Tony Romo Is Skeptical Footballs Gunslinger Of The Year

In the opening week of the 2014 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo threw three interceptions against the San Francisco 49ers, all with his team trailing. The Cowboys lost that game by double digits, but Romo’s performance earned him consideration for this column’s inaugural Gunslinger of the Week award. It surely soothed Romo’s disappointment.The Gunslinger award goes to the quarterback who takes the kinds of risks necessary to maximize his team’s chances to win, even if they’re unpopular with the commentariat and regardless of whether they pay off or not. Generally this means a quarterback who is willing to throw interceptions (or otherwise be very aggressive) when his team is down to improve its chances from dire to just not so great.There has been a lot of great gunslinging in the NFL this year — including from Andrew Luck, the risk-appraising savant who beat out Romo that first week, and Matthew Stafford (who has been establishing himself as an all-time great at big second-half comebacks). But Romo has led the pack.Despite a narrow and disappointing loss to the Green Bay Packers — who almost represented the NFC in a Super Bowl the NFC almost won — few QBs accomplished as much as Romo did this year. Counting the playoffs, he went 13-4 as a starter and led the league in yards per attempt, NFL Passer Rating and ESPN’s QBR. And while the Cowboys had a strong running game, Romo didn’t exactly have it easy. Here are his 17 games, plotted from start to finish (in seconds), with the point margins Romo faced at the beginning of each passing play:1Note that this chart and the charts at the end of the article show the margins a QB faced from the perspective of the passing game, so they won’t look the same as a chart that just tracked a team’s margin. If there were major fluctuations in score over a period when the QB never passed, those swings aren’t included. Also, the axes are based on situations faced, not results (those are represented in the color). So, if a QB threw a game-winning TD in the final second of a game he trailed wire to wire, the line for that game will be blue but will never be positive. Blue lines are games that his team won, and yellow lines are games that it lost (dashed lines are playoffs). Romo faced a point deficit in 13 of the 17 games, and he won nine of those 13. The yellow and blue circles represent the maximum lead Romo held in a loss and the maximum deficit he faced in a win, respectively. I’ve also included these charts for all other quarterbacks who played in eight or more games at the bottom of this article.Teams that trail as often as the Cowboys normally don’t win as much as they did. Since 2001, Romo’s 69 percent win rate in games trailed has only been exceeded twice by teams that trailed in 13 or more games. Those teams: Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 (who won 10 of 13), and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2011 (who won 11 of 15).2The Cowboys’ nine of 13 comeback wins have also been matched three times: by Manning in 2006, Matt Hasselbeck and the Seattle Seahawks in 2005, and previously by Romo in 2007.But the 2014 Cowboys have done more than just win when trailing. They’ve won when trailing big.There’s a standard test I often use when I do gunslinging/comeback analysis: How often did a quarterback lead his team to victory when his team was down by two scores? Last season, Romo led the Cowboys to four victories in the six games in which he faced nine-plus point deficits. That 66 percent win rate is the highest for any team since 2001 that has trailed in as many games. Let’s look at this in historical context (the area of bubbles is proportional to number of games trailed by nine or more):Drew Brees leads the pack with his remarkable 2009 season, in which he and the New Orleans Saints won 10 of 11 games they trailed and four of five that they trailed by nine or more. (Of course, we would expect a team that trailed less often to win a higher percentage of those games). The other two with higher win percentages are Manning in 2009 and Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers in 2006, both of whom won three of four.So, you might think Romo has just been a machine when trailing big, right? Nope! He was slinging it. Romo’s interception rate in those situations was the second-highest in the league. Here’s a plot comparing each 2014 QBs’ interception rate when trailing big with how often he won those games:That’s may not look like the best-fitting trend line in history, but it’s pretty amazing that it slopes upward at all. The Gunslinger Hypothesis suggests that, in the long run, taking risks is necessary to maximize wins, even if it may lead to interceptions. But that doesn’t mean we’d expect it to be this easy, in particular because:For any given level of risk-taking, we’d still expect better and more-skilled players to throw fewer interceptions than less-skilled ones.In the short run, interceptions hurt. As I’ve said before, as much as I love INTs, a quarterback should still generally expect to lose the times he throws them; he’s just hoping to make up for those losses by getting more touchdowns/wins when his risks pay off. So, over short periods, we should expect to see a negative relationship between interceptions and winning.This season, of all qualifying quarterbacks, Romo has not only committed to slinging it as much as any quarterback, but his gunslinging has paid immediate dividends. One thing that enabled this is when the Cowboys were up or down by one or fewer scores, Romo’s interception rate was only 0.6 percent — the lowest in the league (yes, even lower than Aaron Rodgers, who posted a 1.2 percent rate in those situations). This is good gunslinging! A QB should take risks when they’re necessary and avoid them when they’re not.3Of course, not even the greatest gunslinger expects to win two-thirds of the time that his team drops behind two scores. Romo has obviously gotten lucky, but not nearly as lucky as he would have to have been if he didn’t gunsling at all. In the season-results charts, an ideal gunslinging profile is one that has constantly upward-trending lines when leading or close to even, and then a shotgun spray when trailing big. Some QBs just spray all the time and may win a disproportionate amount of games trailed as a result (below, see Stafford, who this year won four of eight games trailing big but also lost four games that his team led).For being not only one of the slingingest QBs in the league, but also showing just what slinging can do, Tony Romo is our Gunslinger of the Year.BonusHere are the seasons-in-review charts for the other NFL QBs who played at least eight games (so, every team in the league except the Tennessee Titans is represented).There are so many story lines embedded below that I hardly know where to begin. But here are a few things that stuck out to me:Brady only lost once in any game the Patriots led.Before the Super Bowl, Russell Wilson had also won nine of 13 games the Seahawks trailed.Nick Foles, our Gunslinger of the Quarter-Season, won three of three when the Philadelphia Eagles were trailing by two scores.Ben Roethlisberger faced deficits in 15 of his 17 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers.Unexpectedly (to me), Luck had the same number of big (one) and regular (four) come-from-behind wins as that other perpetual Skeptical Football muse, Rodgers.Enjoy! read more

