Landing Spots for DeSean Jackson

DeSean Jackson was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles last week for what the team cited was gang-related activities. Jackson claims to have never – and vowed he will never – be a part of any gang. The team alleges that Jackson has ties to gang members in California, where Jackson is from. Teams may now be more hesitant to sign (for big money – which Jackson will demand) a player that has been tied to gang activity after the league watched the New England Patriots embarrassingly waste 6 years/$42 million on a man who is the primary suspect involved in a gang-related murder.

Jackson’s caused more problems than just that however as he has now publicly (and loudly) complained about his contract through a pair of regimes in Philadelphia. That may be why the Eagles were unable to find a trade partner when it came down to the deadline last week. No team wants to overpay a guy they can sign and keep players on their team, so clearly no team valued Jackson enough to let go of some pieces.

His teammates reactions didn’t help. Veteran Center Jason Kelce, who has been with the team since 2011, tweeted this out:

However, a 27-year old Wide Receiver is a valuable asset to any team when that same Receiver is one of the top speedsters and deep-threats in the game today.  A three-time Pro Bowler and coming off a career year where he started every game and ended with 82 catches for 1332 yards and 9 touchdowns. He’s still an on the field plus to any team.

Here are six possible landing spots for DeSean Jackson:

Carolina Panthers:

Before the signing of Jerricho Cotchery, the Panthers had five Receivers on their roster who totaled a whopping six – SIX! – NFL career receptions. Team chemistry be damned, they just need someone that can play! Jerricho Cotchery is clearly not the answer so Carolina needs to address their needs somehow. Jackson makes perfect sense as he is essentially a younger, faster Steve Smith (whom the Panthers cut this off-season) with the same size. Whether they look to replace Smith, Brandon LaFell, and Ted Ginn through the draft or free-agency is not yet known, but Cam Newton needs some weapons – any weapon – and DeSean Jackson is a pretty good place to start.

Seattle Seahawks:

A team infamous for doing whatever it takes to make the team better, Seattle might not have any issue in taking the troubled Jackson into their meditating midst. With Golden Tate signing with the Detroit Rock City Lions this off-season, it leaves a glaring hole at Wide Receiver. Yes, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are returning and yes, the Seahawks throw the fewest pass attempts in the league and even yes, they need only a competent offense to complement a tenaciously terrifying defense. But, Kearse and Baldwin are average Receivers and the Seattle offense could use a little opening up. DeSean Jackson is a non-injury prone version of Percy Harvin. Harvin, who the Seahawks signed last year, played in a total of two games. Of course, if the Seahawks start a furious pursuit of Jackson, divisional rival and high-octane competitor the San Francisco 49ers may also venture into the fray.

Oakland Raiders:

Wait, so you’re telling me there’s a guy with straight-line speed on the market and Oakland’s name isn’t going to come up? Of course it is! DeSean Jackson could have hands like Darius Heyward-Bey and they’d still be interested. (Oh wait, Oakland drafted that other guy? Oh, so sorry.) For Oakland, though, DeSean – at 27 – could be a building block for their franchise. The only concern is: if the gang rumors are true and that’s what makes Jackson a volatile commodity, could Oakland have success bringing him to an environment which is supposed to be toxic to him? The Quarterback situation is a mess between newly-acquired Matt Schaub and scrambler-not-thrower Terelle Pryor, so what comes out of that remains to be seen. The Raiders certainly do need a Wide Receiver, however, as – after Denarius Moore – the Raiders have only two other options. Brice Butler and Andre Holmes combine for five years of experience which totals 34 catches. Very unexciting numbers. The Raiders need a Wide Out, is Jackson too much of a chance?

