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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

MLB Hot Stove

The biggest news of late has been the Mets signing of Billy Wagner. The deal covers 4 years at $43 million with an option for a 5th year. Wagner, even at 34, is still one of the premier closers in the league. This is a great signing if you're of the belief that a team needs an established closer to win a World Series. If you don't subscribe to that theory, it just looks like a hell of alot money to spend on 70 innings. I guess if you're the Mets and you've got the cash to spend, then why not spend it Wagner. It's actually been over 24 hours since Omar Minaya has made a deal. Mets fans are starting to have withdrawls.

Esteban Loaiza signed with Oakland for $7 million a year. It seems a bit high for Loaiza at first, but I guess that's about the going rate for a 4th starter with his experience. Something about it just doesn't seem like a Billy Beane signing though. The real importance of this deal is probably that it increases the odds of Zito being traded this winter. I can't imagine Beane keeping him around after the deal he got for Mulder. Now with Loaiza, Blanton, Harden, Haren, and Starter X (Saarloos, Cruz, Meyer, free agent), the A's can afford to lose Zito.

Raffy Furcal is expected to make a decision within the next few days. He'll likely sign a 5 year, $50 million range with either the Cubs or the Braves. The Dodgers are said to be in the running, but I'm just don't see it happening. My guess is he signs with the Cubs, who add the 5th year that the Braves aren't willing to add.

The Braves need to spend some of that money on the bullpen, especially if the news that Farnsworth is close to signing a deal with the Yankees is true. He could be able to replace Flash Gordon as Rivera's set-up man if he should leave. My biggest concern with Farnsworth would be his mental problems. We've always known he had the stuff; it's been his head that's gotten to him. Let's see how he handles the NY media after his first bad outing.

Viva El Birdos, the top Cardinals blog, has some great stuff posted about a potentially HUGE deal that Walt Jocketty has up his sleeves. Nothing has been completely confirmed, but it's rumored to involve Bobby Abreu or Jim Edmonds. Whether it's legit or not remains to be seen, but it's definately worth a read.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

No More Mooch for Motown

Steve Mariucci has been fired by the Detroit Lions. At 3:00pm CST today, Matt Millen will hold a press conference and announce his decision to let Mariucci go. Steve had a great career with the San Francisco 49ers, going 60-43 over six seasons, but couldn't ever get the ball rolling in Detroit, where he compiled a 15-28 record over nearly three full seasons. The rumors of his demise were widespread throughout the sportsworld, but when he made it through the weekend without the axe falling, most thought he'd at least finish the season. Well, Millen had other ideas as the pink slip came today for the man affectionately called "the Mooch" (from his name, not his personality, although he certainly adopted many Bill Walsh tactics).

Was the firing deserved? I'm not sure it's the best thing to do to a (very) young team with just five games left on the 2005 NFL season. Why not just wait for the end of the season, see if he can turn the 4-7 campaign around, and then make your decision? Is an interim or immediate hire coach going to be able to grab ahold of the reins and do any better? This team is so full of youth that it's hard to imagine any coach being able to make an impact over his first five games at the helm.

Is Matt Millen more to blame than Mariucci? Or at least shouldn't he shoulder equal blame for the calamity that are the Detroit Lions? He hired both Mariucci and the prior coach, Marty Mornhinweg. He is personally responsible, by either drafting or signing, all but three of the current players on the Detroit roster. His record of "success" since taking control as President and CEO of the Lions on January 9th, 2001? 22-55. That's the worst record in the NFL since 2001. Yes, I said The Worst.

So, will the firing of Steve Mariucci do anything to turn around the Lions? I hope the folks in Motown aren't expecting anything anytime soon. And the way the Tigers are looking, best stick with the Pistons. Or the Red Wings.


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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bears Win Seventh Straight

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Da Bears are on fire. Winners of seven straight, the Chicago Bears are far ahead in the NFC North at 8-3. The current seven game winning streak is the best for the Bears since 1986. Unreal. And to top that off, the last two victories were against the ("best team in the NFC?") Carolina Panthers, 13-3, and at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium (#3 Defense in the NFL) this Sunday afternoon, 13-10. The Bears, as you most likely know, have the #1 ranked Defense in the NFL. At least at the Week 12 mark.

Eight wins, Three losses. That's music to my ears. To make the playoffs this year would be quite an accomplishment for Lovie Smith, Ron Turner, Ron Rivera and Dave Toub. To win the division would be outstanding. Who would have guessed it? Thomas Jones has grabbed the starting RB position with fervor and not let go. Kyle Orton has certainly done better than expected as well, especially considering he was not considered to be even 5% of the offense when drafted in the fourth round by the Bears last year. Instead, he's accounted for much more of the Bears production than #4 pick overall Cedric Benson. Although Cedric looked to be coming around just as his season was possibly cut short by a serious knee injury (could be back by mid-December). And I haven't even started on the Bears smothering defense.

Orton went 14-28 today for 134 yards with a TD and an INT. He also rushed three times for 19 yards. Thomas Jones ran 25 times for 72 yards and caught three passes for 50 yards. Today's Bears TD went to John Gilmore a one yard pass from Orton for the first touchdown in Gilmore's four year career (out of Penn St.). Robbie Gould (pronounced "gold") succeeded on both field goal attempts (a 2nd quarter 25 yarder and a 3rd qtr. 36 yd.) and his only XP att. Brad Maynard had eight punts, averaging 43.9 yards per.

How about that #1 D? Alex Brown had a helluva day today with two tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and five "hurries". Adawale Ogunleye also had two sacks, the last of which ended the game when he took down Chris Simms as the clock ran out in regulation. They did allow their first touchdown in 13 quarters to Mike Alstott in the fourth quarter, but they held on for the win. Of course, it definitely helped that Matt Bryant missed a 29 yd. chipshot with 2:47 to go. CB Charles Tillman looked shaky a few times up against the Bucs' WR Joey Galloway (but who doesn't), but he dished out the hits, leading the Bears with nine tackles and an assist. However, you don't like the cornerbacks getting all those tackles. Means they Bucs got downfield a few times on 'em. Thats where third-year OLB Lance Briggs comes in, adding seven tackles and two assists. SS Mike Brown had six and one, and MLB Brian Urlacher had five and one.

Monsters of the Midway! Bring on the Packers! At least the Bears get them at home first, before a chilly rematch on Christmas Day on the Frozen Tundra at Lambeau Field. I can hardly wait.

Time to watch the Seahawks v. Giants game.


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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Back Online

I've been out of the loop since Wednesday. Like many of you, I was at my parent's house for Thanksgiving. It's enjoyable for the most part, except for the fact that they still don't have internet service. I was also told by my grandmother that she has never been on a computer. That's just one more thing she has in common with with Pat Gillick.

It may be unfair to rip on Gillick given what transpired a few days ago. I figured he'd be lucky to unload Thome's contract before Spring Training. As it turns out, he got the deal done much earlier than anyone expected. The value that he got makes the deal look even better. Rowand plays great defense in center, and while he is by no means an offensive star, he's certainly not a scrub either. The Phillies will be paying half of Thome's remaining contract, but that was to be expected. Overall, I'd say Gillick's 1st move as Phillies GM goes down as "two thumbs up".

The Marlins are right in the middle of what people are calling a "fire sale." It seems those people are ignoring the quality prospects the Marlins are getting in the process. Mike Jacobs and Yuesmiro Petit came over from NY and Boston sent Hanley Ramirez and Annibal Sanchez. Jacobs will be ready to play in April. The other 3 will probably see at least half the year in the minors, but will surely be called up at some point in 2006.

