Monday, June 29, 2009
8 Balls of the Week:
Tuesday night, Giants ace Tim Lincecum threw a complete game, giving up seven hits and one run, with the effort powered by a choco taco. Lincecum and Matt Cain are the primary reasons San Francisco is surprisingly leading the NL Wild Card race. The Giants don’t have the offense of some of the other teams in contention, such as Colorado and Milwaukee, but San Francisco’s pitching has kept them in the race. If the Giants are able to add a bat at the trade deadline, or even get more out of their current lineup, they could end up stealing the Wild Card. Four potential starts from Cain and Lincecum would make San Francisco a tough out in the Divisional Playoffs.
Carlos Beltran went on the disabled list this week, further harming the Mets’ chances in the NL East. New York has been plagued by injuries to both their position players and pitching staff this year, but they’re still sticking around, thanks to David Wright and the resurgent Gary Sheffield. At the age of 40, Sheffield leads the Mets in home runs, with 9, and has a .394 OBP and .894 OPS. Surprising doesn’t begin to describe Sheffield’s season.
In his Red Sox debut, John Smoltz looked like a 42 year old, giving up 5 runs and taking the loss against the decrepit Nationals. While Smoltz’s debut wasn’t all bad – he did have a 5/1 K/BB – it wasn’t what Boston was hoping for. Still, Smoltz doesn’t have to be great for the Red Sox to keep their position atop the AL East.
Juan Pierre’s come back to Earth, and he’s just in time to move back to the bench upon Manny’s return. After a hot May, Pierre’s hitting .257/.312/.307 in June, which shouldn’t be unexpected based on his career marks. Pierre still has value as a bench player, but with those numbers he isn’t worthy of a starting position and no team is going to make a move for him at the trade deadline, especially when his contract is considered.
Detroit Tigers SP Rick Porcello is still chugging along with an excellent season, one of the primary reasons Detroit remains atop the AL Central. Porcello has an average WHIP at 1.36, and his strikeout rate and K/BB aren’t great, so his 3.55 ERA may inflate a bit as the season progresses, but his groundball rate is excellent (56.9%), meaning he’ll probably remain, at worst, an average starter over the course of the season. If the Tigers can continue to get quality starts from Porcello, they’ll have the starting pitching necessary to take the AL Central.
In the first major move of the trading season, St. Louis acquired former Indians infielder Mark DeRosa over the weekend, presumably to give them another major league caliber hitter in their lineup. Counting Albert Pujols, that now brings the Cardinals’ total to two. St. Louis acquired DeRosa at a discount price of one MLB ready relief prospect and a player to be named later. DeRosa’s not a thumper (thumper? I hardly know ‘er), but he should put up an .800ish OPS with average defense at any infield spot besides shortstop. For a team like the Cardinals, who have more than one hole in their lineup, DeRosa is a welcome addition who should significantly help their playoff chances.
Speaking of trades and the upcoming trade deadline, we’re about to become inundated with trade rumors, most of the inaccurate, wildly speculative variety. The only teams that are clearly sellers are the Orioles, Royals, Indians, A’s, Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Padres, with the Pirates, Astros, and maybe the Blue Jays or White Sox possibly joining them. The deadline will probably be bereft of big names moving, outside of Matt Holliday and possibly Heath Bell. That won’t stop people from gushing over the mediocrity available, but don’t expect any Mannypalooza-type sweepstakes this season.
Twins This Week:
The Twins have to be happy with this week. Taking four of six on the road from the NL Central leaders is a great week for any team.
First, the Twins went into Milwaukee and took two of three from the Brewers. Francisco Liriano got the win in Tuesday’s game, despite a relatively poor outing (7 hits and 5 walks in only five innings). Wednesday night, the Twins dropped a tough 4-3 decision after Nick Blackburn threw the ball into right field in the 8th inning. Thursday, Scott Baker pitched relatively well in Minnesota’s 6-4 victory.
Over the weekend, the Twins took two of three in St. Louis. Glen Perkins pitched well Friday night, limiting hard hit balls and walks on the way to Minnesota’s 3-1 victory. Saturday, the Twins were essentially defeated by Albert Pujols after failing to capitalize on Todd Wellemeyer’s early control issues. Sunday, Francisco Liriano picked up his second victory of the week, this time throwing well – 4 hits, 2 walks, and six strikeouts in seven innings.
On the hitting front, Joe Mauer’s average has dropped below .400, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, although it’s a bit surprising to see his average plummet this quickly. Denard Span returned from the DL, and not a moment too soon. No big surprises emerged from the rest of the lineup. If Minnesota can continue to get big pitching performances out of Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, they can take the Central division.
Even though the Twins have huge holes in the lineup and bullpen, their season will probably come down to whether Baker and Liriano can pitch up to their potential.
Team of the Week:
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
This week, the Rays took two of three from the first place Phillies in a World Series rematch, then swept a hot Marlins ballclub, including a defeat of Josh Johnson.
