College Basketball Has Some New Wrinkles To It

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So the NCAA finally started taking steps in the right direction, albeit imperfectly. They made a few amendments to their player compensation and eligibility rules. Here are the two big changes:

-If an underclassman player goes undrafted in the NBA Draft, they have until the Monday following the draft (about 4 days) to inform their school if they will return and will regain their remaining eligibility, which had been forfeited upon declaration for the draft in years past.

-“Elite” recruits will have the opportunity to sign with NCAA-approved agents.

Now, on the surface, this sounds fantastic. However there are a few kinks that need to be worked out before this can actually become a positive reality. First of all, the NBA has to start allowing players to be drafted out of high school again in order for the agent rule to actually come into effect, which hasn’t happened since Amir Johnson was a second round pick of the Pistons in 2005 (technically 3 players have been drafted since then despite not attending college or playing overseas, however all of them were a year removed from their high school graduation, which is acceptable under the current guidelines). The NCAA will only let players sign with approved agents if they have an opportunity to go to the NBA INSTEAD of the NCAA (the “elite”), which would lead to a bigger decision for the prospect. Go pro now, or go pro later and take some classes? Either way they’ll be making money but they’ll most certainly make more in the NBA, especially given the max contract climate of today’s game. Since players can’t get paid by the university, they’ll only have the endorsement money they get from working with an agent, unlike in the NBA where they’ll get a multi-million-dollar salary on top of those same endorsement deals. It doesn’t change too much but it is a step in the right direction.

However the part I have the most issue with is the term “elite” when talking about which players are allowed to do endorsement deals. Referring to someone as “elite” is about as subjective as you can get and the NCAA has defined this as being players selected by USA Basketball. There’s just one problem: the NCAA announced this without consulting USA Basketball or the NBA, who are reportedly pissed off that the NCAA is throwing these responsibilities on them without their approval. So should the rule come into effect, USA Basketball will have to pick the players who get to sign with agents and those who don’t. And I guarantee you any guy they snub is going to be PISSED, which will just create more tension than there already is amongst the very good players. I don’t understand why everyone can’t just sign with an agent. Besides, what kind of guidelines would they have to put forth? Does the player have to be a 5-star recruit, which is already extremely subjective and not always a great predictor of success? So in that case, using ESPN’s star system, Marvin Bagley would get to sign with an agent but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can’t (he graded as an 89, 1 point away from being a 5-star player). Plus, if that was the case, only about 30 players would’ve gotten to sign with an agent from last year’s class and only around half of them actually got drafted this year.

Also, the verbiage of the agent having to be “approved by the NCAA” seems kind of fishy. A part of me wonders if they’ll only allow players to sign endorsement deals as long as the agent works into the contract that the NCAA gets a cut as well. It does not sit well whatsoever with me and I’d have to see what one of the contracts looks like before I feel comfortable with that. I understand you don’t want a fishy agent representing 18 year-old kids, but you also don’t want a clean agent to be in the NCAA’s back pocket.

The idea that would allow undrafted college basketball players with unused eligibility to return to school is a damn good one and should’ve been in place a long time ago. The 4-day time period to inform their school of their decision feels a little short, however it may become up to the player to consider the possibility of not getting drafted longer and force them to ponder what they would want to do should they not hear their name called by Adam Silver. Maybe they’d prefer to sign as a 2-way undrafted free agent. Maybe they’d prefer to play overseas instead. But at least they’ll have the option to play college hoops again even though the draft didn’t work out yet and refine their skills. It’s better than the alternative, which is putting these kids at a crossroads. I’m sure a lot of them would choose to go back to college and continue to not only play basketball, but continue their degree.

How long these rules take to make it to college football and other college sports is unknown but if these new rules the NCAA has put out are any indication, they’re going to need to work out the kinks before they’re ready to really compensate these players.