The Marlins did this after their first World Series win. Those trades brought them the likes of Dontrelle Willis, Carl Pavano, AJ Burnett, and Juan Pierre. These new prospects could be jsut as good. Of course, unless fans start coming to the games, the team will never succeed and will be forced to do the same thing five or six years from now. But that's a different story altogether. For now let's just say that maybe the Marlins are being a bit more shrewd than people are giving them credit for.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

From The Mailbag

Once again thses are questions taken directly form MLB team websites.

After an up and down season for Justin Morneau, what do you think you can expect from him this year?
-- Steve A., Brooklyn Park, Minn.

The Twins are counting on Morneau to improve, which shouldn't be difficult given his performance last year. Whether or not he hits will be a big factor on the Twins chances of winning the division.

I had originally assumed that much of Morneau's struggles were a result of the pitch he took to the face. It's not uncommon for a player to become tentative after being drilled. The effect can last quite some time, as we saw with Sammy Sosa a few years back. So I checked his 1st and 2nd half numbers hoping to find evidence to support my theory. What I found is that the opposite is true. Morneau actually hit better in the first half than he did after the All-Star break.

His main problem seems to be plate discipline and the ability to hit lefties. I still assume he'll improve, but that's based solely on his age.

I expect his end of year numbers to be about .260/.330/.465.

What is meant by "picking up the option"? This was done recently for one of the Braves pitchers.
-- Leah P., Lakeland, Fla.

I don't understand how somebody can be a big enough baseball fan to take the time to write a question to MLB.com, yet not know what "picking up the option" means on Player X. To top it off, she can't even remember Player X's name. This would be similar to me going to a Republican Womens Meeting with my mother and then asking who the President is.

To answer the question, picking up the option means exactly what you would think it means. The Braves had the $4.5 million option on John Thomson's contract. they could choose to pay him that amount and keep him under contract for another year, or let him become a free agent. Next question please.

What do you think about the Cardinals trying to do a sign-and-trade with Matt Morris? His value should be very high and the team might be able to address some needs in the outfield or bullpen. -- Greg C., Quincy, Ill.

Sign and trades rarely happen in baseball, if ever. The reason they are so popular in basketball is due to their salary cap restraints. A team can sign it's own free agents at a higher salary than other teams. Therefore, a player who would like to play elsewhere, can sign with his previous team and than be traded. A baseball player has no incentive to do this.

With all these questions about free agency or trades, have the Angels considered giving a chance to prospects like Brandon Wood or Kendry Morales as full-time starters? -- Everardo B., Los Angeles

This is a good question. It's also why I don't understand the Angels pursuit of Paul Konerko. I know Morales is only 22 but he has absolutely killed minor league pitching. He has nothing left to prove outside of the big show. Casey Kotchman is in the same position as Morales. Signing Konerko would only block these 2 guys from coming up to the majors. I think it's time to give them a shot. Signing a lower priced 1st baseman as insurance or to platoon may not be a bad idea, but bringing in Konerko on a long term deal is absurd.

After beginning his GM career with one of the most unpopular (at the time) but savvy trades of Matt Williams to the Cleveland Indians for Jeff Kent, Jose Vizcaino, Julian Tavares and Joe Roa, Sabean's magic touch is not always evident. How will Sabean's trade of Joe Nathan and top prospect Francisco Liriano for A.J. Pierzynski rate among the worst trades in SF Giants history?
-- Glen B., Lubbock, Texas

I'm a Twins fan so I hope it goes down as the worst in Giant history. The Giants gave up a top closer and Liriano, who appears to be on his way to a stellar career. In return they recieved 1 year of a pouting AJ Pierzienski.

Complete evaluation of the deal has to be withheld until Liriano develops. I know it's hard to project young pitchers but let me say this. I watched Santana come up through the years and I've seen Liriano pitch. Liriano's probably got better stuff and he's further along at age 21 than Santana was. I'm not saying Liriano will be as good as Santana. I'm just trying to give you an idea of how high this kid's ceiling is.

When all is said and done, the deal might rank up there with the Sox trading Bagwell and the Cubs trading Brock. Hopefully.

If the Padres don't resign Giles, what's the chance they would pursue Jacque Jones for a corner outfield spot? He does have a background in San Diego. -- Marquis B., San Diego

This scenario is exactly what I've been expecting for 3 months now. We know Jacque won't be back in Minnesota. The only reason he was back last year is the injury to Kubel. Giles said today he would be willing to take a slight discount to remain in San Diego. I still think he's gone though. (St Louis is my guess) So the Pads court Jones. Jones being from SD signs quickly. Jacque, the least disciplined of the "Soul Patrol" (that's what Twins fans call the outfield trio), plays excellent defense but struggles at the plate. His OBP will remain around .330 but his slugging drops to .425. He'll text Torii in between innings on his Sidekick and appear on Best Damn 2-3 times a week. That's my prediction.

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Beckett to Red Sox

Well, please disregard the previous post. Pending a physical Beckett and Lowell are headed to Boston in exchange for Hanley Ramirez, Annibal Sanchez, and Jesus Delgado.

Delgado might just be a throw in, but I expect Ramirez and Sanchez to be on the Marlins opening day roster. Ramirez,21, has been the top prospect in the Red Sox system for quite sometime. His minor league stats have yet to live up to the billing, but the potential is there. He hit just .271/.335/.385 in AA last year.

Sanchez on the other hand was spectacular. He posted a 3.45 ERA in AA while striking out 63 and walking only 16 in 57 innings.

Is this deal better than the one invloving the Rangers? That all depends on Ramirez. I'm confident he will be a better than average SS, but he really hasn't done anything yet to validate those feelings.

It's getting late and I have a presentation to do in the morning. I just wanted to correct the false assumption I made 2 days ago.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Beckett To Rangers Likely To Happen

When I woke up this morning I read about the proposed deal that would send Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Rangers for Hank Blalock and one of the Rangers top pithching prospects. (Thomas Diamond/John Danks) As I do with all trade rumors, I thought about the effects the deal would have on each team, but was also aware that thus far it was still a rumor. Even if the discussions were as far along as reported, there was still uncertainty about the Rangers willingness to deal either Danks or Diamond. All the Rangers future plans are entrenched with those two guys at the top of the rotation. There was also the issue of how much, if any of Mike Lowell's salary the Marlins would pay. Essintially, this proposed deal still had the two biggest trade holdups as the main ingrediants; young pitching and money. For those two reasons, I was reluctant to assume this deal would go through. Atleast not quickly.

My mind has changed though. The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the deal will likely be done by Monday, with Danks being the pitcher sent to Florida.

Let's assume for a minute that the deal has already been completed. Do the Rangers or Marlins win? Or is it one of those great trades in which both teams win? It's fairly hard to truly evaluate deals in this day and age. Because so many trades are simply salary dumps it's not fair to judge the deal simply on production of the players. The Marlins here are clearly just trying to get rid of Lowell's salary. I also wonder how much they were influenced by the talent Billy Beane got from St Louis last year by trading Mulder. Many low payroll clubs trade their stars one year before they are eligible for free agency. But Beckett, like Mulder last year, still has two years until he will be a free agent. I think it might become a trend to trade these guys two years early, as you can get more in return from a team when that team is not just renting the players for only one year.

While the Marlins appear to be doing everything right by dumping Lowell's salary and trading Beckett while his value is highest, I still think the Rangers win this deal. Why? Because of the players the Marlins are getting in return.

