Saturday, June 23, 2007

Big guys and a potential youth movement

I hope Tony Mejia is right on this one.

Irresponsible spending on the part of NBA owners—especially to big men—has reached epic levels over the last several years. It seems owners are dumbstruck by the size of some players and in turn they provide them with far more money than they are worth. See Erick Dampier, Ben Wallace, Adonal Foyle, NenĂª, Fat Eddy Curry, Fat Jerome James, Mark Blount, Dan Gadzuric, Etan Thomas, Chris Kaman and Nazr Mohaammed are just a few examples.

Believe me, it is the right of the owners to pay someone however much they choose for their services, but for God's sake, use some common sense.

Even though his columns are mostly useless New England/Las Vegas blather now, Bill Simmons has always has a great point about NBA team's front offices. They are all in dire need of a "Vice President of Common Sense." How much could some of these former players or rich curmudgeons with no business being in the front-office benefit from someone with a little bit of common sense who knows basketball? Or, better yet, stop hiring yahoos as general managers and hire someone who knows that signing Jerome James to a $30 million contract isn't the shrewdest of moves. Either way, it's time to stop hiring old guys and former players, please.

Baseball is already trending toward a youth movement in the front office with mixed results. Theo Epstein has been a success in Boston and is the highest profile of the youngsters. Rangers GM Jon Daniels, despite getting an extension recently, has been a massive failure thus far. But, the potential pitfalls in baseball are much larger. The draft never guarantees a slam dunk and the management of a minor league system and the sheer volume of major league players really requires a thorough understanding of the major league system.

In many ways, basketball is much simpler. The undeveloped, scarce talent pool of the Developmental League and the small roster sizes (12 active players, 3 inactive) is far less than that of a baseball team (40-man roster just for the major-league-ready players) and the amount of players on an NBA team that even log significant time is usually between 7 to 10 depending on the team concept or coach. In that respect, a specific understanding of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and some people skills paired with a healthy dose of youthful common sense can go a long way in the NBA.

The Sonics are already going young by hiring 30-year-old Sam Presti earlier this month. For owners who spend so much on players, why wouldn't they find people who really know what they are doing? When will owners finally figure out that basketball-playing experience (staring at Danny Ferry, Isiah Thomas and Kevin McHale)doesn't mean you know anything about running a basketball team? When owners finally start to figure out that general managers have just as much to do with creating a contender as the coach that molds the players, teams might start making wiser decisions. If the league as a whole starts making smarter decisions, the player market might finally start to dictate accurate salaries for players and have them paid what they're worth.

Some guys are worth $15 or 20 million a year, and once teams and GMs start figuring out that being 7-feet tall doesn't automatically put you in that club, they'll finally stop weeping over their horrible signings.

Reasonably yours,

E-mail us

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Playing the athlete stock market

Every once in awhile, you find a unique concept that is just so damn cool you have to mess with it for a few days before you really understand the parameters of how it works and the implications of it on your daily life.

Welcome to, another in the long line of awesome time wasters I consume on a daily basis.

It's like fantasy sports meets the stock market, and if you have a basic understanding of each, you can jump right into this thing with a few short tutorials.

When you register to the site, you start out with $5,000 in Protrade Dollars (fake money) that you have to trade for players and teams. At the beginning of each season, Protrade puts a dollar value on each player in the league. Once the season begins, Protrade users can go buck wild, buying players who they believe are undervalued and shorting (betting against) players they think are overvalued. As players are purchased, their price goes up, as players are sold, their price goes down. At the end of the season, they have an Earnings Day, where you cash out all the players you purchased during the season and (hopefully) make money off of said players. They currently offer MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA men's basketball (teams only) and a Beta version of Golf (sorry NHL, nobody cares about you).