Tampa still has all the components necessary to make a run in the AL East, and they have the resources to go get someone at the deadline if they deem an acquisition to be prudent. Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena continue to put up silly numbers at the plate, and Tampa’s weathered the loss of Akinori Iwamura with the unexpectedly good performance from Ben Zobrist. Tampa’s defense also remains among baseball’s best.
A rotation led by James Shields and Matt Garza makes the Rays competitive in any playoff series, and the backend of the bullpen, specifically J.P. Howell, is good enough. Tampa may need another reliever to bridge the gap to Howell, but this Rays team is as complete as any team in the American League.
Position Player of the Week: Chicago White Sox OF Jermaine Dye. Dye hit .500/.520/1.042 this week and continued being a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the South Siders. If the White Sox fall out of contention, Dye could see his name on the trade block, which would spice up an otherwise mundane trade deadline.
Pitcher of the Week: San Diego Padres SP Chad Gaudin. Gaudin threw 15 innings this week, allowing 2 ER on 5 hits with 3 walks and 20 strikeouts, including an impressive 8 inning shutout at Texas.
1. L.A. Dodgers. And they’re only going to improve when Manny returns.
2. Boston Red Sox.
3. New York Yankees
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
5. Detroit Tigers
26. Kansas City Royals
27. Baltimore Orioles
28. Arizona Diamondbacks. Ahead of the Padres because San Diego has a run differential 40 runs worse than Arizona’s.
29. San Diego Padres. When does the Heath Bell sweepstakes begin?
30. Washington Nationals.
Upcoming Series of the Week:
Detroit Tigers @ Minnesota Twins, Friday-Sunday.
If the Twins are going to cut into Detroit’s narrow AL Central lead, the July 4th weekend series is an opportune time to do so.
Honorable Mention: NYM @ MIL, M-W; TB @ TOR, M-W; COL @ LAD, M-W; NYM @ PHI, F-SU; TB @ TEX, F-SU.
Nationally Televised Games This Week:
Monday: NYM @ MIL, 7:05, ESPN.
Wednesday: SF @ STL, 8:15, ESPN.
Saturday: NYM @ PHI, LAD @ SD, DET @ MIN, 4ish, Fox Regional.
Sunday: MIL @ CHC, 2:20, TBS; TB @ TEX, 8:05, ESPN.
A week of excellent, relatively diverse matchups. I’m especially looking forward to Wednesday’s ESPN game, as I haven’t seen much of the Giants this year. Sunday night’s Tampa-Texas matchup should be excellent as well.
Urban Dictionary Term of the Week: Hotness Hypnosis: "The act of finding someone so physically attractive that you overlook serious flaws in their personality."
Everyone's guilty enough of this at one point or another in their lives.
Quote of the Week: For this week’s quote, we have a 4th of July special, about former Cincinnati Red Steve Foster’s first trip to Canada:
All was fine until the Customs agent asked a question that all visitors to Canada are asked: What do you have to declare? “I didn’t know what he meant. I go, ‘Pardon me?’ He goes, ‘What do you have to declare?’ I thought about it for a moment then said, “I’m proud to be an American.”
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The U.S. Men's national soccer team put forth a fantastic effort today, but ultimately fell to a very strong Brazil team, 3-2, in the Confederations Cup Final.
The match was essentially a tale of two halves. The U.S. was surprisingly dominant in the first half, going up 1-0 on a Clint Dempsey goal in the 10th minute. Landycakes, the epitome of an athlete who disappears in big games, scored on a phenomenal counterattack to put the U.S. up 2-0 in the 28th minute. Tim Howard, strong throughout the match and the winner of the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award, was particularly brilliant in the first half.
Unfortuantely, things collapsed for the U.S. in the second half. The Americans looked like shit the entire half, playing the passive soccer that doomed them in the 2006 World Cup. U.S. head coach Bob Bradley is already being questioned for some of his second half substitutions and adjustments, or lack thereof.
The turning point came early in the second half, when Brazil scored in the 48th minute to narrow the deficit to 2-1. From that point on, the U.S. was on their heels the entire second half.
The U.S. caught a break around the 60th minute, when what should have been a goal wasn't ruled one even though the ball clearly crossed the goal line and Tim Howard was in the net when he made the save. Fabiano's second goal tied the game in the 74th minute, and Lucio's goal in the 85th minute was the winner for Brazil. The U.S. never really threatened in the second half, save for a corner kick in the 88th minute.
Still, based on the way the Confederations Cup started, the U.S. has to be happy with the ultimate result in the tournament, despite the disappointing lost today. The first half of today's match showed the 3-0 victory over Egypt and Wednesday's victory over Spain weren't a fluke. Howard took home the Keeper of the Tournament Award, and Dempsey won the Player of the Tournament award, named the Gold Ball or something similar. American soccer fans should have high hopes that the U.S. can emerge from group play in the 2010 World Cup.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I'm on record as saying I loved the Wolves' selection of Ricky Rubio, and I stand by those statements. But I was working under the assumption that, despite all the pre-draft bluster, Rubio would actually play in Minnesota, and that David Kahn, or someone in Minnesota's front office, had conversations about Rubio coming to Minnesota and was assured that Rubio would play here.
