Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Separated At Birth?

Actress Sandra Oh and New Jersey Nets' PF Josh Boone

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Toronto Raptors' SF Shawn Marion and former Johns Hopkins Blue Jays' SP Ryan McConnell

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Three Biggest Sports Pet Peeves

Sports Pet Peeve #1: In-game interviews of head coaches. I can tolerate coaches being interviewed at halftime (to a certain degree), but what is the purpose of interviewing a coach during the course of a game?

Let me make sure I have this straight. It would be a good idea for a coach to divulge strategy or provide analysis during a game so the opposing team can know what he is thinking? How does that make sense? It's infuriating and completely nonsensical. These coaches get berated by the media for hours before and hours after the game. Leave them alone during the game. I beg you.

Note: This applies specifically to hockey (NBC) and baseball (Fox / ESPN).

#2: Detailing the score of a game by using the losing team's score first. An example: "The Dodgers lost to the Mets three to seven." No, the Dodgers lost to the Mets seven to three. It's not a difficult concept. Higher score followed by lower score.

Note: This does not apply to sports with sets (tennis, volleyball, etc) as it would be impossible to determine which team / player won which sets by using the rules outlined above. So, saying Serena Williams beat Venus Williams 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 would be necessary and perfectly acceptable.

3: Unwarranted excessive celebration penalties after touchdowns. I understand offenses such as the "slitting the throat" gesture and taunting opponents, but the NFL and NCAA need to relax the illegalities of certain celebrations.

A touchdown typically results from perfect execution after hours of film study and practice. Why do these governing bodies find the need to prohibit choreographed celebrations with teammates? God forbid a player share in the happiness with others who helped him arrive in the end zone.

Friday, February 20, 2009

O-Dog, Oh No

It appears the Los Angeles Dodgers are on the verge of signing 2B Orlando Hudson to a bargain basement deal, 1 year / $3.4m plus incentives. I'm not sure which is more stunning: the fact that Hudson came so cheaply or the fact that the New York Mets couldn't offer a better deal.

As I wrote a few days back, the Mets are relying on an aging, borderline decrepit, Luis Castillo to man second base and possibly lead off.

Omar, what's the story?

MLB - Win Totals

Vegas has set the win over / under lines for the 2009 MLB season. Here are my picks.

Best Bets
Arizona- 86.5 Under: How is this team going to score enough runs to win? Brandon Webb and Dan Haren can only do so much.

Cleveland- 83 Over: As mentioned here, I think they are on their way to the World Series.

Florida- 75.5 Over: The Fish won 84 games last season, lost no primetime players (Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen are all replaceable) and their pitchers now have some experience.

LA Dodgers- 84.5 Over: Once they sign Manny, this number will jump to 88.

Oakland- 81.5 Over: One arm away from 90 wins.

Philadelphia- 87.5 Over: No respect. Not sure why.

Other Overs
Atlanta- 84.5
Baltimore- 74.5
Chicago White Sox- 76.5
Cincinnati- 76.5
Detroit- 79.5
Kansas City- 75.5
Minnesota- 79.5
NY Mets- 90.5
NY Yankees- 96
Pittsburgh- 66.5
San Francisco- 77.5
Seattle- 72.5
St. Louis- 83.5
Tampa Bay- 89.5
Texas- 81.5

Other Unders
Boston- 94.5
Chicago Cubs- 94.5
Colorado- 76.5
Houston- 74.5
LA Angels- 87.5
Milwaukee- 85.5
San Diego- 67.5
Toronto- 81.5
Washington- 68.5

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heyman and I Don't See Eye-to-Eye

It has become pretty evident that Jon Heyman and I agree on very few issues. In a recent article, he graded each team's winter moves. I have a few bones to pick.

Heyman's Top 10 "Winners"

Phillies (1): As Heyman alludes to, the Phillies signed Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard to long-term deals. However, barring a trade, these two had no way out of Philadelphia as the team controlled their arbitration years anyway. They weren't going anywhere. The Phils other "big move" - signing 36-year old Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $30 million deal - now looks laughable. This team did not improve that much to warrant the #1 ranking. Ruben Amaro gets a B from me in his first winter as GM.

Mets (2): Sure, the Mets added K-Rod and JJ Putz to help mend a shredded bullpen, but they failed to add any difference-making starters. No, Tim Redding and Freddy Garcia do not qualify. I won't even get started on the ageless Livan Hernandez signing. They also did not address the hole at second base. Luis Castillo will not cut it. Omar Minaya gets a B- from me.

Yankees (3): Any of these lists that does not have the Yankees at the top should be discarded immediately. CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira in one winter? Unreal. Brian Cashman gets an A+ here.

A's (4): I've detailed Oakland's moves ad nauseam in past posts, but I love the Holliday deal. Billy Beane gets an A.