As you build up Protrade Dollars, you can cash them in for various levels of prizes, from crappy giveaway stuff with the Protrade logo, all the way up iPods and autographed jerseys. Although I imagine you'd really have to play it to earn enough Protrade dollars to cash in for a signed jersey (a signed Troy Aikman jersey will cost you 1.25 million Protrade Dollars), the fun of playing the stock market with players intrigues the hell out of me even if the prospect of earning the top prizes is unbelievably far away.

You can also register for challenges that cost you a little Protrade Dollars to enter, and give you the potential of earning lots of Protrade dollars (I am currently in one with a prize of $250,000).

If this sounds intriguing to you, trust me, it is. As I noodle along and buy and sell MLB players and teams, I can't do anything but drool at the prospect of playing this thing during the NBA season. Or maybe that's the anaesthetic from the dentist's office this morning.

Reasonably yours,

E-mail us

Monday, June 18, 2007

Brad Ausmus surfs, we want to see some head wiggle

Travis and I wrapped up our weekend of semi-debauchery by attending our second Astros game of the weekend, the second game of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners. Saturday's giveaway was a Brad Ausmus surfer bobblehead doll (pictured) to the first 10,000 attendants. We got to the game about 30 minutes ahead of time, but unfortunately, all of the bobbleheads were gone. We were unhappy as each of us really wanted one.

So, after the Astros took care of the Mariners 9-4, Travis and I finished our time in Minute Maid Park by seeking one out. After quickly determining that no one in their right mind would leave one behind at their seat as they left, we proceeded to make our way out to the main concourse to try and buy one from someone.

As we walked up the aisle from our seats toward the concourse, Travis began asking people he spotted with more than one in their hand if they would sell him one for the reasonable price of $10. Several said no. Then he approached a family of seven or eight, and offered $15 to any member of the family who would sell him one. All of them denied him. "Good Lord, what family needs eight bobblehead dolls?" I remarked.

Semi-desperation set in on Travis (I never really got too stressed about it even though I also wanted one badly). He pulled out a $20 bill and started waving it around in the middle of the crowded concourse yelling to anyone who would listen that he was willing to buy a bobblehead for $20. It was admittedly hilarious to watch. A Minute Maid Park employee came up to him after about a minute of his random open bidding. She politely told him he had to stop for a reason on which we weren't quite clear. However, it made sense to me. Minute Maid Park wants you spending money with Minute Maid Park inside Minute Maid Park, and not giving it to anyone else. They have that right to deny anyone to sell anything inside the walls of the stadium that they choose. Well, before we had to resort to street haggling and acts of coercion, Travis found a taker in a reasonable old cowboy who realized the thing would probably end up collecting dust on a shelf in his closet. It was really quite surprising that it took him as long as he did to find a taker.

As Travis paraded around happily with his $20 Ausmus bobblehead, I scoped the crowd out a little more to see if anyone looked willing to part with theirs. I tried in vain, asking a mother with four in her hands if I could purchase one. Then, I spotted an Asian family, a husband, wife and small child. I thought quickly, A) they're likely Mariners/Ichiro fans, B) They know their kid is probably the only one who actually wants one, and, C) Asian cultures are far more efficient and nowhere near as wasteful as American culture and probably don't even want an extra one.

So, I sent my brother over (he's a far less imposing presence than me) to ask them if they would sell him one for $10. The wife consulted in Japanese to her husband, and they agreed. As my brother handed her the money, she asked him if he was sure, like she may well have just given it to him if he had asked. That's when I truly realized, instead of selling an extra doll for well over its market price, almost all of these people would rather take it home just to hoard it away, probably in a closet or in a box somewhere in their attic.

I can see bringing and extra one home to give away to a friend, but if I am at the ballpark with a wife and three kids, and we have five bobblehead dolls, two or three of them are getting sold if someone asks. Hell, I'd probably stand outside the stadium and ask someone with empty hands if they wanted to buy one.

It's really a simple question. Do you want $40, or do you want to take up space in your closet? I'm taking the cash.

Reasonably yours,

E-mail us