Yanks Finally Rid Themselves of Proctor, Add Betemit

The New York Yankees agreed to trade struggling middle reliever Scott Proctor to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Wilson Betemit, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Betemit hit .231 with 10 homers and 26 RBIs with the Dodgers, primarily at third base, a position currently occupied by Alex Rodriguez. It appears that the Yankees may be preparing for the possibility of Rodriguez opting out of his contract at the end of the year and replacing him at third with Betemit. The 25-year old can also play second base and shortstop, which can help Manager Joe Torre in giving days off to Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter.

Proctor, who had been very reliable the past couple of seasons, has struggled this year in New York. In 52 games, he has a 2-5 record with a 3.81 ERA and five blown saves. It was believed that the Yankees were going to try to move disgruntled reliever Kyle Farnsworth as well, but no deal has happened yet.

Timberwolves Get Younger and Free Up Cap Space

On the surface, it seems like Kevin McHale is blowing up the Minnesota Timberwolves as he trades away the greatest player the franchise has ever seen. However, thanks to John Hollinger of ESPN.com (who is great by the way), it’s becoming clearer to me that the Timberwolves might make out of this okay, although not for another two or three years. Then again, if they kept Garnett, there was nothing on the horizon that made it look like the next two or three years would be any better than the previous two seasons.

The T-Wolves are left with a foundation of Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Corey Brewer (all under 24 years old), in addition to a solid supporting cast of Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Rashad McCants. There are a number of veterans on the squad, like Juwon Howard, Ricky Davis and Mark Blount, but I could see all of them being traded to continue the youth movement. In addition, they also have two first-round picks in next year’s draft, though likely only one in the lottery.

But the real kicker came from Hollinger. The ESPN.com contributor said: “For starters, the Wolves took back about $4 million less in contracts than they sent out. Throw in the expiring contracts of Ratliff, Ricky Davis, and, if he doesn’t pan out, Telfair, and it will take over $19 million off Minnesota’s books after the season, putting the Wolves well under the salary cap next summer.” He goes on to argue that the possibility of playing in a rebuilding effort in Minnesota won’t attract potential free agents, but look at next year’s free agent class (which Hollinger says could be the best one ever) and try to tell me not one of them would take Minnesota’s dollars:

Gilbert Arenas
Shawn Marion
Elton Brand
Jermaine O’Neal
Allen Iverson
Baron Davis
Antawn Jamison

This doesn’t even include Garnett, who can opt out after this season, unless he signs a contract extension, and Tim Duncan, who might scream after a dunk before he signs elsewhere. Shawn Marion hinted that he would rather be the primary option on a team than continue to fight for shots with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. How about this starting lineup:

C: Al Jefferson
PF: Shawn Marion
SF: Corey Brewer
SG: Gerald Green
PG: Randy Foye

Not bad I say. Bill Simmons argues that Jefferson is going to leave Minnesota after his contract expires in two years, but with that young nucleus, as well as potentially Shawn Marion added to the mix, it might make it tougher to say no. But even if he did leave, you know he’d end up with a sign-and-trade, which only delivers more assets to the Timberwolves.

Do I think they are going to be good this year? No. The Western Conference was already too strong before it added Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Do I think they will compete within the next two to three years? Yes I do. The Celtics and the Timberwolves will be moving in opposite directions in the next half decade. Boston needs to win now because they put the entire franchise on the line for the Garnett and Allen acquisitions. Minnesota doesn’t appear to be able to win now, but as the Celtics decline, the Timberwovles will be climbing up the Western Conference ladder.

KG to Boston All But Done

It appears that Kevin Garnett’s wish to stay in Minnesota has all but melted away. There is a deal in place that would sent Garnett to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff (expiring contract), Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes and two first round picks. Though it sounds like a lot, the possibility of teaming up Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Garnett was too good to pass up for Celtics GM Danny Ainge.

Garnett is said to be demanding at least a contract extension out of the trade, which according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, would be four years for $116 million, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement since Garnett still has two years left on his current deal, one of the highest paying contracts in the NBA.

ESPN.com Page Two’s Bill Simmons, a life-long Celtics fan, nearly peed himself when he finally wrote a new article on the website. Though he admits that the tandem probably only has 2-3 years to win a championship before one or two of the pieces breaks down, their chances to at least make the NBA Finals certainly skyrockets.

Though the Celtics did give up significant pieces, including Jefferson, who Ainge essentially said was untouchable earlier this year, they are left with a rather young and athletic team surrounding the triumvirate of superstars. Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine make up the “veteran” portion of the remaining players and they will be joined by Gabe Pruitt from USC, Glen “Big Baby” Davis from LSU, Leon Powe from Cal-Berkeley and Brandon Wallace from South Carolina. Though they may have some growing pains early, there is no one better to learn from than Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Minnesota is left in a rather interesting situation, as they get considerably younger, but not necessarily better. Jefferson, who had an excellent season last year, now must play in the Western Conference against other big men such as reining-MVP Dirk Nowitzki, former-MVP Tim Duncan, potential Rookie of the Year Greg Oden, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand, and Amare Stoudemire, among others. However, the Timberwolves do have a nice nucleus of players to build around, including Randy Foye and Corey Brewer. A starting lineup of Jefferson, Juwon Howard, Corey Brewer, Gerald Green and Randy Foye would certainly be able to compete, though I am not sure how much success they will have early on in the Western Conference.

