v one of the worst teams in the entire NFL.
Croyle starts next Sunday in Philly – if the Chiefs want ANY chance of winning…"
My point in yesterday's post was this: Starting the hot hand, as in Croyle, would've given the Chiefs the opportunity to win yesterday, a win that would've meant a ton, as they likely won't be favored to win again in at least two months. That could've possibly given the club a bit of confidence and Cassel's knee one more week to heal. The upside of course is that he got his first game under his belt, and might have more sync, more confidence heading into a tough, tough stretch of games. I do not posit that Brodie is a better quarterback, although one day I might. I also disagree with the notion that he should start in Philly. One week from today, however, I might be saying something else. That is all.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Even though they continue to employ the biggest bozo in Kansas City sports-talk radio, KCSP 610 AM is reporting that Matt Cassel gets the start today in the Chiefs home opener against the Oakland Raiders.
This is a stupid decision because a) why rush back from injury, 2) Brodie Croyle played well against a tough defense, and c) it'd be nice to see the kid get a win. Also, he doesn't rock White Sox hats. I'd much rather see me some Brodie Bangs today.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Welcome in, HoGnation to the first in-season football post of 2009. Naturally, this is a shame because I offered no analysis of the Chiefs' pre-season, or a review of week one at Baltimore. That said, these were my thoughts regarding that game: 1) I thought it would be a route so I was pleased when it was not, 2) The defensive/special teams plays that kept KC in the game through most of the fourth quarter were reason to be excited for that game and that game only, 3) I dug Todd Haley's animation on the sideline
as well as 4) Brodie Croyle's performance on the field. It was a loss, but the result, at least, was what I expected. Aside from a pass-happy offense, the Ravens were, a-hem, who I thought they were.
That said, it's time to kick off another season of "Sleeping with the Enemy," where we sit down for a minute with a fan of the week's opponent. Last year, Oakland Raider fan Zeitgeist joined us. He was kind enough to offer us his time again for Sunday's game. My questions, his words, post-jump.
Bankmeister: For starters, how much football did you watch last weekend? Did you see the Chiefs-Ravens game? Denver-Cincy? If so, what were your thoughts on them? Second, I assume you watched Oakland-San Diego Monday night. What did you think of your team's performance?
In my estimation, the Raider defense surprised a lot of folks last year, yet they let the beautifully mulleted Rob Ryan go, and, after one game, it would appear to be even better? There was a lot of front-line domination going on, and even though the Chargers had to piecemeal an offensive line early in the game, it seems as if this unit is for real. Was that game a fluke, or is this Oakland D going to punch a lot of teams in the mouth?
Zeitgeist: I saw a most of the Chiefs Ravens game. Brodie Croyle coming off an 0-8 in starting was there to replace an injured Matt Cassel; it didn't look good. However, he completed 16 of 24 passes (66.7%) for 177 yards and tied a career high with two TDs. Defense and special teams looked good with a punt block for a return, as well as a Derrick Johnson INT for a lengthy 70-yard return. It looked like they might just have something, and alas, I was not surprised they just couldn't pull it off. Much credit to Joe Flacco and Ravens D. In the end, 188 yards for the Chiefs vs. 501 yards for the Ravens, and you get the picture: still lots of work to be done at Arrowhead.
All I caught were highlights of the Broncos-Bengals game, and by the looks of it that's all I needed to see. Congratulations to Kyle Orton for his flop of a game-saving touchdown (if that's what you call it). In our fantasy league his points actually beat out P. Manning's. What was I thinking benching him(Orton) over Manning!?
Now on to the Monday night game(s).
I pretty much yawned my way through the Patriots-Bills game. I really had no interest in either team, and throwback uniforms kinda make me sick. They always look so bad, why remember that? I watched it for maybe a new glimpse of the T.O. Show but his day was a fizzle. Mostly waiting for the next game and a girlfriend of mine to bring some food and drinks. I'll pass the time with football any day.
