Things I’d Get Rid of In Sports.

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick-Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick-Tick.

There’s certain things that bother me in sports.  Traditions, practices that have spiraled out of control, blatantly pointless activities.  Time to share a few, off the top of my head.  Feel free to add your own at the end.

1.  Visiting the Mound.  It’s baseball’s version of the time-out, and yet the restrictions on it are a little loose for my taste.  Baseball needs to speed up, and trips to the mound are a constant drag.  I think it might be more that we all know the guy isn’t saying anything, someone starts warming up furiously, the ump has to meander out to break it up.  I’m tired of the routine.  One non-pitching change trip to the mound a game for the coaching staff.  These guys are pros, brief them before the inning.

2. Preseason Polls.  The most idiotic of sports practices.  Let’s rank teams based on absolutely nothing, artificially inflate the chances of random teams for having a good season, and kill other teams chances before they get started.  Sounds amazing.  I understand that people constantly need rankings and lists to bicker about, but we can’t wait a couple weeks?  Really?

3.  Freezing the Kicker.  As far as I’m concerned, it never works.  Is this the hidden ball trick of the NFL?  Now there’s like the double secret super last second freeze, and the guy ends up kicking it before they blow it dead.  How often does this happen now?  Then we have to watch a whole other field goal attempt.  Enough with the stupid gimmicks, it doesn’t work.

4.  NBA Time-outs.  How many time-outs do these teams get?  Seriously, I’m asking.  24?  Has an NBA team ever ran out of time-outs?  Every tie up, every time someone’s going out-of-bounds, every time they can’t inbound the ball…time-out.  Full, thirty-second, whatever.  When you have to invent 30 second time-outs because the time-out is being called for a pointless reason, that’s too many time-outs.  I also hate when a team goes on like a six point run, and the announcers say, “Oh man, they need to get a time-out.”  Or, they could just score or get a stop.

5. Extra Points.  Yawn.  Are you sensing a prejudice against kickers?

6. About Six NHL Teams.  I mean, come on.  The Florida Panthers?  Name a player.  Scott Mellanby?  Find me a fan.  Do we even know what city they play in?  Are the Coyotes bankrupt yet?  At the very least move some of these teams back to Canada.  10 million Canadians watched the US/Canada hockey game Sunday.  How many Americans?  8+ million.  (we have a SLIGHT population advantage by the way).

7. The NFL dressing its Coaches.  Sure, there are some guys like Fat Andy that probably appreciate the shipment of 4-XL black golf shirts every year and the hats with the awful graphics, but this remains the only league where coaches dress like gym teachers.  Hooded sweatshirts?  Ok, we get it, you spend 21 hours a day at the facility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hop in a shower and make yourself presentable before the game.

8.  The Gatorade Bath.

9.  The Pants rule in Golf.  At least wave it when the temps hit 90 degrees or something.  What are they trying to prove?  I’m not offended watching guys play in shorts.  The caddies wear shorts, everyone at the tournament is in shorts.  Give the guys an option.  You could argue that looking at a guy sweat through his pants is equally offensive.  Fight sw-ass.

10.  The $8 beer.  I mean, come on!  We’re in a god damn recession.  Economic stimulus?  How about the government puts a salary cap on beer.  I’m not saying dollar beer night, but a twenty spot should cover a round of four beers.  It’s Miller Lite.  Honestly, I’d rather pay $5 more the ticket than feel like I’m getting gouged every time I buy a beer.

10.

Maybe The Yankees Have Something Right.

A Little Too Much "Look at Me" for My Taste.

We’ll just continue to meander through the Phillies roster, looking at guys who should have a big impact on the 2010 season.  Tonight, I am drawn by the power of the playoff beard to Jayson Werth.  This is what Werth looks like these days, and as someone with an aversion to daily shaving and a tendency to let their hair get a tad long I don’t want to come across like a miserable old curmudgeon here, but the whole look scares me a bit.  I’m thinking, Jayson Werth might be having a little too much fun being Jayson Werth.  Did he come out of his shell, or did he fall in love with his reflection sometime in the last two years?  Let’s take a look at a young Werth in an Orioles uniform for comparison.

Kent Tekulve Jr?

