Sunday, May 31, 2009

Florio: Hall should retire

I almost missed this Sporting News article by Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio titled "10 NFL players who should retire now," but I was confused by DeAngelo Hall's inclusion at No. 5:

In human years, he's 25. In "pain in the butt" years, he's like 84.

It seems as if DeAngelo Hall has been around the NFL a lot longer than five seasons, due in large part that he's routinely popping off about something.

Most recently, he chided the team that paid him $1 million per game for eight games last year before giving him the ability to hit the open market again.

While he now has a fat new contract from the Redskins, we wonder when they'll realize that he's simply not an elite cover corner, and he's eventually more trouble than he's worth.

Was this written by Colin Cowherd? I'm with Florio on the fact that giving Hall a big contract -- six years, $54 million ($22.5 million guaranteed) -- was a risk this offseason, especially given his track record with the Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders, but really, he should retire?

I agree with most of the names on the list, not all of them, but Hall's inclusion made the least sense. I don't recall the Redskins ever saying that Hall was "an elite cover corner," but he does provide an upgrade at the starting position opposite Carlos Rogers over the oft-injured Shawn Springs. Hall isn't as good of a cover corner as Springs, but he came in last season and was very effective in Washington's zone schemes, which is what he's best at anyway. Hall even admitted as much in an interview with the Junkies on WJFK earlier in May:

"Going from somewhere that really didn't have any scheme or any direction to a defense that just said, hey, we're going to put you in this position, we're going to ask you to make plays, but at the same time, we're going to give you a chance and put you in a scheme that's going to allow you to make plays. It kind of was relieving... I kind of had that swagger back. I was like, this is easy, this is fun, instead of feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and we're running this particular coverage and they're max protecting -- it just didn't make sense in Oakland. I come to Washington, and it's like, man, this makes sense. Like, this is what made me love football because this is the fun part. This is the part [where] all you do is go out and play."

The Raiders signed Hall to a huge contract and then asked him to do something he wasn't best at: play a lot of man-to-man coverage. Granted, Hall may not be the best guy in the world or the best teammate, but that was just a stupid move on their part.

With a much-improved defensive line and a defensive scheme that fits his abilities, Hall should have no problem producing more-than-acceptable numbers in Washington.

Redskins release Jansen

The Redskins released veteran offensive tackle Jon Jansen on Friday, a move that will result in an approximate cap hit of $6 million:

Coach Jim Zorn and a group of offensive assistants -- led by offensive coordinator Sherman Smith and offensive line coach Joe Bugel -- reached the decision about Jansen after evaluating performances during the team's minicamp and other workouts earlier this spring. That process culminated in a meeting yesterday morning at Redskins Park, for which Snyder dispatched his private plane to pick up Jansen, who makes his offseason home in Michigan.

"What we try to do is look at all the offensive linemen," Zorn said by phone yesterday. "You not only grade them, but you rank them. You go back and forth. What's the future look like here? The future looks more like it's the battle of Stephon Heyer, Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges."

The Heyer-Williams-Bridges trio doesn't seem too reassuring, especially since Williams is currently still weighing in at 384 pounds after not playing for the last two seasons, but Jansen couldn't stay healthy and obviously wasn't the same player anymore, particularly in the pass-blocking department.

But Jansen, who played in Washington for 10 seasons, was quickly signed by the Detroit Lions. Now, he'll get the chance to earn a starting spot with another team while also returning home to Michigan.

In the face of such news, Jansen still remained the consummate professional that he was with the Redskins for those 10 years:

"When the day started, the hardest thing was finding out I wasn't going to be a Redskin anymore," Jansen said by phone. "And then the day took a pretty good turn for the better. . . . I think the timing [of the release] could've been better, but I don't think the result could've been better."

Hopefully Jansen is able to stay healthy and play a few more seasons in Detroit. If anyone has earned a second chance in the league, it's him.

Friday, May 29, 2009

La Canfora heading to NFL Network

According to Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Redskins beat writer Jason La Canfora is leaving The Washington Post to join the NFL Network. Florio adds:

La Canfora will join a stable of NFL reporters that has been filling the shoes previously occupied by Adam Schefter.

Schefter, though still technically employed by NFLN, will be moving to ESPN after his contract expires in August.

