Monday, June 30, 2008

Transactions....


Do yourself a favor—with the Beijing Olympics coming, keep an eye out for Bela Karolyi calling the gymnastic routines. I just saw him coloring for Bob Costas at the Olympic gymnastic trials, and Bela let loose with a whole lot of freaky-crazy bizarre responses hed had right at his fingertips. Watching Costas try not to laugh as Karolyi goes on and on with some of the most nonsensical color commentary you'll ever see might be absolutley priceless TV.


How are the White Sox getting everyone to have career year at the same time? They must have force-fed Carlos Quintin his spinach because his slugging percentage is up .200 points over last year and is tied for the AL lead with 19 HRs. Also, they have John Denks pitching at almost 3 runs under what his ERA was last year. In fact their whole staff seems to be pitching like they're tapping into their inner Cy Young. Even after trading Jon Garland, arguably their staff's most reliable starter, the White Sox are pitching at a remarkable 3.39 ERA, when last year's staff threw up a meaty 4.77 ERA. And the team as a whole is batting almost 20 points higher than last year's squad. So it begs the question: were last year's team playing below their talents, or is this year's squad playing way above?


So Manny Ramirez shoves a traveling secretary to the ground for not getting him 16 free tickets. No big deal, it's just Manny being Manny.


Why is Seattle in such a rush to get rid of Eric Bedard? The Mariners, just a few months after they traded a bunch of prospects for him, are now practically treating him like a running sore they just want to get rid of. Well yes, he got off to a slow start—not unusual for a pitcher in a new town—but now, he's got his ERA down to a 3.79 and his WHIP down to a more representative 1.30. Also, his last 19.2 innings, he's had 18 Ks, more like the Bedard of old. So why is Seattle shopping him? I know, Seattle's season is already shot, and Bedard hasn't exactly made a bunch of friends in Seattle, but why trade him, when you can keep the 29-year-old lefty and pair him with Felix Hernandex for the next 8 years or so? My advice, Seattle, keep Bedard as part of the cornerstone to build on. Lefties like him don't grow on trees.


Of course, I've got all the faith in the world with Donnie Walsh's track record....but man, he better be sure about this Italian kid he just drafted. because if this kid is more Fredric Weis than Dirk Nowitzki, the crowd at MSG will take his head.


See the picture to the left. It'll give you a hint as to why I don't want the Yankees to trade for Rich Harden.


And lastly, regarding Wimbledon, I don't know about you, but I just have a good feeling about this Federer guy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Folly of Benchmarks

I love box scores. Baseball box scores, specifically. Look at the top of my blog and you'll see box score from all kinds of sports, NCAA, football, but mostly baseball. That's because no other sport treasures stats the way baseball fans do, and with reason. The game of baseball is beautiful and in all the box scores and stat sheets, you can see people trying to quantify the beautiful game in front of them. Trying to explain by breaking it down into numbers and charts. Other sports do the same, but no other game is quite like baseball in exactly this way.

The only problem with this is you create a church of the numbers—a unshakable standard by which you define greatness. 300 wins, 500 HRs, 3000 hits. Reach this number and you are great. Do not, and you are not. Which is really kind of silly. Had Roberto Clemente not ripped a Jon Matlack pitch for his 3,000th hit and instead had gotten only 2,999, would they have not given him a place in Cooperstown? Seriously. The man had earned his way whether he got that last hit or not.

Conversely, consider Gary Antonin Sheffield. Looking at his career, anyone can see Gary has some nice numbers—he’s at 484 HRs; if he gets to 500, he’s a shoo-in for the Hall, yes?

Ummm, no. Despite the nice numbers, Gary, to my mind, has done more to hurt the game of baseball and the integrity therein than almost any other player of his generation (excepting, of course, Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco). A player's achievements can be overshadowed to some degree by bad sportsmanship, like, say, purposely dropping fly balls or overthrowing first base to show his disdain for the team. Throwing teammates under the bus and generally being a clubhouse cancer practically every stop of his career. Or heck, I don’t know, cheating at the game by taking illegal drugs. Really, no matter how nice your stats, at some point, the numbers go out the window.

However, baseball's Hall of Fame has fairly clear parameters and benchmarks. They want definable greatness, and if a player doesn't have it; they are, to put it reluctant to include him in the discussion.

One person really nailed by this ridiculous need for a benchmark number is Bert Blyleven. Seriously, check his stats. The guy had an amazing career. For starters, the guy is 5th all-time in strikeouts (ahead of some Hall-worthy names like Walter Johnson, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, and Warren Spahn), 9th all-time in shutouts (ahead of Sutton, Steve Carlton, and Early Wynn). He had 242 complete games, placing him ahead of HOF pitchers, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. His SO-to-BB ratio ranks him ahead of Gaylord Perry, Seaver, and yes, Don Sutton.

So what's the difference between Blyleven and all the names mentioned above. Blyleven has comparable (if not, in many cases, better) numbers than all of them...except one. Every single one of them not named Bert Blyleven is a Hall-of-Famer and every single one of them has 300 wins.

