Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baseball 2011

Hey people. I know here in New York, it's windy and rainy, but it's Opening Day. So it's still one of the best days of the year—when the Boys of Summer come back. Here's the predictions for baseball 2011.

AL EAST: Boston Red Sox
AL CENTRAL: Detroit Tigers
AL WEST: Texas Rangers
WILD CARD: New York Yankees

Too much firepower in Fenway for anyone to handle. They take the East. The Tigers have an underrated pitching staff—look for Phil Coke to be the surprise player of the year now that he's starting. Look for the White Sox to be a disappointment and for Ozzie to finally be punted out of Chicago. Out west, the Rangers should repeat—their lineup is deadly in that tiny park—but might have a back-to-reality year a bit without Cliff Lee mopping up for them, and have a race to the last day. The surprise in the AL West might be the rejuvenation of Vernon Wells. Last year, Wells didn't play too badly for a mediocre team: 31 HRS, a 273 BA and a 127 OPS+, good for 3rd best in his career. In a better lineup—assuming Kendry Morales comes back—he may improve on those numbers. For the A's...not enough hitting, but some amazing pitching.

The Yankees, which everyone seems to forget won 95 games last year, should be the Wild Card, over the Rays, Angels and Twins. With a healthy A-Rod, a sturdier bullpen and an even half-way decent A.J. Burnett, they should at least repeat those 95 wins. The Rays bullpen is just ravaged from last year and can't keep up. The Twins and Angels are good, but not complete teams. The winner of the AL should be:

The Red Sox. Way, way too much firepower in that lineup for anyone to handle. After a great playoff series against the Yankees, the Red Sox head to the series.

Now, the NL:

NL EAST: Atlanta Braves
NL CENTRAL: Milwaukee Brewers
NL WEST: San Francisco Giants
WILD CARD: Philadelphia Phillies

Surprise! The Fab Four of Philadelphia can't win everything. Ben Francisco is not Jayson Werth. Chase Utley is more injured than I believe people are letting on. Pitchers are starting to learn Ryan Howard and Jose Contraras is your closer. Ugh. The Braves have some pitching of their own. And a lineup with some pop in it now with Dan Uggla. The Brewers made some nice moves to shore up their pitching, and the Reds give chase but fall at the end. Too much pitching in SF for anyone to give a serious chase out west—the Rockies are the second best team but can't keep up. The winner should be:

Milwaukee Brewers: I like what they've done with their pitching staff. Shaun Marcum and Zach Grienke are great additions to a staff with Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf—who is better suited to a middle rotation guy. The Brewers can pound the ball, and are too much for the Giants in the playoffs. Tim Lincecum will start to lose a bit of the old magic and will give up a 7th inning Grand Slam to Ryan Braun  to cap the series for the Brewers and their first World Series appearance in....something like...82 years, I believe.

And the World Series winner is:

The Red Sox. Just enough pitching ( I don't think Josh Beckett is going to Josh Beckett ever again, but Lester, Buchholz and Lackey are enough), some quality hitters and some sick power makes the Red Sox the champs for the 3rd time in 7 years. Now here's the awards:

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez (easy one—should have a season for the ages.)
NL MVP: Ryan Braun (serious consideration given to Tulowiski who had 15 HRS in Sept/Oct last year.)
AL CY Young: Felix Hernandez
NL CY Young: Jonathon Sanchez
AL ROTY: Jeremy Hellickson
NL ROTY: Aroldis Chapman

Enjoy baseball everybody.






Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Transactions....

First off, biggity ups to me for saying the Kentucky Wildcats would be a factor and "Don't be surprised in come the Final Four, the Wildcats are there." I took some crap from readers on the Bleacher Report board for saying that. Well, yeah to me.

I don't know anything more from trails than what I learned from Law & Order, but after hearing what's been said about Barry Bonds in court, I can't see how the defense is gonna exonerate him.

Peter King seems sure that the Browns are going to take a receiver with the number 5 pick. I never like receivers going that high—there are more busts with receivers taken high than practically any other position. Heck, if I were them and had the 6th pick, I'd trade down to get a pass rusher and get a receiver down the line a little.

What was up with the unnecessarily harsh Rick Reilly article on Jimmer Fredette? "If his last college game is what he's bringing to the NBA, then I'd say, in five years, he's got a really good chance to be your Provo area Isuzu dealer." WTF. kid was the highest scored in the country, dropped 33 on Arizona, 43 on San Diego State, 34 on Gonzaga and yes, had a bad game against Florida. But what the heck is with the nasty column, Reilly. Way to be a bully for no reason.

For more ridiculous sportswriting, we turn to waste of ink ESPN writer, Wallace Mathews who's hard up for something to actually write, declares that the 21 year old Montero not making the club is a blown opportunity."
But most shockingly, the kid with the high-end bat never really got it out of low gear. From the early days of live BP, Montero's bat seemed sluggish.... if Montero had made the Yankees, Romine would have advanced to Triple-A -- leave together, their once bright futures now, if not shrouded in doubt, at least open to question....Suddenly, Gary Sanchez, an 18-year-old who earlier this spring underwent surgery for a congenital heart ailment, leaps to the head of the Yankees' catching prospect class.
What an idiot. If he believes what he's writing then he has to be a world-class moron. First off, until Cervelli got hurt, the Yankees had no plans to promote Montero unless he batted 1.000. Everyone thought he needed more work. As far back as December 17th, Martin said “They told me that I’m the starting catcher.” And as for Sanchez jumping Montero as the best prospect...please. Sanchez is 18 and hasn't even seen a pitch in Low-A ball yet. He Wallace....try again. And this time, actually write something semi-valid.

