Archive for the ‘Opinion’ category

Mark Martin’s Theory About 2011 Takes Hit From Ray Evernham

July 25th, 2010

We get it that Mark Martin is totally angered by the media.  Now he has a credible source within the sport to add to the list of those who make him mad.

The media is also not implying Martin is going to be fired, as he seems to think.

Mark Martin is a heck of a racer and deserves nothing but respect as the gentlemen driver he has been throughout his career.

Ray Evernham, the crew chief who won three NASCAR Cup titles with Jeff Gordon and brought Kasey Kahne to the Cup level made a prognostication about Martin's future.

Evernham was speaking to reporters as part of an ESPN panel on Friday.

He said, "At some point Mark will realize Rick Hendrick has been very good to him, and...the best thing for Hendrick Motorsports is for Mark to make room for Kasey to come over there."

Evernham added, "I think Mark will eventually do that.  There's lots of balls in the air."

He went on to predict Martin would probably announce that he would leave HMS to make room for Kahne in the next three or four weeks.

Keep in mind, fans, Ray Evernham remains close to Kahne and the folks at Hendrick Motorsports.

This is no half-baked media proclamation based on speculation.

Martin has become very angered about all the rumors circulated by the media regarding his future.

He continues to reiterate he will drive the No. 5 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports in 2011. 

Martin said, "There is no inclination of any change."   Hmmmmmmmmmm!

Martin ranted that reporters are "very disrespectful" to him.

Claiming he did not deserve such treatment, he added, "Any little bit of waffling that I have done in my whole career was based on being asked questions before I was ready to answer them."

Perhaps the pattern continues with that, being that he is not ready to announce his plans only this time he is using denial as opposed to waffling.

Martin insists he should be able to do what ever he wants and he is absolutely right about that.

Now back to reality...

Rumors have been floating around regarding a return of Evernham to Hendrick Motorsports in some capacity other than crew chief.

Maybe that is a rumor and maybe not.

As Evernham implied, there are many options being tossed about that prolong Rick Hendrick's announcement about Kahne.

Once again five Hendrick NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers won't go into the four teams he is allotted at HMS.

Alan Gustafson, Martin's current crew chief, has said he will do anything Mr. Hendrick asks him to do.

Odds are Kenny Francis will be the crew chief for Kahne in 2011.

Martin will sacrifice his ride in the No. 5 despite his protests.  His many options will soon play out.

Martin didn't visit with the Red Bull people to chat about the weather.

A deal with James Finch may be on the table as well.

Kasey Kahne will be driving at Hendrick Motorsports in 2011 with Kenny Francis heading up his team.

Alan Gustafson will most likely take over crew chief duties on the No. 88 driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. if he continues to drive at Hendrick Motorsports.

Ray Evernham may be directing the teams under the guidance of puppet-master, Rick Hendrick.

Martin is not being disrespected by anyone.

He needs to race as hard as he can with his car and continue to enjoy the ride for the rest of the year.

Martin may not be ready to sacrifice his ride at HMS, but we know he will do the right thing.

With Evernham's observations made public, it is doubtful the two men will be going out to dinner for friendly conversation anytime soon.

San Francisco Giants Need Triple-A Team To Produce Marketable Talent

July 25th, 2010

The San Francisco Giants need another left-hander out of the bullpen and, moreover, need minor league talent to attract a proven big league run-producer in trade.

Todd Wellemeyer's pitching well for the Fresno Grizzlies in the Pacific Coast League, but that doesn't mean that fans calling for the club to trade Jonathan Sanchez for a hitter have any idea how difficult it would be to fill the No. 4 spot in the rotation.

Oh, there are starting pitchers in Triple-A—but there's a good reason that only one has ever reached the big league level and for the big club's hesitance to turn a starting spot back over to Wellemeyer.

The organization does have some talent other teams might seek in trade, but the most proven player in Fresno is middle infielder Emmanuel Burriss and the Giants could use him themselves down the stretch.

Such is the playoff frenzy among Giants fans that some are insisting that Gino Espinelli is the answer in the bullpen.

Gino Espinelli?

Here's a look at the key players in Fresno. Remember, the Giants can lure a big league hitter without giving up minor league talent and, rest assured, the organization would rather gut the Fresno roster than touch the nucleus of the Richmond Class AA team.