Apparently, that's not the case.
Rubio and his family are already causing trouble about him playing in Minnesota, leading to speculation he may be on the way to the Knicks. The cliff notes version from the ESPN article.
- Rubio hates cold weather and isn't enthused about moving to Minnesota
- Rubio's not happy about the 'Wolves selecting another PG in the first round
- Rubio's mother also hates cold weather, and considering the mother-son relationship that's traditional in Spanish cultures, that's equally bad, since she's moving with him and they'll probably live together.
- Rubio's father is quoted as saying it's likely that Ricky will stay in Europe for at least another year
- The Knicks have already made overtures to the 'Wolves about a possible trade
- Rubio has the same agent as Yi Jianlian, the Chinese player who was drafted by the Bucks and eventually forced his way out of Milwaukee
Now, all hope is not lost, as Rubio did say that if the 'Wolves give him minutes, he may be willing to play for them. But the Rubio family's statments aren't encouraging either.
One would think an NBA front office would have some idea of whether the player they're potentially drafting is going to play for their team. If there were no pre-draft conversations about whether Rubio would willingly play in Minnesota, the Wolves front office is collectively dumber than the throngs of people who paid money to see Transformers 2.
I hate to define "make or break" moments for any players, coaches, or front office, because that's mostly an exercise in stupidity and futility. But if David Kahn is forced to trade his prized draft pick because that draft pick won't play for his team, the Kahn era will be off to an inauspicious start, at best. He won't look any better than Kevin McHale. Considering the excitement of the fanbase at the selection of Rubio, seeing Rubio traded would only reinforce the notion that the Wolves are a Mickey Mouse organization undeserving of fan support and ticket purchases.
This whole ordeal really bothers me, because the Timberwolves are my favorite NBA team and the only Minnesota team I actively root for. So let's hope Rubio and Kahn work something out and Rubio has a long, productive career in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it's hard to be optimistic about that notion.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tonight, the Wolves used back to back picks on point guards.
The Ricky Rubio selection was fantastic. While he's nowhere near ready to play significant minutes and carry at team, having a PG like Rubio should at least but fans in the seats, and he's a hell of a future PG prospect. If the 'Wolves stocked up on wing players who could fill up a box score, Rubio and Kevin Love would absolutely be able to get them the ball. After the pick, it was assumed by those watching (I was in a meeting and receiving updates via text from Moonlight Graham) that the 'Wolves would then take a scoring wing player like, say, DeMar DeRozen, who if nothing else can score and has a great name.
But Minnesota used the #6 pick on another point guard, Jonny Flynn. The Wolves apparently plan to use both Rubio and Flynn in the same backcourt. Now, Flynn's a pretty good prospect, although I question his upside a bit, considering his size. But Flynn should be ready to play immediately, or at least as much as a college sophomore can be ready to play immediately.
Yet I ask: who the fuck is going to score for this team? Sure, Al Jefferson can put up 20+ points a night, but Rubio is a distributor, not a scorer. Love is a frontcourt player known for his rebounding and passing, not scoring. And Flynn is better served as a point guard who distributes the ball and contributes about 15 points a night. As the second scoring option behind Al Jefferson, that leaves who? Corey Brewer? De facto staring center Etan Thomas?
I realize the Wolves aren't building for 2010, and that they can get their scoring wing player in next year's draft, if necessary, as they'll probably have a top 10 pick again. And, if the Wolves do acquire a legit second scoring option, a lineup of Rubio-Flynn-scoring wing player-Love-Jefferson looks good on paper.
But at the same time: what are the Wolves going to do next year? Sure, a Rubio-Flynn backcourt may work out in the long run. Maybe. But shouldn't David Kahn at least considered getting a non-PG with the #6 pick? For a team as bad as the Wolves, isn't having two distributing PGs a luxury they can't afford?
Overall, the Wolves didn't fare poorly, because they took one player with a high ceiling and a low floor, and another with a low ceiling but a high floor. But it would've been nice to consider addressing the lack of scoring in this draft. And that's saying nothing of the Lawson trade, which may or may not work out, depending on the conditions of the future pick (i.e. whether the pick is top 5/top 10 protected, and for how long).
I'm sure Simmons will be around tomorrow to say that he could have run this draft better. He's kind of a second-guessing dipshit (just like me), but he's not completely off-base.
At least the night wasn't a complete disaster. Rubio's Minnesota-bound, and the Marlins are within a game and a half of first place.
