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Feb 25, 2015 -- 2:36pm

By @TJCarpenterWHB

What if college athletics were exactly what everyone thought they were? The casual fan, the cynical fan, the passionate fan, the media types, the sports types, the academic types. What if we all looked at college athletics the exact same way? I have a plan, that could make this happen.

Last year the Pac 12 proposed a national initiative that would make freshman scholarship athletes ineligible for competition. It’s now gaining national traction again with a lot of conferences. It’s a myopic, passive-aggressive warning to student athletes to stop asking for things; things like money and honesty and fairness. It’s an attempt to control college athletics’ biggest social issue, pay for play, on the premise, “hey look, we really do care about academics!”

The “adults” in college athletics, the administrators, athletics directors and coaches hate being questioned, and they’ve been questioned by a lot of people over the last five years. This initiative reminded me of Walter Byers.

Walter Byers was the first commissioner of the NCAA. He’s the guy who came up with the phrase “student-athlete” to create legal cause to absolve NCAA member institutions of liability in workmen's compensation cases. He was notorious for finding ways to control the NCAA’s greatest lie to the public: Colleges deserve the money they make off of athletics, not the students. Byers was also the man who later wrote in his book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes that the NCAA had established a "a nationwide money-laundering scheme." He also wrote, "collegiate amateurism is not a moral issue; it is an economic camouflage for monopoly practice, one which operates an air-tight racket of supplying cheap athletic labor.”

Byers would know, he’s the one who made the NCAA what it is today. Pay for play is a response to the reality of what college athletics is, not what it purports to be. The initiative to make freshman ineligible is a rouse. But what if it weren’t? What if we all decided to unanimously make college athletics a pure thing? Let’s take universities at their word. If we want to graduate more athletes and genuinely make college athletics an enriching experience, lets do it. Here’s my plan:

    Guarantee full four-year scholarships to all athletes.

    Completion of graduation is mandatory for eligibility in professional sports drafts in any sport unless exemption from this rule is granted. (see number 3)

    Exemption from mandatory graduation can be applied for at any point in an athlete’s academic career. Exemption will be decided on by a committee divided into thirds equally between academic administrators, college athletics representatives and representatives from the professional sport (both former players and current league reps) the student wishes to enter.

Okay, lets stop here for a minute. Try to find problems with this. I want you to. I want as many holes poked into this system as possible. It represents a clear commitment to academics and graduating student-athletes. It acknowledges not all athletes are on the same trajectory and development path and some deserve an opportunity to go pro early. It eliminates the need for professional sports to have minimum age requirements to enter the draft.

Some of you may be saying, well, there’s still a lot of money being made in college athletics and it’s not going to the athletes that play the sport. The NCAA is allowing schools to increase compensation, that should remain and continue to grow as time goes on. More importantly, how that money is being spent is also important. This is where I might lose some people. Any time money gets involved, power and control come into play, and directly attacking those who have it gets dicey. Money is a real-world thing. It is in fact, the realest real-world thing in any conversation. We suspend the rules of the real world for sports. We do. Drafts and contract requirements and trades and revenue sharing and salary caps are not things that any other businesses in America do. In fact, most would say these things are un-American and anti-equal rights. But these are games, and these are the rules of the game. College has rules and the rules of the game are different, they are allegedly designed to enhance and benefit the students. Lets work on the premise college could and should do this better.

Coaches salaries are massive. Let’s make them direct participants in the education of the athletes they take responsibility for in those living rooms across America.

4. All college coaches must be required to teach a minimum number of course hours per semester. (moral ethics, leadership, bracketology is taught at a major university, we can find something for coaches to teach. Don’t like it coach? Tough, you can go coach in the pros if you don’t want to be an educator.)

5. Hold coaches, athletics directors and college administrators financially responsible for any rules or regulations that are violated. Student athletes will be disciplined accordingly on a case by case basis. (want to stop cheating? make it financially irresponsible for any AD or coach to let it happen or do it personally. Stripping a team of wins and postseason eligibility not only unfairly punishes future student athletes it offers no incentive for ADs and coaches to strictly monitor and police such things)

If we want to take education seriously, lets take it seriously. If we believe college is often about getting the training necessary to become a productive member of society and acknowledge sports is a business, offering courses and degrees in those sports and putting appropriate focus back on education is doable without compromising the talents and integrity of competition that currently exists at the college and pro level.

