McCaffrey makes right call

For the last decade, there has been a lot to like about Stanford football.

Actually, I need to rephrase that. There was a lot more to like about Stanford football. The Cardinal was always a guilty pleasure before the university hired Jim Harbaugh because of the sideshow. Sportswriters across the land aren’t supposed to choose favorite teams, but we damn sure loved the hell out of the Stanford Tree, the band and the Dollies.

So Stanford excelling in football? Yeah, I approve.

But Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey skipping what would have been his final game at Stanford — vs. North Carolina on Dec. 30 in the Sun Bowl — is something I reluctantly agree with.

McCaffrey is not the first to skip out on a bowl this year. His decision came three days after LSU’s Leonard Fournette pulled out for the Tigers bowl game on New Year’s Eve. They say they want to improve their draft status with extra focus on workouts for the NFL combine. Typically, both players have been derided as greedy athletes.

So what?

The arguments have been going back and forth for decades on paying college athletes. Ultimately, the counterpoint is about athletes being paid “in kind” with a six-figure education, room and board. This argument only goes so far, because LSU and Stanford are seen regularly on national TV, which means the schools make a tidy profit, along with earnings from bowl games and ironically enough — souvenir sales featuring the athlete’s jerseys, photos, etc.

Football is the golden goose that pays for much of a university’s athletic department. I like soccer a lot, but make no mistake, it is quite possible that McCaffrey’s legs alone paid for the Stanford women’s soccer team to exist. He’s a senior. He’s paid his debt to the school beyond what Stanford invested.

In business, supervisors tend not to get upset when an employee turns in two weeks’ notice. That employee found a better opportunity. The current employer can’t match it. It’s fair.

To argue that McCaffrey or Fournette should play in their bowl games is to say they should continue to provide free labor at risk of injury when a better employer beckons.

I can’t agree with that. That’s not greed.

That’s investing in yourself, which is the point of higher education in the first place.

For MLS, San Diego is the right place, wrong time

Full disclosure: I don’t like San Diego sports fans that much. Their fan base seems to be completely fueled by envy of all things Los Angeles and Oakland. If you don’t believe me, ask about the Padres chances and you’ll get a 30-minute screed about how much they hate the Dodgers for their wealth.

The Chargers? Ask a San Diego fan about them and you’ll get an even longer gripefest about the team moving to Los Angeles. Funny thing, San Diego has a lengthy history of losing games and teams to Los Angeles.

But I willingly concede that San Diego is a soccer town. I can’t explain why, but the city used to fill Qualcomm Stadium — a feat the Padres and Chargers couldn’t do — with a soccer team back in the 1970s-80s. The San Diego Sockers kept the old North American Soccer League afloat for years.

San Diego, in my opinion, could support a Major League Soccer team in its sleep. The town should’ve gotten Chivas USA back in the 1990s, only the team and league made a foolish decision of sharing a stadium with the LA Galaxy. Chivas stunk, lost its fan base because LA wasn’t going to support the worst of two soccer teams, and folded.

But San Diego would have enthusiastically supported mediocre soccer. It did before.

MLS has been expanding at a clip that I think is way too fast. Next year, Atlanta United and Minnesota United jump in to grow the league to 22 teams. A year later, the league will try to shoehorn a second franchise in LA again. David Beckham has supposedly been promised an expansion franchise for playing here. He wants it in Miami. That’s 24.

MLS envisions 28 teams eventually in the fold. Keep in mind how stupid this is: the English Premier League, arguably the elite league in the world, has only 20 teams. Serie A in Italy has the same. Bundesliga in Germany has 18.

That leaves four slots left with groups in Tampa, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Detroit; Nashville; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Sacramento; St. Louis; San Antonio and San Diego wanting in.

San Diego would, in normal circumstances, be a wise choice. To be frank, I still believe the city should’ve gotten the second Los Angeles team. The rivalry would have been amazing. San Diego would have drawn fans not just from the area, but neighboring Mexico. The Galaxy are to MLS what the Dallas Cowboys are to the NFL.