Diamondbacks (5): Arizona lost Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, and Brandon Lyon and will probably watch Juan Cruz depart via free agency. They must have signed someone or many someones to compensate, right? Heyman ranks the D'backs this high because, "Jon Garland gives them a solid No. 3 starter." Is this some sort of joke? How does that equation yield a positive result? Aside from the fact that Garland has a career WHIP around 1.4 and averages about 4.5 K's/9, the team failed to add anyone else of note. Josh Byrnes gets a D from me.

Rays (6): No arguments here as they added Pat Burrell at a reasonable price and did not lose anyone of note. Andrew Friedman gets a B-.

Giants (7): Stop me when you hear the name of an impact player: Juan Uribe, Rich Aurilia, Edgar Renteria (I said impact not intact), Bobby Howry, Jeremy Affeldt, Randy Johnson. I heard crickets until RJ's name and he'll be 45 years old on Opening Day. Brian Sabean gets a C-, and that's only because he didn't trade Tim Lincecum.

Braves (8): They overspent for Derek Lowe but traded no Major League-ready prospects for Javier Vazquez. Frank Wren gets a B.

Red Sox (9): Again, no arguments as they signed Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis to long-term deals and bought a number of low-risk, high-reward free agents. Theo Epstein gets a B-.

White Sox (10): They lost Vazquez, Nick Swisher and Orlando Cabrera and added no one of note. Kenny Williams gets a C.

Banter's Top 10 "Winners"

1. Yankees
2. A's
3. Braves
4. Cubs: Added Milton Bradley and Kevin Gregg.
5. Indians: Added Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa and took a flier on Carl Pavano.
6. Orioles: Locked up Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts to long-term deals. Dished out no palm-to-the-forehead deals which means a lot in Baltimore.
7. Mariners: Improved the defense and lost Type A free agent Ibanez meaning they get a first round pick as compensation.
8. Phillies
9. Rockies: They can't afford Holliday so getting Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez is a decent return.
10. Mets

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Arizona Wildcat SF Chase Budinger and former Vassar Brewer SF Larry Avitabile.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Trades That Make Sense

NBA Variety

Orlando sends Brian Cook, Adonal Foyle, Mike Wilks, Martin Gorat and a 2009 1st Round Pick to Oklahoma City for Earl Watson

The Magic would get a dependable point guard in Watson to compensate for the season-ending injury of Jameer Nelson. A starting five of Dwight Howard-Hedo Turkoglu-Rashard Lewis-Mikael Pietrus-Watson can certainly compete for the Eastern Conference crown.

The Thunder would add about $6m of salaries set to expire at the end of the year and another 1st Round pick.

MLB Variety

Washington sends 1B Nick Johnson to San Francisco for LHP Noah Lowry

The Nationals have a glut of first basemen but lack any depth in their rotation while the Giants have an abundance of number four / five starters without any proven corner infielders. The deal seems to work for both teams.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

World Series Odds - Breakdown

Your team can win the World Series if....

On Second Thought, There's No Chance

Arizona Diamondbacks 30/1; Baltimore Orioles 150/1; Chicago White Sox 25/1 ; Cincinnati Reds 50/1; Colorado Rockies 60/1; Houston Astros 40/1; Kansas City Royals 150/1; Milwaukee Brewers 35/1; Minnesota Twins 25/1; Pittsburgh Pirates 200/1; San Diego Padres 200/1; San Francisco Giants 40/1; Seattle Mariners 100/1; Toronto Blue Jays 60/1; Washington Nationals 150/1

If one of these teams comes close, I'd be shocked.

Just Not Worth It

Boston Red Sox 15/2; New York Yankees 5/2; Tampa Bay Rays 12/1

If these teams can survive a brutal regular season, they will still have to win three arduous playoff series.

No, For One Major Reason

Chicago Cubs 7/1: If they can overcome the curse, the North Siders will be ecstatic.

Philadelphia Phillies 11/1: If they can repeat, they would be the first since the 1999-2000 Yankees.

Decent Value

Detroit Tigers 20/1: If they get offensive contributions from players other than Miguel Cabrera and if Carlos Guillen, Justin Verlander, and Jeremy Bonderman are healthy, they have a shot.

Los Angeles Angels 11/1: If they have a cake-walk into the postseason, anything can happen.

Great Value

Atlanta Braves 35/1: If Jeff Francoeur can bounce back and Chipper Jones can stay healthy, the Braves can take the NL East. If they do that, Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez provide a nice 1-2 punch in a playoff series.

Florida Marlins 40/1: If the Marlins young pitching staff takes strikes to deliver upon high expectations, they can surprise some people.

St Louis Cardinals 30/1: If the Cubs falter, Albert Pujols can carry this team on his back.

Texas Rangers 60/1: If the Rangers can add two arms through their farm system or free agency, the offense can compete with anyone.

The Contenders

Oakland Athletics 55/1: If they can add an arm, their revamped offense will make them a serious threat.

