Archive for July, 2007

Trade Winds

Monday, July 30th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The details may yet to be finalized, but it looks like two blockbusters have taken place in the sports world Monday. With the baseball trade deadline fast approaching, let’s critique the deals that have been all but completed thus far:

Mark Teixeira for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and a PTBN.

Braves outlook: I already touched on this subject Monday, but even though the Braves are giving up quite a few bright prospects, this is a fine deal to make. Teixeira may only have 13 homers this season, but he’s got solid plate discipline, is a switch hitter, a fine defender and is signed through 2008, so he’s not purely a rent-a-player if they eventually decide to pass on Scott Boras’ inevitable demands. He’s also only 28 years old and prospects are prospects – far from sure things. With Brian McCann around, Salty was less valuable to Atlanta than about 27 other teams in baseball, and Tex fills a massive hole at first base. It’s also a good time to go for gold, since Andruw Jones is soon to be a free agent, and John Smoltz’ arm could fall off at any moment. But right now, this team looks like at minimum the co-favorites to come out of the Senior Circuit.

Rangers outlook: A rare trade that legitimately looks like both teams came away winners. The Rangers are smartly playing for the future here, but they need to keep Salty behind the dish, as he possesses above average defensive ability, and his bat will play a whole lot better there. Andrus and Feliz are so young (18 and 19, respectively) that we may not truly be able to judge this deal for another five years or more. That said, they both possess huge upside, so make no mistake, the Rangers brought in quite a haul for a player they likely would have let walk in 2009.

Verdict: Draw.

Kevin Garnett for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Bassy Telfair, Ryan Gomes(?), and Theo Ratliff

Celtics outlook: Well, they immediately become one of the 2-3 most likely teams to represent the East in the NBA Finals. And of course get swept. I could run the point alongside Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and KG, and the team would still be a contender in that conference. I’m a big fan of Garnett – a legitimate superstar who is unselfish to a fault and also plays very good defense. One of the biggest rarities in the sport today. However, he’s 31 years old, and teammate Allen is 33 and coming off major ankle surgery, leaving the team with a fairly small window of opportunity and depth that’s thinner than the Olsen twins. I must admit, I’m pretty excited to watch Boston play next season.

Timberwolves outlook: Minnesota fans are no doubt mourning the loss of the franchise’s best player ever, but this deal absolutely could not have been turned down. Check out these numbers:

Player A: 20.5 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.7 bpg, 47.6% fg, 2.6 TO

Player B: 19.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.7 bpg, 55.4% fg, 2.1 TO

Player “A” represents Garnett’s career numbers, while “B” are the gaudy stats Baby Al posted during the second half of last season. He did so while playing just 36.1 mpg, to boot. He needs to improve his free throw shooting and defense, but we are talking about one of the three toughest players to defend in the paint in the league right now, and he’s only 22 years old. Gerald Green hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype (an absolute travesty on defense), but he’s flashed plenty of potential as well. He averaged 15.5 points during the final month of last season and is 21 years old. Bassy Telfair is terrible, but Ryan Gomes looks like an above average sixth-man. Add in the Theo Ratliff expiring deal (extremely valuable) and this is a king’s ransom.

Verdict: It’s tough to argue against trading for KG, but the T-Wolves are the clear long-term winners here. I won’t go as far as to call it a rip off, but it’s in the neighborhood.

The Scoop

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The Washington Nationals don’t have a single starting pitcher on pace to win 10 games this season. However, middle reliever Jon Rauch has seven victories, giving his team the best chance to have one hurler reach double-digits.

Francisco Cordero is seemingly having a fine season in 2007. However, his home/road splits are positively outrageous. He has a 0.33 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and .090 BAA while at home this year. Comparatively, Cordero has posted an 8.62 ERA, 1.98 WHIP and .400 BAA on the road. The Brewers’ team has experienced similar problems, going just 21-32 away from home this year.

Not only would I be shocked if Michael Vick played a down in the NFL this season, at this point, I’d be pretty surprised if he took another snap in the league ever again.

The Braves are in the enviable and unique position of having two of the 5-6 most valuable commodities at catcher in major league baseball. A trade makes more sense than moving one to first base, but I was at first hesitant regarding the Mark Teixeira proposed deal. After all, Teixeira does have a career .848 OPS away from friendly Ameriquest Field, and with Scott Boras as his agent, he’ll be searching for a massive deal at the end of next season (think 10 years). However, I’m starting to change my tune a bit and can see the Braves’ point of view. Teixeira’s actually hit better on the road over the last two seasons, so he’s not necessarily just a product of his hitting environment. He’s also developed into an above average defensive player and immediately makes the Braves legit contenders in the National League. Jarrod Saltalamacchia may have more long-term value in a vacuum, but Atlanta can’t play two catchers at once, and when moved to first base, Teixeira becomes the better option of the two. That said, Salty would be well worth adding in all fantasy leagues if the rumored trade is consummated.

Octavio Dotel is probably the most likely player in all of baseball to be wearing a different uniform next week, so make sure Zack Greinke and/or Joakim Soria are owned in your league. Soria probably gets first crack, but both are very capable of getting the job done.

Hope none of you had Jason Jennings in your lineup Sunday. 11 earnies in 0.2 innings?!! Ouch. That won’t help the old ERA too much. That’s the most runs allowed with the fewest outs recorded in the modern era.

Adam Wainwright’s next two starts come in Pittsburgh and Washington, so he makes a solid play this week.

Don’t look now, but the Chicago Cubs look likely to make the postseason. If the Brewers hadn’t been (smartly) aggressive in calling up youngsters Yovani Gallardo and Ryan Braun, Chicago would already be comfortably in first. As is, Milwaukee still looks to be in some trouble, while the Cubs are surging. Their bullpen’s underrated, and Carlos Zambrano/Ted Lilly form a terrific front end to the rotation. They still have some holes, and I’m not counting the Brew Crew out, but right now, the Cubs look like the favorites to come out of the NL Central.

Top-5 Bill Murray Comedies

1. Kingpin
2. Groundhog Day
3. Caddyshack
4. What About Bob?
5. Scrooged

Top-5 Bill Murray Non-Traditional Comedies

1. Lost in Translation
2. Rushmore
3. The Royal Tenenbaums
4. Broken Flowers
5. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

MLB Power Rankings

Friday, July 27th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The following are my composite rankings of all thirty major league baseball teams as they stand right now. Both past performance as well as future outlook were taken into consideration.

