Monday, February 28, 2011

Could the Wizards and Bibby reach a buyout?

Mike Bibby isn't happy to be on the Wizards, and according to The Washington Post's Michael Lee, Ernie Grunfeld and David Falk, Bibby's agent, have had "preliminary discussions" on a potential buyout.

Here's more, via Lee:
. . . [N]o formal proposals have been made. Bibby makes $5.8 million this season and is on the books for $6.4 million next season. Bibby would have to sacrifice a lot of money and get waived by Tuesday in order to be eligible to join a playoff team this season.

Portland, Miami and Boston are reportedly interested in signing Bibby if he can reach an agreement. Grunfeld has said he wouldn't close the door on any situation as it relates to a buyout. According to a league source, the Wizards tried to move Bibby again, almost immediately after acquiring him from the Hawks, but were unable to get anything done before the trade deadline.
Really, most of the discussions are probably about that $6.4 million number Bibby is due next season. The Wizards are likely playing hardball on the matter -- which they should -- and if Bibby really does want to get out of Washington to play for a contender this season, he'll have to give back a decent chunk of change.

If the Wizards do reach a buyout agreement with Bibby, the team will have one problem, though it's a small one for a young, rebuilding team: There isn't another point guard on the current roster. The Wizards could bring back Mustafa Shakur, who signed two 10-day contracts earlier this season. Those deals have expired though, and he's not listed on the current Wizards roster. If the Wizards do choose that option, they'd have to sign Shakur for the remaining 20-plus games, since they can't offer him another 10-day contract. The Wizards could also choose to go in a different direction and bring in someone else, probably from the NBDL.

A few games ago, when Kirk Hinrich was still on the Wizards and injured, Josh Howard played point guard when John Wall was on the bench. I doubt the Wizards would want to play the rest of the season with Howard as the backup point guard, but I guess it's at least possible. I guess we'll find out on Tuesday.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Portis's days in D.C. appear to be numbered

On Friday, Mike Shanahan hinted that the Redskins would not be bringing Clinton Portis back at his current salary, adding that the team would only bring him back at a much lower price, if he doesn't find a better deal with another team.

Here's the story, via Mike Jones of Redskins Insider:
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Friday evening at the NFL Combine that the team will allow Portis to shop himself to other teams and that they only would bring the 10-year veteran back at a significantly reduced figure.

"With a guy with a high salary cap, I've always dealt with it a little differently," Shanahan explained. "If we're not going to sign Clinton to that high salary, I'll let him test the market out. Not to say we don't want him, but for a lower price, and obviously we'll try to find the best deal. It could happen. I don't want to say right now. If I said that, usually I'm being pretty honest with you. Could be two days from now, could be three days from now."
Seems reasonable, right? It wouldn't make much sense to pay Portis the $8.3 million he's owed for the upcoming season. Depending on what the Redskins do in the draft and what type of deal Portis can find in free agency, he could still end up back in Washington. But Portis, who's 29 and has carried (at least part of) the load for the Redskins for seven seasons, can't seem to stay healthy now because of the toll all those carries and huge blocks have taken on his body.

If Portis has played his last down with the Redskins, he played honorably in D.C. and will be considered one of the best Redskins running backs in the franchise's history. Currently, he's the second all-time leading rusher for the Redskins with 6,824 yards, trailing John Riggins's franchise-best 7,472 rushing yards.

There's a plethora of other memories/moments of Portis to rehash, and there will be time for that on another day (when he's officially not on the Skins anymore).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blatche continues to embarrass himself, Wizards

I'll admit it: I'm not Andray Blatche's biggest fan -- far from it. And I'm certainly not alone. Blatche, now in his sixth NBA season, has shown flashes of improved play at times in his career, but he hasn't progressed to the point where most Wizards fans hoped he would be. At 24, he's still a young guy. But he hasn't been able to stop creating controversy off the court. If he was making tremendous strides on the court, his whole act may be worth overlooking at times. Unfortunately, that's not the case. (More on that below.)

The latest distraction involves Blatche's misadventures on Twitter. Blatche apparently got into several recent arguments with fans on Twitter, including an offer to let his fists do the talking instead.

Here's the latest, according to Michael Lee of The Washington Post (first link above):
After making comments about being able to "buy and sell" someone and calling people who make threats on the Internet "punks," Blatche allegedly tweeted: "ok let's do this so everyone can see wat u bout let's meet n dc saturday after my game." Another tweet on his account read, "like I said I'm done with this fake internet thing if you wanna see meet me saturday after game I can throw these things homie"

Those tweets no longer appear on Blatche's Verified Account, but he wrote this morning that his account was hacked, "If anyone really thinks that was me responding yesterday is crazy I just heard of this this morning."

