Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Three Trending Topics (now with links to other references!)

The Melo Trade

Okay so I know you know both sides of the trade. The main argument seems to be, “how do you trade all those pieces for “’one guy’?” Here’s how I think. Felton was only signed through this season. Chandler’s contract is up too, and the Knicks couldn’t possibly afford him and pursue Melo (assuming he wasn’t traded and locked up elsewhere first). The Knicks weren’t winning this year with their current team anyway – they need more pieces. Billups is the secondary player who matters in this deal because he’ll start at PG, is a former finals MVP, and at 34 y/o brings a face to the team that has been there before. His nickname with the Pistons was “Mr. Big Shot” for a reason. He will cancel out not having Felton (who in my opinion the Knicks would have overpaid long term for – he was sold high I believe), if not add a different dynamic to the game with his experience and shooting ability behind the arc.

Anthony is a superstar capable of things that would take any 2 (at least) of the guys traded to contribute to the team on the offensive side. It takes pressure off Amare to be the lone ranger in some games where they won’t win unless he gets 40. The draft picks the Knicks gave up are hopefully not good ones as they plan to stay in contention in the East. Finally, they moved Curry and Randolph out. Assuming the Knicks signed Melo in the offseason instead, they pretty much would still only have Felton (overpaid & given he resigned), Gallo, and Mosgov. With Billups being solid for at least 2 years WITH a buyout clause after this one, you can even make the argument the Knicks traded a few draft picks, Gallo, and Mosgov, for Melo and Chauncey (thanks Danny). How do you pass up getting a player of that caliber? I know there’s much more to it with the possible curbing of the max salary over the next offseason, signing him and giving up nothing now, etc, but as a trade, it is does not put the team in a much worse supporting role position than the offseason would have if we has just signed Melo outright. We’ll miss the guys who left, but time will show, hopefully, that this proved a worthy investment.

"The Fab 4"

I am tired of hearing about how Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels are the best rotation ever to play together. It is not even a month since pitchers reported, and ESPN is following these guys around, asking things like if they’ve had a staff dinner yet, and seeing how competitive they’ll be against each other. ESPN: I don’t care. I’m not downplaying their talent at all, but let them pitch. Remember – Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz (and a solid 4 guy for 10 years that varied), not to mention a good lineup, only got one in 1995. Prove it guys, and then you’ll be treated like champions. The under and over on number of wins they will total is set at 65. What do you think? I’ll start taking unofficial bets. I’m betting the under and an ALDS upset bouncing because I love crying Phillies fans.

Concussions /Hits to the Head

We heard it all NFL season, and the topic is hot in the NHL now as well. There are a lot of concussions happening lately. Just last night, Marc Staal of the NY Rangers got taken out on a high hit by his own brother. He visited Eric the night before to hang out with him and his family. No one wants to seriously hurt their own sibling when you’re reportedly on good terms. As much as you’d like to make it safe for everyone to play (I hate Crosby and his concussed brain but the game needs guys with his talent), and think there should be stricter penalties/fines and better equipment for everyone to do so, it is unrealistic to ask someone to think about that when their first instinct is to win the game. These guys are competitors. I was happy with the no call to Eric Staal last night – as much as it pained me to see our best defenseman and alternate captain go down hard. It was (barely) clean. I hope no fines are/have been levied. It is a contact sport on a sheet of ice – people will get hurt. I would prefer they use a case by case basis for everything from now on with no real mandatory fines from precedents – unless someone goes all Marty McSorley.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Return of New York Hoops

I have to say, it is really nice to see basketball making such a comeback in New York. And I'm not just talking about the run the Knicks are having either. Sure, they are probably going to make the playoffs as the six-seed in the East and if they get Carmelo Anthony it would really solidify them as one of the “good teams” (though you'd hate to lose a guy like Raymond Felton). The real surprise lies in Jamaica, where the St. John's Red Storm are looking more and more like a tournament team. The latest ESPN projections have the Johnnies in as a seven-seed, carried by their quality wins over ranked Big East opponents UConn, Notre Dame, and Georgetown, and the blowout of then third-ranked Duke. Road wins at Marquette and Cincinnati are impressive as well.

