Fun With NFL Payrolls and Draft “Value”

It seems that the payrolls of NFL teams can be interpreted in many different ways. This is apparent from a pair of statements in articles over the last couple of days.

On Sunday, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the following:

If the Jets win the AFC Championship at Heinz Field, perhaps the Krafts will be inspired to spend a little more money on payroll next year (are we supposed to feel good that the Patriots have the third-lowest payroll in the NFL?).

Today, Mike Reiss has this:

“We’re comparing teams by a simple, bottom-line metric: Player payroll dollars spent per regular-season victory,” Hruby writes. “Using the most recent and accurate salary figures available, we’re also examining which clubs have been penny-wise and which have been pound-foolish.”

Hruby ranks the Patriots fourth in the NFL — their $152.73 million was the second highest in the league and the team produced 14 regular-season wins.

So which is it?

This is a game I’ve heard the likes of Ron Borges, Michael Felger, and Shaughnessy play. They interpret the payroll one way so that they can accuse the Krafts of being “cheap” and others calculate things out so that it shows that the Patriots are near the top of the league in payroll. They cite bonuses, “dead money” and actual salary paid for that season as variables that can be swapped out, apparently to make your argument either way.

Where did Shaughnessy get his information? If you type NFL Payrolls into Google, this page is the second result, and has the Patriots third-lowest in the NFL. The problem is that the data on that page is from at least 2008.

I’d like to think that Shaughnessy used better information than just a quick Google search.

Shaughnessy also snuck in: Maybe New England will stop trading down to get “value’’ for high draft picks.

I think that strategy, while criticized, has worked out pretty well the last two years. In 2010, they traded down twice in the first round, and still ended up with Pro Bowler and Second Team NFL All Pro cornerback Devin McCourty. In trading down from their original position at 22, the Patriots obtained the picks used to later select Taylor Price (3rd round, from Dallas) and Aaron Hernandez (4th round, from Denver).

Then check out this maneuver – During the 2009 draft, the Patriots obtained the #47 pick in 2010 in exchange for a third round pick in 2009. Then in this year’s draft, the Patriots traded that second round pick (47 overall) to Arizona for a later second round pick (58 overall) and a third round pick (89 overall).  They then sent the #58 pick to Houston for #62 (Brandon Spikes) and #150 (Zoltan Mesko). They then took that #89 pick and sent it to Carolina for their 2011 second round pick, which is now the top pick in the second round.

So from that one third round pick in 2009, they turned it into Brandon Spikes, Zoltan Mesko and the top pick in the second round in this coming draft.

Instead of sarcastically refering to that as “value,” I’m going to say they got VALUE from that one pick and a couple of trades.

For some reason, the media and fans HATE when the Patriots trade around in the draft. It generates snide remarks like the one from Shaughnessy, who can’t be bothered to see what actually comes of those moves.

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“Four Days In October” Preview

I just finished watching the screener DVD of Four Days In October, the ESPN 30-For-30 film that makes its debut tomorrow night at 8:00 PM on ESPN.

Despite the presence of Lenny Clarke, I’m glad to say the film is tremendous. Clarke is paired with Bill Simmons at a bar and the film comes back to them at various moments during the one-hour film. In small doses like this, Clarke was OK. He even made me smile a couple times, something I don’t recall doing with Lenny Clarke jokes before.

The film focuses solely on the 96-hour stretch in October of 2004 when the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the New York Yankees. Starting with Kevin Millar talking to Dan Shaughnessy prior to game four (when Shaughnessy had referred to the Red Sox as “pack of frauds” in his column – a point referenced by Millar) the movie moves quickly, with no narration, just jumping through audio and video clips from those four days.

Along the way, you are reminded just how unsufferable Joe Buck was/is. Even in game seven, he’s making comments, which, knowing now how things turned out, are patently ridiculous, and maddening at the same time. He refused to give up hope in the curse to the very bitter end.

Simmons has taken heat for making the comment that people have forgotten just how huge David Ortiz was in this series. The comment might sound silly on the surface, but watching this film, you get what he meant. It wasn’t just the game-winning hits in games four and five. Ortiz was everywhere in that series. The Yankees were terrified of him like they’ve been of no other Red Sox player. Ever.

There’s plenty about Schilling and the bloody sock in game six, including a look under the bandage, and pregame talk from ESPN talking heads who were dismissive of Schilling’s ability to pitch effectively in the game. There are other details that you forget a little over the years, like the police in riot gear having to surround the Yankee Stadium field after the umpires overturned the original call on the play in which Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove. The play is well remembered, of course, but the reaction of the Yankee Stadium fans and the need for the riot police had slipped my mind.