Significant Digits For Monday Nov 16 2015

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news.2 roundsRonda Rousey was knocked out for the first time in her UFC career, going down in the second round against underdog and the anti-Rousey Holly Holm. [Los Angeles Times]10 percentAccording to Pornhub, a website that provides the exact services you think it does, traffic plummeted by 10 percent when “Fallout 4,” a hotly anticipated video game, became available to the gaming public. [VentureBeat]10.4 percentThe Chicago Cubs will increase season ticket prices by an average 10.4 percent following a run at the World Series and forthcoming deals with free agents. [ESPN]19 percentFollowing a wild weekend of college football, Alabama is now the most likely team to win the national title, with a 19 percent chance according to FiveThirtyEight’s model. [FiveThirtyEight]20 bombsWith 129 reported dead from the terror attacks in Paris, France has taken an increased role in combating the Islamic State, coordinating a 20-bomb campaign in northern Syria. [Sky News]1,000 resignationsMore than 1,000 members reportedly resigned from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints following the announcement that the Mormon church would no longer baptize the children of same-sex couples. [The New York Times]1,900 spiesU.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the government will hire an additional 1,900 spies for its intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ following the terror attacks in Paris. [The Telegraph]71,871Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has surpassed Brett Favre’s record for most career passing yards. Manning now has 71,871 yards, but was pulled from the field in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs in favor of backup QB Brock Osweiler. [Pro Football Reference]$10.3 billionAmount collected by public universities from student fees to support athletics programs over the past five years, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education and Huffington Post investigation. A lot of schools are beginning to question how much that investment is really worth. [Chronicle of Higher Education]If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news. read more

