Friday, June 29, 2007

The Trade From Left Field

"I twisted it wrong just to make it right."

The NBA Draft has come and gone, and if your a Celtics fan, you have to appreciate what went down:

A. We got Ray Allen. Sure, he's coming off surgery on both his ankles, and yet I could care less. If this guy plays at 75%, he's a better pure shooter than anything the C's gave right now. Plus, Allen's rehab is going along as planned, meaning that he will be ready for training camp. Allen adds that scoring element the Celts were in desperate need of.

B. In terms of what we had to give up to get Allen, we made out pretty well. Wally never even got acclimated to his new team, and was a complete non-factor in the year and a half he played for the Green. Szczerbiak played only 32 games last year because guessed it, ankle problems. Jeff Green could turn out to be a nice role player, but he is nowhere close to being an All-Star anytime soon. The one piece the C's had to give up that was of any real value was Delonte West, because now you're officially handing the starting job to Rondo, and if he can't get the job done, there really isn't anyone else to come in and help out. West will be missed for that, and also, he was a guy who was totally unselfish and could do pretty much anything asked of him.

C. The trade was somewhat lob-sided to Seattle...that is before they also threw in the #35 overall pick in this year's draft. This was a nice little bonus that wasn't expected at all. So, with the #32 and #35 picks in a fairly deep draft, the Celts were able to draft two guys I had going in the first round. At 32, they get Gabe Pruitt, who likely will be Delonte's replacement in terms of a "combo" guard who can play both the point and two-guard. Pruitt comes out of Southern Cal as a junior, and in his final year, scored in double figures in 19 of 26 games he played, earning him a spot on the all Pac-10 team for the second year in a row. The biggest knock on him was that he may not be a pure point guard, which is fine considering he'll be asked to play both guard positions. At 35, the C's took Glen Davis from LSU. This is a very intriguing pick, because Davis has a ton of potential, but will his game translate to the NBA? Davis comes in at 6'9, 280 pounds...280. If there was a question that the Celts would draft a big guy in the draft, they were put to rest with that pick. Davis, along with Pruitt, was ranked in the top 25 of Chad Ford's final draft prospect rankings. In 2006, LSU made an incredible run to the Final Four that was spearheaded by Davis along with then-freshman Tyrus Thomas. Davis saw his minutes go up in each of his three years, and responded by averaging a double-double (17.7, 10.4) last year. Davis will be competing for minutes with Ryan Gomes, the incumbent power forward, and could also see some time at center.

D. With Ray Allen on the team, you now have one of the greatest name duos in the history of the sports. Ray Allen and Allan Ray on the same team...finally!

In all seriousness though, I am thrilled at what the Celts did last night. They get a veteran to compliment Pierce, they didn't have to give up too much, and were able to get two guys with first-round talent at the top of the second round. Also, they didn't draft Noah, so I can continue to root for this team. Did you see the kid's hair last night? I mean...are you serious? I'm sure David Stern, Mr. Dress Code, was loving that on the initial handshake. Anyway, judging from the reaction at the bar last night, there are going to be some folks who are skeptical about this trade, either because of their doubt in Allen or their desire to get Marion, or Garnett, or some other big name. All I can say is that I personally like it, and it's way too early to presume that Allen won't be effective. Let's just wait and see what happens when he's on the court with Pierce before we jump to any conclusions. Another telling sign was that this team is committed to Al Jefferson, which I personally applaud because Jefferson, at 22, has already shown he is a franchise guy, and once Paul Pierce moves on, this will be Jefferson's team. In every trade imaginable to get KG or Marion, it would involve the Celts giving up Big Al, and that was something they could not afford to do.

The Sox got swept up in Seattle, including losing two one-run games. This created some cause for concern. It's not bridge-jumping stuff, it's more eye-rolling stuff. First of all, why is Julio Lugo even playing? I mean what's the point? The guy needs a couple days off to just get away from everything, then see how he responds to that. I love how he threw a fit when he was pinch-hit for in the eleventh when the score was tied in the series finale. Where does he get off? The guy is hitting under .200, and with Cora, you have a guy who has been known to produce in clutch situations. Sure, Cora ended up grounding into a double play, but that was by far their best option at the time. I've been telling everyone all along that Lugo was not going to work, and now, we're three months into the year, and they need someone to pinch-hit for the guy because they have absolutely no confidence in Lugo's abilities. I know that they have been thinking that they Jed Lowrie, their shortstop prospect in AA, could potentially be trade bait in July, they had better think again, unless it involves getting another shortstop (Miguel Tejada anyone?). The other area of some concern has to be everyone outside Okajima and Papelbon in the bullpen. Timlin still cannot be trusted in games that are on the line, Piniero has been wildly inconsistent. Also, there are some definite question marks in terms of starting pitching. Schill is on the DL, and who knows if he'll be the same quality pitcher when he returns. Wakefield has been all over the place, and has given up more than three runs in six of his last eight starts. Then, there is the #5 starter saga. Kason Gabbard pitched well against the Braves, but followed that up with a horrific performance against Seattle, a game that the Sox valiantly fought back in, but were too far behind to complete the comeback. Six walks in 3 1/3 innings? In addition, Jon Lester had an awful start for Pawtucket, meaning his return to the rotation will probably be delayed again.

However, there is some good news, as Brendan Donnelly has been throwing long toss, and Manny Delcarmen has been the flame-thrower everyone envisioned him being. True, he did give up two runs against the M's, but hitters are only hitting .133 in his five appearances, and his fastball has hit 97 with movement. The sweep was tough to take, but consider the Sox have never done well in Seattle, and they return to Fenway to take on the lowly Rangers, so I'm expecting at least two of three there, while the Yanks are playing the A's at the Stadium over the weekend.

I was reading Sports Guy as I was writing this, and read over his Draft Diary. Apparently, I am in the minority that feels like this was a good trade for the Celts...oh well. I could be wrong, but I hope for my sake, and the sake of Celtic fans everywhere, that I'm not. Have a good weekend everyone. Peace.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NBA Mock Draft 2.0...And More!

"Riding across the land, kicking up sand
Sheriff's posse's on my tail 'cause I'm in demand."

Back again for a little bit more of the same. It's hot, it's summer, so why waste time?

The Sox are back into "regular" play after two plus weeks of no DH's and bad lineups...actually, really bad lineups. I love how we went 12-6 in interleague action, but face it, most of the lineups we faced were total garbage. Arizona? San Fran? San Diego? These teams have maybe one good hitter, and the rest you can pretty much chalk up to luck...and worst of all, it doesn't seem like they'll be getting any better. True, these teams have some great pitching going for them. Arizona has the reigning Cy Young in Brandon Webb and the re-charged, re-energized Randy Johnson, the Giants' fourth best pitcher right now is Barry Zito, so that's a bit of an indication on how good they are, and the Padres have the best 1-2 starting pitching punch in the majors and the best bullpen in the league. Yet with all that being said, these teams are mediocre at best. The D-Backs and the Padres have two of the best records in the NL, yet played poorly against the AL in interleague play. Arizona went 8-7 and San Diego went 6-9, and the reason Arizona did so well is because they faced Baltimore six times, going 5-1. So what does all this mean? Well, it's easy for someone to say that the AL has better players and better talent, but it stems a lot deeper than that. It's all about more specifically. Consider this: When I calculated the 2007 Opening Day payrolls for both AL teams and NL teams, the difference was staggering. First, only three NL teams are in the top 10 payrolls in the league...and they have 16 teams! Then, I averaged both the AL and NL payrolls, and those results were even more startling. The average AL payroll was $93,412,706. The average payroll for the NL was $74,141,326. That is a difference of $19,271,380...almost $20 million! When you toss out the lowest AL payroll, which is Tampa Bay, not surprisingly, the next-lowest team is the Cleveland Indians, who spent almost $62 million this year. There were six teams that spent less than that in the NL, and two of those teams are San Diego and Arizona. What's even more puzzling is that both teams went down from their 2006 payrolls, with the Padres cutting $11.5 million and Arizona cutting $7 million, only the Nationals cut more ($26 million) than those two. Does the league alignment have anything to do with this? I wonder. Think about it: the AL has only 14 teams to divvy up all their revenues to, and the NL has 16 teams. Still, is that any excuse for a team to cut back that much in their payrolls? Money doesn't make the team, as evident by the Orioles, who spent $95 million this year, but what it does is open up some doors in terms of depth and player development that these teams are going to need come October.

