This is the second installment of the “Can the Mets compete in 2014?” series and well, we have some major revisions to make. None bigger than the crushing loss of Matt Harvey More »
Former MLB GM Jim Bowden recently listed Mets 2B Daniel Murphy as one of the 21 hitters that he thinks will be available via trade as the deadline nears. He pegs the likelihood of Murphy being dealt at 50 percent. Sandy Alderson said that a few teams did their “homework” on Murphy during the offseason but no deal was ever close to being done. MLB insiders think that Alderson was asking for a high level prospect in return for Murphy, this may mean that Alderson thinks that the team is still a few years away from contention. Murph leads the National League with 94 hits on a .297 AVG and .351 OBP, his best numbers since 2011. While he has been the teams most consistent hitter this year, he seems to have regressed in the field and on the base paths. It seems that he makes rally killing mistakes on a weekly basis. Murphy is due a hefty pay raise from earning $5.7 million this year to an estimated $9.1 million next year in his last year of arbitration. After that, he could ask for a contract in the range of $45+ million over 4 years. The Braves recently gave 3B Chris Johnson a 3 year deal worth over $23 million with a 4th year option that could raise that to $33 million. The 29 year old Johnson (same as Murphy) has a career slash line of .288/.324/.427 compared to Murphy’s .291/.335/.422 while playing similarly subpar defense. Johnson’s deal came while he was still two years away from free agency so Murphy could command more money if he hits the open market. Bowden says that the Orioles, Blue Jays, Giants, Braves, and Athletics are all possible fits these are all contending teams that would not give up an impact bat to trade for Murphy and pitching prospects like fans want. The highly regarded Dominic Smith is likely still at least two years away and the Mets do not have many hitters behind him so dealing Murphy for a hitting prospect or two would be a help there, but of course, nothing is certain for Mets prospects. Murphy’s future with the Mets mostly hinges on what Sandy Alderson thinks of how close the Mets are to competing. If its still three or four years away, trade him, but if he plans to make a run in 2015, he must keep Murphy and part with some of the young arms that he has stashed on the farm. An MLB insider thinks that the Mets definitely have the pieces to go and get someone on the level of Carlos Gonzalez but its a matter of pulling the trigger.
We are now more than a month through the MLB season and there are certainly some teams that are underachieving to this point and fans of those franchises all think that they can do a better job than a better job than their GM. OOTP 15 is a prime opportunity for those people who feel like running an MLB franchise is easy as spending $100 million every offseason (see the LA teams or the Yankees). OOTP is more than an MLB sim, it is a baseball sim, this year’s version of the game includes seven real leagues from throughout the the world, complete with real players all the way through the minor leagues. You can now try to find the next Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish and bid on them through the posting system, just like in real life. Playing the game gives you a sense of how hard it is to be a major league GM. I played with the Mets and was stuck with an excess of pitching talent with Harvey, Syndergaard, Niese, Mejia, Gee, Montero, Wheeler, and others. It took a while to find a trading partner who could fill my needs in the lineup. The super accurate player models have predicted real life stats with deadly accuracy in years past and this year should be no different. One of the biggest additions for this year’s game is the addition of 3D ballparks. There aren’t players on the field and the game doesn’t ship with real parks (which are downloadable) and there are a few bugs but it shows a glimpse into the future of the series. Out of the Park Developments has hired a new, full-time 3D programmer who’s sole job is to improve this feature for the future. It is exciting to think about the future of the game with the possibility of actually seeing your team celebrate their championship on the field (unless you’re the Cubs). Now, that level of 3D realism is at least a few years away but OOTP 15 provides an experience that is not matched by any of the competing games currently on the market.
The 2014 Season is well underway and the cream of the crop is beginning to rise to the top. In fact, in the Eastern Conference, they are already there. So far the obvious winners are the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat. It would take a momentous disaster to slow either team’s momentum. Miami has most recently won five games in a row, and their longest win streak of the season has been 10, with only three losses in a row. While it is true that NBA winning streaks come and go, Miami seems to have found their rhythm and it is unlikely that they will face any major obstacles on their way to the finals. Indiana is not far behind Miami’s current win streak, with 9 wins in a row.
The Western Conference is filled with hard charging teams this year, and the standings for third place and below could and will most likely change at any time. However, the Thunder and the Spurs are on track to stay at the top in the run to the Playoffs. Kevin Durant’s outstanding performance as the league’s leader in scoring has tipped the Thunder into the top spot in the Western Conference. The Spurs’ outstanding statistic is their 48.9 percent field goal scoring average. The balanced team effort has kept the Spurs in the hunt at the second spot in their division.
The Trail Blazers and the Clippers have come on strong during the February Frenzy when anything could happen on the court in the Pacific Division. The Pacific Division is a risky place. Anyone who takes the court has a chance to win. The shakeup will continue into the final stretch as the close win-loss records continue to change with each outing.
