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Casinos Are Bad, Mmmkay?

As you have heard by now, the NFL stepped in it AGAIN. This time they banned the first ever National Fantasy Football Convention, just weeks before its scheduled opening.

Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison
Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison
Tony Romo has been the public face of the event, the NFFC, for the past several months. However, in the proverbial eleventh hour, the NFL put the deep-6 on the convention on, get this, moral grounds. The League had concerns about the event being held at a Las Vegas casino, because, of course, gambling does not look good for pro sports (see Tim Donaghy, Pete Rose, and the 1919 Chicago Blacksox).

The NFFC would have provided a great opportunity for players and fans to meet, greet and mingle. Not that anyone would want to help GROW the NFL brand, or anything.

Tony Romo, who only recently joined Twitter, thanks in part to the investigative work of our Founder, Jamie Kelly, said in one of the few tweets from his account:

Cowboys teammate and fellow NFFC headliner Dez Bryant was quite agitated in his response:

Fantasy football is a $3 Billion industry that affects every facet of the NFL. It brings in more fans who love fantasy sports, and it increases viewership, which obviously helps the League.

The NFFC was to feature Cowboys Romo, Bryant, and Jason Witten, and many other NFL stars, including Jamaal Charles, Antonio Brown, DeMarco Murray, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy, Julio Jones and DeMarcus Ware. It was to also feature around a dozen media personalities, including Michael Fabiano of the league-owned NFL Network and NFL.com. Fabiano‘s participation alone further proves that the NFL has nffc posterknown about this event for some time, and simply chose to wait until it was beyond the point of no return to pull the plug.

This three-day event was scheduled to be July 10-12 at the Venetian Resort Hotel in Las Vegas. The NFL confirmed via email a Fox Sports report about the league’s longstanding policy that, “Players and NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos.”

HUH? The NFL won’t allow that, but they allow NFL owners to own stock in racetracks in New Jersey, Baltimore and Florida.

CBS Las Vegas
CBS Las Vegas
The NFL‘s indignation about gambling is a glorious, joke. It is estimated, conservatively, that anywhere from $70-100 BILLION is wagered on NFL games each year, and only a small part of that is done legally. I’m sure that many of you have participated in office pools, bought squares for a big football game, or even bet someone a Coke on a game. Obviously gambling boosts attendance and TV revenue. When you have money invested in something, you’re typically going to watch.

I’ll give you an easy example of how the NFL‘s actions are counter to what they say about gambling. The League requires each team to state before games (usually on Thursday) which players may have to sit out due to injury, and which players are questionable. Why? The information benefits gamblers. Does the League care that newspapers run the points spread? Of course not.


Just when you think it can’t get any worse… No, on second thought, I think we all agree that it can, and will, get worse. There are, in fact, several documented cases of the NFL getting in bed with either organized crime or big time gamblers.

1. The Chicago Bears

largeIn the early 1920s, George Halas turned to a man who was a noted bootlegger, gambler, racetrack owner and known associate of Chicago’s Al “Scarface” Capone‘s mob to finance the Bears. His name was Charles Bidwell. Yes, THAT, Bidwell. Later on, Bidwell bought the Chicago Cardinals. Guess whose family owns the Arizona Cardinals? Yep. The Bidwell family.

2. The Cleveland Browns

Cleveland_Browns_63602_zpsb375f1adThe Cleveland Browns were owned by crime syndicate bookmaker Arthur “Mickey” McBride, the head of the Continental Racing Wire, the mob’s gambling news service. The U.S. Senate’s Kefauver Committee called that news service “Public Enemy Number One.” In 1961, the team was sold to Art Modell, who among many things, was a partner in a horse racing stable with Morris “Mushy” Wexler, whom the Kefauver Committee named one of the “leading hoodlums” in McBride’s wire service. In 1969, Modell was married in Las Vegas at the home of William “Billy” Weinberger, who just happened to be the president of Caesar’s Palace, whose hidden owners included: Tony “The Big Tuna” Accardo, Sam “Momo” Giancana, and Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo. When he finally died in 1996, The Las Vegas Sun called Weinberger the “dean of casino gambling.”