He later added, "i would like for everyone to use there brain for a moment im hardly on here why would i wanna be on twitter in miami i tweeted 33 things"
That's right, the old "someone hacked my account" excuse. It's not the first time someone's used that explanation, and it won't be the last. Lee also noted that the Wizards are siding with Blatche on the matter and won't take any disciplinary action. That's not shocking either.

What is shocking, though, is that Blatche keeps finding himself in the middle of foolish stories like these. Really, this is one of the more harmless things Blatche has done (and there have been plenty), but he never seems to be able to avoid getting involved in the first place. Blatche says that it wasn't him arguing with fans and challenging them to fight, but this is also the same guy who listens to sports talk radio and will actually call in when fans are criticizing his play. If Blatche is going to be passionate about his play off the court, then he should be the same guy on the court too. It would be nice if he worried more about defending the paint than defending his subpar play. I'm not suggesting that he doesn't give maximum effort during games, but it would be nice to see a steady progression in his game. And that hasn't occurred.

Right now, Blatche is averaging a career best 15.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. He's also doing that while playing the most minutes of his career, over 34 minutes per game (nearly seven more per game than last season). Unfortunately, Blatche is doing so while also taking more shots per game (14.7) and shooting a lower percentage from the field (43.1 percent). For a guy who's not a very good defender, that's just not going to get the job done.

For comparison's sake, Blatche is currently 14th among power forwards in terms of scoring. There are plenty of talented players above Blatche, obviously, such as Amare Stoudemire, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, etc.; you get the idea. As you'd expect, those guys are much more efficient than Blatche and make more of their shots. In fact, the only power forward above Blatche who shoots a lower percentage is, fittingly, Antawn Jamison (17.9 points, 42.7 percent shooting). That's not to say that Blatche doesn't have talent -- he does, but just not as much as most fans thought. (For what it's worth, Love takes nearly the same amount of shots per game (14.6) and averages 20.9 points. Just saying.)

It's one thing for a bad team to just be bad. And yes, the Wizards have that part covered. But it's a whole different level of embarrassment when players are mentioned in the news for off-the-court nonsense that is entirely avoidable. The disappointing aspect to all this, which I mentioned a few times, is that Blatche has the talent to be a solid player. He's not a total stiff. But he hasn't always seemed completely dedicated to his craft. It's sad that a guy with great physical gifts would be more worried about fans' criticisms and smack talk rather than putting in extra work and proving them wrong.

And it's not that this story makes me think any different of Blatche or paints him in a different light. I think most people who heard about what Blatche did (or may have done) didn't find it surprising at all and probably just nodded their collective heads. But incidents like these are just more of the same for Blatche, who keeps demonstrating that he is not a player who will be on this team when it starts winning again -- let alone be a guy who, along with John Wall, the Wizards can build the team around.

Considering that Blatche signed a five-year, $35 million extension before the season, that's a bit disconcerting. Scratch that, it's very disconcerting.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Randy Winn is not an 'intriguing option' for O's

I'm sure Randy Winn is a nice guy. But on what planet does he present an "intriguing option" for the Orioles?

Winn is 36 and is coming off arguably his worst season, one in which he started with the Yankees and finished with the Cardinals. He hit a combined .239/.307/.356, and according to FanGraphs, had a -0.4 WAR. Normally a solid outfielder, Winn also finished with a -6.6 UZR while splitting time between all three outfield positions.

Clearly, the linked piece above is supposed to be a nice write-up of a veteran trying to make the O's roster. And that's fine. But the O's already have Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold as potential fourth outfielder/bench options, and one of them is already facing the likelihood of not being on the team on opening day. Both players are younger and better than Winn, and there's no question that one of them (or both) should make the roster over him.

Winn may still have the ability to end up on an MLB roster. Players get injured all the time, and Winn wouldn't be the worst fill-in outfielder that's out there. But for now, there's no place on the O's roster for Winn, and it's really not that intriguing.

Balanced effort leads Maryland over Florida St.

It wasn't the prettiest performance -- especially with the way Maryland ended the first half -- but the Terps got a much-needed, 78-62 win over Florida St. With the win, the Terps improve to 7-6 in the ACC and 18-10 overall.

Five Terps -- Terrell Stoglin (17), Dino Gregory (14), Adrian Bowie (12), Jordan Williams (11), and Sean Mosley (10) -- scored in double figures, and Maryland shot over 52 percent from the field while holding the Seminoles to 43.4 percent shooting. Both teams turned the ball over a bunch (17 for Florida St., 16 for Maryland), but Maryland won the rebounding battle by a 29-26 margin, made 10 more free throws, and made two more three-pointers. Williams had another double-double, adding 11 rebounds to his 11 points. Gregory collected eight rebounds as well, but no other Terp grabbed more than three. Stoglin also dished out four assists, extending his streak of games with at least 14 points and four assists to five.