Los Angeles Dodgers 17/1: If they sign Manny, they become the favorite in NL West.

New York Mets 7/1: If the starting pitching can hold up, there's no reason they cannot win the National League pennant.

The One

Cleveland Indians 25/1: If Fausto Carmona can bounce back and Carl Pavano gives them any positive contributions I love Cleveland's chances. At 25-1, they represent the best value on the board. And yes, I realize I am counting on that Carl Pavano.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

MLB - Odds to Win Division

A mere 12 hours after the Banter's Bobby Abreu bashing, oddsmakers unveiled the odds to win each Major League division. And wouldn't you know it, the Angels open up as the largest favorite in any division (-220). One man's way too early breakdown:

AL West: Angels -220; A's +300; Rangers +600; Mariners +1200

This division reminds me of the 2004 election. Did 51% of the country really want another four years of President Bush? Probably not. More likely, many of the voters simply opted not-Kerry. Betting on the Angels would be akin to voting not-Kerry. I'm not ready to go down that path again (yes, I voted for Bush in '04).

Sure, the Angels won the division by 20 games last year, but loyal readers know how dismayed I am with their off season efforts. Complacency does not breed division champions - unless your manager is Bobby Cox. I strongly believe the A's are just one player away from taking this division. Brad Pitt, err, Billy Beane make me look smart.

Pick: A's +300.

AL Central: Twins +175; Indians +200; White Sox +400; Tigers +400; Royals +1500

This division looks ripe for the picking, and the Indians seem most likely to take advantage.

The division favorite Twins have not added or lost any significant players this off season. Apparently, owner Carl Pohlad decided to cut costs and give the entire front office a four-month vacation.

The White Sox lost Javier Vazquez, Nick Swisher, Orlando Cabrera, Joe Crede and Ken Griffey, Jr. To compensate, they added... well, some spare parts (Wilson Betemit, Bartolo Colon).

The Tigers, coming off an uber-disappointing last place finish, made some minor changes such as replacing Edgar Renteria with Adam Everett (please, contain your excitement).

The Royals are the Royals.

That leaves us with the Indians who finished 2008 with a .500 record despite dealing CC Sabathia before the deadline. They revamped the bullpen with guys like sidewinder Joe Smith and fireballer Kerry Wood. The Indians also added Mark DeRosa who was disposed of by the Cubs for a reason unbeknown to most. The team underachieved last season and seems poised to take this division running away this season.

Pick: Indians +200.

AL East: Yankees -125; Red Sox +175; Rays +400; Blue Jays +1500; Orioles +4000

Talk all you want about the A-Rod distraction, lack of chemistry, and questionable health of some key contributors (Chien-Ming Wang, Jorge Posada), but the Yankees are clearly the team to beat. Wang, who sports a 54-20 career record, will be the team's third starter. No team in baseball can compete with the Sabathia-Burnett-Wang troika.

Pick: As much as it pains me, Yankees -125.

NL West: Dodgers +140; D'backs +160; Giants +500; Rockies +600; Padres +2000

Once the Dodgers sign Manny Ramirez, these odds will drop to -125. Don't wait. Jump on the Dodgers now. They have no competition.

If anyone wants to take the D'backs at +160, forget Vegas, and place your bets with the Banter. This team was decimated during the off season. They lost Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz (presumably), Banter-favorite Adam Dunn, and Brandon Lyon. They took fliers on Tom Gordon - yes, "Flash" - Jon Garland, Scott Schoeneweis, and Felipe Lopez which wouldn't have been bad if the year were 2003. This will be a long, long season in the desert.

If you are a Giants' fan, I have some good news: Tim Lincecum will be your Opening Day starter. After that, things get murky. The front office failed to address the glaring need: offense. The Giants scored the second-fewest runs in the Majors last season. Signing Edgar Renteria won't do much to help.

The Rockies would intrigue me a whole lot more if not for the following three matters:

1. Aaron Cook is their #1 starter;
2. They traded their best player, Matt Holliday; and
3. Jeff Francis faces season-ending surgery.

Case closed.

As my mother often told me, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." (Thinking.... thinking... Got it!) San Diego is a beautiful city. I was always a momma's boy.

Pick: Dodgers +140.

NL Central: Cubs -160; Brewers +500; Cardinals +600; Reds +600; Astros +1300; Pirates +3000

The Brewers lost CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets leaving Dave Bush to be the team's second starter.

The Reds are MLB's version of the NFL's Detroit Lions. Never interesting, often terrible, and just plain blah. They are a difficult team to get excited about.

The 'stros overachieved last season and figure to regress towards the mean.

The Pirates have a beautiful stadium (thanks, Mom).

That leaves the Cubs and Cards as the only two teams that have a chance of winning this division. Chicago won the division last season by seven games and made only minor changes. They figure to win about 92-94 games. Can St. Louis win more than that? Doubtful, but at +600, I'll take my chances. They have the best hitter in baseball (Albert Pujols) and an ace in Adam Wainwright. I'm also bullish on the idea of Skip Schumaker playing second base.

