J Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann – The Most Underrated Pitcher in Baseball

by JDCam October 25th 2014

When the baseball season is over. When a refreshing and truly excellent post-season comes to a close, awards season will begin. At this point it is a mere formality that Clayton Kershaw wins his second successive Cy Young award (and most likely an MVP) and deservedly so. Someone who will start to garner more attention from Cy Young voters this year is Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, perhaps the most grossly underrated starting pitcher in all of baseball.

The most impressive thing about Zimmermann is how he just gets better and better. Let’s start with the basics. In 2014, Zimmermann put up career bests (since he has become a full time starter) in win % (.737), WHIP (1.072), HR/9 (0.6), BB/9 (1.3) and SO/9 (8.2). This is elite production and at 28, Zimmermann is yet to enter his pitching prime.

Let’s get into some more stats on Zimmermann. He was 10th in all of baseball with a 5.2 WAR in 2014. He has the majors 7th best FIP at 2.68 and 13th in xFIP at 3.10. Zimmerman did all this with an above average BABIP of .302. How aren’t we raving about this guy? I don’t understand. Zimmerann seems to suffer from being undervalued by others, most evidently by his own manager, the consistently buffoonish Matt Williams.

In game 2 of the Nationals series against the pennant winning San Francisco Giants, a mere 6 days after throwing a no hitter against the surprisingly competitive Florida Marlins, Williams took Zimmerman out of the game in remarkable circumstances. Against the Marlins Zimmeran threw 104 pitches (79 for strikes), struck out 10, and walked one in a game that was near perfection. Against the Giants Zimmermann was incredible again. He has pitched 8.2 innings of shut out ball before walking  promising Giants 2B joe Panik. Bizareely, with the game on the line and his unappreciated ace working on 17 2/3 shut out innings, Williams took Zimmermann out of the game in favor of injury prone closer Drew Storen. After a Buster Posey single and a Pablo Sandoval double, the game was tied. San Francisco went on to win in 18 innings and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the best of 5 series.

Williams made one of the worst managerial decisions in recent playoff history by pulling Zimmermann in game 2 against the Giants in the NLDS

Williams made one of the worst managerial decisions in recent playoff history by pulling Zimmermann in game 2 against the Giants in the NLDS

For me, Williams decision is a puzzle I still have not managed to solve. Consider the situation. Your bona fide ace (yes over Strasburg) throws a no hitter. The next game (a crucial playoff start) he throws 8 2/3 innings of 3 hit ball. He has dominated the Giants lineup comfortably. He walks a man in the 9th, with two men down and he is taken out. SHOCKING! Just a shocking managerial decision! What does Zimmermann have to do to stay in the game? How could you possibly pull Zimmermann, in the midst of one of the most impressive streaks of his career for Storen (an injury prone, streakily dominant closer). I cannot wrap my head around the level of stupidity. The Nationals had a legitimate opportunity to win this year with a great rotation in which Gio Gonzalez was a number 4. Jordan Zimmerann is, without question the best pitcher in this potentially dominant group. Next year, his salary of $16.5 million will be richly deserved. He will undoubtedly be of the best available starters in a deep free agent starter class that boasts David Price and Mat Latos. I’m sure the Nationals will try to re-up Zimmerman in the off-season or during 2015. If I was him, I’d be testing the market to find a club that truly appreciated my value.

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions

Jim Schwartz and the Lions – Where is the Class in Sports?

by JDCam 10.16.14

This might qualify as somewhat of a rant. I was prepared to let it go until the Baylor Bears scored 21 unanswered points to top TCU on Saturday in a defenseless see-saw battle that was worthy of the top ten matchup it was hyped to be. At the end of their last gasp win Baylor fans rushed the field. WHY? I DON’T GET IT?! Clearly Baylor was down big in this game and the odds were stacked against them. However this was a 5 vs 9 matchup. Baylor was a favorite here. To me, while rushing the field is fun and it was certainly a remarkable comeback it screams of a lack of belongingness of your college team. Heads up Bear fans, you were supposed to win that top ten matchup at home. No matter the circumstances, rushing the field seemed a little much.

Was Baylor rushing the field in a game in which they were favored too much?

Was Baylor rushing the field in a game in which they were favored too much?

The previous Sunday October 5th the Buffalo Bills committed a way more egregiously pathetic and Bush league maneuver after outlasting Alex Henry, the kicker of the Detroit Lions, who was thoroughly determined to lose the game.  Henry managed to miss 3 field goals (indoors mind you) before Dan Carpenter split the sticks with a 58-yarder with 4 seconds left on the clock for a 17-14 win.

