So I wasn't really watching TV last night, did I miss any news?
Anything at all?
Okay, of course I was aware of the hullabaloo that was going on last night. Yet I debated for a good chunk of time about whether I'd even mention it or not today. A big part of me wanted to ignore it completely since I really couldn't care less about the NBA. I wanted to let my silence be my statement.
But that would be slightly disingenuous since I did discuss it with several people last night. So denying you, my dear readers, of at least a brief discussion of LeBron-mania wouldn't be fair, would it?
Here goes then...
All of this nonsense only reinforces my distaste for the NBA. The way I see it, LeBron manufactured an hour of national television to rip out the collective hearts of his home town. Well played, James!
Look, he was a free agent, and could sign wherever he wanted. I don't think he owed it to Cleveland to re-sign there. He gave it seven years, and wanted to try something else. Fine. I don't deny his right to do that.
What I object to is the manner in which he chose to do it. There is a reason that we haven't seen this type of event before, and it's not because there hasn't been this high a profile free agent. Kobe was a free agent. Michael was technically a free agent when he returned from the world of baseball. And those guys had both actually won a championship before they made their choice... what a concept?!
The reason we haven't seen it before is because it's a classless move towards the organization a player would be leaving, and the fans who'd supported that player throughout his tenure.
To create the hype and nonsensical drama of “The Decision” was an intellectually dishonest attempt at marketing the LeBron “brand” and furthering his efforts to become a “global icon”. (I know, I know... that's a lot of quotes... bear with me.)
The only scintilla of credit I can give him is that the profits from the commercials were donated to the Boys and Girls Club of America. That display of charity is laudable, yet insufficient to outweigh the disgust I feel over the whole affair.
This is the guy the NBA wants us to celebrate? This treatment of his former franchise is supposed to be acceptable?
No. This is the reason I continue to detest the NBA. This is the reason that despite Gary Bettman's continued attempts to ruin the sport, my winter sports attention and passion resides squarely with the NHL.
I don't expect the NBA to care. I don't expect them to miss my money or attention much. But they're the only “votes” I have, and they're not in any danger of going in the NBA's favor anytime soon.
Now let's get to why you really come here on a Friday. It's time to get Updated!
Right after the quote...
”Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”
- George Carlin (1937 - 2008), American stand-up comedian, social critic, actor and author
So at least LeBron has that going for him! (Okay, honestly, I'm done with it... really.)
It's Friday. That means it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...
Dan's Favorite Teams Update
Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 45-40, in third place in the AL Central and two games behind the Detroit Tigers.
No, that's not a typo. In a week, the Twins have fallen into third place in the Central. While a two-game deficit isn't anything to panic over, there's plenty to be troubled by with this club.
After getting off to a hot start in April and May, the Twins have gone 14-20 since June 1st. Granted, they've had some injuries to deal with during that period of time, but try to get any sympathy from fans of the Phillies and Red Sox (whom I hate). Other teams have had it far worse.
The biggest problem? Pitching. The Twins' staff has an ugly 4.34 ERA over that period of time, and a robust 1.26 WHIP. When the starters have given the team a quality start, the bullpen has failed. When the bullpen has succeeded, it's often come after a disastrous start.
I should also point out that the line-up hasn't been nearly as potent either. After an April and May with a team batting average in the upper .270's, the Twins have been hitting in the low .260's since June first. In April and May they had a team OPS in the upper .700's. Since June first? They've been solidly in the .730's. The OPS drop is more dramatic than the batting average drop, but trust, me, a 10+ point drop in your batting average is cause for concern.
Sometimes I wonder how managers don't drop dead from bleeding ulcers on a regular basis. It seems like half of managing comes down to constantly trying to plug leaks. Each time you get one stopped, a new one seems to spring up.
So what needs to happen here?
First of all, the team has to focus on surviving this series with the Tigers. Ideally, they'd sweep Detroit and end up back in first place. I'm not counting on that to happen. I'd be thrilled with winning two and picking up one game. I'd even be tolerant of getting just one win, and heading into the All Star break trailing by three games. But the only thing that CAN NOT happen, is a Detroit sweep.
What's the difference between three games back and five? Statistically? Not much. Psychologically? Plenty. Losing five straight headed into the break and getting swept by a division rival is enough to tilt any ball club.
Secondly, some things need to be shaken up. The pitching staff clearly isn't getting the job done and some sort of change has to be made. Two weeks ago, I talked about the possibility of the Twins acquiring Seattle Ace Cliff Lee. My conclusion was that the Twins wouldn't pull the trigger on a move like that because their history has been to avoid sacrificing prospects for rental players.