Matt Yourkin, LHP – Giants fans haven’t heard a thing about the 29-year-old journeyman left-hander, but he has pitched well in 16 starts this year (he hadn't made a professional start in his five previous seasons).

He’s 6-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 89 innings pitched. He pitches to contact. A Giants bullpen that has an excess of stuff and a need for command could potentially use Yourkin down the stretch. He has 76 strikeouts and only 26 walks.

Eric Hacker, RHP – He’s 11-5 in 20 starts, but that 4.52 ERA has enabled to bypass him a couple of times when there was a need for a fifth starter. Hacker has walked 42 and given up 122 hits in 109 2/3 innings. 

Joe Martinez, RHP – His big league career has been nondescript, but he is 5-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 starts in the Pacific Coast League. The 1.28 WHIP could make him a potential throw-in if the Giants need to add a potential big league arm in a trade for a hitter. 

Steve Edlefsen, RHP – The numbers add up. He’s 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA and five saves. His 41 strikeouts and 22 walks in 48 innings indicate that he throws strikes. The 25-year-old is never mentioned when the big league considers adding a reliever. 

Gino Espinelli, LHP – Watch the Giants bullpen cough up leads in the middle innings often enough and, yeah, Espinelli starts looking good. The 27-year-old could find his way to San Francisco with only Jeremy Affeldt working as a lefty in the pen right now.

Espinelli is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and eight saves in Fresno. His inability to break through to the big leagues stems, in part, from the fact that he was judged a full-time reliever in 2007 and has never developed strikeout stuff big leaguers tend to need to shine late in games. 

Alex Hinshaw, LHP – It might be worth looking past his 2-3 record and that 4.73 ERA in Fresno because the 27-year-old had 49 strikeouts in 45 2/3 big league innings with the Giants in 2008 and 2009. The lack of command that showed in the big leagues (36 walks) has slowed him in Fresno.

Still, it doesn't make much sense for a big league team with erratic, right hand relievers to look past a potentially capable lefty with 47 Ks and 27 BBs in Class AAA.

Waldis Joaquin, RHP – The 23-year-old throws hard, but hasn’t thrown strikes in a couple stints with the Giants. Regardless of his numbers in Fresno, though, he’ll be in San Francisco in September when guys like Edlefsen and Hacker are headed home. Joaquin might be the most marketable arm in Fresno when the Giants talk trade.

Position players

Tyler Graham, OF – The Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s league, so it’s hard to tell what Grahma’s .343 batting average means in terms of big league potential. The 26-year-old lacks power, but has 24 stolen bases. His being a right hand hitter won’t hurt his chances of a September call-up. He could be a near big league-ready talent that could be a throw-in if a trade for a big league run-producer presents itself. 

John Bowker, OF-1B - Those who think 183 games and 475 big league at-bats aren't enough for Bowker to have shown he's really more than a .238 big league hitter will continue to insist he be recalled so that he can try, again, to turn PCL MVP-like numbers into serviceable big league stats.

His value on the open market hinges on which team the Giants deal with. Bowker's minor league numbers would impress fans, briefly, as they bid farewell to an Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, etc.

Juan Guzman, 3B-1B – The guy is a minor league hitter who, unlike Bowker, hasn’t received much opportunity to start and rack up big league ABs. He’s got 13 homers and 39 RBI. Guzman’s hitting .309, but has proven to be a big league DH who might attract limited interest as part of a bigger trade package.

Ryan Rohlinger, 3B-SS – He’s hitting .310 with five homers in Triple A, but has looked increasingly like a big league utilityman. Again, though, there are teams willing to accept a 26-year-old who can play multiple positions—as long as he’s packaged with younger, more touted prospects. 

Brett Pill, 1B – His 11 homers and 58 RBIs show he has upped his power potential at age 25. Pill could, in theory, be an attractive piece in a trade for a big league hitter—especially with Brandon Belt on the fast track to becoming the big league first baseman. Pill’s most certainly in line for a September call-up if he isn't traded first.

Emmanuel Burriss, IF – The 25-year-old was the Giants opening day second baseman in 2009. Injuries sidelined him for more than a year, but he brings the big club a lot of what it needs. Burriss adds speed to a lead-footed lineup.

