Monday, July 27, 2009

Appreciating Nolan Reimold

As far as promising American League rookies go, the Orioles have a few solid ones: Matt Wieters, Brad Bergesen, and Nolan Reimold. Koji Uehara, technically a rookie, posted pretty good numbers before getting hurt in late June. David Hernandez has also been impressive lately, shutting down the Yankees and Red Sox in consecutive starts. Plus, Chris Tillman is set to make his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Royals.

I've written a little about Bergesen and Wieters, but I don't think I've given Reimold his due.

In 59 games, Reimold is hitting .281/.362/.467 with nine home runs, 27 RBI, and a 0.62 BB/K ratio (24/39). According to FanGraphs, he's been worth $3.2 million so far, though his defense in left field -- -4.9 UZR, -12.6 UZR/150 -- has been subpar. He also has five steals and has yet to be caught.

Compared to other AL rookies, Reimold is more than holding his own. He ranks third in hits, fifth in doubles, first in home runs, first in RBI, t-fifth in steals, first in walks, second in average, second in OBP, and first in slugging. Now those are strong numbers.

Reimold, who turns just 26 in October, certainly seems like he has a very bright future ahead of him in Baltimore -- not to mention that he has a decent chance of winning Rookie of the Year honors in the AL.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekly Rundown: Ozzie Guillen, J-Macverine, Sarasota

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.

  • Mike Florio thinks that Michael Vick is, right now, better than Jason Campbell and 11 other starting quarterbacks around the NFL. [Pro Football Talk]

  • Earlier this week, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made the decision to demote outfielder Brian Anderson instead of Dewayne Wise, and some poeple apparently think Guillen is a racist. Wait, what? [FanHouse]

  • After seven years, Bill Simmons "retires" from writing his ESPN The Magazine column. [ESPN]

  • J.A. Adande says that the NBA powers only got stronger this offseason. But what about the Wizards, J.A.? [ESPN]

  • Dan Steinberg gives a glimpse of some of the Wizards fans in Las Vegas for the NBA's Summer League. [D.C. Sports Bog]

  • The Orioles reached a deal to move their spring training home to Sarasota. [Herald Tribune]

  • The NFL Draft will now be a three-day event, with the first round airing in prime time on Thursday. For what it's worth, I'm not a fan of the time change. [Awful Announcing]

  • Peter Schmuck didn't appreciate Matt Wieters striking out looking on a 3-2 fastball on Saturday. [The Schmuck Stops Here]

  • Jason Reid will now be the main contributor to the Redskins Insider blog at The Washington Post. [Redskins Insider]

  • Chris Tillman is officially coming to Baltimore to make his first start on Wednesday. But whose spot will he take in the rotation? [Camden Crazies]

  • Rob Neyer doesn't seem to be drinking the Billy Beane kool-aid anymore. [SweetSpot]

  • The Wizards signed Fabricio Oberto, and he seems like a pretty good fit. [Bullets Forever]

  • JaVale McGee, aka "J-Macverine," is a rather odd dude. [Truth About It]

  • Yet another entertaining installment in the "Livin' Large" series. If you haven't checked these out, you should. [Basketbawful]

  • And finally, John Calipari has a new website. Eamonn Brennan is right on the money: "Sometimes being a basketball coach has very little to do with coaching basketball." [The Dagger]

Evaluating the Redskins' offseason

Last season, the Washington Redskins finished 8-8 and were outscored by 31 points (296-265). Here's a quick review of what went down -- sticking to the facts.

First, the good news:

1) The defense was phenomenal, finishing sixth in points allowed per game (18.5) and fourth in yards allowed per game (288.8).

2) Clinton Portis had a solid season, rushing for 1,487 yards (fourth in the NFL) and scoring nine touchdowns.

3) The Redskins offense didn't commit many turnovers; their 18 turnovers were second-lowest in the NFC.

4) Jason Campbell had his best season as a pro. The numbers weren't spectacular -- 3,245 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 258 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown -- but he only threw six interceptions, only lost one fumble, and posted the best quarterback rating of his career: 84.3 percent.

5) The same coaching staff returns for another season.

Now, the bad news:

1) For the most part, the offense was atrocious. The Redskins were 28th in points per game (16.6) and 19th in yards per game (320.0). Even the 0-16 Detroit Lions (16.8) scored more points per game than the Redskins offense. The aging and worn-down offensive line also allowed 38 sacks -- tied for 22nd in the NFL.

2) The defense forced only 18 turnovers (13 interceptions and five fumbles), which was tied for last in the NFC with San Francisco and Atlanta. Also, the Redskins defense had trouble getting to opposing quarterbacks, recording only 24 sacks (t-28th with Buffalo). So the defense regularly stopped opposing offenses in scoring and yardage totals, but it didn't force a bunch of turnovers in order to set the offense up with great field position very often.

3) The rookie receivers contributed very little. Their 2008-2009 totals: Devin Thomas (15 receptions, 120 yards, three carries, 53 rushing yards, one touchdown), Fred Davis (three receptions, 27 yards), and Malcolm Kelly (three receptions, 18 yards).

4) Punting and field goal kicking were both terrible. Kicker Shaun Suisham was last in the NFL with a 72.2 percentage on field goals. And with the two-headed monster of Durant Brooks and then Ryan Plackemeier, the Redskins finished 29th in punting average (41.0).

5) Antwaan Randle El was awful as a punt returner. In 39 attempts, Randle El had a 6.5-yard return average. If not for Santana Moss (six attempts, 124 yards, one touchdown (80-yard return against Detroit)), the Redskins' punt return average of 8.4 yards would have been lower than 22nd in the NFL.

For the most part, those were the main positives and negatives of the season. And, in yet another interesting offseason, here’s how the Redskins addressed those problem areas (in no particular order):
  • Albert Haynesworth signs for seven years, $100 million ($41 million guaranteed).

  • DeAngelo Hall re-signs for six years, $54 million ($22.5 million guaranteed).

  • Derrick Dockery returns and signs a five-year, 27 million contract ($8.5 million guaranteed).

  • Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato try to trade for Jay Cutler and then consider drafting Mark Sanchez. Neither move takes place.

  • Jason Taylor, Marcus Washington, Shawn Springs, and Jon Jansen get cut. Demetric Evans leaves and signs with San Francisco.

  • Punter Hunter Smith signs with the Redskins, along with Phillip Daniels, Renaldo Wynn, Jeremy Bridges, and Mike Williams (all 404 pounds of him, though right now he's down to 354 pounds).

  • Defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo is the Redskins’ first-round draft pick. The other draft selections include cornerback Kevin Barnes (third round), linebacker Cody Glenn (fifth round), linebacker Robert Henson (sixth round), tight end Eddie Williams (seventh round), and wide receiver Marko Mitchell (seventh round). The Redskins decide not to pick an offensive lineman.

  • The Redskins make the only choice in the NFL supplemental draft, selecting Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon (for a 2010 third-round pick).
Reactions to the various moves, as expected, were mixed. If you're interested, here are some of them:

  • Clifton Brown: "Albert Haynesworth worth the gamble for Redskins owner Dan Snyder"

  • Peter King: "Lewis a Cowboy? Cassel a Chief? Previewing the start of free agency"
Negative:Neither (or both):
      There are way more links out there, but those were the ones I had highlighted in particular.

