Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Former Classmate Brant Rustich Retires from Baseball

I was looking up minor league stats today, and I did not realize that Mets prospect Brant Rustich retired, at age 27. Brant and I attended the same high school, and crossed paths a few times. He always seemed like a pretty good dude, and I was hoping he would crack the Mets roster at some point.

During my senior year, I played in a P.E. softball game with Brant. I was playing left field, he 3rd base. A pop-up was hit to left, I ran in, he ran back. His 6'6, 240lb frame of muscle collided with my 200lb of McDonald's and Twinkies, and the result was not pretty. He popped up like nothing, and I laid on the ground, looking for the Buick that just hit me. The crowd around us laughed in amusement, and I got up, trying to save face in front of all the babes. I couldn't walk right for a week.

Rustich went to UCLA, and was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft, by the Mets. He featured a min-90's fastball, and his overall makeup was supposed to give him a quick path to the big leagues.

Rustich though, had a series of injuries, and a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome ruined his career. In an interview with a Mets blog, Rustich described the injury as "my nerves and artery were compressed in my thoracic outlet, just before my shoulder."

The condition caused numbness in his fingers, and he even had a rib removed. Ultimately, the condition was too much, and he decided to call it quits, after not throwing a pitch in 2011.

He went to UCLA, and seemed like a smart dude, so I am sure he will be successful in a "normal life." But I cannot help but feel bad for the guy.

The guy worked his ass off for years, got just a few steps away from his dream, and could not fulfill his potential, due to some freak condition that was completely out of his control. It really goes to show how talented, and lucky you have to be to reach the big leagues. A tough break for a good dude.

Where Do the Clippers Go in 2013?

The Clippers grabbed headlines at the beginning of the abbreviated NBA season, snagging Chris Paul, after a deal to the Lakers was nixed by David Stern. The Clippers then added Chauncey Billups, after the Knicks used the amnesty clause. It seemed like the Clippers were poised for big things, but ultimately they were swept out of the playoffs by a deeper, better team in the San Antonio Spurs.

The Clippers have many question marks going into the 2012-13 season: Will Chris Paul sign an extension? Will Blake Griffin accept a maximum contract extension, if offered? What will the roster look around those two players? This offseason will be critical to ensure the Clips return to the playoffs. Here are the players that can leave as free agents after this season.

Clippers free agents: Nick Young, Randy Foye, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Reggie Evans, Bobby Simmons. The Clippers have a ton of free agents, and it is safe to say that Nick Young will probably bolt. He was a nice addition for the Clippers, averaging around 10 points a game after being acquired around the deadline. He should be able to command a contract out of the Clippers price range. Randy Foye had an up-and-down year, I could see him back-if the price is right. Foye played very well, when the Clippers had a late-season surge, scoring near 16 PPG, when the Clippers won 13 of 16 late in the year. Foye disappeared in the playoffs, but is a decent piece of the bench.

Billups is a guy the Clippers should attempt to bring back. Billups was solid at the #2, until he tore his ACL. He provides stability, and would give the Clippers another clutch performer late in games. The question with Billups will be cost, and what his market value will be coming off of a serious injury. Martin was ok as a backup, but he seemed to take far too many jumpers. If the Clippers can sign him for the $2.5 million they paid him in 2012, it would be a wise investment.

Who doesn't love Reggie Evans? While watching him play offensive can be painful at times, he played well against the Grizzles in the first round, and is still a prolific rebounder. The Clippers should attempt to being him back in a reserve role. Bobby Simmons is bench filler, and is easily replaced.

Options: Mo Williams(player), Trey Thompkins(team), Travis Leslie(team): Mo Williams was solid in his sixth man role, but he could decline the option, is search of more playing time. However, it may be difficult for Williams to find a better deal, so he may hang around as a capable sixth man. Thompkins and Leslie were both 2nd round picks, who could fill out the roster. Neither made a large impact last season.

The Clippers already have $57 million committed to the roster next year, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Deandre Jordan, Ryan Gomes, and Eric Bledsoe under contract. The Clippers will need some depth. Here are a few intriguing names that the Clippers could target.

Marco Belinelli, SG, New Orleans: The Clippers need shooters, and Belinelli is decent from outside, connecting on 38% of his threes. The cost should not be prohibitive, and he would be a decent option coming off of the bench.

Lamar Odom, PF, Dallas: Dallas still holds the rights to him, but it would not cost much to pry away Odom. His contract would be an obstacle, as he is due nearly $9 million in 2012-13, but he would be an intriguing fit. If Lamar is right, he would be an interesting reserve, capable of playing the 3 and the 4. Perhaps a trade to Los Angeles would revitalize him, and give the Clippers a solid reserve.

Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Portland: He has a player option of $5 million, but he would be a great fit for the Clippers. The Clippers did not have enough shooters this year, and were too dependent on Chris Paul, the Clippers desperately need guys that can hit the outside shot.

Draft: Don't expect any help here, the Clippers have only one pick, currently #53 overall. Likely training camp filler at that spot.

The Clippers had an amazing season, and feature two superstars on their roster. However, they have much work to do before they can bump chests with the big boys of the NBA. The Clippers must get better, not only to win games, but to ultimately keep Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the fold.