I could go through a whole litany of statistics culled from various (wonderful and terrible) web sites, but believe me when I say that Blyleven matches up to Sutton, Perry, Seaver, Ryan and the like. (You can have Walter Johnson—he was much better.) The only stat that Blyleven lacks is the wins. Unlike Sutton or Seaver, who played for much better teams, Blyleven played for a whole slew of bad teams (hence the need for him to eat a lot of
innings when maybe he could have been taken out earlier in some games). The result is while his ERA is an extremely commendable 3.31 (again, especially considering he pitched in some hitter's parks for many years), his W-L wasn't where it should be—at least where the HOF people think it should be. Therefore, a pitcher whose stats—excepting the benchmark one—are worthy, gets left out.

But this article really wasn't about Blyleven; it was about statistics—lies, damned lies and statistics. It's not that I don't think numbers aren't important—I use them myself to prove a point all the time. But it doesn't account for the whole picture, for the entirety of the player and his effect on the team. Sometimes a player is more than his stats. Just look at Phil Rizzuto and 1950; the year he won the MVP by a huge margin (he was 2nd place the year before). His teammate, Yogi Berra, if you look at the stats was better. Their BA was comparable; Rizzuto's .324 to Berra's .322. But Berra had 28 HRs to Rizzuto's 7; his OPS was 916 to Rizzuto's .857. But talk to anyone from that era, and they will tell you Rizzuto deserved it; it wasn't just about good stats—he was the engine that made those Yankees run, and the guys who saw Rizzuto play knew it. In fact, Ted Williams famously said, "The Red Sox would have won all those pennants if [Rizzuto] had played in front of me."

Yes, we need them when a player's career is done, to verify his worthiness. But really, it doesn't do justice to a player’s legacy. Bill James, the stat guru—nay Messiah—himself, and self-purported gatekeeper of the Hall of Fame feels stats don't tell all about a player. In his book The Politics of Glory, James himself says that it's "a terrible idea" to establish fixed statistical standards to judge candidates for the Hall of Fame.

And to that we should say, Amen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Transactions....

Wait...Shaq still thinks he can rap?

Maybe Shaq should have sung this one...
Could have been the best big man ever to play this game
But I didnt work hard and just relied on natural ability
Never got into shape till February
Whut! Whut!
One other thing...I don't understand about this ridiculous "controversy" is the "that's just the MC culture" defense. There's been a lot of this defense lately—the "You don't get it, that's just the (fill in the blank) culture" defense. So relax, that's just the way they are, no big deal.

Right.

So, the culture Michael Vick grew up in electrocutes dogs, hangs them from trees—but we shouldn't get upset, Hey! That's just his culture.

OK, sure. Another culture performs cliterectomies on girls at age 13—but we shouldn't get upset. That's just their culture. Still another culture buries homosexuals in cement and punishes women for unforgivable crime of reading by shooting them in the back of the head. But hey, we shouldn't get upset—that's just their culture. Our culture, not too long ago kept an entire people in bondage...I guess we shouldn't haven't changed, because, hey, that was our culture.


OK, enough. Let's get to the sports. The big rumor going around yesterday is that the Yanks might be interested in Bronson Arroyo. Please let that just be media wishful thinking. Let's check the stats. For starters, Arroyo's got a 5.55 ERA (in the National League, mind you), has given up 104 hits in 86 innings, 14 of those being HRs. In fact, he's usually in the top 10 of the NL in giving up dingers—not what you want in short-porch rightfield Yankee Stadium. It gets worse. This year, he has a whopping 7.04 ERA against left-handers. Not what you want when you're facing Big Papi in October.

The stats go on. He has gotten progressively worse as his time in the NL has gone on. He's gotten past the 7th inning (again, in the lighter-hitting NL) once this season. And, for the post-season wishing Yanks, hear this—he's been awful in the postseason in his career. Oh by the way, he'll earn over 20 mil the next two season. All in all, not the best pickup for the Yankees.


By the way, Byron Leftwich still plays football. And he'd like a job, please if you have an opening. Hello....National Football League...hello?


BTW, word is the Redskins already have feelers out to Bill Cowher for nxt year's job. That's right—they have feelers out, before Jim Zorn even has his first freakin' camp. Nice organization.


The fact that Derek Jeter was ahead of Barry Zito on the MLB Junior High School girl-esque "Overrated List" just proved how whine-y and pathetic an idea that list really was.


Also in the NFL news, while Chad Johnson gets all the headlines, word out of Bengal camp is that things are going quite well. Carson Palmer is making all the receivers giddy with the work he's put in to his deep ball accuracy and Joseph Johnson is turning heads on the defensive end. Along with a pretty good draft (including much-needed DT help in Pat Sims), the Bengals might actully live up to potential this year. Marvin Lewis would like that very much, yes.


Latest word is Brian Cashman "seems likely to sign a contract extension" with the Yankees. Thank the lord for small mercies. Hank "mini-George" could have easily turned the Yanks into the Redskins North and we'd never get to smell a championship no matter how much money he threw out there.


And lastly, no comment. just wanted to show this picture of Al Davis.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More BCS BS

College football's crazy old grandfather/coot Joe Paterno is mad. A little while back, the Bowl Championship Series voted to keep its format instead of developing a college football playoff system.

"To be frank with you, I don't know what the reasons are not to have a playoff," Paterno said. "You can talk about missing class and all that kind of stuff, [yet] you see basketball go on forever. You have a lot of bogus excuses, but obviously the majority of people who have the say don't want it."