Danks may turn out to be a fine pitcher. Or he may stink. It's so hard to project pitchers. That's why many people, Brian Sabean included, subscribe to the TINSTAAPP theory.(There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect) Even if everything goes perfectly for Danks, he still won't be as good as Beckett. The only knock on Beckett is his ability to stay healthy, and that's a fair knock. But his innings totals have increased over the past 3 seasons. In '05 he pitched a career high 178.2 innings. That's not what you want from your #1 starter, but the steady increase offers hope.

You also have to wonder how much Blalock has been helped by his home ballpark. Take a look at his home road splits and all doubts might be erased.

Home: .297/.361/.534 HR-20
Road: .231/.276/.335 HR-5

Throw in the fact that he's hitting just .196/.228/.356 vs lefties and basically all you've got is a guy who can only hit right-handed pitching in Ameriquest or Coors Field. That's not so bad for the Rangers who play 81 games in one of those parks, but what do the Marlins see in this guy. Yes, he's only 25. Yes, he will get better. But how much better? All I'm saying is that the Marlins are giving up one of the best young pitchers in baseball for a prospect and a guy who hasn't shown the ability to hit away from Arlington. It seems too risky for my taste.

But it makes them cheaper, right? I guess that's what this really ocmes down too. I just wonder if they can't get a better package somewhere else.

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What's the Scoop With This Writing?

I must confess that I am not a reader of Scoop Jackson. Mainly because he tends to write mostly about the NBA, a sport a pay close attention to only between the Super Bowl and Spring Training. But I have heard of the terrible articles he has written and decided to take a look myself. Here's what I've found:

I am a year away from being a college graduate. I have taken every English class required to get my degree. Therefore, I believe I have been schooled in grammer more than anybody who is not an English major. I have never heard of or seen somebody write basically an entire article with such a fondness for the one sentence paragraph. Scoop's latest piece on ESPN uses 39 of these one sentence paragraphs compared to just 16 paragraphs of 2 or more sentences. No paragraph was more than 3 sentences long and 5 consisted of only one word.

Scoop consistantly uses phrases such as:

You kill my dog, I'ma slay your cat.
He's the same brotha from last year
He grown now.

Maybe I'm nitpicking here, but when quotation marks are the only way I can tell the difference between Ron Artest's quotes and Scoop Jackson's writing, I think there's some type of problem.

The only other article I read by Scoop was the one in which he called out Jeff Kent for being insensitive towards African-Americans. Now I think Kent's comments could be percieved as slightly offensive towards blacks, but not nearly as offensive as Scoop's column attempting to give Kent some sensitivity training. Here's an excerpt from the column:

The first thing you gotta understand is that sometimes we be trippin'. Now I'm not saying that Milt was wrong, I'm just telling you that we black people tend to "bug out" or "snap" at times. No reason, no excuses. Our women do it more than the men. But somehow we give them reason, they say. But that's a whole 'nother story. Anyway, get used to the "snappin'" -- that's just us.

Look, cousin (not that we're related, that's just the way black folks talk to one another sometimes), I know you saw "White Men Can't Jump." Remember the scene where Woody was telling Wesley that "black people would rather look good" than get dirty on the court. Well, that's true. That's how we are.

Now don't get it twizzled; we hustle as hard as the next non-black ballplayer. But it looks different. A lot of times, because of the way we do things -- because we try to look smoove at all times...

That was copied directly from the ESPN website. I didn't do any editing or change the spelling of the word "smooth" to "smoove" myself, that was all Scoop. I know he's talking about his own so I guess he gets a free pass. But I still find it hard to imagine that ESPN would print such a broad and disgusting generalization about an entire race.

Normally, I like to stick to the sports stuff that really matters, but it irks me that the number one sports website employs writers such as Scoop Jackson. I saw him on Jim Rome's show the other day. Nevermind the absence of professionalism in his clothing attire (which makes Iverson's digs appear to be straight from GQ), where's the proffesionalism in his speaking and writing. That is what he's paid to do, right?

Hell, I'm 24 years old. I can handle Scoop saying dimes instead of assists. It doesn't even bother me that much when he makes up words like flavorlogic. It does bother me though that his editors don't even force him to write in proper English and give him a free pass to pull out the race card on every sports issue.

Aaron Gleeman asked on his blog a few weeks ago, "At what point does these writers claiming racism in every other article become racist in itself?" In my eyes that's a valid question.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Too Much TO

OK. I wish TO well, I suppose, or whatever, but I am sick ("and tired!") of hearing about the Terrell Owens Saga. Please, let's put this baby to rest, ASAP. If he's not an Eagle, let him go somewhere else, and quickly. If he is, let's get him back in uniform and on the field. Or, let's ban him for life. I don't care anymore. I just want it all to stop!!!


Alright, it's time for my medication. Just wanted to check in with that.


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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Chipper Restructures Contract/Eyre Signs With Cubs

Chipper Jones had mentioned several times over the past year that he would be willing to restructure his contract in order to free up some extra cash for the Braves. The two sides got the deal done today. This will save the Braves $6 million this year and $15 million over the next three. It also guarantees Chipper's contract through 2009. Chipper will be 37 at that point.

What does this mean for the Braves offseason? First of all, I would assume it means they will not be asking Chipper to move to 1st base in order to make room for Andy Marte. After making a sacrifice like this it is difficult, if not completely ungrateful, to turn around and ask the player to move across the diamond.

It may also mean that the Braves are gearing up to make a real push at keeping Rafael Furcal. That could be a good or bad thing for Braves fans. While I realize Furcal's importance to the lineup, I'm not particularly excited about getting into a bidding war over him with the Cubs and Mets. Even $10 million per sounds a bit high, but it's not unreasonable considering the lack of quality SS in the game. I'd prefer to bring him back at $8 million for no more than 4 years. It wouldn't be a bit surprising to see him end up with a 5yr/$60 million deal. I just pray it's not the Braves that offer it. I think the Braves are smarter than that. The Cubs may be smarter than that. The Mets undoubtably are not.

I don't mean to bash the Cubs or imply they are not a good organization. That wouldn't be true, nor would it be a tactful statement considering the percentage of our readers that are Cubs fans. I just think that Hendry seems to be so set on Raffy that he would pay a higher price than normal.

He also just spent $11 million over the next two years on Scott Eyre. Granted, Eyre was among the best middle relievers in the game last year, but the fact remains that he is still just a middle reliever. I'm also wary of guys who post great numbers in contract years when their career averages don't measure up. Here's a look at Eyre's 2005 season.


Those are great numbers but I don't think they're indicitive of what he'll do next year. I expect some type of regression back to his career averages. Here they are.


It seems like a risky move that the Cubs could end up regretting. Or Eyre could pitch as well as he did last year and make Hendry look smart by going out and getting the top reliever on the market. Relievers are always the most difficult postion to project so we'll just have to play the wait-and-see game.

Before I go, big ups to Chipper for helping out the team. Too often we spend too much time talking about the negative aspects of sports. It's refreshing to hear stories about guys who make individual sacrifices for the benefit of his teammates.

It's also worth noting that Kevin Garnett has pledged to donate $2 million to victims of Hurricane Katrina. I know the guy is loaded and still under 30, but that's some serious dough. I believe Garnett is from South Carolina. Maybe it shouldn't make a difference, but in my mind his donation is even more generous considering he's not from the area.

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From The Mailbag

Each MLB team website has a feature in which fans write questions that are answered by a team beat writer. Most of the beat writers give surprisingly good answers, but there are still some I take issue with. For that reason, and just for fun I'm going to copy some of the fans questions from different sites and then answer them the way I think they should be answered. This is something I intend to do on a weekly or bi-weekly basis throughout the offseason. Whether or not it works out that way remains to be seen. Here we go! First question please.

