OTHER RECENT POSTS
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  • Golden Football Magazine
"Best Baseball Team We've Seen in a Decade"
Those are the words of Joe Sheehan in Sports Illustrated's latest issue. Which 2015 team is he describing?
  • It's the Washington Nationals after they signed free agent righty Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210M contract.
  • According to Sheehan, the Nats now have "six above-average starting pitchers to go with a strong everyday lineup ..."
  • He also explains why he considers Washington the best team "in a decade."

The Nationals have a chance to provide something that hasn't been seen in years: a great baseball team to follow all summer. Regular-season greatness is out of fashion these days, with the expanded postseason lowering the bar for entry and division titles reduced to what they are in the NBA, NFL, and NHL: little more than a means to a better playoff seeding. The new model for MLB teams? Be just good enough to squeak into the postseason, then see what happens in October. Last season, neither Series team won 90 games, but fans of the Giants (88 wins) and the Royals (89 wins) wouldn't trade their years for those of the Angels (98 wins), Orioles (96 wins) or Nationals (96 wins).
Moreover, 2014 was the third consecutive season in which no team won 100 games, the first time that's happened across three full seasons since both leagues went to a 162-game schedule in 1962. There have been only three 100-win teams in the last nine years: the '08 Angels, the '09 Yankees and the '11 Phillies. Only one of those teams won even a single playoff series. The modern game encourages teams to roll the dice on an 85-win team. It's economical, but it makes for dull summers waiting for the only real intrigue of the season, a surge by one of the .540 teams to capture the fifth playoff spot or the warmed-over chase for home field advantage in the Division Series.

All this reinforces the decision I made when two wild card teams made the World Series last year: Wake me in mid-September and I'll start following baseball.
Go, Wildcats!
I've been vigorously rooting for the Kentucky men's basketball team this past month.
  • Why, you say, when I'm a strong LSU fan and the Wildcats lead the league? Don't I want UK to lose so that LSU can catch them?
  • Realistically, no one will catch John Calipari's team for the SEC crown.
  • No, I've been rooting for the Wildcats so that they'll be undefeated when they come to Baton Rouge Tuesday, February 10.
  • That way, LSU can have the privilege of being the first to knock off the nation's #1 team.
  • The Cats must survive Alabama and Georgia at home and Florida on the road before taking on LSU. Sweeping those games would make Kentucky 23-0 when they take the court in the Maravich Assembly Center.
Tigers in the NFL - 2014 Update

A record number of former LSU Tigers played in at least one game with NFL teams this past season. The total was 44, three more than the previous season high in both 2009 and 2010.

First, here's the rookie Tigers who began their NFL careers in 2014.

  1. Lamin Barrow LB - Denver
  2. Odell Beckham WR - New York Giants
  3. Alfred Blue RB - Houston
  4. Ego Ferguson DT - Chicago
  5. Jeremy Hill RB - Cincinnati
  6. Anthony Johnson DT - Miami
  7. Jarvis Landry WR - Miami
  8. Craig Loston SS - Jacksonville
  9. Zach Mettenberger QB - Tennessee
  10. Tharold Simon DB - Seattle
  11. Trai Turner G - Carolina
  12. Brad Wing P - Pittsburgh
  13. James Wright WR - Cincinnati

That baker's dozen joined 31 veteran NFL Tigers. The number in parentheses is the player's years in the league through 2014.

  1. Joseph Barksdale OT (3) - St. Louis
  2. Dwayne Bowe WR (8) - Kansas City
  3. Michael Brockers DT (3) - St. Louis
  4. Ron Brooks LB (3) - Buffalo
  5. Morris Claiborne DB (3) - Dallas
  6. Ryan Clark S (13) - Washington
  7. Glenn Dorsey DT (7) - San Francisco
  8. Lavar Edwards DT (7) - Tennessee
  9. Matt Flynn QB (7) - Green Bay
  10. Trindon Holliday KR (4) - Tampa Bay
  11. Tyson Jackson DE (6) - Atlanta
  12. Ricky Jean-Francois DT (6) - Indianapolis
  13. Donnie Jones P (11) - Philadelphia
  14. Brandon LaFell WR (5) - New England
  15. LaRon Landry S (8) - Indianapolis
  16. Bennie Logan DT (2) - Philadelphia
  17. Tyrann Mathieu DB (2) - Arizona
  18. Danny McCray DB (5) - Chicago
  19. Barkevious Mingo DE (2) - Cleveland
  20. Kevin Minter LB (2) - Arizona
  21. Sam Montgomery DE (2) - Houston
  22. Patrick Peterson DB (4) - Arizona
  23. Rueben Randle WR (3) - New York Giants
  24. Eric Reid S (2) - San Francisco
  25. Steven Ridley RB (4) - New England
  26. Perry Riley LB (5) - Washington
  27. Russell Shepard WR (2) - Tampa Bay
  28. Kelvin Sheppard LB (4) - Miami
  29. Andrew Whitworth OT (9) - Cincinnati
  30. Kyle Williams DT (9) - Buffalo
  31. Al Woods DT (5) - Tennessee

15 NFL Tigers played offense, 26 played defense, and 3 performed in the kicking game.

Here are the Tigers who played in the league in 2013 but did not make a roster in 2014. Again, the number in parentheses is years he played in the NFL.

