Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Referees and Umpires Across the Leagues.

Derryl Cousins
According to the Worcester Telegram Derryl Cousins is out for the year with a bruised collarbone. Cousins, if you recall, was the umpire at the center of Tampa Bay's rotation juggle, many speculating that, despite Joe Maddon's and Kazmir's denials, and even the numbers to support the decision, Kazmir was bumped up as a game 5 starter in part due to his history with Cousins. (While most stories include quotes in which Kazmir is towing the line, there is one confirmation floating out there).

In a June game at Anaheim both Maddon and Kazmir were tossed by Cousins for arguing balls and strikes. Here's the oft-quoted Kazmir rant that followed:
"That was unbelievable, I'd never seen anything like that before,'' Kazmir said. "I never said anything like this about an umpire before but that was just a crucial part of the game and you just don't do that. Makeup calls or not makeup calls - call it when it's there, you know what I mean? You shouldn't change your strike zone because of the count. It doesn't make sense."
Cousins' collarbone is not broken, only bruised. Would Cousins still be umpiring with the rest of his crew if it was the Red Sox that had reached the series?

It's not far-fetched that MLB would have him removed in order to avoid unwanted attention and to limit possible disruptions and distractions. A second controversy invovling Cousins and the Rays, this time in the World Series, would've generated nothing but negative attention. At the very least even if no other incident occured, MLB would be running the uneccesary risk of letting the original Cousins story persist. They couldn't simply yank him off the crew without appearing to kowtow to the Rays, but once he was injured in game six, the MLB brass had a plausible excuse to replace him.

The NFL seems to have a similar policy of keeping their referees from certain teams. In July Mike Sando uncovered a pattern of unofficial suspensions for NFL refs. Sando's study revealed that many referees have gone years without seeing a particular team, their absences seemingly a direct result of one or more highly disputed calls they made against that team.

Within that article, the NFL, and the head of refs, Mike Pereira, denied that they practice "blacklisting," but ESPN's circumstantial evidence is quite convincing. Walt Coleman, who reversed the Tuck Rule fumble hasn't seen the Raiders since. Ed Hochuli just finished serving a seven year suspension from refereeing the Broncos, only to, ahem..well, you know. It's safe to assume we won't see Hochuli doing a Charger game for a while.

Sando offers the two sides to the practice: “[It] shows how much care the league takes behind the scenes in putting its game officials in position to succeed. The practice also raises questions about whether teams can bully the league into blacklisting referees deemed unsympathetic.”

David Stern
Count David Stern among those more concerned with the negative effects of a policy such as the NFL's. Back in May, Stern appeared on “Rome is Burning" to address the lingering Donaghy issue. When Rome asked whether or not Stern would consider a referee's previous history with a particular team when scheduling the referee crews, Stern responded, "When I have a referee that I can’t assign to a series then I don’t have a referee." He reiterated, "If a referee can’t referee a game then he can’t referee."

-Agent Easy

[Rome link found via West Coast Bias]

LBs from Da U

Going into tomorrow's games, four of the top 10 NFL tacklers are linebackers from the U. Beyond DJ Williams, Jonathan Vilma, Nate Webster, and Jon Beason*, a little farther down the list fellow UM LBs Ray Lewis and Rocky MacIntosh round out the top 25.

Tackles are not the most reliable stat, both in the way that they're computed and in their significance. For example, you could argue that Williams' and Websters' numbers are inflated because Denver's defense is so awful; the same could be said of Vilma and New Orleans.

That being said, at the very least it's a good indicator of who is regularly around the ball.

Only Lewis and Webster are older than 28. PSU earned it's nickname by having so many successful college linebackers, but Miami could stake a claim as the new Linebacker U based on NFL resumes.

Then again, maybe it's got nothing to do with linebackers because Miami has recently produced an ungodly amount of players at every position. So maybe this is just Butch Davis praise.

- Agent Easy

*The obligatory NSFW 7th Floor Crew link in honor of "Big Beast"

Friday, October 10, 2008

NFL quick hits

- Last week, Aaron Rodgers looked tough throwing touchdown bombs with a separated shoulder.

- Ben Roethlisberger, or simply "Ben," as the announcers seem to prefer, has looked even tougher. Three weeks ago in Philly, he "came under as heavy a pass rush as he has experienced in five NFL seasons as the rampaging Eagles defense sacked him eight times." He's been playing with a sprained throwing shoulder since.

Then came two nationally televised games in which he was thrown around like a rag doll; the sack numbers stayed down, but only because Roethlisberger was able to make plays while being hit. He was almost always on the run, seemingly never able to deliver a pass while standing pat in the pocket. Check out the three-minute mark here.

- In thats same game David Garrard looked impressive himself. He had a chance to lead a third consecutive fourth quarter comeback drive, but sure enough the Jaguars last two possessions were halted by dropped passes. You could put together a five-minute highlight reel of the Jaguars' best dropped passes over the last 3 season. The only reason why they only have one representative on this list, and none at all on last year's is because they insist on taking part equally.

It's not so surprising that Garrard ran five times (twice for first downs, once for a TD) on the game-tying drive the week prior.

- The value of Ronnie Brown
Tim Graham, on the ESPN NFl blog, put together some numbers, showing Ronnie Brown's effectiveness on a per-game basis, thus showing what he can do when healthy.

It's a small sample size, sure, and it does nothing to quell doubts about him him being injury prone, but the numbers do jump out at you: most TD's per game!

- It's instructive to notice LaDainian Tomlinson second on that list. While he's on pace for 15 Touchdowns this year, it's fair to say that he's struggled this year, playing with a bad toe. But for some reason few have seemed to notice and it is the rare opinion that acknowledges the possible severity of the injury. From the Houston Chronicle:
"I’ve seen LT’s season before, and it happened in 1996. Marshall Faulk was hobbled by a dislocated toe and started 13 games that season and averaged 45.2 yards per game and 3 yards per carry. Fast forward 12 years, and Tomlinson is dealing with a lingering toe problem, and he clearly lacks the explosiveness he has had in the past."
Then again, maybe it's just Norv Turner's "predictable" play calling.

-Agent Easy