We are all required to have Michael Porter Jr. opinions now, so here’s mine:
If I were him, I would not play without at least two doctors telling me three things — that my back is 100 percent, that I have no more risk of injury now than before, and that if I do get hurt again the risk of it being serious is no more than before.
If I heard that, I’d play my tall and skinny butt off. If not, I’d cheer on my teammates.
Maybe that sounds like “medically cleared” to you, and maybe it is, but I’d want to make sure. Not just that the back is strong, but that it’s not vulnerable. Not just that basketball is possible, but that it’s smart. Back injuries terrify me and, I would guess, anyone who’s ever had even minor back pain. For an athlete, there may not be a more devastating injury.
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Porter’s talent is potentially worth generations of wealth, and his basketball career will ultimately be judged by what he does in the NBA. If I were him, I would be hyper protective of making that more difficult before my first paycheck.
But, I have more opinions about Porter. They include the following:
▪ No precedent exists for Porter. You cannot compare his situation to others, because there has never been a talent quite like him at a school that holds so much importance to him with an injury like this. The pride that he has in Mizzou is fundamentally unlike the pride Marvin Bagley has in Duke, for instance, or Kevin Knox in Kentucky, or Mohamed Bamba has in Texas.
▪ My opinion of him doesn’t matter. Neither does yours. Unless you happen to be Michael Porter Jr., in which case I appreciate the click but please get back to rehab and basketball.
Porter is the only one who gets to decide here. I assume he will seek guidance. From his father. From his brother. From the rest of his family. From Cuonzo Martin. From his high school coach. From other basketball mentors.
But he is the only one that matters. If a doctor gives him all those assurances mentioned above and Porter decides to skip the rest of the season, nobody should criticize “a lack of pride.” And if a doctor tells him it’s risky, but Porter plays anyway, nobody should tell him it’s a mistake.
This is a personal decision, is what I’m trying to say.
A personal decision that Porter has to be comfortable with and forget what anyone else says.
This week’s eating recommendation is the Sicilian stuffed artichoke at Garozzo’s, and the reading recommendation is the science of why swearing physically reduces pain. Honestly, they had me at the headline.
Hosmer? Zero percent.
Moustakas? 3 percent.
Some other free agent? 99 percent.
This would not be new. Kendrys Morales may be the most well known case, particularly in Kansas City. He sat out the first two months of 2014, signed with the Twins, was traded to the Mariners, signed the following offseason with the Royals, and won a World Series.
You could debate for a while about whether and how much that hurt him financially. He signed for a prorated portion of a $12 million salary in 2014. Even at the cut, the $7.4 million he made that year was the most of his career.
He performed terribly in 2014, but the Royals’ scouts saw enough toward the end of the season to give him $17 million over two years. It makes logical sense that Morales’ bad 2014 was tied to his sitting out spring training and the first 60 or so games, but there’s no way to be certain about that. He’s now playing on a $33 million contract, with career earnings that approach $50 million.
Not bad for a slow DH in an era that values athleticism and defense more than ever.
As for Hosmer, every day that goes by makes it a little likelier that he ends up back with the Royals. He knows he could get $140 million from them, and I don’t know anyone so principled they turn down that kind of money.
Moustakas is a little more interesting. I could see a scenario in which he sees this as his only opportunity for a contract worth generational wealth, and sits out knowing he could sign a contract midseason, to either hit free agency again next winter or after the 2019 season to avoid being in the same market as Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson.
But if Moustakas really wants his value maximized, it makes a whole lot of sense to sign a short-term deal with the Yankees soon, get a full spring, exploit that stadium and division for a 45-or-so home run season and then get paid next winter.
But, yes, I absolutely believe someone’s going to sit. There’s too many unsigned players, too late in the calendar, to believe anything else.
I believe it hurts, for two primary reasons.
First, Hosmer is a good player, and if you’ve read this space before you probably know I believe baseball’s structure is currently set up in a way that rewards losing. Drop games, pick high, stock the farm system and get ready to go in a few years. That’s particularly true for teams without a lot of money, like the Royals.
