Thursday, June 28, 2007

2007 NBA Draft -- Running blog

It's 7pm, and I'm really excited for the draft this year. After Oden and Durant at #1 and #2, I really have no idea what's going to happen. But I know there will be some crazy decisions made and some weird players taken, and I can't wait. This should be a lot of fun. I'm ready. Are you?


-- The ESPN panel during the game in New York includes Jay Bilas, Stephen A. Smith, Mark Jackson, and Mike Tirico. Very good combination there (seriously). I can't wait for Bilas to discuss potential, upside, and wingspan, Smith to raise his voice and get angry, and Jackson to berate some GM for making a bad choice. Oh wait, that should happen about every other pick.

-- Apparently Monta Ellis from the Warriors and Marcus Camby of the Nuggets are available in order for their teams to move up in this draft. Also, a discussed Ray Allen trade to the Sonics for the #5 pick, Wally Sczerbiak, and Delonte West is on the table right now. Not really sure what I think about that trade for the Celtics, but I'm not so sure that would happen. The Sonics would then have the #2 and #5 picks -- extremely interesting. But who wouldn't want a past-his-prime Jesus Shuttlesworth?

-- I really hope that Yi Jianlian turns out to be a good player because with all of this noise from his camp about how he wants to go to a big city and big market, he better pan out. He doesn't want to go to Milwaukee? Who cares? When did athletes who weren't even in the league yet start deciding what teams they didn't want to draft them, and ACTUALLY start voicing their opinions and complaining about them? Would they rather not get drafted? OK, sorry.

-- I just had to turn down my TV volume after the latest Stephen A. rant over the possible Ray Allen trade. And the draft hasn't even started yet.

-- Good thing that Dick Vitale is involved here. It's just a shame that Greg Anthony and Tim Legler aren't in the building right now to be ridiculed by Vitale for being average NBA players.

-- Just saw Bilas's draft best available list. Can't say that I agree with Brandan Wright at #4. He's certainly no Mel Kiper Jr. Suprisingly, no Duke players are in his top 15. Now that's the upset of the night.

-- Mike Conley Jr. and Greg Oden are interviewed, and Conley just said that he didn't think the two would become friends because Oden watched cartoons, and he wasn't "down with that." Interesting stuff here. Also, Joakim Noah is being interviewed right now, and this guy is just crazy. He's wearing a bow-tie and some suit that even Craig Sager would never wear. He looks really scary, but I'd still want him on my team. And I don't even know why.

-- Just saw a commercial for Live Free or Die Hard. An early opinion, at least for myself: it's either going to be really good or really stupid, cliched, and corny. I hope it's good, though, and since the guy from the Mac/PC commercials is in it, it must be great! ...

-- The Warriors are apparently interested in Garnett now? Wow, what's going on?

-- A Fran Fraschilla sighting! Stunning... another guy who likes Yi Jianlian. At the very least, I enjoy the table Yi's at because everytime Tirico says his name and it echoes throughout the building, everyone at his table smiles and looks up sheepishly.

Draft Time

7:30- The draft is about to start, and David Stern is giving his speech. He mentioned the New York Liberty of the WNBA. No jokes here.

Just as a sidenote here, the time between picks is only five minutes -- way better than the NFL's excruciatingly long 15 minutes.

7:36- The Blazers just took Oden. No shock here. Oden only looks about 28 years old today. Somewhere Danny Almonte is smiling (that was for you, Kiser).

7:37- I might as well just say that the Sonics take Kevin Durant with the #2 pick right now. Easiest pick in NBA draft history.

7:41- Apparently the Celtics have made that trade -- the #5, Delonte West, and Wally Sczerbiak for Ray Allen. Why, Boston, why? Apparently the answer to my Jesus Shuttlesworth question above was... Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers.

7:42- The Celtics just took Durant, obviously. And now they have the 5th pick too. Andy Katz said they'd take Jeff Green, but we'll see. Atlanta on the clock now. Such excitement already...

7:43- Jay Bilas JUST COPIED MY LINE. He said "possibly the easiest pick in NBA Draft history." That jerk. Stupid Dookie.

7:48- Here comes Stern. The Hawks select Al Horford -- great pick. They can get a point guard some other way; Horford is too good to pass up here. I'm surprised the Hawks did the right thing. Does that mean Conley is next?

7:51- Stuart Scott just said that Tirico and the rest of the ESPN panel were "hotties." Thank you, Mr. Scott. You bring amazing intangibles to the draft that no one else could. And an insanely disgusting lazy eye.

7:52- The Grizzlies take Mike Conley Jr. with the 4th pick. Good pick, I guess. He's a solid point guard, but I just don't know what to think about the Grizzlies. Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Stromile Swift, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, and Mike Conley Jr. Could be worse. Bilas just compared Conley to Deron Williams and Chris Paul; I didn't see that one coming.

7:56- Katz again confirms that the Celtics-Sonics trade has gone through, and he says that Boston will take Jeff Green for the Sonics. Here comes the pick -- and Jeff Green is taken. You know, sometimes I wish that there weren't so many analysts and stuff so I could actually be surprised sometimes. Anyway, still interesting stuff. Durant and Green to build around in Seattle now -- an excellent core. Milwaukee on the clock.

8:03- With the 6th pick, the Bucks take Yi Jianlian. This is going to be great, and I hope he holds out or complains about being taken by a team in a city where he didn't want to go. Fraschilla says that Yao Ming is oldschool, but that Yi is hip-hop: "He's 50 cent." Wow, that's good to know. Does anyone ever know how good these guys really are? Must improve: Not getting dunked on repeatedly.

8:07- Ric Bucher thinks that there will be a lot of trade talk since Yi doesn't want to be a Buck. Here comes an interview with Stuart Scott! Yi: "I play for... team... for four years... uhhh... I played uhhh.... I can play NBA." WHAT? An international player who has already been Americanized? Is it possible that this ends well for him? This is hilarious.

8:11- T'Wolves up now. They select Corey Brewer. Great pick. Solid player and he should help KG, unless he, you know, gets traded. Foye, Brewer, KG -- not bad.

8:14- Just saw an NBA Live '08 commercial with Arenas and Durant. Man, I really hope Arenas doesn't leave the Wizards. I'd be crushed, and I'd probably break something. Or I might just use Michael Ruffin's skull to break something -- that thing has to be lethal.

8:16- Has anyone ever done more with less than John Basedow? His commercials are on just about every three minutes, and he's improving people's lives, apparently like, everyday. How can you dislike this guy?

8:17- Jordan is apparently actively trying to trade this #8 pick. I guess no one is as good as Kwame Brown in this draft, so why even pick someone?

8:18- The Bobcats take Brandan Wright with the 8th pick. Bilas quickly admits that he's a steal just because he has him ranked 4th on his board. No surprise there -- really, Bilas likes someone from the ACC? Stunning. But Bilas says he "runs the floor like a deer," so why not pick him? Nice work.

8:22- Funniest sign of the night so far -- some Bulls' fan held up a poster saying "THANKS ISIAH." Great stuff. Isiah keeps improving other NBA teams, just not his own.

8:24- Bulls about to pick 9th here. They take Joakim Noah, who looks like a mix of Sideshow Bob and an extra in the new Caveman sitcom and Geico commercials. I think Noah is a solid player, but why do the Bulls need another guy who can't score from the low post? Their best low post scorer is PJ Brown -- seriously. But they're still a solid team, and in the East, they'll be pretty good no matter how Noah does.

