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.