Thursday, January 29, 2009

Juiced !

I began my college baseball career at small, Division 3, college in northern New Jersey in the fall of 2001. I came from Beachwood High School, which, for those of you who don't know, is not a sports powerhouse. Our men's sports programs were 'small' on average. As a student body we did not have very big kids. There were very few 'physical specimens.' We produced Division 1 athletes, but they were few and far between. I was one of the bigger kids in my class, and on the baseball team.

From the moment I stepped into the first meeting prior to the beginning of our Fall Season at school, I was somewhat shocked. The players were enormous. I was tiny compared to the lot of them. The ones who were shorter and weighed less than I did were jacked. I am not saying that steroids were rampant throughout my college career, but there were a solid number of players that were juicing. The number was certainly in double figures. One of our first conference trips my freshman year was a double header vs. a pretty dam good team. Said team was ranked in the country, and later would earn a spot in the Division 3 World Series that year(they lost to Marietta in that tournament). Watching them take batting practice was no different than going to Jacobs Field in the mid to late 90s. Balls were flying out of their stadium, launched into orbit. These kids were a different breed.

After getting off the bus that night, a few of my freshman friends and I were eating dinner, discussing steroids. They were easily accessible. The testing by the school and the NCAA was not so sophisticated that it wasn't beatable. In fact, the only drawback to it seemed to be that they were pretty damn expensive in my opinion. What triggered this conversation? The fact that it was so commonplace among these athletes. I distinctly remember thinking 'damn if I ever really want to see the field, how can I not do it.'

Now the purpose of this article is not to shed light on the rampant steroid use going on in small college athletics, in fact it is very far from it. Thankfully, I did not choose to inject myself(even after my coach called me naturally weak, and redshirting my freshman season), and I had a pretty successful career, and ultimately played professionally overseas. After the 2005 season I read Jose Canseco's tell most-of-it-all memoirs, his fine piece of literature, the book Juiced!. My first impressions of this book was that it was hilarious. Basically a 280 page commercial for steroids, I couldn't get enough of it. My take aways were as follows: if you use steroids in moderation they are perfectly good for you, if Canseco did not take steroids he would not have won the MVP award and therefore would not have landed a $3 million contract, and the player that finished in second place in the voting was rewarded with a $500k contract.

In CC Sabathia money, $2.5 million is a little bit more than chump change. Obviously, the player making $500k was not hurting, but if you gave him 6x that amount, I think he would be ecstatic. Canseco claims that is what steroids did for him. Taking a look at the cycle (no pun intended), the best player in the league roids up. A few others follow him. The players that still want to be All Stars need to keep up. The fringe players, trying to stay in the show feel the need to juice in order to stay in the league, and essentially feed their families (I am not too sure the other skills that Guillermo Mota possesses aside from throwing baseballs, but I am fairly confident he is not going to earn as much money selling insurance as he is striking guys out). This is all going on WHILE NOT TESTING AT ALL FOR THE STUFF. Baseball players are notorious for cheating. And by the way if your not cheating, your not trying, and its only cheating if you get caught. Corking bats, scuffing balls, crisco, bardol, vagisil...

This is why, and I may take some flack for this, I do not hold taking steroids in the supposed 'steroid era' against any of the players. If you are sitting at your desk job, and all of a sudden guys were banging out TPS report after TPS report, while you were still trying to find the cover for your first one, you may have a sense of insecurity regarding your future employment. Then the guy that just got promoted comes to and says 'man, I couldn't have gotten that extra 40k without this cocaine to keep me awake and moving, you gotta try it...' An extra 40k, or the possibility of being unemployed... the majority of people would not kid themselves into thinking that wouldn't at least consider it, and eventually perhaps dabble in it, if the circumstances got so dire.

I am not condoning killing your body, and judging by the boobs that now adorn some of former teammates' former chests, steroids take their toll. But I do not fault guys for keeping up. There is no doubt in my mind that over 85% of players from this era were on some sort of 'performance enhancing drugs.' Shit happens. Guys make mistakes.

Now, forgive me, but I may start to whine. I woke up this morning pumped because I knew I didn't have to go to work. I read a little bit of my latest book, "Boys will be Boys," and then flipped on ESPN, where the latest on Barry Bonds using something other than the clean and the clear have been found in his 6 year old urine. Pardon me, but I don't give a shit. I don't need 20 minutes of my day devoted to Bonds anymore. He is not entertaining anymore. He is known to be a former user of steroids. Can we move on? If he committed perjury so be it, go to jail and that is it. Too much money is being spent on this. Too much time is being wasted on this. Mark McGwire's brother is coming out and selling him out? That's real respectable dude. He is your brother, I don't care if he is estranged, if he wants to talk about what happened in the past, he will when he is good and ready. It is not your responsibility. Kirk Radomski told us that David Justice and Glenallen Hill received steroids from him. Damn. Two former Indians. Maybe those steroids helped Justice be able to perform his patented check swing. Or maybe... just maybe Justice was juicing when he hit that fateful homerun off Jim Poole in game six. That motherfucker !... oh wait, the cork was in Albert Belle's bicep right? and Jim Thome was a scrawny third baseman then too? and with those guys we wouldn't have been in the series to begin with? ohhh yeaaaa. Basically the Mitchell Report has turned Kirk Radomski, former batboy, and Brian McNamee, former Clemens lackey, into rich men in the media limelight.

The night when McGwire hit number 62 was magical. It still is magical. I was 15 years old and still have the VHS I recorded of this night. The guy that was pushing him throughout the summer was playing against him that night. That rarely happens. McGwire and Sosa were on a level playing field that summer. Chances are the majority of pitchers who gave up those jacks were having their performances enhanced in some way as well. All the time, energy, and money devoted to this is stupid in my opinion. Hannah Storm just told me Greg Anderson's mother in law's house was raided in connection with Bonds. Please comment and tell me if you care.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Tajh Boyd Predicament

I'm a hypocrite. I'm guilty of everything which I am going to write and complain about below. I have fallen victim to the high school football star, the next big thing, and the must-get recruit that Ohio State can't possibly succeed without. I log on to the Insider's boards to read the sketchy accounts of Player X's being spotted jogging in blue and orange colored track shorts, a clear indication of his unspoken desire to play for the Gators and Urban Meyer. I read the interviews and watch the videos, trying to ascertain Player Y's level of love for the Scarlet and Grey. And when a recruit, to whom I've dedicated countless hours researching and fawning over decides to commit to another team, I feel both betrayed and disgusted. And my thoughts turn negative, along the lines of - to hell with Player Z, the Buckeyes' don't really need him, he was overrated anyways.

Yesterday, Tajh Boyd made me realize just how ridiculous the college football and basketball recruiting processes are. Boyd, a five-star, consensus top 5 high school quarterback, committed to Clemson. Which would have been fine, had Boyd not called the Ohio State coaching staff to commit, yesterday morning. Not only that, but apparently Boyd was speaking with the coaching staff of Oregon telling them the same sort of thing. This, of course, was after Tajh initially committed to West Virginia, and then to Tennessee.

While I respect Boyd's final decision, I cannot condone how he handled his recruiting. It's one thing for a player to keep his options open, to visit a number of schools and to express his honest interest in each one. It's another to flat out lie to several programs, impacting not only the program itself but other high school players whose offers may have been affected by your actions. For example, OSU offered QB Austin Boucher a scholarship last night, after he had committed to Miami of Ohio earlier in the week, even though Boucher has expressed interest in OSU for awhile now. Boucher was most likely told that with Boyd presumably committing to OSU, the Buckeyes had no place for him. Now OSU is forced to go back to Boucher and say, you know what, we want you after all. And Boucher, who will be playing with his brother at Miami if he remains there, has to decide if he's willing to pull a "Boyd" break his own commitment, and be satisfied being the Buckeyes' second choice. I wouldn't blame him for telling OSU to shove it. Don't tell me you don't want to go to prom with me because you're going with head football player, only to come back to me later in the day to see if I'm still interested because he's now going with your sister.

The reaction of the Boyd situation by posters on the OSU message boards is comical. Prior to his commitment, Boyd was the second-coming, this year's Terrelle Pryor, and the next in a great line of quarterbacks at Ohio State. After his announcement, Boyd became a headcase, immature, and someone else's problem, as the boards began to melt down. Again, I'm not above the emotion exhibited by countless other Buckeyes' fans. I consistently refreshed my browser, hoping to get news of Boyd's decision before he went public. I even stayed late at work to listen to him announce. And I felt the pit in my stomach when he said he would be spending the next part of his life at Clemson. However, to be that affected by the decision of a 17 year-old or 18 year-old kid, well it's rather ridiculous.

The Boyd saga made me think back to Pryor's own recruitment last year. The love he showed Michigan, WVU and Oregon at various times. The contradictory statements he made, the colors he donned. The fact that he didn't commit until after National Signing Day because he was still "unsure."But in the end, when chose Pryor OSU, all the wavering was forgotten because he became our guy. Had he ended up at Michigan though, many of the same people who currently praise him, most likely would be trashing him as "stupid" and heaping on many of the same criticisms currently being heaped on Boyd.

