Postgame Spread
You guys hangin' out? I'll hang out.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gagne To Boston    

One brilliant maneuver after another...

The Red Sox picked up Eric Gagne for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and a 17-yo minor league stud Engel Beltre.  It's a sorely needed move to shore up the bullpen, one that does not require the Sox to part with so much as Manny Delcarmen, let alone Clay Buchholz and friends.  Bravo.

Gagne has agreed to work the 8th inning, allowing Jonathan Papelbon to remain as closer.  Bravo to both Gagne and Scott Boras for not being assholes about not closing.

Speaking of assholes, have the Yankees done anything yet?  Apart from booting Scott Proctor to the Dodgers?  This is quite unlike them... picking up Wilson Betemit is all they'll do?  Something else must be in the works...

The KG Veteran    

The AP is reporting the deal for Kevin Garnett as being done, though not official.  The deal is apparently KG for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, possibly Ryan Gomes (though only if you ask Bulpett), and two first-rounders (one is lottery-protected).  It could be less, once announced, but let's assume the biggest bounty is what's actually headed out of town.


After taking the time to wrap my head around it, this is an absolute no-brainer trade.  A masterstroke.  It's not like the C's traded for a stiff like Chris Webber, or even a question mark like Allen Iverson.  It's Kevin Garnett.  How does anybody not make this trade?

I hate to see Jefferson, Gomes and Green leave town.  And you hate to see the C's toss in two picks.  But nobody on the outbound side of the deal will ever be Kevin Garnett.  Jefferson's awesome, a sure-fire 20 + 10 guy going forward, but he's not in the same class.  Gomes is headed to free agency after this season anyway.  Green is more likely to be the next Ricky Davis than the next Rip Hamilton.  One of the first-rounders is lottery-protected.  It's a ton of talent, but it's spread out.

So while the Timberwolves are receiving an Instant Roster pill (just add Gatorade), the Celtics had a chance to add a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  This isn't the NFL, where the equivalent package would have crippled the team receiving KG.  It's the NBA.  You NEED that one guy, or you're nothing.  The Celtics are no longer nothing.  That's the bottom line.

Other assorted thoughts:

The cupboard is bare.  Assuming that Gomes is indeed gone, Kendrick Perkins would be the only legit big other than KG, and even that pushes the definition of "legit" to its boundaries.  Glen "Fat Baby" Davis becomes #2 on the depth chart at both the 4 and the 5... unless he falters, giving way to Leon Powe and... wait for it... Veal Scalabrine.  Good lord.  They need someone besides KG to rebound the ball.

Then there's the backcourt, featuring the brilliant but undercooked Rajon Rondo and second-round project Gabe Pruitt.  In a word, ugh.  The PG position becomes that much easier with Allen and KG around, but that's still a mess that could hold the team back.  Is Rondo truly ready for not just starting duties but starting playoff duties?  Really?!?  With no options remaining in free agency (Derek Fisher would have been perfect) they need to do something to land a competent backup PG as insurance against Rondo.

But despite those glaring holes, the continued employment of Donyell Marshall, Drew Gooden and Eric Snow in Cleveland proves that finding a workable supporting cast is the easy part.  The C's just did the hard part.

As was discussed at the Fanhouse, this is the ONLY thing that could have distracted us from the Tim Donaghy situation.  Mission accomplished!  I wouldn't put it past David Stern to approach both Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale, significant offer of some kind in hand, and ask that they sit down and make a fair deal happen.

It could be coincidence that this trade happened in the wake of the ref scandal.  But is a coincidence really that likely?  The most image-conscious (and most effective) commissioner in sports was watching a PR apocalypse unfold.  You can say he wasn't behind this all you want, but I'm not hearing it.

The talk of the future being mortgaged in exchange for a brief window of opportunity has been exaggerated so greatly that I'm embarrassed for the people who keep bringing it up.

My reaction, in two words: COME ON!

It's just a knee-jerk reaction to an imperfect scenario.  Garnett is 31.  Ray Allen is 32.  They're nowhere near washed-up, and won't be for another few years.  Ankle surgery?  OMG NOBODY RECOVERS FROM ANKLE SURGERY.  (Note how the injury-recovery addicts don't cite Jefferson's inability to stay healthy.)  Aging superstar?  OMG NO SUPERSTAR HAS VALUE AFTER AGE 31.

Ask Shaq about life after 31.  Or do you believe his role in the 2006 championship, at age 34, was due to his freakish adherence to a healthy diet and physical conditioning?

What about Duncan?  He's 31 now.  Did he not just win another championship?  Anyone think he's cooked?  Didn't think so.  Again, if the Celtics had traded for him instead of KG, would ANY of these stories be flying around?  Of course not.

Disaster is not the likeliest scenario... it's just more likely than it would be otherwise.  It affects the odds of success, but it doesn't make the negative side any more real.  The smart money is still on the Celtics contending in the East.  The old-age/washed-up angle makes for an engaging storyline, but it's not based in reality on any level.