After the clock expired Buffalo players carried former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz from the field. This certainly got Golden Tate’s blood boiling, as the Lions wideout confessed after the game later. ‘I thought it was so disrespectful. So disrespectful. I didn’t like it at all. If I knew I wasn’t going to get fined, I would have snatched him right down off their shoulders and threw him on the ground, personally. But obviously I couldn’t do that’. (Obviously Golden, obviously. The outstanding quote of the week award goes to you for this gem).

Bizarrely, I’m inclined to agree with Tate here. Apparently, Bills defensive coordinator Schwartz had told Bills players how much beating his former team in their own building would mean to him, all but hinting at the level of adulation he wanted at the end of the game. How classless. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. Schwartz was paraded around like a conquering Roman hero. What do you have smile about Jim? You are coaching on a vanilla Bills team that sits at 3-3. You were fired from your last job with the Lions after a season of underachievement with significant talent and a litany of poor judgment calls.

Ultimately it would be a refreshing change of pace if folks in the position of men like Schwartz (leaders in the highest level of competition in a given sport) would act like they expected to win. Not only did Schwartz fail to do so, he acted as if he had single handedly won a game in which it was primarily the incompetence of the Detroit special teams that lead to the victory (Henry was cut the following Monday), not to mention the lack of sportsmanship in blatantly disrespecting a team you beat in their own building. Stay classy Jim Schwartz, I’m sure the Lions won’t forget THAT game in a hurry.

Cal

Cal’s Historic ‘Goff’ense and the Resurgence of Golden Bear Football (Also – Stanfurd Sucks)

by JDCam 10.10.14

Late Saturday night, after 11 ranked teams had already lost. Cal and WSU participated in one of the most ridiculous games in college football history. WSU QB Connor Halliday threw for an FBS record 734 yards and 6 TDs. In a loss. To Cal. Remarkably, despite Halliday’s record breaking night (amassing more passing yards to date than 16 FBS teams) he was arguably the second best player on the field. Cal’s emergent QB Jared Goff is quietly making a name for himself in a division that already boasts potential top pick Marcus Mariota and after several years of quiet anonymity, Golden Bear fans have some hope after a miserable few seasons.

Against WSU Goff threw for a paltry 527 yards and 5 TDs. Through 5 games Goff has 1875 yards, with 22 TDs, just 3 INTs and a completion percentage of 64.6%. Sophmore Goff was a 4 star recruit out of Marin Catholic in Northern California and was originally ranked 267th in the ESPN 300 in 2012. Goff’s crisp throwing and arm strength have many comparing him to another Cal alumni, Aaron Rodgers – whose peak with the Golden Bears came in the 2004 season.

Jared Goff is dominating in a young 2014 season

Jared Goff is dominating in a young 2014 season

2004 BCS Controversy

For those unfamiliar with Cal football history here is a brief summary of a controversial 2004 season. With Aaron Rodgers guiding a typically dominant offense, Cal lost only one regular season contest against eventual BCS National Champion USC Trojans. Cal finished the regular season at number 4 and seemed like a lock for a Rose Bowl berth. Then Texas coach Mack Brown subsequently made pleas to the media and to coaches to consider and re-consider their rankings to allow Texas a BCS opportunity. As a result number 6 Texas made up 23 points on number 4 Cal in the AP poll and the 5th ranked Longhorns gained 43 points on the 4th ranked Golden Bears in the coach’s poll. The rest is history and Texas went on to edge Michigan 38-37 in the Rose Bowl. To the ire of Cal fans, the AP poll was removed from BCS formula consideration after the 2004 season, partially because of the controversy with the Bears. For their part, Cal whimpered to a 45-31 Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech.

