Monday, July 31, 2006

BRINK STARTS BUMPUS RUMOR!

July 31, 2006, Colfax, WA (Reuters)*

Alex Brink, the highly touted and maligned quarterback for Washington State University, allegedly started a rumor surrounding the ineligibility of returning slotback Michael Bumpus according to un-named sources. Allegedly, Brink started the rumor in order to ease mounting pressure surrounding the Cougars opening day contest at highly ranked Auburn. "Alex is nervous that we might be leading by 14 going into the last four minutes of the Auburn game. Having Mike's status be questionable going into camp may give him an out in terms of getting the 'timing right' in passes over the middle," said a source familiar with WSU Athletics.

Brink, a third year starter, struggled throughout his sophomore campain in throwing the intermediate pass to a player on his own team--especially during critical 4th quarter stretches where the Cougars lost 7 of their last 8 games. The Cougars, predicted to finish 8th in the Pacific 10 Conference this year by sportswriters, figure to rely heavily on Brink in order to return to their first bowl action since 2003.



* Reuters refers to the emergent sports publishing giant, Roto Reuters. Read more ...plus comments

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bumpus info - it's NOT news at this point

Sorry for any confusion or rumor-mongering that could be read into this site. For all intents and purposes, Bumpus for all we know has NOT flunked out. It was only a rumor from what someone could claim is an insider, but clearly it was also a misunderstanding and nothing, absolutely NOTHING, has been finalized.

Please note that this site isn't to be construed as actual NEWS. It's just a spot that a few of us post messages back and forth to avoid clogging our work e-mail servers, nothing more. Sorry to all (you know who you are) if there was more read into it.


The M's meanwhile have rapidly changed their lineup in one day. Everett DFA'd (thank GOD!), Snelling called up, but the big move was getting Ben Broussard from the Tribe for Choo plus PTBNL. I LOVE that move, for many reasons.

1) Productive lefty bat, hitting over .300 with 13 HR this year. An OPS about 200 points higher than Everett vs. righties. They are instantly better.

2) He's 29, so it's logical to assume the next 2-3 years will be his prime years, at least.

3) He's under club control for 2007 and 2008. That's BIG this time of year to not have to go the rent-a-player scenario and overpaying on 7/31.

4) Sends a strong message to the club that they want to win, now. Something that Gillick always failed to do. Read: This is NOT Al Martin or Jose Offerman! :)

5) Best of all, to me?? HE'S AN AL hitter that hits lefty! He knows the league, knows the stadiums, the pitchers, etc. And he's a lefty stick in a stadium that strongly favors lefties. It's a PERFECT fit.

With Perez who owns lefties and Broussard who is very successful vs. righties, they are suddenly much stronger at DH! Think of it in this way, in pure seamhead, sabermetrics sort of way. Combine the left-right breakdowns of Broussard and Perez, and this is what you have as the DH: a .352 batting average, 21 homers, 66 RBI, 21 doubles, 57 runs, a .385 on-base percentage, .616 slugging percentage, and 1.001 OPS.

The OPS figure is ahead of what Chicago (.991) and Boston (.961) get out of their DH position!

They do lose out on Choo, which I'm somewhat disappointed about. He was not a CF, no way at all, so there was no room for him. Plus he's got like 2 hits EVER at the big league level and looked pretty overmatched in the process. And, finally, he is 24, and that's the age where prospects enter the realm from produce NOW, or it might never happen?? Bavasi said it after the deal, that they were nearing a spot with him where teams will stop asking about him, so it was time to either live with him up in the bigs, or send him on down the road. He might turn into something special, but he also could be one of many guys that get cups of coffee in the show here and there, and could be classified in that "AAAA" world of baseball, know what I mean? Rake AAA pitching and completely relaxed, yet flail away at the highest level.

The other thing to sort of worry about is that famous PTBNL. They have until 8/31 to pick a guy, and as some of the analysis said already, it's likely to be a higher-level prospect. You don't see 29-year old hitters with Broussard's ability and contract control traded for a guy like Choo. So cross your fingers it's not one of the super-elite!

Did I mention I love this move?? Read more ...plus comments

Friday, July 21, 2006

One last look at Schultz; New owners on KJR; M's buyers or sellers??

Interesting story from the best Sonics writer ever:

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=hughes_frank&id=2525634&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab2pos1

Sure paints Schultz as having one miss after another since he bought the team.