Because the network is owned by the league, it’s essentially owned in equally-sized 1/32nd chunks by the teams. And so, in a roundabout way, La Canfora will be working for the franchise whose Executive V.P. of Football Operations he accused of slander last year.

Florio is, of course, talking about Vinny Cerrato, but that's another point entirely. La Canfora did a great job covering the Redskins, though he was often quick to criticize the team and front office, sometimes for no apparent reason.

Still, the Post's Redskins coverage will certainly be different without him, which is both a good and bad thing. Good luck, Jason.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memphis charged with 'major violations'

The shady recruiting tactics of now-former Memphis head basketball coach John Calipari have been hinted at many times, but now the program may be facing some serious punishment from the NCAA. According to ESPN:

The allegations include "knowing fraudulence or misconduct" on an SAT exam by a player on the 2007-08 team.

The wording of the report indicates the player in question only competed during the 2007-08 season and the 2008 NCAA tournament. The player's name was redacted in the report due to privacy laws, The Commercial Appeal reported.

If the NCAA allegations are proven true, Memphis might have to forfeit their NCAA-record 38 victories and Final Four appearance.

Calipari did a great job at Memphis; he recruited great players and won lots of games. But it's times like these when I'm glad that Gary Williams is coaching Maryland.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wieters to make debut on Friday

The much-anticipated arrival of top O's prospect Matt Wieters is now just a few days away.

According to Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations for the Orioles, Wieters will make his major league debut on Friday against the Detroit Tigers. And when Wieters does arrive, the Orioles will most likely release veteran catcher Chad Moeller.

Even though the move comes a little earlier than many thought it would happen, the decision to bring Wieters up makes sense. Two young pitchers, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken (who's making his own major league debut tonight), are already on the O's roster, and more (is David Hernandez next?) will be making their way to Baltimore as the season rolls along. Not only does Wieters appear to be ready, but by adding him to the roster now, he'll have the chance to work with those young pitchers even more and they can all learn, grow, and improve together. Having the chance to work with Gregg Zaun should also help Wieters perfect his catching skills.

Oh, and Wieters is obviously a huge upgrade offensively behind the plate. How's this for a potential lineup?

Roberts, 2B
Jones, CF
Markakis, RF
Huff, 1B
Mora, 3B
Scott, DH
Wieters, C
Reimold, LF
Izturis, SS

Luke Scott should be back soon after a brief rehab stint, and he's also a big upgrade over the disappointing Ty Wigginton.

Anyway, I'm excited to see Wieters in an Orioles uniform, even if he doesn't start out on fire.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Kornheiser, Brandon Snyder, John Wall

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.

  • Jon Gruden is taking Tony Kornheiser's spot on Monday Night Football, which is probably a good thing. Funny guys don't really work in the booth, especially if they don't know that much about football to begin with. Though, to be honest, it's really not surprising that once ESPN stopped bringing in random celebrities to interview during the game and had the announcing trio focus, for the most part, on the game, that the product improved immensely. Anyway, if you think the decision to leave was solely Kornheiser's, you're crazy. The Washington Post's Leonard Sharpiro offers his thoughts on the whole thing. [ESPN]

  • If Brandon Snyder keeps hitting like he is, the Orioles won't have a problem finding room for him. [Baltimore Sun]

  • World Series and ALCS games will start about 40 minutes earlier this year, so, hey, that's cool. [ESPN]

  • Consensus No. 1 prospect John Wall has decided to play for John Calipari at Kentucky. Though Wall will only stay for one season, it's official: Kentucky is loaded. [Rivals]

  • Think the Washington Redskins should change their team name? Michael Silver agrees with you. [Yahoo! Sports]

  • The Orioles aren't the only team that makes horrible baserunning mistakes; the Mets do it too. [Big League Stew]

  • Send Phil Hughes to the bullpen? Not a bad idea. [SweetSpot]

  • The Nationals have had a strange season both on and off the field, and now there's this: exploding hot dog buns:

    "It's just funny to watch hot dog rolls explode and come down on people," agreed James Timmermeyer, one of several fans to comment in this space about the malfunction of Nick's Sausage Shooter during Saturday's matinee, just a few hours before the tarp failed to deploy. "I would actually like to see that again. I'd want it to go awry every time."

