Sunday, November 30, 2008

Some College Football Thoughts

It's been pretty fashionable to rank on the ACC this season. So much so that about a week ago, some blowhard on Foxsports.com said that the ACC should surrender its BCS bowl. Oh really?

I guess I see his point. I mean, nobody from the terrible ACC could beat anyone from the powerful SEC, right? Oh wait—the ACC went three for four against the vaunted SEC yesterday. Well who cares about the Wake Forest-Vanderbilt stuff—heck, nobody from the mediocre-at-best ACC couldn't possibly beat former no. 1 Georgia, could they? Oh wait.....

Why all the hate for the ACC, when you have the Big East and the Pac-10? Should the Big East surrender their BCS bowl bid, because their best team, Cincinnati, got exposed 52-26 when it played Oklahoma? Or lost 40-16 when it travelled to oh-so-tough, Storrs, Connecticutt? Should the Pac-10 fold it in because they have one very good team (USC), and a bunch of also-rans that regularly get beat. Should USC not go to a bowl game because they lost to Oregon State, who got undressed yesterday at home against the Ducks and got demolished by the Nittany Lions?

No. This is just an example of lazy sportswriting; sportswriters who'd rather not think and just repeat the same thing over and over ("The ACC is terrible"), it eventually becomes something than can use as a cliche in their writing.

Now, it is true there is no powerhouse in the ACC. No USC or Alabama. And writers hate that. And boy, do they hate the fact that former powerhouses, Miami or Florida State aren't dominating like they expect. Yes, they want those guys to come back, dominate the ACC like they expect and make their life easier so they don't have to think about the ACC.

Unfortunately for the sportswriters, the league is far more interesting in that. Instead of a league where there is a tried-and-true caste system, where there are year-in, year-out favorites, (Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten, Florida and Georgia in the SEC or USC in the Pac-10) and a lower level of castes following them (Indiana, Washington State, Mississippi State, Kentucky). And that is the way the writers want it. If actual competition comes in and say, Boston College or Wake Forest goes 9-3 and beats a Florida State or a Miami, then the league is "weak."

So instead of rightly praising a league where a team like Georgia Tech with a new coach goes 9-3 and beats Georgia, or Boston College, without Matt Ryan, returns to the ACC Championship game—a league where 10 teams earn bowl eligibility—you bash it because there's no one team that dominates everyone else. Makes no sense.
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Boy, people sure love bashing Charlie Weis. Not that I love the man, but really, did he kill your dog?

That said, it is true that the problem with Notre Dame now, seems to be coaching. Weis has gotten top-ten recruiting classes every year he's been there. But it sure didn't seem like 5-star recruits playing out there against Syracuse and USC. Heck, USC's freshmen backups seemed to be teeing off on ND QB any time they wanted.
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Waiting today, to find out who won the Big 12 South by waiting for the BCS standings—it's everything wrong about the system system college football has in place. Can we please have a better system in place for this kind of stuff, instead of letting a freaking computer say who won?
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Check out this sack by Boston College's Mike Morrissey. Watch the video; it's about 10 seconds in the highlights.
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BTW, did anyone notice that girl screaming in all the Oregon-Oregon State highlights. I mean, holy crap, has she got some pipes.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Most God-Awful Franchises in Sports

Watching what passed for football yesterday, the thought came....there are some sports franchises, that, year after year, just stink. They aren't at all fun to watch—you just end up feeling embarrassed and let down. Even in the rare cases, when these franchises happen to be winning a ballgame, deep down you feel a rumbling of doom, as you wait, painfully, for the shoe to drop, for the interception, the rejection, the wild pitch, the whatever to occur, and the inevitable loss. These kind of teams that make you want to kick yourself in the head. They are, in a phrase, God-awful.

Here's a short list of the worst franchises in sports and what makes them so awful.


Atlanta Hawks
This franchise must thank God every day for the Clippers. Just god awful. Were it not for Dominique Williams, would NBA fans even know there was a franchise in Atlanta?

• Their last Conference Title was in 1961
• Their last Championship was in 1958.
• Before last season's first round exit, their last playoff game was in 1999. And that's in the NBA where everybody makes the playoffs.
• Despite having four first round picks in 1999 draft, whiffed on all 4,
• Traded Rasheed Wallace for Bobby Sura, center Zeljko Rebraca, and forward Chris Mills.
• In 1994, traded Dominique Wilkens for Danning Manning, who left at the end of the season.
have not made it past the conference semifinals since 1970.
• Despite consistently drafting high, they hold the longest drought of not drafting an All-Star or Pro Bowl player in North American pro sports (23 years), going back to their 1984 selection of Kevin Willis.
• Once gave Jon Koncak a 6-year, 13 million dollar contract or more than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson were earning.
• Holds the record for most consecutive 50-loss seasons (four).
• Also has the 2nd longest run (behind the Rochester/Cincinnati/Kansas City/Sacramento Kings) of not winning an NBA title (49 years).


Detroit Lions
A instant groan every Thanksgiving. Just model of failure. A main cause of hockey being the most important sport in an old-time football town. Here's some of their failures.

• Since 1957, their last championship, they have won one playoff game. Yup. One win in 51 years. • They went from 2001 through 2003 without a road win.
• They drafted wide receivers three years in a row, and 4 in 5 years, including Charles Rogers over Andre Johnson (36 career receptions to 452 and counting), and Mike Williams over DeMarcus Ware and Shawn Merriman.
• Kept Matt Millen as GM from 2000 to 2008, despite compiling a .227 winning percentage with no signs of improvement at all.
• Have appeared on Monday Night Football 25 times. By comparison, fellow conference-mates, the Packers have been on 50 times, the Vikings have been on 48 times and the Chicago Bears have been on 50 times. The Lions last appeared on MNF October 8th, 2001.
• Last appeared in 1st place in their division at the end of the season in 1993.