And, one more thing on OKC, then I'm going to stop thinking about all this. I heard Ed Evans, the mouthpiece of the new ownership group, on KJR this AM. Really an interesting interview. Well spoken guy that is clearly the right choice to talk for that group. As you would expect, he said all that right thing, saying they are "100% committed to keeping the team in Seattle if an acceptable arena deal can be reached", "great history in Seattle and we respect that, with a great market, great fans", blah, blah blah. Basically everything that Sonics fans want to hear so they can sell a ticket next year. But, one thing that stood out to me more than any other was when Mitch asked him two very good, and difficult, questions.

1) First, part of the deal with the sale of the team was that the old owners had them sign a 12-month letter to act in "good faith" in dealing with trying to make it work here.
Mitch: "What are the details of the letter you signed with the prior ownership promising to negotiate in good faith to make it work here?"
Evans: "I won't go into the specifics, other than we intend to negotiate with the city, county and state reps to come up with an acceptable arena situation. If we can't come to a deal in the 12-month time frame, then we will explore all other options, OKC, San Jose, Kansas City, they are all in play at that point. But we have signed a contract to negotiate in good faith."
Mitch followed up: "What or how is "good faith" defined?" Evans: "I don't have the answer for you right now, we are too early into this. But we will act in good faith." Mitch interrupted and said "but how can anyone actually define that phrase, good faith?" Evans: "Again, I don't have the answer, other than to tell you that we will work hard to keep the team in Seattle and get an acceptable deal." Oh....kay.

2) Mitch: "What sort of deal is waiting for you in Oklahoma City? In other words, what kind of a deal has to come about here in this region in order for you to say yes to Seattle, and no to the people where you have built your wealth and reputations?"

Evans: "First of all, the Ford Center was built in 2002 with the idea of attracting the NBA. The building, as it stands now, is debt-free and waiting for a team. That said, we haven't begun negotiating with Oklahoma City on a lease or agreement of any kind until we have exhausted our options in Seattle."

Mitch: "But what kind of a deal does Seattle have to come up with? Is it something that has to actually TOP what you are theoretically looking at in moving to Oklahoma City, where you have a sort of "home town discount" on a debt-free arena? Isn't it fair to speculate that Oklahoma City, while no formal talks have happened, will be ready to hand you the key to the city to get you to move this team? In other words, beat every offer out there to bring it home? Is there a number, be it $1 dollar, $10 dollars, or $10 million that Seattle has to beat Oklahoma City in order to keep the team here?" Evans: "It would be fair to expect that at the end of the day, we will make the best business decision, however that turns out."

Evans went on to say how committed they are, how dedicated they are in their businesses and they became successful by being true to their word, and once again, "we are 100% committed to keeping the team in the Seattle market."

Loud and clear if you ask me. They are saying everything they can, now, to show this loosely-defined "good faith". I think you can predict what will happen next. Deals will be discussed, floated in the media, proponents of both sides will argue on the radio and in print, and the community will, as always, argue about the idea of keeping the Sonics via public subsidy vs. letting them move to a market that is like 40 notches below Seattle's. The vote will fall short, if it even makes it onto a ballot of any kind, and the team will buy out the remaining two years of the lease payable to the city of Seattle. All the while, every one of the new ownership group will tout about how hard they tried to make it work here, how sad it is that they couldn't reach agreement, and most importantly, they did what they said they were going to do - they negotiated in "GOOD FAITH!"

Meanwhile Seattle will use that buyout to pay off the remaining millions of debt still owed on the building, and they will start fresh with all sorts of different events.

Sad state of affairs.

So there are a lot of M's rumors starting to make the rounds. First was Soriano talk, about trading with the M's and Nats to bring Soriano to play LF or DH, alternating with Ibanez. On the field, clearly this would make them better, not only getting better by adding Soriano, even though in Safeco he's a fish out of water, but still he'd improve them. The bonus is they would fully get rid of Everett. But off the field, it's doubtful anything will happen there. The Nats are making crazy demands of what they want back in a deal for Alfonso. He's also a rent-a-player situation who will be a free agent, and has made it very clear that he hates playing OF and wants to be a 2nd baseman starting next year. Not going to happen in Seattle when we already have a 22-yr old all-star at 2B. Finally, the rumored names that the Nats want, of Rafael Soriano, Adam Jones and Mark Lowe?? NO WAY would Bavasi agree to that. That would make them weaker in the pen, and lose two of their top prospects as well. All that for two months of Soriano who will be counting down the days to free agency?? PASS.

