Friday, February 29, 2008

I get interviewed and stuff

Rick from the excellent blog Stiles Points has interviewed me in his "Beers for Bloggers" Series. So check it out! My answers are mostly boring, but you've probably come to expect that from me.

I'll be out of town for a week... yay for spring break! It'll be fun.

Enjoy yourselves, and hopefully I'll come back to some nice FA signings by the Vikings!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Second Base

After ranking the first basemen a few days ago, it's time to move on to 2B!

1. Chase Utley - It shouldn't be any surprise, but Utley is still the cream of the crop when it comes to 2B. He hit .332 last year, which is really good. But really, he does a little bit of everything. He missed 30 games, but he still had 22 HR, over 100 RBI, and over 100 Runs. And he even stole 9 bases just for good measure. He is easily the top fantasy 2B.

2. B.J. Upton - Upton is another guy that cashed in on his enormous talent in 2007. He showed good power, speed, and patience at the plate, which should carry over into the new year. Playing in only 129 games, he had 24 HR and 22 SB. The fact that he has a solid walk rate (and a .386 OBP) will give him plenty of opportunities to get on base and either steal bases or score a lot of runs. The fact that he will only be 23 for most of the year gives him the slight edge over Phillips for the 2nd spot.

3. Brandon Phillips - Phillips finally truly cashed in on all that talent, having a breakout year in 2007. He gives you power and speed from the 2B spot, with a 30-32 year last season. He also scored over 100 runs, and his .288 BA was certainly respectable. He'll turn 27 this summer, meaning he should be right in the middle of his prime.

4. Brian Roberts - He's a stolen base fiend, finishing with 50 of them in 2007. But that doesn't mean he is one-dimensional, as he also brings a solid amount of pop. He hit 12 HR and had 42 2B last year, which is not too shabby for a guy that brings so many SB as well as over 100 runs. An average of .290 is nothing to complain about either.

5. Robinson Cano - He didn't quite hit for .342 like he did in 2006, but he's still a very effective fantasy player. The average was still a very respectable .306, and he displayed solid power with 19 HR and 41 2B. As he's playing in the Yankees lineup, his RBI and R totals will be solid no matter where he bats in the order.

6. Chone Figgins - He might not hit .330 again, but he brings a lot of speed and versatility to the table. He missed over 45 games last year, but still had 41 SB, following up his 52 SB in 2006 and 62 SB in 2005. He doesn't have a lot of power, but he has averaged 8 triples over the past 3 years, which helps. He's also eligible for multiple positions.

7. Howie Kendrick - The guy can rake. As a 24 year-old playing only part of the time, he hit .322 last season, and slugged a very respectable .450. He doesn't take walks and he doesn't hit for a ton of power, but he's a great hitter for average, and should score a lot of runs in a solid Angels offense.

8. Ian Kinsler - Kinsler is a decent option for speed and power at 2B. He finished 2007 with 20 HR and 22 SB. He also showed solid plate discipline, finishing with an OBP of .355. He's a solid option at 2B... there are guys with more upside at this spot, but you could certainly do worse than Ian Kinsler.

9. Rickie Weeks - Many people (myself included) expected a breakout year from Weeks, but due to injuries and such, it never materialized, as he finished with just a .235 AVG. However, some of the peripheral numbers did look good... he took a fair amount of walks, had decent power, and even stole 25 bases. He's got high upside, but has to stay healthy.

10. Placido Polanco - Polanco was excellent last year with a .341 AVG, which allowed him to score over 100 runs. It's unrealistic to expect such high output again, but he will be in a solid lineup that adds Miguel Cabrera. Polanco is another guy that is just a solid option... there are other guys who might have more upside at this spot, but you know what you're getting from Placido Polanco.

Your thoughts? What would you change around?

Friday, February 22, 2008

28 Years Ago Today

This happened.

For my money, the Miracle on Ice is the greatest sporting event to ever happen. By now we've all heard the story, and most of us have seen the movie Miracle, based off the team in which a maverick coach from Minnesota named Herb Brooks picked who he felt was the best team, but not necessarily the best players, and molded them into a gold medal winner.

The Soviets featured such players as Boris Mikhailov, one of the greatest Russian players ever, and Vadislav Tretiak, the best goaltender in the world at the time.

The United States meanwhile, were led by a group of college kids. Some of them were very good, as they would sign with professional teams soon after the 1980 Olympics, but definitely not on par with the Soviets talent wise.

I won't bore you with the details, but we all know Mike Eruzione, the United States captain, scored the game winning goal with exactly 10 minutes left in the game to give the US the win and set the stage for Al Michaels's famous call, and an eventual gold medal, which they earned by defeating Finland.

13 US players played in the NHL. Neal Broten, who won an NCAA title with Minnesota, scored 923 career points in over 1000 NHL games. Mark Johnson is now the women's hockey coach at Wisconsin, and his son plays for the mens team. Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig, two of the stars of the semifinal game, totaled just 30 NHL games between them, all by Craig. Coach Herb Brooks tragically died in a car accident at the age of 66.

Let me preface this next point by saying that I think an Olympic Gold Medal is the best "trophy" to win in sports. If you gave me a choice between a gold medal and a superbowl, I would take a gold medal without hesitation. I usually come down somewhere between disapproving and apathetic when ESPN does dumb stuff like Who's Now, but if the Miracle on Ice doesn't win the Greatest Highlight, people need to hand in their citizenship. While I get tired of the 1972 Dolphins, I will never tire of hearing about the 1980 Olympic team that shocked the world and united a nation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: First Base

It's that time of year again! Here's my top 10 for 1B for Fantasy Baseball.

1. Albert Pujols - The power numbers were way down, but he still edges out Prince for the top spot. But it is a bit worrisome that he hit 17 less HR last year than in 2006, and had only 103 RBI compared to 137 the year before. Unlike past year, he's not a guy to consider with the first overall pick, but he's still the top 1B.

2. Prince Fielder - Prince obviously had a huge year in 2007, hitting 50 HR and topping 119 RBI. The average was at .288, which is obviously still good, but also about 40-50 points behind Albert Pujols, which is why Prince comes in at 2nd.

3. Ryan Howard - As was to be expected, Howard's numbers went down some compared to 2006, but he was still very productive. Fantasy owners will take 47 HR and a solid 136 RBI. One concern is that his average fell from .313 to .268, a rather precipitous drop. If he can get it back to the .300 range, he'll once again be a contender for top fantasy 1B.

4. David Ortiz - Curiously, Ortiz hit 19 fewer HR last year than in 2006, but he had 23 more doubles. Not sure why that was the case. He's still an RBI machine, totaling 117 last year, which was actually his lowest in 4 years. He should continue to get plenty of opportunities to drive runners in batting right in the middle of a very potent lineup.

5. Mark Teixeira - Teixeira quietly tore the cover off the ball in Atlanta, slugging .615 after the midseason trade. In only 54 games with the Braves, he had 17 HR and 56 RBI. He probably can't keep up that pace, but the Atlanta offense should be solid once again, and he'll be a big part of that.

6. Lance Berkman - As is becoming a theme with the 1B on this list, Berkman's power numbers were way down last year, as his HR total dropped by 11 and his SLG fell over 100 points. Even in a down year, he still hit 34 HR and had over 100 RBI. Again, if he can regain 2006 form, he's probably a top 3 1B.

7. Justin Morneau - Morneau didn't have quite the year he did during his MVP campaign, but he still hit 31 HR and drove in a solid 111 runs. The average did drop 50 points, which is a concern. I suspect we will see his numbers settle in somewhere in between the 2006 and 2007 seasons, which makes for a very good run-producing machine.

8. Derrek Lee - He probably won't approach the 46 HR he had in 2005 again, but he is a doubles machine, hitting 43 last year in 150 games. He's also a very solid hitter for average, as his batting average was a solid .317.

9. Travis Hafner - He was a bit of a disappointment last year with his numbers completely down across the board. His SLG dropped a whopping 200 points and his average was down 40 points. He hit 16 less HR, had 17 fewer RBI, and scored 20 less runs. However, if he can return anywhere near to his 2004-2006 form, he's a top 5 1B. Worth the risk.

10. Adrian Gonzalez - 30 HR, 100 RBI, 101 runs, and 46 doubles... those are numbers you can live with. Gonzalez is a very productive player who you know what you're going to get. He's never going to be an MVP type player, but he's just an above average 1B that helps you in a few different areas.

What are your thoughts? Which of these rankings would you change?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Early All-Star Weekend Thoughts

It was a pretty outstanding All-Star Weekend so far, especially with such an incredible display by Dwight Howard in the Dunk Contest. Some random thoughts:

First, from the Rookie Challenge:

- Does Kevin Durant ever pass the ball?

- Sean Williams has just awesome athleticism. Too bad he didn't have his head in the right place during college. But he is just a freak of nature. He never stopped moving, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds in under 19 minutes.

- I enjoyed seeing the throwback running floater from Juan Carlos Navarro.

- Al Horford is easily the most polished rookie. Just a very efficient player. It'll be interesting to see what his numbers look like now that Atlanta has brought a reputable PG to town (an excellent deal by Billy Knight? This is not your father's NBA!)

- Mike Conley struggled a little bit, and he's got to learn to get his own shot once in a while, but I still see him as a poor man's Chris Paul.

- Jordan Farmar is really good. I mean, I knew he was good, but he is better than I thought.

Anyway, time to move onto Saturday night...

- This is just a general suggestion, but please, never give Magic Johnson a microphone! The man could not be any more boring and obvious.

- Obviously, Dwight Howard was awesome. In my mind, the tap with the left hand was the best dunk of the night. Holy cow.

- I liked Rashad McCants, sitting on top of the ladder, obviously a little nervous, crossing himself.

- Best conversation of the night (slightly paraphrased):
Kevin Harlan: Did you guys see what Daniel Gibson did last night?
Kevin Smith: Yes Kevin, we called the game. Thanks for watching.
Charles Barkley: Honestly, I don't understand how you get a paycheck.

What caught your eye?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jason Kidd to the Mavs?

Reports are in that Jason Kidd (and Malik Allen) will be sent to Dallas for a package including Devin Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, DeSagana Diop, Maurice Ager, Devean George, and 2 first round picks.

Obviously, Jason Kidd is a fantastic player, one of the 50 greatest NBA Players ever. But that's just a bit too much for a guy that can't shoot and has lost a step defensively. Ate age 35, Kidd is now just an average defender, and his shooting has gotten a little worse, down to a career low 36.6%.

The key piece departing from the Mavs is Devin Harris. At 24, he's a full decade younger than Kidd. He's gotten better and better each year, once again bumping up his scoring and assist averages this season. His quickness also allows him to be a solid defender, and he averages 1.4 SPG (to be fair, Kidd averages 1.5). Harris is a better defender against guys like Tony Parker and Chris Paul, guys the Mavs will likely be playing against. He allows the Mavs to play a faster style when they want, and he was a key piece for the future.

They also give up Jerry Stackhouse, a valuable 6th man that averages nearly 10 a game and has lots of experience in big games for them. DeSagana Diop is limited in what he can do, but he does play defense very well. In a Conference where the other top contenders employ guys like Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Tim Duncan. Exchanging Harris for Kidd and giving up draft picks shows the main goal is to win it all in the next year or two, but that effort will be hindered with the loss of depth that Stackhouse and Diop brought.

Kidd's a great player, and he should be rejuvenated if the deal goes through and he's playing for Dallas. But I think the Mavs gave up just a little too much.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Bill Walton on Boris Diaw

This clip is a little old, but still fantastically awesome.

"When I think of Boris Diaw, I think of Beethoven in the Age of the Romantics."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why did the Suns trade for Shaq?

Sorry, I'm a little late to the party with my thoughts on the deal, but this has been about the busiest week of my life.

On the surface, this appears to be an almost senseless trade by the Phoenix Suns. They're one of the top contenders in the Western Conference, and yet they have traded away a guy that is an almost perfect fit in their system (Shawn Marion) for a guy that appears to be the exact opposite of the type of player that they'd look for (Shaq Fu). I think we can all agree the Suns seem to be a pretty smart franchise... which begs the question, why? Why make this deal?

For one, there have been a lot of rumors that Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire don't get along that well. Obviously I don't have any inside information on that, but if true, that could be a reason. Shawn Marion has not exactly made it a secret that he feels underappreciated and undervalued at times, at one point even requesting a trade. The change from Marion to Shaq (who, from all accounts - well, except Kobe, is great in the locker room) should have a very positive affect on team morale and team relations in the locker room.

Of course, on the court is where it matters. Everyone seems to be assuming that the offense will take a huge hit, but I'm not so sure. Even when Shaq is in the game, the Suns will still be able to stay fast-paced. Maybe Shaq won't always make it up the court, but if they're shooting in 7 seconds or less that won't matter much anyway. What Shaq does do is make them a lot better in the halfcourt. His presence allows Amare to move to the 4 where he is more comfortable. He also opens things up even more for the potent shooters outside. Plus, with all of the other offensive weapons, you can't really double team Shaq, meaning he could potentially have some very solid scoring nights.

Defensively is the interesting part. Shawn Marion was one of the best defenders in the NBA, capable of guarding any position. Now, the Suns don't really have anyone like that. Who's going to guard the athletic 4 men in the Western Conference? Yes, Shaq provides a big defensive presence at the rim, but you can't really replace a Shawn Marion on the defensive side of the floor.

Now, let me say that I certainly wouldn't have made this trade if I were the Suns. On paper, it seems to make them worse. But looking at it, it's maybe not as senseless as a lot of people are making it out to be. The Suns will still get up-and-down the court and still score a ton of points. But how they respond on the defensive end will be the big determinant on whether this deal will have positive impacts.

What are your thoughts? Are the Suns still a legitimate contender in the West?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Giants win the Super Bowl!

Holy cow, what an incredible game. Going into the game, I honestly was hoping the Giants would be able to keep it within 10 points or so so that the game might be entertaining. Turns out, they surpassed my wildest expectations.

Eli Manning wins the MVP, and it's tough to argue with that (seriously, the play where he somehow avoided the rush and found David Tyree for an acrobatic, behind-the-head catch was one of the best plays I have EVER seen), but the real story of the game was the defensive pressure by the Giants, specifically Justin Tuck. Good thing the Giants signed him to an extension already, because otherwise he might be commanding a lot more money.

What a brilliant gameplan by Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Of course, the play calls tend to look pretty good when the defensive line is as good and as disruptive as the Giants were. The pressure on Tom Brady was relentless. As mentioned, Justin Tuck was incredible, with 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and a Forced Fumble. In total, the Giants had 5 sacks, and kept Brady on his back all night.

What a great, great Super Bowl. I mean, that's all there is to say. That was awesome.

Super Bowl Prediction

For the record, my prediction:

Patriots 35, Giants 17