Tuesday, June 30, 2009

O's stun Red Sox with insane comeback

Down 10-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Orioles looked like they'd drop yet another game to the Red Sox.

And then they started to hit: Huff singled, Reimold singled, Scott doubled, Salazar homered, Wieters singled, Andino grounded out, Roberts grounded out, Pie singled, Markakis singled, and Huff lined out.

Still down 10-6 in the bottom of the eighth, the Orioles decided to duplicate the seventh: Reimold singled, Scott doubled, Salazar singled, Wieters singled, Wigginton hit a sacrifice fly, Roberts singled, Pie struck out, Markakis doubled, Huff walked, and Reimold flied out.

Up 11-10 in the ninth, George Sherrill struck Jason Bay out with runners on first and second to record his 17th save on the season.

In those two innings, the Orioles amassed 10 runs, 13 hits, and a walk -- pretty unbelievable.

Monday, June 29, 2009

FanGraphs on Bergesen, Michael Aubrey trade

Last Friday, FanGraphs had two interesting Orioles-related stories: one on Brad Bergesen and another on the O's acquisition of Michael Aubrey from Cleveland.

The post on Bergesen discusses how Bergesen has been effective despite the fact that he doesn't post high strikeout numbers. Dave Camerson explains:

Usually, a pitching prospect isn’t going to get much respect if he’s punching out less than a batter per inning, especially in the lower levels. Pitching to contact in low-A is usually a sign that your stuff isn’t major league quality, and when your fastball tops out at 92, the suspicion is confirmed.

However, the strikeout obsession has led to a lot of missed evaluations on groundball specialists, and Bergesen is proving to be exactly that. Pitch F/x shows that his fastball has similar amounts of vertical movement to some guy named Roy Halladay, so we shouldn’t be terribly surprised that Bergesen has a 54% groundball rate through his first twelve major league starts.

When you can command a sinking fastball and have an off-speed pitch to keep opposite handed hitters at bay, you can be an effective major league starter. Bergesen doesn’t have the same potential as some of the more hyped arms in the Orioles system, but don’t discount his strengths and write him off as a no-stuff guy who belongs in the bullpen. Command, sinker, and change-up - it’s the recipe for a solid back-end starting pitcher.

Anytime a pitcher is mentioned in the same sentence with Roy Halladay, it's high praise. Bergesen has been the best pitcher for the Orioles this season, and he certainly has a chance to win rookie of the year honors in the AL. And if he does develop into a "solid back-end starting pitcher," the Orioles will be very pleased.

Another post, this one by Marc Hulet, briefly discusses the Orioles' recent pickup of Michael Aubrey for a player to be named later. Aubrey, basically a career minor league first baseman, was drafted 11th overall in 2003 but has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Hulet likes the move, saying that "[i]t’s a very nice low-risk, medium-reward move by an organization that is getting better by the season."

He also believes it's a smart move in case the Orioles decide to trade Aubrey Huff or Ty Wigginton. I've never seen Michael Aubrey play, but it seems like a good move for an organization that doesn't have a whole lot of solid-hitting position players. If the Orioles do make a trade or two or suffer a couple of injuries, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Aubrey got an extended look with the O's.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weekly Rundown: bad baseball movies, NBA trades, Siragusa

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.
  • Never seen The Fan? You're lucky then. Here's a list of 10 bad baseball movies. [Big League Stew]

  • The Cavs traded for Shaq. The Magic acquired Vince Carter from the Nets. The Wizards sent the No. 5 pick and three players to the T'Wolves for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. The Spurs traded for Richard Jefferson. And the Hawks dealt for Jamal Crawford. Other deals could be in the works, but apparently the Pistons turned down a trade offer from the Celtics: Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo for Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, and Rip Hamilton. [Ball Don't Lie]

  • The Wizards, at least right now, are committed to keeping the core of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison together. [Washington Post]

  • Here's a surprise: Michael Wilbon didn't like the Wizards trade. [Washington Post]

  • Is it really that hard to spell Zimmerman? [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • Tony Siragusa ("Internet star"?) may be appearing on a show on FoxSports.com. Well, that plan certainly can't fail. [Awful Announcing]

  • I don't know much about Matt Hobgood, the latest first-round pick by the Orioles, but I like his attitude. [Camden Crazies]

  • Truth looks at both sides of the Wizards' decision to sell their second-round pick to the Rockets for $2.5 million instead of drafting DeJuan Blair. [Truth About It]

  • As Jake points out, it's time for Andray Blatche to step up this year. [Bullets Forever]

  • Were you aware that the Orioles are a horrible baserunning team? Peter Schmuck agrees. [The Schmuck Stops Here]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Examining the Wizards-T'Wolves trade

Because I can't watch the NBA Draft tomorrow night, I was going to write a little something speculating what the Wizards could do with the No. 5 pick. Would the Wizards take James Harden, Jordan Hill, or Stephen Curry? Or maybe they would entertain trade offers for the pick on draft night, etc. I was even going to reference Kevin Broom's post over at The Secret Weapon, which broke down the Wizards' chances of getting a solid player with the fifth choice.

Broom's take:

This year’s draft does not appear to have an elite-level talent available at number 5. It doesn’t appear likely that the Wiz will end up with someone who impacts the game like Garnett or Barkley or Wade. But, the Wizards could still end up with a player like Mitch Richmond (Harden?), Steve Smith (Tyreke Evans?), or Raymond Felton (Rubio?). Or maybe it’s someone like Kevin Love or Jason Richardson.

Point is, the fifth is likely to provide a player who will help the team. There’s basically a one-in-three chance they’ll get a future All-Star; a one-in-six chance they’ll land a future All-NBA’er. Only one-in-ten qualify as abject busts over the past 30 years (Bender, Ray and Skita). All this is to say the Wizards are likely to improve themselves, even if they can’t find a trade they like, and end up using the pick on the best available player.

Apparently the Wizards didn't feel they'd be able to pick one of those players, and, as I'm sure you know by now, the Wizards have traded the pick, Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas, and Oleksiy Pecherov to the T'Wolves for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. I really didn't see the move coming, particularly because I thought the Wizards would at least wait until Thursday. Well, I was wrong.

Maybe the Wizards didn't think Harden or Curry would still be on the board, or maybe they didn't feel like rolling the dice at all in this apparently thin draft. Either way, Miller and Foye are Wizards.

It's worth mentioning that the Wizards still have their second round pick -- the 32nd overall choice -- but that's obviously not as exciting as a first-rounder.

Anyway, I've been deliberately avoiding other reviews of the trade all day to make sure not to recycle other writers' and bloggers' thoughts. Sure, my own opinions might not be all that different, but this post will still be original.

Now, back to the trade: I like it. I don't love it or think it's the greatest trade of all time, but it makes sense. Although Ernie Grunfeld may pull the trigger on another trade in the next few days, the Wizards' current rotation is a combination of the following:

PG Gilbert Arenas
SG Randy Foye
SF Caron Butler
PF Antawn Jamison
C Brendan Haywood

G/F Mike Miller
G/F Dominic McGuire
F/C Andray Blatche
G Nick Young
F/C JaVale McGee
G Javaris Crittenton
G DeShawn Stevenson
G Mike James

That's 13 players, so it appears that one or two of those guys could be on the way out in a possible trade -- possibly James because of his expiring $6.5 million contract. Moving Stevenson may be difficult because of 1) his back injury and 2) he still has two years and about $8 million left on his contract.