      Look, it's easy to bash Daniel Snyder. I don't know many, if any, Redskins fans who actually like the guy as the team's owner. But, ignoring all of that hatred, dislike, etc. for a moment, let's focus on whether or not the Redskins are better equipped to handle the 2009-2010 season.

      As of this moment, the Redskins appear to be content with their group of players and are ready to head to training camp on July 30.

      Earlier I recapped some of the problem areas, so let's summarize the team's weaknesses that needed to be addressed: 1) scoring more points and getting more production from receivers not named Santana Moss and Chris Cooley; 2) defensive line (creating pressure and turnovers; getting sacks); 3) offensive line depth (preventing sacks and opening holes); 4) better punting and field goal kicking; 5) depth at linebacker and in the secondary; and 6) a better punt return average.

      First, the Redskins didn't sign or draft any big name running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, or quarterbacks. Snyder and Cerrato tried to make a splash by going after Jay Cutler and then Mark Sanchez in the draft, but neither move ever materialized. Jason Campbell will be counted on to improve significantly now that he's in his second year in Jim Zorn's offensive system. The offense will be counting on the same group of offensive playmakers besides Campbell: Portis, Moss, Cooley, Randle El, and Ladell Betts. Thomas, Kelly, or Davis will probably need to step up and be reliable for opposing defenses to stop double-teaming Moss and Cooley on obvious passing downs.

      Second, the defensive line was definitely upgraded and may be the team's deepest position. Haynesworth and Cornelius Griffin will start at defensive tackle and will be backed up by the solid duo of Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery. Andre Carter and Phillip Daniels will probably start at defensive end. The backups there could include Renaldo Wynn, Rob Jackson, Brian Orakpo, and Chris Wilson. Orakpo may play mostly at linebacker, but his role isn't really known at this point. Jarmon, selected in the supplemental draft, may not see the field much this season, depending on injuries. The versatile Lorenzo Alexander could also see some playing time. With the powerful Haynesworth now anchoring the line and giving a strong push up the middle, the Redskins should be able to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

      Third, the offensive line didn't get younger, but it was upgraded. Dockery is a better option than Pete Kendall at guard, and Stephon Heyer, Jeremy Bridges, or Mike Williams appear to be better options than the recently departed Jon Jansen. As usual, if the Redskins are forced to weather a few injuries on the line, Jason Campbell (and Joe Bugel) will have his hands full.

      Fourth, the Redskins addressed the punting situation by signing Hunter Smith away from the Colts. Last season, Smith was 12th in the NFL with a 44.2-yard average. If he's able to duplicate those numbers, that will be a three-yard increase per punt over what Redskins' punters did last season. Suisham, unfortunately, may return at kicker, but he'll have to beat out Dave Rayner for the job in training camp. Neither is a particularly reliable option, though.

      Fifth, linebacker still appears to be a little thin. London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh will start, and H.B. Blades may be the third starting linebacker. Orakpo could also see lots of playing time. Other options, right now, include Alfred Fincher, Robert Thomas, Glenn, and Henson. With LaRon Landry, Chris Horton, Kareem Moore, and Reed Doughty, safety is a pretty deep position, but the battle for the dime cornerback position behind Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall, and Fred Smoot will likely come down to rookie Kevin Barnes and Justin Tryon. The hard-hitting Barnes will probably win that battle.

      And sixth, Randle El should not be allowed to return punts this season. I'd prefer that Moss didn't handle the job more than a few times during the season to keep him healthy, so it may make sense to give Hall a shot. In 13 career punt return attempts, Hall has managed 123 yards -- good enough for a 9.4-yard average. At this point in his career, Randle El can't do that.

      The worst thing that the Redskins failed to do in the offseason is add some youth to the offensive line. Injuries frequently occur, and it doesn't seem like the Redskins will be able to take much of a hit on the offensive line and be able to stay effective for the rest of the season. Linebacker depth could still be a concern as well, but Orakpo could also succeed in whatever role defensive coordinator Greg Blatche places him in.

      Anyway, judge the offseason for yourself. Did the Redskins really get better?

      Thursday, July 23, 2009

      Posnanski lists his top 100 players

      In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Joe Posnanski put together a list of his top 100 players in baseball right now. Here's what he based his list on:

      So the way I tried to think of it was this: Imagine the season was starting again tomorrow and every player was thrown into an expansion draft. You are a general manager. Your owner asks you to give him your dream list, the 100 best players in the game, but the key is you have to win THIS YEAR or you will be fired, and then you will be tarred and feathered, and then you will be forced to spend 10 hours a day for two solid months listening to Steve Phillips tell you how to run a baseball team.

      Point is, you better be right.

      The list -- since almost everyone loves a good list -- is intriguing. Posnanski's top 10 is as follows: Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke, Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, Johan Santana, and Roy Halladay. A few players there could be rearranged, but such a task is rather subjective -- no two people would put the exact same list together.

      To my surprise, though, neither Adam Jones nor Nick Markakis appeared on the list; in fact, there wasn't a single Oriole. Here's some of the guys who made it in over those two: Adam Dunn, Ryan Franklin, Heath Bell, Brandon Inge, Kevin Millwood, Aramis Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Johnny Damon, and Jorge Posada. Would you put Jones or Markakis in over any of those guys? It's worth considering, at least.

      Again, going back to Posnanski's criteria, the list is based on winning right now. It's not about what a player could become in the near future. So, even though I'd like to break down many of these players, we'll just look at one case: Jones vs. Damon.

      First of all, both players are relatively healthy at the moment -- both have played in 86 games -- so durability isn't much of an issue. Next, Jones plays the tougher defensive position -- center field vs. left field -- so he gets the nod there. Also, Jones can actually throw the ball with some force behind it, so that's another point in his favor. Now, here's the breakdown:

      Adam Jones:
      Offense: .307/.361/.493, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 0.33 BB/K
      Defense: -7.2 UZR, -11.3 UZR/150, 5.0 Arm
      Value: $8.8 million, 2.0 WAR (wins above replacement)

      Johnny Damon:
      Offense: .278/.363/.505, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 0.68 BB/K
      Defense: -9.6 UZR, -15.6 UZR/150, -1.6 Arm
      Value: $7.0 million, 1.6 WAR

      Jones's and Damon's offensive numbers are comparable; Damon's slugging percentage is aided by two more home runs right now. Since Damon plays in the new Yankee stadium with an even shorter porch than the old stadium, those numbers certainly seem inflated a bit. Damon walks more and strikes out less than Jones, but Jones, even if he's been a little lucky with balls in play this season (.355 BABIP), has cut down his strikeouts a bit and is walking more.

      In terms of defense, neither has been very good. Jones has a great arm, but it hasn't helped his overall defense in center field. But, as stated before, he does play the tougher position; Damon's awful defensive numbers come in left field, which is much worse and certainly is hurting his 2009 value. And, according to FanGraphs (as all the stats are), Jones, so far, has more value this season than Damon.

      Anyway, I'm really just nitpicking here -- the list is pretty good. But there should be at least one Oriole on the list, and that player should probably be Adam Jones.

