Saturday, June 29, 2013

Time to make a move Giants

With the baseball season right about at the halfway point, its time for teams to decide whether they are contenders or pretenders. Those who feel they can contend will look to strengthen their team for the final run. A missing bat or pitcher could be the key to a championship. For teams who are out of it, now is the time to both dump payroll and see what they have in young talent. For the San Francisco Giants, this question is a hard one to answer. They are currently 3 games under .500 and sit 6.5 games in their division. While some may say that makes them pretenders, we are talking about a team that has won it all 2 of the past 3 years. There is still time to turn this season around, but the Giants are going to have to make some changes in order for that to transpire.

The first thing the Giants need to do is find another power bat. Currently, the team ranks 28th out of 30 teams in home runs hit. They also rank in the bottom half of the league in slugging percentage. They do rank 6th in the league in team average, so all is not lost. They get people on base, but aside from Buster Posey, they have no other premium threat in the lineup. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval have proven to be streaky, so I think another big bat would help. Josh Willingham of the Twins is a player I would look out for. The Twins are in rebuild mode, and might want to unload the 34 year old on the cheap. He could slide into left field until Angel Pagan returns, then can platoon, pinch hit or even play some first base. The power he brings is worth the price, and with the arms in the Giants division, they need as many quality hitters as possible. The Giants need to find power at one of the corner positions of left field or first base. Those are typically power hitting positions, and the Giants are severely lacking in that area. For example, Brandon Belt has 8 home runs as the Giants everyday first baseman. Chris Davis, first baseman of the Orioles, has hit 28 home runs. The situation needs to be addressed because the offense has to score to win, because the pitching has been far from dominant.

Over the last few years, pitching has been the Giants calling card. From the starters to the bullpen, fans could almost always expect a great performance from the pitching staff. It even gave birth to the phrase "Giants baseball......torture!". One run games were routine, but OK because the pitching staff could shut down most opposing teams. It would seem, however, that the league has slowly begin to catch up with the Giants. The team ranks in the bottom half of the league in team ERA and WHIP. This is alarming mostly because the offense is so woeful; the team has a hard time playing catch up, which puts added pressure on the pitching staff to carry the team. While there is no one transaction fix, I think adding another starter is crucial. Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito have been less than stellar, and the bullpen has been down right atrocious. In a perfect world, the Giants would trade for Phillies ace Cliff Lee, a proven starter who would thrive in a pitchers park like AT&T. He does have a huge contract, but the Giants have deep pockets and could afford to take the hit if they wanted. It probably wouldn't cost too much as the Phillies try to slash payroll, and you could trade Tim Lincecum. Chances are the team won't resign him anyway, so might as well use him to get something. In baseball, sometimes all the moves in the world don't mean a thing without some luck.

Much like 2011, this season the Giants have been struck by multiple injuries. Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan and Santiago Casilla have all missed multiple games with injuries. All of those players were integral parts of the World Series winning club. If the team can get back a strong Vogelsong and Pagan, it will go a long way to turning the season around. Sometimes you can't overcome a laundry list of injuries, so only time will tell. Whatever happens to end the season, the Bay Area is lucky. Having a team win 2 championships in 3 years is a rare feat nowadays. So even if this season ends with disappointment, these guys have given us plenty to cheer for over the last 36 months of so.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Not surprised about Hernandez

Since the conclusion of this past Super Bowl, there have been 28 arrests involving NFL players. The most shocking arrest came today, when New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested. Shortly after his arrest, his was released by the Patriots. Following his arraignment, the world found out he was being charged with first degree murder as well as numerous gun charges. While this certainly is one of the most shocking arrests, it can not come as a surprise to followers of the NFL. For as long as people can remember, players have been getting arrested for a myriad of crimes, and the end does not appear to be insight.

The biggest problem facing players in the league, is that pretty much all of them do not come from rich families. That usually means that when they sign their rookie contracts, they become support for many members of their families. Also, they now have so much disposable income, they don't know what to do with. They end up spending money on cars, clothes, houses and jewelery. Of course, they think the next logical step is to buy guns, because you have to protect all these new belongings. Parents, guardians, or friends need to level with these kids. You are bigger than most humans, and usually roll with an entourage. Let them protect you or carry the guns. You have one job, to play a game for millions of dollars. It is sad that some people wont tell them they are messing up in fear of losing their meal ticket.

