Wrong on Brodie

Wrong on Brodie

There are things that, after watching sports for a while, still surprise me. For example, the recent hiring of Lindsey Ruff as head coach of the New Jersey Devils when there were more recently successful candidates available, and who had been head coaches more recently than Ruff. And even won a cup, unlike Ruff.

But I digress. The New York Mets are a team that rarely surprises. In fact, here are the two scripts from the team playbook:

“Hey, we gave a star player contract to a star player. Why do you want more than one?”

Or

‘Hey, we are making an open competition for jobs, so get ready for .223 hitters making minimum wage! Because Bernie Madoff. Still.”

By the way, the S and P 500 performance gains since the Madoff arrest in December 2008? 158%. Considering the “Rule of 72” – how much compounded interest does it take for money to double? If the Wilpons borrowed $500 million with the Mets as collateral in January 2009 and just stuck it in the S&P? It’s be worth over $2 billion dollars. Which makes me doubt that the Wilpons couldn’t recover after Madoff, unless they’re just THAT bad with money.

In the last 5 years, the Mets have surprised me at least three times. The first surprise was the 2015 deal to acquire Yoenis Cespedes, and subsequent resignings. Cespedes anchored the Mets in the 2015 regular season, but sort of vanished in the postseason.

As a side note, you do need regular season performers to get yourself to the playoffs, and no one can really diminish Cespedes regular season production when he does play with the Mets. Of course, his two issues are health, and that he hit .207 in the Mets postseason series that he’s played in after being a .350 hitter in American League playoffs. Maybe the pitching in the NL is better?

Surprise number two was the hiring of Mickey Calloway as a manager. That Sandy Alderson went with a “New age” manager, who sees the love of players as more important than winning is…disappointing. It’s not old school like USMC Sandy. Also, a pitching coach as a manager? Yes, the Mets have a talented batch of arms, but they need to score, also.

By the way, both of those surprises are busts, on different levels. Cespedes is a bust in his inability to help the team while collecting what, $104 million from the Mets? In 4 years? And Calloway? He can boast of a career managing record that’s over .500. But he also started it by winning what, 20 of his first 21 games? And having the 2019 Mets second half bail him out?

By the way, how did the 2019 Mets bail him out? Well, that is surprise number three: Brodie Van Wagenen, a Forbes 40 under 40 guy.

When the Mets hired Van Wagenen, it seems to be following the trend in sports of having non-traditional talent enter a sport. This has happened in the past, as teams have hired announcers or GM’s from other sports, but right now the trend seems to be hiring player agents into General Manager positions.

On one level that makes sense on the short term. These people have contacts with agents and players, and are familiar with whom they represent on all levels of professional sports, including the minors.

But why would the Mets spend that capital on an agent turned GM when the Mets historically don’t drop fat cash on free agents? That’s like buying a box of condoms to bring to a middle school graduation. Technically there’s a use for it, but it’s not likely to happen, and if it does, it’s going to be completely and absolutely horrific to the public eye.

Full disclosure- I thought it was a bad hiring. The Mets do not sign star powered free agents. Cespedes was already here, and no one was paying him Mets money. Piazza signed here to be abandoned by the team, who only added slightly above average talent to him carrying teams singlehandedly. Jay Payton and Benny Agbayani in the OF? For real?

So if this guy was hired to bring stars in without actually paying them? They could have hired me.

Brodie kicked off his GM career by acquiring a client. His first strong move was to trade for Robinson Cano and his huge, long term contract and declining production plus promising reliever Edwin Diaz for an expiring contract asset in Jay Bruce, Mets top prospect Jaredd Kelenic, a top pitching prospect in Justin Dunn, plus other assets.

This move looked horrible from the get go for two reasons. First, Cano was coming off a PED suspension and was in decline even with those drugs,. Plus he had 5 more years at $25 million in front of him. Diaz had a fantastic year, but there were LOTS of high level closers on the market who all went for far less than the $25 million it cost to acquire Cano, who again was a client of Brodie’s agency.

And Bruce? Disappointing as a Met, but still clearly an asset as he was both traded to Seattle and traded from Seattle.

In short, the Mets could have stuck Jeff O’Neil at second, signed a top reliever, traded Bruce for a prospect, and been in better financial and roster position. Instead hat they did was go to a supermarket, see all of the food, then go home and order take out for way more. That’s not hindsight. That was plain foresight. 

The reason this deal could be a major disaster is Kelenic and Dunn. They’re both reaping praise in the minor leagues. If either of them become a star, this can go from a grade of F to a grade of “Fuck.”

I get making a bold trade is probably an ego thing, or maybe a contract demand in a negotiation, but there’s more than that. Van Wagenen doesn’t seem to be good at swapping out role players. He’s made a bunch of moves- including releasing golden Mets prospects Dilson Herrera and then resigning Dilson Herrera two days later- that really just rotate a pile of shit in for a pile of shit.

This doesn’t seem positive at all, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering…Mets. But Brodie has made some moves that turned my head and made me think twice on him. For now at least.

