Thursday, July 29, 2010

Better Know a Conference: The SEC

Welcome to Part II of Mighty's College Football 2010 Preview....up next - the SEC

Burning Question: Is Parity Dead in the SEC?
As Dr. Saturday notes, the SEC is no longer the murder's row of games. Alabama and Florida are 31-1 in the last 2 years against the SEC....which is historically abnormal. The SEC hasn't had a repeat champion since 1998 and before last year hadn't had the same teams repeat in the conference championship since 1994. This year is the perfect opportunity for the rest of the SEC to gain. Alabama lost 10 of 11 starters on defense. Florida lost more underclassmen than any other program in college football plus the Tebow child. And yet literally every single major preseason publication has Alabama and Florida rematching in the SEC Championship. In fact the only debate among prognosticators surrounds who will finish in 2nd in the SEC West. Apparently the mighty SEC is a glorified Big 12 of 2 dominant teams and then everybody else.

Biggest Non-Conference Games
: Alabama v. Penn State, LSU v. UNC, Oregon v. Tennessee

Mighty's Predictions

SEC East
1. Florida -
The Big story in Florida is the departure of Tebow and his replacement in the form of uber-heralded recruit John Brantley. Brantley was the #1 ranked pro passer his senior year and now as a Junior, pro scouts are already salivating at his arm strength. The defense will take a step back but the offense should hum along.

2. Georgia

There was no particular reason for Georgia struggles into 2nd class status. Georgia is the best recruiting state next to the Big 3. Richt had won 2 SEC Championships and 6 straight 10 win seasons. Yet, the Bull dog fans are demanding Richt's head given that Florida has seized control of the SEC East. Oddly Richt is turning to ex-Browns defensive coordinator (Todd Grantham) to try to save his job.

3. South Carolina

If the old ball coach has any magic left this is the year. All the other SEC East foes seem to have serious question marks and SC returns the most veteran team of the bunch. However the defense seems to hold them back and this year will be no different.

4. Tennessee
Lane Kiffin left a smoking heap of rubble when he left. His vaunted recruiting class flamed out, Tennessee got their 5th choice to replace him, and nearly all the key positions have new faces. The Volunteers are a sheer mess.
5. Kentucky
6. Vanderbilt
Random Vandy fact, Vanderbilt's new coach is a former turkey inseminator.

SEC West

1. Alabama
It's a tale of 2 sides. 10 new starters for the defense but the offense returns nearly everybody. Look for Heisman winner Ingram share carries with Trent Richardson as many believe Richardson is more talented. Alabama has all-american quality at LT, C, WR, and QB (in addition to RB) so look look for high scoring from this fully armed and operational battlestation.

2. Arkansas

Ryan Mallet, formerly of Ann Arbor, is now the best QB in the SEC. By far. Arkansas will put up yards and points but their defense is a question mark. If anyone is to challenge the Big 2 it is Arkansas and crazy Houston McNutt. It could happen but wouldn't bet on it.

3. Auburn

Under the radar Auburn is steadily improving. Their offense might be the best in the SEC (next to Alabama) and they had the best recruiting class last year (next to Florida). Look for a good bowl out of this bunch.

4. LSU

Oh Les Miles how you've fallen. LSU since winning it's national championship has sunk lower and lower. And the natives aren't happy. Poor QB play, poor line play, poor decision making, bad hygiene (I assume). Random Mighty predictions without 10 wins look for Miles to get Das Boot. And I'm not predicting 10 wins.

5. Ole Miss
6. Miss. St.

And in conclusion...random Christina Hendricks link

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday: Odds and Ends, Yelling at Clouds

Nick Saban Angry at Agents
It was uncertain if Nick Saban at the SEC Media Week compared agents to pimps or to a race of people below pimps (BP CEOs?) For those unaware a growing NCAA investigation has (shock shock) uncovered dozens of players receiving benefits from agents...specifically at UNC, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. It's uncertain if Saban was angry that people were taking advantage of the players or if people other than Saban were taking advantage of players. Saban, for the record, leads the NCAA in over-recruiting (convincing kids to commit to his school knowing full well he'll retract their scholarship by the Fall)

Chris Paul Following Lebron/Wes' Lead
Chris Paul, the star PG for the Hornets, who recently switched his agent to Lebron's notorious agent (Rose/Worldwide Wes) is apparently demanding a trade to one of 4 destinations (Orlando, LA, New York, Monaco). It's very unclear if anything will come of this since Paul has 2 years left on his contract but it's clear Wes and company are flexing their muscle (their brokered the deal for Portland's new GM and it was Wes who made Paul's demands known to the Hornets). The question of course is if Paul gets his way what does that mean for the NBA, both in terms of outcomes and popularity. It almost has the feel of Don King who manipulated matchups to maximize his return at the expense of boxing. That said I' m always loathe to make guesses on the average consumer's opinion but I will say its unclear how this adds to the popularity of the NBA as a whole.

Ravens Not Off to a Good Start
While the Ravens appear to be one of those trendy picks to be Super Bowl bound they are not off to a great start. Ed Reed will start the preseason/season on the PUP and now 2nd round pick Sergio Kindle will miss time because of falling down 2 flights of stairs. While assuredely not something that will doom the Ravens, injuries before the season can leave a team thin such that if injuries do happen...well no Raven-Droppings at the Super Bowl

Strasberg Sales Match Strasberg Hype
Interesting flash fact, since his call up, Steve Strasberg jersey's have been the #1 selling jersey in all of the MLB.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

NBA Summer League - Undrafted Players Signing NBA Contracts

This year's NBA Summer League is now complete, after wrapping up on July 18th. In the week since it's ending, there have been some interesting stories revolving around players who were able to immediately get NBA contracts:

1) Jeremy Lin - I had never heard of this guy before the NBA Summer League. He played at Harvard, is actually 6'3", and ended up as an undrafted free agent on the Mavericks' summer league roster. In a set of circumstances that only a Hollywood writer could have written, the Mavericks' top PG at the summer league, Beaubois, was dinged up, allowing Lin to get more playing time in their game against the Wizards. Apparently, Jeremy Lin then proceeded to hold #1 draft pick John Wall to 4 for 19 shooting... while Lin ended up scoring 11 points on Wall in the fourth quarter!

As if this wasn't insane enough, Lin actually grew up in Palo Alto... rooting for the Golden State Warriors. And now... he just signed with the Golden State Warriors!

2) Gary Neal - Another player I've never heard of who was recently singed by the Spurs, who also has a life that could be made into a movie. Apparently, Neal, a 25-year old 6'4" SG played at La Salle for a couple of years, leading the team in scoring. A woman then accused him of rape, putting his career on hold, until he was acquitted as the woman admitted lying. Neal then played at Towson University for his last 2 years, averaging over 25 ppg each year. Neal then played for a Turkish team, a Spanish team, and then played 2 seasons at Benetton Treviso, where he averaged 13.9 ppg in the last season (though he only shot 34.5% from 3-point land. Finally, Neal ended up playing on the Spurs summer league team, and had 16 ppg while shooting a silly 50% from 3-point land (17-34), including hitting 6 threes in one half of one game. Congrats to Neal for finally getting an NBA contract despite the long road he took.