Pick: Cardinals +600.

NL East: Mets +130; Phillies +160; Braves +450; Marlins +600; Nationals +6000

Both East divisions figure to be very competitive throughout the season. The NL East has four teams capable of winning the division.

The defending Wold Series champion Phillies essentially swapped Raul Ibanez for Pat Burrell. The thing that concerns me with this team is the health of Cole Hamels. He threw the most pitches of any Major Leaguer last season. Can he repeat?

The Mets addressed their most glaring weakness, the bullpen, but failed to add an impact starter (although, they did retain Olly Perez). Will it be enough?

The Braves lost John Smoltz but added Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez. If Chipper can stay healthy, a big "if," Atlanta can stay competitive.

The Marlins provide a nice value at +600 but lost a lot of talent from last year.

Since Washington remains irrelevant, here's an interesting Nationals-related fact: I was a better pro prospect than my high school teammate John Lannan, who happens to be the Nationals' number two starter.

Pick: Mets +130.

Coming later in the week: Full NL East Preview & World Series Odds breakdown.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bobby Abreu and Other Thoughts and Observations

The Los Angeles Angels have signed Bobby Abreu to a one-year deal putting an exclamation point on a terribly disappointing offseason. The brief summary:

Out: 1B Mark Teixeira, P Francisco Rodriguez, P Jon Garland, OF Garrett Anderson
In: OF Bobby Abreu, P Brian Fuentes

Fuentes for K-Rod is a wash. If given 70 opportunities, Fuentes may have saved more games than K-Rod. However, the upgrade of Abreu for Gary Matthews / Juan Rivera does not nearly compensate for the downgrade of Kendry Morales for Teixeira (in the understatement of the day). It does not help matters that Rivera signed a three-year deal this offseason. The Angels cannot afford this kind of offensive downgrade as their offense finished 10th in the AL in runs scored last season. Abreu could not be a worse fit for a team in desperate need of a power threat. Check out Abreu's stats for the previous three years:

HR: 15 (2006), 16 (2007), 20 (2008)
RBI: 107, 101, 100
SB: 30, 25, 22
CS: 6, 8, 11
BB: 124, 84, 73
UZR: -15.6, -4.2, -25.6
Headfirst Dives / Slides: 0, 0, 0 - No one has ever seen Abreu dive or slide headfirst. Clearly doesn't want to scratch that face of his.

As seen in his UZR numbers, Abreu does not even play average defense making him a great candidate to DH. Unfortunately, Vlad Guerrero falls into the exact same boat.

The team had bundles of money in a buyer's market and has very little to show for it. Angels' fans should be displeased that the team added to its strengths but failed to address their most glaring deficiency - power.

In full disclosure, there are two redeeming factors in play. Although Abreu will be 35 years old on Opening Day, the Angels are only locked in for a single season. Also, Abreu has a reasonable contract ($5m) so it seems like a reasonable risk.

Other Thoughts and Observations

*Same classic goal celebrations, including the matador (1:05), row the canoe (1:30), and snort the line (1:35) among others.

*A highly recommended, interesting read about Pitch Sequencing.

*Check out Dodgers' latest acquisition: Tanyon Sturtze. Think Joe Torre had anything to do with this move? I do. Now, he just needs Scott Proctor back and he'll be able to sleep easy at night.

*Co-Dirtbag of the Week: Roberto Alomar. Plax was named earlier in the week.

*Leave it to the NY Post to come up with a way to cheer us up in these tough economic times:

Five Destinations for Amare

Phoenix will be hosting Sunday's NBA All Star Game. Had the game been played anywhere else, I am confident that Amare Stoudemire would have been traded already. Still, here are five teams that could make a play for him before the February 19th trade deadline.


Amare and Alando Tucker for Jerryd Bayless, LaMarcus Aldridge and Raef Lafrentz's expiring contract

Rumors are floating around that the Blazers have offered this package to the Suns. If this is an actual offer, Steve Kerr, please stop reading this and go accept... immediately. This still seems like waaaaaaay too much to give away on the Blazers' end.

New York

Amare, Goran Dragic, and Leandro Barbosa for Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, and Wilson Chandler

Phoenix would clear about $20m from its books next season and get an up-and-coming small forward in Chandler and a spark plug sixth man in Robinson. The Knicks could build around Amare. Additionally, playing with Amare would have to be appealing to Lebron.


Amare and Goran Dragic for Rasho Nesterovic, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Rush, and Marquis Daniels

Both Daniels and Nesterovic's contracts expire this year. Hibbert and Rush, two first round draft picks, would ease the loss of sending Amare away. The Pacers would have a starting five of Amare, TJ Ford, Troy Murphy, Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy. That team could win the East.