      Tuesday, July 21, 2009

      Pasquarelli examines risk in Jarmon selection

      In his latest column, ESPN's Len Pasquarelli dissected the NFL supplemental draft and the Redskins' recent selection of University of Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon.

      Pasquarelli on the pick:

      The Redskins, who finished with the league's fifth-worst sack total in 2008 (24 sacks), chose University of Texas defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo with the 13th overall pick in the April draft. To add another upfield threat, the Redskins took Jarmon in the third round of the supplemental lottery. Washington didn't have a single defender with more than four sacks in 2008.

      . . . Washington officials can only hope that Jarmon is as superb a prospect as Orakpo, who caused a considerable amount of buzz during the minicamps and organized team activities in the spring. If Jarmon is even close to being that good, the Redskins will have beaten the very long odds in the supplemental draft. The lottery almost never turns out a productive player.

      And though he usually doesn't have many nice things to say about the Redskins and owner Daniel Snyder, Pasquarelli basically stuck to the facts in examining the history of the supplemental draft. Long quote here:

      Of the 37 players chosen in the supplemental draft from 1977 to 2008, nine never played a single snap in an NFL regular-season game. Seventeen of them never started even one contest. Just five carved out NFL careers that included 100 or more appearances. The average career span for those previous 37 supplemental prospects is 41.8 games, or barely the equivalent of 2½ full seasons in the league. There have been no eventual Hall of Fame players chosen in the supplemental draft, although wide receiver and ESPN analyst Cris Carter has a good chance of some day being inducted to the Canton shrine. The supplemental drafts have produced only four Pro Bowl participants.

      . . . Little wonder so few teams participate in the supplemental draft. Seven franchises have never made a supplemental pick. Fifteen others have made just one.

      There have been eight first-round choices used, none since 1992. But even some of the top lottery picks -- like linebacker Brian Bosworth (Seattle Seahawks[,] 1987), and quarterbacks Steve Walsh (Dallas, 1989), Timm Rosenbach (Arizona Cardinals 1989) and Dave Brown (New York Giants, 1992) -- never approximated expectations.

      Consider the 10 supplemental players selected in the past 10 years. Four are out of the NFL altogether, and another has zero starts the past two years. Tailback Tony Hollings of Georgia Tech, chosen by the Houston Texans in the second round in 2003, has not registered a rushing attempt since 2004. Offensive lineman Milford Brown (Houston in the sixth round, 2002) has played with four different teams in seven seasons.

      Well, Jarmon certainly has his work cut of for him.

      I have to be honest: When I first started reading the article, I thought Pasquarelli was going to rip the Redskins for daring to use a (2010) third-round pick on Jarmon. Unfortunately for him, that's pretty hard to do when a few other teams, including the Eagles and Lions, were reportedly ready to pounce if Jarmon fell to the fourth round.

      To summarize, based on the odds that Pasquarelli provides, Jarmon probably won't be a star. But the Redskins don't need him to be one; they're just hoping that he can develop into a competent defensive end who can improve the team's pass rushing abilities in the near future. The pick wasn't really made for the upcoming season, so Jarmon has some time to learn. And, more than likely, he'll need it.

      Monday, July 20, 2009

      O's notes: Sherrill, Wieters, Salazar

      Orioles closer George Sherrill -- 2.35 ERA, 2.92 K/BB, 20 saves -- has been solid this year, and he arguably deserved to be on the All-Star team for the second year in a row. But with his name frequently being mentioned in trade rumors, Sherrill made it known that he wants to stay in Baltimore:

      "For sure, I want to be here....The Mariners are starting to have a little bit of success. Do I wish I was still there? Not really. I'm an Oriole now for as long as it lasts. It would be a little disappointing to get traded especially if this team does turn it around in the next couple of years.

      They'll have to get obviously what they want. Not necessarily be overwhelmed, but whelmed, I guess. I think it's the same thing as last year. [Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail] is going to set the price high because they don't necessarily have to move me."

      He's right. Moving Sherrill makes sense, but MacPhail doesn't have to trade him if the right deal doesn't come together. That being said, if the O's are able to get a couple of top prospects in exchange for Sherrill, MacPhail should certainly consider parting with the 32-year-old lefty. Also, according to Ken Rosenthal, one "rival executive" thinks Sherrill will be traded soon: "They will move him; they know he's the best available closer out there." Stay tuned.


      Finishing up his 2009 MLB Trade Value series, Dave Cameron places Matt Wieters fifth -- right behind Albert Pujols. Here's his explanation:

      Don’t freak out about his first 120 trips to the plate. He’s still a switch-hitting catcher with every offensive tool you could wish upon a player his size. He’s going to be the Orioles best hitter sooner rather than later, and his upside is off the charts. Baltimore has some great pieces to build around, but he’s the best of the bunch. Joe Mauer with power might be too lofty of an expectation, but a switch-hitting Brian McCann with a few more walks is still an amazing talent.

      Wieters is struggling right now; he's hitting .239/.294/.376 with three homers and a 0.31 BB/K ratio. Still, he has all the talent in the world, and even with his mediocre numbers, he's still been worth $1.3 million so far this season according to FanGraphs. He has enough to worry about just becoming familiar with the pitching staff and calling a good game behind the plate, so as he gets more accustomed to major league pitching, his offensive numbers will improve.

      It's easy to make excuses for him, but that's how it goes sometimes. He'll turn things around.


      In case you didn't know, yesterday the Orioles traded infielder Oscar Salazar to the San Diego Padres for right-handed reliever Cla Meredith. The move makes sense for two reasons: 1) Salazar, 31, was out of options and didn't have a full-time slot in the lineup, and 2) Meredith is a decent reliever who provides some insurance in case the Orioles make some more trades. Meredith also has an option left, so it gives the O's a little more roster flexibility if they need it.

      Meredith is primarily a groundball pitcher (67.4 percent career GB percentage). He doesn't strike out a ton of batters, but he keeps the ball in the ballpark (0.64 career HR/9) and is relatively young at 26 years old.

      Dealing for Meredith may not have been the best trade of all time, but if you told me before the season that the O's would be able to deal Salazar for a decent reliever, I would have been pleased.


      Also, the Orioles have signed Victor Diaz to a minor league deal, and he will report to Triple-A Norfolk:

      The 27-year-old outfielder played parts of four seasons with the New York Mets (2004-2006) and Texas Rangers (2007) before spending last year in Triple-A with the affiliates of the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros.

      Diaz batted .282 with 25 home runs and 107 RBIs in 129 games in Triple-A during the 2008 season, and he started this year with the Hanwha Eagles in the Korean League.

      Hey, why not?

      Sunday, July 19, 2009

      Weekly Rundown: Blatche, Musial, Trembley

      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.
      • Dave Allen on the outfield defense of Nick Markakis and Adam Jones so far this season:

        For the Orioles things have not gone as well, giving up an additional 20 runs in outfield defense. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are two of the game’s up-and-coming star outfielders and their futures are bright, but their defense this year has not been good. Together they have given up over 15 runs, but it is important to remember this does not mean we should expect them to be poor fielders going forward. UZR and other defenses metrics, by all accounts, take huge numbers of innings before they become predictive and are subject to big fluctuations even of the course of an entire season.

