Friday, December 25, 2009

Danny Valencia: Overhyped?

Over the last year, the local writers and even some national writers have been calling Danny Valencia the Twins third baseman of the future. Valencia has hit at every level, and while he's far from an elite defensive player he's good enough to stay at third base long term. He's a solid prospect with a good amount of potential, and he should be a solid starting third baseman in his prime if he continues to develop.

However, fans and writers alike continue to say the the Twins should only sign a third baseman for one year to make sure there's not anyone blocking Valencia when he's ready. I disagree. Valencia isn't ready to start this year, in my opinion, and the team can't go into the season with Nick Punto or Brendan Harris starting at third until Valencia is deemed ready. My preference was for the team to sign Troy Glaus to play third base, and give Valencia some at bats in September, but with Glaus signing with the Braves that's no longer an option.

The Twins have been rumored to be interested in Kevin Kouzmanoff, reportedly offering Glen Perkins for him at the winter meetings. Almost everyone agreed that it would be a steal for the Twins to get Kouzmanoff for simply Perkins, which is also why the Padres needed more. I heard arguments from people that the Twins had no reason to offer more because Kouzmanoff would be blocking Valencia after this season. While I understand the reasoning behind that thought process, I disagree with it.

Valencia is not a sure-thing to make it, and honestly even if he does his highest projection seems to be as a solid starter. If the Twins are able to land an upgrade at third base for this coming season, they need to do it. If that means acquiring a reasonably priced Kevin Kouzmanoff for the next two or three seasons, than by all means do it. If Kouzmanoff struggles, the team can simply non-tender him following this season and give the job to Valencia anyways. The more likely result, however, is that Kouzmanoff would blossom away from Petco Park, and the Twins would have a solid starting third baseman.

It is definitely possible that Valencia plays extremely well in the spring, manages to win the third base job and becomes a better player from day 1 than most people think he's capable of. However, for a team hoping to make some noise in the playoffs they need to find upgrades in as many ways as possible, and relying on a prospect to be a major upgrade could prove to be a major mistake.

With Troy Glaus signing a one-year deal with Atlanta, my preference for a one year stop gap is off the market. I won't be too upset if the team decides to re-sign Joe Crede yet again, assuming they are planning to give Valencia the job when Crede is hurt, but I would prefer to see the team swing a trade for an upgrade or wait out Adrian Beltre's asking price.

Valencia is a solid prospect that appears to be valued too highly by Twins fans and writers. I think he could become a solid player, and obviously I hope he is even better than that, but if my job was to build a World Series contender for the 2010 season, I wouldn't want to know I let Kevin Kouzmanoff or someone similar go because I wanted Danny Valencia to start at third base in 2011.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

For those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas. I'll be back on the 26th with a new post, so be sure to check back. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Orlando Hudson

I've been advocating pretty heavily over the last few weeks that Orlando Hudson is the best target for the Twins this off-season. He's a very good hitter, plays a position of need for the Twins, fits into their lineup well, and best of all he won't cost a draft pick to sign because the Dodgers didn't offer him arbitration. The Twins haven't been connected with Hudson much at all, and he seems like a long shot to be a Twin on opening day, but with Bill Smith always tight-lipped about the organization's plans, anything is possible.

In my off-season wish list, I assumed Carl Pavano was going to leave for free agency, and the Twins could use his $6-$7MM salary for the first season of Orlando Hudson's contract. Pavano accepted though, so the team is a bit more strapped with the budget. However, some creativity would allow the team to still fit Hudson into their payroll while paying Pavano on a 1-year deal.

I fully expect the Twins to re-sign Joe Mauer this off-season, and every prediction I made gave him a raise on this coming season's salary which is currently set for $12.5MM. If the Twins simply make the offer to Mauer a true extension, say 6 years and $125MM, that's ultimately a 7 year, $137.5MM contract when factoring in this coming season. Over those 7 years, Mauer would receive $12.5MM, $18MM, $20MM, $21MM, $21MM, $22MM, $23MM or something along those lines. I had predicted Mauer make $18MM this coming season, but by keeping his current salary at $12.5MM the Twins would have an extra $5.5MM to spend elsewhere.