I am so sick of Patriot fans going crazy about the supposed "greed" of Asante Samuel not signing his franchise tenure. Look, I know, we are probably not going to make as much money as Samuel is due to earn next year in our lifetimes, but you have to think about this entire thing from a business perspective, and not from an everyday, blue-collar standpoint. Samuel would make almost $8 million next year, but think about this in a long-term sense. Say Samuel signs that one-year deal, plays this year, and gets hurt, which could definitely happen. Samuel gets his eight mil, and then what? If he's lucky, the injury is not too severe, but still, his contract will not be worth nearly as much as it would be right now. Right now, Samuel is looking for around $20 million in guaranteed money. Now, personally, not only do I not think he won't get that from the Pats, but he won't get that much from anyone if he gets traded. Realistically, Asante should expect to get about $13-15 million guaranteed. Plus, the contract will be "back-heavy," meaning that the majority of the base contract will be paid out in the later years of the deal. The reason clubs do this is because they are able to pay a guy in his prime years a lot less than he would potentially be worth. Plus, because the life of an NFL career is such an unknown, this is protection from having to pay a guy big bucks for "damaged goods." In any event, getting back to my original message: Stop with the constant Asante hating. The guy is simply trying to capitalize off of a career season. If you had no guarantee from an employer if you would be able to work next year, wouldn't you try and get the most money you could up front?...Ok then.

The NBA Draft is right around the corner, and that means that I'm going to have to sure up my mock draft, and even provide some analysis for you. So, here comes the final mock draft installment:

Round One:
  1. Portland- Greg Oden. This should be Kevin Durant, and if the Blazers smarten up, it might be, but it seems like Portland is still so infatuated with Oden that he will probably end up going #1. Oden brings a lot to the table, but this team already seems to have a bevy of big men, including LaMarcus Aldridge, who was the second overall pick last year, and Zach Randolph, who is coming off a breakout season.
  2. Seattle- Kevin Durant. In terms of skill and upside, this guy is #1. Durant brings a lot to the table, and even more, he will be able to step in right away, as he will be playing in Rashard Lewis' spot at small forward.
  3. Atlanta- Al Horford. This should be Mike Conley, but why would the Hawks do something smart like take a gifted point guard, which they desperately need, when they could take a big man who is quick on his feet? Horford's a good prospect, but didn't Atlanta do the exact same thing last year? They passed on Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay last year for Sheldon Williams, and two years ago, passed on Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Raymond Felton for Marvin Williams. If the Hawks think Conley will be there at #11 for their second first-rounder, they are dreaming.
  4. Memphis- Mike Conley. Although they have Chucky Atkins, Conley is simply the best player by far available right here. Conley is the best floor general in the draft, and the Grizz need someone to get the ball to Gasol in the middle before he starts demanding a trade again.
  5. Boston- Corey Brewer. This could very well be Jeff Green here, but Brewer is actually a better pick given that he is a better defender than Green. Remember, if the C's draft Noah here, it will officially cap off the worst year in Celtic history. Red passed on, the Celts tanked their season, Doc not only didn't get fired, but got an extension, the C's felt another brutal lottery loss, and then, if Noah comes aboard, the franchise will burn to the ground, at least they will in my mind. It's also a very real possibility, as he worked out for the Celts a few weeks ago...God help me now!
  6. Milwaukee- Brandan Wright. Dare I say Marvin Williams all over again? In what is basically the exact same subplot as what launched Williams to #2 two years ago: A Tar Heel who has a ton of unrefined talent, and who scouts have drooled over for his athleticism and size. Unfortunately, I don't see Wright being able to play up to his top-5 billing.
  7. Minnesota- Joakim Noah. KG's future seems to be in doubt, and even if, somehow, the Timberwolves manage to keep Garnett, they do need some depth in the paint. Joakim Noah is just as he is advertised: He is a decent shooter, gets some rebounds, but will be called upon for his intensity more than anything.
  8. Charlotte- Jeff Green. Gerald Wallace just opted out of his contract, meaning that there is a void to be filled at the small forward position. The Bobcats need size down low, but they will probably be willing to put that on hold to get someone to replace Wallace.
  9. Chicago- Yi Jianlian. I had Yi going at #5 to the Celts, but it seems like their interest has been fanned a bit. The Bulls are in need of someone who can back up both Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace, and Jianlian would solve both those issues.
  10. Sacramento- Spencer Hawes. The Kings are another team with a big question mark at power forward. Hawes, who only played one year at U-Dub, will compete for a starting job right away with Kenny Thomas, and will definitely get his fair share of minutes regardless due to ongoing health concerns with Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
  11. Atlanta- Acie Law IV. Although Javaris Crittenton would be a good hometown pick for the Hawks, it seems that Law has peaked their attention ever since his workout. The Hawks are in desperate need for a point guard, and Law was easily one of the best in the nation last year.
  12. Philadelphia- Al Thornton. This is one of the easiest picks to make given that Thornton falls this far. This is the first of three first-round picks for the Sixers, and it would be almost unheard of if they kept all three of them. However, if Thornton is still available, this would be a great add to Philly's lineup, which is lacking physicality at the forward position.
  13. New Orleans- Nick Young. The Hornets have Chris Paul, and now, they need a compliment for him. Young was outstanding in the tournament and showed a ton of athleticism in the pre-draft camp in Orlando.
  14. L.A. Clippers- Julian Wright. For whatever reason, the hype on Wright has minimized over the past few weeks. This is a classic case of someone not being a "sexy" pick, and therefore, others who stood out in workouts have passed Wright in favorability. The guy is still a top-10 talent, with the only knock on him being his lack of experience coming out as a sophomore.
  15. Detroit- Rodney Stuckey. This was interesting, because I had Thaddeus Young in this spot, but recently, I've seen a lot of movement for Stuckey to go ahead of Young. Not saying this is the way it should be, but hot rumors and potential are what fuel the draft.
  16. Washington- Thaddeus Young. So basically, I just flipped the two picks, with both teams needing exactly the same thing, and both guys play the same way anyway, so no one is going to lose in this situation.
  17. New Jersey- Sean Williams. I have all the confidence in the world that Williams will be a great player in the league if he stays out of trouble...big "if" considering where he's headed.
  18. Golden State- Jason Smith. I still like Smith to go to the Warriors because it seems like they need some depth in the frontcourt, as their guard play, especially Baron Davis, was outstanding in the playoffs.
  19. L.A. Lakers- Javaris Crittenton. There is no certainty about their team. Even their best player may not be back next year. What is known is that the Lakers passed on trading for Jason Kidd and ended up getting stuck with Smush Parker at the point. Crittenton has perhaps more upside than anyone in this draft given his makeup, and could turn out to be a steal at #19.
  20. Miami- Gabe Pruitt. There's only so far you can push "White Chocolate," and riding him to a championship was way more than they could have asked for. Miami needs youth in a bunch of places, and Pruitt would certainly fill a need.
  21. Philadelphia- Glen Davis. Davis has been one of the biggest lightning rods in the whole draft. People either think he'll be a good fit, or think he will fail miserably. What Davis needs to do is try and get into the gray area that has been created by great (Shaq) and not-so-great (Stromile Swift) LSU big men.
  22. Charlotte- Daequan Cook. I'm going to stay with Cook going to Charlotte here. What the Bobcats are dying for is a perimeter scorer, and from what Cook showed in his limited time with the Buckeyes (50% from three), he may be able to have an immediate impact along with Green.
  23. New York- Jared Dudley. Ah yes, a New York pick. Well Knick fans, I hope this one makes you happy. Dudley has all the skills and the heart to be great in the league, and given last year's first round pick (Rey Rey!), the Knicks do put value on a player's heart and desire.
  24. Phoenix- Wilson Chandler. With Shawn Marion either leaving this year or next year most likely, the Suns need some depth at small forward. Chandler has been a name that has risen up draft boards, and has gone from being a guy who might get drafted, to a sure-fire first-rounder.
  25. Utah- Morris Almond. Utah is in dire need of a perimeter scorer to take some of the load off Deron Williams. Almond is another guy who has seen is stock go up before the draft, and although he played at a small school (Rice), his abilities and his workouts have translated into slipping into the late first round.
  26. Houston- Tiago Splitter. Splitter is a guy who may not be able to come and play in the NBA until next year. With that being said, if he didn't have the kind of problems coming to the U.S. like he does, he could have been a top-10 pick. Measuring in at 7'0, 240 pounds, Splitter very much resembles Pau Gasol when he entered the league.
  27. Detroit- Dominic James. People may be surprised to see James in the first round, but what I liked about him is that he showed a lot of poise and leadership on the floor. Right now, Chauncey Billups' return is up in the air, so getting a point guard like James could provide as an insurance policy of sorts.
  28. San Antonio- Alando Tucker. The Spurs won the championship in relatively easy fashion, but still they are getting old, especially at the forward position. Guys like Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley will not be able to keep their game up to the level it is now. Tucker will be waiting in the wings once it is clear that those two are over the hill.
  29. Phoenix- Nick Fazekas. There is no such thing as having too much size, and with the "run and gun" style the Suns play, Fazekas adds an outside element that is tough to defend on fast breaks.
  30. Philadelphia- Taurean Green. If Philly keeps all three of their first-rounders, they are crazy. This draft is deep, but there are a bunch of impact guys that will go in the top 10 that the Sixers need to package some of their picks to move up. However, if they stay at #30, and Green is still around, they will be loving life. Andre Miller is still making plays, but it would be nice to have some depth to give him a breather every now and again.
That concludes the first round. To recap, Florida has four guys taken in the first round, the first time a school had four first-rounders since 2005 when UNC had four in the top 14 (Williams, Felton, May, McCants). Ohio State will send three of their phenomenal freshmen to the first round. This was a team that easily could have duplicated what the Fab Five of Michigan did, and probably could have done even more. Right now, I only have two international guys going in the first round. Although there could be more, I expect this to be an on-going trend considering the lack of impact international players have had on the league for the most part. Obviously there are exceptions (Yao, Manu, Parker, Gasol, etc.), but if you look at it from an overall sense, there is no way anyone can tell me that drafting a guy from overseas is a "sure thing."