I guess the point that I'm trying to make, as that as grown men and women, we shouldn't allow our emotions to be controlled by the fickle desires of high school kids. The whole recruiting network is built on experts attempting to figure out what a 17 year-old or 18 year-old kid is going to do, when that kid probably hasn't even decided who he's going to take out on a date that weekend. Many of these kids are being told for the first time in their lives how special they are, with exuberant promises being made. With all the attention, who can blame some of these individuals from falling in love with a number of schools, or being unsure of where they'll end up? And usually, our opinion of a kid is colored by our scarlet and grey glasses - if he chooses another program over OSU, there has to be something wrong with him.

Each athlete ends up making the decision which he believes to be the best for himself. In the end, we should rejoice and support the kids who commit to OSU, while respecting those who make other decisions. And we should not allow the Tahj Boyd's of the world to control our lives. At least that's the decision I'm making for myself.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Constructing the Indians' Lineup by the Numbers

With Spring Training right around the corner, I know Eric Wedge has a lot on his plate. Does he grow the porn star mustache this year or does he leave that upper lip bare? How does he respond when Slider shoots him a suggestive belly jiggle in the hall? Where will he go to cry when Andy Marte begins clubbing home runs for his new team this season?

To ease Wedgie’s burden, I’ve decided to aide in constructing the perfect Indians’ lineup for the upcoming season. In fact, I’ll construct two different versions – one for when the Indians are facing a right-handed pitcher and one for when they face a lefty. Earlier this week, Biff made reference to the fact that the Indians' lineup reminds him of an empty hot dog bun, lacking the expected "meat" in the middle. And although I’m a vegetarian, I’ll even attempt to address Ol’ Biff’s concerns, devising the most efficient lineup the Indians have seen this side of Moneyball, and answering his query of "where's the beef?" So Wedgie, sit back, relax and read this, I’ll handle all the heavy lifting.

In constructing the perfect lineup, I’m going to focus on several factors. First, on-base percentage or OBP. OBP is figured by taking (H + BB + HBP), divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SF). The average major league baseball player has an OBP of .340. Why use OBP instead of the standard batting average statistic, you may ask? Well, batting average, though an obvious indication of a batter’s value, fails to tell the complete story. To really simplify matters, assume player X has 10 plate appearances, gets one hit, makes an out 4 times, and walks the remaining 5 appearances. Even though player X is hitting right at the Mendoza line (.200) he has still reached base an amazing 60% of the time or has an OBP of .600. OBP takes into account the ability of a player to reach base in any manner, and therefore reflects the greater chances that an individual player will either a) move another runner ahead or b) be in a position to score, even if he failed to get a hit.

In addition to looking at the OBP statistic, I’m also going to focus on a how a player hits in varying spots in the lineup. My goal is to find a spot in lineup in which each player hits higher than the average .340 OBP. Essentially, I’m going to try to maximize the efficiency of each player, hopefully resulting in the most productive lineup possible for the Tribe. And again, I’m going to try to do this for when the Indians face both a right-handed pitcher or for when they face a lefty. It may sound complicated and number intensive, but I promise it will be easier to follow than it seems. Let’s get started.

First, I'll present to you the lineups I would use on an almost daily basis. Then, I'll explain my seleictions by examining the overall numbers of each player.

THE LINEUPS:

Against a RHP:


1) Grady Sizemore, CF

2) Shin-Soo Choo, RF/LF
3) Travis Hafner, DH
4) Jhonny Peralta, SS
5) Victor Martinez, C
6) Ryan Garko, 1B
7) Ben Francisco, LF/RF
8) Mark DeRosa, 3B
9) Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B

Against a LHP:


1) Grady Sizemore, CF

2) Shin-Soo Choo, RF/LF
3) Ryan Garko, 1B/DH
4) Jhonny Peralta, SS
5) Victor Martinez, 1B/DH/C
6) Kelly Shoppach, C/DH
7) Ben Francisco, LF/RF
8) Mark DeRosa 3B
9) Asdrubal Cabrera 2B


Below, I provide a comprehensive justification for why I put a specific player where I put them in the lineup, focusing mainly on their OBP and their comfort hitting in a certain spot in the order.

Outfielders:

Grady Sizemore: (Bats: left-handed)
  • Against RHP: 2141 PA (“Plate Appearances”), .298 AVG, .389 OBP

  • Against LHP: 968 PA, .238 AVG, .328 OBP
Analysis: Unlike every other Indians' hitter, I'm not going to assess Grady's numbers in any other spot than the lead off position because other than a few PA here and there, Grady has been the Indians’ lead off hitter since the 2005 season. In 2810 PA in that span, he has put up impressive numbers, with a .281 average, a .373 OBP, 111 SB, 103 HR (including 18 HR to lead off a game) and 312 RBI. In fact, the only other spot in the lineup that Grady has more than 100 PA is hitting 8th, where he has amassed a dismissal .263 AVG and .288 OBP.

There has been talk about moving Grady out of the lead off spot further down the lineup to take advantage of his power numbers, but the fact remains the Indians really don’t have a viable alternative to hit at the top of the order other than Grady (or possibly Michael Brantley, who I’ll discuss briefly below). Grady has only had 41 PA in the 3rd slot of the lineup, where most people want him hitting if not at the top of the order. Despite the fact that Grady's power numbers may suggest placing him near the middle of the order, necessity dictates that he remains batting first. Plus, Grady has indicated that he likes leading off the game and it since it obviously seems to be working, whom am I to mess with success?

The one downfall Grady has a lead off hitter is the rate at which he strikes out. For his career, he has struck out 604 times in 3109 PA, or about an average of one strikeout per every 5 PA. That’s a pretty high rate for a lead off hitter. And if we really want to nitpick, Grady’s numbers against LHP are rather mediocre. But, given the lack of alternatives and the fact that Grady is the Indians’ most popular player, expect to see him leading almost every game this season regardless of who's on the mound for the opposing team.

Shin-Soo Choo: (Bats: left-handed)
  • Against RHP: 474 PA, .300 BA, .390 OBP, 14 HR

  • Against LHP: 116 PA, .257 BA, .322 OBP, 3 HR
Hitting 3rd:
  • 81 PA, .343 AVG, .420 OBP, 5 HR
Hitting 5th in the Lineup (Most Career Plate Appearances):
  • 285 PA, .278 AVG, .363 OBP, 6 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 84 PA, .416 AVG, .452 OBP, 4 HR
Hitting 7th:
  • 51 PA, .220 AVG, .353 OBP
Hitting 8th:
  • 75 PA, .180 AVG, .333 OBP
Analysis: Like Grady, Choo hits right-handed pitchers much better than he hits lefties. While his OBP and AVG aren’t terrible playing against lefties, Choo’s numbers are far above the league average when he has the favorable match up against a right-handed pitcher. Choo actually finished near the top of the entire AL last season with an OBP of .397 which indicates that he should probably be playing everyday.

Choo’s lineup numbers show that he would be a productive 3rd, 5th, or 6th hitter. However, because his OBP is so high, placing him second in the lineup makes some sense, despite his lack of experience hitting there. While the numbers seem to say that Choo should hit 6th, with his ability to get on base close to 40% of his plate appearances, I'd prefer to see Victor, Hafner and Peralta hitting behind Choo, rather than Asdrubal or Ben Francisco. Because of that, I think Choo might be an ideal second hitter in the Tribe's newly constructed lineup.

Ben Francisco: (Bats: right-handed)

  • Against RHP: 423 PA, .266 BA, .323 OBP, 13 HR

  • Against LHP: 142 PA, .270 BA, .345 OBP, 5 HR
Hitting 2nd:
  • 79 PA, .261 AVG, .354 OBP, 2 HR
Hitting 3rd:
  • 304 PA, .257 AVG, .322 OBP, 11 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 20 PA, .389 AVG, .421 OBP, 1 HR
Hitting 7th:
  • 21 PA, .333 AVG, .429 OBP, 1 HR
Analysis: Francisco has shown a rather consistent ability to hit both right-handed and left-handed pitchers, hitting with a slightly higher than average OBP against LHP. Though the majority of PA Francisco has gotten have been in the 3rd position in the lineup, in limited appearances in the 6th and 7th slots, Francisco has shown the ability to be a productive hitter. Slotting him further down the lineup might help to remove some of the pressure off him as he enters his sophomore season.

David Dellucci: (Bats: left-handed)
  • Against RHP: 2827 PA, .266 BA, .350 OBP, 96 HR

  • Against LHP: 365 PA, .194 BA, .258 OBP, 5 HR
Dellucci has had over 400 PA hitting in the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th spots in the lineup. Since I don’t really want to see Dellucci hitting anywhere for the Tribe, here are the spots where he has put up his best numbers:

Hitting 2nd:
  • 492 PA, .302 AVG, .370 OBP, 21 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 543 PA, .268 AVG, .350 OBP, 16 HR

Analysis: Dellucci should NEVER, EVER, EVER play against a left-handed pitcher. Dellucci is the very definition of a platoon player. What's sad is that the Indians have so much money tied up in what amounts to half a player. With the talent of minor league outfielders that the Indians have, it seems apparent that the team would be better served cutting bait with the Looch, as even one mediocre whole player is better than one mediocre half player. However, knowing how the Tribe operates, Dellucci will get his fair share at-bats until it becomes apparent (or well after it becomes apparent) that he cannot get the job done anymore. If, and this is a big if, Wedge ever feels the maddening compulsion to insert Dellucci into the starting lineup, he should hit him 2nd against a right-handed pitcher only. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Michael Brantley: (Bats: left-handed)

And who might be that minor league candidate to take Dellucci's spot on the major league roster? My choice is Michael Brantley. Now, I realize Brantley has never played beyond Double A. But look at the numbers he put up for Class AA Huntsville last year, before being traded to the Indians, .319 AVG, with 80 runs, 17 doubles, two triples, four homers and 40 RBI in 106 games. He also stole 28 bases in 36 attempts and had 50 walks against only 27 strikeouts. What I like best about Brantley however, is his career .399 OBP, which not only would have been best on the Tribe last year, but fourth in the entire American League. And, Baseball America rated Brantley as having the best strike zone judgment and the best base running skills in the Southern League last season.

