Monthly Archives: March 2012

Anthony Davis Unibrow Watch: A Rushed and Disinterested Final Four Preview

It snowed less than an inch this morning in Connecticut. We haven’t had much of a winter, save for Treepocalypse 2011, which cost us 8 days of power in late October. However, even though the weather was relatively nice, winter sucked extra because our beloved UCONN Huskies were easily the most disappointing team in college basketball, stumbling through the regular season and losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Iowa State, which is gross. As such, I’ve really only been half watching this year’s tournament, and that half-watching is all hate watching. That being the case, this year’s Final Four is a veritable hater’s buffet. Let’s dig in shall we?

6:00 PM — 4 Louisville vs. 1 Kentucky

The rivalry with the least teeth in all of sports. Literally. Let’s start with the favorite, Kentucky. We could go with the low hanging fruit and simply note that even if the Wildcats do win the National Championship, they’ll just have to vacate it two years from now, when Outside the Lines discovers the Asian kid who John Callipari paid to take Anthony Davis’ SAT for him. However, that wouldn’t be quite mean spirited enough, so let’s just mock physical appearances instead…

UNIBROW UNIBROW UNIBROW. Tweezers are not expensive, you know. Also, Ashley Judd is old now, and has never been in a good movie.

As for Louisville, I’ll start by noting that Rick Pitino is sleazier than John Callipari, which is pretty hard to be. Also, Louisville is the Detroit of Appalachia. Try and wrap your head around that for a moment.

8:49 PM — 2 Ohio St. vs. 2 Kansas

Dear Buckeyes,

Calling yourself The Ohio State University doesn’t make us think that you’re super classy and smart. It makes us all hate you even more. Your entire state is lucky that Florida exists because otherwise we’d just blame you for all of our problems. Thad Matta is a dumb name and Jared Sullinger is a moron who cost himself millions of dollars by not entering last year’s draft. Now kindly go back to being irrelevant until the next time we need a story about escaped exotic animals.

Sincerely,

Everyone

As for Kansas, well you’re just not relevant enough to be mocked the same way as Ohio and Kentucky. Sorry, now return to your cornfield.

So yeah, this year’s Final Four kinda sucks (at least in my very biased opinion). Just remember, when Kentucky loses, we all win.

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A Friendly Reminder: ‘Game of Thrones’ is Back This Sunday

HBO’s Game of Thrones was easily the best new television program that debuted last season and it’s back this Sunday to melt all of our faces off again. I’ve read the books (because I’m a dork) so I won’t provide any analysis for fear of giving something away, but even though Ned Stark is dead there are plenty of new characters to whet your nerdy little appetites. So just watch it, K? Sunday 9:00 EST, HBO, and when it’s done flip over to AMC and watch Mad Men because you’re cool and sophisticated. If you don’t have HBO, well that kinda sucks.

$2 Billion Seems Like a Lot for the Dodgers, Just Sayin’

A group led by  Guggenheim Partners (private equity) CEO Mark Walters and featuring Los Angeles icon Magic Johnson bought the Dodgers for $2 billion this morning. You read that correctly, $2 billion. If that seems like a lot for a sports team, especially one in as dire straits as the Dodgers — whose owner is bankrupt, has been running through bridge financing like pez, and spent last summer fighting with baseball over his TV contract — it’s because it is

The price would shatter the mark for a sports franchise. Stephen Ross paid $1.1 billion for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2009, and in England, Malcolm Glazer and his family took over the Manchester United soccer club in 2005 in a deal then valued at $1.47 billion.

Neither of those teams is a great analogue for the sale of the Dodgers. The Dolphins, despite being the most pathetic franchise in the NFL, are still an NFL franchise, which ensures them consistent profitability. Manchester United is an international sports behemoth, a mothership — if you will allow me a stretched analogy — that sucks money from all the feeble minded people who want to seem urbane by feigning a love for soccer, but don’t want to actually watch the sport. The Dodgers are a team in LA, which means people wear their hats and show up for four innings of their games.