A lot of ideas here are going to create more work for some people. You want to make money and work less and care about students less? Keep doing what you’re doing. Want to make me and everyone else believe you care about academics? Do the work.

This is my plan. Lets have this conversation.

Royals Spring Training Notebook - Feb 20

Feb 20, 2015 -- 4:02pm

Royals Spring Training Notebook - Feb 20

By TJ Carpenter



Rule Will Require Players to Keep a Foot in the Batter’s Box; Timers Will Track Breaks During Non-Game Action Only; Managers May Invoke Replay from Dugout

Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, announced additions to the sport’s pace of game program, which will be effective in Spring Training, the regular season and the Postseason, and a series of modifications to the instant replay system.


  • · The pace of game program will enforce the batter’s box rule, requiring that all batters must keep at least one foot in the batter’s box unless one of a group of exceptions occurs. The new rule at the Major League level mirrors 6.02(d), which was in place in Minor League Baseball in 2014.

  • · A second new component to the pace of game program is the addition of timers that will measure non-game action and break time between innings and pitching changes during each Major League game. One timer will be installed on or near the outfield scoreboard, and a smaller timer will be installed on the façade behind home plate near the press box. Immediately following the third out of each half-inning, the timer will count down from 2:25 for locally televised games and from 2:45 for nationally televised games. An MLB representative attending each game will operate the timers from the ballpark and will track the following events:

  • Time Remaining

  • Activity

  • 40 Seconds

  • PA announces batter and begins to play walk-up music

  • 30 Seconds

  • Pitcher throws final warm-up pitch

  • 25 Seconds

  • Batter’s walk-up music ends

  • 20 Seconds-5 Seconds

  • Batter enters the batter's box

  • 20 Seconds-0 Seconds

  • Pitcher begins motion to deliver pitch

  • · Pitchers will be permitted to throw as many warm-up pitches as they wish prior to the point when 30 seconds remain on the clock; however, pitchers will be deemed to have forfeited any of their traditional eight warm-up pitches that they are unable to complete prior to the 30-second deadline. Exceptions to these rules will be made in a variety of circumstances, including if the pitcher or catcher ended the prior half-inning at bat or on base.

  • · Batters will be encouraged to get into the batter’s box with 20 seconds remaining on the timer. This is the same time that the broadcasters return from commercial. The pitcher is expected to begin his motion to deliver the pitch as soon as the batter gets into the batter’s box and becomes alert to the pitcher. Batters who do not enter the box prior to five seconds remaining on the timer and pitchers who do not begin the motion to deliver the pitch prior to zero seconds remaining on the timer will be deemed to have violated the break timing rules.

· These rules will be enforced through a warning and fine system, with discipline resulting for flagrant violators. No fines will be issued in Spring Training or in April of the 2015 regular season. Donations will be made to the Major League Baseball Players Trust charitable foundation based on the level of adherence to the new rules.

Ned Yost

Happy about pace of play changes, doesn’t think they’ll affect how the Royals go about their game much.

Happy Hosmer didn’t miss much time for arbitration. Believes he’s ready to take a big step forward for the Royals as a player and leader.

Believes Duffy and Ventura should both be 200+ inning guys this year.

Eric Hosmer

Hosmer said he’s glad to get the business side of things out of the way because it was close to interfering with his preparation for the 2015 season.

He hopes his numbers are better in 2015.

He’s eager to embrace his role as a clubhouse leader. Says the clubhouse feel is totally different than it was this time in 2014.

Brandon Finnegan

Has a new sleeve tattoo on his right arm, he said it took 10 hours to do.

Finnegan doesn’t think there’s much difficulty in shifting between bullpen and starting roles.

He’d much rather be with the major league club as a bullpen guy than as a starter in the minors, but will do whatever the Royals want him to do.

