Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kansas Jayhawks Football Week 2: Not North Michigan or South Michigan

Sims on the run
The Kansas Jayhawks football team last won consecutive games in.... what year? Can you guess?

Unless you really, really, follow these things you have blocked it out of your memory because it was so long ago and KU football has been bad for so long.

Don't look it up because I'll tell you: it was the first two games of the 2011 season.

In other words, the final season the Big 12 actually had 12 teams.

It's been a while.

Is it coincidental that David Beaty was on the staff as co-offensive coordinator that year? Probably.
KU beat McNeese State (FCS) and then Northern Illinois. And since then, nothing that can even be interpreted as a winning streak. In 2013 they opened by winning two of their first three. Same with 2014. But not two in a row. Now they have a chance, if they beat Central Michigan this week at Memorial Stadium.

I couldn't figure out how Central Michigan did in their first game last week, and there's a reason for that, because they didn't play.

This, as I mentioned last week, was a big problem for the Kansas Jayhawks for a few years, especially during the Charlie Weis era, and I'm sure that's purely coincidental. There are an even number of FBS football teams, but several of them play FCS or lower teams in week one just to guarantee themselves a win. Somebody's going to be left out. Central Michigan got left out.

So we know nothing about them. Which is fine, because we really know nothing about Kansas after week one. They rolled Southeast Missouri. They were supposed to. In truth, we will still know nothing about KU football after this week, either, unless of course they lose to Central Michigan, in which case we will know they are still really, really bad.

It's all well and good that Peyton Bender- there are so many ways the jokes about his name can go. Peyote? Peyton Place? Bender from Futurama? Going on a bender with peyote? I can't decide. Anyway, it's all well and good that Peyton Bender had the best first game of any KU quarterback ever, throwing for 364 yards and 4 TD's. But he might as well have done that against the Lawrence High Lions for all it means in the grand scheme of things. It doesn't tell us anything except he could do that against SEMO  

I also said last week that KU needed to put up big plays against SEMO early and often. The 77-yard TD pass from Bender to Steven Sims Jr. on the first possession qualified. That's a start.

Which is all last week was. A start. Can KU win two games in a row for the first time since the Turner Gill era? Grab a beer and find out, just like Bender would.

photos courtesy:,

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Not the Best Start for Kansas Jayhawks Football

This is from 2017 fall camp, but would you know if it wasn't?
Is it good when a player gets kicked off your college football team before fall practice starts? Is it good when another gets kicked off the team before the first game? I think we already know the answers to these questions.

The college football team in question is the Kansas Jayhawks, and the players involved are, uh, two guys I’ve never heard of, and I apologize to their friends and families for that, but it is true. Even if one of those guys was the second-leading receiver on the team last year, and that is also true.

This tells you the state of KU football before the opening game of the season. I must tell you at this point that I am a KU alum. Since you have gotten to this point I am going to assume that you are as well, because why on earth would you also be interested in a football team that is this bad? (It is also quite possible that we know each other, so in that case, hi Ann and Charlie!) The only reason to follow KU football at all is you are an alum, a student journalist for the university, or are being paid to do so.

Since you’ve gotten this far- and it doesn't matter which of the three ways you qualify- we shall continue. The head coach, David Beaty, currently has three wins as Jayhawks head coach. Not three wins last season. Three wins total. For comparison’s sake, Alabama usually has three wins after the first three games of the season. Since Kansas won the Insight Bowl on December 31st, 2008, they have- and I wish I was kidding here- they have 19 total wins, 5 conference wins, and are on their fifth head coach.

In their eight most recent seasons, they have as many conference wins as head coaches.

It’s tough to figure out what rock bottom was. (You may have noted that moment of alumni positivity, assuming rock bottom has already been reached.) It would be easy to say it was the 0-12 season of 2015, but that was Beaty’s first year and that was a positive step. I’m going to save you the trouble of remembering everything horrible that has happened between 2009 and now and tell you it was the Charlie Weis press conference in September, 2014 where he essentially begged people to come to their next game, saying “just come give us from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., that’s all. Three and a half hours.”   

Attendance, you might expect, was not noticeably different that Saturday when the Hawks got hammered by Texas, 23-0. Charlie Weis was fired the next day. Clint Bowen was named interim head coach, and David Beaty was hired after that season.

So yes, Charlie Weis telling people that they could be doing a lot worse than voluntarily watching KU football was rock bottom.

And here we are, nearly three full years later, and David Beaty has won three games as KU head coach, with one Big 12 win. Although that one conference victory was over Texas last season, and put the nail in Charlie Strong’s coffin as Longhorns head coach. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice (as an alum, I get to use the “Royal We”). It feels good to be a coach-killer for somebody else besides ourselves. (Although Charlie immediately got hired at South Florida, who had just lost Willie Taggart to Oregon, and Texas hired Tom Herman from Houston, and Houston hired Major Applewhite- who was a much better QB than Chris Simms- so I think everybody wins here somehow.)

