published Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

5-at-10: Baseball's Hall of Blame, UT hoops, coaching openings and odds on winning the college football title in 2014

Morning, hope you are staying warm.

From the "Talks too much" studios, let's do work.

Hall of Fame class announced today

There are as many as 20 guys with Hall of Fame numbers on the ballot for enshrinement in baseball's historic museum. There is an impressive list of first-timers on the ballot, too. It could be a time to discuss the greats of a generation and compare their numbers with those of the greats that our fathers and their fathers followed through the course of baseball history.

In fact, this should be a day that baseball embraces and celebrates because above all else, baseball has a historic tie with our culture that spans generations. Think about this: You can talk baseball with just about anyone of any age, regardless of your hair color or their hair loss or whether your tattoos are military in nature or artistic expression.

Baseball is about the passing of the torch and in no sport do the accomplishments of today get measured to the feats of days gone by. Those feats in other sports are not as big, as fast or as strong by comparison, and the glass slipper of greatness that was worn by an Oscar Robertson or a Raymond Berry can not be contained or contrasted to the physical greatness and supremacy of a LeBron James or a Clavin Johnson.

But baseball is different. We believe Babe Ruth and Teddy Williams in their prime would hit and hit well today. We believe Sandy Koufax could still get outs and Walter Johnson would still be the Big Train. And that's a rich fabric of the game and something that should be cherish, especially today when the votes are announced for the next class of Hall of Famers.

That joy, though, is as tarnished as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, another crack delivered to the facade of baseball by the PED era that has now consumed the Hall of Fame announcement.

Consider the following: For all of the 20th century this day was about debating who got in and who didn't and whether the voters were right. Now, it's about debating who deserves consideration and then debating whether we believe they used or didn't use or whether that should matter or what we believe to be important. It has consumed the voting process and sucked the joy out of it.

Greg Maddux will be announced as a Hall of Famer today, but he won't be unanimous because Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has already told us he only voted for Jack Morris because Gurnick has made it clear he is not voting for anyone of the PED era, which is widely believed to be from 1995-to-the early 2000s.

OK, fine. Have a code Ken, no matter how asinine and insane it may be. And enjoy your moment of notoriety. Greg Maddux and his 88 mph fastball and his glasses and his pocket protector, part of the PED conversation? All Maddux did was win 355 games, win four consecutive Cy Youngs, win 18 gold gloves (most by any one ever) and have a career ERA almost a full run better than the league average DURING the PED era that inflated offensive numbers beyond repair. Ken has already said this will be his last vote for Cooperstown, but forget Hall of Fame voting, decisions that bad should force the U.S.A to strip all of Ken's voting privileges.

Maddux is one of a star-studded collection of projected first timers that should be voted in, joining longtime teammate Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas.

And that's not even getting into the guys like Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza — who would have already been slam dunk Hall of Famers before the PED shadows were cast — left in limbo because of the time they played and the suspicions that maybe they possibly used PEDs.

The PED conversation is so crazy and diluted the process to the point that Piazza, who is easily the best offensive catcher in baseball history, has been kept out of the Hall because of voters like Gurnick, who have pledged not to vote anyone from that era in, and because there are reports that Piazza had back acne, a common side effect of steroid use. Really? Now a skin disorder is PED proof? Yes, this system is so fractured it can not be repaired; it must be overhauled.

How sad. What used to be one of the best days for a baseball fan now has become the foremost reminder of the steroid scandal.

Somewhere Vin Scully sheds a tear and Jose Canseco screams, "Told ya."

————

Louisville and Penn State

The last two major college football job openings are at Louisville and at Penn State. Sure there are several NFL openings that could pluck a college head coach and create another opening and there is a chance that either the Cardinals or the Nittany Lions could continue the coaching carousel that has allowed other major programs like USC, Washington and Texas to search for new head coaches.

Our ace TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer makes a strong case about how Vandy's James Franklin would be wise to listen to Penn State here and his reasoning is sound.

