Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Developing "Red Sox and Yankees are Homegrown" Meme

You could see this line coming as soon as the Red Sox won their second World Series in four years and Tom Verducci claimed that the victory was the result of the Red Sox farm system. Intelligent baseball writers have to be aware that there is resentment towards the Red Sox among, well, just about every other fan base that two teams (along with their spoiled red-headed stepbrother in Queens) receive the lion share of attention in what is supposed to be "America's Game." These writers know that many fans view the Red Sox, Yankees, and Mets as benefiting from tremendous natural advantages, namely huge populations that allow them to out-spend their rivals into the ground.

So how do writers counter this perception? By latching onto the fact that the Red Sox and Yankees finally have a couple prospects on their teams. Forget the fact that these teams spend significantly more on payroll than any other clubs in baseball. Forget the fact that both teams are stocked with players that they acquired either through free agency or through trades in which the Yankees and Red Sox acquire top players from smaller teams by virtue of their ability to pay for those players. Let's focus entirely on the fact that the Red Sox used to be entirely composed of players acquired through trades and free agency, but now, they are only 90% composed of such players. I exaggerate, but only slightly. The 2008 Baseball Prospectus chapter on the Cubs contains a chart that analyzes the percentage of players for the eight 2007 playoff participants acquired through various means. You'll never guess which teams had, by far, the greatest percentage of players acquired through trades and free agency. Yup, the World Champions. The Tom Verduccis of the world want you to believe that the Red Sox are a team built by the draft and player development because fans respect teams that are built organically as opposed to through the exercise of naked economic power. Reality does not conform to the bill of goods that Verducci is trying to sell.

There's also one other point to be made that further pierces the meme that the Red Sox and Yankees are smart as opposed to rich. As Verducci's article admits (and buries at the very end), the Red Sox and Yankees' financial advantages give them a significant leg up in the draft:

Since 2005 the Yankees and the Red Sox have continued to sink more money into scouting and the draft. Says one rival AL G.M., "They've become what the U.S. and Russia were during the cold war: There is them, and there's everybody else. My goodness, the Yankees took a guy in the first round [Andrew Brackman in 2007] who needed Tommy John surgery, and they gave him a four-year major league contract. Nobody else can do that."

The chapter on the Tigers in the 2008 Baseball Prospectus confirms this point: Detroit has joined the Yankees and Red Sox as teams that get better talent out of the draft because they are willing and able to pay huge signing bonuses that are prohibitive to other teams. MLB's economic structure rewards big-spending teams in a number of ways. One such way is the fact that the NBA (formally) and NFL (informally) set the salaries for draftees based on their draft slot. MLB does no such thing, which gives yet another advantage to the clubs that were born on third base and Tom Verducci thinks they hit a triple.

I am F***ing Sick of Hearing This

"It's a big disappointment. It just seems like we didn't have the energy tonight," Johnson said. "We came out lackadaisical and we let Drew get off to a good start. Once a guy gets a rhythm, it's hard to stop him. He had a big night for them."

That's Joe Johnson on last night's loss in Chicago. How does a team come out lackadaisical at the end of the season when they are fighting for their playoff lives? I understand that the NBA season is an interminable grind, but if ever there was a time for a team, so be focused, it ought to be a game against a fellow playoff contender at the end of March. Are you going to be saying the same shit after game one in Boston? I keep coming back to Mark Bradley's statement earlier in the year that the Hawks' repeated "we weren't into the game" statements are a direct reflection on the head coach.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Is Atlanta Spirit Going to Kill Hockey in Atlanta?

That was my thought as I was reading Scott Burnside's evisceration of the Thrashers' management team. As a formerly intense, but currently casual Thrashers fan, my view from 30,000 feet is that the Thrashers are handicapped by Don Waddell's poor drafting and free agent decisions.

