Monday, July 30, 2007

Kevin Garnett traded to the Celtics?

At the time I write this, this is not officially confirmed yet, but it appears so. Also, deals aren't completely finalized, but it looks like Minnesota will be getting Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, and draft picks for The Big Ticket.

This is the type of deal that I think actually does work for both teams pretty well. They will both have very different goals next season, and this trade pushes both of these teams in that direction.

First, the Timberwolves, who officially enter rebuilding mode. Kevin McHale was just not able to put together a decent cast around Garnett the past few seasons. So, instead of enduring another 35-win season with Garnett near the end of his prime, they traded him. Partly because he wanted to move on, partly because it really was the best move for everyone involved. And really, I think they're getting a pretty nice haul, depending on what it is when its finalized.

Al Jefferson is 22 years old, coming off of a 16 and 11 season, and could be an All-Star in a season or two, even in the West. Obviously, he's the main piece of the deal, and he's extremely promising. The other big piece is certainly Gerald Green, who has loads of athletic potential. He might still be a ways away from being a consistent contributor, but he does have lots of potential. They also look to get Ryan Gomes (a nice role player), Sebastian Telfair (meh), Theo Ratliff (an expiring contract), and picks. Not bad.

Yes, they lose the face of their franchise and the most popular player in the history of the team. But due to management, they simply weren't going anywhere with him on the roster. Now, they have a nice core of young players to grow with... guys like Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, and Rashad McCants are all nice pieces.

For Boston, they were basically backed into a corner with the Ray Allen deal. With this, that makes a little more sense, and we can clearly see the direction of this team. Ainge has sacrificed the long-term future, but they are now legitimate contenders in the East. After the Ray Allen deal, this is one that almost had to be made.

They need to make some other moves... as good as the trio is, they can't win by themselves... but they are like a better version of the Wizards, and the Wizards would have been a threat in the East last year if they had been healthy. I don't see any problems arising with KG, Allen, and Pierce playing together. They've all had the starring role, but I don't have a hard time seeing them all co-exist and work together. Are they are a 50-win team right now? I'm not sure. They don't really have a starting PG, C, or any depth. But in the East, those 3 guys might be good enough to get them a top 3 seed.

What do you think of this deal if it happens? Who wins?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

For some reason I can't post comments on Wordpress blogs!!

This is a bit off topic, but if you've noticed that I haven't commented on your site lately, it may be because for some mysterious reason I can't! I'm not sure why, but for the past few days my computer hasn't allowed me to post comments on Wordpress blogs... I write the comment, hit "post comment", and nothing shows up. I have no idea why, but hopefully I can get it figured out soon.

This has effected a few blogs in particular!

Zoner Sports - I wanted to comment about how I like Craig Sager (mostly because Charles making fun of his awful suits is great), and about how Dick Stockton has entered into the Dick Enberg/Keith Jackson stage for me... they're old and they forget a lot of things, but I still enjoy listening to them.

Shot to Nothing - I tried to comment to say how I agree [mostly] with your thoughts about John Beck... I liked that pick in round 2 for the Dolphins and I agree that eventually he can be a solid starter.

Digital Headbutt - I tried to comment just on the sheer awesomeness of the Bear Grylls vs. Les Stroud post... seriously, that was awesome.

Larry Brown Sports and Signal to Noise - there was a couple of things I was going to comment on but I just wasn't able to. But you guys always have great work!

So I apologize and hopefully I can get it figured out soon!

Thursday Debate: Who is going to win the NL West?

We have a little feature on here called Thursday Debate... today we look at who is going to win the NL West.

For the record, the standings currently look like this:

LA Dodgers: 56-46, -
SD Padres: 54-46, 1 GB
Arizona Diamondbacks: 54-48, 2 GB
Colorado Rockies: 51-50, 4.5 GB
SF Giants: A long way back

So it would appear to be a 4-team race right now and should wind up being one of the most interesting stories as we wind down the year. At the All-Star break I was pretty strongly on the Padres bandwagon to win the division, but now I'm a lot less sure.

First off let me say that even though Arizona is right in the race, I stand by my thoughts that they will slowly drop out. They've just had great luck in 1-run games, and that doesn't tend to hold up. Their pythagorean record is 48-54, which suggests that they should be closer to San Fran than to the top of the division. They might continue to overplay the pythagorean record if The Big Unit can stay healthy and some of their young guys can start hitting better, but I wouldn't bet on it.

I also don't think the Rockies have much of a chance. They've played well, but they are what they are... a .500 team. They have a nice, young core, but I don't see them competing with the Dodgers or Padres.

Which leaves those 2 teams... I still think it is a 2-team race between the Dodgers and Padres. Both teams are very solid, and either of them could win the Wildcard if they don't win the division. The Dodgers are obviously 1 game up in the standings, while the expected records (based on run differential) suggests the Padres are a little bit better.

I think this is a race that will come down to just a couple of games between them... I wouldn't put any money on it because I think any type of injury of string of bad luck can change the tide. The teams are pretty even. However, if I had to choose, I would stick with the Padres for now... their pitching is a little better, and I think their lineup is getting better (and the addition of Bradley should help. So I'll take San Diego, but I'm not too confident about it right now.

Who do you think will win the NL West?

Who will win the NL West?
LA Doders
SD Padres
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Will we ever see Mike Vick in the NFL again?

This is a thought that probably would have seemed a bit inconceivable not that long ago, but after doing some thinking and reading (especially at Pro Football Talk), I wonder just how far fetched this question might be. Will we ever see Mike Vick play another down in the NFL? I'm not so sure.

First off, with the news that Goodell is ordering him not to come to training camp, I have to think there's a very good chance that Vick won't be playing this year. This is a drastic step to take for Goodell and shows he's quite serious about this. Furthermore, Arthur Blank also said he would have suspended Vick the maximum 4 games if Goodell hadn't stepped in. Doesn't sound like either guy really wants Vick on the field.

