Thursday, April 30, 2009

Matt Vasgersian's not a racist, he's just not funny

If you haven't seen this clip yet, it includes the MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian making a bad joke at the wrong time -- when Colorado Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe is about to be carted off the field with an apparent neck injury.

There's nothing racist about the joke; it just wasn't funny -- that guy doesn't look like Donovan McNabb. Vasgersian certainly made a poor decision to go with a joke at that exact moment, but it really should have been a non-issue. But apparently, Vasgersian was forced to issue an on-air apology to say that he was sorry for ever making the joke in the first place.

Hopefully it's all over with now though. And if you're curious, Jason Whitlock has weighed in on the matter in his own unique way.

Cowherd tries to take a shot at Steinberg -- and fails

I don't listen to ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd -- and I honestly don't know anyone who does -- but according to Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog, Cowherd mentioned Steinberg today on his show and even called him "an odd bird." Shockingly, it came while Cowherd was telling some long-winded story that involved bloggers.

Basically, Cowherd was saying that when he starts talking about bloggers on the air, he gets mentioned all the time in the blogosphere -- which must obviously mean he's really popular and doing something right. During his rant, Cowherd managed to compare himself to Alex Rodriguez by saying that people write bad stuff about him too, and his example in this case was something Steinberg wrote:

Remember that guy, about a year ago, it was two years ago...When was the Super Bowl in Phoenix? It wasn't last year, it was two years ago.

So there was a guy from the Washington Post, I don't know if he's still there, Dave or Dan. He was sort of a quiet guy, he was a bald guy with glasses, and apparently he was just writing terrible things about me in The Washington Post. 'Blah blah blah.'

So he comes up to me and he goes, 'I've written terrible things about you, I've just been very harsh to you, would you mind talking?' And he was sort of an odd bird, but I said, 'You know, go ahead, I don't care. You're a blogger, you have a right to rip me. People rip me all the time, I don't care.'

Steinberg linked to the Cowherd post he wrote back in January of 2008, and it hardly "rips [Cowherd] to shreds" as he says.

But anyway, the funniest part comes at the end:

You know, all these blogosphere guys, take shots at me. You're not doing that about the overnight guy at Fox Sports Radio. Same with Alex Rodriguez. Hell, you can write a book about him, I'll buy it. He's interesting. You're not writing books about guys with the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres. So yeah, you've got to be careful about all this stuff.

"Blogosphere guys" (and many non-bloggers) take shots at Cowherd because they can't understand how he's on the radio. Sure, he may bring in plenty of listeners, but he also says stupid things for no reason and is extremely annoying. There's so many cases of Cowherd saying outlandish things that it's not even worth noting -- well, maybe just one awesome one.

I used to listen to sports talk radio all the time in the morning, but ESPN Radio's combination of Mike and Mike followed by Cowherd is unbearable.

So Cowherd, keep thinking that you're sports talk radio's version of A-Rod and believing that everyone is out to get you. In reality, you're just making a fool of yourself -- especially with this bizarre hatred of bloggers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Orakpo, Braxton Dupree, Hillenbrand

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.

  • With the 13th pick in the first round, the Redskins took defensive end Brian Orakpo, who many analysts figured would already be off the board. Orakpo should see lots of playing time, especially since his main competition is Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels. [Redskins Insider]

  • Should the O's top prospects be promoted to the majors as soon as possible? Rick Maese thinks it couldn't hurt, though using Brad Bergesen's first start as an example isn't really a strong argument. My opinion: Andy MacPhail knows what he's doing. [Baltimore Sun]

  • Braxton Dupree intends to transfer from Maryland. [Baltimore Sun]

  • Keith Law doesn't understand the contract the Nationals gave Ryan Zimmerman:

    Ryan (Richmond): Is it possible that Jim Bowden kidnapped Rizzo and is still showing up to work every day in a Rizzo mask? Sending down Milledge, all this uproar over the Dukes thing, giving Zim that huge deal. None of this seems productive to me.

    Keith Law: Don't forget the release of Shawn Hill, too. That Zimmerman contract ... wow. They gave him Markakis money and he's maybe half the player Markakis is. They gave him more than Youkilis got (adjusting for the years covered - Alex Speier pointed this out on and he's not half the player Youkilis is. There should be no "face of the franchise" premium. If that's your face, put some damn makeup on. [ESPN]

  • Amy K. Nelson describes the curious case of former first-round pick Matt Harrington, who turned down three big contracts and now works at Costco. [ESPN]

  • Check out this article and video of a three-year-old baseball-hitting prodigy. [SweetSpot]

  • Remember Shea Hillenbrand? Here's a fascinating feature on what he's doing now and what happened during his playing career, including his infamous confrontation with then-Blue Jays coach John Gibbons:

    Hillenbrand said the atmosphere in Toronto was 'circus-like' and to him it seemed like some of the players, despite the team's struggles on the field, were constantly joking.