The other, new one that caught my eye regards Beltre. San Diego is rumored to be very interested in Beltre, to the point that Ken Rosenthal is saying he is the Pads #1 target right now after DFA'ing Vinny Castilla. But, the question is, if you are the M's, how open are you to trading Beltre? Ok, clearly he's not what we thought he was when the M's signed him. I think you can put his number ranges in ink - .250 - .275, 10-20 HR, 70-90 RBI's in a typical year, with great defense and a very professional approach in the clubhouse, and ALWAYS in the lineup. Is that worth $12 million per year for the next 3 years?? No. he's probably putting up numbers that guys making half that can at least match, if not surpass. Another thing about Beltre is recently he's looked a lot more relaxed at the plate. The power still isn't coming, but he just has a more dialed-in look about him at the plate. Maybe it really does take a full season coming over to the AL, getting a look at all the pitchers and ballparks, before you can start to feel comfortable. But is his recent surge just fools gold? He had a lousy April and May, a white-hot June, and has tailed off a bit in July. Hmmm, who exactly did they play for almost ALL OF JUNE?? Oh yeah, that's right, THE NL!

Trading Beltre at this point would be perceived as a huge failure by Bavasi, no doubt about it. The worst part of that is what can you actually get back for him? Not only would the M's have to swallow hard on eating some of that salary, but you have to wonder what would be coming back to Seattle. Glancing at San Diego, could Mike Cameron come back to patrol CF and allow Jones to get more seasoning at AAA (which is absolutely needed??)? Not only would Cammy help the offense get better at the bottom half of the lineup, we know first-hand how fantastic he is defensively in one of the most demanding CF situations in baseball!

IF they can get Cameron plus another prospect and only have to eat $3 to $4 million in salary per year the next 3 years, I think they have to do it. Let Beltre go back to the NL west, in SoCal where he's comfortable, and who knows, maybe he'll blossom into an MVP candidate again. But I doubt it. It's painfully clear that the guy might have the best timing in the history of free agency with that 2004 season, and the M's are paying the freight. Free up salary for next year and beyond, and move Beltre while he still has youth and 2004 isn't that far in the rear-view mirror. What's the old line? Better to trade a player a year too early vs. a year too late? Never is that more true than right now with Beltre. Don't wait until the deadline next year, when 2004 will feel like forever ago. Move him now. Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What we have vs. what we're losing

With the Sonics about to embark on the worst season in their 40-year history in lame-duck city, I'm starting to think it all through. I started at anger, then denial, and now, I'm at acceptance (I forget the other two steps to how humans react to things like this??).

I imagine there will be tons and tons of articles written in the coming days and months about how big of a failure this thing was, but first, I want to deal with this loss.

I'm happy that we have the M's. They have a sparkling palace of a ballpark (no matter how flawed it actually is on the field) and it's a wonderful place to take the kids. I just went to the M's game a couple of weeks ago on a postcard Friday evening, and man, win or lose, you just soak it all in and appreciate what we have. They aren't going anywhere anytime soon, probably in another 20 years or so when the Safeco lease expires. :) While the M's aren't true contenders today, it's easy to argue for the idea that they are in fact headed in the right direction. And who knows, a few shrewd moves over the winter and they might even be the AL west favorites going into next year.

I'm thrilled we have the Seahawks, for obvious reasons. I pointed it out before, but the moment Paul Allen hoisted that flag and waved the towel before the NFC title game was the biggest single moment in Seahawks history, and a top-3 in the history of the city. So symbolic of so many years of frustration, all wiped away with Paul Allen and the city showing each other love, and tears streaming down the cheeks of Allen, knowing that was the moment, THE MOMENT, that all team owners must dream of. Well, that and hot 18-yr old nannies, but that's another story.....But they have a fabulous stadium as well, just raved about by many in the NFL and the passion is back in some ways, bigger than it was in the 80's. It's that good. On a quick side note, I heard Ken Lucas interviewed on the radio a couple of weeks ago. He said that, without question, that was the loudest he has ever heard any stadium, ever, in his life. He said they couldn't even hear each other on the sideline when Carolina had the ball, that he and the DB coach were screaming at each other but just couldn't hear anything. It wasn't until late in the game when it was over that they could actually hold a conversation. He also said to make sure Seattle fans know that they were a huge part of that win, and that several players all said after the game, privately of course, that they were the loudest crowd ever, louder than they ever dreamed, and they were almost in shock at all of it. They were completely out of their game, espeically the "veteran QB couldn't even think out there" is how he put it (wonder if there are some sparks out there with Delhomme? He is an emotional dude.).

And we have our Cougs. Not in Seattle of course, but they are a huge passion.

So, in times of loss it's important to be happy for what you have and not just dwell on what you lost, right??? RIGHT!??!?!?!?! :)

I'm going to ease off my harsh riding of the M's of late. I'm not going to rail against the Cougs after they blow a few games this fall, and I'm certainly not going to call for Doba's job (I wasn't going to anyway). And I won't be too crazy when the Seahawks take a few small steps back and most likely won't be repeating in the NFC. It's all ok, because they are OUR teams and they aren't likely to leave!