Often forgotten, St. John's has historically been a force in men's college basketball. They are the 7th winningest team, totalling over 1600 wins, have 27 NCAA tournament appearances, and have the most wins among teams to have never won the big dance. They have, however, won the NIT six times. Lou Carnesecca is a coaching legend. Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson, and Ron Artest have all gone on to have very good NBA careers. So what happened to St. John's?

There was a time (not long ago either) when St. John's could recruit some of the top players from New York City high schools and keep them in the city for college. As programs like Connecticut and Pittsburgh grew, however, many of these players left New York for other schools. Players like Kemba Walker, Connecticut's star guard who went to Rice High School in Manhattan, go to the programs that are now the big names, forgetting that St. John's was also once a powerhouse. Even the starting point guard of the Florida Gators, Erving Walker, went to Christ the King High School in Queens, the same as Lakers forward LaMar Odom. Speedy Claxton, Stephon Marbury, and Jayson Williams are all products of New York, a city where basketball is in the culture from school playgrounds to Rucker Park to Madison Square Garden. It's about time the Johnnies returned to prominence, and this team, coached by Steve Lavin, could be just the spark needed to do so.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weighing in on C.C. - Let the Fat Jokes Begin!

So you may have heard C.C. “The Franchise Left Tackle” Sabathia has neither denied nor confirmed anything about his option to cancel his contract after this season, but "hinted" that opting out is on the table. This opt out clause will be talked about all damn season, especially as it nears the end. Assuming he’s healthy all year, that is at least 34 starts we get to hear SOMETHING about it from someone in the booth, the papers, the websites, etc. This article right here will be your reference for every time someone talks about it so you can simply turn the page, channel, or ear to something more interesting. I will even tell you what he will most likely do if he is at all human with a functioning brain.

The Facts:

Carston Charles is reportedly coming into this season at the range of 270-280lbs. This is about 30 pounds LEANER than last season. He will be 31 years old this summer, not a young age for any pitcher not named Nolan Ryan (doesn’t it seem like Nolan can still pitch for Texas?). Statistically speaking, an average pitcher is reaching or already at his prime now or in the next 2 years (yes, I am aware C.C. may have eaten the average pitcher for a pregame snack a year ago, but it’s all we have to go on here. There are not many 300+ pound pitchers with success in history). His prolonged out of shape body may have deducted from his ability to pitch into his late 30’s. We simply won’t know until the time comes, but the risk is higher than someone of a more normal, less rotund, shape I’m sure.

The Yankees have no rotation to speak of without him. Sabathia is THE ace. There is no argument about that. The Yankees are dying for stability in their rotation so they don’t waste one of the best offenses money can buy for the next few seasons. Come next year, I am seeing another free agent pitching class similar to this one, minus Cliff Lee. So, pretty awful. Sabathia walking away would leave Phil Hughes or AJ Burnett to anchor a rotation. I don't see that being an ideal option.

Remember A-Rod? A-Rod opted out of his monster deal when he was eligible, for ALL of these reasons. Remember how stupid Hank Steinbrenner looked? “If he opts out we won’t negotiate with him.” Then when I showed up on the depth chart to play third base and hit in the 4 hole, they panicked and threw themselves at his mercy. 30HR and 125RBI last year isn’t bad, I don’t care who says he is declining. But he is assured to be grossly overpaid into the old times in his career. He pulled this very move to perfection, despite having an agent to announce the opt out during the World Series. Real class.

The Defense:

If you disagree with these three facts, your argument is one of two things. C.C. is currently making about $23 million a season (average value, not sure of how it is structured exactly). The Yankees attempted to court Cliff Lee for about $23.3 million a season. How much can Sabathia really stand to make if he opts out just to re-sign? The other one is - where is the honor in opting out, especially when you and your family are seemingly happy in New York? Is he really as greedy as A-Rod? He can’t be, can he? He’s a big cuddly bear isn’t he? He is loved by teammates, fans, and the media. No way he'd risk his rep, right?