1. Boston Red Sox
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Los Angeles Angels

4. New York Yankees
5. Cleveland Indians
6. New York Mets

7. Atlanta Braves
8. Chicago Cubs
9. Los Angeles Dodgers
10. Milwaukee Brewers
11. San Diego Padres

12. Toronto Blue Jays
13. Philadelphia Phillies
14. Arizona Diamondbacks
15. Minnesota Twins
16. Oakland A’s
17. Seattle Mariners

18. Chicago White Sox
19. St. Louis Cardinals
20. Baltimore Orioles
21. Texas Rangers
22. Colorado Rockies
23. Florida Marlins
24. Cincinnati Reds
25. Houston Astros
26. Tampa Bay Devils Rays
27. Kansas City Royals

28. San Francisco Giants
29. Pittsburgh Pirates
30. Washington Nationals

The Scoop

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Can you name the pitcher who’s given up the second most home runs in baseball this season? If you guessed Johan Santana, you’d be correct. He’s served up 22 long balls so far.

If you have a fringe base stealer on your bench, be sure to play him when he’s facing the Padres. Chris Young and Greg Maddux have given up the most thefts of any pitchers in the game this season, with Young allowing a remarkable 28 SBs with zero caught stealing. Jake Peavy also shows up in the bottom 20, so give your players the green light when pitted against San Diego. Young also “leads” the majors in balks with three. Get rid of the bum.

Justin Verlander has put together a fine season, but his 2.6 K:BB ratio isn’t quite as good as it seems. He is worst in the majors with 13 hit batsmen and easily paces the league with 14 wild pitches. Basically, it just shows he still has room to grow. It’s only going to get better.

Erik Bedard’s 11.08 K/9 IP is nearly two full strikeouts better than the second best (Jake Peavy 9.34 K/9 IP). Despite pitching in the AL East and not for the Blue Jays, Yankees or Red Sox, feel free to treat him like a top-5 fantasy pitcher from here on out.

Felix Hernandez is getting killed in BABIP and currently sports an unsightly 1.45 WHIP. However, he’s really starting to improve as a pitcher underneath the cosmetic numbers. His 3.06 ground out/fly out ratio is the second best in the league, behind only Derek Lowe and even ahead of Brandon Webb, both sinkerballers. Now is the time to target the King in keeper-leagues.

Barry Bonds has more problems to worry about other than breaking the sacred home run record.

Chris B. Young’s .281 OBP isn’t helping the Diamondbacks a whole lot, but the already achieved 15/15 certainly has been a boon to your fantasy team. In 20 games during July, he has four homers and seven steals. It would be nice if he could take a walk every now and again, as it’s not easy stealing bases from the dugout. But since he’s only been caught once all season, look for his SBs to continue to climb as his OBP does.

Top-5 TV Comedies of All-Time

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm
2. Seinfeld
3. Da Ali G Show
4. The Office (British)
5. The Office (American)

Top-5 Bands of All-Time

1. Radiohead
2. Nirvana
3. Led Zeppelin
4. Dave Matthews Band (the live in concert version, not recorded)
5. Tool

The Scoop – Fantasy Football Edition

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The discrepancy between Antonio Gates and the second best fantasy tight end this year (an aging Tony Gonzalez catching passes from a rookie?) makes Chase Utley look close to the pack of other second basemen. LaDainian Tomlinson is not going to get another 30 TDs, so expect San Diego to score more air strikes this season. Gates is probably the best red zone target in the NFL, so I think he’s worthy of an early third round pick.

Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL, period. That said, I’d give Carson Palmer about a 50/50 chance of finishing the season as the most valuable fantasy quarterback. The Bengals have an even worse defense than the Colts, and Palmer approached Manning’s numbers last season while clearly still hampered by the knee injury. He’ll finally be back to full strength this year and can typically be drafted 2-3 rounds after Manning, so he makes more sense as a target. That said, the best strategy is to wait even longer on the QB position and go after Vince Young, Ben Roethlisberger or Jay Cutler later on.

With word of Larry Johnson’s hold out threat becoming very real, Joseph Addai has officially passed him on my draft board. Don’t let LJ slip much further past that, however. If a trade does indeed go down between Kansas City and Green Bay, look for intriguing rookie Brandon Jackson to come back the other way, giving him legit fantasy value either way.

The most interesting backfield entering training camp has to be in Dallas, where the Julius Jones hype machine is again in full effect. Falling just short of his 2,000-yard prediction last season (by half), Jones is again being talked about as “the guy” in the Cowboys’ backfield. Marion Barber disappeared during stretches last year – and was typically only worth using in fantasy leagues in games the Cowboys won – but I don’t buy the talk that Jones is the one to own this year because of Barber being Bill Parcells’ guy. When on the field, Barber has time and again outplayed Jones by a large degree. Jones has superior long-speed and, um, does nothing else better. Barber is a better blocker, pass catcher, short-yardage runner and is much, much tougher than Jones. When deciding between these two at fantasy drafts this season, just ask any linebacker whom they’d rather tackle. Don’t worry about projected playing time and trust the better player will be on the field more.

Steve Smith is the clear-cut No. 1 fantasy wideout entering the year (his numbers last year when both he and Jake Delhomme were healthy were essentially identical to his huge 2005 season), but after him, options 2-15 are quite debatable and will likely look different on every person’s draft board. Because of that, the smart strategy appears to be to let others reach for the WRs in the middle of the second round while waiting and nabbing similar talents in the third and fourth rounds.

And now, I’ll leave you with a brand new RotoScoop feature called “Top-5,” where I rank anything from sports, music, movies or TV. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll discuss:

Top-5 Adam Sandler movies

1. The Wedding Singer
2. Punch-Drunk Love
3. Happy Gilmore
4. 50 First Dates
5. Billy Madison

Top-5 films by David Fincher

1. Zodiac
2. Se7en
3. Fight Club
4. The Game
5. Panic Room

The Scoop

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The next time Joe Maddon pencils Greg Norton into the lineup over Jonny Gomes will be the last time I consider him a competent manager. Norton is batting .190 with a .601 OPS, while Gomes has a .834 OPS. The worst part of it all is that Norton is 35 years old, while Gomes is only 26. The goal should be to win now or put your team in the best position to win later – Tampa Bay accomplishes neither every time they sit Gomes for a veteran who can’t hit.

In 53 at-bats against southpaws this season, Ryan Braun has a line that reads .509/.571/1.189 – good for a 1.760 OPS. The other shoe will drop eventually, but right now it’s pretty fun owning him.

