Wasted Talent

August 5, 2009

Plaxico had it all.

He was a game changer. An outlier with a rare package of size and skill at the wide receiver position.  A type of player you don’t see often, and the type of player offensive minds crave. The ability to throw the ball up in just the general area of a guy and have confidence he can come down with it is hard to find. Plaxico had that talent, and the Super Bowl ring to match it. On the eve of the next season, he was rewarded for his title winning catch with a hefty new contract. The Giants were motoring through a brutal schedule, on their way to home field in the NFC, and a real chance to defend their title. Then Plaxico Burress went out on a Friday night to a club, took a gun with him, and ended his Giants career.

Plaxico wasn’t having a pro bowl year, but his presence on the field was irreplaceable, and his absence derailed the Giants season. A less gifted individual would be cast off without question for such inexcusable acts. But the Giants knew how valuable he was, and wanted to work things out in spite of them. The Giants hierarchy sat down with Burress and merely asked that he understand the implications, and the magnitude of his actions. They asked him to be as remorseful as he should be. And they asked that after he pay for his transgressions, that a new version of Plaxico Burress show up for work every day,  on time, without excuse.  But that wasn’t going to be possible. Burress scoffed at the Giants request to forfeit portions of his bonus they felt he violated. Or at very least return them as a sign of good faith to the team that pays him, and the teammates he let down.  Weeks after the shot heard round the NFL, with a self inflicted bullet wound in his leg,  and embarrassment and criticism piling sky high, still no humbled Plax emerged.

Insted of gearing up for training camp, Plaxico will gear up for trial and eventual jail time

Insted of gearing up for training camp, Plaxico will gear up for trial and eventual jail time

Instead, Burress and his lawyers wasted months trying to figure out a way for him to avoid significant jail time, and their plans backfired. Plaxico must believe he’s above the law. That his stature affords him the right to take an unregistered firearm out into public without consequence. If he didn’t believe it,  Burress wouldn’t have sat in front of grand jury to testify, and do nothing but worsen his already bleak situation. A fews days ago Buress was indicted on two gun charges, and an additional one for reckless endangerment.  I guess the jury saw the same thing as the Giants.

Burress needs to, and will go to prison for what looks like at least a year or two.  Had he accepted that early on, he might be knocking off a large portion of that sentence as we speak. But Burress failed to take the opportunity to mitigate the damages he’s already caused to himself, his family and his reputation.  The Giants were forced to release Burress, because if they didn’t,  they would be going against everything Tom Coughlin has created here  about the concept of team, and how no one individual is above it.

Plaxico appeared close to becoming a player who grasps that concept in their run to the Super Bowl. He played week after week on one ankle, because that’s what the team needed him to do. He turned in a virtuoso performance in the NFC Championship game under rarely seen conditions in Green Bay. And after claiming a Super Bowl ring, the validation of everything he and the Giants worked for, it looked like this could be just the beginning. But when the next season rolled along we found nothing but the same old Plax;  the one that had to be suspended for a game just weeks after receiving an extension.

New York’s team in 2008 with Burress was the league’s best.  I’m not saying that because I am a Giant fan,  I’m saying it because I believe it to be true. The Giants beat the last four teams standing in 2008. They went on the road and beat the Steelers, and the Cardinals, who they played minus Burress and Jacobs. They beat up a rugged Ravens team, that made a spirited run to the AFC title game. They were a complete team, that knew how to play together, with discipline and toughness. They ran the ball down your throat, and it didn’t matter that you knew it was coming.

Many Giant fans were naive for these reasons, believing that they could survive without Burress because of their strength as a unit. I was one of them. But Burress’ absence squeezed the Giants running lanes, which were gaping for 3 quarters of a year as the Giants rolled to 11-1. His replacements came up small, and the defense grew too weary to carry them. They held on to home field advantage, just barely, edging out Carolina in come back fashion in an OT thriller. That would be their only win in their last 5 contents, and the Eagles rolled in the Meadowlands a better and more confident team then the Gmen. They played each other twice a year. Too much familiarity to be fearful. Wrong team, wrong time.  Without their all world giraffe to snatch pigskins out of the air, the Giants kicked field goal after field goal, becoming mediocre offensively in their final games before elimination.

It’s a shame that Burress was not on the field. These types of accidents just shouldn’t happen. Especially not to an adult who has immense responsibilities as a professional and a public figure. But we know now that Burress has never really become an adult. Never been mature enough to see the big picture, and atleast pretend to go through the motions and conduct himself the way a man making millions of dollars needs to.

This isn’t about how much of an idiot he is for shooting himself. That’s a given.

A Bronx Tale told us that one of the saddest things in life is wasted talent

A Bronx Tale told us that one of the saddest things in life is wasted talent

It’s about the opportunities he’s cost himself and by extension many others. The moments that could have been had he displayed a little self restraint.  I could have used any number of words there. Because I honestly don’t know what he was thinking when he took that gun with him. So I can’t say for sure what would have stopped him.

