Friday, March 03, 2006

Around the League

Late start today, hence a late post, which means it’s going to be less substantial. The freakin’ NFL threw a wrench in my plans for today’s column by extending the commencement of the league year until Monday. I’m still miffed at the lack of progress demonstrated by both sides, but I will reserve final judgement until the situation is resolved (or declared unresolvable).

In the meantime, you can satiate your football needs by visiting Pro Football Talk, where editor Mike Florio is seemingly going insane with updates about the labor situation. Most of your questions can be answered by reading his plethora of articles from the past week.

For a different perspective, you can head to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for an interview with Vikings center and former players union representative Matt Birk. He posits an intelligent opinion, and his credibility is mentioned throughout the article.

Chances are that if you read me, you also read Bill Simmons (which makes sense, since his style is paving the way for guys like me). But in case you don’t and missed his “Curious Guy” segment with author Malcolm Gladwell, you can read it here. This is easily his best “Curious Guy” column yet, mainly because Gladwell is such an affable character. An except to whet your appetite (especially if you’re a Knicks fan): “I'm just glad that you passed me on Isiah's ‘smug writers whose asses I want to kick’ list.”

I’ll close today on a Yankees note. Now, it’s well known that I deplore most New York baseball columnists. But that hatred extends to most columnists in general, mainly because they just don’t know what they’re talking about. Take, for instance, this article in the Tampa Tribune by Joe Henderson:

The mushroom cloud that awaited them last spring has long since dissipated. There is no steroid scandal, like the one that followed Jason Giambi. There is no great playoff collapse against the Red Sox to explain. The only celebrity free agent is Johnny Damon, brought in from Boston to play center field. But hardly anyone notices because he cut his hair and has been nothing but agreeable since he got to town.

Hardly anyone notices? Well, Mr. Henderson, I beg to differ. In fact, go to Pro Sports Daily’s Yankees page and count how many stories revolve around Damon. No, no one’s noticing that he’s the new center fielder at all. Joe Henderson, we may share a first name, but you sir are a jackass scraping for material. And when you can’t find that material, you just make stuff up.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully I can get a few words in about the NFL labor dispute on Monday, though I’d much rather have some Yankees tidbits to write home about.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

First Spring Training Game - March 2nd, 2006

I know it's of no interest to some of you, but I know I'm pumped about today's Spring Training opener vs. the Phillies. As such, I'll be doing half-inning by half-inning commentary on what transpires. Since it will be rather bulky for the main page (and of little interest to many), I'll be keeping it updated on a separate post.

Here's the link.

What You Missed Last Night

I looked for something interesting to write about last night. Nothing – well, except for a few NFL cap casualties, but I’d rather wait for the final cuts to make commentary on that subject. It should be known, however, that the owners and the NFLPA can suck my tiny white dingaling. There are always complaints about the massive egos that flood the playing field, but the egos of the guys behind the scenes are at least 30 times bigger. Since the cap deadline is 10:00 tonight, I’ll be doing up this subject tomorrow.

In Yankeeland, there’s next to nothing. There aren’t any position battles to report on, since everyone’s role seems to have been defined months ago. Randy Johnson is the Opening Day starter, which should ring in a mild degree of shock. And Carl Pavano starts throwing half way up the mound tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll be fully healed by mid-April, lest we cart J-Wright out there for a few guaranteed losses.

In Knicksville, however, there is pleeeeeenty to talk about. Since probably no one watched the game last night, allow me to recap. Down two with circa 30 seconds left, the Knicks had an inbound opportunity. Steve Francis received the pass and drove to the hoop. At this point, I began to cringe, fearing the ever-present scenario where he tosses the ball towards the rim amidst a sea of defenders. Up went Francis, and down went to the ball to Token White Guy David Lee, who stuffed it through the hoop. Tie game. Just over 24 seconds left.

The Knicks color commentator (not sure who it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t Walt Frazier, which is a disappointment since he’s one of the only reasons I continue to watch Knicks games) went over the possible scenarios during a timeout, concluding that Pau Gasol would be the guy to make the play, and that the Knicks needed to double him up once he got the ball. The strategy would be to make a lesser player like Chuckie Atkins win the game.

