Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The Patriots couldn't pull it off. The Memphis Tigers couldn't get the job done. Hell, not a single team in Division I-A football could do it and the National Championship was won by a two-loss LSU team.

Leave it to the greatest athlete in the world today to toss his swoosh-emblazoned hat in the ring and embark on a quest to complete the rare undefeated season.

Blasphemy you say? No golfer could make it through the PGA Tour season without losing a single tournament. The fields are too deep and too many things could go wrong along the way for that to every happen.

Or could it?

While I agree that the likelihood of Tiger Woods ripping off 13 or so more wins, including all four of golf's major championships is quite low. Something tells me that the man himself believes in his heart that he could accomplish the seemingly impossible, and that means a lot.

He's already admitted that he thinks completing the regular season Grand Slam is within his reach and when asked if he could eclipse Byron Nelson's record of 11 straight wins he simply grinned and replied, "Mmm Hmm" as if to say, "you ain't seen nothing yet".

Consider that Woods already owns PGA Tour win streaks of six and seven in a row and his current streak of four is actually six if you count his wins at the Target World Challenge and earlier this year in Dubai, both of which boasted high-quality fields.

In fact that "strength of schedule" may be the one thing that keeps Woods from running the table in 2008 as it has been his custom to only play the highest profile events with the deepest fields in golf.

That coupled with the uncertain nature of the game would seem to put the undefeated season outside of his considerable reach.

Personally I don't think it's all that outandish to believe that Woods could win every time out in 2008. In his three starts so far he's won in a myriad of ways from run-away victories at the Buick Invitational and the Championship Match at the World Match Play, to stirring comebacks in Dubai and the first round of the World Match Play.

His stats are nearly as impressive as his ability to gut out wins so far in 2008.

Woods ranks first on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation, putting average, scoring average and average birdies per round. All while ranking 176th in total driving. Which means when he gets his driver warmed up he really could be unbeatable.

People will of course point to the erratic nature of his driver as ultimately the reason why he couldn't possibly remain undefeated in 2008, but I would argue that he can only get better (he finished 45th in 2007 in total driving) and when that inevitablity finally comes to pass he will be so far out ahead of everyone else that it won't matter if he misses some fairways.

I'm not going to walk out on the plank here and say that it's a foregone conclusion that Woods will run the table, but should this streak continue through April and the Masters and then into June and U.S. Open one would have to concede that an undefeated season is a real possibilty for a man that up to this point has done nothing but exceed expectations at every turn.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Enough Already

There's been a Mitchell Report, multiple hearings on Capitol Hill and several press conference apologies from numerous players involved in the steroid era in baseball. And to be honest I've had enough.

I've had enough of the fans, congressmen, media members and countless others standing on their soap boxes, bemoaning the former national pastime and acting as if this is the first (or last) time something has gone awry in baseball.

At this point I think we all need to reconcile ourselves with the fact that a very large percentage of players since the 90's have used some sort of performance enhancing substance in an attempt to keep up with the competition or get ahead of it.

Some of the names involved of course are bigger than others, but as a select few seem to garner all the headlines in the ongoing "war on roids" we need to keep in mind that the problem and the solution to the problem lay directly at the feet of the game itself.

It shouldn't be the job of congress to get involved, especially in a world with so many issues that need to be addressed. Just think of what our government could do if they got as riled up about the unnecessary war we're currently fighting instead of wasting their time brow-beating Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee.

Watching those senators go after Clemens and McNamee with fire in their eyes and all the seriousness of a murder trial should have been a wake up call to those watching of just how backward and screwy our priorities are in the United States.

Honestly, I can't be the only one who thinks it's time to move on here. The court of public opinion has been adjourned and we know that we can't really trust anybody any more no matter how much we want to. That's a sad statement to be sure, but in the end I'm not losing sleep over it and in fact I find myself anxiously awaiting the start of a new season.

So while the uppity will inevitably remain that way when it comes to performance enhancing drugs, I will be too consumed with the rebuilding project that is the San Francisco Giants as well as all the other on-field happenings to have time for what has become the most tiresome issue in sports.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Real Deal

I hate to keep piling on the Twins here, so I'll make this short.

The Baltimore Orioles completed a trade today that sent their ace lefty, Erik Bedard, to the Seattle Mariners for five players including former top prospect, outfielder Adam Jones. And I bring this up to point out just how painfully short the Twins came up in their trading of Johan Santana.

Don't get me wrong here, I love Bedard as a pitcher and in 2007 he had a career year striking out 221 batters in only 182 innings. But as great as he was for a bad Orioles team in 2007, his body of work pales in comparison to Santana's.

Last year marked the first time Bedard struck out 200+ batters in a season. Santana has accomplished that feat four years in a row since becoming a full time starter in 2004.