3. The San Francisco 49ers

159571aThe Youngstown DeBartolo family, long involved in casinos and racetracks, owns the Niners. In the late 1990s Edward DeBartolo Jr., then the head of the 49ers, paid the Louisiana Governor $400,000 to get a riverboat casino license. The Governor went to jail for that crime, and DeBartolo got a slap on the wrist. He did have to leave the 49ers, but his family still runs the team while DeBartolo Jr. runs the company that is based back in Youngstown.

joe namath bachelors iiiNow, here’s an oldie but a goodie. In 1969, a hypocrisy of all hypocrisies happens in the Big Apple. New York Jets quarterback, Joe Namath invested in a Manhattan bar. The National Football League told him to sell his shares because the joint had ties to big time gamblers and unsavory individuals.

WHAT?

The league said NOTHING about Modell‘s ties or the unsavory ties of numerous other team owners.  The late Carroll Rosenbloom, a high roller with major interest in a mob-run casino, owned the Baltimore Colts AND the Los Angeles Rams at different times.


I personally think that the NFL got its feelings hurt because this National Fantasy Football Convention did not include them, nor were they going to see a red cent of monies from it either.

And, lastly, the NFL showed it’s immaturity when the NFL tweeted this to Tony Romo:

Was the league trying to be funny, or were they trolling Tony Romo? In either case, the league looks bad, and guess who’s the head of the NFL? Good ol’ Roger Goodell.

America! You can gamble on our games, but please don’t ask our players to have a meet, greet, and mingle with you at a resort because well, we have our integrity to protect.

TOO LATE.


Ronnie Garcia is the Voice of Reason at The Scoop. He is also an avid guitarist, educator, and all around smarmy guy. Ronnie co-hosts The Fanatics on Monday nights from 7-9pm on KTSR-db. You can follow him on twitter @TheRonMann.

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Tales of Unsigned First Round HS Pitchers, Part 1

UTSanDiego.com
UTSanDiego.com

When the Astros and Brady Aiken, their first overall pick in the 2014 draft, failed to reach agreement at the signing deadline, the entire baseball world was utterly flabbergasted. A couple days after the draft, the 6’4”, 210 lbs, southpaw reportedly accepted the Astros‘  original signing bonus offer which came out at $6.5 million.

However, an MRI discovered something physically unusual in Aiken‘s pitching arm – an abnormally undersized UCL. Concerning about the potential risk of Tommy John surgery, the Astros reduced their offer to $3.16 million. Aiken and Casey Close, his adviser, didn’t like the move, and the sides moved apart. The Astros increased their offer to $5 million at the very end, but Aiken never took it.

As a result, Aiken joined the club of “unsigned overall 1st picks in the history of the baseball draft” as the 3rd member, which consists Danny Goodwin from June 1973 and Tim Belcher from January 1983.

Now we know how it turned out. Aiken joined IMG Academy‘s post-graduate program to reboot his stock for the upcoming 2015 draft. Unfortunately, in his first outing with the squad, he exited the game after just 12 pitches due to an elbow injury that eventually required him to undergo Tommy John surgery – just like the Astros foresaw.

Even though he’s unable to throw for another few months, Aiken is seen as a first round pick in the 2015 draft, although it’s hard to see someone offering him $5 million again. So, in hindsight, Aiken should have taken the Astros‘ final offer, even if it was an insult to him.

This led me to wonder how these stories ended up in previous cases. Using Baseball America‘s Draft Database, there have been 12 pitchers, other than Aiken, who went unsigned when they were drafted out of high school since 1987 when they ditched the January draft.

In this 2-part series, I inspected how life treated each case. Some gained benefit from the decision, while some others went on to disastrous careers.


