Saturday, December 31, 2011

Roger Mason Jr. ruled ineligible; Wizards fall to 0-3

Because of the teams that I cheer for, I've been forced to say this many times: It's one thing to just be bad. But as usual, the Wizards upped the ante and put together an awful performance both on and off the court yesterday. First, the embarrassing: For some reason, Roger Mason Jr.'s name was left off the Wizards' active roster, so when he was allowed (for some reason) to enter the game in the first quarter, ridiculousness ensued. Here's a more detailed description by The Washington Post's Michael Lee:
The Wizards’ public relations staff circled every name on the list except Jan Vesely and Maurice Evans without noticing the mistake and [Flip] Saunders signed off on a sheet that had only 12 active players instead of the possible 13.

“It’s my fault,” Saunders said. “The league sends us the list and what we do is circle the guys that are active and for some reason on our list, Roger wasn’t on it and I didn’t notice it. So, I take responsibility for that. I guess the only fortunate thing is, it wasn’t a situation that cost us down the stretch.”

The situation was exacerbated when Mason went to the scorers’ table and was allowed to check in for Jordan Crawford, who had just picked up his second foul with 3 minutes 27 seconds left in the first period. Saunders said before the game that he had planned to give the veteran Mason more playing time after he received just eight minutes in the first two games. “I thought he would’ve given us some help,” Saunders said.

Mason quickly hit a turnaround jumper but Rashard Lewis (14 points) was credited with the basket, which brought the Wizards within 24-18. After a timeout, Mason was set to reenter the game when referee Danny Crawford informed him that he should not have been allowed to play.
It's hard to believe that this could happen to a professional team, but yes, it did. As for the actual game, the Wizards allowed 65 first-half points and didn't play any defense until the second half. They did outscore the Bucks 26-13 in the third quarter, but they were again outplayed in the final frame and lost 102-81.

So, to recap, the Wizards have not only lost all three of their games, but they have yet to produce a drama-free performance either. After game one, Andray Blatche complained about wanting the ball in the paint more. During game two, John Wall yelled at Flip Saunders to take an unspecified Wizards player out of the game. And now Wizards fans will one day have the opportunity to tell their grandchildren about experiencing the Mason fiasco.

By the way, it's sort of amusing to think that Mason's presence could have somehow changed the course of the game for the Wizards, which Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier were discussing at one point. Then again, I'll give Buck and Phil a pass, mostly because they're one of the few reasons to tune in and watch. If the Wizards had horrible, or even mediocre, announcers, I don't think I could stomach many of their games.

So let's add this bizarre incident to a long list of perplexing moments involving the Wizards. Over at Bullets Forever, Sean Fagan does a terrific job accessing the damage:
I don't want to sugarcoat this at all. These type of boneheaded mistakes make the organization look like a minor league franchise. We can't spell the names on our jerseys right, we misdiagnose injuries, and now we can't even register our players. This has gone beyond a simple "oops" and well into the realm of incompetency. The Wizards PR department can fall on the sword all they want, this is still a failure on the part of Flip.
I'm generally not a fan of using "we" when referring to teams I root for, but in this case I don't really have a problem with it. Why? Because mistakes like this are also embarrassing for fans. It's one thing to discuss why the Wizards are bad on the court, or why John Wall isn't playing that well, or why Blatche isn't that good. But these completely avoidable off-the-court mistakes? They have to stop.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All you need to know about Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche is a puzzling individual. He's talented and will have flashes of inspired play on the court, but then he'll say something outlandish off of it or spar with his coaches during a practice or a game. His most recent embarrassing moment came after the Wizards' season-opening loss to the Nets. Blatche wasn't happy with his role in the Wizards' offense, saying:
“You can’t keep having me pick and pop and shooting jumpshots. Gimme the ball in the paint. That’s where I’m most effiective at. I’ve been saying that since training camp. I need the ball in the paint. I don’t wand to be the pick-and-pop guy I used to be because it’s not working for me.”
Blatche refused to back down from critics, writing on Twitter yesterday afternoon: "Every body need to shut up I didn't call out my coach or team mates I said I had a bad game need it n the post instead of jump shots."

If Blatche had talked privately with Flip Saunders instead of going public with his complaints after the first game of the season, that would have been one thing. But he didn't, and here we are yet again discussing another controversial incident involving Blatche.

So Blatche wants to be a back-to-the-basket player now. That's interesting, because about a year ago, he called into Mike Wise's radio show and said the following:
"If anybody watched me grow into this team and into this league, they'd know that I've never been a back-to-the-basket, bang-bang down player. I'm more of a face-up and a finesse player. That's who I am. I can't force myself to be a different player that I'm not."
It sure sounds like Blatche is forcing himself to be a different player now. So Blatche may be a hypocrite. Or  maybe he was just frustrated after a not-so-good performance against the Nets. Either way, publicly complaining about his role and creating off-the-court drama are not things that a player entering his seventh season in the league should be doing.

Why does Blatche have to be either a pick-and-pop player or a back-to-the-basket scorer? Can't he be both? Does he realize that's a possibility? It sounds like his main beef is with the plays the Wizards ran in the first game, but those are also concerns that will work themselves out if Blatche plays effectively on the court. John Wall can create enough offensively to get Blatche open shots. It's his job to knock them down. If he's not good enough to make those open shots, or efficient enough with his back to the basket to get buckets consistently, then he probably shouldn't be on the court anyway. And if the Wizards and Saunders do oblige and get Blatche more opportunities in the paint, how long will it take before he wishes to be back outside the paint shooting jumpers instead?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Games notes from the Wizards' season-opening loss

The first regular season game after a lockout-reduced preseason is probably going to be sloppy (especially when the Wizards and Nets are involved). This game didn't disappoint. Unfortunately, after building an early lead -- at one point the Wizards were ahead by 21 -- Washington crumbled in the second half and fell to the Nets, 90-84. I missed most of the first quarter, but here are some of my observations from the rest of the game:

- Not John Wall's best game: 13 points (3-13 shooting), 8 rebounds, 6 assists. He added two steals and a block, but he also committed four turnovers and missed six free throws (7-13). He drove to the basket frequently, but he was also out of control on many of them and didn't get calls on several wild shots and layup attempts. The Wizards won't win many games with Wall playing that poorly. Still, it was only the first game, so there's plenty of time to improve.

- Chris Singleton, after just one game, already looks like the team's best perimeter defender. At 6'8, he has the size to defend power forwards, and he's also athletic enough to frustrate guards. The Wizards unleashed him on Williams a few times, and Singleton did a pretty good job sticking with him, moving his feet and staying in front of the shifty point guard. He's going to get plenty of minutes regardless, but if he's able to improve his shooting enough (3 points, 1-3 from the field), he's going to be a very valuable role player.

- Nick Young had the best offensive night for the Wizards. Young, who had an injury scare (left foot) in the third quarter that required him to be lifted into the locker room, later returned in the fourth quarter and seemed to be moving around just fine. In 18 minutes off the bench, he had 16 points on 6-9 shooting, and he made all four of his free throws. I kind of like him in that bench-scoring role.

- No starter for the Wizards played all that well. Jordan Crawford had 15 points and four rebounds; Andray Blatche had 11 points and eight rebounds; and JaVale McGee added 11 points and six rebounds. Rashard Lewis chipped in nine points and two rebounds. But none of them were efficient from the field. Crawford needed 12 shots to get his points, and McGee and Blatche combined to make just 10 of their 24 shots.

- The Wizards frountcourt was outplayed by Kris Humphries (21 points, 16 rebounds), Damion James (6 points, 14 rebounds), and Johan Petro (11 points, 5 rebounds). Yes, really. The Wizards were also outrebounded by 20 (58-38) and allowed 19 offensive rebounds. That was a major problem.

- Trevor Booker only played nine minutes and wasn't much of a factor. Ronny Turiaf played 20 minutes and had a very Turiaf-like game: 2 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls. Because Turiaf plays pretty good defense, he's going to see consistent minutes off the bench all season. It's too early to complain about the distribution of minutes after one game, but hopefully Booker receives more playing time as well.

- The Wizards only took eight three-pointers and only hit one of them. The Wizards don't have many solid three-point shooters, but making just one is obviously terrible.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Adam Jones has some value, but will the O's trade him?

Gio Gonzalez is a solid, young starting pitcher. At 26, he's put up back-to-back strong seasons pitching for the A's. Now, though, he's been traded to the Nationals in exchange for four well-thought-of prospects. This is not an analysis of that trade, though; the Nationals got what they wanted in a left-handed, middle of the rotation starter, and the A's got a boatload of prospects for a pretty good young player, which is something they routinely do. Still, assuming Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gonzalez all stay healthy, that's a formidable troika of starters.

One big bonus for the Nationals is that Gonzalez has just over two years of major league service time, meaning he's still under team control for four more seasons. Unfortunately for the Orioles, who are at least mildly interested in shopping a younger player like Adam Jones, he only has two years of service time left. Also 26 years old, Jones isn't quite the haul that Gonzalez is, but depending on how properly his defensive abilities have been rated, he may be more valuable than some think. And even though there's no way the O's can get three (or four) top 10 prospects from some team for Jones, there's no reason why they can't at least get one or two (which is what the O's should really be targeting).

