Archive for February, 2011

As I discussed this morning, the Combine is done & now it’s on the next round of the NFL Draft beauty pageant circuit, the Pro Day. Pro Days are when agents & colleges get their best car salesman impressions on, and sell you on their product, but on their terms. Play up to their strengths, bells & whistles, with a familar group of players in a comfortable surrounding (oddly the complete opposite of what they will headed into in the NFL, but oh well…).

With the raw numbers in for the entire draft pool, and before the Pro Day spin hits, here are the best of the offensive guys on the market, by my judgement. Defense is coming up a bit later (to distract you from the late hours of hating your work & to keep me busy through mine). First round talents stay in bold.

Blaine Gabbert of Missouri

QUARTERBACK
1. Blaine Gabbert-Missouri-6’4/235 lbs (Top 5)
2. Cam Newton-Auburn-6’5/245 lbs (Top 10)
3. Ryan Mallett-Arkansas-6’6/235 lbs (1st)
4. Jake Locker-Washington-6’2/230 lbs (1st/2nd)
5. Christian Ponder-Florida St.-6’2/220 lbs (3rd)
6. Andy Dalton-TCU-6’2-210 lbs (5th)
7. Colin Kaepernick-Nevada-6’4/225 lbs (5th/6th)

RUNNING BACK
1. Mark Ingram-Alabama-5’9/215 lbs (1st)
2. Ryan Williams-Virginia Tech-5’9/210 lbs (2nd)
3. Mike LeShoure-Illinois-6’0/225 (2nd)
4. David Thomas-Kansas State-6’2/228 (2nd)
5. DeMarco Murray-Oklahoma-6’1/215 lbs (3rd)
6. Kendall Hunter-Oklahoma St.-5’7/200 lbs (5th)
7. Jacquizz Rodgers-Oregon St.-5’5/190 lbs (5th)

WIDE RECEIVER
A.J. Green of Georgia

1. A.J. Green-Georgia-6’4/211 lbs (Top 10)
2. Julio Jones-Alabama-6’3/220 lbs (Top 10)
3. Torey Smith-Maryland-6’0/220 lbs (2nd)
4. Jonathan Baldwin-Pittsburgh-6’5/225 (2nd)
5. Randall Cobb-Kentucky-5’11 (2nd)
6. Tandon Doss-Indiana-6’2/205 lbs (3rd)
7. Leonard Hankerson-Miami-6’2/200 lbs (3rd/4th)

TIGHT END
1. Kyle Rudolph-Notre Dame-6’5/250 lbs (2nd)
2. Luke Stocker-Tennessee-6’4/255 lbs (3rd)
3. D.J. Williams-Arkansas-6’2/236 lbs (4th)
4. Lance Kendricks-Wisconsin-6’1/233 lbs (4th)
5. Weslye Saunders-South Carolina-6’5/270 (5th)
6. Mike McNeill-Nebraska-6’3/234 (6th)
7. Robert Houster-Florida Atlantic-6’5/250 lbs (6th/7th)

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Tyron Smith of USC
1. Nate Solder-Colorado-6’8/315 lbs (1st)
2. Tyron Smith-USC-6’5/290 lbs (1st)
3. Gabe Carimi-Wisconsin-6’7/315 lbs (1st)
4. Anthony Costanzo-Boston College-6’7/310 lbs (1st/2nd)
5. Derek Sherrod-Mississippi St.-6’5/312 (2nd)
6. Benjamin Ijalana-Villanova-6’3/320 lbs (2nd/3rd)
7. Lee Ziemba-Auburn-6’6/317 lbs (3rd/4th)

GUARD/CENTER
1. Mike Pouncey-Florida-6’5/310 lbs (1st/2nd) [Center]
2. Rodney Hudson-Florida St.-6’2/290 lbs (2nd)
3. Clint Boling-Georgia-6’4/310 lbs (2nd)
4. Danny Watkins-Baylor-6’3/312 lbs (3rd)
5. Marcus Cannon-TCU-6’5/361 lbs (3rd)
6. Stefan Wisniewski-Penn St.-6’3/293 lbs (4th)
7. Orlando Franklin-Miami-6’6/320 lbs (5th)

See what your team needs? Got a shopping list to share? Lets hear em.

Comments, debates, school spirit or dis-spirit (its a word now) are all welcomed.

Top of the morning all, 

There’s a ton of everything going on right now in the world of sports. Major League Baseball spring training, the NBA real-life fantasy draft taking the floor finally, NCAA basketball continuing to be as shook up as a snow globe, and now the NFL poke, prod & hype festival is in the mix as well, the Combine. All of these elements, in addition to reading Bill Simmon’s “Book of Basketball” have contributed to me being on sports knowledge overload.