Before Garrett Anderson hit a home run Sunday, the Angels collectively as a team hadn’t left the yard in 14 games, a homerless stretch that reached 134.1 innings. That said, I still say this is a dangerous team flying under the radar. Everyone talks about the Red Sox and Tigers, and deservedly so, but who wants to face a rotation with John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Jered Weaver in a short series? No one, that’s who, and with that bullpen shortening games, they are one bat away from being legitimate title contenders. There was an interesting study I just read and in summation: runs scored over the course of a regular season have essentially zero correlation to postseason success. That is, teams that led MLB in runs scored have done no better in the postseason than those with middling offenses. Squads with top-flight aces at the front of their staff (along with defense and bullpen), however, have shown the greatest propensity to win in October.

The Michael Vick saga is compelling, sad and obviously headline-worthy. But I hope it doesn’t completely overshadow the beginning of football season, because with training camp set to open, there’s a whole lot to be excited about. The thing about Vick is, he’s not even very good. Sure, he’s a solid fantasy QB, but in real football, he’s well below average, but I guess the absolute shock value of the allegations (electrocuting dogs?!) warrants such immense attention. Plain and simple – the guy’s an idiot.

During a recent trip to Las Vegas, I noticed that Caesar’s Palace Sportsbook placed the odds on the Oakland Raiders to win the Super Bowl at 30-1. 18-1 to win the AFC. What?!?! In comparison, the Buffalo Bills were 70-1. The Raiders fielded a terrific defense last year, but its offense was historically bad. The coaching changes can only be an upgrade and so can the QB play, but it’s still rather likely a raw rookie will be the signal caller for the majority of the season. They play in the same division as the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. My point – getting just 18-1 odds is not a very good bet.

I’ve heard on more than one occasion recently how the Indianapolis Colts have lost too many players during the offseason to have a chance at repeating. They have lost some fairly key defenders (Nick Harper, Jason David, Cato June) but nothing earth shattering, especially if they counter with a healthy Bob Sanders for 16 games. If losing Dominic Rhodes means Joseph Addai is on the field more, then that was addition by subtraction. As long as Peyton Manning, who might be the greatest player of all-time, is still around, the Colts enter the 2007 season on the short list of favorites (along with the Chargers and Pats) to win the Super Bowl.

Trading Deadline Strategies

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

I have always advocated trading for talent and not worrying about your team’s perceived deficiencies when dealing during the regular season.  In fact, pointing out that an owner needs help in steals or is really struggling in home runs will often prompt them to overpay you for the services of Dave Roberts or Richie Sexson.

However, with league trading deadlines fast approaching, now is the time to assess where your team can improve or slip the most and target players who will help in that category.  Conversely, by figuring out in which categories you don’t stand to experience an appreciable point swing, you know which assets can be traded off without taking a major hit.  In my league, I’m really struggling in home runs and RBI but can’t gain many points in either category, while batting average and steals are two categories where I can pick up more points.  Therefore, I’m trying to ship off Prince Fielder for an Ichiro or Carl Crawford.

Another very viable trading strategy is weakening your enemy.  Don’t hesitate to deal a closer to a cellar dwelling team if it allows them to take a point away from a team above you in the standings.  A point lost by another team is just as valuable as a point gained by your squad if you are the only two teams competing for the title.

Additional Random Thoughts:

Why are Matt Leinart and Adrian Peterson hawking NCAA Football ’08 by talking about their teams’ painful upset losses in bowl games? It just doesn’t seem right to me.

Paul Byrd had issued a meager 8 walks in 112 innings this year before walking the bases loaded to start the 5th inning Sunday night. He was able to work out of the jam unscathed (and pick up a crucial spot start win for me).

Stuart Scott made this painfully awkward reference to “Rent” in the lead into a SportsCenter piece about the bouncer paralyzed in the Pacman Jones Vegas shooting: “How Does Urbanski measure a year in the life, 525,600 minutes?  By renting out time… in his mind.”  I hate Stuart Scott; he is so not “now.”

Age of Love

Friday, July 20th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I’ve come to a realization recently – no one gets caught up in the hype of young baseball players more than I do. Take a look at this list of disappointing youngsters:

Carlos Quentin – Maybe the shoulder injury is to blame, but a .210/.299/.350 line is about as bad as it gets. So bad he’s currently in Triple-A. But worst of all, he was a last-minute no show on Chris Liss’ radio show, demonstrating complete disregard for tact and decorum. Future outlook: Go ahead and write off 2007, but he’ll be fine, especially with Chase Field at his disposal. However, he probably only possesses 25-homer type power.

Conor Jackson – The 28:38 K:BB ratio is impressive, but he’s been an overall disappointment. Future outlook: He doesn’t figure to ever reach much more than 20 homers, but with a nice OBP, he could be a threat to score 100 runs while projecting as a No. 2 hitter.

Chris B. Young – My preseason favorite to win the NL ROY, Young hasn’t been a total bust with 14 HRs and 11 SBs, but the rest of his counting stats are down, and the .232 BA is ugly. Future outlook: Still very bright. He plays a terrific center field and should be a 25/25 or even 30/30 type at his peak. A great “post-hype sleeper” target entering fantasy drafts next year.

Stephen Drew – Notice a theme here? Imagine how tough the Diamondbacks will be once these kids start reaching their potential. With the surname Drew, injuries figured to be a problem with the young shortstop, but it’s been production instead. Future outlook: With 25-homer upside, Drew can be a very valuable middle infielder for years to come, it’s just going to take a little longer than most anticipated.

Homer Bailey – I’m staying away for the rest of 2007. Look at the numbers. Even while in the minors this season, the ERA was fine, but the strikeouts weren’t there. Combine that with poor command and a hitter’s park as home, and you are going to get some unsightly results. Future outlook: Not sure if the Kerry Wood comparison is apt, and I’d certainly rather have Yovani Gallardo or Tim Lincecum, but Bailey will eventually settle in as a nice No. 2 starter in the big leagues, with ace potential.

Alex Gordon – 79 strikeouts in 313 at-bats. That pretty much sums up Gordon’s lackluster rookie season. Sometimes it just takes a while for it to click. I don’t view him any worse than I did before the season started. Future outlook: A fantasy monster. Gordon combines big time power with the ability to swipe 20 bases from a corner infield spot. If held at gunpoint, I’d rather Ryan Braun moving forward, but it’s awfully close.

Kevin Kouzmanoff – Kouzmanoff isn’t exactly that young, but he is in terms of major league experience, and many expected much more out of the third basemen this season, myself included. A power-hitting right-hander who strikes out a lot is far from an ideal fit for Petco, but Kouzmanoff is a better player than he’s shown so far. Future outlook: Petco Park limits his upside, but he’ll be a serviceable CI in fantasy leagues next season.

