Friday, May 30, 2008

Bleacher Report

I'm contributing articles to the Bleacher Report, an open source sportswriting network.
Click the link above if you want to read my latest article on the Jets QB controversy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

New band?

According to, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is starting a new band. The Chili Peppers are legends, and with them "disbanded" for a year to work on other things, word has leaked out that Smith is working on something big. How big? Try RHCP, Van Halen (well, Van Hagar), and Joe Satriani. Smith is joining forces with bassist Michael Anthony and famed singer Sammy Hagar of Van Halen as well as one of the best guitarists of all time, Joe Satriani. The band is called "Chickenfoot" and Hagar is very excited about it.

Hagar said in an interview with Spinner, "The band is like Cream, without the jazz, and with funk mixed in. We'll get up, do a verse of a song and then just go for 20 minutes. It's pretty great." As a mild Cream fan, a fan of Chili Pepper-style funk and not necessarily jazz, that's music to my ears.

But Hagar has even bigger plans. "We've written eight, nine songs...When people hear the music, it's Led Zeppelin. It's as good as that. I know that's a mighty bold statement...We could rival Zep."

Chad Smith spoke about the creation of the band.
"If you're in Cabo, of course you know Sammy 'cause he's, you know, he rules the joint. And he's a really nice man, he's a great guy actually. Somehow he's taken a liking to me, and we played in Vegas, and we played some cover songs — we're a good cover band now. He got pretty excited about it and it actually sounded really good. Him and Joe got together up at his place and they wrote like five things together, and we'll see."

No leak to any of their songs is out yet, but there's no doubt that this is a group to look forward to in the coming years. Imagine that cover band though playing at some function.

Quotes used from and

The Mangenius

I've always been a fan of Eric Mangini since the Jets hired him, but he's quickly become one of the best/most quotable coaches in the game. Starting now, I'm going to start compiling quotes of his because some are just downright funny. I'll edit this as I go along.
5/29/08: Mangini on why they signed FB Tony Richardson: “I wanted to bring in a contemporary (of mine).”
5/29/08: "I have not spoken to [Chris Baker] since we last spoke (May 22)," Mangini said. "Actually I owe him a call. I’ll probably text him or call him either tonight or tomorrow. Texting is my new thing."
5/28/08: After revealing that QB coach Brian Daboll gave both Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens books after the year that had ways on which they could improve, "tip sheets" if you will, Mangini was asked whose book was bigger. “I don’t know if size totally matters,” Mangini deadpanned
5/22/08: “Having the passion for ballroom dancing like I do…” he began, referring to Jason Taylor’s appearance on “Dancing With the Stars.” “I’ve watched some of that. He’s pretty good. I didn’t vote, but I thought he did a great job. As long as he wants to stay out of Miami’s camp, I think he should.”
6/1/07: "We had three guys fall over the bags yesterday. Nobody fell over them today. That's improvement." -- Coach Eric Mangini on the progress the Jets' rookies made from the first to second day of their first mini-camp.
8/9/08: After Favre's first practice. “Guess word’s out how much better my press conferences are. Good to see.”
8/10/08: “Brett had his two hard-boiled eggs, a little bit of orange juice. There was a garnish, I think, and some hash browns.” Then someone asked him what he ate first. “It was a tough call, because the eggs were mixed with the hashbrowns, so I don’t know which one actually hit his mouth first. I’ll film it next time.”

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NBA Mock Draft v1.0

1. Chicago - Derrick Rose, Memphis
2. Miami - Michael Beasley, Kansas State
3. Minnesota - Kevin Love, UCLA
4. Seattle - Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
5. Memphis - Brook Lopez, Stanford
6. New York - OJ Mayo, USC
7. Los Angeles Clippers - Eric Gordon, Indiana
8. Milwaukee - Danilo Gallinari, Italy
9. Charlotte - Anthony Randolph, LSU
10. New Jersey - DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
11. Indiana - DJ Augustin, Texas
12. Sacramento - Russell Westbrook, UCLA
13. Portland - Joe Alexander, West Virginia
14. Golden State - Darrell Arthur, Golden State
15. Phoenix - Brandon Rush, Kansas
16. Philadelphia - Marreese Speights, Florida
17. Toronto - Donte Greene, Syracuse
18. Washington - JaVale McGee, Nevada
19. Cleveland - Kosta Koufos, Ohio State
20. Denver - Ty Lawson, North Carolina
21. New Jersey - Chase Budinger, Arizona
22. Orlando - Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
23. Utah - Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
24. Seattle - Serge Ibaka, Congo
25. Houston - Nicolas Batum, France
26. San Antonio - Alexis Ajinca, France
27. New Orleans - Bill Walker, Kansas State
28. Memphis - Robin Lopez, Stanford
29. Detroit - Nathan Jawai, Australia
30. Boston - Trent Plaisted, BYU

