Category Archives: Christian Binder

Elon Women’s Basketball vs. College of Charleston

Listen in today at 2 PM as Brian Dudiak and Christian Binder bring you the call of the Elon Women’s Basketball team against the College of Charleston Cougars! Also follow Ben Naughton as he blogs live from the game.

Ben Naughton’s live blog: Elon Women’s Basketball vs. College of Charletson

Elon Phoenix vs Davidson Wildcats

Listen in at 1:30 when the Elon Phoenix take on the Davidson Wildcats in WSOE SPorts final broadcast of the 2011 baseball season. Christian Binder and Sean Dolan are on the call as the Phoenix look to continue their strong play and sweep their North Carolina rival. Tune in on 89.3 FM or by clicking the “Listen live” link above.

MLB: Winter Meetings Roundup

This is one of my favorite times of year. Not because of Christmas. Well, because of Christmas, but also because of the MLB winter meetings. And let me tell you, this year’s winter meetings have been nothing short of shocking.

The first big move that was made was Jayson Werth signing with the Washington Nationals for seven years and $126 million. I’ll say all that’s positive about this first before I lambast Mike Rizzo. They get another good bat to compliment Ryan Zimmerman as well as a somewhat competent outfielder. He’s also a veteran presence on an extremely young team and he brings World Series experience. Now, he’s no Adam Dunn. The guy is 31 years old and he’s only recently started producing quality numbers, although he’s never had 100+ RBI in a season. Well, to be fair, he did get 99 in 2009, the only season in which he also hit over 30 home runs. Now I can verbally paste Mike Rizzo. Why why why would you ever commit that much money over that many years to a player such as Jayson Werth? I’d understand if his production was more consistent over his career, but the numbers don’t lie. The guy was lucky to even get a shot in Philadelphia, which, by the way, is a hitter’s park. Also, Rizzo completely changed the negotiating strategies for every team with this contract. Carl Crawford figured to be worth about what Werth got, but his demands ratcheted up when the Nats made their splash. It also affected Cliff Lee, who originally was seeking a five- or six-year deal, but changed his stance to wanting seven years because he saw what Werth got.

Which brings me to the next big move, Carl Crawford signing with the Boston Red Sox. Suffice it to say that this was completely out of left field (no pun intended). This reminded me of what the Yankees did with Mark Teixeira just a few years ago, where they appeared to not be in the market until the last minute when they swooped in with a massive contract. The Sox signed Crawford for seven years, $142 million. To me, this was a completely defensive move to prevent the Yankees from getting him. Yankees GM Brian Cashman met with Crawford’s representatives nearly all day on Tuesday, making it seem like he was destined for pinstripes. The Yanks were prevented from offering a contract, though (and I’m just speculating here), because they don’t know the status of Andy Pettitte. If he wants to return, the Yankees have to pay him. But they also want to sign Cliff Lee and signing all three would be nearly impossible. Now, what does this mean for Boston? Well, they traded a crowded infield for a crowded outfield, with five outfielders now on the current roster. You have to figure that this means that Jacoby Ellsbury will move back to center field, a position he could barely play before the Sox moved him to left. Crawford will play left, but in my humble opinion, his talents are wasted there. Manny Ramirez played a good left field in Fenway Park and if you’re a baseball fan, you know that he’s one of the worst outfielders of all time. Offensively, who wouldn’t want to have Crawford on their team? He’s a triples machine and a nightmare on the basepaths and his power numbers will certainly go up with that short right field porch.

The Sox also acquired slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres. This move comes as a surprise because the Padres were competitive last year and Gonzalez was the face of the franchise. The marriage between the Padres and Red Sox doesn’t come as surprise because Padres GM Jed Hoyer was an assistant under Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, so he had extensive knowledge of the Red Sox’s farm system. The Red Sox certainly gave up a lot for Gonzalez and the trade almost fell through because Gonzalez and the Sox were not able to work out a contract extension. Gonzalez is a huge upgrade for the Red Sox and a more than qualified replacement for Adrian Beltre. Kevin Youkilis will shift back to third base to accommodate Gonzalez at first base. Gonzalez will have a monster year in Boston because he was 30+ home-run guy in Petco Park, which is a pitcher’s park, and, again, Fenway is a hitter’s park.