NBA News Heats Big 3 Discussing Contract Carmelo to

Perhaps all the discussion of LeBron James truly considering leaving the Miami Heat via free agency has been premature. James and “Big 3” cohorts Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have all optioned out of their contracts, but have been discussing future deals–an indication that they are strategizing a return to Miami.All three, and Udonis Haslem, will officially become free agents on Tuesday. Unlike in 2010 when all three took nearly identical contracts, the discussions this time have included the possibility that James would draw the highest salary among the three, sources told ESPN.James, 29, has never been the single highest-paid player on his team in his 11-year NBA career.Under league rules, players are not allowed to negotiate new contracts with their teams until July 1. However, there is nothing preventing the players from working it out among themselves, and cutting up the Heat’s upcoming record $55 million in available cap space is believed to have been a major part of the discussion when Wade, James and Bosh held a meeting last week in Miami.The trio of Heat stars working collectively have three general options on how to put together their deals that could affect how aggressive the team will be going after other free agents. The Heat’s front office, led by president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg, will consult but have different plans for all three contingencies, sources said.James, Bosh and Wade could all re-sign and take raises to the maximum salary starting at $22 million each, which would carry the Heat into the luxury tax and significantly limit their spending options this season and in the following seasons.They could all take significant pay cuts, perhaps in excess of $5 million per year each, that would take the Heat below the salary cap and leave enough room to chase a major free agent like point guard Kyle Lowry. Though the Heat may ultimately investigate the possibility of Carmelo Anthony, that option has not been seriously discussed among the parties yet, sources said.The last option is that the Heat stars could all take moderate pay cuts and stagger their salaries at different levels. This would likely not leave significant cap space, but it would take the Heat below the luxury tax line and enable them up to use the full mid-level exception of $5.3 million and the biannual exception of $2 million to bring in multiple role players.With James saying the team needs to improve “at every position,” it seems possible the third option may end up being the most likely, especially after the Heat players all took pay cuts when they came to Miami four years ago.Carmelo Anthony to Visit Chicago Bulls FirstCarmelo Anthony, who has committed to opting out of his contract with the New York Knicks, plans to visit the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, the first day free agents can have contact with other teams.Anthony, who maintains an offseason home in Los Angeles, is also expected to meet with the with the Los Angeles Lakers in LA next week.But ESPN.com reported Saturday that although Anthony is about to be courted hard by the aforementioned suitors, the New York Knicks remain optimistic that Anthony will re-sign with the team. A source told the website that Anthony, the star forward, and new Knicks president Phil Jackson, have  “connected.”Bucks Seeking Jason Kidd as Head Coach; Larry Drew OutJason Kidd, after just one year as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, could become the new leader of the Milwaukee Bucks if the teams agree to a trade for a draft pick.The Nets want a first-round selection; the Bucks are offering a second.“If the Nets agree then there will be a deal, if they don’t then [the Bucks] are comfortable moving on and there will be nothing further to talk about,” said the source. “The only thing (the Bucks) would give them is a second-round pick. They want a first. In the next 24 hours, there will either be a deal or there won’t be a deal.”All this leaves Larry Drew out of a job for the second year in a row. The Atlanta Hawks unceremoniously dumped Drew prior to last season. Now, after one nondescript year with the roster-suffering Bucks, he’s out again.“If Jason accepts, then they will work it out [with Drew],” said the source. “If the deal doesn’t happen, then there will be an issue with Larry.”A league source told ESPNNewYork.com Saturday that Lionel Hollins has already emerged as “a very serious candidate” to become head coach of the Nets in the event Kidd does end up in Milwaukee.“In a lot of ways he makes the most sense,” a league source said of Hollins. “He represents stability, and stability is very important right now. He rules with an iron fist and gets a lot out of his players, so he’d be very high on the list right now, and likely the leader.” read more

