Friday, December 30, 2016

Brian Dozier: Trade or No Trade?

*It's been an awful long time, friends. I will be posting more frequently from now on!*

Basically since the day the baseball season ended, the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers have been connected in trade rumors regarding Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. We all know Dozier is coming off a monster season in which he hit 42 home runs, and that his contract is a massive bargain ($15MM over the next two seasons) for his production.

The Dodgers are in dire need of a right handed power hitter, and despite spending more money than anyone, even the Dodgers have a payroll limit so a player with Dozier's contract and production is almost a perfect fit for them.

With the Twins unlikely to contend in the near future, trading the 31-year-old second baseman immediately after what is likely to be the best season of his career is a prudent decision by the Twins new front office. It's something I've been hoping to see the Twins do for years; plan ahead. If Terry Ryan and the old-school people he had in place were still around, there'd be little chance of a Dozier trade this off-season.

It's been reported that the Twins and Dodgers have basically agreed that 24-year-old starting pitcher Jose De Leon will be the headliner going back to Minnesota in any Dozier trade, but that the teams can't come to an agreement on the second, third and/or fourth players involved. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports Network reported that some league executives think the Dodgers are being "stingy" with their prospects.

Meanwhile, LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has reported that the Twins have told interested parties to make their final offers as they'd like to make a final decision on a Dozier trade in the coming days. Neal also reported that the Dodgers are steadfast in only offering a 1-for-1 swap of De Leon for Dozier, which quite frankly is insulting. The Twins have correctly demanded at least one more highly regarded prospect for their team MVP.

Jose De Leon is coming off a marvelous season in AAA, to be sure. He's posted great minor league numbers for years now, and he likely would've gotten more than 4 major league starts last season if he was in another, less talented organization. He's a very, very good prospect who could potentially emerge as a very good starting pitcher in the future.

However, he's already 24-years-old, and he struggled in his 4 big league starts this past season. And while the youngster was able to pitch late into games as the season wore on, he was set on a strict pitch count for the first half of the season as he recovered from a shoulder issue. Most pitchers today will deal with some kind of arm injury during their career, but it's always a worry when the injuries occur before they reach the big leagues.

If the Dodgers refuse to improve their offer of simply Jose De Leon, I think it's likely that Dozier remains a member of the Twins into the 2017 season. A team like the Cardinals could certainly pluck Dozier away as well, but with plenty of infield options available the price of young talent is likely to be a bit too steep for the Cardinals taste.

A Dozier trade would make a lot of sense and could put the Twins in a great position for the 2018 season, but there are worse things than going into the season with your star second baseman who just hit 42 home runs.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Where to Sit via Tick Pick

Today's post is a nice info-graphic from TickPick helping people decide where to sit at a professional sporting event! You can also decide where to sit by checking out their NFL and MLB pages or by getting the lowdown from their blog!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Timberwolves Options at #5

With the NBA draft set to take place tomorrow night, rumors have began to leak out that the Philadelphia 76ers have told LSU freshman Ben Simmons that he will be their choice at #1. That hardly comes as a surprise, as Simmons has been the favorite for the top pick for a long time.

It's widely expected that the Lakers will select Duke forward Brandon Ingram at #2, as it's been reported that the team would've targeted Ingram even if they had won the lottery. That makes the #3 pick the first real unknown of tomorrow night. The Celtics have reportedly been shopping the #3 pick hard, looking for an established star to help them continue to improve in the Eastern Conference. They've been unsuccessful thus far.

Without further ado, here's a quick look at my top 5 prospects:

1. Ben Simmons
2. Brandon Ingram

3. Dragan Bender, PF, Maccabi Tel Aviv

The 7'1" Croatian is only 18 years old, and didn't play a whole lot this past season in Israel despite being one of the NBA's best international prospects. Bender's lack of playing time infuriated scouts all season, but it didn't seem to hurt Bender's stock too much. He's got 3 point range and has incredibly quick feet for someone as big as he is. Bender needs to get stronger, like all 18-year-olds, but if he can continue to improve his jump shot he should be a very versatile weapon for whatever team lands him.

Factoring in that the Timberwolves biggest need is a power forward, and Bender seems like a natural fit. With Karl Anthony Towns capable of protecting the rim, Bender's lack of strength would be a bit easier to hide early in his career. Bender likely wouldn't make a huge impact in his first two seasons in the league, but if he could turn the corner in year 3 the Timberwolves young core would almost certainly be ready to win by then. I hope he falls into the Wolves lap at 5.

4. Jamal Murray, SG/PG, Kentucky

Jamal Murray had a very good freshman season, showing night after night that he can really shoot the rock. NBA teams reportedly have cooled a bit on Murray because he lacks elite athleticism, was a poor defender last season and doesn't appear likely to develop into much more than an average defender at best.

However, with shooting such a big part of the game nowadays, and the Wolves in dire need of some, Murray is a real option. A 3 guard rotation of Rubio/Lavine/Murray would be both versatile and talented. Playing Lavine and Murray together could be disastrous on the defensive end, but there's no doubting those two players could light up the scoreboard together as they both have great range on their shots.

Murray's age puts him ahead of the next player on the list, but barely.

5. Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

A rare college senior, Dunn appeared to be among the most NBA ready players in college last season. He should be able to step in and be a solid defender from day one, and I think running a bench-unit for a season or two while he adjusts to the NBA game would benefit him a lot.

Dunn would have the potential to replace Ricky Rubio down the line if he develops into the point guard most expect, but even as a backup to Rubio, Dunn would be a very good addition. While some may prefer Rubio's backup to be more of a shooter (to complement Rubio's weakness) Dunn is simply too good of a player to pass on if he's the best player remaining. 

And while I am a fan of Dunn, I don't think he'll be there at 5, but we'll see. The Wolves are also reportedly considering Cal freshman Jaylen Brown at #5, who has a lot of upside but didn't show a whole lot in his first year at Cal. I wouldn't be a huge fan of that choice, but will trust Thibs and company regardless of who they draft. Is it Thursday yet?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Madison Bumgarner and the Home Run Derby

Madison Bumgarner is undoubtedly one of the top starting pitchers in baseball, putting up great numbers year after year. He's been even better in the post-season. He's a great pitcher.

Unfortunately, he seems to think he's an elite hitter as well. Last year, when Max Scherzer mentioned that the National League should use the DH as well because pitchers simply can't hit, Bumgarner took offense. Bumgarner talked about how big his bat was (33.5 ounces, 34.5 inches) and mentioned that having a good hitting pitcher is a strategic advantage.

First, let's clear up the notion that Madison Bumgarner is a good hitter: he's not. Compared to major league pitchers, sure, he's considerably better, but compared to the league's hitters, Bumgarner is worse than even the worst regular. For his career, the Giants lefty has hit .180/.220/.306, good for a measly .526 OPS. In 2015, the absolute worst hitter that qualified was Chris Owings, who played in 147 games for the Diamondbacks. Owings hit a putrid .227/.264/.322, or a .587 OPS.