So the Knicks win one game and it's front page news and the lead on Sportscenter. Really? One win?

I don't think I've ever seen a player get ripped by the entire organization like I've sen the Cubs comment on Carlos Silva. A good read.


I have a new found respect and healthy fear now for Evan "Hey that's my cap!" Longoria.

After a nice spring, King Felix part 2 is starting in the Mariners rotation. Michael Pineda, all of 22, pitched a 2.12 ERA in 17IP in spring training. Hope the Mariners aren't rushing him. By all accounts, he is talented, bu unpolished. If he does pan out as expected, the Mariners will have a awesome 1-2 punch in their rotation.

And to wrap it up, we here at AAPTBNL would like to give the first annual General Excellence in the Field of Jackassery and Utter Jerkdom to Adrian Peterson and with runner-up awards given to Leonard Weaver and Rashad Mendenhall. Why? Well because they feel that they are modern day slaves. Here's what Peterson said:
It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too
Weaver chimed in with this:
“We as players want to make a statement that you know what, we love playing for you all, we love your owners, you know?” Weaver told Derrick Gunn of CSNPhilly.com.  “We love you guys very much, but at the same time we need to see some equal opportunity here and stop treating us basically like Adrian Peterson said, like slaves.”
Mendenhall followed with:
"Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel each other."
Well, I do know about the slave trade. And no slave got a free pass to a huge university for playing a game. No slave was ever handed millions of dollars and received the adoration of millions. Likewise no football player was ripped from his family to go somewhere he could never leave and had to pick cotton for 18 hours a day. No football player was ever whipped for not running a screen route correctly. And instead of bling around their necks, slaves had collars.

This is garbage. And what's more it's an insult to the slaves of this country. To compare what they had to endure with what Adrian Peterson has is just vile. And worthy of much more derision than what he is getting.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five

1. Who was the Yankee ShortStop before Derek Jeter?

2. Who was the Mets 3rd baseman before David Wright?

3. Who was the Bulls shooting guard before Michael Jordan?

4. Who was the Colts QB before Peyton Manning?

5. Who was the Cleveland Cavaliers leading scorer before LeBron James?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

For Yankees, The Key to 2011 Might Be Josh Beckett

When Josh Beckett was traded to the Boston Red Sox in 2006, it was assumed he would be an Cy Young candidate and an ace for years to come. He was 25, an absolute hoss, and seemingly the reincarnation of Roger Clemens: a hard-throwing intimidator and strikeout king without fear.

And for the most part, he’s worked out for the BoSox just fine. He has pitched well—maybe not as consistently as Boston wanted—but he did lead the Red Sox to a Series victory in 2007, where he pitched lights out. His 2007 postseason: 4-0 with an ERA around 1.6.

Fast forward to now. Josh Beckett is no longer the ace of the Red Sox staff—Jon Lester is. He’s not the number 2 pitcher either—Clay Buchholz is. In fact, Beckett is the number 4 pitcher in the Red Sox rotation and is being jiggered by Terry Francona to make sure he starts the season against the Indians and not against the Yankees and Rangers.

Whoa…what’s happened to Beckett? Can he not even pitch to the Rangers without Red Sox Nation quaking in their caps? What’s wrong?

Well, checking the Fangraphs.com site, we see that Beckett has only lost only a touch off his mph, so arm strength is not the issue. No, looking further at the numbers, what the trouble seems to be is Beckett’s inability to spot his pitches like he used to. His curveball, once rock-reliable has lost movement and has earned a -2.1 wCB. His fastball, formerly his bread-and-butter pitch has seemingly abandoned the lower half of the zone. Now up in the strike zone, Beckett’s wFB has plummeted and as a result, Beckett is relying more on his two-seamer and cutter to try to get better movement on his pitches.

It hasn’t worked. Contact against his pitches (not down in the zone anymore) is way up from where it used to be. Walks are also up to a career-high for Beckett. Most telling, perhaps is his swStrk (strikes swung on and missed) which is an all time low. In short, he’s putting fatter pitches nice and up in the zone.

What’s also interesting to note is his change-up has actually gained almost 3 mph. So not only is his fastball slowing a bit, his change is speeding up. What the heck? How does that happen?

Well, last May, Red Sox manager Terry Francona expressed a concern with Beckett’s repeatable mechanics. According to the massblog.com of last May 29th:

Josh Beckett’s return from the disabled list hit a roadblock yesterday after the Red Sox became concerned with the pitcher’s inability to repeat his delivery in a side session where he threw 20-25 pitches. Manager Terry Francona...said that Beckett was changing arm angles on his deliveries and that his inability to remain consistent is a cause for concern.

Also, early last season, in the Boston Globe, (former) pitching coach John Farrell said:

“An additional side with Josh to reinforce, particularly out of the stretch, him getting back to a proper balance point and not getting his delivery too spread out to where he loses a downhill plane to his fastball. When he gets into a proper position, his curveball is less readable by an opposing hitter. Part of this is a constant use of the slide step that can cause some of the habits that we’re trying to recorrect here.”

