Friday, November 11, 2011

How North American Sports can rebuild itself...

We are now at Day 130 (or so) of the NBA lockout and despite recent optimism I would bet on the lockout ending on or near December 15th; very similar to the last one. With the NHL starring down the exact same pipe in 2012, I would like to offer my solution. It is not a new concept but to North American sports fans it would be foreign.

Use a likeness to the English soccer system by creating three tiers based on relative competitiveness and financial success.

Now lets be honest; the three tiers would not be equal BUT the opportunity for promotion and demotion is there. Lucrative TV contracts and sold out arenas await teams in the "Premier" league BUT opportunity to win for "have-not" teams awaits in say a second or third. If you still want to have the top eight advance from each league to a playoff format then so be it but the overlaying point is to allow teams of all economic systems the chance to succeed.

Another huge plus to this system would be creating 15 brand new teams in the third division; this allows small financial investment for locales where the NHL would like to be but population, corporations, large enough arena etc do not exist.

This is true parity. You give all teams the opportunity to win a championship that matches the level of commitment by their ownership group. Do the rich get richer...yes. But that is sports; you win.

Here is a sample of the League with the corresponding divisions based on each teams value by 2010 Forbes.

Premier League

Anaheim Ducks
Boston Bruins
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
Minnesota Wild
Montreal Canadiens
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Toronto Maple Leafs
Vancouver Canucks

Second League

Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets
Buffalo Sabers
Calgary Flames
Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets
Edmonton Oilers
Florida Panthers
Nashville Predators
New York Islanders
Ottawa Senators
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals

Third Division (speculative)

Kansas City
Las Vegas
New Orleans
Oklahoma City
Portland (Ma.)
Portland (Ore.)
Quebec City
San Francisco

The way you ensure parity is you promote the top three promoters in the second and third divisions and demote the bottom three in the premier and second divisions.

It is a different system but one that perhaps could benefit North American sport.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Competitive American league MVP Race?...not really.

The 2011 AL MVP race is shaping up to be one of the most exciting votes in years. That being said when you look at the numbers it really isn't a race at all; Jose Batista stands out statistics wise and off the field he has displayed the characteristics required of an MVP.

Lets break down each player...

1B Boston Adrian Gonzalez
His move to the American league has been nothing short of exceptional, facing a difficult learning curve in baseball's toughest division Adrian has excelled where many players careers have gone to die. The home run power has dwindled since the all-star break and this can and should be attributed to the skill of AL pitchers. Adrian had 40 home run power in Petco Park...a graveyard for power hitters; so the fact that he likely won't hit 30 home runs in hitter friendly Boston (ESPECIALLY as a lefty) is evidence that while he is still clubbing the ball with his .345 average he doesn't posses the multi-tool game needed to prove oneself as an MVP in the uber competitive AL East. His average defensive skills and cement foot speed makes his offensive value two dimensional. This blogger likes his chances for the AL batting crown and possibly a silver slugger award.

SP Detroit Justin Verlander
It's hard to imagine an American league pitcher EVER having a year like Verlander is having; he has a better than average shot of getting to 24 wins and keeping his WHIP under 1. The basis of the MVP award is "The Most Valuable Player to his team..." without Verlander would Detroit be cruising toward the playoffs? This is where I paddle upstream and say yes, they would be this good. Granted Verlander's 20-5 record before September is amazing lets have a closer look at the teams he has beaten. First of all being in the same division as two of the three worst teams in the AL (KC and Minny) is a luxury many pitchers would take advantage of and secondly of his 20 wins only 4 have come against legitimate contenders (Bos, LA, TB, and Arizona) and 11 have come against sub .500 teams. Not all that impressive, it's hard to argue that another pitcher on the staff could achieve similar success with that lucky schedule. Finally, it takes a remarkable pitcher to win the MVP since the CY Young is readily available. In the meantime Verlander should have an easy time winning the AL Cy Young and potentially the first AL pitcher since 2006 (Johan Santana) to win pitching's triple crown.

OF NY Curtis Granderson
You know the saying "Everything is bigger is Texas"? Well in baseball circles it will always be "Everything is bigger in New York". When players have career years they are legends and when players have down years they are "bums". This couldn't be more apparent than this year where Curtis Granderson is having a career year but definitely not an MVP year. First lets look at his stats; with 38 home runs and 107 RBI's he is slugging the ball but wait a minute...he plays at lefty friendly "new" Yankee Stadium. Lets have him play all his home games in Oakland and see if he can match his production, his .278 average and 140 K's tells me not so much. I don't want to diminish his value to the team though; as dominant as the Yankees have been there has been a serious power outage in the outfield for the last ten years so Granderson's career year is more than welcome given A-Rod's injury plagued season. Look for Granderson to garner the New York votes but his chances of winning are dashed by the natural vote splitting that happens when you have a Yankee and a Red Sox both up for the award. Curtis will have to live with his Silver Slugger Award as well in 2011.

OF Blue Jays Jose Bautista
Nobody has been more dominant at the plate than Jose Bautista in 2011. His 38 home runs and 85 RBI's are nice but the really impressive numbers are his average .312 and his walks 107 (20 more than the next closest player). All of this has been accomplished with very little to no protection in the line-up. His 89 K's are well below the average ( 96) for power hitters in the American league. Outside of hitting he has owned the outfield for the Blue Jays and has garnered 11 assists which earns him 5th spot in the league not to mention the fact that 27 games were played at 3B. His above average speed and reputation for being one of the most intelligent players in baseball is almost a clincher. Outside of the world that is New York and Boston writers continent-wide have taken notice and many feel it would take a titanic collapse for his chances to go the way of the ship with the same name. Given that his career trend is to have a strong September he once again has a better than average chance of getting to 50 home runs. Mark my words if he gets to 50 he will win the MVP if doesn't I still would give him 2:1 odds.

So to summarize...

Who should win? Jose Bautista
Who shouldn't win? Curtis Granderson
Who will win? Adrian Gonzalez