All went according the plan. Atkins dribbled around until there were eight ticks on the clock, finally dishing it to Gasol, who was a foot or two outside the key and about halfway up the block. However, a pick was set which resulted in the swapping of Gasol’s defender from David Lee to Stephon Marbury. Seven feet worth of Gasol vs. the 6’2” Marbury. Surprisingly, Marbury did an adequate job in not allowing Gasol to drive to the hoop. Not surprisingly, rookie Lee didn’t come back to help, opting to stay back in case Gasol dished out to Atkins. No, wait, that’s not what happened. Actually, Lee stood between Gasol and Atkins, and not even in a passing lane. I can kinda sorta understand if Lee was staying back to guard Atkins from tossing up a game-winning J, but he didn’t even do that. So a rook mistake cost them an opportunity to take the game to OT. Of course, Gasol hit a 15-footer, putting the Grizzlies up by two.

The game wasn’t technically over at that point, since there were about 1.2 seconds left on a clock, time for a dribble or two and a shot. Now, in this situation do you give the ball to the guy who was 8-11 from the field and 2-2 from beyond the arc, or a guy who was 9-14 and had already clunked a free throw? You take the 8-11 guy every time, especially when his name is Stephon Marbury. Alas, Larry Brown designed a play for Francis, who took the inbound, dribbled twice, and STEPPED ON THE ARC before bricking a J. It’s not so much a big deal that he missed, because players can’t be expected to hit 100 percent. But 1) there were no screens set beyond the one that allowed Francis to take the inbound at the top of the arc, and 2) he stepped on the line, meaning that the game would have been tied. Another inch back, and a made shot wins the game. Makes me feel reaaaaaaaaally good about the Steve Francis era.

This heartbreaking loss has brought me to a clear realization: it is not unreasonable to think the Knicks might not win another game for the rest of the season. Okay, maybe they’ll win one. But in their last 23 games, they’re 2-21. Do I even need to make some snide commentary on that? I think you all have your own thoughts in mind (especially if you’ve read up to this point).

Allow me to take a step back now and trash on Stephon Marbury for a bit. For the record, I wanted nothing more last summer than Isiah to dish Marbury. This became an increasing notion once they drafted Nate Robinson and hired Larry Brown to coach the team. Let’s see: point guard and defense oriented coach with a guy who needs to be taught the ways of a point guard. Seemed like a good combo to me. But not to the rookie-hating Brown or Isiah Thomas. I knew already that Brown would be of no help to Marbury, and that a clash would ensue – and they proved me right within days of camp opening.

I noticed hints of Marbury dogging it during the first few months of the season, but that shouldn’t have come as any surprise. Every NBA fan has seen Marbury dog it at several points in his career, which is why maybe 2 percent of NBA fans (which equates to maybe 5 people) would never want Starbury on their team. But then the shoulder injury came, and he REALLY started to dog it. I know that some of his declining performance can be attributed to the injury, but it shouldn’t have been that drastic a drop-off. In fact, during the Spurs game on Monday, Walt was talking about how Steph must be “really sore,” because he was playing like crap and favoring that shoulder. But then he comes out and drops 25 points and 13 assists the very next game, two days later. Hmmm….

My dad was appalled yesterday when he read an article explaining how Steph blatantly ignored a play call from Larry Brown. I started to get mad as well, before I realized that this has probably been going on all season. Steph is the big money star who really can’t be touched. He’s unhappy, so surely he’s going to stick it to the coach he dislikes whenever he can.

Then this morning, during a rare stint watching SportsCenter (I was running, and it was either that or Tyra Banks’s show), I saw STEPHEN A. SMITH talking about the turmoil within the Knicks, and how it all boils down to Marbury. Apparently, none of his teammates like him. Really now? I mean, if it weren’t for STEPHAN A., I would still be thinking that he was the Derek Jeter of the Knicks.