3) Pooh Jeter - This guy is older, as he's 26, and has played in the D-League and overseas. He played with the Cavs Summer League team, is only 5'11", and got 14.8 ppg and 5.4 assists to be one of the top PGs at the summer league this year. He just got signed by Sacramento.

4) Samardo Samuels - This is someone I do know from watching college basketball. A very athletic, underachieving player at Louisville, who decided to come out after his sophomore year, he went undrafted though. He played on the Bulls summer league team and got 12.6 ppg and 7.4 rebs as a 6'8" PF. Sadly, he's very skinny and will probably get pushed around all over the place in the NBA. No worries, the Cavs already signed him for next year!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Better Know a Conference: The ACC

With the SEC Pressapalooza beginning it's officially time to start the college football preview season. Kicking it off here at the BSD is the ACC. Is the normal difficulty of predicting the ACC still in's harder this year. In fact due to a number of bizarre circumstances prognosticating should be especially difficult this year for the ACC.

  • Clemson's starting QB (Kyle Parker the first college player to throw 20 TDs and hit 20 HRs in the same year) will decide soon if he stay or leave to be with the Colorado Rockies' organization (he was drafted in the first round recently). Behind Parker is redshirt freshman Taj Boyd. So if Parker follows baseball Clemson could be SOL as the bulk of their offense left last year when CJ Spiller went Pro.
  • Florida State For the first time since sabretooth tigers were legal defenders Bobby Bowden will not be absently minded wandering the sidelines. Will FSU be any different with a non-senile coach? While in theory FSU has consistently recruited top 10 classes outside of QB Ponder, FSU lacks play makers.
  • UNC - UNC boasted last year the #4 defense in the country and theoretically has 5 starters on defense that are first round material. However 13 starters on UNC are being investigated by the NCAA for improper ties to a sports agent and might be ruled ineligible. Typically losing over half your starters is non-conducive to winning. Outside of the NCAA investigation UNC had a morbid offense with no signs this year of improving.
  • Boston College - Their best player in 2008-2009, Mark Herzlich, will be trying to come back from BONE CANCER in his leg.
  • Miami, FL - Starting QB Jacory Harris threw a league leading 17 INTs last year before, tore ligaments in his thumb, and 8 odd months later is still rehabbing (i.e., hasn't practiced). That's not good for the Hurricanes non-existent fan base.
  • Georgia Tech - Al Groh, of Al Groh White Walls Inc. , will be their new defensive coordinator.
  • Wake Forest - Has not been seen or heard from since 2009. It's unclear if their football team still exists.
While the Atlantic Division is loaded by process of elimination, uncertainty and historical guessing I'm picking Virginia Tech to overcome the harder schedule to win the conference. Tyrod Taylor returns after being 10th in the nation in passing efficiency last year. All the key running backs and receivers (including Darren Evans) are also back. While V-Tech struggled against the run, a rebuilt defensive line only needs to improve slightly to give V-Tech's defense the backbone it needs to be adequate.

Mighty's ACC Picks

Coastal Division
1. BC - When's the last time FSU actually won anything? BC has consistently fielded winners, while there's nothing flashy about this time, there are no major holes.
2. Clemson - Baseball will probably not lure away Clemson's QB (as of yesterday Parker claimed he was going to stay) says Mighty's Magic Eight Ball. Still Clemson lost its top 3 receivers and top rusher so here's predicting they take a step back.
2. FSU - Outside of Ponder there really is nothing to write or note about FSU4. NC State
5. Wake Forest (if it can be found)

Atlantic Division
1. Virginia Tech (Conference Champ) - V-Tech has a monumental game against Boise State. A win could position it for a national championship run.
2. Miami - A tough schedule even outside of the Atlantic Division(@OSU, @Pitt, FSU, Clemson). It's unclear if Harris can reduce his INTs. This is as talented a squad as has been in Miami in a long time and if V-Tech slips I expect Miami to be ACC champion.
3. Georgia Tech - Only Florida lost too more talent early to the draft last year. G-Tech doesn't reload like Florida so a step back for last year's ACC Champ.
4. UNC - Sounds like the NCAA investigation is picking up steam. If the hammer falls UNC won't be able to overcome as their offense sucks.
5. Duke
6. Virginia

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Colonel's Back!!!!/So are the Redlegs

Back from the front lines of dealing with kids texting in class which was a worse nuisance than the tiger traps in the bush, I feel like writing a blog entry.

Finally the youth of the Cincinnati Redlegs are making a run at possibly making the playoffs for the first time since Davey Johnson brought them to the NLCS in 1995.

Johnny Gomes, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, The Thirteenth Earl of Jay Bruce, the return of Edinson Volquez, Mike Leake and Travis Wood all probably combine for about 3.5 million dollars total but they have totally transformed this team around to being a offensive juggernaut. With the return of Volquez who is pitching faster after his Tommy John surgery, they have two pitchers in Cueto and Volquez that can keep them going through October.

Lets not forget that Joey Votto is having an MVP year, that could be the first time a 1B not named Pujols has won it for the past couple of years. Right now, the man from the Great White North is ranked first in SLG (.580), 3rd in BB (with 20 less IBBs than Pujols), 1st in HR (23), 1st in OPS (.995) and 1st in OBP (.415). This makes him a definite candidate for the MVP. My guess is the 1B who takes his team to the NL Central title will be the one that wins the MVP in the NL.

We can't forget the unbelievable turnaround of the 40 year old set up man in Cincy, Arthur Rhodes. He has found the fountain of youth and has a 1.46 ERA with a 0.92 WHIP this year and 16 holds. Plus there is this guy named Chapman who last I heard threw a 102 MPH fastball that is playing for the Louisville Bats that might help join the bullpen. (My hope is that they keep him in AAA and use him as starter next year)

Of course a main question for the Reds is whether the young arms will fall off. The Reds do have Dusty Baker as their manager. But with the easiest schedule in all of the Major League over the next couple of months, it looks like the Reds will be a contender come October. Too bad I didn't use Mighty's money when I was in Vegas and beat on them to win.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Should We Expect From Tiger Woods

For the first time since 1998 Tiger Woods has failed to win a championship in his first 6 tries. While a lot of analysts have focused on Tiger's off the course issues, Joe Posnanski writing for SI, focuses on a different foe for Tiger...Father Time. Posnanski writes that the expectation should be that Tiger fails to break Jack's record and should no longer be favored against the field due to his age. Tiger will soon be 35, the age according to Posnanski where golfers start losing it.

While we normally think of golf as a game you can play forever the average age of a Major champ is 32. You are 3 times more likely to win a championship if you are under 35 than if you are over 35. Furthermore in golf (with a few notable exceptions) actually operates like tennis, where once you lose your dominance, the wins just don't ever come back.

Nobody really knows how Tiger will play over the next 30 odds years but I have to admit that that were once the expectation was Tiger would definitely break Jack's record, I do not think that holds anymore. Child prodigies seem to fade faster and Tiger's recent rash of injuries certainly doesn't help the aging process. Maybe Tiger does regain his dominant form but I have to admit the expectation should be more cynical. Your thoughts?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday: Odds and Ends

Less than 50 Shopping Days until the College Football Season Starts! This week (or next) I will begin the great conference preview countdown. Just to wet the appetites...Jake Locker of Washington appears to be the current favored #1 QB taken in the 2011 draft (if that happens)...however Chris Ponder (of FSU) is considered by many to be the second best senior QB. Obviously there's a season to go (and new stars to arise) but look for the draftniks to focus on Locker and Ponder

Superfight Unlikely In the on again off again saga that is the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is now off again . I suppose it could say something about how boxing is all but in the dustbin of history like Mr. Pibb (sigh) but I suppose in an era where image is everything, large payouts simply aren't enough anymore to bring out great competition.