It’s not happening.

I don’t see California getting five teams, and Sacramento Republic FC already leads the lower-division United Soccer League in attendance with plans for a larger stadium in place if MLS OKs their plans.

The league has been wowed by the fan base for Orlando City SC, which makes the Tampa Bay Rowdies bid intriguing. And obviously I’ve no way to give a first-hand account, but a lower-division team in Cincinnati is averaging about 18,000 fans per game.

San Diego, meanwhile, has a reputation — a well-deserved one — but it’s not enough compared with the ticket stubs that these other cities can provide. According to a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the hearty souls who want a team will have to pony up a $150 million franchise fee and build a $250 million soccer specific stadium before 2020. MLS, as it turns out, won’t settle for Qualcomm Stadium any more than the Chargers will.

Or even better, somebody at MLS will come to his senses and say “Wait a minute, we’re going to have eight more teams than the best league on earth,” and stop expanding before it reaches 28.

The upshot is this: Major League Soccer has made more than its share of idiotic decisions, but they are decisions the league will have to live with. It’s nothing personal. It’s just stupidity. For professional soccer, San Diego is the right place at the wrong time.

What I think has held up the Dodgers offseason

To say that the Dodgers were just two wins away from the World Series simply doesn’t cut it, anymore.

Not when we are approaching 30 years without the Dodgers in the World Series. Not when every other team in the division has been to the World Series since then. Not since the Angels won the title and the Giants won three.

And definitely not when those two games were a mirage. The suggestion that the Dodgers were just two unlucky games — just a whisker away — from beating the Cubs to get to the Fall Classic is absurd.

So it’s a tad alarming when you realize the team has probably regressed. Much of the roster is mostly intact, except for an abyss at second base since Chase Utley became a free agent and Howie Kendrick was traded to Philadelphia. Rumors online have linked LA to Minnesota’s 42 HR-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier and Logan Forsythe of Tampa Bay.

A Dozier trade would be somewhat costly. Prized prospect Jose DeLeon might be part of a package deal. How good is he? Last spring, he was No.3 on the Dodgers list of most valued minor leaguers. The other two? Corey Seager and Julio Urias are already in the majors. DeLeon is the next impact guy up.

So the question is: Why not add Dozier and be done with it? Especially when you have about a dozen starting pitchers currently under contract led by Clayton Kershaw?

Because the Dodgers see this guy in Tulsa, Okla., as a possible Dozier type if they’re patient.

Willie Calhoun was somewhat unheralded, drafted in the fourth round in 2015 likely because of defensive deficiencies and a poor season playing for the University of Arizona. In the Pac-12, Arizona wanted him to be a contact hitter. Once he left the school and started swinging with a little uppercut, Calhoun started crushing home runs. Last year, he was second in the Texas League with 27 home runs. Compare that with Dodgers first baseman of the future Cody Bellinger, who hit 23 in the same league.

Only Calhoun’s batting average is a somewhat unimpressive .254.

So the Dodgers have a bit of a conundrum. They can afford to wait with Bellinger, because they are happy with Adrian Gonzalez at first. They can keep their No.1 prospect and let Dozier hate life in the Twin Cities. If they do that, however, they take the risk of a platoon situation at second base with a basket of deplorables or rush Calhoun. They also could trade for Dozier. In doing so, the Dodgers lose a likely No.2-level starter in the process and find out that Calhoun was the next Dozier in the first place.

If you’re wondering why the Dodgers are sleeping through the offseason, my guess is this is why.

Because they’re hitting the snooze alarm, which likely means year 30 of the World Series drought is coming sooner than you think.

Now we’re supposed to believe in Josh McDaniels?

In the nanoseconds after Jeff Fisher’s deserved dismissal as head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, rumors started to circulate about potential successors. The Jim Harbaugh one was particularly hilarious, but at least it’s not distressing.

