Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ranking the Summer of Lebron (2010)

The summer of 2010 has been a busy one and has certainly lived up to the anticipated hype. In 2008, when Donnie Walsh was introduced by the Knicks as their President of Operations his goal was to immediately start shedding salary to prepare for what would be the biggest offseason hoard of talent the NBA has ever seen. Since then, many of the other general managers have followed Walsh, making a series of seemingly outrageous trades in exchange for players whose contracts would expire this summer. As many as five franchises had come into this offseason with major cap space, hoping to land the NBA's biggest and most arrogant prize; Lebron James. After Lebron's decision was made, many other teams were left with hurt feelings, left over cash and incomplete, novelty rosters. And although the summer centered on Lebron and the newly remade Miami Heat, many of these other teams quietly thrived and made the right moves to improve their rosters. While the summer is not yet over and we're all very excited to find out where Kwame Brown signs (probably MJ's Bobcats) or who has the guts to bring in Shaquille O'Neal, it's safe to say that most teams have made the bulk of their offseason moves. And with that I give you my 2010 offseason acquisition rankings...

30) Cleveland Cavaliers

Ah the King's abandoned kingdom. If the Cavs were a Ferrari, Lebron was the engine, the wheels, the steering wheel, and the air bags. Now all that's left of a once glorious Ferrari is three tires, an air freshener, and a humorous yet uninspiring bumper sticker. No one said it would be easy to recover from the loss of your franchise player, but this team has not yet made an attempt. With the exception of writing childish anti-Lebron open letters, the Cavaliers front office has been shockingly inactive. Taking their time to determine the future direction of the franchise isn't a horrible idea, but do something! Anything! Kwame's still available! If losing Lebron is not bad enough, Big Z goes with him and on top of that, the Rockets then rub salt in the Cavs' wounds, refusing to relinquish Kyle Lowry. Tough break. Dan Gilbert insists the Cavs will win a championship before Lebron does. The reality is, the last time this franchise was this far from a title, all Cleveland Burger Kings and liquor stores were being instructed to refuse service to this man. How are the Browns looking this year? Grade: F

Update: The Cavs trade for Ramon Sessions... What do you know, there is life after Lebron. Let the rebuilding process begin.

29) New Orleans Hornets

Nothing new here. Just the Hornets ownership team doing everything they can to chase away Chris Paul. If firing his mentor (Byron Scott) and trading away his best friend (Tyson Chandler) wasn't enough to piss off their best player, certainly another uneventful summer should do the trick. Nothing says "we're committed to winning" like dumping the contract of Morris Peterson. Grade: F

28) Minnesota T-Wolves

Unlike the previous two teams, David Kahn and company have been busy. But sometimes making absurd transactions just to see your team's name on the ESPN ticker is not the best way to go. Shockingly the Wolves got decent value back in the 2007 Garnett trade, however nothing they have done since has made any sense. This summer is no exception. Kahn can now add to his resume the unnecessary signing of another mediocre point guard (Luke Ridnour) and the 20 million dollar donation made to the Darko foundation for underachieving Yugoslavians. Yet none of that even comes close to the idiocy that is the Al Jefferson trade. I use the word 'trade' loosely because Kahn practically handed Utah his best player who has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds as a T-Wolves since coming to them in the Garnett deal. And have I mentioned that Jefferson is only entering his prime and his potential is still as high as Michael Beasley . Oh ya, they also got Michael Beasley. Grade: F

27) New Jersey Nets

Last season's worst team came into this offseason with a tonne of promise. They were the odds on favourite to win the John Wall sweepstakes and had the cap space necessary to make a run at Lebron. Although they were certainly not the only team to strikeout with Lebron, the Knicks got Amare as a consolation prize, the Bulls got Boozer, and the Nets were left with Travis Outlaw. When a team has money to spend and a new billionaire owner promising to spend it the expectation is that they come away with more than a collection of role players. Although Outlaw, Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow are good young pieces, they are in fact role players. The only thing keeping the Nets from receiving a failing grade for this summer is their draftee Derrick Favors who should fit in well up front with Brook Lopez. Grade: D-