Alex Fernandez, 24th overall, 1988 

Spokeo
Spokeo

Fernandez forewent the Brewers‘ $110,000 signing bonus offer to attend a Miami area JuCo. After transferring to University of Miami after his Freshmen year and spending a spectacular campaign as a Hurricane, he went as the 4th overall pick in the 1990 draft and signed a $350,000 bonus with the White Sox. He spent 10 years in the big leagues before shoulder injury cut his career short at the age of 30.  The Cuban descendant put up a career 115 ERA+, and struck out 1252 while walking 552, in 1760.1 innings.


Scott Burrell, 26th overall, 1989

Burrell, a 6’5″ right-hander out of Hamden High School in Connecticut, was also known as a basketball star. He turned down the Mariners‘ offer, which was reportedly more than $110,000, to play basketball at University of Connecticut.  After being selected in the 5th round in the next year’s draft by the Blue Jays, and signed for “first round money,” Burrell played briefly in their farm system over the parts of two following seasons.

Inside Hoops
Inside Hoops

His professional baseball career wasn’t as successful as his basketball one, which lasted more than seven years in the NBA.

 


Chad Hutchinson: 26th overall , 1995

Much like Burrell, the San Diego native stood at 6’5″ and was known as a two-sport athlete in high school, though he was a baseball-football guy.  He was selected 26th overall in the 1995 draft by the Braves, who offered a $1.5 million signing bonus.  Rather than playing in the minor leagues for the next few years, Hutchinson accepted a two-sport scholarship from Stanford University, where he pitched for the baseball team in the spring, and played quarterback for football team in the fall over the next 3 years.  With

AP Photo
AP Photo

an MVP award in the Sun Bowl and a trip to the College World Series under his belt, Hutchinson re-entered the draft in 1998. He went with the 48th overall pick this time, and signed a $3.4 million major league contract with the Cardinals. He could have gone higher than that, in fact, there were buzzes from some evaluators that considered him as the best pitching prospect in the class, but many teams thought it would be tough to sign a deal with him; hence, he slipped this low.  Despite breaking camp with the Cardinals in 2001, he got sent back to triple-A after an obscene 24.75 ERA and 17.05 FIP in 4.0 innings, and he never made another

AP Photo
AP Photo

appearance as a big league pitcher. After his baseball career came to an end after the 2001 season, Hutchinson went on to play QB for the Cowboys and the Bears, but his career in NFL lasted no longer than 3 years.


Matt Harrington, 7th overall, 2000

If William Shakespeare wrote a story about baseball,  it would be about Matt Harrington. This is arguably the saddest and most tragic story in baseball draft history.

Entering the 2000 draft out of Palmdale HS near Los Angeles, the right-hander attracted scouts everywhere from the States with his 98 MPH fastball. Baseball America, Gatorade, and USA Today named him the best high school player in the nation that year. Due to signability concern, he slipped to the Rockies’ pick, 7th overall. Their $2.2 million initial offer was far apart from Harrington’s asking price, $4.95 million. Negotiations after negotiations, the Rockies finally offered that $4.9 million, but it was as a salary over 8 years, and forced him to give up 3 arbitration years. Tony Tanzer, Harrington’s adviser, insisted that he reject the offer. And the sides never came close thereafter.

ESPN OTL
ESPN OTL

After a brief 19-inning stint with the St. Paul Saints,  one of the most well-known independent league clubs, Harrington re-entered the draft in 2001. Losing the fastball velocity he once possessed, as well as his stock as a player, he slipped to the 58th overall pick with the Padres. Their offer was somewhere around $1.2 million. Scott Boras, who had taken over the role as Harrington‘s  new adviser, told him not to take it.  Once again, he did not sign.

His fall from grace continued.

Harrington spent another year in independent ball, splitting time between the Long Beach Breakers and the Fort Worth Cats.  The Rays took him in the 13th round of the 2002 draft, but he didn’t take the offer.

5 more seasons in independent ball, 2 more draft selections and rejections, and one not-so-impressive spring training with the Cubs later, Harrington found himself working at Costco as a tire-repairer, for 11 and a half bucks an hour.

This is an extreme case of a player falling off a cliff after turning down big money. You can read more about the sad saga of Matt Harrington in this ESPN story,  written by Amy K. Nelson back in 2009.