Of course they don't want it. Those people are making money. Serious money. And changing that system—even though the current one doesn't serve college football, even though the coaches, players and fans want it—to a playoff system makes no sense to them. Heck, they might lose some money.

And yes, everyone wants it. Fans have been clamoring for it for years. Players from Ohio State, Auburn and others have spoken out for it. And after a BCS vote this spring for keeping the current system, a number of college coaches spoke out.

Former Navy and current Georgia Tech coach, Paul Johnson said this: "Personally, I don't see any reason why you can't have a playoff...I think you'll see a plus-one (format) here before long, maybe a four-team playoff or something because all it's going to take is a couple more people to feel like they got (the shaft)."

There are a bunch of horse poo-encrusted reasons the commissioners give for not voting for a playoff system—the kids "missing class time" being the funniest. Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany also stated, with a straight face, that a playoff system would somehow diminish the "sanctity" of the regular season. He didn't explain how.

Excrement. The only reason the college football commissioners don't want a playoff system is money. In a recent meeting of the twelve major conferences and Notre Dame, only two (the SEC and the ACC) voted to even continue talks about a playoff system. The rest voted to not even consider a playoff system until 2014. Why 2014? Because that's when the current TV contracts the Big Ten and Pac-10 have with the Rose Bowl runs out.

Money, dawg. Money.

Right now, college football has never been more financially sound. The TV deals are bringing in huge revenue—the BCS still has two more years on a $320 million dollar deal with Fox, and can renegotiate with bowl-hungry ABC/ESPN as soon as the deal ends. Heck, Notre Dame has never been worse on the field and NBC still reupped with Notre Dame this week through 2015 even though the current contract didn't run out till 2010.

There's the old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." So really, why would the commissioners of these divisions screw with a machine that coughs out mega-coin each and every year for them?

They won't. In fact, the only reason the SEC and the ACC voted to discuss a playoff system wasn't because they wanted to help out the common fan; they felt their divisions (both in the southeast, with rabid fans) could make more money in a playoff system—more games, more tailgating, hotels, more TV rights to sell. The Big East, the PAC-10 and especially the Big Ten on the other hand want nothing to do with a system that jeopardizes what they feel works fine as is. (That goes especially for the Big Ten, which doesn't have a championship game and would have to create one for the new playoff system-something it strongly doesn't want to do.) And as I stated before, the PAC-10 and the Big 10 both have a hugely profitable relationship with the Rose Bowl and the proposed "Plus One" guarantees that every Big Ten playoff game would be a road game—why jeopardize that with some playoff system, which may or may not guarantee a huge TV contract?

I wrote a proposal last fall about a new playoff system here: http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2007/11/bowl-blackmail.html
In it, there's design to use a 16-team playoff system like they do in Division 1-AA and which used a playoff system that has the team with the better record gain home field advantage in the playoffs. This proposal would keep the "sanctity" of the regular season intact and would spread the wealth of a big postseason games around the country instead of just the South. Is it possible the BCS commissioners would go for it, especially with the impending retirements of PAC-10 and Big East commissioners, Tom Hansen and Mike Tranghese—two opponents of a playoff system.

Answer: They won't. There will be a college playoff system—never. And I won't even use my words to explain—I'll let the gods of college football, in a rare moment of honesty, explain.

“We have decided that because we feel at this time the BCS is in an unprecedented state of health, we feel it’s never been healthier during its first decade, we have made a decision to move forward in the next cycle with the current format,”

ACC commissioner and BCS coordinator John Swofford said. Big 10 commissioner was just as clear, when you read his next quote through the eyes of money:

"We think the burden for changing is on the proponents of change, not on the group that brought a bowl and two conferences from one place of tradition to a place that is ten years old.

In other words, we're rich off the system. We're not changing it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Transactions....

It's a sad day in sports. Craphonso Thorpe—the best named man in American Sports—was waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars, meaning the NFL might be without a Craphonso this fall.


Gotta say about the whole Firing Willie thing...sounds like it was done classy. This is according to Newsday:

Minaya apparently fired Randolph, along with the two coaches, from his room at the team hotel. The shocking news was delivered by a mass e-mail sent to the media at 3:11 a.m. EST and included the replacements: Jerry Manuel, the bench coach for Randolph, is now the interim manager.

Nice. Makes Jerry Jones firing of Tom Landry via the media almost seem classy.


Mets fans. I have some more bad news. Read this.

Scott Kazmir—6-2, 1.74 ERA. 0.97 WHIP. Has given up 10 hits in last 21 innings.
Victor Zambrono—Still out of baseball.

How is Jim Duquette, then-GM of the Mets allowed to work anywhere in baseball? Really?


What's in the water over at Yankee Stadium? Especially the pitchers' water. Here's a quick look at their injury list.

  • Chien Ming Wang—Out til September at the earliest.
  • Chris Britton—Placed on the 15-day disabled list
  • Ian Kennedy—Out at least another two weeks
  • Jonathan Albaladejo—Out for the season
  • Brian Bruney—Transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
  • Phil Hughes—Out till August.
  • Humberto Sanchez—Transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
  • Carl Pavano—Placed on the 60-day disabled list.
  • Andrew Brackman—Out for season

And that doesn't include Posada, A-Rod, Wilson Betemit, Jeff Karstens and Andy Petitte—all of whom spent time on the DL this season.


