Thursday, June 30, 2016

Luck Deal Puts Grigson on the Hotseat

By Travis Stahl

You know when you have one of those situations come up where it just kills you to pay for something but you have no choice?  Your drains need to be snaked, you have a water leak or your roof is leaking.  You don't want to shell out thousands of dollars but you know it has to be done.  Yesterday the Indianapolis Colts paid one of those bills as the team resigned quarterback Andrew Luck to the biggest contract in league history.  The Colts signed Luck for six years and $140 million with $87 million guaranteed.  Now the pressure is on the Colts to make the contract a good deal.

Luck had to ask for that much money.  And the Colts had to pay him that much money.  The market dictates a players worth and 10 other teams in the league would have been willing to pay Luck the same money.  To win in the NFL now you really need a top-flight quarterback and Luck clearly has his better years ahead of him.  I don't fault the team for giving Luck such a large deal.  That is the going rate for franchise quarterbacks.  What Indy must now do is build a better team around Luck which is not going to be an easy task to complete for general manager Ryan Grigson.

To this point in Luck's career Grigson has done a pretty horrible job.  Grigson and the Colts went for the win-now approach and brought in veterans well past their prime who could no longer play.  When a team has a contract the size of Luck's it limits the amount of money that can be spent on other players.  Baltimore and New Orleans have struggled to fill out their rosters with capable players since singing quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Drew Brees respectfully to large contracts.  The teams who continue to succeed and make the playoffs with quarterbacks on big contracts are those that draft well like Pittsburgh and Green Bay.  Grigson does not draft well.

For this to work out for the Colts they need to start building a young, dynamic roster.  They have started that this off season by devoting several draft picks to offensive lineman.  The Colts have a decent stable of wide receivers but Frank Gore at running back is past his prime and nobody who lives outside the loop could name you one Colt starter on defense.  Indy needs a pretty extensive overhaul, on a limited budget, and they need it quickly so as not to waste anymore of Luck's prime years.  I don't think Grigson is the guy who can oversee such a transition.

Luck has already proven he can take the Colts far in the playoffs when there is talent around him to help out.  That is the same for any quarterback.  The NFL is no longer a league where the quarterback can get it all done on his own.  Indy needs to start plugging in some fresh, young faces and it needs to happen this year.  Otherwise they may have to start asking Luck to restructure this deal in the next couple of seasons and he may not be willing to do that so quickly.

There are some people, mostly non-sports fans that see this deal and think it is absurd.  But let's put the Luck deal in perspective with other sports.  In the NHL (it's hockey for goodness sakes) the Luck contract would make him the 8th highest paid player.  In the NBA Luck would be the 20th highest paid player.  In baseball, Luck's new deal would put him in line to be the 53rd highest paid player.  When you think about it like that Luck deserves it all.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings

By Travis Stahl

It's time.  In just over a month fantasy football drafts will be in full swing.  How will you know who to draft or when to draft them?  That's right, we're going to tell you.  And what better way to start off than with quarterbacks.  Listen, you can win a fantasy football title without the best quarterback in the NFL.  Last year in one of my leagues the two starting quarterbacks in the title game were Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisburger.  Nowadays there are tons of quarterbacks that can put up 25 points per week.  Yes, it is nice to have guys who can explode for 45 but sometimes slow and steady wins the race.  If you build a solid roster don't be afraid to wait until round three or four to grab a quarterback.  These are the top 15 quarterbacks for fantasy scoring purposes.

1. Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers
2. Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers
3. Carson Palmer - Arizona Cardinals
4. Ben Roethlisburger - Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts
6. Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks
7. Eli Manning - New York Giants
8. Tony Romo - Dallas Cowboys
9. Tom Brady - New England Patriots
10. Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints
11. Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions
12. Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons
13. Andy Dalton - Cincinnati Bengals
14. Blake Bortles - Jacksonville Jaguars
15. Derek Carr - Oakland Raiders

See how deep the quarterback position is?  You could do a lot worse than Derek Carr as your starting quarterback.  If you are looking for a sleeper late in the draft that could be a huge boom or bust guy take a flier on Brock Osweiler in Houston.  Sure, Osweiler saw limited time in Denver last year but he has a lot of weapons in Houston and Texans head coach Bill O'Brian knows how to coach up a quarterback.  In keeper leagues watch the waiver wire and monitor how Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota does.  If it seems like Mariota is going to stay healthy pick him up and stash him on your roster even if you have another quarterback.  Mariota might be a year away from being really special.