Prediction (assuming a healthy/productive season):

Okay, when you weigh the facts together (no fat guy pun. ok, a little fat guy pun), and then see the reasons against, you need to know that it makes 100% sense for him to opt out and try and resign a contract, even if he wants to stay put in NY. For one, he gets a new 6-7 years to play with. This puts him at 37-38 when it will expire rather than 35. Statistically, it is much smarter to negotiate for those years while you're young in your prime at 31, not when the contract is up and you can't lock up long term deals anymore at 35. Bodies fall apart. MPH come off the fastball. Sliders flatten out. Fatigue of the arm sets in. Obesity is still a disease. All of these say the longer he pitches, the better chance he catches the injury/age bug.

Secondly, he will have the market and the Yankees by the balls. He can demand the Yankees give him what they offered Lee, if not more, to continue to anchor the rotation. Either that, or risk losing him to someone who can/will. The Yanks already proved they’re soft and don’t care about this move when they dealt with A-Rod. Why would C.C. be the final straw when their pitching is thinner than their lineup was at the time of A-Rod’s thing? Here’s an idea – don’t put options in their contracts if you don’t want them to use them! (I know A-Rod’s option wasn’t the NYY doing at first, but CC was).

Is there evidence that C.C. knows all of this and is gearing up for the same thing? Glad you asked. He seems to be in the best shape he’s been in at camp as a Yankee. The man likes to eat. To (not making this up) stop eating Captain Crunch (C.C…. hmmm interesting)and get in better shape, you have two motives: either trying to prolong your career (which is also true in this case I’m sure, he loves to pitch), and/or to stay healthy and have a good season to sign a new contract. Players don’t have career years in the last year of their contract on a regular basis by a complete accident. C.C. just seems to be gearing up for his best season as a Yankee yet. Let’s embrace that instead of look any more at next season already.

I implore everyone – fans, journalists, and the wretched commentators alike – to just stay out of it because baseball has been for awhile, a business first. C.C. will ride out the year and not talk about it much at all until the season is over I’m sure. He has class. I really hope the man feels like he owes the team and especially the fans something and has a moral obligation to complete his service. However, morals and big business usually go together like peas and dog shit. I mean if he has career ending type 2 diabetic complications where his left arm has to be amputated, or relapses on the captain and gets too large to fit in hotel rooms on the road, the Yankees would just as soon kick him to the curb, paying him as little as possible to do so. It is hard to fault him if he does opt out, but people will because we sure as hell need him here and it will feel like he is turning his backs on the people that ultimately pay his salary. His fans.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Few Things I Am Following/Commenting On

Well since we are in the “Lull” period of sports for a lot of fans, I have a few things to talk about that shouldn’t take up much of your time:

The New York Rangers are either a push away from getting over this rut, or a few more games away from losing all confidence and falling even more in the Eastern Conference. Their offense has been anemic and Henrik has been less than stellar when he’s been in the game. Shooting over 45 times last night against a solid Red Wings team should net more than 2 goals. They had so many chances. I think we lack the finishing touch that will either come with age for some of these players, or never at all for others. I just pray we don’t truly have a team full of low second to high third liners that are solid enough to plug holes and grind out a win, but not enough finesse to keep on scoring. Some of these guys need to try to fill that role. And where is Gaborik?! Speaking of goals, he's been quiet. He scored 10 in 3 games this year, and 6 in the rest of the 39 he's played in. We need him to make the playoffs and do anything. (no more hockey after this I promise)

Fact: Andy Pettitte retired and will be missed by fans and the current team alike. Fact: The Yankees have problems with their rotation. Maybe fact: Completion of a season with this rotation can still result in a winning record with their lineup and still one and a half to two and a half starters. Probable fact: They will not finish the season with Nova and Mitre both holding down the back end of the rotation unless all of the other pitchers in the world die. Relax people, they’re still a contending team.