8:32- The Kings are up now at #10. And they select Spencer Hawes out of Washington. The Kings are just a strange team right now. Seems like a very fundamental player and a smart pick. But one thing is for sure -- he's the best player in this year's draft with a lisp. Always a bonus.

8:37- The first tirade/outburst from Stephen A. Smith, and he makes a great point. The Bulls already have a team littered with high energy guys and long and lengthy players. At some point, where do you get low post scoring from?

8:38- Eleventh pick here, and the Hawks take Acie Law IV. I guess they don't need to get a point guard from somewhere else now -- they'll just pick one. The Hawks have taken Horford and Law. Not bad. They've filled two needs with two picks in the draft. I'm surprised that the Hawks are being logical. Mark Jackson likes the pick because Acie Law isn't a midget. I tend to agree.

8:42- I think that the Sixers will take Al Thornton; it just makes the most sense. They get a solid scorer to go next to Iguodala, but apparently they also want a frontcourt player to rebound and play defense.

8:46- Twelfth pick for the Sixers here, and uhhh, they take Thaddeus Young out of Georgia Tech. They don't take Thornton, but they take someone else when they said they needed more rebounding? I'm surprised here. But then again, it is Billy King. They do have two more picks left so far this first round, so I'll just wait and see what else happens.

8:50- I think with the Hornets on the clock, this would be a good time to say that I have no idea how the rest of the picks will go in this draft. Anything can happen, and there is no consistency at all right now. And I love it.

8:52- Billy Knight says Acie Law IV reminds him of Mark Jackson. I would have to disagree there.

8:52- Thirteenth pick for the Hornets -- Julian Wright from Kansas. Dick Vitale likes the pick and thinks he has a lot of potential. I would agree, but I think it's a bad sign that he looks like Tim Thomas. Just saying.

8:55- Julian Wright loves to bowl. No joke here -- he actually seems like a legitimately good guy, and he had a good interview with Stuart Scott. I think he'll be a pretty good player.

8:58- The Clippers need another guard here. Here's the 14th pick: Al Thornton from Florida State. That pretty much tells you exactly how much I can predict what will happen next. Good pick -- he can really score, and he was probably the best available player. The Pistons are on the clock right now.

9:01- Al Thornton has a really weird voice. No other comments necessary.

9:04- Wow, another weird Chevy commercial, this time involving the new Transformers movie. Hey, at this point, any commercial that isn't about "our country" is a small victory for me.

9:05- Pistons about to pick here at #15. They choose Rodney Stuckey, which is upsetting because I wanted the Wiz to get him. The Wizards are on the clock now, and I have idea who they'll take. But please, don't take McRoberts. PLEASE!!!

9:08- Apparently Stuckey wants to be in Dwayne Wade's "5" since he's his idol.

9:10- Here we go. Nick Young out of USC. Very interesting. I'm pleased with this pick. A scorer off the bench is something the Wiz needed. Good work guys.

9:12- All of the panel guys make fun of the Wiz for not playing any defense. Apparently Young doesn't play defense either. Uh, that's fine. I still like what the Wiz are doing.

9:14- Apparently the Knicks have traded Channing Frye and Steve Francis to the Blazers for Zach Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dickau. Very weird. Now the Knicks have two low post scorers in Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph. That's surprising, but also, what are the Blazers doing? Steve Francis? How is that a move in the right direction for a team built around Roy, Oden, Aldridge, Jack, and Sergio Rodriguez? Maybe for his expiring contract? I can see Frye, I guess, but I don't really understand this trade at all for the Blazers. At least Randolph is a solid player, and even though he's kind of crazy, I'm just lost. I seriously doubt that this trade is the best that the Blazers could do with unloading Randolph. Didn't expect that.

9:16- The Nets select Sean Williams at #17. We'll see how that works. Decent risk pick.

9:22- The Warriors just took Marco Belinelli. I'll be honest, I never heard of this guy before, and I'm not impressed that he scored 25 points on Team USA. Somehow, that really doesn't mean that much -- I wonder why. Lakers on the clock.

9:27- More talk about Kobe Bryant and how he still wants out of the LA. Whatever. More of the same and nothing happening.

9:29- Here's the pick -- Javaris Cittenton out of Georgia Tech. I'm pretty sure that can't please Kobe, but then again, not much else would. Decent pick. Vitale is on ranting about Kobe Bryant and how he's going no where. He also says Tony Parker is nuts for sleeping with the NBA trophy before Eva Longoria. Have to agree on that one. Uh oh... Vitale vs. Stephen A. Smith -- Smith just called Vitale cheap, and my TV almost exploded from all of the yelling. If only somehow Chris Matthews from Hardball was involved in this NBA draft, that would have assuredly happened. Tone it down, guys. No yelling on the bus...

9:35- Heat's pick now at #20. They pick Jason Smith from Colorado State. Bilas likes his hard work and footwork, which basically means he's not athletic, but he's not anything spectacular.

9:37- Jim Gray is interviewing Mitch Kupchak right now. I'm tired of the Lakers, seriously. Kupchak is really saying nothing -- what a complete waste of time. These things really go no where, and the interviews here are basically worthless. I understand they need to take place, but this is just boring. Sixers up next at 21.

9:40- That's better. Smith says that Kupchak looked like he was about to cry, and he should, since he works for the Buss family. Mark Jackson also, finally, makes the point that they don't really need a point guard. They just took Farmar last year, so why do they need Crittenton? Go Lakers!

9:41- Twenty-first pick for the Sixers, and they take Daequan Cook from Ohio State. Bucher believed that Cook will go to Miami with cash, and Smith will go to the Sixers. Now that makes a lot of sense for the Sixers; there is the rebounding and some defense and size they were looking for. And Miami gets a player with a lot of upside with Cook, which is something they really could use on an old roster. At the very least, Shaq will be able to teach him how to eat right, you know, Shaq's Big Challenge. And apparently his big challenge consists of previously doing commercials for Pepsi, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Nestle while trying to teach kids to eat the right way. Because when I think eating healthy, I think Shaq. That's like saying, when I think great movies, I think Kazaam.

9:47- Bobcats back on the clock, and here's the pick at #22 -- Jared Dudley out of Boston College. This was one of the players I think should have been drafted higher, and I think this is one of the better picks so far. Solid choice here, no MJ or Kwame Brown jokes needed.

Orioles Update: 8th inning, O's up 6-4. Wow.

9:49- Knicks on the clock for pick #23, and now there is the obligatory Spike Lee interview. His first mistake was saying that he thinks Isiah Thomas knows what he's doing. That's great, so thanks for that. They do have to be better than how they played last year.

9:52- Here we go, time for the Knicks to pick. They take Wilson Chandler out of DePaul. Spectacular. Suns on the clock.

9:56- Usually I'd have more funny things to say, but because just about every player is interviewed by Stuart Scott, the laughs eventually die down. Oddly enough, the Blazers apparently have purchased the #24 pick from the Suns -- Bucher says that's about a $3 million purchase. I still can't get over their trade for Steve Francis. I wonder what they'll do here.

9:58- The Blazers select Rudy Fernandez out of Spain. The Blazers, besides the Oden pick, are either making some very shrewd moves, or they are just taking some chances. Either way, it's a new direction for the Blazers.

10:01- Just saw a commercial with Big Papi on ESPN. I can't complain about any commercial involving Big Papi -- it could be able anything and I wouldn't care.