For Maryland, though, the story of the second half was defense. After getting complacent in its 1-2-2 (or 3-2) zone in the first half and letting Florida St. back in the game -- the Terps led 38-37 at halftime -- Maryland played hard-nosed, man-to-man defense in the second half and completely shut down Florida St.'s attack. The Seminoles aren't a great offensive team and obviously miss Chris Singleton, their best player, so the Terps tightened the screws in the second half and only allowed 25 points.

The Terps have three ACC games remaining, and they could really use wins in all three. Their next two games are on the road -- at North Carolina and Miami -- before coming home and ending the season against Virginia. Getting to 10 wins in the conference would be huge -- definitely difficult, but huge -- and it's probably something the Terps would need anyway as a starting point to build an NCAA Tournament resume. Anything less than that will likely mean an NIT Tournament invitation (barring an unforeseen run in the ACC Tournament).

(Quick note: Where were all the fans last night? I can't remember seeing a Maryland home ACC game with so many empty seats, and it looked like most of the empty seats were in the students' section (not completely sure though). I know this isn't the best Maryland team of all time, but they're still a pretty exciting team and deserve an amped-up crowd cheering them on.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

McGee finishes second in dunk contest, still wows fans

JaVale McGee may or may not be a player on the rise. He may never learn to play better defense or harness his freakish athleticism. And no, he didn't finish first in tonight's dunk contest because he didn't dunk over a Kia.

But for one night, McGee put on an impressive performance on a national stage, and even though he didn't win, he certainly did not fail to entertain. Just check out these two amazing dunks by McGee, the first of which (the two-basket dunk) may have been the best dunk of the entire competition.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another close loss may signal youth movement for Terps

Watching the Terps this season has been difficult. They always play hard and rarely get blown out, but it's obvious that they're missing something -- maybe a scorer or a glue guy, but probably a dead-eye shooter or two.

After their most recent game, a 91-83 loss to Virginia Tech, the Terps dropped to 16-10 and 5-6 in the ACC. Tech's Erick Green hit a couple of key threes down the stretch to pull away, and Maryland struggled to answer back. Overall, the Terps shot over 49 percent from the field and made 21 of 24 free throws (a significant achievement for this group), but Virginia Tech hit more timely threes, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds (including several down the stretch), and forced 15 Maryland turnovers. Their zone also made Jordan Williams have to work extra hard to get the ball, and only a few of his points came easily. He didn't have one of his more efficient games, but he did still have 16 points and nine rebounds.

One odd thing about yesterday's game was how much Virginia Tech's starters played. Each was on the floor for more than 31 minutes, and their starters scored 88 of their 91 total points. Only three bench guys got on the floor, and none of them had a field goal.

Most of Maryland's losses this season mirror this one -- enough skills and heart to hang with a talented team, but just not enough to finish the job. Remember these?

L vs. Pittsburgh, 79-70
L vs. Illinois, 80-76
L vs. Temple, 64-61
L vs. Boston College, 79-75
L vs. Duke, 71-64
L vs. Villanova, 74-66
L vs. Virginia Tech, 74-57
L vs. Duke, 80-62
L vs. Boston College, 76-72

Only the two games in bold could be described as blowouts, and Maryland still had a chance at some point (small or not) in each of those games.

With Maryland's NCAA Tournament hopes fading with each loss, it's time to start Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin. The most disappointing Terps this season have probably been Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker, so it's time for the freshmen to show what they can do in the last few games of the season (though they still play a lot of minutes regardless). Bowie and Tucker have been too inconsistent; maybe they're just not that good and never really should have been expected to provide much. Stoglin just had his best game of the season, scoring 25 points and dishing out six assists. He plays a little quicker -- and more out of control -- than Howard, but as he showed yesterday, when he pushes the ball he can make some things happen (both good and bad). Howard has also had a few solid games in a row and even hit four threes against Boston College.