    The Nats declined to comment on any sausage failure, so I'll go by some first-person accounts. Screech came out on a Segway, as he always does for this promotion, and set up shop down the right-field line. (The sausage shooter is used irregularly, but is a season-long promotion that has occurred before and is scheduled to occur again.) This time, though, hot dogs (wrapped in bun, foil and t-shirt, along with a flyer) weren't soaring into the stands with the majesty of a Roethlisberger bomb. This was the Danny Wuerffel version.

    "Every time you would see one fire, you would almost see shotgun pellets of stuff come out of it, stuff would explode everywhere," said Alex Zeese, who was sitting in 222. "You would see bits of hot dog bun lying in the field. A guy in front of me caught one, he opens it up, the whole thing was just crushed, and the sausage casing was pretty much the only thing left. It had been torn down the center, all you saw was little bits of meat stuck to the casing. It was basically gutted. I don't think anyone would eat that. I'm just glad there was no mustard in that stuff."

    There was at least one report of a sausage flying into the Phillies bullpen, to great amusement of the residents. One commenter said the grounds crew had to retrieve pieces of bun from the field, and that Garrett Mock was showered with the stuff. That's unconfirmed, but it would certainly fit in with the other reports.

    Long quote, I know, but it's hilarious nonetheless. What's next, Nationals? Spelling a former president's name wrong on a bobblehead? Apparently, yes. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • This just in: Nick Markakis is really good -- and humble, too. [Washington Post]

Friday, May 22, 2009

Orioles release Eaton

According to MASN's Roch Kubatko, the Orioles have released Adam Eaton and recalled Matt Albers from Triple-A Norfolk.

The move comes after yet another bad start from Eaton yesterday, when he allowed eight hits and seven runs in 4.2 innings in a 7-4 loss to the Yankees. Not only did Eaton pitch poorly for the Orioles -- 2-5 record, 8.56 ERA, 1.47 K/BB, 1.98 HR/9, .326 BAA -- but in his eight starts, he only pitched for more than five innings in two of them. And since he was pitching poorly and not eating up many innings, Eaton got the boot.

Asked about why the Orioles released Eaton, manager Dave Trembley said:

"The record and the way he pitched is pretty self-evident what the factors were.

"I just didn't see him being able to locate his pitches on a repetitive basis. The guy's pitched for a long time and knew what he wanted to do and worked at it. The hits just came in succession. It just seemed like big innings were what he couldn't stay away from. I don't think it was stuff or lack of stuff, I think it was the inability to locate."

Albers, though, will not take Eaton's place in the rotation; instead, he'll pitch out of the bullpen. The Orioles apparently will call up a starter from Norfolk to pitch on Tuesday.

After a decent 2008 season (3.49 ERA) that was cut short by a labrum tear, Albers hasn't looked the same. Opting to rehab the injury instead of having shoulder surgery, Albers struggled in the beginning of the season (7.71 ERA) before being sent down to Triple-A.

Albers will never strike out a lot of batters, but he's most effective when throwing strikes with his two-seamer and not giving up many walks. He also does a good job of keeping the ball in the ballpark.

In a brief and effective stint in the minor leagues, Albers posted much better numbers: 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 9 Ks, 3 BBs. If he's able to find his 2008 form, he could give the bullpen a much-needed lift.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guthrie's struggles continue

Jeremy Guthrie hasn't looked right this season, and that trend didn't change last night in an 11-4 loss to the Yankees. Guthrie gave up five runs (and three home runs in back-to-back-to-back fashion) in seven innings, so he wasn't terrible. But he walked more batters than he struck out (three to two), and his record on the season fell to 3-4.

Guthrie's 5.37 ERA looks pretty bad considering his last two seasons with the O's when his ERA totals were 3.70 and 3.63, respectively. It doesn't look particularly horrible when comparing it to the rest of the pitching staff, though Koji Uehara (4.34 ERA) is pitching better than Guthrie, Brad Bergesen (5.35 ERA) has been OK, and Rich Hill looked pretty good in his Orioles debut.

