Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Worst Best-Ever, Catastrophic, Heroic, Tragic Sports Article Ever. You Jerk.

Sports writing should be relatively easy. You watch the game, then you write about it.

We know, however, that that isn't the case. Sports reporters, seemingly more than ever don't report with insight and meaningful opinion—instead on the way to the computer they take a detour into HyperboleLand. Or sometimes, just as bad, they decide rather than reporting clearly and astutely, instead they try to be "funny" or "clever," and instead it just comes out as sensationalistic or mean-spirited, or just plain wrong.

Rush To Judgment
Take for instance, ESPN Page 2 writer, Tim Keown. Earlier this week, practically salivating with glee, Keown wrote a smug little piece about how much he doesn't like the new Yankee Stadium (the first guy to do that, right Tim?). He called it "Trouble At The House That George Built."

Keown doesn't even pretend to be dispassionate, or at the very least, journalistic. Pshhhaw. Instead, he takes every pleasure telling us about what he feels the current circumstances are at the new Stadium. And of course, he tries to be funny.

This whole Yankee Stadium story is just too good. The $1.5 billion stadium turns out to be a ridiculous little bandbox that makes every day seem like Wrigley with 30 mph gusts blowing out to center.

They've thought of everything to explain the 20 homers the Indians and Yankees combined to hit in the first four games (26 in the first six), but here's one I haven't heard: all those empty seats behind home plate. Maybe it's creating an unintended vortex.

OK, he's funny, he's clever. I get it. but what is the point in my reading this. What have I learned? I think that it is "There's a lot of home runs, there aren't a lot of fans. And we're happy about this." Why? Not sure.

Keown goes on to write as if the Yankees were the first team to ever build a new stadium, and then crescendos it off in super-smug style, with a quote from the New Yorker.

The best description of the new park came from Ben McGrath of The New Yorker, who described the Yankees' Opening Day home collapse as "a moral smiting of the fools who spent one and a half billion dollars to build a replica of the world's most famous ballpark across the street from the perfectly serviceable real thing, and then stuffed it with Mohegan Sun Sports Bars and Jim Beam Suite Lounges, on the eve of the steepest recession in decades."

"Moral smiting?" From whom and when? "Collapse?" Well, not sure you could call the Yankee's Opening Day a collapse considering it was sold out for months. And again, the fact that the Yankees wanted to build a new stadium and starting planning it years before this recession hit doesn't seem to phase reporters who seem to take it as a personal mission to slaughter the Yankees for not keeping the Stadium closed until the recession was over. But whatever. Keown took his pot shots, and then closed his laptop. Easy as pie.

HyperboleLand
The problem with Keown and in fact, the majority of sports journalists, is not just petty potshots in the name of 'morality," but with overstatement. Hyperbole. It's not good enough for an athlete to be good; he has to be the next Joe Dimaggio (Rocco Baldelli—can't imagine why either why sportswriters would pick DiMaggio to compare Baldelli to. Hmmmm...). Likewise, a game can't be great, it has to be "An Instant Classic. (Seemingly every weekend, ther'e an instant classic acording to ESPN.) To whit, the Celtics-Bulls playoff series isn't "great;" no ESPN (in what I’m sure isn't self-interest, considering the playoffs are on their channel) decided to repeatedly, call it the "Best Playoff Series Ever." Vince Young, after his first season wasn't just a promising young quarterback; no, according to CBSsports.com's Clay Travis, he deserved "to have a temple built to him." Greg Oden was inaugurated as the next great NBA center—complete with ESPY appearances, magazine covers and commercials—before he even grabbed one rebound. And how many "Next Michael Jordans" have there been? Penny Hardaway. Vince Carter. Kobe Bryant. Harold Miner. And etc, etc.

Of course, no other team brings out the hyperbole than the Yankees, where every single article must make mention of the team's salaries in some form or another. Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News is no exception. This past Sunday, April 26th, Lupica wrote that the Friday and Saturday Yankee losses to the Red Sox weren't just losses; “Friday night was one kind of April disaster for Girardi's team and Saturday was quite another." Twice Lupica wrote that "The weekend stays a disaster no matter what Andy Pettitte does tonight." So, winning one out of 3 in Fenway would still be a disater. in April? Lupica continued that these are "...the kind of losses that stay with you." Really, Lupe? Should the Yankees just pack it in? On April 26th? Lupica followed that up today with a headline that the "Mets Must Win" this weekend against the Phils. The date today is May 1st.

Lupica is hardly alone in overstatement. In fact, it seems if you aren't ranting and making outrageous statements, then you aren't a real sports analyst. No, more and more sports "personalities" have to be like Adam Schein (from of course, "Loudmouths on Sports Net" naturally), or Lou Holtz, or Mike Patrick, or Chris Berman, where you shout opinions—the more outrageous, the better—at other sports personalities, until the loudest bullies there way to "victory." There is no room for disagreements, only shouting. There's no analysis; there's only a shocking opinion meant to draw in the easily outraged. It's as if sports reporting is turning into a Internet message board where anyone can type in any obscenity-laced rant, free from consequence. And free from logic or substance.

The Yankees are overpriced divas going nowhere and the Steinbrenners are jerks for trying to build a new Stadium!! Barry Bonds is only being investigated because he's black and anyone who says otherwise is a racist!!! Brett Farve is the best quarterback ever, hands down!! Kobe is better than Wade and Jordan!!!! I know it's the 3rd game of the season, but it is a must-win!!! Joba Chamberlain is a reliever and anyone who thinks he should be a starter doesn't know anything about baseball!!! Shut up jerk!!!


Natural Selection
Why do sports writers do this? Why do Adam Schein and Jim Rome shout, abuse their guests and make asses of themselves? Why does, for years, Peter Vescey pretend to be an insult comic and write put-downs meant to be "funny" but only seem mean—none of them imparting any information or having anything in common with actual sports journalism—and get to keep on working work for years and years? Why does the New York Post, Daily News, Newsday, ESPN the Magazine and seemingly every print, radio and TV sports reporter opt for the loud, celebrity-laden, A-Rod, Farve type story? Why the reaching for the outrageous, often barely-sports related sensationalist story?

Why? Because they have to. Because we, the readers, the fans, demand it.

Put it this way. On April 30th, an ESPN story regarding A-Rod taking stories in high school was posted to ESPN.com. In under 40 minutes, there were already 510 comments. Likewise, an article about the difficulties of the Celtic's attempts to repeat as NBA champions received 23 comments. On Foxsports.com, a poll asking "Do you believe Alex Rodriguez took steroids in high school, had 38,771 respondents. A similar poll (that had actually been up at least a day longer) asking "Will the Marlins make the playoffs?" got 3,768 answers. On ESPN Sports Nation, the poll regarding Alex Rodriquez drew almost 84,000 votes; the next highest poll response drew about 18,000.