What makes Brantley so attractive is both his ability to get on base and the he brings some speed to this team (something which it greatly lacks). In fact, Brantley appears to be an almost prototypical lead off hitter. His emergence could potentially allow the Indians to begin to slot Grady further down the lineup. Or, Brantley could be a more than adequate second hitter in the lineup.

Still not convinced? Look at this information from the http://www.indiansprospectinsider.com comparing Brantley to a former Cleveland Indian lead off hitter, near and dear to our hearts:

Brantley's Minor League Career (Age 18-21):
  • 383 games, 1392 AB, 53 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR, 199 BB, 142 K, 104 SB, .311/.399/.372/.771
Kenny Lofton's Minor League Career (Age 21-24):
  • 363 games, 1423 AB, 46 2B, 24 3B, 6 HR, 159 BB, 266 K, 168 SB, .300/.370/.379/.749
I’m just saying….

Catchers:

Kelly Shoppach: (Bats: right-handed)
  • Against RHP: 528 PA, .238 BA, .306 OBP, 19 HR

  • Against LHP: 188 PA, .293 BA, .373 OBP, 12 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 94 PA, .316 AVG, .426 OBP, 9 HR
Hitting 7th:
  • 128 PA, .254 AVG, .325 OBP, 5 HR
Hitting 8th:
  • 189 PA, .198 AVG, .257 OBP, 6 HR
Hitting 9th:
  • 216 PA, .283 AVG, .325 OBP, 9 HR
Analysis: Despite the breakthrough year that Shoppach had last year, his righty/lefty splits indicate a far greater disparity than one might have initially thought. In fact, Shoppach’s power shows itself at a far greater rate against left-handed pitchers, and his OBP is almost 70 points higher hitting against lefties. Shoppach might even be best served hitting solely against left-handed pitchers.

Obviously, our starting pitcher also impacts Shoppach’s appearance in the lineup. There are going to be days when he's catching Cliff Lee and he faces a right-handed pitcher. But, when the matchups allow for it, Shoppach should be on the bench against right-handed opposition. When Shoppach does play, slotting him in the 6th spot appears to be the Indians’ best bet, as his OBP was far over .400 and he averaged a home run per every 10 PA hitting in that spot. Before we hand Shoppach and everyday spot in the lineup, he really needs to improve against righties. Otherwise, if Shoppach gets exposed more this season, the Indians may have missed an opportune time to trade him when his value was at its highest. Especially with the team's surplus of minor league catching talent.

Victor Martinez: (Bats: both)
  • Against RHP (as a LH hitter): 1989 PA, .303 BA, .368 OBP, 63 HR
  • Against LHP (as a RH hitter): 1019 PA, .289 BA, .373 OBP, 25 HR
Hitting 3rd:
  • 484 PA, .260 AVG, .347 OBP, 9 HR
Hitting 4th:
  • 1595 PA, .301 AVG, .369 OBP, 55 HR
Hitting 5th:
  • 680 PA, .319 AVG, .388 OBP, 17 HR
Analysis: Without a doubt, Victor is the Indians’ most consistent hitter, while also providing the benefit being a switch hitter. Not only is Victor the Indians’ best hitter, he also is one of the best pure hitters in all of baseball. While he exhibits slightly more power hitting left-handed, Victor is the one name, besides Grady’s, who should be penciled in the lineup every single day without a second thought. Though Victor’s numbers indicate that he’d be successful at any place in the lineup, his AVG and OBP indicate that he might put up his best numbers hitting 5th. Again, with the placing players with high OBP before Victor, like Choo and Grady, Victor who has a very high OBP himself, will have runners on base to drive home. As long as Victor is healthy this year, I expect him to return to his All-Star form.

Infielders:

Asdrubal Cabrera: (Bats: both)
  • Against RHP (as a LH hitter): 451 PA, .241 BA, .333 OBP, 5 HR
  • Against LHP: (as a RH hitter) 150 PA, .346 BA, .403 OBP, 4 HR
Hitting 2nd:
  • 191 PA, .259 AVG, .324 OBP
Hitting 8th:
  • 19 PA, .353 AVG, .421 OBP
Hitting 9th:
  • 329 PA, .293 AVG, .379 OBP
Analysis: Cabrera is the other switch hitter in the Indians lineup. Unlike Martinez, however, Asdrubal lacks the same constancy from both sides of the plate, hitting over 100 points lower when batting left-handed. Factoring in his defensive abilities, it’s hard to imagine that Cabrera won’t be getting the majority of the starts at SS. However, from a purely offensive prospective, playing him every day might create a giant hole in the lineup when facing a right-handed starter. When Cabrera is in the lineup, it should be near the bottom, hitting in either 8th or 9th. And though the team has tried to pass off Asdrubal as a potential number two hitter, I'd much rather have Choo's high OBP at the second slot, rather than Cabrera's which is substantially lower.

Mark DeRosa: (Bats: right-handed)
  • Against RHP: 2113 PA, .270 BA, .337 OBP, 44 HR
  • Against LHP: 867 PA, .302 BA, .373 OBP, 25 HR
Hitting 2nd:
  • 400 PA, .281 AVG, .334 OBP, 9 HR
Hitting 5th:
  • 396 PA, .288 AVG, .357 OBP, 10 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 783 PA, .289 AVG, .371 OBP, 19 HR
Hitting 7th:
  • 521 PA, .259 AVG, .342 OBP, 13 HR
Hitting 8th:
  • 458 PA, .283 AVG, .340 OBP, 8 HR
Analysis: The Indians' newest offensive weapon provides Wedge with a number of options, in terms of where to hit DeRosa in the lineup. As is apparent above, DeRosa has shown the knack to hit successfully from almost where he's been asserted in the lineup. Though most believe that DeRosa will hit second with the Indians, I believe that the Indians should taken advantage the flexibility that he provides the team, and put him further down in the 8th spot. Not only will having DeRosa hit eighth provide some insurance for those hitting in front of him, it also serves to set the table for Grady and Choo. And, if another batter slumps, DeRosa could then be moved up to provide a spark. Having an individual like DeRosa can take the pressure off a number of other hitters in the lineup, especially if he can deliver a key hit from the eighth spot in the lineup.

Jhonny Peralta: (Bats: right-handed)
  • Against RHP: 2024 PA, .267 BA, .331 OBP, 53 HR
  • Against LHP: 787 PA, .271 BA, .345 OBP, 32 HR

Jhonny has hit in a number of spots, and in fact has 200 PA in the 3rd thru 9th spots. His best numbers are in the following spots:

Hitting 3rd:
  • 640 PA, .255 AVG, .340 OBP, 22 HR
Hitting 4th:
  • 378 PA, .300 AVG, .360 OBP, 12 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 518 PA, .292 AVG, .356 OBP, 14 HR
Analysis: Peralta, like Victor, puts up similar numbers, regardless of whose on the mound. Jhonny really began to flourish last year when he was inserted into the cleanup role on the team, almost by default. Based on the production he showed hitting fourth, I would start the season keeping him in that position. 14 of Jhonny's 23 home runs came last season with no one on base. Moving him into the cleanup spot will allow the team to capitalize on his power by having runners on base when he launches one into the seats. And I can only assume that with his 20/20 vision, they'll be plenty more home runs to come this season.

Jamey Carroll: (Bats: right-handed)
  • Against RHP: 1498 PA, .267 BA, .348 OBP, 6 HR
  • Against LHP: 659 PA, .286 BA, .358 OBP, 4 HR

Hitting 1st:
  • 575 PA, .264 AVG, .339 OBP, 4HR
Hitting 2nd:
  • 995 PA, .264 AVG, .342 OBP, 2HR
Hitting 8th:
  • 286 PA, .293 AVG, .375 OBP, 1 HR
Hitting 9th:
  • 142 PA, .325 AVG, .407 OBP, 2 HR
Analysis: Carroll puts up decent numbers against both righties and lefties, and because of that, he should be used to spell Cabrera when the Indians are facing a right-handed pitcher. As a utility player, Carroll provides an above average OBP, which is good considering he provides almost no power. When he does fill in for a regular, Jamey should hit out of the ninth spot in the lineup. And if Cabrera once again slumps this season, Carroll can be an adequate, but hopefully temporary, replacement.