Prior to game seven you’re treated to snippets from the likes of Donald Trump, Jackie MacMullan and Yogi Berra, all certain that there is no way the Red Sox can finish off the comeback. Yet, even as they’re speaking, you can sense the confidence wavering ever so slightly. Others, like Spike Lee were admittedly nervous, and said so.

Johnny Damon is among those who comment here and there throughout the film, and he’s pretty subdued. You’ve got to wonder if the fact that he went on after 2005 to play with many of those Yankees caused him to be a little muted in his reactions to this event after the fact.  

The best part of this film is that there is no narrator leading the story along, no cadre of local media giving their retrospective “take” on the series, it’s just raw footage (some of it taken from Red Sox players’ camcorders and those of fans) put together with audio clips from the broadcasts (radio – both teams and national – and TV broadcasts from FOX). You just get to live through the ride again, seeing the events that changed history for this franchise. You’ll feel the emotion all over again.

It airs tomorrow night, Tuesday, October 5th at 8:00 on ESPN. Be sure to watch it.

ESPN Radio…on 1510?

A short post on the website RadioInsight.com reports that 1510 The Zone  – or more accurately, Revolution Boston GM Anthony Pepe (remember “The Diehards?”) recently registered the domain names 1510ESPNBoston.com and ESPN1510Boston.com via his Mouthpiece Boxing company.

I find it a little hard to believe that after all the hype about WEEI becoming an ESPN affiliate and talk from ESPN that they wanted to establish their national programming in Boston that they would settle for airing on the poor signal that is AM 1510 in Boston. The scenario that made the most sense to me was WEEI going to FM, and them putting the ESPN programming on the 850 signal. Going to 1510 makes little sense to me.

This could simply be Pepe being proactive, or perhaps wishful in registering the names, or perhaps something is in the works.

Update: A quick response from Pepe to my inquiry – “Nothing happening!”

Alrighty then. Carry on. Nothing to see here.

James Murphy Joins The ESPNBoston Bruins Beat

ESPNBoston.com has made a new addition to its Bruins staff, adding NESN.com hockey writer James Murphy.

Hey all, just a head’s up that I am now covering the Bruins/NHL w/Joe McDonald @ESPNJoeyMac for ESPNBoston.com.Tue Jul 06 20:19:16 via web

Murphy has been covering the Bruins and the National Hockey League for the last eight seasons, at a variety of difference outlets, including NESN.com, NHL.com, his own blog Drop Puck Murphy, the Boston Metro, and Insidehockey.com.

Murphy also hosts the Inside Hockey Radio Show on on “NHL Home Ice” XM 204 and Sirius 208 on Saturdays from 2-4 p.m. He has also been a hockey analyst on NESN Sportsdesk.

The Dedham resident is a UMass product, with a major in journalism, and also served as a play-by-play announcer for UMass Hockey.

As noted in his Tweet above, Murphy joins Joe McDonald as a Bruins writer on ESPNBoston. Matt Kalman, who also writes the excellent theBruinsblog.net had been a contributor during this past season, but it appears Murphy’s hiring will push Kalman out permanently, at least on the Bruins side of things.

ESPNBoston.com vs CSNNE.com vs WEEI.com

Boston sports are covered like nowhere else in the country. In addition to the double-digit number of newspapers that cover the New England professional sports teams on a daily basis, we’ve also seen multimedia outlets jump into covering the teams with reporters and columnists.

Sports radio powerhouse WEEI was the first to really jump into the written/online side with their revamped WEEI.com website back in 2008, stocking themselves with former newspaper reporters such as Rob Bradford. They quickly established themselves as a go-to destination for sports fans with quality, in-depth articles and breaking news to compliment the on-air side of things.

ESPNBoston.com launched last September, snatching Boston Globe NFL reporter Mike Reiss as their prize, and giving a local presence to ESPN. They feature daily Boston oriented “SportsCenter” video segments on the site, with highlights and news from Boston.

Comcast SportsNet also wanted in on this niche, and put together their own solid stable of print reporters for their all-new CSNNE.com website which debuted last fall. They also reorganized their on-air side of things, adding new sports reporters for new TV shows, and they also have Boston sports video updates on their site, updated several times throughout the day.