In journalism the old maxim goes: "If it bleeds, it leads." In sports, it’s no different. Reporters will push the story they feel will draw the most interest. And again, because they have to. If they want to compete in the sports media market, natural selection demands that they push the stories that will sell the best. Unfortunately, those stories aren't about the dying art of pitching inside, or the changing nature of offensive line blocking. More often they are about Mark Teixeira’s outrageous salary, Ben Roethlisberger’s new tattoo or Shawn Kemp's legal dispute with the mother of his child. And it will be that way until we say we're not interested.

A New Hope
Luckily, there are some out there who feel that sports reporting could be better; who aren't afraid to point out when sportswriters are ham-boning their points. Enter the internet; one of the wonderful aspects to the web is its democratic nature. In short it offers a voice to those who feel that things could be better; in this case, that sometimes in the sports reporting world, they would like a change.

In the mid 2000s, ESPN decided to hire sports personality, Steven A. Smith. Well, they did more than that, they wanted to make him a star.

"Stephen A. is ringing a bell," said Mark Shapiro, an executive vice president of ESPN. "People like him and dislike him, but they still watch him. These days, it's hard to find a talent who strikes a chord that way. Polarization is a commodity." He added: "We're in the hit-making business. And Stephen A. is a game-changer."

Actually, I thought you were in the sports reporting business. In any event, When ESPN pushed Smith to the front of almost every broadcast—including his own show, Quite Frankly (which Smith described as a cross between Bill O'Reilly and Larry King)—complete with his loud, bombastic style, viewers took note. And more often than not, they hated him.

A number of web sites popped up attesting to that fact that he was an awful journalist (including some whose names I can't write here). AwfulAnnouncing.com, Deadspin.com and many other web sites and blogs wrote copious amounts of type on how dreadful Smith was and what an insult it was fro ESPN to think so little of its viewer. In addition, a series of Youtube.com videos showed him getting heckled at the NBA draft; another series of videos had a sock puppet heckling people as Smith. And Quite Frankly, ratings-wise tanked. His radio show also failed, and this week, Steven A. Smith left ESPN after they refused to renew his contract.

There are a number of good blogs and sports sites out there (as well as a whole heck of a lot of pure detritus) outside of the big media conglomerates. And what's more, what these sites might not have in actual breaking news and access to athletes, they make in what used be the domain of the journalists, and that's actual insight and thoughtful criticism of the game we love.

In fact, there was a nice, little article on a popular sports blog, FireJoeMorgan.com, a few years back criticizing the writing of...Tim Keown. Back in 2005, the web site did a point-by-point critique of Keown's evisceration of every sports journalist's favorite target, Alex Rodriguez. Using common sense and statistical analysis, FireJoeMorgan proved what we all know; that Tim Keown—and a great many sports journalists (not all, but many)—don't analyze or report, they take pot shots. They don't let the sport itself stand on its own, they hype and exaggerate and overstate till all meaning is lost from the game. Until, like Stephen A. Smith, they become the show, and not the sport they are suppossedly covering. They do it because its easy, and because people will respond to their bluster and derisiveness by continuing to read their articles.

Hopefully though, there will soon come a day, as with Smith, when we don't.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Transactions....

Seems hilarious to me that the first thing Josh Freeman does when get gets drafted is unintentionally (or, heck, intentionally) insult a veteran QB on the team. Not the best move, there Josh. And now we hear that the Bucs are already on serious damage control.

Coach Raheem Morris indicated that Freeman misspoke.

"We talked about that (Sunday) morning," Morris said. "Sometimes quotes are taken out of context. The young man was asked the question and he kind of answered it the wrong way.

"Hey, Leftwich called him this morning and told him he's going to put him in a headlock when he gets down here and then after that he's going to put him under his wing and get him ready to go. So, they talked on the phone this morning and I think we're okay."
My guess: this damage control doesn't matter. iI have a feeling that Leftwich and a couple of other vets are gonna prank the living crap out of Freeman come mini-camp.


As awfully as the Yankees are playing the past 4 games, the news media needs to lighten the heck up. Already the nonsense about the "failure" of the new Stadium, the lack of "ghosts," and other such hyperbole. Here's some more:

Teixeira is batting just .222 this month, having failed to make the Yankees forget that Alex Rodriguez is on the DL until mid-May. For $180 million, the Bombers are paying Teixeira to do more than blend in; their man is supposed to be The Man, starting Friday night.

For God's sakes, we all knew this was coming. Teixeira is a perennial slow starter. he's a career .252 batter in April. And every time the guys doesn't hit a 5-run home run, are we going to have to see his contract in front of his name? Yes, we know. He makes a lot of money. And again, this is not excusing Texeira or the Yankees. not at all. It's just that we have to trot out these already-tired nonsensicals of "Stadium Ghosts" and "$180 million dollars" instead of actual baseball analysis?


Speaking of actual baseball analysis, here's an interesting tidbit from Yankeeprospects.com on the "Yankee Stadium wind tunnel."

Jorge Posada started 13 games this season. In those 13 games, Yankee pitchers have given up at least five runs seven times. The Yankees have given up, with Jorge catching, at least 10 runs four times....It’s a small sample size that Jose Molina started but when he did start, the most runs the Yankee pitchers gave up were six runs to Kansas City. Two of those runs were unearned because of a Nick Swisher error. The other games he started, the Yankee pitchers have given up two runs, three runs, two runs, and three runs.
So in short: it's not the fact that the new Yankee Stadium has a "mysterious wind tunnel" driving pop flies into the outfield seats, but rather, that Posada is calling bad games for the pitchers. Too soon to tell if this theory holds water, but it's at least interesting.


Some more thoughts about the draft. It is really surprising to me that Buffalo did not take William Beatty in the second round when they had the chance. A natural left tackle with excellent athleticism, Beatty was just sitting there waiting to be selected and to replace Jason Peters. Not sure where Buffalo is going to go now with their LT position.


I think the Steelers just had an excellent below the radar draft. Ziggy Hood, Mike Wallace, Kraig Urbik, A. Q. Shipley—players who may not be the flashiest or the most known—but players who fit the Steeler mode, and in a few years time, will contribute.


For anyone who's been watching the Yankees home games and has seen all the empty seats—due both to the extreme cost of Yankee tickets and the flagging economy—and is tired of seeing them, why not ask the Yankees to donate them? If they aren't sold, why don't the Yankees donate them to the Police Athletic League, or the Boy Scouts, or any other of a million charitable-worthy organizations? From a blog on NJ.com:

Can't sell those seats? Donate them! To Little League or Babe Ruth organizations. To the NYPD. To the NYFD. It's a baseball stadium, not an opera house or a library, fer gosh sakes! And it'll do a world of good on so many different levels, including more purchases of food and memorabilia (ooohh, money!). Now c'mon, is that really so hard?

Agreed. It would make the new Stadium a more rockin' place to be and it would do something good for a depressed NYC.