Also, Foye might not start at the two; Miller or McGuire could also slide into the starting rotation at that spot.

One more thing: Let's take a look at the contracts of all five players involved in the deal (all $ is in millions):

Mike Miller: 2009-2010 ($9.75)
Randy Foye: 2009-2010 ($3.57), 2010-2011 ($4.79 qualifying offer)

Darius Songaila: 2009-2010 ($4.52), 2010-2011 ($4.81 player option)
Etan Thomas: 2009-2010 ($7.35)
Oleksiy Pecherov: 2009-2010 ($1.54), 2010-2011 ($2.38 team option), 2011-2012 ($3.37 qualifying offer)

Money isn't the driving force in this trade. Next season, both teams will pay over $13 million each for these players -- of course, that doesn't factor in the cost of the No. 5 pick for the T'Wolves. Both Miller and Foye could be gone in 2010 for the Wizards, while Thomas will be gone for the T'Wolves. Songaila will surely exercise his option, and Minnesota will likely decline Pecherov's option. But again, this trade doesn't seem to be about money, unless the Wizards really wanted to clear Songaila's 2010 salary to free up some space to possibly re-sign Haywood and/or McGuire.

Strengths of the trade:

  • Mike Miller's shooting. Miller had the worst season of his career last year, scoring 9.9 points per game. But he did average 6.6 rebounds (close to his career high) and 4.5 assists (career high). Unfortunately, Miller shot his worst percentage from three-point range (37.8 percent) since 2003-2004. But for his career he's a 40.1 percent three-point shooter, so it could have just been a bad season. Still, the Wizards' best three-point shooter last season was Mike James (36.7 percent) and they shot 33 percent as a team, so Miller is an upgrade in that department. Playing alongside Arenas, Butler, and Jamison should leave Miller with more open shots than in Minnesota, so he could very well thrive in Washinton next season. He's not a good defensive player, though, which means he should fit right in with this group.

  • Guard depth. Adding Miller and Foye should provide significant depth at the guard position in case injuries strike the Wizards again. When healthy himself, Foye can play the one and the two, while Miller can fill in at shooting guard and small forward. Miller has played in at least 70 games in five straight seasons, while Foye seemed to recover nicely by playing in 70 games last season after missing most of the 2007-2008 season with a hip injury.

  • Mike James's contract. The Wizards sent Etan Thomas and his expiring contract away in the deal, but the Wizards still have James's expiring contract. The Wizards could do one of three things: 1) use James's contract now in another possible trade for a veteran frontcourt presence; 2) keep James for a while and then trade him during the season; or 3) hold on to him for the whole season, allowing his salary to come off the books afterwards. Combined with Miller's and Foye's potential departures, that's nearly $20 million in possible savings.
Weaknesses of the trade:

  • Loss of Songaila. Say what you will about Darius Songaila, but I respect how hard he played in Washington. He shot a career-best 53.2 percent from the field last season while playing in just under 20 minutes per game. He isn't flashy and is out of position when forced to play center, but Songaila was certainly a consistent contributor for the Wizards off of the bench last season. Barring a trade, though, his departure does free up minutes for Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee.

  • Was a better trade out there? There have been so many rumors floating around that it's hard to know exactly what the Wizards could have traded for with a similar package. Some examples: Tracy McGrady and Carl Landry from the Rockets; Vince Carter from the Nets; Shaquille O'Neal (?) or maybe Amar'e Stoudemire from the Suns; Larry Hughes from the Knicks; Ray Allen from the Celtics; Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw, and Jerryd Bayless/Sergio Rodriguez from the Blazers; etc. -- that's a lot of possibilities to consider. No one knows exactly what else may have been on the table, but it's possible that a better trade could have been pursued.

  • Not a defensive upgrade. Another trade may be on the way soon, but right now, the Wizards are still a pretty bad defensive team. Miller and Foye won't change that. Then again, when a team is built around three star players who don't play much defense, it's hard to change a team's identity with a trade or two.
Final Questions/Comments:

  • How good can Foye be? To me, Foye is the biggest key to this deal. My first reaction to the trade was: Great, the Wizards got Miller, and he can shoot. But I didn't know much about Foye. True, the Wizards did trade this year's No. 5 pick, but just a few years ago in 2006, Foye was selected with the No. 7 pick. I did know that, but it's worth noting that Foye is a talented player -- when healthy. He's sort of a scoring, combo-guard type like Arenas at 6-4, 210 pounds, and he can score: He averaged 16.3 points last season. If he can keep improving, he could provide an upgrade over Javaris Crittenton and Nick Young.

  • How will Miller and Foye fit in with the big three? Ernie Grunfeld has made the decision to build around Arenas, Butler, and Jamison, and this move confirms that. Miller should have no problem fitting in at shooting guard; he can shoot threes, pass, and rebound a little bit. Foye will be more of a question mark.

  • Can Blatche and McGee step up? The loss of Songaila, as stated before, opens up playing time for Blatche and McGee, so these two youngsters will need to step up. Blatche will probably be the first big man off of the bench, but McGee appears to have much more upside -- and is certainly more exciting to watch. The Wizards will more than likely bring in another power forward/center, but how the bigs play behind Haywood will be extremely important in the upcoming season.
This trade helps in upgrading the supporting cast of the Wizards, but really, it won't matter much if Arenas isn't able to play like his old self. Butler and Jamison are great players, but when the Wizards don't play defense and don't have Arenas around, they're an average team at best. Miller and Foye should help ease the pain if Arenas can't return to form, but for the Wizards to move to the top of the Eastern Conference next season, they'll need Agent Zero at 100 percent.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wizards deal pick for Miller and Foye

According to ESPN's Ric Bucher, the Wizards have all but traded the No. 5 pick in the upcoming draft. The deal has the Wizards sending the pick, Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas, and Oleksiy Pecherov to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Mike Miller and Randy Foye.

I'm surprised that Ernie Grunfeld is close to making a move already, but I'll elaborate more as details become available.

Monday, June 22, 2009

PFT's Florio gets bitter in defending Portis 'reporting'

I mentioned this post in Sunday's Weekly Rundown, but last Friday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote that Clinton Portis and Jim Zorn weren't getting along in the team's recent OTA sessions. Florio included this quote from one unnamed source: "Portis totally has no regard for [Zorn] and thinks he’s above everyone." Florio then went on to include some comments made by John Riggins, who has obviously disliked Portis for a while now, in a rant he made on Portis in January.

Well, a couple of D.C. blogs weren't too happy with the post. On Friday afternoon, Hogs Haven posted a mocking write-up titled, "Multiple Source Confirm Mike Florio Is Clueless." Here's a sample:

I have had the opportunity to contact multiple sources, and they all advise me that Mike Florio has no idea what he is talking about. Does he ever come outside? Where does he get his sources? First he drops a completely unfounded rumor that LaRon Landry is asking to be traded. When we asked the Redskins Public Relations about the rumor, they responded that they had not heard of anything even remotely like that. Then LaRon himself denied that anything like that was going on.

Today he "reports" that Clinton Portis is creating a huge problem in Redskins camp. Again, we asked the Redskins, "What's going on?" We were told that this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, it is a classic case of Florio manufacturing the news. He trotted a quote from Riggins that is about 6 months old, and the quote about Clinton thinking he is above everyone else smacks of a quote from last year as well. This is what NBC is paying for?

Over at Mr. Irrelevant, the Mottram brothers, already on tilt after Florio's Favre-to-the-Redskins speculation on Thursday, had a little barb aimed towards Florio in a links post this morning: "Florio does what Florio does, says Zorn has a problem with Portis."