It's my belief that the anti-trade crowd thinks the trade is stupid because they think Ainge is stupid.  In other words, if a more trusted GM had made the same move (say, Jerry West) then these folks wouldn't have the same reaction.  If the enormous bounty of outbound players and picks is questionable, the fact that it was Ainge's idea means it's gotta be dumb, right?

I would point out that Ainge has landed KG for less than the pre-draft offer.  In fact, Ainge's refusal to send the #5 to Minnesota is what led to both Allen and KG arriving.  Otherwise, it would have been one or the other, which would not have worked out quite so well.  He held out and got a better deal.  That's not stupid.

I've had my ups and downs with Ainge, but he has played this offseason beautifully.  He's given away a lot, but that was always the plan.  It was time to make the move.  And it's one hell of a move.

Everyone who laughed at the Allen trade?  Get ready to eat a big bag of mesquite BBQ dicks, bitches.  Abbondanza!  Still laughing?  By all means, continue.  Laugh it up.  You'll have plenty of chances to guffaw and chortle when you see them a dozen times on national fucking television this season.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Regarding The Other Thing    

You know... this other thing?  No comment.  Not until I know who's leaving and what the consequences are (bench? starting point? Tony Allen's health?), and not until I can think up some jokes about how Doc will approach the biggest challenge of his career: keeping a team with three All-Stars below .500.

But given that the hold-up appears to be an extension, not the caliber of player headed to Minnesota, it won't be long before I'll be free to speak...

Trade Deadline    

Quick PSA... with the deadline 30 hours away, you'll want to load up MLB Trade Rumors and set up your browser to auto-refresh.  Or, alternately, you could read every sports news site on the Internet at the same time.  Either way would work.  That is all.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Mentioned in today's Debriefing was this Page 2 piece by LZ Granderson.  Like MJD, I have nothing to add, apart from a co-sign and a nod of the head.

The greatest game of all time    

So I went to the Phillies/Nats game this past Wednesday. It was Cole Hamels bobblehead night, and he was starting, so it was already looking pretty good. Then Ryan Howard won it in the bottom of the 14th with a walk off home run. This was after The 6 Fingered Man blew the save in the top of the ninth, only to be picked up in the bottom half of the inning by a two out, two strike Jimmy Rollins triple-turned inside the park HR by some Keystone Cops fielding on the part of Les Nats.

Pretty sweet, yes?

Of course, it's just a Nationals game, so there's a glass ceiling on how good it can be, right? I mean, any game that doesn't involve the rivalry is automatically AAAA, yeah?


I have two little words for you:

Yup. Around about the 10th inning, we tired of the seats we'd been in the whole game (above the bullpens in right center field), and decided to wander up to the bleachers, directly below the bigass bell that rings whenever the Phils hit a home run. Of course, beer sales at Phillies games cease in the 7th inning, so come about 11:30, we were rather parched, and, with no end in sight for this game, in danger of sobering up.
Enter the ruckus.

For, you see, some less than intelligent beer vendor had, in closing the bleacher deck beer stand, failed to turn off the taps. With the bleachers empty of all but one very unobservant (or simply uncaring) usher, we were free to fill our waterbottles with Pale Ale. Again and again. For the next four innings.

Beisbol been very good to me, mang.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fun with numbers    

Raul Ibañez vs. LHP, 2006: .243/.301/.362, .663 OPS
Raul Ibañez vs. LHP, 2007: .238/.250/.286, .536 OPS
Raul Ibañez overall, July: .195/.239/.280, .519 OPS

Richie Sexson vs. RHP, 2007: .193/.296/.398, .694 OPS
Richie Sexson overall, July: .180/.324/.279, .603 OPS

Current Mariners losing streak: 6

Adam Jones (AAA), 2007: .314/.383/.587, .969 OPS
Adam Jones (AAA), July: .314/.375/.605, .980 OPS

Also, not numbers, but good to keep in mind:

Raul Ibañez, defensively: terrible
Adam Jones, defensively: excellent

This is getting so obvious that it hurts. We just lost 4 close games in a row to Texas that featured some very high-profile sucking by both Ibañez and Sexson (and Chris Reitsma in one game, who has no business being on any MLB roster at this point). Now, I don't think Jones himself can be considered a multiple-win upgrade at this point in the season, but at the same time I think with him as an everyday outfielder there's a very good chance we would have won two or three of those games. That would make us at most 1.5 back of the Angels instead of 3.5, for anyone paying attention.

In June, calling up Jones to take Ibañez spot in the outfield, moving him to DH and limiting him to facing mostly RH pitchers was obvious. But not doing it was still defensible. Through most of June, we did ok with our suboptimal roster. It finally bit us in the ass against Texas, in a big way, but we still have a shot at the playoffs thanks the Angels similar capacity to suck recently. This error can still be rectified.