Current Patriots assistant Josh McDaniels? Now that’s one that will bring grief.

Here’s the logic from your local NFL beat writer: Well, he’s helped create a scoring machine in New England. He did coach the Denver Broncos. He’s only 40, so he must be an innovator. And he’s learned the game under the great Bill Belichick.

Oh, Belichick is excellent at what he does … but creating great future NFL coaches is not one of them. Since everything that builds up McDaniels’ resume stems from working with the great Bill Belichick, we can reach a conclusion that hiring him would be a disastrous move by the Rams.

How do we know?

Let’s take it apart brick by brick. First of all, the Patriots aren’t necessarily a great offense because of McDaniels. They have this guy playing quarterback that you might have heard of.

Yes, McDaniels did manage to open with a six-game winning streak in his first year with Denver. Then he followed that by losing the last four games of the season to miss the playoffs. Afterward, he convinced the Broncos to invest the 25th overall pick of 2010 on Tim Tebow. McDaniels was later fired when the Broncos started 2010 with a 3-9 record.

That was about six years ago. In the meantime, he also served as the Rams offensive coordinator. You don’t think they had their fill of him when he was with the franchise the first time?

Finally comes the alleged Belichick coaching lineage. You’ve learned under the master, right?

Wrong, at least at the NFL level. Nobody is going to question the accomplishments of former Belichick assistant Nick Saban at the college level. But six Belichick assistants have gotten at least one opportunity to lead an NFL team. Of that, only three managed to reach the NFL playoffs and two managed to win a playoff game — Eric Mangini and Bill O’Brien.

O’Brien is the only former Belichick assistant working as a head coach in the NFL. He’s currently trying to figure out how to win games with Brock Osweiler under center in Houston.

Other super geniuses from the tutelage of Belichick include Jim Schwartz, Al Groh and Romeo Crennel. As for college, Kirk Ferentz is well-respected in Iowa, but Charlie Weis reduced Notre Dame to rubble.

Which brings us back to McDaniels, who supposedly has the tool set to turn Jared Goff into Tom Brady.

Patriots assistant coaches are the cockroaches of professional football. The hype that surrounds them — this aura in a hoodie syndrome — convinces beat writers to argue on their behalf. Make your team like the Patriots. Hire a Patriots assistant.

It’s the same argument that Madison Avenue made when it claimed wearing Uggz boots will land you in bed with Gisele Bundchen lookalikes. It’s fool’s gold. You have to pass on it.

There has to be more from the Galaxy

I read an authorless column from the Los Angeles Times this morning about how the moves made by the Los Angeles Galaxy were much ado about nothing because the team draws about 20,000 fans per game and the television ratings aren’t stellar.

I’m not sure that’s the point. Major League Soccer has mostly followed a slow-growth business strategy since its inception because it knew it wouldn’t surpass the NFL no matter what Fox News tells you about Colin Kaepernick. At some point, MLS might get ambitious and try to pass the NHL, but where club soccer ranks on the national landscape hasn’t been a factor.

Instead, Tuesday’s moves for the five-time champions appeared to be much ado about nothing because there is nothing to suggest the team will be any better next year. Even worse, it’s hard to tell if the team will qualify for the playoffs next year. Ultimately, that’s what matters to those 20,000 fans per game — which, I might add, is an attendance average that exceeds at least three Major League Baseball teams.

New coach Curt Onalfo is probably a good idea, despite what the afore-mentioned column suggests. True, the Galaxy have excelled at attracting internationally known soccer commodities. In my eyes, though, the least important star should be the coach. The U.S. men’s national team tried that approach with Jurgen Klinsmann and it didn’t exactly help.

In addition to four seasons as an MLS coach, Onalfo has served as the Galaxy’s USL coach. “Los Dos,” as fans like to call the team, has played pretty efficient soccer. To me, letting him run the big club is a sign of continuity. The Galaxy have earned that right to ask for fans’ trust there.

