Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why is the draft such a big deal?

It's already been almost a day since Houston pulled one of the biggest upset's in recent draft day history and they still have no win's to show for it. Appalling! You mean one of the most-hyped and talked about decisions pay's absolutely no immediate dividend's? My point being that the rest of the media spend way too much time analyzing these draft day decisions and not so much analyzing what's actually important, the real impact of the decisions on the field, one year, three years, or even 10 years later.

Explain how Reggie Bush went from the consensus, head-and-shoulders first-pick in the draft at the end of the season to getting passed up...without playing any games in between. And better yet, his USC teammate Matt Leinart goes from being the possible top pick and a definite top-3 pick in LAST year's draft to dropping like a rock all the way to 10th. By the way, in the time between the last year and this year all Leinart did was lead his team to a third straight National Championship game with an undefeated regular season, and within 2 minutes of another title. I guess it's clear why Leinart dropped so much...he performed great on the field over the course of the entire season and didn't wow scouts for the handful of throws and sprints they watch at the combines. Can someone remind me what the goal of an NFL team is? Best combine team? Lowest average 40-yard dash team?

Without having the tools, time, or staff at my disposal to do the research, it seem's that the best draft strategy is not to make the one big-name splash on draft day, but to stock pile a handful of low-risk, high-reward players at position's of need. Less glitz leads to more glamour. When was the last time the New England Patriots were the most talked about team on draft day, or made some unbelievably bold move (see signing on Mario Williams or trading the mother load for Ricky Williams) that left everyone talking. How about the Colts, the last time they were part of the hype it was for selecting Peyton Manning first over Ryan Leaf. And when you consider that, they had the first pick, held it, took the consensus first pick (no matter what you say about Ryan Leaf coming out, Manning was still the easy pick), and went on with their business. Year after year they made their pick, no hoopla, no huge trades, and went on with their business. Next thing you know, regular season power and playoff contender. What about the Steelers or the Eagles? Less press on draft day leads to more press come play-off time.

My theory on the draft is to go with the lower risk players early in the draft, try to make a quiet steal in one of the less-discussed but often beneficial later rounds, and don't trade the house to move up. The highest percentage of successful high draft picks seem to be linemen, particularly offensive. Clearly not the glamour pick, but it's usually someone that can be plugged in immediately and usually be a stalwart for 10-12 years. The other high draft pick strategy I'm in favor of is the talented player who drops for unbeknownst reasons. Sometimes its valid, like the kid doesn't have his head on straight, or may have injury problems. But other times its a story about his past, or his combine workouts, or maybe NFL scout's didn't like his selections in the NCAA tournament. Who knows? Yesterday it was Leinart, baded on arm strength questions, dropping into the hands of Arizona. Great pick. Years back it was Dan Marino and Warren Sapp falling based on reports of drug use that were clearly blown out of proportion like the discussion of many of these players. The other part of the strategy is be very careful when taking a big-name, skill position player. Make sure you really, really like the guy for the right reasons. For every John Elway there are two Ryan Leaf's, and three Joey Harrington's between every Peyton Manning.

The other part of my strategy is to pay attention to the guys you take later in round 1 and in rounds 2-4. That's where the best VALUE is. How many of today's starting wide receivers or quarterbacks were top 10 selections? I don't have the number handy, but the point is there are a ton of Tom Brady's, Matt Hasselbeck's, Drew Brees', Steve Smith's, and Hines Ward's out there? No talk on draft day, big talk when it matters. Nobody talks about the guy you passed up that year when you took fill-in the blank, or who the pick's you traded to take so and so with turned out to be.

Maybe it's way too conservative and maybe I'm way off. But I just think that this has turned too much into an imprecise science based on unsubstantiated numbers, rather than an evaluation of talent and determination of which player's will help a team win games. The hype is mostly media driven like so many other things nowadays. In the end, the best pick's seem to turn out being the same guys who were either the best during college, whether it be pure talent or team player. Go for the big hitter in free agency. Salary cap's are tight in the NFL, it seems like a better strategy to use a higher percentage on proven NFL commodities and players you have nurtured and spreading the rest of the wealth across a lot of low risk players.

Case in point, a great article on the biggest draft busts:

Monday, April 24, 2006

Yanks Bounce Back, Mets Get Bounced

Home Cookin'
All's well that ends well probably sums up the weekend at the Stadium. It sure started rough with yet another terrible Chien-Ming Wang outing and a comeback attempt halted in the 9th with the bat on Matsui's shoulder. But the Yanks recovered with two solid pitching outings and the Yankees expected offensive performance against weak pitching teams, where they just wear them into submission.
First off, is it time to start worrying about Wang? Outside of the start in Minnesota he has been terrible. There were definitely some questions about his health beading into the year. Could that be it or is it just a slow start or is he just not as good as we thought? Most people figured the Yanks could count on him for 15 wins this year, and were more worried about Johnson and Mussina. I actually thought 15 may have been under-selling him, so far...not quite. If that ball don't start sinking, the Yanks may be in trouble, given that great pitching depth they have with Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano.
Wang was a little easier to stomach after Chacon and Johnson rebounded from their respective awful outings to post solid games over the weekend. And perish the thought, Johnson actually pitched well with Posada behind the plate. The way Torre has made the lineup out the past two years and how you hear the situation analyzed I almost thought Johnson may refuse to take the mound with Posada in the game, never mind throw a gem. Maybe it proves how much (or how little) a catcher means to one particular pitcher if he's good enough for all the other guys.
Giambia for MVP??!!!?? And just think it's almost the one year anniversary of the Yanks asking him to become the most expensive AAA player ever. My how times change. You don't think he might be back on the...nah, nevermind.