That money should go directly to Orlando Hudson. Guessing his market value is difficult, but with Placido Polanco getting $6MM a year and Chone Figgins getting $9MM a year, I think an average around $6.5MM would be plenty to get Hudson. With the Twins non-tendering Boof Bonser, who I had projected to make close to $1MM this coming season, they would have close to $6.5MM available.

Hudson is a major upgrade for several reasons. First, and foremost, the Twins won't need to rely on an aging, injury prone third baseman on an incentive-based contract. I wouldn't complain if the team added Troy Glaus, or even Crede again, but only if Hudson and other options end up well out of the Twins price range.

Hudson has posted an OBP (On-base percentage) over .350 in each of the last 4 seasons, going as high as .376 in 2007 with Arizona. His batting average has been solid, although I don't put much weight into batting averages, and his power has been above-average for a second baseman. His defensive reputation is much better than he actually is, as he's won 4 gold gloves in the last 5 years despite being a below average second baseman according to UZR. However, his defense isn't bad enough where it's a liability like it is with Dan Uggla, and his offense more than makes up for it.

FanGraphs has O-Hud's value last year at $13MM, and projects he'll be worth $11.5MM this year. The way their value is determined is a bit complicated, but for comparison's sake Michael Cuddyer was given a value of $8.8MM last year with his exceptional season. Hudson undoubtedly is given more value because he plays second base, and if the Twins are able to get him for 10% more than Placido Polanco signed for that's a major upgrade for the Twins organization.

With Hudson's fantastic ability to get on base, the lineup would be deep and talented for the first time in nearly two decades:

Span
Hudson
Mauer
Morneau
Kubel
Cuddyer
Hardy
Young
Punto

I would prefer an incentive-laden deal for a 3B to get Punto to the bench, but if the team signs Hudson I certainly won't complain about one more year of Nick Punto in the starting lineup. I also would like to see the Twins target Johnny Gomes, who was non-tendered by the Reds, as he's a more productive version of Delmon Young, but I don't expect that to happen.

Bill Smith, just please bring in Orlando Hudson and give this team some buzz going into Spring Training. Re-signing Mauer will undoubtedly get positive publicity and if Smith gets it done he deserves a lot of credit, but upgrading a major position of weakness would be a huge step in the right direction for a team looking to win the division in 162 games this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

NFL Picks

Last week: 8-7

I finally had a positive week again, and despite picking the Bengals on here I actually took the Vikings, so it was a more successful week than the prior two. With an early game tomorrow, I decided I'd just make my NFL Picks now since I won't be monitoring the games all that much after tonight anyways.

On a sad note, I'd hope that you could say a prayer for Chris Henry, who is on Life Support as I write this fighting for his life after a freak accident during a domestic dispute. Here are my picks for this week:

Jags +3 over Colts
Pulling the starters will cost them their undefeated season this week, especially with the Jaguars basically needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Cowboys +7 over Saints
I found it interesting to read that in 2007, when the Pats went 16-0, they were 1-7 against the spread their final 8 games. The Cowboys December woes are well-documented, and the Saints have looked like the best team in football this year, but I expect this game to come down to the last play. I'm pulling for a Dallas win, but I'll take a cover as well.

Chiefs -1.5 over Browns
Dwayne Bowe returns just in time to help lead the Chiefs over the Browns in a shootout among two bad, bad teams.

Pats -7 over Bills
Randy Moss is going to shut up a lot of his critics this week, and he's going to anger his fantasy owners that lost last week because of his performance only to watch him go for 150 yards and 2 TDs in the snow.

Cards -12 over Detroit
48-3 against a solid Baltimore team? I think Arizona is better, and while the game probably won't be that lopsided, Arizona should cruise pretty easily here.

Eagles -8 over 49ers
Philly's offense is simply too hard to stop. I think the 49ers defensive backs will get burned all night and the Eagles will win by double digits in a game that's really never close.

Bears +11 over Ravens
I doubt Chicago wins this game, but I think Cutler has a game in him where he makes nothing but good decisions and keeps a game close. I'll guess that's this week against a Ravens team that may be soft after coming off a blowout win against the Lions.

And the rest...