Real quick, but seriously now, can you FRIGGIN' believe this day came?? Can you believe they couldn't figure something out locally?? And worst of all, can you actually believe a word this new owner has to say about making a real effort to keep the Sonics here??? Why in god's green earth would they even say such things when it's a horrible joke that they not only won't try to keep the team here, but they'd be moving RIGHT NOW if it wasn't for the Hornets taking up space!?!? Please. Are we that dumb? I wasn't born yesterday, but I also wasn't born the day before yesterday either! This is not going to end pretty, in fact it's already ugly and they haven't even played a second of the exhibition season. The last lame duck NBA team was the Charlotte Hornets, while the whole season everyone knew they were moving but Shinn to the end denied it, and boy was that a mess.

How can this happen in a metropolitan, educated, wealthy area like Seattle?? 3 million people in the general area, the most educated big city in America actually, and certainly one of the wealthiest, how the hell can we get to this point? The only thing I can think of is that the lack of leadership on a local level is beyond alarming. From the monorail mess to the near-disaster of losing the M's AND the Seahawks all in the last 10 years, their lack of leadership is horrendous. For the Seattle City Council leader to say a few months ago that the Sonics contribute "nothing to the economic impact of Seattle, and nothing to the cultural environment" is pathetic. I hope they all sleep well tonight, knowing a team with 40 years of tradition and an NBA championship is leaving town because they lacked the foresight to figure something out. Period. End of story. And end of the Seattle Supersonics.

"Ladies and gentlemen, your Oklahoma SOOOOOOONER-Sonics!" :) I actually stole that from someone today, it made me laugh. The early leader in the clubhouse for team name is actually the Oklahoma Pioneers (no Oklahoma City in the name). I heard a sports radio guy from back there on the air as I drove home, and he could hardly stop from giggling from happiness to actually speak, but he said he was told t-shirts were already being printed to welcome the NBA to Oklahoma City in 2007. Read more ...plus comments

Monday, July 17, 2006

Good Ship Mariner taking on a LOT of water....

Some good info posted around the web lately via USSMariner on how much a sinking ship the M's truly are, especially with Dudley Do-Right as the manager. Pretty good analysis by guys that eat, drink and breathe M's baseball. I for one agree with all of it, from the handling of the bullpen in the lost weekend in Toronto to refusing to sit down Everett when he's the worst DH in baseball, to the absurd splits of RH hitters at home in Safeco vs. on the road and what a detriment it is to have so much $ tied up into right-handed hitters. I know, I know, I KNOW, they are "just" 4 games out in the lousy AL west, but the red flags are now fully up and flowing in the breeze. This weekend said it all. M's drop 2 of 3 to Toronto, while the A's impressively handle the Red Sox at Fenway, and oh yeah, those red-hot Halo's have now won 6 straight and 9 of 10. Meanwhile the M's are slogging through a brutal period, now losers of 8 of their last 10. It's getting UGLY.

Check it out:

First, on the bullpen this last weekend.

In the past two days, the Mariner bullpen pitched 11 innings, almost all of which were extremly high leverage situations where failure would equal an immediate loss. The distribution of those innings, thanks to the amazing Mike Hargrove:

Julio Mateo, 2 2/3 IP
Emiliano Fruto, 2 2/3 IP
Mark Lowe, 2 1/3 IP
George Sherrill, 1 1/3 IP
Rafael Soriano, 1 IP
Jake Woods, 1 IP

J.J. Putz, 0 IP

The Mariners can talk about his leadership, his experience, his motivational skills, whatever they want. However, this series was bullpen mismanagement of catastrophic levels.
Seriously, just an absolutely awful piece of managing by Mike Hargrove. Major League franchises don’t penalize their managers for poor in game strategy, but when a guy lacks basic understanding of fundamental principles, he simply can’t be allowed to continue to perform them. Mike Hargrove is the in-game strategist equivalent of General Custer. I, for one, can’t wait for the last stand.

On Carl Everett and the ridiculous demotion of Choo and the non-promotion of Snelling:

Everett is now 17 for his last 97. Since the beginning of June, he’s hitting .175/.231/.288.
(can you actually fathom how horrible that is, for the "left-handed sock" that they wanted to bring in and hitting 6th in the lineup as the DH? on-base PLUS slugging under .300?? Unheard of for a major league regular, let alone a DH!). Shin-Soo Choo was deemed unworthy to play for Mike Hargrove’s team because he went 1 for 11 and can’t play center field. Carl Everett, however, is allowed to hit .175 for 6 weeks, not be able to play any position on the diamond, and not even worry about getting moved down in the order, much less lose his roster spot.

