Saturday, January 07, 2006

Playoffs?!? Playoffs?!? We Can't Be Thinking of the Playoffs!

As maybe three of you know, I started picking a few NFL games per week back in September. That fizzled out, mainly because I pick games like a drunk girl at a party picks her hookup (seems like everyone has an analogy for how bad their NFL picks are).

But the playoffs are different. There only a handful of games, so more information is available on them. It’s easier to break everything down to the simplest parts, take in circumstance and intangibles, and basically formulate a reason why you’re making these picks. Having a full week to mull this information is also helpful (to some – I know that people have a tendency to over-think these kinds of things and make picks based on inane figures).

So after a week of flip-flopping on all but one game, I’ve come to grips with who I’m finally putting the cash down on (and yes, I’m doing the whole home team in caps thing, and no, I’m not predicting the score).

Washington (+2.5) over TAMPA BAY
Over at ESPN.com, Bill Simmons has labored through writer’s block and a tumultuous playoff scene to provide some of the best playoff analysis I’ve seen. He doesn’t lean on numbers, just on observations and precedent. Anyway, in the prelude to his playoff picks, he provides readers with his Playoff Manifesto, in which he goes over mandatory rules for picking playoff games.

Unfortunately, many of his rules find harsh conflicts in this game. For further misfortune, his first rule is to never back a crappy QB on the road, and Mark Brunell fits nicely into that crappy QB mold. So picking Washington isn’t a wise idea right off the bat. But when you look at the QB matchup, Brunell starts to look a bit less crappy, since he’s being compared to Chris Simms, who is making his first playoff appearance. So there’s hope for the ‘Skins after all.

The real clincher here is Washington’s late season surge. They showed flashes early in the year, but couldn’t string a ton of wins together. But by the end, they put it all together, and are riding quite a streak now, which makes me scared to bet against them. And once I look at the coaching match-ups, the decision becomes obvious. I do realize that Chucky has a ring, but it wasn’t with a team he built. Gibbs is the more solid choice in my opinion, and he had to have some part in the ‘Skins’ current five-game winning streak.

And, sticking with Simmons’s rules (RULE NO. 10: Only pick an underdog or a road team if you're convinced it has a chance to win the game outright), I’m going with Washington, absent the spread.

NEW ENGLAND (-7.5) over Jacksonville
This one was my lock pick. I realize that the spread is a bit tough to swallow, but I also think that the Patriots are clearly the better team, at least to the point where I’d take them with a 7.5 point handicap. In reality, I’m making this pick because the Pats have reached Atlanta Braves status, in that I’m betting on them until they lose.

To help cement my reasoning, I looked at the teams records in the past six weeks. Jacksonville was 5-1, which would make picking against them tough if their wins weren’t against Arizona, Cleveland, San Fran, Houston, and Tennessee (with the sole loss coming at the hands of the then undefeated Indy). And while I realize that New England’s last six wasn’t overly impressive – wins against Buffalo, Tampa Bay, and two against the Jets with losses at Kansas City and a mailed-in game against Miami – it still looks better than the bottom feeding Jaguars.

The clincher: Belichick vs. DelRio. Sorry, folks, I just can’t justify Jacksonville in any way.

NEW YORK (-2.5) over Carolina
This one gave me a bit of difficulty. As recently as yesterday, I was siding with the Panthers, but a few things have changed my view. Most notably, I only want to pick one road underdog, and I feel more comfortable with Washington over Tampa than Carolina over New York.

The Panthers playoff experience can’t be overlooked, either, especially when compared with New York’s complete lack thereof. They have a young QB making his first appearance, and a defense that’s shaky at best when you get past the D line.

But the Giants have one thing that the gives them an instant advantage: Tiki Barber. He’s gone from near-pariah after his 2003 fumble riddled season to arguably the best back in the NFL. The Panthers may have a top-flight defense, but Barber turned in some solid games against some of the top-ranked rushing defenses – 220 yards vs. Kansas City, ranked seventh against the run (98.1 ypg); 151 against Seattle, ranked fifth (94.4 ypg).