Since I wrote that, speculation has only heated up that the Twins are very much in pursuit of Lee. There was even a Detroit radio station issuing a Twitter report last weekend that Lee to the Twins was a “done deal”. That wasn't the case, but it exemplifies how involved the Twins are.
If the Twins are going to pull the trigger on a deal like that, there's no time like the present. Bringing in Lee not only demonstrates the club's commitment to winning now, it also provides exactly the kind of roster shake-up that I mentioned two paragraphs ago.
Additionally, it puts the onus squarely on the players. If the organization makes the sacrifices necessary to bring in a piece like Lee, then it becomes incumbent on the rest of the roster to pick up their play. And there are more than enough veteran players on the Twins roster to understand and communicate that exact message to the rest of the boys.
(Ed.'s Note: The preceding was written last night prior to this morning's news from multiple sources reporting that a deal to send Cliff Lee to the Yankees is all but done. I will now go bang my forehead into the wall for the next four months.)
(Ed.'s Note 2: The preceding Ed's Note was written prior to the news that the Mariners backed out of the Yankee deal and ended up trading Lee to the Texas Rangers. Okay, he's still not a Twin, but I can't possibly express how relieved I am that he's not headed to New York.)
Bringing in Lee isn't the only way to shake things up. Moving the hot-hitting Delmon Young up in the order, giving Michael Cuddyer a few days off and calling up some relief help from Rochester are all moves the Twins ought to at least be considering. None of those would have the same impact as Lee, but they'd still send a clear message that the status quo is not acceptable.
The Twins are four games past the mid-season mark. There's plenty of baseball left. Let me be clear, I'm not panicking. But like many Twins fans, I have concerns, and dearly hope the club will be addressing them sooner than later.
Tonight the Twins start their final series prior to the All-Star break. They're in Detroit to face the division-leading Tigers, and it kicks off with a pitching gem. Francisco Liriano (6-6) squares off against Tiger-Ace Justin Verlander (10-5). Tomorrow, Nick Blackburn (7-6) faces Jeremy Bonderman (4-6). And Sunday, Carl Pavano (9-6) takes the hill opposite Andrew Oliver (0-2).
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 33-53, in last place in the NL West and 18 games behind the San Diego Padres.
Honestly, Arizona fans. I'm not trying to rub salt in the wound by publishing those numbers. It's just the format I've chosen.
Last week, we found out that the Diamondbacks were blowing up their management team and starting over. They promptly went out and beat Dodgers 12-5, causing interim manager Kirk Gibson to comment,
Nobody said you had to be eloquent to be a big league skipper.
Unfortunately, the Snakes lost the next night 14-1, lost the Dodger series two games to one, got swept by the Cubs in three, and set a new all-time attendance low last night at 16,664 patrons. Given the way clubs artificially inflate those numbers, that means there were probably in the neighborhood of 13,000 fans actually at Chase Field last night.
And who can blame them? Hopes for contending in 2010 have been dashed. The club has sent it's front-line management packing with no obvious plan for a new direction. And the players on the field can't seem to muster any kind of consistent level of play. Scoring 12 runs one night, only to surrender 14 the next? That's not the kind of baseball anyone wants to see.
The biggest roster move they've made this year - acquiring RHP Dontrelle Willis - was basically a failure. They finally gave up the ghost on that move and designated Willis for assignment last Sunday, essentially releasing him from the club.
The only positive vibe for this club right now - CF Chris Young being named to the All Star team - is tempered by the fact that Young was likely only selected because the rules required NL manager Charlie Manuel to pick at least one player from all 16 NL clubs.
I wish there was some way I could put a bow on all this and offer Diamondback fans a ray of hope. I can't.
This club is dreadful. And frighteningly it seems that things are going to have to get worse (brace yourself for some serious selling as the trade deadline approaches) before they get better.
The Diamondbacks continue their four-game series against the Marlins tonight as Dan Haren (7-6) pitches for Arizona against Florida's Ricky Nolasco (8-6). Tomorrow it's Ian Kennedy (3-7) facing Nate Robertson (6-6). In Sunday's finale, it's Barry Enright (1-1) [is that what it's come to?! Barry effing Enright?!] squaring off against Alex Sanabia (0-1).
Arizona's one of those fortunate clubs with the Thursday following the break off, so they actually get four full days without having to endure a loss. At this point, D'backs fans will take what they can get!
That's your Update for this week folks. Sorry it was something of a downer, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em.
Have a restful and enjoyable weekend. I'll be back on Monday with more for your perusing pleasure.
Until then, thanks for reading!