The name circulating and gaining steam for Louisville is former Cards, Atlanta Falcons and Arkansas Razorbacks coach and all-around seedy fellow Bobby "The Brain" Petrino. Louisville AD Tom Jurich has had a history of making home run hires, and if Petrino is the choice, well, we'll trust Jurich because he's earned that or we'll believe that the boosters behind the scene are making him do it. Don't get this wrong, Petrino is a world-class football mind and one of the three best play-callers holding a clip board, but man, dude's history of dishonesty is hard to avoid. So it goes.

As long as PSU is quite comfortable that Franklin had no prior knowledge of the disturbing rape allegations swirling around the Vandy program, we believe Penn State should make Franklin say no twice. Dude is a program-changer as a coach. From there, we believe it would be a mistake for PSU to hire former Titans coach and Penn State All-American Mike Munchak, who has zero college coaching experience. Know this: If you have an average coach who is a great recruiter you have a better chance than having a great coach who is an average recruiter, especially at a power program in a power league like Penn State.

If Franklin is not the guy and since Al Golden has reaffirmed his pledge to Miami, then we'd have to believe Greg Schiano would be in play. Schiano, who has Penn State ties, flamed out with the Tampa Bay Bucs after making football relevant at Rutgers.

As for Louisville, Jurich struck gold with Charlie Strong, a coordinator who was dying for a chance to run his own program. Why deviate from that plan and look at Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi or Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

Thoughts?

————

UT hoops

We have discussed the state of Vols hoops in some manner during the football season, but like with most things that have balls that bounce true, they seem to get lost in the shuffle during the fall. So it goes.

  • photo
    Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin, left, talks with guard Jordan McRae in this file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Here's what the Vols have done as they approach the halfway point of their season:

The Good: UT has won four in a row and is 10-4, which is not terrible. The offense has several options among the starters, and Jordan McRae has become a very good-to-great offensive player and his stat line in UT's 68-50 win at LSU last night testifies to that point: McRae needed seven shots to score 19 points and had five assists. How efficient was he? Well, he was 6-of-7 from the field — including all three tries from 3 — and 4-of-4 from the four line. Gravy.

The bad: The depth is troubling. Despite winning by 18 last night in the SEC opener, the Vols had one reserve — Darius Thompson — clock double-digit minutes. Plus, the questions at point guard still remain.

The ugly: The 10-4 record does not feature a highlight, resume-building win and features a really bad home loss to UTEP that will only get worse as the season progresses. Sure the rematch, tournament win over a 12-3 Xavier team is OK.

So where are the Vols? They are 10-4 and face 17 conference games against an SEC that is better than last year but still not much more than a four-bid league unless someone really surprises us in the next two months. We all can agree that Cuonzo Martin desperately needs to get this team into the tournament, especially when you consider that a lot of this year's standouts are seniors.

That means the hard numbers — 10-4 now, 17 games left — tell us the Vols need to go no worse than 13-4 the rest of the way to get to 23-8 and 14-4 in the league to feel quite comfortable about the selection process. With every step down from the projected 14-4 league mark, you increase the drama and the possibility of being one of the dreaded "First Four Out" that sadly has become the keynote of The Conz' tenure in Knoxville.

Could they get in going 12-6 in the league and posting 21-10? Quite possibly, but that banks on no SEC surprises and the UTEP loss is going to be the floater in the punch bowl and that puts monster pressure on the SEC tournament opener.

And if you believe the college hoops regular season doesn't mean that much, well, we agree, but don't try to tell that to Martin and the Vols. Each game is big for this bunch.

————

This and that

— We finished the bowl season 22-17 against the number and combined with the 51-40-2 we posted in the regular season we finished 73-57-2 (56.2 percent). Way down from our previous showings of 85-36-2 last year (70.2 precent) and 52-27-2 in 2011 (65.8 percent). That's 210-120-6 or 63.6 percent against the spread over a three-year stretch. Not too shabby. Put in financial terms, if you bet 100 entertainment credits on each game we picked for the the last three years (21,000 -13260 [120 x 100 for the wagers + 10 percent of all loses and ties]), you would have cashed 7,740 credits, which is highly entertaining.

