Filed under: MLB | Tags: Cliff Lee, MLB, New York Mets, Off-season, Phillies, Red Sox, Sports, Yankees, Zack Greinke
While the ice thaws off cars around the country, our hearts begin to warm to the idea of baseball. America’s pastime, hardball, the dog days of summer, it’s right upon us now. And despite a strong football following here at The Sports Blast, we often revert back to our love for the game of baseball.
But no preseason, season preview, or upcoming discussion is dictated without first reviewing what has become a holiday season for baseball fans; the off-season. Despite all of its dreariness, March is great for round-table discussions and early predictions. Don’t worry. we’ll get to that. But it’d just feel wrong jumping headfirst into 2011, without looking at what allowed this upcoming season to take its early shape. Without further adieu, we provide you with the best, and the worst, of this past MLB off-season.
1. The Philadelphia Phillies signing Cliff Lee.
It came to many as a surprise when Philadelphia Phillies agree to deal with Cliff Lee scrolled across ESPN’s bottomline. Lee was sure to take the infamous “Yankee Money” and make New York the favorite to win another World Series. So when Philadelphia performed the MLB’s biggest heist of the off-season, expectations skyrocketed inside and outside of Phillies Nation. And why wouldn’t they? The Phillies created a monster, a monster which they hope to use on their path to another World Series. Arguably the best starting rotation of all-time, certainly this year, the Phillies add Cliff Lee into a mix which included Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. All 4 former aces of their staff, making this off-season move the best of the year.
2. The Boston Red Sox signing Carl Crawford, trading for Adrian Gonzalez.
While injuries ravaged Boston last season, lack of a power hitter and a game changer became serious concerns for Red Sox brass. With every question comes a presumable answer, which the Red Sox provided throughout the off-season. They injected life not only into the franchise, but into the fanbase, which displayed a serious disinterest last season with major drops in TV ratings. Crawford provides a proven playmaker, capable of doing everything you ask out of a baseball player and doing it exceptionally well. Gonzalez brings the Epstein regime a proven power hitter in the middle of the order, something they haven’t had since Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz fizzled out. With the addition of 2 superstars, the Red Sox figure to play deep into the heart of October.
3. Milwaukee Brewers trading for Zack Greinke.
The Brewers needed to shake things up, and they needed to do it fast. Prince Fielder is entering the final year of his contract and is not expected to be retained by Milwaukee following the season. Knowing this, Brewers GM Doug Melvin acted throughout the off-season on a seemingly win-now, deal with consequences later mindset. On paper, it worked. The Brewers bolstered their one weak spot, starting pitching, adding Shaun Marcum and a former Cy Young award winner in Zack Greinke. The Brewers now throw out 2 bonafide studs in Greinke and Gallardo, and figure to play a huge role in the NL Central this year.
4. Cincinnati Reds stabilizing their future with youth.
The off-season is often remembered for big name signings and franchise altering decisions. What often flies under the radar is the deals teams make within the confines of their walls. Example A is the Cincinnati Reds, who agreed to extensions with poster boys Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. After already winning the Central last year, the Reds locked up the prime youth they had in the lineup, surely hoping to extend this era of Reds baseball rejuvenation. Votto and Bruce join players like Edinson Volquez, Jonny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Mike Leake as youngsters who will make a huge impact this year for the Reds.
1. Jayson Werth’s Gigantic Contract
7 years, 126 million dollars, all for a player who before last season had never hit above .273 in a starting role. The same player who saw his defensive skill set decline across the board last season, and often hit in a lineup packed with tough outs. Werth now moves to Washington, where he is expected to carry the burden of being the number one power bat. Werth is a fine player, it’s impossible to disregard his power numbers. But is he a player worth 126 million dollars over 7 years? It’d be tough to prove that this contract was well thought out.
2. Rafael Soriano’s addition to the New York Yankees
The Yankees offered Soriano 35 million dollars to become their #1 set-up man. The only problem, is that the contract has opt-out options for Soriano after his first and 2nd years, possible making it a 1 year deal worth roughly 11 million. What raises even more eyebrows is that Brian Cashman was against the signing in the first place, which leads me to believe there may be some communication issues in Yankees management. If Soriano succumbs to the injury bug(which has haunted him in the past), the Yanks will be left with Joba Chamberlain as their set up man, which can’t be a stress relieving idea. Was this a well planned deal, or an impulse reaction after losing Kerry Wood and facing criticism of allowing the Red Sox to “win” the off-season?
