Sunday, July 31, 2011

NC Pro AM Thursday July 26th

I can't figure out why Mason Plumlee isn't dominant. He is the most physically gifted player I have seen at the Pro AM. Maybe Plumlee is uninterested, has no heart, or just lacks the killer instincts needed to be great. Also, Plumlee should be a better rebounder, considering how athletic he is. Rasheed Wallace may not have been playing hard, but in the first half his large presence gave Plumlee trouble. In the second half Plumlee began to use his athleticism to get the better of Sheed. Plumlee is taller than Wallace and more athletic(now that Sheed is old).

You can see Plumlee's athleticism. Here is a video of Mason Plumlee going-one-on one with Rasheed Wallace.

Andre Dawkins is looking really good at the Pro AM. He is playing with great confidence and you can see how he looks like he is in complete control on the court. Dawkins is on Rasheed Wallace's team and they have not lost during the Pro AM so far. If his performance at the Pro AM is any indication of things to come, Dawkins should have a break out year for Duke this year.

Braves Make A Deal For Michael Bourn, Frank Wren Wins Again

Today's non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and Frank Wren and the Braves made a trade this morning, nabbing Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros for Jordan Schafer and minor league pitchers Brett Oberholser, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.  My opinion, which is also held by many experts, is that this is a major win for the Braves.

Bourn fills the Braves' need for a leadoff hitter and center fielder, and will help produce runs, as he is currently the NL leader in steals as well.  Bourn also is an upgrade defensively, as he has won the last two Gold Gloves in center field.  He is also under contract for next year for only $4.4 million and at the age of 28, could be a fixture in center for the Braves if they choose to resign him after 2012.  His high on-base percentage, at .363, means the hitters in the middle of the lineup should get more RBI opportunities.

In nabbing Bourn, who fills a pressing need, Wren actually paid a lower price than what would've been required for the likes of Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence.  The Phillies gave up their top pitching and hitting prospect for Pence, but the Braves got Bourn and didn't have to part with any of their top four pitching prospects. Filling the lineup's biggest need without trading top prospects is a definite win for Frank Wren and the Braves.

Will this move push the Braves over the top and into the World Series?  That remains to be seen, but the Braves are a better team today than they were yesterday, and when Brian McCann and Chipper Jones get healthy, the Braves have a pretty formidable lineup to go with their elite pitching staff.

Picture this lineup:
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado LF
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Freddie Freeman 1B
6. Dan Uggla 2B
7. Jason Heyward RF
8. Alex Gonzalez SS

Frank Wren and the front office have done their job.  Now it's up to Fredi Gonzalez and the players to deliver in October.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Less Than 48 Hours Until The Deadline, Frank Wren Needs To Step Up To The Plate

Time to go to work, Frank!
We now have less than 48 hours until the MLB trade deadline and the Braves and GM Frank Wren have yet to make a move to bolster a pennant run.  In the last two weeks, this season has taken a turn that reminds many Braves fans of last season.  Brian McCann, Jordan Schafer and now Nate McLouth have all made their way to Disabled List and Chipper Jones is battling a leg injury while trying toworking his way back in to the lineup.  

Today, the Braves called up Jose Constanza from Triple-A, and the 27 year old outfielder will make his Major League debut tonight.  A career minor leaguer, Constanza is certainly not the answer to any of the Braves looming lineup issues.

About a month ago, I wrote this column cautioning Wren and the Braves not to give up the future for a rental player.  The fluidity of the injury situation has me thinking that the Braves may need to make a move to avoid a playoff fate similar to 2010.

It's very obvious the Braves aren't going to trade top pitching prospects Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado or Arodys Vizcaino.  Why they are reluctant to trade Mike Minor is surprising to me, however.  In my opinion Minor projects as a 3rd starter and the Braves just drafted and signed college lefty Sean Gilmartin, a similar pitcher to Minor, maybe with a little less velocity.  Rumor has it the Braves turned down a Minor for Beltran straight-up trade from the Mets, which if true, is crazy to me.  I know the Braves don't want to face Minor inside the division each year, but that would have been a great deal for the Braves, given its stable of other pitching prospects.

