I've attended one Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXXV (as a reporter), and I was overwhelmed by the amount of free stuff you can get from the NFL and its sponsors, if you so desired.
In light of that, with the latest Super Bowl now in the history books, and with me back to work full-time after a wonderfully lengthy break, we're going to give away free stuff all week here. A giveaway contest every day from today through Friday.
Now let's touch base on several issues, using the Super Bowl as our awkwardly transitional lead-in. After all, we all know that the completion of the NFL season means that it's time to turn our attention toward spring training. I'll be flying to Tampa this coming Sunday night and start writing from Yankees camp on Monday, February 14th.
1. All NFL talk will now focus not on the draft, but rather on discussions for the new collective bargaining agreement. I won't profess to be anything close to an expert on this matter, but it seems as though there's legitimate concern within the NFL about a potential lockout (on March 4).
Why does this matter to baseball? Well, if football actually did shut down long enough to imperil the 2011 season, baseball certainly could benefit from it. Baseball would love to have September all to itself as pennant races play out. And let's face it, even World Series (especially those that don't feature the Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs) get diminished buzz because of the ever-present NFL.
Nevertheless, even if the NFL found itself in a worst-case scenario, I couldn't see baseball making long-term gains. Football is just too powerful an animal. It's so consumer-friendly because it places relatively few demands on its fans: One game a week for four months (perhaps four and a half months, if the 18-game season becomes a reality). It's also a phenomenal TV sport.
Baseball, of course, has so many more nights to fill ballparks and to get TV eyeballs. So baseball will have to continue to settle for being the Avis to the NFL's Hertz. Which is fine. Plenty of people use Avis.
And let's not forget: Baseball has to get a new CBA in place for the 2012 season. There's far less concern about a work stoppage/disruption in baseball than there in football.
2. Speaking of disruptions, how 'bout them Wilpons (and Saul Katz)? How could you look at the mountain of evidence that Irving Picard has compiled, see how many warning signals about Bernie Madoff that Katz in particular ignored and not conclude that the Mets' ownership group is in immense trouble? The Wlipons' and Katz's statements ring quite hollow, especially since they have shattered their credibility over the last two-plus years.
The Wilpons and Katz appear determined to go full-steam ahead, to fight to keep their team. I wonder how much of a presence they'll have in spring training. It certainly would make sense to stay away and let Sandy Alderson serve as the face of the franchise for a while.
3. Speaking of Alderson, I'm surprised by the amount of furor over Jose Reyes' future in the yakosphere (copyright Neil Best).
Take the ownership situation out of the equation, and look at Reyes' numbers, particularly the last two seasons. Even if you had a limiltless budget, would you want to commit a long-term contract to him right now?
I wouldn't. I want to see him put together a fully healthy season. And even if he does that, I want to think a long time about whether he merits a huge pact. Since speed is such an asset for Reyes, that means there's the potential he won't age well as he gets to age 33 or so.
Shoot, if Reyes has a renaissance year, his best since 2008, and the Mets fall out of contention, I'd absolutely, seriously consider all trade proposals for him in July, even if that would imperil my ability to bring back Reyes for 2012 and beyond (and it surely would do that).
The bottom line is, with Alderson in charge, having a somewhat good sense of how he thinks, Reyes' future isn't going to be a financial decision. It's going to be a baseball decision. And that future probably rests somewhere other than Flushing.
4. Speaking (sort of) of the future, I enjoyed NoMaas' interview with John Manuel of Baseball America. Good stuff on the Yankees' farm system.
This quote from Manuel struck me: "I'm surprised (the Yankees) haven't used their system this offseason to make a deal, especially considering they didn't get Cliff Lee."
I think the Yankees would've been extremely willing to use their system this offseason to make a deal, if only the right deal was there to be made. The two best starting pitchers traded this winter were Zack Greinke and Matt Garza. Greinke represented a risk because of his experience with social anxiety, while the Rays were going to charge too high a premium to hand Garza over to the rival Yankees.
Obviously, the Yankees' starting rotation is paper thin. But you can't force something that isn't there.
In my Andy Pettitte column for Saturday's Newsday, I wondered whether this imperfect storm would carry into the regular season. Whether the Yankees wouldn't be able to make the trade-deadline acquisition they need because, simply, no frontline starting pitcher becomes available.
You can scan the landscape now and wonder who that pitcher would be this year. Fausto Carmona? I'm not sure he'd qualify as "frontline." A look at next year's list of potential starting-pitcher free agents (scroll down) doesn't shed a great deal of light.
Something figures to break, though. Maybe the White Sox won't play up to their hopes and shop Edwin Jackson, or even Mark Buehrle will decide he wouldn't mind a half-season in the Bronx. Maybe the Rangers will falter and C.J. Wilson will become available.
The last time a frontline starter wasn't available via midseason trade was probably 2005. That bodes well for the Yankees - assuming they can tread water until such a deal arises.
5. Speaking of deals, and also speaking of Arlington, Texas, site of last night's game, Michael Young reportedly wants out of the Rangers because of his reduced role with the club. In the last three years, Young has switched from shortstop to third base and now sort of a super-utility role. He'd probably get plenty of starts at first base and DH and maybe a few elsewhere if he stuck around.
Young has been an extremely popular player with the Rangers, and he deserves points for loyalty. He was the team's second baseman when Alex Rodriguez played shortstop, then moved back to shortstop when A-Rod went to the Yankees and then the switches of the past few years. He endured the club's mostly terrible stretch from 2001 through 2008.
But the truth is, the reason Young wants to go is also the reason he made his first career World Series appearance last fall: The Rangers are being run much more intelligently now. The same aggressive, smart mentality that produced an AL pennant-winner also resulted in the Rangers pouncing on Adrian Beltre once they didn't re-sign Lee.
Young signed what now looks like a bad contract back in spring training of 2007; he has $16 million coming to him each of the next three seasons. At the time, the Rangers still hadn't figured out their direction. You can bet that, the next time the Rangers have such a popular player nearing a contract decision, they won't overpay the same way.
--All right, see you soon for contest number one.