Raiders-Chargers was a game I went into with much doubt on my shoulders for my team. I was reluctant to applaud when things were going right but soon couldn't help myself. The addition of Richard Seymour to the defense was awesome for them. Sacking Rivers twice in the first half and holding the elusive L. Tomlinson at bay. I admit that I thought Rob Ryan was one of the only good things the Raiders organization hadn’t fired and was surprised to see a very improved defense this season. I know it's only week one, but keep up that practice, and you are going to win some games. Two things they were not prepared for: the two-minute-drill power of Philip Rivers and the explosive speed and small size of Darren Sproles. It will be very interesting to see the adjustments made by this defense in the upcoming Chiefs game. From what I saw however they have what it takes to be a contender. Is the offense ready to support?
B: I couldn't agree with you less regarding that Pats-Bills game. I don't care much for either club, but I thought it was a good game. Also, I think throwbacks in all sports are pretty awesome, unless they're the powder-blue Chargers, which are guh-ayy. Powder blue is supposed to be reserved for bad Kansas City baseball only.
There is indeed much work to be done for the Chiefs, and I think we're far from knowing just what the Denver Broncos will bring this season. I'd argue the same for the Chargers. An interesting thought I had though: Our two teams have a lot in common this year. Most are expecting that they will generally suck, even though there are the select few that have predicted close-to-.500 finishes for both Kansas City and Oakland. Since the last time we spoke, the Chiefs have completely cleaned house. There's a new general manager, head coach, team of coordinators, and mostly a new roster as well. Comparing this year's 53-man for the Chiefs with what it looked like at the end of last season, 30 players have been cut; some three have found NFL jobs since their departure.
So I'm curious: Do you think this franchise is heading in the right direction? Are they making smart choices? Is it too early to tell?
I'll ask you the same about your club. Obviously, most NFL fans think negatively of Al Davis. We've covered him in the past, so we'll leave him be for the most part. The weird thing to me, though, is the promotion of Tom Cable from offensive coordinator to interim coach, leaving him in that position while you interview other candidates, and then deciding to stick with him in the end. Seems like that's somewhat of a rarity in professional sports, but it could wind up being a smart choice. What are your thoughts on your coach? Did you have any opinion on the jaw punch he delivered to his assistant? Do I understand correctly that that assistant was then relieved of his duties?
As far as the squad, Darren McFadden showed last year, against the miserly Chiefs at least, that he could be a pretty promising rock toter. Monday night looked decent for him as well. Factor in Michael Bush and Justin Fargas when healthy and the Oakland running game could be stellar. As with any running game, this depends heavily on the blocking scheme of the offensive line, which, if Monday night was for real, they should be tough. The defense, as I mentioned, seems to be improved, which bodes well for the Raiders in a potentially weak division of offensive schemes.
The X-factor, in my opinion, continues to be JaMarcus Russell. I don't know how much you follow the SportsTalkRadios, the newspaper columnists, or the blog writers. I follow each in varying degrees, but try to keep my opinions my own. Russell is one topic of discussion in which I can do little more than agree with all of them in the sentiment that he is simply not a good quarterback.
The one compliment that he keeps getting is that he's a large physical specimen, which, to me, is a back-handed way of saying "fatass that hasn't, and might not, develop into a real deal." We talked a bit about him last year, but your thoughts now? Any comment on Russell sporting that trendy mohawk that has unfortuneately come back into fashion for the kidz?
What about this receiving corps? What's the deal with Javon Walker? He's on the roster, but I've heard nary a peep about him. Johnnie Lee Higgins? Darrius Heyward-Bey? Think these guys'll pan out? Looks to me like Louis Murphy and Zach Miller (TE) are the only decent threats Russell has to target. Who's gonna lead this team in catches? Receiving TDs?
Finally, where do you see this team finishing in the standings? Give us a place, and a win-loss prediction, give us a prediction for the game, and tell us, assuming you're going to the 'Head regaled in silver and black, where you're sitting. And if you won't be in attendance, explain to us why you won't be supporting your team in person.
