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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Though there  are still a few days left in the minor league baseball “PDC Frenzy,” the affiliations are all but set in stone.  Sport Change will now analyze the affiliation changes and see how we did with predictions.

A match made in baseball heaven.

 

Here are the new affiliations:

TRIPLE-A (International and Pacific Coast Leagues)

-Buffalo Bisons now with Toronto Blue Jays

-Las Vegas 51s now with New York Mets

SINGLE-A (Midwest and South Atlantic Leagues)

-Beloit Snappers now with Oakland A’s

-Burlington Bees now with Anaheim Angels

-Cedar Rapids Kernels now with Minnesota Twins

-Kane County Cougars now with Chicago Cubs

-Peoria Chiefs now with St. Louis Cardinals

-Quad Cities River Bandits now with Houston Astros

-Lexington Legends now with Kansas City Royals

SHORT SEASON A (New York-Penn League)

-Batavia Muckdogs now with Miami Marlins

-Jamestown Jammers now with Pittsburgh Pirates

-State College Spikes now with St. Louis Cardinals

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How Did Our Predictions Turn Out?

Sport Change published this post on September 16th, right before the first reaffiliations were formally announced.  It was all but official that Kane County and the Cubs were teaming up, so that one will not count as a correct prediction.  I put down some predictions of what I thought would happen, so let’s see how that all turned out.  If you read through the comments, I also continued to make predictions as the results were announced, with varying success.  Here is what I initially predicted to change:

-Buffalo Bisons with Toronto Blue Jays.  Correct.

-Las Vegas 51s with New York Mets.  Correct.

There were two Single-A scenarios, but I’m taking the benefit of the doubt and going with “scenario 2.”

-Kane County Cougars with Cubs.  Correct, but was already known.

 

You heard it here first.

-Cedar Rapids Kernels with Twins.  Correct.

-Beloit Snappers with Royals.  Incorrect.

-Peoria Chiefs with Angels.  Incorrect.

-Quad Cities River Bandits with Astros.  Correct.

-Lexington Legends with Cardinals.  Incorrect.

I predicted no changes for Short Season A, so those three were incorrect, I suppose.

Math be damned–I’m giving myself a 50% prediction rate.  Went with my gut on the Bisons, and it panned out.  Cedar Rapids and Quad Cities were largely hunches.  Though I predicted no changes in short season, as soon as the State Collge/St. Louis affiliation was announced, I comment-predicted Pittsburgh and Jamestown.  Triple A and Short Season balance each other and I batted .500 in low-A, if you include Kane County.  Not bad.  Don’t mean to brag–I’ve just never come close to being this correct with sports predictions.

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Upgrade or Downgrade?

What do the new affiliations mean for all the clubs?  Have they improved their lot or taken a step backward?  Let’s go team by team, analyzing the new affiliations:

-Buffalo and Toronto.  This is great for the Bisons, the Blue Jays, and both of the cities represented.  Buffalo is more closely tied with Toronto than NYC, and the proximity of the two clubs is outstanding. Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade.

Sending baseball scouts from NYC to Vegas on a regular basis. Now that sounds risky.

-Las Vegas and New York Mets.  You can bet that Las Vegas is happy to have the higher-profile Mets as a parent club, and you can bet that there are plenty of ex-New Yorkers in Vegas who will jump at the chance to cheer for the 51s.  It’s hard to say how the Mets feel about losing in-state Buffalo, but baseball scouts are gamblers by nature and they’ll be catching plenty of cheap flights to the desert.  Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade.

-Beloit Snappers with Oakland A’s.  Despite the increase in distance, I think this is good for Beloit.  Beloit plays in the Milwaukee market, and the Twins were once a fierce rival of the Brewers; a rivalry annually renewed with interleague play.  The A’s are a neutral parent club.  For Oakland, there is basically no change, as Beloit and Burlington are essentially equal in distance and attendance.  One serendipitous occurrence is that both clubs have the same teams colors.  Another is that they both have crappy old stadiums.  Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade.

-Burlington Bees with Anaheim Angels.  For the Angels, Burlington is a slight downgrade due to the fact that Cedar Rapids was a more successful club in a larger town.  For Burlington, this is a slight upgrade in that the Angels are a more high-profile AL team.  It’s a shame that the A’s and Bees are no longer together, but there is still serendipity here:  the Angels now have both MiLB teams named the Bees: in single-A Burlington and triple-A Salt Lake.  Plenty of buzz around the Angels.  Sport Change Verdict: Push.

The Angels have a buzz-worthy moment.

-Cedar Rapids Kernels with Minnesota.  The closest MiLB team to the Twin Cities is Cedar Rapids, and the Twins were able to sever ties with Beloit, who play in a rival MLB market.  The Kernels are also a pretty successful team, so the Twins have to be happy–especially with the chance to build a stronger fan base in Iowa.  The Angels may have been higher profile for the Kernels, but game attendance may increase as Minnesotans may drive south to watch Twins’ prospects.  Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade

-Kane County with Chicago Cubs.  Though many (most?) Cougar fans are White Sox fans, this will benefit both clubs long term.  The distance is closer, and it will be easier to unify the greater Chicago area than the whole state of Illinois.  It will be great for the Cubs to gain fans, and for the Cougars it is much more preferable than Kansas City.  Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade

-Peoria with St. Louis.  For the Cardinals, this should be seen as an upgrade simply because the driving distance is shorter than the Quad Cities.  For Peoria, this is a major downgrade.  It hurts to lose the in-state Cubs, and switching to a division rival only rubs salt in the wound.  Sport Change Verdict: Downgrade.

The Bandits are headed to the Wild West. Makes sense, right?

-Quad Cities with Houston.  For the River Bandits, this may be seen as an upgrade.  The Astros are lower in profile and success rate than the Cardinals, but I’m assuming that there are many Cubs fans in the Quad Cities; which are right on the Iowa-Illinois border.  Houston is more neutral.  For the Astros, this has to be a downgrade; if only for the fact that it’s a longer drive than Lexington.  Sport Change Verdict: Push.

-Lexington with Kansas City.  For the Legends, this is an upgrade.  Missouri and Kentucky have more in common than Texas and Kentucky, arguably.  I’d guess that Lexington is Cardinal country, but KC isn’t bad as a runner up.  For the Royals, it may be a disappointment to lose the uber-popular Cougars, but at least they have a neutral site from which to draw fans rather than an affiliate within the market of the division rival White Sox.  Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade.

 -Batavia with Miami.  This isn’t official yet, but since Baltimore and Aberdeen are joined at the hip, it’s all but a slam dunk.  Theoretically, the Marlins could totally forego Short-Season A, but they have no club in the Appalachian League or the Pioneer League.  For the Marlins, it’s a slight downgrade from the Jammers; who better represented a flashy style.  For the Muckdogs, it’s probably a slight downgrade since they lost the higher-profile Cardinals.  So…Sport Change Verdict: Downgrade.

The PPs hook up with the JJs.

-Jamestown with Pittsburgh.  For Jamestown, this has to be an upgrade considering the recent excitement around the (relatively) nearby Pirates.  For Pittsburgh, it’s tougher to tell.  They lost the in-state Spikes of State College, but they were also able to distance themselves from State College stigma.  The Jammers are still close by and are a more fun club.  Plus, both teams are alliterative.  Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade.

-State College with St. Louis.  For State College, it’s a little baffling that they would ditch their in-state Pirates, but the Cardinals are more successful.  For St. Louis, the Spikes are closer in distance, but there is also the whole stigma thing.  I guess we’ll call it a….Sport Change Verdict: Upgrade.

