Firing should leave responsible Bulls fans seeing red

. Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas is almost here, which means that football is nearing its end and the NBA is about ready to begin its slow journey to the forefront of the North American sports landscape.

But hey, lets not forget the eggnog, the brightly colored strands of lights that accent our roof lines, and Santa Claus. Oh, and that other bearded fellow for whom the holiday was named after.

Much like how I don't get how most of the things commonly associated with Christmas relate to the birth of Christ himself, I don't get why on the day before the most celebrated religious holiday in North America, Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles was handed a lump of coal one day early.

Chicago general manager John Paxson fired  Skiles Monday in a move that, by definition, is bullish.

Paxson, along with many fans, will tell you that the team Skiles coached was supposed to be much better than it was last year when it finished with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. They became to trendy pick to beat both the Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Central Division crown. Many pundits even pegged them as a dark horse to win the conference title. While such expectations might have been lofty ones to begin with and are even riskier propositions now, the goal of a run at the NBA finals is one that is attainable, even if the team 9-16 at this point. 

The Bulls have been a notoriously slow to start each of the last three seasons, but have been equally well known for consistently solid play from then on out. The Bulls started the 2004-05 season going 4-15, but finished the year with 47 wins. They started the 2005-06 season in similar fashion before winning 12 of their final 14 games to clinch a playoff berth. In 2006-2007, they started 3-9 before going 46-24 over the last 70 games and then knocked off the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Successful finishes have been as much a part of Skiles' M.O. as the slow starts have been. 

So if its not that, is it that Skiles doesn't know how to further develop the young players on his roster? Let's look:

  • Luol Deng's numbers are about where they were at the end of last year.
  • Ben Gordon's scoring average is down, but that's more of a product of his 38.5 field-goal percentage and while some blame could be laid on the coach's offensive scheme, Skiles doesn't bear all or even most of the responsibility for a seven-percent shooting dip.
  • Kirk Hinrich's numbers over his four-year career have followed the same pattern as the Bulls themselves have - slow start, gradual incline, then peak at the finish.
  • Andres Nocioni is putting up near spot-on identical numbers to last season while playing fewer minutes.
  • 2006 lottery pick swapee Tyrus Thomas has been remarkably inconsistent, but the fact that his draft-day-deal counterpart LaMarcus Aldridge has blossomed leaves Paxson as the one looking bad, not Skiles.
  • Joakim Noah hadn't even started SEC-play at Florida this time last year, plus big men develop more slowly than college guards or swingmen.
  • Ben Wallace hasn't developed anything since he signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Bulls in the summer of 2006, but the then soon-to-be 32-year-old undersized center doesn't really count as being young or, as Bulls fans are sure to tell you, talented.

It would be irrational to cite a lack of development among the team's young talent over two-months worth of games as a reason for Skiles to be shown the door, especially when he has a lengthy record of molding talent, not to mention that regression among young players has been minimal at worst.

So since a lack of player development would be an irresponsible thing for one of the league's most calculated general managers to fire Skiles over, could it be because he has lost touch with his team?

"I wouldn't say we stopped playing for Scott," Hinrich said. "Every time I go out there, I'm playing for my teammates, my coaches.
"He's a great coach," Deng said.
Both statements were made today.

So what then? Some kind of internal conflict?

No, it's just a knee-jerk reaction by a franchise that had so much success during Skiles tenure that it set its sights too high and forgot just how bad things were before he got there. And I'm not just talking about the fact that Skiles coached the Bulls to three-straight postseason appearances after Chicago had won more than 25 games only once in first five years after Michael Jordan left. I'm talking about a 41-year franchise history wrought with futility, a franchise history that features no conference championships and only one divisional title outside of the 12-year Jordan era. I'm talking about a franchise history that can claim on 11 winnings seasons in the 29 years without Jordan, and three of those winning seasons were achieved with Skiles at the helm.