— After dealing Luol Deng to Cleveland for Andrew Bynum and picks, the tank-tastic Chicago Bulls promptly waived Bynum. Wow. The race for last — and for the most ping-pong balls in the NBA draft lottery — this season is going to have more teams than the race for the the title.

— NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said there's a real chance that more playoff teams are in the future and the league could look about putting playoff games on Friday or Monday nights.

— Johnny Football reportedly has signed with LeBron's marketing buddies to represent the former Heisman winner. That sounds like Manziel is planning on getting paid for his autograph and not having to worry about the NCAA. Hard to blame any player for coming out early if there are first-round dollar signs there.

— Rickie Fowler told reporters that he wants to be known more for his golf than his clothes. OK, that's easy. Win majors and quit dressing like an exotic ice cream salesman. Orange Sherbet anyone?

————

Today's question

Have at it.

Talk baseball Hall of Fame. Talk Johnny Football — would you spend a first-rounder on him? Talk Vols hoops. Irwin M. Fletcher, you choose.

If you still need a talking point, well, here you go:

The Vegas betting lines for the college football teams to win next year's championship were posted Tuesday. Here they are:

Florida State -- 11/2

Alabama -- 13/2

Stanford -- 9/1

Ohio State -- 10/1

Oregon -- 12/1

Auburn -- 14/1

Michigan State -- 20/1

Oklahoma -- 20/1

Clemson -- 25/1

Florida -- 25/1

Georgia -- 25/1

LSU -- 25/1

South Carolina -- 25/1

Texas A&M -- 25/1

UCLA -- 25/1

Baylor -- 25/1

Some others of note — Notre Dame -- 33/1; Mississippi -- 66/1; Arkansas -- 100/1; Georgia Tech -- 100/1; Mississippi State -- 100/1

As for the Vols, Tennessee -- 100/1, the same as Cincinnati, Butch Jones' previous team

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chas9 said...

At what time today do we learn that Mad Dog is officially in the HOF? Bad Ken.

Jurich is very good, but it won't be the boiled lobster.

Yes, your W-L percentage is good, but not as excellent as the SEC W-L for the bowl games.

The Sparties can play. And Kentucky's close loss to them means UK's right there with 'em. The Cats will scratch The Dogs' eyes out this evening. Mississippi State's 10-3, but their best win so far is over #139 Jackson State.

Props to Stuckey. The Vols looked like a tournament team in their handling of LSU. Hard to know what the LSU team is made of, but any 18 point win on the SEC road is a big deal.

Could you call Jarnell's 15/15 stat a double-double and a half? McRae played his usual unusually great game, so maybe the studs can carry UT.

I still saw nothing much (but points) from Barton. Maybe one good pass all game, weak defense, only two assists.

Agree the SEC will be a four team invite and Cuonzo's on the fourth bubble.

January 8, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.
Stewwie said...

A couple more thoughts on the title game:

I thought it was officiated pretty well. The write-ups on the game only mention the teams and players, not the refs...and that's a good thing. The only missed call that stood out to me was when the Auburn lineman grabbed Winston's facemask during a play, but somehow the ref completely missed it.

We know that Musburger/Herbstreit are bad, but I could not believe that Herbie insisted that FSU "has to go for 2" from the 17 (due to the unsportsmanlike penalty) down 21-19 with 11 minutes left. With 2 minutes left, I would agree. But not with 11 minutes left. FSU did the right thing and kicked the XP.

Sir Chuck proposed an idea a couple of years back about the NBA draft lottery that I'm starting to now like. He said that every non-playoff team ought to have an equal chance to get the #1 pick. I think if that were the case, there'd be zero incentive to lose at all. The NFL might want to consider doing something similar too.

Speaking of the NFL, the league would be better off in the long run if Goodell simply went away. Instead of having games on Thursday nights, why not make two Monday night games and then decide a week in advance which one gets on ESPN (the better game) and which one gets on the NFL network? Leave Thursday nights for college football.