Interestingly enough, the war of words didn't stop there; instead, Florio fired back earlier today at Portis and "some bloggers":

Redskins running back Clinton Portis has denied our recent report that he has demonstrated disrespect to coach Jim Zorn during offseason workouts.

"How this story came about, I have no idea," Portis told David Elfin of the Washington Times. "There's nothing going on. There's no beef between me and Coach Zorn. We're on good terms at this present moment. There's no problem."

Portis admitted that there was a past "flareup" with Zorn, but that it happened "a long time ago."

Portis also told Elfin that we (as in PFT) are trying to make trouble where none exists.

Clinton, we honestly don't give a [expletive]. We use the stuff we get that we think our readers will find interesting. And when a credible source tells us that you mouthed off to your head coach during offseason workouts and another credible source corroborates the notion that you have no regard for Zorn, then it's something we're going to share with our audience.

And we assume that Redskins fans (including some bloggers who lack the ability to be objective because they're more concerned about seeing their favorite team be successful than they are about getting to the truth) will blindly accept the version of the events being told by Portis and quarterback Jason Campbell and anyone else with a vested interest in keeping the team's dirty laundry in the locker room.

Ah yes, the blogger who couldn't get any respect from the mainstream media is now beginning to take shots at bloggers himself.

Here is Mr. Irrelevant's response:

Here’s the thing: We aren’t “blindly accepting” anything. We are accepting, for now, CP and Campbell’s version of the story because it is the more believable side. Florio’s Redskins speculation is inaccurate more often than not (he’s 0-3 this month), and there has not been one report — not even a whisper — from anywhere else that Portis has treated his head coach this offseason in the manner in which Florio’s source suggest. In fact, believing Florio’s report would be the very definition of blind acceptance — simply trusting that Florio’s unnamed informant knows something that has not been mentioned anywhere else.

Florio's speculation isn't anything new; it's something that his site came to be known for, and it's the reason why a lot of people read and will continue to read his NFL coverage. What's interesting to me is that he responded to criticism at all, dropping a rare S-bomb in the process. "Why so serious?"

In most cases, Florio would be right about blogs defending their team, but many Redskins fans already take shots at their team and how it's run -- I know I do. But in this case, if Florio can't provide definitive proof or list his sources, he looks like someone who's just trying to start some trouble. And if that was his goal, he succeeded.

Eighth-grader makes crazy shot

Not much else to say other than that's an unbelievable shot.

(HT: Ball Don't Lie)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Arenas, Portis, Ryan Howard

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.

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted one of these, but here's what caught my eye during the last week or so:
  • The Washington Post's Michael Lee provides some information on Gilbert Arenas's offseason workout plans:

    I never got the chance to run into Gilbert Arenas at the NBA Finals, but Washington Times reporter Mike Jones stumbled into him in the hallway during Game 4. Arenas told Jones that he plans on spending this summer working out with the famed trainer Tim Grover, who worked with Michael Jordan and helped Dwyane Wade resurrect his career last season and finish third in MVP voting behind LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

    Although I didn't get Arenas, I did talk for a while with Grover, who was at every game working exclusively for Finals MVP Bryant. Grover told me that he expects Arenas to come to his Attacks Athletics facility in Chicago in about two weeks. Arenas has committed to coming and Grover said while he hasn't seen Arenas's medical records, he estimated that it will take at least a two month commitment for Arenas to get the necessary training required. He added that several stars overcoming left knee injuries, including Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal, are expected to be in Chicago this summer.

    Arenas working out with Grover certainly seems like great news. [Wizards Insider]

  • The Detroit Tigers' Curtis Granderson weighs in with his thoughts on the buzz surrounding 16-year-old Bryce Harper and his decision to enroll in community college. And he makes a convincing argument. [Big League Stew]

  • Mike Florio says that Clinton Portis is becoming a "major problem" for Jim Zorn and the Washington Redskins. Florio: "Multiple sources have advised us that Portis shows little or no respect to coach Jim Zorn, and that the situation bubbled over at least once during the team’s OTA sessions, with Portis telling the coach off in front of other players." If this is true, I'm sure it won't be the last time it's brought up before and/or during the season. [Pro Football Talk]

  • Truth efficiently dismisses a couple of odd Wizards trade rumors. [Truth About It]

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times believes the Minnesota T'Wolves may want the Wizards' No. 5 pick:

    According to one insider, the Timberwolves (who already have the sixth, 18th and 28th picks in the draft) disparately want to move up in order to land UConn big man Hasheem Thabeet. Another report has them badly wanting Rubio. Either way, the T'Wolves are said to be craving Memphis' No. 2 pick, but believe to land it, they need to offer two top-six picks in the draft. Enter the Wizards.

    Minnesota reportedly has been working the phones nonstop and of all the teams in the league they're talking to, they've been in speaking with the Wizards the most. Some of the pieces Minnesota is believed to be offering up are swingman Mike Miller, who has a $9.75 million expiring contract, guard Randy Foye, the expiring contracts of Brian Cardinal ($6.75 million) and Mark Madsen ($3.6 million) and possibly the 18th and/or 28th picks.

    I still think the Wizards will trade the pick, though I have no idea what exactly they'd be targeting. But even if Miller isn't the best defensive player, he would provide the Wizards with a consistent threat from three-point range. [Outlet]

  • Mike Prada tries to discover the best possible match(es) for Arenas in the backcourt. [Bullets Forever]

  • Peter Schmuck does his best to defend Dave Trembley's decision to let Danys Baez pitch to Ryan Howard last night. Howard hit a three-run homer, but the Orioles fought back to earn an impressive win. Still, I disagree with Schmuck. If the Orioles were going to pitch to Howard at all, they should have done so with their best left-handed reliever: George Sherrill. Sure, Sherrill's the closer, but the Orioles don't have a better left hander in the bullpen right now. If Trembley wanted to challenge Howard at all, Sherrill should have been the guy -- not Baez. Just take a look at Howard's splits against RHPs (.299, 17 HR, 1.080 OPS) and LHPs (.194, 3 HR, .615 OPS). It's some outside-the-box thinking, but as important as that moment was, Howard should have either been facing Sherrill or put on base. [The Schmuck Stops Here]

  • Rob Neyer discusses the high number of rookie starters this year. [SweetSpot]

  • Rick Dempsey, shockingly enough, believes it may be time for the Orioles to start pursuing some trades. That doesn't mean he'd be OK with the O's trading Gregg Zaun, though. [MASN]

  • Finally, Andy MacPhail says the Orioles are not in "salary dump mode." [Baltimore Sun]

Friday, June 19, 2009

O's notes: series win, HR ball mini-controversy, trade chips

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Orioles battled back against Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez to earn a 5-4 victory and a second consecutive series win.

The situation appeared grim as Rodriguez -- 0.56 ERA, 9.74 K/9, 0.99 WHIP, 17 saves -- entered the game, but Matt Wieters greeted him rudely with a leadoff double to commence the rally. Felix Pie pinch-ran for Wieters at second, and Nolan Reimold, pinch-hitting for Robert Andino, drew a walk. Brian Roberts then bunted down the third-base line, and Pie was called safe on a close play at third base. With the bases loaded and no outs, Adam Jones walked to tie the score at four. Nick Markakis then struck out, but Aubrey Huff picked him up by singling in the winning run.

After the dust settled, Rodriguez had his second blown save on the season and his ERA had nearly doubled to 1.10.