Where's my Favre Controversy? For the first time in what seems like 7 years the will he won't he saga of Brett Favre playing has oddly been quiet. No, he's still debating if he'll play but it just isn't getting the air time it used to. Maybe the NBA offseason sucked it up. Maybe Favre's lying in wait for his own "Decision Special". Maybe Favre's Mississippi farm is one giant tar ball. Who Knows but I for one am thankful for the quiet.

RIP Lou Brown. Possibly my all time favorite manager, Lou Brown (played by James Gammon) passed away over the weekend. Gammon delivered perfect timing to create one of the more quotable sports characters. Perhaps other people have their own favorite Lou Brown scene but mine was

Roger Dorn: Lou! Can I have a word with you, here?
Lou Brown: Sure.
Roger Dorn: See, I've got it right here in my contract. It says, "I don't have to do any calisthenics that I don't feel are necessary." So what do you think about that?
Lou Brown: [drops the contract on the ground and urinates on it, then walks off]

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fantasy Football = Fantasy World Cup

Now that the frenzy of the World Cup and NBA Free agency have died down, now is a good time for me to explain the insanity, the thrill, and the joy of FIFA's Fantasy World Cup game.

For simplicity, I will just refer to this as "Fantasy World Cup." I ended up signing up for this game at at the last moment, just a day before the first games began. I did not have time to read the rules, which were like 20 pages long, so I just started picking a team. I quickly learned that I could only have 2 players per team, and that I had to pick 23 players, just like a real World Cup roster.

Salary Cap Game
The difficulty in the game is that it also was a salary cap game and the players were valued such that if you chose a bunch of popular forwards (i.e. David Villa, Rooney, Messi) this would blow your budget apart such that your bench would end up relying on a bunch of players who don't even normally play. Clearly, some balance had to be maintained. I instictively tried to save some cap space such that I had a more well-rounded team.

Substitutions create problems
I then had to select my starters for "Round 1." What I did not realize (which I should have read), is that the Fantasy World Cup worked like a real World Cup game… if I subbed anyone out they could not be brought back in. This has a strange affect in this type of game though, as some players have already played, and others have yet to play. Had I read the instructions first, I would have realized that the optimum strategy was to start all of your players who were playing that day in "Round 1" and then sub-in players as the first set of players fail to produce (i.e. Group G played days after Group B, so there was no rational reason to start any Group G players from the start).

Because I didn't realize this, my lineup was messed up from the start. The more interesting part of this game was that in between "Round 1" and "Round 2" (the second group game for each team), you were allowed to make a certain amount of "transfers." Thus, as I realized that 30% of my team wasn't even playing in the World Cup, I had to try to transfer and sell my current players to acquire players who actually were amassing points. Unfortunately, the players producing were increasing in terms of cost, and the players I had purchased were decreasing in value since thousands of players were selling the players and dumping them out. Yes, my team was screwed!

Banking on certain teams to advance
What made the game even more challenging, which required a great deal of strategic thinking, was that you were only allowed 2 players per nation in the first 3 games, then 4 players in the round of 16 and quarters, then 6 players in the semifinals, then up to 8 players per nation in the finals. Thus, the teams that spent all of their resources getting Brazilian players got a raw deal when Brazil suddenly was eliminated. I actually banked on Uruguay (given their "easier" quadrant), which helped. It still did not offset all of the mistakes I made in the first two rounds.

Double down on the Captain
In the end, Fantasy World Cup was a fantasy game unlike any I'd ever played because it combined a salary cap game with bizarre substitution rules… and then there was one super-wildcard. You were able to designate one captain for your team. Your captain was able to score DOUBLE his points! So the real key to succeeding was apparently picking whomever had an easy opponent (and playing offensive players against North Korea).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baby Steps to Respectability? MLS Keeping Landon Donovan

Well, in the comments recently, we lamented the MLS and its 16 years of "progress." It's almost like they were listening to us, and in what I think is a marginal step towards respectability, the MLS declared that they will not transfer out Landon Donovan... despite the huge amount of money that would be given to the MLS/ LA Galaxy.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether this is merely a negotiation tactic, or whether MLS will stand by its initial statement. Something tells me that there always is a number that could change their mind...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday Odds and Ends

Today, while also known as the most boring day sports day of the year, still provides a little forum for stories that seemed noteworthy.

Tru TV - In stories that I didn't see coming - the NCAA Basketball Tournament play in Games (now 8 teams) will be broadcast on Tru TV formerly known as Court TV. That can't be a good sign if your showing up on Court TV. I realize everything is cable but I don't have the first clue where Tru TV is on my tv lineup (channel 543?) and that's not good for ratings...

Lloyd Carr Retires - Associate Athletic Director Lloyd Carr announced his official retirement yesterday at the age of 65. I'll always (oddly) have a soft spot for Lloyd as he always carried himself with class and always seemed to care about his players. Carr retires with 30 years of service with the Maize and Blue, 5 Big Ten Titles, and 1 national championship.

NL Halts Streak The NL finally beat the AL for the first time in what seems like 35 years. I maintain the game would have been more entertaining (and better managed) if Japanese robots were in charge.

Old Soccer Star Comes to the MLS - Thierry Henry, of the famed Henry handball goal scoring technique, has signed a deal with the New York Red Bulls and will be coming to a soccer stadium near you. You may all now riot with joy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sometimes A Rose Is Just A Rose...

...and sometimes an emotional rant in the face of bad news is just that and nothing more.

No one should minimize the contributions that Rev. Jesse Jackson has made in speaking up for the victims of tyranny, injustice and racial intolerance. But, when it comes to sports, I’ve found that Jesse Jackson should pick his spots more carefully.

I don’t know where Jackson read veiled racism in Gilbert’s comments but he was way, way off base in my opinion. And, really, should he be casting stones when he’s made his own overtly offensive blunders?

Rev. Jackson: you’re a good man. But STFU once in a while...

Baseball's Strange Bedfellows

In case anyone needed further evidence of the strange and sordid business that goes into joining the MLB ownership fraternity, this report intimates that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, along with two partners, is interested in entering the bidding for the bankrupt Texas Rangers franchise.

The sordid part of the affair is that, in an effort to kill off any competing bids, Hall of Famer and current Texas Rangers team president Nolan Ryan is suing the team he works for to ward off any competition. The weirdest thing in all of this is that Nolan Ryan is actually the front man for the ownership group trying to buy the Rangers out of bankruptcy which, essentially, means that Ryan is suing himself.

Tom Hicks, the Rangers former owner, has a substantial group of unsecured creditors who have a vested interest in seeing the team sold to the highest bidder. Among this group of unsecured creditors is former Rangers SS Alex Rodriguez who has a $24.8M claim against the Rangers (the total unsecured claim against the Rangers is $46,331,199.40 held by 30 creditors).