As we said, don't be in a rush to grab a quarterback.  You could go receiver in round one and two and end up with A.J. Green and Julio Jones, then add a valuable tight-end like Jordan Reed with two overlooked running backs like David Johnson and Dion Lewis.  Now all of a sudden you draft a quarterback like Tony Romo in round six or seven and all of a sudden that roster looks pretty solid.  As a good rule of thumb remember you are trying to score 95 points.  If you can get to 95 you have a good shot at winning week in and week out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summitt Changed the Game

By Travis Stahl

There are some people who just bigger than sports.  Not because they are loud or boisterous but because they transcend their game.  They are more than players or coaches they are people who change lives, who better the sport for everyone, they do the unthinkable.  That was former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt.  Summitt passed away last night at the age of 64 after declining in health over the last few days.

It's easy to look at Summitt and say she was a basketball coach.  It's also a touch insulting.  We can count SEC titles and national championships.  We can make a list of coach of the year awards and Final Four appearances.  Summitt was bigger than that.  The world of women's college basketball is where it is today because of her.  Without Summitt there is no Geno Auriemma, no Muffit McGraw and probably no WNBA.  Coach Summitt changed the entire landscape of women's sports.

There has been an NFL, an NBA and a Major League Baseball for as long as we can remember.  Male high school athletes have always had that dream of continuing their careers into college and hoping to make it to the big league.  Most female athletes never thought like that before UT burst on to the scene.  For them high school was the ending point of their athletic career.  Then came Summitt and high school girls around the country in every sport began to take notice and realize they could keep playing in college.  All of a sudden there was something else.  More schools saw how Summitt built up the Lady Vols and began to follow suit.

Can you even imagine the lives Summitt has touched.  It boggles the mind.  And I'm sure some of those stories will start to trickle out over the next day or two of the little things she did for somebody here and there that went unnoticed.  Those stories are what make up the legacy of Pat Summitt.  Not wins on the court.  Not trophies stowed away in the case.  It was an arm around a shoulder or a stern talking to that meant the most.  It was giving a young lady exactly what she needed when she needed it.

I know I've told this story before but it is still one of the highlights of my life.  One year when Columbia City was playing Wawasee and Shanna Zolman in the sectional title game at Warsaw I was sitting in the front row waiting for the game to start.  I was talking to Rocky Goshert and he asked me if I brought my camera.  I told him yes, I had it.  Rocky told me to get it ready and when I saw him at the door he said I needed to be ready to take pictures.  I didn't know what Rocky was doing but I got my camera out and on and pointed it at the door.  When I saw Rocky come in I started shooting as fast as I could.  He was bringing Summitt in to watch the game and I was able to click off several pictures of the legendary coach.

When we lose coaches like this our natural reaction is to wonder who could possibly take the place of a coach like Summitt.  Well, nobody.  They aren't supposed to.  Summitt wasn't just a coach, she was a friend and a mentor.  She was a trailblazer for generations to come.  You don't replace that.  You embrace it.  You cherish it and you recognize the life of Summitt for what it was.  Transcendent.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Optimism Abound

By Travis Stahl

It's the season of eternal optimism.  NFL training camps are about to start which means every fan base in the nation feels pretty good about their team's chances.  There for a long stretch there were five new playoff teams each season.  That has dropped slightly in the last couple of years.  Still, the NFL is designed with the draft and free agency to allow teams to get good quick.  Here are some recent doormats who have a real chance to make it to the postseason this year if all goes well.