If you felt so strongly you needed a gun to go to a club, why would one go at all?  I guess that’s a question only a rational person can answer.  He had a football game on Sunday, and it wouldn’t have killed  him to lay low. It would have saved him a lot of pain and embarrassment actually.  Instead, Plaxico’s career potentially may never resume, and I,  like many Giant fans,  are left in bewilderment of a man who may have won us a Super Bowl, and cost us one as well.

He and Eli Manning were well on their way to becoming the most prestigious QB-WR combo in team history. And I firmly believe that this team had the makings of a dynasty, capable of winning 3 or 4 titles in a six or seven year span.

But things have changed now. That saddest part however, isn’t that Plaxico will never play for the Giants again, it’s that he may never get it. The light may never go on.

Too much wasted talent.

And the Giants won’t be the same without him.

Advertisements

A pair of Sox winners at trade deadline

August 2, 2009

A couple big names will don new uniforms following the trade deadline, and none were bigger winners than the Red and White Sox that Victor Martinez and Jake Peavy will be slipping on.  While the Indians season fell apart quickly leading to trades of 2 of their best, the White Sox have fought nicely to keep themselves in the playoff mix, and now they have positioned themselves to potentially steal their division in September.

By acquiring Jake Peavy for 4 prospects,  Ken Williams has now put together one of the best rotations in the league, with Mark Buerlhe, recent author of a perfect game, all of the sudden becoming a pretty damn good 2nd starter. Throwing Peavy and Buerlhe gives the White Sox a chance to win any one single game, and should they find their way in to the playoffs, they will be extemely dangerous. And let’s not forget Gavin Floyd and John Danks are no slouches either.  Peavy is on the disabled list with ankle issues, but should return at the end of the month, when the White Sox will then throw a quality starter out every day for the rest of the season.  The White Sox won the World Series a few years ago with a similar kind of depth to their rotation,  which pitched deep in to nearly every game and gave way to a strong and rested bullpen.  Ken Williams wasn’t just thinking about this year,  he’s thinking about the next 3 or 4, and as they’re veteran hitters tail off, he has again put together the kind of rotation that can shoulder the load. Whether they make the playoffs or not, this move makes them alot better now, as well as next year and beyond.  Smart move by Ken Williams, who in typically aggressive fashion goes out and gets the type of front line starter you need to win in this league.

The Red Sox trade for Victor Martinez makes them big winners at the deadline as well. While the Red Sox had some very good hitters in their lineup, it’s just not as imposing as it was in their World Series years, with Ramirez and Ortiz striking fear in the heart of the apposing pitcher. This move gives them that extra stick in the middle of the order that they sorely needed to stretch out the lineup. As Jordan pointed out, he will give them some flexibility between Catcher, where a near the end Jason Varitek currently resides, 1B and DH, and lightens the burden that falls on Pedroia and Youkilis considerably.  Manny is gone, the bloom is off Big Papi’s rose, and Jason Bay has been no where to be found of late.  So the Sox did what they had to do and went back to Cleveland for another slugger years after the Ramirez trade. Boston’s farm system was deep with prospects to dangle and Martinez should slot into the 3 or 4 hole for several years to come.  The Red Sox can only hope that his time with the team will bring as much success as Manny’s.  A year ago, they finally removed him from the middle of the order, potentially costing themselves a trip to the Series. This time around, they did what was necessary to fill at least a large portion of the gap he left, and perhaps with a little less drama as well.

The Phillies were big winners as well, they didn’t come up with the big fish Roy Halladay, but we knew they would get a pitcher, and I think that last year’s Cy Young winner Cliff Lee will suffice. I just don’t want to give them credit for anything. I don’t even want to talk about them.

Be back in the coming days to touch on some of the other deadline moves that could loom large, and maybe even our first dive into some NFL football.  I know I’m not the only one that’s counting the days…

Until next time

Bdon


Tyson Time

July 30, 2009

Hello my friends helllooooo.

Back to talk about the Tyson Chandler/Emeka Okafor trade from Charlotte’s perspective. And I believe it makes sense for them on several levels.  The Bobcats reasoning behind this trade are  prominently financially driven, as they are able to shed the difference of 3 years and 40 million on Okafor’s deal which runs through 2014. Chandler’s deal, which only has 2 years left (1 a player option) will provide cap relief in 2011-12. You can talk all you want about what Chandler brings them on the court, but this was first and foremost,  a financial move in a time when they all seem to be.

This Move Opens Up Free Agent Flexibility For The Future Of The Bobcats... Time Is On Their Side

This Move Opens Up Free Agent Flexibility For The Future Of The Bobcats By Moving Okafor's Colossal Contract... Time Is Now On Their Side

On the court, Chandler is not the player that Okafor is, but the difference between to two is negligible in the grand scheme of things for Charlotte. He’s a slight drop off on the offensive end as we said, but Okafor was no Wilt Chamberlain either.  And Chandler’s size and athleticism on the defensive end is an upgrade, and could help them to at least a respectable showing in a matchup against Shaq or Dwight,  should Charlotte squeeze into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed. The fact of the matter is, that such an outcome is a best case scenario for Larry Brown’s squad, which is what makes this financially driven move, the proper one. Charlotte is locked in to over $50 million in salaries this year and next, so they are more or less locked into their current roster. By making this move to shed Okafor’s deal, they reduce their payroll beyond those 2 years significantly, and now are in position to have a lot of flexibility down the road.