New Jersey

Amare and Goran Dragic for Ryan Anderson, Chairman Yi, Josh Boone, Stro Swift, and Maurice Ager

Again, this deal gives Phoenix cap relief and young talent. Is it enough, though? The Nets should hope so because he would make them a force in the East. Amare-Devin Harris-Vince Carter-Brook Lopez. Wow.

Oklahoma City

Amare, Goran Dragic, and Leandro Barbosa for Chris Wilcox, Desmond Mason, Joe Smith, Mouhamed Sene, San Antonio's 2009 1st Rounder and Phoenix's 2010 1st Rounder

Call me crazy, but this deal works for everyone.

The Thunder have five first round picks over the next two years. Dealing away two wouldn't be the end of the world especially since their 2009 first rounder should be in the top five. The nucleus of Amare-Russell Westbrook-Jeff Green-Kevin Durant would be among the league's best.

The Suns get their desired cap room plus some picks and a flier on Sene.

Separated at Birth?

Canadian hockey star Rob Lynch and Vince Vaughn and gang in Old School

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

JT vs. LT

Justin Timberlake vs. Lawrence Taylor

Had you parlayed the following two wagers in 1993, the odds would have been about 17,000,000-to-1.

1) In the next sixteen years, the white kid from The Mickey Mouse Club named Justin Timberlake will collaborate and perform with rappers; and
2) In the next sixteen years, Lawrence Taylor will tap dance for money in front of a national TV audience.

Amazingly, both have come to fruition.

Justin Timberlake's career has seen a cataclysmic rise. His unprecedented career path flow chart would look something like this:
The Mickey Mouse Club [garnering only the admiration of girls between the ages of four and nine] ->
Boy band star [natural next step for a career] ->
Performs at the Super Bowl where he purposefully strips Janet Jackson [arguably the turning point of his career] ->
Acting career begins ->
Drops boy band image and collaborates with hip hop and rap stars including the Black Eyed Peas Nelly, and Timbaland ->
Garners the respect of the entire music community and women of all ages.

To summarize, in about 14 years, JT has gone from a prepubescent, Disney-singing dork to an artist respect by artists from all genres. During this time, he has won six Grammy Awards and an Emmy. He has been romantically invloved with Alyssa Milano, Cameron Diaz and Scarlett Johansson (then again, who hasn't).

On the other hand, Lawrence Taylor's career has endured a precipitous drop. His flow chart:

Dominant college career at University of North Carolina prompts New York Giants to select Taylor with the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft ->
Wins two Super Bowls and three NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards ->
Retiures from the NFL ->
Admits he sent call girls to the hotel room of his opponents the night before games ->
Arrested three times for drug possession ->
Accepts invitation to paticipate on Dancing With the Stars ->
Loses the respect of many.

I cannot believe I am actually typing this, but Taylor went from one of the most feared football players of all time to an ordinary guy doing the flamenco for millions of people on TV.
What a shame.

Which of these guys will be Dancing with the Stars in 2009?

Separated at Birth?

Roger Federer and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Pet Peeve and Other Thoughts and Observations

Sports Pet Peeve #11: Defensive three seconds in the NBA.

It's the NBA, supposedly the cream of the crop of professional basketball leagues worldwide.
Why can't you play any defense you want?

Other Thoughts and Observations

*Rick Ankiel Part II? I'm not sure, but I will definitely be rooting for Adam Loewen in his attempt to convert from pitcher to outfielder.

*What does ESPN's Pedro Gomez do when no one is being investigated for steroid use?

*Dirtbag of the Week: Plaxico Burress.

Monday, February 9, 2009

NBA Trade Deadline

I expect a flurry of activity before next Wednesday's NBA trade deadline for three major reasons:

*This is one of the weakest drafts in recent memory. To me, there are only two All Star caliber players available - Ricky Rubio and Blake Griffin. General Managers realize this and figure to use their first round picks as bait to acquire a difference maker for the stretch run.

*Teams are getting ready for the summer of 2010. This could be the most overhyped story this year, but there will be some top notch talent available after next season - Lebron, DWade, Steve Nash, and Chris Bosh to name four.

*With the injury to Andrew Bynum, the West is wide open. Teams (cough, cough Hornets, Blazers) that would have had no chance if Bynum were healthy may consider themselves legitimate contenders to win the conference.


A Trade That Would Work for Everyone (and work under league rules)

*Portland sends Raef Lafrentz and Joel Freeland to Sacramento for Brad Miller.

Why would Portland do this: The Blazers are currently tied for fourth in the Western Conference. Miller offers dependable production and front court depth. He averages over three assists per game and can hit the three. With Miller, Portland can make a legitimate run at the conference title especially with Bynum on the shelf. Miller's deal expires after next season, just in time for the Blazers to sign Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to long term deals.

