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Just The Sports: 2009-09-27

Just The Sports

Friday, October 02, 2009

What A Shame

What a shame it is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not give Josh Johnson a fair chance as the team's starting quarterback. In Josh Johnson, if the Buccaneers do not have the next great young quarterback, they do have a quarterback who will be more than serviceable and will be a great surprise to those who have never heard his name before. Unfortunately, as head coach Raheem Morris has so clearly stated, the Buccaneers are married to the vastly overrated, wildly inaccurate, and terribly overpaid rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, which means Josh Johnson will have to endure the embarrassment of warming the seat for a player clearly inferior to him.

As always, we can look at Josh Johnson's college statistics to see what a crown jewel the Buccaneers have on the roster. With players like Johnson, who played a lesser brand of football at his Division I-AA alma mater, the University of San Diego, it is imperative that they dominate on the college level if they want to succeed in the NFL. There is already a slight regression for Division I-A college quarterbacks, who play at the top level of college football, moving to the NFL and the regression for Division I-AA quarterbacks is even steeper.

In Johnson's case, though, even with the regression he will experience on the NFL level, he will still be a more than adequate quarterback because of his outstanding college football resumé. Over his thirty-two collegiate games, Johnson completed a sublime 67.9% of his 973 passes with 9.2 yards per pass attempt. Even more impressive, Johnson accumulated an amazing 7.7 TD:1 INT ratio. Accuracy is the most important tool a quarterback can have and Johnson possesses it in abundance.

However, Johnson's positive attributes do not stop with his ability to be an extremely proficient passer because he is also an excellent runner and is mobile in the pocket. Despite the fact that in college football quarterback's sacks count against his rushing totals, Johnson still managed to average 6.1 yards per rush every time he took off running with the ball.

What I hope happens is that Johnson remains faithful to who he is as a quarterback. There has been a disturbing trend against black quarterbacks who have the ability to run well to eschew that part of their game, thinking it makes them less of a quarterback. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that those quarterbacks who are actually running backs masquerading as signal callers (i.e., Michael Vick) do not help their teams, uniquely talented quarterbacks like Johnson who can pass and run at an elite level should use all their physical tools available to them every time they step on the football field. Not doing so is to cripple themselves needlessly.

Johnson may not succeed right away because he is playing for a team with many deficiencies, but if the Buccaneers would think with their minds instead of their eyes, he has the chance to lead a resurgence in Buccaneer football. It has been a long time since they had a young, reliable quarterback at the offensive helm and they should treasure their treasure. Keeping Johnson on the field and Freeman buried on the bench is the best course of action for the Buccaneers.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Not Worth The Headache

All men are not created equal. Among us, the talented and the genius and the rich and the beautiful are allowed to take more liberties, given more freedoms, and get away with more antisocial behavior than their more average counterparts. The same rule applies to the world of professional athletes. Sports franchises are more than willing to employ and pay excellent money to criminals or disruptive influences in the locker room as long as the players are producing at a high level on the field and are helping the team to victories. However, there always comes a time with these players when their production on the field is outweighed by all the negative aspects that come with having them on the team. The latest in a long line of players whose cons eventually outweighed their pros is Milton Bradley, major league outfielder who was recently suspended for the rest of the season by the Chicago Cubs for detrimental conduct.

The Chicago Cubs can call it whatever they want, but the real reason they have suspended Milton Bradley and will seek to trade him in the off-season is simply buyer's remorse. They committed the cardinal sin of giving a player of Bradley's personality make-up a long-term contract (three years, $30 million contract) and now are seeking to correct the situation. When dealing with headaches, it is best to keep them on a series of one-year contracts for below market value compensation. By not doing so, they give the athlete reinforcement that his behavior will be accepted and that the team sees no reason for him to change, leading him to inevitably act out.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the contract was structured so that if they can trick a team into taking on Bradley and his onerous salary, they will have only been on the hook for $9 million of the $30 million; there was a signing bonus of $4 million and a 2009 salary of $5 million. Not only will they be getting rid of a player who is not worth the money, but they will be doing something almost every sports franchise wants to do in these economic climates. That is, the Cubs want to cut payroll and Milton Bradley has given them the perfect excuse to do so.

With his latest disparaging comments about the Chicago Cubs, he forced the Cubs to re-evaluate just how valuable a player he is and he did so at the worst time. This season marks the worst Bradley has had since 2004 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although his on-base percentage has been a very respectable .378, as a corner outfielder, his job is to provide power to the line-up and there he has failed miserably. His .397 slugging percentage ranks near the bottom of all qualified hitters, making him one of the more overpaid players in baseball for the paltry value he is providing. Even more troubling is his isolated power (slugging average minus batting average) of .140, his lowest such total since 2002. Isolated power is a reliable indicator of much of a true power hitter a player is because it only counts extra base hits; it also allows one to observe the start of a decline in a player's production. Bradley's precipitous drop in isolated power from 2008 to 2009 (.242 to .140) most likely foreshadows the fact his power is a thing of the past, making him and his albatross of a contract even more of a liability for the Cubs. They will never get their money's worth out of Bradley.

Truth be told, the Cubs should have never given Milton Bradley that much money, but they have a history of overpaying free agent players coming off of great statistics in contract years. Although he may get a lot of media attention, Bradley is nothing more than an okay player, deserving of okay player money, which is why several teams have given up on him in the past. If he were better, then he would have stayed with teams longer instead of playing for seven teams over ten seasons. The Cubs are just the seventh team to figure out the obvious; Milton Bradley's production is not worth the extra headaches of having him on the roster.