Wednesday, August 4, 2010 @ 8:32am
The Arizona Cardinals biggest concerns in training camp are the lack
of depth at inside linebacker and cornerback, two areas that may be
addressed with veteran players that are cut from other teams.
Arizona tried to sign Keith Bullock to man the inside linebacker spot
vacated by Karlos Dansby's departure to Miami. But Bullock signed with the
New York Giants. With Gerald Hayes' back injury expected to keep him out
a few weeks, Arizona has Paris Lenon, a 9th year player, and Monty Beisel,
a 10-year vet currently starting at the two inside linebacker spots.
Reggie Walker a second-year player out of Kansas State and rookie Daryl
Washington from TCU are the backups.
At cornerback Coach Ken Whisenhunt would like to see Greg Toler earn the
starting spot across from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but he will have
to beat out Trumaine McBride in camp for that honor. The backups are
Michael Adams and Justin Miller. General Manager Rod Graves will be active
in scouring the wires when cuts begin to see if any talent slips through the
cracks enabling Arizona to find a veteran corner that could challenge for
Another area to look at in camp will be pass rush. Arizona brought vetean
sack master Joey Porter in and are expecting him to be an everydown
outside linebacker. They also like the veteran Clark Haggans. The jury is
still out on Will Davis and Cody Brown, the backups. Brown was a second-
round pick last season but missed the entire year due to injury. Brown is
making the transition from defensive end to linebacker inthe 3-4 system
so all eyes will be on him and how he progresses during camp and how
quickly he can pick things up.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010 @ 12:18pm
It's early in camp but my first indications are that the Arizona offense
with Matt Leinart will be one which takes what the defense gives.
was a lot of thought that the Cardinals would go from a predominantly
passing oriented team to a ground it out attack focusing mainly on the
run. But that may not be the case. Arizona will run more, especially when
you consider how well Beanie Wells played at the end of last season.
who missed last year's OTA's after being drafted out of Ohio State and then
had the high ankle sprain in the first practice which set him back, could
have a huge season behind what appears to be the Cardinals best offensive
line in years. Running the ball will take pressure off of Leinart, but if
defenses decide to pack the box and stop the run the Cardinals will open
up the aerial attack. So the offense may change week to week depending
on what opposing defenses game plan will be. In the passing attack look
for Steve Breaston to be the deep threat as the Cardinals believe he can
stretch the field.
What you won't see is a lot of four wide receiver sets like the Cardinals
liked to run with Warner. The Cardinals will focus mainly on 3-wide
receiver sets, two tight end formations with Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick
and Arizona really likes fullback Nehemiah Broughton, whom they signed
last year for the playoffs off the Giants practice squad. Broughton could
really ignite the running game.
So look for the Cardinals to put more emphasis on the run this year, but to
let Leinart loose when teams decide to put eight in the box.
Friday, July 30, 2010 @ 3:08pm
The Diamondbacks traded Edwin Jackson Friday to the Chicago White Sox for two pitching prospects: right-hander Daniel Hudson and left-hander David Holmberg. Both Hudson and Holmberg were rated among the top 10 prospects in the White Sox organization.
That Arizona traded Jackson is no surprise; that they got two solid prospects back for him and don't have to pay any of his remaining salary is. Jackson was a major disappointment for the D-backs this year and is on the books for $8.3 million next season. He is nothing more than a dime a dozen pitcher. He is 6-10 with an ERA of 5.16. Not very good. There is a reason that Jackson is on his fifth team already in his brief major league career, and that is because nobody thinks enough of him to want to keep him. Jackson is easily replaceable, which Hudson will do for the remainder of the season.
Going forward the Diamondbacks rotation for the rest of this year and possibly next year will look like this: Joe Saunders, Ian Kennedy, Rodrigo Lopez, Daniel Hudson and Barry Enright. In the system they will have Tyler Skaggs, Jarrod Parker, David Holmberg and Patrick Corbin. Skaggs, Holmberg and Corbin are all left-handed. Clearly the D-backs are rebuilding, but they have added quality pitching and depth to their system while moving $21 plus million in salary in the last week. These are things you need to do when you are on pace for 100 losses.
When you factor in the loss of salary from Haren, Jackson, Eric Byrnes, Conor Jackson, Brandon Webb and Bob Howry and add in the increases of $21 million being doled out to players currently on the team for next year's payroll, the D-backs will have roughly $54 million committed to the 2011 salary. Arizona expects to have a payroll of around $65 million next season, so barring any other moves they will have approximately $10 million to spend on a closer and some other pieces. Octavio Dotel could be an option at closer for next season with some of that money.
The D-backs also are actively trying to move Chad Qualls and Chris Snyder. Qualls has drawn some interest from Colorado and the New York Yankees, Snyder from Pittsburgh and Toronto. So, even with two big moves already in the books, the D-backs may not be done yet.
Monday, July 26, 2010 @ 8:36am
So a last place team trades a guy with a 7-8 record and 4.60 ERA and who is on the books for $25 million over the next two years and some fans and national media can't understand it.
Before we dissect the Diamondbacks trade of Dan Haren to the Angels for Joe Saunders and three prospects lets first realize that Arizona needed to trade Haren. They are in last place with him and they certainly can remain in last place without him. He is a good but not great pitcher who makes a lot of money. He leads the league in home runs allowed, hits allowed and Arizona has won just one of his last seven starts. And let's not forget he usually struggles in the second half of the season. To his credit he is a workhorse, leads the league in strikeouts and those type of pitchers don't grow on trees. But this isn't like the Mets trading Tom Seaver or Seattle trading Randy Johnson so let's not make Haren out to be something he is not.
To understand why the Diamondbacks are trading Haren look no further than how disproportionate the Diamondbacks payroll is. Take a look at how much money, or in this case how little money, they have invested in their bullpen. Then take a look at how little they have invested in their bench. This is about reallocating funds as well as replenishing a minor-league system that needs some major replenishing. Don't get me wrong, I like Haren, but this team isn't close to winning right now and he doesn't fill the seats when he pitches.
Now, the Diamondbacks may not admit this but they are finally putting a plan in place to be competitive for the future -- which could be in as little as two years. And let's be honest, Haren is the one player on the team that could command a 4-for-1 type of deal. So he was the one to go. Because trading him helps the team stockpile young talent more than any other player on the roster and it allows them to use some of the savings from his contract and put it towards a closer. For those of you Diamondback fans that have forgotten because its been so long since you have seen one for the home team, a closer is someone who comes into the game usually in the 9th inning with a lead and preserves the lead by getting the three outs necessary to end the game -- something Chad Qualls proved incapable of doing this year.
Now what fans need to understand about this trade from a player perspective is that it is not about getting left-hander Joe Saunders or Triple A reliever Rafael Rodriguez or Class A starter Patrick Corbin as much as it is about getting the player to be named later. You see the best player in this deal coming from the Angels, the one with the most upside, is the player to be named later -- Tyler Skaggs. Only 19, Skaggs is a legit top prospect.
A 19-year old who is the real deal. A tall left-hander who could end up being a Jon Lester type, although he doesn't have Lester's velocity at this point but again he is only 19. The Diamondbacks loved him in last year's draft and if the high school third baseman Matthew Davidson wasn't on the board when Arizona picked in the first round they would have chosen Skaggs, who went to the Angels with the pick before them. So to get a pitcher who from the scouts I spoke with Sunday say has the stuff to project out as a #2 starter is a major plus for Arizona.
Let's take it a step further -- Skaggs is now the #1 pitching prospect in the Diamondbacks farm system and Corbin is probably fourth behind Skaggs, Jarrod Parker and Eric Smith. Skaggs can't be announced yet because Major League Baseball rules say that a player can not be traded for the first year of his first contract, so he won't officially become Diamondback property until sometime in August.