Pittsburgh Pirates
It breaks my heart a little to see these guys here. Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Doug Drabek, even Bonds and Bonilla....these were guys that, growing up, epitomized the Pirates as a tough baseball town.

Alas, not any more. having not had a winning season in 15 years, tying the 1933-1948 Philadelphia Phillies as the longest in the four major professional sports leagues, the Pirates are in perpetual "rebuilding mode." And they can no longer cry poverty, as Tampa, Oakland, and the Twins have built successful franchises within a small market, proving mismanagement as the main culprit. Here's some folly.

• Traded Aramis Ramirez for nothing
• Wasted what money they had signing Jeromy Burnitz and traded for Matt Morris
• Picked Bobby Bradley in the 1999 MLB Draft, just ahead of Barry Zito and Ben Sheets
• Picked Bryan Bullington with 1st pick of 2002 draft. B.J. Upton was picked next.
• Despite picking in the top half of the MLB Draft every year since 1992, Baseball America last year called the Pirate minor league system the fifth worst in baseball.
• Have ranked 15th or 16th in attendance out of the National League's 16 teams since 2004.


Arizona Cardinals
Just who the heck in the NFL's scheduling department put both the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals on the same Thanksgiving day? I understand the Lions are a tradition, but why then schedule the Cardinals on Thanksgiving—a franchise that hasn't played in a championship game since 1948? Come on.

• Have a 2-5 postseason record. That despite being the oldest professional franchise in football.
• Has not had a winning season since 1998.
• Have had only 2 above .500 seasons since 1984
• Despite picking high in the draft year after year, consistently, one of the worst drafting teams in football. Recent draft picks include draft picks, Tommy Knight, Wendell Bryant (picked before Albert Haynesworth) and Andre Wadsworth.
• Players drafted by the Cardinals often don't accomplish much until after leaving the franchise. Leonard Davis made his 1st Pro bowl in his first year with the Cowboys in 2007. Calvin Pace is having the best season of career in his first year as a Jet. Jake Plummer become a big time QB only when he left Arizona for Denver. Thomas Jones was a first round bust until he left for Tampa Bay when he raised his YPC a full yard.


L.A. Clippers
Just the pinnacle of awfulness. Not only having to share an arena with the Lakers (and seeing the trophies, the pictures of Magic, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq and Kobe, but having to live with the knowledge that you will never, ever, win anything yourself. here's a list of infamy.

• Drafting Michael Olowokandi from Pacific University 1st overall, over Dirk Nowitski, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce.
• Have had only one season above .500 season in the last 15 years, and only 3 since 1979.
• Since 1970, have made the playoffs only 7 times, including missing the playoffs for the 1980s.
• Drafted Danny Ferry, who left the country to go play basketball in Italy rather than be a Clipper.
• The oldest franchise in the NBA never to appear in a Finals.
• The Clippers have a .365 winning percentage, since their inception.
• Defined in UrbanDictionary.com as "retarded."



OK, folks, that's the list. I know I left a bunch of franchises out, so write in with your worst franchises in the comment section.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Transactions....

Lendale White is a waste of a draft pick, as well as oxygen. Just a jerk.


Don't look now, but the Giants vaunted, swarming, pound-the-quarterback d-line only has 2 sacks in their last 2 games; one by Kiwanuka and one by Tuck. Has the rest of the NFL finally adapted to Spagnoulo's defensive schemes?


With Osi coming back, what do the Giants plan to do with their defensive end situation? Mathias Kiwanuka has 6.5 sacks playing against the other team's left end each game while Justin Tuck has 9.5 coming off the right end. Are they going to shift Kiwanuka again back to ROLB when Osi Umenyiora comes back? Doing that basically forces Kiwanuka to leave as a free agent ASAP when his time comes. Maybe shifting Tuck inside is the answer, but do you think you can do that every down? In any case, the Giants are going to make somebody angry next training camp.


Really, how is Wisconsin bowl-bound at 7-5 with a "woo-ee lookee-here" win over Cal-Poly? Or Notre Dame with a loss to the freakin' Orangemen? The bowl selection is ridiculous. Any team that is barely treading water at .500 does not deserve a bowl game. It's ridiculous.


It's draft mocking season already, and a quick look-see shows that Mel Kiper has drunk the Kool-Aid on B.C.'s DT B.J. Raji and has put him at no. 9 on his Big Board. None of the other major draft web sites has Raji so high, but if you saw him decimate the Notre Dame line a few weeks back, you'd put him that high yourself. Also, consider the fact that nobody can run against the Eagles—and how finding a true run-stopped is always in high demand in the NFL—and you figure Raji will be gone by the late first round in next year's draft.


I love Bernie Williams, I really love him. But really, Bernie, just call it a career. Please.


Andaplayertobenamedlater's Player of the week is......Lendale White. no, just joshing. It's Brett Farve. Now this site has let Brett Farve have it a whole bunch of times. but when the man plays well, we'll give him his due. And against the best team in the NFL, Farve (except for one awful pass) played controlled well-executed football. Farve threw 25 for 32 and just surgically killed the Titans with short passes and screens. Well done, Brett, well done.


I wrote last week about Philly fans missing McNabb when 's gone (even though he's been a little overrated his whole career). And that will be true. But man, he is playing awwwwwwww-ful lately.


And finally, Notre Dame.............ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Lamest Mascots Ever

Back in the 80s, for a little while, the Yankees got a mascot. It was an odd-shaped "man," or possibly a bird of some sort, with a handlebar moustache. His name was "Dandy." As in Yankee Doodle. Get it?

Anyway, he was the lamest, stupidest, most un-Yankee piece of marketing idiocy. Fans hated him and reportedly, would pelt him with garbage and, occasionally beat him up whenever he strayed to the upper deck. It got so bad the actor playing him refused to return. The idea of Dandy quickly and mercifully faded. No documented photos of Dandy exist, but here is one that was found apparently taken by an irate fan just before his assault of the Dandy mascot. (Note Dandy's surprise and fear.)