But back to Guthrie: His strikeouts are down (5.20 K/9 down from 6.31 and 5.66), his walks are up (3.19 BB/9 up from 2.41 and 2.74), his home runs allowed are up (1.84 HR/9 up from 1.18 and 1.13), and opponents are hitting for a better average against him than before (.277 BAA up from .250 and .247). (Random question: Is it possible that pitching in the World Baseball Classic before the season has affected Guthrie a bit?)

Also, Guthrie only has one start this year in which he's allowed fewer than three runs: April 11 against Tampa Bay -- 6 IP, 0 ER.

Now, all, or most, Orioles fans know that pitching help seems to be available in the minors, and many of the young guys will be up in the next year or two. But for right now, Guthrie's struggles are certainly concerning, especially when he's supposed to be the ace of the staff.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'Mocking' the Wizards at No. 5

You already know that last night the Wizards were rewarded with the fifth overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. And from my last post, you should also know that ESPN's Chad Ford believes James Harden is the "obvious pick" in this spot.

And even though it's early, what do some other basketball minds/writers think?

  • Michael Wilbon, deciding to take an optimistic approach for once, thinks that having the fifth pick can still work out for the Wizards. Unfortunately, he mentions some possible options like trading for Zach Randolph and drafting a point guard because Magic Johnson doesn't think Gilbert Arenas is good enough in the role:

    Arenas, which I've been saying for some time now, shouldn't be the starting point guard. It's one thing for me to say it; it's another thing for Magic Johnson to say it. If Magic says the Wizards should have a pure, set-up-his-teammates point guard to run the offense, I'm listening.

    Jonny Flynn, the kid from Syracuse, looks like he might be a real point guard in the traditional sense, a facilitator. Tyreke Evans, the one-and-done kid from Memphis, is in this draft. Ty Lawson is in this draft. The kid I think has the most upside among the guards, Gerald Henderson, is in this draft. Jeff Teague, the blur from Wake Forest, is in this draft. I like all of them better than Brandon Jennings, who is also in this draft. The Wizards should move DeShawn Stevenson whenever possible, and that could be now if no power player is readily available.

    Sorry for the long quote. It's nice to see Wilbon trying to be positive, but he fails to mention James Harden as at least an option for the Wizards, which is pretty odd. And it also doesn't seem likely that any teams would be lining up for Stevenson, especially since he basically missed most of the season with an injured back.

  • Both Eamonn Brennan of Yahoo! Sports's The Dagger and Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen believe that Jordan Hill will be the choice. Brennan provides the best reasoning:

    Because he's the next best thing to Blake Griffin or Hasheem Thabeet (assuming, that is, that Wizards fans wanted one of the two). Like the two players immediately preceding him, Hill is still a work in progress. He needs to improve in a lot of areas. His 2008-09 season with Arizona wasn't exactly gangbusters. Still, he's massive and athletic and his wingspan is roughly the length of my apartment, so it's not hard to see what NBA scouts like so much. The only problem is that it's yet to translate on the court.

    DraftExpress via HoopsHype also has the Wizards taking Hill. There doesn't appear to be many openings in the frontcourt, but the Wizards could always use a tough power forward/center to rebound, play defense, and add some scoring from the post. Is Hill that guy?

  • ESPN's John Hollinger sees the Wizards using the pick in a trade to shed some payroll and avoid the dreaded luxury tax:

    For instance, the Wizards could trade down with Memphis (No. 27), Oklahoma City (No. 25) or Sacramento (No. 23), throw in $3 million (the maximum allowed) and dump Etan Thomas' $7.3 million on their lap, simultaneously getting Washington back to the tax line while still adding another young player. Alternatively, the Wizards could ask for a role-playing wing with a modest contract, or just structure it as a straight salary dump for a future conditional pick.

    I'm fine with the rationale of trading the pick in a package for some veteran help and a lower pick in the first round, but I think Hollinger's wrong in saying that it would mostly be to get under the luxury tax threshold. Normally I would agree, but Abe Pollin himself has said that he's willing to pay extra if it will give the Wizards a better chance to win next season. And Pollin definitely wants to win.

    Such a strategy might not guarantee a winner, but it may be worth a shot.