It looks as though Wren's hand may be forced given the recent rash of injuries.  Braves' eyes and ears are now turning to the likes of Hunter Pence, Carlos Quentin, B.J. Upton and Ryan Ludwick.  Of these, Ludwick would be the cheapest and Pence the most costly.  Houston is looking for multiple MLB-ready prospects and have already turned down a huge offer from the Phillies for Pence.  The White Sox are in contention in the AL Central and won't be looking to dump Quentin for cheap.  Tampa Bay is certainly willing to move Upton, and he could fill the need for a center fielder.  The Braves may be able to pry Ludwick from San Diego for less than one of the prime pitching prospects.
Will Frank Wren step up and make a big move?  My guess is yes, but how big all depends on whether or not he will move Mike Minor.  If so, the Braves could get Quentin or Upton.  If not, it could be Ludwick.  It's safe to say that the next 48 hours will hold the key to the Braves' World Series potential.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Out of the Blue...

"He never saw it coming!"
I got off work today and heard about the firing of Butch Davis. Butch Davis was the coach of the University of North Carolina football coach, until today. The consensus in the Triangle(no matter who you pull for) is the that the timing of this firing is odd(eight days before the season starts). Many people believed Davis would be fired, but over the last year and a few months Davis has seemed to weather the storm. Then, today, Butch is gone; it seems Davis just couldn't shake off all the dirt. As a Carolina fan, I have a right to be mad at Butch Davis, but I just don't know... Many in this area believe that Davis had to know somethng about the infractions going on and should be held responsible. I agree Butch knew about some of the things going on and maybe he tried to put the fire out. I just have a hard time putting too much blame on him. Local sources still say "there is no proof linking Davis to the wrong doing."
As I watch the reactions of the fans and students around the campus on TV, it seems to be a mixed bag as usual. Some saw it coming and were just surprised at the timing of it all. Others seemed more disappointed with the season so close. This event will hang a dark cloud over Kenan Stadium all year. Very few people seem to be really mad at Davis. Most don't even blame him. Local radio guys who are not UNC fans are reporting the firing and seem to be gloating on the inside. In this area, either you hate Carolina or you love them.
The Chancellor at UNC, Holden Thorp, seems to be the one who finally pulled the trigger on the Butch Davis dismissal. Here is an official quote from the Chancellor, "Our academic integrity is paramount, and we must work diligently to protect it." Thorp also said,"The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change." It seems that Thorp finally fired Davis because in his opinion Butch and his staff had done more than embarrass the football team, he embarrassed the University.
I heard another guy on the radio say in his opinion, "Butch Davis should have been fired last December and that this move at this time, makes no sense." This move may not hurt UNC too much this year. After Butch Davis left Unversity of Miami, Larry Coker( one of the most clueless coaches I have ever seen, who was later fired) won a National Championship. But UNC's future is totally up in the air and no one knows how this story will play out 2 or 3 years down the line.
I don't much more than this, sorry. As an UNC fan, I am still trying to digest the whole thing. If anyone knows any more interesting facts about this story, please comment. As I learn anything new I will comment on this entry, stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Greg Little at the North Carolina Pro Am

I wonder what Greg is looking at?

This is an interview with Greg Little at the Pro Am. He is talking about the mistakes he made at UNC and the NFL lockout. By then lockout discussions were very positive and resulted in an agreement that was finalized yesterday. Greg Little may be a real steal from this year's NFL draft. The Cleveland Browns passed up on Julio Jones and traded their pick to the Atlanta Falcons. They must have believed Little to be close to Jones in ability and a better value in the 2nd round. Little missed all of his senior season with off the field troubles and yet was still drafted in the 2nd round! Little's basketball skills were on display at the Pro AM and he was far from polished. Still, Greg Little is a football player trying to stay in shape in front of his hometown(Durham) crowd. Little was "anything but...", he looked to be in good shape. Little is 6-3 and looks like he weighs 230 lbs.. Most likely Little will not be there this week, but it should be interesting to see what superstar athletes will be at the Pro AM this week!


Quick Hitter: Hilarious NASCAR Opening Prayer!

It takes something major for me to pay attention to, much less write about, anything related to NASCAR.  At this weekend's race in Nashville, Pastor Joe Nelms delivered quite possibly the best opening invocation of all time.  Click above to watch.

When I first saw this, I thought this had to be a deleted scene from Talladega Nights or something.  Was this guy an actor, like Will Ferrell when he hijacked a Round Rock Express minor league game by pretending to be Rojo Johnson.

