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Alex Cora…

…so I feel like I should comment on the whole cheating scandal going on in Major League Baseball.  Not only because it involves the Boston Red Sox.  But also because the New England Patriots have been known to ummmmm…push the envelope a time or three as well.  So I guess it is in the water here.  Or it’s prevalent around all leagues.  Either way…

The punishment has not come out against the Red Sox as of yet, so I am not really sure how I feel about them in particular.  Though the punishment has been levied against the Houston Astros already, they still seem to be the focus of the public somehow.  I’ll take that.

There is nothing really to write about the actual Red Sox team either.  Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has spent the offseason basically exchanging bum/unproven relievers for…bum/unproven relievers.  And NOT cutting payroll, as he was apparently “mandated” to do.  He also got rid of some AAAA infielders and signed a backup catcher.  So there’s that.  Oh, and now he has to find a manager.  Seems pretty productive thus far, right?

So instead of wasting any words on Sam Travis, Bobby Poyner, Jeffrey Springs or Matt Hall, here are some completely random thoughts on the cheating coming out of my head, in no particular order.  And I am not even guaranteeing they will make any sense either:

*As written in an ESPN article, “Cora is described by commissioner Rob Manfred as being “involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs. Cora participated in both schemes, and through his active participation, implicitly condoned the players’ conduct.””

YIKES!!

Yeah, based on that, I can’t say I am surprised by the Sox firing him…oops, I mean, “agreed with Alex to mutually part ways…”  Sorry about that.

But what penalty can Cora expect?  Based on the year that former Astro manager A.J. Hinch received, is there a chance Cora gets banned for life?  Is it worse than what Pete Rose did to get him banned for life?

I may be the wrong guy to ask about Rose.  Truly an abhorrable (abhorrent?) individual, he bet on his own team while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.  He may have not been the only one doing it, but he was dumb enough to get caught.  And, not to mention, dumb enough to do it in the first place.  Some may point out that he may have been showing confidence in his own team that day.  But he also likely tanked other days to assure the team was at its best the day he threw money down on them.  Or something like that.  In any event, despite being a colossal scumbag, Rose should be in the Hall of Fame as a player.  Since he would be far from the only scumbag in the Hall.

But I digress.  As for Cora…I don’t even know the answer.  It would seem kind of obvious that he would get more than Hinch.  But life?

I can’t go there unless I hear more damning evidence against him.  Perhaps that comes when the Red Sox investigation is complete.

*What does MLB do from here?  I mean, video is everywhere.  Some dude can take video from the 6th row and get valuable information, can’t he?  The Astro dude that was standing in plain view and recording in games against the Red Sox, Indians and who knows who else…was that even necessary?

I know the teams have some sort of video rooms in the back and all.  But even if they were eliminated, would that make a difference?

I’ve actually been wondering for years how on an NFL telecast in any year someone like Tony Romo, Troy Aikman or Cris Collinsworth say stuff early on like, “when we spoke to the quarterback and coaches on Friday, they told us they were going to do (this) to (combat the other team)”.  I mean, no one listens to the telecast and communicates that to the opposing sideline?  Yeah, it isn’t the whole game plan.  And maybe what was said was kind of obvious.  But still…

Video and recording devices are all around us.  How do you stop it?  I don’t know.  And I am not sure MLB does either.

*What about player suspensions?  Will we see any of those?

My guess is no.  For several reasons.  Are any of the reports going to single out any of the players?  Are there really any players that took advantage more than others?  Did some players frown upon it, but had no choice to go along with the plan due to pressure from their teammates/coaches (reports are that Hinch didn’t love what was going on and broke two monitors at some point.  But ultimately did nothing to stop it, so of course he is paying the price),

And above all, how can you suspend 25-40 players?

Perhaps heavy manager/GM penalties may discourage players from engaging in this practice going forward.  But can we count on that?

*And if they are going after General Managers, why not the owners?  I guess the draft picks and the 5 mil takes care of that part.

However, Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner faced some personal penalties years ago.  So who is to say the owners shouldn’t pay some sort of personal price here as well?

We know for these guys 5 mil is pocket change.

More questions than answers, I know.  But MLB is undoubtedly in the same spot.

And one thing is for sure, cheating is never going away…in any sport.

If it’s not video, it’s Apple watches, it’s performance enhancing drugs, it’s deflating footballs, or it’s something else.  And then something new will inevitably come along.

Sign stealing has been happening for years, in fact.  We all know that.  It’s just a little more high tech now.

So as the world becomes more complicated, busy and distracting…good luck to every sport for figuring all THAT out…

Are We Going To Blame The Refs?

Welp, that’s what everyone wants to do of course.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times:  You simply could not pay me enough to be an official in any sport.  Any place on the field.  At any time.  Etc.

These guys all have to make a split second decision on just about every play.  While we as fans get to see roughly 8,000 angles in instant replay in…well, an instant.

Most of the time, these guys actually do a pretty good job.  I often find myself amazed that they are able to see as many things as they are able to see.

I will say, some of these officials look like they are older than Jesus himself.  So maybe it is time for them to retire.  Some of the baseball umpires look like they can’t fit through many regular-sized doors either.  So maybe it’s time to introduce them to a treadmill, at the very least.

But they normally do a better job than we give them credit for.

Now, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium was not one of those days.

But were they really to blame for the New England Patriots’ loss?

Unlikely.

Sure, there were some horrible calls against the Pats:  The N’Keal Harry non-TD.  The Stephon Gilmore non-scoop and score.  The non-defensive pass interference on Phillip Dorsett.  Something coming out of the Gilmore/Sammy Watkins “scuffle”.  The failed first challenge where even if the Chiefs were determined to get the first down, the spot was still a yard further down the field than it should have been.  The 5 yard penalty mark off instead of 10.

But we’ve already heard about all of those ad nauseam.

The Chiefs had some bogus calls too.  But we don’t hear the specifics about them.  Especially around here.

There were also several flags dropped and then picked up.  The one I remember most clearly is when Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes was dropped after the pass by Pats DE Chase Winovich.  First, it was going to be roughing the passer.  But the zebras decided to pick the flag up because “the defensive player went off to the side…”  Or something like that.  Then TV showed the replay and it showed Winovich landing right on top of Mahomes.

Yada, yada, yada as someone in Seinfeld would say.

The refs simply did not cost anyone the game, however horrible they were.

Was Gilmore truly going to score on that fumble pickup?  How do we know that?  Furthermore, that same drive was the Harry play.  Two plays after that missed call, Jakobi Meyers dropped a touchdown pass.

So they still should have gotten the seven either way.  If Meyers makes that catch.

They lost some time, sure.  But only 4 points (since they kicked a field goal).  Not 14, like some people want to think.  That’s how I’ve been hearing it anyway.

And for the people that are encouraged about the defensive play in the second half…we may have to pump the brakes on that as well.  We all could see Mahomes did something to his hand in the first half.  Apparently, it was causing him problems as the game went on.  So that tempers things a bit, I would say.

This all comes back to the offense…and in large part, the offensive line…again.  A week after giving Tom Brady seemingly plenty of time to throw against Houston, the same could not be said against KC.

Don’t get me wrong, Brady was not great in this game.  But the OL was atrocious.  The receivers other than Julian Edelman apparently could not get open.  When Meyers was open, he dropped a slew of passes.  Where is Mohamed Sanu, by the way?  The Dorsett early season hype train has jumped the tracks.  Harry played 2 plays.  Sony Michel was abysmal and would have been with or without a good line performance.  KC penalties and 2 trick plays helped the NE offense move the ball.  Not ideal.

You know who else we can blame even more than the offense?  COACHING!

Not one of Bill Belichick’s best games.  Or Josh McDaniels’ either.  Or whoever calls the defensive plays.