Why would Sacramento do this: Blake Griffin. By trading Miller, the Kings become the favorite to finish with the NBA's worst record. The deal also allows the team's young stars - Spencer Hawes, Kevin Martin, and Jason Thompson - the opportunity to play together without any stress. Also, Lafrentz's contract comes off the books after this season. As an added bonus, an insurance company will pick up 80% of this year's contract. In total, this deal saves the team about $20m over two years. Lastly, they get a lotto ticket in Freeland who currently plays in Europe. For a team that has no chance of being competitive, this may be the most attractive option.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kerry Collins in the Pro Bowl and Other Thoughts and Observations

If anyone needed more proof that the Pro Bowl lacks any semblance of credibility, let's look at the numbers Kerry Collins put up this season and ask ourselves how in the world his performance warranted a free trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.

QB Rating: 80.2 (NFL Rank: 23rd / AFC Rank: 11th)
Passing Yards: 2676 (24th /12th)
Passing TDs: 13 (T-24th / 13th)
Completion Percentage: 58.3% (26th / 13th)

Are you serious? For comparison's sake, here are Philip Rivers' numbers:

QB Rating 105.5 (NFL Rank: 1st)
Passing Yards: 4009 (5th)
Passing TDs: 34 (T-1st)
Completion Percentage: 65.3% (7th)

Unless Rivers rejected the offer to participate in the Pro Bowl this season, I am at a loss.

Other Thoughts and Observations

*Dwight Howard now belongs on the AwIK list. I'd categorize him in the "Guys You Wouldn't Expect" group.

*How awful of a place can Arizona be that Anquan Boldin despises it? Larry Fitzgerald has offered to rework his contract to keep Boldin happy. The coach that Boldin argued with during the NFC Championship game now coaches in Kansas City. The Cardinals' qaurterback will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

*I'm excited for today's Memphis at Gonzaga game. It should be a great one.

Friday, February 6, 2009

MLB Draft Update

Here are some interesting facts about the MLB Draft courtesy of Jim Callis at Baseball America.

If the Rule IV Draft were to occur today:

*The Angels would own five of the first 45 picks.

The Angels lost their own first rounder by signing Type A reliever Brian Fuentes but still have a slew of high picks. Additionally, if they ever reconsidered making a deal for Manny (a long shot), they'll still have five of the first 46 picks - the Dodgers would receive the Angels first round pick currently owned by the Rockies and a supplemental first rounder while the Rockies would get the Angels' second round pick.

*The Mariners, assuming they do not sign 2008 first rounder Joshua Fields, would own three first round draft picks and the first supplemental first round pick.

New Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik knew what he was doing by jumping ship from the Brewers. In Seattle, he'll have full player personnel control, a long leash, money to spend, and four high draft picks including the number two overall selection. Not a bad situation.

*The Nationals, assuming they do not sign 2008 first rounder Aaron Crow, would pick twice in the first 10 picks (1st and 10th).

Unfortunately for the Nats, they could have paired this year's top selection with Crow to form a lethal 1-2 combo atop their rotation but they failed to sign Crow.

Other Draft Notes

*San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg continues to be the odds on favorite be the first overall selection. Check out the box score from his 23-strikeout game last season.

*For those interested in seeing a mock draft, this is the best one I've seen.

*Nice writeups and videos of some top prospects.

*As I mentioned a few days back, the Mets erred in a big way by choosing to re-sign Oliver Perez as opposed to pursuing Derek Lowe. They could really use the picks to restock their farm system.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What Were You Thinking...

San Diego Padres?

You have no chance of competing this season, none. With that in mind, what did you do? You signed Cliff Floyd and released Matt Bush. This could be one of the most egregious player personnel decisions in all of sports since Isiah Thomas was fired as GM of the Knicks.

Let's break this down.

The 36-year old Floyd makes his offseason home in Florida and his in season home on the DL. In the last five years, he has spent time on the shelf with injuries to his knees, ankles, thighs and feet. He has no real position making him a terrible fit in the the National League. He had a decent season last year with the Rays hitting .268/.349/.455, but the Pads need a lot more than Cliff Floyd to compete in the short term. At 36, he has no chance of being a long-term solution.

Bush was the first overall selection in the 2004 Rule IV Draft. Sure, you drafted him as a shortstop only to convert him back into a pitcher, and he has struggled on the mound and off (he had Tommy John surgery two years ago), but why give up now? Isn't he worth the flier?

I cannot fathom the thought process of the Pads' front office. How desperate was the need for a left-handed hitter that you decided to give up on Bush? There is zero upside in this move.

Note: This has nothing to do with Floyd as a person because he has been a popular clubhouse presence everywhere he's gone.

Jon Heyman?

I have always been weary of your work since your days at Newsday but couldn't explain why until now. Turns out you could be in Scott Boras' back pocket (hopefully, Boras at least has you on his payroll). I hope you sleep well at night knowing that you are a direct cause of inflated ticket prices.

