Sunday, April 25, 2010

St. Louis Rams Shock NFL By Trying To Draft Asomugha (satire)

With the First overall pick on Thursday night, the St. Louis Rams shocked the sports world when they decided not to draft quarterback Sam Bradford, but instead take Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

“We were looking for a pick that was certain to make an impact for a number of years,” Rams GM Bill Devaney said. “The way I see it, the guy we just drafted has already established himself as one of the best players and is certain to make us a contender.

While there is no doubt that this caught ESPN’s Mel Kiper off guard, no one was more shocked than Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.

“Last time I checked, you couldn’t draft someone already in the NFL. I mean, that was in 1947, but the rules couldn’t have changed that much, could they?” Davis responded.

As soon as the pick was in, the fans started to stir and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell immediately went into the back to discuss the merit of the draft pick

After about an hour of confusion, it was determined that the pick, while uncontested by Asomugha, was indeed against the rules and the Rams would have to select another player.

Though this wasn’t a shock to the other 31 teams in the NFL, the news came as a great shock to the Rams.

“We can’t figure out why they won’t let us pick him. The Raiders are a distinguished program from the Pac 10, and adding a player of his caliber would do wonders with our defense,” Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

Upon hearing Spagnuolo’s comments, Commissioner Goodell was quick to inform the Rams that the Raiders were actually one of the 32 teams in the NFL and not a college football program.

“I understand the confusion. I mean, if it wasn’t for the fact that I have nightmares about Al Davis, I would probably forget they were in the NFL too,” Goodell said. “Look at their roster! I think the only reason they don’t move back to LA is that they would be afraid that USC would want to play them.”

The Rams finally came to the realization that the Raiders were actually a professional football team and drafted the Oklahoma quarterback, but are still hopeful to acquire Asomugha.

“From what I read online about these ‘Oakland Raiders,’ they take pride in getting washed up players. Maybe we can convince them that A.J.Feeley is a superstar and trade for him.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Do The Baltimore Orioles Know How To Win?

Well, by now you know the story. This was supposed to be the year that the Orioles actually set “winning” as their goal of the season. Unfortunately for fans in Baltimore, setting something as a goal doesn’t mean that it will happen.

Since Andy MacPhail has taken over, the Orioles have stockpiled talent in the minor leagues through the draft and various trades. Slowly, that young talent has arrived in the big leagues. This was the reason every Orioles fan was starting to be optimistic.

However, at 2-15, there is no doubt that this talent hasn’t translated into victories. This begs the question, “Why?”

Now, over the past few weeks, we have heard every possible explanation; ranging from them having no heart, to Dave Trembley being the worst manager in the history of baseball.

While there is merit to all of these (some obviously having more than others), I suggest something else. I don’t think the players on the Orioles know HOW to win.

As strange as it sounds to say that professional baseball players don’t know how to win, it is the issue the Orioles have found.

Think about the areas Baltimore is struggling. Finishing off games and hitting with runners in scoring position have been by far the two reasons the O’s can’t crack the win column these days.

Call it being clutch, or what ever you want, but it comes from knowing how to execute and having the ability to do it at that moment. Those are characteristics of a winner.

Look at a guy like Derek Jeter. He isn’t the most talented player, but when things matter, he delivers. The ability to do this on a consistent basis doesn’t come from just skill, but a quality in ones psychological being.

The Orioles haven’t had a winning season since 1997. Their AAA affiliate, whether it be Norfolk or Ottawa, has had just one winning season since 2004, and the O’s manager hasn’t ever coached a successful MLB club. Where do they learn how to win in professional baseball?

You can say that winning in the minors doesn’t matter for the development of players, but you are wrong. That winning attitude in the minors builds the mind set of a winner that I’m talking about.

Yea, that mind set can be taught in the pro’s in some cases, but the Orioles don’t have a manager or player that has had the success to teach it.

I look at this team and see one with as much talent as any in baseball. There is absolutely no excuse for this bad of a start, and if you watched the first couple of games, you wouldn’t believe that they would start 2-15.

