Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Greatest Sports Leader of All-Time


With game six of the Eastern Conference Finals upon us, we have a very unique and rare situation. Today the New York Rangers take on the New Jersey Devils, and are down three games to two in the series. They’re fighting for their play-off lives. Eighteen years ago on this very day, the exact same situation.

The difference, of course, is eighteen years ago NHL legend Mark Messier guaranteed a win and secured it with a hat-trick to win game six. The Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup that year in a seven game series against the Vancouver Canucks. For many people, this is the series that cemented Mark Messier as one of the greatest leaders in all of sports, and possibly the greatest leader ever in hockey.

So what better time than now to announce our new feature: The Greatest Sports Leader of All-Time. This feature series will pit sports leaders against each other for fan votes to determine who really is the greatest leader of all-time. What we need from you is the nominees.

Sure we have a few of our own to put in the hat, but who do you think should be included in this argument? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet them at us @anpsports. We’re really looking forward to this fun and interactive series, so help us determine the all-time great sports leader!

Should You Start Felix Hernandez?


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It’s a tough decision for fantasy owners right now: do you start pitcher Felix Hernandez against the Texas Rangers tonight? While Hernandez is definitely above Matthew Berry’s Wandy Line (the line that divides average pitchers and pitchers that you should start regardless of match-up), he is coming off a tough outing.

Hernandez got lit up by the Cleveland Indians for six earned runs over less than four innings of work in his last start and struck out only three batters. For the most part I would start him without question, expecting a bounce back game. But Felix isn’t up against just any team. He’s up against the Texas Rangers, owners of the MLB’s most fearsome offense and most fearsome offensive player in Josh Hamilton.

In the end, for me, the Wandy Line and Hernandez’s sixty-one strikeouts on the year won out. While my gut says sit him, my head says you don’t bench a sixty-one strikeout hurler because the competition is tough. I’m starting Felix Hernandez, what would you do? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Between the Pipes: Goaltender’s in the NHL Play-Offs


I was talking with a friend today about the NHL play-offs while we were watching today’s New York Rangers / New Jersey Devils match-up (the Rangers won 3-0). An interesting point came up in our conversation: of the four teams remaining, who would be the Conn Smythe winner if any of them won the cup? It’s a deceptively easy question to answer, since in most situations it ends up being the goaltenders. But is that the case for these teams?

For the New York Rangers, a team getting by on an everyone buys in defensive mentality, every player has contributed. Both defensively and offensively it seems that the goal or big play they need comes regardless of who is on the ice. In a situation like this, defensive and contributions spread throughout the team, it’s hard to bet against a goaltender. Especially when that goaltender has a .942 save percentage, a 1.57 GAA, and leads the post-season in shut-outs with three.

New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist (G)

How about the rival New Jersey Devils? The Devils have long been the gold standard to which the rest of the league compared their defense. While those days are gone, the Devils are still an adept defensive club with a platoon of defensemen that don’t steal the limelight. With that said, the Devils do have two of the games bigger stars up front in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Ilya Kovalchuk currently has cracked the top five in post-season goals, but teammate Parise is strangely absent. Goaltender Martin Brodeur sits eighth in the post-season in save percentage, and doesn’t crack the top five in any category besides shut-outs (he has one). A dark horse could take it here, watch for under appreciated guys like Bryce Salvador to sneak in with +/- of +8, which ranks him fourth in the post-season.

New Jersey Devils: Bryce Salvador (D)

How about the Western Conference? The Phoenix Coyotes have gotten this far on the back of their goaltender. There are no questions on that one. A save percentage of .942 has him tied for second with Henrik Lundqvist, and a GAA of 2.02 puts him fifth in the league. While things don’t look good for the Coyotes right now, if they come back and make it to the finals it will be on the back of Mike Smith.

Phoenix Coyotes: Mike Smith (G)

We haven’t talked yet about the red hot Los Angeles Kings, and that’s because this is an interesting battle. Two players have stood out for the Kings in their streak through the play-offs: goaltender Jonathan Quick, and forward Dustin Brown.Quick has a GAA of 1.41, and a save percentage of .951; both good enough to lead the league. He also leads the league in wins right now with 11. Dustin Brown is the heart and soul of the squad, and leads the league with a +/- of +12. He also sits second in scoring with fifteen points, third in goals with seven, and third in assists with eight (one behind teammate Anzi Kopitar). It’s a tight race, but I think the edge has to go to the captain, who has lead with guts and timely goals.

Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown (RW)

So it’s an interesting split. Two for the goalies, one for the defensemen, and one for the forwards. Who will take it all is anyone’s guess still. For any of these four remaining teams, what position do you think will win the Conn Smythe? Vote below!

