Sometimes, things kind of click. 10-4-2 ATS yesterday, and that was one of the harder weeks to predict basically because you have a bunch of teams playing backups, and the conditions were not exactly stellar for most games. So, I'm real happy with that. Here's something else that I was loving:
The Sox have come to agreements with Brad Penny and Josh Bard on one-year deals. Hmmm...I seem to recall saying that the Sox shouldn't focus on Teixeira and instead work on getting a #4 starter and help behind the plate. Someone is listening! Outstanding. So here's where the debate comes in though. First, does Brad Penny still have it? Well, that is a great question, and honestly, we're probably not going to find out until about two months into the season when he has had 8-10 starts to find out if he still has his stuff. Penny is coming off of a season where he had three trips to the DL due to tendinitis/inflammation/soreness in his right shoulder. He had an MRI done last year which showed he had developed scar tissue in the shoulder. So, I'm not sure whether or not he will have any kind of surgery done to clean it up. I would think that the Sox did their homework on the guy, and if it looks like he is going to be ready to go this season, or he's going to make the necessary measures to ensure that, then I think this is an outstanding move that will not be a financial burden if it does not work out (one-year deal worth $5 million with $3 million in incentives if he pitches 160 innings). I think the incentives clause is also a great idea because it will add motivation for Penny to do whatever is in his power to hit that 160 inning threshold. Again, he struggled last season due to the shoulder, but I think the Sox believe that he can make a full recovery and return to his '07 form (16-4, 3.03 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 208 IP in 33 starts). Bard's name should sound familiar to Sox fans. That's because he caught with the Sox for seven games before getting traded to San Diego along with Cla Meredith for Doug Mirabelli. Bard was unsuccessful at being Tim Wakefield's catcher, which is why the trade for Mirabelli was made. So, I feel like Bard is simply a move to add depth to the catching ranks, because when you look up and down the Sox' system, there isn't a whole lot of capable guys who can catch. I'm not going to say that Bard is going to be the #2 catcher for the Sox in '09, but to me, it feels like the organization is going after needs, and not just wants. Sure, they wanted Teixeira, but they needed a fourth starter, and they needed some help behind the plate, and both these moves help them in those regards. Again, I'm not going to sit here and say Brad Penny will win 20 games, and Bard will be the starting catcher and play 130 games, but again, they are addressing the team needs, not messing with the chemistry, and figuring out that it's the minor moves that go under the radar that can be as effective as a big-time signing (think about guys like Sean Casey and Mark Kotsay last year).
I know I've been pretty Red Sox heavy (big surprise), but let's switch gears for just a moment. I know there is plenty of time still to go in the Hot Stove, but let's review the good and bad that has happened so far:
- Tampa Bay trades Edwin Jackson to Detroit for Matt Joyce: I think Jackson has hit whatever ceiling he has, and plus, with David Price thrown in the mix, Tampa had six starters, and Jackson was the odd man out. Joyce is going to be the kind of fourth outfielder they were hoping Rocco Baldelli could have been (and hopefully will be with the Sox).
- Philadelphia signs Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract: Ibanez is 36, but it seems like he is continuing to get better as time progresses. He has had at least 20 homers and 100 RBIs three straight years on a bad Seattle team. He will now get Rollins and Utley hitting ahead of him in the lineup, and Howard behind him if he hits in the three-hole. That's a big time lineup. Ibanez also has hit .280+ eight straight years.
- Chicago trades Jose Ceda to Florida for Kevin Gregg: This one went under the radar after the two mega-trades the Mets pulled off for relief pitching. The Cubs are not completely sold on Marmol as their closer, so having Gregg provides a Plan B in case things break down.
- Oakland trades Houston Street, Greg Smith, and Carlos Gonzalez to Colorado for Matt Holliday: To me, this goes from "good" to "great" if the A's at least attempt to sign Holliday to a long-term deal. Right now, on the outside, it looks like the A's are getting Holliday as a rental player for the '09 season with his impending free agent status after this year. Even so, it's a great move. The A's have no power, and considering that the AL West is going to be a lot more open with the losses to the Angels, this could be a time to sneak into the mix for the division.
- Baltimore trades Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati for Ryan Freel and two minor leaguers: I think this move works for both teams. Cincy gets Hernandez in a contract year, like Holliday, so it's expected that he will produce some real nice numbers in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Freel adds speed to the O's, and with the departure of Hernandez, it clears the way for Matt Wieters (think Joe Mauer with 30+ home run power), who will be major-league ready as soon as May or June. Evan Longoria last year is a perfect example of a phenom making an immediate impact on their team...expect the same kind of things from Wieters...he's that good.