But the incoming players so far are underwhelming, at best. It seems to me the Galaxy have a trustworthy defense that doesn’t need addressing. Midfield and forward, though, are cringe-worthy at the moment. We already know about the departures of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard and Nigel De Jong. What might be under the radar for fans is that dependable scorers Mike Magee and Alan Gordon are no longer under contract, either.

The Galaxy acquired the rights to two midfielders yesterday. Jermaine Jones is a name MLS fans have heard of. He’s also a 35-year-old reserve. Miguel Aguilar is a guy who couldn’t regularly crack the lineup for his last MLS team. It’s hard to believe either of them will make an impact.

The team has two designated player slots for next year. For the uninitiated, it’s basically a way to circumvent the salary cap to acquire top-level talent. The rule was created so that the Galaxy could add David Beckham back in the day.

The sooner those slots get filled, the more likely we’ll be impressed.

There has to be more… Shouldn’t there? 

Humble request to “Indy 5” screenwriters 

Hi, crabby wordsmith-turned-Disney “cast member” with a laptop,

We all know you don’t have an easy task. Taking control of the iconic archeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones? It’s something all Hollywood screenwriters would simultaneously want and fear. There are generations of fanboys running around in leather jackets and fedoras with no idea how to use a bullwhip, all wanting to rescue Karen Allen. They’re all rooting for you, but privately expecting you to fail.

Because while two of the Indiana Jones movies were terrific, the other two have been dog poop so thick that I can’t scrape them off my shoe no matter how many curbs I drag my foot over.

Fortunately, the solution is relatively simple. It’s not as simple as “no more Shia LaBeouf swinging through trees with a pack of delightful monkeys,” but certainly doable. You’re only going to have to look away from your Hollywood lifestyle in order to do it.

The prize has to be a vital Judeo-Christian artifact.

Before you think I’m going to tell you to go turn your life over to Christ, hear me out.

Audiences do love the character, the music of John Williams, even the hat. But what makes a movie compelling are high stakes that the audience will suspend its disbelief for. So crystal skulls that glow like a night light? Um, what? How about another glowing potato-shaped stone in India? Nope. I didn’t get it then. I don’t get it now.

Imagine being 12 years old in a movie theater and finding out that there’s a container carrying the Ten Commandments and the army that possesses it is invincible. And that army might be the Nazis unless Indy acts now. Yeah, I’m in, because I may not have been able to recite the Ten Commandments, but I know what they are. I’ll suspend my disbelief for that.

Whoever drinks from the cup of Christ gets to live forever? Where do I get me some of that? Pay ten bucks at the theater? Why sho!

Even if you do not consider yourself to be a particularly faithful person, even if you’re an atheist, you’re more willing to suspend your disbelief over something you’ve at least heard of. Hell, even the Monty Python comedy troupe went for the Holy Grail.

You might have to explain yourself to the board of directors when you come up with a story about the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Shroud of Turin. I admit, Hollywood has changed a lot since Steven Spielberg was a young fellow with a mechanical shark and a dream. To them, you might want to add this is the type of movie that not only gets Indiana Jones freaks excited, but will appeal to the same folks who kept “Duck Dynasty” afloat for a decade. And they’ll see the film repeatedly.

So try not to give yourself a weeklong coughing fit when you wipe the dust off your parents’ Bible. And if you do believe in God, make sure to give thanks that He gave you this book with so many wonderful plot devices in it.

No compromise? Blame Harry Reid

I mentioned this a couple of years ago online and was promptly torched by buddies who are hard left: That changing the filibuster rules in the Senate a couple of years ago would eventually bite the Democrats in the ass because the next guy in the White House was going to exploit that to his advantage.

That was months before anybody even thought about the possibility of Donald Trump being that guy.