As for the draft's current format...staring at 4pm on a Saturday, readers of this blog know we hate it. Now, we're hearing news that the draft might be moving again, to weekday primetime. The NFL wants to move the first round of the draft to Thursday evening during prime time. The 2nd and 3rd rounds would be on Friday night and the final 4 rounds would happen on Saturday afternoon. What do we think of it. Sure...it couldn't be worse than the system they have now, so let's see it.


In some good news, Dontrelle Willis had a nice opening to his 2009 season. In AA-ball, Willis threw 6 innings giving up only 2 runs on 3 hits. Manager Jim Leyland said that "It was good," and that Willis will pitch a AAA game this Friday. Here's hoping that the former all-star and good guy can make it all the way back to a big league mound and pitch the way he should.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some Day 1 Draft thoughts

You knew the second Darrius Heyward-Bey ran that 4.3 at the combine that Al Davis was thinking seriously about taking him at no. 7.


How did the Broncos justify a RB with the 12 when they had all those problems on defense? Makes no sense.


Philly adding Jeremy Maclin to Desean Jackson. Wow. Suddenly the Eagles have serious speed at WR.


Had a feeling the Steelers would ignore their offensive line and take the best defensive linemen available. Just didn't think it would be Ziggy Hood.


Denver traded a 2010 1st round pick to draft Alphonso Smith? Really? I guess that says a lot about what Denver thinks of their cornerbacks, huh, Champ Bailey?


Somebody needs to tell Josh Freeman when to be quiet.

Apart from the fact that the Buccaneers picked a first-round quarterback not long after signing Leftwich, the first-round quarterback who joined the team on Saturday said that the Bucs told him the addition of Leftwich was merely aimed at throwing people off.

“It was something they told me — they told me it was a smoke screen, everybody would think they didn’t want a QB,” Freeman said in an NFL.com chat. “They said they were ready to trade up. I think it worked out great. I was sitting there with my family and enjoying it, and I got to go to the team that I wanted to go to.”


Freeman telling the world that the Bucs telling the world that Leftwich's signing in Tampa it was all a smokescreen....not the smartest move in all the world.


Jacksonville took Eugene Monroe in the first round and Eben Britton in the 2nd. Wonder where they felt their problems were last year?


My God, New England knows how to do the draft. First they trade down—which makes a ton of sense in a weak draft—and get a bunch of extra picks. Then all they do is set up with the future, taking Patrick Chung to step in for the Jurassic Rodney Harrison. Then they get Darius Butler in the 2nd round when most thought the pats would take him in the 1st round, and also get Ron Brace to eventually step in for Vince Wilfork.


When does Braylon Edwards get traded? With Robiskie and Massaquoi both taken by Cleveland in the 2nd round, it seems that Mangini has seen enough of Edwards, and he should be traded by 5pm Sunday.


Still a bunch of good players available. Jarron Gilbert, Rashard Johnson, Andre Brown, Kraig Urbik, Jaman Meredith. Johnson might look good in a Texan jersey, Brown in a Seahawk uniform. Buffalo could use a LT, and Meredith might get a shot there.


And lastly, Aaron Curry wins with suit of the day.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Good For the Browns & The Jets

Mangini didn't want Orakopo. He wanted Aaron Curry.

Rex Ryan took a look at Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff and knew he couldn't go with those guys.

So what we get is a great trade all around. While the Browns couldn't take Curry, they do get more picks (picks they need) and players that Mangini knows and likes. He gets Kenyon Coleman, his old free agent signings. He gets Abrham Elam, a guy he tried to sign in the off-season. And he gets a young QB in Ratliff he likes. And he gets picks.

The Jets in short, get the new face of the franchise. A guy who has played in a pro offense, and a guy who, they feel, can lead the team out from under the post-Brett Farve gloom. A guy made for playing in the spotlight of New York. And he's not Kellen Clemens.

A great move all around.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Last Minute Draft Thoughts

With the draft upon us, here's a few last minute thoughts on what teams should do.


If Cleveland really is dedicated to gutting their roster, starting over, and taking Mark Sanchez or Michael Crabtree with the 5th pick, they could do worse than offer Brady Quinn and Braylon Edwards to the Jets for their first round and a conditional later pick. The Jets need a young talent at QB, and after letting Coles go, they need a reliable WR who can run more than ever. By getting the number 17 pick (and the condition pick in 2010) and trading Edwards and Quinn, the Browns get another 1st round pick to help reform their roster and clear cap space. The Jets fill two holes with one pick.


I know the logic says, "If you're Detroit, you take Stafford with the number 1 pick." But man, had the Lions better be sure about Stafford. Matt Ryan was a true leader who made his Boston College team better than it was. Guys like Ryan, Aikman, Roethislberger—they an innate quality, a "sense" or ability about them that rises them and their teammates to a better place. The Lions better be sure, before they invest a jillion dollars into the young QB, that Stafford is one of those guys and not the second coming of Joey Harrington.


Some experts at ESPN shot this down, but with $37 million in cap room, why wouldn't the Eagles go after Julius Peppers? Carolina gets back a first round pick (albeit 28, but the Panthers don't pick until pick 59 anyway) so it makes sense for them. And for Philly, with all the cap room, and the team built to win NOW (McNabb and Westbrook don't have much time left), going after Peppers makes all the sense in the world. At least to me.


As one scout says: "How many sacks did Robert Ayers have last year? 3? And he is supposed to be a pass rusher?" Agreed. Why all the chatter about a guy who didn't exactly dominate the world?


Word is that Kansas City could be looking to not only trade Larry Johnson, but also last year's first round pick, Glenn Dorsey. Makes sense. Dorsey is a 4-3 tackle and would be a bad fit in the new 3-4 system the Chiefs are going to (think of Dewayne Robertson in the center of the Jets 3-4 system a few years back and see what we mean. Atlanta, Tampa or Tennessee might be good fits for trade partners.


Buzz is that Josh Freeman may go in the top 10. Can't see that being a good thing. Not saying he is guaranteed to fail, but in a weak crop of QBs, reaching to pick one is not recommended. Not when Freeman didn't elevate his Kansas State team and didn't show the mental acumen needed. He didn't complete 60 % of his passes last year, had 8 interceptions, and did his best work against creampuff teams—12 of his TDs came against North Texas, Montana State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Iowa State while his interceptions came against Oklahoma, Kansas and Lousiville. Oh, and aside from the Aggies, he didn't complete 60% of his passes against any Big 12 team. May be a decent player someday, but not top 10 IMO.


Another Chiefs trade. Brian Waters, who wants out of Kansas City in the worst way, to the Steelers. The Steelers need o-line help and Waters could be plugged into and make every one on their line better from minute one.


The Redskins should not give up on Jason Campbell and trade up for Mark Sanchez. Sanchez will not lead your team to the Super Bowl in year 1. And for most quarterbacks, it takes a couple of seasons to get acclimated to complicated Mike Holgren-type West Coast offense. Holgren himself said it took Hasselback and Farve at least 2-3 years to fully comprehend the system. Give Campbell another year at least to see how he develops.


How many people take slash/Qbs? And how many work out? Right. But maybe, just maybe Pat White ends that trend?