Yes, that is the same guy.  I’m mostly joking here, and kind of hoping Werth cuts his hair, but I do wonder if he did anything this off-season besides fiddle with Norelco attachments.   Much of comfort level with Werth, despite his new style, comes from that this is a contract year for him, and considering he’s never signed a huge deal, this contract is likely going to be the only truly significant one of his career.  He will turn 31 this season, and the deal he’s looking to sign will likely take him through the remainder of his prime.  It is, of course, important to realize that last season was also Werth’s first as an everyday player.  Before he came to Philadelphia he’d never had more than 400 at-bats in a season, and because of injury and circumstance, he truly was a late bloomer.

Werth’s numbers from 2009 don’t leap off the page at you.  He hit a streaky .268 and perhaps most significant was the emergence of his power.  He hit 36 home runs, and by the time the post-season came around it seemed like home runs were about the only hits he got.  His 99 RBIs are low for that kind of power, but the Phillies have a lot of run producers, and last year was an odd season for RBI totals.  Ryan Howard seems to monopolize the RBIs in the middle of the order racking up 141 to Werth’s 2nd best 99.  Four other starters knocked in over 75.  It doesn’t add up to a normal distribution, but the way the Phillies shuffle the order and hit in streaks, odd things are bound to happen.

There isn’t a lot that Werth does wrong.  The .268 shows you can get him out, but he drew almost 100 walks and stole 20 bases.  He plays a decent right field, and his skill set isn’t a common one, all of which points to his finally getting paid at the end of 2010 if he continues to produce.  All signs point to a similar 2010 for Werth.  He may not hit 36 homers, but 30 seems likely and some people think he’s developing 40 home run power.  He doesn’t hit wall scrapers, that’s for sure.  Plus, he’ll be extremely well protected in this line up.  There’s a good chance he’ll be sandwiched between Howard and Ibanez.  There’s worse places to be, and plenty of other shoulders for the pressure to land on.  I think if Werth suffers a drop in production, it’s more likely to come in 2011, after the contract, and when he’s asked to hit 4th for someone.

So, is there any chance the Phillies sign the suddenly hirsute Werth?  I doubt it.  Werth made a few comments about his contract status today, but didn’t really say anything.  And, I’d expect that to the case for most of the season.  Will the Phillies nibble about an extension?  I’m sure, but the talks will go something like this:

PHILLIES:  “How’s 2 years and 18 million sound?”

WERTH:  “No chance in Hell.”

PHILLIES:  “Ok, thanks for the Memories.”

Just way too much committed money already to sign Werth to an extension if he’s productive, so enjoy the hair, and enjoy what’s likely to be his last season in Philadelphia.

To Fight, Or Not to Fight.

Fighting too Ingrained in the NHL?

All it takes is a good International game or two to start the debate.  Is it time for the NHL to get rid of fighting?  It be difficult to argue that a fight would have added anything to the US/Canada game last night.  It had great flow, intensity, and pace even without dropping the gloves.  It was a fast paced game, the type of entertaining action that brings in new fans.  Perhaps true die-hards would have liked to see the gloves drop last night, but if the NHL wants to grow it should probably look into adopting a more International style.  If the NHL wants to hold onto its roots, keep its loyal fan base, and remain a niche sport, well fight away.

I’ll go on record as saying I enjoy a good hockey fight.  They are exciting, they can turn the momentum of the game, and in an 82 game regular season sometimes the fans need a little jump.  That’s the main problem with the comparison to these International games.  First, they’re All-Star teams.  The skill level is going to be higher than a typical NHL game.  Flyers captain Mike Richards is well down the Canadian depth chart, for example.  It’s an exciting style of play when you can roll four All-Star lines.  That wouldn’t happen in the NHL.

Also, this is a short tournament.  The intensity is built in.  If the US played Canada ten times during an 80 game season would each game produce this level of play?  The answer is that it likely would not.  The stakes are incredibly high, you have built-in rivalries between countries, you don’t have to manufacture drama or intensity.  The NHL could surely replicate the International style of play, but I don’t know that they could match the skill level or intensity of these major tournaments.

On the other hand, what is fighting other than a sideshow, really?  I don’t believe the “players policing themselves” argument holds water anymore.  If they outlaw fighting I really don’t think you would have guys running amok out on the ice.  In fact, I think the instigators, the pests, the cheap-shot artists would eventually get weeded out of the league.  I’ve never played hockey, but I think it would be hard to argue at this point that fighting is an integral part of the game.  It seems the effort is being made to weed fighting out of the lower and developmental levels of hockey, and of course the easiest way to accomplish that would be to ban fighting in the NHL.

