Friday, August 27, 2010

100 MPH Or Not, Strasburg Will Still Dominate In 2012

The nation’s capital is in mourning this afternoon after waking up to the news that its savior, Stephen Strasburg , would be out for not only the remainder of this season, but also all of 2011 because of a ligament tear that will require Tommy John Surgery.

Its hard to sugar coat the news because of how important Strasburg is to the Nationals, but before you jump off a building or do anything drastic, know that Strasburg will return in 2012 back in dominating fashion.

While no small issue, the torn ligament that Strasburg suffered isn’t the career death sentence that it was 40 years ago. Ever since the procedure was preformed on Tommy John (hence the name), it has an estimated 85 to 92 percent chance of complete recovery.

Obviously that still means there is a 15 percent chance that the future ace of the Nats will never be the same, but it’s better than this being a career ending injury.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

By Signing Machado, Orioles Cap Off Successful Draft

Today is a good day for Orioles fans everywhere. An amazing win last night would normally be the explanation for this good feeling, but the reason I woke up with a smile on my face this morning was what happened at 11:57 – the signing of Manny Machado.

To say that the Machado deal wasn’t nerve-racking would be a lie. From 11:50 to when the deal was announced at 12:03, I was on and refreshing the page every 10 seconds hoping that there was different news.

The funny thing about how anxious I was is that I was actually anticipating this very timeline. Whether it be with Stephen Strasburg, Matt Wieters, Bryce Harper, or Machado, agent Scott Boras likes to have his clients push the deadline to the max. Hell, the fact the Machado signed three minutes before the deadline might be the earliest a Boras client has signed all year.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

10 Keys To a Virginia Tech National Championship

If you were to glance at the different preseason polls, it is obvious that writers aren't quite sure how good Virginia Tech is going to be. Some have them in the Top-5, while others don't think the Hokies are good enough to win their conference.

Regardless of where they are ranked, the fact that most coaches and writers are predicting the Hokies to be at least a Top-10 team means that Tech will be gunning hard for the school's first national championship (the Tech athletic center actually has an empty case reserved for the team's first title).

With so many returning starters on offense and a defense led by Bud Foster, the Hokies are oozing with potential. In fact, head coach Frank Beamer went as far as to say that this team is one of the best he has ever coached.

That being said, let's look at some of things that will need to happen in order for the Hokies to fill that empty trophy case.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Baltimore Orioles Nolan Reimold Seems To Be Back In Old Form

In the month of August, the Orioles – under new manager Buck Showalter -- have become one of the hottest teams in the league.

MASN is getting its best rating all year, and fans are already starting to tune back in. However, the recent buzz in the big leagues has masked the success of a familiar name in AAA Norfolk: Nolan Reimold.

After a tremendous rookie season was shortened by an Achilles tear, many thought Reimold would come back strong and be amongst the team leaders. Unfortunately for the organization, Reimold found it more difficult to come back than was expected and once he did, he was not even close to the same guy fans watched last season.

Reimold was eventually sent down to AAA to work on his issues, but it only got worst there. In May, Reimold batted .122 and questions of whether he would be able to rebound were floating around Baltimore.

Through the season, the Tides tried just about everything, including trying him out at first base. Reimold now switches back and forth from the outfield to first. However none of that mattered until August.

Since August 1, Reimold has turned it on and is looking a lot like the guy that was on pace to be the AL rookie of the year in 2009. He is batting .333 with two home runs and nine RBIs this month and is starting to get back into the discussion of being called up.

Although there are tons of theories on why he struggled in May, June and July, the best explanation is that he was rushed back after his surgery on the torn Achilles tendon. Throughout Spring Training, Reimold was seen limping and was shuffled in and out of the lineup to help his foot rest. He was so focused on being able to play on opening day, that he didn’t realize that it was in his best interest to wait until he was truly ready.

While getting sent back down is never a good thing, there is a silver lining in the situation. With the emergence of Cory Patterson, the O’s now have four solid outfielders (Patterson, Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis). With that big of a log jam, finding a spot in the outfield for Reimold would be tough. By being in AAA, Reimold has been able to work on switching to first base and might be able to avoid further cluttering the Orioles outfield.

The original hope of the Orioles was that Brandon Snyder would be the guy to fill that void, but Snyder has been up and down this year and the certainty of him contributing to the big league club has diminished. If Reimold can learn the position, then he can provide another option for the team’s future at first base.

Assuming Reimold stays this hot throughout August, there is no doubt that he will be one of the first people called up when rosters expand on September first. When that happens, it will be interesting to see if he can be the player we all thought he could be.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sorry Chris, It's Mike Miller That Completes The "Big Three"

Depending on who you are, to say that this summer was taken over by the Heat may or may not be too punny. Regardless, Miami’s offseason has been one of the most amazing that any sports organization has ever had.

By now, everyone has their favorite nickname “Big Three,” as well as how they will work together. However, while seemingly everyone is in agreement that the trio consists of LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh, I argue that it is Mike Miller-and not Bosh- that will complete the “Miami Thrice.”

Bosh was talked about so much as the perfect compliment to either Wade or LeBron, but is he really? Both Wade and James have similar styles -- they are superb slashers with average to above average shooting. With that in mind, why would having an inside presence help? If anything, it clogs the lane when LeBron charges in.

People keep asking how you guard all three at the same time, but it isn’t that complicated. Double team Bosh inside and go man-on-man on Wade and LeBron. That way, when one of them drives the lane, there are already people there to help.

The only thing foiling that scheme is Mike Miller and his ability to snipe from beyond the arc.

