Thursday, December 27, 2012

MAMBINO's Pro Bowl Selections

It happens when Mike Antoni is prompted to talk about defense. It happens when an Asian student has to explain a B+ to the parental droids. It happens when you have to explain a mischievous deed to a significant other.

Rambling run-on sentences.

When you don't know what you're talking about or when anything you say won't be believed, you may fall victim to over-talking and fail to use punctuation regarding tone and speed. I am certainly above such pedestrian nonsense, but rather than risk it, I present to you, the MAMBINO Pro Bowl rosters defined by best Youtube video.

Special thanks to my committee: Pucklius, who has staved off NHL Lockout-induced suicide for yet another day, and TuckRule, who is probably playing Madden to find a new NFL team to root for.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What's the Deal with the Yankees?

If you didn't think the American League East was the most loaded division in baseball, some of the teams did their very best to convert you. The Toronto Blue Jays acquired R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and everyone else on the Miami Marlins with a pulse, save for Giancarlo Stanton. The Tampa Bay Rays fleeced Kansas City for its famed minor league system, netting all-world prospect Wil Myers, ready-for-the-majors starter Jake Odorizzi, and project Mike Montgomery. Buck Showalter has proven that he can make lemons out of lemonade dog crap. And the hated Boston Red Sox beat the Yankees to the punch by trading away onerous contracts and starting over.

Before last season, I predicted that the Yankees would race to a great record because they would feast on inferior middle relief pitching, but ultimately would be outmatched by playoff aces. I'm not saying I'm the only one who forecasted that, but I like to give myself credit whenever I can.

Keeping that in mind, the Yankees will enter spring training with virtually the same infrastructure, only now, as the winter has played out, their divisional opponents have either upgraded their roster or showcased a clear plan for doing business. And then there's the Yankees. If the Yankees had Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford on their roster, they never would have taken advantage of the Los Angeles Dodgers' unquenchable thirst for a competitive team. The New York front office is in disarray, and here's why:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Future of Manny Pacquiao

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people refuse to do something because they just "don't have the time" to do it. Time is endless, and we have many choices of what to do with it. But we always possess the requisite amount of time to do anything. When we say that we don't have the time to do something, what we are really saying is that we prefer to do something else with our time. Now, granted, if KOBEsh asks me to blog about the Knicks and I'm literally (correct use of the word "literally") in a meeting, I may not have the time to do it at the present moment, but I can always make time to do so later. Show me the man who has absolutely no free time in his life, and I'll show you a liar.

The Fighting Pride of the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao, may seem to fit the bill. He's an attentive Congressman on the islands, and when there's a fight looming, no athlete in the world trains as hard as fighters do. But even Pacman can be seen playing darts with his posse, engaging in serious religious group study, and the like. To put it another way, it's not that he doesn't have time to sleep with groupies, drink copious amounts of alcohol, or throw money away at a casino. It's that he chose to spend his time that he previously reserved for that past life, for the things that he currently does now.

So how does affect his choice to fight again?

Monday, December 24, 2012

State of the Garden: Dolan's Boys

I am a carbon copy of my father. It has nothing to do with the fact that my peoples all look alike (okay, maybe just a little bit). But it's other things: we have the same mannerisms, we showcase the same stubbornness, and we make the same mistakes because we run through the same thought processes and use the same logic.

Similarly, YOUR New York Knickerbockers are a carbon copy of their illegitimate father, James Dolan. We know the story of Dolan already. The stupidity of the Isiah Thomas era, the botched handling of Linsanity, and the foolishness of JD and the Straight Shot all tell us that in spite of his obvious intelligence, the King of New York is too brash, too vindictive, and too ridiculous. We're lucky that general manager Glen Grunwald has undoubtedly been the best executive in pro sports for the past two years (and yes, I'm including Presti in OKC, Buford in Santone, Baalke in Frisco, Friedman in Tampa, and any other executive who decided to take a job in the National Hockey League).

The Knicks are Dolan's boys. Their attitudes and their play on the court, from superstar Carmelo Anthony to head coach Mike Woodson, give Dolan every reason to call the Bockers his team. Let's take a look why:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Examining the Lakers Back-Up Point Guards: Who Will Be Nash's Understudy?

(Copped from my Silver Screen & Roll piece yesterday. Dig it!)

Did you know Steve Nash is a Laker?