If Beckett’s fastball isn’t really losing all that much mph, but batters are hitting him harder and he’s walking more per 9IP, logic would dictate that Farrell and Francona are right and that Beckett’s mechanics are fried and he can’t locate like he used to. Seemingly this started somewhere in late 2009, when Beckett’s ERA ballooned from a mid-August low of 3.10 to a season’s end of 3.86 with a number of bad performances. Former pitching coach Farrell is quoted as saying on seacoastonline.com in late August after Beckett gave up 15 runs in 13.1 IP in 2 starts:

“(Poor) location of his pitches has caused the numbers to be where they are. It’s been a matter of missing with some fastballs up in the strike zone or a curveball that hasn’t had the same finish.’’ ... And, Farrell added, that is easily correctable.

“For the majority of the season, he’s been so dominant in the bottom of the strike zone,’’ Farrell said. “Now, every effort is being made to get him down in the zone again. ... But a little tidying of Beckett’s mechanics could produce a dramatic turnaround.
“There may be some times when maybe some added effort or an attempt to get some added velocity has caused him to get a little spread out (with his delivery) and caused him to throw the baseball on a little bit more of a flat plane rather than the downward angle that all pitchers need.’’

For Yankee fans, the question is clearly, “Can Josh Beckett return to dominance?” Early signs are.... not yet. Despite even more work on mechanics (new pitching coach Curt Young is shortening Beckett’s stride in an effort to get him to repeat his delivery more easily), spring training has been a repeat of last year, with nice flashes of hard heat and a sharp curve, then a terrible inning where he can’t seemingly get anyone out. So far, Beckett has the 5.02 ERA and a WHIP of 1.4.

Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are an awesome number 1 and 2. John Lackey had a so-so 2010 and at age 32, it’s possible, but not guaranteed that he will be better in 2011, though most projections figure he will be somewhat better. In any event it’s questionable that Lackey will be as dominant as he used to be pitching to Jarrod Saltalamacchia in tiny Fenway Park. And Dice-K, minus a great 2008 season, has been a disappointment.

The key is Beckett. If he returns to form, the Red Sox have a dominant starting 3. If not...well then the Red Sox blew a sack full of money on a pitcher who’s busted.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Transactions....

So who had VCU playing Florida State in the Sweet 16? Come on, be honest!

God I hate those Miller Light less taste more taste commercials. I don't care if I wear a Speedo, show up with bronzer and wear sunglasses in a bar, there's no way I want a living on tips "Barely Living on Tips" waitress insulting me. Hate those commercials.

What the hell was Duke's offense doing with about 4 minutes left against Michigan? They were just standing around clueless while Nolan Smith pounded the ball into the same spot on the floor. After a 36 minutes, why did they just let their offense stagnate the shot clock down. Weird. And stupid.

By the way, what was that weird design on Duke's white uniform. Looks like a soft print of Tron underneath their white jerseys. Weird.

So one team is reportedly offering a first rounder for Kevin Kolb. If I were the Vikings, Cardinals or 49ers I would make that deal in a heartbeat. Kolb is better, in not at least a sure thing, compared to Locker, Gabbert, Newton or Mallett. And wow, suddenly the Eagles look like major players this draft.

Next time you guys are considering the biggest draft bust in NBA history, you have to put Hakeem Thabeet in the conversation. Drafted 2nd in the 2009 draft—5 picks before Stephen Curry—Thabeet's career consists of 2 trips to the NBA Developmental League;then he was traded with a number 1 pick for Shane Battier; and he has a career stat line that reads, 2.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg and 10.9 minutes per game. Uggh. This guys is way up higher on the Bust-ometer than Michael Olowokandi or Kwame Brown.

I wrote Saturday that the Yankees might want a more reliable righty off the bench than Andruw Jones. Since I wrote that, Jones went 0-2 and looked really bad doing it. I hope Cashman is on top of this. I'd rather have had Marcus Thames, bad glove and all than this.

So the Mets just ate $18 million to make Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo go away. The first step to a full recovery is admitting you made a mistake, so "Way to Go Mets!"

PFW has an interesting article rating the Top ten 2010 draft classes one year after the fact. Intersint if you're into that stuff—which I am—but I would rate the browns class higher than 10th. If you're top 2 picks are all-rookie, and your 3rd pick is a QB, best the Saints and Patriots and looks like a potential franchise QB, I'd say that's not a bad draft at all.

Gotta say, I love Bobby Hurley's answer to Jalen Rose's Fab Five attack. Good stuff Bobby and Grant against that blowhard, Jalen.

The refs had no business not checking the replay on that last shot in the Washington—North Carolina game. Then to come on T.V., say you didn't check it but didn't need to—jeez....I call B.S. Shoddy, unprofessional work. No excuses.

And lastly...check out this picture and tell me the media doesn't hate, hate, hate Alex Rodriguez. Yes, he's a doof and a cheat, and you should absolutely call him on that. But unnecessary attacks like this—the guy is having a nice spring, you really have to call him Mr. March—make me want to defend him. And I don't want to defend Alex Rodriguez. So bust on the crap he pulls, but don't do the unnecessary attacks. It's unprofessional.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Late Spring Training Yankee Trade Speculation

With the Yankee Roster more or less set for Opening Day, it's time for Brian Cashman to start earning his pay.

Why? Because the Yankees actually have more good players than positions.