Corbin is also left-handed, tall, lanky and projects out as a #4 starter. He is just 21-years-old so there is room to grow and he has had success this season for Rancho Cucamonga in his 11 starts. Rodriguez is a dime a dozen guy which most middle relievers are, so don't get too excited about him. He is right-handed, has decent stuff and is close to major league ready compiling a 5-3 record with a 3.04 ERA in Triple A. As the fourth player in the deal it's not a bad get to get another bullpen arm.
As for Saunders he is under the Diamondbacks control for the next two years being arbitration eligible in each of those years, so I expect he will make around $13 or $14 million over those two years or if you want to look at it another way they will get two years of Saunders for what it would cost them for one year of Haren. He is also left-handed and has had success, winning 17 games in 2008 and 16 in 2009 before slipping this year where he sports a 6-10 record and 4.62 ERA.
Now Saunders isn't an ace and the D-backs certainly don't have a top of the rotation guy. But Haren wasn't stopping losing streaks either this year, let's not forget that.
With Saunders, Ian Kennedy, Edwin Jackson, Barry Enright and Rodrigo Lopez, whom I expect the D-backs to try and re-sign, Arizona has some depth at starting pitching but clearly lacks the dominant starter. There are two ways to rebuild -- one is to remake the roster in hopes of competing right away, the potential trade with the Yankees which would have brought Major-League ready minor league pitchers Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister would have addressed that or you can stockpile young talent and put a two to three year plan in place, which is the direction it appears Arizona is going and if we are honest with ourselves is the right direction to go.
And if more trades are made in the next week they should be made with that same eye on the future getting prospects and clearing salary. When Haren got here in 2007 we all thought the D-backs 1-2 combination of Brandon Webb and Haren would lead Arizona back to the World Series. Instead it ended up being the Phoenix Suns version of the back court in 2000.
Diamondback Notes --
At this point I think it is very very safe to say that Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds will NOT be traded this season. Arizona has focused on moving Kelly Johnson, Adam LaRoche, Chad Qualls and Chris Snyder. If they get a good offer for Edwin Jackson he could be gone as well. But chances are they will only move one or two of those players. Qualls has drawn some interest and could end up in Colorado. Johnson should be getting more play than he is because he is under the control for another season after this year, Philadelphia could be a landing spot for him. Arizona may have to wait to see where Adam Dunn lands before they get any legitimate offers for LaRoche. Snyder is going to prove difficult to trade.
Sunday, July 11, 2010 @ 11:22pm
It didn't take the Phoenix Suns long to respond to losing Amare Stoudemire to the New York Knicks.
Last week they inked free-agent power forward Hakeem Warrick to a three-year deal. And then Sunday night they used part of the trade exception they acquired from the Knicks in the Stoudemire deal to bring in small forward Josh Childress, who played in Greece last year but was property of Atlanta, and they acquired versatile power forward Hedo Turkoglu from the Toronto Raptors in a trade for Leandro Barbosa.
The Suns have been busy this off-season, remaking a roster that just lost a five-time All-Star in Stoudemire and trying to stay competitive in the Western Conference.
While Suns owner Robert Sarver will never be known as cheap, as he continues to spend money on his roster, there is always the debate as to how the Suns spend their money.
This off-season the Suns have given Warrick $12 million, Channing Frye $30 million, Childress $33.5 million and took in the contract of Turkoglu, which has almost $44 million remaining on it.
Let's start with the Childress deal. Childress is a hustler. He is long, athletic, can finish around the rim, is a good offensive rebounder and is a good defender.
Consider him a poor man's Shawn Marion. He won't help in spacing the floor and he is not a good shooter, he is more of a slasher/cutter. He was not a primary player in Greece, only averaging nine points a game. He will be a good fit on the Suns bench likely backing up Turkoglu.
Sure $33.5 million is crazy money for a bench guy but that is the going rate these days, just look at some of the contracts being doled out this year to guys like Amir Johnson, Drew Gooden and Johan Petro, among others.
Childress will help Phoenix and make an already strong bench even stronger, but he did not come cheap.
Turkoglu is the key acquisition for Phoenix this season and could be the difference between a good year and a mediocre one. When he is right like he was for Orlando against Cleveland in the playoffs two years ago, he is awfully good. He is a complete player. A good passer, shooter, defender, has a high basketball IQ and has the moxy necessary to take the last shot.
The problem with Turkoglu is that he is not always right. After the 2008 playoffs Toronto won a bidding war over Portland for his services. They have been trying to dump his salary ever since. Kind of like how Phoenix has been attempting to dump Barbosa's salary -- so this is really a trade of two players who weren't wanted by their current teams.
Turkoglu is a lot more talented than Barbosa and it's now the Suns' responsibility to get him and keep him right. He is old, 31, with a lot of wear and tear on his body and coming off a down year where he averaged 11.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Turkoglu wanted out of Toronto and will benefit from playing in the Suns up-tempo system and because of that he could have a big bounce back year. He will be the starter at power forward and the player that replaces Stoudemire with Warrick now backing him up.
Had Phoenix done nothing more that replace Stoudemire with Warrick and added a couple of veteran minimum role players, next season would have been a disaster. And while adding Warrick, Turkoglu and Childress is still not likely to get them back to the Western Conference Finals it should assure them of a successful season culminating in a playoff berth and it will at least make things interesting.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010 @ 9:43am
OK, I thought the Diamondbacks would have at least an initial reaction to a managerial change and play well for a week or 10 days before reverting back to what they really are. But all we needed was four games to figure out that firing A.J. Hinch wasn't the answer.
Just as firing Bob Melvin wasn't the answer. And when the season is over firing Kirk Gibson is not the answer. You see, no manager can turn chicken scratch into chicken #$$%.
Well, you get the point. This mess the D-backs are in has nothing to do with managing, it has to do with not having the right mix of players. Yes, on paper the D-backs have some talent, not enough, but some. But the real problem lies in the makeup of this team and unless the team changes the results aren't going to. We found that out in the last three days since Gibson took over as manager.
Gibson has lost 3 of 4. His team committed six errors in one baseball game. His team struck out at least 12 times in the last three games, including 16 in one game and a total of 40 in those games. His bullpen has given up at least one run in each of his four games and a total of nine runs in those games. The more things change the more they stay the same.
If you want to find blame for the D-backs struggles this season -- 100 losses is a very real possibility, you have to blame the people who put the team together and mainly Josh Byrnes.
Now Byrnes had some payroll limitations with deferred salary, but he put himself in a mess by signing players to long-term contracts after they had just one good season -- see Eric Byrnes, Chris Snyder, Chris Young, Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds. There was no reason to lock any of these players up long term, especially when you hold a players rights for six years. You have to let these players earn their first big contract and by earning it I mean performing for not just one year but for three or four years in a row. So you may have to pay a little or a lot more in arbitration or when its time to do a long-term contract, but at least you know if the players are worth it by then. So that was mistake number one.
Mistake number two is not having any pitching depth. Things got so bad this year the D-backs had to trade Conor Jackson to Oakland for a minor-league reliever who is now their best reliever.
And when they needed to find a starter for Wednesday in place of Edwin Jackson they had to go to Double A because they didn't have anyone good enough in Triple A.
Mistake number three was not putting any resources into the bullpen. Byrnes always felt the bullpen was where he could get away with going cheap, which is why Jose Valverde is gone as are all the relievers who had success under Melvin, like Juan Cruz, Tony Pena and Brandon Lyon.
The D-backs bullpen is the worst in the history of baseball and the main culprit in why this season has been so bad.
When I say the makeup of the team I also mean how the team was constructed. The D-backs have too many high strikeout guys, they lead the major leagues with 773 and have 100 more then their closest competitor. You can't win baseball games when you don't have guys that put the bat on the ball. You can have one high strikeout guy, but you can't have four. You miss on opportunities to move a runner over, get a sacrifice fly and put pressure on a defense. Besides who wants to hit and run when you can't hit. The D-backs are limited with what they can do on the base paths because they strikeout too much.