It's been five and a half months since he stunned the hoops world and signed with his once-upon-a-time rival Lakers. It's been almost two months since Portland point guard Damian Lillard assassinated his fibula with a perfectly placed knee. After all the anticipation, Steve Nash will finally return to the court, presumably on Christmas day against the New York Knicks. Though he's played in eight preseason contests, the point guard has started a scant two games this season, totaling 50 minutes and resulting in zero wins. Steve Nash has been a Laker since July, but he's appeared so little on the court in a Lakers uniform, it's still shocking to see him in purple and gold. He's only missed 24 games, but it feels so much longer than that. Since Nash has been out, the Lakers are on their third coach, have played under-.500 ball and of course, started three different players at point guard.

Nash's three understudies have been the punctuation mark on the roaring sentiment that a competent starting point guard is needed to run Mike D'Antoni's system. Lakers fans have gotten far more time than expected to observe and dissect the Lakers back-up point guards, and the grades are in: none of them are particularly gifted. Overall, anyway.

(Peep the rest over at SS&R)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

#Linsanity: 10 Months Later

I blabbered on and on about the intricacies about the NBA's League Pass, the league's now ubiquitous service in which hoop heads across the planet can watch any league sanctioned game, anytime, anywhere. I consistently refer to League Pass as a sort of "social deal breaker"; after all, why would I go out on a week day when I could see what all the fuss about Dion Waiters is about in another scintillating installment of Cavaliers/Milwaukee, the rivalry the entire country is simply abuzz about?

I mostly offer up my annual $180 dollars for the pleasure and sometimes excruciating pain of watching my Los Angeles Lakers. That in itself isn't so much of a stretch--after all, who wouldn't want to see their favorite team play against the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs of the world? But the Lakers have nearly 30 of their games broadcast on basic cable broadcasts throughout the country, via the largess of ESPN, NBATV and TNT. More than a third of the Lakers season, and the most important season-swinging games at that, will be thrown up on cable systems across the country for the added price of nothing. So in essence, I end up paying an extra $180 to watch a 30 point Golden State Warriors skewering and an inevitable mid-February Indiana Pacers game that would suck the enthusiasm out of even the most ardent fan.

This is what you call an addiction; a sickness. I love the NBA, and the Lakers in particular, enough to sacrifice my time, money and ultimately standings in my local social strata, to watch Kobe, Dwight, Pau and Nash eviscerate the hapless Wizards on a blustery January Sunday. It's pathetic.

My aunty sat across the table, listening to my description of the NBA's amazing service that has simultaneously sated my fandom and increased tenfold my eventual descent into true nerdom. As I reeled off the program's many capabilities, perhaps condescendingly so, my aunt interrupted me in a sweet, comforting tone that can only come from the mouth of, well, your aunt. She told me that she in fact was a subscriber to NBA League Pass.

I looked at her quizzically. My aunt and uncle were lifelong Angelenos with a partial Lakers season ticket package. As much as a couple of middle-aged, empty nest parents of three could possibly muster, they were Lakers fans to the fullest. But living well within the reaches of Time Warner Cable Sportsnet and their nightly Lakers broadcasts, there was clearly no reason for them to drop cash onto League Pass. Well, unless my aunt had suddenly developed a deep and quite frankly disturbing addiction to Fantasy Basketball.

Before I asked why, my uncle cut in and said "...she wants to watch Jeremy Lin play."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays get: SP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole

New York Mets get: C Travis d'Arnaud, SP Noah Snydergaard, C John Buck

Timing is everything, and in R.A. Dickey's case, timing apparently wasn't worth two years and $25 million dollars.

The 38 year-old knuckerballing 2012 NL Cy Young winner was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for two of the team's best prospects, including one of the most elite in all of baseball's minor leagues.

Dickey's story is one of the best in baseball, in which he missed two of the last twelve seasons not from injury, but because he wasn't good enough to make a team. He reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher in the middle of the last decade after several seasons in Texas. As a Ranger, Dickey established himself as one of the game's worst every day pitchers, throwing up a 5.72 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, amongst many other ghastly stats. In short, he was absolutely terrible and was actually fortunate to stick around int he Majors as long as he did.

However, after two seasons in Seattle and Minnesota honing his craft (to the tune of a 4.99 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings--about as on par with his Texas numbers as he could get), Dickey was a scrap heap signing with the Mets in 2010. He immediately became a bright spot amongst an otherwise forgetful NYM season, throwing together a stunning 2.84 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 26 starts and 174 innings. Since then, Dickey has been simply amazing, doling out two seasons of 32 and 33 starts, with 2012 being his masterpiece: 2.73 ERA, 20 wins, 1.05 WHIP, 230 strikeouts (!) to only 54 walks and a NL Cy Young Award. The blessing and the curse of the knuckleball is that because it's thrown without rotation, it's hard to predict where it's going to land. Luckily for Dickey, he's been able to understand the art of the ball's static nature and put it into places where he's able to accurately deceive the hitter.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers get: SP Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez gets: 5 years, $80 million

Considering he's returning to a team that's won the AL Central two years in a row, Anibal Sanchez just re-signed with a team in flux.