10:05- Jazz pick here at #25, and they choose Morris Almond. This guy can really shoot, and that's something that Utah really needed. Smart personnel choice here. Rockets on the clock at 26.

Orioles update: They're on rain delay now, but they're losing 8-6 now. Great work guys.

10:11- Here comes the Rockets pick at #26 -- Aaron Brooks from Oregon. He's an interesting player and a solid prospect for this team. He can really score and come of the bench to help this team. Pistons on the clock at #27.

10:13- Andy Katz is back, and he's still unsure whether Yi will show up or not. Basically, there's no news here.

10:14- More about the Celtics-Sonics trade -- the Celtics also receive the 35th pick in the draft as well to complete the deal. As an interesting move, the Sonics are also now looking to keep Rashard Lewis back to play with Durant and Green. Sounds like a very smart decision. That would be a great trio for years to come. I really like what the Sonics are doing.

10:18- The Pistons choose Arron Afflalo from UCLA. Good for them. The draft excitement has gone down somewhat, and I think it's because there's a lot more Stuart Scott than Dick Vitale. This draft needs more Vitale. Come on ESPN.

10:21- The Spurs are now on the clock here, and I'm already tired of seeing LeBron James and commercials for the ESPYs. Serious question here: Does anyone actually care about the ESPYs? Does anyone even watch it on tv? It means nothing, so who cares?

10:24- The Spurs go with Tiago Splitter out of Brazil. I keep hearing this guy's name, but I've never seen him play. But it's always good to get the well deserved "Must Improve: Offensive Game" designation on his bio information. The Suns are now on the clock with pick 29, and my time is quickly running out. Let's see what else happens before the first round is over.

10:30- The Suns take Alando Tucker from Wisconsin, and Dick Vitale is back. Of course he loves the pick because as long as a guy goes to college, and he doesn't do anything stupid, Vitale likes the pick.

10:32- I feel bad for Boston. This team just can't seem to stay consistent and make important moves. They take the short-term decision in getting Allen to go with Pierce. I think they might be able to sneak into the playoffs now, but they aren't going to compete for a conference title, even in the weaker Eastern Conference. I just get confused with exactly what they're trying to do sometimes. First they trade a possible Brandon Roy pick last year for Sebastian Telfair, who has been a complete bust, and now they trade a decent piece in Delonte West along with the #5 pick, probably a Corey Brewer, just to get Allen so the team can be a little better right now. If the Wizards were making moves like that, I would be furious. I can only imagine what Bill Simmons is thinking right now.

10:37- Last pick of the first round, which belongs to the Sixers. The 30th pick is Petteri Koponen from Finland. Who?

I'd like to end this blog with something amazingly profound, but I really don't have any stunning conclusion to make here. There weren't as many trades as I thought there would be, and for the most part, there were very good picks. I'm happy with what the Wizards did, and they couldn't really have done much else. I have no clue who they'll get in the second round, so we'll see.

One final note: Please never dress like Joakim Noah. Just don't.

Bedard and Guthrie give the Orioles hope

Over the last two days against the hated New York Yankees, the Orioles received two very encouraging starts from Jeremy Guthrie and Erik Bedard. On Tuesday, Guthrie struck out six while only giving up two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He ended up with a no-decision, but Guthrie battled against Andy Pettitte and a tough NY lineup. He made only one mistake -- hanging a slider to Johnny Damon for a two-run HR. But he kept the Orioles in the game when runs were hard to come by, and the O's eventually won in the 9th inning when Scott Proctor forced in the winning when when he walked Ramon Hernandez with the bases loaded.

On Wednesday, Bedard squared off against the always formidable Roger Clemens. Looking unhittable at times, Bedard allowed only two hits and walked one while striking out eight bewildered Yanks in seven scoreless innings. Surprisingly, the bullpen held the lead for the Orioles, and led by Bedard's great performance, they shut the Yankees out 4-0.

Even though the Yankees have been struggling all season, they still have a talent-laden lineup that can strike at any time. But Guthrie and Bedard tamed this team on consecutive days, and the Orioles have arguably looked the best they have all year. After viewing these last two games, I was extremely impressed by the talent that Guthrie and Bedard both possess.

Bedard has seemingly put all the pieces together and is starting to pitch up to his skill level. With the help of Leo Mazzone, Bedard is trusting his stuff and is leading the MLB in strikeouts with 129. In his start last night, Bedard mixed and matched his fastball and curveball effectively. He handcuffed hitters throughout the game, and no one in the Yankees lineup looked comfortable at all.

Guthrie is a name that very few Orioles' fans had even heard of before the season began. But current O's manager Dave Trembley, who had seen Guthrie pitch in the minors over a couple seasons, urged the Orioles' front office to sign Guthrie and give him a chance. The Orioles did just that, and Guthrie took his opportunity in the starting rotation early in the season and ran with it. So far, he's passed all of the tests placed upon him with flying colors and has a stunning 2.45 ERA, which ranks second in the AL behind the A's Dan Haren.

Every time these pitchers step to the mound, they give the O's a chance to win. Combined the two only have 10 wins between them, which says more about how the rest of the team has played than their abilities to win and finish games. They have been two bright spots on a team littered with missed opportunities and wasted potential. Guthrie and Bedard are both 28 years old and have helped secure a starting rotation that has been, to be polite, very mediocre over the last several years.

Daniel Cabrera, another promising young talent for the Orioles, on the other hand, has been average at best for the O's this year. Cabrera has a high ERA of 4.98 and has already walked 49 batters. But the crazy thing with Cabrera is that, in between some bad starts, he occasionally shows flashes of brilliance. In the middle of June, Cabrera had two bad starts in a row against the overachieving Nationals and the surprising Diamonbacks. He gave up seven and five earned runs respectively in two losses. But in his next start in Arizona on June 22nd in a rematch with the Diamondbacks, Cabrera took a no-hitter into the 6th inning. He left after the 6th because of a high pitch count, but Cabrera pitched effectively to lead the O's to victory.

Cabrera has always been a pitcher with a high ceiling. He has so much talent, yet at times he looks completely lost on the mound, frequently unable to harness his abilities and simply throw strikes. He has an explosive fastball and a nasty slider, but besides those two pitches, he never throws anything else -- no change-up, no splitter, no sinker. Does he need a third pitch? Probably, but that doesn't mean that his control should be so terrible in long stretches. Anyway, Cabrera was supposed to break out either last season or this one, and he hasn't pitched particularly well.

The point is this -- if Cabrera can ever maintain some consistency and pitch to the talent level he owns, the Orioles could have three solid and relatively young (Cabrera is only 26) starting pitchers to build around. The O's farm system also has strong pitching talent with names like Olsen, Liz, Doyne, Hoey, Penn, and Erbe. And Adam Loewen, who also has an incredibly high ceiling, pitched well before his season-ending injury in May. If the O's and Leo Mazzone keep pushing and working with Cabrera, the O's could potentially have a rotation with some combination of Bedard, Guthrie, Cabrera, Loewen, and Penn/Olsen/Erbe. That's a solid core right there to build around, and the O's could contend with teams for years, especially if they ever received consistent efforts from the bullpen.

Is this a lot to hope for? Sure, I guess, but compiling a starting rotation with mostly homegrown talent is a lot less safer than taking huge risks; just the name Carl Pavano should be scary enough to strike fear into the hearts of any fans waiting for a free agent pitcher to produce.