I still have doubts as to whether or not this rotation can manage to sneak us into the playoffs, no matter how well the rest of the team is playing. But it's gotten us this far, Felix has plenty of room to improve, and it's possible we could add another mediocre starter (though not a good one). I'm hoping Sexson and Ibañez bounce back, but they've been bad enough that they should get no more unnecessary chances. We should be starting Ben Broussard (at 1B) and Adam Jones (in the OF, it doesn't really matter where) as much as possible. If Sexson starts to heat up, maybe you move Broussard back to more of a bench role. If Ibañez starts killing RH pitchers again, great, but he still shouldn't be anything more than the important half of a DH platoon.

This doesn't take fancy stats to see. These guys look terrible, and we shouldn't be giving them more opportunities to suck than we have to. Please, please, please fix this. And DFA Reitsma already, he's just terrible. On the one hand, we should feel very fortunate to have lost 6 in a row and still only be 3.5 back. But if we were putting our best product on the field these last six games, I think the chance we would now be in a virtual tie for the division is actually extremely high. This is a travesty.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Trade deadline dealing    

So I was all set to write up a complicated analysis of the Yankees strategy for the trading deadline, but damn it, the dugout beat me to it. I have NOTHING to add. Bravo.

/gulps bubble solution

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Now THAT's How You DEBATE!    

SmegmaCenter had a fun poll up on the webertubes yesterday, one that I think makes for an interesting conversation: which league commissioner would you least like to be right now?

  • Roger Goodell, dealing with the Michael Vick fiasco after having overdone it on the Pacman/Tank/Henry suspensions
  • David Stern, faced with the Donaghy scandal, the worst NBA playoffs ever, and monumental fan distrust
  • Bud Selig, who is presiding over the torch being handed from a true hero to the most despicable ballplayer since Ty Cobb

I'd least want to be Selig.  At least Goodell and Stern have ways out of the mess: dropping the hammer on Vick and opening the books on the refs, respectively.  There is nothing Selig can do, though, to come out smelling roses; "fresh manure, with extra corn" is the BEST he can do at this point.

(No picking Gary Bettman, for having single-handedly destroyed a sport to the point where nobody knows you exist anymore, let alone care about you.  I'd still rather be the guy running a sport that can be found without buying the expanded digital trunk.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tim Donaghy    

I think the news that Tim Donaghy was one of the refs of the Suns-Spurs infamous game 3 deserves its own post, though I don't have a whole lot to say. Simmons is already all over it. Deadspin has posted an amazing video that leaves no doubt just how horrible the officiating was that game.

Is this really happening? Was that Spurs-Suns game actually fixed? Individually those calls might not have added up to that much, and we don't see the fouls that went the Suns way in the video at least, but there were a lot a lot a lot of blown calls in that game. One diligent Truehoop reader (and Suns fan) has decided that Donaghy can't have decided the outcome, but the video, to me, is astonishing.

And I don't think the aggregate calls can really stand in as not-fixed, necessarily. Someone trying to alter the outcome of games (even in terms of total point-spread only), I think would be especially cautious to be fairly even-handed about the calls in terms of total number, but shift the game more subtly. So, Truehoop's reader does remind us that we shouldn't be too sure all this is related.

But it still stinks if you ask me, as if I needed anymore reason to be pissed about that series. I think we'll be hearing some more about this.

Friday, July 20, 2007

One Way In Which The NBA Is Like Rick's    

I'm shocked -- SHOCKED -- to find that GAMBLING is going on in here!

This is about as surprising as Lance Bass coming out of the closet.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

You're the dog now, man!    

The sportspeak world is all a titter this morning over news that Mike Vick has indeed been indicted for running a dog fighting ring. A few deets:

1) It's called "Bad Newz Kennels", which is hilarious. Photoshopped company logo, anyone? Please?
2) They killed teh dags in pretty brutal and wildly inefficient ways, like drowning and hanging and electrocuting and stuff. Seems Vick is more a student of Cristal than Kristallnacht.
3) Joey Harrington - your suspension is revoked! All Hail Joey Harrington!!!
4) If convicted, he could face up to 6 years. Which will never happen, but still.

Anyway, i figured we need a place to discuss this, and will gladly play McLaughlin for now.

Issue #1!
Is there a crime more damaging to an athlete's public image than dog fighting?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How To Make Stephon Marbury Likable    

(Hint: the answer is NOT to watch him play basketball.)

Sometimes, old news doesn't merit its own post.  For example, yesterday I opted not to discuss Greg Maddux' proclivity for peeing on prized prospects, because the story came out in March.  There's nothing to add, other than a touch of asparagus, and acknowledging the joke privately is probably enough.

But then sometimes you come across an old story that changes the way you view a really prominent star.  Not that I don't look at Maddux differently now that I know he's a leg-pisser, but the scope here is a bit more serious.  The Maddux Stream is light comedy.  Life goes on without stopping to watch the old man taking a piss in the shower.

LeBron James being a fucking bastard, however, is serious business.

Back during the season, Stephon Marbury got hated on by LeBron his endorsement the Starbury line of budget-priced basketball shoes.  LeBron's comment, speaking as a Nike endorser: "Me being with Nike, we hold our standards high."