Saying that “they should have won this game or that game” doesn’t mean anything because that ability to close out teams or come through in critical moments is more important that any statistic you can find.

My suggestion is not only to replace Trembley, but add someone who won at this level before. Most importantly, do it soon.

The idea that losing is ok seems to be one that has crept into the Orioles organization and now that a new generation of players is taking over, it is the utmost importance that management makes sure that this idea doesn’t infect them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of The Baltimore Orioles

At 1-5, the Orioles haven’t exactly started the season with the excitement that many fans were hoping for.

Not only iss the record a bit troubling, but the team Baltimore fans have tuned in to watch seems to be almost the polar opposite of what they expected.

That being said, I present to you the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Orioles first six games.

The Good: The Starting Pitching

If there was one dimension of the O’s that maybe wasn’t expected to excel right away, it was the rotation. Guthrie and Millwood were shaky in spring training, Brad Bergesen is coming off an injury, and Brian Matusz is just a rookie. It was almost expected that the rotation would need a little help.

Instead, the rotation is the only thing keeping the O’s in contention. If you excuse Bergesens rough game (4.2 IP, 5ER), the Orioles starters have an ERA of just 3.00 and are keeping the team in games.

While it’s true that they haven’t gone as far into games as you would like, you can chalk that up to it being early in the year, when pitchers don’t have the command that they will midseason.

The success of this bunch should be taken with much optimism. Matusz had control issues and still struck out 7; David Hernandez proved worthy of the fifth spot, and Guthrie looked way more relaxed on the mound.

Right now, the team’s record is frightening, but the Orioles have always been led by successful rotations when they competed in the past, and this is a great sign that those days will come again.

The Bad: Mike Gonzalez

Tony La Russa once said that if he were building a team, he would start at the closer (his guy was kinda good, Dennis Eckersley…maybe you’ve heard of him), and work backwards from there.

After the debacle that is Mike Gonzalez, Orioles fans understand why.

To say Gonzalez has been erratic is more generous then saying Peter Angelos isn’t THAT bad of an owner. Not only did he make throwing strikes look impossible, but he somehow has trouble with putting it in a place where Matt Wieters can even catch it.

He has four walks in just two IP and after being booed off the mound Friday, he has been told he won’t be the closer until he works his issues out.

The problem with the search for his mechanical problem is his wind up. It is almost as complex as that of Dontrelle Willis and he has been trying to find the glitch in his wind up for years now.

What ever it is, it has caused him to lose a ton of velocity on his fastball and making it impossible for fans to watch.

The Ugly: Baltimore’s Bats

Out of every summary written about the Orioles this spring, there was not one I saw that said the Orioles couldn’t put up runs. Yet, Baltimore is only averaging three runs per game.

Quite frankly, with the exception of Wieters and Garrett Atkins, everyone has been terrible. Luke Scott, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis are all batting under .200, and excluding his opening day, Adam Jones is just 3 for 21.

The issue has also come from just terrible numbers with runners-in-scoring-position. At 8 for 54, the O’s have not been able to manufacture runs other than those driven by home runs.

The bottom line is that if you have a man on second with no outs, or one on third with one out, there is no excuse to not pick up a run. Manufacturing runs is something the great teams do regularly and if you can’t do the same, wins are hard to come by.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Memo To All Pitchers: Stop Pitching To Pujols

Just in case you didn’t already know, Albert Pujols is good.

Year after year, Pujols enters his season with outrageous talks of obtaining the Triple Crown, and every year, he delivers with numbers that are almost comical.

This year’s Opening Day was no exception. The Triple Crown seems to be in play, and Pujols did nothing to make you think otherwise.

The big man went 4 for 5 with two home runs and three RBIs.

The consistent demolition of pitchers is starting to make me ask, “Why do these pitchers continue to pitch to him?!”

It hasn’t been that long since we have seen a player who has this much impact at the plate. Barry Bonds in the early 2000’s wreaked just as much havoc as Pujols does now. In fact, pitchers became so afraid of him that they actually developed something that became known as the “Barry Bonds Treatment.”