To start with, many new GM’s make a trade in which they get taken advantage of. It’s almost a rite of passage. And while losing Jay Bruce isn’t a crime, if Cano was healthy and had a slashline of 280/20/85, and Diaz had 50 saves? Nobody cares about the prospects. Also, Cano now has 4…well, 3 years left. If the designated hitter unfortunately becomes a National League thing, Cano fits the traditional role perfectly, and the Mets can make room for all of their resent youth. As long as Dominic Smith can play outfield.  

The Jed Lowrie deal was awful. You can maybe defend the premise, but it has produced nothing. An absolute waste of resources.

Brodie is getting more than a little redemption from me. He’s actually earning some respect. For now. Why? Because he’s working in Wilpon handcuffs and is showing that he’s relatively smart and creative.

The renegotiation of the Cespedes contract was brilliant. BVW turned a $29 million albatross into a $6 million “show me” contract. And Cespedes will perform in this short season knowing that, since he wants to go back to notoriously cheap Oakland, he better hit and throw some people out on the basepaths. Also, stop riding horses. And fighting boars…which is a weird thing to have to say to an adult.

As usual.

The J.D. Davis deal? He looked at a guy producing in the minors but not the pros, and figured he can be acquired for not a lot, and maybe just needed at bats as a pro. Davis had a great season as a part timer hitting over. 300 and hitting more than 20 home runs. Davis was acquired for 3 minor leaguers that may work out in Houston, but will have to crack a World Series stealing lineup. If I were them I’d learn how to play drums.

Earlier I mentioned Brodie’s poor job in assessing role players, but the Joe Panik pick up- a gold glove caliber player with World Series experience- was a strong role player move, and Panik played decently for the Mets. Mets GM’s need to shop a waiver wire because Wilpons, and this was a solid pick up.

In the same area, the Justin Wilson for $5 million per year for two years was a first year bargain. If Wilson has another year similar to his first with the Mets? He’ll be in line to make a lot more than $5 million after this contract

We also have to look at how Brodie has handled the roster of youth that he’s inherited. I want to speak on four different players: Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, and Peter Alonso.

Conforto is a very tradable player, because he seems to only play the second half of the season. But he’s also a player where you’re not going to get equal or better value for, unless you add in more pieces to acquire a better player. For the Mets he provides left handed power, which is a good thing in CitiField. Adding in his low cost? He is a keeper for the near future. Way to go for not adding him in for the Marcus Stroman deal, or for some random failed push to fail in the postseason in 2019.

Smith and Nimmo both fill important roles for the Mets. Smith is a versatile player who is just finding his stride, and will eventually find a full time role with the organization or become a valuable trade piece after he shows a true full season of work. Smith was projecting into a .280/30/X player as a first baseman, which for the Mets would be a welcome windfall….unless the Polar Bear brought an even better stat set.

Nimmo is an on base guy. He gets hit by balls. Sometimes on the chin. But he ends up not on the bottom but on top. For a small salary, he is a catch, He is not a bear than Alonso. He comes with less power. Like a twink. Yes, that’s a lot of innuendo for no real reason.  

Speaking of Alonso, that Brodie didn’t use that games played impacting future contracts nonsense and tried to win right out of the box? YES. MORE LIKE THIS. Winning is the goal. And while in an era where you have a budget and have to keep on the lookout for both salary paid under the cheap old Wilpons and avoiding the luxury tax? You do need to manage today and tomorrow. The Mets were not winning the World Series in 2019, so it was good to see what Alonso is capable of today, and lets kick the salary requirements down the road one year sooner, ideally to a new owner who has money. Besides, nine more years like that and the rookie of the year will be a hall of famer!

Brodie made a solid move in keeping Omar Minaya around. Minaya is a long time baseball guy and not only has an eye for talent, but also for recruiting Latin American players. That a GM kept a former GM on staff is a sign on confidence in himself, and also a sign of humility in knowing he needs some help. And Van Waganen has made some interesting moves with the minor league system that he inherited.

While I do not agree with trading Kelenic, I can not disagree with the moves of clearing out a minor system of maybe for realized potential today. The Marcus Strohman for a bunch of maybe is a solid trade. Stro is a NY native and a 3rd starter. What was given up is a lot of Mets picks, who often do not pan out.

Trading an inherited minor system of not your picks is a smart move if you can draft well enough to replace it. And the players that the Mets have drafted under Brodie? While of course the picks have not produced as of yet, as he has only had two drafts, his drafting has received positive acclaim.

2019 first round pick Brett Baty projects to be a power left handed bat, and Brodie took two right handed pitchers with their second and third rounders. Drafts are crapshoots, and really anything after round one is a lot of guessing, but Brodie recognized that moving an OF prospect meant drafting the best OF prospect available, and losing Zach Wheeler meant there is room down the road for starting righthanders. While none of these players put up eye popping numbers in the low minors, they’re all 18, and we all know how inconsistent and unpredictable an 18 year old can be.