Mascots are stupid. They're lame. Unless you're a little kid at a minor league game and can't follow what's going on, mascots are irritating in a Carrot top kind of way. However, even in the realm of irritating mascots, some stand out as even more annoying, lame, or just plain weird than others. Here's a list of some of those infamous mascots.


University of California-Santa Cruz
Sammy the Banana Slug

A banana slug is basically a yellow turd-looking insect that burrows into redwood trees. In, 2004, Reader's Digest named the UCSC Banana Slug the best mascot, which I guess, is par for the course when your average reader is 214 years old.



















Tamp
a Bay Devil Rays
Raymond

It's not good when even your mascot looks ashamed and confused. I don't think even he knows what he is.



















Standford Cardinals

The Tree

Officially, it's not the sports teams mascot, it's the band's mascot. let me repeat that—the band has a mascot. And they picked a tree. A shambling paper mache tree that looks like my 6 year old niece got drunk and put it together. Nice going. (Dorks.)



















Grays Harbor College

Chokers
Sticking with the tree theme, here we have the Chokers. Supposedly, the mascot represents the choker-setter, a logger who placed a cable with large clamps around logs to remove them from the forest. Yeah, whatever—you're a choker.



















Orlando Magic

Stuff The Magic Dragon

A particularly irritating mascot for a particularly stupidly named franchise (just what is a Magic?), Stuff was once attacked by a fan who held on despite being hit by a stun gun three times. Hate can be very powerful.



















Williams Colle
ge
Ephelia The Purple Cow

Got its name from a "funny poem" going around Williams College in 1907 (also the name of Williams College's humor magazine). Trust me, it's hilarious!!

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!




















Duke University

The Blue Devil

This mascot gets mentioned here for no other reason than the name "Blue Devils" honors French soldiers in World War one. Ah, yes, the fear fighting prowess of the French gets honor with a appropriately idiotic mascot complete with a pretentious French goatee.



















Oakland A's

Stomper Ele Phant

Apparently, Giants' manager, in an attempt to make fun of the Philadelphia Athletics, said that A's owner Ben Shibe "had a white elephant on his hands." A's manager, Connie Mack, in an act of defiance, adopted a white elephant as the team mascot. So because of an obscure 1905 business reference, you can scare your kid's friends at his next birthday party by renting a 6'6" green elephant.




















Western Kentuck
y Hilltoppers
Big Red

Unidentifiable. Appeared in a bunch of ESPN ads. Completes a daily double by simultaneously being truly irritating and utterly terrifying at the same time.












Whittier College

Poets

Almost as bad as naming your mascot after an "elite French fighting force." you name them after poets. The Fighting Tennysons? The Raging Byrons? The Fierce Dickensons?









Fort Wayne

The Mad Ant

As Kent Brockman said, "I for one, welcome our new insect overlords." Could that kid look any more uncomfortable standing next to this obviously evil ant?


















Syracuse University

Otto the Orange

According to the Syracuse web site, one of the other potential mascots was a pilgrim shot full of arrows. Shoulda went with that.



















Brandeis Judges

Ollie the Owl

So you're named the judges—Ok, fine, whatever. But your mascot is an owl wearing some 1920s sweater and saddle shoes? Really?



















New York Un
iversity
Violets

My Alma mater. Utterly embarrassing. In the 80s, they tried to inject some non-lameness into the sports program by getting a mascot—a bobcat—which of course didn't match our name. But, heck, even the name they chose sprang forth from lameness.The story goes, that NYU chose the name "bobcat," by using an abbreviation of the library computerized catalog—Bobst Library Computerized Catalog = Bobcat. Then they go and get this cuddly, harmless looking thing. Like I said, utterly embarrassing.




















Webster University
The Gorlock

According to the school's web site, "The Gorlok is...a mythical creature that was designed by Webster staff and students through a school contest. It is reported to have the paws of a speeding cheetah, horns of a fierce buffalo, and the face of a dependable Saint Bernard." Great. So it can compete with Napoleon Dynamite's Liger as the fiercest mythic animal ever.



















Rhode Island School of Design
Scrotie

The school's teams are called the Nads and the Balls—I'm not making this up—so naturally, their mascot is a penis. Who the hell would volunteer to walk around in this?



















But the winner of lamest mascot is......

Evergreen State College
Geoduck

First off, what the hell is a Geoduck? And whatever it is (apparently it's mollusk), what the hell is this mascot? Seriously, I thought it was a brainsucking alien sent to dominate the earth. And get this...Evergreen had no athletic program until the 1980s, when, and I quote, "...their establishment was imposed by fiat from the board of trustees over the objections of faculty and students." (Emphasis mine). The freaking students didn't even want a sports program!!!!! Oh, and here's the fight song, complete with the refrain "Let it all hang out!" Yeah.


Go, Geoducks, go!
Through the mud and the sand let's go!
Siphon high, squirt it out, swivel all about.
Let it all hang out!
Go, Geoducks, go!
Stretch your necks when the tide is low!
Siphon high, squirt it out, swivel all about.
Let it all hang out!


Please write in with your lamest, stupidest and most annoying mascot selections.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Don't Swing Lowe

It seems like every web site and every guru on the planet wants and expects the Yankees to offer Derek Lowe a huge contract to come pitch in the Bronx. Just ask Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, who wrote succinctly enough: "Lowe is simply the way to go for the Yankees."

Allow me to differ. Lowe is a huge gamble, one the Yankees may regret.

To prove my point, I'll use the words of a Boston Red Sox blogger:

In 4 years in LA, Lowe averaged: 3.59 ERA 1.23 WHIP 5.96 K/9 2.27 BB/9. Those numbers are slightly better than what he did in his final three years as a starter with the Sox: 4.07 ERA 1.32 WHIP 5.08 BB/9 2.84 BB/9. Lowe’s Boston numbers include one great year and two bad ones (his final regular season was truly awful).