And lastly, kudos to someone saying that the Patriots could trade back a little and pick up Connor Barwin, the DE/TE hybrid from Cincinnati. They could just take Mike Vrabel's old jersey and give it to Barwin. The kid does seem like a Belichek kind of player.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Transactions....

Good to hear that Jason Giambi—athlete supreme—had to be removed from a game in the 7th inning after legging out a single. That's right, he ran 90 feet then proclaimed himself "gassed." Way to earn your million, Jason.


When all is said and done, I can't see the Arizona Cardinals trading Anquan Boldin. They know that whatever they get in a trade will not be equal to what Boldin brings to their team. The Giants, Ravens, Dolphins or Eagles would have to give up a no. 1 and a no. 2 to even get the Cardinals to the table.


The Yankees better hope Chien-Ming Wang is healthy and that all this early-season shellacking he's taking is just rust. Because a rotation that looked formidable suddenly gets a whole lot of question marks on it if Wang's reliable 200 IP and 19 wins are lost. Just look at last year. Oh, and another thing...the Yankees were unwilling to discuss a multi-year package with Wang before the season. Makes you wonder if they knew something more than they were telling.


OK, I said it before, but this late afternoon start to the NFL Draft is crap. Yes, I know the NFL wants the Draft to go "Prime Time." But the whole fun of the Draft was getting up early, tailgating outside Radio City (or watching the people who do), and getting started at 11 and spending the whole day watching the draft. Now the draft starts and I'm in the middle of doing other stuff and then going out for the evening. People do have lives and there's always drinking to be done. C'mon, NFL. Put draft back where it's supposed to be. Early Saturday afternoon and let the NFL fans enjoy their whole draft day.


You know there are a lot of excuses to why the New Yankee Stadium is a home run launching pad. But here's the one that I find the most compelling: We're 13 games into the place. Let's give it a while before we come to any conclusions.


Word on the street is that a lot of teams have fallen in love with fast-riser Josh Freeman. This to me, is a potential whopper of a mistake. Late and fast-risers on team's draft boards aren't always busts, but often are. Akili Smith, Kyle Boller and Jim Druckenmiller leap to mind. Scouts fall in love with the potential a player has, and not what he is realistically capable of doing. Sure, Freeman has a rocket arm and the size teams drool over. But can he read a Belichek-complex defense? Is he accurate? Does he lock on to one receiver, or bail out of the pocket too soon? Just look at Jamarcus Russel. He can throw it out of the stadium, but was he ready to lead a NFL team? No. So don't necessarily just fall in love with the big arm, but check if he can read the defense and make the right throw.


Glad to see that on ESPN's front page they have the hot, important item: A. Bynum may be dating Rihianna. Wow. That's important stuff. ESPN. What a great sports news resource.


Great to see Washington Nationals Jordan Zimmermann outduel Derek Lowe and win his big league debut. If there's going to be consistent baseball in D.C., there needs to be at least some hope. And this kid, if he can provide, would keep baseball alive in Washington. Let's hope he can do it.


Boy did the Eagles do well for themselves. Getting a guaranteed NFL-ready left tackle in his prime with only the 28th pick in the draft. Heck, they were not going to do that well with the 28th pick—how many Pro Bowl left tackles are at 28 in the draft? Well done, Eagles.


Word is that Hideki Irabu is trying to make a comeback. Yes, that Irabu.

That he’s aiming for a comeback is true. Because he’s gotten back into shape, he came to want play again. He’s playing with a cheerful demeanor. He wants to get tryouts and find a club he can play for. He’s looking to make a comeback in the independent leagues during the season. Looking to the future, the thinking is that if possible he wants to return to a high level, like MLB or NPB.

My only question is: He was ever in shape to "get back into" it?


And finally, meet Ryan Del Rosal. Ryan wants to play football. Very badly. So badly, he's trying to get the attention of NFL scouts in hopes he gets drafted. Unfortunately, the 6-5, 311 offensive tackle played at little-known division II Dixie State college in Utah. So to get known, he's getting into shape, by pulling a 5000-lb. Chevy Tahoe down the street. And heck, if he doesn't get into football, that kind of stuff always has a home on ESPN II. Or the Ocho, wherever they put those crazy bus-dragging contests.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Mock Draft

With one week to go, things are solidifying. or are they. Anyway, here's the last mock before the draft.

1. Detroit Lions — Matthew Stafford QB — Georgia
The Lions would love to trade out of this spot and get more picks—they could use help everywhere—but barring a blockbuster, they take the strong arm out of Georgia.

2. St. Louis Rams — Jason Smith OT — Baylor
Another no-brainer. The Rams need help on the O-Line, and Smith—Scouts, Inc highest rated player in the draft—is the most athletic big man in the draft.

3. Kansas City Chiefs — Aaron Curry LB — Wake Forest
The Chiefs already have their QB. So the Chiefs continue to rebuild their defense.

4. Seattle Seahawks — Eugene Monroe OT — Virginia
A lot of picks have Sanchez going here, but Hasselback isn't done, he just needs to be protected. Walter Jones is 35 and coming off a knee injury. Monroe makes the most sense here.

5. Cleveland Browns — Brian Orakpo OLB/DE — Texas
Malcolm Jenkins is a possibility, Crabtree as well, if Edwards is traded. Mangini, like Parcells, believes in pressuring the QB. Orakpo can do that, is solid against the run and develop into a 3-4 OLB.

6. Cincinnati Bengals — Everette Brown DE — Florida State
The Bengals wanted one of the top two OTs, and will look to trade out of this pick. However, at the end of the day, will take the most natural pass rusher in the draft. Brown might not be an every down end at first, but has the quick twitch muscles needed to beat OTs and get to the QB.

7. Oakland Raiders — Jeremy Maclin WR — Missouri
Ah, the Draft's entertainment, Al Davis. With the Raiders signing of Jeff Garcia, the Raiders seem to be ready to have an offense this year. Davis, who adores speed, pairs a super fast gamebreaker with last year's pick, McFadden, and newly signed Jeff Garcia.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars — Michael Crabtree WR — Texas Tech
No, not Mark Sanchez. Just can't see the Jaguars dumping the QB and his huge contract 1 year after the gave it to him, especially when poor line play was partially to blame. The Jags seemingly draft wide receivers every year; they think this is the year they get a good one.

9. Green Bay Packers — B. J. Raji DT — Boston College
Unable to draft Brett Farve, the Packers decide to take the draft's top tackle. The Boston College tackle absolutely dominated offensive linemen this year, and with the Packers switching to a 3-4 defense, the pick doesn't take long to get to the commissioner.

10. San Francisco 49ers — Aaron Maybin OLB — Penn State
The Niners need a pass rush. Period. Maybin's stock is rushing as scouts see his potential. Don't rule out a surprise pick here—Beanie Wells—as the Niners staff has talked about needing a tough inside runner to pair with(and give a breather to) Frank Gore.

