The Sox at the Trade-Deadline

Well, the trade-deadline is fast approaching (this Wednesday at 4PM!) and the Boston Red Sox perch atop the AL East at 63-43 with a 1/2-game lead over the Rays of Tampa Bay. The position in the standings has set the Sox in a better position to be big players at the vaunted down-to-the-wire-dealings: where bad teams mortgage the present in favor of the future and good teams push to win, selling off the future to get better immediately.
Even though the Red Sox are set-up to big buyers at the deadline, but they also have the assets and flexibility to deal several quality pieces from the team.
Here are eight names to consider; four the Red Sox have and are wondering what to do with and four on the open market they may pursue.

What to do with what the Sox already have…

Jacoby Ellsbury (CF):
The debate about the future has already begun as part team-owner John Henry addressed the team’s outlook heading forward. “[Ellsbury’s agent] Scott [Boras] has a track record of taking his players to free agency so I’m not confident. It would be great if we could,” Henry said Wednesday. This roused a question in my mind, would the Sox possibly use Ellsbury as a large trade-chip to bring in cheaper, longer-lasting talent and promote the hyped Jackie Bradley Jr.? Or would they keep Ellsbury, hopefully ride him to a championship and then take a chance on how things play out this offseason?
The better move right now is to stand pat with Ellsbury. He’s hitting .304, playing stellar defense in Center, and leading the Majors with 37 swiped bags this season. He’s leading off and catalyzing a potent offense that leads the American League in nearly every statistical category. With the dollars that the Red Sox cleared by means of the Beckett/Crawford/Gonzalez trade, they still have a chance to retain the Navajo Knight. And as long as they have that chance, they should take it.
Will Middlebrooks (3B):
Middlebrooks is decent, he’s certainly better than his stats show this year (.192/9 HRs/53 games played). His demotion to AAA really was less about his struggles than about his playing time. Middlebrooks really lost out after heading to the Disabled List and giving Jose Iglesias that chance the same chance Tom Brady got when Drew Bledsoe went down for the New England Patriots in football. Iglesias played too well and never relinquished Third Base.
That could be the key selling point for the Sox, who need to trade Middlebrooks immediately. With the impending arrival of Xander Bogaerts, the third-best ranked prospect in all of baseball, in 2014 at Shortstop (shifting Iglesias to Third or vice-versa), the infield doesn’t have a spot for Middlebrooks. As in 2012, he showed he could play at a big league level. He just needs to find a team.
Stephen Drew (SS):
Drew’s poor performance this season makes him probably the most overpaid player in The Show right now. Just joking! It’s second though, right behind the behemoth payday Alex Rodriquez receives every week for toiling away in AAA Scranton, the Electric City. Anyway, Drew’s $9 million salary is, to quote Jimmy McMillan, “Too damn high!” He’s batting .231 over 72 games. Honestly, the only reason he isn’t receiving that much attention is because the Red Sox are so used to getting next to nothing for overpaid players who have “Drew #7” on the back of their jerseys.
So, after the excessive belligerence towards Drew, why would any team want to pay for his services? A team with a young, impressionable shortstop who could benefit from Drew’s mentoring like Iglesias has this season. Teams like Kansas City and their 26-year old Alcides Escobar or Minnesota’s second-year man Brian Dozier. Iglesias has mentioned Drew’s aid and cited its usefulness, but now it’s time to move on. With more than a half of a season in 2013 and 30 games from October of 2012 under his baseball belt, Iglesias can survive without him. Also, it would allow the Sox to shift Iglesias to his natural position of Shortstop, pull up Middlebrooks for a stint and show the 31 other teams he can still play, then place him on waivers and work out a post-trade-deadline deal much like last year.
Jose Iglesias (SS/3B):
To begin with Iglesias, a short parable is needed.
Say all you’ve really wanted out of life is a nice sports car. You stay in school, get a great education and land at a job that pays a fantastic wage. Since you learned a lot and are a smart kid, you received scholarships and have no college debt. To reward yourself, you go out and buy your dream car, a brand-new Ferrari or whatnot all tricked out with all the awesome features you see in the commercials. The car handles incredibly and you drive in every spare second. However, just because it’s brand-new doesn’t mean it won’t have a few problems. One day you’re driving it up a rather steep incline and the transmission busts. What are you going to do? Go out and get a new car or are you going to repair it? The cheaper and better route is to repair the thing.
That’s what should happen to Iglesias. He’s slumping right now and looks as though it might get worse (.217 with no HRs in July). Remember what happened with Dustin Pedroia? His rookie season in 2007, at the end of April hit .182 with 0 HRs. He started 2B since Opening Day whereas Iglesias essentially won that position from Stephen Drew in May. Iglesias has shown he can do it every day, all day. Pedroia won the Rookie of the Year in 2007 with a worse start than Iglesias so there’s no reason to disbelieve he can pull back up.