The offense is the least of Detroit's questions. With a 26 year old Austin Jackson manning center field, a terrifying middle order consisting of reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and a returning Victor Martinez and bit players Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila, the Tigers should remain one of the league's better offenses. The Tigers' murderous looking line-up was actually a bit overrated last year, ranking 6th in the AL in runs, as they weren't particularly gifted amongst hitting home runs outside of their two sluggers, taking walks or reeling back from strikeouts. Detroit has a steady group of contributors that should only improve by upgrading their DH from the erratic Delmon Young to Victor Martinez, who's patience at the plate and power should only improve after being relieved from daily catching duties.

However, the pitching staff isn't nearly as steady. Re-signing Sanchez was a key component to their offseason, especially when looking at what their staff could have been. Justin Verlander remains one of, if not the very best pitchers in the league. No matter how erratic the rest of the staff, the Tigers always know that every five days a dominator will take the mound and keep throwing 100 mph bullets for 110 pitches. Doug Fister has been surprisingly dominant since he came to D-Town a year and a half ago, continuing his run with a 3.45 ERA, 137 strikeouts in 161 innings against only 37 walks. Between those two, they gave up 4 or more runs in only 12 of their combined 58 starts. Amazing stat.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: Ryan Dempster to the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox get: SP Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster gets: 2 years, $26.5 million

And so concludes an understated, expensive and ultimately...effective offseason for the Boston Red Sox.

The BoSox have spent over $120 million dollars in the past month on new additions, doling out dual $39 million dollar deals for Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, a two year, $10 million dollar commitment to OF Jonny Gomes, as well as a one year, $4.5 million for reliever Koji Uehara. This of course, doesn't take into account David Ortiz's new two year, $26 million dollar deal. All in all, the Red Sox spent nearly $150 million this offseason, which is still seven figures less than what they traded out to the Dodgers last August.

There's really no need to go over the blood-letting that's gone on in New England in 2012--we've covered it extensively on this blog and this season's edition of the Boston Red Sox was probably one of the most over-reported last place teams ever. However, with the freed up money they had from dealing Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, Josh Beckett and Weekend at Crawford's onto the Dodgers, GM Ben Cherington and company could splurge on the many holes created by their departures.

While all four of these deals weren't particularly worthy of the money spent, there's no doubt that these are four contributors that will shore up the reserves without the pressure of $100 million contracts bringing them down. In this particular case, Ryan Dempster will take that to his advantage.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Knicks/Lakers: A Season of Unsettling Dichotomy

A historic NBA franchise in the middle of a prime American media market. A set of mismatched players thrown together with little regard for how well they may or may not play with one another. Yearly turnover of personnel becoming more and more turbulent. Overpriced veterans and supposed superstars who cannot become a greater sum than their individual parts. Management beleaguered by a wide, knowledgeable and perhaps sometimes overly passionate fan base. Those same fervent followers pressing the panic button at a moment's notice, whether it be warranted or not. A team consistently grounding to new lows and disappointing fans in new, creative and sadistic ways. Expectations failed, season settling into jeopardy, everyone worried.

A historic NBA franchise in the middle of a prime American media market. A set of underrated players who were specifically put together to best build on the strengths of their franchise player. A roster that has built continuity after years of tumult. Cagey veterans help an emerging superstar finally reach his potential, with a set of improperly valued players becoming a greater sum than its individual parts. Management, no matter how shrewd its trades and wily it's moves, will always be beleaguered by a wide, knowledgeable and perhaps sometimes overly passionate fan base. Those same fervent followers cautiously buying in on an extraordinary start to the season. A team coming together, morphing into the class of the league. Expectations already surpassed, season becoming quickly extraordinary, everyone jubilant.

Of course, we're talking about the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers.

But how is it that two descriptions that would fit both teams like a fine Pat Riley suit now has flipped the script? The usually melodramatic Knickerbockers have become the respectable, heady team of veterans who win with defense, passing and patience. The usually steady Lakers have become a team in crisis, with it's highly paid imports failing to bring W's to the game log. It seems that the two franchises have suddenly switched places, and both fan bases don't really know how to handle the rapid transformation. Knicks fans are looking at their 16-5 squad with much trepidation. They are dubious to accept Carmelo as the MVP candidate he looks to be and the squad's reliance on a group of basketball geriatrics that are creating wins and melding an otherwise unwieldy team of boneheads. Lakers fans are conversely confused at how terrible a 9-13 team full of seeming superstars and solid contributors could be so incredibly awful. Overall, there's a real lack of acceptance that perhaps yes, the Lakers could be this terrible and yes, the Knicks could be this good.

