Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Coaching Carousel

The wheels have started turning in the NFL with one coach getting fired and another getting hired. Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey was fired after a sure handed defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots this past weekend after he had guided them to the playoffs after a 7 year absence. Rumor has it the Titans want to hire New England Patriots assistant coach Josh McDaniels to replace Mularkey. The assistants of New England head coach Bill Belicheck are always in high demand when the carousel gets going. New England assitant coach Matt Patricia is rumored to be in line to become the next Detroit Lions head coach when the Patriots run in these playoffs come to an end. There are at least 5 current teams in the NFL that haven't officially named a new leader for their teams and interesting names get thrown around for such positions such like Nick Saban, who is currently the head coach of the University of Alabama.

Saban's record in the professional ranks hasn't been as fruitful as it been in the college ranks where he's coming off his 6th national title and is hailed as the top coach in the college ranks and is a demi-god to the people of Alabama. The advantages that Saban carries in college in terms of reputation and stature allows Saban to acquire some of the most talented players to play for him and always helps put the University of Alabama in position to most likely be ranked among the top 3 in college football. This level of talent is not easily attainable in the NFL thanks to the salary cap, since in college players are paid in education and not in actual money like in the NFL. The pressure of making the jump to the pros without the ability to acquire the types of players he'd used to having in my opinion is not worth taking when he's so big in Alabama that they're paying the mortgage of his home there.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Ref Problems

Recently, LeBron James, James Harden, and Draymond Green have made headlines by complaining about not receiving foul calls they believe they deserved or about foul calls they received that they shouldn't have gotten. A reason for the recent inconsistencies in foul calls can stem from a number of veteran referees who have retired recently and an influx of young referees who have taken their place. While bringing youth to the referee corp has been a revelation adding such inexperience to such a more complicated game can be part of the reason why calls are being made as they are. The game of basketball has changed. It has gotten faster and more spread out with players darting for the 3 point line while the big man tries to take up space in the paint. Such spacing is very difficult even for 3 sets of eyes on the court. This is why the replay system has made it such that replay challenges are taken care of off site in Secaucus, New Jersey and not on the court.

Watching the speed that this game has evolved to has been dramatic. In 2003 the Dallas Mavericks lead all of the NBA with 96.7 plays per 100 possessions if that Mavericks team were to be around this season they would be ranked 28th. Gone are the days of super stars getting super star calls. When players with notoriety would get phantom calls and preferential treatment against players who don't necessarily have the power that either James would command. Star players will always get a call here and there, but not to the extent that they were handed out back before the veteran refs retired and the hot shot kids came to play. I'm not making excuses for refs, they should be better at their jobs, but let's not make it seem like its Joe Crawford out there running up and down the court.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Why the Slow Market?

With the holidays upon us the major league off-season has hit the usual "pause" button on transactions and moves. But it's not like there were a flurry of moves taking place before the holidays. The biggest free agent move came out of no where when the Phillies picked up Carlos Santana for 3 years at 20 million per season. An unexpected move because the Phillies were thought to have found their first baseman of the future in Rhys Hoskins who hit 18 home runs in 50 games and an impressive streak where it only took him 19 games to get to 10 home runs, but now with the acquisition of Santana Hoskins is going to be forced to play left field where he was less than impressive. The Phillies have been rebuilding since their fall in 2014, when their roster got older by the pitch, which makes the addition of Santana even more perplexing. There are over 50 free agents still out on the market and most of them were thought to be on their way to getting lucrative deals from various teams looking to improve.

One thing that is keeping the market from moving are teams looking toward to the future and trying to get under the luxury tax threshold (there's a lot of math when it comes to the luxury tax so I'll leave that to the folks with a calculator) and making a real push for next year's crop of free agents who have huge names like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw (who has an opt out clause in his contract), Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, among others. So making sure that teams are under a certain number so that they can wheel and deal with the big names next year is the plan for the several teams. That's why the LA Dodgers and Atlanta Braves traded Mark Kemp for a flurry of bad contracts so both teams can be in position to make moves next year. Being a free agent after this past season has been lack luster so far since teams are scheming for next off-season. Which makes you wonder if and when the big dominoes are going to fall.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Evil Empire is at it Again

Can you imagine a lineup consisting of Stanton, Judge, Gregorius, Sanchez, Bird, AND Machado? Sure, Sanchez, Judge, and Stanton have a history of injuries and sure all three can rack up strikeouts, but if and when all of these highly talented players are on a streak watch out. There are going to be a lot of baseballs flying over the wall and they are going to go very very far away. And to think if the Yankees are able to trade for a young controllable starter like Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates they would be even more difficult to beat. A rotation of Severino, Sabathia, Tanaka, Gray is already formidable and if you toss in Cole who came in fourth in the National League Cy Young voting in 2015 that would make the Yankees even more hated than they already are. Sure, the Yankees were able to somehow find a way to be lovable during last season's playoff run, but they will be hated by as many people as those who love them. Watch out pitchers. Getting through the Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez gauntlet will probably be the toughest thing they're going to have to face all season. Just watch out if the Yankees continue to add, and all signs point to them doing exactly that.