More minutes for Howard and Stoglin (and probably Haukur Palsson and James Padgett) seems like a good idea to start laying the groundwork for next season's team. Not only that, though, but they (particularly Stoglin and Howard) may present the best chance for Maryland to win regardless. Gary Williams has likely recognized that already, though, and that's why the two have been getting more crunch-time minutes. Too bad neither guy is a sharpshooter -- at least not at the moment.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wall not doing enough, according to LZ Granderson

In a recent ESPN article titled "NBA rookie class: Worst in a decade?" LZ Granderson praises Blake Griffin while criticizing many highly drafted rookies from the 2010 NBA Draft. Granderson even took a shot at John Wall:
Top pick Wall has all the talent to develop into the next great point guard and is in the top 10 in assists. But as of now he's a player averaging 14.8 ppg on 40 percent shooting on a sub-.300 team, and the Washington Wizards pretty much have the same record they had a year ago.
All of those things are true, and yet it just doesn't seem fair. First of all, Wall isn't just top 10 in assists -- he's sixth, with 8.9 assists per game. The next closest rookie is Eric Bledsoe, who's averaging 3.9 assists per game.

Granderson's point about shooting better is valid; everyone, including Wall himself, knows that he needs to be more efficient and make more of his shots. That was one of the main concerns about Wall when he left Kentucky -- he would need to improve his jumper. However, Granderson fails to mention that NBA rookies (primarily point guards) don't generally put up the kind of numbers that Wall is. In fact, only two other rookies have ever put up seasons with at least 14 points and 8.9 assists per game: Oscar Robertson and Damon Stoudamire. Wall still has part of the season to go, but I'd still say that that's rather impressive.

Is it a shame that the Wizards (14-38) aren't winning more games? Yes, definitely. But Wall doesn't exactly have a ton of talent around him, and it's hard to place a large share of the blame on the rookie's shoulders. He's still having a pretty excellent season, though apparently that's not good enough for Granderson.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

O's, MacPhail have busy week

If you've been seeking out Orioles-related content the past week or so, you've had a lot to choose from. There's been a lot of discussion about how effective the O's efforts this offseason have been -- some good, some bad. But the O's were mentioned a lot this week, and not all of it had to do with the team.

O's receive criticism for offseason moves

The Vladimir Guerrero signing was the last major move by Andy MacPhail and the O's front office. It was also the most widely panned. Two of the most vocal critics of the O's moves are two highly regarded baseball analysts: Keith Law and Rob Neyer.

On Thursday, MASN's Steve Melewski posted much of an interview he had with Law, who didn't hold back when it came to his opinion of what the O's were/are doing. Here are a few of his comments from the piece:
"The Orioles are not a club right now that is adding young talent, they have added veteran players to the roster. I don't get it, they are not winning 85 games this year and even if they did, what is that going to buy them? A couple extra fans in the seats? It won't put them in the playoffs," Law said.

"Vlad Guerrero, if he's not toast, he's in the toaster. It doesn't make sense to acquire players like that. I understand (Nolan) Reimold had a bad year last year and Felix Pie is a flawed player. But, they cost you nothing and they have some talent. It's possible that one of those guys will actually develop into a solid big leaguer. You will never find that out if you send them back to Triple-A."
There's much more in the entire interview, including more criticism of the Guerrero and Mark Reynolds moves, his opinion that the O's should invest more money in player development, and Law's belief that the O's should fully commit to a youth movement instead of this season's approach.

As expected, many MASN commenters weren't happy with Law's comments, and some figured that he must have some kind of anti-Orioles bias for not drinking the MacPhail Kool-Aid. Much of that uproar caused Melewski to write another post on the topic, in which he noted that he didn't include every single comment from his interview with Law. Melewski also made a few points of his own at the end of the post about the team's general direction.

Law's comments were harsh, but Neyer has been critical too -- mostly of the Guerrero signing:
And finally, let me address my all-time least favorite argument in favor of moves like this: "Hey, they have to spend the money somewhere, don't they?"

Yes, they do. Or rather, they should. But they don't have to spend it here. Every year, teams don't sign draft picks because they don't want to spend the money. Or don't even draft someone because the asking price will be too high. But that's just the stuff we know about. Do you have any idea how many teen-aged Dominicans and Venezuelans you can sign for $8 million?

I don't know, either. A lot.

If you were making a list of the things that a team like the Orioles should not do, spending $8 million on a player like Vladimir Guerrero is really close to the top.

Hey, I might be wrong. Probably not, though.
Again, Neyer, like Law, brings up many fair points. Neyer also answered a few questions from Camden Chat, which included his take that "reaching .500 is a lot less important than assembling the pieces that might eventually lead to 90 wins (rather than 81)" -- I believe most O's fans would agree with that.

Many fans are upset with the criticism because they believe the team is headed in the right direction for once. It's tough to stomach that two of the most respected baseball writers in the business aren't completely on board with what the O's have have been doing.