So in closing, the team has to have a game plan and I'm not sure they do right now. The organization may like Reynolds but him and Upton can't be on the same team, not when they are 1-2 in all of baseball in strikeouts and are supposed to be middle of the lineup guys. And especially when you consider Chris Young, Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche are high strikeout guys. And how can you go half the season without a left-hander in the bullpen, that is absurd.
Firing the manager was a knee-jerk reaction to a bad season, and yes, sometimes you have to make changes for the sake of making changes I understand that. But Connie Mack couldn't lead this team to many victories the way it is constructed. It is time to blow this thing up and I suggest using the Grade A dynamite. Because in the end it's the players who have put this organization in the position they are in. Byrnes is gone and he was the architect of this disaster and I have no problem with his firing, it was justified. But Ken Kendrick the owner is paying three managers right now for all the wrong reasons. So memo to the D-backs brass -- have a plan and then execute it. Better bullpen, more veteran leaders for the young guys, no more long-term contracts to players who have one good year and for goodness sake get rid of some of the guys who can't put the ball in play because they are killing you.
Friday, June 11, 2010 @ 9:05am
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in last place - 12 ˝ games out of first place and 13 games under .500 - and everyone from the owner to the fans want answers.
First though, before we solve the problems - which are many - we have to figure out what the questions are.
So I'll start this off with some of the major questions that need to be addressed.
First and foremost, who is to blame for this season getting away from the team so quickly?
That answer is simple - everyone!
From the owner to the general manager to the manager to the coaches to the players everyone is to blame. Not one person in particular, but everyone needs to shoulder some of the blame for this season never getting on track.
1) Ken Kendrick is the owner and has the final say on every major contract so he needs to take the blame for ultimately agreeing to pay Eric Byrnes $30 million dollars and having $11 million in wasted money on him this year while still paying $16 million in deferred money from the Jerry Colangelo era. Factor in the $8 million so far wasted on Brandon Webb plus the $2 plus million they wasted on Bobby Howry and this team has a mind boggling $37 million dollars this season going to players who aren't even playing for them right now.
2) General Manager Josh Byrnes needs to take the blame for an organizational philosophy that has allowed so many players to be rewarded with big contracts after one good year - see Byrnes, Chris Young, Chris Snyder, Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton. In a sport where players are under your control for at least five years a team doesn't need to throw out big money to players after just one good season - they should have to prove themselves for a few years before earning that right. The current philosophy has given players a sense of entitlement that they shouldn't have and taken away the hunger and desire they should have at a young age. Not spending money wisely on the bullpen has also been a huge mistake that has cost the team dearly.
3) Manager A.J. Hinch and the coaching staff can easily say that you can only play the hand your dealt. But it is ultimately the responsibility of the manager to win games and of his coaching staff to develop players. Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds are two key pieces for the Diamondbacks and they are not playing well this year. Upton is looking at too many called third strikes, Reynolds has done nothing to cut down on his strikeouts. The Diamondbacks strike out too many times on offense and their pitchers walk too many hitters. Not a good combination. I understand Hinch wants to protect his players but in all honesty enough of the babying of these guys - if they aren't getting the job done find someone else who will or who will at least give a better effort.
4) The players - ultimately it is their responsibility to play the game the right way, play with heart and passion and get the job done. They have failed miserably and most of the blame needs to fall on them. The bullpen is the worst I have ever seen in my lifetime and the major culprit of a season gone wrong. Too many of them that have taken the mound this year -- see Boyer, Rivera, Gutierrez, Valdez, Rosa, Stange and Mulvey -- aren't good enough to pitch in the major leagues. Bottom line, end of story. They just aren't good enough, so let's face facts and deal with it accordingly.
Chad Qualls is the worst closer in baseball and the next time he takes the blame for one of his miserable outings will be the first. I've never heard a guy make more excuses for failing then Qualls.
Yes, Chad it was a ground ball, but it was hit like a rocket right into left field for a two-run single. It doesn't matter that you got him to hit it on the ground because he hit it where they weren't. Stop making excuses and learn a lesson from your new teammate Dontrelle Willis - when you suck just say you suck.
Reynolds is hitting a pathetic .212 but the good news is that he doesn't lead the major league in strikeouts with his 81. He is second. The bad news is that Upton leads with 83 and fresh off his new contract J-Up is batting a whopping .246.
Conor Jackson is hitting .246 as well and Chris Snyder has become the easiest out on the team with a .205 average and appears to have no approach to any of his at bats.
So yes, each and every one of those players mentioned and a few more need to look themselves in the mirror and take the blame for failing to do their job.
Now the million dollar question - can it be fixed, do changes need to be made, should someone lose their job?
Let's start with the latter. No the manager shouldn't be fired. The team didn't need to fire Bob Melvin last year and they don't need to fire Hinch this year. Notice I say this year.
Same goes for Byrnes. Clearly we can question the way this team was built. You can't have six guys in the top 28 in strikeouts in the National League. They don't have enough contact hitters; they lack gritty players who battle each and every at bat.
It's too late for this group - too many of them are spoiled from the big contracts at the young age therefore they aren't tough enough from having had to earn their job each and every year.
So changes need to be made.
I would give Byrnes the opportunity to do an overhaul of the team; despite the current situation he has made some good moves over the years. I would give Hinch a chance to coach the overhauled team, his lack of managerial experience has nothing to do with the team being in last place.
Joe Torre and Bobby Cox could co-manage this team and they still would be in last place. Let's see how a new look Diamondbacks team performs after the trade deadline. Let's see how they perform in spring training and let's see what kind of start they get off to next year. And if for some reason we are in a similar spot again next year at this time, then by all means bring down the hammer.
So this is no time for anyone in management to preach patience - you have lost the right to ask for that.
Moves need to be made to make this team competitive for next season, not 2012. Trades need to be made for players who are either major league ready now or will be next season, not three years from now. Byrnes' $11 million comes off the books after this season so does Webb's $8.5 and Howry's $2 million.
And next year is the last year of paying out what will end up being a whopping 250 million that Colangelo deferred from the good old days. So management please change the roster now and in the off-season and be ready to compete in 2011. And if you aren't competing next year then start looking for a new job.
Monday, May 31, 2010 @ 7:03pm
Now that the Phoenix Suns season is over, it's time for Arizona sports fans to turn their attention to baseball and the Arizona Diamondbacks. And once you do, you will find out that things aren't going so well for the boys in Sedona Red.
First off, they have lost seven games in a row. They are in last place in the NL West with a 20-31 record and are a full 9 games out of first place. Only the Houston Astros have a worse record in the National League.
It is safe to say with just about a third of the season gone that this is not going to be the D-backs' year. They are not a playoff team and therefore need to start making decisions for the future of the organization.
And there is no better time to start then now, so I give you the top five issues at stake for the Diamondbacks.
1) Chad Qualls is not a closer. He had his fourth blown save Sunday, and for a team struggling to find wins this is unacceptable. His ERA is a pathetic 7.64 as he has given up 31 hits and six walks along with 15 runs in 17 2/3 innings. In the last 3 years Qualls has 43 saves and 17 blown saves.
The bottom line is that he should not be closing games; he is better suited to be a setup guy.
2) Sometimes it's as simple as the guys aren't good enough. And that is the case in the bullpen right now. Juan Gutierrez (10.00 ERA and nine home runs allowed in 18 innings), Saul Rivera (ERA of 22.09) and Cesar Valdez (ERA of 6.32) are not good enough to play major league baseball, and the jury is out on Esmerling Vasquez (ERA of 5.06). I haven't seen enough of Carlos Rosa to make a determination about him yet.
The team has already released veteran Bobby Howry and sent Blaine Boyer and Daniel Stange down to the minors after poor performances. Only Aaron Heilman in the bullpen has been steady. One guy is not good enough.