Kansas City Chiefs:

Sure, Andy Reid and DeSean weren’t pals in Philadelphia, but if anyone in the NFL can fairly evaluate what Jackson brings to a team holistically (in the locker room and on the field), it’s Andy Reid, his former coach. Reid runs the driest, safest, most-conservative offense in the NFL. The defense is phenomenal but, as the Chiefs saw in the second-half of the season, their anemic offense just couldn’t keep up. Paltry production out of Dwyane Bowe and further hesitance from Alex Smith were the main causes. DeSean Jackson upgrades what they have right now for a speedster receiver, replacing Dexter McCluster. Reid could keep his conservative approach intact, but have Jackson, who’s a game-planning headache, to spice it up every once in a while. Behind a terrific offensive line, Kansas City could run end-arounds and receiver screens to throw a different look at the defense. Plus, Jackson can run simple, safe routes and create huge yards-after-the-catch gains, that’s his M.O. If the Kansas City brass is willing to take a risk on the character of Jackson, he would make a perfect fit.

 

Cleveland Browns:

With personnel decisions looking better with each passing moment (this team thieved a first-rounder from Indianapolis for Trent Richardson!), Cleveland finally looks like it’s on the way up. Before a slew of injuries at Quarterback, the team was riding a three-game win streak and looked like a real NFL team. They played New England tough, losing last-minute after holding the lead for 59 minutes, and losing to the mighty Kansas City Chiefs by less than a touchdown. Pairing DeSean Jackson across from Josh Gordon – a monster Receiver in his own right – would be to create something near a hydra – a three-headed fearsome receiving attack with Jordan Cameron, the Tight End. Under a new regime with Mike Pettine, however, the Browns may be looking to concentrate less on one headache player and focus more on building a team.

New York Jets:

If there’s a list anywhere that’s being put together on teams interested in a risky player with upside, these guys automatically make the list. It has seemed in recent years (Tebow, Super Bowl guarantees, etc.) that the team has enjoyed making headlines than playoffs. Jackson would bring talent to a team hungry for Receivers on the field and lining up across newest Jet Eric Decker could make for a good duo in a weaker AFC East. Furthermore, Michael Vick – a former Jackson teammate in Philly – just signed with the team, so Vick may be able to offer an in-depth analysis on Jackson for NYJ management.

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For the Love of the (Fantasy) Ballgame!

*Please read as if in song*

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! 

*You can stop reading in singing voice, if you please, if you don’t please, then you don’t have to*

Seriously, though, one of the best times of the year is here: Fantasy Baseball. I wrote three months ago about the joy that Fantasy Football brings my family, and I stand by that: fantasy sports brings people closer together. Families can compete and enjoy the company of their siblings or parents or children because they watch an out-of-market game together. The connection I established with my sister as we grew closer through Fantasy Football will never be matched, but the coming of Fantasy Baseball had me oh so very excited. 

Baseball, you see, is my favorite sport. It always has been – I remember memorizing stats off Topps and reading ESPN’s Baseball Encyclopedia – years before podcasts and baseball-reference.com became things. I show preferential treatment to Dirt Dogs like Trot Nixon and remember the legendary days of Kerry Wood and the futility of Moises Alou in the 2003 NLCS. 

The advent of Fantasy Baseball let me bring my Strat-O-Matic obsession to real-life baseball. ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary about Fantasy Baseball, Silly Little Game, is the perfect description of how I felt. Dan Okrent, to whom the game owes it’s genius as its inventor, has never won. Fantasy sports will do that to you – be the object of your love and show none in return. 

Before last season, I never had any close friends who played, so I spent the ages twelve to fifteen using about two to three teams in random enter leagues on Yahoo and ESPN. Of those four seasons, I won one championship out of eleven teams. That one team? I took Alex Rodriguez first overall in 2009. I have decided not employ the same strategy this season.

Last season, I finally got a group of guys together from my high school and organized a league. Seven kids, our gym teacher, and two dads played in the league. Trash-talking began before the league was even formed. One member, noted in every sport as a profound incendiary, kept a stream of invective going for so long that many of us knew not to trade with him. 