The only solution is to dish Marbury this summer, which should be Isiah’s No. 1 priority. Trade him for $.02 on the dollar if need be. I’d be willing to take a package of expiring contracts for him any day of the week – and with the Knicks cap woes, that would certainly be of exceeding value. But we all know Isiah, and we’re all pretty sure that he’ll have to succeed next season in order to not lose his job halfway through it. So rather than trading Marbury for expiring contracts (and maybe, I dunno, a draft pick?), some combination of Jalen Rose, Malik Rose, and Mo Taylor will probably be packaged with our 2008 first round pick in an attempt to land Kevin Garnett.

If – and this is the biggest “if” I’ve ever written about – Kevin McHale is retarded enough to pull the trigger on such a deal (and he does have the lack of mental capacity to do so), that would give the Knicks a starting five of Francis/Marbury/Garnett/Frye/Lee, and I may be a bit optimistic about the Lee starting thing. On paper, that looks stupendous. On paper, the current Knicks team looks stupendous. Problem is, with all those cooks in the kitchen, nothing gets accomplished. Most of the guys on the team are ineffective without the ball in their hands, which creates a conundrum that can only be solved by changing the rules of the game to allow four balls on the court at once.

There is no mercy in the future for the Knicks. Even after Isiah is replaced, his successor will have such a mess on his hands that it will take upwards of two to three years to fix. Just you watch, though; Dolan’s patience will run out with the new guy much faster than it does with Isiah. But now I’m just getting ahead of myself.

If anything good can be said about this Knicks team, well, at least people are talking about them (and I think this is how I will end every Knicks column from now until the Apocalypse).

Some other Knicks literature from today:
Dolan Says He Believes In "The Plan."
Frankenbury isn't the's EVERYONE else. Isn't that kinda like the "it's not you, it's me" line?
Larry Brown isn't quitting. But if we begged, would he consider?
And the Knicks are at the bottom of the NBA. So the Bulls will win the lottery.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Site Surfin'

Found a few baseball related tidbits around the ‘net today. Normally, I’d save these up for a Friday entry, but I figure why wait? This is a blog afterall, right?

Interesting bit by Jeff over at Lookout Landing about pitching mechanics. Please, if you choose to click on that link, make sure not to take his word as that of a doctor. It’s merely an entertaining article that meshes physics and logic to make soft conclusions about recently injured Mariners pitchers.

Even if you’re not a Mariners fan, this site is worth a daily perusal. Everything is written in an intelligent manner, and sometimes it’s downright hilarious. Jeff does with the Mariners what Aaron Gleeman has done with the Twins. He’s also convinced me to pony up the dough for

I haven’t had a chance to browse the entire site yet, but James over at Yanks Blog posted a link to a site containing a few interesting pictures of Major Leaguers. The most intriguing: Al Leiter playing beer pong. How did this picture fly under my radar since September?

Another shout-out to James for being the only person willing to engage me in a Knicks discussion. He says he’s done with them, but I know Knicks fans. Give him a week and he’ll be watching the MSG Network again, faithfully deriding the team from the top down.

Ignore the file name and tell me if it’s Blue Jays pitcher Gustavo Chacin or former Rangers center Mark Messier.

I know this site is made for women, but I’m sure if they could track their visitors’ demographics, it would be males age 18-35.

Top 50 starting pitchers of 2006. Am I psyched for baseball season or what?

Bret Boone retires. His offcial reason: "Something I've loved my whole life has become a major, major job for me. "I don't think it would be fair for me -- or fair to the Mets -- to continue something I've loved my whole life and had so much passion for, and all of a sudden that passion isn't there anymore."

Replace the word "passion" with "ability" (and delete prepositions where applicable), and you've got the truth behind the story.

I have but one question for Omar Minaya. You were able to trade for Paul LoDuca and Carlos Delgado. You lured Billy Wagner from a division rival. Yet, you can't trump the Sox in a trade for Mark Loretta? You're telling me that Minaya couldn't muster up enough talent to supercede Doug Mirabelli?

Second base has been a large concern for the Mets heading into this season, though Boone retiring didn't really alter plans; he was a long shot at best. The effectiveness of the position is really going to come down to whether Anderson Hernandez can 1) successfully switch from shortstop and 2) whether he can play every day in the Majors at age 23.