While he didn’t develop into the big-time big league shortstop he was drafted to become, he can bring young legs and range to the position. Burriss is a switch-hitter who, most certainly, will be on the big league roster soon. He’s batting .282 in 117 Triple-A at-bats and it shouldn't be long before Eugenio Velez plays himself back to the minor leagues.

Brock Bond, 2B – The Giants are committed to Freddy Sanchez, with Burriss ready to return to the big leagues. Highly touted Nick Noonan is considered by some the second baseman of the future (although Noonan's struggling in Class AA this season).

Bond is a 24-year-old switch-hitter hitting .287 with 29 RBI. He’s not a power hitter, but gets on base (.405) OBP. It’ll be interesting to see if the Giants, or any other big league club, are noticing that the guy’s having a really good first year in Triple A.

So, there they are. Joaquin, Burriss, Pill, and Graham are all marketable minor leaguers. None, however, is the centerpiece of a trade that's going to net the Giants a hitter.

San Diego Chargers Contract Disputes Drag on as Training Camp Nears

July 25th, 2010

When veterans are scheduled to report to Chargers Park a week from today for the start of training camp, three key components of the Chargers continued sucess will be absent. Linebacker Shawne Merriman, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, and offensive tackle Marcus McNeill will all be no-shows.

What, might you ask, would keep these three players from reporting to camp?

Two words...Contract disputes.

Once again, the dreaded holdout rears its ugly face at the beginning of training camp, and it's not just one player this time.

Of the three players involved in contract disputes, Merriman is the only one considering singing the $3.269 million tender he was offered back in March and salvaging his chances of playing this season.

The Chargers are going to have high expectations for Merriman should he want a long-term deal from San Diego.

Merriman is coming off two injury-plagued season, including reconstructive knee surgery during that time. He has yet to show the explosiveness and intensity that made him well known as "Lights Out" during his first two seasons with the Chargers.

Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill are very committed to seeing their holdouts through to the end. Both Jackson and McNeill failed to sign their tenders by the June 15 deadline Chargers general manager A.J. Smith had imposed, which significantly reduced the value of their one-year tenders.

Had both Jackson and McNeill signed their tender offers before the deadline, Jackson would have made $3.268 million for the 2010 season, and McNeil would have made $3.168 million. Now, if either of them wants to play this season they will be making around $600,000 apiece.

Both players are unhappy because they both want the long-term deals they both feel they deserve. I happen to agree. Jackson and McNeill are essential components to the Chargers should they want to make a run for the Super Bowl.

Vincent Jackson had an amazing 2009 season, in which he led the Chargers with 1,167  receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. Jackson was also rewarded with his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Marcus McNeill, who is a two-time Pro Bowler, is an essential piece to the Chargers offensive line. He protects the blind side of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. However, with McNeill being absent the Chargers have found a replacement at left tackle, but that replacement could prove too costly as in an unforeseen injury to Rivers.

The uncertainty of football being played next season or not have been a major factor of many teams not siging players to long-term deals, plus the Chargers have several players whose contracts are up after the 2010 season that require immediate attention (tight end Antonio Gates is among them) and the Chargers are going to get those deals done first.

So, what could we expect to happen regarding these contract disputes/holdouts?

Merriman, if he decides to sign his tender and play this season, it could end up his last wearing a Chargers uniform unless A.J. Smith happens to see the light and sign Merriman to a long-term deal. The Chargers could also end up trading Merriman away for players or a draft-choice.

As for Jackson, 2009 may have been his last season in a Chargers uniform. San Diego has an impressive receiver corps and will have no problem spreading the ball around to the likes of Malcolm Floyd, Legedu Naanee, and rookie Seyi Ajirotutu.

If Jackson intends to see his holdout through until the end of the season he is only going to end up hurting himself in the terms of the value of the contract he is seeking. Last time I checked, teams don't offer big money, long-term deals to receivers who haven't played in a year.

The Chargers have let it be known that they are open to trading Jackson, and that trade would definitely yield a high draft pick.

McNeill, is the only one of the three that would have the strongest chance of getting a long-term deal done. The Chargers need McNeill to protect their long-term investment in quarterback Philip Rivers, especially if they want to continue the productivity Rivers has given the team over the past four years.

Only time will tell if any one or all of these scenarios plays out. All that could be said as of right now is that it will be interesting to see how of this all unfolds. I only hope that Chargers do what is in the best interest of the team and finally bringing a Lombardi trophy home to San Diego.