If you don’t remember what the “Barry Bonds Treatment” was, it was the ideology that you didn’t throw strikes to Bonds. It involved walking him even when the bases were loaded in fear of a grand slam. If the bases were empty, you still didn’t throw anything near the middle of the plate. This caused Bonds to rack up an absurd 232 walks in 2004.

While it seems crazy to walk a player that many times, Bonds’ production proved that it was the best option. Walking Bonds with the bases loaded is indeed conceding a run, but what were the odds he would do more damage?

Bonds is the only player in MLB history to warrant this treatment…until now.

Last season, Pujols came up to bat 17 times with the bases loaded. In those opportunities, Pujols had ten hits, including five grand slams and three doubles. With 35 RBIs, he averaged over 2 per at bat.

Despite that production, not a single pitcher thought about walking him. Every single time, the pitcher shook his head and told himself, “No, it isn’t going to happen to me.”

Isn’t ignorance beautiful?

Most people defend themselves by saying that Matt Holliday isn’t exactly an easy out to follow him. However, while Holliday is a great player, you are comparing a borderline All Star, with one of the top-five greatest players of all-time. It shouldn’t even be a decision worth thinking about. Throw four balls and focus on Holliday.

If I am facing Pujols, here is how I handle him:

  1. If first base is open, I walk him
  2. If the game isn’t tied and the bases are loaded, I walk him
  3. In fact, the only time I pitch to him is if the bases are empty or the bases are loaded in a tie ball game

You can call me crazy if you want, but I think Pujols is far less dangerous on first base than at the plate. If I’m playing him, I am going out of my way to make sure it is someone else who beats me.

Until people come to the same conclusion I do, I will enjoy watching pitchers look confused at how Pujols drilled yet another pitch over their heads.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Julio Lugo Adds Much-Needed Depth to Baltimore Orioles' Infield

The Orioles made what is probably the team’s final transaction before the regular season kicks off by acquiring veteran utility man Julio Lugo from the St. Louis Cardinals this morning.

The O's seemingly got him for nothing, as they will send the Cards either cash or the ever-so-specific “player to be named later.”

While there are some grumblings about bringing in an over-the-hump shortstop to take the utility role from a younger player, the deal makes perfect sense if you believe in Andy MacPhail’s statements.

MacPhail has been saying throughout the spring that this season’s goal is to win. While players are still developing, the term “rebuilding year” is no longer being applied by Baltimore’s management. Because of this, MacPhail is making sure that he gives Dave Trembley the tools to at least make it seem reasonable to achieve the goals of the organization.

Much attention was paid to the corners of the infield this offseason, but the middle isn’t exactly solid as a rock. Cezar Izturis only batter .256 last year while missing 48 games, and Brian Roberts’ potential for injury this year is well documented.

In addition, the struggles of Izturis this spring seem to be unnoticed by those focusing on the younger guys. At 1-47, Izturis’ .128 batting average is the worst amongst all Orioles who have registered a hit. Simply put, pitchers have been hitting as well as Izturis lately.

Throughout the spring, Trembley has talked about how Robert Andino is the man that would fill in and I agree to some extent, but under no circumstance should he be a long term option.

That is where Lugo comes in.

Lugo has not only proved his worth for successful teams, but he spent 2007-2009 in Boston, showing that he can handle the American League East. His .952 fielding percentage isn’t fantastic, but it is serviceable for a utility guy. More importantly, Lugo batted .280 last season, which is drastically better than whoever occupied the position for the Orioles in 2009.

For those who claim that he is too old to be an impact player, I ask you to remember the fact that he was considered good enough to be the Red Sox’s starting shortstop just last season before he got hurt. Then, after he returned, another World Series contender, the Cardinals, thought he had value to contribute as well. Other than being a year older, what make’s you think that he won’t put up similar numbers this year? Remember, age is but a number for some people.

Not only do I see this as a great move to add depth to the infield, I think it is very possible he could take some time away from Izturis and split the starting job. If Izturis is really as bad at the plate as his preseason numbers indicate, the permanent switch could be made in the first month of the season.