Saturday, August 6, 2011

Looking Ahead: Beating the Beasts of the East

David and Goliath: MLB Edition

Before the 2011 season even started, everyone knew the AL and NL East was already decided. The Yankees or Red Sox would take the division title (with the "loser" grabbing a Wild Card spot) and the only question in the National League East was how early into the season the Phillies clinched. The Central and West divisions in both leagues are fairly open and each has two or three teams, "equal" in ability, fighting for the spot atop their respective division. Teams like Baltimore, Toronto, and Atlanta would seeminly thrive if they could get out of the East, although the Phillies dyntasy is only a recent creation, the Yankees and Red Sox have dominated the AL East (with minimal distractions from the Rays) for three decades. If you combine the rosters of New York (Yankees), Boston, and Philly you pretty much have 2 full All-Star teams, including pitching staffs and bullpen. Sadly (as a die hard Yankee fan), I think these 3 teams are going to be making some noise the next couple seasons; and we could even see a newly crowned divison leader sooner rather than later.


Baltimore, the worst team (record-wise) in the American League, has a lot more talent than their record reveals. Buck Showalter took over this team last season and really seemed to influence the chemistry in the locker room and raise the team morale, but that rejuvination seemed to desipate as the wear-and-tear of the 2011 season began to surface. There has been a tougher division, past or present, than the AL East since the turn of the milenium, dominated by the high salary caps' of Boston and New York. The Orioles have a ridiculously good young hitting core though. Matt Weiters was an All-Star this year behind the plate and may finally begin to show signs that he can live up to all the hype that surrounded him as a top prospect. The team has a good model in place, as they are building the roster up the middle (Catcher- Middle Infield-CF). A few weeks ago, on July 18th, Baltimore locked up J.J Hardy to a 3 year extension (worth $22.5 million) and back in 2009 the front office was able to also extend Brian Robert's contract (4 years, $40 million). Although the team recently shifted Roberts to the 60-day DL, he still started of 2011 with a hot bat and great speed. Hopefully the second baseman can finally rid himself of this injury bug and return to his All-Star form. With Hardy at short and Roberts at second the middle infield will be one of the best up and coming duos in the entire league, a tandum with great speed, range on defense, and rare power for their respective positions. The last piece is in center field, Adam Jones (who came over from Seattle back in 08 during the Erik Bedard trade), is arbitration eligible in 2012-2013. Right now he is only making $3.5 million and that number will surely go up if he hits the open market, so it's important for Baltimore to keep him happy and willing to commit to staying with the Orioles. Jones has the ability to bat in the leadoff spot or also be a threat in the middle of the lineup; I think the Orioles, with their young core, are going to go with a speed over power mentality, meaning Hardy/Roberts will bat 1 and 2 (in either order) with Jones 3rd. I like moving Mark Reynolds to first base and due to his high strike out rate I would bat him 6th, a postion where RBIs will be plentiful but the K's wil be less costly. The young stud Matt Weiters can hold down the 5th spot, taking pressure off Reynolds and racking up the RBIs. Nick Markakis, the teams best hitter and sole veteran, should bat clean up and can have a MVP-type season if the top of the order stays healthy and matures. Felix Pie may not be in the team's plans long term but with Luke Scott on the DL I think they should start Pie in the "Brett Gardner role" (a true CF bringing his speed and skill set to LF, and batting 9th as a "second lead off man"). Pie 9th will be a tough out and if he can work out his personal issues and cool down the attitue maybe the Orioles can commit to him for the future. All that is left in terms of batting is the 7 and 8 hole (manned by the team's DH and 3B). I would let the young Blake Davis try and hold his own at 3rd, even though he's a short stop and move Nate Reimold to a platoon at DH until Vlad is a free agent in 2012. Unless the team finds a very attractive trade offer or free agent, this looks like the future batting order; rotate around Pie (LF/DH), Reimold (LF/DH), Reynolds (1B, DH, 3B), and Blake Davis (3B) to find a combination that works and allows eahc guy to mature into his own role. With the trade of Derrek Lee ($7.25 million) and expiring contracts of Vladimir Guerrero ($8 million) and Luke Scott ($6.4 million); the Orioles will have a combined $22 million off the books just from those 3 guys, enough to go out and spend on a veteran bat to be everyday guy at LF or 3B. In terms of the pitching staff: Mike Gonzalez ($6 million) and Jeremy Guthrie ($5.75 million) are the two biggest names off the book (adding $12 million the $22 million previously noted, totaling $34 million of cap space from 5 "dispensile" free agents to-be). Potential FA targets at SP include: Brandon Webb, Chris Young, Hiroki Kuroda, Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez, Jon Garland, Aaron Harang, Rich Harden, Scott Kazmir, Oliver Perez, Brad Penny, and even Roy Oswalt. For a complete list of all 2012 free agents, click here: MLB Contracts. If they can snag one or two veteran pitchers on the cheaper end that could really improve this roster until their pitching prosects develop. Zach Britton can be a solid middle of the rotation guy, and they should look to re-sign their "ace" Jeremy Guthrie. Combining this with the potential signings of Hideki Matsui at DH, Ryan Ludwick or Raul Ibanez in LF, and Eric Chavez or Aramis Ramirez at 3B would really firm up their chances of knocking off the mighty Yankees and Red Sox.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Catching Lightning In A Bottle

The key for the Chargers in 2011 will be this guy, Vincent Jackson.
   The NFL lockout lasted 132 brutal-days; but personally, I enjoyed the fact that every time I checked my phone today I was bombarded with ESPN alerts about a new recent signing or trade. It actually made me wish for another lockout (but I can wait 10 years). And as a Chargers fan, the day was extra-special.

The "Pre-Free Agency" 2012 Super Bowl Odds pinned the Packers and Patriots as early favorites, both at 7 to 1, following right behind them are my Chargers at 10 to 1 odds. Most online books have taken down these numbers and will repost the updated figures once teams' rosters are more definite. But after just one day of free agency I think San Diego should be the perennial favorites in the NFL, or at least the AFC. New England's RB situation is still murky and the only significant change in there roster is that everyone is one year older.

Last season San Diego had the best overall defense (ranking #1 in defending the pass and #4 against the ground attack); now imagine how dominate they will be after adding inside linebacker Takeo Spikes and veteran safety Bob Sanders. Sanders brings over a lot of honors and achievements, most of which were accumulated during the 2007 season. In 07 he won AP Defensive Player of the Year and earned his second Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections, while capping off the career-year with a Super Bowl ring. But since that season, Sanders has been burdened by injury, only playing 9 games over the last 3 seasons (6 in 2008, 2 in 2009, and 1 last year). If he can return to pre-injury form, it will be tough for teams to throw on the Chargers. Especially since the second half of this duo, Eric Weddle, just inked a brand new $40 million deal ($19 mill guaranteed); keeping him in San Diego for the next 5 seasons. Yes, he now makes more money than Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu combined; but that's how things work in the NFL. Weddle was garnering a lot of interest from the Texans, Jaguars, and Cowboys, which added pressure onto the front office to lock up their secondary. The loss of Cromartie last season was thought to be devastating but Quentin Jammer, and his 10 year-18 interception experience, helped lessen the blow.

Shaun Phillips and Takeo Spikes are absolute monsters in the 3-4 set, let's just hope Larry English can get rid of that "bust" label and actually start contributing. Teams will have to pick their poison when deciding between pass vs. run but I think they'll minimize their risk and chose the latter. But running against Castillo and Cesaire on the ends is like running into a wall, a bad idea. A lot of their core guys on defense are "old" but the team is in win-now-mode, year after year we have seen the Chargers dominate in the regular season (and the stat book) but seem flustered come playoff time. Philip Rivers is a stud at QB, had a MVP-caliber year in 2010 and is only looking to get better. The most exciting thing is now he has a healthy Antonio Gates and (hopefully) Vincent Jackson for a full season, despite the imminent loss of WR Malcom Floyd, I think this #2 rank passing game will be just fine. Looking for the team to work on their one weakness: the run game, where they rank 15th. The maturation of Ryan Matthews and mixing in of the speedy Darren Sproles should be enough to keep defenses honest and allow Rivers to air it out. When it comes down to it: adding veterans means adding experience, so I'll take the tradeoff and worry about rebuilding after we raise the Lombardi Trophy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cy Young Watch

American League:

1. Justin Verlander

2. Jered Weaver

3. James Shields

4. CC Sabathia

5. Josh Beckett

National League:

1. Clayton Kershaw

2. Roy Halladay

3.  Jair Jurrjens

4. Cliff Lee

5. Cole Hamels

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Unknown All-Star Team

American League:

C- Alex Avila (DET) .287, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 3 SB:

This guy ended up sneaking past Russell Martin in the fan vote to earn the starting catcher position, but his leap to All-Star status is as shocking as any story this season. Avila's average has been hovering around .300 (.303 as of July 1st), hopefully his current 1 for 16 July slump will end after the All-Star break. Among eligible catchers; his 10 homers tie him for 6th in the league, while his 46 RBIs are the most among AL catchers and are just two behind Atlanta's Brian McCann for the MLB lead. Even his speed has been underrated, Avila is yet to be caught in all 3 of his attempts, which ties him with 4 other catchers for second in the league (well behind Russell Martin's 7). This has been an absolutely atrocious season for catchers; Mauer, Soto, and Napoli have all been huge disappointments and Buster Posey seems to be done for the season. With Victor Martinez playing DH for the Tigers, the only proven hitting catcher left is Avila's counterpart: National League starter Brian McCann.