(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll!)

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: Kevin Youkilis to the New York Yankees

New York Yankees get: 3B/1B Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis gets: 1 year, $12 million

Seemingly, former Red Sox come to the Yankees in droves (Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon most recently), while no one ever seems to go the other way north. Hmm. Must be something in the water. Or the air. Or the city. Or the fans. Whatever. I don't have a vendetta or anything.

Kevin Youkilis agreed to a one year, $12 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees to be the team's part-time third and first baseman, as well as occasional DH. The Yanks proclaimed throughout the offseason that whoever they'd sign would have to play a majority of innings manning third, as a 37 year-old A-Rod has proven that he's not up to the stress of the hot corner day to day.

Well that was before a left hip surgery that will leave Rodriguez sidelined until at least May, if not the All-Star break in July. By that time, the former three-time AL MVP will be close to 38 years old and entering into his third consecutive season in which he only missed at least a fourth of the year's games. In that sense, the need for an established third baseman became even more important, seeing as the most healthy hips A-Rod will be getting close to this year are Torrie Wilson's. Damn.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How did the LA Lakers lose in Cleveland last night?

(Copped from my Silver Screen and Roll  game recap)

Going back to Silver Screen and Roll's preseason predictions for the 2012-2013 season, most of us here were concerned with several different issues; a few of us pointed to team health, some asked questions about the coaching staff and a couple writers wondered aloud if the team's pieces were the right fit.

No one--not a single person on this blog, nor many fans out there--thought that the problem would be effort.

The team's early season slump was sent to an all-new low tonight, when the now 5-17 Cleveland Cavaliers thumped the Los Angeles Lakers 100-94 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as it ended.

The Cavs played a modest game to say the least. On the offensive side of the ball, they only shot 44% and a Howard-ian 57% from the stripe. After throwing down a ridiculous 54 first half points, Cleveland was stunningly mediocre for most of the rest of the game, including an unbelievable seven minute stretch at the beginning of the third quarter in which they made exactly one field goal. Part of the reason was a totally impotent bench that without Tyler Zeller's six points, would have gotten completely skunked. Omri Casspi, Jeremy Pargo and Daniel Gibson bricked all nine of their combined shots in an effort that would have left last year's Lakers bench shaking their heads in disbelief.

Amazingly, the Cavaliers caught only eight offensive boards, which is two more than Anderson Varejao's season average. On the whole, the team was crushed by the Lakers' rebounding edge, ceding 11 more to LA, 15 of which were on the offensive end. Cleveland's defense wasn't sterling either, with the squad sending the Lakers to the stripe 40 times. In terms of field goals, the Cavs allowed 54 second-half points to the Show after just 39 in the first half. Finally, they did a terrible job coaxing Kobe Bryant into bad shots, as the Mamba hit 16 of 28 for 42 points.

The Cavs did have a couple of bright spots however, which came from predictable places. Kyrie Irving had a timely return tonight, coming back from injury to drop an amazing 28/6/11 on the Lakers in a seeming 1-on-1 duel with Kobe Bryant. C.J. Miles somehow dropped 28 points, looking like a genuine starter rather than a scrap heap pick-up. Anderson Varejao continued to make his case for the Eastern Conference All-Star team with a fantastic 20 points, 9 boards and 5 assists. However, the rest of the team was a virtual offensive wasteland, combining for 24 points split amongst seven players.

Looking at all those statistics, how could the Lakers have possibly lost this game?

(Check out the rest of the piece over at SS&R!)

Instant Trade Analysis: Shin-Soo Choo to the Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds get: OF Shin-Soo Choo, IF Jason Donald

Cleveland Indians get: SP Trevor Bauer, RP Matt Albers, RP Bryan Shaw, OF Drew Stubbs

Arizona Diamondbacks get: SS Didi Gregorius, RP Tony Sipp, 1B Lars Anderson

In the second major transaction of the night, the Reds may have gotten the final piece to their championship puzzle in outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, while the Indians bolstered their team for the future and the Diamondbacks...did something.

