Leon Powe: “The Show” Any Critic Would Love

January 31, 2008

 

After the recent birth of his first child, Leon Powe III, #0 has played as angry as he is proud.

If you’ve listened to a single Celtics broadcast this season or read anything about Leon Powe in the papers or blogosphere, you already know he’s a great guy.  But, did you know he’s actually not a bad player either?  In fact, he’s got a 20.21 PER right now.  Yes, 20.21, as in second on the Celtics to Kevin Garnett, ahead of Paul Pierce, and well in front of the rest of the roster (including Ray Allen).

My eyes tell me the guy doesn’t have much to contribute: he’s extremely undersized (so much so that he looks like the prototype of a 3 but has the game of a 5), isn’t a great passer, doesn’t block shots and can’t even alter most big men’s shots due to his vertical issues, has twice surgically repaired knees, and seems to always be walking with a hunched gait.  But the guy will NEVER play anything less than his hardest. 

It’s a cliche, but it matters.  Leon Powe gives well over 100%.  Adversity is his bitch. 

Put an obstacle in his way and he’ll go through it first, and if whistle blows, he’ll learn how to get around it instead.  The man is everything a human being could hope to strive for–classy, hard-working, intelligent, and successful.  He recently became a proud papa, and it’s safe to say that Leon III is “gonna know who his father was,” as Will Smith guaranteed in The Pursuit of Happyness.

There’s no telling how much longer the magic is going to last for “The Show”–if his talent and height were anywhere near as incredible as his character he would have gone #1 overall in the draft instead of 49th, after all.  Players of similar build and background have come and gone before, using an inner rage to earn a contract and the respect of the fans only to see a naturally more talented youngster take their place.  But Leon seems a bit different from the rest, like a guy who won’t fade away too quickly.

This should come as no surprise because he would never allow that to happen; like Kurt Cobain he would much rather burn himself out before he lets his flame flicker into oblivion.


Smith’s Gaffe Leaves Minnesota to Languor as Queens Celebrates Its Good Fortune

January 29, 2008

 

In an incredible turn of events, Johan Santana has found his way to New York, but not to play for the Yankees.

The Mets just made the move.  While the Yankees, Red Sox, and other teams with better talent gave up a chance to land the best pitcher on the planet, the Mets stuck to their guns and got their man.

The package consists of four prospects: outfielder/lead-off candidate Carlos Gomez, and potential starting pitchers Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber, and Deolis Guerra.  Amazingly, the Twins somehow came away with the worst of the many offers they received, managing to get more of a grab-bag of mediocrity and distant potential than anything close to near-Majors sure-things.

Packages from the Red Sox consisting of Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and Coco Crisp or Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Masterson, and Jed Lowrie failed to take the cake.  The Yankees’ solid offer of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and another prospect (either Jeff Marquez, Austin Jackson, or a million different options) didn’t cut it.  And now the Twins are stuck with this: two back-of-the-rotation starters in Mulvey and Humber, a guy who might be a good lead-off hitter with little power in Gomez, and an 18-year-old kid with a great arm and not much more in Guerra.  Does that sound like enough for the closest thing we’ve got to the Red Sox version of Santana’s new teammate, future Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martinez?

The fact that the Twins were unable to acquire the Mets’ top prospect, Fernando Martinez, also astounds me.  The Mets were desperate for an ace of any sort–let alone the best pitcher in the game–yet somehow managed to beat Twins GM Bill Smith and the front offices in the Bronx and Kenmore Sqaure in a game of chicken.  When Smith finally panicked, swerving out of anonymity and into the headlines, he took the best offer he could get at an arbitrary date–January 29–more than six months away from this season’s trade deadline. 

Laughable and sad, it looks like Smith’s George Bush-like “strategery” may have cost the Twins a chance at competing for a World Series title as early as two years from now had they chosen one of the previous quality offers on the table. 

Instead, Omar Minaya and the rest of his Queens front office miraculously find themselves cackling with glee as they prepare an expensive new document with “Johan Santana” and “New York Mets” written right where it counts the most.


The Dynasty That Never Was

January 29, 2008

In lieu of news that Johan Santana has been shipped to the Mets, I’ve decided to post the entry I started back when a trade to the Red Sox seemed imminent just to give us a glimpse of what could have been.  It was to be titled “Santana Trade Cements Sox as World Series Favorites.”  As you can see, I never got the chance to finish it :(.

  1. Johan Santana-29 years old
  2. Josh Beckett-28 years old
  3. Daisuke Matsuzaka-27 years old
  4. Clay Buchholz-23 years old
  5. Curt Schilling/”Father Time” Wakefield-167 years old

That’s hands down the best rotation in baseball.  And will be for the next two or three years, most likely.  Come play-off time, the top two can’t be touched, and the top 4 could be fantastic.  As far as #5 goes, who knows, Schilling could keep up his play-off mastery and be much more valuable than expected.

Together with an already strong team otherwise, the Red Sox would become prohibitive favorites to win the World Series in 2008.  With a move to replace, or retain, Manny Ramirez’s production in LF after his initial contract is up at season’s end (when he has two club option years remaining), the team could be looking at the chance to win 4 or 5 World Series trophies during this first decade of the new millenium, with more success possible in the teens.  This would be Boston’s answer to New York’s dominance during the 1990s.


Doc, Rest Your Suddenly Sickly Celts

January 29, 2008

Kevin Garnett 

Rest him until the seventh day.

Ray Allen has the flu and ageing legs; Rajon Rondo’s struggling with several leg issues; James Posey is recovering from back problems; Big Baby Davis has had some knee issues of his own; and now, KG will miss at least two games and possibly more with an abdominal strain.

Things are slowing down in Boston, where after an incredible 29-3 start, the Celts have come back to earth, due in part to their less-than-stellar healthy lately.  The C’s are 5-5 over their last ten games, and could find themselves dropping the next couple without KG and perhaps Ray Allen. 

Fortunately, time is on their side.

The Celtics play only two games in seven days (counting tonight).  Given this random rest, I would resist the temptation and the intense overtures that are sure to come from Mr. Garnett and sit him until at least Feb. 5th, at Cleveland.  Even if this is slightly excessive, one game (home against Dallas on Thursday) doesn’t matter much for the team with the best record in the entire Association, but a healthy cast of characters in the second half and the play-offs does.

So, prescribe some rest, Doc.  (So corny, I know.)


The Real NBA All-Star Team

January 29, 2008

I finally decided to post my NBA All-Star team, but since everyone else jumped the gun and did it well before the halfway mark, I’m going to keep it brief.  I followed the rules of picking the team, with starters having to be chosen at their listed positions, but reserves at wherever they should be.  I factored in real production (meaning minutes) when PER was close, defense, and the fluke factor.  Here goes:

West Starters:

  1. Chris Paul–he’s better than Steve Nash, I’m sorry.  He was the first-half MVP.
  2. Kobe Bryant–still a stud after a lot of mileage.
  3. Dirk Novitzki–he’ll have to play the three because the ballot is messed up.
  4. Tim Duncan–Hall-of-Famer.
  5. Amare Stoudamire–He’s third in the league in PER and has really turned it on after somewhat of a slow start.

West Bench:

  • Steve Nash–still the second best PG in the game.
  • Manu Ginobili–should be starting ahead of Dirk if we could just go small but the balloting doesn’t work that way.
  • Yao–while his star may have slipped a bit and he has some defensive shortcomings, he’s still a very good player.
  • Carlos Boozer–he was an MVP candidate for a while, but his play has fallen off to simply an All-Star level.
  • Baron Davis–very good player having a very good season.  He’s the real deal now, at least for a couple more years.
  • Allen Iverson–he just barely makes it ahead of some serious Western snubs, but he’s got to be there given his consistent great play both this year and in the past.
  • Al Jefferson–if this last had come out just a couple weeks ago I wouldn’t have been able to have given my man crush a spot but his recent dominance has made it just as legit as Yao.

West Snubs:

Andrew Bynum, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Roy, Josh Howard, Marcus Camby, Shawn Marion

East Starters:

  1. Chauncey Billups–putting up the second best numbers by a point guard in the Association.  Much better than J-Kidd.
  2. Dwayne Wade–his team sucks, but he doesn’t.  He’s the best shooting guard in the East.
  3. LeBron James–putting up historic numbers at only 23.
  4. Kevin Garnett–his stats are great, and even they don’t tell half the story.
  5. Dwight Howard–the Magic really ought to try getting him the ball, seeing as he’s, like, the best all-around center in the world and stuff.

East Bench:

  • Chris Bosh–like Amare out in Phoenix, after a slow start the youtube star has begun annihilating opponents and sports the league’s sixth-best PER at 24.97. 
  • Paul Pierce–more than any other year, he’s played a full-court game and become a leader, which helps make up for the fact that he sports the lowest PER of any All-Star, East or West.
  • Caron Butler–he’s no longer a poor man’s version of Paul Pierce, now he’s simply Caron Butler.
  • Jose Calderon –the Raptors somehow have two of the three best point guards in the East.  Damn Canadians.
  • Richard Hamilton–This is where things start to get less impressive, but Rip’s still a key guy and playing well.
  • Antawn Jamison–Caron’s running-mate in D.C. has played very well and helped carry the Gilbert-less Wiz.
  • Josh Smith–I love his high-flying style of play.  He’s the Andrei Kirilenko of the East–only better.

East Snubs:

Michael Redd

Sounds a lot like Hollinger doesn’t it?  Oh well, that’s what I get for waiting until the appropriate time for judging. 


Feliz Fills Philly’s Hole at Third? Not So Fast

January 29, 2008

 

“If we get this done, he’s an upgrade defensively and he’s a run-producer,” according to Phillies general manager Pat Gillick.  I think he meant “he’s an out-producer both in the field AND at the plate!”

Well, ESPN.com’s headline editors think just that, as do the guys over at The Recliner GM (whose site I’m a fan of), but I don’t.  Pedro Feliz is a very good defensive third baseman, and has occasional pop.  HOWEVER, and this is one of those howevers that really requires all caps, he sports an anemic career on-base percentage of .288 over a whopping 2,840 at-bats.  I list his career totals to make a point–at 32 and turning 33 in April, what would lead us to believe the guy is likely to perform any better than he has until now?

The answer is nothing, and that’s key.  Feliz is not good.  His ‘prime’ is ending.  He will mostly likely get worse, although it’s possible with some closer fences in Philadelphia he could get a ballpark adjusted boost, but I don’t think that’s a great bet either.  Plus, if he didn’t learn any magic from Barry Bonds in more than seven years in San Francisco, I doubt there will be any mysterious jumps in performance now that he’s left the creamery

So, what does this mean for the Phillies?

Well, not a whole lot.  The contract is for two years and about $8.5 million, and if Feliz meets certain performance evaluators, it could end up being 3 years and $15 million total.  Whether or not he’s in Philadelphia for that long is most definitely up in the air, but the money isn’t anywhere near crippling, so don’t fret, Illadelphians, you’ll still be able to pay Ryan Howard.

The real issue is do you want to be spending that much money on a guy who is marginally better than the troika that inhabited third base last year?  I vote no.  But, Feliz will not prevent the team from improving–many other issues will do that.  Feliz will slot in nicely at the end of the line-up, providing lots of outs in the field and at-bat, and the Phillies will play better defense and continue to score runs aplenty with the guy. 

My issue is pitching.  As in the Phillies don’t really have any, and the money on Feliz could have been used to bolster their staff.  I say could because there’s always something to be done, but I can’t give you a great example of what the wise decision would have been in this case.  I’ll just say whether it’s investing that money in the draft to replace minor leaguers who could bring better Major League strike-throwers or signing a low-risk pitcher or eight, I would have preferred that strategy.

The Phillies are set up to have a great line-up (for AAAA) and a pathetic pitching staff barring the unexpected rise of some youngsters or a bit of short-lived glory for a journeyman or two.  Look at their depth chart.

The line-up looks fine, but I see only four pitchers I’d be happy to have on my staff: Brett Myers (although I’m not exactly a big fan of wife-beaters), Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Madson.

Things could work out–they did last year somehow–although I can’t say I expect them to.  But, since the Phillies reside in the NL, there’s a chance they could end up in the World Series.  And then the ever-annoying/pompous/arrogant/cheesy Joe Buck and shutupTim McCarver.com can say Pedro Feliz and his career-high .306 on-base percentage made all the difference.  Sweet.


Stan Van Gundy or Ron Jeremy?

January 27, 2008

You tell me.