26) Detroit Pistons

While the previous teams have really dropped the ball this summer, the Pistons made their bed in 2009 when Joe Dumars decided it’s better to spend than to save. Last summer, Dumars took the easy way out by squandering his cap flexibility on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva instead of saving it for this year’s historic free agent class. Knowing there would be a tonne of competition for this year’s free agents he did what most GM's were unwilling to do; overbid on mediocre stars in 2009. As a result, the Pistons didn’t have much to spend in 2010, and it shows in their lack of activity. Grade: D-

25) Portland Trailblazers

This is an organization that has gotten to where they are, as one of the better young teams in the league, by making smart decisions. I for one cannot understand the reasoning behind any of the decisions they have made this summer though. It all started with the unexpected firing of GM Kevin Pritchard who had reinvented this once troubled franchise with his basketball savvy. The new Blazer decision makers proceeded to offer a $34 million contract to Wesley Matthews, a second year two-guard who does not address any of the team's pressing needs. If healthy they will continue to get better, however they will not improve as a result of anything that occurred this summer. Grade: D

24) Charlotte Bobcats

Michael Jordan may be one hell of a basketball player, however his work as an NBA exec has been just as successful as his uninspiring baseball career. When MJ is allowed to make crucial personnel decisions, bad things happen. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. This summer he backed out of a pending transaction for a much needed point guard in Jose Calderon because he believed he could get more for Tyson Chandler's large expiring contract. At least this is my understanding of the kyboshed deal. The next day the Cats traded Chandler's expiring contract for Dampier's similar expiring contract and a bunch of scraps and spare parts (Najera and Carrol). By doing this they gave up a major asset (Chandler's contract), without getting anything back that will immediately improve their roster. Sure they saved some money but that money was coming off the books next summer anyway. After trading Chandler and losing Raymond Felton to the Knicks, this team is now without a starter at the two most important positions in the game. Although the new Miami Heat super-team may get away with their holes at the point guard and center positions, Stephen Jackson/Gerald Wallace/Boris Diaw are not the big 3. Grade: D

23) Indiana Pacers

For Larry Bird and the Pacers, the summer of 2010 serves as yet another opportunity to bide their time. Their summer of reckoning will come in 2011 when 5 of the 6 largest contracts that will plague them this season will come off of the books. Can you believe that Troy Murphy, T.J. Ford, Mike Dunleavy and Jeff Foster will make more than $37 million this season? With that in mind, the fact that this team has been on vacation this summer is almost understandable. Will they spend their money on anything good next year? Probably not. Grade: D

22) Phoenix Suns

Poor Steve Nash. Amare Stoudemire, his long time running partner is out. Hedo Turkoglu, the long time point guard killer is in. Steve Nash is best known for his overwhelming ability to get his teammates the ball and bring out their best on the offensive end of the ball. This has been the case with everyone Nash has played with in his 14 year career but it ends with Turkoglu in 2010. As Hedo will tell you himself, he likes to be the one with the ball in his hands. Something tells me that may have something to do with Jose Calderon's disappointing 2009-2010 season. In case you're wondering, the Suns will now be paying Hedo $44 million over the next 4 years to destroy Steve Nash's career. They also overpaid for Hakim Warrick and brought Josh Childress back from the dead but for bailing out their former boss and taking on the Hedo contract all I have to say is... Grade: D+

21) LA Clippers

The Clippers made moves to bring in some solid role players that could really help a contending team. But they're not a contending team, they're the Clippers. And in true Clipper fashion, they had money to spend and they spent it incorrectly. This team needs a lot more help than they are going to get from journeymen like Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes or Brian Cook. The addition of the athletic 8th pick Al-Farouq Aminu should help replace Al Thornton who they wrongfully gave away for nothing. And a healthy Blake Griffin should help the Clippers faithful forget about another wasted summer. Grade: C-