        Markakis and Jones came into this season with great fielding numbers in 2008. Markakis at +11 UZR/150 in over 1300 innings in RF and Jones at +11 UZR/150 over 1000 innings in CF. This year Markakis is -16 UZR/150 over 760 innings in RF and Jones -12 over 600 innings. This new data put together with the old tempers our expectations; maybe Markakis is only a +5 to +0 corner outfield and maybe Jones is just a +5 to +0 center fielder.

        Despite the subpar numbers in the first half, I still believe Markakis and Jones are good enough outfielders to improve their performance in the second part of the season. [FanGraphs]

      • Gilbert Arenas donated $25,000 to charity in exchange for the chair that President Obama sat in during the Bulls-Wizards game at Verizon Center earlier this year. The chair was also autographed by the president. [Washington Wizards Blog]

      • Andray Blatche will wear No. 7 instead of No. 32. Only time will tell if the number change will reflect a change in Blatche's attitude and dedication. [D.C. Sports Bog]

      • Eddie Jordan isn't to blame for Blatche's shortcomings. It's up to Blatche to reach his potential. [Truth About It]

      • Steve Melewski presents an interesting question-and-answer session with David Stockstill, the Orioles' director of player development. [MASN Sports]

      • Joe Posnanski does it again -- this time on the greatness that was/is Stan Musial. [Kansas City Star]

      • Curtis Granderson had a wonderful All-Star experience, and he shared a couple of brief videos. [Big League Stew]

      • Dave Trembley isn't assured of managing the Orioles past this season, but he's still working as hard as he can to improve the team:

        "I think we're getting to the point now with our organization where we almost taste it. We can see what's coming and we get a little ahead ourselves," said Trembley, who maintains that he gets far more fan support than criticism. "I think it's a positive quality that our fans expect us to win, but I also think, we all need to be realistic. Andy has been very forthright in saying, 'Hey, we got a ways to go.'

        "For us, it's more important to get the right guys in the right slots, to make sure they're getting experience and showing improvement. To put it bluntly, we don't have enough players that are done reaching their potential to, on a day-in and day-out basis, succeed in this division. I take the losses personal, but I think you have to keep things in perspective."

        I agree with Jeff Zrebiec: Unless the Orioles have another terrible late-season collapse, Trembley should return in 2010. [Baltimore Sun]

      • In Dave Cameron's 2009 MLB Trade Value series, which only has five more names to go, Nick Markakis is listed at No. 35 and Adam Jones is 19th. Somehow Billy Rowell (.229/.289/.367 at Single-A Frederick) isn't included. [FanGraphs]

      • Not sure about you, but I'm definitely rooting for Cadillac Williams. [Pro Football Talk]

      • Some intriguing thoughts on why the blogosphere and the mainstream media may not be all that different. [Deadspin]

      • Most fans agree with, or at least approve of, the Redskins' recent selection of Jeremy Jarmon in the NFL supplemental draft. [Redskins Insider]

      Redskins select Jarmon; Cerrato making sense?

      On Thursday, the Redskins used their 2010 third-round draft pick to take Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon in the NFL supplemental draft. The selection of Jarmon was the only pick in the supplemental draft this year, and it was also the first pick ever made by the Redskins.

      The move seems to be a decent gamble, and here's Vinny Cerrato's reasoning on the decision:

      "I thought that it was a situation where you get a chance to get a big defensive lineman, and he gets the chance to come in, learn from two veteran guys," Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' executive vice president of football operations, said in a conference call. "He is 21 years old, and he has got the size. To me, in next year's draft, if he had gone through the combine and everything else, the guy probably goes in the second round, 'cause D-linemen always go high in the draft. So I think we got the chance to get a quality player at a quality price.

      "I don't think we could have got him in the third, come next April. And this way, he is a year ahead. For our third-round pick next year, we are getting a year of his work already into it."

      In this case, Cerrato appears to be right. According to the linked Washington Post article, five other teams were willing to give up fourth-round choices for Jarmon, so using a third-round choice was the only way the Redskins were going to land Jarmon. And although it's impossible to predict his production, adding a young defensive lineman to an aging group of defensive ends certainly seems to be a positive.

      Right now, the defensive ends on the Redskins roster, besides Jarmon, include: Alex Buzbee (24), Andre Carter (30), Phillip Daniels (36), Rob Jackson (23), Brian Orakpo (23 on July 31), J.D. Skolnitsky (22), Derek Walker (22), Chris Wilson (27), and Renaldo Wynn (34). The defensive tackle position is pretty deep, but as shown, the Redskins needed an upgrade at end -- or at least the chance of one. Buzbee will probably stay on the practice squad, and Skolnitsky and Walker could join him depending on how well they do in training camp. Jackson seems like an interesting talent, but he can't stay healthy.

      Carter will start at right defensive end, and Daniels is the likely candidate to start on the left. Orakpo could also see some time at defensive end, but the Redskins apparently feel like he can contribute at linebacker as well; it'll be interesting to see exactly how he's used. Depending on how quickly he develops, Jarmon could see some snaps at left defensive end as well.

      The one negative of the Jarmon pick, though, is why he had to enter the supplemental draft in the first place:

      Just two months ago, Jeremy Jarmon was excited about returning to the University of Kentucky for his senior season.

      “I talked with Micah Johnson, our middle linebacker, and All-American cornerback Trevard Lindley, and found out they were in no hurry to leave [for the NFL],” Jarmon said. “We were having fun there and we were all coming back.”

      Then Jarmon, a 6-3, 277-pound defensive end, made a mistake.

      He purchased an over-the-counter dietary supplement to help him maintain his weight during the offseason. He was rehabbing a shoulder injury and he was worried he would gain weight since he could not work out regularly.

      Turns out the supplement had a banned substance in it.

      The NCAA ruled Jarmon, a three-year starter for the Wildcats, ineligible for the 2009 college football season.

      "When I found out in May, I was real disappointed at the time and that was definitely a low point--if not one of the lowest points of my life," he said.

      So, Jarmon's move to the NFL was a no-brainer. Fortunately, he has owned up to his mistake, which at least shows some maturity and responsibility on his part. Jarmon also is ready to learn: "Phillip is a 14-year veteran and I'm sure he has seen just about everything in the NFL. I'm hoping to just get in, land under the wing of those guys and follow in their footsteps." I like to read quotes like that from rookies; it's important to show some respect to the veteran players and leaders on a team.

      I'm a fan of the Jarmon pick because it makes the Redskins better in the long run and gives them more options on the defensive line. Wynn and Daniels may be in Washington just for this season, and even if Jarmon doesn't get on the field a ton this year, he'll be better equipped to contribute in 2010-2011. More moves like this one, Cerrato. Please.

      Wednesday, July 15, 2009

      WJFK to officially switch to sportsradio format

      According to an official press release available at, WJFK-FM "will become 'Sportsradio 106.7 The Fan,' D.C.’s newest home for local sports talk and play-by-play coverage" on Monday, July 20.

      The move, which has been hinted at for several weeks by a few sources, will replace the Big O and Dukes Show and the Mike O'Meara Show with two new shows featuring The Washington Post's Mike Wise and former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington. The Junkies' show will be re-named "The Sports Junkies," but according to them, the show will stay exactly the same.

