Friday, February 27, 2009

Manny Ramirez- enough already

People like to talk bad about the game of baseball and that sometimes bothers me, but in this case, it gets very hard to defend the game. What's bothering me now is the entire Manny Ramirez contract situation. I am all for a player waiting to sign the best offer, but this is getting ridiculous.

What exactly is going on on "Planet Man-Ram" these days. This guy is a phenomenal offensive player, but maybe all the side show antics have finally scared teams away. Manny continues to turn down a 2 yr/ 45mil offer from the Dodgers.

The problem here is no one else is bidding on Man-Ram. Maybe tanking it for a few months to force a trade really isn't a bargaining chip after all. Manny is seeking a 4yr 100 mil deal and it isn't gonna happen.

If Dodgers GM Ned Colletti ups his offer, then he should flat out be fired. Ned, YOU ARE BIDDING AGAINST YOURSELF. That is so bad for baseball if Manny gets a bigger deal when there is no reason to. Let his ass stay home for a while and then maybe he will want to play ball.

I understand a GM needs to put together the best team he can, and in the Dodgers case that includes signing Manny Ramirez, but you already went all in on him. The Dodgers don't have a backup plan. They held out for Manny and he's all that is left. The Dodgers have good young talent and adding Manny's bat alone could win the NL West, but they have to take a stand. Unless the Giants really get in the mix, the Dodgers are the only option at the moment. There is no way Colletti should cave in and give this clown what he wants.

However, the blame here isn't on Manny or even Colletti for turning this into the drama that it has become. I place this totally on Scott Boras. Boras continues to bleed franchises of money at any occasion he can get. Can you blame him though, if teams continue to give him what he asks. He represents the best of the best in the league and these guys will continue to get their money, and I don't have an issue with that. Every team has had an issue with Boras at one point or another. The Pirates clashed with him over the Pedro Alvarez contract. Many franchises refuse to deal with him, which puts teams at a disadvantage, because of the caliber of player he represents.

I hate to bring up the Bucco's again, but for years, they stayed away from Boras clients in the draft, and they are paying a heavy price for it. Look at the2007 draft, selecting Daniel Moskos instead of Matt Wieters. There are other instances, but the Pirates would be in alot better shape if Boras wasn't involved. That statement, by no means excuses the Pirates management for the many mistakes they've made in the last 15 years, but it did have some influence.

Somebody needs to take a stand against Boras before he helps cripple the game. Ned Colletti can take a stand. Unless the Giants or another team gets involved, don't cave into Boras and Manny. You will only look foolish for outbidding yourself and will ultimately give Scott Boras even more power than he already has.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Penguins Deal Whitney to Ducks

Your NHL trading deadline home will be right here. I will have up to date commentary on each deal on deadline day (March 4), as they happen.

The Penguins pulled the trigger on a deal today that sent defensemen Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Chris Kunitz and 20 year old prospect Eric Tangradi. Is this the first of a series of moves that can get the Pens back into cup contention? One can only hope.

My first take on the deal was- What in the hell is Shero thinking? Kunitz is a solid winger, but nothing special. To give up a big chip like Whitney, one that teams were interested in, I would expect a better return. After looking at it for a while though, it isn't entirely that bad of a deal, if it triggers another move.

Entering the season, the Pens had a surplus of young defensemen and naturally they could deal one. With the emergence of Kris Letang and Alex Gologoski (who better return to the big club), it made sense to move Whitney, but what did they get?

Sherro will tell you they got a top winger in Kunitz. He will play with Crosby and needs to produce early and often as a Penguin. He is a VERY quick player with above average hands. He immediately becomes the teams best current winger not named Sykora, but that doesn't say much at all with this current group. The thing i do like is that he will score alot of goals in front of the net (Ryan Malone anyone). Kunitz brings toughness as well. He can go and get the puck, something our wingers can't do right now and he is physical (144 hits). He is also signed for 3 more years so there is no threat of him leaving. His salary breakdown is 3.6mil in 2009, 3.8 in 2010 and 4mil in 2011.

The numbers don't look like a top 6 guy- 16 goals 19 assists, but he played in a more methodical style with Anahiem. His numbers should get better with the Pens, especially in an up tempo style. They better, to warrant dealing Whitney. He also could be a Dan Bylsma kind of player. Bylsma played with and coached Kunitz in Anaheim.

The key to the deal could be Tangradi, a former second round pick of the Ducks. He is a scorer. His 87 points in the OHL are only 2 behind John Taveres, who should be the number one overall pick in this years draft. he should be ready to turn pro next season and join the Penguins organization.

This deal is actually better for the Ducks. They acquire a solid young blue-liner and have been rumored to be shopping Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermeyer. They can now deal one or both for offense and get themselves back into the playoff race.

