Sunday, December 21, 2014

Red Sox Trade Will Middlebrooks to San Diego


I'm done with Will Middlebrooks. He had half a good rookie season and acts like he still owns the job because of that. He was bad last year and he was worse this year and he's always hurt. The reason this falls into the "Want" category is because there are some reasonable internal options to fill this slot. This could be a nice spot for a guy like Brock Holt or Garin Cecchini in the future.
With the acquisition of Pablo Sandoval the 3rd base position is spoken for. Even if Sandoval turned out to be a total bust due to injury or ineffectiveness, I'm not sure Will Middlebrooks is the guy I want off the bench with Brock Holt and Garin Cecchini for depth. Maybe a change of pace will be good for Middlebrooks, although I doubt switching from one of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball to one of the most pitcher friendly parks in baseball will do good things for his numbers. Anyways, if he does turn it around he'll be doing it in the National League, so it's unlikely to come back to bite them in the ass. The whole situation reminds me a bit of the Seguin trade for the Bruins. He's a young, talented guy; but he doesn't really fit the team philosophy. He's got some power, which is a valuable commodity, but he doesn't work counts and get on base like the Red Sox emphasize.

In return the Red Sox got backup catcher Ryan Hanigan. With Lester out of the picture David Ross became unnecessary and he followed Jon Lester to the Cubs. Blake Swihart is one of the most promising prospects in the Red Sox system, but running two rookie catchers out with Swihart and Christian Vazquez seems a bit risky. Hanigan is a local guy from Andover High School. After going undrafted he started playing in the Cape Cod league until he attracted the attention of the Reds organization. He spent most of his career in the Cincinatti Reds system before being traded to the Rays. He had a reasonably good year with the Rays last year as the backup catcher hitting .218 BA/.318 OBP/.324 SLG/.642 OPS/1.3 WAR. He's also solid defensively and had a positive DWAR throughout his career. Here's his current contract:

3 years/$10.75M (2014-16), plus 2017 club option
14:$2.75M, 15:$3.5M, 16:$3.7M, 17:$3.75M club option ($0.8M buyout)

So it's basically 2 years/$8 Million remaining or if the Sox pick up the club option it's 3 years/$10.95 Million. A price Fenway Sports group can easily afford. Another angle on this is that Hanigan was the personal catcher for Reds ace Johnny Cueto when Hanigan played for the Reds. Perhaps this is an attempt to try and lure Cueto to come to the Red Sox in the future? I suppose Cueto did fine without Hanigan last season though, so who knows.
-Mike

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fond of Rondo? Well, he's gone-do


I wasn't a Rajon Rondo fan. I wasn't a Rajon Rondo hater. He was a polarizing figure in Boston sports, you either loved him and wanted him in green and white forever, or you hated him and wanted to pay his airfare to get him out of town. I was perhaps the only person in Greater Boston who stood in the middle. So I have some objectivity here, both in evaluating his place in Celtics history, and also appraising the deal that sent him to Dallas.

Everything you say about Rondo, good or bad, comes with a "but." He was a necessary part of a championship winning team. But he was the 4th most necessary part. He had tons of assists. But he couldn't shoot free throws. He played great in big games. But he was a goofball and sometimes a jerk off the court.

Just like Rondo was a necessary part of the 2008 team, but far from the most important part, this deal was a necessary deal, but not a very important one. Not yet, at least. The Celtics acquired chips they can repackage and exchange at the deadline. Which is why the deal was done now. Players need to be on the roster for 60 days to be traded at the deadline, which is 2 months away.

This deal has an emotional effect on Celtics fans because of the way people either loved or hated Rondo. But for the Celtics, the deal doesn't mean much. Rondo was likely gone at the end of the season anyway. And the players the Celtics got will probably be used as part of a trade at some point. It's up to Danny Ainge and the Celtics to make more good deals to rebuild this team. Good luck (luck is more necessary to building a contender than a good GM).

This trade might assist the Celtics in rebuilding, which would make this deal the biggest assist of Rondo's career. Then again, this is the NBA. Top tier talent finds its way to cities with nice weather, franchises owned by rappers, and teams where there are already great players. The weather here sucks, the team is owned by a group of rich white investors, and there are no are no great players here.

Rondo and the Celtics weren't going to win together. He needed better players around him to be great, but he didn't have the gravity to draw them here.

He was not good enough to be the most important part of a championship contending team. Few players are. At best he was good enough to be the 3rd most important part of a contending team. I think that's a reasonable assessment. He's not a guy who can carry a team. He's also not a guy who needs to be carried. He pulls his own weight, and he also makes very good players even better. That's why contending teams want him.

Rondo is a guy who can complete a team, not a guy to start one with.

His assists nicely sum up his Celtics career. He has loads of them, and that's a good thing. Rondo supporters, both fans and in the media, will ceaselessly remind you of his assists. But at times he also went out of his way to accumulate them. He somehow turned helpers into a selfish stat. That's Rajon Rondo in a nutshell.

Rondo's gone. It's an end of an era for the Celtics. An era of some good teams, not great ones. Rondo haters need to remember how good some of those teams were, and how Rondo helped the PGA (Pierce, Garnett, Allen) era end with at least one championship. But before Rondo lovers demand that the #9 be raised to the rafters, they need to remember that with Rondo at the helm, this team was good at best. And it was never going to be great.

-The Captain

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Ok, Celtics... Now What


Ok, Ok, Ok, let's talk about what now with the Celtics.

I'm not jumping off the Celtics, I bleed green and the Celtics to me have my unconditional love. Mike in his previous post may poo poo the fanhood in which I had for Rondo, and stated the he saves it for Championships, well... Rondo was part of the reason they went to 2 Championships... so I guess there was a reason to celebrate when the Celtics drafted him... in other words, fuck off asshole, sorry for being a fan of a sport/ player.

Now that I got that out of the way, the Celtics do have a plethora of good but not great talent.

At the PG roll we have Marcus Smart and Phil Pressey. Also Jameer Nelseon

I love Marcus Smart, I think he has the upside of a Dwayne Wade, I think he has the downside of Tony Allen but with more offense. The problem with Marcus Smart is that he already has been injured way too much his rookie year. Maybe this is an aberration, I'm hoping it is an aberration, but that does scare me a bit. As for running the point, I think he can do it. I just think he is better suited as a 2. His skill set is more of a slasher then a jumpshooter. Maybe he can be a highbred PG/SG player as in Wade has done sometimes, I guess time will tell.

Now that Rondo is gone, Phil Pressey is the best "pure" point guard, he is quick, can distribute the ball and hell even during some times during the season has started over Rondo in the 4th quarter. The biggest thing with Pressey is this, his size. He is about 5'10 and often gets overmatched by other PGs size. Defensively he isn't hard to beat with more physical players. He has a great handle on the ball, and a feel for the offense, yet his metrics kind of kill him.

Jameer Nelson will get minutes because he's a veteran, but I don't want him too. He's a shell of what he used to be, but who knows.

At SG we have Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton

We know what we have with Bradley. An undersized, yet tough player. His offense has gotten a lot better and can knock down shots that sometimes surprise me. On offense not only does he bring a surprising shot, but he is excellent with his cuts. It's a lost art in the NBA, but he is able to cut with the best of them. I think the Avery Bradley contract he received this year, will ultimately become a steal.

I will lop both Evan Turner and Marcus Thornton in the same catagory. Raise your value please so we can get anything for you. Thornton is what he is, he's instant offense. He essentially is a bigger Eddie House, he is fearless with his shot and can drop 21 points in a moment. I think that he will be a commodity when it comes to the deadline and a team is looking for instant offense. He is also in the last year of his deal, so maybe somebody will bite. I can understand people in Philly's frustration with Evan Turner, sometimes he looks like an impact roll player, other times he's just dumb. He can in reality play PG, SG, and SF against smaller line ups. He signed a modest 2 year 5 million dollar deal this offseason I think, so maybe someone looking for a glue player for their 2nd unit will give up something for him.

SF are Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and James Young

Jeff Green has been outstanding this season. He has finally been able to play up to his potential. He's nearly averaging 20 points and been the most consistent offensive player on the team. There are 2 things that can happen with Green, he priced himself worthy of a first round pick or we wait until the end of the season in which he has a player option which he can turn down and become a free agent. Ultimately with the Rondo deal, I agree with Mike they should go full tank job and move him for a first.

Gerald Wallace is a guy who is based on his contract. I want him gone, the organization probably wants him gone, he probably wants to be gone, but with a 10 million dollar price tag for next year, I don't know if anyone will be able to take on that contract. It's gross..... go away. To his credit he hasn't been a huge lockerroom distraction for being in a miserable position.

He's the opposite of Gerald Wallace. I want to see him up here, the fans want to see him up here, he wants to be up here, it's he's too damn young. When he was born, KG was playing in his second month of the NBA that's crazy. I think James Young was the steal of the draft, he's super athletic, he was maybe the most talented on the Kentucky team, he has a great perimeter shot and instant offense. He has been in the D League and lighting it up, but I guess they feel his defense isn't ready. I want to see him play, but if the organization doesn't think he's ready, I'll take their word for it.