20) Toronto Raptors

Like Cleveland, the Raptors also lost their franchise player. Unlike Cleveland, they have at least attempted to recover from it however. On top of losing their best player, the reason why the Raps are this low on the list is due in large part to their lack of direction in this, the post-Bosh era. Bryan Colangelo has worked hard to fix his previous mistakes with the Turkoglu trade and the Calderon deal that almost went through. And while the team is certainly in a better place without Hedo on their payroll or in their locker room, it's hard to move forward when the primary goal is to correct previous errors. That being said, the new look Raptors will be more athletic and may be more cohesive as well. Leandro Barbosa and Linas Kleiza are not the future of this franchise but they should fit in well. And although Colangelo overpaid for Amir Johnson, his athleticism in the front court alongside rookie Ed Davis could be a refreshing change from Bosh's finesse post game. Grade: C-

19) Washington Wizards

Thanks to the lucky ping pong ball that gave the Wizards the first pick in this year's draft, they receive a passing grade from me. If it were not for the addition of franchise saviour John Wall, the Wizards could very well be number 30 on this list. This team is real bad. The addition of Kirk Hinrich and his hefty contract makes no sense considering the Wizards now have Wall in their back-court alongside Gilbert Arenas. Aside from point guards, the Wiz don't have much of value. However, an offseason trade with Jersey should ensure that for the second consecutive year Yi Jianlian will play for the worst team in the league. Grade: C

18) Atlanta Hawks

Many would grade the Hawks more harshly after they broke the bank to re-sign Joe Johnson to a $120 million mega contract. Especially because their summer was essentially finished once they committed to JJ on day one of the free agency season. Although it's certainly not the most popular thing to do these days, I will give them some credit for the signing. Is Joe Johnson worth a max contract? No. Would he have gotten it elsewhere? Absolutely. And where would the Hawks be without him? They certainly wouldn't be in playoff contention. With their best player back on board, this team is still one of the best in the East and their young core of players will continue to get better. That being said, this team has faltered badly in the postseason for the previous three years and would have benefited from using some of that JJ money to build up their depth. Grade: C

17) Memphis Grizzlies

With the prospect of losing Rudy Gay, the Griz found themselves in a similar situation to the Hawks. They too opted to pay their young star which couldn't have been an easy decision for a penny pinching franchise like the Grizzlies. Like the Hawks, I believe they too made the right decision by bringing back the heart and soul of a young team that looked great in spurts last season. Their biggest issue was their depth which they addressed with the addition of super-sub Tony Allen and rookie Xavier Henry. A solid, yet unspectacular summer for the Griz. Grade: C+

16) Sacramento Kings

It's hard to knock what turned out to be an efficiently smart offseason for the Kings. They already have young talent and an emerging star in the reining rookie of the year Tyreke Evans. What they need now is time to grow, and defence. Their defence is real bad. However, the drafting of DeMarcus Cousins should address that if he can stay in games and out of foul trouble. They also added Samuel Dalembert, who will defend for them this season and come off the books next season. Grade: B-

15) San Antonio Spurs

As usual, this team continues to quietly deliver the goods. No one will be talking about the signing of Brazilian Tiago Splitter the same way no one talked about the drafting of Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili until they took the NBA by storm. But the experienced Splitter will immediately step in and help a team that is always looking for quality big men to play alongside Tim Duncan up front. For the record, they overpaid for Richard Jefferson. That being said, they are not the first team to make that mistake. Grade: B-

14) Orlando Magic

I tend to give a lot of credit to already great teams, with little money to spend, that go out and make smart, affordable decisions to subtly improve their roster. The Magic couldn't afford to do much this summer, however they didn't waste the opportunity to add a couple guys who fit their system perfectly. Quentin Richardson fits like a glove and shouldn't hurt the Magic's chances to once again hoist more three-pointers than any other team in the league. Chris Duhan should also thrive backing up Jameer Nelson at the point. And of course J.J. Redick has been forced back to a team that will most likely continue to make him watch from the sidelines. Grade: B-

