The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, November 28, 2005

In Memory Of

Many of you who are here reading this already know the sad news. For those of you who are here looking for new baseball or Canes content, I don't have any today. My mother passed away on Friday, her 56th birthday, of a heart attack. She was in good health and we were all shocked. Actually, we're all still in shock.

(If you'd like to save that picture, just right click on it and select "Save Image As". Once you do that you'll be able to save the picture just like any other file on your computer. If you click on the picture first and then right click on it after you get to the next screen, you'll be able to save a larger version of the picture.)

Eventually I'll have more to say but I know that at this point I won't be able to write anything that does her any justice so I won't even try.

For the time being, I'll just leave this: I know that some folks will be stopping by here to find out about the funeral and memorial. I don't have all of those details yet. But if you were thinking of sending flowers or anything like that, please consider making a donation instead in Mom's name to one of her favorite chairities:

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
332 N. Lauderdale
Memphis, TN 38105
(901) 495-3300

Sinsinawa Dominicans (Donation info)
585 Country Road Z
Sinsinawa, WI 53824-9700
(888) 887-6193

Friday, November 18, 2005

Getting TECHnical

There's a big football game scheduled this weekend for Georgia Tech and Miami. This game was originally scheduled to take place a month ago, but was delayed because of the looming threat of Hurricane Wilma (which eventually hit South Florida and did plenty of damage, but not until well after the game was originally scheduled to be played).

Aside from avoiding the potential safety issues, the delay was originally viewed by both teams as a largely positive thing. Both teams were dealing with some significant injuries at the time, most notably to their starting quarterbacks. Coaches at both schools felt that the change in schedule would allow both quarterbacks time to recover, which would allow both teams to be closer to full strength when they met.

That may end up happening, but plenty of intrigue, despite Georgia Tech's tumble out of the rankings and Miami's steady ascent, has been added to the game.

Earlier this week a profanity laced and sexually explicit song, featuring at least one current Miami football player, found its way to the Internet. The song was originally posted by a blogger/UM undergrad, but he has since heavily edited all of his posts related to the matter, so I'm not even going to bother linking to him (while I'm not disappointed in the young man for having posted the content, I am disappointed in him for having run from the issue now that it has received significant attention. Anyone who posted that information in the first place should have known that it could have turned into a significant story, particularly when a major media outlet contacted you about the story you wrote).

That's where the "story" part of the song "scandal" comes in. ESPN ran with it late on Wednesday and throughout the day on Thursday. The story is here. The editorial is here. The furor seems to have died down already, although Dan LeBatard is doing his best to make sure that you remember his name and don't just associate him with being just a little too close to Ricky Williams.

You can get all worked up about it if you want. The lyrics in the song are pretty shocking, even to someone who listens to a variety of mainstream rap and hip-hop. But don't kid yourself or make this into something that it isn't. And don't try to pretend that this stuff isn't going on elsewhere, whether their is music behind it or not. Most of the time, fortunately for most of us who like to believe in the myths and fairy tales that make sports an entertaining refuge from "real" life, this type of behavior doesn't make it to the surface. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. And it doesn't mean it only happens at Miami. It doesn't mean that what's expressed in the song happens everywhere, but you're kidding yourself if you don't think this happens and if you don't think this happens pretty regularly at a lot of places. I'm done trying to say what I think about it. It's much ado about nothing. And besides that, the Mighty MJD sums it up better than I do.

The real issues are at Georgia Tech, although you'd hardly know it from reading or watching the news. Not only was Georgia Tech put on probation this week (for violations in football and other sports), but one of their players (defensive back Reuben Houston) was reinstated by a judge, making him eligible to play this weekend, despite a recent drug trafficking conviction.

Despite that Houston was convicted for possessing $60,000 worth of marijuana, which he apparently intended to distrbute, he'll play some college football this weekend. Some football players, from the other sideline, who may have rapped about various sex acts (it's not clear exactly who was on the recording, although a number of the participants are likely current Canes). If any/all of that bothers you, feel free to use it when you choose a rooting interest in this game.

For me, I think the more noteworthy news is that Miami playmaker Devin Hester will not play (due to a hamstring issue), nor will special teams standout and backup linebacker Willie Williams (also struggling with a hamstring issue).