1B- Mark Trumbo (LAA) .253, 14 HR, 37 RBI, 8 SB:

Cases could be made for Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Texiera, or Miguel Cabrera to be start at first base for the American League; but Gonzalez won the fan vote and Cabrera made the team as a reserve (leaving Texiera as one of the biggest snubs). But the next tier of players consists of two guys who have really rebounded from bad seasons and criticism: Paul Konerko and Adam Lind. Both these guys are in the top 5 among AL first basemen in both homers and RBIs, while also sporting averages above .300. But it's the Angel's Mark Trumbo who deserves this spot; the rookie was thrown in to replace Kendrys Morales, who suffered a fluke injury while celebrating a walk-off HR, and has flourished batting 6th for the Angels. His 14 HRs and 37 RBIs before the All-Star break are outstanding numbers, especially for a rookie. He is 6th among American League first basemen in HRs and his power, freak-situation, and youth earn him this recognition.

2B- Ben Zobrist (TB) .272, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 58 Runs, 8 SB:

The top 3 second basemen in the AL are all familiar names: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, and Ian Kinsler; but after that the list includes some lesser known guys, such as Howie Kendrick and Ben Zobrist. Like the aforementioned Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick has been a surprsing spark in the Angels' lineup; but he's also been a very versatile fielder (playing 17 games in LF, 15 games at 1B, and 50 games at 2B). Kendrick has been a great hitter all season: batting .307 with 8 HRs, 29 RBIs, 42 runs, and 9 SBs. But Zobrist's ridiculous start to the season gave him the edge over Kendrick on my list, despite the sub .300 average. Since the true test of an "all-star" is solely first half performance then we have to look at April 28th, when the Rays had a day-night doubleheader against the Twins. Zobrist had 5 runs, 7 hits, 2 HRs, 10 RBIs, and a stolen base in those two games (including 8 RBIs in the first game alone). Frankly, that stat line alone makes him deserving of this spot, even though he has only 1 home run since the month of April and none in the entire month of June. Yesterday, on the road against the Yankees, Zobrist showed just how dangerous he could be: finishing a double away from the cycle (hitting a homerun, single, triple and walking all before the 7th inning stretch). Among true-everyday AL second basemen, Zobrist is 3rd in both homeruns and RBIs. Although he did not win the "Final Spot Fan Vote", falling to Paul Konerko, Ben Zobrist has proven that he has the support of his team, the fans, and the entire city of Tampa.

SS- Asdrubal Cabrera/Jhonny Peralta

3B- Alex Gordon

OF- Curtis Granderson, Adam Lind, Brennan Boesch


C-Miguel Montero/Jonathan Lucroy
1B- Michael Morse/Gaby Sanchez
2B- Danny Espinosa/Neil Walker
SS- Starlin Castro
OF- Michael Bourn
3B- Placido Palanco

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sports- Helping Or Hurting Our Economy?

People wonder why we're in a "depression". They question taxes, health care, and job employment. Blame goes towards politicians, the president, political parties, and every one else within arms length; but why don't people question how our tax dollars fund sports stadiums?

The answer is simple. Owners and teams "threaten" to leave their city unless they get a city-funded facility, and a major sports team (whether winning or losing) can stimulate even the weakest economy. But when an owner has 7 other companies and makes $50 million a year in growth, why can't he pay for the stadium out of his own pocket. The fans pay for tickets to sit in "their" arena, buy over-priced refreshments, and spend millions a year in memorabilia. While in return the players get more money than the average family makes in 5 lifetimes, and the owners almost never fail to garner a hefty profit.

AEG built a future Los Angeles NFL stadium, hoping to be the future home to an NFL team. Farmers Insurance will pay $700 million over 30 years for naming rights to this as-yet-nonexistent stadium, plus an additional $300 million if it plays host to two NFL teams. The naming rights to a stadium is worth a potential amount of $1 billion, and it is doesn't even house a team yet. AEG did not need the city to issue bonds for $350 million, saving the tax payers that burden of debt. The Jets and Giants jointly built the "New Meadowlands" in New Jersey, housing both New York football teams. It was deemed the most expensive stadium in the world, costing $1.6 billion to create. Surely within due time the naming rights for this arena will go for a high price tag. Long term offers have been rumored through companies such as and Allianza.

The financial situations of teams is already being question, most recently with the storied LA Dodgers. Owners right off trips to Europe on their private jets as a scouting expense and thus pay a lot less in taxes each fiscal year. It doesn't matter if these funds weren't "designated" for education or health care, re-allocate them; spend those millions of dollars are improving the economy, employing more workers, and proving aid for the poor. The league offices of each sport should not allow a franchise to move solely on the basis of threatening the tax payers for funding. The fans bring enough money into the pockets of owners and players, who live like Kings, they shouldn't have to fund their palaces as well.

The Million Dollar Decision

The Summer of 2010 was filled with rumors about all the big name free agents, and ended auspiciously with the signing of Amar'e Stoudemire. But after the mid-season acquisition of Carmelo Anthony the Knicks are poised for a very bright future. Making the playoffs (and showing positive signs) was a huge step for New York basketball, despite being bounced in the first round by Boston.

For the first time in a decade, the off-season will be about "now", the present, instead of "building for the future". Instead of dumping salaries, New York will look to fine tune their roster for a potential Championship run in 2011-2012. The Knicks have until Friday to either waive Chauncey Billups or pick up the final year of his contract. His team option is set to earn him $14.2 million next season, but only $3.7 million is guaranteed. Waiving him would only cost the team that $3.7 million and allow Chauncey to be an unrestricted free agent.

Obviously $14+ million is an extraordinary price tag for a point guard on the downside of his career. Although he has shown signs of his "Mr. Big Shot" clutch gene, hitting late 3's in the latter part of the season, his lingering injury concerns are cause for worry. The one factor hindering New York from cutting ties with their point guard is the lack of available point guards this summer. Who would replace Chauncey? The options leave much to be desired: Andre Miller, T.J Ford, Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo. Many fans argue to keep Billups for one more season to "bridge the gap" until 2012 (Chris Paul/Derron Williams), but it's blatantly clear that the Knick's biggest hole is at the Center position. Picking up the option on their 34 year old point guard would leave little to no money to throw at a big man, or even add depth to the bench. They could always waive Chauncey and re-sign him after July 1st for less money, if he's willing to take a major pay cut. That would be similar to what the Spurs did with Richard Jefferson last summer. Billups knows he won't make anywhere near $14 million a season on the open market, but with the Knicks financial situation he could definitely find more money somewhere else.

Honestly, unless the Knicks can get Chauncey for $7 mill or under I would be fine with letting him walk. The teams till has Toney Douglas who has really redefined the term "combo guard". Douglas has been an offensive spark plug and the team's best perimeter defender (where Billups was a liability on the defense end), although his performance has been up and down all year. With Amar'e and Carmelo, scoring is not essential for this team's starting point guard so Douglas is capable of taking over the reigns for one season. One of the answers is currently on the roster, Anthony Carter. Sign Carter to a one year deal for around $1 million, he can split time with Douglas and be the back up in 2012. Anthony Carter was, in my opinion, the biggest surprise of the Melo-Trade. Seen as a throw in, Carter was thrown into late game situations and flourished on both ends.

Then use the draft as well as the free agent pool to find one or two "true big men", and possibly even a bargain point guard. Roger Mason, Shelden Williams, Jared Jeffries, and Derrick Brown all come off the books this summer: saving the team around $3.5 million. An intriguing option is Aaron Brooks, a free agent making just $2 million a year. Phoenix will surely part ways with him and if the Knicks could get him cheap then ideally he could run this offense.