Jones is in no way a fantastic hitter. He hasn't posted an on-base percentage above .335 in any of his four seasons with the Orioles, and his OBP has actually dipped the last two seasons (from .335 in 2009 to .325 in 2010 and .319 in 2011). That's mostly because he doesn't walk very much -- his career walk percentage is only 4.8 percent. Jones's value comes from his power; last season he posted a .466 slugging percentage, the highest of his career. If his OBP ever jumped 30 or 40 points while he also continued to hit for that level of power, Jones would be viewed much differently. But he really hasn't shown the plate discipline for a jump like that to occur.

Back to his defense, briefly: Jones won a gold glove in 2009, which is a pretty great honor. But FanGraphs' defensive numbers and other advanced fielding metrics have never really rated his defense highly. He still has a tendency to play too shallow at times, and occasionally a ball will get over his head that would be caught by an outfielder who gets a better jump. He's also a lock to airmail a few throws every season. I don't know if Jones is quite as bad as his UZR numbers indicate, but I also don't think he's a gold glove-caliber defender either. He's probably more of a middle-of-the-pack center fielder who also happens to make plays like this every once in a while.

Anyway, here's the point: Jones is a pretty good player, but he's not a star. He's a nice piece for the O's to have, and it's fun to watch him play. But the O's as an organization are a mess right now. After Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado, the club's farm system is mostly a disaster. There isn't much depth at all there, and the O's should be exploring any and all possibilities to improve the current crop of young players in the system.

Would O's fans miss Jones? Of course. But they would all agree that they'd much rather eventually watch a winning team, and there's no guarantee that Jones would be part of that team. He could walk in a couple of seasons and command a multiyear contract as a free agent, which may leave the O's without much compensation at all considering the elimination of some free agent compensation in the MLB's new collective bargaining agreement. Regardless, the O's should never reach that point with Jones. He may not command a ton in a trade, but he may not be worth a lucrative contract that he'll mostly likely be seeking. But, considering that the O's usually aren't proactive and wait too long to deal many players when they have value, I don't expect Jones to get dealt now or anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Braves offered Jurrjens, Prado, and a prospect for Jones

Earlier this month, there was some speculation that the Braves had offered Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado to the Orioles for Adam Jones. If the O's were dangling Jones in a potential trade, that's hardly the type of package they should be seeking. Anyway, it seemed like just a rumor, or at least just an offer to gauge how highly the O's valued Jones.

But buried at the bottom of his latest piece, The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly casually adds this note:
Adam Jones is the team’s best trade chip. But unless the Orioles get a front-line pitcher in return, I don’t see them dealing Jones. The Atlanta Braves made a run this month, offering second baseman-outfielder Martin Prado, starter Jair Jurrjens and, eventually, a pitching prospect, and the Orioles didn’t bite. So that tells you just how much they value their center fielder.
Connolly doesn't mention which pitching prospect was offered, but unless it was one of the Braves' top guys, I don't think it changes much. Jones has his flaws and isn't nearly as good as many O's fans believe, but he certainly has room to improve. And if the O's eventually do trade Jones, the package of players they receive for him needs to center around young players with lots of upside, not an (almost) 26-year-old pitcher with injury concerns and a 28-year-old infielder/left-fielder who may have peaked a couple seasons ago. There has to be a team out there that values him more than that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Changes coming to right-field wall at Camden Yards

The Orioles haven't necessarily had an overly productive offseason, but few fans can complain about the planned renovations for Camden Yards next year to honor the stadium's 20th anniversary. The major news -- the addition of six statues to honor the O's current Hall of Famers (Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr.) -- was announced in November and is arguably something that should have been completed a while ago.

But some more recent renovation news, according to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun, is that the O's are planning to alter the right-field wall. Connolly elaborates:
The flag-court wall in right, which is on top of the out-of-town scoreboard, will be altered. Basically, the wall portion that protects fans that stand there will be removed and be replaced by a railing. That way shorter people – and, specifically, kids – will have a better view of the field of play while standing on the flag court.

Makes plenty of sense. However, that means more balls may end up flying out for homers instead of bouncing off the top of the wall for doubles or long singles. I’m not sure exactly how many fly balls it will affect, but I’ll keep an eye on it next year.
Connolly mentions the possibility of a ball hitting the railing, but the O's aren't sure at the moment whether to make the ball in that scenario in-play or out-of-play (probably the latter).

I think the change is a good idea. If you've ever tried to watch part of the game while standing behind the wall or on the concourse, it's sort of difficult, especially if there's a lot of people (so, basically Yankees and Red Sox games). The move also seems to be rather kid-friendly, which is just fine.

For what it's' worth, Jeremy Guthrie had a pretty funny take on the wall being lowered:!/JGuthrie46/status/148896461185236992

Sunday, December 18, 2011

John Keim's weekly Redskins Report is excellent

In my opinion, Washington Examiner reporter John Keim does the best job covering the Redskins. He's efficient on Twitter and is extremely informative on his Redskins Confidential blog. But if you're not receiving Redskins Report, his weekly e-mails containing Redskins information, stats, and scouting reports, then you're missing out.

Here's an example from this week's report:
If it’s first-and-goal from the 6-yard line or closer, the Redskins have scored eight touchdowns and kicked three field goals. From beyond the 6, they’ve scored four touchdowns with four field goals and two interceptions. That contrasts with how their opposition has fared. From the 6 and in, they’ve scored three touchdowns, kicked three field goals and thrown a pick. From beyond the 6, it’s six touchdowns, two field goals and one interception.
Is that mind-blowing information? No. But informative? Definitely. And that's just a snapshot; the report this week also has interesting notes on rookies Ryan Kerrigan and Roy Helu.

This post is really just a heads-up more than anything. I'm sure lots of people already receive the weekly e-mails, but for those who don't, it's certainly worth it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A year after ‘good to great’: Anderson, Edsall, and Locksley?!

Editor’s note: This post was written by friend of the blog and Terps aficionado Walt Williams -- no, not that Walt Williams. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Nearly a year since Randy Edsall was hired as the head coach at the University of Maryland and fans were promised the team would go from “good to great,” it is safe to say that the exact opposite has occurred. Edsall presided over one of the most stunning negative turnarounds in college football history, leading a 9-4 team in 2010 to a 2-10 finish a year later. Is most of this his fault? Yes, and I will definitely get into that a bit later, but it is probably a good idea to look at how Maryland acquired Edsall in the first place.

Prior to the 2009 season, former athletic director Debbie Yow gave assistant coach James Franklin a “coach-in-waiting” contract that guaranteed Franklin would be the Terrapins head coach by 2012. If he was not named coach by that time he would be owed $1 million by the university. This was done even though Friedgen had previously expressed no prior interest in retiring or stepping aside. From there the Terps delivered a two-win season filled with close losses and near misses. In the aftermath of that season, it is believed that Yow wanted to let go of Friedgen at that point (which no one would have complained about), but the economy played a large part in allowing Friedgen to return.

In 2010, Yow left her post at the University of Maryland for North Carolina State, leaving behind a host of problems that would greatly affect the university in the future. One of those problems was the “coach-in-waiting” deal she had inked with Franklin. In September of 2010, former Army athletic director Kevin Anderson was hired as Yow’s replacement. Anderson made no secret of the fact that he was not a fan of coach-in-waiting deals from the outset, and it would be hard to blame him for that stance. The deal that Yow had struck with Franklin would seemingly take away any flexibility a new athletic director would be expected to have in making one of his most important hires. On the field, the team stormed back from the previous year’s 2-10 record to finish 9-4, remaining in contention for the ACC Atlantic Division crown until late in the season.

In November of 2010, Anderson pledged that Friedgen would return for the 2011 season. At this point the train was derailed to put it mildly. Friedgen believed that he should get an extension past the 2011 season for his 2010 ACC Coach of the Year performance. Franklin, for his part, continued to look for assurances that he would eventually be named the Terps head coach. After not receiving the assurances he was (rightfully) looking for, he interviewed and accepted the head coaching position at Vanderbilt after the Commodores’ offer to Gus Malzahn was turned down. This solved the coach-in-waiting problem but would lead to an even bigger mess. Friedgen was now a complete lame-duck coach who desperately wanted an extension. Anderson was an athletic director who wanted to get "his guy" to run the football program. The Franklin departure happened to free up $1 million that would have likely gone to him if he had stuck around since Anderson showed no inclination to hire him in 2012, in addition to funds that would have been paid to him to coach if he were hired. Using this new revenue with booster assistance, Anderson now had the ability to buy out Friedgen’s contract and bring in a new coach.

Lest anyone think that this move by itself was a complete disaster, it honestly was not. In fact, the move itself could even be considered rational. A good number of Maryland fans believed that while Friedgen was a very good coach, the program could have used an influx of new energy. This move became a disaster both with the way it was handled and the aftermath. Even with the public relations disaster most fans would have had no problem moving on if Anderson made a big hire. Maryland fans assumed that the only way Anderson would part with Friedgen was if he definitely had a big name on board to take the program to the next level. The only problem was that he did not.