What the Sox need…

Jake Peavy (SP, Chicago White Sox):
Boston’s trouble begins in the starting rotation. Clay Bucholz can’t seem to recover from his lengthened stint on the Disabled List and performances from Jon Lester and Ryan Dempster have been inconsistent, to put the problem lightly.
The Red Sox seem perfectly in position to address these needs despite losing out on the Matt Garza Sweepstakes. Red Sox scouts were in attendance for the Thursday start of White Sox Pitcher Jake Peavy who is 8-4 on the year. The Red Sox have competition for Peavy; the largest players are reportedly the Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals. Peavy recently came off a rib injury, but has seemed solid in his two starts back. He is an innings-eater, the workhorse the Sox could use as he averages just over 6 innings per start this year. The Sox could choose either of their Catching prospects in Ryan Lavarnway or David Ross to build a package around as Lavarnway or Ross could supplant Chicago’s struggling fourth-year man Tyler Flowers as the starter.
Plus, the Red Sox need a Starter, could you imagine Alfredo Aceves starting a game that truly mattered?
They need to act quickly as the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles are rumored to be suitors as well.
Jesse Crain (RP, Chicago White Sox):
After pilfering Matt Thornton from the Chicago White Sox and looking at Jake Peavy, apparently the Red Sox are interested in another White Sock, Reliever Jesse Crain, according to Mark Gonzalez of The Chicago Tribune. Crain would bolster a Boston bullpen that currently ranks 23rd in all of MLB with an ERA dangerously close to four. It would also increase the depth that is now depleted because Franklin Morales went down with a shoulder injury and then Andrew Miller, Joel Hanrahan, and Andrew Bailey (three of Boston’s best four relievers entering the season) sidelined with season-ending injuries.
Crain has 46 strikeouts to go along with a 0.74 ERA this summer and it was recently announced he would avoid an injury rehabilitation assignment – enabling him to pitch right away. To have a healthy – and somewhat skilled – body in the bullpen certainly increased his trade value – and the Red Sox interest.
Luke Hochevar (RP, Kansas City Royals):
Continuing the brave quest to plug bullpen holes, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Red Sox front-office is in hot pursuit of the Royals set-up man. An ability to mix pitches (Hochevar was formerly a starter) has prompted Boston to send scouts to Kansas City’s game during the last week.
Hochevar posts a 1.89 ERA as well as throwing 38 innings in 32 appearances.
Michael Young (3B/1B, Philadelphia Phillies):
With a losing record assured the Phillies are looking to reboot. They want to unload Young and his $16 million annual paycheck on a contract that expires after this season. They have Cody Asche, their 23-year old Third Base prospect who is batting .294 with 23 doubles and 13 homers, all in 100 games at AAA Lehigh Valley. He was ranked as the best defensive Third Basemen and is the best Phillies prospect.
The Sox aren’t concerned with money after the fire-sale last season and as Young’s contract ends after this season, he is the perfect acquisition. Young has been in the World Series twice in his career (2010 and 2011) and his 16-year veteran presence would add to the leadership of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. A steadying influence is one perk he would bring as the other would be flexibility in the infield. Say Iglesias’ slump gets severely worse; Young could spell him for a time at Third Base and give Iglesias a few days off to figure out what he’s doing wrong. He could also play First Base.

Within the next 50 hours or so, the Boston Red Sox will need to address the major, glaring error in their club: a depleted, defeated bullpen. They have a surplus where many other teams have a need: in the infield. Those two things juxtaposed form compatibility between another team and the Red Sox. So as Wednesday fast approaches, their needs do as well.

Another Baseball Stat (But This One’s Worth Knowing)

Record books are funny things.

