I don’t often agree with anything that comes out of the mouth of Troy Palomalu, but a statement he made the other day got to me.  He noted that there isn’t much of a point talking to the commissioner because he has usually made his mind up and there is no one to check his influence.  He was wrong on that, Roger Goodell always has to go to the owners, but they often leave things to him.  Goodell is the lone sheriff, with no player committees, coaches, or teams in a formal position to check his power.  The NFL may benefit from having a Czar in charge, but all it would take is one bad Czar to ruin the NFL brand.  Smart organizations allow employees some say in the decision-making process, while the NFL largely ignores their players and goes straight to the bottom line.  That is wonderful when the money is rolling in, but not in the long term.  The NFL may be very profitable right now, but it has a long way to go to be a truly great company.  Is any of this in free kicks this week?  Nope, we have Moss, baseball free agency, and the Cam Newton scandal.  Let’s line up for the kick…

Gathering Moss

I understand why the Tennessee Titans brought in Randy Moss.  He is a deep threat even at this stage in his career, and when he feels like it he can be a great receiver.  The problem has always been of course that he doesn’t feel like it very often, and goes out week after week unprepared, unwilling to make the big block, and unable to fight off defenders when he isn’t the #1 option on the play.  Does no one remember a month ago, when every analyst in the country said how Randy now realized that he was on thin ice, playing for his last contract, and that he would be on his best behavior?  They said the same thing about Terrell Owens before he was shipped out of Dallas and languished for a year in exile in Buffalo.  Even now all he can look forward to is one year contracts, if that.  Moss is quickly degrading into Owens territory, despite having spent the last several years on his best behavior in New England.  The Patriots, for their part seem to be doing well without him, and while people are now claiming that Titans coach Jeff Fisher will be able to keep Randy Moss in line.

Please.  Fisher will only be able to keep Moss in line as long as they are winning, Moss is getting catches, and Moss chooses to listen to him, which I doubt he will.  Some players don’t want to be coached, and some players don’t even seem to like playing the game.  Moss is in both those groups.  But he is still a great talent, and the Titans are desperate for wide receiver help.  I don’t see this one lasting through the end of the season either, and a stopgap like this is unlikely to make either party happy in January.

The Stove Starts to Heat Up

David Ortiz has been retained by the Red Sox for another season, Vlad Guerrero is a free agent in name only, likely to return to the Rangers, and Cliff Lee seems to be shopping for apartments in Manhattan.  Lee has said for years that he wants to hit the free agent market and hit it big, so I doubt any team is going to get any kind of discount for him.  Looking at the free agents out there, with Carl Crawford possibly going to the Red Sox, Lee almost inevitably sliding towards the Yankees (Sabbathia-Lee together again, Indians fans are going to go nuts), and Jayson Werth taking his pick of New York or Boston, it is looking like another offseason where the gap in the AL East expands.  I would love for the Orioles to snatch  up guys like Adrian Beltre (with his nice history of playing flat when he gets a new contract), or Paul Konerko (almost certainly to returning to Chicago), but sadly I don’t expect any of these things to happen.

If the Orioles are going to contend it will have little to do with any signings in a weak free agent class and more to do with the prospects in their system developing into great players on their own.  When- not if- the Orioles whiff on the entire top tier of a bad free agent class, don’t be upset.  With this group of players, they were unlikely to make a positive impact.

One NCAA Investigation Closes, Another Opened

On the heels of the NCAA accepting Michigan’s self-imposed penalties, adding a year of probation and finding that Rich Rodriguez did not “fail to promote an atmosphere of compliance”, the NCAA is looking onto allegations that an individual representing Cam Newton’s recruitment from junior college, Kenny Rogers, tried to obtain $180,000 in return for promising Newton would sign with them.  Newton himself has not been implicated in any of this, and from the sounds of it Mr. Rogers was just trying to make himself from extra money without being able to deliver on his end of the bargain.  It appears at least that the Newton family did not take in any money and Newton has been cleared by the NCAA, who has known about the allegations since July.  Scandals like this seem to erupt monthly in the football crazy SEC, where the price of greatness appears to be a lax attitude towards ethics and players’ well-being.

Alabama pressures players to take medical redshirts (12 a year compared to the NCAA average of 2) or to transfer for new highly touted recruits.  Players take money under the table not just from agents, who coaches like Nick Saban can patronize from his soap box, but from the boosters who help pay Saban’s salary.  Of course, this isn’t about Alabama, it is about a football culture that tries to combine a for-profit business with free labor, but labor that gets to choose where it plies its craft.  College football may be one of the most popular sports in the country, but its ethics (or lack thereof) make boxing look like a tight ship.