The fact that Paxson said that the Bulls have yet to name an interim coach, let alone come up with any kind of a list of possible long-term successors, just adds an exclamation point to what can only be described as a move that lacks both foresight or hindsight. While I think this move is hasty and unfounded, it had better make sense to Paxson and had better not be change-for-change's-sake, or his fall should soon follow.

Like I said, this change at this time makes about as much sense to me as Jolly Old St. Nick becoming a more recognizable Christmas figure than the man for whom the holiday was originally celebrated.

While playing for the Orlando Magic, Skiles once said that "basketball is like religion. Many attend, few understand."

Congratulations to Paxson, the spoiled, fair-weather Bulls fans and everyone else whose short attention span and even shorter memory allowed them to forget the good times Skiles had brought them and the abysmal times that immediately preceded his arrival. Congrats to those who were calling for Skiles' head because he didn't get to the finals by year-four with one of the youngest teams in the NBA. You can now officially lump yourselves in with the season's next largest mass of ignorance: all those who think of holiday sales first, reindeer second, fir trees third an can't instantly tell you why the first six letters of the word Christmas are what they are.

Catch of the Day

. Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Thursday, the Miami Dolphins finalized a four-year deal with Bill Parcells to become the team's Vice President of Football Operations.

The Dolphins reeling in the Big Tuna is going to be, without question, the biggest NFL move this or next year.

It's a bigger move than whichever team ends up luring Bill Cowher out of retirement.
It's a bigger move than whichever team ends up getting Randy Moss if he leaves New England as a free agent.
It's a bigger move than whichever team gets Darren McFadden in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Bill Parcells, along with Bill Belichick, is the closest thing we have to a modern day football genius. His eye for talent is unmatched and his ability to get the most out of players is second to none.

Now granted, his best work probably comes as a head coach, and being VP of Football Operations will, at least for the time being, keep him far away from the field. He won't be a coach and he won't even be a General Manager, meaning he's even farther away from where he really should be (the football field).

Despite that, he should shine in his new role. The proof is in the pudding. Everywhere he goes, he wins. He's made it a hobby to take down-and-out franchises and turn them into winners.

As a Cowboys fan, I can say that perhaps his best reclamation project was what he did with the Dallas Cowboys. He took over a franchise that had hit rock bottom with an egomaniac owner in Jerry Jones who did what he wanted and didn't care what anyone else thought.

Not only did he bring in talented players and build a winning team, he changed the entire structure of the franchise. From the front office on down, he brought an attitude and philosophy that had not been seen there under Jerry Jones' reign.

Now, at 12-2 and in first place in the NFC, the team is enjoying the fruits of his labor. That's certainly not to take anything away from current coach Wade Phillips, who is doing a fine job at maintaining the status quo and winning with a talented team, but he's winning with Parcells' team.

Tony Romo? Marion Barber? DeMarcus Ware? Jason Witten? The core players of that team are guys Bill Parcells brought in. He found a diamond in the rough in Tony Romo, very similar to the way his protege Bill Belichick found Tom Brady.

He's in a perfect situation in Miami, taking over a downtrodden team like the ones he took over in New York, New England and Dallas and is being asked to do what he does best - change the culture of the franchise and turn it into a winner.

It won't happen overnight, but its a move that will be paying dividends for the Miami Dolphins a few years from now.

Ok there, I think I'm done verbally fellating him.

I just think that, for a team that has been the laughing stock of the NFL this year, it's nice that the Dolphins have gotten the last laugh.

Stuck in the Shadows

. Thursday, December 13, 2007

On Thursday, “The Mitchell Report” was released, a 409-page report into Major League Baseball's steroid problem, compiled by former United States senator George Mitchell after a 21-month investigation.

The report promised to name names and that it certainly did. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada and Gary Sheffield are the big ones.

For all the talk that will consume baseball about the steroid era and the players that have been exposed as being key players in it, it's important to recognize where it all began.

In March of 2006, a book called “Game of Shadows” was released after much hype and controversy. The book, written by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, was the product of a two-year investigation into BALCO, its founder Victor Conte and Greg Anderson, who served as a personal trainer to Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.