I guess for fans of fighting, the only question I would have is, why do you see so much less fighting in the playoffs?  And, isn’t is widely known that “playoff hockey” is the best there is.  If we acknowledge that playoff hockey, that intensity level, is the best incarnation of the sport, I don’t understand how you can ignore the lack of a role fighting plays in that.  The NHL is like the NBA, the season is too long to maintain 100% effort for 82 games, and fighting is a nice attraction for your run of the mill regular season game, but I have to wonder if it is really worth it.

Wave of Optimism Crashes over Kendrick.

5th Starter, Douchey Model, You know...Whatever Works Out.

If you sense a little anger in the tone of my caption, it’s likely the result of Chan Ho Park signing with the Yankees.   We certainly will miss Chan’s wild peaks and valleys here.  He got 1.2 million.  Not too extravagant a deal, but I guess he didn’t fit the Phillies plans, and why would he when you have Danys Baez?  The money remains tight, though Johnny Damon squeezed 8 million out of the Tigers, a pretty good haul all things considered.  I suppose he created at least a two-team market for himself, and that probably got him an extra million or two.  Anyway, there is a point to the picture, a point other than showing Kendrick in this regrettable shot with his Survivor fiancée.  I’m not sure why Phillies pitchers gravitate toward reality show contestants, or why any clothing company felt compelled to use Kendrick, but we are here to talk about actual baseball.  Eventually.

It is the time of year to be optimistic.  Everyone’s tied for first as the cliché goes.  Players generally arrive in camp in good shape, we hear of lost weight, injury rehab, and renewed motivation.  The Philadelphia media has been uncharacteristically sunny.  I mentioned a few weeks back that it sounded like everyone was on board with this team, and the trend continues.  So far, the stories we’ve heard have been of Roy Halladay’s work ethic, Cole Hamels off-season rebirth, and now the rose-colored glasses have been pointed at Kyle Kendrick.  For what it’s worth, I did hear from someone who actually saw Hamels throw last week that he does look much better than last year at this point, but I’m going to have to take more of a wait and see approach on Kendrick, before we hand over that 5th spot in the rotation.  And believe me, I want to hand it over.

Kendrick shot to the big leagues in 2007.  He finished that season in promising fashion, but 2008 was highlighted by tremendous run support and diminishing returns.  By Spring Training of last year guys were hanging ropes all over the field off of him, and he looked like a little bit like a one-hit wonder.  Kendrick, not unlike Cole Hamels, was mostly a one-trick pony.  He threw a lot of sinkers, some change-ups, and that’s about it.  He was sent to the Minors last season to build on that repertoire, and by late in the season he was showing an improved variety of pitches and more confidence.

He arrives in camp this season with what Charlie Manuel has called, “A Big-League slider.”  Rich Dubee has been quick to offer praise as well, and throw in the fact that Kendrick is showing up at 5:45 in the morning to work out with Halladay, and he’s become a media darling.  It’s nice to hear that Kendrick is doing all the right things.  He should be a better pitcher than he was last season, but that’s not saying a whole lot.  He can be in as good of shape as he wants, throw as many different pitches as he wants, but he still has to get people out.  That’s what bothers me with Kendrick still, at least until I see otherwise.

I’d prefer Kendrick to Moyer in the rotation, but I’m going to try to rein in the excitement a little bit.  It’s early.  He hasn’t faced a hitter yet.  Let’s wait and see.

Things Getting A Little Patriotic.

Pressure Will Only Increase for Ryan Miller.

People like winners.  I don’t want to say that the US Winter Olympic teams are inspiring bandwagon behavior, after all, I’d rather believe in deep running patriotism, but the success the Americans have had in Vancouver to this point is getting the attention of a lot of people, sports fans or otherwise.  The swell of American pride peaked Sunday night when the United States hockey team closed out the preliminary round with a 5-3 win over the heavily favored Canadians.  It was a game I was aware of all week, but not long after it started the texts messages started trickling in, and they weren’t coming from hockey fans (I hardly know any).  Are you watching this game?  Well, of course.  My reaction was, you are too?