There's no doubt that the Orioles possess some promising talent in the farm system, and the next few months, which always seems like the case, will be very important for a club still searching for an identity. But I believe these guys should be the direction the O's go in. Guys like David Segui, Albert Belle, Sammy Sosa, the latest Rafael Palmerio aquisition, and, sadly, Miguel Tejada, just haven't helped the team at all. They've all only added to the disappointment, and very rarely do the O's trust a group of young guys to turn the team around. That doesn't mean free agents can't be signed or smart trades can't be made, but building around this young pitching core and hitters like Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts should be the plan the O's front office makes.

Who would have thought before the season that the starting pitching staff would be the part of the team to build around? I wasn't one of them -- but I'm definitely a believer now.


Apparently the NBA Draft is tonight, and not this weekend, so the running blog will be posted tonight. My mistake on the previous post.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Some points and thoughts from this past week

-- While watching the Orioles this week, my first thought was that they should just leave Dave Trembley as the manager. With Trembley as interim coach, the O's surprisingly took two out of three from the Padres. Then on Friday, Daniel Cabrera pitched up to his potential and the O's won again to make it three in a row. (If you're not an Orioles fan, with the current situation this team is in, winning three games in a row is almost like making the playoffs.) But the last two games against the Diamondbacks have looked like more of the same, including lack of offense, mediocre pitching, and a complete lack of urgency. If the O's want to get shutdown by Jake Peavy, then hey, that's fine. But Dave Bush? Come on, guys.

Anyway, I still believe that the O's should just let Trembley manage the team until the end of the season, then depending on what happens, such as if the team shows any positive signs or winning trends, then they could re-access the situation. There's no need to rush into hiring a manager, like Dusty Baker, who just probably would be another bad fit in a long line of bad teams and frustrated managers -- who have annoyed every O's fan in the process.

-- I stumbled upon this story about one minute ago: Apparently over the weekend, a player who you've probably never heard of before, Fred Evans of the Miami Dolphins, was "arrested early Saturday morning, and tasers were used to subdue him, after an alleged argument with a Miami Beach taxi driver." I could be wrong here, but I think the reason for his tasering may have been as follows: "According to the report, Evans bit one officer on the wrist..." It might not be such a good idea to be out so late if the possibility of biting a cop may arise in the process -- just my two cents. Even Bill Romanowski has never bitten a cop before. I think.

-- With that last note, I fell into the trap of discussing the disturbing trend of NFL players being arrested and following the disappointing behavior of guys like Pacman Jones, Chris Henry, and Tank Johnson. In better news, Jon Kitna recently predicted that the Detroit Lions will win at least 10 games next season. And I'm glad that Kitna did this; his remarks leave an important reminder that NFL players aren't all just clowns who get arrested. They also can make us fans laugh with funny and bizarre predictions that don't really make any sense. Kudos to you, Mr. Kitna.

-- I have really wanted to comment on the latest news in the Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett situations in which multiple trade scenarios have been speculated about over the last several weeks. But I really don't think either one is going to get traded right now. The Lakers would be a disaster if Kobe left, so I seriously doubt that would happen. And even though KG has remained pretty silent and hasn't gone nearly as far as Kobe has in demanding trades out of LA, I think KG needs to get traded and that McHale should seriously consider it. The T'Wolves have been pretty bad for years, and their only young player with any talent is Randy Foye. The team's nucleus includes Foye, Ricky Davis, KG, and now Juwan Howard of all people. This whole team is a mess, and it must be bad because even Troy Hudson is trying to get out of there.

KG might really be against a trade to the Celtics, and that's ok. But he should really consider leaving and playing for a winning team while he still has much of his athletic ability and talent left. Even though the Suns seem very reluctant to trade Amare Stoudamire for Garnett, that deal would be a perfect fit for both teams. Phoenix would probably win the title, and the T'Wolves would have a younger player to build around along with Foye. But since it makes too much sense, it won't happen. Go NBA!

-- On another NBA note, I also don't have a mock draft to offer in my blog. Mock drafts are interesting to look at, but they're always wrong. No one really knows what a GM or an NBA team is thinking, and at any time they could have one player higher and ruin everyone's perception of what they thought would happen. I have no idea who will get drafted where, let alone who will get drafted number one. I guess the Blazers will take Oden over Durant, which seems to be the most popular pick.

But aside from Oden and Durant, here is a list of players that I really do like, no matter where they get drafted this year: Al Horford, Mike Conley Jr., Corey Brewer, Jeff Green, Taurean Green, Jared Dudley, Carl Landry, and Acie Law, just to name a few. I don't know much about any of the foreign players, mainly because, I'VE NEVER SEEN THEM PLAY BEFORE, aside from the nifty little clips that ESPN shows during the draft. It's great to see how easily Yi Jianlian dominates in the clips they show, namely because he's two feet taller than anyone he's playing with.

That's enough for now. Just for the record, next weekend during the NBA Draft, I'll be doing a running blog to post later on that night. That should definitely be some fun, and the NBA draft is always hilarious.

Here's to the Wizards actually picking someone this year whose name I can pronounce.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

O's Ship is Sinking

The Orioles fired manager Sam Perlozzo Monday morning. I was surprised to see the move, but I was even more shocked to find the widespread criticism that the move brought. Criticism came from all angles, not just about Perlozzo being let go, but also for the horrible play by the Orioles this year and in recent years as well. Many of the players have been terrible, moves and decisions on signing players haven't gone very well, front office personnel have been questioned, and motivation and desire to win have been debated. Needless to say, from radio talk shows to ESPN's Baseball Tonight, the Orioles found themselves, even if for a couple days, back in the middle of the world of sports, but for all the wrong reasons.

As I said before, I was surprised by the move to fire Perlozzo. He may only be an average or an above average manager, but this team obviously has problems that even the best manager in the world couldn't fix. Some people say performance and attitude reflect leadership, but I never questioned whether or not Perlozzo wanted this team to win. After tough defeats, Perlozzo always looked mortified and legitimately embarrassed when his team had blown another winnable game. There's no doubt that he cared and wanted to ease the pain of fans.

I'm still not sure if the move was the right one. I wanted to wait a couple days to see what the Orioles were going to do before I rushed to a hasty judgment of yet another Orioles decision to let a manager go. The same points have been hit on in just about every debate on the situation that I've seen -- the Orioles offense has been very average, they don't hit any HRs, they have players like Gibbons and Patterson struggling this season, the bullpen has performed terribly, etc. All of these reasons have obviously led to the Orioles' current 29-41 record.

In spectacular ESPN fashion, some analysts and brilliant baseball minds even over-exaggerated the problem just to make the team's current struggles hurt even more. John Kruk of Baseball Tonight said something along the lines of, he'd accept any job if it was offered to him except a job with the Baltimore Orioles. Kruk's statements were surely a shot at the way Peter Angelos has run this team into the ground, but his words still hurt. No matter what people think, the Orioles really do have the talent to compete and at least compile a record near .500. Every year, though, there's a new problem that comes out of nowhere. If the lineup starts hitting, then the pitching will be terrible. And if the hitting and starting pitching are great for one day, then maybe the bullpen will blow another lead. The Orioles' bullpen was supposed to be the strongest part of this current team, and instead, it has been, by far, the worst part of another struggling season.

