Postgame Spread
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Friday, June 29, 2007

Allen Trade, Revisited    

More thoughts collected in my travels:

  • There is zero consensus on this trade.  Zero.  Opinions range everywhere from "new Clippers" (oh assholes, Peter May came up with "Clippers East" like 15 years ago) to "smelling like roses."  It's a true love-it-or-hate-it proposition.
  • Apparently the sticking point in the Ray Allen trade as originally configured was... Robert Swift!!!  Seattle was insisting on Rajon Rondo instead of Delonte West, but Ainge was insisting right back on Robert Swift.  Ainge won.  [via CelticsBlog]
  • Simmons went off the deep end last night, comparing this to the Webber/Richmond trade.  Not even in your wildest dreams, moron.  A Webber redux is precisely what Ainge AVOIDED... Jefferson for Allen would have corresponded.
  • This reader poll on pretty much sums up the local response.  As of 6 PM today, it's effectively a three-way tie: 34% like it, 30% hate it, and 36% only like it if it leads to another trade.

As you can tell, I'm still on board with the deal, for all the reasons I mentioned overnight.  Jefferson's still here, Gerald Green's still here, Pierce is still here, and Wally Szczerbiak isn't still here.  Hooray for me!!!

Not everybody agrees.  The common thread amongst the "Celtics just embarrassed themselves" arguments is that Ray Allen is old and just had surgery, that they shouldn't have traded away young prospects, and that doing this to placate Pierce is stupid.  That's one way of looking at it, one that I don't agree with at all.  I think Ainge took the lesser of, like, eight evils in a can't-win situation, and minimized his losses on every front.

I have a strong suspicion that the "this trade sucks!" reactions are mostly the result of not living up to the hype.  We've spent a month hearing about the draft, how deep it is, how much top-tier talent is out there.  Plus, we've spent the last week or two hearing about KG and Shawn Marion.  The draftees are assumed to be can't-miss success stories, and the trade expectations are off-the-charts.  Then Ainge lays up, instead pulling off a pretty clever trade.  And everyone goes ballistic.  Ray Allen isn't going to get people dreaming about #17.  Doesn't make it a bad trade.

I'll address the claims of the prosecution one by one:

1. Ray Allen is cooked, because ankles never heal and old 2-guards are worthless

I'm not going to stand here and declare the guy healthy, discount the importance of ankles to a jump-shooting guard, or deny the existence of the mid-30s decline amongst 2-guards.  The concerns are entirely legitimate.

However... the eulogies are a little premature, aren't they?  He's having bone chips out.  Al Jefferson did it prior to last year, and he looks fine to me.  Why has the extreme worst-case scenario for Allen been assumed?  Has anything in Allen's career, physically, motivationally, or whatever, made people think that his immediate collapse is a fait accompli?  (Oh, I forgot, it's 1943, and he'll never walk again without a cane.)  Until proven otherwise, I think a normal-sized guy like Allen with no history of fragility should be fine.

Attached to this is the notion that acquiring Allen just in time for his decline is stupid.  Indeed, he is not likely to average 26 points a game again.  But Allen's inevitable decline does not make the deal much worse.  If Allen spends the next three years injured, then sure.  Except he's not having reconstructive surgery or anything like it.  Bone chips!!!  No big deal!  He'll be fine.

Allen's not 40 yet, people.  Not even 35.  Save your bile for when he actually is old.

2. They traded youth for a guy who'll give a few good years and then suck

Oh, the humanity!  Hey, look what I found... it's the rest of the Celtics' eight-man rotation:

Al Jefferson (22)
Gerald Green
Rajon Rondo (21)
Kendrick Perkins (22)
Ryan Gomes (24)
Tony Allen (25)

Naturally, any intelligent person looks at that list and thinks, "good lord, they're not young enough!!!"

Please.  The Celts have five players older than 25: Pierce, Allen, a guy who's basically retired (Theo Ratliff), a guy who never plays anyway (Michael Olowokandi), and the incomparable Veal Scalabrine.  They're plenty young.  More kids is NOT the answer.

The answer is to convert that youth into sure things.  Like they just did.

Let's go back to who the Celtics gave up for a moment.  Was Delonte West ever going to be a 20 ppg guy for them?  He's got that potential, but his biggest skill is still knocking down the open jumper.  Get in line.  As for Jeff Green, given that Pierce and Jefferson play his positions, what's the likelihood of him emerging, under a mercurial coach?  Fat chance.  Whatever those guys do in Seattle, I assure you they would not have done likewise with the Celtics.  And they aren't likely to produce what Allen can.  It's a better match on both sides.  Isn't that kind of the point?