PF: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass

Sully is what he is. He's an undersized, wide PF that can gobble up rebounds, score from the inside out and potentially be a double double machine. I like Sully, but I don't think he can be an all star. He would be a perfect Spurs 7th man. I think sometimes he relies too much on his outside shot then battling downlow, which is a sign of laziness and work ethic. But I'm not going to read into that too much with the team around him.

Kelly Olynyk by default has become one of my favorite players on the team. He has completely exceeded my expectations when we drafted him offensively. His offense is money. He has great range, is clever with the ball, clever inside the paint, and an underrated passer. I think Olynyk is great offensively, but often times he's a little lost defensively, especially with more physical PF. I think with time, Olynyk can be a top 7 scoring PF in the league.

The Brandon Bass showcase has begun. He's a solid player, has improved defensively and has an incredible mid range shot. He will be a wanted commodity when it comes to the deadline for a contender. There is no way he won't be.

C Tyler Zeller and Brandan Wright

It's funny that both of our "Centers" have a ridiculous field goal percentage. I don't think Zeller will keep this pace up with Rondo gone. Their pick and roll game was magical. Now with no true PG, things will become more difficult for him to get as many open shots. He is a tough defender and matches up better then anyone on the roster with bigger guys.

I don't know much about Brandan Wright other than people forcing he's "breaking out" at age 27. To me he seems like a solid player when healthy.


The way the team is constructed now, I would say the over under for total wins I would say is 23. Hopefully Ainge can pull some moves to get it under 20.

I won't touch upon the picks because I know we have 12 over the next couple of years.

As for the draft, this is the best draft I have seen in a while for big men. We always end up with the 5/6 pick even when we tank, so I'll hold my excitement for getting Okafor/ Towns for now.

It'll be interesting how Ainge plays his hand now.


Rajon's Gone, Let's Get This Tank Job Into OVERDRIVE


For those of you who have not been reading this blog for a while. I am not DP. I don't think that Rajon Rondo is God's gift to point guards. I didn't know who he was before he came to Boston. I didn't go hug the pet I named after him when we got him. I save that kind of exuberance for winning championships. Rajon was a good player. I don't think you can make the argument that the Celtics are a better team without him, but as I've said many times he cannot be the best player on your team if you have realistic title aspirations. He could be part of a Big 3, but he's the Ray Allen not the Paul Pierce or the KG. He could be the Chris Bosh, but not the Dwayne Wade or LeBron James. The Celtics had 59 games left of Rajon's services under contract, this season was going nowhere and his willingness to re-sign here was in doubt. They decided to cash in their chips on him and I think it was the right call.

Unlike DP, I'm also satisfied with the return. First off is the picks. The Celtics got a conditional 1st rounder in the 2015 draft. It's conditional on not being a top 3 pick, but also not a 15-30 pick. So it only kicks in for 2015 if the pick falls between picks 4-14, which would most likely involve the Mavericks finishing out of the playoffs this year. The following year the pick protection drops to just the top 7 picks. The Mavs currently sit at the the 6 seed in the West. Rondo should help them improve on that, so I don't think it's likely that we cash in on that pick until 2016. Probably a mid-late first rounder in 2016 is what I would guess. The Celtics have had a respectable rate of hits in that part of the round. Rondo and Sullinger were 21st overall picks. Avery Bradley was 19th. They will also have the Mavericks second round pick in 2016 with no protections involved. This adds to the already substantial stockpile of picks the Celtics have in the upcoming drafts.

Secondly, this creates a $12.9 Million trade exception. This gives some flexibility in terms of bringing in some talent in the offseason. Danny was able to use Paul Pierce's $10.3 Million exception to net some more assets in the Zeller/Thornton deal with Cleveland. It is yet another important asset for building the team going forward.

Thirdly, there are the players themselves. The Celtics got Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson and Jae Crowder in this deal. Nobody special, but generally low cost guys who can contribute or be flipped for assets.

All in all I like this deal. It puts the Celtics tanking into overdrive and grows Danny's stockpile for making deals. He's become a one stop shop and he's ready to make a deal. When the right opportunity to add a truly elite level talent he'll have everything he needs to make it happen. I hate the waiting game, but I think these are the right moves to build the next great Celtics team.

Thanks for what you did Rajon, best of luck in Dallas.
-Mike

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'm Alive, I'm Alive, I'm Alive


This one hurt, it did. It hurt me in more ways then I could ever imagine. This December has been rough for me in general and this was the final kick in my dick... if none of this makes sense I'm on ambien right now, and having a great ambien high.

Rondo while at Kentucky was my favorite college player, I love that he played at Kentucky, I loved his name, I love that he was going to be this ellusive, defensive minded, pass first throw back. The biggest questions then were his ability to score, which still remains, it didn't matter. I wanted the Celtics to get him. Hell I bought a guinea pig in college and named him Rajon, because I knew there was a chance that the Celtics weren't going to have the opportunity to get him.

Draft day comes, the suns draft Rondo..... bummmer..... but then, they trade him to the Celtics to basically take Brian Grants contract. I was never so happy. I ran to my house, grabbed the guinea pig and held him over my head, like Rafiki and Simba and screamed for like 3 hours in pure excitement. My college favorite player was now headed to the Celtics to be my favorite player. Then I got Celtics Clippers tickets for cheap and drove down from URI to see him. It happens this was Rajon's first game ever starting and the boy got off quick....23 points, 6 boards, 6 assist and 4 steals. it was incredible. We got the guy i wanted, we happen to go to his first game. and strictly based on that team, you knew you had an exceptional talent. You know thoughts were going through your mind, if we have Rondo, Big Al, Perkins and if Delonte West keeps his head screwed on you may be able to get something going.... oh yea Ryan Gomes too. Well the Celtics have a progressively bad year, Assets gain value. But they still only won 24 games.

Next act the big 3

So we trade everyone off the team except for Perk, Pierce and Rondo and in comes KG, Ray Allen.

They fit like a glove. Rondo was the 4th to the Big 3 but still got it done. Worked with these personas and was the miestro to the big show, but kept them running. This year of course turned into one of the happiest moments of my life and we won the title.

Now going through the seasons Rondo would relatively have the same stats, but when it cam money time, just like how Doc told them to do, they played their hardest in the playoffs.

in 08-09 when KG was out for a hip they defeated the bulls in one of the most epic series ever then lost to the magic. Rondo out shinned a head to head matchup against Rose and then the loss of KG was too much to deal with against Dwight. But Rondo basically averaged a triple double that series with 17 points, 9.8rebounds, 9.7 assists. Ridiculous stuff.

In 09-10 The Celtics made the finals again. They knocked LeBron out of Cleveland and were headed onto the Lakers. Where he was running the show and averaged 15 9 and 7. Unfortunatley before game 7 we lost Perk and Rasheed Wallace came in. We just got eaten up on the boards... game over.

In the 10-11 playoffs Dwayne Wade basically broke Rondo's arm and he still played through it and even won us a game before it was all said and done and with one arm avgs 14-10-5

11-12 Then the hardest loss to take up until this moment when the Celtics should have beat the heat. It was fucking game 2 Rondo goes off for 44 points and 10 assists and we are up by 2, hes driving to the hoop, wade scratches his face off... no call of course and it creates a fast break which put Miami in the drivers seat. we got fucked that game. But during that whole round, Rondo was the best player on the court. He was better then LeBron, Wade, KG, Pierce, he WAS the Best player on the court.

After that happened things became unravelled a bit.

Ray walked. Pierce and KG hung around for a little bit. Doc walked, KG and Paul got shipped. it was over. However it was going to be Rondo's team. And it was, until he tore his ACL.... His ACL tear took up until mid last season and even when he came back, he came back sparingly.

This year he had 20% of the season to get by and they dealt him..... and got nothing back for him.

The truth is, I don't really care about the fact we got nothing for him. I care more that he is gone. He has heard so much unnecessary scrutiny during his time in boston calling him a punk, a thug, selfish, and constantly on the block he will be in a lot better of place then it is in Boston, where people will appreciate his talent and not pick apart every little detail of his game. It had to have been hard for him, every single year of his life in Boston having trade Rumors swirling around his name. If he says one good thing about Boston on his way out, he'd be a lot classier of a guy, then me. He is in a perfect place in Dallas where he has veterans that know how to play. The line up of Rondo, Ellis, Parsons, Dirk and Chandler is insane. Rondo makes that team, the team to beat. And since the Celtics wont have a chance to beat them..... Go Mavs!