Ryan Garko: (Bats: right-handed)
  • Against RHP: 962 PA, .271 BA, .339 OBP, 30 HR
  • Against LHP: 352 PA, .315 BA, .392 OBP, 12 HR
Hitting 4th:
  • 327 PA, .280 AVG, .358 OBP, 9 HR
Hitting 5th:
  • 327 PA, .251 AVG, .327 OBP, 13 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 147 PA, .297 AVG, .359 OBP, 10 HR
Hitting 7th:
  • 115 PA, .300 AVG, .374 OBP, 4 HR

Analysis: Given Garko's up and down season last year, I was surprised to see that his numbers, while better left-handed pitching, were surprisingly decent. In fact, had I seen just the numbers, I would have probably switched Garko's and Shoppach's numbers, just based on the results of last season. And even despite the inconsistent season Garko had put forth last year, he still drove in 90 runs.

The Garko/Hafner/Shoppach/Martinez collection for three positions (1B, DH, and C) is going to require some creative balancing from Wedge. Especially, since both Garko and Shoppach hit left-handed pitching better than right-handed pitching. When we look at Hafner's numbers in a minute, we'll see that he's actually better facing right-handed pitching. The Indians might be best served batting Garko near the middle of the order against lefties, and then using him to fill in every once and awhile against righties, assuming Hafner is at full strength. If not, Garko becomes an everyday player.

Travis Hafner: (Bats: left-handed)
  • Against RHP: 2004 PA, .290 BA, .395 OBP, 111 HR
  • Against LHP: 1003 PA, .267 BA, .382 OBP, 36 HR
Hitting 3rd:
  • 1165 PA, .273 AVG, .392 OBP, 55 HR
Hitting 4th:
  • 918 PA, .294 AVG, .405 OBP, 54 HR
Hitting 5th:
  • 392 PA, .283 AVG, .385 OBP, 11 HR
Hitting 6th:
  • 287 PA, .313 AVG, .392 OBP, 17 HR
Analysis: Hafner remains the great question mark of 2009. Can we assume that a fully healthy Hafner will provide anywhere close to the numbers we saw him put up in his prime? Probably not, at least in terms of power numbers. Something more worrisome to me than Hafner's lack of power was the fact that he seemed to lose his ability to judge the strike zone. Even in 2007, when Hafner's power numbers decreased (only 24 HR), he still had an OBP of .385. Last year, that number dropped to .305. In 2007, Hafner drew 102 walks in 661 PA, or one walk per every 6.5 PA. Last year, 27 walks in 198 PA or one walk per every 10 PA.

I'm hoping Hafner was pressing and trying to overcompensate for his injury by swinging at pitches he normally would have laid off of. I'm sure as he began to feel the pressure, Pronk wanted to crush any possible pitch to show that he was still healthy. After spending an extended period recuperating, it will be Hafner's walk totals, not his power totals, which indicate if he's back to "normal."

Balancing out the impressive OBP that Hafner has shown in the past, while the sudden decline last year and his injury, initially, I might play Hafner solely against right-handed pitchers. Especially because the majority of Hafner's power comes against righties. If Hafner shows he's healthy, moving him back into an everyday role as a DH may be warranted. Again, his role will be shaped in part by how Garko, Shoppach and Martinez are hitting.


Andy Marte: (Bats: right-handed)
  • Against RHP: 399 PA, .195 BA, .239 OBP, 6 HR
  • Against LHP: 162 PA, .252 BA, .329 OBP, 3 HR
Hitting 8th:
  • 163 PA, .227 AVG, .266 OBP, 0 HR
Hitting 9th:
  • 266 PA, .205 AVG, .265 OBP, 6 HR
Analysis: For the sake of comprehensiveness, I'll examine Marte's numbers even though I don't believe that he'll make the team without a monster spring training. Marte has shown no offensive ability in the majors to date, and unfortunately I don't see him breaking the trend in an Indians' uniform. Even the memory of Brandon Phillips doesn't warrant keeping him around unless he shows some life this spring.

Josh Barfield: (Bats: right-handed)
  • Against RHP: 788 PA, .259 BA, .288 OBP, 7 HR
  • Against LHP: 267 PA, .268 BA, .308 OBP, 9 HR
Hitting 8th:
  • 552 PA, .277 AVG, .309 OBP, 8 HR
Hitting 9th:
  • 552 PA, .233 AVG, .258 OBP, 2 HR
Analysis: I was a big Josh Barfield supporter ... until I looked at the numbers. Barfield does not walk. Ever. His OBP is lower than most major leaguers batting average. Barfield has only drawn
44 BB in 1055 PA or about 4 walks out of every 100 PA. Until Barfield can consistently get on base, he's value to the Indians is extremely limited. And with an option remaining, a poor spring may actually keep Marte on the roster.

Luis Valbuena: (Bats: left-handed)

Given the poor choice between Marte and Barfield for the final infield bench spot, Valbuena, acquired in the F-Gut trade, might be find his way onto the major league roster by the end of spring training. His numbers in his minor career include a. 270 BA and a .346 OBP. Given the choice between Valbuena, Marte, and Barfield, the Indians may want to explore bringing in a cheap veteran for the last infield bench spot, if one can be had at a reasonable price. Perhaps a Ray Durham or Mark Grudzielanek, both of who are still available.

Final Thoughts:

Given the number crunching I did above, the lineups I have constructed serve to maximize the OBP numbers and AVG of the team, given the prior history of all the players. While by no means ideal, making minor adjustments like moving Choo up in the order and benching Shoppach against right-handed pitchers will help to make this Indians' team even more productive than last season's squad. While Biff complains that this team lacks the "meat," I believe this team has the ability to play successful station to station baseball, consistently putting runners on the base paths and creating scoring opportunities. I encourage you, Eric Wedge, to consider using both my lineups and to maybe grow out a fu manchu for the upcoming season. (Photos courtesy of Lori Griffin and are subject to copyright.)
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Boozer, No problem


Another big win tonight on the west coast trip. The Cavs finished off 4 games in 5 nights out west, this time with a 102-97 victory at a Boozer-less Utah.

Mo Williams is outdoing himself as LeBron's sidekick. He had 25 points tonight, including 5-11 from deep. Even with such big numbers, this game was all LeBron's. Despite repeated smack, crackles, and pops to his head, the King narrowly missed a triple double. He came up 1 assist short with 33, 14, and 9. And even though he only had single digits in assists tonight, his passing was what made his night spectacular.

If there was a passing version of the game HORSE, LeBron could have beaten anyone with his passing display this evening. He dazzled with an assortment of behind the back, pick and roll bullets, and perfect bounce passes in between multiple defenders.

We've seen passing performances like this several times this season. And its got nothing to do with LeBron being any better. It's all about the players around him. The guys on this roster know exactly where to be on the floor, have good enough hands to handle the passes (I'm talking to you Drew Gooden), and the ability to finish. The talent around him this season truly makes LeBron shine higher than we have ever seen.

With this talent, the Cavs just completed a very successful four games in five nights west coast trip with 3 wins. Victories over Portland, Golden State, and Utah have quieted much of the concern over the thrashing the Cavs received at the L.A. Lakers.

Most importantly, we survived the trip and still maintain the eastern conference lead in the loss column. The number 1 seed in the east is going to be pivotal this year, not just for the home court advantage, but also to avoid Boston or Orlando in the conference semis.

Here's to you, Cleveland Cavalier fan. Enjoy this one.
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Road Warriors

Weekend Roundup:

Cavs

1. You can't say enough about what the Cavs just accomplished. A 3-1 Western road trip against some quality teams without two starters . . . that's awfully good. Nine days, ago after a dismal loss in Chicago, I said the Cavs would be lucky to go 4-3 over their next 7. Well, they're 4-1 and tied for the best record in basketball so I think its fair to say they've been exceeding expectations of late.

2. Mo Williams . . . I just love everything about him. I love that he's a deadly shooter. I love that when he puts the ball on the floor, he knows how to finish in traffic. I love that he always acts like he's been there before no matter what he's just done. John Hammond, thank you. Thank you for being such a stupid jackass and trading a 26 year old borderline all-star point guard for a bag of poop. By the way, if Williams played in Boston, he just might be starting the All-Star game.

3. Remember the end of game 3 of the NBA finals a couple of years ago when Varejao put the ball on the floor in the waning moments and cost the Cavs the game? Remember how horribly uncoordinated he was? Isn't it amazing how far he's come since then? I've gone from being absolutely terrified every time he faces up with the ball to viewing him as a legitimate scoring option on the floor. He makes athletic moves in the paint and actually has a respectable mid-range game. More importantly, he's starting to figure out how to pick his spots and score without disrupting the offense.

4. I'm getting more and more excited about J.J. Hickson. It's not that I think he's ever going to be a star; I just see him being a viable frontcourt player in this league for a good while. Given Cleveland's draft record, and the fact that neither Z nor Wallace will be starting for this team in two years, that's a huge hit at a time when the team couldn't afford another miss.

5. The Cavs are now 7-2 on the second night of back-to-backs this year and 5 of those wins were on the road. It's amazing how much easier it is to win on the second night when you don't have to count on Damon Jones, Shannon Brown, Donyell Marshall, or Ira Newble to play significant minutes.

Browns

1. I'll talk about the Browns briefly and against my better judgment. I'm glad they got Kokinis because he was the only option, I'm somewhat indifferent to Mangini taking down the mural, and I don't care which assistants or front office people get hired or fired. There, that's my Browns coverage. I'm not wasting my time on these assholes when we have a team to support that actually rewards my loyalty.

