Song of the Day–3.11.19

Today’s song choice is easily one of my top ten favorite songs of all-time. So much so that I played at it my wedding, even though it’s definitely not a song one would expect to hear at a wedding.

Found on one of the greatest albums of all-time, London Calling, “Rudie Can’t Fail” is an underrated masterpiece. A duet of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones backed with horns with a heavy reggae influence is truly something to behold.

I first heard this song in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank, which has a killer soundtrack and a score composed by Strummer himself. The horns really caught my attention, and I made sure I got the soundtrack as one of those seven CDs for a penny deal that was always being ran back in the ’90s. (The soundtrack also features Faith No More, the Violent Femmes, and a Guns ‘n Roses cover of “Live and Let Die,” but “Rudie Can’t Fail” stood out to me more than any of the other songs in the movie.


Antonio Brown is a Raider

Late Saturday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Steelers and Raiders have a verbal deal in place that would send Antonio Brown to Oakland and third and fifth-round draft picks to the Steelers.

Many fans are unhappy with the return, but it’s hard to imagine the Steelers doing better. AB’s antics in recent weeks and months made him a tough guy to trade and the rest of the league knew it. A few months ago, t would’ve been hard to fathom the Steelers not coming away with at least a first round pick for the best wide receiver in the league, but here we are.

AB will also reportedly get a raise and a lot of guaranteed money in Oakland, but he’ll also be catching passes from Derek Carr.

The Steelers are a worse team than they were this morning, but they have some draft picks to work with. Maybe they’ll use some of their picks to trade up in the first round for a good defensive player, though they haven’t done so since 2003 in order to draft Troy Polamalu.

One could think it may be time to turn the page on this generation of the Steelers. Perhaps allow Ben Roethlisberger to play out the final year of his contract and begin preparing for the post-Ben era. There are no indications that the Steelers will do so, as they’ve stated their desire to extend Ben repeatedly and GM Kevin Colbert has basically said Ben only answers to ownership. Ben turned 37 last week and led the NFL in interceptions last year.

Plenty of updates to follow!

Song of the Day–3.7.19

I first heard Curtis Harding in the summer of 2014. His album first solo album, Soul Power, had found its way into my listening rotation. I enjoyed the mix of soul and R&B present on the album.

In fall of 2017, Harding released his second solo album, Face Your FearWhen I first heard it, I was blown away. His combination of classic soul, Motown, and some psychedelic elements worked, and worked well. I listened to the album from start to finish countless times. It is one of my favorite albums in recent years.

When I heard Harding was coming to Pittsburgh, I immediately got tickets for his show on Easter night in 2018. The crowd at the Rex Theater was on the smaller side, which only made me feel bad for all the people missing out on such a talented artist. Curtis took the stage and announced that he had become ill with laryngitis, and his manager had wanted to cancel the show. “I said, ‘fuck that,'” he announced to applause. He said some songs would sound a little different and he’d have to cut some entirely, but the crowd was appreciative he was going to perform, period.

Even with laryngitis, he did not disappoint.

Curtis Harding Pittsburgh

Occasionally, he would turn his face away from the microphone and cough. While he had to sing songs a little differently than they were performed on the album, he still managed to sound great. What he lacked in vocal range that evening, he made up for with the sheer energy of his performance as he alternated playing electric and acoustic guitars and picked up a tambourine on quite a few tunes. His backing band was incredible, too.

Curtis Harding Pittsburgh

Curtis Harding is a true talent and I doubt this will be the last time he’ll be featured in one of my Song of the Day posts. Today’s selection is the song that marks the midpoint of Face Your Fear, “Need Your Love.” I never listen to this song just once when it comes on; I listen to it at least three or four times in a row. It’s so infectious and upbeat, I can’t help but put it on repeat. Over the course of writing this post, I’ve listened to it five times.

The video features shots of Curtis singing intermittently between scenes of real people (meaning, not models or actors) dancing to the song–people of every age, shape, size, color, and sexual orientation just enjoying the music (the kid dancing at 2:15 of the video is particularly awesome). It’s impossible to watch the video and not find yourself smiling; it’s so refreshing to watch people being happy and enjoying life.

(All photos in this post by Amanda Filipcic-Godsey)

Song of the Day–3.4.19

Over the last week or so, I watched Season 3 of True Detective (and yes, it lived up to the hype). I quickly recognized the theme song was a cover of Son House’s “Death Letter” performed by Cassandra Wilson. “Death Letter” is one of my favorite songs of all-time–and Son House is one of my favorite musicians of all-time–so I was thrilled to hear another version of such a great song.

Son House Mississippi Blues Trail
Son House historical marker along the Mississippi Blues Trail on Highway 61. Photo by Amanda Filipcic-Godsey

First, by the man himself, Son House:

Live version from The White Stripes:

The cover and artist that inspired this post, Cassandra Wilson:


Bryce Harper Signs with the Phillies

On Thursday afternoon, Bryce Harper finally signed with a team; the right fielder and his glorious hair will be headed to Philadelphia. Harper’s deal is for 13-years and $330 million. It’s the largest free agent signing and largest contract in sports history, surpassing Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres, which Machado signed just last week.