To wit:

*Questionable challenging the aforementioned spot.  Or offensive pass interference on that same play.  The odds of those getting overturned are low.  Not to mention it cost them when they didn’t have a challenge left on the Harry “TD”.  I know it’s hard to predict the future, but…

*Eschewing a 45 yard field goal on 4th and 7, presumably because kicker Nick Folk had his previous attempt blocked.  The 4th down play was unsuccessful.

*Going for a two-point conversion earlier than they needed to.  The try was unsuccessful.

*Attempting a punt block early in the fourth quarter and leaving no one back to return the punt.  The punt was not blocked and it ended up becoming like a 57 yard punt because it rolled quite a bit.

*Someone not telling Harry to get back on the field after the non-TD call.  We all could see Brady gesturing for him to get back on the field.  The next play was rushed and was a 5 yard loss on a run by James White.  Sure, the play we believe was also rushed because the officials apparently never reset the play clock after everyone ran off the field thinking it was a TD.  Maybe Brady was gesturing wildly for a play to be called.  Either way…

*Couple of conversions by the Chiefs on 2nd and 3rd and really long.

That’s more second guessing of Bill and his boys than I can ever remember doing.  Well, other than why didn’t Malcolm Butler play against the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  But at least that was only one move.

There were many reasons why the Patriots lost to the Chiefs.  The officials were just one of those reasons.

Some other brief thoughts on the game…and future:

*Part of me thinks Brady could have scored on his late run.  Now, there was a guy lined up to hit him for sure.  But it looked to me like he was laying up a bit.  And I didn’t see any other Chief defender in the picture.  I could be 100% wrong on both.  But I can dream, right?

*Time to give up on Michel?  Looks like he needs a better than average line and perhaps a better fullback than linebacker Elandon Roberts to do ANYTHING.  Everyone agrees he looked completely soft Sunday.  Playing Rex Burkhead more I would love.  But then he would just hurt sooner.  Can we finally get a real look at Damien Harris please?

*I’ve supported Meyers all year and I do believe there is something there.  And just last week, I said maybe it’s time to put Harry on ice.  This week, I’m thinking to scale back Meyers.  And force feed Harry against the next three opponents to see if he can be anything in the playoffs.  The Bengals, Bills and Dolphins should provide ample opportunity for that.  And maybe his confidence (and Brady’s in him) can skyrocket.

*I’m almost at the point where I want replay gone in all sports.  It seems to be more trouble than it’s worth.  But on the Gilmore and Harry plays, it is inexplicable that the refs did not let replay make their decision for them.  Heard something yesterday where the NFL is “going to look into things in the offseason”.  That kind of scares me a little bit though.

*Video scandal.  Here we go again.  I am not sure I have much to say until more stuff comes out.  But it would be extremely hard for me to believe that Belichick and anyone running “the project” would allow themselves to be put into this position after what they went through during Spygate.  It’s just inconceivable.  Belichick thinks he is smarter than everyone else and he very well may be.  But to act this smug.  Right in plain sight?  Taping the 1-12 Bungles?  I just don’t see it.  But the rest of the nation most assuredly has already made their judgment.  Let’s see what happens when all the info comes out.  But it’s not a good look, I will allow for that.

*One thing that can maybe help bury this video thing is if the team re-signed receiver Antonio Brown, like, right now.  Just think about how fast at least the local press will turn.  Perhaps the national press too.  Perfect timing, no?  Actually, I lifted this particular note from a comment I heard yesterday afternoon.  I never even considered it and even if I don’t really want Brown back on the team, it would be a typical shady move by a professional team.  Do it in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping or something.  Anyway, thanks for putting this thought in my head Craig F!!