In 2020 Van Waganen outdid himself in a very shortened Corona draft. The Mets took Pete Crow-Armstrong with their first round pick. PCA has been a touted player since he was 12, and has legendary defensive prowess. Hitting .500 in a shortened season as a senior doesn’t exactly hurt, either. BVW has stocked up on outfield prospects in two years, using two first round picks on the position and the pick he received for NOT giving Zach Wheeler $100,000,000. He also took former Dodgers first round pick J.T. Ginn in round two. The only reason Ginn was available was that he blew his arm out in college and needed Tommy John surgery, but was a power pitcher in the mold of Matt Harvey before his injury. Well, that, and he wanted a big fat signing bonus. Ginn will be in the majors soon, so Brodie sort of punted the rest of the draft in order to have pool money to sign Ginn. Although I would not sleep on Eric Orze, who beat cancer twice to pursue his dream to pitch in the major leagues. Good luck, bro.

Brodie’s drafting has been aggressive. We won’t see results for years, and its stupid to think you can win a draft, but at least there is a philosophy behind his choosing, and while his moves are somewhat bold, they are also calculated.

Brodie Van Waganen has been a GM for two years, with handcuffs on known as a Wilpon budget. That a New York team spends money more like a Pittsburgh team than a Los Angeles or New York team is absurd and embarrassing. I do hope that whomever wins the Mets lottery and owns the team gives Brodie a chance to swing big at building a roster to his own vision. Maybe a signing of Mookie Betts, J.T. Reamuto, and whatever star pitcher is available? And trading some pieces that are redundant and cheap to acquire another top pitcher? That’s a dream that can’t happen with Wilpons in charge. Year two Brodie convinced me that he deserves a shot to be a real GM. Let’s hope the next owner agrees.

Its Time for Buffalo to Jack Off

Its Time for Buffalo to Jack Off

With yet another change in management in Buffalo – likely to lead to yet another coaching change in Buffalo- the rumors are swirling that Sabres star center Jack Eichel wants out of the organization. And who could blame him? He’s playing for auditioning coaches for about his entire career in an organization who just removed a GM who wasn’t as sharp a hockey mind as his sister is.

There is a team that could absolutely use an Eichel. In fact, every team can use an Eichel. But there is one team that may have need of Jack beyond the surface of the ice- the New York Islanders.

There is a history of these two teams trading with each other involving a disgruntled star player. You may recall Pat LaFontaine going to Buffalo in a package that obtained a package including Pierre Turgeon. And in this situation, a trade would require two packages.

He was a headache that wanted to get paid, too…

And no, that’s not a euphemism for having the balls to make a trade for a star player. Although testicular fortitude would definitely be needed.

Generally there is a precedence to what you need to acquire a top tier player like an Eichel. That precedence includes a usual haul involving a pick, a lesser NHL player, and a prospect. And we have very recent precedence with Buffalo trading Ryan O’Reilly, where Buffalo took back extra salary from St Louis to acquire an additional pick and prospect. This one needs to be a similar, because the concept to meet Buffalo’s needs may be a little more about chess than checkers while still working in a cap framework.

So, what do the pieces look like in motion?

To NYI:

Jack Eichel

Kyle Okposo

To Buffalo:

Josh Bailey and/or Nick Leddy

Casey Cizikas

2022 1st rd pick

Forward Prospect of Buffalo’s choosing

At first glance you may say “This is another armchair GM horseshit deal.” Well, that’s true, I am an armchair GM. But this trade works in really unique ways for both clubs. And again, its not like these two teams don’t have a history of making a trade of a disgruntled center between them.

So how does this work for the Islanders?

Do the Islanders need another center? Yes, yes they do. At $10 million dollars a year? That’s a huge nut, but that helps the Islanders because that salary slot actually hurts Buffalo’s ability to move him. And is there a playoff level team in need of offense more than the Islanders? I’ll wait to hear who.

Why do the Islanders need this center? Because which Islander center on this roster has scored 36 goals in a season? And ran at about a point per game for the last two seasons? Nobody.

Yes, Brock Nelson was rewarded with a long and lucrative contract that will carry him into the productive end of his career, which will be before his career ends. But don’t forget that Nelson also plays left wing. That assignment may serve him better as he ages as there is less defensive responsibility assigned to a wing, and he can still take faceoffs if needed. It also improves the Islanders depth at wing, which is an area of concern for the top 6 Islander forwards.

Suddenly having Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, and Anthony Beauviller as top six wings gives you a bunch of 20 goal guys surrounding Matthew Barzal and Jack Eichel. Eichel has never had that much talent around him.

There is the curse of the $10 million dollar players do not win cups, which is a legitimate concern. But this Islanders team as constructed? They’re not winning a cup.

And why take back Okposo? He’ll get paid a lot to sit in Bridgeport and retire as a beloved Islander. Maybe he’ll even become the next HC at the Bridge, as this annual disappointment of an issue was mentioned from me via Andrew Gross in his excellent Islanders podcast. Thanks Andrew!

The Islanders team improves offensively, which they absolutely need. It adds depth into the top 6 forward mix, which they absolutely need. It opens up slots in the bottom six for players to NOT make $3.35 million or more to be bottom 6, which they absolutely need. It makes them younger, which they absolutely need. It gives JP Pageau a fresh start with new linemates, and opens a job on that line for one of the highly touted forward prospects in the organization. And it improves their odds as a win now team.

And as the Islander inch closer for moving into Belmont in 16 months, they’ve added star power to their promotions and buzz for the fanbase, of which they will need to sell something that’s not just more of the same.

But how does Buffalo benefit?