Kerry Wood Set to Retire


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ESPN is reporting that Chicago Cubs veteran pitcher Kerry Wood is set to retire today. It’s the unfortunate end to a potentially great career that was marred by injuries.

With that said he did end his 14 year career with a respectable 3.67 ERA, 1581 K’s, and a career WAR of 25.2 over 445 appearances.

Tom Renney Out as Oilers Coach


The Edmonton Oilers announced today via Twitter (because who needs to deal directly with the press?) that head coach Tom Renney’s contract would not be renewed. This comes after back to back losing seasons, though the 2011-2012 season did show a twelve point improvement.

Renney joined the team with Pat Quinn as head coach for the 2009-2010 season. Quinn was relieved of his coaching duties after one season. No candidates have been named for the new head coach.

Who do you think should be the next Oilers head coach? Vote below!

Fantasy Baseball: When Buy Low Goes Awry


One of the most important things for a fantasy baseball manager to do is keep your eyes open for deals. Slumping players tend to be great candidates for buy low opportunities. Maybe the player is hurt, maybe his owner doesn’t trust him, or maybe he’s just having a slow start. Regardless, if your team needs a boost a buy-low candidate could pay off in the long run.

But, as with anything, the buy low strategy doesn’t come without its risks. There’s always the possibility the player in question won’t bounce back the way you expect or hope. Sometimes the injuries are just too much to overcome, sometimes the age catches up with you, and sometimes things just don’t work out in your favor.

Such may be the case for struggling slugger Adam Lind. Fantasy owners and the Toronot Blue Jays alike have to be incredibly disappointed in Lind’s performance this season: an average of .186, three home runs, and eleven RBI to date. And that’s only scratching the surface, Lind hasn’t performed at all this season. These stats are coming from a man who has gone from a career high WAR (wins above replacement) of 3.6 in 2009, to a WAR of -0.7 this season. The low WAR is off from his career low of -1.3 in 2010, and is just one of the stats that had some people trying to buy low on Adam Lind.

But things went even worse for Adam Lind and his fantasy owners today as the Blue Jays dropped the slugger to Triple-A in favor of Yan Gomes, who is set to make his major league debut tonight. While this is far from the end of the line for Lind, it is concerning to see a 28 year old struggling this hard to put it together. You have to believe that when Lind does get the call-up, fantasy owners will need to take a wait and see approach before putting in a waiver claim.

The Worst Contracts in Sports


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A month into a ten year deal and people are already calling Albert Pujols a bust in Anaheim. We’ve quickly forgotten his slow start last year (albeit not this slow) and have decreed it was all smoke and mirrors. The Pujols we thought we knew no longer exists, and the Angels are on the hook for nine more years after this. This should come as no surprise, since the Angels have a history of locking up players to bad deals. Vernon Wells, anyone?

But bad deals are not new territory, so here are a few of my favorites from around the world of sports.

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Barry Zito – San Francisco Giants

While recent performances have at least shown Zito to once again be a competent pitcher, let’s not forget what he was supposed to be when San Francisco signed him: an ace. A major free agent signing, Zito was stolen away from Oakland at the promise of giant sums of money. Particularly, $126 million over the course of a six year deal.

Now everybody thought the curveballer would easily translate his over .600 winning percentage in Oakland into a World Series title. Instead, he flat out bombed to the point where the Giants were hesitant to even start him. His tenure in San Francisco has been marred by movements from the rotation to the bullpen and back again. He hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00, and his win-loss percentage sits at a miserable .415. Ironically, he was a member of the team that finally brought a World Series title to San Francisco. But, by that point, he was an after note to stars Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson.

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Rick DiPietro – New York Islanders

Not one to be outdone by anybody, New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro out-ridiculous’d even the ridiculousness of Islander’s forward Alexei Yashin’s 10-year contract. In 2006, with one full NHL season under his belt, the budding star signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract. When I say budding star, I mean a highly touted prospect that had shown he was at least qualified to back-up in the NHL with a 3.02 GAA and a .900 save percentage.

Since the signing, DiPietro has gone on to start 168 games over the course of six seasons. Ignoring even the middling numbers (his save percentage hovers around .900 for the most part), the biggest issue is he can’t stay healthy. In the last five seasons his highest game total is 26. Every other season in those five he hasn’t cracked the ten game mark. Because of that albatross, the Islanders haven’t been able to commit to a strong, young goaltender in their system. Instead they’ve been relying on other teams cast-offs, like Al Montoya, and stealing away returning KHL netminders, like Evgeni Nabokov.

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JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders

It’s tough to be a proud franchise in one of the longest droughts of mediocrity on record. Being in that position can force your hand and lead to some poor decision making. That’s what can be said for the Oakland Raiders in 2006 when they made quarterback JaMarcus Russell the number one overall pick in the entry draft.