It seems almost everyone was watching as the U.S. battled a Canadian squad with more star power and more experience.  The offensive attacks came in waves from Canada, but the majority were turned away by Ryan Miller, and on the other end of the ice, the Americans were opportunistic with their chances.  The final shot tally, 45-23 Canada, gives an indication of how tough a win this was for the Americans, and how much they relied on Miller.  It was accepted as fact that Miller would have to be the Americans best player if they had a chance to medal in these games, and it appears after his first real challenge, that he is up to the task.

Of course, now the pressure will only build on this team.  The underdog story is great (the comparisons to 1980 are a little out of line), but the Americans will have to keep winning to feed to feed the fire.  It will take three more wins to rise to the top of the podium, and the fans will be expecting the same level of play and the same intensity they saw Sunday night. For Canada, another loss could send the country into a state of mourning.  They’ll now need 4 wins to capture the gold and won’t have the benefit of one of the top seeds for the medal round.  A perfectly reasonable task for a team with that amount of skill, but Canada seems to have a knack of running into hot goaltenders.  One more could end their tournament.

And, it is often goaltending that wins these Olympic affairs.  Flyer fans remember being encouraged by Antero Nittymaki’s sizzling 2006 Olympic performance.  He never reached those heights in orange and black, but it was good enough to take Finland the silver medal.  Goalie play is key to offset the lack of chemistry that these teams face in their forward and defense pairings.  Throwing three stars together on a line doesn’t always work, and you can see Canada and the US for that matter shuffling their lines a good bit.  In the end, the team that comes together, and has the good goalie will prevail in this tournament.  So far, the United States appears to be a candidate, the Canadians while the best team on paper, need to find a better rhythm.

It’s not all hockey, of course.  The Americans have piled up 24 medals to this point, the most of any country, and the assault has been led by the Alpine skiers, who I think have won a medal in every event to this point, and on some occasions, more than one.  It’s the been the games of matching and surpassing the hype, unlike in 2006, when stars like Bode Miller failed to perform.  Miller is 3 for 3 this year, and with Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso also picking up multiple medals the US Ski team has never enjoyed so much success.

About the only teams facing any criticism in the United States are the two curling squads.  It’s odd that people have taken notice, but I suppose with the other athletes being successful, American fans want good curling results as well.  Maybe it’s that curling is forced upon us every four years, or maybe it’s the extensive TV coverage, but I am personally a little surprised at the amount of heat that American ‘skips’ have taken.  I would rather see the US win than not, but I’m not harboring any true animosity for John Shuster, who hasn’t had much success on the ice this past week.  After a bronze in Torino, Shuster (if you listen to the curling people tell it) has almost single-handedly taken the U.S. out of medal contention.  Considering Shuster has a day job, and lives in a 2-bedroom apartment with 3 other people, I’m going to let him slide, and focus most of my attention on hockey from here out.  That, and ice dancing.  We better win that sh*t too.

Mets Showing Some Life: Adorable.

Ready to Earn Some of that Money.

A couple years back Jimmy Rollins took a little heat, and became an enemy in New York for declaring the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East.  Of course, the Phillies backed up the boast, and since have established themselves as clear favorites.  Hard to believe, but the Phillies superiority in the division almost doesn’t need mention at this point.  The time for bravado has passed, everyone knows the Phillies are the team to shoot for, the roles have changed.  And, so, it’s interesting to hear the news spill out of Mets camp about a confident Johan Santana.  Johan crowned himself the best pitcher in the division, and said the Mets plan was to win the World Series.  Well, at least they have a plan this year.

The Mets probably aren’t as bumbling as I make them out to be.  They have managed to spend their way toward the bottom of the division in recent years, and produced a couple of the best stretch collapses in recent memory, but they aren’t completely without talent.  A lot of holes, though.  Questions, and when a team doesn’t have a winning track record, you have to wonder.  There’s nothing wrong with Santana saying what he did.  He very well may be the best pitcher in the division.  It hasn’t quite worked out for him in NY yet, but he’s shown flashes of what made him a Cy Young winner in Minnesota.   He’s coming off elbow surgery, but claims to be feeling better than ever. I hope Santana is healthy.  No more excuses for the Mets.

Quick rundown of NL East’s Top Starters, In my Humble Opinion:

1.  Halladay.  Coming from the best offensive division in baseball, the National League shouldn’t be as much of a grind.  Halladay brings the same stuff and work ethic, and for now, he’s number one.

2. Santana.  Johan probably has the potential to be more dominant than any other starter, but he’s coming off an injury, turns 31 this Spring, just enough unknowns to bump him from the top spot.