13) Golden State Warriors

Who does this team have coming off their bench? It probably doesn’t matter, they wouldn’t play anyway. G-State gave up a lot of depth this summer but we already know Don Nelson hates depth. We also know he hates conventional big men, but who can hate David Lee? The Warriors also picked up Dorell Wright, a player who loves to run and goes from a walking-only team in Miami to a running required team in G-State. The addition of Lee and Wright give the Warriors a very impressive starting 5 and considering those are the only players who will play, I’ll give them a... Grade: B-

12) New York Knicks

Part of me wants to punish them and rank them lower. After all, this is the team who started the “save for 2010 campaign” and has been preparing to anoint Lebron James the new mayor of New York City for 3 years now. They had a Lebron or nothing mentality until they realized they couldn’t get Lebron. So no Lebron means they fail right? Well to their credit they took a big step in the right direction after many years of taking massive leaps in the wrong direction. Even without Steve Nash, Amare will be a beast in the East. They also got a bargain in Raymond Felton, who will fit coach D’Antoni’s system perfectly. The roster re-make continued when they got surprising value for their former star David Lee. Azubuike, Turiaf and Anthony Randolph should all be regulars in the Knicks rotation and Randolph may finally reach or even exceed his potential in New York. Perhaps the best news is that Eddy Curry’s ridiculous contract expires next summer when the Knicks could add another major piece to the young core they put together this year. Grade: B

11) Denver Nuggets

Outside of the handful of teams with major cap space, no team was under more pressure than the Nuggets this summer. Carmelo Anthony could become a free agent next season, meaning this may be the franchise’s last opportunity to surround Melo with a winning team and prove to him why he should stay in Denver. This is not an easy task for a team with very little remaining in their wallet. However, the Nuggets used their midlevel exception to bring in (no longer) baby Al Harrington to team up with Melo and Chauncey Billups. Harrington has been on a lot of losing teams during his 12 year career (how has he been in the league for 12 years already?) but he may have finally found the perfect team for his offense first, defence second mentality. If he can play a Lamar Odom-type role in the Mile High city, he may help convinced Melo to stick around. Grade: B

10) Boston Celtics

Go ahead and call them old. Say that they’re “done”. It just makes them angry. And you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry. Last season the Celtics proved that they are as good as ever, at least when it counts, come playoff time. They will try to do the same this year and I give them credit for that. While many would have been tempted to blow up an aging team, Danny Ainge stuck with the winning team he worked so hard to build. He spent the summer brining back Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, while convincing coach Doc Rivers to join them for at least one more season. He also addressed the Perkins injury by recruiting Jermaine O’Neal who won’t have to worry about being called “old” on this team. They also drafted Avery Bradley, who is 15 years younger than Ray Allen, the man he will be backing up. Grade: B

9) Houston Rockets

Quietly the Rockets had a very productive offseason starting with a potential steal with the 14th pick in the draft. Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson should fit in perfect with the Rockets’ style of play and could pay major dividends even as a rookie. Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry are both coming off of career seasons so bringing them back was important. Finally, with Yao’s health always a concern, the Rockets brought in some insurance at center in the form of veteran big man Brad Miller. Grade: B+

8) Philadelphia 76ers

With so much focus on the number one pick John Wall, no one seems to be talking about Evan Turner and what a great fit he should be with the Sixers. Like teammate Andre Iguodala, Turner can score in so many different ways and should do so perfectly in Phili’s athletic, run and gun offense. Finally rid of Dalembert’s contract, the Sixers should be able to give new life to the young career of Spencer Hawes, who could really benefit from playing alongside Elton Brand in the front court. The defensive presence of Andres Nocioni should also help this young, offensively focused team. Grade: B+

7) Dallas Mavericks

First and foremost, the Mavs re-signed Dirk Nowitzki, the face of their franchise, not that we believed he was going anywhere. Although their window appears to be closing with Dirk on the wrong side of 30 and Jason Kidd still manning the point, the Mavs obviously believe they have another opportunity to capitalize on this very deep team Mark Cuban has put together over the last few years. After last year’s Caron Butler trade, the Mavs don’t have much flexibility with their roster or their payroll. However, they used this offseason to secure their weakest position at center by resigning Brendan Haywood and trading for Tyson Chandler, who should once again thrive playing with an elite point guard in Kidd. Grade: B+