Holding All The Cards: Who St. Louis Will and Won’t Move For Roy Oswalt

July 25th, 2010

Billy Bob Thornton. Bob Knight. Nelly. Bill Clinton.

Recently another big name has been added to the above list. Apparently, Roy Oswalt is a Cardinals fan.

The Astros' ace has stated on numerous occasions that he'd favor a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, and because Oswalt has a full no-trade clause, he holds all the cards.

So now it's up to St. Louis to make a move. With a farm system that has been depleted by several trades over the past few years, the Cardinals cannot afford to make a mistake here.

Cardinals fans won't soon forget how Oswalt dominated them in Game Six of the 2005 NLCS, eliminating St. Louis from the playoffs. Come October, no team would want to face a Cardinals rotation anchored by three aces in Oswalt, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright, all perennial Cy Young candidates. The road the the National League pennant would run through St. Louis. So who should and shouldn't the Cardinals move to get the Astros' ace?

On Their Way Out: Players the Cardinals Shouldn't Hesitate To Offer

Brendan Ryan: It's no secret that Brendan Ryan has struggled. Trading him could be a great move for the Cardinals. He's been batting below the Mendoza line for most of the season, and his usually stellar defense has been less than great. So, if the Astros see potential in him, let them figure it out. Ryan is already 28, so moving him would be an added bonus to acquiring Oswalt.

Fernando Salas: In the first few assignments of his career, Salas has been very good. The Cardinals could relay this into a possible trade, although he wouldn't be the centerpiece of a trade. Tony LaRussa has brought slowly worked him into higher and higher pressure, but he has continued to be effective, giving up just one earned run on a home run over 8.2 innings pitched. The Cardinals already have two young fireballers in their bullpen, so Salas is expandable.

Robert Stock, Brian Anderson, or Matt Pagnozzi: I list these three here together because they all fall into basically the same category. Three catchers, who find their path to the majors blocked by Cardinals mainstay Yadier Molina. They're all considered top prospects in the Cardinals organization, but there's not spot for them now, so they're better used as trade chips.

Daryl Jones: A year ago, I didn't want to see Daryl Jones included in a trade for a big name player. This year, things have changed. In 2008, when Jones batted .316, stole 24 bases, and hit 13 home runs, he looked like a five-tool player who could see starting time in the Cardinals outfield in the coming years. Since then, he has struggled against AAA pitching, and his batting average has dropped the past two seasons. He did bat .209 at Rookie ball in 2005, so he could just be adjusting. The Astros would jump at the chance to get him, and he wouldn't be to big of a piece for the Cardinals to give up.

Blake Hawksworth: Hawksworth has progressed well this season, and no longer has prospect status. He's filled in well for the Cardinals as a fifth starter this year, but has an ERA of nearly 5.00. If Oswalt joins the fold, Hawksworth would have to be moved to an already crowded bullpen. It would be better for the Cardinals to simply include him in a trade. He was the Cardinals top prospect in 2004, so the Astros may still see improvement left in him.

Adron Chambers: Adron Chambers is not the future of Cardinals Nation. However, he could be another team's future. His speed makes him valuable, although his defense is suspect. He's played most of his games in center field, where he has a .964 fielding percentage. He's only 23, so he has time to improve, but would likely be the third player in a three-player deal.

Deryk Hooker: If the Astros are looking for pitching help, as rumored, Hooker could be included in a deal. He currently leads all Cardinals prospects with 94 strikeouts, and put up a 2.83 ERA with a .220 average against for Quad Cities. This has been a breakout year for Hooker, who just turned 21 this June.

Daniel Descalso: Descalso is an interesting case. He appears to be a slightly better hitting Brendan Ryan, expect that Descalso plays second base. His numbers in the minors have been good. With Triple-A Memphis, he's posted a solid .357 on-base percentage, and has driven in 52 runs, putting him on pace for a career high. If the Cardinals don't move him, the 23-year old is their future at second base.

Packing Their Bags: One of These Players Could Be Moved, But Not More

Allen Craig: As the best hitting prospect the Cardinals have, Craig is a prime candidate to be moved in a deal for Oswalt.