The Yankees have gone through one of the most unconventional "rebuilds" compared to teams as of late because along with bringing in new talent and avoiding the long expensive contracts that they are used to doling out. The Yankees were also able to stay competitive while building up a top 10 farm system and all the credit should go to Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi who had kept them relevant and now they're ready to take the baseball world by storm, again. The truly most outrageous moves done by the Yankees during this "rebuild" was probably letting Robinson Cano sign with the Mariners and getting outbid by the Pirates for catcher Francisco Cerveli and that's about it. While other teams tend to tear things all the way down to actually rebuild it back up the Yankees were able to flip things around while staying competitive. Staying in this lane, where the Yankees weren't the highest bidders, couldn't be easy considering the reputation that the Yankees have in the game as big spenders.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Mess in Miami

Oh how quick things can turn. The Miami Marlins finally got out from under the tumultuous Loria regime, something that should bring nothing but joy to the fans in Miami, but the more things change the more they stay the same for Marlins fans. The new head of baseball in Miami is this guy named Derek Jeter (maybe you've heard of him) and he's only brought the same kind of bad news that Loria had going throughout his ownership. Jeter is planning to trim payroll down to about 90 million and start a rebuilding process like that of the Astros and Cubs. While Jeter has dug a hole by firing some of the popular faces of the franchise like Jack McKeon, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, and Mr. Marlin himself Jeff Conine. Jeter has quickly found himself on the wrong side of fans in Miami almost as fast as he was gifted the team. Jeter was recently booed while he was in attendance at a Miami Heats game and put on the jumbo-tron.

The latest public relations fiasco that has fallen "Mr. November" involves the recently crowned MVP Giancarlo Stanton. Before Jeter took the helm of the Marlins Loria signed Stanton to a huge deal, 10 years 325 million dollar to be exact, but the problem for Jeter is that Stanton's deal is heavily backloaded with 218 million being owed during the last 7 years of the contract and Loria granted Stanton a no trade clause. The no trade clause has become the biggest thorn in Jeter's side since he can't just send Stanton to whichever team has the best offer. Stanton does have an opt out clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent in the year 2020. That's also the year that Mike Trout becomes a free agent (more on that for a later post). Jeter's rebuild has no place for the heavy anchor that is Stanton's contract and it has come to light that at some point an ultimatum was laid out to Stanton to either accept a deal or be left on a team where he's the only player of value. The question I have is what's the point of the ultimatum if either which way the Marlins are going to be a bunch of rookies learning things the hard way while their owner gets booed even when he's not at work.

Monday, December 4, 2017

I Get Ejected, You Get Ejected, Everyone Gets an Ejection

A few days ago LeBron James got his first ejection in 1082 games. A few days after that Anthony Davis caught two technical fouls and got ejected for the first time himself. The next day Kevin Durant got ejected and last night Golden Sate Warrior Shaun Livingston was ejected going forehead to forehead with a ref Livingston most likely will be fined as will Durant, Davis, and James, most likely. That's the price to pay when players go up against authority. Referees are meant to keep order. Meant to keep players in line so that another incident like the Malice in the Palace don't happen again. The question I have is whether officials are taking their responsibilities too literally or are they being too sensitive and not letting player's voice their displeasure.

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors is known for his outbursts of displeasure toward officials when he doesn't get a call against him or when he gets called for a foul that he doesn't believe is justified, but no ref has ever tossed him from a game, yet. As a fan of basketball I'm interested in watching stars of teams in games. I would pay to watch Green, James, Durant, Davis, and Livingston play. I don't want to be cheated by an overzealous referee who can't take a player's sign of frustration as an act of war and toss the player that I paid to watch. Should players have free reign to do as they please? No, but referees shouldn't have hair triggers and ejecting anyone who vehemently disagrees with their calls or lack there of.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

I May Sound Old But..

In today's sports landscape there are two types of managers, the old school "use my intuition/go by the book" manager and the new school "go by the numbers" type of manager. The Houston Astros just won the World Series in an unconventional way, they relied on piggy backing starters. Which means that instead of having a traditional reliever come in and work an inning or two the Astros used another starter who can go longer than your traditional reliever. The Kansas City Royals on the other hand relied on their relief corp to help carry them to a World title in 2015. Neither team is an old school type. To really find an old school type of team to have won a title was maybe the Red Sox who relied on timely power hitting and a strong starting staff to win them a title in 2013. Baseball is an ever evolving sport and with the introduction of advanced analytics it is growing and growing fast. Ways to win championships have evolved from the time tested "pitching and defense" method that I've been hearing about since I first put on my first catcher's mask.

Gone are the days of Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland, and Jack McKeon. These are legendary managers who lead their teams to the promise land using old school tactics that in today's game is getting harder and harder to quantify. These guys have been replaced by the AJ Hinch (manager of the Astros), Dave Roberts (manager of the Dodgers), Mike Matheny (manager of the Cardinals), and others who now have to run their lineups by the front office suit wearing types to make sure that the analytics of the hitters they're using line up in favor against the particular pitcher the team is facing that night. There's no way in hell that Jim Leyland would allow a pencil pusher tell him where to bat Miguel Cabrera against a tough rightie or whether it was time to pull a starting pitcher. The game has evolved to the point where pitchers aren't seeing a lineup for a third time and a leftie hitter is most likely not going to face a tough lefty even though the hitter has a hitting streak going. There are too many chefs in the kitchen nowadays with too many ingredients trying to cook up a plate that for a very long time relied on one guy throwing a ball at another guy who's trying to hit the ball to the moon.