The clincher: the evenly matched nature of the game. The fourth-ranked Giants offense against the third-ranked Carolina D, and the 22nd ranked Carolina offense against the 24th ranked Giants D. With that in mind, I’m definitely going with the home team.

CINCINNATI (+3) over Pittsburgh
Yet another shaky decision, but I feel more comfortable with it after talking at length with a Steelers fan on Thursday. Basically, his whole reason for a Pittsburgh victory revolved around the Bengals playing poorly. And, to his credit, the Bengals haven’t exactly inspired faith over the last two weeks.

The loss to Buffalo I can’t justify. I mean, even the freakin’ Jets beat those guys. But every team has an aberration loss, and that one was Cincy’s. As for last week’s trouncing at the hands of Kansas City, well, that’s what you get when your starters play for a quarter. That’s like judging a team based on their third preseason game. Add in the Vermeil factor (you can’t tell me the Chiefs weren’t playing their hearts out for their retiring coach), and it was obvious that Kansas City was winning that one.

In yet another general statistical match-up, it’s the Bengals sixth ranked offense (358.1 ypg) against Pittsburgh’s fourth ranked defense (283.5 ypg) and the Steelers 15th ranked offense against Cincinnati’s 28th ranked D. That looks to favor Pitt, but remember that the stats are skewed by Cincy’s last two games.

When the best reason a Steelers fan can come up with is, “we beat them on the road, they beat us on the road, and we’re on the road for this game,” I feel safe taking the underdog home team.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Herman Addendum

I didn’t have any time to write this morning, so I was just going to take the day off and come back with something on Monday. But I just have to follow up on the Herman Edwards saga.

Turns out, the Chiefs are set to send a fourth rounder to New York as compensation for Herm, which is obviously contingent upon he and the Chiefs coming to terms on a contract. All the sudden, I’m miffed at this deal.

While I wrote my thoughts yesterday, I was under the impression that the Jets would be getting first day picks for Herm, which I thought was certainly worth the sacrifice. Obviously, I took the whole “the Chiefs gave up a second and third for Vermeil” thing too far. And in reality, I should have stepped back and rethought the situation, since Herm doesn’t have nearly the track record Vermeils has/had.

And now, a measly fourth rounder is all the Jets will receive. This, my friends, irks me to no end. The Coaching Carousel is in full effect, with seven current coaching vacancies, and the Jets help fill someone else’s – while creating one of their own – for a freakin’ fourth rounder.

What irks me even more is that Donnie Henderson’s name hasn’t really come up as a possible replacement, at least in any major media source. Jim Haslett has been mulled, but quite honestly, all you need to do is look at his talented Saints teams for my opinion on him. Sure, Aaron Brooks’s lack of focus and inability to make quick decisions may have inadvertently sabotaged the Haslett Era in New Orleans, but I still think he could have done better with the teams he was given. Underachieving coaches need not apply.

I’m sure the team doesn’t plan to interview Mike Tice, Dom Capers, Norv Turner, or Mike Sherman, as it is all but common knowledge that they won’t be landing another gig for next year. I heard Jim Fassel’s name thrown around, but I’ve read up plenty on him, and for the most part it’s negative. Mike Martz is the final fired coach, but since he’s an offensive minded coach, I doubt he’d be attracted to the Jets lack of ball movement (not to mention an aging half back and a quarterback with a girl arm).

My No. 1 suggestion: Jim Johnson from Philly. Sure, he’s a geezer, but he’s always the best available coach in Madden

Seriously, though. Current Giants D coordinator Tim Lewis has been a name thrown around, and if the Jets aren’t ready/willing to promote Henderson, this is the guy they should go for. That may irk Henderson, since they’d be hiring a defensive coordinator as head coach when they already have a promotable one in-house, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I’m not Jets brass; I don’t know what they think of Donnie. I just think it would be a mistake to not promote him now and watch him leave for another team after next year – or hell, even this year (I’ve heard his name in connection with the Saints).