Yeah, because all the underprivileged kids of America should force their parents to cough up what little money they bring in to buy your stupid little status symbol.  It's more important to build your 25,000 square foot fuckhouse than it is for all the little LeBrons to amass some wealth.  You pompous fucking asshole.

Meanwhile, Marbury's measured response?  "I'd rather own than be owned."  Speak.

This came up again because Marbury is now going after Michael Jordan for not doing likewise.  If anyone could come out with a fair-price shoe, it's Jordan, right?

I don't mean to suggest that Marbury is doing this strictly out of the goodness of his heart.  He has an equity stake in the Starbury line; making that a brand name is definitely in his financial interests.  (That explains the "be owned" remark.)  But this is a great example of striking a compromise between responsible and irresponsible business practices.  When you've made as much money in the NBA as Stephon Marbury, what's the difference between "loads of cash" and "shitloads of cash" anyway?  How many toddlers are you going to kick in the face to make another hundred bucks?  When does it stop?  It's refreshing to see that Marbury has some sense of when enough is enough.

Minor Bruins Trade    

The Bruins just picked up talented two-way left wing Peter Schaefer from Ottawa for the affordably mediocre Shean Donovan.  It's a good move, and one that makes the Bruins deeper, but the answer to their problems isn't having two P.J. Axelssons instead of just the one.  Who's gonna score goals for this team?  Cam Neely's not walking through that door, gentlemen.  Hell, even Mike Knuble isn't walking through that door.  Still doesn't look too good...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Freddy A-who?    

Found this write-up of Freddy Adu's recent U-20 dominance on the Bog.  Looks like he did OK in the quarterfinal loss to Austria, setting up the lone US goal on a cross.  I left him for dead after the trade to Real Salt Lake, and he's hardly done much to make his presence known since arriving in Utah, but could his commandeering of the U-20 team be taken as a sign of life?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mariners' First Half    

Well, Hargrove is finally gone, Felix has started mixing his pitches, All-Star Game MVP Ichiro is all locked up (in part, apparently, because his dog said "woof, woof, woof," which meant "stay, stay, stay"), the Mariners are 13 games over .500, and despite a pretty bleak performance against Detroit last night (and whether or not you think they're going to get that close, ultimately), they are legitimately in both the race for the division and the wildcard. If you'd asked me a month ago if I thought all of this could come to pass, I would probably have said no. Add that JJ Putz is continuing (even improving on!) last year's dominance, and that George Sherrill, Sean Green, and Eric O'Flaherty have taken huge steps towards making the Mariners' bullpen among the best in the majors, and things are looking pretty bright. Never mind that it actually would be the best in the majors if Rafael Soriano were still in it (who did we trade that guy for again?)... oh well, if Mark Lowe and/or Kam Mickolio can contribute later this year, it may yet be.

Anyway, the bullpen has been phenomenal. Ichiro has been outstanding. The late hitting has been surprisingly effective. The meltdowns have also been spectacular, but for the most part we've given a lot worse than we've gotten. The list of starting pitchers we've beaten includes Dan Haren (twice!), Andrew Miller, Roy Halladay, Kelvim Escober, Joe Blanton, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. And there's more help on the way, as Adam Jones just continues to look better and better. What's more, Wladmir Balentien is finally making his supporters look smart, and Jeff Clement is rebounding nicely after a tough year last year and a horrendous April (even if he's mostly feasting on crappy lefties). It's been a good year.

On the other hand, Bavasi's moves last winter look worse and worse. We've gotten very little of value from Horatio Ramirez, and Rafael Soriano has unsurprisingly been much better and more available than his supposedly more reliable replacement, Chris Reitsma. And while poor Chris Snelling is hurt again, at least he's not clogging up our DH slot, costing us $6 million this year, and blocking one of the best hitters in the organization. But the team is better in spite of all that, and Jones should be up (relegating Vidro to the bench) any time now, so maybe it doesn't matter that much. Our bullpen is doing fine without Soriano. Snelling and Soriano would be nice people to be shopping for starting pitching right now, along with Balentien, but there's not much on the market to be honest, so the upgrade would probably be pretty marginal.

Not drafting Andrew Miller continues to look incredibly stupid. Morrow had a good month in the bullpen in April, but he's not actually very good yet and may not ever be all that good. Miller, on the other hand, has the chance to be a very valuable starting pitcher this year and a force to be reckoned with for years to come. He would be the perfect complement to Felix at the top of the rotation, and if there were some fantasy universe where we could trade Brandon Morrow for him right now straight up, I would put the odds of catching the Angels in the neighborhood of 50/50 at least. It would be one thing if the Tigers had somehow suffered from their decision to go over slot money to draft him, but since there don't appear to be any consequences at all, I'm pissed that the Mariners have decided to play by the rules. Oh well, that's not changing any time soon.