On to the Thursday game:

New York Jets at Baltimore (-14.5)

The Buffalo Bills gave the Ravens a game last week.  Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson apparently has a quad injury.  Short week, anything can happen.  Especially if Le’Veon Bell plays, instead of going bowling like he did the night before he skipped last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with the flu.  But hey, he bowled a 251, so the weekend was not all lost.  That all being said, I don’t expect “anything can happen” to happen here.  Although the Pats loss to KC may allow Baltimore to ease off the pedal a smidge in the race for the #1 seed, I doubt the Ravens will overlook the Jets with two potentially competitive divisional games next on the schedule.  Jackson may get some rest late, but that will be because the game will be well out of hand by then.

Baltimore 38, New York Jets 17.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  11-5

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  7-7

Season (against the spread):  103-105

Season (straight up):  134-74

 

Week Eleven…

…welp (Keo!!!), we cannot start talking about Week Eleven of the NFL season without referencing that ugly scene in Cleveland on Thursday Night.

Unless you live in a cave, by now you certainly have heard that Browns defensive lineman Myles Garrett wound up and smashed Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with Rudolph’s own helmet.  This after Garrett was twisting Rudolph’s head by his face mask a bunch of different ways before tearing the helmet off completely.

Now, yeah, Rudolph “started it”, by trying to rip Garrett’s helmet off after Garrett took him down after a pass attempt.  Apparently, Rudolph was also ummmmmm…making sure Garrett spoke in a high voice for at least a short period of time. when they both eventually got up from that particular part of the play.

That’s a lot of what I have been hearing anyway.

But wait…didn’t Garrett really “start it”, by hauling Rudolph down somewhat forcefully even though the Steelers QB had already long released the pass?  That’s how I saw it.  But not hearing a bunch of that since games end.

Either way, both of these guys were in the wrong.  Just so happens that one of the guys was waaaaaaay more in the wrong than the other.

Now, I have no idea what was said during any of this.  But does it matter?

The game was essentially over and Garrett was a little aggressive on the initial takedown.  And if Rudolph took exception to that, can we blame him?

No…but he probably shouldn’t have “taken it to the next level”, so to speak.  That being said, Garrett shouldn’t have taken it a million levels further right after that.

Football is a violent game.  But what happened was a little over the top, for sure.

Garrett has already been suspended indefinitely by the league…for at least the rest of the season (including playoffs…as if the Browns are getting there.  But I guess it has to be said…in case a miracle happens and they do make it).  Kudos to the NFL for acting swiftly.  And one doesn’t hear the words “kudos to the NFL…” quite often.

If it were me, I’d also take him out for half a season next year.  Set some sort of huge precedent.

I know, some of the “real” criminals in the NFL have gotten lesser suspensions.  “Real” meaning, “done some serious stuff in real life off the field”.

But this one could have been catastrophic if the helmet hit Rudolph in the right place.  The NFL cannot control all of its players off of the field.  But sending a message here could hopefully help them control some things better on the field.

Then again, I’d take some of the more egregious criminals out of the league for life.  Like the domestic violence offenders for one.  A handful of others as well…drug dealers, weapons distributors, etc…but not someone who likes to smoke a little weed, that is.  But I digress…

Plus, though the popular narrative is that after the game, Garrett sounded contrite and all…I don’t know…not from what I saw.  He SAID all the right things.  But I wouldn’t say the way he carried himself during the interview showed a whole lot of contrition.  That’s my feeling anyway.

And whither Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers center who was last seen kicking Garrett in the helmet while Garrett laid on the ground?

Pouncey got suspended for 3 games, but I don’t believe enough has been made of this.  It’s ok to protect and support your quarterback.  But when is it ok to start kicking people in the head…even if the helmet was still on Garretts’ head?  I suppose we should also question what Pouncey was thinking when he initially tried to rain down haymakers…into a facemask…but we will leave that one alone.

In any event, I’d have tossed him for the season too.

Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi got one game for pushing Rudolph down for no real reason…seems about right.

But maybe Rudolph deserves a game too?

Worth talking about anyway.

As for criminal charges, threatened by Rudolph’s agent yesterday?  On one hand, if that happened on the street, there would absolutely be legal action.

But if they start doing that on the field of play?  What kind of can of worms will that then open?