Turns out, this was no joke, even though Nelms got plenty of laughs during his prayer when he thanked the Lord for automobile technology, Sunoco gasoline and best of all, his "smoking hot wife."

Here is a picture of Mrs. Joe Nelms:

Beauty is, as they say, in the eyes of the beholder...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pro AM Part III

SHEED IN THE HOUSE!!! Rasheed Wallace played with Greg Little and Andre Dawkins. Little looked football ready, his body was massive, and his game was weak. I am sure Little was out there just to stay in shape and play in the home crowd. Little is infamous for his off the field problems that took place at UNC, but he is quite the physical specimen. He was taken in the 2nd round in this year's NFL draft. Dawkins looked like the best player on the court(maybe because Sheed was just playing around). Dawkins shot the ball well and looked very confident. Dawkins might be ready to have a breakout year at Duke. Dawkins looked to be a true 6-4 and long, he could be one or two this year in scoring for Duke.
Wallace is number 15 and is clearly bigger than anyone on the court. Sheed screamed a lot and his team won, but he didn't do too much on the offensive end. He grabbed what seemed to be every defensive rebound and threw long outlet passes down the court. He rarely ran down on offense. His defense lacked effort as well, a player from the other team went down the middle for a tomahawk dunk, and Sheed just moved out of the way and shook his head. He shot the ball only once(from almost half court) and missed.

The Sheed has always been a super talented basketball player, but he is known for being a character. Thursday night he did not disappoint. Sheed showed up 5 minutes late (came and sat on the bench at the 15 minute mark) and starting putting on his shoes while sitting on the bench. Surprise, as soon as his shoes were on, he went right into the game. Wallace did not play last year and you could tell. Maybe he is trying to get back in shape, so he can make a NBA roster next year. If you look closely at the pic you can see Sheed has spare tire around his waist. His NBA bio lists him at 6-11, 230 lbs., but there is no way he is 230 lbs. any more. Sheed weighs at least 260 lbs. or more. He dwarfed everyone on the court and ran up and down the court as little as possible. Dawkins is number 7 in the picture.


MUST READ Quick Hitter: Mike Leach Speaks About Adam and Craig James

Mike Leach has finally spoken about the timeline of incidents that led to his firing from Texas Tech.  Of course, he does it in his new book, Swing Your Sword.  In it, the Pirate discusses Adam and Craig James and the politics that led to his firing from the school.  HERE IS THE MUST-READ EXCERPT, from Sports Illustrated.

It was pretty well-noted that the James' were a cancer to Red Raider football, but reading the quote from former QB Graham Harrell says more than anything Leach could say.

This book seems like a sure buy for me when it comes out on Kindle.

One Question:  Which book will outsell the other:  Gene Chizik's All In  or Mike Leach's Swing Your Sword?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pictures from the North Carolina Pro AM Part II

You can see Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers. Jay Williams is in the middle and all three Dukies are posing together for the cameras.

Past, present, and the future, Jay Williams, Kyrie Irving(this years #1 pick in the NBA Draft), and the much hyped Austin Rivers who will attend Duke Unversity this year.

Austin Rivers talking to former Duke great Jay Williams.

Austin Rivers should be a really good college player right from the start. Rivers is not a great athlete which may prevent him from ever becoming an NBA all-star. Rivers should put up huge numbers at Duke and then have a long ordinary career in NBA, but he seems to have killer instincts and that goes a long way. Other Duke players have killer instincts as well and it did not translate to NBA superstardom.

This is Austin Rivers shooting a free throw. Rivers is not a great jumper nor does he have great foot speed which means he will fit right in at Duke. Like other Duke stars of the past, Rivers is a great shooter, and unlike many of Duke's former players, he has great body control. He plays with a Kobe Bryant type swagger, which makes one wonder how he will mix with Coach K's military style idea of a team next year. Rivers would talk to the crowd and throw up hand signs after a good play. One time the crowd told him to shoot and put up one from about half court. I doubt he does that while he is playing for Coach K next year, if he tries, it should be interesting!

There were some pretty good players on the court this night. Pictured here is Austin Rivers, son of Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics. Seth Curry, son of Dell Curry and brother of Stephen Curry who plays for the Golden State Warriors. Also Darius Johnson-Odom who plays for the Marquette Golden Eagles. Johnson-Odom was the second best player on the floor during this game. Seth Curry shot the ball well, but other than that, nothing noteworthy. After, seeing Curry in person he is no more than 6-0 foot. Johnson-Odom's star was only out shinned by Rivers, but that should not be too much of a surprise. Johnson-Odom averaged almost 16.0 pts. a game last year and Rivers is considered by most, a one and done next year.