Bengals +6.5 over Chargers
Broncos -14 over Raiders
Seahawks -6.5 over Bucs
Steelers -2 over Packers
Vikings -9 over Panthers
Giants -3 over Redskins

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pavano Accepts, Changes Off-Season

Last week, hours before the deadline for players to accept or decline their arbitration offers, Carl Pavano realized the most money he would likely get would be to simply accept the Twins offer. A lot of people were very pleased with this, as Pavano was far better than his 5+ ERA suggests, but I'm a bit less happy with the move.

I would have rather seen the Twins fill out the rotation with one of the Liriano/Duensing/Swarzak/Perkins group, and spend the $7 MM+ on a second base upgrade. Pavano made close to $4.5 MM last year, and will certainly get a raise this season. $7 MM seems like a solid, educated guess and that's almost exactly the first year salary I had predicted for Orlando Hudson. Unless the Twins are willing to move their payroll close to $100 MM, which needless to say won't be happening.

Pavano likely will be the team's #3 starter next year, and he certainly is a safer, more sure starter than any of the Perkins/Liriano/Swarzak/Duensing group. The rotation likely will be Baker, Slowey, Pavano, Blackburn and one of the other group. Now, I understand why the team preferred Pavano accept, rather than using the money on a second baseman. Pitchers are important, and depth in your staff is vital over the long season. Adding a veteran like Pavano, who was healthy all of last season, makes sense. The problem I have is that Rich Harden signed for $6.5 MM guaranteed, with $3.5 MM in incentives and an $11 MM mutual option next season. That's a steal for Texas, and I wish the Twins had been more involved.

Harden will only make $10 MM if he stays healthy and pitches well, so the Twins could have had a potential ace on what is ultimately a one year, $10 MM deal. Keep in mind, up until this past season, Pavano had spent most of the past five seasons battling several injuries, and finally was able to stay healthy. Why can't Harden do the same? He made 25 starts in 2008 and 26 starts last season, and if he finally remains healthy that number could surpass 30 next season.

I would have preferred Hudson over Pavano, because the upgrade is more significant at second base over Casilla/Harris (with Punto set to play 3B for now). Pavano should be an upgrade over the three left overs from the previous group, but the difference likely won't be as large as some people believe. If Pavano gets hurt, the Twins ultimately wasted the money without much potential for a great reward. Despite the upgrade Hudson provided, though, I preferred Harden over almost any realistic free agent possibility for Minnesota.

Harden would have been a risk, but with the potential to be a true number one starter his addition would have given the team a good opportunity to compete in the playoffs. I'm certainly not going to rule out the Twins chances in a short series against anyone, because the percentages simply aren't that dominating for any one team, but Harden would have had the potential to give the Twins a very good 1-2 punch with a deep, solid 3-4-5.

I don't blame Bill Smith for this. Offering arbitration was the right move, and for all I know Smith was planning on signing Harden if Pavano declined arbitration. Unfortunately, Harden signed prior to the arbitration deadline and Pavano was unable to find a multi-year deal to his liking so he stayed in Minnesota.

Of course, if Bill Smith truly wanted to bring in an upgrade at second base, preferably Hudson, he still could squeeze Hudson's contract into the projected $93 MM payroll I had fairly easily. Make the Mauer contract a true extension, which means Mauer's $12.5 MM salary remains for this season, rather than the $18MM I had projected. That would give the team $5.5MM more, and they could either trade Crain and/or Perkins or simply move the payroll up about $1MM and have a much improved lineup.

I'm fine with the Pavano move, I just believe the Twins missed out on a golden opportunity to land the one pitcher they should have been going after hard in Harden. If Smith can find a way to bring in an upgrade at second base, and even a potential starter at third base, the Pavano move won't be a mistake at all. Tomorrow, I'll discuss why adding a third baseman certainly isn't a problem in relation to Danny Valencia.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Might Have Been

Admittedly, I don't write about the Timberwolves very much here. That's not because I'm not a fan, but rather because I understand most sports fans simply don't care for the Wolves. The fact that they have been one of the worst two teams in the NBA this year certainly doesn't help their case, but I was informed of some information that made me extremely depressed.

My 'source' was someone who did indeed work for the Wolves prior to the draft, but was let go immediately following it. This information is important because if it was someone still inside the Wolves building, I would feel they were lying to look better... but this guy was let go so he would have every reason to spread bad things about the organization, not the information he told me.