Enjoy the draft everyone. Peace.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Up From The Down Low

"I am a man, a man
I'll give you something that you won't forget."

A belated happy summer to everyone! It's a little toasty down here in Charlotte, but I'm loving the heat, and was warned about how it was going to be, so this isn't surprising at all. So, here goes another post:

Fun Fact Of The Day: Kobe Bryant is the only player in the NBA to have a "no-trade" clause in his contract...which is funny because he wants to be traded, and his team doesn't want to get rid of him...all very fascinating.

So the e-mails are coming in about fantasy football...and I thought I was an early-riser. Are we really drafting already? Come on ESPN, it's June! How in the world do you start drafting before even training camp opens? Anyway, I just want to throw out that I am perhaps the most crazed person in terms of fantasy football, but even I think this is too early. However, it did get me to thinking a little bit about my strategy for the upcoming season. Look, I love all fantasy sports, but fantasy football has taken on a life of its own, and its popularity totally coincides with why the NFL has boomed in popularity over the last decade. With fantasy and Sunday Ticket from DirecTV introduced, you had the ability to watch every game, and all of a sudden, you cared about players and teams you normally probably would have not cared the least bit about. Anyway, enough about that...back to strategory. I'm thinking the amount of elite running backs is very small this year. Think about it: Tiki's gone, the Auburn duo of Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams are projected to have sub-1,000 yard seasons this year, and a bunch of second-year runners have been thrust into the spotlight in an attempt to make up for the departed and the under-performing. Ok, now last year I said don't touch Edge, which, if you didn't, you were wise. Also, taking LT over LJ at #1 probably helped you out, of course, I took LJ and won both my leagues, so you never know. The key for me is what others did. Sure, drafting is huge, but I have to say it's about a 2-3% of the time, a person will be completely satisfied with the team they drafted. It's inevitable that at one point during the draft, you will cringe with horror as a player you want gets taken about two rounds before you were going to get him, and then there's the "I can't believe this!" reaction that comes, and that is what makes fantasy football great, because already, the gears are grinding on how to get that guy, and if you can't get him, figuring out how to forget about the guy (traditional, alternative, medicinal...illegal means apply). So here's what I'm thinking this year:
  • I refuse to believe that Joseph Addai or Maurice Jones-Drew are worth taking in the first round, and they're going to have to do a hell of a lot to convince me otherwise. Jones-Drew had a great year and scored a bunch of TDs, but he's not even the #1 guy on his own team. Remember, Fred Taylor is still there, and although Taylor has gotten hurt quite a bit in his past, with his reduced workload, his exposure and risk to injury has gone down significantly. I would say Drew is a solid third-rounder at best. Addai really bothers me being listed so high. A guy has 1,000 yards his rookie year, and all of a sudden, he's the sixth best back in the league? "I'm not so sure about that." Addai is a good young back, but taking him in the first round is ridiculous. He could have a huge year, but I just don't see that kind of potential. Also, bare in mind he had more than half of his TDs in one game (4 of his 7 came against Philly) and just two 100-yard games (Philly and Houston). His 4.8 yard average was impressive, but he doesn't have any game-breaking abilities for me to want to build my fantasy team around.
  • The amount of actual good tight ends in terms of fantasy value is at an all-time low. It's down to about four guys who you can rely on to get a decent amount of points each week (Gates, Gonzalez, Heap, Cooley). The word out of camp is that Cooley is looking real good this year, and with Jason Campbell still technically a rookie considering he only started half the games last year, look for Cooley to have a big year, and perhaps, jump into #2 as far as TE scoring.
  • Stay away from Patriots receivers. This should be a given every year, but it is especially true this year. Because the ball is going to be thrown to so many different receivers, there is only one member of the passing attack worth drafting early on, and that's Tom Brady, who is poised to have a Manning-like season considering the weapons he has around him, and the fact that this will be Laurence Maroney's first full season as the featured back in the system. Although the Pats are confident in Maroney's abilities, I still think they will delay the notion of running him 350 times a year. This means that the Pats will rely on Brady perhaps more than they ever have to move the ball down the field. Brady is going to have huge numbers this year, so drafting him in the second round is not completely out of the question.
  • Jump on the Travis Henry bandwagon while you can. Right now, some have Henry in the top 10 overall, which is not a stretch at all. This is Henry's seventh year in the NFL, and when healthy, is one of the most consistent backs in the league. When Henry has started at least 13 games (three out of six years), he has rushed for 1,000 yards and averaged at least four yards a carry. Last year, Henry rushed for 1,211 yards and had a 4.5 yard average, a career best. Now, Henry goes to Denver, where gaining 1,000 yards on the ground is the absolute bare minimum. Also, consider that Jay Cutler is in a Jason Campbell-like situation, as he only started five games last year, so Henry will be relied on early and often to boost the offense. The competition for Henry's job is weak, so if he remains healthy, expect a giant year from Henry in the sunshine state (Old School reference).
  • If Tom Brady is off the board, and you still need a starting QB, fear not, because quarterback is actually the deepest position in the draft. Consider a guy like Matt Leinart, who, in his first year, threw for over 2,500 yards, is ranked aorund 15th by most sites. Quarterbacks are going to be available in the late rounds, and although they won't get you Manning-like numbers, they will be able to keep you in the game. Guys like Leinart, Vince Young, Jay Cutler, and Steve McNair are going to be there in the late rounds, and although there are more attractive options at the position, the focus should be on skill positions once Manning, Brady, and Carson Palmer are off the board.
  • I would only go after one rookie this year, and that's Calvin Johnson, receiver from the Lions. Johnson potentially could get 1,000 yards this season, and has been a dynamic force in mini-camp, meaning he'll likely line up opposite Roy Williams on opening day. Other than that, it's all a wait-and-see. After Week 1, fantasy owners comb through the waiver wire and the free agent list, looking for the "next big thing" that no one knew about. The trick is to somehow determine if the first week's performance was an actual portrayal of what a player's season might be like, or if it was simply a fluke. Flukes are especially tricky, because in most cases, once you find out a player can't hack it for an entire season, it's usually too late, and the guy you got rid of to pick up the one-hit wonder probably got gobbled up by another owner. A good way to gauge if a guy's big week is indicative of things to come is to look at what he did in college. Look at a guy like Marques Colston from last year. I saw that he had great numbers at Hofstra (career highs in receptions and yards), so decided to take a chance on the guy considering I was weak at TE, I decided to take a chance on him, and he came through in a big way. Again, I caution you when thinking about taking a guy after a solid first week. If his background goes along with the numbers he is putting up, then the mystery will be a little less hazy.
Well, I hope you enjoyed that small glimpse into what you will expect from me as far as fantasy football coverage. This is something I'm really passionate about, so expect a lot of in-depth coverage in the coming months that will help you prepare for your draft in July or August. Thanks for reading. Peace.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Ranking The Drafts

"Toker's dream if I ever did see one."