The demise of Cal since this recent apex has been a slow and painful one to watch. In the last 3 seasons they have gone 7-6 (4-5) in 2011, 3-9 (2-7) in 2012 and 1-11 (0-9) in 2013. Longtime coach Jeff Tedford was fired in 2012 and replaced by Sonny Dykes. Looking at the active NFL players to emerge from Cal as well as their recruiting history in the last decade, some interesting patterns emerge that foreshadowed their recent spiral. First let’s take a look at offensive and defensive linemen produced by Cal in recent seasons

Player Position Drafted Experience
Tyson Alualu Defensive End 1st round, 10th overall 5th season – JAX
Deandre Coleman Defensive Tackle Undrafted free agent Rookie – MIA
Brian De La Puente Center Undrafted free agent 5th season – CHI
Cameron Jordan Defensive End 1st round, 25th overall 4th season – NO
L.P Ladouceur Center Undrafted free agent 10th season – DAL
Alex Mack Center 1st round, 21st overall 6th season – CLE
Brandon Mebane Defensive Tackle 3rd round, 85th overall 8th season – SEA
Mitchell Schwartz Offensive Tackle 2nd round, 37th overall 3rd season – CLE
Brian Schwenke Center 4th round, 107th overall 2nd season – CAL
Nick Sundberg Center Undrafted free agent 5th season – WAS

Looking at this list there are certainly some exceptional players. Mack, who was named to his first Pro-bowl in 2013 has become a huge part of the Browns offensive line alongside fellow behemoth Joe Thomas. Mebane of course has been a successful part of a hugely dominant Seattle Seahawks defense over the last few years. Jordan, Alualu and Mitchell Schwartz are all good players. Several of the undrafted free agents on the list are career backups who have not played a snap this season. Now to look at a similar list of active offensive skill position players drafted out of Cal.

Alex Mack is one of the few elite linemen to come out of Cal in recent seasons

Alex Mack is one of the few elite linemen to come out of Cal in recent seasons

Player Position Drafted Experience
Shane Vereen Running Back 2nd round, 56th overall 4th season
Craig Stevens Tight End 3rd round, 85th overall 8th season
Jeremy Ross Wide Receiver Undrafted free agent 2nd season
Aaron Rodgers Quarterback 1st round, 24th overall 10th season
Marshawn Lynch Running Back 1st round, 12th overall 8th season
Marvin Jones Wide Receiver 5th round, 166th overall 3rd season
DeSean Jackson Wide Receiver 2nd round, 49th overall 7th season
Justin Forsett Running Back 7th round, 233rd overall 7th season
C.J Anderson Running Back Undrafted free agent 2nd season
Keenan Allen Wide Receiver 3rd round, 76th overall 2nd season

There is a notable disparity between these two groups. Even some of the lower drafted offensive skill players have become impact NFL players. The accomplishments of Rodgers and Lynch do not need to be discussed here. DeSean Jackson can be one of the most legitimate downfield threats in the NFL. Allen just got off a monster rookie season for the Chargers. Justin Forsett has a golden opportunity as the number one back in the wake of the Ray Rice controversy in Baltimore. Marvin Jones was on the receiving end of 10 TD passes and 712 yards in his sophomore season before injuries have slowed him this year. Forget draft position, the productivity differential between the two groups is huge.

Justin Forsett has a legitimate chance to have an impactful season for the Ravens, despite being a 7th round pick.

Justin Forsett has a legitimate chance to have an impactful season for the Ravens, despite being a 7th round pick.

So the Golden Bears are producing more NFL ready offensive skill position players than offensive or defensive lineman, hardly surprising, but how are they recruiting? In Cal’s last 8 recruiting classes the discrepancy between offensive skill position players and quality linemen and defensive skill positions is just as stark. According to ESPN recruiting, in their last 8 classes, the spread of positions by top 10 recruits each year has been as follows;

Position Number of Players Recruited
Wide Receiver 14
Running Back 9
Quarterback 8
Offensive Tackle 8
Athlete 7
Defensive End 7
Offensive Guard 6
Defensive Tackle 5
Cornerback 5
Safety 3

Looking through their recruiting lists, the offensive bias is obvious. It is also noticeable just how few quality players Cal is recruiting into its secondary. This has been born out in Cal’s play in recent seasons. Porous is not an adequate adjective to describe their recent defensive play. Cal currently ranks 122nd in the NCAA with a whopping 40.4 points conceded per game. Remarkably this is topped by their 2nd in the NCAA 50 points per game by their offense. Cal’s 2014 defense is just shocking. They are currently ranked 119th out of 124 1-A teams and are currently conceding 545 yards per game with 427.8 coming through the air (worst among 1-A teams) and 117.2 on the ground.