On draft day, I moved in and out with surgical strikes. I sneakily snagged Scherzer, the eventual AL Cy Young award winner, in the 9th round. I thought he was going to be good, but I confess I did not prognosticate upon a Cy Young. I shored up David Price and stabilized the infield with Robinson Cano – it was a dream team.

I used my positional flexibility (Ben Zobrist, Carlos Santana, etc.) but, with my team debilitated with injuries, I limped the the finish line at 14-8. However, our league was so competitive that year – five out of ten teams had 30+ transactions – that that standing was good enough for second place. 

The regular season standings had closed and four out of ten teams made the playoffs. My friend Kyle, who owned the magical Gryffindor Lions; myself, owner of the Bailey Island Buoys; Ben, a friend who loves the Far East baseball players, owner of Choo Gotta Be Kidding Me and our friend, Pennsylvanian-born Thomas, who ran Too Hot to Hamels. A note about Thomas’ team: on his roster, he had both Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, as well as Domonic Brown, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. Needless to say, his team was home-grown.

My dad’s team, The Shawshank Inmates, had started off the season at 9-3. They then collapsed. Like, 2011 September Boston Red Sox collapse. They finished the season 10-12. Thomas’ team, conversely, stood at 4-8. Living up to the billing, Too Hot to Hamels became just too hot and reeled off seven straight victories to end the season and make the playoffs. They hadn’t lost since mid-July and were a dangerous club entering the playoffs. 

Since he snuck into the playoffs, Thomas was forced to face top-seeded Kyle in the first round. The Lions were the Yankees of our league. They had David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Freddie Freeman, and Buster Posey for an infield. They had Hyun-Jin Ryu and somehow good Bartolo Colon on the hill – this, of course, after seeing NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez get shutdown come playoff time for Kyle. Thomas was considered, by Kyle, a warm-up game for an eventual showdown for in the championship against me. 

In possibly the greatest week of Fantasy Baseball ever for any team, in a standard ESPN league, Thomas put up an incredible 317 points. Kyle’s powerhouse, hum-ho total of 284 paled in comparison. Kyle had been eliminated and Thomas’ run stayed alive. I had dismantled my opponent, Ben, 243-184. 

This set up a matchup featuring the Buoys and Too Hot to Hamels. The Buoys were favored, slightly, by league opinion, but Thomas, once again, battled. Cliff Lee’s 28-point performance and Lance Lynn’s 27 were strong and established his team and gave him a 254-213 lead going into the last day.

I wasn’t worried, I had two Starting Pitchers probable for that day and he had used all seven of his starts and a 41-point deficit seemed nothing for my, mighty team. Marco Estrada of the Milwaukee Brewers and Ubaldo Jimenez of the Cleveland Indians spun beautiful, near-flawless games and I seized the lead. Earlier in the week, I decided to go with those guys as they pitched twice that week and it seemed then that I had made the right managerial decision.

I hadn’t made the right move in other spots. I elected to go with hot-hitting Nationals’ 3B Ryan Zimmerman over Evan Longoria of the Rays. Longoria had 21 points that week, Zimmerman had minus-4. I even went with Chris Perez, Indians Closer, who rewarded my faith with two blown saves (one without recording an out) en route to minus-13 for the week. I chided myself, but I was in the lead and ready for the victory.

I had won. 276-275. The Buoys finally chilled a team that was too hot to lose and even Cole Hamels couldn’t save them. 

This whole post has been an ode to my genius as a fantasy baseball owner, thank you for reading.

Wait, what? 

This sentiment was echoed in my head around 4:15 P.M. ET, when all of Thomas’ team (made up of East Coasters) had finished playing. He had managed a meager 21 points that day, a paltry total in comparison to his other days that week. I had zoomed ahead with 63 points. 

To best capture Thomas’ reaction, I talked to him later.