He’s glad he’s getting an opportunity to go to spring training this year. He wasn’t satisfied with where he was progress-wise at the end of last season. He enjoyed the experience but wants to pitch better this season.

Danny Duffy

Has a goal to get to the 200 inning benchmark.

Said it’s understood among all the pitchers that everyone has more load to carry now that Shields is no longer with the club.

Duffy was grateful to Shields and to Guthrie for giving him pointers on how to play the game and how to get through the grind of an MLB season.

He described his new haircut as, “biblical.”

Royals Spring Training Notebook - Feb 18

Feb 19, 2015 -- 6:34am

Royals Spring Training Notebook - Feb 18

By TJ Carpenter


Ned Yost - 2-18-15
Salvador Perez getting rest during the season is important to the Royals success late in the year
- our mindset has changed and we have to get him more rest… we’ve got ideas… talking with coaches. Perhaps assigning a designated starter where Perez doesn’t play.
·         His willingness to play can’t factor in to the decision.
·         You want his bat in the lineup
·         There’s a possibility he could fill-in as a DH at times, but that is dependent on Morales too.
·         People pay money to see him play… that’s taken into account as well.
You must have an open mind when it comes to who makes the roster and who doesn’t, especially in the bullpen. Everyone has to get an opportunity.
Ned Yost said he doesn’t have to carry a left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, but he’d like to. “From the 7th inning on, it’s not gonna matter,” Ned Yost said
Luke Hochevar - 2-18-15
Threw the first day and Sunday, will be throwing today.
Threw 35 pitches on Sunday which included fastball and changeup.
Feels good. Sounds like he’s ready to get out there, but isn’t rushing anything.
THrowing the first game of spring is not as important as being fully healthy and productive down the road.
Doesn’t care if he has to start in triple-A if he needs more time to get ready for the season
Alex Gordon is scheduled to have his wrist examined on Monday to see if he can be cleared to throw, catch and bat. All indications are his rehab is on schedule.

Dayton Moore is scheduled to speak with the media on Thursday at 1 pm central time.

Chiefs Have QB To Make Super Bowl

Feb 11, 2015 -- 9:06am



By TJ Carpenter



In a series of recent interviews exclusively on 810 WHB with starting quarterback Alex Smith, star pass rusher Justin Houston and Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, the table has been set for the offseason upon us in Kansas City. The Chiefs have publicly backed Alex Smith as the quarterback they believe can take them back, not only to the playoffs, but to the Super Bowl. However, while that statement is a strong one, the reality of the situation is he will need an enormous amount of help and talent around him on both sides of the football if the Chiefs are going to meet the expectations they’ve set for themselves.

Clark Hunt said of the Chiefs on the eve of the Super Bowl, “I actually think we have the capability, we have the quarterback and a lot of the position players we need to make that next jump and be playing on Super Bowl Sunday.”

That’s a lot of trust, which isn’t put entirely on Alex Smith, but it is notable the owner of the team made a specific point to single out Smith as a key piece of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl puzzle. The Chiefs made a point to get Smith taken care of financially before the season started, which also tied the franchise and quarterback together for the foreseeable future. Smith’s four-year deal as it’s currently structured means he will account for $15.6 million against the cap in 2015 and $17.8 million in 2016… his dead money figure doesn’t drop to $7 million until 2017 when the Chiefs could theoretically cut him. Bottom line, the money as it currently works means the Chiefs are tied to Smith for at least the next two seasons. They’re committed. However, the Chiefs could ask Smith to restructure his contract to make the cap work, which they’d need to do in order put the pieces everyone knows Smith needs around him to be successful.

“It’s not something I’ve totally thought about but I’m always open to it especially if its going to help the team get more guys get more talent in,” Smith said of a potential restructure. He’s also open about the reality that he needs elite talent around him on both sides of the ball to get to a Super Bowl. “You know you’re a reflection of those guys around you so,” Smith said, “no question always willing to do those things to help the team.”