  1. Michael Ford RB (1)
  2. Quinn Johnson FB (5)
  3. Drake Nevis DT (3)
  4. Marcus Spears DE (9)
  5. Craig Steltz S (6)
  6. Curtis Taylor DB (3)
  7. Spencer Ware RB (1)
  8. Corey Webster DB (9)

As stated earlier, the 44 participants in 2014 set an LSU record for most in a year. The top five season with the most LSU NFLers now looks like this.

1. 2014 - 44
2. 2010 - 41
    2009 - 41
4. 2012 - 40
5. 2011 - 39
    2008 - 39

So the period 2008-14 has been the golden age of Tigers in the NFL.

Which LSU teams have produced the largest number of NFL participants?

1. 2003 - 29
2. 2001 - 27
    2002 - 27
4. 2011 - 26
    2010 - 26

Some Interesting NFL Numbers

While baseball offenses are declining, NFL attacks are producing more points.

23.4 Average points per team in the NFL during the 2013 season, the highest total since 1948
22.5 Average points per team during the 2014 season, the second highest total since 1948
12-20 Record of teams coming off a bye week in 2014
7-14 Record of teams coming off a bye week after a loss in 2014
3 Teams that went from losers in 2013 to winners in '14: Bills, Lions, and Texans
2 Teams that went from winning records in '13 to losing record in '14: Saints and Panthers

Bad trend for the 2015 Saints: 28 teams went from winners to losers from one year to the next in the last 10 NFL seasons. Only 12 managed to emerge as winners the following season.

Deflategate Comments
I spoke yesterday to a former student of mine who works the sidelines for the Saints as part of the trainers' corps. He said it would be easy for a ball boy to deflate the balls a few pounds each.
  • The officials check the balls an hour before the game and initial each one that meets the stand­ards.
  • But when they're given to the ball boy, he can stick in the needle and let some air out of a ball in a few seconds before putting it in his bag without anyone noticing what he did.
  • When the other team has the ball, no one pays atten­tion to the ball boy for the defense.
The important question to me is this:
Why does each team have its own footballs in the NFL?
  • Can you imagine an NBA game where the teams use different basketballs? "Anthony Davis gets the rebound for the Pelicans. TIME OUT to change the ball. Oops, the Mavericks stole the ball. TIME OUT to change the ball." Or hockey? ("The Rangers have a breakaway. Whoops! Wrong puck.") Or baseball? (The team at bat objects that the pitcher is using a baseball with seams raised above the legal limit.)
  • Why doesn't the league supply the footballs? A member of the officiating crew sees that the balls are inflated the proper amount and supervises the ball crew, which works for the league, not the home team.
  • Why has it taken so long for this loophole to surface? Who knows how many times the Patriots (and other teams) have used over- or underinflated balls?
Another Baseball Season with Declining Offense

In 1972, the year before the American League instituted the Designated Hitter to spark offense, the league stats looked like this:

3.47 Average runs per game for each team
.239 League batting average
.306 League on-base percentage
.343 League slugging percentage

Here are the figures from the 2014 season - both leagues combined, plus some other stats.

4.07 Runs per game for each team, the lowest figure since 1972 and down from 5.14 in 2000.
.251 ML batting average, down from .266 in 2004 and .271 in 1999 - the height of the steroids era
.314 ML on-base percentage compared to .335 in 2004
.386 ML slugging percentage, a drop from .428 in 2004
7 Consecutive seasons in which a new record for strikeouts per game was set
7.70 Average strikeouts per team per game in 2014
4.77 Strikeouts per team per game in 1979
117 Number of batters who had at least 100 strikeouts in 2014
20 Number of batters who had at least 100 strikeouts in 1972
3.2% HRs on contact rate, the lowest since 1993; that means batters made less contact and didn't hit the ball as hard when they did connect.
95 HRs by the Royals, the lowest figure for a postseason AL team since the White Sox hit 97 in 1959

A number of factors explain the drop of offensive production.