Indians

1. Checked out Keith Law's prospect rankings this week. I continue to be amazed that our top rated prospect (Carlos Santana) is not the guy we received in exchange for the best pitcher in baseball. Rather, it was one of two guys that were acquired in exchange for a 3 month rental of a nondescript utility player. I know the Dodgers got cash and have Russell Martin but what on earth were they doing?

2. I'm trying my best not to get sucked into the annual "Adam Miller is finally healthy" buzz but you have to admit, it would be exciting to have him coming out of the pen in the 7th or 8th inning to throw gas and bridge the gap to Wood (or Jensen Lewis after Wood inevitably gets hurt).

3. My buddy DC and I were discussing the Indians projected lineup today and decided it reminded us of an empty hot dog bun. Everything looks fine except it's missing the meat in the middle. Maybe my view will always be distorted because I grew up on one of the most talented, roided, intimidating offenses in modern baseball history, but when I look at this lineup, it just looks like something is missing (and yes, I'm well aware of how many runs they scored after the break last year).

Enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

NBA Trade Deadline: T-1 Month (Part II)


In part one of this piece, I scoured the rosters of 17 NBA teams in search of a trading partner for the Cavaliers, as we are now in the shadow of the February 19 trade dealine. Based on contract status, fit, and team positioning, I came up with only one player from the group of 17 teams that I thought would be a logical fit in Cleveland: Vince Carter.

If you find that last sentence to be a bit depressing, you're not alone. But fear not CMCR nation because today we take a look at the remaining 12 teams, each of whom is either a) a bottom dweller, or b) a team that, for one reason or another, is likely to make a deal come February.

Without further ado, I present The Bottom Dwellers:

18. Charlotte - The player that jumps out at you on this roster is obviously Gerald Wallace. The guy is 26 years old, 6'7, and averages about 16 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. What's more, Charlotte's roster is such an abomination that even the Bobcats' misguided regime knows they need to blow the whole thing up and start over. So, Wallace could probably be had for a package of expiring contracts and non-lottery picks. On the surface, it seems like the Cavs should be interested. For some reason though, I just don't like this move. Wallace makes about $10 million a year for the next three years, which isn't great, but it's certainly less than what guys like Vince Carter or Michael Redd are going to make over that period. The problem is that I just don't trust Wallace's numbers. He seems to me like the classic case of a guy whose stats are inflated because he's the only offensive threat on the floor for his team on any given night. I like to call this "the Zach Randolph effect." Also, much like Randolph, Wallace has never played on a quality team nor has he played a meaningful minute in 6 1/2 seasons. I understand that he makes a lot of sense on paper but I just don't see him joining a championship calliber team in mid-season, buying into the team concept, playing team defense, and doing the little things that good teams do to win games. Add this to the fact that he's not a very good shooter (45% from the floor and 24% from three) and the bottom line on Wallace is . . . no thanks.

Other than Wallce, you have two guys in Boris Diaw and Emeka Okafor that could definitely upgrade the Cavs' frontcourt but make too much money over too many years to warrant consideration.

19. Chicago - Hahahaha. Wait, one more time: Hahahahaha. You stupid assholes. It seems like another lifetime but only a few short years ago, the Bulls were the most imposing young franchise in basketball. They were absolutely loaded with 1) cap room, 2) young talent, and 3) draft picks. To a lesser extent, they were an Eastern Conference version of what the Blazers are today. Now, several terrible signings, poor draft picks, and bad extensions later, the Bulls are in shambles. I'm not even going to go into the whole Larry Hughes trade. It speaks for itself. Wait, one more time altogether now: Hahahahaha. Ok, so the point here is that the Bulls are atrocious and are probably willing to trade just about anyone. Unfortunately for the Bulls, I don't think they're going to find too many takers. Drew Gooden might go somewhere but it won't be Cleveland. We've, uh, outgrown him a little bit. Luol Deng probably isn't available because the Bulls have convinced themselves that he's twice the player that he really is (plus his contract is ungodly). Beyond that, there isn't anything here worth talking about, unless you have a fetish for guys who at one time were overhyped and are now simply overpaid.

20. Golden State - Wow did they ever panic and soil themselves when Baron Davis left town. $67 milloin for Corey Maggette and Ronny Turiaf? This roster is in bad shape but the only guys that might be available don't really help the Cavs. The aforementioned Turiaf is a big body but has no offensive game and makes too much money. Stephen Jackson is instant offense but he's got 4 years left on his deal, is 30 years old, and only shoots 39% from the floor. He's also insane but that's another story for another day. This team is of no help. (side note poll question: better offseason extension: Monta Ellis or Gil Arenas?)

21. Indiana - Troy Murphy is a big body who averages 12 and 11 but he makes over $10 million a year for the next two years. If I were Dan Gilbert, I would have a hard time paying $20 million in both 2010 and 2011 for Troy Murphy (remember, we are 100% going to be a luxury tax team as long as Lebron is wearing the wine and gold...and blue). Mike Dunleavy is another guy I would consider but he's a crappy rebounder and I don't know if Indiana would part with him for expiring deals alone. I can't see him being worth any more than that.

22. L.A. Clippers - This is the team that has the guy I covet more than anyone else in the league right now. You guessed it: Ricky Davis. Ok, actually it's Marcus Camby. This guy would be PERFECT for the Cavs right now. He averages roughly 12 points, 14 boards, and 2.5 blocks a night, shoots 50% from the floor, and makes roughly $10 million for one more season. In my estimation, he's the ideal addition and would make the Cavs the prohibitive favorite to win the whole thing. Camby is a tenacious defender who would thrive in the Cavs' system. What's more, he would come off the books for the summer of 2010 making it an almost risk-free move. I say almost because Camby is 34 and not exactly immune to injury.

The real problem though is that the Clippers are the absolute dumbest franchise in the NBA and from what I've heard (from my inside sources like...the internet), the Clippers are saying that he's not available. I just don't get it. At 9-32, why on earth would Donald Sterling (aka the cheapest bastard alive) want to pay Camby next year? Bottom line: Even if the Clippers are claiming he's not available, the Cavs should throw everything they have at this one. I might even include Hickson and/or a #1 to get it done. That's how much I think Camby could do for this team.

Other than Camby, Chris Kaman is another big body that could probably be had for the right price. This one doesn't excite me. His contract is big, it runs for 3 more years, and I just don't think he'd be worth the money or the risk.

Finally, there's good old Zach Randolph. He makes about $15 million a year for two more years but his numbers are huge: 22 points and 11 boards a game. I don't care. I wouldn't touch him. I don't think you can roll the dice with your franchise on a guy that may very well be suffering from Larry Hughes disease (has no interest in winning). Plus, he's a little bit undersized at 6'9 and is a very poor defender. If I were Ferry, I would stay far away from this one.

23. Memphis - I don't really see a fit here. Darko is a big body but he's soft and unproductive. I doubt the Griz would move him for an expiring deal anyway.

24. Minnesota - The only player on this roster that has some value and might be available is Mike Miller. I, for one, am not interested. His contract expires after next year but he plays the 2, only averages about 9 points a game, and is only shooting 44% from the field and 33% from 3. There's nothing wrong with these numbers...they just don't motivate me, and shouldn't motivate Ferry, to spend luxury taxed dollars to acquire him. My basic rule for this trade deadline is that the Cavs either need to get a prolific scorer or a big man who can play at least 20 quality minutes a game. Miller does not fit either description.

25. New York - The only player on the roster with value is David Lee and the Knicks must do something with his expiring deal if they are really going to clear their entire roster for the summer of 2010. The problem here is twofold: 1) because Lee is expiring, I would think the Knicks are going to want either young inexpensive talent or draft picks for him, and 2) I think New York would be very hesitant to give Cleveland any piece that might help them retain Lebron down the line. Lee would be an excellent fit for this Cavs team but I just don't see any way that it happens.

26. Oklahoma City - First things first: I want no part of Earl Watson. He's a horrendous shooter and averages 6 a game. I'd rather have West/Gibson/Lebron bringing the ball up when Williams is on the bench than Watson. The other interesting guy on this roster is Joe Smith. If the Cavs only move at this trade deadline is to get Smith off a buyout, I would be content. He's a consumate professional, a big body, and a guy who would give the Cavs that little bit of additional frontcourt depth that they desperately need. Smith isn't really a trade candidate but I would certainly court him if he were to be bought out. Other than Smith, I don't see any other big men on this roster that are likely to be moved.

27. Sacramento - First of all, based on what I've heard, Salmons is out. The Kings don't want to move him. Given that he's averaging 19 a game and has a reasonable contract running two more seasons, I don't necessarily blame them. I would suspect that any move involving Salmons will have to include a young player and/or picks coming back to Sacramento. The other guy that would make some sense for both the Cavs and Kings is Brad Miller. He averages 12 and 8 but makes a ton of money next season. If push came to shove, and the Cavs had the opportunity to get Miller (which I'm almost positive they will), I would do the deal under a few conditions: 1) The Cavs only have to give up Wally's expiring contract in the deal, 2) Gilbert is ok with paying a huge luxury tax bill next year after he gives Varejao a big extension, and 3) Szczerbiak does the secret handshake agreement to come back after he gets bought out. Give me those three things and I'm sold on Brad Miller. I might even do it wouthout knowing Wally would come back. If, and this is a big if, the Cavs survive the East, Miller would be a nice luxury to have against the Lakers massive front line.