11. New York Jets (trade with Buffalo Bills) Mark Sanchez QB — USC
Buffalo doesn't have anyone at 11 that they are salivating for, so they pick up even more picks as they trade down with their AFC division-mates. At 17, the Bills should still be able to find an OT to replace Jason Peters. The Jets, moving up before someone trades up to take Sanchez, get what they truly need, some real potential at QB.

12. Denver Broncos — Tyson Jackson DE — LSU
Cutler or no Cutler, the Bronco defense last year awful. With Jackson, the Broncos take the best 5-technique end (they are not put off by his less-than-stellar workouts), as they switch to a 3-4 defense.

13. Washington Redskins — Andre Smith OT — Alabama
The Redskins needed help on both sides of the line. Haynesworth takes care of one side, and now Smith comes in to play RT and eventually replace another Alabama LT, Chris Samuels.

14. New Orleans Saints — Malcolm Jenkins CB — Ohio State
The Saints are ecstatic about Jenkins mini-slide (he was slotted to go as high as 3 in some early drafts) as the soooooorly need secondary help. Jenkins can start right away.

15. Houston Texans — Brian Cushing OLBUSC
Very possibly the Texans try to trade back, but find Cushing's natural athleticism too tempting to pass on and add him to their underwhelming linebacker corps.

16. Baltimore Ravens (trade with San Diego Chargers) — Rey Maualuga ILBUSC
The Ravens decide to pull the trigger and jump up before the Broncos (2 picks later) and get their man, whom they see as cut from the same cloth as Ray Lewis. San Diego, which has a number of holes, trades back to acquire more picks.

17. Buffalo Bills (from New York Jets) — Michael Oher OT — Mississippi
The Bills get their replacement for Jason Peters, and are happy to not subject headcase Andre Smith to headcase Terrell Owens.

18. Denver Broncos — Clay Matthews OLBUSC
The Broncos are sad Maualuga was taken at 16, and had thought about taking him themselves at 12. Without a CB option they love, they turn to Maualuga's teammate, fast-rise Clay Matthews.

19. Philadelphia Eagles (trade with Tampa Bay Buccaneers) — Brandon Pettigrew TE — Oklahoma State
The Eagles leapfrog the Lions to get the best TE in the draft. As of this writing, the Eagle TEs are Brent Celek and Matt Schobel. They need help, and get it in the Okie State athlete.

20. Detroit Lions — Peria Jerry DT — Mississippi
Matthew Stafford's almost new best friend, Pettigrew gets taken one spot earlier, so the Lions turn to the defense. Peria is a penetrator and could provide an immediate upgrade for the Lions defense.

21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Philadelphia Eagles)— Josh Freeman QB — Kansas State
The Bucs trade down and get their man. Tampa has a ton of options at QB; none of them too appealing. Buc coach Raheem Morris knows Freeman personally from his time at Kansas State and compares him to Ben Roethlisberger. Unlike Big Ben, Freeman may have to learn from the bench for a while.

22. Minnesota Vikings — Darius Heyward-Bey WR — Maryland
The Vikings were hoping to have one of the top tier offensive tackles slide (and could still grab Britton), but decide on the speedy WR from Maryland. The Vikings are a team built to win now, and need explosiveness at the WR spot.

23. New England Patriots — Darius Butler CB — Connecticut
Word is that Belichek himself scouted Butler, a rare and telling selling point for the Big East cornerback, who leapfrogs higher rated corners.

24. Atlanta Falcons — James Laurinaitis ILB — Ohio State
The Falcons really would have like Pettigrew, but might be getting Tony Gonzalez anyway, so they take the Buckeye to shore up the middle of their defense. Not the sexiest pick, Laurinaitis fits the Falcons idea of a solid citizen and a quiet productivity (look at the Falcons picks last year).

25. Arizona Cardinals (Trade with Miami Dolphins) — Knowshon Moreno RB — Georgia
The Cardinals, not fazed by his not-exactly-blazing 40 times and eager to get the uber-talented Moreno jump past the Chargers and take the all-purpose back, putting an end to the Edge Days in Arizona. The Dolphins are happy to trade back and get more picks.

26. San Diego Chargers (From Baltimore Ravens) — Chris Wells RB — Ohio State
The Chargers, not thinking Moreno would be down this far anyway, shrug and take the pounder from Ohio State. Wells complements L.T. in San Diego well, and can do some of the heavy lifting that Tomlinson may be getting too old to do.

27. Indianapolis Colts — Ziggy Hood DT — Missouri
The Colts look long and hard at Hakeem Nicks and Brian Robiskie to replace Marvin Harrison, but after years of not upgrading their defensive tackle with first round talent finally take Missouri's Hood. Hood fit exactly into the Colt's one-gap, penetrating scheme and could be a starter on day 1.

28. Buffalo Bills (Trade with Philadelphia Eagles) Alex Mack C — California
The Bills continue to upgrade their offensive line, which gained no ground for them them in the running game last year. The Bills hope that Connor Barwin is available when they pick in round 2 and are sad to have to pass on him.

29. New York Giants — Kenny Britt WR — Rutgers
Unless the Giants trade for Boldin or Edwards, they should be taking a WR early in the draft. With Harvin inexplicably cancelling his private workout with the Giants, the Giants are reminded they are done with headcases, and take the local product who provide a big target for Eli Manning.

30. Tennessee Titans — Percy Harvin WR — Florida
The Titans are tempted by local product Robert Ayers, but ultimately take the burner for their offense which could use it. Tennessee has a habit of taking a chance on "personalities" with speed and Harvin fits both requirements.

31. Miami Dolphins (From Arizona Cardinals) Michael Johnson DE — Georgia Tech
Parcells loves big, athletic, quarterback-smashing ends, and Johnson fits the bill. After Porter, the next Dolphin on the sack list last year had 5. Parcells feels his coaching crew (and Porter) can get the best from the underachieving Johnson.

32. Pittsburgh SteelersJarron Gilbert DE — San Jose State
The Steelers coaches really believe that their O-line is not that bad. So they focus on getting younger on their D-line and pluck a prospect who has a ton of potential and can learn behind some of the best in the business.

That's it. Enjoy the Draft.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Berra


Last summer, when the discussion came of who should christen the new Yankee Stadium by throwing out the first pitch, a bunch of names came up: Reggie, Mattingly, Thurman Munson's family, even George Steinbrenner himself. But really, deep down in the hearts of everybody, there was only one person fit for the job and only one who earned the right.

Yogi Berra.

Today, the hoopla of the Stadium opening will range from the modern pageantry and festivities of Kelly Clarkson and F-14s to those who will “tsk-tsk” and finger-wag at the excess. But all sides will agree that everything that is right and large and great about this opening and this day is inhabited in perhaps the smallest man in the Stadium.

This morning, the New York Times wrote this morning that Lawrence Peter Berra is:

...an approachable and unpretentious Hall of Famer who represents a proud franchise not always associated with such qualities.

