October 17, 2011

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Five NFL Trades That Should Happen

By: Anson Whaley

Sure, NFL trades aren’t all that frequent. While we as fans pay strict attention to the MLB, NBA, and NHL trade deadlines, the NFL cutoff date generally comes and goes without much fanfare. Seriously, before this week, did you have any idea that the trade deadline is Tuesday? If you did, the chances are good that you’re probably an agent, a GM, or a player.

That said, there are some moves that should happen – moves that could make teams better in the short or long run. Here are five players that should be moved in exchange for a draft pick.

5. WR Eddie RoyalDenver Broncos to Carolina Panthers: Eddie Royal’s name is one of the most widely heard when the trade deadline comes up. Royal had an extremely productive rookie year in 2008 catching 91 passes for just under 1,000 yards, but since then, has dropped off a bit – particularly with the emergence of other receivers over the years such as Brandon Lloyd and the departed Jabar Gaffney. At 25, though, Royal still should have plenty of productivity left and would make a nice target for rookie Cam Newton in Carolina who could use another wideout.

4. CB Asante SamuelPhiladelphia Eagles to St. Louis Rams: The Rams’ secondary is in need of a major boost. Arguably their top three cornerbacks, Ron Bartell, Jerome Murphy, and Bradley Fletcher, are injured and the team needs to shore up that position. Sure, the Rams aren’t likely to contend this year, but Samuel is only 30 and is still capable of being a contributor for several more seasons. The Eagles’ defense has struggled this season, but mediocre linebacker play has been a big factor in that. And with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, the team can afford to move one of their cornerbacks. Trading Samuel to a team such as the New York Giants might make more sense, but I couldn’t see the Eagles allowing him to go to a division rival.

3. RB Joseph AddaiIndianapolis Colts to Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Addai’s had injury issues the past few years, but when healthy, he’s more than capable of being an adequate running back. Tampa Bay may not win the NFC South, but they could have a shot at a Wild Card. Leading rusher LeGarrette Blount is injured, but more than that, the Bucs could use some help in the backfield. Addai is injured himself, so he may not be immediately available himself. But a second back would provide some insurance for the team should one of them go down later in the season. Indianapolis has young running backs Delone Carter and Donald Brown on the roster and can afford to part with Addai at this point as he’s been solid, but unspectacular.

2. WR Brandon Lloyd – Denver Broncos to San Francisco 49ers: Raise your hand if you expected the 49ers to not only get off to a good start this season, but look like one of the league’s better teams at 5-1. Even San Francisco fans were probably hard pressed to expect the team’s hot start. But now that the 49ers appear to be for real, it’s time they add another receiver to the mix. Enter Brandon Lloyd, who had more than 1,400 receiving yards last season with the Broncos. Lloyd is also familiar with the area having played with San Francisco in his first three seasons. He’s a veteran and can provide immediate help to rejuvenated quarterback Alex Smith. Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn have been serviceable at wide receiver, but adding a steady veteran to the team in Lloyd would go a long way to helping the team not only reach the playoffs, but make some noise once they get there.

1. QB Carson PalmerCincinnati Bengals to Seattle Seahawks: The Carson Palmer/Cincinnati saga hasn’t gone as expected for Palmer, who probably believed he would eventually have his trade request fulfilled. Six games into the season and Palmer is still sitting out while rookie Andy Dalton has taken the reins for the Bengals’ offense. Seriously, though, this is helping no one. Palmer would be better served by being able to play elsewhere and Cincinnati could get something in return for him. A move to Seattle might be ideal for Palmer who could help the Seahawks contend in the mediocre NFC West. He would also be reunited with former USC coach Pete Carroll and is an upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson.

September 13, 2011

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Handing Out The Hardware

By: Joe Williams

With the baseball season coming to an end in a couple weeks, some MLB players are still battling it out for the post-season awards. Here are my picks.

American League

MVP

There is no doubt in my mind that Justin Verlander has been the most valuable player to his team. He is 22-5 with a 2.44 ERA and 232 strikeouts in 229 innings. That puts him on pace for 25 wins and over 250 strikeouts. The Tigers are 23-8 in games he started and have all but clinched the A.L. Central title, leading the White Sox and Indians by 11.5 games. Take him out of that rotation and Detroit likely doesn’t even make the playoffs. The question is whether the voters will give the award to a pitcher. It hasn’t happened since 1992.

Other contenders: Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury

Cy Young

While Verlander may not get the votes for MVP, he will certainly get the votes for the Cy Young award. The Tigers ought to give him some rest once they have clinched the division title so he will be fresh for the playoffs. If that happens, his numbers won’t be as impressive as they could be, but he will still win in a landslide.

