Friday, June 28, 2013

NBA Draft 2013: Repairs & Reactions - Part two

NBA Draft 2013: Repairs & Reactions - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-28-13)

[Part one - A dull affair with Real consequence]

So we agree the NBA draft is flawed, but how does it get fixed? I personally like the idea of instituting the baseball rule. A player can enter the draft out of high school if he wishes. However, if he decides to go to college, he must attend for at least three years. So the studs will enter out of high school and teams will drool all over them. The rest of the guys will gain the proper seasoning and experience during three years of major college basketball. We will get to know them; their games will improve; the NBA and NCAA products will both improve because of it.

Was there anyone in this year's draft you're even excited about? There are a few guys I like but no one that stands out to me. If I were a GM, I'd have been content to have a pick in the teens. There you can take the player you have the best feel for, without having to take one of the top guys with major flaws. Reaching for a player at 15 is no big deal. However, if you are Cleveland or Orlando and you pass on Nerlens Noel because of all the red flags (which they did), and he then becomes the next Tyson Chandler, you are in deep shit.

The MLB rule for entering the draft works great in baseball, but the NBA had its chance to institute something similar and instead opted for a required one year in college. The reason is pretty obvious, Minor League Baseball is a huge entity and every single drafted player goes to the minors for at least a month or six. So coming out of high school is a null issue. The NBA doesn't use its development league in this way, hell it barely markets it. They addressed their biggest issue, all be it haphazardly, high school players getting drafted and not being ready for the NBA. In hindsight I think the NBA would make it a mandatory two years in college. The goal was to ensure top talent is NBA ready, bodies fully developed, skills honed at least a little bit. I don't think they've quite achieved this and the hype machine has certainly fallen flat in the last few years when the draft roles around.

So a draft fix? I'm taking your suggestion one step further. Actually use the damn D-league! The biggest hype in a draft is for the stars and nothing is bigger than a high school super star. These kids are all hype, since most of us fans have only seen clips of them play, if at all. So why not let them get drafted? Let the fans drool over hope and the future. Then send them to the D-league for a season and make money off those games too. Its not complicated. The MLB already has a model in place to follow. Come on man!

As for the draft that took place last night, here's hoping we get a star are two out of the bunch. No one excites me, just like no one stole the show during March Madness this season either. I wish this was a bigger deal, but its not. I'm still WAY excited for the NBA this summer. Doc Rivers is now the Clippers coach! Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are no longer Celtics! Dwight Howard is a free agent AGAIN. And what will CP3 do? I'm even excited for Ray Allen's contract decision. The NBA is chock full of stars. It doesn't need the draft, but they could really spice things up by having the current stars interview the potential newbies. I liked what Shane Battier brought to the table, but something was still missing. I want on camera hazing baby!

I can't get with you on using the D-League like that. Basketball isn't the same as baseball as far as minor league development. There are way too many basketball players, the vast majority, who are ready to play in the NBA year one. They may not be ready to start or play big minutes. They may not be ready to hit an important shot at the end of a game. But they are ready to compete and contribute. So why send them away? If you're saying that just high school players should go to the NBDL, then we get into logistical problems of high school players who are ready to play right away versus college players who are not. Where is the line drawn and should a high school player then skip the draft and go to a year of college so he can avoid playing in the D-League? The list goes on.

We'll have to take another look at this problem next year when the crop of players is much better. Perhaps we're looking through whatever the opposite of rose-colored glasses are. Is the NBA draft really that horrible when there are potential franchise guys involved? This year there just isn't anyone like that.

You have to believe Cleveland is pretty upset, internally, about getting the number one pick this year versus a different season. They decided to go with Anthony Bennett, as I predicted they would last week in my mock draft for College Sports Madness. I was also spot on when predicting the Nerlens Noel drop. I had him going fifth and he lasted even longer than that.

I know you wanted to talk draft fixes, but last night pissed me off! The trading is AWFUL from an entertainment standpoint. Every trade happens after the picks are made and no trade is official; they are all pending league approval and "according to multiple sources." The guys narrating the draft react to each pick not knowing if a certain player will play for the team that chose him. They then react to each trade rumor and then react again when a proposed trade is supposedly agreed upon. After that, they are forced to react when a team is selecting someone with a pick involved in a previous proposed trade! It is cuckoo.