Don't know why Austin Rivers is bowing. Maybe he is getting ready for the Duke vs. UNC game!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pictures from the North Carolina PRO AM!

Please excuse the quality of theses pictures. I took them with my phone at the Annual Pro Am in Durham, NC. This event is being held on the campus of North Carolina Central University. There are NBA stars, as well as college and high school stars, who play in the Summer league tournament every year. It has been labeled as the "Rucker of the South." It does have a Rucker Park feel since the announcer does play by play over the loud speaker, more hyping the action than calling the game. Number six in the picture is the heralded incoming Duke freshman
Austin Rivers.

Miles Plumlee, taking off his shirt in front of former Duke star Jay Williams. I wonder if Williams is impressed by Plumlee's skills that were on display.

Incoming freshman 7 footer Marshall Plumlee saying hello to former college great, Jay Williams.

Alex Murphy, watching a his team, is being dismantled by Dominique Sutton. Get use to the feeling Alex, it will prepare you for Chapel Hill next year.

Dominique Sutton at the free throw line. Sutton led his team to victory, despite having no major division talent to help him. Sutton could average 25.0 points a game at Central if he plays like he did this night!

This is a picture of all three Plumlee boys on the court at the same time at the annual PRO AM in Durham, NC. Even with the talent and height advantage, the brothers still lose to a team with inferior talent. Mason was dunked on by a much smaller man, Dominique Sutton, who will play for North Carolina Central next year. The dunk was such a facial that Mason had to bend his head down to keep from getting hit in the face as the ball went throught net. Sutton is labeled at 6-5 but is more like 6-3. With all three Plumlee boys on the court, as well as Alex Murphy,(incoming freshman at Duke Unversity), the NC Central star outshined them all!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Will The Braves Make The Move For Carlos Beltran?

Is Carlos Beltran the "big bat" the Braves are looking for?
Now that the Astros are saying they are not going to trade Hunter Pence next week, all eyes turn to New York and Carlos Beltran, as he is now the biggest impact player openly on the trade market.  There is no doubt the Braves have interest in Beltran, but will they make the move?

If the Braves do make the trade for Beltran, he will strictly be a rental player, as his contract is up at the end of the season.  I think the Braves wanted Pence more, as he is under contract past this season, but the Astros wanted a multi-player package of top prospects, which the Braves were smart in declining.  Concerning Beltran, the asking price is lower than Pence, but is he worth a top prospect for 2+ months of service?

That's the question the Braves must answer.  The Mets were in town to watch Mike Minor's start for the Gwinnett Braves last night, and it appears that he would be the centerpiece of a deal.  If the Mets are willing to swap Beltran for Minor straight up, I think that's a good deal for Atlanta, as there is plenty of starting pitching depth in the minors.  I hear the Mets are willing to help by picking up most to all of the money left on Beltran's contract this year, so this could be a good deal for the Braves if Minor is deemed expendable.

Do the Mets want more than just one top level prospect?  Here is where a possible trade could reach an impasse.  If the Mets are looking for another MLB ready prospect, is it worth it to the Braves for two months of Beltran?

In my opinion, making a trade for Beltran is a risky proposition under any circumstance due to his penchant for the disabled list.  He has spent tons of time on the DL in the last five years, and an injury could make the trade a complete bust.

If it's Beltran for Minor with the Mets picking up Beltran's contract, I'd make the deal.  My gut feeling is the Mets want more that just Minor, and the Braves are hesitant to give up too much for a rental player.  Another player rumored to be a target for the Braves is Jonny Gomes of the Reds.  He would be a much cheaper target and wouldn't be forced to be an everyday player.  He could fit in a platoon against lefties, as outfielders Nate McLouth, Jordan Schafer and Jason Heyward are all left-handed hitters.  As reluctant as the Braves are to trade coveted prospects sometimes, Jonny Gomes appears to be a more likely addition to the Braves roster.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Derek Lowe On The Move?

Will the Braves trade Derek Lowe to help bolster the lineup?