With the Braves in desperate need of repairing the bullpen situation, have they looked to signing free agent closers such as Billy Wagner or Trevor Hoffman? -- Alex A., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Not really. The Braves have never had a history of spending big bucks on the bullpen. With the exception of John Smoltz, they haven't had a consistantly dominant closer throughout their streak of division titles, so I wouldn't expect anything different this offseason. Wagner is going to command $10-12 million, most likely from the Mets or the Phillies. Hoffman's price won't be quite as high, but at age 38 it doesn't make sense to offer him the multi-year deal he's seeking.

I would expect that if Kyle Farnsworth is back he will be given every opportunity to win the closer job. Joey Devine, Blaine Boyer, and Macay McBride have opportunities to impress Cox in Spring Training. The Braves will probably bring in a couple veteran relievers, but for the most part will rely on the youngsters.

What are the Astros going to do with Chris Burke and Brad Lidge? Will Lidge ever become a starting pitcher?
-- Danielle S., Houston

That remains to be seen and NO!

Burke cannot play everday without pushing either Biggio or Lane out of the lineup. He does have some trade value and I'm sure clubs will be asking about his availability. Purpura loves Burke, so I don't see him going anywhere. He's in line to take over 2nd when Biggio retires. Burke will likely pinch hit and get the occasional start at 2nd or in left field.

Lidge is one of the best closers in the game. There has been no thought or desire to move him into the staters role.

What are the chances of the Twins signing Mike Piazza? I hear he's likely to sign with an American League team and be the DH, since his catching days are probably over. I think he would be a good fit for our offense, but can we afford him?
-- Ben A., Minneapolis, Minn.

I'd say it's about a 25% chance. The Twins have already spoken with Piazza's agent and Mike ahs labeled the Twins as one of the teams he would like to play for. Piazza still has a couple years of good hitting in him, especially as a DH. Whether or not the Twins can afford him remains to be seen. Most people, myself included, believe Piazza will make about $4 million a year in '06. At that price it would be a very good signing. If his salary goes north of that figure, which depends on the number of teams bidding on him, the Twins would probably pass on him. The good news for the Twins is that the big spenders haven't expressed much interest in Piazza, so the price could stay relatively low.

What will the Cubs do about center field in 2006? Will Corey Patterson start the year in the Minors? And what does that mean for the Cubs' blue-chip prospect, Felix Pie? Will he start or ride the bench?
-- Brad K., Lockport, Ill.

It's been reported that the Cubs are trying to work out a deal to acquire Juan Pierre from the Marlins. That would solve the Cubs CF and leadoff batter problems with one player. So I expect Hendry to get that deal done, regardless of what happens with Furcal. What does that mean for Patterson? Hendry will try to trade him and there will be teams intrigued by his potential that believes all he needs is a change of scenery. I don't expect those teams to give much in return, but at this point the salary dump may be worth it. Not to mention the fact that it relieve much of Graham's stress. Pie appears to be the real deal. I think he'll start the year in the minors though unless he's spectacular in Spring Training. It's probably not a good idea to rush the kid the same way the organization did with Patterson.

What would it take to get Carl Crawford from Tampa Bay?
-- Brandon L., Chula Vista

This question is from the Padres site, so answereing his question from that team's point of view is simple. Jake Peavy. Maybe Khalil Greene and Adam Eaton along with a prospect or 2.

There has been no talk of Crawford actually being available though. If he were it would take top starting pitching prospects and would be a complete salary dump.

Am I the only one that thinks Pedro Feliz is totally overrated? I know he led the Giants in homers and RBIs, but they were not even impressive numbers, given the number of at-bats he had. I would personally rather see a more productive hitter coming from the third base position.
-- Alex S., Davis, Calif.

Well, I don't know who you are talking to that is rating Feliz so highly, but if that person truly does exist then they are wrong. Feliz at 31 isn't likely to improve and has only once broken the .300 barrier in OBP. Yes, he does have some power. He hit 20 dingers last year and 22 the year before. Keep in mind that Adam LaRoche, David Dellucci, Joe Crede, and Rod Barajas also hit at least 20 homers. That number is not impressive enough to make up for his lack of plate discipline.

Alright, last one. Just for kicks, let's go to Kansas City. The Royals still play there, right?

Can you look in your crystal ball and tell us what the Royals' lineup will be on April 3 against Detroit?
-- Alex C., Leawood, Kan.

This will be tough because it requires that I be able to name 9 or more Kansas City Royals. Let me give it a shot though. I will also assume they give big time contracts to a couple of mid-level free agents.

1B-Matt Stairs
2B-Brett Boone
SS-Angel Berroa
3B-Mark Teahan
OF-David DeJesus
OF-Preston Wilson
OF-Juan Encanacion
DH-Mark Sweeney
C-John Buck

The real answer to your question, Alex C, is that nobody really cares. A team put together consisting of only Twins pitching prospects and Angels hitting prospects would be as competetive as the Royals.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Yankees Sign Matsui

The Yankees reached an agreement with Hideki Matsui that will pay him $13 million per year over the next four. Resigning Matsui appeared to be the Yankees top priority this winter. It's no surprise that they got a deal done, but it is beneficial that they got it done so quickly. As for the contract itself, I believe it's a bit overpriced when looking at the market standards. You must realize though that market standards sort of go out the window when dealing with the Yankees. I also have no idea how much revenue Matsui brings to the club through overseas merchandising. I would assume it's enough to cover the value of the contract, making this a good business deal for Steinbrenner.

What I mean by saying that market standards are somewhat irrelevant for the Yankees is that with their budget they can afford to overpay for players. If a low payroll club like the Twins were to overpay a player by $3 million per year, they lose out on that money to upgrade the team in other positions. The Yankees, however, simply up their payroll by $3 million dollars and the rest of their team is not negatively effected.

As for Matsui actually being worth $13 million for his on-field performance, I just don't see it. It's not a ridiculous contract, but it does overvalue his contributions. Matsui just came off a season in which he posted a .863 slugging percentage, good for just 41st in MLB. Matsui is also 31 years old, so one would assume his best days are behind him. I still expect him to be highly productive for the next 2-3 years though. So for the Yankees, it's a good signing. Had my Twins dropped that kind of cash on Matsui, not so much.

What going on in the rest of the league? Talk is that the Cubs are working on a deal that would bring Juan Pierre to the Windy City for a couple prospects not named Pie, Hill, or Cedeno. If Pierre can bring his OBP up to the standards he set in '03 and '04, this could be a pretty good deal. If his OBP stays below .330, combined with average defense, I'm not so sure the stolen bases are worth it. One thing is clear though and that is that Jim Hendry is serious about addressing the leadoff spot. He also says the acquisition of Pierre would not effect the club's pursuit of Rafeal Furcal.

The Marlins seem fairly willing to eat some of Mike Lowell's contract if they can find a trade partner. Lowell is owed $18 million over the next 2 years. The Marlins might be willing to pay half of that salary. That makes Lowell a pretty attractive option. I know he had a down year, but in the previous 3 seasons he was one of the best 3rd baseman in the league. And $4.5 million per year won't be that much more than guys like Bill Mueller and Joe Randa will be seeking. Consider the upside of Lowell's potential compared to Mueller and Randa and there will be teams willing to take a chance on him. As a Twins fan, I'm hoping that Terry Ryan looks into him. So long as they don't have to give up too much of their minor league piching depth.