  • And The Washington Post's Michael Lee, writing before the lottery took place, believes that no matter what the Wizards do with the pick, it won't really matter if the team's core of Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison isn't completely healthy:

    The fifth pick probably isn't the building block that can take the Wizards very far, but unlike the teams that they are looking up at in the East, Washington is set improve faster than most. But the Wizards also have the toughest challenge of all the teams in the NBA lottery. They could blame their futility last season on injuries and youngsters and veterans playing outside of their roles. But now, with the healthy players back, they have to get it together, get out of the first round or get another plan.

    Well said, and I agree.
Mock drafts don't really mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but it still helps with getting an idea on who the best players are and what the Wizards' best options might be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wizards to pick fifth (updated)

So much for the Wizards getting a little lucky in the NBA Draft Lottery tonight.

With a 17.8 percent chance of getting the top overall pick, the Wizards instead own the fifth choice, which is the lowest they could have possibly picked. So, unfortunately for Wizards fans, Blake Griffin or Ricky Rubio will not be coming to Washington. I guess that lucky medallion wasn't all that effective.

Then again, before complaining too much, the Sacramento Kings, who had the best possible chance (25 percent) to receive the top overall pick, will pick right in front of the Wizards at number four.

Also, congratulations to the L.A. Clippers on winning the lottery and earning yet another chance to waste the career of a top draft choice.


Update: ESPN's Chad Ford already has a mock draft up, and he has the Wizards taking James Harden out of Arizona State:

The Wizards have to be hurting a little, falling to No. 5, but actually Harden would be a great fit. He's one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft and would be a great backcourt mate with Gilbert Arenas.

The team will look at Tyreke Evans and DeMar DeRozan, too, but I think Harden is the obvious pick here.

Well, that's fine. Harden could fit in nicely at some point if the Wizards take him, but will he be able to mature quickly enough to make a difference while playing with Arenas, Butler, and Jamison? Again, no one knows that. But it is rather disheartening that the one player who could do that, Blake Griffin, will probably be headed to the Clippers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wizards could use some luck tomorrow

You may not be aware of this revelation, but the Washington Wizards' 2008-2009 season didn't go very well. But the regular season is in the rear-view mirror, and it's time to start preparing for next season. That start begins tomorrow night with the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Wizards, who tied for the second-worst record (19-63) in the NBA with the L.A. Clippers, won the tie-breaker a few weeks ago and possess one more ping-pong ball (and a 0.1 percent better chance!) than the Clippers. With that extra ball, the Wizards have a 17.8 percent chance to land the top pick (and a 34.8 percent chance to land the number one or number two selection). And if you're curious what 17.8 percent looks like, you should go here.

Many people are of the opinion that if the Wizards do not land the first or second pick, then they will look to trade the pick in some sort of package of young players and expiring contracts to land a solid veteran or two. Some want them to keep the pick no matter what and draft a young player. And others don't really care because they figure it's the Wizards, so something horrible is going to happen. The NBA: Where overpowering pessimism happens!

My take: If the Wizards get the number one pick, they'll select Blake Griffin. If they get the number two pick, they'll take Ricky Rubio. And if they get anything lower, they'll try as hard as possible to trade for an upgrade at shooting guard or in the frontcourt.

But I do agree with Bullets Forever's Pradamaster that it would still be wise, even if a trade is made, to remain in the first round instead of trading out of it altogether. This draft certainly looks to be top-heavy with Griffin and Rubio ahead of the pack, followed by a combination of guys like James Harden, Hasheem Thabeet, Tyreke Evans, Jordan Hill, Brandon Jennings, and Demar DeRozan, etc.

If one thing is clear, it's that the Wizards don't really have a whole lot of time to work on building a winner; this is the team that Ernie Grunfeld has built. As of this moment, Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Brendan Haywood are all healthy. Antawn Jamison recently had surgery to remove a bone spur in his right ankle, but he's tough and should recover and be 100 percent in time for the season. If that group remains on the court, the Wizards will be tough to beat. Add in reinforcements like Blake Griffin/Ricky Rubio, Dominic McGuire, Nick Young, Javaris Crittenton, Darius Songaila, DeShawn Stevenson, JaVale McGee, and Andray Blatche, and the Wizards could potentially have a deep team. Of course, if a trade is made, some of the younger pieces could be moved for better overall talent.

