Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just checking in with a question

Is there anyone other than Gary Matthews Jr., his agent, Bill Stoneman, and fans of other AL West teams who think this deal is good for the Angels? I mean, has any Angels fan anywhere come close to saying that this deal isn't awful?

I think Bill Stoneman may be retarded. Seriously.

Absolutely Indefensible

The Gary Matthews signing will haunt the Angels into the next decade. Easily one of the three or four dumbest moves in franchise history.

This has basically ruined my entire Thanksgiving weekend.

Morning Roundup - Updated with Angels news


Pretty ugly game last night. Horrendous shooting from anywhere beyond about 8 feet from the basket, and that included the free throw line. The defense was not terrific in the second half outside of a few select possessions, but they were solid when they had to be, and although they gave up what was once a 17 point lead, they never let Kentucky get the lead beyond one posession, and almost every time Kentucky took a lead, the Bruins would run it back out to about a four or five point advantage. Also, give the Bruins credit for taking care of the ball. They only turned it over 8 times, three of those belonging to Darren Collison, who made up for them with seven assists.

They're going to need to shoot the ball a hell of a lot better, though. 2 for 19 from the three point line isn't going to cut it, and 54% from the free throw line isn't much better. A rare below average rebounding night from LRMAM was offset by his 18 points, and Lorenzo Mata, coming off a knee surgery, looked excellent with 11 boards and 12 points. Georgia Tech is on the bill tonight after taking out Memphis. Another good test for the Bruins.


Didn't see this one, as it wasn't on TV (and I had a hockey game, but that's another story). Four players scored in double figures, including Rich McBride, who played 27 minutes in his first game of the year. He was 4-10 from beyond the arc, which is OK, but without seeing the game, it's tough to evaluate. Chet Frazier had a great game with 17 points and 10 assists against 2 turnovers in 27 minutes. Nice to see him get some time on the bench with McBride back in the lineup. The numbers were down for Trent Meacham and Calvin Brock, but Sean Pruitt added a double-double. The Illini dominated the glass with a 46-19 rebounding advantage. In fact, more Illini misses were rebounded by the Illini than by Savannah State, which has to be a fairly rare occurrence. The 70% free throw shooting was pretty solid as well. Kind of curious why Brian Carlwell didn't register a shot (though he was obviously fouled three time in the act of shooting). Not much the Illini can do other than beat the teams that are put in front of them. We're a week away from the first real test for the Illini when they face Maryland at the Hall in the Big 10/ACC Challenge.


The folly continues, as the Angels ramp up their pursuit of one year wonder Gary Matthews Jr., who says the Angels are probably the top team on his list. Rumors have the contract at five years, which is too many for a guy who will be 32 in the first year of the deal, which is already pushing it for a center fielder. He's been above average (barely) exactly three times in his career, and in two of those seasons, it was in limited time. Even in last year's career year (as it's his eighth in the majors, I refuse to call it a break out year). His isolated on base percentage (OBP less batting average), was worse than Chone Figgins', and his numbers were inflated due to his high batting average, which was 14% higher than his career high (not his average, but his HIGH!) coming into this season. He hit all of 20 home runs in a hitters' park, and didn't even slug .500. He has the potential to be a pretty good player over the next couple of years, but he's doubtful to be worth what the Angels will pay him, and he's virtually guaranteed to incredibly overpaid over the last couple years of the deal.

Angels fans, cross your fingers and hope the gold mine that the Cubs are apparently sitting on is still producing. Their downright crazy off-season may be the Angels only hope at this point. This would not be a good signing for the Angels. I might rather take Reggie Willits straight up over GMJ.

UPDATE - Fox is reporting it's a done deal at 5 years, $50MM. He'll be 36 in the last year. This move is indefensible. Dumbest move since the Easley for Greg Gohr trade. Just pathetic. Fuck this fucking team.


Leaving today for Toledo (four hours) to visit my sister for Thanksgiving. Then on Friday I'll be driving from Toledo to Evansville, IN (eight hours) for a wedding, then back to Chicago (six hours) on Sunday. It's going to be a long weekend. As a result, posting could be on the light side. Of course, I'll probably be bringing my computer, and with the rehearsal dinner and reception, there's an increased possibility for drunk posting, so you never know.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


UCLA at Kentucky tonight. Nice to see Aaron Afflalo get his jumper back last night. At times the game was pretty sloppy, and it seemed to be called EXTREMELY tight against UCLA. Part of me thinks that Ben Howland requested that. There were a lot of carries called that you never see called during the regular season. A lot of very ticky tack fouls called against the Bruins that you don't even see during a Pac 10 game. And that's fine with me. Get them used to that. Better to have that happen in a game in which they were going to win easily. Russel Westbrook looked very solid in my opinion. He only had three points and two assists, but he showed quickness and good decision making. If he can contribute this season as much as Collison did last season, the Bruins will be in good shape. Tonight is a measurement game.