My point here is simply that no matter how good Goff is or will become, this recent surge of Cal success is unsustainable until they can address some of their recruiting issues on defense and particularly in their secondary. Cal has never had difficulty recruiting quality classes, usually falling in the 20th-40th range nationally. If they want to create a program with long term success and continue the journey back to consistent respectability they need to take advantage of this improved year and make sure they focus on quality defensive recruits, particularly in their secondary as sooner or later, Goff will have something less than a perfect game and in the long term, will probably follow Mariota in a year or two into the NFL. Cal football is on the up this year, but will they have the foresight to make it last?

TNF

Thursday Night Football – From Bad to Worse

By JDCam Monday October 6th 2014

Thursday Night Football is an atrocious product. It’s becoming an unwatchable product. It’s a product that the NFL should give serious consideration to removing for the safety of its players, the entertainment of its fans and the credibility of itself as an organization.

TNF made its debut on November 23rd 2006 in a matchup between the Chiefs and Broncos. Initially the 8 game package was designed to slake the thirst of an increasingly NFL obsessed general public. In subsequent years TNF moved to a full season slate. The first game finished 19-10 in favor of the Chiefs. In recent years there has been a transition to an increasing number of divisional numbers in attempt to increase the viewership of TNF (as well as the significance of its games) understandably the lowest of all NFL game programming.

In the 2014 season the TNF score line disparities have been alarming;

Seahawks by 20 over Packers

Ravens by 20 over Steelers

Falcons by 42 over Bucs

Giants by 31 over Redskins

Packers by 32 over Vikings

That’s an average discrepancy of 29 points per game, hardly compelling football. Comparatively to the rest of the NFL matchups through week 5 in which the average score separation was;

Week 1 – 10.13 points

Week 2 – 12.33 points

Week 3 – 11.73 points

Week 4 – 16.5 points

Week 5 – 12.38 points

Obviously, it’s not entirely fair to compare a one game sample to score discrepancies over a full Sunday slate. Thus far in the 2014 season however, there hasn’t been a truly competitive TNF game. Compare these score lines to week 3 for example, where on Sunday there were 6 games decided by 10 points or less.

TNF Meme

A more appropriate logo for TNF?

An additional and perhaps more significant consideration for the NFL is giving its players enough time to fully recover between games. Starting on short rest is preventing some of its players from participating and exacerbating the pressure on others to play through ‘minor’ injuries that can resurface over the course of a long season. If the NFL wants an outstanding product then surely having its best players on the field is a priority. Minnesota Viking rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, suffering from a sprained ankle was unable to suit up for the Vikings whipping at the hands of the Green Bay Packers but claimed that he would have been able to suit up if it was a Sunday game. Would the Vikings have won if Bridgewater had been able to start? Almost certainly not. Would it have been more competitive with Bridgewater instead of Christian Ponder? Almost certainly.

Teddy B SIdeline

Vikings talented rookie Teddy Bridgewater was unable to suit up against the Packers. Would he have been able to play if the game were on Sunday?

There has also been a litany of new research into head injuries within the NFL. Outside the Lines recently reported that shockingly only 1 in 27 head injuries are reported in the FCS. Chris Nowinski, co- founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, reported that ‘the most important finding is that college football players are playing through the vast majority of potential concussions’

Given the vast amount of money at stake for the NFL and its teams every Sunday one would have to assume that if a similar study was conducted in the NFL we might see similarly alarming results. The NFL does have a key responsibility to its players here, not to sacrifice their long term well-being for the sake of their ratings or their profit margin. PBS recently published an article citing the alarming findings of a group of researchers at UCLA who discovered brain damage in ex-NFL players after their careers concluded. Surely in this culture of increasing awareness surrounding traumatic brain injuries, Thursday Night Football sets its players up for unnecessary further injury risk in an already risky sport?

Sadly the NFL doesn’t yet live out this responsibility. It has two bottom lines, dollars and eyeballs (on television sets). As long as Thursday Night Football ratings continue to be among the highest nationally it won’t be going anywhere. Sadly for both its fans and players, it is a disservice and discredit to one group and potentially an endangerment to the other.

Gardy

Gardenhire out in MN – A Long Time Coming?

by JDCam 10.04.14

The Twins released long time manager Ron Gardenhire on Monday bringing his 13 year tenure with the Twins to a disappointing conclusion. The uber-loyal Twins will now be looking for only their third manager since the 1986 season. In his career with the Twins, Gardy won the AL Central 6 times. He struggled more recently however, posting 90+ losses in each of the last four seasons. For the Twins part their managerial change is, I feel, not at all about personnel and pleasingly for Twins fans, much more about the culture of the franchise.