There are a couple of big men who New York NEEDS to sign: Alexis Ajinca and Deandre Jordan. Both could be signed to long term deals at an affordable price (less than $2 million a year). Ajinca is only 22 and is 7'2, with a wingspan of 7'9". He doesn't have to score, he just has to get rebounds and block shots. Same with Deandre Jordan, who is a block machine down low. The team would still have $10+ million left to play with, either to get more talent or save for a play at Chris Paul. The only upside to taking Billups' option would be if come February New Orleans makes CP3 available. A trade where New Orleans gets Chauncey (and his would be expiring contract) would match salary-wise. But even without Billups, packaging: draft picks, Fields, Douglas, *the point guard* (say Brooks), and some young guys should be enough for the Hornets--a team in financial disarray looking to salvage something for Chris Paul.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Charles Jenkins- Hofstra's Pride & Joy

"Last Monday Charles Jenkins was summoned to the office of Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes, and who could blame him. The last time Jenkins had been in Hayes' office, he got the news that Tim Welsh, who had just been named coach, was resigning after a DWI arrest and that Mo Cassara would be taking over. In a prior visit, Jenkins had been told that long-time Hofstra coach Tom Pecora was leaving to take the reins at Fordham"

But this the news was about Charles, Hofstra had decided to retire Jenkins' number 22 before his final home game, Saturday afternoon against Hofstra. Charles wears 22 in honor of his late brother, Kareem Albritton, who was shot back in 2001 at the age of 22. He was named CAA Player of the Year and is lock to win it again in 2010-2011. We have even heard Jenkins' name being mentioned in National Player of the Year talks, he is one of only three players to lead their conference in both points and assists (Duke's Nolan Smith and Cleveland State's Norris Cole).

Jenkins is currently Hofstra's all-time leading scorer with 2,441 points, surpassing Antoine Aguido's previous record, and will continue to add to that total during the CAA tournament. Jenkins is the second leading scorer in CAA history, behind only the great David Robinson of Navy. He was recently named one of 30 finalists for the Nasmith Award (for best collegiate basketball player in the country). Hofstra is sporting a 20-10 record, 14-4 in conference, good for 2nd place in the CAA. If they team can win its next three games they will be the in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. Making the big dance would be a great way for Charles Jenkins to end his college career.

There has been many discussions over whether Jenkins will play at the next level. Hofstra has only produced one NBA player: Speedy Claxton 2001-2008, but has had many former athletes play overseas in places like Turkey and Puerto Rico. David Satriano of the New York Post said "Charles Jenkins showed yesterday why he has garnered national attention, and might be a lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft." This is a big leap for a guy who wasn't even listed in mock drafts back in the Fall. Jenkins is a phenomenal scorer but he does with efficiency, 53% from field goal range and 42% from behind the arch. Although he is only 6'3" Jenkins weights 220 pounds and is built like a linebacker. Whenever Charles isn't in the gym you could find him in the weight room. His body type is ideal for a NBA combo guard. Hofstra's senior guard is the fourth leading scorer in the country and each day his draft stock seems to be rising. In his senior season he had to deal with losing long time Hofstra coach Tom Pecora and and the resignation of Tim Welsh, all in a single off-season. In addition we saw the transfer of multiple Hofstra players following Pecora's departure to Fordham.

Hopefully the Pride can continue their stellar season and earn a bid into the NCAA tournament. Jenkins has one of the most consistent careers in recent history, most top scorers enter the draft after one or two seasons, but Charles was been at Hofstra for 5 years (after being red-shirted his freshman year). Experts and finally started placing Jenkins on their draft boards, late second round, but a team that has a guard need should really like at Jenkins. He can score from anywhere on the court, rebounds well for his size, and passes the ball like a true point guard. Look for a similar situation to the one we are seeing with the Knicks and Landry Fields: a senior guard from a "mid-level" conference who filled the stat sheet but got little recognition. Landry Fields was taken in the second round but is easily outplaying every rookie selected ahead of him, including guys like John Wall. If it wasn't for Blake Griffin (injured prior to the 2009-2010 season) Landry Fields would be the favorite for Rookie of the Year. Whichever team "gambles" on Charles Jenkins will hit the jackpot. I see him immediately playing significant minutes at both guard spots. His handles, shooting ability, and defensive skills will make him a valuable asset for a rebuilding team. The perfect "win-win" situation would be for the Chicago Bulls to draft Jenkins in the second round. The Bulls' weakest link is Keith Bogans at SG, but the team still has Kyle Korver off the bench. Bogans and Korver can hold their own until Jenkins develops and learns the system. Jenkins would be a great compliment to Derrick Rose and ironically is a hybrid cross between the style's of Rose and Deng. If Jenkins can develop into his role within a season or two the Bulls will be the favorites in the East and a dangerous offensive machine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Best vs. The Rest


More than ever the NBA seems to be divided into two distinct categories, "the good vs. the bad", "the contenders vs. the pretenders", "the best vs. the rest", but in reality this trend has existed for over 50 years. Two teams in the league, the Boston Celitcs and Los Angeles Lakers (formerly of Minneapolis), have combined to win the finals 33 of the 64 times. Boston has appeared in the finals 21 times, winning 17 of those games. The Lakers have been in the championship game a record 31 times, and hold a 16-15 record in those games. The Chicago Bulls (or should I say Michael Jordan) are a distant third with a perfect 6-0 finals record. Jordan and the Bulls dominated the league during the 90s, with 2 "three-peats" in that span, only separate by MJ's retirement. Next in the list is another undefeated team, the Spurs, 4-0 in the 2000s. The dynasty has been lead by Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli. The Bullets (now Wizards), Hawks, Blazers, Kings, Sonics (now Thunder), and Bucks have all only earned one title, all of which were won prior to 1980. The Miami Heat won the finals in 2006, their first in franchise history. The Pistons, 76ers, and Warriors all have 3 championships while the Knicks, who have appeared in the finals 8 times (4th most all-time), have came out on top twice. After the Lakers and Celtics there aren't many times with multiple championships and only one other team has over 5 (the Bulls) and that took the talents of greatest player to walk the planet.

A quick tally of the 64 championships looks like this: Celtics (17), Lakers (16), Bulls (6), Spurs (4), Pistons (3), 76ers (3), Warriors (3), Knicks (2), Wizards (1), Hawks (1), Blazers (1), Sonics/Thunder (1), Bucks (1), Heat (1), and Kings (1).

Prior to this year, or even this decade, teams had multiple superstars. The top four teams: Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, and Spurs all won their titles with at least two All-Star level players. Everyone talks about Boston's Big 3 of KG, Allen, and Pierce but the original Big 3 was Bird, Parish, and McHale. "Superteams" have existed and flourished since the dawn of the NBA, the only difference now is who controls it.

How did Carmelo get to New York? Who created the Heat's "New Big 3"? Players are beginning to have all the leverage and control by holding their teams hostage. During the hay-day of the NBA, teams were stacked due to the draft, trades, scouting, and a myraid of other reasons, but never because Magic Johnson decided to team up with Larry Bird. Did Michael Jordan team up with Isiah when he couldn't beat the Pistons? No, he worked on his game and eventually created a dynasty with the Bulls? What did LeBron do when he couldn't beat the Celtics? Create a mega-team with Wade in Miami.

The owners definitely seem have a strong desire to re-take control of the league, and they have every right to do so. The players job is to go out on the court and give it their all, for whatever team they are on, not play fantasy basketball with the media. People were satisfied with domination during the 70s and 80s because those teams were built "fairly" and other franchises were still competing with their own superstars. But today players like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are jealous of guys like Kobe and Tim Duncan who hold multiple rings. Their egos are telling them that the only way to win is by teaming up with another high level player, rather than be part of a re-building process for the future. Part of this attitude change is because guys feel that they need a ring (or multiple) to be considered "great". There is a whole different mystique when you see Michael Jordan in Springfield, with his 6 championships. Hall of Famers like George Gervin, Pete Maravich, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, Dominique Wilkins, Artis Gilmore, Elgin Baylor, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, and Karl Malone are all outstanding players who are without a ring. None of these guys demanded to be traded or teamed up with one another, and their careers are still looked upon with awe. There is a separation between the "ring-less" players and legends like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, but it is because of how they earned those rings as much as it how many they have.