NESN also has a web presence, with a bunch of blogs and written material on NESN.com, but it is not nearly on the level – content wise, I mean – of the above three outlets. (Check the comments section below for a link that shows NESN beating WEEI and CSNNE.com handily in terms of traffic.)

So of these three relatively new sites, which is the best online destination for Boston sports fans?

As when comparing most things, each outlet has their strengths. We’ll look at each by team, and then by multimedia capabilities.

Red Sox

WEEI.com has the combo of Rob Bradford and Alex Speier covering the Red Sox. ESPNBoston has Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald on the beat. CSNNE.com uses Sean McAdam and Joe Haggerty over at Fenway.

As the Red Sox are the number one game in town, fittingly this is the deepest area of talent for the three sites. Each site is establishing their own style of Red Sox coverage. WEEI.com tends to come up with longer, analytical pieces, especially when Speier is writing. ESPNBoston seems to focus more on the “people” and their stories. Recently, they’ve been mixing in Boston-slanted stories from Jeremy Lundblad from ESPN Stats & Information to give them some of that new-age statistical analysis which is becoming more popular.  CSNNE.com puts out more of a traditional newspaper-type coverage, with a game story, side story and notebook. They also mix in quite a few video posts from their TV side.

Which one is better? I personally enjoy what Speier and WEEI have been doing. It’s a little outside of what everyone else is doing, and more in-depth. Being on-line, they’re not limited in their word count and space that they can devote to a particular story, and they take full advantage of that.

What I like about ALL these sites is that they typically stay away from the Red Sox soap-opera storylines so popular among their newspaper competitors.

EDGE: WEEI.com

Patriots

WEEI.com has Christopher Price as their main Patriots guy, and DJ Bean has been doing a lot of draft-related stuff for them. ESPNBoston has Mike Reiss, and he has been supported by Chris Forsberg. CSNNE.com uses Tom E. Curran to cover the Patriots. It’s another strong group.

Price brought over his popular “10 Things We Learned” post that he had used when he was at the Boston Metro. To an extent, WEEI.com also uses that format on their other sports (5 things for Red Sox, The Three-Pointer for the Celtics and “The Hat Trick” for the Bruins). Price is also the assistant site editor for WEEI.com. He also is busy on the blogs, and passing along Patriots press releases. The Mike Reiss model is all over ESPNBoston.com. He brought all the things he did at the Globe to this position – the weekly chats, the weekly mailbags, the countless blog entries, the “first impressions” blog posts, and in-game updates as well. ESPNBoston is using these techniques on their other coverage as well, particularly Forsberg when he covers the Celtics. On CSNNE.com Tom E. Curran mixes in humor in his coverage, and uses video more than the other two above. Curran’s national experience with NBC serves him well in calling on contacts for information on national stories. They’ve got Michael Felger in the stable, who also occasionally weighs in with a column on the Patriots.

You really can’t lose with any of these outlets on the Patriots. It’s all good. But…

EDGE: ESPNBoston.com

Celtics

Comcast SportsNet New England is the TV home of the Boston Celtics. They have A. Sherrod Blakely and Rich Levine covering the green for CSNNE.com. Blakely has been solid in his first season in Boston, but I get the sense he is still sort of looking to find what his “voice” should be here, coming from the outside. But overall he was a very good hire by CSNNE. WEEI.com uses Paul Flannery and Jessica Camerato on the beat, and they’re both very good. Interestingly the station doesn’t always send either one to road games, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that isn’t always such a negative. My theory is this…if a reporter is on press row, or in the press box, they’re going to be influenced by those around them. That’s why a lot of what you read when going over the various stories is repeated among reporters. When watching the game remotely, you’re forced to think on your own, to come to your own conclusions, and the coverage is likely to be a bit more original. ESPNBoston doesn’t have an official Celtics beat writer, Chris Forsberg the “roving reporter” has been handling the duties, but again, isn’t on the road with the team. Forsberg does a good job, and tries to incorporate a lot of the “Reiss-style” of coverage to the beat, which certainly isn’t a bad model to imitate.

So who has the edge? I’m going to have give it to the WEEI.com combo of Flannery and Camerato. They’ve always got in-depth coverage, and come up with new angles on stories that make it worth checking out.