The Orioles now go on the road to play three games in Philadelphia and three in Florida.


Remember the Wieters home run ball? According to Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun, there appeared to be a bit of a disagreement between the Orioles and the fan over what exactly the deal was for the ball:

It seemed like a simple enough transaction. Matt Wieters hit his first major league home run and a guy named Sam Mayfield was on the other end of the deal, retrieving the ball and trading it back to the team for a Wieters autographed bat and ball and a chance to meet and talk to the boy wonder.

Except we all have awakened to a different version of the story. Mayfield and his wife have both posted comments on the blog (and I believe the posts are legit because of the e-mail addresses that accompanied them) claiming that the Orioles should have offered them much more for the ball and making it sound like the Orioles owe them more stuff and some kind of apology.

Well, that's fantastic. Thankfully, Schmuck talked to Mayfield, who said the whole thing was a "misunderstanding." Schmuck: "He has talked to the Orioles and he got an invitation back to the ballpark with his family to meet Matt." So at least that's over with.


Jorge Says No! recently took a look at the Orioles' possible trade chips as the all-star break approaches. Aubrey Huff, George Sherrill, and Danys Baez are listed as "obvious" players to move, while Luke Scott is characterized as "debatable." I've already written about what I think of a potential deal involving Scott, so Scott should definitely be considered if the right offer comes along from a team looking for a left-handed power bat. Gregg Zaun could also possibly be moved for a lower-level prospect, but another team would have to be pretty desperate at catcher for that to happen -- plus, the Orioles seem to like Zaun as a mentoring figure for Matt Wieters.


Finally, Keith Law had a few Orioles-related notes in his latest ESPN chat:

Anthony (MD): Who are the front runners for AL Rookie of the Year? Brad Bergesen and Nolan Reimold have to be in the top 3 right?

Keith Law: Bergesen would definitely be in my top 3 of players to sell now, fast, before they implode.

Andy (Baltimore): How concerned, on a scale from 1 to 10, should I be that the O's may have blown their #5 pick by taking Hobgood instead of a more highly regarded pitcher?

Keith Law: 1.

John (Baltimore): So you're a fan of Hobgood?

Keith Law: Yes. Would he have been my pick at 5? No, definitely not over Zack Wheeler, but I do like Hobgood. Chance for a plus FB/plus CB combo with some feel, and he really competes.

Vincent (DC): Can I get your thoughts on Brandon Snyder? His star has certainly faded a bit, but he's having a very strong season. Thanks.

Keith Law: Liked his swing a lot in AFL but had two concerns - I don't see him getting to the ball down without trouble, and I don't see where he plays other than 1b.

I was mostly intrigued by Law's comments on Bergesen. The rookie has come on strong as of late, winning three of his last four starts by giving up two, zero, two, and two runs, respectively, in those starts.

Bergesen -- 4-2, 3.79 ERA, 4.16 K/9, 1.94 K/BB, 1.14 HR/9 -- has been pretty consistent too, with his worst start being his second one when he gave up five runs in four innings against the Texas Rangers. He doesn't strike out a whole lot of batters, but he doesn't walk many either. Still, he has a 2.05 groundball-to-flyball ratio, with his two-seamer being his most effective pitch. With a .276 BABIP, he also hasn't been particularly lucky (the league average is about .300).

So, as long as Bergesen doesn't elevate the ball and keeps it in the ballpark, he's been effective. Law could be right, though; after all, Bergesen is a rookie and seems likely to go through a rough patch or two as the season rolls along, but he's certainly been better than expected.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wieters hits first HR in O's win

Rookie catcher Matt Wieters hit his first major league home run -- a two-run shot in the second inning -- and Aubrey Huff hit a go-ahead two-run homer of his own in the seventh as the Orioles defeated the Mets 6-4. With the home run, Wieters also collected his first two runs batted in in his young career.

Nick Markakis paced the Orioles' 11-hit attack by going 4-4 (all singles) and raised his batting average 11 points to .298 in the process. Huff and Melvin Mora each had two hits, but, unfortunately, Adam Jones went 0-4 (with a walk) on his bobblehead day.

Koji Uehara pitched an effective five innings by allowing two runs and striking out five batters, and Jim Johnson and George Sherrill combined to pitch scoreless seventh, eighth, and ninth innings to shut down the Mets offense. Johnson earned his third win, and Sherrill collected his 13th save.

Although the O's won, Uehara again wasn't able to pitch deep into a game. In 11 starts this season, Uehara has yet to pitch into the eighth inning and routinely is out of the game around the sixth inning. Still, he has a 4.30 ERA for the season, throws strikes, and, for the most part, has pitched well.

If, at some point, the Orioles decide to bring David Hernandez back up from Norfolk or to get rid of Mark Hendrickson (5.61 ERA), Uehara could become a useful long man out of the bullpen. The long man usually doesn't throw more than three or four innings at a time, and Uehara could thrive in that role.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reactions to Vasquez's return to Maryland

Greivis Vasquez is returning to Maryland for his senior season after withdrawing his name from the 2009 NBA Draft, which is great news for Gary Williams and the Terps. With Vasquez back, Maryland's starting lineup is significantly better, and it also makes the bench a little deeper.

Here are some reactions that examine Vasquez's return further:
  • Terrapins Insider:

    G -- Vasquez
    G -- Bowie
    G -- Mosley
    F -- Milbourne
    F -- Williams

    Bench -- Hayes, Gregory, Tucker, Padgett

    How do you like that lineup?

    Here's the thing about Vasquez: You pretty much know what you're going to get every time he takes the court. For the most part, he was a consistent presence for the Terrapins last season. Even during the stretch when his shooting percentage sunk, he almost always found a way to score 10 or more points. How many other players on Maryland's squad possess that capability?

  • The Dagger:

    While we can debate how good this will make Maryland next year (better than they would be had Vasquez left and certainly more confident), it's undoubtedly a good thing for Vasquez's pro chances. Had he gone pro, he may have slipped into the second round and earned the non-guaranteed contract that comes with it. Now, Vasquez will be leading a presumptive top 25 team in 2010 and figures to have a much better chance at being selected in the first round. Not bad for a guy who doesn't always make the right choice on the court.

  • D.C. Sports Bog Live:

    I like Greivis. He's good for sports. And the Terps are, if not a Top 25 team, an Also Receiving Votes team now. So much for "Program in Crisis" talk.

  • Mike Wise:

    The great thing about Vasquez returning isn't that it flies in the face of so many one-and-done kids making a farce out of the NBA's age-restriction rule; no, [Vasquez and Williams] deserve each other for one more season, if for no other reason than what they've already gone through.

    The Gary and Greivis Show was never validated by numbers and splits or any other timing instrument or tape measure; it was about the bonding of two survivalists.

  • Baltimore Sun:

    With the 6-foot-5 Vasquez back, Maryland has all its starters returning except the graduated Dave Neal. The Terps will blend the backcourt experience of Vasquez and fellow guard Eric Hayes - who will also be a senior - with new inside players James Padgett and Jordan Williams and returning forward Landon Milbourne.

    Vasquez, however, won't be paired with Lance Stephenson, the highly touted, 6-foot-5 McDonald's All-American from Brooklyn, N.Y. Two sources with knowledge of Maryland's efforts, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Monday that the school no longer is recruiting Stephenson, who has had off-the-court issues.

    Vasquez's main assets are his size and ability to penetrate and rebound. He has struggled at times with his three-point shooting (32.7 percent for the season) and his defense. Williams said Vasquez has been working on improving his game, particularly the consistency of his shooting.