Just two months ago, the Reds were on the precipice of eliminating the future World Series champion Giants with a commanding 3-1 lead at home. However, their offense scuttled in games 4 and 5, as Cincy's first two hitters in their line-up scored one combined run in 18 at-bats. In fact, both SS Zack Cozart and 2B Brandon Phillips managed to plate only 3 runs the entire series, which isn't so strange when you consider that Reds top two leadoff hitters all season hit to a below .650 OPS overall and had a nearly 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio. In other words, Cincy's 3-8 hitters were so good that even without placesetters, they were able to score the 9th most runs in the Majors. Amazing. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: James Shields to the Kansas City Royals

Tampa Bay Rays get: OF Wil Myers, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Mike Montgomery, 3B Patrick Leonard

Kansas City Royals get: SP James Shields, SP/RP Wade Davis

"This could be the deal that brings Moore's time in Kansas City to an end"--Keith Law, ESPN

"Hell yeah this was a desperate trade. More than a quarter-century of irrelevance tends to foster desperation."--Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports
"The Royals got owned on this one," said an NL executive, who marveled at Friedman's huge haul of young talent."--Jerry Cranick,
Just three out of hundreds of opinions that suggested that the James Shields-centered trade from late Sunday night was nothing more than a heist for the Tampa Bay Rays. In many ways, how could you argue that? The Kansas City Royals look like Randy Travis--a drunk, pantsless victim of larceny.

The Rays dealt a fine, fine pitcher, who's averaged 33 starts, 222 innings, a 3.80 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP for the past six seasons. He's an extremely healthy player, especially considering that he's such a prolific strikeout artist, sitting down 7.8 batters per nine innings. Shields placed third in Cy Young voting last season, which combined with this season, count as a great right-hander settling into his prime. He's started 33 games each of the past two seasons, with a 3.15 ERA, 8.5 Ks per nine, a 3.64 SO/BB ratio and giving up just 403 hits in 477 innings pitched. In other words, Shields has emerged into a rotation work horse, capable of taking on big innings matched with premium results. He's not a bonified "ace", but he's close.
His fellow ex-Ray Davis isn't a slouch either. As a starter, he averaged 176 innings and 29 starts over two seasons, throwing 4.27 ERA ball, with a 1.36 WHIP. However, his fatal flaw was that in stretching his arm out, he hardly struck anyone out, with a paltry 5.6 Ks per nine innings. Davis was converted to a reliever last year with much deadlier results--70 innings, 2.43 ERA, 87 strikeouts to only 29 walks and a remarkable 1.09 WHIP. Going forward, Davis is probably better off as a reliever, though his contract makes him paid as a starter. It'd probably be a mistake to put Davis "out of position" to "justify" activating his three team options after 2014 (for $7, $8 and $10 million), but the Royals currently plan to have Davis start. Perhaps his true destination is to end up at closer, but for now, he'll hit the mound every five days.

Monday, December 10, 2012

(Not So) Instant Trade Analysis: The Dodgers' Big Weekend

Los Angeles Dodgers get: SP Zack Greinke, SP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Zack Greinke gets: 6 years, $147 million

Hyun-Jin Ryu gets: 6 years, $36 million (plus a $25.7 million dollar posting fee going to his Hanwha Eagles team in the Korean league)

On Friday, the back end of the Dodgers' starting rotation was filled out by the likes of Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and the remains of Ted Lilly's ravaged shoulder. Just three days later, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and seven-time Korean League All-Star Ryu round out what's become perhaps one of the most formidable rotations in the National League. 

Greinke, 29, signed the second biggest deal for a pitcher in MLB history, trailing only CC Sabathia's 8-year pact for an astonishing $161 million. This isn't to suggest that Greinke is nearly the player that CC is--after all, the Yankee southpaw has finished in the top five of Cy Young award voting every year but this one since 2006. Rather, the money is just a sign of the changing times in baseball, as the game continues to expand its revenue streams. Whereas the annual price for a free agent ace pitcher might have been $18 to $20 million a few years ago, now we're looking at an average yearly salary of $23 to $25 million.

Let's not focus on the payroll implications here--we've made the case here on MAMBINO that the Dodgers had transformed themselves into "Yankees West" with their August acquisition of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. It's clear that the Dodgers aren't concerned at all with the mammoth salaries on their payroll, nor with the punitive luxury tax given to "repeat offenders" that regularly rise above the $189 million ceiling. If the news hadn't sunk in Dodgers fans, then focus on this: the Dodgers just spent more this weekend on free agents than the Tampa Bay Rays have in the past decade. Whoa.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

MLB Winter Meeting Wrap-Up - New Signings, Fact or Fiction?

The MLB winter meetings have adjourned, and even though OF Josh Hamilton and SP Zack Greinke--the two best free agents on the market--still remain unsigned, several key players made themselves some solid scratch joining new teams. 

Of course, we had our usual mixed bags of bone-head deals and virtuoso acquisitions. Some new contracts screamed "Fiction!", while other ones roared "Fact". That being said, let's take a look at the best and worst signings--MAMBINO certified--of the MLB Winter Meetings.