Smith has only thrown for over 300 yards four times in his NFL career. He’s thrown for more than 20 touchdown passes in a season one time in his career. Last year his 3265 yards and 18 touchdowns were a perfect reflection of his limitations, the same limitation he’s had his entire career. He needs help, and he knows it. He may not turn the ball over, but without weapons around him and an elite defense, numbers like that cannot get a team to the Super Bowl.

This brings us to the second offseason storyline and the reality of the Chiefs situation. If they are to make it to a Super Bowl, it will be because they have an elite roster, not an elite quarterback. Item number one on the agenda: Justin Houston’s looming contract situation.

Houston is an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with anyone at the beginning of the new league year in March. Clark Hunt made comments everyone likes to hear regarding Houston’s future in Kansas City, but was blunt about the reality of the situation. “He’s the type of player we would like to have as a Kansas City Chief for a very long time if not his entire career,” Hunt said, “now having said that - it’s easy to say that - there’s a lot of hard work to do between now and getting a long term contract with him.”

Not exactly what fans want to hear about a stud pass rusher who led the league in sacks and nearly broke the single-season record for sacks in the final game of the year. Houston’s 22 sacks were an NFL-best last season. How much were each of those sacks worth to Houston? We don’t know for certain, but I’m guessing the numbers in Houston’s head are closer to J.J. Watt’s six-year extension worth $100 million than to where the current outside linebacker market dictates he may receive. “I just want what I’ve earned,” Houston said. “I think some people just get lucky and just get a deal, but I think I’ve earned every penny I’m asking for.”

Dwayne Bowe certainly got lucky. Since getting his big contract, Bowe has led the worst wide receiving corps in NFL history by at least one metric: The Chiefs’ wide receivers didn’t catch a single touchdown pass last season. Bowe had 60 receptions 754 yards and had a mere 57 receptions 673 yards with 5 touchdowns the year before. Bowe’s agent fleeced then rookie GM John Dorsey in a $56 million deal, and it’s been an albatross around the Chiefs’ neck ever since. Houston has been optimistic about a deal, but not certain, “I hope, we’ll see.”

An unsettling uncertainty from a player of Houston’s caliber. What is also unsettling was the revelation from Houston that last offseason, not only did the two sides fail to reach a deal, when asked if they spoke at all he said, “Nothing happened at all.”

Dorsey may not want to get fleeced again, but when the decision seems as obvious as it appears with Houston, the two situations aren’t comparable. Houston’s production and play has been beyond reproach and he’s an obvious essential if the Chiefs are to have the elite defense they know they’ll need with the current offense they have. At least we know Houston wants to be a part of that plan. “As long as I’m in the league I would like to continue to play for Andy Reid,” Houston said.

Of course, the Chiefs could always use the franchise tag, but given how candid Houston was about his disdain for it, I’d tread lightly antagonizing him especially given the Chiefs acknowledgement they want him in Kansas City long-term. “Franchise tag I don’t think is in their best interests,” Houston said.

I would agree.

Simply put, the Chiefs are committed to a plan that requires the team to have an elite defense, to which Houston is essential, better weapons around Alex Smith, which he openly acknowledges he needs, and yet the message from the team seems to have been and continues to be: Smith will win us a Super Bowl so we must take care of him, period. He’s our guy…. Oh yeah, and maybe we’ll get to Houston eventually, but we don’t want to overpay for him.

It’s interesting, Houston and Smith seem to understand what they are and what they are worth better than management and ownership do at times.

At the end of the day, the NFL is a get it done business and fans won’t care who is making what as long as everyone is on the team and playing well. This offseason’s task for John Dorsey and Andy Reid are simple: Get it done.


Who Do You Root For?

Jan 06, 2015 -- 3:03pm



I am fascinated by this question. Especially in a 2015 sports culture that includes individual domination in the NBA, the now mainstream fantasy leagues, both season and daily, and the ever-present traditional norm, the question, “who do you root for?” has never had a more complex answer.