And that’s that.  There weren’t too many changes, and there won’t be too many in MiLB until the next PDC frenzy of 2014.  Sport Change will still post on the Minors periodically, especially to weigh in on the name the team contests.  Other than that, we’ll probably reaffiliate with the Minors in the Spring.  Thanks for reading.

SPORT CHANGE

Click here for Part One

For now, without further ado…here is a team by team breakdown and an assessment of whether it’s an upgrade or a downgrade for the team:

Ryan Fitzpatrick: From Harvard crimson to Arizona cardinal.

-Arizona Cardinals.  Starting Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Backups: John Skelton and John Beck.  Gilbert, Arizona native Ryan Fitzpatrick returns home to helm the Cardinals.  John Skelton (of nearby El Paso, Texas) is one of our five who play for their home team already.  Skelton’s brother Steve is a Tight End on the Arizona practice squad.  Remember Skelton’s competition last year: Max Hall?  Hall is a ‘Zona native who is currently unemployed.  I think Fitzpatrick is a slight upgrade on Kevin Kolb, but only based on 2011 play.  So far this year, Kolb has leapfrogged Skelton and Fitz is slumping.  However, Arizona QBs get injured a lot, and John Beck is pretty good for a third stringer.  Upgrade.

Atlanta Falcons.  Starting Quarterback: Cam Newton. Backups: T.J. Yates and Tarvaris Jackson.  The Georgians move home.  Cam Newton is a player that just about every team would want.  The Falcons already have what looks like an elite QB in Matt Ryan, but they would be lucky to have Newton if they couldn’t have Matty Ice.  Downgrade.

Cameron “Fig” Newton returns to peach country.

-Baltimore Ravens.  Starting Quarterback: Pat Devlin.  Backup: Byron Leftwich.  This was a challenging one.  There are no active quarterbacks who hail from the Baltimore area or even the state of Maryland.  Pat Devlin grew up in Downington, Pennsylvania; which is closer to Philadelphia than Baltimore, but not by much.  Devlin also played at Delaware University, and let’s be honest: Delaware is just a part of Maryland.  Devlin was a college standout, but has yet to prove his mettle in the NFL, where is buried as the third QB on the underachieving Miami Dolphins.  The guy has upside, though, and the Ravens need a territorial quarterback so they give Pat a try.  Downgrade.

-Buffalo Bills.  Starting Quarterback: Brad Smith.  Yeesh.  Here was another toughie.  Like I said before, no QBs from Buffalo or upstate New York.  Brad Smith is from Youngstown, Ohio; which is closer to both Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but not all that far from Buffalo. Mainly, I chose him because the Bills needed someone, and Brad Smith is already a Bill.  The Wildcat specialist carries a franchise by himself.  Downgrade.

-Carolina Panthers.  Starting Quarterback: Tyler Thigpen.  Thigpen is from South Carolina, and is the only QB from closer to Charlotte than anywhere else.  The Panthers certainly miss Cam Newton, but this isn’t as bad as it sounds.  Thiggy showed flashes of brilliance with the Chiefs a few years ago, but he seems to have been in the wrong places at the wrong times since then.  Here’s a fresh chance.  Downgrade.

Burlington’s Tony Romo goes south of the border and into the Windy City.

-Chicago Bears.  Starting Quarterback: Tony Romo.  Backup: Scott Tolzien.  Romo is from Burlington, Wisconsin; which is significantly closer to Chicago than Green Bay.  The Bears get a good starting QB and Scott Tolzien may be able to transfer some of his college competence to the NFL as a backup.  Romo isn’t as exciting as Cutler, but has a similar success rate.  Downgrade.

-Cincinnati Bengals.  Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger.  The pride (shame?) of Lima, Ohio brings his rings to Cincy.  He’s getting a little long in the tooth, but he is a proven winner.  I’d rather have Andy Dalton, but Big Ben is likely a future hall-of-famer.  Upgrade.

-Cleveland Browns.  Starting Quarterback: Ricky Stanzi.  Backup: Brady Quinn.  Ricky Stanzi?  Has he even played a snap in the pros?  If he ever gets that chance, I think he could have significant upside.  If these were actually the Browns’ quarterbacks, local boy Quinn would get the nod.  In our fantasy Ricky gets the number.  Colt McCoy should be starting over Brandon Weeden now, and is a better QB than most give him credit for.  Because of McCoy, I’m giving this a…Downgrade.

RGIII: the quarterback of the future for the Dallas Cowboys.

-Dallas Cowboys.  Starting Quarterback: Robert Griffin III.  Backups: Christian Ponder and Matt Flynn.  There were 13 quarterbacks who could lay legitimate claim to Dallas.  Matthew Stafford could’ve been on the Cowboys or the Buccaneers, so I chose to spread the wealth a little.  I’m sure Cowboys fans would be stoked to have RGIII with a few fully capable backups.  Dallas sent seven quarterbacks to the “waiver wire.”  We’ll list this at the end.  Upgrade

-Denver Broncos.  Starting Quarterback: Colt McCoy.  Backup: Brock Osweiler.  Colorado is something of a no-man’s-land for NFL quarterbacking.  Colt McCoy went to high school in Texas, but he grew up in Hobbs, New Mexico; with Colorado as a neighbor to the North.  Current Bronco rookie Brock Osweiler is from Montana.  Technically, he’s closest to Seattle, but out West, there’s no point in being particular.  We’ll keep him on the Broncos.  Downgrade.

Kirk Cousins is put on the spot for the Lions

-Detroit Lions.  Starting Quarterback: Kirk Cousins.  Backup: Drew Stanton.  Michigan State standout Kirk Cousins gets his chance to shine in his home state.  He could turn out to have some skills, but you can bet that the Lions would miss Stafford.  Downgrade.

-Green Bay Packers. Starting Quarterback: Colin Kaepernick.  Backup: Charlie Whitehurst.  We gave Tony Romo to the Bears, so the Pack get Milwaukee’s best: Colin Kaepernick.  Kaepernick was drafted as heir apparent to the struggling Alex Smith, though it must’ve been enough motivation to get Smith performing and since then Kaepernick has only been able to show his skills in the preseason.  He looks good, but he’s no A-Rodge.  Charlie Whitehurst was born in Green Bay because his father was playing for the Packers at the time.  Downgrade.

Colin Kaepernick steps out of Alex Smith’s shadow and into Aaron Rodgers’s footsteps.

-Houston Texans.  Starting Quarterback: Drew Brees.  Backups: Andy Dalton and Kevin Kolb.  Texas is a hotbed for signal callers, and Austin native Drew Brees comes home to put the Texans over the top.  The backups are very strong, and Houston even sent one promising youngster (Nick Foles) to the waiver wire.  Schaub who?  Upgrade.

-Indianapolis Colts.  Starting Quarterback: Jay Cutler.  Backups: Rex Grossman and Chandler Harnish.  The pride (?) of Santa Claus, Indiana reportedly grew up a Bears fan, but he also grew up closer to Indianapolis than Chicago.  Third stringer Chandler Harnish was drafted as Andrew Luck’s backup, but who knew he was a local boy?  Cutler is good when he’s good, though would you take him over Andrew Luck?  To soon to tell.  Push.

He’ll grow out of that moody teenage phase.  Promise.

-Jacksonville Jaguars.  Starting Quarterback: Tim Tebow.  Backup: Rusty Smith.  Considering that the state is a football mecca, there is a surprising lack of quarterbacks from Florida.  Luckily for the Jags, they have a mediocre (but playoff winning) face of the franchise waiting in the wings.  He’ll be a cash cow if nothing else, and may be competent enough to keep the Jaguars out of LA.  Upgrade.