I did read Bruce Levenson's defense of Waddell in Sunday's AJC and was perplexed by the stance of Atlanta Spirit. Waddell has been in charge for eight years, during which the Thrashers have played exactly four playoff games and at the end of which, the roster is one of the weakest in the NHL. By every indication, the Thrashers' fan base is angry at the direction of the team and a number are unlikely to renew season tickets because of the direction of the franchise. Fan discontent is amplified by Atlanta Spirit's ham-handed decision to increase ticket prices on the heels of putting out a dreadful product this season. The natural response for ownership would be to bring in a new general manager and coach so they can sell a new beginning to the fans. Instead, Atlanta Spirit is apparently set on keeping Waddell, which would really anger me if I were a season ticket holder. It's almost like a president who knows that a military strategy isn't working and just keeps trying the same thing. That never happens.

The mismanagement of the Thrashers has serious implications. Atlanta Spirit's dogged devotion to Mike Woodson is frustrating and indicative that the ownership group is too big and/or divided to make major, necessary decisions. However, the Hawks are protected by the NBA's lucrative television contract and other shared revenue streams. Basketball is a good TV sport. Hockey is not. Whether because of the small puck or Gary Bettman's small brain, the NHL does not provide significant revenue streams to its teams. Thus, local ticket revenue is critical for every franchise. Atlanta Spirit can do real damage to its own bottom line and to the sport of hockey in this market if it continues on its present course of defending a failed manager.

Ordinarily, I would assume that Atlanta Spirit is defending its general manager because it's always a good idea to defend one's employees up until they are former employees. In this case, there is no reason not to make a move now. The Thrashers are clearly going nowhere, so there's nothing to lose by cutting bait on Waddell. If Atlanta Spirit moved quickly, they would get a leg up on other NHL teams looking for new GMs. Also, since the GM is also going to have to hire a coach, it would be better to hire one sooner rather than later. Thus, it appears that Atlanta Spirit is actually being serious when they defend a regime that has produced the third-worst record and worst goal difference in the NHL.

Burnside does an excellent job of explaining the extent of the Thrashers' mismanagement. I found the following facts striking/depressing:

1. The Thrashers are last in the NHL in terms of draftees currently in the NHL. The Thrashers have five players from its system in the regular lineup, one-third of the totals for the Devils or Sabres.

2. This is simply unbelievable:

Levenson seemed surprised when asked about the team's dotty record in the draft and the widespread belief the team's relationship with its AHL affiliate in Chicago is among the worst in the NHL.

The Wolves are not owned by the Thrashers, but are an independent entity. Their focus is not on developing players for the Thrashers, but in putting a winning team on the ice for their fans. Wolves coach John Anderson is not evaluated by how players perform in the NHL when they're called up, but by how the Wolves perform in the AHL. Sources close to the Thrashers told that players who are called up regularly ask to see tape of the Thrashers' system so they can figure out what they're supposed to do.

The Wolves' lineup is filled with journeyman players; Jason Krog is the team's leading scorer, and Steve Martins and Joel Kwiatkowski are on that list, too. Brett Sterling couldn't stick with the big club this season and neither could Darren Haydar.

WTF? Every NHL team needs a capable farm system because of the pressure of the salary cap. The Thrashers especially need help from the minors because they play in a non-traditional market and therefore don't have the money to throw around at free agents that established teams do. Instead, the Thrashers have a minor league team that is not designed to produce prospects. Is it possible that the problem isn't Waddell's drafting, but rather a farm team that has no interest in developing talent when it is trying to win with journeymen? This is especially obvious in Atlanta, where we are blessed with a baseball franchise whose farm system regularly produces quality players (as long as those players aren't pitchers).

I don't like knee-jerk "fire [insert name of coach/GM]" arguments. It's the easiest stance to take, the ultimate sports radio cliche, an emotional reaction that any mediocre mouth can voice. I am, after all, the blogger who thinks that Billy Knight gets a bad rap. All that said, as one of Waddell's GM friends says, "I love him, but I can't defend him." Atlanta Spirit does not have endless goodwill for hockey in this city and they are coming dangerously close to exhausting the supply.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Don't Look Now...