I know we mention this a lot, but it’s mind-numbing that a team that is in contention for a playoff spot is willing to live with a DH who hits like a pitcher, while staring at several internal options who, it cannot be argued, are better hitters right now, and have the bonus appeal of adding some value on defense and on the bases. Regardless of what you may think about the reliability of minor league data in predicting major league performance, it’s an incontravertible fact that Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Snelling are better major league hitters, right now, than Carl Everett.

Thanks to the rest of the AL West, the M’s are in the playoff hunt. And for the last 6 weeks, they’ve been sporting a DH who is hitting like a slumping Rey Ordonez. That’s just remarkable, and is a massive black mark against the people who control the roster and the line-up.

Finally, on Safeco and how screwed up it really is. For what it's worth, I've stood at 2nd base a couple of times the last few years at M's Winterfest, and I can honestly say that left-center is so freaking far away, I don't know if I could hit it out from 2nd base!

For the record, it all started according to Art Thiel's book when the M's thought it would be cool to have Junior, Edgar, A-Rod and Buhner take BP in the new yard before it was done. Camera's were rolling as they thought they'd capture several BP HR's by the boys, but shot after shot died at the track. There was silence for a while, and then Edgar of all people said it, "they need to move the fences in. This is going to be trouble." Then they moved into the yard, and David Segui when the park first opened, called it the worst hitting ballpark in baseball, surpassing Montreal's Exhibition stadium. Then A-Rod had an outburst one day where he had yet another warning-track out, and as legend has it, came back to the dugout in 2000 and yelled "I CAN'T HIT IT ANY HARDER THAN THAT!" with a look of shock on his face. Jeff Cirillo was traded to Seattle, and in Art Thiel's book, said "I had heard about Safeco, that it was a tough place to play. But I thought a park is a park, and it won't be that big of a deal. After the opening series against the White Sox, I hit a couple of balls that would have been 10 rows deep in most other stadiums, but they were harmless fly balls in the gap. I knew after the first 3 games of the season that I was in trouble."

Take a look at these home-road splits for Mariner hitters who have played at least semi-regularly this year.
Ichiro - home: .360/.410/.475, road: .326/.385/.414
Beltre - home: .225/.284/.324, road: .290/.358/.475
Lopez - home: .250/.303/.389, road: .314/.333/.520
Ibanez - home: .301/.375/.557, road: .262/.325/.506
Sexson - home: .198/.267/.395, road: .242/.315/.441
Everett - home: .225/.314/.384, road: .240/.297/.352
Johjima - home: .231/.311/.351, road: .338/.362/.556
Betancourt - home: .303/.329/.375, road: .271/.286/.424
Reed - home: .196/.255/.330, road: .235/.264/.417
Team - home: .256/.318/.397, road: .279/.327/.446

The guys who hit better at Safeco: Ichiro, Ibanez, and Everett, all left-handed. The guys who hit better away from Safeco: Beltre, Lopez, Johjima, Sexson, and Reed. Four of the five are right-handed. Betancourt’s a push, basically.

The M’s offense is essentially crippled at Safeco Field, when you turn the four righthanders into automatic outs, and rely on Ichiro and Ibanez to provide all the offense.

Safeco is absolutely death to right-handed hitters. This isn’t a one year fluke. It’s almost certainly the hardest park in baseball for a right-handed power hitter to ply his trade.
The M’s seriously need to consider adjusting dimensions of Safeco Field. With the way its currently configured, the team stands a huge risk of every RH hitter they acquire failing to live up to their potential while playing for the team, simply due to the nature of their home park. Over 60% of all major league hitters swing from the right-side. And because of how Safeco plays, most of them have to be eliminated from consideration for employment by the Mariners, because there’s little to no chance that they’ll perform at a level commensurate with their salary while playing in Seattle (Beltre, Sexson....).