With the two best slashers in the game, Miami’s best offense will involve spreading the floor and keeping the lane open for when Wade or James wants to drive. Teams will try to collapse their defense to stop this from happening, but with Miller and his career .405 three-point-percentage, the Heat won’t lose a beat. If teams are truly set on keeping the middle cluttered, then the Heat can bring in a guy like Eddie House with Miller and have the two of them help LeBron shoot from mid-range to downtown. It becomes a pick your poison scenario.

You see, it is the ability to spread the floor and not low-post-efficiency that will get results for the Heat.

Not only is Miller one of the best shooters in the game, he is amazingly versatile. He can effectively play shooting guard and both of the forward positions, and has some of the best court vision you will see in someone his size. If he had played on better teams, he could be a household name.

While Miller doesn’t have the talent of Bosh, his skill set is much better suited for what the Heat are building. In fact, LeBron knew this and that’s why it is rumored that James had already called Miller and told him to join him in Miami BEFORE he made “The Decision.”

If Bosh knows what is good for the team, he will be content with 10-15 points per game off of rebounds and putbacks- That is where he is crucial.

Between Bosh, Ilgauskas, and Udonis Haslem, the Heat will need great low post defense, especially when playing a big team like the Lakers. They will also need to be huge on the offensive glass when LeBron or Wade has a bad night.

I’m not saying Bosh won’t be an important piece of the puzzle – I’m just saying that if the Heat want multiple championships, the ability to do that lies with Miller.

Drill Sergeant Showalter Behind Orioles Winning Ways

Alright, who else is confused?

Over the past week, the Orioles’ team that we have seen show up hasn’t been what we have become accustomed too. Granted, I’m not complaining, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not intrigued by the change.

The reason is simple: Buck Showalter. However, the recent success has nothing to do with any changes he has made or even anything he has said to his players. It is the players’ collective fear of his reputation that has turned the Orioles into one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Before Buck arrived in Baltimore, the Orioles were struggling in just about every department. In spite of this, the mistakes that seemed to be the most obvious were those of a team with poor baseball IQ.

Completely preventable things like terrible fielding and dumb base running have cost the O’s 5-10 games this year alone. Add in the inability to hit with runners and scoring position and you have a basic understanding of why Baltimore is no longer seen as a baseball town.

Despite watching this all season, are we to believe that the Orioles have somehow learned to fix these things in a week? Not quite.

Players in Baltimore know what Buck Showalter is about. He believes in clean baseball as the way to turn around an organization. If they want to keep their jobs, they need to stop making the mistakes that made Baltimore the worst team in baseball, and start playing like the team that was predicted to win 80 games this year.

No longer do they have Dave Trembley to coddle them or the idea that Juan Samuel is an “interim manager” to hide behind. Showalter will be Baltimore’s general for the next three years and if you get on his bad side, you can be sure that you will be back down in Norfolk before the next day’s game.

With “fear” motivating the O’s to succeed, they are the team that they should be. The question of how long it lasts is a different subject. Will it last the rest of the year? More importantly, what does Buck do when the players become comfortable again?

I’m not sure anyone can answer those questions, but regardless, have fun watching the Orioles until this string of good performances is over. We haven’t seen good, clean, fundamental baseball like this in a decade.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Orioles State Of The Union: How Will Showalter Use The Rest Of 2010

For those fans still holding on in Baltimore, tonight will be the beginning of yet another “new era” for the organization, as the team plays its first game under manager Buck Showalter.

While the looming hire of Showalter was perhaps the worst kept secret in all of sports over the last month, the fact that the deal is finally done now means that the (re)rebuilding process can begin now rather than come spring training.

This difference is rarely felt in other sports, but baseball is one sport where it isn’t just helpful, it is vital.

The reason that baseball is unique in this way is that baseball teams get to expand their rosters every Sept. 1 to basically call up anyone in they like on 40-man rosters.

The ability to call these players up and see how they do against top-level competition can give managers an insight into their potential before next year’s Spring Training.

For Showalter, this opportunity to see what he has in his farm system could possibly shave off a year in his rebuilding plan.

Although there is certainly no doubt that Showalter will want to use the rest of the season to assess talent, there is one thing that could prevent a blown up roster – Is Andy MacPhail really willing to have the 2010 Orioles to go down as one of the worst teams in baseball history?

At 32-73, the Orioles are on pace to lose 111 games. To put that in perspective -- only four teams since 1940 have tallied that many.

Accumulating that many losses in a season would be an even bigger shot to the reputation of MacPhail and his so-called “plan.” The question now becomes, “Will the Orioles risk entering that realm in order to try and better their future?”

Either way, guys like Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Matt Weiters will all stay staples of the rest of the Orioles’ season. The people whose playing time could be sacrificed will be the veterans like Kevin Millwood, Ty Wigginton, and even Luke Scott.

If the Orioles are smart, they will give this season to the dogs in order to look at younger guys. If it works, then the season will be forgotten (the Detroit Tigers 119-loss 2003 season was quickly forgotten when they made it to the World Series three years later).

In this scenario, don’t be surprised to see guys like Brandon Snyder, Chorye Spoone, Chris Tillman and even recent acquisition Rick VandenHurk getting some time in Baltimore for strictly scouting purposes. Even Zach Britton (who is not currently on the 40-man roster) could get brought up from triple-A – he is certainly deserving of it.

Those names are all in addition to Josh Bell and Troy Patton, who were both called up as a result of the Miguel Tejada and Will Ohman trades.

However, in an age where records rule everything, the Orioles could very well decide to play the older vets and try to scrape one or two more wins out of the season. If they do, they could manage to sacrifice the 2011 season before it even starts.