This is part 1 of 2-piece series. Part 2 will be out later date.


Kazuto Yamazaki is a Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @Kazuto_Yamazaki.

The Voice of Reason: Do You Like Topsy-Turvy Football?

Here we sit, at Week # 8 in Pro Football and Week # 9 in College Football.

It. Is. Insane.

LITERALLY. INSANE.

myfoxmemphisLet’s tackle the college game first. (Get it? Tackle? I’ll show myself out.) At any rate, if I would have told you last year that the #1 team in the nation in mid-October 2014 would be Mississippi State, you’d have told me to step away from the crack pipe. Crazy thing is, THEY ARE.  Want another crazy fact? Ole Miss is #3!

Never, in any alternate universe, would you ever expect those teams to be in the top 10, much less the top 5!

You have your usual schools, the Alabamas, the Florida States, the Auburns and Notre Dames. Here come the relative newcomers into the “NCAA Playoff” discussion. Where are Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M? They are struggggaaaaling. If you are a fan of parity, then you are loving this. LOVING this.

I have to admit to rooting for the “little guys” like Mississippi State. I am a huge fan of their quarterback, Dak Prescott. He’s had a great year, as has Ole Miss’s Bo Wallace. Both of these young men should be in the “Heisman talk.”

It is fun to watch on Wednesday nights, Thursday nights, Friday nights, and Saturdays to see what these guys pull out of their collective sleeves. College football is fun, and if you aren’t a fan, you are missing out on some terrific football. Those who were once on top, are now at the bottom, and the bottom teams are on top. Is this GREAT or what?

Now on to the pros.

usp-nfl_-arizona-cardinals-at-seattle-seahawks-4_3_rx512_c680x510Last year’s champions, the Seattle Seahawks are in trouble. They are only a game out of last place in the NFC West. The Seahawks are officially on a losing streak. If that sentence looks weird, it’s because you haven’t read it in over two years. Before Sunday’s loss to the Rams, and last week’s loss to the Cowboys, the last time Seattle lost two games in a row was during Weeks 7 and 8 in 2012.

Is it time to hit the panic button in Seattle? They still have two games against the division-leading Cardinals, the streaking 49’ers, the KC Chiefs, and the dangerous Philadelphia Eagles. They could potentially miss the playoffs. They are sitting at a crossroads at 3-3.

According to ESPN stats, teams that start a season with 3 wins and 3 losses make the playoffs 38.3% of the time. 38% of the time. Seattle has some work to do, and their schedule doesn’t get any easier.

Across the rest of the NFC, there are a few more surprises, for sure.

The Dallas Cowboys, who had an awful defense last year, were picked by many pundits to finish last or next to last in the NFC east. They are arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now, ripping off 6 straight wins. We all knew that they had a talented offense, with Romo, Dez, and Witten, but the defense with Rolando McClain,and a bunch of no names? They are playing well over their heads.

In the tough NFC West, everyone knew that Seattle and San Francisco were going to be there, but who saw the Cardinals? No one. The fact that they have used three quarterbacks and still managed to win, is a testament to the Cardinals coaches.

Up in the frigid NFC North, the Detroit Lions are making noise in a division that has long belonged to the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Granted, the Lions and Packers are tied for the lead, but anyone who saw that coming should have bought a lottery ticket.

Head down to the NFC South, and you find a Carolina Panthers team that is up and down, but still leading the division with a 3-3 record. What happened to the New Orleans Saints? The Atlanta Falcons? A lot of “meh” going on there. Matty Ice has been COLD. As in not hot.

The NFL prides itself on the “Any Given Sunday” mantra. So far this year, it has proven true. There is a lot of football left to be played, and anyone can be beat on any Sunday. I love it. It has the feeling of a season where any team can get hot and make the playoffs and then win it all. See the NY Giants.

I hope you like this topsy-turvy sports world. I know I do.


Ronnie Garcia is the Voice of Reason at The Scoop. He is also an avid guitarist, educator, and all around smarmy guy. You can follow him on twitter @CapnDD.