At this point a decent dosage of ritalin may do me more good than any more ESPN. Or a clone to help me write all of this, either works for me.

I digress, watching & listening to the Combine results weekend, now checking out some reviews from the great thinkers of the process, has me doing two things concerning stage one of the NFL’s version of freshman Rush Week:

– 1) Giving a few outtakes/opinions on what took place on the practice fields this weekend.

– 2) Creating more hype from an event that is as based in creating more hype as it is in player grading. (This will be done by me listing my Top 7’s at every position update. Except kicker/punter, I’ll save that for the CHEAP SEATS soccer expert. When I hire one. Or decide to act like one myself. Go with the safe money & don’t bet on either happening.)

Here’s the first part, my takes:

Quarterback Fiasco: I just called it that so that it didn’t single out Cam Newton too much, because he’s doing such a great job of doing it himself, I don’t want to get in his way. After his much discussed “Entertainer & Icon” statement brought his already sterling reputation & judgement (wait….) into question, he decided to jump the shark even further & actually THROW at the Combine. No, no, no….this was a bad call. Everybody knows that the Combine is “Opposite Day” for top 10 QB prospects, you run a bit, talk some more & smile constantly. You’re running for office, not for TDs.

At any rate, no matter what he said, he still had his undeniable football skills to fall back on. But by throwing early, he apparently show cased some accuracy that could both bring his football ability into question now too. Cam, stop while you’re ahead….oh wait, you aren’t. And you basically made sure the guy that is, Blaine Gabbert, will stay there now.

In other news, a few big names big names had some eye opening numbers. The two biggest in my book coming from Alabama, in Julio Jones & Mark Ingram. For Rams fans, the hope for WR salvation has been the focus of this draft (I’ve made no secret of how much I disagree with this), and by running a 4.3 in the 40, Jones may have ran himself safely into the top 10. Speed, or lack off it, was one of the big questions on him, and that’s over now. He won’t pass up A.J. Green, but after he’s gone (likely in the top 5), Jones will become quite attractive to Cleveland (#6) & Tennessee (#8). For a long while, the Combine was supposed to be his coming out party, and that may have come true now. Him lasting to #14 seems to be a stretch at best.

Mark Ingram is the other Bama guy that put up a head turning number…of a different sort. He ran a 40 time of just over 4.6 seconds, which in the “magic number” world of 4.4’s, is looked at as slow. If you’ve ever seen him run, you know he’s anything but that. Agility drills mean way more, and he’s got that still. He also has the benefit of still being the only back that should be a #1. That didn’t change, and Miami is still waiting to get on the clock here.

Before I go, let me quickly discuss the absolute most ridiculously hilarious event in sports, that the NFL Combine blesses us with every year: the offensive lineman 40 yard dash.

I’ve watched a lot of football in my life. While I hold out hope every game for the chance for a 330 pound guy to pick up a ball & run down field with it for the ultimate big man glory, the touchdown, lets be real about this. We only get such comedic “RUN BIG FELLA RUN” blessings a few times times a year if we say our prayers & eat all our vegetables. Nowhere near enough to gauge how effective of a lineman the guy can be at the Combine.

While I continue to thank NFL talent scouts for giving us the laugh of these guys bent over looking like the Grim Reaper was holding the stopwatch, lets not take too much stock in this everybody. A lineman running a 4.8 40 has as much use as a new set of soup forks.

Be back later with my Top 7 at each position & maybe some words on the NBA too. (more…)

Hello there again,

I’m going to be off from new posts until Monday, February 28th. This was supposed to be a week off in full, but Carmelo Anthony’s nuptials on Monday forced my hand into posting similar to how he did the Nuggets all winter. Taking some time to align my March posts and get ready for baseball season, where there will be close to, at the least, one post a day for my Preview to MLB 2011. Also, I’ll be dropping my first entries in my take on the Top 60 players in NBA history, my disdain for NCAA basketball this year and why I haven’t put together one word about it this year and even some homage paid to WrestleMania (it was a sport to 7-year-old me, and dammit I’ll write about it at 27 briefly too!).

Coming up soon, I’m going to be looking for even more “Voices from the Stands”, as I’m looking to do an NBA Contraction Fantasy Draft, and I need a few visiting GMs to take part in it.

Also, I want to know what you want to know about the upcoming baseball season. From topics to info to rankings even to why I still believe in the Wainwright-less St. Louis Cardinals! Everything, so reply to this, email me (whitener.matt@gmail.com), tweet me (@CheapSeatFan and @Twit_Starter212), even call/text me (not happening here) or even clap pigeons. I don’t care how it happens, just let me know. Think of me as your sports blogging take out service, I’ll deliver whatever you want (as long as it doesn’t require me to pay homage to the Chicago Scrubs, Mike Krysthaothaiohski or the kansas jayhawks, we don’t do that around here).

