Holy Cow — Let’s Get The Season Started Already!

harry21

I’m bouncing off of the walls waiting for the MLB season to start.  Normally, the draft of my major fantasy baseball league takes place the weekend right before Opening Day — but this year, due to some logistical issues, we had to shift the draft back a week.  So that’s left me twiddling my thumbs, impatiently waiting for the season’s first pitch while hoping none of my high-dollar players hurt themselves in spring training’s final days.

My best friend Steven just returned home today, and he’s got the pictures from our draft, so I’ll be waiting until he’s able to send them to me tomorrow before I  recap how that day went.  And on Thursday, I’ll be posting my thoughts on this upcoming fantasy season (for those of you with drafts still to come).  In the meantime, some other sports related thoughts:

— The big news from the sports world is that John Calipari has decided to take the head coaching job at Kentucky.  This announcement didn’t come as a huge shock — if anything, there was some surprise that Calipari didn’t accept the offer immediately.  And from what I’ve heard from my source (who had an inside ear to the proceedings), this wasn’t a money issue either;  despite Kentucky’s huge offer (which will make Calipari the highest-paid coach in college basketball), Memphis was apparently willing and able to match the money involved.  However, in the end, it boiled down to the tradition at Memphis, and the huge lure of coaching not only at one of the most storied programs in the sport’s history, but in a major conference as well.

While I can’t fault the coach for his decision — and the fact that something other than the almighty dollar influenced at least some of his final determination — I can’t say that I agree with it.  There’s no doubt that Calipari is one of the best recruiters out there, and his charm and ability to work the room will be welcome in the Bluegrass State and is in stark contrast to the demeanor of the man he’s replacing, Billy Gillispie.  He should be successful in Kentucky — but I wonder how happy he’ll actually be there, and whether or not the success he brings will be enough to satisfy the insatiable demands of Wildcats fans and boosters.  The fact is, as many advantages as Kentucky has, it’s impossible to guarantee the levels of success I suspect many Wildcats faithful expect;  simply making the NCAA each year, or even the Sweet 16, won’t be nearly enough.  Calipari will be expected to win and win big almost immediately — and the pressure he’ll face will be immense if there are any stumbling blocks along the way.

That’s a far cry from the situation he leaves behind in Memphis, where he could have stayed for the remainder of his career as a hero to the program.  Lower expectations have their advantages, and perhaps not coincidentally, the coach’s successes have come at smaller, low-key gigs (Massachusetts and Memphis) that didn’t have near the demands for results that he’ll see at Kentucky.  Considering how the only other high-profile gig that Calipari had went — his three seasons as the coach of the Nets, where he compiled a 72-112 record, were tumultuous — I wonder what the effects of moving back under the microscope will have.

Gary Sheffield was released by the Tigers today, one home run short of 500 on his career.  The move came as a shock to everyone — well, maybe not to those people who’d actually seen Sheffield at the plate the last year or so.  The former Tigers’ slugger was one of the most dangerous bats in the game once, but he’s a shell of his former self now.  He’s little more than a DH now (if anyone wants to play him in the field at this point, they’ll get what they deserve), and the list of potential suitors shouldn’t be a long one.  He might catch on with someone, but considering his reputation for a sometimes surly attitude, why would anyone bother?  There’s still plenty of other veteran guys out there who’ll come with less baggage and be just as effective at the place as Sheffield would be.

The Broncos have decided to try and trade Jay Cutler after all.  My thoughts on the quarterback aren’t any secret, so what I say here shouldn’t be any surprise:  If I’m a Broncos fan, I say — good riddance.  I won’t question Cutler’s talent or his natural ability, but he’s clearly lacking in maturity and that’s the one part of his game that doesn’t look like it’s going to be improving anytime soon.  And let’s face facts — the Broncos do have a losing record with Cutler, and that performance has come in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL.  Has it all been Cutler’s fault?  of course not (the Denver defense has been more than suspect), but in the end, you’re still defined by how your won-loss ledger reads.  My own gut feeling is that, when it’s all said and done, Cutler simply isn’t going to be a winner in the NFL, no matter how gaudy his numbers look or how strong his arm is.  I just don’t like what he brings to the game that can’t be measured by a scout.

So where is he going to end up?  I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands with the Jets, who have a hole at that position to fill.  But it’s a destination that would not be the best for the thin-skinned, overly sensitive QB  — and for the same reason, something I’d love to see happen, if for no other reason than to watch for the inevitable Cutler meltdown that would take place at some point following some “slight” by the New York fans or media.  If he couldn’t handle the situation concerning a possible trade that he might have been involved in, then how’s he going to deal with the New York pressure-cooker?  Badly, I’d guess.

If not New York, then the Browns have been rumored as another possible destination.  If I’m Denver and can pry a high draft pick and Brady Quinn from Cleveland (which is something I’ve heard mentioned as a possible package ), I’d jump all over that and start the process of building my future team from there.  And for those Denver fans who’re heartbroken about the possibility of losing their franchise” quarterback, I implore you to remember the old adage — you didn’t win with him, so it’s not like you can’t do the same without him.

Coming tomorrow (hopefully) — Draft Day 2009!

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