Halfway through the Great Joba Transition

Sorry about the lack of updates, I've been busy moving in and starting school again (yes, it's May 28, I'm currently in my Business Dynamics class), but it's time to discuss Joba Chamberlain yet again. Last week after another fantastic Darrell Rasner start, manager Joe Girardi killed the Rasner buzz by announcing that Chamberlain's transition to becoming a starting pitcher was underway. The bullpen had been a little shaky outside of the final two innings, where Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera had essentially made games 7 innings long. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Yankees were often losing those 7 inning long games, with an average starting rotation and a slumping offense without Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez. Besides taking the two best Yankees bats from the previous season from the lineup, it also took away the team's two best non-lefty bats, making the lineup both less potent and less balanced. The lefty-heavy lineup struggled, but Rodriguez is back in the lineup and some hitters who had struggled have returned to form, like Jason Giambi. The struggling team decided to begin the transition for Chamberlain, a very risky move at the time, since in the short-term, the Yankees were below .500 and removing Chamberlain from high pressure 8th inning situations would not immediately help the situation.

Chamberlain's schedule is relatively set in terms of which days he will pitch and how long he will pitch. He might be able to make his first start next week, but he would only likely be able to go about 4 innings or so. In the quest to extend him to about 100-110 pitches, we are about to enter the awkward middle part where he throws about 60-70 pitches, too long for a scheduled relief pitching appearance, but too short for a reasonable start. That leads to the question of whether it hurts the team to put his development so high on the list of priorities. Clearly, one can make that argument from watching the game last night and watching Ross Ohlendorf and LaTroy Hawkins blow the game, but that's a story for another paragraph. Should the Yankees either extend their bullpen by making Chamberlain start a game, or should they plan on or limit a starter (Mussina?) to pitching only 5 innings in a start? Neither scenario is particularly appealing, especially since the Yankees lack a long reliever. Many have suggested that Chamberlain make a start or two in the minors, but Chamberlain has been such an amazing pitcher in his short career, that it wouldn't make any sense for the Yankees to waste some of his innings this season in the minors. Even if it messes with the rotation to a certain extent, Chamberlain is the second-most trustworthy pitcher on the team, and it would be better for the team for Chamberlain to pitch those 10 innings rather than a Ross Ohlendorf/LaTroy Hawkins/Jose Veras/Chris Britton. With Ian Kennedy likely headed to the disabled list, there is an open spot in the rotation to be had. There's no reason Chamberlain can't make that start, with Jeff Karstens or Dan Giese essentially completing the start.

Like it or not, the Yankees are sticking to their plan. Their plan was to start Joba, but only pitch him the amount of innings they want. Starting the transition when they did allows him to make starts in mid-June, about when it was expected he would. I admire the Yankees for sticking to this plan because Chamberlain is meant to be a starting pitcher. This isn't a "don't kill the golden goose" situation. Chamberlain has been a starter his entire life except for the short time he's been in the majors. He has more than enough stuff and enough good pitches where he should be a starter, and despite what Mike and the Mad Dog believe, a #1 pitcher is much more important than an 8th inning guy. The Yankees lack a true shutdown pitcher, though Chien-Ming Wang is very good. Chamberlain has the stuff and makeup that only a handful of guys have. Leaving that in the bullpen is not using that talent correctly.

In the meantime, what to do about the 8th inning? Kyle Farnsworth will keep getting his chances at having that job, but he's been very inconsistent in that role, allowing far too many home runs. Girardi thinks he can turn him around, but until proven otherwise, Farnsworth is not going to get the job done consistently. The Yankees hope Ross Ohlendorf or Jose Veras can claim that role, but both have been knocked around lately. LaTroy Hawkins has struggled to get his ERA under 5. There is one option, however, and until he starts to get hit, he should get that role. Edwar Ramirez has thrown 21.2 innings this season (14 with the Yankees) and has yet to allow a run. He's thin as a pole, and it looks like he's missing a letter in his first name, but as long as his changeup remains dominant, he can keep getting hitters out. He sought advice from Pedro Martinez and Mariano Rivera in the offseason, and both told him he needed to establish his fastball and then go to the changeup. So far, the results have been perfect, and Ramirez deserves a chance to be the main bridge to Rivera. Farnsworth may be the best option other than Ramirez, but he has done nothing in three years that would make the job his. He's got the stuff, but it takes more than a 100 MPH fastball and a high salary to hold onto the 8th inning job.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Santana Revisited