Secondly, if he's not playing for the Falcons (I have a hard time seeing them keeping him past this year), is anyone else going to pick him up. The character issues are very real, and any team that picks him up would take a lot of bad press, even from their own fans. Vick is probably the most high-profile guy to get into such big trouble, and the things he's alleged to have done are pretty disgusting. That is going to steer a lot of teams away from trying to pick him up.

Last, how good is he really? He relies so much on his legs, and as they go and some of his athletic ability goes as he has more wear and tear on his body, he's simply not going to be that good. He has never shown the skill level (in my opinion) to be a good pocket passer, so if he is not as effective as a runner he simply becomes an average player.

So what do you think? Will we ever see Mike Vick on the field again? I kind of doubt it. I'll quote Pro Football Talk, because I basically agree with their sentiment:

We still believe that his only hope is to strike a deal now, do his time, throw himself at the mercy of the fans and the league, and hope for redemption. I mean, if Marv Albert can return to the top of the broadcasting food chain, Vick should at least get a crack at playing pro ball again once he wraps up his tenure with the Mean Machine.

Even then, however, we're not sure that he'd find any takers. The allegations against Vick are probably too unusual and too heinous to allow him to ever be regarded as a guy on which an NFL franchise can justify taking a risk.

What do you think?

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Perfect All-Time MLB Starting Lineup

This is partly just a way for me to say who I think the best overall player at each position, and partly because I think it's cool to see how people would arrange a lineup when they could use anyone that ever played in the MLB. For the sake of historial accuracy, no DH will be used, and I will just have a pitcher 9th. Anyway, here is my lineup:

1. LF Ted Williams - Williams isn't really a conventional leadoff man in the sense that he doesn't steal bases, but that's no matter. Some of his power is wasted by the fact that he's batting first, but he was so good at getting on base that he'd be the perfect leadoff man. His OBP was a staggering .482... simply put, he was one of the 2 greatest hitters to ever live.

2. SS Honus Wagner - The Flying Dutchman is the greatest SS ever and one of the best hitters of his time. In today's context, his .391 OBP and .466 SLG aren't eye-popping numbers, but he did lead the NL in OPS 8 different times. Also, his 722 career SB help make up for the relative lack of speed from Ted Williams in the leadoff spot.

3. RF Babe Ruth - The best hitter of all-time. He got on base for than anyone else not named Ted Williams, and he hit for more power than anyone ever. I'm not sure you'd find too many people to argue against this.

4. 1B Lou Gehrig - The 3-4 combo of the Yankees of the 20s and 30s my 3-4 in the lineup here. I think Gehrig was pretty easily the best 1B of all-time, and the hitting numbers bear that out. Like the Babe, he was a guy that got on base at a prolific rate and also hit for a ton of power. His OPS is the 3rd highest in MLB history, behind only Williams and Ruth. Plus, if nothing else, he's pretty inspirational.

5. CF Willie Mays - We've already been over who is the best CF of all-time, but just as a recap, I would say Mantle had the highest peak, but Mays and Cobb were the two best over their careers. Of those two, I'd pick Mays by a smidgen. And I think he'd fit in nicely in the 5 spot.

6. 3B Mike Schmidt - Schmidt was only a .267 career hitter, but he had a good eye at the plate, and as his 548 career HR shows, a good amount of power. He led the NL in SLG 5 times in his career.

7. C Mike Piazza - He had his problems defensively but it's tough to overlook what he does offensively. He's the best hitting catcher ever. He had a career average of .309, but he also showed good patience (.379 OBP) and lots of power for a catcher. He has over 400 career HR and slugged .548 for his career.

8. 2B Rogers Hornsby - Many have made good cases for Joe Morgan, but I am still a Rogers Hornsby guy. He was just an unbelievable hitter. Career .358 average, but he did a lot more. He took a decent amount of walks, and he hit for good power, leading the league in slugging 9 times. In my mind he is the best 2B ever.

9. P Walter Johnson - The Big Train was the best pitcher to ever step on the mound... one of the greatest peaks ever (I might argue Pedro's was higher) and he did it for a long time. Just phenomenal. To add to his goodness, he was even a .235 hitter, so he won't be an automatic out either.

What are your thoughts? What would your lineup look like?

Hanley Ramirez: Most Underrated MLB Player

I try not to get too big in the "underrated/overrated" game, because it's so subjective, and players are ranked differently by pretty much everybody. But in this case I have to make an exception, and claim Hanley Ramirez as the most underrated player in the MLB right now. I think people know he's good, but I'm not sure people realize just how good.

The biggest reason for this is that he plays in Florida in front of about 100 fans every game. The Marlins are an OK team, but they have, well, not much of a fan base. Second, everyone is so enamored with Jose Reyes they hardly have time to focus on another NL East SS. This isn't such a bad thing... Reyes is really good after all... and they're really pretty close when you compare them, but I think people tend to overlook Ramirez because they don't think he stacks up to Ramirez.

This rings true when looking at the final All-Star voting, when Jose Reyes was voted the NL Starter and Hanley Ramirez finished 8th. 8TH. Among NL Shortstops. And then he didn't even make the team as a reserve. That's a crime.

Well, as you could tell when I said Hanley Ramirez was my first-half NL MVP, I think he's a pretty special player. He is only 23 years old right now, 6 months younger than Jose Reyes. It's not very often that you see 23 year-old SS being one of the best hitters in the League, but that's the case here. He ranks 9th in the NL in OPS, and again this is especially valuable coming from a SS with lots of speed.

Ramirez was very good last year as a rookie (when he won ROY), but has bumped his performance up from being a very good player to being a star. His average is up, he is getting on base at about a .390 clip, and he is showing a lot of power. He's on pace to hit 46 doubles, 8 triples, and 27 homeruns. That's absurd.