As I said yesterday, 2006 is undoubtedly a retooling year, and the Jets need to come to grips with that as well. Hire Henderson, let him feel his way through 2006, and have a viable roster and coach ready for 2007.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Gimme Gimme Gimme Draft Picks

It’s a football kinda day, and I’m in a football kinda mood. It may be because the BCS finished up with two games that were played among equals. But it’s mostly because the New York Jets are making headlines.

(Note: I’d do a schtick on the Rose Bowl, but if you didn’t see it, there’s no way to describe just how awesome that game was. Almost the complete antithesis of last year’s National Championship.)

ESPN is reporting (among others) that the Chiefs are in discussions with the Jets regarding compensation for current Jets Coach Herman Edwards.

This has been a story in the making since early in the season, when Herm was looking down after his team started off pitifully and the annual Dick Vermeil retirement discussion commenced. A few sources, including my personal favorite Pro Football Talk, were even reporting a meeting between Edwards and Chiefs GM Carl Peterson a few weeks back, when the Chiefs were in town to face the Giants and the Jets were lagging behind before catching a plane to Miami.

Honestly, I like Herm. He seems like a good guy with good intentions, and has the mental toughness to handle an NFL team. However, if offered draft picks to pry him away, I’d jump on it 100 out of 100 times. I realize that a coach isn’t exactly an expendable commodity in today’s NFL (see: Black Monday), but I also realize that the Jets have about 50 holes to plug and could use all the draft help they can get – especially in a draft heavy in offensive linemen.

Unfortunately, ESPN’s Len “Iguado” Pasquarelli is reporting that a first-rounder won’t be part of any pick package sent to the Jets. That made me think about it a bit longer, but if the compensation is similar to what the Chiefs gave up to acquire Vermeil from the Rams – a second and third rounder – then I still say do it. Acquiring the additional draft picks may allow the Jets to slide back into the first round for a second dip, possible to pick Memphis HB DeAngelo Williams or Minnesota HB Laurence Maroney.

The biggest problem with this scenario as I see it is Herm’s replacement. There is a glut of coaches seeking employment, and it would be easy to grab one of them based on their coaching experience. But my feeling is that the Jets must resist the temptation of the Mariuccis and the Hasletts. Remember, these canned coaches don’t inspire much optimism. There is only one coach in NFL history who was canned and then proceeded to win a Super Bowl: Bill Belichick.

Then who should be Herm’s successor? I submit to you one name: Donnie Henderson. He’s got a similar demeanor to Edwards, in that he’s a motivational kinda guy who won’t take crap from his players. Some may question his ability to control a full team by citing the scrum between the Jets and the Jints back in August. But really, Donnie was just trying to get his guys fired up to play some football, get their emotional juices flowing. He knows that there’s more to the game than raw talent, and he’s trying methods to harness that intangible power known as emotion.

The only snag I see in promoting Henderson is the hole he would leave at defensive coordinator. Defense is the Jets most valuable commodity, and to insert an incapable coordinator there could be detrimental to 2006. I’m not really familiar with the defensive position coaches out there, so I can’t really comment on the coaching pool, but GM Terry Bradway snagged Henderson for the vacancy left by Ted “Overstayed My Welcome” Cottrell, so I have faith that he can pull a similar move this time around.

Another selling point for Henderson is that even if he’s not fully ready to coach in 2006, it shouldn’t matter all that much. I really don’t expect the Jets to march into the playoffs next season, so maybe handing Henderson the reins in a season with dwindled expectations will help him ease into the job, gain experience, and be ready for a retooled team in 2007. I know teams shouldn’t be thinking like this; winning NOW should always be high on the priority list. But sometimes you need to take a step back, assess your current standing, and eat a season or two. With the salary cap, it’s difficult if not impossible to field a winning team every year. So why not step back, change a few inefficient parts, break in a coach, and prepare to storm back into the playoffs in 2007?

This makes more sense when you consider the Jets salary situation. They have $120 million committed to 2006, but that includes certain cap casualties such as CB Ty Law. Using 2006 as a retooling year would also allow the Jets to reduce that number significantly heading into the 2007 off-season.