This separation is starting to divide the league into an even greater unbalanced sea-saw. It was one thing when there were 9 or 10 teams in contention (per conference) and the other 6 or 7 were left behind, because at least then around half of the league felt they had a chance in post-season play. Today the consensus is that the number is becoming slimmer and slimmer, going from 9 or 10 per conference to around 3 or 4. Even with a salary cap basketball is starting to feel like a league with a bunch of "Yankee" teams spending money and competing against each other, leaving the Devil Rays for a life irrelevance with no-name talent. Who really has a chance at winning the title this season? Let's break it down:


If we break down the league by talent level we need to start with the mediocre teams who will not a championship any time soon. Mediocre: Cavaliers, Kings, Wizards, Raptor Pistons, Bucks, Bobcats, Rockets, Nets, Timberwolves, and Clippers. These are teams that are currently out of the playoffs in their respective conferences and a majority of them currently lack the necessary talent to elevate themselves. After the recent trade deadline I would also add Denver and Utah to this list, both organizations traded their one and only All-Star (top 15 player) and have no viable replacement, as well as the 76ers and Pacers. This list consists of 15 mediocre teams, many of which are in small markets, who combined only had two players selected to the All-Star game (Derron and Griffin), Love was selected as an injury replacement. These teams do have young talent but for the near future their chance at winning a title is slim to none. When 15 out of your 30 teams are considered "mediocre" you know there is a problem.

The Rockets have their star in Kevin Martin but the rest of the roster is scarce when it comes to talent, John Wall and Tyreke Evans are play makers without guys to pass the ball off to, and Derron Williams doesn't seem likely to stay with the Nets when they move to Brooklyn. The only two teams with bright (distant) futures are the Clippers and the Timberwolves. Each team already has their franchise big man, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love respectively, who will attract fans and hopefully other superstars. But the rest of their rosters are only filled with potential not substance. In 3 or 4 seasons these two teams have the best chance of replacing teams like Boston and San Antonio in the elite group.


There are some elite teams who have more All-Stars than those 15 teams combined. We can rattle off a list of 5 or 6 teams who we think will be in the finals and I guarantee we get it right. Elite: (East)- Celtics, Heat, Bulls, Magic, Knicks, and Hawks? West- Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, and Thunder. The Knicks and definitely the Hawks are more of a "middle of the pack" team but because they are in the East they have a small chance to be in the finals or at least make some noise and upset some teams, especially the Knicks. In the East these 6 teams combined for 13 All-Star selections (the entire East roster plus Carmelo). This just shows the domination currently occurring in the NBA and the next two players in line, Raymond Felton and Josh Smith, are on the Knicks and Hawks respectively. The Eastern conference is much weaker than the West is due to the high number of bad teams in the East. The 76ers and Pacers are the 7 and 8 seed but would be in the bottom of the West standings. Combined their only real good player is Andre Iguodala who hasn't even lived up to his hype due to on-going injuries. Both these teams have a bunch of young players: Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collision, Thaddeus Young, Jodie Meeks, and Evan Turner, but at best those guys will develop into role players and hold these franchises to mediocrity.

The Hawks have always been a very good team but can't get passed their 5th seed label (first round victory at best), but they locked up Joe Johnson and have two studs down low in Horford and Smith. Although they probably won't win a title, their talent level is high.

The Knicks belong in this category because of their future, they have 2 top five scorers and are looking to add CP3 or Derron Williams in 2012. If that happens the Knicks will be the favorites, along with Miami in the East. This season no team wants to see them in playoffs because they have two studs who could drop 40 in a playoff game. But their lack of depth, especially down low, will prove to be their down-fall come playoff time.

The Bulls are not always mentioned with the likes of Miami and Boston but Chicago has an MVP candidate, Derrick Rose, as well as top high level big men (Boozer signed at the max in July and Joackim Noah). Loul Deng is a great wing player, although overpaid, and the team has a solid bench lead by Gibson and Korver. If they had a better 2 guard they would be my favorites to win it all.

Orlando really needs to hope they can win now because it is almost a fore gone conclusion that Dwight leaves for LA in 2012. They have two post seasons left to bring a title to South Florida. They really only have one superstar but a lot of good role players: Hedo, Jason Richardson, Jameer, and Arenas. Sadly, within 1.5 seasons Orlando will join the list of mediocre teams without an All-Star.

Boston and Miami both have their "Big 3s" but Boston just shipped off Perkins, as well as two of their other bigs, so they don't have that huge advantage down low anymore. This leaves the East favorite wide open. These franchises are headed in opposite directions. If Miami can add a point guard and/or true center they will be even scarier for years to come. Boston on the other hand is looking at a very old team, only Rondo will still be an elite player in a season or two. KG and Allen will be on their last legs very soon and their production will be in question. The Celtic's window of opportunity is only very small but after it has closed it will be hard to gauge Boston's status.

The Lakers are looking for their second "three-peat" and to tie the Celtics for most championship banners. As long as they have Kobe LA will be in contention. Gasol has taken over the role Shaq had during the Lakers' first title run and Odom has been the third part of the triangle offense.

San Antonio had their best 1st half record in franchise history, only 10 losses at the All-Star break, and seems to be unstoppable. Greg Popovich is coaching this team to perfection. There biggest boost from last year has been with depth due to the development of guys like Dejuan Blair and Gary Neal. This team is going to stick together despite being in a "small market". San Antonio, like LA, continues the Big 3 theme.

Mark Cuban is one of the greatest owners in sports, ask anyone who has played for him. Dallas was looking to make a move at the deadline but couldn't move Caron Butler because they were unwilling to part with Rodrigue Beaubois. A reunion between Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki was sky-rocketed Dallas up the standings. Both of these guys are hungry for a ring, they are arguably the best active players without a title in their career. Tyson Chandler has been a pleaseant surprise, overshadowing Brendan Haywood downlow, and their depth is probably the best in the league. Jason Terry, J.J Barea, and Shawne Marion are extremely versatile. In addition signing Peja Stojakovic makes the Mavs even deadlier from long range. Dirk, Peja, J.Kidd, Terry, and Marion have been knocking down treys at an alarming rate for over a decade. This team has the perfect mix to make another appearance in the conference finals.

The Thunder have taken the league by storm the last two seasons. Scott Brooks has developed Russell Westbrook into a perfect compliment for Kevin Durant. Jeff Green was thought to be the last piece of the trio but Oklahoma City traded him to Boston for Perkins and Nate Robinson. Kendrick Perkins is the perfect addition for this roster; young, athletic, and a big body. Jeff Green was a scoring wing and didn't offer much use for a team with Durant and Ibaka locked in at the forward positions. The team has tremendous depth at the guard position: Thabo Sefolosha, Eric Maynor, James Harden, and Nate Robinson. All guys who can rotate around the two guard position. Down low Perkins and Ibaka are the shot-blockers down low, teams will think twice about slashing to the hoop against OKC.

In Between

This group is the difference between the West and East. The East is strictly good vs. bad but the West has a small group of teams that aren't at the highest level but could be very soon. The Hornets, Blazers, Grizzlies, Warriors and Suns are the lower playoff teams who seem to be a piece away from elite. All of these rosters have guys who were All-Star snubs and also guys who have mysterious futures.

To being we have New Orleans, the Hornets have the best point guard around in Chris Paul and second star in David West. You would think their future is bright, one player away from a "big 3", but nothing could be farther from the truth. David West is a free agent this season and will almost certainly find a new home come July, everyone knows the rumors of Chris Paul and the Knicks in 2012, and Emeka Okafor is eating up a lot of their cap space from now until 2014. On top of this the teams was bought by the NBA, and is essentially owned by the league's 29 other teams. Mark Cuban was openly appalled when the Hornets traded for Carl Landry, and his $3 million dollar salary, for Marcus Thornton (making around $800k). This trend will continue if New Orleans take on any more significant financial obligations.

Another team with a gloom future is Phoenix. The Suns have taken a huge turn for the worse after being left with nothing after letting Amar'e Stoudemire sign with the Knicks. The days of Mike D'Antoni, Steve Nash, Amar'e, Shawne Marion, and Joe Johnson is long gone. That team had a "big 4" before the Celtics were even relevant again. But a lot of bad trades left with wishing for a time machine. Steve Nash is an old body and on his last legs (literally), Vince Carter will likely be trade to leave because of $18 million salary but either way he is a log jam in their flexibility, and Robin Lopez is no where near the talent they had hoped. Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress, and Mickael Pietrus are only making around $6 million until 2015 which also hinders the Sun's ability to bring in more talent. This team couldn't win a title with Amar'e and without him they are headed for mediocrity.