 

So sit tight, take a look at old articles and I’ll be back on Monday with some info on Major League Baseball exhibition kickoff, and be followed quickly by 60-51 of the NBA greatest ever and why college basketball sucks worse than the Cardinals (and therefore all of St. Louis’) luck so far this year.

Also, I’m going to be writing a few more editorials than I before, so I’ll call this fair warning to the North Side of Chicago, Alex Smith’s family and the entire state of kansas as well. Alright? Alright.

Nobody better sit in my seat while I’m gone!

It is done, finally. After a drama that played out the entire first half of the NBA season and had commentary from everybody ranging from Conan O’Brien to the NBA’s Emperor Palpatine, David Stern, the greatest New York-based drama since Michael Corleone killed the heads of the Five Families is over.

Yes, Lala, er Carmelo, Anthony has been traded to the New York Knicks. This move triggers a ton of dominos off, not the least bit being the ifs, whys and maybes of this deal, that has everybody talking. I haven’t seen this many street GMs in a long time. Well, I’m supposed to be on vacation to prep for baseball season (I’m taking the alternate approach of the boys in Florida, staying inside & holding out on my tan in a style even Vincent Jackson would be proud of), but I’ll go head & tackle this one because it’s too good to pass up.

1. THE DEAL: With there being three teams involved in this deal, with the Timberwolves playing the vultures/lynchpin to the deal, lets look at EVERYTHING coming & leaving from the Knicks. They move out 3/5’s of their starting lineup in Raymond Felton, Danillo Gallinari & Wilson Chandler, along with Timofey Mozgof (who was being spoken of as a sticking point to this deal as if he was Wilt Chamberlain reincarnated) to Denver. Also Silkk the Shocker (Anthony Randolph) & the biggest crap the city of Chicago ever took (twice), Eddy Curry, will move to Minnesota.

For those keeping score, that’s 6 of 12 guys from the previous roster gone in one move. In return they get Corey Brewer, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter (who I couldn’t believe is still in the League, I swear he was on NBA Action on Sega), Renaldo Balkman (an awesome baseball name), Chauncey Billups & Kobe’s favorite client & surefire future member of Dipset, Carmelo.

2. THE AFTERMATH: Now I know that plenty of folks are saying they gave up too much, but I don’t see that. Lets break it down some, and look at what really matters, what took what’s spot on the roster:

To look at a three team deal as being only a head-to-head move is a mistake. You gotta look at this from the big picture for the Knicks, because they gave up the most in quantity. Essentially they swapped out garbage for garbage in Curry & Carter/Balkman. Lord knows, I could go on & on about this part, but Eddy hasn’t worn a jersey since George Bush’s first term, so he’s pure salary relief. Then look at the perimeter move: Brewer for Randolph? DUH! This is a great move, they move out Gumby, who is still living on past due potential he showed for two weeks at LSU for 3 years & two teams ago. For this they land a talented, tough defender unlike anything they had on their team already. Upgrade #1? Check.

Next, the Denver move. It basically breaks down to Chandler/Felton/Gallinari/Todd McCullough Jr for Carmelo & Billups. No matter how you slice this, this is a great move on both talent acquisition & strategy for New York AND Denver. Lets look to the chalkboard once again:

#1: NY traded high. Yeah, they traded out their entire core, but so what? It’s not like they broke up a classic alignment of guys, even in today’s game. This is a core that went 28-26 in a conference where if the playoffs started today two teams with losing records would be in. That’s not exactly being a world beating force outside of Amare. Felton & Chandler were both playing at the roofs of their talent, and Gallinari is worth the expenditure. Landry Fields is capable of stepping up for him. So if you get a chance to add one of the top 10 players in the NBA for these guys & get one of the great winners of the last 10 years in Billups as a toss in, you pull the trigger quicker than The Punisher.

#2: The strategy was a must anyway to land Anthony, even in the offseason. Chandler’s contract is expiring, and he wouldve cost more to retain anyways. They couldn’t have landed him & Melo, and there’s no competition who to go with there. Also, after next year they’ll be making a run for Chris Paul or Deron Williams, so Felton was expendable anyway.

The hidden bonus? Billups has a year left on his deal, right in time for the Knicks to let him walk for the upgrade. So they move only Gallinari over the long term gain of Carmelo. Brilliant.