- New York Yankees sign CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to gigantic long-term deals that they will never be able to live up to: Well, I guess that was self-explanatory.
- New York Mets sign Francisco Rodriguez to a three year, $37 million deal, then involve themselves im a three team, 12 player trade to get J.J. Putz: Now this, in theory, sounds like a good idea. First, they get a guy who saved 65 games last year, and then they add another closer to be the set-up guy. Sounds good, but I can already tell you how this will go down. Barring a huge turn of events, K-Rod is going to blow a couple of saves. It may not happen immediately, but he's not perfect, and when those blown saves start adding up, I'm thinking the momentum to have Putz be the ninth-inning guy will increase, which will lead to tension, media scrutiny, etc. If they had gotten either K-Rod or Putz, that would have perhaps worked out, but getting both? As the Yankees have proven, fantasy baseball does not work in the real game. Also, with this trade, they shipped three relievers out, including Aaron Heilman. I'm not sold on this one at all.
- Cleveland signs Kerry Wood to a two-year, $20 million contract: There's nothing like a team getting rid of one guy and having their fan base completely hate the guy, and then having the team get the exact same kind of player the next year (see: Yankees getting Carl Pavano off the books and then getting A.J. Burnett). After "suffering" through Joe Borowski (suffering in quotes because he did lead the AL in saves one year, but he was wildly inconsistent), they go get Kerry Wood, a guy who cannot stay healthy and has been on the DL in each of the past five seasons.
|MLB TEAMS ||WORLD SERIES ODDS OPEN ||WORLD SERIES ODDS CURRENT||ODDS TO WIN LEAGUE|
|ARIZONA D-BACKS||25/1||30/1 ||11/1|
|ATLANTA BRAVES||60/1||40/1 ||20/1|
|BOSTON RED SOX||6/1||8/1 ||3/1|
|CHICAGO CUBS||8/1||7/1 ||7/2|
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX||25/1||25/1||11/1|
|CLEVELAND INDIANS||15/1||25/1 ||11/1|
|COLORADO ROCKIES||40/1||50/1 ||17/1|
|DETROIT TIGERS||15/1||25/1 ||11/1|
|HOUSTON ASTROS||40/1||40/1 ||15/1|
|KANSAS CITY ROYALS||100/1||100/1||50/1|
|LOS ANGELES ANGELS||10/1||10/1 ||5/1|
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS||15/1|| |
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS||30/1||40/1 ||17/1|
|NEW YORK METS||12/1||7/1 ||3/1|
|NEW YORK YANKEES||6/1||3/1 ||7/4|
|PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES||10/1||10/1 ||5/1|
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||100/1||100/1||40/1|
|SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS||40/1||40/1 ||12/1|
|ST LOUIS CARDINALS||40/1||40/1||15/1|
|TAMPA BAY RAYS||10/1||8/1 ||5/1|
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||30/1||40/1 ||22/1|
After yesterday, you knew heads were going to roll across the league, and it started early. Three coaches were fired. Two I definitely saw coming (Romeo and Rod Marinelli), while the third I thought was a possibility, but was 50/50 in thinking it would actually happen (Mangini). I mean Romeo...I know that the team let you down, but still, you can't look like Han Solo when he was frozen in carbonite week in and week out. It really looked like someone had stolen is soul, and he was just a shell of a person. Maybe a little more energy was needed, especially for a team who had a landslide victory in terms of total team drops. Rod Marinelli had to go. It's never happened before, so I'm not quite sure what the winless season protocol is, but I'm pretty sure you have to clean house once that goes down. Mangini was a classic example of someone who has had prior success, but in major sports, it is very much a "what have you done for me lately" kind of setting, and losing four of the last five probably didn't help his cause. So, with three openings available, and perhaps others to follow (I can't see Haslett staying on in St. Louis, Herm Edwards in KC...I don't know if we can build on this, Tom Cable in Oakland, also, Marvin Lewis from Cincy may go), it will be a fast and furious offseason for coaches. Most likely, you're going to be looking at coordinators filling those spots (Rex Ryan from Baltimore, Steve Spagnuolo from the Giants, and yes, Josh McDaniels from the Pats), and then, you're going to get people getting promoted down the line, and on and on it will go. I think the free agent market will be extremely interesting this year, as I think the draft is not going to provide the kind of answers that most of these lower-level teams are looking for. You never know what kind salary cap "casualties" there will be. Rumors of Torry Holt and Chad Johnson, plus many others, have already been mentioned in getting released. If these teams get the right football minds in place, and clear up some cap room, there could be another Miami Dolphin-like turnaround next season.