Make no mistake, Jose Canseco brought the steroid issue to the eye of the public. We all laughed when he talked about what a steroid problem baseball had and that he knew of specific players who had used. Canseco got the ball rolling, but Fainaru-Wada and Williams took the ball and ran with it and uncovered damning evidence against a man who was considered possibly the greatest player in baseball history.

That book is the reason that Barry Bonds is currently on trial. It's the reason that George Mitchell decided to launch this investigation into baseball's steroid problem and its the reason that the athletes named in this report have been exposed for using performance enhancing drugs.

We all knew there was a problem before the book was released, but nobody was willing to do anything about it. Before “Game of Shadows” was released, Bud Selig, baseball owners, general manager's, players and fans buried their heads in the sand and pretended like nothing was wrong.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams put their reputations and careers on the line to get this information out to the public and as a Journalism student, that is something that I have nothing but respect for.

It's easy to forget that they helped pop the cork on baseball's steroid problem, and 20 years from now the names of Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams will probably never even cross the mind of most people, but they'll be the first two names out of my mouth when I tell my children about how baseball's big guns were brought to their knees.

Tom Brady: The Greatest

. Wednesday, December 12, 2007

People who say it may be too early in his career to put Tom Brady in the category with the greatest quarterbacks to play the game are either blind or they need to have their heads examined.

Let's begin the discussion with the performance that he's having this year, shall we?

As I was listening to Greg Gumble and Phil Simms give their pre-game analysis between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, I felt a sense that the game was going to be a playoff type game with both teams playing strong defense against one another, and there wouldn't be as many scoring opportunities for New England's high-powered offense.

Of course, New England came into the game with something to prove after Pittsburgh safety Anthony Smith opened his big mouth and guaranteed a win on New England's field.

Are you stupid, Anthony Smith? Never call Tom Brady or his team out if you're an opponent.

Of course, Tom Brady isn't as agile as Micheal Vick and he's kinder to animals. Therefore, he's not retarded like Vick is. The 45 touchdown passes to five interceptions proves the theory that he makes intelligent decisions.

People may say that Brady has Randy Moss this year, but look at the influence that he's had on the troubled wide receiver. Moss hasn't been the headcase player who's always bitching for the ball as in past seasons. In fact, he has proven to be the ultimate team leader and future Hall of Fame player that people expected him to be.

People may say that Payton Manning is better than Tom Brady, but don't let me state the obvious:
Payton Manning = 1 Superbowl ring
Tom Brady = 3 Superbowl rings

In addition, Manning has had some pretty good running backs (Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai) behind him while the best running back Brady has had was an aging Cory Dillion who played half the time that he was in a New England Patriot uniform.

Of course, people may have their own opinions about who the grestest quarterback of this era is, but numbers and performance don't lie. When it really matters the most, Brady will do whatever it takes to get his team the win as exhibited by his 12-2 record as a starting quarterback in the playoffs.

There shouldn't even be a discussion about who the greatest quarterback playing in the game today is. Maybe Tony Romo will be someday, but for now, it's Brady's world as he chases after that fourth Superbowl ring, which will tie him for the most by a quarterback with another TB.

Blank's expression


Atlanta Falcon's owner Arthur Blank has already had a week of filled with misery, one for the ages, and it's only Wednesday.

He found out Monday that the man who was once his franchise quarterback, Michael Vick, was sentenced 23 months in prison after being convicted on charges stemming from his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Less than 24 hours later, he received a phone call from Falcons' coach Bobby Petrino announcing his resignation.

But the somewhat frazzled appearance and the deep, soul-searching stares he displayed at his press conference Wednesday are not wholly the signs of a man who harbors bitterness towards either of the two men who have so publicly wronged him over the past few months. No, they are signs of a man who is left with one very personal and very daunting question: "Who can I trust now?"

When Blank approached Vick after charges were originally brought against him, Vick looked him in the eye and flatly refuted the reports of his involvement.