“I was at work,” he says of Cooper Hill Pizzeria (Northwood, NH). “I went to ‘the bathroom’ in order to check my Fantasy Baseball matchup around 4:30 and saw that all my players were done. All finished. I had lost 276-275. I was crushed.”

Meanwhile, I was joyful. 

“But then, when I got home from work, I saw the score read 275-274 and that the league trophy was awarded to Too Hot to Hamels, my team!”

How had this happened? He didn’t have a player left!

I read the box score later and figured out that Michael Cuddyer, a late-round pick who blossomed into a .331 hitter with 20 bombs on the season, had gone to bat four times that day against the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching. 

For some reason, the staff mystified him and he managed nary a hit. Not so bad, right?

Wrong.

Michael Cuddyer went down by way of the strikeout twice that day. He had minus-2 points. He lost me the championship. I was ahead by one then – presto! – by the ingenious method of Cuddyer, I had lost by one.

Don’t believe this cute picture of Cuddyer holding his twins. He’s a bad man.

I couldn’t believe it. I disown the name Michael Cuddyer. I will never draft him ever again. He ripped my heart out.

All kidding aside, once again Fantasy sports had brought friends closer together and created stories that people will tell for years to come. In school, Thomas and I are in the same class for “Sports and Society” and we discuss the story often. We’ve shared it with our teacher and my friends know that one mention of “Michael Cuddyer” can ruin any good mood instantaneously.

Fantasy sports wouldn’t be fun without these types of stories, they make the game fun. Being on the losing end isn’t so nice, and I wish the roles were reversed in this story, but the experience nonetheless made it an enjoyable one to tell. 

 

Top 10 NCAA Tournament Upsets

10. Weber State (14) vs. UNC (3)

Final Score: 76-74

1999 First Round

The Tar Heels had advanced past the First Round every year since 1980 and were looking strong heading into the tournament. Weber State, conversely, hadn’t qualified since 1995. But the college from tiny Ogden, Utah, was ready to spoil North Carolinian dreams.

Weber caused trouble for UNC quickly. Going up 24-17 early, Weber dominated possession time. Carolina came back to swipe the lead, 26-24, just before halftime. It would be their final lead of the night. The Weber State Wildcats tore open the second half with a 9-2 run and didn’t turn around to spot UNC nipping at their feet. Weber State’s lead extended to 10 with just under four minutes to play, but North Carolina fought back. However, Harold “The Show” Arceneaux, who dropped 36 points in the game, punched the ticket to the next round with his pair of free throws that put Weber State ahead for good with a mere 13 seconds left.

9. George Mason (11) vs. UConn (1)

Final Score: 86-84 George Mason

2006 East Regional Final

The Geroge Mason Patriots, who enjoyed home court advantage as they played 20 miles from their campus, defeated a slew of higher ranked teams en route to the game. They had taken down Michigan State (76-65), North Carolina (65-60), and Wichita State (63-55) in their improbably run. UConn, the top-seed, had a star-studded lineup full of elite athletes. They became the third school in history to have four players drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft (Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams, and Josh Boone) as well as the first school to ever have five players drafted in round two.

The winning recipe for the Huskies to win was to throw in a dash of Rudy Gay and stabilize the hot-sauce with Point Guard Marcus Williams keying on Tony Skinn. George Mason Coach Jim Larranaga kept his team’s heart and tenacity high. He further incited them by telling his players UConn didn’t even know what conference they were from. Late in the first half, George Mason was down by 12. By early in the second half, the season seemed to sink away, as they were down by nine. Then, the roof came down. Six straight three-pointers, shooting 5-of-6 in OT and out-rebounding the Huskies 37-34 was the ganache topping for the upset.

8. Coppin State (15) vs. South Carolina (2)

Final Score: 78-65 Coppin State

1997 First Round

Coppin State was in the tournament representing the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which had never had a team win an NCAA tournament game. South Carolina, however, had championed the powerful Southeastern Conference (SEC) and was expected to breeze through the first two rounds.