If Mark Cuban – or any other potential owner, for that matter – can buy the Rangers out of bankruptcy for more than what Ryan’s group is willing to pay, the bankruptcy court owes it to these creditors to take the best offer possible. However, as we saw with the sale of the Chicago Cubs last year, cronyism and inside dealings led the Cubs to the Ricketts family for $900M, instead of the reported $1.2B-$1.3B that Mark Cuban was willing to spend.

I don’t expect Mark Cuban or any other rival ownership group to squeeze Nolan Ryan out of eventually owning the Rangers. But it should definitely give one pause about dealing with Bud Selig when he’s willing to seize the club by using his broad powers in order to freeze out the results of a bankruptcy court ruling.

The Big World Cup Winner: Paul the Octopus

For those unaware yesterday Paul the Octopus completed his historic run by correctly predicting the outcome of the World Cup Championship. The so called Oracle from Oberhausen was 8 for 8 in correctly picking World Cup Games and became famous enough to receive death threats (or eating threats. not sure). Sure you could chalk it up to chance (or 1/256) or you can believe that this octapus is indeed gifted in prognostication. Unfortunately we will never know as Paul is retiring from the world of prediction and returning the quiet life his loves so dearly. Thank you Paul for reinstalling my faith in the abilities of mollusks.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Assessing the NBA Trade Exception Market

NBA Trade Exceptions are very interesting. Let's make sure we are all on the same page first.

Q: How is an NBA Trade Exception created?

An NBA Trade Exception, as defined by NBA Salary Cap FAQ's Larry Coon in question #72, is created when an NBA team receives less salary than the salaries they traded. Basically, this will typically be created when at least one of the teams involved in the trade is BELOW the salary cap, because teams that are BELOW the salary cap "can make trades as they please." (see question #70).

Q: Once a team receives an NBA Trade Exception, what can they do with it?

They have one year to use the trade exception to trade for other players. Remember, they cannot use it to SIGN a free agent, but they can use it to trade for another player.

Q: What historical examples are there of a team using an NBA Trade Exception to acquire a player?

Very few as far as I can find. I've done my best to find historical examples of a team acquiring a trade exception. Google helped me piece together the following history of NBA Trade Exceptions (though there are other examples), but in very few of the cases did the team acquire anyone with the exception!

1994 - Milwaukee Bucks get $1.6 million trade exception... do not believe they ever used it.
2000 - The Pistons get $4 million trade exception for Cedric Ceballos... but do not believe they ever used it.
2001 - Dallas acquired a $3.2 million trade exception... and tried to get Tim Hardaway with it but obviously that never materialized.
2005 - Boston acquires a $5 million trade exception in complicated 5-way Antoine Walker trade... but never used it.
2006 - Pacers acquire a $7.5 million trade exception for Stojakovic... but never used it.
2007 - Blazers acquire a trade exception for Zach Randolph trade... and they USED IT to help acquire James Jones and a draft pick which became Rudy Fernandez on draft day.
2007 - Sonics/Thunder get $9.25 million trade exception for Rashard Lewis... and used it to acquire Kurt Thomas... but then they traded Kurt Thomas a few months later to net Francisco Elson, Brent Barry, and a 2009 first round pick (which became Rodrigue Beaubois, but the Thunder traded for BJ Mullens, one of OkCity's dumbest moves).
2008 - Denver acquires a $10.1 million trade exception for Camby... but never used it.
2009 - Blazers get $3 million trade exception for Ike Diogu
2009 - Orlando got one last year in the Turkoglu trade... but it expired within a year and they never used it.
2009 - The Clippers get a $7.3 million trade exeption for trading Zach Randolph... and they USED it to acquire Rasual Butler during the season.
2010 - Jazz get a $6.5 million exception for Matt Harpring, and $2.7 million exception for Ronnie Brewer... and have never used it.

***Note: There are many more trade exceptions that have been created. This link contains pending trade exceptions. It's interesting how many more trade exceptions there are!

Q: Which teams have just netted large trade exceptions?

Which brings us to right now... where suddenly 3 teams have $16 million trade exception and one team has a $13 million trade exception (and the Wizards still have $10.6 million in trade exceptions).
2010 - Utah gets $13 million trade exception in Boozer deal
2010 - Phoenix gets $16 million trade exception in Stoudemire deal
2010 - Toronto gets $16 million trade exception in Bosh deal
2010 - Cleveland gets $16 million trade exception in LeBron deal
Feb 2010 - Washington gets $6 million trade exception for Brendan Haywood and $4.6 million trade exception for Drew Gooden.

Q: What types of players are likely to be acquired with the four current large exceptions?

Rationally, only teams in financial trouble would give up players to either Utah, Phoenix, Toronto, Cleveland, or Washington. However, with the NBA about to go on strike next year, and the cap likely to be much lower, it is also possible that teams may unload players who have at least 2 or 3 years at a hefty price. I think it also is likely that there would be more sellers once the season starts and certain teams are disappointed about their chances to compete. Remember, the team giving up a player is basically shedding salary as they would only receive the "Trade Exception." Of course, Utah, Phoenix, Toronto, Cleveland, or Washington could throw in other draft picks or players to sweeten a deal.

Nonetheless, early indications from the fiery Cavs owner is the the Cavs are looking to aggressively get someone now for the $16 million trade exception. Here are the players I think are most likely to be available to be traded to either Utah, Phoenix, Toronto, Cleveland, or Washington:

1) Charlotte - DeSagna Diop - this depends on whether the Bobcats unload Tyson Chandler. Currently, the Bobcats have Chandler, Nazr Mohammed, and Diop. Diop is due 3 more years at $7 million, so would be the likliest candidate.

2) Dallas - Shawn Marion - I have no idea who would want 4 more years with the last year at $9 million for the aging Shawn Marion! But he would be available, no doubt!

3) Detroit - Rip Hamilton - 3 more years at $12 million each. He's very old, so I doubt anyone would want him.
Ben Gordon - 4 more years with the last at $13 million. I think Joe Dumars could admit his mistake and get rid of him!

4) Golden State - Andris Biedrins - 4 more years at $9 million each. Golden State would gladly dump their big-man, as they are in big financial trouble and he's had lots of injuries.

5) Houston - Trevor Ariza - 4 more years at $7 each. They already regret last year's signing, as Ariza is not that efficient.

6) Clippers - Chris Kaman - 2 more years at $12 each. The Clippers are unpredictable... and though they could contend, they are just as likely to dump out Kaman.

7) Minnesota - Al Jefferson - 3 more years for $45 total. To get Jefferson, other assets must also be given.

8) Hornets - Okafor - 4 more years for $60 total. Okafor is probably not available until the middle of the season, if the Hornets realize they are not in contention. They are trying to keep Chris Paul happy at the moment and pretend that they are contenders.

9) Magic - Gortat - 4 more years at $7 each. Probably need to give up other assets to get Gortat. The Magic drafted a big man from Kentucky, so they be more likely to take some financial savings.

10) 76ers - Elton Brand - 3 more years for $50 total.
Igoudala - 4 more years at $14 each. The 76ers would gladly dump either or both so they can begin to start over. Would need to give up other assets probably, but not equivalent value.

11) Spurs - Tony Parker - 1 year at $13.5. Supposedly, the Spurs are willing to dump Tony Parker almost immediately to get cap space right now. The window on this may have already closed though, it is unclear. Supposedly, they are signing super-euro prospect Tiago Splitter and then want to get other free agents.