Serena Williams Accomplishments Help Her Secure 17 Seed at

Serena Williams holds the championship trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the championship match of the 2014 U.S.  (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)Serena Williams got a bit of a boost in the seedings for the U.S. Open by being placed at No. 17, nine spots above her current ranking.The U.S. Tennis Association’s decision, announced Tuesday along with all the other seeds for the main draws of women’s and men’s singles, means Williams avoids a possible matchup against one of the top eight players in the third round.It also sets up a possible matchup at that stage against her older sister, Venus, who is No. 16, her ranking this week.Indeed, all of the other seeds — 32 women, 32 men — were positioned based on the WTA and ATP rankings, as usual.This will be the third Grand Slam tournament of Williams’ return to competition since her daughter was born during the 2017 U.S. Open last September. Williams dealt with health complications from childbirth, including dangerous blood clots.The USTA already had said in June that it would institute a policy that would take into account if a pregnancy affected a player’s ranking. The issue arose when Williams — a 23-time major champion and former No. 1 — was not seeded when she returned to action at the French Open in May, her first Grand Slam tournament in nearly 1½ years. She was, however, seeded at Wimbledon, put at No. 25 while ranked 183rd.Williams wound up as the runner-up at the All England Club, losing to Angelique Kerber there last month. The run to the final allowed Williams to rise to No. 28. In her next match, Williams had the most lopsided loss of her career, beaten 6-1, 6-0 by Johanna Konta in San Jose, California.USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said the placement of Williams was determined by “balancing a variety of factors, including her return to competition following the birth of her daughter, her recent hard court performance this summer, and recognition of her achievements at the U.S. Open.”He added that the USTA thought the decision “recognizes Serena, and is fair to the remaining seeded players.”Williams, who turns 37 next month, has won the U.S. Open six times, most recently in 2014. She is one Grand Slam title away from equaling Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24; Williams already owns the mark for most major singles trophies in the half-century professional era.The draw for the U.S. Open is Thursday in New York.Main-draw play begins in Flushing Meadows on Monday. read more

Serena Williams Is Not The 700thBest Tennis Player On The Planet

More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (June 27, 2017), we discuss the NBA’s anointed MVP: Russell Westbrook took home the prize after a season in which he averaged a triple-double. Next, tennis: In a recent interview with NPR, John McEnroe said Serena Williams was the greatest female tennis player of all time but that “if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be like 700 in the world.” We examine why so many discussions about women’s sports turn into hypothetical conversations pitting female athletes against men. Plus, a significant digit on Tim Tebow.Here are links we discussed during the show:ESPN’s Royce Young recaps Russell Westbrook’s historic season, which culminated with an MVP award.Serena Williams responded on Twitter to McEnroe’s comments.Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post writes that 44 years after the Battle of the Sexes, we’re still having the same dumb debate.A 2014 Slate piece examined why women can serve as fast as men.Significant Digit: 4 percent. Although the New York Mets promoted Tim Tebow to their high-A minor league affiliate, FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur found that Tebow performed below replacement level, in the 4th percentile of player performances in low-A ball since 2005. FiveThirtyEight read more