Lance Lynn: He could be the centerpiece in a move for Oswalt. The Astros are said to be looking for pitching, and there may be no better option than Lynn, who was named St. Louis's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009. He currently has 90 strikeouts for Triple-A Memphis to lead the team.

Jon Jay: In two stints with the Cardinals, Jay has exceeded all expectations, with a slash line of .378/.441/.607, and he has gained more and more playing time as the season progressed. However, he'll have to come back to earth eventually, and the Cardinals could be wise to sell high here. I would miss the enthusiasm Jay brings to the team, and would hate to see him come up big for the Astros against St. Louis, but I think the Cardinals would be willing to move him, if it means the pennant. If the Cardinals manage to surprise everyone by signing twelfth-round pick Austin Wilson, trading Jay would become a no-brainer.

Eduardo Sanchez: Eduardo Sanchez is listed as the Cardinals sixth best prospect by Baseball America, and for good reason. Out of the minor league bullpen, Sanchez posted a .920 WHIP in 2009, among the best in the organization. He has faltered this year in split time between Springfield and Memphis, but if the Astros want him, the Cardinals could move him with little thought.

Mitchell Boggs: As a major league ready arm, Boggs may fit the bill for Houston. He can develop into either a fourth or fifth starter, or even a closer. With a fastball in the high-90's, and a devastating slider, Boggs has put hitters away out of the St. Louis pen, posting a 1.168 WHIP while striking out 6.6 batters per nine innings. At the age of 26, he could develop into a strong closer in the Houston bullpen.

Deal Breakers: Players Who Aren't Going Anywhere

David Freese, Colby Rasmus, and Jaime Garcia: These three are the future of Cardinals Nation. Rasmus has been called, along with Andrew McCutchen, the future of center field in the National League. Garcia, who made the club out of spring training, has looked like a Rookie of the Year favorite, posting a 9-4 record with a 2.21 ERA. He  looks like a future front of the line starter for St. Louis. Freese was of to a hot start before injury derailed him. It's very likely that he'll be moved in the foreseeable future, because the Cardinals don't have a suitable replacement for him at third.

Shelby Miller: He's the reason a trade hasn't gotten done yet. It appears the Astros want Miller, last year's first round draft pick, but the Cardinals are unwilling to part with him, and for good reason. Miller is only 19, but has the top rated fastball in the organization. Baseball America lists him as the Cardinals' top prospect, and he looks like he will replace Chris Carpenter within the next four years. Even if it prevent the deal from getting done, you do not trade Miller.

So can the Cardinals get Oswalt? If the Astros are willing to look past Shelby Miller, I think a deal can get done by the July 31 deadline. There may yet be another wrench thrown into the equation. If the Cardinals manage to surprise everyone by signing twelfth-round pick Austin Wilson, a top 15-pick talent that the Cardinals have been recruiting vigorously, trading Jay, Craig, or Jones would become a no-brainer.

Chicago Bear Matt Forte at Crossroads

July 25th, 2010

A lot of people will be looking at the Chicago Bears this year. 

They will be looking at how Jay Cutler performs in his second year, Mike Martz and whether his new offensive scheme will work, and whether or not they make the playoffs. 

While those are all valid questions that will soon be answered, they should all be looking at Matt Forte as well. 

The young running back played last year with hamstring and knee injuries. Still, when I look at Forte, I see a good running back who can catch the ball. What I don't see is an exceptional running back who can overpower you with his ability, or a runner who makes his own highlights. 

Forte needs a good foundation around him. Under Martz's new system, he'll fit very well, but so will Chester Taylor, a player handpicked by Martz. 

Forte has only two 100-yard rushing games in his past 21 games, and they both came against the Lions. He has yet to rush for an average of four yards per carry for a season, had a serious fumble problem last season, and was not so good when it came to short-yardage situations. 

You can put some blame on the offensive line, but to me, Forte doesn't look like a serious difference maker for the Bears. 

His sophomore slump, Chester Taylor, and a new offensive system mean the 2010-11 season could be Forte's biggest yet. 

It's going to be like his rookie season in a sense that he's going to have to prove that he is the No. 1 running back. That he can be a difference maker, and make his own plays.

How well the passing game does affects how well the running game does and vice versa. That's a football fact. 

Forte has to have a big role in helping Cutler become that "franchise" quarterback.

We'll see if Forte can do it. I have my doubts.

What do you think?

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