A hockey post???

January 31, 2008

It had to happen sometime. Yes folks, shameless self-promotion. My first hockey post came surprisingly quick, but it has been cold enough to freeze most of my active brain cells to the point where ice is all I think about. And yes, my friends, hockey is played on ice.
Ever wonder what a hockey enforcer is like? Well, how about Derek Boogaard as a case study?
When it’s written by me it has to be good, right? Hello? Anybody? OK, I’ll settle for so-so. I had to bring my A-game with this one to ensure Mr. Boogaard wouldn’t hunt me down and break my face for poor feature writing.

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Unwatcha-Bull

January 31, 2008

chicagobullslogo.jpg

It’s certainly been a rough year for my favorite NBA squad. Yes, the underachieving, oft-injured Chicago Bulls fell in an ugly way to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, scoring a season-low 67 points and failing to capitalize on the Wolves scoring just eight points in the first quarter.

The one bright spot for Chicago recently, at least from a fantasy perspective, has been Kirk Hinrich. With Luol Deng sidelined due to an Achilles injury, the strain on the Bulls’ offense was evident, but since Ben Gordon went down with a sprained wrist, Hinrich has taken the offense squarely on his shoulders. The fantasy digits in the five games missed by Gordon certainly haven’t been bad:
PG Kirk Hinrich, Bulls (Game Log)

Date Opp Min Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk 3PM FG% FT%
Jan 30 MIN 41:00 14 3 9 0 0 1 29.4 75.0
Jan 29 MIN 43:52 27 3 6 2 0 2 40.0 81.8
Jan 27 PHO 40:24 31 5 3 1 0 0 52.2 87.5
Jan 25 CHA 44:00 14 4 8 2 1 0 37.5 100.0
Jan 23 IND 40:54 38 7 10 2 0 4 66.7 100.0
Average 24.8 4.4 7.2 1.4 0.2 1.4 46.4 87.1

Thanks to scientist CP for the html table, by the way. Hinrich is averaging 42 minutes per game over his last five – eight minutes above his season average. He’s shot no better than 40 percent in three of his last four games, which isn’t helping his already career-worst shooting percentage. What’s worse, it seems that the cavalry is not coming to save him. The Bulls have the second least average NBA experience in the league, and are sixth youngest overall. That youth and inexperience is showing – coach Jim Boylan himself told the cadre of reporters that his team “just shut down” and acted “childish” in the second half. Hinrich is having a tough enough time on his own, he doesn’t need the additional burden of trying to straighten out guys like Tyrus Thomas (OK, Boylan didn’t mention him specifically, but after watching the game I’m going to read between the lines) as well.

Eventually Gordon and Deng will be back – Ben said in the locker room after the game he’ll probably be back on Saturday – and that will be less pressure on Hinrich. But that will also mean fewer minutes (ideally, if he doesn’t want to end up missing time with nagging injuries) and worse fantasy digits. So if you’re looking for a guy to sell high on, Hinrich is probably a good candidate.

Poor Twins…

January 30, 2008

empty_pockets.gif So is the Johan Santana trade considered old news now since it is 24 hours old? Today’s news cycle gives me a headache. Anyway, more than enough people have spouted off on this topic and if the trade was good or bad. Most seem to lean towards bad. I’m undecided.

I’d like to come at this from a slightly different angle. This point could turn out to be moot in a couple of years if in fact the new Twins stadium brings in enough revenue that the Pohlad family (pictured above) will get to increase the team’s payroll significantly. But it will still ring true with other medium-sized market teams with high-end talent. Honestly, the Twins were doomed as soon as Santana turned out to be the best pitcher in baseball. By the time last season ended, Minnesota had absolutely no bargaining power simply because of the franchise’s modus operandi. Even a bad general manager could figure out that the Twins certainly couldn’t pony up the kind of scratch Johan would want to keep him around long term. As a result, the returns Minnesota could get for him dropped to a gut-wrenching level. Would a trade that brought in Jacoby Ellsbury or Phil Hughes been any better? Perhaps a little, but we are still talking about the guy manager Ron Gardenhire touts as the best pitcher in baseball. Very few deals could be consummated that would bring in fair value for Santana, and it isn’t the market’s fault.

The problem is that the Twins, a medium-market franchise, had no alternative to trading Johan. Sure, they could have hung onto him and traded him at the deadline this season for a possibly higher price once injuries took their toll elsewhere, but at what cost? All anyone would have wanted to talk about in Spring Training is, “where is Johan going?” This team can’t focus on baseball with that kind of spotlight, which would have persisted until the day he left town. And you can’t hang onto Johan just to see him become a free agent and wind up with only a couple of draft picks as a consolation prize.

Minnesota offered Santana a good chunk of money. He balked at it, knowing he could get more. Wouldn’t you? The real shame of it is, the Twins likely believe he is worth more than they could offer, but knowing their payroll situation simply couldn’t do anything about it. All this trouble simply because your scouting department was good enough to identify a Rule 5 draft pick with potential and your coaching staff was able to develop his immense talent and turn him into one of the best in the game. Aren’t those the players you want?