Kevin Slowey – There’s nothing left for him to prove in the minors. Now, it’s just a matter of finding out if he’s a “quadruple-A” player or not. My money is on “yes,” unfortunately. He allowed 13 home runs in 37 big league innings this year, an unfathomable amount. While that can largely be chalked up to bad luck, Slowey strikes me as an Anthony Reyes/Dave Bush type, with a lot less upside. He’s always around the strike zone, so his WHIP will be solid enough with so few walks allowed. But with an average at best 88-89 mph fastball, he’s going to be eminently hittable. Future outlook: I’m not optimistic he’ll ever be much of a big league pitcher.

Matt Cain
– Remember, Cain is still just 23 years old, younger than teammate Tim Lincecum. Cain’s stuff is legit, there’s no doubt about that. However, his decrease in strikeouts this season (6.6 K/9 IP this year, 8.45 K/9 IP last year) is a major concern, especially when you factor in his horrendous control (4.47 BB/9 IP). People say his record (3-11) is unlucky, but his ERA (3.87) is equally as lucky considering his poor peripherals. Future outlook: He’ll be a stud – he had a stretch last season in which he allowed just one run over 40 innings – so try to get him at a discount next year.

Felix Hernandez – He hasn’t been terrible, but a 1.42 WHIP isn’t what many were looking for. Especially after he started the season with back-to-back gems. Maybe an injury is partially to blame, but the King is very hittable when balls are put into play for some reason. His .354 BABIP is literally the worst in all of baseball. And that number was .322 last year as well. However, he’s getting more ground balls and walking fewer batters, so there is reason for optimism here. Future outlook: At least two, and maybe three or four Cy Youngs.

Tim Lincecum – Are we entirely sure Lincecum isn’t really 16 years old? Good god, he looks like he just passed his driver’s test. Anyway, after a rough June (7.71 ERA, 1.75 WHIP), he’s responded with a terrific July (1.86 ERA, 0.98 WHIP). There will likely continue to be bumps in the road (mainly, command issues) but the 10 K/9 IP reveals the makings of a future ace. With a two-seam fastball that reaches 98 mph (unheard of) and AT&T Park behind him, there’s a lot to like here. Future outlook: In a keeper league, I’d draft him in the first round.

Of course, there’s Justin Verlander, Hunter Pence, etc., who played extremely well right out of the gate, but for the most part, the allure of upside and potential hasn’t been worth the risk when it comes to youngsters these days. It’s just too bad Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo are doing so well for me, making it all the more likely I’ll be drafting Justin Upton too early next year.

The Scoop

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

For all the Ervin Santana home/road splits talk, Wandy Rodriguez actually puts him to shame. On the road this year, Rodriguez has a 7.45 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. At home, he posts a 1.81 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He’s obviously more valuable in daily leagues.

Do you realize David DeJesus is on pace to score 120 runs this season? Also, Billy Butler looks awfully good hitting in the middle of that lineup. The opposite is true when he’s holding a glove, however. As bad as Kansas City is perceived, their current lineup is probably better than 75 percent of the N.L. teams.
I’ve underrated Aaron Harang long enough. He’ll always give up too many homers to post a sub-3.50 ERA, but his WHIP is solid because he limits base on balls, his strikeout rate is very strong and he pitches deep enough into games to usually finish with nice win totals. Not only was Harang the only pitcher in MLB history to lead his league in wins and Ks and not win the Cy Young award last year, he didn’t even receive a single vote.

Remember when all of those ESPN pundits picked Bobby Crosby as their MVP choice for the 2006 season? Good times. At least he had injury excuses in the past. This year, he’s stayed relatively healthy but simply can’t hit. A .272 OBP? Are you kidding me? His OPS is nearly in the 500s. Speaking of talented players failing to live up to expectations – Daniel Cabrera, you’re on deck.

I would be willing to bet Adrian Beltre’s 2004 season is one of the greatest outliers of someone’s career in the history of major league baseball. Let’s take a closer look by comparing numbers from that season with the second highest totals throughout the rest of his 10-year career: he had 23 more homers, 32 more RBI, hit .44 points higher and slugged .152 points better than his second best marks during his decade of playing. We can all thank Beltre for perpetuating the “contract-year” theory more than it’s true significance.

This just in: Chase Utley is very, very good. Since May ended, he’s batting .380 in 163 at-bats. After previously struggling a bit against lefties, Utley has posted a 1.014 OPS against southpaws this year, terrible news for the rest of the league.

A funny thing happened to Dontrelle Willis on the way to stardom – he never got there. He’s basically unusable in fantasy leagues right now. In 95 innings against right-handed hitters this season, Willis has walked 47 batters and served up 15 homers. That simply won’t get it done.

Watching Andrew Miller pitch, it’s clear he’s going to be special. Like all young hurlers, there will be ups and downs (specifically control with Miller), but he’s a highly coveted commodity in keeper leagues right now. Lefties are a combined 2-for-34 with 16 strikeouts against him. The Tigers are going to have one of the very best front ends of a starting rotation for many years to come.

If you’re not watching “Flight of the Conchords,” you’re missing out on the next great comedy. “Scott Baio is 45 and Single” is terrific as well, but for totally different reasons.

New Site – DailyProjections.com

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Cool new site called DailyProjections, especially if you are into “Fantasy Sports Live,” which I have previously written about here. Check it out.

Fantasy Football Auction

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Folks, fantasy football season is fast approaching, and this blog has ignored it long enough. It ends now. With my fantasy baseball teams making a huge surge midseason (and hopefully yours too) it’s easy to forget August is almost here, and by now, multiple fantasy football mags should have already been devoured. RotoScoop will soon be unveiling rankings, strategy and all other sorts of useful info. First, let’s start with an industry auction I partook in Monday: the results can be found here. And more on it can be found over at Yahoo!

But I’ll throw my two cents in here. Believe it or not, this was my first auction, ever. In any fantasy sport. Getting thrown into the fire in an “experts” league probably isn’t an ideal way to pop my cherry, but that’s the way it worked out. In the end, I became a big fan – affording everyone the opportunity at every single player is simply a huge advantage over drafting, when position in draft order precludes that. Unlike a draft, it’s essentially your turn with every pick, opposed to once every 10-14 choices. I’m not sure I can ever go back to the prehistoric method of drafting after this, especially when considering how an auction allowed me to assemble this squad: ($200 salary cap)

QB-Vince Young ($14)
RB-LaDainian Tomlinson ($80)
RB-Maurice Jones-Drew ($54)
WR-Reggie Brown ($15)
WR-Braylon Edwards ($9)
WR-D.J. Hackett ($6)
TE-Ben Watson ($3)
K-Stephen Gostkowski ($1)
D-Denver Broncos ($1)

B-Vincent Jackson ($6)
B-Michael Turner ($5)
B-Jerry Porter ($2)
B-Brandon Marshall ($2)
B-Alex Smith ($1)
B-Oakland Raiders ($1)

My $80 bid on Tomlinson was my first and it came about five seconds into the draft. In the end, I think he’s worth about 40 percent of your budget, especially since I was able to later pair him with Turner at an affordable price.