That means on average Madison Bumgarner is about 10% worse than the league's worst non-pitching hitter. Drew Butera, long known as maybe the league's worst hitter, has hit .190/.246/.280 for his career, which is a .527 OPS. That means that Drew Butera, who really has no business being a major league player, is still a better hitter than Madison Bumgarner.

Bumgarner had two seasons where he posted an OPS over .700, but because pitchers get so few at bats over a full season it's far too small of a sample size to get any real idea of the kind of player he is. Bumgarner's career at bats are very close to a full season's worth of at bats, which is why I'm referencing his career numbers.

Clearly, using a DH would improve the offense and make the game easier to watch, but people hate change. Some people call themselves "traditionalists" which bothers me a ton. If you can improve the game, improve it. Don't leave it as is simply because that's the way it's always been.

Others claim they like the "strategy" of having to double switch to minimize pitchers at bats. Anyone that understands baseball knows this is total crap; the strategy of when to double switch is laughably simple once you've studied lineups and situations for a few days. Managers who have been doing it their whole lives should know exactly when double switches are necessary; and if you watch an NL game, that's generally the case. I'm sorry, but if you can learn the best strategy for something in one or two days, it's not really a strategy. I'm tired of watching a pitcher make three terrible swings and then walk back to the dugout. Just let them stay in the dugout, and use a real living major league hitter in their place.

Anyways, this isn't about the DH in the NL. I only mention it because Bumgarner is again in the news, this time because he wants to participate in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game. People seem to like the idea; it'd be fun to see how a pitcher does, and some even think he could perform well. If Drew Butera wanted to participate, would they let him? Of course not.

Admittedly, hitting batting practice home runs is considerably easier than hitting major league pitching, so maybe Bumgarner's natural power will show up more in a Home Run Derby setting. Also, because it's the all-star game and an exhibition contest, I really don't mind if Bumgarner is in it. It could be fun to watch a pitcher try it, and I think most fans would be rooting very hard for him to do well. It would be a good decision from an entertainment standpoint.

What bothers me is that Bumgarner undoubtedly thinks he's a better hitter than he is. To lobby for a place in the home run derby as a pitcher is silly. If MLB allows him to compete, Bumgarner will take someone else's place, someone more deserving.

Personally, I'd like to see Bumgarner compete and hit 0 home runs, if for no other reason than to shut Bumgarner up. Him being cocky about hitting when he's one of the league's best pitchers would be like James Harden telling everyone what a great defender he is. It's just silly and wrong. Make whatever decision you want, MLB, but let's be clear: if Bumgarner is in the home run derby, it's not because he earned it. It's simply as a side show and a life preserver to an event that's been slowly dying for years.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Twins Never Learn

Complaining about the Twins is a little too easy these days, as with each passing day they manage to look worse and worse. That's often the case when you possess the league's worst record after 43 games, and even more so when the team was expected to at least be close to .500.

Terry Ryan has proved for almost two decades now that he doesn't learn from his mistakes, so it should be no surprise that the team continues to make the same silly mistakes year after year.

Remember when the Twins sent one of their top prospects, a major league ready catcher (Wilson Ramos), for Matt bleeping Capps? While the team still had Joe Mauer catching at that point, it was hardly a sure thing he'd remain a catcher for the long term. The fact that he had to switch positions the very next off-season was a worst-case scenario, but hardly surprising. Regardless, to trade someone who projected as a future starting catcher for an overpaid reliever made no sense. As frustrating as it was, I always hoped it would serve as a cautionary tale for Terry Ryan and the front office: Don't give up a promising prospect for an expensive reliever. Bill Smith was technically the GM when the trade was made, but Ryan was a part of the front office and still had say. Both deserve blame.

Shockingly (or not), the Twins decided to trade two pitching prospects last July for... drum roll please... an expensive reliever. That reliever was 30-year-old Kevin Jepsen. The Twins knew he'd cost somewhere between $6 and $8 million for 2016 as well, so they kept pushing the angle that they were getting a year and a half of Jepsen. He was more than a rental.

Unfortunately, paying a good but hardly elite reliever that kind of money is hardly a bargain. While a one-year deal for that kind of money isn't a major risk, giving up two pitching prospects for the ability to overpay a reliever is silly.

Even sillier was that one of the prospects was then 21-year-old Chih-Wei Hu. Hu doesn't possess elite stuff, but he's consistently pitched well at every level, and he's always been young for the level he's playing at. Hu is now a 22-year-old who has pitched in both AA and AAA for the Rays this season, posting a 1.60 ERA in 45 innings across 8 starts. He's struck out 46 batters and walked just 11. He's going to be a solid starting pitcher in the big leagues in the near future, and he could even see some big league time as early as this year.

While Jepsen has been a bit unlucky through this point of the season, even if he had been lights out all year the Twins would still be terrible. For a team that is notoriously cheap and struggles to bring in big money free agents, losing Hu's six years of cost-controlled pitching for a year and a half of overpaying Jepsen is frustrating. To do it just a few seasons after trading six years of Wilson Ramos' cost-controlled catching for the right to overpay Matt Capps for a year and a half makes it idiotic.

Chih-Wei Hu might end up having a better season this year alone than Jepsen if he gets called up, but even if he doesn't debut this year, Hu is almost certainly going to be a valuable starting pitcher on a minimal contract for years. When you look at the Twins starting pitching and how badly they need some youngsters to emerge for the team to improve, it's just ridiculous. Poor decisions compounded by worse decisions, and Terry Ryan still can't learn his lesson. What an embarrassment this organization is.

Monday, May 16, 2016

If the Wolves Win the Lottery

The NBA draft lottery is tomorrow evening (May 17), where our Minnesota Timberwolves will hopefully cash in on their 8% chance to get the #1 pick. The team could pick anywhere between 1 and 8, except for 4th. If the Wolves are lucky enough to win the lottery for a second consecutive year, who should they take?

Ben Simmons, the much heralded freshman out of LSU, is considered the top prospect. However, Duke's Brandon Ingram has closed the gap considerably since midway through the collegiate season, and some teams might actually prefer Ingram over Simmons at this point.

Ingram's tenacity on both ends and his shooting ability make him look like a good fit for the Wolves current roster. While some have suggested Ingram could be a stretch 4 at times, I don't see that as a real possibility. He's extremely thin, and while it's true he's young, his body type is likely to remain the way it is even as he gains weight. His body is very similar to that of Kevin Durant's.

For me, Simmons should be pick if they get #1. He actually could play the stretch 4 role a bit better than Ingram, as he's more versatile and much stronger. Ingram is a way better shooter, but Simmons is going to be a great all around player. The main argument for the Wolves to maybe pass on Simmons is that they already have Ricky Rubio, who does a lot of the same things Simmons does in a half court offense. While I don't disagree with that sentiment, I think it undersells Rubio's value defensively, and Simmons ability offensively. Rubio ranked as the best or second best defensive point guard by most advanced metrics, and his shooting percentages improved considerably in the second half. If he can continue to knock down open shots, he could play with Simmons just fine.