They have a set set of rules of what and what was not worth noting. For example, strikeouts and no-hitters are symbols of dominance in baseball. However, succeeding at the sport goes so much further. K’s and no no’s establish a reputation for a pitcher, but benefit mostly power pitchers. Names like Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Randy Johnson pop because, well, they made the pop! happen in catcher’s mitts throughout their career.

But Ryan, Clemens and Johnson aren’t the only successful pitchers in MLB. There’s one in particular that succeeds unlike any other. Greg Maddux, the 4-time Cy Young winner and long-time Atlanta Brave, bears a semblance to the most successful and efficient pitcher ever in MLB.

If there’s anything baseball fans love more than power arms, its stats. And – cue the music – I discovered a new stat, courtesy of blogger Jason Lukehart.

Based off of the 4-time Cy Young winner, the stat christened “The Maddux” came into being. Those unfamiliar with the parameters of the statistic can be enlightened as follows. A starting pitcher must pitch the entire game, said game must go at least nine innings (no rain shortened contests), the pitcher must allow zero runs, and he can throw no more than 99 total pitches. Also, a clarification: no runs include unearned runs, so the defense must be stellar as well.

So why should you care about “The Maddux” when there’s about a zillion other stats in baseball? You’ve got some indecipherable abbreviations like RA9role, gmLI, and waaWL% that look like something out of a Physics textbook, but The Maddux trumps them all. In fact, it may even trump one of the most impressive achievements in baseball: the no-hitter.

The first no-hitters of 2013 were thrown 11 days apart. The first was tossed by Cincinnati Red Homer Bailey and the second gem belonged to the Giant from San Fran, Tim “The Freak” Lincecum. Even though Lincecum was as untouchable on July 13th as Whitey Bulger until 2011, the only thing freakish about his performance was the bonkers amount of pitches he threw – 148. Yes, the fact that he didn’t allow a single hit presents an impressive case for a dominating night at the ballpark, but he expended 148 pitches, which is nearly double the Major League average for a starter (88).

According to Baseball Reference’s website, it’s extremely rare to top 120 pitches in a start – less than one percent of starters do it. Granted some pitchers are different. David Wells could stay out late, come to the ballpark inebriated, throw a ton of pitches and do well – he had a rubber arm and wasn’t exactly a lightweight. Conversely, Clay Bucholz can be on the Disabled List for a month, train and rehabilitate then in the instance of one pitch reinjure himself.

That’s why it was surprising to see Bruce Bochy, the Giants Manager, leave Lincecum to laboriously work on the mound. The odd decision to stick with him in came from a manager who told Lincecum just over a year ago not to throw bullpen sessions in the offseason. This was because a workhorse like Lincecum who throw over 200 innings per year and are of Lincecum’s stature are at a greater susceptibility for injury. At 5-foot-11 and an anorexic 170-pounds, the man dubbed The Freak has been the cause of many for years to worry that his slight build could expedite the deterioration of his pitching prowess. No matter who you are throwing over 100 pitches increases chances of injury exponentially. That’s why Starting Pitchers in The Bigs have collectively dropped to an all-time low 10-percent of starts over 110 pitches.

Understandably the fans in AT&T Park that July night wanted to see something special, they wanted to see Lincecum throw the no-no during that beautiful, if not ethereal summer night. But to put a vital linchpin, one that keeps the Giants rotation machine rotating, in such jeopardy seems to be risky if not perilous.

A prime example would be Houston Astros pitcher Erik Bedard. In the seventh inning of Saturday night’s game against the Mariners from Seattle he took himself out. He also had not allowed a single hit. But, at 109 pitches, the 10-year veteran knew he would rather avoid injury than chase a no hitter, which by every definition is an indefinite entity.

Thus, the main argument for The Maddux is that it’s more difficult to accomplish. It requires the pitcher to be efficient as well as effective. The 99 pitch-limit provides baseball with a tangible cutoff. Baseball’s a game of much sitting and waiting, like in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score knotted at 2. But don’t worry Common Fan, the game won’t end in a tie. Baseball maintains its ability to morph based on contingent conditions and can go ten innings or twenty, if need be. That pitch limit presents all the urgency the game could need.