-Kansas City Chiefs.  Starting Quarterback: Sam Bradford.  Backups: Josh Freeman and Shaun Hill. This is a toss-up between Freeman and Bradford, but Sam is currently performing a tick better.  Bradford is from Oklahoma City, which is technically closer to Dallas.  At one point, the Chiefs claimed Oklahoma as their market, and of course: “everything’s up to date in Kansas City.”  Another Okie, Brandon Weeden, is on waivers from Dallas and KC.  At this point, I would rather have the solid Shaun Hill as a third man.  Upgrade.

At one point, Kansas City claimed a good chunk of the country as their own. That’s why Bradford’s a Chief and not a Cowboy.

-Miami Dolphins.  Starting Quarterback: Thaddeus Lewis.  Yep.  Sam Bradford’s bench warmer Thaddeus Lewis and no backups.  Did I mention that few QBs come from Florida?  Downgrade.

-Minnesota Vikings.  Starting Quarterback: Kyle Orton.  Orton is from Des Moines, Iowa; which is closest to Kansas City of all the pro teams.  However, it’s in a no-man’s land and is almost as close to the Twin Cities.  Without Orton, the Vikings would be empty handed, so let’s ship him North.  Christian Ponder is a promising youngster, but Orton is better than many people give him credit for.  Push.

Matt Hasselbeck of Norfolk, Mass returns to New England.

-New England Patriots.  Starting Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck.  Backup: Dan Orlovsky.  New Englanders Hasselbeck and Orlovsky return to the Northeast to fill the void left by Tom Brady.  Pats fans are not happy.  Downgrade.

-New Orleans Saints.  Starting Quarterback: Peyton Manning.  Backups: Eli Manning and Jason Campbell.  Former Saint Archie Manning’s boys return home to the Big Easy to duke it out for the starting role.  Despite his rings, Eli will never be Peyton.  Jason Campbell, the pride of Laurel, Mississippi, is a solid third-stringer.  Brees will be missed, but the depth takes the edge.  Upgrade.

Archie’s boys come back to the Big Easy

-New York Giants.  Starting Quarterback: David Garrard.  This is the one quarterback that we pick up off the street due to the fact that there are basically no quarterbacks from New York.  I expect Garrard to picked up by some NFL team this year once injuries start piling up, so it’s not too much of a stretch to suit the East Orange, New Jersey boy up in Giant Blue.  Downgrade.

-New York Jets.  Starting Quarterback: Joe Flacco.  This one took some finagling.  Joe Flacco, from Audubon, New Jersey, grew up in the shadow of Philly’s skyline.  That said, New Jersey is still largely Jets territory, so Flacco goes green.  Upgrade.

-Oakland Raiders.  Starting Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers.  Backup: Kellen Clemens.  Raiders rejoice to realize that Chico, California is slightly closer to Oakland than Frisco.  The Raiders get their first franchise quarterback since….uh…Jim Plunkett?  Upgrade.

The pride of Chico dons the Silver and Black.

-Philadelphia Eagles.  Starting Quarterback: Matt Ryan.  Backups: Matt Schaub, Chad Henne.  Pennsylvania is pretty quarterback rich, and guys like Joe Flacco and Pat Devlin could’ve also been Eagles.  Philly fanatics should be happy to see Matty Ice and some capable backups take the place of the aging and oft-injured Michael Vick.  Upgrade.

-Pittsburgh Steelers.  Starting Quarterback: Bruce Gradkowski.  Backups: Charlie Batch and Terrelle Pryor.  Gradkowski has looked solid in his limited opportunities, but he’s probably better as a backup.  Charlie Batch and Terrelle Pryor are both questionable as NFL players, but for very different reasons.  Downgrade.

-San Diego Chargers.  Starting Quarterback: Matt Cassel.  Backups: Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez.  SoCal is the epicenter of mediocre quarterbacks galore.  Out of ten possibilities, Matt Cassel gets the starting nod?  I guess he’s interchangeable with Carson Palmer.  There was such a glut that we sent guys like Matt Leinart and Matt Moore to the bench; with apologies for treating them like door-Matts.  Moore could’ve made the starting three, but I love the idea of top Dolphins Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore on waivers, while third-stringer Pat Devlin is a starter and Miami has Thaddeus Lewis.  Make sure to check the waiver list at the end of this post to see who missed the cut.  Despite the wide pool, it’s still a Downgrade.

Three of these one-time USC quarterback recruits are in the NFL. Plus a good handful more.

-San Francisco 49ers.  Starting Quarterback: Tom Brady.  Backups: Trent Edwards and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.  Niners fans can’t be too upset that the Raiders got Aaron Rodgers, considering that they barely lock down San Mateo native Tom Brady.  Upgrade.

-Seattle Seahawks.  Starting Quarterback: Alex Smith.  Backups: Jake Locker and Derek Anderson.  Alex Smith was born in Seattle but raised in Southern California.  The ‘Hawks could use more help than the Chargers, so we return him to this birthplace.  Even so, I would consider starting promising youngster Jake Locker, but Alex Smith has been pretty solid so far this year.  Upgrade.

-St. Louis Rams.  Starting Quarterback: Blaine Gabbert.  Backup: Ryan Mallett.  The pride of Mizzou mediocrity comes back to the Gateway City.  If he slumps, he’ll be replaced by Ryan Mallett, the moron with an upside.  Mallett is from Arkansas and Texas, so could’ve gone to a few different teams.  Gabbert needed a backup, though.  Downgrade.

Blaine Gabbert returns to Mizzou-rah. Rams fans cringe.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Starting Quarterback: Matthew Stafford.  Backup: Dominique Davis.  Stafford would look more natural in Cowboys silver, but the pewter people benefit from Tampa being his birthplace.  They need somebody other than rare Florida QB Dominique Davis, who played his college ball at East Carolina.  From a Pirate to a Buc.  Arrr.  Upgrade.

Tennessee Titans.  Starting Quarterback: Philip Rivers.  Backups: Joe Webb and Austin Davis.  Philip Rivers of Decatur, Alabama can choose between Atlanta and Tennessee.  Instead, we choose for him and send him north on Highway 65 to the Music City.  Webb and Davis are currently number 2 and 3 quarterbacks, so they fill out the depth quite nicely.  Jake Locker is promising, but Rivers is a star.  Upgrade.

Washington Redskins.  Starting Quarterback: Andrew Luck.  Backups: Michael Vick and Russell Wilson.  Andrew Luck should probably be with Houston, but Texas has all the luck.  Andrew was born in DC, spent the first part of his life there, and lives out a vision of Washington winning the suck for Luck campaign of 2011.  Michael Vick and Russell Wilson are current starters who provide very solid depth.  Upgrade.

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So.  What have we learned?

Biggest Upgrades

Teams that upgraded the most are obviously the teams that were able to land the top franchise quarterbacks: Drew Brees (Houston), Aaron Rodgers (Oakland), and Tom Brady (San Francisco).  Honorable mention goes to Tampa Bay (Stafford), Tennessee (Rivers), and Philadelphia (Ryan).  Teams like Atlanta and New Orleans only traded one great quarterback for another.

Biggest Upgrade: Oakland.  Rodgers would lift that beleaguered franchise off the infield and into contention.

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Biggest Downgrades

The Ravens, Bills, Panthers, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Patriots, Giants, Steelers, and Patriots were all victims of cruel geography.  I should give the Chargers the worst grade, because despite having ten quarterbacks to choose from, the best they could muster is Matt Cassel, Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, or Matt Moore.  Take your pick.

Biggest Downgrade: Baltimore.  Trading a proven Delaware alum for an unproven one seems a tad risky.

Lands of Feast

Texas accounts for a whopping 20% of NFL quarterbacks.  Wow.  Southern California cranks out the mediocre signal callers like there’s no tomorrow, whereas NorCal is all about quality over quantity.  Virginia and Georgia are the hot spots in the South, and Pennsylvania carries the Northeast.  Ohio is the stronghold of the Midwest.