You might say that this return is not enough to get Buffalo to make a move this rash. And here is where I will disagree with you. Because in the NHL, every trade involves an invisible player- the salary cap. Every team has cap issues. In the proposed deal Buffalo is unloading $16 million annually for the next 3 years, while taking back either $8.35 million or $14 million in year one of the deal, then either $5 or $11.5 million in year two, then just the $5 million remainder for the life of the Bailey contract. 3 proven, legit NHL players on a bad team can help turn a bad team around faster than hoping prospects work out.

In Bailey, Buffalo gets a pass first forward who would very likely improve the 14 goal output that Skinner produced for NINE MILLION DOLLARS that they’re paying him for the NEXT SEVEN YEARS. You know, because Bailey is elite and all. And frankly I’m shocked that #IslandersKoolAid wouldn’t complain that if Buffalo wanted Bailey, they’d have to add a sweetener on top of Eichel to acquire him. Eyes on Isles said so!

With the departure of Eichel, Buffalo gets rid of a very vocal critic in their locker room, who in his young career has seen a carnival of head coaches and GM’s and would likely again be a thorn in the side of the next head coach after this one as well and could poison upcoming and incoming players. He’ll be replaced with professionals who generally have suffered through the Garth Snow era of constantly losing pretty silently.

Casey Cizikas plays a physical game, which has led to very real concerns on his durability. He has never played a full season and only came close twice in 9 seasons. He has one year left on a deal, which isn’t hard to burn down. And does anyone want to pay CC $4 million at age 31 and beyond for his style of play? That’s a bad idea. A Buffalo idea.

If you need to proof as to where Cizikas’s career is headed, look no further than the other CC, Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck has never played a full season, has never played an 80 game season, and at age 32 just lost a quarter season or more for the second time in the last 4 years. With two years left on that deal, keeping the best 4th line in hockey intact would mean needing a second 4th line to step in to cover the 20+ games that Martin will miss, the 20+ games that Cizikas will miss, and the 20+ games that Clutterbuck will miss.

But how do you break up the best 4th line in hockey? Well, you start by not resigning free agent Matt Martin, and then find a taker by trading out of the horrible Cal Clutterbuck contract.

But to keep them together? You’d have to sign Martin now, and then extend Cizikas soon. That seems like a flat out stupid idea, especially when Ross Johnston is already a 4th liner, Otto Koivula is ready to step in as a 4c, and you can slot Michael Dal Colle and his no goal scoring ass into that other wing. Suddenly the cost of the 4th line goes from $9.35 million (FOR A 4TH LINE) to $2.5 million.

There’s your “resign Mat Barzal” money right there.

So if I am shitting on Cizikas- a player I like but has been very overpaid except for that one season that he scored more than 9 goals- why would Buffalo want him? Because Cizikas brings experience and grit to a team that lacks identity and toughness in Buffalo. He would assume a similar role with the Sabres as he has on the Island- to be a thorn in the side of scorers, kill penalties, and chip in a goal every ten games or so.

Think a penalty killer has no value? Look at Leo Komorov. It explains his 4 year $10 million debacle of a deal.

You may have noticed a variant of this deal involving Nick Leddy in my proposal as an and or. If he is an “and?” I still make the deal. It clears out salary cap space for the Islanders to match what they took back from Buffalo and creates the cap space for Ryan Pulock and roster spot for Noah Dobson. And if Leddy is an “or?” Then it still gives Buffalo a cup winning defenseman to form a second pairing behind Rasmus Ristolainen for just two years and the Islanders give Pageau a guy that can pass to a guy that can pass to JP to help him get his 20 goals as a 3C, a watermark that Bailey has yet to hit in 12 years? 13?

So lets get to another part as to why this deal is good for Buffalo. The Sabres just appointed a new General Manager in Kevyn Adams, who will likely replace head coach Ralph Krueger in 12 months. Adams will be rebuilding a team in perpetual rebuild. He will want to deal off bad contracts. He will want to maximize value while navigating a cap sport. And he will likely want to make his own pick from the Islanders prospect pool. Plus he will want a 1st round draft pick in 2022 as the Islanders aging forward core is 2 years older and probably less productive at that point. Adams may be choosing in the top ten of the NHL draft with that pick.  

So if Adams decides that he wants Oliver Whalstrom? OK. What are the odds Whalstrom is a 30 goal scorer? What Islanders prospects recently have blossomed into 30 goal scorers? None? And even if he does? The Islanders just got a proven one from Buffalo. And while wing is an organizational weakness, the Islanders moving Nelson to wing puts a band aid on the matter for a couple of years.

Also, Adams will inherit an immediate multimillion initial salary cap boost, no matter how the deal is structured, and after the first season and second seasons of this will add multimillions more, creating almost $10 million dollars of cap space, which is what they were paying Eichel. Meaning…they can sign another Eichel. It’s a huge cap space win for Buffalo as they enter the rebuild within a rebuild.

So to summarize- the Islanders improve their top 6 talent and their offense and have another flashy name to use to market their new arena. The Sabres get a piece to complement their top winger and/or their top defenseman, a lot of cap flexibility, two future assets, a character player on an expiring contract, and they remove a perpetual headache from the organization. It’s not like Buffalo is going to win a title next year, so why not set up for an eventual run without an expensive headache that needs to be considered in any roster move?