This is the worst bullpen in baseball by far and this area needs a complete overhaul between now and spring training 2011.
3) Billy Buckner is not a major league starter. I'm really not sure why he is still in the organization, but he is. I saw enough of him in 13 starts last year to realize he can't pitch at this level as he went 4-6 with a 6.40 ERA. Due to injuries he has gotten another chance this year, and I'm not at all surprised he has flopped again. Buckner is 0-3 with an ERA of 11.08 and has given up a mind boggling 26 hits and 16 runs in 13 innings.
I know the cupboards are bare in the high minors for pitching right now, but this guy can't pitch and needs to go find a real job somewhere. So please, Arizona, put him out of his misery and spare the D-backs fans from ever having to see him start a game again.
4) Conor Jackson is back this year. So what. Jackson has played surprisingly well in left field but he lacks any power. He has no home runs in 113 at bats and is hitting just .221. Jackson has batted .291, .284 and .300 in past seasons but his lack of power for a corner outfield spot -- just 45 home runs in 1,737 at bats-- should be an issue.
This is a big year for Jackson because if he doesn't get things going and soon, he could end up being a fourth outfielder for the rest of his career.
5) Trade deadline. Arizona has talent, lots of good young talent. But they don't have enough starting pitching or relief pitching and have too many high strikeout guys (5 players amongst top 25 in strikeouts including the top 2, Reynolds and Upton).
Upton is untouchable. In my opinion, he is the only true untouchable and that includes Dan Haren. While it's nice to have an ace, it would be wise to see what Haren could fetch on the open market. If there is a package that includes various young star pitching prospects, it might be worth trading him for the future. What might hurt is that Haren is not having a good year (5-4 with a 5.35 ERA) and there could be a lot of quality starting pitching available (Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Ben Sheets to name a few).
His salary for the next three years is $8.25M, $12.75M and 12.75M. So for $33.75 million over the next three years, he is reasonably priced. Haren should be available, but only for a home run deal.
Arizona should listen to offers for anyone and everyone outside of Upton and see if some team in the hunt wants to overpay for one of their everyday players.
In closing, it's really quite a shame that things have gone so wrong this year. A lot of it can be tied to Brandon Webb's inability to come back from shoulder surgery --something the D-backs were banking on.
Arizona made five major off-season moves and only one of them flopped -- the signing of Bobby Howry. The signings of Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche have been good quality moves. The trade for Aaron Heilman was a solid move. The trade of Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth for Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson has been a wash so far and only time will tell on that one.
There are still over 100 games to be played, and anything can happen in a long season, but based on what I have seen thus far I would address those five issues first in getting this ballclub turned around.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010 @ 8:52am
Memo to myself -- it is not over until the fat lady sings or in this case until the Lakers figure out how to beat a zone defense.
What a difference a week makes.
Last week I had written the Phoenix Suns off for dead after two embarrassing losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, in which the defending NBA champions shot 59% from the field, got mammoth performances from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, plus a huge Game 1 from Lamar Odom and a solid Game 2 from Jordan Farmar.
The Suns had no answers for the Lakers length, no ability to slow down their high powered offense and the Suns' two stars Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash were held in check.
Stoudemire was held in check so much that after a total of nine rebounds in the first two games the criticism was raining down on him from coast to coast.
The question at the time wasn't if the Lakers were going to reach the NBA Finals it was how soon would they polish off Phoenix. Would it be a sweep or would the Suns get a game and go down in five.
The thought of Phoenix winning four of the next five games against the Lakers seemed like a pipe dream. And Phil Jackson had been a remarkable 46-0 when leading a series 2-0 in his career.
So excuse me if I thought the series was over because it sure seemed that way.
Now, all bets are off.
The Suns responded at home, tied this series and, turned it into a Best of three. They have also caused panic in Los Angeles, put the halts on the Celtics-Lakers talk for the time being and climbed within two victories of reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since Charles Barkley could see his toes.
The Suns played so well in these last two games that the sound you are hearing are the brakes being put on the bandwagon because it needs to slow down so all the fans and myself can hop back on.
But before we get ahead of ourselves let's remember one thing -- the Suns are going to have to win in Los Angeles to win this series and thus far the road teams have played four awful games. Phoenix was bad in the first two games and the Lakers were not very good in the last two games.
Maybe, just maybe, this zone defense that is forcing the Lakers to hoist up long-range bomb after long-range bomb, another 28 three-pointers attempted Tuesday night after 32 were jacked up Sunday, could be the difference in the series.
Maybe the awakening of the Phoenix bench which scored 54 points and dominated Game 4 could swing the pendulum in Phoenix's direction.
Maybe there really is something special about this group of players who didn't even make the playoffs last season.
Or maybe destiny is on their side.
There is still two more big wins to get and it won't be easy. But we learned a valuable lesson about this team in the last three days -- do not count them out because they certainly never counted themselves out when everyone else did.
Monday, May 24, 2010 @ 12:24am
This is the NBA. You win and lose behind your star players. Not your
bench, not your role players.
So taking nothing away from how valuable
Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson, Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic
and Grant Hill have been for the Phoenix Suns this season, when push
comes to shove this team will go as far as Steve Nash and Amare
Stoudemire can take them. And Sunday night the Suns' dynamic duo was
bit as good as the Lakers dynamic duo of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
will always be x factors in any one game and last night it was Robin Lopez
and his 20 points for the Suns. But Phoenix got Game 3 because
Stoudemire was unstoppable scoring 42 points and grabbing 11 rebounds
and Nash was brilliant with 17 points, 15 assists and just one turnover.
That Stoudemire had such a dominant game after all the criticism he came
under for his subpar performances in the first two games is a great sign.
Stoudemire answered the critics, he responded to the criticism and he
played with the energy, passion and heart that was necessary for Phoenix
to have come away with a victory. Plain and simple Stoudemire was
special. The Suns got him the ball on the elbow and in isolation and not
only was he hitting his jump shot he was blowing by Gasol and scoring at
the basket or getting to the free throw line.
The Suns played bigger with
Lopez getting 30 minutes and the bigger lineup favors Stoudemire
defensively. He is not a center in this league and he was exposed
defensively in Game 2 because the Suns went small with him at center and
Grant Hill at power forward. That lineup works offensively but is atrocious
defensively. Sunday the zone defense and bigger lineup forced the Lakers
to jack up shots from outside (32 three-pointers taken) and that took
some pressure of Stoudemire.
Stoudemire played the final two-and-a-half months of the season with a
his shoulder and he carried this team to the three seed tallying 13 30-point
games and 16 double-digit rebound games in that time. He again played
with a chip on his shoulder in Game 3 and took his frustrations out on the
Stoudemire is an enigma. I don't remember a player who forces you
to change your opinion of him on a regular basis as much as STAT does.
One day you love him the next you don't. One day you want the Suns to
re-sign him, the next you don't. One day you believe he is worth the max,
the next you hope he walks. He is equal part frustration and elation. We
celebrate his greatness but harp on his weaknesses.
Just where the Suns first-round pick from 2002 plays next year is
anyone's guess. While Stoudemire is a very good player in this league he is
not a true superstar and therefore it is debatable as to whether he is a max
player or not. But asking whether or not he is a max player is not the
question here. All it takes is one team in free agency to believe he is
worthy of a five-year max contract and then he is a max player. The
is do any of the teams with cap space want to use it on STAT?
for the Suns is there are quite a few teams with cap space and coming
from big markets that want to spend. Miami wants to appease Dwyane
Wade and make sure he re-signs with the Heat. Getting Stoudemire should
allow Pat Riley to accomplish that. New Jersey has a new billionaire owner
who wants to make a splash and they are moving to Brooklyn in a couple
of years. The New York Knicks have no problem spending money and can
two max players and if they don't get James are going to want someone.
Chicago would like Wade but if he stayed in Miami and the Heat added
Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer, maybe the Bulls go after Stoudemire.
