April 23, 2004

There are bad MVP voters in basketball too!

Do you ever read something that makes you so angry and frustrated that you just want to do something about it? I do, all the time. Usually it is a baseball-related article, but I came across a horrendous piece on the NBA this week that I just have to share with you.

The column was written by Lacy J. Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times and it is entitled, "It takes more than talent to earn one man's MVP vote."

The whole thing is worth reading, assuming you don't have any sharp objects lying around the house, but here are some of the particularly brilliant parts:

If Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal gets only one first-place vote for NBA most valuable player, it's my vote. Yes, I know I wrote last week that I was joining the consensus in voting for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett. From a statistical standpoint, he qualifies amply for such consideration, and I was all ready to vote for him.

At this point I was thinking, "Okay, I don't agree with this, but it isn't the single most insane position I've ever seen a writer take." I figured it was going to one of those "an MVP goes beyond stats" diatribes that we've seen so many baseball writers make.

Then I read on:

But a fellow NBA reporter recently e-mailed me about how rude Garnett continues to be to the media, never granting pregame interviews and making reporters, pressed by deadlines, wait long after games to talk with him. I then remembered the experiences I and other Chicago writers have had with him, and this is supposed to be one of his homes.

He makes only one trip a year to play in Chicago. But I remember that one time he visited, he was injured and was not going to suit up and play that night. Still, he refused to give me an interview. I reminded him that I was the first NBA writer to interview him before and after he was drafted straight out of high school in 1995, but he still gave me the cold shoulder.

It is at this point that I started to get a very strange feeling about the article. After all, the writer is supposed to be discussing which player he thinks is the MVP of the league, but he is bringing up something that happened off the court, way back in 1995.

I also like the fact that Banks is essentially saying "I told Garnett I knew him way back when and he still wouldn't help me out," which is, I'm sure, something Garnett has heard about a million times by now from various people who want something from him.

I always have had a policy of voting for the human qualities of an MVP candidate, as well as his basketball talent. I look at each candidate's character, professionalism and willingness to promote the product of which he is a part and which has made him quite wealthy.

All of a sudden, Garnett was no longer my choice for MVP. I then turned to O'Neal, who always has been courteous to me and has granted me interviews before and after games. Besides, O'Neal is the primary reason the Pacers finished with the best record in the league during the regular season and have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

I stopped here and banged my head against the wall for a little while. This is almost unfathomable to me.

I know this sounds crazy, but how about basing your vote for MVP on the guy you think was the most valuable player in the league that season?

This guy is basing his MVP vote on who is nicer to him, who is more willing to give him quotes before and after games? I checked to see if what I was reading was an actual newspaper column and not, say, something from The Onion.

Banks concludes the piece by saying:

I only wish the balloting was so close that it came down to one vote. My vote. Then I'd feel even better about the message I'm trying to send.

And that message is: It's so nice to be nice.

In other words, Banks wishes he could cost Garnett the MVP, an award he admits Garnett deserves, because he doesn't like the way Garnett treats him and another writer in Chicago.

Does this strike anyone else as absolutely ridiculous? Perhaps it is my love of Garnett clouding my thoughts on this, or the fact that I am currently a journalism student, but I find Banks' position on this "issue" to be downright disgusting and deplorable.

The award is for the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, not the GUY WHO IS NICEST TO THE MEDIA or the GUY WHO GIVES THE MOST QUOTES. Not to mention the fact that Banks is inserting himself into the story, which is something my journalism professors seem to be just slightly against.

A side issue here is the fact that Banks is the very first writer I've ever read who talks about Garnett being negative with the media. Every other thing I've seen on the subject talks about Garnett as a witty, friendly interview. In fact, Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated recently wrote about how Garnett was overly courteous with him following a very tough loss, after which Garnett stayed late to talk to him at great length.

I even found out that Garnett has been named to the NBA's "All-Interview Team" multiple times. In 2000-2001 and 2001-2002, Garnett made the first team and in 1999-2000 and 2002-2003, he made the second team.

Do you think it's possible that maybe, just maybe, Garnett not talking to Lacy J. Banks and the mystery e-mailer has something to do with them? Nah, couldn't be. After all, what could Garnett possibly have against someone who is so logical in their decision-making?

Exactly how ridiculous is Lacy J. Banks on this? So bad that I didn't bring up the fact that his "MVP" is a 6'11" guy who shot 43% from the floor this season.

Today's picks:

San Diego (Eaton) -125 over Arizona (Daigle)

Detroit (Bonderman) -110 over Cleveland (Davis)

Total to date: $315

W/L record: 21-23 (1-3 yesterday for -200.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 21, 2004

The Answer Man

I get tons of e-mails as a result of this blog. It's a wonderful thing. In fact, it might be the thing I enjoy most about doing this.

A lot of the e-mails are specific questions related to specific baseball topics. And a large portion of those are fantasy baseball-related. The problem is that I don't always have time to answer something like that.