The Maddux also rewards dominance over perfection per se because while a seeing-eye single through short and third could bust-up a no-hitter, a weakly hit groundball that just happened to get through doesn’t make the pitcher’s performance any less assertive, any less totalitarian. Take Curt Schilling for example. In 2007 he was one out shy of a no-hitter when Oakland Athletics’ batter Shannon Stewart dug into the box. Schilling wound and delivered only to see that Stewart shot the pitch down the right field line, ending his bid with two outs in the ninth. While Schilling’s no-hitter was busted, he did toss, with 99 pitches, a masterful Maddux. Schilling owned that game, whether it was one hit or none.

To further the point, the pitchers having thrown Madduxes are superior quality to those who have thrown no-hitters. Yes, some no-hitters count as Madduxes and there are exceptions to both rules, but overwhelming anyone can be merely “good” and throw a no-hitter, they can just be on that night. Two quick examples are Bud Smith and Eric Milton. Smith pitched two years with the St. Louis Cardinals and the only complete game he ever threw was in 2001 – his no-hitter. Milton, though he pitched for ten years, was a pedestrian hurler at best with a career record of .500, but he tossed a no-no in 1999. What did both have in common? An absurd pitch count. They finished their masterpieces with 134 and 122 pitches, respectively. They were simply on that day at the park.

Conversely, the Maddux leaderboard is stuffed with prominent and dominant aces. Maddux leads (obviously) with 13, followed by ex- Braves teammates Zane Smith (incredible while with Atlanta) with seven and Tom Glavine, who threw five. Roy “Doc” Halladay, longtime Blue Jays and Phillies Ace, has tossed five as well.

So while every pitcher goes out with the goal of tyrannical control on the mound every game, most times it doesn’t happen. That’s why when a pitcher does start dealing more than just gas, say, propane, people notice. While the end result portrays a picture of its own, the more important piece is methodology. It’s the how you got there as opposed to where you are. That’s why even though the no-hitter might be more impressive, The Maddux is a better statistic. It’s a better measure of a pitchers authority on the hill. 

Proof the Red Sox Will Only Get Better

Many pre-season predictions viewed the Boston Red Sox as a last-place AL East team this season.

At the midseason mark of the midsummer classic however, Boston holds the American League’s best record at 58-39 and a 2.5 game lead over the Rays.

Naysayers will naysay that Boston’s success thus far can be attributed to luck and chance, but the Sox record refutes that. The most impressive part of their early success is the adversity they’ve worked through such as injuries and unexpectedly poor performance from some.

The problems begin with Stephen Drew’s services. His .233 batting average and hamstring injury contributed to him losing the starting Shortstop job. Star Centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s lack of power continues to worsen; he’s hit 6 homers in his last two seasons after hitting 32 in 2011. Shane Victorino’s continued regression at the dish and Will Middlebrooks severe sophomore slump, climaxing in a demotion to AAA, are all issues for the club.

The bullpen, thought to be a Sox strongpoint, has seen a general collapse. Joel Hanrahan, acquired from Pittsburgh to be the dominant Closer, underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in May. Andrew Bailey, Hanrahan’s replacement, has converted as many saves (8) as he’s blown (5). Bailey’s ineffective pitching forced the Sox to move on to their third closer in as many months with Koji Uehara. Injuries to bullpen stalwarts Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller have also decreased the depth for the Sox.

Boston re-acquired their former pitching coach John Farrell from Toronto this offseason to manage the team. They hoped the pitching savant would reclaim Sox pitchers with his mound inclined mind. Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester led the project list. Initial fruition was immediate. Bucholz owns a Major League-leading 1.71 ERA and a sparkling 9-0 record. Lester had a 4-0 April with a 3.11 ERA. The success was fleeting as Bucholz landed on the Disabled List on June 18th with a neck strain and isn’t expected back until late July; he’s missed six starts thus far. Lester’s performance also ebbed to a 2-2 June with a 7.62 ERA.

Though Lester and Bucholz’s stats scream “Regression!” the Sox team hasn’t slid back at all. Boston has regular records in close games as an indicator that the Sox can be believed in. The Sox are an average 10-7 in one-run contests and 4-2 in extra innings. That sort of record exhibits sustainability because they weren’t doing too well, they weren’t just getting lucky. They were, as the old baseball mantra goes, winning some and losing some. That shows the team is on an even keel and can endure the hardship of defeat after a long, tough contest.