Petrino took it a step further. Somewhere in between Vick's sentencing Monday and the Falcons' game with the New Orleans Saints later that night, Blank sought out Petrino with one simple question: if the media asks him about Petrino potentially leaving Atlanta for one of the many college football coaching openings, what should he say. Petrino grabbed and shook Blank's right hand and said "Tell them you have a coach."

If the pure audacity of that lie doesn't strike you, maybe this will. The Falcons are an unmitigated mess. The quarterback to whom they gave a $100 million contract to just a few years ago proved to be consistently erratic on the field and an absolute nightmare off of it. The coach to whom they gave $24 million to come in and work with their much-maligned quarterback.

Both were given chances to admit their wrongdoings or false allegiances, but instead, each elected to act in a manner that was a slap in the face to the Falcons' players, their fans, the media and anyone else associated with the organization.

Who will fans and media and perhaps even players inevitably lay the burden of responsibility on? Blank.

Now, that might be justified. Blank's unwavering support of Vick through all of his well-documented off-the-field problems prior to his indictment. Blank assumed Petrino would honor his 5-year contract even though he signed with the Falcons just months after inking a 10-year deal to stay at Louisville.

For that, you can label Blank as gullible and it would be fair. He did buy into what Petrino was selling. Petrino's enthusiasm and vigor resonated with Blank, especially once the debacle with Vick started. Is there anyway he would have guessed that his coach whose mantra was "play all four quarters" would have checked out midway through the first quarter of his five year contract?

To whole-heartedly fault Blank for his inability to foresee this type of a departure, under these circumstances and at this point of the season would be an grievous mistake. The only one that could top it would be if Blank himself became calussed to any future dealings with the franchise he holds so dear.

Listening to Blank address the media Wednesday regarding Petrino's departure and quick embrace of the Arkansas program, you knew it shook him. You could hear it in the subtle cracklings of his voice. You could sense it in the type of somber and monotone delivery. He is a man twice beaten, and in two days no less. He is a man who in a matter of 24 hours went from feeling relief once Vick's situation could officially be put on the back burner to then being bombarded by an all-new fiery barrage of questions regarding another man in Petrino who betrayed his trust.

Blank is a man surrounded by inquiries and yet, he has no idea where to turn to for answers.

Then again, there is one he statement he has the wherewithal to make. He wouldn't wish this type of a week upon anyone.

Lying in wait


On Monday night, Bobby Petrino was patrolling the sideline for the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome, coaching his team to a 34-14 drubbing by the New Orleans Saints and pushing the Falcons to 3-10 on the season.

On Tuesday night, Petrino was standing at a podium in Fayetteville, Arkansas to announce he had accepted an offer to fill the Razorbacks' vacant head coaching spot. He then proceeded to "call the hogs" with a bunch of rabid Arkansas fans and alumni.

Quite the interesting turn of events in just 24 hours, but for those who follow football, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

If these last few years have taught us anything, it's that you cannot trust College Football head coaches, who these days seem to change their mind and their job title more than Britney Spears changes wigs.

His acrimonious exit from Atlanta certainly brings up quite a few choice words that have been used on TV and radio over the last few hours to describe him - "gutless", "spineless" and "quitter" among them.

It's certainly hard to disagree. Petrino signed on to coach the Falcons for five seasons and didn't even get through one season before he bolted for greener pastures. For his troubles, he'll walk away with roughly $4 million of the Falcons' money. Not a bad deal at all.

Petrino isn't the first and he certainly won't be the last. Butch Davis, Steve Spurrier and most recently Nick Saban are just some of the coaches who have played the, "I'm happy here and do not want to coach anywhere else........ OK I LIED!" game over the past few seasons.

Saban, then coaching the Miami Dolphins, fervently denied any interest in the Alabama job and chastised reporters for thinking otherwise up until he was ready to sign the dotted line with the Crimson Tide.

This isn't even Petrino's first time on coaching carousel. Last year, he signed a 10-year contract extension with Louisville and said he had no interest in coaching in the NFL. Not long after saying that, he was being announced as the Atlanta Falcons head coach.

Last week, Petrino told Atlanta media that he planned to return to coach the Falcons for a second season.