Seattle Mariners get:  OF Jason Bay
Jason Bay gets: 1 year, $1 million (plus $2 million in incentives), another chance at relevancy

It's no secret; Jason Bay could very well be finished as an everyday baseball player. After a monster year and a half in Boston where he hit 47 home runs with 46 additional extra-base hits and a 7th place MVP finish in 2009, Bay signed a 4-year, $66 million dollar contract with the pre-Mayan Disaster Mets. In the next three seasons, the Canadian outfielder had only 26 jakks and 47 extra-base hits, missing almost 200 games due to various injuries. The Mets, hurting for offensive talent in the worst way, thought they'd gain more by simply buying Bay out of his last contract year, and allowing younger, albeit more inexperienced and lower ceiling players to get reps instead. Essentially, the Mets paid Bay to go away, which is what I'll say while I'm eating hay on this fine day.

After being hit with injury after injury, including a post-concussion symptoms and oblique issues, the now former Met reminded people more of MAMBINO whipping boy Endy Chavez than Jason Bay. However, he's only 34 years old, has a keen batting eye and knows that this will be his last major league contract if he doesn't produce. For the risk that the offense-strapped Mariners took, which is extremely low, this could end up paying huge dividends. From a sheer risk/reward ratio, this was a fantastic signing for Seattle.

Anaheim Angels get: SP Joe Blanton
Joe Blanton gets: 2 years, $15 million, laughter of Phillies and Dodgers fans everywhere

Let's be straight here; Joe Blanton isn't terrible. He's just wildly, incredibly, steadfastly mediocre. He's thrown at least 175 innings every year of his career but one, but has averaged 200 innings on the whole. Blanton won't wow you in any fashion: he's strikes out a solid but unspectacular 6 per 9 innings and generally limits his walks to 2 per 9 innings. As was pointed out to me my ardent Halos fan and my Silver Screen and Roll colleague Ben, Blanton's advance metrics point to the fact that his ERA wasn't nearly as bad as his Dodgers' mark of 4.99--he simply was unlucky. However, when you look at his numbers the past three seasons--4.82, 5.01, 4.71 ERAs, 9.8, 11.3, 10.6 hits per innings--it's past luck at this point. He's just not that great of a pitcher.

However, what's key is that he'll keep his team in the game, as long as the offense can support him. He's a "quality starter" in the strictest sense of the word, as in he'll average 5 innings and give up three earned runs--which is more or less what his career ERA dictates. With an Angels offense that should routinely back him up with four or five runs a game, Blanton's performances will look much better than when he was hurling for the staggeringly offensively inept Dodgers late last season.

The problem with this signing was the money--the best thing you can say about Blanton is that he's steady. Other than that, you're never going to walk away from the park thinking "Damn, Joe threw a gem tonight!" $7 million annually might be the new MLB price for steadiness, which I suppose the Halos need going into 2013 with Tommy Hanson and CJ Wilson's inconsistencies and injury history. Perhaps this signing isn't as much "Fiction" as it is underwhelming...just like Blanton. I would have thought less years and less dollars.

Tampa Bay Rays get: 1B James Loney
James Loney gets: 1 year, $2 million

In the grand tradition of Casey Kotchman, the Black Casey Kotchman--a.k.a. James Loney--has made his way down to Tampa, and with him brings a steady history of  mediocrity and the frustration of his team's fans. Now 28, Loney was once a stud prospect for the Dodgers, who's sweet left handed swing, imposing stature and slick fielding at first had him earmarked for an Eric Karros type of career. However, as the seasons wore on, more and more on-lookers realized that the power wouldn't be nearly as prolific as Karros's, who ranks first in Los Angeles Dodgers franchise homers (remarkably). They downgraded Loney's expectations to that of former Diamondback Mark Grace, who never hit for much power, but was a scalding gap hitter who drove in 100 runs on the regular. However, more seasons passed, and every year Loney's slugging percentage--as well as his batting average- fell and fell, to the point where even Mark Grace comparisons were too lofty.

In the end, Loney turned out to be a replacement-level baseball player worthy of spot starts against right-handed pitchers and a late-game defensive substitute. For Dodgers fans, watching his beautiful left-handed swing was more frustrating than anything; the problem is, that Loney just didn't know how to adjust to the mound.

For Tampa, this is a risky signing, but then again, what type of established, Major League-ready first baseman were they going to get with less than $5 million dollars? I suppose Loney can't regress too much more, but then again, he's disappointed me every single season. Get ready for some heckling, Tampa fans...if you're out there.