Speaking of injuries to the Yanks pitching staff, I don't see the Yankees trading for C. C. Sabathia. And neither do MLB scouts. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, here's what they had to say.

"I'd be very surprised if that happened," said one official from a major-league team who follows the Yankees closely. "Cash has been very conservative the past few years."

Brian Cashman has dramatically changed the Yankees' culture. No longer do they trade multiple prospects for 21/2 months of Denny Neagle, or commit four years to Carl Pavano.
Amen to that. Not that I wouldn't be interested in Sabathia, but giving up a package of Austin Jackson, Phil Hughes and Alan Horne for four months of C.C. just doesn't float my boat.


And lastly, on a more serious note......between the U.S. Gold Open and the European Soccer Championship, I was glued to the T.V. this past weekend. The thrill of a putt...the magic of 66 straight minutes of no shots on goal. Aww yeeah., that's sports, baby.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Myth of "Fire"

In 1998, ESPN wrote that the Indianapolis Colts should take Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning. In their magazine, they wrote that while Manning was hard-working and diligent, Leaf showed that "fire," that "give-me-the-ball-coach" spark that proved winning itself. Manning in turn, was too cerebral, too highbrow. Leaf liked monster trucks, was a guy's guy, doesn't give a crap. Manning was a daddy's boy. Don't trust me, read for yourself. Here's the url of the article and look back in anger.

http://espn.go.com/magazine/vol1no03manningleaf.html

When Lou Pinella
was hired to be manager of the Tampa Bay Rays (Devil Rays at the time), the media went into a frenzy. From Sportscenter to talk radio, to even the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the media was united; Lou Pinella was exactly the guy the Rays needed to kick their butts and get them into contention. And while the Rays did improve somewhat, eventually Pinella's constant berating of his young players (prompting The New York Times among others to ask "Are the Devil Rays Tired of Their Manager") and his frequent public airings of complaints with Tampa Bay's payroll ("I ain't gonna take responsibility for this. If they had given me a better payroll..."), prompted the Rays to buy out Pinella, show him the door and let him take the Chicago Cubs managerial job, where he got the giant payroll he required. Meanwhile, the Rays hired longtime bench coach and baseball "teacher," Joe Maddon---he of the horn-rimmed glasses and quiet disposition. Currently, the Rays are 40-28, with a team salary of 43 million—2nd lowest in baseball. I guess maybe money wasn't the problem.

There's this myth, this cliche that travels around sports media. I like to call it the "Ray Lewis" myth. And that myth is this: that the fiery player, the guy who screams and shows undue emotion is the better player than the cerebral guy, the guy who doesn't have a scowl on show and doesn't needlessly draw attention to himself. Those guys, the quiet ones, are at a disadvantage in our society. Not drawing attention to yourself must mean you have something to hide, becau
se if you were great, why wouldn't you flaunt it? "Cerebral" has come to mean "not passionate;" in sports it's come to mean you're unathletic. Conversely, a "fiery" player, an "intense" player is desirable. Passion, screaming, that's what wins games, right? Just ask Rasheed Wallace.

Google Jeremy Shockey. This week alone, there have been a whole slew of articles saying teams should acquire him—because his "fire" and his "passion" are important. Clifton Brown of The Sporting News writes that while "Shockey is an emotional player who sometimes implodes for no good reason...he's always been a fiery player, and his emotions could be valuable...". Bob Mathews of the Buffalo Democrat and Chronicle agrees. He wants the Bills to trade for Shockey because as an "outspoken and fiery player...He'd bring enthusiasm, talent and star power to the Bills."

And "Star power" is what exactly? Did Jerry Rice lack it because he never concocted a nickname for himself like Ocho Cinco? Did Barry Sanders lack it as well when he ran 85 yards for a touchdown and calmly flipped the ball to the ref and jogged back to the sideline instead of doing a patented celebratory dance in the endzone involving a cell phone and a cheerleader? Having a "fier
y attitude" never got Charles Barkley a ring, did it? And a fiery attitude sure didn't help the Giants, did it? Did they need Shockey's "star power" one bit on their road to a Super Bowl—as Eli suddenly seemed more confident as he was able to spread the ball around without fear of Shockey's pouting and screaming?

More important than star power and intensity, maybe sportswriters should ask, "Can the guy play?" "Is he a right fit for this team?" Shockey has the numbers and the talent, no doubt. But maybe Kevin Boss is a better fit for the Giant's offense. No, Boss is not a better player. He clearly doesn't have the skill set of Shockey, but he is a better blocker, something the Giants' offense requires the TE to do a lot. So maybe in Coughlin's offense, he is a better fit, and not the circle in the square peg. So, why aren't sportswriters discussing whether Shockey's talents fit what the Giants need, instead spreading nonsense about "star power" and "an in-your-face-attitude?" Especially when you consider that his two lowest output games last year (1 catch in each), the Giants won. In his best game - 12 catches - the Giants lost.