    "It was like they weren't respecting the game," he said. "The team had just spent a lot of money and we weren't producing as a team. We were going downhill and the atmosphere in the clubhouse was circus-like. We had a players-only meeting and I was put in a position where I felt they wanted me to leave. I wrote 'the ship is sinking' on the board and another player wrote something like 'play for your paycheck.' The hitting coach saw it on the board and left, and then the manager (John Gibbons) came in and asked who did it. I said I did it. He tried to fight me there, calling me out in front of everyone.

    "Do I regret writing that? Yes. It's something I shouldn’t have done. But when a player gets put in a position where the team doesn't allow you to go visit your family, you stand up for yourself. I stood up for myself and I stood up for my teammates – and I'm the bad guy?"

    But that's just one part, and the article is definitely worth a read. [The Herald News via MLB Trade Rumors]

Friday, April 24, 2009

Redskins pre-draft day notes

No one knows exactly what's going to happen in the 2009 NFL Draft tomorrow for the Redskins, but it probably won't be good. Many signs are pointing to the Redskins making some kind of noise tomorrow, whether it's moving up to draft Mark Sanchez or something else. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Dan Snyder says that the Redskins will not trade its 2010 first-round pick: "We're really not as a franchise comfortable trading first-round draft picks. I don't think it's a wise move to keep trading that pick. It's always a little bit risky." You'll understand if I don't exactly take your word for it, right Dan? [PFT]

  • Jamie Mottram lays out three possible scenarios if the Redskins do draft Sanchez -- and he isn't pleased with any of them. [Mr. Irrelevant]

  • Jason Campbell would apparently want a trade out of Washington if the Redskins do find a way to select Sanchez in the draft tomorrow -- which is interesting, because despite the fact that it would make sense for him to think that way, I haven't seen a quote from him saying that yet. [Washington Post]

  • The Redskins still have interest in defensive ends Brian Orakpo and Everette Brown. [Redskins Insider]

  • And some wishful thinking: Maybe the Redskins aren't taking Sanchez and are fooling everyone instead. Not likely, but maybe. [Hogs Haven]
That should just about do it. By the way, the Redskins need offensive linemen, defensive linemen, and linebackers -- if that actually matters to Snyder and Vinny Cerrato or not, I can't be sure.

Anyway, like I said before, no one knows what's going to happen tomorrow, so be ready for a bunch of random stuff go down. If there's a positive in all of this, it's that Peter King has the Redskins moving up to the No. 8 spot to take Sanchez in his latest mock draft -- and he's almost always wrong. So, hooray!

Enjoy the draft.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Eaton steps up in O's win

Adam Eaton, who had managed to pitch only four innings in each of his first two starts, tossed seven and a third innings tonight against the White Sox in a 6-2 Orioles win. The win improved the Orioles' record to 8-8 on the season -- which includes an 0-4 record against the Red Sox and an 8-4 record (and four series wins) against the Yankees, Rays, Rangers, and White Sox.

On offense, the O's were able to get to Bartolo Colon quickly, knocking him out of the game after three innings with eight hits and five runs. Aubrey Huff, Ty Wigginton, and Felix Pie all had two hits apiece; Pie's multi-hit effort raised his batting average to a robust .171. And one of Wigginton's hits, an RBI-double, was his first extra-base hit of the season.

The season is young, but Eaton's performance was definitely impressive. And when an Orioles starter pitches well, it's definitely worth noting. In those seven-plus innings, Eaton gave up six hits and two runs (Jim Johnson allowed two inherited runners to score), and he struck out nine batters while walking none. In 102 pitches, he threw 74 for strikes, relentlessly attacking the strike zone and repeatedly getting ahead of opposing batters.

The solid outing lowered Eaton's ERA to 7.04 -- but could be something to build on. A pitcher like Eaton is certainly expendable for the Orioles if he struggles in some of his starts down the road, but more efforts like this one could be very useful/helpful to a thin staff that has already lost Alfredo Simon for the year. Eaton doesn't have to be an ace, but if he can eat some innings and give the Orioles' younger pitchers in the farm system more time to develop, his presence on the team will be relatively positive.

Then again, it was just one outing. Hopefully he can duplicate it in his next start.

AP Photo/Rob Carr

Monday, April 20, 2009

Shanahan to Washington in 2010?

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks the Redskins may be positioning for a possible run at coach Mike Shanahan in the 2010 offseason:

In the end, Shanahan’s final destination might come down to money. Specifically, the question will be the extent to which any team is willing to exceed the $7 million that Shanahan is due to receive from the Broncos regardless of whether he works next season.

So maybe, just maybe, the team’s flirtation with USC quarterback Mark Sanchez has less to do with making an impact in 2009, and more to do with helping set the table for Shanahan in 2010.

I have absolutely no doubt that Dan Snyder wants to make this move, but it's going to come down to how the team performs this year. If the Redskins finish 8-8 again and miss the playoffs, then Zorn will surely get fired, meaning Snyder can throw a ton of cash Shanahan's way to try to bring him to Washington. But if the Redskins make the playoffs and perform well, Snyder can't get rid of Zorn and Jason Campbell, which would ruin Snyder's strategy of trying to make a big offseason splash every year. And I honestly don't know if Snyder would rather win football games or be offseason champions.

If Snyder is really looking ahead to 2010, it makes more sense (not that anything Snyder does makes sense) to have Sanchez since he would be a young quarterback for Shanahan to build his offense around; Campbell probably wouldn't be a good fit.