Like DiMaggio in the Simon & Garfunkel song, Berra represents innocence, dignity and success achieved by doing things "the right way." But perhaps unlike the sometimes distant DiMaggio, Berra remained approachable, charismatic, with an almost "Aw shucks!" attitude, even when he was winning the MVP or leading his team to 10 championships. Even after it came out last week that Joba Chamberlain (perhaps unintentionally) insulted Berra by telling a cop that “He might not be as tall as the front of your car,” Berra laughed it off. “Oh, that was funny,” Berra said. “I said, ‘You know I’m your buddy.’ I called him Shorty.” Chamberlain is 6-2.

Yogi Berra is the quintessential American Success Story. He grew up in the Great Depression. He served his country in World War II and landed at Normandy. He was passed over by his hometown team—the Saint Louis Cardinals—and worked his way through the minors until his chance came. And when it did, he was ready.

Berra is what we all wish we could be: Successful, self-effacing, hard-working, lucky, and just plain talented. Indeed, Yogi Berra is the only person who should and could christen the new Stadium. And with any luck, some of his qualities will rub off on those who will play in her.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Transactions...

Really, I don't want to act like I'm the whistle blower and am shouting "The Emperor Has No Clothes!" but golf....is not an exciting sport to watch. Seriously, it's like watching a dead mouse pass into putrescence.


Great question posed by Nationals/former Marlins pitcher Scott Olsen in today's Miami Herald. in it, Olsen said:
...that Marlins players ''always wondered where that $25 million was going'' that Florida received in revenue sharing in 2008. "We're not stupid. They got more money than their $22 million payroll last year and they didn't put it into the team. Trading for Manny Ramirez might have pushed us to the playoffs last year. It's sad.''
Not to defend George Steinbrenner, but he always said this. That if you wanted to create a luxury tax to even the playing field, fine, so be it. But the money paid out by the Yankees and whichever big spending clubs get hit with the tax, has to be spent on the field. If the small markets cry poverty, and money is given to them to compete fairly against the big market clubs, then they should spend that money to compete. Otherwise it's just a handout to the owners, who cry wolf about being in a small market, but don't want to do anything themselves to help the team.


Word is the Buffalo Bills might finally trade LT Jason Peters. Last season, Peters held out until a few days before the season and seems to be doing the same again this season. With a potentially deep crop of 1st round tackles, the Bills could trade to any number of teams (Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle) and pick up a pick in the 20-35 range, which would give the Bills 3 picks in the top 42 with which to replace Peters.


If, as the rumors suggest, and Tony Gonzalez gets traded to the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan should take his HOF TE out for a huge steak dinner, because Gonzalez will save Ryan a ton of headaches his 2nd go-round through the league.


If you haven't seen the best catch of the early baseball season, check this out. And it wasn't just robbing Prince Fielder of a grand slam, he got the ball back into the infield so fast he kept a run from scoring.



I really believe the Kansas City Chiefs should trade Larry Johnson for whomever they can get. If this is the year of new coach/new G.M./new start in Arrowhead Stadium, it would be best to deal the surly running back and not have him poison the well before they even get started.


For some strange reason, I just think the Steelers might pass on drafting an offensive lineman in the first round—this despite the fact that every draft prognosticator on the planet feels they should. I just think the Steelers believe that their offensive linemen aren't as bad as they are made out to be. I happen to disagree, and so does Ben Rothisleberger and his spinal concussion.


And finally...want proof of the dearth of quality pitching nowadays. The Mariners, in a early-season sign of desperation signed Jeff Zimmerman to a minor league. Jeff Zimmerman, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2001!!! Look, the best of luck to Zimmerman for still gutting it out and trying. But really? The first time he faces Vladimir Guerrero or Jim Thome and one of them posterizes Zimmerman with a couple of 550-foot shots, he might think, "Heck, I couldn't been on my couch making fun of the guy who gave up that bomb, instead of being that guy."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Well, Isn't It?

Sure, playing baseball (or any sport, for that matter) in New York is great. Playing in the Big Apple means a gigantic, over-market contract, a potential trip down the Canyon of Heroes, endorsements up the wazoo, models on your arm and all the fame and fortune you could handle.

The down side of playing baseball in New York, is...well, if you were in New York City this week, you couldn't have missed it. It was all over and unavoidable. The hyperbole. The nonsense and the panic and the general insanity fomented by the newspapers, radio and the spotlight big and bright enough to illuminate New York City Sports.

The Yankees lost two games this week—not the way you want to start a season, but by no means an all-out catastrophe. Well isn' it? says the New York sports media. In fact, it's the worst week in New York City sports history.

Thursday's New York Newsday called the 3rd Yankee game of the season a "Must Win." Really? Newsday writer Wallace Matthews writes:

Allow me. The Yankees absolutely, positively have to win today.... There it is. I've been patient long enough, and so have you....After the acquisitions of Sabathia, Burnett and Mark Teixeira and the return to health of Wang and Jorge Posada, I thought this Yankee team was loaded. But maybe only I was.

Mr. Matthews is not alone in his hysteria. The Daily News' Tim Smith writes that yes, while "There's no need to panic...A.J. Burnett better throw lightning bolts or the Yankees will be looking foolish before they get back to their new billion dollar palace...." Mr. Smith continues: "Let's see now: Two aces, eight innings pitched, 13 runs, 17 hits and no strikeouts. Priceless."

The New York Post writes with almost barely-contained relish: "...the rotation that was supposed to make us remember the dynasty years instead is making us recall Kei Igawa....Yes, the 1998 Yankees opened 0-3 and went on to win 114 games. But that was one of the great teams ever in the middle of a dynasty, a team we would come to learn was among the toughest mentally in history. Does anyone believe we will come to think the same way of this group? Does anyone have faith that Girardi can navigate through tension as well as Torre?"

And so on. Mind you, these are only 3 small examples of the panic-button-pressing, alarm-ringing, overstatements. Aside from the tabloids, radio, television and the Internet all sounded off with glee at the Yankees 2 losses sprinkled liberally with "I-Told-You" smugness dripping off the sides. No extra charge.

And remember, these were written before the third, count it, third game of the season. Through the dog days and into the pennant races, the media in New York gets even more into a rabid, foamy-mouthed frenzy. Each loss is "devastating." Each player's twinge is a full-blown career threatening injury. And...ask A-Rod...every non PC life choice is scrutinized until all perspective is lost and all meaning becomes meaningless. Honestly, do you think Alex Rodriguez ever wishes he played and lived in Kansas City or Milwaukee?

Speaking of middle America and hysteria...Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain got arrested in Nebraska last winter for a DUI charge. In the police video he is taped talking about the difference between driving in Nebraska and in New York:

"The biggest thing that I've noticed driving here and there is if you let somebody in, they open the window and say thank you. In New York, they might hit you. Yeah, it's a joke....It wasn't like Nebraska where you can go and open a door and say please and thank you."