Alright, so I'm doing what every young adult does on Friday night...watching the NHL Draft! Oh yeah! Hey, you know what, actually, I love any draft I can get. I watched the Major League Lacrosse draft the other day on ESPNU and was riveted...riveted I say! Anyway, while I'm watching this, I thought "I wonder which draft is the best in an overall sense?" Now, again, this is my opinion, and it's ok to disagree and send hate worries. Anyway, let's rank the drafts:
  1. NHL Draft: Ok, a little surprising for the NHL to be on top of any list, but let me explain this one. First of all, this is the only draft that is conducted at a different stadium each year. I think this is crucial, and something the NBA used to do, but now, it seems like they've landed on the Theater at Madison Square Garden as their home. There is no "green room" that the prospects hide in backstage, instead, they sit out amongst the fans in the seats with the fans. How great is that? You could be rubbing shoulders with the next Bobby Orr! (I mean, no one's going to be like #4, but for reference sake). The process itself takes about two minutes in between picks. The names are announced, they're on stage, they get interviewed, and we're onto the next pick. When a guy gets drafted, the perks already start. First, bodyguards escort you to the stage...nice. Second, a guy comes to take your jacket before you climb the stairs...very nice. Finally, you get a hat, sweater, and a photo op with the entire front office. Usually, the commish is the only guy on stage, and he also is the one calling out the picks, which is not true in the NHL, as a team representative (Cam Neely for the Bruins!...Cam Neely!!!) calls out the pick for the team. In all honesty, if Bettman were up there for more than five consecutive minutes, people would start throwing rocks and bottle rockets at him, so maybe this is a safety precaution after all. When the team rep gets on the mic, he simply doesn't say the name. He thanks the host city and their fans for their hospitality. They could be in Philadelphia, and teams would still be thanking the fans for their hospitality. See, this is lacking in the world...gratitude...oh well, just wanted to point that out Finally, every team has a "runner," which in this case is a seven-year old kid who is decked out in that team's gear...priceless. The NHL just does it right on basically all fronts. The only bad characteristic is that it is broadcasted on Vs., which only about half of Americans get. But, when you consider that no one really cares about hockey in this country, and that it's broadcasted on TSN in Canada, which every Canadian gets, what's the difference?
  2. NFL Draft: Easily the best formatted sports programming since putting balls and strikes in the upper corner. The on-screen format is so good that it has translated onto PTI, the NBA Draft, the MLB Draft, and currently, SportsCenter. ESPN had the idea to make sure people knew what was coming up, and at the same time, give them background info on each of the teams in the Draft. Also, the sheer volume of time given to the Draft, which is basically an entire weekend, easily makes it the most watched draft in this country. If this list was based on interest alone, the NFL would be #1, and I wouldn't even bother listing anything else, because it wouldn't be close. In terms of analysis, there's too much in my opinion, especially about quarterbacks. I actually started rooting for Brady Quinn to get picked just so they would stop talking about him, but even an hour after he was drafted...they were still talking about him! Enough already! Also, a huge minus is the absolute smugness of the teams and the league to take every single second of time in the first round to make a pick. JaMarcus Russell was clearly going #1, and yet it took the Raiders eleven minutes (as correctly predicted by me) to make the pick! What, were they fielding offers? Let me say this: They were on the clock for about five months (or since whenever they hired Art Shell), so I'm not about to believe that they needed eleven minutes on draft day to field offers.
  3. MLB Draft: The key word is simplicity. This was the first year the MLB Draft was on TV, and ESPN did a decent job in their coverage. However, there are definitely some things to improve on (more on that later), but it really is a fascinating process once you get it going. Think about it: The first day consists of five rounds and lasts about eight hours. The second day consists of 45 rounds and lasts about the same amount of time. You want to talk about rapid fire? I don't even know how they do it? It seems like a pick comes in the second day every ten seconds. Really an amazing process.
  4. NBA Draft: Ah yes, the gold standard of how to do everything wrong. The one thing I will say is that, like the MLB and the NHL, there is a manual draft board in the background, which I do like. Other than that, this thing is a train wreck.
Ok, I only did the four major sports, because it really wouldn't even be fair to put any other leagues in here. Consider this: the WNBA Draft is conducted in the same room as the NBA Lottery. So, you know the rankings, and now, here are some things to perhaps enhance the draft experience for each league:
  • NHL: First, you need to get this on ESPN2, or Fox Sports Net, or some channel that a larger majority of Americans actually get a chance to watch. This killed the NHL, and continues to do so in the regular season and the postseason, especially the Stanley Cup Finals, where a couple of the beginning games were on Vs. Look, I know that the money may not be out there like it once was, but the NHL is going to have to bite the bullet at some point and put the finals on regular TV for a discount. The Cup Finals this year, although it didn't last very long, was still a great display of hockey, and a thing to note was that there were only three European players on Anaheim's team, meaning that there are a lot more Americans and, yes, Canadians, that the league can market for the sport. However, if events like the draft continue to be shown on Vs., then the NHL won't likely be producing the number of new fans that it could possibly be producing.
  • NFL: Look, I love the NFL Draft perhaps more than anyone else, sad but true (you know it's sad but true, dum da-da-da-da...first Metallica reference!), but there's so much even I can stand. So, please, I'm begging you, clean it up a little. The most obvious thing to do is slash the amount of time for each pick. I know that ESPN makes some serious bank off of the draft, but really, how many are left at the end of the third round on Day 1, and further, how many are there for any of Day 2? Here's what I'm thinking: 10 minutes in round one, five minutes for rounds two and three, and three minutes for rounds four through seven. If every team took every second for every pick, and throw in some supplementary picks, the whole thing would take 17 1/2 hours. Now, compare that to what it looks like now. First of all, the whole thing takes approximately 16 hours to begin with, and when you lay down the "take all the time you can" formula, it would take over 24 hours. So, by comparison, you're cutting down the draft time by about three-to-four hours. Also, can we get the actual GMs and head coaches in earlier than the second day? I know that they are definitely under the gun on Day One, but I think they have enough time for a two-minute interview. I would just like to hear from someone who actually knows why they choose who they did, and not some analyst who does his best to speculate what that team is thinking. This is why they made the NFL Network...that's all they do. So, a little truth mixed into the rumors would be much appreciated. In terms of moving the first round to primetime, I am completely against it. To me, that Saturday afternoon start is an institution. Also, what good what it do to put the draft on Friday night? Isn't that where shows go to die? I've never heard of anyone saying that a Friday night time-slot was cushy or anything (except of course the T.G.I.F. days with Boy Meets World and Step by that worked). Also, I am much happier spending seven hours on a Saturday afternoon watching than I would be on Friday night because, in all seriousness, this thing kind of takes me hostage, and I would much rather be "held" basically any other time but Friday night.
  • MLB: See, now this one I like because it's like drawing on a blank canvas. ESPN was a step above local access on their coverage. I mean you couldn't possibly have been more stripped-down than that coverage was. So, there are a lot of things that ESPN can do for next year. First, when you have a draft, you need a crowd. Now, I think there were a couple people in attendance, but for the "national pastime," I shouldn't be able to count the number of people there on my fingers. Here's my solution: Conduct the draft in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame. Sure, Lake Buena Vista is nice, but still, it's June...isn't it a little too toasty down there? Up in Cooperstown, the only thing people really care about is baseball. The entire tourism board and the community live off of baseball, so why not capitalize on that? Second, when they are televising the draft, they need to broadcast all the way through the "sandwich" round. This will generally get you through about the top 50 picks in the draft, which I think is good because sometimes, a team will not have a first-rounder, and instead, is picking in the compensation round, much like what the Sox did this year. Third, they need to actually invite some of the players to show up and make an appearance at the draft. David Price was virtually the only guy who got face time this year, and he was at his house! Invite the top five or ten guys to come to the draft, and have a little presentation with club reps on stage when they get picked. I think that would be a nice touch. Again, this was just the first year that the MLB Draft was on TV, so I'm pretty sure there will be improvements next year.
  • NBA Draft: Ok, where to start? First, the "age" rule is stupid, and the lottery system is even worse, but I'll try and focus on the actual draft itself. In my opinion, TNT should get the draft by default just because of Charles Barkley. ESPN comes at you with Greg Anthony and Tim Legler, who try to make cute little off-hand jokes that don't go well at all, and that's followed by nervous laughter that makes everyone, even me, uncomfortable. Throw Stephen A. Smith in there, and you have a pretty volatile combination. Throughout the draft, the analysis comes in, and it really makes me question if a particular individual watches too much college at not enough NBA, or vice versa, because they seem to know way too much about a particular side, and not know anything about the other. See, a guy like Mel Kiper actually knows about NFL team needs and how well the NFL players are doing, so his knowledge is actually worth something. I love the expression "NBA size." What does that mean? You have to be a certain size to make it in the league? This couldn't be further from the truth. Look at T-Mac. He's came into the league an absolute string bean, but since he was drafted, he's up to 220 now, and one of the premier players in the game. So, the question isn't really about does he have NBA size, but rather, does he have NBA ability? If a guy is undersized, that is something that can be worked on. What can't be worked on is a guy's innate abilities and talents that he was born with. So, basically, the NBA needs to take a page from the NHL, because they only have two rounds to make a good impression, meaning that their moment in the spotlight is short, so the NBA may want to think about stepping it up and not continuing to be a doormat.
Have a good weekend everyone. Peace.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Show Me What You Got

"How can ya make love to a fella in a rush?
Pass me the keys to my truck."