Memphis is in big trouble come the off season. They have one of the best combos down low with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and before Rudy Gay's injury Memphis had the most underrated trio in the league, and a fourth star in Mike Conley was also emerging. But Memphis has to be concerned with their chances in retaining these guys, Randolph and Gasol are unrestricted free agents. Randolph will want somewhere in the area of his current $17 million salary while Gasol will easily demand a raise from his $3 million contract, about a 400% raise. With the free agency pool weak especially down low, Nene may sign an extension with Denver, look for Zbo and Gasol to have numerous offers. The Grizzlies play in a small market and may even move back to Vancouver soon. Memphis has the talent to be a playoff team in the West and if they can somehow manage to keep their bigs then the Grizz will be a scary team, bordering elite (very unlikely scenario due to cap space)

The last two teams, Golden State and Portland, are very intriguing futures both short term and long term. Golden State runs a very fast paced offense with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in the back court. They have a good young group down low with David Lee and Andris Biendris, plus Dorrell Wright at the 3 gives them another scorer who can do a little bit of everything. These guys aren't All-Stars, except for maybe Monta, but they have 4 extremely talented young players who are yet to hit their potential. This time won't win a title I guarantee that, but they can be like the Hawks; the perennial 5th seed who may win a first round matchup but is fun to watch in the regular season. On the other hand there is Portland who still can't shake the injury curse. They just traded for Gerald Wallace which adds to their depth. Portland has 5 or 6 guys they can throw at you who play multiple positions. Lamarcus Aldridge was the biggest All-Star snub and is the future of the NBA. If Brandon Roy can finally keep himself relatively healthy and return to old form then Portland has two players in their primes to build around. Additionally Rudy Fernandez, Wesley Matthews, Marcus Camby, and Andre Miller are all great role players. If Greg Oden can stay on the court and be the third piece for Portland then that would elevate the Blazers above Dallas fighting with Oklahoma City for the third spot in the West.


10 Elite Teams: Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Atlanta and New York

15 Mediocre Teams: Cavaliers, Kings, Wizards, Raptor Pistons, Bucks, Bobcats, Rockets, Nets, Timberwolves, Clippers, Jazz, Nuggets, 76ers, and Pacers

5 In Between Teams: Grizzlies, Suns, Warriors, Blazers, and Hornets (only Portland looks truly poised for a jump to the elite)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Stat & Melo, The New Ewing-Starks"

"Stat & Melo, The New Ewing-Starks"

After almost a year of anticipation, Carmelo Anthony is finally a Knick. Seven months after missing out on LeBron the Knicks pull off a blockbuster trade to bring Carmelo to New York.

To acquire Anthony, the Knicks are sending: Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, the Knicks’ 2014 first-round pick, two second-round picks New York (acquired from the Golden State Warriors in the David Lee sign-and-trade) and $3 million. The Knicks will also trade Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry's expiring contract to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who will send Corey Brewer to New York. The Knicks will receive Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman, and Anthony Carter.

But everyone is wondering if the Knicks gave up too much for Carmelo and how the front office is going to replace all the talent they gave up. But if you look around the league, there are a ton of affordable players who can play key roles for New York next season. The Knicks gave up four role players for a super star (and a role player in Billups). Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams come off the books this summer, Billups has a team option in his contract for 2011-2012 (to bridge the gap until Chris Paul), and Balkman is signed to a very affordable salary and can be a useful big man in his second run with New York. Many people are also questioning the Knicks financial flexibility in the future, but they are set up well to supply Stat and Melo with very solid role players.

Obviously the two major contracts are Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony's long-term deals. The Knicks have both players under contract until 2015. In yesterday's trade the Knicks shipped away Eddy Curry's ridiculous expiring contract. But they also shaved off other smaller financial obligations such as Gallinari and Randolph who were signed until 2013 and schedule to make a combined $10 million that season. Chandler will be a free agent in the summer either way and Felton was a short-term option with only one year left on his deal, at $7.5 million due next season. The Knicks will retain Bill Walker, Andy Rautins, Toney Douglas and Landry Fields for another season, all making between $700,000 and $1.2 million.

The next step will be filling the roster with affordable players who give the team both short-term talent as well as long term financial flexibility. The first move will be Ronny Turiaf who has a $4.36 million dollar player option for next season. I am not sure whether I am a fan of Turiaf accepting this option but he has every right to do so. He currently ranks 25th in the league in PER (Player Efficiency Ranking) among centers. Turiaf brings a ton of energy and excitement to this Knicks and it will be interesting to see how he plays the rest of the season. So far he is only averaging 18 minutes per game due to nagging injuries, but if he can stay healthy and play starters’ minutes at Center (25-30) then he is definitely worth the money. Roger Mason and Kelenna Azubuike are both unrestricted free agents and both have yet to see the floor very often. Unless they begin to show signs of life I would let them both walk and look to fill the void somewhere else. The most important thing for the Knicks may seem small but the team needs to retain Shawne Williams. Williams is making $885, 210 this season but he is a 6'9" forward who can play on the wing as well as down low. Shawne Williams is the perfect player for New York's system because he is an outstanding 3-point shooter, currently holding the best percentage in the league. I love the Knicks talent off the bench in terms of spurts of talent; Douglas is great on-the-ball defender and has greatly improved his shooting range. Toney was the back up for Felton and will continue that role backing up Billups (and hopefully CP3). Bill Walker had one of the best dunks of the season, a monster slam over Andrew Bogut (league leader in blocked shots) and he is the only remaining piece from the Nate trade. Walker is a better pure scorer than Nate and is also signed longer/for less money making him a steal. The final remaining Knick will be Syracuse native Andy Rautins. Rautins is an experience player from his days at Syracuse and on the Canadian National Team. He is a great shooter and hopefully will grow into a bench role next season.

Now comes free agency, the Knicks still have roster spots to fill and some money to spend. But the team will not go after any big name-high price guys until 2012 (Dwight, Chris Paul, and Derron) making guys like Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, David West, and Caron Butler out of reach. But we have seen the Miami Heat use almost all of their money on 3 superstars then surround them with role players and still produce an elite team. The Knicks will use a similar formula, a mix of veteran talent and youthful prospects.

There are some very interesting players available whom I would absolutely love to see in New York. The first on my list is Deandre Jordan. The Clippers have over $12 million invested in Chris Kaman next season, and also have young big men like Blake Griffin and Al-Farouq Aminu signed until 2014. Deandre will obviously be in a bench role if the Clippers retain him but it seems like they are more likely to spend money on big man free agents or in trades for veteran wing players. Due to Kaman's injury Jordan has been averaging 26 minutes per game and posting 7 rebounds as well as 1.7 blocks per game. Those two numbers alone are enough to make me think he could really help the Knicks. He is an efficient scorer and at 7 feet, Deandre Jordan can be a scary presence down low. In the East, the elite teams will have trouble penetrating to the hoop against Stoudeimire (2.2 blocks per game) and Jordan. The Knicks are already first in the league in terms of blocks, but would dominate with the addition of another Top 15 shot blocker. The front office should sign this young big-man to an affordable long-term deal before other teams realize his potential

The next piece if the 2011 Three Point Champion, James Jones. He is a free agent and Miami is in no position to be giving any players a raise, and frankly they don't care who they have on the bench as long as LeBron and Wade are playing MVP-level basketball. James Jones is a one dimensional SG/SF but that one area is exactly what they Knicks need, a pure shooter. James Jones could split time with Landry Fields at SG and play the SF when the Knicks go small, he will spread the floor and see a lot of open shots when Carmelo and Amare draw double teams. This will help everyone because teams will have to pick their poison against the Knicks if our superstars are surrounded by snipers. New York should sign James Jones to a short-term deal at around $2 million per season.

Marcus Thornton is a young player with a great offensive arsenal, except in New Orleans he has been in the doghouse due to "lack of work on defense". Such a thing would never occur on a Mike D'Antoni team where defense takes a back seat to offense. Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, Marcus Banks, and Jarret Jack have all cut into Thornton's minutes but maybe he can carve his way into the Knicks rotation with his quick scoring style. He is making less than $800,000 this season and he’s a risk, but a small-short term contract could lead to a big return for New York next season.

