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Archive for June, 2007

futuresgamelogo.jpgEven if you’ve never been to a minor-league baseball game in your life, you should pay attention to the 2007 All-Star Futures game, which will be played in San Francisco on July 8th. The event is part of MLB’s All-Star weekend, and will be broadcast live at 4pm on ESPN2.

This is our chance to get an early look at the best and the brightest minor-league prospects in the nation. The players are chosen by staff members from MLB, representatives of the 30 major-league clubs, and Baseball America magazine. The process gives us a true cross-section of the most talented players, regardless of affiliation or level of experience.

Here are some fun facts about the upcoming minor-league all star game:

  • The U.S. Team faces the World Team. I’m guessing one of those two is having more of a language barrier than the other, but a Cali boy trying to converse with a Georgian could be just as difficult.
  • The World Team includes players from 11 countries, including Taiwan, Columbia, Australia, and the Netherlands, along with an incredible eight Venezuelans.
  • Minnesota fans will have a chance to see Matt Garza again – he started 9 big-league games last year, winning 3, losing 6, and cobbling together a 5.76 ERA.
  • Other rising names you might recognize: Cameron Maybin (DET), Justin Upton (AZ), Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS), and Ian Stewart (COL).
  • U.S. Pitcher Clay Buchholz pitched like a champ against Roger Clemens during the star’s rehab stint in Trenton. The younger player, who hadn’t even been born when the Rocket broke into the big leagues, struck out eight and walked zero despite his nerves.
  • Best names: Joba Chamberlain (NYY), Brian Bocock (SF), Evan Longoria (TB), Emiliano Fruto (WAS), Elvis Andrus (ATL), and Ching-Lung Hu (LAD).
  • All 30 MLB teams have farm-system representatives in the game, and no team has more than two players going to San Francisco.
  • Seven California-born players are heading back to their home state. I imagine the octet of Venezuelans will be lobbying for a return matchup in Caracas for next year.

mudhensjersey.jpgObviously, I’m just having a little fun here. I really don’t know much about these guys, but I think that’s the fun of the Futures game. Last year’s game featured some unheralded names who now grace major-league rosters: Stephen Drew, Alex Gordon, Troy Tulowitzki, Hunter Pence, Homer Bailey and Phil Hughes have all logged time in the bigs this year.

If you’re curious about what the future may hold, set aside a little post-Independence-day time for this game. You may just find a little supporting evidence for that “Wait ’til next year!” cry.

Find Futures Game Rosters here.

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I’m going to post this just because it still makes me happy after all these years. It’s the “One Shining Moment” montage from the 1988 NCAA tournament.

Of course, I love seeing the Kansas footage, my favorites being the Manning dunk and the Milt Newton scoop layup around the 1:50 mark. But I also love seeing young John Chaney, Sean Elliot, etc. It’s just a signpost from a fun time in college basketball for me. I hope you enjoy it, especially the music, which sounds like the theme to some cheeseball sitcom.

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The A-plus #1 photo from last night’s NBA Draft

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My gut reaction is to not like Joakim Noah very much. I think he pulled a few whiner maneuvers during his college career, and nobody likes a whiner. Especially a two-time national championship whiner.

But for this? For standing next to David Stern with the cheesy smile, ugly bowtie, poodle hair, and peace sign? I have to admire this for pure subversiveness. He may be a douchebag, but he made me smile with this one. I just wish he had switched teams with Julian Wright in the draft, is all.

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Check this out:

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The man on the left is my favorite musician of all time, John Coltrane. The man on the right is Kevin Durant, who is about to find out which city in the Pacific Northwest he will set on fire for the next few years.

The thing that has always appealed to me about Coltrane is that his music hits all the important places: the head, the heart, and the soul. If we’re all lucky, we’ll be able to say the same thing about Kevin Durant’s game at the next level. The physical resemblance that strikes me between these two men is primarily in the eyes – a strong and direct gaze, and a confidence that says “I am about to righteously blow your mind”.

Coltrane had a vision for music that sounded like noise to those who were unprepared to hear what he was laying down, but he could play sweet enough to make a woman swoon when he wanted to. Perhaps one day Kevin Durant will have that same command of his instrument.

There is no doubt, however, that supporting cast is crucial. Trane had a rhythm section of McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison on many of his truly classic recordings, including his magnum opus A Love Supreme. Later he even brought in fellow saxophonist Archie Shepp when he was ready to get really radical. It wasn’t always the same guys, but it was always someone who knew how to play within Trane’s groove.

The most crucial aspect of the coming years for Kevin Durant will involve the selection of sidemen for his upcoming tour de force. Perhaps he can reach a place where that fiery ebb and flow will be his to command, just as it once was for John Coltrane. When he finds that ability to play something old in a new way, and something new in an earth-shattering way…. well, look out, NBA. That’s all I can say.

(Props to Free Darko, where Basketball is Jazz every day of the year)

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If you’ve ever wanted to know what a bunch of no-talent assclowns would do if they were GM’s, all you have to do is read just about any blog around. But if you want to know what no-talent assclowns would do, and then watch Awful Announcing make fun of their “acumen”, then you really need to go check out the AA Mock Draft. I hear we’ve been graded.

I was in charge of adding pieces to Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat, and I kept having the urge to go foreign, because the Heat have NO overseas dudes. And that’s not cricket, mate. I’ll say two things about my first and second round picks, and then leave you to follow the link: “Who wants to sex the Splitter?” and “Honka Espoo”.

Now, run along, you little scamps.