It goes back to the night of the draft, when the Wolves selected Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn with picks #5 and 6. Surprisingly, the Wolves apparently were set on two completely different players at those spots, and were convinced they were going to get them. Who, you ask?

Kahn and his staff apparently expected the draft to go Griffin, Thabeet, Harden, Rubio, which meant the Wolves wouldn't have a chance at landing Rubio. Kahn was enamored with Tyreke Evans, and apparently the Wolves had him rated #3 on their board behind Rubio (who, yes, was #1) and Blake Griffin. That's not much of a secret, as many Wolves fans expected one of those picks to be Evans if he was around.

The surprising information came when my source told me the Wolves had Brandon Jennings ranked #5, behind Harden but ahead of Thabeet. Rubio/Griffin/Evans/Harden/Jennings/Thabeet were their top six. Now, Kahn had expected Rubio/Griffin/Harden/Thabeet to be gone, which would have left the Wolves with Jennings and Evans at #5 and #6.

So why did the Wolves end up with Flynn instead? As has been rumored for awhile, the Wolves had agreed to trade #6 and #18 to Sacramento for #4 which was Tyreke Evans, but only if James Johnson was on the board at #18. Kahn had Flynn rated 7th, and he felt Evans was so special that it was worth taking the risk that Johnson would be around. Of course, Johnson wasn't around, Sacramento didn't want anyone else with Flynn, and the Wolves ultimately were "stuck" with him.

Kahn has talked Flynn up to be a special player, but my source insists that's just talk in the media. Obviously Kahn isn't going to come out and say he wanted Jennings over Flynn because that doesn't do anyone any good, but that's the truth of the matter.

Can you imagine how much of a slam dunk Kahn's first draft would have been had things fallen as he expected? An Evans/Jennings backcourt would be sensational right now, and combined with Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, that team might actually have been a surprise contender for one of the last playoff spots in the West. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and for the first time in my life getting inside information actually made me more depressed than I was before I heard it.

The silver lining, of course, is that Kahn had targeted arguably the two best rookies this yaer, and things just didn't fall his way. I was surprised to find out Rubio was #1, although I agree with it, simply because it felt like everyone was so high on Blake Griffin. Kahn has called Rubio a 'franchise-altering' type talent, and he's called Flynn 'special.' He's being honest with Rubio, and he's talking Flynn up incase he needs to trade him this off-season, in the event the Wolves win the lottery finally and end up with John Wall. If they don't, then Flynn remains the point guard of the foreseeable future.

Just thought that'd be interesting to the 75 Wolves fans in the country.

Friday, December 11, 2009

NFL Picks

With the Steelers losing again tonight, I'm again starting the week 0-1 as I chose them to foolishly cover a 10 point spread. I made the prediction on Twitter, and if you'd like to follow me the link is to the right of this post. Here are my picks for this weekend:

Texans -6.5 over Seahawks
Bengals +6.5 over Vikings
Colts -7 over Broncos
Bucs +3 over Jets
Chiefs -1 over Bills
Packers -3 over Bears
Ravens -13.5 over Lions
Dolphins +3 over Jaguars
Patriots -13.5 over Panthers
**Falcons -10.5 over Saints
Redskins -1 over Raiders
Chargers +3 over Cowboys
Eagles +1 over Giants
Cards -3.5 over 49ers

**If Matt Ryan plays, I'll be taking the Falcons. If he doesn't, I think the Saints will cover easily.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tigers, Yanks, Dbacks Agree to Blockbuster

As I'm sure you've heard by now, yesterday the Tigers, Yankees and Diamondbacks agreed to a 3-team trade that will almost certainly be the biggest trade of the off-season, unless the Blue Jays move Roy Halladay. I've read some of the instant reactions from some great writers, but I don't agree with the sentiment.

Most writers feel the Yankees made the best deal, the Tigers made a decent deal, and the Diamondbacks got fleeced. One thing I do agree with is that the Diamondbacks made a terrible trade, as it makes little sense to move Scherzer AND Schlereth for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. I think the Tigers emerged the big winner in this trade, with the Yankees unlikely to be happy with this trade in a few years.