Another big man who will be available is Houston's Chuck Hayes. Hayes is another guy who is getting an increased role due to injuries; Brad Miller has missed a lot of games for the Rockets as well as Yao Ming. Next season Houston will look to spend money and bring support for Kevin Martin. Jordan Hill, Luis Scola, and Brad Miller will all be on the roster and healthy next season so look for Houston to part with Chuck Hayes, Shane Battier, and Yao Ming. New York should definitely look to get a big man down low and after Deandre Jordan, Chuck Hayes is the best on my list. Hayes is an undersized center at only 6'6" but his 238-pound frame allows him to muscle in the paint for rebounds and he shoots at a high percentage from the field (mostly an around the basket guy). Hayes has less potential than Deandre Jordan, but is much more consistent (similar to Ronny Turiaf). Jordan and Turiaf would compliment each other best, but if Turiaf leaves then look for the Knicks to be a serious play at one, if not both, of these big men. He is making $2.3 million this year and will demand a higher payday than Jordan.

The Pistons have a talented second year player in Jonas Jerebko. He made the All Rookie Second Team, which has been an indicator of guys poised for breakout seasons: Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, and Eric Gordon (from the 08-09 team). Jerebko is another international stud and will hopefully want to play in New York, the media capital of the world. Similar to how Gallo loved the New York spotlight, Jonas Jerebko could flourish in New York and give the Knicks a lot of European appeal. The lanky big man can be a back up to Amare and learn the game from an All-Star power forward. This situation would be a win-win for everyone (except the Pistons). Another guy making under 800K who isn't expecting any multi-million dollar deals. This guy is for real. James Dolan needs to make sure we lock him up for a long-term deal, or at least a contract with team options.

Reggie Williams is part of Don Nelson's love of guards/wing players. On a team headlined by Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and Dorrell Wright, Reggie Williams has had very few chances to break out. Golden State and the Knicks run similar styles: "don't play defense", so Williams would feel right at home in New York. He's another guy who may fly under the radar when times throw big money at the elite players. Similarly would be Shane Battier, but for opposite reasons. Battier does not put up good looking stats, but he ends up filling the box score. He is an outstanding defender, great shooter, extremely efficient, and is coming off a big contract. Teams are not going to pay a veteran-defender who doesn't score big money, so the Knicks should look to pay him (definitely less than his current $7 million deal). He has experienced a lot of hard times with Yao Ming in Houston and will hopefully look to pair up with two healthy superstars.

In the case that the Knicks decide to buy out Billups rather than pay him $14 million dollars, they need to look for a fill-in point guard, a one-year bridge until free agency 2012. Toney Douglas hasn't show signs of being a franchise or even starting point, and there are now NBA ready point guards that the Knicks could draft. This is a very hard void to fill, which is why they are very likely to keep Billups. Other options include signing someone like Sebastian Telfair, T.J Ford, Steve Blake or Mario Chalmers to a one-year deal. A more ideal situation would be to acquire Luke Ridnour from the Timberwolves in exchange for Toney Douglas. Ridnour is making around $4 million a year for the next 4 seasons and could be a back up for New York come 2012. Other less likely candidates would be Acie Law, Mo Williams, and Rodney Stuckey.

There are a large number of scoring wings, but this is not important with Carmelo and Amare at the forward positions. Guys like Marquis Daniels, Anthony Parker, Jason Kapano, Tayshaun Prince, and Tracy McGrady may be willing to sacrifice money for a chance to help bring a title to New York.

The Knicks did the right thing and got an elite scorer for a group of role players. In less than a year the Knicks have acquired two Top 15 players and returned to the playoffs, even after losing out on LeBron. As fans, we hated the front office for signing guys like Eddy Curry and Jerome James, making bad trades for Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway, and for trading away countless draft picks and potential superstars. Denver fans are going to be sitting home for the five seasons praying to be blessed in the draft with a once-in-a-lifetime player (again), hoping this time that the won’t lose him.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Will Albert Walk? The End Of An Era In St. Louis

The deadline for Albert Pujols' contract talks has passed and the two sides have yet to come to an agreement. None the less, there is still no indication that Pujols will lift that deadline to discuss his contract at any point during the season. Sports Illustrated reported that the Cardinals had offered the 3-time MVP an eight contract worth over $200 million but Albert was seeking a ten year deal worth $300 million. A deal of that magnitude would make Pujols the highest paid player in league history, both on a per year basis as well as total salary, surpassing Alex Rodriguez's 10-year $275 million deal with the Yankees

Signing a player for ten years and investing $300 million for that one guy is absurd, even if he is the best player in the league. Pujols feels he deserves more money than Ryan Howard, who just signed a 5-year $125 million contract ($25 mill a year) with the Phillies, and in reality he does because Pujols is a much better player than Howard. But no player is worth $300 million, no matter how great he is and no matter how many records he is going to break. The smart move for the Cardinals would be to let Albert walk when the time comes, unless he is willing to give St. Louis a very large home-town discount.

I bet the Yankees are looking at Alex's contract and regretting how much money the invested, especially since they will be still be paying A-Rod $27.5 million when he is 42 years old. Albert is currently 31 years old and would also be 40+ years old at the end of a potential ten-year contract. Although the Yankees can afford to pay any amount of money they know the last four years of that contract will be absolutely brutal to look at. There is no doubt that Alex Rodriguez will be out of his prime and on the back end of his career when he his current ten year deal expires in 2017. We need to remember how Alex Rodriguez ended up in New York, Texas could not afford to pay Alex and did not want to take on such a big investment. Of course Albert will not end up with the Yankees but there are other teams who have the financial ability to pay Pujols, like Chicago, Los Angeles, and even the Mets.

The Yankees are worth over a billion dollars and bring in $441 million worth of revenue each year. In comparison, the Cardinals are only worth $488 million total and bring in $195 million a season. Those numbers show that the Yankees make almost as much money per year as the entire Cardinal franchise is worth ($441 mill vs. $488 mill). So relatively speaking, paying Albert $30 million a year would take up 15% of the Cardinal's revenue, while the Yankees only use 6% of their annual revenue to pay Alex Rodriguez. The Cardinals cannot pretend that they are a "big market" team like the Yankees or Red Sox. Again, relatively a team like the Yankees can "afford" to pay players $20-$30 million a year because their payroll is almost 50% higher than teams like the Cardinals (Yankees=$194 million payroll, Cardinals= $100 million payroll).

In addition the Cardinals re-signed outfielder Matt Holliday to a seven-year $120 million dollar contract, the richest contract in the illustrious history of the St. Louis Cardinals, and would be devoting almost 50% of their payroll on only two players. It is unclear why the Cardinals decided to lock up Holliday before Pujols but the Cardinals cannot field well rounded team with only $54 million dollar left to spend, that would only be $2.34 million per player. In 2010 Matt Holliday put up .312 BA, 28 HR, and 103 RBIs and the Cardinals would be able to add two players of similar caliber rather than spend on $30 million on Albert (.312 BA, 42 HR, and 118 RBIs). Another problem is that other current players will be free agents in the upcoming years and undoubtedly seek more than $2.34 million. These players include Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Chris Carpenter. Locking up their pitching staff and adding two or three solid hitters would better for the franchise long term.

The Cardinals have always been known for developing young talent out of their farm system with smart coaches like Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. But the Cardinal's farm system only ranks 17th in the league, with only two prospects in the top 100. This shows how the team cannot solely depend on their young players and will need to acquire talent through free agency. Albert is the face of the franchise, and the face of St. Louis, but the Cardinals are already very hyped and proven to be a winning team, whether Pujols stays or goes they have already tapped out the market to its fullest extend. The Yankees have the highest pay roll in all of sports but they still don't win year after year. Teams like the Padres and Giants are winning games based on good pitching and by playing "money ball".

The usual big spenders have no need at first base. The team that spends the most money out of anyone, the Yankees, locked up Mark Texiera for 8 years and $180 million back in 2008. The Phillies just signed Ryan Howard for the next 5 seasons at $25 a year. And in all likelihood the Red Sox will retain newly acquired first baseman Adrien Gonzalez for $20+ million a year in a long-term contract. Those are the top 3 spenders in the MLB and other teams like the Mets are in very bad financial situations. The potential suiters would be either of the Chicago teams or LA teams but those clubs also have big name guys to pay.

In the end the Cardinals need to think about their long-term financial situation. 10 years at $30 million dollars would be a constraint on this franchise for generations. What if Albert gets hurt? What if his production drops after 3 or 4 seasons? What if steroid allegations come out? These are all things we have seen happen to super star athletes in the blink of an eye. Will any team be willing to pay that high price? Would they be bidding against themselves? Players like Albert Pujols come along once in a lifetime but St. Louis needs to start considering life after Albert as a realistic possibility.

Here are some examples of what $30 million could buy you in the MLB...