ESPN guru Tim Kurkjian reported the story quoting Gardenhire as ‘fiery’ and described him as an ‘affable everyman who turned the perennial AL doormat into a six time division champion.’ Those sentiments ring of truth but also gnaw at Twins fans who have seen the exit for Gardy coming for some time.

Gardenhire certainly did have his share of success with the Twins building his teams on a solid generation of minor league talent including Tori Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer and having the bonus of acquiring cornerstones by trade including Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano and outstanding organizational additions like rule 5 pickup And two time Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Gardenhire however was never able to replicate the regular season success in post season. In his 6 post-season appearances Gardy’s Twins managed just one series win, in 2002 before losing to the eventual World Series champion Anaheim Angels (or whatever they were called that year). In those 6 series losses the Twins only won 3 games! To be fair the Twins faced several of the great Yankee teams of the early 2000s. The gulf in class was unfortunately matched by a gulf in belonging.

As a Twins fan, the team always seemed to have a ‘happy to be here’ attitude. Their first post-season opponent always seemed like the logical last stop, the Twins an annoying irritation along the way, the most obvious discrepancy between the teams the massive gulf in class in starting pitching. While Gardenhire himself WAS a fiery character, always going to bat for his team and receiving more than his fair share of ejections, he failed to instill that same passion and heart in his players. The Twins never seemed like they thought or believed they would beat the Yankees in those early 2000s, they just seemed to be making up numbers. I wanted to see the same passion from the players that Gardy always seemed to exhibit, something like this;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGZUKHtW7vg

OK, that was an exaggeration but still. Gardy’s Twins always seemed to somehow take on and embody that most famous of North Star state idiosyncrasies, ‘Minnesota Nice’. Too nice to take the series too far or make it too competitive turned the Twins became the underachieving also-rans of the early 2000s playoffs.

Santana

Johan Santana has been the only true ace Twins fans have enjoyed since the early 2000s.

Gardenhire’s own reaction to his dismissal is perhaps the MOST astounding part of this whole story. When speaking at the Twins press conference he stated that he was ‘completely fine with this’. Gardenhire is even quoted as saying ‘I think this is the right thing’. If ever there was an indication that a change in voice was needed, this was it! If you don’t think you should still have your job Gardy, why should I? Is this the voice and message of the manager whose job it was to get his team prepared, particularly mentally to face a Yankee franchise year after year that at worst could be described as dominant and at best dynastic? No wonder we got waxed every year! OK, maybe a little far but come on?! Despite a number of players expressing their displeasure and disappointment at the axing of Gardy, it may be a case of having never heard another voice as young pieces like Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe have known no other as their manager.

Looking once again at those 6 playoff efforts the Twins obvious issue was their lack of depth at starting pitching. Now at the beginning of the 2014 playoffs every self-respecting sport blog and website immediately begins ranking contenders various pieces, up first, starting pitching. You DO NOT win in the post season with poor starting pitching. Looking at the two years the Twins had their strongest team pitching, 2004 (27.6 combined WAR) and 2006 (23 combined WAR). In both years the Twins had a bonafide ace in Santana (who incidentally contributed (between ¼ to 1/3 of the team WAR alone). In ’04 after Santana took game one in New York, the Twins went to reliable number 2 Brad Radke before turning to Carlos Silva in game 3. In ’06 Twins again began with Santana before turning to Boof Bonser of the famous porn-stache in game two (yikes). Did Terry Ryan and the mega rich Pohlad family truly set up Gardy for a solid post-season run with a truly deep and competitive rotation? I don’t think so.

Terry Ryan

GM Terry Ryan never gave Gardenhire enough starting pitching to make a meaningful post-season run

Simply put, even with their best pitching the Twins rotation was never enough. After Santana was traded to the Mets the Twins struggled to their moderate successes in spite of their pitching. With the exception of Francisco Liriano, whose incredible rookie season was lost to Tommy John in 2006 and left Twins asking what might have been, the Twins got by with a number of pitch to contact ground ball specialists such as Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and the most successful of the bunch, Carl Pavano. This is where the Twins spiral into mediocrity and subsequently woefulness really began.