A review of Goodell's other ideas: Expanding NFL playoff teams is a bad idea. Expanding the number of league teams is a bad idea. Giving London an NFL franchise is a bad idea. Playing regular season games in London (forcing a team to use that game as a home game) is a bad idea. Expanding the number of regular season games (while also insisting the game be safer) is a bad idea and is also very hypocritical. But the worst idea of them all has to be the one that decided that an outdoor Super Bowl in Feb. in NY should happen. Polar vortex anyone?

January 8, 2014 at 11:18 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

The Vols are considered in right now by everyone. I have to think a 12-6 mark would get them in. Virginia is a good win. Xavier is a good win. Say what you want about rankings at this time of year, but the Vols rank #18 in Pomeroy's rankings, just one spot behind Florida and five spots behind Kentucky. Xavier ranks 27, Virginia 28, LSU 71 and Wake Forest 76. That's four Top 100 wins per Pomeroy at this point. UTEP ranks 104, and per Pomeroy is expected to go 21-10, 11-5 in Conference USA. That won't be a good loss or anything, but it's possible they wind up winning Conference USA, which isn't saying much, but means it is not really that bad of a loss. The Tennessee team I watched last night (and admittedly it is only the second time I've seen them compared to watching a lot of other teams a lot more) will get into the tournament with ease. Again, Pomeroy only lists Tennessee as underdogs in two SEC games from here on out, but because of the way odds work, has them expected to go 14-4 in SEC play. The key will be avoiding the really bad losses- like Texas A&M and Auburn at home in the next two. Go 8-1 in those and Ole Miss at home, South Carolina at home, Georgia at home, at Texas A&M, at Mississippi State, Vanderbilt at home and at Auburn (games that Pomeroy has them expected to win at least 80% of the time) and suddenly the Vols are just need to go 4-4 in remaining SEC games (at Kentucky, Arkansas at home, at Florida, at Alabama, at Vanderbilt, Florida at home, at Missouri, Missouri at home) to get to 13-5, which should make it a relatively easy case that the Vols are in the tournament.

I'll of course give you my weekly Bubble Watch starting in the next couple of weeks. You should enjoy it.

January 8, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.
chas9 said...

Stuckey--Thanks for the analysis. I'd like to see The Vols make The Dance. But Ken Pom thinks they're better than I do. They'll lose when they go cold from three range.

If you can get it, 100-1 is good odds, but I won't be wagering that UT will pull an Auburn next year. For what it's worth (not much), in the cbssports final top 126, the Team 117 Vols were the nation's 69th best team.

So they were worse than #61 Arkansas State and #66 MTSU, but better than #82 Florida, who was worse than #74 Toledo and #81 Florida Atlantic.

Cheer up Gators! You were better than #89 South Alabama, #96 Arkansas, and #103 Kentucky. Still, The Cats were better than #104 Kansas and #126 Gawga State. There's room to grow in The Bluegrass!

In other Chattaboogie news, the trial for D Baby and Poo Poo has started. If they're acquitted, I know some football teams who could use a couple of bad boys.

January 8, 2014 at 12:18 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, Franklin deserves his chance to grab a rung on the BCS ladder, if that is his wish. What if Franklin cannot improve or even duplicate this year's record in 2014? Can't a blame a coach for going out on top.

Vandy is now in its best position ever to hire a hungry, quality coordinator with something to prove as a head coach. Somebody put a bug in my ear whispering Kirby Smart, but that's no knot in the stomach. Maybe it was somebody like Kirby Smart? Damn I need to trim those hairs coming out of my ears.

Legend pitcher who could get outs today..... the ageless one, Warren Spahn.

January 8, 2014 at 12:21 p.m.
chas9 said...

Randy Sanders has coached Tee Martin, Randall Cobb and Famous Jameis. Solid work.

Didja see that a Texas billionaire whose statue is in The Longhorns' stadium says hiring Strong is "a kick in the face"? Bad start for Charlie.