The evidence goes back to Lou Gehrig and beyond that a quiet demeanor doesn't necessarily mean you can't play. And having a brash attitude doesn't mean you can (ask self-nominated people's choice Freddie Mitchell). Greg Maddux maybe never showed the "intensity" of
Scott Kamieniecki; John Stockton maybe never was the fiery personality Nick Van Exel was, does that mean that Maddux and Stockton couldn't play?

Well, maybe they were no Ryan Leaf.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Best Quotes In Sports

Athletes, by nature, are not supposed to be known for their words, but for their deeds. Sometimes, however, for better or for worse, an athlete says something that just sticks in your memory. Either because it's totally cool or because it's so mind-boggling dumb. Here are some of my favorites, and if you don't see yours, write it out on the reply board.


"We'll be back after this word from Manufacturer's Hangover." — The often inebriated Ralph Kiner

Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth. — Mike Tyson

That Emmitt Smith is a great running back. He sees the hole, then he runs through it!" — John Madden

I don't want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it. — Rogers Hornsby

"Play some Picasso." — Former New Jersey Net Chris Morris, to a piano player at a hotel bar while trying to impress a date.

"Once he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his ass sliding into second." - Satchel Paige talking about Cool Papa Bell

"Been in this game one hundred years, but I see new ways to lose 'em I never knew existed before." — Casey Stengel about the 1962 Mets

"I ain't gonna be no escape-goat!" — Karl Malone.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." — John Wooden

"It's a partial sellout." — Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Caray, about the 6,000 fans and many empty seats in Fulton County Stadium.

"It's almost like we have ESPN." — Magic Johnson, on how well he and James Worthy work together

"Do they leave it (Fenway's Green Monster) there during the game?" — Spaceman Bill Lea

Running...It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you're tired -- you quit when the gorilla is tired. — Robert Strauss

"Just one. Whenever I hit a home run, I make certain I touch all four bases." — Babe Ruth on if he had any superstitions

"If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?" — Vince Lombardi

"I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to." — Shaquille O'Neal on whether he had visited the Parthenon during his visit to Greece

"We've got to learn to stay out of triple plays." — Casey Stengel about the 1962 Mets

"Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?" - Carmen Berra (Yogi's wife) "Surprise me." — Yogi Berra

"The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline." — Bum Phillips

"Reginald. Martinez. Jackson. You've got a white first name, a Spanish middle name, and a black last name. No wonder you're so messed up." — Mickey Rivers to Reggie Jackson

"Fans don't boo nobodies." — Reggie Jackson

And probably my favorite. When the Red Sox fans starting razzing Mariano Rivera the game after he gave up a game-winning run, he said this:

"That's OK. I don't mind. Because in their hearts, I know they fear me."

Please write in with your own favorites.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Transactions....

Best of luck, Mike Strahan. And good choice going out after the most amazing Super Bowl I've ever seen. How could you possibly top that?


And why would you want to spend time in the same locker room as that dillweed, Shockey? Like seemingly every other athlete upset about his "treatment," Shockey first claims how, unlike his team, he's not going to air his grievances in public. He then, of course goes on to air his grievances in public. "The Giants said untrue things about him." "They use me wrong." "Not fair."Blah, blah blah. God, I wish this guy would get traded to the Saskatchawan Rough Riders.


How come Joel Sherman gets paid to write about the Yankees and I don't. If you read this morning's New York Post, you have to know that he knows less about the Yankees than the average fan. OK, that's a little harsh, but this quote, and his whole desperate "win-now" article make no sense. Read:

But if I were the Yanks, I would hone in on Garrett Atkins as long as the belief was that he could play first. He is about to get very expensive and, in Ian Stewart, Colorado has a high-end prospect ready to replace Atkins at third now. Atkins destroys lefty pitching and is not a free agent until after 2010. Colorado needs a longterm answer in center, and the Yanks should not be afraid to deal Melky Cabrera as a key element to a major deal (does Cabrera, Kennedy and Melancon get this done?).
Hmmm, so you have a team that is creaky-old and well out of the race for the playoffs. So by all means,, trade your youngest player and the farm system you have been building for years. Yeah, because that worked so well in the 80s. (Would you still make the Doug Drabek for Rick Rhoden trade, Sherman?) Seriously, Cabrera, Kennedy AND Melancon? Why not throw in the new Yankee Stadium? Sure, Atkins is a nice player, but what do we do with Giambi, Matsui and Damon in the 1B/LF/DH mix? And yes, Shelley hasn't hit much, but that's partially because he plays once every six days because he's buried behind aging vets with fat contracts. So you propose the Yanks give up a young talented, pitcher, another young pitcher who's tabbed to be the 8th inning guy possibly as soon as August. And we give up Melky and do what? Play chicken-arm Damon back in center, Matsui back in left, every day (even though his knees still hurt?) And this is the trade that would get us back to the playoffs. No.


You know, no matter how many times they throw up pictures of Bird and Magic, Russell and Chamberlain, this NBA Finals series still doesn't make my blood rise. Just can't seem to care.


How long until the "Barry Bonds to...." rumors to EVERY TEAM team go away? Bary going to Boston, to Milwaukee, to Texas. Enough. Let him just crawl away please.