I love Curtis Granderson for baseball. He's a stand up guy, does as much or more for his community than any player in baseball, and he comes off as someone who's smart and 'gets it' in interviews. I really like him, and his loss is a big one for the city of Detroit. However, his production over the last few years has slipped considerably. He's still a better than average center fielder, and he should produce enough to make his contract still a bargain. That said, his defense really isn't as fantastic as it once was, as he posted just a 1.6 UZR last year, after a -9.4 the year before. From 2005-2007, Granderson was a very good defensive player, and while his improvement from 2008 to 2009 is good, his defense is hardly a positive.

His ability to play center field, even just average, is big though. The Yankees did upgrade from Melky Cabrera/Brett Gardner to Granderson, so it's certainly an upgrade. However, I expect Austin Jackson to be a more productive player than Granderson in the near future, and I think he could put up similar offensive production next season that Granderson did this past season. Let me clear: I don't think Jackson is going to hit 30 home runs, or even 20 for that matter. I could see a .270/.335/.405 season next year from Jackson, which isn't much worse than Granderson's .249/.327/.453 line last year.

I do need to mention that Granderson's production next year is going to be a lot better. I don't believe he's going to suddenly revert to 2007 form, but rather playing 81 games at Yankees stadium and 162 games in that lineup are undoubtedly going to improve his numbers. However, the Tigers had to project Granderson's numbers in their lineup, and clearly they believed Jackson is a potential capable replacement. I do believe he's going to be a better player than Granderson in 2-3 years, at the most.

Swapping Edwin Jackson for Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth and Max Scherzer is a huge get for the Tigers as well. Despite Jackson and Scherzer's misleading ERA totals, Scherzer was a more productive pitcher when healthy than Jackson last year. Of course, if Scherzer can't stay healthy then this is a poor trade for Detroit, which Arizona might be counting on.

While the immediate reaction is that Detroit got worse with this trade today, I don't agree. I expect Schlereth to be a big part of the Tigers bullpen immediately, and when paired with Ryan Perry gives the Tigers two very young, very talented relievers. Coke will be used somewhere on the staff, although it's not quite sure if that'll be as a starter or reliever.

I still think the Twins are the favorites to win the division, but this trade made Detroit better, not worse. Their immediate future looks slightly improved, while their long-term future is much brighter than it was at this time 24-hours ago.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sponsored Post: Review of the Week

Trying to maintain more of a set schedule to grow this blog, I've decided every Tuesday I'll review a product I've used and enjoyed, and give you guys a link to the item on Amazon. If you'd rather not read about a random product for that week, I'll make sure the sponsored post is ALWAYS on Tuesday's so those of you that don't want to see it or read about it can simply skip over it.

For the first product, I thought I'd recommend a very nice Christmas present for your little baseball or softball player. First, though, a little background. I spent fifteen years playing competitive baseball, traveling around the country with different teams playing in tournaments that I will never forget. Unfortunately, I never was able to grow past 5'8, and after receiving unofficial letters from North Carolina and Notre Dame as a Sophomore, I was forced to choose from several D-3 schools by my senior year. I settled on Hamline, disliked the school, transferred out and subsequently quit baseball. I missed the game though, so this past summer I decided to coach a 15-year-old team where I grew up, and I really enjoyed it.

I gave you that background because it's imperative as a parent that you help your child improve their skills in what they are interested in. My dad spent hours at a time with my in the Backyard, not because he wanted me to play D-1 baseball, but because he knew I loved playing baseball. If your son or daughter loves it, getting them something that they can use on their own, when you're at work or not in the mood, is beyond important.

Because of that, I'm suggesting for my first product the JUGS Instant Screen. It's a net that your son or daughter can use to hit off a tee on their own, or to take soft toss from someone else. I had a net like this when I was younger, and as I got to higher levels these nets were used everyday in practice. If you're from a cold-weather state, especially Minnesota, these nets are what I call Winter-Savers. You can put this net up anywhere in an open room, or even in a Garage.

Here's the link, for your convenience. It's a bit pricey at $125, but with the durability, it should last a minimum of 5 years and that's if it is used tirelessly day after day. The JUGS Net I have at home is still in fantastic shape, and I got it over 10 years ago.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Off-Season Dream

I've been saying for a while I expected the Twins payroll to stay around the $80-$85 million mark, but with the Winter Meetings beginning soon I've gotten a little hopeful. I'm now projecting a budget closer to $95 million. Here's what I would like to see the Twins do this off-season:

Avoid Jarrod Washburn. He seems like someone the Twins may actually target, but I'm really hoping they don't. My best guess is Washburn gets something like 2 years, $17 million or 3 years, $25 million in a very weak starters market. That's simply too much money to pay for the guy.