1. Prince Fielder ($15 mill) and Justin Morneau ($13 mill)
2. Jake Peavy ($17 mill) and Chris Carpenter ($13 mill)
3. Joey Votto ($12 mill), Dustin Pedroia ($7 mill), and Hanley Ramirez ($11 mill)
4. Josh Hamilton ($12 mill), Carlos Gonzalez ($11 mill), and Hunter Pence ($7 mill)
5. In 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007 the entire Tampa Bay (Devil) Ray's pay roll was under $30 million dollars
6. The entire 2011 Tampa Bay Ray's starting lineup
7. The entire 2011 San Diego Padres roster (all major league level contracts minus signing bonuses)
8. The entire 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates roster (all major league level contracts minus signing bonuses)
9. The 2001 Oakland Athletics roster (who went 102-60 and made it to the ALDS)
10. Babe Ruth's highest year salary 400 times

Sunday, February 13, 2011

College Basketball's Race To The Top

On Saturday afternoon Ohio State lost their first game of the season. Wisconsin welcomed the Buckeyes into Madison and stormed the court after knocking off the number one team in the country. This leaves the us without a single undefeated team, and without a consensus number one overall team. Who should be number one? Kansas, Texas, Pittsburgh, and Ohio St are all viable candidates

Ohio State (24-1, 11-1 Big Ten): The Buckeyes first and only loss of the season came yesterday, a 71-67 road battle against fourteenth ranked Wisconsin. The Big 10 is loaded with talented teams and outstanding players, which makes Ohio State's resume even better. Four teams are currently ranked in the AP Top 25: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In addition Illinois, who has been in and out of the rankings, will certainly re-enter this week. Teams such as Penn State, Michigan, Northwestern, and Indiana have been putting up fights night in and night out. Plus, who could forget Michigan State (preseason top 5) sitting in the middle of the pack, waiting to make its March run. Ohio State was 5-0 against the top 25 coming into this weekend and faces off against rival Michigan State on Tuesday. The newly crowned numbered one has a very good chance of maintaining it's position. A loss to #14 Wisconsin on the road is very respectable. Jared Sullinger, along with seniors Jon Diebler and David Lighty, will lead this team deep into the bracket.

Kansas (22-1, 9-1 Big 12): After a crazy week in a college basketball, where we saw almost all of the top 15 teams lose, Kansas moved up the ladder into the number two slot. Kansas is the most efficient team in the country: 1st in field goal percentage (.523), 2nd in assists per game (18.6), and 6th in points per game (83.9). The Jayhawks have done all of this without their best offensive player, Josh Selby. The freshman missed the first three games for Kansas and has sat out the last nine, but Kansas is still 12-0 without Selby. Seniors Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, and Mario Little have provided experience and leadership all year long. In addition Kansas is stacked with future NBA stars, juniors: Tyshaun Taylor, Markieef Morris, and Marcus Morris are all seeing their draft stock sky rocket. Their only loss came back on January 22nd against Texas, who is currently ranked one slot behind Kansas at number three. But Kansas has only beaten one top 25 team: #20 Missouri by 17. The Jayhawks did win against Memphis (ranked 14) by thirteen back on December 7th but Memphis is now out of the top 25 (19-7, 7-3 C USA). The Big 12 conference is very top-loaded, but the bottom half of the teams are very mediocre and not seen as quality victories. Like Ohio State, Kansas has only one loss, and the Jayhawk's loss came to a tougher opponent (#3 Texas) as opposed to Ohio State's loss (#14 Wisconsin). But the Buckeyes have beaten five ranked teams, four more than Kansas, and the Big 10 is a more talented conference than the Big 12.

Texas (22-3, 10-0 Big 12): People may wonder how Texas is in the conversation for the number one rank with three losses, and in all likelihood they probably won't move up the ladder this week, but few people will argue with the fact that Texas is an elite team. In my opinion the Longhorns are the best team in the country and their early losses will only help them come tournament time. Texas has had the hardest schedule of any team, playing nine teams currently in the AP top 25. They are 7-2 in those games, and their two losses were by a combined three points. Texas went on the road and knocked off Kansas by nine, won against Missouri by 13, and beat Texas A&M twice by twenty each time. Their first loss of the season came against #4 Pittsburgh, 66-68 where Ashton Gibbs scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half to lead the Pitt Panthers. Then early in 2011 the Connecticut knocked off Texas on a Kemba Walker game winning shot in overtime, a heart breaking loss for Longhorn fans. And their third loss was to USC, a 17 point defeat where Jordan Hamilton was held to 12 points on 4 of 13 shooting. Nikola Vucevic had a career game for USC, scoring a career high 24 points. The most impressive parts of Texas' resume is their perfect in conference record, and strength of schedule. The Longhorns rank 6th in the nation with 41 rebounds a game. In all likelihood we will see teams like Ohio State, Kansas, and Pittsburgh accumulate more losses as their schedules get more difficult and towards the end of conference play. The loss to USC is a big blemish on their record but both Pitt and Uconn will finish the season in the top 10 and Texas deserves consideration for the number one seed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kobe vs. Michael: The End All Debate

On Friday Kobe played his 1,072nd career game against the New Orleans Hornets. Michael Jordan finished his career with 1,072 career games over 15 different seasons (19 year span due to retirements).

Games Played- Bryant: Since Kobe is just 32 and has never retired he will still have time to continue his career and accumulate more stats, wins, and rings. Michael career took place from the ages of 21 to 40 while Kobe has been in the league since he was 18, straight of out high school.

Games Started- Jordan: MJ began his career as a starter is rookie year, and finally retired a 40 year old starter for the Wizards. Out of his 1,072 games Jordan started all but 33 of them (97%) while Kobe has started 924 (86%)

Minutes Played- Jordan: Michael has played over 1,000 more minutes over the same number of games and his average of 38.3 minutes per game is higher than Kobe's average of 36.5. Michael had seen playing time regardless of age, over 3,000 minutes as a rookie and over 3,000 minutes at the age of 40. While Kobe only averaged 15 minutes per game as a rookie but now averages around 34.

Field Goals- Jordan: Jordan's numbers are in higher volume: Michael made 12, 192 shots (11.4 per game) while Kobe made 9,432 shots (8.8 per game), Jordan took 24,537 shots (22.9 per game) as opposed to Kobe's 20,728 shots (19.3 per game).

Free Throws- Jordan: MJ made more free throws and was sent to the line more often; ordan made 7,327 free throws (6.8 per game) to Bryant's 6,859 free throws made (6.4 per game). In regards to attempts Michael took 8,772 free throws (8.2 per game) while Kobe attempted 8,190 free throws (7.6 per game). There free throw percentages are almost identical 85.5 and 85.7, with Kobe beating out Michael by 0.2 percent. Overall the edge goes to MJ since they shot the same percentage but Michael was at the line more frequently.

Three Pointers- Bryant: Kobe runs away in this category making 1,370 three-pointers (1.3 per game), more than doubling Michael's 581 three-pointers (0.5 per game). Of course Kobe also took a ton more shots from behind the arc: 4,041 three-pointers (3.8 per game) as compared to MJ's 1,778 three-pointers (1.7 per game). But despite the huge gap in numbers Kobe only topped Michael by 1.2 percent (33.9% vs. 32.7 for MJ). Kobe's huge advantage is lessened by the fact that Michael was almost equally as effective form behind the arch but just took less long range shots.

Rebounding- Jordan: Although Kobe is taller than Michael (only slightly) Michael grabbed 1,668 offensive rebounds (1.6 per game) to Kobe's 1,266 offensive rebounds (1.2 per game). On the other end MJ had 5,004 defensive rebounds (4.7 per game) while Kobe brought in 4,406 defensive rebounds (4.1 per game). None the less both players have great numbers for shooting guards. After 1,072 career games, Kobe grabbed 5,672 total rebounds (5.3 per game), much less than Michael who grabbed 6,672 total rebounds (6.2 per game). In the exact same number of games Michael Jordan has exactly 1,000 more rebounds than Kobe.

Assists- Jordan: Michael once averaged 8 dimes a game back in the 88-89 season (along with 8 boards), one of the most impressive single seasons of all time. Jordan dished off for 5,633 assists (5.3 per game) in his career while Kobe has accumulated 5,020 assists (4.7 per game).

Steals- Jordan: No doubt MJ wins in this category, he's one of the greatest perimeter defenders in NBA history. Jordan lead the league in steals three times. He has 2,514 steals (2.3 per game) versus Kobe who has 1,617 steals (1.5 per game) thus far.

Blocks- Jordan: Again Jordan runs away in this category, Michael still holds the record for most all time blocks by a guard, 893 shots (0.8 per game). Kobe has a blocked a respectable 569 shots (0.5 per game).