January 8, 2014 at 1:07 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Louisville WILL Hire Bobby Petrino

January 8, 2014 at 1:32 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

If anything, Maddux's numbers in the PED era scream for a vote. If he could do that when Lord knows how many batters were hopped up on everything short of Red Bull and pixie sticks, what could he have done with the Southfork Ranch outfields and loft apartment mounds of yore?

If I'm Penn State (son of Mr. and Mrs. State), I poke around with Schiano to see if he has interest or if his heart is in the NFL. In the meantime, I start serious discussions with Franklin. If Schiano even hints at trying to stay in the pros, I make Franklin say no. The first option is to make Schiano say no.

January 8, 2014 at 1:38 p.m.
jomo11 said...

If Louisville can re-hire a coach who put his mistress on the payroll for a $75,000 a year job, had a motorcycle wreck with her and then lied about it. . . .Could UTK re-hire a basketball coach who lied about a bar-b-q to the NCAA and ask that kid's parents to lie about it ?

January 8, 2014 at 1:55 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

If The Conz does not make the dance there will be a very loud, very vocal group of Johnny Vols Fans who would love to have Pearl back.

Spy —

Not voting for Greg Maddux defies belief no?

9er —

Saw the other UT booster with Strong words. he even said Charlie would make a good position coach or even, maybe a good coordinator for Texas. OUCH-standing.

FE to the C —

Spahn Yes. Bob Gibson, absolutely. And Eddie Harris, the Indians pitcher who put snot on the ball.

Yes, Franklin will win big somewhere. Dude can slap coach.

Stewwie —

Love Chuck's idea. That's got promise.

Good stuff gang.

January 8, 2014 at 2:06 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From StuckinKent

Now let's talk Mocs for a minute-

This is the first time the Mocs have been at .500 this late in the year since 2011-12, when they were 9-9. The last two years, they have been 7-9 at this point. This year? 8-8. They have not been over .500 this late in the year since 2010-11, when they got all the way to 14-10 at one point (and were 8-8 sixteen games in), and were still 16-15, before winding up 16-16.

I don't care who the wins are over. The fact is that they are in at least as good of position as they have been in the last few years at this point. And that is worth something.

A win over Samford on Thursday night would be huge for the program. A home conference win to build the win streak up to five and get the Mocs to 3-0 in SoCon play might bring out a decent crowd for Saturday night, even competing with an NFL game. Wofford is a pretty good SoCon team. The Mocs could use any advantage they can get on Saturday night.

Will Wade has shown an ability to change his gameplan and mold it to fit his current roster while not getting away from the basics of his gameplan. That is the most encouraging thing to me. He looks like he is the real deal. Thoroughly impressed so far.

January 8, 2014 at 2:09 p.m.
jomo11 said...

StuckinKent on Will Wade +1

January 8, 2014 at 2:23 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Indeed the Mocs have done well as of late. The schedule is weak, but when the schedule is weak, you need to be winning. Good start to conference play. My prediction for this bunch was 4 out of 8 conference wins on the road and 6 out of 8 at home for a total of 10 conference wins this season. We should be able to do it.

I was concerned at first that Wade might let his small lineup run wild and jack 3s all game long in his offense. But he has wisely utililized his best player (Mason) and set up a rather structured offense to help feed the beast down low and get good shots all around.

January 8, 2014 at 2:40 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Would it be premature to say that Charlie Strong is on the hot-seat at Texas? I know he has only had the job for about 72 hours, but at Texas if Red McCombs is against you...You're pretty much screwed from the get-go. I'm guessing that Charlie is already beginning to miss those good ol' days when he only needed to keep that Papa John's Pizza guy happy.

Speaking of Papa John's...Folks around Louisville report having their pizza delivered by a guy on a motorcycle. Said something about a red face, neck brace, a spiffy looking 2011 Sugar Bowl hat, and a blonde on the back holding the pepperoni. Who was that midnight rider?

January 8, 2014 at 2:50 p.m.
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