It also creates the problem of the raw statistics hiding the true talent level of a player. The team, the fans, and the media often lament the team’s lack of offense and credit the solid pitching for keeping the M’s in contention this year. Except that is just wrong. The offense is the strength of this team. The pitching rotation has been absolutely abysmal away from Safeco Field, but their overall numbers are significantly aided by the effects of their home park.
As such, the Mariners run the risk of mis-evaluating the talent on hand, eliminating good hitters (Mike Cameron, anyone?) and acquiring or re-signing lousy pitchers (too many to name).
You can still have Safeco be a pitcher’s park without it destroying almost all right-handed hitters. Push the RF fence back, create a bit more foul territory, and for God’s sake, bring in the fences in left-center. The ballpark is putting an undo burden on the front office to find players who can succeed in this park. Even things out, and give them more guys to choose from. Read more ...plus comments

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ten minutes with NBA royalty

First of all, I have to tell you that last night, I was fortunate enough to attend a charity dinner where the guest of honor was the only man to give the city of Seattle a championship, Lenny Wilkens. The deal was that Diane's boss is big into charities with Children's Hospital in Seattle, and donates a lot of time - and money - to the cause. Last year he bid on and ultimately won a charity auction which was to have Lenny Wilkens come to his house for a fully-catered sushi dinner for 14 people. We were lucky enough to attend the dinner, and WOW what a dinner. I like sushi normally, but this stuff was out of this world. The head chef and founder of "Sushi man", a man named Bobby, was there personally to cater it and it was something else.

Anyway, I digress. We walked in and immediately Lenny came up and introduced himself. Let me first say, from the moment you meet him, you understand. The man just oozes class. He also has what one could say is the "athlete's glow". You know what I mean by that? When you see a current or former pro athlete out in the public, and they seem to have something about them that you can't quite put your finger on, other than some sort of glow? It's weird. But Lenny has it. He was very relaxed, engaging, funny, you name it. It was that kind of atmosphere, too, in an unreal home overlooking Lake Washington in Kirkland on one of those fantastic, 75-degree evenings that are postcard nights, nights you don't forget.

First we chatted breifly about the charity. If you weren't aware, he's really big with what's called the Odessa Brown clinic in south Seattle. He has helped out since it opened in the 70's. The clinic is specifically for underprivlidged children where families cannot afford decent health care. And, beyond that, they actually treat the children with DIGNITY and RESPECT, something that Lenny himself said you can't put a price on. Lenny then went on to say how important this charity was to him because he was in these kid's shoes when he was a youngster growing up in Brooklyn. Lenny's father died when he was 5 years old, leaving him to be cared for by his mother, along with his 4 other siblings. Times were VERY tough, and the worst thing of all was that it wasn't always just having food on the table or clothes to wear, they were always ok there. It was the struggle to find acceptable health care. Of course it was a different time back then, when racial segregation was still strong in the US and he said several times, their entire family would be turned away just because they were african-american. And even when they were able to get care, they were not exactly welcomed with open arms or treated well. He always said that if he's ever in position to help, he's going to do something about this and make sure that other families don't have to deal with what he had to deal with. It was a very interesting and eye-opening conversation, as it made me realize how fortunate we are to have our kids fully covered by medical insurance and basically have access to some great health care, yet of course, it's something that I know I've taken for granted.

So, that was about it for the initial conversation, and then dinner was served. After we all ate dinner and had some more saki post-meal, I saw Lenny finishing a conversation with someone, and I said "this is it, now or never" so I made my move. I said to him "so, you getting ready for the season?" and that started it. For the next 10 minutes, we talked pure hoops, and it was amazing. Now being that it was a small charity function, I didn't want to attack him with NBA questions, so I somewhat held back. You know, I didn't want to be "that guy" that just hammers him and he ends up rolling his eyes! But still, I came at him with questions and showed that I knew a little something about the Sonics and NBA in general. Here's some things he had to say that might be of interest:

1) He's still scratching his head over the selection of Sene in the first round. He thought immediately they should have traded down in a "terrible" draft as he put it, and tried to secure a #1 for the 2007 draft, which he has already heard from scouts that it could be one of the best drafts in recent memory. But he also said "the pick is really only worth what someone else will give you", just like one man's junk is another's treasure, and he said that from what he knew, they weren't overwhelmed with big offers. I said "yeah, but the theory is that either Swift or Petro won't be on the team in another two years, and this kid is raw but has tremendous upside, long arms, etc" and he said "yeah, but is drafting a raw project who's barely played and scored 3 points a game in Europe last year worth the #10 pick?" I just kind of shrugged at that. The funniest part was Diane piped up and said "3 points a game?? I could do that!" At which he laughed pretty hard, looked at her and said "you know, you probably could!" Priceless.

2) He's looking forward to being the color guy on the FSN broadcasts. He's going to do 72 games with Kevin Calabro, and he said that's a thrill in itself. He said Calabro is just a warm human being, as you can probably imagine, and that his knowledge of the game is among the best in the NBA in regards to play-by-play voices. He can talk x's and 0's with any coach in the league and more than hold his own. Today's play-by-play guys aren't too knowledgable, they just look, act and talk the part. I'd be surprised how little some of them actually know, he said.