As for Hargrove, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in this particular case it could hardly have done otherwise. But honestly, he was a better manager this year than he had been recently (if only because he was unable to call on extreme flyballer Julio Mateo to try to get double plays in the seventh inning while clinging to a tiny lead). And I have a lot respect, at least, for the fact that he passionately believed in sticking by his guys. God bless him, he even claimed he could hardly think of another LFer in the game who would even have been able to make a play on a long fly ball that Manny eventually dropped against us. He seemed like a loyal, principled guy who really loved his players, and I have to give him some props for that. He was also a complete dumbass, but that's not his fault, really. I blame the Mariners for not firing him a year ago.

John McLaren, Hargrove's replacement, so far does not seem that much better. Ichiro likes him, which probably helped us re-sign our best player, so he's got a bit of a free pass from me for now. But his continued insistence on batting Raul Ibañez third indicates he may not be prepared to use platoon splits enough to get full value out of this team he's got. I think USS Mariner put it best (sorry Jeff), just before the Mariners were about to face Kenny Rogers Saturday night:

Raul Ibañez since June 12th: .188/.225/.329
Raul Ibañez against lefties: .242/.255/.295
Rey Ordoñez, career: .246/.289/.310

Maybe try not hitting Raul third tonight, guys? Anyone out there? Hello?

Guess who batted third against Rogers that game?

Anyway, if the Mariners can upgrade their starting pitching without losing any of their key pieces, they have a legit shot. I don't think they can, so I think they're more of a longshot to reach the playoffs. But it's not impossible, if the talent in the organization is used to its full potential. Unsurprisingly, USS Mariner's suggestions for the second half are spot-on. The team's total offensive production and defensive efficiency could be significantly improved just by adding Jones. That's going to happen, and hopefully soon, which is really, really exciting. And the bullpen could be absolutely unstoppable by the end of the year. That's a good thing, because if they want any chance at October this year, that bullpen is going to need to do a lot of work.

Being smart about platoons and lineups with Ibañez, Guillen, Sexson, Broussard, and Vidro could be even more important, and that's where I don't see much possibility for success. I'm more optimistic that McLaren might be creative here than I would be if Hargrove were still in charge, but he's shown zero inclination so far. That's too bad, because apart from a Cy Young caliber second half by Felix, it's the only way I can see this team making the playoffs. But they've had a fair amount of magic so far, and the team is more poised for success than I could have hoped to start the season. It's been a fun ride, and I think the Mariners will still be in the hunt in late August, if not necessarily September. Felix could still pick this whole team up on his shoulders, though, so who knows?

Either way, I'm a pretty happy Mariners fan right now.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Greg Oden Is Just Alright With Me    

The FanHouse's Miss Gossip posted an excellent little interview with Greg Oden from a short while ago.  And it's going to make Oden a lot of fans.  He is refreshingly genuine, to say nothing of well-adjusted and downright likable.  How many superstars can you name who are as aw-shucks nice as Oden appears to be is?  Appreciate that earnestness now, because not everyone is going to be as trustworthy as Miss Gossip.  Let's hope that when the asshole pundits come along, he knows how to disarm them.

(Miss Gossip made herself a lot of fans as well.  The editing and musical selection is priceless.  Four stars.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Are The Capitals The Next Penguins?    

I don't know if you've been paying attention, but the Capitals have had a pretty excellent offseason.

On the free agency front, they made a slew of smart deals.  They signed pass-first center Michael Nylander to feed Alex Ovechkin for the foreseeable future.  They added power-play specialist Tom Poti to their bombed-out and depleted corps of defensemen.  They signed Viktor Kozlov to provide depth to the scoring lines.  Considering that their only front-line scorers last year were Ovechkin, Alexander Semin (show of hands if you knew he'd scored 38 goals last year), journeyman Chris Clark, and assorted turds, all this is very, very good news.

But more indicative of the team's direction, they brought 2006 1st-rounders C Nicklas Backstrom and G Simeon Varlamov into the fold and into America, with Backstrom a likely candidate to contribute immediately.  They've amassed a pretty ridiculous crop of young talent... Joe Finley, Backstrom, Varlamov, Sami Lepisto, reigning QMJHL MVP Mathieu Perrault, Eric Fehr, Chris Bourque, Tomas Fleischmann, and more.  That talent base is pretty excellent.  They're not all ready to contribute, but they're fast approaching their collective tipping point; sooner or later, the Caps will have no choice but to find big-boy ice time for the youngsters.

At any rate, it's safe to say this year's Caps should be improved.  After the Dainius Zubrus trade, they didn't have a single center on the roster worthy of the #1 line; now they have Nylander, and possibly Viktor Kozlov or even Backstrom taking second-line pivot duty.  Given what Ovechkin managed with hardly any help besides Zubrus, what would he be capable of with a better center in Nylander and a legitimate scoring threat in Kozlov at his side?  (All due respect, I see Clark as more of a beneficiary of OV than a legit 30-goal guy.)  And if the best-case scenario on Backstrom comes through, and he's pivoting the second line between Semin and Clark by season's end, isn't that group of six formidable enough to make you go "hmmmmmmmm"?