I’ll cut this short for now. Hopefully I can string together some coherent thoughts for an article tomorrow. Wouldn’t want to keep posting the same styled crap every day.

Pedro: "I'm Not In Full Shape"

There’s a clear, concise piece on Pedro’s recent mound session over at The Daily News that’s worth three minutes of your time. Actually, you don’t even need to go. It’s so short that two block quotes should do the trick.

Martinez threw 39 pitches, truly testing the toe during the latter part of the session, when he pushed off the rubber hard for the first time. The dirt on the pants leg by his right ankle showed evidence of increased thrust in his delivery during this session. Martinez began to use the violent twisting motion he does during the season as he pushes off the rubber, though he did not use maximum force.

That’s the good news. At least he’s working on the problem and throwing hard – though I don’t know how convincing the dirt on his right ankle is as evidence. It could have been a dry day for all we know, with the mound kicking up more dirt than usual. And at this point in Spring Training, I don’t think it’s optimistic for a prolifically injured ace to be using a “violent twisting motion.”

"I feel the toe a little bit more. But I prefer to do it, and get used to doing it the way I normally do it, and see what the results are going to be," Martinez said. "I'm out of full shape. I'm just trying to get back to the mound, see how my toe is. My arm is not full strength. I still have a lot of work to do."

Last year was somewhat of an aberration, with Martinez showing up like a gamer. He had the intensity of a man on a mission, and was back to his dominant self during the season. Ostensibly, this was because of an increased off-season regimen. This season, however, he seems to be back to the Pedro of old, which would be fine if he wasn’t 34 years old.

Out of shape with an injured push-off toe. That’s exactly how I want my ace to show up to camp. Thanks for the winter rehab, Petey.


Not much to talk about down in Yankee camp yet today. The first rash of minor injuries cropped up in Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, causing them to miss an intrasquad game. ::Yawn::

The WBC-bound boys leave tomorrow. ::Yawn::

The preliminary spring rotation is set, with Randy Johnson going Saturday, Mike Mussina Sunday, Shawn Chacon Thursday, Jaret Wright Friday, and Chein-Ming Wang the following Monday. I wouldn’t put money down on Chacon for Thursday, however, since you never know when Randy’s going to whine about not pitching every fifth day.

Jorge Posada officially jinxed us with Phil Hughes. "He's a no-miss," Posada said. "He will be in the major leagues soon. I won't be surprised if I see him before the year is over."

Sadly, the most exciting news coming today is whether Manny shows up at Sox camp. How sweet would it be if he was a no-show? How quickly would Terry Francona be in front of the press defending him? Quite honestly, Tito needs to grow a pair and let it be known that he wants his player in camp with the rest of the players. Just being Manny shouldn’t get you a pass to show up when you please.

Update: Yeah, yeah, Manny showed up at 9 this morning. Actually, 9:01, according to Gordon Edes.

Whoever wrote the column in Newsweek about the Yanks and Sox swapping Sheffield and Manny should be shot. Apparently the author believes that Theo Epstein is huffing glue.

I wonder what Bud Selig will think come October, when the WBC proves to add no significant attendance to MLB games and causes no significant increase in Little League registrations.

Unfortunately, the innards of ESPN’s and FoxSports’s MLB sections will be plastered with WBC news. Here’s to hoping baseball bloggers stick to the real thing.

New sidebar content. Now you can get pissed every day as it’s apparent that neither Isiah Thomas nor Larry Brown know how to deal with the current situation in New York. I’m predicting a mid-season departure from both next season…but wouldn’t be surprised to see Brown walk this summer.

George Steinbrenner spends more money than any other team in baseball and has found consistent success. James Dolan spends more money than any other team in basketball, and his team won’t even have a lottery pick to show for it. Wouldn’t that make Dolan a loser by definition?

NFL labor talks are at a stalemate, which makes the 2007 uncapped year a vast possibility. One way or another, this thing has to get done NOW, as in the next few days. For a more in-depth analysis of the situation, head to Pro Football Talk.

With Jerry Colangelo at the helm, it is now a foregone conclusion that the Raptors will make the playoffs before the Knicks. It’s a sad, sad day when New York knows it will lose out to Canada.