Let me know what you think of the new rules in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

JD Martinez Signs with the Red Sox

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First, my reaction to the news as a general baseball fan:

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Also, my reaction as a Red Sox fan:

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The saga is finally over, JD Martinez has finally signed with the Red Sox. It seems like this has gone on a lot longer than it really should have as Martinez and Red Sox GM (he’s technically not the GM but we’re just going to call him that because he basically acts as the GM) Dave Dombrowski were in a staring contest for the ages and it appears that Martinez blinked first. The deal he’s receiving is for 5 years $110M, which is a drop from the 5 years $125M we initially heard the Red Sox were offering and a significant drop from the 7-year $210M deal Martinez was allegedly looking for. I’m not totally surprised that Martinez decided to settle, considering that the first Spring Training game is Thursday (god that feels good to say) and it was pretty apparent that the Red Sox, the only team that still seemed interested in signing him, weren’t going to budge. It is worth noting, though, that the contract has an opt-out clause after 2 years, during which he will be making $50M of the $110M of the contract. That pretty much guarantees he’s going to elect to use that opt-out clause to try and get a better deal in a couple years. But for the time being, Martinez is just the impact bat the Red Sox needed.

Despite boasting a lot of excellent young talent, the Red Sox finished last in the American League in home runs in 2017, finishing behind weak power-hitting teams such as the White Sox and Athletics of all teams. After David Ortiz’s retirement, the Red Sox have been desperately searching for that huge power threat. They were hoping that it would be Hanley Ramirez, as he had hit 30 home runs in 2016. But Ramirez regressed significantly in 2017 and the need for a big bat was further emphasized. Here’s how the Red Sox are expected to look come Opening Day in Tampa.

1. Eduardo Nunez-2B

2. Andrew Benintnedi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Rafael Devers-3B

7. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

8. Christian Vazquez-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

It’s worth mentioning that I have Nunez slated as the Red Sox second baseman because Dustin Pedroia is expected to miss the first month or so of the season recovering from offseason surgery. But immediately Martinez makes this lineup significantly more deadly. Last season between the Tigers and Diamondbacks, Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI. The leading home run hitter for the Red Sox last year was Mookie Betts with 24. The only other members of the team to hit 20 home runs were Mitch Moreland (22) and Andrew Benintendi (20). Martinez was a poor defender last season, being worth -5 DRS last season in right field, but the Red Sox don’t need him to play any defense this season, as they already have three quality defensive outfielders in Benintendi, Bradley, and the #1 outfielder in DRS, Betts. All Martinez will need to do is worry about his at bats.

Martinez will likely serve as the team’s cleanup hitter and it will be interesting to see how he does in Fenway Park. Being a right-handed hitter, the Green Monster is going to come into play for him. A lot of balls that might have been home runs in places like Arizona (probably the second most hitter-friendly park in the Majors after Colorado) will be turned into doubles because of it. But take a look at Martinez’s spray chart, courtesy of Fangraphs.

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That looks like a pretty balanced spray chart to me particularly on balls that he puts in the air. When he hits a ground ball he REALLY favors the third base line, but his home runs seem to be relatively evenly-distributed and it seems that regular fly balls tend to go the opposite way a little more frequently. Considering the Pesky Pole in right is only about 300 feet from home plate, Martinez could steal a couple home runs by keeping that trend up. I think he’ll be fine at Fenway based on what that spray chart tells us.

So finally, the wait is over, JD Martinez has signed with the Red Sox. I wish I could say it was fun while it lasted, but that’s just not true. It was pretty goddamn infuriating. Let me know what you think of the Martinez signing in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Josh McDaniels Burns the Colts

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This was a fun experience for me when the news broke. I had just gotten done with a workout and I checked my phone and saw that Josh McDaniels, whom everybody assumed was going to be the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, had backed out of the agreement they’d had in place in order to return as offensive coordinator of the Patriots. I told my Colts-fan buddy that I’d been working out with “hey, McDaniels rejected the Colts” and he was incredulous and didn’t believe me. I showed him my phone and he went on a tirade that lasted through our post-workout dinner, which accumulated to about an hour of rage. Plus a large portion of my Twitter feed is Colts fans who were irate about the decision so that gave me even more pleasure, which was huge for me because the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles still stings a bit. But here’s a live look at how I’ll be arriving to classes tomorrow:

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That would be dancing on peoples’ graves. But that’s the asshole Pats fan in me. Here’s what we know about the McDaniels situation.