Assuming Lowe’s success in LA came from pitching in the weak NL West, one should expect his numbers to look more like his Sox stats if he comes back to the AL East. $15 million is a lot to pay for a pitcher who only figures to be marginally better than Tim Wakefield—in the regular season.

Exactly. Derek Lowe's great numbers came from a weak division in a DH-less league—in a pitcher's park, I might add. What makes anyone thinks, that when he goes back to the pitcher-smashing division of the AL East, he won't revert to his horrible last year in Boston? Consider that, Lowe's last two seasons in Boston, when his ERA was about 5.00 and his WHIP about 1.5, where his prime pitching years of 30 and 31. He'll return to the AL East 5 years older and over 800 innings later.

Add to that, Lowe is slow to the plate—he allowed a major league high 34 steals last season. With Posada coming of a shoulder injury, he will not be Jorge's best friend. Especially in a division with Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, B. J. Upton and Brian Roberts.

Also with the fact that Lowe, being a groundball pitcher will require a top-notch defense behind him, something the Yankees don't have (Derek Jeter was just called the worst SS in baseball by Bill James, and Robinson Cano will never be mistaken for Ryne Sandberg.)

Here's another juicy little tidbit; in interleague play this year against the AL, Lowe had an ERA of 5.13, giving up 32 hits (3 HRs) in 26.1 innings pitched. Hmmmmm.

Also this: and this is a little more speculative; scouts feel Lowe doesn't have the makeup of tough mental pitcher. They question the fact that, after an error made by Lowe's team, Lowe usually fell apart and allowed a big inning. Also, the fact that his ERA away from home was 2 full points higher than his ERA at home (which also brings up the fact that he is only comfortable in pitcher's parks) and that opposing BA against Lowe in "Late and Close games" was .396. Yankee Stadium has never been kind to pitchers of fragile psyches—ask Ed Whitson or Steve Trout.

Add to that the fact that Lowe will be 36 on June 1st, and with Scott Boras saying he wants a "Zito-type contract" for Lowe—which translates into 6 years at 18 million per year, it seems pretty clear that Derek Lowe will be overpriced for the talent he brings to a team.

This is not to say Lowe wont be a good pitcher in the AL next year, or that he’s a guaranteed disaster. No, Lowe has a lot to like about him. He’s a pound-the-ball-into-the-dirt pitcher with can throw deep into games. He's gotten better and can be a good innings eater—he's pitched between 32 and 35 starts in each of the last seven seasons. However, when you consider his last three years in Boston, his innings per "games started" dropped each of those seasons, while both his "hits" and "runs" surrendered rose dramatically (his WHIP was a ghastly 1.615 his last year at Fenway), there's something to be said for proceeding with caution on this one. Maybe there's more to Boras saying, "Zito-type" when talking about Lowe. So I say to the Yankees; Don't Swing Lowe.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Transactions....

Just want to give a big pat on the back to the sometimes dismissive and arrogant Baseball Writers' Association of America. What's the back-pat for? Well, first, for three writers including Edinson Volquez on their National League Rookie of the Year ballots despite his not being a rookie. For about three years! (He was a Ranger for 3 years and was the dude traded for Josh Haimlton...hello, writers?) Then three other voters somehow left Roy Halladay off the American League Cy Young ballots. Halladay was 20-11 with a 2.78 ERA and had 206 SO. Good going guys. Not embarrassing at all, BWAA.


Not sure how to take Asley Fox's article in the Philly Inquirer, McNabb Era Likely Over. On the one hand, she really isn't wrong about anything. McNabb isn't playing very well—he's been a turnover machine lately. And she isn't wrong when she writes:

If the Eagles miss the playoffs for the third time in four years, and there's absolutely no reason to think that they won't, someone has to go. Given the tight relationship in the front office, it's unlikely that Jeffrey Lurie will fire Joe Banner or Reid. Reid won't let go of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.....The likely scenario, despite Reid's undeniable bond with the man he selected out of Syracuse with the second pick in the 1999 draft, is that the Eagles will say thanks and goodbye to McNabb.

And while my 2 cents do add that I've always thought McNabb, while a very good quarterback, was always a little overrated. Very good, never great. That said, the man this year, has thrown for 2711 yds this season (4th in NFL), and has a good, but not great 84.7 QB rating (with no dependable receivers to help him). It seems like the Eagle fans are waiting for McNabb to single-handedly save the season for them. To my mind, he was never that guy—and getting disappointed when he can't do it all by himself, is silly. My gut instinct is that the Eagles fans have gotten a little spoiled. And all they need to do is ask the Viking fans how it feels to be a fan of a franchise who is desperate for a steady hand at the wheel.


Speaking of which, there are some rumors the Vikings are already scouting Matt Cassell in preparation of next March's free agency. I'd think it'd be much more fun if the Jets got him.


Speaking of the Jets, that Dustin Keller selection is looking more and more like a nice move the Jets made in last year's draft.


Yankee beat writer Peter Abraham thinks the Yankees should be cautious in free agency and that it might not be wise to sign older players to big contracts. Thanks for the wise words, Pete.


Good news for Yankees. Apparently, the Player's Association is pushing C.C. Sabathia to take the Yankees offer because going for the big money would set a higher bar for all pitchers. Apparently, the thinking goes, if Sabathia takes the smaller offer, other pitchers would get lesser offers from the owners. Early money is, Sabathia will take the Yankees offer, but only after some more negotiating.


Rumor has it that Randy Edsall is the frontrunner of the Syracuse ORangemen football job. Why the heck would he take it? Sure Edsall is a graduate of Syracuse, but as a guy who built a non-existatn program to be actual contenders of the Big East, why would Edsall go back to a moribund Big East program? My guess, Edsall give a polite "No thank you," and eyes bigger programs.