After letting Friedgen go, Anderson set a January 4th deadline for hiring a new coach. In between the December 20th firing of Friedgen and that deadline, Maryland representatives were linked to interviews with Malzahn, Chris Petersen, June Jones, Rich Rodriguez, and Mike Leach. Of these candidates the overwhelming favorite for the position was Leach. To many it seemed that Leach was a foregone conclusion to be hired. He was flown to College Park to meet with school officials and tour the campus. However, at some point the Leach hiring fell through. Reports speculated that school officials nixed the idea of hiring Leach because of his controversial past and pending lawsuits with Texas Tech and ESPN. Regardless, the deal fell apart and left Maryland scrambling for a new coach just days before Anderson’s self-imposed deadline.

Anderson eventually settled on Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall. The university flew Edsall to College Park to finalize his contract after Edsall’s Huskies were blown out in the Fiesta Bowl after backing into the BCS by winning the bottom-feeding Big East with an 8-4 record. At this point, the majority of Maryland fans responded to the move with a combination of apathy and disappointment. Edsall was a career .500 coach with little name value and a pitiful record against Top 25 teams. At best it appeared that Maryland went through all of that trouble to make a lateral hire. At worst, it looked like Maryland had set itself back slightly.

What no one would have predicted, however, was the ensuing disaster. Almost immediately Edsall went around alienating most of his new players while talking about the program that he had taken over as if it were a renegade operation under the popular alumnus Friedgen. Edsall’s militaristic approach resulted in the departure of 12 players from the program before the 2011 season began.

Regardless of how anyone personally felt about Edsall, the 2011 season began with a high level of excitement. Maryland pulled out a win on national TV over a depleted Miami squad while wearing their new Under Armour uniforms. Little did fans know that this would be the highlight of the season, but there may have been signs of a growing disconnect between Edsall and his players. During the game, Cameron Chism sealed the victory with an interception return for a touchdown. Upon returning to the sideline, Chism was visibly chewed out by Edsall for making the apparent poor decision of returning the ball. That issue notwithstanding, fans were willing to go along for the ride if it meant excitement and exposure. This positive outlook continued through a tough loss to West Virginia, but it came crashing down after the Terrapins played Temple.

If the Edsall hire goes down as a historic disaster for the Terrapins, the Temple game will be marked as the beginning of the program’s demise. In what would become a theme for the rest of the season, the Terrapins looked uninspired and were dominated and out-coached. In what would also become a theme, Edsall used his post-game press conference to absolve himself of any responsibility for the loss and blame his players and the man who recruited them for the loss. Afterwards, any positive for the Terps would be attributed to Edsall’s coaching staff and any defeat would be blamed on undisciplined players, previous coaching staffs, or the lack of talent on the roster. Another theme of the season would be unexplained suspensions and benching of players. With all of this going on, it was reported that many team members had started referring to Gossett Team House as Gossett State Penitentiary, or GSP for short.

Edsall found a way to completely lose his team during the season, which is not surprising given his attitude towards them, but still troubling nonetheless. Edsall seems to think that the only way he can retool the Terps is to completely destroy them and remake them in his own image. If this team was a 0-12 type of unit the previous year and filled with criminals and troublemakers, you might be inclined to agree with him. However, he did not inherit that kind of team. He inherited a team that was extremely loyal to its former coach and appeared to have a decent amount of talent on hand. Edsall, by throwing Friedgen and the players he recruited under the bus at every opportunity while at the same time creating a toxic atmosphere in the locker room with his approach, effectively torpedoed the 2011 season and possibly beyond.

Since the season ended eight more players have transferred, bringing his total count to 20 in just under a year. This is an issue not just because he has lost 20 players but because he has also potentially lost those players’ high schools and the areas those schools are in as well as future sources of talent. With an alarming rate of transfers and presumably having the same trouble most coaches at the university have had retaining top talent, many fans called for the staff to add an “ace” recruiter with ties to the area to possibly repair some local relationships. One of the names mentioned the most was former New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley, who was an assistant at Maryland from 1997-2002, at Florida from 2003-2004, and offensive coordinator at Illinois from 2005-2008. As luck would have it, reports are that Locksley was hired as offensive coordinator to replace the maligned Gary Crowton. While many are excited to have Locksley in the fold, there is plenty to suggest that his arrival will not lead to a flood of 4- and 5-star area recruits staying at home to play for the Terrapins.

Any discussion of Locksley cannot begin or end without mentioning the issues that he encountered as the head coach of New Mexico for over a little more than two seasons. Locksley was hampered by allegations of sexual discrimination by an administrative assistant before he coached a game for the Lobos. Locksley was also suspended by his university for punching an assistant coach in 2009. On the field he produced consecutive 1-11 seasons and was off to a 0-4 start this season before being fired after a minor was arrested on DWI suspicion while driving Locksley’s car. These issues alone bring up some serious concerns as well as some interesting questions. If you believe that university officials vetoed the potential hiring of Leach for off-field concerns, how do you think they feel about Locksley, who has committed transgressions that depending on your viewpoint could be considered equal to or worse that anything Leach has done? There is also the issue of how Locksley will mesh with Edsall. With no prior connection between the two and Edsall’s apparent hard-line stance on matters of discipline, how will Edsall get along with an offensive coordinator who has been accused of things that would get a Terrapin player buried beneath Gossett Team House? For argument’s sake, this hire seems like something that may have been forced on Edsall by someone else, and if that did happen what are the chances it ends well?

Locksley’s recruiting record appears to be a mixed bag as well. While many will credit him for recruiting players on the 2001 Orange Bowl team, it would also be true that he recruited the players on the 2004 and 2005 teams that did not reach a bowl as his initial tenure at Maryland ended in 2002. Without taking into account his recruiting classes at Florida, since that doesn’t look like a fair comparison, it may be worth mentioning that Maryland still had top 25 recruiting classes from 2003-2006. When Locksley moved to Illinois, the Terrapins had higher ranked recruiting classes during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Illinois had better classes in 2007 and 2008, but the basis of those classes was not in the D.C. area. Looking at the 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes, Locksley took seven players from the District. Outside of the oft-mentioned Arrelious Benn, Locksley had four 3-star recruits and two 2-star recruits. So it isn’t like Locksley backed up a Brink’s truck and took every big time player from the D.C. area.

While it is hopeful that Locksley will have a positive impact on local recruiting, it isn’t likely that by himself he will make 4- and 5-star recruits choose Maryland -- not with Edsall remaining as coach and other, more established big-time programs setting up shop in the talent rich D.C. area. Even looking at more local schools like Virginia and Virginia Tech, it is foolish to believe that Locksley will be able to stop all potential recruits from going to the resurgent Cavaliers and consistent Hokies. I would hope that we aren’t naive enough to believe that those programs do not have recruiters on their staffs with local ties. Those programs also do not have the Edsall albatross hanging over them. That is to say nothing of the bigger national programs that occasionally swoop in to take a top prospect.

There are issues inherent with the Maryland situation that makes it difficult to expect top names to stay home. Chief among these is the built-in transience of area residents. Rarely does anyone in the D.C. area have a large built-in family legacy in the area. People move here from all over the country for a variety of reasons, and with that type of environment it is difficult for anyone to build any type of allegiance to the big local schools. There are also issues tied to the local sports landscape and campus community, but transience is the biggest issue to me.

For these reasons among others it is hard for me not to believe that the Locksley hire is one of extreme desperation. More alarming than anything, the fact that Maryland is making desperate decisions less than a year after hiring the coach who was supposed to transform Terps football from “good to great” means that the Terps are instead now trying to go from bad to mediocre.

(Worth noting: Maybe this lengthy feature on Edsall by Eric Prisbell today will give you some confidence on the direction of the Terps. But probably not.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O's sign Tsuyoshi Wada, 'Dr. K of Tokyo'

Yesterday, the Orioles agreed to terms with Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who will likely be given every chance to make the starting rotation. The deal is for two years and $8.15 million, with a 2014 option of $5 million.

Here's a pretty good description of Wada, courtesy of the Dan Connolly link above:
A soft-tossing strike thrower often compared to former Oriole Jamie Moyer, Wada pitched for Japan in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and the country’s World Baseball Classic team in 2006 that won the inaugural title.

Listed at 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, Wada consistently throws his fastball in the mid-to-high 80s, but he survives on a deceptive, three-quarters delivery and the ability to throw several pitches for strikes. He also misses bats, earning him the nickname “Dr. K of Tokyo” while in college. Throughout his career, he has maintained a 3-to-1 strikeout rate or better.
Dr. K of Tokyo? Not bad. Hopefully his strikeout skills translate to Baltimore. Wada, who turns 31 in February, probably won't have the easiest time pitching in the AL East (meaning he'll fit right in with the O's), but if he struggles as a starter, he should be able to pitch competently out of the bullpen. I'm sure that's not what the O's are hoping for, but who knows exactly how effective he'll be. And for two years and about $8 million, he won't have to be completely dominant to be worth that contract.

Over at Camden Crazies, Daniel Moroz brings up a good point about the signing:
Relatively low risk, low-to-medium return type move, though it does make the Dana Eveland trade look even worse (how many soft-tossing starters does one team need in the AL East?). It is nice to see the team going after international players though, and maybe if Wada has some success the O's can turn him into a younger player with some upside at the trade-deadline.
Why did the O's trade for Eveland in the first place? There are pitchers out there similar to Eveland who can be signed or acquired for very little.