But the Hawks have won three in a row. After hitting rock bottom in the blowout loss to Orlando, the team played Houston very close and has since beaten the Clippers, Knicks, and Wizards fairly convincingly. The Hawks haven't allowed an opponent to hit triple-digits in this four-game stretch, which is nice, although not having to play against an opponent with an above-average offensive point guard has certainly helped. The schedule is quite manageable the rest of the way, which makes me think that a 10-5 finish that would leave the Hawks at a respectable 39-43 (nine games better than last year) is a reasonable goal. A win in New Jersey on Wednesday is absolutely critical for very obvious reasons. The Nets have eked past Cleveland and Utah in their past two games after a five-game Western swing that was even more disastrous than the Hawks' two Western trips this year. This Nets team is simply not very good, so there's no excuse for the Hawks not to beat them. My one concern is that Devin Harris is very quick and could present some problems for Mike Bibby. If you can't tell, I start each Hawks game by worrying about the footspeed of the opposing one. Last night, seeing Antonio Daniels in the starting lineup for Washington was quite reassuring.

So what the hell has happened to the Hawks that they are finally playing a lick of defense? Easier schedule? Lack of opposing ones to exploit the Hawks' primary weakness? Mike Bibby starting to mesh with his new teammates? Maybe I overrated the degree to which the team had tuned Mike Woodson out? Help me out, here.

Just for the record, every time the Hawks start playing well, I think of one of my favorite lines from Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Satipo: Let us hurry. There is nothing to fear here.

Indiana: That's what scares me.

Or do I think of this one from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

Walter Donovan: As you can now see, Dr. Jones, we are on the verge of completing a quest that began almost two thousand years ago. We're just one step away.

Indiana Jones: That's usually when the ground falls out from underneath your feet.

Somehow, a line about a two thousand year quest seems appropriate when discussing the Hawks and the playoffs.

A proper metaphor for being an Atlanta sports fan this winter, no?

A Thought on Georgia's Schedule

Since the prevailing theme this summer in discussing the 2008 Dawgs is going to be "they're going to be very good, but the schedule is so tough," I need to get something off my chest that I've been considering for a while: this schedule is penance. Georgia hasn't played a road game outside of the South since the Lyndon Johnson Administration, so maybe they don't deserve endless hosannas for finally doing what most of the rest of major college football programs do (with the exception of Florida, but they have a better excuse than Georgia because playing Florida State every year is not the same thing as playing Georgia Tech).

Georgia has also benefited from the SEC schedule rotation in the past several years. In 2006, Georgia would have been in real danger of not making a bowl at the end of the year if not for the fact that they played both of the Mississippi schools (combined record: 7-17). In 2005, Georgia won the SEC title, but they won the East by one game over Florida. Do you think that Florida having to play LSU, Alabama, and Mississippi State (combined record: 24-12) as opposed to Georgia playing Auburn, Arkansas, and Mississippi State (combined record: 16-18) might have been a factor in Georgia finishing one game ahead? Or how about in 2003, when Georgia pipped Florida for the East after playing LSU, Alabama, and Auburn (combined record: 25-15) while Florida played Ole Miss, LSU, and Arkansas (combined record: 32-8)?

My point is simply this: Georgia has benefited from the SEC schedule rotation several times in recent years. I can't quite remember Georgia fans (myself included) acknowledging that fact. So this year, when the schedule rotation is against the Dawgs, I don't think that Georgia fans are in a great position to complain. And let's be honest: repeating endlessly "we have to go to Columbia, Tempe, Baton Rouge, and Jacksonville" is complaining. Similarly, with a legitimate out-of-conference trip finally on the schedule, the natural retort to "we're going to Tempe! We're so bold!" is "what took you so long?"