These "hire-and-run" coaches shouldn't be a surprise these days, but just because it happens so much doesn't make it any less of a disgrace.

Great college coaches are great college coaches for a reason. Look no further than USC's Pete Carroll to see the reason why. They just relate to college athletes better than professional athletes. They are better suited to deal with the rigors of recruiting and helping shape young athletes into men as opposed to the rigors of dealing with multi-million dollar prima donna's and their agents. And some of them just flat out aren't good enough to make it in the NFL.

It works in rare cases, like Jimmy Johnson, who went from Miami (FL) to the Dallas Cowboys, where he won two Superbowls. The thirst for that success and the lure of big-money deals are the main reasons why these coaches have and most likely will continue to spurn their college jobs for high profile NFL coaching positions.

Coaches thinking of following Petrino's footsteps into the NFL need to realize that the grass usually isn't greener on the other side. Stay where you're at instead of leaving a college program and NFL team shattered and scrambling to find a coach in your wake, all so you can "find yourself" and realize what you really want to do.

With all that said, Arkansas has certainly pulled off the coup of the off-season. With a high profile job like Michigan open, the Razorbacks have gotten a coach in Petrino who is without question a fantastic college football coach.

Not to rain on your parade, Arkansas fans, but let's be honest - we've seen this before. We know how this movie ends and it's probably not going to be a happy ending if you're a Hog fan. I don't expect it to be very long before the lure of another opening catches Petrino's eye and he's all over ESPN "denying interest" up until the minute he's standing at his new school's podium.

Karl Dorrell was too much of a Gentleman

. Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Let the speculation over the reasons of Karl Dorrell's termination from UCLA begin. Some people across the courtry have started insinuating that Dorrell's firing was racially motivated. If so, Dorrell should have been gone after his first season in which he led the Bruins to a mediocre 6-7 season that was capped off by a loss to Fresno State in the Silicon Valley Bowl (I didn't know such a bowl existed). His most successful campaign came the following season when he led the Bruins to a 10-2 record capped off by a victory over the Northwestern Wildcats in the Sun Bowl. All in all, Dorrell compiled a remarkable 35-27 record during his tenure at UCLA. I can see why anyone would ever call Dorrell's release suspicious.

Enthusiasm was not a strong point in Dorrell's coaching technique. It was illustrated in the way the team played. Earlier this year, I had the torturous experience of watching a potentially good team self-destruct against a Notre Dame team that may have well been the worst team in its storied history. Two weeks before that, UCLA had lost to the Utah Utes, which had been winless up until then. Even though injuries played a role in the Bruins' subpar season, I doubt if having a healthy team on the field would have helped.

Getting the players (whether starting or coming of the bench) to buy into the notion of playing with passion every week is the job of a coach, and the lack of swagger and pride in the team showed on a regular basis under Dorrell. Time and time again, the team was clearly not prepared to take on an opponent that it should have beat down. Time and time again, UCLA couldn't handle the pressure of being on top and it folded.

Two years ago, when USC destroyed UCLA, 66-19, at the Los Angeles Coliseum, some players who are no longer playing for the Bruins, criticized Dorrell for not being urgent enough in his half time speech of that game. Many players said that he was quiet and that he showed no emotion. It was not because he was black.

Although Dorrell was a classy and likable guy, he just couldn't get the most out of his players. To echo the sentiments that I expressed earlier, I'm surprised that Dorrell lasted as long as he did. Now, people are trying to make race an issue when the man simply failed to do what he was paid to do. He established "character" and "stability," but those things do not win football games. If he had less of a conservative and gentlemanly approach and more of a killer's instinct to the game of football, then maybe it would be more of a contest between UCLA and their cross-town rivals, USC. Dorrell now knows that it does not pay to be nice on the grid iron.

BCS = Musical Chairs

. Saturday, December 1, 2007

For all the college football fans that have been begging for a playoff system to be implemented – well, you still aren't going to get it, but this season should give you your best reason to whine about it yet.