Simmons best use offensively seems to be as a point forward, but he's immensely skilled and should realistically fit into any system. His biggest problem at LSU wasn't that he didn't assert himself enough (as the pundits keep suggesting) but rather he was playing with a few upperclassmen who thought they were much better than they actually were (looking at you, Tim Quarterman) and hogged the ball. A Simmons/KAT front court is almost a perfect fit against most teams. The Wolves could also choose to go really big at times, using a lineup of Rubio/Wiggins/Simmons/Dieng/Towns. The shooting would suffer, but the defensive potential would be spectacular. With most teams going small, the Wolves would be able to counter with a pounding offense that could score inside or get to the foul line at will. That kind of a lineup would be best used in short spurts, though, because stretching the floor would be a challenge.

If the Wolves are lucky enough to win the lottery and decide for whatever reason that Branon Ingram is the better fit, ideally they'd manage to trade down to #2 and pick up an extra asset or two. That would require the team picking at #2 to value Simmons much higher than Ingram, which isn't a guarantee but certainly a possibility.

I also think the odds the Timberwolves trade Ricky Rubio are much lower now that there's a new GM and President of Basketball Operations. For the Wolves defense to take a major step forward as many expect under Tom Thibodeau, they'll need Rubio around. Even if they don't win the lottery and Kris Dunn falls to them, I still think Rubio's going to be a better player. I'd prefer the Wolves trade the pick in that situation.

With so many possibilities it may have made more sense to wait to see what pick the Wolves get tomorrow, but to me Simmons is the clear cut #1 prospect. He's taken a bit of a hit because there's no real comparison for him; he's a point-forward with point guard skills who's best position might eventually be a power forward. Ingram looks like Kevin Durant and has a good shot, although he's not even close to Durant as a prospect coming out of college.

After 20 years of terrible lottery luck, the Wolves got lucky last season by holding onto the top pick. Maybe it will continue to average out, and the Wolves will again pick #1. Regardless, it'll be nice in a few years to care more about a playoff basketball game at this point than the NBA draft lottery. 

My top 8:

  1. Ben Simmons, LSU
  2. Brandon Ingram, Duke
  3. Jamal Murray, Kentucky
  4. Dragan Bender, International
  5. Kris Dunn, Providence
  6. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
  7. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
  8. Henry Ellenson, Marquette
I'm not a big fan of Ellenson at all, but the draft really falls off quickly. Valentine should be a late lottery pick or even later, so the Wolves could likely trade down and get him. He's a solid all around player that at worst should be a decent role player. He has the potential to be a starting shooting guard with size and versatility though, and his college numbers are even better than Hield's. Bender is a long-term project but he's a huge power forward with shooting touch, so I'd be fine waiting for him to develop next to KAT. Murray to me is going to be a great player, and he might fit best next to Rubio in the backcourt.

The team will have plenty of options, and Thibs will have a big decision to make in his first off-season. Here's to hoping it works out better than most Timberwolves decisions of the past.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Odds and Ends

Lots of quick thoughts that I've been unable to cram into any articles lately.

  • Complaining about the length of challenges/reviewing plays is becoming more common in all sports, and I hate it. Are we so impatient as a nation that we can't wait for a call to be reviewed correctly? The latest complaints are about baseball's reviews taking just under 2 minutes on average. It's taking longer than previous years!! Even a 5 minute review, which happened at Wrigley recently and Stark is complaining about, is still nothing in the grand scheme of things. Patience is a virtue, people. Baseball games are 3 hours. NFL football games are 3 hours. The last two minutes of an NBA basketball game is close to 3 hours. If you can't wait two god damn minutes for a review, you're the problem. The system is fine. 
  • Todd McShay's way-too-early 2017 NFL Mock Draft (subscription req) for ESPN had Gophers designated thrower into the ground (or quarterback, as other teams call it) Mitch Leidner going in the first round. That's not a typo. Anyone who has watched the Gophers and Leidner knows how insane that is. I laughed for five minutes straight. In McShay's defense, he hates doing mock drafts, he's admitted they're useless, and for this one, he admitted he hasn't watched any tape yet. Leidner is big and has good speed for a QB, but he's got terrible throwing mechanics and his accuracy is terrible. I don't even think he'll end up being drafted, and once McShay studies his film he'll almost certainly agree.
  • Richard Pitino spent $175,000 more than he was supposed to on the recruiting trail over the last 3 years. I can't even imagine how bad the team would have been the last few years without that extra money. Coaches go over their travel and recruiting budgets all the time, but Pitino hasn't been very successful and the article paints Pitino as a bit of a spoiled douche. You can see that when he whines on the sidelines though, so I'm not surprised at all.
  • Scott Boras is the greatest agent of all-time. In my next life as a baseball superstar, I'm hiring him. There's no link to share or specific reason I mention this; it's just worth mentioning. He's helped players more than just about anyone.
  • I am convinced the mute button was invented to allow Twins fans to watch baseball games in peace. Dick Bremer seems like a nice guy, but for someone who has watched upwards of 150 games of baseball a year for a long, long time, he doesn't seem to know a whole lot. Jack Morris might be the worst announcer of all-time. Roy Smalley is okay, and Bert Blyleven is funny at times if nothing else. But it'd be nice to have an announcing duo that related more to the knowledgeable, dedicated fans than the average viewer on any given night.
  • Tom Thibodeau is going to be a great coach for the Wolves. Hopefully he's more Stan Van Gundy than Doc Rivers, though, when it comes to player personnel control. Loul Deng is a big fan of Thibs and a free agent, and he would fit the Wolves current roster very well. I expect him to be their top (realistic) target.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Twins, Terry Ryan and Mediocrity

As the Twins continue to struggle mightily, fans are naturally looking for someone to point the finger at. With Joe Mauer off to a spectacular start, fans don't have their usual punching bag to blame (wrongly, of course, Mauer's been a great player almost every year) so who is at actually fault?

A combination of poor player acquisitions, poor lineup construction and, well, just being poor as an organization are to blame. The Twins payroll is lower than most of the league yet again this year, but the team still is able to spend anywhere between $100 and $115 million per year on payroll. For a team with as much young talent as the Twins have (which means those players are making the league minimum) payroll shouldn't be a major concern. Teams have built better teams with even lower payrolls.

The poor lineup construction is due in part to a log-jam of 1B/DH types, as Mauer, Miguel Sano and Byung Ho Park are all best suited to play 1B or DH but the team needs to find a way to get all 3 bats in the lineup at the same time. Because of that desire, the team is misguidedly playing Sano in right field, where he's looked awful. Late in games, the team has put in a defensive replacement for Sano, losing their cleanup hitter because the team is foolishly playing him at a position he's terrible at.

Sano is capable of playing close to average defense at 3B, at least at this point in his career, but he's likely only going to be able to play there for a few seasons at most. As he continues to get bigger and bigger, he's going to need to be a 1B in my opinion. With Mauer's contract running out after the 2018 season, playing Sano at 3B for 3 seasons while Mauer finishes his contract would be wise.

Unfortunately, the Twins chose to hold onto Trevor Plouffe this off-season, so there was no opening at 3B for Sano. Even when Plouffe got hurt, the team only used Sano at third base for a few games. Whether that order came from Terry Ryan and the front office or Paul Molitor made the decision on his own, it was a terrible decision. As soon as Plouffe got hurt Sano should have moved to third base as long as possible until Plouffe was healthy.

