Dolphins Desperate for Relevancy

Jason Cole couldn’t have nailed it better.

If news of Miami Dolphins fans’ chants for Kyle Orton(notes) and the media running wild with rumors about Brett Favre(notes) didn’t make it clear that these are desperate times in Miami, here’s one tidbit that should seal the issue.

This week, Dolphins management hired a “third-party” company to chase down a couple of hundred season ticketholders who have failed to make payments on their high-end tickets. As Adam Grossman, the team’s vice president of public affairs, was clear to point out, this third party is not a collection agency. However, it’s only a step removed.

Getting away from the argument over whether it’s OK for a sports team to chase people down for ticket money, here’s the deeper issue: The Dolphins, who were once the undisputed kings of South Florida sports, are so desperate these days to sell tickets that they have to go after everyone they possibly can.

They have gone 7-9 each of the past two years with coach Tony Sparano’s close-to-the-vest play-calling and lack of offensive weapons. Dan Marino’s former team is playing plodder football. It’s dreary and lifeless, sapping the energy from fans faster than South Florida’s brutal August weather. That’s one of the reasons the Dolphins have had to put a nightclub at one end of the stadium and sell off shares of the team to the likes of Fergie and Marc Anthony. The product on the field is simply not good enough.

Hence the cheers for Orton earlier in camp (which have thankfully changed to pleas for Chad Henne(notes) to emerge from his two-year malaise) and the frenzy over Favre when Sparano declined to shoot it down directly on Thursday.

Perhaps that little bit of excitement will help drive interest in the meantime. Perhaps the NBA’s labor issues will allow the Dolphins some time to get fans excited this fall.

Either that, or the Dolphins may have to scare up interest some other way.

This perfectly sums up the Dolphins and their motives.  This franchise is clearly more focused on selling tickets than putting a winning product on the field.  The Dolphins are a pathetic franchise with a pathetic owner in Stephen Ross.

Guys like Bush, Barber, and Favre would all make a very little impact for the Dolphins this season.  Despite this, the franchise seems set on going after these high-profile guys instead of finding solid role players to help this team take the next level.  I’m thrilled that the Jets get to play this team two times a year.

It’s going to be fun sweeping these losers this season.  Barring a major move, I doubt the Dolphins win more than six games in 2011.  I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

 

See Ya Next Spring

It is not definite but several reports have stated that Johan Santana has been experiencing lingering shoulder pain and will be going to see a doctor. Just another classic Met injury. They build you up with progress and then tear you back down with a setback. I had a feeling this was too good to be true, this injury requires more time and I believe Santana was rushed or rushed himself.

I’m almost certain we will not see Johan this season and I wouldn’t be shocked for him to be out for part of next spring. Now this could be nothing; however this is a METS injury and will be much worse than it seems. The rotation is going to be a similar next year as it will be lacking a true ace. I’d start looking forward to the Wheeler/Harvey era sooner rather than later.

Somebody get the ice.

Deadline Pitching Targets: Yankees

The Major League Baseball trading deadline is roughly a month away, and we all know the Yankees would love to add another arm to their rotation for the stretch run. The Yankees currently sit atop the AL East with a record of 46 wins and 31 losses. They are 1.5 games above the second place Red Sox and 3.0 games above the third place Tampa Bay Rays. Surly the Yanks would love to widen their lead over their division rivals.

Here is a list of some pitchers the Yankees may target in order to have them slot behind CC Sabathia in the starting rotation:

Hiroki Kuroda
Pros: Kuroda has had a stellar career since coming over from Japan for the 2008 season, and this year has been no different. Kuroda has a 3.10 ERA in over 100 innings for the struggling Dodgers; moreover, he has only walked 2.17 batters per nine innings. Kuroda would fit perfectly behind Sabathia as the team’s number 2 starter.
Cons: Kuroda has a full no-trade clause, and he seems to be quite comfortable with the Dodgers despite their struggles.

Mark Buehrle
Pros: Buehrle has been a consistent pitcher throughout his career. Buehrle has a 3.87 ERA in roughly 100 innings in 2011, which is a solid line. Like Kuroda, Buerhle does not walk batters. He has walked just 2.09 per nine innings this year.
Cons:  Buerhle has a limited no-trade clause; furthermore, Buerhle’s 2012 option, which is worth 15 million, automatically vests if he is traded. It is also possible that the Yankees may be able to find a cheaper option, who can pitch just as effectivly.

Francisco Liriano
Pros: Liriano has shown ace like stuff throughout his career. For his career, he has struck out 9.10 batters per nine innings. His stuff is just plain filthy.
Cons: Despite throwing a no-hitter earlier this year, Liriano has struggled this year. He has a 4.98 ERA this year 72.1 innings pitched; however, his 4.22 FIP may suggest he has been better than his ERA indicates.