12) Raptors - Jose Calderon - 3 more years $9.5 each. The Raptors have Jarrett Jack and would probably just use him, since Calderon is one of the worst defensive PGs in the league.

13) Wizards - Gilbert Arenas - 4 more years at $17, 19, 21, and $23!!!! I'm listing him because I know without a doubt that he is available!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Thoughts composed

Now that I've had a chance to digest the reality of Lebron's departure, I want to express my thoughts. Lebron James was born 25 years ago, near Cleveland. From the mid-1960s until the birth of Lebron, Cleveland had been without a championship and had very little to cheer about in sports. The Indians and Cavs had very little going well for them in those two decades. The Browns, with the exception of a glimmer of hope in 1981 (which ended with the heart-wrenching Red Right 88) also had shown little to no prowess since their glory days of the early 1960s. In those twenty years, the city of Cleveland had endured; despite the bad sports franchises and economic woes (as a heavily steel-based city, the 70s and 80s saw a major decline in steel jobs and the city fell on heard times) Cleveland was still working to maintain. Even despite the river catching on fire, Cleveland tried to stay on top.
Then Lebron entered this world. Since his birth in December of 1984, Cleveland sports franchises - and the city itself -has become more of a punchline than anything. Let's go over the last 25 years of Cleveland sports. We've had: the fumble, the drive, the shot, the Jose Mesa incident (1997 world series), the Meltdown I (2007 ALCS, Indians up 3-1 to Boston and losing), the Meltdown II (this year's NBA playoffs against the Celtics), and of course the Disappointments (pretty much the last four years of NBA playoffs). All in all, Cleveland has been kicked in the teeth on a national stage over and over for the last twenty-five years, and the twenty years preceding that wasn't much of a party either.
And finally, when we get to a point where Cleveland's biggest and brightest star of the past FIFTY years has a chance to pull us out of despair, he kicks us in the teeth again, and on national television.
Now, to be honest, I understand WHY Lebron left. He has a chance to play with Wade and Bosh, two top players in the league. I get it. It's his best chance to win. I get that. But leaving alone is a kick in Cleveland's teeth. But then to publicize it, make a three-ring circus out of it, and make it a nationally televised break-up (for all intensive purposes), is so appauling. Talk about kicking a city when its down.
Personally, I think Art Modell is a worse villian to the city of Cleveland, but keep in mind, when he took the Browns away, he did it in the middle of night and did not make a show out of it. I think this is the equivalent of Modell having a "going-away-parade" for the Browns as he shuffled them to Baltimore.
I always thought Lebron showed class on the court, but this spectacle showed no class at all. For Lebron James to treat his "home" and basketball-birthplace this way is terrible.
So say we all.

Fans and Emotions

Since everyone has already has already echoed some of my thoughts I wanted to touch on the reaction. Fortunately or unfortunately Henry Abbot has helped crystallize some of that with a fairly idiotic piece up on ESPN (you can search for the Name the crimes of Lebron piece if you wish I have a pet peeve about linking to stupid stuff). There's lots of stuff I could pick apart but the easiest and I suppose the most emblematic was
But realize, if you're bitter, you're bitter about the format of his expression. Not the contents of his soul. And without clearing the bar in that last sentence, it's a little extreme to call him nasty names on the internet, isn't it?

In this world of ours, you will find some truly terrible people. There are murderers. There are rapists. There are abusers, bullies, polluters, dictators and everything else.

And this is the guy you need to single out? ...

First off all anyone that uses the "yeah but somebody else is worse" is ultimately relying on a weak argumentative crutch. Lebron hasn't committed genocide therefore he doesn't deserve your venom? People's actions stand on their own merit and utilizing "well somebody is worse"argument is weak precisely because no matter what others do, it doesn't change the merits or lack thereof of someone's action. If Abbot wants to argue that it shouldn't get the attention it is fine....but its this attention is what pays his salary.

I don't know whats in the contents of Lebron's soul. I don't know if Lebron knows whats in the contents of his soul. I don't care. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters were, are, and will be his actions. Its the only window we have as I, Abbott, and most of us lack soul reading abilities.

Fans believe that they share a connection to their teams and to the players on their teams. They imagine a shared identity. That the team's wins are their wins. That the team's losses are their losses. That's what having a team is all about. The logic or appropriateness of that belief is immaterial. It's a fundamental part of being human or at the very least being a fan. So we want to believe that this connection flows both ways, that the passion and interest that allows athletes to live their lavish lifestyles is acknowledged and respected. Lebron's format of expression shows that it's not. He's not the down-to -earth guy loyal guy that we thought he was. His actions were one of self-indulgence and crass indifference to those that had trusted him, to those that had somehow deluded themselves into thinking the cynics weren't right. To dismiss how he handled things and focus on other things is to ultimately fail to understand what being a fan is about. At least for me. Cheering madly for grown men who can put oversized balls into a metal hoops isn't something I can get excited about or single out as worthy of attention. It's not something that has societal benefit like a teacher for a student or a doctor helping fight cancer. Cheering madly for someone who I identify with? Cheering madly for someone that allows us to project our expectations and hopes? Of course. Liking someone whose actions demonstrated at best an non-nonchalance to those that fueled his fame and wealth? Why would I? What's in his soul doesn't matter. As MJ aptly put it "Lebron was never different or special" because his actions demonstrated it. His expression of decision demonstrated. And that's more than enough reason to raise the ire of fans because it goes to the heart of what being a fan is about.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

LeBron Exits Cleveland

Well, I can't let this night go without getting my thoughts down:

1) LeBron is all about LeBron - Once it was clear LeBron was leaving, I actually enjoyed watching the sinking ship... which was LeBron trying to explain himself. He kept repeating something to the affect of "I had to do what was best for myself." It reached insane proportions when he talked in the 3rd person: "I wanted to do what was best for LeBron James." As I said in an earlier comment, "No matter what LeBron does or chooses or says, having an hour-long broadcast dedicated to himself will only do one thing: prove that he is the biggest ego-maniac in the history of the world. I'm putting him ahead of Kanye, Donald Trump, Allen Iverson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and anyone else you can think of."

2) LeBron is STILL about money - Yes, on the surface, it seems like LeBron left $30 million on the table by not signing with the Cavs (who under NBA rules can offer an extra year and a marginally higher amount). But, if you look at it in terms of it being one less year, the different is only about $14 million (if the Cavs could only offer 5 years). However, if you dig deeper, you will realize that: James saves $6 million in taxes. James (or his marketing company?) also made $3.5 million from the ESPN special. Yes, he donated $2.5 to charity, but let's not forget that LeBron still took home a considerable amount of money! ***UPDATE - 7/9 - James also makes approximately $20 million in endorsement annually. Over 5 years, James will thus save another $5 million approximately in state taxes he won't pay. So, James already makes back $14.5 million. In the end, he really only gave up NOTHING... it's just a marketing ploy by himself to say, "see, I gave up a lot of money!." Not the $30 million that will be reported.

3) LeBron has no Self-Awareness - Aside from holding a preposterous 1-hour special, what really felt like the twisting of a knife was how LeBron kept saying: "I took the Cavs to places they've never been." Of course, but that doesn't in any way justify leaving! My favorite question of the night was from Wilbon: who asked LeBron about whether a Cleveland championship would mean more. LeBron basically said, "No, a championship is a championship!!!" I don't think anyone in LeBron's camp had asked him that question (shockingly). It's also disingenuous for LeBron to call the Miami Heat a "challenge"... if LeBron wants a challenge he should have played for the Cavs, Nets, or Knicks.