It's impossible to know what kind of interest the Twins received in Trevor Plouffe, and the poor return the Reds for got Todd Frazier undoubtedly hurt the Twins in negotiations. However, Plouffe is now in the final year of his contract, and while he's been a solid player the last two seasons, he's going to be paid too much money for the Twins to keep with Sano waiting in the wings. The Twins should have simply accepted the best offer they received for Plouffe, realizing that last year's surprise "contention" was mostly a fluke aided by an unsustainable 20-7 record in May. But the Twins have never been good at understanding predictive stats, and for that reason we've seen the front office continue to make mistake after mistake.

Even when the team makes a good move, they find a way to do something wrong in the process. In 2001, when Terry Ryan and company drafted Joe Mauer first overall ahead of college phenom Mark Prior, they clearly made the right choice. Mauer has had a far better career than Prior did, as injuries destroyed Prior early in his career. However, everyone knows the Twins drafted Mauer because he was easier to sign. I don't doubt they had Mauer rated very very highly, but Prior was the best pitching prospect in decades. Prior reportedly asked for $10 million from the Twins prior to the draft, and Mauer eventually signed for $6.5 million. The team ultimately made the right choice, which is all that really matters, but there's no doubt they valued Mauer higher because he was cheaper to sign.

This off-season, the team signed Byung Ho Park out of Korea, paying his former team just under $13 million and then signing him to a 4-year, $12 million contract with a 5th year option for $6.5 million. That means the team paid $31.5 million over 5 seasons to get Park, Korea's best player the last few years. Just over $6 million sounds like a lot of money per season, but in today's world, that's peanuts for a starting 1B/DH. Unfortunately, by all accounts, the Twins basically low-balled Park in negotiations because he had no leverage and they knew he wanted to come to the US. Had another team won the bidding and the right to negotiate with him, he would've gotten considerably more money. Why is that an issue? Shouldn't the Twins try to save as much money as possible?

In general, yes. It's almost always a good idea to squeeze as much value out of every possible situation as possible. However, if the team is hoping to gain Park's trust, low-balling him to save $2 million a year when that money makes no significant difference to the bottom line makes no sense. The money they saved isn't going to bring in any kind of major league talent, and it's not like they'll shift that money to the draft or the international amateur market, as they rarely outspend anyone in those aspects. No, they low-balled Park so their billionaire owners could pocket an extra $2 million. It's like when the Timberwolves kept selling draft picks--there's no logical reason for it.

Park has been a good signing and he's producing thus far, so all in all it was a good move. It's just frustrating to watch the team give mediocre national league pitchers like Ricky Nolasco big money deals while low-balling someone with actual talent. The Twins "scouting over everything" attitude is killing the team when it comes to acquiring players that have major league experience.

Scouting is necessary for amateurs and certain prospects, and it has a lot of value if done correctly. But when a scout tells you that John Ryan Murphy "looks the part" and his bat is coming around, a simple look at his statistics would show otherwise. Murphy never had a good offensive year in the minors, and at 24 years old he'd never shown anything in the big leagues either. I have no issue with the team trading Aaron Hicks, as he was a bit overrated, but to target John Ryan Murphy was a poor decision at the time and looks even worse with him being demoted to AAA already. (Wilson Ramos continues to club NL pitching, by the way. Another poor deal at the time that only looks worse as time goes on.)

I would love to see the Twins clear out the front office and bring in an ivy-league educated general manager, who's preferably under 40. The team needs to start being more progressive in acquiring undervalued players, rather than trusting their scouts. The "eye-test" is stupid regardless if it's a fan or a seasoned scout. All humans are biased, and in my experience the ones who are so sure they aren't biased are actually the most biased. There's a reason the most successful GM's in today's game generally have an Ivy-League education---it's because those people understand that finding a small advantage in 10 different aspects of the game can be as good or more beneficial than acquiring one major upgrade.

Sadly, Terry Ryan's job looks to be safe. Despite a losing record as the team's GM, and a terrible 4 year run since taking over in 2011, Ryan continues to have more job security than just about anyone in the world. As a Twins fan, it's frustrating that he isn't held accountable for his poor decisions. Making it more frustrating is the fact that almost every move that has backfired on the Twins was seen as a poor trade or signing at the time as well. Ramos for Capps. Garza AND Barlett for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. Extending Kurt Suzuki after a fluke-filled first half despite him sucking for five years prior. Extending Phil Hughes (and giving him a raise) despite having him under contract for two full seasons, after he had one good season. Signing aging starting pitchers to 4-year-deals, at a time when the Twins were still multiple years away from competing. Dumping JJ Hardy to two pitchers that the Twins released almost immediately.

There are other moves as well, but I'm getting frustrated just recalling those few screw ups. A simple look at the players statistics and circumstances made all of those moves look bad immediately and even worse in hindsight.

The way the team reacted to their terrible start this season, by waiving veterans to call up worse veterans and demoting Buxton to play Rosario or Danny Santana in center field is even more troubling. It proves the front-office doesn't understand small sample sizes, as one bad month doesn't mean much in baseball. I understand Buxton was struggling terribly, but the team had already tried the "Yo-Yo" experiment with Aaron Hicks, giving him a month or two in the bigs before sending him back down, then back to the bigs, then again to AAA. Buxton is going to need at least a full season as the team's center fielder so the team can gauge improvement and determine if he is indeed as good as his prospect status indicated. Him going to AAA and doing well does very little, despite what the Twins and Dick Bremer will continue to tell you. Replacing Tommy Milone and Tommy Fien with replacement level AAA players is just silly, especially since they agreed to pay those two over $7 million just a few months ago. (Fien has since been lost to the Dodgers on waivers)

The only reason a team should shuffle up their roster as much as the Twins did is if they have a lot of young talented prospects waiting in the wings. Waiting until May to call up those prospects makes them a free agent a year later, so that would make sense. Cutting a few decent major league veterans who have at least been average in the past to promote players like Juan Centeno and Darin Mostrianni makes no sense. It just shows that the Twins front-office continues to blame the players they bring in, despite those players A) not being very good and B) often being used in a role or at a position they aren't comfortable with.

But once you consider that Terry Ryan has proven for almost two decades now that he's a below average general manager and ownership continues to treat him like this generation's Branch Rickey, it's easy to see that the team seems to love to overvalue mediocrity. That's really the "Twins Way." Being mediocre, year after year. Instead of shuffling a poorly constructed roster, the more prudent move would be shuffling the front office and bringing in someone who's simply put, much better than Terry Ryan. To be frank, that shouldn't be too hard.

Is it football season yet?

Friday, April 22, 2016

2016 NFL Mock Draft w/ Trades

With less than one week until the NFL draft kicks off, here's TBTBB's annual Mock, our 2016 NFL Mock Draft. Trades have been added. Feel free to tell me how stupid I am in the comments!

1. St. Louis Los Angeles Rams - Jared Goff, QB, Cal

The Rams moved up to #1 for a quarterback, and all reports seem to indicate they've targeted Jared Goff. With coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead reportedly on thin ice, adding the most NFL ready QB in the draft might be their best chance at keeping their jobs past this season. The fact that Goff also played in California makes the Rams choice that much easier with the team moving to LA this off-season.