(Edit: Hey, maybe Wayne Ellington helps with scoring, because he can definitely shoot. But he's not the answer to the scoring problem.)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Very productive day. Besides, its way too hot for a penguin. HOLD UP. I just moved outside. I'm enjoying some Grizzly Mint by the pool, listening to "Russian Privjet" by Basshunter, and there is so much cotton in the air it looks like its snowing (I have a huge cotton tree in my backyard). So at least I'm not the stereotypical blogger posting from his parents basement (that I was 2 minutes ago). As an unintentional trademark I realized I'll probably be prefacing most posts with my location and if pertinent, my wardrobe. I'm currently shirtless with cargo shorts and a gators hat (sorry dmk, I went through an orange phase, I still think Tebow is a dick smoke). ANYWAY, I don't have any thing to write about sports related so I thought I'd let our 9 readers (I figured 14 in the poll minus 5 contributors) that I'm moving to Chicago and will be giving some insight into the Windy City sports teams. Heck, maybe I'll even bump into neckbeard sippin on some Jack now that Jay "The Baby" Cutler took his starting spot. I'll likely become a Cubs and Bulls fan, post about the Bears but still hate them (Da Bers), and fuck the White Sox. As a divisional foe of the Twins, I will do nothing but conduct a weekly hate session on the White Sox and leave the positives out. I might even begin my own weekly column titled "Moonlight's Player Haters Ball" and hate on other things as well. And of course, I'll still be repping Twins Territory and cheer for the Twinkies if they ever match up against the Cubs. Speaking of that, I have a peer who I recently graduated who lives outside of Chicago and cheers for the Cubs and Sox equally. How the fuck is that possible you ask?? Well I'm fairly certain this kid is asexual so there are bigger questions to answer about this guy first. Our Native American friend we occasionally zing on this site even came up with a theory that he has to wear diapers because of all the wet dreams he must have. However, I still have something resembling friendship with this guy and I recently sang "Piano Man" in a duet with J. "the Tank" H while he played piano. Good times. Thats all for now and once I get settled in Chi Town I'll start posting some relevant sports items. Go fuck yourselves San Diego.
Sad news from the heartland. Ed Thomas, 58 and head football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg H.S. in northwestern Iowa, was shot and killed Wednesday morning.
By a 24 year-old former player.
In the school weightroom.
In front of 50 or so students, none of whom were hurt or apparently targeted.
It's moments like these that infuriate rather than sadden the soul. Why couldn't this psychopath do everyone a favor and go hang himself in his garage. That way at least no one else would have been hurt.
ESPN.com story from 2008 on Ed Thomas leading the town through tragedy.
In the Confederations Cup Semifinal, the United States Men's National Team defeated the #1 ranked team in the World, Spain, 2-0. In Soccer. I watched the entire game, and I still have no idea how it happened.
Around the 26th minute, the U.S. took the lead on 19 year-old Jozy Altidore's strike off the left post, and, after Landon Donovan got away with a shitty crosser, Clint Dempsey drove home the clincher around the 73rd minute. Goalkeeper Tim Howard was fantastic throughout, and the defense held after a bullshit red card was handed out to Michael Bradley.
Spain had a 35 game unbeaten streak and 15 game winning streak heading into today's match. The U.S. struggled to advance out of group play, as they looked like shit against Italy and Brazil and only advanced on the strength of the third tiebreaker, goals scored. As much as I wanted to believe the USMNT could win this game, I didn't believe. At all.
Even though this is only a Confederations Cup match, and not a World Cup match, this is still one of sports' biggest upsets in 2009, and arguably one of the five biggest wins, and biggest non-World Cup win, in American soccer history.
The U.S. advances to the Confederations Cup Final on Sunday, where they'll face either Brazil or host nation South Africa.
David Kahn isn't done dealing yet. From ESPN:
A source close to Minnesota told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that the Timberwolves aren't done. The Wolves now own Nos. 5, 6, 18 and 28 in the first round. A source said that the Timberwolves won't package Nos. 5 and 6 for No. 2, but they could offer the fifth and 18th picks for the second. The key for Minnesota, according to the source, is that it wants to have two lottery selections, whether that's Nos. 2 and 6 or 5 and 6. The source said Minnesota is expecting to have a "very busy Wednesday."
Now, who's Minnesota expected to target? You were hoping for Tyreke Evans or Ricky Rubio, yes?
/dips balls in battery acid
The Timberwolves reportedly covet Memphis guard Tyreke Evans but hope he will still be around at No. 5. Memphis at No. 2 or Sacramento at No. 4 have also been mentioned as possible suitors for Evans. The Timberwolves are also interested in Syracuse's Jonny Flynn and Davidson's Stephen Curry. Minnesota would also consider Hasheem Thabeet of Connecticut if he is still on the board when the Wolves select.
Kahn recently expressed interest in Thabeet, but many projections have him going at No. 2 to the Grizzlies.