4) LeBron's Image - I think he took the easy way out. Yes, he probably will get a championship (assuming they find a center at some point and all stay healthy). But... it would be hard to say that "LeBron is the best ever..." unless of course the Cavs keep the team entirely intact and go like 10-70 so everyone can see the direct result of his leaving Cleveland. I don't see the latter scenario happening. Also... what Bill Simmons said was true, and I'm just going to re-print it:

...Any super-competitive person would rather beat Dwyane Wade than play with him. Don't you want to find the Ali to your Frazier and have that rival pull the greatness out of you? That's why I'm holding out hope that LeBron signs with New York or Chicago (or stays in Cleveland), because he'd be saying, "Fine. Kobe, Dwight and Melo all have their teams. Wade and Bosh have their team. The Celtics are still there. Durant's team is coming. I'm gonna go out and build MY team, and I'm kicking all their asses." That's what Jordan would have done. Hell, that's what Kobe would have done.

In May, after the Cavs were ousted in the conference semifinals, I wrote that LeBron was facing one of the greatest sports decisions ever: "winning (Chicago), loyalty (Cleveland) or a chance at immortality (New York)."

I never thought he would pick "HELP!"

5) LeBron When Faced with Adversity - I will be waiting anxiously for the point in the season (or during the playoffs?) when LeBron faces adversity. On the Cavs, LeBron was allowed to yell at other players, ignore coaches, take random spot-up 3s, demand for players to be traded, etc. Can you imagine what will happen when LeBron yells at Wade during the game?!? If LeBron doesn't grow up, he may not even win a championship on the Heat. Seriously.

6) The Future of the Cavs - I may be the only one who cares, or will still follow the Cavs... but I think owner Dan Gilbert will not blow up the team and will keep the team in competition for a playoff spot. I honestly believe the Cavs as currently composed can get to the 7 or 8-seed. Granted, they will be making some changes, so it's hard to say what will happen. Nothing would be sweeter now than somehow building a team that beats LeBron and the Heat in the playoffs. That's probably not possible, but a man can dream!

I'm a witness

Lebron just took a giant dump on the entire city of cleveland in front of the entire world.

= Anus

Goodbye Lebron?

Although we don’t know what the final decision will be, all signs do point to Lebron’s departure from Cleveland. Considering all the stories about Lebron, the boy from Akron that loves his neighbors and his hometown, I find it shocking that people -- fans and reporters alike -- could've been so wrong about Lebron. All we ever heard about him was that he was the anti-Kobe: he was a great teammate and friend and a down-to-earth guy (or as down-to-earth as one can be when they've been called “The Chosen One” since age 15).

Turns out we were all wrong about Lebron. While there’s nothing inherenty wrong with his decision to leave -- loyalty in sports is a projection of our own expecations and shattered hopes -- it does reflect poorly on him in the manner in which his likely departure is being handled. Most athletes tell you it’s not about the money when they leave. In this case, Lebron is clearly saying that it IS about the money, namely that Cleveland's money isn't good enough for him anymore.

Although in the long run I don’t think this will do as much damage to James’s image as everyone might think, the one thing that cannot be denied is that the irrevocable trust between James and his fans has been broken and that, once again, the cynics were right and the idealists were wrong. James was never different or special, after all.

(This is a reprint of a comment I left on Laz’s thread directly below. I am making it a full column because, frankly, I wanted to have my thoughts on Lebron and free agency saved for posterity).

Lebron sweepstakes

I know i haven't posted in a while. Between the suck-tastic indians, the crap-tacular browns, and the sangrily-disappointing Cavs playoffs, there has been many things to complain about. Unfortuanetly, I've been trying to avoid only writing pissing and moaning blog articles.
However, the supposedly-impending doom for cleveland that is the Lebron sweepstakes is just a few hours away. I can't believe what is probably happening: that will Lebron will make an hour long press conference on national television in which he effectively bitch-slaps Cleveland in the face.
I can't believe that Lebron would treat as crap the only city he has known as home, by making a three-ring circus out of his turning his back on the city.
Now, I am aware that he may re-sign with the Cavs, but this does not seem likely at this point.
I dont know what to make of all this. I am utterly shocked and confused as to why Lebron is doing this in such a manner.
What are other people's thoughts.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Holiday Odds and Ends

As the sports world takes a breather from the past week of overload here's a few stories that might have slipped through the cracks

Georgia's AD Resigns - Georgia's Athletic Director was forced to resign after he was caught driving while drunk, with a young woman who wasn't his wife (who was equally intoxicated), and had said woman's underwear in his lap. So umm he's gone. Anyway this could be significant as embattled coach Mark Richt will have a new boss - which increases the likelihood of firing. Georgia is the fourth most fertile recruiting state.

Hot Dog Theatrics - In a sad turn events, the hot dog eating contest had controversy. Former champion Kobayashi was arrested when he tried to break into the hot dog eating contest. Albeit there are reports that it might have been staged. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Europe Rebounds - Before the single elimination portion of the World Cup the talk was how Europe had declined/was disappointing. However the semis are Europe's playground this time around with the Dutch, Spain, and Germany all representing the Old World and only ex-champ Uruguay representing the Developing World. I'm picking the Netherlands and Germany to go on to the final.

Signings and Strikes I'm not the only one that sees the free agent frenzy coupled with NBA owners claims of poverty to be incongruous. While I'm doubtful public perceptions or this year's free agency will ultimately play that big of a roll in next year's CBA, it's hard not to think this time next year while the owners prepare a lockout how accurate their claims are.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The BSD American League All-Star Roster

As this blog’s resident American League columnist, I hereby present to you the unofficial Official Back Seat Drivers American League All-Star Roster! Hitman did a bang-up job on the NL All-Star Roster, which can be found here.

Following Hitman’s lead, I have selected 34 players to fill the 34 roster slots. Per All-Star Game rules, there is at least one player representative from each AL team. The selections have been made without regard to current injuries or fan balloting; i.e. this is my set of picks for the entire roster, as if I got to choose the entire 34-man team.

Starter: Victor Martinez, Red Sox. It’s been a down year for catchers in baseball and the AL has not been spared in this regard. V-Mart is hitting .289/.344/.480 with 9 HR and 38 RBI which ranks him first or second in each category among his positional peers.
Reserve: Joe Mauer, Twins. It’s not anything like the MVP season he put up in 2009 but Mauer is still the game’s best all-around catcher and has earned an All-Star appearance with a .300 average and .806 OPS.
Just Missed: None.

First Base:
Starter: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. The AL leader in HR and RBI sports a .337 AVG and is having his finest season in a superb career. Whatever his late-season issues were last year, they’re clearly behind him now. This is good for the Tigers and good for the AL.
Reserve: Justin Morneau, Twins; Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox; Paul Konerko, White Sox. In truth, there’s just not that much separating these reserves from the starter. Each of these guys is among the league leaders in HR, RBI, AVG.
Just Missed: None.