Carlos Zambrano
Pros: Zambrano has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career. He is a guy who can dominate opposing lineups. So far this year he has a 4.38 ERA and a 3.83 FIP in 111 innings pitched. I believe that a change of scenery could do Zambrano well. I think that if Zambrano is traded to the Yankees, he will react well to being thrown in the midst of a pennant race.
Cons: Zmbrano is a head case. He has the potential to destroy the chemistry in any clubhouse. He has fought with managers and battery mates alike. He is also due 18 million dollars in 2012. Although the Yanks can afford that price tag, it could prove costly if it doesn’t work out for the Big Z in New York.

Wandy Rodriguez
Pros: Rodriguez has been very good the last few seasons. So far this year he has a 3.21 ERA in 84 innings pitched. He could slot nicely in the Yankees rotation. He is also signed through 2013 which gives the Yankees a possible long-term solution in the rotation.
Cons: Rodriguez has been a victim of the long ball this year. He has given up 11 homers in 13 starts. Those numbers would surely increase if he pitched half of his games at Yankee Stadium.

First Round Review for Rangers, Devils & Islanders

The 1st round of the 2011 NHL draft is completed and the Rangers, Devils and Islanders selection have some mixed reviews. let’s start with the Rangers:

Rangers

The New York Rangers selected Jonathan Miller out of the USA U-18 USHL League. Miller’s stock rose after an impressive Under-18 World Championships. where he led US to a gold medal over Sweden by posting 4 goals and 9 assists in the tournament. I like Miller and his style of play fits right into the Rangers system. However; I was hoping the Rangers would have traded down (perhaps with Ottawa, who had 3 1st round picks (#6/#21/#24), perhaps acquiring Ottawa’s #21 or #24 pick and also an additional pick (#61 in the 2nd round) for their 15th overall pick. Players like Tyler Biggs, Nicklas Jensen (who I had projected) would have been available between the 21st and 24th picks and possibly Miller as well. Again, Miller is a solid player and pick and reminds me of Brandon Dubinsky, but I think the Rangers wasted an opportunity to acquire an additional pick.

Jonathan Miller

Devils

The devils selected arguably the best all around defensemen in the draft in Adam Larsson with their 1st round (#4) overall pick .  I had the Devils drafting a center in my pre-draft (Sean Couturier), however; I did suggest that if Larsson fell to them, it would be very hard to pass on him, which they didn’t. Despite the Devils having depth on defense in their system, I can not blame them for selecting Larsson, he is that good. Larsson will have a solid NHL career and become the 2nd best defensemen in Devils history (Scott Neidermayer #1).

Adam Larsson

Islanders

The Islanders selected a gifted center in Ryan Strome who posted 106 pts (33g/73a) last season. Out of the three local picks, I think this one surprised more people, as many (including myself) had the Islanders drafting a much-needed Defensemen. Strome wasn’t even listed on many mock drafts in the top 10, so this was definitely a surprise. The Islanders passed on Defensemean Dougie Hamilton, who would have been a mainstay for this organization for the next decade. Strome is an exciting player, but in my opinion, players like Courturier and Huberdeau would have been a better selection.

Ryan Strome

All three teams drafted a quality player and only time will tell how good they will be. I will give my overall grades for each team after the draft is completed.

Final Footnote:

I will say this that the Eastern Division has gotten a lot better over the past week with all the transitions and draft selections that have occurred. I expect this division to even get stronger after July 1st free agent signings begin. I will give a preview for each local team on who they should pursue via free agency later this week.

Let’s Have Faith in Iman Shumpert

As you’ve probably heard by now, the New York Knicks selected Georgia Tech point guard Iman Shumpert with the 17th pick of Thursday night’s draft. I’ve heard a largely negative reaction to the pick and while I can see why, I certainly disagree with the contempt of the this pick. The Knicks needed a speedy point guard off the bench and they got one in Shumpert. Shumpert is the anti Chauncey Billups and will push the pace and DEFEND. I know Chris Singleton was the better defender, but the most important position defensively in the league is at the point.

Shumpert has the athleticism to stay with the likes of Rose, Rondo, and Wade. Chris Singleton, although the best pure defender in the draft, would not be able to play the two and unless you want Melo to ride the pine, he wouldn’t have a significant impact. Shumpert also has much more upside. He reminds me of Russell Westbrook at UCLA. Inconsistent but a superior athlete with loads of potential. Singleton would not be on the floor enough to be effective.

Billups as we know is aging and will more than likely be banged up all year. I will say however that the smart drafting tactic would have been to trade down as Shumpert would have more than likely have been available several picks later. I will say for all of our sake that Shumpert was a better pick than also reaching on Josh Selby at 17. My advice for Knick fans is to have faith. No one liked Landry Fields this time last year, now Spike Lee wears his jersey on a nightly basis.