After the lottery, the Wizards should have a much better idea of what to do. But if they aren't picking first or second, Grunfeld will be faced with a difficult decision. If that happens, there really won't be a right answer on which move to make. And with a healthy team, there won't be any more excuses left next season no matter how things unfold tomorrow night.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Harrison to skip Steelers' White House trip (again)

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and reigning defensive player of the year James Harrison is undoubtedly happy that his team won the Super Bowl this year. But strangely enough, he won't be going with the rest of his team to visit the White House next week:

"This is how I feel -- if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, he [Obama] would've invited Arizona if they had won," said Harrison.

There's no question that Harrison is a solid football player, but he's definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed. Then again, he is consistent: Harrison did the same thing after the Steelers' 2006 Super Bowl victory.

Greinke dominates O's; Hill to start today

With the start of the game delayed for more than two hours by rain, Royals fans had to wait a little while before seeing their ace get to pitch on Friday night. But the patient fans who stayed got just wait they paid to see.

Zack Greinke (0.60 ERA) gave up one run in seven innings to improve to 7-1 on the season as the Royals cruised to an 8-1 victory. He also walked just two Orioles batters while striking out six of them.

While Greinke was fantastic, the same can't be said for Adam Eaton (7.93 ERA), who surrendered 10 hits and seven runs, including two long home runs to Mike Jacobs and Miguel Olivo.

Brian Roberts and Aubrey Huff each had two-hit games for the Orioles, while Mark Teahan had three hits and Jacobs, Jose Guillen, and Alberto Callaspo each had two hits in the Royals' eight-run, 13-hit attack.

To shift gears, Rich Hill is scheduled to make his Orioles debut tonight. With the move, Mark Hendrickson moves to the bullpen, which is exactly what happened last night, as Hendrickson gave up one run in three innings after replacing Eaton. Hendrickson has been pretty bad this season -- 1-4, 6.03 ERA, 1.38 K/BB ratio -- but, to be fair, the Orioles envisioned Hendrickson as the long man out of the bullpen from the beginning. Injuries forced him into the rotation, but hopefully Hill stays healthy, pitches well, and is able to remain in the rotation for a while.

As of this moment, the Orioles still have not made a corresponding roster move to make room for Hill. Some options include: placing Adam Jones or Luke Scott on the disabled list; sending Lou Montanez or Nolan Reimold back to Norfolk; or even, though not likely, designating Felix Pie for assignment. A move should be announced soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Selena Roberts, Sam Huff, Matt Millen

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.

I've been kind of busy lately, but here's a few quick links that I should have posted on Sunday.
  • Malcolm Gladwell writes a really long article that basically comes to this conclusion: A team has a better chance to win if it presses its opponent. The piece is definitely worth a read and is intriguing, but I disagree. That strategy might be successful in women's youth basketball or work if executed properly at the right level, but basketball isn't that simple. Good ball-handling teams just don't throw the ball to the other team for no reason or struggle that mightily in breaking a press. [The New Yorker]

  • Jason Whitlock isn't a fan of Selena Roberts or her journalistic ethics -- or lack thereof. [Kansas City Star]

  • Bill Simmons discusses the difficulties the media currently has in getting in-depth stories and information on athletes with technology such as Twitter, Facebook, and individual blogs that allow athletes to connect directly to their fans without the middlemen. [ESPN]

  • Michael Lee breaks down the risk involved when trading a top-three draft pick. [Wizards Insider]

  • Sam Huff doesn't really care for Michael Vick: "I think they ought to turn him loose with the dogs. That's what I think of Michael Vick." [Charlotte Observer]

  • Need a potential NFL player to root for? Here's one. [Shutdown Corner]

  • So Dan Snyder might actually be a good guy? Now that's hard to believe. [Washingtonian]

  • Are you a Matt Millen fan? Me neither. But it sure looks like he's going to stick around for a while:

    Former NFL player, executive and broadcaster Matt Millen is joining ESPN's football coverage as a game and studio analyst.

    Millen will work as a college football game analyst and will contribute to ESPN's NFL studio coverage throughout the year, appearing on "Monday Night Countdown," "NFL Live," "SportsCenter," ESPNEWS and other programs.