Michael Jordan has made unconscionable trades to acquire Vlad Rad, Nazr, and Diop whose 6-7 million dollar deals have clogged up their financial arteries,  because of Charlotte’s desperation to add talent of any kind to their roster. Now they are drawing the line in the sand for 2 years from now, when they now have given themselves the ability to change the dynamic of the team.

The goal over the next 2 years will be to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.  The Bobcats have a solid 9 man rotation of Felton, Raja, G Wallace, Diaw, Chandler, Augustine, Henderson, Diop and Radmo will give the Larry Brown a chance to bring them there. This deal however, doesn’t make them discernibly better or worse right now, but what it does do is open up possibilities for the future.

Whether Chandler is a keeper or not, will be up to him and the powers that be in Charlotte to decide.   The question marks will remain regarding his health, and just how bad he must of looked for Sam Presti to call off the original trade. But with just 1 year and a player option remaining on his deal, it was a risk that they were willing to take.

Back later to chime in on some of these baseball deals, and how things will shape up because of them in the next day or 2. The Pirates have successfully dealt off every accomplished major league player on their roster,  so we have that and much more to discuss..

Until then,

Bdon


Centers Swap Cities

July 29, 2009

The trade of Emeka Okafor to New Orleans this week for Tyson Chandler sends a clear statement to Hornets fans, and Chris Paul, that the team will not be placed on the chopping block just yet.  The rumblings that Chris Paul could or might be traded are bogus.  New Orleans faithful would tear Jeff Bower to pieces. He knows that, so instead he went out and finally dealt Tyson Chandler, 6 or so months after dealing him the first time.

Center Swap Meet- NBA Style

Center Swap Meet- NBA Style

Back at the deadline, Bower acquired 2 expiring contracts last year, for Chandler, in order to take his nearly $12 million off the books for this season, and get under the luxury tax.  However, since that deal fell through at the deadline,  New Orleans no longer had the opportunity to use Chandler to cut salary.  The only team with the cap space that would allow them to do that, was the same Thunder team the nixed the trade in the first place.  So Hornets GM, Jeff Bower did the only thing he could do, which is try to get real value in return for Chandler.  Chandler has a lot of admirers around the NBA despite his offensive limitations, and while the deal for Okafor,  returns a reliable big at the same position,  I’m not so sure he’s the right player for the Hornets.  Okafor can be counted on to rebound, and block a few shots; but is a marginal upgrade over Chandler offensively. Since being the 2nd player selected in the draft behind Dwight Howard, he has progressed at a glacial pace,  if at all in 5 seasons in the NBA. While I understand the need to replace,  Chandler at Center,  I believe that had NO gotten Chandler back on the court next season, and his value back up, he would have netted more in return than Okafor.

Doesn’t Chris Paul need a more dynamic offensive player alongside him then Okafor? I mean there is no one on that roster with the all around shooting, play making and athleticism, that Paul can use to take the constant pressure off him.  Since a few big time performances in the playoffs two years ago, David West has come up small, and his presence on last years all-star team was a joke.  Peja is a rotting corpse, and as for James Posey…that’s what happens when you convince yourself you are a 1 piece away from an NBA title team, when your actually about 4. Outside of Paul, this roster is sneakily one of the least talented in the league. You know somethings wrong when Rasual Butler starts looking really good.  But well get to that when the season starts…

I am not going to go too crazy at this point in time,  and it should be interesting to see how much Chris Paul elevates another offensively challenged Center’s game. He should be able to make him a 15 and 10 guy, but as I said, Is that what they needed?  Okafor,  should fit nicely alongside West’s perimeter skills, but for another 5 years and almost 60 million?  There are a lot of players in the league I’d rather be paying nearly 12 million a year to.  And yes, thats about going rate for a half decent Center, but with Peja and Posey locking up so much money,  they couldn’t afford to put those dollars into a player that doesn’t bring much to the table offensively.

The 1st rounder next year, which likely will fall in the 10-16 range or so, makes the deal look a little better. A small bonus for taking on a big contract. They certainly need to add talent to this roster,  which is as thin as CP3’s patience seems to be growing. Unfortunately for Paul,  I really don’t know how much better that made his team.

I’ll be back in later on to talk about this trade from the Bobcats perspective.  I wouldn’t call them winners per se, but I’ll tell you why it makes a lot of sense for them…

Hope your enjoying  the work of my good friends Ryan Mojo/Berg The Basher and as always Jordan and myself.

Your devoted chunky junky,

Bdon