Shumpert probably isn't as bad as some Knicks fans have made him out to be.

Need or Want?

For most basketball fans the season ended when Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy and Lebron James was left at the altar once again. If you’re hardcore like me you know that is simply not the case. Tomorrow night the draft takes place and today might as well be Christmas Eve.  So I thought I’d give my perspective on some intriguing prospects for the New York Knicks and their 17th pick. Bear in mind the Nets do not have a pick until the 27th in the first round, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as this draft class is not as star filled as the 2003 draft.

For the Knicks, as it is with many teams, it’s about the age old question. Do we draft based on needs or the best available player? The Knicks are as set as set can be at small forward and power forward but the rest of the roster is a blank canvas. Chauncey Billups’ option is for this year and does not seem to be the answer long term at the point. The biggest hole both literally and figuratively is at the center position. The problem? Find me a legitimate big man in this draft. The third and final question? Is Landry Fields a starting 2 guard in the NBA. I personally think hes best served coming off the pine. So I’ve taken the liberty of sorting my favorite players in this draft class into two categories, Need and Want.

Needs

  • Nikola Vucevic – 6’11 C  USC: When I asked you to find me a legitimate big man in this draft, I was hoping you didn’t mention the skilled Serbian out of Southern Cal. What I like most about Vucevic besides his size is his shooting touch. He can stretch it from deep and will give Melo and STAT room to operate down low. Nikola seems like a safe pick in that he is polished and will be able to contribute immediately. Vucevic is by no means explosive or even athletic but he brings skills to the table. Put it this way, if Timofey Mozgov can start on opening night so could Vucevic.
  • Iman Shumpert- 6’5 PG Georgia Tech: Shumpert has been climbing up draft boards with exceptional workouts and premier athleticism from a point guard. He possesses outstanding length for a point and make no mistake about it he can play the point. His length and athleticism also blesses him with great defensive ability. Hes very quick end to end and can finish in traffic.The biggest question. Can he shoot? The answer. I don’t think so. However the easiest part of the game to work on is the jumper. PS, do not mention how a Mike D’antoni point guard needs to be able to shoot because D’antoni’s days are numbered.
  • Darius Morris- 6’4 PG Michigan- Another big point guard who the Knicks seem to be interested in. Size is the only similarity between Morris and Shumpert. Morris is more of a methodical run the offense , back you down point guard. I’ve heard several Andre Miller comparisons and I think thats accurate. Nothing flashy from Morris but he will be solid. The only thing that worries me about him is his quickness.

Want

  • Marshon Brooks- 6’5 SG Providence:  I’m going to make a bold statement. Whoever drafts Brooks will be getting the steal of the draft. Think of Brooks as a poor mans Kobe Bryant,  in appearance and overall game. He was as prolific a scorer as the more well known guys like Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker. The difference? Brooks seems to have the most going for him in terms of size and athleticism combined to go along with that natural scoring ability. He was a volume shooter at Providence meaning he had nights where he did force some shots. I feel that was based purely on the lack of talent around him, similar to Jimmer, except much worse.  Defensively I have some questions but one thing I know, Brooks will score.
  • Kenneth Faried- 6’7 PF Morehead St:  A Newark kid with the an endless motor. The rebounding numbers are astounding and he knows where hes limited offensively. Not a starter and not a position of need but the Knicks were pounded on the boards all year last year. Faried is a guaranteed 10 rebound guy and wont need the ball to contribute. I do have a problem with his offensive limits in that the Knicks last year looked stagnant in the second unit with guys like Jared Jeffries and Anthony Carter touching the ball. If Faried develops I see him to potentially become a Paul Millsap type. At worst hes Reggie Evans.
  • Jimmer Fredette- 6’2 PG BYU: It would be unlawful to not mention the almighty Jimmer. Jimmer’s strengths and weaknesses are well documented but their are two questions the Knicks should ask in looking at Fredette. Is he worth trading up for? Can he play the point? The Knicks answers to those two questions will result in their decision.

Let's hope the Knicks don't draft another Michael Sweetney.

Johan Santana Resumes Throwing

Johan Santana has resumed his throwing program. Santana halted his rehab after he felt soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder after throwing on  June 2nd.

Despite Johan Santana saying that he could return by late July, I still have my doubts about Johan actually throwing off of a big league mound this season.  He had a serious shoulder injury and seems to be behind in his rehab.  I remember that the Mets initially believed that he could be back by mid to late June; however it already is mid to late June and Santana is still taking baby steps down in Florida.

The Mets and Johan Santana may be better off if Johan slows down his rehab and aims for 2012.  Terry Collins’s Mets have surprised us so far this year, but let’s be serious: this team isn’t going to make the postseason.  However,  with some tinkering in the off-season and a 100% healthy Johan Santana the Mets could make some noise in 2012.