The Suns would like to keep Stoudemire but on their terms, which is for
four total years. Phoenix could be reluctant to go any longer on a deal
because of Stoudemire's had microfracture surgery on his knee and there
could and should be questions as to whether he can hold up until his mid -
30's. The Suns could look at second max contracts for Tracy McGrady and
Jermaine O'Neill to see examples of where second max deals backfired. But
in Stoudemire's case -- four years is not as good as five and certainly not
as good as six so what is likely to happen is that he will test the free agent
market, see what's out there and then come back to Phoenix and say either
match it or do a sign and trade. A sign and trade doesn't bring back value
but it brings back something either in players, draft picks and sometimes
trade exceptions and it is a heck of a lot better than losing him for nothing
and future cap space. If the Suns lose Stoudemire it's not like they have
that 17 plus million to go spend, the would be roughly four to five million
the cap this year if he left. If the Suns lose him for nothing they will take a
major step backwards for the next few years and have to re-do the
franchise beginning a rebuilding process that is inevitable anyway with the
age of Steve Nash and Grant Hill.
What Stoudemire has to realize is that he is not the only player who has
received criticism for poor play in the playoffs. LeBron James, Joe Johnson
and now Dwight Howard have all felt the wrath of the fans and media for
playoff struggles. This is a what have you done for me lately sports world
so it may be in STAT's best interest to make sure his last game is a good
one because it very well may dictate the pulse of the Suns fan and maybe
even the organization.
Thursday, May 20, 2010 @ 12:06am
It was a great season and I emphasize great! No one expected the Phoenix Suns to get this far after not even making the playoffs last season. It was a fun run, a good team, one we will remember fondly. But this series is over and you and I both know it.
The Suns just won't be capable of beating the Los Angeles Lakers in four of the next five games and especially with the way the Lakers are playing.
The Suns just have no answers and its not that you can make all these adjustments and all of a sudden figure the Lakers out. The defending champs are unstoppable right now and are manhandling Phoenix.
As I said on the radio many many times the time to get LA was early in the playoffs. Oklahoma City had the best chance to knock off the Lakers because LA had been reeling losing seven of their final 11 games entering the playoffs, Andrew Bynum had been out of the lineup missing the final 13 games with a strained achilles tendon and Kobe Bryant was nursing injuries to his knee and finger. The longer the Lakers hung around the better they were going to get and we are witnessing that right now with them having won their last 8 games.
The Suns will play to get back in this series, they will take it one game at a time and try to win Game 3 and they very well could do that. Heck maybe they can win two games and make this respectable or they could lose Game 3 and bow out in 4 -- this is the season of sweeps you know.
You have to wonder if the biggest loser in this series won't just be the Suns as a team but Amare Stoudemire as an individual. Stoudemire has been exposed in this series and despite a remarkable near 3 month stretch of domination has yet to dominate any of the 12 playoff games thus far. Stoudemire ,who had 13 30-point games from January 28th to the end of the regular season, hasn't put in 30 in a single playoff game. And for all the good he did in tallying 16 dougle-digit rebounding games during that same stretch, has gone for 10 or more rebounds just twice in the playoffs and five times has gone for 5 or less rebounds. He is averaging a pathetic 6.6 rebounds per game in the post-season and looks completely lost defensively, fronting a post-up player with no weakside help and allowing cutter to blow by him as if he wasn't even there.
Not that this is all Stoudemire's fault, Channing Frye has turned into the Suns playoff version of Shawn Marion during the first two games of the playoffs and has flat out disappeared. But this had become Stoudemire's team and now he is struggling and with free agency looming the inevitable question is whether the potential suitors for the power forwards services could be turned off by his maximum contract demands and average player performance in these playoffs.
Maybe that could be good news for Phoenix in that they can retain his services on their terms -- a three-year extension on top of his one year remaining.
Or maybe Phoenix could allow Stoudemire to opt out of his final year, hit free agency and leave without taking the PR hit because right now fans are clearly frustrated with his performances and this is a what have you done for me lately town. For all the good Stoudemire did in getting the Suns to the #3 seed, this town is starving for its first basketball championship and expected more from its frontcourt star in these playoffs.
If the Suns did let Stoudemire walk they could possibly make a run at Steve Nash's old pal Dirk Nowitzki should the Mavericks star decide to opt out of the final year of his contract. The Suns would have to clear some space and be creative but it is not out of the realm of possibility that they could consider such a swap.
There will be plenty of time to talk about the Suns off-season as it promises to be busy, but that talk may come a little sooner than expected with the way the Lakers are playing.
Monday, May 10, 2010 @ 2:09pm
There they were in the press conference after getting swept by the Phoenix Suns, raining down praise on the team from the desert, talking about how classy they are and how happy they are for them.
Gregg Popovich, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan all saying nice things about the Suns, talking about how much respect they have for them and wishing them well.
Well in the words of Tanner from the Bad News Bears when the Yankees started to talk about how good they played-- "Hey San Antonio, You can take your praise and your four championship rings and shove ‘em straight up your ass!"
It may be the politically correct thing to do after getting your rear ends handed to you in an embarrassing sweep to say nice things about your opponent, but I for one want nothing to do with the Spurs, their fans and especially their admiration for the Suns.
Memo to Duncan, Ginobili and Popovich - save your breath. We don't want nor do we need to hear you talk nice now about the Suns. Go home, go fishing, go back to your desperate housewife, go get your nose job or just go #$$Q% yourself. We hated you before, we hate you now and we will hate you tomorrow.
To hear the Spurs talk about how "classy" the Suns are after years of Bruce Bowen's dirty fouls on Steve Nash, Robert Horry's dirty hip check, Popovich's mind games and Duncan whining after every call, just made me sick. Save your praise for someone who cares. Suns fans are celebrating this sweep today and will be tomorrow but they will never ever forget the Spurs, never speak nicely of them and certainly don't want to hear them speak nicely of the Suns.
Every great rivalry is based on hate. And the Suns and their fans hate the Spurs. Sweeping them doesn't make the hatred any less, in fact those four straight losses in the playoffs at San Antonio's hands just make this result that much sweeter. So we don't want to hear how happy you are for Nash and the Suns. I'm sure the Suns weren't happy for you all the times you beat them. Go lick your wounds, cry to your mom and enjoy watching the Suns in the Conference Finals. You still suck San Antonio.
Sunday, May 9, 2010 @ 10:19pm
Don't be surprised, not even by the sweep.
The Suns were the better team and after they won the first two games at
home they put the Spurs in a hole they just weren't going to be able to
climb out of.
Game 3 was the decisive game and what impressed me most about that
game wasn't the performance of Goran Dragic it was the sense of urgency
by the Suns.
With veteran players like Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Amare Stoudemire
leading the way they Suns never took their foot off the pedal, never got
complacent and clearly weren't satisified just protecting home court. They
took it to San Antonio in Game 3, overcame and early deficit and rode
Dragic's career performance to the Suns biggest post-season win since the
1993-94 made it to the NBA Finals.
For all intent and purposes this thing was over after Game 3. The Spurs
would put up a valiant effort in Game 4 but they knew they were finished,
they understood they couldn't come back and although they never quit,
they were a defeated team and the only thing that could have extended
this series was a lackadaisical effort by Phoenix and as we learned, that
was not going to happen.
The Spurs had no answer for the Suns high screen and rolls, three-point
shooting and bench play. San Antonio knew what was coming yet was
powerless to do anything about it. In Game 3 the Suns simply forced the
Spurs into mismatches the entire fourth quarter with timely picks that
forced the Spurs to have Duncan and Blair covering Dragic and Barbosa. It
was like taking candy from a baby. The Spurs bigs were too slow and out
too far to cover the Suns quicker guards and the Spurs help defense was
always late getting over. School was in session and this time it was the
Suns giving the lessons.