The Canes will also be wearing Nike "revolution" jerseys (green jerseys with one orange sleeve - like Virginia Tech and Florida have worn in recent weeks) this weekend with green pants. For the fashion set, that might be the most noteworthy thing of all about this game.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Are we supposed to be impressed?

The best thing that's come out of MLB's new steroid policy is that Senators like John McCain and Jim Bunning can actually go back to being Senators. The grandstanding, at least with regards to baseball, should now be over. Or at least it will be over soon, once they're all done patting each other on the back.

Yes, the penalties are stiffer. Great. Yes, they're going to test for amphetamines. That's good - they have been a problem for decades.

There's a lot not to be excited about though, and that's not being talked about. We're still dealing with urine based tests here and the samples aren't being kept. Many performance enhancing drugs can't be detected through today's urine tests. The threat of athletes circumventing this could be solved in one of two ways: either retaining the urine for future testing or using something more sophisticated than a urine test (i.e. a blood sample). The players union isn't going to agree to either of those things.

That means that players can continue to use substances like human growth hormone and the future generations of The Cream and The Clear (of Victor Conte fame). About a year ago, Conte said that the drugs involved in his Balco scandal were at least two generations old. At this point, the drugs that they have tests to detect are even more outdated. The athletes are well ahead of the testing. At this point, anyone who gets caught testing positive for steroids is an idiot and should be suspended, if only for their stupidity.

Regardless, don't get worked up or start feeling good about the new testing policy. Baseball isn't any cleaner today than it was yesterday. This is a little bit (granted, this is going to be a weak analogy) like regulating guns. Those that don't really know what they're doing or who want to abide by the rules, won't due steroids (or posess guns illegally). Those that know what they're doing will continue to use more powerful and less detectable performance enhancing drugs (just like criminals will continue to have whatever kinds of guns they want - regardless of the laws and potential repurcussions). Don't kid yourself.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Classic Let Down Game

The Canes are riding high after a win over then third ranked Virginia Tech last weekend. This weekend they play a rescheduled (due to Hurricane something-or-other) game against Wake Forest this weekend up in Winston-Salem.

It's a classic trap game for the Canes, who now have hopes--at least from the outside looking in--to play for the national title. To get there, the Canes will likely need a loss from two of these three teams: Alabama, USC, and Texas. Oh - and the Canes will have to win this weekend. The latter part is the part that we hope the Canes remember.

On paper, tomorrow's game is one that the Canes should win, and one that they should win easily. That's fortunate, because they'll be playing without at least three starters: Tyrone Moss at RB, Devin Hester, and DL Brian Pata. None of those three players will make the trip to Wake Forest. Despite the injuries, the Canes should still roll by three or more touchdowns. If they don't, talk of Pasadena reservations may have been premature.

Keys to the game:
Charlie Jones will be the Canes featured running back. He was exceptional against Virginia Tech and I expect another big game out of him this weekend. The key area of interest in the Canes backfield will be who emerges as the number two runningback for the rest of the year. Derron Thomas has been behind Jones all year on the depth chart, but speedy Andrew Johnson may eclipse Thomas. Quad Hill, normally the Canes fullback, may also start to see more carries.

My hope is that Johnson emerges as the number two back. That would provide the Canes with a between-the-tackles back (Jones) and an every carry touchdown threat (Johnson). Johnson is still recovering from a knee injury though, so only time will tell if he still has it.

Another key to the game will be Darnell Jenkins. Few opponents fear Jenkins at this point, and that could work in the Canes favor. Despite facing another excellent punter, Jenkins, who I expect to be the featured punt returner, will have some opportunities to shine. Jenkins' development this week could be key, especially if Hester tires during games down the stretch. If The U can replace Hester with another game breaker (as they were able to do when needed last year with Roscoe Parrish), it will be of great benefit.

Jenkins is also emerging as one of the Canes top receivers. Despite the hype that Lance Leggett, Ryan Moore, and Sinorice Moss receive, Jenkins is a solid receiver. He runs good routes, catches passes, and is a good blocker. He's already emerging as a top receiver on the team and his elevated role on special teams (with Hester out) should raise his profile even further.

