Sunday, July 11, 2010

In Isiah the Knicks STILL Trust

In case you have missed this lets put this out there: Donnie Walsh would consider hiring Isiah Thomas for the GM position.

Ok. Let me repeat that: Donnie Walsh would consider hiring Isiah Thomas for the GM position.

In the days leading up to free agency and the moments leading up to the decision, Thomas was the go-to guy to sweet talk the free agents into coming to New York. He is credited with getting Amar’e Stoudemire on board and almost had Joe Johnson convinced about coming to the Big Apple.

Walsh has considered bringing in a general manager, but according ESPN’s Chris Broussard “Walsh said he hasn’t hired a general manager for financial reasons.”

This looming fear won’t play well with the fans tortured this past decade. Many have lived through Isiah’s ups and downs, but there is no desire to see him at the helm of a franchise which has worked hard to clean the stain he left on this once proud team.

This isn’t to say that Thomas isn’t a brilliant college scout and it would make sense to bring Thomas in as a scouting director if Walsh and owner James Dolan wanted their guy back in the organization.

As far as GM candidates go, the list would be endless and it wouldn’t be shocking for New York to essentially cherry pick whomever they wanted from their current posts.

Of the currently unemployed candidates, former Blazer GM Kevin Pritchard seems to be a logical choice and his track record has been outstanding. Those who would argue that look at the Greg Oden over Kevin Durant draft choice as his major blunder. A pick that many current and former decision makers would have done too.

In Pritchard, they would get someone who understands the European market and understands how to work within the framework of the NBA salary structure to always leave the team wiggle room to make moves to continuously better the team. He also surrounds himself with talented basketball and financial minds, including current ESPN capologist Tom Penn.

It is disappointing to hear that Walsh is considering giving second chances to Thomas while it is so clear that Thomas’ first misstep this time around could create an even greater disconnect between the Knicks and the city that wants to love them.

Get ready New York because it is about to happen and maybe it is time to hop on the Prokhorov/Jay-Z bandwagon. If the Thomas re-hiring is imminent, no one would blame you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Nationals Reign: Domination Begins In 2012

The nation has been witness to the dominance of Stephen Strasburg and now it’s time for the Washington Nationals to claim their spot among the upper echelon of baseball.

While it is obvious that this franchise has been in shambles for years, the Nationals benefited from their ineptitude by getting Strasburg and teenage hitting phenom Bryce Harper. These unique talents are once in a generation types that become cornerstones of championship quality teams.

Having both in addition to Ryan Zimmerman and Drew Storen gives the Nationals four players who each solidify specific needs found on dynastic teams (i.e. the Yankess big four of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera).

The assets the Nationals have acquired during these years of loss and disappointment situate them to make a serious push in the next few seasons. This push could last for at least a decade.

If you look at similar franchises and project the future salary budget of this team in a major media market it would reasonable to see them with $100 to $140 million payroll. Their current payroll is $61.5 million and roughly half of what it will be once they are ready to become a contender.

Here is a reasonable blueprint for the Nationals path to a championship:

(At the beginning of this upcoming off season, the Nationals will have only $24.4 million committed dollars that could grow to $52 million through arbitration.)

1. Lockup the foursome immediately. Give Zimmerman a 10 year, $150 million dollar deal. How about a 12 year, $200 million for Strasburg? Harper would be a steal at 10 year, 170 million. Storen could be a little more economical at 8 yr, $48 million.

(The payroll would go to up to $67.4 of guaranteed cash before arbitration. Let’s call it $85 million.)

2. What to do with Adam Dunn. Dunn has been a loyal and productive player without complaining or demanding a trade. He wants to be in Washington and it would make sense to keep unless another team offers up a few choice prospects. It would make sense to sign him unless they…

3. Make room for Prince Fielder. Fielder will be a free agent following next season and that would fit with the arrival of Bryce Harper. A 3-4-5 punch of Harper-Zimmerman-Fielder would be among baseball’s best and produce the runs that have eluded the Nationals this year and in years past.

(Payroll with Dunn $100 million, with Fielder $103, with another lesser known first baseman $91 million)

4. Sign or trade for a top of the rotation pitcher. Strasburg is going to be a star and will be an ace for several years, but a pennant caliber team needs two guys at the top of their rotation. The pitching free agent market looks bleak and there is only one man to be had. His name is Cliff Lee and he will be available after this season. While it is highly unlikely Lee would sign with a team no ready to contend, it is worth making a pitch to bring him in. A signing like this and bringing in Fielder would make waves in baseball and establish the Nationals as a championship contender.