He's also a terror on the basepaths. He's not quite the base stealer Reyes is, but he already has 27 stolen bases, which is 4th in the NL. This is following up the 51 that he had last year.

He dislocated his shoulder in Sunday's game, and hopefully it isn't too serious so that he can continue to put up fantastic numbers to hopefully get him some more recognition. There are better known SS's in the MLB, and there are a lot of better known player, but I'm not sure there's too many players that are better than Hanley Ramirez is right now, at age 23. Indeed, he currently sits 3rd in the MLB in VORP, behind only A-Rod and Magglio Ordonez.

So by that measure at least Hanley is a top 3 player in the MLB... so why doesn't he get any recognition for it?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Indiscriminate sharing of links

OK, maybe not indiscriminate, but after a long week, instead of boring you with my own thoughts, I'll point you in the direction of some other good stuff to read.

- Via Awful Announcing, it looks like maybe the national media is starting to talk about what we've known all along, and what Fire Joe Morgan has been blogging about for so long... Joe Morgan is awful.

- Are all of the pieces falling into place for the Sonics to move from Seattle to Oklahoma City?

- From Just Call Me Juice via Deadspin... one of the greatest videos ever.

- An NBA ref betting on games... uh, yeah, this is really bad news for the NBA. Could be one of the more interesting stories to follow the rest of the summer.

- OK, maybe the Bucs are going a little overboard with this QB thing.

- From The Sports Flow some of the best incoming freshmen in college football next year.

- I agree with Pacifist Viking... I have respect for anyone that can quote Gandhi.

Have good weekend!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thursday Debate: Who is the best MLB GM?

We have a weekly feature on here called Thursday Debate... today it's time to look at who is the best General Manager in the MLB.

It's an interesting debate that's highly subjective, because every GM is in a different position. Payroll, owners, competing teams, even luck can all have huge impacts on the performance of certain GMs. But in my mind, there are a few guys that stick out above the rest. They are:

Billy Beane (Oakland) - If you've read Moneyball, you know all about Beane. If you haven't, well, you really should. Beane consistently does more with less perhaps better than anyone else in baseball. He doesn't have a whole lot of resources in Oakland, but the A's are always competitive and usually in the playoffs. In all ihonesty, he hasn't done great with trades recently, but he's a master at picking up the right free agents and does a good job with the farm system.

The biggest complaint I've seen about him is that his teams typically don't perform that well in the playoffs. Well, the playoffs are mostly a crapshoot. In a 5 or 7-game series, the best team definitely does not always win. That's not really the GM's fault.

Terry Ryan (Minnesota) - As a Twins fan, I follow Ryan closer than any other GM. First, his strengths. He runs a great minor league system and constantly replenishes the Major League team with Minor League talent. Almost every important players on the Twins is homegrown. Second, he's great at making small deals. You may remember him making a certan deal with San Francisco, but that's just part of it. He's made lots of small deals for guys like Jason Bartlett, Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, etc. Also, he got Johan Santana in the Rule 5 Draft, and that alone should put him high on the list.

But that's not to say he doesn't have his weaknesses. His free agent signings in recent years have left something to be desired. He likes to keep the young guys down on the farm as long as possible, and that leads him to sometimes going with a lot of veterans that shouldn't be starting. Last year, guys like Tony Batista and Juan Castro got a lot of playing time. This year, it was guys like Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson. That's not good.

John Schuerholz (Atlanta) - If nothing else, just look at all of those division titles in a row. Sometimes people will say he just had some luck in having Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, but you can't win that much with only a few pitchers. He did a very good job with the farm system, free agents, and everything else. And again, the Braves might only have a couple of World Series rings to show from all of those division titles, but the playoffs are a crapshoot.

Theo Epstein (Boston) - We all know he was the guy that was the GM when they finally broke the drought. He tends to use a more stats-oriented approach, and that's something I like. But I kind of wonder how he would do with a team that had a lesser payroll. He's made quite a few mistakes, but he can help cover that up because the Sox spend lots and lots of money. GMs like Billy Beane and Terry Ryan don't have that luxury.

Kevin Towers (San Diego) - I think he's one of the more under appreciated GMs but you have to respect what he's going in San Diego. They've been in the playoffs the past couple of years (with a pretty young team) and look to have a good shot again this year.

Dave Dombrowski (Detroit) - Dombrowksi is another guy who I think is a little underrated, as he has had a lot of success in both Florida and now Detroit. In Florida he won 1 World Series and basically built a large portion of the 2003 team that won the World Series. In Detroit he took a team that lost 119 games in his first year, and turned it into what it is now... a team that won the AL Pennant last year and looks like pretty strong contenders once again. Plus, with a young pitching staff the future appears to be bright.

Mark Shapiro (Cleveland) - Shapiro did a really nice job rebuilding the Indians and turning them into what looks like they will be perennial contenders. They've got a nice, young nucleus that is mostly locked up, and should be mainstays near the top of the AL Central for years.

Omar Minaya (New York Mets) - I personally am not a huge fan of his as a GM, but he's done a nice job. He's made some pretty solid FA pickups in New York that got them deep into the postseason last year and back atop the division right now.

Walt Jocketty (St. Louis) - The Cardinals are struggling this year but Jocketty has had a lot of success in past years. Obviously the Cardinals won the World Series last year, and they were mainstays in the playoffs before that.

Another guy to consider is Brian Cashman, but it's just hard to judge him because we don't know how many of the moves are his and how many are George Steinbrenner's. Josh Byrnes from Arizona is another guy that could wind up on this list in another couple of years, as the DBacks have a nice farm system in place.

If pressed, I think I would choose Billy Beane as the top GM, followed (in order) by Terry Ryan, John Schuerholz, Dave Dombrowksi, and Kevin Towers.

But who do you think is the best? Vote and then give me your reasons in the comments. Please.

Who is the best MLB GM?
Billy Beane - Oakland
Terry Ryan - Minnesota
John Schuerholz - Atlanta
Theo Epstein - Boston
Dave Dombrowksi - Detroit
Mark Shapiro - Cleveland
Walt Jocketty - St. Louis
Omar Minaya - New York
Kevin Towers - San Diego

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bold Prediction: the New York Yankees will win the AL East

About a month and a half ago, I made a prediction that the Cubs would win the NL Central. At the time, they were 7 games under .500 and 6.5 games back of the Brewers. Currently they sit 4 games above .500 and are 4.5 games back of the Brewers. Work to be done, but they've made progress, which gives me the confidence to make another prediction.

The Yankees are currently 3 games over .500 and 8 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox. There was some disagreement when I put them 9th in my power rankings a couple of days ago. So it seems like the perfect time to make the call that they'll win the division.

Obviously, they have problems. A lot of the pitching staff is old (Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina) and might be susceptible to injuries. Phil Hughes might be their most important pitcher in the 2nd half, and he hasn't even fully make it back from his injury yet. The bullpen has major issues. Johnny Damon has been pretty bad so far, and who knows when Jason Giambi will be back.

Still, there is hope.

The Yankees 47-44 record is a bit misleading, because they've played a lot better than that. They've had a lot of bad luck in 1-run games which tends to even out. Their run differential suggests their record should be closer to 53-38. Obviously it's not, but that's usually a pretty good indicator of future success.

The good news is that the offense is still really good (especially that A-Rod guy), and the pitching staff is starting to come together. Roger Clemens is finding his groove after his traditional late start to the season. Mussina and Pettitte are getting older but are still fairly reliable. Chien-Ming Wang has quietly put up excellent numbers. And of course, the wildcard, Phil Hughes, who was deep into a no-hitter before his injury. He has looked sharp in his rehab starts and should be back at the Major League level very soon.

And of course, the trade deadline is approaching. The Yankees have absolutely no qualms with taking on a lot of money, which tends to make things easier when trading. They also have some pretty nice prospects that they can dangle if they so choose to.

8 games is a big hole to climb at this point in the season. But I think the Yankees are finally starting to play good baseball (they've won 9 of 12), and a huge x-factor named Phil Hughes is about ready to come back. The Red Sox are a very good baseball team, but I'm going to make the prediction right now that by the end of the season, the Yankees will be better.

Your thoughts? Am I crazy?

Monday, July 16, 2007

NBA Summer League Thoughts

I don't put too much stock into the NBA Summer League... case in point, the much talked about play of Duncan vs. Ostertag in Duncan's first summer league game, but it's still interesting to look at. The fact that Oden was a non-factor in his 2 games or that Kevin Durant shot so poorly wouldn't really concern me or make me any less optimistic about their future. But still, the results aren't completely realistic. Some thoughts of mine:

- Word is that Tyrus Thomas had a great showing in Summer League, and might even be able to challenge for a starting spot next season. Going into last season's draft I thought Thomas had more potential than anyone else, and he showed off that athleticism and talent in the Detroit series this year. He'll make the Bulls defense a little better this year with his shot blocking ability near the rim.

- Marcus Banks scored 42 points in his lone summer league game... to quote Bill Simmons: "The best part of that game was new Suns GM Steve Kerr frantically making DVD copies of the game to send to the other NBA GM's. "Hey guys? He's available!""

The Suns are one of the most well-run organizations in the NBA, but selling off a first-round pick that could have been Marcus Williams or Rajon Rondo only to pick up Marcus Banks later that offseason has to be one of the worst personnel moves made by anyone in the past couple of years in the NBA.

- LaMarcus Aldridge only played 2 summer league games, but here were his per game averages: 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 32 minutes. Yeah, Oden and Aldridge is going to make quite a front line in Portland.

- Another young big that was impressive was Amir Johnson... 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. He might be a candidate to start in the middle for Detroit next season.

- Toby Bailey is still around and playing? If you don't remember (and you probably don't), Bailey was a starter on the 1995 UCLA championship game. He hasn't played in the NBA since 2000. Talk about a blast from the past.

- Marcus Williams for the Nets played well, averaging 16 points, 6 assists, and about 4 rebounds per game during summer league. I was huge on him before last year's draft, and I still love his potential. He may not get the chance to show it playing behind Jason Kidd, but he's got a lot of talent.

- Lots of good things to say about Rodney Stuckey... that's why I had him 13th on my board.

Do you pay any attention to the Summer Leagues at all?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

MLB Power Rankings - 7/16

Like the last wildly popular version, it's time for another set of rankings of my top 10 teams in the MLB. Or in other words, nothing much else is going on in sports right now.

1. Boston Red Sox - Just barely retain the top spot, but they still have a comfortable 9 game lead in the AL East. But I still think the Yankees might have a little something to say by the end of the season, but things are still looking very good in Boston.

2. Detroit Tigers - They have scored almost 50 more runs than the next highest team (Cleveland), and the pitching is pretty solid too. They're "only" 25-19 at home, but a fantastic 29-17 on the road. Once Zumaya comes back to shore up the bullpen they're probably the team to be in the American League.

3. Cleveland Indians - Their offense hasn't been quite as explosive as the Tigers, but it's still pretty darn good. Unlike Detroit, they're a pedestrian 21-24 on the road, but a remarkable 33-13 at home, best in the Majors.

4. Anaheim Angels - The Angels are actually tied with the Red Sox for the best record in the Majors, though I think it's been a little flukey. Still, they're a really solid team and look like the overwhelming favorites in the AL West. The Mariners might have a shot if they make a couple of moves, but the A's don't look very good right now after getting swept by the Twins.

5. San Diego Padres - They have falled behind the Dodgers right now in the NL West, but I do still think they will come out on top. They have the best pitching in the League, and have been a little unlucky. It looks like the NL West will be one of the best races between the Dodgers and Padres.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers - They have started off great since the Break, moving into the lead in the NL West. They are a great 19-10 in 1-run games, which tends to even out, which is why I'm a little more optimistic about the Padres than the Dodgers. But if Saito and Broxton can continue to shut the door at the end of ballgames the Dodgers should be in great position.

7. Milwaukee Brewers - They're probably looking over their shoulders at the Cubs a little bit (especially if the Ben Sheets injury is serious), but they've survived a mini stumble (with the Cubs playing very well) and are still up 3.5 games. If Sheets is OK, Yovani Gallardo should remain in the rotation, bumping either Jeff Suppan or Chris Capuano.

8. Minnesota Twins - After a 4-game sweep of the A's, the Twins are only 6 games behind the Tigers in the Central. If the young pitchers (Bonser, Garza, Baker) can continue to give them quality starts, they are a serious threat in the AL. They've still got the best pitcher in baseball and a very good middle of the order.

9. New York Yankees - They're just a game over .500, but no team has been more unlucky with regards to what their record is and what their pythagorean record is. They have issues in the bullpen, but the rotation is starting to come together (especially if Phillip Hughes can remain healthy).

10. Chicago Cubs - The Cubs have won 3 in a row and are 7-3 in their last 10, which have made them into a threat in the NL Central and possibly even a factor in the Wildcard race. Don't look now, but Carlos Marmol has been one of the best relievers in the MLB this year.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hodge Podge

There were a few things I wanted to write about, but none of them were enough by themselves for a column... so I figured the best choice would be to combine them all into a hodge podge type thing.

- First, a little bit of housecleaning. I had a little interview over at Green Bay Railbird Central, which can be found here. As you may be able to guess from the name of the site, they were mostly looking for a Vikings fan's take on the Packers right now... just served as another reminder that the start of the NFL regular season is only like 2 months away! YES!

- Also had an interview over at The Sports Flow about a week ago, which was nice. I'm just glad I can be an inspiration to someone for something.

- Getting into other news, you probably saw that Rashard Lewis was sent to the Magic as part of a sign-and-trade and will make roughly $126 million over the next 7 years. That's ridiculous. Rashard is a real nice player, but are you kidding me? He's a good scorer, and he's still in his prime, but this is a bit absurd. Let's just say if I had Rashard Lewis' agent I'd probably have a gig writing for the Magic's website for $3 million a year.

- The Lewis deal allowed Darko Milicic to become a free agent, and he signed with the Grizzlies for what is believed to be $21 million over 3 years. Seems sort of moderate risk, high reward deal for the Grizz. Darko certainly has the physical tools to be a very good big man, the question is whether or not he's going to display the work ethic and effort every night in order to do that. If he does, he's a bargain. If not, he'll be a bit overpaid.

- One of the most interesting subplots (to me at least) of the free agency period is seeing where Andray Blatche winds up. He's the 20 year-old forward for the Wizards with lots of upside. There was talk that if he had been in this draft, he might have gone in the Lottery. Interesting to see if some team offers him the full midlevel, and if the Wizards would match it.

- There's also been talk that Ichiro will be re-upping with the Mariners for $100 million over 5 years. From a baseball standpoint, he'll be overpaid. He's a really good hitter, but he doesn't walk a ton and one of his best strengths (his speed) tends to go quickly with age. On the other hand, he generates a ton of revenue for the Mariners, and they basically didn't have any choice but to sign him for big money.

What else has caught your eye?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thursday Debate: Who is the best CF ever?

We have a little feature on here called Thursday Debate... today we look at who is the best CF ever?

With all the talk over the All-Star break from guys like Joe Morgan and Dusty Baker about how Willie Mays is the best player ever (or at least the best living player), it begs the question, is he even the best CF ever? He was great, but it's not like he's without competition here.

The way I see it, there are 3 candidates for the title of the best CF ever: Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, and Mickey Mantle. In a perfect world, Negro Leaguer Oscar Charleston would deserve a mention as well, but it's just impossible to compare.

So it's between Mays, Mantle, and Cobb. First, a look at Willie Mays, perhaps the premier defensive player ever. The "Say Hey Kid" was also very consistent at the plate, and stayed consistent for a long time, which is how he wound up with 660 HR. His OPS+ is 156, though that was hampered a bit by the last couple of seasons in his career, when he was over 40 and not quite the player he once was. But he did lead the NL in OPS 5 times during his career, during which he won 12 straight gold gloves. So it's safe to say that he was a premier defensive player while being one of the biggest offensive threats of his generation.

Next is Mickey Mantle, who played around the same era as Willie Mays. His career counting numbers don't look as good, but that's mostly because he did not play as long as Mays. In his prime, he might have been the best hitter of his generation not named Ted Williams. He had great patience at the plate (career .421 OBP) while hitting for a lot of power (he was in the top 3 in the AL in SLG for 11 of 13 straight years). His OPS+ of 172 places him 6th all-time.

Last, there's Ty Cobb, who is a bit harder to compare because he played a good portion of his career in the Deadball Era. But he was an incredible pure hitter with lots of speed. While he didn't hit a lot of HR, nobody did, and he still lead the AL in SLG for 6 straight years (and 8 times overall in his career). His .366 career AVG is best ever, and his .433 OBP is 9th all-time. He also stole almost 900 bases in his career. The Georgia Peach's OPS+ of 167 is 10th all-time.

So what does this all mean? First, these were all exceptional players... when I made my list of the 10 best MLB players ever, they were all ranked in the top 10. No one is really a bad choice.

I will say this, I think Mantle had the best peak of any of them, but he just didn't have the longevity that Cobb or Mays did. So I would probably put him 3rd there. After that, it's almost a pick'em. You could probably make convincing arguments in favor of Willie Mays or Ty Cobb being the best player ever, let alone best CF ever. But if I had to choose, I think I would go with Willie Mays. Best defensive CF ever, and he wasn't too shabby as a hitter either.

Who would you choose? Why?

Who is the best CF of all-time?
Willie Mays
Ty Cobb
Mickey Mantle

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MLB 2nd Half Predictions

Continuing with the theme of midseason MLB posts, it's time for one more... my 2nd half predictions. I'll give you my order for the divisions, and then any other random predictions I can think of. I'd comment on the All-Star game, but I didn't really watch it (other than the surprisingly exciting bottom of the 9th inning).

1. Boston Red Sox
2. NY Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

I think the Yankees have just had awful luck this year (6-14 in 1-run games) that will even out over the course of the year, so I actually think they might have a chance to make a legitimate run at the division title, but 10 games is just a lot to overcome against a really good Red Sox team. At the tail end of the division, the DRays still aren't any good.

1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians*
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Kansas City Royals

I would like to pick the Twins here, but it's hard to see lightning striking twice. The Indians and Tigers are both high quality teams and the 7-8 game edge they have will be tough for the Twins to overcome. That said, I do have a good feeling about this Twins team, and all (well, maybe there's still some) bias aside, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Minnesota back in the postseason.

1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers

I think Oakland will be the best team in this division in the 2nd half, but I'm not sure they're quite good enough to overcome the 9 game cushion that the Angels have right now. Likewise, the Mariners are a good team, but not better than the Angels. As usual, the Rangers are pretty much irrelevant at this point.

1. Atlanta Braves
2. NY Mets*
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals

I think some of the performances by Mets pitchers have been a little flukey (see: John Maine, Jorge Sosa, Oliver Perez), which is why I give the Braves the slight edge for the division. I do like the Mets to win the Wildcard, but the Phillies should be in the race until the end as well. The Marlins are talented, but still a little too inconsistent for me to be legitimate contenders, though they are only 7 games back.

1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Houston Astros
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Cincinnati Reds

I made the bold prediction that the Cubs will win the NL Central over a month ago, and I am sticking with it. As I said a little while ago, I don't feel too comfortable with it, but the Cubs are playing better and are only 4.5 games back. As their luck continues to even out I see them eventually beating out the Brewers in a really tight race. The rest of the division is awful. The Cardinals are 40-45 and only 7.5 GB, but they haven't even been playing that well. No one else has any chance.

1. San Diego Padres
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Francisco Giants

The Padres only have a 1 game lead right now, but I do think they are definitely the best team in the division. The Dodgers might be able to give them a fight, but I think the DBacks will start falling out of the race. The Rockies have been a nice story, but they're a .500 team. They're just not good enough at this point to compete with the Padres.

Other predictions:

Pitcher most likely to see his numbers drop - Chad Gaudin - It probably doesn't take a rocket scientist for this call, but Gaudin's 2.88 ERA is completely flukey. For one, he has never pitched this well throughout his career. Second, his K/BB numbers are not impressive. Only 68 strikeouts compared to 48 BB. That won't get the job done all year long. I expect his ERA to raise almost a point by the end of the year.

Pitcher most likely to see his numbers improve - Tim Lincecum - I've been on the Lincecum bandwagon from the beginning, and at one point even wondered if he might eventually be a Cy Young candidate, so it's a little disappointing to see the ERA up at 4.63. But I'm not exactly worried. For one, he still has dynamite stuff. Like, some of the best stuff in the MLB. Second, his splits still look very good. He has had some trouble with his control at times, but that was to be expected. What you have to like is that he is striking out over a batter per inning (79 K in 72 IP), which is great. He's also doing a decent job of keeping the ball in the ballpark. I think his ERA could drop a run in the 2nd half. Of course, when he does things like this, it's easy to fall in love with his potential.

What do you think of these predictions? Agree or disagree with them?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thoughts on the HR Derby

Wow, that was long. I mean, I love the HR Derby. But that thing took like 3 hours. That's just a bit much.

Of course, it didn't help that I found most of the announcers to be just about unbearable. We all know about Joe Morgan, who doesn't really add much, I don't think. Dusty Baker was OK, but I just find him annoying. I don't know why, I just don't really like him as an announcer. Berman is Berman... way over the top, but I don't think he's awful for stuff like this.

I still love Kenny Mayne, but he didn't get a chance to do much. The other guy from ESPN that I always like is Karl Ravech. Whether he's in the booth (like he was tonight), on Sportscenter, etc. he is consistently good.

One final note on the announcers... all night they kept making comments about how Vlad had to take pitches and alluding to the fact that he swings at a lot of pitches... but guys, he has walked 47 times this year (though 20 of them intentional). He's a little more patient than he used to be.

Onto the Derby itself, what a bore the first round was. No one could hit them out, and there was only like 2 into the Cove. That is why All-Star Games should be in hitter's parks.

Another thing I'd like to change... and I know this will never happen, but I still think it would be awesome if they hit with aluminum bats for the Derby. It's an exhibition anyway, why not help them hit more bombs? Granted, seeing the 503-footer from Guerrero tells me they may not need them, but I still think it'd be cool to see.

Finally, congrats to Vlad, who put on quite a show in that 2nd round.

What did you think of the Derby?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

MLB First Half Awards

With the All-Star break upon us, it's time to hand out my awards for the first half of the season.

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore
There are some solid position player candidates, but no one really good enough to beat out Guthrie and his sub-3.00 ERA. Likewise, there are some solid pitching candidates (such as Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima), but I think Guthrie has been a little more valuable. He strikes out only a modest 6.35 batters per 9 innings, but he has shown good command and has a 4:1 K:BB ratio. I think Matsuzaka is the better bet long-term, but Guthrie has been a little better so far.
Other candidates: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, Dustin Pedroia, Travis Buck
End of season prediction: Daisuke Matsuzaka

NL Rookie of the Year: Hunter Pence, Houston
Pence has been an absolute hitting machine since his call-up, and if he keeps it up might even get some MVP consideration. His lack of plate patience (only 10 BB and 52 K) makes it unlikely he can keep up his .340+ average, but he is hitting for a lot of power. If he does slip up, Ryan Braun looks like a great candidate, as he has been one of the best players in the NL over the past couple months.
Other candidates: Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton
End of season prediction: Ryan Braun

AL Cy Young: Dan Haren, Oakland
Haren has started to come back down to Earth, but he's still the leading candidate in the AL. He has displayed good control (with an over 3:1 K:BB ratio). A look at his DIPS ERA shows he might be getting a little lucky so far (and the lack of hits allowed might be a bit flukey), but Haren is an excellent pitcher who has been among the League's best for a couple of years. If that luck does start to even out, he'll have lots of competition from Johan Santana, who, aside from a high number of HRA, has had a great first half and appears to have hit his stride a little earlier than normal.
Other candidates: Johan Santana, John Lackey, Josh Becket,, Erik Bedard
End of season prediction: Johan Santana

NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy, San Diego
Peavy has been the best pitcher in the MLB in the first half. There's no debate in my mind... he has simply been dominant in a way that no other pitcher has been so far. Of course the ERA is great, but Peavy is set apart from the rest with his great K rate and good control. Plus, he's only allowed 3 HR all year. But while I do think he has been the best, it's not like everyone else has struggled. Brad Penny and Chris Young have also been dominant, just not as much so.
Other candidates: Brad Penny, Chris Young
End of season prediction: Jake Peavy

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez, New York
This was probably the closest one for me to call, because Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez are about dead even. Both have been outstanding and stand far above the rest of the AL crop. I actually think Magglio has been a little better at the plate, but the fact that A-Rod plays 3B puts him a little bit ahead. Still, if you wanted to take Magglio here, I'd be hard pressed to argue too much.
Other candidates: Magglio Ordonez
End of season prediction: Alex Rodriguez

NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez, Florida
OK, this one is a little more out there, but I still really do think Ramirez is the most underrated player in the MLB. I mean, Jose Reyes is great, but he gets all the publicity while there's hardly a peep about Ramirez. Check out the numbers... Ramirez is hitting a lot better than Reyes, and he's pretty darn good on the basepaths as well. His OBP is above .380, he's slugging over .530, and he plays SS. He leads the NL in VORP right now (3rd in the MLB behind A-Rod and Mags). It was a really tough call to put Ramirez over Chase Utley and Prince Fielder, but he's been outstanding.
Other candidates: Chase Utley, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera
End of season prediction: Chase Utley

Your thoughts? Who are your award winners so far?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

MLB All-Star Snubs

Now that we (I include you, the reader in this, because I'm nice like that) have looked at the fan vote in both the American League and the National League, it's time to look at the snubs. Because it wouldn't really be an All-Star game if we didn't do that.

American League
Kevin Youkilis - As a Twins fan, I hate to say it but I think Youkilis has been the best first baseman in the AL, probably even more deserving than Morneau. Carlos Pena would actually be another really strong possibility, but he doesn't have quite the ABs that the top guys have.

Orlando Cabrera - Looking at the numbers, he's been a lot better than Mike Young has been this year. Young is only on because they needed a Texas Ranger (and no, Sammy Sosa is nowhere near deserving), but that doesn't make Cabrera any less deserving.

Curtis Granderson - 23 doubles, 15 triples, 11 HR. I'm not sure people know just how good Granderson has been so far this year.

Gary Sheffield - He had a really slow start and he might be penalized a bit because he is a DH now, but he definitely deserves a spot. He should be on the team over a guy like Manny Ramirez, who is having a down year.

Jeremy Guthrie - This is a bit borderline... he's been good, but I'm not sure he's definitely better than any pitcher that made the team. So he gets the weak vote here.

National League

Chipper Jones - He is hurt a lot by the fact that he has had some injury problems and has missed some time this year, but he's deserving, I think. He's got an OBP over .400 and is hitting for a good amount of power. When healthy, he's been the best 3B in the NL this year.

Hanley Ramirez - He's been the best SS in the NL this year... so he should be on the team over Hardy (who made it as a reserve) or Freddy Sanchez, who wins the vote as the worst All-Star this year. For crying out loud, Ian Snell should have been the Pirate choice... Sanchez' only way of being at this All-Star game should have been for him to buy a ticket.

Edgar Renteria - See Ramirez, Hanley. Except replace best SS in the NL this year with 2nd best SS in the NL this year.

Adam Dunn - I was tempted to put Hunter Pence here, but I'll give the nod to Dunn because he has a lot more PAs. Either way, both guys should be in above Carlos Lee. Lee is hitting well, but Dunn is hitting for more power.

Ian Snell - As mentioned, he should be representing the Pirates here, not Freddy Sanchez. He's been very good this year and his peripherals suggest he should be able to keep it up.

Derek Lowe - With all due respect to Ben Sheets (who is having a nice year), how does Sheets get in over Lowe? They strike out a comparable amount of guys, Sheets has a little better control, but Lowe has allowed half the HR that Sheets has.

Who are your choices?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

Hope you have a safe and joyous holiday!

Grading the Fan Vote - National League

Yesterday we looked at the American League All-Star starters, so naturally, it's now time to look at the National League.

Catcher: Russell Martin
Grade: A
Explanation: Martin has easily been the best of the NL catchers this year, so it's good to see him get the start that he deserves. He's very good offensively, solid defensively, and even has 16 SB.

First Base: Prince Fielder
Grade: A
Explanation: I think Albert Pujols would be a pretty solid choice here as well, but so far Prince has been the best. The power is obvious (27 HR, over .600 SLG), but he is also getting on base at a decent clip. Once again, the voters make the right choice here.

Second Base: Chase Utley
Grade: A
Explanation: Like A-Rod in the AL, Utley is so far ahead of the competition here that I don't even need to explain.

Third Base: David Wright
Grade: C
Explanation: Wright is an OK choice because he does play very solid defense and swipes a decent number of bases, but there were better choices. Chipper Jones has been the best hitting 2B, but he has been plagued by injury troubles. Beyond him, Miguel Cabrera may be getting bigger at an alarming rate, but he can still rake. I'd probably give him the nod here.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes
Grade: B
Explanation: I think I have talked about this before, but I don't think Reyes is a bad choice, I just think Edgar Renteria and Hanley Ramirez might be a little better choices. But I really can't argue too much about Reyes, who is superb.

Outfield: Barry Bonds
Grade: A
Explanation: ESPN may calls Bonds' season lackluster, but he's been the best hitter in the National League and is an easy choice. He's older, he's bad at defense, but he has been great at the dish.

Outfield: Carlos Beltran
Grade: C-
Explanation: Beltran is still a really good player, but I don't think he deserves the nod here. I would take guys like Matt Holliday, Adam Dunn, or even Alfonso Soriano over him. Beltran still plays great defense, but he doesn't steal as many bases anymore and he's not hitting as well as he did last year.

Outfield: Ken Griffey Jr.
Grade: A
Explanation: Griffey continues to hit very well, and I do think he deserves this starting spot. He's 3rd in the NL in HR and 6th in SLG, and combine that with an OBP near .400 and solid defense, he is very deserving of his spot.

Overall, I'm impressed. I thought it was a little better than the American League voting, and pretty good overall. Only 2 starters that I would really have a problem with, and one more that is questionable.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Grading the Fan Vote - American League

Now that that rosters are [mostly] picked, it's time to evaluate how the fans did in voting for the starters. I'll use the A-F grading scale, using my very subjective analysis.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez
Grade: F
Explanation: These days, Pudge isn't even one of the 5 best catchers in the AL. His AVG is still a respectable .280, but his OBP is less than .300 (thanks to a pathetic 4 BB on the year), and he's not hitting for that much power either. Jorge Posada, Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer, Kenji Johjima, and Jason Varitek all would have been better choices.

First Base: David Ortiz
Grade: A
Explanation: He's not really a first basemen, but he qualifies there on the ballot and he is deserving of this spot. You could certainly make a case for his teammate Kevin Youkilis (maybe the biggest snub), Casey Kotchman, Justin Morneau, or maybe even Mark Teixeira (though he has missed time), but Ortiz has been very good at the plate, as usual. I have no problems with this choice.

Second Base: Placido Polanco
Grade: C
Explanation: I don't think Polanco was the right choice, but it's not as bad as the choice of Pudge. Polanco has at least been above average. BJ Upton and Dustin Pedroia have both been better than Polanco, but they have considerably less ABs than him. The best choice, I think, would have been Brian Roberts, who is getting on base at a better than .400 clip and hitting for more power than Polanco.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
Grade: A
Explanation: It's simply not even close.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Grade: B
Explanation: I think Carlos Guillen has clearly been the best SS in the AL so far this year, but Jeter has probably been 2nd best, so he's not a terrible choice. You could probably make a case that Jeter has been more valuable overall, as he is getting on base more and has nearly 60 more ABs. So I'd take Guillen definitely, but Jeter is at least a rational choice.

Outfield: Magglio Ordonez
Grade: A
Explanation: He's been one of the top 2 hitters in the AL all season long (along with A-Rod), so he is the obvious and right choice here. He's getting on base at a great rate and has a ton of doubles. He's one of the top candidates for MVP of the first half of the year.

Outfield: Vladimir Guerrero
Grade: A
Explanation: Among AL outfielders in terms of hitting, there is Magglio and Vlad, and then there is everyone else. Vlad has shown surprisingly good patience, giving him a .423 OBP at this point, and continues to hit for solid power.

Outfield: Ichiro Suzuki
Grade: A-
Explanation: There are a couple other possibilities here, such as Torii Hunter or Curtis Granderson (another large snub), but Ichiro is a pretty good choice. He's getting on base a ton and playing very good defense in CF. It's be nice if he would hit for more power, but he has been very valuable so far.

So overall, pretty nice picks. I would say 2 picks were blatantly wrong, and maybe 2-3 more were questionable. All in all, that's pretty good.

What are your thoughts on the picks?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

ESPN is Stupid Sometimes

OK, a lot of the time. But anyway, look at this screencap off the front page of ESPN, which was on as of Sunday night when I wrote this.

WHAT? "Despite a lackluster season?" Bonds is having a lackluster season? That's news to me.

OK, maybe Bonds' power numbers aren't quite what they were from 2000-2004, but he's bee extremely effective at the plate so far this year. Consider:

- He leads the MLB in OPS.
- He leads the MLB in OBP, which is currently at a ridiculous rate above .500.
- He is slugging over .600, which is 4th in the MLB.

Sure, he's not good defensively anymore. And his baserunning skills are not what they once were. But if that is lackluster, I'm not sure what's good. When he's playing, he's been easily the best hitter in the National League so far.

Also, I just love one of the other options there:

"Vote: Who deserves to be there?"

Um, ESPN, the fans just voted who they think deserves the be there. What are you trying to prove? Isn't that a bit redundant?