The Pens are still being linked to Milan Hejduk and Martin St Louis, which means Jordan Stall would have to be included to acquire one of them (thank god). While I can't say I like the Whitney move just yet, it would look alot better if they landed a true first line winger.

If this is Ray Shero's only move as the deadline approaches, it just doesn't make that much sense, because on paper they aren't getting out of the first round anyway. However, IF Shero can pull off a major deal by March 4, then Kunitz could turn out to be a valuable asset to the team.

Selection Sunday Comes Early

After watching two quality NCAA Hoop games last night, I started thinking about where all the teams should be placed. Selection Sunday has come early so get out your brackets, here we go.

(As of 2-26, i will update until Selection Sunday)
Note: The East will play the Midwest in the Final Four


1. U Conn- The overall #1 seed should be in the east, even with the loss of Dyson, but we know the NCAA loves to keep UNC or Duke in the east so don't b surprised if UNC ends up here.
2.Michigan St.- The Spartans have a real outside shot for a 1 but for now Izzo's bunch is slotted here.
3.Wake Forest- The Deacons are a very streaky bunch and possess maybe the fastest team in the nation. A #1 a month ago, inconsistencies have dropped the Deamon Deacons to a 3.
4.Gonzaga- A sleeper Final 4 team, the Zags are talented and have scheduled well. A couple bad losses force them out east.

1. Pitt- All the 1's should be pretty safe, but if there is one that could drop it would be the Panthers. A tough final 2 games plus the Big East tourney loss could drop the Panthers
2.Memphis- Callipari's bunch are knocking at the door for a 1, but playing in slack ass C-USA, I can't put them ahead of a Big East team, but this team has the talent to win it all.
3. Arizona St.-Another really good team. If you haven't seen harden play you are in for a treat.
4.Kansas- Hard to call the defending champs a sleeper team, but that is what they are. Their youngsters have gained valuable experience and the Jayhawks are playing great .

1.UNC-If the Tarheels commit to playing defense, then realistically they have more talent than any other team and should win the title. Problem is, the Heels tend to take weeks off from playing d at a time.
2.Louisville- Looking for this years sexy pick. It will be the Cardinals. Petino could have a winner with this bunch and they are finally healthy. If they get farther in the Big East tourney than Pitt, then they will get the #1.
3.Villanova- Jay Wright's team will probably be happy with a #3 seed, far exceeding preseason expectations.
4.Clemson- Another very inconsistent, but talented team.

1. Oklahoma- Griffins injury status effects their location. If he returns soon the Sooners are likely to be in the Midwest and ship Pitt out west.
2. Missouri- Going out on a limb here, but I really like this team. A true sleeper to reach Detroit.
3.Duke-A win vs Unc and a trip to the ACC finals could jump them up to a #2
4.Purdue-Probably locked in this spot even if they win the Big 10.

Last 2 in Gonzaga and Clemson
Best of the rest:UCLA, Washington, Xavier, LSU and Marquette (James injury dropped them out

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's time to make history

Well it's one of my favorite time of the year, baseball season is upon us. The first spring training games have just begun and I guess that means that the Pittsburgh Pirates are now officially mathematically eliminated from post-season play this season.

Bucco fans, not only will you not be playing in October (AGAIN), but your faithful are ready to put their names in history as the worst sports franchise of all time- 17 losing seasons in a row. How can one team be that bad for that period of time? The Clippers, Rays, Lions etc. have all had playoff appearances in the time.

I can list the reason and throw out blame to just about everybody, but you have heard it all before. What i am here to do is offer hope. Yeah i said hope and I swear I'm not on drugs at the moment, although as I keep writing this maybe I should be.

When I say I'm here to offer hope, I don't mean this year or next or maybe not even the year after that, but it will happen eventually (I HOPE). First off all lets get this straight, finishing above .500 accomplishes nothing unless you make the playoffs. That's the goal here, to win.

Lets look at this years team first. The fact is they are not getting better and have no chance to compete this year. It hurts to say but this could be the worst team yet. The pitching staff as a whole stinks. I like Maholm, but not a staff ace and Capps is good at the back end of the pens, but the other 10 on the staff offer nothing for now or the future. Even if you get bounce back years from Snell or Gorzalanny or both, it still isn't any good.

Offensively, Ryan (No-Mitt) Doumitt and Nate McClouth had decent years in 08 and hopefully can continue to progress, but you look at the rest of the offense, guys like Sanchez, Wilson and both Laroche's and there just isn't cause for excitement.

I did say I would give you hope so i will give it my best shot to sell you on their plan. Actually the best hope I can offer is that the Nutting family sell the team, but that won't happen anytime soon.