The Things We Do Know

From what I’ve gathered, Kraft reportedly “sweetened” McDaniels’ contract to entice him to return, which obviously worked. I wonder what the added stipulations must have been. From what I’m reading from Adam Schefter’s ESPN article about it, apparently the late push the Patriots made to retain him was very aggressive. It was also a better decision for McDaniels from a family perspective, as he doesn’t have to uproot them and move them out to Indianapolis as he’s had a few weeks to think over the decision since interviewing for the job during the Wild Card Round. Ultimately, he felt uncomfortable with moving his family out of New England. We also know that the Colts had already hired McDaniels’ assistants who are now under contract. Whether or not they can be fired right away is unknown to me, but if not, that puts the Colts in a REALLY bad position. It’s interesting to me, though, that the Colts hired the assistants McDaniels wanted before actually inking McDaniels to a deal. You would think they’d have their guy set in stone like all the other teams do before going out and hiring the people he wants.

What We Don’t Know

The biggest question for me is whether or not Andrew Luck’s health played a factor in backing out of the Colts job. Luck missed the entire 2017 season after having offseason shoulder surgery and according to Chris Mortensen, there are doctors who aren’t sure that Luck’s shoulder is totally healed and that he may need more surgery done on it. But if the Colts’ franchise quarterback is having shoulder issues that could derail his career, that seems to be a pretty legitimate reason to back out of the job. He’d be setting himself up for disaster, especially considering this will be his second gig. The first was such a failure that another failure would likely prevent him from ever getting a third chance. I also think it’s possible that working under Jim Irsay wasn’t ideal for McDaniels. Irsay’s history with drugs and alcohol have been well-documented and perhaps McDaniels wasn’t comfortable with a loose cannon like him being his boss when he’s been so used to a guy like Robert Kraft all this time. But the biggest thing that we don’t really know that intrigues me is what this means about Bill Belichick’s future in New England. McDaniels has stated before that the ideal situation for his next head coaching gig would be as Belichick’s successor with the Patriots. Is it possible that Belichick may be gone soon? His contract is up after 2018 but given his success with the Patriots, if wants to keep coaching he’s going to get an extension. So perhaps McDaniels may be aware that Belichick is considering calling it a career after next season and doesn’t want to burn the opportunity to replace him by taking the Colts job. There’s a lot to digest here.

So What Do the Colts Do Now?

Well there are a few options on the table here. Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is an option, as the Eagles’ defense has been terrific since he took over and he’s had moderate success as a head coach with the Lions in the past. I’ve also heard that Leslie Frazier could be a candidate. Frazier was on the Colts’ staff when they won Super Bowl XLI and also has head coaching experience with the Vikings. I’ve heard that several Colts fans want Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub. I really don’t know anything about the guy but the Chiefs’ special teams have been really good these last couple years, particularly in the return game. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich could also be a potential candidate after how successful his RPO’s were this season as well as the development of both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles leading them to a Super Bowl win. There are plenty of other options out there so just because McDaniels is out of the picture doesn’t mean the Colts are royally screwed.

So we really don’t know for sure why McDaniels changed his mind about becoming the Colts’ head coach except that Kraft sweetened his contract and he wasn’t comfortable uprooting his family from New England. Other than that we can only guess until people with more intimate knowledge of the situation step forward. But as a Patriots’ fan, this was very welcome news, especially after some of the crap that’s been coming out since they lost the Super Bowl. From the Malcolm Butler saga to the fact that Rob Gronkowski’s not only considering retirement, but his house was broken into and he was robbed of safes and guns. But getting to gloat around this Indiana University campus is something I’ll never take for granted and you can bet I’m going to get myself punched in the face before the day is out. That’s going to do it for this blog, let me know what you think about McDaniels punking the Colts in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.