Now, I'm not jumping off the Celtics. This is my team. I think we still have a lot of interesting pieces here. Marcus Smart.... It's your team buddy. Then Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and James Young thats your core. Evan Turner, Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright and whomever is on this team is expendable. Do I have a slight clue on what they are going to do..... no? But I know our core and there has been progression, I know we have a lot of assets that can be dealt, and I know we should be in the lottery for getting the top pick (never happen). So just ride with this team, because you know what KG said, "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE"

again sorry if this is trash, ambien,

Game of Thrones Christmas Carols


Like Game of Thrones? Sick of holiday music? Let's make Christmas songs more interesting by giving them a Game of Thrones twist.

Disclaimer: I've read the books, but seen only 1 season of the show, so some references might be obscure or meaningless to watchers of the show, a.k.a. The Show's Watch.

It's the Most Winterfell Time of the Year

Tyrion the No-Nosed Reindeer - Then one foggy eve, Tywin came to say: 'Tyrion with your mind so bright, won't you be my Hand tonight.'

I'm Dreaming of a Wight Christmas

We Five Kings

The First Tyrell

Silent Night's Watch

Greyjoy to the World

Littlefinger Boy - Little Drummer Boy

Starkin' Around the Weirwood Tree - Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

Oh Come, Oh Come, Khal Drogo

Theon Merrily on High - Ding Dong Merrily on High

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

It's the Most Bronn-derful Time of the Year

Reek the Halls - Deck the Dreadfort with toes and fingers...

We Wish You a Merry Daenerys

Shae Ride - Oh it's lovely weather for a Shae ride together with you... (seems very appropriate, given her profession)

Khal All Ye Faithful

Hodor Hodor Hodor Hodor - Here Comes Santa Claus

Joer to the World

Here We Come Naharis-ing - Here We Come A-Wassailing, Daario Naharis

Selyse Navidad

Winter Is Coming to Town

Silent Knight - About Ser Illyn, a.k.a. The King's Justice, a.k.a. the knight who can't talk and cuts people's heads off

Asha Maria - Ave, Maria

Oh, Weirwood Tree

I Saw Three Dragons Come Flying in

Frosty the White Walker/Frosty the Other

I Saw Mommy Kissing Uncle Jaime - With the follow-up I Saw Mommy Kissing Her Little 'Cuz (Lancel)

-The Captain

The Conflicted Celtics Fan


As many of you know by know there are 100 rumors about Rondo getting dealt. We have been this close before, where it seems all but certain that he will be gone and then... nothing happens. But if it is for real this time, how do you feel?

Part of me hates the idea. You don't get "stars" very often and it rarely ends well when you let one leave. All the Celtics offers right now seem to be for expiring contracts, unproven talent, and draft picks (most at the end of the first round). So what's the upside? I get they need to acquire as many pieces as possible in the hope they can go out and make a trade for superstars, but if that doesn't workout then what really is the point? Free Agents don't want to come here, and they sure as hell aren't going to want to come here with no Rondo. Basically it's trade or bust, and hope you strike gold in the draft.

Then there is the other part of me. Maybe the Celtics really believe in Smart. Maybe they know Rondo has been feeding us a line of bullshit and he is going to leave during free agency and go to a team with a chance to win (can't blame him). So why not get some young talent, picks, and let Smart take over this team.

Even if that is the case, and that's their plan I hope they keep Green. I know that is a complete 180 from what I was saying before, but he has been a complete 180 from what he was last year. He is consistent, and is a solid piece to put with Smart. If you deal Rondo, then get the picks, deal these other vets (Wallace, Bass, ect). Let these young guys grow together, maybe get a veteran PG for Smart to learn with and move on.

To me, that's what this all boils down to. It's basically two question? Is Rondo going to leave anyways? Do you think Marcus Smart has the chance to be an elite PG? If you answer yes to either of those questions then it is time to acquire as many assets as you can for Rondo.

Thoughts On Rajon Rondo


There are a ton of rumors surrounding Rajon Rondo and the Celtics actively trading him.

There have been tons of rumors in the past years and I feel like this is part of Rondo's tradition here in Boston. The Celtics have been linked to the Mavs, Rockets, Kings, Lakers, Pacers, etc.

The hottest rumor right now is the Celtics swapping Rondo for Brandon Wright, filler and maybe multiple first round picks. To me, I do not want Brandon Wright in exchange for Rondo. He's having a "breakout" season at 27 and is oft injured.


Rondo is on the top of my favorite Celtics totem poll along with Antoine Walker, Pierce and Reggie Lewis. I think what Rondo does is incredible and I understand the frustration many fans have with him, but to me, he is a once in a lifetime player.

No, Rondo will not be able to string together a bunch of 30 point, 20 point or hell 18 point games in a row, but what he does do no other point guard in the NBA can do. He can dictate an offense without even shooting. This year he is averaging 8 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds a game and 10th in the league in steals at 1.7. The first thing people will point to is his 8 points a game, and that's true. He hasn't been shooting and when he's been shooting FG attempts and especially FT attempts have been off. I don't know if it has anything to do with his confidence, coming off an injury or just a slump, but if you watch the games, you can tell the big difference from when he is in compared to when others are in.

Here in Boston there are 2 camps when it comes to Rondo. There are people like me who may over inflate what he brings tot he table and people who hate him and want him gone for nothing.

I personally think that he is the most underrated, under appreciated player in maybe Boston history. People will speculate that he has an attitude problem (which have been highly overblown), but never seem to have anything to say when Paul Pierce went through the same shit, his scoring or lack there of, but don't realize that if he gets 15 assists, that is at least 30 points he brought to the offense. People will often call his assists/ rebounds selfish, which makes no fucking sense.

People forget the fact that during the Big 3 era, he was often the best player on the court when playing against the likes of Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, etc. He also brings a toughness that is so old school. He is in the Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird type of mentality. He is an asshole and doesn't care what others who aren't affiliated with the Celtics think (ala Belichick) but yet, to fans, that makes him a punk. He got his elbow snapped and still played through the injury and from everything that I have read for the past 2 years he has been nothing but a great teammate and Brad Stevens seems to get along with him.

Rajon Rondo can dictate a game sometimes better than anyone else in the game, yet fans don't seem to realize that because he doesn't score like Kyrie Irving or shoot like Steph Curry. We essentially have in Rondo, a modern day Jason Kidd (who's career stats are 12, 9 and 6) and trading him away is not a good move for the franchise.

That being said, if he has informed the Celtics he doesn't want to be in Boston or unsure about signing with the Celtics in the offseason, the Celtics have to do what they do. But if he's willing to stay on board, then I think the move is to resign him (even if it's at the max because the salary cap is rising soon) and build a team around him... or let these players grow with him.

Either way, if we trade Rondo, Celtics fans will miss what they had.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The NBA needs to relegate teams to the D-League

The Celtics beat the 76ers last night 105-87. It was the 22nd loss of the season for Philadelphia.

How bad are the 76ers? They're below .100. They're on pace to go 7-75. Fifteen NFL teams have more than 7 wins. Even the NFC South winner might win more than 7 games. And in baseball, 10 teams lost fewer than 75 times.

As bad as the 76ers are, they're only 2 games behind the 5-21 Knicks. The NBA cellar is cluttered with crappy teams. There are 6 teams below .300. Nine teams, including your Boston Celtics, have yet to reach double digit wins.

There is an incentive to play poorly in the NBA. The enticing allure of the draft lottery rewards bad teams. While the top 10 teams fight for playoff positioning, the bottom 10 fight for lottery positioning. Even if they're not tanking, the games are meaningless, especially when two basement dwellers face each other.

What would change that? What would not only motivate bottom third teams to win, but also add some interest and drama for the fans of those struggling teams? One word:

Relegation.

In European soccer at the end of the season the bottom teams in the league are demoted, while top teams from a lower level are promoted. In England, for example, the bottom 3 teams in the Premier League are relegated to the second tier league (called The Championship), and 3 teams from that level move up to the Premier League.

With relegation comes dramatically reduced TV money. And of course the top players don't want to play in the secondary league, so they leave. Stadium attendance goes down. It's a horrible fate that teams fight tooth and nail to avoid. Which is the exact opposite of how NBA teams at the bottom of the standings play.

The threat of relegation would make the bad teams at least try. It would also make make their games meaningful, especially when they faced each other. If the bottom 3 teams this season were to be demoted, the Celtics would currently stand 4.5 games clear of the danger zone. This proximity to danger would make their games much more relevant than they are now.

Oh, and if you get relegated, you don't get a top draft pick. The NBA wouldn't want its most talented and marketable rookies wasting away in a secondary league.

So I propose the NBA add 6 new teams for a total of 36, demote the bottom 9 teams from the current league, and then have a 21 team NBA, and a 15 team NBA Jr. No more east/west conferences or divisions, just 21 teams that play every other team 4 times (80 game season). At the end of the season the worst team in the NBA will be relegated, the best team in NBA Jr. will be promoted, the second and third worst NBA teams will play the second and third best Jr. teams in a single-elimination playoff, with the winner given a spot in the NBA. And for the draft lottery, NBA Jr. teams will be ineligible for the top 5 picks.