Government of South Carolina?

According to a 2006 FBI report, more violent crimes occur in your state (per capita) than any other state in the country.

According to 2005 Census data, your state ranks 41st in literacy rates in our country.

Spend your money elsewhere. Drop the idea of pressing charges against Michael Phelps, and focus on some important things.

Bud Selig?

Most of us can agree you've done a great job running the League during your tenure as Commish. However, the country still finds itself in a depression. Employees of almost every Major League team have lost their jobs. You are a millionaire dozens of times over. Do the right thing and say "no" to your $3m raise.

At least one other person agrees.

Walt "Clyde" Frazier?

My fiance and I were watching the Cavs-Knicks a few nights back and happened to hear you say, "It's Boobie-time" after Daniel Gibson hit a three. You kill us night in and night out. Keep doing what you do.

Gregg Popovich?

First off, you look like a cross between Santa Claus and Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. Please rectify this situation by shaving your beard.

Which one of these guys coaches the Spurs?

Second off, why would you ever bench your three best players in a single game? You sat Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili the night before you started a four-day break. If karma can hear me, your squad will finish in fifth place in the West, one game behind the Nuggets team you let beat your shorthanded bunch.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Moorad, Schmoorad

Devastating news: Jeff Moorad has agreed in principle to buy the San Diego Padres for just over $400 million. There goes prediction #4. Truth be told, I would have struggled raising anything over $325 million. Actually, I would have struggled raising anything over $.0000325 million, but who's counting?

In all seriousness, I wish Moorad luck. The people of San Diego deserve a better product than what they've been given recently. Here's hoping he keeps Paul DePodesta around.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Banter Man Crush: Justin Smoak

We are introducing a new idea at the Banter: man crushes. Our first: Texas Rangers' prospect Justin Smoak.

Smoak, a switch-hitting, smooth-fielding first baseman, will be a Major League superstar. He has been compared to Mark Teixeira but his swing from both sides of the plate reminds me a lot more of Chipper Jones. His lefty swing is an absolute thing of beauty. See for yourself.

He has been exposed to great players for quite some time as he was high school teammates with uberprospect Matt Wieters. He set the freshman record for home runs and RBI in a season at the University of South Carolina. During his post-freshman year summer, he was named Cape Cod League MVP.

Baseball America's Draft Preview:
A switch-hitting first baseman with power, Smoak draws natural comparisons to
Mark Teixiera. Drafted out of high school in the 16th round by the Athletics, he
has started every game for South Carolina since arriving on the Columbia campus,
doing nothing but produce. After batting .303 with 17 home runs, Smoak earned
Freshman All-America honors. He followed that with a .315 batting average and 22 home runs in his sophomore year--enough to be tabbed as a third team
All-American. He also competed for Team USA last summer. As a first baseman,
Smoak has Gold Glove-caliber actions and soft hands. His footwork and instincts
around the bag are advanced and his arm strength is adequate. As a hitter, he is
consistent from both sides of the plate, and he has superior pitch recognition.
A power threat against any pitch, Smoak has the ability to hit to all fields.
Smoak proved his power translates to wood when he hit 11 home runs in 39 games while playing in the Cape Cod League following his freshman year, though he
struggled with Team USA last summer. He is thought to be the best combination of offense and defense at first base in this draft class.

Watch him hit bomb after bomb after bomb... and then an oppo bomb for good measure.

Read the praises here and here and here.

Make us proud, Justin.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl 43 - Running Diary


The stage is set for what figures to be the most riveting Super Bowl in history... or the exact opposite. The Steelers-Cardinals matchup is about as exciting as shopping for fine China, but at least we are in good company. There are five of us in our apartment, my fiance (MK), my buddy (CG), his girlfriend (KMo), me, and the fifth wheel (BigMac). [Note: BigMac isn't actually the fifth wheel, but I will take it upon myself to make him feel as awkward as Sally Hawkins during her Golden Globes acceptance speech for the next four hours.]

Betting Interests

My wallet could certainly use a Steelers victory of somewhere between one and six points. My official pick for the game: Steelers 27, Cards 24. BigMac took Santonio Holmes (12-1) to win MVP.

The Game

5:59PM ET: Matt Millen just picked the Cardinals. I feel good about my chances.

6:08: Our first shot of Anquan Boldin. He looks disgruntled already.

6:13: No matter what happens during the game, we can all take solace in the fact that pitchers and catchers report in two weeks.

6:18: BigMac suggests "Sully" could have landed the plane at the Teterboro Airport but figured if he pulled off a successful water landing, he and his crew get field-level seats at the Super Bowl. Everyone nods in agreement.

6:20: Both females in attendance agree the Steelers look more "ghetto." Ghetto wins Super Bowls.

6:38: An impressive five minute drive to get the game started. 7-0. High fives all around. [Note: We snuck in an over 46.5 right before kickoff.]