Still, they are just two opinions -- well respected or not -- but they're not the only ones who have opinions on the team's moves. Here's what Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk (also a respected name) thinks of what the O's have done:
I would agree with Keith that the incremental improvements the O’s made this winter aren’t the things long-term plans are made of. But that’s only bad if the moves foreclose the possibility of making the sorts of changes that do fit in a sound long term plan. In the meantime, there is some value to making the team into one that fans who watch 100 games a year can better stomach than the version they’ve watched the past few years. Derrek Lee, Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds aren’t going to be a part of the next contending Orioles team, but they are far more easy to stomach than the guys they’ve trotted out recently.

And more importantly, they aren’t preventing that next contending Orioles team from coming together.
I'm not really a big fan of the Guerrero signing, but I still tend to look at the overall picture much like Calcaterra. But everyone is entitled to their opinion; the only thing that matters is what happens on the field.

Guthrie and Scott sign one-year deals

The O's avoided arbitration with their last two arbitration-eligible players, agreeing to deals with Luke Scott and Jeremy Guthrie. Scott signed a one-year, $6.4 million deal, and Guthrie agreed to a one-year, $5.75 million deal. Unlike the Guerrero deal, there's no controversy surrounding these agreements.

MacPhail's take on the A-Rod contract

Speaking to law students at the Baltimore School of Law on Thursday, MacPhail, answering a question, offered his opinion on what he thought was the worst free agent signing in baseball history:
"Alex Rodriguez to Texas was the worst signing in the history of baseball in my view," MacPhail said, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Why? Because he played as well as you can possibly ask the kid to play. He had great years. And the needle didn't move at all. ... The team didn't improve. Attendance didn't go up. But hey, they got the lead story on ESPN. Well, if that's what motivates you, you're going down the wrong path. You want to put 35,000 people in the ballpark, win the games. That's what (fans) are there to see. That's what the Orioles need—to win some games."
MacPhail's comments made the rounds, and most people vehemently disagreed. FanGraphs' Dave Cameron probably wrote the most thorough refutation, in which he argued that Rodriguez's contract was a pretty good deal for the Rangers. Here is his conclusion:
Alex Rodriguez’s first contract was far from the worst deal in baseball history. In fact, given his performance in the years after he signed the deal, Rodriguez was actually worth the money he was paid. Unfortunately, the narrative of the deal lives on, despite all the illogical hula hoops you have to jump through in order to reach the conclusion that MacPhail suggested yesterday. Don’t believe the hype; A-Rod was not the cause of the Rangers failures, and the contract they signed him to was actually a wise investment. The problem is that was the only good investment that franchise made in those three years.
Neyer and Calcaterra also offered their takes, along with plenty of others. Is MacPhail wrong? Probably. But is he entitled to his opinion? Of course. It's pretty funny, though, that his comments about the A-Rod contract are being talked about right now considering that he just signed Guerrero to an $8 million deal.

Ernie Tyler passes away

Ernie Tyler, the Orioles' umpires' assistant for many, many years, passed away on Thursday night. He was 86. I could post a ton of glowing quotes and anecdotes about Tyler, but I'll just go with this awesome feat:
A local legend, Tyler once worked 3,819 consecutive home games at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, from Opening Day 1960 to July 27, 2007. His streak, which included 3,769 consecutive regular-season games, 40 post-season games and nine exhibitions, ended when he accepted an invitation from Cal Ripken Jr. to attend Ripken’s Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Simply amazing. For more on Tyler, check out these articles. Rest in peace, Ernie.


Didn't mean to end on a sad note, but that's how it goes sometimes. So yeah, I'd say that's a rather hectic week.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Video: John Wall is an exciting player

After Wednesday's highlight-filled win over the Bucks, I figured that there's nothing wrong with staying positive about the Wizards for a couple days (not that I try to do the opposite) -- at least until tomorrow's game against the Spurs. So considering the team's entertaining performance, I went to YouTube in search of a recent, post-worthy clip. Thanks to tonytugathekiller (who's already made lots of other NBA player mixes), I came across, just as the title suggets, a "John Wall Mix."

Check out the video, and keep enjoying the continued development of John Wall.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Young leads Wizards to first win in February

Snapping their eight-game losing streak, the Wizards downed the Bucks last night, 100-85. Nick Young led the way with 26 points, and JaVale McGee scored 16 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

As a team, the Wizards shot over 47 percent from the field, and they also outrebounded the Bucks 51-39. The Wizards essentially finished off the Bucks in the third quarter, but Milwaukee kept bringing the deficit back to about 10 or 12 points every few minutes. It was far from a well-played game, but the Wizards were pretty efficient, making 10 of 16 threes and 18 of 20 free throws as well.