  • Tougher testing for performance enhancing drugs has reduced the number of players using steroids, HGH, and other banned substances. No more Mark McGwires, Sammy Sosas, and Brady Andersons,
  • Detailed, computer-generated scouting reports that pinpoint where each fair ball of each hitter has traveled. So shifts are rampant and have seriously cut into the batting average of pull hitters like Mark Texeira, Brian McCann, David Ortiz, and Chris Davis.
  • Starting pitchers are expected to go only six or seven innings. So they're not as concerned with "pacing" themselves.
  • Almost every team has a bullpen full of strong-armed pitchers who are used for one inning each. Batters who are just getting in synch after three ABs against the starter now face a new flamethrower their 4th AB and the team's closer in AB #5.

Some points being made by analysts:

  • Having hitters work pitchers into deep counts, as the Yankees and Red Sox did in winning eight pennants from 1996-2007, has become an antiquated strategy. The idea was to run up the starter's pitch count to get him out of the game sooner and bring in a (presumably) weaker reliever. But all that does today is bring in a fresh arm throwing 95+. Former hard-hitting C Ted Sim­mons, now a member of the Mariners' front office, says, If you see the starter only twice and then two different relievers, you're basically pinch-hitting three times in a game. As a hitter, you'd rather face the starter the third time through the lineup, because you've had a couple of looks at him. Who wants to see a reliever coming in fresh and throwing 97 mph, then know­ing the next one will throwing 98 and the one after throwing 99 ..." Simmons thinks hitters should be more aggressive earlier in the count.
  • Rangers manager Jeff Banister thinks platooning will help. Not only will it provide more lefty-righty and righty-lefty matchups for hitters but position players won't play as many innings and will stay fresher throughout the season.
  • Fewer and fewer batters seem to "hit to all fields." More and more try to pull the ball every time. Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon: "If more hitters would be willing to change their approach ... and not be so stubborn, you'd see the end of a lot of the shifting really fast. If the defense is giving you half the field, why wouldn't you take it?"
  • It's long past time for the National League to adopt the Designated Hitter. Pitchers average .167 at the dish. How does that contribute to a better game?
  • Some advocate illegal defense rules. For example, prohibit three infielders on the same side of 2B.
  • New Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinks the downward batting cycle may end for reasons we can't predict. "There has to be something different out there, some new idea or innovation that can help a team score more runs. I know it's out there, and someone is going to figure it out."
Goodbye, Football

5:29 PM CST, Sunday, January 18.

That's when the 2013-14 football season ended for me. Oh, there's two more games to play (I don't count that farce called the Pro Bowl), but I'm not interested. Let me explain why.

Two years ago, the Baltimore Ravens reached the Super Bowl - and won it - with a player who turned my stomach, Ray Lewis. I didn't like their opponent either, the 49ers, because of their jackass coach. But I watched in hopes SF could win.

But two Seattle players, Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, and the coach, Pete Carroll, nauseate me. Since I don't have the stomach to watch them in the Super Bowl (and in the excruciating two-week buildup in which they'll be called the greatest team of all time with the greatest fans), there's no point in watching the AFC Championship Game tonight.

Part of my disgust is the way Green Bay lost.

  • The only way the Seahawks could win the game was to get the onside kick. And even that didn't guarantee victory because they needed a TD.
  • But #86, Brandon Bostick, will now win (?) inauguration into the Goat Hall of Shame, joining Bill Buckner (Red Sox, 1986 World Series), Don Denkinger (umpire, 1985 World Series), Ralph Branca (Brooklyn Dodgers, 1951 NL Playoff), Tony Romo (fumbled snap on easy winning FG against the Seahawks in 2006), Wrong Way Roy Riegels (1929 Rose Bowl), Kyle Williams (two fumbled punts in 2011-12 NFC Championship Game against the Giants), Steve Bartman (Cubs fan 2003), Chris Webber (Michigan, 1993 Final Four), and numerous others.
  • The onside kick was not even a good one because it bounced right to Bostick, who presumably earned a spot on the "Good Hands Team" by having, uh, good hands. [UPDATE: No, he didn't have good hands. He was out there to block so that WR Jordy Nelson, behind him, could catch the ball.] But the ball went right through both hands, hit him on the helmet, and bounced right to a Seahawk.
  • Then the Green Bay D collapsed and let Seattle zip right down to score the go-ahead TD. The only good result of that was the Packers had time to march to the tying FG. But that would have been the winning FG if Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (What mother names her child "Ha Ha"? put her in the Hall of Shame in his place.) had knocked down Russell Wilson's desperation let-her-fly-because-I've-got-nothing-to-lose two-point conversion pass - although Clinton-Dix gets a reprieve because of his two earlier INTs.

Now the most stuck-up team in history will be even more obnoxious. No, thanks. I'll pass.

AND ALL THIS WAS POSTED BEFORE DEFLATEGATE.

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About This Site
This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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