Tampa Bay Rays get: SS Yunel Escobar
Miami Marlins get: IF Ben Dietrich (Double-A)

Consider this: Tampa Bay shortstops combined to hit a .723 OPS last season...but that's including 197 plate appearances from All-Star Ben Zobrist who destroyed at the plate with a .949 OPS. Without the Zo-Rilla, we're looking at a .500 OPS from Rays shortstops. Simply moving to Escobar, who had a relatively paltry .644 OPS in 2012, is an upgrade.

The upside to Escobar however is far higher than anything Sean Rodriguez and company could have replicated. Two seasons ago as a 28 year-old, Yunel hit .290 for the Blue Jays with 24 doubles and 11 home runs, while playing steady defensive at a rigorous position. He's vacillated between being a sub .650 OPS and an above .800 OPS hitter, but even at his worst, is better than alternative the Rays could have signed for this type of money or brought up from their farm system.

Speaking of which, the price on Escobar is also quite manageable as well; he's making $5 million this year, with $5 million dollar options for the next two seasons. This contract resembles the same type of deals that Tampa GM Andrew Friedman regularly doles out, which, if all goes wrong, would have cost the Rays just one year, $5 million and a prospect that's projected to, at best, be an above-average major leaguer.

Overall, this is a shrewd trade for the Rays. Dietrich is projected as a future second or third baseman, which the Rays will have locked up long-term with Evan Longoria and perhaps Zobrist going forward. I'm expecting them to trade one starter, including James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson or even newly minted AL Cy Young winner David Price before the winter is over, which should return some premium offensive prospects to a Tampa Bay farm system that seems to be bereft of them. They needed a solid defensive player up the middle next year, not to mention one that hit like anyone resembling a major leaguer. 

Boston Red Sox get: OF Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino gets: 3 years, $39 million, and astonishment

The Flyin' Hawaiian has defied expectations his entire career; from his small stature to being Rule 5 drafted by the Phillies to being a key contributor on a World Series winner. However, I don't see how he can defy the prognostications from the sports world that this is could be the most mystifying signing coming out of the winter meetings. 

I can see the Red Sox's reasoning behind the signing: just two years ago, Victorino had a .846 OPS, hit 16 triples and 17 home runs. He rarely strikes out, takes walks and even in 2012, stole 39 bases. His defense has regressed quite a bit from his 2008-2010 heyday when he was one of the best outfielders in the Majors, but he still has solid defensive instincts, which is an absolute must for patrolling right field for the Sox.

However, Victorino is coming off his worst professional season ever. He hit to a .704 OPS, struck out a career high 80 times and performed at an even lower level after a midseason trade to the Dodgers (.644 OPS with 31 strikeouts in 53 games). He's going to be 32 this season, which should indicate that he's going to become past his prime very soon, if last season wasn't the first sign of indefinite regression. Many baseball people thought Victorino was a lock for a one year, make good contract in the vein of Adrian Beltre years ago before he became an MVP candidate for the Texas Rangers. $7 to $9 million was the most probable number, though even 2 years wouldn't be out of the question. However, the Red Sox blew everyone out of the water with a 3 year deal with an average value of $39 million. There's little doubt that the Red Sox were bidding against themselves here, and even if they weren't, committing that much time and money for soon to be 32 year old who's game is largely predicated on speed doesn't sound like a good idea in the least. He's already losing much of the qualities that made him into the "Flyin' Hawaiian" in the first place. What's he doing to be like in 3 years?

Boston Red Sox get: C/1B Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli gets: 3 years, $39 million

Napoli gets essentially the same deal as Victorino after a similarly down 2012, but with a much better future. After a monster 2011 in which the former Angel registered an unreal 1.046 OPS and 30 homers in just 113 games, Napoli hit to a more mortal .812 OPS and 24 homers in 108 games last season.

There was little doubt that he would regress after 2011, so even a .200 point drop in OPS isn't too big of a concern. Napoli has regularly hit for at least .450 slugging every season of his career, which combined with a high on-base percentage (.356 career average) has made him one of the best-hitting catcher in the game. Boston has committed to making their new acquisition a permanent first baseman, which would relegate Napoli's numbers from fantastic for a catcher to merely average for a first baseman. However, one has to suspect that without the rigors of catching even half the season, as he's been doing for past two years in Texas, the right-handers statistics should tick up a bit, even going into his age 31 season. Unlike Victorino, his 2012 was still very good, and should have been paid accordingly.

Power hitters like Napoli tend to age well into their early thirties, and in that way, such hitting should be thusly rewarded.