And lastly, just a big league move by Cedric Benson this weekend. You've been a professional disappointment. And you have one case pending of DUI, (in this case, a boat) so what do you do? Do you lay low and show up to camp in good shape, ready to prove something. Or do you go out, break curfew, got drunk with dinner and then go drive a car. Hmmm, tough choice. But I guess not if you're Cedric. Just a class move by the now-surefire Grand Poobah Winner of Supreme El Busto of the 2005 draft. Just a dunce move, Cedric.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Next Year in the Bronx

A couple of months ago I called 2008 "a correction year" for the Yankees. A look around now shows that I was even more right than I knew.

A walk-off HR from Jason Zombie last night brought the Yankees to .500 and kept them from last place. 60 games into the season, they are 6 1/2 games out of first. They are 5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.

And after, taking this all in, I have this to say: part of me wants them to lose.

It's just a small part. But as I watch Yanks this year, I can't help escaping that they a poorly-constructed Frankenstein of a team, with Steinbrenner, his Tampa cronies and Brian Cashman each building a part of the team in a different vision, with the end result mish-mosh of talented players who don't compliment each other very well. A team that has some past their prime oldsters mixed with rushed rookies. A team paying over 200 million, but stuggling to .500. A completely average overpaid mismade team.

The late 90s Yanks were a team built from within (Posada, Jeter, Petitte, Bernie, Mariano, etc) who then went on the market and signed or traded for for low-risk, high-reward character-type players—Scott Brosius and Paul O'Neill, for example. If you take a look at the Tampa Bay Rays, you see a team built the same way. Their core are young guys from within, Carl Crawford, B.J Upton, James Shields, Evan Longoria, etc; then supplemented but smart, low-risk trades and signings—the best of these being the pickup of Troy Percival, who has not only solidified the pen, but has become a mentor for the young staff.

The Yanks are not that way—at least anymore. After 2001, Steinbrenner and his cronies went hog wild on the free agent market to the detriment of the farm system, signing Sheffield, Giambi, Randy Johnson, etc. During this period this time, not a lot of youngsters came up and filled in spots. Recently, we have Cano, Wang and Melky....but that's it. The rest of the team are aging and creaky guns-for-hire, like Damon, Abreu and Giambi.

Now the Yankees can pull it together and go on a 22 game winning streak. They are far too talented to count completely. Individually they have massive amounts of talent, however, if you watch them regularly, you see they just don't complement each other—which leads to bursts of offense, but as a whole, it isn't sustained.

For instance, as opposing teams have found out, the Yankees have a serious Achilles' Heel against lefties—they have a soft .260 BA against lefties (10th in the AL) and 119 strikeouts (3rd in the AL), as oppossed to batting .275 against righties (3rd in the AL) and dead last (which is good) in strikeouts against righties.

A reason for this—aside from the fact that Shelly Duncan's path to serious playing time is clogged by aging and broken vets, Damon, Giambi, Abreu and Matsui, all lefties, all free agent signings—was the signing of Sheffield. That offseason, Brian Cashman, as indeed most of the western world expected the Yankees to make a serious play for Vladimir Guerrero—the premier right-handed bat on the market. Indeed, Cashman had a handshake deal with Guerrero's agent. Alas, George Steinbrenner and his crew in Tampa did not agree. They had a dinner in Tampa where Sheffield lives and George took a shine to him, and signed the aging RF pretty much on the spot.

So how'd that work out/ Sheffield had some decent, though not great numbers the first two years in pinstripes. That is, until his again body broke down and his asshat of a personality drove him out of the Bronx after his 3rd year here. Guerrero, meanwhile batted roughly 30 points higher, had a much higher slugging percentage and OPS+. And, oh yeah, he won the MVP. Also, being 10 years younger, is still there in Anaheim. Gary Sheffield is gone. And done.

The Yanks are a Steinbrenner designed offense, which is to say, designed for the HRs. And if you are built that way, your offense is feast or famine. And they are. Another example: In 2000, the last year they won the Series, they were 3rd in the AL in walks. This year, so far, they are 10th. Also, they are a molassas-like 11th in stolen bases. Not surprisingly, Tampa is first in stolen bases. The Yanks have grounded into 55 rally-killing double-plays, roughly one a game. The Rays with their speed and ability to generate runs, has grounded into only 40. One more stat: The Yanks are back in the pack on defense in the AL, ranking 9th in assists (see also, "Damon's chicken-arm") and 7th in fielding percentage. Who's first in fielding percentage, you ask? Of course, the speedy young Rays.

To risk repetition, the Yanks are a poorly-constructed built team, built on individual stats and not cohesion. Not team play. If you look at the 1996 Yankees, the indiviual stats don't jump off the page, but they played well as a team, driving in runs in key situations. Making the sacrifice, taking the extra base They were able to do the small stuff. This team, is too bloated to notice the small stuff.

Of course, I want the Yankees to win. I want them to humiliate every team they play against, but speaking truly, a small part of me wants them to lose, so management is forced to blow up the team after this season. That means jettisoning Giambi, Abreu, Pavano, Farnsworth-less, Petitte, etc, recouping the compensatory picks, and starting fresh. With a team that's designed with one concept in mind, isn't overbloated with Zombies clogging the DH position because they can't field, or with broken outfielders past their prime, and can start looking like the those Yanks of 1996.