I mean, most of us laughed almost a decade ago, where in the NHL, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara checked Montreal Canadien Max Pacioretty into a stanchion, resulting in a season ending injury for Pacioretty.  Well, we didn’t laugh at that specific play.  We laughed when there was a big uproar in Montreal, and Montreal law enforcement “took a look at it” and considered filing charges against Big Z.  Even though Chara was never suspended by the NHL.

No charges were filed, but we all thought the talk about that was kind of ridiculous.

I suppose that since that was a check and not something like someone waving a hockey stick around looking for blood makes it a different story.  And swinging a helmet around looking for blood may actually be that “different story”.

Just think about it though, the courts getting involved in stuff like that…stuff that happens on the field.  If it has happened somewhere at some point in the past, I am not sure I know about it.  So if it has, my bad.

But if it hasn’t, it’s not really something we all want.  To bring the justice system inside the playing field.  Speaking of “taking things to the next level”.  Not necessarily a good thing.  When boxers kill someone in the ring, they don’t go to jail, do they?  Ok, maybe not apples and oranges here, because boxers are SUPPOSED to be fighting.  But I think you get my point.

In any event, this situation was an eye-opener.  And hopefully, it actually did open some eyes.  Players past and present are saying the right things anyway.  That doesn’t hurt.

Let’s just hope those feelings last.

As for the rest of the games, short and sweet after that elongated opening:

Dallas (-3.5) at Detroit

I still don’t love the Cowboys.  But we are looking at Jeff Driskel instead of Matthew Stafford again this week.

Dallas 31, Detroit 13.  

Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-2.5)

Jacoby Brissett will be back, but so will Nick Foles.  Indy is still heading in the wrong direction.

Jacksonville 21, Indianapolis 17.  

Atlanta at Carolina (-5.5)

I’m not buying into any Falcon resurgence, despite the big win against New Orleans last week.

Carolina 27, Atlanta 21.

Buffalo (-5.5) at Miami

Look out for the Dolphins!!  Kind of…

Buffalo 23, Miami 20.  

Denver at Minnesota (-10.5)

Let down for the Vikes this week?  Broncos off a bye too.  But I don’t think so.

Minnesota 31, Denver 17.  

New York Jets at Washington (-1.5) 

Snooze.

Washington 17, New York Jets 13.  

Houston at Baltimore (-4.5) 

Texans off a bye, can they slow this Raven train down a bit?  Just a hunch.

Houston 34, Baltimore 31.  

New Orleans (-5.5) at Tampa Bay

Two weeks in a row for the Saints?  I doubt it.

New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 31.  

Arizona at San Francisco (-13.5)

The Niners’ schedule gets significantly tougher in the second half of the season.  Maybe not yet, but this one could be close as well.

San Francisco 27, Arizona 24.

New England (-3.5) at Philadelphia

Super Bowl rematch?  Seriously??  I love it when things are marketed like this.  Actually, this time hasn’t been as bad as what usually happens.  Either way, the Eagles will be missing some key guys.  The Pats are off a bye and likely have been stewing about their first loss that happened right before it.  The doubters have been starting to come out.  The Pats usually respond to that.

New England 31, Philadelphia 17.  

Cincinnati at Oakland (-10.5)

The Raiders are a double-digit favorite??!  Ummmm, yup, against the Bengals they are.  Isn’t every team a double-digit favorite against the Bengals?

Oakland 27, Cincinnati 13.  Lock of the week.  (Raiders the lock??  Scary!!)

Chicago at Los Angeles Rams (-6.5)

The Bears have been muddling along all season.  But so haven’t the Rams.  Your guess is as good as mine here.

Los Angeles Rams 24, Chicago 23.  

Kansas City (-3.5) at Los Angeles Chargers

Not looking at much defense here.

Kansas City 38, San Diego 34.  

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Lock Of The Week (season, ATS):  5-5  

Season (against the spread):  75-74

Season (straight up):  97-52

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