In the NBA the top 16 teams will make the playoffs, just as they do now. The 17th and 18th teams will be fighting for playoff spots but also fighting to avoid relegation. 19th and 20th will have to beat NBA Jr. teams to remain in the NBA. And 21st is automatically demoted.

The top NBA Jr. team wins automatic promotion. And the next 2 teams get a chance to join the NBA. We can even have 3rd through 6th play elimination series to determine the 3rd place team.

So instead of the 5 to 10 legitimate contenders with something real to play for (with the bottom 5 having something to lose for), we'll have about 30 teams, all with something to play for. Some teams contending for a championship, some to stay in the NBA, some to move up to the NBA.

Of course, this means that teams in New York and LA and Boston and Philly might find themselves being in a second level. But how is that significantly different from the NBA this season?

RELEGATORS...

Mount up.

-The Captain

Photo Credit:
The Revolving Door

NFL MVP Discussion


After my Amari Cooper Heisman campaign went down in flames, I thought I would get in detail about the NFL MVP discussion.

For me there are a lot of candidates so for me here they are:

QBs:
Aaron Rodgers
CMP%: 65.6
YDS: 3837
TD: 35
INT: 5
Rating: 111.2

Ben Roethlisberger
CMP%: 67.2
YDS: 4415
TD: 29
INT: 8
Rating: 103.4

Andrew Luck
CMP%: 61.4
YDS: 4492
TD: 38
INT: 14
Rating: 97.5

Peyton Manning
CMP%: 67.1
YDS: 4143
TD: 37
INT: 11
Rating: 106.4

Tom Brady
CMP%: 64.4
YDS: 3847
TD: 32
INT: 8
Rating: 99.8

RBs:
Demarco Murray
ATT: 351
YDS: 1687
AVG: 4.8
TD: 11
REC: 54
Rec Yds: 395
TDs: 0

LeVeon Bell
ATT: 262
YDS: 1278
AVG: 4.9
TD: 7
REC: 76
Rec Yds: 765
TDs: 3

Other:
Antonio Brown
Rec: 115
Rec yds: 1498
Rec avg: 13
TDs: 15

J.J. Watt
Tkls: 64
Sacks: 16.5
FF: 3
FR: 5
INTs: 1
TDs: 4 TDs (3 receiving)


Now after digesting that lets see who gets thrown out:

Demarco Murray will most likely be out the final 2 weeks, so he gone. Defensive players never get it and Watts team isn't a playoff team so he gone (wrongfully so). I don't think that they will go none QB in general so both Bell and Brown are gone, so that leaves us with the QBs.

To me, I think the way I have it up top is the way the voting should go of right now. Aaron Rodgers is having an incredible season, and despite last weeks hiccup, I don't foresee that again. Ben I think is personally having a better year then Rodgers, more yards, higher completion percentage, but he doesn't have the ratio that Rodgers has. Then you have Andrew Luck, his % is down, but he has the TDs and yards. Also, I don't think many QBs are asked as much as Andrew Luck.

Peyton and Tom have the team record and stats, but I think those 3 QBs are having better years all together.

So as much as I'd like to say Ben will win it, Aaron and Andrew Luck have more flash... so Boo.

But in my world.... Ben should win it.





Monday, December 15, 2014

Captain's Thoughts: Patriots get revenge on Dolphins

Bill Belichick was Captain Ahab, the Dolphins were Moby Dick. And unlike the climax of Herman Melville's famous novel this time Ahab caught the white whale. His crew then killed it, gutted it, and dumped its carcass in the sea.

The comparisons to the 2003 season are impossible to avoid. The Patriots played an awful game in Week 1 that year too, losing to Buffalo 31-0. Then in Week 17 they beat the Bills by the same score. The 2014 Pats similarly started their season with a turd of a game in Miami. Months later, they got a chance to show what kind of team they truly are.

The Pats dominated the 3rd quarter 24-0. But it was the first half where they won the game. It wasn't a pretty 30 minutes of football for the Pats. Less than 100 yards of offense, an interception, one drive that stalled at midfield, another that never got going. Ye the Patriots led 14-13 at halftime.

Jamie Collins' blocked field goal and Kyle Arrington's return was a 10 point swing on one play. Duron Harmon's 60 yard interception return set up an easy touchdown. Considering how the offense was sputtering, getting big returns off both those plays was crucial.

The first half was all about big plays on defense and special teams. The second half began with the offense making their presence felt. The opening drive of the half demonstrated the balance and flexibility of this offense. There were big pass plays to Gronk, Amendola, and Blount. Jonas Gray had some good runs. Brady "ran" for 17 yards, which pumped him up which in turn pumped up the crowd. Then Blount and the power run finished it.

The defense followed that by forcing a 3 and out. Miami ran 10 plays in the 3rd quarter, for 19 yards. The Pats' D forced two 3-and-outs, and caught an interception.

For the first time since 2004, the offense and defense are working together, building off the plays made by each other. They also cover for each other when either side of the ball struggles, like the defense and special teams covered for the offense in the first half.

The defense was excellent in this game. The Dolphins were 3 for 16 on 3rd downs. Four sacks (1.5 by Chandler Jones on his return), 2 interceptions, a blocked field goal, held Miami to 0 TDs in the Red Zone. No points allowed in the second half.

For the 12th time in the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots have won the AFC East. In the first 40 years of franchise history before Brady and Belichick, the Pats had 5 division titles and 10 playoff appearances. Then they win the division 12 times in 14 years.

The Patriots have also won 52 of their last 55 regular season home games.

At the same time, winning division titles and regular season games is like buying a PowerBall ticket and winning the $5 prize. It's nice, but you want the jackpot.

It's on to New York, and a chance to clinch a first round bye. Which they can do with a win over the Jets. The Pats can clinch the #1 seed with a win and a Denver loss.

-The Captain

Photo Credit:
AP

Patriots Roll Miami With Big Second Half

This was the first of 3 rematches to round out the end of the season with the AFC East. The first meeting between these teams was back in week 1 in Miami. In that game, the Patriots had a comfortable lead going into halftime, but the Dolphins dropped 23 unanswered points on the Patriots in the second half. In yesterday's game the Patriots dropped 27 unanswered points on the Dolphins in the second half. With this win the Patriots clinched the AFC East and at least one home playoff game. This continues the Patriots incredible dominance of the division. That makes them champions for the 12th time in 14 seasons and 6 straight.

The offense was Jekyll and Hyde for this game. The Tale of Two Halves. Whatever old book cliche you'd like to use. They were non-existent in the first half and completely dominant in the second. The 14 Patriots points at half time came thanks to a blocked field goal for a touchdown and an almost pick six by Duron Harmon that set Brady up with a 1st and goal from the Miami 8-yard line. Outside of being able to convert from there, the Patriots offense was pure frustration. A promising opening drive was cut short by a tipped ball going for an interception. The run game couldn't get going against a poor Miami run defense. Brady was under pressure and making bad throws. In the second half the team was nearly unrecognizable. They efficiently moved the ball down the field for a touchdown in just 7 minutes. The highlights was a big 34-yard catch for Gronk to start things off and later a big 17-yard run by Brady on 3rd and 11 to set up Blount for the TD. It seems to be a theme this year of Brady getting fired up and making a rare play with his legs that sparks the offense. The Patriots scored on all of their offensive possessions in that half except for the kneel down on the final drive.

The defense kept the Patriots in this game in the first half. They dropped the ball right before the half allowing Mike Wallace to make a big touchdown catch with just 5 seconds left in the half. Instead of a 14-6 halftime lead it was 14-13 and Miami had all the momentum going into the second half. It wasn't a bad half of football from the defense. They spent a lot of time on the field because the offense was struggling to extend drives.Still, they limited the Dolphins offense and made some big plays. Duron Harmon's near pick six was an important swing in the game. Stopping the Dolphins on the opening drive created the opportunity for the Special Teams to block the long field goal. They brought their game to another level in the second half. 0 points, an interception, 4 sacks for -38 yards and two turnover on downs to wrap up the game. When the game started to pull away they were able to capitalize on Miami's desperation to wrap things up neatly. Brandon Browner continues to be one of the most penalized players in the NFL. He added three this week with two PI calls and an unnecessary roughness. I'm still willing to accept it as the cost of doing business in today's NFL. Jamie Collins was an absolute beast in this game. The blocked kick stands out, but he was making plays all game. Although he didn't record a sack, he got in Tannehill's face all game and forced a throw that went for an interception.

The Special Teams was a big contributor in this game. Stephen Gostkowski is still one of the most reliable kickers in the league. He passed Adam Vinatieri for the Patriots all-time leading scorer. He made two field goals in this game. Add that to some solid punting by Ryan Allen and the blocked FG for the TD and you've got a nice win in all 3 phases of the game.