Timing has not been on Gardenhire’s side in the last few years. The Twins have quietly amassed one of the best farms systems in baseball over the last few years (both through drafting and trades), more recently balancing out their typically outfield heavy prospect family with a slew of high end arms, untypically high velocity, high strikeout arms including Alex Meyer, JJ Berrios, Kohl Stewart and September debutant Trevor May as well as bullpen arms like Nick Burdi. Combined with uber-prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton as well as emergent rookies like Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana the future looks much rosier in Minnesota, unfortunately for Gardenhire he won’t be the one steering the ship anymore. While Gardenhire certainly has a legacy to be proud of in Minnesota, Tom Kelly set Twins fans up with almost impossibly lofty expectations for post-season achievement. While the Twins organization has a ton to thank Ron Gardenhire for, he never quite hit the lofty heights of his predecessor. 6 AL Central championships was an impressive achievement, but one that will forever be slightly marred in the eyes of Twins fans by the uncompetitive nature of their team in the post season, as well as the last four seasons of stagnantly low quality baseball.

Singles Matches - 2014 Ryder Cup

US Ryder Cup Woes Continue

by JDCam 09.30.14

Before reading this article it is important to note one important fact. I am not a big golf fan. I enjoy playing casually and frustratedly but I would not call myself a golf fan. The only strokeplay tournament I usually watch is the Masters. Having sad that let me say this; the Ryder Cup is the greatest drama there is in team sports. Period. A bold statement perhaps, especially after a fairly pedestrian affair ended Sunday at Gleneagles but one I will stand by. There is only one thing that comes close, March Madness. The biennial golfing showcase wrapped up,  with its typical tense, if slightly less seesaw than usual singles round with Europe coming out on top for a slightly underwhelming  third consecutive victory.

The beauty of the modern era Ryder Cup lies in its formatting. It is the most perfect combination allowing both team and individual brilliance to shine. One day one and two, 8 points are available per day (1 per match for the winning team, ½ each if tied). There are 4 points available in four balls (in which both players play their own ball and the best represents the team. 4 further points are available in foursomes (in which players share a ball and play alternate strokes). Unlike traditional tournaments the tournament is played match play style in which the best score wins the hole and the first team or individual to an insurmountable total wins the match and in this case the point. Play concludes on Sunday with 12 singles matches, again played in the match play format which perennially decides to whom the cup belongs for the two years thereafter.

The format lends itself to high drama. Five of the last 10 Ryder Cups have been decided by a point (2014s tournament not withstanding). This includes Europe’s dramatic 2012 comeback from 10-6 down after the first two days of play, to win 14 ½ to 13 ½.

Since is origination in 1927 the Ryder Cup has undergone a number of important changes. In its early years, particularly after World War 2, the US dominated, its team of golfing legends like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson leading them to regular destructions of the then GB and Ireland team.

Times have changed dramatically however. Since 1995, The USA has lost 8 of the last 10 cups a stretch only surpassed in Ryder Cup history when the US won outright or retained the trophy 13 straight times (including one tie) between 1959 and 1983.

If you are a fan of American golf then ironically enough its most famous son, Jack Nicklaus, has a lot to answer for. The 18 time major winner and arguably greatest player of all time helped transition the Ryder Cup from the USA VS GB & Ireland to the USA VS Europe after a conversation with the president of the PGA in 1977. While Nicklaus was attempting to push contests to a more competitive place he never could have foreseen Europe’s recent dominance. So what is the reason this run unprecedented in modern golfing history? Better players? Better form? Better captains?

Looking at the respective teams Europe boasts the world’s number 1, 3, 5, 6, 12 and 18 (just looking at the top 20, while the USA team included world number 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15 and 19. Europe, according the ranking system at least, holds more elite players but it hardly seems like a great disparity. Traditional viewpoints have centered on Europe succeeding as a true collectivist team and the US as a team of individualists. Never has this been more apparent than in former world number 1 and generational talent Tiger Woods, who has a paltry Ryder Cup record of 13-14-2. While Woods was conspicuously missing this year the grit of the European team was not, twice coming from deficits in the morning fourballs to storm back with comprehensive victories in the afternoon foursomes, another example of the emphasis of each team (US thrives where every player has their own ball, Europe was significantly better in the shared ball format).

There is undoubtedly something intangible to this as well. The Ryder Cup simply seems to matter more to the Europeans. This was evidenced by their stirring comeback in 2012 on US soil at Medinah. The US could not come close to staging a similar miracle this time round back on European soil. One thing is certain, with a dearth of young top 10 players Europe may continue to ride their wave of dominance unless the US team can find the missing link in their Ryder Cup puzzle – the need to win.