That leaves the last big-name free agent, at the time of this writing, unsigned. Cliff Lee has reportedly received several offers, but has yet to accept any of them. This week, a mystery team offered Lee a seven-year deal, which he did not accept. It’s still unknown which team it was, but the rumor is that it was the Red Sox in an effort to drive up his price. The New York Yankees originally offered Lee a six-year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $142-$152 million dollars, but this morning, they upped their offer to seven years. The Yankees have remained the favorites to sign Lee since the World Series ended with the Rangers right behind them. If Texas is unable to pry him away from the money the Yankees can offer him, they’re going to have to find a replacement and fast. The free agent pitching market is almost completely depleted. The best remaining free agent after Lee is Carl Pavano, who has recently revived his career. The other option for the Rangers is to attempt to trade for Kansas City’s Zack Greinke, but my instincts tell me the Rangers are hesitant to trade for him because they have moved a lot of pieces from their stellar farm system over the past few years. Kansas City is asking for a monster haul for their ace, which would have to include three or four top-level prospects plus a major-league-ready player. Needless to say, no team is really inclined to offer such a package. Greinke has been on the radar for several teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays, Yankees, Rangers and several others.

It’s safe to say that this year’s winter meetings have been one of the most entertaining in recent history. It’ll be exciting to see how all of these moves wind up working out for the respective teams. Only two months until pitchers and catchers report to spring training!

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NFL: Monday Night Madness

It’s that time of the season. It’s Week 13 and the playoff picture is starting to shape up. There are plenty of great games this weekend, but I’m only going to focus on one. This will be perhaps the best game of the entire season. The 9-2 New York Jets are travelling to Foxboro, Mass., to take on the 9-2 in-division rival New England Patriots.

The Storyline
The Jets come into this game having won four games in a row, including two overtime wins against the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. The Patriots have won three in a row against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and the Lions. Tom Brady is having one of the best seasons of his career, having thrown for 2,703 yards with 23 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Meanwhile, Mark Sanchez has improved remarkably upon his rookie season, having thrown for 2,472 yards with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. However, half of Sanchez’s interceptions have come in the last four weeks. But probably the biggest storyline of all is this: the Jets are 5-0 on the road while the Patriots are 5-0 at home. Something’s gotta give.

Matchups to Watch
1) Jets nickel and dime corners vs. Patriots wide receivers. The Jets had a busy offseason ramping up last year’s #1-ranked defense by trading for cornerback Antonio Cromartie and drafting highly-touted Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson. Cromartie has stepped up in a big way, while Wilson has flopped in his rookie season, falling as far back as fifth on the Jets’ depth chart. The Patriots have returned to the short passing game that was so successful for them in the early 2000s and it is working again now. Deion Branch looks as though he never left and Wes Welker is as solid as ever. With compliments such as Brandon Tate, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, this receiving corps is extremely deep. Cromartie and all-pro corner Darrelle Revis will handle the Patriots’ top receivers, but how will the likes of Drew Coleman, Dwight Lowery and Kyle Wilson match up against all of the Patriots’ weapons?
2) Mark Sanchez vs. the Patriots’ 32nd-ranked pass defense. The first time these teams met this season, Sanchez turned in his best performance to date. He was efficient, completing 21 of 30 passes for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns en route to a 28-14 victory. When Sanchez went up against the Houston Texans’ 31st-ranked pass defense only two weeks ago, he turned in another great performance, throwing for 315 yards (only the second 300-yard passing game of his career) with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception in a 30-27 Jets win. The Jets’ offense has become much more balanced in recent weeks, thanks mainly to the return of Santonio Holmes, who missed the first meeting between the two teams due to suspension.
3) Patriots running backs vs. Jets run defense. The Jets are only giving up 86.3 yards per game on the ground, while the Patriots average 112.5 yards per game rushing. Jets castoff Danny Woodhead will certainly look to get revenge on his old team both on the ground and as a pass-catching option out of the backfield for Tom Brady. If the Patriots are to win this game, they have to establish the ground game early and not become one-dimensional by only passing the ball. The Jets will do their best to force Brady to have to beat them with his arm.
4) Nick Folk vs. himself. Folk was automatic for the first half of the season, but ever since the Jets’ Week 7 bye, he has been a different kicker. He’s only made 9 the 15 field goals he’s attempted and many of his kickoffs haven’t even made it past the 10-yard line. This has gotten to be such a problem that the Jets auditioned Kris Brown this week just in case they decide to cut Folk before Monday. If the Jets are going to win, they’re going to need Folk to return to early-season form. A missed field goal could cost them in this game.