Friday, March 14, 2008

Insta-Champions League Draw Blathering

As you might guess, I am quite happy with the draw. Barca are in no position right now to take on one of the four EPL sides. With Messi and Yaya Toure (arguably the two most indispensable members of the team because of the lack of cover at their positions) injured and the backline struggling, Barca would have been a relatively easy foil for Arsenal, Chelsea, or Manchester United. Instead, Barca have drawn Schalke, a side that: (1) is struggling worse than the Blaugrana; and (2) have a history of winning bugger-all on any level (as frequent commenter Klinso likes to say). The readers of agree, as they conclusively picked Schalke as the preferred opponent before the draw. (See the sidebar.) If Barca can get through this tie and then get Messi back for the semifinal (his injury was supposedly going to have him out for six weeks and the semifinal is exactly six weeks after the second leg against Celtic), then they would be a formidable opponent for United (assuming that United dust Roma again).

I also have this pet theory that Barca are much better when they can play the first leg on the road because they are at their best when the other team has to score and take chances. That plays perfectly into Barca's possession game. When Barca have the first leg at home, they commit too far forward and are very vulnerable to counter-attacks. Against Schalke, they can pass the ball around all day and force a defensive team to come get them. Here's the record from the Rijkaard era in the Champions League:

2005 - Second leg on the road; lost to Chelsea

2006 - Second legs at home against Chelsea, Benfica, and Milan; won all three

2007 - Second leg on the road; lost to Liverpool

2008 - Second leg at home; beat Celtic

I like the idea of Barca playing the first leg in Gelsenkirchen. Schalke are a defensive team that will have to attack because they will need a victory to take onto the road for the second leg. That will create space for Barca's attackers, with the result possibly being similar to Barca's first leg against Celtic (although Schalke obviously have better players than Celtic). If I were Mirko Slomka, I'd play nine behind the ball in the first leg, hope for a 0-0 draw, and then be patient in the second leg, hoping for either penalties (where German sides tend to do OK) or Kevin Kuranyi knocking in a header (a real weakness for Barca against northern European sides). Gabi Milito is going to have to be on his best behavior against Kuranyi. Schalke can present problems for Barca because they are the sort of defensive team that can frustrate the Blaugrana. If Slomka thinks about this and doesn't try to attack too much in the first leg, then an upset is quite possible.

As for the other ties, Fenerbahce/Chelsea is absolutely fascinating to me. Chelsea have the best defense in the tournament; Fenerbahce have the best offense. Chelsea can play some attractive football when they face an opponent who comes out to play. It's only when they meet a similarly dour team (read: the Scousers) that nothing happens, not unlike what happens when France and Italy play. There is some upset potential here. It goes without saying that if Barnsley can beat Chelsea's first team, then the best team in Turkey can do the same. I wish I could comment intelligently on Fenerbahce, but I've never seen them play, aside from highlights of the ties against Sevilla.

Roma/United - yawn. United have handled Roma in the past two years, so they should go through. The football will be fun to watch, but I was sorta hoping to see Roma and Arsenal because I think they would produce some really good games. I'd love to see Roma win this tie, but the track record isn't encouraging.

Arsenal/Liverpool - This is the tie of the quarterfinals, pitting arguably the two favorites in the tournament right now. As someone who really dislikes this Liverpool team, this is the draw I wanted to see. Arsenal are 7-1-3 against Liverpool in the last five years. Liverpool lose their Champions League advantage when they play an opponent who is familiar with their crap style and with Benitez's tactical tricks. Wenger isn't going to be out-foxed by Benitez the way that so many Continental managers are. Cesc and Flamini's battle in the midfield against Mascherano should be interesting.

The one concern I have for Arsenal is that Fernando Torres is positively torrid right now. As good as Phillipe Senderos is in Europe, that match-up would scare me if I were a Gunner. Oh, and the other thing that would concern me is that Liverpool's European pedigree is far, far, far, far better than Arsenal's. As good as Wenger is as a manager, he's made exactly one Champions League semi-final, which happens to be the only European Cup/Champions League final in the club's history. Liverpool, as their fans constantly remind us, have history in Europe.