The Illini continue the soft part of their schedule with Savannah State. Savannah hasn't played anyone of note yet, but they're 5-0, and at least they'll bring a winning attitude to the Assembly Hall. The Illini backcourt has been terrific to start the season, and no one has surprised more than Calvin Brock. Rich McBride returns to the lineup, but with Brock, Chet Frazier, and Trent Meacham playing so well, it may be tough for him to get minutes. The competition for playing can do nothing but help the team. And if these guys continue to exceed expectations, look for coach Weber's reputation as an excellent developer of guard talent to continue to improve. One of the issues with this team, as noted by the Big Ten Wonk, has been defensive rebounding. We'll see if coach Weber makes that a point of emphasis tonight.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Angels Ink Justin Speier

Four years, $18MM. My gut instinct is to criticize multi-year, multi-million dollar deals for relief pitchers, especially relief pitchers that aren't closers. The Angels have made a habit of getting pretty good performances from scrap-heap guys over the last six or seven years, then letting them loose on other teams just before they ran out of good pitches (Mark Petkovsek is the poster boy for this, but they got good seasons out of Ben Weber, Al Levine, and Lou Pote before they fell off the map as well). But the Angels bucked this trend last year with the signing of Hector Carrasco (tempered somewhat by the original plan to start him before signing Jeff Weaver, and before the emergence of Jered Weaver). So for the second year in a row, the Angels move to shore up their bullpen via free agency, signing the best free agent middle reliever on the market.

Speier is the son of former major leaguer Chris Speier, which pretty much means absolutely nothing, but I had his baseball card as a kid, so I thought I'd throw that out there. Basically this move drops JC Romero completely out of the picture (mercifully), as Speier has killed lefties the last couple of years, and drops Carrasco and Donnelly back a spot in the bullpen, assuming Donnelly returns (Stoneman has said he likely will). That won't make Donnelly very happy, but it does give the Angels the top bullpen in the AL heading into the season. As we all know, bullpens aren't built on paper, so that guarantees the Angels absolutely nothing but peace of mind for the first couple weeks of April.

It also increases the possibility that the Angels could include Scot Shields in a deal for a big bat this off-season. He's been in the mind of every team that has tried to deal with Stoneman the last few seasons, and now that the Angels have another guy capable of pitching the 8th, Shields could be used to sweeten the pot for a potential slugger, especially in light of the fact that they just removed the other best alternative from the market. Shields hits free agency next season (I think), and if this deal is an indication of his value, he'll probably command a deal of similar length at something closer to $6MM per. That may be more than Stoneman is willing to shell out.

As the Rev pointed out, this could be a case of Stoneman taking into account where the budget is going for the next couple of years and spending accordingly. At the beginning of the 2005 season, the Angels had expensive players at every infield position except for third base while employing a fairly cheap bullpen. Catcher, First, and Second just got a lot cheaper in the last year, and Stoneman probably feels like he has money to spend on a part of the roster that a) needs help, and b) saved them money over the last few years. That's fairly astute analysis, and I wish I'd thought of it.

Against my prior judgment, I like this deal. It gives the Angels options heading into the season, and should they choose not to exercise them, they're going to have an excellent bullpen yet again. This has been Bud Black's forte, so it make Mike Butcher's job a little easier as well. And if they make a move including Shields, they just paid a couple million to enhance his value.

The first big test

It's likely to come tomorrow night for the UCLA Bruins, who are slated to take on Kentucky if they can get by potential giant killers Chaminade, who took down top ranked Virginia in this tournament a little over twenty years ago. This should be a pretty good indicator of where the Bruins are at this point in the season. The field is loaded outside of the hosts. Joining the Bruins and Wildcats in Maui are Depaul, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Purdue, and Oklahoma. That's a very solid field. The Bruins could also meet Memphis in the final, the next highest ranked team behind the Bruins in the top 25.

Tournaments like these are excellent early season tests, and I commend Ben Howland for taking the Bruins to this event. I've been critical of his scheduling history in the past, and there are still a few issues I have with some of the comments he's made in the past (most notably advocating a 16 game conference schedule). A young team with a major target in it's back needs early mathups like this to help them get used to the type of intensity they're going to face from opponents every night this season.

Speaking of major upsets in holiday tournaments in Hawaii, we're coming up on the 17th anniversary of perhaps the most underrated upset in the history of college basketball. On Christmas night in Honolulu, the UC Riverside Highlanders took down then-undefeated and fourth ranked Iowa. They didn't do this on a luck three pointer at the last second. The Highlanders canned 21 threes during the game en route to a 110-92 victory. It remains probably the biggest win in UCR hoops history (it should have been overshadowed by a D-2 National Championship in 1995, but I'd rather not get into that). I only call it underrated because, for example, a google search for "Chaminade Virginia" turns up a ton of hits on that game, while I had to search for about fifteen minutes to find ONE mention of the game (OK, I found two, but one was from me talking about it on another message board). Anyway, here's a link to a brief mention of the game. You'll need to search through a bit, but it's there.

UCLA plays UC Riverside later this season. In 2001, I walked a mile and a half in a Western Chicago suburb, at night, in December, to watch the Highlanders take on the Bruins. UCR actually led by one early in the second half before being blown out, but hey, it was a Lavin team, which meant there was always a chance for an upset. This is the the only match-up in which I'll ever root against UCLA.