You can blame the electorate, white people, the Electoral College, the alt-right, Fox News, Twitter, James Comey, talk radio all you like for Trump landing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Maybe that’s valid, but I’m not really interested because she was a horrible candidate and person, too.

Who you should blame, though, if you find Trump’s actions and nominees extreme is outgoing Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who in his zeal to get as much of the Obama platform accomplished as possible reduced the filibuster rule to major court appointees. The filibuster used to be an effective tool in the upper chamber of Congress because if a law or nominee needed 60 votes just to come to a vote, it encouraged debate. It encouraged moderation, outreach.

Sure, it also often convoluted or torqued the original intent of the law, but I’m OK with that because in the grand scheme of things it should be difficult to pass laws. If it’s too easy to pass laws, then there’s a risk of tyranny.

But Reid, partisan villain that he is, couldn’t get 59 other senators to get with the program often enough. So as Senate majority leader he lowered the standard to a simple majority. That was fine for him — and many of you in California — when the Democrats had the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. Because the Senate filibuster rule was the only roadblock.

Obliterating that rule was based on the blind assumption that the Obama election opened the door for a permanent Democrat majority in Washington. It was a childish fantasy of a foolish old man.

Because now that the other side is in charge, the filibuster rule is needed and it’s not coming back.

You don’t like that the nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is a climate change skeptic? Are you a little weirded out by a guy who ran a right-wing troll blog as the right-hand man in the White House? Do you think Obamacare needed tweaking, but overall wasn’t horrible? Are you fearful that everything that you found helpful during the Obama presidency is gone?

Your concerns are probably valid. Your senator probably feels likewise. She should have the chance to be heard.

She won’t.

Blame Harry Reid.

We human beings need to listen to each other. While I am comfortable with my conservative beliefs, I recognize the trap of ideological purity. Ideological purity got us into the second Iraq War, for instance. Ideological purity can’t possibility sustain continued beneficial outcomes because it negates the point of view of at least 40 percent of the country and often a much higher percentage.

Frankly, it’s why California is always in a state of perpetual government-caused drama.

Only a zealot intoxicated with his own delusion of self-certitude would enact a rule that specifically states “We will never even listen to the minority. We want our way and that’s final.” In an attempt to cut out the tongue of Republicans in the Senste, he slit the wrists of the Obama agenda.

I’m not saying the rule paved the way for Trump to win the presidency. I’m just saying if he chooses not to listen to you, he won’t because he has the tools to do so now.

For that, blame Harry Reid. He’s made governance in the United States increasingly less statesmanlike and far more prone to turning the whims of extremists into law.

I must be hallucinating about the Rams

I’ve had bronchitis for more than a week. Bronchitis is an odd illness. For the most part, you feel cool. Then you cough and your mouth fills up with … Stuff. If people are around, you feel shame. Either way, you find a way to get rid of it and then you feel very light-headed.

And then you start to hallucinate.

Like how I read on ESPN, CBSSports.com and saw on “Fox NFL Kickoff” that the Los Angeles Rams extended Jeff Fisher’s contract for two more seasons. If I didn’t follow basic journalism standards of double-sourcing what I read, I’d have feared I grabbed a bag of shrooms instead of Ricola.

I have a theory. I’ll get to it after I quickly list all the reasons why Fisher doesn’t deserve an extension.

He’s coached for 22 seasons and had a total of six winning seasons. His last winning season came in the first year of the Obama presidency when he was in Tennessee. This means he hasn’t even reached 8-8 in any of his five seasons with the Rams.

In addition, he’s now on his second “franchise quarterback” with the Rams. The first, Sam Bradford, actually functions well enough in Minnesota. The current, Jared Goff, didn’t start until three weeks ago. Here’s my problem on whether Goff can develop. Consider offensive tackle Greg Robinson. The former No.2 overall pick was benched last week despite being healthy. This leads me to believe the Rams coaching staff has no idea how to teach young prospects to play the game.