The answer to that question also says a lot about you as a fan and to some extent what your values are as a person. As a member of the media in college, who attended the same university whose teams I covered simultaneously, I quickly went from student-section fan to all-too objective press box dweller. I did my utmost to separate myself from fandom. Since moving to Kansas City, I have learned, most fans, especially in this market, not only expect media to be biased, but they expect media to be just as biased as they are FOR the teams they like and ENTIRELY OBJECTIVE (by their definition) for the teams they don’t. I separate my analysis from my fandom. I have to, one is my job and the other is my entertainment. But talking about the game vs. talking about the people that play it is often a gray area.

It is true, no one can escape bias, you will eventually root for the teams or players you cover on some level. I personally have found a compromise to this dilemma. I root for people, not for teams. I have one exception, the United States Men’s National Team in World Cup soccer. I am an american… I root for the people I meet and like. They aren’t always the most talented, but they are the ones I want to see succeed.

I’ll never forget the 2012 Chiefs season, for mostly bad reasons, but the one thing I will always remember is when I had the realization, as a member of the media and as a fan of sports, I started rooting for people and not for teams. I had an opportunity to interview Brady Quinn on a weekly basis, one-on-one and through these conversations and the meetings we had off the air I got to know him as a person. So, when he gave an impassioned speech after the Chiefs beat the Carolina Panthers just a day after Jovan Belcher committed murder-suicide, I was not in the least bit surprised at his composure or compassion. I knew that was who he was. We had talked about his charity and many other notable things he was involved in. I knew the guy everyone saw give that speech after the game was a person I saw when the cameras were off. I respected that. I secretly wished Quinn was more talented and had been given a much better chance to succeed in a league that spits players out as fast as they gobble them up, because he’s the kind of guy you want to see “win.”

At the end of the day, teams are a t-shirts. T-shirts and stadiums and arenas and money and symbols. The people who wear them, build them, sustain them and give them meaning are where I’ve found the answer to that question. My desire to see Arkansas my school, even the USMNT my country, succeed is a part of my entertainment, and I enjoy it. But my passion to see the players that make them up succeed because they deserve it is where I find my fandom.

Rooting for Bill Snyder or Kim Anderson or Bill Self or Jamaal Charles or Greg Holland? There are a million reasons to do it. Real tangible reasons. But, the next time someone asks you, “who do you root for?” really think about it. Because your TEAM is only as good as the people who make it up. Try not to confuse analysis with fandom. The two don’t really go together. When it comes to fandom, I choose to enjoy sports through the people that play it, not the clothing they wear.



Nov 25, 2014 -- 10:02am
By @TJCarpenterWHB

This week is rivalry week in college football. Given how much conference realignment has taken place over the last five years however, some teams have found this week late in the year a bit more hollow. In many ways its still about what the week used to be to a lot of people as opposed to what it will be moving forward or what it currently is.

Regardless of whether this week means something to Mizzou and Arkansas on a personal level the way it has in the past, this week still has an enormous amount of meaning on a practical level. Mizzou can win the SEC East for the second consecutive season, earning respect and a shot at its first SEC Title. Arkansas can build momentum going into the bowl season, deprive Mizzou of getting back to Atlanta and create buzz around the program as Bret Bielema continues to rebuild in recruiting.

There is a lot on the line, especially for Mizzou.

The Tigers have faced a wall of disrespect in the Big 12 and now the SEC and previously the Big 8 their entire existence, basically. And for that reason, getting back to the SEC Title game for two consecutive seasons would be the ultimate face-shoving moment for a program with a chip on its shoulder. Trust me, I know there’s nothing funner than FORCING people to acknowledge how good your team is. And the Tigers are a very good, albeit inconsistent, team this season. It’s why they’re in this position. But, have they really been disrespected to the extent to which people say?

Sometimes narrative matches up with the facts, sometimes it doesn’t. (okay, a large portion of the time it doesn’t.) The narrative with Mizzou coming into the SEC FROM SEC people was, Mizzou would struggle to compete early in the league but ultimately settle in as a middle to above average program in the conference. This argument was based on a perception Mizzou, while an overachieving and well-coached program, would be unable to recruit with the big boys in the Southeastern Conference and stylistically would have to adjust to the physical style of football teams play around the league.