3. The Angels
Year in and year out, the Angels are the team who outwardly states that they plan to make a splash in the off-season. Seemingly year in and year out, the Angels are also the team to get spurned at the 11th hour and walk away with nothing. Or, in this off-seasons case, they walked away with Vernon Wells gargantuan contract but not much improvement overall. Their infield is still weak with the bat outside of Kendry Morales, the back end of the rotation a question. A team which was once the annual winner of the A.L West could now easily play not 2nd, but 3rd fiddle this year.
4. The Mets Owners
Even though the situation continues to unfold itself, it’s tough to look at the Wilpons right now and think they are doing the right thing. Multiple loans from the MLB later, the Mets have still been unable to find a minority owner and are now ridden in depth. They head into the season with poor pitching, little enthusiasm, and face another 70 win season.
You can follow Mark Chiarelli at http://www.twitter.com/Mark_Chiarelli.
Filed under: NBA | Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, NBA, New York Knicks, Sports, trade, Wilson Chandler
You hear that steady sound of wind whistling by your house?
No, that isn’t mother nature. It’s a collection of NBA fans exhaling after a multi-month soap opera involving Carmelo Anthony and a host of “unnamed sources” and franchise altering blueprints.
It is unofficially official(as of late Monday night) that Carmelo Anthony will be headed to the Big Apple. With him go Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, and Renaldo Balkman. While the Denver Nuggets part ways with the former face of the franchise, they will receive a plethora of players. Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Raymond Felton, the Knicks 2014 first rounder, and the Golden State Warrior’s ’12 and ’13 2nd rounders.
Rumor has it Gallinari and Mozgov will be flipped to the New Jersey Nets, but for the sake of clarity we’ll focus solely on what this means for the New York Knicks.
Spike Lee will have a new jersey to sport.
Oh, you mean to tell me this has serious Eastern Conference playoff ramifications written all over it? I would have never guessed.
Joking aside, there’s two trains of thought when evaluating this deal from a knee-jerk reaction. There’s the “everybody wins” soccer mom approach, which essentially takes the deal with a grain of salt and realizes both teams cured a growing pandemic. But there is also an “empire” state of mind that the New York Knicks gave up too much for ‘Melo.
While I question aspects of the trade, there’s no denying the deal needed to be done. The Knicks needed to take another step towards revitalizing the Mecca of basketball, and the Nuggets needed to rid themselves of a lackadaisical superstar who clearly did not care about his team any longer.
The Knicks took roughly 53 points a game in 4 players and shipped it to Denver for 41 points a game in 2 players, (sorry Shelden Williams and Renaldo Balkman, you don’t make the cut.) The Knicks also traded a point guard having his best season as a pro for an aging veteran who is statistically having one of his worst. Both young swingmen in Gallinari and Chandler are gone, and an already weak front line becomes even more depleted with the loss of Timofey Mozgov.
But what the Knicks do acquire is a star. While Gallinari and Chandler may have everlasting “potential,” we know what Carmelo Anthony can do. Hell, we know what Chauncey Billups can do. While the logistics of Mike D’Antoni’s offense clashing with 2 superstars may have to be worked out, the fact is the Knicks starting lineup became a much larger headache for opposing teams.
Beforehand, the Knicks were nothing more than a first round playoff filler. Sure, excitement about basketball was back in New York but they weren’t seriously considered contenders. While the jury is out on whether this team is now a serious contender, the expectations rise. Any team which pairs Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire won’t tread lightly, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the NBA.
But how much better is this new Knicks team?
If reports are accurate,(and I’m sure they aren’t) the Knicks would go into the 2nd half of the season without Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph, and the aforementioned Knicks players. They would add the aforementioned Nuggets players as well as Corey Brewer.
on February 16th, the Knicks lineup was Raymond Felton/Landry Fields/Danilo Gallinari/Amar’e Stoudemire/Timofey Mozgov. Wilson Chandler, Ronnie Turiaf, Toney Douglas, and Shawne Williams were considered notable bench players.