My third key to the game is the defense. Yes, they've played great all year, particularly in the past five games. Tomorrow's game will be another test for them though. Wake's offense is one-dimensional (they have a very good ground game), but the Canes should be able to contain that. The test for the Canes comes from their ability to maintain focus and interest in the game. After the triple overtime thriller in Death Valley against Clemson earlier this year, Brandon Merriweather commented that the defense lost interest in the game when the Canes seemingly had it in hand. That attitude/lack of focus almost cost the Canes the game. Miami could overcome that this week against Wake Forest, but if the Canes really have championship hopes they won't allow that to happen. Instead they'll take advantage of a weaker opponent and win handily.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Canes - Hokies Preview

Yeah, I'm late in getting this posted. But here it is. I'll focus on what I think the keys to the game will be.

1. People will talk about how the noise at Lane Stadium will affect the Canes. I know that it will be loud. It was loud in 2003 and it will be louder this year, as the stadium is bigger, and partially enclosed in the end zone. Still, the Canes opened on the road with a night game against Florida State followed by another road game against Clemson. I really doubt that Lane Stadium is going to be any louder than it was in Death Valley, especially during the 4th quarter and overtime.

2. Containing Marcus Vick - over the past four or five years, the only weakness of the Canes defense has been their ability to limit the scrambling of mobile quarterbacks. So far this year the Canes haven't faced any, and the defense has been nearly impenitrible. This is a big first test for the Canes. How well they contain Vick's ground game will go a long way towards who wins this game. Vick could run for a lot of yards, but I don't see him throwing for much. If he throws for more than one touchdown, I'll be shocked.

3. Non-offensive scoring - the Canes and the Hokies are perrenial leaders in non-offensive scoring. This year is no different. Both teams have defenses that can score at any moment and special teams play is always exciting for both squads. The big question in my mind is Devin Hester and the Canes punt returns. So far this year the Canes haven't set up a traditional return at all. The plan has been to let on or two opposing gunners (the first guys down the field) to get past the Miami defenders and right in front of Hester before he catches the punt. Against the likes of Duke and Temple, Hester dances away from the gunners and then has fewer men to beat. That strategy likely won't work against Va Tech, but I don't think the Canes will employ it. I expect to see some returns set up that the Hokies haven't seen on film. That could be interesting.

A blocked kick could be huge in this game.

4. Miami's offensive line - the run blocking has generally been good all year. The pass blocking hasn't been. If Miami is one dimensional, the Hokies will feast.

5. Miami throwing the deep ball - Somewhat related to the previous point, but a little different too: even when Kyle Wright has had time, he has struggled at times (although it may be more due to his hand injury than anything) completing passes on deeper routes. If he's able to complete those balls today, the explosive Miami offense that folks are used to seeing could be back. That's a big if.

6. Devin Hester - I mentioned Hester before, but aside from special teams, he could have a big impact on this game. Devin's not likely to see the field on defense, as others (true freshman) have passed him on the depth chart. That frees him up to see more snaps on offense. In 2003 it backfired, but Coker busted the playbook open (reverses, trick plays, etc). With Hester in the offense, that could make things interesting. Devin also lined up at tailback for a half-dozen or so plays last week against North Carolina. If nothing else that provides a major change of pace for the Hokies, who will likely be used to Tyrone Moss's power game by the time they see Hester.


I'm really not sure what to expect tonight, but I think it should be a great game. Va Tech has played a relatively light schedule so far this year. They have beaten Boston College, but Miami poses their stiffest test of the year. The Canes played two tough games early, but have coasted since (partly because of the Ga Tech postponement due to weather).

No prediction from me. I'm not sure if this is going to be a close game or a lopsided affair (and if it's lopsided, I'm not sure who it will favor). Actually, I can't see it being a lopsided game in the Hokies favor. The Canes have only lost one game in the Coker-era (and you'd even have to go a ways back into the Butch Davis-era) where Miami wasn't winning or had a chance to win up until the last play/possession. That one game, of course, was against Va Tech in 2003 (the last time the two teams met in Blacksburg), but I just don't see the Canes getting blown out tonight.

Go Canes!