28. Utah - I know, I know, I put them in the wrong category. At 25-18, they're certainly not bottom dwellers but I forgot to write about them in Part I so cut me some slack. The chatter around the league seems to be that Larry Miller doesn't want to pay the luxury tax so Utah will be looking to move someone next month. Boozer's contract is expiring so the Cavs really wouldn't have anything to offer to get him (and yes, if you're wondering, I would take him in a heartbeat. I don't care if he burned down my house...I would still jump on the chance to get him back if it meant a championship). Kirilenko is the other guy that would be a very interesting fit in Cleveland. For the money (about $15 million a year for two more years) he's clearly overpaid. He doesn't start and he only averages about 12 and 5. Still, he's a big body, he's only 27, and he would probably be rejuvinated if someone liberated him from the living hell that is Jerry Sloan. Kirilenko would undoubtedly be a great addition to the Cavs and would be a huge factor in any series against Boston, Orlando, or the Lakers. Still, I don't see how this deal gets done unless the Jazz are absolutely desperate to get out of cap trouble so they can re-sign Boozer and Millsap. They're too good of a team to be be giving key contributors away for nothing in February. Plus, Dan Gilbert would have to OK paying a role player in excess of $30 million over the next two years. I'm not sure I can see that happening knowing what Varejao is going to command this offseason. The only other guy of interest here would be Okur because he's a big body but I haven't heard anything about the Jazz looking to move him.

29. Washington - My thoughts on this franchise have been well-documented. Abe Polin is an idiot but unfortunately for the Cavs, that idiocy is what is standing in the way of the Cavs getting Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison. For the record, I would take Butler in a heartbeat and Jamison in only a slightly longer heartbeat because his contract is lengthier. Both of these guys would, in my estimation, put the Cavs over the top, but sadly, I don't think it matters because neither will be traded. I don't see how Polin can throw up the white flag when Gilbert Arenas still has 5 1/2 years and roughly a trillion dollars left on his absolutely indefensible contract. Even if you cleared Jamison and Butler off your books, you'd still have a team without much cap space and you'd have an extremely pissed off fan base (largely because they're some of the most ignorant basketball fans in the league and have yet to figure out that they have no chance of winning a playoff series with their current core, even if, by some miracle, they were all healthy at the same time). Add in the fact that these franchises are mortal enemies and I think the chances of a deal getting done are slim and none. Oh well. Enjoy your 20 win team Washington fans. Wait, what's that? It's because of injuries? Oh, well in that case, enjoy your 35 win team next year Washington. Jackasses.

Conclusion: The Cavs need to go hard after Camby. If that fails, they should take a hard look at Vince Carter. Finally, if nothing unexpected materializes, they should consider Brad Miller, or perhaps even Kirilenko for expiring money. If none of those options is available, keep the team as constructed, get healthy, hope that Joe Smith gets bought out, and try to win a title with a team that is, when healthy, as good as any other team in the league. As a Cavs fan, I could live with that.
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Monday, January 19, 2009

NBA Trade Deadline: T-1 Month (Part 1)


We're 1 month away from the Feb. 19 NBA trade deadline. That's 1 month until (and yes I'm being overly dramatic) Danny Ferry makes perhaps his most important decision to date as Cavs GM.

With that in mind, it's time to evaluate the players that might be available and the pieces the Cavs might be able to put together to get them. Keep in mind, the Cavs have about $20 million in expiring deals that they could move if so inclined. For the sake of thoroughness, we'll go team-by-team and look at every possibility.

The Contenders: These teams won't be selling this February.

1. Atlanta - At 24-16 and in 4th place in the East, they won't be selling.

2. Boston - I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they won't be selling. No big loss though because beyond Allen, Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo, they're total garbage. They only way they can improve is if someone gets bought out and signs with them which, given the fact that God loves Boston, will probably happen.

3. Denver - With Billups, they have a shot, albeit a small one, to contend out West.

4. Detroit - The Iverson trade made them a lot less threatening but they will still be a very annoying playoff out.

5. Houston - Bill Simmons spoke about this team on a recent podcast and said he thinks they could be selling. I'm gonna say no way. It just wouldn't make any sense. Why trade McGrady for 50 cents on the dollar when you can try to throw a haymaker in the playoffs and then just move him as an expiring deal next year? Houston may very well blow up their core at next year's deadline but they're just good enough when healthy to give it one more shot.

6. LA Lakers - Obviously not selling.

7. New Orleans - Self-explanatory

8. Orlando - Id.

9. Portland - Might make a trade but won't be dumping guys for expiring deals.

10 San Antonio - One or two more years to make a run as constructed.

The Bubble Teams: These teams could be sellers depending on what happens over the next month.

11. Dallas - They're 24-17 and 8th in the West but they've got a bloated payroll and aren't getting any younger. Stackhouse and his $7 million dollar salary for next year could be moved but that is of no interest to the Cavs. Nowitzki has 2 more years at about $19 million per left on his deal and would be a great fit for Cleveland but it's unlikely that Cuban will part with him, at least for another year. Obviously it would be nice to have Jason Kidd but a) it would make no sense for Dallas to trade an expiring deal for more expiring deals, and b) I doubt the team wants to make such a blatant concession that they traded and all-star for a corpse in the deal that sent Devin Harris to New Jersey. Overall, not a good trading partner.

12. Miami - They might move Shawn Marion but it won't be to the Cavs. Again, expiring for expirings doesn't make sense. If they move him, it will be for young players and picks.

13. Milwaukee - It's hard to predict what Bucks managment is thinking because this franchise is such a rudderless ship. Everything they've done over the last year has made absolutely no sense. In theory, they could look to move Mike Redd but I'm not convinced it would be in the Cavs' best interest to deal for him. He's almost 30, his contract runs for two more years in the $16 million a year range, and he plays the same position that Delonte' West is currently playing quite well. Would he be an upgrade at the position? Of course. Do you want to roll the dice on the Lebron era with him? That's a tougher call but I'm inclined to say no. Plus, although I have no source for this, I remember hearing rumors that part of the reason Mo Williams was traded out of Milwaukee was because he and Redd didn't get along too well. If that's the case, it's an automatic deal killer. Richard Jefferson might be available (or he may be untouchable...its just impossible to tell with this franchise) but again, you have to ask yourself the same question: Is this a guy on whom you'd be willing to let the whole thing ride? Considering that every time I see him, all I can think about is him murdering the Olympic team, and he just so happens to be the same guy that was traded for Yi, my answer is no. Dan Gadzuric could probably be had for the price of one Eric Snow. Unfortunately, I'd rather be forced to play Snow in a wheelchair than pay Dan Gadzuric $7 million a year for two more years.

14. New Jersey - This....this is a fascinating team given the contract status of one Mr. Vince Carter. The 19-22 Nets currently sit in 9th place in the Eastern conference. Even they probably realize that they have no chance of contending this year, or, most likely, next. Given that Carter has 3 more years at upwards of $15 million a season left on his moronic deal, if they Nets are smart, they'll look to move him. You'd have to consider this trade from both perspectives.

If you're a Cavs fan, the thought of Carter doing his tin-man routine in a playoff game with the future of Lebron and basketball in Cleveland hanging in the balance has to make you sick. I remember during the 06 Nets series, I vowed that if the day ever came that Carter suited up for the Cavs, that would be the day I ceased being a fan. Now......I still hate Carter. I hate that he's a total Giner. I hate that he pulled one of the all-time biggest dick moves in NBA history when he sulked his way out of Toronto. I hate everything about him...(don't say it, don't say it) BUT HE COULD BE THE FINAL PIECE! I want to vomit all over my computer just seeing that on the screen but it just might be true. The guy is putting up 21.5 a night and shooting almost 40% from deep on a crappy team. What could he do as the second option on a really good Cavs team? How would you like having Carter and Mo Williams running the offense when Lebron has to sit? Given Carter's contract and the fact that he's as close to radioactive as any non-batshit-crazy player in the league, trading for him would be the gamble of all gambles. If the Atlantic Yards project weren't currently about as likely to happen as a Browns Superbowl, and Lebron going there in 2010 was still a legitimate possibility, the move would be even riskier. This summer, when I heard rumors that Ferry was trying to acquire Carter, I wanted him to be fired immediately. Now, deep down, in a place I don't like to talk about at parties, I secretly want it to happen. Ok, now I'm queezy.

From the Nets perspective, if you're still holding out hope of landing Lebron, trading Carter is looking more and more dangerous. It was one thing this summer when trading Carter and his contract would've been the equivalent of sending the Cavs smallpox blankets. But now, with the Cavs a clearcut contender and Carter having an all-star calliber season, it would be a huge gamble (this is of course assuming that if the Cavs win a title, Lebron is staying). From a basketball standpoint, keeping Carter doesn't make much sense. Still, if the Nets turned the Cavs down this summer, they're very unlikely to do the deal now. My guess is that Carter will stay put this year and then get moved for expirings and picks next year.