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Kevin Pritchard’s Long and Winding Road

pritchard.jpgI’ve been hearing Portland GM Kevin Pritchard’s name bandied about for some time now, thanks to his immense good fortune in having to decide between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant come Thursday of this week. It feels very, very strange to me to hear his name so often, because for the last 15 years or so, if I had mentioned him to just about any sports fan I know, I would have received a blank stare in response. I felt like a fan club of one.

Why do I love Kevin Pritchard? Easy answer – I was a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1988, and he was a key player on that famous Danny and the Miracles team that won the championship and turned Lawrence, Kansas upside down for several days. Since that team changed my life, I remember all kinds of absurd things about it. For instance, backup guard Clint Normore, who played crucial minutes in that game, was a varsity linebacker defensive player for KU’s gridiron team. Compared to that bit of ephemera, remembering Kevin Pritchard is easy. He went 6 of 7 from the floor and scored 13 that night, one off his jersey number.

pritchardmaddox.jpgPritchard also made one of the finest hustle plays I’ve ever seen in person. Back in those days, I couldn’t afford to go to many live KU games, but I often picked off undesirable tickets from my friends who were going home for winter break. One such event was a dismal Arizona State at Kansas game that was relatively meaningless. It was Pritchard’s senior season, if I remember correctly, and the Jayhawks were not having a difficult time with the Sun Devils. Nonetheless, when a maroon-and-gold clad guard stole the ball from Kansas and streaked away for the easy layup, Pritchard chased him down and blocked the kid’s shot cleanly from behind. The moral of the story? Don’t sleep on Kevin Pritchard. In addition to being a damn fine player, he made the Big 8 all-academic team for three years running.

Pritchard’s post-Kansas career was nothing to write home about. He was the 34th pick in the 1990 NBA draft, going to Golden State, where he started once. It was the only start of his NBA career. He played a few games over the next handful of seasons before moving to the now-defunct CBA, and then went overseas. When playing opportunities dried up, Pritchard sold mutual funds for about a year, before landing a front-office gig with the ABA’s Kansas City Knights, where he wore many hats, including GM, Director of Player Personnel, and Head Coach. He won an ABA championship in those roles in 2000-2001.

pritchard_kevin.jpgThat was his entree back into the NBA ranks, as he joined the staff of the San Antonio Spurs. As a scout, he once again worked with Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford, who knew Kevin from their days as assistants on Larry Brown’s staff at KU. Two years with the Spurs led to the Director of Player Personnel job with Portland, which led to the Assistant GM spot, and then to the enviable position he is in today.

Oddly enough, he is not the only player from that 1988 Kansas team to find success in a suit. Milt “Alfreeka” Newton is VP of Player Personnel for the Wizards. The small matter of a long NBA career got Danny Manning a late start, but he currently serves as an assistant coach at his alma mater under Bill Self.

Can Pritchard bring that Miracle magic to the rainy Pacific coast? Who knows. Luck has already played its role for Pritchard, handing him the #1 pick and two franchise players to choose from. The rest will come down to the same thing it always has for the kid from Tulsa – hard work.

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Crucial Source: Groomed for Success [Portland Tribune]

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OK, we’re here today to meet Delmon Young. Here you go:

Allrighty, we’re done here, thanks!

I’m kidding, of course. But Delmon is damn lucky that his career has blossomed in Tampa Bay, because otherwise, this would be the ONLY thing baseball fans would remember about him. As it is, he’ll be branded as “the bat-thrower” no matter what else he does in his career. Perhaps next time the Ump will hand Delmon a bottle of gatorade before he heaves him. Wait… that’s Elijah Dukes… these kids in Tampa are just a hot mess.

But I’m here neither to praise Delmon, nor to bury him, but to supply you with facts. Delmon Damarcus Young was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1985, but eventually his family moved to California. The younger brother of Dmitri Young sprouted into a 6’3″ power-hitting outfielder who was drafted #1 overall out of high school in 2003. That made he and brother Dmitri the siblings with the highest combined draft position ever until, perversely, his record was broken by the brother of the #2 pick in the 2003 draft, his Devil Rays teammate B.J. Upton. He bats righty and throws righty, becoming the first player to ever do both during a single at-bat (see above).

delyoungbat.jpgDelmon played very, very well in the minors, amassing a .317 overall average during his teenage years. He was even able to log some time in the city of his birth, amassing an impressive OPS of .986 with 20 home runs and 71 RBIs in just half of a regular season with the Montgomery Biscuits. In 2005, he played for the storied Durham Bulls, where the, er, impromptu discussion of the strike zone happened. The resulting 50-game suspension did not dim the ardor of the big club, and the Rays called Delmon up on August 28th of 2006.

The hot-headed tyro paid immediate dividends, crushing a two-run dinger against the Chicago White Sox in his first major league game. Unlike his unkempt older brother, Delmon is an excellent fielder with a rocket-powered throwing arm and accuracy to boot. His speed and a growing appreciation for situational hitting may just make him the complete package.

Young is having a sterling 2007 season at the tender age of 21, standing out on a roster full of future stars (assuming they can stay away from the po-po). In 75 games this season, often batting 5th or 6th in the lineup, Delmon has 43 RBIs and 37 runs, with 15 doubles and 9 home runs. To the best of my knowledge, he has kept his temper under control, allowing teammate Elijah Dukes to hog all of the headlines for now.

Should he keep a firm grip on his emotions, and that darn slippery bat, Delmon Damarcus Young could continue to play a big part in bringing exciting offensive baseball to Tropicana Field. With B.J. Upton and Japanese import Akinori Iwamura on the field, the Rays are an intriguing unknown quantity with a great deal of potential. If the Tampa pitching can keep up with a minor-league system packed with hitting prospects, they just might have something down there in the old Juice Bowl.

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