6) LA Lakers

The rich get richer, and they did it without having to spend much either. Firstly, the Lakers replaced backup point guard Jordan Farmar with the more experienced Steve Blake, who is a better fit in the triangle offense. They also added two great defensive vets Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff. The Lake-show is as deep as ever, they are just as dominant defensively as they are offensively, and yes, for the record they are better than the Heat. Grade: B+

5) Oklahoma City Thunder

This team is so talented they didn’t need to reinvent the wheel this summer, just make some slight modifications to it. The Thunder are on the verge of greatness, all they needed to address was the center position and their outside shooting. Mission accomplished. The shooting was addressed with trades for veteran shooter Morris Peterson as well as former 3-point champion Daequan Cook. They also picked up rookie big man Cole Aldrich from the Hornets on draft day. The pieces are in place, it’s only a matter of time until this team is a dominate force in the West for years to come. Grade: B+

4) Milwaukee Bucks

Gotta love it when a small market team believes they are at the cusp of greatness and decides to break the bank and spend some unprecedented cash. It’s always a big risk, especially they way the Bucks spent their money this summer, but you’ve gotta risk it to get the biscuit. Knowing they were not in the market for Lebron, the Bucks didn’t sit around and wait for others to act; in fact they got the ball rolling by trading for Corey Maggette. His contract is big but he was signed to it for a reason, when healthy and focused he is a scoring machine. Speaking of scoring machines, they also brought back John Salmons, who turned around the Bucks season when they acquired him before last year’s trade deadline. Once the money was spent on those two, they also signed Drew Gooden, presumably to start at the four, Keyon Dooling to back up Jennings at the point, and Chris Douglas-Roberts, who with time could be the best of the three. This team could very well finish near the top of the East and if Michael Redd is healthy (a big IF), then watch out. Grade: A-

3) Utah Jazz

This list is littered with teams who lost their franchise player and failed to recover, and thus received poor grades. The Jazz lost their best player and ended up getting better. And it’s a good thing that they did because Deron Williams was beginning to get restless when his team sat back and waited patiently to start the summer. But act they did when they traded the ball boy for Al Jefferson. He’s younger than Boozer and he will be better than Booz, if he’s not already. The question is how quickly he gets comfortable with Jerry Sloan’s strict system. Raja Bell was brought back to Utah this summer and there is certainly no doubt that he will make a seamless transition back to the Sloan system. Rookie Gordon Hayward is a winner and should also have no trouble fitting in. Grade: A-

2) Chicago Bulls

While the Bulls were hoping to use their hard earned cap space on one or two of the “big 3” this summer, the result of this offseason may be even sweeter for the fans in Chicago. All the attention, both positive and negative has been and will continue to be on the Heat. In spite of this, it was the Bulls who surrounded their young and athletic core of Rose, Noah and Deng with smart, hardnosed vets, who know how to win. As always, the health of Carlos Boozer is going to determine whether or not this team reaches its potential and challenges the Heat for the top spot in the East. In Boozer the Bulls have acquired the offensively gifted big man they have wanted for decades. Joining Booz in Chicago are former Jazz teammates Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver who will each contribute something different to the team’s weakest position. More importantly, they will bring with them the winning mentality they inherited while playing in Utah for Jerry Sloan. Grade: A

1) Miami Heat

Love them or hate them (and most of you will hate them), you have to acknowledge the historic offseason the Heat have had this summer. Re-signing Dwyane Wade and surrounding him with an above average supporting cast would have been considered a solid summer for Pat Riley and the Heat. Instead they did the impossible by pairing him up with two of the leagues greatest who took less money to make it all happen. But alas 3 great players don’t necessarily make up a great team, so let’s look at the other guys. Most people remember Mike Miller from his sharpshooting days with the Magic, however he has used his recent opportunities playing for bad teams to develop other areas of his game that will now be tested in Miami. His ability as a play maker could come in handy on a team that’s missing a true point guard while it is evident that there will be plenty of open looks for him on the perimeter as well. Udonis Haslem also took less money to come back to the Heat and he too fits in perfectly because of his physicality and ability to knock down the midrange shot. Outside of this core of 5, Riley has brought in a handful of affordable journeymen who will have to step up and find a role within this system for the Heat to succeed as a cohesive unit instead of just a team of 3. Grade: A+