Some think they’ve found why the Sox are fortuitous this season. In the June 24th issue of Sports Illustrated, Joe Sheehan cited the fact that Farrell has used 52 different batting orders in 70 games as a reason for success. He juxtaposed the Sox with the less successful Detroit Tigers, leaders of the AL-Central, who have employed only 43 different batting orders in the same span. I’m all for doing what works, but it appears that a constantly changing order possesses little correlation with success. For example, the 2004 Red Sox won it all using 141 different lineups in 162 games, but the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies, who also won the World Series, used nearly half with 77. Teams can win either way.

After all the maladies (the team’s Disabled List looks as large as their roster), a failure to produce from vital positions, and bullpen woes, the Sox are still in first place. Boston remains a contender despite all of those grievances and there’s no reason why they won’t get better as they get healthier. From a team that was forecasted to be a division cellar-dweller, forecasted to be less talented, forecasted to be rebuilding it still wouldn’t be a shock if they made the post-season. Such is the way of Boston sustaining their surprising success. 

Predicting The Top Five Running Backs

Foreword: Recently, the website FanDuel.com contacted me about posting an article for their site on my blog. They called Purely For Sport professional and a place to spread their sites name. FanDuel.com has been featured on Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Without further ado, here’s:

Predicting The Top Five Running Backs

When it comes to fantasy football, running backs are always the cream of the crop. If you have a first-round pick, chances are you will be taking a guy who can carry the ball and pick up both a ton of yards and a ton of touchdowns. The question is who are the absolute best options available?

Leading the way is none other than reigning MVP Adrian Peterson. After a devastating knee injury to end the 2011 season, Peterson returned to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a pretty solid season. He came within just a few yards of breaking the all-time single-season rushing record, and he appears to be fully healthy and ready to go for 2013. Thanks to a more balanced squad, he could even have better numbers this season.

While Peterson is the consensus number 1 running back in fantasy football, things get a bit trickier after that. Arian Foster and Doug Martin appeared to be the next best running backs, although both have a few flaws. Foster at times can seemingly disappear from games as the Houston Texans throw the ball instead. For Martin, he still is learning at the NFL level, and he too can be a bit streaky. No running back in the NFL is going to be a lock, but these two seem destined for very solid seasons.

While guys like Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice and Lesean McCoy seem solid, they all fall slightly below the 2 running backs who round out the top 5 right now. Those two are Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs and C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills. Neither one of these teams have a particularly strong quarterback in place just yet, so in order to get offense, they need to run the ball. These guys are workhorses for their respective teams, so they will get plenty of touches throughout the year. Falling behind late in games is bad for running backs, but these guys do too much when they get a chance to simply ignore.

All of these are valid first round picks, but should you miss out on one of these in your draft don’t worry, there will be some fantasy football sleepers for you to take a punt on.

Let Him Play: Puig and the Midsummer Classic

There’s a large island just about 90 miles south of the United States. It’s housed nuclear missiles from Russia with love, been subject to a trade embargo by the U.S., and forced some of the world’s best baseball players to scurry from their motherland in search of a better life in America.

Out of 20 current MLB athletes, the Los Angeles Dodgers Right Fielder Yasiel Puig presents probably the most prolific example of a Cuban coming to America and thrilling throngs of people in the crowds of big league ballparks.

Puig, who debuted a little over one month ago on June 3rd, has set afire baseball and is batting .409 with eight homeruns and 19 RBIs. Puig’s towering, muscular body possesses the ability to make even his peers seem foolish – like he’s on high school Varsity while they’re on Little League squads.

In his Major League debut, he won the Dodgers the game with his arm alone as he unleashed a throw as fast as a bullet train and doubled off a stealing base runner to give the Dodgers the 2-1 victory. Then, the next night, he homered twice and became the first Dodger to drive in three runs in his first two games since 1958. In his fourth game he hit a grand-slam and, more astoundingly, left legendary announcer Vin Scully without words to say. That’s when you know you’ve made it in the game – when Vin Scully can’t verbalize what he just saw. Then, to put the cherry on the sundae, he joined DiMaggio as the only player in history to have 40 hits and 4 homeruns in a debut month Puig’s .436 batting average also broke DiMaggio’s 77-year old record of highest average.

So after all that resumé inflation and puffing of the chest, what does it mean? That’s the debate raging on currently as Puig failed to make the National League All-Star team outright. However, as the merciful baseball gods would have it, Puig has a second chance. The Final Vote opportunity gives Puig a final huzzah in spurring him towards the game.