If you asked me to pick right now, I'd take Arsenal, Barca, United, and Fenerbahce as the one upset. I can imagine that TV executives across Europe would love a Barca-United semi-final and probably a Barca-Arsenal or Barca-Liverpool final. Let the conspiracy commence!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Did anyone expect the Hawks to get significantly worse after finally acquiring a quality point guard? In the aftermath of the Bibby trade, the team's defense has completely collapsed, which seems to be a wee criticism of Mike Woodson, who is supposed to be a defensive coach. The latest evidence is last night's shelling in Orlando, a game in which the Hawks trailed 74-53 at the half. There are two possible explanations for the Hawks' nosedive:

1. Mike Bibby is a terrible defender. We knew when the Hawks made this trade that Bibby does not have a good reputation on defense, but the assumption was that his offensive skills would make up for defensive issues. In any event, the Hawks always had problems defending opposing point guards, so how much difference could Bibby make? As it turns out, Bibby has made a significant difference. Opposing ones have had an absolute field day against Atlanta. Combine an inability to stop penetration with an absence of an interior shot-blocker and you have the Hawks. Yay!

2. The team has quit on Mike Woodson. Believe it or not, this is the preferred explanation. If Bibby is really the problem, then we are screwed this year and next and we're back to square one on trying to find a point guard. If Woodson and the coaching staff are the problem, then the solution is simple: fire the coach and bring in someone who generates a response from these players. It cannot be a coincidence that the Hawks' form has plummeted in the aftermath of the revelation that Billy Knight has tried to fire Woodson on three separate occasions. A number of players already had issues with Woodson. Once the players found out that Woodson's boss doesn't hold Woodson's coaching ability in any higher esteem than they do, the players likely packed it in.

Our professional basketball team is now a rudderless ship. The players don't like the coach. The GM doesn't like the coach. The ownership doesn't listen to the GM. The ownership are embroiled in litigation with themselves. The fan base is ready to move onto the Braves and spring practice. Every time I think that the Hawks are at that "it's always darkest before the dawn" moment, I look at the alarm clock and it's 2:00 a.m.

A Mourinho Thought

While I've been upfront about my queasy feelings regarding the possibility of Jose Mourinho replacing Frank Rijkaard, one factor that might change my judgment would be the possibility that Mourinho takes over at Real Madrid. Those rumors are now flying after Real were booted out of the Champions League before the quarterfinals for the fourth year in a row, all while being unimpressive in La Liga (despite an eight-point lead).

On the one hand, Mourinho would be an unlikely fit at a club with a circus-like management. Mourinho might also run afoul of sensibilities at Real when they figure out that his commitment to defensive football is no greater than that of Fabio Capello. (The fact that Mourinho isn't Italian will help. The Spanish have a major complex about Italians and negative football, which is part of what sunk Capello.) That said, the guy is a winner and I don't want a real winner at Real Madrid. The fact that Mourinho could end up there with Real on the heels of consecutive titles is even more nauseating. So the question becomes: should Barca make nice with Mourinho and tolerate a more defensive approach to avoid allowing one of the best managers in football to end up at the Bernabeu? It's a legitimate question.