Its Time To Stop Pretending That The NFL Preseason Isnt Pointless

If the coaches, players and fans all feel like the risk of injury has outstripped the value of playing the games, there’s no viable path forward for the four-game preseason. Only one question remains: Whether the coaches, players and fans can persuade the owners to get on a different path. For most of the 2000s and into the middle of this decade, the number of starters who threw the fewest preseason passes on their teams stayed in the low single digits. Last year, it was a full half of the league’s starting QBs.This year, no starters have thrown the most passes of anyone else on their team, and 22 threw the fewest. In just seven years, we’ve gone from almost half the league mostly playing their starters to over two-thirds the league barely playing them at all.There’s also reason to believe that the decline of starting QB reps across the league this preseason is not a coincidence. The NFL and its players’ union have begun negotiations for their next collective bargaining agreement, and truncating the preseason is reportedly a major negotiating topic. In that context, coaches and players are incentivized to force the owners’ hands.Last week, with Luck likely to sit out the third preseason game, Colts head coach Frank Reich and Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy texted before the game and reached a mutual I-won’t-play-my-guys-if-you-won’t truce. A similar detente was reached between Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and Baltimore Ravens skipper John Harbaugh after their week of joint practices.In fact, joint practice sessions seem to be where the starters are getting all the reps they’ve been giving up.“I think [joint practices are] the trend. I think that’s where we’re going. I think that’s the way the league is heading,” Pederson said in a recent press conference. “As coaches, we get to set the situation and control the environment, and sometimes you don’t get those in games. You don’t get that situation in a game, and this way we can control that and work on specific things and get some really good work done with our starters.”That all makes sense: If a coach really wants to work on the two-minute offense, a preseason game offers no guarantee that a team will even get in a two-minute situation. The same is true for any other situation, matchup or personnel package. What doesn’t make sense, though, is charging fans full price to watch an uncontrolled scrimmage between a bunch of players who likely won’t even make their respective teams.On Monday, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien suggested that fans could whet their appetite for starter-on-starter action by the league televising joint practices in lieu of two preseason games: This season, it fell even more steeply. Projected Week 1 starters (via OurLads) accounted for just 11.7 percent of pass attempts.1Luck was the Colts’ projected starter up to and through the start of the Colts’ third preseason game, so he counts as “the starter” in these numbers. That’s a 43 percent drop in one year, after more than a decade of consistently giving fans at least a decent look at the most important player on the team.The same pattern shows up when we look at how many starters have led their team in preseason attempts — and how many starters have brought up the rear. In 2002, 14 of 32 teams’ starting quarterbacks led their team in preseason pass attempts, and in 2012, 13 starters still led their team in preseason throws. But since 2015, no more than three have. The curtain fell on the 2019 NFL preseason Thursday night — and judging by the volleys of rotten produce hurled at it by fans, writers and coaches, the NFL may never want to stage that show the same way again.For decades, it’s felt like the NFL has had a predictable rhythm to how (and how often) starters play. A little in the first game, then a little more, and then the third preseason game is the “dress rehearsal,” when coaches game-plan, starters start, and the fans who paid full price for tickets get treated to something resembling their team. In the context of meaningless August football, this one game on the preseason schedule was the closest thing fans got to the real thing. The fourth preseason game, in which starters rarely played, has been a forgivable afterthought.But the ugly, pointless football played Thursday night felt unforgivable — because the players fans pay to see barely played in the first three games, either. Even the last bastion of NFL preseason relevance seems to be vanishing. This year’s “dress rehearsals” hardly lived up to their billing. Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton left the game after a minor injury. Almost all of the Green Bay Packers’ starters were held out. Houston starter Deshaun Watson got sacked to start the team’s first possession, the Texans lost starting running back Lamar Miller for the season on the next play, then Watson got sacked again, fumbled the ball and headed for the bench without throwing a pass. Indianapolis Colts starter Andrew Luck retired before taking a single preseason rep.If teams are comfortable going the entire preseason with their starting quarterbacks barely taking the field, the league’s case for making their fans spend the time and money to watch these games is significantly weakened. Perhaps as no surprise, calls to reduce the number of preseason games are now coming from everywhere, from fans on Twitter to major news outlets. It feels like all of a sudden, the whole NFL-watching world has given up on the preseason.Of course, calls for a shortened NFL preseason are nothing new. Analyst John Clayton called for it in The Washington Post earlier this month — almost two decades after he wrote for ESPN that players’ union representatives had already been pushing for it “for years.”The year after Clayton wrote that ESPN article, the NFL expanded to 32 teams. Fourteen of those teams’ eventual Week 1 starters led their squad in preseason pass attempts. Even as their union reps were arguing that a four-game preseason was at least one game more than anybody needed, stars like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Daunte Culpepper, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning were out there taking more reps than anybody on their team.During that 2002 season, 34.4 percent of preseason passes were thrown by quarterbacks who would go on to start Week 1. A decade later, starters’ share of the workload was about the same. But from 2012 to last season, their leaguewide share of pass attempts dropped by 36.5 percent. read more

