Did the Phillies Really Almost Get Bobby Abreu Back to Use as Burnett Bait?

Did the Phillies Really Almost Get Bobby Abreu Back to Use as Burnett Bait?

The Phillies' Joe Blanton, who sounds as though he spent the entire offseason on the trading block, has reported to Clearwater with the rest of the pitchers and catchers.
The funny thing is, he almost didn't make it.
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted Sunday night the Pittsburgh Pirates weren't the only team interested in beleaguered tattoo enthusiast A.J. Burnett. Prior to the Yankees closing the deal with the Pirates to send Burnett and just under two-thirds of his remaining salary to Pittsburgh for two minor leaguers and a bag of baseballs, it is alleged that the Phillies nearly made a play to acquire the now-former Yankee's services.
We knew the Yankees were interested in Abreu. And we knew the Phillies were interested in swapping Blanton for Burnett. But did both things nearly happen in concert?
An alternate reality after the jump...
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@Buster_ESPN
Buster Olney What the Phillies tried to do last week, sources said today, was trade Joe Blanton for Bobby Abreu, then flip Abreu for Burnett.
Feb 20 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

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@Buster_ESPN
Buster Olney The Phillies' hope was that Burnett for two years would've provided at least a bit of a safety net in the event Hamels walks away as a FA.
Feb 20 via web Favorite Retweet Reply

That's right, the Phillies nearly traded Blanton to Anaheim for former Phillie (and former Yankee) Bobby Abreu, who would have been promptly sent to New York in exchange for Burnett. Granted, it would have made sense for the Yankees, who would have both unloaded Burnett and got the designated hitter they've been shopping for, but would it really have made sense for the Phillies?
Though Olney does great work, it's tough to believe the Phillies front office could view Burnett as any kind of safety net for a potential Cole Hamels departure. Honestly, over the past two seasons, Hamels has averaged a 2.93 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. On top of that, he was one of only three starting pitchers in the Majors to a post a sub-1.000 WHIP in 2011. The 35-year-old Burnett, on the other hand, well...he hasn't posted an ERA under 5.15 in the past two seasons. Really, the guy gave up five earned in six innings in Game 4 of the ALDS against Detroit and they nearly threw him a parade in the Canyon of Heroes.
We're not arguing Olney is wrong, we're just hoping the Phillies brass wouldn't have actually seen this as, again, "a bit of a safety net."
All that said, if you remove Hamels from the equation and look only at Blanton, it's not all that crazy. Rather than paying Joe Blanton $8.5 million in 2012, the Phils could have opted to pay Burnett $13 million (total) over 2012 and 2013, assuming they would have gotten the same price break as the Pirates. Coming off a milieu of injuries in 2011 and 4.82 ERA in 2010, Blanton is far from a sure thing in his own right.
As for the Yankees, indications were last week that they would be using the cash freed up from the Burnett trade with the Pirates to re-sign Eric Chavez and close a deal with another former Phillie -- Raul Ibanez. That deal, according to the Associated Press, was to be valued around $1 million ($11 less than the 39-year-old left fielder made last season). If such a plan is still in place, Ibanez would presumably DH for the Yankees in 2012.
Sure, the deal is dead now, but how would you have reacted to the Amaro & Co. dealing for A.J. Burnett (or to the mere mention of Bobby Abreu back under contract in Philly)?

[h/t 6ABC for the story]
>>>ESPN sources: Phillies tried for Burnett via Blanton, Abreu trades [WPVI.com]

Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

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Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they'd become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.

Not that either side is complaining.

Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL's biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.

Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn't makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.

"I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things," Crosby said. "I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point."

It's a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL's most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.

General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose's window for success hadn't shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.

"I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did," Thornton said. "I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are."

The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.

Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby's tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.

True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.

Fresh faces
When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh's goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick's backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn't give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.

"HBK" is H-O-T:
Pittsburgh's best line during the playoffs isn't the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.

Powerful Sharks
San Jose's brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.

Old men and the C(up)
Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburgh while 37-year-old Dainius Zubrus draws stares from younger teammates when he tells them he used to play against Hall of Famer (and current Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux.

"When I say 'Twenty years ago I was playing against Lemieux, they say 'I was 2-years-old,'" Zubrus said.

NBA Notes: Grizzlies hire Heat assistant David Fizdale as head coach

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NBA Notes: Grizzlies hire Heat assistant David Fizdale as head coach

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Grizzlies have hired David Fizdale as their new coach and will introduce him in Memphis at a news conference Tuesday.

Memphis announced the move Sunday. The hiring was first reported Thursday by The Associated Press and others. The Grizzlies did not disclose terms, but Yahoo! Sports reported Fizdale agreed to a four-year contract.

General manager Chris Wallace said in a statement that the Grizzlies are confident Fizdale is the right person to help Memphis build on its success.

Fizdale has spent the past eight years with the Miami Heat, the past two as assistant head coach to Erik Spoelstra.

The new Grizzlies coach says he feels fortunate to have worked with some of the NBA's greatest coaches and players and believes he's ready for the challenge of being a head coach (see full story).

Antetokounmpo brothers combine for 133 points in charity game vs. Porzingis
ATHENS, Greece -- NBA stars Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks battled it out in Athens in a game of streetball Sunday, watched by a crowd of 5,000.

Played in an open court in Greece's largest public high school, the "Antetokounbros Streetball Event" ended 123-123. No overtime was played.

Porzingis scored 21 points but was overshadowed by team member Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis' older brother, who scored 69. The two had played for a few games together last season, when Thanasis was signed by the Knicks on a 10-day contract. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the other team with 64 points. The other players were a mixture of veteran pros and amateurs.

On Saturday, Porzingis and the Antetonkoumpo brothers were given a private tour of the Acropolis Museum (see full story).  

Watch Ben Simmons rainbow kick his way into your hearts

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Watch Ben Simmons rainbow kick his way into your hearts

Lately, you've heard and read a lot about potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and how he could be a Sixer soon. And you're going to hear and read a ton more about potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and how he could be a Sixer soon for the next three weeks and change.

But who cares about hearing and reading about him when we can actually watch him do some cool stuff instead?

Simmons posted the following video to his Twitter and Instagram accounts earlier on Sunday.

A lovely little strike on the pitch right past the keeper, something, something, Wayne Rooney, Leo Messi, Ronaldo's abs. That's the extent of my soccer knowledge. Though a guy who told me he knows some about soccer (I'll take his word for it) said that move is called a "rainbow kick." That sounds good. Let's go with that.

Simmons even tagged Messi in the Instagram vid. No response yet, though.

I like to think I know a little more about basketball than I do about soccer, so that swish after the rainbow kick was pretty nice.

I'm not sure how foot-eye coordination translates to NBA success. But seeing as how traveling doesn't really exist in the NBA anyway, maybe Simmonds can get away with it.

Oh, wait, I've got an idea: Imagine he and Jo-Jo, who likes himself some futbol, kicking it up the court then finishing it off with the rainbow-kick alley oop.

Yeah, that's the good stuff.