Famous Jameis VS Coach Strong

By JDCam September 26th 2014

Jameis Winston and Charlie Strong. What is the connection? Is it familial? Do they have some obscure link from Strong’s playing days at the University of Central Arkansas? No. Winston and Strong are at opposite ends of a growing tension in college football. Both have been grabbing headlines recently, Winston for his spiraling fast and loose conduct, Strong more subtly but no less significantly.

Winston’s latest Manzielism (coining that phrase now) could not have come at a worse time. There most perfectly succinct account of the incident came from the FSU student body. Jeffrey Osborne, whoever you are tweeted out ‘Jameis Winston just casually screamed out in front of the HCB “f—k her right in the p—sy” #epic’. Actually Jeffrey, not epic, not funny, not even entertaining, just moronic. The only thing more moronic than Winston’s latest act of stupidity was FSUs bumbling handling of the situation, an embarrassing echo of Roger Goddell’s sham handling of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson and company. FSU initially banned him for a half of no1 FSUs game against then no22 Clemson before upping the suspension to a full game after yet another public outcry at the timidity of the institution’s punishment of their star player. FSU even managed to let Winston dress for the game, before figuring out that was probably sending a message contrasting with their suspension.

Before continuing, it’s important to take in some Winston context. Since the summer of 2013 Winston’s remarkable dual sport accomplishments at FSU have been marred by consistent off the field issues. In July of 2013 a Burger King employee called police to complain that Winston was taking unpaid for soda in ketchup cups (an oz. at a time?!). In November of 2013, much more seriously Winston was charged with sexual assault dating back to an incident that occurred in December 2012. On December 5th however, police dropped the case citing lack of evidence in explaining that charges could not be brought as a conviction would be unlikely. According to a later article that appeared in the New York Times, the Tallahassee police did not take a DNA sample from him, interview him or attempt to obtain apparent video footage of the incident obtained by a teammate. Finally in April of 2014 Winston was issued a civil citation after walking out of a local grocery store without paying for approximately $30 worth of seafood.

How did FSU handle all of these situations with regard to their player? Other than the one game ban against Clemson Winston was handed a 3 game baseball suspension for the crab-leg incident, none for the sexual assault accusations although FSU is now investigating the incident to ascertain if Winston broke the school’s code of conduct for its students. Great job FSU, it only took 10 months for you to take the situation seriously. Undoubtedly if Winston can get to the end of the season issue free, Jimbo Fisher and athletic director Stan Wilcox will laud the star for his maturity and personal growth. The message in Tallahassee is clear however, winning is more important than character. In a sporting landscape where superstars rule the roost, Famous Jameis sits on the highest perch in college football.

Winston's off-field drama is surpassing his on the field accomplishments

Winston’s off-field drama is surpassing his on the field accomplishments

870 miles away in Austin, TX, Charlie Strong is taking an entirely different approach than the higher ups at FSU. Strong recently kicked his ninth player off a floundering Longhorn program for a violation of team rules

I understand it is unfair to compare Winston and Strong. The differences are many; one is a coach, one a player, one an adult, one a young man. The comparison is merely to emphasize the increasingly inverted moral compass in college football in which players hold an ever higher stack of chips at the table.

Incredibly, Strong is being criticized for his firm stance and adherence to team rules. What are we saying here? In the post Mack Brown era, his first year seems the perfect opportunity for Strong to make a statement, to set a tone for a restructuring Texas program trying to find a new identity. In a time where headlines have been dominated by Winston, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson for the most despicable reasons, I find myself an unflinching supporter of Strong. His no nonsense approach is sadly a refreshing change of pace to the tiresome and depressing news cycle of negativity surrounding both college and professional athletes. Maybe it is my lack of experience as a player but Strong is a man I would be inclined to follow and to put everything on the line for, for he lives out a key message. Though football is important, how we conduct ourselves and our standards of behavior, morality and character are more important.

Strong's non nonsense approach is garnering both praise and criticism in Austin

Strong’s no nonsense approach is garnering both praise and criticism in Austin

Who knows how Winston and Strong’s respective seasons will play out? One sad reality remains. Winston will transfer his considerable talent into a likely 1st round choice in next June’s NFL draft despite lesson learned after lesson learned, off field issue after off-field issue. Contrastingly Strong will be the figure likely to draw more criticism from Texas boosters and local media more desperate for success than building back this sleeping giant in a respectable and sustainable fashion. It’s time to get behind standard bearers like Strong; Winston’s own personal ground hog day is becoming all too tiresome