The $14 Young bid was my favorite of all. Guys like Drew Brees and Marc Bulger went for $29 and $28, respectively. Donovan McNabb went for $15, while Brandon “Big Board” Funston acquired Jon Kitna for the same $14. I probably should’ve secured a better backup, but mark this selection down as the S.O.D.

I’m big on MJD this year, but I probably went a little high on him at $54. I got into a bidding war with one other guy, and the back and forth ended up costing me around $8-10 more than I would’ve liked to have spent. Joseph Addai only went for $3 more.

I wanted Antonio Gates, but again got into a pissing match with another owner, finally giving up when his price tag reached $27. Instead, I looked to fill out my receiving corps with undervalued guys like Brown, Edwards, Hackett and Jackson. Those names won’t jump out at you on paper, but I’m actually pretty happy with them.

The one time that your “draft position” matters is late in the draft. Typically, when it was my turn early on, I’d call out a name of someone I had no intention of bidding on and hoped others jacked up the price and spent excessively. But when the auction was winding down, having the ability to call out the name did make a difference, as most had spent all of their budget, so throwing the name of a $1 kicker or end-game defense would most likely result in you getting them, because few were willing to up it to $2. Nothing worse than finishing the draft with money still to burn.

Ultimately, I like my team, but this league has some strong competition, and I’m extremely thin at the running back position. Hopefully Porter or Marshall pans out, and I’ll look to pull off a trade eventually. Anyway, are you ready for some football?

Second Half Predictions

Monday, July 16th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The following are 10 fearless predictions for the second half of the major league baseball season:

1) Delmon Young will be a monster – It’s already starting. After a .310 June, Young has posted a line of .391/.408/.500 during July. The K/BB ratio is still ugly, but the slugging is continuing to improve, and he’s also showing a greater propensity to run. Don’t forget just how good of a prospect he is.

2) Yovani Gallardo will be a difference maker in your fantasy league – The Brewers want to limit his innings, understandably, but Ben Sheets is already hurt, and the back-end of the rotation isn’t that great to begin with. Gallardo, meanwhile, has been fantastic – just one HR allowed, 27 Ks over 28.2 innings and has a great offense supporting him.

3) Pedro Martinez will have a triumphant return to the mound, Chris Carpenter will not – Carpenter’s condition appears to be arthritic, and it’s almost time to write him off until 2008. Martinez, on the other hand, has seen his rehab progress seamlessly. Remember, it wasn’t Tommy John surgery, so while he won’t be back firing 95 mph fastballs, Martinez is crafty enough to get by on a lot less. You could get a pretty effective 50 innings out of him before it’s all said and done. R.I.P. Pedro’s little friend.

4) Chris Burke will be worth using again in deep fantasy leagues – One of the bigger busts through the first half of the season, Burke is finally set to get more playing time again, at least when Houston is on the road. The fact the Astros put a personal accomplishment (Craig Biggio’s 3,000 hits) before team goals is one of the worst stories of the 2007 season. Maybe a move back to his original position at second base will help get Burke’s bat going. He can get on base, has decent power and can run well.

5) Jeremy Guthrie will come crashing back down to earth, while Jered Weaver will pitch like an ace – Guthrie has been one of the biggest surprises over the first half, posting a remarkable 0.99 WHIP in 105.2 innings. A former first round pick, this Stanford product is due for a major correction in ERA, with an unsustainable BABIP and pitching in the AL East. Send him packing. Weaver, meanwhile, has a disappointing 1.42 WHIP after walking one fewer batter in 50 fewer innings this season compared to last. The injury suffered in spring training got him off to a slow start, as he’s been really good since May ended. Go get him.

6) Rocco Baldelli will return to Tampa Bay’s lineup on September 1st – Before his first at-bat, his hamstring will literally fall off the bone while taking practice swings in the on-deck circle. He’ll never be heard from again.

7) Albert Pujols will crush 25 homers after the All-Star break – If you were able to buy him 85 cents on the dollar one week ago, congratulations, because that opportunity is now gone.

8) Alex Rodriguez will become the first right-handed Yankee ever to reach 50 homers, while also knocking in 165 runs – The AP will consequently give the MVP Award to Magglio Ordonez, who finishes with 25 home runs for the first place Tigers.

9) Carlos Zambrano will be one of the three most valuable fantasy pitchers from here on out, while Johan Santana wins the pitching triple crown.

10) The NL rookie class is so good, Hunter Pence will finish third in the ROY voting, behind runner-up Tim Lincecum and winner Ryan Braun.

A Giant Mistake

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I’m not only the RotoWire beat writer for the San Francisco Giants, but I’m also a Giants fan (remember those terrible “I’m not just the president of the Hair Club for Men, I’m also a member” commercials? I digress). When writing articles for this blog, I attempt to neither narrow my scope by talking specifically about a favorite team or whine. I’ll be breaking both rules with the following.

Not only is Brian Sabean a poor fit for a team that has to begin focusing on the rebuilding process, but to reward mediocrity by re-signing the GM to a two-year contract extension sends a poor message throughout the franchise. Sabean had his uses, architecting three Giants teams that won division titles, including a pennant, between 1997 and 2003. However, San Francisco went 75-87 and 76-85 over the next two seasons and stood 38-48 at the All-Star break this year.

Hey, you can’t be a winning team in major league baseball every season, but in this case, pointing to Sabean’s decision-making reveals an awful lot of cause and effect. The A.J. Pierzynksi for Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser deal has been dissected ad nauseam, but there’s an argument there that it’s the worst trade in the history of professional sports. Then he went and traded for Randy Winn (admittedly, Jesse Foppert didn’t pan out) and proceeded to sign a right fielder with a career OPS of .764 to a $24 million contract. Last year, he sent an emerging young arm by the name of Jeremy Accardo to the Blue Jays for Shea Hillenbrand, who is not only terrible but also had just got into a fist fight with his manager – something tells me Toronto shouldn’t have had too much leverage in trade talks. Accardo, by the way, has a 2.63 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 37 innings this year while pitching in the AL East. Imagine what his numbers would look like pitching at AT&T Park. At least San Francisco doesn’t need bullpen help.

