Friday, December 23, 2005

A Loser Picking Winners, Week 16

Did anybody else find it kinda funny that, I don't know, 45 minutes after my little lesson on team loyalties Wednesday, Johnny Damon announces he'll be playing in New York for the next four years? Once again, great timing by me.

Other than the fact that I almost jerked the wheel of my car Lizzie Grubman-style into a group of unsuspecting pedestrians upon hearing the news, I can honestly say I wasn't really surprised. Which is to say, I was very surprised. And not in a "Hey, I got an ipod for Christmas" surprised, either; more in the, "Hey, isn't that my roommate making out with my girlfriend who said she was 'studying for a big test'" surprised. (But in this case, Damon's the girlfriend and A-Rod/Jeter -- take your pick -- is the roommate; not the perfect analogy, but you catch my drift.)

Now that I've cleared all that up, let me say this: Apparently nothing's sacred. Or maybe I should re-phrase it: Apparently nothing's sacred for the right price. And that's the thing. For all the gnashing of teeth by Red Sox fans about feeling betrayed, blah, blah, blah, the bottom line is that $12 million over four years was all Damon needed to slap on some pinstripes and drop the Jesus look. I'm not even interested in blaming Boston's front office on this, because (a) I don't know all the details about how the deal unfolded, and (b) maybe they thought paying a 32-year-old centerfielder with an arm that makes Bernie Williams say, "Damn, that guy has a bad arm," something in the neighborhood of $52 million wasn't worth the money. And if the answer is in fact (b), they're probably right.

I know, I know, Damon was a very important part of winning the World Series, a fan favorite, and one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball, but he also said during the 2005 season that he'd never play for New York, and it wasn't about money. Well guess what, George Sithbrenner (thanks Brian for that one) threw so much money in Damon's direction that he made it about money. And while I certainly don't like it, I'm not going to call Damon selfish, or begrudge him taking the contract. I'll just add another voodoo doll to the collection. And I'll probably keep it somewhere near the A-Rod, J.J. Redick or Brian Billick hugging Kyle Boller dolls. So there.

I didn't plan on talking about the Steelers offseason free agent needs until, well, the offseason, primarily because it would give me something to do after I got tired of writing those, "I can't believe the Steelers won the Super Bowl" posts. But since it was already discussed a little bit Wednesday, I might as well weigh in with my two cents.

I too think that Chris Hope should be at the top of the Steelers' to-do list. He's the ying to Polamalu's yang. (I'm not sure what that means, but it just sounds right. Or dirty. I'm not sure which.) His steady play as the last man back allows Troy to basically act like a maniac without fear of giving up the big play. Polamalu's the Pro Bowler, but Hope allows him to do a lot of what makes him so successful. And if you don't think Hope's tough to replace, just remember of couple of things: (a) his job was previously held by Brent Alexander, and (b) the free safety is responsible for making a lot of the calls once the offense comes to the line. If the Steelers sign or draft somebody to replace Hope, they're going to have to learn a crapload of stuff before they'll see the field. And instead of going through all of that, it seems to make more sense to just re-sign the guy, since, you know, he's very good at what he does.

Brett Keisel, Charlie Batch, Deshea Townsend, Verron Haynes, Kimo von Oelhoffen, Quincy Morgan, Antwaan Randle El, Sean Morey, Clint Kriewaldt and Jerame Tuman are also unrestricted free agents. I'm the dude who likes keeping everybody around because over the course of several seasons I get used to seeing these guys on the field together. Other than Chad Scott (and maybe DeWayne Washington after the Titans playoff game in 2002), I never really had the occasion to indict a player for sucking. And I guess I feel bad when a player is basically fired from his job. I wanted Plax to stay. I felt bad when Zereoue got the ax. And I even felt a little weird when Chad Scott got sent packing (especially since 2004 -- despite the injuries -- was one of his better seasons in quite a while; on second thought, maybe that's why he wasn't asked to renegotiate his contract). Anyway, of the guys I listed to start this paragraph, I'd honestly like to see them all back (big surprise there, right?). Gotta have Charlie because Maddox is as good as gone. I would also love to see Deshea back, because (a) he's still really good, (b) Willie Williams is done, and (c) the other cornerbacks are still really young and I don't want to see Chidi on the field in any other situation except special teams. Kimo's having a pretty solid season, and he looks to have at least another one in him. The rotation of Aaron Smith, Kimo, Keisel and Kirshke might be one of the most underrated in football. Which means that Keisel's worth re-signing too.

I have this weird feeling that Antwaan won't be back. I'd love to have him return as the slot guy/punt returner, but I'm sure that's not a job he's looking for at this point in his career. I'd love to see Quincy get a chance to play #2 and you get the impression Ben would too. Maybe Randle El will finish the season strong, and make the decision a little tougher on the Steelers.

For all the talk about shoring up the running back position next year, Verron Haynes is very good at what he does. In addition to being maybe the best blocking back on th e team, and being able to run that third down-and-long draw/screen pass out of the shotgun as well as anybody on the planet, he's also a very, very good special teams player. He struggled with injuries his first few seasons, but he's been pretty healthy this year. He's another guy I'd love to see stay around because he knows his role, doesn't ever complain (or at least you don't hear about it) and is a great dancer. That's a deadly combination.

I know it seems like Jerame Tuman's basically fallen off the face of the earth, but he's currently the only other tight end on the roster, and he's a good blocker, so maybe he'll stick around. Maybe the Steelers should give him a number in the 60s or 70s and just make it official and call him a lineman.

Speaking of linemen, I too am of the opinion that Okobi should get a chance if Hartings doesn't rework his deal this offseason. The Steelers thought enough of him to give him a pretty big contract (at least for a backup) a few seasons ago, ostensibly with the idea that he would take over for Hartings at some point. Plus, Okobi was Drew Brees' center at Purdue, so that should count for something. (Actually, it shouldn't count for anything, but I just wanted to throw that fact out there because it makes me look smart. Or smarter.)

But let's get through these next two weeks and hopefully the post-season before getting into too deep into all of this. (Plus, I don't want to blow through all my offseason ideas for Steelers' posts in one day before the season even ends.)

The Tar Heels lost Wednesday night to USC. And Reggie Bush didn't even play. I don't really have anything to add since I didn't see the game, but I will take this opportunity to make fun of Duke. Deadspin had a link to this unbelievably embarrassing video of Quin Snyder, now coaching the Missouri Tigers right into the ground, getting his team pumped up for a game by singing, ahem, "Eye of the Tiger." Yikes. He should hold on to this tape, because he can bust it out at his next job interview -- which could be any day now -- especially if he tries his hand at being a professional karaoke singer. Yikes. Just yikes. I can't say it enough.

At this point, I'm willing to lose every pick from here on out if (a) the Chiefs win and (b) the Browns lose. The only thing is, it's not like I wasn't losing all my picks every week anyway, so I'm not sure what'll be different. Either way, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

ATL TB -3.0 TB
DET NO -3.0 NO
SD KC 2.0 KC
Season: 98 - 122 - 4
Last week: 7 - 9
Earnings to date: - $3620

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