We're on to New York! The Jets are a pile of garbage at 3-11. They beat the 2-12 Titans last week on the road. The Jets and Rex Ryan always bring their best game for the Patriots. They won't be going to the playoffs this year, so this is their Super Bowl. They outplayed the Patriots for long stretches of the week 7 game in Foxboro, but couldn't come out with the win. Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson and Geno Smith ran all over the Patriots defense, however, their passing game is the worst in the league. With the Jets stout run defense it will fall to the passing game to capitalize against a below average pass defense. The Patriots can clinch a bye with a win in this game. A Patriots win with a Bengals win over the Broncos would also give the Patriots the #1 seed and home field advantage.
-Mike

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Army-Navy Game: the only thing about college football worthy of respect

I love watching college football. The crazy plays, the surprises, the suspense, the atmosphere, future NFLers playing alongside future insurance salesmen.

However, I do not respect college football. What the Army-Navy game has, the rest of college football lacks, and the absence of those things is why I have lost my respect for big time college football.

Army and Navy make respecting history a priority. Texas doesn't play Texas A+M anymore. Nebraska doesn't play Colorado or Oklahoma. The Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry is on hiatus, possibly returning in 2020. These historic rivalries are no more. Because of conference affiliations and money. History is a big part of college football, but respect for history is not a primary concern. It takes a backseat to revenue streams and endless conference realignments.

The Army-Navy game is top priority for both schools. Navy won't end the series because of an agreement to play ACC opponents 5 times a year. Army won't suspend the series because they join the Big XII. Army and Navy respect history and make that respect a priority.

The student-athletes are student-athletes. The academies are tough schools to get into. And they don't make exceptions to those who are gifted on the field but can't do the work in the classroom. The US Military Academy and the Naval Academy are schools first, and the schools support football teams. Unlike the big college football programs like Alabama and Oregon, which are teams that carry the school.

There are more important things than football on the campuses at West Point and Annapolis. The same can't be said about Tuscaloosa or Eugene or Norman or Ann Arbor.

The money doesn't control the programs. There won't be a non-profit "charity" that buys Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo a $3.1 million house. He does make $1.6 million a year, but there are 60+ college coaches making more than him. Army coach Jeff Monken makes $700,000, 93rd in the country.

There is money involved in both programs and in the game. CBS pays to broadcast it. These teams will gladly go to bowl games when eligible. But the money isn't the driving force behind every decision, as it is with other programs.

The programs don't allow the good of the football team to become a priority over basic human decency. Unlike Penn State, where football was more important than the safety of little boys. Unlike Florida State, where football (and baseball) was more important than finding the truth.

The programs don't put winning ahead of following the rules. USC, Ohio State, North Carolina, Miami, Oregon, Cam Newton, Reggie Bush. Recruiting violations, players making money, all happens under the noses of blind athletic departments. Even holier than thou Notre Dame took part in Manti Te'o's lying about his sick girlfriend, after he and the school learned he'd been duped and she didn't exist.

Moral corruption is as necessary to a big time college football program as state of the art locker rooms and training facilities.

Blissful ignorance is a prerequisite to be an administrator in the athletic department of a big time college football school. Deference to athletic departments and their ignorance is a prerequisite to be a high-ranking university official at these schools.

Finally, the biggest reason I don't respect big time college football but do respect the Army-Navy game is what happens after school. With the big time programs, even those who don't make the NFL have it made. A former Nebraska linebacker will get a cushy job at a car dealership in Lincoln because he had 100 tackles as a sophomore. Who cares if he doesn't meet his quota, he was the reason the Huskers beat CU (back when they played CU, now I guess Maryland would be Nebraska's rival?)

Meanwhile, an Army tackle will get a job commanding a platoon on a mountain in Afghanistan, a Navy cornerback will get a job as a Marine protecting an embassy in Iraq.

Cadets and Midshipmen face death, loss of limb, loss of peace of mind. Former Sooners and Tigers and Ducks and Wolverines face getting their drinks paid for by alumni and no student loan payments. They face NFL contract negotiations. They face reporters approaching them 5 years after they graduate, asking about the violations that were finally discovered at their schools.

Graduates (if they do actually graduate) of the big time programs live in a country made for them. While Army and Navy grads risk their lives to MAKE that country for all of us.

Go Army. Go Navy. You've already beaten big time college football in everything that matters.

-The Captain

Friday, December 12, 2014

Red Sox And The Search For An "Ace"


As we all know Lester has chosen to take his talents to the Windy City. Some people are mad at the Red Sox that they didn't pony up the money, some people are mad they didn't deal with this a year ago, some people think the Red Sox did the right thing (too long, too much $), and some people are just sad their favorite player isn't coming back (me).

Since Lester decided not to take the Red Sox offer we have heard the term "ace" thrown about. Here is what people need to question. Is there is a difference between an "Ace" and a "#1"?  If an ace is a number 1 then if the MLB was restarted and everyone got an "ace" there would be 30 "aces". There are not 30 aces, hell I could argue that there are at maybe 5-15, depending on your definition. "Ace" to me is the best of the best Hernandez, Kershaw, Bumgarner, ect. Now Lester last year to me pitched like an ace, he hasn't always, so there is the problem with the huge contract. Is Lester going to repeat what he did last year? And if so for how long?

Here is my problem with the Red Sox current rotation they don't have a "#1" or an "ace". I could argue they don't have a "#2". If you look at the teams that have won World Series you can see that you can win without an glorified "ace" (but you need someone to pitch like one), but you can't win without a legitimate number 1. Right?

2014 Giants - Bumgarner
2013 Red Sox - Lester
2012 Giants - Cain

Well actually that's not entirely true, the Cardinals did it in 2011 with a rotation of no one winning more than 14 game, and no one with a lower than 3.39 ERA.

2010 Giants Lincecum
2009 Yankees CC
2008 Phillies Hamels

The Red Sox current rotation is:
Porcello
Buccholz
Miley
Kelly
Masterson

As you can see no "#1" there, and definitely no "ace". Hell they really don't have anyone who scars you all that much. They are decent guys to have in your rotation, but nothing that can take over a game. So there are two roads the Red Sox can go. They can go out and get a "#1" (Shields, Hamels, Cueto, Scherzer). That would push Masterson to the bullpen role (which I think he would do well in) and he could come out when Buchholz inevitably gets hurt.

The thing that could be going on and I think people won't like this is another "bridge" year. Yes, I hate that term too. The Red Sox use that current rotation, sprinkle in some youngsters, find out who fits and where, then go after all the big name pitching FAs that are out there next offseason. This gives time for guys like Xander and Betts to mature (plus our young pitchers). On top of that they could still have a very good chance at winning the AL East because right now it blows.

My problem with that is that if we are already on the verge of being a favorite for the division why not go for it all? Ortiz isn't getting younger, they have a good lineup on paper, why not give them the pitchers they need.

I would really like to have seen Lester here, he's gone time to move on. We NEED a #1, so please Cherington go get us a #1.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Red Sox assemble a rotation of mediocrity and question marks

Thursday morning the Red Sox didn't really have a rotation. By sundown, they had one. Unfortunately it's a mix between mediocre innings eaters and unpredictable question marks who might win 17 games or fail to make 17 starts.

Wade Miley and Rick Porcello are painfully uninteresting and average. Miley is a gray Nissan Maxima and Porcello is a beige Toyota Corolla. They just blend in. There's nothing thrilling about them, but they're not bad either. You don't covet them, but you're happy to have them.

I actually like each of these acquisitions. Each of these guys is decent, or has the potential to be good. The individual moves are fine. It's the mediocrity of the rotation as a whole that enrages me. The Boston Red Sox, one of the premier teams in baseball, with tons of money to spend, don't even have a legit #2 in their rotation? Really?!?

Embarrassing.

Wade Miley is a 28-year old lefty. That means in 2 years he'll be too old for the Red Sox to consider good. He went 8-12 last year with a 4.34 ERA in the National League. The most impressive part of his resume is that he's pitched 190+ innings the past 3 seasons. To be fair, he did play in a hitter friendly ballpark in Arizona and that seems to have had an impact on his numbers. He had a 5.61 ERA at home and a 3.17 ERA on the road. Eighteen of the 23 homers he allowed were at home.

But Fenway is hardly pitcher-friendly. He's a middle of the rotation guy whose fastball peaks at 91. I'm not impressed, I'm not disappointed.

Rick Porcello was acquired by trading Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit. So he's essentially the parting gift the Sox got for losing Lester. Porcello had the best year of his career in 2014, with a 3.43 ERA and 15 wins. He has post-season experience, but it isn't good. His good 2014 numbers might be the start of a new trend in his career. If so, he could turn out to be a good #2 starter. Or his 2014 performance might be an aberration and he will revert to the 3/4 guy he has been for most of his career.

That small question mark is nothing compared to Justin Masterson, whose unpredictability rivals Clay Buchholz. Materson's career has been a roller-coaster ride. A 3.21 ERA in 2011, 4.93 in 2012, an All-Star in 2013, a 5.88 ERA in 2014. In 2015, who knows? He could be good, he could be awful, he could find his way to the bullpen.