Image via USA Today Sports/Adam Hagy

That Harper got the largest contract in history was a surprise to no one; Harper’s free agency had been speculated about for years and his agent, Scott Boras, is known for getting his clients the money they want. Plus Harper is just 26 years old and may just be entering his prime.

What was surprising was the rest of the contract—13 years, no opt-outs, no deferred money, and a full no-trade clause. The contract will keep Harper in Philly through his age 38 season in 2031.

There are many questions the Harper signing brought up.

Is he worth it?

Harper is still young—he just turned 26 in October. He already has a number of career accomplishments. He was named National League Rookie of the Year in 2012, he is the youngest position player to play in an All-Star Game, and he was unanimously named NL MVP in 2015 with a triple slash line of .330/.460/.649., a wRC+ of 197 (league average is 100), and an fWAR of 9.3. Given those accomplishments, it’s hard to imagine a team that wouldn’t want Harper batting third or fourth in its lineup.

However, Harper has been somewhat injury-prone. He missed time with an injured hip in 2013, had surgery on his left knee after the 2013 season, had surgery on a torn ligament in his left thumb in 2014, and has suffered injuries to his shoulder, neck, and re-injured his left knee. While this isn’t his fault, the fact is that injuries have found Harper.

Harper has also been unable to replicate the success of his MVP year. There aren’t many players who can, but unfortunately for Harper, he’s playing at the same time as Mike Trout. The 9.3 fWAR Harper sported in 2015, the best of his career? Trout has five seasons of having an fWAR of 9.3 or better. It may be unfair to compare Harper to Trout, but they will always be compared to one another.

Harper is still a force to be reckoned with at the plate, but his defense in 2018 was downright awful. Fangraphs’ UZR metric had him at -7.4—the average is zero, so Harper was way below average. Baseball Reference uses Defensive Runs Saved to measure defense, and Harper was -26—meaning he allowed 26 runs to score defensively, which was second worst among all outfielders. Regardless of the metric used, it’s clear that Harper has gotten worse defensively.

So is Harper worth it? Yes and no. $330 million still seems like a good deal for Philadelphia to have a 26-year-old former MVP with the raw talent and potential that Harper has. Citizens Bank Park also suits a hitter like Harper—it’s not unrealistic to think he could hit 30-40 homeruns in a smaller park like Citizens Bank. His numbers in 50 games in Citizens Bank Park: .258/.365/.564 with 14 home runs and is the all-time leader in slugging percentage—.564—in the park’s history.

Harper probably won’t be worth the money on the back end of his deal; it’s hard to imagine any player in their late 30s being worth $25.38 million a year. But it’s clear the Phillies are going for it, and if they win a World Series at any time over the next 13 years, it will certainly be worth any money they’ll spend when Harper is a light-hitting 35-year-old.

Are the Phillies automatically favorites to win the NL East with the addition of Harper?

With the addition of Harper alone, no. With the addition of Harper, Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, and Andrew McCutchen—probably.

Harper is still young and may not have peaked yet. Segura’s combined fWAR over the last three seasons is 11.9; Harper’s is a combined 11.3. Realmuto just might be the best catcher in the game. Cutch isn’t the same player as he was in 2013 or 2015, but he had a nice stretch run with the Yankees last season and is a decent addition for the Phillies.

The Phillies finished last season 80-82, good enough for third place in the NL East. They made a huge jump between 2017 and 2018, and with the addition of the aforementioned players in the offseason, they’ll be a formidable opponent in 2019. Winning the offseason doesn’t always translate to success on the field, but the Phillies have names and a manager that has embraced analytics, which seems like the best of both worlds. Until proven wrong, it’s hard to pick against the Phillies.

What does this mean Mike Trout, who will hit free agency after the 2020 season?

With Harper getting $330 million over 13 years, many assume Trout will sign a deal upwards of $500 million. As stated above, Trout has the better stats and is the better player. Trout’s WAR has him in legendary company. He’s better defensively.

It’s still likely that Trout will not receive a $500 million deal. He’ll be 29 when he hits free agency, so a 13-year deal probably won’t happen for him. Teams are less and less willing to dole out huge sums of money in free agency. It’s no secret that hitters decline after age 30. No one—not even Mike Trout, who at times seems superhuman—can stop time. Trout will probably sign a contract with the highest average annual value (AAV)–$35-$38 million/year over 10 years seems like a reasonable and realistic contract for Trout. But $500 million is a stretch. Remember, people thought Harper was likely to receive a $500 million deal, too.

Bottom Line:

The Harper era has officially begun in Philadelphia and it won’t be over for a very long time—many of the guys Harper will be playing with at the end of his contract are currently in middle school.

Steelers Nation reacts to Antonio Brown requesting a trade

Earlier today, Antonio Brown tweeted a thank you to Steelers fans and implied he was leaving the team, despite being under contract and the Steelers having made no progress in trade talks. Later, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that AB had officially requested a trade.