15. Philadelphia - Hey, nice job on that Elton Brand signing Philly. Giving a second-level player coming off a catastrophic injury franchise player money is always a can't miss. You're sure to get years of enjoyment out of that move. There really isn't much here to interest the Cavs. Andre Miller would make a nice addition but it's the whole expiring for expiring problem again. Sam Dalembert is probably available. What's that? You're not interested? Alright then, I'll move on.

16. Phoenix - Steve Kerr is awefully lucky that the media loves him because he has completely destroyed this team. Now...they're a mess. Nash is slowing down, Amare is a headcase, and Shaq is a cap-sucking black hole. There isn't anything here to peak the Cavs' interest.

17. Toronto - Another delusional franchise that traded for the "missing piece" not realizing that a) they were about 3 "missing pieces" away from contending and b) the piece they traded for was broken. Now, they'd probably listen to offers for Jermaine O'Neal but there's no fit here. His deal is expiring and the Raptors will be looking for young players and picks if they move him.

So we've covered two categories and 17 teams and only 1 player appears to make any sense for both the Cavs and his current employer...and that man just happens to be one of the most disgusting players in NBA history.

In the next couple of days, we'll take a look at the remaining 13 NBA teams that we can expect to be selling next month.
Go Cavs
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Delonte's Injury: The Silver Lining:

When Delonte West went down during the Bulls game the other night, fracturing his right wrist and forcing himself to the sidelines for at least a month's worth of action, I'm sure I probably had the same response as a number of you - screaming a string of curse words and hurling my remote control at my television. Delonte was in the midst of his best game of the season (scoring 11 pts, grabbing 3 rebounds and handing out 2 assists in only 10 minutes of play), while playing his overall best stretch of basketball on the year (averaging 10.8 points and 54 percent shooting, 56 percent on 3-pointers in January). Not to mention, as pointed out recently in WFNY, Lebron and Delonte are currently putting up the best +/- of any two players in the NBA. And the Cavs, with Z already sidelined and Ben Wallace battling the sickness, can ill-afford to lose another starter. In many ways, Delonte is the heart of this team - if Lebron sets the tone with his play making ability, Delonte sets the example with his grittiness and hustle, both making the little plays and keeping everyone on the team loose.

Despite the obvious problems that Delonte's absence will create, there are many unintended benefits of his injury, that Cavs' fans should focus upon in the coming month.

1)Delonte's Injury Deepens the Bench in the Long-term

With Delonte out, Sasha Pavlovic gets the opportunity to start. We all know Mike Brown's infatuation with Sasha, because Mike loves him some "big guards." With Sasha starting, the Cavs can finally evaluate if he is anything more than a roster filler. Given the opportunity to play greater minutes in the past, Sasha has shown flashes of potential, especially when previously thrust into a starting role. And, in his start against New Orleans Friday, Sasha flourished, scoring 19 points and hitting all four of his three point attempts.

In my opinion, Sasha is most effective when he's driving to the basket and creating his own shot, and at his least impressive when's hovering around outside and firing up threes. With Lebron, it's very easy for a player like Sasha to become passive. If Sasha plays aggressively, gets to the foul line (Terry Pluto points out today that since Dec. 1, Pavlovic has played 340 minutes and is 3-of-6 at the foulline) and plays adequate defense, he then becomes another player that Mike Brown can trust and work into the rotation after Delonte returns.

Alternatively, if the Cavs are going to make a move before the trade deadline (February 19th), playing Sasha for extended minutes is a way to increase his value in any potential deals. Sasha remains one of the most tradable assets the Cavs have at the moment, besides their expiring deals. If Sasha produces in his starting role, at 25, he is young enough that teams maybe willing to part with older, more proven, and expensive talent in a deal for him - based solely on his potential. And as Sasha is currently one of the last players coming off the Cavs' bench, losing him would not necessarily be a blow if the Cavs's rotation, and would actually strengthen the rotation as the player the Cavs received in return would most likely be making much greater contributions to the team than those lost by trading Sasha.

In addition to Delonte's absence opening up an increased role for Sasha, it also creates more minutes for both Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson. At different times during the season so far, both Wally and Boobie have seen their shots falter, be it because of injuries or limited playing time. Though both have been improved as of late, taking some of Delonte's minutes will allow both player's to get more comfortable with their shot and allow them to get rolling again. I'm a big believer that the more a player has contributed during the regular season, the greater the chance he will be able to contribute in a big moment during the playoffs. And while it's unlikely that Wally could increase his trade value substantially by performing well in any increased playing time, as the most attractive asset Szczerbiak provides in any deal is his expiring contact, it certainly couldn't hurt his marketability.


2) Delonte's Injury Forces the Cavs to Not Get Complacent

The NBA season is long. Too long, probably. And let's face it, all games are not in fact equal to one another. Despite what coaches and players say, a match up against the Boston Celtics is going to be treated much differently by a team than a match up against the Indiana Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back series. It's just how things work.

The whole goal of the NBA season is to make the playoffs, which the Cavs have basically already assured themselves of doing. If the Cavs were so inclined, they could coast the rest of the season, playing .500 basketball, and still end up with the 4th or 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Obviously, the Cavs aren't going to stop trying, but they will, at points during the remainder of the season, lose their focus as all teams are inclined to do.

Losing Delonte can help refocus the Cavs on the importance of every single game. When a key player goes down, it puts pressure on the rest of the team to step up. Players become aware that they cannot afford to take a mental night off if they want to win because they are a man short. Adversity can actually serve to strengthen the Cavs, as players have to find new ways to work together to pull off victories. The team unity developed in overcoming an obstacle such as Delonte's injury can actually help the Cavs in achieving their ultimate goal of becoming the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Being able to survive the minor hurdles of Z's and Delonte's absences could potentially allow this team to develop the mindset that nothing can slow them down, and be which pushes this team over the top in the end.

Delonte's absence also prevents Mike Brown from becoming complacent. Already we have seen Mike Brown establishing new, creative game plans, such as playing Lebron at the center position, or essentially running out five guards, as he did against New Orleans. These are potential rotations and combinations which Brown may have been reluctant to attempt with the full Cavs' arsenal at his disposal. Come playoff time, having already once inserted Lebron into the center role with success, Coach Brown maybe more willing to do so when the situation presents itself in a crucial moment.

Finally, Delonte's injury may be the catalyst that causes Danny Ferry to pull the trigger on a deal which he otherwise would not have made. Obviously, this could either be a positive or negative thing, and most likely if Danny Ferry is on the fence for a deal, it's probably a deal he should not be making anyways. Independent of that consideration, Delonte's injury allows Danny Ferry to truly access the depth of this current team. If, in an expanded role, Wally's shot consistently deserts him, Ferry discovers soon rather than later that a move needs to be made. If Sasha continues to show that he cannot play solid defense consistently, Danny might be less inclined to hold on to him, waiting for things to click. West's injury allows for game evaluations of players who will be counted to contribute in the long run. If a glaring weakness appears, Ferry will be able to correct the problem before it's too late.

3) Delonte's Injury allows the Cavs to keep Delonte Fresher in the Long Run

Again, the NBA season is long. Players break down, injuries occur. Every team suffers its share of nicks and bruises along the way. I'd much rather a playoff team like the Cavs reach these roadblocks earlier in the year, rather than a month before the playoffs. Now, I'm not naive. I know that the Cavs are just as likely to suffer another in May as any other team. However, with Delonte missing a month of the season, he might actually be better off because of it when he returns.

Rather than slowly getting beat up, playing day after day, Delonte now has a full month to recuperate from the first half of the season. Delonte is starting consistently for the first time in his career, averaging 33.3 minutes a game, well over his 28.5 minutes per game career average. Last season, there were only 19 total games where Delonte played more than 30 minutes, most of them after he was traded to the Cavs. He's already play 30+ minutes in 30 games this season for the Cavs.I want Delonte playing at full strength in the playoffs. Like Z, a rest in the middle of the season makes this possibility more likely to occur.

As well as getting the opportunity to heal a little bit, having Delonte on the sidelines during the game may provide of the added benefit of making him a better player in the long run. Observing and coaching from the sidelines may allow Delonte to see things he otherwise might not have been aware of while on the court. Learning and interacting with the other coaches during the game, or even coaching his teammates during the game, may allow for him to be a stronger floor general when he returns. A prime example a player embracing this sort of role during an injury would be Eric Snow. I haven't seen Snow on the sidelines during many of the Cavs' games this season, but the possibility of him working with Delonte during Delonte's recovery would seem to be a logical avenue to explore.

Conclusion:
The effect of Delonte's injury on the Cavs is not nearly as grim as one might have initially thought. While the Cavs may struggle to maintain the level of play they showed prior to Delonte getting hurt, that's to be expected when losing a team's starters. The key to this situation is how the Cavs respond. Strength is borne through tribulations.
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Some More Random Thoughts

* When I turned ESPN on this morning, the title at the bottom of the screen was "Reed looks for early interception" This to me was huge news, as I didn't think Ed Reed had any discretion towards when he intercepted passes. Possibly ESPN's best reporting since "Brett Favre has boarded a plane in Mississippi" I was very happy I caught that headline last summer.

* I just caught the Lebron commercial where he's doing it all for the Browns. Typically I don't read anything into this, but it was nice to see Lebron rocking another Cleveland team's gear... Even if he is getting paid millions to advertise this or that.