The Suns exorcised some demons in this series, they embarrassed the
Spurs. You can say the Spurs had this coming and you would be right. In
the past the Suns tried to build teams capable of beating the Spurs -- to
no avail. This time they just built a good team. The Spurs had a part in
this, time catches up with all of us at some point and such was the case
with Tim Duncan. Still a good player but no longer a great player, Duncan
wasn't capable of putting the Spurs on his back and carrying his team. And
the Spurs new collection of role players (Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson,
DeJuan Blair) was not as good as the previous group led by Bruce Bowen,
Robert Horry and, yes, even the pick master Fabricio Oberto.
The Suns will start concentrating on their next series immediately but the
fans need to take some time to savor this one and enjoy it. It's been a long
time coming and payback is sweet. And Suns fans can take solace it this --
even though the Suns lost to San Antonio in the four previous playoff
meetings, at least they were never swept, embarrassed and dismantled the
way this Spurs team was by your Phoenix Suns.
Thursday, May 6, 2010 @ 3:24pm
Are you shocked the Phoenix Suns are up 2-0 on the San Antonio Spurs?
You shouldn't be.
Plain and simple the Suns are a better team than San Antonio this time around.
This is what was supposed to happen.
Is the series over?
Not necessarily but it is going to take a collapse by Phoenix to not win this series.
What the Suns did was more than protect home court, what they did was put the Spurs in a hole they shouldn't be able to climb out of.
While it is possible for San Antonio to win four of the next five it is highly unlikely.
Phoenix is beating the Spurs up on the boards, out hustling them, shooting the three pointer better, getting the crucial stops. San Antonio doesn't have the answers. Steve Nash kills them in Game 1, the Suns bench gets them in Game 2.
Manu Ginobli scores 27 in Game 1 the Suns and Grant Hill shut him down in Game 2, holding him to 11 points. The Suns have a bench the Spurs don't. Matt Bonner has two points in two games and hasn't hit a three-pointer yet (0-4).
The Spurs held Phoenix to 42% shooting, had more fast-break points in Game 2 (13-8) and had more blocked shots (8-1).
And it didn't matter.
The Suns are the team of intangibles - hustling all over the court to keep balls alive, save balls from going out of bounds, forcing jump balls. The Suns are the team that won't be outworked and that has been the difference so far in this series. These Suns also have great balance, they can score inside and outside, they can defend the perimeter and the paint and when Robin Lopez returns they can go big or small. Those combinations make them an extremely difficult matchup.
Friday, April 30, 2010 @ 4:36pm
My favorite part of the movie 'A Christmas Story' was when poor little Ralphie Parker got fed up with being picked on by the bully Scut and decided to kick his ass.
Yes, the little boy who finally got fed up with being picked on by the big bully decided to punch the bully right square in the mouth and guess what - the bully didn't fight back he just took a beating.
It's time for the Phoenix Suns to punch the bully in the face. It's time for the Suns to treat the hated Spurs the same way that Ralphie treated Scut. After four straight post-season ousters at the hands of the Spurs the Suns need to show the world that Duncan, Ginobli and Parker are not going to take their lunch money anymore.
The Suns are going to win this series and the reason is simple - they are the better team. They are a better team than the previous four squads that lost to San Antonio. And the Spurs are not as good as any of those teams. There is no Bruce Bowen to pester Steve Nash. There is no Robert Horry to knock down that crucial three pointer. There is no Fabricio Oberto to set pick after pick after pick. The Spurs are still good, but they are no longer great. Tim Duncan is still good but he is no longer great.
This version of Suns basketball is better. They are deeper with a bench that boasts three-point shooting in Channing Frye and Jared Dudley, defense and rebounding in Lou Amundson and Dudley, and a true backup point guard in Goran Dragic who gives Steve Nash the rest he needs during games without having Phoenix miss a beat. This version of Suns basketball actually plays defense and has a true defensive stopper in Grant Hill and a help-defense system that actually works. On any given night the Suns could be led offensively by Amare Stoudemire, Nash, Jason Richardson, Dudley, Frye or even Grant Hill who keyed the Game 2 victory over Portland by making 10 of 11 shots. San Antonio can't stop Stoudemire but in the past it mattered little because they may have lost the battle with Amare but they won the war by taking the series. Now, Amare has great compliments around him including another go-to-guy in Richardson who torched Portland to the tune of 23.5 points per game and 53% shooting in the series.
Winning the series won't be easy, the games will be highly contested. But the Suns will win. In a 7-game series the best team usually wins and finally the Suns are the better team.
Friday, April 23, 2010 @ 8:45am
After watching the Arizona Cardinals defense get torched by Green Bay and New Orleans in the playoffs there was no doubt in my mind that the Redbirds were going defense with their first pick.
The Cards brass could have talked all they wanted about best available player, but they weren't going offense unless Sam Bradford dropped to them at 26.
This team needed defensive help and they got it in defensive tackle Dan Williams who will likely line up at nose tackle with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell in the Cards 3-4 alignment to provide beef and youth on that line.
For all intent and purposes Williams is replacing the not signed Bryan Robinson, who did a nice job for Arizona but may have played his last game. Williams won't provide much of a pass rush but he will certainly give the Cards a run stuffer and allow the Cardinals linebackers more freedom to rush the passer and in pass coverage.
The NFL Network rated Williams as the 15th best prospect and it was somewhat surprising that Baltimore didn't snap him up and instead decided to trade out of the first round.
A nice nugget is that Williams was taken ahead of Florida's Carlos Dunlap, Alabama's Terrence Cody, Auburn's Antonio Coleman and Kentucky's Corey Peters, players who were selected ahead of him as first-team All-SEC by the coaches. Williams was second-team. The word I keep hearing on Williams is heart. That he plays with a lot of it.
All in all a good draft pick by Arizona, but much work still to be done.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 @ 7:58pm
Thursday, February 18, 2010 @ 10:19am
The trade deadline passed without the Phoenix Suns making a deal.
The Suns did not get, nor were they making calls, so Amare Stoudemire remains a Sun.
The Suns had two teams vying for Stoudemire's services, Miami and Cleveland, and were willing to deal their All-Star center if they could have received a "home run" package. They had serious discussions with Cleveland on a deal that would have landed them second-year power forward JJ Hickson, the expiring contract of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, forward Danny Green, the Cavs first-round pick and cash. The Suns were not willing to take anything less from the Cavs in order to move Stoudemire and the Cavs eventually found a trade partner in Washington that enabled them to land Antwan Jamison without giving up Hickson.
The Suns also were deep in conversations with Miami but the Heat don't have much on the roster that interests Phoenix and Miami was reluctant to include forward Michael Beasley, whom the Suns would have shipped to another team.
Miami feels very good about their chances to land Stoudemire after he opts out of his contract this summer so they didn't feel it necessary to include Beasley in a deal. Talks with both teams heated up to the point that Phoenix explored other deals for the expiring contracts they would have landed (either Ilgauskas or Udonis Haslem/Quentin Richardson) talking with Utah about Carlos Boozer, New Orleans about David West, Chicago about Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng and Philadelphia about Andre Iguodola. There was no scenario in which Phoenix would have kept Beasley had he been included in a deal.
So another trade deadline passed with Stoudemire still a Sun, the major question is what now?
That one is pretty easy to answer. Stoudemire will opt out of his contract if he is not given an extension by the Suns. Phoenix has offered two years at $14 million on top of next years salary of over $17 million. Stoudemire wants a four-year extension on top of next year. Maybe the sides can meet at three years but that is unlikely.
Around the league it is believed that Stoudemire will get a 5-year contract for $70 million from either Miami, who wants to pair him with Wade or New Jersey who has a billionaire new Russian owner who wants to make a splash.
There will be up to 10 teams with cap room so the chances of Stoudemire getting a big deal is high. So for the Suns to keep Stoudemire they would most likely have to move a four-year extension, tying Amare up for the next five years and that seems highly unlikely.