AND IN THE END….and beginning: The Nuggets get to move a lot of contracts (they’ll be trading Gallinari shortly) & rebuild with a lot of cap flexibility. The Knicks, most importantly, handle long-term business. While they may be thin right now, they get one of the best duos in the game to build around. Building the supporting cast is the easy part, getting one cornerstone is hard, let alone two. Look at the Lakers after they got Gasol, everything came into place. The same thing goes for the Heat. Building the cast is the easy part, and the Knicks will do that this offseason. Bringing in the extra defense & frontcourt help will be pretty easy with the buzz & recruiting of Melo & Amare leading the way.

The bottomline is that the Knicks weren’t going to win it all this year, and they still won’t. But I believe that if you aren’t the best, make the moves you need to in order be it. They held off the Nets & knocked out Ivan Drago & Jay-Z with this move, and inked a new franchise player in the process. In New York, presence means as much as result, MSG’s residents have more presence now than they’ve had in 15 years. 

And most importantly, they took a much needed laxative to drop a huge, steaming pile of Eddy Curry off as well. That’s gotta feel better. (more…)

The NBA’s 60th All-Star Game kicks off in a few hours in Los Angeles & it’s going to be an interesting mix. This year the Celtics & Heat, with a few selected outside friends, will take on the Western Conference in what I feel is the best superstar exhibition in sports. Baseball’s game can sometimes not have the exact matchup you want to see if a pitcher isn’t in the game yet & misses the best batter available (Halladay & Pujols had a combined 1 showdowns in ASG play until Doc ruined it & came to the NL to play with Albert). As for the Pro Bowl….we played better intramural football, with more contact, than they play in that game. And the NHL’s version of the ASG comes on Versus, a network where I’m sure Terrance & Phillip, of South Park fame, are the announcers.

So all the pressure falls on the NBA to give us a great product of it’s best stars going head to head. Where the most manufactured rivalry in sports (Kobe vs. LeBron) is rightfully contested, in the exhibition in was created in. Where there will be some And 1 mixtape-level plays from some of the best handlers in the game, and if were lucky, maybe the Carmelo drama will be decided & he gets traded at halftime and plays the second half for the East!

At any rate, predicting a winner in the ASG is pointless, so I’ll go with what I really want to see: unique matchups. Here are a few five man pairings I want to see Gregg Popovich & Doc Rivers run out after the starters have their go at it.

Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook & Chris Paul for the West as the “We May Throw an Oop From Anywhere” squad: This is the most athletic team the West can run out there, with two sprinters in the backcourt & a frontcourt that could dunk on the Statue of Liberty under the rim. Let get this going early in the 2nd quarter Pop.

LeBron James & the Celtics for the East: I like this squad for a few two simple reasons:

1) It could be the biggest freeze out job since Isiah took a young Jordan out the mix in ’85 & it would be hilarious to see LeBron’s reaction if he grabs a rebound.

2) Doc could take the race for the East #1 seed into their his own hands & put all four Celtics into the game at once and have them gang stomp LeBron as he’s by himself. That would set a great rematch chance for Vince McMahon to cash in on at WrestleMania next month.

Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol with Russell Westbrook for the West as the “We Are Old As Hell, Take Us Off the Court With This Young Fella” squad: This is far from Kobe, Duncan, Dirk or Pau’s first ASG rodeo, and while they’ll play the critical moments (if there are such a thing in these games), they probably won’t be going overly hard to prove anything. The same can’t be said for the dynamo that is Westbrook, who is in his first ASG & it’s back home where he made his college bones. It would be comedy to see Dirk & Duncan trying to get back up the court to play off of Westbrook as he gets his Usain Bolt on with each in bound pass.

LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh & Amare Stoudemire for the East as the “Weren’t We All Supposed to be Knicks By Now?” team:

This summer we all remember how somehow all 10 premier free agents were supposed to get max contracts and revive the Knicks to prominance they haven’t achieved since the 1970’s, yet are still expected to have? Yeah, well I guess 1 game is better than none & maybe they can borrow Carmelo for a minute and run some 6-on-4 to give Knick fans the full fantasy experience. Why not?

LeBron, Wade, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce & Ray Allen vs. Duncan, Kobe, Dirk, Paul & Gasol in the “We Are All Going to Springfield sooner or later” matchup: Seriously though, the All-Star game gives a great chance to see the historic greats matchup against each other. While some of these guys are already locks for the Hall of Fame, while others have more work to do, all 10 of these fellas have a more than likely chance of receiving a career’s greatest honor when they are done. Put them all out there at once & show the youngers that even though they are among the 24 best in the game now, they still have a ways to go before they are where these guys are.

(more…)

HALFTIME: NBA First Half Awards

Posted: February 18, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NBA
Tags: , , , ,

The NBA All-Star break is officially underway. While it is realistically only the ceremonial halfway point of the NBA year, it does give a chance to evaluate where the league is at so far. While the Spurs are the class of the league so far, even with their near 50 wins already, they are far from being a lock to the take home the title at the end of the year. The League is just too spread out this year, and there could be a classic postseason about to kick off in a few months.