Prediction
This is a tough one to call. In Week 2, the Jets absolutely dominated the Patriots in New Meadowlands Stadium. But that was 11 weeks ago and now the weather is cold and the game is being played at Gillette Stadium. In a “what have you done for me lately?” league, the Patriots certainly look like the better of the two teams. The Patriots are the highest-scoring team in the league, while the Jets have given up the fourth fewest points. The Patriots have won their last three games handily, while the Jets have struggled to get past some of the NFL’s worst. Nevertheless, both teams are 9-2 and this game will almost certainly decide who wins the AFC East. Recent history says the Jets have won three of the past four matchups and I like the Jets in this game in a close one, 27-24.

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NBA: Was Phil Jackson Wrong?

They call him The Zen Master, a man who uses holistic approaches to coaching influenced by Eastern philosophy. Phil Jackson has been called many things, but controversial is hardly one of them. Jackson recently went on “The Waddle & Silvy Show”on ESPN 1000 in Chicago and said, “The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — [Chris] Bosh and [LeBron] James — by [team president] Pat Riley and Micky Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, ‘We feel you [Riley] can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,’ and whatever, I don’t know. That’s kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don’t straighten out here soon, it could be the Van Gundy thing all over again.” This raised a lot of eyebrows in the media and many people questioned the 11-time NBA champion’s remarks. I decided to write about this after listening to Jeff Van Gundy ramble on and on about it during ESPN’s broadcast of the Heat-Magic game on the 24th.

Was Phil Jackson wrong in his remarks? No, absolutely not. I completely agree with what he said. Remember, this same kind of situation happened in 2006 when Riley fired then-coach Stan Van Gundy for his struggles with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal. What happened when Riley took over as coach? They won a championship. How is this situation any different? Let me tell you.

That 2006 Heat team is much better than the 2010 version. Why? Because they had an inside game. What’d Chris Bosh say when he was deciding on where he would sign? He didn’t want to be an undersized center. What is he in Miami? An undersized center. You may be saying to yourself, “Christian, he doesn’t play center in Miami. They have Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erik Dampier and Joel Anthony.” Yes, they do. Clearly the cream of the crop. They simply don’t match up against the likes of Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnett. I’ll go ahead and be so bold as to say they don’t even match up well against Shaq, Anderson Varejao or Brook Lopez.

Now I’m not going to say that the Heat aren’t one of the most talented teams in the league. On paper, they are. You can’t argue with the raw talent of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, you just can’t. The team is not built to play inside and that’s always been a huge part of the game. Think about it – Kobe didn’t get his respect until he won without Shaq. The Spurs have won with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. The Pistons – Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups. The Celtics with Rajon Rondo and the Big Three. If you want to win, you have to have talent at every position. People will say that Phil Jackson won with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen only, but people forget about how good Steve Kerr was running the point and that solid inside game.

Back to the original point. Is Erik Spoelstra the guy who should be coaching the Heat? In my opinion, no. What has the guy done in his career? Nothing. And even with the most talent on any roster, the team is struggling to get wins. On the night of the 24th, they were coming off of back-to-back losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Indiana Pacers. Now, a change of coach isn’t going to suddenly make the centers on the Heat roster suddenly be able to match up to the better post players in the Eastern Conference. It certainly will help, though, to have a proven winner on the bench, a guy who instantly commands respect. So no, Phil Jackson, you were not wrong. You were completely within your rights to say what you did and I will not be surprised if Pat Riley fires Spoelstra in the middle of the season to retake his spot on the bench.

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NFL: Vick for MVP?

Two years ago, the first thing that came to mind when anybody said “Michael Vick” was “criminal.” Today, it’s “MVP.”

Talk about a turnaround. Not just in football, but in life. Everyone knows the story – dogfighting, prison, mentoring sessions with Tony Dungy, signing by the Eagles. But you look at how much this guy has changed from a football standpoint and it’s really something to behold.

Let’s take a look at his best statistical years while he was with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2002, he had 231 completions on 421 attempts for a 54.9% completion rate. He threw for 2,936 yards with 16 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also had 113 rushing attempts for 777 yards and an additional eight touchdowns. In 2006, the only full season Vick has ever played, he attempted 388 passes, completing 204 of them for a 52.6% completion rate. He threw for 2,474 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran 123 times for 1,039 yards and two touchdowns. Those teams finished 9-6-1 and 7-9, respectively.