Bedard posted a career-best 3.16 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 2007. Santana's career-bests in those categories are 2.61(2004) and 0.92(2004) respectively. Not to mention the fact that Santana is a two-time Cy Young Award winner while Bedard's best finish in the race for the coveted award was 5th which came last year.

Both are 28 years old and Bedard is actually eight days older than Santana, but still with all that the Orioles were able to extract a ready-right-now talent like Jones as well as a top flight lefty reliever in George Sherrill who will most likely compete for the closer job in Baltimore.

On top of that the Orioles landed a trio of minor league pitchers, all of whom ranked in the Mariners top 18 prospects according to Baseball America's 2008 Prospect Handbook.

Granted the three pitchers the Twins landed in the Santana trade ranked among the Mets top seven prospects, but Baltimore's ability to bring in a guy like Jones, who will most likely be the team's starting center fielder, is where they beat the Twins in moving their ace.

No one except those intimately involved in the negotiations knows what circumstances led to the Twins basically being left with no other choice but to take the deal with the Mets, but one thing is for certain and that is that the Orioles managed to do what the Twins could not and get fair market value for one of the best pitchers in the game.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Dealing in Uncertainty

Of all the things former Twins GM Terry Ryan taught his successor Bill Smith one of them was clearly not the ability to be a shrewd negotiator.

After dangling the game's most dominant pitcher in front of both the Yankees and Red Sox for several months and successfully pitting them against one another in a bidding war of sorts, Smith didn't just drop the ball, he threw it over the fence with the scary dog on the other side.

Instead of capitalizing on the opportunity to add ready-right-now young stars like Phil Hughes or Jacoby Ellsbury, Smith decided to hold out for a better offer and in the meantime allowed both the Yankees and Red Sox to reconsider letting their most prized prospects go.

What Smith was left with was the other New York team, the Mets, and an offer that somehow did not include their top prospect Fernando Martinez. Staring straight in the face of losing Johan Santana for nothing more than two first round draft picks, Smith pulled the trigger on a deal that according to the experts was no better than the fourth best deal he could have gotten for his 28-year-old ace.

That of course is the bad news.

The good news is that in return for Santana the Twins were able to add four youngsters, each with the potential to be pretty good players. 22-year-old center fielder Carlos Gomez would have to be considered the "centerpiece" of the deal and gives the Twins a potential legit replacement for the departed Torii Hunter.

The three pitchers in the deal vary in potential stardom, but all ranked among the Mets' top 10 prospects and two of them project as #2 or #3 starters.

Like any deal of this nature, where one team gives up a bona fide superstar in return for prospects who have little to no big league experience, no one can say for sure that the Twins in this case got the short end of the deal.

But lets face facts here, on the surface the Twins not only got the short end of the deal, they should be ashamed of themselves for either not doing more to keep the best pitcher in baseball or getting at least one reasonably sure thing back in return.

Forget what the Minnesota spin doctors are going to tell you over the next weeks and months, this was not a good deal for the Twins. At best, by 2010 each of the four players the Twins got for Santana will be in the big leagues and two of them will be very good. Not great like the player they gave up, but very good.

They're going to try and sell you on the signings of Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer as well as the acquisition of star-to-be Delmon Young. All nice moves to be sure, but the reality of the situation is that even with the money being spent on those guys the Twins payroll will actually go down in 2008.

To me that reality, especially with a brand new ballpark opening up, is just not good enough for a fan base that is as loyal and deserving of a winning baseball team as the one here in the Twin Cities.

What the Twins basically did was tell their fans that they have no intention of competing until 2010 at the absolute earliest and most likely it'll be longer than that in a division as stacked as the AL Central.

By most accounts the best deal the Twins had the opportunity to jump on was a deal with the Yankees that would have included the 21-year-old Hughes and 23-year-old Melky Cabrera and a lineup that could have looked like this:

SS Adam Everett, CF Melky Cabrera, C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau, RF Michael Cuddyer, LF Delmon Young, DH Jason Kubel/Craig Monroe, 3B Mike Lamb and 2B Brendan Harris

And a starting pitching rotation like this:

Francisco Liriano, Phil Hughes, Scott Baker, Boof Bonser and Kevin Slowey

Combine that with a very solid bullpen anchored by closer Joe Nathan (who could also be gone sooner rather than later) and you have a team that in my opinion could at least compete in the AL Central and is still young enough to be good when the new park opens in 2010.

Instead the Twins will have to try several options in center field including Gomez, Denard Span and Jason Pridie, none of which are proven big league players like Cabrera.

The rotation also takes a hit without a top flight, big league ready talent like Hughes and most likely will have to depend on one of several Triple-A graduates or a low-level free agent like Josh Fogg.

Don't get me wrong here, the Twins are my favorite American League team to be sure, but I can't get behind this trade and am truly disappointed the Twins didn't do better for themselves and their fans.