"You could say that would complete our front line if we had somebody of that size and rim-protecting capability," Kahn said. "You could actually make an argument, and I'm not making that for me right now, but somebody could make that argument, that he would be the perfect fit."
Minnesota emerging from the draft with Hasheem Thabeet and Stephen Curry would bring back the extremely recent memories of the McHale era and, even worse, probably lead Bill Simmons to write a 3,000 word column on why he should have been named the Wolves GM and how he would have played the draft. Then Randball would interview him, again, and I'd get irrationally pissed, again.
But don't worry - hope remains that the Wolves won't take Thabeet. From thte STrib:
I’m hearing David Kahn really wants Tyreke Evans, but Sacramento could pass on Rubio if he’s still there at 4 (and probably will be) and take Evans instead.Now, I really like this idea, even if it admits the 2009 season is essentially a lost cause. Minnesota can address the backcourt with both picks in the 2009 draft, and then use their likely lottery in 2010 to add a big man. Since the Wolves will probably be picking in the top 8 again, and will own three first round draft picks, they could probably move up for one of the 2010 draft class' impact big men, like current HS senior and future Georgia Tech PF Derrick Favors, UNC F Ed Davis, or Georgetown C/PF Greg Monroe.
The Wolves also have Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn high on their guard list and wouldn’t whine if Arizona State’s James Harden lasted until the fifth pick, either.
Flynn also is a possibility for the Kings at No. 4, if they opt for a true point guard to put next to Kevin Martin rather than a combo guy like Evans.
Might Kahn use the 18th and/or 28th picks to swap with the Thunder at 3 and move up past the Kings to take Evans rather than Rubio (assuming Memphis grabs Thabeet second)?
Sacramento then takes Flynn or Rubio and OKC gets Harden anyway and the Wolves take Curry’s shooting to pair with Evans’ slashing and Al Jefferson’s low-post game.
Next summer, in a draft projected to be thick with big men, the Wolves then use one of their two first-round picks to find a low-post defender to supplement Jefferson and Kevin Love.
Whatever happens, the Wolves shouldn't trade up for Hasheem Thabeet. He's too immobile and stiff to be any type of scoring presence in the NBA, and drafting a shot blocker who grabs 8-10 rebounds a game and can't play defense against any type of quick big man (for example, Jefferson would murder Thabeet inside) isn't the way to rebuild the Wolves franchise.
Minnesota needs impact players, like Evans, or Harden, or, eventually, Rubio. Thabeet is not an impact player. Curry is not an impact player.
Thabeet and Curry are best as complementary players on already good teams. Both fill a specialized role (Thabeet's a shot blocker, Curry's a shooter) but neither have the all-around game to help elevate Minnesota into a contending team. Drafting one, or both, would merely be replacing role players (Foye, Miller) with role players at different positions. The bottom line - wins - wouldn't drastically change.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Favre's coming to Minnesota. He's expected to be at training camp, and the Vikings have already taken his #4 away from John David Booty. Booty's roster spot could follow shortly thereafter.
Barring some unforeseen major physical setback, Brett Favre will be at training camp in Mankato when they open up the end of July, a source has told WCCO's Mark Rosen.
That source said that Favre and the Vikings have indeed come to a contractual agreement, with heavy incentives. The Vikings equipment manager has already ordered number 4 purple jerseys with his name on it.
However, on Sunday, Favre's longtime agent, Bus Cooke denied a report that was out there that Favre and the Vikings had come to an agreement.
What isn't known is when this will be officially announced. Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress is in Alaska fishing this week with his good friend, Eagles head coach, Andy Reid.
ProFootballTalk.com speculated the announcement will come Fourth of July weekend, when a lot of media folks are on vacation to minimize the circus atmosphere.
John David Booty is currently wearing number 4, but not for long. Rosen said he believes the Vikings will keep Booty. The logical man to try and move would be Tavaris Jackson with Sage Rosenfels backing Favre up and ready to take over if Favre can't get the job done.
Yeah, good luck trading Tarvaris fucking Jackson. If JP Losman can't get a free agent contract, and Rex Grossman doesn't sign until last week, who in their right mind is going to give up a draft pick for T-Jack when the Vikes will just have to release him, Sage, or JDB in August anyway? Even Josh McDaniels isn't that stupid.
We've known that Favre to Minnesota has been inevitable for awhile, and that, for whatever reason *cough*ATTENTIONWHORE*cough* Favre and the team haven't come to an agreement, or at least announced the agreement. But it looks like the residents of Minnesota will finally get the 4th of July present they've always wanted: Brett Favre in purple.
I'll put Favre's 2009 total turnovers over/under at 23, and the over/under on number of TVs GldnKnight breaks while watching him at 1.5.
I use the "make splash" loosely, because all the Wolves have really done is set themselves up to have an extremely young 2009 squad that, without a healthy Al Jefferson, will compete for the 2010 #1 overall pick - who, hopefully, will be Brandon Knight, after the NBA eliminates its age restriction rule. And Jesus H. Christ, that was a long goddamn sentence.