The Suns could still do a sign-and-trade at the end of the season enabling them to get some players and possibly a trade exception. If he walks and they get nothing for him they will take a step backwards next year, probably be a lottery team and then have unlimited cap room for the free-agent class of 2011 when the only big contracts they will have on the books are Steve Nash and Leandro Barbosa.
If Stoudemire leaves in the off-season the Suns will replace him with a free agent at no more than the mid-level exception and play Earl Clark more minutes.
So the Suns will go forward with the team they have, make the playoffs and see what kind of damage they can do before this saga begins all over again in a few months.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 @ 12:34pm
To deal or to deal.
That is the question the Phoenix Suns are contemplating as the NBA trade deadline approaches on Thursday.
To deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers or to deal with the Miami Heat.
It is a foregone conclusion that the Suns have made the determination that trading Amare Stoudemire is in their best interest.
Now, the difficult part is trying to figure out which team is offering the Suns the best package.
As I have said many many times the Suns have no interest in the Heat's Michael Beasley long term. But Beasley is the only real asset Miami has outside of Dwayne Wade.
What Miami has that may entice Phoenix to deal is two first-round draft picks this year, their own pick and Toronto's pick, and you would have to figure they need to offer both to land Stoudemire. Plus, an expiring contract (Quentin Richardson, Udonis Haslem) that would give the Suns cap flexibility going forward. And Beasley, a player the Suns would move at some point before next season.
The Cavaliers can offer a package of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his expiring contract, second-year player JJ Hickson and their own first-round pick.
Now, the million dollar question is which package is better. Hickson is a player the Suns would want - he is a 6-9, 240-pound power forward and a freak athletically - but not a good shooter. Ilgauskas can possibly be moved to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala, waived or he can play the season out walk as a free agent giving the Suns cap flexibility.
Beasley is a player the Suns would move either in another trade deadline deal or in the summer. Miami has two first-round picks that will both be somewhere in the middle of the draft. Cleveland has a first-round pick that will most likely be the last pick of the first round.
Both teams have the expiring contracts that will put the Suns in a great position for the free-agent class of 2011, especially when you consider that Jason Richardson's salary comes off the book that year as well.
Assuming Ilgauskas would not be moved by Phoenix if they acquired him, this trade really comes down to Beasley and what they can get for him in a trade plus two decent first round picks or Hickson and a late first-round pick. I like Hickson over Beasley and Miami's two picks over Cleveland's one.
If the Heat are insisting on only offering one of the picks then the choice is clear - the Cavs offer is better.
If Miami is offering both picks then it's a toss-up.
Either way it looks very much like Amare Stoudemire played his last game in front of fans in Phoenix as a member of the Suns last Wednesday.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010 @ 11:05pm
Another game, another loss for the Phoenix Suns.
A season that started with so much promise after an improbable 14-3 start is crashing down upon us and you get the feeling the Suns have fallen and the can't get up.
Just how a team could get off to such a great start and then forget how to win is mind-boggling but it is what it is.
There are now easy explanations. The Phoenix Suns are 12-18 since their remarkable start. They have blown double-digit leads eight times this month, including losing to Utah after being up by 17 late in the third quarter Monday.
They just dropped a game to a very mediocre Charlotte team at home last night. The team is reeling, their confidence is shot and their All-Star center is about to get traded.
For all intent and purposes this season is over. The Phoenix Suns will not make the playoffs this year. They are not good enough to overcome the teams ahead of them, nor are they good enough to be better than all three teams they are battling with for the 8th and final playoff spot - Houston, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.
They play Dallas on Thursday and then begin a four-game road trip and I have to believe when they come back from the trip, in which they will face Houston, New Orleans, Denver and Sacramento, they will be on the outside looking in at a playoff spot.
The Suns will be a lottery team without a pick in the first-round this season. And while this may all seem like doom and gloom -- it's really not. There are three weeks left before the February 18th trade deadline and it's time for this organization to go back to the drawing board and come up with Plan B. And it's not like Plan B isn't already in progress.
For all those fans who are clamoring for the Suns to rebuild, I have news for you -- they are. Have you noticed the emphasis being placed on developing Robin Lopez, Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley and even Earl Clark.
Right before your eyes without you even realizing it the Suns have started the rebuilding process -- and it's about time.
Lopez is 21 years old and he is the starting center for the Suns. He has started the last six games and has played so well that the Suns finally have a bright future at a position that has always been a weakness for them.
Dragic is 23 years old and has played 20 or more minutes in six of the last nine games. He had a career-high 32 against Utah on Monday night when he was clearly the best player on the court for the Suns. That game came just two days after he had 20 points and four steals against Golden State.
Dudley is 24 years old and is averaging 24 minutes per game and started in place of the injured Grant Hill Tuesday night.
Clark is 22 years old and was the Suns' first-round pick this year. He has worked so hard in practice that he has been rewarded with playing time this month where he is averaging 11 minutes a game.
So without having to say it the Suns are clearly making the transition to a younger team and allowing their players to develop.
Now, it's time for owner Robert Sarver to give his brass the OK and let General Manager Steve Kerr and Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Dave Griffin get their hands dirty with some creative trading.
Right now everyone should be on the trade block except Lopez, Dragic, Clark, Lou Amundson and Dudley.
Amare Stoudemire must go. He is not a great player and never has been. He is a good NBA player and the Suns need to do everything they can to find a trade that makes sense.
Now I understand guys that score 20 a game and average eight rebounds don't grow on trees. And the Suns have to make sure they don't make a bad deal. But there has to be some team in the league willing to give up some quality talent and a draft pick for Stoudemire's services. And in the right environment where he is more of a focal point of the offense, Stoudemire may even flourish.
If the Suns cannot make a good trade they will be better served letting him walk at seasons end and clearing up cap space for the future. Jason Richardson, Leandro Barbosa, Grant Hill and Channing Frye can all go to the highest bidder. And what to do with Steve Nash. The Suns All-Star point guard still plays the game at a high level and he has clearly made a major impact in the development of Dragic. He is the one player the fans identify with and it seems like he wants to stay here. But the Suns owe it to themselves to see what he could fetch on the open market. They need to go to Nash and see if he wants to go to a contender to finish out his career. It doesn't hurt to ask and it doesn't hurt to listen.
Reality has struck in Phoenix and it was inevitable. We all knew it was coming, some of us just didn't want to believe it.
The great start was fools gold, the Suns were never that good. What they are is an average NBA team and those type of teams are not worth investing in. It's time for a shakeup -- a major shakeup.
Kerr and Griffin have proven to have a keen eye for talent as witnessed by the recent draft picks, trades and free agent signings. It's time to allow them to shape the team for the future because the present isn't going anywhere. I like some of the pieces the Suns have, the young kids can play. It's time to turn the team over to them, surround them with other young talent and allow the team to grow.
It may take three or four years to get back to being a contender, but sometimes you have to take a few step backwards before you can go forward. That time is now for the Phoenix Suns.
Thursday, January 21, 2010 @ 3:02pm
It's only four games so we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. But it's hard not to notice the impact that Robin Lopez has had on the Phoenix Suns since he has been getting extended minutes. In the last four games Lopez has shot 27-for-38 from the field for 64 points, grabbed 22 rebounds, blocked 13 shots and given the Suns a defensive physical presence that they have lacked.
It had been a long time since the Suns attempted to develop a center they drafted in the first round. In fact since 1975 when the Suns drafted Alvin Adams at 6-9 to play center, the Suns have drafted just four true centers in the first round. That's four centers in the last 35 years. First was William Bedford in 1986. One was Oliver Miller in 1992 with the 22nd pick. Jake Tsakalidis came in 2000 with the 25th pick and now Robin Lopez, whom Phoenix took with the 15th pick in 2008. And just in case anyone is wondering, Jason Williams was drafted to play power forward and never actually played here.