Z: Oh man, leave the Royals out of this; I can only do one bad K.C. team at a time. I can understand the devotion of a Chiefs fan in the hardest of times, because I'm a Raiders and Royals fan. It's pretty bad when even Detroit has a better sports demographic.
It's hard to tell this early in the season if it is the right direction, however it is without a doubt a very "new" direction, which is something the Chiefs have needed for a long time. The Chiefs have been teetering on the clean-house totter for quite some time and after the long awaited resignation of Carl Peterson, I think this organization can finally start anew. I'm excited to see the progress and the unavoidable mistakes that can be made by a fresh team. I gotta tell ya though: Watching Chiefs new Head Coach Todd Haley light up Brodie Croyle like he did early with 9:35 left in the first quarter (Croyle was sacked on 2nd and 9, the Ravens took a timeout....and then the Chiefs took a time out. Why? Brodie Croyle get couldn't the play called in time.) To watch Haley flare up like he did shows real devotion to a winning team and not to players who don't know their job. I could be wrong, but I liked it! With the current staff and attitude I think they have made the best choices they could. Only time will tell on this one.
I'm sooooo done with blaming Al Davis for this team. It might be a factor, but it still comes down to the field. However, when it comes to coaching changes and head scratching afterward this it totally Davis' m.o. That being said, I think I like Tom Cable where he is. The whole punching Randy Hanson thing is nearly a closed case and no charges have been pressed so far. I also heard that this particular asst. had problems with Kiffin also, and was suspended after the Sept 2008 games vs. Denver after harsh words were spoken to the coach. Have not heard about a firing though; looks like they are handling it internally. I'm new to the Tom Cable philosophy and whether it's constructive or not. Right now in hostility-filled Oakland, seems like a good fit.
I couldn't agree more on several levels with the running game and the direction the Raiders are headed with it. This leads into the JaMarcus Russell problem too. Russell has never seemed to be able to calm down enough to keep his accuracy at bay. Several times this last game he threw the ball to no one. I think the organization is putting a lot more emphasis on the run in order to compensate for these problems with the newish QB. Is he or is he not a good QB? Right now I'm leaning towards no. He has a lot of ability and strength, his college performances were outstanding.
However in the NFL everything is faster and everyone is bigger. After sustaining that knee injury last week and getting right back on the field there is no question he is dedicated. He needs to start becoming a leader and heading the charge of this run game, if they could work that one-two punch this team has it. Right now it just looks as if again the run is there to compensate for a still unproven Russell. What’s Matt Leinart doing these days? I'm sure he can prove something.
As for the receiving core I'm about as lost as you are. J. Walker is not hurt but holds a position behind Heyward-Bey and J. Lee Higgins who has a shoulder injury right now. All things being said JaMarcus didn't even hit a wide out against the Chargers until I can’t remember but seemed like around halftime. Which goes back to my point: until this passing game smoothes out, the Raiders are going to still have to fight hard to win, all blown touchdown calls aside (thanks a lot Ref!).
I am not afraid to think that this Raiders team can and will hit .500 or a maybe a little over. With the talent I saw, they definitely have the potential. Would love to go to the game, but the last day of my current employment ends the Saturday before. Will be watching on high def at home saving those ever-precious dollars in a sketchy economy. Chiefs games ain’t cheap.
Man I dunno what to say about the opening mohawk that (Russell and) Shawne Merriman displayed. Apparently if you choke your girlfriend it's acceptable to where a "bro-hawk." JaMarcus may have his issues on the field but off he seems to me to be solid character. My real prediction for this game is that both teams are claiming rights to prove why they should have won the last game. Looking at both teams after watching both games I'm fairly certain the Raiders have it in for the Chiefs. This, of course, depends on the health of Matt Cassel. I say Raiders by +10. What the over/under would be is out of my understanding. Both teams have WAY too much to prove. That is if I even understood this season’s officiating rules, which are getting pretty obscure.
B: Awesome. Well thank you, sir, once more, for your time. We'll see you Sunday. I'm calling for the home team by four.