He was great in Seattle, and it's easy to point to his knee injuries being a problem for him in Detroit, but quite frankly the reason he was so successful in Seattle was because of the big power alleys and exceptional outfield defense they had. The Mariners outfield, of Gutierrez, Ichiro and Endy Chavez was among the greatest defensive outfields to EVER play for one team. Seems crazy, but the statistics don't lie.

Washburn is a very fly ball heavy pitcher, and the Twins defensive outfield this year is going to be BAD. Even Span, who has graded out as a very good defensive RF, has been below average to awful in Center Field. Of course, the sample size is small, so the hope is he'll improve his numbers and will be an above average defensive center fielder. Unfortunately, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer in LF and RF is probably the worst corner outfield combination in the league. They won't be able to cover any ground, and a lot of the fly balls Washburn gives up will fall for doubles or triples rather than outs like they did most of last season. That was a major negative in the Gomez trade... many of the Twins pitchers are fly ball heavy, and giving away an elite defensive center fielder will hurt. Hardy was a very good pickup, and Gardy wasn't going to play Gomez anyways, so I'm fine with the move, just explaining why it's not a slam dunk.

As far as what I expect/hope the Twins do... (Some are hopes, some seem like virtual locks)

- Pavano declines arbitration and signs elsewhere
- Morales wins the backup C job in Spring Training
- Use Jason Pridie as the 4th OF
- Mauer resigned for 6 years, $115 million with a $25 million vesting option based on Games Played for a 7th year, making the potential deal 7 years, $140 million.
- Sign Orlando Hudson for 3 years, $20 million. ($6.25, $6.75, $7 mil)
- Wait out the market, if Troy Glaus remains unsigned much like Crede was last year offer him a 1 year, incentive based contract just like Crede's last year.

That would give the Twins:
C: Mauer ($18), Morales ($0.4)
IF: Morneau ($14), Hudson ($6.25, Hardy ($5.75), Glaus ($4), Harris ($0.6), Punto ($4)
OF: Cuddyer ($8.5), Span ($0.4), Young ($1.5), Kubel ($4.1), Pridie ($0.4)
SP: Baker ($3), Slowey ($0.44), Perkins ($0.43), Duensing ($0.4), Blackburn ($0.44) 72.3
RP: Liriano ($0.7), Neshek ($0.8), Crain ($2.2), Rauch ($2.9), Guerrier ($2.75), Mijares ($0.4)
CL: Nathan ($11.25)

Duensing/Perkins and Liriano could also be switched if Liriano starts to show signs of recovering again. Swarzak would start the year in AAA, and Bonser would be dealt/non-tendered. The payroll with this roster would be about $93.5 million. Certainly a bit high for the Twins, but with a new stadium opening up they have discussed having a payroll over $90 million. They've come close to $90 million before, and with the team close to competing, looking to keep Mauer long term and opening a new stadium, $93.5 million or so seems like a solid payroll.

Span
Hudson
Mauer
Morneau
Kubel
Cuddyer
Glaus
Hardy
Young

That lineup would be among the best in baseball, and with Punto and Harris on the bench even the bench would be decently solid. Punto's best position has always been a super utility player, and with Glaus aging and injury prone, Punto would still get plenty of at bats and starts.

The bullpen would be a big strength, and if one of Duensing/Perkins/Liriano/Swarzak can be a solid contributor, the team would be very good. They'd need two of those four to start, but if they can have one of them be above average and one below average, the other 3 starters in the rotation should have no problems carrying the staff.

It's likely a pipe dream that the Twins do in fact sign Hudson AND Glaus, sending Punto to the bench, but oh well. With just one of those two signed, the Twins payroll likely will fall under $90 million and the lineup would still be very, very good. I'd prefer Hudson to Glaus, simply because he fits in better in the #2 slot.

Friday, December 4, 2009

NFL Picks

I almost forgot to post my picks for this week... but here they are, without much (if any) explanations. Last week was probably my worst week since I began picking games, which of course coincided perfectly with the first week I decided to publish my picks.