Needless to say, the New York media lost their minds. Chamberlain was vilified as a traitor, his mugshot splashed on the back—as well as front page—of the papers and so on and so forth with the radio and local news channels. This despite the fact that, on any other day, any one of these writers or radio personalities themselves might be making cracks about New York City drivers and rudeness—and be proud of those facts. Chamberlain then goes on to say that the best thing about being a Yankee was the proximity to Hall of Famer Berra.

"Yogi comes in every couple of days. No B.S. He might not be as tall as the front of your car."

Now let's get one thing straight. This is not to defend Joba Chamberlain. On the contrary, Chamberlain did something incredibly stupid. Drinking whiskey while driving is up there with the big time idiot moves a person can make in life—ask Nick Adenhart's family. And isn't it nice what the sports writers choose to emphasize? The outrage of making jokes at New York's expense, and not the driving while unable to walk straight. Good set of priorities.

But that's sports writing in New York. Damn all reason, all perspective, all common sense. Sure a discussion about the benefits of Phil Hughes adding a circle change to his repertoire, or moving Brett Gardner up to 1st in the order might be interesting, but hell, A-Rod walking into a nightclub with a brunette is more sports-news worthy, no? Doesn't sports celebrity and sensationalism drive the market today? Isn't that what people want to see?

Well, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Transactions....

Congrats to the Tar Heels. Sometimes the hardest thing to do—even when you have the talent and skill—is to fulfill everyone's expectations.


Here comes the self-important sports reporting item of the week. Apparently some Jet beat reporter is upset that coach Rex Ryan is taking advantage of his first Jet's mini-camp in upstate New York, away from the reporters. The writer tries to dress it up and say that the real issue isn't that he's isolating the players in their mini-camp, but that in these hard economic times, Ryan should use his expensive new facility right in Jersey because—its wasteful not to. Riiiight. Ryan shouldn't try to build team unity—he should try not to be wasteful. Please. The only reason this report wrote this silliness is because Ryan is keeping the reporters away from his guys for a spring mini-camp. So stop trying to dress this up as an economic issue and pouting because you can't write yet another "Jets should gotten Jay Cutler" article.


So, Gary Sheffield is a Met. Can't wait to see how long the honeymoon lasts in Queens.


Great analysis from the guys over at www.mlbtraderumors.com. Simply by adding Xavier Nady in right field and Mark Texiera at 1st, the Yankees are projected to save 40 runs off their ERA. 40 runs!!! Last year, the Yankees gave up 686 runs in 1441.2 innings pitched, which added up to a 4.28 ERA. Take away 40 runs off that, and the Yankees team ERA drops to a 4.03, good for 6th in the AL, just 2 hundreths of a point behind Boston. Interesting stuff to speculate on.


I'm sorry. I don't care if the Lions are allowed to pass on their pick in the draft; they won't. Could you imagine what what's left of the Lion fan base would do if the Lions perpetrated the idiocy of passing on their pick to save a few shekels? Pitchforks and torches wouldn't suffice.


And more of the finger-wagging self-important nonsense from sports reporters, this time about the size and scale of the New Yankee Stadium. Listen, if you want to write an article about the tax breaks the Yankees got for building the Stadium, go ahead write that. I'll listen. But if you write:
"So what's the problem? No biggie. Just an understanding that by opening something this large, self-congratulatory and expensive, particularly at a time when so many people are suffering..."
Please understand...this Stadium was started during an economic boom. And times changed. So what do you suggest the Yankees do? Play in a small schoolyard? Stop building the Stadium the second hard times hit, despite the fact that it was being planned for a decade? The Yankees have dropped ticket prices on a lot of seats and are aware of the hard times—as is every franchise in sports—but at least keep the bashing of them to a reasonable level. And not the dunderheaded thinking represented here.


Can anyone tell me what ever happened to Vince Young? I mean, wasn't he the NFL Rookie of the Year?


Get this. The Seattle Mariners, after wining their Opening Day game, went into the clubhouse and had a beer shower celebration. “The guys are in there celebrating our first win,” new manager Don Wakamatsu said. Guys, it's one win. There's 161 other games to play.


And finally, sad news. Bob Sheppard, the Voice of God and of Yankee Stadium wasn't able to call the first game at the new Stadium. The Yankees announcer for 58 years—his first game was April 17, 1951— Sheppard was too ill to call the game and is hoping to recuperate enough so that he can resume his duties sometime this summer. A good guy and a class act, we wish him well. It won't be the game without Sheppard's voice in the Stadium.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The 2010 Yankees

Last year, before the 2008 season started, I wrote an entry called—imaginatively enough—"The 2009 Yankees," in which I guessed how the 2008 season would go, and how free agency might take place after the season for the Bronx Bombers. I predicted the 2008 season would be a "correction year" with many old, bad free agent signings coming off the books freeing up the Yankees to go aggressively into free agency.

Well so far, so good. My prognostications turned out not far off, as indeed the Yankees did sign Mark Teixiera and CC Sabathia, as I imagined they would. And heck, Cashman and the Yankees went one further and signed A.J. Burnett as well to help rebuild their rotation.

Now, one year later, on the eve of the 2009 season, let's take a look forward towards the 2010 free agency class and next year's potential Yankee team.

First off, let's take a look at who's contract ends after this season and are not in Yankee control.

Hideki Matsui
Johnny Damon

Xavier Nady

Andy Pettitte

Jose Molina


Just like last season, a number of contracts come off the books—including almost, the entire DH/outfield squad. Xady, Damon and Matsui all come off the books, and excepting a big 2009 surprise, the Yankees aren't frantically pressing to resign any of them, freeing up 32.5 million dollars. Throw in about 7.5 from Pettitte and Molina and you have pretty much 40 million coming off the books.

As always, its difficult to predict next year's roster, because so much of it depends on how the Yankee season goes and how the farm prospects perform. Also, this essay isn't to say what I would want the Yankees to do, rather, what I think they would do. Caveats aside, let's head forth.

Rotation:
Thanks to this off-season's spending spree, the rotation is fairly solid. Sabathia, Burnett, Wang and Chamberlain should be excellent and aren't going anywhere any time soon. Andy Pettite takes the last spot, that is, until Phil Hughes claims it—quite possibly this season, should Pettitte miss some time with an injury. Former Yankee prospect and rotation member, Ian Kennedy, after having a catastrophic 2008 is firmly in AAA to work on secondary pitches and to hone his overall approach. That includes his attitude, which, last season some Yankees bristled at.

Come 12 months from now, the rotation, barring serious injury or a complete meltdown, shouldn't look a great deal different than it does now. Our guess: Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Chamberlain & Hughes

Bullpen:
Everything rests on what Mariano does. If, God-forbid, Rivera retirees, the bullpen gets a huge overhaul. Perhaps the Yankees go out and try to snare J.J. Putz or Jose Valverde—or both of them as well as others—to try to shore up the closer position. Or if Mark Melancon dominates AAA, they could try to promote from within, perhaps even tutoring him at Rivera's knee this season.