The only reason Juan Pierre isn’t wearing a Giants’ uniform is because the Dodgers only slightly outbid them. And do I even need to mention the Barry Zito deal? I admit, I thought they’d at least get a couple of good years out of him, but all signs pointed to him being in decline (sinking K rate, rising BB rate), and the fact of the matter is that it was the richest contract ever handed out to a pitcher that was at least two-three years too long.

The theory behind trading the future for immediate returns wasn’t necessarily wrong – in fact, it made plenty of sense with Barry Bonds presenting a short window of opportunity to “win-now” – but the execution of said theory has been an utter catastrophe. Actually, I’m not sure why Bonds’ presence and a team built around youth have to be mutually exclusive.

Until this year, the Giants signed mediocre player after mediocre player (Michael Tucker) to almost purposely avoid draft picks. And when they did have an early selection, they chose with signability (read: dollar signs) as the No. 1 priority (see: Hennessey, Brad).

The Giants say they will rebuild by striking a balance between younger position players, who are developed through the farm system or acquired in trade, and free agents. Fair enough, but the writing is also on the wall that Bonds won’t return next season, and something tells me he’ll be a nice scapegoat. Having Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain around gives at least a glimmer of hope for the future, but it really is a shame how the team wasted so many prime years from the greatest hitter to ever live. Bonds has come to the plate this year with 199 runners on base, good for 132nd in the league. I guess that’s what happens when you sign Rich Aurilia (.291 OBP) to be your No. 3 hitter.

Sabean just doesn’t seem like the right fit for a team that should be focusing on three years from now. Judging from a recent interview in which he proclaimed the Giants aren’t out of it and are unlikely to be sellers at the trading deadline, I’m not optimistic.

Midseason Report Card

Friday, July 13th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Let’s take a quick look at how my preseason predictions look halfway through the season. I’ll be patting myself on the back for some, but other mistakes deserve me taking some accountability.

My Prediction – NL West
1. San Diego Padres
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Colorado Rockies

Current Standings
1. San Diego Padres
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Francisco Giants

Comments: Looks pretty good. The Giants are even worse than I imagined, but the resigning of Brian Sabean may be good news for my hopeful fourth place finish, since he has no foresight and is doubtful to be much of a seller.

My Prediction – NL East
1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves (Wild Card Winner)
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals

Current Standings
1. New York Mets
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals

Comments: “Man I’m tired of being right!” In all seriousness, I’m still worried about Philly, and the Dodgers currently sit ahead of the Braves in the wild card standings. John Smoltz and Chipper Jones need to stay relatively healthy for my forecast to come to fruition, but big second halves from Andruw Jones and Brian McCann are strong possibilities.

My Prediction – NL Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Houston Astros
5. Cincinnati Reds
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Current Standings
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Chicago Cubs
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Houston Astros
6. Cincinnati Reds

Comments: Not so good. The Brewers are legit, and the breakout shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, but I can at least partially blame my Cardinals’ erroneous prognostication on the Chris Carpenter injury. Despite many holes with the team, I still wouldn’t rule out some sort of run during the second half in St. Louis.

My Prediction – AL West
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland A’s
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers

Current Standings
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Oakland A’s
4. Texas Rangers

Comments: Most put the Rangers ahead of the Mariners and some even had the team in front of Oakland, so I’m glad I was onto Seattle’s improvement, although I expected Felix Hernandez to be a much bigger part of it. The Angels are awesome, and the A’s are a second half team year in and year out.

My Prediction – AL East
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card Winner)
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Current Standings
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Comments: Getting the top two teams wrong wasn’t so bad, but having the discrepancy between the two be so great sure makes it so. I’ll admit it, my steadfast stance on the Yankees still making the wild card is becoming tenuous because it’s going to be awfully tough to pass the Indians.

My Prediction – AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Kansas City Royals

Current Standings
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Kansas City Royals

Comments: This one really irritates me, as I debated long and hard on whom to place second, either the Tigers or White Sox. In the end, I was dead wrong, as there is a decent chance that Chicago even finishes in last behind Kansas City this season, as they will be sellers at the deadline while K.C. continues to only improve as their young talent does. The Tigers currently look like the best team in baseball, weak bullpen be damned. The best lineup in the league combined with a rotation featuring Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers and emerging Andrew Miller is unfair. Detroit and Boston are the two likeliest teams to win the World Series this season.

The Scoop

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Just when I start to completely write him off, Khalil Greene starts showing legit power. Over his last 19 games, Greene has clouted eight homers with 17 RBI. He strikes out way too often to ever bat much better than .250, but he is quietly on pace to finish the season with 28 bombs, 95 RBI and 89 runs. Not bad for a shortstop who plays in Petco Park.

Aaron Rowand has turned in a real solid first half, but he looks like a good sell-high guy to me. His BABIP (.345) is much higher than his career level (.316), and there’s the very real possibility of injury with the way he plays center field so aggressively.

I see your future Dick Harden, and it involves Dr. Lewis Yocum and a large knife.

Dan Uggla has 51 extra-base hits this season, one off the MLB-leader (Chase Utley). How about two second basemen occupying those top spots? Curtis Granderson has 15 triples, five more than second place (Jimmy Rollins).

In medium to deeper sized formats, you might want to take a flier on Lastings Milledge. His long-term playing time isn’t guaranteed this season, but Moises Alou’s health is always a concern, and Milledge is probably a better hitter than Shawn Green right now anyway. With his power/speed potential, Milledge could be a fantasy asset immediately, even if he’s not a big help in batting average.

Time to hand out the first half awards:

NL MVP: Prince Fielder – Leads the league in slugging percentage and homers, while ranking second in OPS and RBI. Is a big reason why the previously moribund Brewers sport the second-best record in the Senior Circuit.

NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy – Lots of worthy candidates here, as Brad Penny, Chris Young and even John Maine deserve consideration. While Peavy has Petco Park to his advantage, in the end, he’s thrown the most innings of the group and leads the league in strikeouts and WHIP.