Turnovers- Jordan: Bryant turned the ball over 3,133 times (2.9 per game), while Jordan turned the ball over 2,924 times (2.7 per game). Turning the ball over leads to the other team's points. Both players did it a lot, but Jordan did it less often.

Fouls- Jordan: In 1,072 Jordan committed 39 less fouls, an outstanding fact considering how he had so many more steals and blocks. Despite Jordan's tough defense and agressiveness he managed to play smart and commit less career fouls, 2,783, than Kobe: 2,822.

Total Points- Jordan: We all know Kobe has been making headlines climbing the all-time scoring list, passing Hall of Famers, but through an the same number of games MJ has over 5,000 more points: 32,292 aagaint Kobe's 27,093. MJ averaged a mind-blogging 30.1 points per game ranging over a long 15 season, 19 year career, which did not end until he was 40 years old. Kobe boosts a career average of 25.3 points per game, a number that has been increasing ever since his playing time has. Kobe's 15 minutes per game at 18 years old limited his numbers.


Michael Jordan is the great player to walk the planet and everyone loves to debate "Kobe vs. Michael" but the numbers don't lie, there is no debate. Michael Jordan scored more points, shot more efficiently from the field and from the line, grabbed more rebounds on both ends on the floor, was a better defender, committed less fouls, and turned the ball over less frequently than Kobe. The only category Kobe came out in top in was three point shooting, but really it goes down as a tie. This is because Michael only shot 1.2 percent less form behind the arch than Kobe, so many Kobe should be taking less threes than he has been.

Michael is 6-0 in the NBA Finals and came out the Finals MVP in each of the 6 series. Kobe is 5 for 7 in his finals appearances and only won 2 MVPS out of those 5 wins. MJ: 100% in the finals, won 100% of the MVPs. Kobe: 70% in the finals, winning the MVP only 2 out 5 times (40%).

Some Information Extracted From: Zachmo Marsupalami (Contributor)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Karma is a Bitch

The Cleveland Cavaliers have tied the record for most consecutive loses in one season with 23. They have also dropped 24 road games in a row. This is easily the worst season the Cavs have had in over thirty years. But the sad part is that Cleveland is even worse than their 8-41 record can show. The Cavaliers have not a single game in 2011, their last win came at home against the Knicks 49 days ago, back on December 18th. The Knicks couldn't pull away despite multiple runs and New York let Cleveland steal an overtime victory. Prior to that game the Cavs had lost 10 in a row, meaning that in their last 34 games Cleveland is 1-33 (that one win being a lucky overtime victory). Theoretically this historic losing streak could and should be at 34, rather than 23.

Cleveland started off this season hovering around .500, 7-10 after 17 games. But discluding the game against New York, the Cavaliers haven't won a game since Thanksgiving (Nov 27 vs. Memphis). Their eight wins break down into: New York (1), Memphis (1), Milwaukee (1), Philadelphia (2), Washington (1), New Jersey (1), and Boston (1).

There first win came in their first regular season game, their first game without LeBron. It came versus the Boston Celtics. Maybe it was the underdog mentality or the hatred for LeBron but Cleveland came out to beat Boston by 8 (95-87) after outscoring the Celtics 27-14 in the fourth quarter. The "Big 3" shot a combined 12 for 33 from the field (36%) and 1-7 from behind the arch (14%). Everyone on Cleveland seemed to have a great game and their season looked bright despite the loss of LeBron.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What If Chris Duhon Was Still Running The Knick's Offense?

On July 20th 2010 the New York Knicks signed Raymond Felton a two-year contract worth $15.8 million dollars. This move was overshadowed by New York's signing of Amar'e Stoudemire and also by the New Big 3 in Miami. But thus far Felton is easily the biggest bargain of the offseason. New York has been one of the most improved teams in 2010-2011 and the fans have been praising Stat as their savior. But the MVP candidate doesn't deserve all the credit for turning around the Knicks.

Raymond Felton is becoming a household name and is deserving of an All-Star spot on the Eastern Conference roster. Felton ranks 5th in the entire NBA in Total Assists and is running the league's best offense. Amar'e is also having the best season of his career but you need to consider who he's replacing, David Lee. Amar'e is averaging 26.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, and 2.7 apg this season while David Lee averaged 20.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg, and 3.6 apg last year. If you add those three statistics up for each player you see Amar'e is only an improvement of "1.5". But on the other hand, look at the point guard play: Raymond Felton's numbers include 17.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and 8.9 apg while Duhon only put up 7.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, and 5.6 apg (not to mention he has had absolutely no impact this season for the Magic). Felton has contributed an outstanding "14.8" improvement when you tally up those three statistics for each player. Clearly Stoudemire is the better player but which pair would be better: Duhon and Amar'e or Felton and DLee. Amar'e brings energy, the intangibles, and star-power to New York and there is no way to gage the impact his presence alone has had. But looking purely at the numbers of each guy, and who he replaced, it is clear that the Knicks would be in much worse shape if they hadn't signed Raymond Felton and Chris Duhon was still running the team.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Russia Can't Compete With New York

"I'm not happy with the way ... this deal has gone until now," Prokhorov said. "It has taken too long. It has been played out in public and it certainly has taken a toll on the players and I believe that it has cost us several games. I think management did a great job, but there comes a time when the price is simply too expensive. I'm instructing our team to walk away from the deal."

Those are the words of New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov said he never heard from Anthony. "Maybe he sent me an e-mail, but I don't have a computer," Prokhorov said. "Maybe the carrier pigeon got lost." Frustration has clearly set in as any chance of Carmelo coming to New Jersey has disappeared. During these long trade talks team morale was extremely low causing many disappointing performances. New Jersey's offer was centered around rookie forward Derrick Favors and multiple first round draft picks but the hard part was persuading Carmelo to commit to the Nets.

General manager Billy King expressed Prokhorov's role in these discussions and credited him with making this decision. It seems as if the Nets are going to shift their focus to rebuilding the team in other ways, including; draft picks, smaller trades, and other free agents. New Jersey has a solid core group consisting of Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and Brook Lopez which could be the nucleus of exciting young team.

The most important effect this decision will have is in regards to the New York Knicks. Anthony has been linked to New York ever since his wedding and Chris Paul's infamous toast. Some reports have gone as far as saying Carmelo Anthony will only sign an extension if he is traded to the Knicks. New York has already hit the jackpot with one move, signing Amar'e Stoudemire to a max contract in July. In addition Raymond Felton has also proved he is worth every penny of his new contract.

Donnie Walsh should start increasing the pressure on the Nugget's front office to make a move now. A deal including Eddy Curry and Wilson Chandler would be most ideal because both of these players are free agents whose salaries come off the book this summer. These guys salaries match Carmelo's which allows the deal to work under NBA rules. At the same time New York retains its young core (Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields) while also maintaining their trade flexibility by keeping Anthony Randolph as an asset for the future. The new starting five would be Felton-Fields-Anthony-Stoudemire-Turiaf, with Gallinari coming off the bench as the 6th man (taking over Chandler's role). This will allow for Gallo to be the leader of the second unit where he can blossom as the first option and a spot up shooter. Danilo can come in and play the 2, 3, or 4 depending on various matchups which will give D'Antoni even greater flexibility when giving his starters rest. Shawn Williams and Bill Walker will continue to be important spark plugs off the bench and Douglas will remain the back up point guard that locks down opposing perimeter players.

This trade swaps Eddy Curry and Wilson Chandler for Carmelo Anthony. In reality this deal is even better than it looks on paper. Eddy Curry has been irrelevant the past two seasons and will be on the bench either way. In Chandler's case he is a similar player to Carmelo so they would not be able to easily work together or ever be on the floor at the same time. It is better to keep Gallinari who has unlimited potential to develop into a smaller version of Dirk Nowitzki. Not to mention that Chandler is a free agent as well after this season and will presumably desire a large contract which the Knicks won't be able to afford.

This potential roster would easily be one of the best in the East because the Knicks are already the top scoring team in the league so imagine what could happen if they add another All-Star scorer. Carmelo brings the intangibles that are necessary to win, especially on a young team. In Denver he lead the Nuggets to multiple playoff appearances and even a trip to the Conference Finals. Also, Anthony was a part of the National Championship Team at Syracuse in 2003 and won a Gold Metal for USA in the Olympics. Miami has their new "Big 3" and everyone knows about the Celtics "Big 4" but a duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire paired with Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari would immediately join that elite group, even without CP3.