Finding out that Snyder wants to hire Shanahan wouldn't shock many Redskins fans if it eventually turns out to be true, but I'd still be surprised if the Redskins draft Sanchez because he makes no sense for the 2009 team. The Redskins have plenty of holes at offensive line, defensive line, and linebacker, and wasting a pick on a quarterback would be ridiculous.

So, with that in mind, expect the Redskins to go after Sanchez.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Garnett, Paulus, Madden

Weekly Rundown is a combination of links and brief comments on stories and topics that I couldn't get to during the week. If there's something important that I missed, don't hesitate to send an email or leave a comment.

  • The Celtics' chances to repeat as NBA champions took a big hit with the news that Kevin Garnett could miss the entire postseason with a lingering knee injury. Bill Simmons gives his own thoughts on the KG situation, handicaps the Celtics' chances to win without Garnett, and offers an insightful discussion on the continuing demise of the newspaper industry. [ESPN]

  • Greg Paulus will apparently be given a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job at Michigan. Duke coach David Cutcliffe offered Paulus a chance to try out for the team -- but at wide receiver, not quarterback. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez must really be desperate. [ESPN]

  • John Madden has decided to retire from broadcasting. Mike Florio offers some comments from Madden and toots his own horn for predicting in January that Cris Collinsworth would take over for Madden after the season. [PFT]

  • Redskins fans really want Mark Sanchez. Or not. [Redskins Insider]

  • Truth provides some end-of-the-season thoughts on Antawn Jamison and now former coach Ed Tapscott. [Truth About It]

  • The Nationals just can't seem to get anything right. They're 1-10, they can't spell "Nationals" correctly on all of their jerseys, and they even suspended outfielder Elijah Dukes for showing up five minutes late after doing some charity work. [Big League Stew]
  • ESPN's Rob Neyer wasn't a big fan of MLB's Jackie Robinson celebration idea, in which every player, coach, and umpire wore No. 42 in honor of Robinson on Wednesday. Neyer: "Never underestimate the ability of the commissioner to take a pretty sweet idea and just drive it into the ground until it's dead." [SweetSpot]

  • ESPN actually being reasonable and willing to acknowledge criticism? This can't be right. [Awful Announcing]

  • Peter Schmuck thinks umpire Doug Eddings did a horrible job behind the plate on Saturday: "Eddings needs to go back to one of the umpire academies and learn the strike zone." [The Schmuck Stops Here]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Quite frankly, Stephen A. Smith is leaving ESPN

It's a sad day, indeed. According to The Big Lead, writer and on-air personality Stephen A. Smith has only about six weeks left at ESPN, when his contract will then expire. The two sides couldn't agree on a deal that fits Smith's different (and loud), if not hilarious, qualities:

Within the last month, a source says that ESPN and Smith went to the negotiating table and couldn’t reach an agreement. Apparently, ESPN’s offer was considerably lower than Smith’s previous contracts - which were multi-media faceted - and Smith passed. He was then offered the decision to work through the remainder of his contract, or walk away and still get paid, and a source says Smith decided to work.

If Smith does, in fact, have only six weeks left, then it will be cutting it pretty close to whether he'll be working the NBA Draft or not. I guess he probably won't be involved, but I definitely hope he is -- if not just for more moments like this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FIU hires Thomas; one question: why?

For some strange reason, Florida International University decided that hiring Isiah Thomas to coach its basketball team would be a good idea.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, though, doesn't really agree with the decision -- at all:

He’s been hired as the basketball coach at Florida International University, and Thomas can make history here. This job gives Thomas the chance to obliterate programs in the NBA, CBA and now, NCAA.

Already, Thomas is talking about how he’s always wanted to coach college basketball, about how taking a job in the Sun Belt Conference was about a challenge, a choice. He isn’t going to FIU because he wants to, but because there’s nothing else for him. Beyond his professional failures, his behavior has made it impossible for a franchise to sell him politically in a public job.

"He feels like he’s toxic in the NBA right now," a longtime Thomas associate said. "He thinks this is the only way to get back in the basketball world."

Ouch. But is Wojnarowski wrong? In a word, no.

FIU certainly isn't the greatest basketball school of all time, but how does hiring Thomas send the message of trying to build a better program? First of all, Thomas isn't a good coach; his career record as a head coach in the NBA is 187-223, and as the coach of just the Knicks, Thomas was 56-108. He didn't develop any talent, and players started to tune him out as his tenure as coach went on.

Besides coaching poorly, Thomas was absolutely terrible at identifying talent. He made horrible trades, signed bad players to big money, and didn't do anything that made it seem like he should be in control of any basketball program on any level. And that's not even considering Thomas's embarrassing off-the-court distractions.

Sure, college basketball is much different than pro ball, but if Thomas can't coach or recruit well, what is he going to do? Apparently he'll work for free, that's what:

At his introductory news conference at FIU on Wednesday, Thomas said his salary the first year from the Golden Panthers will be donated back to the school's athletic department.

Thomas was fired by the New York Knicks last year. The team still owes him around $12 million for the final two years of his deal there.