Man of the Week Award goes to Kurt Warner. It was a really easy one, this week. Sure Chad Greenway had 16 tackles and a sack, but really, Warner's stats read as this: 32 for 44 for 395 yards. It's his 4th 300+ game in a row. He completed passes to 7 different receivers and completed 19 of his first 21 passes. Dang. Congrats to you, Kurt.


And lastly....really great to hear that Jeremey Shockey is getting punted to no. 2 tight end in New Orleans behind the immortal Billy Millner. Not only is Shockey mouthing off, perpetually injured, but it's also clean now that he still doesn't have a strong grasp of the Playbook. This despite having played with Sean Payton while he was a Giant. Good going, Shocks. At this rate, you'l;l be out of football in 3 years and I wont have to write about your dumb antics anymore.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Modest Trade Proposal

This time of year, baseball junkies flood the interweb and talk radio with trade proposals; most unrealistic, some implausible, and a few that might actually make some sense. It’s for you, the reader, to decide in which category to place this one.

The proposal is this: Robinson Cano, Ian Kennedy, Kei Igawa for Chad Billingley and Matt Kemp and Andruw Jones. The reasoning is this:

First off, as last season showed, Cano needs tough love to get him to play to his massive potential. Cano got his contract and coasted through the first half of the season, fully expecting to play himself out of his slump. Didn’t happen. Finally and too late in the season, Girardi punished Cano and lo and behold! Cano responded by batting .389 over the last 9 games, and .299 over the last 22—with 7 doubles in those 22 games. To whit, his former coach, who now coaches for the Dodgers, Larry Bowa, was just the man who could push Cano’s buttons and get him to play hard and well. In fact, should Cano head to L.A. I would look for Cano to regain his All-Star form fairly quickly, especially playing in the N.L. West against the Padres and Giants. And besides, Jeff Kent is, to put it politely, aging. Cano would fit in perfectly with his former manager and coach.

Former 1st round pick Ian Kennedy, who had a rough season, would probably love the familiar scenery that L.A. would bring—he went to USC and is from California. He’d also probably appreciate the DH-free National League and the pitcher’s park in LA. Though he had a rough season in 2008, scouts are still high on Kennedy—his plus change and curve and excellent command give him a great chance to be a top pitcher. In fact, just recently, the Brewers and White Sox and a few other teams have been sniffing around the young Yankee pitcher—however, the Yankees for now, seem reluctant to give up on a former first round pick. For this trade, however, they might be willing.

The same could be said for Kei Igawa—that a pitcher’s park and a league without Big Papi and Jim Thome-type DHs would be to his liking. Also, getting out of the glare of the Big Apple media circus and into the more mellow California atmosphere couldn’t hurt. Igawa, to his credit pitched very well in AAA in 2008, striking out 117 in 156.1 innings to the tune of 1.19 WHIP. It wouldn't be surprising if Igawa actually becomes something of a minor force out in the NL West (Again, the Dodgers face the light-hitting D-Backs, Padres and Giants a bunch of times).

For the Yankees, the trade speaks for itself. And that speech would begin and end with “Chad Billingsley.” Saying the Yanks need a young pitcher is like saying Popeye needs spinach. Billingsley and his 200 IP would be most welcome to Joe Girardi, considering his 2009 rotation right now is mostly made up of prayer.

Matt Kemp—and his power/speed number of 23.8 which ranked him 6th in the NL last year—could solidify the CF question nicely; pushing Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera to 4th OF/trade bait status. But the real key for the Dodgers is the last name on the deal—Andruw Jones. The Yankees taking Andruw Jones off the Dodgers hands is everything to LA in this deal. They could then turn around and use the 15 million they saved in ditching him to go sign Manny to play left field. Frankly, the Dodgers have no one else in their lineup who scares pitchers anywhere close to the level that Manny does. If he goes, so do the Dodgers chances of having any real chance at a pennant.

So here is how the deal would pan out for the 2009 Yankees and Dodgers (assuming there aren’t other free agent pickups or trades).

OF:
Dodgers:
Manny Ramirez
Juan Pierre
Andre Ethier

Yankees:
Johnny Damon
Matt Kemp
Xavier Nady

ROTATION:
Dodgers:
Hiroki Kuroda
Clayton Kershaw
Jason Schmidt
Ian Kennedy
James McDonald
Kei Igawa

Yankees:
Chien-Ming Wang
Chad Billingsley
Joba Chamberlain
Andy Petitte
Phil Hughes
Alfredo Aceves

This trade gives the Dodgers a talented staff—a good mix of youth and experience—with two lefties that give Joe Torre options. Kuroda pitched very well in his first season in America and should only be better his second season around. Kershaw is an ace in diapers and should be dominating National League hitters shortly. McDonald is no slouch himself, having owned minor league baseball, and could be ready to pitch in L.A. sooner rather than later in the 2009 season. The outfield is a good balance of power (Manny’s 17 HRs in 53 games along with Ethier’s 20 HRs) with speed and defense (Pierre had 40 stolen bases and Ethier had 11 assists). But the real cherry for the Dodgers is getting 15 million dollars free for Manny. The Dodgers cannot let many go and this deal secures him in Dodger Blue. So getting a former 1st round pitcher with massive potential, a former Japanese League lefty strikeout artist and a phenomenally talented RBI machine to replace Jeff Kent are all wonderful and a windfall. Getting Manny would be a coup.

For the Yankees—Chad Billingsley, Chad Billingsley, Chad Billingsley. The absolute key to the deal for New York—a 23-year pitcher with 437 innings of big league experience experience—and would immediately help solidify the Yankees 2009 rotation with the innings he is capable of. Matt Kemp would be a nice solidification of CF, but he isn’t a deal-breaker. In fact, should the Dodgers balk on parting with him (which I don’t think they would—their outfield is jammed as is), the Yankees could take some solid prospects instead. As for Andruw Jones, he has already publically stated, he’d like to return to Atlanta, so this would be a one-year rental for the Yankees. An expensive one, indeed, but something the Yankees can take for one year—especially with the revenue the new stadium should provide. And really, anything Jones could provide would be gravy.