Let’s be clear: the pick isn’t the issue. While JaMarcus wouldn’t have been my number one pick, Brady Quinn hasn’t exactly turned into an NFL superstar either. The Raiders, who had been languishing since the career ending neck injury of QB Rich Gannon in 2004, needed the strong armed quarterback to lead the team. So, bottom line: the Raiders thought Russell was their man and we can’t fault them for that. What we can fault them for is the massive contract they have to an unproven player.

Russell was in the middle of a crybaby holdout when the Raiders caved and signed him to a six year deal worth $61 million, $32 million of which was guaranteed. Russell proceeded to show up out of shape and flame out in the NFL until his release from the Raiders in 2010. The contract hangs around the organizations neck until next season, even though Russell is technically off the books.

Three proud franchises, three terrible contracts. Personally I don’t think anyone should ever get a deal over five years, and most players should never get a deal over three. But that’s just my opinion, what are your thoughts? What are the terrible deals that are hampering your club right now? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

All images used in this are the property of their original owners. No infringement is intended.

Fantasy Baseball – Are Closers Overvalued?


Over four weeks into the new baseball season I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a rookie league manager. This year I decided to gather a bunch of friends and start our own league instead of playing in other leagues. This has also offered a new experience for me: my first ever keeper league.

The excitement and detail of a keeper league can’t be overstated. No move can be made without careful thought. You’re not playing just for this season, you’re trying to build sustained success across several seasons. Which brings me to the topic for this article: are closers overrated in keeper leagues?

I don’t mean in terms of day to day operations, of course. Unless you want to get rid of a good opportunity to keep your ERA low and earn some saves, you definitely need closers. I mean in terms of the long run, are closers worth locking up with a keeper slot? Let’s take a quick look at some closers and how they’ve fared this season.

Drew Storen – Washington Nationals

One of the rising young arms, Storen began this season on the DL while three other pitchers held down the closers role for him. He’s still expected back before the All Star break, but there’s some bad news: one of those three pitchers holding his job turned out to be pretty good. Henry Rodriguez has done a fantastic job as everyone else has fallen by the wayside.

So, where does this leave Storen? Still a possible top level closer, does he come back into the staff in a set-up or long relief role? Does Washington demote Henry Rodriguez despite his performance? Or, does Washington now have a carrot to dangle as trade bait? Only time will tell, but nothing is certain right now.

Brian Wilson – San Francisco Giants

Possibly a victim of poor management, Brian Wilson was lost to his fantasy owners after only one appearance this season. A hero of the Giants World Series’ title, this is now the second year in a row Brian Wilson has been shut down. For a terrific closer and fantasy option, Wilson is quickly dropping out of the picture.

Heath Bell – Miami Marlins

One of Miami’s big off-season acquisitions, Bell has been nothing short of inconsistent and terrible this season. So much so that manager Ozzie Guillen recently demoted him from the closers role. With a ballooning ERA and no signs of making a save anytime soon, Bell now finds himself in a set-up role, a specialist. He’ll most likely be back due to his long and hefty contract, but will he be worth looking at as a viable fantasy option?

Mariano Rivera – New York Yankees

Yes, even the greats are susceptible. Even the greatest of all time. Until last week, Mariano Rivera was the exception to my argument. A beacon of consistency in the closer ocean. Unfortunately the Sandman has gone down with a torn ACL, removing the games best closer for the season. Now Rivera has said he’ll be back, so his career isn’t over. But his time as a fantasy stud may be. A torn ACL isn’t an easy injury to overcome, and it is hard to judge if Rivera’s now 42 year old body will be able to return to form.

These are just a few examples, but there are questions all over the league. Papelbon is being underutilized in Philly, Javy Guerra has been ousted for Kenly Jansen in LA, and the Red Sox can’t seem to find any answer right now. Even potential great closers like Aroldis Chapman in Cincinnati are stuck in middle relief limbo right now. So my question to you is this: are closers worth using a keeper slot on? Most of the effective closers right now are pitchers who were available on fantasy waivers the first week of the season. Are there any closers left right now that inspire the confidence for you to use a keeper slot? If so, who? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Images used in this blog remain the property of their respectful owners. No infringement is intended.

Predators Suspend Two


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While it’s open to obvious speculation and debate, I for one want to congratulate the Nashville Predators for doing right by their team. Nashville announced on Tuesday that Alexandre Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, the teams top two scorers, would be suspended for Game 3 of their play-off series against the Phoenix Coyotes.

It’s easy to look at this as a punishment to the fans, removing the team’s best scoring threats for breaking team rules, but fans should be applauding the Predators. A team that has always thrived on system play has just sent a statement saying the system and the city of Nashville are more important than any individual players.

Now Nashville needs to go out and trump the Coyotes to really drive their point home.

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