So it's not much of a great gesture then, though it couldn't hurt his reputation at this point. If he lasts more than a season or two at FIU, I'll be shocked.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

O's hold on to win strange game

For the second night in a row, George Sherrill made things interesting in the game's last inning -- but still managed to get the job done. In tonight's game, Sherrill came in to pitch the bottom of the 10th with the Orioles up 7-3. He then proceeded to allow four consecutive singles and two runs to score, but he stopped the Rangers' attack by getting Josh Hamilton to ground out to third and allowing two long fly balls -- but outs -- to Hank Blalock and Nelson Cruz.

The Orioles managed to win despite three unfortunate, and strange, occurences: 1) Alfredo Simon left in the second inning after retiring just four batters and apparently is headed back to Baltimore with shoulder discomfort; 2) Dennis Sarfate and Aubrey Huff collided in the third inning on a pop-up in foul territory hit by Blalock, though Sarfate held on to the ball for the out and both players remained in the game; and 3) Jamie Walker tripped over his own feet trying to field a groundball hit by Omar Vizquel in the seventh, but he still retired the side without allowing a run.

Other notes: The Orioles and Rangers combined for 22 hits, 12 runs, and six home runs. Brian Roberts went 3-5 with two runs scored, Luke Scott had two hits including a home run, and Adam Jones had two hits -- and probably the game's biggest play: a two-run home run to break a 3-3 tie in the top of the 10th. Scott and Jones each had three runs batted in. The Orioles have now won the first two games in each of their three series.

AP Photo/LM Otero

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wizards to hire Saunders

Flip Saunders to Washington is a done deal.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Saunders will sign a four-year, $18 million contract to coach the Wizards. According to Wojnarowski, "Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld and assistant GM Tommy Sheppard have been courting Saunders for several months, and sources say that the framework of an agreement has been in place since the All-Star break." Interesting stuff.

I like the move, and it's a bonus that Sam Cassell will be coming with Saunders to be an assistant coach. Now hopefully everyone stays healthy.

(HT: Bullets Forever)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Morgan and Phillips in the same booth = announcing fail

For some strange reason, ESPN decided to move Steve Phillips into the booth with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan this year. Tonight's Cubs-Brewers game is the first Sunday Night Baseball game I've had the chance to watch, and I have to say this: It's pretty bad.

As always, Miller is phenomenal. I could listen to him announce almost anything. The problem is the combination of Morgan and Phillips; they just can't seem to get along with each other, which isn't surprising. Morgan always seems bitter towards anything new or an opinion differing from his own, and Phillips not only frequently has bad ideas or odd things to say, but he also won't back down from defending them even if he's wrong.

Case and point: Early in the game, Morgan and Phillips were debating over whether or not Alfonso Soriano should hit lower in the lineup. For once, Phillips made some sense and drew attention to the fact that Soriano has a career on base percentage of .328, which is low for a leadoff hitter. Soriano, of course, has more power than a normal leadoff hitter, but Phillips was arguing that he could be more valuable lower in the lineup, which is true -- he could be more valuable, or at least just as valuable as he is now.

But Morgan, who seems to be legitimately angry with another color analyst in the booth, wasn't having any of it. He took the same route that he usually does, which is to say that Soriano doesn't feel comfortable hitting lower in the order, so it would make sense just to leave him where he is. He then brought up his own playing career; he mentioned that he played with Pete Rose, who hit out of the leadoff spot, and said that Rose wouldn't have been nearly as effective hitting anywhere else in the lineup. Not only did Morgan not make any sense with that argument, but he actually made Phillips appear a bit brighter too. Now that's hard to do.

If that wasn't enough, the two argued the point for at least five more minutes. And if there's one thing that's just as annoying or maybe even a little worse than announcers ignoring the game, it's when they ignore the game while arguing about something that's been discussed over and over again.

A couple of innings later, Miller mentioned Phillips's minor league career in another brief discussion on pitch selection. Phillips joked that he wasn't a great hitter, saying that he hit around .250 in about eight minor league seasons. He also joked that he couldn't seem to hit sliders. Well, Morgan, a hall of famer, couldn't help but take a shot at Phillips; he said that it's no wonder that Phillips prefers pitchers to throw so many sliders, curveballs, and off-speed pitches since Phillips couldn't hit them himself during his career. Phillips tried to defend his theories, but again, the whole thing was extremely awkward.

I don't ask for a whole lot from announcers, but I do believe I'm like most sports fans in wanting them to stay focused on the game without as much distraction as possible. I don't like many interviews during the game, and I'd like for them to concentrate on the game with as little joking around as possible, especially if they aren't funny.

Having Phillips and Morgan in the booth at the same time is just a terrible decision, and ESPN needs to seriously consider rectifying the problem as soon as possible. The two obviously don't care for one another, and they can't be professional enough to focus on the game without getting into several arguments in just four or five innings. If the arguments were more along the lines of what Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy do during NBA telecasts, then it would be fine. Jackson and Van Gundy take verbal jabs at each other, but both are funny and don't have a problem laughing at themselves. Morgan and Phillips, on the other hand, take their own opinions way too seriously and can't back off from what they believe, even on points or discussions that aren't really that important to begin with.