* Has there ever been a more underappreciated player than Donovan McNabb? The guy has been to 5 conference championship games. That is ridiculous. And he gets shit on all the time (I will say that I have ragged him to my Eagle fan friends for throwing up on the field). Give the guy some props though.

* I don't typically like to copy and paste other works in this column, but this excerpt from Baseball America excited me tremendously...

Adam Miller, rhp, Indians: While pitching may be down in the Dominican, it wasn’t when Miller was on the mound apparently.

The oft-injured righthander, the top pitching prospect in the Indians’ chain the past four seasons and again this year, sizzled with a fastball that an NL scout said roamed in the 96-98 mph range.

"I mean, he was carving these guys up," the scout said. "A nasty slider, too. Attacked hitters. Threw strikes. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be something to reckon with down the road."

Miller strained his elbow in 2005 and has suffered elbow and finger injuries in 2007, then missed most of 2008. But he was 3-1, 4.34 in 29 innings in the Dominican. Even better, the separation in his strikeout-to-walk ratio ought to be music to the Indians’ ears — 27 to 6, suggesting his command came back in a hurry despite missing so much time. He also held batters to a .268 average and yielded only one home run.

Miller is expected to be used in a relief role in 2009, though he did make five starts for Aguilas this winter.

That is from their Dominican Winter League notebook, where pitching has been treated like low income housing this year. The possibilities are endless with Miller. Can he be a flamethrower in the rotation? Can he set up for, and possibly take over for Wood? Hopefully he stays healthy and we will be able to see.

*As a rabid baseball fan, there is nothing better than the brand new MLB channel. They debuted on New Years, during the offseason, presumably to work out all the glitches and everything. Right now the programming is kinda crappy, playing games from the 05 and 07 World Series', a bunch of hot stove reports, and some Prime 9's in which they do a top 9 countdown of stuff. Nothing spectacular, but they did a very nice piece on the 1995 season, the year after the strike. That year holds a special place in every Indians fan's heart as the Tribe was nothing short of spectacular. While watching the highlights, and lowlights, from the World Series last year I started to ponder(and this may just be sour grapes)... how wide were the corners of the plate in the National League that year? It seemed like every pitch Maddux and Glavine threw were a solid 4-8 inches off the plate yet they were getting strike calls. Its ashame Questech hadn't been invented yet.

* It was nice to see the Buckeyes beat Michigan yet again, this time in basketball, on Michigan's home court, while they were celebrating something that happened 2 decades ago. Like BJ Mullens articulated so nicely "It feels good to know they had a parade and we won.”

*Pitchers and Catchers report in 25 days. That should coincide with the Cavs getting healthy, and possibly adding another piece for the stretch run. It's nice to think about that stuff while your cleaning off your car again after another awesome snowstorm.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Trouble Brewing

I predicted it would happen a couple of weeks ago: The Cavs would get a big win against the Celtics and then they would have a tough month. It looks like I'm probably going to be right, although injuries will probably be an even bigger culprit than the schedule.
A few quick thoughts from a frustrating loss in Chicago:

1. As diehard fans, most of us have watched Lebron for six years now. After that amount of time, you learn certain things about a player that you probably wouldn't know unless you'd been following his career closely. Tonight was a perfect example. To the casual fan, Lebron's jumper at the end of regulation was just a simple case of failed execution. As Cavs fans, however, we know better. We know that it was one of those rare times when Lebron's ego clouds his judgment. I am 95% sure that Lebron could've put the ball on the floor and either made a contested layup or drawn the foul. I'm 100% sure that Lebron could've put the ball on the floor and created an uncontested jumper for one of the Cavs' better shooters. He chose to do neither. Why? Because I think we all know that sometimes, for Lebron, winning isn't quite enough. Sometimes, he wants to win pretty with the Jordanesque jumper splashing down as the horn sounds.

Is this a criticism? I mean I guess it could be construed that way but it's just something I accept in the same way that I accept Lebron saying dumb stuff about other markets. I know it's counterintuitive to everything we're supposed to believe in but the simple fact is that Lebron truly is bigger than the Cavs. So when he wants to do something a certain way, even if it's not necessarily in the best interest of the team, we just have to suck it up and deal. Thankfully, as far as superstars go, Lebron seems to be a very team-oriented guy so those selfish moments are few and far between.

2. The West injury is really really going to hurt the teams' permimeter defense over the next couple of weeks. I think realistically, 4-3 over their next 7 would be a moral victory for the Cavs. Things could get really ugly. Sasha Pavolovic is truly terrible in every sense.

3. The only trend that I see developing that really bothers me is that Mike Brown lets the team go into the high screen offense at the end of every single close game. There is absolutely no reason to do that until the last couple of posessions (where you are basically counting on Lebron getting to the line). There is a reason the offense went from terrible to respectable: Movement. Letting everyone stand around and watch Lebron for a full quarter is unnecessary.

Happy weekend everyone.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Breaking my Hartline and other Buckeyes Bites

Two Buckeyes made decisions on their futures today with Junior WR Brian Hartline declaring for the NFL Draft and Junior S Kurt Coleman declaring that he would return for his Senior season in the Scarlet and Grey.

Here is the statement which Hartline released to the media:
"I am thrilled to declare my eligibility for the National Football League draft.
"Everyone involved within The Ohio State University football program has done a tremendous job for me. I want to thank all of them, particularly Coach Tressel, for helping me to succeed as both a student and an athlete during my time here.
"I would especially like to thank the media and the fans of Ohio for being great to me and to my family throughout my career.
"I have had an outstanding experience at OSU and am thankful for the support I continue to receive. I now look forward to testing myself against the top competitors in the National Football League."
While it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Hartline was going to leave, and valid justifications exist for his decision, as a Buckeye fan it's easy to be selfish and wish that he would have returned for his remaining year. However, considering all the factors, leaving is probably the best option for Hartline at this point.

Make no bones about it, I don't think Hartline gets drafted on the first day. I'm sure a number of Buckeyes' fans out there are making arguments about how Hartline could come back, put up impressive numbers and move into day one of the draft. But honestly, I just don't see that happening. Look at Hartline's statistics over the past two seasons:
  • 2007: 52 Receptions, 694 Yards, 13.3 YPC, 6 TDs

  • 2008: 21 Receptions, 479 Yards, 21.8, 4 TDs
With Terrelle Pryor taking over the QB position from Todd Boeckman this year, Hartline's numbers dropped noticeably. Hartline had obvious chemistry with Boeckman that he lacked with Pyror, probably due to Pyror's inability to throw the football with any sense of consistency. In fact, Hartline didn't catch more than 3 balls in any game this season and didn't even go over the 100 yard receiving mark once. With Pyror and Brandon Saine in the backfield next year, I see the Buckeyes moving to more of a spread offense, meaning that Hartline isn't going to suddenly come back next year with a 1000 yard season. And with Ray Small (hopefully), DeVier Posey, Dane "Concussion"Sanzenbacher, Taurian Washington, and Lamaar Thomas all coming back next year, Hartline's contributions on the field, while missed, won't be noticeably missed. I'm pretty sure the pedestrian numbers which he put up can be replaced or improved upon by any of the above.

Hartline is getting married this spring. He's close with a number of the graduating Seniors on the team. He hasn't really exhibited any of the leadership qualities that makes me think that we're losing a valuable captain off next year's team. He will be remembered as a solid, but rather average OSU receiver. As a Buckeye fan, we need to wish him the best as he moves towards the draft and hope that he has another career to fall back upon we he gets cut in training camp.


On the other hand, Coleman's decision to return is a reassuring one for the Buckeyes and their fans. Here is the statement which he released today :
"After a lot of thought and study, I have decided to remain at Ohio State for the 2009 season to complete my degree and my college football career.
"I am extremely blessed to be in the position where these opportunities are possible, and I'm very grateful for the support of my family, my teammates and the Ohio State community.
"My decision to come back is a lot about helping this team. I feel we can do anything next year. We have a lot of great leaders coming back and an excellent group of underclass talent. For me personally, my family and I felt this was the best decision for me, to make my career at Ohio State even better than it has already been.
"I have a lot to prove to myself and a lot of things I want to accomplish. With one more year here, I can attain all those goals."
Unlike Hartline, Coleman has the potential to increase his draft stock in the coming season. According to Plain Dealer Buckeye expert Doug Lesmerises, Coleman has a chance to improve his play into a first round pick next year. And while the Buckeyes have young depth at the wide receiver position, they lack such depth in their secondary. With the departure of both James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins, the Buckeyes are going to need a vocal leader on the defensive side of the ball. Coleman not only seems capable of filling that role, he seems to embrace it. And as a third-year starter, he can set the tone for the younger players. Coleman had 4 Ints this season, and I would look for more big plays to come next year.

On a final note, yesterday 5-Star DE Corey Adams chose ASU over OSU for his college career. I can't fault Corey's decision as he decided to stay close to home and attend college with his high school teammates and girlfriend. I'm sure the weather came into play as well. His decision just goes to show how impressive Tressel is as a recruiter when he can talk players into playing at OSU. Unless born a Buckeye's fan or from the area (Beanie or Teddy Ginn and all the Glenville kids for example) - a school like Florida or USC has to be much more desirable to a stud high school kid (in terms of weather and "scenery"). Kudos to Tressel for continuing to bring in the talent.(Images from Buckeye Banter
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