 

Lost in the rookie year buzz around Blake Griffin is Wall's outstanding effort in D.C.

 

As for the now, it’s much easier to separate the best from the best in the individual awards categories. There are a lot of the usual suspects, but a few new folks are blowing up on the scene, and this is no clearer than for the league’s top award, which sees the two-time winner of the honor being in the race, but not from the usual pole position he has become accustomed to….

MVP: Derrick Rose-Bulls: The Chicago point guard simply has taken his game to another level this year, and in his third year as moved into the hear t of the discussion about best point in the league. As far as the Bulls and their fortunes go, there is no debate about that, because Rose makes a bigger difference in the every night fortunes of the Bulls, at a higher level, than any other premier team in either conference. With Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer out of the lineup on and off throughout the season, the Bulls have rarely played at full-strength this year, yet are still third in the East and comfortably atop the Central Division. Rose’s effort is singularly responsible for this. If further proof was needed, his 42 points against the league best Spurs last night, for the win, provided it.

 

Rose has been the most consistent difference maker on any contender.

 

(Runners Up: LeBron James & Amare Stoudemire. LeBron’s numbers have stayed the same and could arguably win this award for league wide impact based on the Cavs struggles alone, let alone the fact the Heat haven’t won a game he didn’t play in all year. As for Amare, he has resurrected the Knicks from the ashes of the Eastern Conference and has effectively exercised the ghost of Patrick Ewing. This alone deserves a vote or two.)

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dwight Howard-Magic: This was a close one to pick, because Andrew Bogut is doing work nightly in Milwaukee, and is blocking more shots than Howard this year. Yet on further inspection, that stat alone proves Dwight’s right to this honor, yet again. The simple fact is that despite being at the core of a completely rebuilt team and having no other legit frontcourt threat with him, fewer players look to challenge the rim against him than ever. He is easily the biggest game changing presence in the game, and since that hasn’t changed, and the Magic are still as good as ever, he snags this trophy again. Runners Up: Bogut and Rajon Rondo)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Blake Griffin-Clippers: This is an easy one, even after throwing all the highlights out. He’s come back from two knee injuries to be the most exciting player in the league and one of the most effective, having brought in 46 double-doubles already. Also, anybody who can resurrect the Clippers anywhere close to .500 deserves mucho respect. (Runners Up: John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins)

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: Jason Terry-Mavericks: He’s filling it up to the tone of 15.3 PPG at a much-needed time for the Mavs, who needed a boost when Caron Butler went down for the year. Jet is doing his thing from all over the floor like he’s done for years, and while he’s started only 10 games all year, he’s on the floor when the important minutes are played. I also like the fact he said he wants this award this year, and is doing everything it takes to snatch it so far. That’s putting your money where your mouth is. (Runners Up: Jamal Crawford & Serge Ibaka)

 

Terry has been instant offense for a Maverick team with plenty of ammo to deploy.

 

MOST IMPROVED: Raymond Felton-Bobcats: In a year where a lot of guys have taken it to the next level, his efforts have gone up the charts the most. In one year, Felton has gone from being a nearly written off ex-Lotto pick, splitting time with a new guy (DJ Augustine) in Charlotte, to one of the biggest value signings of the offseason and the man in control of one the league’s most emergent teams in New York. Stoudemire is getting the headlines in NY, but Felton is the glue making it all work. In only five minutes more per game this year, he’s assists are up from 5.6 to 9 per game this year, in addition to five more points. He was on a playoff team last year in Charlotte, and due to a big part because of him this year, he’ll be on another one in New York this year too. (Runners Up: Kevin Love & Eric Gordon)

COACH OF THE YEAR: Gregg Popovich-Spurs: Realistically, Pop could probably win this award every year, but this year he’s putting together one of the great efforts of his career, that already has four championships in it. He’s taken the usual mix of role players and aging, yet steady, stars and has comfortably led the Western Conference in wins all year. He’s done an outstanding job of using Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili enough to lock away wins, and then unleash the role players to get to the finish line. The Spurs are in a grove this year, and while their talent is undeniable, Popovich is the creator of the chemistry which makes it all go. (Runners Up: Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams)

ALL-NBA TEAM: Dwight Howard-Magic, LeBron James-Heat, Kevin Durant-Thunder, Kobe Bryant-Lakers, Derrick Rose-Bulls: Howard has played a better on both ends of the floor this year than any other season, and has proven to be one of the league’s most indispensable players in how he’s continued to guide the Magic through their restricting….Despite an expected drop in points from playing with Wade, LeBron has remained the most balanced contributor in the game, having led the Heat to over 40 wins while still averaging over 25/7/7 per night….Durant is leading the league in points again by a comfortable margin, and has the Thunder posted atop the Northwest by four games…..the Lakers have been up and down by their standards this year, but Kobe is still Kobe and is still averaging over 25 points a night for a team with its best days ahead….see above for Rose.