  • Tracking the Terps:

    I think most suspected Vasquez wouldn't stay in the NBA draft and would return for his senior season. "I thought he would (remain)," Eric Hayes said. Gary Williams had said much the same thing.

    But still. You never know when an itchy NBA team will get a covetous feeling about a player and whisper in his ear.

    Gary Williams said he was perfectly prepared to say goodbye to Greivis if the player got a top-20 draft nibble. But I don't think the coach expected that to happen. And neither did most of you Terps fans.

    Say what you will about Greivis and his personality -- mercurial? passionate? hot-headed? I think the guy really works to improve himself. He knows all about the turnovers and knows he must improve his shot. I expect him to return a better player this year.

  • ESPN:

    Williams said he is convinced Vasquez can be a top 20 draft pick in 2010.

    "He makes us pretty good,'' Williams said Monday afternoon, a few hours before the 5 p.m. ET deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft. "He's a competitive guy and when he was playing well against other point guards in workouts it was hard to see them projected ahead of him in the draft."

  • Andy Katz:

    A number of teams contacted by ESPN.com said Vasquez would've been a strong second-round selection this year, with the potential of being a solid first-round pick in 2010. On Monday, Vasquez decided on the latter. The native Venezuelan averaged 17.5 ppg last season for a Terps team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Maryland returns essentially everyone from that squad.

  • Andy Katz's latest preseason top 25:

    17. Maryland: Yes, the Terps are getting this high a nod. I know they got rocked by Georgetown and Duke at one point last season and had to scratch and claw their way into the NCAAs. But Greivis Vasquez' decision to return gives Gary Williams the ammunition he needs to build a tough-minded, gritty bunch once again, with eight of the team's nine top scorers back.
I think that about does it. Vasquez's return should certainly make the upcoming season a little more exciting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Life after basketball: Ed O'Bannon

Remember Ed O'Bannon? In part two of a three-part series on retired multimillionaire athletes, Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post provides an interesting look into what O'Bannon is doing now and what happened to him after he was out of the NBA after just a couple of seasons.

O'Bannon helped lead UCLA to an NCAA title in 1995 over Arkansas with 30 points and 17 rebounds in the championship game. By all accounts, O'Bannon was one of the best college players in his senior season -- he won the Wooden Award that season as well -- and the New Jersey Nets selected him ninth overall in the 1995 NBA Draft.

And that's where things started to go south:

"I'd had a pretty good workout with [the Nets], and I said to myself, 'Watch it be my luck -- I'll go from UCLA to New Jersey,' " O'Bannon says. "And sure enough, the cameras come and focus on me just as New Jersey's pick is about to be called. And I'm just like, 'I can't believe I'm going there.'

"That's the honest truth. Right then and there, my stomach dropped and I started to get homesick."

The three-year, $3.9 million contract he signed with the Nets helped soften the blow a little bit, allowing him to buy an SUV for himself and another one for his brother, Charles -- who followed Ed to UCLA and then to the NBA. He and Rosa bought a condo near the ocean in Manhattan Beach, Calif., outside Los Angeles -- but that only served to make him miss home even more.

"I wanted so bad to go to Portland, or Phoenix," he says. "It didn't have to be the Lakers. I wasn't greedy. Just give me Utah or Denver, somewhere in the West, where I could shoot home on an off day. People who don't get homesick won't understand what I'm saying, but that's how I felt, and because of that I just never got comfortable."

Besides being so far away from home, other reasons for O'Bannon's NBA failures include: a bad left knee (he tore his ACL in his freshman year at UCLA in a pickup game); "coaches trying to make him into a shooting guard when all he had ever played was power forward" (O'Bannon is 6-foot-8); and the slow, physical play in the Eastern Conference.

After leaving the NBA, O'Bannon played several more seasons of professional basketball overseas to keep earning a paycheck, though his passion for the game was obviously waning. Though he wasn't really having fun, he still got to experience some bizarre things on the court:

It was in Warsaw, and O'Bannon's team, Polonia Warszawa, was playing a crosstown rival. It was snowing outside, and some of the rivals' fans had brought in some coolers, five or six of them, filled -- as everyone later discovered -- not with drinks, but with snow.

"You could see them start to pack them into snowballs," he says. "And then something happened -- a bad call or something. They get a technical foul, and we're on the free throw line, and all of a sudden a snowball hits the court and slides along the floor. The referee doesn't know what to do. He's standing there with the ball in his hand, and sure enough here comes another."

Pretty soon, it was a hailstorm of snowballs, and Polonia's fans were storming the court, picking up the snowballs and firing them back into the stands at the visiting fans.

"So it was a full-fledged snowball fight," O'Bannon says. "I'm standing there thinking, 'What have I gotten myself into?'"

O'Bannon eventually decided to hang up his sneakers and is currently working hard as a car salesman at a Toyota dealership in Las Vegas.

But even though his life is now devoted to his family and his work, he still has some mixed emotions on what could have been: "It's disappointing to me to this day that I didn't play until I was 40. I wasn't an all-star. I wasn't a Hall of Famer. Those were all goals I had as a kid. So that's disappointing. I'll admit that. It's the truth. But once I decided I didn't want [to play] anymore -- in that respect it's not disappointing at all."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Writer falls short in playing "real journalists" card

The debate on the legitimacy of sports blogging recently returned in a big way for the first time since Buzz Bissinger and Will Leitch had their infamous quarrel more than a year ago on HBO's "Costas Now."

For those who haven't been paying close attention to the controversy that took place this week, here's a quick summary: Basically, a sports blogger whom you've probably never heard of, Jerod Morris of Midwest Sports Fans, wrote a post on Phillies' left fielder Raul Ibanez and his fantastic start to the season. After trying to explain Ibanez's numbers by looking at a change in ballpark dimensions and various bad pitchers that he's hit home runs off of so far, Morris speculates that mentioning the possibility of steroids is not completely out of the equation:

[I]t’s time for me to begrudgingly acknowledge the elephant in the room: any aging hitter who puts up numbers this much better than his career averages is going to immediately generate suspicion that the numbers are not natural, that perhaps he is under the influence of some sort of performance enhancer. And since I was not able to draw any absolute parallels between his prodigously improved HR rate and his new ballpark’s hitter-friendliness, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that “other” performance enhancers could be part of the equation.

Sorry Raul Ibanez and Major League Baseball, that’s just the era that we are in — testing or no testing.

Personally, I am withholding judgment until we see a full seasons’ worth of stats. Many players put together terrific runs of 150-250 ABs in the midst of otherwise normal or just slightly above average (based on their career numbers) seasons. Ibanez’s terrific 219 AB run since Opening Day is just magnified right now because it came at the start of the season.

Really, is that so bad? Morris doesn't come out and accuse Ibanez of taking steroids, which is because no one knows whether he did or not. Is it unfair to even include Ibanez's name in the steroid speculation dicussion? Sure, but it's not the first time that something similar has happened, and it won't be the last. Try mentioning Brady Anderson's name to someone and have the issue of steroids not come up. It's almost impossible, yet Anderson never tested positive for steroids.

As Joe Posnanski recently wrote, the worst thing Morris did was to not go far enough in his analysis. Posnanski points out that in Ibanez's career, he routinely goes on stretches when he absolutely tears the cover off of the ball, but that this year his hot stretch started at the beginning of the season instead of later on.