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Lands of Famine

Naturally, the Mountain time zone has big gaping holes and the same goes for the breadbasket and Upper Midwest.  The biggest surprises are New York and Florida.  They must have the lowest per capita NFL QB ratio.

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Waiver Wire.  Here are the 16 active roster quarterbacks who did not make the cut:

Chase Daniel (Dallas), Brandon Weeden (Dallas/Kansas City), Caleb Hanie(Dallas), Graham Harrell (Dallas), Ryan Tannehill (Dallas), Luke McCown (Dallas), Nick Foles (Houston), Greg McElroy (San Diego, Dallas), Ryan Lindley (San Diego), Jimmy Clausen (San Diego), David Carr (San Diego), Matt Leinart (San Diego), Matt Moore (San Diego), Kellen Moore (Seattle), Byron Leftwich (Washington), Tyrod Taylor (Washington).

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I think that’s about all there is to say about this topic.  Keep looking for more NFL posts.  Here’s a link to the NFL page here on Sport Change.

Thanks for reading.  Leave comments, get upset, and stay posted.

SPORT CHANGE

Getting right back into football with a wacky little exercise that may not fit into any of Sport Change’s typical categories, but is a heck of a lot of fun nonetheless.  What would the NFL look like if each team featured quarterbacks who grew up in the same area that the team is located?

NFL: Not For Locals. Except for John Skelton….

I first got this idea when I stumbled upon the long-defunct NBA practice of the “territorial pick.”  The territorial pick was a drafting method used by the NBA from 1949-1966.  The basic premise was this: each team had the option of forfeiting their first round pick in exchange for exclusive drafting rights to one player from a local college.  Over the time period that the NBA used this process, 22 players were territorial picks.  Exactly half of those 22 are now in the Basketball Hall of Fame.  One example is Oscar Robertson; who went directly from the Cincinnati Bearcats to the Cincinnati Royals.

Despite the myriad red flags that shoot up when considering this system, it’s easy to appreciate the spirit behind the practice.  Most of us sports fans have experienced the awesomeness that occurs when a local pro sports franchise drafts a player from a local college; especially when that player becomes a starter, finds lasting success with the club, and engages in positive community activities.  Of course, the danger there is when a once-in-a-generation talent gets miraculously scooped up by their local long-beleaguered franchise; only to go Benedict Arnold and chase more money and accolades elsewhere.

And he was drafted 37 years after the territorial pick was abandoned. A once-in-a-generation opportunity: squandered.

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I’ve been a huge fan of the NFL draft for many years and first got into the practice of mock drafting in the nineties–before it was cool.  I used to genuinely try to make accurate mock drafts, but anyone who has done so knows the unpredictability of the draft and the futility of the practice.  These days, I still make mock drafts (and did all 7 rounds last April) but rather than try to match up “most likely,” I just match up “most appropriate.”  My favorite criterion for “most appropriate” is definitely something that resembles territorial picks.  For example, in my 2012 mock draft, I had defensive end Whitney Mercilus going to the Bears.  Why?  Because the Bears needed a pass rusher and Mercilus is an alum of the Fighting Illini.  The Bears chose DE Shea McClellin instead.  Presumably, the Bears saw more in McClellin than Mercilus.   But if Mercilus has a better career, the Bears will be smacking themselves in the head with both paws.

Whitney Mercilus should’ve been a Bear. Why? Because sports are about more than just winning.

In my 2010 mock draft I wasn’t the only one who had the Jaguars taking local hero Tim Tebow with the 10th pick, and was shocked when they chose unknown pass rusher Tyson Alualu.  Alualu turned out to be a solid pick, but honestly: Jacksonville absolutely should’ve chosen Tim Tebow.  The Jags were (and still are) languishing at the bottom of the NFL barrel with unsold tickets, losing records, and rumors of relocation to LA.  Tebow would’ve instantly solved the ticket problem, and would’ve at least temporarily tamped down LA talk.  It’s doubtful that he would’ve become the franchise quarterback of the Jags, but at least he’s a serviceable backup, team leader, wildcat guy, and special teamer.  Alualu was perhaps a better pick, football-wise, but Tebow was the common sense pick.

Tebow could’ve been Jacksonville’s messiah. Or at least sold a boatload of tickets and memorabilia for the Jags.

Do NFL teams actually factor in the “hometown hero” attribute?  Since most franchise decisions are secret, it’s hard to say.  However, I gleaned one nugget from an excellent ESPN article this past spring written by Andrew Brandt, former draft man of the Green Bay Packers.  It was just a passing comment near the end:

“I also remember one of our scouts yelling to the group in 2003 about a quarterback from Eastern Illinois: “Anyone want to sign this Romo guy for free? He’s from Wisconsin.” He got no response.”

I’ll take that as a shred of proof that GMs and their think tanks at least take notice when a local boy is available, even if the notice is generally ignored.  It’s important to remember that scouts almost always take the safe route.  If a player is a bust, somebody is going to take the blame.  Imagine if a Chicago scout piped up and said, “Let’s take Mercilus over McClellin.  Go Illini!”  Phil Emery listened and made the pick only to have Mercilus become a total bust.  Who takes the fall?

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A project like this teaches a person about previously unknown entities, such as Thaddeus Lewis. Who knew?

Enough reality, already.  This is Sport Change!  In this Territorial Quarterback simulation, I imagine who would be the starting and (if available) backup quarterbacks for each NFL team in 2012.  There is a lot of grey area there, so here are some of the criteria used:

-Player Pool.  Every NFL player listed as a quarterback on the rosters of each team was evaluated.  The total comes to 85 quarterbacks researched, as well as one sometimes quarterback and one currently unemployed quarterback.  So that works out well; enough quarterbacks for most teams to have three and some have two, right?  Well…not so fast.

-Matchmaker.  Each quarterback was researched to find out where they are “from.”  Once that was determined, their home area was matched up with the NFL teams closest to their home area, with a few exceptions.  There is a lot of grey area here…

-Origin.  To me, being “from” somewhere can mean several things: place of birth, place where player grew up, and even just place where player went to high school.  For some, it was easy.  Matt Flynn, for example, was born and raised (attended high school) in Tyler, Texas.  Tyler is near Dallas, so Matt Flynn is obviously in the Cowboy category.  Others were much more challenging.  Andrew Luck was born in Washington DC and lived there for a number of years before his family relocated to Houston, where he attended high school.  So is he a Redskin or a Texan?  In cases like this, I took the liberty of freely choosing which team the player goes to; with an eye for dispersing talent more evenly.  In some cases, I used the quarterback’s college alma mater as another factor in the decision making process.

The pride of Tyler Texas would definitely be a Cowboy in our fantasy. Competing with 10 other North Texans, will he even make the cut?

-Geography.  So what about players who hail from areas that are bereft of an NFL team?  Closest distance was still measured, but many players (such as those from Alabama or Arkansas) were roughly equidistant from two or more teams.  In these cases, I also took the liberty of deciding where to put the players.  What about areas that host an NFL team but have no quarterbacks that hail from there?  It gets a little tricky there, and a little finagling was necessary.

-Feast and Famine.  There are no NFL quarterbacks from the Buffalo area or from the state of Minnesota, but there are a whopping thirteen who would belong on the Cowboys. That is something to say, especially considering that Houston could absorb another five within the same state.  That means over 20% of all quarterbacks on active NFL rosters are from Texas or surrounding areas.  There are also nine from Southern California, most from the Los Angeles area.  If LA had a team (or two) it would be much simpler to slice the bread.  For now, they’re all Chargers.