I'm going to be honest: Perlozzo was not my favorite coach. He always seemed a little intimidated or overmatched, but I never questioned his desire to want to break the Orioles' losing ways. He always stood up for the players though, which is great to see, but I don't believe the players felt pressured by him to play better and they never felt like they had to perform better to get more playing time. Jay Gibbons, for example, surely knows that he's been awful for the first part of this season. Many of the players probably do. But they never seemed to have any sense of urgency in standing up for their coach or taking most, if not all, of the blame for such a disappointing half season of baseball. I may be in the minority here, but if I was playing baseball and was guaranteed millions of dollars, I'd publicly admit to playing terribly if I was struggling and I would stand by my coach, especially if he was as good a guy as Perlozzo was.

After being fired, Perlozzo finally showed some of the fire that I wish he'd have shown while he was still coaching the Orioles. In an article for the Cumberland Times, Perlozzo began to fully express some of his opinions on why the team had been bad and why he really had no chance to succeed with the Orioles in the first place. He never felt comfortable with the people behind him, and he never felt like he had the full support of the front office.

Some of Perlozzo's best quotes in the story are as follows:

"I told them they should have stepped up and said, 'Sam Perlozzo is our manager.' And then if they want to fire me two days later, fine. Just resolve it. But they didn't. You don't do that to me... I told them I can go out and make every right move - which I believe I did - and still fail because we don't hit, or the bullpen breaks down, or whatever it may be."

"Every night, we're dealing with a one-run deficit, and we're scoring four runs, three runs, three runs, four runs... We score three runs in the first three innings and we're done for the night. You need to score more than four runs... When you can't score five runs playing in the American League East, you've got problems"

"Melvin Mora is hitting 40 points below his career average... Miggy doesn't hit home runs or drive in runs anymore. Huff just started hitting and he has four home runs... Kevin Millar has a high on-base percentage, but doesn't hit home runs. Do you want me to start him on the bases? Check the on-base percentage and the runs scored. It doesn't jibe. We need three hits to get him in. You want me to start running Kevin Millar, Jay Gibbons and Aubrey Huff?"

Perlozzo had more to say, and if you check the article, he was obviously angry at being fired so early when he felt there was much more work to do. I truly believe that if Perlozzo demonstrated this type of attitude and had the backing of the front office, he'd still have the job and the team may have performed a little better. But the Orioles, as usual, felt pressure from people on the outside and made another hasty decision.

The most important part of this whole dilemma, and what could possibly shape the team for years to come, is what occurs over the next few days. The Orioles have an immense interest in former Marlins manager Joe Girardi. They want him to coach the team, and he's their number one priority. So what's the problem? No one knows if he wants to even coach the team. And by firing Perlozzo with so few coaches available, let alone anyone who would even consider guiding this disoriented franchise, they've put all of their eggs in one basket. Anything less than inking Girardi will be viewed as a failure, and the team would again have an undetermined future.

Even though it never really seemed to matter who coached the team or what happened as far as which players were brought in to play where, I've always believed that over the past decade, the whole atmosphere and environment of the team has been just wrong. That issue starts at the top with Angelos, and it trickles down to every part of the organization. There isn't just one thing wrong that can simply be fixed just because a manager is fired. Perlozzo wasn't the problem; he just wasn't, by himself, the solution.

But like many Orioles fans, I'll never give up or stop believing that the team can't compete just because some analysts on TV or the radio say so. Remember those people who thought that signing Magglio Ordonez was a terrible move for the Detroit Tigers? How's that move looking right now? Like a steal. It doesn't matter who thinks certain moves are right; it only matters if the moves work and help a team win games.

The Orioles can build around some of their young players and develop another core of players to compliment them. I don't know who the O's will end up hiring, but as far as players on the field, these are the changes I'd make in the near future to help the team:

1) Build the offense around Nick Markakis. He's only 23 (he turns 24 in November) and he's already the team's most polished hitter. He plays hard and is a great right fielder with a tremendous arm.

2) Trade Miguel Tejada if possible. I don't know what the reasons are, but Tejada just isn't the same player that he used to be. By playing so many games in a row, he seems to just be tired sometimes, and that may have something to do with his lack of power. Either way, he doesn't seem like a long-term solution for the team, so they should try and trade him now and get what they can. I'd rather the Orioles play Bynum at SS for the short-term while developing other young position players like Billy Rowell. Also, trade Steve Trachsel while he still has some value. Some contending teams really need some starting pitching help, and the O's could get a nice player or two if they deal Trachsel while he still has decent numbers. (Just look how bad he was last night against the Padres -- time is running out.)

3) Try and trade for Mark Teixeira before the Yankees inevitably go after him. In this rare time when a star player actually wants to play for the Orioles, they need to get him on this team. No more combinations of Millar or Huff at 1st base -- Teixeira would fit nicely in an Orioles uniform. Also, I understand that the Rangers won't just give him away, but parting with someone like Daniel Cabrera and some younger players would not be a problem with me.

4) Try and do something with Corey Patterson, meaning, get rid of him if possible. I don't know what it is about Patterson, but he's probably the most frustrating player on this team. He is one of the fastest players in the league, and yet he's always trying to hit home runs. Whenever he reaches base, he can steal with ease. But he refuses to use his speed to his advantage, shorten his swing, and focus on hitting the ball on the ground or just hitting like drives. If Corey Patterson choked up on the bat and took the approach of, say, David Eckstein, he'd hit close to .300 and steal a ton of bases. I will never understand why he doesn't perform way better -- he obviously has the talent but is very stubborn.

5) Build the starting rotation around Erik Bedard, Jeremy Guthrie, and Adam Loewen. Keep developing the young arms in the minors to replace the artists formerly known as relievers in the Orioles bullpen. The bullpen can't be fixed quickly because of the huge salaries owed to these guys. They can't trade guys like Baez or Bradford right now, so they're just going to have to live with the signings. But guys like Olsen, Liz, Erbe, Doyne, and Hoey will probably be on the cusp of making the team in the near future, and change is on the way. It just can't happen right away.

These are just a few possible options that the Orioles can make, and their problems go way deeper than that. They need to change the team's image, and that's not something that happens over night. Changing the culture from a losing one to a winning one happens slowly. It can happen with a dominating win over a solid team or just with solid play and some come-from-behind wins. But I know one thing is for sure: the Orioles have the talent to compete, and guys like Sam Perlozzo shouldn't be solely blamed for a team's situation that's been going downhill for years.

The O's ship has been sinking, but it's not under water just yet. There's still time.


An extra thought after posting this entry:

The Orioles always seem like that guy from high school who would always care so deeply what people thought of him that he'd hurry and change his image constantly. One day he'd be wearing a certain type of clothing, or maybe he'd play a certain sport or play some game. Then in about a week, he had already changed his look and started trying to impress different people. Every few weeks this same thing would go on, and the kid never seemed comfortable with who he was, and more importantly, it wasn't working -- people still didn't like him anyway. No matter how mean that sounds, everyone knows someone who was like that, and that kid seems exactly like who the Orioles have become. They try and make moves that people outside in the baseball world will slightly nod their head at sometimes, but they won't stay consistent and pick a real sound belief on how to run the team. There is no magical secret on how to win games and develop a winning team. Different things work for different organizations.