3. Josh Johnson.  Maybe the guy, at 26, most GMs would pick for the long-term.  Johnson was a beast for Florida last year, and if he stays healthy could just be scratching the surface.

4.  Jair Jurrgens.   Most underrated pitcher in the NL?  Jurrgens was among the league leaders in ERA, and was the Braves best pitcher last season.  He arrives in camp with shoulder soreness, but assuming he’s healthy he and Tommy Hanson will lead this rotation, not veterans Lowe and Hudson.

5.  Tommy Hanson.  Speaking of Hanson, quick review has him checking in at 5th.  One of the NL’s best pitchers after his call up, he’s still unproven, but given the lack of great pitching in the division, his potential shoots him up this list.

6. Cole Hamels.  Hamels may find his role this year, and that may be as a very good number two starter.  The Phils will be lucky if that is the case.

7. Tim Hudson.  Hudson will be key to the Braves success.  Coming off a season where he only started 7 games, Hudson needs to find the 15 win, sub 4 ERA form he had established in previous years with Atlanta.

8. J.A. Happ.  Happ threw 160+ innings last year, settled into the starter’s role, and wasn’t figured out by NL hitters.  Given his ERA and winning percentage, he belongs in the top-ten.

9.  Derek Lowe.  Lowe is ancient, his ERA balloons, but he wins games. Fifteen last year, and with a solid rotation around him, he could have another good season.

10. Ricky Nolasco. The Marlins never have a shortage of young arms.  Nolasco is high on talent, but got hit hard at times last year.  If he can mature a bit, he could form a dangerous combination with Josh Johnson at the top of the Marlins rotation.

Next Four:  Joe Blanton, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmerman, Kenshin Kawakami

T-25th: Jamie Moyer, Oliver Perez.

As you can see, not a great division for starting pitching.  The Mets and Nationals are particularly lacking, though it’s tough to gauge some of the Washington guys just because the team is so bad.  Top to bottom, you have to like Atlanta’s depth even with losing Vazquez, the Phillies remain fairly deep if they can find a 5th starter, and Florida probably has the most potential for guys to break out.  That said, only 4 of the top 20 in NL ERA last season now pitch in the NL East.  They should be able to improve on that a bit this year, but still plenty of runs to be scored against this division.

I’m Taking an Oath.

I Solemnly Swear.

So, Tiger’s talking at 11 am today.  I’m going to watch and listen to him.  I can’t deny that fact, but after that I’m not going to address Tiger again until he tees it up or retires for good.  This latest episode in the Woods speculation train was just too much for me to take.  You roll the scenarios through your mind with absolutely no factual basis, and try to do figure out what the guy is going to do.  Why did he have to hold this event today?  The only reason you can think of is that Tiger was planning on returning to play in the Waste Management (nee Phoenix Open) next week.  The deadline to enter is this afternoon, why else couldn’t the talk wait until Monday?  It makes sense, he’s playing.

Of course, it makes no sense.  Phoenix is about the least secure event on Tour.  Not in the sense that it is dangerous in any way, but the sheer volume of people in attendance.  The 16th hole seats a stadium’s worth of fans, many of whom have been partaking in judgement impairing activities for the better part of the day.  Remember when Tiger aced the hole back when this event was on his schedule?  Cups, beer cans, and everything else rained down onto the tee box.  No, I don’t think Tiger would get hit with a full beer or anything if he played, but the reception could get a little hostile.   Why would he subject himself?  I heard people rationalizing today that he was going to, “get everything out of the way” in the first tournament back.  I even suggested he could look at Phoenix as a throwaway.  But, that leads to the second problem.

Tiger doesn’t have throwaway events.  If he plays, he plays to win, and I just don’t see how he could possible be ready, considering he likely didn’t touch a club for 2-2.5 months.  Tiger’s not going to come back to shoot 72-72 and go home.  That, I think would be even more damaging to him.  It would provide fodder for the camp that thinks his game will be hindered by this incident.  Unless they had a driving range and putting green at rehab that we don’t know about, I just can’t imagine how Tiger would be able to play up to his standards next week.