The next biggest problem with young NFL players are the people they allow to hang around them. Many players gain an entourage of family and friends, most of whom are there to reap the benefits of being close to an NFL player. While the player might feel some obligation to his friends and family, only he has worked his ass off to get to that level. They should not feel guilty about saying no to those closest to them. After all, the average NFL career is less than 5 years, meaning it may start off hot, but the money can quickly be gobbled up. No one is saying you cant give back, that is one of the benefits of being an NFL player. They just have to be smart about things and realize this money has to last the rest of their lives, they wont be making millions for the rest of their lives unless they get lucky.

The last problem they face is probably the most difficult to fix. The culture of athletes is general is a poor one and many athletes think they have to fit into that mold. They should be out at the club, popping bottles in the VIP. They should be dating models or actresses. Pretty much living the life of a celebrity. The problem is, they are not celebrities per say. They don't sing or act, they play a game. Unlike being an actor or singer, off the field problems can derail an athletes career.While you may be perceived as a dork or loser, staying in and watching television is a much safer activity. At the end of the day, its about the positions you put yourself in; a smart person knows how to avoid or at least recognize a potential problem. Stupid people either cant see trouble coming, or think they can deal with it. Sad to say, but the arrests will keep continuing as long as these factors are still rampant.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tebowmania isn't dead, just on Hiatus

Both Tim Tebow fans and detractors both were made happy early this week, when Tebow signed with the New England Patriots. Fans of Tebow are happy he is still in the leauge after drawing little to no interest on the free agent market. People who do not like Tebow are happy he went to New England, where the circus that usually follows Tebow will not be tolerated. It really is the perfect situation for all parties involved.

On the surface, the move does not make much sense for the New England Patriots. They have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Tom Brady, and he has said he wishes to play until he is at least 40. They also have a young, strong armed quarterback in Ryan Mallet. So, why would they add someone as their 3rd QB? I think this will end up being a brilliant move for New England. Tebow is reunited with Josh McDaniels, the man who drafted him in the first round while a coach for the Denver Broncos. Without any pressure of starting, he can refine his horrendous mechanics for a whole season or two. Then, I see the Patriots trading away Ryan Mallet. He is far too young and talented to waste away on the bench.

Before letting him walk as a free agent, they will trade Mallet for a 3rd round pick. This will bump Tebow into the second string role, but by then his mechanics should have much improved. Unlike his last two stops, the fan base in New England loves its current coach and quarterback. There will be no huge media push to play Tebow, and that is exactly what he needs. Tebow has never lobbied for himself to play, but his loyal followers are always insistent. This move allows him to sit and learn behind one of the all time greats, while still having a shot at contributing to a Super Bowl winner.

Do not hold your breath waiting to see Tim Tebow take a snap under center. Unless it is the preseason, he will be holding a clip board or playing another position. Everyone in the organization knows that Tom Brady gives them the best chance to win. It has been that way for over a decade. They will not take the ball out of Brady's hands for the sake of a gadget play. Tebow is more than capable running the ball, so I would expect to see him lined up all over the field. He will be especially dangerous in the red zone, where a read option play with him and Brady could prove lethal.

All in all, I think it is a win win situation for both sides. Tebow can grow as a player without the media hype surroungding him. The Patriots are known to be very bland with the media, and that should help calm the circus. I don't know if Tebow will ever be a starting caliber quarterback. But, I do know this is the best situation for him to be thrown in. It will be fun to follow, but unlike his stint in New York, we will not have daily press conferences about him or his practice habits. The Patriots are all about winning, not about individuals. Just ask Wes Welker about that one.

Monday, June 10, 2013

We all know LeBron is great, but explain to me something.......

LeBron James has just won his fourth MVP award in the last five seasons. He has proven to be the most talented player in the league, at least from an overall skill level. However, I think there are somethings people are over looking when talking about Mr. James.