Yasiel Puig should be in the All-Star game. He hustles harder than his name is to pronounce and, regardless of what Jonathan Papelbon says, age shouldn’t put a limit on who gets to go Citi Field this year.

Think about it. Someone like myself who lives on the East Coast and goes to sleep before the West Coast contests get to the second inning doesn’t get to see much of Puig. I’m forced to rely on articles and video highlights to take in Hurricane Puig – the storm that’s sweeping the West Coast. His participation in the All-Star game would give every baseball fan the opportunity to see the best of the beloved sport.

Sentimentality aside, the All-Star game isn’t an unimportant, inconsequential, Skip Bayless’ opinion sort of matter. It decides home-field advantage in the World Series which could swing momentum and rotation decisions. Especially in dichotomous places like Fenway Park’s shallow dimensions compared to Minute Maid Park in Houston with the largest expanses of grass to the fence. (But, no worries there for at least five years, then, maybe and only maybe, will Houston be a .500 ball club). The All-Star game matters and so should the selection of the players.

Would you rather have someone else at the All-Star game just because they’ve played a season or two more, but aren’t as exciting? And Bryce Harper received the honor of an All-Star selection last season with only 69 games played, who decides the finite number of necessary games to become an All-Star? It’s a ridiculous argument – let Puig play.

Just because the All-Star game matters doesn’t mean it’s always exciting. Remember the 2002 midsummer classic when the game ended in a 7-7 tie because teams ran out of available pitchers? Me neither, I was six years old, but still, a tie? A tie? As a sports fan I think that might be the worst of all evils and just the concept of a tie makes me slightly sick and very upset.

To continue how ludicrously valuable Puig stands to the Dodgers – he earns less than one percent of the Dodger’s opening day total payroll of $220 million and is their best player.

In fact, he might even be the National League’s best player.

And if you’re trying to win a baseball game, why not have the best player?

Something To Believe In

Last season, the monotony of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and the humdrum beat of training camp didn’t stop anyone on the New England Patriots from reporting as usual and going about their pre-season workouts. Meanwhile, a rival in New York faced much more than just the regular OTAs. SportsCenter specials and HBO’s Hard Knocks, just two of the camera crews inside the locker room, were in conjunction with fangirling by Hanna Storm over football itinerant and devout Christian Tim Tebow as well as Rex Ryan, the Jets’ Coach, and his outlandish tattoo of his wife posing scantily-clad while donning a Mark Sanchez jersey.

Jets camp couldn’t be described in anything other than a mess. Ryan started off on the wrong foot by guaranteeing the Super Bowl but then their hopes tanked as they finished 6-10. During camp, their highly publicized preseason led to a quote by Bill Belichick that went, “We’ll let them have the papers in August, and we’ll take them in February.”

That’s how the Patriots usually operate. They let other teams get hyped and make overblown statements in the paper while they quietly go about their task and focus on winning games and not media battles.

That’s always been the sentiment of the team with the consummate professional figures in owner Robert Kraft and Head Coach Belichick.

This offseason however, it’s been anything but quiet. The team released Tight End Aaron Hernandez one year into his 7-year deal because of an impending murder trial, they let stalwart slot-man Wes Welker depart to Denver and signed Tim Tebow, who came equipped with a three-ring media hullaballoo.

The Welker and Hernandez business aside, the one that generated the most speculation and outrage on Boston radio station WEEI was the signing of Tebow.

To outright describe Tebow would be impossible. The man represents a Christian dignitary and a winner in the NFL. He sings sideline supplications to the Lord and went 7-4 in his 11 games started for the 2011-12 Broncos. He is also a Quarterback whose mechanics are poor at best and who was relegated to the bench for the Jets last season even though he wasn’t the Signal-Caller who fumbled after a collision with his offensive lineman’s backside.

As Denver and Florida Gators’ fans sipped the indoctrinating Tim Tebow Kool-Aid, everywhere else in the NFL fans belittled the Quarterback’s success as a mixture of pure luck and good defense.

He’s a proven winner – four straight fourth-quarter comebacks. He’s a terrible passer – 46.5% completion percentage as a starter. The juxtaposition of Tebow’s stats and Tebow as a winner provide a dichotomy unlike any other. It seems he only really plays well when others consider him finished.