South Carolina led 47-40 with 13 minutes to play before a total and utter collapse. At that time, they were only the third two-seed to lose a first round game. The Gamecocks also fell by the largest margin of any second seed to date. Coppin State Coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell and his team won, in part, by managing to the Gamecocks’ Big Three of Larry Davis, B.J. McKie and Melvin Watson to just 31 total points.

7. Santa Clara (15) vs. Arizona (2)

Final Score: 64-61 Santa Clara

1993 First Round

The West Coast Conference Broncos of Santa Clara were 20-point underdogs heading into the game against Arizona. They fit the cliché “rag-tag” bunch of misfits so well that they didn’t even have their own marching band – they used Vanderbilt’s instead. “Unlikely” is to put their chances at a severely overstated position. The Wildcats of Arizona were looking to avenge the previous season’s tourney upset when they fell to East Tennessee State, a 14-seed.

Arizona, led by Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire, looked dominant at times, especially during a whopping 25-0 run in the middle of the game. However, they didn’t account for a tenacious Point Guard for the Broncos by the name of Steve Nash, who led his team to victory. He did it by the intangible “clutchness” as he hit six straight free-throws in the final 1:30. Arizona had a chance to tie, but Stoudamire’s three-pointer fell short and left the Broncos to advance.

6. Valpariso (13) vs. Mississippi (4)

Final Score: 70-69 Valpariso

1998 First Round 

Valpariso, coached by Homer Drew and starring his son Bryce, had a play named “Pacer” (after the NBA team) ready in case a last-second shot was needed to win a game. Bryce Drew had always wondered why the play was practiced so much, as it was never used in a game. He stopped wondering that night. With Mississippi clinging to a 69-67 lead with four seconds to play, second team All-American Ansu Sesay could’ve closed the game out, but missed two clutch free throws. The ball out of bounds and the referee decreed it was Valpariso Crusader ball. Jamie Sykes lobbed a baseball pass with 2.5 seconds to go in the direction of Bill Jenkins, who was just past midcourt. Jenkins found Drew, a trailer on the play, and he hit a leaning, desperate trey ball at the buzzer to cap the Crusaders’ crusade.

5. Richmond (15) vs. Syracuse (2)

Final Score: 73-69 Richmond

1991 First Round 

Richmond entered the game a prepared David to the Orangemen Goliath. They had pulled off an upset two years earlier, but they knew they were in for a tough matchup as to that point, no 15 had ever vanquished a 2. The Orangemen, coached by Jim Boeheim then (and still today), were a national powerhouse with serious title contentions.

The most incredible thing about this game is that when the Spiders from Richmond jumped out to an early lead, they never trailed. The Orange hung around, even getting it to within a basket when Billy Owens hit a jumper with 32-seconds left. However, they couldn’t overtake Richmond, who hit free-throw after free-throw after free-throw down the stretch to cement the victory.

4. Princeton (13) vs. UCLA (4)

Final score: 43-41

1996 First Round

Meet UCLA, the defending national champion. Meet Princeton, the losers of four straight tournament appearances. However, Princeton (those devilish genuises) had the “Princeton offense” ready. They slowed the game and executed backdoor cuts until they became front door cuts and valued each possession. Still, that didn’t seem enough as, with six minutes remaining, they were down by seven. They needed perfection – and they got it. Princeton shut out UCLA the rest of the way and, as the game wound down, Princeton scored the go-ahead basket in the most beautifully artistic fashion ever: a backdoor cut from Gabe Lewullis to Steve Goodrich. 

3. Duke (2) vs. UNLV (1)

Final score: 79-77

1991 National semi-final

Duke was kind of like Like Mike in a way. Before the shoes, they couldn’t ball. They had no shot. In the previous year’s title game (sans Little Mike shoes) they got blown out by 30. The Blue Devils were once again expected to not give the Runnin’ Rebs a run for their money because UNLV had returned four of five starters from that championship bout. Oh, and UNLV had won 45 straight entering the contest.