To any follower of basketball, we expected just about nothing less from LeBron James. Since appearing of the cover of Sports Illustrated while still in high school, we have been expecting big things from him. He was anointed "The Chosen One" and even has a tattoo that says as such on his body. He was drafted number 1 overall right out of high school by his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. After 7 seasons in his hometown, including the franchises first finals appearance, he was gone. He could not deliver a title to his home state, so then he made his first mistake.

For the first time in history, a free agent had an entire show dedicated to his free agent destination. It was called "The Decision". On national, prime time television, James went on ESPN and ripped out the hearts of not only Cleveland fans, but fans of the NBA. He said he was taking his talents to Miami, to team up with off the court buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The decision turned a lot of people of because of the grandiose way James went about a business decision. Never before, and probably never again, has an athlete gone on prime time television to address his next destination. The worst part was that Cleveland was still in the running to resign their hometown hero, but he ripped there hearts out on national TV.

Since arriving in Miami, they have both won and lost an NBA championship. The team has added other pieces at a cheaper cost because players are willing to take less to win a title. While I am a proponent of this attitude, it is generally not the way the game used to be played. It used to be that a player would essentially want to be the "Man" on his team. Like Jordan, Russell, Bird or Magic, when you thought of those guys, you thought of them as the one guy on their team. Now, players just want to team up in pursuit of rings. To me, it is not a good thing for sports in general. Pretty soon, there will only be a handful of viable teams, while the rest have to watch as mega teams get put together. It is sure to have an impact on the overall product sports are trying to produce.

Basically, I think LeBron James is the most physically gifted player in the NBA. He can do it all, but he is not without his flaws. He could not win a championship until he teamed up with two other superstars. He has a tendency to disappear in big games, deferring to other teammates. While he is surely going to be a Hall of Famer and be talked about as one of the greatest ever, there will also be whispers about the things he could not do on his own. Namely, carrying a team to a title.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Here we go....The Old 3 vs. The Big 3

The NBA finals start tomorrow, and there are a few interesting story lines. The Miami Heat will be looking to repeat as champions, led by the third year trio of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The San Antonio Spurs counter with their own three headed monster of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The biggest difference between these two groups is age, although they way they were brought together has many fans hoping the Heat do not repeat.

All 3 of the Spurs "Big 3" were brought together through normal means. Draft and free agency paid of well for the Spurs, who have consistently been an elite team since Tim Duncan's arrival. On the other hand, the Heat's "Big 3" came together via suspect free agency. Dwayne Wade was the only player drafted by the Heat. When Wade, James and Bosh became free agents at the same time, they decided to take less than market value and team up together. Many fans and former players thought this was a cheap way to go after a title. Rather than lead a team to a championship as a singular star, these three teamed up to make the quest easier. While it has proved easy, it will tarnish their individual legacies. Wade was the only one of the 3 to win a title previously, and even that was done with the help of Shaquille O' Neal.

The San Antonio Spurs have defied logic over the last 15 years. With Tim Duncan as the leader, the team has consistently made the playoffs and gone on deep runs. Duncan and coach Greg Popovich have formed one of the greatest player coach combinations ever. While it would be nice to see them win another championship, the odds are stacked against them. The Miami Heat are the defending champs, have the best player in the game, and are overall a younger team.

The Heat are going to be favored to win, and it will be easy to see why. They have a remarkable collection of talent that can stretch the floor. Also, they have the games all time leader in 3 pointers made in Ray Allen. Add to that the Heat have been playing tenacious defense, and you have a recipe for disaster. The Heat are not perfect, but when firing on all cylinders, there isn't a better team in the league.

Personally, I would like to see the Spurs win. I would love to see Tim Duncan win another title because he is without a doubt the most underrated superstar in NBA history. Add to that the immense character and likability, its easy to root for them. Also, LeBron and company come off as spoiled and too expectant. They need to be humbled, so hopefully the Spurs can do it. Unfortunately, if I was a betting man, I would pick the Heat in 6.