The Washington Wizards are close to a deal that would send the No. 5 pick in Thursday's draft, Oleksiy Pecherov, Etan Thomas and Darius Songaila to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, a league source told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher on Tuesday.
The Wolves would then keep the draft pick and their own selection at No. 6 and not try to package those to move up, a source told ESPN.com's Andy Katz.
More at ESPN.
Yeah, it's nice that Minnesota now has four first round picks. Their roster certainly needs a talent infusion, and if they want to blow up the team, well, better to do it sooner rather than later.
Even with some upgrades, this team wasn't making the 2009 playoffs unless some extraordinary events occurred. Al Jefferson would have needed to start the season completely healthy, Kevin Love would have to take a significant step forward, whoever was taken #6 overall would need to be an immediate starter, and someone like Foye, Gomes, or Telfair would have to make a huge jump in production. So, maybe tanking the season before it begins isn't the worst idea.
But, at the same time, they're now probably looking at starting Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, and....who? Ryan Gomes? Craig Smith? Sebastian Telfair? Two rookies? Because none of the punks coming over from Washington are anything more than rotational players. And if Al Jefferson isn't healthy, is a lineup with Love, Gomes/Smith, Telfair, and a rookie or two the worst lineup in the NBA, hands down? How are this organization going to sell tickets?
And as much as I like the Wolves dealing for two top six picks, this isn't the draft to do it. The front line talent, outside of Blake Griffin, isn't anything special. Even with the #5 and #6 pick, the Wolves are looking at a package resembling Jordan Hill and Johnny Flynn/Jrue Holliday/Stephen Curry. Does THAT get anyone excited?
Then again, who knows. Maybe the Wolves will get a shot at Ricky Rubio. After some of the reports, would you take him?
Monday, June 22, 2009
8 Balls of the Week:
A few weeks ago, I said that if you were looking for a struggling team that could go on a run, you should look at the Rockies. Well, it looks like that comment is a correctly reasoned needle in my haystack of fail. Despite starting the season off very slowly, Colorado now sits at 34-31 and has the National League’s third best run differential. The Rockies still aren’t NL West contenders, because the Dodgers have continued playing lights out baseball, but the Rockies are only 1.5 games out of the Wild Card lead. While Colorado may not take the Wild Card, their ascension is bad news for teams looking to pluck pieces from their roster at the trade deadline.
The NL East race has tightened back up. New York has two starting pitchers on the DL, and they now sit only one game over .500. Philadelphia’s still leading the NL East by two games, with a 36-31 record, but their rotation has major holes and Jimmy Rollins is still one of the worst starters in baseball this year. Even the Marlins are climbing back into contention, as the Fish swept the Blue Jays last week and took two of three from the Yankees this weekend. None of the NL East teams are good enough to run away with the division, and the Wild Card probably comes from the NL Central. Still, the NL East should be the most competitive race down the stretch, as every team except the Nationals will be jockeying for one playoff spot over these last four months.
The Devil Rays are back. Tampa’s collection of young talent has climbed back into the AL East race, as the Rays are only 6 games back of first place Boston and have the AL’s best run differential at +76. Tampa still has all the components of last year’s team – good defense, a deep rotation, and a potent offense that leads the AL in runs scored – so maybe the Rays can overtake the Yankees or Red Sox for a playoff spot. If Tampa is able to add a piece or two at the deadline, I’d bet they push the Yanks and Sox and probably overtake one for the AL Wild Card.
Sunday, Albert Pujols crushed two home runs, including a grand slam, in the first place Cardinals’ win over Kansas City. Pujols is singlehandedly carrying the Cardinals offense, but he may not be a Cardinalmuch longer. As Will Leitch pointed out on Tuesday, Pujols’ contract is expiring in a few years, and St. Louis may have trouble re-signing him, especially if Tony La Russa leaves. While Joe Mauer is the upcoming free agent who stands to rake in the largest future contract from a big market team, Pujols isn’t far behind, even at his advanced age. Imagine a Yankees team that, in 2011, starts Mauer and Pujols. Commence vomiting.
In the 21st time brothers were paired in a head to head pitching matchup, Jeff Weaver topped his brother Jared in the Dodgers' 6-4 victory over the Angels on Saturday night. While the matchup didn’t live up to the hype, as both pitchers departed before the sixth inning, the series between the Angels and Dodgers has lived up to the hype, as it’s been excellent baseball between the leaders in the AL West and NL West. Nobody’s calling for a future freeway World Series yet - the Angels injuries may doom them in the regular season or postseason - but these two teams have provided one of the better interleague series of the year.