The rest of the free agent market will likely be pretty slow until December 7th I believe. Teams signing free agents before that date will be forced to give up additional draft picks. I'ts also very likely that since the free agent market is slim this year, that most of the action will be done via trade.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Colts, Panthers, Bears and Seahawks all win again

There are some hot streaks happening the NFL. Of course, the Indianapolis Colts are hot at 9-0. Undefeated and looking strong. The Carolina Panthers won their sixth in a row, continuing to lead the NFC South. They share the NFC's best record with the Seattle Seahawks at 7-2. The Seahawks just won their fifth in a row, as did the Chicago Bears. The Bears have what some have called a "stranglehold" on the NFC North, but their remainding schedule is brutal.

Starting with the Colts, how long will the unbeaten string last? Well, they're three games up in the AFC South, have the fourth ranked defense in the NFL (#2 scoring D), are already 4-0 in their division, and have finally beaten the New England Patriots in Foxborough. Edgerrin James is the #2 rusher in the NFL, already at 1027 yards. Nice. It's at Cincinatti this Sunday. Then home vs. Pittsburgh. Let's see how they play the next two weeks. If they can somehow win both of those, the rest of the league might want to get nervous.

The Panthers are being called the NFC's best by some. Do they deserve it? I know Steve Smith deserves it, being the league's leading receiver. Their Defense is ranked eighth in the NFL. They have the #2 Rushing D, but their Passing D is 21st. Guess that means they'll give the Bears all they want this Sunday, but what about the rest of the league? They play at Chicago and at Buffalo before hosting Atlanta and Tampa Bay. We'll see how they are after that run. Their playoff chances look great, I'd say. After that, I'm not sure.

The Bears have risen to 6-3 after their fifth straight win. Hosting Carolina Sunday afternoon will be a challenge, to say the least. Can Kyle Orton find a way to pass against the forgiving Panther secondary? Or will they try to run against one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL with their third string running back? Adrian Peterson did get 120 yards and a TD against the 49ers, but they're no Panthers. The Bears have two of their three top recievers out though (Berrian and Bradley), but can Muhammad and Gage find a way?

We Bears fans will find out a lot about the Monsters of the Midway this weekend. I hope the Bears D finds out a way to stop Jake Delhomme and the Panthers to get to 7-3 and keep their win streak going while ending Carolina's at six. The game is at Chicago, after all. Not sure it'll make a difference, and watching the Panthers dismantle the Jets yesterday I think the Bears will have all that they can handle. At this point, it looks like the Bears will do well to simply keep it competitive.

Do I even have to say anything about Nathan Vasher's record setting return of a missed field goal? Didn't think so. What a run and what a blocking show by Urlacker (who passed Vasher at about the 20). And how about that windblown FG attempt by Gould in the first? I've never, ever seen anything like that.

The Seahaws look ready to play as well. Alexander is on a roll, to say the least, leading the NFL with 1114 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Unreal. Can Holmgren make it work? Nov. 27th against the Giants will answer a lot. At least a lot more than at SF this Sunday.

Who's ready for some Cowboys v. Eagles tonight? Will Philadelphia continue to miss the contributions of Terrell Owens? Or will Donovan do his Monday Night magic once again and take out Dallas once again? The Cowboys smoked 'em 33-10 Oct. 9th at home. But the Eagles are in Philly this time around. If the 'Boys win, they're tied for first with the Giants. If the Eagles win, they can end the Terrell talk and get on with the rest of their season. Must See TV, and I'm working during it. Oh well, at least there's a couple of televisions at work to check out.


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Saturday, November 12, 2005

ESPN Homepage

Somebody created the best ESPN homepage I have ever read. With fake articles by Bill Simmons, Scoop Jackson, Chris Berman and others, it's an absolutly fantastic read. Kudos to whoever created this site. The link is below.

ESPN Homepage

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Free Agent Market Opens Today

There are alot of teams this offseason with plenty of cash to spend. The only problem is that this year's crop of free agents is fairly lackluster. In the past couple years, small market clubs have locked up their big stars before they hit the open market. The Brewers and Twins did this with Ben Sheets and Johan Santana, respectively. We just saw the Devil Rays extend Rocco Baldelli through 2011 if club options are picked up. Whether it's wise for them to sign a player to a contract of that length coming off a season ending injury is irrelevant. What is important is that these teams are ralizing the only way to hold onto their young talent is to show them the money before the big fish can lure them in with even richer contracts.

What we can expect from all this excess cash is for it to be thrown around in a similar fashion of Andruw Jones in Atlanta's Gold Club. AJ Burnett will see around $10 million per, not for being the best pitcher, but for simply being the best available. Toronto and Baltimore will bid for his services, with the 2 NY clubs and the Red Sox in the mix as well. For the sake of omitting redundancy, let's assume the Yankees, Sox, and Mets will show at least mild interest in everyone from Burnett to Giles to the old Lenny Dykstra jersey I'm selling on Ebay.

The Indians will attempt to bring back Kevin Millwood, although his 2.86 ERA (2nd lowest of his career) may put him out of their price range. Javier Vazquez put in a formal trade demand today. The D-Backs have until March 15 to trade Vazquez. Otherwise, he may become a free agent or revoke his demand. The latter is the more likely of th two considering the $24 million he is owed on the final two years of his current contract is about double what he would recieve on the open market. Vazquez is tough for me to figure out. He pitched very well in a 3 year stretch between '01-'03, but his last 2 seasons in NY and Arizona have been shaky. His 2005 season ERA was 4.42, but his peripherals looked pretty good. (192/46 K/BB ratio, 8.01 K/9, 1.25 WHIP) The problem was that he gave up 35 homers, that could be attributed to hitter friendly BOB.

As for position players, I fully expect Rafeal Furcal to be playing in Wrigley for 81 games next year. The Cubs always have money to spend, need a lead off hitter, and want an everyday shortstop. Last I checked Furcal meets that criteria to a "T". As a Braves fan, I'd like to bring Raffy back, but I also realize that the money could be spent in better places. At the same time, I fear using Wilson Betemit as an everyday SS. It seems to me that $8 million over 4 years might be justifiable, but if the price or length of the contract rises, it's bye bye Raffy. For more on the subject check out Braves Beat . Mac Thomason has a great piece in which he debates the Furcal issue with himself. It's a good read even if you're not a Braves fan. And I advise all Cubs fans to read it too. After all, shouldn't you know what you're getting.

Anyone looking to upgrade the offense will be calling the agent of Mr. Brian Giles. I know he's getting up there in age, but a 3 year $27 million deal is not unreasonable for for a guy who hit .301/.423/.483 last year. Those numbers include half the year in Petco Park. On the road, Giles hit an amazing .333/.463/.545. The Cards appear to be the front runner. I don't know if anyone in baseball could match a 2-5 lineup of Giles/Pujols/Edmonds/Rolen. That's just scary. Especially if Eckstein is getting on base 37% of the time like he did last year.

Those are some of the big names and I'm sure everyone has taken the time to look over the rest of the list of free agents. The great thing about baseball offseason is not free agency though. That's fairly predictable and has about 10 teams genuinely participating. The trades are the transactions that I find intersting. Last year Billy Beane traded Hudson and Mulder. Will this be the year Zito is dealt? How about the Thome situation? The Phillies have to get Howard in at 1st so they don't have much of a choice. The question is how much of Thome's contract they will have to eat. Delgado, Cameron, Soriano, and Hunter are all possibly on the block? There will be trades of players we didn't know were being shopped and of players we didn't know existed. It should be alot of fun and Unrestricted View will do its best to stay on top of everything. Oh, I almost forgot. I might have heard that some guy named Manny wanted out of Boston. I can't believe that though. Must be a rumor, right?