Fast-forward to 2010. Despite missing three games, Vick is having, undoubtedly, the best season of his career. Through six games, he’s completed 96 out of his 153 attempted passes for 1,350 yards and a 62.7% completion rate, nearly 8% higher than his career average. The telling statistic here is this: 11 touchdowns to 0 (that’s right, ZERO) interceptions. According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com, every other player with more than two touchdown passes has at least one interception and every player with more than six touchdown passes has at least three picks. In case you were wondering, Vick’s passer rating is 115.1, nearly 40 POINTS higher than his career average. He’s also carried the ball 44 times for 341 yards and four scores. What’s more, every game that Vick has started and played in its entirety, the Eagles have won. And in case you missed it, Vick put on a clinic in Week 10 against the Washington Redskins, passing for over 300 yards with four touchdowns (QB rating of 150.7) while rushing for 80 yards and two more scores.

Where has this production come from? It’s unprecedented in his career. My theory is this: while he was playing in Atlanta, the offensive system was built around him and he had a run-first mentality. In Philadelphia, he stepped into a West Coast Offense that emphasizes passing first. Honestly, if you watched Vick play in the early 2000s, you weren’t watching for his arm. You were watching for his athleticism. Anybody remember the Michael Vick Experience commercial? Watch him this year. He’s delivering strikes on nearly all of his pass attempts, putting the ball where only his receivers can catch it. His evolution as a quarterback in only his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles has been truly remarkable. I’d be wrong if I said that it’s his quarterback play is the only thing that’s making him great because he’s as fast as ever, but he’s only using his speed when he doesn’t have a passing option. And this makes scheming for him almost impossible. An opposing defensive coordinator has no way of knowing what he’s going to do on a given down because he’s a threat to pass or run and it could go either way. Michael Vick for MVP? He has my vote.

So here we are, Week 11 in the NFL. In what was expected to be a down year for the Eagles, they find themselves in a tie for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants. Now this is where things get interesting. The two teams haven’t played each other yet. They meet up in a Sunday night bout at Lincoln Financial Field, one of the toughest places to play in sports. The Giants are coming off a terrible loss to the Dallas Cowboys, while the Eagles have all the confidence in the world after their drubbing of the Redskins. The winner of this game will take control of the division and be in the conversation for best team in the NFC. It’ll certainly be one worth watching even if you’re not a fan of either team.

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mlb: world series in perspective

“There’s a long drive… it’s gonna be, I believe…THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy! HEEEY-OH!!!”

In case you didn’t already know, that’s Russ Hodges’s call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” in the 1951 National League Championship. Couple this with the 1954 World Series that included “The Catch” by Willy Mays and you have the top two moments in San Francisco/New York Giants history. Well, you can add the 2010 World Series to those moments. No, there wasn’t any defining spectacular play that will live on in the annals of sports, but this series represented a momentous occasion in the world of baseball. A once-storied franchise seeking its first title in over 50 years finally gets it. And what’s more, it represents the end of a dark period for that franchise.

 

For a franchise that was marred by the steroid cloud that came with Barry Bonds, this championship means more than a ring or a trophy. It means the club has moved on, forgetting what happened in the early 2000s. Led by a trio of fantastic starting pitchers in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, the San Francisco Giants closed the door on the upstart Texas Rangers in a series that was never really even close.

 

How did they do it? As a team. Not one player in the Giants’ lineup is considered a superstar. Buster Posey, the team’s 23-year-old rookie catcher, bat .300 in the World Series. Edgar Renteria, a 35-year-old shortstop in the twilight of his career, smacked the series-clinching three-run homer off of arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Cliff Lee. Tim “The Freak” Lincecum struck out 10 Texas Rangers in Game 5, tied for the most ever in a clinching game. Madison Bumgarner, only 21 years old, pitched eight shutout innings in Game 4. Cody Ross, a castoff from the Florida Marlins, bat .294 with five home runs and 10 runs batted in over the course of the entire postseason. Brian Wilson, an openly Christian and oddly eccentric closer, had six saves with a 0.00 earned run average.  No, one person did not carry the team. It was a coherent team effort.