      Here's the official programming schedule:

      5 a.m. - 10 a.m. -- The Sports Junkies
      10 a.m. - 2 p.m. -- Mike Wise and Bill Rohland
      2 p.m. - 6 p.m. -- The LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes

      For those who didn't know (like me), Rohland is apparently George Mason's play-by-play announcer for men's basketball and is described as a "radio vet." Also, I do like Wise's columns, but I've only heard him on the radio a few times, so I'm not sure how that show will be.

      CBS Radio is certainly taking a risk in switching WJFK to an all-sports format, but honestly, it makes sense. The station's main rival will now be ESPN 980, which doesn't exactly boast an all-star slate of shows right now: Mike and Mike (6 a.m. - 10 a.m.), Colin Cowherd (10 a.m. - 12 p.m.), The Locker Room with Kevin Sheehan (12 p.m. - 2 p.m.), The John Thompson Show with Doc Walker (2 p.m. - 4 p.m.), and The Sports Reporters with Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin (4 p.m. - 7 p.m.).

      The first two shows are broadcast nationally, and they actually kind of suck. I like Kevin Sheehan and John Thompson, for the most part, but Czaban and Pollin can both be pretty annoying in the evening. If the Arrington and Dukes show turns out to be pretty good, then WJFK might turn out to be the better sports station, especially since all three shows will be focusing on sports in the D.C. area.

      Tuesday, July 14, 2009

      Jim Zorn is original -- and pretty quirky

      ESPN's Elizabeth Merrill wrote a fascinating article on Jim Zorn today that included plenty of quotes and anecdotes from his time with the Redskins and earlier in his career. Two things caught my attention.

      First, Zorn might not be on Gilbert Arenas's level when it comes to quirkiness, but he's close. Here are three quotes from the article that demonstrate just how different Zorn is from other coaches (and people for that matter):

      • Zorn: "There's a method to what I'm doing. I'm not just kind of bouncing down the stream here like a pebble. I do have a plan. We've got things in place in an organizational standpoint where we're going hard and fast."

      • London Fletcher: "I think initially, you may be a bit taken aback, so to speak. You're kind of like, 'Oh my goodness, who is this guy?' Then you realize that's his personality, and you kind of just appreciate it. He's not trying to be somebody else. He's very comfortable within his own skin. It's refreshing."

      • Zorn: "I always look at the patience of the NFL game. We have sort of the patience of instant coffee, you know? You pour hot water over instant coffee, and poof, we've got coffee here. But the best coffee is the coffee that's brewed."
      I'm sure you get the idea.

      Second, Zorn commented on the Jason Campbell offseason situation:

      A few months into the offseason, after the Redskins' offense sputtered in an 8-8 year, Zorn sat Campbell down in his office. He told Campbell that the front office was looking into the possibility of obtaining Jay Cutler, who was disgruntled in Denver.

      The conversation lasted about 10 minutes. Near the end of it, Zorn encouraged Campbell to stay focused and everything would work out. Zorn knows he could've lost his quarterback there, or in the following weeks when the Redskins mulled over Mark Sanchez, who was eventually drafted by the New York Jets.

      "I tried to be as upfront with him as I could," Zorn says. "I just think with's easier for me if I'm dealt with up front than sort of this circumventing, and then on the back end of this thing you finally find out what the truth really was."

      I'm glad that Zorn talked to Campbell and was open and honest with him. I don't think the Redskins treated Campbell very well this offseason, but he's still the starting quarterback and will need to improve.

      I'll be honest too: After Joe Gibbs retired, I didn't want the Redskins to hire Zorn to coach the team; I wanted them to hire Gregg Williams. I thought Zorn would take the team in the wrong direction and, basically, would be a bad hire. But I have to admit that I like what he brings to the table. He's different and it's refreshing. He obviously works hard, and he devotes everything he has to the team. But he isn't sacrificing who he is to accomplish the goal of winning.

      Unfortunately, this season, which will be Zorn's second with the Redskins, may be his last if he doesn't guide Washington to the playoffs. John Clayton agrees. So, while I'm glad Zorn is an interesting guy and is extremely quotable, he needs to win right now -- or else he's gone. Is that fair? Not really, but that's Dan Snyder's way.

      Monday, July 13, 2009

      Weekly Rundown: Roberts, Steve McNair Jr., Camden Yards

      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 decided to play some pickup basketball yesterday, so that's why the Weekly Rundown is a day late. Anyway, here are some non-LeBron links that I thought were worth mentioning:
      • Dave Trembley talking about Brian Roberts last week:

        "He hasn't played up to his expectations on a consistent basis, and I think that's bothering him. I think he's searching for an answer for that. I think he feels like he's let some factors get to him and affect the way he's played. He told me the other day that he accepts responsibility for that. He felt like he let me down, let his teammates down. I told him all he can do is go forward. You've got to put the past behind you and you've got to go forward."

        Roberts is still having a decent season, but his overall numbers -- .273/.339/.433 -- are down compared to the last few seasons. Still, he already has eight home runs (he hit nine last season), and he's driving in a lot of runs (42) out of the leadoff spot. I don't think he'll continue to hit as many homers, but hopefully he starts to walk a little more to raise his BB/K ratio from 0.63, which would be the lowest since his rookie season. []

      • WJFK (106.7) will broadcast Wizards games for the next few seasons. [D.C. Sports Bog]

      • Apparently Oscar Salazar and Felix Pie are on the trading block. [Baltimore Sun]

      • According to Jason La Canfora, who now works for NFL Network, Redskins veterans with four years or more NFL experience won't have to spend the night at training camp this year. That Jim Zorn is a nice guy. [Pro Football Talk]

      • Steve McNair Jr. looks to carry on his father's football legacy -- at wide receiver. [FanHouse]

      • Michael Lee on the Wizards and last season's attendance:

        ...[G]ate receipts for the Wizards declined more than $4 million last season, which put them among the 10 worst teams behind Sacramento ($9.7 million), Toronto ($9.1 million), Los Angeles Clippers ($6.8 million) and Miami Heat ($5.3 million). [Ken] Berger writes that Charlotte and Indiana also went down more than $4 million from the previous season.

        The Wizards finished 21st in attendance last season averaging 16,612 fans, which was a dropoff from the season before when the Wizards ranked 15th at 17,962. Overall, the Wizards had 55,344 fewer fans walk through the turnstiles (about 1,350 per game). [Wizards Insider]

      • Mark Buehrle may decide to hang up his spikes when he turns 32, and his decision will have nothing to do with his pitching abilities. [Yahoo! Sports]

      • Last Tuesday, in a tribute to Michael Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr. wore one white batting glove and came to the plate as "Billie Jean" played over the sound system. [Big League Stew]

      • Want to see a "true baseball story" at the movies? Rob Neyer doesn't think it'll happen. [SweetSpot]

      • LZ Granderson does his best to, sort of, defend Holly Robinson Peete, who wrote a few semi-controversial things on Twitter as the Steve McNair saga unfolded. I have an idea: If you don't want people to overreact at things you say/write on a social networking site, then don't write anything at all. [ESPN]

      • Apparently JaVale McGee isn't a big fan of the nickname "Epic Vale." [Bullets Forever]

      • And finally, apparently Camden Yards doesn't suck. Well, of course it doesn't. [Deadspin]

      Friday, July 10, 2009

      Butler to Pech: 'I'm just a phone call or a text away'

      I'm sure you're aware that Oleksiy Pecherov was part of the Wiz-T'Wolves trade that allowed the Wizards to acquire Mike Miller and Randy Foye.