For Thursday's game I decided to take Buffalo +3, which means I'm already 0-1 for the week. Not a great start, to say the least.

Last Week: 3-11

Picks this week:

Denver -5
Oakland +14.5
Texans 0
Patriots -4
Bucs +5.5
Rams +9.5
Titans +6.5
Cincy -13
Saints -9.5
Eagles -5.5
Chargers -13.5
49ers 0
Dallas -2.5
Minnesota -3
Baltimore +3

Twins Offer Pavano Arbitration

I'll admit, when the Twins decided to trade Yohan Pino for Carl Pavano I was a bit skeptical. Sure, Pavano was an upgrade over what the team was using due to injuries, but the Twins were 6 or 7 games back at the time and it seemed like they certainly weren't going to catch the Tigers. Pino was worthy of a look, and his minor league track record seemed to point to the possibility of him emerging as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Factor that in with the six years the Twins could have controlled him, it seemed like yet another mistake by Bill Smith.

Obviously, Pavano pitched well down the stretch and the Twins caught the Tigers and managed to squeak into the playoffs after one of the most memorable games in baseball history. The fact that Pavano qualified as a Type B free agent made the trade even better, assuming the Twins offered arbitration.

Hours before the deadline on Tuesday the Twins did just that. If Pavano signs with another team, the Twins will land a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds of next June's amateur draft. If the team can use that pick correctly, it's very likely that the prospect will be better over the long term than Yohan Pino. That makes the deal a clear win for Minnesota.

Even if Pavano accepts arbitration, which seems like a long shot, the Twins will have a solid veteran starter for somewhere between $7-$10 million for one season. I would prefer Pavano sign with another team because I'd prefer to see the Twins make a run at Rich Harden, but I certainly won't complain if Pavano is the veteran starting pitcher this coming season.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tiger Getting a Pass?

Originally, I was going to write what I wrote about Tiger a few days ago and let that be it. I never expected Woods to admit to cheating without actually admitting it, much like Mark McGwire did years ago in front of Congress. I was so surprised that many columnists were basically saying Tiger did the right thing today, mainly because many of those same columnists were willing to demonize Mark McGwire for, in my opinion, a similar situation.

I posed this question on Twitter, wondering why Tiger was basically getting a pass while McGwire is constantly ridiculed for it. A few people suggested the situations were different, because McGwire's decision likely was the main reason he became the player he was. Had McGwire not taken Steroids, he likely never would have been the hitter he was seemed to be the point that some were making. That is a very good point, and certainly when people look back at McGwire's career the first thing that will come to mind will be his steroid use. I fully expect by the time Tiger retires, this affair will not be anywhere close to the first thing people remember about his career.

That said, I like to think of myself as someone who stands for principles. I lean a certain way for politics, like most people, but I try to judge a President or another politician by what I agree with not his party. I feel McGwire denying to give details or even admit steroid use, therefore creating guilt in the public eye, is no different than what Tiger did today. Woods has refused to meet with the media, canceled interviews with police, and has given his fans and peers two weak statements on his website. In today's statement, he admitted to 'making mistakes' and apologized for his 'transgressions' but never came right out and said he had an affair claiming he deserved privacy like any citizen.

Look, I have no problem with Woods not being willing to discuss what he likely considers the greatest mistake of his life. Of course, Woods has become a billionaire because of the general public. While he's a great golfer, his endorsements are the reason he is richer beyond anyone's wildest dreams, so it seems a bit unfair of him to suddenly now ask for privacy, although I likely would be doing the same thing in his shoes.

Since I mentioned earlier that I try to believe in principles, it's worth noting I've never cared that McGwire refused to discuss his steroid use. I feel the same way about Tiger, although infidelity is certainly a worse deed than using steroids in my opinion. Unfortunately, the people that make a career writing for sports don't seem to share the same view on principles, because if they did they either would have understood why McGwire wouldn't discuss it, or they'd be demonizing Woods like they did McGwire all those years ago.

If anything, Tiger has shown us that he is, indeed, in the same discussion as Michael Jordan for the greatest athlete ever. I only say this because Jordan has been, for most of his career and even more so after his career ended, a prick. He does what he wants, when he wants, and there are millions of people across the country that refuse to believe it. The media has played a major part in it, but Jordan's Hall-of-Fame speech was a look into the man that refuses to thank anyone and always feels slighted.