For the most part the Suns ignored the center spot choosing to sign minimum salaried players to man the position --- players like Steven Hunter, Jake Voskuhl, Tim Thomas, Pat Burke, Joe Kleine, Chris Dudley, Jahidi White and Scott Williams. The Suns did throw some real money at a center back in 1999 when they signed Luc Longley, but that decision backfired big time as Longley flopped and lasted just two seasons here. And then of course there was the ill-advised trade for Shaquille O'Neal which also didn't work.
So here they are two years into the Lopez development and the Suns and their fans are starting to see the results. And make no mistake the Suns drafted Lopez knowing he had great upside and potential but that they would have to work with him and develop him into an NBA center.
All that work is starting to pay off. Lopez plays the game hard, he plays with a passion and sometimes that is misunderstood, like when he broke the practice door glass a month ago. He gets up and down the court, hustles on both ends and shows tremendous effort every time he takes the court. Recently, Lopez has benefited from playing with the starters, giving him an opportunity to have more of an impact on the game offensively.
While Lopez still has a lot of work to do and can't get too excited about his recent accomplishments, there are at least signs now that this first-round draft pick and true 7-footer can pay big dividends.
Thursday, January 14, 2010 @ 1:08pm
Of all the moves the Arizona Diamondbacks have made this offseason, none have made as much sense as the one that came down today with the announcement of the signing of Adam LaRoche to a one-year contract with a mutual option for a second season.
The Diamondbacks have been desperate for a real first baseman for quite some time now and LaRoche certainly fits the bill. He is very good defensively and can hit for power.
Last season LaRoche hit 25 home runs and drove in 83 runs while hitting .277 for Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Boston.
That Arizona got LaRoche for $4 million this season is an absolute steal, but that is what happens when you are smart and wait out some of the players in free agency.
Those that are not signed in December start to get antsy and the price tag usually comes down when the calendar year rolls over and spring training is within sight.
LaRoche addresses a major need for the D-backs, who used a mind boggling eight different players at first base last year - Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds, Brandon Allen, Rusty Ryal, Chad Tracy, Chris Snyder, Jason Whitesell and Tony Clark - all without much success.
LaRoche's addition will help not only Reynolds, Stephen Drew and newly acquired Kelly Johnson in the infield, but his defense will save the starting pitchers and relievers runs.
While Jackson is a plus offensively he was clearly not suited to play first base and his defense over the last few years cost the D-backs several games. It is imperative in this day and age of baseball to have a good defensive first baseman. Look at the New York Yankees with Mark Teixera last season compared to Jason Giambi.
While there is no official count of how many games Teixera saved the Yankees with his glove it is somewhere between 7-10 and that's just with defense. That LaRoche has pop in his bat and hits for a decent average is a major plus. He is left-handed which gives the D-backs tremendous lefty-righty balance and will be a middle of the lineup hitter, hitting somewhere between cleanup and sixth in the order.
The addition of LaRoche moves Jackson to the outfield and will all in likelihood spell the end for outfielder Eric Byrnes, who you can expect the D-backs to release with one year left on his contract because there just isn't a spot in the outfield for him.
All in all this was a good day for the Diamondbacks in addressing a major need at a reasonable cost.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010 @ 10:54pm
Now that the Pete Carroll hiring in Seattle is official it's time for Ken Whisenhunt to get to the nearest Hallmark store and purchase that $4 'Thank You' card.
Because no one in the NFL will benefit more from Carroll's hiring than Whisenhunt himself.
Carroll signed a 5-year contract for a mind boggling $33 million dollars. The Cardinals head coach is making $2.5 million a year on a four-year contract with a fifth year team option. Carroll went 33-31 in four seasons when he did coach in the NFL with New England and the New York Jets.
Whisenhunt, who is in his third season as head coach of Arizona, took the Cardinals to the Super Bowl last season and has a chance to take them back again this season.
Whisenhunt has one-year left on his deal not counting the option year and you have to believe that the Carroll signing just cost Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill a lot more money.
The original thought was that Whisenhunt would accept a contract of double the salary -- somewhere in the neighborhood of a four-year deal for $20 million dollars. Now you have to wonder if that will be enough. Is Whisenhunt worth more than Carroll? Shoud he at least get equal value? Could the price tag for Whisenhunt now be at $6 million or more per season?
Whisenhunt and his agent will certainly use the Carroll contract to their advantage in contract negotiations that should and are expected to take place after this season is over. The Cardinals can justify a new deal because Whisenhunt will be entering the final year of his contract although there is a team option for a fifth season. And they really are caught between a rock and a hard place.
They absolutely can not afford to upset or insult the most successful coach in franchise history. They are going to have no choice but to pay the man to keep him happy and make sure that he doesn't play the current contract out and then flee to the highest bidder. Make no mistake that Whisenhunt would be the hottest coaching candidate available should he ever hit free agency.
So while Whisenhunt will match wits with Carroll two times next year and it will make things more interesting in the NFC West, for now he certainly owes the man a debt of gratitude. Because Seattle and its owner Paul Allen clearly "showed Carroll the money" and Whisenhunt knows darn well that he is going to benefit from it.
Monday, January 11, 2010 @ 3:38pm
So Mark McGwire told us all what we already knew - that he cheated and took steroids during his playing career.
So what now?
It doesn't change anything. He is not suddenly off the hook. Maybe it's good for his conscience that he came clean and he can now live with himself. But for me it does nothing. This shouldn't make Hall of Fame voters all of a sudden decide that this one dimensional home-run hitting first baseman who used steroids to break the single-season home run record is now worthy of induction.
McGwire deserves nothing. Not our praise, not our pity, not our acceptance. He made this bed and he has to lie in it. Admitting that he took steroids doesn't make him any less of a cheater. He is plain and simple a man who cheated the fans and the game itself and he should not be forgiven for being a part of the biggest farce in baseball history and for ruining some of the great cherished records of this game. Not to mention that along the way to 583 home runs he passed some of the true legends of the game and he did it dishonestly. Sorry, but I for one can't forgive McGwire for tarnishing his legacy and making a mockery of the game I love.
He can come back to baseball. He can coach. He can go on with his life. Sorry, Big Mac, but what you said today I already knew and it does nothing to change my opinion about you. It's not like you're off the hook. You shouldn't be able to come clean and get a new lease on life. You shouldn't be able to tell the world you were a cheat and now all is forgiven and forgotten. Mark McGwire was a cheater yesterday and he is a cheater today.
Nothing has changed.
Monday, January 11, 2010 @ 2:28am
As fun and exciting as Sunday's game at University of Phoenix Stadium was the Cardinals go into this week of practice with several questions.
How will they react with a short week of practice?
Can they address their secondary issues in time to face a potent New Orleans offense?
Will Anquan Boldin be able to return from knee and ankle injuries?
Has Neil Rackers lost his confidence after missing an easy 34-yard field goal at the end of regulation?
But to me the biggest question is simple - Can the Cardinals rebound in a short week from a physically and emotionally draining game?
It is the playoffs so you expect the Cardinals to be ready. They are well coached so you expect them to be prepared. But I can imagine it wasn't easy getting out of bed this morning if you played in that game Sunday. The Cards are already a 7-point underdog in the game. New Orleans is well rested, they are at home and despite losing their last three games of the season they will have the advantage. Arizona is spent and you can understand why. That game was hard, extremely hard.
What makes you think the Cardinals will have a chance is that New Orleans pass defense is awful - they ranked 25th in the NFL in total yards. The Cardinals played well on the road going 6-2 this season, the second best mark in the NFC. And it's not like New Orleans likes the way they are playing right now. But I'm sure they are licking their chops watching film of the Cardinals secondary and their inability to defend a pass.
And if the Cardinals can recover from the Packer game we can expect more fireworks next week. As Cardinals wide receiver Early Doucet told us on the show today, "It's the playoffs so you have to find that edge to get motivated and if you can't then you don't need to be in the NFL."