As for Barca-Villarreal over the weekend, it was the same match that Barca played against Real when Los Merengues came to the Nou Camp in December. The visitor sat back in numbers, let Barca have possession, and then waited for the ineffective attacks to peter out before creating great chances on the counter. Villarreal had the better chances, just as Real did in December. Barca have little ability to vary their offensive play and none of their forwards can beat defenders with the dribble when Messi is out (with the occasional exception of Eto'o). When Barca get caught forward, their backline gets completely exposed in space. Thus, Barca are having the same struggles this year against the top teams in La Liga (1-0-4 against Real, Athletico, and Villarreal) that they had last year (1-2-3 against Real, Valencia, and Sevilla).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The easiest post for me to write this morning would describe how the Hawks got destroyed defensively last night by the Warriors, allowing 135 points. While I normally would cut the Hawks a little slack because Golden State is an excellent offensive team and made a ton of shots last night, I'm in no mood to do so this morning (Leo Messi's hamstring, Rafael Soriano's elbow, and working class voters in Ohio have me in quite the state), so I'm going to write that easy post.

What the hell?!? You want to know how a team scores 135 points while only attempting ten free throws? They play an opponent who allows one uncontested lay-up after another because of a complete lack of defensive rotation. I know that the Warriors make it difficult to rotate when they go small because they space the floor properly and have a number of shooters on the court, but there is still no excuse for an NBA team to allow as many lay-ups as the Hawks allowed last night. Mike Bibby is a defensive liability and Mike Woodson couldn't hide him. He was roasted by Baron Davis early and then by Monta Ellis as the game progressed. You normally take that tradeoff with Bibby because he makes the offense run properly, but he was not much assistance on offense, either. The Hawks tried Josh Smith, Josh Childress, and Mario West on Davis, all to little effect. When the Hawks finally did rotate, the Warriors rained threes on their heads. The saddest part is that this was virtually the same game that I attended three years ago. It's good to know that the Hawks' ability to defend penetration from opposing guards and then kick-outs for open threes has improved over the years.

On offense, the Hawks kept pace with the Warriors for a half and then fell apart in the second half in a morass of forced outside shots and turnovers. Does that sound familiar? Am I the only one sensing a pattern in which the Hawks play well offensively for a half and then lose their ability to score once the opponent clamps down defensively? Do the Hawks have ADHD? Are we seeing the effects of a coach who can't match his opponents tactically?

And one other gripe: outside of Josh Childress, this team has no bench. They ought to have a bench. Salim Stoudamire and Zaza Pachulia ought to be able to to give the team 15 quality minutes apiece. Last night would have been a perfect chance for Stoudemire to go off, but he didn't do much. Is it a coincidence that both of them have had run-ins with Mike Woodson before and have now fallen off the face of the earth in their third years with the team? Am I becoming a stuck record on Woodson? Does this post set a record for question marks?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Late Game Execution Strikes Back

I was just about ready to lose my shit on Friday night. The Hawks were muddling around in a tight game with the wretched New York Knicks, despite the fact that the game was critical for the Hawks. The team had, as usual, gone into offensive hibernation in the fourth quarter, alternating bad perimeter shots and turnovers. The Hawks had the ball down one with about 90 seconds to go, so I was waiting for the Joe Johnson iso, followed by something rash. Kudos to Mike Woodson, because the team ran clever plays on the next two possessions to take a three-point lead that they then nursed home.

On the first possession, Josh Smith came to the top of the key as if to set a high screen for Mike Bibby, but just before setting the screen, he rolled hard to the basket. Zach Randolph, true to form, did not follow and Bibby hit Smith for an alley-oop dunk. The Hawks properly spread the floor so there was no help for Randolph. After a stop, the Hawks then ran a play in which Bibby screened for Joe Johnson on the right side and then flared away. Johnson dribbled towards the corner, taking two defenders with him, and then swung the ball back to Bibby for an open jumper to put the Hawks up by three. Both possessions represented simple basketball, but it was effective and it was just nice to see the Hawks create good shots at the end of a close game. We'll ignore the fact that the shots came against the defensively and motivationally challenged Knickerbockers. Both possessions were also aided in no small part by the team finally having a point guard who can handle, pass, and shoot.