Have I mentioned that Doc now has fewer youngsters to spin into and out of his rotation willy-nilly?  Taking options away from a serial fuck-up is always a plus.

3. Don't just placate Pierce and his ridiculous demands.  Stay young and start over, because you can't win with Pierce.

Pierce is second-tier, so don't even try.  Just roll over and die, so we can watch LeBron play HORSE against the Pistons for another four years.  Yup.  That's the spirit.

First of all, that whole position is based on slighting Pierce, which I disagree with in its entirety.  That dude is as competitive as they come, and plenty talented on the scoring end.  Give him a real team, with a real coach, and watch him blow up.  Abandoning him due to his weaknesses is a ridiculous idea.

Second, what's the alternative?  Given the constraints the Celtics are operating under (fucked by lottery, stuck in low-lottery hell for foreseeable future, Pierce's trade value criminally low), what is the proper course of action?  Let Pierce go for more rookies and picks, so Jefferson's prime years can be wasted too?  Keep Pierce, but keep going young anyway, and pin the team's championship hopes on Jeff Green being even better than he seems?  Blow up the team out of principle?!?  Good God.  If this roster looks shitty now, just wait until they trade Pierce for some jackoff like Peja Stojakovic or Andrei Kirilenko.

The only way to get better is to start cashing in chips.  Which they did.  They're in a better position now with Pierce and Allen than they'd have been in with neither of them.

Of course, if they'd acquired KG, and coughed up the Jefferson/GG king's ransom the Wolves requested, Ainge would not have caught this kind of flak... because it's KG!  You're telling me Ray Allen, a guy who has never been physical, is a lock for injuries thanks to some bone chips, but the lanky 7-foot freak who's been going toe-to-toe with widebodies since he was 18 is gonna be fit as a fucking fiddle into his old age?  Really?  Sorry, but if we're playing the "educated guess" game, I'm taking Allen's health over KG's.


Here's my thing...

The Celtics got the best player in the trade, hands-down, and didn't give up anything they needed.

They had depth and youth, but lacked star power.  Seattle had the star, but lacked depth and youth.

The Sonics wanted get Allen's cap number off the books a year or two early.  The Celtics don't care about payroll, because cap space is meaningless when nobody wants to sign with you anyway.

Nobody mortgaged the future.  None of the truly high-ceiling guys are gone.  And they added a pretty excellent basketball player.

The rumored KG/Marion trades, meanwhile, would have tossed the last four years of rebuilding down the toilet in one fell swoop.

So where's the problem?

Maybe Seattle ends up with the better end of this one, and the Celtics aren't that much better.  Big deal.  The bottom line is that the Celts didn't give up any key pieces to a championship rotation, so who cares?  Allen may not be enough to land us #17, but his arrival isn't grounds for castration either.

Draft Day Miracle    

Ainge Convinces A Talented Player To Come To Boston; America Left To Wonder Who Sucked Whose Dick

I can't believe it, but I think I actually have to congratulate Danny Ainge on a job well done.  Not so much with the trade itself, but the job of managing generally done by Mr. Ainge today.  He somehow managed to avoid every single draft day fiasco I feared, and improved the team using peripheral depth, abstract ideas (i.e. cap space), and draft picks.  Big picture reaction... I'm pretty impressed.

The trade itself is a mixed bag.  We'll start with my dislikes:

* I'm not happy to see Delonte West go.  He's going to shine in a Chauncey Billups kind of way someday, once he's given a real chance by a real coach.  I always liked him.  Shame.

* Neither am I thrilled about losing out on the underrated Jeff Green, who will be a fantastic second/third option behind Durant.

* On the Celtics side, Ray Allen isn't all that great.  Going strictly by the package arriving in Boston, Allen is a pretty crappy second prize given that we've been hearing about KG and Shawn Marion for a week.  He's not even a Paul Pierce let alone a KG.

* Finally, it wouldn't be a Jeff Doucette joint if I didn't mention that none of the roster moves mean jack shit with Doc Rivers, whose only possible doctoral degree would have to be in Blithering Idiocy Studies, still calling the "plays" from the bench.  (Like Doc, I use the term "plays" loosely.)  As long as he's running this thing, his team's ceiling is "getting smoked on the road in the first round by a shitty team like Toronto or New Jersey," and nobody, not even KG, can overcome that.

That said, given that nobody's going to do anything about Doc, each of these positives is more important than the negatives:

* They didn't overpay for an aging superstar.  They paid fair value for one.
* They kept Al Jefferson.
* They kept Pierce.
* The team is better.  Maybe not far better, but better.