Dontrelle Willis wasn’t able to carry his early momentum through the rest of the season, as he went back on the DL with another anxiety disorder, also known as “not being able to pitch in the major leagues due to suckitude.” Willis hasn’t been the only player DLed with an “anxiety disorder” – which, if true, can surely be cured in a 15 day DL stint – but he’s been the most prominent. Personally, and I’m definitely not alone in believing this, I think this rash of “anxiety disorders” is bullshit and just a creative way to avoid optioning Willis, and other similar players, to the minor leagues when they wouldn't clear waivers. Similarly, Alex Rodriguez was given a few days off this weekend due to “fatigue,” but at least the Yankees had the balls to put Rodriguez back in the lineup on Sunday in front of his hometown fans.
Felix Hernandez continued being a bright spot in an otherwise mediocre Mariners season. Tuesday night, Hernandez tossed a complete game shutout against the Padres, giving up two hits and four walks while striking out six. Hernadez hasn’t turned into the superstar pitcher he was projected to be when he was called up before his 20th birthday, but King Felix still consistently fun to watch, and he’s turned into a workhorse for Seattle.
The Red Sox placed Daisuke Matsuzaka on the DL today, meaning John Smoltz is coming back to the rotation for Boston. Smoltz has had one of the more interesting careers of any future Hall of Fame pitcher, successfully transitioning from very good starter to dominant closer and then back to starter. Smoltz won’t be the frontline starter he once was, but he doesn’t need to be. He’ll just need to contribute as a back end starter and keep his ERA under 5 for Boston to stem the tide of Dice K’s loss.
Twins This Week:
Kind of a shitty week for the Twins. Minnesota went 3-3 at home against the NL Central’s dregs, taking 2 of 3 from the Pirates before dropping two of three to the Astros. If the Twins are going to take the AL Central, they need to play better against the soft underbelly of their schedule.
The positives: Joe Mauer topped his career high in single season home runs on Saturday, and he’s still hitting well over .400; Kevin Slowey tied Roy Halladay for the AL lead in wins (despite an ERA over 4, which should tell you everything about the statistical value of wins); Michael Cuddyer looks to be over his finger injury; and Nick Blackburn threw another quality start.
Sunday, Justin Morneau got the day off because of general soreness, but this is probably a good time to point out that Morneau’s hitting .257/.316/.386 in June. Morneau will surely get back on track, but the Twins need him to do it sooner rather than later. They can’t afford another .700ish OPS guy in a lineup already populated by Nick Punto, Carlos Gomez, and Delmon Young.
Team of the Week:
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are on quite the run, sweeping San Diego, San Francisco, and playing well against the Dogers. L.A. started the season slowly, but they’ve still hit well, with Torii Hunter, Juan Rivera, Chone Figgins and Kendry Morales posting decent lines, and the resurgent Bobby Abreu contributing as well. Jerad Weaver looks ike an ace, and Joe Saunders is pitching like a legit #2-3.
Anaheim should push Texas all year, and if I had to bet, the Rangers’ lack of pitching will doom them in the long run.
Position Player of the Week: Derrek Lee. A .409/.435/.1000 week for the Cubs first baseman, Lee put together a fantastic week in what’s been a solid 2009 for him. Whispers indicate Lee may be on the trade block if Chicago falls out of the race, but I wouldn’t expect Lee to go anywhere until the offseason.
Pitcher of the Week: Matt Cain. Cain shut down the powerful Ranger offense yesterday, tossing 8 innings while giving up three hits, three walks, and striking out eight. Cain is 9-1 on the season, with a 2.28 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. The WHIP indicates Cain won’t keep his ERA this low all season, but at this point Cain has to be one of the favorites to start the All Star game.
Fresh Face of the Week:
San Diego Padres 1B/OF Kyle Blanks.
Listed at 6’6, 280 pounds, the 22 year old Blanks is a power hitting prospect in every sense of the word. The comparison used most often is Frank Thomas, and the Padres would be lucky to have a player of Thomas’ caliber on the roster.
Even at his young age, Blanks has mashed at A and AA, and the Padres are clearly going to let him play after his promotion. Similar to Frank Thomas, Blanks has issues on defense, as would be expected from a man his size, and with Adrian Gonzalez entrenched at 1B for the Padres it looks like Blanks will have to break in as a LF.
If Blanks hits – and he does have some plate discipline problems - he’ll remain in the lineup no matter how poorly he is defensively, but in the meantime he should have a few adventures in the Petco OF.
Link of the Week: A Fangraphs piece on just how amazing Joe Mauer has been.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers. Nothing fazes this team.
2. Boston Red Sox. Can they really win a World Series with Nick Green at shortstop?
3. New York Yankees. They have to hope CC Sabathia’s arm injury isn’t anything serious.
4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays. They get the nod over the Blue Jays because the Rays are trending upward, whereas the Blue Jays are trending downward.
5. St. Louis Cardinals. Albert Pujols may be the best hitter you ever watch play. And that includes Joe Mauer.
26. Kansas City Royals. Outside of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, organizations aren’t run more poorly than the Royals.