Vladimir Guerreros Best Games Were In Montreal — And No One Saw

Roberto Alomar1997-20012BBAL/CLE26.943,113 Greg Maddux1994-98PATL39.740,169 Rollie Fingers1974-78POAK/SDP13.014,125 Reggie Jackson1971-75RF/CFOAK31.111,883 Jim Palmer1975-79PBAL27.414,463 Tom Glavine1995-99PATL26.639,232 When we think of soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee Vladimir Guerrero’s outstanding career, we might recall his 2004 American League MVP season with the Anaheim Angels, when he carried his new squad to the postseason with a scorching .363/.424/.726 triple-slash line in September. Or perhaps we’d picture another Angels-era moment, a play that seems to be everyone’s favorite Guerrero highlight: that time he somehow blooped a hit on a pitch that bounced in front of home plate.But many of Guerrero’s top moments came in relative obscurity, as a member of the (late, lamented) Montreal Expos. Although fans of the big-market Atlanta Braves and New York Mets got to see him play on television with some frequency, Guerrero was mostly touted as baseball’s best-kept secret during his peak, routinely playing before microscopic audiences at Stade Olympique. He was baseball’s equivalent of an indie band on the cusp of national discovery — the hipster fan’s alternative to mainstream favorites like Ken Griffey Jr. or Barry Bonds. And while some assorted clips do exist of Guerrero’s feats with his first MLB team, it was also the era right before MLB.TV permanently killed the notion of an underground star. Guerrero might have been the last truly great player to bear that title.Certainly, no recent Hall of Famer was seen by fewer people in person during his best seasons than Guerrero. From 1998 to 2002, Guerrero produced 29.5 wins above replacement (WAR)1Averaging together the versions of WAR found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. for the Expos, marking the top five-year stretch of his career. Over that span, an average of just 10,038 fans came to see each of Guerrero’s home games, according to attendance data from Baseball-Reference.com. That’s the fewest of any HOF member whose career took place during the expansion era (since 1961), including likely 2018 inductees Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman: Phil Niekro1974-78PATL34.910,229 John Smoltz1995-99PATL29.639,226 Gaylord Perry1972-76PCLE/TEX35.811,210 Chipper Jones1998-20023B/LFATL31.837,792 Ivan Rodriguez1996-2000CTEX29.935,120 Mike Piazza1993-97CLAD31.939,857 Includes hitters and pitchers whose entire careers came in the post-expansion era (since 1961).Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs Rod Carew1973-772B/1BMIN36.910,346 Randy Johnson1998-2002PSEA/ARI/ HOU43.135,791 Bert Blyleven1972-76PMIN/TEX36.810,339 Catfish Hunter1971-75POAK/NYY24.612,501 Vladimir Guerrero1998-2002RFMON29.510,038 Ozzie Smith1985-89SSSTL30.734,781 Bottom 10YearsPosTeam(s)WARATT/Game Nolan Ryan1973-77PCAL28.813,455 Jim Thome1995-993B/1BCLE26.341,716 Top 10YearsPosTeam(s)WARAVG. Att/Game The most- and least-watched Hall of Famers in their primesTop and bottom 10 Hall of Famers by team attendance per game in their five best consecutive seasons by wins above replacement, 1961-present That number stands out even more when you consider that Guerrero’s peak straddled the 1990s and 2000s, a consistent period of record-high attendance in the major leagues. All of the other least-watched Hall members on the list above came from the 1970s, when MLB-wide attendance per game had barely budged since the ’50s. By the time Guerrero came along, though, attendance was cresting after two decades of incredible growth. There’s a reason nine of the 10 most-watched HOFers came from the ’90s.But playing in a crumbling, derelict ballpark north of the Canadian border, for a franchise whose roster was gutted after the 1994 strike derailed a season many still believe was destined for a championship, Guerrero was the ultimate under-the-radar superstar. For example, he finished only 13th in MVP voting in 1998 despite producing the second-best season of his career by WAR (and tying fellow likely Chipper Jones for fifth in WAR among NL position players). During his final four seasons in Montreal, Guerrero had three seasons with a quadruple-digit on-base plus slugging (OPS), yet he finished in the top five of MVP voting only once.Of course, in some ways the privacy of Montreal also added to Guerrero’s mystique. In combination with his thrilling style of play — he loved to swing at (and hit) anything in the same area code as the plate, and he rifled down base runners with a cannon of an arm in right field — there was a certain romance to the image of the mega-talented Guerrero toiling away thanklessly for a soon-to-be-relocated shell of a franchise. He helped2Alongside underrated second baseman Jose Vidro and pitchers Javier Vazquez and Tomo Ohka. drag the Expos to surprising respectability in seasons like 2002, when they beat the odds to finish second in the NL East with 83 wins despite owning the league’s lowest payroll. And when Guerrero was finally given the spotlight of a bigger market in 2004, he made the most of it in MVP fashion.It made for a great narrative arc to the career of an all-time great player. However, it’s still a shame more people didn’t get to see Guerrero play during his peak seasons. Nowadays, we take it for granted that we can watch small-market stars whenever we want via the power of streaming. But Guerrero serves as a reminder of a time not so long ago, when brilliant individual performances could still be limited to an extremely small audience of lucky admirers. read more