If Morris had discovered that trend, he probably wouldn't have had to bring up the steroid element in his article. So if Morris is guilty of anything, it's 1) not completely following through with his research, 2) using steroid speculation as a crutch to explain a situation that he couldn't find a reasonable solution to, and 3) mentioning steroids at all -- really, it's possible to bring up the notion of steroids with just about any player, so what does it bring to the table?

But if Morris hadn't written his post and caused an uproar, Posnanski may not have written his post, and many people wouldn't have learned more about Ibanez and his hitting trends. Morris still did a good job of discussing the topic at hand, which is what many blogs are good for anyway. Not every blog is well written or is the place to go to be schooled in Journalism 101, but readers can absorb plenty of opinions from all over the place. Blogs further the discussion in many ways that mainstream media can't and won't.

And that's precisely what many in the mainstream media fail to realize. Case in point: Geoff Baker's recent article in the Mariners blog for The Seattle Times. Baker discusses accountability, dedication, and responsbility, etc. in his article, which is great; I agree that all of those things are important and are qualities that all journalists should have. Baker writes:

But when you go all-in, you've got to go all in. He didn't do that. When you write about topics like killers, or Hell's Angels, or major leaguers and steroids, you can't pussy foot around. You've got to go at it hard, directly, with no b.s. and be able to defend yourself afterwards. This blogger couldn't because he went in only halfway. He tried to raise the "steroids issue" then claimed he really wasn't pointing a finger at Ibanez....It's no different from being in the schoolyard in fifth grade. If you're going to talk smack about someone, be prepared to stand up for yourself and ride out the blows. That goes for writing about Ibanez, or Yuniesky Betancourt, or John McLaren, or Bill Bavasi. In this business, you can't afford to give in to momentary fan frustration and lash out at players and team officials. Sure, some people do it in this business. Nobody is perfect. But there is always a price to be paid. It's not as simple as doing it from your "basement" or "office" or whatever. You have to have the defense ready in your head, and be prepared to defend your reputation in any forum, when you venture potshots at people from my position.

And that's why you see mainstream media taking fewer potshots than bloggers. Because at the end of the day, reason and fairness has to win out. Nobody's perfect. But it's always better to err on the side of caution -- and do a little more legwork -- than to have Ken Rosenthal destroying you on national TV, when your only defense is mere cliches and half-hearted insinuations.

It's rarely about us "soft pedaling it" or currying favor with the people we cover, either. I laugh at those suggestions, which I still see made by bloggers who have no idea what they are talking about. I get accused of it from time to time by bloggers too lazy to try to consider why I might be saying something. Folks, I took on an 88-win manager in his first season of a multi-year contract when I was a rookie beat writer 11 years ago because the circumstances warranted it. Do you seriously think I cared whether McLaren liked me or not? Time to get real. There's a difference between being fair and critical and being an attack-dog. You learn things like subtlety and nuance when you do this for a while.

Some writers pander to the blogosphere, focusing on popular stats or topics, or targets, to curry favor. Trust me, I know exactly what to write if I want all Seattle baseball fans to like me and worship what I print. But it's never about that. It can't ever be that way.

This is serious stuff. When you have the power to ruin reputations and change lives, it can never be abused. Or gone at in a half-hearted way.

And the ability to think about those things beforehand, truly, is what separates real journalists -- serious ones, not Jason Blair types -- from basement bloggers.

Sorry for the long quote, but this is important stuff. I'm not really sure how writing about killers compares to writing about baseball, but that's just me. People should be accountable for whatever they write, that's a given. And it's also extremely important to take a side in an argument, but only when the situation calls for it. Why did Morris have to stand on one side or the other in his piece? He was trying to present an honest take on what he was observing. He didn't quite uncover all that he could, but he tried, and at the end of the day, that's important. He wasn't trying to call out Ibanez; he was trying to figure something out. Not everyone can get a manager fired like Baker did, and they shouldn't be penalized for it.

That's a huge problem between the mainstream media and the blogosphere -- having a discussion vs. becoming the discussion. Baker offers a more than reasonable argument, but his column also presents another wrinkle to the overall debate. He's too busy saying, "Look at me" and "Look what I've done." Whenever popular columnists are challenged or feel threatened, they want to throw out their resume or talk about their contacts or anything else that makes them feel popular. Baker's column isn't just talking about journalists vs. bloggers; it's about himself. Just look at how many times he uses the words I, my, or myself -- 100 times. That's right, 100. He's trying to tell you that he's right and that you should believe him because of what he accomplished 10 years ago and that if you disagree, well you don't have the experience that he does, so you're wrong.

It's hard enough to read a column these days without being bombarded with a lack of in-depth analysis. I talked about this before, but a recent Michael Wilbon article on the upcoming NBA Draft mentioned Gilbert Arenas and the fact that he's not really a point guard. I like Wilbon's writing, but his only reasoning was that Magic Johnson said Arenas isn't really a point guard, so it must be true. How's that for definitive proof? There are certainly exceptions -- plenty of writers provide outstanding analysis in their articles -- but for the most part, if fans want to delve further into statistics of their favorite team, they read blogs.

And if the entire mainstream media was so much better at analyzing all aspects of a sports topic than the blogosphere, then a website like Fire Joe Morgan wouldn't have been so popular in the first place.

There are good mainstream writers and there are bad ones, and the same thing is true in the sports blogging world. And many media members have embraced bloggers and understand that they're not going away.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Some O's fans are frustrated

Rather than analyze what appears to be another Orioles loss tonight, this time against the Braves, I figured I'd post a couple of comments I made today on Roch Kubatko's MASN blog in response to some odd suggestions from a couple of O's fans on what the team should do to get out of its current funk.

Feel free to chime in if you agree, disagree, or have a comment of your own.

First comment:

"Matt K. said:

After reading some of these comments, it's pretty evident how fickle so many Orioles fans are. Someone suggested hitting Roberts 9th and Andino 1st -- really, that's the solution? Actually, that's a perfect way for Trembley to get fired -- to make a whole bunch of snap decisions that don't make sense.

Another person suggested trading Guthrie for a third baseman -- well, what kind of trade value does he have right now with an ERA around 5.50? What kind of player would that get the O's?

As unfortunate as it is, teams go through slumps. I know the Orioles are 10 games below .500 now, but sit back and relax: the team is improving. Wieters is starting to feel more comfortable at the plate, and Reimold has been better than most O's fans could hope for, especially after watching Felix Pie for the first part of the season.

The pitching staff is getting younger and better, and that's not even counting the top pitching prospects that should be on the way within a year or so. So what if Roberts, Jones, Markakis, Huff, and Mora are underperforming a bit? The O's front office knows what it has in those guys, and they will turn it around sooner or later -- they're too talented not to. It's a shame that they're all struggling at the same time, but they will break out of it.

The worst thing to do would be to overreact and make poor choices now. Hey, Marco Scutaro is playing well this season, let's trade Markakis for him!"

A response to my comment, with a comment of my own following that:

"AnotherBrian said:
Matt K.,

I put Andino first because he's actually been hitting decent lately. Also, he's a base-stealing threat. What is your definition of a leadoff guy? A guy who gets on base and can steal second? Yeah.

I put Roberts 9th because although he hasn't been hitting lately, it takes pressure off of him. It also allows Mora and Weiters to see a few more pitches since teams will be trying to get them out before Roberts gets up. I wouldn't expect Roberts to be batting 4th-6th because I don't view him as a power guy as much as Huff, Scott, Jones, and Reimold.