-Home, Sweet Home.  Five quarterbacks play for the teams that are located closest to where they grew up.  Sometimes it even seems intentional.  I’m always surprised when I am reminded that Charlie Batch still plays in the NFL.  I doubt he would choose to play anywhere else than his hometown of Pittsburgh, even if he is an aging clipboard-holder.  In addition to those 5, there is one additional quarterback that plays for that team in real life, but that’s a special circumstance.

Brad Smith: Buffalo’s Wildcat Wildcard

-Sent Packing.  Other than Brad Smith on the Bills, there are no current NFL teams with more than three quarterbacks on their roster.  That is a method used here, as well.  That means that several quarterbacks in our fantasy (especially Cowboys and Chargers) did not make the cut and are sent packing.  Two of the players who were let go are currently starting in the NFL.  I’ll list them after we’ve gone though each team.

Here’s a link to Part 2 of this post, where the results are revealed.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to leave comments.

SPORT CHANGE

Sport Change interrupts the football binge to focus back on baseball for a quick moment.  September 16th (tomorrow, as of this writing) is the first day of the Minor League Baseball PDC (Player Development Contract) shakeup period, which lasts through the month.  There will be new affiliations forged and old affiliations ignored.  Frenzy time.

It’s a free for all!!! Well, maybe that’s overselling it. It’s mildly interesting.

Background

Brief intro: PDCs are signed between Minor League baseball franchises and MLB parent clubs.  The contracts expire on even numbered years.   Teams can sign long term extensions; one example being the New York Yankees and their double-A affiliate the Trenton Thunder.  The Yanks and the Thunder are joined at the hip until 2022 at the earliest.  Most contracts, however, are extensions of two or maybe four years.

Since 2012 is obviously an even numbered year, unsigned contracts will expire.  There is a half-month shake-up period in September, wherein MLB teams are free to negotiate with other available affiliates and possibly sign on with new clubs.

Nearly all PDCs have been extended before this date, and many will re-up with their current clubs within the shake-up period.  That said, there will likely be considerable change, especially in the Midwest League and New York-Penn League.  Let’s go from top-to-bottom to evaluate all clubs with expiring PDCs:

AAA

At the top level of the minors, there are only two clubs with expiring PDCs; the Buffalo Bisons (New York Mets) and the Las Vegas 51s, affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.  I see this as being a dog-fight over the Bisons.  The Mets would most likely prefer to remain affiliated with in-state Buffalo rather than having to book cheap flights to Las Vegas in order to scout talent.  The Jays are likely fed up with their affiliation with the 51s, and Toronto and Buffalo are neighboring cities that essentially share a market.  This should be fun to watch.  My preditction: a switch-up!  Blue Jays land on the Bisons.  And pick bugs off them.

Will Toronto steal the Bisons or with the Mets slap a tag on the runner?

AA

Like AAA, there are only two teams left unsigned in AA: the Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians) and the Arkansas Travelers (Anaheim Angels).  Unlike AAA, I see no reason why these two teams would switch.  Cleveland is lucky to have in-state Akron as an affiliate, despite Akron’s disappointing attendance numbers.  Maybe it’s a tactic to light a fire under Akron’s PR department.  The Angels would have little incentive to choose Akron over Arkansas; Little Rock is a shorter flight and the Travelers are a more successful club than Akron.  Verdict: no changes.

Advanced-A

High A only has three expiring contracts: the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels) of the California League, the Fort Myers Miracle (Twins) of the Florida State League, and the Daytona Cubs–also of the FSL.  My guess is that the Angels have been too busy focusing on the AL wild card race to reaffiliate with their clubs.  Like the Mariners did over the last few days, there is a good chance that the Angels will simply sign all the papers on their three expiring contracts in one fell swoop.  There is no obvious reason that the Cubs and Twins would switch their FSL teams, so I foresee no changes at this level.

It would hard to imagine the Suns and Nats severing their partnership. Let’s just say the Bryce is right.

A

Now things get interesting.  In addition to two unsigned teams in the Sally League (Hagerstown and Lexington) there are a whopping eight unsigned teams in the Midwest League.  For starters, I see Hagerstown reupping with Washington.  The partnership works well both ways, and the distance traveled by Nat scouts to view talent like Bryce Harper (of a few years ago) is minimal.  There have been rumors of Houston showing interest in Midwest teams rather than the Legends, so we’ll at least explore that.  I don’t see why Houston would have that interest, considering that Lexington is a successful franchise that’s closer to Houston than any available teams in the MWL.

So that leaves us with the eight Midwest League teams: Beloit, Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Dayton, Fort Wayne, Kane County, Peoria, and Quad Cities.  To start, I’m tossing out the Dayton Dragons.  I would be shocked if the Reds don’t re-sign with one of the most successful clubs in all the Minors.  In a previous post, Sport Change detailed a Midwest League reaffiliation based on information of about one month ago.  A lot has changed since then, but I’m also going to stick with at least two results from that study: Fort Wayne stays with San Diego, and Burlington stays with Oakland.  There just doesn’t seem to be any clear reason for those teams to switch affiliations.  Plus, I like how the A’s and the Bees are together.

This pun is too good to let go.  A’s and Bees need to stay together.

Scenario 1: Just Midwest Switches

Kane County Cougars to the Cubs.  This is all but set in stone.  Kansas City loses the Cougars, who sign on as an affiliate of nearby Chicago.

Cedar Rapids Kernels to the Twins.  Minnesota makes a play for a more successful franchise located in a town that’s closer to the Twin Cities than the current Beloit.

Beloit Snappers to the Royals.  The Royals snap up the Snappers to replace the departed Cougars.

Peoria Chiefs to Cardinals.  Rumor has it that St. Louis will be moving on from Quad Cities.  If so, I see them linking up with the former Cubs club, the Chiefs.

Quad Cities River Bandits to Angels.  The Angels lose Cedar Rapids.  They shrug and sign up with another Iowan club.

_

Scenario 2: Rumors of Houston

Cougars with Cubs.

Kernels with Twins.

Snappers with Royals.

Chiefs with Angels.  Peoria used to be an Angels affiliate, so this is a reunion of sorts.

River Bandits with Astros.  This one really buys into the notion that the ‘Stros are eyeing Quad Cities, so let’s indulge.  It may make no practical sense for Houston, but plenty in the Minors (and Majors) makes no practical sense.

Lexington Legends with Cardinals.  You can bet that there are Cardinals fans in Kentucky.  The distance is reasonable, and I could see a Cards/Stros swap.

Could Cardinal red be adorning Applebee’s Park next season?

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Short Season A

Moving along to another level that could see some movement over the next two weeks.  Short Season A is a level that 22 MLB clubs have an affiliate in.  Fourteen teams comprise the New-York Penn League, and eight comprise the Northwest League.  I expect the Northwest League to remain the same.  The only contract left unsigned is the former Yakima Bears with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Bears will be moving to Hillsboro, Oregon, so maybe the D’Backs are just giving them time before the sign.  In the NY-Penn League, I would be shocked if Aberdeen and Baltimore decide to discontinue their fruitful coupling.  I also expect Pittsburgh to re-up with the State College Spikes, as they are the only Penn team available.  That leaves Jamestown and Batavia, two sleepy clubs in Western New York, and their respective affiliates: Miami and St. Louis.  There is no obvious reason for changes, so I see no reason to change anything.  Perhaps the only changes we’ll see in Short Season are if any of the eight MLB clubs (Dodgers, Angels, Brewers, White Sox, Twins, Royals, Braves, Reds) decide to give Short-Season a try and sign up with a club in either league.  We’ll see.

Yes, we will see.  Here’s a link to Minor League Baseball’s official press releases and here’s another to Minor League Source, a blog that stays on top the action.  Speaking of action, more football posts soon!

