Archives for: 2012, week 12

03/23/12

Unsportsmanlike Conduct Sacks Saints

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-Digger's Daily-

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell slammed the New Orleans Saints "bounty" program. "A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious." Goodell's statement also said, "a strong and lasting message must be sent."

In an unprecedented move Goodall suspended head coach Sean Payton without pay for the 2012 season, ordered Saints to forfeit second round draft picks for two years, indefinitely suspended former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, suspended GM Micky Loonis for 8 games, suspended assistanct coach Joe Vitt for six games and fined the organization $500,000. This all stems from New Orleans coaches offering cash bounties to their players for targeting/injuirng opposing players.

Good for Goodall. A harsh sentence for unsportsmanlike conduct. It's no secret NFL players try their best to levy hits to remember against opponents. But, it's another thing when coaches offer cash "bounties" to take out opponents.

Payton becomes the first NFL coach suspended for any reason. He's been accused of covering up extra cash bonuses to players by ignoring instructions from the NFL and Saints ownership to make sure bounties weren't being paid (after the league first caught wind last season). The NFL took down Payton for "falsely deny that the program existed," and for trying to "encourage the false denials by instructing assistants to 'make sure our ducks are in a row."

This was as blatent as it gets in professional football. Coaches paying players to inflict harm. I can guarantee you bounties exist far beyond the NFL. I'm willing to bet it happens in college & high school football too (probably without cash payments).

Football is a tough game. New Orleans will pay a heavy price for their actions. Quite frankly, losing second round draft picks for two years isn't harsh enough. First round picks are justified in a situation where the commissioner's office directly forewarned Saints coaches to end this practice - they did not. No denials coming from New Orleans either. Plenty of apologies - suggesting this practice was in place for at least a few seasons.

Hats off to NFL officials on using the Saints as examples. I'm amazed their shenangan's remained a secret for this long. It shouldn't surprise anyone to learn this practice has been in place with many teams in the past. Hard to imagine legendary Bears, Raiders and a handful of others not instituting bounties. There's one glaring difference - the NFL will no longer put up with this kind of behavior.

03/21/12

2012 Preview: Colorado Rockies

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-Digger's Daily-

Colorado (73-89) endured a difficult season in 2011. Pitching was a sore spot last season. Don't expect anything different this season. Colorado is in store for another long year.

Their starting rotation boils down to spring training battles. As of now, most prognosticators expect the following opening day starting five: Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio and Guillermo Moscoso. In my book, there's two locks - Guthrie & Chacin - with the final three slots up for grabs. Veteran Jamie Moyer is having a great spring and the Rockies would be crazy not adding this guy to the rotation. Alex White, Tyler Chatwood, Josh Outman and Esmil Rogers were considered competitors but none of those final four names are turning heads.

Michael Cuddyer (OF/1B) and Ramon Hernandez (C) are welcomed additions. Plenty of key losses from the lineup including once heralded catcher Chris Iannetta and closer Hudson Street. Also lost - Mark Ellis, Ty Wigginton, Seth Smith, Jason Hammel, Aaron Cook and a handful of other role players.

Depth has been lost but starters are strong. Around the horn: 1B Todd Helton, 2B Marco Scutaro, SS Troy Tulowitzki, 3B Casey Blake. Catching flies from LF to RF: Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Mike Cuddyer. Rockies have a well balanced lineup attack from top to bottom.

Rafael Betancourt is their new closer. There's a handful of players battling to fill bullpen roles yet to be settled. Colorado's bullpen will be the difference between winning and losing in a wide open NL West.

Prediction: A healthy offense will go a long way to winning games. 2012 lineup has no holes. A good mix of speed, power and contact. Defense is solid. Colorado's fate rest squarely on their pitchers ability to hold leads in tight situations. Lack of depth will only become a concern if regulars are sidelined for significant time. This team has much to prove. Success is within their grasp... or not. Handicapping this team heading into regular season play at +/-80 wins. Don't be surprised to see Colorado win the NL West. It'll probably turn out as win some, lose some.

03/20/12

2012 MLB Preview: Seattle Mariners

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-Digger's Daily-

Does anyone remember Seattle won 116 games back in 2001? Seattle was a team on the rise. They reeled off 90+ wins in four consecutive season's to begin the new millennium. Since then, losers in 6 of 8 including 95 last year.

Good news on the horizon? Perhaps 2012 marks the beginning of a new Mariners era of better baseball. Don't expect miracles - or 80 wins. There's a nucleus of young talent and Seattle hopes these guys are the answer for years to come.

Starting rotation appears set with Felix Hernandez returning to dazzle hitters. If it wasn't for weak hitting teammates - Felix would be a 20 game winners year after year. Japanese import Hisashi Iwakuma was rated 2nd to Rangers Yu Darvish but there's concern over whether or not his shoulder is sound - and if his fastball is strong enough to get out Major League hitters consistantly? Jason Vargas is locked in. Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi hope good fortunes of spring secure April rotation slots.

Closer Brandon League saved 37 in '11. Seattle's bullpen was gassed by mid-season. Expect more of the same if starters faulter.

Seattle's biggest acquisition - Jesus Montero - came at the expense of future star flame thrower, Michael Pineda. It was well worth it for a M's team struggling to score runs. Montero is the real deal. He'll hit in the middle of a young, untested lineup. It's a make or break year for 1B Justin Smoak. Dustin Ackley is a star for years to come at 2B. SS remains a weak spot with Brendan Ryan. 3B/OF Chone Figgins has been a monumental bust for Seattle after tearing it up for the Angels. He's battling Kyle Seager for the starting nod at 3B. Ichiro returns to RF. CF Franklin Gutierrez hasn't lived up to hype. LF is Mike Carp's to win or lose this spring unless Smoak bombs out (then Carp moves to first). Behind the plate is Miguel Olivo who provides a little pop when not striking out. All in all, Seattle's lineup is weakest in AL West on paper. They're going to need heads up base running and timely hitting or this will be another long season.

Prediction: Seattle's lineup can't compete vs Texas and Angels. Montero, Ackley & Hernandez will put up great numbers. It's anyone's guess how the rest of this team does. Rebuilding comes in many forms. If young hitters struggle (Smoak, Gutierrez, Seager) then Seattle's make over will need another. 70+ wins is generous in this division but it's within reach if peaces fit.