Tiger is a far better person than Michael Jordan, in my opinion, but cheating on your wife shows a major character flaw that should give Tiger some negative publicity. I'll admit, I don't read gossip websites, and chose not to read the Tiger story on any of the regular news outlets like MSNBC or FoxNews, because I've gotten enough of the story from my regular sports websites. Therefore, when I criticize writers for giving Tiger a pass, it is only sports writers. Others may be giving him a pass as well, but the ones that chastized McGwire have no business giving Tiger a pass. That they are is proof that Woods is capable of doing almost anything and maintaining his position as arguably the most famous athlete in the history of sports.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

AI, Tiger, Weis

It's been a strange week or two in sports, to say the least. Allen Iverson retired, unretired, and now isn't sure what he's doing. Tiger Woods hit a fire hydrant, and a tree, but wasn't drunk. The rumors about what actually happened make far more sense than the original story, in my opinion. Charlie Weis was fired early Monday, which isn't surprising at all. Very odd time period for sports, and despite writing mostly about Minnesota sports each of these topics is deserving of some notes. For those of you who only read this for Minnesota sports stuff, or even just Twins opinions, come back on Wednesday and I promise it will be Minnesota related. I'll combine all the random sports stories into one post so you guys can skip over it no problem if you wish.

- I have no idea why the 76ers haven't signed Allen Iverson yet. He's certainly not the star he used to be, and his ego is going to force any team that signs him to instantly make him the starting SG. That said, AI is a legend in Philly, and it's not like they're going to contend for a playoff spot this season anyways as they sit at 5-12. Making Iverson the starting SG likely would improve the team slightly this season, simply because their guard play to this point has been terrible. The biggest reason AI should already be in Philly is because of the fan interest he will instantly bring with him.

Look at the Timberwolves. Imagine they're still this bad in three seasons, and KG's not attracting any interest and is hardly an impact player anymore. Wouldn't you be begging the front office to sign him? Iverson is to Philly what KG will always be to Minnesota. A legend that grew up and developed before one team's fans. AI would make the 76ers a story again, even if for only a few weeks, but they would finally get back on the national scene. They have nothing to lose, and it's ridiculous he hasn't been signed yet.

- Tiger Woods, you need to say something. The longer he remains silent, besides that weak message on his website, the more I believe the gossip rumors from TMZ.com. When I first heard Tiger hit a fire hyrdrant and tree while backing out of his driveway, but alcohol wasn't involved, something didn't seem right. There's 14 year old kids that take out their parents cars in the middle of the night and can back the car out of the driveway without hitting something, so it seemed ridiculous that a focused Tiger Woods would simply back into a fire hydrant. When it was reported that Tiger actually crashed because his wife was pulling a Johnny Drama on his car, that story made far more sense and explained why Tiger would have hit a fire hydrant.

Tiger, you're the greatest golfer in the history of the sport, and you've spent a great deal of time avoiding any off the field (course?) issues. This is a minor hiccup, and while it's embarrassing, you need to clarify what happened. You've made millions and millions of dollars because you are in the public eye, and like it or not your private life is always going to be in the public eye as well. If your wife went crazy, tell us.

Of course, if you're actually cheating on your wife, most of the public won't forgive you, and you should continue to stay silent. The longer you remain silent, the more likely it seems that you were/are indeed cheating on your wife, and she absolutely went crazy and smashed your car.

- Charlie Weis is out as coach at Notre Dame. I thought it was a strange hire at the time, but after going 19-6 with mostly Ty Willingham's recruits and then bringing in consistent top 10 recruiting classes, it looked like Notre Dame had nailed the hire. Weis' failed to develop many of his top recruits, though, and they lost a lot of close games which led to his firing. I fully expect Notre Dame to go after Urban Meyer, and with Tim Tebow graduating, I think it's at least a possibility. I know Meyer said he has no interest, but if Notre Dame offers a 75% pay increase, it's going to be pretty tough for him to say no. Brian Kelly likely will be the backup hire, but I don't think he'd be a great hire at this point either. Mark my words, if Brian Kelly is the hire at Notre Dame, he's going to spend the next 3-5 seasons struggling as well. They need to hire a big name coach to get Notre Dame back on the map.