So as of Thursday afternoon the rotation looks like this:

1. Buchholz - the definition of uncertainty
2. Porcello - could be a good #2, could be a #4 in a #2 slot
3. Miley - innings eater
4. Kelly - on the team by default
5. Masterson - might improve the bullpen

This is the Boston Red Sox. This is a big market team with money, history, prestige. And THAT'S the rotation?!?

Imagine the potential playoff rotation. Buchholz facing the other team's ace, Porcello against a legitimate #2, Joe Kelly pitching in a possible elimination game. That's if Buchholz is healthy or effective. It might be Porcello, Miley, Kelly, with Masterson starting a game 4. Yikes. At least Miley will eat up those playoff innings. That's what you want in a short series: question marks and innings eaters.

Imagine if they signed Lester back in March. This is what your rotation might look like:

1. Lester
2. Buchholz
3. Porcello
4. Miley
5. Kelly

Maybe you don't get both Porcello and Miley. Who cares. You put an ace or a semi-ace up at the top, and it looks so much better. Especially in a playoff series. You depend less on Buchholz being healthy/effective and on Porcello bringing his 2014 success to 2015.

Everyone in the rotation should be given a number with 3 in it, because that's what most of them are.

-The Captain

BREAKING NEWS: Red Sox Trade Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit for Rick Porcello

The details of this trade are still coming out. There are some reports that there are some minor leaguers going both ways in this deal. Judging by just the headliners this seems like a win-win. In my write up about the Sandoval/Ramirez signings I talked a bit about the awkward logjam in the outfield.

You can put Hanley in the outfield somewhere, but between Cespedes, Castillo, Victorino and Craig your outfield is already overcrowded. That's not even getting into the farm system with guys like Nava, Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. I would have thought that money would be better spent on a front of the rotation starter than a seemingly redundant position.
The only conclusion I can draw from the Red Sox getting both is that more moves are coming. The addition of Hanley Ramirez has made a number of players on the roster expendable. Perhaps you can move Mike Napoli and have Allen Craig be your starting first baseman, or just move Allen Craig. Maybe do a quick flip on Cespedes for some assets since he won't sign an extension. Maybe they've lost confidence in Bogaerts and they can get a good return on him from a team looking for a promising young shortstop.
It doesn't surprise me that this is the direction the Red Sox have decided to go with. When they acquired Cespedes they were desperate for some offensive production, especially in the outfield. Since then they've acquired Allen Craig, Rusney Castillo, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts has shown some promise as well. Although he is an excellent power hitter, he didn't quite fit in with the Red Sox team philosophy of working counts and getting on base. Throw in the fact that Cespedes has rebuffed any attempts to extend him and it seemed like a good time to cash in the chips on him. This puts Victorino back into the starting role in the outfield along with Rusney Castillo and Hanley Ramirez. Allen Craig should be able to find some work between DH, 1st Base and the outfield as needed.

In return the Red Sox got 25-year old (turns 26 just after Christmas) right-handed starter Rick Porcello. Porcello was scheduled to be the starter for the Tigers in game 3 of the ALDS, but the Tigers were swept in 3 games. I think his position as a #4 starter is a bit deceptive as the three pitchers in front of him(Scherzer, Verlander, Price) were the 3 most recent AL Cy Young winners. He posted his best year in 2014 with a 15-13 record, 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and a 4.0 WAR. Although it may seem like the Red Sox are buying high, given his age there is reason to believe that these numbers may be typical for his prime production years. Porcello is in his final arbitration year, so the team control is still just 1 year, but he may be more willing to talk about an extension than Cespedes was.

Assuming the minor leaguers aren't anything significant, I like this deal. It clears up things in the outfield and puts a possible #2 starter into the rotation.
-Mike

Who the F@#$ is Wade Miley?

The Red Sox have traded away Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa to the Diamondbacks for 28-year old left handed starter Wade Miley. At this point, you might be asking the question being asked by most of Red Sox Nation: "Who the F@#$ is Wade Miley?".

Miley's career numbers:
38-35 W-L
3.79 ERA
1.32 WHIP
.264 BAA

Miley's 2014 numbers:
8-12 W-L
4.34 ERA
1.40 WHIP
.269 BAA

The highlight of his career would be the all-star game selection and being second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Bryce Harper in 2012. It's been all downhill for Miley since then. Miley's 2014 numbers represent his career lows in his 3+ MLB seasons. Miley has played his entire career for the Diamondbacks in the NL. On the one hand you have to consider that he's been able to enjoy the lack of a designated hitter in the NL, on the other hand Chase Field in Arizona is considered to be one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in MLB. So perhaps they even out to some extent. Miley has also shown good durability in his career. He has pitched right around 200 innings for the last 3 seasons.

It's hard to hate this deal. He's not a top of the rotation guy, but he's a more established major league starter than Rubby De La Rosa or Allen Webster. I think you could make the case that Rubby had a better year than Miley last season when adjusting for the AL vs. NL, but Miley still pitched ~double the innings that Rubby did(101.2 IP for Rubby vs. 201.1 for Miley). Juan Nieves and John Farrell have managed to get good production out of their pitching staff. If they can get Miley to produce like he did in 2012 there could be a lot of upside for the Red Sox. He doesn't have quite as much team control as Rubby or Webster (Miley has 3.044 seasons of ML service vs. 2.097 for Rubby and 0.109 and Webster), but he should be under team control for at least the next 3 seasons if the Red Sox want to retain his services. Kelly, Buchholz and Miley should make for a solid 3-5 in the starting rotation and there is still reasonably good depth in the minors behind them with Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez.

It's a fine deal. We traded two in the bush for one in hand. We sacrificed a small amount of depth for what will most likely be a minor upgrade to the middle/back of the starting rotation. There are still 2 glaring holes at the top of the rotation that have yet to be addressed and this trade has realistically done nothing to address that. Hopefully this will be addressed soon as the hot stove winter meetings continue.
-Mike

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Did the Cubs overpay to get Lester, or were the Sox too cheap to pay a premium for good pitching?

Jon Lester has reportedly signed with the Chicago Cubs for 6 years and $155 million. The deal includes a vesting option for a 7th year at $15 million. The Red Sox' final offer to reacquire their former #1 pitcher was worth $135 million, also over 6 years.

It's important to note that in March, the Sox offered a 4 year deal to Lester worth $70 million, essentially half of what they offered him in December. Even though they very vocally believe that 30+ year old pitchers aren't worth that kind of money. Except when they are.

Are Theo and the Cubs paying too much for Lester? Toward the end of the deal he'll be north of 35 years old. By then he might be a worn down #3 or #4 starter collecting $25.8 million to make 20 starts a season and to struggle to keep his ERA below 4.50. So it's stupid for the Cubs to pay so much money for that. It's also smart for the Red Sox not to. Or is it?

Top of the line, proven starting pitching is so difficult to find and so necessary to win, that you have to pay a premium to buy it. It's like paying for parking at a Sox game. There's so little of it available, that you shell out a wad of cash to rent a few square feet of asphalt for 5 hours.

Here's another comparison. The amount of money you spend for a beer inside Fenway. You drop $8, $9, even more because a baseball game without beer is a form of torture so cruel they didn't even use it to interrogate detainees at Guantanamo.

Beer at a baseball game is necessary, so it costs more. Parking at Fenway is rare, so it costs more. Quality pitching is something both necessary and rare, so it costs a lot more.

The Red Sox were willing to pay a premium for that quality pitching, just not as much as the Cubs were willing to pay. But don't mock the Cubs for eventually paying a 36-year old pitcher $25.8 million, or praise the Red Sox for their financial prudence. Your Sox were willing to pay the same guy $22.5 million. That $3.3 million difference is probably how much panda related revenue the Sox will be hauling in per season.

Making fun of the Cubs and praising the Red Sox for this would be like going to Fenway, buying a $9 Bud Light, and making fun of the guy who spent $10 for a Sam Adams.

Just a few days ago, the Sox seemed to have a win right now approach to the off-season, spending $22M/year for Hanley Ramirez and $19M/year for Pablo Sandoval. To win right now, however, you need pitching. And the Sox have none of that. Clay Buchholz isn't just your "ace," he's the entire rotation.

Is it dumb to spend $155 million for Lester? Which is dumber, spending that much for an aging pitcher, or having Clay Buchholz be your #1 starter?

There's still pitching available out there. But at a cost of big money and/or top prospects. With Lester off the market, the supply of quality pitching has decreased, yet the demand/need remains the same. If the Sox don't want to pay the required premium for that pitching, then maybe Sox fans should learn a lesson from them and be prudent with their money, and maybe not pay the required premium for parking or beer at Fenway. Or for tickets.

-The Captain

Photo Credit:
Frank Gunn/AP

It's Official: The Red Sox Blew It On Jon Lester

It's making the rounds this morning that Jon Lester has agreed with the Cubs on 6 years/$155 Million. There is some buzz about an option for a 7th year vesting option and the Red Sox bid was apparently at 6 years/$135 Million. I think the fact that Jon Lester was even mulling over the idea of going to the Red Sox for $20 Million less than the Cubs offer shows that he genuinely wanted to come back to Boston.

