Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sports Thursday: 4/25/13

NFL - I'm less interested in the NFL Draft, and more interested in...the Jacksonville Jaguars' new uniforms. Swanky! I think the two-tone helmets are going to need to grow on me, but I like the rest of the getup.

Not surprisingly, the general opinion regarding the uniforms is that Jaguars fans like them, while everyone else is just using this as another opportunity to make fun of the team. So, business as usual. Basically, if the team does well, the uniforms will look great; if they don't, then the uniforms will look awful, and it doesn't really matter because the team is moving to Los Angeles anyway, right? (They're not, but keep on trolling anyway, guys.)

Winning will solve a lot of problems. In fact, winning pretty much solves everything. And, unfortunately, I think that's pretty much the only thing Shad Khan hasn't succeeded at yet. (As far as the other aspects of NFL ownership go, I don't know if you could do a better job than Khan has done so far.)

As for the NFL Draft...meh. No opinion.

MLB - All that Washington Nationals hype heading into the season? Well...through Wednesday night, the Nationals are 10-11. Any other year, that would have been a fine start, but this year the team had those dreaded "expectations". In hindsight, maybe those expectations were a wee bit high.

While 10-11 doesn't sound terrible on the surface, it seems much worse, because:
- The Nationals have gone 1-8 against the Braves, Cardinals, and Reds, all of whom are also expected to contend for the pennant. (You can't play the Marlins every week, sadly.)
- The pitching: Stephen Strasburg is 1-4, Gio Gonzalez's ERA is 5.85, and new signee Dan Haren has been terrible (1-3, 7.36 ERA).
- The offense: Except for Bryce Harper, the offense has basically regressed to the mean. In hindsight, guys like Adam LaRoche (.169 avg, 23 Ks in 59 ABs) may have overachieved a bit last year. In fact, multiple times last year, I thought, "You know, it wouldn't surprise me if these guys were juicing". It really did seem like it came from nowhere for some of these guys.

But, hey, on the bright side, it's only April, long season, blah blah blah. In the meantime, Nationals fans can look forward to every other team's fan base making fun of the #NATITUDE hashtag that the team keeps promoting. (I actually like #NATITUDE, but only in a "so bad, it's good" kind of way.) Not too much unlike the Jaguars' new uniforms, #NATITUDE is stupid when the team loses, and...well, even when the team wins, it's still kind of stupid. But in a good way. I think.

NHL - Time to close the book the Carolina Hurricanes' season. Before the season, I said that the lockout could only benefit the Hurricanes in terms of their playoff chances. Most often the team falls just short of the playoffs, and deservedly so, so maybe a shorter sample size would increase their odds of making the playoffs? Well, it turns out, even at 48 games, the season was still too long. It needed to be more like 24 games.

2005-06 provided a nice setup for the Hurricanes, because post-lockout, the new salary cap was so low that even the Hurricanes could spend up to it and compete, and they made the most of the opportunity and got a Stanley Cup out of it. Since then, they've only made the playoffs once in seven seasons. Fire the GM!

Seriously, the team's strategy has failed. Basically, it's, "sign any good player we can get our hands on to a long term contract immediately, and fill out the rest of the roster with AHL players". Well, that ain't working. Depth was the biggest problem this year, and as a "small market team", you can't build depth by spending too much money on only a handful of players. And, the near future doesn't look good, either. The team has already committed $43 million a year to the Staals + Skinner + Semin + Ruutu + Ward + Gleason, for each of the next THREE YEARS (source). And it'll probably be even more than that once the team gives Justin Faulk a bloated multi-year deal. (And you know they will. Any minute now...) Given that the team's TOTAL payroll this year was $57 million, already having $43 million committed to seven guys doesn't leave a whole lot of funds left over to fill out the rest of the roster. I guess what I'm saying is, they better draft well. Or, I don't know, maybe trade a good player for prospects every once in a while? Don't wait until the player's value tanks to try and move them (McBain, Jokinen). How about trading a player while his value is high, and getting a good return out of it for once? And I don't mean, "trade Brandon Sutter and the 8th overall pick for Jordan Staal"; I mean, "trade someone for prospects". The organizational depth just isn't there. Instead, this is a team that's built to consistently finish in 9th or 10th place every year, and that's exactly what they're doing. (They're actually 13th right now, but if the season were a full 82 games, I'm confident they would make a late season surge, just enough to finish in 9th place again.)

Sometimes I wonder if the Hurricanes' intent is to have a team that's just good enough to miss the playoffs every year. On one hand, you could be the Islanders. (Disclaimer: I don't really know that much about the Islanders; I just know they have a solid core of young talent, and that they're a playoff team this year. Also, for the sake of this argument, let's pretend the Rick DiPietro contract doesn't exist.) They've sacrificed a few seasons along the way "rebuilding", and they normally finish last in the league in attendance year after year in no small part because of that. (There are other reasons for the low attendance, too, of course.) But, look where the team is now.

Or...on the other hand, you could be the Hurricanes. Instead of rebuilding, like, ever, they just try to patch things up as best they can every offseason and put together a team that is just good enough to make things interesting. That's no way to win a Stanley Cup (or even a division title), but it is a great way to give the fans false hope and sell as many tickets as possible without spending a whole lot of money.

Soccer - So, over the last couple of months, I've been trying to find an English Premier League team to root for, to make the games more interesting. Starting from scratch, finding a team to root for can be hard, because you can't force it; in some cases, it has to just happen. It's even harder when you've never actually been to England. And, I should probably put more thought into this than I did which French soccer team I should root for. (Olympique de Marseille is doing well - 2nd place in the league - but holy crap, they are hopelessly boring to watch. 11 of their 18 league wins this season have been by the score of 1-0. But, I'm in too deep at this point; can't change now.)

"Chris, let me stop you right there. Bill Simmons already wrote this 'Which EPL team should I root for' piece YEARS ago. Don't do this. Please." Thanks. I'll try to avoid something along those lines. (By the way, I'm not a big fan of Bill Simmons, because he makes pretty much everything about the Red Sox. ESPECIALLY an article about which English soccer team you should root for.)

Well, anyway, here's what it's come to. I've gathered that when it comes to the EPL, you can root for one of two types of teams. 1) A team with deep pockets, lots of baggage, and an obscenely large, worldwide, and oppressively annoying fanbase. 2) A team that will probably get relegated within the next five seasons. Those are the two choices. There is no in between. Every good English team has baggage, to the point where calling myself a "fan" of theirs would leave a really bad taste in my mouth. On the other hand, I root for enough crappy teams as it is, so even despite the baggage, I'm taking option #1.

With that in mind, I developed five basic rules:
1) Are they good?
2) Are more than half of their games on TV?
3) Are they not called "Manchester United" or "Chelsea"?
4) Do I like their uniforms and/or logo?
5) Do they score more goals than Olympique de Marseille?

And with that, my team is...Arsenal. I'm not particularly proud of that, but hey, at least they score more than one goal every once in a while. Except that the last Arsenal game I watched, they won...1-0. Damn you!

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