Allen Iverson was denied an invitation to play for Team USA, much to my delight. This is what you get when you let Colangelo run the show. He knows that international play is different than NBA games, so he took a pass on AI and his ball-hogging ways. Instead, he gave nods to shooters like Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion, Michael Redd, and even Shane Battier (hitting 49 percent this season).

Looking at the names on the roster, I personally would start Chauncey Billups, Kobe, LeBron, Amare Stoudamire, and Chris Bosh (though Shaq would get the nod should he accept his standing invitation). Then again, Dwight Howard may be a better fit than Amare in this offense.

They should do this hockey style, with three lines. The first line would be Billups, Kobe, James, Howard, Bosh. Second line is Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, Shawn Marion, Amare, and Brad Miller. Then you can use the rest of the players to make little tweaks to the lineup. When you want some added D, throw in Bruce Bowen. But if you need a bit more shooting and driving, supplement him with Gilbert Arenas. Want to play a Princeton offense? Bosh with Chauncey, Joe Johnson, Shane Battier, and Michael Redd. The combinations are endless.

This has gone on much too long. It would have been a lot funnier if you imagined comedian Brian Posehn reading it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

We've All Been Wronged By Isiah

I think I’ve discovered the inherent flaw Isiah Thomas’s game plan. It is public knowledge at this point that Isiah’s M.O. is to obtain the single best player in any trade, thus building a roster filled with “assets” that can be used in the future to obtain talent that will bring the team over the top. Sounds reasonable upon first perusal, eh? Of course, when you think about it there is little practical sense in that logic, thus leading me to think that Isiah’s fatal flaw is the lack of critical thought. Then again, it was probably a foregone conclusion at this point anyway.

Isiah demonstrates a lack of critical thought even in his M.O. He wants to stockpile assets, which is considered an intelligent move. Stock and bond investors stockpile assets all the time, sometimes resulting in an attainment of wealth. However, for every wildly successful investor, there are 10 or 20 who are left in the dust. They see no return on their investments because their assets lose value. That’s the risk in obtaining stock assets: for the most part they’re volatile. Playing with large, long-term contracts in the NBA is like playing with stocks: you have to be impeccably astute in order to succeed.

Assets, however, are not limited to stocks, just as good NBA players are not limited to those with monstrous contracts. There are real estate investments, mutual funds, bonds, futures, etc. Plenty of options out there, and smart investors will diversify their portfolios in the event that one asset goes awry. Unfortunately, Isiah wishes to load his portfolio with high-risk investments that don’t have a history of paying off. Meanwhile, he’s destroying the opportunity to make a more sound investment in the draft, because his pursuit of “assets” forces him to part ways with these lesser risk endeavors.

Now we get to the meat and potatoes of this scenario. The Knicks are loaded with monstrous contracts for players who aren’t playing to the level they did when said contracts were consummated. Basically, one of the other 31 NBA teams made a poor investment. They bought high, and watched the player’s stock tumble. Seeing that there was no chance to recoup the losses, these GMs looked around the league looking for someone to take these terrible assets off their hands. Sure, in the stock market, that’s not a huge problem; you just sell off your shares and take the hit for your losses. But in the NBA, not only are you trying to rid yourself of a terrible investment, but you’re trying to do it at the original price. In essence, a team bought a stock for $40 and watched it tumble to $18, and now is trying to sell it to someone for $40. AND (there’s an “and”), they’re trying to get something of value in return. Ridiculous, right? Not for Isiah Thomas it ain’t!

In fact, much of what Isiah has traded away have been assets. In most GMs books, expiring contracts are assets. They free up cap room and give your team more maneuverability in the free agent market. Isiah doesn’t even marginally grasp this concept, as evidenced by his cap-busting trades. So now the Knicks are over the cap until 2009, with nary a high first round pick until 2008. And this is supposed to be a formula for success?

Isiah’s vision is to pool these assets together and ship them to another team for a superstar player, a la Kevin Garnett. Apparently, he believes that every other GM in basketball is a retard, and that they’d be willing to take on these terrible contracts in exchange for their best player. Perfectly logical, I know, but I just don’t see many GMs biting on this one. Then again, never underestimate Kevin McHale’s idiocy either. He may just jump on Francis and Crawford for KG. But he’s the exception, not the rule.