So are the nerves kind of subsiding Red Sox Nation? Hello, we're still nine games up, and if tonight's score holds up (7-0 in the top of the third), then we'll be heading into the weekend series with the Padres with at least the same lead, if not, more. Due to the fact that I live down south, the number of unconcerned bi-partisans are a lot higher than they would be in say, oh I don't know, Cape Cod? Medfield? Dedham? In any event, countless people have asked me if I think the Sox can hang on (talk like I do, wear the stuff I wear, and put logo stickers from all four Boston teams, and even you can get stopped by complete strangers in mall parking lots!). First of all, they didn't confuse me for a New Yorker...nice. Ok, but anyway, for them to even ask that question to me is just a waste really. Do I think the Sox will hang on? Are you nuts? Look, I will say this: I submitted a rather large article about the recent success the Yanks have had, but understand something: In playing like .850 ball for the last three weeks, that has gotten the Yankees back 4 1/2 games, which is a pretty good run, and despite that, they are still nine games back. At this rate, if the Yankees continue to play where they lose once every six games, it will take them until around August to catch us, and let's face it, the Yankees have a good team...they're not nearly that good. I have absolutely no worries. Now, if the Sox start to come down with a flurry of injuries (knockin' on the wood that will eventually go in my fireplace), then what is there to be worried about? The team is only going to get better with time. Think of all of the prospects we have in the minors, and then think about all the great arms the Yanks have, like Phillip Hughes and...Phillip Hughes, who is suffering from a major arm injury. As the season wears on, tell me who you like in the stretch? If Lugo keeps stinking, we bench him and put Alex Cora at short. Any outfielder goes down, we have Wily Mo, who looks like he can actually hit an off-speed pitch now. We have depth everywhere! So, actually, I hope people do keep asking me that question...I enjoy when people think we can't outplay New York...

Oh yeah, we party it up big when it happens too...

Ok, so jumping ahead, the game just ended (at least in DVR land), and I have to say I was blown away by how good Tavarez looked tonight, and really, I can say that about the last couple of starts he's made. Since losing to Baltimore back on May 11, Tavarez has made seven starts, including going up against the Tigers, Yankees, and A's. In that time, Tavarez has gone 4-0 (team went 5-1), and during that time, recorded an ERA of 3.07, which lowered his season ERA from 6.60 to 4.50. Considering this was a guy who was probably projected to just be a "five inning" guy, Tavarez has pitched through seven innings on three occasions during this stretch, which has helped continue to give the 'pen some rest. I know in the past I had my doubts about Tavarez, but really, he just never looked right in a Sox uniform, and maybe I'm biased because he did pitch for the Cardinals in the '04 World Series, and oh by the way, he was the guy who gave up Bellhorn's winning homer in Game 1 of the Series too, so, yeah, I didn't really think the best move for the Sox was to bring in a guy who just gave up one of the biggest homers in Sox history. I mean, what if the Yankees started trying out Byung-Hyun Kim after they shelled him in the 2001 Series? Would Yankee fans be thinking "hey, this guy's got a great delivery, and he just saved 19 games, only blew four, and had a 2.64 ERA for his time as closer," or "are you kidding me? We just beat the bag out of this guy, and now you want him on this team? Bring me Cashman's head on a stick!" I'm going to go with the second one...maybe a little less devious, but still, the point remains that after you beat up a pitcher and rattle him, the first instinct shouldn't be "wow, he really blew that one...let's give him a two-year contract." Anyway, I've done some Julian bashing in the past because, well, he deserved it. And yes, I still don't think he looks right in a Sox jersey, but what can be said is that the Sox were not looking for a superstar in the five-spot, they simply needed someone to eat up some innings while the team attempted to rehab some injuries (most notably Jon Lester) and give more time to some of their young guns (Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and a few others) so they will have more innings under their belt when they make their inevitable stop on Yawkey Way.

There's pros and cons about gaining exposure, but I'm going to go straight into the biggest con: The more people you write for, the more often they will find mistakes, and that just never looks good. Don't get me wrong, I love that people are reading my stuff, it's just that you have to be a lot more careful about what you say, because now, I'm subject to a lot more scrutiny than using the wrong form of "legitimate." Anyway, recently, in my Asante Samuel piece, I wrote about how Tory James may have problems slipping and sliding on the grass, which would probably have been a decent observation if...well, ya know, they still played on grass. For some reason, I had a mental breakdown, and forgot about the switch to Field Turf last year right before the Bears' game, and thus, looked like a bafoon. I will say this right now: I am very opinionated, but every article that I write, I make sure to use as much factual information as possible. In addition, I spend time looking 99% of this stuff up just so this kind of thing wouldn't happen. I guess it's because I keep re-thinking about all those games in the slop last year, and then just completely forgetting they actually did something about it. So, what can I say? I totally muffed that, and I'm really sorry. I still assure you that if you read this page, you're going to get facts, and you're going to get opinions, but I am going to do everything in my power not to confuse the two.

Sorry to end with a public service announcement of sorts, but I don't want any first-time readers to think I'm some "hack" who knows nothing and is talking out of my...lack of knowledge (ESPNews ad reference there). I just want to keep spreading this to a lot of people, because I know there are a lot of people who really like reading this, and I don't want to scare off newcomers because of a lack of focus on my part. Anyway, I appreciate you guys spending time with me again. Be safe out there. Peace.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Got That Right

"When my time's up, I'll hold my own
You won't find me in an old folks' home."

Thanks for stopping by. In today's installment, I'm going to branch out all over the place, so hopefully there's something here that you will be able to enjoy.

With the NHL Draft coming up on Friday (I'm still holding on), this calls for a Mock Draft. No, I basically don't know any of these guys, but from gathering up team needs and looking at some top prospect lists, I think I have a pretty good handle on it...just trust me on this one:
  1. Chicago - Patrick Kane, RW, London (OHL)
  2. Philadelphia- Kyle Turris, C, Burnaby (BCHL)
  3. Phoenix- James Van Riemsdyk, LW, USA U-18
  4. Los Angeles- Karl Alzner, D, Calgary (WHL)
  5. Washington- Alexei Cherepanov, RW, Omsk (RUS)
  6. Edmonton- Jakub Voracek, RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
  7. Columbus- Sam Gagner, RW, London (OHL)
  8. Boston- Keaton Ellerby, D, Kamloops (WHL)
  9. St. Louis- Angelo Esposito, C, Quebec (QMJHL)
  10. Florida- Brandon Sutter, C, Red Deer (WHL)
  11. Carolina- Logan Couture, C, Ottawa (OHL)
  12. Montreal- Ryan McDonagh, D, Cretin-Derham HS (MN)
  13. Toronto- Kevin Shattenkirk, D, USA U-18
  14. Colorado- Thomas Hickey, D, Seattle (WHL)
  15. Edmonton- Mikael Backlund, C, Vasteras (SWE)
  16. Anaheim- Nick Petrecki, D, Omaha (USHL)
  17. New York Rangers- Zach Hamill, C, Everett (WHL)
  18. Calgary- David Perron, LW, Lewiston (QMJHL)
  19. Minnesota- Tommy Cross, D, Westminster HS (CT)
  20. Pittsburgh- Brett MacLean, LW, Oshawa (OHL)
  21. Phoenix- Colton Gillies, C, Saskatoon (WHL)
  22. Montreal- Lars Eller, C, Frolunda (SWE)
  23. Philadelphia- Bill Sweatt, LW, Colorado College
  24. St. Louis- Max Pacioretty, LW, Sioux City (USHL)
  25. Vancouver- Logan MacMillan, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
  26. St. Louis- Maxim Mayorov, LW, Almetievsk (RUS)
  27. Detroit- Oscar Moller, C, Chilliwack (WHL)
  28. Washington- John Blum, D, Vancouver (WHL)
  29. Ottawa- Akim Aliu, RW, London (OHL)
  30. Edmonton- Brendan Smith, D, St. Michael's (OPJHL)
Speaking of drafts, the NBA's version (whose popularity I'm guessing somewhat outweighs the NHL's) comes up in two weeks, and rumors are abound about some big names that could be getting moved around, picks being swapped, and names moving up and down the draft board. Here's what's hot right now:

Of course we have to start with your Boston Celtics, who have been in the news a lot this off-season. First with the lottery, then in potential trades for Shawn Marion and Rashard Lewis (although Lewis is technically a free agent, the Celts could go into what's known as a "sign-and-trade" agreement, whereby Team A, represented in this case by the Sonics, agrees to re-sign one of their free agents, Lewis, to a deal that has already been agreed upon with Team B, the Celtics; in turn, the Celtics would trade player(s) and/or draft pick(s) to Seattle for Lewis; the reason this is done is because the Celtics currently do not have enough cap room to keep all their players and sign Lewis, so they would need to move some money around, which benefits the Sonics, because instead of getting nothing, they will likely get expiring contracts, and up-and-coming player, and a high draft pick), and now, in what is perhaps the biggest rumor yet, the C's have been thinking about moving Paul Pierce. Here's how I feel about this: If they don't have a back-up plan, or some kind of auxiliary move that they will pull off to replace Pierce's veteran leadership, then this is stupid. Sure, the guy is making a ton of money (signed a 3-year, $59 million extension, keeping him in Boston until the 2010-2011 season), but he has been a proven leader and a motivator. Simply put, the guy just needs a running partner to take some of the heat off of him. Were the Celtics anywhere close to being "great" when they reached the '03 East Finals? Absolutely not, but Pierce was not chucking 35-40 shots a game, because he knew he could count on Antoine Walker to handle some of the load, which gave Pierce a comfort level that he has not been able to get back to since Walker's departure. So now, we're going from getting Oden or Durant, to Marion or Lewis, to trading Paul Pierce. Please tell me there is something else in the works and that we're not going to give up on this season too. So, in saying all this, I'm going to lay out two scenarios: One trading Pierce, and one keeping him. Again, I'm not writing for "Insider" here, but I think that most of this is logical:
  • Trade Paul Pierce:
  • Paul Pierce ($15.1 million, five years remaining) and a second-round pick in the 2008 Draft to Utah for Derek Fisher ($5.88 million, four), Mehmet Okur ($8.25 million, four) and the 25th overall selection in the 2007 Draft.
  • Derek Fisher covers your leadership, even though he is likely coming in off the bench, Okur gives them a guy with remarkable flexibility, being able to play down low and shoot threes, and the C's also had on another first-rounder to a pretty deep draft, a draft in which the C's possess three of the first 32 picks (picking second overall in the second round).
  • In Pierce, the Jazz will get the scorer they lacked in their horrific series against the Spurs in the West Finals. Also, it puts much less pressure on Deron Williams, who will only be entering his third year next year. Williams was called upon to not only distribute, but put the ball in the hole, and there are very few guys who can do that and have their team be successful (Nash, Kidd, James...a little bit of Kobe). The Jazz also have a bunch of big men, and in limited action, Paul Millsap, entering just his second season, has showed that he has the ability to hang with Boozer and Kirilenko, again establishing a great front-court.
  • Let's say, to avoid complications, that the Celts keep both of their first rounders. At #5, the C's take either Jeff Green, Corey Brewer or Al Thornton (of course I'm obsessed with Thornton, but I have heard Doc is favoring Green, mainly because Green and Doc's son both played for the Hoyas together). This will cover up their hole at small forward/shooting guard. Then, with the 25th pick, I would expect the C's to draft a big man. I like both Nick Fazekas, 6-11 forward from Nevada, and Aaron Gray, a 7-1 center from Pittsburgh. If they play their cards right, the Celts could get both of them. Imagine boosting your front-court to go from the weakness of the team to the strength. In addition, you get two guys who both graduated college, meaning they will be able to get into the flow of the game a lot easier than an underclassman, and they will not be under any pressure, barring injuries, in terms of being heavily relied on for this season. Al Jefferson becomes a free agent in '08, and although I would be devastated to see him go (wearing his jersey as I type this), you have to face facts that Jefferson, a legitimate double-double a night big man, will be commanding a lot of money once he hits the market. So you add depth now for the present, and an insurance policy for the future.
  • Don't Trade Paul Pierce:
  • Move I: Celtics trade Delonte West ($1.08 million, two years remaining) and Wally Szczerbiak ($11.78 million, three) to Indiana for Ike Diogu ($2.14 million, two) and Troy Murphy ($8.29 million, five)
  • Ok, obviously this is not the high-profile trade Celtic fans have been clamoring for, but what it does do is add size to the lineup. Diogu is a fiend on the boards, and has been that way since he was in college (Arizona St.). I think Troy Murphy has been given a bad rap, and since he was traded to Indiana, it seems like he may get lost in the shuffle along the way. Basically, you're looking at a guy whose 6'11 who can shoot 18-foot jumpers with regularity. The reason this trade would be appealing to the Pacers is that they really don't have an established scorer like Szczerbiak in their lineup, and even though they acquired Dunleavy from Golden State along with Murphy last year. Also, Danny Granger will get bumped to power forward, where he can be more effective given his frame. However, all of this is dependent on if the Pacers decide to move Jermaine O'Neal, which is a very real possibility, but for now, I'll keep this one on the board.
  • Move II: Celtics trade the 5th overall pick in this year's Draft to Philadelphia for their 21st and 30th picks this year, and a future second-rounder.
  • It's clear that the Celts are not sold on Yi Jianlian, and even if they are, they may not even get a chance to take him. One team that will be interested in moving up is Philadelphia, who own three first-rounders this year. They have been rumored to be trying to do what they can to move up the draft board to draft Yi, as they are in desperate need of a big man, as Samuel Dalembert's effectiveness has been brought into question.
  • This move would require a long-term commitment to Al Jefferson, which is what they should do regardless in my opinion. Why let one of the most talented young big men in the game walk? Isn't this what the Celts have wanted all along? A big man in the middle who can get you a double-double a game and be a dominating presence? Well, here you go. In terms of point guard, Rondo would replace West, which would give you a lineup of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Murphy, Jefferson, with Gomes, Green, Diogu, and Perkins coming in off the bench. The C's should then focus on adding depth to their guard spots with their late first-rounders. First, at point guard, Gabe Pruitt from Southern Cal and Taurean Green from Florida are intriguing options, while at shooting guard, you're looking at Daequan Cook from Ohio St. and Aaron Afflalo. Sure, their are international prospects that will be available here, but for me, it just seems safer to draft a guy who is used to the American game.
So while the Pierce/Marion/Garnett rumors are abound, take these two different positions the Celts could take. I'm not saying that, if they were proposed, they would be accepted, but still, it's something to think about. Really, the Celts do have some pieces that could become attractive commodities to other teams, but there are four guys they cannot afford to move: Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, and Rajon Rondo. After that, I really think it's all up-for-grabs, especially Wally and Ratliff due to their ridiculously large contracts which are holding the team in cap handcuffs right now.

Well, I wanted to talk about more, but it took me so long just to do this that I think I'll hold off until next time. Take care everyone. Peace.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

I'm On My Way

"Man we were killin' time
We were young and restless
We needed to unwind
I guess nothing can last forever."

Alright, before I recap the U.S. Open, I figured it was time to put my knowledge to the test. Earlier this year, after all free agents had signed on with their respective teams, I listed the 15 best and worst free agent signings. So, let's see how I did shall we?:

Best Moves:
  1. David Dellucci (CLE): .237, 4 HR, 19 RBIs, 25 Runs (Miss)
  2. Joe Borowski (CLE): 19 saves, 6.58 ERA (Hit Even With The High ERA)
  3. Jay Payton (BAL): .276, 1 HR, 23 RBIs, 20 Runs (Ehh...Ok I'll Give Myself A Miss)
  4. Hideki Okajima (BOS): 30 Appearances, 1.07 ERA, 30 K's (Big Time Hit)
  5. Justin Speier (ANA): 15 Appearances, 1.69 ERA, 17 K's (Hit)
  6. Mike Mussina (NYY): 3-3, 5.17 ERA, 1.31 WHIP (Tough One...1/2?...It's My Game Show!)
  7. Mike Piazza (OAK): Season-Ending Injury After 26 Games (Miss)
  8. Jose Guillen (SEA): .261, 9 HR, 40 RBIs, 35 Runs (Hit)
  9. Eric Gagne (TEX): 18 Appearances, 7 Saves, 0.53 ERA (Hit)
  10. Mark DeRosa (CHC): .277, 6 HR, 31 RBIs, 23 Runs (1/2)
  11. Alex Gonzalez (CIN): .264, 12 HR, 30 RBIs, 34 Runs (Hit)
  12. Randy Wolf (LA): 8-5, 4.24 ERA, 84 K's, 1.36 WHIP (1/2)
  13. Kip Wells (STL): 2-11, 6.93 ERA, 42 BBs (Jeesh)
  14. Marcus Giles (SD): .263, 3 HR, 24 RBIs, 7 SB, 39 Runs (1/2)
  15. Pedro Feliz (SF): .255, 9 HR, 30 RBIs, 24 Runs (1/2)
Worst Moves:
  1. Danys Baez (BAL): 31 Appearances, 6.52 ERA, 1.48 WHIP (Hit)
  2. Aubrey Huff (BAL): .276, 4 HR, 32 RBIs, 22 Runs (1/2)
  3. Julio Lugo (BOS): .207, 4 HR, 34 RBIs, 19 SBs, 32 Runs (1/2 Only Because Of The SBs)
  4. Gil Meche (KC): 4-6, 3.00 ERA, 71 K's, 1.25 WHIP (Miss)
  5. Gary Matthews, Jr. (ANA): .282, 10 HR, 41 RBIs, 11 SBs, 44 Runs (Miss)
  6. Andy Pettitte (NYY): 4-4, 2.93 ERA, 50 K's, 1.27 WHIP (Miss)
  7. Vincente Padilla (TEX): 3-8, 6.57 ERA, 42 K's, 1.74 WHIP (Hit)
  8. Gregg Zaun (TOR): .186, 1 HR, 11 RBIs, 5 Runs (Hit)
  9. Ted Lilly (CHC): 5-4, 3.69 ERA, 72 K's, 1.05 WHIP (Miss)
  10. Jason Marquis (CHC): 5-3, 3.14 ERA, 46 K's, 1.19 WHIP (Miss)
  11. Juan Pierre (LA): .278, 0 HR, 14 RBIs, 20 SBs, 36 Runs (1/2)
  12. Jeff Suppan (MIL): 7-7, 4.69 ERA, 43 K's, 1.46 WHIP (Hit)
  13. Adam Eaton (PHI): 7-4, 5.33 ERA, 52 K's, 1.49 WHIP (Hit)
  14. Moises Alou (NYM): .318, 2 HR, 13 RBIs, 15 Runs, 30 Games (Hit)
  15. Barry Zito (SF): 6-7, 4.41 ERA, 51 K's, 1.42 WHIP (Hit)
Overall: 13-9-8