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Writers Got It Wrong, Again

The AL Cy Young award was announced today. Drumroll, please! And the winner is Bartolo Colon. Yes, you read that correctly. While Colon is hardly an embarrasing choice, he certainly didn't desrve the award over Johan Santana, Mariano Rivera, and possibly Mark Buerhle.

The baseball writers have done it again. They've given the award to the wrong man. Don't worry though friends. Surely they'll get the NL Cy Young right tomorrow won't they? I mean, they've got to give it to Clemens, right? His ERA was a full run lower than 2nd place Chris Carpenter. The problem is that Clemens only has 13 wins and regardless of the fact that his win total is a reflection of his teammates offensive performance not Clemens' pithcing, that is still what the writers will focus on. For that reason alone, I'm very confident the NL Cy will go to Carpenter or Willis.

I will agree they did a marvelous job on ROTY. Street and Howard were more deserving of the award than any other rookie. They can't screw up the AL MVP. Ortiz and ARod are both worthy candidates. They might screw up the NL MVP by giving it to Andruw Jones, while DLee and Pujols crushed him in every statistical category other than HR and RBI.

What's the answer to this problem? Hopefully, in time statistical analysis will continue to grow into the mainstream. Then these very same writers that screw up award voting year after year will begin to base their decisions on the same statistics that the sabermetrically leaning blogging community is pushing. The key word in that sentence is hopefully.

I did read another suggestion on Baseball Musing this afternoon. The idea is to set up the Baseball Blogging Association that would also vote on postseason awards. The logistics weren't laid out, but I would assume it would consist of bloggers far more read than your's truly here at Unrestricted View. Although UV.com would love to have a vote on these matters, guys like David Pinto, Aaron Gleeman, Will Carroll and all the other writers of the more popular blogs would be far more deserving and would always derive at the right candidate.

With any luck, some writers from the mainstream media (Neyer, Stark) would jump on board to give the awards a little more credibility. It's just an idea and even if nobody outside the blogging community knew it existed, the awards would still be merited by the millions of people that do read and publish sports blogs. Hopefully, somebody will get this ball rolling so Johan Santana and Roger Clemens can recieve some of the recognition they deserve.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

T.O. has B.O.

In case you haven't gotten enough TO coverage in the past few days, I figured I'd chime in here and give one more opinion on the subject that ultimatly doesn't really matter.

First of all, this notion that analysts are spitting that the Eagles are better ON the field is simply ridiculous. I know that football is more of a team sport than baseball and even basketball, but I just don't buy that taking the best reciever in the NFL off the field makes the team better. I know he's a problem in the locker room and with the nonsense he spews all through the media, but does improved team chemistry really make up for the loss of 93 yards and close to a TD a game? That doesn't even take into account the open looks in the middle of the field that LJ Smith and Brian Westbrook recieve because of the constant double teams on TO.

I know many of you will say that they made the playoffs 3 years straight without TO and that they can do it again. That very well may be true. But don't forget that those teams had a better defense, a healthy Donovan McNabb, and most importantly, played in a division in which the other 3 teams were re-tooling. Thus far, it appears the Cowboys, Giants, and Redskins are ready to take the Eagles throne; TO or not.

With that said I still believe the organization did the right thing. Owens had to be reprimanded and a suspension is the place to start. I think they hedged their bet a little too far though. Or at the very least, a little too early. I don't see the reason to go ahead and state that TO will be inactive after the 4 game suspension. Apparently, the Eagles are prepared to go on without TO no matter what takes place over the next 3 weeks. They can't bring him back now. Not after putting their foot down like they did today.

That's where I think the Eagles could have handled the situation differently. Had they just suspended TO for 4 games without saying he would be inactive for the remainder of the season, they would have had flexibility. It would have allowed them to let him play if the team was showing that on the field, he was needed. And if the team showed they didn't need him or if they simply would rather suffer without him, they could announce that he would remain inactive after the suspension at that time. I just don't see any benefit to making that decision now. The Eagles gave themselves no leeway. That's all I'm saying.

As for TO's comments about Brett Favre, I couldn't be happier. As a Packer fan, it's refreshing that a man who seems to respect nobody holds Favre in such high regards. This isn't surprising though based on the respect #4 has recieved from all opponents that have faced him this year. What is surprising is that this question was even raised. I've seen about Eagle games this year and McNabb is not the problem. The real problem has been a defense that spots teams a couple TDs in the 1st quarter. Others cite the lack of a running game, but they haven't run in years. Sure, it's a little more extreme this year, but that's a small problem that partly derived from the previous problem.

Another interesting thought is TO bidding to hook up with Favre in Green Bay. Javon Walker didn't even hold out, he simply threatened to, and Favre nearly went ballistic. Imagine how he'd feel about TO whining about $7 million a year. It doesn't seem like there would be a happy marraige there either.

So where will TO end up next year? Obviously, he will have places to choose from. Locker room problem or not, he produces on the field and is one of the hardest working recievers in the league. TO and Randy Moss are similar in many ways, but in effort they are not. One thing you can't say about TO is that he takes plays off. In fact, he's one of the few recievers in the league that will even pretend like they're trying to block. So he's going to have suitors.

Baltimore: They wanted him 2 years ago. After he bailed on them, the love affair may be over but who knows.

Denver: Shanahan has taken character problems before (Clarett) so there's no reason to think he'd shy away from TO. He'd make them an immediate Super Bowl contender.

Washington: Dan Snyder. Enough said.

Those are the first 3 that come to my mind. If anyone else has some predictions feel free to leave them in the comment box.

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Giants, Bears, Bengals All Win

The Giants, Bears and Bengals all won yesterday to keep and/or extend their hold on first place within their divisions. Atlanta, Carolina and Seattle all did the same. But none of this seems as big as tonight's Colts vs. Patriots game in Foxboro. This is the type of game the Monday Night crew wishes they had every week.

Will Peyton finally shut up the naysayers and win a game on the Patriots home field? He's 0 for his last 6 attempts at Gillette Stadium. He hasn't had a better shot than this, but with Ted back in uniform, the Pats seem ready for the matchup. They need the win to hold onto first in the AFC East. The Colts need the win to prove they're for real. I'm not going to call this one, since it seems I'd be wrong anyway (like the Va Tech-Miami game and thinking Bart Bryant didn't have it). But I'm rooting for the Colts to win it so Peyton Manning can get a break and to see if Dungy can get his Indy squad over the hump and Super Bowl (?) bound. But, first things first. Time for some football in the 40's in New England.

How 'bout those Bears! I know, technically not that thrilling winning over the 2-7 Saints, but it's nice to see them winning the games in the clutch, driving when they have to get it done, and making the right plays at the right time. And that game was exciting to watch, I promise you (out at the Stardust on South Manchaca, of course). Brian Urlacher looked good yesterday (he was in on every play, I swear), as did Justin Gage and even Cedric Benson (14 rushes for 79 yards after Thomas Jones got injured in the first half). Adrian Petersen looked good as well (58 yds and a TD on 6 carries, on and this AP is in his fourth year from Georgia Southern, not the senior at Oklahoma, of course). Nice to see rookie (picked up after Game 3) Robbie Gould get a game winner as well.

