Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Sports Fix: NFL Relocation

In just over one year’s time, 3 NFL teams have signed papers to relocate their franchises.  Last year the Rams started the trend back up again (this has been a common, yet puzzling trend over the history of the NFL) by moving from St. Louis back to Los Angeles after a 21 year stay in the Midwest. Now this offseason, we have already had the Chargers announcing a move to Los Angeles and the Raiders agreeing to move to Las Vegas.

First things first, Los Angeles has done fine without a football team.  The reason why LA has done fine without a football team is simple, most people in LA aren’t from LA.  The people living in and around LA aren’t born and raised in Southern California, they are from Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.  In LA they have the freedom of watching their teams when they are on, because every game is on in LA.  As a matter of fact, based on Steelersbars.com, there are 37 Steeler bars in and around the LA area.  Sure the residents of Southern California love their NFL, but they love their own NFL teams.  Now, with the Chargers moving to town, the CBS and FOX games will no longer be the national games, it will be the Rams and Chargers every week.  So, yes the NFL adds the 2nd largest television market in the country, but guess what, those people were watching the game already.  In all likelihood, the ratings in the LA area will go down.  Because now, instead of watching the Game of the Week between the Cowboys and Packers on FOX, they are stuck watching the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams.

What makes this worse is that fans in San Diego, St. Louis and Oakland are losing their teams for one reason and one reason alone, GREED.  The billionaire owners of these teams, that basically are printing money at this point, with the amount of revenue that the league now has, wanted new stadiums and held the fans and cities hostage over who should pay for the new stadiums.  The cities and fans rightly stood their ground and now the owners are leaving.

Now the solution.

When a team relocates, they have to pay a relocation fee to the other owners of the NFL.  That fee is $500 million, which divided evenly to the other 31 owners is just over $16.1M a piece.  If you are wondering why the other owners approve these team relocating, now you know.  The $500M fee is essentially a $16.1M bribe to vote in favor of the relocation.

Here is how to fix this trend.  The NFL owners loan the money to the owners/teams to build their own stadium.

According to Forbes, going into the 2016 NFL season the average value of an NFL team was a record high, $2.34 Billion. Billion with a B!  In 2015, 30 of the 32 teams made at least $50M, with the Cowboys leading the way, banking $300M.  These owners have the money to help out the other owners.  After all, they are one big team, right?  If each owner loaned that same $16.1M we talked about before and you add it to the $500M that the relocating owner was willing to hand over to relocate, you have ONE BILLION DOLLARS to build a new stadium.  This can be done, all while staying in the city and with the fans that have supported you for so many years.

I know that this won’t happen, and it is for the same reason I mentioned before, GREED.  But for the good of the NFL, it should happen. 

In business, marketing can make or break a business.  Is Phil Knight and Nike where they are today without Michael Jordan, the Swoosh or Tiger Woods?  NO!

Moving these teams all over the map is bad marketing for the NFL and bad for business.  The NFL is taking 3 cities and fan-bases and making them castoffs, basically telling the cities of St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego, that they aren’t wanted.  Will the people of St. Louis want to consume the NFL product after that message? I doubt it.

Even worse, the NFL is moving those franchises to cities that don’t want these teams to begin with.  Los Angeles is the 2nd largest city in the country, if they wanted football in Los Angeles it would have been there already.  It would never have left 21 years ago. 

And who exactly is going to pack the stadiums in LA and Las Vegas when these team move?  I’ll tell you who, fans from the visiting teams.  The fans that fill those 37 Steeler bars in LA, will pack the LA Coliseum the next time the Steelers are in town.  And that will happen with every other team in the leagues fan-base too.  How about Las Vegas?  Talk about a great road trip game to go to!  Go to Vegas and watch your favorite NFL team, done!

A few years back, billionaire business man and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban was criticized for saying that the NFL was a balloon ready to burst, and that they were getting too big for their own good.  Cuban is a smart man.  After a season where TV ratings, game attendance and cost of Super Bowl tickets were all way down from the previous season, it might be a good idea for the NFL and their owners to start caring about their consumer, otherwise Cuban is going to be exactly right.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pitt OC Search