But if the Jets are to retool for 2007, this year’s NFL draft will be integral. With the No. 4 pick, the Jets should undoubtedly draft Ohio State LB A.J. Hawk. After that, it’s a matter of what the team can get for Herm and John Abraham, who certainly won’t be wearing green in 2006. A second rounder should be adequate compensation, and if they get a two and three for Herm, the Jets should be in prime position to slide into the end of the first for D. Williams AND still have a second rounder available for a guy like LSU OT Andrew Whitworth.

A few other names thrown my way that I like, based mostly on suggestions from my buddy Scott: Antonio Cromartie, the 6’3 CB from Florida State, and Leonard Pope, the 6’7 TE from Georgia.

Sorry to see you go, Herm, but I’m quite happy that we’re being more than adequately compensated.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sifting Through Crap

I love baseball. I love writing. If I had my pick of professions, ballplayer would be No. 1 and writer would be No. 2. But since I’m not athletically adept, No. 1 is right out of the picture. So it’s only logical that I am in hot pursuit of No. 2, and it makes even more sense that I’m trying to write about baseball.

The problem with this is simple supply and demand. There is a diminishing demand for sportswriters, since no one reads anymore. And since the Internet provides absolutely anyone with a forum to express his or her ideas, the supply of sports writing suitors has snowballed into infinity.

It seems that the only way to make a name for one’s self in this field is to go out on a limb, find an edge and stick to it. I’m still trying to find my edge, and am trying to be as patient as possible. No sense in forcing myself into something I don't fully agree with. This is all coming together in a minute, I swear.

One thing I’ll never do on this space: fabricate information to gain readership. I realize that the Internet is a breeding ground for deception and dishonesty, and that plenty of readership can be gained by making up a few juicy rumors that will never come to fruition.

The preceding four paragraphs all lead up to one idea: Gotham Baseball (www.gothambaseball.com, and I refuse to hyperlink to it) is the sorriest excuse for a baseball website on the Internet. Sorrier even than the Sporting Brews, if that’s possible.

My flirtations with GB began a mere week or so ago, when Boston Dirt Dogs linked to their rumor mill, which reported a four-way blockbuster in the making. I found this rumor so intriguing and uncharacteristically plausible that I even penned a few words on the subject.

It took a jab from Peter Gammons to wake me up:

"Trading Ramirez to Baltimore -- which would also include Matt Clement -- for Miguel Tejada could be determined later this week. It has long been fueled on the Tejada end by his close friend, David Ortiz. It does not in any way include a four-way creation of a Mets fan's Internet fantasy."


So here’s a guy with actual connections to actual Major League officials completely dispelling any four-way trade rumors. Sorry, GB, but I think Peter Gammons’s word is worth just a smidge more than yours.

I could have just sworn off the site after reading this, dismissing them as a bunch of jokers. But, upon revisiting Dirt Dogs this morning, I saw yet another link to GB, this time proposing a three-team deal that would cut Baltimore and Tejada right out of the picture. The proposal:

The Mets would get Manny Ramirez (and his whole contract).
The Rays would get Aaron Heilman and Anderson Hernandez.
The Red Sox would get Lastings Milledge, Danys Baez and Julio Lugo.


Unlike the first proposal, this one is completely unreasonable, and reeks of attention-mongering. Seriously, do you think the D-Rays would give up Baez and Lugo for Heilman and Hernandez? From reading about the D-Rays dealings, I can safely say that they’d surely hold out for more than those two players, especially when the two other teams involved are the Mets and the Red Sox. Additionally, if this scenario was plausible outside of GB’s fantasy world, couldn’t the Mets just send Heilman, Hernandez, and Milledge to the Sox directly?

Seeing this unfounded rumors, I decided to look back at some other GB rumor mill content. First up, December 19th, Mets and Dodgers talking deal for Kent, and it “could happen soon.” Sixteen days later, no other source has written even a word on the subject matter (though ESPN Insider could have, since they make up news, too).

Another rumor: Jim Edmonds was in play during the Winter Meetings, and that the Cards were talking trade with the Yankees. Of course, the asking price was Wang and Cano, meaning that the Cards weren’t really interested in a deal. EVERYONE has reportedly asked for Cano and/or Wang in any deal with the Yankees, and the Yankees have said “no” every time, like a smart team would.