Jacksonville Jaguars - Quarterback Blake Bortles was one of the highest rated passers last season and quietly is on the verge of becoming a star.  It helped that receivers Allen Robinson and Alan Hurns came out of nowhere to become a tough duo to cover.  Running back TJ Yeldon was just OK last year but with improvements to the offensive line he too could put up some big yardage.  Defensively Jax might be loaded.  They get last year's first round pick Dante Fowler back after he missed all of last year.  Plus they add Jalen Ramsey and Miles Jack from this draft to go with free agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson.  With only Indianapolis and Houston in the division to realistic battle with the Jags could easily win nine or 10 games.

Oakland Raiders - Oakland?  Las Vegas?  Doesn't matter.  The Raiders finally have a quarterback in Derek Carr and Amari Cooper is already a superstar at wide receiver.  On defense the Raiders also finally hit on a draft pick with Kahlil Mack who can flat out get after the quarterback.  And now they have added Bruce Irvin so that tandem is going to be trouble.  What Oakland really has going for it more than anything is that they are in the AFC West.  Denver is going to take a massive step back and San Diego just isn't that good.  If the Raiders can keep pace with Kansas City they could pick up a spot in the postseason.

Dallas Cowboys - If Tony Romo is healthy all will be good.  If.  A healthy Romo at quarterback makes the Dallas offense dynamic.  We already know what the passing game. Now the Cowboys have Ezekial Elliot at running back to run behind that great offensive line.  When Dallas made it to the playoffs two years ago it was because the defense played much better than anticipated.  It will take that kind of effort again as Dallas will be without several defensive players to start the season.  Again, if Romo goes down you can forget about it, there is no chance.

Los Angeles Rams - I know, rookie quarterback.  But all Jared Goff has to do in order for the Rams to make the playoffs is not lose games.  The Rams defense is special and Todd Gurley is the next Adrian Peterson at running back.  All Goff and the passing game have to do is learn how to make plays for positive yardage and not turn the ball over.  Might be easier said than done.  However, the division is set up for LA to do well.  Arizona will again win the NFC West and San Francisco is a mess.  If the Seahawks take another step back the Rams might be in position to earn a wild card spot.  Defense and running the football are a good recipe for success.

Like we stated above, everybody feels good about their team's chances of making the playoffs in the summer.  We love our teams blindly and sometimes miss the facts through our biased opinions.  That's why the word fan is short for fanatic.  People get crazy.  That is what makes sports fun.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Reviewing the NBA Draft

By Travis Stahl

Big night in the NBA last night.  Huge.  Like we suspected, not only was the draft taking place but there were numerous trades that significantly altered the landscape of the league.  We might not even know the ramification of some of those moves until free agency starts next week.  Ben Simmons went No. 1 to Philadelphia and Brandon Ingram was next to the Lakers at No. 2.  Then things got crazy.

Boston plays it safe - The Celtics owned three picks in the first round last night including pick No. 3.  The bad news for Boston is only Simmons and Ingram are close to a sure thing.  The good news for Celtics fans is that the team still owns two first rounders from Brooklyn, including next year's which could be the No. 1 pick in a loaded draft so all Boston had to do was play it safe.  And they did by taking Jaylen Brown the small forward out of California.  Brown is a solid pick who many compare to Kawhi Leonard.  The rest of Boston's first rounders were Euro players who may or may not come over to the NBA next year and that's OK, it gives them more time to develop overseas for another year or two.

OKC robs Orlando - Thunder general manager Sam Presti is widely regarded as one of the best in the business.  Presti showed why again last night night when Oklahoma City pulled one over on the Magic.  OKC sent power forward Serge Ibaka to Orlando for Victor Oladipo and Domatas Sabonis who Orlando had just drafted at No. 10.  Brilliant move by OKC.  Ibaka has somehow digressed.  He is no longer the dominant defender and rebounder he once was.  Plus OKC still has Enis Kanter who can play that roll.  In return the Thunder get super athletic Oladipo and one of the most skilled big men in the draft in Sabonis.  Just to make sure the Thunder are fully loaded Orlando threw in versatile big man Ersan Ilyasova who was tremendous two years ago in Milwaukee.  OKC is all of a sudden one of the deepest teams in the league and a little more versatile.  Presti could be making these moves to convince Kevin Durant to stick around and if so he's doing a masterful job.