John Wall finished the game with 15 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Andray Blatche added 12 points and eight rebounds. The surprise of the night, though, had to be Cartier Martin, who played 23 minutes in Al Thornton's place (Thornton was out with a dislocated finger). Martin casually made five of his seven three-point attempts, which accounted for all of his 15 points off of the bench.

In terms of highlights, the Wizards had a few (a block and streaking dunk by McGee, a steal and lightning-quick breakaway layup for Wall, and a couple other nifty plays here and there). One of them was this steal and alley-oop combination completed by Wall and Young. But the play of the night took place in the second quarter, when Young drove baseline and dunked with authority over Ersan Ilyasova. Take a look:

Well done, Nick.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The O's are going to strike out (and walk) a lot

Not that it's necessarily a horrible thing, but the Orioles have several guys who strike out frequently. Some of those guys were picked up during the offseason, and some were already on the team. Let's take a look at some career numbers. (Note: The MLB average strikeout percentage in 2010 was 20.7.)

Mark Reynolds: 38.7 K%
Derrek Lee: 23.2
Luke Scott: 22.9
Matt Wieters: 22.5
Adam Jones: 21.7
Nick Markakis: 16.3
J.J. Hardy: 15.8
Brian Roberts: 15.1
Vladimir Guerrero: 12.2

The O's also have a bunch of hitters who walk a lot:

Reynolds: 11.4 BB%
Lee: 11.2
Scott: 11.2
Roberts: 10.0
Markakis: 9.9
Wieters: 8.5
Guerrero: 8.5
Hardy: 8.1
Jones: 4.9

(The 2010 MLB average walk percentage was 8.5.) So that helps to balance things out.

Looking at those numbers, it's not hard to recognize two things: Reynolds's high strikeout rate and Jones's awful walk percentage. It's already a well-known fact that Reynolds strikes out too much, but he does walk a lot and hit for a good amount of power. Jones, though, strikes out too often and barely walks at all. In fact, he had the worst walk-to-strikeout ratio (0.19) of all MLB hitters last season, when he had a 3.5 BB% and a 20.5 K%. Not good, Mr. Jones.

So be prepared for more runs, walks, and home runs this season -- and more strike outs.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wiz appear headed for embarrassing showdown

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We may find out on Sunday, when the Wizards (13-37, 0-25 on the road) travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers (8-44, losers of 25 straight games -- an NBA record). Either the Wizards finally win a road game, or the Cavaliers break their excruciating losing skid.

Only one thing could spoil this potential disastrous (or awesome, depending on how you view it) matchup: the Cavs winning one of their next two games. After losing in Dallas last night to the Mavericks, the Cavs begin an eight-game homestand on Wednesday against the Pistons (19-32). Then they face the Clippers (19-31) on Friday. Since the Wizards don't play on the road again until their trip to Cleveland, they can do nothing to stop this head-on collision.

Both losing stretches are terrible, though a team, I guess, would rather lose 25 straight on the road than 25 straight overall. (Not that anyone would want to choose between the two.) And by the time the two meet, the Cavs' streak could be up to 27 in a row (and the Wizards' own losing streak could be 10 games). It's up to the Wizards to extend the Cavs' streak when the time comes, or maybe they'll play bad enough to finally allow the Cavs to get their first win since December 18, when they beat the Knicks in overtime.

If the Wiz can't beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland, then maybe they won't win a road game all season. But they probably will. I hope.

Monday, February 7, 2011

O's active offseason winds down

This has been a particularly busy offseason for the Orioles. Let's recap what they've done up to this point.

- Acquired Mark Reynolds from the Diamondbacks for David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.

- Re-signed Koji Uehara to a one-year deal with a vesting option for 2012.

- Dealt for J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris in exchange for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson (same link as above).

- Brought back Cesar Izturis with a one-year deal.

- Signed Jeremy Accardo to a one-year deal.

- Added Derrek Lee with a one-year deal.

- Reached a two-year deal with Kevin Gregg.

- Signed Justin Duchscherer to a one-year deal.

- Brought in Vladimir Guerrero to DH with a one-year deal.

- Reached minor league deals with David Riske, Randy Winn, Jeff Fiorentino, Mark Hendrickson, Nick Green, among others.

Yup, that qualifies as staying busy. Here's what the opening day fielding arrangement will likely look like (not a batting lineup):

C: Matt Wieters
1B: Derrek Lee
2B: Brian Roberts
3B: Mark Reynolds
SS: J.J. Hardy
LF: Luke Scott
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Vladimir Guerrero

The infield is definitely upgraded, and the one change in the outfield is Scott in left field.

