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Golden Oldies: When the Greats Fall

They come around every once in a while. The great teams that just seem to dominate their sport forever. You can look back at the legendary Montreal Canadiens teams in the NHL, the Denver Broncos with John Elway in the NFL, and Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA. All these teams had stretches where they were undoubtedly the class of their leagues. They also all suffered an end to their dominance.

Great teams tend to be built with a win now mentality. No matter how long they remain great, the cycle remains the same. Bring in the best of the best and take a run at a championship every year. Not a run in five years, a run this year. The cost of that is inevitably a loss of youth and prospects in exchange for top free agents and trades for aging veterans. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top current teams ready for a fall from grace.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers

Well, it’s starting to look like it could be a long season for the once formidable Lakers who, at the time of this writing, are sitting with a 9-11 record. Age is coming back to bite this team with five star players having over ten seasons of NBA experience. Two of those have over fifteen seasons of experience. Take a look at those five players, paying specific attention to their experience and age:

  • Kobe Bryant – 16 Seasons – 34
  • Steve Nash – 16 Seasons – 38
  • Antawn Jamison – 14 Seasons – 36
  • Metta World Peace – 13 Seasons – 33
  • Pau Gasol – 11 Seasons – 32

The ages range from 32 all the way to Canadian Steve Nash’s 38. While Kobe may have been the youngest player to reach 30,000 points, he’s no spring chicken either at 34.

The bottom line is these players are nearing or past the tail end of their prime seasons, and that’s shown this year with injuries and a losing record piling up. The Lakers can’t seem to keep up with the younger, faster teams and that may signal the end of the Lakers dynasty.

NFL: New England Patriots

How much longer can Tom Brady rule the NFL with an iron arm? At age 35, you have to think his time in the bigs may be coming to a close sooner rather than later. When you look at the quarterback he replaced (Drew Bledsoe) to take the starting job, you start to realize how long he has been in the league. That was back in 2001, and he has dominated ever since.

But the team has seen a number of pieces change over the years, and many of the great Patriots teammates from the glory years have retired. Gone are Mike Vrabel and Teddy Bruschi, leaving receiver Wes Welker, at 31, as one of the few remaining Super Bowl  legends. The Patriots have done a great job of replacing pieces as the team has gone along, but at this point they have begun fighting an uphill battle as their key components are getting older.

MLB: New York Yankees

Can you guess when Derek Jeter made his rookie debut for the pinstripes? No, it wasn’t along side the Babe, though it does feel like he’s been there forever. Jeter made his Yankee debut in 1995, one season before the insanely dominant Yankees teams won their first of five World Series from 1996 to 2009.

That’s why Derek Jeter is the perfect microcosm for where the Yankees are right now; clinging onto the past. The Yankees are old, and they are getting hurt. 38-year old Jeter’s injury in the play-offs showed how critical that one piece was to the entire team. They collapsed with the loss of their captain, and other veterans disappointed. Now the Yankees have announced 37-year old Alex Rodriguez will miss at least the first month of next year due to a hip injury. The Yankees cleared the farm to sign their stars and now are going to have to start rebuilding from scratch.

NHL: Not Applicable

Since we have no idea when the NHL will return, we can’t possibly know how old the players will be. Come on NHL, make this easier on us!


The Red Sox Instant Rebuild


With the signing of Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have made a statement: they’re trying to win now. After a disastrous 2012 that saw them jettison many aging veterans, apparently the Sox feel they have enough in the cupboard to add a few pieces and make a run. The Sox have also been linked to adding veterans Nick Swisher and Adam LaRoche.

In a division where the Jays have made massive improvements, the Orioles have developed surprisingly quickly, and the Rays have been a steady force for years, is this the right approach to take? It feels much like the Yankees of the 90’s, buying up big names to plug holes. It worked then, but we can see the harsh downside beginning right now. The Yankees are getting older and trending downward, and there doesn’t seem to be much help coming from the farm system.

So what do you think? Are the Red Sox making the right move or should they be rebuilding from the ground up for sustained success?

Dodgers Pitching Conundrums


There’s nothing official, but all reports point towards the Los Angeles Dodgers continuing their free spending ways and trying to sign Zack Greinke. Undoubtedly the class of this years free agent pitchers market, Greinke would give the Dodgers two Cy Young winners at the top of their rotation. Add in recent rumors tying the Dodgers to free agent Kyle Lohse, and the team is set from one to three. But there’s an awful lot of arms to fill the four and five holes.

The Dodgers still have most of last years rotation intact: Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, and Chad Billinglsey all were starters last season. Then there’s trade pick-up Josh Beckett, making a nice even four starters vying for two jobs. So what are your options?

You could move arms to the bullpen, I personally believe a pitcher like Beckett may be better suited there at this stage of his career, but then you run the risk of egos clashing. Starters may view the new role as a demotion and begin causing issues in the clubhouse.


Your alternative is to move some of these arms for prospects or depth. The Dodgers could definitely use some insurance in the pen with Kenley Jansen’s uncertain status. Even with Brandon League signed, more depth there is a good thing.

But then who do you move of those four starters? The only two who would fetch decent returns would most likely be Billinglsey and Capuano, both of whom have upside with realistic downside as well.

It should be said we don’t know if this is a Lohse and Greinke deal, or a Lohse or Greinke deal yet, and that will play heavily on the rest of the offseason moves. What would you do? How would you handle the Dodgers surplus?

My Fantasy Baseball All-Stars

With the season coming to a close I thought today would be a good time to reflect a little bit on the all-stars for my fantasy team this year. These are the guys that made the difference to me and my team and got me to where I am today, the championship game in my fantasy league. They’re not necessarily the best players, but they’re the ones that made the difference for me.

Melky Cabrera

Why not start with the most controversial? PED’s or no, Cabrera was a beast this season for the Giants and was a steadying force for inconsistent batting (ie. Jose Bautista’s slow start) on my fantasy team.

Mike Trout

Yes, I am one of the lucky few who were able to secure Mike Trout off waivers before he entered the bigs. It paid off as Trout is having an MBP calibre year and should win the AL rookie of the year.

Aroldis Chapman

I rode Chapman to the finals last year as well, so it was a no brainer to scoop this guy off waivers when Heath Bell imploded. His season as the Reds’ closer has been nothing short of remarkable.

Alejandro de Aza

When the Melk Man was suspended I turned to de Aza with his roster spot. What I lost in power I maintained in average and improved in speed.

Derek Jeter

It seems like so long ago when I was trying to offload Jeter early in the pre-season. He was too old and well past his prime. Thankfully I didn’t find a taker because Jeter has had a magical resurgence this season.

My pitching was mostly by committee and was inconsistent this season. I had pitchers like C.J. Wilson, Felix Hernandez, and Zack Greinke; all perfectly capable starters but none of whom were the level of consistency I was hoping for. They held it together as a team, but individually they all fell apart at one point or another during the year.

That’s it for me, who were your fantasy all-stars this season? Leave your thoughts in the comments 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


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.


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.


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.


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!

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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.

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