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez – First, let’s take a look at his main competitor, Magglio Ordonez – He’s been lucky (.388 BABIP), but it’s tough to argue with a 1.050 OPS accompanied by a 37/47 K/BB ratio. Mags leads the majors in doubles (35), batting average (.367) and is second only to Barry Bonds in OBP (.446). However, A-Rod has an MLB-best 30 homers playing in an extremely difficult park on right-handed hitters, while also leading the league in total bases (212) and the AL in OPS (1.078). He has a .61 points advantage in slugging percentage over Mags and is on pace for 164 RBI (and it’s not like he has a huge lineup advantage, as he’s batted with just five more men on base this season than Ordonez has). A-Rod also contributes on the base paths more and plays the more difficult/important defensive position. If you are the type that places great importance on team position in the standings, then I can see you going the other way. But there’s no denying that A-Rod has been the best hitter in the game this season.

AL Cy Young: Dan Haren – While John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia have had fine seasons, this comes down to Johan Santana and Haren to me. It’s very close – Santana has 24 more strikeouts, and when you include unearned, both have allowed the same amount runs on the season. Still, Haren’s done a superior job of limiting homers with the best split-finger fastball in the game and has pitched 8.1 more innings while allowing just four more baserunners. I’ll give it to Haren now, because it’s Santana who’s likely to be taking home the hardware when it counts – over the last four seasons, he’s 40-4 after the All-Star break.

Home Run Derby

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Some thoughts from last night…

A strong, competitive second round barely managed to redeem the festivities. Although I have to admit, Vlad is fun to watch, and a pretty big bad-ass to boot. I’m just glad that I didn’t bring my kayak; good work Kenny Mayne. Watching the lefty sluggers flame out was almost as painful as watching the surfer kid (Shaun Yost) try to act on “John From Cincinnati.” (Wait one more, please) Seriously, waiting for those guys to put on a show was as fruitless as Dalton waiting for the incomparable Chris Young’s BABIP to regress to the mean.

Did anyone else find it awkward when Joe Morgan asked Dusty Baker about giving Russ Ortiz the game ball during Game 6 of the World Series in 2002? Clearly Morgan felt a need to exonerate Baker. I briefly met Joe Morgan a few years ago, and he told me that he would never again be a Giants fan after “what they did to Dusty Baker.”

Equally awkward was Peter Gammons’ interview with Barry Bonds. Barry is clearly not a fan of “3rd parties.”

And it wouldn’t be fair to bring up “awkward” without commenting on the Baseball Tonight crew stuck in the studio. They looked real natural standing in front of that big screen television.

“The Bronx is Burning,” ummm, I think I’ll pass. Somehow I just don’t see Franco from “Rescue Me” as a convincing Reggie Jackson.

I know that they’re young and all, but the kids shagging balls in the outfield were absolutely terrible. It got so bad that my dad insisted that they must not be allowed to actually catch the balls. It’s a minor miracle (and, truth be told, I was minorly disappointed) that none were injured.

I don’t think that Erin Andrews is that hot. I mean, she’s hot, but definitely not that hot.

I really enjoyed watching Vladimir Guerrero’s cousin running out and taking center stage every few minutes. That man belonged in a cage.

My Billie Jean Region is in absolute shambles after I picked Kelly Slater to shock LeBron James in the first round of the SportsCenter’s riveting “Who’s Now” tournament.

Wow, sorry this column came out so negative, I sounded like a real grouch. I’m actually going to the game today and pretty damn pumped about it. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos. Go NL!

Updated rankings – Starting Pitchers

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Johan Santana
2. Jake Peavy

3. C.C. Sabathia
4. Brandon Webb
5. Carlos Zambrano
6. Daisuke Matsuzaka
7. Justin Verlander
8. Ben Sheets
9. Cole Hamels
10. Dan Haren
11. Erik Bedard
12. Roy Oswalt
13. Roy Halladay
14. Chris Young
15. Josh Beckett
16. John Lackey
17. Jeremy Bonderman

18. Tim Lincecum
19. Ian Snell
20. Felix Hernandez
21. John Smoltz
22. Brad Penny
23. John Maine
24. Aaron Harang
25. Roger Clemens
26. Jered Weaver
27. Tim Hudson
28. James Shields

29. Ted Lilly
30. Matt Cain
31. Kelvim Escobar
32. Derek Lowe
33. Rich Hill
34. Scott Kazmir
35. Oliver Perez
36. Randy Johnson
37. A.J. Burnett
38. Curt Schilling

39. Jeremy Guthrie
40. Joe Blanton
41. Javier Vazquez
42. Fausto Carmona
43. Andy Pettitte
44. Mark Buehrle
45. Greg Maddux
46. Andrew Miller
47. Barry Zito

48. Tom Gorzelanny
49. Chris Carpenter
50. Chien-Ming Wang
51. Mike Mussina
52. Orlando Hernandez
53. Yovani Gallardo
54. Gil Meche
55. Chad Billingsley
56. Bronson Arroyo
57. David Bush
58. Pedro Martinez
59. Dontrelle Willis
60. Randy Wolf

Confessions of a Micromanager

Friday, July 6th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

As a real estate agent might opine location, location, location, a similar motto can be used when analyzing fantasy baseball: format, format, format. Taking callers on the XM radio show (I’m still on every Wednesday at 11 a.m. Ch. 144), it has become abundantly clear how important league specifics are in regards to handing out advice. Nomar Garciaparra is probably not even worth owning in shallow mixed leagues, while in deep NL-only ones, he’s a legit CI option. In deep leagues, trades that bring in depth are often best, while in shallow formats the one getting the single best player usually is the winner. And keeper-leagues bring in a whole other level of uniqueness. If you don’t have a legitimate chance at winning your keeper league this season, you should absolutely be trying to move an expensive Albert Pujols for Ryan Braun or Hunter Pence.

Me, I’m more of a draft guy than auctioneer, but I’d like to try the other side soon. I play in two main fantasy baseball leagues – one a Yahoo! 12-team league with daily transactions and an 1800 innings cap, the other an NFBC 15-team league with weekly changes. Using my two as an example, let’s take a look at the differences:

In a weekly league, middle relievers are essentially worthless. No matter how great their K rate is, they still hurt you in the strikeout department based purely on lack of innings – even Jamie Moyer will get 30-50 more Ks than an elite middle reliever. They also hurt you in wins and don’t contribute much in saves. Unless it’s a 95-inning sub-2.00 ERA performance, they are unrosterable. In daily formats with a max-innings cap, however, they can make sneaky good plays. Their K rates are often better than starting pitchers’ and without roster constrictions, the help in ERA and WHIP can be bountiful. If you employed Pat Neshek and Matt Guerrier this year, here are the stats you would have received so far: 92.1 innings, 1.76 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 87 Ks.