 

There’s a saying that the best team always wins. There’s a truth to that, but it’s also misleading. Over the course of the season, the Giants were not the best team in the league. They weren’t even the best team in their division. This was a case of a team getting hot at the right time. In recent history, though, no team has ever sustained that kind of play for as long as the Giants did. They defied all odds – a team built around youth with only a few veterans – and believed in themselves. Now, as World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants can call themselves the best team in the league.

 

The path to the World Series was long and arduous for the Giants. First, they had to face an Atlanta Braves team that was fighting for their manager, a legend set to retire. Then, they had to take on the three-headed monster of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt along with the potent Philadelphia Phillies offense. And to top it off, they squared off with the Texas Rangers, a team that had beaten arguably the best two teams in baseball in the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. Through all of this, they came out on top, realizing the dream that fans and players alike have shared for so many years.

 

Now to be fair, there was another team in the World Series. The Texas Rangers, under the ownership of pitching great Nolan Ryan, showed a never-say-die attitude. That attitude stems from star center fielder Josh Hamilton, who has become the proverbial face of redemption. The Rangers can’t be upset with their failure. It was the farthest the team has advanced in its 38-year history. Granted, anything short of a championship is considered a failure by many, but the Rangers can go into next season knowing what they are capable of. A few tweaks to the roster and they can contend for a title again next season.

 

But here’s to the San Francisco Giants. Enjoy the moment, you’ve earned it. Never forget how it feels, because once you are content, you lose the will to go to the next level. The defense starts in a few short months.

 

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mlb: trade deadline breakdown part 1

It’s this time of year that’s like Christmas for me. We’re in the dog days of summer and the men are being separated from the boys in Major League Baseball. To be quite honest, I’ve found this season to be more exciting than years past – for the most part, none of the contenders from last year have been counted out and there are a lot more tight division races, save for the AL West. It’s also that time of year where we see old faces in new places. And I’m here to break it down for you. Due to the enormous length of this article, I’m going to do it in two parts. American League first, National League second.

AL East:

New York Yankees: Added 1B/DH Lance Berkman, OF Austin Kearns and RP Kerry Wood. Lost minor leaguers RP Mark Melancon and IF Anthony Paredes.

Alright, if you know me, you know my Yankees bias. In all seriousness, I like two of these moves. Adding Berkman was big because he adds a lot of options for manager Joe Girardi. If Mark Teixeira needs a day off, Berk can play first. More importantly, he solidifies a DH position that the Yankees have used as a revolving door this season. And more important still, he’s wearing pinstripes instead of a baby blue Rays uni. Kerry Wood will compete for the 8th inning job with Joba Chamberlain, who has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a complete and utter headcase. Not that that’s his fault, I mean, I wouldn’t want to be jerked around by a team telling me I’m a starter, no I’m a reliever, no I’m a starter, no I’m a reliever. At any rate, if Wood can stay healthy for the rest of the season, he can throw gas in the 8th inning and provide a somewhat reliable bridge to Mariano Rivera. As for Kearns, didn’t really understand why the Yanks got him other than adding some veteran bench depth, but Colin Curtis had been doing  just what the Yankees needed from him, but whatever. Deadline grade: B+

Tampa Bay Rays: Added RP Chad Qualls. Lost a player to be named.

I get why the Rays added a bullpen arm. Grant Balfour, one of their hard-throwing relievers, is currently injured and he is a crucial part of that ‘pen. But let me compare his numbers with those of Qualls. Balfour: 43.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 44 K, 13 BB. Qualls: 38.2 IP, 8.15 ERA, 34 K, 15 BB. Yeah that sounds like a suitable replacement to me. Look, it’s hard to say that a team failed at the deadline, but what the Rays really needed was a bat and they could’ve taken a shot at Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder. It’s not like they didn’t have the prospects (Desmond Jennings, Jeremy Hellickson) to make a splashy move. But as the Rays have proven since their inception into the league, they aren’t willing to part ways with prospects. Jennings will likely replace Carl Crawford next year (notice I’m not even giving the Rays a chance to re-sign him. If they can’t take on a big contract now, how are they gonna do that next year?) and Hellickson is making his big-league debut tonight, after which he may find himself in the bullpen. Deadline grade: C-

Boston Red Sox: Acquired C Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Lost minor leaguers Roman Mendez and Chris McGuiness, a player to be named later and cash.