So by default, the Twins, or any other small- or medium-market team for that matter, simply can’t have the best baseball players. Is that fair? The way baseball’s payroll is currently structured, it doesn’t matter if it’s fair, it’s the way it is. And those teams will continue to get as far as they can with their best players until free agency rears its ugly head, then walk away with a slip of paper that says $15 after dropping a Benjamin into the slot machine.

So what’s my solution? Well, I’m not about to utter the words “salary cap,” because I don’t think that immediately makes anything better. What needs to happen is proactive and outside-the-box (that’s what she said) thinking. Minnesota could have signed Santana to an extension long ago, getting him locked up for what at this point would be a discount rate – albeit one that would require a bit more money to be spent down the line. Otherwise, teams like Minnesota need to seriously consider trading unique talents like Santana two years before free agency comes into the picture. With the clock ticking, the Twins had no bargaining power. But consider this – knowing that it wouldn’t be able to re-sign Santana regardless, don’t you think the injury-riddled Mets would’ve given up a king’s ransom for him at last year’s deadline? Yes, that would have put a damper on the Twins playoff hopes for last season and required some nifty PR work, but they didn’t make the playoffs anyway and have the same PR problems now.

I just hope that medium-market teams learn a lesson from this and make it a priority to sign or deal unique talents sooner or later. Otherwise, we’re all just going to continue to pick up more reasons to hate New York, Boston and L.A.

“The Bad Man Punted Baxter!”
What’s up blog … ummmm … people? If I’m a blogger, does that make readers bloggies? I’m not sure how that works. A couple of quick hitters for the time being, none of them pertaining to fantasy sports, however.

#1: Title
I’ve had a few inquiries about the title of this blog. Punting Baxter is a reference to the movie Anchorman. Jack Black’s character kicks Ron Burgundy’s dog, Baxter, off a bridge after Burgundy unintentionally hits him with a burrito thrown from his car window, knocking Black’s character off his motorcycle, giving him quite a raspberry. Burgundy later tells Brian Fantana, “the bad man punted Baxter,” while weeping in a glass case of emotion (a phone booth). Being a fan of funny movies – Anchorman, in particular – and this being a sports heavy site, the title seemed to fit snugly.

#2: Barbaro
Not sure if you were all aware, but I’m pretty big in the horse community ever since it caught wind of a story I wrote for Fanball back in the day titled Bored With Barbaro. Anyway, I felt bad about it because I certainly didn’t want to make it seem like I didn’t like horses, but I’m pretty sure the equines of the Minneapolis metro area were looking at me funny after the story was published. Perhaps they will no longer dream of kicking me into a wall if I pay tribute to their fallen soldier now. The ol’ boy will be laid to rest at the site of his crowning achievement. Rest in peace, horse.

Introduction

January 28, 2008

Well don’t I feel sheepish. After spending the last few years talking about how much I “hate” blogs and think they are “stupid” and “pointless,” here I go creating one of my own. But in my defense, this is more out of necessity considering the termination of my recent employment at Fanball because apparently St. Louis is much cooler and better equipped at properly running a fantasy sports company than Minneapolis. But I digress…

Truthfully, I don’t hate ALL blogs. I am more than happy to admit that I regularly check out What Would Tyler Durden Do? and With Leather, and more recently have been checking out the blogs of friends of mine like Dork Factor Prime and 2V’s Blog. The reason that I hate MOST blogs is because they are written by people I don’t know who have basically no direct connection to what they are speaking about. Why would I care about what John Q. Fan thinks the Green Bay Packers should do with their backfield next year? Oh, he watches all the games on TV and took English class in high school, huh? Sweet.

Look, I’m not knocking those who write blogs. If you enjoy doing it, have at it. I wish you nothing but the best. But I’m not going to read it. That said, why should anyone read my blog? I’m glad you asked.

No. 1: experience. This blog will lean heavily towards fantasy sports, specifically football, baseball and basketball. It’s possible you may see a hockey post, but then I’d suggest you check my temperature. When I started working at Fanball we wrote Buzz stories, which for all intents and purposes were simply long blog posts. We eventually switched it up to a blog for everyone, which I used as much as possible when not working on one of my 50 other tasks there.

No 2: access. I’ve been covering sports on a national scale since 2000 and still take on myriad assignments from the Associated Press and PA-Sportsticker, among other outlets. I am the quasi full-time Minnesota Twins writer for Sportsticker (I covered 63 of 81 home games each of the last two years) and fill in covering the Minnesota Wild for them as well. The AP has me on assignment at Twins, Wild and Timberwolves games, as well as some University of Minnesota events. In short, I not only see the games, I have access to coaches and athletes that few can boast. So my insights are not only based on what Marv Albert or Joe Buck tell me while I’m sitting on my couch, but what the coaches and athletes have to say.

No 3: creativity. I’ll admit, this is probably the weak link. There are several untrained writers out there who are witty, clever, funny, unique, etc. But the fact that I have been a writer for several years – including at Fanball, where creativity is a must – at least gives me a better shot at writing posts people can actually enjoy.

So, that’s about all I’ve got for you in terms of an introduction. I’ll do the best I can to get fresh material up regularly, but that may slow down once I am regularly employed once again. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got another group-blog in the works with former Fanball employees, so I’ll keep you posted on that if and when we get the thing organized.

Also, I am big in the horse community. That’s all for now … that’s what she said.