The Yankees could then go get Orlando Hudson to fill the second base hole and use either Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera as trade bait. (I’d prefer they trade Melky, myself.)

On the whole, the trade makes sense as is. A few tweaks here and there could be done; throwing in Eric Duncan? Chin Lung Hu? Giving up prospects instead of Kemp? Maybe. But the deal, as is constructed now makes sense to me.

Probably never happen though.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Transactions....

And now this late-breaking important message from Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports!!! The election of Barack Obama might lead to U.S. hosting the World Cup in 14 years. Yes, really!!!!


Now, to actual sporting news....the only way this Matt Holliday to Oakland trade makes any sense is if Billy Beane is turning him around to trade by the trade deadline. Holliday has made it clear he's hitting the market when his contract done at the end of next season. And no way Oakland can afford him. So, a year after Oakland trades away the house, with Blanton, Haren and Swisher all leaving, he turns around and trades some of his kids for Holliday, who's sure to leave? Nah....Beane is using him to get more kids at the trading deadline.


Kudos to the Eagles for keeping McNabb upright all game—no sacks for the Giants defense. Nice...except for the fact that the Giants kept the ball for 40 minutes of the game, meaning their defense was only on the field for 20 minutes.


How about this trade? Robinson Cano, Ian Kennedy, Kei Igawa for Chad Billingley and Matt Kemp and Anduw Jones? Makes sense to me. Here's why. First off, Cano needs tough love, and with his former coach, Larry Bowa there, I would look for Cano to regain his All-Star form. And besides, Jeff Kent is, like 4000 years old. Ian Kennedy will appreciate the National League and the bigger park—scouts still say he has the make-up to be a top pitcher. The same could be said for Kei Igawa who pitched very well in AAA this season, striking out 117 in 156.1 innings to the tune of 1.19 WHIP. The National League would suit him well and I wouldn't be surprised if he actually becomes something of a minor force out in the NL West (remember, the Dodgers face the light-hitting D-Backs, Padres and Giants a bunch of times).

For the Yankees, Chad Billingley speaks for itself. Saying the Yanks need a young pitcher is like saying Popeye needs spinach. Matt Kemp could solidify the CF question nicely, pushing Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera to 4th OF/trade bait status. And taking Andruw Jones off the Dodgers hands, financially-speaking, would be the spice on the deal for the Dodgers. They could then turn around and use the 15 million to go sign Manny to play left field. And who knows? If Jones actually wakes up from his 2-year coma, so much the better for the Yankees.

I like the deal. Now, only if they would do it.


Profootball Weekly has a nice article, the 10 most interesting free agents of 2009. For my money, number 7 is the most interesting; T.J. Houshmandzadeh. No doubt he leaves the mental asylum that is Bengal-land for any amount of money he can get. But when you consider he had 202 catches in 2006 and 2007, and already has 61 this season—thrown mostly by Ryan Fitzpatrick, not Carson Palmer—you know some team out there is going to show him and his soft hands, some major love.


Don't look now, but the Jets have won 4 out of their past 5. Super, but the next two games are against the patriots and then the Titans, both on the road. Oooof.


I know he's the top recruit from a few years ago, and he's only a sophomore and has more growing to do....that said....every time I see Notre Dame's QB, Jimmy Clausen, I am overwhelmingly underwhelmed. Yes, Boston College's defense was awesome on Saturday night, but 9 completions in 22 attempts. 4 interceptions? 0 points? Hope for Big Weis that he gets a lot better a lot sooner than later.


This week's Andaplayertobenamedlater's Man of the Week award goes to none other than Kerry Collins. Coming into the season as a backup for fomer Golden Child, Vince Young, Collins has done nothing less than lead the Titans to a 9-0 record. And this past weekend, when the Bears shut down Titans RBs, White, Johnson and co. to just 20 yards on 29 carries, Collins went out and passed 30 for 41, 2 TDs and no interceptions. Congrats Kerry on keeping the Titans loss-less.


And finally, in case you haven't seen it, check out this sick punt return by Will Blackmon (former BC guy) of the Packers. Not only that, but it's the second time he's done that to the Vikings this year. Amazing. Dude is like a pinball.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Weather Permitting

Frankly, I'm tired of this.

Two seasons ago, I was lucky enough to score great tickets to a Yankee game in early April against Cleveland. Since it was a night game in New York City, the temperature announced dipped to around 40 degrees. It was actually far worse than that. With the wind whipping around the stadium, it got to way below freezing. Despite the great tickets (5th row up from the dugout on the 3rd base side—waiter service!!), my wife and I left in the 6th inning. Her teeth were chattering.

This year, the World Series was delayed—for two days—because of freezing rain and temperatures around 38 degrees—or not unusual weather for the northeast part of America in late October. And this kind of situation—freezing fans watching fall baseball is not unusual. Last season, Josh Beckett pitched through a light dusting of snow flurries in game 1 of the World Series in Boston. Later in that World Series, temperatures in Denver got down to the upper 30s for game 3 and 4. The 2006 World Series, played in Detroit and St. Louis had typical autumnal weather associated with those cities; at or below freezing, and had fans shivering in their scarves and ski jackets. In early April 2007, Cleveland had to cancel an entire four game series against Seattle due to a snowstorm in Cleveland. The Indians were also forced to play another series against the White Sox in weather that dropped into the 20s and with wind gusts up to 25 miles an hour—or so strong it shook a small decorative fiberglass panel in the upper deck of Jacobs Field loose. They then had to travel to Milwaukee to play a "home" series against the Los Angeles Angels. A "home" series in a stadium over 400 miles away. That season, games in Detroit and Chicago were cancelled as well due to snow and cold weather.