Click here for more Minor League baseball posts.

SPORT CHANGE

Click here for part one

Click here for part two

Here’s the third and final installment of Sport Change’s exploration of the NFL moving to Los Angeles.  In this post, we’ll keep it simple: analyzing results and playing out scenarios.

All roads lead to Tinseltown

One Team in LA

For starters, we’ll examine the impact of a single team moving to LA.  Let’s explore all five of the Sport Change top teams to move to LA list.

-St. Louis Rams.  This scenario was played out in the Vision of Reversion.  On the surface, it makes a ton of sense.  The Rams have issues with the Edward Jones Dome; both with the lease and with the actual facility itself.  Los Angeles would certainly welcome the Rams back with open arms and the NFC West would be more westerly.  The problem here is that St. Louis would still want a team, much like they did when the Cardinals flew out of town.  A sudden relocation would open a wound in the Gateway City, and without a backup plan it could get ugly.

-Jacksonville Jaguars.  With the Jags recently signing on to play one game per season in London for the next four years, maybe Shad Khan has his sights set on Britain rather than California.  A more likely situation would be the Jags losing lots of games and money which would cause Khan to sell the team in a manically mustaschioed frenzy.  If the Jaguars moved to LA, the biggest issue would be divisional alignment.  There is really no good way it could work out.  The four teams in the AFC West are going nowhere.  The only thing I could see (other than an LA team in the East) would be switching conferences with St. Louis, and having the Rams play in the AFC South with the Colts, Titans, and Texans.  Even better: the Jaguars move to LA, but buy the “Rams” brand and become the LA Rams.  St. Louis gets a new identity and joins the AFC South.  That would work.  Not going to happen, though.

Jaguars to LA, right? Not so fast, Bleacher Report.

-San Diego Chargers.  Touched on plenty of details in the previous post, but this one is simple and straightforward.  The Los Angeles Chargers begin play as a top contender in the AFC West, with a franchise quarterback and an aging defense.

-Oakland Raiders.  The return of the Raiders to Los Angeles reignites the dormant fan base that embraced them wholeheartedly for the twelve years they played in the Coliseum.  Divisional alignment remains as it is, and Oaklanders would have to either keep cheering for the LA Raiders or switch allegiance to the Niners.  This would be the easiest move to get used to.

The Raiders returning to LA would please plenty of people, but it would mark the second time that Oakland would lose it’s team.

-Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  This would be a bit of a shock to the NFL’s system.  Just like with the Jaguars, the only alignment that would make half-sense would be to switch divisions with the Rams.

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What about two teams in LA?

As much talk as there has been about moving one team to LA, there has been just as much talk about moving two teams.  One scenario would have both teams sharing a stadium much in the same way that the Meadowlands or the Staples Center operate.  This would likely be the downtown proposal: Farmers Field.  The other discussion that was hot about a year ago was that in addition to Farmers Field, there would be another stadium built in the outskirts of LA, in the City of Industry.  There’s no opinion here one way or the other, but let’s explore a handful of scenarios involving two teams moving to LA.

The next team in LA has to be called the Rams. I demand that.

-Rams and Raiders.  The Retro Revert.  Both teams that fled LA in the nineties return to the city.  There would be plenty of fans for both teams, and many people would simply shift back into the team that they used to pull for.  The franchises could reassume their histories, and the divisional alignments would be made even more efficient than it is now.  Georgia Frontiere and Al Davis have both passed on; the opportunities for mended hearts are present.  I like the Raiders in Oakland, though.

-Raiders and Chargers.  The California Collision.  One goes north, one goes south, and they both collide simultaneously in Los Angeles.  An already fierce rivalry would be intensified, especially if both teams shared a stadium.  The AFC West would be: Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Denver, and Kansas City.

-Rams and Chargers.  Happy in NorCal, Sad in SoCal.  Oakland gets to keep their Raiders, yet Los Angeles gets two teams that come ready to cheer for.  Everybody wins.  Except San Diego.  And St. Louis.  This would give St. Louis a few years to rebuild the EJD and lure a Floridian team–one which is bound to be in shambles by then.  Speaking of Florida…

-Jaguars and Buccaneers.  The Fleeing of Florida.  Two teams leave Florida for California simultaneously?  What–are the oranges better?  The NFL is rocked by two Southeasterners fleeing for the West Coast.  The simplest way to realign would be to send the Show-Me State teams to their respective Souths.  Can you imagine the Chiefs and Raiders playing in separate divisions?  Yikes.  Moving cross-country would cut some new wounds.

If the Jaguars moved to LA, would Kansas City be pointing their arrow South?

-Jaguars and Rams.  This would be an AFC realignment.  Let’s do a Chiefs-to-South, but take a wackier, less-plausible route to get there.  What the hell.  Chiefs and Dolphins to South, Colts to North, and Ravens to East.  That makes sense geographically, but a simple Dolphins to South, Colts to East would suffice as well.

-Jaguars and Raiders/Chargers.  This would see two LA teams in the AFC West, meaning that the Chiefs or Broncos would get squeezed out.  Ouch.

-Buccaneers and Raiders/Chargers.  Let’s say Raiders so there can be two pirate teams in LA.  AFC is unchanged.  In the NFC, I think the choice is to send St. Louis to the NASCAR division, aka the NFC South.  Saints/Rams is a nice Mississippi River Rivalry.  What do St. Louis fans care?  They’ve only had the Rams since 1995 anyway.

-Buccaneers and Rams.  All NFC, interesting.  The Bucs would join the NFC West, but there are no St. Louis Rams to send to the South.  The Seahawks and Niners aren’t going anywhere, so Arizona would be sent to the South, right?  No point.  There would likely be an LA team flying to Atlanta, Charlotte, and New Orleans.  Unless Arizona moved to St. Louis and Jacksonville moved to Arizona. That would leave all Florida to the Dolphins, like it was in their glory days.

Bucs and Rams to LA, Cards back to St. Louie, Jags to ‘Zona = a chance for the ‘Phins to retake all of Florida.

 

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Closing Thoughts

One thing I’ve learned from this exercise is that simply moving the Jacksonville Jaguars to Los Angeles would be a nightmare.  Whenever Bleacher Report or ESPN or whoever insist that the Jags are Hollywood bound, point out that if that were to happen, either one of two painful things would occur.  1.) Los Angeles would still play in the AFC South, which would include routine, annual flights to Nashville, Houston, and Indianapolis–which is three time zones removed from LA.  2.) Either the Chiefs or the Broncos would be shipped to the South.  KC makes more geographic sense, but that would be a sad day for football.  The four teams currently in the AFC West have played in the same division since the Chiefs moved to KC from Dallas in the early sixties.  The AFL Western Division in 1963 was identical to the current AFC West.  It would be tough to break that up.  I would much rather see the Rams simply move to Los Angeles, let St. Louis investors (*cough* Stan Kroenke *cough*) bring the Edward Jones Dome up to snuff, and lure a team like the Jaguars to the Gateway City.  That would be a much better route to go.

Which is your favorite scenario?  Mine is the Vision of Reversion, but I’d settle for the St. Louis Jaguars or the St. Louis Buccaneers.  They may have to change the name though.  Stallions are still waiting in the stables, but there are already two horse teams in football.  If Arizona holds hard to the Cards, what would a good name for St. Louis be?

In the nineties, the St. Louis was chomping at the bit for a new franchise. The Stallions prototype had some issues: 1. The colors were purple and gold.  2. The logo looked like a smiling cartoon prehistoric beast.