The game of musical chairs that has been the 2007 College Football season concluded Saturday with more confusion than ever. No. 1 Missouri lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game and No. 2 West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh.

Let me repeat that:

No. 2 West Virginia, favored by 28 points, lost to a team coached by DAVE WANNSTEDT. Goodbye National Title hopes and goodbye dignity.

But really, could it have ended any other way? The No. 1 team has fallen this season more times than I even care to count. The team's we thought were great ended up being not so great. I can't even tell you who belongs in the National Championship game right now.

I mean sure, I can tell you who I THINK should be in it, but earlier this year I thought USC was the best team in the nation. Then when they lost, I thought LSU was. Then when they lost, I thought Florida was. When they lost, I thought Ohio State was. When they lost, I though it was LSU. When they lost, I thought it was West Virginia. Now that they've lost, I think it is... well, you get the point.

So what are we left with? A bunch of uninspiring pretenders to the throne.

LSU: I'm supposed to believe that a team that lost its No. 1 ranking twice this year deserves to play for the title of all titles in college football? That a team who just lost AT HOME to an unranked team last week, with its season presumably on the line, deserves to play for the national championship? What kind of world do we live in where LSU can plummet to No. 7 one week and be right back in the National Title hunt the next?

Georgia: There is no way a team that couldn't even win its own conference championship should be allowed to play for the championship of the entire college football world. Then again, with their No. 4 ranking in the BCS and West Virginia and Missouri both falling, they are technically next in line to move into that spot with Ohio State. I'm not saying they deserve to be in it, but if the BCS and Voters are going to have other teams jump them just because they didn't win the SEC, then why even put them ahead of those teams in the first place? Why not just vote Georgia below them to begin with and not have to have this ridiculous “Oh, wait, they didn't win their conference? Well dangit, time to move them down” stuff as if the voters didn't realize that fact until just this week.

USC: THEY LOST TO STANFORD. I mean, you can make a case that they're playing better than anyone in the country, but then again you can make that case for just about any of the handful of teams at the top of the rankings. But still, the fact remains: THEY LOST TO STANFORD.

Oklahoma: They certainly have a strong argument, being the team to knock off No. 1 ranked Missouri. I don't know if beating Missouri is really such a grand accomplishment in the eyes of voters though, regardless of what Missouri was ranked heading into the game. Oklahoma's loss to Colorado is hard to forget. Much like USC and pretty much every team on this list, they have all the talent in the world but found a way to screw it up one or two times along the way this season.

Virginia Tech: They're sitting pretty at No. 5 and may be the beneficiaries if Georgia, as expected, gets knocked down for not winning the SEC. Does Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State sound exciting to anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I think there's people in Ohio and Virginia that would even be bored to tears by this game. SEAN GLENNON VS. TODD BOECKMAN = $$$$. Not really. Virginia Tech has a good chance of getting into the game but I don't think anyone wants to see that. They certainly have a decent enough resume, although the ass kicking at the hands of LSU earlier this year still looms large.

Ohio State: Why does it feel like these guys ALWAYS luck out and back into the national title game? Oh wait, because they DO. Nobody outside of Ohio wants to see this team in the National Championship game. They really don't have any signature wins this year in a terribly overrated Big 10 conference. Unfortunately, their spot is pretty much locked in. I expect them to get blown out by whoever they play.

Kansas: Heh.

You can make an argument for any of these teams as to why they deserve to go, but you can make equally good arguments for why they don't. Fact is, no matter which two teams make it to the title game, it's not going to be a game that will allow college football fans to sit back and say, “I'm definitely watching the two best teams in the country play right now”. Expect the arguments for a playoff system to get louder than ever next year.

Stupid is as stupid does


Apparently, the New York Mets hate keeping talented young homegrown players.

That's the only logical thought that entered my mind when I read that the team has traded 22-year-old outfielder Lastings Milledge to the Washington Nationals for the pair of outfielder Ryan Church and catcher Brian Schneider.