The Royals are likely to lose a lot of games with or without Hosmer in 2018. If the Royals win 68 games with him instead of 64 without him, well, that was the difference between picking first and fifth in the 2018 draft.
If Hosmer pushes the Royals from 70 to 75 wins, that’s the difference from sixth and 11th, plus less money to sign and be flexible throughout the draft.
The second reason is that it means less money down the road, when the Royals — if the rebuild takes hold — will need to fill holes. I’m all for owners spending on talent, but I also don’t believe that Glass will have the same openness to spending in 2021 (or so) if he has Hosmer for a few more years at more than $20 million per.
Now, I’m absolutely open to the counterargument. Hosmer is a good player, and a terrific presence, and he would provide an important example of work ethic, commitment, attitude and leadership. He’s what every prospect wants to become, having him around can’t hurt, and besides, he wouldn’t be blocking anyone at first base.
But if the goal is to be in the playoffs with the right balance of quickness, stability and championship potential, I believe the return on top-shelf younger talent and financial flexibility will be greater than a 30-something first baseman in five years.
The greatest trick the owners ever pulled is keeping their profits private while players’ salaries are public.
I understand there are no sympathetic characters on either side. How many people would love to play Major League Baseball for half the league minimum, right?
But they are the absolutely top of their craft, and in America, the top of virtually any craft is paid very well. It’s objectively absurd that we live in a world in which a man can turn down a nine-figure contract to play baseball because he wants more money, but that’s the system we have, and if you’re a baseball fan it’s the system you’ve at least tacitly helped create. I know I’ve had my part in it.
My stance here is fairly simple. In a perfect world, player salaries would be capped at a rate that would put them in the 1 percent but remain low enough to keep ticket prices affordable enough that a middle-class family could go to games regularly.
I also live in reality and know that the money that doesn’t go to players usually ends up in the owners’ pockets. No team has ever lowered ticket prices because it didn’t spend as much on payroll as it expected, and as long as the money is out there, I’d much rather see it go to the players we watch than the owners who take on no risk.
Teams like the Royals will often leak approximate financial losses, but there is rarely context about how those numbers are calculated, and even if you believe them fully and assume the worst-case scenario, the franchise values steadily spike.
Glass bought in for $96 million, and now the team is worth about $1 billion, according to Forbes. If he’s really worried about yearly operating deficits, he’s free to sell.
Most ballplayers I’ve talked to about this will express a similar sentiment. They know the money is absurd. They didn’t start playing baseball for money, and they’d find a way to get by if salaries were capped at $10 million (or whatever). Again, they know the dollar amounts are mind-blowing.
But they’re also the fuel in an industry that produces more than $10 billion per year. Fairness demands they get their share. If owners’ profits were reduced by 25 percent, most players would be expected to earn 25 percent less.
But as long as the revenue continues to rise, why shouldn’t the athletes who generate all of it be compensated?
Not a ton. But some.
Wrote the other day about Brett Veach’s football world view, and the fact that as many as eight of the 15 players in on at least a quarter of the snaps in the playoff game are either already cut, almost certain to be cut, or in significant jeopardy of being cut.
Again, if they’ve decided the defensive failures aren’t Bob Sutton’s fault, the Chiefs have to make some changes somewhere.
Now, some of that turnover is already on the roster. Eric Berry*, most obviously, but also Tanoh Kpassagnon**, Ukeme Eligwe, and Dee Ford***. He’s not talked about much, but I kind of like what I’ve seen with Justin Hamilton. He’s cheap, talented and worth keeping an eye on.
* He’s going to be a few columns in the future, obviously, but the Chiefs really are putting a lot on Berry. The defense was exploited without him, Sutton far too slow to change and downright refusing to use much creativity. Berry erases a lot of shortcomings. This is something Seth Keysor wrote about recently, and a point that he’s made repeatedly in the past.
** Probably? He has some football IQ and fundamental stuff to work on. But he should get there. If not for Pat Mahomes, we’d be talking a lot more about how encouraging Tanoh was in that Denver game.
*** Assuming he’s back. I assume he will be. But he’s also $8 million next season, and a really bad run defender. I don’t know. I’m just saying.
