Monday, December 22, 2008

The Celtics aren't that good

For the record-The Celtics aren't that good. For the past couple weeks, all I have heard is how great the Celtics are. National media outlets, mainly ESPN, are beginning to sing the praises of the defending champs. It's not hard to see why. When a team wins 18 games in a row, it deserves some accolades. However, I've been hearing a lot of "better than last year" or "greatest team ever" comments. This makes my stomach turn.

Anyone who has watched this team will say that there is a great disparity between the starters and the bench. While the starters have improved exponentially with the emergence of Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins as legitimate NBA players, the bench has become weaker and less deep. As a result, it seems that every game, the starters build a big lead and the bench gives it right back.

Doc Rivers, this year more than last, has used the bench as a unit rather than inserting players in with the starters. As a result, against better teams, the Celtics have lacked the same intensity and maturity that the starters bring on the court. Thus, the bench has always been a negative +/-:

CHI: +120 (starters), -31 (bench)
ATL: +38, -22
UTJ: +47, -2
IND: +37, -12
POR: +110, -35
IND: +118, -39
ORL: +100, -5

Now, I don't believe +/- shows the entire story, but it does show how well the unit plays defense when the player is on the floor. As you can see, while a lot of these games were blow outs, the fact that the bench is negative does not speak highly of the team's depth.

The Celtics are really lacking in terms of a defensive big man of the bench as well as a small forward to back up Pierce. Glen Davis and Leon Powe are nice players, but unfortunately, they are not the best defensive players. They play hard and score points, but they give up their share of points as well. Furthermore, the Celtics have no one to fill the role of the small forward as James Posey did last year. Tony Allen has been very good this year, but he doesn't have the size to deal with a Lebron James.

There are some glaring weaknesses that the Celtics have that sooner or later will be exploited. However, the starters have been so great thus far, that we have yet to see those weaknesses show. Although there's been considerably more success in this regular season than last season (to date), Danny Ainge will have to address these issues to sure up a chance at another championship run.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Who will be the leading goal scorer in the NHL?

Apparently, I was quoted in Pierre Lebrun's blog this week. Earlier this week, he posed the question "Who will be the leading goal scorer in the NHL." This is what I responded:

"I have to go with my boy Phil Kessel. People are bringing up the "shots per game" issue. Yes, Phil is taking less shots than other leading goal scorers, but he's hitting at a higher rate than most. Only Vanek is hitting at a higher rate of guys with more goals than him. Phil continues to grow as the season progresses. These last two games, his main set-up guy, Marc Savard, didn't record an assist. Kessel still got three points in each of the games. He is inspiring confidence that he can score every single game. Another thing that sets Kessel apart is he's playing with the modern-day Adam Oates on the power play, David Krejci. Once he starts getting the 5-6 shots a game instead of the 3-4, he will start getting more goals. He's on a 52-goal pace. Unless he gets injured, I expect him to get at least 50."

I didn't find out until today that he had responded:

The fact Kessel is even in this discussion shows how far this young man as come. The 21-year-old Wisconsin native has already tied his career high with 19 goals and is currently on pace for a 52-goal season. His speed and explosiveness going to net is electrifying. And, obviously, he's shown he can hit the smallest of holes on goalies with a great wrist shot. There might be a little bump in the road this season, but we still see at least a 40-goal season. The Richard Trophy might have to wait for another season, though.

To be honest, there are a lot of great scorers in the NHL, and my response was part devil's advocate, part homerism. It's nice to get into a blog that's on a site that's read all over the world.

Correction to last night's entry:
According to reports, the Sox had offered around $160 million, and that Teixeira wanted around $185 million. This is when Henry sent his email to media outlets. While Henry said that the Sox are out, expect for the talks start up again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sox are OUT on Teixeira

Breaking news today in the baseball off season hot stove. In the early evening, when I was at the airport, I received a text from my friend, Carpy, at, "Theo and the Trio are flying to Texas to meet with (Mark) Teixeira and (his agent) Boras." As someone who has been following the Sox's pursuit of Teixeira religiously, I could not withhold my excitement. The idea of having Dustin Pedroia and Teixeira in the second and third spots of the line up has always intrigued me. I boarded my plane hoping that there would be some pleasant news waiting for me on the other side.

When I got home, I hear Gordon Edes on NESN reporting what Red Sox Owner, John Henry, had emailed several media members: "We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him. After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor." My initial reaction, like many Red Sox fans, was "wow."

I have said on several occasions that "if the Sox don't get Teixeira, the offseason is a failure." To an extent, I still feel that way, but considering the Sox reportedly offered him around $185 Million after initially starting around $160, I think it's the right call. The Red Sox are a big market team with money. However, what differentiates them from others is that while they will be a factor on most top free agents and players available through trades, the Red Sox front office sticks to their principles:

1. They refuse to overspend on players. If a guy is the best talent available, they will spend good money on him, but they won't break the bank. A fine example of this is JD Drew. The Red Sox gave him what to some looked like a bloated contract. However, he was the best available free agent. The Sox are willing to pay the premium on talent. This is the same deal with Teixeira. However, they put a value on that premium and are not willing to compromise their integrity in negotiations by breaking the bank.

2. They won't give long deals. You saw the front office's discomfort with Manny Ramirez's contract ever since they bought the team. The front office attempted to trade Manny almost every single year. The longer the contract, the further the risk. The Sox obviously are infatuated with Teixeira, and believe he is at an age where a long contract is acceptable, but they're not willing to go too long. Another John Henry quote: "The Red Sox effectively had a 10-year deal with a player determined not to live up to his contract. A lot can change over 10 years, for both sides."

When I look at the negotiations with Teixeira, I see these principles taking shape. I see the Red Sox being tempted by this very nice talent, but I recognize that sometimes you have to stick to your guns. If you break from your principles, you set precedent for future negotiations. If you give up anything more than you have to, it can and will bite you in the future. It's really a matter of weighing the short term with the long terms and costs and benefits.

I've really struggled with valuing Teixeira. As I called him before, he's a "nice talent." He's a very good hitter and a very good fielder. Offensively, his numbers aren't insane like an Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, or even a Manny Ramirez. However, he is the best position player, who is gifted both offensively and defensively AND doesn't have a history of causing problems (Sorry Manny).

Honestly, I see him as an $18-20 MM player, but the big question for me is what is the premium that you are going to pay for him. Starting with what was speculated to be a $160 million contract, it was reported that the Sox were working on a 8 year/$185 million deal before things fell apart. This marked a total value of $25 million with an AAV of $3 million.

This proposal seemed reasonable to me. They made quite a leap from their initial offer, but they did not break the bank. However, once reports came that there was a $200 million offer, I can see why the Red Sox drew the line when Boras attempted to try and talk them up to that figure. $200 million would mark a 25% increase from their initial offer.

Some of you might think an extra $15 million, especially if you back load the contract, won't seem like that much. However, that will make those latter years even more burdensome, especially since near the tail end of the contract, Teixeira's skills may be diminishing. The overall contract would be cheaper for the Sox, but those last years would be burdensome both in taking a large chunk of the payroll and not getting value for money.

It still remains to be seen whether the Sox are completely out of the deal. However, it seems that right now, the Sox are not going to sign Mark Teixeira. It will be interesting to see what they accomplish, once they divert their attention to other pressing needs.