Sunday, July 15, 2012

Go Jeremy! Really, just go...

While the Jeremy Lin saga was a great one for the Knicks, last season didn't exactly end on a high note for either party.  Though Linsanity was running high, let's not forget that he played a total of 26 games for the Knicks.  Over those games, he was far more effective during the early stretch of play than the latter.  Lin also fared much better in coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced system than he did under new coach Mike Woodson.  When a knee injury all but ended the season for Lin, fans and teammates alike mourned his absence but soldiered on.

All that said, just about everyone in New York was eager to get Lin re-signed and see what a full season would look like for the Knicks.  All signs pointed to Lin's return: an arbitrator siding with the Knicks to ease contract concerns; even the signing of veteran point guard Jason Kidd to act as a perfect mentor for Lin.  But then came the Rockets.

To the surprise of many, Lin agreed to an offer sheet with the Houston Rockets, a three-year deal that would pay him $25 million.  No, Jeremy Lin was not the first NBA player to sign an offer sheet in an attempt to extract a raise from his current team.  In fact, it's fairly standard practice, the notion being that a player's current team can afford to pay more to retain him than another team could.  But that's not necessarily the case here.  The Knicks were already near the salary cap and had little flexibility now and in the years to come.  It was only thanks to that arbitrator's ruling that the Knicks could even afford Lin in the first place.

I'm not going to tell you I know what was going through Jeremy Lin's mind (or his agent's) when he signed that offer sheet.  Maybe he fully intended to return to New York.  Maybe he was only in it for the money.  But he sure wasn't thinking about making the Knicks the best team they could be by potentially saddling them with a big-money contract not of their own choosing.  But yesterday, the Knicks had a curious answer of their own.

By announcing the acquisition of former Knick Raymond Felton, a point guard, of all things, the Knicks may have given Jeremy Lin a cold sendoff.  It was a calculated gamble by Lin to sign with the Rockets.  But like all gambles, they come with risk.  And the risk, though at the time low, was always that the Knicks wouldn't match the offer.  It hasn't happened yet.  But it sure looks like it could.  And Jeremy Lin would only have himself to blame for that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oh, Those KC Fans!

Don't Be Our Guest
By now we've all seen and had a chance to react to Robinson Cano's less-than-hospitable reception at this year's Home Run Derby.  I'm a Yankee fan and thought it was mostly pretty funny.  After a while I thought it was a bit over the top, but Cano certainly didn't help matters by not hitting any homers.  That, of course, led the fans to boo (or cheer) even louder.  But Cano is a big boy and can take it, and fans are entitled to do what they please.  Besides, for once, actual home town fans were in the building. (Yes, yes, this was only the Home Run Derby -- the All-Star Game seats would be filled with rich, indifferent men, corporate sponsors and stars from FOX shows.)

So while fallout has been mixed, from "it's no big deal" to the hand-wringing commissioner, the fans doing all the booing have mostly been given a pass.  I suppose if hosting the All-Star Game is the biggest thing to happen to your franchise in nearly 30 years, you get a little testy over the Home Run Derby.

Here is the irony, though: let's say a Royals player had been HR Derby Captain and failed to pick a Yankee for the Derby held in Yankee Stadium.  If he then suffered the same fate, we would never hear the end of how awful New York fans are. Meanwhile, KC fans are just folksy, and root for the home team. Again, I'm not terribly bothered by "Cano-gate", but it's a serious double-standard here, one to which Yankee fans would be unfairly held.

Speaking of which, let's see what happens next year in CitiField.  (Of course, Mets' fans can't complain too loudly, seeing as how the Mets don't actually have any guys who can hit home runs on their team...)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Write It Off

I am reminded of a classic scene from Seinfeld, the episode where Jerry wants a "refund" for his broken stereo. There is a great exchange between Jerry and Kramer highlighting their collective ignorance:

Kramer: Jerry, all these big companies, they write off everything.
Jerry: You don't even know what a write-off is.
Kramer: Do you?
Jerry: No, I don't!
Kramer: But they do. And they're the ones writing it off.

In baseball, the Yankees are one of those "big companies". And like Kramer's big companies, they're the one's writing it off. The Yankees completed a trade today, sending the mercurial AJ Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates for... well, pretty much nothing, other than that write-off.

Basically, the Yankees are paying the Pirates to take Burnett off their hands. Though the Pirates have uncharacteristically agreed to pick up $13 million of the money owed Burnett over the next two seasons, the Yankees will still be paying him nearly $18 million to play for someone else.

The strangest part of this whole affair was that I thought the Burnett signing was a good one. At the time, Burnett was coming off a great season in Toronto. There was every reason to believe that he'd continue his success in the Bronx. For whatever reason, it simply never worked out.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Irregular Season

People used to talk about the NHL season as a waste of time -- simply a 6-month exercise to determine seeding for the playoffs. The same could be said about the expanded NBA, although the teams with the best records tend to maintain their lofty seeds. But I've rarely seen or read anyone talking about what has become the most meaningless (least meaningful?) regular season in all of sports: NCAA college basketball. You wanna talk about jockeying for position that doesn't even count?

I was reminded of this phenomenon when the following headline struck me: "No. 10 Duke stuns No. 5 North Carolina 85-84". I suppose there was an element of surprise, as Duke snapped Carolina's school-record 31-game home winning streak. But stunning? Either way, a closer look at the season-long AP Poll rankings makes you wonder if they even need to rank the teams at all.

In the pre-season AP Poll (yes, that's ranking teams before they've even played a game), North Carolina was ranked #1 and Duke #6... that is, until Week 4 when UNC lost to Kentucky, the new #1, fell to 5th, and Duke rose to #3 on a 7-0 record. Naturally, Duke lost the following week and fell to #7 in the Poll while UNC rose to #4 to fill the void.

Fast forward to Week 11 where previous #3 North Carolina drops a game and falls all the way to #8. Meanwhile, Duke jumps up to #4, creating the biggest disparity on the season for Duke vs. their arch-rival. You can guess what happens next.

Yep, Duke loses another game and falls back to #8, while UNC rises to #7 to again fill the void. Skip ahead to Week 14, the aforementioned #5 vs. #10 upset, which of course will look completely different when next poll comes out.

So how much better is Carolina than Duke? UNC has been ranked at nearly every position in the Top 10 this season. The same nearly goes for Duke, though they were never higher than #4. So beyond the home-court streak, does Duke's win really rise to a "stunner"? And even if it's mildly surprising, does it mean anything come March?

Keep in mind that this is the story of only two teams. Over the past 14 weeks, there have been three teams ranked #1 (though Kentucky fell out of the top spot and got it back once Syracuse lost it). Yet there have also been four different #2's (Kentucky, Ohio State, Missouri and Syracuse) and six #3's while eight different schools have spent time as the 4th-ranked team.

So come Selection Sunday, what will any of this mean? Probably not a lot. In fact, these teams will have played 30-odd games for the honor of being scientifically and/or arbitrarily seeded and placed in a regional bracket by an NCAA committee... which will then be subject to great debate until the tournament begins. At which point, finally, the games will count.