2. Philadelphia Eagles - Carson Wentz, QB, NDSU

The Eagles current quarterback situation is clearly set up to allow a rookie to come in and learn behind a more experienced quarterback for at least a little while. I believe the Eagles planned all along to try and move up to get Wentz, and once it became clear he was going to be a top 5 pick the Eagles made the final move up to #2. I fully expect the Eagles to trade Sam Bradford before the beginning of the season, and maybe as early as draft night. That would put Wentz squarely behind recently signed Chase Daniel. I think Wentz will be the best quarterback from this draft class, and learning from coach Doug Pederson while watching Daniel will be a good thing for the young man.

3. San Diego Chargers - Laremy Tunsil, LT, Ole Miss

I've seen a lot of people predicting the Chargers will draft Jalen Ramsey in this spot, mainly because they could use another young corner next to Jason Verrett, or possibly a star safety to replace the departed pro bowler Eric Weddle. While I believe Ramsey is the safest prospect in the draft and a future superstar, I don't see San Diego drafting him this high. They refused to make Weddle any kind of contract offer, deeming the aging safety not worth the relatively low price of $6 million a year. While Weddle may no longer be the player he once was, I think the Chargers made it clear that they don't value defensive backs as highly as other organizations. Because of that, I don't see them drafting one this high in the first round. Tunsil is a perfect fit and could possibly be an even safer pick than Ramsey.

4. Dallas Cowboys - Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, FSU

Dallas is in dire need of some defensive line help with Greg Hardy not coming back and DeMarcus Lawrence as well as Randy Gregory getting suspended for four games. A player like Joey Bosa or Oregon's DeForest Buckner are possibilities at this spot, but the draft has a lot of good defensive ends that should be available in the second round. Ramsey has been considered one of the top two talents in the draft since the college football season ended, and Jerry Jones loves to add big name players. Add in the fact that Dallas' dynasty really began taking off once they signed Deion Sanders under Jones in the 90's, and Deion is in love with Ramsey, I think the Cowboys will scoop him up if he remains on the board at #4.

**Trade** Jacksonville trades the #5 pick to the Miami Dolphins for #13 and #42.

5. Miami Dolphins - Ezekiel Elliot, RB, OSU

The Dolphins lost Lamar Miller via free agency to the Texans and then watching the Broncos match their offer for CJ Andersen, it's clear the Dolphins are in the market for a running back. It may seem odd for Miami to move up to #5 after moving down from #8 originally to 13, but I think that was a case where the team simply valued Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso too highly to not trade down. With less needs after the trade with Philly, the Dolphins can afford to give up a 2nd round pick to move up and get the player they seem to covet. With teams like the Browns, Giants and maybe even the Bears possibly looking at running backs, the Dolphins will need to move up to ensure they get him. Jacksonville's main target, Jalen Ramsey, is off the board here, so they should have no problem moving down a few spots and adding another high pick.

6. Baltimore Ravens - Joey Bosa, DE, OSU

Long considered the drafts top prospect, Bosa's sub-par 40 time and less than impressive individual drills seem to have lowered his stock among draft experts. Baltimore would likely be ecstatic if Bosa fell to them at 6, as they clearly have a huge need at defensive end and Bosa is likely to be a key contributor from day one. It's also possible they're higher on a different defensive end, but in this situation they'd have their choice of whoever they prefer. For me, Bosa is the best one.

7. San Francisco 49ers - Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, UF

The 49ers are reportedly trying to lure free agent corner Josh Norman to San Francisco, but it appears as if he may not leave Washington, where he made his first visit. The 49ers secondary isn't terrible, but they lack a true top tier corner and Hargreaves could develop into a true shutdown corner. The team has bigger needs at quarterback and wide receiver, but the value simply isn't there at this point in the draft. A trade down is a possibility, but unless a team is enamored with Hargreaves themselves or maybe with DeForest Buckner, I don't see any prospects worth moving up for.

8. Cleveland Browns - DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Buckner would fill a need for Cleveland, and he's likely the best player left on the board at this juncture. The team could also look to trade down again if another team wanted Buckner bad enough, or possibly if a team wanted to move up for someone like Ronnie Stanley. However, Buckner has the potential to be a force for Cleveland for years, and adding an impact player after trading down would be a perfect scenario for the organization.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Jack is a spectacular talent, to be sure, but coming off of a serious knee injury I think most teams inside the top 10 will look elsewhere. At this juncture, though, with the top two corners off the board, I think Jack makes sense for a team that just needs to add a few stars to grow with Jameis Winston's time frame. Jack should be an impact player from whenever he's able to take the field, and even if his recovery isn't coming along as fast as reported, Jack should be a sideline to sideline star, wreaking havoc on offensive game plans on a weekly basis.

10. New York Giants - LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

It's hard to understand why Treadwell seems to be falling among draft experts and scouts. While he didn't run a blazing 40 time, nobody expected him to. His ball skills and ability to get past defenders with a great double move more than make up for his lack of elite speed. Pairing Treadwell with OBJ would be a major coup for the Giants, and it would keep Eli Manning happy. With the team's new head coach an offensive mind, he's well aware of how badly the team needs to add a receiver or two in this draft. Treadwell is the most likely to make a big impact from day one, which is important with Manning aging.

**Trade** Chicago trades #11 and #206 to Tennessee for #15 and #76.

11. Tennessee Titans - Ronnie Stanley, LT, Notre Dame

The Titans trade down from #1, acquire a plethora of high draft picks, and then manage to move up only a few spots to get a tackle most have rated only slightly below Tunsil. There's a chance Stanley could've fallen to 15, but finding someone to protect your franchise quarterback has been a long-followed philosophy among NFL teams. Hopefully Stanley will be able to do just that for Marcus Mariota.

12. New Orleans Saints - A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama

The Saints need help on defense, and a player like Robinson should help shore up their defensive line. Louisville's Sheldon Rankins is also a possibility, but Robinson just seems like the kind of player Sean Payton would fall in love with on film. He's been a productive player at the premier college football program in the country, but there's still clearly room to improve. I believe his upside is higher than Rankins, which is why the Saints select him here.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jack Conklin, OT/G, Michigan State

With the addition of Malik Jackson in free agency, the Jaguars likely won't spend a first round pick on a defensive lineman. With no safeties worthy of being drafted this high, and a player like Conklin still on the board, I think it's a no-brainer. Luke Joeckel has been a huge disappointment, but maybe a move to a different, less demanding position along the offensive line will help him develop, much like Robert Gallery years ago. Conklin should step in and be an upgrade from day one.

14. Oakland Raiders - Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Henry has been projected near the end of the first round or early in the second, but I think he's been undersold. Henry is as strong as a tank and a 4.54 40 time is very impressive for someone with his size. While it's true Eddie Lacy ran a 4.57, Henry is by all measures a much harder worker, making it less likely he'll pack on the pounds like Lacy has since being drafted. While Latavius Murray has been a good player when healthy, the Raiders could use some insurance and Henry has the potential to emerge as one of the game's better running backs.