But wait you say, Los Angeles is a large market, and the Dodgers are still beloved by many, and inflation! that has to be part of it right? Well sure, how’s this for a comp:

The current record for a baseball franchise is the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Chicago Cubs in 2009.

The Cubs and the Dodgers are pretty similar actually — big market team, bankrupt owner, recent (or longer) history of semi-competence, cash cow stadium, strong fanbase — I don’t see how two years make the Dodgers worth twice as much. In case you’re wondering, core inflation has been more or less flat since 2009 and inflation would be a weak explanation anyways. Additionally, the Dodgers don’t have a structure in place like the Red Sox and Yankees who own and operate their own regional sports networks, significantly enhancing their values considerably. In fact, the Wilpons — who own the Mets and their network SNY — should probably consider selling right away, who knows they could make $4 billion or something.

As for the aforementioned broke owner, Frank McCourt, he’s making out like a bandit.

McCourt paid $430 million in 2004 to buy the team, Dodger Stadium and 250 acres of land that includes the parking lots, from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., a sale that left the team with about $50 million in cash at the time. The team’s debt stood at $579 million as of January, according to a court filing, so McCourt stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars even after a $131 million divorce payment to former wife Jamie, taxes, and legal and banking fees.

McCourt bought the team after failing in his bid for his hometown Red Sox (he made his bones building parking structures in Boston). What the article failed to mention was that $579MM in debt exists largely because McCourt spent much of his ownership tenure treating the Dodgers like his own personal credit card, which was fine until his wife divorced him for being insane and he had to fight a protracted court battle in an attempt to keep the team along with a good chunk of his wealth. Just goes to show you kids, that if you’re rich, you can buy yourself an expensive bauble, leverage yourself to the teeth, and generally behave like a reprehensible tool, and someone else with a lot of money will come along and make you rich again.

This whole debacle speaks to exactly how opaque the market for Major League teams is. If at the start of the bidding process for the Dodgers you set the final sale price at $2 billion you’d likely be laughed out of the room. Most reasonable commenters would have predicted something around what the Ricketts bought the Cubs for, maybe a little higher. At the same time, MLB allows people like McCourt, Jerry Reinsdorf, the Wilpons, and Jeff Loria (look them all up) to buy and sell teams, but basically forced Jeff Moorad to drop his bid for the Padres (he’s already a minority owner) by giving him the silent treatment. Moorad’s proven to be an effective manager during his years as a minority owner and CEO with Arizona and San Diego, so why wouldn’t baseball want him to be an owner? He’s a former player agent, which is way too unsavory for Bud Selig and his cronies, but I digress.

As for Dodgers fans, they should be happy. Having this type of professional investor as an owner is generally a good thing, at least if the Red Sox are to be used as an analogue. Private equity folks get a bad rap — deservedly so in some cases — but one thing that they do know is how to delegate, which is important when running a baseball team. It’s pretty safe to say that Ned Colletti’s days in Chavez ravine are numbered. In any case, after spending $2 billion to get the team, it would be pretty strange for the new owners to get stingy all of a sudden. Also, Angelenos get to have Magic Johnson as their teams’ owner.

Maybe I’m missing something, still, $2B seems like a lot to pay for the Dodgers, just sayin’.

Update: The consensus seems to be that the sale price is based on the ability to build a YES or NESN style network for the Dodgers, which is a very plausible explanation. I still believe the number is high, but it seems like the new owners really wanted the team.

Uninformed Baseball Preview: AL East

This is the sixth in a series of posts previewing the upcoming baseball season.