They traded three quarters for a dollar.  It may be a Sacajawea dollar, but it's still a dollar.

So it seems the heavy offseason lifting is over, pending further loony requests from Pierce.  Now that there's a break in the action, perhaps Celtics ownership should figure out why the hell EVERYONE refuses to play for their team.  And once they figure out what it is, fire it.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Silver Lining On My Cloud    

BAD NEWS: The Red Sox just got swept by strategic mastermind Mike Hargrove.  It is the nadir of their annual June Swoon.  Halfway through the season, they still haven't gotten their act together like they should.  The team is hitting for shit.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but without Julian Tavarez' unexpectedly outstanding work in the #4 hole (he's overtaken Wakie at this point) I don't know where they'd be.  More importantly, this is the moment every year when the Yankees, having been given an opening, always wake up and pounce.

GOOD NEWS: Luckily, the Yankees chose to pounce on third place this year.  Even better, Roger Clemens is already in October mode, having lost a game against a real pitcher without recording a single strikeout.  (No word on his forthcoming suspension for inadvertently doctoring the ball with barbecue sauce and gravy after his 3rd inning snack.)  Maybe this really is the year...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Please Saw My Face Off Before The NBA Draft Does It For Me    

The Celts don't have a meaningful pick tomorrow night, but at least the draft will be intriguing.  Why?  Because some bad shit is gonna go down.  Over the next 48 hours, at least one of three disaster scenarios will happen to the Celtics:

  1. Danny Ainge will overpay for an established star (Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion), guaranteeing a Conference Finals ceiling until Paul Pierce's retirement
  2. Pierce will make his rumored trade demands official.
  3. Ainge will "pull a fast one" by drafting Yi Jianlian or Joakim Noah.

I'm not actually that worried about scenario #3, but it doesn't sound impossible, does it?  That a black-belt drafter like Ainge appears capable of such lunacy says loads about the Celts' situation.  He hasn't destroyed the team (per se) but he sure hasn't helped matters much.  It's tough to argue with the results.  These guys suck.

Ainge's idea was to stockpile assets, to build up a roster with tons of potential and trade that potential for veterans.  The plan was NOT to cash in the only asset who actually panned out (Al Jefferson).  We finally get a stud out of all those first-round picks, and now he's headed out of town?!?  The trades proposed kinda make sense, but they also kinda invalidate everything Ainge was doing.

Not that any trades are actually going to happen.  Seems that nobody wants to come to Boston!  I have no idea what the problem could be!  Seriously, there are very few viable explanations for the round of flat-out refusals: the dearth of endorsement deals for someone who's not on the Sox or Pats, and the thought of participating in a Doc Rivers joint.  That's all I got.

In short, the Celtics suck, they are screwed, and they are staying screwed.  Dammit.

It's a sad state of affairs when the Bruins are in better shape than your team.  The B's may be a mess right now, but at least there's no air of satisfaction to be heard from them.  You don't hear the Bruins' brass insisting their roster is actually just fine, thank you, and how there's nothing to do but stay the course.  They at least seem to know the score, which is more than we can say for Ainge and his bosses.  I halfway expect to see them unfurl a "Mission Accomplished" banner over Corey Brewer's head on Friday morning.

Pulitzer Prize Selection Committee: You're On The Clock    

Guess who's writing a book.  (Scroll all the way to the bottom of the post, or scroll up a little bit from here.)

This is gonna be awesome.  Please, please tell me Dan Steinberg's helping him...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bobby Howry, FTL... Then FTW!    

From last night's Fenway-esque romp at Wrigley:

After Tulowitzki's homer, a fan jumped onto the field from the roof of the Rockies' dugout and charged at Howry. The fan was just a few feet from the mound when security guards tackled him.

"As soon as I turned around the guy clotheslined him and took him down," said Howry, who hardly moved as the fan charged his way. "He said, 'What are you doing?' I'm trying to give up home runs, what do you think?"
Bobby Howry, you get five Jeffbucks for that line.  Can you tell Howry has had his ups and downs the last few years?

And how about a guy running on the field not to draw attention to himself, not to pretend to call his shot at home plate in his underwear or whatever... but to beat up Howry for blowing the game.  Yikes.  I'm all for accountability, but jeez.  Even the guy who beat up the first base coach a few years ago wasn't upset about how the game was going.  This is serious.  Hope it doesn't touch off a rash of copycats; Julio Lugo's next strikeout could incite a mob scene.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Low-Hanging Fruit    

You have no idea how apropos that title is.  Behold!