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MLB 2K10 half way home, "the year of the pitcher"

This week marked the unofficial halfway point of the unnecessarily long Major League Baseball season. Judging from the lack of interest in Tuesday's all star game it seems safe to say no one cares. This year's mid summer classic drew the lowest television ratings of any MLB all star game to date. It was reported that the viewing audience consisted mostly of the close relatives of the less talented players (The Pujols family no longer wastes their time with the all star game), the extended family of Omar Infante (sorry amigos, he didn't play) and bored sports fans around the world who grew tired of stabbing their Lebron James voodoo dolls just in time to catch the game. Those who did catch some of the game were treated to a good one. Well, maybe not a good one, but certainly a quick one. Although it was strange to see an all star game without a ridiculous, novelette score like 15-10 or something of that nature, the 3-1 final made for a refreshingly quick pace that if nothing else kept me awake. That's right, I stayed awake for an entire MLB all star game. Strange eh? Even Omar Infante's great aunt dozed off before the 6th inning. Infante jokes aside, I've gotta say the game was a pretty accurate representation of the way this season has unfolded thus far. The pitching, on both sides, dominated from start to finish the same way it has all season long and many of the position players displayed the talent that got them to this point. David Ortiz hit in the clutch, Carl Crawford stole a base, Marlon Byrd made a big defensive play, and Omar Infante sat on the bench and massaged the feet of Charlie Manuel (did I really say Infante jokes aside?). Here's a quick look at some mid summer classic tidbits that stood out for various reasons.

The Good

Big Papi's back baby!
It was great to see David Ortiz get back to doing what he does best. Granted he has been crushing the ball fairly consistently for the last couple months but we all know the man loves to perform on the big stage, and perform he did. On Monday his effortless power stroke was on full display as he won the Home Run Derby with ease and followed that up with a clutch single in the ninth inning of the big game. His struggles to begin both this season and last are well documented and his critics are still more than ready to suggest that the Dominican slugger is "done" at the first sign of a small slump. But to his credit he has bounced back in a big way this season the same way he did last year and Big Papi continues to look like a young version of himself. Not a guy you want to face if your an apposing pitcher, even in an all star game.

A National League victory
Finally! The last time the NL won an all star game was in 1996. This made for an AL winning streak that was starting to get a bit ridiculous, especially in a game that now "means something". Granted the AL appears to be a far superior league with the best division in baseball, great hitting due in large part to the DH position and teams like the Royals and Orioles to beat up on (they just pad the stats, its like batting practice that counts). However this could very well be the beginning of a power shift led by a group of NL pitchers that are big, young and poised to dominate for years to come. That was the difference in this one.

The Bad

Poor managing
If this game is going to "mean something" (which is dumb, and we'll get to that later), than at least manage it the way you would any other game. In fact it's far more important than any other game. Maybe that's not the case if you're John Buck. If I'm John Buck I am actually considering sitting on a small stool behind home plate just so I don't have to deal with the uncomfortable crouching during a completely meaningless game (for the Blue Jay's catcher that is). But if I'm Joe Girardi, manager of the AL leading New York Yankees (and perhaps one day I will be) I am managing this game like it is THE MOST important game of the regular season. Home field advantage could very well mean everything in the world series and Girardi manages a team that is the odds on favorite to get there, therefore there is no excuse for leaving Alex Rodriguez on the bench. For the record A-Rod should also be pretty concerned about the outcome of this game for the very same reason as his manager. Now I'm not even slightly buying the reports of A-Rod's "minor thumb injury" keeping him out of this game. And even if Girardi was in fact concerned about his star third baseman aggravating this injury during an at bat, at least allow the far quicker Rodriguez to pinch run for Big Papi in the ninth inning before he runs into an impressive but not at all shocking crucial out at second base. Could be a costly error for Girardi. He should really apologize to Ron Washington and the Texas Rangers, who are actually going to win the AL. That's right!

