King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The sad spiral of Maurice Clarett is just that, not an argument against early entry. Plus: What's wrong with A-Rod? Crazy theory. And: Wikipedia and me.


Salon Staff
August 10, 2006 8:00PM (UTC)

We talked a lot around here about Maurice Clarett when the former Ohio State star was fighting to gain entry into the NFL in 2003 and 2004 following his dismissal from the Buckeyes team. I thought he should have been given a chance.

Now we have our postscript, and I still think the same way, even with Clarett sitting in jail and facing serious prison time on the robbery and new gun charges.

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Clarett was arrested early Wednesday following a police chase in Columbus, Ohio. Clarett was wearing a bulletproof vest, and police say they found four loaded guns, including an assault rifle, and a half-full bottle of vodka in the front seat of his SUV.

Clarett, 22, was already facing a robbery charge, and a judge Thursday raised his bond from $50,000 to $1.1 million. He had agreed to play this season for the Mahoning Valley Hitmen of the Eastern Indoor Football League, a new league so minor it stretches the definition of even minor. Not quite the NFL, the league's salary cap is $5,000 a week. For all 20 players on a team, combined.

If given the chance, I don't think Clarett would have succeeded. When he did get his chance in 2005, the Denver Broncos making him a surprise third-round pick, he failed spectacularly, showing up to camp out of shape, getting injured, antagonizing teammates and bosses and getting cut before ever seeing the field.

It can be argued, I suppose, that if Clarett had stayed in school -- if he hadn't gotten into the legal mess in the summer of 2003 that started him on his spiral and led to his getting kicked off the team -- he might have gained the maturity he needed to succeed in life, or at least in the NFL.

But then, he wouldn't have been Maurice Clarett. He did get into that trouble. He did get kicked off the team. He would have to have been more mature in the first place not to find himself locked out of both the NCAA and the NFL in 2003. And by the way I still don't understand why he didn't go to the Canadian Football League while the getting was good.

What I'm saying is the guy's just a screw-up. He's got serious problems that weren't going to be solved by putting in another two years at Ohio State, skating through classes and being a pro football player in every sense except legal salary.

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Maurice Clarett is not the counterargument to letting teenagers turn pro, though he's going to be used that way. I acknowledge that there are some good and reasonable arguments against letting 18- and 19-year-olds play in the NFL or the NBA. But Clarett's failure isn't one of them. He was a time bomb. It's looking like he was going to screw up whenever he got his chance.

Screwed-up kids grow up, a lot of the time, to become screwed-up adults. That doesn't mean other kids are going to grow up the same way.

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Crazy thought on what's wrong with A-Rod [PERMALINK]

Now I've heard everything. There are lots of theories going around about what's wrong with Alex Rodriguez. He can't handle the Yankee Stadium fans hating on him, can't deal with the pressure of playing in the media hotbed of New York.

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He's the anti-David Ortiz, Mr. Un-Clutch. He's making too much money to care anymore. He's making so much money he cares too much, pressing to prove he's worth it.

These all make perfect sense to me because these factors were all equally present in May, when he was American League Player of the Month, and last year, when he was MVP of the league. And I really like explanations that are totally irrational and obviously not accurate.

But the Web site Baseball Analysts has a theory that's just so out there, even I can't get behind it. According to writer Jeff Albert, the reason Alex Rodriguez isn't hitting as well this year is that there's something wrong with his swing.

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Good God, what will they think of next! His swing?! No way! There's got to be a metaphysical explanation.

Albert is a hitting trainer, the owner of a Web site called swingtraining.net, for which this item is not an endorsement.

In a fascinating analysis of some video clips of Rodriguez's swing, Albert shows how that swing has changed from A-Rod's dominant years with the Texas Rangers, 2001-03, and his 2005 MVP season to now. It's pretty subtle stuff, a difference of an inch or two here and there, but Albert makes a convincing case.

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Using side-by-side clips of two A-Rod swings that resulted in home runs, one from last year and one from this, Albert shows how Rodriguez's belt buckle isn't moving as far toward the pitcher as it used to. That means he's not getting his weight across as effectively as he plants his front leg, which results in his hips rotating earlier and farther back relative to his hands when the bat meets the ball. End result: Ground ball to shortstop.

Or a home run to left field. For all his troubles, let's not forget that Rodriguez is still pretty good, even in by far his worst season. He's 21st in the league in OPS, meaning that if talent were evenly distributed in the league, he'd be some team's second best hitter. There are players who have drawn raves this year -- Gary Matthews Jr., Carl Crawford, Nick Swisher -- with a lower OPS than A-Rod's.

But Albert shows that when Rodriguez is on, as he was in Texas and in 2005, he sprays his home runs to all fields. In 2004 and this year, his home runs have mostly been pulled. Even when A-Rod's successful, Albert argues, it's symptomatic of the flaw in his swing. Not getting his weight across keeps him from having a solid base to drive the ball with power to all fields.

Well, this kind of thing will never catch on. Why analyze a guy's swing and point out the differences between his good years and now when you can psychoanalyze him from afar? Swing, schming. I'll tell you the real reason A-Rod's having a bad year. He never got to have a pony.

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Ego surfing [PERMALINK]

Don't know who or why, but someone has created an article about me at Wikipedia.

The article says, in its entirety, "King Kaufman is a sports journalist for the online publication salon.com. He currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri." I have to say: That's pretty accurate!

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But you have to scroll down to see that. The first thing you see at the top of the page is:

"It is proposed that this article be deleted, because of the following concern: non-notable."

OK, that hurts a little.

Previous column: MLB gets lucky, loses fantasy ruling

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