Report Ohio State AD Gene Smith appointed to College Football Playoff committee

Ohio State Vice President and Director of Athletics Gene Smith announces a $42-million renovation project to Ohio Stadium during a press conference at the Ohio Stadium Recruit Room on March 29. Credit Michael Huson | Campus EditorOhio State Senior Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith has reportedly been named to the College Football Playoff committee. According to Heather Dinich of ESPN.com, Smith will replace Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez on the committee.Smith also currently serves on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee, starting in 2015 through 2018.From 2007-2011, Smith served on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament selection committee, and was chairman of the committee his final year of 2011.Smith has served as OSU’s athletics director since 2005. Alvarez, along with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Furman and Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson.Smith is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and played football at Notre Dame University. He won an Associated Press national championship in 1973 with the Fighting Irish. He was also on the coaching staff for the 1977 national championship team. read more

Big Ten coaches welcome Cornhuskers to conference

The newest team in the Big Ten football conference, Nebraska, was welcomed with open arms at Big Ten Media Days, where several coaches said they have already seen a positive impact because of the new addition. Wisconsin’s head coach Bret Bielema, whose team opens conference play against the Cornhuskers, said he has already noticed Nebraska’s direct influence on recruiting. “When (Big Ten Commissioner) Jim Delany made the decision to bring Nebraska into our league, bring that name and program, I’ve noticed it overall,” Bielema said. “I’ve noticed it in recruiting. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents or recruits sitting in my office talking about the Big Ten Network and the exposure that it brings, to bring Nebraska in, and for us to be a part of the Leaders Division for the first time in college football history…” Penn State’s head coach Joe Paterno said that while he was at one point an outspoken advocate for adding an eastern team to the conference, he feels “extremely good” about the Cornhuskers’ selection. They will bring an added toughness to the conference, he said at Big Ten Media Days, which took place last Thursday and Friday in Chicago. “When we got Nebraska, that was a real coup. It’s going to make the league tougher,” Paterno said. “The tougher the other guy is, the better you get, if you’re a competitor.” For Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, the move is a positive not just for individual teams but for the conference as a whole. “With Nebraska coming into the conference, I think it gives us, the conference as a whole, strengthens our brand,” Dantonio said. Kirk Ferentz, the head coach at Iowa, was especially excited about the possibility of a new rivalry due to Iowa and Nebraska’s shared border. “It’s certainly, I think, something that is going to be something very much of interest for the fans,” Ferentz said. “I remember coming to Iowa in 1981, there were probably more Nebraska fans than Iowa fans. Hopefully that’s changed a little bit, but time will tell.” In hopes of spurring the rivalry, the Cornhuskers and the Hawkeyes announced at Media Days that they will play in the conference’s newest trophy game, the Heroes Game. The game, which will be played on the last Friday in November this year, will honor one hero from Iowa and one from Nebraska. Despite other coaches’ enthusiasm, no coach was more excited than the Cornhuskers’ coach, Bo Pelini, who said he thinks Nebraska is a good fit for the Big Ten. “I think if you look at the tradition, academic integrity, all the things that I believe our program at the University of Nebraska stands for, I think we fit right in with this conference,” Pelini said. “Tremendous football, tremendous athletics, a tremendous commitment to academics, and doing things the right way. That’s what this conference is all about.” Pelini said facing all new opponents will require more time and preparation from his team in order to be a strong competitor. “We basically had 11 new opponents on our schedule which creates a little bit of a challenge for our football team and our kids,” Pelini said. Still, he said he has no plans to drastically alter his style of play. “We’re going to do what we do and we’re going to do it well,” he said. “We’re not really going to adapt what we do to the conference. We’re going to hopefully make the conference adapt to what we do.”  OSU will face the Cornhuskers this season in Lincoln, Neb., on Oct. 8. read more

