Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Time for Some Whining

The Hawks are 1-3 on their West Coast swing after getting edged by the Suns last night 125-92. Mark Bradley, who usually has a pretty good sense for evaluating the local teams and specializes in basketball, wrote a scathing piece yesterday in which he proclaimed that Mike Woodson "might be the worst coach in Atlanta history." For my money, the answer would be Eddie Haas, but the fact that the question can be posed in the first place is a major indictment of Woodson. Chris Mannix at SI.com is reporting that the relationship between Woodson and Josh Smith is completely broken, such that Smith would not re-sign with the Hawks if Woodson remains the coach. If that is indeed the case, then Woodson needs to go because Smith is the most promising of the Hawks players. So things aren't exactly going well for the Hawks right now.

(Side note: I'm mildly positive on the idea of trading for Jason Kidd, although he isn't nearly the player he used to be, but it would be lunacy to give Smith up in return. I could agree to a deal that would send Josh Childress to New Jersey for Kidd, but even that causes me consternation because the Hawks would be buying a rapidly depreciating asset.)

The Braves' arch-rival just acquired the best pitcher in baseball and didn't have to give up their best prospects to do so. The Twins got 60 cents on the dollar, probably because they did not want to trade Santana within the American League. In so doing, they mimicked the Timberwolves, who got far less from Boston for Kevin Garnett than they could have gotten from Phoenix because they wanted to trade Garnett out of the Western Conference. The net effect of the Twins' irrational approach is that the Mets are now, barring injuries, the presumptive favorite in the NL East (especially if Pedro Martinez comes back and is anything close to his former self) and the Braves' ambition probably shifts to the Wild Card. In January.

And on a personal sporting note, Barcelona is now nine points down in the Spanish Primera after dropping points this weekend at Athletic Bilbao while Real Madrid won late (yet again). The team seems to be suffering from the same malaise caused by a presumptive lame-duck coach that Michigan football went through in the past several years. Barca are getting nothing from the two linch-pins of their Champions League-winning side: Deco and Ronaldinho, neither of whom can be bothered to stay fit. A variety of circumstances have forced Barca to deploy 18-year old Giovanni Dos Santos and 17-year old Bojan Krkic in the starting line-up alongside a fading Thierry Henry. (Henry strikes me as being in the same place in his career as Zinedine Zidane in his final seasons at Real: a former star who can show you glimpses of what he used to be roughly once every three games. Although it's always dangerous to compare between sports, the one silver lining for Braves fans is that there's an analogy to be made here to Santana, who is a little younger than Henry, but the same principle applies: the Mets are trading for a pitcher who is leaving his prime. His numbers did tick down slightly last year.) Krkic looks like the real deal; Dos Santos doesn't like to share the ball and isn't especially threatening with the dribble. The team has done a good job defensively, but the attack is easily figured-out and negated by opponents because Barca have been attacking in the same way for four years now. In the end, Barca have become something that is totally foreign to the club's nature: boring. Here is the list of their results in 2008 (excluding the match played by the reserves against Alcoyano):

Barca 2 Mallorca 0
Barca 1 Sevilla 1
Barca 4 Murcia 0
Barca 0 Sevilla 0
Barca 1 Santander 0
Barca 0 Villarreal 0
Barca 1 Athletic Bilbao 1

George Graham would be so proud. Two goals in the last four matches. One goal in 180 minutes against Sevilla, a genuinely attractive side that should have produced good chances for both sides. This is not how the Blaugrana are supposed to play. If they were grinding out results and leading the league, that would be one thing, but it's quite another to be nine points down and boring.

5 comments:

Steve S said...

Baseball Prospectus had a quick post with Santana's projections for 2008 in Shea... if you're optimistic, it doesn't seem so bad for los Bravos.

http://baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=738

That would be a very good season — and would probably make Santana the odds-on favorite to win the Cy Young Award. But my sense is that people are looking for Sandy Koufax circa 1965 and that’s not likely to be the case. For one thing, while Shea is an excellent pitchers’ park, the Metrodome had become a pretty good pitchers’ park too, so the marginal gain is less than you’d think. For another, Santana’s talent level appears to have degraded just a tiny little bit from his 2004-2006 peak; he’s always been a flyball pitcher, but now a few more of those flyballs are landing for home runs.

Neil Young & Geraldo said...

Hey, I'm still optimistic about the Braves chances. In fact, I like the Braves' moves this winter ALMOST as much as the Mets'.

Just think how rare it is to see a high-priced free-agent actually live up to expectations in NYC. Especially in the drug-testing era. NYC might be a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, but it certainly ain't a sanctuary city for free-agents who barge onto the scene and into the clubhouse waiving fists full-o-dollars.

JoSa has a moderate chance of being an All-Star, a much smaller chance at being a Cy Young winner, a large chance at not being their ace come post-season (and with those prices!?), a marginal chance of being a clubhouse cancer, and an intermediate chance of being a Britney. He could also get injured right after he signs the contract.

But what the hell do I know? I'm the guy who thinks Joe Johnson (aka, the poor man's John Stark) was not worth a #1 pick, that max contract of his, and free run of the team when its on the court.

btw, Michael, when are you going to play "rate the coaches" in the SEC? We are all dying to read your analyses in a longer-than-average post in which you use multiple criteria to objectively and subjectively appraise their respective job performances. In fact, just thinking about it gets me FIRED UP, READY TO GO!

Michael said...

Steve, I read that and it was mildly encouraging, although the overall point was that Santana won't get appreciably better at Shea, but if he pitches at the same level he pitched at in Minnesota, the Mets will be happy.

NY&G, you make a good point that NY is often difficult on high-priced talent acquisitions. There's no way that Santana can meet expectations, but if he comes close and tunes out criticism when he doesn't throw a no-hitter every game, he'll be fine. As for the SEC coaches ranking, I'll do that this spring or summer when the news is slow.

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