Some of the action from last night was actually fun. The "proposed" Jrue Holiday trade was exciting news even though we had to listen to everyone talk about how Noel would fit with Anthony Davis and then ten minutes later he was no longer a Pelican. Overall, the NBA draft is such a poor product for so many reasons and it's disappointing.

I have a brilliant idea! What if, instead of putting on the hat of the team that drafted you, each player had to dunk a basketball with its new team's logo on it. Make the hoop a bit shorter, since the guys are in suits, and have them dunk over a stuffed animal of their new team's biggest rival. The photos of exceedingly tall men in suits dunking over large teddy bears would be amazing!

Final thought, I can't read the sentence "And then ten minutes later [Noel] was no longer a Pelican" without chuckling. Sure, they were the Hornets, but somehow a hornet is at least a little bit threatening of an animal. Pelicans are one step above storks and storks deliver babies. I'm not getting over this.

Monday, June 24, 2013

NBA Draft 2013: A dull affair w/ Real consequence - Part one

NBA Draft 2013: A dull affair w/ Real consequence - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-24-13)

Everyone loves the NFL draft; it is an EVENT. The same cannot be said for its professional basketball counterpart. The NBA draft has no zeal, no luster, no...excitement. This happens for many different reasons. Mainly, people don't care as much about the NBA as they do professional football. More fans equals more eyes. But there are other reasons the two drafts are not peers. And the whole thing is counter intuitive; the NBA draft should really be the bigger deal.

There are exponentially fewer players on a basketball roster; thus, one highly drafted player will/should have much more impact on his new team than one, lone footballer. This is simple math, as well as how the sports operate. Unless you're drafting a top flight quarterback, one football pick won't reap huge dividends. It is about roster building, team dynamics, coaching philosophy, etc, etc. However, one basketball player can make all the difference. In this year's NBA Finals, each team was led by a studly, number one overall draft pick: the Spurs in Tim Duncan and the Heat in LeBron James. A single pick can literally turn a franchise around! So then why, if a single player can turn around the hopes and future of an entire franchise, is the NBA draft such a bummer?

The answer lies in who gets drafted. NFL drafts feature seasoned, famous amateurs getting taken through round two and often later. Big name quarterbacks and skill position players still generate interest in the middle and later rounds. These are guys we've seen mature and develop on and off the field for at least three years in college. Compare that to basketball prospects. The top guys are, more often than not, freshmen one-and-dones. They are certainly the most talented players, but we don't know them; their games are raw and under-developed; we watched them for one semester essentially. If they played for a certain university, we might hate them (cough cough Duke). Otherwise, they mean nothing to us; a hired gun set to play a season and bail for greener pastures. These are the men (boys?) that make up the NBA draft. So why should we pay attention?

There is another reason the draft stinks, along those same lines. These guys are not ready. They've only played one season above high school competition. And even the sophomores and juniors that come out are usually not ready to compete at the NBA level. The NBDL is not a minor leagues for the NBA. It might be awesome if it were, but the league is not setup to support such a proposition. So instead of a 19 year old starting off in the d-league, they are thrown into the big time and do not have the bodies nor the experience to play up to their potential. Thus, those top talents put up middling statistics or, even worse, barely get to play. So why watch them get drafted?

With the NBA draft this week, on Thursday, who will go number one? But, more importantly, why should we care?

The NBA draft should be the bigger deal, logically, as compared to its NFL counterpart, except it 100% isn't! And you missed the biggest reason entirely. I'm stunned really. First off, the NBA draft was once cooler and more fun than any other draft around. The top two guys were almost guaranteed to be stars in the NBA the following season, but as you noted, with the best players leaving college after one year, fewer and fewer are ready for the NBA on day one.

