White Hat Sports Headlines

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Great Idea, Poor Execution.

I am watching ESPN Classic. Which I love and I hate. I'll explain.

I first fell into a disfunctional relationship with ESPN Classic when my parents got Prime Star (a satillite company now defunct) and was introduced to the third ESPN channel in my life, this was late 1996. Back when I wanted the Patriots to draft Tyronne Poole (they would later pick him off the scrap heap, it wasn't as good as I imagined) Mo Vaughn was the king of the world (I even met him in the fall of '96.), so pretty much, things were good. The first show that got me into ESPN Classic was Home Run Derby. A Hollywood television show of the real Mid-Summer classic, where two Major League ballplayers would face off in a head to head, 9 inning home run derby. Looking back, the show was kind of poorly done, it was heavily edited, they would take a clip of the guy swinging in the on deck circle and then show the ball flying over the fence. The show captivated me though and still does to this day because it is interesting to see guys such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew in their prime. The show came out on DVD a couple summers ago and yes I own them. Below is the link to Amazon.com where you can get them cheap.
The only problem with ESPN Classic running the show was that they showed it 6am. I was just young enough to still get up that this time, but even then I knew Classic wasn't all it should be. I imagined the channel showing old games, old shows like the Derby and other great sporting events from before I was born that were well, classic. Instead what I found was old boxing matches that took place about 3 years before on ESPN 2 that nobody watched then and certainly didn't want to watch now. As if that wasn't bad enough, it went from bad to worse when they would block off hours for nothing but rodeo, bowling and billiards. My question was, are they people who really want to relive the 1987 Dallas Open?
The point of all of this is, why does ESPN classic still show mostly bowling and billiards? Does this get ratings or do they just have nothing else to show? This afternoon they showed something called Sports Challenge. The idea is that 3 people from a team would compete as their team in a sports trivia game show. Now it was a good premice that was horribly executed, much like the Home Run Derby show it was kidn of cool to see Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and John Havlicek sitting at a table like they're on the Newly Wed Game. On a side note, it's funny to see that even on a short lived game show, the Celtics were 4 time champions and openly mocked the other team when they got a big lead. It was fantastic, it was like Auerbach had Hondo and Russ practicing before they went onto the show. Somewhere in his office, I bet Red even had a small banner made up for the Celtics victories on Sports Challenge.
Now sometimes Classic does show an old game, one that has been long since forgotten, but has some sort of significance. This is where Classic is threatened by NBA TV, MLB, NHL and NFL Networks. They show old games, they show documentaries on classic teams and series and pivotal moments. They in essence show everything that you would want to see on Classic, and they even divide it up by sport on their own channels. Where does this leave Classic?
It's hard to say, but they could definately have a niche. They own the rights to the games broadcast on their channel (as does the other major sports as well as their networks) so they can still run those to maintain the classic feel. What they need to do is clean house. The best things that Classic has going for it is the old shows, bring in more of them, find all that you can and show them. The more random the better, who knows what people will like and what will become nostalgic. American Gladiators is about Classic's most watched show. Whenever it's on, it seems like one of my friends are watching it. AWA Wrestling, it can be brutal to watch at times, but at the end of each hour it is fun to watch the "Main Event".
Pretty much, ESPN Classic had a monopoly on the showing of older sports content market, and now that market is fragmented by all of the specialty stations run by MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. Classic may have missed it's window, unless they are catering to that Bowling and Billiards crowd. In that case, they are in a league all their own.

Sterling Pingree

Thursday, June 25, 2009

NBA Draft Jogging Diary

Welcome to the 2009 NBA Draft. I’ll be your host, Aaron Jackson. Lets hope Blake Griffin doesn’t tear an ACL before reaching the podium.

7:40: Blake Griffin goes number one overall to the Clippers, sealing his fate as a future bust. Poor guy. Meanwhile, John Smoltz has given up four runs in the first inning of his first start in over a year. Uh-Oh. Blake Griffin is informed the Clippers are terrible, and he responds by saying he can’t look to the past. If you don’t look to the past it’s doomed to repeat itself Blake.

7:51: The Grizzlies select Hasheem Thabeet at number 2. Terrible choice, has bust written all over him. Jay Bilas’s thoughts. “He is not very good offensively and needs to build body mass. Dejuan Blair absolutely beasted him this past season. Is not that great one on one defensively.” Nice job by the Grizz. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City selects James Harden 3rd. I loved him at Arizona State, but I think Ricky Rubio was a better fit here. Russell Westbrook and James Harden are too similar to play together right now. If Harden is willing to become a traditional point this could work well. I’ll give Sam Presti the benefit of the doubt on this one.

7:57: Kings select Tyreke Evans 4th. I’m guessing they expect him to play the point rather than the 2, although he could be a small forward as well. Good choice if he can improve his jumper. By the way, sad day for just about every American, as Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson both passed away today. They say bad things come in threes, and that certainly was the case with Ed McMahon, Farrah and Michael over the last two days.