At least the Kings are trying - Sacramento is just so bad from top to bottom.  Probably the worst franchise in the league.  DeMarcus Cousins was furious again last night when the Kings essentially decided they are in all-out rebuild mode.  But the moves by Sacramento are actually pretty smart.  After taking Marquese Chriss at No. 8 the Kings turned around and traded him to Phoenix for Georgios Papagianis, Skal Labissiere and Bogdan Bogdanovic.  Then Sacramento traded away Marco Belinelli for Malachi Richardson who Charlotte had just drafted.  Bogdanovic is a roll player who can help Cousins under the basket.  Richardson and Papagiansis are worth rolling the dice on and no more risky than Chriss.  Labissiere is a throw away in this deal, he won't be a star but he might be a solid role player.  At least Sacramento used some logic and wagered one risky player into two and a half.

Good picks - There were several teams that made some fantastic picks that will surely improve their standings next season.  Minnesota adding point guard Chris Dunn makes the Timberwolves look absolutely lethal right now with all the young talent on the roster.  Chicago drafted Michigan State point guard Denzel Valentine at No. 14 just days after trading away Derrick Rose.  Valentine is a tremendously versatile player who will help the offense flow more freely in Chicago.  The shooting ability of Buddy Hield taken No. 6 in New Orleans is really going to help Anthony Davis  and Indiana getting Georges Niang in the second round was an absolute steal.

Bad picks - Sometimes you just know when you hear the name called that it is never going to work out for one reason or another.  Henry Ellenson in Detroit had that feel at No. 18 as did Brice Johnson at No. 25 to a Clipper team where Doc Rivers hates rookies.  Brooklyn had acquired the Pacers pick at No. 20 only to use it on Caris LaVert who has chronic injury problems with his foot.  Malik Beasley going to Denver at No. 19 also seemed a little high, especially for a Nuggets team that already has a pretty good young shooting guard in Gary Harris.

As we said above, some of the moves teams made were done to set up for free agency.  OKC is clearly trying to improve the roster enough to convince Durant to stick around.  The Kings might be (doubtfully) adding front court players so the team can move Cousins in a trade.  It would not surprise me either if in the next few days the 76ers continue to work on a trade to deal either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafur.  And, something that nobody has talked about with Philly trying to move one of those guys is that might be an indication that Joel Embiid is fairly healthy.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bulls, Pacers Making Moves

By Travis Stahl

As Ric Flair would say, Woooo!  Yesterday gave us two big trades in the NBA leading up to tonight's draft.  The last two years I anticipated a lot of trading right before the draft and it has fallen short of expectations.  Maybe yesterday was just a blip on the radar or maybe it was a sign of things to come.  Either way the two trades yesterday leave us with a lot to discuss.

New York Knicks trade PG Jarian Grant, PG Juan Calderon and C Robin Lopez to Chicago Bulls for PG Derrick Rose - First we need to look at this from the Bulls perspective.  We all know Rose's injury history and how it has robbed him of a promising career.  He was on the books for $21 million this season that Chicago did not want to pay.  At this point Rose is a point guard who can't shoot, can't drive to the basket and can't play defense.  That Chicago found a taker is shocking.  In return the Bulls received a young point guard in Grant who is still learning and a rim protector in Lopez.  Calderon doesn't count.  For the Knicks this trade makes absolutely no sense at all.  Out of 85 point guards in the NBA last year who played enough minutes to qualify Rose was ranked No. 82 in usage rate.  That's not good.  I know New York is desperate to make the playoffs one more time with Carmelo Anthony on the roster.  Maybe this accomplishes that but at best it puts the Knicks into the playoffs as a seven or eight seed.  I suspect that the Bulls front office staff is still waking up this morning in disbelief that they were able to find somebody to take Rose.  As I said yesterday to Shaun Gordon, this is another case of the Knicks doing Knick stuff.