    As part of Millen's NFL studio responsibilities, he will travel to the site of each week's "Monday Night Football" game, where he will appear on "Monday Night Countdown" and the pre- and postgame editions of "SportsCenter."

    Well, that's just great. Is it too late to get Emmitt Smith back? [ESPN]

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

FSN Kansas City interviews Guy Fieri impostor

You probably know who Guy Fieri is, even though you may not want to. He appears in irritating TGI Fridays commercials and has his own show on the Food Network. And he has strange hair.

Well, during a Royals game the other night, Fox Sports Net's sideline reporter during the telecast, Joel Goldberg, thought that Fieri was in attendance and decided he would sit down for an interview. What followed was pretty awkward -- and very funny:

I have no idea why Goldberg thought interviewing Guy Fieri was even worth anyone's time, but it's even stranger that he didn't pick up that he wasn't talking to the real Guy after about 15 seconds. Solid work, FSN.

(HT: Awful Announcing)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Francoeur not too sure about this OBP thing

Jeff Francoeur is a decent major league hitter. He's not bad, and he's not great either. In three seasons and parts of two others, including this one, Francoeur has hit at a .269/.312/.435 clip with 76 home runs.

He's not very fast; in fact, he's been caught stealing 11 times while stealing only 9 bases -- so he doesn't help in that phase of the game. In right field, he is solid and possesses a very strong arm, so that's a bonus.

But anyway, back to his performance at the plate. Francoeur is strong and can hit the ball to all fields, yet he strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough (0.27 career BB/K ratio), and both obviously contribute to his low on-base percentage.

Unfortunately for the Braves, Francoeur doesn't see anything wrong with his approach at the plate:

For Atlanta outfielder Jeff Francoeur, the search for a more disciplined approach is elusive and the source of occasional torment. Francoeur began this season with loose goals of 80 strikeouts and 50 to 60 walks. But he's always been an aggressive player, and he's wary of becoming too passive in the quest for a higher OBP.

"If on-base percentage is so important, then why don't they put it up on the scoreboard?" Francoeur says.

I'd say that someone has been getting in touch with his inner Joe Morgan.

Not that it really matters, but many stadiums actually do put on-base percentage on the scoreboard now; I've seen it up at Camden Yards and Nationals Park. But again, that's not the point. The point, though, is that getting on base is the most important thing a batter can do. And, for the most part, Francoeur still has to improve at this task.

Jerry Crasnick, who wrote the article linked above, delves into the subject of plate discipline by talking to scouts, baseball executives, and other players. Eventually he gets back to the topic of Francoeur's struggles:

Since his arrival in the majors in 2005, Francoeur has struggled to find an identity. He hit 29 homers in his first full season, but posted a .293 on-base percentage. Then he improved his OBP at the expense of his power. Last year he bulked up with an NFL-style conditioning program in an effort to hit more home runs, and everything unraveled.

One scout called him "the most confused hitter in the game" -- a label that Francoeur doesn't dispute. He's sensitive to the criticism of his free-swinging approach, and at times he's put excessive pressure on himself to remake himself as a hitter.

"People forget that I just turned 25," Francoeur says. "I've been up since I was 21, and a lot of people come up when they're 24 or 25. I have 3.5 years in the big leagues, but I'm still learning how to hit."

Yes, he is still just 25 years old, but his solution is in that first paragraph. In that second full season when Francoeur "improved his OBP at the expense of his power," he actually had the best season of his young career. He posted a career-best .338 OBP, which led to a career-best OPS of .782 (not counting his first half season). And even though he hit 10 fewer home runs (19) than the year before (29), he only lost five points on his slugging percentage because he made more contact, collected more hits, and hit more doubles. He even knocked in two more runs without those extra home runs.

And while he posted a slightly better walk-to-strikeout ratio the next season, he posted career lows in batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage, probably because he did bulk up and tried to hit for more power instead of refining his approach from the previous season.

The good news is that through 25 games so far this season, Francoeur appears to be on the right track. He's hitting .283/.305/.444 with 13 runs, 3 homers, and 17 RBI. But more importantly, he has only struck out 9 times while walking 4 times. He'll probably never be a guy who walks a ton, but if he decreases his strikeouts and makes more contact, he'll be much better at the plate.