This will likely come as no surprise, but the AL East is stacked. Three of the four best teams in the AL, if not the entire sport, reside in the division, and the Toronto isn’t far behind the top three. There’s also Baltimore, but we won’t worry too much about them. Here’s how I see things shaking out:

1. Tampa Bay Rays (Projected 2012 Record: 96-66)

There isn’t another team in baseball that looks as good and as balanced as Tampa. The only real complaints that can be made about this roster is that they won’t get much offense at shortstop or catcher, but very few teams do. There are some other question marks, but they’re heavily outweighed by the positives.

To start, Tampa goes six deep in the rotation, with phenom Matt Moore taking over as the number five starter and Jeff Niemann — who’s been a pretty effective pitcher the last couple years — moving to the bullpen. Veterans David Price and James Shields anchor the top of the rotation. Price, a former number one overall pick, has settled in nicely as one of the best lefties in the game and could be making a Cy Young run this season. Shields may regress a bit from next year — he had a .258 BABIP against in 2011, and it’s hard to imagine him pitching 11 complete games for a second year in a row — but he’s got a long enough track record as an effective starter (he’s been worth at least 2 WAR every year since 2007) that both Rays fans shouldn’t be too worried about him. Third starter Jeremy Hellickson is coming off of a season in which he posted a 2.95 ERA. Unfortunately, his performance was greatly aided by a .223 BABIP, so some regression should be expected. Still, Tampa is a spectacular defensive team, which leads to generally lower BABIPs for their pitchers, and Hellickson’s minor league track record suggests that he should be a very good third option. Fourth starter Wade Davis has never quite lived up to the hype that he generated in the minors, but he was much more effective after he started throwing a cutter last September and he should eat enough innings to be valuable at the back of the rotation even if he posts an ERA around 4.4. The real prize here could be fifth starter Moore, a lefthander who in a cup of coffee last season showed easy velocity and quality secondary pitches. In a year, he could be the undisputed ace of this group. Niemann will likely swing back to the rotation if anyone gets hurt. The Rays don’t like to rush their prospects so it would be surprising to see another of their high-ceiling arms like Chris Archer in the majors before September.

The bullpen could be the one thing that keeps this team from reaching its full potential. Kyle Farnsworth returns as the closer, and there are some familiar, if largely unproven, names. That said, Tampa understands reliever volatility better than any other team in baseball and has built some very effective relief corps in the past, largely out of spare parts.

The Rays’ pitching strength is bolstered by their outstanding defense. Tampa is above average defensively at every position in the field, and third baseman Evan Longoria and center fielder BJ Upton are arguably the best at their respective positions with the glove. Where things are less sure for the Rays are in the offensive department. Longoria is a star, as is second baseman Ben Zobrist, but shortstop Reid Brignac was actually below replacement level last year and should probably lose his starting job to Sean Rodriguez. Left fielder Desmond Jennings earns natural comparisons to Carl Crawford, but he looks like a different type of player after hitting 10 home runs in  63 games last season. Jennings’ true power level is probably less than that, but he should be a very effective player for years to come. Upton is another question mark with the bat as while he has shown some propensity for making big plays, he also seems to lose focus in key moments. Right fielder Matt Joyce crushes left handed pitching. First baseman Carlos Pena is another question mark, he won’t hit for much average, but he still draws enough walks to get on base at an acceptable rate. If Pena can hit at least 25 homers he should be an upgrade over Casey Kotchman. With Jose Molina behind the plate, the Rays are basically punting offense at catcher.

The Rays look like the best team in baseball, not because there aren’t any question marks surrounding them, but because the questions seem less critical than those of their competitors. It may be cliched to say that teams that do the little things well win, but the Rays understand their own players better than any other team and manager Joe Maddon consistently gets as much value as possible out of his roster.