Speaking of brands, what are your suggestions for a new LA brand?  Rams, Raiders, and Chargers would all make sense to keep, but the Florida teams would be better off changing.  Imagine starting off from scratch and branding an NFL team as the Los Angeles ___.  What about Wolves?  Or the Spanish version, the Los Angeles Lobos.  That might be a little campy, though.  What are your suggestions?  The rules: it has to end in S.  Non-singularable/Non-pluralable nicknames (Heat, Lightning, Thundering Herd, whatever) have yet to penetrate the NFL, and we’re keeping it that way.  My vote is for Wolves, straight up.  Too many cats, not enough dogs.

Enough about LA.  Keeping with the season, Sport Change will keep serving up football posts.  Stay posted and leave comments.

Click here for part one

Click here for part two

SPORT CHANGE

Click here for part one

In continuation of Sport Change’s three-part exploration about NFL teams relocating to Los Angeles,  this post will touch on two “battles” of two teams each and we’ll assemble a Top 5 list of teams most likely to move.  Or at least teams that we’d like to see move to LA.

In the words of Don Henley: “You can check out any time you’d like, but you can never leave.”

Keeping it Real

These posts are at least marginally informed by current events and news bites related to the topics. That being said, here at Sport Change we’re reluctant to jump to conclusions based on news buzz.  Any follower of sporting news knows how prevalent hype is in the information age, so we’re trying to look at the bigger picture.  A few months ago, the Minnesota Vikings were atop everyone’s list of teams mostly likely to move to LA.  A few years ago, it was the Bills.  Now both of these teams are out of the conversation.  The point is that we’re trying to play off common sense and credible information rather than rumor and speculation.

Keeping it Fantastical

That said, this is Sport Change.  We explore theoretical scenarios that are not expected to happen whatsoever.  We’re here to have fun.  Let’s get screwy.

_

BATTLE OF CALIFORNIA

May the best team win. Or lose. Whichever’s better.

Bam.  It’s battle time.  This is a battle between two California based teams to determine which is more likely to move to LA or at least be a better fit in LA.  The Battle is between the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers; two AFC West teams with little love for each other.  Should be fun.  The question is: will the “winner” get to stay in their current city or move to LA?  I guess the winner would be a loser to some.  We’ll call it a winner/loser.  Let’s explore:

History

Raiders.  The Raiders began play in Oakland in 1960 as part of the AFL.  Al Davis took over the team a few years later, and took over the AFL in the process.  By the time the AFL merged with the NFL, Davis had built a perennially solid club that would eventually win two Super Bowls for Oakland in ’76 and ’80.  In ’82, they moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum and won a Super Bowl the next year.  The Raiders only stayed in LA for until 1994, then went prodigal son-style back to Oakland.  In the twelve short years that the Raiders lived in LA, they managed to build up a very strong fan base that continues to this day.  Amazingly, it’s been a full eighteen years since we’ve seen the Los Angeles Raiders.  Does another reversion make sense?

A cutlass above

The Raiders and Oakland go together like pointy swords and eyepatches.

Chargers.  The Chargers began at about the same time as the Raiders, and actually started out in Los Angeles.  This is frequently pointed out when pundits mention the possibility of the Chargers moving LA, but I think that is grossly overblown.  The Chargers played in LA for all of one season before heading south.  It’s not worth mentioning as anything more than a bit of curious trivia.  In San Diego, however, the Chargers have compiled an interesting if underachieving history.  Former coach Don Coryell and quarterback Dan Fouts are often cited as the innovator and initial executor of the modern passing game.  Behind the late Junior Seau, the Chargers of the nineties clawed as far as the 1994 Super Bowl only to fall to Steve Young and the Niners.  LaDanian Tomlinson was the best back of the ‘aughts, but the Bolts weren’t able to make it work in the postseason.

Historical Verdict: The Raiders win, hands down, but the LA Raiders seems more natural than the LA Chargers, who have been playing in San Diego every season since 1961.

LT and the Chargers of the ‘aughts were never able to give San Diego their first trophy.

Current Team Status

Raiders.  For the last ten years, the Raiders have been middling to mediocre to JaMarcus Russell-level terrible.  Hue Jackson and the former administration went all-in on Carson Palmer, and we’ve yet to see the results fully play out.  The Raiders always seem to have a handful of flashy players but lack consistency and the ability to win a significant amount of games.  I think the Raiders could surprise in 2012 as an upstart, but could just as easily go 4-12.  There’s not a whole lot to get excited about on the football field these days.

Chargers.  The current Chargers era is nothing short of an enigma.  Remember how stupid it seemed when they let Drew Brees go in favor of Philip Rivers?  It seemed terrible at the time, but then P-Riv turned out to be the real deal, with only one flaw: he doesn’t win that many games for the Chargers.  San Diego was built to win a few years ago.  Now they’re aging and crumbling and may have only this next year to win games or hit the reset button.  Then again, haven’t folks been saying just that for the last few years?

Current Status Verdict: Draw.  Interesting draw.  It’ll be fun to see these two play each other twice this year.

It’s up…it’s up…it’s outta here. Home Run!

Stadium

Raiders.  My lasting image of the Oakland Alameda Coliseum is the Jason Giambi banner being taken down in the Moneyball movie.  By most all accounts, the shared-use facility is a bottom tier stadium, and there has been plenty of pressure to move out.  Some speculate that Goodell is pushing Oakland towards a shared-use facility with the Niners in Santa Clara, California.  You can bet that neither team is too keen on the idea, but I think it could be sensible.  Santa Clara is about equidistant from the Bay Cities, and it could fuel a fun inter-conference rivalry a la the Jets and Giants in the Meadowlands.

Chargers.  It’s no secret the Qualcomm (aka Jack Murphy) Stadium is a dump.  The owners of the Bolts have struggled to get their ducks in a row while trying to build a new stadium.  They’ve vowed to keep the Chargers in San Diego, but without a new stadium it seems unlikely.

Stadium Verdict: Draw.  Both facilities seem to be sub-par, and pressure for new parks is heavy in both locales.

…and now, without further ado…

BATTLE OF CALIFORNIA VERDICT

What an evenly matched bout.  If LA gets two teams (see future Sport Change scenarios) I could see both of these clubs moving.  Deconstructing these two situations only makes it seem like even more of a draw, so let’s back it out a bit.  Just barely…I would choose for the Raiders to remain in Oakland over the Chargers remaining in San Diego.  It would be a sad day for San Diego; especially for those with fresh memories of Dan Fouts in powder blue.  Like I said, just barely.

Fouts is on the outs

More likely to move = San Diego Chargers

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BATTLE OF FLORIDA

The “Arrs” vs the “Rarrs.”

Bam.  Time for another battle.  This one in the Sunshine state.  No, this isn’t about the Miami Dolphins.  The Dolphins are an iconic and historic team.  As much as the team is in shambles currently, they aren’t going anywhere.  This battle, of course, is between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Arrr!! versus Rarrr!!

History

For most of their history, the orange were crushed.

Bucs.  Tampa Bay is a fairly new team in the NFL–they were added as an expansion franchise in 1976.  There were twenty years of dreamsicle-colored ineptitude, but the Bucs were able to right the ship around the turn of the century.  They beat the Raiders in the Pirate Bowl of 2002, which I still think is one of the flukiest Super Bowls ever.  Name five players from each team now.  Go.  Uh…Trent Dilfer, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks….was Warrick Dunn still with them then?  Uh…Ronde Barber?  What the hell, let’s do the Raiders: Gannon, Woodson, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice…uh….Sebastian Janikowski.  (wikipedia update: it was Brad Johnson, not Trent Dilfer.  No, Warrick Dunn was gone, but Alstott was there.  The Super Bowl MVP?: the unforgettable safety, Dexter Jackson.  Did better with the Raiders, but wouldn’t have been able to get 6.