Bringing Kendall Fuller over in the Alex Smith trade is an excellent start to the offseason, meaning the Chiefs are filling a HUGE hole with a really good player at a dirt-cheap price.
I’d still add at least one more corner — and bring Terrance Mitchell back — with another safety (or two), speed at linebacker and help on the defensive line.
I know you’re probably looking for a name, but I don’t want to get into that because I find it too hard to know who will get how much.
I’d be surprised.
The Chiefs were never going to bring Kaepernick in as long as Alex Smith was here. Smith calls Kaepernick a friend and last year said it was “crazy” — he used that word three times — that he was out of a job. But bringing him to Kansas City would’ve brought up too many old emotions, too much drama about the guy who took Smith’s job in San Francisco, so the Chiefs were never going to do that.
Now, I don’t believe he’s a good football fit.
My feeling is that Pat Mahomes’ backup should be longer on experience than talent. He should be a guy who’s seen a million coverages and can sort of serve as Mahomes’ co-pilot during the week.
I’m thinking more about someone like Josh McCown or Ryan Fitzpatrick, if they’re OK with injury being their only shot at starting.
I know your question is more about whether the non-football stuff would keep the Chiefs from signing him, but to me, the football stuff has to fit before you even start thinking about the other stuff.
The anger from many fans toward Marcus Peters last year would have to at least be considered at that point, but my sense is the Chiefs would do it if they thought it made football sense.
Also, if your underlying point here is that you don’t want Tyler Bray to be the backup, you and I agree.
KU fans should be concerned with Graham making just 39 percent of his shots inside the three-point line, or about Texas Tech having a one-game lead and home game in hand, or about Lagerald Vick’s bizarre season, or about the lack of depth, or about what happens when they don’t hit 3s.
In nearly every single way, KU’s “problems” have been vastly overstated. The Jayhawks are almost certain to have a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would mean the first weekend’s games are in Wichita. They have good guards, experience, a brutal matchup for anyone else’s 5, and — I believe, anyway — a better than 50-50 shot at winning at least a share of the title in the No. 1 RPI league in the country.
But at Kansas, being a game down in the conference standings with six to go (including a road game at the league leader who already won in Lawrence) qualifies as significant concern.
I’ve been pretty consistent on this. Kansas just isn’t that good this year when compared with past KU teams.
A conspiracy of Billy Preston’s car wreck and Bill Self’s misses in recruiting have left the roster short. Self is among the many basketball coaches who stress the importance of a guy who can get you a bucket when you run bad offense. KU has always had a guy like that, and usually more than one.
This year’s team has none.
They don’t defend well enough to make up for it, don’t have the depth required to play certain styles and are prone to runs of inconsistency based on their dependence upon three-point shooting.
This is still a dangerous team. The combination of Udoka Azubuike underneath and so many shooters on the outside means the Jayhawks can beat anyone on a given night. History is full of teams getting hot at the right moment and making a nice run in the NCAA Tournament.
But the standards have always been different around KU.
They have more reasons to worry now than any point in recent memory. Enough that the possible wearing down of their senior point guard is pretty far down the list.
I do think he will, yes.
Just too many signs pointing this way.
Porter is a 19-year-old basketball prodigy, not a doctor, but it’s hard for me to believe he’d have been as enthusiastic as he was the other day without a real expectation — not a hope, but an expectation — that he’ll soon be cleared to play.
And if he’s cleared to play, he’s going to play.
He’s obviously already made that decision, because if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be pushing this hard.
The idea that he might hurt chemistry is real, but please let me explain before you yell at me.
In any sport, any time you disrupt a successful team with an addition or subtraction you must be careful and thoughtful about how to proceed.
But the insinuation that this would be a negative, or such a negative that adding one f the best talents in the country wouldn’t be worth it, yes, that is patently absurd.
Let’s all recognize a few things here. There is no precedent for what Mizzou and Michael Porter Jr. have going on right now. You can talk about Kyrie Irving or Henry Giles, but neither of those guys were Porter coming out of high school, and certainly neither had the very real and personal connection to their program.
If Porter was a jerk, or a selfish teammate, or simply at Mizzou to wait for the draft, then this would be a very different discussion.