Gotta fill those seats...
When I think of Small Business, I think of the LA Lakers

When I think of Small Business, I think of the LA Lakers

For those who aren’t aware, we are in a recession that has been fallen upon us by a combination of bad economic policy racing face first into a global pandemic. To debate this is nonsensical, because if you could? We wouldn’t be here where we are.

But explaining reality is only art of this article. Also, today we intend to educate. So let’s deal with reality and talk about how taxpayers expected a public fix based on the years and decades they’ve paid taxes into a system, with no thanks in return, while businesses saw the present disaster as an unmitigated cash grab.

The US Congress- the most powerful part of the government as per the US Constitution- decided when seeing unemployment numbers compete with the Great Depression, that maybe they should do something. Their response was the CARES Act.

$5 trillion to stock markets? SOCIALISM! QE Unlimited!

The CARES Act gave leeway to personal finances like hardship loans on your retirement savings, or for colleges to tend to foreign students who for whatever reason had to live on campus, but its bulk was to allow small businesses- small meaning under 500 employees- to apply for loans from the government to keep their employees off of unemployment. These Small Business Association (SBA) loans would be forgiven if a company keep a benchmark number of employees on the books through a pandemic, and even offered small bonuses as an incentive for such to the employees. Solid plan, yes?

Many companies applied for loans made available via the almost unanimously passed CARES Act. The Federal Government “kicker” adding $600 a month to unemployment- doubling what you receive in states like New York- seemed a way for the Federal Government to apologize for wholly screwing up their “Worse Death Toll than the Vietnam war in only 3% of the time” response to COVID. For small companies that have budgets that are more quarterly or even month to month than multi million and multi billion dollar corporations, this seemed like a boon. Seemed.

Because when it came to these small business loans? Publicly traded companies like Shake Shack had their hands out for ten million dollars. And GOT PAID BEFORE YOUR LOCAL DELI. National franchise Ruth Chris Steakhouse? Took $20 million meant for people like the auto mechanic in your neighborhood. Trump hotels? Shockingly, a billionaire is eligible for a few bucks. Because he’s a “billionaire.” (https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-inc-hotels-do-appear-to-qualify-for-coronavirus-bailout-benefits)

Neither of these groups took something as insignificant as $20. They took millions. Multimillion dollar companies taking millions instead of dipping into their own coffers. Why? Because that way it wouldn’t cost THEM to support their workers. It would cost YOU.

Only when bad press hit these companies that they found the conscience of bad publicity and returned their money. To a program that didn’t have enough money to approve even half of the small businesses loan applications in the country. And then they immediately laid off workers- fr example, the multimillion dollar company AutoNation. Because if you weren’t paying for their employees, why should the company?

Thieves.

Whereas I am not a regular customer of AutoNation, Shake Shack, or Ruth Chris, it’s safe to say that unless I get free food and cars for life for socializing their owners, I’ll never eat in their shit boxes or buy their overpriced lemons EVER. But I will make it my business to tell everyone how scumbagish their move was and is.

But truth be told, I can see why a million dollar fast food shitbox would want some free money. In the long run, will anyone give a shit about shake shack? There are 1000 better substitutes and Shake Shack will fold, so why not prolong the ride if someone else is paying for gas? And if you live in New York- ANYWHERE in New York- and go to a Ruth Chris Steakhouse, you’re a complete dipshit. I’d be willing to bet residents in any other state know a better place for a steak than Chris as well. ANY other state.

**I just randomly asked a neighbor if he wanted a steak would he go to the nearest Ruth Chris or somewhere else. He chose Cliff’s Elbow Room in Mattituck NY, a roughly 2 hour drive from his home. He said the marinated Porterhouse is legendary. Is anything in Ruth Chris legendary, save for the stories that they make up about quality and character?**

Soon….

After public outcry about millionaires stealing millions- see stock market bailout– these companies gave the money back. That there was no oversight to how this money was distributed seems pretty criminal in itself, and I’m sort of sure why that was, but I’m pretty sure if I wanted my businesses…say, a hotel that I brand, to get free money I’d keep an arbitrator out of the process  https://www.propublica.org/article/trump-inc-hotels-do-appear-to-qualify-for-coronavirus-bailout-benefits

So million dollar companies at this time can be greedy without consequences. Legal, yet greedy. So what happens when a billion dollar company take small business money? I mean, once an industry hits the billion dollar mark, they’re a full on legitimate industry. But a billion dollar FRANCHISE? Not an industry, but a fractional part of a multi billion dollar industry? Taking money as a billion dollar franchise may be the most insulting fuck you of all. And you want to know what? A BILLION DOLLAR FRANCHISE TOOK SBA MONEY.

The Los Angeles Lakers decided that, despite being worth over $3 billion dollars, revenues were so tied up in giving individual players tens of millions of dollars that they needed about $5 million more to pay the guys that makes popcorn and the valet parking people because, well, money was tight.

In an economy that basically is facing the second Great Depression- how we got here is an article not for a sports blog- for a $4 billion dollar franchise to take $4.6 million dollars is like Mike Tyson punching a 3rd grader for the change from his lunch money.