The SINGLE biggest reason the NBA draft stinks like dirty socks is the draft lottery. I understand the logic behind holding the lottery for the top three picks, it helps curb tanking down the stretch of the regular season. But it hasn't prevented tanking. It just smoothed it out over a larger swath of crappy teams. The NFL is amazing and sells hope for its crappy franchises because every single fan knows that if your team has an awful season, then you are getting a top ten pick. A top ten pick in the NFL is equivalent to a top three pick in the NBA, since rosters are smaller and depth is much less. But in the NBA, if you are the worst team in the league you might get the fourth pick or you might get the first pick. That could be the difference between LeBron James (1st pick in 2003) or a solid role player like Lamar Odom (4th pick in 1999). One is franchise altering, the other is a just a nice pick up. You are not guaranteed the top pick, and as a fan this sucks the life out of you. Hope is not nearly as strong and what has ultimately happened is that the NBA Draft Lottery is actually a bigger deal than the NBA Draft itself!

The other reason the draft stinks is because no one stays in college any more. You mentioned this, but weren't nearly angry enough. The NBA fan who is only a casual college fan, like myself, doesn't know anyone outside the top five of the NBA draft. In the NFL, where players are in college for two or three seasons at least, even casual fans get to know the top guys. Players can transcend this issue, but overall they haven't. They've actually perpetuated it and in recent years have completely killed the buzz surrounding the NBA draft! Super star college players like Adam Morrison from Gonzaga have stunk it up in the NBA. He was a rarity and played a few years in college, we all got to know him and his success, and then bam, he stinks. And the top players who are 'great' enough to leave after one year; they haven't been physically ready and got hurt, a la Greg Oden. Who can we trust to succeed?

A star will be a star. Kevin Durant was a star from day one in the NBA. But the majority of players are not Kevin Durant and need more time in college to mature their game and grow a national audience for themselves as a product. When nearly every superstar in the NBA was drafted in the top three to five, you'd think at least the first half hour of the draft would be fun to watch. You would be wrong.

Yeah, I agree the lottery is hogwash. It does not prevent tanking in the least. We only escaped that fate this season because there was no college player worth tanking for. Watch out next year though. If Andrew Wiggins has himself the freshman season everyone is expecting, there will be tanking galore! He's the best high school player since LeBron and it's not even close. The race for last might be more exciting next May then the race for the final playoff spots.

Is the NBA draft fixable for its audience though?

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Not all Swords are created Equal" - What ha... happened (June part two)

"Not all Swords are created Equal" - What ha... happened
(June part two)
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-21-13)

[Part one - "Kick save and a Beauty"]

We scour the internet for a crazy sports photo and someone must try to explain it. Seesaw Sports asks what ha... happened? Monday: Opening statement. Friday: Rebuttal.

Real photos. Real results. But what in the heck happened?

This month we have GIFs!

I present to you the following:

Photo: Fencing can be dangerous too.

Title: "Not all Swords are created Equal"

Description: When holding a grudge, its best to have a fencing match coming up. Who knew? But seriously, how bogus is it to swap out your toy sword for a real, large, sharp one? That's like wearing brass knuckles inside your boxing gloves, except you aren't hiding a thing. You're outright brandishing the thing. Take that!

This is no fair fight, its a slaughter. Why the foul play, the bloodshed and the tears? What ha... happened?

Wait, so this is not what fencing looks like? Having never watched the "sport" before, I just assumed the guy with the bigger sword always won. And what's all this talk about not using brass knuckles during a boxing match? There hasn't been a clean boxing match since 1964. Everyone knows it's not on the level. They watch for entertainment; it's like professional wrestling. Which is what fencing seemed like: two guys with giant swords, swinging wildly at each other. It would have to be fixed or people would die, like, all the time.

I really have to bone up on my fringe sports' rules. So no giant scimitars allowed in fencing, check. No brass knuckles in boxing, check. Next thing you'll tell me is teams are not allowed to use motors during the America's Cup; they just somehow float down the water at tremendous speed on the strength of the wind a soft, sea zephyr could shove a giant yacht around. Gimme a break.

(GIF courtesy of

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Kick save and a Beauty" - What ha... happened? (June part one)

"Kick save and a Beauty" - What ha... happened? 
(June part one)
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-17-13)

We scour the internet for a crazy sports photo and someone must try to explain it. Seesaw Sports asks what ha... happened? Monday: Opening statement. Friday: Rebuttal.