There is no indication of Porter as a bad teammate or selfish player and, in fact, evidence of the opposite. Mizzou is more than a waiting room to him, the way it is for so many recruits at Kentucky or Duke or wherever.
Playing for the Tigers this season would mean playing with his brother, and for his dad, and that has to mean something. Watching him on the bench during games is convincing enough. Injured players, let alone injured stars, don’t always act like that.
So if “might hurt chemistry” means an acknowledgment that shot distribution and offensive plan and defensive priorities will have to be adjusted, well, yes. Of course that’s true.
But if “might hurt chemistry” insinuates that Porter will be detrimentally selfish, or that his teammates will be bitter about ceding the spotlight, or that he will be only interested in his draft position ... I’m not sure that’s based on anything relevant to this particular situation.
The dumbest thing that’s been said about this is from Seth Greenberg: “I’m not sure how much better he makes them.”
Oh, come on.
Mizzou needs a scorer, and it needs a ball handler. Porter is both.
Mizzou is projected as a No. 7 seed at the moment. Do you think the 10 that they would be hypothetically matched up with, and then the 2 potentially after that would rather face Mizzou with or without perhaps the nation’s most talented player?
Do you think Mizzou is a better team or a worse team with a guy who can get 25 points on 15 shots and make offense easier for his teammates?
More importantly, in regards to your question: Do you think his teammates would rather play with an elite talent who they all seem to like personally or keep him on the bench as a tall and skinny cheerleader?
This isn’t complicated.
The future is great!
Porter returned for the game at Kentucky, but only played 12 minutes. Cuonzo Martin said he wanted to take it slow, and was aware of the danger of Porter pushing himself too hard too quickly with the adrenaline of the moment.
He was rusty that first game, too, both with his scoring and defense. But he got better quickly. Scored 18 in 25 minutes the next game at Vanderbilt, then 25 on 15 shots — I didn’t pull those numbers in the previous answer out of the air, you guys — against Arkansas on senior night.
Mizzou probably would’ve been a 7-seed in a vacuum, but the committee moved them up one line because of Porter. They talked about a sort of reverse precedent being set when teams have dropped because a key player was injured, but either way, Mizzou had a nice little run.
Actually beat K-State in the first round — K-State won another play-in game, which means Weber is back next year — and then beat Arizona for the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2009.
Funny story about that, too. That meant a matchup with Kansas in the regional semifinal, but as you know because so many KU fans won’t shut up about it nobody cares about that matchup so I’m not even sure who won.
Well, of course not.
There are few fan bases that are easier to empathize with than K-State basketball. I happen to like Bruce Weber, and believe he’s a good coach, but I also think he’s underperformed at K-State and should probably be fired if he doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament this season.
Weber has been, well, he’s been fine at K-State. If you were making the case for him, you’d talk about the first conference championship in 30 years, and you’d talk about the underappreciated drama he dealt with when taking the job, and trying to keep the roster together when several of the players became disenchanted with Frank Martin, who was never going to be at K-State long-term.
You’d mention that if he makes it this year he’d have four NCAA Tournaments in six years, with an experienced core coming back that should be even better.
All of that is true, but so is this: Weber could have been fired after his third year, when he went 5-13 in the league, oversaw mass transfers, repeating key mistakes that led to the end at Illinois.
If you were making the case against him, you’d talk about that, and his inability to continue the excitement built up by Martin, too many close games lost because of poor late execution, and the very real feeling that while he’s a solid enough coach to have a relatively high floor, he’s also not dynamic enough for a high ceiling.
So much of college coaching is about PR, and relationships, particularly relationships with fans and boosters. From what I can tell, there is a sort of generation gap here, where many of the older boosters value him while younger fans want something different.
Ultimately, his fate at K-State will be determined by how that breaks.
And how that breaks will be determined by on-court successes and failures.
There is nothing so silly as bracket projections a month out, but at the moment K-State is often listed as one of the last teams in the tournament field. It’s hard to imagine him being fired for making the tournament, but this roster is good enough that the Wildcats should be solidly in.