I gotta give Theo Epstein a little credit here. He sees that his team has a serious void behind the plate and there’s no guarantee Victor Martinez and/or Jason Varitek will be back next season. While the Sox seem to have fallen out of contention this season, Epstein is preparing his team for next season. Salty has yet to show the flashes of greatness that he displayed in the minors, but he still has potential to be a good offensive catcher. Plus the guy has a cannon for an arm. Not a great move, but not a bad one either. Deadline grade: B

Toronto Blue Jays: Nothing.

The only reason I mention them is because they did nothing. How stupid are they??? They have hot commodities in Jose Bautista, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor and Kevin Gregg. But Alex Anthopoulos had ridiculous demands on all these guys. Now he’s going to have to take his chances on arbitration and draft pick compensation. Deadline grade: F

AL Central:

Chicago White Sox: Added SP Edwin Jackson, Lost SP Daniel Hudson and minor leaguer David Holmberg.

Once again, an opportunity for me to hate on Kenny Williams because he, once again, made a stupid move. To make a long story short, he was trying to flip Jackson to Washington for Adam Dunn, but it didn’t work out and now he’s stuck with him. Also, he’s hardly a suitable replacement for Jake Peavy. Hudson was one of their top prospects and dominated in his first start with the Dbacks. As for Jackson, he brings his 5+ ERA to Chicago, where he is likely to suffer the same fate he did in Arizona. Deadline grade: D

Minnesota Twins: Added RP Matt Capps. Lost minor leaguers Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa.

There are few times that I don’t trust the management of the Minnesota Twins. This is one of them. Wilson Ramos, the team’s top prospect, was deemed untouchable in potential trades for Jake Peavy, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. Instead, he’s flipped to Washington for Matt Capps. MATT CAPPS???? Hardly Peavy, Lee or Halladay. And, oh yeah, there’s a guy named Joe Nathan who will be back next year and that other guy Jon Rauch who had been filling in admirably for Nathan. Are you kidding me? Deadline grade: D-

Detroit Tigers: Added IF Jhonny Peralta. Lost minor leaguer Giovanni Soto.

The Tigers did what they needed to do. After losing Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen in the same week, they added Peralta, a utility infielder. Soto’s not a huge loss, but I think it’s time the Tigers waved the white flag on this season. Deadline grade: B

AL West:

Texas Rangers: Added SP Cliff Lee, C Bengie Molina, 1B Jorge Cantu, IF Cristian Guzman. Lost 1B Justin Smoak,  RP Chris Ray and minor leaguers Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, Matthew Lawson and Michael Main.

The Rangers were by far the most active team in the month of July, fortifying their team with a host of veterans. Lee gave them a front-of-the-rotation guy who is just perfect for them, Molina seems rejuvenated, Cantu is a solid but unspectacular player and Guzman addresses the loss of Ian Kinsler. The Rangers, like the Rays, have a fantastic farm system. Unlike the Rays, they are willing to part with their prospects if it means winning now. The deals may come back to bite them some years down the road, but if the Rangers don’t win this year, this season will be a huge disappointment. I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that Lee is a free agent at the end of the season and with the ownership situation in flux, there’s really no way they can afford to re-sign him. It’s do or die for the Rangers. Deadline grade: A

Los Angeles Angels: Added SP Dan Haren and 3B Alberto Callaspo. Lost SP Joe Saunders, RP Sean O’Sullivan and minor leaguers Will Smith, Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez and Tyler Skaggs.

The Angels certainly surprised everyone when they added Dan Haren when they were already basically out of the playoff hunt. However, these moves were not intended for winning this year. Haren is under team control for the next two years and certainly makes the Angels’ top three of Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren very scary. That being said, the Angels seemingly gave up a lot for both Haren and Callaspo and then turned around and said they might become sellers. That raised questions in my mind, but I’m not a baseball GM. Next year, when the Halos get Kendry Morales back, they will fight with the Rangers hard for the division. Deadline grade: B

Part 2 on the National League will be coming soon!


mlb: fallout from the cliff lee deal

For the third time in the last year, Cliff Lee has been traded. This time, he’s headed to the Texas Rangers, who are currently in first place in the AL West with a record of 50-36. So what’s the deal on this?

For starters, I gotta give the Rangers props on pulling off this deal. Early Friday morning, the Yankees had an agreement in principle to acquire Lee for prospects Jesus Montero (no. 6 prospect in baseball), David Adams and a third prospect that was reported to be a right-handed pitcher. However, in the early afternoon, talks broke down presumably because of Adams’ health and the Mariners broke off discussions. The Rangers immediately jumped in and, within two hours, shipped first baseman Justin Smoak and a trio of prospects to Seattle for Lee.