For a couple of weeks, I've been hearing that Derek Lowe's name has been  floating around as trade bait in the Braves quest to secure another bat for the lineup.  I love the idea!

Derek Lowe is making $15 million this year, but teams that are on the verge of contention are always looking to grab starting pitching at the trade deadline (July 31).  Lowe would be one of the most proven veterans on the market, making him a commodity, despite having a below par season to date (5-7, 4.30 ERA).  It would be huge if the Braves could find a suitor that would pick up the rest of his contract, but the Braves will probably have to pick up some of the remainder to get another team to bite on the trade.

Who will make a move to pick up Lowe and what will they offer the Braves in return? Where will the newest addition play in the field?  If he's an outfielder, who is the odd-man out when Chipper returns and Prado moves back to left?

While I would love to see Lowe dealt to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, it's highly unlikely the Cards will part with Rasmus.  Detroit is said to have the most interest in Lowe, but looking at their lineup, it's hard to find a good fit for the Braves to receive in return.  If the Braves did trade Lowe, would it be for a minor league package to clear salary to make ANOTHER move with another team for a big bat?  Remember, the Braves did get John Smoltz and Jair Jurrjens from the Tigers!

In my opinion, if Lowe is dealt to Detroit, it would be for the scenario listed above.  The Braves will never get Miguel Cabrera and Lowe for Magglio Ordonez would be a loss for Atlanta.  There are no other big bats in Detroit, and I don't see the Braves wanting Brennan Boesch (left-handed) and the Tigers don't have any MLB ready hitters in AAA.

Lowe has recognized the possibility of a trade, even making light of it in this AJC article.  Moving him may be necessary if the Braves are serious about acquiring a thumper to add to the lineup.

Do you think the Braves will move Derek Lowe?  If so, where will his destination be?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Atlanta Braves First Half Report Card

The "Second Half" of the Braves season begins tonight at home with a weekend series against the Washington Nationals.  The Braves currently stand at 54-38 and are 3.5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East.  On my first half report card, I predicted the Braves to be 52-40 at the break, so they did me two games better.  Will the second half be as good as the first for the Braves?  First, let's recap what we've seen so far:

Offense:  B
This is a minor improvement over the B- I gave them after the first half, as it does appear the lineup is coming together, despite some key injuries.  Chipper Jones is out until August and Martin Prado could be activated for the DL this weekend, but the emergence of Jordan Schafer in the leadoff spot and the re-emergence of the real Dan Uggla has given Braves fans a little more confidence in the offense.  Brian McCann is a legitimate MVP candidate and Nate McLouth (don't hate Nate!) has been getting on base at a high clip from the eighth spot.

By the numbers: The Braves are 26th in MLB in batting average (.237) and 27th in on-base percentage (.305).  They are still getting a lot of bang for their buck at the plate, as they are 9th with 97 HRs and 18th in runs with 365.

The story seems the same from earlier in the year.  The Braves are living by the long ball on offense, and having trouble applying pressure to opposing teams in their lack of ability to manufacture runs.  Will Frank Wren make a move for a big bat before the trade deadline?

Studs:  Brian McCann, Chipper Jones (when healthy), Freddie Freeman
Duds:  Alex Gonzalez, Jason Heyward
Heating Up:  Dan Uggla

Pitching: A+
It would be hard to imagine or expect the Braves pitching to staff to be any better than they have been in the first half.  Jair Jurrjens is leading the NL in wins and ERA and is a bona fide Cy Young contender.  The "O'Ventbrel" (Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel) combination at the back of the bullpen is the best in baseball.  Venters, Jurrjens and Kimbrel all made the All-Star team and Tommy Hanson should have been there as well.

There are very few negatives on the staff and you have to search far to find them.  Derek Lowe hasn't been very good since April (5-7, 4.30 ERA) and Scott Proctor's best days appear to be long gone.  Tim Hudson has been a bit inconsistent this season as well, as his 8-6 record shows.  Hudson has 11 starts where he's given up two earned runs or less, but 4 starts where he's given up at least five runs.

By the numbers:  The Braves are 2nd in MLB in ERA (3.11), 2nd in saves (34), 2nd in strikeouts (736) and 4th in shutouts (10).

Just like the first quarter, the Braves have arguably the best staff in baseball and may have the best chance of matching up with the Phillies staff in the playoffs.  Here's to an injury-free second half!