Once again, the Pitt football program is in the midst of another coaching search.  This time it is not a head coaching search, but for the 2nd straight year Pat Narduzzi is looking for an Offensive Coordinator.  I know nothing of the personal ties that Narduzzi has with other coaches in the coaching world that he may be considering, but I decided to put together a list of candidates that I think would be good fits at Pitt and with Coach Narduzzi.
1) Tim Beck, Co-Offensive Coordinator and QB coach at Ohio State -
Beck is from Youngstown, OH, the home of Pat Narduzzi.  That being said, I don’t know of any connections the two have with each other.  I do recall Beck being a name rumored for the position 2 years ago, when Narduzzi got the Pitt job.  However, Beck was hired by Ohio State instead to replace Tom Herman.  He has coached at Kansas where he was the WR coach and Passing Game Coordinator on a Jayhawks team that went 12-1 and ranked 2nd in the nation in scoring.  From there he went to Nebraska when Bo Pelini (another Youngstown guy) was hired.  He spent 9 years in Lincoln holding various positions including RB coach, QB coach and OC.  He then joined Urban Meyer at Ohio State where he currently coaches the QB’s and shares Offensive Coordinator duties.
2) Mark Helfrich, former Head Coach at Oregon -
This one has next to no chance of happening, but it is an intriguing name that is available, so I’d be remiss to not include him on this list. Helfrich was the understudy to Chip Kelly at Oregon.  He has spent his last 8 years coaching the Ducks.  His 1st 4 years were as the OC and QB coach and the last 4 were as a head coach.  Like I said, this is very unlikely to happen.  Helfrich has no ties at all to Narduzzi from what I can tell and has never coached anywhere west of Boulder, CO.
3) Alex Van Pelt, QB Coach with the Green Bay Packers -
Former Pitt great that still holds many offensive and passing records at the school.  Van Pelt spent 11 seasons in the NFL, the final 10 with the Buffalo Bills.  He began his coaching career in 2005 as a volunteer assistant at University of Buffalo.  He then moved to the NFL where he has been coaching the past 11 season.  He started with the Buffalo Bills, he eventually was became their offensive coordinator after 3 seasons.  He then was hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he spent 2 seasons.  He has been with the Green Bay Packers the past 3 seasons, coaching both their running backs and QB’s.
4) KC Keeler, Head Coach at Sam Houston State -
An Eastern PA guy, Keeler would be an interesting candidate because he is currently a head coach.  Nick Saban says that he loves having other former head coaches on his staff, because they know the demands and responsibilities that a head coach has to go through and they are able to divvy up duties and responsibilities when needed.  Keeler has been somewhat that many people have expected to get a FBS head coaching job, but it just has not happened.  He was even rumored to be a candidate at Temple just last week.  Keeler has won everywhere he has coached, starting at D3 Rowan.  In 9 seasons at Rowan he made 5 National Championship games and made it to the semifinals 2 other times.  That success got him a job at Delaware, where in 11 seasons he made the playoffs 4 times, including 3 National Championship appearances and 1 Title.  He is now at Sam Houston State, where he has made the playoffs in 3 consecutive seasons, with 2 semifinal appearances and losing in the quarterfinals this year.  He has an overall record of 208-83-1 in 23 seasons as a head coach.
5) Kendal Briles, Former Offensive Coordinator at Baylor -
Briles has all types of stink on him because of his last name and because of where he recently coached.  Briles is the son of former Baylor Head Coach Art Briles who was fired over the summer for the misconduct of his players and losing control of the football program, to put it nicely.  Kendal is one of the best young coaches in the country and coaches the same system as his dad, which is the Air Raid Attack.  Briles was a 2015 Broyles Award Finalist (as Matt Canada was this year) which goes out to the best assistant coach in college football.  There is no doubt that Briles can coach, but the question with him, like Tom Bradley after the Sandusky Scandal at Penn State, is what did he know and what did he do about it?  As long as the law suits are being filed and investigations continue, Briles would be a risky hire by any program.  That being said, that doesn’t take away from his ability to coach an offense and develop QB’s.
6) Kevin Wilson, former Head Coach at Indiana -
Like Briles, White is a great offensive mind with a lot of baggage due to recent accusations.  White was let go by Indiana last month from what both parties called “philosophical differences” which many believe relate to the manner in which White coaches and disciplines his players.  White has run high powered offenses for the past 25 starting at Northwestern before moving to Oklahoma, where he spent 9 season with Bob Stoops and the Sooners.  He was the 2008 Broyles Award winner while at OU.  He then took the head coaching job at Indiana in 2011.  After inheriting an 1-11 team White led the Hoosiers to a bowl game in 2015, the schools 10th all time, and just their 2nd in 22 seasons.  He coached the Hoosiers again this year to a bowl game, marking the 1st time since 1990-91 that they went to bowls in back to back seasons.
7) Frank Cignetti, Jr., QB Coach with the New York Giants -
Remember this guy?  Cignetti is a Pittsburgh guy through and through.  Born in Pittsburgh, Cignetti got his start in coaching as a Grad Assistant under Mike Gottfried.  After leaving Pitt, Cignetti spent the next 20 years coaching at all levels, including the NFL.  He then returned to Pitt in 2009 for 2 seasons, working under Dave Wannestedt.  In his 1st season, he led the Panthers offense to over 32 points per game, while scoring 30+ points in 7 of the 3 games.  The Panthers climbed to as high as 9th in the national rankings that year and produced the Big East Offensive Player of the Year in Dion Lewis as well as other offensive stars like Jonathan Baldwin, Dorin Dickerson.  That team also produced 8 1st or 2nd team All-Big East members on offense.  In 2010, the Pitt team as a whole took a step back, finishing 8-5 and firing their entire coaching staff.  Since then, Cignetti has been with Rutgers, then the Rams and Giants of the NFL.
8) Lonnie Galloway, Co-Offensive Coordinator and WR coach at Louisville -
Galloway has spent his entire career working in the ACC footprint on the offensive side of the ball.  As a quarterback, he played his college ball at Western Carolina.  He got into coaching in 2003 at East Carolina where he was a WR coach.  He then moved to Appalachian State for 3 years.  Galloway then jumped back and forth between West Virginia (2008-2010) and Wake Forest (2011-2012) and West Virginia again (2013-2015).  He left West Virginia last year to become the Co-Offensive Coordinator at Louisville this year, while still coaching WR’s.  Galloway is also a strong recruiter and was named ESPN’s Big East Recruiter of the Year in 2010, when he recruited 2 future 1st round draft picks to WVU in Tavon Austin and Bruce Irvin. (EDIT UPDATE: Since posting this, more information has come out about the Wake Forest Investigating, showing that Lonnie Galloway was directly involved.  I would think that Lonnie won't be getting many looks for promotions any time soon, and I'd assume he loses his current job at Louisville.)
9) Mike Bajakian, QB Coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -
Bajakian is a long-shot candidate that has a nice background with strong recruiting ties.  Bajakain is from NJ and went to school at Bergen Catholic, a school that produces division 1 talent annually. He has coached in both college and the pros.  He got his start as a GA with Rutgers, before then moving to Michigan for the same position.  He then became the QB coach at Central Michigan for 2 seasons before moving to the NFL and the Chicago Bears.  Bajakian returned to Central Michigan with Butch Jones as his offensive coordinator.  He then followed Jones to Cincinnati and to Tennessee before leaving last year to coach the quarterback, specifically the Bucs 1st round pick, Jameis Winston.
10) John DeFilippo, QB coach with the Philadelphia Eagles -
This is another name that was floated around the past 2 offseasons while Narduzzi has been looking for an offensive coordinator.  DeFilippo, another Youngstown guy, has spent his entire coaching career working with the quarterback position.  Starting as a graduate assistant with Notre Dame, he then spent 5 years in the NFL working with the Giants, Raiders and Jets.  He returned to college as the QB coach at San Jose State in 2010.  The following year he also had the offensive coordinator title.  He then jumped back to the pros, working again with the Raiders for 3 seasons, before being hired by the Browns in 2015 to be their offensive coordinator.  He now is currently working with the Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz.
11) Kenny Edenfield, Offensive Coordinator at Troy -
Edenfield comes from the south and has lots of recruiting connections in hotbeds like Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and other areas.  Edenfield has worked most recently at Troy, where he has been the offensive coordinator and WR coach.  He has been there since 2008.  After taking over the coordinator job in 2010 he has led Troy to becoming one of the most explosive offenses in the nation.  Edenfield runs a very pass happy offense, in his time at Troy they have led the conference in passing for 4 of the 7 seasons and have ranked in the top 16 nationally in those 4 seasons.  He is known for developing quarterbacks.
12) Mike Denbrock, Assistant HC and WR coach at Notre Dame -
A Michigan man, Denbrock has worked in college for the past 30 years.  He started at Grand Valley State where he played then became a Graduate Assistant.  He has also coached at Stanford and Washington between two stints at Notre Dame, where he currently is.  Denbrock could be the replacement at Notre Dame to the recently departed offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, who is the new head coach at Western Kentucky.  If he doesn’t get that position, he could be someone that is looking around for a fresh start elsewhere.
13) Brian Wright, Offensive Coordinator at Toledo -
Wright, another Youngstown guy, grew up in Wooster, OH, an area Pitt recruits hard.  He is in his 21st season coaching, 9 of which came at Youngstown State.  He has held the offensive coordinator title at every school he has coached at including YSU, Montana State, Florida Atlantic and now Toledo.  His 4 years coaching at Florida Atlantic couldn’t hurt recruiting in the Sunshine State either.  He has had high powered offenses nearly everywhere he has coached.  He has also worked directly with quarterbacks at each of those schools, specializing with the dual threat type passers.
14) Ryan Day, QB coach with the San Francisco 49ers -
Day is an East Coast guy that moved out west for this season with the 49ers, but had never worked outside the eastern time zone.  Day is a disciple of Chip Kelly’s playing quarterback for him at New Hampshire.  He began coaching at New Hampshire after finishing his playing days.  He then moved to BC, Florida, Temple, back to BC, back to Temple and once again to BC before joining Kelly with the Eagles last season.  He stayed with Kelly this year as they moved out west with the 49ers.  In all likelihood, Day will be looking for a job in the upcoming weeks as it looks more and more likely that the entire 49ers staff will be fired after this season.
15) Matt LeFleur, QB coach with the Atlanta Falcons -
Another Michigan guy, LeFleur could help with the recruiting in and around the Detroit area.  LeFleur has bounced back and forth between the college and pro coaching ranks.  He worked with the Mike and Kyle Shanahan while with the Washington Redskins, and Kyle became somewhat of a mentor to him.  He worked with both Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins while with the Redskins.  After the Shanahan’s were fired from Washington, LeFleur returned to the college game, spending a year working under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, coaching their quarterbacks.  He has since rejoined Kyle Shanahan on the sidelines, as a quarterback’s coach for the Atlanta Falcons, where Kyle is the OC.
16) Brennan Carroll, OL coach with the Seattle Seahawks -
Another Pitt guy.  Carroll, son of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, played at Pitt under Walt Harris.  Upon graduating from Pitt, he joined his father at USC where he coached for 8 seasons.  He is known to be an outstanding recruiter.  He was the recruiting coordinator at both USC and Miami, along with holding other on field coaching roles.  At USC, he coached tight ends.  At Miami, he coached both tight ends and wide receivers.  He currently coaches the offensive line in Seattle.
17) Tony Franklin, Offensive Coordinator at Middle Tennessee State -
Franklin has literally coached all over the country.  He began coaching under Hal Mumme, the inventor of the Air Raid Offense and Franklin obviously incorporates that in his offensive systems to this day.  He has been the offensive coordinator at Kentucky and Auburn in the SEC as well as at Cal in the PAC 12.  In that time, he coached Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen at Kentucky.  He recently coached at Cal for 3 years, developing last year’s #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Jared Goff.
18) Frank Ponce, Offensive Coordinator and QB coach at Appalachian State -
I am very intrigued by the possibility, but I don’t think it is very likely.  Ponce has incredible ties in and around the Miami high school football scene, having coached there for the 1st 15 years of his coaching career, some of which were at some big-time high school football programs.  He has been a college coach since 2007, his 1st 6 years at FIU, followed by 4 years at Appalachian State. While at App State, Ponce has been the QB coach and co-offensive coordinator, overseeing the passing game for the 1st 3 years, before becoming the primary offensive coordinator this season.  He has also had great success developing QB’s at App State.
19) Brian Schottenheimer, QB coach with the Indianapolis Colts -
Son of a former Pitt Panther, Marty, Schottenheimer doesn’t have any direct ties to Pitt, but has coaching in his blood.  He “played” QB under Steve Spurrier at Florida.  After graduating from Florida, he jumped into coaching in the NFL, beginning with a year each with the Rams and Chiefs before going back to college where he was a WR coach at Syracuse, and a TE coach at USC.  He then spent the next 6 seasons as a QB coach under his father, coaching 1 season with the Washington Redskins and 5 in San Diego with the Chargers.  He then moved up to Offensive Coordinator with the Jets, spending 6 seasons there, before joining the Rams in the same role for 3 years.  Last year he went back to college and was the OC & QB coach at Georgia under Mark Richt.  This year he is currently working with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis as their QB coach.
20) Scott Turner, QB coach with the Minnesota Vikings -
Another Pitt guy, kinda.  Turner coached at Pitt with previously mentioned Frank Cignetti, Jr.  Turner is from Virginia, but went to school at UNLV.  He was a high school coach in Virginia when Dave Wannestedt hired him to his staff.  He spent his 1st two seasons at Pitt as an offensive assistant, before being promoted to WR coach for his 3rd and final year in 2010.  He then moved on to the NFL, working 2 years in Carolina, 1 with the Cleveland Browns and he is in his 3rd year with the Minnesota Vikings.  He has worked directly with Vikings young QB Teddy Bridgewater in his time in Minnesota.