Last week, MLB.com released an early schedule for the 2009. On it, it showed that we will have November baseball, with a potential game 7 being played on November 5th—weather permitting. If the World Series next year takes place in Detroit, New York, Boston or someplace like that, it could very well be snowed, sleeted or frozen out.

This is ridiculous. With lengthening schedules, MLB is just asking for trouble—more and more games cancelled in March or October due to weather that is in no way unusual. As Peter King wrote this week on SI.com: "I found it incredulous that Major League Baseball would allow the championship game of an incredibly interesting season to be contested -- at least two innings of it, anyway -- in a Nor'easter."

And the way things are going—with longer schedules and seasons dragging from March to November—this could be an annual affair.

Now I am not saying that MLB should turn to some half-baked NFL-type solution; i.e., play World Series in some southern city of random choosing. That's a cop-out. No, MLB should definitely keep the system it has now.

The answer is relatively simple: Shorten the season. Schedule more double-headers, one every two weeks throughout the season, cut a few off days (the average ballplayers make in a season what most people make in a lifetime—they can rough it out with a few less off days), and the season could be shortened up 2 to 3 weeks. And that way, you don't have baseball played in a sleet storm in Minneapolis or Chicago.

Also for the first week or so of the season, either schedule games in warm weather stadiums or in domes, (something Selig is against) or play the games during the day, so your fans aren't sitting a stadium with temperatures plummeting to the 20s. As Johnny Damon said when the Yankees home opener had to be rescheduled due to freezing rain. "It shouldn't be that tough," Damon said to schedule warm weather and dome teams at home the first week of the season. At least then you have a fighting chance to beat the weather.

"Is it raining or snowing up in Toronto right now?" Damon noted. "This very easily could have been avoided....We'll get through it. But there's a couple of domes sitting empty right now."
It's ridiculous that the Boys of Summer, playing a game synonymous with bright sunny days and balmy summer nights now play their championship game in front of red-cheeked fans closer to Thanksgiving than Labor Day. And it's ridiculous that sleet...sleet...forced a postponement of a World Series game in the middle of the 6th inning.

And all this cold weather causes injuries. In 2007, a rash of injuries, almost all pulled muscles, due to cold weather keeping muscles tight caused the Yankees to lose a bunch of their players. Not only Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui missed time, but also a bevy of pitching injuries in 2007, including Chien -Ming Wang. It got so bad, they had to call someone up from AA to pitch because so many pitchers had already been called up from AAA. As Ronnie Belliard said when forced to play an early season game in miserably cold conditions in Washington D.C., "It's ridiculous. Anybody can get hurt. Your hands are freezing, your feet are freezing. You can break anything out there. Definitely, we should not play."

He's right. Studies done at the America Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons show that cold muscles are much more prone to injury. Which puts cold weather teams at a distinct disadvantage to their warm-weather brethren when games are played in March in 20-degree weather for a few weeks. However Selig has rejected starting the season in warm weather sites as it is, in his words, "unfair." unfair? To whom?

Neither does Selig show any inclination to shorten the season in any way. On the contrary, the MLB started this season earlier than usual, with the regular season beginning in America on March 31st. Interestingly enough, a study by a meteorologist indicates, that by pushing Opening Day back to just the 10th of April—that's all—cold weather teams would have a 80% chance to avoid snowy or "miserable" conditions. And injuries.

And scheduled double-headers are a thing of the past. Can't do anything that will possibly lose a buck.

Like I said, I'm tired of this. I understand the reason for trying to make the most money you possibly can. But at what cost? Scheduling March to November baseball makes the product of baseball look ridiculous. Entire series cancelled due to snow. The World Series postponed two days due to freezing conditions. The answer, as Johnny Damon is simple. With doubleheaders, eliminating some off days and scheduling day games early in the season, MLB could avoid all of these problems.

So just do it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baseball's 2008 Man of the Year

In 2007, Cleveland Indian lefty, Cliff Lee had an ERA of 6.29 and WHIP of 1.521. He won only 5 of the 16 games he started, gave up 36 walks and 17HRs in 97.3 innings.

In 2008, Cliff Lee had an ERA of 2.54 and a WHIP of 1.110. He went 22-3, pitched 4 complete games, gave up 12 HRs—5 fewer than in 2007 despite pitching 126 more innings—and only 34 walks. Needless to say, Lee is a favorite for the AL Cy Young.

Lee says last year's disaster prepared him for this season. "I got hurt in spring training last year and that had quite a bit to do with my rough season. But sometimes going through some failure makes you a better player in the long run."

Cases for most surprising player could be made for others; Carlos Quentin came from Nowheresville to claim 2nd in the AL for slugging percentage, 4th in OBP and to lead the AL in HRs per AB, averaging a dinger every 13.3 at-bat. Ryan Ludwick more than doubled his career high of 52 RBIs and came in 2nd in the NL to teammate Albert Pujols with a .591 slugging percentage. And nobody on the planet—including Josh Hamilton himself—expected the year he had; 130 RBIs, 190 hits and an OPS of .901.

However, Lee's transformation was singular. After geting shelled through July and a demotion to AAA last July, Lee was left off the postseason roster. Then over the off-season, Cleveland tried hard to shop Lee around, (ironically, almost acquiring Carlos Quentin for him) but found no takers, getting rejected by the Pirates, Cardinals and D-Backs. This spring, Cleveland told Lee he'd have to earn the number 5 rotation spot against Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey.

Lee responded by leading the AL with a 2.54 ERA, starting the All-Star game and winning 22 games. For those reasons, the case should be clear; Cliff Lee is the most surprising player in the MLB this season.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Transactions....

Watching Brett Farve play yesterday, I kept getting the feeling, that in the cold, dark, days of next March, the Jets GM will be making a call to Houston and asking about one, Sage Rosenfels.