Years ago, many people criticized Billy Beane for how he viewed the game of baseball and how he believed in running the Oakland A's. But he held firm in what he really thought and now the A's seem to compete every year without spending much money on marquee names. The Orioles need to develop an identity and stick with it. There's really no quick fix with the bad moves the team has made over the years. And that list is endless.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Orioles Tinker with Bullpen

For most of the 2007 season, the Orioles' bullpen has performed very poorly. As of today, the bullpen ranks 11th in the American League in ERA, tied for second for most blown saves, and first in most losses aquired.

Just about every time Orioles' relievers enter a game, they waste golden opportunities and turn promising and meaningful games into worthless ones -- just think the opposite of King Midas.

To put the horrible performances into perspective, O's relievers have been so terrible that they've made the Bad News Bears look like seasoned veterans. They've allowed the Colorado Rockies, Washington Nationals, and Arizona Diamondbacks to look like championship contenders. And the bullpen even managed to make Augie Ojeda, a former Oriole farmhand himself, look like The Natural on Friday when Danys Baez served up another gift-wrapped home-run.

After yet another blown opportunity yesterday, somewhere Earl Weaver probably flipped his cap back and cursed in disgust.

Earlier today, though, the Orioles seem poised to do something about this underachieving group. The Orioles may lack strong-hitting position prospects, at least at this moment, in their farm system, but they do not have a shortage of promising young pitchers. After releasing Todd Williams and sending Baez to the disabled list today, the Orioles promoted relief pitchers James Hoey and Cory Doyne from Norfolk. Hoey has some limited major league experience but Doyne has none. Either way, both pitchers bring a refreshing change to a bullpen that's been ruining great efforts from an overachieving starting pitching staff all season.

While possible moves are limited because of the salaries handed out to pitchers such as Chad Bradford (3 years, $10.5 mil), Baez (3 years, $19 mil), and Jamie Walker (3 years, $12 mil), Sam Perlozzo has seemingly reached his breaking point and is tired of putting up with veterans who are just not performing. More changes could occur, but only time will tell.

Sidenote: At this very moment, the Orioles are in the 3rd inning and Daniel Cabrera has already given up three HRs (5-0 ARZ). This team just can't put everything together.

One final strange note about the bullpen though -- according to Baltimore Sun writer Roch Kubatko, "[Todd] Williams wanted to go on the disabled list, but the Orioles apparently weren't convinced that he was injured."

But Baez is legitimately injured? Or is his psyche just severly damaged after having Ojeda hit a HR off of him? Money surely had a huge part in that decision, even though Williams has been terrible. Baez needs to find out what his problem is and figure a way to start pitching effectively. The Orioles could really use an effective set-up man, let alone a reliever who can retire some batters and hold a lead.


Last Wednesday, Redskins' rookie safety LaRon Landry was injured while playing paintball with some teammates. Apparently experiencing what Redskins fans have been feeling for years by watching an underachieving team, Landry was shot in the groin during the fun.

No word on whether Landry's team won or lost the paintball matches was available.


Breaking News:

According to several sources, the Orioles have been allowing Charlie Sheen to work with the bullpen over the last few days. After being informed that Sheen, who played Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn in Major League, wasn't an actual pitcher, head coach Sam Perlozzo said, "That's okay. He's already thirty times better than Danys Baez."

OK, I'm sorry, I made that up. But I bet you wish that it was true...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What's Eating Gilbert?

A couple days ago, Gilbert Arenas announced that after next season, he’s going to opt out of his current contract with the Wizards and hit the free agent market. Without a doubt, he’ll be the biggest free agent name in 2008, and several teams will do their best to try and lure Arenas their way.

Michael Wilbon wrote a great article for the Washington Post on Tuesday discussing how Arenas’s decision makes sense for him financially, and how his announcement gives the Wizards the chance to show him why he should want to stay in Washington. There’s no argument to deny the fact that Arenas wants a larger contract, and so far he definitely deserves one. Instead of staying with his current contract at six years worth $65 million, Arenas can choose to sign a larger contract with another team, and if he stays with the Wizards, he can sign a six-year deal potentially worth more than $100 million. Without a doubt, Arenas has earned the right for a superstar-like contract and has played exceptionally well over the last few years.

But exactly how much is Arenas worth? As Wilbon also described, the Wizards are a perfect fit for Arenas. In Eddie Jordan’s Princeton style sets, the Wizards offense is constantly in motion, and Arenas can do as he pleases. Everyone on the team defers to Arenas, with the only possible exception being Brendan Haywood, who only has recently complained of playing time and a lack of respect by Jordan. But even in this system that completely benefits Arenas and plays to his offensive strengths, the Wizards have not gotten past the second round of the playoffs since Arenas has been in Washington. The team has obviously improved with Arenas on the team, with the Wizards being in the playoffs at all is the only evidence really needed. But even with an improved supporting cast featuring Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Darius Songaila, Antonio Daniels, and DeShawn Stevenson, the Wizards never seemed like a team capable of taking over the league, let alone the Eastern Conference, which as this season has shown can be pretty pathetic at times.

Arenas is a tremendously gifted offensive player with a seemingly heroic capability to perform well in the clutch when games are on the line. He never shies away from taking the big shot, which is a quality that should be rewarded since only a select few in the NBA have this unique ability. However, since the team is also built around him, and since the Wizards have been unable to find the right kinds of players around Arenas who not only fit the system but also can rebound and play defense, the Wizards struggle against the elite teams in the league. The tail end of the season and the subsequent sweep in the first round of the playoffs may be a bad example this year because of the injuries to Arenas and Butler, but the Wizards frequently lose to teams such as the Heat, Pistons and Cavaliers because of their inability to get solid play from their big men. It also doesn’t really help that, all too frequently, the Wizards just can’t stop anyone else on defense, especially when the game is on the line. Often the Wizards win games when they have the ball for the last possession and lose games when their subpar defense is forced to hold a lead.

While the defensive ability of the Wizards seems pretty terrible at times, the Wizards are in much better shape with Arenas than without him. The Wizards need Arenas. His character and unique behavior bring so much more to this team than possibly any other player in the NBA could for his team, and he’s brought much more attention to the Wizards than ever really thought possible. Arenas has carried the Wizards on his back, and now the Wizards have earned some respect instead of being one of the laughingstocks of the NBA. Instead of being the team that got rid of Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton, and Chris Webber and traded for such quality players as Ike Austin, Mitch Richmond, and Christian Laettner, the Wizards began to win games again and gain a better, winning image. Arenas has been the biggest piece in the Wizards’ transformation.

Arenas will undoubtedly be an all-star for years to come, and he’ll make tons of money. And despite all of that, Arenas still wants to win more than anything else. He may act goofy at times, he may pull crazy pranks on his teammates, he may say very strange things and have odd quotes in the media, but he wants to win. He’s not afraid to be the person who he truly is, even if he’s very different than what a typical athlete is supposed to be, or whatever that means. I’m just not sure if he believes the Wizards can be that team he can win with and push to be one of the best teams in the NBA. I’m not sure if they can be either.

Again, this past season is not the best example to use, but with Arenas and Butler making the all-star team, the Wizards still only finished seventh in the weak Eastern Conference. And at times, the Wizards looked either awesome or terrible, no matter how weak an opponent was. The inability to punish less talented teams and crush short-handed competition is not the kind of consistency needed to be an elite team, and whether the problem is coaching, role players, defense, or any other possibilities, the Wizards have never really seemed like a team that could compete for an NBA title.