IT IS FUCKING DISGUSTING.

You may be wondering how the Lakers qualified for ANY money from the SBA. I know I was. Apparently they are a company that employs less than 500 people. According to the Lakers themselves, they employ about 300 full time and part time workers. That’s a per capita worth as an organization of $13,333,333 per person. So…that $4.6 million pays for the per capita worth of less than one half of an employee. And no, they don’t pay their ticket takers that much. It probably went to subsidize LeBron’s ego after missing the playoffs last year without an all-star cast to carry him. Did Larry Bird or Magic Johnson ever miss the playoffs?

More to the point, the Lakers just didn’t want to pay the people you don’t see on TV, but they wanted you to. Again, FUCKING DISGUSTING.

Of course when caught, the Lakers gave the money back. I wish these same standards went for something more exciting, like a bank robbery. “Oh, you caught us! What silly fools we are. Keep the money, and we’ll try again next week. Why face a punishment in court for this?”

Fact is, every company that looked to steal taxpayer money should have taxpayers pissed off, and should have prosecutors filing criminal charges. But they won’t, because it wouldn’t fit the marching orders that they’ve been fed.

At this point, some folks may be feeling bad for that multimillion dollar company or multibillion dollar franchise for getting caught with their fingers in the taxpayer cookie jar, because economic growth or some other uninformed myth. At this point, they’ll even rear their anti-intellectual heads and blame colleges for being greedy, too. Shitty schools like…Harvard. So check out this Editor’s note:

*Editors note- you may be reading this yelling “What about Harvard?” at the screen. So I wanted to point out three inconvenient realities to people too willfully uneducated to recognize research funds are different than foreign borrowed payroll funds to artificially prop stock price up:

  1. Harvard was not receiving SBA money, instead it was money earmarked for colleges that have students who have to stay on staffed campuses during quarantine. Different field.
  2. Harvard will without a doubt be involved in developing a vaccine for corona as they’re already working on one as per https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/03/harvard-scientists-work-to-find-coronavirus-treatment/
  3. Other colleges took federal money to pay their highest paid sports coaches instead of support students, like Ohio State, who is using CARES funds to pay the entire student body $7 for every $1 it pays its head football coach. Yes, sports make money for colleges. but a multimillion dollar scandalous head coach can take a pay cut.
  4. Some media (MSM) outlets are wondering why an endowment can’t be drained before federal funds are given. That’s like asking your bank why can’t they give you your neighbor’s money before yours. An endowment is a trust fund that’s specifically directed towards a purpose to support someone’s tax avoidance. Some of the people complaining about endowments not being spent are the same people who created them to avoid paying taxes, and are now bitching because it might- MIGHT- prevent them from future tax avoidance.*

Normally these articles are more sports driven than from an economic point of view. Unfortunately, sports and economics are pretty much married right now, maybe more then ever. But it all swings back to this simple question:

How is a multibillion dollar company like the LA Lakers a small business?

And how are you not questioning their access to funds before your neighborhood bar? Please explain what a downtown main street global brand is for me, thanks.

No arenas

And if you believe that the Lakers are in the exact same financial boat as the local diner? I have a bridge in Brooklyn that you want to get in on. The LA Lakers aren’t Main Street. In reality, they don’t even have a lake. Maybe consider a name change before taking the money? Like the Los Angeles Bank Robbers? LA Scumbags? LASsholes??

Your local major league sports team is not a small business. They have an international industry with federal monopoly protections. That such provisions were created to let billionaires take $1 million from a small company with 450 workers is horrific. Or to let fake billionaires take free tax money from Mom and Pop businesses? Fucking disgusting. Even the New York Mets- who run a poor house franchise- didn’t ask for free cash. That itself is a statement on how horrible these companies were in stealing from taxpayers. So the next time you think about spending your dollars on some national or international brand, ask yourself this- “Did they take money from me?” If the answer is yes, spend your money somewhere else. Those companies certainly aren’t charities, and shame on them for trying to screw over their fans.

The Lakers Minnesota arena was paid for by public dollars. So pretty much….what’s changed?
Is Greatness Relative?

Is Greatness Relative?

This is part one in a series of relative greatness in professional sports. What’s relative greatness, you ask? It’s a simple concept, actually. Greatness in a sport is often considered in “eras,” a period of time when the game was similar to itself, but not with how it changed over time.

For instance, people call Michael Jordan the greatest of all time, or the GOAT to use the hip lingo. But was he? 6 titles over a what, 8 year span is a pretty strong argument to his greatness. His rising to a new level in big games is also part of his legend.

So I have two questions- and again, I am not questioning that Jordan is great. But Magic Johnson won his first title in his rookie year. Larry Bird won his first title as a sophomore. It took Jordan seven seasons before he won a title, which was faster than the 9 needed by Lebron James. So, how do we tell which is better? Did Jordan just wait out the older guys?

And question two- what if you won your first championship as a rookie, then did it 10 more times over the next 12 years? And was the best defensive player in the league in that time? And led the first ever dowen 3 to 1 playoff series upset in NBA history? And was the first black head coach in NBA history, winning 2 titles as a player coach?