Anyway, it doesn't seem like the O's are done trying to upgrade the pitching staff. Their deal with Korean reliever Chong Tae-Hyon has fallen apart (he decided to stay in Korea), so the O's may be looking for more pitchers. Connolly also notes that the O's are "seriously interested in Taiwanese lefty Chen Wei-Yin," who is younger than Wada, throws harder, and is generally rated higher.

(For a more in-depth discussion of Wada, I suggest you read this Eno Sarris piece over at FanGraphs.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

O's non-tender Luke Scott, though he could still return

The Orioles have made the defensible decision not to tender the arbitration-eligible Luke Scott a 2012 contract, meaning Scott is a free agent and can sign with any team. Scott made $6.4 last season through the arbitration process, and the O's either don't want Scott to return at all, or at the very least not for a similar price.

Battling through a torn labrum, Scott hit .220/.301/.402 in 64 games -- a down year for a career .264/.349/.494 hitter. As long as he's healthy, Scott is a good bet to put up better numbers, so it is possible that the two sides work out a deal for Scott to return to Baltimore. Then again, Scott is an injury-prone designated hitter/left fielder who previously brought the O's some unwanted negative attention off the field by saying some stupid/peculiar things.

There are positives and negatives to each scenario with Scott. He may present great value if the O's bring him back at a reduced price by putting together an improved season. Or he could get hurt again. It may be worth the risk to bring him back, or it may not. This is something the O's should have dealt with a few seasons ago when they had a window to trade Scott. But as usual, the O's waited too long and are stuck in a difficult situation.


The O's also decided to non-tender Jo-Jo Reyes, though they are keeping Brad Bergesen around for another season. Neither guy pitched that well last season, but it's not surprising that the O's went with Bergesen over Reyes (Bergesen is younger and is a product of the O's farm system).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another reason to like Roy Helu

There's an amusing tidbit on Roy Helu in Thomas Boswell's column on the Redskins rookie running back:
No doubt you, and the Redskins themselves, will watch Helu on TV replays as he stiff-arms Patriot tacklers or makes them miss, staggers and stumbles for extra yards or bursts through a hole for 15 yards in a blink. But Helu probably won’t, because he probably can’t.

“I don’t think Helu even has a television. He didn’t get a computer until very late, if he even has Internet access,” said linebacker London Fletcher, chuckling approvingly. “It seems like he never leaves the facility [Redskins Park]. That’s rare for a young man. I appreciate the way he takes care of his body first and stays on top of his job before anything else.

“Sometimes you feel like saying: ‘Get away, man. Go home,’ ” Fletcher said. “But the vet doesn’t actually say it. “We are relying on him a lot.”
Hard worker? Check. Has the approval of London Fletcher? Check. Averaging 4.7 yards per carry? Check.

Oh, and he may not have a TV or Internet access. Solid work, Roy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Site news: Comments

Quick update: I've disabled comments for new posts. That doesn't affect many people -- I don't receive many comments anyway -- but it's worth mentioning. If you need to contact me, send me an e-mail or follow me on Twitter (@mattkremnitzer).

Wizards close to acquiring Turiaf from Knicks

The Wizards appear to be on the verge of trading for veteran power forward/center Ronny Turiaf from the Knicks. The move, which is basically a salary dump, will give the Wizards an experienced big man on a team with several young front court players, such as Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton, and Kevin Seraphin.

The Wizards may also receive cash in the deal, and they probably won't be sending any players back to the Knicks (so who knows exactly what Washington is giving up).

Turiaf, who turns 29 in January, has averaged 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in six NBA seasons. He's also averaged 1.5 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. Turiaf is not much of a scorer; he's more of a hustle/high-energy guy who will rebound and play defense. So, he presents something off the bench that the Wizards haven't had much of for a while.

That doesn't mean he's a great player (he's not) or that he's going to see huge minutes (he shouldn't, especially if that means cutting into the minutes of Booker and Singleton). But since he'll defend and rebound, he may end up replacing McGee and Blatche more than a few times during this lockout-shortened season. And considering how compact this season will be, it's not a bad idea to have lots of depth.

Another positive: Turiaf will make a little over $4 million this season ($4.36 million according to ShamSports), but he's also in the last year of his deal. And since the Wizards still need to spend some money to reach the new salary cap floor, it's not a bad idea to acquire someone in the last year of his contract. If you subscribe to the sort of theory that a guy in the last year of his contract plays harder so that he sets himself up with a new deal afterwards, well, then that's another bonus of this trade. Regardless, it makes sense.

One more thing: Turiaf tends to get a little animated during games, so hopefully he provides a few of these moments for the Wizards:

Friday, December 9, 2011

O's confuse fans with questionable trades

When the Orioles traded for Taylor Teagarden last week, the move seemed defensible. In exchange for minor league pitcher Randy Henry, the O's had acquired a backup catcher under team control for a few more seasons. It's not particularly ideal to give up any kind of prospect for a backup catcher, but the O's must not have viewed Henry very highly anyway.

However, it was also announced that the O's had acquired the catcher for Henry and a player to be named later. Apparently, it's not enough to just give up one prospect for a backup catcher who is out of options. That thrown-in player ended up being minor league infielder Greg Miclat. Miclat played in Double-A Bowie last season, and at 24 he's a little old at that level. He doesn't possess much power (.437 slugging percentage in 495 plate appearances last season). But he has showcased the ability to get on base (.371 on-base percentage), and he did steal 50 bases while only getting caught three times.

So maybe Miclat is a 4A player. Or maybe his major league ceiling is a utility player. But does it really make sense for the O's to trade Henry and Miclat, two average-ish prospects outside the team's top 15, just for a backup catcher who hasn't shown that he can hit in the majors? Without any options remaining, Teagarden's time with the Rangers may have been limited, and the O's seem to have paid more than he's worth. It's nice to have some insurance in case Matt Wieters gets injured, but still.

Unfortunately, Dan Duquette, the team's general manager (or executive vice president of baseball operations), also made another trade. This time the O's dealt for Dana Eveland, a Dodgers left-hander with a career pitching line of 5.52/4.38/4.70 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) in 360.1 major league innings. Eveland, 28, gets a lot of ground balls (career 50.5 GB%), but he doesn't strike out many batters (5.94 K/9) and gives up a few too many walks (4.50 BB/9).

Between Triple-A and the Dodgers, Eveland did pitch better last season. But that doesn't mean he's necessarily turned any kind of corner or was worth multiple prospects in a trade. (Here's a good Baseball America write-up of Jarret Martin and Tyler Henson, the prospects sent to the Dodgers.) Since he's arbitration eligible, Eveland may have even been a non-tender candidate. So for a backup catcher and a fifth starter/reliever type, the O's traded away four prospects. If the O's had simply been patient and done nothing, they could have eventually signed both players if they were non-tendered. But no, Duquette pulled the trigger on acquiring both. It's hard not to believe that he just made a few trades just to show that he could.

Maybe the O's just didn't like these included prospects that much. But dealing away multiple prospects for spare parts? No thanks. Those four minor leaguers may not have high ceilings, but neither do Teagarden and Eveland. Those two are also both over 27 years old.

Until the O's fully embrace the notion of rebuilding and truly explore every possibility -- yes, that means maybe trading Adam Jones or anyone valuable, really -- the O's will keep spinning their wheels and trying to sell fans on guys like Eveland, who will probably be pitching out of the bullpen by the end of the season.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So maybe G-Wiz and G-Man aren't so bad

"Wizards" is far from a respected team name among the D.C. basketball faithful. Most would welcome a name change back to the Bullets, but that's probably not going to happen anytime soon, or ever. Wizards is far from a perfect name, but then again, I'm sure most would agree that it is much better than Sea Dogs.

Since most people don't like the Wizards name, they likely aren't fond of the Wizards mascots, G-Wiz and G-Man, either. It's hard to fault them for that; they both look rather goofy, particularly the good-natured G-Wiz.

But let's step back for a moment and realize that things could be much worse than Wizards, G-Wiz, and G-Man. Want proof? Just take a look at the Sixers' new proposed mascot choices. Here's a description of the choices, courtesy of
The Sixers unveiled their new choices for mascot on Monday and the trio features cartoonish versions of Ben Franklin (Big Ben), a dog (B. Franklin Dogg) and a moose (Phil E. Moose). Yes, a moose in Philadelphia. All three of the characters sport Sixers attire with B. Franklin Dogg even donning a Liberty Bell shaped hat with a 76ers logo.
So, yes, while 76ers/Sixers is a much better team name than the Wizards, I'm confident that Wizards fans would much rather deal with G-Wiz and G-Man than something named B. Franklin Dogg.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Race to the bottom: More wins to come?

After last week's win over the Seahawks, the Redskins, now 4-7, seem to have demonstrated that they're not in the same class as some of the truly horrible teams in the NFL. Sure, the Redskins can't take much solace in that fact -- teams with fewer wins do receive higher draft picks, of course -- but no one wants to cheer for a winless team, regardless of whether Andrew Luck or any other potential savior is right around the corner.