There is a distinct possibility that Pat Narduzzi hires NONE of these candidates.  Trying to predict head coaching searches is extremely difficult, trying to predict assistant coaching jobs is nearly impossible.  That said, hopefully this gives you some insight on some of the candidates that COULD be out there.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Sports Fix: College Football, Part 2 of 2

PART 2: THE BOWL SYSTEM

You have already seen my idea for re-alignment for Division 1 college sports, now it is time for me to fix the broken post-season that we have in College Football.  Let me first say that I didn’t mind the BCS.  I didn’t like some of the factors that went into the computers that spit out the match-ups, but most years, they did get it right.  To me it doesn’t matter if you have the BCS with 2 teams, or a playoff with 4, 8, 12 or 16 teams, those games will always be exciting have people watching.  It is the bowl system that needs fixed. So how do we fix it you ask?

A Bowl Draft.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a draft?  Well it can work for college football and the bowl system too. 

Hear me out now. I think we all realize that despite being entertaining, the post-season in college football right now consists of 3 important games, the two semifinals and the national championship game.  Then they also give us 37 absolutely meaningless games.  With my 12-team playoff (See Sports Fix College Football Part 1) that becomes 11 meaningful games.  However, you still have the meaningless bowl games.  The 1st thing that I would do is cut down the number of bowl games.  If we cut that number down to 30 (still too many in my mind) it still gives the networks and fans just about the same amount of games we currently have in the post-season, but gets rid of the low-level bowls that nobody watches or cares about.