Ohio State football seniors legacy up for debate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — You could use three words to describe the now-departed Ohio State football senior class: good, bad and ugly. For several Buckeye seniors, whose legacy to OSU football might be in question, Monday’s season-ending 24-17 loss to Florida in the 2012 Gator Bowl, was an opportunity to reflect on the highs, the lows and the forgettable moments of their OSU careers. Several players, including senior center Michael Brewster, pointed to back-to-back Bowl Championship Series victories in the 2010 Rose Bowl and the 2011 Sugar Bowl as a reminder of the class’ accomplishments. “We had a good run in the middle — two BCS bowl wins, three Big Ten championships,” Brewster said. “There were a lot of what ifs about this year — what could have been. But we won a Sugar Bowl and a Rose bowl back-to-back. I think that’s something that’s pretty amazing.” The 2011 Sugar Bowl victory to which Brewster referred — a 31-26 win against Arkansas — was later vacated by the university, along with the entire 2010 regular season, for NCAA rules violations. To be sure, OSU football’s class of 2011 enjoyed bowl triumphs, or “good” moments. Then the 2011 season began — a season some members of Buckeye Nation might consider a low moment in the program’s history. OSU lost seven games for the first time since 1897. The campaign fraught with turbulence on and off the playing field for each team member, but especially the members of the class of 2011. The season-ending defeat to Florida elicited different reactions from the departing Buckeyes and their teammates that remain. Off-field transgressions — many of which were committed by OSU seniors — resulted in penalties for OSU football. On Dec. 19, the NCAA Committee on Infractions handed the team a one-year postseason ban and slashed a total of nine scholarships over three years due to multiple violations. In December 2010, five OSU football players, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, senior wide receiver DeVier Posey, senior left tackle Mike Adams, senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron and redshirt senior defensive end Solomon Thomas, were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after selling Buckeye football memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Whiting also received a one-game ban. Posey, who was suspended for a total of 10 games for two separate NCAA violations, said there weren’t many on-field positives for him to draw from in 2011. “It’s definitely not wins, and it’s not like a good football season as far as things go,” Posey said. “This was definitely a humbling experience.” Not all OSU seniors’ careers were marred by controversy though. Redshirt senior linebacker Tyler Moeller removed his scarlet and gray jersey for the final time Monday. The game brought about an end to Moeller’s six-year career at Ohio Stadium, which saw the player battle back from injuries and an assault and subsequent brain trauma. “It’s sad and disappointing at the same time,” Moeller said of leaving the Buckeyes. “Having your last game to take it (your jersey) off be a loss, it’s tough. It’s been a great journey. Ending with a loss is just tough.” After Monday’s loss, senior linebacker Andrew Sweat talked about the pride he takes in having been a part of OSU football, saying the experience was “surreal.” “You get to here and you’re so excited to play for a prestigious program like Ohio State,” Sweat said. “You experience all the highs that we’ve experienced, and obviously this season was full of lows. But that only makes you better as a person. Players like Moeller and Sweat might be cause for former coach and now-assistant defensive coordinator Luke Fickell’s affinity for the departing seniors. “What we think of their legacy and what you write about their legacy is two completely different things,” Fickell said. “For us, we know that they’ve fought through and battled a lot of things. We know what they mean to us, and how we feel about them.” read more