8:10: Timberwolves take Ricky Rubio 5th and Jonny Flynn 6th. I don’t know how I feel about that. Flynn is too short to play the two, and Rubio would be completely out of his element as a shooting guard. I’m not sure that combination is the best choice, especially this high in the draft. I like both players individually, but together I don’t think it works. The ESPN poll has voters giving the Wolves an F for Flynn and an A for Rubio. I agree.

8:21: Stephen Curry goes number 7 overall to the Warriors. He definitely fits their system and can play right away. At 8 the Knicks select Jordan Hill. Not a big fan of this move at all. He underachieved at Arizona, and the Knicks needed a player with a good attitude. Not sure Hill is the right pick, and he’s getting booed pretty hard from the crowd.

8:35: Toronto takes Demar DeRozan 9th. He’s a project player on a team that wants to win now, unless they expect Chris Bosh to resign(not happening). Brandon Jennings then goes tenth to the Bucks, and it’s announced he is not in attendance because he wasn’t sure where he would be drafted. This kid hasn’t made a right move in my mind since graduating high school. Something about his attitude rubs me the wrong way. Terrence Williams is taken 11th by the Nets. I like this choice a lot, especially now that Vince Carter is no longer with the team. He passes well, shoots well, defends well and has good size.

8:50: Bobcats take Gerald Henderson 12th. I’ve already said this once, but I think this guy will be a huge bust. On a side note, this is only the 3rd pick I have guessed correctly. I feel dumb, but you must feel dumber for actually reading me. Indiana is now up at 13. They take Tyler Hansbrough. I was one of the only people out there that had that one right. 4 out of 13 right sounds so much better than 3 out of 14. Thank you Pacers. I like this pick a lot, he has accomplished too much already to be a bust. He has a much better jumper than when he started college, to the point where he was making threes last year. He also has more willpower in his pinkie than most of us have in our body. You may see him in my notebook coming up.

9:13: Phoenix selects Earl Clark 14. I had them taking Terrence Williams, and both players played at Louisville and are very similar. I’m giving myself half a point here. At 15 the Pistons select Austin Daye. Really??? I didn’t even have him in the first round. He’s like a toothpick. The Pistons have made some terrible draft picks in the last few years (Rodney Stuckey aside), this may very well be another one. Next up is the Bulls who select James Johnson, followed by the Sixers with Jrue Holliday. While I may not be getting the actual players right, I am definitely nailing the positions teams will draft. Both teams made good selections considering their needs, and although I’m not sold on Holliday based off last season, I think he has plenty of potential. My computer is burning up, so I’m not sure how much longer I will continue this diary. I’m thinking 20 may be my stopping point.

9:19: At 18 the Timberwolves select Ty Lawson. That’s the third point guard they have taken, and two of the three are under 6 feet tall. Why would they do that? Sometimes I am just perplexed as to how people have jobs, and this seems like it’s the case. Unless there is a trade. Speaking of, there is Ric Bucher saying the pick will be moved to the Nuggets. I like that selection much, much, much, much better. Up next is the Atlanta Hawks, a team that could’ve really used Ty Lawson. They get a great consolation prize in Jeff Teague. Great selection by them, I had him going much higher. He dominated at times in the best conference in college basketball. He may pop up again in my notebook because Atlanta is a great opportunity for a good point guard.

9:36: This will be my last post, as my computer is way to hot. At 20 the Jazz select Eric Maynor. It’s a good pick, although they could’ve addressed other needs that were more pressing. 21 is Darren Collison to New Orleans. I like this pick, but I’m kind of surprised Collison went this high. I had him higher than most of the other mock drafts out there, and he went 7 picks higher than even I thought. At 22 is the Portland Trailblazers. I would like to see them take DeJuan Blair here. He could be a great addition to their team. Instead they take Victor Claver. Not a bad choice, but I don’t expect him to play with the Blazers for the next couple of years.

~Aaron Jackson

Oh What a Night to Have No Life

What a night this shall be? If you are a Red Sox fan, (apparently there are 41,000 more than we though in DC) tonight is going to be an extremely interesting night. You have John Smoltz pitching his first game in the Major's for a team other than the Braves and making his first start in over a year. One of the all-time, ultimate gamers in we've seen in baseball for quite sometime. Also tonight you have Aaron Jackson's night of nights in the NBA Draft.

All that we have heard about this draft is that it isn't very good, besides Blake Griffin. There are a lot of overrated players in this draft and that there will be a lot of busts. I agree with some of that, but not all of it. I think that this is going to be a draft where the rich get richer and the poor get, well you know. I wouldn't want a top 10 pick in this draft really, there are a few picks I like such as Flynn and Rubio, but besides that I like the guys in the teens and 20 much better. I think Dejuan Blair is going to be an absolute monster. I talked with my buddy Duane this morning and I said I thought he was going to be a steal in this draft somewhere around the mid-teens. Duane made the argument that he wouldn't be that good because he was undersized and would have to be a Charles Barkley type. That's when it hit me, Dejuan Blair has as good of a shot as anybody of becoming the next Sir Charles. He has athletic, aggressive and pounds the glass like nobody we've seen coming out of high school or college since the Round Mound of Rebound came out of Auburn.