With 12 teams going to the playoff and 30 bowls, we need to have 72 teams eligible for post-season play out of the 130 FBS teams.  Right now, 78 of 128 get into the post-season. As you can see it really only eliminates 6 teams from the postseason every year, and to be honest, they probably didn’t deserve a spot anyway if they were in that bottom 6.

I would then have the College Football Playoff Committee rank all bowl eligible teams, not just the Top 25.  After that we would use those rankings to pair up the teams for each bowl.  The catch is, we allow each bowl to draft their ideal match-ups.  So here is how it would work.

THE BASICS:
1) The College Football Playoff Sites are obviously protected games and will select their teams before the draft starts.

2) Using bowl payouts, we create our draft order. 2 of the current “New Year’s 6 Bowls” would be used as semifinal sites for the playoff, so only 4 of them would be in the draft each year.  Those remaining 4 bowls would always have the top 4 draft spots, on a rotating cycle.  Those games would also always be played on New Year’s Day (unless it fell on a Sunday, then they would be played either New Year’s Eve or January 2nd).  After that, the Citrus bowl is the bowl with the highest payout, therefore they have the 5th selection.  We continue this order through all the bowl games.  Based on the 2016 bowl season and payouts, this year the draft order would look like this:

1. Rose Bowl
2. Sugar Bowl
3. Orange Bowl
4. Cotton Bowl
5. Citrus Bowl ($8.5M)
6. Alamo Bowl ($7.65M)
7. Outback Bowl ($7M)
8. Cactus Bowl ($6.65M)
9. Texas Bowl ($6M)
10. Holiday Bowl ($5.65M)
11. Music City Bowl ($5.5M)
12. Tax Slayer Bowl ($5. 5M)
13. Russell Athletic Bowl ($4.55M)
14. Foster Farms Bowl ($4.425M)
15. Sun Bowl ($4.3M)
16. Pinstripe Bowl ($4M)
17. Belk Bowl ($3.4M)
18. Liberty Bowl ($2.875M)
19. Las Vegas Bowl ($2.7M)
20. Cure Bowl ($2.7M)
21. Independence Bowl ($2.4M)
22. Quick Lane Bowl ($2.4M)
23. Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl ($2.2M)
24. Miami Beach Bowl ($2M)
25. Military Bowl ($2M)
26. Birmingham Bowl ($2M)
27. Dollar General Bowl ($1.5M)
28. Armed Forces Bowl ($1.35M)
29. Hawaii Bowl ($1.3M)
30. Poinsettia Bowl ($1.225M)
31. St. Petersburg ($1.075M)
32. New Orleans Bowl ($1M)
33. New Mexico Bowl ($912,500)
34. Bahamas Bowl ($900,000)
35. Boca Raton Bowl ($800,000)
36. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ($650,000)
37. Arizona Bowl (TBA)

REMINDER, we would only be using 30 bowls, so 7 of these bowls would be eliminated. This is what the bowl payouts are for this year, just to give you an idea of what each bowl is working with right now.

THE DRAFT:
The way the draft would work is simple. There would be absolutely no conference affiliations with any bowls. There would be no automatic bids for any conference. As mentioned before, 12 teams would automatically be placed in the playoff.  After that, it is a free for all, minus a few simple rules.

* Bowls will select in order, with a pool of 10 teams to pick. For instance, this year with the 1st pick, the Rose Bowl would be able to pick any 2 teams that finished 13-22 in the final committee rankings. (Remember the #1-12 are off the board and in the playoff.)  Next pick would be the Sugar Bowl and 2 more teams would open up for their selection, teams #23-24. And so on and so forth, until all the bowls are filled.

* No team can drop more than 5 bowl games. Meaning every team must be selected within five games of becoming available. This rewards teams for successful seasons despite how unattractive they might be as a bowl team. It would also prevent teams with great history and huge fan bases being selected to bowls they don’t deserve.

Think about what this type of format would do for the college football post-season.

First, ESPN could/would sell the hell out of the live draft. They did a 4-hour show on the unveiling of the 4 Playoff teams on Sunday, can you imagine what they would able to do if they also had a Bowl Draft immediately after their playoff unveil?  Imagine a greenroom with 72 different head coaches and AD’s, to go along with a “war room” for the bowls and the committee members.  Each bowl representative comes on stage to make their pick, followed by the coaches and AD’s from each school come on stage, shake hands, have a quick photo-op.  Rece Davis, David Pollack, Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit then talk about that bowl, give some story lines and talk about each team in the game for a few minutes, maybe even interview the coach or AD from the schools. Then while all that is happening, 2 more bowl teams are unveiled, which means 2 more fan bases are not pulled in to the intrigue of the broadcast.  Everybody wins. The schools get some press, the bowls gets their individual time in the national spotlight, the coaches get a little face time and the network gets millions of eyeballs on their broadcast.

Another benefit to this system is you don’t have repetition. Bowl attendances have been way down the past few years and a big reason is fans don’t want to go back to the same bowls every few years.  With the current conference tie-ins teams are limited to a very small group of potential bowl sites. So even if you go to a different bowl every year within your conference affiliation, after about 8 years you are repeating your bowl site.  This way you have the potential of 30 different sites, not 8 or 9.

This format also helps other conferences get a chance to play each other. For instance, the Big Ten has nine bowl affiliations this year, none of which includes the Big XII.  The same goes for the PAC 12 and SEC.  With all of their bowls, they never have it set that those 2 prestigious conferences play each other in bowl games.  It could also give teams from the AAC, C-USA, MAC and MWC a chance to play a Power 5 conference team.  Most of those conferences have affiliations with each other and don’t get a chance to face a Power 5 team in bowl season.

THE MONEY:
First things first, a 12-team playoff will bring in more television revenue than the current 37 meaningless bowls do COMBINED!  People might complain that this is taking money away from teams/conferences since the bowl contracts with conferences all but guarantee a certain amount of money that every conference knows that they will receive come bowl season. I disagree. In this system, the bowl payouts would go up, which would create a larger pot for the teams and conference.  The reason the payouts would go up is because the more a bowl is willing to pay the better draft pick that bowl has to pick the best match-up possible.  If you want to get better teams to your bowl game, you up your payout.

Payouts would have to be submitted before the season starts in a blind bid, the draft order would then be announced closer to the end of the season. If the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl wanted to make a splash next year to celebrate the 20th year of the bowl, they could make a larger bid than they might normally, and get a match-up between top 15-20 teams instead of teams between 50-60.