 

Kobe is having his usual stellar year, and the best may still be to come.

 

ALL-DEFENSE TEAM: Dwight Howard-Magic, LeBron James-Heat, Josh Smith-Hawks, Rajon Rondo-Celtics, Chris Paul-Hornets: Dwight needs no intro here, but still respects should be paid to Bogut, who could land this slot easily….LeBron has had to compensate for the lack of post defense in Miami more than he ever had to Cleveland, and is still among the best shot blocking and perimeter defending forwards….Smith is once again the biggest athletic freak in the league, and is having another great year as one of the league’s most versatile defenders….There is no better on the ball defender than Rondo, who is just as great at defending the passing lanes as he is at locking down on the ball….Paul has returned from injury to pick up right where he left off at and is the top thief in the game once again.

ALL-ROOKIE TEAM: DeMarcus Cousins-Kings, Blake Griffin-Clippers, Wesley Johnson-Timberwolves, Landry Fields-Knicks, John Wall-Wizards: Griffin easily heads this team up, but Wall is having a tremendous season as the league’s other top pick making his debut. He’s scoring more often than it was thought he would, but he is still dishing out nine assists a night to suspect supporting cast….Cousins has come along to be a solid presence and double-double threat in his own right, but discipline problems that plagued his stock entering the draft have flare up again….Johnson had 32 starts before being removed from the starting rotation, but he quickly returned to the mix and is showing much promise….Fields has been the surprise of the crop, and has outplayed the second round position he was selected from. He’s been a long distance sniper and has brought down seven boards a night as well. He started every game for the Knicks this year

WINTER BREAK: MLB Offseason Move Ranks 1-30

Posted: February 16, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , ,

 

After a long, cold winter of  wheeling, dealing (and some of those wheels breaking in the process), all 30 Major League Baseball clubs are (FINALLY) back at work in Florida and Arizona, and gearing up for a new run to this November. Despite there being one high-profile contract signing looming still in St. Louis (which is already the biggest story of NEXT offseason), each team is taking a new look to field for Spring Training right now. With pitchers and catchers reported already, and the rest of their teammates getting into camp at some point this week, the complete new shapes of each roster will be on display, as the run towards March exhibition games, and April Opening Day, gets under way.

There are a ton of moves made almost constantly across the spectrum of the MLB, and while some of the high profile deals are widely known, there are many more small moves and trades that are made that can make just as big of a difference in the end. The reigning World Champion San Francisco Giants are clear proof of this strategy working.

Here today in the CHEAP SEATS I’ll be debriefing some on many of these moves, while ranking who made the biggest splash, and who flamed out. It’s not just about the quantity of the moves, rather about the quality of it. When your club can achieve success in both of these fields, it’s a win/win for all involved. However, if your club seems to have sat still and not made big changes, sometimes that just means there wasn’t much needed to be done. And sometimes it means they just didn’t do anything, and you’re in for more yelling, throwing and channel changing as well. All of these scenarios and a few more are below. So Red Sox & Yankee fans, unite even with Royals and Pirates fans under the hope of a brighter new year, even if for the last time this year.

  1. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox were aggressive on both the trade and free agency front, and fixed a subpar offense while taking a solid defense to an excellent level, with two of the most high profile acquisitions of the winter, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. They traded away most of their premium prospects for Gonzalez, but it was worth it to bring in one of the game’s best left handed bats to take aim at the short right field fence in Fenway. Crawford gives them one of the fastest outfields in the game, and brings helps give the Bo Sox the most flexible lineup in baseball. Speaking of flexibility, the addition of ex-White Sox closer Bobby Jenks gives them one of the best 8-9th inning combinations in baseball with Jonathan Papelbon, and a potential future closer if Papelbon is moved or doesn’t resign after the year.
  2. Philadelphia Phillies: They added one player, but he is more than enough to put them in this spot. They pulled of the surprise move of the offseason bringing Cliff Lee, who pushed the Phils to the 2009 World Series; back to town they formed the best rotation in baseball, perhaps since the mid-90’s Braves. They also lost All-Star outfielder Jayson Werth, but the usage of those funds to land Lee make losing him a plus actually.

With Lee back in a Phillie uniform, an already impressive Phils rotation becomes a potentially historic group.