There’s more, but it’s all the same mumbo-jumbo. Team X has superstar Y available, and they’re asking a ridiculous price from the Yankees. The Mets are shipping Lastings Milledge to every team in the Major Leagues. It’s just a bunch of repetitive nonsense aimed at keeping readers interested.

This is one reader who is completely disinterested. So disinterested, in fact, that I’m penning what looks to be 900 words on why GB’s rumor mill is sophomoric.

One concession I will make: the columnists aren’t half-bad. They write thought out, lengthy pieces about whatever subject they please, relevant to the current sports world or not. Make a site out of these guys and you have something viable. Add their faux Rumor Mill, and you have a steaming pile of crap.

Major League Baseball Talk - January 4th

I know none of you come here to read my thoughts on college football, but I’m sitting here watching the Orange Bowl, and I just have to say SOMETHING.

The prevailing theme of the game, up until the end of regulation, was “wow, Florida State doesn’t have their shit together.” Twelve penalties for 131 yards, a botched extra point, and a complete inability to run the ball defined FSU for the game, so it made perfect sense when they couldn’t even march the correct personnel onto the field for Penn State’s final drive.

(Also, a holding call turned a first and ten from the 13 into a second and 23 from the 28 in OT, which resulted in a missed field goal. It just never ends with Florida State.)

But even as Florida State bumbled around like Panamanians on a battlefield, Penn State still managed to blow it, as their freshman kicked missed a chip shot from 29. And as I type this, he’s lining up for a 38-yarder, which he missed just as badly as Florida State kicker’s previous attempt.

The real question here is: do either of these teams deserve to win? Can’t we send them both home losers?

My first thought after Gary Cismesia missed his second field goal in OT: "well, at least this guy made his game-tying kick in regulation." Can’t say that for Kevin Kelly, who is one missed field goal away from getting the Bucky Dent/Aaron Boone treatment.

And if anyone caught Mike Tirico’s "season of restoration…devastation" bit at the end of the game, I’m willing to bet it he spent 30 man hours conjuring it up.

Now to baseball, where I will completely change the mood of this piece because I wrote the preceding diatribe after I wrote the rest of it.

Oh ESPN, you – like Peter Angelos – slay me. Only the worldwide leader would start off an article on a free-agent signing like this (emphasis added):

The Houston Astros agreed to a $4 million, one-year contract Tuesday with outfielder Preston Wilson, hoping to bolster an offense that was one of baseball's worst last season.

The right-handed Wilson hit .260 (editor’s note: with a below league average .325 OBP) with 25 home runs and 90 RBI with Colorado and Washington last season. He also struck out 148 times.



Houston made the World Series despite batting .256, 13th among the 16 NL teams. The Astros hit .203 in the World Series and were swept by the Chicago White Sox.


And just because ESPN pisses me off more and more every day, a copy error (which very well could be corrected by the time you read this):

Wilson has played primarily center field, where Willy Taveras started last season. Wilson batted .291 and stole 34 bases, finishing second to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.


So let’s get this straight. The Astros hit .256/.322/.408 last year, and expect to immediately improve with the addition of a player who hit .260/.325/.467. What will that slight bump in slugging percentage add, maybe a win or two?

To be clear, I understand the signing. Bringing in Wilson gives the Astros a bit more depth, a valuable commodity as we’ve learned from the Yankees. What I don’t understand is the hyped up press release. Realistically, Wilson might not even be starting for the ‘Stros.

Think about it. Berkman will move back to the outfield to make way for Bagwell at first. That makes the outfield Berkman, Tavares, and any one of Wilson, Jason Lane, or Chris Burke. We’ll forget Burke for the time being, since his stats are rather atrocious. Lane’s line from 2005, however, was .267/.316/.499, very comparable to Mr. Wilson. Hence, Wilson provides no real upgrade.

That is, unless Bagwell goes down with another injury, forcing Berkman back to first and a Wilson-Tavares-Lane outfield. So in essence, Wilson is a Bagwell/Lane/Tavares insurance plan. The press release would have you think otherwise.