The Yankee bullpen as is, is fairly deep, but aside from Rivera, has no absolute stopper. Replacing him would be impossible. Assuming he comes back, the Yankees would again rely on him as the anchor and try to add pieces, such as Marte and Bruney, as needed. Our prediction: No major changes.

The Infield:
For 2010, the Yankee infield remains set. Rodriguez and Texiera at the corners are looked up for a years. Cano, assuming he bounces back,—a safe bet—should be locked in at 2b. Jeter, however, in 2010, might be spending his last season at SS. And, should the Yankees feel he no longer has the skills to man shortstop—and since Jeter would never be allowed to sign anywhere else—the trouble would be then where to put him. 1b might have been the best option but with the Texiera signing, that is no longer an option. Also, another problem. Who replaces him? Nobody in the Yankee farm system is a can't miss SS prospect. In any case, that is a problem for the following year, as Jeter's contract runs through 2010. So, like the rotation, the 2010 infield wont be any different than the 2009 model. Rodriguez, Jeter, Cano & Sabathia

The Outfield:
Now this is where the real changes are to take place. Start with the fact that, again, barring something drastic, both Matsui and Damon are gone. Add to that, Xavier Nady, while a nice player, is no lock to earn himself a huge Yankee contract to play right field for the next half decade. Nady is a solid player, but a lot depends on how he handles this season.

Brett Gardner has earned himself the chance to be the Yankee center fielder for the foreseeable future. And Melky Cabrera is right behind him ready to take advantage should Gardner slip. However, neither of them are locks. Should they both fail, the Yankees have their number one blue chip prospect, Austin Jackson, ready in triple AAA—assuming of course that Jackson proves himself worthy. Over in left field, well, every Yankee fan would like to say that we're just keeping the spot warm for Matt Holiday. And it is possible that the Yankees would go after him, with such a need for a big bat in the outfield. Holliday; a double machine who can thump the ball over the wall as well, would however, be expensive. A cheaper alternative might be Rick Ankiel. Ankiel is nowhere near the contact hitter that Holliday is, but has decent slugging numbers. And since he would replacing Matsui and Damon, two lefties—and is a lefty himself—the fit might be, in certain respects, better. Also available would be Manny Ramirez, should he opt of of the Dodger contract. A pipe dream for some Yankee fans who would love to have him hit moon shots into the Bronx night, Ramirez has proved himself to be a cancer and a freak/side show—something the Yankees have their fill of in Alex Rodriguez.

A wild card would be Nick Swisher. Swisher, billed as the 4th outfielder for the corner spots, could earn himself a chance with a good year. Relatively cheap, a great locker room guy, able to play multiple positions and a switch-hitter, Swisher could play himself into the permanent lineup card for 2010 if he has a good 2009.

Overall the Yankees have several decision to make. Our guess would be this for the 2010 outfield: Right Field: Xavier Nady, Center Field: Brett Gardner, Left Field: Austin Jackson

Catcher:
Another position potentially in flux is catcher. Jorge Posada's days of catching 150 games a year are gone. That said, the Yankees have Posada locked up until 2011. What the Yankees would like is for Posada to slowly relinquish the catching position while tutoring a youngster. Which is the plan; however, the Yankee blue-chip catching prospects are a couple of years away. Figure the Yankees resign Jose Molina to back up Posada; more DH days for Posada in 2010 and for the Yankees to gradually bring up the kids to learn from Jorgie once they are ready.


The 2010 Yankees don't figure to be as drastically rebuilt as the 2009 model is. Again, that does depend however, on how the 2009 Yankees perform on the field. That said, aside from Matt Holliday, don't figure the Yankees to be huge players in the 2010 free agency class. At least, let's hope not. Because if they are, then that means the 2009 season was a wash.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

MLB 2009 Winners

Just in time for the season start, lets take a look at first the Award winners for the 2009 and then the divisions and playoff winners.

AL Cy Young

1. Fausto Carmona—Got hurt last year. But will dominate this year
2. Roy Halliday—You could pencil this hoss in as a Cy Young candidate for 10 years straight.
3. Jon Lester—On the path to being an ace.
4. Eric Bedard—Bounce-back year for a guy who though injured, really didn't have that horrible year in 2008.
5. CC Sabathia—Because he is CC.


NL Cy Young
1. Brandon Webb—Winner or 2nd place in last 3 Cy Youngs. Coming into his prime.
2. Johan Santana—Perfectly suited to spacious Citi Field
3. Dan Haren—2rd in WHIP in NL last year. Perfect complement to Webb
4. Tim Lincecum—Tough to duplicate last year. Will come close.
5. Jake Peavy—ERA 2.77 at home, 3.80 on the road. Best you stay in SD, Peavy.


AL MVP
1. Miguel Cabrera—Will try to carry team on shoulders. Will end up having best year.
2. Josh Hamilton—Will get his full season legs back.
3. Carlos Quentin—Last year was no fluke
4. Evan Longoria—See above
5. Hank Blalock—Just a hunch. Will respond to being full time DH and being healthy by having best slugging season.



NL MVP

Hanley Ramierez—Can't be Pujols every year. Can it?
Albert Pujols—Is everything you'd want in a ballplayer.
David Wright—A well-rounded player who should be on this list for next decade.
Chipper Jones—If anything like last year, could be higher.
Chase Utley—Best second basemen of his generation


AL Rookie
of the Year
Matt Wieters—Early returns say he is Joe Mauer with pop.
Elvis Andrus—20 years old. And Rangers feel he is ready to start now.
David Price—You've seen him. How could he not be on this list?
Travis Snider—.301 batting average in cup of coffee last year. Toronto feels he is a legit 5-tool player.
Justin Smoak—Switch-hitter, strong wrists, good plate discipline and pitch recognition. Scouts feel he is for real.


NL Rookie of the Year
Cameron Maybin—Everybody's front-runner is a blue-chipper.
Dexter Fowler—Rockies traded Holliday to make spot for him. Had good spring.
Tommy Hanson—Had 1.08 WHIP in 3 years in minors.
Andrew McCutchen—Just 22, but ready now. 34 stolen bases in AAA-ball last year.
Colby Rasmus—Legit 5-tooler. Can hit, has power and plays a good CF.

NL East—New York Mets
NL Central—Chicago Cubs
NL West—LA Dodgers
NL Wild Card—Arizona Diamondbacks
NL Pennant—NY Mets
Could Surprise—Florida Marlins
Could Disappoint—Philadelphia Phillies

AL East—New York Yankees
AL Central—Chicago White Sox
AL West—LA Angels
AL Wild Card—Tampa Rays
AL Pennant—NY Mets
Could Surprise—Minnesota Twins
Could Disappoint—Detroit Tigers

Overall, the three big cities, New York, Chicago and LA take the top 6 positions in the playoffs. That said, the two wild cards are no slouches either, as both Tampa and Arizona could easily take a short series with the pitching they have. But honestly, with the talent stockpiled in New York, both in Citi Field and in Yankee Stadium, it should be another Subway Series. Something this city—with layoffs and rising taxes, could sorely use.