Kyle overthrew a couple of balls, but looked alright overall. Gets excited back there I suppose and just lets the ball fly on occassion. Only one of the two picks he threw was his fault, but that one wasn't even close to his receiver. 12-26 for 137 with a TD and 2 picks isn't great by any means, but this Sunday it got the job done. The Bears are calling a lot of down the field pass plays for him and the wideouts, and I like that, but I'd like to see Orton complete a few more of those passes. Gage looked ready to play though, and 6'4" makes him a good target. Muhammad is always ready as well (who caught three for 85 yds on Sunday). Lance Briggs had 10 tackles and an assist to lead the defense. Chris Harris added seven. Hunter Hillemeyer had four tackles, a sack and an interception. Someone buy that man a beverage. Nathan Vasher too, 'cause he had four tacles, a pick and a forced fumble (returned for 49 yards by Harris). Bring on the Niners!

Did you know the Giants, Bengals and Bears, who are all currently in first place, didn't even make the playoffs last year? Gotta love the NFL (if you like change, that is).

Vick went out there and won a tough game on the road against the Dolphins as well, 17-10. Brought his Falcons to 6-2, still sharing the lead with the Panthers (who handily defeated the Bucs 34-14). He also passed for 228 yards, the same total he had in his last two games combined. He talked some smack after the game saying how great he was throwing the ball from the pocket and all that. Well, Michael, you've got Green Bay next week, so we expect the same as well against the Packers less than stellar pass defense. Although they're ranked 12th in the NFL, they have allowed 14 TD's through the air in only eight games (6th worst in NFL). In addition, they've only intercepted six passes (T-9th lowest) and registered 18 sacks (19th). While Matt will expect the Pack D to step it up, of course, the Falcons fans and media will certainly expect another great passing performance from Michael Vick. Well, if he runs a 59 yard TD on 'em, they may just forget about the passing thing again.

The Steelers stayed hot as well, taking out the Packers 20-10. 1-7 isn't what Brett had hoped for, for sure, but he probably thought he'd still have his starting RB and WR's too. Or even his second or third string RB. Not to mention his center and tight end. Or either outside LB or the starting right corner. Every NFL team gets hurt, but the Pack has had more than it's share this year, to this point. Can Brett turn them around and get close to respectability? Will he come back for one more season? We'll find out in the coming weeks.

The Redskins win over the Eagles Sunday night was a big one for them as well. Keeps them in the hunt in their division with a 5-3 record. Brunell had a great game, going 21-29 for 224 yards. The defense came through with an interception and only held the Eagles to 47 yards rushing (although they are the worst rushing team in the NFL). Think they're paying Westbrook all that cash for 17 rushing attempts for 24 yards? 55 yds receiving?

Meanwhile, the drama in Philly plays on. I think TO is done in Philly, and maybe from the NFL for the remainder of the season. He'll come back and play for somebody, but I hope he keeps it together in the future. Maybe he's beyond saving. No one knows except Terrell.

Alright, that's all I have for now. Are you ready for some Football?


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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Some Random Sports Thoughts

How's it going, fellow readers!?! I hope all is well. It's time for some of Graham's Random Sports Thoughts (and other crap). Here we go! (please buckle in and keep your arms and legs inside the cabin while the car is in motion). (thank you, and don't forget to stop by the Concession Stand on your way out).

Tim Duncan and the Spurs routed (to say the least) Lebron's Cavs to the tune of 102-76. Don't read too much into it, of course, since it is Week One and all, but it still isn't the way the Cleveland wanted to start off the season. I'm sure.

The White Sox (reluctantly?) bought out Frank Thomas' $10 mil mutual option on Friday. It cost the team $3.5 mil. Not sure how that math works out and all, but I'm not privy to the nitty gritties. The South Side front office came out fast talking about how important Big Frank is to the team and how they wouldn't mind resigning him (i.e. for less money). Not sure how all of this will play out, but they sure don't need him at first. DH? Everett and Hurt can't coexist on the same squad. Not enough AB's to go around. Expect the Hurt to move on out to another AL team. Someone's got to want a career guy with .307/.427/.568 career guy who still has a couple of years left, I think. He is 37 though. Hmmm... We'll have to see how this one plays out. Might be a good "one last year for the Big Fella" deal coming for Mr. Thomas.

Shaq is "only" out 2-4 weeks. Good for the Heat that it's not longer. The TNT guys were saying (why, oh why, did I even listen to them?) that it could be a month or two. Good for TV ratings too. Not to mention Le Stock de Shaquille. Funny how the calls for Stan Van Gundy's head are coming already. People are sick, aren't they? (unless they're coming from Pat Riley's office).

With Dante Culpepper straining three of the four ligaments in his knee, don't expect him to be back anytime at all. If at all.

Top MLB Free Agents this Spring? Sean McAdam has this idea at ol' ESPN.com. Who'll get A.J. or Millwood? Will Wagner go anywhere? Will Molina head elsewhere? What about the World Series star, Paul Konerko? Will he be headed to the Bronx (or Beantown)?. Or will he stay on the South Side? How about Furcal and Garciaparra? Will Damon stay in Boston? Who will land Brian Giles? Is Piazza headed to the AL?

Anyway, these are just some of the things on my mind. That, and wondering what the hell Richard Billingsley has against Oregon.


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Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Sports Fix

Well, here we are another Friday. How goes it? Well, it's got to be going better for you than the Red Sox. They've got issues. No GM, no Asst. GM, and soon to be no Manny, no Wells and probably no Damon. And players are flapping about their displeasure, including (of course) Curt Schilling. Good thing (?) the BoSox have several months to work this all out. Not that I feel bad for them or anything (they did it to themselves) but I do feel bad for some of the fans out there. I know, I know, they just won and that should be enough for a while, and they have the Patriots wins to bask about, but the ownership in Boston seems to be getting a bad case of the FU's and Big Fat Ego complex. Maybe now's the time for the Orioles or Blue Jays to jump up in there. Eh, maybe not.

As Matt just posted, Matt Lawton got pegged for steroids. What a dope. What the hell did he need them for anyway? Well, you could ask that about anyone, but really, wtf was he thinking? Well, (as I commented) a man in his thirties that wears his hat like that (whose name isn't Flavor Flav) isn't all there anyway. OBP or no OBP.

Tiger is currently on the leaderboard in the Tour Championship. He's all over the course, but is just a few strokes off the lead, held by Bart Bryant (and two strokes behind Retief). If he can hit some more fairways over the weekend, watch out. I'd watch Goosen as well, because we know what he can do when he gets on a roll. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Bryant started falling off the board. He's looking a little shaky, in my opinion.

Miami or Va Tech? Now this is football, folks. Two of the top offenses in the country going head to head. This is what the new ACC is all about. This is why they made the moves they did. Excellent. I'm calling Va Tech in this year's game, however, and my reason is simple: Defense. OK, maybe it's not that simple, (special teams too), but the VT defense is superior to the 'Canes and that will make the difference Saturday night.

Hockey is off and rolling, to record home crowds, but in non-Hockey towns, no one seems to notice or care. I'm a Chicago sports fan, so I don't mind seeing the Hawks do well, but I'm no big-time fan, so I guess I'm in the "I could give a ___" camp.

NBA is off and running as well. Is it just me, or is it just really boring until late in the fourth quarter? I know, it's not just me, but where's the excitement? More about the stupid dress code than anything else. And, speaking of that, have you seen what they're wearing? Is that a dress code? Come on. Don't waste my time on that crap anymore. Maybe in a month or two it will get more exciting. The Lakers v. Suns game last night was a good one, so I guess it could be that I'm just not watching enough of the "good" games. Shaq going down isn't going to help the NBA any and certainly not the viewership of TNT or the start of the season for the Heat either. Ah, well, it'll all work itself out, and soon enough I'll be watching all the NBA I can stand.