Indiana Pacers trade PG George Hill to Utah, Utah trades the No. 12 pick in the draft to Atlanta, Atlanta trades PG Jeff Teague to Indiana - At first glance this trade really favors the Pacers.  Teague is an upgrade over Hill and allows the Pacers to play faster which was the reason new head coach Nate McMillan was brought in anyway.  I'm only guessing that the Jazz want Hill as a mentor to all the young guards on the roster.  That's the only logical explanation here as you wouldn't want Hill taking minutes away from Dante Exum or Trey Burke.  Utah wants to make the playoffs in the worst way, maybe they feel Hill gives the roster a little postseason experience to get them into the No. 8 spot next season.  Atlanta has the luxury of dealing Teague away because Dennis Schroeder is ready to run the team.  Schroeder has been coming off the bench for two seasons now and is ready to take over.  What Atlanta was really trying to do here was clear cap space and shed Teague's salary.  The Hawks need the space to make sure they can offer Al Horford a max contract.  The pick the Hawks got from the Jazz might as well be several rolls of used toilet paper.  Nobody wants picks in this draft.

Free agents - We all knew that Kevin Durant was going to hit the market.  Every team in the league is going to make it's pitch but I will be shocked if Durant leaves Oklahoma City.  Although I do find it intriguing that Golden State is making a hard run at Durant.  Geez, what if that happens?  I also found it odd that Dirk Nowitzki opted out of his final year.  In years past I would have chalked that up to Dirk trying to give the team more caps space to sign players.  But Nowitzki is old enough now you have to wonder if he is trying to chase after one more ring.  Several teams will make offers to Horford as he is the most skilled big man on the market.  It will be very interesting to see who is willing to sign Dwight Howard.  Houston apparently tried at the last minute to convince the center to stay although I don't know why.  I could see the Knicks being dumb enough to sign him.

The draft begins early tonight friends with picks beginning shortly after 7 p.m.  We know Ben Simmons is going No. 1 to Philadelphia and Brandon Ingram is going second to the Lakers.  After that throw a dart because nobody knows.  The Celtics have been trying like mad to trade out of three with no takers.  I'm guessing they stay put and take Buddy Heild.  But like I said, nobody knows how this will play out.  This is an odd draft as after the first two picks there isn't much.  No team wants to be making picks in this draft this year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Goodbye Burnworth

By Travis Stahl

We were watching The Sandlot the other day again on Netflix.  My girls laugh and laugh at the scene when the boys in the movie are at the public swimming pool.  Remember, Squints dives in to the water to make Wendy Peffercorn the lifeguard dive in and save him.  Then, when Wendy is giving him mouth-to-mouth Squints kisses her.  Hilarious.  Every time I watch that scene I always wonder about the glory days of the Burnworth Pool.  This is the last season of the Burnworth Pool as the parks department will build a new splash bad with a water slide or two.

Think of all the swim team members that have made their way through the waters at Burnworth.  We're talking thousands of kids on those teams.  And you couldn't even begin to put a number on the amount of kids who would go to the pool every day during the summer when I was a kid.  It was always packed.  The city pool is a thing of the past.  It was a great social gathering point and swim meet venue.  But like all things, time has passed the city pool by in most cities across the country.

City pools are expensive to maintain.  We're talking thousands of dollars per year.  And if you need to perform any major repairs you could easily see costs rise close to a million dollars.  You have to run filters constantly and pay for chemicals.  City pools could never recoup that kind of money now.  It just isn't feasible when you can go to Walmart and have a pool in your backyard for the same amount of money it costs to purchase pool passes for all your kids.  There's nobody to blame for the decline of Burnworth or other pools like it.  That's just progress of society as a whole.

Unfortunately, like other things, most older kids don't go to the pool anymore either.  They're too cool.  Public pools are a little kids game now so why not go with the splash pad?  The one at the Jorgenson YMCA in Fort Wayne is fabulous and wildly popular.  Splash pads are inexpensive to install and maintain.  It makes sense to replace Burnworth with a splash pad even though that means eliminating a place with some great memories.

City pools were never intended to make money.  But at the same time cities can't afford the upkeep anymore.  It's expensive to maintain a pool.  Heck, it's not cheap to do it at your own home.  But it's convenient.  The new splash pad will be a huge draw and another upgrade for our city.  We say goodbye to the Burnworth Pool this year but we will always remember something fun and exciting that happened to us there.