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Attention Whores Use Attention Whores to Attention Whore

I generally wake up on Monday and trawl in the intertoobz for silly stories which I can use to knock out a quick post to start the week. Make of that what you will, I find it’s helpful to pick some low hanging fruit to build a bit of momentum. It’s not like anyone reads this blog anyway. In any case, this morning I happened to find the lowest hanging of fruits: politicians complaining about TV. The Inception-esque quality of the attention whoring in this story is delicious:

The West Hollywood City Council wants Bravo’s reality series Shahs Of Sunset to change its ways and stop “perpetuating negative stereotypes about Iranian-Americans.” The pols used their jurisdiction to slam the Ryan Seacrest-produced series about Iranian-Americans living in Beverly Hills (think a milder, West Coast version of MTV”s Jersey Shore, with more money).

Attention whores attention whoring by complaining about other attention whores? BRAHM.

Side note, I think Deadline nailed it with their description of Shahs of Sunset. I can almost imagine the pitch meeting at Bravo:

“Hey, you know how the Jersey Shore is a big hit and all?”

“Yeah, but we can’t put a bunch of Italians in a beach house, it would be too transparent. Besides we’ve already got The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

“No problem, I’ve got the perfect solution: Persians. They’re swarthy and they like graphic tees, hair gel, and clubbing.”

“Genius! Bring on the hookers and coke!”

Fire Geraldo Rivera

I keep promising not to write about politics, but people in politics keep doing stupid things, so I’m forced to write about them. Le Sigh. Anyways, today, America’s favorite mustachioed news clown and failed vault opener Geraldo Rivera took to Fox News Latino, which is like the Doritos Locos Taco of Latin News to pen the single dumbest news column of our very dumb times. I could present it without comment, and then you (the two people who read this blog) would laugh, and then cry, but this is so FJM worthy that it’s hard to pass up…

 “Take that thing off,” I snarled at my dashing, dark, handsome then late-teenage son. Named for his grandfather, in those not so long ago days Cruz styled himself a ghetto gangster, fashion-wise. His baseball cap worn askew, the rim almost unbent, I worried that gravity would leave his brown behind, bare-assed when his low-slung pants completed their descent to his knees just a step or bump away.

Geraldo Rivera, romance novelist. Also, heard of belts, Gerry?

“And pick up your pants,” I often added as he walked out the door.

Bill Cosby demands his royalies.

Let me leave the issue of low-slung pants for another day; except to say that any kid who looks for a job similarly dressed is not seriously looking for a job, unless it is as a bank robber or pimp.

Robbing banks sometimes involves running, so baggy pants aren’t really practical there either, but I digress. Or you do, I can’t tell, get to the point.

Jay-ZEminem and the tiny handful of others aside, as President Obama wisely once said, “Maybe you’re the next Lil Wayne, but probably not.”

Not sure how this is relevant.

It was a refreshing moment when the leader of the political party that sometimes revels in victimization spoke the plain truth. Most success is not flashy. It requires heavy lifting and an education. It also demands personal responsibility because regardless of the bad hand poor folk are dealt; they must do the best they can to provide for themselves and their families.

Like Geraldo Rivera, who has failed upward for his entire career. Again, I don’t see what any of this has to do with Trayvon Martin being shot for being black and wanting Skittles.

Opinion: Does Race Play a Role in the Trayvon Martin Case Even if Zimmerman is Not White?

Not actually part of the column, but yes it does, because again, Trayvon Martin was black and he was shot for that reason — or I guess for looking suspicious, which is code for looking black.

Posing like a hip hop mogul when the holes in your pants are real is ultimately self-defeating.

Not when you’re in high school, and it gets you laid. I didn’t realize that 17 year olds should be interviewing for investment banking jobs.

But leave the subject of self-destructive pretense for another time, let’s talk hoodies.

Oooo, let’s. I personally like zip-ups. I have a personal favorite that zips up all that way around the hood. Sometimes when I’m out drinking I’ll zip the hood over my face and make ghost sounds. I’m super popular if you can’t tell.

His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman did.

Not unless his hoodie pulled out a gun and shot him.

Remember when my friend and colleague the estimable Juan Williams got fired from NPR for saying that Muslims formally garbed freaked him out at airports? Juan is among America’s sharpest commentators. He wasn’t justifying his reaction, he was copping to it.

