Monday, January 31, 2005

Melons & Other Stuff

UVa is not very good. And here "not very good" is a euphemism for "really, really bad -- like middle school girls basketball bad." The Tarheels spanked the Cavaliers Saturday by something like 110 points, and it's really hard for me to believe that this UVa team was actually ranked in the top 25 earlier this month. The only thing harder to believe than that is the size of UVa coach Pete Gillen's head. It reminds of that scene from "So I Married an Axe Murder" when Mike Myers' father berates his son for having such an enormous melon.

Anyway, Jackie Manuel showed no ill-effects from the whole build-a-bear incident and in fact, things got so bad for UVa so quickly, that Wes Miller got 10 minutes of playing time. Miller ended up with three points -- just two shy of Rashad McCants' total, and I'm starting to think that some officials, after putting up with two years of silliness, now are quick to call ticky-tack fouls on McCants. Saturday, Duke Edsall seemed to make a point early on of calling phantom fouls on Rashad. Lucky for everybody involved, Rashad has mastered the whole "Serenity Now" thing, and just shrugs and walks away anytime there's a suspect call, or something doesn't quite go McCants' way. Of course my friend think Andy thinks that McCants is just a hard foul away from "Falling Down," and I guess that alone is reason enough to watch.

I must admit that I was actually pretty indifferent to the news that the Red Sox had traded Doug Mientkiewicz to the Mets for a minor leaguer and one very special baseball. But after giving it about two minutes thought, it now occurs to me that Kevin Millar is now, once again, the Red Sox best first baseman ahead of perennial Gold-Glover David "Manny" Ortiz. In fact, other than being an offseason thorn in the side of Red Sox, Mientkiewicz contributed little to the 2004 team. And what's worse, the Mariners signed Pokey Reese, which means that the Mark Bellhorn will be back at 2nd base full-time. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say if Bellhorn and Millar start 140 games each on the right side of the infield, there are going to be some records broken -- and maybe by the All-Star break. The only thing these two have going for them is that the Red Sox are completely replacing the playing surface at Fenway Park.

I sometimes give Ed Bouchette a hard time, but I can't really disagree with anything he wrote in yesterday's Post-Gazette. Specifically, he made the following suggestions:
*Ask Chad Scott to take a pay cut, the way Jerome Bettis did this past year.

*Make Plaxico Burress a decent offer.

*Sign Hines Ward, who has one year left on his contract, to a long-term deal.

*Make Ross an offer, but not a big one because Starks will take over at right tackle.

*Convince Bettis to play another season, and do it soon. The Steelers can go with Duce Staley, Bettis, Verron Haynes and Willie Parker another season.

*Find out what Tommy Maddox is thinking, and if he will accept his role as the backup to Roethlisberger.

*Alonzo Jackson is not an outside linebacker. Either try to use him as a situational pass rusher or turn him into a 3-4 defensive end.

*The Steelers do not need to sign any expensive free agents, no matter what happens or which players leave.

*The draft can be used to truly take the highest-rated players on their board, unless he's a quarterback, in the top rounds.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, maybe, yes and yes. The only maybe I have is concerning Alonzo Jackson. In 2003 he didn't see the field and a lot of that was because he was making the transition from DE to OLB. In 2004, he still didn't see the field that much, and when he did was underwhelming in the same way James Harrison wasn't. It might be worth a try making him a DE in the 3-4, but he got pushed around as an OLB, so I can't imagine him doing better against bigger and fatter offensive lineman. I'd also make Plax more than a decent offer. If the Steelers are serious about Plax being a long-term part of the organization, they should make a legitimate offer; or at the very least franchise him and get to work on renegotiations. Of course I read somewhere this weekend that the other Bengals receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh is asking for an $8 million signing bonus. Someone needs to remind him that (a) he's not that good, and (b) he was the third receiver behind underachiever Peter Warrick until he went on the IR early in the season. Whatever the case, it's that kind of silliness that sets the tone for offseason negotiations at the WR position. Whatever happens (and I sincerely hope it includes keeping Plax), at least the 2005 offseason will have a lot fewer questions than 2004.