Morgan, by himself, becomes even more curious to figure out each game. At one point tonight, Morgan said he had no problem with OPS only because it seemed legit since Albert Pujols's 2008 numbers were on top. I completely believe that he has no idea what OPS even means. It's one thing to be oldschool, but being bitter all of the time eventually gets on viewers' nerves. Just ask Billy Packer.

ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball had already slowly started to deteriorate over the years as Morgan became increasingly bitter over the state of more in-depth baseball statistics and new-age thinking being applied to the game, but the addition of Phillips has made the telecast almost unbearable.

If Miller wasn't there to play peacekeeper every Sunday, I'm pretty sure my head would have exploded already.

Wizards considering Saunders as next head coach (updated)

According to ESPN's Ric Bucher, Flip Saunders appears to be the number one candidate to get the Wizards' head coaching job in the offseason.

Here's the latest:

Flip Saunders appears to be at the top of the Washington Wizards' coaching wish list, according to league sources.

While no deal has been struck, one source said the two sides have had preliminary discussions.

Approaching Saunders makes it clear that the Wizards do not plan to remove the interim tag on Ed Tapscott, their director of player development who coached the team for most of the season. Tapscott replaced the incumbent, Eddie Jordan, three weeks into this season after an injury-plagued 1-10 start.

That last part is pretty obvious; Tapscott was never going to coach more than the rest of this season, unless he did something crazy like win 20 in a row. But that never happened (obviously), and Tapscott was just trying to get through the season without the team embarrassing itself. Mission accomplished, I guess. Beating the Cavs twice wasn't bad either.

Anyway, the main consensus is that there are really two options for the Wizards to choose from for head coach: Flip Saunders and Avery Johnson. I also agree with Rook at Bullets Forever that Saunders is the better fit between the two -- basically for this reason:

Saunders will be the perfect match for this team of veterans who know how to play the game the correct way. The Wizards are very good on offense, rebound the ball, have a deep and talented bench, play unselfishly and know how to win. Saunders has been around a long time and understands that sometimes less is more. He did not come into Detroit trying to change things drastically, and I expect he'll do the same in Washington. My guess is that he'll install his match-up zone defensive philosophy, and just tweak the Offense - and let em run.

Also, according to a poll at Bullets Forever, 61 percent of 136 votes were in favor of hiring Saunders over Johnson or anyone else. That's a small sample size, but most, if not all of those votes, are from die-hard Wizards fans.

I like Avery Johnson, but I just think Saunders is the better fit. Johnson would come in and try to change everything, and except for a few changes that could be made in the offseason, the Wizards are committed to the same core players. The Wizards don't need to drastically re-work the roster; they need to build around the strengths of the big three (Arenas, Butler, and Jamison). Pradamaster does a solid job of explaining this very point in his latest post:

With Arenas, Jamison and Butler as your centerpieces, clearly you're going to be a better offensive team than a defensive team. The defensive ability of all three of those guys can be questioned. Arenas has his knee problems and a general lack of desire/attention to defense. Butler is undersized, gambles a lot and loses concentration on the weakside, while Jamison is both undersized and a bit lazy on defense, having developed bad habits from his entire career. Obviously, to make it to the next level, the defense is going to have to improve significantly, but that can't happen at the expense of the strengths of the trio.

This concept really applies most to our coach selection, which we've talked about a ton, but it boils down to this: the coach needs to play to the strengths of the Big 3. If we wanted a coach that would radically transform the team, we should have been more aggressive in turning over our roster beforehand. Don't forget, when Dallas switched coaches to Avery Johnson, they did so only after dumping Steve Nash, trading Antawn Jamison and Antoine Walker and spending tons of money on Erick Dampier. Once Avery was hired, they also dumped Michael Finley. We haven't had a similar roster transformation and it doesn't look like we will, so why hire a coach to run a different style? That's what Phoenix did, and it didn't work.

Bingo. And I also think Ernie Grunfeld knows this, which is probably why Saunders is at the top of his list.

(Also, if you couldn't tell by now, I really like Bullets Forever. Seriously, go there now.)


Update: Ernie Grunfeld moves quickly. According to Washington Times writer Mike Jones, Saunders to the Wizards is "a done deal":

"He's definitely [Washington's] top choice," another Eastern Conference executive said. "He's the top candidate out there, so in this shrinking job market, I imagine that he and his agent will want to sit back and see what offers they get."

Michael Lee of The Washington Post confirms the choice, adding that former NBA guard Sam Cassell will be one of Saunders's assistant coaches.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quick hitters: Orioles, Wizards win; Devin Thomas is strange

-- Melvin Mora knocked in three runs, and Mark Hendrickson allowed one run on six hits in five and one-third innings in his Orioles' debut as the O's beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4. The bullpen struggled a bit again, with Jim Johnson allowing two runs and George Sherrill giving up a solo home run to Dioner Navarro in the ninth, but Sherrill was still able to record three outs for his second save. Evan Longoria hit two homers and had three runs batted in.