Seriously, though, the Knicks will have some assets in the coming years. Jalen Rose, Maurice Taylor, and Malik Rose have contracts that expire in 2007, meaning that they could be packaged together (roughly $20-25 million combined salary) as a cap-saving tandem. Should Isiah still have his position at that point (and if he hasn’t been fired by now, he probably has carte blanche until the Knicks actually start winning), he would be much inclined to trade these assets for a large, long-term contract. Instead of slicing that $20-25 million off the books, Isiah will undoubtedly swap that money for an $18 million deal that doesn’t expire until 2010, thus further busting the cap.

But wait, Joe, you don’t get it. Isiah is using these mostly worthless contracts to obtain real talent. The cap savings are useless to the Knicks, because they’re so far over the cap anyway. Yes, that’s the only counter-argument that anyone can possibly make, and it’s full of holes. Chances are, if a player is making upwards of $15-18 mil a year and a team is willing to dish them, they’re bringing some heavy baggage with them. Maybe that’s okay for a small market team. Coming to New York with baggage is a sure sign of impending doom (and this goes for any sport).

The kicker here is that the only value most of the Knicks players carry is cap savings in the last year of their deal. No one is going to trade for Steve Francis before the last year of his deal, because no one wants to add a disproportional amount of payroll for a mediocre player. Yes, it pains me to say it because I enjoyed him at Maryland, but Steve Francis has recessed into mediocrity. And Isiah traded $15 million in cap savings for him. Freakin’ wonderful.

What Isiah has set in motion here is a relentless and ostensibly never ending cycle. Obtain huge contracts, trade huge contracts for even bigger, longer term contracts, hoping that one day you’ll stockpile so many assets that a championship team is unavoidable. That’s laughable, quite frankly. I don’t think any team in any sport can win a championship that way. Yet, it appears this is the Knicks full intention.

Perhaps of the greatest detriment to this scheme is Nate Dogg Robinson, my favorite rookie in the new class. As a rookie, he has put up numbers similar to those of Jamal Crawford, and only looks to be improving. Plus, his height should have him slated as a point guard, and the Knicks have a coach who is known for making great point guards (and who was a ridiculous waste of money). I wasn’t a math major by any stretch of the imagination, but I can put two and two together. Unfortunately, Larry Brown has something against rookies, so Nate isn’t getting the training he so deserves (though I can’t speak for what goes on during practices. Who knows; maybe Nate is going to be Larry’s secret weapon next year.)

Following the Francis trade, Robinson was immediately deactivated, seeing as the team had stockpiled so many guard assets. I mean, why would you play a promising rookie when you can give minutes to Stephon Marbury, Francis, Jamal Crawford, Jalen Rose, and Quentin Richardson? Flawless logic, right? And because Nate is so seemingly expendable, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see him involved in a sign and trade this summer that nets the Knicks more crap that won’t expire until 2012.

You’d think that after 1,200 words, I’d be done ranting about Isiah, right? Oh, hell no. I’m letting all the beef fly right now. The more I think about this cap situation, the angrier I get. I get angry because I vividly remember going to the gym with my buddy Andy this summer every day after work and shooting the shit about New York sports. Obviously, the main topic was the Yankees, but there were so many losing streaks that we needed something else to talk about, lest the Bombers make us go haywire.

Our non-Yanks topic was mainly the Knicks, seeing as I’m Jets fan and he’s a Dolphins fan. I remember being slightly optimistic following the draft, since I felt that the Knicks best optimized the talent available to them when they picked. Sure, Danny Granger or Gerald Green would have been nice, but Channing Frye filled a more immediate need. I even came close to singing a praise for Isiah. But so much else went wrong.