Juan Williams also never shot a Muslim who looked suspicious and then got away with it. Also, what Juan said was pretty racist.

Maybe shock therapy or a semester of sensitivity training could change it, otherwise It is what it is.

Of course everyone is entitled to their prejudices, they’re not entitled to shoot people because of them.

No one black, brown or white can honestly tell me that seeing a kid of color with a hood pulled over his head doesn’t generate a certain reaction, sometimes scorn, often menace.

I can. Nice projection there, Geraldo.

When you see that kid coming your way, unless you specifically recognize him you are thinking ghetto or ghetto wannabe high-style or low-brow wise-ass. Pedestrians cross the street to avoid black or brown hoodie wearers coming their way.

Really? I’ve gotta start wearing hoodies more. Also, again, crossing the street because you’re a pissant racist isn’t the same as shooting an innocent teenager. Just pointing that out for the logically impaired.

Because this is a teachable moment let me speak plainly.

Oh, please do, I’ve had enough of your subtly veiled hate-mongering.

Whatever Reverends Sharpton and Jackson say in Florida Friday, after listening to the 911 tapes and hearing the witness’ testimonials, I believe Trayvon Martin would be alive today but for his hoodie.

Funny, because after listening to those same tapes and witnesses, I believe Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman hadn’t  followed him — against police advice — and shot him, with a gun.

I want the feds to thoroughly investigate and prosecute vigorously if the evidence warrants. But understanding the wrath currently focused on George Zimmerman and the police chief and the town council and the gun sellers and everyone else, I am begging parents of kids in Trayvon’s vulnerable demographic to heed my politically incorrect approach to this story.

Kids, please don’t listen to Geraldo Rivera.

If you dress like a hoodlum eventually some schmuck is going to take you at your word.

Wearing a hoodie is not, “dressing like a hoodlum.”

Remember Elvis’ ‘In the ghetto’? or that old Johnny Cash song about not taking ‘your guns to town son, leave your guns at home Bill, don’t take your guns to town?’

Wonderful advice for people like George Zimmerman. All Trayvon Martin had on him was a bag of Skittles and some Arizona Iced Tea.

The kid in the both songs dies in totally predictable gun fights. Trayvon was unarmed save his box of skittles. But his hoodie gave his assailant cause to think him the enemy.

No, for the millionth time, it didn’t. The only things that gave George Zimmerman that cause were his own racism and vigilante complex. Oh and also, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Maybe his specific encounter with an over-zealous, gun-toting, blood-lusting neighborhood-watch captain was less predictable than usual, but not by much.

It always astonishes me the way morons can look at information and draw the absolute wrong conclusions from it. This type of situation may be all too common, but it isn’t because of magical hoodies that force neighborhood watch vigilantes to shoot unarmed black kids. If every black kid in America wore a suit all the time, Trayvon Martin would still be dead, because the clothes people wear don’t make racists less racist.

Feds To Investigate Killing of Black Teen by Florida Latino

Also not part of the column, but I love the way that this is already being spun by outlets like Fox as a case of dirty minorities shooting each other. You know, like minorities always do. I feel like puking.

I am begging parents to unbait the trap. Don’t let your child provoke madness. Agonize all you want about the unfairness of stereotypes. Argue how it amounts to a million, million little cuts of racial profiling. Work to change the world. Rail against the inequities of life; but don’t let your child go out into the hard cruel world wearing a costume that is really a sign that says ‘shoot me.’

And while you’re at it, just bleach their skin, that’ll probably help more than changing their clothing.

‘And as his mama cries,’ sang Elvis.

Yeah, just like Trayvon Martin’s family is crying right now.