One last detail I would change is the bowl payouts. Instead of each team splitting the pot and putting on an exhibition for the fans, I would have the result of the game determine the payout. Winning team takes two-thirds and the losing team gets one-third.  Make the games matter.

I know that this does not fix all the problems in the college football post-season, but I think it does make bowl season better. I know as a fan of college football I get sick of the same match-ups in all the big games.  The chances of playing in the Cotton Bowl or Rose Bowl are currently non-existent if you are an ACC team.  The only bowl a PAC12 team can get on or around New Year’s Day is now the Rose Bowl.  The Outback Bowl, Citrus Bowl and Tax Slayer Bowl are games for only the Big Ten, ACC and SEC, sorry PAC12 and Big XII.  This should not be the case and it wouldn’t be under this new system.

Change is good.

Change is needed.

If you missed The Sports Fix: College Football Part 1, check it out HERE!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Sports Fix: College Football, Part 1 of 2

PART 1: Re-Alignment

With all the recent controversy regarding the Final 4 from the College Football Playoff Committee, it got me thinking that there has to be a better way to have college football to crown a national champion.  I don’t have a problem with a selection committee making the tough decisions on how to select 4 teams out of 128 division 1 teams.  I don’t have a problem only 4 teams being selected for the playoff, when there are 5 Power Conferences in FBS.  (And for the record, I didn’t have a problem with the 4 teams the committee selected this year for the playoff.)  Where I do have a problem, is the idea that winning your conference championship should matter.

The College Football Selection Committee has “Championships Won” listed as one of their main criteria when selecting teams for the playoff.  By doing this they are completely ignoring, the fact that conference championships are nothing more than a title.  It no longer actually tells who the best team in that conference actually is.  Why you ask?  The conferences are TOO BIG!

The biggest argument when the playoff was announced on Sunday was that Penn State was left out despite winning the toughest conference in football this season.  (I am still not sold on the Big Ten being the best conference, we will learn a lot more from the bowl games and the playoff.) The argument was that either Washington or Ohio State should have been bumped for Penn State.  Ohio State became the 1st non-conference champion to make the playoff in its 3-year history.

Again, let me say…  The conferences are TOO BIG!!!  There is no denying that Penn State won the Big Ten East division over Ohio State and Michigan, the issue that I have with that title is that Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan didn’t all play the same conference schedule.  Declaring one team a champion, when not all teams are playing on an even playing field makes no sense.  In the Big Ten each team plays the 6 teams in their division and 3 crossover games.  This year Ohio State played at Wisconsin and home against Nebraska and Northwestern, those teams finished 1st, 2nd and 5th in the B1G West.  Michigan also played Wisconsin at home as well as at Iowa and a home game vs Illinois, those teams finished 1st, 3rd and 6th in the B1G West.  Penn State on the other hand played home against Iowa and Minnesota and on the road against Purdue, those teams finished 3rd, 4th and 7th in the Big Ten.  So Ohio State went on the road to Madison and beat Wisconsin, the same team that Penn State needed the largest comeback for in conference championship game history, to beat on a neutral field, while Penn State got the 3rd and 4th place teams (Iowa/Minn) at home at their lone road crossover game was Purdue, arguably one of the worst 5 Major Conference teams in the nation.  That is a good way to decide a “Champion”?

This year there was 4 conference championship games from the Power 5 Conferences and you could make the argument that none of the four featured the 2 best teams from their conference.

In the ACC, Clemson faced Virginia Tech. Clemson was ranked #3 in the nation and was an obvious choice to be in the game, but VT was 9-3 and ranked 23rd.  Meanwhile, Florida State and Louisville, ranked 12th and 13th respectively, were left at home watching. Louisville even finished with a better ACC record that VT while playing in the more difficult division.
 
In the Big Ten, we discussed that Penn State won, due to uneven scheduling and beating Ohio State head-to-head, but wouldn’t you don’t you think that Ohio State, who beat Wisconsin on the Badgers home field would be a better match-up if we are trying to find out who the best team is?  After all, the Buckeyes lost to Penn State in State College, this game would have been on a neutral field.

The PAC 12 Championship game featured their two highest ranked teams in Washington (4) and Colorado (8) while USC (11) sat at home.  Seems fine, but USC also was responsible for the only losses that either of those teams had in conference play, beating both of them.

And finally, the SEC championship game featured Alabama, obviously and an 8-3 Florida team that lost the week before by 18 points.  Florida, like Penn State made their conference championship game with the help of a weak crossover schedule in the SEC.  The Gators lost to Tennessee, the team that finished 2nd in the SEC East, but still won the division because while Tennessee played #8 Texas A&M and #1 Alabama in back-to-back weeks as their crossover games, Florida played Arkansas and LSU.  Alabama beat Florida by 38 in the conference championship game and it could have been much worse.

As a matter of fact, the only conference that actually had their 2 best teams playing against each other was the Big XII, and that wasn’t an official championship game, although because how the season played out, the winner of that game was the Big XII Champion.  Interestingly, the Big XII is the only Power 5 Conference without a championship game because their conference is, get this, too SMALL!

My resolution, as I’m sure you could guess, is contracting the conferences.  Currently we have 10 conferences with 128 teams in FBS. Right now, half of those teams are in the Power 5 Conferences, ACC (14), Big Ten (14), Big XII (10), PAC 12 (12), SEC (14).  With 60 teams residing in the Group of 5 conferences, while the remaining 4 teams sit as current independents.

If we are shrinking the conferences it also allows us to re-align to bring back geographical rivals and limit travel between schools.  In my format, we have 10-team conferences.  With 130 schools, adding UAB who will start their football program back up in 2017 and Coastal Carolina, who is moving from FCS to FBS status in 2017, that gives us a perfect number.  130 teams in 13 conferences.  80 Power Conference Schools (up from 64) and 50 (Minor Conference Schools).   All teams will be affiliated with a conference, sorry Notre Dame.

While shrinking the conferences (and growing some), we obviously have to re-align.  I chose to do the conferences primarily based on geography, but keeping in mind the historical value of both the conferences as well as the many rivalries that schools have developed over the years.  It is not perfect, as you can’t please everybody, but here is what I came up with.