Here are the rotation options (with my guesses in terms of order):

SP1: Brian Matusz
SP2: Jeremy Guthrie
SP3: Brad Bergesen
SP4: Justin Duchscherer
SP5: Jake Arrieta
SP6: Chris Tillman

I think Tillman ends up starting the season in Triple-A Norfolk, along with Zach Britton. But we'll see what happens (it's still early).

Finally, here are most of the bullpen choices, with the first four or five names likely to be included:

RP: Koji Uehara
RP: Jim Johnson
RP: Kevin Gregg
RP: Michael Gonzalez
RP: Jason Berken
RP: Jeremy Accardo
RP: Rick VandenHurk
RP: Mark Hendrickson

Other guys competing for bullpen spots will be Adrian Rosario (the team's Rule 5 Draft selection), Alfredo Simon (if his situation ever gets resolved, though that's not looking too promising at the moment), Troy Patton, Luis Lebron, and Pedro Viola. I'm probably forgetting a few guys though. Gregg will probably be the team's closer, if that matters.

Cesar Izturis is a lock for a bench spot, but the team has some decisions to make regarding Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold, Robert Andino, and at backup catcher (Jake Fox and Craig Tatum).

Interesting offseason, Andy MacPhail. The team does seem better, but we'll find out soon enough. I hope you know what you're doing.

Jordan Williams is making more free throws

This post isn't going to be amazingly thought-provoking or anything; the title says it all. When I last wrote about the Terps -- about a month ago -- Jordan Williams was still shooting about 50 percent from the free throw line (though he did make nine of 14 free throws that night). Including that game (on January 12), Williams has made 45 of 71 free throws -- about 63 percent.

Interestingly enough, Williams's field goal percentage is the same as his current free throw percentage: 55.4 percent. Williams's improvement at the line not only makes him a more efficient and dangerous player, but it also helps Maryland close out games and makes opposing teams pay for racking up cheap fouls. As a team, the Terps are up to 65 percent shooting from the line, so as Williams gets better from the line, so does the team (he has more than 100 more attempts than any other Terp).

Maryland still hasn't beaten a ranked team this season, and the Terps face a crucial part of their schedule. After a game against Longwood on Wednesday, Maryland plays at Boston College and then at Virginia Tech. The Terps have to win at least one of those games, and maybe both -- far from an easy task. They're going to need every single point to pull out those games, so hopefully Williams's better shooting from the line continues.

2010-2011 NFL picks: A season to forget

After my incorrect Super Bowl pick (Steelers +3), my final record picking games for the 2010-2011 season against the spread is 118-143-6. Yeah, that's terrible. In 2009-2010, my record was 137-122-8, so my final record after two years of picking games is 255-265-14. Again, that's not very good at all.

After taking a step back, maybe things will turn around next season.

Friday, February 4, 2011

O's sign Guerrero to fill DH non-hole

So it's official: The Orioles have signed Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year, $8 million deal. Despite the fact that the O's already have a designated hitter (Luke Scott), they decided to bring Guerrero aboard anyway. Scott will likely shift to left field, meaning a lot less playing time for Felix Pie or Nolan Reimold -- or both.

Before I start to sound completely negative, it's worth noting that Guerrero is a fine hitter. Last season with the Rangers, he hit .300/.345/.496, and for his career he's a .320/.383/.563 hitter. As you can see, his numbers are in decline (he turns 36 next Wednesday), but he's still an above-average hitter who will get on base and hit for power.

Unfortunately, this move doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and here are a few reasons why:

1) As noted above, Scott was already penciled in as the team's DH, and there was no real reason to overpay for another DH. With Scott occupying left field, the O's have an important decision to make regarding Pie and Reimold. Both guys have shown some promise, and Guerrero's presence will not only limit both guys' playing time, but it will likely force one off of the opening day roster. I'm pretty sure that Reimold has a minor league option left, but I don't believe Pie does. Either way, neither player will be happy with his new role, and they're both starting to get older and less valuable (Pie turns 26 on Tuesday; Reimold is 27).

2) The O's are not a contending team, and this move does not push them closer to anything except maybe getting out of the AL East cellar or finishing with a .500 record. Don't get me wrong, those would be nice achievements, but they don't seem to be worth risking the chance of seeing Pie and Reimold develop into solid players. There's no guarantee of that happening, but there's less chance of that occurring now.

3) On a similar note, $8 million seems like a lot to pay for: a) a guy who can't play the field; b) an aging slugger whose body may start to break down soon; and c) a hitter who wasn't widely (or arguably even remotely) coveted. That's more of a knock on the O's than Guerrero, who probably has enough juice left in the tank for a couple more decent seasons.


Those are just my immediate thoughts, so I'm sure I missed plenty of good points. Here are some other reactions, both from O's fans and non-O's fans. (Note: This should be rather interesting, mostly because I haven't had the chance to read other takes on the signing until just now. Enjoy.)