Studs:  Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty, Tommy Hanson
Duds:  Scott Proctor, Derek Lowe
Heating Up:  Peter Moylan (getting ready to come back from injury)

Fielding:  A-
Prior to the season, this was thought to be a worry for the Braves, but they've become a very good fielding team, to the surprise of many.  McLouth, Schafer, Prado and Heyward are all excellent outfielders and the infield defense has been stellar as well.  Freddie Freeman's slick glove work has saved a number of errors so far this season.

By the numbers:  Tied for 9th in fielding percentage (.985), 13th in errors (54)

Studs:  Freddie Freeman, Jordan Schafer, Nate McLouth, Alex Gonzalez
Duds:  None

Coaching:  B+
While I believe Fredi Gonzalez has done an excellent job of creating an atmosphere of comfortable performance this season, I have one reason for question: his (over)use of O'Ventbrel.  Will the back end of the bullpen hold up for the rest of the season?  There's been a lot of O'Flaherty (7th), Venters (8th), Kimbrel (9th) games this season, which could affect the team in September and October.

Overall:  A-
At the All-Star Break, the Braves are where most fans and experts expected, the second best team in the NL, behind the Phillies.  Right now the Braves hold a five game lead over Arizona in the wild card race.  The Braves are in a great position despite some tough injuries to some key players.  Will Frank Wren make a trade in the next two weeks before the deadline? Could it be a blockbuster that will alter the NL East race? 

Right Now: 54-38
3rd Quarter Prediction (August 15):  69-52 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Has The Home Run Derby Lost It's Luster?

Did you stay up long enough to see Robinson Cano bring home the title?

Not terribly long ago, the Home Run Derby was one of the sports highlights of my summer.  Watching the best MLB sluggers take aim at the upper decks of stadiums was must-see television.  After watching the last few years, with the exception of Josh Hamilton at Yankee Stadium, the Derby has become a bore to me.  Here's why:

It takes too long.  Last night's derby lasted a whole three hours.  On the East Coast, it wrapped up after 11 p.m.  The new format of having three rounds is just too much.  In the 80's and 90's, each of the eight sluggers got 10 outs and the winner took all.  Then, they changed it so that the top two hitters faced each other in a winner-take-all swingoff.  This added maybe 15 or 20 minutes to the competition, which was manageable.  Now, there are a total of 140 outs to be made!  Eighty, 40, 20 in each of the three rounds.  I love watching the long ball, but that's a little much.
Easy fix: Let's go back to the first round and then top 2 hitters get 10 outs to decide the champion.

Chris Berman says "Back, back, back, back, back..." way too much.  If there's anything that would be an almost universal agreement among Derby watchers, it's that Berman needs to go.  I know this will never happen because he's been doing the Derby as long as I can remember, but really, can't you come up with anything better than saying "back" 624 times in three hours?  I thought Berman was the king of nicknames and catch phrases?  Maybe he should work a little bit harder to come up with more material than just "back" and "ohhhh".
Easy Fix:  MLB Network decides to cover the Home Run Derby live as well.  Any of their hosts, like Matt Vasgergian or Greg Amsinger, would be refreshing to our ears.

The best hitters don't hit anymore.   Gone are the days when the Derby had sure-fire Hall of Famers like Ken Griffey Jr., and Frank Thomas and other bombers like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire were regulars as well.  Now, those guys have been replaced with the likes of Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Nick Swisher.   I do like MLB's move to allow captains to pick their own teams and allowing the captains to pick non-All-Stars to participate.
Quick Fix:  Again, let the captains continue to pick their teams.  The captains need to pick guys who will put on a show, like Adam Dunn or even Bryce Harper next year.

What did you think of last night's Home Run Derby?  Did you stay up late enough to see the ending?  I used to enjoy watching the Celebrity Softball Game afterwards, but it probably didn't start until after midnight last night.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Caleb King Ineligible, I Hope Isaiah Crowell Is Really Good

We learned this weekend what had been rumored for months around Athens:  Caleb King is academically ineligible for the 2011 football season.  His less-than-stellar college career is over, and King will enter the NFL Supplemental Draft.

With the exception of one game (2009 We Run This State vs. Georgia Tech), King's Bulldog career can be classified as a major disappointment.  During his junior year of high school at Parkview, he was ranked as the #1 running back in the country by Rivals.  Much was made about his transfer to Greater Atlanta Christian for his senior year, where he suffered a leg injury in the middle of the season.