In all seriousness, it’s fun to tear apart idiots like Geraldo, because they’re low hanging fruit. What’s really sad is that a large portion of the American populace probably read this nonsense and nodded right along. Just to be clear, here’s why Trayvon Martin is dead. A vigilante wanna-be saw him walking home from 7-11, realized he was black and decided that he must be up to no good, because everyone knows that Skittles are the first sign that dusky folks are up to no good. Said neighborhood watch moron called the police, which is his right to do, but then pursued Trayvon — who was clearly terrified at this point — after the police told him not to. Then he shot the poor kid to death. After all this, the police let George Zimmerman go without so much as a breathalizer, because hey, the kid was black and “Stand Your Ground” is the law of the land in Florida. Geraldo Rivera’s solution to this type of systematic malfeasance? Stop wearing hoodies, dark people. This is your public discourse, America. Cherish it.

Old Lame People Will be Delighted

I try not to do a lot of politics, but I figure one thing that we can all agree on is that Mitt Romney is super lame. I don’t really care whether you agree with him on the issues or plan to vote for him, he’s lame. You know who won’t mind? Jay Leno’s viewers:

According to NBC, this is Mitt Romney‘s first sit-down appearance on late-night TV since entering the 2012 presidential contest. Not since December 1st, 2010, has Romney been a guest on The Tonight Show — maybe because Jay Leno makes the GOP presidential primary frontrunner a regular target.

Romney voters and Leno viewers may be the most perfect overlap I can think of since they’re both almost exclusively geriatric and comedy impaired. Enjoy!

It’s Official, I’ve Found the Most Useless NFL Story Of All Time

I really should stop reading ESPN.com. Between Tebowmania, Linsanity, Pey Pey Fever, Bountygate (can we call a moratorium on adding ‘gate’ to every scandal already? It’s been 40 years since Watergate, time to give it a rest) there’s so much stupidity there that it’s likely becoming hazardous to my health. Well, I think I can stop now, because I’ve found the singularity, the Dumbest Sports Story Of All Time:

On whether Rex Ryan’s notoriously salty vocabulary will clash with his religious beliefs: (Laughing) “How did I know I was going to get asked about this? I’ve have so much respect for Coach Ryan. … You’re not going to have the cleanest language in a locker room, so I’m not too worried about that.”

Holy Shit! How does Rex Ryan cussing become a story, or even a topic of conversation, in 2012? If you need me I’ll be at a bar, drinking myself sideways.

Pilot Review: ‘Bent’

Marketing, I get it!

Bent is a funny, well written, well received comedy. Bent is on NBC. Bent doesn’t stand a chance.

The show’s premise is simple enough. Single mother Alex (Amanda Peet) hires contractor Pete (David Walton) to fix up her new house, hilarity ensues. Sitcoms don’t have to have complex premises. The best sitcom of all time (Seinfeld) didn’t have any premise whatsoever. What sitcoms do have to have, however, are actors who understand comedy, and witty writing. Bent has both in abundance. Peet is an excellent comedic actress and she has great chemistry with Walton, a veteran of several failed sitcoms who might be the show’s weak link (seriously, check out his imdb page, it’s like a sitcom graveyard). What really makes the show tick is its supporting cast which features Jeffrey Tambour (Arrested Development), JB Smoove (Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm), and most surprisingly Jesse Plemons (Landry from Friday Night Lights) as the straight man. The writing may have some rough edges, but the assembled comedic talent more than compensates. Bent would fit wonderfully alongside Parks and Recreation and Community on Thursdays. It’s certainly a better show than the derptastic Whitney, the somehow worse Are You There Chelsea?, or the zombie corpse of The Office.

Now here’s the bad news. Bent has absolutely no chance of survival, because we’re not allowed to have nice things. In all seriousness, despite decent critical buzz, the network has decided to run the show against Modern Family and burn off episodes two at a time, because that’s how NBC does business. ABC would have at least given this show a chance to succeed — CBS wouldn’t touch it, because CBS designs their programming to appeal to people who think the Doritos Locos Taco is a good idea — like it has with Happy Endings (which you should be watching) and some of its other comedies. In fact, given the character of the show, Bent would have probably have been a better fit on ABC. Of course you could say that for just about any show on NBC. So enjoy having Amanda Peet on your TV while it lasts folks, because it won’t last long.