First thing to do is continue to blow this team up and start over. Not one player on the opening day roster should be considered untouchable. Deal them all, but when you do, you must command top young talent in return. The problem with that is that other than McClouth, Doumitt and Maholm, they just don't have much to offer to teams in return. So if that means trading your best players away, then do it if the return is right. I know fan don't want to hear this, but the Pirates need talent throughout the organization and right now they simply don't have it.

Next, I continue to show confidence in my baseball people and continue to add to the front office. Hunnington has done some good things, give him the time to continue the plan. Don't get overly excited about giving guys like McClouth, Sanchez, Capps, Maholm, Snell and Doumitt extensions. All they did was buy out the arbitration years for these guys. If anything, I give the front office credit for making these guys have More trade value.

Next, I continue to shell out money through the draft. I was very encouraged by last years draft and they need at least five more years of that. Continue to draft the best players on the board and get as many of them signed as possible. The fact of the matter is the Pirates are paying now for having very poor drafts in the past (Matt Wieters anyone?). The early reviews of Pedro Alvarez are great right now. Imagine if you had drafted Wieters, who is hands down the number one prospect in the game, after only one year of minor league ball.

Did I mention the Nutting's could sell the team?

The fact is there are no more excuses. The Rays gave you the blueprint on how to build through the draft and all they did was come from nowhere to win the toughest division in sports. Fluke? No chance. They might not repeat this year, but they have enough young talent in their organization to stay competitive for a long while.

Finally, after you stockpile enough talent in the organization, bring them up together. Bring 3 or 4 up at a time and let them learn to win together. Once enough pieces are in place, maybe the Pirates can use free agency to improve the team and add the missing pieces (Of course Nutting would have to sell the team).

Don't be excited over this team, if the plan works out, none of them will be here when the Pirates start to win anyways. get excited about: Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchon, Neil Walker, Brad Lincoln, Shelby Ford, Jose Tabata and the new class of future Pirates

It is the only thing for Pirates fans to get excited about, because the current group is about to make history, just the wrong kind. I hope i am wrong but it doesn't look good.

Unless........ Mark Cuban still wants to buy a baseball team.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Number 1 Again

What a great season of college basketball so far. There are so many good teams and players out there, that great games and moments are happening on a daily basis. But who is the nation's best team? As postseason play rapidly approaches, I have to agree with the current polls and say it's the Pittsburgh Panthers.

After waiting 101 years for their first number one ranking, the Panthers have achieved it for the second time this season. It's nice to be number 1 on Feb 23, but it means absolutely nothing. Jamie Dixon and the Panthers would like to be number 1 the first Monday in April.

Going into this season it appeared that the North Carolina Tarheels were head and shoulders above any team in the nation, but that is simply not the case. If any team in the nation is more dominant than the rest it is the Panthers. I feel the top 5 teams in the nation: Pitt, U Conn, Oklahoma, UNC and Memphis are about as even as they get and you can add Louisville into that group as well. Any of these teams can defeat the rest on any given night.

5 reasons why Pitt will win the national title
1. Physical Play- Pitt will wear you down physically. Very few teams in the nation can match up with them physically. You saw U Conn's Hasheem Thabeet fall victim to Pitt"s physicality. He wasn't the first and won't be the last.
2. Dejuan Blair- Blair flat out has been a man among boys this season and as long as he can stay out of foul trouble, I like him against any big man in the nation, including Hansbrough and Griffin.
3. Senior Leadership- Senior laden teams tend to really do well in March, and the combination of Young, Fields and Biggs will be no different. They have a goal and are determined to reach it.
4. Levance Fields- Guard play is huge in March and I put Fields up against any guard in the nation. His assist to turnover ration is tops in the nation and having him out there is like having a second head coach on the floor.
5. Jamie Dixon- Dixon doesn't get the respect he deserves as one of the games top coaches and he won't til he gets the Panthers past the Sweet 16. Despite that, Dixon should be mentioned among the games elite coaches.

5 Reasons they won't
1. Dejuan Blair- No team is directly affected by the way the game is officiated like the Panthers. If they run into a tightly called game in the tourney like they usually do, then they could be in trouble. Blair must stay out of foul trouble or Pitt has no chance.
2. Perimeter Shooting- The pressure will be on Jermaine Dixon, Brad Wannamaker and Ashton Gibbs to knock down jumpers or it will be another early exit.
3. Past history- The Panthers haven't advanced past the Sweet 16 under Dixon and that's all they will be hearing until they do it.
4. Defense- This Pitt just isn't as good defensively as teams past. At times that sacrafice defense for offense. They don't guard the perrimeter well and their on ball defense is lacking at times.
5. Free throw shooting- The kryptonite for Pitt teams for years. I have no answers here, but the Panthers haven't been good from the charity stripe in about 15 years. It can cost them a tournament game. Exhibit 1- the 2008 Memphis Tigers

Having said all that i still like this team to make a long run and possibly cut down the nets when it's all said and done. This is the first Pitt team that is not just a great defensive team. The Panthers can score with any team in the nation offensively and I believe it will continue through the tournament.