Sebastian Telfair goes to Minnesota, where his cousin Stephon Marbury began his career. Marbury had a tumultuous time for the Timberwolves, but did enjoy playing with Garnett, an opportunity Telfair clearly doesn’t have. It will be interesting to watch whether Telfair can grow up and play to the ability that he showed when he was drafted out of Lincoln High School in New York City, the same high school his cousin attended. Both won numerous state championships for the Rail Splitters.

Though the trade is still not official, it sounds like it is all but done. A tough break for all the other Eastern Conference teams, but great news for the Boston Celtics and their fans.

Michael Vick Is Who’s Now

Despite what ESPN voters (employees) say, Michael Vick is definitely more Now than any other athlete on the planet. Frankly, I don’t know how the guy who has the highest selling jersey over the past five years is not even included on the “Who’s Now” list, but it’s gotta be the dog-fighting scrambling QB himself.

No athlete has gotten more press coverage over the last couple of weeks than Vick, and yet ESPN is going to tell me that Kelly Slater and Maria Sharapova are more Now than Vick?

Can We Calm Down on the NFL a Little?

There are still 7 weeks before the start of the NFL season, but with the coverage on ESPN and ESPN.com you’d think we were half way through the 16 game schedule. I can’t believe how much they are pushing the NFL on us now even though it is the middle of the baseball season.

Do we not get enough NFL coverage during the season that we need to start following it 365 days a year? I love football more than any other sport, but there is absolutely no reason to cover it this much while out of season and months after the draft.

Then again, I’d rather learn about how the 49ers got better in the off-season than finding out who is more “now,” Shaq or Tom Brady.

Legendary Coach Bill Walsh Dies

Bill Walsh, famous for creating the West Coast Offense and leading the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl victories, died today after a battle with leukemia. Walsh coached for 10 seasons in the NFL and left a significant mark on the game with a lasting legacy. Coaches who worked for Walsh include George Seifert, Mike Holmgren, Dennis Green, Sam Wyche, Ray Rhodes and Bruce Coslet.

Walsh completed his career in 1989 with a 102-63-1 overall record, as well as six division titles and 10 post season victories. He won the NFL Coach of the Year award twice and was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Many of his former assistants mentioned above passed on his style of offense to coaches including Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick, Andy Reid, Pete Carroll, Gary Kubiak, Steve Mariucci and Jeff Fisher.

Happy Birthday Bud

Today is Bud Selig’s 73rd birthday and in light of his special day I wanted to take a couple of minutes to reflect on the commissioner of baseball.

Born July 30th, 1934 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Selig has been commissioner of baseball since 1992 when he was named the Executive Council Chairman, essentially the interim-commissioner, of Major League Baseball. He was named full-time commissioner in 1998 and has seen significant developments to the game under his watch. Such highlights of his career include:

– Suspending then-Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott for repeated racist remarks and actions in 1993.
– Reinstating George Steinbrenner’s life-time suspension from baseball (also in 1993), which was issued by former commissioner Fay Vincent.
– Overseeing the league during the 1994 players strike.
– The beginning of interleague play.
– Divisional realignment from two divisions per league to three.
– Deciding that the 2002 All-Star game should end in a 7-7 tie (which was coincidentally played in his hometown Milwaukee).

Selig is a previous owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, under a company called Teams Inc. He was a car dealer (salesman) at the time, which allowed him to accumulate enough money to purchase a majority stake of the team.

The commissioner has come under scrutiny as of late for his response to Barry Bonds’ efforts to supplant Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time home run king. Bonds is currently one home run short of tying Aaron and Selig had previously shown reluctance to attend any games in which Bonds could have broken the mark. Selig did catch three games when Bonds was stuck on 753 home runs, but only because the Giants were playing in Milwaukee. He did travel to San Francisco to see Bonds tie or break the record, but Bonds went homerless. It is clear that Selig will not continue to track Bonds, who next plays three games in Los Angeles, then three in San Diego.

Though he has stated that Bonds should be considered innocent until proven guilty, Selig has hardly hidden his feelings that Bonds took performance-enhancing drugs. Selig is a good friend of Aaron’s and doesn’t appear comfortable talking about Bonds breaking the home run record. Despite his feeling against steroids, Selig needs to see that the “steroid-era” of baseball happened under his watch as commissioner and that his attempts to curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs came too late. I do believe that the league is moving in the right direction, but they are spending too much time looking in the past to try to defame Bonds and his achievements.

With that said, Major League Baseball has grown considerably under Selig’s time as commissioner and he should be recognized for the positives as well. So with all of that, we are left with nothing to say but: Happy Birthday Bud!