That said, the smartest play I saw this season took place during the Jet game yesterday. During a kick-off that bounced near, but not out, of bounds, Leon Washington stuck his foot out of bounds and grabbed the bouncing ball, thus forcing the kickoff to be be considered out of bounds. If Washington had tried to field it at the 8 yard line, he'd had been smothered. By forcing the kickoff to be out-of-bounds, he put the Jets on their own 40. Smart play. And it led to a touchdown.


The Philadelphia Inquiror has speculated that Rocco Baldelli could be part of a three-way platoon with Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs. Maybe. I don't see it. As I wrote over the weekend, Rocco should go to a team in the AL that could not only use in as a fourth/utility outfielder, but that could also utilize him in a sometime-DH role as well.


More from the Hot Stove front. The word is that the Jake Peavy sweepstakes are down to the Braves, Cubs and Dodgers. The Dodgers? Why the heck would the Padres even consider trading a absolute ace, who will be only 28 next Opening Day to a division rival? Peavy, one of the best pitchers in the league—and a guy you shouldn't be trading anyway—could pay you back for trading him for the next 10 years by beating you 5 times each season. So, no.....don't trade him to the Dodgers. The Braves would be the logical choice. The Braves have talented youngsters that would compensate for Peavy. And they are not in the same division.


Also, it seems like I was right about moving Jeter to 1B. According to the New York Post, the Yankees are unlikely to trade for Prince Fielder because they plan on moving Jeter to 1b after he resigns in 2010. I agree, while other people see Jeter moving to the outfield, 1b seems like the best fit for Jeter, who by then, will be an aging, 6'3" baseball player who was never cat-quick to begin with.


To all the depressed Yankee fans out there, who are glum because the Bombers did not make the playoffs this year, hear this: It was an unheralded trade, this day, 16 years ago, that began, truly to build the last, great Yankee dynasty. On November 3rd, 1992, the Yankees send Roberto Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O'Neill and became a fan favorite. An absolute coup for the Yankees, O'Neill led the Yankees to 4 championships and 5 pennants. Kelly, on the other hand, bounced around the league—although he didn't play poorly—making one All-Star game for Cincinnati before being traded for Deion Sanders.


Hard to argue against Kurt Warner for Man of the Week. Sure, there's Matt Ryan, John Abraham and even Greg Camiarillo (who had 11 catches for 111 yards in the Dolphins win over Denver yesterday), but all Warner did was go 23 for 34 and 342 yards. That's over 10 yards a pass on average. Oh and he had 2 TD passes and no interceptions. All of this he accomplished at the age of 97. Congratulations Kurt.


And lastly, congratulations to the Phillies. Heck, I didn't think you had the pitching and doubted you every step of the 2008 season. Congrats for proving me wrong.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Red Sox Rocco

Rocco Baldelli is 27.

If there was any justice in the world, right now, Baldelli would be enjoying the fruits of playing in his first World Series, and entering free agency as a legitimate five-tool player.

But unfortunately, this is the real world. So instead, Baldelli is coming off a season where he contracted a devastating rare disease which saps his strength—a disease which limited to 28 games the entire 2008 season and makes him a question mark when he should be in the prime of his playing career. These are Baldelli's own words in an interview given in August about his disease and about playing full-time again.

"....I don’t know if (playing full-time) that’s completely realistic....I don’t know if that’s 100-percent the case, but I think it’s the case....I think its something I’ve learned to live with....I don’t think the treatments are reversing the problem. I just think its getting my body just a little more ammunition to work with as far as supplements and things I need....A lot of times I’ve been told to take it easy out there, get out there and get comfortable. Then I get out there, I run as hard as I can and I’ll end up doing something to myself.....It’s taken me awhile to learn how to dial it back and learn my new problem.
Once again, Rocco Baldelli is 27.

So who would take a chance on Baldelli, a disease-plagued former phenom, now?

If the Boston Red Sox are smart, they would. They would sign the Rhode Island native, Baldelli, as soon as free agency begins.

Truthfully, Baldelli will never play 156 games, or hit for 45 HRs as was the dream when he began playing. But he can still be an asset. In 80 ABs this year, Baldelli had a slugging percentage of .475 (league average was.426) and an OPS of .819 league average was .727). In 12 at bats against the Red Sox and Phillies this postseason, Baldelli had 3 hits, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs, 2 runs and 2 BBs.

What these numbers suggest, is that if used judiciously, Baldelli can be a powerful weapon as a spot starter in a fourth outfielder role, an occasional DH, or as a late inning substitution.

Which would fit the Red Sox to a tee. The Red Sox have their outfield in order; Jacoby Ellsbury in center, flanked by J.D. Drew and Jason Bay, with David Ortiz at DH.

But Baldelli could fit in with Boston. Firstly, he could serve as a right-handed DH to counter the lefty Ortiz. Let's face it, Big Papi looked like Old Papi this year. Further, he batted .221 against lefty pitching this year. In limited time, Baldelli batted .292 against lefties this year—which almost matches his .296 career average against lefties perfectly. Baldelli could DH against lefties and spell the aging Ortiz.

Also, as we all know, J.D. Drew is a second away from the DL list. Baldelli, who's played all three outfield spots, could step in for an injury to Drew (or Bay or Ellsbury) and serve as a very good insurance policy.

Look at it this way. Baldelli doesn't have to play every day and wouldn't complain if he didn't. He understands that he would be a spot starter, a late inning pitch hitter and a sometime DH. That said, he is a talented outfielder with a great arm (he had 26 assists in 278 games in 2003 and 2004), and coming in late in a close game, would worry opposing pitchers a lot more than say, Mark Kotsay or Sean Casey.

Rocco Baldelli needs a new start. He needs to leave Tampa, despite the fact that he says he wants to stay there. The Rays have moved on without him and have young players, eager for playing time, to fill each of the positions he plays. The Red Sox on the other hand, are a more veteran team, who could use the occasional jolt that Baldelli's speed, power and natural athletic ability could provide. he'd give the team a spark and Sox fans would love him, possibly for a long time.

After all, he's only 27.