-- In a rather meaningless game against the Toronto Raptors, the Wizards and Caron Butler managed to make the contest a little more exciting than it probably should have been. With time ticking away and the scored tied at 98 apiece, Butler went to work:

What a great play; Butler completely lost Shawn Marion with that move. But I feel like I've seen that before somewhere. Oh yeah, right here. The Wizards are now 19-61 and have two more games left to get to 20 wins (if they want to).

-- The Washington Redskins' rookie receiving trio of Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis didn't exactly have a great first season in 2008-2009. In fact, all three receivers combined caught 21 passes for 165 yards and no touchdowns. Thomas did manage to rush three times for 53 yards and a touchdown -- hooray!

According to Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog, Devin "Showtime" Thomas now has his own blog. His first blog entry, entitled "Party Mix On My Shoulder," included this gem:

I’ve always had people doubting me. Do I play with a chip on my shoulder?

I’ve got a party mix of chips on my shoulder.

I wear number 11 on my jersey because I was 11 years old when I first knew that football was my thing, but also because 11th was where I thought I was going to go in the draft to Buffalo. There were very strong indications through the Bills and the media that I would go No. 11 to Buffalo and I had a real good feeling that was where I was going to go.

It didn’t happen and I stayed around into the 2nd round. Now I do what I’ve got to do to prove that I could have and should have been a 1st rounder.

Mr. Irrelevant wrote about Thomas's odd take on the phrase "chip on my shoulder" yesterday. I'm glad that Thomas is so confident -- "But I don’t need to look at my number for motivation. When it says Thomas on my jersey, that means it’s Showtime, time to do what I have to do." -- but hopefully he finds enough motivation to play much better next season. I'm not going to write him off just yet, but it would be nice to see some of that "Showtime" on the field.

-- Tim Kurkjian wrote a glowing article on the rapid progress made by Orioles' center fielder Adam Jones. My favorite part has to be this passage:

A lot of young players today aren't interested in doing that. Many of them are so spectacularly talented they don't feel the need to learn. Not Jones.

"[Former Mariners outfielder] Jay Buhner came up to me my first spring and said, 'Shut up and listen,' then he walked out of the room," Jones said. "John [Shelby] had nine years in the big leagues. Crow [hitting coach Terry Crowley] has been in baseball for like 50 years. They had finished good careers before I was even born. Why not listen? I'm a sponge for these coaches."

That Jay Buhner -- always one to dish out wisdom to young baseball players.

Through four games, Jones is doing very well. He's 6-14 with three doubles, one triple, six runs, and three runs batted in out of the second slot in the lineup.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Uehara impressive in major league debut

Koji Uehara allowed one run on five hits in five innings pitched and earned his first major league victory on Wednesday night as the Orioles defeated the Yankees 7-5. Uehara didn't exhibit pinpoint control with all of his pitches, but he walked only one batter and certainly outpitched Yankees' starter Chien-Ming Wang (3.2 IP, 9 hits, 7 ER, 0 Ks).

Uehara was pleased with his performance: "I'm real happy. Right before the game, I was a little bit hyper, but right now I'm calm."

A comfortable lead evaporated in the ninth inning after Dennis Sarfate allowed a two-run homer to Derek Jeter to cut the Yankees' deficit to three. But George Sherrill recorded the final out (after giving up an RBI double to Mark Teixeira) to pick up his first save of the season.

Nick Markakis paced the Orioles' offensive attack with three hits, including a two-run home run and an RBI double.

The Orioles go for a three-game sweep today in an afternoon game as A.J. Burnett squares off against the surprising Alfredo Simon, who had an impressive spring.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

There's nothing wrong with O's fans booing Teixeira

In an article about the Yankees-Orioles opening day game yesterday, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated has a message for Orioles fans after their loud booing of Mark Teixeira, and it apparently goes something like this: Stop being mean.

Heyman writes:

Teixeira, the native Marylander, and third member of the Yankees' offseason haul, was dissed and hissed here for no good reason. As he said about his call to go to the rival Yankees for more money ($180 million) and a better October chance, "I think anybody in my position would have done the same thing."

Then later, he confided, "The Orioles weren't really involved."

The Orioles made an early and quick pass in a seeming attempt to show their fans they were involved for the great Severna Park, Md., star. But they really weren't.

Orioles fans don't know that, so they boo him like crazy. And Teixeira pleased them by doing nothing, by going 0-for-4 with a walk, and by grounding out with the tying run at third base in the eighth inning.

"I didn't get it done today," Teixeira said.

That makes two of 'em. Between Sabathia and Teixeira, the Yankees got zero return on their $341 million investment.

First of all, just to bring some logic into this discussion, it's just one game. Sabathia and Teixeira will do just fine. I also seriously doubt that Teixeira went 0-4 just because O's fans were booing him. Though I must say that, while I couldn't watch the game on TV, it was still awesome to hear on the radio.

Anyway, this whole notion that "the Orioles weren't really in the running for Teixeira, so fans shouldn't be mad" is overlooking the point that Teixeira talked about the possibility of coming home to Baltimore for at least two years and led countless O's fans on about his intentions.

Did he really want to play for the Orioles? Probably not. Did he make it seem that way? Yes.