Including the Seahawks' 17-point thrashing of the Eagles on Thursday night, here are the current standings for the under-.500 teams (worst records first):

Colts 0-11
Rams 2-9
Vikings 2-9
Dolphins 3-8
Panthers 3-8
Jaguars 3-8
Eagles 4-8
Browns 4-7
Chiefs 4-7
Buccaneers 4-7
Chargers 4-7
Cardinals 4-7
Redskins 4-7
Seahawks 5-7
Bills 5-6

I continue to marvel at the rapid demise of the "Dream Team" Eagles, who are now in the running for a top 10, or even top 5, pick. No team is going to catch the Colts, who have all but locked up that top slot. However, there's quite a logjam at 3-8 and 4-7, so there's plenty of time for almost any of these teams to keep losing and rocket up (down?) the list.

With that Eagles-Seahawks game out of the way, here are the relevant games to the Redskins' (hopeful) selection of a quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft. (Fans should want the bolded teams to win.)

Titans vs. Bills
Chiefs vs. Bears
Raiders vs. Dolphins
Broncos vs. Vikings
Panthers vs. Buccaneers
Ravens vs. Browns
Cowboys vs. Cardinals
Rams vs. 49ers
Chargers vs. Jaguars

I didn't include the Colts-Patriots game, because, again, the top-pick ship has sailed. Good luck, Colts.

It's pretty cut and dried this week. There are still worse-record teams out there who need quarterbacks, but not much of this matters if the Redskins win a few more times in their next five games.

As a reminder, these posts are not about cheering against the Redskins; I absolutely refuse to do that. But I can sort of understand the thinking of those fans who are rooting for the Redskins to lose the rest of their games to secure the highest pick possible. At the end of the day, those fans, even if they're sort of annoying, are really only concerned with the best interests of the Redskins and their future, which requires a massive upgrade at quarterback (and, to be honest, a few other positions). If you could guarantee me that the Redskins will identify a franchise quarterback and select him with that higher pick, then I wouldn't mind stomaching a few more losses this season. But that's why the draft is so popular and intriguing: There are no sure things. Prospects like Luck are as close as a college player can get to being a no-brainer, future star type of selection. But he also may end up as a mediocre NFL quarterback. No one can predict the future. Not even Vinny Cerrato.

If the Redskins do end up winning a few more games and pick 10th in the draft, or somewhere near there, I'm confident that they can do what they did last year and find a way to acquire what they need. Maybe that means they'll make a few trades and move up or down a few times during the draft. It will make things more difficult, certainly, but identifying undervalued talent in the draft is far from impossible. Teams do it every year; the Redskins seem to have done it last year. Maybe they can have a repeat performance.

Friday, December 2, 2011

O's acquire backup catcher Taylor Teagarden

Yesterday, the Orioles acquired catcher Taylor Teagarden from the Rangers in exchange for minor-league pitcher Randy Henry and a player to be named later. With Matt Wieters being the only catcher listed on the team's 40-man roster, the O's were determined to locate a competent backup backstop.

Teagarden, 27, is out of options, which is one reason the Rangers made this move. But he's also failed to live up to the hype at the plate. In 392 major league plate appearances, Teagarden has hit .220/.286/.417 with 16 home runs. That's obviously not particularly good, but then again, he should be an improvement over what Craig Tatum did last season (.195/.245/.230 in 96 plate appearances). In the minors, Teagarden showcased an ability to get on base; unfortunately, that hasn't translated to his major league at-bats yet.

Teagarden's best asset appears to be his defense. According to Matt Eddy and Tim Ednoff of Baseball America, "Teagarden still receives high grades for his defensive skills, however. He's an effortless receiver and blocker with a quick, accurate arm who has gunned down 34 percent of basestealers in the big leagues."

It's not ideal to give up anything valuable when acquiring a backup catcher, though there's no guarantee that Henry or the player to be named later develop into major leaguers. Still, the price the O's paid for Teagarden seems reasonable, and it doesn't appear as if they overpaid.

Most fans have noticed by now that the O's, managed by former Rangers manager Buck Showalter, haven't had any problem recently dealing with the Rangers. Via the Baseball America link above, here's a quick rundown of those trades:
Working backward from Teagarden, the Orioles acquired Darren O'Day in a Nov. 3 waiver claim; righthander Pedro Strop for Mike Gonzalez on Aug. 31; third baseman Chris Davis and righthander Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara on July 30; lefty Zach Phillips for Nick Green and cash on July 19; and lefty Clay Rapada signed a minor league deal on Jan. 27. Even journeyman righty reliever Willie Eyre spent a season with the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate in 2010, with a partial-season stopover in the Athletics system prior joining the Orioles.
There's some decent trades in there, but nothing overly terrible or crazy. Who knows if the O's are done dealing yet, but as long as Showalter's around, a trade with the Rangers is always a possibility.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Random rumor: Edsall to Jacksonville?

If you're a Maryland football fan, then you're probably not a huge supporter of head coach Randy Edsall right now. (And if that's the case, and you haven't done so yet, you need to read John Feinstein's recent column calling for the Terps to end the Edsall era now.) I am not in the Edsall camp, but I also don't think Maryland will get rid of him anytime soon.

Yesterday, though, there was a rumor floating around that an NFL job could be in Edsall's future. Here's that rumor, courtesy of Dave Razzano, a former NFL scout and a sports talk radio host in San Francisco:!/DaveRazzano/status/141667109213179905
The speculation seems to come from the fact that Edsall was an assistant coach with the Jaguars from 1994 to 1997. I guess he must have made some sort of solid impression.

So, yeah, that's about it, and nothing will likely come of this. But considering how bad the Terps were this season and how unprofessional Edsall has seemed at times, it's still amusing that he had to address NFL coaching rumors yesterday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Apparently it's hard to root for the Redskins these days

Did you know that it's hard to be a Redskins fan? Examiner columnist Thom Loverro does, and he isn't a fan of what's happening on the field. In this column, he mentions that the on-the-field product is still very bad, but he's more concerned with this question: "Are the 2011 Redskins the least likable squad this franchise has fielded in a long time?"

Loverro discusses the showboating of Fred Davis, the jawing of Trent Williams and DeAngelo Hall, Jabar Gaffney's recent Twitter controversy, and he even fits in Stevie Johnson's recent touchdown celebration that mocked Plaxico Burress.

But that's it. That's why it's hard to root for the Redskins. I'll admit, I sometimes cringe when Santana Moss spins the ball when the Redskins are down a few touchdowns, or when LaRon Landry celebrates a huge tackle after surrendering a first down or a big play. But don't most teams do similar things? The Redskins are hardly the only team with players who celebrate tackles, first downs, touchdowns, or anything. And frankly, some of those moments are the most exciting for the Redskins, considering that winning the game each week isn't a viable option. I guess part of Loverro's argument could be that it's a mind-set thing -- the whole act like you've been there before thing, or how to be a professional, or whatever. But the Redskins aren't losing games because some of them like to dance when they get in the end zone.

There are plenty of players fans should enjoy rooting for, and Hall, Williams, Davis, and Gaffney are probably on that list. Here are some others:

Roy Helu
Santana Moss
Brandon Banks
Darrel Young
Ryan Kerrigan
Lorenzo Alexander
London Fletcher
Perry Riley
Brian Orakpo
DeJon Gomes
Josh Wilson
Sav Rocca

Yes, I included Rocca, the punter, who is having an amazing season. And that's not counting Chris Cooley and a couple of youngsters who should be able to contribute next season: Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson.

I'd argue that any team that includes London Fletcher can't possibly be mentioned as any kind of "least likable squad," but that's just one opinion.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Race to the bottom: Crucial Week 12

(Note: I had this post nearly finished yesterday but didn't post it for some reason. Anyway, have a Happy Thanksgiving and be safe out there.)

If you didn't read the first post in this series -- which I'll continue each week unless the whole thing becomes irrelevant or tiresome -- I recommend you check that out first. But, basically, the entire goal of each of these posts is to identify the weekly matchups that are important to the Redskins' chances of obtaining of higher draft pick.

Last Sunday's painful 27-24 loss to the Cowboys was hard to stomach, but at the end of the day, it still moved the Redskins a little closer to a potential franchise quarterback. Now 3-7, the Redskins are still tied for the third-worst record, so other bad teams still need to do plenty of losing for the Redskins to continue moving up (or down?) the ladder.

Here are the games including teams that are 3-7 or worse this week (again, while hoping the bolded teams win):

Dolphins vs. Cowboys
Vikings vs. Falcons
Panthers vs. Colts
Cardinals vs. Rams
Texans vs. Jaguars

It would also be beneficial if a few of the 4-6 teams won as well, but we'll be able to sort that out on a week-to-week basis, obviously depending on if the Redskins win. The Dolphins and Jaguars are both 3-7 and the Vikings are 2-8, so wanting them all to win is a no-brainer -- and that's not even factoring in that Miami plays Dallas later today. Both the Vikings and Jaguars took quarterbacks in the first round last year, but if the goal is to get the highest pick possible, more wins by them would be nice.