The other reason that this draft is going to be so entertaining is that I see a lot of trades going down tonight. There have been rumors swirling there are a lot of teams that want to move up to take particular players that they have fallen in love with. The problem is though, that in a historical sense this will be remembered as a hit or miss draft. Teams will move up on guys that they want and if that guy doesn't work out, (especially in the top 10 picks) then it could really set that team back for a few years and assure them that they will be in the lottery for many years to come.

The Shaq trade has gone down which assures us of a couple things:

1. We now have the love triangle of the proportions of Pitt-Jolie-Aniston proportions, now that Shaq has divorced Kobe, had his successful fling with Dwyane Wade and now is snuggled up with Lebron James. This is like Pitt leaving Jolie and shacking up with Jessica Alba and then making having their movie nominated for best picture against something about orphans starring Angelina Jolie. This will be more talked about than the South Carolina Governor who walked around the woods and didn't know why. This will be just under Clinton-Lewinsky in terms of media run.

2. Is Lebron taking the monkey that Kobe just shrugged off his back and putting it onto himself?

It sure looks like it, because if the Cavs win the championship next season, Lebron will then have the "You only won when you had Shaq" stigma attached to him. Ask Kobe, that doesn't wash off so quickly. On a side note, Dwyane Wade has never had this subject broached to him before. Maybe we just need to give it time? On second thought that was a horrible finals and nobody really thinks about it anymore, since it's pretty much been blown out of the water by the last two NBA champions.

3. Shaq might get the chance to battle Dwight Howard in the playoffs next year setting off the chain reaction of story lines involving him getting SVG fired from Miami the year they won the title and their verbal sparring that went on this season. As well as the contrived battle for which center is really nicknamed Superman.

The bad thing about all of this?

I'm an assistant coach on an American Legion team and there is a game tonight at 7. So I will pretty much miss all of Smoltz's start and will get to the draft right about the 20's, where all the interesting trades have happened and Jay Bilas is less punchy.

So in a nutshell, I'm going to miss everything.

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2009 NBA Draft Preview

UPDATED: 06/24-The final 20 picks are attached to this. I figured this is easier to read than two separate articles. Also, the top ten picks are not changed to show the any trades that have taken place since they were published.

For anyone that doesn't know, every year I do a lot of NBA draft coverage. It all culminates with what I call my "Little Black Draft Diary" where I pick players that I feel will outperform their draft position. I have a set of guidelines that I follow that are explained here. That page also contains a link to look at my past Diary selections, I suggest you take a look. I'm not one to brag, but I am normally really accurate.

Anyway, this post is not the Diary, because that has to happen after the draft. This post is simply my first take on which player will be taken where in the upcoming draft.

1. Los Angeles Clippers select Blake Griffin: I don't think there's any doubt on this one. The Clippers have essentially already announced they will be taking Griffin, and he clearly has the most potential. His problem? He needs to develop low post moves. We've seen how Dwight Howard has been exploited for his offensive inefficiencies, and Griffin has the same ones. If he can develop a consistent 15 footer and a Tim Duncanish turnaround he will be a great player. Well, that and keep him away from Zach Randolph.

2. Memphis Grizzlies select Hasheem Thabeet: Let me first say this is not the player they should pick; in fact, they should not pick at all. They need to trade this pick for either a future pick or a talented young player back. I don't see Thabeet ever being the player people think he will be, especially offensively, and all the other top ranked guys that could be taken here are guards. They haven't given up on Mike Conley yet, and obviously O.J. Mayo has the 2 spot . All that said I believe they do draft Thabeet because, well, they are the Grizzlies.

3. Oklahoma Thunder select Ricky Rubio: This is quickly becoming my favorite team to watch, although I say this after watching very few of their games due to their lack of TV appearances. That will change soon though, as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green are quickly coming into their own as very good players. Westbrook played the point last year, but moving him to the 2 frees him up to be a scorer, which he has proven to be. Adding a talent like Rubio to this team, in my opinion, makes it a contender within the next 3 years. On a side note, when you type in Thunder on google the second link is for www.nba.com/sonics. Real classy David.

4. Sacramento Kings select Jonny Flynn: Some have Jrue Holliday here, others James Harden. This seems awfully high for Holliday, and while I like Harden, he is a 2-guard and the Kings have Kevin Martin filling that slot nicely. By default it makes sense to me that they would take Flynn. He's going to have to learn to be less of a scorer and more of a facilitator, but I think that can come with time. I also like Jeff Teague with this pick, but he seems to have fallen as of late.

5. Washington Wizards select Jordan Hill: Hill has talent, and is a big body, which the Wizards need. They are in a very weird spot here, as they have the talent to be a top 4 team in the east next season, but are picking high in the lottery. Regardless, Hill is raw and probably won't play much because of the talent the Wiz already have. I think DeJuan Blair fits their needs better, but most teams are shying away from him because of his lack of height.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves select James Harden: I'm not really sure exactly what the Wolves do here. The top of this draft is guard heavy, but other than Rubio it's mostly scoring guards that look to pass second, which they have in Randy Foye. In the end I think they pick strictly on talent, which means Harden.

7. Golden State Warriors select Tyreke Evans: And I thought the Wolves pick was hard. The Warriors are loaded with guards, but they are willing to consistently play small, meaning they need more guards than most teams. Evans really fits the mold of this team; quick, versatile, good size, and seems to have the smarts to play the point when needed.

8. New York Knicks select Jeff Teague: This team needs a point guard, but they have time to wait for one to develop. It's a perfect situation for Jeff Teague, a player that dominated at times for Wake Forest, but also disappeared at times. He has the potential to be a great player though as long as he is given time and guidance, which Mike D'Antoni will be more than happy to provide.

9. Toronto Raptors select Stephon Curry: This is a team that needs to win now, and as such should try as hard as they can to trade this pick off for some established talent. If they can't do that Curry is a pretty good consolation prize. This guy can just flat out score. I've been following him for 2 years (yes, I am the guy in your office pool that picked Davidson to go as far as they did in the tourney two years ago), and I can tell you he can contribute to an NBA team right now. Having a player like Chris Bosh to take the pressure off will help significantly too.

10. Milwaukee Bucks select Dejuan Blair: Assuming Michael Redd comes back healthy, they hold on to Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut continues the improvements he was making before his injury this team has the potential to be contending for a playoff spot. Blair is a guy that knows who he is (a wide body that is ridiculously strong), and can probably provide a 15 and 10 if given the opportunity. My only concern with him is his size (6'6"). He should fit well with their team. The other player I could see here would be Brandon Jennings, but I don't think most see him as a true point guard, which he would have to play with the Bucks. Plus, scouts don't seem to like his work ethic or attitude much.

11. New Jersey Nets select Demar Derozan: Athletic swing-man that can play the role of a Richard Jefferson type player. Doesn't need to be the top scoring option, but can carry a team at times. Should be a good fit with Vince Carter and Devin Harris.

12. Charlotte Bobcats select Gerald Henderson: It's either him, Ty Lawson or Tyler Hansbrough. This team always takes the Carolina product if it makes any sense at all, and those three players could all be considered here. Personally, I think Gerald Henderson will be a HUGE bust because he doesn't have much of a jumper and never dominated a game in college. Regardless, Bobcats ownership seems to go for the local guys.

13. Indiana Pacers select Tyler Hansbrough: Obviously, as a Tar Heel fan I love Hansbrough. Say what you want about him, but he was able to dominate the best conference in college basketball for four years. Players that dominate consistently in college for long periods of time generally do well in the pros, unless they are injury prone. Even if he is injury prone he is tough enough to play through him. I could see him averaging 15 and 10 over a 11 plus year career.

14. Phoenix Suns select Terrence Williams: Athletic swingman with tons of potential. He is the type of player that will either be a superstar or a bust, and at this point the Suns need to take a chance. Hopefully they actually keep this pick.

15. Detroit Pistons select Ty Lawson: I'm not sure they are sold on Rodney Stuckey anymore, and while I still think he will be good, they may want to take a player that can help out at the point. It's not waisting a pick to do that, because if both pan out Stuckey can easily play the two guard.

16. Chicago Bulls select Earl Clark: This is a team that doesn't really have a position of serious need. Clark represents an extremely talented player at this point, and it's possible he could be a superstar in the Lebron James mold in that he can dribble, shoot and pass well.

17. Philly 76ers select Brandon Jennings: Andre Miller isn't getting any younger, and Jennings, while his attitude isn't the best, he has the talent. He also has a year of experience, albeit in a foreign league.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves select James Johnson: Decent shooter with good athleticism that needs time to develop, something the Wolves have plenty of, especially given their recent moves. They could also go guard here, but it's a guard heavy draft, so they should be able to get a decent one later in the draft.

19. Atlanta Hawks select Eric Maynor: I'm a big fan of Maynor. He is extremely fast, has a great runner, and can get shots off from positions you wouldn't think possible. Think Rajon Rondo. Perfect fit for a Hawks team that needs leadership and speed at the point.

20. Utah Jazz select Chase Buddinger: Matt Harpring is past his prime (if he ever had one), and Buddinger can easily do most of the things he did. Plus, he's white, and we all know how the Jazz love white players.

21. New Orleans Hornets select Wayne Ellington: Definitely a favorite for my diary. Excellent shooter, has learned when and how to drive, underrated defender and overall just a smart player. This guy could end up being the best player in this draft.

22. Portland Trail Blazers select Jrue Holliday: I don't really see a player that fits a need, mostly because the only need they have is at center. Holliday will probably spend some time in the D-League, because I don't think he's ready now to contribute. The Blazers have enough talent they can do that.

23. Sacramento Kings select Omir Casspi: Don't really know a whole lot about him, but it seems the Kings like him.

24. Dallas Mavericks select B.J. Mullens: Unathletic center, but he's 7 feet tall. Probably won't ever make it in the league long term, at least in any type of substantial role.

25. Oklahoma City selects Taj Gibson: Good rebounder that can score at a decent rate. Could be a good 6th man or fringe starter.

26. Chicago Bulls select Victor Claver: Prototypical foreign player with a little more bulk.

27. Memphis Grizzlies select Toney Douglas: Great scorer that can also handle the ball. Good player that can play alongside Mayo at times as well as give him a breather.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves select Darren Collison: Another player that should be higher up, but isn't because scouts have had so much time to watch him that they have gotten bored. He has top 5 talent defensively, and is a good floor general.

29. Los Angeles Lakers select Dajuan Summers: Polished player that can play now but has limited upside. Could be a solid contributor off the bench.

30. Cleveland Cavs select Josh Heytvelt: Was probably a top five pick until the drug bust, then dropped off the face of the earth for a little bit at Gonzaga. Great size and athletic, could definitely play right away for the Cavs.

I'm hoping to do a running diary tomorrow night but am not sure it will be possible because of work. If not, I'll have my Little Black Book on this draft on here soon.

~Aaron Jackson

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Line drives

The title really has nothing to do with anything, except I was throwing batting practice to the American Legion team that I am an assistant coach on, and I got drilled in the right ear with a come backer from about 20 feet. Just a rough night's sleep last night for somebody who sleeps generally on their right side.

Here are a few line drives for the week that should be observed:

~The Red Sox enter the week with a 4 game lead, their largest of the season. They hold this with a day off tomorrow and a 3 game series with the Washington Nationals looming. While the Nat's will never be confused with Murder's Row, in fact they have one of the worst records in Major League history at the 50 game mark, they did steal a series at the new Yankee Stadium last week. Though the craziest thing about that series was not that the Yankees dropped two of three to the lowly Nationals, or that A-Rod had to miss two games after the series because he was 'fatigued', it was that in the series finale' that nobody hit a home run. It was the first game played at the new Yankee Funeral Home, that there wasn't at least one home run.

~ The conversations, and my last column (the one with the studly, cover of a country album look to it of Brad Penny) talked about what the Red Sox were going to do with their rotation. With Dice-K now on the DL for at least 15 days (I got the feeling listening to Terry that it was going to be much longer, more like a couple of months perhaps) we are going to get a good look at what John Smotlz can contribute to this team. I subscribe to the theory that you can never have enough pitching and anytime a starting pitcher goes down, it's cause for concern. In this case though, I think the Red Sox are in really good shape. If John Smoltz isn't able to contribute to the rotation, which if that's the case I think he will move into the bullpen, Clay Buchholz will get his chance to make an impact on the major league club for the first time this season. So like Kodak, "Let's see what develops."

(I don't have a clue if Kodak said that or if anybody else said that or if it's just a excruciatingly bad joke made in the photo department of the Augusta Wal-Mart. If anybody knows the origin, let me know. Like I care.)

~After watching the Dodgers tonight against John Lackey, I think they are without a doubt the class of the National League. I had my doubts at first but this is seriously a dangerous offensive team. Last year the Phillies pitching peaked at the right time and they got more out of Cole Hamels than they had in the rest of his career. Unless they get the same or better this year, I don't think they can make a 7-game series with the Dodgers even go 6 games. The Dodgers have a very good offense, though very young and they are getting solid starting pitching. The biggest decision that they have to make is what to do with Juan Pierre when Manny Ramirez returns. It has already been said during this hot streak of Pierre's, that when Ramirez can return Pierre will return to the bench. But if you're the Dodgers wouldn't you use him at trade bait at the deadline? His value is way up there right now and he's pretty much auditioning right now for a starting job with moderate contender. A destination that I could see is the Texas Rangers. They seem to be serious about contending this season and with Josh Hamilton out for an extended period of time, it would be to their benefit to add some speed and another outfielder. Just the first place that came to mind. The only other team that makes any sense would be the Cubs or the Mets. Then again, I think every moderate, free agent or trading chip that will get too much in return will go to the Mets. I'm not sure if Ned Colletti would trade Pierre to another National League contender or not. I guess it all depends on what he could possibly get in return which might not be much.

~ As the run scoring line drive of this inning, I'd like to float this idea out there. Remember last season when there was the possibility and likelihood that the Red Sox could play against Manny at the Dodgers in the World Series? Well right now the only two teams that have eclipsed the 40 win mark are the Red Sox and the Dodgers. When Manny returns, the Dodgers really could run away from the NL West. The Red Sox are in for a battle in the American League East, but it looks like their prospects for the playoffs are once again bright, even though things could change at any time in a division like this. What would happen if the Red Sox did play the Dodgers in the World Series? There would be no lack of stories lines and here are a few off the top of my head.

1.Manny comes back to Fenway to face his former team for the first time and it's for the World Title.

2. Joe Torre against the Boston Red Sox again, the last time he managed a team against the Red Sox in the postseason, they blew a 3-0 series lead for the first time in baseball history.

3. Doug Mientkiewicz is a back up on the Dodgers right now, there's no doubt that Dan Shaughnessy would bring up the "Ballgate" fiasco again.

4. Brad Penny and Takashi Saito * The asterisk is because they might not be on the team come the trading deadline. They have been the targets of other contenders this season. If they are both with the team, especially if Penny were to make a start in Chavez Ravene in October, the comments of Dodger 3rd base coach Larry Bowa about Penny's work ethic would definitely come back into consciousness.

I got way ahead of myself, but come October, look back on this column. If these two teams play in the Fall Classic, all of these story lines will be beaten to death, or the Manny-Red Sox story line will get beaten more than the Washington Generals or the fact that during the Finals "Kobe really wants this!"

Sterling Pingree

Monday, June 15, 2009

What to do about pitching.

The Red Sox have a surplus of pitching that no other team has. The old saying goes, "you can never have enough pitching," but the Red Sox right now need to figure out the best way to use all that they have for their greatest advantage. Clay Buchholz is dominating Triple-A right now and is starting to get the itch down there. Smoltz is going to be ready to start in the majors this week and that Brad Penny that we thought was the best case scenario when the Red Sox signed him seems to be waiting simply to make his next start. The question is now, what should the Red Sox do to maximize their output from all of this talent that they have.
The rotation right now is Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny and Wakefield.
The closest thing to a hole in that rotation right now is Matsuzaka who probably won't be back to what he was for this entire season (just another casualty of the WBC). Lester and Beckett are starting to turn into the pitchers that people hoped that they would be this season while Penny isn't far behind them and Wakefield actually carried the Red Sox for the first month and a half of the season. So where does Smoltz break in? Do you trade Penny? My dad said today he wouldn't trade Penny for anybody less than Hanley Ramirez. Where I don't agree with that, I do believe that his price tag is a lot higher than teams thought or perhaps his price tag has risen since teams started negotiating with the Red Sox. When his name was first being thrown out there in trade talks, Buster Olney said that the Red Sox might get an okay prospect and that's about it. Right now where I haven't heard anything about where he might end up or what for, I would have to imagine that the Red Sox could get the shortstop upgrade that they have been seeking.
Here's what makes sense to me, as good as Brad Penny has been, he has been injured a lot in his career and that could derail the chances of getting anything in return for him. So it might be smart to trade high with him now.
So now with an opening in the rotation it only seems natural that John Smoltz would come in and take that spot, right? Sort of. I think you bring him AND Buchholz into the rotation. Yes, I said it, a 6 man rotation. Where Beckett and Lester have been fantastic, Daisuke could use some rest and I'm sure Smoltz and Wakefield could as well, and it probably wouldn't hurt Buchholz either. I wouldn't use the 6 man rotation too long however, I would use it until the beginning of August and then move either Tim Wakefield or John Smoltz to the bullpen as the long man. Because right now the only long man is Justin Masterson and either Wakefield or Smoltz could be invaluable with the young guys in the bullpen. Though right now the bullpen has been pretty much lights out, the question becomes who do you move out if you move in Smoltz or Wake. I think it's an easy choice (and not because he didn't have a good outing yesterday), I think Bard has to be sent back down. He has shown flashes of absolute brilliance, at times he has lost his command and still looks like a young pitcher. He could use some more seasoning in Pawtuckett until he can be called up again in September 1.
Will any of this happen? Yes, it has to.
Will all of this happen? Not a chance, because for everything I know, there has to be more that I don't. Though this all makes sense right?

Sterling Pingree

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Without Women,We Are Men.

I know the title might need work, but it encompasses a couple things and all actually apply. It is an ode to the piece "Men Without Women" by David Halberstam, where he covered a week long fishing trip with 12 men. Some of them he knew, some of them he knew through a friend and some of them he had never met before. This past week I started as an assistant coach for the American Legion team that I played for in my high school years, but in doing so I was going to have to cancel a planned camping/fishing trip with my buddy Joey. But with rain in the forecast for most of the week, the tuesday and wednesday practices were canceled on monday, giving me a chance to potentially make the 2 hour trip to northern Maine for the trip. Driving back from practice about 11pm monday, I sent a text to Joey, I was going to Boyd Lake tuesday.

We met up in Bangor where I would leave my truck and from there take Joey's car into camp after stopping off at his parents house in Bradford and picking up enough fire wood for what promised to be a cold and damp midweek camping trip. We arrived around 4pm to the camp that his grandfather's camp on Boyd Lake and got our gear unloaded. I had been to this camp once before, only a few monthes ago when I helped Joey clean out the camp, which had not been properly opened up for going on 15 years. I had known of Boyd Lake much earlier however. My grandparents, like Joey's, had once had a camp up there that I had stayed at a few times during the summer. I remember swimming off the boat launch and catching a sunfish with an old fishing pole. There were some very good memories of my childhood spent up there with my older cousins before they started families and while my grandfather was still alive. Since then, my grandmother has sold the camp to one of my cousins and I have heard that they had fixed the camp up nice. After pouring ourselves each a drink we went out to the screened in front porch and watched the waves as they lapped against the shore in front of the camp. Talking about sports, baseball, people we both know, old times gone by, women and fishing stories. It's during this time we see a fish jumping about 12 yards off the dock. Joey decides that it must be a Pickerel, I concur and after my encouragement, he goes out to the dock and tried to land the fish. It seemed of good size and had been quite active as we watched him, leaping half way out of the water 5 or 6 times in a 5 minute period. After coming in unsuccessfully, we spent the night listening to the Red Sox-Yankees game on the radio and playing cards. There were drinks, but the drinks were the main focus, neither was the numerous games of Cribbage, or the hot dogs we grilled midway through the game. Though the Red Sox game was omnipresent, it was present the whole time. Just when you got into the rhythm of playing cards and hearing the familiar sounds of Joe Castiglione call the ballgame, you could instantly be pulled back in by moments like David Ortiz's 2-run home run off AJ Burnett. The Red Sox ended up coasting to a victory and moving their record this season against the Yankees to 6-0.
After the game ended we switched back to another common love, country music. As the songs of George Strait, Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley played on, so did we, battling hand after hand, game after game of cribbage. Never really talking about anything substantial, more just analyzing the hands that we had just played or the cards that we threw into one another's crib.
The second day was darker, grayer and a little wetter. It didn't rain at any point, but the feeling was always damp and the skys always ominous. Forging ahead anyway, we took off in the canoe, to see what we could catch and to try and not camsize in the wake of the now strong winds. In the hours that we were out there the only catch was a small pickerel that Joey caught and released. Like most canoe trips in tough winds, the ride out to our farthest point was much easier than our ride back into camp. Night 2 was similar to the first with the Red Sox once again beating the Yankees, although tonight we had to listen to Jon Risch instead of Dave O'Brien which took away from the experience. After the game ended and we returned to country music we kept the drinks coming, but now we started playing ping pong and we didn't stop. We started with a few games into the afternoon and that quickly escalated until 3am in when our driving abilities had most assuredly abandoned us, but our ping pong abilities had been enhanced. The games took a similar pattern; one guy would get a lead, one guy would blow the lead, we would battle each other for every point with volley's that would make Nadal and Federer at Wimbledon look like two guys playing ping pong at 3am after drinking Crown Royal, Coors Light and Natty Light on a camp porch......on a wednesday night.
Thursday I had planned to head back as there was another practice that night. I awoke and found that the skies were actually lighter and the water very calm. I quickly brushed my teeth, dressed and got out onto the dock and set to cast a line or two and see what I could see. After about 20 minutes and only a nibble from a curious sun fish I got a hit, a big hit. I landed what looked to be about an 18 inch pickerel. I called Joey's name, who had yet to get out of bed, (perhaps the ping pong had taken it out of him, or perhaps it was the Nat Light, who knows) he came out as I was bringing the fish in. I didn't have a Leatherman on me and anybody who has caught or even seen a pickerel before knows you do not want to put your hands in their mouth to get the hook out. Joey and the fish approached the dock at the same time, I brought the fish up to the dock and the fish spit the hook. The timing could not have been better, I brought the fish up and I didn't have to deal with the pickerel allagator like teeth. Figuring that this was a good omen for the day we got our gear together to depart the camp so we could set out and fish on Big Boyd Lake for a few hours first. My goal for the day was different however, to find the camp that had belonged to my grandfather and where I had spent some terrific times during my childhood. We encountered loons, ducks and very little else as we trolled a line behind us and made our assent to the end of the lake where I believed the old camp to be. Just as we hit the corner of the lake Joey said he thought we had something. Sure enough as he grabbed the Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod, I looked back from my spot at the front of the canoe and saw a good sized bass lift out of the water, with the hook in his mouth. After a short battle, and the revelation that we had left the net back at the camp, I grabbed the line and brought the bass into the canoe. We both felt a rush of exhileration, even without the net we had manned up and brought the fish into the boat. We took pictures of the fish and released it back into Boyd Lake. It took a while for our levels of exhileration to come down, but it did just in time for us to paddle along the shoreline to see the camps down at that end.
With the improvements to my grandfather's camp by my cousin Karen and her husband and the fact that I hadn't seen the camp since about 1995, I wasn't sure if I would be able to recognize the camp even if I saw it. The one thing that I did remember about the camp was that there was a road into the camp that was directly to the left of it and then another road in front of the camp, so the camp set on the corner and of the course the boat launch across the street. As we paddled and I was about to give up, there it was, still barn red as I remembered but it looked much improved. But because of the proximety to the intersecting roads I knew it was my grandfathers camp.
It's amazing in life how you can comeback to a place where you once were without expecting so. It's almost like you're supposed to go back there for some reason or supposed to bring back the memories that were made there. The time at the camp, which I will refer to as "The Midweek-Weekend" was something that every man needs. Time away from the world was just what I needed, the Red Sox beating the Yankees didn't hurt either. Sometimes it's just important for guys to be guys without women around, without too much technology around and to be back to where men were once and still are great:

Sterling Pingree

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jogging Diary

My original plan was to start this diary with the Sox game at 7, but when you work in news things rarely work as planned, and needless to say I had to stay late for a live shot at a fire. It’s now 8 pm, and I’ll be writing in this periodically while cooking supper. My first two thoughts are this. Where did Dennis Eckersley hear the term “bridge” to describe a home run, and why is the NHL so terribly run. Why wouldn’t they have game 6 of the Stanley cup last night? There was very little for baseball to watch, and more importantly no NBA Finals game to watch. Now tonight they go up against a full MLB schedule and game 3 of the NBA Finals. It makes no sense at all. I’ll be back.

8:21 pm: Burnett has given up five runs through 2 and 2/3rds. Definitely worth all that money you gave him huh Yankees? It’s only a matter of time before his inevitable DL stint that lasts a month longer than it should. Also, when Brett Tomko is a member of your pitching staff and it’s not a double A team something is wrong. There is a reason he’s played for so many teams.

8:33 pm: Beckett has just about every pitch working tonight. It would be interesting to see what has both he and Lester pitching so well after such poor starts to the season.

8:49 pm: Sox game is now at 6-0, which is great because I never know any actual channel numbers, so I just find them in my guide. Now I can switch between the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup simply by hitting last, and then eventually find my way back over to the Sox during halftime of one of the games. I hate switching between more than two channels.

8:58 pm: I am writing this now before I forget; my friends and I take a trip to Fenway once a year to see a different three game series. It’s become an annual event, and this will be the third year we’ve done it. We’ve had plenty of fun, some of which is transcribed on a past blog post. We need a name for this trip though…please e-mail any ideas to actionjacksn04@gmail.com. Thanks.

9:07 pm: Changed the channel just in time to see the Penguins score the first goal of game 6. The question becomes if a goal is scored in a Stanley Cup final but there is no one watching it is it still a goal?

9:17 pm: Rafer Alston has nailed two straight jumpers. Seems like he finally has a little bit of his fragile confidence back. Time to bring in Jameer Nelson Stan Van. Also, no matter what anyone says, the Magic’s chances come down to the play of Alston and Mickael Pietrus. If they play well the Magic win, if they don’t they lose. Dwight Howard is not good enough offensively yet to be a difference maker every night.

9:28 pm: The pace of this game is good so far, but it’s only a matter of time before the refs kill it. It all started to really go down hill after the Melee at the Palace, and has affected every big game since (including handing the championship to the Heat two years ago). It’s like they feel the teams are ticking time bombs and blow the whistle on any near contact. It’s killing the flow of every game, and basketball more than any other sport is a game of flows. You could say the NBA needs Flomax, and judging by the age of most refs it would apply to more than just the gameplay.

9:38 pm: Kobe has 17 through the first and the Lakers are up. Also, most people don’t like them, but I am a big fan of the Kobe/Lebron puppets. The little kid however annoys the hell out of me. I also wonder if they couldn’t have found someone better than Kenan from Kenan and Kel as the voice for Lebron.

10:00 pm: It’s a one point game three quarters of the way through the 2nd, yet I find myself extremely bored. Dwight’s new Vitamin Water commercial is pretty funny, and accurate. He describes his post moves, which is basically a series of different terms for dunks because that is all he can do.

10:13: The Magic are shooting 75 percent from the floor in the first half, but are only leading by four. How is that even possible? They should be up 20 points right now. And there was the first sighting of a Kobe scowl. That is the most ridiculous thing ever. This is yet another reason why Kobe is not one of the greatest ever. Jordan didn't do the tongue thing as a gimmick, it was just something that happened. You can't force these things Kobe.

10:15 pm: I’m going to stop putting the pm there, because it’s pretty useless. Also, it’s halftime so I’m going to take a break. I’ll be back for the second half.

12:10: Alright, so I fell asleep at the half. It happens. Definitely not my jogging diary shining moment. Maybe I'll make it up to you by doing a jogging diary of game 4.

~Aaron Jackson