Another component of the Western Conference race is a statistic that most players do not ever claim. DeMarcus Cousins has earned it this year. He leads the league in technical fouls. This is not so much an honor but an albatross around his neck. A game suspension is in the offing if he does not change his ways. The Kings do not need to have him riding the pine for displays of temper on the court. He is a high caliber player, and the Kings are currently ranked fourth in the Pacific Division.
The Eastern Conference is facing woes and is home to the losers for the 2014 season. The win-loss records are bottom heavy in the East. The Southeast is by far the strongest division with 4 of its 5 teams ranked in the top 8. The Magic are the losers in the Southeast with only 18 total wins this year. Milwaukee and Philadelphia are also at the bottom of the heap this year. Milwaukee has so far lost 45 games total, while Philadelphia has bettered that record by only losing 43 games. Philadelphia’s twelve game losing run is a streak that no one wants to brag about owning. Boston, New York, Cleveland, and Detroit are also losers so far this year.
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Round two of Syracuse-Duke was just as exciting as the first match up but it will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons. It was a back and forth between two of the heavyweights of NCAA basketball, with two of the most respected coaches in all of sports. As an Arizona fan I was rooting for Duke to knock off number one just this time but I hate Duke as much as the next guy so my thoughts on this come from a pretty interesting place. In case you haven’t seen the block/charge call and Jim Boeheim’s ensuing response, here it is:
Say what you will about the call but I think that the real problem lies with the new rule. The defensive player has to be set before the offensive player starts his upward motion. According to the rule, the refs probably missed the call but that was a charge in every sense of the word, Hood was set on contact, in legal guarding position, and outside the restricted area. It sure as hell wasn’t a blocking foul so it probably should have been a no call, Syracuse up one with 10 seconds on the clock and Duke inbounds. Had Jim Boeheim not have gone ballistic, Cuse would have been down one with Duke inbounding, they could have easily fouled and Duke had been 7-17 at the line at that point. According to KenPom.com, the Orange chance of winning went from 1/5 after the charge to 1/300 after Boeheim was ejected. I understand that he was upset, but you can not, under any circumstances get ejected in that situation. He gave the refs no choice, clearly calling the call bull shit and berating the officials to the point where they threw him out of the game, giving Duke four free throws.
Boeheim said that it was an extremely well officiated game but then went on to call out the refs on a similar play in the first half and called Fair’s charge ” the worst call of the year.” He also failed to take responsibility for getting ejected and putting the final nail in Syracuse’s coffin. He didn’t apologize to the fans or players as Arizona coach Sean Miller did last year. Boeheim also makes a few jokes almost as if he didn’t care that he lost his team the game. He says that he wishes that the game was decided by the players, not the refs but he had a bigger effect on the game than they did. If I am a Syracuse player, I am offended that my coach lost the game for us, failed to take responsibility, and was laughing about it post game, after I gave a 100% effort in our second straight loss. Syracuse had a six point lead at one point but the backcourt duo of Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney combined 13 points on 18 shots after carrying Cuse for the better part of the last two months. Syracuse had been thin ice for the last few weeks, narrowly escaping with wins until they finally lost to a 7-20 Boston College team at home. This game will not be soon forgotten and is sure to be the second game of one of the fun rivalries in college basketball for years to come (we can only hope).
Thunder forward Kevin Durant has had one of the most dominant stretches of basketball that we have ever seen over the last month. Over his last 17 games, Durant is averaging 36 points, 6 assists, and close to 8 rebounds. All of this is happening without all-star point guard Russell Westbrook, who is out with a knee injury. Durant has led the Thunder to a 13-5 record in Westbrook’s absence while putting up incredible numbers. He poured in 54 points against the in a victory over the Warriors, that was one of his four 40+ point games during his hot streak. He has also recorded at least 30 points in each of his last 10 games, including a triple-double Saturday against the 76′ers. One of the most remarkable parts of Durant’s run is his efficiency. He is shooting 53% from the field and 40% from behind the arc, despite taking 22 shots per game. All of this is coming at a cost however, KD is playing more than 38 minutes a game and he missed his first game of the season with an injured shoulder.
As you can see from this shot chart form the last 30 days, Durant has been scoring inside and out. That’s nothing new to the three-time scoring champ but his overall efficiency is at the highest level of his career. His league leading PER of 31 on the season is 2.1 points higher than the next player, LeBron James. Durant’s scoring isn’t the only part of his game that he has stepped up. His 5.2 assists for the season is a career high but he has upped that to 5.9 without Westbrook on the floor. Durant has also been rebounding at a higher than normal rate. His 7.9 rebounds per game this season are a full rebound above his career average of 6.9 per game. Along with the rebounds and assists, KD is also setting a career high in steals, with 1.5. Durant has made great strides to improve his defense throughout his career and we are finally starting to see his defensive ability be shown. As long as Russell Westbrook is out, Durant will have to continue to but up these insane numbers but it remains to be seen how much he will have left in the tank when the playoffs role around.