Girardi hates Michael Young as much as he hates winning all star games

Poor Michael Young. The Ranger's third baseman is one of baseball's stand-up guys (whatever that means). On top of that he is having yet another great under the radar season, only this time he is doing so atop a prolific offense on a division leading team. He has done nothing to harm Joe Girardi (well I don't know that for sure but he is a "stand-up guy" so what's the worst that he could have done). However, on the day before the all star game was to be played, the American League manager announced at a press conference that Young would join the AL roster as an injury replacement for Adrian Beltre. Later that day Girardi called an audible, taking back his invitation to Young when he realized Beltre had never officially ruled himself out of the game. How embarrassing. And pretty rough for Michael Young, who is without a doubt a more deserving all star than many of the actual all stars. On top of that, Young's contract is structured so that he would have been in line for a $50, 000 bonus if he made the all star team this season. Wow, Girardi's finger prints are all over what turned out to be the AL's first loss in 13 years.

The Ugly

Everything else about the game

Bud Selig you magnificent moron! You have really gone out of your way to make the MLB all star game less relevant than the Pro Bowl haven't you (if that's even possible)? Everything he has done with these all star festivities has been an absolute mess. First and foremost, the fact that the mid summer classic STILL determines the league that gains home field advantage in the World Series is laughable. How has this mistake not been corrected? Of course, Selig instituted this twist to the all star game after the 2002 game ended in an embarrassing 7-7 tie. After that public relations nightmare, he believed that making the all star "mean something" would attract more fans to watch the game. He continues to be proven wrong. The reasons why this "twist" is ludicrous have been discussed to death so I won't even get into them. All I will say is this; how can you justify the requirement that all teams, even the horrible ones, be represented in the all star game when the result of this game will determine the fate of the great teams that will ultimately make it to the World Series? However, at the very least its comforting to know that this game could have been lost by the manager of the AL favorite Yankees and it was won by the catcher of the potential NL favorite Atlanta Braves (Brian McCann). While I'm on the subject of the "all teams must be represented rule", I'm going to suggest that perhaps Michael Young may have made a more deserving all star than career journeyman Baltimore's Ty Wigginton and perhaps literally anybody would have made a more deserving all star than Pittsburgh's Evan Meek. I'll also mention that Selig's rational for this rule is to increase the television ratings for the game in the cities of the crappy teams. Yikes. How bad would the ratings have been if the city of Pittsburgh was not represented? Finally, I have a bit of a problem with the all star selection process if it allows a 66 year old man to single handedly select Omar Infante to the team. Charlie Manuel defended his highly controversial decision to name Infante to the team by leaving him on the bench, the same place he has spent most of his career. This just in from the office of commissioner Selig, if more people read this blog than the number of people who watched the all star game, I will be selected by Manuel to participate in next year's mid summer classic. It seems doable.

On that note, the first half of the 2010 MLB season has actually been pretty solid. We have witnessed the remarkable comebacks of several previously "washed up" vets while also getting a good look at baseballs young stars. With the steroid era in the past, it is evident that we have been introduced to some of the future household names that will represent the new era of baseball (no I'm not just talking about Stephen Strasburg). So without further adieu I give you the first half award winners of the 2010 MLB season...

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton
This is definitely a close one. Major honorable mention to Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano both of whom are having career years to add to their already impressive young careers and are doing so playing for two of the better teams in the AL. That being said J-Ham has been fantastic. He may hit in a hitters park in Texas but the formally troubled phenom is a legitimate triple crown threat so I'm willing to ignore that fact in this case. Although we have seen this dominance from Hamilton in the past, the difference between this season and his brilliant 2008 season is the 51-win first half he has lead his team to. He's as clutch and talented as they come and for the first time he is putting it all together and it is finally starting to translate into W's for the Rangers.