Uninformed Baseball Preview: NL East

This is the fifth in a series of posts previewing the upcoming baseball season.

For the last half-decade, the Philadelphia Phillies have been the undisputed class of the NL East. That may change this season. Philadelphia remains the favorite, but Atlanta has been catching up for the past couple years and Miami and Washington have had busy offseasons. I’m not sure if the Mets still play baseball. Here’s how I see things shaking out:

1. Philadelphia Phillies (Projected 2012 record: 93-69)

If this doesn’t seem like a terribly bold prediction, consider that it’s a 10-win drop-off from last season. That’s how good Philadelphia was in 2011. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels still form a formidable front three in the rotation and Vance Worley was surprisingly good last season. That said, don’t be surprised if Halladay and Lee take a step back this season as they turn 35 and 34, respectively. Hamels should be ready to pick up the slack, he’s coming off a 4.9 WAR season and will be a free agent next year. It’s hard to project Worley as he was more effective in 2011 than his minor league numbers suggested he would be, but there isn’t much in the peripherals to suggest a massive correction in his traditional stats. Expect his ERA to rise a little, but he should remain a solid number 4. Joe Blanton is penciled in as the number five starter, but the Phillies are trying to shop him. If they can find a trade, then Kyle Kendrick will move into the rotation, but to be honest there isn’t much difference between the two.

The Phillies may have a wealth of pitching, but their offense is a serious concern. They may have rid themselves of Raul Ibanez’s corpse, but their other players appear to be deteriorating at a disquieting rate. Ryan Howard (more on him later) will miss the first half of the season and the Phils plan to replace him with a Ty Wigginton/John Mayberry/Jim Thome platoon, which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that Ty Wigginton sucks, Jim Thome hasn’t played first base in over five years, and John Mayberry was slated to be the team’s left fielder. Throughout Philadelphia’s run of success, Chase Utley has been the team’s best player (he should have won the MVP Awards that went to Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins), but he has degenerative knee and hip conditions and will liekly miss a large chunk of the season. His replacements would be Michael Martinez and Kyle Frandsen, who are just as unappealing as they sound. That leave Rollins — who has been in a visible decline since 2008 — and Placido Polanco on the infield.

Philly is better in the outfield with Shane Victorino (most underrated player in baseball?) in center, Mayberry in left, and Hunter Pence (most overrated?) in right.

Realistically, this may be Philadelphia’s last year to grab that elusive second ring, largely because GM Ruben Amaro has made some pretty high profile blunders. Amaro’s big move this offseason was signing Jonathan Papelbon for 4 years and $50MM, which is way too much money and way too many years for reliever. The  Red Sox were able acquire Papelbon’s replacement, Andrew Bailey, without giving up a single top prospect, and the Cincinnati Reds signed former Phillies closer Ryan Madson for 1 year and $8.5MM. Considering that there’s a decent chance that both Bailey and Madson will be better than Papelbon in 2012, the signing looks like a major, unnecessary misstep. It wouldn’t be the first time that Amaro hastily overpaid a free agent before letting the market develop. In April 2010, Amaro gave Ryan Howard a 5-year $125MM extension, while Howard had two years left on his deal. That new contract kicks in this season, with Howard at age 32, on the DL with a torn Achilles. Sure, Amaro couldn’t have foreseen the injury, but consider that the following April, Adrian Gonzalez signed a 7-year $154MM deal with Boston. Gonzalez is three years younger than Howard, and a much better player, yet Boston will be paying him less annually than Philly will be paying Howard. If Amaro had just waited another year he probably could have saved $15MM. That’s not insignificant when you consider that both Boston and New York will be hungry for pitching this offseason, when Hamels hits the market at age 29.

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