Duke’s defense shutdown the UNLV’s vaunted offense. National Player of the Year Larry Johnson managed a meager 13 points while Blue Devils’ stars Bobby Hurley and Christian Laettner played brilliant offensive ball. Laettner scored 20 in the first half, but UNLV still had the advantage. They maintained their lead (76-71) when their Point Guard Greg Anthony fouled out and the red herring was found in the murder mystery. Over the next three minutes, Duke chipped at the lead and Laettner made a pair of free-throws with 12 seconds to go to ice the win.

2. Villanova (8) vs. Georgetown (1)

Final score: 66-64 ‘Nova

1985 Championship Game

Led by Patrick Ewing, the Hoyas of G’town won the 1984 title and seemed a lock to repeat, especially because the Villanova team had already lost to the Hoyas twice earlier in the season. Georgetown entered the game holding opponents to a mere 39.9% shooting from the floor, the best in the nation.

Villanova was in it from the tip. They led 29-28 at half and played a slow-tempo, conservative offense. It helped that there was no shot clock in the NCAA at the time. With 2:36 to go in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats of ‘Nova took the lead 55-54 and then iced it by hitting 11 of 14 from the charity stripe down the stretch. The most impressive part of the victory? The Wildcats shot a record 78.6%, missing only one shot the entire second half while becoming the lowest seed to ever win a National Championship. 

1. North Carolina State (6) vs. Houston (1)

Final score: 54-52 NC State

1983 Championship Game

NC State entered the title bout with 10 losses during the regular season – they weren’t even supposed to be in the final game of the season. The Cougars of Houston were riding Akeem (later Hakeem) “The Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and the “Phi Slamma Jamma” crew. They were on a 25-game win streak and the nation’s top squad. 

The Cougars opened up slower than a glacier. NC State led at the half but were met by a wintry bluster with a Houston 17-2 run at the opening of the second half. That meant Houston led 43-35. Then, State’s Wolpack leader, Dereck Whittenburg, brough the pack back as he tied the contest at 52. That set-up the greatest finish to any game that history has ever seen. Houston’s Alvin Franklin missed a free throw, then NC State rebounded and held the ball (again, no shot clock) until there were precious few seconds remaining. Someone tried to pass to Whittenburg, but it was deflected by Drexler. Still, however, the NC State player managed to swipe the ball and chuck it at the net from 30 feet out. The lob seemed to be headed straight for the game-winner, but it fell short. Or, would’ve fallen short if not for NC State’s Lorenzo Charles, who caught the ball midair and thunderously slammed it home for the win as the buzzer sounded. Houston players collapsed, and NC State fans did too, except the latter was from delirium. The iconic image of Coach Jim Valvano remains today of his hands on his head, running around, “Just looking for someone to hug.”

The Real Outrage

Garin Cecchini, the Boston Red Sox number five ranked prospect in their system, played the hot corner. Blake Swihart, the Sox fourth ranked prospect and Chris Crawford’s “Most Underrated Prospect in Baseball,” called the game from behind the plate. Bryce Brentz, seventh overall down on the farm, showed off his sweet swing and continued his near-unbelievable narrative.

To watch these guys on the field, along with established Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and developing power Brandon Snyder, was an exciting moment for me as a fan of the Boston Red Sox. To see what these guys could do and evaluate if, maybe, they could contribute on the Major League stage. They were all in the order for the Sox (1-5) Grapefruit League game against the Miami Marlins (5-2).

The “watered down, B-lineup” that the Boston Red Sox sent to Jupiter, Fla. to play the Marlins was an “outrage” to Marlins management and they quickly filed an official complaint with the league office.

What? Really?