The other two games were more difficult to decide who to root for. The Panthers and Rams, both 2-8, don't need quarterbacks and would probably go in a different direction in the first round, but as a commenter pointed out the other day, they could always trade the pick to a team who desperately seeks a quarterback. It's impossible to predict trades, but I guess the higher the draft pick, the better. Either way, there are positives if the Cardinals or Rams win, or Panthers or Colts win. The Colts are likely too far ahead in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, but until they've completely locked up that top spot, anything's possible.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Keith Law is not a huge fan of Chong signing

The deal for Korean reliever Chong Tae-Hyon isn't 100 percent finished yet, but all indications are that the deal will be completed soon and he'll be with the Orioles next season. There hasn't been much written about the move, possibly because 1) it's not that big of a signing, and 2) not that many people really know that much about Chong.

But, as usual, ESPN's Keith Law is on top of things and gave his quick opinion on the move:!/keithlaw/status/139004365078929408
So much for a ringing endorsement. I'm sure that a more in-depth discussion of the signing will follow once it becomes official. But hopefully Chong doesn't end up being the Korean Kevin Gregg -- or anything close to it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

O's agree to terms with Korean reliever Chong Tae-Hyon

According to multiple reports, the Orioles have reached a deal with South Korean reliever Chong Tae-Hyon. Apparently the deal will be for two years and $3.2 million. Here's a brief introduction of the 33-year-old Chong, via the HardballTalk link above:
According to a Korean site linked to by MyKBO, Chong, a submariner, tops out at 85 mph with his sinking fastball and throws a curve. He had a 1.48 ERA, 16 saves and a 39/25 K/BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings for the SK Wyverns last year. He pitched for South Korea in the 2008 Olympics and had a 2.25 ERA and seven strikeouts in four innings as the gold medal-winning team’s closer.
Unlike Koji Uehara, who also signed a two-year deal with the O's at age 33, Chong is a full-time reliever and will not be used in the rotation. With this move, the O's have again decided to sign a reliever to a multiyear deal, but it's hard to get too upset about a contract slightly over $3 million, especially without watching Chong pitch routinely against major league hitters yet.

Without question, the O's needed, and still need, to improve the bullpen -- even more so if they're planning to move Jim Johnson into the rotation. Still, I'm a little skeptical about a reliever who can't throw much harder than 85 mph, particularly when he's pitching in the AL East.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Race to the bottom: Redskins need a QB

We all know the top priority for the Redskins in the upcoming NFL draft is finding a quarterback. And since the season has been going south for a few weeks now, it's time to start worrying about where the Redskins will be picking in the draft. At 3-6 (currently tied for the third-worst record in the NFL), they seem destined for a top 10, or maybe even top 5, pick.

But since I refuse to root against the Redskins, I'll do something different: hope that teams below them, particularly the ones that need quarterbacks, start racking up some wins.

Here are the 10 teams currently tied with or worse (record-wise) than the Redskins:

Colts (0-10)
Rams (2-7)
Dolphins (2-7)
Panthers (2-7)
Vikings (2-7)
Browns (3-6)
Cardinals (3-6)
Jaguars (3-6)
Eagles (3-6)
Seahawks (3-6)

(Let's all take a moment to mock the Eagles for being included on this list.)

Of all those teams, who will mostly likely not target a quarterback with their first-round pick? Probably the Rams (Sam Bradford), Panthers (Cam Newton), Vikings (Christian Ponder), Jaguars (Blaine Gabbert), and Eagles (Michael Vick). The Panthers, Vikings, and Jaguars all used top-12 picks in last year's draft to select a quarterback, so they probably won't look to take another one so soon. But this is all mostly guesswork, and no one knows exactly what teams will do with top picks, especially when Andrew Luck's name gets thrown into the mix. And that's without factoring in potential trades.

Eliminating those five teams, that leaves the Colts, Dolphins, Browns, Cardinals, and Seahawks -- all of whom would likely select a quarterback with their top pick (again, depending on where that pick is and which quarterbacks are available). The Chiefs (4-5) and Broncos (4-5) may also draft a top quarterback if they tail off and lose a bunch of games to end the season.

So with all of those teams in mind, who should Redskins fans be rooting for this week? Let's take a quick look at some relevant matchups (while hoping the bolded teams win):

Jets vs. Broncos
Jaguars vs. Browns
Bills vs. Dolphins
Seahawks vs. Rams
Cardinals vs. 49ers
Chiefs vs. Patriots

Honestly, it wouldn't hurt if all teams with awful records won a few games, but whatever. I'll admit, this is a little wacky, and it'll all be much simpler if the Redskins continue to lose games, which they probably will. But I'm tired of watching quarterbacks like Rex Grossman and John Beck, and this process is the best way I can hope for a franchise quarterback without rooting against my team. And, really, it's not like they need any extra help to lose games anyway.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

O's interested in another (almost) 36-year-old DH?

According to MASN's Roch Kubatko, the Orioles may be looking at David Ortiz to fill their designated hitter slot. Although Kubatko admits that the interest is "mostly speculation" at this point, he did pass along the following:
The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham tweeted that [executive vice president of baseball operations Dan] Duquette is meeting with [Fern] Cuza, who represents free agent David Ortiz. Abraham speculated that the Orioles have interest in the veteran designated hitter.
That's not much, but who really knows when the O's are involved?

Ortiz had another solid year last season. He hit .309/.398/.554, surpassing his numbers from the past few seasons. For his career, he's a .283/.378/.544 hitter, which is excellent.

He also turns 36 on November 18 (Friday), which is the same age as Vladimir Guerrero -- and we all know how that signing turned out. Ortiz is probably the better hitter between the two at this point. He's been better the last couple of years; maybe the benefit of mostly DHing in his career has helped him and allowed him to stay stronger at the plate.

I understand that it's speculation, but hopefully the O's have learned from the disappointing Guerrero signing. A young, bad team paying a bunch of money for a DH doesn't make a whole lot of sense. With Guerrero on the roster last season, the O's lost a lot of roster flexibility -- and that's not even mentioning that Luke Scott was already the best option at DH even after they signed Guerrero. At least the Guerrero deal was only a one-year deal; I seriously doubt that Ortiz would entertain anything less than a two- or three-year deal. Guerrero also signed for $8 million; Ortiz would likely command at least $10 million per season.

When considering the O's current roster, signing another full-time DH makes even less sense. Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis are not defensive wizards, and I don't think the O's want to enter the season with both of those guys starting at the corner infield positions. Davis may need to DH sometimes, as will Reynolds. It would also be smart to keep the spot flexible so Matt Wieters can stay in the lineup occasionally when he's not catching.

Could the O's lineup use an upgrade? Yeah, probably. But the roster has plenty of holes, not just at DH. For an organization that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, it wouldn't be smart to sign an aging DH to a multi-year contract just to score a few more runs over the course of a season.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hankerson suffers torn labrum, is placed on IR

A bright spot of watching a bad team is getting the chance to see that team's young players. The hope is that they'll learn quickly and develop, in the process transforming from talented prospects into productive players. Unfortunately for the 3-6 Redskins, one of those intriguing, young players, WR Leonard Hankerson, has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn labrum and a hip injury in Sunday's loss to the Dolphins.

The loss of Hankerson is a crushing blow to the Redskins, not only because of their shortage at wide receiver, but because Hankerson just had the best game of his young NFL career, catching eight passes from Rex Grossman for 106 yards.

Hankerson joins defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins, the Redskins' second-round pick, as the second of the team's draft picks to be lost for the season.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Disastrous season continues for Edsall, Terps

I'll admit, I've never followed Maryland football as closely as basketball -- even during the best of times. But it'd be pretty hard not to notice the debacle that is this season, under head coach Randy Edsall. Edsall has had his hands full, and after another blowout loss last night (45-21 to Notre Dame) the Terps now have a 2-8 record and are 1-5 in the ACC.

Since Edsall is the guy to replace the beloved and rather successful Ralph Friedgen, Edsall's time at Maryland will undoubtedly be compared to everything Fridge accomplished. In 10 seasons, Friedgen compiled a 75-50 (43-37) record. His tenure had its ups and downs, but he also helped to turn around a program that had basically become irrelevant.

Here's the Terps' record in each of Friedgen's 10 seasons:

2001: 10-2 (7-1)
2002: 11-3 (6-2)
2003: 10-3 (6-2)
2004: 5-6 (3-5)
2005: 5-6 (3-5)
2006: 9-4 (5-3)
2007: 6-7 (3-5)
2008: 8-5 (4-4)
2009: 2-10 (1-7)
2010: 9-4 (5-3)

After Friedgen's first three seasons -- and really the first season, when the Terps went to the Orange Bowl -- the Terps struggled at times. They also never won more than nine games after 2003. But the only season that could compare to this one on the disaster scale is 2009, which is essentially the season that got Friedgen fired. Friedgen and the Terps turned things around the very next season, which made athletic director Kevin Anderson's subsequent firing of Friedgen even more awkward and hard for many fans to digest.

Edsall has said many times (mostly during the season, I believe) that turning around the program, or at least molding the program how he wanted, was not going to be easy. He has taken some thinly veiled shots at Friedgen and the poor condition in which he left the program, though that does seem a little ridiculous. Still, regardless of how bare the cupboard was when Edsall took over, there's no question that the Terps have been terrible.