 (Joe Sargent / Getty Images)

Those who are fans of the other 31 NFL franchises immediately began to tweet at AB and beg him to come to their team (which again, is not his decision), while Steelers fans simply can’t wait to ship out a future Hall of Famer for probably a 6th round pick.

Let’s check in on Steelers Nation.

Get ready to watch people burn things that they spent money on! That’ll show AB! (The use of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” is a tad dramatic.)

Warning: The following video contains profanity and several inaccuracies.

Fans without Antonio Brown jerseys began to feel left out…

I know there are plenty of reasons why Steelers fans are upset with and/or hating on AB, but I couldn’t help but think of this Seinfeld bit as I watched people burn jerseys.

When things are down in Steelers nation, you can always count on the lowest of the low being racist AF. See the response below from @whattaschmuck

I do appreciate this reference to college football’s transfer portal…I just like the term “transfer portal”

I appreciate Jeff’s tweet–straightforward and concise

Who is Cirdell Stewart and when did he play for the Steelers?

The first hashtag on this one…

I’m with Cliff.

YESSS! A Steelers fan who recognizes how dumb it is to burn your own property!

Going to end this one on a high note. Tune in tomorrow for installment #142 of the epic saga “Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers”!

The NCAA, the NFL, and Kliff Kingsbury

It’s no secret the NCAA is essentially the unpaid minor leagues for both the NFL and NBA. There are rules in place to ensure young men who have dreams of playing pro ball will first have to play a certain length of time in college, three years for football players and one year for basketball players. It’s obvious to anyone paying attention, this is to ensure the NCAA will thrive by forcing star high school athletes to attend college before turning pro.

It wasn’t always this way; there was no college requirement for the NBA until 2005, when the NCAA was conceivably pretty angry about not being able to profit off of the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, and Amar’e Stoudemire, all of whom had gone straight from high school to the NBA in the previous decade.

While these athletes are in college, they receive scholarships, but are unable to work a paying job due the time demands of playing college sports. They are expected to put their bodies on the line and risk injury before they ever see a paycheck, while the NCAA is a billion-dollar industry.

Now the NCAA is trying to control its coaches much like its players.

When Kliff Kingsbury was fired as head coach of Texas Tach in late November, most people knew he wouldn’t be unemployed for long. Despite a 5-7 record in his last year with the Red Raiders, Kingsbury is an offensive-minded coach in a time where such coaches are highly sought after (think NFL head coaches Sean McVay and Doug Pederson).

Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Sure enough, Kingsbury quickly found a new job as offensive coordinator for USC, where he was hired on December 5. Things were just fine and dandy until Black Monday—the day after the NFL season, where head coaches for struggling teams are usually fired.

It’s no surprise that NFL teams would have an interest in Kingsbury. He’s just 39 years old, and his offensive prowess fits the mold of the current pass-happy NFL. Two teams expressed interest in Kingsbury, the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets. Both teams drafted quarterbacks in the first round in 2018—the Cardinals taking Josh Rosen and the Jets getting Sam Darnold. Both young quarterbacks struggled, as did their teams. Kingsbury seemed like a great candidate for either head coaching position.

USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann didn’t think so.

Swann blocked Kingsbury from interviewing for an NFL job. Then came word from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the NFL had decided last month to start enforcing an old rule which requires NFL teams to ask for permission from college ADs to interview college coaches. If an NFL team didn’t comply, they could be docked draft picks.

           “At last month’s NFL owners meetings in Dallas, league officials informed team executives that they now had to request permission from college athletic directors to interview college coaches. Not doing so would be considered ‘conduct detrimental,’ and the NFL could then dock draft picks from teams, sources said.”

-Adam Schefter

The Kingsbury drama brought to mind Terrelle Pryor being suspended for five NFL games for NCAA rules violations while he was at Ohio State. Pryor was one of five Buckeyes who faced sanctions for receiving discounted tattoos and selling memorabilia, one of the sanctions being a five-game suspension the following season. When Pryor announced he was leaving Ohio State for the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell decided that suspension would carry over into Pryor’s rookie NFL season.

Andrew Weber-USA Today Sports

Rumors started to circulate over the weekend that Kingsbury’s buyout (which an NFL team wouldn’t be allowed to pay, due to the rule cited above) was low enough that he himself was considering paying it, resigning from USC, and taking interviews with NFL teams.

While it is understandable that Swann would want to keep a valuable member of the football coaching staff, generally coaches are granted permission to interview for jobs that are a step above their current position.

As of this writing, Kingsbury is interviewing with NFL teams and is reportedly still a USC employee. Perhaps the bad PR it brought to both Swann and USC (and the possible issues that could crop up when attempting to hire coaches in the future) caused Swann to change his mind.

It remains to be seen if Kingsbury will be an NFL head coach anytime soon, but this whole saga should remind us all that the horseshit collusion between the NFL and NCAA remains rampant and will most likely only get worse going forward.