I try to personally respond to as many e-mails as possible, but with my various writing gigs and school and whatever kind of "social life" a guy who sits in his room typing baseball articles all day has, I usually don't have time to answer a question about which #5 starter is a better bet to pick up off waivers.

However, for those of you who have sent those types of questions to me, I have some good news. Over at The Hardball Times, my good buddy Ben Jacobs is going to be doing a "Fantasy Mailbag" column each and every week. Lots of quality questions to choose from is essential to a column like that, so I am counting on you, my mass e-mailing, fantasy-question-asking readers to help out.

If you've got a fantasy baseball question (or 10), big or small, Ben is the man to contact. All you have to do is click here to e-mail him.

New article at The Hardball Times: On and Off the Wagons

Today's picks:

Arizona (Webb) -135 over Milwaukee (Obermueller)

Atlanta (Wright) +110 over Cincinnati (Lidle)

Detroit (Maroth) +160 over Minnesota (Santana)

Texas (Park) +180 over Anaheim (Colon)

Total to date: $515

W/L record: 20-20 (0-1 yesterday for -160. Randy Johnson was great for six innings, but he and his bullpen fell apart big time for me in the seventh.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 20, 2004

.514/.673/1.378

That's what Barry Bonds is hitting right now. Seriously. .514/.673/1.378.

I'm not even sure what to say about him. Not only have I probably said everything before, but my words don't even do what he's doing justice. He's more amazing than human language (or at least my abilities with human language) can describe effectively.

I've decided that the #1 thing I want to see this year is for Barry Bonds to hit .400. He's got the slugging percentage record, he's got the home run record, he's got the on-base percentage record, he's got the walks record. Now I want to see him become the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941.

Assuming he gets about 400 at-bats this year (he had 390 last year and 403 in 2002), Bonds would need to go 141-for-363 (.388) for the rest of the season. It could happen too. As I discussed over at The Hardball Times the other day, Bonds has hit .397 after the All-Star break during the past two seasons.

If we assume for a moment that he will hit .397 in the second-half, like he has over the past two years, that would mean he'd have to hit around .402 in the first-half. Bonds has averaged 244 at-bats in the first-half over the past two years. To hit .402 in 244 at-bats, he'd have to go 79-for-205 (.385) from now until the All-Star break.

Normally I would say that it's extraordinarily unlikely because...well, it is. But we are talking about Barry Bonds here.

New article at The Hardball Times: Slow Starts

Today's picks:

Arizona (Johnson) -160 over Milwaukee (Davis)

Total to date: $675

W/L record: 20-19 (4-1 yesterday for +390 for my best day of the young season.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

April 19, 2004

500,000 (and some other news)

I haven't been focusing nearly as much as I used to on this blog, so it kind of snuck up on me, but this website surpassed 500,000 total visitors sometime yesterday afternoon.

I used to make a big deal about each milestone. 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 50,000, 100,000 and on and on. 500,000 is, I suppose, the biggest milestone yet. As many of you would probably be quick to remind me though, the blog would have reached 500,000 a while ago if I'd have actually been writing new articles on it every day! :)

Barring some huge surge of visitors in the next 10 days, this will be the first month since August of 2002 that the visitor traffic of this blog does not increase. This is partly due to the fact that the majority of my daily writing has shifted over to The Hardball Times, but it's also partly due to it just being hard, at some point, to keep the numbers going up.

Anyway, I really want to thank everyone who has contributed to that 500,000 number in the past two years or so, especially those of you who have been everyday readers and frequent e-mailers. And a special thanks to those of you who have continued to stop by here on a regular basis, despite there not being nearly as much content as usual.

Hopefully you've heard me say this enough by now to actually do it, but I highly suggest you stop by The Hardball Times each and every day. The daily blog entries I used to do here (you know, the Gleeman-length ones) haven't disappeared at all, they are simply at a new place -- along with great articles from a bunch of other guys.

On the same day this blog hit 500,000 visitors, I got some other good news. Those of you who are long-time readers of this blog may remember my various entries about the Minnesota Daily, the college newspaper here.

I won't go into the details for those who weren't around back then or just don't remember, but it was a frequent topic of discussion here for a couple weeks. I guess this is sort of like one of those inside jokes. You either know what the heck I'm talking about or you don't. Those of you who do know, I guess that's your reward for coming here every day for so damn long.

Anyway, if you head over to the Minnesota Daily's website, you'll see an article about the Minnesota Twins/Victory Sports situation.

Twins fans upset about lack of air time

If you click on the above link, you should see a familiar name in the byline.

Today's picks:

Florida (Willis) +105 over Philadelphia (Padilla)

St. Louis (Suppan) +165 over Houston (Miller)

San Diego (Lawrence) +120 over San Francisco (Hermanson)

Toronto (Halladay) +115 over Boston (Martinez)

Kansas City (Anderson) -105 over Cleveland (Durbin)

Total to date: $285

W/L record: 16-18 (0-2 yesterday for -200, including one loss on a 14th inning balk.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

Trees falling in front of no one and jumpers raining on everyone

I am finding it increasingly difficult to comment on the Twins. The most obvious factor is that I am unable to watch their games on TV, as the Victory Sports saga continues. In addition to that, the fact that I am able to watch just about every other team whenever I want has caused me to, in some way, lose interest in the Twins.