NFBC uses FAAB, which is fine by me. You don’t want to only reward those sitting in front of a computer all day, and it also brings in another level of strategy, always a good thing. However, the advantage as far as adding strategy when it comes to weekly leagues ends there. If your guy gets hurt Monday, tough. Want to sit your lefty masher facing a southpaw? Fuhgeddaboudit. What about your pitcher with two scheduled starts, one coming in Coors Field? You pretty much have to roll the dice.

And I don’t want to hear about daily formats being too time consuming – that’s a cop out. Especially regarding NFBC, when the minimum entry is $100, with most of the leagues being $250, $500 and $1,250, you’d expect someone shelling out that kind of cash willing to take 5-10 minutes out of their day to check the matchups. Speaking of which, this leads to the brilliant new additions to Yahoo! Under the new “opponents” option, you can see the pitching matchups for all of your players right there on one screen. Now, we’re talking literally five minutes of work per day, and you can even go ahead a few games as well. Even the regular Yahoo! player pages now gives you the career statistics against their upcoming opponent.

In short, I like daily formats much more than weekly leagues, mainly because I love to micromanage. You don’t want to over think stuff like how your batter is hitting during day games or on Thursdays, but handedness of opposing pitchers and ballpark affects really should be taken into account. Formats should also affect your drafting (or bidding) style, as weekly leagues make boring, durable players more valuable than injury-prone, high-risk, high-reward guys with upside. J.D. Drew or Barry Bonds sitting out two-three times a week hurts that team a whole lot more than in a daily league. I’d continue, but I have a deep bench and am going to be out of town early next week, so I have quite a bit of tinkering to do.

Hoops Scoop

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Signing a mid-level player (Rashard Lewis) to a max-level contract is the worst thing a franchise can do. Congratulations Orlando, you’ll win 4-5 more games next season. Losing Darko Milicic in the process is another negative (yes, I kept a straight face while typing that, but barely). Do you realize Darko is two years younger than Al Thornton? Following last year’s draft day disaster with Fran Vazquez, it’s hard to like the Magic’s direction right now.

I think the Knicks’ trade for Zach Randolph was better than most give it credit for. Yes, Isiah Thomas again ignored chemistry bringing in a similar player to Eddy Curry, and no Randolph isn’t going to be winning any humanitarian awards in the future, but he’s now two full years removed from microfracture surgery, and if he’s good for 24/10 a night in the West, imagine the damage he’ll do on the block while playing in the East. Basically, he’s Elton Brand without the blocks and an even better scorer. Randolph is only 25 years old and virtually unguardable in the paint, despite playing below the rim. This deal was an absolute steal.

Kudos to the Hawks for not passing on Al Horford simply because of past transgressions (similar to the Detroit Lions taking Calvin Johnson). I like Mike Conley Jr., but Horford was the right pick. Just because Sheldon and Marvin Williams haven’t panned out, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t select a potential dominant power forward in the Elton Brand mode.

The Celtics trade was simple: they will be better next season, and in a pathetic East, interesting if they bring in a fourth option with Wally Szczerbiak’s contract off the books and Theo Ratliff’s expiring deal a very valuable trading chip. However, Ray Allen is 33 years old and not a difference maker, so this move ultimately hurts the team long-term. I understand the situation with Paul Pierce doesn’t scream rebuild, but Al Jefferson is the most important component on that roster, and the Celtics should be looking toward 2009-2010, not next year.

Stephen A. Smith responded to the Brandon Wright for Jason Richardson deal as if J-Rich is some sort of scrub, but clearly that’s not the case. I won’t even pretend to grade this deal: Wright has more upside, but also a lot more risk. Richardson’s albatross of a contract notwithstanding, you’d have to think he’d be selected in the top-10 picks if he were available in last week’s draft with the knowledge of his NBA ability, right? The $10 million trade exception that Golden State acquired, however, does seem to make this deal quite worthy on their part.

John Paxson took a page right out of Isiah Thomas’ book drafting Joakim Noah when he already has an overpaid Ben Wallace on the roster. Well done, you have 48 minutes of offensiveless center production.

I like Javaris Crittenton’s game just as much as the next guy, but the Lakers have now taken a point guard in the first round in back-to-back drafts while incorporating a triangle system that completely deemphasizes the position.

Like clockwork, the Spurs continue to impress. Folks, this isn’t a dynasty by accident. The next time you hear Tiago Splitter’s name will be 2008, but by 2009, you’ll assume he was a past lottery pick.

The Trail Blazers had one of the busiest and successful drafts in recent memory. The team changed 75 percent of their roster! They lost from a talent perspective in the Zach Randolph deal, but it saved them money, and I can certainly understand the motivation behind making sure his bad influence is on the other side of the country from a seemingly impossibly nice Greg Oden. Portland will be a title contender by 2010.

The Scoop

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Daisuke Matsuzaka has quietly turned into one of the best pitchers in baseball. After a mediocre first two months in the states, Dice-K posted a 1.28 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 51:16 K:BB ratio over his last 42 innings. He still has command issues from time to time, but it’s clear Boston is going to get their money’s worth. There was too much mystery for me to draft him in fantasy leagues, but those who did are going to be repaid handsomely for taking the risk.

With a poor start to July combining with an already bad overall line, it might not be a terrible idea to throw an offer at Alex Gordon’s owner. He’s still striking out far too often, but the skill set is so obviously there. Add in the fact he’s been willing to chip in on the base paths, and you’re looking at someone who could go 12/12 during the second half of the season. Kauffman Stadium is an underrated hitter’s park, and Gordon only figures to improve as he accumulates more and more major league at-bats.

Takashi Saito has a 43:3 K:BB ratio this season. He has 19 more strikeouts than baserunners allowed. That’s pretty good.

Tim Wakefield has faced the toughest combination of hitters so far in the 2007 season, with an opponents’ aggregate OPS of .770. Roy Halladay ranks third, with Gil Meche, Daniel Cabrera and Curt Schilling sliding in next. As for those who have been lucky enough to face a decidedly easy schedule so far, Ted Lilly has pitched to the weakest opposition through the first three months of the year (.703 OPS). Scott Olsen, Tom Gorzelanny, Doug Davis and Randy Wolf have also faced easy competition.

Chris Duncan’s overall numbers don’t jump out at you, but against right-handers, he’s clubbed 14 homers over 171 at-bats, good for one big fly per 12.2 ABs. For comparison’s sake, Prince Fielder, the NL’s leader in HRs with 27, has a rate of one HR per 11.5 at-bats.

Congratulations to Joey Chestnut, who took down reigning champ Takeru Kobayashi when he inhaled a record-setting 66 hot dogs during Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest Wednesday.