27. Houston Astros. Even with their impressive performance in Minnesota, this team still isn’t very good.
28. Baltimore Orioles. They’ve been hot recently, and at least they can look forward to Matt Wieters.
29. San Diego Padres. That winning streak a few weeks ago was clearly a mirage.
30. Washington Nationals. Washington’s fire sale at the trade deadline should provide a modicum of interest for the few Nats fans still paying attention.
Upcoming Series of the Week:
St. Louis Cardinals @ New York Mets, Monday – Thursday.
St. Louis remains the N.L. Central leader, which is partially a testament to Tony La Russa. The Cardinals still don’t have much offense outside of Albert Pujols, and even the pitching depth isn’t great, but the Cardinals keep winning games. St. Louis’ 4 game set with the Mets is a rematch of the 2006 NLCS, and the matchup of two postseason contenders shouldn’t disappoint, even with the Mets’ recent slide.
Every honorable mention series is worth watching, too. Really, this is one of the best weeks of matchups of the young season.
Honorable Mention: NYY @ ATL, T-TH; CHC @ DET, T-TH; PHI @ TB, T-TH; MIN @ MIL, T-TH; MIN @ STL, FRI-SUN; NYY @ NYM, FRI-SUN.
Nationally Televised Games This Week:
Monday: STL @ NYM, 7:10, ESPN2
Wednesday: NYY @ ATL, 7:00, ESPN2
Saturday: BOS @ ATL, CHC @ CWS, LAA @ ARI, 4ish, FOX Regional
Sunday: BOS @ ATL, 1:00, TBS; NYY @ NYM, 8:05, ESPN.
Essentially, we get 4 different teams shown this week. Sure, the Yankees, Mets, and Sox are good, but do we really need to see the Braves three times? I’d like to see the Phillies-Rays, Cubs-Tigers, or Rockies-Angels series at least once.
Urban Dictionary Term of the Week:
"A derogatory term referring to a female booty call who is not girlfriend material or not worthy to take out on dates."
Alternative definition: "A fairly attractive female 'piece' that you can 'slam' in any particular way you'd like to. Commonly referred to as SLUT."
Enjoy the games.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
ProFootballTalk.com is reporting that Brett Favre has already signed a contract with the Vikings, citing a member of the military who is currently stationed in Afghanistan!? PFT is considered one of the most legitimate and journalistic-type blogs, but using a member of the military as a source on National Football League contract negotiations?
We caught wind this morning of a tip from a very unusual source. A member of the military — an officer serving in Afghanistan — contacted us with two eyebrow-raising-nuggets that had made their way to him on the other side of the globe, from credible sources.
We pondered using it even without corroboration under the thinking that, if a guy in harm’s way would get a thrill by fooling us into using a Bradshaw-Is-Dead-style rumor, then we’d be glad to give him that thrill in exchange for the sacrifices he’s making for the rest of us.
Because, however, we’ll soon be working with a legitimate media organization (or, as the case may be, undermining its legitimacy), we decided to poke around a bit.At least they explain themselves, unlike the MSM, who chooses to lead us to believe that all "sources" are legitimate members of the league or a franchise.
Regardless of the source, this tidbit is interesting, although not entirely surprising news. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Favre's agent Bus Cook, is denying the story. Frankly, I'm trusting the military officer over Cook and Favre on this one. Those two haven proven to shoot as straight as a post-sex urination.
HT: MT Pundit for the Photoshop
If you haven't heard of the barely legal Spanish point guard who has drawn comparisons to Pete Maravich by now, you will soon. Although some similarities between "The Pistol" and the young Spainard Ricky Rubio are apparent, Rubio's scoring ability is not on par with that of Maravich. With that said, Rubio is an extremely intelligent point guard with excellent court vision and will almost certaily be a Top 5 pick in this year's NBA draft pending his release from the pro Spanish team DKV Jouvetnut. Rubio made his international debut in the FIBA Europe Under-16 Tournament where he recorded three triple doubles and one quadruple double including the championship game versus Russia where he recorded 51 points, 24 rebounds, 12 assists, and 7 steals (Not bad). He followed this up a few years later in a loss against the US Olympic team and although his stats were not overwhelming, the composure he played with at the age of 17 versus the world's best earned him the respect of many on the US squad.
I was thinking of writing something about Ricky Rubio's potential for success in the NBA or the hurdles he has to overcome to buyout his contract, but that each been done elsewhere more thorougly than I care to replicate here. Essentially, he needs to improve his shooting and will be a distributor first and will be a great long-term addition for any of the top 5 teams, although he has voiced his discontent for Memphis. However, some blogs around the campfire think the Wolves might try to make a splash and trade up in order to select Rubio. This is likely just wishful thinking as Rubio would likely be a big improvement over Telfair at PG and the Wolves management will probably not pull the trigger. So, here is a youtube video of Rubio on some crazy Spanish show refusing to be statutorally raped.