3. Oakland Athletics: Few teams were more active, and made more changes to their roster, than the A’s. They made multiple low cost, yet high talent moves this winter, adding Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus and Josh Willingham to their everyday roster. They also boosted their bullpen by bringing Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour and Rich Harden in to support baseball’s most underrated starting rotation and boosting an already solid bullpen. Could prove to be a threat to Texas for the AL West Title

4. Milwaukee Brewers: Hitting has never been an issue in Beer Town, but pitching has been a one man show for a few years left to Yovani Gallardo. That’s an issue of the past now, since the Brewers made landed the best available pitcher on the winter trade market in 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke to their staff. They also added Shawn Marcum from Toronto to round out a pitching staff that could make the Brewers a threat in NL Central at least 3 days a week now.

5. Baltimore Orioles: The AL East is the finest division in the game, but the Orioles have been the whipping boy in it for years. However they made a surge at the end of the year under new manager Buck Showalter’s guidance, and where aggressive in the second tier player market this year. Their additions of Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds instantly make this an offense that can hit with any other team in not only the East, but the AL at larger.

6. Chicago Cubs: Baseball’s perpetual underdogs made few moves this year, as they are still limited by several bad contracts. However, the moves they made were smart ones, in landing Matt Garza, who pitched at the top of one of the AL’s best rotations for years in Tampa Bay. They also landed another former Ray in Carlos Pena, who could be a steal if he bounces back for a sub .200 batting average year and keeps his power. Also, the return of former phenom Kerry Wood makes this one of the best backend bullpens in the NL.

7. Chicago White Sox: The other Chicago club made their biggest impact by resigning the core of their club in new contracts Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and extending shortstop Alexei Ramirez. They also landed the biggest slugger available in Adam Dunn, who they were close to trading for last August. With him in the mix now, they’ll provide a viable threat to the Twins.

Getting Dunn on the Southside could move the Sox to the north of the AL Central.

8. Detroit Tigers: Victor Martinez is the big name head to the D, where he’ll join Miguel Cabrera and the resigned Magglio Ordonez to form one of the best hearts of the lineup pairings in baseball. They spent a lot on Joaquin Benoit, but if he eases the gap to Jose Valverde, it’s worth it.

9. Florida Marlins: They traded their biggest power source in Dan Uggla, but made some understated moves to really improve the club. Javier Vazquez joins one of the best young rotations anywhere, and he has been at his best in the NL. The additions of two 2010 All-Stars, in John Buck and Omar Infante, will help this young team have some consistent vets in the everyday mix as well.

10. Los Angeles Dodgers: Financial problems prevented them from making a run at Crawford, Werth or Adrian Beltre, but they made several smaller moves to provide depth to their overall unit, with Jon Garland and Matt Guerrier boosting the pitching staff, and pulled Juan Uribe from their division rival Giants to improve their entire infield.

11. Texas Rangers: The AL champs came in at the last second to grab Adrian Beltre to yet again better their impressive offense. Despite losing one former Cy Young winner in Cliff Lee, they took a leap of faith on another one, by signing Brandon Webb in hopes of him regaining his pre-surgery shoulder’s effectiveness.

12. Toronto Blue Jays: They lost much of their bullpen this winter, which was their strength. So they remade the entire unit, and potentially bettered it. Octavio Dotel, Carlos Villanueva, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco provide a plethora of lively arms to call on. The move of the winter, however, may be trading Vernon Wells to the Angels and somehow finding someone to take on the tremendous burden of his contract.

13. St. Louis Cardinals: In 2010, the Cards were tremendously thin on offense and in the infield. They acquired Lance Berkman and Ryan Theriot to handle these respective issues this winter. Re-signing Jake Westbrook was essential to securing one of the deepest rotations in the game for the Birds as well. With this winter out the way, the Cardinals have the biggest offseason, and potentially biggest contract, in franchise history awaiting them next winter already.

With this winter's business done, Cards GM John Mozeliak has his greatest free agent hurdle ever still in front of him.

14. San Diego Padres: They traded away their cornerstone in Adrian Gonzalez, but were handsomely rewarded in minor league talent, especially in pitcher Casey Kelly, who should join the club next year. To help fend against a free fall with Gonzo gone, they added many veterans to steady the way, including Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett and hope to finally pull the best out of young and promising Cameron Maybin, who the Pads pulled from Florida.

15. Washington Nationals: After the Nats lost Adam Dunn, they were looking like they were woefully thin once again. However, they broke the bank (and probably overpaid) to get Jayson Werth to come to D.C. and later added Adam LaRoche to try to continue their long-time rebuilding project.

16. Colorado Rockies: Colorado didn’t bring anybody new to town of great consequence, however their resigning of Jorge De La Rosa keep intact a good rotation and their high dollar contract extensions of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez helped them lock up two of the best young players in the game long term and well before they had a chance to smell the market waiting on them. Preventative maintenance gets a high score in the CHEAP SEATS.

