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

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

January 8th, 2014 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

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.

From left, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

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."

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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.

Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

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?

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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.

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin, left, talks with guard Jordan McRae in this file photo.

Photo by Associated Press/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.

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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.

Johnny Manziel

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

- 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?

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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