Second Base:
Starter: Robinson Cano, Yankees. This one wasn’t even close. Given the increased value of offensive production by a middle infielder (over a corner infielder or an outfielder), Cano has been hands-down, the AL MVP and arguably the game’s best player in 2010. With a .353/.404/.588 batting line to go with his position-leading 16 HR, 54 RBI, 57 R and sterling defense, Cano is in the middle of what might end up being one of the best seasons ever by a second baseman.
Reserve: Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox; Ty Wigginton, Orioles. Pedroia started off hot, cooled off in May and then came roaring back to life towards the end of June and is now back to his usual all-around dependability (.292/.370/.502). Wigginton ranks second among 2B with 14 HR and represents the Orioles’ lone All-Star representative.
Just Missed: None.

Third Base:
Starter: Evan Longoria, Rays. One of the game’s best young players, “E-Lo” is tied for the AL 3B lead with 12 HR, ranks second in RBI and third in AVG, all while playing a stellar defensive third base.
Reserve: Adrian Beltre, Red Sox; Michael Young, Rangers. If Beltre is miffed at not getting the starting job at the hot corner he can take solace in the fact that he has the 2010 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award safely in hand. He ranks in the league leaders with a .349 AVG, 12 HR, 53 RBI and is unquestionably the game’s pre-eminent defensive third baseman. For Young it’s just another routine .300 season with double-digit homers. It must get boring being as consistently productive as Michael Young is!
Just Missed: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees.

Starter: Derek Jeter, Yankees. Jeter gets the nod in an extremely weak field this year. The Yankee Captain had an MVP-type season in 2009 but has shown signs of aging thus far in 2010. Despite that, Jeter still ranks second in HR, RBI and R and third in AVG.
Reserve: Alex Gonzalez, Blue Jays; Elvis Andrus, Rangers. Gonzalez leads all AL shortstops with 14 HR and 40 RBI and Andrus, despite being the only regular AL SS with zero homers, has doubled up the field in the stolen base department, leading the position with 22 steals.
Just Missed: None.

Starters: Josh Hamilton, Rangers; Vernon Wells; Blue Jays; Alex Rios, White Sox. Holy Reclamation Project outfield, Batman! Hamilton’s story is well known at this point so it’s not worth rehashing. What perhaps is not known is that he’s leading AL outfielders with a .340/.385/.607 batting line, along with 18 HR and 58 RBI. He’s been the game’s hottest hitter over the past 30 days and is probably the sole reason why the Rangers have a hold on first place in the AL West. Wells (.280/.331/.557, 19 HR) and Rios (.307 AVG, 13 HR, 21 SB) were both put on outright waivers by the Blue Jays last year. One year later, they’re two-thirds of the AL’s starting outfield. Incredible.
Reserve: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners; Torii Hunter, Angels; Shin-Soo Choo, Indians. You know it’s a pretty strong starting outfield when mainstays Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki are relegated to reserve duty. Both are having strong seasons but missed out on the starting jobs because Hamilton, Wells and Rios were just doing that much better. Choo, arguably the game’s most underrated player, is Cleveland’s lone representative.
Just Missed: Nelson Cruz, Rangers; Magglio Ordonez, Tigers; Brett Gardner, Yankees; Nick Swisher, Yankees.

Starting Pitchers:
Starter: Jered Weaver, Angels. I’m sure there’s a degree of surprise with this selection, especially given some of the names listed among the reserves. The element of surprise notwithstanding, Weaver is leading all AL pitchers in strikeouts (124) and boasts a 2.82 ERA to go with his 8 wins. The Angels may only be in second place but Weaver is having a Cy Young season.
Reserves: Jon Lester, Red Sox; David Price, Rays; CC Sabathia, Yankees; Ricky Romero, Blue Jays; Francisco Liriano, Twins; Cliff Lee, Mariners; Felix Hernandez, Mariners; Trevor Cahill, A’s. The names listed here represent the majority of the AL leaders in W, ERA and K’s. Special mention goes to Francisco Liriano for coming all the way back from two years worth of surgeries and to Trevor Cahill for being the A’s sole representative.
Just Missed: John Danks, White Sox; Phil Hughes, New York Yankees; Andy Pettitte, Yankees; Jeff Niemann, Rays, Carl Pavano, Twins; Zack Greinke, Royals; Justin Verlander, Tigers; Clay Buchholz, Red Sox; Colby Lewis, Rangers.

Relief Pitchers:
Mariano Rivera, Yankees; Jose Valverde, Tigers; Neftali Feliz, Rangers; Joakim Soria, Royals. Rivera’s selection is self-explanatory as he is the single-greatest relief pitcher in baseball history in the midst of yet another incredible season (0.89 ERA). Amazingly, Rivera’s microscopic ERA does not lead the field of AL relievers, as Valverde’s 0.53 is even more impressive. Feliz, a rookie that came up as a setup man last year, leads the AL with 21 saves and Soria joins the squad both as a deserving candidate (20 saves) and as the Royals lone representative.
Just Missed: Andrew Bailey, A’s; Rafael Soriano, Rays; Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox; Jon Rauch, Twins.

The BSD National League All-Star Roster

As this blog's resident National League columnist, I hereby present to you the unofficial Official Back Seat Drivers National League All-Star Roster!

I have selected 34 players to fill the 34 roster slots. Following ASG rules, there is at least one player representative from each NL team. The selections have been made without regard to current injuries or fan balloting; i.e. this is my set of picks for the entire roster, as if I got to choose the entire 34-man team.

Let's get to it:

Starter: Miguel Olivo, Colorado. Olivo has been the best offensive catcher in the league - hitting .312, with 11 dingers, 36 runs and 39 rbi. He's also nabbed an incredible 53% of runners trying to steal on him. An easy choice to start.
Reserve: Brian McCann, Atlanta. There really isn't a good 2nd choice. I'm going with McCann because he's got the best offensive numbers among the league's regulars - but even his stats aren't compelling (.260-9-33).
Just Missed: None.

First Baseman:
Starter: Joey Votto, Cincinnati. Pujols is the reflexive choice, but Votto's been just a tad better (.314-18-55-51 runs-7 SB). Votto's also a huge reason why Cincinnati is surprisingly in contention.
Reserves: Albert Pujols, St. Louis; Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego; Ryan Howard, Philadelphia. Pujols' numbers are just behind Votto's; he's putting up a typically amazing season. Gonzalez is once again toiling in obscurity, even with the Friar's success - but with a .297-16-51 line, he absolutely belongs here. Howard is quietly putting together another terrific campaign (.297-15-55).
Just Missed: Adam Dunn, Washington.

Second Baseman:
Starter: Chase Utley, Philadelphia. Unlike previous seasons, his offensive numbers aren't head-and-shoulders above his peers - but he's still been all-around terrific, and he has the highest UZR rating (that's a fielding metric) to boot. But not a slam-dunk decision this year.
Reserve: Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee; Martin Prado Atlanta. Weeks is putting together a great season, hitting .273 with 13 homers, 51 runs, and 47 RBI. Prado has led the league in batting average for most of the season, and has been a key cog in Atlanta's early success.
Just Missed: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati.

Third Baseman:
Starter: David Wright, NY Mets. The power is back - 14 homers to date - and he's still running and hitting. Clearly the best at his position in the NL.
Reserve: Scott Rolen, Cincinnati; Ryan Zimmerman, Washington. Never thought you'd see Rolen in another ASG, did you? Well, with a .302 average and 17 bombs, he's an obvious choice. Zimmerman is still the best young player on an unknown team (sorry, Mr. Strasburg, you're not quite there yet), hitting .283 with 13 HR and 40 RBI - and we need a National.
Just Missed: Casey McGehee, Milwaukee.

Starter: Hanley Ramirez, Florida. .296 average, 12 HR, 15 SB - and that's after a relatively slow start. Like Wright, he's the best at his position.
Reserve: Jose Reyes, NY Mets. Concerns about Reyes' production coming off an injury...look stupid now. He's got 19 swipes to go with a .277 average.
Just Missed: None.

Starters: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee; Colby Rasmus, St. Louis; Justin Upton, Arizona. Nobody really stands out as the top two or three, but I'll say: Braun's numbers are down slightly, but he's still at .295-11-49-49 and 11 steals. Rasmus is tops among NL outfielders in OPS, with 16 homers to go with a .274 average. Upton's batting average is down but his power and speed are not (.269-14-39-48 runs-11 SB)
Reserve: Corey Hart, Milwaukee; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh; Andre Ethier, Los Angeles; Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado. Hart leads all NL OF with 18 home runs and 60 RBI. McCutchen is having a nice season with .297 and 19 steals, but he's here mostly because he's a Pirate. Ethier's injury diminishes his numbers a bit, but .312 with 12 homers gets him in. Gonzalez is a budding star, at .295-11-49 RBI-12 SB.
Just Missed: Matt Holliday, St. Louis.

Starting Pitchers:
Starter: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado. Can there be any doubt? He is an amazing 14-1, with a 1.83 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
Reserves: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco; Josh Johnson, Florida; Adam Wainwright, St. Louis; Roy Halladay, Philadelphia; Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee; Chris Carpenter, St. Louis; Mat Latos, San Diego; Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles. In any other season, Lincecum and Johnson would be compelling candidates to start - they've been amazing (especially Johnson, over the last two months). I'd love to have any of these guys on my team.
Just Missed: None, although a good case could be made for the Cubs' Carlos Silva, the Giants' Matt Cain, and the Mets' Mike Pelfrey.

Relief Pitchers: Brian Wilson, San Francisco; Carlos Marmol, Chicago; Heath Bell, San Diego; Matt Lindstrom, Houston. As in years past, there are many closers who could be taken. Wilson, Bell, and Marmol are easier choices; Lindstrom is here because we need an Astro.
Just Missed: Francisco Rodriguez, NY Mets; Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

NBA Free Agency 2010: Day 1 of Armageddon

Things we learned from the 1st day of Free Agency:

1) Question: If I asked anyone in America before Day 1 of free agency, "Who from the 2003 super-class will sign first?" I'm guessing that few, if any, would have smiled and said, "Darko!" Yes, Darko just got... FOUR MORE YEARS! The NBA is funny, because back in March... even Darko thought he would be returning to Europe.

Don't worry, Darko played really well at the end of last year. He hit double figures 9 out of the last 15 games, and even got 9 rebounds or more 3 out of his last 15 games. Let's also not forget though, that almost none of these games were remotely close, as the T-wolves somehow, remarkably, only won 2 games after February 3rd. Yes, they went 2-30 to end the season... but don't worry, Darko is back!!!!

2) If you are over 6 foot 10 inches tall, and are able to either a) walk and chew gum or b) you can tie your shoes, you are probably going to be a very rich man.

On the first day of free agency, while most of the media was focused on LeBron's meetings, the more interesting thing was this:

Darko - 4 years, $20 million.
Drew Gooden - 5 years, $32 million (yes. The same Drew Gooden who has passed between 6 teams in 3 years, the same one who gets confused by being required to play any defensive system.)
Amir Johnson - 5 years, $34 million - (Yes, the same Amir Johnson that played 4 seasons in Detroit, only to be traded to Milwaukee, then after playing on Milwaukee's summer league team, was traded to Toronto in a package deal for Carlos Delfino. The best part of the article (written last summer) , is how the article states how "Just as importantly, his contract expires next summer and his presence continues to give Colangelo some financial flexibility next summer." Well... there goes the financial flexibility! You just gave Amir a bunch of money for getting 6.2ppg, 4.8 rebs, for his 17 minutes per game!
I think this is only the beginning though... part of the reason Milwaukee parted ways with Amir was their acquisition of Hakim Warrick (at least according to the article above)... but he's a free agent too.... and reportedly receiving a LOT of interest!

The scary thing is... Brendan Haywood, the most talented, traditional center (not counting Bosh or Amare) in Free Agency 2010 is still available. What does Haywood get? $10 million? A Max deal???

3) A valuable use for Twitter.... Free Agency has made Twitter a very valuable resource, especially if you are reading Cleveland beat writer Brian Windhorst. My favorite tweet from today was "Knicks, like Nets, said they felt meeting went well. Knicks also rented a van to haul presentation gear in."

Which begs the question: What in the world is in the presentations for LeBron that requires a VAN's worth of equipment???

Is the presentation in 3-D? Does the presentation include a personal robotic butler that goes inside the van? Does the presentation include celebrities that are kidnapped and placed in the van? Does the presentation include a visual light display like the one in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Does the presentation include super-models that jump out of cakes? Does the presentation include NBA trade scenarios? Did the Knicks/Nets use the van just to transport super-computer Deep Blue, so Deep Blue could give its advice to LeBron? Please, someone tell me what goes on in these presentations, and what in the world you need more than 3 laptops for!

World Cup Quaterfinal Action

By popular demand...a little World Cup Analysis of the Elite 8 or what they call in the rest of the world...the quarterfinals...crazy rest of the world.

Uruguay v. Ghana
It's actually been a fascinating sociological demonstration how South African fans (and African fans more generally) have gotten behind the sole remaining African team. I doubt seriously other continents would have this level of unity. While Ghana has won consistently in the past years through a stifling defense. However at the end of the day I think Ghana will miss Michael Essien's play making abilities as Uruguay match's the Ghanan defense but has more striking capabilities.
Pick: Uruguay

Brazil v. Netherlands
This might be the best match of the quarter-finals. The Dutch have looked as good as anybody. They have a ton of experience, firepower, and their best player is finally healthy. However Brazil is top dog in the soccer world more so now as they've adopted a more defensive focus. Too many stars, too much firepower as soccer royalty moves on to the semis.
Pick Brazil

Paraguay v. Spain
I think I speak for all mankind as I'm rooting for Paraguay given that super-model/super-fan Larissa will strip naked and run around if Paraguay wins. Umm go Paraguay? Unfortunately Spain is the #1 team in the world by rankings led by David Villa and Xabi. They tossed aside Portugal, who is better than Paraguay, so Spain should role in probably the most lopsided of the quarterfinal matches.
Pick Spain

Argentina v. Germany
Germany I think has shocked a number of football/soccer fans. The youth/foreign movement of the German squad has been more successful then I think initially projected. Their crushing of England demonstrates the importance of infrastructure for a national team (as England lacks one). However there's something about this Argentina that seems more than the sum of their substantial parts. Despite barely making the World Cup, Maradonna's squad has looked as impressive as anyone in South Africa. In the end, I'll pull an ecological fallacy and say because South America has been better than Europe...Argentina gets the win
Pick Argentina