There's nothing wrong with being selective at the plate; not everyone can be the next Vladimir Guerrero.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Isiah Thomas isn't exactly off to the best start at FIU

You remember that Florida International University hired Isiah Thomas a few weeks ago, right? Well as it turns out, Thomas might actually be making a few mistakes and angering some people at the same time -- imagine that.

In a superbly titled New York Post article, "Isiah Making Enemies In New FIU Job," Marc Berman explains the troubles that Thomas is having, even though he's been on the job for less than a month:

The former Knicks president/coach is being accused of tactless behavior in failing to personally phone three FIU recruits to inform them they were no longer wanted despite scholarship offers from the past regime.

Wolfson High coach Greg Rosebrock threatened to close the door for Thomas to recruit at his Jacksonville school because of how his player, Chris Rozier, was treated.

"From Jacksonville, to Orlando to Pensacola, there's a lot of coaches in Florida not happy with him right now," Rosebrock told The Post. "He's not making friends here. I understand not wanting him but place a phone call and do it in a professional way."

As it turns out, Thomas "did not call the kids because he was under the impression he would be under NCAA violation. Thomas just took his compliance tests and thought he was not allowed to speak to high school students."

How's that for on-the-job training? Not only is Thomas breaking commitments from FIU, but he's angering several high school coaches in the very state that he's coaching and trying to recruit in.

I can't say I'm terribly shocked by this development, but apparently Thomas wasn't interested in using all of the resources at his disposal. And on that note, Eamonn Brennan of Yahoo! Sports's The Dagger has some advice for Thomas: "Caution is great, man, but FIU has a compliance department, right? Give them a visit. Sit down for a chat. Figure out what you can and can't do, and then get back out there and start building those bridges again."

Or maybe this whole thing will only snowball because, you know, Isiah Thomas is now running a college basketball program.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Greinke, Josh Pastner, Haynesworth

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.

  • Andy Katz takes a look at many of the draft decisions made by potential NBA prospects. I tend to agree with most of his comments, especially on Greivis Vasquez and how stacked Kansas will be next season. [ESPN]

  • Zack Greinke wasn't all that thrilled about being featured on this week's Sports Illustrated cover:

    "There's a lot more interesting stuff going on right now," he said. "They should have something else on the cover. Playoff basketball or something else.

    "So it's a mistake. They'll probably sell their least amount of magazines in a long time -- except when NASCAR was on the cover."

    As always, good stuff from Greinke. And if you're interested, here's the cover. [Kansas City Star]

  • Linebacker Cody Glenn, recently selected by the Redskins in the fifth round, was suspended by Nebraska for three games last season. Not only did he lie about the reason for the suspension (he said it was for a ticket scandal/incident), but he won't admit what actually happened. Very odd. [Redskins Insider]

  • Let's just put it this way: Josh Pastner (31 years old), Memphis's new men's basketball coach, is a prodigy. [Yahoo! Sports]

  • The Baltimore Sun fired three writers and a photographer in the middle of covering the Angels-Orioles game on Wednesday. If that wasn't bad enough, the journalists were fired over the phone. Peter Schmuck offered his thoughts on the matter:

    "Woke up this morning hoping the past two days were a bad dream. Many great people -- including sports columnists Rick Maese and David Steele -- were laid off as the Sun continues to suffer the effects of this horrible economic downturn. Of course, this recession is hitting home everywhere, but it was surreal to watch Rick and Dave pack up their stuff in the press box at Camden Yards during yesterday's game and head into an uncertain future." [The Guardian]

  • Keith Law thinks it's time to end the Felix Pie experiment and give Nolan Reimold a chance (near the bottom of the chat). [ESPN]

  • Think MLB attendance is down a whole bunch this season? Jayson Stark says it's not -- and has the numbers to prove it. [ESPN]

  • Truth wonders, reasonably so, if Antawn Jamison would be willing to "swallow his pride, suppress any hubris, and come off the bench" next season if the Wizards bring in a defensive power forward in the offseason. [Truth About It]

  • And could that power forward be Chris Bosh? Rook of Bullets Forever thinks it could work out. [Bullets Forever]

  • Jason Reid provides some insightful information on the life of Albert Haynesworth. [Washington Post]