The defense is still awfully shaky.  They have a fair amount of talent, but they're in trouble if Tom Poti is not just their #1 defenseman but the clear #1.  Good as the youngsters are (Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, Bryan Pothier) they're not enough, barring a major breakthrough.  They're probably not going to get much better until the likes of Finley and Karl Alzner are ready to drop the hammer on the blue line... or unless they scare up a true shut-down defenseman some other way.

As for the goaltenting, 37-year-old Olie Kolzig is likely to break down before Varlamov stakes a claim to the net.  And Brent Johnson isn't deserving of the job he has, let alone a starting spot.  That's going to be a major problem pretty soon.

So the team isn't playoff-ready yet.  But at least the light at the end of the tunnel is not just visible but growing.  There's an actual vision for the future now.  It's kinda nice to see that the days of budget operations and treading water appear to be over.

Now if only they'd stop pulling our pants down on ticket prices...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ron Burgundy Award Winner: Me    

A few minutes ago, Ichiro received his All-Star Game MVP award, along with a brand new piece of American shit car that he'll never, ever, stoop so low as to drive.  Then interviewer Jeanne Zelasko turned towards Ichiro to ask him (and his interpreter) a few questions.  Once I saw that, I reached to my remote and shut my TV off for the night.

To recap, I turned off the television in order to avoid the guy who said the following things:

"If there is a problem, we need to notice what creates the problem. The problem usually isn't just on the cover. You need to look much deeper. For example, if we're talking about a tree and the tree has a problem, you need to look at the root. But you cannot see the root. The mistake is to keep watering the fruit. That's not going to solve anything."

"To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."

"The ball became the same color as the sky.  So, I wasn't able to see it ... I was sending mental signals for the ball not to come my way, because during that time of day it's impossible for me to see the ball so I lacked mental signals. I lacked in that area.  Usually, I don't send mental signals.  So, because this is the first time, I thought, please don't come my way."

Like the Texans, and Ron Burgundy, I immediately regretted this decision.

OK, so I didn't miss anything important.  He didn't compare his inside-the-parker to a plant, discuss the use of telekinesis during the ball's flight, or punch himself in the face.  All it was was a chance to dust off my Japanese (Konban wa!  Soo desu nee!) and watch him humor some dumb questions from Zelasko.

But still, there are two things to remember: a) Ichiro, by virtue of the language barrier, is unlikely to ever give the same old press conference, thus making my knee-jerk "quick, shut off the TV, it's an interview" reaction entirely wrong, and b) I got to beat Jesse to an Ichiro post.  Now he'll have to punch himself in the face!  LOL!  Although, as a wise man once said, that's not going to solve anything.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cinco Ocho    

This is awesome.  (h/t)  Cinco Ocho.  Recognize.

The question now is, which one's the alter ego?  Jonathan Papelbon or Cinco Ocho?  I'm going with the cribbage-playing nutcase as the real deal.  (h/t)

Chad to Paps is a rainbow connection that I cannot endorse any more highly.  Could they be sharing notes?  Let's hope so.  In fact, I eagerly await Paps' next blown save, and the inevitable shell-shocked interview to follow.  HUUUUUGH!!!

(Speaking of alter egos, I almost forgot about JoshJOOOOOOOOSH!!!)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Home Run Derby    

This year's derby was okay. The display was pretty good, it was nice to see Alex Rios make a name for himself, and Pac Bell Park (or whatever) is always nice to look at. So, overall... perfectly acceptable.

What isn't perfectly acceptable is Joe Morgan and Chris Berman broadcasting the same event, ever. Ever ever ever.

I am surely not the first to say that, and I suspect I won't be the last. I just witnessed an excruciating evening of live television.

You'd think I could live without the sound. It's just batting practice, right? Oh no. This is an event that doesn't work with the sound down. You need to hear the roar of the crowd. But to get that roar, you also need to accept the autofellative commentary of Berman and Morgan! Their me-first act doesn't end when the games do... they're always like that!!! Ugh. National ignorance alert level: orange!

And it's both of them at once! A nuclear holocaust of sports television! That's like getting cancer and AIDS in the same day. It's like surviving a plane crash over the ocean, only to get eaten by a shark. It's like having two giraffes rape me at the same time. There we go, that's it: Berman and Morgan are like a double dose of giraffe dick in my mouth.

But otherwise, nice job ESPN! Nice job eating out of an elephant's ASS, that is! PWN3D

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I Apologize For Hating You When You Were On The Lakers, Derek Fisher    

[also known as Experiments In Late-Night Blog Composition; we'll see how maudlin this turns out]

The announcement that Derek Fisher has been granted a release from his contract in Utah reminded me that he made his way onto my Apology For Lifetime Of Hate List. It's a short list, way shorter than its non-apology counterpart. It's pretty much Tim Wakefield, Glen Wesley, Matt "I had no idea you were injured when you sucked so much ass!!!" Clement, and now Fisher.