      What you might not have known is that Caron Butler is pretty close to "Stewie" and considers him to be a friend:

      "Obviously he's one of my young boys," Butler said. "Having him come over here at a young age, having to teach him to be a pro, teaching him about this league on and off the court, coaching him and learning him and then losing him, it's tough. That's the nature of the business. But that doesn't stop our friendship. You see us out here together. If he ever needs anything, I'm just a phone call or a text away."

      Well that sure was a nice thing for Butler to say; there's nothing "Tuff Juice" about that.

      As for Pecherov's take, when he was asked about the trade, he seemed excited to take on his new challenge: "Hopefully I'm gonna stay healthy and I'm gonna get opportunity and chance to prove everyone I can really play in this league."

      Good luck, Stewie. Get those buckets, son!


      Tillman could join rotation soon

      Besides rookies Brad Bergesen and Koji Uehara, the Orioles starting rotation has been pretty bad. But the O's farm system does have some impressive pitching talent, including 21-year-old Chris Tillman, who appears to be the next youngster in line to join the rotation at some point this season:

      Considered the Orioles' top pitching prospect and one of the best in all of the minors, Tillman is expected to pitch Sunday in Major League Baseball's prestigious Futures Game in St. Louis. He also was named to the Triple-A All-Star team, but the Orioles declined the invitation, not wanting to overexpose their prized 21-year-old.

      That will come soon enough: Tillman is next in line for the big-league rotation and he could be promoted within a month.

      "He's really excelled to this point at any level," said Orioles' vice president Andy MacPhail. "I would imagine that if he stays healthy, he'll get his chance at this level."

      MacPhail is admittedly conservative with his prospects, and Tillman was supposed to spend most, if not all, of the season at Triple-A Norfolk after excelling at Double-A Bowie in 2008. But his performance with the Tides has altered the timetable.

      The youngest member of Norfolk's roster, Tillman is 7-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 16 starts. He has struck out 88 batters and walked just 22 in 86 1/3 innings. In two July starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, throwing 13 2/3 scoreless innings.

      Tillman's 4.0 K/BB ratio in Triple-A is particularly impressive, not to mention the fact that he's only allowed four home runs.

      If Rich Hill (7.43 ERA) and Jason Berken (6.25 ERA) continue to struggle and Uehara is out for longer than expected, the O's rotation may look significantly different in the next few weeks and months. Tillman is knocking on the door, and Brian Matusz, already in Bowie, is rapidly moving through the O's system. After dominating hitters at Single-A Frederick, Matusz is doing even better at Double-A: In 26.1 innings, he has struck out 32, walked six, and posted a 0.34 ERA (and a 4-0 record).

      It's also worth noting that Matusz, 22, recently joined Tillman in Baseball America's mid-season top 25 prospects list -- Tillman was eighth and Matusz was ninth.

      Other potential late-season (or 2010) call-ups from Norfolk include:

      Jake Arrieta (23): 31.0 IP, 3.48 ERA, 3.50 K/BB, 0.87 HR/9
      Troy Patton (23): 22.1 IP, 4.43 ERA, 1.43 K/BB, 1.21 HR/9
      David Pauley (26): 82.1 IP, 3.94 ERA, 2.68 K/BB, 0.87 HR/9
      Chris Waters (28): 72.2 IP, 4.71 ERA, 1.29 K/BB, 0.74 HR/9
      Jim Miller (27): 35.2 IP, 2.02 ERA, 2.17 K/BB, 0.25 HR/9

      Arrieta and Patton were both recently promoted to Norfolk, so that's why their inning totals are small; they were both dominant in Bowie.

      Also, it's not likely that Waters will get a chance, but it's conceivable. And in a brief, 7.2-inning session with the Orioles last season, Miller pitched decently, giving up one earned run. If the O's trade some relievers, he could end up in the bullpen.

      Theismann predicts solid season for Campbell

      Speaking on Sirius NFL radio on Wednesday night, Joe Theismann said that he believes Jason Campbell will have an impressive 2009-2010 season:

      "I think the one thing that I see more than anything is there's going to be some be consistency around him," Theismann said. "He's finally in a system where he actually gets to practice the same things that he practiced last year and he gets to grow from them. And as a quarterback or as anybody studying film, when you look at yourself on film, you know why you made certain decisions. In Jason's case, seven of the last nine years, or eight years, both college and professionally, when he looks at film, it doesn't apply to the coming year because it's all different, so he's never really growing during the season. He will in this particular year. I watched him in spring ball, in the OTAs and the minicamps [and he's] much more confident, much more comfortable.

      "Last year, Jim Zorn rebuilt his throwing style. He's got great size, he's got a great arm, he's got a terrific work ethic. I think that this young man -- and he's in the last year of a contract, so there's super motivation there -- but I think he's going to have a football team around him that will be a much better football team than it was a year ago."

      In Jason Campbell's third NFL season and his first in head coach Jim Zorn's offense, Campbell threw for 3,245 yards and 13 touchdowns and had 6 interceptions. He also posted a career-best quarterback rating of 84.3. Those numbers aren't spectacular, but his numbers -- passing yards, touchdowns, and quarterback rating -- have improved in each of his three seasons.

      Still, the Redskins finished the season 28th in scoring (16.6 points per game), so the entire offense certainly needs to improve. If the offensive line can hold together and protect Campbell, which may be difficult with a possible combination of Stephon Heyer, Jeremy Bridges, and/or Mike Williams at right tackle, then it'll be time for the 27-year-old QB to step up. If not, he'll probably be playing elsewhere next season.

      Tuesday, July 7, 2009

      Epic Vale = Transformer

      I don't even know what to say.

      (HT: Truth About It)

      Orioles boast impressive outfield

      At 36-47 (and 3-7 in their last 10 games), the Orioles haven't been playing very good baseball lately. That certainly includes games away from Camden Yards this season: the O's are 12-27 on the road.

      Nevertheless, even with the O's in a funk right now, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on three reasons that O's fans should be thankful: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold (four if you include Luke Scott). Crasnick also mentions Matt Wieters and a trio of young pitchers in the O's farm system, but he's particularly impressed with the talent in the outfield, which he calls "baseball's most dynamic young outfield":

      It's enough to make the old-timers in town reflect wistfully on the Frank Robinson-Don Buford-Paul Blair days at Memorial Stadium.

      Jones, 23, and Markakis and Nolan Reimold, both 25, give Baltimore a threesome worth envying. They're athletic, affordable and loaded with promise and tools. Factor in the contribution of DH and occasional left fielder Luke Scott, who has 16 homers and a .569 slugging percentage, and no one cares that erstwhile phenom Felix Pie is as big a washout in Baltimore as he was in Chicago.

      "We're still under .500, but this is a different scenario than '04, '05 and '06," said hitting coach Terry Crowley. "Now we have legitimate young guys who are going to get better because they can play the game. It might not come to the surface every day because of their youth and inexperience. But when the smoke clears, these guys can play the game."