Take for instance Jorge Vasquez, the welcome surprise of spring training. Unfortunately for Jorge, despite batting .483 with 3 HRs, there's a zeroey-zilch forget-it chance of him making the roster as a 1st baseman—that spot is kinda, sorta taken for the next 6 years or so. Well, then he's a commodity as a trade chip, isn't he?

What about Romulo Sanchez? As Ken Rosenthal tweeted recently, Sanchez's decent spring is attracting attention. His numbers aren't flashy but he throwing hard and seems to have done enough to earn a roster spot somewhere. Cashman needs to find that somewhere.

Then there's the rumor that the Yankees might release Sergio Mitre. Someone somewhere needs a 5th start/spot starter/reliever who had a 1.093 WHIP last year in 54 IP.

None of there guys are blue-chip trade pieces—if they were they'd be on the Yankee roster. But each of them has value to someone somewhere. So you have to ask, why can't Cashman package these guys, along with maybe a blocked prospect—say a David "Blocked by Cano" Adams or a Austin "Blocked by a bunch of guys" Romine and get a nice young 3rd base prospect? Or a right-handed bat more reliable than Andruw Jones? Or a power right field prospect?

Point being, now would be a good time for Cashman to look into getting something for pieces that either can't make the roster or are blocked. Either a good prospect for the future. Or a piece of the puzzle that might help the Yankees catch Boston during the long run of 2011.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness 2011: Don't Sleep On Kentucky

The Kentucky Wildcats finding out there are number 4 seed, 2 seeds behind Florida.
Let's face it. Kentucky got shafted.

A 4 seed? Really? Wow. For a team that beat Florida twice in the past 3 weeks—and handily beat them—and beat Alabama as well—also a whupping—a 4 seed seems kinda low. Doncha think?

And you think Kentucky feels disrespected? Take a look at the picture to the right. Think maybe that team wants to show the world that they are better than a flipping 4 seed?

Kentucky went 25-8, but they won 8 out of their last 9, including wins at Tennessee, and against Florida, Vanderbilt and Alabama.

Kentucky grew up during the year. Kentucky starts 2 freshman (sometimes 3) and relies heavy on a 3rd. Those 3 freshman, Terrance Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb are 1, 2 and 3 on the Wildcat stat sheet in scoring. Jones leads them in rebounding; Knight in assists, and Lamb in 3-point shooting (shooting an unconscious 47%). And as these guys got more time and more experience, they started winning games they would have lost earlier in the season. An early season loss to UConn had Brandon Knight shooting 3 for 15 with 5 TO. Terrence Jones had as many fouls as rebounds—4. And Doron Lamb had 2 TO and 3 fouls in 13 minutes. And only 5 points. They looked like a sloppy young team playing over their heads.

By the end of the season, in the wins against Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama, those 3, Knight, Lamb and Jones were playing up to their talent, and leading the Wildcats to big wins.

And now the team that won the SEC Tournament is pissed....bit-time. To quote Catspause.com:

Calipari's problem is that he was introducing logic. UK and Florida were meeting in the SEC title game at 1 p.m. Sunday. The winner, he reasoned, would get the better seed at 6 p.m.

"One of us is a 3 and one is a 4 and whoever won the game would flip in there because they could easily do that," Calipari said. "That's the only thing they'll be able to do is switch us and Florida. But you can obviously see they had the 2 and the 4, and I don't think they were comfortable putting us in at 2. "I don't think it's personal," Calipari said. "But, wow."
There's nothing more dangerous than a talented athlete or team with a chip on its shoulder. Joe Louis's rematch with Max Schmeling leaps to mind. Kentucky is a supremely talented team—5-star blue chippers fill the roster—and they feel disrespected. Slighted. Angry.

I would not want to face these guys in this tournament. Don't be surprised in come the Final Four, the Wildcats are there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Transactions....

Congratulations to Kevin Love for a remarkable record: 53 games in a row with a double-double. Most impressive.

Not sure I get everyone’s outrage at Colorado not getting into the tournament. Yeah, they won 22 games and that’s impressive. Beating Texas and Missouri is very nice, but to be honest Texas wasn’t the team we all thought they were when they were 23-3, losing 4 out of their last 7. And losing to San Francisco, Oklahoma and Harvard doesn’t help one’s resume. The truth is every year a team like Colorado gets left out, and who do you remove for them? Honestly, I don’t have too big a problem with them being in the NIT.

So the NFL is screwing this up. At least we’re not missing football, but really, wrap this up sooner rather than later.

Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports is predicting an upset of Gonzaga, ranked 11th in the Southeast conference against #6 St. John’s. I think I agree with him. Gonzaga after a bad loss to Notre Dame, which left them 4-5, have been on a tear since December. They beat Baylor, Xavier and Oklahoma State all in a 2-week span. Then they closed the season by beating twice in the past 3 weeks. St John’s hasn’t sniffed the Madness in a long time while Gonzaga is battle-tested. I smell an upset.

Over the weekend, I wrote an article touting how the 2011 might be one of the worst, most expensive teams in recent memory. And today comes an article on fangraphs.com showing how Jose Reyes has completely lost his eye at the plate, showing no discipline at all. Which is what we said. His OBP of .321 is ugly. And if the Mets are thinking of trading him at the trade deadline, they’d better get his OBP up to make him attractive to a team needing him for the pennant drive.