Let's quickly compare Friedgen's worst season (2009) to this season. The comparison won't be perfect -- comparing different teams with different players and coaches, strength of schedule, 2011 season is still ongoing, etc. -- but should be interesting.

Friedgen's 2009

Wins: James Madison (38-35 in OT), Clemson (24-21)
Against ranked teams: #12 California (52-13), #21 Virginia Tech (36-9)
Outscored by 119 points (375 to 256)

Edsall's 2011

Wins: Miami (32-24), Towson (28-3)
Against ranked teams: #18 West Virginia (37-31), #13 Georgia Tech (21-16), #8 Clemson (56-45)
Outscored by 98 points (324 to 226)

It's worth noting that in 2009, Chris Turner (who was not very good) was Maryland's quarterback. This year, the Terps had Danny O'Brien, who was named the ACC Rookie of the Year last season when he threw for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns, and (only) 8 interceptions. In his sophomore season, which is now over after he broke a bone in his left arm in last night's game, O'Brien has thrown for 1,648 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in Maryland's new spread offense. That's probably not the type of performance that many would have predicted in O'Brien's second season.

The Terps have two games remaining: against Wake Forest and NC State. Both are road games. It's possible that Maryland could win either of those games. Yet, it's also possible they lose by double digits in both.

I don't know the direction that Maryland football is headed in under Edsall, but there is some positive news: 1) Because of Edsall's contract and the athletic department's financial situation, he's going to be here for a while (meaning he should have the time to turn the program into what he wants, whatever that is); and 2) things can't get much worse.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dan Duquette on expensive free agents

It's obviously way too early to declare much of anything about how Dan Duquette will run the Orioles or how successful he'll be, but I do like reading quotes like these (provided by Matt Vensel of The Baltimore Sun):
“Everybody wants to look at the established major league player to come in here and help your team,” Duquette said. “When your club is in a position where you can get over the top, where you can get a player that will be a core player for a long period of time, I think that’s the right time to go into the free-agent market. ... I don’t know that it’s a terrific use of the club’s resources to go into the free-agent market just to say that I’m out there.”
Duquette also said, "We will be active in a lot of markets, a lot of talent markets to field competitive and winning teams. We will be active in several of those markets. . . . The major league free-agency market is probably the riskiest one, right? I’m much more comfortable operating with less risk."

More than reasonable, right? I think those are the kinds of things that most O's fans want to hear from their general manager. At the end of the day, talk is cheap and actions speak much louder, but it will be interesting to see how he handles his first offseason in Baltimore.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Redskins sign WR David Anderson, who likes to dance

Seeking a veteran wide receiver, the Redskins have signed David Anderson, a 28-year-old receiver who was released by the Texans earlier this season. So why Anderson? Mostly because he's familiar with Kyle Shanahan's offense, which should allow him to contribute more -- at least that's the goal.

Anderson was a seventh-round pick by the Texans in 2006, and he's spent his entire career in Houston. In his best season, 2009-2010, he had 38 receptions for 370 yards. For his career, he has 82 catches for 895 yards and three touchdowns. But in two games this season, he only has one catch for nine yards. But at least it was for a first down!

Because of the injuries to Santana Moss and Niles Paul, Anderson's likely nothing more than a temporary fill-in. But there are (at least) three interesting things about him: 1) Per Wiki, his middle name is Kent; 2) he likes Conan O'Brien; and 3) he enjoys dancing after touchdowns. The last two are connected: Take a look at his touchdown celebration in a 2008 game against the Bengals.

Yup, that's Conan's patented string dance. Nice work, David. Unfortunately, he's only scored one touchdown since that Bengals game -- against the Vikings the very next week, in fact -- so he may not be doing much dancing in Washington. Then again, the Redskins not scoring touchdowns will hardly be Anderson's fault. They're already excellent at that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Is Duquette the favorite?

Dan Duquette may be the top candidate to take over general manager duties, but it's not exactly a simple task to predict what's going to happen at this point. But according to MASN's Roch Kubatko, Duquette isn't such a bad option:
I'd say Dan Duquette is the No. 1 candidate today. He's got a background in scouting and player development, and he's been a general manager with two teams. He played a major role in the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series, though he was fired in March 2002.

I don't recall many stories about his dynamic personality, but he's sharp and he knows how to make a trade. The guy pried Pedro Martinez from two teams. That must count for something. And he somehow convinced the Mariners to hand over Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb.
He also hasn't been in the major leagues since 2002 -- that's almost a decade. That has to count for something. Then again, with Peter Angelos limiting candidates from doing what they see as necessary to turn the Orioles around, it may not really matter who the O's end up with as GM.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Angelos, O's have turned GM search into three-ring circus

The Orioles haven't had a winning season since 1997. That's a span of 14 seasons, and in that time frame, many of the things the O's have done on the field have been rather embarrassing. Name just about anything awful on the field and the O's have accomplished it. That includes terrible overall play -- poor hitting, pitching, and fielding -- gut-wrenching losses, ill-conceived signings, ridiculous coaching moves, bad draft picks, and terrible decision-making all around. So it's not really surprising that the O's haven't won more games for a while, and they haven't exactly set themselves up well to succeed in the near future.

Still, even though the O's are far behind the rest of the AL East -- and a majority of MLB teams as well, for that matter -- they've had a few bright spots here and there. More recently, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis were supposed to form a solid outfield duo. Matt Wieters was supposed to be the next Joe Mauer, maybe even better. And youngsters Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton were supposed to help turn around a horrendous pitching staff. I guess there's some time left for one of two of those things to happen, and I'm obviously leaving plenty of things out, but the point is this: With all of the losses, failed draft picks, and underperforming players, the most embarrassing and frustrating situation with the O's may be the absurd search for a general manager that's taking place right now.

This is what has happened so far:

- Jerry Dipoto, who may have been the O's top choice, took his name out of consideration when he accepted the same role with the Angels. There's no question that's a much better job, and it's hard to blame him for making that decision.

- Tony LaCava, assistant GM for the Blue Jays, also took his name out of consideration for the O's job after a second interview (with Peter Angelos involved in the talks). Instead of taking a job with another team, LaCava decided to return to Toronto as assistant GM. As reported by Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (via a few sources), LaCava wanted to get rid of some of Angelos's front office minions, but that just wasn't going to happen. Knobler added:
Specifically, those sources said, LaCava wanted to clear out some long-term front-office people whose jobs have been protected by Angelos. Angelos refused to do that, even though he was willing to pay LaCava a competitive salary and to bring in other front-office people that LaCava wanted to hire (including Mike Berger, currently the director of pro scouting with the Diamondbacks).
So much for fans hoping that Angelos would make an intelligent hire and get out of the way. Unfortunately, there's more.

- Even though he was one of the first interviews the team made, Dodgers assistant GM DeJon Watson removed his name from consideration yesterday. Apparently Watson was not thought of as a favorite to get the job, so he moved on. If you're scoring at home, that's three candidates to take their names out of the running, and that's not counting the number of potential candidates who refused to be interviewed in the first place.

- After being denied permission to interview Twins vice president Mike Radcliff, the O's found out that Red Sox vice president Allard Baird had denied the O's request to interview for the position.

So, as of right now, here are the candidates who have yet to remove their names from consideration:

Dan Duquette, former Red Sox and Expos GM
Scott Proefrock, Phillies assistant GM
John Stockstill, O's player development director

Those three have all been interviewed, and the fourth name currently involved is Yankees vice president Damon Oppenheimer, who may also be interviewing soon.

When the interview process started, the O's had several interesting names on their wish list. Now, though, after being rejected by many of those names, the O's appear to be scraping the bottom of the barrel. That's not meant as an insult to the names involved, but when so many other promising candidates have turned the O's down, it's easy to wonder why exactly anyone would take such a flawed job.

I don't think anyone was expecting the O's GM search to go smoothly, except maybe Angelos. But what is he thinking? Many fans have complained about Angelos's meddling ways for years now, but this is the most obvious example of him getting in the way that I can remember. Maybe I'm forgetting some of his interfering from a few years ago, perhaps with wanting to sign overpriced veterans or refusing to consider others, but now his stubbornness appears to be ruining any chance the O's had at hiring a legitimate, up-and-coming GM. The O's organization has so many holes, and they desperately need a GM who's going to come in, clean house if necessary, and start to run things the right way -- whatever that happens to be. But with Angelos around, that just doesn't seem possible. The O's seem to be headed nowhere quickly, and they need direction and front office leadership. And, as many fans know, a good GM is, um, kind of important.

When asked why no one seems to want the O's GM job, Keith Law may have said it best: "The next GM is set up to fail." But, hey, as long as Angelos's guys are all taken care of and comfortable, who cares about watching a terrible team for the foreseeable future?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

O's GM search continues as LaCava turns down job offer

After Jerry Dipoto, arguably the leading candidate to fill the O's general manager position, was hired by the Angels to fill their own GM vacancy, Tony LaCava, the assistant GM with the Blue Jays, was seen as the new favorite. And then, after LaCava received a second interview (with Peter Angelos present this time), Ken Rosenthal dropped this hammer: "Sources: LaCava turns down #Orioles' offer of GM job."