80 POWER CONFERENCE SCHOOLS
8 10-TEAM CONFERENCES

ACC
1. Clemson Tigers
2. Duke Blue Devils
3. Florida State Seminoles
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
5. Miami Hurricanes
6. North Carolina Tar Heels
7. North Carolina State Wolfpack
8. Virginia Cavaliers
9. Virginia Tech Hokies
10. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
CONCEPT:
Original ACC, with the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech and without Maryland.  Every team has at least one regional rival.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Miami to Virginia, 858 miles

BIG EAST
1. Boston College Eagles
2. Connecticut Huskies
3. Maryland Terrapins
4. Navy Midshipmen
5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
6. Penn State Nittany Lions
7. Pitt Panthers
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
9. Syracuse Orange
10. West Virginia Mountaineers
CONCEPT:
Mid-Atlantic teams and old rivals. Notre Dame added due to their history with BC, Navy, Pitt, Penn State & Syracuse.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Boston College to Notre Dame, 776 miles

BIG TEN
1. Indiana Hoosiers
2. Illinois Fighting Illini
3. Iowa Hawkeyes
4. Michigan Wolverines
5. Michigan State Spartans
6. Minnesota Golden Gophers
7. Northwestern Wildcats
8. Ohio State Buckeyes
9. Purdue Boilermakers
10. Wisconsin Badgers
CONCEPT:
Plain and simple, the original Big Ten.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Ohio State to Wisconsin, 622 miles

CENTRAL
1. Alabama Birmingham Blazers
2. Central Florida Knights
3. Cincinnati Bearcats
4. East Carolina Pirates
5. Louisville Cardinals
6. Marshall Thundering Herd
7. Memphis Tigers
8. South Florida Bulls
9. Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
10. Vanderbilt Commodores
CONCEPT:
All the leftovers of the good but not great programs East of the Mississippi.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Cincinnati to South Florida, 780 miles

MIDWEST
1. Boise State Broncos
2. BYU Cougars
3. Colorado Buffaloes
4. Colorado State Rams
5. Iowa State Cyclones
6. Kansas Jayhawks
7. Kansas State Wildcats
8. Missouri Tigers
9. Nebraska Cornhuskers
10. Utah Utes
CONCEPT:
The remaining misfits left out of the other Power conferences. All west of the Mississippi.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Boise State to Missouri, 1278 miles

PAC-10
1. Arizona Wildcats
2. Arizona State Sun Devils
3. California Golden Bears
4. Oregon Ducks
5. Oregon State Beavers
6. Stanford Cardinal
7. UCLA Bruins
8. USC Trojans
9. Washington Huskies
10. Washington State Cougars
CONCEPT:
The original PAC-10. It was a perfect set-up before with natural rivalries, now it is back to its original state.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Arizona to Washington, 1220 miles

SEC
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Auburn Tigers
3. Florida Gators
4. Georgia Bulldogs
5. Kentucky Wildcats
6. LSU Tigers
7. Mississippi Rebels
8. Mississippi State Bulldogs
9. South Carolina Gamecocks
10. Tennessee Volunteers
CONCEPT:
The SEC with a more regional approach, by getting rid of teams on the outskirts like Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Kentucky to LSU, 651 miles

SOUTH WEST
1. Arkansas Razorbacks
2. Baylor Bears
3. Houston Cougars
4. Oklahoma Sooners
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
6. SMU Mustangs
7. TCU Horned Frogs
8. Texas Longhorns
9. Texas A&M Aggies
10. Texas Tech Red Raiders
CONCEPT:
A Mix of the old SWC and the Big 8, basically taking Texas and Oklahoma with the addition of Arkansas, which borders both states, and has had rivalries with these schools in the past.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Houston to Oklahoma State, 451 miles

50 MINOR CONFERENCE SCHOOLS
5 10-TEAM CONFERENCES

BIG SOUTH
1. Arkansas State Red Wolves
2. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
3. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
4. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
5. North Texas Mean Green
6. Rice Owls
7. Texas State Bobcats
8. Tulane Green Wave
9. UTEP Miners
10. UTSA Roadrunners
CONCEPT:
Pretty much the same footprint as the SOUTH WEST CONFERENCE, but with the smaller programs.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Tulane to UTEP, 977 miles

COASTAL
1. Appalachian State Mountaineers
2. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
3. Charlotte 49ers
4. Florida Atlantic Owls
5. Florida International Panthers
6. Georgia Southern Eagles
7. Georgia State Panthers
8. Old Dominion Monarchs
9. South Alabama Jaguars
10. Troy Trojans
CONCEPT:
From Virginia all the way to Florida, with a touch of Alabama. Lots of natural rivalries based on locale.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Old Dominion to South Alabama, 800 miles

GREAT LAKES
1. Akron Zips
2. Army Black Knights
3. Bowling Green Falcons
4. Buffalo Bulls
5. Kent State Golden Flashes
6. Massachusetts Minutemen
7. Miami (OH) Red Hawks
8. Ohio Bobcats
9. Temple Owls
10. Toledo Rockets
CONCEPT:
The remaining Northeast schools from New England, hugging the Great Lakes to Ohio.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Miami (OH) to UMASS, 667 miles

MID AMERICAN
1. Air Force Falcons
2. Ball State Cardinals
3. Central Michigan Chippewas
4. Eastern Michigan Eagles
5. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
6. Northern Illinois Huskies
7. Tulsa Golden Tornadoes
8. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
9. Western Michigan Broncos
10. Wyoming Cowboys
CONCEPT:
The Western teams from the current MAC, mixed with some other Midwest schools that fit demographically.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Eastern Michigan to Wyoming, 1131 miles

WESTERN
1. Fresno State Bulldogs
2. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
3. Idaho Vandals
4. Nevada Wolf Pack
5. New Mexico Lobos
6. New Mexico State Aggies
7. San Diego State Aztecs
8. San Jose State Spartans
9. UNLV Rebels
10. Utah State Aggies
CONCEPT:
The smaller western programs. Lots of teams from the current MWC.
FURTHEST TRAVEL:
Idaho to New Mexico State, 1137 miles