When the Knicks take the court next, their lineup will consist of Chauncey Billups/Landry Fields/Carmelo Anthony/Amar’e Stoudemire/Ronnie Turiaf. Shawn Williams, Corey Brewer, and Toney Douglas will still be on the bench.
Undoubtedly, the Knicks improve their perimeter play. Carmelo Anthony brings 25 points a game, but more importantly playoff experience. With that comes the experience of Chauncey Billups, someone who knows how to play the game in important situations and can hit the big shot when called upon. Where Raymond Felton provides regular season triumph, Billups can conquer the playoffs. Where Gallinari and Chandler bring hope for the future, ‘Melo brings plain hope. Hope for now, hope for later, hope for everyone.
But will the Knicks be a Finals contender this season?
Unfortunately, that probably isn’t the case. As much as I like the direction of this team and feel they may be the next power in the East, they still have glaring issues. Ronnie Turiaf is not a starting center, he’s a great role player. The lack of depth behind the starting-5 in New York is scary, petrifying perhaps. They don’t have another center, or a defensive low post presence. In reality, the Knicks don’t have much defense at all. While Carmelo and Amar’e will shine in the regular season, I question whether they have what it takes to carry a team in the playoffs. The way I see it, both are more than willing to play Robin, but can either step up and provide the role of Batman?
The future is bright for the Knicks, but a lack of depth/talent surrounding their new fab-duo could haunt them come playoff time. Mike D’Antoni’s lack of defensive strategy might not be too great either, but that’s another blog for another time.
- Mark Chiarelli
You can follow Mark at http://www.twitter/com/Mark_Chiarelli.
Once upon a time there was a day when wearing red struck fear into the deepest caverns of opponents hearts. Sundays.
You heard him before you saw him. It started with a purr, then a dull roar, then a growing wave of expectation as the crowds around layered themselves around fairways, dug in around the perimeter of every green. His presence suffocated the opposition’s mentality, canceling any kind of ferocity which they displayed.
Tiger was on the prowl.
And what an era of golf that was. Gargantuan drives, impeccable displays of athleticism from a sport which was not known for true athletes, and cold blooded annihilation of anyone in his path on the leaderboard. It was domination, it was his era.
But a crucial knee injury, a world-wide cheating scandal, and a swing overhaul later, Tiger Woods is a different man. And that doesn’t even begin to analyze his mental situation. Who am I to try and decipher what Tiger Woods is actually thinking? No, it doesn’t have to get that difficult. Just look at what goes on in front of you.
He isn’t the same man.
His swing is in shambles, his accuracy is nothing more than a flash in the pan. As Woods ages, his confidence evaporates and the level of play around him elevates. We won’t see the same dominance Tiger once displayed, whether fans want to come to terms with that or not. But is that a reflection of Woods as a golfer? Not entirely. The next generation of golf stars are all big, athletic players who are capable of hitting many shots. Golf hasn’t seen a generation this talented all come along at the same time, which often plays into the parity in the win column.
It also creates one major problem, there’s no one “star.” Look around. While Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anthony Kim, and Bubba Watson are great players, they lack the superstar factor. Ernies Els and Vijay Singh have nostalgic factors with most of the golf community, they’re not the future of golf. Rory Mcilroy may be the next superstar from the European spotlight, but does he have the charisma to win over fans of the PGA Tour?
Then there’s Phil.
A fan favorite throughout the tour, Phil Mickelson sparkles around the green and normally generates the loudest of ovations. But his sometimes inconsistent play at times baffles fans and pundits alike. My take on Phil? He’s a great Robin, but can’t be the PGA Tours Batman.
So it all circles back to Tiger Woods.
Sure, he’s mired in a slump. Hes not mentally strong right now, he’s mired in another blown up scandal(Spitgate anyone?) and is overhauling the aforementioned swing. He’s at his most vulnerable state as a golfer right now, facing criticism and skepticism from all 360 degrees. It’d be easy to write off Tiger Woods now, casting him away as one of the greatest golfers to ever play the sport, but was unable to regain greatness.
But that would be irresponsible.
Because in the face of adversity, in the very depths of a seemingly bottomless pit of despair, true champions eventually rise up. And what is Tiger Woods? Only the winner of 14 majors. The only man on tour to warrant his own “tracker” on ESPN. The only man, even when “down and out,” generates more hits on google and more attention than every other player on tour.