Pedro or Bust
So everytime he takes the mound Pedro proves more wrong, again and again, by dominating without an over-powering fastball. Petey had the Padres looking like a bunch of Little Leaguers seeing their first breaking balls. Some of them could have used crutches to get to the dugout after the way their knees buckled.
One problem...apparently Pedro can't pitch everyday. And the problem gets magnified when Victor Zambrano has to pitch one of those days. How's that Scott Kazmir trade look now? It was bad at the time, and it just continues to get worse. If that trade came across my desk two years ago I would have first thought it was a joke, second tried to figure out what Dan Duquette (Mets GM) was thinking, or better yet smoking, at the time, then wondered if it was legal to allow such a lopsided trade to actually go through. And two years later it just keeps looking worse. Aaron Heilman anyone?? Hey, even Jorge Julio seems to be a better option at this time.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Early Weekend Wrap

We still have not reached May yet, which means the NBA and NHL playoffs haven't really started. The next few weeks, and yes it actually takes a few weeks to play just one round, should count more as a qualifier for the real playoffs since it seems that half the league makes it in. Are these professional leagues or intramural sports where everyone gets rewarded for particiaption. Come back in Round 2...just don't expect to see the Rangers there.

55 Million Reasons to Worry
It started as a chance for the Blue Jays to make their mark in the AL East race against the two incumbents after a big off-season. After pounding Randy Johnson, the Jays were about to send one of their prized off-season acquistions, pitcher AJ Burnett, to the hill to open a weekend set with the Sox. And if I were to tell you they got to one of Bostons co-ace's, Burnett's fellow former Marlin Josh Beckett, and that Toronto would take home a win, Jay's fans would have to be happy.
But did we mention that AJ Burnett left the game early with yet another injury, sending him to the DL for the second time in this young season. Burnett's stuff has never been questioned. As for his attitude and comment. That's why this comes as no surprise.
Toronto made a huge splash in the off-season, throwing a ton of money at Burnett, BJ Ryan, Troy Glaus, and Lyle Overbay, looking to catapult into the AL elite with Boston and NY. Given their recent history, city, and budget, there was no question they needed to overpay to attract free agents. But I thought they went a little more high risk, high reward then they needed to. Ryan was unproven in big spots heading into the season and Burnett had exhibited enough of a downside to be a potential problem. While Ryan has worked out thus far, throwing up nothing but zeroes, Burnett has not and Toronto may be in trouble. Throw in the fact that Josh Towers and Gustavo Chacin have been less than impressive soon, and Burnett's injury really hampers the Jays pitching. If they plan to be in the mix, one thing Toronto can't afford is to fall too far behind in the early going. Hate to say it, but we told you so.

Around the League
Not too long after being allegedly "washed up", Greg Maddux is off to his best start since 2000 with an ERA harder to find than a contact lens on the floor. He was so good today the only thing St. Louis hitters could do to slow him down was ask the umpires to check the ball. I guess they needed to make sure the ball was still white. I thought it was very bush league. It's not like Gaylord Perry was on the mound. Instead of complaining and trying to point the finger, how about hitting...Is it me or are the White Sox posting another win behind a sterling starting pitching performance every time you look up? Today it was Cuban and Yankee refugee Jose Contreras going to 3-0, following up Garcia and Buerhle on a 3-game sweep of the Twins to run the win streak to 8. Seems so easy, especially when you only give up 7 runs all week. Dare I say, repeat?...No, Barry Bonds does not warrant any comment...

Mets and Yanks commentary to come...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Not Quite

Just a quick hit, due to time restrictions:

Well, I guess the Braves are not going to roll over and die...contrary to some Met fans beliefs. With Chipper Jones on the mend, his understud of the same surname filled in as the prime villain in this on-going drama. You have to give credit to Andruw Jones, but I hate when a team lets one player beat them when he is clearly the only guy on the the other side that you don't want to beat you. The Mets let Jones do that...the consequence, a halt to the early season momentum they had going.

Wed - Is baseball more competitive than we think?