I think I have an explanation for this that relies neither on gay innuendo, nor on the Redskins being a bad football team, nor on the character-based comedy stylings of Clinton Portis.

See, I'm thinking that Cooley's wardrobe was the result of losing a bet with Rams quarterback Marc Bulger.  If Bulger had lost, he would have attended Rams minicamp with a bag of ice cubes in his jock.  (It's all about the clever wordplay with these football players.)

I'm Terribly Vexed    

Joe Girardi appears to have turned down the Orioles job.  Speculation is that he did so because the Orioles didn't make themselves any more attractive than... the Yankees, where he's a likely front-runner to take over for Joe Torre next season, should Torre not re-up.


I wasn't happy about Girardi joining the division with the Orioles, so the thought of him taking over with the Yankees is pretty irritating.  He's a good manager.  He'd be an excellent hire.  And that pisses me right off.  I was a lot happier when I thought Don Mattingly would be the post-Torre hire; having forsaken his mustache, the source of all his power, Donnie Baseball would have screwed everything up royal, securing the Red Sox a decent shot at the division for another season or two.  Now it looks like that won't be happening.  Oh well.


That Alexi Lalas... Both an incredible asshole in Pros vs. Joes (more power to him of course, that isn't meant as a criticism) AND laughably arrogant in real life. I mean, you can expect him to rep his league and all that, but wow.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Nerd Alert    

Stathead babble commencing, be warned...

I just came across this interesting article in the New York Times (linked to from a decent primer on the state of Defense Independent Pitching Statistics, or DIPS from Baseball Prospectus). Basically, it confirms what we all already knew, that Voros McCracken's famous declaration (that pitchers have no impact on what happens to the balls in play that they allow), isn't quite accurate. It's been pretty well accepted by stathead-types for a while now that knuckleballers are a special case, that truly awful pitchers are a special case, that Jamie Moyer was once a special case (though I don't know if he still is), and especially that the difference between groundballers and flyballers is crucial.

But Mitchell Lichtman's Pitcher Zone Rating (the subject of the NY Times piece) seems particularly interesting to me. The stat isn't publicly available yet, but I think the level of detail about where balls are actually hit could be a goldmine of sorts. The conclusions thus far, though still apparently sketchy, make a lot of sense:

"A few patterns have emerged from the P.Z.R. data. Besides the occasional knuckleballer, the pitchers who dominate the leader board tend to be either extreme ground-ball pitchers, who do not give up extra-base hits (like Lowe), elite junkballers like Jamie Moyer, or simply great pitchers with moving fastballs, including Martínez, Johan Santana and Roger Clemens.

Those who give up more hard-hit balls than average either compensate with terrific strikeout and walk rates (like Ben Sheets), pitch in front of outstanding defenses (like Randy Wolf) or drop out of baseball (ahem, Rusch)."

I for one am excited to see where this leads. Jeff has pointed out a number of times that the lack of sufficient information about the details of batted balls all-but-dooms current defensive metrics, and I'm maybe three-quarters in agreement with him. The same could be said about DIPS-related efforts, it would seem to me. And now it looks like maybe we're going to start getting that level of detail. I'm glad I don't have to to deal with any of those numbers myself (because I certainly don't have the calling to), but I'm also glad there's an army of trained-statistician-baseball-nerds running around out there figuring all this stuff out.

Now, if only they would develop some brilliant new insight indicating that the Mariners were headed in the right direction as an organization...

Baseball America    

OK, so there was a bunch of stuff I meant to post last week, but it didn't happen, and then the Mariners went on a 5 game losing streak, and now I can't remember any of it anyway (except the Jamie Burke thing, which is cool).

But I just read Baseball America's "Prospect Hot Sheet" for the first time, and I thought I would recommend it to people who haven't been looking at it from time to time (as you all may have been doing). It's nice to know which guys are tearing up the minor leagues on a regular basis, instead of just when some blog or another, or even a news organization (or even ESPN), mentions it. Of course, I have an ulterior motive, as the kind words about the man who is rapidly becoming my favorite Mariner (despite incomprehensibly languishing in Tacoma) are pretty... well, kind. Music to my ears, or eyes, or whatever:

"After three straight Hot Sheet appearances, we've run out of superlatives for Jones, the Mariners' top prospect, and criticizing any aspect of his play right now would just be nitpicking."

Any chance that maybe the Mariners should actually start playing him? I mean, don't you think that maybe, just maybe, upgrading from possibly the worst defensive left fielder in the game to center-field caliber defense, in the most spacious left field in baseball, would help out our crappy fly-ball prone rotation? It's not rocket science people.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Read it and weep, motherfuckers. Picks #1 and #2 in the draft, paper tiger division go to NY.