Or at least the Rays of today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Transactions...

First off, if this is it for John Smoltz, and I hope it's not, we have seen the last of baseball's fiercest competitors and one of the most unselfish guys ever to play the game. When his team needed him to switch to the bullpen, he did it no problem, even though it cost him a shot to get 300 wins. And he was awesome in the pen. If he retires right now, he has a career E.R.A. of 3.26, 210 Wins and 154 saves.s. That's a first-ballot guy in my book.
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Speaking of injured guys, I hope like heck Rocco Baldelli can make it back. Watching him recently in a batting cage spraying line drives just reminded me how talented a kid he was. And if that's not enough, listen to what he said about coming back:

I plan on coming back [this season]," Baldelli said. "I don't know when it will be. Like I said, the discussion of the role that I'm going to have when I come back will probably be a pretty important discussion, because it's obviously not going to be what I've been used to while I've been here, and I'm fine with that. I just want to come back and help this team any way that I can. I'm perfectly OK with doing anything I have to do."
A good kid, a nice player. I hope he can make it.
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The Nationals have a real chance to make the record books this season.; the worst hitting outfield of all time. As of last week, the six guys the have listed as outfielders are a combined .200 BA and have 6 HRs between them. Worst of them is Elijah Dukes, not quite batting his weight at .148. He has yet to go yard either. And to think, this outfield is accomplishing this dubious feat during the live ball, expansion era is astonishing.
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I love these experts talking about Matt Ryan's career after a couple of mini-camps practices. "He's going to be a good QB, a game-manager, but not a great QB." Right, these are the guys who picked Tom Brady in the 6th round, didn't select Matt Hassleback at all and said take Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning
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ESPN.com had a poll up Tuesday: What's more exciting, the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl. Are you kidding guys. I thought this was a serious sports site.
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Not that I'm defending him or anything, but how come Mike Hampton doesn't get the kind of crap that Carl Pavano gets? I mean, here's a guy who's got a 5-3 record in the last 4 seasons., has pitched about 60 innings (not one since 2005) and in that time has eaten about 60 million dollars of Brave moeny. But he hasn't nearly caught the crap that Pavano has gotten. "Pavano can't rehab his image" was a recent headline." Again, not to defend the guy, but how come eats all this stuff while Mike Hampton gets off clean?
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And last, you gotta love Chad Johnson. Talking about the upcoming season, he says. "It's the reinvention of Ocho Cinco," he says. "I'm dead serious. People need to take me as I am because I just don't give a [expletive] anymore. That's how I'd sum up my attitude for the next season."

What a guy! I mean, it just makes you proud to be a Bengals fan, a sports fan and an American. Let's hear that one more time. Chad Johnson just doesn't give a F#%k anymore. And we should all take notice.

Idiot.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Overrated!

A lot of people can't stand the 4000 different Peyton Manning commercials on TV. For the most part, however, I don't mind them. Because at least the guy is an amazing QB and probably one of the ten best quarterbacks to ever to play the game. So, I'm fine with his being on every single commercial during an NFL game.

It's the other guys. You know, the guys Nike nominates to front their new sneaker before they've ever played a down or thrown a pitch or shot a free throw. The guys who are featured on the nauseating "NEXT" issue of the ESPN The Mag. The guys who, if you just listened to the jock-holes on ESPN, have single-handedly saved us from AIDS, terrorists and Original Sin.

I have a term for these guys. I like to call them...."overrated." And to prove I'm not just talking smack, I am going to hold a trial for each of these five guys to see if they are indeed guilty of being overrated:

And I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Defendant: Reggie Bush
The Evidence: A quick look at YouTube.com will tell you that Reggie Bush has been on commercials for basically, every major American brand today. From Diet Pepsi, to Subway, to Madden, to ESPN, to MasterCard. All of which led to ask....

...exactly why is he asked to shill all this stuff?

The guy doesn't even have an average-yard-per-carry that beats falling forward. His "explosiveness" translates to a punt return average of a little over 7 yards per return—or 8 yards less than Devin Hester, on average. When Deuce McCallister went out last year, it was the perfect opportunity for Reggie to take over, and show what all the hype was about. But all he showed was that there was no way he was capable of carrying the load for his team. He couldn't run inside and he definitely couldn't carry 20 times a game. Overall, he is a nice decoy that defenders have learned to funnel inside, as he can't beat NFL defenders to the sidelines. For a demonstration of this, see last season's Dec 2nd game against Tampa Bay, where the Bucs played Bush perfectly, and Reggie ended up only running for 9 carries and a few catches out of the backfield—and was routinely replaced by the immortal Aaron Stecker.

Verdict: Guilty of third-degree overration.


Defendant: Carlos Beltran
The Evidence: Carlos Beltran is a nice player. He's got a nice glove for center field and has some pop (sometimes) in his bat. But 7 years at 119 million. You gotta be kidding me.

A lifetime .278 hitter, Beltran has batted even lower than that for the Mets in spacious Shea Stadium. His lifetime slugging percentage is a hardly-Ruthian .494 (including a scorching .414 slugging percentage in 2005), placing him in the company of Joltin' Geoff Jenkins and Tony Clark. In Bill James Grey Ink Test, which counts how often a player is in the top ten of the league in offensive stats, Beltran rates a 57, which ties him with Sluggin' Tim Salmon. Juan Pierre has a 59.