Not too bad. Also, consider that my good move/bad move was based on salary too, and the hit/miss is only by the numbers. Seriously, if I threw salaries in there, would Julio Lugo get 1/2?

Angel Cabrera is your 2007 U.S. Open champion, and it was a bit of a surprise to me. Cabrera did have the 36-hole lead, but it's rare to see someone have a lead, then on Saturday, struggle a bit (76, +4), and then come back with a brilliant round on Sunday (69, -1) to win a tournament, let alone the U.S. Open. Despite Cabrera winning, the big story was Tiger Woods once again not being able to come from behind in a major on Sunday. This is now the 29th time in which Tiger has been trailing going into the final round, and not being able to climb up to the top spot. It's very easy to break this down if you think about it. Tiger has a comfort level when he's on top. He knows that he is the best player in the world, and that once he has a lead, the players behind him are going to start doing stupid things to try and catch him, and in the end, Tiger ends up shooting a relatively respectable round, and he wins (in the 12 majors Tiger has led going into the final round, all of which he's won, Tiger's average score is 2.67 under par, so right around a 69 or 70...his best final round ever was 67, which he did twice). However, if Tiger needs to come from behind, it has a reverse effect on him. Because he is under so much pressure not only from the golfing community, but more so himself, to win majors and to break Jack's record of 18 majors won, he is unable to really relax and focus on his game as his focus seems to wander to the scoreboard, and what kind of number he has to post to win. Will Tiger ever win a major from behind? Perhaps, but as of right now, the 0-29 stat is basically the only chink in Tiger's armor that anyone knows of.

So I'm watching the Sox game right now, and I feel like I want to jam a spike through my forehead. Ok, first of all, why is it that so many Boston/Atlanta games are on national TV? The Braves are already on TBS all the time, and down here, they're on like five different stations. Look, the Sox are blacked out on NESN all the time, so give me something for crying out loud! But no, all I see are Yankees and Mets games...unreal. Ok, getting back to the spike through the forehead comment, is Dusty Baker attempting to challenge Tim McCarver for "announcer that is reminiscent of nails on a chalkboard" award? I'll say this: I would probably be terrible in the booth right now, and Dusty may know a lot more about baseball than I do, but he is just terrible in his analysis. On two occasions already (writing in the bottom of the 2nd), the play-by-play guy had to step in because Baker couldn't finish his thought, or perhaps did not know how to end whatever it was he was talking about. Sutcliffe is not too far behind. He's said the words "winning baseball" ten times. Also, there has been some talk about Chuck James not being "overpowering" and being a "contact" pitcher. Ok, well there are very few times in the history of baseball when a guy that hits 95 MPH on the gun can be described, or sets out to be, a "contact" pitcher. See, usually, when a guy throws that hard, and also had a .285 average against, he's going to want to slow down on the contact. I'm sorry, I'm just frustrated that this game is on ESPN...where are the Sox/D-Ray games?

So Pac Man Jones needs to set up a "boom boom" room like Big Boi has (classic episode of "Cribs") because he seems to be addicted to strip clubs. Also, his crew seems to be addicted to causing maylays at these clubs, because every time he goes out, someone always has to break out a gun and ruin everyone's good time. So, considering he possibly could get kicked out of the league if he continues his questionable behavior, why doesn't he just bring the party to his place? He can invite whoever he wants to, which means there will be less chance of someone potentially becoming a target. Also, he gets his selection of girls, meaning that he can forewarn them to not touch the money when he "makes it rain." This just makes way too much sense though, so that won't really jive with Jones, who went to a strip club in New York before his appeal hearing about an incident at a strip club in Vegas, then celebrates his recent year-long going to a strip club of course! Also, here's a thought: Is there any chance you can leave the guns at home? Hey, if you get drunk, and start talking some trash, the worst that could happen is someone gets a black eye, which from my understanding would probably be a lot better than a gunshot wound.

Alright, well I'm gonna go watch the game, which could be played in Boston for all I know. Seriously, Brave fans, get out and support your team. I'm all about Red Sox Nation and showing the pride, but this is ridiculous. We're talking like a 65/35 ratio here. Alright, have a good night everyone. Peace.


For My Pops

I don't know if he'll like this article at all, but this one is dedicated to my Dad. He's always there for me, even when I screw up, which is probably a lot more than he would like. Anyway, my Dad is someone I have always looked up to because, well, he's just the man. I mean, how else can I explain it? Anyway, Dad, if you're reading this, thanks for always being there for me, and being the best Dad a kid could ever have. Love ya pops.

Is Hallmark still taking submissions?

So, it is Father's Day today, which means today is the final round of the U.S. Open. Oakmont, as predicted, has tore most guys apart. Going into Sunday, there are exactly zero golfers in red figures. The cut line to make the weekend was 10 over, so you know the conditions were calling for players to do anything they could just to salvage an occasional par. Here's something else I found strange: When looking at the leaderboard going into today, four of the top five are not from the U.S. (Aaron Baddeley from Australia, Stephen Ames from Canada, and Paul Casey and Justin Rose from England), with the obvious exception being Tiger Woods, who once again finds himself in the final pairing of a major. Tiger, who won both the British and the PGA last year, will be looking to win his 13th professional major, which would put him just five behind Jack Nicklaus' all-time record. He starts off today two shots behind Baddeley, and after a very impressive round on Saturday (-1, 17/18 greens in regulation), Woods will be looking to ride some of that momentum into today's round. Everything is set up for Tiger to win this tournament. Not trying to take anything away from the players in contention, but with Tiger near the top of the board, it will take an effort from somebody that, frankly, I don't think anyone has in them. The real story will be how far Baddeley drops today, because in the past, Tiger has regularly spooked whoever he's playing with. Here's the last two instances of this occurring:

2007 Masters 1 2 3 4 TOTAL
Stuart Appleby 75 70 73 75 293
1st T-7th
Tiger 73 74 72 72 291
2nd T-2nd

2006 PGA Championship:

Luke Donald 68 68 66 74 276
2nd T-3rd
Tiger 69 68 65 68 270
1st 1st

Just a small sampling of the way Tiger can get into the opposition's head. What's even more interesting is that Baddeley is on record welcoming the challenge of playing with Tiger. I appreciate the guy's heart, but I question the reasoning behind his comments. First off, if history says anything, it will be a "major" struggle, literally and figuratively, for Baddeley to even stay in the hunt today. Secondly, as if he needed any motivation, wouldn't those words perhaps ignite a bit of spark in Tiger? You have a guy that comes out and says that he believes his game is good enough to beat Tiger on Sunday? I can't really understand the motive behind it all. Maybe it's an attempt to psych himself up, but let's be real for a moment. This is Tiger Woods...on Sunday...against Aaron Baddeley. Let me say something right now: If Baddeley wins this tournament, then never listen to anything I say again. No, seriously, if Baddeley wins, then everything I've ever said is just a big, huge fabrication of the truth. He's a good player and all...he just doesn't have a chance in the world.