Recently, it has seemed that KU football is so bad they couldn’t even get an opponent for week one. This year they do play week one, and will host FCS Southeast Missouri State. Yes, they should beat SEMO. But will that really tell us anything, aside from that they shouldn’t be relegated to SEMO’s conference? No. No it won’t. It would be nice if KU won easily, and it would be nice to break a few long scores as opposed to grinding it out. Because if you need 15-play, 10-minute drives to score against SEMO, you are going to go backwards against Oklahoma.

Since it’s the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 Orange Bowl champion team, Mark Mangino will be back in the house, as will cornerback Aquib Talib. I know that Beaty and assistant head coach Clint Bowen both coached under Mangino, and both credit him as a fine human…. But he didn’t exactly leave KU on the best of terms. Would you invite back a head coach who was found guilty of academic fraud and got the program put on probation, even if he was really, really successful?

To put it another way: Larry Brown didn’t come back for 25 years. 

Let's Kick It!


Monday, July 31, 2017

100 Years of the #MLBTradeDeadline

John McGraw, Buck Herzog, and Christy Mathewson, summer 1916
This year marks 100 years of the #MLBTradeDeadline, and it happened because of one team. The team is the 1916 New Giants, and I literally wrote the book on them, from which this is adapted.

The 1915 New York Giants finished in last place, the only time that happened for a full season while John McGraw managed the team. The 1916 team started okay, winning 17 straight on the road (while on a 21-game road trip), a record that was tied by the 1984 Detroit Tigers but of course the Tigers had their streak over the course of a month, not in 20 days.

Well, the Giants floundered after that first streak, and McGraw basically said "screw it" and blew up the team mid-season.

In mid-July he traded his favorite player, all-timer Christy Mathewson, to the Reds (so Matty could manage) for infielder Buck Herzog, the Reds' current manager. This was Herzog's third go-round with the Giants, as he had been traded away twice before because the two hotheads couldn't get along. But they realized that together they were practically unstoppable, so they agreed to disagree, and Herzog was back.

Days later, McGraw also bought Harry "Slim" Sallee from the St. Louis Cardinals. Sallee is still considered one of the best pitchers in Cardinals franchise history despite playing for them when they were at their worst. In June Sallee had announced his retirement, left the team and went home. It was widely considered as a ruse to get traded, but in those days that was about the only thing he could have done.

Harry "Slim" Sallee, 1913

Several teams tried to trade for him, but the Cardinals rebuffed all offers. Finally, McGraw and the Giants offered to buy Sallee, and that offer the then-notoriously frugal Cardinals accepted. It was widely reported and believed that McGraw illegally encouraged Sallee to retire, and National League President John Tener said that "No other deal like that will be sanctioned while I am in office,” because heaven forbid a player would be allowed to choose where he could play. The league quickly passed a rule saying that a player could not threaten retirement in order to force a trade. (Imagine the field day Marvin Miller would have had with that one.)

The Giants did okay for a bit but then sucked again. In late August, McGraw traded first baseman Fred Merkle (yes, that one) to the Dodgers for catcher Lew McCarty.

And on August 28th, McGraw made the trade that made every other team really, really mad.

Heinie Zimmerman was the best third baseman in the league, now that Honus Wagner was old. But the Cubs' struggles this season had “The Great Zim” frustrated, like Slim Sallee had been in St. Louis. McGraw traded second baseman "Laughing" Larry Doyle (a key mman on the 1911, '12 and '13 pennant winners) for Zim, who at the time of the trade he was in the midst of a 10-day suspension by the Cubs.

Zimmerman been suspected of laying down on the job for much of the season, and even throwing a few games during his career to support his lifestyle. He cared so little about his finances he reportedly never collected a paycheck, instead asking the club treasurer for ten or twenty bucks until he was told he could have no more until the next time the rest of the team actually got paid.

"The Great Zim," 1917

The National League saw what McGraw was doing- stockpiling players right now for a pennant run the next season. All three of the pennant contenders- the Phillies, Dodgers and Braves were within four games of each other- thought their chances to take the flag could be in danger because of this new Giants team.

The Zim trade put Herzog back at his natural position, second base, and the Giants now had a tremendously defensive infield with Herzog, Zim, and Art Fletcher (best shortstop in the league by WAR that year).

That plus a few other moves (including an amazing month by a pitcher you've never heard of, the ultimately unfairly wronged Benny Kauff, plus much more) jump-started the Giants, and they won a major-league record 26 straight games, something that has never even come close to being equaled (no one has won at least 21 straight since the 1935 Cubs, and the 2002 A's were the last team to get to 20).

In the off-season Philadelphia Phillies president William Baker proposed the first-ever trade deadline of July 31st. This was in direct response to McGraw making trades through August that ultimately resulted in the 26-game win streak- and Philly missing out on their second straight pennant when the Giants beat them four straight during the rampage. 

The resolution passed unanimously. The trade deadline has been the last day of July ever since. It is the lasting legacy of the 1916 New York Giants. 

Want more on that team? You could read this. But really, you should just buy the book

McGraw, aka "Little Napoleon"