They complained that the Red Sox failed to comply with a rule that states each team must feature four Major League caliber players in their Spring Training starting lineups. The Red Sox had three of the four. Jackie Bradley Jr. (95 at-bats), Ryan Lavarnway (269 at-bats), and Brandon Snyder (148 at-bats). Sports Illustrated missed Snyder in their accusation of the Sox playing half of the required rule. Even the starting pitcher, Allen Webster, had made eight appearances for the big league club in 2013, when he was a rookie, totaling 30 1/3 innings.

The Marlins complained about a club not fielding a credible, Major League team. This all after Miami stockpiled weapons like a warmonger in an arms race before a 2012 fire-sale saw Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Hanley Ramirez and others leave for fractions of pennies on their dollar-value.

The Marlins, conversely, sent out a team which features seven of their nine likely to start on Opening Day. Wow. Good for them, right? To play the players they’re going to play. Only, who were those players?

Rafael Furcal, a 37-year old who hasn’t played in the Bigs since 2012; third baseman Casey McGehee who just returned from Japan where he spent all of 2013, and Adeiny Hechavarria. Besides having the worst name in baseball to spell (he jumps even you, Saltalamacchia) he was the worst player in baseball last season with an appalling WAR of minus-1.9. Furthermore, their lineup featured possible starters like Jeff Mathis, Donovan Solano, and 37-year old Placido Polanco who wasn’t good on the Tigers five years ago. (Hint: he hasn’t gotten better.)

The Miami complaints prompted John W. Henry, co-owner of the Red Sox, to send the quip of the year so far in 2014 with this:

The main beef that Miami had with Boston was that the Marlins had just recently instituted what they’d called “super premium” pricing in which they charged between $10 and $13 more per seat because it was the defending-World Champion Boston Red Sox. The only thing they forgot was that it was an exhibition game. I understand, as a fan, that Red Sox-Yankees tickets cost exponentially more than Red Sox-Marlins tickets, but that’s during the regular season when the games count. Spring Training is for time to evaluate the likes of Swihart and Cecchini and Brentz; it is not time to price gouge your fans and make them believe elder MLB icon David Ortiz will leg out a possible infield single.

The Miami Marlins are a team that charged their fans full price to watch a team that finished last in every offensive category there is in MLB and finish 34 games out of the National League East lead and an abysmal 62-100 record, which is second worst in MLB. So why do they get to complain about another team being noncompetitive? The four player rule is one that needs changing, the reason baseball has things like non-roster invites to Spring Training and expanded rosters is to see how these young players – or old players who still have something left to prove – can contribute to the team. Spring Training is NOT a time to take advantage of your fans who already have to suffer while watching your games, anyway.

The irony of the whole situation? The game was  a wash – literally – after the contest was called off after the eighth inning because of rain. The ballgame ended in a tie of no score, but the Red Sox, with a lineup featuring three Major Leaguers, Swihart, and Cecchini, held the hits advantage 7-2.

The Death of the Company Man

On February 12th Derek Jeter announced that, effective at the end of this season, he will retire from Major League Baseball and end his historic career.

Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees captain and the franchise’s face for the last 20 years, will leave a much bigger hole to fill than just a position between second and third. His career accolades span a list longer than an NBA player’s wingspan and a Jared Leto acceptance speech, and it is highlighted by five gold gloves, thirteen All-Star selections and the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year award.

Jeter is a blue-collar guy from Kalamazoo, Michigan who worked at the game and played because he loved it so. He is generous with his wealth and, unlike many pretentious and spoiled athletes, gives back to his community. He’s played the game the right way for his entire career. He’s a Roberto Clemente Award winner and one of two guys (the other being Greg Maddux) that were great during their time that you can say with absolute certainty never used steroids.

I root for the Boston Red Sox, so in my perspective Derek Jeter plays for “The Evil Empire.” He’s the Darth Vader of the pricey, pretentious fully-finished Death Star called “New Yankee Stadium.” In short, despise the Bronx Bombers. However, I don’t let that get in the way as I respect Derek Jeter as a baseball fan.  I just wish he wouldn’t have played quite so well against the Sox.

