Hanley Ramirez says that now he’s motivated

Hanley Ramirez told reporters over the weekend that he’s very motivated to rebound in 2011. He even joked that he will be the first player to “win Rookie of the Year twice.”

From the Miami Herald:

“I’m going to be the first player to win Rookie of the Year twice,” Hanley Ramirez playfully told the Marlins and his agent this winter. That’s obviously impossible, but his message – as agent Andy Mota explained – is clear: Ramirez “has the hunger of a rookie” after a humbling 2010.

“Everyone will be very surprised with the new Hanley and his whole makeup,” manager Edwin Rodriguez said. “He is very motivated. He was very disappointed in his season. He knows the whole offense revolves around him.”

That’s great, but where was this “hunger of a rookie” last year? Dude makes almost $12 million a year – why can’t the Marlins get his best effort every season?

Players have up and down seasons – that’s just part of being an athlete. But one thing that Ramirez seems to have a problem with effort. Nobody questions his ability as a player – it’s his drive and focus that are the problem. He doesn’t always hustle and he doesn’t always adjust when his game needs tweaking. As the Miami Herald article points out, he gave away at bats last year because he was unwilling or unable to adjust his approach at the plate. When athletes get older, they have to adjust their game because the opposition knows how to attack their weaknesses.

Will Ramirez be a player that evolves over time or will he continue to rest on his natural abilities? Furthermore, will he put in the work and dedication needed to become one of the very best? He certainly has the athletic ability but does he have the drive? Considering he started his workouts a month early this year, it looks like he does. But we’ll see.

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Spears: Would the Cavs win the D-League championship?

I took some grief for having the Cavs ranked dead last in our NBA preview, but after a decent 7-9 start, the Cleveland has lost 30 of its last 31 games and has the worst record in the league.

In the video clip below, Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears and Greg Anthony talk about how the Cavs rebuild. At one point, Spears wonders if the Cavs would win the D-League championship:

Some might write of Spears’ comments as a joke, but he said he wasn’t “clowning,” and that the roster is that bad.

Of course the Cavs would win the D-League championship, and it’s an insult to imply that they wouldn’t. Antawn Jamison is a two-time All-Star and Mo Williams made the All-Star game in 2009. J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao are two pretty good bigs.

Perhaps Spears was talking about the team as it stands, with Williams and Varejao both sidelined with injuries. This roster would still win the D-League, but on any given night, they could have a tough time with a D-League team. Right now, the Cavs are starting Ramon Sessions, Manny Harris, Christian Eyenga, Jamison and Hickson, with Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson and Samardo Samuels getting most of the minutes off the bench. This roster would have a few tough nights in a 50-game D-League schedule.

In terms of rebuilding, the Cavs are going to have a tough time attracting a big name free agent after Dan Gilbert’s scathing letter about LeBron after “The Decision.” The letter may have won the hearts of Cavs fans everywhere, but it’s not going to appeal to a free agent looking for a new home. They need to blow up the roster, and that means trading away their three best assets — Jamison, Williams and Varejao — for prospects and/or draft picks. For the Cavs to become a playoff team again, they need to draft really, really well, and strike gold when they have the opportunity to overpay a free agent. That means giving a max deal to a guy who isn’t deserving, but eventually that player grows into his contract. It’s an unlikely scenario, but it’s one that the Cavs have to be counting on if they are hoping to make the postseason anytime soon.

Nick Saban-to-Titans rumors starting to circulate

Like a good case of H1N1, the Nick Saban-to-Titans rumors are spreading like wildfire.

The rumor started on Sunday and has quickly spread to the internet message boards, which provide really, really reliable information. While the more recognized sources like ESPN, FOX and SI discuss suitors such as Gregg Williams, Mike Munchak, Mike Heimerdinger and Dave McGinnis, the sharks on the message boards are chumming for anything illogical.

Granted, this is Nick Saban we’re talking about. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him leave a team in the lurch for a seemingly better opportunity because, well, he’s done it before. But rumors like this always seem to surface around this time of year because National Signing Day is in two days. It sure sounds like someone is trying to make a few Alabama verbals think twice about rolling Tide next year.

Chances are Saban isn’t going anywhere (for now) and the Titans will wind up with a more logical choice. Like Lane Kiffin.

Five future stars of Super Bowl XLV

Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji (90) returns an interception for an 18-yard touchdown during the fourth quarter of their NFC Championship playoff game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on January 23, 2011. UPI /Mark Cowan

With the Super Bowl less than seven days away, the names Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews will continue to be talked about ad nauseam over the next week. So for one article, let’s focus on some of the other players in this year’s title game that are on their way to becoming future stars. You know, the “little guys” of the big game. (Actually, there’s nothing “little” about B.J. Raji so pardon my poor choice of words.)

1. Tramon Williams, CB, Packers
Williams has already arrived, so it’s kind of cheap to call him a “future star.” He made the Pro Bowl this year and received a contract extension a few months ago, so obviously the Packers and the rest of the league are well aware of how good he is. That said, it wasn’t until this year before he really emerged as one of the best corners in the league, so it’s fair to talk about his future prowess. He intercepted a career-high six passes and has three picks in the postseason alone. His two interceptions of Matt Ryan in the Divisional Round turned that game on its head and basically catapulted the Packers to an easy victory. There isn’t a more underrated matchup than his upcoming battle with Steelers’ receiver Mike Wallace in this year’s Super Bowl. (Assuming that Charles Woodson covers Hines Ward, that is.)

2. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers
The second-year receiver out of Ole Miss has already made headlines this season with his deep-threat ability. Observers were worried about how the Steelers would cope after trading Santonio Holmes to the Jets last offseason, but Wallace has made everyone forget about the former Super Bowl MVP. He finished the regular season with 60 catches for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns, which included seven 100-yard games. He’s a rising star on an already stacked Steelers team and should be a player to keep an eye on for years to come.

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Three sensible trade offers for Steve Nash

Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash drives down the court chased by New York Knicks center Amar’e Stoudemire (1) in the fourth quarter of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York January 17, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

ESPN’s Chad Ford lists the 10 impact players most likely to be moved before the Feb. 24 NBA trade deadline and believe it or not, #10 on his list is Steve Nash.

The Suns have said all along that Nash is still the core of the franchise, but at 22-24, the Suns are a long way from contending for a championship. Heck, they may not even make the playoffs this season. The soon-to-be 37-year-old is still playing at a high level, so he could help a team in need of a good point guard.

So here are a few reasonable offers that might get the Suns to bite.

1. Los Angeles Lakers
The chances that the Suns would trade Nash to the Lakers are pretty slim. No one in the West really wants to help Kobe try to three-peat, but the Lakers aren’t playing very well and they have a big piece that the Suns might be interested in.

There’s a saying — don’t trade big for small — but the Lakers aren’t getting great play out of their point guard position and Nash’s shooting would be a great fit next to Kobe in the Laker backcourt. However, Nash’s propensity to dribble around until he finds the open man would take the ball out of Kobe’s hands, and that may not go over very well (or fit within the Lakers’ triangle offense). The trade would leave the Lakers very thin on the front line, and with the way that the Celtics are playing, it’s doubtful that they’re going to want to part ways with Bynum. But they’re not playing very good baskeball right now and the roster could use a shakeup. Perhaps Robin Lopez could be included to maintain the Lakers’ frontcourt depth.

For the Suns, Bynum could be a franchise cornerstone if he can just stay healthy. I have my doubts about his knees, but if the Phoenix doctors take a look at him and think that the worst is behind him, he may be worth the risk.

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