This is bad. If the Red Sox were unwilling to step up to pay Lester it seems very unlikely that they will step up to pay Max Scherzer either. Despite the qualifying offer, it seems like he will still draw a higher price tag than Jon Lester. The reason there has been little buzz about Scherzer is that Scott Boras has kept his client out of the mix to let Jon Lester set the market. With those two out of the picture you're looking at guys like James Shields. Don't get me wrong. I like James Shields, but I liked him as a #2 not an ace. You also have to look back at the trade market to see what's available. There has been some chatter about Chris Sale. I don't think that makes any sense for either side. You can revisit the Cole Hamels option with the Phillies. I don't like any of the trade options out there.

I would have liked to see the Red Sox step up to pay Jon Lester here. I think that the Cubs overpaid for his services. I think it's likely that contract is going to look bad in the last few seasons. With that said, I don't care. It's not my money and that's the cost of doing business with top of the market free agents in baseball. It makes the Hanley Ramirez signing look stupid. We'll sign Ramirez for $22 Million for a position we're already overstocked at but we won't pay Lester $26 Million to address our most glaring need? You can go out and get guys on the level with Lester and Scherzer, possibly younger and cheaper too, but it's going to hurt the future of your baseball team. We'll have to sell some of the best pieces off the farm and there are some really promising players coming up through the pipeline. It will be Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez for Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett again. It's not that it's a bad deal. It won us a championship the first time we did it, but I feel like we could have had it all if the situation had been handled better.
-Mike

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Speaking of Awards.... Amari Cooper should win the Heisman


Since the NCAA committee already fucked up royally by putting Ohio State in the playoffs instead of a more deserving Baylor and TCU, they can really get something right by giving the Heisman to Amari Cooper over the other 2 finalist Melvin Gordon and Marcus mariotta.

Cooper led the FBS with 115 receptions for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He has made Blake Sims into a good QB this year. I had my doubts with Blake Sims starting over Jacob Coker, but they are the number 1 team in the country in big part to Sims and mostly Cooper. Amari Cooper is the best WR in college and wherever he gets drafted will be a top 5 WR in no less then 2 years. He's not as big as Julio Jones or AJ Green but is a game changer. He can take over a game at any point and will do it against Ohio State new years day and on the next level.

I'm not saying Mariotta and Gordon aren't deserving, they just picked the wrong year to be great.

There is only one true MVP in the league right now in the NFL.... no questions asked


LeVeon Bell.

Boo hoo Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and hell even Big Ben. LeVeon Bell is not only the best RB in the league but a surefire MVP.

Right now LeVeon Bell 1,231 rushing yards with 5 TDs and 693 recieving yards with 3 TDs. That is unheard of in Goodell's NFL. Sure Rodgers, Ben are lighting it up but that's expected in the Goodell drivin, anti- defense NFL. You rarely see what Bell has done and continuing to do. He is 1 of 2 people ever to have 3 consecutive games where you total over 200 total yards from a rb and that honor is shared with Sweetness.

LeVeon Bell is a game changing back that needs to get credit.

If he keeps this up and doesn't win the MVP it may be Goodell's biggest fraud job as commish.

I'm Fucking Really Nervous Right Now


Sorry again, I've been super busy lately and I was expecting the Captain or BMack to do anything in support of this site, but apparently 10 minutes is too much to ask from them.

Anyways, the Sox and the pitching market makes me really nervous. I hope I'm wrong but I think Lester is gone. Apparently he has a couple of 6 year offers out there, one with an option for a 7th year and since the rumors are that the Cubs and Giants are the front runners in the race, I assume it's one of those 2. I don't see how the Sox are going to match that. Which means if the Sox miss out on Lester, they for sure aren't going to sign Max Scherzer.

Also, I think we are all overrating Jon Lester a bit too. a 6 year, 150 is a ridiculous contract for a guy that has a career 3.6 era. So essentially you are paying a guy that isn't an ace millions of dollars because you assume his post season success doesn't dwindle. Although this year he had a 7.6 era in the playoffs for the A's. Also, he blocked me on twitter for some reason, but whatever, fuck him.

I would much rather have Max Scherzer then Lester if contracts didn't matter, but they do. So I'd imagine they will lose out on him.

So lets look at the best of the rest.

Jeff Smardjza (sp) just was traded to the White Sox for relatively nothing. I would have loved if the Red Sox got him... but he gone'.

Then you have Cole Hamels, that will cost you Cespedes, Barnes and someone else... maybe Margot. Which is a huge package.

Then you have James Shields... who is good but is a 2 or a real good 3. But will most likely get a 4 year-5 year deal.

Then maybe you Mat Latos, CJ Wilson, etc.... again we have to give up something for him.

So now your stuck with the Liriano's of the world.

I don't know what they are going to do, but they certainly have their work cut out for them.... big time.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Patriots Win Ugly in San Diego

This game was a train wreck. Nearly everything that could have gone wrong for the Patriots in this game did go wrong. A bad Unnecessary Roughness call took a Devin McCourty pick six off the board and handed the Chargers a first down at midfield. A Brandon LaFell fumble was returned for a touchdown for an early 14-3 lead. Tom Brady drastically underthrew a pass to Gronkowski that got intercepted by Manti Te'o for a rare red zone interception that took points off the board before the half. With San Diego facing a 2nd and 29 from their own 9-yard line, Kyle Arrington committed a boneheaded tripping penalty to give San Diego an automatic first down. The Patriots offense sputtered and went 3 and out 4 times in a row to start the second half. On the opening Patriots offensive drive they got to 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line, but had to settle for a field goal. Given this massive list of screw ups, the quality of opponent and the fact that the Patriots were on the road; you would think that the Chargers would have won this game easily. Instead, the Patriots won by a comfortable 9-point margin.

People talk a lot about the Patriots "winning ugly". "When the Patriots won those Super Bowls they did it by winning ugly!" was a popular refrain when they sneaked out of Oakland with a win in week 3. In week 3 that rang hollow for me. The Raiders are a garbage team, you shouldn't need last minute heroics to beat them. Nobody stepped up, they just did the bare minimum to win and the Raiders weren't good enough to do anything about it. This game was different. If the regular season ended today, the Chargers would still be in the playoffs despite the loss. The offense couldn't extend drives or hang onto the football. The defense picked up the slack and made plays, came up with big stops and came up with turnovers. The Special Teams managed to contribute with a blocked punt that gift wrapped a touchdown for the struggling offense. Merry Christmas Josh McDaniels! This is the winning ugly that I remember from those Super Bowl winning seasons. When one phase of the game is struggling, they step up in other phases to get the win over quality competition. They showed mental toughness when things weren't going their way. I think it was a good sign of this team's resolve headed into the playoffs.

Tom Brady struggled in this game. Throw aways, forced throws and off target throws were commonplace. His red zone interception before the half is one of the worst I have seen from him. He enjoyed good field position and was often unable to capitalize. The fan base seems to be putting this ineffectiveness squarely on the shoulders of the offensive line. Again, he was pressured, hurried and knocked down often; but this is the NFL. You have to be able to adapt and be effective in less than ideal circumstances. Julian Edelman had arguably the best game of his career. 8 catches for 141 yards including a 69-yard back-breaking touchdown. Gronkowski drew a lot of attention from defenders, but still managed 8 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots running game was puzzling as well. In the opening drive they looked unstoppable as Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount chewed up some big chunks of yards marching it all the way down to the 1-yard line. Then the run game disappeared until late in the 4th quarter when they were killing off the clock. I think the play calling switched when the Patriots went down 14-3 and they started slinging it. This was a bit disappointing. Blount got a season high for rushing attempts, but only managed 66 yards. It wasn't awful, but disappointing after his effectiveness against Detroit and Green Bay.

The defense was the story of this game. Penalties aside, this was an elite performance by the New England defense. The Chargers are an above average offense in the NFL and they managed to limit them to just 7 offensive points in this game. Without their best pass rusher, Chandler Jones, they still managed to hit Rivers for 4 crucial sacks. 2 of those sacks came at the hands of defensive signal caller Jamie Collins, filling in for the injured Dont'a Hightower. That makes 3 sacks for Collins in 2 games. Akeem Ayers looks like a steal at the trade deadline, coming up with a crucial interception to ensure that the Chargers couldn't capitalize on the overturned McCourty pick six. Keenan Allen, San Diego's top receiver, had been on fire going 100+ receiving yards the last two games. He was stuck on Revis Island this game with just two catches for 3 yards. Phillip Rivers eventually just stopped looking in Revis' direction entirely.