Derek Jeter is a great player and a greater person for MLB’s marquee franchise. The man is a great both on the field and off – the fact that he excelled in both categories (exacerbated by the era he played in) is astounding. After this season, all this present tense will shift backward; he was a great player for MLB’s marquee franchise.

That’s just the point with Jeter. He played with the New York Yankees his entire career. They drafted him, he anchored one of the toughest positions in the game for two decades, and he will retire there.  Derek Jeter is a dying breed. Not in the sense that a gamer of a Shortstop can will himself to greatness, but the fact that he played in the Big Apple all 20 years and spent his career with one team is rare.

Players you identify now as synonymous with a team – David Ortiz, Red Sox, for example – haven’t been with the team their whole careers. (Ortiz played two years for the Minnesota Twins.)

Players like that are dropping like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar chances. In 2007, when Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. went to Cooperstown, many thought those two would be the last of an era where players were drafted, satisfied with whatever money the team offered, and made everyone around them better. You can list these franchise guys on one hand now: Jeff Bagwell, Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera, and Jeter. And the last of them retires this season.

Where have they gone?

Albert Pujols, Mr. Cardinal on par with Stan Musial for a time, jumped for the almighty dollar to sign with the Angels in Los Angeles. Robinson Cano, who was the other half of a legendary middle infield for the Yankees for nine seasons, lost in a contest of “Chicken” with New York and fled across the country to sign with Seattle. Ichiro Suzuki was a different circumstance where he wanted a chance at a ring, but still, seeing him reverse-Robinson by going from the Mariners to the Yankees was weird for any baseball fan.

To witness any of those above guys change teams is odd. It’s like baseball karma is skewed, unbalanced and that there has been an injustice done to a team. Hell hath known no fury like a fan-base spurned – particularly if that city is Cleveland and you grew up there only to backstab the basketball culture there.

But for baseball, the game rifest with money and luxury for mistakes and overpayment, why isn’t their more commitment?

The absence of loyalty corresponds with the lack of a salary cap. No cap enables a player to go out and seek the highest deal possible and sometimes the hometown team just cannot deliver what a struggling team is willing to offer to a Superstar to come play for them (read: Seattle and Cano) because the struggling team will pay a desperately outrageous amount to get them. The quandary is encapsulated perfectly by the teachings of one philosopher I once read. He pointed out – I believe back in Ancient Greece – “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

The further reason it doesn’t make sense is parity. Sure, there’s always going to be a couple teams like the Houston Astros who have no shot at winning a title, but the parity in MLB is much higher than its brethren like the NBA or NFL. Basketball-wise, LeBron James arguably had to jump to somewhere other than the unbelievably mismanaged Cleveland Cavaliers to win a championship, but it’s not like that in MLB. Once a team makes the postseason, quite literally anything can happen whereas in the NBA, there are really four competitors who can win. That way for baseball, players don’t have to jump teams or team up to have a shot at winning the title. Albert Pujols went to the Angels because, he said, it gave him a better chance at the World Series. (The Cardinals had just been to the World Series with him, mre months prior to his departure.) The Cardinals have been to a pair of World Series since he left. Pujols? None.

But Derek Jeter isn’t like Albert Pujols, or anyone else in this time for that matter. Jeter, by these standards, is an anomaly. So many of the greats – Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Stan Musial – have played for only one organization and, while that doesn’t it make them great, it allows a unification of a fan-base for them. It may be sentimental, but I think it’s better that way.

And that’s the way Jeter did it. Bagwell retired from the game, followed quickly by guys like Chipper and Mariano. When Derek Jeter retires officially on the last Yankee game of this season, it’s much bigger than the New York Yankees losing their Shortstop: it is the end of an era, the final march of a culture, and the death of the company man.