15. Chicago Bears - Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

The Bears would be very happy if they were able to trade down to 15 and still land Lawson, the player they would have likely taken at 11 in this scenario anyway. Lawson has a chance to be an impactful player both against the run and pass, and for a Bears team that needs some impact pass rushers, Lawson could be a steal. It also gives the team some insurance for the Willie Young, should he leave via free agency after the season.

16. Detroit Lions - Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

The Lions need to replace Suh and Fairley with some real talent, and it was clear last season that Haloti Ngata is no longer the force he once was. Adding a player like Rankins to pair with Ngata for a season or two makes a lot of sense, and Rankins is likely to make some kind of impact as a rookie. He could possibly be the best defensive tackle in this class, which would be a great get at #16.

17. Atlanta Falcons - Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia

Floyd is one of the top remaining players on the board in this scenario, and he's a near perfect fit for what the Falcons are looking for. Players like Reggie Ragland or Darron Lee are also intriguing at this point, but I think Atlanta will take the kid who played in their own backyard.

18. Indianapolis Colts - Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

This spot seems a bit high for Kelly, but the Colts have made it clear they want to upgrade their interior offensive line. There's very little chance Kelly will be around the next time the Colts pick, and interior lineman that are as polished as Kelly tend to go higher than projected. Travis Frederick, the Cowboys all-pro center, was projected in the mid 50's when Dallas made him the #31 pick a few years ago. That's worked out very well, and Kelly is an even better prospect in my opinion. He also should make the team better from day one, something that's important to the team's GM, Ryan Grigson, after failing with so many other first round picks.

19. Buffalo Bills - Robert Nkemdiche, DT/DE, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche comes with a lot of off-the-field concerns which we won't rehash here. Once considered a potential top 5 pick, his pro-day and combine workouts showed he's not quite the athletic freak we thought. However, he's still a great athlete for his size, and we all know Rex Ryan likes guys that feel they've been under-appreciated elsewhere. If he comes in with a chip on his shoulder for falling to #19, the Bills will have a versatile and skilled player that Rex and Rob Ryan can move around to create havoc. Unless a better defender falls to this pick, I think this is a pretty safe bet despite some saying Nkemdiche is no longer a first round prospect.

20. New York Jets - Kevin Dodd, OLB, Clemson

Dodd had a great final collegiate season, and that kind of production should translate at least somewhat to the NFL. The Jets are in dire need of a 3-4 OLB to groom and develop, and Dodd's ability to at least be a third down pass rusher immediately make him a solid choice with a lot of upside. The team may prefer a different OLB, such as Darron Lee, but Dodd fits the team's scheme considerably better in my opinion.

21. Washington Redskins - Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

While the Redskins may have bigger needs, they still need to find a big play receiver to pair with Pierre Garcon on the outside. Jamison Crowder is best suited to be a slot receiver, and giving quarterback Kirk Cousins another speedy target like Coleman could really jump start the offense. With the team closing in on signing corner Josh Norman, adding someone like Eli Apple or William Jackson seems like overkill. A few defensive lineman would fit well in this spot as well, but ultimately I think adding someone like Coleman is too good of an opportunity to pass up.

22. Houston Texans - Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

DeAndre Hopkins is one of the premier receivers in football, and he's likely only going to get better with the strong-armed Brock Osweiler in the fold. Personally I think Fuller is likely to be a bust because of his high drop percentage in college, and usually players who can't catch don't ever learn how to do it. But he's a speedster that can take the top off the defense, and would benefit from playing with Osweiler and next to Hopkins. I also wouldn't be shocked to see the team draft Christian Hackenburg here, Bill O'Brien's former quarterback, but that seems like a waste of assets after giving Osweiler the contract they did. Fuller fills a need and adds speed to an offense that could really use some.

23. Minnesota Vikings - Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

The run on wide receivers continues. Treadwell would be the perfect fit for the Vikings offense, as he's a great short-intermediate receiver with the ability to turn short passes into big gains with his ability to break tackles. Unfortunately, in this situation he's long gone, but Doctson is a nice consolation prize. His ball skills are reminiscent of another former Vikings, Sidney Rice. With Teddy Bridgewater struggling to make accurate deep throws, it's crucial the team gets a receiver that can high point the ball and out-jump corners and safeties. I think Doctson is a better fit for the Vikings than Fuller or Coleman, as we saw the Mike Wallace experiment failed miserably due to Bridgewater's lack of elite arm strength. Bridgewater can be a good quarterback, but it's important to add the right kind of talent around him to maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. A left tackle like Taylor Decker is also a possibility here.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

Reed projects as a 3-4 defensive tackle at the next level, which makes the Bengals an odd fit on paper since they run a 4-3. However, Reed has the ability in my opinion to be a good player in either scheme, and pairing him with someone like Geno Atkins will make the Bengals defensive front very very good in the near future. While the team needs a receiver, in this scenario they'd watch all three of their targets get drafted right ahead of them. There's plenty of skilled receivers that should be available in the upcoming rounds.

**Trade** Pittsburgh sends the #25 and #123 picks to the Cleveland Browns for #32 and #77.

25. Cleveland Browns - Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The Steelers need to fill a few defensive holes, and getting another top 100 pick by moving down a few spots is a solid move. With both Denver and the Jets still in need of a quarterback, Cleveland decides to move up to #25 to be sure nobody else does it first. I believe Hue Jackson and company have one of the lower tier quarterbacks ranked very similar to Carson Wentz, which is why they were willing to trade down from #2. Lynch is a developmental prospect, even more so than Carson Wentz, but that's fine with Cleveland. RGIII will get a chance to revive his career, and when he inevitably fails to do so, Lynch may get some game reps by mid-season.

26. Seattle Seahwaks - Eli Apple, CB, OSU

Corner back is not a need position for Seattle, after adding Brandon Browner. However, Apple fits the mold of the big corners that Pete Carroll covets, and he's got good speed to boot. Browner only signed a one-year deal and hasn't been very good since leaving Seattle, so Apple could become Sherman's pairing mate on the other side. At this point in the draft, Apple would be a steal.

27. Green Bay Packers - William Jackson, CB, Houston

The worst team in football* needs a lot of help. It's unfortunate they can't draft a new coach, because the Packers keep winning in spite of the big blob, not because of him. Aaron Rodgers returning to full health is likely going to make him as dominant as he'd been in prior seasons, as well as Jordy Nelson's return. In this scenario, there aren't a lot of players worth drafting that fill a clear need. Jackson is the best player left on the board, and teams are always in need of more defensive backs.

*Of course they aren't the worst team, and they don't need a whole lot, but come on, I'm a Vikings fan. What'd you expect me to say?

28. Kansas City Chiefs - Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

The run on corners continues, as the Chiefs need to find a replacement for Sean Smith who left for Oakland via free agency. If Fuller had had an injury-free season, he likely would've been in the conversation with Vernon Hargreaves for the top corner after Jalen Ramsey. As it is, he's coming off an injury, and the Chiefs may very well steal another corner in the late first round one year after doing it with Marcus Peters.