3) He said one of the hard parts about the FSN job is replacing Craig Ehlo. Ehlo loved doing the job, but told Lenny several times that it's 100 times harder than it looks, and that he knew deep down he wasn't very good at it. Ehlo still lives in Spokane, actually, don't know if you were aware of that (I wasn't). He said that Ehlo is one of his most favorite players who ever played for him in his entire career. Just a pure class act and handled himself so well, and was a fantastic presence in the locker room. He of course had him back in Cleveland and also Atlanta. He said a lot of times, he was the true glue that held those Cleveland teams back in the 80's together. We laughed about the new Gatorade commercial that shows Jordan actually missing vs. Cleveland, and how the guy playing Ehlo in that clip celebrates instead of collapsing on the floor in real life. He sighed and said "if ONLY he missed." Pretty funny moment. He said that still to this day kills him, because he thought that Cleveland team had a real chance at a title during their run with Price and Daugherty. What I had forgot about was that Ehlo actually hit the shot the possession before to give the Cavs the lead with 3 seconds left! So it was a double-killer on him. Anyway, the other part to Ehlo is that his wife wants him home with the kids and everything, so he's looking forward to being an at-home father. Quick side-note, Ehlo's wife was actually a student-teacher when I was in 7th grade and she taught my english class. I remember him showing up at school once up from Pullman to see her, and he was just a rock star, the whole school literally fainted!

4) He's concerned about Wilcox and thinks they are in a very dangerous spot with him. He's like everyone else, in that you just don't know what you've got with him. Is he the guy that looks like a possible double-double every night as he looked the last couple of months of the season? Or is he the up-and-down guy he showed the first 3 years of his career? What about a 1-year deal where he's disappointed about not getting a bigger deal? It's dangerous.

5) He's heard good things about Gelabale. Explosive athlete and a lot of potential. Could be ideal backup to Ray or even Rashard at the 3, it remains to be seen. But he still has to click in the exhibition season and really show something. Basically Sund is betting on him to come through based on what they did in the draft. Likes Denham Brown, too, big-time shooting ability.

6) Finally, he's got some high expectations for this year, certainly expecting a playoff spot. He likes Bob Hill and thinks that for this specific group of players, they need someone who will kick their behinds (Nate, Bob Hill) instead of rolling the ball rack out to center court and kicking back with a mai-tai (Bob Weiss). He liked Weiss, and he said that like a lot of NBA teams, the match has to be right or else it'll fail. I asked him about what it's going to be like in regards to the difference between being in the studio and being the color guy, and he said that it'll be easier for him because there isn't a script or a shot sheet of highlight packages to break down. It's easier because it's quicker, it's happening right in front of you and you just break down what you just saw. He said doing the highlights in the studio is actually harder because you rehearse it on the spot, and you can think too much about what to say and you end up stumbling over your words. It's a lot harder than you might think.

The last thing? He PROMISED me that he will be hard on the Sonics and he will criticize them! He said it a couple of times, "I'm employed by FSN, not the Sonics, so I will tell the truth on the air!"

That was about it in regards to hoops. I wanted to ask him about many other things, like what will they do with Rashard, why don't they play defense and why is it that some NBA teams are great at it, yet others are horrible? Is it all coaching, effort, desire, what is it?? But I didn't get the chance.

He talked at length about how much he loves the pacific NW, not just the beauty of the region and all the activities you can do, or the climate, but the people are very philanthropic here moreso than a lot of other areas in the country, and that's always been the case since the 1970's. Even more now though, as wealth has risen up here so has the charity activity and he's always respected that. The one other place he though about was settling in the New England area, as he played at Providence, but he said that the winters were far too harsh compared to Seattle! He said he'll take 40 degress and a little drizzle vs. ZERO degrees and snow for 4+ months in a heartbeat! :)

That's about everything I can remember. Really an amazing guy with what you can tell, a heart of gold in regards to children. Very friendly and approachable, and I hope to meet him again one day. Read more ...plus comments

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mariners - "M" is for Mirage

Sadly, the M's are plummeting back to earth in a major-league free fall. Despite one of the best months in years, in fact the best since 2003, reality is hitting them smack in the face like a frying pan. It's nice to feel good about 14-4 in interleague play, but for the fact that like 8 other AL teams had at least that record, if not BETTER. Is this team the one that won 18 games in June? Or is it more likely the one that went 8 games under .500 vs. the AL?? I think it's pretty obvious what the answer is now that they have just been absolutely embarrassed the last two games vs. the Angels, battering the two best M's pitchers right now in Felix and Meche. I know, I know, the AL west is not good, period, and with only 3 other teams to deal with, the M's are technically in some sort of race. The A's are really struggling to make that patented run that they always make starting right about now, the Rangers are already starting to struggle with consistency and injuries and, worst of all for them, August and 105-degree heat is staring them in the face.