Ken Griffey, Jr. is having an amazing year, and yet no one really seems to be paying attention. Has there ever been a player who has fallen as far from the public eye, yet still plays as well as Griffey has? No one is coming to me at the moment, but think about it for a second. Griffey was the most popular player in the game for years while he was with Seattle. People were saying that he would crush Hank Aaron's home run record, and even one of the better sports video games ever had his name on it (sure the players' names were fake, but what other game can you hit a 600 foot homer in?). Then, in an astonishing turn of events, Griffey was traded to the Reds, and once the injuries started, and the Reds became perennial cellar-dwellers in the NL Central, Griffey, by all accounts, had fallen out of favor in terms of popularity. The comparisons to Aaron and Willie Mays were gone, and Junior slipped into the ranks of mediocrity it seemed.
He has played more than 100 games just four times in the seven years he's been with Cincy, and even with that, Junior belted career home runs #580 and #581 in the Reds' 8-4 win over the Rangers. Of course, when you think about it, invariably, you will start to wonder "what if?" about a lot of things. What if he had never gotten traded? What if he played in even half of those games he missed? But for now, take a second to appreciate this guy's accomplishments not only for his career, but for the season he's having right now. Junior comes into today's game second in the NL in home runs with 18, and an OPS just under 1 (.962). Griffey is 37 right now, and rumors have begun to swirl that the Reds may put Griffey on the block, and the White Sox have been a rumored location. This would be optimal for him, as he would be able to split his time between playing the outfield and being used as a DH, which would likely lengthen his sure-fire Hall of Fame career. If Griffey does end up in Chicago, and they do indeed utilize him in that capacity, expect Griffey to have another four or five good years left. Hopefully, he has found the cure for the injury bug once and for all, and can showcase the prettiest swing in the game for a good long time.

Today was brief, but I will be back either tonight or tomorrow to recap the Sox/Giants series. Until then, have a great Father's Day, and I love you Dad. Peace.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Answering The Asante Samuel Question

"Say a prayer for the pretender
started out so young and strong
Only to surrender."

(note: Hey guys, this is another submission article. Hope you enjoy.)

With Samuel Holding Out, Pats Will Mix and Match To Get By

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

The Pats have been in well-publicized negotiations with disgruntled cornerback Asante Samuel, and so far, very little progress has been made. With Samuel threatening to skip mini-camp, and sit out the first ten games of the season, the Pats suddenly have a monstrous hole in their secondary, and if there is any weakness on this team, it has to be in the defensive backfield. So what are the Pats going to do in order to to keep their title hopes alive?

Ellis Hobbs seems to have the inside track to the #1 corner spot coming into the season. Hobbs will be entering his third season, and since being drafted in the third round of the ’05 Draft, Hobbs as shown that he has the ability to play very well when playing in pass defenses, and has also been able to be a reliable cover man when matched up one-on-one with outside receivers. However, it will be a tall task to cover the #1 receivers the Pats will be playing, particularly in their own division, with Lee Evans, Laveranues Coles, and Chris Chambers all being exceptional wide-outs and Pro Bowl candidates each year. Hobbs is also fairly undersized for his position, measuring in at 5’9, 190 pounds, so will trading bumps with a receiver like Chambers faze him? What is known is the fact that Hobbs has been trusted on in the past, and for the most part, he has been able to hold his own.

All along, the Patriots’ brass has felt that Samuel is somewhat a “product of the system,” and that paying him Nate Clements or Champ Bailey money simply would be too much a player to man a position that could be filled by someone else, again, because their system is so good that the Pats can put anyone in that opening and will be able to not only survive, but prosper. However, think back to the receiver position last year, and the personnel that were plugged in to replace the voids left by Deion Branch and David Givens. Although their plan worked out for the most part, in big games, it ended up being the difference between a win and a loss, especially true in the AFC Championship Game. Over the off-season, the Pats spent a ton of money to correct their receiver problem, but it seemed like the reinforcements came too late, and the damage was already done. So with all that being said, how can it be assumed that this won’t happen again this year at the corner position? Sure, Samuel could very well be a “product,” but even if he is, he has played so outstanding in the Pats’ defensive scheme that he has almost become an irreplaceable commodity. So although the Pats are unwilling to pay Samuel’s asking price (reportedly in the $10 million a year range), the cost that they may be taking on by letting him walk could grow exponentially by the week. So, that’s just something to keep in mind when looking at Hobbs, or whoever else could be replacing Samuel as their best shut-down corner.

In one of the more unheralded moves of this off-season for any team in the league, the Pats were able to go out and sign Tory James, who is two years removed from his Pro Bowl appearance with Cincinnati. Although the team claims that this was purely to add depth to the team, clearly there was a big gap between Samuel and the Patriots in terms of the contract talks, so the James move feels like a bit of an “insurance policy” to an outsider. In any event, what James brings to the table is someone who will, at the very least, compete for the opening that will likely be left by Samuel. James has recorded at least four interceptions in six straight seasons while playing for Oakland and the Bengals. In 2004, his Pro Bowl season, James had the best year of his career, recording 56 tackles and eight interceptions. However, something that may be overlooked is the fact that James has played on artificial turf for at least half of his games. When you consider that Gillette Stadium’s grass conditions are not always “pristine,” and that James will be entering his eleventh season in the league, there will probably be some concerns that James may not have the kind of pace needed to stay with the burners of the AFC East. However, throughout the Pats’ opening mini-camp, James has shown encouraging signs, so the grass may not be a factor. Still, it’s something to think about, and it will be interesting to see if James can adjust to the field, particularly when the track is slow.

Competing with James to line up opposite Hobbs will be Chad Scott and Randall Gay. Scott is the more experienced of the two, and like James, will be entering his eleventh season. Scott, unlike Hobbs, has the prototypical size of a shut-down corner, coming in at 6’1, 205 pounds. Scott ideally would be used in the slot to cover bigger receivers going over the middle, but because of the lack of corner depth, Scott could be used on the outside. Gay is entering his fourth season, but in his last two, he has played just eight games combined, being put on injured reserve twice for various leg injuries. Gay seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder, as he was quoted as saying “I can say this, I’m the most anxious person for training camp. I’m about the only one here that’s ready for it to come.” Even though the depth is short, it’s likely Gay will only be used in nickel and dime passing formations in order to slowly get Gay back to “game speed.”

When talking about the safeties, the biggest question has to be the health of Rodney Harrison, who is coming off of a horrific leg injury that he suffered in the regular season finale against Tennessee, was unable to play in any of the three postseason games, and whose initial diagnosis had him missing a portion of the 2007 season. However, Harrison made a faster recovery than what was expected, and showed up to mini-camp close to full-strength. Clearly, this is a completely different defense without Harrison in the lineup, and although the Pats made it to the AFC Championship game, Peyton Manning and the Colts’ passing offense carved up the Pats’ secondary, particularly in the second half en route to their dramatic comeback victory. Harrison’s presence over the middle brings an intimidation factor that few defenders on New England, let alone the entire league, can bring to the table.

The other possible safety lining up with Harrison could be Eugene Wilson. Wilson, who is coming off a season where he missed the final ten games of the regular season and the playoffs with a hamstring injury, has been able to make a sizable impact in his first three full seasons, recording four interceptions in both ’03 and ’04 when Wilson was used at both safety and corner. Because of his versatility, there stands a chance that, if needed, he could be moved over to the cornerback position, making him an invaluable commodity given the current state of the backfield. While at Illinois, Wilson, who was used primarily at Illinois as a corner, still needs to grow into lining up on the outside in the NFL. Wilson is another guy who will need to be nurtured back into actual “game speed” slowly, and whether that means lining up at safety, or being used primarily in multiple corner sets remains to be seen.

While Rodney’s health is still somewhat in question, and Eugene still trying to get up to speed, the Pats were able to go out and get the talented Brandon Meriweather in the first round of the ’07 Draft. Sure, the former Miami Hurricane standout comes to the Patriots with a troubled past of off-the-field incidents, but what is not in question is his ability to produce on the football field. When mini-camp opened however, Meriweather was not present, and reports indicated that he is suffering from a minor hamstring injury. Judging from the past, the extent of the injury may never be known, as the Pats are excellent at keeping their injury report under tight wraps until the season rolls around. If he comes into the season at full strength, and is able to show the kind of play-making ability that made him the 24th overall selection this year, then there stands a chance that he could possibly replace Wilson as the starting free safety, or, if Harrison is unable to go, it will be a sure thing that Meriweather would be lining up in the strong safety position opposite Wilson for their opening game against the Jets.

With a lot of question marks entering the season, there is something that cannot be disputed. Having Asante Samuel on the field makes this unit, and the defense on a whole, better. However, the Pats are not going to break from their notion that the idea of giving Samuel a long-term deal, for the kind of money given to an elite corner, is going to put the total compensation of the contract at a much higher level than they are willing to go. It seems as though there is no resolution to this story in sight, and as long as Samuel and the Pats continue to remain true to their beliefs, then expect some of the names mentioned above to be called on to make a large contribution to the Pats’ run at a fourth title in seven years.

Thanks again for reading. Have a good weekend. Peace.