Oh, this guy also won two NCAA titles, and an Olympic Basketball gold medal with the highest point differential in Olympic history for a winning team. And also offered to compete in the high jump for the US, as he was a champion high jumper.

Ladies and gentlemen, the GOAT- Bill Russel.

But very few in the media saw Russell play. He retired in 1969 in a shocking way, and made enemies in the media and in Boston. But the guy has more titles than Tom Brady has Super Bowl appearances.

So we maybe have to change the focus on what GOAT means.

Let’s talk about hockey. Wayne Gretzky holds over 60 individual NHL records. My personal favorite? Faster player to 1000 points, and second fastest player to 1000 points, because he scored points 1001-2000 faster than anyone else scored 1000 points, except Wayne Gretzky.

But the GOAT? Henri Richard won 11 Stanley Cups in a 20 year career, and won Cups in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. So a question, is greatness an individual measure, or is it a team effort?

That’s a question I posed to former NHL player and current consultant- coach without realizing that he is, Rob Schremp. Rob played for 3 NHL teams in his NHL career in two different conferences, and had a pro career nearly spanning three decades, so I felt he would be qualified to answer a simple question:

Who were the players when you played that made you say “That man is great?”

Understand that this is a hard question for any athlete, especially a professional. A pro athlete made it to the highest level of the game based on a mixture of talent, confidence, attitude, and effort. You would be hard pressed to find a pro who says about themselves, “I suck. I just got lucky.”

So I asked Schremp who were some players that were not better per se, but who did you enjoy watching play, or respect their approach to the game, at forward, defense, and goal. One of the picks was surprising until he explained the math behind it.

Beast of a Forward: Pavel Datsyuk. Not the Arizona Coyote version.

On Datysuk – “I didn’t understand how his body got into position. Nobody pulls off a breakaway like Datsyuk. It’s crazy. His deception was nasty. The way his body is presenting and the way he’s selling, there’s no way a goalie doesn’t bite. Physically his weight transfer doesn’t make sense. You could blow your ankle trying to duplicate his body movements.”

“He mastered the art of weight transfer. It’s like water moving, it’s so fluid and graceful. A lot of what is about being a dangler is like dancing. You need to practice the steps with your footwork so that your hands and feet work in synergy, that way your moves create the space you will need to move the goalie. His fluidity and footwork made goalies bite so hard. He was born to be a hockey player.”

Monster Defenceman: Shea Weber

On Weber- “I’ve never seen anyone shoot like that. I played against him in the Memorial Cup at 18 and he was 19, and he ripped a slapshot and broke a guys’ shin pad. He has a hard shot that releases quick and its heavy. He has an accurate, quick, heavy shot. 6’3’, 230 lbs. I don’t know if I’d say he’s underrated, but I’d take him on my team every day of the week. His shots hurt goalies.”

“Shea isn’t a super fast guy, but when do you see him getting posterized on a dangle? He’s always in the right position and makes the right play. His play looks slow on the Canadiens because they skate like waterbugs, but he is calculated. Not everybody has to skate at 100 mph.”

Goalie that solved him: Dwayne Roloson

On Roloson: “Dwayne Roloson had my number. In practice or in games, Dwayne gave me nothing to shoot at. Experienced goalies will fool the players, by trying to make them shoot at a spot, and then take that spot away.”

“There are players like Brodeur that were masters at playing angles, they showed you a place to shoot and made you shoot there, and could throw out an arm or a leg to stop you.”  

Schremp described goalies as able to essentially create math in the net, where the positioning of a goalie can geometrically take away all shooting angels for an approaching forward, which led to a question I had that spoke to an NHL specialty of his:

Why are so many NHL players- especially talented scorers- bad at breakaways and shootouts?

“You play in a game that is structured around team and systems. Players are organized by a system and can learn success through it. In a shootout you are doing everything on your own. Goalies have an advantage- you have to make them move. Players have to get the goalie to move. They are the doorkeepers to the face of the net. If they don’t move, you’re shooting at a roadblock, and you need to find the angle that may not be there.”

“The net has faces to it and the more you move laterally, the harder it is for the goalie to keep the face of the net covered completely. If you’re a shooter you have to move yourself to find the faces because coming at a goalie straight on gives the goalie an advantage. They’re a roadblock that you want to make move.”

Schremp mentioned Patrick Kane as a guy that’s good at getting goalies to make the first move, which shifts the advantage to the shooter.

 

In the long run, Rob’s answer was a mix of both of my premises. There are great individual talents, but that doesn’t matter if there isn’t a system to create a team. Which may be why a guy like Datsyuk was never traded- he helped a team win- and a guy like Weber was- he was great but never got a cup in Nashville. And a guy like Roloson? A career journeyman, but maybe if he’s not injured in game one of the 2006 finals versus the Carolina Hurricanes? It could have changed that label.

Also, despite his insisting that he’s not a coach? Schremp still maintains contact with the game via video consulting. He does so to both stay involved in the game to help players and teams get better. Schremp feels that he has had excellent coaching and professional experiences in his career, and wants to pay forward what he’s learned.

For people interested in contacting Rob for lessons, you can reach out at 44VisionHockey.com (Link).

Schremp also works for a company called AG Health and supports their CBD product VedaECN.com (link).