      Regardless of the O's record, that's a pretty nice -- and young -- collection of talent in the outfield. With 83 games in the books, here are the splits for the three:

      Nick Markakis: .293/.349/.447, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 29 BB
      Adam Jones: .305/.361/.497, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 22 BB
      Nolan Reimold: .265/.341/.471, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 18 BB

      Markakis's numbers are down a bit right now, possibly because he's not walking as much as last season (99 walks). Then again, he usually heats up in the second half of the season, so his numbers could shoot up if he goes on a tear in the next few weeks. For his career, Markakis has a July OPS of .904 and an August OPS of 1.027.

      Jones has been outstanding, which is obviously why he's the O's all-star representative. He's been reaching base more, walking more, and when he hits the ball, it's going farther -- he's already hit three more homers than last year.

      And Reimold has been a pleasant surprise; now that he's healthy, the rookie is showing the Orioles exactly what he can contribute. He may not be a .300 hitter, but he has an outstanding eye at the plate and possesses lots of power.

      With the success of this trio, Luke Scott (.296/.380/.569, 16 HR, 43 RBI, 28 BB) appears to be expendable if the O's decide to pursue a trade or two. Scott, 31, definitely gives the O's a solid DH and fourth outfielder, but it's not likely that he'll be able to hit this well for a full season. But, hey, if he does, that'll be an excellent season.

      Sunday, July 5, 2009

      Weekly Rundown: Tony Gwynn, Haywood, Rick Maese

      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.
      • Brian Mitchell comments on his firing, and WJFK may soon be switching to an all-sports format. [D.C. Sports Bog]

      • Tom Friend writes an interesting piece on Tony Gwynn and his son, who now plays for the Padres and is hitting .299/.374/.401 in 39 games. [ESPN]

      • Jeff Suppan was for sale on eBay? [Big League Stew]

      • Brendan Haywood on Etan Thomas and his depature from the Wizards:

        "Uh, it's one of those situations that it doesn't really matter. It's not a happy he's gone. I mean, I didn't mention him because there was no need to mention him. And that's no disrespect to him, but when I look at our team, he hasn't played the last two years due to injury, unfortunately."

        "And then you look at the same thing, he wasn't really tight in our locker room structure. You know, he kind of distanced himself, and we even talked to him about it, like, 'We feel like you don't feel like you're part of the team.' So he distanced himself from the team. So you look out there, we're gonna miss Songaila because he's played and played well the last couple years, and we're gonna miss him because he went out with guys to eat, he went out to the comedy shows and to the mall, he hung out, he was an integral part of our team. While Etan didn't play, and he didn't have that many close friends, so, we're not gonna miss him.

        "And that's nothing about our [personal] business, our business is our business and the past is the past, we settled that. So there's not any problem with him as a person. I think the trade actually works out well for him, because I think he has a trade kicker where he gets more money, so that's great in this economy, any time you can make more money. And then he has a chance to play, where he wasn't gonna play here."

        So, you mean, Andray Blatche and Thomas weren't best friends? Stunning. [D.C. Sports Bog]

      • Ever get the feeling that batters are striking out more than ever? Well, according to Tim Kurkjian, they are. [ESPN]

      • Dave Cameron believes the Nationals won their trade with the Pirates that had them sending Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan to Pittsburgh in exchange for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett. He highlights Morgan's solid outfield defense as a large factor. [FanGraphs]

      • Basketbawful has put together an impressive and entertaining multi-part series ("Livin' Large") on what it was like to live in a dorm room with a college basketball player. As of right now, there are four installments up. Here's part one. [Basketbawful]

      • Patrick Hruby offers 10 more examples of players who you've probably encountered while playing pickup basketball. His first article, published about two years ago, included eight types of players. That article and my own experiences on the court allowed me to come up with my own list a while back. [ESPN]

      • Finally, Jamie Mottram interviewed Rick Maese, the new Redskins beat reporter for The Washington Post. [Mr. Irrelevant]

      Thursday, July 2, 2009

      Grunfeld interview on the Junkies

      Ernie Grunfeld, general manager and president of basketball operations for the Wizards, was interviewed by The Junkies this morning on WJFK (106.7 FM). Grunfeld offered some thoughtful and honest answers on the NBA Draft, the trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and the Wizards' (possible) approach in free agency. Randy Foye was interviewed earlier on the show, but it wasn't as interesting.

      Here's the interview:

      JP: "We just had Randy [Foye] on the show, really nice guy, amazing story actually, to come out of Newark, and we were kinda debating amongst ourselves on the show. Eric, you can talk about your opinion."

      EB: "Well here's the thing, Ernie, Cakes and I are the two biggest Wizards fans here, we're the ones that are diehard, we're the ones that bleed, I guess, blue and gold, whatever the team's colors are. When you made the trade, I personally didn't love it, because I felt five, if I looked back at the draft in the last 10 years, the fifth pick specifically hasn't been that great, but there's always been one or two guys picked after five that has become a multiple all-star. And I think it's up to your scouting department to find that diamond in the rough. And I feel like, as a fan, we punted on the opportunity to grab a superstar. So that was my criticism of the move."

      Grunfeld: "Well, you're just assuming that all of a sudden we're gonna pick out, out of the 100 players, that superstar."

      EB: "Yeah, you gotta find him. It's on your scouting department to find that nugget, right?"

      Grunfeld: "Look, that's what's great about the NBA Draft. It creates a lot of excitement; there's a lot of conversations in it, and a lot of things go on. You know, it was my opinion that we were much better suited this time, because we have a very solid core. We're getting a lot of players back who were injured last year, and we have an opportunity to add two players to our roster that are going to be immediate-help players. I mean, Randy Foye is only 25 years old; he's been in the league three years. He was the seventh pick a few years ago, but he's already averaged 16.5 points and five assists a game. Now that number five pick may do that sometime down the road. I guarantee you no number five pick would have done that in the next couple of years for sure -- and maybe he might do that [at some point], but we have a proven commodity in Randy. And of course in Mike Miller, we get a six-foot-eight player who plays multiple positions, as one of the best three-point shooters of all time. He has a 40-percent career three-point percentage -- who is also a proven player. They both play multiple positions. So, with the addition of those two players, it's going to help us tremendously, and it's going to help us more than any player at the number five spot. Now, your point is well taken; in three-four years, a player at the fifth spot could turn out to be a solid player, but there's no guarantee. And this way, we get guaranteed, two very good basketball players."

      Lurch: "Now be honest Ernie, did you think that Rubio would have slipped to five?"

      Grunfeld: "You know, no I don't know where he would have been. I thought he would have gone six, seven, four, five -- you know, you never really know. But as I've said before, if it was Rubio, Tyreke Evans, Harden -- we liked all those players. But the only one I would have been upset if he slipped was Blake Griffin. And otherwise we would have made this trade for any of those players that were available there."

      Lurch: "OK, what if Minnesota said, you know what, we don't want the fifth pick, we're going to keep Randy and Mike. Can you tell us who you targeted there at five?"

      Grunfeld: "Well, like I said, we had a list of our players; we didn't know who was gonna be there. We liked all those players -- we liked Harden, we liked Tyreke Evans, we liked Rubio, and Curry is also a good player. So we felt like if we kept the pick we were going to get a good player, but it was going to be a player that we really had to wait on several years to come in and make an impact because all those players are 18, 19 years old."