Jack Nicklaus took 3 years to win another major after 14. But he did it.
There’s no one who can truthfully doubt the amount of work Tiger Woods is willing and will put into the game of golf. While he is the best, a swing transformation doesn’t happen overnight. While others grapple to gain control of the top spot in the league, Tiger still waits in the depths. While everyone obsesses over Tiger losing control of the league, could it be possible that the rest of the tour is simply wasting their 15 minutes of fame? Attack now, that same Tiger is still on the prowl, albeit a different path.
Tiger knows how to win, he knows how to close. A mindset which is fragile right now will only strengthen with confidence, which will only be acquired through time. If you snooped around online, you’d think Tiger completely forgot how to play golf and turned into John Daly. He may be beaten down, but Tiger Woods doesn’t take to being defeated lightly. Give up on him if you please, but that will be a short-minded decision.
Tiger Woods will dominate again.
You can contact Mark on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Mark_Chiarelli
Filed under: NFL | Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, Sports, Super Bowl
Well, at least I got the “close game” part right.
What a wildly entertaining Super Bowl XLV it was. After a week which didn’t give the media much to work with, Sunday took America by storm, reeling in the football masses.
What unfolded after a botched National Anthem by the aging Christina Aguilera was a football game which could only be defined as a “classic.” What transpired between 90 second blocks of horrendous commercials could only be described as the two toughest football teams left with trading blows for a full 60 minutes.
While the Steelers bid for a comeback ultimately fell short, they made a quite a game out of it. Pittsburgh was able to persevere through multiple Ben Roethlisberger gaffes early in the game to give the first half some semblance and nearly pulled off a patented Steelers comeback.
But it was not to be. Why, you may ask?
Aaron Rodgers grew up. And he grew up with the entire city of Green Bay on his back.
I’ve been especially critical of Rodgers, noting his inability to play a full 60 minutes when it matters most. And while by no means was his game perfect on Sunday,(the 3rd Quarter had the Packer faithful trembling)Rodgers didn’t allow himself to become flustered.
He didn’t allow Philadelphia to happen. He didn’t allow Chicago to happen.
What we saw was a quarterback who witnessed all of the pressure, criticism, and expectations from the Titletown USA faithful, pass him by.
What we saw was a quarterback who relished in the glory the Super Bowl brought, and would not let his Packers team return to the frozen tundra without a trophy which endures the utmost respect in Green Bay.From Vince Lombardi, to Bart Starr, to Brett Favre, the Packers are built with franchise names as their cornerstone. Someone needs to make room for Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers undoubtedly faced adversity which would be difficult for many QB’s to overcome. His security blanket Donald Driver, done after 1 quarter. The best cornerback in the league Charles Woodson(sorry Mr. Revis) left after one half with a broken collarbone. Sam Shields and Nick Collins went down as well, decimating the Packers defense and morale. Rodgers was the victim of 4 drops, 1 in the end zone, and 3 by Jordy Nelson.
He had to stare across the field during the third quarter as the Steelers captured momentum and looked to complete a comeback. The pressure of a true “winner” in Ben Roethlisberger looming over him.
And he didn’t budge.
Instead, Rodgers commanded a 4th quarter which attacked the best defense in the league, beating them through the air on two separate drives. Rodgers made the AP Defensive Player of the Year, Troy Polamalu, look absolutely abysmal in coverage. He negated his playmaking ability by shaking him off on multiple occasions, including the instrumental 8 yard TD pass to Greg Jennings.
Rodgers created magic again later in the quarter, when Green Bay needed to kill roughly 7 minutes. He completed passes of 31 and 21 yards to Jennings and James Jones respectively, moving Green Bay into field goal territory. By the time Pittsburgh got the ball back, they had 1 timeout and 119 seconds to go 87 yards, a task Roethlisberger was not fit to achieve.
What Rodgers and the Packers did was essentially spit in the face of critics, disprove the claim adversity kills. The team fought through key injuries from preseason to the final half of the game. They fought through the twittergate of Super Bowl XLV. Rodgers had to deal with the universal truth that he could simply not win the Super Bowl against Roethlisberger because of “experience.”
Well Rodgers and the rest of Green Bay gave experience the cold shoulder Sunday night. While Pittsburgh may own 6 rings, and Roethlisberger may “know how to win,” he didn’t “experience” a win Sunday. He can’t add a Super Bowl MVP trophy to his arsenal.