After the win over the Knicks, the Hawks put up a credible effort last night in Boston before losing by ten. The Celtics are an excellent defensive team and they mostly squashed the Hawks' offense at crunch time. Boston simply created better shots. Whether that's because they have better players or because they're better coached is a separate question. The Hawks might have equivalent offensive personnel if Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson were playing close to their potential, but both of them have been anchors around the team's collective neck for the last month. It's awfully hard to win in the NBA with a shooting guard shooting 41.4% and a small forward shooting 35.5%, but that's where the Hawks were in February.

And while we're on the subject of the yuck, I ought to offer a few words on Sekou Smith's scoop that Billy Knight was blocked from firing Woodson by ownership three times this season. As an initial matter, it was hilarious to listen the discussion about the article on the same radio show that pronounced Smith to be "syncophantic" towards the Hawks with nary a mention of the change in course. Kudos to the AJC, whose sports page is typically reticent to print anything like Smith's article on the disagreement between Knight and ownership.

As for the news itself, I have no reason to doubt the article, since this isn't the sort of story that sources within the organization would invent. The fact that the Hawks didn't really deny the story lends further credence. So what does the leak itself mean? Is the article intended to motivate Mike Woodson to save his job? Is it meant to undermine Woodson in advance of the Hawks firing him? Those two scenarios seem equally plausible to me. What is the import of the story? Another indictment of a fractured ownership group with excessively diffuse power? Almost certainly. A vote of no confidence in Billy Knight? I suppose that's possible, although Knight ought to have as much credibility as he'll ever have right now after completing his roster with the Bibby heist. Evidence of ownership having confidence in Mike Woodson? They do watch the games, right?

Memo from Turner

You're a lashing, smashing hunk of man;
Your sweat shines sweet and strong.
Your organs working perfectly, but there's a part that's not screwed on.

So much for the Patriot Way. The Falcons went out and signed the top free agent running back on the market, inking Michael Turner to a deal that includes $15M guaranteed and a total of $34M over six years that Turner, like just about every other NFL player on a long term deal, will never see. The deal doesn't strike me as prohibitively expensive in light of the silly money that is being thrown at players like Bernard Berrian. Turner likely came a tad cheap because of the glut of quality running backs available in the Draft. Supply goes up, price goes down, as the purveyors of the dismal science like to graph.

I like Turner a lot. He has a very good reason to have been a back-up for his career:

You remember the guy whom the Falcons effectively traded for Leavenworth inmate no. 45659603643, don't you?

His career as a back-up has been marked by relatively limited carries (low mileage!) and excellent productivity. (5.5 yards per carry!) The Pro Football Prospectus described Turner thusly this summer:

On a per-play basis, Turner has been more effective than LaDainian Tomlinson, which may say more about the Chargers' offensive line than it does about either Turner or Tomlinson...He's going to be a big prize as an unrestricted free agent in 2008.

The Prospectus also hits on my primary concern regarding the Turner signing: an excellent running back behind a crap offensive line is pearls before swine, or Edgerrin James in Arizona if you prefer. The Falcons' offensive line was not good last year and Turner isn't going to give the team competent tackles or make Justin Blalock into the guy who dominated at Texas. Could I reiterate my request for this guy?

Anyone know of a homoerotic Stones tune about a guy named Jake?

That said, I suspect that Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis are going to be the pick. The heart of New England's defense is Richard Seymour and his buddies on the defensive line. The heart of Jacksonville's defense was John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Both Dimitroff and Smith know the importance of quality defensive tackles and there are two premium DTs at the top of the Draft.

And since I often gripe about Arthur Blank in this space, let's have some kudos for the guy who signs the checks. Assuming that Thomas Dimitroff and Michael Smith identified Turner as a primary target, then Blank performed his perfect role: the charming closer. If Blank isn't falling in love with players and affecting personnel decisions with his whims, but is instead used to charm players into coming to Atlanta, then everyone wins. Unlike a lot of owners, Blank has charisma and can be an asset to his organization by using that charisma instead of his amateur scouting skills. Let Peter King decide who can play football across a conference room table.