He's Back

Finally, this week we get treated to the return of Tiger Woods. I for one am very excited to see Woods playing again. I mean did anyone actually watch golf once he got hurt. I for one didn't and the PGA's ratings showed alot of you didn't either.

Tiger just brings that "IT" factor to the sport that forces you to watch. The US Open last year with Tiger, on one leg, outlasting Rocco was one of the best sports moments of 2008. I usually enjoy the Matchplay Championship, but adding Tiger's return will make it an even better event.

What do we expect from Tiger this week? Not much actually. Matchplay has not been one of Tiger's best events in years past, although he has won it three times, including a victory over Stewart Cink in last years event.

Tiger can't win this in his first event back. Can he? Of course he can, he is after all Tiger Woods. People close to Tiger said to expect Tiger to comeback even better than before. Better? Is that even possible? One thing I have learned watching Woods over the years is that any and everthing is possible from Tiger Woods.

So this week I expect a "Sweet 16 " appearence at the least, but would not be surprised if Tiger is playing for the title. My question for everybody is What kind of 2009 do you expect Tiger Woods to have? My prediction is atleast 2 majors possibly a third.

It's about time we got Tiger Woods back, for the game, and most of all for the fans.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Who's the NHL's Best?

At no time in history have there been as many talented young players as there are in todays game. The Big 3 - Crosby, Malken and Ovechkin are considered the three best players in the game today. The question I pose to you is that if you could only have one, who would you take?

Looking at the three closely, I will start with Sidney Crosby. Crosby is the face of the NHL, at 22 years old. He can thrive in any style of play. While being the ultimate playmaker in open ice, out of the 3 he is also has the skill of a grinder who can win any battle in the corners. Sid the Kid has the knack of knowing where everyone on the ice is at all times, a trait very few have had in history.

Crosby became the youngest captain in NHL history and already has a Hart Trophy to his credit. He has also led the NHL in scoring in his young career. He has become the ultimate leader both on and off the ice and to his credit he carries the burden of being the face of the NHL with class.

Crosby's career numbers (as of 2-22) 272 gp, 122 g, 250 a, 372 pts

Next up is Ovechkin. Alexander the great is the older of the 3, at just 24 years old. When it is all said in done, he will go down as one of the greatest offensive players in NHL history. He also has a scoring title to his credit and cn score from anywhere on the ice in any fashion . Alex always seems to have fun playing the game, which the other two don't always seem to show.

Ovechkin also has a mean streak to him and brings a physical brand of play with him. He is an underrated playmaker and can handle himself well defensively. He also is a tremendous leader of his team and should be used with Crosby as the face of the NHL.

Ovechkin's numbers 302gp, 205g, 280a, 485pts

Finally lets look at the 23 year old Malken. Geno sometimes flys under the radar, playing on the same team as Crosby, but out of the 3 may have the complete package offensively. He is the best skater of the 3 and can also be very physical. Geno should join the other two by winning his first scoring title this year.

What seperates the other two away from Malken is defensively. Geno tends to not show up in his own end most nights and that is part of his game that needs some work.

Malken's numbers 270gp, 107g, 170a, 277pts

Well its time to make a choice. Neither has won a cup yet, so throw that part of it out the window. All 3 have had highlight reel moments (especially Alex), so thats a push as well. While I LOVE both Malken and Crosby, I am going with Ovechkin just barely over Crosby.

While I do believe Sid will go down as the best of the three when it's all said and done and Malken continues to impress, Alex gives you a complete game every night out and right now is the most dangerous player in the game. While there is no wrong choice here, Alexander the Great gets my vote.

what's in a name

I have been wanting to write a sports blog for a while now and since the Pens are playing like crap today, I decided there is no time like the present. This blog will feature alot of national sports topics and alot of local Pittsburgh sports topics as well .

I needed a name for this and I was trying to think of some comical goofs from Pittsburgh athletes and came up with quite a few, but have settled on one of my all-time favorites- Operation Shutdown.

For those of you that dont remember the meaning of Operation Shutdown, it refers to one of the Pirates worst signings of all-time, outfielder Derek Bell. In spring training of 2002, Bell told reporters "Nobody told me I was in a competition. If there is a competition, then I'm going into Operation Shutdown and they can do whatever they want to do."

Bell who hit .179 the previous year was released two days later and never played in the majors again. Oh yeah, the Pirates ended up paying him 4.5 mil not to play for them.

enjoy the blog,
Matt Shetler