This is parochial, but what’s the difference between the talent at K-State vs. Mizzou? I’d argue that Dean Wade is the best college player on either team, and the overall talent is either a wash or slight lean toward K-State.
The difference, at least in my view, is mostly coaching and getting the most out of the talent. Jontay Porter is put in a position to succeed, Kassius Robertson has developed enough to win back-to-back SEC player of the week honors, and if a Mizzou fan tells you that’s not a shock, you have found a lying Mizzou fan. Most of all, Mizzou is developing a really strong identity defensively.
Where is that kind of thing with K-State?
Again, I like Weber. I like where he came from and respect his path. He treats people well and I root for people like that to succeed.
But this is a results business. He has a nice core with Wade, Barry Brown, Kam Stokes, Xavier Sneed and Cartier Diarra. Three of those guys are juniors. Weber should have this group beyond the bubble.
I’m not saying Weber would be fired if K-State misses the tournament, and I’m not necessarily saying he should be fired.
But your question is about fan expectations and, yes, 100 percent, absolutely, K-State fans should expect more than they’ve seen so far.
No human being alive can answer this without a personal bias, and I would posit that the bias in 90 percent of us is exactly the same: it’s the music from when we were in high school and/or college.
Sort of like with sports, the best sports are always the sports from when you were 8 or 10 or so. Bo Jackson ran over Brian Bosworth when I was 9 and hit that home run in the All-Star Game when I was 11. Hence, he’s the greatest athlete I will ever see. This isn’t complicated.
I was in high school and college in the 1990s. Hence, the greatest era of music is ’90s rap.
My Spotify is essentially broken into two very different sections. When I’m driving, my music is the Black Keys and Gary Clark and TV on the Radio and the White Stripes and Alabama Shakes and ZZ Ward and stuff like that*.
* Admittedly, I basically stopped finding new music five years ago or so.
When I’m running, or working out, it’s basically Tupac and Biggie and Outkast and Jay-Z and Lil Wayne and old Kanye and stuff like that*.
* This one’s a little more updated, but mostly because I steal songs off pregame warmup music, and always Chiefs training camp.
I’ve been doing a lot of painting lately. Not art. Like, chairs and dressers and stuff like that around the house. The other day, my wife made fun of me because she came through the garage three times while I was painting. Once, I was listening to a podcast*. Once, I was listening to a classical station on Pandora. And once it was Kendrick Lamar.
* Atlanta Monster, if you care. Same weekly form as Serial. Not as good as the first season of Serial, but really interesting and well done.
Don’t judge me.
Well, is Alabama Shakes even a thing anymore? I saw where Brittany Howard formed a new band, and I suppose I’m curious but a little bummed if that means the end of Shakes or even a further delay from their next album.
My wife and I sort of stumbled into their show at the Uptown a few years ago, and it’s one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. She’s mesmerizing.
The other act I’d like more of is Patrick Sweany. If you ever catch the beginning of my segments with the Border Patrol, Jake usually plays Sweany’s “Them Shoes” as the intro.
He hasn’t had a new album in a few years, and hasn’t been touring as much either, but answering this question sent me to Google where I see he’s playing at the Riot Room next month.
/pauses to buy tickets/
So, that’s cool, at least.
Band I’d like to see in concert that I haven’t?
My answer is going to be a little weird. OK, maybe a lot weird, considering we’ve been talking about the White Stripes and Lil Wayne, but I really want to see the New York Philharmonic someday.
Music is personal to all of us, and so much of the appeal of a concert to me has to do with the venue, so it’s not like I’m ever going to see the Black Keys at Crossroads on a perfect summer night again.
My mom grew up with the classics and tried her best to make me appreciate them. I didn’t come around as quickly or fully as she would have liked, I know that, but recently have found more and more appreciation. That Pandora classical station didn’t come out of nowhere.
Mom used to take us to the Nutcracker every year, a tradition I want to start up again this winter when I think our oldest (he’ll be almost 5 by then) will be ready. I’ve never seen the New York Philharmonic, and doing it would probably mean the Lincoln Center in New York, which I remember mom talking about.
Well, shucks, you guys know I’ll answer a question that gives me a chance to link to something I wrote.
Let me tell you this in the clearest terms possible: Nothing short of a gun to my head and a belief that the trigger would be pulled otherwise would get me on the back of a bull.
I’m fascinated by mountain climbing, and sky diving, and I assume the adrenaline is similar. But where those activities seem thrilling, the act of riding a 1,700 pound angry bull seems suicidal.
Mountain climbing is about pushing your limits. Sky diving is about overcoming fears. Riding a bull seems — to me — about hoping a big ol’ hoof doesn’t smash your face after you fall off.
The guys who do this are different, man. We always talk about what football does to a body, but if you see bull riders, you see guys who are 28 but walk like they’re 88.
One other difference. You climb a mountain successfully? You get that moment at the top. Holy cow, that must be amazing. Sky dive successfully? You get that view, that rush, and then you’re on the ground.
Ride a bull successfully? You still have to manage your way off that bull, because he doesn’t stop bucking at 8 seconds. Lane Frost died after a successful ride.
The sport is bonkers, in other words, and I say that with respect.
I don’t know what books are popular, and what aren’t, and if you have girls I’m probably of very little help. My favorite book is probably Digger Dozer Dumper, in part because our older one dances and it’s the first book he had memorized.
Do you know about Click Clack Moo? That one’s probably well known.
Wherever You Are is great. Brown Bear Brown Bear, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Go Dog Go, Race Car Count. The 1 year old really likes Cowboy Small, but I think that’s mostly because there’s a big barrel of water and he gets to yell WAH-WAH. The Llama Llama books are fun. Harry the Highlander is good, and I’m guessing not too well known? The What Can You Spot books are good, too.
I don’t know, like I said, I’m not good at knowing which or if any of these aren’t well known. Also, this isn’t a book, but I just thought of it:
Koala Crates are so good. My mom started sending them to us a year or two ago. I’m not crafty, at all. My wife is, so maybe we could’ve made do, but these things are so easy, clean, creative and you know they’re going to work.
Trick answer: I’m going to be the No. 3 goalie for a stacked hockey team.
The answer more in the spirit of your question: gotta be bobsleigh, though I could be talked into luge.
Some of these sports, to be honest, would probably actually kill me. Alpine skiing, no way I’d survive that. Ski jumping, depends on whether I land on my neck. Biathlon, I assume I’d get shot.
With the bobsleigh, hopefully I can surround myself with the right team, and either gain a bunch of weight or lose a bunch of weight, whichever is more helpful* and then just hope for the best.
* Fingers crossed gain weight.
Terribly. I’m actually typing these words from my gym, and I’m guessing that of the last 10 times I’ve been to the gym, I’ve probably worked out twice.
I’ve never been able to get work done at the office, and now with two maniac toddlers running around it’s hard to get anything done at home, too. The gym is good that way, and I’ve been hoping that working here would automatically mean also working out, but it hasn’t gone that way quite yet.
I’ve been sick the last week or so. The week before that, our younger son waged holy war on our sleep, and I was doing well to be a functioning adult. Excuses are fun, right?
I have a really hard time running on treadmills. I know that’s something I just need to get over, but it’s just so boring, so same. At the moment, I believe I’m about two weeks behind the training schedule I found online, which isn’t too bad. I’ll catch up. When the weather is nicer, I’ll be able to run outside.
And right now, as you are my witness, I’m going to actually work out for a little bit. Three for 11 now.
This week, I’m particularly grateful that my wife discovered we can put both kids down at the same time. I know, what you’re about to read will cause you to think even less of my intelligence than you do already, but I’ve always been open here, so what the heck. Our younger son will be 2 in April, and sometimes we joke that we still treat him like we just brought him home from the hospital and bedtime is probably the part of our day when that’s not really a joke.
The routine has always been one of us takes each kid after the bath, and then we meet downstairs. On the nights it’s just one of us, the older one watches a cartoon while the younger one goes down. I actually now can’t remember what made my wife try both at the same time, but she did, and it worked, and now I feel like our nights are so much better. There will still be plenty of nights we each take a kid, because it’s fun, but man it’s nice to have options.