There's nothing 'fickle' about that. It doesn't follow the set-in-stone ways of people like you who have one view on how things should be, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't work. This wasn't the 'what would Matt K. do' question.

I wonder if you think Walker should still be in the bullpen because it was a fickle move to get rid of him after he had a couple bad outings? I mean, he has had a history of success. Why change anything?


(My response:) How is there not anything fickle about moving Andino into the leadoff spot and moving Roberts 9th? So Andino has been in a bit of a good stretch -- so what? He's hitting .254, and he has 1 stolen base in 2 attempts. And in 207 career at bats, his on-base percentage is .260. Granted, that's not a huge sample size, but that's not exactly tiny either. He's an 8th or 9th place hitter, and putting him in the leadoff spot for anything other than a game or two would make little sense.

On the other hand, Roberts is hitting .284 and hits plenty of doubles. He also gets on base a lot -- his career OBP is .355. His walks are down a bit, but he's still getting on base at an effective rate. Even if he's had a bad stretch, he's still the guy the O's want at the top of the lineup; why move him to the 9th spot, and how exactly does that take the pressure off of him if every time he has a slump he has to worry about being moved down? And also, if he's doing so bad as to be hitting 9th, why would other teams be concerned about hurrying up and getting the hitters before him out before he comes up? That logic doesn't make any sense.

There's no reason for you to get angry about what I said, and it's not just the way "only Matt K. thinks." If you ran a poll, maybe 1 percent of O's fans would choose Andino to hit leadoff over Roberts. That's not just what I think, it's a fact; Roberts is a much, much better hitter than Andino.

Walker is a completely different case altogether. He turns 38 on July 1st, and he wasn't effective at all last year. I didn't even think he'd make the team out of spring training and was shocked when he did. I do think the O's need to make a change here or there, but what's the point in overreacting and messing with the whole roster? The O's have a plan, and Roberts, Markakis, Jones, etc. are all in it. Moving them up and down the order just because the O's have been losing lately wouldn't change much, especially if you buy into the fact that batters' placement in the order doesn't matter a whole lot. I think it matters some, but obviously you think it is extremely important. I guess we'll just agree to disagree."

Another response to my first comment, with my comments again after:

"Malignant said:
Matt K wrote: 'Another person suggested trading Guthrie for a third baseman -- well, what kind of trade value does he have right now with an ERA around 5.50? What kind of player would that get the O's?'

I assume you're directing that towards me? The answer is, plenty. Not what you may have gotten last year, but he's got enough of a track record that you get one premium prospect and a couple of lower tier prospects. Easily. Whether or not there's a 3rd base prospect out there on a contending team, I don't know without doing research. The point is, this teams NEEDS a 3rd baseman for the future.


(My response:) Really, a team would give up a premium prospect right now for Jeremy Guthrie? Look, I like Guthrie, but there's something wrong with him lately. His walks and strikeouts are about the same percentage as last year, but he's giving up way more home runs, plus opposing batters are hitting .291 off of him. For the Guthrie of last season, I'm sure the Orioles could have gotten back a nice prospect or two, but now, I'm not so sure. If it was possible, I guess that would be a smart move, but I don't know.

By the way, the Orioles don't just need a third baseman for the future -- how about potential starters at the rest of the infield positions, not counting catcher, of course. Snyder could work at first base, I guess, but second base (after Roberts is gone) and shortstop are question marks right now.

I know what you're trying to say, but it's hard to get another team to part with a potential solid player for players that aren't performing that well. What is Guthrie really worth at this point?"

Again, it's not a real big deal that there are some strange opinions out there on what the Orioles should or shouldn't be doing, but I thought these two were particularly odd.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WJFK considering a switch to sports talk format

The CBS Radio-owned station WJFK (106.7 FM) may be "switching... from its guy-centric talk programs to sports talk" in an effort to battle Daniel Snyder, who owns ESPN 980 and is the unofficial "king of sports talk radio" in the D.C. area, according to Paul Farhi of The Washington Post.

Although Farhi fails to produce any direct comments from CBS Radio on the potential changes to the station, which means the move is probably just speculation at this point, he still does an effective job of breaking down WJFK vs. ESPN 980:

At the moment, neither WJFK nor ESPN 980 is widely popular. During the first three weeks of May, according to audience figures compiled by Arbitron Inc., WJFK tied for 17th place among local stations, attracting an average of just 2.4 percent of the audience during its broadcasting day. ESPN 980 ranked 19th, with 2.2 percent. Both stations did somewhat better among the core market of adults 25 to 54: WJFK tied for 13th among this age group and ESPN 980 ranked 17th.

In addition to trying to broaden its audience, CBS also might be looking to reduce WJFK's operating costs. Its programming lineup has not been completed, but WJFK likely will retain the Junkies program in the critical morning "drive" hours. CBS has been talking with former Redskin LaVar Arrington and Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise about hosting daily programs.

A few thoughts here:

First, I've listened to Mike Wise a few times on ESPN 980, and I have a hard time believing he could host a daily radio show. If Wise and Arrington worked together on a program, I guess that could work since Wise writes interesting columns and Arrington certainly has in-depth knowledge of the game and was a star for a few years with the Redskins, but maybe I just haven't seen or heard enough of them on TV or on the radio to have a better opinion on that.

Second, I don't think it's possible for the Junkies to go back to an all-sports format. I do listen to them routinely on my drive to work in the morning, but that's mostly because I refuse to listen to the dreadful Mike and Mike show on ESPN 980. Unless they're talking about the Redskins or the NFL as a whole, only two of the Junkies seem to care about other sports -- Lurch and JP -- and some of the conversations on sports topics seem a little awkward at times. I guess they could switch back if really necessary, but they have way too much fun talking about plenty of things that have nothing to do with sports, which is fine.

And third, Farhi mentions this briefly toward the end of the article, but I was sad to see Al Koken laid off and removed from The John Thompson show. Koken usually knew what he was talking about and has/had a great passion for D.C. sports, not to mention that he had solid chemistry with Thompson on the air. As for Brian Mitchell's similar departure from the show, I'm a little less bothered. Mitchell was extremely critical of the Redskins and particularly of running back Clinton Portis, though I can't say that I didn't enjoy the on-air battles between the two. But after a while, it got old to hear the same negative comments from Mitchell week in and week out.

But back to the topic at hand, I just have one question for CBS Radio on the possible decision: Why? The Junkies have a popular show with what their format is now, and lots of people love the Big O and Dukes show too. If they were going to get rid of one show, it should probably be the Mike O'Meara Show, which might make a little more sense than messing with the entire station. Replacing that program with a well-run sports show could work. But if they mess with the entire station's format, they may risk upsetting a lot of listeners.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Reporter dunks on kid, laughs about it

This past weekend I was on a little vacation, but I don't think I missed much. The Orioles lost all three of their games in Oakland with some awful performances, so not seeing any of that was fine. Plus, I did get to watch a great Game 2 of the NBA Finals, though the Lakers won in overtime as the refs continued to give them call after call.

Still, I'm glad to be back, if not just for stories like this one:

It isn’t often you get to see a grown man with few demonstrable basketball skills — you can tell from the one weak dribble — dunk on a small child. Even better, it isn’t often that small child takes the big angry man’s taunts seriously (then again, if you’re a small child, it’s hard to detect tongue-in-cheek ridicule). And even better than that, it’s even less often that the small child’s angry mother tries to salvage some shred of her family’s on-air dignity by holding her tearful spawn up to the reporter, in effect shaming him, before walking away from the camera in a huff.