When Fisher hit the shot of his life to beat San Antonio in the Western semis a few years back, I really despised him. Deeply. I couldn't stand that some little shit point guard on the Lakers had stepped up and hit a miracle shot to win a series. I hated that the Lakers were going to plow through the playoffs again (they didn't) at the expense of a team I kinda liked at the time (hilariously, the Spurs). I blamed Derek Fisher for that. And I never forgave him.

His out-of-nowhere act in the semis against Golden State turned all of that around.

We'd been told throughout the broadcast that Fisher was dealing with "family issues." Stuff like that gets overblown so often that it's tough to feel much in the way of sympathy or connection, but something felt real about the concern for a backup player on the Jazz. Even though my instinct was to downplay what I was hearing, I chose not to.

He flew into Salt Lake City from New York during the game, making it to the court midway through the third quarter. And when he did arrive, the crowd blew up. Just showing up and helping out, apparently, would have been enough.

That he ended up winning the game for Utah, after all he'd been through that day, was legendary.

I was pulling for Golden State, but how could anyone be unimpressed by Fisher's overtime heroics? No warm-ups, no routine, no nothing... just fly into town, put on your pants, and win the game. It's that easy.

But it was his post-game interview, during which he disclosed his daughter's retinoblastoma, that really did it. That was as genuine and just flat-out true a moment as you'll ever see from a public figure of any kind. They're few and far between, especially in the NBA. It was inspiring to see him open up like that, and realize what he'd been through the previous few days.

That's when I started feeling like a dick for hating him. Not just because his daughter has cancer, but because deep down these are still just regular people. They're not Haterade receptacles. It shouldn't take something like this to remind us how little we I know about these people. Any judgments you I have about some athlete, as a person, are probably just completely wrong.

(Well, not any judgments; I'm pretty confident that Albert Belle really is a world-class cocksucker. But the average guy? Why hate someone for hitting a shot? It's stupid.)

So, I'm sorry, Derek Fisher. I'm sorry for being an asshole to you when you were on the Lakers. Privately. In my mind. I shouldn't have done that. You're okay with me now. Best of luck.

Also, Boston has some incredible medical facilities. And our point guard situation is pretty dubious. Just sayin.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

NHL Free Agency And Bruins Suckbaggery: Two Stories Jesse's NOT All Over    

Major, major changes afoot in the NHL. Free-agency news typically pours in here and here as it happens. Let's get things started by recapping the recent flurry of activity with a round of "one of these things is not like the other things"...

* Buffalo's dynamic duo of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury signed with the Flyers and Rangers, respectively.

* The Rangers also yoinked Scott Gomez away from the Devils.

* Ryan Smyth ended hopes of a return to Edmonton by signing with Colorado.

* Michael Nylander, displaced by the ultra-active Rangers, is returning to Washington. (Great signing.)

* Brian Rafalski got a five-year deal in Detroit. Hmmm.

* Mathieu Schneider joined the Ducks, giving them four front-line defensemen should Scott Niedermayer decide not to retire after all.

* Paul Kariya signed with... St. Louis?!? Them? Guess he doesn't really need a Cup after all.

* Robert Lang's headed to Chicago, though he's kinda washed up. Which explains Chicago's interest.

* The Bruins, not to be outdone, signed... occasional fourth-liner Shawn Thornton to a multi-year deal! Break out the champagne! That'll show 'em!

Man, those Bruins are always one step ahead of the league. They see everyone else in hockey addressing their first and second lines, so the Bruins' response, naturally, is to pounce on all that unsigned fourth-line talent. Isaac Newton never got the chance to run an NHL franchise, but if he had, he'd have done it just like this.

OK, so that's kind of a cheap shot. Thornton is better than his limited ice time in Anaheim indicates, making this a pretty shrewd deal. Peter Chiarelli knows the trenches pretty well, having nabbed some nice players who'd been overlooked (Brandon Bochenski comes to mind) for next to nothing. There's something to be said for that.

I should also give Chiarelli credit for acquiring Manny Fernandez from Minnesota, who had wildly overpaid him. (Ha.) I think I'm OK with this deal. The Bruins' goalie situation is finally in order; they are certainly better off with Fernandez as the starter and Tim Thomas as the capable backup. They may have given up hot prospect Petr Kalus, which I'm not thrilled about, but they really needed a better goalie. And they can't just sit around and wait for Tuukka Rask. [Note: Tuukka Rask is a goalie, not the Finnish word for Christmas.] So I can't say the Bruins are standing around, twiddling their thumbs.

However, the B's missed their chance to improve themselves. They need a top-six forward and a defenseman just to make the playoffs, and more if they want to be serious. But after 24 hours, basically all the guys who fit that description are off the market. The only top-drawer players left that I can see (correct me if I'm wrong) are old farts like Brendan Shanahan and Bill Guerin. At the very least, they needed to target some mid-level guys like Jason Blake or Cory Sarich, and even they're gone. There are very, very few acquisitions left to make that will impact the franchise as opposed to the roster, if that makes sense.