We're on to Miami! The Patriots have wrapped up a brutal 5 game stretch against likely playoff teams with a 4-1 record. They round out the season with the AFC East. They hold a 3 game lead in the division with 3 games left to play, so a win next weekend would clinch the AFC East for the Patriots. To do so, they'll have to go through the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots lost to the 'Fins in the season opener. A lot has changed since then. Knowshon Moreno rumbled over the Patriots for 134 yards on the ground in that game, but he's safely tucked away on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Cameron Wake is still just fine and gave Brady and the offensive line fits in that opening game. This should be a good test of how far the Patriots have come since the beginning of this season. It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins react to the December cold in Foxboro.
-Mike


Monday, December 1, 2014

Patriots Lose a Tight Game in Green Bay

This game was a big test for the Patriots. With the Cardinals fading the Packers look to be the class of the NFC right now. They had to beat a good team on the road and they came up short. The defense didn't break, but bent a little too much. The Patriots put up points, but just a little too few. It was a frustrating game. No part of the Patriots was bad enough to blame for this loss, but none of them stepped up big enough to get the win either. The whole team got a C+ where they needed a B- to pass. The officiating crew looked bad. Lots of ticky-tack calls, phantom calls or bad no calls. Since the emphasis was placed on limiting physical play by defensive backs this season it has become commonplace to see these in most games.

Tom Brady didn't have a bad game, just not a great one. 22/35, 245 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 102.7 QB Rating isn't a bad day under center. He managed to move well in the pocket to buy some extra time against the Packers defensive front. Despite the pressure on Brady he protected the football with no picks and no strip sacks. The receivers all did reasonably well also. Rob Gronkowski lead the receiving corps in catches and yards. Julian Edelman came up with 7 catches for short gains. Brandon LaFell caught both the touchdown passes. A good solid game, but not good enough to win. They scored points, but not enough. They had good red zone efficiency, but not enough sustained drives. They didn't shoot the defense in the foot with turnovers, but had too many quick 3 and outs.

I said in my preview of this game that I thought the Patriots could chew up the Packers on the ground. The Packers have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and the Patriots have had some success running the ball lately with LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray in the past few weeks. I thought that the Patriots run game was effective and that the coaching staff was too quick to abandon the run. Blount and Bolden managed a combined 75 yards on just 13 carries. That's 5.8 yards/carry. Shane Vereen struggled to get anything going with the run, but Bolden and Blount were moving the ball effectively when they got touches.The ratio of pass plays to running plays in this game was ~2:1. I think both sides would have benefited from a more even split.

There are some ways you can look at the defense and portray them in a favorable light. You can look at them in other ways and think they had an awful game. If somebody had told me before the game started that the Packers would score on their first 5 possessions and only punt one time in this game I would assume they're getting crushed. If you had told me that they would hold the Packers to 26 points in this game, a comfortable margin below their season average of 31.67 points/game I would assume they were doing quite well and the Patriots should win. The Patriots bent a lot in this game. They allowed long drives down the field, but held up in the red zone to force field goals. There were a few breaks as well. Some big pass plays made it easy for the Packers to get down the field and a blown coverage before the half for an easy touchdown turned a manageable 16-14 margin at halftime into a much less appealing 23-14 difference. That touchdown would end up being the difference. Like everything in this game, it wasn't bad enough to lose the game, but it wasn't good enough to win it either. They effectively limited one of the highest scoring offenses in the NFL to just 26 points, but they couldn't keep them from putting up points. They didn't force any 3 and outs and they only made them settle for a punt once.

If I were to put the blame in any one place, I would say the linemen. Both the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen. The lone sack on Tom Brady doesn't look that bad, but it came at the absolute worst time. Brady was also pressured all game. He had to throw away a number of balls and move around in the pocket too much to avoid sacks. On the flip side, despite the 3 sacks Aaron Rodgers had too much time in the pocket. If you give a guy like Rodgers enough time and space to work with it doesn't matter how good your coverage is.

The Special Teams was more of the same. They didn't give up any big returns, but they didn't make any themselves. The Packers missed a field goal, but so did Stephen Gostkowski, just Gostkowski's second miss of the year. You might want to blame Gostkowski for the miss. If the defense had been able to force a 3 and out and the Patriots had been able to get into field goal range again it might have mattered, but the Packers converted on 3rd down and ran out the clock. Also, Gostkowski was working without his usual long snapper Danny Aiken this week and DE Rob Ninkovich had to fill in. The missed field goal and the out of bounds kickoff by Packers kicker Mason Crosby shows just how difficult the kicking conditions were in this game.

We're on to San Diego. The Patriots had a nice buffer zone before this week, but now that's gone. The Bills won to narrow the Patriots lead in the AFC East to just 2 games. Miami will have a chance to keep that pace against the Jets on Monday Night Football. Denver beat the Chiefs to match the Patriots at 9-3, but trail due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. Cincinnati trails the Patriots by just a half game due to their odd situation with the tie against Carolina. Indy trails by a game and the head-to-head tie breaker. With all this in mind, San Diego is very much in the mix for the AFC West at 8-4. The Chargers are a hard team to get a sense of. They came up with a big win back in week 2 over the Seahawks, but they've had some tomato cans on the schedule like the Jets, Jaguars and the Raiders(twice). They've struggled against some of the better teams like the Cardinals, Broncos and Chiefs. They were also shut out 37-0 in Miami. On balance, they're a well rounded team. They don't run the ball especially well, but the passing game and the defense is solid. I expect a bounce back game from the Patriots. I think reality checks and some humble pie can be a good thing for a football team and they usually respond well to a loss.
-Mike

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Breaking Down the Contracts

The announcements for the signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez were made official yesterday, so now we have the official contract figures to look at. I highlighted some of the important points.


Pablo Sandoval 
5 years/$95M (2015-19), plus 2020 club option
signed by Boston as a free agent 11/25/14
$3M signing bonus
2015-17:$17M/year. 2018-19:$18M/year. 2020:$17M club option ($5M buyout)
award bonuses: $50,000 each for All-Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, LCS MVP. $0.1M for WS MVP. $0.1M for MVP ($75,000 for 2nd place in vote, $50,000 for 3rd)
limited no-trade protection (may block deals to three clubs)
perks: suite on road

Hanley Ramirez
4 years/$88M (2015-18), plus 2019 vesting option
signed by Boston as a free agent 11/25/14
$3M signing bonus (half by 1/15/15, balance by 3/15/15)
2015:$19M, 2016:$22M, 2017:$22M, 2018:$22M, 2019:$22M vesting option, guaranteed if Ramirez has 1,050 plate appearances in 2017-18 and passes club physical after 2018 season
award bonuses: $50,000 each for All Star, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, LCS MVP. $0.1M for WS MVP. $0.15M for MVP ($0.125M for second place in vote, $0.1M for third)
limited no-trade protection (may block deals to three clubs)
perks: suite on road, may purchase six premium tickets for each game

TL;DR: These contracts seem reasonable to what the market price for these guys would be. It shouldn't inhibit the Red Sox ability to get some top of the rotation pitching. It's not my money, so I don't really care what they spend.

In baseball, I don't mind seeing players on my team get overpaid. In the NFL, NBA and NHL the salary cap structure can be devastating to general managers that do not spend their money wisely. In these sports a bad contract eats up your cap space and inhibits your ability to make deals now and in the future. It's part of why I appreciate Bill Belichick's frugality, long term vision and his ability to pull players off the scrap heap and turn them into solid contributors. It's why I appreciate Danny Ainge's patience as he stockpiles assets and waits for the right player. In Major League Baseball the only limitation on your ability to add free agent talent is the depth of your ownership group's pockets. Most problems in baseball can be solved if you are willing to throw enough money at it. The luxury tax ensures that the more you have to rely on money to solve your personnel problems the more expensive it gets, but the Red Sox have been under the luxury tax for 2 seasons now and Fenway Sports Group has a lot of revenue. A few overpays and some luxury items should be well within their means.  Anyways, on to the contracts.

Pablo Sandoval's deal is essentially the club's choice of a 5 year/$95 Million or a 6 year/$107 Million. The 2020 club option year is essentially $17 Million to keep him or $5 Million to send him packing. The award bonuses are all small enough to ignore. If he hits any of those nobody will complain about it. This is an overpay. Some projections had Sandoval making somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 years/$85-90 Million. The difference comes out to be about $1-2 Million/year more than his projected market value. If that's what it took to get the deal done I'm happy that Fenway Sports Group was willing to step up to make it happen.

Hanley Ramirez's deal is interesting. The vesting option for 2019 kicks in only if he makes 1,050 plate appearances in 2017 and 2018 combined. Essentially, he will have to stay fairly healthy over the course of those 2 seasons to hit his vesting option. In his career, he has averaged about 1171 plate appearances over two years, but in 2013 and 2014 combined he only had 848 plate appearances. It really does seem like that option could easily go either way. As far as the figures themselves, I think it's reasonably appropriate to the market estimates on what his services would cost. The vesting option pushes that average value above what would be expected, but the strings attached there make it reasonable enough.

I like these deals. They're not great deals, but they're not dramatic overpayments either. They spent a lot of money, but they picked up some strong players that should make the team immediately better. There are still some interesting questions to be resolved this offseason with the top of the starting rotation yet to be addressed and the logjam in the outfield.
-Mike