Other contenders: Jered Weaver, James Shields, C.C. Sabathia

Rookie of the Year

You can make a good argument for a few players to be the MLB Rookie of the Year. I’m going with Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners. He is just 9-10 on the season, but it’s not his fault he is on a bad team. If he were pitching for the Yankees, his record would look more like the 15-4 that Ivan Nova has. He has a 3.72 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and averages more than a strikeout an inning.

Other contenders: Eric Hosmer, Ivan Nova, Mark Trumbo, Jeremy Hellickson

National League

MVP

It’s always an interesting debate when one team has multiple MVP candidates. Ryan Braun leads the league in hitting at .331 and slugging at .579 with 27 HR, 96 RBI, 97 runs and 31 steals. He is near the top of all the statistical categories. He has helped carry the Brewers to a big lead in the N.L. Central. His chances to win MVP will depend on how many votes his teammate Prince Fielder takes away from him.

Other contenders: Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, Justin Upton, Ryan Howard

Cy Young

This comes down to three players and I’ll give the nod to Cliff Lee. It’s pretty much a tossup with Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay. All three have similar records, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Lee is 6-0 with a 0.49 ERA in his last seven starts. He’s had 11 starts where he pitched at least seven shutout innings. There has been 31 shutouts in the N.L. Lee has six of them. Nobody else has more than two.

Other contenders: Ian Kennedy

Could this player win the Cy Young Award?

 

Rookie of the Year

Craig Kimbrel is having one of the great seasons of all time for a reliever, let alone doing it as a rookie. He is tied for the major league lead with 43 saves. He converted 25 consecutive save chances while making 38 straight scoreless appearances. His strikeout rate of 14.8 per nine innings is one of the best all time for a MLB pitcher who has thrown at least 70 innings.

Other contenders: Freddie Freeman, Vance Worley

September 7, 2011

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Is it October yet?

By: Joe Williams

Do you know what Zach Stewart did last night? The Chicago White Sox pitcher flirted with history as he mowed down the Minnesota Twins lineup for seven perfect innings. Danny Valencia broke up the bid for a perfect game with an eighth-inning double and Stewart finished the game with a one-hitter.

With all the excitement surrounding the start of the college football and NFL seasons, and the absence of compelling pennant races in baseball, a performance like that can go under the radar. This month of September will be full of meaningless (unless you qualified for the playoffs in your MLB  fantasy baseball league) games. Can’t we just skip ahead to October and start the playoffs already?

Look at the MLB standings and you will see that the Yankees or Red Sox will win the A.L. East and the top seed and the other will be the Wild Card team. Does it really make a difference who wins the MLB division to anyone other than New York and Boston fans? Is it October yet?

 

Barring a major collapse, Detroit is going to win the A.L. Central. The way Justin Verlander has been pitching; he could win enough games by himself in September to get the Tigers to the post-season. Is it October yet?

The only spot that is really in doubt is in the A.L. West. The Rangers lead the Angels by 2.5 games. They will meet in Anaheim for the last three games of the MLB regular season. Let’s just hope a playoff berth comes down to that.

The story is pretty much the same in the N.L. The Phillies are running away with the East and the top seed, the Braves are running away with the Wild Card and Milwaukee is running away with the N.L. Central. Even the surprising Diamondbacks have built a seven-game lead over San Francisco. Is it October yet?

There has been talk of expanding the MLB playoffs and adding another Wild Card team in each league. That would at least give the last few weeks of the MLB season some intrigue. Tampa Bay would be in a battle with the A.L. West runner-up and the Giants and Cardinals would be tied for the final MLB playoff spot. That doesn’t help this year though. Is it October yet?

The MLB baseball season is too long. Playoff baseball has a tough time competing with college football and the NFL. Regular season games have no chance. The powers that be are not going to shorten the MLB season because fewer games = less money but I hope something happens to add some meaning to the end of the season whether it is expanding the playoffs or changing the format or maybe even realignment. I’m ready for the MLB playoffs to begin. Is it October yet?

August 17, 2011

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Jim Thome’s 600 Home Runs – and Hall of Fame?

By: Rick Jarrell

On Monday, Jim Thome entered one of the most exclusive clubs in sports. Thome has joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa as the only professional baseball players to hit 600 home runs (and surprisingly, the only full-time 1B/DH). Logically, the next question on the minds of MLB fans, is whether or not Thome is worthy of a MLB Hall of Fame induction.