29. Arizona Cardinals - Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

Arizona would love for Ryan Kelly to be available in this spot, but in this scenario he's long gone. The team could use a corner to pair next to Patrick Peterson, but with three straight corners taken ahead of them, the value simply isn't there. Bruce Arians knows Carson Palmer doesn't have a lot of years left, so getting someone like Cook who has a chance to develop into a good starter would make sense.

30. Carolina Panthers - Taylor Decker, LT, OSU

Decker falling to 30 might be a dream scenario for Carolina. While they clearly need a corner to replace Josh Norman now, rookie corners very rarely have an impact in their first season. The team can likely draft and develop one in the second or third round, as the depth is fairly good at that position. Decker is the best player remaining and fills a pretty glaring need for the Panthers, so this is a no-brainer in this situation.

31. Denver Broncos - Noah Spence, OLB/DE, Eastern Kentucky

The Broncos need a quarterback, but I think John Elway knows that no QB drafted in this spot is going to be a key contributor from day one. With all 4 first round quarterbacks gone by this point, Denver has the luxury of taking the best player available. Ohio State's Darron Lee is also an intriguing option, but ultimately drafting and developing Spence to replace the departed Malik Jackson long term seems like a smart move.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

The Steelers would have been tempted to take Billings at 25, so to land him at 32 after trading down would make them very happy. He could step in from day one and be a starter, and fills a huge need for the teams defensive line. A cornerback is also a possibility, but as mentioned previously, their aren't many corners remaining worthy of this draft spot in terms of value. Billings would be a steal with the first pick in the second round.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Chicago Ave Petitions For New Sports Team

Just days after the Minnesota Vikings ridiculous proposal to the city of Minneapolis in which they asked the city that already gave them more than $500M to change the name of a street, that street has now responded.

Below you will find the petition Chicago Avenue has filed with the city of Minneapolis, asking the city of Minneapolis to find a new team to play on their avenue.

To: Minneapolis City Planning Commission
CC: Minnesota Vikings

To whom it may concern,

It has recently come to our attention that your professional football team, the Minnesota Vikings, are petitioning for us to change our name. We understand it's only a three block area, but that's a part of us. We feel if you take this 3 block stretch away from us, we'll be empty inside, just like the beautiful trophy case you have at the new stadium.

We would like to petition the city of Minneapolis to consider relocating the Minnesota Vikings organization, along with all zero championships, to Chicago, and instead taking the Chicago Bears, along with their 9 (sort of) championships, and allowing them to play on the 3 block stretch you so lovingly call Chicago Avenue. We would retain Randy Moss.


Chicago Avenue

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Twins Miguel Sano Likely To Take A (Minor) Step Back

I love Miguel Sano. He's an amazing talent, he looks to have a great future, and the Twins have rarely had an elite power hitter. When he was in the minor leagues, a friend and I went to see him play on a rainy night. The stadium was mostly empty because of the weather, but Sano managed a monster game. He roped two balls off of the wall for doubles, had a hard single and a warning track sac fly. Thanks to the stadium being empty, we were able to shout at Sano to get his attention. Despite being a multi millionaire and playing in the game, he was always quick to acknowledge the shouting, smiling and clearly just enjoying the situation. When we left, Sano graciously waved goodbye to us while playing third base. It was refreshing to see someone who enjoyed the game and was just having fun, and wasn't so dead set on the "professional baseball" mentality.

Obviously it's easier to do that in the minors, but not everyone on his team was as fun. There were several Minnesota kids who my friend and I played with or against growing up and throughout high school; these players didn't even look up from the on deck circle when we yelled their names. And they were career minor leaguers who barely anyone knew anyway. Miguel Sano is a fun loving kid who truly enjoys the game.

However, despite my obsession with Sano, and his amazing half year last season, the numbers seem to suggest Sano is in for a slight decline this coming season. Let's dig a little deeper:

Sano hit .269/.385/.530 with 18 home runs in 80 games, while walking 53 times. Over a full season, that's 35+ home run power. His .916 OPS would have ranked 10th in baseball last season had he gotten enough at bats to qualify, right between Chris Davis and David Ortiz. Not bad company.

The prevailing thought is that Sano is poised to have an even better season this year. He's got more experience, he's had an entire off-season to prepare for the longer major league season, and he's not coming off a major injury so he shouldn't be as rusty as he was to begin last season.

Unfortunately, as good as Sano was last season, he was also extremely lucky on balls he put in play. He got more balls to drop than other major league hitters, as his BABIP was an unsustainable .396. That would have led all of baseball. The league average was nearly 100 points lower at .299.

Prior to last season, Danny Santana was expected to have a big season by those who refused to look at the advanced stats. Predicting Santana's 2015 struggles was actually fairly easy, though, because he had a terrible K:BB ratio in 2014, and he'd had a ridiculously high BABIP. His minor league track record also showed nothing similar to his 2014 breakout.

Miguel Sano is a much different player than Santana. Sano has been a great hitter at each level in the minors, so he's not going to struggle in the same kind of way Danny Santana did last season. Sano "coming back down to earth" is still a great player; Danny Santana was not.

Sano struck out 119 times in the 80 games he played last season, which is a ton. Strikeouts in general are overrated, and when paired with Sano's patience and power, it's not even really a red flag. Because a majority of Sano's outs are made via the strikeout, he will likely always have a BABIP above league average. That's simple math; since most of his outs won't be "put in play" he will have a higher than usual success rate when he does make contact. There's only so many outs any one player can make during the season.

If we give Sano a BABIP 25% above league average, he'd be around .350. While there's no guarantee Sano would be that much above average consistently, it's at least possible. That's a great number, but still quite a drop from his .396 a season ago. Even with his remarkably high .396 mark, he still hit just .269 for the year. A drop to .350 with the same power, walk and strikeout rates could see Sano's slash line decline from .269/.385/.530 a season ago to something closer to .260/.378/.515.

To me, that slash line represents Sano's most likely best case scenario. There's a chance he could improve his strikeout or walk rate, but it'd be very difficult for him to improve his power output. His isolated power last season was a spectacular .262, which would have ranked 9th in baseball. Bryce Harper's ridiculous season led the league with a .319 mark, but in 2014 Edwin Encarcion led the league with a .278 ISO rating. Isolated power is basically a measure of the players raw power. We all know Sano has a ton of raw power, but expecting him to be top 5 in baseball in his second season might be expecting too much.

Because of Sano's talent level, an improvement isn't impossible, just unlikely. Even if he regresses closer to a .245 ISO mark, he's still going to be a great player. However, that would move his slash line even lower; something like .260/.378/.500. Posting an .878 OPS in his second season would still be great and nothing to be ashamed of. He'd almost certainly be the Twins best hitter with that stat line.

He's also going to have to learn a new position as the Twins plan to play him in the outfield this year. I don't really agree that moving positions is much of a distraction, especially for someone with Sano's makeup, but it's at least possible he struggles in the outfield and it carries over to the offensive side of the ball. I doubt it will make a difference though.

The only point I'm trying to get across is that Sano is unlikely to improve upon his rookie season slash line in 2016, simply because he had a lot of things go in his favor last year. A Danny Santana like decline is impossible in my opinion; a 10% or less decline is the most likely outcome.