Mets fans who thought it couldn't get any worse after the club traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano must be banging their heads against the wall right now. Shit, you guys are lucky you at least have David Wright and Jose Reyes at Third Base and Shortstop instead of Vinny Castila and Cesar Izturis, because I'm sure those deals were on the table at some point.

There's just so much wrong with this deal. Milledge is not without his faults, but he's still one of the most talented young outfielders in the game. A couple of years ago he was being dangled in talks for MANNY RAMIREZ. He has plus power potential and great defensive range.

There's certainly nothing wrong with Church, he's a decent enough player. He ranked 15th in OPS+ and 14th in OBP among 32 MLB left fielders last season, making him a little better than average. The problem is, his 2006 stat line of .272/.349/.464 with 15 HR's can probably be matched by Milledge this season, and for about a fraction of the cost.

Then there is Schneider, a catcher who most media outlets will tell you is "known for his defense", which essentially means he's fucking terrible. Well, he is. The guy barely belongs on a major league roster, and certainly doesn't deserve the $10 million he is owed over the next two years.

To make matters worse, the Mets already HAVE a catcher. The club just signed Johnny Estrada, who is a much better player than Schneider, meaning that getting him in this trade was completely useless.

If there's anything Mets fans can rest their hats on, it's that their team isn't the only team to make a dumb move thus far in the 2007 offseason.

This week, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim announced the signing of Center Fielder Torii Hunter to a five year, $90 million deal.

This is a bad signing. Don't believe me? Ask Torii Hunter:

"I would have signed for less," said Hunter, who had five-year offers, ranging from $70 million to $75 million, from the White Sox, Rangers and Royals, and the day before the Angels offer dined with Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

What if the Angels offered less than those other teams?

"I still would have taken it!" Hunter said.

When the guy that your team just signed to a huge contract is telling you that you overpaid him, I think it's safe to say that you've been fleeced.

It's not that Torii Hunter is a bad player, he's a very good one, but his .324 career OBP doesn't, in my opinion, warrant such a large contract. ESPECIALLY, one year after signing center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. to a deal for $50 million.

The players are similar in that they are excellent defenders that provide offensive punch. Now don't get me wrong, Hunter is a better offensive player than Matthews, I'm not even trying to argue against that, but he's not so much better that it was worth signing him to such an insane contract the year after you just signed Matthews.

Hunter is not going to provide the protection the Angels desperately need in their lineup around Vladimir Guerrero. They're going to get a very good everyday center fielder that will give them some pop in the lineup, but let's face it, he's 32. He's played on astroturf his entire career and as such, his best days are probably behind him. The most they could realistically hope for from him this year is a 20 HR season while hitting .270 or .280, decent enough numbers, but at his age and with his wear and tear, he won't be playing at a high level much longer.

I advocated the Dodgers signing Hunter on my first blog post, but the Angels got to him first when they should have been focused on getting Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera works much better for the Angels than he would have for the Dodgers, who would have had to give up 3 starting position players and a top prospect to get Cabrera.

The Angels, who aren't as dependent on their youngsters as the Dodgers are, reportedly have gotten the Marlins to accept a deal for Howie Kendrick, Ervin Santana and minor league pitcher Nick Adenhart with the snag coming on who the final prospect being sent over would be and whether or not the Marlins want Santana or outfielder Reggie Willits.

On the flip side, Hunter would have been a better grab for the Dodgers because their current center fielder Juan Pierre is completely and utterly worthless. Getting him would prevent the Dodgers from gutting their team to get Cabrera. The Angels can live without Howie Kendrick and Reggie Willits, who they depend on much less for offense than the Dodgers do with Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier/James Loney. The fact that Cabrera is fat and the Angels are in the American League, where he can DH, certainly doesn't hurt.

The winter meetings haven't even started and we've already gotten two bonehead moves (OK, one bonehead move. Getting Torii Hunter isn't a bonehead move, it's just not something I would have done if I were running the Angels). Point is, there's still plenty of time for GM's around the league to screw up. I can't wait to see what kind of ransom the Red Sox or Yankees give up for what could end up being one season of Johan Santana.