A sure sign you know your team sucks: Jeromy Burnitz spurns you to sign with the Pirates. Last week, we all figured that the Orioles had secured the whiffing right fielder. And by all indications, the Orioles brass had figured that, too. But news broke late Monday and carried all the way through Tuesday that Burnitz was on the brink of a deal with Pittsburgh.

I’m not familiar with the logic of Jeromy Burnitz, but I figure his decision must have come after a revelation of sorts. Maybe he figured that the Orioles aren’t going to do jack this year, and that any sub-par performance would be amplified, a la Sammy Sosa. So why put yourself in such a tight situation? Why not sign with a team making a few quiet moves over the off-season like the Pirates? If Burnitz fizzles out there, it’s fine. He’s old, and it’s not like the Pirates are expected to do much of anything this year, off-season moves or not.

And, from a biased standpoint, this move looks even better since it potentially frees up Craig Wilson for a trade, hopefully with the Yankees. Cashman preaches roster flexibility, and Wilson provides depth at first base, corner outfield positions, and DH. And since he’ll make between $3 and $4 mil via arbitration, the Pirates would likely take someone like Proctor for him. Scott Proctor for Craig Wilson: do it every time.

I know this news is a few days old, but I just have to weigh in on Tejada being more upset that the Orioles haven’t beefed up their lineup over the off-season. Apparently, Miggy doesn’t pay attention to the papers or anything, or he’d know that the Orioles tried to retain B.J. Ryan (RE-jected) as well as sign A.J. Burnett (DE-nied). They also made a run at Johnny Damon (SPURNED!), Paul Konerko (shyeah, right), and were in talks for Manny Ramirez and Mark Prior (though both of those deals involved Tejada, so I guess they don’t count).

Basically, Tejada is flipping out because he made a decision based on money when he signed with the Orioles in 2004. And now he’s pissed off because he makes a lot of money on a crappy team. Well boo-friggin-hoo, Miggy. Remember, you have no leverage in demanding a trade. So shut up and play for the crappy Orioles. Because in reality, they aren’t going to trade you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Major League Baseball Talk

I really wish I had time to compile link to the major stories of the day like the folks at Pro Sports Daily. Actually, I probably could finagle such an operation, as it would become much easier as I became more and more familiar with each local newspaper. But I’m not content with a mere link to a relevant baseball story. No, I need to weigh in with a paragraph or two of my own thoughts.

I feel justified in ripping a team or a columnist because I have a collection of my own commentary that is ripe for criticism. I put my own thoughts out there for the public, much like these mainstream media folks. And since I have a comments section that allows readers to berate me over a disagreement in opinions, I feel that it isn’t wrong for me to rip others when I see fit.

And I’m done rambling. Let’s get to it.

Odd Man Out
The Toronto Blue Jays have been the most active team of the off-season, adding pitchers A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan along with corner infielders Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus. The pitching situation seems to be in order, but the Blue Jays have a glut of starter-quality players to fill a mere nine spots.

Gregg Zaun, Glaus, Overbay, (Correction, thanks Mark) Russ Adams, and Aaron Hill figure to occupy the infield, while Vernon Wells is the only certain outfield starter. Alexis Rios is the incumbent in right field, but his value at that position is marginal. Of AL right fielders with at least 450 plate appearances, Rios ranked last in OBP and Slugging Percentage. Erik Hinske could be the answer at the position, though the linked article has him slated for right, which was held in 2005 by Frank Cattolonatto.

But why depose Cattolnatto? Of AL left fielders with at least 450 plate appearances, he ranked third in OBP (behind Manny and Matsui) and sixth in slugging. This would make Toronto’s optimal outfield – as things stand now – Catt, Wells, and Hinske. But wait, there’s more.

Shea Hillenbrand and Corey Koskie are starters relegated to bench duty due to the influx of talent. While the team would be wise to keep one on as a bat off the bench/DH, surely one is expendable. The Cleveland Indians have inquired about Hillenbrand, ostensibly to replace Aaron Effing Boone at third base (who ranked dead last among qualified AL third basemen in OBP and second to last in Slugging). The Blue Jays have initially scoffed at the idea of trading Hillenbrand, but a change of heart could be quickly in the making.