17. Atlanta Braves: The Braves made the first big move of the offseason in bringing in the biggest slugging second baseman in the game, Dan Uggla, to town. His presence will boost the lineup in general and give them two of the biggest power bats in the league, when paired with All-Star Jason Heyward and his continued development.

18. San Francisco Giants: The World Champs decided to stick with the method that worked for them last year, and didn’t make many moves, but the ones they did were based on resigning their core players (Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell), and bringing in another vet (Miguel Tejada) to round out their lineup. The only mark against them is that they overpaid for a career year and strong World Series from Huff.

19. Tampa Bay Rays: No team lost more than the Rays. Their entire bullpen left town and they lost the first great player in their brief franchise history, Carl Crawford. However, due to the incredible depth of their minor leagues, they were able to replenish from within. They also added Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to what could still prove to be a very competitive club.

20. New York Yankees: The Yanks were left higher and dryer than any team that lost out in the Cliff Lee race. Instead of grabbing one of the top 5 arms in the game, they had to scramble to land two guys who saw their primes on the other half of the last decade in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. The retirement of Andy Pettitte makes this miss hurt even more, as they are dangerously thin in starting pitching. They still hold some respectability by making a desperation signing in Rafeal Soriano, who will move from closer to setup man in his new town, and will give a bullpen that may be used frequently some more depth. They resigned legends Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, after some heated and public negotiations in the former’s case, but both moves were expected and basically formalities.

After strikeout in their pursuit of Cliff Lee, both Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman have work to do to iron out the Yanks lack of pitching depth.

21. Kansas City Royals: The Royals are about a year away from fully unleashing the best group of prospects in the game, so in the mean time it was about finding bridge pieces that can make some contributions as well. The acquisition Alcides Escobar for Zack Greinke gives them their shortstop of the future now, and Melky Cabrera could stand to be a versatile outfield piece. Could be a dark summer in the K, but it’s always darkest before the dawn. Royals fans are praying for this saying to be true.

22. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds didn’t have much need to address that prospects couldn’t fix. They added World Series MVP Edgar Renteria to be in the mix at shortstop, but made their most significant moves in extensions signed by MVP Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Bronson Arroyo.

23. Minnesota Twins: The Twins were another club that lost much of their pitching depth in the bullpen, and almost lost the most important part of their rotation as well in Carl Pavano. However, they resigned Pavano, and keep intact an underrated rotation that will need to be at its best against improved Tiger and White Sox lineups.

24. Houston Astros: In the midst of a youth movement, the Astros didn’t reach out to make many signings, but did acquire veterans Bill Hall and Clint Barmes to steady their middle infield. Other than this moves they are running all changes through their minor leagues and existing players.

25. Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates lost out on several pitchers they pursued, but still landed Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen to bring needed experience to the young Bucs pitching staff. Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay will help the depth of a team that needs more help than any other in baseball.

26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Underneath new GM Kevin Towers, the D’Backs were more about moving out what was in house already than bringing a lot in. They flirted with moving Justin Upton, but backed off that and sent Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche and Brandon Webb out of town instead. J.J. Putz will take over the closer responsibilities and the talented, yet inconsistent, arms of Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga will be deployed in their rotation.

27. Los Angeles Angels: Expected to be big players in the free agent market, instead the Angels lost out on big on Carl Crawford and couldn’t come to terms with Adrian Beltre. They didn’t add anything to the mix that can play a big role in turnaround their fortunes, which dropped them below .500 since 2003. Their perplexing addition of Vernon Wells, and his massive contract, shows the level of desperation they came to by the end of the offseason to find some way to better the roster.

If Wells produces close to his price tag, then maybe the Angels offseason won't be a total wash.

28. New York Mets: The Mets are in the middle of an ownership transition perhaps, and did very little to change their roster. They signed Chris Capuano and Chris Young to short deals, but with both coming off of arm injuries, nothing is certain with either. They are basically the same team with the same issue they had a year ago, especially a very shallow group of starting pitchers.

29. Seattle Mariners: Another team that basically stood still instead of making any changes to their core; save for landing Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan. Both are solid compliment players, but neither is going to make much of a difference in changing the Mariners from the team that lost 101 games last year.

30. Cleveland Indians: It’s been a rough year for sports in Cleveland, and the Indians did nothing to step up and try to lift the spirits of the city. Seriously, nothing. Unless signing Orlando Cabrera to compete for the second base job is considered something. I’m not going for that though. For the third consecutive year, they will pin their hopes on a Grady Sizemore return and a Travis Hafner turnaround. Whatever sports god the city of Cleveland pissed off, they should start offering sacrifices to immediately, but don’t ask the Indian front office to make a financial one, because that’s not happening.