Jaguars.  The Jags roared out of the gate in 1995 alongside their feline companion in Carolina.  Behind the left arm of Mark Brunell and the sublime running of Fred Taylor, the Jags were a force in the late nineties.  The peak of that era was another Battle of Florida: the 62-7 playoff blowout of the Dolphins that effectively ended Dan Marino’s career.  That year, the Jags seemed a shoo-in to face the Greatest Show on Turf, but Jevon Kearse and the upstart Titans spoiled the party.  Since then, they’ve epitomized mediocrity.  So have their fans.  It was always questionable to have an NFL team in Jacksonville, and the questions linger on decades later.  Shahid Khan is on a messianic mission to slay each of those questions, but the proof is in the pudding.

Historic Verdict: Buccaneers, hands down.  Behind your back.  Now walk the plank.

I said walk the plank, lefty. Arrr.

Current Team Status

Bucs.  This will be a crucial year for the Bucs.  Josh Freeman will have a good shot at redeeming himself.  With a new head coach and an impressive haul in free agency, the Bucs are giving themselves a chance.  It may not be enough to get over the hump in the tough NFC South, but they’re one of those many teams that could either make a run or dwindle into further obscurity.

Jaguars.  Jacksonville’s situation is much more dire.  They have little and they’re rebuilding an organization using questionable building materials.  Unless Blaine Gabbert dazzles, it will be reset button time.  Maybe Shad Khan will be able to hold the team in J-Ville long enough to build something there, but so far the future doesn’t look too promising.

Current Team Verdict: Buccaneers are in better shape.

If only the pirate ship came with hordes of pirates to fill the seats.

Stadium

Bucs.  Raymond James Stadium is only fourteen years old, but other than the super cool pirate ship, there doesn’t seem to anything noteworthy about it.  Just like with the Rays, Tampa sports fans apparently don’t go out to games.  The Bucs rank near the bottom in NFL attendance.

Jaguars.  Everbank Field was built to lure the expansion Jags in the mid-nineties, and it’s best known for it’s inability to fill with people, causing television blackouts.  The blackouts are a very dumb way for a team to try to get folks in the stands.  It’s more likely that such actions will only further alienate bubble fans in a city without much sports history.

Stadium Verdict: Basically a draw, but the Bucs win for the pirate ship.

…and now without further ado…

BATTLE OF FLORIDA VERDICT

Since the Bucs “won” all three categories and aren’t a team that’s typically name-dropped in LA talk, why are we even including them?  1.) They were previously deemed “fair game” for relocation discussion.  2.) They don’t sell many tickets, proving that not only Tampa, but the state Florida in general suck when it comes to pro sports.  And….3.) There have been rumors of the Bucs relocating in recent years, though the talk was more about London than LA.  Countering these points is: 1.) They’ve made it work for the better part of of four decades. 2.) They did win a Super Bowl, no matter how fluky it was, and 3.)  The team has a shot at decency.   The Jaguars are a different story.  Unless something miraculous happens, I fully expect that Shad Khan will either lose interest/give up and sell the team, go manic and flame out, or simply lose too much money to stay in business.  It’s hard to envision a scenario wherein the Jags hold on to J-Ville and are able to build a successful franchise that wins games and fills seats.  We’ll see.

Sorry, Shad. Even your mustachio can’t save the Jags.

More likely to move: Jacksonville.

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Results

Bam.  Two battles in one post.  As promised, Sport Change will now unveil the Top 5 teams headed to Los Angeles.  Drumroll please….

Most likely to move:

1. St. Louis.  This idea has some legs both in the hype business and the big picture perspective.  The only problem would be the gaping vacuum left in St. Louis.  This is where the Vision of Reversion comes into play.  In that scenario, the city that loses it’s franchise is…

2. Jacksonville.  The only problem here would be divisional realignment.  Los Angeles to Indianapolis is a bit of a commute for a division game.  That’ll have to change.  Oh, and the brand, too.  Without the alliteration, the Jaguars moniker loses it’s teeth.

3. San Diego.  The Chargers sail north, just like the Clippers once did.

4. Oakland.  The Raiders would find plenty of fans left in LA, but I like the Santa Clara proposal better.

5. Tampa Bay.  Three teams are too many for Florida.  If the Jags pull off a miracle and outperform the Bucs, the pirate cannon may fire it’s last shot.

Speaking of last shots, that’s it for this post.  Coming up next in the series: the scenarios.  Stay posted.

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In a continuation of Sport Change’s Are You Ready for Some Football? blast, we’ll be exploring several scenarios related to bringing football back to the city of Los Angeles, California.  For this post, we’ll be looking at the aforementioned “Vision of Reversion.”

Time to bring pro football back to L.A.

There’s no need for us to go into any kind of depth about why LA should have an NFL team.  It’s something that folks have been lamenting and clamoring for since the Raiders and Rams left town in 1995.  It’s taken the second largest megalopolis in the country that long to get their ducks in a row.  Over the last couple of years, however, there has been enough serious discussion and serious proposals that the only thing standing in the way of a team in LA is…well, a team.

Expansion is not a realistic option.  The NFL already stretches the talent pool with 32 teams–that’s two more than the other major sports leagues.  32 is a nice number that facilitates the NFL’s divisional alignment; easily the best of all the major sports.  Roger Goodell has alluded to expansion to 40 teams–adding a team to each division–but that is overambitious and unlikely to happen anytime soon.  As painful as it is for fans to see a team leave town, that is exactly what will happen in the next few years.

In upcoming posts, we’ll dissect teams that are most ready to move and play with a few scenarios, but for now, we’re focusing on a Sport Change Vision of Reversion (VOR) wherein the team that moves (reverts) to Los Angeles is none other than the St. Louis Rams.

Los Angeles gets their team back.

Filling the Vacuum in LA

The Rams return to LA, the city they fled for Anaheim and then St. Louis.  Old Rams fans rejoice and pull their moth-bitten Merlin Olsen jerseys out of the closet.  Though there has been talk of two teams moving to LA, in this scenario the whole city gets behind the charging Rams.

Filling the Vacuum in St. Louis

St. Louis is a good sports city that deserves a team in all major sports.  With the Rams leaving town, the Bidwells up and decide to move the Cardinals back to St. Louis.  Though they were originally the Chicago Cardinals, I think that St. Louis is where they belong–a welcome compliment to the St. Louis baseball Cardinals.  The Gateway city is satisfied.

Filling the Vacuum in Phoenix

Phoenix has done a good job of showing that they are a major city well capable of supporting professional sports teams.  We’ll ignore the NHL’s Coyotes because it was a bad idea to bring hockey to the desert in the first place.  So what team goes to Arizona?  For this scenario, I say that it should be the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Jags are relatively new and this is a retro revert.  In the early nineties, the nondescript city of Jacksonville somehow managed to beat out Memphis, Baltimore, and St. Louis for an expansion team, despite the fact that Florida was already hosting two other NFL teams in Miami and Tampa.  All of those locations (more or less) got their NFL teams, but it was at the expense of LA.  Granting St. Louis an expansion franchise should’ve been the choice rather than compelling them to leave LA.  J-Ville has pretty much proven itself unworthy of supporting a pro sports team, so we move the Jags to Arizona.  As far as brand goes, nothing pops out to me.  Javelinas would be kind of cool, but that’s not a pro team name.  I think we choose the name that St. Louis wanted to use in the nineties: we’ll call them the Arizona Stallions.

The team that should have happened all along.

So there’s one scenario.  At the end of the day, Jacksonville has moved to Los Angeles and a few teams have changed their name.  This scenario would be deeply satisfying to many people–just not those in Jacksonville and maybe those in Phoenix.

We’ll look at some more LA relocation scenarios very soon.  Feel free to comment.

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