So, where does this leave us?  Well, the news late Thursday night was that Tiger needed to speak today because it fit his rehab schedule.  As in, he’s not necessarily completed the program.  The facts are sketchy, but Tim Finchem hinted that Tiger may not be done his treatment, and the past week could have been a scheduled break that allowed him to spend time with his children.  Finchem also stated the announcement’s timing had nothing to do with a golf schedule.  There’s no way he lies about this.  There’s no need to, not when he could just have not commented.  So, it appears that Tiger isn’t quite ready to return to the game, making everyone (myself included) wrong again.

Now, I’m not certain Tiger isn’t entering the Waste Management Open.  I’d be shocked at this point, but I’m not certain, and that’s the point really.  I’m not, and no one is certain about anything pertaining to Tiger.  All we’re accomplishing by talking about him is floating theories that eventually are proven wrong.  So, I’ll listen today, and hope he clears up his schedule.  If he doesn’t, no more guesses from me.  I’m just going sit back, and wait for him to return to the game.  I’m wrong about enough here, I don’t need to add this to the list.  The odds of getting it right are too stacked against me.

I’ll probably leave a quick thought on Tiger’s statement in comments section, feel free to do the same if you give it a listen.

Hamels Workin’ On A Bender.

Nothing Says Spring Training Like A BP Jersey.

**THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO GO UP THIS AFTERNOON, BUT WORDPRESS AS A WHOLE WAS DOWN.  I KNOW 2 or 3 PEOPLE WERE QUITE DISAPPOINTED. APOLOGIES**

We’ll slowly get into Spring Training here.  Today was the first day the players worked out, and among the first to address the media, was Cole Hamels.  Hamels is one of the most important Phillies in camp.  If you asked me who this Phillies season was hinging on, I’d definitely put Hamels in my top-5 with Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and almost any other relief pitcher.  There’s no real reason to panic about Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and Ryan Howard.  They’ll be fine.  If they aren’t, well the year’s going to be a long one.  Jayson Werth I think will be productive in a contract year.  Placido Polanco, at least for one more year, should be solid.  Jimmy Rollins doesn’t have to carry this team offensively.  So, with that you basically end up with my list, and you could make an argument for J.A. Happ as well.

There’s the sense with Hamels that he’ll bounce back.  A lot of people are writing off last year as 2008 World Series hangover.  They don’t think he’s a .500, 4+ ERA pitcher, and I don’t think that either, but I’m not completely comfortable with Hamels 2010.  As much as you could say he was never 100% last year, you could also make the argument that he started to get figured out by the hitters.  And, when he faced more jams than usual, he didn’t respond that well.  The solution to this seems to be the elusive third pitch, in Cole’s case, most likely a curve ball.

The good news is Hamels has acknowledged some deficiencies.  In his interview today he detailed how he was entering Spring Training in much better shape, and he had been working on his off-speed pitches.  He even specifically mentioned Clayton Kershaw’s use of the curveball, and perhaps learning something about how he used it in the NLCS.  It’s nice to see that Hamels isn’t being stubborn.  He’s not sticking to his fastball/change up guns.  It looks like he might be done dining out on that World Series MVP trophy.  I don’t think there’s any doubt that Hamels needs a third pitch, and his use of the curveball in Spring Training will be worth watching.  Simply, Hamels doesn’t quite have the stuff to be a two-pitch pitcher.  Especially as a starter, without an overpowering fastball no matter how good the change is, he’s not giving himself much room for error.

So, it looks like we’re getting a new and improved Hamels for 2010 at least in attitude and preparation.  Translating that to the mound is another story, and it’ll probably be a good month before we have any feel for how Hamels

Cavs Getting All Proactive.

Could Make the Difference in Cleveland.

Unless the Sixers trade Andre Iguodala for an expiring contract and a couple funnel cakes this whole NBA trade deadline doesn’t really interest me.  Since it looks like T-Mac is going to Sacramento, and the Sixers seem blissfully unaware that no one on their team can actually play, I have to assume that the roster for the last 30 games is going to be relatively unchanged.  Of course, there is plenty of movement elsewhere around the league, the Mavericks have been frisky, but yesterday Cleveland added front court presence Antawn Jamison, and gave up….well, they didn’t give up much.  The three-team deal has most analysts rushing to crown the Cavaliers champions.