So while the rest of Twins fans are insisting Sano is set to jump into the MVP conversation as early as this season, remember a slight decline is more likely than any kind of improvement. A more realistic timeline would be the 2018 season, but if Sano continues to mash like he has at every level, a .950 OPS in the 2017 season is a distinct possibility. I just don't see it happening this season.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Richard Pitino Screws Up Again

The Gophers basketball team is terrible. There's no debating that, as they remain winless in big ten play in mid-February and possess just six wins all season. Poor recruiting classes over the years coupled with very little on court improvement has left this roster full of borderline division one basketball players at best. (And Jordan Murphy, who looks great.)

As always seems to be the case, though, Gophers fans are excited for the future. The team has the 20th ranked recruiting class for 2016, including Amir Coffey, a very good in-state recruit that had plenty of other interest across the country. Despite the team's horrible performance this season, including Nate Mason's declining play, freshman Jordan Murphy looks like a potential star in the future. Stealing him away from VCU when Shaka Smart bolted for Texas was a great move by little Pitino and his staff.

Unfortunately, while Pitino seems to be finally hitting his groove on the recruiting trail, he continues to look lost as a head basketball coach. His in-game decisions have been questionable since day one, including pressing at the wrong times and with the wrong personnel*. There's no real set offense, which is a necessity when you don't have great scoring players on the roster. Dribble hand offs and pick and rolls won't get it done in a major division one conference. It worked in the NIT in his first season, thanks in part to upper classmen that had some semblance of an offense while Tubby was here. It also helped that the team was hardly playing elite talent in the JV tournament.

*In the team's last game, against Iowa, Pitino chose to waste the teams final timeout with 2:28 to go after the Gophers made a basket to cut Iowa's lead to 5. Pitino wanted to set up his press, but to use the last timeout your team has with that much time remaining was idiotic. The Gophers eventually managed to cut the lead to 74-71 with 2 seconds left, but had no timeouts to set up their press. A comeback was unlikely even with a timeout, but it was much more valuable in that situation than with 2:28 left. It was baffling for a basketball coach to make such a poor decision, although football coaches do it every week too. Clock management shouldn't be as hard as coaches make it.

Even worse than in his in-game coaching, though, is his handling of upper classmen who have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Late in the 2014 season, Pitino's first year, the team made it clear to junior Oto Osenieks that they didn't want him back for his senior season. To be fair, Osenieks was terrible and had no business being a division one basketball player. The team began to tell the press Oto wouldn't be back because of a knee injury, but they were going to continue to help him graduate and allow him to help with day-to-day things with the team in what would have been his senior season. Basically he'd be a graduate assistant, without actually having graduated yet. Of course, the truth was the team wanted to open the scholarship slot in case they were able to find a recruit, and this was the only way for Oto to save face in the press without looking like he was kicked off the team.

Even though Oto was a Tubby Smith recruit, Pitino should have done right by the kid and honored the scholarship. If you're going to be as ruthless as Pitino and his staff were with Oto when it comes to scholarships, you need to be sure you are landing elite recruits**. The team's 2014 class has been a huge disappointment, and while they are all better players than Oto, doing what they did to Oto to gain a scholarship should have received much more criticism than it did.

**It's worth noting the team applied for a waiver to allow Oto to stay on scholarship, having his senior year paid for, without counting against the team's limit. So while they screwed him out of a basketball roster spot he had been promised, they did at least try to keep him in school. Minor consolation for being treated like garbage, if you ask me.

Fast forward to the mess that is this season, and Pitino again has mishandled an upper classmen who's fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. It's worth noting that I agree wholeheartedly with Carlos Morris playing as little as possible the rest of the season. He's a senior, who frankly isn't very good, and the team has no chance at anything this season. The rest of the season should be used to give even more young players some court time to allow them to get better and see what the team might have for next season.

However, Pitino had to understand that a senior captain wasn't going to just be okay with giving up his minutes to an even worse freshman or sophomore. In Morris' eyes, the season is already lost, and it's the final few weeks of his basketball career. He will never play a meaningful game again after this season. The least his coach could do would be to let him play out the last few weeks after the all work he's put in for himself and his teammates since he arrived in Minnesota last year.

Morris reportedly got into a "heated exchange" with Pitino leading up to this week's game against Maryland, and Pitino subsequently kicked him off the team for conduct detrimental to the team. It's hard to know for sure who's at fault without knowing exactly what was said, but Richard Pitino needs to understand he needs to have a thicker skin for these types of situations. Instead of dealing with a senior being benched all year, the team chose to give Oto's scholarship to a young player. Instead of understanding that a senior captain getting his minutes reduced would naturally anger the player, Pitino expected Morris to just take the demotion, like Joey King has. The only problem is Joey King is likely just as angry--he's just one of the rare good kids who isn't going to cause a problem. More athletes would react the way Morris did than Joey King has. That's just the fact of the matter, and part of being a college basketball coach.

Unless Morris threatened Pitino or his family or something crazy like that, Pitino should have swallowed his pride, understood that Morris has been part of one of the most frustrating Gopher seasons in school history, and let him clear his chest. By all accounts, Morris is a quiet, soft-spoken young man. So for him to go off on Pitino is more a sign of anger and frustration than a character flaw that could hurt the team. Even if Morris called Pitino the worst coach of all time, or said he was a racist--there's no reason to kick a kid off the team with 6 games left in his career for yelling at you at practice, behind closed doors. While the team again insisted he would remain on scholarship and they'd do everything in their power to help him graduate, they have done the exact opposite by kicking him off the team. With three months left in the semester, there's a chance Morris will just say screw this, I'm sick of this place, and leave without ever graduating. While that outcome remains unlikely, the odds have increased greatly with the dismissal from the team.

Pitino should have simply let Morris vent, say what he had to say, and then simply benched him for the remaining games until senior night. Instead, Pitino has set a dangerous precedent for future Gopher teams. If he continues to improve his recruiting classes, and the team is by some miracle landing top recruits, there will be several kids who won't always agree with the coach, and a few who will let him know it. Is Pitino going to treat a top recruit the same way he treated Carlos Morris? Will an elite recruit be kicked off the team? I doubt it. What kind of message does that send to the players that saw Carlos Morris get kicked off the team? If you were a better player, you could talk like that to me? And if Pitino does kick off an elite recruit for talking back to him, the team will continue to suck. It's just getting embarrassing to root for a team that repeatedly screws up every major decision.

If Pitino was really doing what was "best for the kids" as he insists on the recruiting trail over and over, Morris would still be on the team. He's doing what's best for him, which means if he does manage to turn the program around, he's going to leave as soon as a better offer comes his way. I'm not sure he's a good enough coach to actually turn this program around, but I am sure he won't stay around very long after. He's in this for himself. I feel bad for Amir Coffey.

There's no solution, either. If the team fires Pitino after the season, they owe him a $7 million buyout, and would potentially lose their top 25 recruiting class. Pitino is here to stay at least through next season. It's a mess that former AD and proven pervert Norwood Teague got the Gophers into, and to be honest, they deserve it. It's just a shame Pitino is as slimy and underhanded as is his father and the AD that hired him. Say what you want about Tubby Smith, but he always looked out for the kids. I'm not sure Pitino really cares.



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