It's easy to speculate on what happened. Maybe LaCava had a change of heart. Or maybe Angelos wouldn't offer him the amount of power that the O's GM role required. Or maybe he simply realized that things just wouldn't work out. Oddly enough, Peter Schmuck wrote yesterday morning that the O's still weren't settled on a candidate -- something that's even more interesting to read now. Schmuck provided some speculation of his own:
That could mean that Angelos wasn't that impressed with LaCava or LaCava wanted more authority than Angelos was willing to allow. It could also mean that the meeting was just another meeting and not really a late-stage negotiation.
As it turns out, LaCava is denying any issue with Angelos (or is at least taking the high road), saying that he just wanted to remain with the Blue Jays. Via Dan Connolly:
“This was about the Toronto Blue Jays more than it is anything about the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles were classy in everything they did and I think they are going to go down the right path. For me, it was how much I love the Toronto Blue Jays and I really, really treasure my relationship with my general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, and I really want to see this through with him. He created a great atmosphere to work up there, along with president Paul Beeston, and it is very hard to leave them. . . . When I decided to interview, it wasn’t that I was looking to leave. But there are only 30 GM positions and I was interested in it. When I weighed both at the end of the day, I just didn’t feel I could leave the Blue Jays."
He's more than entitled to that rationale; at the end of the day, it's obviously LaCava's decision to make. But you have to wonder, since there "are only 30 GM positions," if he would have taken the job if he got a little bit more of what he wanted. It's possible that LaCava is being completely truthful, but we'll never know for sure.

Roch Kubatko dug a little deeper, asking LaCava whether the O's ownership played any role in him turning down the job:
I asked LaCava whether he had any concerns about interference from ownership in the daily operations of the ballclub. All I can do is ask and pass along his response. Here it is:

"I think [Angelos] gets a bad rap on that," LaCava said. "I didn't sense that at all. I sense he's a man who's obviously very busy with his law firm and other things. There are places where the owner is a lot more involved than in Baltimore. I didn't feel that at all and that's the truth."
Kubatko also noted that LaCava would have had to keep "a portion of the current staff" but that "he could have hired seven guys." Apparently that restriction "wasn't a deal-breaker." Still, it's possible that not having full control of hiring and firings made LaCava think twice about accepting the job.

So now the O's are back to square one. It's not the worst thing ever that LaCava turned down the job, but it's not a positive that someone interested in the job went that far in the interview process and then turned down the job. Hopefully the O's renew the process the right way and target other qualified, interesting candidates rather than taking the easy route and hiring someone like, say, John Stockstill (who's already been interviewed once).

For the most part, people don't know the difference between LaCava and someone else like Dodgers executive De Jon Watson (who the O's previously interviewed). LaCava had been discussed as the better candidate, but no one really knows for sure who would make a great GM or not. But when fans already distrust the direction of the O's under Angelos, something embarrassing like the LaCava debacle ends up having more meaning because it's yet another thing the O's failed to do correctly. Even if LaCava's statements are 100 percent true -- meaning that he wasn't completely set on taking the O's job and that he really did want to remain in Toronto because of how much he loved it -- the O's will be blamed for letting him get away. And considering everything that's been going wrong with the team for a long time now, that's blame well deserved.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is Dipoto the favorite?

Is Jerry Dipoto the most likely candidate to replace Andy MacPhail? Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun seems to think so:
No matter who else comes in -- if anyone -- I think it will likely come down to Dipoto and [Tony] LaCava[, the Toronto Blue Jays’ assistant general manager and director of player personnel]. Both are well-respected and highly coveted options – ranked Dipoto as No. 1 and LaCava as No. 6 in its perspective GMs list – and both have interviewed for other GM jobs in the past.

The Orioles couldn’t go wrong with either. Both are originally East Coast guys: Dipoto is from New Jersey and LaCava is from, and still lives in, Pittsburgh. Both have backgrounds in scouting and development, which the Orioles could desperately use.

And both seemingly want this job, with its warts and all. There are only 30 such positions in baseball and both of these guys have waited their turns and desire an opportunity to implement their own policies and strategies in hopes of turning around a once-proud franchise.
The scouting and development experience is key, because the Orioles haven't done the best job getting all the production they can out of their prospects.

So far, Dipoto and LaCava are the only candidates the O's have interviewed, but they've apparently been impressed with both. And it certainly doesn't hurt Dipoto that he has some general manager experience.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fans want John Beck

When it comes down to Rex Grossman vs. John Beck, Redskins fans are convincingly on Beck's side. Just take look at this poll on The Washington Post's Insider blog:

Out of more than 6,000 total votes, 86 percent want the Redskins to give Beck a chance. After watching Grossman play last week, it's hard to disagree.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's not about Grossman vs. Beck

It happens a lot. Whenever the Redskins don't look completely terrible to start the season, fans get excited. They start talking themselves into better performances, more wins, and maybe a playoff berth. Most people tempered their expectations because the Redskins weren't able to fill all of their holes in the offseason. But the same thing still happened, when Rex Grossman looked decent, the Redskins seemingly possessed a new and improved running game, and the defense started putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The Redskins got off to a surprising 3-1 start, and some of those things continued. The defense is better than last season and has showcased the ability to generate sacks and turnovers. The offensive line is also better, and the Redskins have run the ball effectively at times. Quarterback, though, is still an issue. And, for some reason, after Grossman's four-interception game against the Eagles, fans are again expressing their disgust with the team's quarterback situation, even though there wasn't much of a chance the Redskins were going to rectify that problem during the season.

Let's step back for a moment. Whenever something embarrassing happens involving the Redskins -- this week's embarrassing performance being Grossman's awful game -- fans express their outrage. That's fine, I guess, and there will always be the crazy fans who come up with bizarre solutions or want the team to go in a completely different direction and start firing coaches left and right. But what exactly changed after the Eagles game? Obviously the injuries on the offensive line are huge concerns, but I'm talking about the quarterback issues. Did fans really need to witness Grossman's four interceptions to know that he was an average to below-average quarterback? He throws the ball well occasionally, but he's a turnover-committing machine. Wasn't that a given going into the season?

Before the season started and people started getting a little too wrapped up in how well the Redskins played at times in the preseason, I wrote a few quick notes for things to remember about this season. Here they are:

1. Nothing wrong with being excited about the team's young talent.
2. Don't up on some of those young players if they start slow.
3. Beck/Grossman doesn't mean a whole lot.
4. Going to draft a QB to develop; Beck/Grossman stepping up would help make that transition easier.
5. Getting a few wins shouldn't mean a change of direction.
6. Revamped defense and offensive weapons to eventually be aided by better quarterback and offensive line play = long-term goal.

So let's break these thoughts down:

1. The Redskins committed to the draft, and they've been rewarded for doing so. No, they didn't draft a quarterback and will have to do that next year, but they did add some much-needed, young talent to the roster. Ryan Kerrigan has been outstanding, and Roy Helu has been solid. Other rookies, such as Niles Paul, Chris Neild, Markus White, DeJon Gomes, and Leonard Hankerson, have either brought something to the table that the team lacked or have given the Redskins depth at a few positions. And that's not even counting Jarvis Jenkins, who had the best preseason of all the rookies before being lost for the season. Hopefully the Redskins embrace this strategy again in next year's draft.

2. This may really only apply to Hankerson, who has yet to play in a game yet. But it's not like the Redskins have a plethora of explosive weapons at wide receiver, so Hankerson should get his chance soon.

3. Rex Grossman is not the answer at quarterback. Neither is John Beck, regardless of what the Shanahans have said. This has not changed.

4. It's possible that the Shanahans really believed one of the quarterbacks would play adequately this season. There's still time for that to happen. But since they didn't select a quarterback in last year's draft, taking one next year is on the team's to-do list. There should be several quarterbacks to choose from then, and then the Redskins hopefully have their quarterback of the future. Still, Grossman or Beck playing better would be important to eventually bridge that gap until that young quarterback is ready, but then again, that's what happens when a team relies on quarterbacks like Grossman and Beck.

5. This is almost impossible for fans to avoid. The Redskins started 3-1, and some fans inevitably thought the team was on pace for something special. Eventually, they may be. But unless the defense transforms quickly into a shutdown, turnover-forcing unit that scores points or routinely sets the offense up with scoring chances and great field position, the Redskins will struggle to put points on the board. That's what happens when quarterbacks don't play well, receiving options aren't as skilled as they need to be, and when the offensive line doesn't block all that well or a few talented linemen get hurt. Over a full season, these things happen. That's why improving roster depth through the draft EVERY season is so important. Just ask the Packers.

6. As stated before, the Redskins still have holes. Considering how flawed the roster has been for several seasons, how could they not? But all of those problems can't be fixed with a single draft, even if every single drafted player exceeds expectations. The goal is to build a consistent winner.

It's important not to overreact to a few wins or losses here or there. Yes, the Redskins are a better team than last year. But no, Grossman or Beck probably are not good enough to lead them to the playoffs. Not much has changed besides the Redskins pulling out an unexpected win or two. It's not time to change course or overreact and make a hasty trade (like what the Raiders probably did by acquiring Carson Palmer).