-- "But you know what it feels like to me? 1998. If you recall, that’s the year we took fliers on Joe Carter and Doug Drabek. I realize there’s one huge difference here in that Guerrero had a good year last year while Carter and Drabek were both pretty clearly done when we brought them in. Still, there are echoes. In each case we’re talking about bringing in an aging 'name' veteran on a bloated contract and hoping he has enough left to contribute. . . . Maybe Guerrero does — this is certainly a smarter move than Carter or Drabek were. Maybe it’s even a subtle stroke of genius in that he could be flipped for an upper-tier prospect after a good first half. Hell, maybe he has a fantastic year and the O’s are still in contention for the Wild Card come August. All of these things are possible. . . . I’m not against being excited by 'maybe.' I do it every year with the O’s. But if I’m going on 'maybe' I’d rather it take the form of Pie and/or Reimold." [The Loss Column]

-- "Most fans seem to be looking at the name on the back of the jersey more than Vlad's actual production of late. So they are happy. But Vlad won't help as much as everyone thinks. I've detailed that. Others have too. And I'm sure I will again. . . . Let's not even discuss the money. There is little chance he will be worth that much and given the reduced market for his services, that's an incredible overpay. It had better not affect the draft budget." [Dempsey's Army]

-- "Guerrero's got a name, obviously. But can you really imagine the good people of Charm City getting excited about the chance to see Vladimir Guerrero bat four times? The truth is that there have been very, very, very few players who baseball fans would specifically pay to see. And while there might have been a year or two when Guerrero was one of those players, sort of, he's not anymore. . . . But wait, this gets worse. Guerrero's presence actually shoves a younger, cheaper, and decent-enough player to the bench (or the minors) and weakens the defense." [Rob Neyer, SB Nation]

-- "Interestingly . . . the O’s payroll now sits at approximately $93 million, approximately $20 million more than last season. . . . You can’t say the Orioles aren’t trying to win, but unless their young pitchers take a huge leap forward this season, it’s hard to imagine them being a contender." [D.J. Short, Hardball Talk]

-- "Even if you want Vlad on the team - I don't really, since I'd much rather watch Pie and Reimold play every day - but even if you do, it is still really dumb to pay $8 M to a guy who didn't have many potential job openings. Even if it's not my money, it doesn't instill me with confidence that Andy MacPhail will be making the kinds of moves the O's need him to make to compete in the AL East (where at least New York and Boston have more money, and all of the other GMs were already smarter in my opinion)." [Camden Crazies]

-- "Will Guerrero make the Orioles better? After shattering expectations for him in Texas, Guerrero came back to reality in the second half (.270 average/11 homers/ 45 RBI). He’s no spring chicken, either (he'll turn 36 Wednesday), so assuming he’ll replicate last year's 643 plate appearances in 2011 is being way too optimistic. His production is real, and the Orioles will give Vlad some good players to get on base in front of him. But living by 'the three run homer' philosophy isn't always the best strategy, and the Orioles pitching is not ready to compete in the AL East. One must wonder if all these moves are a vain attempt to appease a fan base that is desperate for the days of Cal Ripken." [Ben Pritchett, The Hardball Times]

-- "Can Guerrero do for the Orioles what he did for the Rangers last year? That's asking a lot, considering he's a year older and the O's are a lot farther away from being a contending team. But he gives the team that much more offensive credibility and gives fans a little more to look forward to as they club gets ready to open training camp just 10 days from now." [The Schmuck Stops Here]


I'm sure there's more, but that's enough. You get the idea -- mostly negative reactions, understandably. It's worth noting that the problem isn't really with the player the O's targeted; Guerrero will probably hit just fine and give the O's what they were looking for. The problem is with bringing in something that wasn't really needed for too much money while also possibly giving up on other younger, cheaper options. So yeah, that's definitely a concern, particularly in the organization's overall decision-making process.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Young gets defensive, makes terrific play

After the Wizards lost to the Grizzlies on Saturday, Nick Young admitted that he had a problem with some of the plays the team was running. Apparently Young was just frustrated, and he called Flip Saunders on Sunday to explain his comments. Here's what Saunders had to say about that conversation: "One thing I said to Nick, that part of the problem, if that was the case, is we're talking about offense when it should be about defense. That's why we've lost 23 straight. Defensively, we haven't had that same presence. We've got to do a better job defensively."

Well, apparently Young got the memo, because last night he made a superb defensive play against the Mavericks. Take a look.

Unfortunately, the Wizards still lost, 102-92, pushing their road record to 0-24.