Baseball has been perceived as the poster child for what happens when a sport does not implement a hard-salary caps and a good revenue sharing plan. Competitive balance supposedly does not exist. Basically the season starts every April, and you can all but guarantee that come October you'll be seeing the Yankees play in primetime, watching afternoon playoff baseball at historic Fenway Park, talking about how the Braves blew another postseason serious...and on the other side of the token the Royals, Pirates, Tigers, Devil Rays, Brewers, maybe the Marlins (depending on the year of course) and a handful of others will be in full tee-time mode preparing for the draft.

Some of this is clearly true, the trends are there. While they have made some strides in the revenue-sharing area and salary-cap area, it's been sort of half-hearted due to the power of the union. There always seems to be a caveat...big market and small market teams share revenue, but nothing forces the small market teams to actually use it to get better...there is a tax imposed when teams eclipse the "salary-cap", but the problem is solved simply by throwing more money at it and paying the tax. Clearly there are tons of ideas to solve this, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't.

How many times can we hear about how the NFL is the best example of the good things that come from parity. But did anyone notice how many different teams have been in each league's respective Final Four in the past 5 or 6 years. Somehow, the non-disparate, no salary-cap, too many teams have no shot league has produced more different teams in the LCS than football has in their Conference Championship games, and any other sport in their final two playoff rounds for that matter (according to Elias).

So for every Royals there has been a White Sox team that nobody saw coming, and an Angels or Marlins making a nice run. While baseball clearly has a long way to go, the other sports aren't necessarily doing that much better, if at all. Chew on that the next time the Yanks sweep the Royals.

Tuesday - The "New" Mets

It sounds so cliche-ish, the old its a big game or must win situation, especially when its only April in baseball season. But this was huge for the Mets. Off to a great start, catching their nemesis for the last 15 years at their most vulnerable, at home, with their Ace on the hill. And they delivered.

Pedro can't dominate like he used to. The high-90's fastball and devastating change-up are things of the past, but one thing he'll always have until they cart him off the field is the old flair for the dramatic. Not overpowering last night, he was just real solid, and given the situation, one could say great.

Some observations...Who is Chris Shelton, the next Shane Spencer or Kevin Maas that plows onto the scene one year and falls into oblivion, or is this Carlos Delgado breaking out with a huge April and making his mark as a star? One thing's for sure, sell high if he's on your fantasy team...How is Jeff Fassero still pitching and can a team running Fassero out there even be taken seriously?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Weekend Recap - A First

Although they physically showed up for 3 games, the Yankees continued to somehow manage only playing about half of the time. On the other side of the token, the Mets continued their run as the early season darlings of baseball.

Is it me, or does it seem that the whole Mets lineup is hitting over .300. Today they even worked around both Darren Oliver and Jorge Julio outings in the same game to get the win. Now that's an accomplishment. Great bounce back from yesterday's game, Bannister, who struggled finding the plate while uncorking 112 pitches over 5 innings, held the Brewers lineup in check over the first half of the game to collect his second win. A solid number 5 starter would be a huge stabilizer for the Mets staff. Next up...the Braves, NY's Krptonite. Would be a huge early season boost to grab 2 out of 3 here and exorcise the demons. And as if they needed any more help, one Chipper Jones will be far from the field.

Thank god Wang finally pitched like we all thought he would this year. It seems like whenever someone is not pitching well the injury rumors immediatley start. Two weeks in and all people already had him struggling to come back from the injury last year and looking hurt. Is it ever possible to just not pitch well. Wang was back and forth between decent and awful his first two starts. Today, 8K's over 7 innings. I guess he made a miraculous recovery this week. And thank god, since Jaret Wright appears to be the Yankees answer to Jorge Julio and it appears unlikely that Carl Pavano will take the mound until the next lunar eclipse...Shockingly the Yanks offense posted 9 runs on another day when they didn't need them. Can you teach consistency?

Does Ruben Sierra (called up by Twins) plan on joining Julio Franco in their pursuit of Satchel Paige?....Yankee fans worst nightmares are starting to come to fruition in Beantown, Schilling and Beckett both look the 20-game winners they have been previously. Many looked at the Sox as weaker entering this season, but the one fear I had was if both of them can stay healthy and pitch to their ability. Its only two weeks, but they are both 3-0 with sub-2 ERA's. How long until Big Stein feels the need to counter...Did anyone notice the basketball and hockey playoffs start next week? Probably not, since most of the teams in both leagues are still playing and a month from now they will still seem far from over.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Brief Yankee/Met Observations on Friday Games

- I go on the record as saying last season was an aberration for TOm Glavine. Maybe I was wrong. Since when does he strikeout 11 batters, and this was not exactly a beer league softball lineup. If Pedro and Glavine can dominate, and the bullpen doesn't totally implode ala Jorge Julio...see you in October.

- Not quite exactly the fountain of youth, but Mussina continues to look good enough for what the Yanks need. Unfortunately their offense has not been. Can someone get a big hit, someone please. This first week is the epitomy of why it's better to have a team rather than a collection of overpaid, individualists.

- Here's a mantra I am doomed to repeat all season...When will the Yankees learn that it's not smart to just toss money at journeyman relief pitchers to solidify the bullpen.