6:41: On second thought, the play and are high fives are reversed. 3-0 after a field goal by Jeff Reed, whose hair is a joke. He must have boy band tryouts after the game.

6:52: Early lead in the "I Can't Believe My Company Wasted $3m on That" Race: Toyota.

6:53: First catch by Santonio Holmes gets Big Mac excited. 25-yarder.

6:55: Big Ben badly underthrows Nate Washington. Should be 14-0.

6:56: Holmes' second catch of the night actually brings BigMac out of his seat. 5-yard gain. He's now singing San-san-san-ton-io to the tune of No-no-no-to-ri-us. Good times all around.

7:06: Doritos, the early leader for advertiser of the day.

7:09: Steelers continue their march down the field and take a 10-0 lead.

7:15: Zzzzzz....

7:22: Huge pass play from Kurt Warner to Boldin followed by a great catch by Delaware alum Ben Patrick makes the score 10-7. Back on a good pace for the over.

7:35: Zzzzzz....

7:50: As one of the most boring first halves in Super Bowl history is coming to an end, Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison returns an interception 100 yards for a score. Steelers lead 17-7. It certainly should have been 14-10 Cards. An incredible play... which also happens to put us on pace for the over.

8:00: Early leader for Super Bowl MVP: James Harrison. Best commercial of the day: Doritos snow globe.

8:09: Beijing-esque fireworks, Max Weinberg on drums, and Paul Schaeffer on the piano. Everyone's confused, but The Boss is looking great.

8:18: Good move: The Boss reworking the worst lyrics of all time (throw that "speedball" by you)

8:19: Bad move: The Boss letting Steve Van Zandt speak to a national audience.

8:30: Kurt Warner comes back out for the second half.. still wearing his patented throwing hand glove.

9:08: We're back after some technical difficulties directly related to buffalo chicken strips being served. Steelers lead 20-7.

9:14: Omar Epps is younger than Kurt Warner. Cool fact.

9:17: If I needed a car, I'd get a Hyundai.

9:17: Cash4Gold commercial brings down the house. Doesn't top the snow globe but anytime Ed McMahon and M.C. Hammer star in the same commercial, people take notice.

9:22: Arizona threatening to get back in the game. Warner is currently 7-7 on the drive.

9:26: Arizona storms back. Warner throws a fade to Larry Fitzgerald who was very quiet until now. The Cards are hanging around like a bad rash. 20-14. 7:33 left in the 4th. Over not looking so good.

9:27: Brenda Warner is a LOT more attractive than I remember from a few years back. Amazing what hair can do for you.

9:52: The teams trade possessions and the Cards pin the Steelers at their own 1-yard line.

9:53: NBC commercials encouraging fans to vote for the game's MVP. None of the eight contenders is named Santonio or Holmes.

9:57: Holding in the endzone. Safety. 20-16. All the momentum swinging towards the Cards.

10:00: Two plays later, a quick strike from Warner to Fitzgerald (the new MVP favorite), 64-yards to the house. Cards lead 23-20 with 2:37 to play. The only good part about this is that the Steelers have plenty of time to mount a drive and send the game to OT. Buckle up.

10:03: Steelers commit another holding penalty and face 1st and 20 from their own 12-yard line with the season and Lombardi Trophy on the line.

10:05: Big Ben to San-san-san-ton-io, 14 yards.

10:07: Big Ben to Holmes, 13 yards. BigMac getting excited again.

10:11: Three plays later, it's Big Ben to Holmes again for a 40-yard completion. Forget OT. The Steelers might win this in regulation.

10:14: After a touchdown slips through Holmes' hands on 1st and Goal, Holmes hauls in a 6-yard reception by dotting the i's and maintaining possession. What we once thought was impossible (Holmes for MVP), is looking like a sure thing. Best of all, we hit the over, the Steelers lead by between one ond six points, and the score is looking eerily similar to my pregame prediction. Steelers lead 27-23.

10:22: A valiant comeback attempt falls short as Warner fumbles the game and season away. Steelers win 27-23. Now we wait for the MVP to be named.

10:30: As NBC comes back from commercial, the camera zooms in on Big Ben, Mike Tomlin, Dan Rooney and Dan Patrick on the platform. No Santonio in sight.

10:32: Joe Namath hands the Steelers the Lombardi Trophy.

10:35: NBC goes to commercial; BigMac unthinkably decides to leave. The four of us remain in stunned silence.

10:38: Dan Patrick announces that Santonio Holmes has in fact won the MVP Award for Super Bowl 43.

10:44: We sit back and agree that the game and evening could not have gone any better. Our wallets agree.

10:45: We make plans to watch the Pro Bowl on Sunday.

10:45:01: We come to our senses...and realize no one actually watches the Pro Bowl.

Super Bowl Pick

Steelers 27; Cardinals 24.

Check back for live blog entries during the game.