Obviously, this re-alignment would not please everybody, but with my mandated scheduling rules, it allows and even encourages teams to schedule game against former conference foes that may no longer be.  Here is how scheduling would work.
SCHEDULING:
Each school would play 12 regular season games and have 1 BYE week.
Each school would play their entire conference (9 games).
Each school would play 3 non-conference games.
* Power Conference schools cannot play any FCS teams as part of their non-conference schedule.
* All Power Conference teams must schedule at least 1 games against another Power Conference opponent.
* Scheduling FCS schools for Minor Conferences schools is not mandatory, but permitted.
* Limit of 1 FCS school per season for Minor Conference schools.
* Minor Conference schools must schedule at least 1 game against a Power Conference opponent if they want to be eligible for post season play.
PRESEASON:
Power Conference schools CAN play FCS teams as a preseason game.  These games are optional and must be played the Saturday before the season starts.  These games count as preseason camp, so teams do not get extra time in camp if they play a preseason game.  Ticket prices from these games are dictated by the home teams, however the FCS school gets an even 50/50 split of ALL revenue intake from that game.
PLAYOFF:
12-team playoff.
8 Power Conference champions get automatic bids, 4 at-large bids (Top ranked Minor Conference winner is guaranteed a playoff spot.)
Selection committee seeds the playoff brackets and selects the remaining 3 at-large teams.
Top 4 teams get BYES
SCHEDULE LAYOUT: (1st Saturday of the season would always be over Labor Day weekend)
13 Week regular season, no conference championship games.
WEEK 14 – Playoffs/Bowl Selection Show + Army vs Navy (No other games)
WEEK 15 – OPENING ROUND PLAYOFF GAMES (4 games) (At HOME of better seeded team)
WEEK 16 – Lower Tier Bowls + 2nd ROUND PLAYOFF GAMES (4 games) (4 regional sites)
WEEK 17 – Mid Tier Bowls + SEMIFINALS (2 games)
WEEK 18 – Top Tier Bowls
WEEK 19 – NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

With this schedule, the season would still end on the exact same date that it is currently scheduled to end on with the 4-Team Playoff.

Part 2 of my College Football Fix: The Bowl System will be coming later this week.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Sports Fix: Major League Baseball

I love baseball, it is by far my favorite professional sport to watch as both a casual observer and as a crazy fan that studies every pitch or sequence, breaking down the never-ending mind games and strategy that going on during the games.   That being said, baseball does have its flaws, so today I am here to fix them.

The four issues that I want to address about Major League Baseball are the scheduling, Interleague play, the designated hitter and expansion.  I think there should be something done about a salary cap and revenue sharing as well, but that is for another time and another place.  We will knock off the last three first, and leave the biggest issue in my mind, scheduling, for last.

DESIGNATED HITTER:
This will be short and sweet; the designated hitter is no more.  There is no sense to have half the teams in baseball playing by one set of rules, while the other half plays by different rules.  This doesn’t happen in any other sport, and shouldn’t be happening in baseball.

The push back from the player’s union would be that we are cutting a job from the league.  In response to that I would expand rosters to 26, but in doing that I would also add that at no time can any roster have more than 13 pitchers on their roster at one time.  This roster expansion is created to add a bat that can be used in pinch-hitting situation and to replace the bat lost by the DH, not to booster the bullpens.

INTERLEAGUE PLAY:
In my mind Interleague play in baseball has run its course.  Sure, there are some heated rivalries in places like northern California, Chicago, New York and even in the DC-Baltimore region, but for everyone one of those series, we have places like Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Texas that have no natural rival.  In those cities, Interleague play is nothing special.  It is just another series.  Maybe the worst part about Interleague play is how the uneven scheduling effects the standings and playoff races.  You don’t think the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished 1 GB of the Giants in the wild card race this year, would have rather played the A’s as their natural rival than the defending World Series Champion Royals?  Yes, it is cool to get to see the Yankees and Red Sox come to your city every few years if you live in an NL town, or the Cubs and Dodgers if you live in an AL town, but are those few instances worth having to sit through a random series with the Marlins or Twins?  Probably not.  I liked it when guys like Greg Maddux pitched in the World Series against Derek Jeter and it was the 1st time that those two halls of famers ever met in a game.  That doesn’t happen anymore.  Interleague was fun while it lasted and will be missed by some, but not by most.  It is no longer.

EXPANSION:
With no Interleague play, 15 team leagues don’t work.  Now we either re-align or we expand.  I vote for expansion (with maybe a little re-alignment too.)  We are expanding to 32 teams, which gives us 16 teams per league.  Now, do we have four 8-team division or do we go with eight 4-team divisions?  After that we need to decide which two cities should be getting MLB teams.  I considered returning a team to Montreal, but opted for two US cities.  Our two newest cities are Portland, OR and Charlotte, NC.    I also considered Austin and Indianapolis, but finalized on these two.  The reasoning was somewhat simple, both cities already support professional sports teams.  They both also have had very successful minor league teams over the years, which shows that there is a baseball fan base in those cities. Finally, and maybe most importantly, these are the two biggest TV markets in the US that don’t already have teams.

Now the tough part, breaking up the current division formats and recreating a better one.  For logistics stake, we put Portland in the American League and Charlotte in the National League.  I really wanted to 4 divisions of 8 teams in each division, but I think that makes the playoff situation a little more difficult.  I also factored in that with larger divisions, the playoff races aren’t as exciting and fewer teams are in contention longer in the season than with 8 divisions of 4 teams.  We will now have 8 divisions of 4 teams in each division (4 divisions in each league).  We are dividing up the divisions geographically.  Each league will have an EAST, WEST, SOUTH and CENTRAL division.  
Here are the divisions:
AMERICAN LEAGUE-
EAST                                                      WEST                                     SOUTH                                                  CENTRAL
Baltimore                                             LA                                           Arizona (flipped from NL)                  Chicago
Boston                                                  Oakland                                 Houston                                               Cleveland
New York                                             Portland                                 Kansas City                                          Detroit
Toronto                                                Seattle                                   Texas                                                      Minnesota

NATIONAL LEAGUE-
EAST                                                      WEST                                     SOUTH                                                  CENTRAL
New York                                              Colorado                               Atlanta                                                  Chicago
Philadelphia                                         LA                                           Charlotte                                              Cincinnati
Pittsburgh                                            San Diego                              Miami                                                   Milwaukee
Washington                                         San Francisco                       Tampa Bay (flipped from AL)            St. Louis

SCHEDULING:
In my mind baseball needs more days off and fewer games.  Not a ton fewer, but fewer.  This year in MLB teams played 162 games in 181 days.  My schedule is for 156 games in 175 games.  6 fewer games and still done with 19 scheduled off days.  However, my schedule includes 6 scheduled double headers.  Every teams will play will play host to their 3 division opponents in a scheduled double header throughout the season.  These double headers can be scheduled however the home team would like (Classic, Day-Night, Twi-Night).  Every teams will be able to expand their roster by 1 the day of a double header and each team will have a scheduled day off following all scheduled double headers.  This creates 6 more off days during the season for the players.