Cleveland parted with Big “Z”.  I’m going to look up how to spell his name, and if you don’t know who that is, well this won’t interest you anyway.  They also sent their first round pick to Washington.  Considering that pick will be one of the last in the first round, it’s essentially useless.  The Wizards wanted that expiring contract.  It’s amazing to me that the salary structure in the NBA is so out of whack that expiring contracts are often the valued pieces in potential trades, and not the actual players.  Anyway, a great aside to this deal is that the Clippers worked their way in, and essentially acquired Drew Gooden for Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair (he’s the next Marbury!).  Someone will have to explain the Clips thinking there…

But, the Cavs thinking was clearly, maybe this is going to be our last chance with LeBron.  Big Z and Shaq seem a little redundant in the middle, and now with Jamison they have someone else in the front court who can actually move.  Jamison has evolved into a pretty consistent performer, and playing alongside LeBron should only help him at this point of his career.  We know that James like to spread the ball around, and Jamison gives him an option that can actually produce points.  The Cavs had far and away the best record in the East before this deal, but pursuing Stoudemire and ultimately landing on Jamison was obviously a nod to the post-season.  They’re still going to have to deal with Dwight Howard, and whoever comes out of the stacked West.

Jamison has two more years left on his deal, so it’s a piece that could encourage LeBron to stay if it works well this year.  I’m not sure if a title makes LeBron more or less likely to stay in Cleveland.  A while back it seemed certain he’d leave, then it looked likely he’d stay, but we really don’t know.  I can’t imagine Cleveland recovering from losing James, and I have to believe some part of LeBron acknowledges that.  I wonder if he wins a title this year if he will feel like he’s done his duty, fulfilled the obligation to the franchise and city.  Also, I wonder if winning a title would make it more or less of a priority.  Does he think, ok I have a championship, let me get to a big market regardless of the team’s strength, or does winning one make him think about legacy, and give him the desire to go to the best situation for winning?

A lot of questions for the LeBron in the off-season, but it’s nice to see the Cavs being aggressive regardless of LeBron’s intentions after this season.  They’re not taking for granted James will be back, and so they make a move.  We’ll see if it will be enough.

Tiger’s Gonna Chat it Up.

Finchem Probably Feeling First Date Jitters.

Tiger is going to talk to “friends, associates and colleagues” at 11 am on Friday.  What that means exactly, I don’t know.  It won’t be a press conference.  A handful of media will be in attendance, the rest will be huddled into a different room to watch “the talk” on a video feed.  I imagine Tiger won’t be taking any questions, unless he plants a few softballs amongst his “friends”.  This is an indication to me that Tiger is going to play relatively soon.  I would imagine either the Tavistock Cup rumors are true, or else he’ll be popping up somewhere on the Florida swing.  So, I wonder who these friends and colleagues are.

I would imagine, since an apology is on Tiger’s agenda that Tim Finchem will be in attendance.  The commissioner has stood by Tiger, kept his opinion out of the press, so expect him to be there.  The meeting after all is at PGA Headquarters at the TPC Sawgrass.  I imagine someone form the PGA Tour’s player’s board or policy board will also be there.  I’m not sure what they call it, but I’d expect someone from the Tour to be represented.  Who this will be, I’m not sure, since it conflicts with two ongoing tournaments.  I’d expect his agent there, and an Isleworth buddy or two.  O’Meara, maybe John Cook if Mark’s not available.  I imagine that will be about it.  Will Elin be there?  I don’t know.  Doubt it.

What is Tiger going to say?  Well, he’s already let on there will be an apology.  After that, I’d imagine he’s going to give some type of blanket statement about what occurred, and then pledge to never talk of it again.  I’m expecting him to announce some type of short-term schedule.  This is assuming that there is one (and we’re hoping there is).  The way this thing is going to blow up, I think Tiger almost owes it to the places he’s playing to let them know a little ahead of time so they can make necessary preparations.  Security, logistical problems, increased media demands, all of these things will be issues.

What Tiger isn’t going to do is reveal any information.  Don’t expect the mysteries of the scandal to come pouring out of his mouth.  Tiger is just like everyone else who gets caught.  They only admit things when they have to, or after the proof has been displayed.  For all we know, he could still be holding onto to some lies John Edwards style.  There’s no real reason to believe that Tiger has changed as a person, at least not yet.  Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how many stations opt to pick up the feed.  I’m sure you’ll be able to tune in on the Golf Channel and ESPN News at the very least.

Ok, we’ll drop it until Friday then.  I’m actually going to try to not find out Olympic results until tonight.  We’ll see how that goes.  Maybe I can enjoy the games in the same fashion my grandparents did.