Rodgers did, and Rodgers has.
And something tells me that this won’t be his last time on the grandest stage either.
Filed under: NFL | Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, NFL, Packers, Sports, Steelers, Super Bowl Preview
Dare I say, our beloved Super Bowl week has been boring?
No, not the Super Bowl. It’s the giant spectacle capturing the attention of the entire world. And while I’m as excited as the next guy for Sunday, the week of hype has been a polar opposite. The two biggest stories have been the weather(the game is being played in a dome), and when the Packers would take their team photo. Media day was essentially a bore, the most exciting aspect possibly being the unintentional comedy created during every James Harrison interview.
But behind the relative lull, the “eye before the storm,” is a game which could very easily go down as one of the timeless Super Bowl classics. The Super Bowl has become a 2 week celebration, a spectacle that’s become lost even within itself at times. While we may not have A-List parties, we will have an A-List performance tomorrow night.
Super Bowl XLV matches Pittsburgh’s 2nd ranked defense against Green Bay’s 5th ranked defense. Pittsburgh allowed 14.5 points per game in the regular season, Green Bay was hot on their heels with 15.It comes as no surprise that Pittsburgh and Green Bay possess the two best defenses in the league to date, and they’ll face off in Dallas.
Offensively, could you think of a better quarterback match-up? Quarterbacks make the NFL’s money, there’s no way around it. Already in the green thanks to the Super Bowl, the NFL lucked out, with Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger leading their respective teams. On one end, you have the winner. Roethsliberger follows a Pittsburgh QB tradition, simply winning Super Bowls. If he wins his third, will he finally get the same respect Tom Brady receives?
Aaron Rodgers, despite not owning any hardware, is the upcoming poster boy of the NFL. He’s the next wave of prolific NFL QB’s. While Roethlisberger is every bit the grit and determination that comprises the NFL phenomenon, Rodgers is the aerial highlight reel. But can his fantasy football-esque numbers translate into success on football’s biggest stage?
There are two major obstacles holding Green Bay back from a shoe-in victory. Their lack of experience in the Super Bowl, and their inconsistency down the stretch in games of high magnitude.
Mike McCarthy. Aaron Rodgers. James Starks. Greg Jennings. Donald Driver. Clay Matthews. B.J Raji. Tramon Williams. All big names for Green Bay, all Super Bowl rookies. Will the bright lights of Dallas blind them? Will the pressure of a Pittsburgh team which knows they have the mental upper hand over Green Bay get to the Packers youngsters?
If recent Super Bowl’s are any indication, the answer is no. The Saints were about as wide-eyed as you could be heading into the Super Bowl. The New York Giants topped an experienced New England team in 2007. Just a year before that, the Indianapolis Colts won their first Super Bowl with that roster.
So if experience doesn’t count Green Bay out, what will? Could it be Aaron Rodgers?
Aaron Rodgers? But he’s received so many accolades leading up to “the big one!”
He’s also struggled mightily at the most inopportune times. Against Chicago just 2 weeks ago, Rodgers sputtered for the last 3 quarters. Against the Eagles, he was unable to put them away and almost allowed Michael Vick the time of day to lead another comeback. Against the Bears in week 17, a Bears team who really had nothing to play for, Rodgers only put up a whopping 10 points.
My confidence in him is not extraordinarily high. I know what Dick Lebeau can do with 2 weeks of preparation. I know that the Steelers defense is talented enough to stop anybody who gets in their way, and the playoffs are where this team shines.
But my gut feeling on this game is that it will not be Pittsburgh who determines who wins. Rather, it will be Green Bay who heavily influences the outcome of this game. Green Bay has all the tools. Talent wise, they are probably better than Pittsburgh all around. But Rodgers has shown a tendency to freeze up when the spotlight is on, making this game nearly impossible to pick.
While the gist of the article may have seemed pro-Green Bay, you may be surprised with the direction of my pick. While my heart loves cheese, my head is a hard-nosed steelworker. I trust Roethsliberger, I think their defense can successfully turn the Packers into a one dimensional passing attack. We all know one dimensional won’t win you games in real life, no matter how hard Madden’s video game predictions may tell you otherwise. Pittsburgh wins this in a close one.