While the thought of Arenas possibly leaving the Wizards has left me terrified for the near future, I still believe that the Wizards can improve and play great basketball and make Arenas want to stay. The best part of Arenas’s declaration to opt out after next season is that there is still time for Jordan and Grunfeld to work together on compiling the right mix of players to try and max out the potential that this team has. The team must decide which players to draft, and they need to figure out which players to keep on the team. Will the team bring back Jarvis Hayes and DeShawn Stevenson? Will they sign Andray Blatche to a long-term deal? Will they bring back Brendan Haywood? What position(s) are the Wizards looking to upgrade in the draft? All of these questions need to be answered, and to keep Arenas in Washington, the personnel to help him should be significantly upgraded to go along with Arenas, Jamison, and Butler. The Wizards could really use a big man to control the paint, play defense, and grab rebounds to compliment the scoring that the big three provides.

Amidst all the confusion and shock involved with Arenas’s recent notice to opt out in 2008, he has also repeatedly vowed to improve his defense in the offseason. I fully believe that Arenas can do anything he puts his mind to, and I’m sure he can find multiple ways to motivate himself going into both next season and next year’s free agent market. Most fans in Washington would hate to see Arenas leave after all the hope and excitement that he’s brought to the area after so many down years for the Bullets/Wizards.

The last thing the Wizards need is a franchise player leaving the team after bringing some recent success, leaving fans hungry for more. There’s a lot riding on Arenas’s decision and hopefully he isn’t making this decision by flipping a coin a few times.

But this is Gilbert Arenas after all. Who really knows what he’ll do next?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

O's Bullpen Blows Another Late Lead

Few teams in Major League Baseball frequently disappoint their fans on a nightly basis like the Baltimore Orioles do. For the second night in a row, the Orioles' bullpen managed to blow a late one run lead. This time the blame falls upon John Parrish and somewhat on Chad Bradford. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a 4-3 lead, Bradford quickly retired the Mariners' first two batters. He then allowed two consecutive singles to put runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs. John Parrish relieved Bradford, which is when the meltdown occurred. Parrish allowed a Jose Vidro single, an Ichiro Suzuki double, and a Jose Lopez double to completely damage the Orioles and their attempt to win the game. While two of the runs were charged to Bradford that inning, Parrish managed to allow four runs and ruined Erik Bedard's chance at gaining another win. Just another day at the office for the Orioles, I guess.

For some reason, whenever I watch the Orioles play, I usually expect something to go wrong. That may be the wrong type of attitude to have, but the fact remains that the Orioles seem to blow more chances at winning than any other team I've ever seen. The Orioles routinely put themselves in horrible situations, just like the game yesterday, and even if they escape a few times, a huge inning always seems to loom in the distance. For this team, something bad or a late game blow-up is always looming in the near future, and fans know it.

After the Orioles lost their fourth game in a row yesterday, I started thinking about something they reminded me of. The Orioles provide fans with glimpses of hope for short stretches during the season, but sure enough, they manage to put all the positive notes behind them and continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They'll be reliable for short periods of time, but fans know that it's only a matter of time before things fall back into place and problems start occurring again.

And then I remembered -- the Orioles remind me of my dad's old piece of crap van that he drove basically until it completely died. The van would run well occasionally, but I always knew that within a week or so there would be problems with it. But my dad was always hopeful that the car would somehow pull through, and he never wanted to go buy another car. After running well for a week or two, the van would again show why it was such a hassle. There would be transmission problems, or the AC would shut off and not work, or the paint would start peeling -- no matter what, the car always disappointed my father with a new problem after a while.

The Orioles are exactly the same way. For a while, the Orioles will seem to be on the right track, and fans will be thinking, "Hey, they're playing great right now. Maybe they can hold this together and actually go somewhere this year!" And sure enough, within a few weeks, the Orioles have a few meltdowns, usually late in the game, and continue to torture their own fans with agonizing losses. Either an important player will get hurt, or the offense will sputter, or the coach will make a bonehead decision, or the bullpen (usually the case) gives up a late lead in a very winnable game.

There is always hope for the Orioles, however, and that makes the team very dangerous to keep rooting for. The Orioles never completely shut the door on their fans because they always seem to have a few pieces that make fans believe they'll eventually compete in the AL East. The Orioles' starting pitching has been absolutely phenomenal lately. Somehow five names have managed to keep the Orioles ONLY four games under .500 despite a very underachieving bullpen and an offense that seems to settle down once they manage to grab the lead. Those names are Bedard, Guthrie, Trachsel, Cabrera, and Burres. I'm not sure how much longer these guys can keep the Orioles in games, but their pitching has really been a welcome sight for, quite frankly, a team that hasn't had solid starting pitching in many years. Led by these five starters, the Orioles have somehow managed a 4.09 team ERA, landing the team fourth in the AL in that category. The defense has been excellent as well, and the Orioles are tied for first in the AL with a .989 fielding percentage and are second in fewest errors committed with only 25.

But no matter how many positives there seem to be, there's always something bad looming in the distance for the Orioles. Maybe that's because of the coaching, or maybe that's because of the front office personnel. Either way, everyone involved with the Orioles is to blame at least somewhat, and the atmosphere for losing has been around for quite some time now. Some people call it bad luck, some might just call it not having a good team.

I just call the Orioles a losing team, and it's always disappointing when they ruin so many great opportunities to win.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Orioles Loss and a Couple Other Notes

The Orioles suffered yet another tough loss today. Jeremy Guthrie pitched eight outstanding innings and kept the Angels off balance throughout his entire start. The Orioles managed a few timely hits and held the lead 3-2 going into the bottom of the 9th. Chris Ray relieved Guthrie and started the inning off by allowing an opposite field single to Chone Figgins. Vladimir Guerrero followed Figgins's at bat with a deep drive to left center that landed at least 15 feet past the fence. So much for the Angels actually having to work hard for their comeback victory over the O's.

I told myself before the inning that I wanted Guthrie to stay in the game. Through eight innings Guthrie hadn't thrown 90 pitches yet, and during the game he handled the Angels lineup with ease, allowing only three hits and one earned run. Guthrie especially pitched well against Guerrero by staying aggressive and constantly staying in and around the strike zone. I didn't want Chris Ray to face Guerrero, but I still do trust Ray as the O's closer. He just doesn't match up well against Guerrero because Ray just seems to throw the ball; he never seems to actually be a pitcher and locate his pitches.

I'm not going to blame Perlozzo for this loss at all. He has to trust his players, and he has to believe that Ray is going to pick up Guthrie and actually close the game out. Ray failed and undoubtedly he knows that. These things happen during the season, but it would be nice to see the Orioles actually play up to their potential for longer periods than a week or two. They need to be able to beat good teams on the road and close out games.

I hope the Orioles continue to play well against the Seattle Mariners tomorrow. They did lose three out of four to the Angels, but they could have easily taken two of those games. They need to pick up the pieces and learn from these tough losses and start putting some more notches in the win column. And they have the talent to do so.


-- As you've probably seen by now, the Cubs had a little issue the other day with, well, trying not to fight themselves in their own dugout. Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett apparently weren't very happy with each other about what happened in the previous inning and felt the need to exchange a few words and a few blows to the face. According to a report, Barrett suffered two black eyes in another altercation between the two a little while later that occurred in the team's clubhouse.