And even though the O's didn't offer him as much as the Yankees did, it's not like they offered him chump change. Teixeira used the Orioles and Nationals to drive up the price. The Yankees probably would have paid the same amount anyway, but the plan still worked.

The whole thing really isn't that big of a deal. Fans have the right to boo -- and they did. So what? Fans can be pretty smart, and they don't have to rely on certain Sports Illustrated writers to fill them in.

Teixeira's goal was to make the most money possible, and he did that. He may have been sad for a few minutes during or after the game (I doubt it), but all he has to do is look at his next paycheck to feel better.

If the goal was to have everyone like him, then Teixeira probably made a poor choice in signing with New York.

So Heyman, calm down. There's definitely a good reason to boo Teixeira besides the fact that he wasn't entirely truthful: He's a Yankee now. If he needs some help dealing with a little hate, all he has to do is walk across the clubhouse to A-Rod's locker.


Apparently Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports also thinks Orioles fans went overboard yesterday:

Orioles fans had no rational reason to boo Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira on Monday, unless you believe that a free agent should give his hometown team a $30 million discount and ignore that team's 11 straight losing seasons.

If you say so, Ken.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The mysterious Zack Greinke

Joe Posnanski wrote a great article last Friday in The Kansas City Star on the trials and tribulations of Zack Greinke, the 25-year-old ace for the Kansas City Royals.

Posnanski tells several Greinke stories and provides tons of odd and interesting quotes from the young pitcher. My favorite anecdote from Posnanski? It would have to be this one:

So, there was this game when Royals relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt gave up a home run. He was upset in the dugout, of course, and he stormed around, muttering at himself, “Man, that wasn’t even that bad of a pitch.” Of course, all his teammates kept their distance.

All except Zack Greinke.

“That wasn’t even that bad of a pitch,” Affeldt barked at himself again.

“Actually,” Zack said, “it was a pretty bad pitch.”

Affeldt looked up at Greinke. “Thanks, Zack,” Affeldt said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“No,” Zack said, “really, I went back to the clubhouse and looked at the pitch on video. It was a really bad pitch. Right over the middle of the plate, and you got it up. I mean it was a bad pitch.”

“Thanks, Zack,” Affeldt said again.

“Right down the middle. I could have hit it out,” Greinke said.

Affeldt looked into Greinke’s eager face and just shook his head.

“Thanks, Zack,” he said.

“Yeah,” Greinke said, and he walked back to his seat in the dugout.

Kind of lengthy but definitely funny.

Greinke has been through a lot at such a young age, but it seems that he's finally turning the corner. And he seems poised to have a great season. But seriously, read the article; it's very good.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hilarious Wizards video

I don't quite understand what exactly is happening or why Mike James (in a hoody for some reason) is even in this video with Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee. All I know is that I just watched it about 10 times in a row.

(HT: Bullets Forever)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Penn State really wanted to win the NIT

On Thursday, Penn State faced off against Baylor in the NIT title game. Before the game, Penn State coach Ed DeChellis had a message for his players: "Give me everything you have. If it's good enough, it's good enough; if it's not, it's not. Just leave it all on the floor."

One player in particular, senior guard Danny Morrissey, took that message to heart. Want proof?

Ouch. But after being dazed for a few minutes, Morrissey eventually walked off the court under his own power (as seen in the video). Morrissey scored nine points in 22 minutes off of the bench, and he definitely helped lead Penn State to a 69-63 win. Nice effort.

(HT: Awful Announcing)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Wizards beat Cavs; Bears get Cutler

In case you missed the game last night, like I did, the Wizards surprisingly beat the Cavs 109-101. For the first time all season, Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and Brendan Haywood all suited up for the same time.

In a balanced attack, Butler scored 25 points, Jamison had 19 points (and a sick dunk), Haywood scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Arenas had 11 points along with 10 assists and six rebounds. The bench also chipped in; Darius Songaila had 17 points and six rebounds, while Nick Young scored 10 points.

Again, while I did miss the game, it's evident that the Wizards played hard and wanted to show the league that, when healthy, they can still hang with the league's best. Though it's just one game, beating the (now 61-14) Cavs for the second time this season is still pretty nice in an otherwise bittersweet season.

Also, apparently a game between these two teams can't go by without LeBron James doing something controversial (crab dribble, anyone?). Michael Lee from Wizards Insider explains:

Did anyone notice what LeBron James did with 15.3 seconds remaining and Gilbert Arenas at the foul line? After Arenas made his first free throw to give the Wizards a 107-101 lead, James informed a referee that he had blood on his jersey, leading to an officials' timeout that broke up Arenas's rhythm. Arenas missed his next free throw attempt, one of three misses on the night for him, and gave the Cavaliers a little life.

... But Arenas said something felt fishy last night. 'Instead of calling a timeout, he said he had blood on his jersey," Arenas said, rolling his eyes. "It's always something, right?

Not the worst thing in the world -- but still pretty odd. Maybe James just likes to mess with Arenas when he's shooting free throws. Oh well. James still had a solid game in the loss -- 31 points, nine rebounds, six assists -- but he also had six turnovers.