Tonight is game 1 of the Subway Series between the Yankees and the Mets. Both teams are struggling coming in; the creative New York media called both teams "Train Wrecks" on their back covers (Subway, train, train wreck, get it? Awesome.), but even more important is the first start for Johan Santana against the Yankees. The Santana saga lasted most of the offseason. The Yankees wanted him, then they didn't, then the Red Sox wanted him, so the Yankees were back in it, then both teams cooled off. It was a polarizing issue among Yankees fans. Some wanted to get the best pitcher in the American League, since they were sick of average starting pitching, while others wanted to let the prospects develop and stick with the plan. When the Mets finally traded for him, fans were shocked because they did not feel the Mets were giving up that much. Sure, they gave up a few top 50 prospects, with Carlos Gomez being the centerpiece, but many fans were appalled that the Yankees couldn't get a deal done, since it did not seem like the Mets gave up a whole lot.

So should the Yankees have made the move? I wasn't in favor of it at the time, but with the struggles of Phil Hughes, it's very easy to second guess. Let's take a look at the two deals reported as being on the table. I did hear that the Twins wanted even more than the two deals that I'm going to go over, but for argument's sake, let's forget that they may have wanted Ian Kennedy as well.

Deal 1: Chien-Ming Wang and Melky Cabrera
At the time, Wang was looked down upon by many fans. Wang had another fine regular season, winning 19 games with an ERA of 3.70, posting very similar numbers, except with more strike outs. Despite the increase in K's, he still had the 5th lowest K/9 ratio in the league (he was last in 2006 among qualifiers). He made up for that by allowing the least home runs per 9 innings for the second consecutive year. However, he struggled mightily in the postseason, allowing 14 hits and 12 runs in 5 2/3 postseason innings. As a hard-throwing sinkerballer without many strike outs, many statheads doubted his ability to really improve any further.

Cabrera did not improve on his 2006 rookie season. A very good defensive outfielder with pretty good speed, he is not needed to be a power hitter, but he only posted a .327 OBP and a .391 SLG. His stats were pretty similar, except his walk totals were down from the previous year. Despite that, on opening day, he was only 23 years old, and still had room to improve. As it was, he was probably a below average centerfielder.

Santana has been Santana early on so far. He's always been a second half pitcher, but he's adjusted pretty well to the National League so far. Wang and Cabrera, on the other hand, have both taken major strides forward. Wang's strikeout total has improved, as his K/BB ratio is now an even 2.0. His ERA is down under 3, and his WHIP is down as well as his hits allowed total is down. He added a slider to his arsenal and now looks like a more dominant pitcher. He has half the strikeouts already that he had in all of 2006. Cabrera has 6 home runs this season, after posting season totals of 7 and 8 in the previous two seasons. His OBP is the same as it was last season, but the newfound power has made him a solid enough hitter. His defense remains a plus.

So would I have done this trade in hindsight? Definitely not. While talentwise, the deal is likely fair, the salary difference is immense. Wang is still in his early arbitration years, while Santana just received a 6 year, $138 million dollar contract. For a 29 year old pitcher who doesn't have the greatest build, that is a long contract worth a lot of money. Sure he's worth it now, but will he be worth it in 3-4 years? Obviously he's a better pitcher, but ask the Giants how giving Barry Zito that long a contract is working out? And Wang has been just as good as Santana this season so far, and with the added slider, there's no reason to think he'll be anything but a top notch AL pitcher for the next few years as well.

Deal 2: Cabrera, Phil Hughes, and Austin Jackson
This deal would hurt the farm system greatly, as Hughes and Jackson have even more years under the Yankees' control. Jackson has turned from a project with all the athletic tools to succeed to a major force to be reckoned with on the minor league level. Jackson is likely the team's best offensive prospect, besting Jesus Montero and Jose Tabata. He projects as a 5-tool outfielder who could come up in 2009 or 2010.

Hughes had been the best pitching prospect for the Yankees for several years until Jobamania last year. He has a few plus pitches, and he can control all of them. He dominated the minor leagues before getting the call last year, and he was in the midst of throwing a no hitter against the Texas Rangers last season until he got injured. Hughes is still only 21 years old, the youngest starting pitcher in the big leagues, and he has plenty of time to grow into his skills, even if he does seem injury prone. I'd be shocked if he didn't develop into at least a good starter, assuming he can stay healthy. That might be a big if, though.

I agree with the Yankees that you can't move such key components to your future and give a big contract all in the same deal. I wouldn't have done it then, and I wouldn't do it now, but the team would be in better shape if Santana were here, no doubt. Cashman took a risk going with the kids, and I applaud him for that, but the kids need to work out, or Cashman might be gone.