If Patrick Peterson falls to number 7, as in this mock draft here from Pro Football Weekly, The Niners and Jim Harbaugh will make human sacrifices to the Draft gods. "Praise be to the gods fo the draft. For this gift of Patrick Peterson, I humble sacrifice Alex Smith to you, O gods!" In other woods, Peterson will not be there at 7. If he makes it past 3 or 4, some team will trade up to get him.

Interesting point made in this article: Who exactly will the Cardinals be bidding against for Albert Pujols? The Yankees have Teixeira, the Red Sox have Adrian Gonzalez, and the Angles have Kendry Morales. The Mets and Dodgers are trying to cut payroll to due fiscal crises. The Cubs maybe, but they are still buried in Soriano’s and Zambrano’s long-term deals and might opt for the sure-to-be-cheaper Prince Fielder. The Rangers have a youngster in Smoak and might save their money for pitching. The White Sox have Konerko through 2014 and have a youngster in Dayan Viciedo who is slated to take over. Point being, you never know what can happen, but the market for Pujols doesn’t look as large as one might imagine.

So Tiki Barber, with his TV career a complete fail, wants to return to football. Let's get a refresher course on Tiki. The guy rips his teammates (Eli Manning, Michael Strahan—"Michael is not thinking about the team; he's thinking about himself"; "Eli's pre-game speeches sounded "comical.", just to name a few), his coaches (Tom Coughlin, 1 ring to Tiki’s none, 137-110 coaching record), and anybody else he can find. Then there's the fact that he decided to retire mid-way through a season. Oh, and don't forget his leaving his pregnant wife of 11 years for a 23-year old intern. Always the class act, that Tiki—I hope you get brained in a Julius Peppers—Brian Urlacher sandwich.

Early word has Grady Sizemore looking good at spring training. Which is important news for the Indians as well as Sizemore. If Sizemore is going to be an asset at the trade deadline for the Indians, he has to flash the bat and the athleticism that he had before the rash of injuries robbed the last 2 seasons. And for Sizemore, going into this late 20s big-time contract opportunity, he needs this year to flash that he can still hit .290, belt 30 HRS and steal 35 bases. Guys like him are rare, and if he wants a Carl Crawford similar contract, he needs to be healthy.

In “Derrr, durp!” news of the week, Pro Football Weekly informs us that the Denver Broncos might draft a DT? Really, you think so?

And for sheer silliness, I love this Sports/Hollywood lookalike picture-fest the Daily News had. Love the Brett Keisel-Yukon Cornelius comparison.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Worst Team That Money Could Buy, Part Deux

Mets fans have a lot to be upset about
The Mets have a the 5th largest payroll in baseball. They have a shiny new stadium, they play in the largest market in America, and have a roster loaded with talent.

For all this, the Mets are terrible. in every way imaginable.

The Mets won a total of 79 games last year—23 games behind their "enemies" the Philadelphia Phillies. They ranked 12th in attendance, despite the new stadium, and behind decidedly small market Milwaukee. They averaged over 12,000 less people per game than their cross town rivals, the Yankees.

The Phillies, like the Mets, made trades for veterans, signed big contracts, and generally succeed in their plan to win now. While that plan worked for the Phillies, it failed miserably for the Mets and only left them in a spiraling losing funk with an albatross of a expensive roster.

Let's take a look at the Mets roster. Johan Santana, the ace the Mets traded for, finally blew out the shoulder that scouts have said for some time that he would. The injury, which comes from long-term wear, comes with it, not only a long rehabilitation, but with the accusations of the Mets overusing Santana. Santana had been complaining about his arm as early as late June. Yet Mets continued to throw Santana out there every 5th day until early September, even though the Mets were completely out of the race by mid to late July. By the time Santana comes back in 2012, he will be 33 with 3 years left on his contract.

Carlos Beltran, who was an overpaid centerfielder to begin with, has mercifully only one year on his contract. A empty of husk of his former self, Beltran has played 125 games the past 2 seasons and has already injured himself in Spring Training. He batted .255 last year. He makes 18.5 million dollars this year.

Jason Bay, who the Mets signed to a large 4-year, 66 million dollar contract before last season, looked completely uncomfortable and intimidated in the spacious new CitiField. One year after hitting 36 HRS in Boston, Bay hit a pathetic 6 HRs in 95 games before concussing  himself running for a fly ball.

Gary Matthews batted .194 last season before being cut by the Mets. He is set to earn 12 million this year.

One-time face of the franchise, Jose Reyes, who at one time was getting press that he would be the new "Best Shortstop in New York," is reportedly playing for a trade. Reyes, who made 7th on the MVP list in 2006, has been beset by injuries, a bad attitude and declining skills both at the plate and on the bases. Last year, Reyes had a Dave Kingman-esque OBP of .321—not what you want from your "speedy" shortstop. Reyes speed is also in question as he only stole 30 bases last season and was caught a third of the time—a far cry from his heyday of 2006-2007. Reyes will make 11 million in what his probably his last year as a Met.