Even though this incident is the team's lowest point so far, it may actually have some positive effects for the Cubs for the rest of the season. The Cubs aren't playing well, and the fans, the manager, and the players all know it. They had a lot of support before the season started because they brought in Lou Piniella to manage the team, and the Cubs also brought in high-priced players as Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly, along with a few others. It's definitely disappointing when a team with that kind of salary and winning potential begins the season by playing so poorly, so maybe releasing a little anger on each other will be exactly the motivating force that they need to turn their season around.

And if it's not, at least it'll provide some great YouTube clips to view later on.

-- In one of the more suprising and quick developing stories of the past few months, Billy Donovan suddenly left his head coaching post at Florida for one in the NBA with the Orlando Magic. For some reason, I'm always shocked when successful college coaches decide to leave their programs to set up shop with professional teams. Much of the time, the motivating issue is money. Other times, a strong force is the desire to show that a coach can succeed at the highest possible level of competition.

I guess I just thought Donovan was happy at Florida and had no desire to leave. But his bolting for the NBA seems logical because he had just won two championships in a row at Florida, and maybe he felt there wasn't much else for him to accomplish. He now has new goals and new objectives to worry about. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

As far as how he'll do with the Magic, I really don't know yet. The Magic have a few decent pieces around Dwight Howard, but nothing really spectacular. Grant Hill is far from a reliable player, not because of his talent, but obviously because of his history of injuries. Except for a healthy Grant Hill, the Magic's next best player is probably Jameer Nelson. After that, they have names such as Darko Milicic, Keyon Dooling, Hedo Turkoglu, JJ Redick, and Trevor Ariza -- not exactly household names. They do have some cap space to throw at a player such as Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis, but I'm not convinced that either one of those players would help push the Magic into anything more than they were last year, which was the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. They also don't have a high draft pick, and they don't necessarily have the pieces to land a big-time player via trade.

Donovan could bring some intensity and excitement to a team that's been struggling over the last few years. And even if he fails as so many coaches who left their college teams for NBA teams have done before him, at least he'll face some new challenges along the way. Oh yeah, and he'll get paid... a lot.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

This Is LeBronCenter

LeBron James had one of the best playoff performances in NBA history in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. In the double overtime thriller, LeBron scored 48 points and almost singlehandedly willed the Cavs to victory. He scored his team's final 25 points and 29 out of his team's last 30. Not only was LeBron solid throughout the entire game, but he seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He hit big shot after big shot, each one more difficult and seemingly impossible than the next. He dribbled around defenders, split double teams, drove the lane, jumped over forwards and centers, and threw down dunks so ferocious that it was surprising to see the rim still attached to the basket.
And somehow LeBron is only 22 years old.

But you've heard all of this before, though, right? LeBron is supposed to "save" the NBA or whatever that means. He's supposed to be the next Michael Jordan, even though so many before have been compared to the NBA's greatest player. Kobe Bryant is supposed to be Jordan, Dwayne Wade is supposed to be Jordan, and even the artist formerly known as Isiah Rider was supposed to be Jordan (that worked out well.) I don't watch basketball games hoping to see LeBron turn into Jordan. There was only one, and there will only ever be just one MJ.

But where do these ideas come from? I don't think they come from basketball fans. Usually when fans are sitting at home watching games, they just want to see something amazing happen. They want to see something exciting, and they want to see some kind of superhuman performance that they'll remember for a long time. LeBron's performance wasn't the greatest of all time, but how could it have been? In an era where it's easier to say something sucks rather than how great it is, is it really even possible to say that LeBron's 48-point Game 5 was the best single-game feat ever? Probably not.

A lot of these ideas and interpretations come from the 24-hour sports world of today -- namely ESPN. Throughout any day of the week, anything and everything from the sports world is endlessly dissected, and that's not a bad thing necessarily. But each act or performance is compared to anything else that has ever been done before, and often analysts and commentators search for connections that just aren't there. If a basketball player has an amazing game in the playoffs, then maybe, just maybe, he'll keep playing that well and morph into Magic Johnson or MJ. The same is true for every other sport.

The point, for me at least, is that it doesn't matter who LeBron could be down the road or who he could possibly play like -- no one has ever had the kind of physical ability matched with talent that LeBron has. And that's hard to say because I'm not a big LeBron fan (liking the Wizards and all.) When LeBron went flying through the air twice in a row late in the 4th quarter to throw down monster dunks over the Pistons, I wasn't sitting there thinking of something else he could do or trying to compare him to another player. I was in shock; LeBron made those plays look so easy. When LeBron hit one fade-away jumper after another, I couldn't turn away from the TV. It didn't matter what people had done before him or where it ranked as an all-time performance because all that mattered was the moment. Whether or not it was the best was irrelevant, but remembering all the big shots and remembering the overall feeling of the entire game is what's important.


With all of that said now, LeBron's job isn't done yet. The Cavs are expected to finish out the series at home and beat the Pistons in Game 6. They have all of the momentum, and they aren't really the underdog anymore. Detroit will probably have some new schemes ready for how to defend LeBron, since no one else on the Cavs really even needed to do anything in either of the OT periods since LeBron was on fire. Or maybe they won't be prepared since Flip Saunders is their coach.

I know that it's tough to defend someone as strong, quick, and athletic as LeBron James, but the Pistons looked almost scared of him as the game wore on. When LeBron threw down one of his dunks in the 4th quarter, Jason Maxiel had the unfortunate task of guarding him one-on-one after a switch. Why didn't the Pistons send an extra defender? All LeBron had to do was make one quick move and he was in the lane, and no one can stop him when he gets that deep in the paint anyway.

I would try and explain the reasons why the Pistons need to foul him harder and slam him to the ground a couple times, but apparently that's not the way the NBA works anymore. After seeing Antonio McDyess given a Flagrant-2 foul for his hard foul on Anderson Varejao and thereby ejected from the game, I'm not sure if it's possible to send a message in the league without getting severely penalized for it. If McDyess had committed that same foul on LeBron, he probably would be been suspended at least 1 game if not more, but since it was on Varejao, he was only given the flagrant (Varejao flops around all over the court anyway.)

Still, the Pistons need to find a way to funnel LeBron so that he can't get into the paint so easily. They need to mix their defenses and double him as much as possible. Even when they switched to a zone defense in the 2nd half for a stretch, the Cavs found it difficult to get an open shot -- the same thing happened when the Pistons set up a halfcourt trap that caused a Sasha Pavlovic turnover. They need to make the other players on the Cavs take big shots when the game's on the line. And if they don't, it'll be a Spurs-Cavs NBA Finals.

A couple more points:

- Seriously, what exactly is Drew Gooden trying to do with that patch of hair on the back of his head/neck? I don't know what that is, but it's just so odd-looking and extremely distracting. I propose that he should just play defense while facing the basket -- I'd never be able to hit a jump shot with that crazy hair patch facing me. He's been spending too much time with Scot Pollard. Or maybe it was this Scot Pollard. Either way, I'm scared.

- Shouldn't the Cavs just let LeBron James coach the team? Have you ever paid attention to their huddle when TNT or ESPN decides to stay at the game during a quick timeout? LeBron just yells instructions to everyone and Mike Brown just stands beside him nodding his head. I wonder if the Cavs locker room is just like the Mud Dogs' locker room in The Waterboy during their final game. Coach Kline: "Does anybody have any ideas?"

- If the Spurs don't destroy either team that comes out of the East, I will be completely surprised. The only thing that would change my mind is if Manu Ginobili actually admitted to committing a foul during the Finals at any point. Then, I'd be worried for them.