(Payroll with Lee is $120 million.)

5. Complementary pieces put in place. The Nationals have pieces ready to fill these roles. Ian Desmond is a year or two away from being a solid infielder who could give them power in the bottom half of the lineup and possibly become an option at the 2-hole. The rotation, as presently constructed, has three started who could fill out the rest of the rotation. John Lannan, Scott Olsen and a healthy Jordan Zimmerman. Tyler Clippard is a solid seventh inning guy and could help their eighth inning setup man. The other pitchers vying for rotation spots could be used to fill out the bullpen. For instance maybe Detwiler becomes a lefty specialist or he claims a rotation spot.

6. Players on the horizon. What is left to be said about Bryce Harper? Virtually everyone agrees that Harper will be a unique talent and can be penciled in for several All-Star appearances. However it makes sense for Harper to become the everyday right fielder so that could allow another prospect Derek Norris to handle the catching duties beginning next year. Norris could learn a lot from Pudge and the transition could also extend Rodriguez’s career another season as he shares catching duties with Norris. Chris Marrero could start the switch from playing first base and be groomed to be Willingham’s left field replacement. His experience at first base could come in handy if they don’t pursue the two options previously suggested for the position. Danny Espinosa will allow Ian Desmond to move over to second base allowing Espinosa to play his natural position where he excels at.

7. Feed the farm. The farm system has begun to yield some pro-level talent and there will be more to come, but it is important to continue acquiring assets and nurture their young talent. This process could see an influx at the trading deadline if the Nationals decide to move some of their veterans for prospects. Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham and Jason Marquis could bring back a few players who could help the team down the road. This process was hindered greatly by the wrongdoings of the previous regime and it is important Rizzo continues the development if this talent resource.

How about this 2012 Opening Day roster:






Fielder or Dunn-1B





Rotation and bullpen:


Cliff Lee

Scott Olsen

Jordan Zimmerman

John Lannan

Setup: Detwiler and Clippard

Closer: Storen

TOTAL PAYROLL: $120 million

The future is beginning to look like a full ballpark and talent on the field that could be a once-in-a-generation experience that will continue to be appointment television and attendance. A dynasty is coming at all of us quick.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Who Needs Ilya Kovalchuk? The Devils Should Sign Bobby Ryan

While Lou Lamoriello battles other general managers over superstar left winger Ilya Kovalchuk, there is a curious question not being asked by Devils analysts and fans. Why not spend their surplus of cash on a player who could potentially make more sense for the short and long term success of the franchise?

That player is none other than future star, standout U.S. Olympian and New Jersey native right winger Bobby Ryan.

Ryan, 23, is currently a restricted free agent from the Anaheim Ducks and could come to the Devils for a lower price than Kovalchuk is sure to receive. Ryan recently turned down two offers from the Ducks and is looking for something in the neighborhood of $6 million. This number is something the Devils could workout by creating a long-term deal to build their franchise around him and superstar left winger Zach Parise.

Unlike Kovalchuk, Ryan would be a proper fit for the Devils system and create a top line of Parise, center Travis Zajac and himself. This line would feature to 30 goal scorers and would be among the best, if not the best, in all of hockey. We were witness to Ryan's high level of skill at the Olympics and his numbers in Anaheim suggest he is on the verge of superstardom.

A superstar who could give the Devils two of the top American born forwards in the game and help the dismal attendance, just saying.

Having another prolific scorer on the roster creates flexibility during the season for other interesting pairings. For instance, they could slide Ryan to the second line and pair him with Jason Arnott and Patrick Elias. This also would strengthen the power play unit that has been known to go anemic during crucial stretches of the regular and post-season.

Of course there would be a hefty cost that goes along with signing a Group 2 RFA, but the loss of up to 3 draft picks is easily worth it. Remember this is a front office notorious for finding talent late in the draft and through minor free agent acquisitions, which turn into major players.

Although this signing would likely leave the Devils with no cap room, they would be in a great position when the trade deadline rolls around.

With valuable players with valuable expiring contracts, the Devils could be in a great spot to bring back players who could help New Jersey hoist its fourth Stanley Cup.

It all begins with bringing in the superstar that completes a top line that will be set to dominate for the next decade. So Mr. Lamoriello, please sign Bobby Ryan and let Kovalchuk be a chemistry killer somewhere else.