The season will always begin on the 2nd Sunday of April.  For the 1st week of the season, all games will be played in either a domed stadium or a warm weather climate.  For the final weekend of the season, all teams will play against teams from their division.  In September, with expanded rosters, each team will only be allowed to declare 26 players eligible for a given game (27 if playing a doubleheader).

The actual scheduling of the games will be simple.  Each team will play 48 division games, playing each opponent 16 times each (8 away, 8 home).  All divisional series will be 4-game series.  Each team will play 108 out of division games, playing each opponent 9 times each.  All non-division series will be 3-game series.

PLAYOFF SCHEDLING-
There will still be 5 playoff teams from each league making the playoffs, 4 division winners and 1 wildcard winner.  The difference in that we will no longer have a “Wild Card” game, but a “Play-In” game.  With only 1 wild card winner, it doesn’t make sense to call it a wild card game and take away from a team that won their division.  Instead the wild card winner, will play on the road at the division winner with the worst record.  Those teams will play 1 game to advance into the MLB Postseason.  The division winner with the best record hosts the winner of the Play-In game, while the other 2 division winners also play, with home field for the series decided by season record (tiebreaker would be head-to-head record).

An important change to the postseason scheduling that I am making, is doing away with travel days in the middle of the series.  This changes the structure of a series too much and allows pitcher dominant teams to rely on one or two pitchers to carry them to a series victory.  By limiting the extra off days in the middle of postseason series, it forces teams to play more like they did in the regular season, which is how they got to the postseason in the first place.  The only off days in any series (both best of 5 series and best of 7) will come after Game 4.  This also avoids the postseason carrying on into November like it is scheduled to this year if it returns to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7.

Sadly, most of these changes will probably never happen, but in my mind, they should.  Anyway, enjoy the rest of the World Series.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Time To Trade



The Pirates are currently 5 games under .500.  They are sitting 5.5 GB of the 2nd Wild Card and that could move to 6 if the Mets win tonight in Atlanta.  They have played 73 games to this point, leaving 89 games in the season, 16 games until the All-Star Break and 30 until the trade deadline.

That last number is key, the Trade Deadline.

The Pirates have to decide whether they are going to be buyers or sellers at this deadline.  Since the Wild Card expanded to 2 teams, no team in the National League got into the Wild Card with less than 88 wins.  Over those same 4 years the 2nd Wild Card averaged 90.75 wins to gain a berth in the postseason.

The Pirates are currently 34-39.  That means they would have to go 54-35 in their final 89 games to get to that magic number of 88 wins.  Add 3 more wins if you are going based on the average. 57-32! Now ask yourself, have you seen anything at all from this team so far this season that make you believe that they can play at a .640 clip the rest of the way this year?

I’ll answer that for you, NO!

But if you would like to hold out hope, that is fine. Let’s give the team until the All-Star Break and see where they stand.  They have 16 games to play before the break, of those 16 games 13 are against teams with a better record than them.  To have any realistic chance of reaching 90 wins, or even 88, reaching .500 by the All-Star Break should be the goal.  That means going 11-5 in the next 16 games.  Those next 16 games include 4 against the Dodgers (currently in position for the top Wild Card spot), a 9 game road trip which includes 5 on the west coast and 4 in St. Louis, and they finish against the Cubs, who have beaten the Pirates 8 out of 9 times this season.  How’s that 11-5 run look now?

It is officially time to lower the Jolly Roger and raise the White Flag on the 2016 Pirate baseball season.

The Pirates are only 1 of 3 teams that can make the claim of reaching the postseason each of the last 3 years.  And that came off of a 21-year hiatus.  Now is not the time to live in the recent past, but to look towards the future.  The Pirates have a bright future, with plenty of young talent in the organization and most of their starting line-up locked up long term.  So why not sell off valuable pieces to help the future?

The Pirates have plenty of pieces that would be valuable to a team in the race in September.  SO who are they?

First and foremost, Mark Melancon.  It is well known that the Pirates shopped around Melancon last off season, knowing that he was going into his final year of arbitration.  He is a free agent after this season and it seems like the Pirates have zero interest in paying him this winter.  What team doesn’t need bullpen help in October?  You’d have to think that other than the Yankees Aroldis Chapman, Melancon would be the best reliever available come July.  He would get a big return.

Another pitcher is next, Francisco Liriano.  Before you laugh at the thought of anyone giving the Pirates more than a bucket of Double Bubble for the struggling lefty, realize this, he is a proven commodity and a lefty.  He also has another year of control on his contract, making him more valuable to the team that gets him. And apparently at least one team has shown interest in him.  (Rotoworld blurb from Wednesday: http://www.rotoworld.com/headlines/mlb/505192/Orioles-showing-interest-in-Francisco-Liriano )  Liriano would also get a nice return, not as much as Melancon, but something worthwhile.

Neftali Feliz is another rental player that the Pirates would be able to get a decent return on.  As said with Melancon, teams are always looking for another arm for the postseason.  He is another guy that has done it in big games and still can be dominant at times.  He, like Melancon is also a free agent after this season, so why not try to get something in return for him?

The final 3 guys on the list are 3 bats, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and David Freese.  All 3 of these guys can be upgrades for teams that are looking for some versatility or some pop off the bench.  You aren’t going to get much return for these 3, but you will get something.  Again, all 3 of these guys are free agents to be, so why not get something in return for them while you can?

I would encourage Neal Huntington and the Pirates to try their best at moving all 6 of these players before the deadline.  They aren’t part of the future but can help the team be better in the future. 

I would also encourage Huntington to use the time after these trades to let the young guys in the system get their feet wet.  If you are trading Joyce, Rodriguez and Freese, bring up Josh Bell and Alen Hanson and play them.  Bell should be the everyday 1st baseman, with John Jaso available to give him a day off here and there.  Hanson takes the role of Rodriguez and is capable of playing behind both Mercer and Harrison, which should get him on the field 3 or 4 games a week, plus pinch hit opportunities.

Moving Melancon means finding a new closer.  Tony Watson, here is your chance to prove yourself.  You want the closer role in 2017 win the job in August and September of this season.  If Watson isn’t the man, priority #1 in the offseason is already upgrading the bullpen, but not it is finding a closer to lead the way.

Liriano leaves a spot open in the rotation.  Hopefully by the time these trades are made the Juan Nicasio and Jeff Locke experiences are over too.  Bring up Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl and let them learn on the job this season.  It is better they take their poundings in meaningless games against Major League hitters in August and September of a throw away season, then bringing them up next year and have them learn on the fly when the season could mean something.


The future is now with this organization.  If the Pirates want to be serious contenders next season, it starts now.