The so-called “steroid era” has placed a dark shadow on baseball over the past 20 years, especially power hitters like Thome. Hall of Fame voters are especially critical when it comes to looking past the indecencies of the recent era. Unlike others members of the 600 home run club, he has never been directly accused or exposed as a user of performance enhancing drugs. Will Hall voters make an exception? Here’s why they should.

Could Thome become a Hall of Famer after this milestone?

High At Bats/Home Run Ratio

Thome has one of the lowest AB/Home Run Ratios in Major League Baseball history. The only players ahead of him are Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Ryan Howard, and Barry Bonds. The MLB players directly behind him include Harmon Killebrew, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and fellow former Philadelphia Phillies Mike Schmidt. Excluding McGwire and Howard, all are current Hall of Famers. Very esteemed company if you ask me.

High OPS

As most power hitters achieve, Thome has a high career slugging percentage of .588. Not only does Thome hit a lot of dingers, but he also gets on base a lot, with a .400 career on base percentage. That’s a 147 OPS+, i.e. slugging percentage + on base percentage adjusted for league and park factors, ranked 41st in history.

Thome also gets a lot of free passes. He’s gained more than 1,700 walks in his career, good enough for 8th all time, and makes up for his tendency to strike out (Believe me, I know. When he was still in Cleveland, it always felt like he was either hitting a home run, walking, or striking out).

Modest Attitude

Personally I don’t think this should be factored in. The Hall of Fame is about your on field performance, not your actions and/or attitude off the field. Having said that, I get a sense the voters – a bunch of old school writers – place more importance on this than they should, based on their reaction to the “steroid era.”

If that’s the case, it will only help Thome. He’s the youngest of four brothers, grew up competing heavily with them, drinking a lot of milk, still lives in his hometown, and generally regarded as one of the nicest players in baseball – he makes a point to learn as many MLB stadium workers’ names as he can. All of this may not matter, and doesn’t have much to do with this article, but these are many of the reasons I’ve always liked him as a player and a person, even after he ditched my beloved Indians for Philadelphia. Thome is as classy as they get. He deserves the Hall nod.

If Thome doesn’t make it in, it’s likely due to one thing. During the latter part of his career, he’s been relegated to mostly DH duties due to various injuries – he was actually an above average first basemen during his early days in Cleveland. It’s unclear how voters perceive designated hitters, but if Edgar Martinez is an indication, it serves as a negative for the player.

August 2, 2011

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MLB Trade Deadline Winners

By: Joe Williams

 The MLB landscape changed with a flurry of activity in the last few days leading up to the trade deadline. Some teams were able to load up for a playoff run while others tried to unload contracts to build for the future. 

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee made the first move and added Francisco Rodriguez to the bullpen for a team that went all in to win this year when they acquired Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to the starting rotation. They also picked up Felipe Lopez to replace the injured Rickie Weeks. With a seven game winning streak, the Brewers have created some separation from the rest of the pack in the NL Central.

Toronto Blue Jays and Colby Rasmus

Although they are too far back to really be in the race in the American League, Toronto landed Colby Rasmus from St. Louis and may have their starting center fielder for the next decade. Rasmus should be glad to leave St. Louis after having problems with manager Tony La Russa.

San Francisco Giants

The defending World Series champions added the biggest bat out there to a lineup that desperately needed a big bat. They proved last year they can pitch their way to a championship. Repeating that task just got a bit easier.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies always seem to land a big fish and they did it again. Already considered the favorites in the NL to reach the World Series because of the four big guns in the starting rotation, Philadelphia didn’t have to make a deal. But adding an outfielder hitting .305 with 11 home runs and 63 RBI isn’t a bad idea.

Texas Rangers

Texas scored two of the best setup men in baseball with Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. They have combined to strikeout 111 batters in 95 innings while allowing just 17 walks this season. If they continue to pitch like that, the Rangers will be tough to beat in October.

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland surprised everyone with a major move. They gave up a lot to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez. But he gives them a shot to hang in the AL Central all season and for the next two years. With the Browns and Cavaliers struggling, Cleveland fans need something to cheer about and the Indians gave it to them.

Atlanta Braves

Michael Bourn is a nice consolation prize for a team that lost out on Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran. His speed will totally revamp the top of the Atlanta lineup. He has nearly as many steals (32) as the entire Braves roster (42). He also plays tremendous defense in center.

Pittsburgh Pirates

They did what they had to do. When a team is as bad as the Pirates have been for as long as the Pirates have been, they have to win the fans back. By adding Derrick Lee and Ryan Ludwick, the Pirates improved a little without giving up the young talent they have been developing. It is a long shot for Pittsburgh to come out on top in the NL Central race, but they showed the fans they are trying while really looking ahead to the next couple years.