Not that they should turn down the likes of Shanahan if he's interested. Someone needs to score goals, and I'm not seeing any reliable sources on the roster. Patrice Bergeron never really exploded since being handed the reins. Glen Murray's never been the same since Joe Thornton left. Marco Sturm and Marc Savard definitely aren't going to do it. Phil Kessel's still too young to expect greatness, though he looks like a sure thing to score 20-25 if given proper ice time. But those are all question marks. There's nobody on the roster you can depend on.

Until they bring in someone who can score, get used to prolonged team slumps, P.J. Axelsson on the power play, and vacations in early April. In other words, there's way more work to be done, and I'll be damned if I know how to pull it off.

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Sonics: OK, what now?    

We landed Durant. We ditched Ray Allen's contract and got Delonte West and Jeff Green in return (plus some other guy). The franchise is stuck somewhere between rebuilding and contending, with a ton of small forwards. Sam Presti appears to be serious about re-signing Rashard Lewis, which will make for a pretty unbalanced roster, but potentially one with a shot at the playoffs... I think. It still looks like the ownership wants to move the team to Oklahoma City and that Seattleites just won't pony up for a new stadium.

So the future is part very bright (Durant) and part pretty dim (OKC). The Ray Allen trade was probably important just to clear his salary, but I have a feeling we'll be wondering if we could have done better if Jeff Green doesn't justify it on the court. I have no way of projecting his capacity to do that, though, so I'll just assume for now that it's going to pan out. Better basketball minds than mine sought him out to pair with Durant.

My question is, what now? It looks to me like Durant, Green, Lewis, and Wilcox cannot all exist on the same roster. I could see Collison coming off the bench or fitting into the center rotation, and Green might be a bench player this year at least, but I don't see how you can get both Lewis and Wilcox on the court at the same time as Durant. Presti has said that he doesn't see the redundancy as a problem, and that he wants to assemble a roster of talented guys who can play multiple positions, but there are limits (without even considering what you do about Szczerbiak). Considering that Wilcox has had trouble being a big factor without being a major centerpiece of the offense, I'm guessing he's on his way out. But is there a way to improve the roster by moving him? Pair him with a sign-and-trade involving Lewis, perhaps?

A team with a good PF but dissatisfied with their direction might take that package, but it's a little hard for me to imagine, ultimately. The two targets that jump out are Jermaine O'Neal and Pau Gasol, but I have trouble seeing either the Pacers or the Grizzlies deciding that's the direction they want to go in. Maybe with a future #1 thrown in, but I'm guessing not. Some people are talking about trying to ship Lewis home to Houston as part of a deal for Tracy McGrady, but that sounds like a pipe dream and maybe even not that good of an idea.

So I think for the most part, the talent we have on the roster now is really the ceiling of the talent we will enter the year with. It might not be the same guys (we won't enter the season with Ridnour and Watson, for example, and maybe neither), but I don't see a way to really improve the team between now and then. So, as much as I hate to say it, I think maybe you just let Rashard walk. The only thing he really provides is insurance against Green not panning out, but is that worth the risk of him clogging up our roster in another three years when Durant has started to dominate? I don't have the answer to that, but it makes me nervous. So, I guess the most likely opening day roster is:

PG West
SG Green
SF Durant
PF Wilcox
C Swift (or Collison)

It's a team that could really run the floor and would certainly be exciting to watch, but it's tough to see it really competing, which means we could end up with a nice draft pick next year as well to supplement this core. But if this team misses the playoffs next year, I think it's gone to Oklahoma, which means I would be willing to roll the dice and try to keep Rashard and relegate Wilcox to the bench.

What do you guys think? Am I missing a real chance to get some good value back from Ridnour or Wilcox? Do you think there are more moves in the works? Adding JO or Gasol would be interesting, but is there any chance?


ESPN's teaser on Bonds being voted into the All-Star Game begins:

"Despite a lackluster season and a cloud of suspicion handing over him, Barry Bonds found a home in the 78th All-Star Game."

Uh... cloud of suspicion sure, but lackluster season? Really? OK, he's had a little trouble staying in the lineup, but the man has hit 16 HRs already, and has the highest OPS of qualified players in the National League. If you break that down into its components, it's just as impressive, as he has an OBP of over.500 (1st in baseball) and a slugging percentage second in the National League only to Prince Fielder. If you include the AL, he's fourth behind A-Rod, Magglio, and Fielder.

So, anyway, for the billionth time, screw you ESPN. Mention the difficulty staying in the lineup if you want, but lackluster does not describe Bonds' 2007 one bit.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Posting queue    

Wow, developments. Ray Allen traded! Mike Hargrove resigns! Mariners have won 8 in a row and might actually have a real shot at the playoffs!

So, I have some posts to write, clearly. But I don't want to bombard folks with everything all at once, so I'll pace them a bit. First up, the possibly-soon-to-be-Oklahoma-City-Supersonics draft day shakeup. We'll see how quickly I can get to all this news.