Let’s address the last thing first. That was a really stupid thing to say, by myself and others. Mizzou is built on three principles: Quarterback play, Pass rush, Offensive line strength.  Those are the three most important things in football in that order in the NFL and increasingly in the college game. Mizzou’s defense is predicated on pressure and turnovers and they’re really good at it under Gary Pinkel. They are “best in the league” good at it.

That brings us the second thing. Mizzou could not recruit in the SEC vs the big dogs. Mizzou was typically middle of the pack in the Big 12 in recruiting and so far have been dead last or second to last in recruiting rankings in the SEC. But as Nate Bukaty said this week, and I agree with, recruiting should be based on the players you produce and put into the NFL and not the players you get to come to campus. In general I think this is a great way to gauge the caliber of a roster. First, it’s a given that Gary Pinkel can coach, he’s not perfect, but the guy gets it. So, what we’ll look at is how Mizzou ranks in the SEC (or would have been ranked) over the last 8 seasons. This would mean 5th year seniors playing in 2012 in SEC year 1, are included as recruits coming in the year Mizzou had players drafted in 2008. (Here is the complete of NFL players by school per year)

Mizzou SEC ranking players in NFL by season:
2014: 9th - 33
2013: t9th - 29
2012: 10th - 28
(pre SEC)
2011: 12th - 20
2010: 13th - 12
2009: 13th - 8
2008: 13th - 6

2 Observations: First, wow, how awesome has Gary Pinkel been for Mizzou? He got to Mizzou in 2001. In 2001, Mizzou had fewer players in the NFL than Texas A&M-Kingsville. (That’s literally true) In 2014, the Tigers had 33 current NFL players. Second, as impressive as Gary Pinkel has been at developing NFL talent, Missouri is still 9th at best in the SEC at putting players in the NFL. This is a point for the narrative in my book. Mizzou is good at putting players into the NFL, but so is everyone else in the conference and most are better. Mizzou DOES put more players into the NFL than their recruiting rankings would suggest however, so there’s that. Players are better when they leave than when they come in under Gary Pinkel. I’ll reiterate a previous comment: Dude can coach.

Regardless of these two points overall I think we can say, in general, the results speak for themselves at this point. Getting to back to back SEC Title appearances is extremely difficult, and Mizzou is on the verge of doing it. That’s impressive by any metric. Mizzou can compete in this league, all hail Gary Pinkel, SEC East Overlord. Winning a title would go a long long way to establishing a new narrative. The old one is almost dead and deservedly so.

Onto the opponent.

This is a bad matchup for Mizzou.

Arkansas runs the football effectively, has a crushing play action passing game, the largest offensive line in all of football (college and pro) and a defense that has shut out back to back top 20 teams. The last time that happened was 1942 when the Bear Bryant-coached North Carolina Preflight did it. They, like Mizzou are well-coached and at playing great football late in the year. Arkansas will be the only school in college football history to play all of its conference games against top 20 teams. They were tied with Auburn at halftime, lost to A&M in overtime, lost to Alabama by 1, lost to Georgia but outscored the dogs in all but one quarter, and lost to then no.1 Mississippi State on a last minute TD in the 4th before defeating LSU and Ole Miss in back to back weeks.

They are better than their record would indicate.

Mizzou has excellent rush ends, but Arkansas runs the ball so much, you have to wonder how much the Tigers can get to Brandon Allen given how seldom the Hogs drop back. You also have to wonder how well Mizzou can run the football against a team that only gave up 36 yards to LSU and just 63 yards to Ole Miss. Arkansas is also +6 in turnovers the last two weeks. This means Maty Mauk has the game in his hands and limited weapons around him against a defense that also touts one of the best rush ends in the nation in Trey Flowers.

There is a lot on the line, including the near future of this “Battle Line” rivalry. Perhaps in the short term, the rivalry itself will take a back seat, but if this first game is as close as I believe it will be, it means great things for the game moving forward. Close games make for great rivalries. This is going to be a close game. Hopefully the two schools most synonymous with the chip on the shoulder and the underdog role, constantly trying to change what they are, will make for good bedfellows.

26-20 Arkansas


Happy Thanksgiving.

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