Real photos. Real results. But what in the heck happened?

This month we have GIFs!

I present to you the following:

Photo: All women's sports should be this much fun.

Title: "Kick save and a Beauty"

Description: Who knew?!? Apparently the phrase "Kick save and a Beauty" is not just for ice hockey. This volleyballer made a nice diving kick to, we assume, save the point for her team. But even if they didn't manage the return, who cares? It was still damn impressive. Go ladies!

Two immediate questions come to mind:

(1) Be honest, were you aware that players were allowed to use their feet in volleyball?

(2) Can you find me a better GIF of someone stretching the limits of a sport?

My answer to both is 'I doubt it.' But go for it and tell me what ha... happened?

Honesty, huh? I had NO idea you could kick the ball in volleyball. I thought it was bump, set, spike, but kick! Haha, that's awesome.

I'd argue this is hardly stretching the limits of the sport if its just part of the game, albeit a rarity. But don't you worry. I have a few GIFs up my sleeve.

As for what happened?

Not everyone is fortunate enough to make the Olympic soccer team. That may be the pinnacle of women's team sports in the Olympics and this lady was the odd woman out. She is a super star athlete however and turned to her second love, volleyball. Not beach volleyball, that's for showoffs, but regular street volleyball. Instincts are instincts, and instead of diving head first to bump the ball with her hands, a sweet slide and kick save was enacted. I'm hoping it was for success!

(GIF courtesy of Sbnation)

Friday, June 14, 2013

LeBron James: A new Castle for the King - Part two

LeBron James: A new Castle for the King - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-14-13)

[Part one - King of Kings]

LeBron James is exercising his opt out clause next summer and moving his castle out of Miami. The King will be returning home and the new and improved Big Three will now be in Cleveland. LeBron returns to Ohio to make amends and team with Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao. Long live the King.

The great part is, this threesome actually fits together stylistically better than the Big Three in Miami ever have. Of course Irving needs to improve his defense and Varejao needs to stay healthy and playing at last season's high level, but these guys have loads of talent. I repeat, LOADS. I did not include the Cavaliers on my list of teams that LeBron would have brought to the NBA Finals because in that hypothetical scenario he would have been replacing Kyrie Irving. However, if he opts out of his contract and decides to join the Cavs of his own volition, then watch out! Teamed with the ever improving duo of Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, this squad would be a force to rival anyone in the entire Eastern Conference from day one.

The only other location that LeBron would choose to move to is Los Angeles. People have been speculating he might opt out to join the Lakers, if he spurns Cleveland yet again. Those are the three most logical/likely choices (staying in Miami, signing with the Cavs, signing with the Lake Show). But would joining LA be better? I think the Cleveland team would be a better option personally, and as a basketball fan I want to see this happen. If you assume the Lakers' Big Three would become LeBron, Kobe Bryant (eventually, once he's healthy) and either Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol, is that better than what Cleveland would have? I'm not so sure. It certainly isn't as fun to root for.

Did you suddenly become a Cleveland fan? Having LeBron return 'home' to rejoin the Cavaliers is what happens in movies, but rarely plays out in real life sports until the final year or two of a players contract. LeBron is not signing with Cleveland in the summer of 2014. Maybe for the final year or two of his career, so that puts us in the summer of 2020 then. He isn't joining the Lakers either. A Big Three of James, Kobe and Gasol (I'm assuming Howard is long gone - hated playing with Kobe) is amazing on paper, but who knows when Kobe will be back at 100 percent. Kobe's like a meaner, more controlling version of Dwyane Wade (both injured) and Gasol is a more consistent version of Chris Bosh with better defense. That's a crappy situation to spurn Miami for, even if it is Los Angeles. Let me make things simple. LeBron is not going to LA or returning to Cleveland for one reason and one reason only, his legacy.

I get the impression LeBron is a big picture guy. He joined the Miami Heat in order to win a string of championships and cement himself as the greatest of all time, at least that was the idea. And NBA legacies have been forged with strings of titles on one team, with the same coach, not spread across two or three different ones. Yes, yes, he's the face of a new generation that values the team less, but he isn't blind. Doing it all in one place is preferable.

The Heat have made the NBA Finals in every season LeBron's been there, and even if they lose this year, he's got one more season in South Beach for sure. Pat Riley is a basketball genius and the coach down there isn't half bad either. LeBron will approach his opt out clause with four straight NBA Finals appearances and either two or three rings (my prediction - barely a stretch). He isn't messing with that and neither is Pat Riley. This year's Miami team is old, but its not a permanent mess. Both Wade and Bosh can also opt out after next season, but don't expect things to make it that far. I predict Bosh gets shipped out of town this summer for youth and Riley gives Wade one more season to be healthy before he's traded too.

We've seen old teams suddenly get young from one season to the next and LeBron isn't about to break up the dynasty he has forming with Eric Spoelstra and Miami. DYNASTY. I realize the team has fallen apart around him this season, but that's what trades are for. The Heat might have limited financial wiggle room and be approaching an outrageous luxury tax, but what's more important? Winning multiple rings in a row, or winning three out of five rings or whatever it may be, or not paying a luxury tax? I think the Heat eat the tax and rake in the extra money from having the greatest NBA Franchise of the new decade. Imagine if LeBron actually gets the five or six rings he called for when joining the Miami Heat. Now that's a legacy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

LeBron James: King of Kings - Part one

LeBron James: King of Kings - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-10-13)

Well, here we are. The Miami Heat are back in the NBA Finals, in no small part thanks to league MVP LeBron James. Okay, who are we kidding; it's the whole entire part thanks to LeBron James. He is the best player in the league, in the world, in the NBA since Michael Jordan. The leap between the Association's second best player (Kevin Durant) and James is wider than the gap between Durant and the rest of the top ten. Just look at the rest of this supposedly loaded Miami club that James carried. Dwyane Wade has not been healthy the entire season. He can only bring it in spurts, and that's not even every game. Chris Bosh is out-matched by any legit center, as Roy Hibbert demonstrated game after game. Bosh has become a stretch four, even though he really needs to be closer to the basket to grab rebounds for the otherwise small Heat. And the rest of the club is what it is: Mario Chalmers is sometimes good; Shane Battier and Ray Allen used to be good at shooting threes; Chris Andersen is tall. You get the idea.

Which brings us to only one logical conclusion: LeBron could have carried nearly any team to the Finals. Just look back at those Cleveland Cavaliers teams he trekked to the championship for an even better example of his prowess. His best teammates were Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Seriously. That's not even a joke.

So let's play a game! Take LeBron off the Heat and put him on any team, replacing their best player. How far would that team have gone?

For example, if LeBron replaced Carmelo Anthony on the Knicks, that New York team makes the Finals, easy. They become the best team in the conference. James is that much better of an all-around player than Melo is. The defensive gap alone is so wide, we can't see to the other side. Now not every team has a clear-cut best player. If we used the Memphis Grizzlies, would we be replacing Marc Gasol or Mike Conley? Same goes for Indiana. But these teams aren't important here anyways. They were so close to making the Finals that obviously obtaining the MVP would have pushed them over the edge. What about some lottery teams though?

Here were the 14 lottery teams this season, the teams that were not good enough to even make the playoffs: Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, Washington, Charlotte, Orlando, Sacramento, Phoenix, Dallas, New Orleans, Utah, Portland and Minnesota. With the help of one LeBron James, no less than half of these teams would have leaped all the way from chasing ping pong balls to chasing the Larry O'Brein trophy.

Toronto, Detroit and Washington are no-brainers. These teams have a number of impressive players and complimentary pieces. Replace Rudy Gay, Greg Monroe and John Wall respectively with James and all those squads could have won multiple playoff rounds. Toronto would have young studs Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross as well as veterans Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and the capable Andrea Bargnani (who, when he's shooting well is essentially everything Bosh was in the Indiana series: not capable of defending or rebounding but can stretch to the three point line on offense). Detroit would still be left with Andre Drummond in the middle and James would be flanked by shooters in Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler. With Jose Calderon running point, this team is clearly better than any year LeBron played in Cleveland. Same goes for Washington with two bigs (Nene and Emeka Okafor) and Bradley Beal is so good the Wiz wouldn't even trade him for LeBron's real shooting guard teammate, Wade.

In the West, Dallas, New Orleans, Utah, Portland and Minnesota all make runs in the playoffs with LeBron. Not to get too detailed, but none of these teams are that far away from playoff contention. Minnesota would have made the playoffs with or without LeBron had injuries not derailed their season. Take each team's go-to guy away and replace him with the King and every squad could challenge San Antonio out west. If you're telling me I can claim Eric Gordon as the Hornets' number one guy, that team is loaded. A lineup of Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez, James, Ryan Anderson and Greivis Vasquez is so ridiculously tall, it would create mismatches against any opponent in the league. Too bad Austin Rivers was the worst rated player in the history of the NBA this season or we really could have something here. Otherwise, if Anthony Davis is replaced by James instead, this team becomes much more prototypical but remains quite lethal.

So that's my eight: eight lottery teams who, with the addition of James, would have (a) made the playoffs and (b) made a run at the title. You could even talk me into a few more. Philadelphia might not have quite enough but isn't too far away; same goes for Phoenix and even Charlotte if we're feeling generous. Some of these teams missed the playoffs by 20+ games. If there was a WAR stat for the NBA, LeBron would be worth that much, trust me.

Tell me where I'm wrong. Tell me why I'm crazy.

I'm a smart guy, so I obviously agree that LeBron is the best player, blah, blah, blah. But your missing the biggest point of all. He is light years better than he ever was as a Cleveland Cavalier. Sports pundits are touting the rematch between LeBron and the Spurs, vindication for his Finals loss with Cleveland in 2007. But LeBron is NOT the same player. At times his Miami team looked average at best during the Pacers series, but LeBron knew when to take over, when it had to be him, and he was beyond clutch. He is unmatched in the league right now and your argument stands. He would definitely have brought a few of those teams to the finals, swapping him for each team's best player. But ALL eight teams, that's crazy talk! They would all be playoff contenders and definitely make the conference finals. But they aren't all making the NBA finals. Give Dwyane Wade and Bosh a bit more credit than that.

Close, but no Cigar:

Detroit: Greg Monroe for LeBron: This team wouldn't beat Chicago or Indiana.
Washington: John Wall for LeBron: I like their chances, but I think they lose in seven to Indiana.
Portland: Umm, no.

All the way to the NBA Finals baby: (in order of dominance)

New Orleans: Eric Gordon for LeBron: Can we make this team happen please?
Minnesota: Kevin Love for LeBron: If Love somehow stays, this team's a dynasty. Still a winner.
Toronto: Rudy Gay for LeBron: You won me over with your roster breakdown.
Dallas: Dirk Nowitzki for LeBron: Cuban might make this happen in a year or two. Scary.
Utah: They practically win with no one. Add LeBron and look out.

That was the easy part, putting LeBron on a bad team. Let's play the reverse game!

LeBron teamed up in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, but unfortunately age and injury have caught up with Wade. They won't win six titles like they predicted, albeit somewhat sarcastically.

What 'Big Three' that includes LeBron is the ideal dynasty team? He can go anywhere after next season, or Pat Riley will bring in anyone to keep him in Miami. Who's the new big three?

Isn't it obvious? The new and improved Big Three, and perhaps the only remaining Big Three in the NBA with all the roster movement that has gone on, will be in Cleveland.

LeBron returns to Ohio to make amends and team with Kyrie Irving (the best under 24 point guard in the league...and yes, I had to look up Russell Westbrook's age and make sure I went under that threshold. Westbrook has already turned 24 so we're safe), and Anderson Varejao who was absolutely killing it this past season before he went down with an injury. Albeit in just 25 games, Varejao averaged a 14 and 14 with good shooting splits and 2+ stocks (steals plus blocks). He is arguably one of the best complimentary big men in the entire league, a middle-class man's Joakim Noah.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Jeter-less Yankees: A new era in New York - Part two

The Jeter-less Yankees: A new era in New York - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-7-13)

[Part one - Derek Jeter: Gone or Just resting]

Derek Jeter is retiring soon and the turnover on this roster was inevitable from an age standpoint, but Cano is in his early 30's. He was supposed to be the lynch pin connecting the 90's Yanks to the future Yanks. The young guys in the minors are still in the low minors; they are at least two more years away. If not Robinson Cano, who's team is this going forward? Don't say CC Sabathia; taking a look at his velocity this season, I'm afraid he may already be on the downside of his prime.

I think Cano re-signs, but this is no sure thing. He will want a lot of money and other teams will be itching to pay it to him as well. But your question of 'what then' is nearsighted and a 'head in the sand' view of the future. Let's assume for a moment that Robinson Cano signs with a team other than the Yankees. Kuroda probably re-signs, Pettitte retires, Mariano Rivera retires and so does Derek Jeter because of injury more than anything. The only Yankee staples of the past five years will be Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira, but neither man is the face of this franchise. Nor is CC Sabathia for that matter. I'll get to the man who has that honor in a moment. The team itself, the one on the field, will be brand new all over again, but just a great. This season has proven that a solid team can be assembled with limited financial resources. Now open up the books, clear them out, and things look much, much brighter. Without the big salaries of yesterday's star players, the Yankees have a lot of money to spend on what is shaping up to be an excellent free agent class for 2014. But who is the face of the franchise?

The face of the 2014 Jeter-less and Cano-less New York Yankees is their former catcher and World Series champion manager, Joe Girardi. He has been a Yankee since the titles of the late 90's. He managed the team to a title in 2009 and has proven his greatness with the lineup already in 2013. We have a great shot at the title this season, and after removing the team's star players, this Yankee team becomes its manager's ball club. Much like Joe Torre pushed the players of that 1996 team to greatness and stardom, Joe Girardi will wrestle the 2014 squad into a set of future stars of his own making. He embodies the team and he is the Yankees.

I can practically see you rolling your eyes over there, so what then, who do you have? Maybe Derek Jeter has another year in him, maybe he becomes a bench / hitting coach, but that doesn't make him the face of the franchise. If not Girardi, who's mug goes on the ticket stub?

Yeah the Yankees will still be good with or without Cano. I know this. They have too many resources not to be at least pretty good. But Joe Girardi is no face of a franchise. Give me a break! If you ask an Atlanta fan who their favorite Brave was, does anyone answer by saying Bobby Cox? Managers in baseball are afterthoughts unless they make a glaring mistake. Unlike football or basketball where a gameplan can be administered, baseball coaches essentially just keep track of playing time and keeping everyone healthy/motivated. And you want to put THAT on your opening day tickets?

The reason I asked is because I don't see a clear answer unless New York makes a move. As you stated, assuming Rivera, Jeter and, for argument's sake, Cano are all gone, that leaves the aging Sabathia and Teixeira as the big boys. A-Rod will be around (unless the Yankees are able to void his contract after this HGH suspension business sorts itself out); whether that implies he's healthy or on the field or even given playing time is another story. He is still a very famous baseball player, but no NY Yankee fan wants to root for him as their guy.

I've heard idiotic sportscasters announce how the Yankees should "just trade for Giancarlo Stanton since the Marlins aren't going anywhere" as if Miami would simply give away their best player at the age of 23 just because they aren't winning very much this season. But a blockbuster trade is possible as a means to resupply the Major League club with a franchise star. New York does have a loaded crop of guys in the low minors who are probably two or three years away. Maybe Miami would be interested in a few.

We left ourselves with a lot of assumption-making but therein lies the groundwork for successful debating and predicting. The most realistic scenario sees Robbie Cano return after signing a near $200 million contract. The next most realistic possibility is New York playing the 2014 season behind Sabathia, Tex, and role players old and young. It's not fun nor exciting, just realistic.

But we are getting way ahead of ourselves. We're not even to the All-Star break of 2013 just yet and the Yanks are playing well. I sure hope Derek Jeter is ready to return next month. Lord knows we need an everyday shortstop who can at least hit his weight. The Captain has surprised us before; coming back on schedule now would be another pleasant surprise.

Okay, okay so Joe Girardi is the opposite of a glamour pick, but he completely fits the "face of a franchise" mold. He's a former player for the Yankees, turned manager. That at least partially balances out the fact he isn't actually participating in the games. Plus, doesn't his stock sky rocket after this year, assuming things play out as good as or better than they have so far. Most years I agree, the manager is a "pat you on the butt" guy, but this season Joe is working some magic in the dugout.

As for Jeter surprising us all, if we've learned anything from his history then we're in for a show. He's always been full of surprises, exceeded expectations, pulled the Yankees by his teeth when necessary and taken the team to unbelievable heights. With Mo Rivera playing out of his mind, I'm pulling for a second half by Derek Jeter to match. Could we possibly have two historic players singing impressive swan songs together? Could they both go out on top? Damn I hope so!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Derek Jeter: Gone or Just resting - Part one

Derek Jeter: Gone or Just resting - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (6-3-13)

Unpopular opinion alert: Derek Jeter is probably not playing this season. He has had setback after setback. His return date jumped from April to May to July to no timetable. The captain may not have an at-bat this season...which logically brings us to this harsh reality: Jeter may not play again.

Of course he's a Hall of Famer. His numbers are good; his postseason accolades are historic. His career outlook is not at risk if he never takes another swing. My question, Yankee fan to Yankee fan, is whether this possibility bothers you.

Now clearly not having a starting shortstop on your favorite club is troublesome. That's not what I mean. Does the fact that Derek Jeter may retire (and that Mo Rivera IS going to retire) bother you? You are certainly aware at this point of my ice cold heart and stony demeanor. I never become attached to players. The Yankees could trade Robinson Cano tomorrow and I wouldn't mind as long as the haul made them better off. But you never broached the analytic approach as far as I.

If Derek Jeter cannot play baseball anymore for the New York Yankees, how will that make you feel?

My entire adult life has consisted of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera in pinstripes. I have a vague memory of Don Mattingly playing for the Yankees, but my first true memories of our team come from 1996 and year the Yankees won their first World Series of my lifetime. I'm definitely blessed to barely recall a time before our team was dominant as hell, but that doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye. What does make Jeter's absence bearable is Mariano's dominance during his swan song of a season.

We know this is Rivera's final season and can enjoy it for everything it is. His greatness continues on and that continues to be absolutely amazing. On the flip side is Derek Jeter, who I assumed would take the field for at least another half year. Until you threw the facts in my face, I still expected him to return by August 1st. But if he is done, done, then I'm sad.

Its one thing to watch your team's captain and former best player, knowing he is going to retire. Its quite another to realize that the year before was his final season and nothing more is coming. If I'm being honest, I was surprised how well he played in 2012. He blew up expectations and destroyed any notion I had of his demise. But reality is here now and I'm not surprised he's on the bench. I would be shocked, however, if he didn't make at least a few plate appearances in September and the post season.

On a side note, how amazing is it for Jeter to be a Yankee, not from a fan's perspective, but from a player's? They are basically paying him this entire season to rehab an injury, knowing full well that he is about to retire. I don't think any other team does this, no matter the caliber of player. They should really name him an honorary bench coach and have him dress for the games. Not a mascot in the literal sense, but definitely a mascot! I would love that.

Even though I have no heart or loyalty to specific players and my blood runs cold as the River Styx, I do agree that watching Rivera play out his final year knowing he will retire is more pleasant than waiting on Jeter's future. But really the nice feeling is 98% derived from the fact that he is playing so well. If Rivera turned into Fernando Rodney, I'd probably wish he was out rehabbing a devastating injury.

But with Rivera's future announced and Jeter's so up in the air, the Yankees have a different feel to them. The other injuries on the team play a large part in this as well. We didn't expect to still see Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay playing in June. However, despite any injuries or whatnot, this is Robinson Cano's team. What now happens if the Yankees are not able to re-sign him? He is a free agent at year's end and will be asking for a lot, I mean A LOT, a ton, a great ton of money. With the Yankees' self-appointed salary cap ceiling for 2014, it is at least possible Cano does not wear pinstripes next season. What then?