I am still obsessed with them, don't get me wrong. But if you can watch the Giants and the A's and the Red Sox and the Yankees and whatever other teams you feel like watching, and you can watch them whenever the heck you want to, doesn't it just stand to reason that you'd find yourself less and less interested in the one team you can't watch?

Of course, despite not being seen by me or anyone else, the Twins are playing very well. They swept the Royals and are currently tied for first place with the White Sox. But really, how much can I say about them if I didn't see the games?

It appears as though Johan Santana pitched better (and more like himself) than he did in his first two starts of the year, but it was far from a good performance. He gave up three homers and a total of six runs. I'm only slightly less worried about Santana than I was last week.

Doug Mientkiewicz returned from his ankle sprain and continued right where he left off offensively. Luis Rivas, as he always does, hit like a real, live, major league-caliber player against Kansas City. Lew Ford is doing extremely well in place of Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones is hot, and Shannon Stewart is getting on base like crazy. Actually, the entire offense has been pretty incredible thus far.

The pitching staff, on the other hand, is pretty much a mess, aside from Radke's good performance last week. Instead of trying to discuss the Twins by looking at their boxscores though, I'd like to talk a little about a team I was able to watch -- the Timberwolves.

Last night's win over Denver may not seem like a big one, but it was. For the first time in the franchise's history, the Wolves won the opening game of a playoff series. They had been 0-for-7 coming into the game.

The game was an example of how easy winning can be in the NBA if you play the right way and execute offensively. The Wolves essentially were a two-man team last night (as they have been for much of the season), similar to what the Utah Jazz were with Stockton and Malone in their primes.

They ran pick-and-roll the whole night with Sam Cassell and Kevin Garnett. The Nuggets, for the most part, left Cassell open and he was absolutely amazing, scoring 40 points on 16-for-24 shooting. Garnett wasn't too bad himself, chipping in 30 points and 20 rebounds, along with four assists.

Aside from the opening of the first quarter and a stretch at the end of the third quarter/beginning of the fourth, the Wolves played extremely good defense and did a great job rebounding the basketball. They finished the game +13 on the boards and had an amazing 18 offensive rebounds.

The Wolves were far from perfect, of course. Still, the formula for last night's success is one that I think can work throughout the post-season. Cassell obviously won't be going for 40 every night, but they should also be able to count on some better offense from Latrell Sprewell (2-for-11 last night) and/or Wally Szczerbiak (3-for-8) at various points along the way.

As for Garnett, his numbers were gaudy, but he didn't play particularly well, at least not by his standards. He's quite capable of duplicating last night's performance throughout the post-season, which is why he's the MVP of the league, obviously. He is one of the best defensive rebounders in NBA history and, while his jumper wasn't falling a whole lot last night, he was far more aggressive than usual inside.

The Wolves currently have the best player in the league and, arguably, the best point guard in the league. Or at least the best scoring point guard in the league. They also have an offensive system that relies upon the pick-and-roll a ton, which makes Garnett and Cassell a deadly combination.

It's almost exactly the same attack Utah had so much success with for so many years, except Cassell is far more deadly than Stockton when it comes to looking for his own shot. The man just does not miss when he's open. And I'm not talking about spot-up-shooter-in-the-corner open either. If you literally hesitate to step out on him for one second, he'll bury the jumper on you every single time.

I've never seen a better, more consistent mid-range, off-the-dribble jump shooter than Sam Cassell and, as he showed last night, he's quite capable of extending that touch to beyond the three-point line.

Everyone has been talking about Minnesota's "Big Three" this entire season, but that's simply a lie. Latrell Sprewell has been incredibly inconsistent all year and his overall performance isn't even in the same universe as Cassell's or Garnett's.

Check out just how dominant Minnesota's "Big Two" was last night:

                  FGM     FGA      FG%     PTS     REB

KG & Sam 29 54 53.7 70 23
Everyone Else 11 33 33.3 36 25

The basic idea behind this team is quite simple.

Ervin Johnson and Trenton Hassell play tough defense and don't take any bad shots. Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi come off the bench and play offense. Latrell Sprewell tries to find shots for himself while providing a huge spark offensively once every third game or so. And Garnett and Cassell simply kill you with pick-and-rolls, while raining mid-range jumpers all night long.

For the first time ever, I feel like the Timberwolves should win a series. It's an interesting feeling, and one I expect to continue to have throughout their playoff run.

New article at The Hardball Times: News, Notes and Quotes (April 19, 2004)

Today's picks:

Montreal (Ohka) +150 over New York (Yates)

Oakland (Redman) +130 over Seattle (Garcia)

Total to date: $485

W/L record: 16-16 (1-3 on Friday for -235. Ouch.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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