After reading that, is there any possible way that you don't watch the following video?

My two favorite parts: 1) When the kid's mother gets bitter while the father keeps laughing in the background, and 2) the end of the clip when the WGN sports anchor (Pat Tomasulo -- the guy who dunks on the kid) pretends to apologize and says he feels "so powerful."

So, even if the Orioles keep playing horribly on the road and the Lakers win the NBA title, as long as reporters keep dunking on little kids, things will be just fine for the next few months.

(HT: Awful Announcing)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

LeBron criticized over 'handshakegate'

I don't need to do so, but I'll admit it: I'm not a fan of LeBron James. Most of it has to do with the fact that the Wizards can't get by James and the Cavaliers in the playoffs, but that's not the whole issue. I've written about my dislike of James and his "too cool for school" attitude before, but what he did this past week was a little different: it appears that he actually did something in the spur of the moment when he angrily walked off the floor instead of staying to shake hands with the Magic after being knocked out of the playoffs.

Was he mad? No question. But did he do the wrong thing? Probably. And for the first time that I can recall, James was openly criticized for something.

Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote the most critical article about James that I could find (and probably the one that I enjoyed the most). Here's a sample:

LeBron doesn’t want to win more than Michael Jordan did, but Jordan could stop and shake a winner’s hand. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird could, too. Julius Erving did. Isiah Thomas led a walkout after losing to the Chicago Bulls after winning two NBA titles, but Joe Dumars never followed him. He stayed and shook Jordan’s hand, the way Jordan had always shook his when the Pistons had beaten him.

“M.J. had stopped, shook my hand and hugged me three straight years that we had beaten them in the playoffs,” Dumars once told me. “There was no way I was walking off the court without shaking the Bulls’ hands.”

Within the Cavs, someone needed to tell James that he embarrassed himself and the franchise, but that won’t happen. They’re too scared of him. Most league executives with knowledge of Cleveland’s operation believe it’s far more of an ownership issue, than basketball operations.

And if that wasn't enough, Wojnarowski wasn't done (thankfully):

The Cavaliers are terrified of James. When you’re around them, it’s sometimes embarrassing to watch the way they tip-toe and grovel with him. In their defense, that’s how James wants it. As a childhood prodigy, that’s all LeBron’s ever known. The Cavs are at his mercy until he becomes a free agent in July of 2010, and that isn’t going to change. There’s no chance that he signs an extension this summer, because that would be the end of the drama, the intrigue and LeBron James isn’t letting that go away.

He's right. There's no question that James is the league's top talent, but he still has some maturing to do. And he obviously loves every moment in the spotlight.

Even NBA commissioner David Stern isn't particularly happy with James:

In an appearance on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," Stern acknowledged he was not pleased that James, the league's reigning MVP, didn't meet with the media, or shake hands with the Orlando Magic, following the Game 6 loss Saturday night.

Noting that in the recent past, other players and teams have been fined for failing to meet the league's media guidelines, Cowherd asked why James had not been fined.

"I'm in the process of making a phone call or two now to talk to LeBron ... so I don't want to speak to that at this moment," Stern said.

"So you're not happy?" Cowherd asked.

"I think that's fair to say," Stern replied.

I don't think that James should be fined, but that's a separate issue.

And not surpisingly, Michael Wilbon came to James's defense with an interesting excuse:

These are the kinds of lessons that aren't learned in AAU ball, where the star is simply catered to, but college, where the coach has the position and the authority to say, "Son, go back out there and shake their hands or you'll get splinters in your butt for the next five games." LeBron, who came to the NBA straight out of high school, didn't get that. If Kobe Bryant had walked off the court without shaking hands, two straight years in the conference finals, no less, he'd have been taken apart in the court of public opinion.

Still, I'm reluctant, like most people, to be too rough on LeBron simply for the reason that he's been so consistently appropriate and well-reasoned. He's been everything you could want a star player to be in the NBA. I've had several conversations with him over the course of the 2008-09 season, one of them here in Washington, lengthy and wide-ranging, and it's not just that he's engaging, which he is. But he's thoughtful. He's taken the time, unlike a lot of famous players, to thoroughly examine the history of the league before he arrived in it.

Yeah, whatever. If not shaking hands after a game is the worst thing that James ever does, that will be pretty remarkable. But I have a hard time believing that he decided to storm off the court just because he didn't have the proper coaching. Who, at any point in James's basketball career, has had enough authority to sit him on the bench at any point? I seriously doubt that would have ever happened no matter which coach he played for in college. He would have been such a huge star that any coach would have been publicly roasted for disciplining royalty. But again, that doesn't really matter.

As far as my opinion, I'm a bit torn. I didn't play in high school or in college, but I can't remember a rec league game when I ever just stormed out of the gym without shaking hands with the opposing team. I wasn't happy about shaking hands after losing, but I always did. But when I'm playing pickup ball, my attitude can be pretty terrible, and I can often be hard to talk to if my team loses or things aren't going right on the court. It can take me a little while to cool down, but once that happens, I'm usually good to go.

I don't think James is a horrible person, but he may be a bad sport. And that's not the worst thing in the world -- unless, of course, you're supposed to be the face of the NBA like James is. So, yeah, he might want to work on that.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Luke Scott isn't untouchable

One of the most annoying things to overhear at a baseball game is any kind of conversation by people who don't know what they're talking about. At an Orioles-Nationals game about a week back, I sat in front of a confused Nationals fan who, oddly enough, took credit for a Nick Johnson trade to the Red Sox that never happened and then tried to explain a balk call to a woman friend who had no idea what he was talking about. So, yeah, that was interesting.

You've also probably overheard fans discussing trading various players even though they probably overvalued them because of a few good performances or perhaps some unreached potential. This is obviously common in other sports as well, such as when, say, Wizards fans use ESPN's NBA Trade Machine and include the likes of Oleksiy Pecherov and Darius Songalia, among others, in some possible package for a star like Chris Bosh -- not that I've ever tried that.

I've already seen a few comments on message boards pining for the Orioles to hurry up and deal Luke Scott for whatever the O's can get. While it's true that the Orioles have a tough decision to make regarding Scott and that it's unlikely the team could get a king's ransom for him, he could still bring in some good talent.

Scott has been on fire since coming off of the disabled list, including being named the AL's Player of the Week. Scott had back-to-back two-homer games, and he hit six home runs in a recent four-game stretch. In a relatively small sample size this season, Scott, in 117 at bats, has posted a great .325/.406/.658 split with 11 home runs. He's also walked 15 times while striking out 22 times, which is pretty good. And as the Orioles play the Mariners tonight in Seattle, Scott just laced a single to right field.

Unfortunately, while he's hitting extremely well at the moment, he's good, but not that good. If he was a little younger, it would be a little more likely that he was developing into that kind of a player, but Scott turns 31 later this month. In his career, Scott is a .272/.358/.512 hitter, which is still very solid.

So, again, I'm not trying to be that annoying guy at the ballpark who talks about trading everyone away, but it would seem to make sense for the Orioles to explore the possibility of trading Scott for a few pieces, especially since the Orioles are still not one or two players away from being a top team. They're getting much better, and a big reason for that is Andy MacPhail's willingness to pull the trigger on a few key trades. That's how the Orioles acquired Scott in the first place, so if MacPhail feels that dealing Scott can help the organization, I'd be all for it.

When a team like the Orioles is trying to become relevant again, not many players can be considered untouchable.