Of anything though, the main castigation against Tebow presents itself in religion. His life is unlike any other. He is unlike any of his peers for that matter. Tebow, as his Christian principles maintain, remains abstinent, quotes scripture to media and builds hospitals in the Philippines in the offseason.

Some say Tebow goes too far. They say his religion insists upon itself and that his grandiose presentation of his Christian values actually diminishes his message.

Naysayers point to his crooning of “Our God is An Awesome God” during warm-ups. Even though Simon Cowell would likely burst into laughter at the Quarterback’s pitchy performance and then sadistically joke about him having no career, Tebow’s performance became a lightning rod for those who disliked him. Scripture quotes on his eye-black show audiences across the United States his religious views every Sunday afternoon and as football dominates television viewing on the Sabbath, many see the Tebow Circus and wonder if he is legitimate.

The disenfranchising of the American public towards its role models and important figures came about at the same time as the camera phone. Whether its Justin Beiber smoking marijuana, Miley Cyrus dancing with a stripper, or Britney Spears shaving her head, the American society is used to the cognitive camera phone capturing everything. The camera phone serves to topple our celebrities and make those once exalted into ridiculed. They transfigure the legends into the myths.

That raises the question: will Tebow be caught misbehaving and unlike a boy from the choir? Cynics say its only a matter of time and masochists assure Americans Tebow is an act, waiting for his fall.

It’s the same disenfranchisement in sports. However, one player can break the trend. Tebow is abstinent, former teammate Antonio Cromartie has fathered twelve children by eight women in six states and needed a $500,000 advance on his paycheck from the Jets to pay child support. Tebow doesn’t drink, now-teammate Rob Gronkowski poses shirtless and drunk with a porn star. Tebow fights poverty and homelessness in third world countries, Adam “Pacman” Jones fights his short-changing crack dealer outside a strip club. (Jones proclivity for strip club fights eventually earned him a year-long suspension from the League.) Since the Super Bowl, 27 current NFL players have been arrested but Tebow can’t be counted among them.

Why, then do many insist that Tebow’s outward display of religion is offensive and wrong? They point out that he does it just to look good in the media and that’s why he does it so often.  Yet many fans neglect the notion that many baseball players point to the sky after hitting a home run. David Ortiz has publicly stated he points to the sky in tribute to his late mother Angela and his hope that God is caring for her. Ortiz has blasted 417 round-trippers in his career, including 387 before Tebow was known outside of his school in Florida. Maybe the fans didn’t notice.

So why don’t people get offended when Ortiz points to the sky? Why don’t they get so upset that slugger Albert Pujols thanks God, or Jamaican bullet Usain Bolt, or former-Packers receiver Greg Jennings? When Kurt Warner is interviewed by Terry Bradshaw in 2009 about leading his Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl, Bradshaw arouses an interesting point. Bradshaw states that Warner is the third-oldest Quarterback to ever bring his team into February Football and asks him how. Warner responds by thanking Jesus and there is an audible increase in volume from the crowd. But when Tebow wins a playoff game in heroic fashion by beating Pittsburgh in 2011…nothing except criticism and vehement denials of his skill. To Tebow’s credit, he’s more successful at being a Quarterback than Taylor Swift is at dating.

Tebow even invented a move, which earned a simple phrase of “Tebowing” where you would get down on one knee and bow your head, resting it on your fist. The nation was taken by surprise attack and Operation Tebow was in full effect. The internet, a few pixels at a time, was sweeping with people of all ages, genders, and nationalities Tebowing in crazy places. However, to over one billion people around the globe, Tebowing is better known by a simpler name: praying.  

If you think he’s a bad Quarterback, that’s fine, but on no grounds can Tebow be the subject of much calumny for his religious beliefs when people like David Ortiz and Kurt Warner are celebrated. We don’t need a double standard, we don’t need contradiction.

Players like Pacman Jones, Antonio Cromartie, and Gronkowski are celebrated in the media for their unbelievable feats of athleticism, as if playing prowess excuses their detrimental conduct. Ortiz, Pujols, and Usain Bolt receive passes past the criticism. Tebow gets the opposite: demeaned for “luck” on the field and censured for his beliefs.

Whether he’s a successful or skilled Quarterback in the NFL, Tebow provides a good influence by staying over the influence, doesn’t America, and the NFL as well, need a little of that?