You can follow the Rob on Twitter at @RobSchremp

Can the Knicks Save Themselves?

Can the Knicks Save Themselves?

Ass.

There may not have been a better set up team in recent history than the New York Knicks. Not in ownership. That guy is a fucking idiot. But in opportunity? The Knicks may be able to turn a corner, and awfully fast.

What’s the genesis of such a thought? There are four, actually. In no specific order of importance:

  • New team President
  • Upcoming new Head Coach
  • 7 first round picks in the next 4 years, including a guaranteed lottery pick
  • Salary cap flexibility lacking long term deals

First off, the Knicks made a move to add a team leader, which considering the results of the last few leadership groups have been nothing. Not nothing but underwhelming. No, nothing, Absolute zero. Zilch.

But we should look at the sunshine that is behind the dark clouds of this disaster of a franchise run by a micromanaging douche who walked into family money and makes maybe the most compelling argument ever that the inheritance tax is too forgiving. And if Dolan can just keep from being Dolan, there is still a silver lining.

Let’s start with the new Team President, Leon Rose. Rose is a successful player agent, which is a growing trend both inside and outside of the NBA. After all, who can value players while seeing through bullshit inflation better than an agent? Especially in a time where a decrease in the NBA salary cap is expected? So Rose is clearly on board to attract names and to change a culture that looks like a train parking lot carnival, which a $4 billion franchise frankly should not resemble on any level. And a guy known working with players in a time when the cap is decreasing may be able to use his cap space asset now to acquire bad deals from winning teams in return for future assets from winning teams, or to burn off the remaining bad Knick contracts.

Luckily, Rose has a roster that has nothing but short term deal. Only one player is under contract three years from now. And their only buyout will also be burned out by then. So really when it comes to flexibility, outside of the Julius Randle contract- a guy who was almost traded- there is no major money in the Knicks near term future. And Randle may be moved next season if the Knicks are just as bad as the last two seasons.

The choice of General Manager for Rose’s is crucial. Dolan has been a headline grabber for the Knicks when it comes to acquiring mostly washed up names for futures or for burnt draft picks- come on, who from the Carmelo Anthony trade with Denver do you want back? But the GM will be running the draft, and this is a team that should be building through the draft hardcore. Here’s why.

Rose’s GM will have two first round picks in 2020. One WILL be in the lottery. He will have two first round picks in 2021. One will PROBABLY be in the lottery. Add to it that the one from 2019 was in the lottery. That’s three consecutive lottery picks. That should be a core.

Uh oh…

But wait, there’s more. In 2022? One first round pick SO FAR. But in 2023? Two more first round picks. That is 7 first rounders in 4 years in a sport with a 12 man roster. Which gets to the next GM question or two:

Are Kevin Knox and RJ Barrett players you build a team around? Are they parts of a team you build with? Or are they trade bait for different assets?

Let’s start with the veteran Knox. Much like free agent signing Alonzo Trier, Knox has taken a step back with decreased minutes in a year where he should have been playing. But Fizzdale, knowing he was coaching for his career, was absolutely going with his best odds, and not the odds of the franchise. A lot of coaches on the hot seat do that, giving the finger to the fans.

Know inarguable had a huge year over year decline in production. Also, his per minute play was stagnant. Maybe it’s why you don’t draft players as freshmen unless they were dominant in college, as their games are undeveloped. But that creates a different quandary- Is Kevin Knox tradable?

His stats say no. Not for a first round pick, which is the only way to salvage him. Maybe for an expiring, overblown contract with a sweetener. But one on one? Knox will get you nothing, so it’s best to burn a year to blow him up as a focal point of offense, and to create a market for his game. And ideally to ensure another lottery pick in 2021.

Untradeable today

Which brings us to Barrett. Barrett shows flashes of being a well rounded player. But the guy can’t shoot a free throw. I absolutely wait a year or two on Barrett before making a decision, because contractually you can- he has the longest term contract on the team. But also? He seems to fill in what isn’t going on. If he developes a free throw and a 30+% three point shot? He could be a swing piece at shooting guard and small forward that would be worth 36 minutes a night, at a fair price.

But today? Barrett looks like a part, not a whole.

Maybe the biggest deal for the Knicks is a new head coach. You need a coach that will be able to develop but also manage pro egos. I wrote about such here but be sure that you can not underestimate the importance of who the next head coach is. I am happy that David Blatt is in the organization, because in his head coaching career he has been nothing but a winner. Ideally he has input in finding the next Blatt. And let’s not forget it was Blatt who ended the Cav’s franchise titleless streak, not the other guy they fired after.

The takeaway? This will be the best chance for the Knicks to make moves for the next decade. They will need to draft very well in 2020. They will need to consider moving their bad deals in the same year. They can maybe pull off two 1st round picks 4 years in a row with a Randle trade. That along with cap flexibility would be absolute firepower.

They also maybe have to consider changing coaches two years from now, from a developmental coach to a pro coach. Or maybe they find a guy that can do both. No matter how it breaks down, the Knicks are entering a crucial time in the next few weeks, one that will define this franchise for the next decade. Which can either make the Knicks super interesting, or save the Knicks fans plenty of time from having to watch horrible basketball games.