The team to really worry about is the Angels, and it's not just because of the last couple of games. They seem to have survived playing their worst, and now they are looking like a team that could go on a major hot streak. They've survived the Colon injury, they've dumped the horrible Jeff Weaver and promoted his fantastic brother, and now their bats are starting to get untracked. We know what Vlad is capable of, just able to carry a team for weeks at a time in a way that Junior or A-Rod could do back in the day.

Maybe that's what the M's are really missing after all. Maybe they are just void of that SUPERSTAR of superstars, the guy that can take over a game. I know, Ichiro is fabulous, but he's a singles hitter in reality, he's got some pop here and there but for the most part, it's slash-n-dash. He's too dependent on others to drive him in, so even when he gets 4 hits in a ballgame, he still doesn't have that "carry us home" ability.

It's really too bad, because I was ready to get excited about a push for the playoffs and was starting to be full of Mariner optimism. June was fun, but I'm realizing all too well that it was just a hot run vs. a BAD group of teams, period.

That said, I think 2007 is shaping up as a real promising one. They have some real young talent that has a bright future (Lopez and Betancourt up the middle, Choo and Snelling in the OF, Adam Jones is coming sooner rather than later and Jeff Clement is going to make an impact when his time comes. ALL those guys are 24 or younger!). I don't know what they'll do with the rotation, as Pineiro has pitched his way off the team and out of their plans (I still read "whispers" here and there that he was a 'roider, and once MLB began testing, his velocity dropped from 94-95 to 88-90, max. Hmm, you don't usually see a sudden drop in MPH like that, just by accident). We know Felix will be around and in his 3rd year, hopefully a lot more consistent. Washburn will be good for 200 IP and 10-12 wins. They'll have a couple of slots to fill, though, maybe Jason Schmidt, maybe someone from AAA. And I LOVE the bullpen! Soriano and Sherill setting up for Putz?? It doesn't get much better, certainly in the division at least. Read more ...plus comments

Monday, July 03, 2006

Premium content free through 7/4; Saer Sene - can't coach 7'9"

Cougfan's premium stuff is free through 7/4. Read it while you can! Some decent articles, but still, I find that I'm pretty sure I still don't want to drop $80 a year on this stuff.

Finally, the Sonics are being ripped sideways for not drafting Rodney Carney or JJ Redick, instead taking a 7-foot project for the 3rd straight year. My gut was BOOOOOOO at first, but then I thought about the front office and what they are saying, and it makes some sense. Either Swift or Petro are not going to pan out, OR one of them will turn into a real player that will demand max money on the open market. Meanwhile this 7-foot monster with a 7-9 wingspan, measured at the largest wingspan in the history of the NBA for that matter, drops into their lap. Many fans to talk shows and letters to the editor just destroyed the Sonics for a pick like this when players they actually recognized were still there, but the reality is Sene wasn't going to fall past 13 or 14 anyway. Plus, Gelabale will be on the Sonics this year and the buzz is great that he can really play D on the perimeter, is very athletic at 6-5 and is ready to roll.

I started to snoop around on Sene a little, see if there was more out there on him than what ESPN's lousy coverage showed. And then, it happened. I found this 8+ minute clip on Sene on Youtube.com. The thing to remember on this, is that this kid has ONLY PLAYED 2 YEARS and he's already able to do things like this. The highlights are just that, highlights, and I'm sure there are plenty of low moments as well with this kid, but to think that what he's already able to do is only on athleticism and instincts?? I can understand fully now why they took him.

Check it out. There are some blocks that are just tremendous, including one at a little over 2 minutes I believe where the ball is above the box on the backboard and he still blocks it! Imagine what he'll be able to do working out with Sikma, a real NBA bigs coach. Imagine how he'll look with a couple of years of proper nutrition and a pro strength program. If he's already where he's at with just athleticism and instincts, already doing things you can't teach, imagine what he could turn out to be?? Maybe I'm just clueless and this guy will be the biggest bust of all-time, and we'll lament that JJ Redick became the next Jeff Hornacek, but I can see why NBA teams were so turned on to him all of a sudden (and by the way, not hating on Duke, but really quick, name the last time JJ Redick actually played well in a big game? The only thing I'll ever remember about him was that he repeatedly laid an egg in NCAA tournament competition. Maybe I'm being too hard on him, but I think there is a good reason 10 teams passed on him in the draft, and if Orlando didn't take him, he might have really fallen.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6Ho_dsWHvk Read more ...plus comments