The Super Bowl was a good game. It ended almost like I predicted and exactly how I wanted. I thought GB would get by easier, but Rodgers won MVP, played amazing, and needs receivers who don’t drop perfect passes. It is super early, but does anyone think this team can repeat? I mean, a lot of guys were hurt on this team and arguably they’re better when all healthy. I wouldn’t put money against it.

My previous comment assumes there will be a 2011-12 season and playoffs. In some capacity, there will be. There is now too much money to be made/lost in professional sports through the owners if they hold out. Hockey was able to lockout a season because they don’t have the same revenue streams and actually had many franchises operating in or near the red anyway. Football will be back after a nasty battle between players and owners. When it boils down to it, neither side will get exactly what they want but they’ll still have enough money at the end of the day to do stupid things that will get them arrested and suspended.

Quickies: I’m shocked Michael Young is requesting a trade from Texas after the Beltre signing. He seemed to have so much willingness to always be moved around. DH/Utility fielder was where he put a stop on it I guess. Christina Aguilera is a commie spy, kill her. Wake Forest baseball coach Tom Walter donated one of his kidneys to Kevin Jordan, one of his outfielders. The Cleveland Cavs miss Lebron after their 25th straight loss. Cleveland is home to the Browns, Indians, and Cavs. Ouch. Go Cleveland State Vikings? Finally, Carlos Delgado reports that he is looking for a job come April. Three surgeries in 18 months may be a lot of punishment on a 38 year old big guy, but he needs 27 HR to hit 500, so don’t be surprised if a team needing a DH or part time first baseman takes a shot if he shows up and looks not too much like a fat old man in spring.

(P.S. Do you like the new layout?)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Lull

If you are anything like the average sports fan, this Sunday is something much more than Super Bowl Sunday. Regardless of who wins, the Monday following the game begins a period of about a month where there is nothing worth watching in sports for a good percentage of people. I disagree a little bit as I am an avid hockey fan, but for the majority of the “major 2” sports fans, you cannot wait for opening day at your home baseball park. Even with hockey to watch, I do feel a little piece of myself missing during this time.

The Super Bowl is built up to be this extraordinary game. You would think each team hired a few super heroes to come play for them. The stories about who needs a game because of a tough past, a down and out story, a comeback season, beating cancer/drugs/alcoholism, death of a loved one, etc… are all on the table. Who doesn’t remember how the Saints gave New Orleans something to believe in last season? Credit the sportswriters for beating a horse dead and beating it some more. A week after last year’s game, did New Orleans really still believe a football team can fix their city? Of course not. I’m sure everyone woke up a few days later, probably on a dreaded Wednesday at work, and said “Aw man! Saints aren’t on this Sunday. And half my house is still floated away.”

What options do we have this coming Monday? I don’t particularly care for the NBA much anymore, although I will follow what ESPN tells me are the marquee matchups. If I watch a quarter of these games, it is a lot. The game isn’t good until the last few minutes or it isn’t good at all. College basketball is a bit more intriguing, but honestly not until March Madness for me. The NHL I love, but is the cancer of the major 4 sports to a lot of people who like the others. Soccer will never be what Baseball and Football are here in the states. Not until we’re taken over by, or become by ways of stupidity, a third world country. Even then, people will just go back to using milk cartons for gloves before kicking a ball around mindlessly. I am pretty sure you can catch a sweet bowling match at 2PM on a Saturday or Sunday during this stretch. Get excited!

To me, all professional sports I follow are an escape from reality. It is why I post these nonsensical paragraphs from my office. It is why I spend way too much of my discretionary income on going to see the teams live. It is why it doesn’t matter the Yankees won it all two years ago. Of course it is fun to re-live these moments in memory and conversation – but it never truly takes us back or away from anything anymore. Us as sports fans – hell – as human beings, have a nature to say “Okay, now what is next?” Well ladies and gentlemen, this coming Monday the lull will start. You can choose to fight it and watch these other options, or stick it out in the trenches. Either way, just make sure to check back here for some entertaining (as always) posts.

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