The big story in New England (again, not the Bruins or Celtics) is what the Pats are going to do with Matt Cassel next season. The two obvious things that could happen are that he walks in free agency, or the Pats franchise him ($11 million seems to be the consensus figure). Again, I think it's way too early to be talking about this, you know, considering the season ended yesterday, but I have to throw in my two cents because it's going to be an ongoing story for months to come, so I might as well lay out my opinion before this gets completely over-saturated. The Patriots still have the best quarterback in the league (which apparently people have forgotten about), and this is all determined by the health of Tom Brady. I love how so many people are quick to simply release Brady. Really? The last seven years didn't mean anything? I understand that it is a costly proposition to keep him around, but you can't tell me, right now, that Matt Cassel is better than Tom Brady. Not to take anything away from Cassel, as he was brilliant this season, but he simply is not on Tom Brady's level...yet. Now will he get there eventually? Perhaps, but the Pats are going to be $25-30 million under the cap once free agency rolls around. I understand that they have needs that they have to fill (right side of the O-Line, secondary), but it is possible for the Pats to make a sacrifice for one year and keep Cassel if Brady cannot go on Week 1. However, keep this in mind: They have until the middle of July to decide all this. Let me say that again...they have until the middle of July to decide all this! I understand that everyone needs a story, but seriously, let this one play out. Peter King says Brady is ahead of schedule, Tom Curran says he's behind...you know what, let's start hearing about whether or not Brady can go in April, right around the draft. If he's not close by April or May, then yes, that will be an interesting situation, but can I at least get through the new year without having to hear about the future of Matt Cassel?
It's the end of the season, so here are my final picks for MVP:
Fave Five MVP Candidates:
- Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis
- Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta
- Chad Pennington, QB, Miami
- DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina
- Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
I know it's a little early, but I am so psyched about the New Year's Day game between Detroit and Chicago at Wrigley Field this year. I think the idea of having one outdoor game a year is the one of the best ideas the NHL has ever come up with. Last year's game was an absolute classic up at the Ralph in Buffalo between the Sabres and the Penguins. It snowed, goalies were wearing winter hats, and it ended in a shootout with the game's biggest star, Sidney Crosby, scoring the winning goal. Fantastic stuff. 2010's game will be in the new Yankee Stadium...it makes you wonder about when a game is going to happen at Fenway. I mean wouldn't that be the absolute ultimate. I can't even begin to think how tough a ticket that will be to get (by the way, it's about $250 a ticket for this year's game). I just wanted to throw that out there. I definitely will be taking more time in the new year to further break down the NHL, something, outside of gushing about the Bruins, I really haven't done.
Here's what to watch for this week:
- Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Air Force (12:00, ESPN)
- Sun Bowl: Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh (2:00, CBS)
- Music City Bowl: BC vs. Vanderbilt (3:30, ESPN)
- Insight Bowl: Kansas vs. Minnesota (6:00, NFL Network)
- Chick-Fil-A Bowl: LSU vs. Georgia Tech (7:30, ESPN)
- Outback Bowl: USC vs. Iowa (11:00, ESPN)
- Capital One Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan State (1:00, ABC)
- Gator Bowl: Nebraska vs. Clemson (1:00, CBS)
- Red Wings vs. Blackhawks (Winter Classic) (1:00, NBC)
- Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. Southern Cal (4:30, ABC)
- Penguins vs. Bruins (7:00, NESN)
- Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (8:30, FOX)
- Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech (2:00, FOX)
- Liberty Bowl: Kentucky vs. East Carolina (5:00, ESPN)
- Wizards vs. Celtics (7:30, CSN New England)
- Sugar Bowl: Utah vs. Alabama (8:00, FOX)
- International Bowl: Buffalo vs. UConn (12:00, ESPN)
- Sabres vs. Bruins (1:00, NESN)
- Falcons vs. Cardinals (4:30, NBC)
- Colts vs. Chargers (8:00, NBC)
- Ravens vs. Dolphins (1:00, CBS)
- Eagles vs. Vikings (4:30, FOX)
- Celtics vs. Knicks (6:00, NBA TV/CSN New England)
Again, Happy New Year to everyone. Have a good one, and definitely have a safe one too. I know that I've had a couple of close calls on New Year's that were not so safe (ending up at the bottom of a 20-foot hill in a foot of snow with a four-cylinder truck for example, and that barely made the top 5 unsafe things about that night). Most likely, I won't be working at eight in the morning the next day either, so...you know...bonus. See you in 2009! Peace.