What's the deal with TO? Naming his own injuries and time off the field. Dissing McNabb and the Eagles once again. Calling his own press conference, and then just saying "I'm sorry" (pretty much) and taking off. The man just might get the Tampa/Keyshawn treatment sometime soon.

Will the Saints move out of New Orleans? I'd say, without a doubt. It's over for the Big Easy. At least they'll still have the Hornets (??). San Antonio is ready for a team, and I'd love to be about an hour away from the NFL, but if they're just going to turn around and go to LA, then forget it. Why the hell to you give LA a fourth shot at a NFL team. FOURTH!?!?! Stupid. I think they've had enough tries at it for a while. Screw them.

Speaking of football, will Peyton finally win one in Foxboro? He hasn't had a better chance than this. If he does, he should have anyway, and if he doesn't, he can't handle the pressure. Fun for him, eh? You could call this little baby Must See TV. I'm rooting for him, if not only to get the sportsmedia off of his back. But, either way, I have an idea that this will be one helluva game.

Alright that's it for now. Well, except, Hey Matt, is Reggie going to buy the Twins? Not likely at all. As we know, the Twins owner is the second wealthiest owner in all of sports (even though you wouldn't know it by the payroll). I don't think he needs the money. Reggie had better look elsewhere (again).


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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Steroid Rumor Confirmed

Well, I guess the reports were right. In a way. It was reported that an AL outfielder, whom we care about, from a playoff team tested positive for steroid use. It was reported today that Matt Lawton, who meets 3 of the 4 criterium, was that player. I'm not so sure the average baseball fan knows who Matt Lawton is, let alone really cares that he tested positive for steroids anymore than they cared about Carlos Almanzar or Juan Rincon.

This will do a fair amount of damage to Lawton. He is a free agent this offseason and was probably seeking his final contract of his playing career. While Lawton wasn't in for a huge payday, he ahs always been a pretty good on-base guy and more than adequate defensively. Surely there would have been some type of market for a veteran of those qualifications. Now, I'm not so sure. There will be many teams that won't sign him for fear of public outcry. Most fans won't be too sweet on their hometown team signing known steroid users.

So the offseason doesn't look good for Lawton, but I feel like everytime an average major leaguer gets busted for 'roids it makes the Barry Bonds' of the world look a little bit better. Whether or not he did steroids is besides the point. The public perception is that he did. Even if that fact remains true, the public might soon begin to see that maybe steroid use doesn't significantly enhance a players performance. That seems to be the early evidence that we can gather from these low production players being caught with the needle.

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Clemens Retiring Would Benefit Astros

As a Houston native and a resident of Texas I am fully aware of the adoration the city of Houston holds for its homegrown legend Roger Clemens. When he pitches, they fill the ballpark to cheer their hero. They flock to HEB to buy charcoal and steaks when they see him, Andy Pettitte, and David Carr grilling on TV commercials. The fans, the local media, and even management refer to him as simply, "Rocket". They absolutely love this man. They love him so much that they refuse to acknowledge that he has only pitched in this city for two years. For all of these reasons, they will ridicule me for what I am about to suggest. The Astros will be better off if "Rocket" hangs up the cleats.

Clemens made just over $18 million last season and will command at least that much next year and possibly as much as $22 million. If any player is worthy of that salary it is Roger Clemens. But at his age and on this team, it doesn't amount to the best investment. Clemens is coming off a year in which he poted his lowest ERA of his career. However, because of a lack of run support the Astros were only 15-17 in his starts. Even though that's not Clemens fault, 15-17 is still 15-17. The Astros offense was dismal last season, ranking near the bottom of every major statistical category. Unless that offense is improved, another career year from Clemens will still only help the Astros win around 15 games. What good does it do for Clemens to hold the oppostion to one run if the offense can't produce any runs? Losing 1-0 is no better than losing 5-0.

Even if Clemens duplicates his 2005 performance, a stagnant offense makes his production far less valuable. Never mind that Clemens will turn 44 next year and showed signs of slowing down and aging with his hamsting and back problems in September and October. In his last 10 regualar season starts he gave up 20 earned runs in 62.1 innigns pitched and then got beat up in the postseason. While those numbers are still respectable, they're certainly not the dominant outings he had in the first 4 months of the season. So how dependable is "Rocket" in 2006? It's unlikely he will post another 1.87 ERA. I would expect him to be closer to his career ERA of 3.12. How much longer can he hold up? Will the hamsring or back cause him to miss some time? If Clemens could only make 20-25 starts, that wouldn't add up to a wise investment of $20 million dollars. Especially considering the club is already commited to $62 million between Pettitte, Oswalt, Berkman, Biggio, and Bagwell alone. Drayton McClane isn't going to open up the wallet to shell out much more than he already has. McClane wants to keep the payroll under $80 million which is where the Astros would be at if Clemens comes back. So unless they plan on expanding payroll or fielding a team of 3 pitchers and 3 position players some decisions have to be made.

So this ends up being as much of an economical situation as it is a performance one. The money Clemens would make would be much better spent elsewhere. The Astros will need to retain some of their own players who are eligible for arbitration. Morgan Ensberg, Brad Lidge, Dan Wheeler, and Adam Everett all figure to get significant raises. Those 4 guys played for a combined $1.8 million last year.

If Clemens were to retire, that would free up extra cash to bring these guys back as well as sign free agents to improve the offense. They would presumably need one more veteran starter unless Purpura feels okay with Backe, Astacio, and Rodriguez filling out the rotation.

Brina Giles would be the most attractive free agent signing. The only problem is figuring out where he would play. In fact, that seems to be the problem for any free agent signing. With Bagwell only able to play 1st base, that pushes Berkman to LF. Lane is a good, cheap option in RF and the Astros seem content to play Wily Taveras in CF. Biggio will be at 2nd and Ensberg at 3rd. That leaves only 2 places for offensive improvement: SS and C. And it's doubtful that the Astros will part with Adam Everrett because of his defensive ability, leaving the catcher position as the only spot to upgrade. Ausmus could be released to upgrade there. That would save the Astros another $2 million and the agony of his .682 OPS, which was actually his highest in the past 5 years. Bengie Molina is 7 years younger, has a better arm, and a .782 OPS.

Although it's unlikely, what the Astros should consider is either sending Taveras back down to AAA or using him as a 4th outfielder and baserunner off the bench. That would allow an upgrade in the outfield either by moving Lane to center and signing a corner outfielder or by signing a guy who can play center. They could also consider an offensive upgrade at SS. Everett and Taveras rank among the lowest full time starters at their positions in OPS last year. The only other option is to sit back
and hope these guys drastically improve offensively next year, but I think that's a mistake. Taveras has always showed an inability to hit XBH and has poor plate discipline. Plate discipline has been a problem for Lane, Everett, and Lamb too (who figures to platoon at 1st with Bagwell).

The bottom line is that the Astros have some serious consideration going into 2006 and I don't think counting on another career year from Clemens, Pettitte, Oswalt, Lidge, Qualls, and Wheeler is the answer. If that happens they could possibly overcome the lack of offense once again. But they should not expect the offense to produce anything more than what it did in '05. Purpura needs to ask himself this question. Do I want to bring back a 44 year old starting pitcher back for north of $18 million or hsould that money be spent to improve the offense? I think he's got to go with the offense. And while it may not be a popular move in the Bayou City, it will be a smart one.

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