Luckily, I had the chance to see three of his games in person that season.  I hate to toot my own horn, but you can ask around, I was less than impressed with King when I saw him.  He ran by slower defenses and his  quick feet helped him elude defenders, but in the games I saw against great defenses, like Buford, he didn't finish runs.  He didn't run through contact and had eyes for the sidelines.

In fact, in the bleachers that night I compared him to Patrick Pass, another highly-touted Dawg who had a magnetic attraction to the sidelines.  Pass did have a NFL career with the Patriots and has a Super Bowl ring or two, so all hope isn't lost for King's career.  Just like Pass, King won't make his money as an every down back, but could see five carries a game and needs to be productive on special teams.  The one thing he has going for him is the same thing he's always had-he looks the part.  He may have to sign as a free agent, but some team will take a chance on him because of his measurables. (Raiders anyone?)

Now let's look forward to Georgia's running back situation this season.  With King and Washaun Ealey (transferred to Jacksonville St.) out of the picture, Carlton Thomas is the only back on the team with any game experience.  There has been some hype around the program for redshirt freshman Ken Malcome, and he will certainly give the running game a more physical aspect.

However, Bulldog Nation is hanging their hopes for 2011 on Isaiah Crowell, the five-star running back from Carver-Columbus.  Below is a link to his high school highlight film:
When watching that, it's easy to see why everyone is so excited.  He is fast, quick and can run through tackles to finish runs.  Fans are hoping he will have the same impact Marcus Lattimore had for South Carolina last season.

I have my doubts.

First of all, Georgia's offensive line worries me.  They have a brand new coach and little game experience. There isn't much depth either, with the loss of Trinton Sturdivant (ACL), A.J. Harmon and Brent Benedict (transfers).  Crowell could be the next Emmitt Smith but won't produce without good blocking.

The other thing that worries me most is that Crowell is only a freshman.  Anyone who thinks he is the next Herschel Walker is sadly mistaken.  There will only be one Goal Line Stalker.  Ever.  Crowell has had trouble making it through summer workouts, drawing ire from some of the Georgia staff.  He has been working harder as of late to get better prepared, but it remains to be seen if he will be able to carry the ball 20 times against Boise State.

Thomas and Malcome will have to be ready to get carries from the start of this season.  I hope Crowell is ready to shoulder the load from the start, but to expect him to run for 150 yards on 20 carries against Boise is ridiculous.  The fate of the Bulldog offense needs to rest on Aaron Murray and the receivers, not an uncertain running game.

One thing is certain: Mark Richt's job is on the line this season.  Preseason attrition is taking a major toll on Georgia's depth chart.  Let's hope Richt's career doesn't depend on just one true freshman.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deron Williams To Turkey If NBA Doesn't Play; He Won't Be The Only One

Is Deron Williams waving goodbye to the NBA?

Deron Williams has said today that he will be heading to Turkey to play next season if the NBA lockout continues into next season.  According to the New York Times, a deal has been reached between Williams and Turkish team Besiktas to play this upcoming season.  While Williams is the first player to agree to play in Europe, he certainly won't be the last.

If there is a delay in the upcoming season, I expect more layers to look to make money by playing overseas.  I assume that Patrick Ewing spoke for the lifestyle of many NBA players during the last work stoppage.  Recall his famous line "We make a lot of money...but we spend a lot too."  While many players have had the foresight to get their financial houses in order, there are probably just as many who are living huge paycheck to huge paycheck.  Pretty soon, they are going to need money.

Money.  It's what NBA owners say they don't have, and what many European owners are willing to throw at NBA stars to get them to jump the pond.

European teams have clamored to have the world's greatest players play in their league, so don't be surprised when these owners are throwing huge dollars at NBA players, even guys who aren't "superstars".  Remember Josh Childress a few years ago?  He left the NBA on his own for more money in Greece.  He wasn't a star, just a role player for the Hawks.  Obviously the money has to be great to get Deron Williams to go play in Turkey.  I doubt he's going on a vacation or going to study Turkish culture; it's all about the cash.  Imagine what one of these owners would be willing to pay Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

David Stern says it's just fine if players want to go to Europe and play, because their contracts have been suspended by the NBA.  It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

How many players do you expect to jump to Europe?  Will other stars like Kobe, LeBron and Wade make the jump as well?