January 25, 2006

Big Time Signings

It always seems like the big news hits when I'm out of town - so someone has to fill me in hours after it happens, just to catch me up. After months of anticipation in both cases, two big signings went down today that rocked the Northern California sports world, such as it is. First, the Oakland A's signed a one year, incentive-laden contract with the "Big Hurt", Frank Thomas, fresh off of a 16-year tenure with the Chicago White Sox, which had culminated in two injury-plagued seasons. Second, the Sacramento Kings traded away fan favorite three point sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic for the world-renowned bad boy Ron Artest, from the Indiana Pacers, just 24 hours after he swore he would never play for the Kings.

To start off, the A's have a fantastic young team, led by a pitching staff that surprised many people in 2005, with stability up and down the rotation, from Rich Harden and Barry Zito at the top, down to Joe Blanton, Dan Haren, and the off season signee Estaban Loaiza. But while they came close to taking the division away from the Anaheim Angels, their on-again, off-again offense needed an upgrade, especially in the form of a right handed bat with power. Thomas represented that power for many years with the White Sox, and very well could fill that role again, provided modern medicine and physical therapy do their trick. While many are very excited about this pickup, I'm more cautious. Thomas has been a shadow of himself the last few years, and has injury-prone written all over him now. But I wouldn't mind see him providing power at the top of the lineup, helping Chavez, Crosby and crew drive runs home.

The second deal is a little mind-boggling. Just last season, we saw a maniacal Ron Artest dive into the stands in Detroit on his way to a suspension for the rest of the regular season by the league. We all know he took time off earlier to make and promote a rap album, and is generally known as a hot head. Meanwhile, Stojakovic has the purest shot of anybody in the NBA this side of Lebron James or Kobe Bryant, and has been a mainstay for the Kings for the better part of 7-plus years. That makes the deal bewildering for us who only know the surface story. Others say that Peja's statistics are on the decline, and maybe with a better environment, Artest can thrive. Who knows? After all, just a few years ago, Chris Webber called Sacramento a cow-town, and wanted nothing to do with the place. Next thing we know, he's a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate... we'll see, but the feeling is hollow now.

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