Today in sports: Barry Bonds avoids jail time, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert looks like a historically bad player, and the NFL is going to upgrade its technology.
Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds won't go to jail for giving "evasive testimony" to a federal grand jury eight years ago about his use of performance enhancing drugs. Instead, he's been sentenced to 30 days house arrest sentenced him to 30 days of house arrest, two years of probation, 250 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay a $4,000 fine. It's a definite win for Bonds, considering the prosecution was recommending a jail sentence of 15 months. On the way out of the courthouse in San Francisco, baseball's home run king hugged several family members and didn't speak to the media. Naturally. [The New York Times]
The New York Mets and Major League Baseball are in damage control mode over author Howard Megdal's new book Wilpon's Folly, which details the club's recent financial blunders, including the proposed deal that fell apart in the fall for hedge fund billionaire David Einhorn to buy 17% of the club -- an investment of about $200 million -- from majority owner Fred Wilpon, who took on huge amounts of debt to build the team's new stadium and go on ill-advised free agent spending sprees. Under the terms of the deal, Einhorn had an option to up his ownership stake to 60% after five years. At the time, ESPN reported the "option could have been blocked if the Wilpons returned Einhorn's $200 million." But according to Megdal, Wilpon tried to enlist MLB commissioner Bud Selig to "strike the provision requiring him to enable and assist David Einhorn in his pursuit of majority ownership, if Wilpon couldn’t repay him," thus making sure Wilpon would never lose control of the team. In effect, writes Megdal, Wilpon wanted Selig to "play the bad cop" and nix the provision. "[Wilpon] could throw up his hands and say, ‘What can I do? This is how MLB works," explains Megdal. When Einhorn got wind of the plan in September, he had a "heated discussion" with Wilpon, and washed his hands of the deal. MLB lawyer Rob Manfred told the New York Post the real reason the purchase collapses was because Wilpon and Einhorn "did not have a meeting of the minds on a key provision in the deal." A Mets team spokesman went scorched-earth on Megdal in a statement, saying: “The author’s desperate self-promotional campaign for relevance has led to perpetuating baseless speculation and complete inaccuracies.” Megdal, who has written about the Mets for The New York Times and Capital New York, said on his blog that he stands by his reporting. [New York Post]
Blaine Gabbert has only started 12 games at quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars this season after the team traded up to select him with the tenth pick in last spring's draft, but NFL Network columnist Michael Lombardi -- a former scout and personnel executive for the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, and San Francisco 49ers -- says Gabbert's well on his way to being the biggest draft bust in league history. "In my 20-plus years in the NFL," writes I don't think I have seen a high first-round pick look as scared or as out of place as Blaine Gabbert. The game looks entirely too big for him... His play was embarrassing, considering he was a top 10 pick... I understand it is really early in Gabbert's career, and the Jags have a pedestrian offense and no receivers around him. But his play borders on that of an undrafted free agent." [NFL.com]
While some NFL teams have taken the step of putting their playbooks on iPads, the majority of teams rely on a decidedly low-tech approach when it comes to communicating on Sundays. Players use sideline phones (with cords!) to confer with the coach's booth. Grainy eye-in-the-sky printouts of various formations roll out of printers down on the field. That's going to change soon, according to three NFL executives, who say the NFL "has been meeting with technology and communications companies to brainstorm how to bring the league into the 21st century" and that "every technological advancement you can imagine is on the table." Ray Anderson, the league's vice president of football operations, tells The Wall Street Journal that "tablets on the sidelines that will provide digital video and replace the coaches' laminated play cards" is practically inevitable, along with a wireless communication system linking all the officials on the field. Anderson also suggests placing "a computer chip in the ball and a laser on the goal line" could be an easy way to get rid of tedious video reviews. [The Wall Street Journal]