Which brings us to Oliver Perez. Perez, who was signed by the Mets in 2009 to a 36 million, 3-year contract. Reportedly, the Mets competed only against themselves for the services of Perez, which was meant to solidify the rotation after Santana. Since the contract was signed, for that 36 million, Perez's record is 3-9 with an era of 6.81 in roughly 100 IP. Perez has been in the minors both in 2009 and 2010 to work on his wrecked mechanics. Perez, having completely lost any confidence he may have had, has lost velocity, has abandoned his fastball, as well as his curveball, which he didn't use last year at all. His fastball and change are 4 mph apart. The Mets recently gave up any idea of using Perez in the rotation this season and have sent him to the end of the bench in the bullpen. Price tag: 13 million dollars.

In 86 games last season, Luis Castillo committed 11 errors and batted .245. Price tag: 6 million dollars.

And then there is Francisco Rodriguez, he of the dramatic mound gestures. While his on-the-field play has generally been good, it's the other part of his life that the Mets wish they could make go away. Having no real reason for a high-priced reliever the Mets would do well trade K-Rod. Except they can't.

Since being signed, K-Rod has had tussles with opposing players, his own coaches and, most well-known, his girlfriend's father, who he punched in the face. Adding salt to the wound, Rodriguez injured a ligament in his thumb from the altercation and needed season-ending surgery. Rodriguez was ordered by the court to stay away from his girlfriend and he family; Rodriguez violated the court order, though he did escape further punishment.

The good news is that a ton of this payroll baggage comes off the roster next year. The bad news is that the Mets don't have a ton of talent on the way. Keith Law recently put the Mets minor league organization at 26 out of 32. The Mets didn't have one prospect ranked in the top 50. Also, the Mets have been accused of rushing their recent young talent too quickly, with Baseball Prospectus writing: "...the Minaya regime wasn’t particularly successful at any aspect of developing or handling prospects."

Put it all together and what you get is a big, expensive gooey mess. The Mets will go nowhere this year; the season already having been written off. And with the Madoff scandal having struck the Wilpon family fairly hard, it is tough to see the Mets being big free agency players anytime soon. So, to recap:

1. Terrible free agent signings
2. No young talent coming up the pike
3. Disgruntled and fading stars 
4. No free agent help for the forseeable future.

The original Worst Team Money Could Buy was about the 1993 Mets who won 59 games. The 2011 squad might give those guys a run for their money.

Friday Five

I'll give you the team and the number. You give me the player.

1. Chicago Bears—34

2. Los Angeles Lakers—44

3. Minnesota Twins—34

4. San Francisco 49ers—8

5. Los Angeles Dodgers—2

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Derek Jeter's New Swing: The Early Returns


Kevin Long always thought Jeter's swing was flawed.

But it seemed to work. For Jeter, his approach was to let the ball get deep into the zone before his quick bat would drive the ball—usually the other way—for base hit after base hit. He had a timing mechanics that let his left leg lift up and then move it forward as he drove the ball—usually to right field.

With Jeter's bat slowing just a touch, instead of driving the ball, Jeter ended up hitting easy ground balls. Long feels that Jeter's timing mechanism—picking up his left foot as he steps forward—is too time-consuming and no longer works. Long wants Jeter to leave the foot on the ground, simplifying the mechanics and giving Jeter extra time to swing.

After a disastrous September 10th game, where Jeter went 1 for 7, Long intervened and started to work on Jeter's mechanics. Shorting his stride and getting him to the ball quicker, Jeter batted .444 over the last 28 days of the season. So far this pre-season (and yes, it is only preseason), Jeter is batting .353.

Long also felt last year, that Jeter's taking too long of a stride left him leaning forward from his waist and swinging awkwardly at pitches outside the box.

Long is correct on that account—Jeter looked awkward a lot last year. But another reason why that was might be that, Jeter, realizing his swing was slower than before, was guessing more. The percentage of swings at balls outside the strike zone was the highest of his career by far. The percentage of "wins" on fastballs was Jeter's lowest of his career. All those signs point to a slower bat.

If Long can shorten his swing, Jeter should be able to catch up to pitches he couldn't last season. So far so good, according to Jeter: "You have more time because there's no stride," Jeter said. "Now, you've just got to figure out when to swing."

One interesting thing from the stats. After a fairly productive career at hitting grounders for hits—Jeter's BABIP for ground balls dropped precipitously. But not in 2010—in 2009. After a 2008 season which earned Jeter a .291 BABIP on ground balls, that number dropped to .236 in 2009. However in 2009, Jeter batted well at balls hit in the air. When that number (BABIP on line drives and fly balls) fell off in 2010, Jeter ended up with the worst batting season of his career.

What does this tell us? Well, some educated conjecture might lead us to believe that Jeter's bat actually began to slow down a bit in 2009, but that Jeter was able to cover it up. However, when 2010 rolled around and pitchers began to notice the slower bat, they changed tactics on Jeter and jammed him with hard heat up inside where he couldn't turn on the ball like he used to. Then they would catch Jeter guessing on breaking balls, down and outside where Jeter couldn't do much with it but hit soft grounders to second (A reason why Jeter leaned over the plate so much last season).

So......what the heck does this all mean? Not a heck of a lot in March. However, the early signs—from last September,as well as in spring training are good. Jeter feels that his has more time to get good wood on the ball and just needs repetitions. We'll see. Maybe Jeter can get back to MVP consideration. Stranger things have happened. But even if he can raise his batting average back up to .300 and his OPS+ to around 100-110, the Yankees will feel a whole lot better about the 51 million they gave their Captain this offseason.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Transactions....

