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August 13, 2013

WALK TALK: Latest Manziel storm makes me wonder why we value autographs

1 Johnny Manziel has had an eventful offseason since winning the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman last year. He’s currently being investigated for allegedly being paid for his autographs. That had me thinking: What’s the big deal with an athlete or celebrity’s autograph?

2 I’m sure many people profit off these autographs on eBay and that’s why most athletes only sign for children. But who set the standard that a person’s autograph is worth money? It’s just a scribble that’s usually not recognizable. Readers, please let me know what in your opinion is so important about a sports autograph. Email or write me your thoughts — with or without your signature included.

3 When closer Chris Perez allowed a three-run homer in ninth inning during the first game of the Indians’ four-game home series against Detroit last Monday, Cleveland’s possible run at an AL Central championship ended. The Tigers won that game 4-2 after the Tribe took a 2-0 lead into the ninth. Since that day, in which the Indians could have closed the divisional deficit to two games, Cleveland has won just once entering this Monday’s game. It’s amazing how one pitch basically decided the AL Central.

4 Perez should not be back with the Indians next year. His aforementioned blown save was his first since May 18 but it seems as if he always makes mistakes at crucial spots during the season. What’s worse is that the home run hitter last week was Alex Avila, who entered the at-bat with an average below .200. Then Perez skirted the media after the game, leaving the rest of his team to answer questions on the loss. It’s been a tumultuous few years for Perez and the Tribe, who would be better off with Vinnie Pestano or Joe Smith — or anyone! — pitching for the final three outs in the future.

5 Count this one as the surprising statistic of the week: Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg earned his first complete game with a shutout of the Phillies on Sunday. Strasburg is widely known as one of the best pitchers in the game, yet, after 67 career starts, he has just one complete game. There’s no doubting Strasburg’s talent, but for all the hype he’s received — one of the first stories I read about him said he was the LeBron James of baseball — his production to this point hasn’t met expectations.

6 Continuing last week’s division-by-division previews, we move next to the AFC East, which some believe is as clear-cut as the AFC West. The Patriots are once again the favorite, but their offense around Tom Brady is questionable if Rob Gronkowski isn’t healthy. Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez are gone, while Danny Amendola and Leon Washington are in a way their replacements. Brady has won with far less, but there’s another team in the division that will provide some competition ...

7 Every year, there’s a team that makes the playoffs after finishing with a sub-.500 record the season before. I believe that’s the 2013 Miami Dolphins, who should have one of the league’s most improved players in quarterback Ryan Tannenhill. His new favorite target is Mike Wallace, and we know Miami will be passing a lot due to uncertainty in the running game since Reggie Bush is now in Detroit. Miami’s defense and passing attack should be enough for 9-plus wins. Meanwhile, the Jets and Bills should battle for third place, as both have unreliable veterans and rookies battling for the starting quarterback spot.

8 The AFC South is where things become interesting considering the division has three playoff caliber teams. Houston looked like the best team in the NFL at times last year, only to struggle late, while the Colts had a quick resurgence behind rookie Andrew Luck. Everything points to the Texans being the class of the division for the third straight year and safety Ed Reed — if he’s healthy — could be an all-important veteran presence that puts them in Super Bowl contention.

9 The Colts are an interesting team, however. They’ll have a much tougher schedule than last year, while Luck could have a sophomore slump after surpassing the top-pick hype last season. Is Ahmad Bradshaw enough to help the team’s poor rushing attack? What will this defense look like without Dwight Freeney rushing the passer off the end? The Titans could give the Colts a run for their money as this division’s second-place team if Chris Johnson returns to his explosive form and Jake Locker is more than serviceable. The Jaguars, meanwhile, should be one of the league’s worst teams. Next week, we’ll head to the NFC, as I’ll save the area’s division of interest — the AFC North — for the final week of the preseason.

10 UFC champion Ronda Rousey, the lone reason why women compete in the UFC, made some waves this week after saying she may retire from the sport in two years. After all, Rousey has received movie offers — Expendables 3 and Fast & Furious 7 — which seem much better physically and financially than training every day and competing in the octagon. But it’s still an odd situation. Promoter Dana White brought a women’s division into the UFC just because of what he saw in Rousey, who was named the first champion. For her to walk away from the sport so quickly leaves a lot to be desired. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would much rather watch her compete in mixed martial arts than act in a feature film.

The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at dwalk@meadvilletribune.com.

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