LHP Kai Liu, allegedly.

You are all totally fucked.

Perlozzo Fired For Being Worse Than Yankees    

It's official.  Sam Perlozzo's out.  The O's suck, and it's not like they're that much worse than they should be, so it's kinda meaningless.  But he clearly wasn't doing anything for them.  And he presided over the Mother's Day Massacre, one of the worst managerial meltdowns this side of Grady Little.  I'm not thrilled to see him leave my division, but this is nonetheless a smart move.

Here's the interesting thing.  Perlozzo makes two Italian managers in a row to be fired by the Orioles, with a third (Joe Girardi) as the likely successor to the chopping block.  A-ha!  The real story behind these hirings and firings has become all too clear.  Peter Angelos, of Greek heritage, enjoys hiring Italians, a.k.a. Romans, for no reason other than firing them and causing them public humiliation... as revenge for the Battle of Cynoscephalae.  How petty is that?  Seriously, dude, grow up.  It was, like, 2200 years ago.  Get over it.  I guess racists will never cease to outdo themselves, will they...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Drought Is Over: Two Amazing Things Happened    

Finally, something worthy of a post!

1) What?  Wait, what?  What?  What?!?  Huh?  What?  Nasty mothafucka.

2) I can't say it any better than MJD and FJM said it, but this is why you don't bother abbreviating words in URLs.  Please, people, numbers or full words only.  Poor Youk.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Stanley Cup Aftermath    

So, Ducks win.  I wasn't surprised.  I haven't got a lot to say about them in the way of analysis, since they pretty much did what they needed to do in every facet of the game.  They're deeper and better.  Better skaters, shooters, and hitters.  Convincingly the best team.  Congratulations to them.

The Senators, however, could have played significantly better than they did.  It's easy to write off their collapse as having run out of gas after taking down three excellent teams in a row, or the nine-day layoff between the semis and the finals, but I don't buy either of those excuses.

Nor do I believe that their loss is primarily related to the underwhelming performances of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.  Top lines often struggle in playoff scenarios; it's up to the supporting cast to pick up the slack.  Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher did so.  Even my distant (and I mean distant) cousin, checking forward Antoine Vermette, played well enough to earn himself a bump up to the scoring lines in Dean McAmmond's absence.  So overall, I think the forwards played better than the results show.

To me, the main culprit is Ray Emery.  His final showing was downright Cechmanek-like.  In the final three games, he let in an awful lot of softies, particularly down low.  How many times did we see a Duck flip the puck on net, low, only to have Emery lift his leg out of the way in order to cover high?  I counted two in Game 5, one of the Andy McDonald goals in Game 4, and Ryan Getzlaf's goal in Game 3.  There may have been others.  Who's telling him to do that?  If that's his weakness as a goalie, if this was the coming-out party for how to beat Ray Emery, he's going to get crushed next season.  Ray, seriously, shut your five-hole.  If anyone let his team down, it's him.

It's sad that yet another Canadian team got its hopes up, only to be let down in the Finals.  As an ethnic Canadian, I'd like to see them bring the Cup back.  It's doubly tough to see Anaheim win when you consider the pain that last year's Cinderellas, the Edmonton Oilers, must be feeling right now.  Darth Vader couldn't have said it better.  [via Off Wing Opinion]

But at the same time, I'm not exactly crying about a cheap team like Ottawa getting stuffed at their own game.  Both clubs are physical, but with an exception or two (coughPRONGERcough) Ottawa is the cheaper of the two teams.  Two words: Chris Neil.  You can imagine my joy when Ottawa's hypocritical bitching to the referees in Game 5 resulted in an avalanche of penalties... against Ottawa.  I love when that happens.  You live by gamesmanship, you die by gamesmanship.  So I'm not too upset about watching them lose.

Either way, much better than watching LeBron gets schooled by a bunch of cheating thugs.

So, no more hockey until next season... in other words, that's no hockey for three whole weeks.  (haha)

"I believe I can fly, mang"    

Not much to say here, except that, courtesy of a link on Deadspin, comes the greatest photo of all time.

Seriously, this is amazing. Not since Cartier-Bresson have we had an image that so perfectly captures the zeitgeist of an age like this sublime ode to 100% commitment and 0% forethought. As Nwanda would say, "Laughing, crying, tumbling, mumbling, Gotta do more, gotta be more. Chaos screaming, chaos dreaming, Gotta be more, gotta do more."

God bless you, Manny.