NL MVP: Joey Votto
While it is hard to argue against Josh Hamilton, Votto certainly appears to be a controversial pick for MVP, especially considering he failed to make the original all star roster. However, as discussed above I can assure you that is not his fault and he is certainly much more deserving of this award than fellow all star Omar Infante. You can make a case for Ryan Howard who is having yet another great season however his team is underachieving. A case can be made for David Wright for his comeback to greatness this season. Finally Albert Pujols is always in the running but he has been more of a mortal than a god so far in 2010. Quietly Votto has been just as good if not better than those mentioned above and he is doing it all for the Central leading Reds who are, in my opinion a greater surprise than the Rangers. So for that reason I'm giving it to the underrated Canadian.

AL CY Young: David Price
The great young pitching in the NL has been getting all the pub of late but lets not forget about Tampa's young ace. Price is a prime example of why there is no reason to panic when a hyped pitching prospect goes through some growing pains in his first couple of seasons in the big leagues. Coming off of a rough rookie campaign with the Rays he has flourished as a sophomore and has helped Tampa keep pace with the Yankees in the AL East. As always he has plenty of Cy Young competition in his own division as Jon Lester, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have all been lethal but no one has been as dominate as Tampa's David Price.

NL CY Young: Ubaldo Jimenez
This is where it gets tricky. Josh Johnson has been unhittable, Roy Halladay has been a workhorse as usual and Adam Wainwright has been even better than last years career season. Any other year and we would also be talking about the fine work of Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo and Mat Latos. However, when a pitcher in Colorado dominates and puts up the type of numbers Ubaldo has this season you don't question it, you say "thank you sir, may I have another". He currently has the Rockies in the wild card spot, he has almost one third of his team's victories and prior to his last four starts which have been a little less pretty his ERA was just slightly over 1.00. Impressive. Give the others credit, they have been great but give Ubaldo the award, he has dazzled.

AL Rookie: Neftali Feliz
If the Indians organization was not so cruel, Carlos Santana would have been called up to the majors much earlier and he would be the clear winner of this award. That being said you should not sleep on Feliz. The young fire-baller got a taste of the bigs towards the end of last season but technically speaking he is considered a rookie in 2010. Technically speaking we should also discount his last outing that increased his ERA by almost an entire point. But life as a closer in the Major Leagues is not easy especially for a 22 year old. Austin Jackson is really the only other rook in the AL who even comes close. And really, he's not that close. Feliz has 23 saves for the AL West leading Rangers and 42 Ks in 37 innings thus he is the rookie of the first half and probably the eventual rookie of the year.

NL Rookie: Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg vs. Heyward. One has only pitched in 7 games while the other has been injured and inconsistent. Although inconsistency is to be expected from a rookie as young as Heyward, the efficiency machine that is Stephen Strasburg has been as consistent as rookie pitchers get. Dominate from day one, its hard to deny Strasburg what's rightfully his, despite the small sample. If the Nats allow him to pitch enough this season he will win his first trophy for his shelf that will soon be filled with perennial Cy Youngs.

AL Comeback Player: Vladimir Guerrero
Shocking, another Ranger. Honorable mention to Alex Rios, the majors most complete player in 2010. But much like Rios, Vlad was also a castoff. The Angels wanted no part of the supposedly declining talent that is Vladimir Guerrero but now the joke is on them. The idea of Vlad being "done" is even more ridiculous than the very same accusation directed towards David Ortiz. Vlad can hit anything, anywhere, anytime and he has been doing so this season and will continue to until he is so old that he can no longer stand. At which point he will continue to hit anything while sitting in a chair.

NL Comeback Player: Corey Hart
This man was left for dead in Milwaukee after his performance or lack there of in 2009. Hart went from a prospect with limitless power and speed potential to yesterdays garbage in just one season. He started the season in an outfield platoon, fighting for at bats and now leads his team in home runs. A team that employs Prince Fielder I might add. The strikeouts are down and the production is up, almost in every major category. Chris Young has made a similar comeback in Arizona but his re-invention falls just short of Hart's