I’ve got a summer cold – the worst punishment for past sins imaginable. It’s a doozy, too. Given that, I’d love to be catty and dismissive to a few teams or players to make myself feel better. Sadly, though, there are a couple of big stories tonight that I really like and am quite enthusiastic about. That’s no fun.
1. Cubs acquire Rich Harden. This is a great move. The Sabathia trade gave the Brewers a clear pitching edge in the division, but the Cubs took immediate and decisive steps to restore the balance of power. Zambrano and Harden may not be quite as good as Sheets and Sabathia, but they are pretty darned close. Better yet, Harden has an option for next year that the Cubs are very likely to exercise, so this isn’t just a short-term fix. On top of it all, the Cubs also got Chad Gaudin in the deal. He’s not a superstar by any means, but he’s a solid arm that can start or eat up innings in the pen. Piniella had him in Tampa bay, so he knows what he has and it’s a good sign that he obviously wanted him again. As good as all that is, I like it for Oakland, too. They got younger, but they didn’t give Harden away. They got some solid assets back, and they saved themselves from having to make a tough decision about Harden – an obviously talented pitcher with some injury problems – down the road. Stability is a big part of the Billy Beane system, and this move buys future stability at a fair price. The biggest impact of this deal, though, is the message it sends to the Cubs and their fans – this is the year.
2. Elton Brand reportedly has a deal with the Sixers. I like this one for a lot of reasons. From a karma perspective, I have to say that this one sits really well with me. Baron Davis lied to the fans in Golden State who had been nothing but good to him when he opted out and bolted to the Clippers. Proximity to Hollywood was the big draw it seems, but obviously playing with Brand was a big motivation as well. Because of Davis’ deal, though, the Clippers didn’t have the cap space to match the Philly offer. I especially love this move from the Philly perspective. The Sixers hosted the first NBA regular season game I ever saw live, so I have always had a soft spot for them. They were so impressive as serious underdogs against the Celtics in the playoffs, and they have a very good core of young players – Iguodala, Miller, Young, and rookie Speights. Brand gives them an interior presence they needed badly, and it gives him a system and a team that he can help lift to the next level. He never had that in L.A., and this team is better in my mind than the Clippers would have been with him and Davis. Despite the continued strength at the top, the East is wildly competitive, and this move makes the Sixers as good as any non-elite team in the conference. That had to factor significantly into Brand’s decision.
A couple other quick things:
I really don’t care about summer league basketball at all, but I do take good things from the play of Michael Beasley so far. He came out against the Bulls and absolutely ripped them up. The next day against the Nets he was terrible 1-for-13 from the floor. That’s rough, but he had the right attitude about it in the post-game meetings with the press – he wasn’t worried about it because bad games happen and, more importantly, the team won. He’s doing this all with a fractured sternum, so I can’t really think of any reason why the Heat would be anything but thrilled by their pick.
O.J. Mayo and Joe Alexander both signed today. I’m very happy to see that teams are getting their players on board quickly.