Big Ben and Giant Problems

April 21

Big Ben is getting a six game suspension because he’s a social moron who apparently doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no” from a woman. He isn’t getting more because the aforementioned can’t be proven in court. Yet. He could end up with four games if he’s a good boy. Place your bets.

It was a raging controversy on Gary Radnich’s show today on KNBR. Will the Steelers unload their two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, or will they give Ben Roethlisberger one more chance? Because he’s one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, I’m betting he’ll stay in Pittsburgh unless the Steelers get an unbelievable deal. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s a reality.

I told Gary that for Big Ben, it’s “three strikes and you’re out.” I wasn’t thinking of his motorcycle accident, which was certainly a stupid act and can be put in the “Dumb Ben” file. I think the Steelers view that separately from the two alleged incidents with women. Those are moral issues in which someone else is allegedly getting hurt, and they’re on a different level from the bike crash. Two is a pattern. Three ? Time to cut ties.

I’m not optimistic his suspension and NFL-mandated therapy will become a wake-up call, although I always hope that even a dolt like Big Ben can learn and improve. If I’m the Steelers, I’m nervously counting the days until the next time he’s in a bar, has too much to drink, and something bad happens. That’s why the Steelers extended Byron Leftwich’s contract through 2011, just to cover all contingencies.

There have been numerous reports that Big Ben is trade fodder, one of which includes the Raiders. In a football sense it wouldn’t be a bad move for the Raiders to get a legitimate quarterback for a first-round pick, but Donovan McNabb, who is almost as good as Roethlisberger, went more cheaply. He was sent to the Redskins for a second round (37th) pick.

It always sounds plausible to include the Raiders in such a trade rumor because they’re the last refuge of the NFL scoundrel. That includes the owner. But Stubborn Al will probably ride the Jamarcus horse to the ground, and I don’t think other teams will be willing to give up a top ten for Big Ben, especially considering his off-the-field exploits.

The Steelers have a lot to lose short-term if they deal him away, but perhaps even more long-term. There may come a day, very soon, where they can’t unload him for a 5th rounder and a bag of Funyuns. It could be that teams are waiting out this little drama to see if that happens, because one team’s moral dilemma is another team’s cheap ticket to the playoffs.

***

I am again resisting the temptation to claw my eyes out as I watch the Giants take on the Padres in San Diego. Todd Wellemeyer came very close to spontaneously combusting on the mound in the second inning, walking four in a row. He walked in a run with the bases loaded and as of this writing the Giants trail, 4-1 in the 6th.

Despite a decent spring, no one expected Wellemeyer to be a miracle worker. He’s had some bad matchups as a #5 starter against the opponents’ #1 or #2, but his resume doesn’t suggest he’ll be anything more than a five or six-inning guy who gives up three or four runs an outing. It also doesn’t suggest he’ll be a starter all season — long relief is probably his best role, and the sooner the better.

In case you’re wondering, Madison Bumgarner’s latest start in Fresno Monday night vs. Portland was his first solid outing of the year. He gave up one earned run and three hits with three strikeouts in six innings and his fastball was clocked as high as 94 on the stadium radar gun. If that’s an accurate reading, it’s very encouraging news.

Wellemeyer is probably on a short leash. The Giants will need to find an alternative and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bumgarner return. Catcher Buster Posey should join him, and I’d like to think the Giants will forget about his free-agency clock and call him up before June if the need arises.

Guess what? The need has arisen, Posey is batting .354 and he has nothing left to prove in the minors. You find a place in the lineup for a good bat.

Oh look. Aubrey Huff just popped out on the first pitch from Jon Garland with two runners on and nobody out. Then Bengie Molina grounded into a double play. Just unbearable.

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