Mets Mull Matsui Move
I laud Omar Minaya’s sense of urgency in dishing Matsui. What I don’t understand is why any other team would be remotely interested in him. In essence, he’s a replacement level shortstop/second baseman (2.7 Value Over Replacement Player according to Baseball Prospectus).

It was just a week or so ago in this space that I opined Baltimore should dish Tejada for a quality pitcher like Mark Prior, since the added value of pitching should somewhat offset the lost offense in Tejada. Normally, I like these moves since top-flight pitching has always been a key to postseason success. Here’s the problem all of this presents for the D-Rays:

They’re giving up their closer for a mid-level starter and a replacement level shortstop. In the grand scheme of things, Matsui would replace incumbent Julio Lugo at shortstop, who would be shipped off to a team like Boston for a pitcher like Bronson Arroyo. So, in essence, the D-Rays would be swapping their closer and valuable shortstop for a replacement level shortstop and two mid-rotation starters.

Of course, the deal digs a bit deeper than the preceding sentence. The D-Rays are desperate for any kind of pitching, so mid-level starters will have to do for now. And surely they don’t expect Julio Lugo to repeat his .295/.361/.403 season that earned him his $4.95 million 2006 option. But Lugo should at least put up league average numbers, while it would surprise no one if Matsui it .250/.260/.270 in 2006.

The sole reason this Baez deal makes any sense for the Rays is that he’s probably not going to be a top-flight Major League closer. The D-Rays are in no position to be spending $4 million on a set-up man, so why not exchange those dollars for a young starter? Then again, the D-Rays bullpen is in such shambles that I can’t even estimate the number of games they could cost the team in 2006.

Maybe owner Stuart Sternberg needs to open his man purse…

More Manny-Miggy Talk
This will certainly make the newspapers every day until either is finally traded. But you know what? I don’t think the Red Sox really plan on dealing Manny.

Manny for Tejada would make sense if both teams could come up with adequate secondary compensation. The Sox have offered Matt Clement, but now reportedly want a prospect back. The Orioles certainly will balk at such an offer, and will probably counter with something like Luis Matos (per the linked article).

Manny and Clement for Miggy and Matos. It kinda makes sense in that the Red Sox would be relieving themselves of an inflated starting pitcher’s contract and a guy who doesn’t want to be in town. It makes sense for Baltimore in that they dish a disgruntled player and a mediocre center fielder, and receive a mid-level starter and one of the best bats in the majors.

Problem is, there is no possible way that Miggy and Matos can equal Manny’s production. I realize that Tejada is a valuable commodity, especially as a shortstop. But he’s just not Manny. No one is. And that’s why I think the Red Sox are ultimately going to keep him around, despite threats of a holdout.

That’s what I’ve got for today. More to come tomorrow, and surely I’ll do a Yankees piece some time this week.

Cop-Out Post of 2006

My original intent for today was to yap about the Yanks for a little bit, just to get the ball rolling in the New Year. But the Yanks pretty much have all the pieces in place for 2006, minus a few bench players. Anything now would be complete conjecture, and I think I’ve already done my share of that. This is my first entry of 2006, however, so I have an easy fall back topic: the year to come.

If the earth didn’t finish its rotation around the sun every 365 days, setting goals on a yearly basis would seem arbitrary. There needs to be some timeframe on these goals, however, and a year is fine by me. The Number One goal of 2006: get paid to write. What does this mean for you, the reader? Expanded content here at the Sporting Brews, which is my writing outlet.

Honestly, I don’t expect to swoop in and steal the readership of established Yankees sites by pounding out a site with similar content. I realize that over time, many fans may come to appreciate my musings on the team they love the most. But there are other sources for that kind of entertainment.

The Yankees are still a priority, and I will continue to share my thoughts through the 2006 season and beyond. Instead of every day, however, I’ll probably cut the Yankees content to 2-3 days a week, depending on activity. The rest of the content will be mostly sports content, with some non-sports topics woven in here and there.

And since I just barely cracked 250 words, you can expect a full article later on today.