It doesn't matter a whole lot now, but if the Wizards hadn't blown an 89-82 lead with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter during the first Wiz-Cavs meeting on Christmas day, Washington would be 3-0 against Cleveland this season. Then again, I doubt that the NBA wanted King James to have a poor holiday season. "Would have ruined my Christmas," James said after the win. We wouldn't want that to happen.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon


It's old news now, but earlier today the Chicago Bears acquired quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos along with a 2009 fifth-round pick in exchange for two first-round picks (in 2009 and 2010), a 2009 third-round pick, and quarterback Kyle Orton. Regardless of who won the trade (probably the Broncos), each team gets what it wanted: Denver gets a fill-in quarterback and draft picks to help fix a terrible defense, and the Bears get a potential franchise quarterback.

Meanwhile, the Redskins continue to show no desire in sticking to any kind of plan. Daniel Snyder and company apparently made a strong push to trade for Cutler, but things didn't work out, and now they're back to pretending that they're fine with Campbell leading the offense. And, pulling no punches, Michael Wilbon doesn't understand what Washington's front office is doing:

I would say it's amazing the Redskins were even contemplating a deal, but it really isn't. This is Snyder's M.O.: Go for the stars; covet and acquire. That's why the Redskins are a six-time NFL paper champion.

Draft and develop? No interest. You mean you can actually use those first- and second- and third-round draft picks the way the Steelers and Patriots and Giants do -- on kids who'll, one day, become famous?

It's not that Cutler isn't good; it's just that the move didn't make sense for the Redskins.

Say, for instance, the Redskins made the same offer as the Bears (with Campbell thrown in instead of Orton) and gave up two first-rounders and a third-rounder for Cutler and a fifth-rounder. Great, now what would the Redskins do to address the offensive line, defensive line, and linebacking corps (among other needs)? If that move were to be made, the Redskins would have had zero picks in the first FOUR rounds.

Again, the Redskins didn't trade for Cutler. But if it happened, it could have been a complete disaster, which is probably why Wilbon gave his column the title, "Lucky Strikeout." You got that right.

By the way, Wilbon's column is also worth reading just to see Campbell's comments on the whole mess. If some people were questioning his attitude or leadership before this situation, they have to be convinced that he'll do anything it takes to earn the respect of anyone who doubts him -- especially the Redskins' front office.

It's a pretty sad day when a team's fans have to root against its own front office on a consistent basis hoping that the team stays on the right path.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Redskins pursuing Cutler? (I hope not) (updated)

According to Jason La Canfora and Jason Reid on The Washington Post's Redskins Insider, the Redskins are trying to trade for Broncos' quarterback Jay Cutler.

Though there doesn't appear to be any concrete evidence yet, the two Jasons do cite the ever-popular "NFL source" on the matter:

One source said the Redskins are trying to complete the deal as quickly as possible although at least two other teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets, are also reportedly interested in acquiring Cutler. The two-year starter became available today when the Broncos announced they would trade him. Denver officials could not be reached for comment tonight.

The Redskins declined comment.

The source said Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder has been pushing for the trade in an attempt to finally solve the team's decades-long pursuit of a franchise quarterback.

Another NFL source said a high-ranking Redskins official contacted one NFL team today about the possibility of trading quarterback Jason Campbell for a second-round pick in the upcoming draft. That source said he interpreted the Redskins' overture as an attempt by Washington to put together a package to acquire Cutler.

Why did they put the "M." in there? Is there some other Daniel Snyder running the Redskins we should know about?

Anyway, such a trade would make sense for the Jets or the Bucs; they don't really have anyone else to play quarterback. And as Mr. Irrelevant explained earlier today, Jason Campbell isn't really that far behind Cutler in terms of talent. Just look at the numbers -- he's getting better!

There's also the whole added benefit of already having a full year in head coach Jim Zorn's offense. Trading for Cutler would make no sense, which is why it would fit Snyder's frequently bizarre offseason decisions. Throughout the offseason, everything from the organization, especially Vinny Cerrato, has been about how the upcoming season would be Campbell's first opportunity to play in the same offensive system for the second consecutive season. So, of course Snyder would randomly want to try to make the big splash by trading for a quarterback who not only refuses to believe he could be expendable on some level, but also fails to return numerous phone calls from his own team. That's the guy I'd want to build my franchise around!

No, I want the guy on my team who gives answers like this:

"I want to be here, I feel like there's a lot I want to accomplish and that's what I've been working to do, but you know it's not in your control," Campbell said. "All I can do is just keep doing what I'm doing, working hard and waiting to see what happens."

Sometimes a team doesn't need to seek out a franchise quarterback when a decent one is already on the roster -- especially when that same team has made so many poor decisions in the past.

How about sticking to a plan for once? Give Campbell the 2009-2010 season. See how he does. If he doesn't perform, then make a move. That would make some sense. But don't keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

If the Redskins do make the move for Cutler, it's going to be even harder to defend the front office's decision-making. (Especially since a move for Cutler would possibly signal the end of Jim Zorn's reign as coach in favor of Mike Shanahan.)


Update: ProFootballTalk has interesting updates here and here. This doesn't look good.