EDGE: WEEI.com

Bruins

The fourth team on the Boston totem pole has gotten something of a boost from these outlets, which have provided new, fresh coverage of the franchise. ESPNBoston recently added Joe McDonald to it’s Bruins coverage, which had been anchored by freelancer Matt Kalman, who continues his solid work on the beat. McDonald splits time on the Red Sox beat, and has been a good addition for the outlet. WEEI.com’s Bruins has recently been provided by Dan Rowinski, and he’s been doing good work for them, especially in the three-part “Hat Trick” columns. CSNNE.com stole Joe Haggerty from WEEI’s Bruins beat, and he’s really blossomed with Comcast. His Bruins coverage has been very, very strong for them, with descriptive game stories, insightful commentary, and interesting tidbits. When the Bruins season is over, he’ll be spending his time next to McAdam on the Red Sox beat.

EDGE: CSNNE.com

Multimedia/Miscellaneous

WEEI.com has done a very good job getting their on-air audio loaded up to the website, integrated with their content, and arranged so that it is easy to find. They’ve done some experimentation with original videos, but most of their current videos consist of locker room interviews. They were using Kristine Leahy for a daily video segment called “The Five,” but have discontinued it.

ESPNBoston.com has the daily “Boston Sportscenter” video, and the ability to integrate video from the ESPN networks into their stories and content. I like the Boston Sportscenter segment, and the clips they use usually compliment the material pretty well. I also like that when there is a video, there is usually also a written summary of what it is about, in case the reader doesn’t want to load the entire video and sit through and watch it.

CSNNE.com has a ton of video, and one of the best things they have going is their SportsNet Central updates throughout the day. They record about four per day, as things happen, and post them to the site, giving them a jump on other outlets. They’re well done, and make great use of their expanded staff and facilities. Elsewhere on the site, they make use of video by grabbing segments from their various TV shows and put them into posts. My only complaint on these is that many times, they’re standalone, meaning the entire post is just the video. It would be nice to have a summary of the video, possibly even a partial transcript of the noteworthy stuff.

EDGE: CSNNE.com – they make the most use of their on-air side, and unlike ESPN, their videos are always locally produced.

Overall

Boston fans can’t really go wrong with any of these outlets. They all crank out good content combined with audio and video material, letting fans experience sports coverage in a new, modern way. It’s a tough call, but in the end, I’m giving the nod to:

EDGE: WEEI.com. Perhaps its just because they’ve been around the longest and have had time to work out what is going to be effective and how they want to do things, but they are solid in their coverage of all four major professional sports teams, and their blogs and multimedia elements are very good as well. ESPNBoston falls a little short in its Bruins and Celtics coverage, and CSNNE.com in some ways is too similar to newpaper coverage.

Curt Schilling Joins ESPN

ESPN announced tonight that former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is joining the network as a baseball analyst.

In the press release announcing Schilling’s hiring, the network states his new duties thusly:

He will contribute to ESPNBoston.com, ESPN.com, ESPN Radio and Baseball Tonight. Schilling will debut tomorrow, Sunday, April 4, during Baseball Tonight’s live coverage of Opening Night – New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox – from Fenway Park at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

I wonder what Shaughnessy will have to say about this. Beyond Dan, I don’t expect Schilling’s hiring to be met with the same level of nasty scorn from the media that Nomar Garciaparra’s ESPN hiring spawned.

Back to the other big story this weekend, 98.5 The SportsHub has already updated their website to remove Gary Tanguay and promote the new Gresh & Zolak show, debuting Monday.

New ESPN Series: The Next Round – Launches in Boston

ESPN has announced a new web series on ESPN.com called The Next Round – Served Up By Jim Beam, hosted by Scoop Jackson, that is launching in Boston this weekend.  In this original online show, Scoop will share a round of Jim Beam with a range of guests – actors, athletes, media personalities and comedians – as they talk about news, sports and pop culture. 

The first show will tape on-location at Cask’N Flagon in Boston surrounding the Red Sox/Yankees season opener.  Footage for the segment will air during the first commercial break of the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter on April 3, and the series will premiere on ESPN.com on April 4. New content will air every two weeks on ESPN.com, and portions of the show will air during the 11 p.m. SportsCenter on ESPN.

Guests for Boston vs NY baseball discussion:

  • Rob Corddry  Comedian and former correspondent on The Daily Show With John Stewart.   He is co-starring in the new comedy Hot Tub Time Machine and is a huge Red Sox fan.
  • Nick Turturro Emmy-nominated star of NYPD Blue and numerous films.  He is a diehard Yankees fan and was featured in an episode of MLB Network’s series, “I Breathe Baseball”.

Segments will be recorded at six remote locations that will include cities hosting major sporting events throughout the year and in LA at a custom-built ESPN/Jim Beam studio.