Washington Nationals get: SP Dan Haren
Dan Haren gets: 1 year, $13 million 

This works for the Nationals on several levels. Washington didn't NEED to make this signing. Going into 2013, the District was looking at a rotation including all-world dominator Stephen Strasburg, as well as the impressive Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler. Without Haren, this might have been the best rotation in the league.  

If Haren's right and healthy, he's a Cy Young candidate pitcher. For one year and $13 million for a franchise flush with cash, the risk is low and the reward high. 

Haren posted a 3.33 ERA from 2007 to 2011, in stints both in Arizona and Anaheim. However, he's coming off a career-worst season in almost every way possible: career worsts (or near worsts) in innings pitched, strikeouts per 9 innings, home runs per 9 innings, WHIP and ERA. Haren had pitched over 200 innings for seven consecutive seasons, and the once impervious workhorse seemed to break down in 2012 and the Angels balked at another season and $15 million for a guy who might never the be same.  

The Nationals certainly took on some risk here, but in the end, if he doesn't produce or is as bad (I should say, slightly below league-average) as he was last season, then he's merely the fifth pitcher in a rotation filled with studs. An excellent signing for the Nationals.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pau Gasol Trade Scenarios: Is It Even Possible?

(Doing some work for Silver Screen and Roll - check it!)

At first there were whispers. And then, after a fashion, the whispers turned to chatter. The chatter soon turned into a dull roar and now we're into a full-on, Kevin Garnett primal scream: trade Pau Gasol.

The 2011 2nd Team All-NBAer hasn't helped matters much: since Mike D'Antoni took over, Pau is averaging 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, to go along with .388 shooting and a woeful 64% from the charity stripe. Those stats are fine if you're Jason Kidd or Kurt Thomas--not so much when you're the 9th highest-paid player in the league. Gasol's numbers have followed a frightening trend from the end of the 2010 playoffs, in which the hardened, vengeance-driven warrior was one of the driving forces behind an epic Game 7 victory over the Celtics in the Finals (just...sit on that one for a minute Lakers fans. All be well).

However, as we've covered extensively on this blog, and even further than that in just about any comments section, the most glaring reason behind Pau trade whispers has been his shocking lack of energy on both ends of the floor. Whether it's been the coaching changes, lack of managerial or fan support, system demands or perhaps just plain old injury, Gasol has lacked much of the aggression and effort Los Angeles fell in love with in 2008. He's slow to rotate on pick and roll defense, as well as perimeter closeouts, and has been shockingly sedentary finishing around the rim offensively. More importantly, the Lakers aren't winning. With the team sitting at 8-9, Pau's play hasn't been the main thrust behind an under-.500 record, but when the team is losing, everything is magnified and there's going to be a scapegoat. Pau, for the moment, seems to be that guy.

The obvious solution here? The once unthinkable: trade Pau Gasol.The question is where? And for whom?

(Read on here

Monday, December 3, 2012


We're back with THE GREAT PODBINO, Episode #3!

Join El Miz, BockerKnocker and myself, along with the pro cutting of Producer Mags, as we navigate along the waters of the early season NBA. In Ep. 3, we'll give our Fact or Fiction as to the best records in the league--Memphis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Miami--as well as some unexpected win-loss dockets.

And of course, some substantial Knicks and Lakers chatter.

Check it!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: Tommy Hanson to the Anaheim Angels

Atlanta Braves get: RP Jordan Walden

Anaheim Angels get: SP Tommy Hanson

On first glance...what the hell are the Braves thinking? Hanson is a 25 year-old starting pitcher, who's still under team control for four more years. Though coming off his worst season yet (4.48 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and his lowest SO/BB ratio of his career), the now former Atlanta starter owns some sterling numbers of a 3.61 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.4 SO/9, and a 110 ERA+ over his three and a half Major League seasons.

In return? Jordan Walden, a relief pitching strikeout machine with palpable flaws. Once christened the opening day closer for Mike Scioscia's squad, Walden soon feel out of grace with the team, posting a brutal April ERA of 8.31. However, after being quickly demoted in favor of Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri, the young fireballer settled down, posting a 2.46 ERA with 42 punchouts in 34 innings. Walden still allows too many hits (though mostly line drives, not homers), he's pumping pure gas up there and simply over-powering hitters. There's no doubt that he'd be one of the any team's better relievers if he looked more like the guy from May to September rather than the the Byung Hyung Kim lookalike he was in April.

However, the bottom line is that Walden is a hard-throwing reliever and Hanson is a potential #2 starter. By the very principle of value, trading a reliever for such a high-ceiling starter makes no sense. On the surface, it looks like Frank Wren is spending a little too much "extracurricular time" with Atlanta hawks forward Josh Smith.