I have to start this blog with extremely sad news.......Tim McCarver has signed a 2-year extension with Fox. Yes, yes, I'm upset too. So sports fans, we're going to have to hear Tim's obvious bias and his constant and condescendingly belaboring of a point for 4 innings for 2 more years.
 
So a whole mess of teams are interested in Kevin Kolb now that the lockout might be drawing to a close. i would like to see Kolb go to San Francisco and work with Harbaugh out there. That seems like it would be a good fit for both.

Let's just say this. A college kid like Adam Morrison who gives all of his hearty and soul to try to win a game in March Madness—crying is ok. Some big shot who 'takes his talents" to a city and then things don't turn out to his liking—crying is not ok.

Really interesting article in the Hardball Times about Tim Lincecum and his diminishing velocity. Go read it, especially if you are a stat-head and love looking at numbers.

Nice article on ProFootballWeekly regarding DE/OLB tweeners. The magazine synopsizes a few of the tweeners and where they end up. Good stuff.

Been seeing a ton of mock drafts around the web with Cam Newton going first to Carolina. Said this before, I just don't see that happening. Sure they need a QB, but Cam—despite his physical talents—is a work in progress. He's not gonna Peyton manning the team—just walk in and start. Carolina has a myriad of needs, Cam Newton shouldn't be their priority.

Unless Derek Jeter completely falls on his face this spring and eats it, Joe Girardi won't move him from the one-spot. As much as I would like to have Brett Gardner in the leadoff position, Girardi is a loyal guy and I can't see him moving Jeter. I like Gardner's speed and his better OBP—in point of fact, Gardner has a .529 OBP to Jeter's .389 this spring and has 2 SBs to Jeter's goose-egg—but can't see Gardner moving up until Jeter totally bombs up in the one-spot.

Carlos....you've played in like 140 games the past two years. You batted .255 last season. You made like 1115 million over your career. And your knees still hurt. make sure this is your last year, dude. Go home and enjoy the money.

Love to see A.J. Burnett doing so well and feeling so good in Spring Training. Now let's see this in July. OK, A.J.?

As a March Madness fan and a Big East guy, today is a great day...the start of the Big East tournament. And with 10 teams in the mix for the Dance, this is going to be a great Big East tournament. Call in sick and get your couch on to watch this one.

And finally, is it me, or is this statue of Nick Saban down at the U. of Alabama just really, really creepy.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Five—the nickname quiz

OK, name the athlete who goes with the nickname:

1. "Crazy Legs"

2. "Boom Boom"

3. "Pronk"

4. "Chocolate Thunder"

5. "The Hit Man" 2 answers for this one.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Vikings Need To Get Carson Palmer

The Vikings have exactly bumpkus as their quarterbacks. Nothing. Farve is riding a tractor in Mississippi, presumably finally retired for real this time. Tavaris Jackson, who's shown next to nothing is said to be looking elsewhere for a job (lotsa luck). They also have Patrick Ramsey (yes, Patrick Ramsey) as a free agent. In other, clearer words, they have zilch. Nada.

Which is why they need Carson Palmer.

Madden should change the uni on Carson to Purple and Yellow
The Vikings are a team built to win...now. Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Adrian Peterson, Steve Hutchinson, Sidney Rice, Chad Greenway. All these guys are in the peak of their careers, or just about to start slipping. The team was designed to give Brett Farve to get one more ring.

They missed that, but Carson Palmer is just the guy to take over. he represents their best chance to win with the guys they have now. if the Vikings go into full rebuild mode—which they wont—then they  go draft Jake Locker or Cam Newton and wait a few years and hopes he grows. And meanwhile, you waste Jared Allen and Sidney Rice's careers.

This is not the Bills or Panthers who need years and a complete roster overhaul. The Vikings are built to go for it right now. They have a star at running back and a well-rounded rush game (something the Bengals did not), explosive wide outs in Harvin and Rice, and a solid, if not spectacular offensive line. Would Palmer want to go to be a human tackling dummy in Arizona behind a terrible offensive line? Or play for the circus that is the Miami "Who's our coach today" Dolphins? I think Palmer has had enough of circuses.

If Palmer wants the best chance to win, and by all accounts, that's what he wants. Here's Palmer 2 days ago, requesting his leave of the Ocho-T.O. freakshow that is the Cincinnati Bengals. "I have $80 million in the bank. I don’t have to play football for money.  I’ll play it for the love of the game but that would have to be elsewhere."

That sounds like a guy who doesn't want hassles. It sounds like a guy who wants to play in meaningful games with a professional and talented supporting cast. And the team that best represents that—a team built to win now—is the Minnesota Vikings.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lee, Liriano and the Yankees

Did I want Cliff Lee for the Yankees? Of course. The guy is a stud, equals playoff wins and more than replaces Andy Pettitte. Of course, 7 years was way too long for a contract, but the Yankees could expect a few dominating years with him, Sabathia and Hughes in their rotation, and likely a couple of championships. And of course, you give up no prospects for him. What’s not to like?

Do I want another lefty, Francisco Liriano, who’s only 26, has a wicked slider, gets Ks and could help anchor the Yankees rotation this year? Well, maybe not.