The less said about the disappointment of Todd Gurley this year, the better.

So why would news leak out about a contract extension a week after the Rams were humiliated 49-21 by the Saints?

Could it be the sources inside the organization who leaked the information want fans such as you and I to be outraged? Infuriated?

The feeling here is that at 4-7, even people inside the Rams organization don’t back their coach. Or, since this extension was allegedly signed six weeks ago, the players heard about it and are staging a mini-mutiny.

And I can’t say that I blame them. It’s either that or fake an injury so that they don’t have to play for the guy.

So if you’re a Rams fan, by all means support your team — by calling for the coach to be fired.

Or maybe I’m full of it and the shrooms have me trippin’ balls.

Dodgers winter theme: Make it complicated!

The ironic thing about baseball’s winter meetings being held next week in Washington, D.C. is that it’s symbolic of Dodgers fans to their team.

Sports fans are like the electorate: Win for me. And in doing so, keep it simple because I’m a little drunk.

The Dodgers front office is like Hillary Clinton’s campaign: Making things so much about process they get lapped by a guy with a catchy slogan.

Which is why you shouldn’t expect much from the Dodgers other than directionless complex rumors that will involve dozens of names, multiteam deals and discussions of mind-blowing salaries. It will be a week of sound and fury. It will signify nothing.

It’s highly unlikely they will get the stars you’ve heard about online: Ian Kinsler? Nope. Chris Sale? Chris Archer? Ryan Braun? Hell, even Brian Dozier? Naw.

Here is what the Dodgers need: a second baseman, a third baseman, better starting pitching, a closer. Hopefully, the incoming infielders can hit left-handed pitching better.

You, the fan, shrug and say, “OK, resign Justin Turner, Rich Hill, Kenley Jansen and try to upgrade at second base. Simple.”

But the Dodgers have six former general managers in the front office. Much like last season, too many cooks will complicate this broth. Consider the first offseason with team president Andrew Friedman two years ago. One of his first “moves” was a three-team deal that involved eight players. The Marlins got a leadoff hitter in Dee Gordon. The Angels got a starting pitching in Andrew Heaney (who admittedly got injured in Anaheim, but he’s only 24). 

The Dodgers? All they have left on the roster from that deal is backup outfielder in Keke Hernandez and situational relief pitcher Chris Hatcher. Sound. Fury. Nothing.

The Cubs are still the world champs and there’s no reason to believe the Dodgers will close the gap despite having a vault of money that would make Scrooge McDuck jealous and a farm system that is the envy of the rest of professional baseball.

The Dodgers front office is everything that makes people break relationships: Sure, they’ve got sweet digs up in the hills. They’re also processors, addicted to admiring their own intellect, micro-managers and even worse, hoarders.

The Dodgers new philosophy for starting pitching was summed up by … Which of their six GMs said it?… Farhan Zaidi. You know how most teams want five guys they can rely on in the rotation? Well…

“We always talk about building a 162-game rotation, not necessarily a five-man rotation,” Zaidi said. “I think we have the guys to get through 162 games. Now it’s just a question of whether we can improve the quality and target some high-end guys that would really change the configuration of where guys slot in.”

Fascinating. Here’s the problem. To win the world championship, you have to play more than 162 games and that’s why the Dodgers got their asses kicked by Chicago in the National League Championship Series. 

Because Chicago kept it simple while the Dodgers patted themselves on the back marching out 31 pitchers.

Sound and fury to earn a playoff berth. Nothing in the playoffs.

Sure, the Dodgers will likely make some deal happen. But after hearing a flurry of big-time stars that will give you hope that the team will break its 29-year World Series drought, you’re going to be left with a trade for more injury-prone pitching and a hack reserve minor-leaguer who will make Trayce Thompson look like Andrew McCutcheon.

They are more likely to lose Hill, Jansen and Turner than to upgrade.

But hey, six GMs think they’re stronger together.