But more importantly than all these stats is simply how the Mets are playing. He simply put, is not a guy who can be counted on to lead his team. In fact, they often don't follow his lead at all. For example, after the Mets got off to a hot start last year (while he batted under .230), the Mets collapsed horribly down the stretch. As a team leader, did Beltran put the Mets on his shoulders and carry them? No, he did not at all. While the Mets got off to a cold start this year and are wildly underperforming to a 28-27 record, has he carried them? No, as a matter of fact, he's batting .260 with 6 HRs. Simply put, for a guy getting team leader money, Beltran, while a nice player, is not a team leader.

Verdict: With the mad money he is getting, Beltran is way, way, overrated.


Defendant: Vince Young
The Evidence: Regular readers of this blog know my feelings towards Vince Young. And frankly, Young has done nothing to dissuade me from my first opinions of him. And that is, he is wildly overrated.

Young has throw for 21 TDs and 30 interceptions in 30 games. Fellow 2006 draft mate, Jay Cutler, meanwhile, has thrown for 29 TDs and 21 interceptions in his first 2 seasons. Cutler (who played last year with diabetes) has a QB rating of 88.2, Young a 69%. And for these numbers, Vince Young appears on the 08 NFL Madden game, a Chunky's soup commercial, a Reebok with Allen Iverson, a Vizio television commercial, and an interview with 60 Minutes. Needless to say, Cutler has not (though he did appear in a South Park episode where the boys said he sucked.)

Look, Young might be great someday. He can certainly improve his accuracy, improve his QB smarts, but as of right now...he's not there. And the fact that he is on Madden 08 when there are about 75 more worthy candidates—for a guy who doesn't have the passer rating of Joey Harrington, who makes Rex Grossman look steady—is lunacy. And off the field, he has shown nothing that makes anyone think he is a team leader and a guy you can depend on and rally around.

Frankly, until Young grows up, takes his job seriously, and can freakin' approach Sage Rosenfeld's completion rating, he should not appear on any commercial or anywhere except on the practice field.

Verdict: Are you kidding me? This dude is a retirement-contemplating Wonderlic-failing overrated mess.


Defendant: Tracy McGrady
The Evidence: Ladies and gentlemen, when, exactly, does Tracy McGrady show up?

Ever since he game out of high school as the latest "Next Michael" the whole world has been waiting for McGrady to put his stamp on the league. And despite some nice stats, we're still waiting.

Sure he gets his points, but it takes him, like, 618 shots to do it. Despite being a physical marvel and having a God-designed NBA body, Tracy is shooting a crap .43 percent for his career. And what's worse, now having Yao Ming as a teammate and someone else to draw double-teams, McGrady has only gotten worse, shooting only 41 percent last season. (For comparison, Rip Hamilton shot 48%. Richard Jefferson shot 46%.) According to The Talented Mr. Roto, he places 92 on his shooting percentage chart, placing him between 'Mad Dog" Maurice Evans and "Pose A Problem For Me" James Posey. His 3-point shooting percentage is even worse, just 33.1%, putting him comfortably nowhere near the same galaxy as the league leaders. And that stat doesn't go up in the playoffs; he shot 4 for 15 on 3-pointers during the Rockets 08 playoff series loss to Utah.

Despite possessing long arms and good reflexes, McGrady is no defensive stalwart, often displaying no interest in that end of the floor. What's worse, he seems to have regressed, and 11 seasons into his career, continues to make poor decisions, having never learned how to elevate himself or the players around him. But the final nail in the "Overrated" coffin is that McGrady, despite having played in the NBA since 1998, has never taken a team out of the first round of the NBA playoffs. And that's with three different teams and a bunch of talented players surrounding him. Any guy, who fancies himself one of the NBA's best, and a potential future Hall-Of-Famer, has gotta do better than that.

Verdict: Tracey McOverrated.


Jimmy Rollins
The Evidence: Andaplayertobenamedlater is still trying to figure out how a guy who batted .296, had a .344 OBP and a .531 slugging percentage won the MVP last year. Especially when you consider, one of the guys he beat, Matt Holiday, led the NL with a .340 BA, was 7th in the NL with a OBP of .405 and was 3rd in the NL with a .607 slugging percentage. Rollins, by the way, was not in the top ten of any of these categories.

Continuing with the numbers, yes, Rollins had some nice numbers. He was first in the NL in runs and was a Gold Glover. Also, his OBS+ number was 118, which was good for 6th....on HIS OWN TEAM!! (Holliday had a 150.) And while Holliday led the NL not only in .BA, but also in hits, total bases, doubles, runs created, extra base hits and RBIs, Rollins did lead the league in one category big with MVP voters; his mouth. Apparently, if you talk smack and play well enough, you can get the MVP over other people (Matt Holiday to name one) who play better, but who don't have the mouth you do.

Verdict: Most Valuable Overrated Player.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury...while these players are all talented, and some are even very good players, they all, for varying reasons are overrated. Some are overrated due to good college careers; others due to their self-promotion. However, when you look—coldly look—at the evidence, I'm sure you will find them all guilty. Guilty of being rated better than they truly are.

I rest my case.