Unlike some other sites, which call this a no-brainer for the Yankees, I’m not as enamored of Liriano as others. Sure, he has really nice stuff, but the guy is a twitch away from the DL. And already this spring, he is complaining of shoulder stiffness. And what’s even worse is why he complaining about shoulder stiffness:
Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said he asked Liriano whether he did all of his shoulder exercises during the offseason, and Liriano said no.
Brilliant. So the guy couldn’t even stick to his off-season training program and earned himself some tendinitis. Outstanding.

No matter how good his stuff is, could you tell me this guy isn’t going to get injured again? Especially when conditioning isn’t his highest priority? Well, ask yourself this, if he is so good, how come the suddenly spend-happy Minnesota Twins don’t want him anymore? Would anyone want a hard-throwing 27-year-old strikeout machine?

There are other reasons for the Yankees to be concerned about Liriano than just injuries: He is a much better pitcher in the friendly, home run-sapping confines of Target Field than on the road. He has a lifetime 7.78 ERA and 1.678 WHIP against Boston—not to mention a lifetime 12.46 ERA pitching at Fenway. But the real worry is his health. Tommy John is one thing—bad, but returnable. A shoulder—that’s the worst thing for a pitcher. And to top it off, it may be sore because he’s not taking care of it? Forget it.

Which is of course to say nothing of Ivan Nova or any of the Yankee prospects. Forget Betances, Montero or Banuelos—the Yankees in a right state of mind should not even consider trading those guys. But if the Yankees are thinking of Nova + prospects for Liriano, they should think seriously about that trade, but do all their homework. Remember, Nova, who one scout said recently has some Pedro Martinez in him, throws ground balls, throws first pitch strikes, and didn’t appear at all overwhelmed to pitch in September in New York. This is not to say that he is the second coming of Pedro Martinez, or that a Nova + prospects (No Montero, Banuelos or Betances) isn’t a good deal. But it is to say that giving Nova up for a guy with a serious injury history should not be something taken lightly.

Liriano is no doubt, when healthy, a pitcher most teams would want. He’s young, a lefty and gets Ks. That said, the Twins are dangling him for a reason. Minnesota is adept at trading players just before the players begin the decline. Take Johan Santana—he was very good for the Mets, but was not the same pitcher he was he was earlier in his career for the Twins. And now he’s injured with...wait for it....a shoulder injury.

Perhaps this is an overcautious approach. Maybe the Yankees should snatch up Liriano if they get the chance, costs be damned. After all, they are the Yankees and they compete, every season. And it’s very possible that Ivan Nova goes through some growing pains this season and doesn’t become the—it’s a gamble. And buyer beware.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Transactions....

Still think the Nets go the better deal. As good as Carmelo Anthony is, I'd rather have Deron Williams. Especially in D'Antoni's system.

Wainwright. Pujols. Not the best month ever for Cardinals fans, eh? If the Pujols thing starts to go south, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Tony LaRussa bails, citing his health.

What the heck happened to the Texas Longhorns? They were cruising with a 23-3 win with quality wins over Missouri, Kansas, the Aggies and the Tar Heels....and then  they lose to Colorado? Nebraska? It's as if they suddenly forgot to play defense. K-State shot 50%, Colorado shot .533 and Nebraska .471. There is no way the Longhorns should be letting opponents like that shoot anywhere near 50%. They'd better turn it around fast. March is here.

One of the saddest paragraphs I've read in a while. From College Footballnews's combine coverage, a scout's take on Mark Herzlich, post cancer:
To be way too harsh and way too cold, he’s just not nearly the same player. If he was being evaluated just on his current skills and the cancer fight wasn’t a part of the equation, he’d be undraftable. … Plays with a rod in his leg and doesn’t have the same burst. It’s not even close. … He could be a solid producer and won’t miss a stop when things come his way, but he’s way too slow to be a special player again.

The Marlins say they aren't concerned that Javier Vasquez's fastball is topping out at 88mph. They should be. 88 is the same as it was last year, and with his change-up topping out a batting-tee-speed of 74mph and the movement on his pitches declining rapidly, they may soon regret signing Vasquez and giving up a draft pick for him.

What if Joba is really good again—as his impressive spring training outing suggests? Do the Yankees keep as a 7th inning guy? Or do they package him, with say, Curtis Granderson, Austin Romain and another prospect for something very nice?

I know he's been injured a lot, but the Jets giving up Kris Jenkins makes me nervous. is there anyone in the draft or in free agency as good as him at the NT? The same goes for the release of Damien Woody. Are the Jets really sure that Vladimir Ducasse can step in and man the spot. They'd better be sure.

Was never a big fan of Aaron Harang, but San Diego may have made a smart pickup in getting him for only 4 million. The cavernous Petco Park might be perfect for him. In 6 lifetime starts in Petco, Harang has a 3.49 ERA and 38 Ks, and has surrendered 3 HRs in 38.2 IP. To compare, Harang in Wrigley Field, in 73.2 IP, has a 5.01 ERA, has 56 K and has given up 16 HRS. Petco might be just the thing for him.
I'm getting really tired of these NFL labor talks. Guys, the NFL is giant ATM machine for everybody. Don't blow it.

Not how you want your team to "pull together" as the playoffs draw near.

And lastly...maybe you've heard the crazy/amazing comment by Iran. But if you haven't the short version is...Iran is upset about the 2012 London Olympics mascot. Why? Because it's Zionist.


Pick squiggly boxes with yellow borders....Zionist. Seriously, that's Charlie Sheen nuts.