      EB: "Right, and to be fair to Ernie, it's been almost unanimous around the league; all the experts and everybody like the move. I'm the only idiot that wanted to take a flier and try to pick a superstar. But I will say this, Ernie, I was with you when the notion of picking up Gilbert's contract came up and I've always actually been the one guy that said...let's keep the core guys intact because I remember when we were at the all-star break a couple years ago, and guess who was coaching the all-star team for the best record in the Eastern Conference when all our guys were healthy...The players are the ones that got us there, and those players, when healthy, are still here, and I like the fact that you didn't break up the core that you recognized that injuries have really been the one thing that's kept this team from reaching their potential. How is Gilbert doing, and do you still feel that way?"

      Grunfeld: "I still feel that way. Obviously at the time we signed Gilbert, we had to make a decision. People think that we could have used that money in some other way, and we really couldn't have, cause once we kept Antawn Jamison, we were right at the salary cap. And with our rules, you can exceed the salary cap to sign your own player, but we wouldn't have been able to go out and get another player of that magnitude and put him on our roster. So, obviously, the injuries were a tough situation, but I think once we get everybody together with Gilbert, Caron, Antawn -- having three all-stars -- our younger players are developing, they're getting better. Last year was very, very difficult, but the silver lining is that some of those young players got a lot of experience, a lot of playing time, and hopefully that'll pay benefits this year. Also, Brendan Haywood is back for us, and I don't think people give Brendan enough credit for how his game has improved. So we feel like we have one of the deepest rosters now in the Eastern Conference, and we feel we can compete with anybody if we can put everybody out there at the same time."

      Cakes: "And Brendan's also in a contract year, I believe, which is big!"

      Grunfeld: "Brendan is in a contract year; he's going into the last year of his deal, so that's gonna be motivation itself. But Brendan's a real professional, he's a very hard worker, and he's in great shape. You asked about how Gilbert is doing, and Gilbert has been scrimmaging everyday. He looks terrific; his weight is great. And he's real motivated, cause nobody's more frustrated than Gilbert about his injury situation because he's such a competitive guy and he loves to play. He's an absolute gym rat. So he can't wait to get back out there."

      EB: "So, Ernie, are you telling me then that, in all likelihood, the roster is basically set?...You don't have enough depth with your big men."

      Grunfeld: "...If you look at our roster, we're very diverse. We have a lot of players that can play multiple positions. At the five spot we have Brendan, we have Andray Blatche, and we have JaVale McGee. So we have three players, and what I like to do is have at least three players for every position, and we have that. We have three point guards with Gilbert, Randy, and Javaris Crittenton. We have three guys who can play the two with Nick Young, Mike Miller, Randy Foye can play there, as can Caron. At the three spot, we have Caron and Dominic McGuire -- Mike Miller could also play there. At the power forward position, we have Antawn, Andray, and Dominic could play there, and then the three centers. Now we'll also be looking for another maybe backup, another big body, someone that could come in occasionally and give us six to eight minutes. But you can only play five guys at a time, and most coaches only play eight or nine players anyway, so we feel we're a pretty deep team, and we have a lot of players that play multiple positions. So we'll have all positions covered. Obviously, I'm like you, I'd like to have five all-stars at every position. But that's very hard to do."

      Lurch: "What do you envision...Randy's role as on opening night? Do you envision him as the starting point guard and moving Gilbert to the two, or vice versa, or bringing Randy off the bench?"

      Grunfeld: "Well, Gilbert is our point guard -- we're not gonna move him to the two. He's gonna be running our team, and with the way Flip runs [the offense], the point guard has the ball a lot and runs a lot of pick-and-rolls, so I think you'll see Gilbert do an outstanding job at that spot. And as far as Randy's position is concerned, it's going to be determined in training camp. It's going to be a very competitive situation. The good thing about Randy is he can play both spots, you know, he's six-foot-four, and he can play the two, he can play the backup one. And that's gonna be up to Flip and really the players themselves to see which combinations fit best together and how we can be most effective. But whether he starts or comes off the bench, he's gonna get a lot of minutes for us. And he's gonna be a big contributor."

      Say what you will about Grunfeld, but at least he's been consistent in wanting to build around the big three -- hopefully it works out.

      Also, it's worth noting that Grunfeld didn't mention DeShawn Stevenson and Mike James during the interview, so those two could be out the door in the near future.

      Little League coach text messages signs

      That title sounds like a joke, doesn't it? Well, it's not.

      Mike Dies, a coach in the West Akron Baseball League in Ohio, has decided to stop using hand and arm motions to signal signs to players and coaches. Instead, he sends text messages throughout the game:

      This is what he does: When one of his players reaches first base, Dies, who coaches from the bench, texts his first-base coach.

      ''Send him on the third pitch,'' the text reads.

      Then, Dies puts the cell phone back in his pocket and watches his runner execute the steal.

      ''When we were coaching the kids in G-League (11-12), the kids were having trouble getting the signs,'' Dies said. ''So this year in H-League (8-10), we figured we'd still do the signs at the beginning of the season. But the kids were still having trouble getting the signs.''

      Then, Dies figured out the problem.

      ''It was the coaches,'' he said, jokingly. ''It wasn't the kids at all. The coaches were missing the signs.''

      I didn't know that figuring out baseball signs in Little League was all that difficult. If the kids, or in this case the coaches, can't decipher a coach's signs, then they're probably not easy enough -- it's not rocket science.

      Honestly, the whole thing seems a little embarrassing. But whatever works, right?

      Wednesday, July 1, 2009

      Red Sox battle back this time, beat O's in 11

      Yesterday, the O's came back from nine runs down to beat the Red Sox; today, the Red Sox returned the favor to slip past the Orioles 6-5 and ruin another great outing by rookie starter Brad Bergesen.

      Bergesen outpitched Josh Beckett by giving up one run in eight innings, striking out six, and walking none. Bergesen lowered his ERA to 3.53 in the process.

      Unfortunately, Bergesen didn't return to the mound in the ninth inning, and the O's bullpen immediately ran into trouble. Jim Johnson relieved Bergesen, walked Dustin Pedroia, then gave up a two-run homer to Kevin Youkilis. With the score 5-3, Dave Trembley brought in George Sherrill to close the door on the Red Sox. Sherrill recorded consecutive strikeouts against Jason Bay and David Ortiz -- then things went horribly wrong. Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Jeff Bailey and Jason Varitek both walked to load the bases. Rocco Baldelli then singled up the middle to score two runs and tie the game.

      Danys Baez relieved Sherrill and pitched well enough at first but then allowed a run in the 11th on a Julio Lugo single.

      After Ty Wigginton's solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fourth, the Orioles didn't have a single batter reach base. So the bullpen blew the lead, but the offense certainly didn't help to widen the gap any more. So much for winning a series against Boston.

      Still, even though the O's lost again, they battled Boston -- a vastly superior team -- to the end. Jon Lester threw a gem on Monday in a 4-0 Red Sox victory, but the Orioles mounted an enormous comeback last night and had Boston on the ropes again today. There are no moral victories, but no one can say the Orioles don't have any heart or aren't showing signs of improvement.