The first thing that pissed me off was the Kurt Thomas-Quentin Richardson trade (though it did net us Nate Dogg). It wasn’t only that the Knicks were dishing one of the only players on the team who could step up on D (though that was a large part of it). It was that Kurt Thomas had a contract so large that it had to be traded. Thomas’s contract was set to expire after the ‘04-’05 season, but Isiah thought it necessary to extent said contract in March of ’04. Four years, $30 mil, which averages out to $7 mil and change per season for a 31-year-old. Of course, Isiah realized his foolishness and traded Thomas the VERY NEXT YEAR for a player with a back so bad, no company would insure his contract. So we’re stuck with Q because Thomas made a poor decision in extending Thomas.

Remember Nazr Mohammed? Yeah, I kinda liked that guy. He wasn’t a stellar center, but he was a decent stopgap until the team could acquire the right guy. And to boot, his contract expires following this season. But Isiah felt it necessary to dish Mohammed and his reasonable contract ($5 million per) to San Antonio for Malik Rose, whose deal has more money and en extra year. True, it netted us David Lee (and an additional No. 30 pick this year), but the move was utterly pointless. Isiah traded the team’s only center for an undersized, overpaid power forward. Bonus.

I’ll touch on one more deal before I get to quite possibly the worst moves in GM history. Back at last year’s trade deadline, Thomas swapped Vin Baker’s contract out for Maurice Taylor. I’d dig into this deeper, but it’s basically the same idea s Mohammed, though I was much happier to be rid of Baker. But, his mid-level contract would have expired following this season, while Taylor’s above mid-level contract expires in 2007. Just another example of Isiah’s complete lack of foresight.

Now we get to the 2005 off-season. Isiah’s first mistake was signing Jerome James to the mid-level exception. This exception is granted to teams over the salary cap so that they can continue to improve their teams via free agency. Unforunately, in the past two years the exception has been used on Vin Baker and Jerome James, two centers who don’t deserve anything more than the league minimum. But Isiah jumped on James anyway, rewarding his two good playoff games with a 5-year, $30 million contract. Sure, it’s mid-level, but it doesn’t expire until 2010. I don’t know how many of you play NBA Live, but if you do, you understand the plight involved with this cap buster. Do you know how crippling it is to have a bench player eating up $6 million of your $50 million cap? That’s more than 1/10 of the salary cap allotted to a guy who MAYBE plays 12 minutes a game. Absolutely appalling.

But then, after he blew valuable cap space on a do-nothing center, Isiah struck again. The man has no limits. He would never say “well, I committed dollars and cap space to Jerome James, so signing another center just doesn’t make sense.” Why would he say that? That doesn’t net him “assets.” So when Eddie Curry refused to take a DNA test, Chicago was desperate to sell. And Isiah is always desperate to buy. Advantage, Bulls. $10 million a year through 2009? Not a big deal to Isiah and Co. I mean, when you can obtain an out of shape center who can’t play defense and pay him $10 million a year, you do it every time. Especially if you’re dishing one of your only remaining defensive players (Michael Sweetney), an expiring contract (Tim Thomas, though they got Antonio Davis’s expiring deal as compensation), and two lotto picks.

So what exactly has Isiah strapped the Knicks with? For starters, how about two non-performing, cap-busting centers? How about the highest paid, lowest producing backcourt in the NBA? How about a flurry of contracts that don’t expire until 2009? I don’t know what your plans are for 2009, but I frankly don’t have a clue where I’ll be at that point. Apparently Isiah does.

The saddest part of all is that I still care. I still try to watch the Knicks, but like last night against the Spurs, I am always inclined to turn it off somewhere around halftime. I don’t know why I care. The NBA isn’t as interesting as it once was. But it’s still basketball, dammit, and I can’t just go abandoning the Knicks because they suck. That’s rather fair weather, isn’t it? So instead I stick by my team and watch as some incompetent loon runs them into the ground. And the owner is actually financing all of this!

You know what? Screw Isiah. Fire Dolan.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Effing Knicks

Pissed doesn’t quite describe how I feel about the Knicks right now. Sure, I commented that the Francis trade makes enough sense on paper, but since when has paper scored a hoop? I may sound like a hypocrite at this point for saying that this trade stinks, but I don’t care. I’ve seen and read enough about Francis to already dislike him, and his tenure is only two games old.

I’ve long been looking for something to put in the right sidebar, and I think I’ve got it. You’re getting Knicks stats per 48 minutes, pre and post Francis. Let me make a preliminary assessment after two games.