As a Yankees fan, I was upset at first, but after some thought, I realized that this was probably for the best. I’m curious as to how Bud Selig let this trade go through given that the Rangers don’t currently have an owner and aren’t supposed to take on salary because MLB has to pick it up for the time being. Alright, so the Mariners chipped in $2.5M for Lee, but he’s still owed $2M by the Rangers…er…MLB. That aside, the Rangers gave up a sizeable amount for Lee even though they have the best farm system in the majors. Smoak isn’t having the best year (.209,  8 HR,  34 RBI in 235 ABs), but he is still considered one of the top switch-hitting prospects in baseball. The other guys they gave up were decent in the AA and AAA levels. But what does this mean for the Rangers? If they don’t make it to the World Series, this trade is a huge disappointment. Lee is a free agent in the offseason and there’s no way the Rangers could afford him (he reportedly is seeking CC Sabathia money) with the way the ownership situation is right now. Of course, the Yankees will be involved with Lee in the offseason, along with the Red Sox, Mets and several other teams.

Keeping the focus on this season, the Yankees missed out on Lee, but last night they became only the third team in AL history to have three starting pitchers with 11+ wins before the All-Star break. It’s not like they’re dying without him. Sure, he would’ve made the rotation one of the most formidable in baseball history, but you win some, you lose some. The Yankees have made it clear that they were only in on Lee because they covet him so much, so don’t expect them to get involved with guys like Roy Oswalt, Dan Haren or Ted Lilly. Their plan for this trade deadline is to acquire a veteran utility person with a good bat, someone like a Ty Wigginton of the Baltimore Orioles. I’m also proud of Brian Cashman because, as tempting as this deal must have been, in the end, he stuck with his philosophy of not trading prospects for impending free agents. He stuck to his guns when Johan Santana, Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia all hit the market in recent years and, whatever the reason for this deal breaking down, he stuck to them now.

So let’s look ahead to the postseason. I mean, that’s the point of all this, right? The Rangers rotation in a 5- or 7-game series will look something like this: Cliff Lee, Scott Feldman and C.J. Wilson. Lee of course is terrifying in the postseason, but of those three, he’s the only one who really poses a shutdown threat. If the season ended today, the Rangers would be facing the Rays and their probable rotation of David Price, Jeff Niemann and Matt Garza. I would take Niemann and Garza over Feldman and Wilson any day. We all know that the Rangers can hit…look at Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz. But good pitching beats good hitting and honestly, I don’t think the Rangers have enough pitching to get by a team like the Rays or the Yankees.

With the trade deadline only a few weeks away, you can expect the Tigers to be in on a Dan Haren or a Ted Lilly and watch out for the Rays, who have some money to spend for the first time in their existence, to land either a big-name bat or a big-name starter. Either way, fans can expect a much tighter race this year than in recent memory.

4th and 15 Mock Draft

We at 4th and 15 are all about keeping track of who’s wrong and who’s right. In keeping with that tradition, we’re gonna keep a record, then we’ll check our mock draft with the actual draft and see how we did.

1) St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
2) Detroit Lions – Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers -Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
4) Washington Redskins – Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
5) Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
6) Seattle Seahawks – C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
7) Cleveland Browns – Earl Thomas , S, Texas
8 ) Oakland Raiders – Taylor Mays, S, USC
9) Buffalo Bills – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
10) Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
11) Denver Broncos (from Chicago) – Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
12) Miami Dolphins – Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
13) San Francisco 49ers – Joe Haden, CB, Florida
14) Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
15) New York Giants – Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama
16) Tennessee Titans – Brandon Graham, LB, Michigan
17) San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina) – Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
18) Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
19) Atlanta Falcons – Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
20) Houston Texans – Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
21) Cincinnati Bengals – Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
22) New England Patriots – Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
23) Green Bay Packers – Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
24) Philadelphia Eagles – Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
25) Baltimore Ravens – Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
26) Arizona Cardinals – Charles Brown, OT, USC
27) Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Robinson, CB, South Florida
28) San Diego Chargers – Jahvid Best, RB, California
29) New York Jets – Jerry Hughes, LB, Texas Christian
30) Minnesota Vikings – Nate Allen, S, South Florida
31) Indianapolis Colts – Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
32) New Orleans Saints – Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

And there you have it. We’ll check our results on next week’s show and let you know how we did.