Nate Robinson hasn’t played since Francis arrived. Wonderful. Guy had 21 points and 4 assists per 48 minutes as a rookie, and instead of calling the season a wash and giving him some PT, Larry Brown is benching him completely. Oh, he might be activated tonight because Stephon “Bitch Bitch Bitch” Marbury is complaining again about his shoulder. Surely this has nothing to do with the acquisition of his stunt double.

I’m in a rush right now, so I won’t have the stats on the sidebar until tomorrow. But, since I’m such a nice guy, I’ll do up one of those table dealies so you can see what I’m talking about.

Pre-Francis. Record: 14-38
Stephon Marbury22.068.4
Jamal Crawford20.145.73
Nate Robinson21.264.38

Post-Francis. Record: 0-2
Stephon Marbury18.04.29
Steve Francis20.04.8
Jamal Crawford7.23.6

Suffice it to say I’d rather be sending Robinson/Crawford out there nightly than Marbury/Francis at this point.

Some Yanks Tidbits

During my time playing catch up around the sporting world last week, it seems I missed a few tidbits about the team to which this site is dedicated. None of them were column-worthy in themselves, they got passed by. But they are news bits nonetheless, and I think it’s a great way to start the week (though probably a better way to end the week).

The most prolific of these developments involves who else but Gary Sheffield. Last Tuesday, Yankee fandom was collectively singing Brian Cashman’s praises after he sat down with Sheff and told him of the Yankees eventual plans to pick up his $13 million option for 2007. We all know Sheff’s bouts with management via the media in the past, making this a much lauded move.

Then on Friday, Bob Klapisch published a column speaking of Sheff being disgruntled with his option not being picked up right away. Sheff’s modd swings are inevitable, but I didn’t expect such a drastic shift so quickly.

Apparently everything is fine now, as Cashman and Sheff have had additional dialogue on the subject. But who is to say he won’t have another outburst this week? Or what if he starts off the season slow and beings lashing out about his contract to the media? This is the baggage you take on when signing Gary Sheffield.

The best course of action is to pick up his option now. Nothing good will come by not picking it up, and it would allow the team to put off these contract problems until next year, when Sheff won’t have an option to bitch about. Of course, he may want an extension at that point, but at age 38, he could be (and should be) considering retirement.

The only negative aspect of this scenario, as laid out to me by James Varghese over at Yanks Blog, is that Sheff’s role in 2007. Since Bernie is due to retire following this season, Sheff would be prime to move to full-time DH (and if you don’t think that now, I’m sure you will as the season progresses). Visa vi, Jason Giambi is forced into starting at first for another season, which could be proven detrimental during this season. The advantage to having signed Vladimir Guerrero is more apparent as the days go by…and this is coming from a guy who very recently defended that decision.

If you think the latest Sheff episode is frustrating, just head over to the Carl Pavano booth down in Tampa. Not only is his throwing further delayed, but he may be held out, possibly on the DL, until mid-April. I was once optimistic about the second season of Carl, but this latest injury development has me thinking we’ll never see much of a return on that $40 million.

This development has brought on two realizations. First, we got an early answer to the yearly question of when we’re going to need a fifth starter. Second, it becomes more apparent that Carl should have been dished for pennies on the dollar this winter. He’s worth zilch on the trade market and to the team now, so hindsight tells us that acquiring Jeremy Reed for him would have been a wise swap.

George guaranteed victory in the World Series, which is nice. My question: is this really news? Isn’t spending circa $200 million on your team an implicit guarantee of victory?

Much heralded prospect Phil Hughes has been wowing the likes of Jorge Posada and A-Rod over the past week, causing them to speak in hyperbole. I followed Hughes closely since learning about him during the Mark Kotsay trade rumors, and have been enamored with his performance. True, he missed much of the second half with arm complications, but initial intelligence seems to think little of it.

My major concern with Hughes is the hype. So many things have to go right for a pitcher Hughes’s age to blossom into a Major League starter, and he’s far from proven in the longevity game at age 19. But it feels nice to have a prospect rising through the system – and Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects.