Finally back from Chicago – this time for good. It was arough three weeks, really. I haven’t been able to follow much of baseball at
all, so it’s gonna be tough getting back into the swing of things. Luckily, I
have four days off* – in a row! – so that should make it a little easier. I
haven’t had that much vacation time from work and school for more than a year. Anyway, hopefully we’ll look at getting the website and podcast started up in the next week, both of which are obviously long overdue. As for today’s post – and we will be back to the normal daily post routines (except for weekends, which are always a little touch and go,) I’m going to talk about a few things that are less-than-current, since, well… as I said before, I haven’t been following the game as intently as I should be the last three weeks. But I’m going to try to hit on each division. Well, let’s go.
*- Not true. Got called in to work on Sunday for 5 hours.
How about the Tigers? Are they actually
for real? The White Sox have won nine in a row, and are still in second place
in the AL Central. And the Tigers have 51 wins in late June. That’s a September
number, not a June number. It’s looking like, barring a major collapse, the
Tigers may be going to the playoffs this year. Shh, it’s still early. See, the BPS will tell you that the Tigers aren’t going to the playoffs this year because they’ve had an easy schedule. Here’s the thing. In any
case, the AL Central is already a race for third. Minnesota has won nine of
their last 10 games – and are still 11 games back. Cleveland is 17 back with a
record of 33-41 – hardly what I expected from a club I
said could make a legitimate run at a playoff spot this season. And the
Royals… oh the Royals. They’re 23-50, good for 26 games back. However, the
standings reveal that they’ve won seven of their last 10. Are you kidding? When
I left for Chicago three weeks ago, I don’t think the Royals even had seven
wins total. What
a bad team… Finally, it looks as though – for now – we might actually see an AL Central team take the wild card. This is special only because, for the last several years, the Wild Card has been the Red Sox’s ticket to the post season. The fact that that this may not happen is, to me, remarkable. Then again, there’s a lot of that going around this year, (see NL East.)
Things look pretty much the same as they did when I left. We’re 2.5 games back,
with a bunch of guys still on the DL. The Sox are on an 8-game win streak, and
as soon as they drop that and get cold, they can sit back and watch the crowd
go by. Meaning, we’ll fly right into first place. Toronto is just four games
back, which is impressive – considering they have been without one of their
biggest free-agent signees, A.J. Burnett. Is he still afraid of throwing the
ball, or what’s going on with him? Halladay – your 2006 Cy Young Winner, I
maintain – has been on his usual tear throughout the League. He’s 9-2 and has
won eight of his last nine decisions. Because I’ve been away from my computer for so long, I can’t offer much insight on the Yankees and Red Sox – like I said earlier, it looks much the same as it did to me three weeks ago. The Sox have won 8 straight and they’re only 2.5 games up. That’s a 3-day lead. Nothing too special, and it is only June – lest we forget. I hear that Gary and Matsui both received promising news, (whatever that may be,) and as soon as they get back we should start running away with the division – again.
Apparently the clubs in the NL West had a talk with those in the AL West. ‘Look, if you play bad, we’ll play bad, and no one will look bad.’ All 9 teams in the two West divisions have records below .550, (about 41 wins.) The A’s (SI’s 2nd best team going into the year,) are 41-34, for first place in the AL/NL West. The Angels are last, with a 34-41 (.453) record. In other words, there are no great teams, but there are no immensely terrible teams either. Now, there are a few ways to look at this. One is to say that all the teams are slightly above-average, and so they’re just beating up on each other. This is not true. Rather, all 9 teams are extremely mediocre and while there is no runaway, (such as the Tigers or White Sox,) there are no terrible teams either, such as the Royals or Pirates. See, this is pure luck. All the teams happen to be average teams. Great, what’s that get you? Average attendance, and below-average performance against the other teams in the league. Spectacular.
But to get into some detail; the Angels have totally collapsed this year. Their offense, which used to be great, (think about two or three years ago,) is now in a complete state of disarray. They’ve scored 339 runs, 2nd to last in the league – behind, who else, but the KC Royals, with 313. And you can’t point to Vlad and say that his numbers have declined, he’s aged, he can’t carry the team anymore. No one has said it yet, but I’m sure they will before the end of the year. Well, here are the facts – Vlad, who recently turned 30, is seeing some decline in his numbers. So we’re halfway through the year, and he has 10 doubles. In 2004, he hit 40. In 2005, when he only played 141 games due to a shoulder injury he suffered while making a stupid slide at home, he hit 30. And now he’s on pace to hit 20. But that’s all pointless. The truly interesting stats, for him, are his OBP and AVG. Vlad’s career OBP is .387, yet it is just .326 so far this year. His average is at .290, down from his typical .322. His slugging is at .490, a significant drop from his career.581. But, back to the original question – is Vlad aging, or is something else happening? I think it’s a little bit of both. His numbers – which aren’t really that much lower – are probably the result of playing on a poor team as much as they are of being older. And now you say, ‘but the Angels aren’t that bad.’ Maybe not, but they’re terrible if you look at their expectations. People are asking questions and attendance is (probably) down. Either way, that makes for a bad vibe in the clubhouse, if you will. And that, I believe, only makes matters worse – it makes it harder to perform when everyone is asking you why you aren’t. A bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.
Meanwhile, in the NL West, we have… today it is… the Dodgers, on top with a 40-35 record. As has been previously stated on numerous occasions at BHGM, they can pretty much start printing playoff tickets now. 5 Games above .500? That’s a mountain the rest of the division really can’t climb.
Well, I’m not sure what’s going on here. I know that when I left three weeks ago, the Braves were about 5 games back of the Mets. Maybe, I really don’t know. The Marlins were the second-worst team in MLB, behind the Royals. Now, and follow me closely here, they’re 8 games back of .500 and in 3rd place. Now, forget for a moment that the Mets are so far out in front that third place (13.5 games back,) second place (11.5 games back,) and fifth place, (15.5 games back,) are all the same. Try to forget about that. Now, the Marlins are in third, and they’re 32-40. Seriously, they must have won every game they played since I left for Cincinnati (and then for Chicago,) four weeks ago. In fact, on June 1st – the date I left – the Marlins were 17-34. So, in 25 days, they’ve won 15 games and lost 6. What a clip! Meanwhile, the Braves went from 28-26 and 5 games back to 32-44. That means they’ve gone 4-18. How far away is Atlanta from Kansas City, exactly?
Well here’s another interesting story that I would’ve liked to include closer to the NL West, but it just didn’t work out that way. Regular readers already know what I’m about to bring up, but here goes. Name one of two players the Pirates received when they traded away a fellow named "Jason Schmidt" in 2001. Answer: Ryan Vogelsong. The other player was Armando Rios, who started 55 games for the Pirates. Anyway, back to Ryan Vogelsong. He was never a good pitcher, but he has remained on the Pirates roster. And now, CBS Sportsline has the following to say about him in their nifty fantasy notes:
RHP Ryan Vogelsong, who has allowed at least one baserunner in each of
his 20 relief appearances, did not pitch in the weekend series at Los
Analysis: Vogelsong should only be active in
leagues that reward negative play. Even there, the fact that he is not
being used makes him obsolete.
Could you be any tougher on the guy? He’s a stud on the negative play team. Great. Then again, his career ERA is 5.86, and you gave up Jason Schmidt to get him. Surprisingly enough, Dave Littlefield, who made the deal to acquire Ryan, is still the GM in Pittsburg. Now, is there any stronger way for the Pirates to tell their fans they have no desire to win than by keeping Littlefield around? During his 5-year reign, the Pirates have consistently been one of the worst teams in the league. In 2001, they rang in the brand new PNC Park by losing 100 games. In 2002, it was 89 games. 2003 was 87, and 2004 was 89. in 2005, in was 95 games. They’ve gone nowhere, and are currently riding an 11-game losing streak as they head in to play the White Sox and Tigers. At least the Pittsburg fans have the All Star game to look forward to… that game counts for more than possibly any other game ever played at PNC Park. That is, the AL will be taking home field advantage again.
And how about the Cardinals – they’ve quietly, (since no one ever wants to gang up on the Cardinals, and for good reason – how would you feel if you lived in Missouri?) gone on a 6-game losing streak. That puts them at 42-32, and only two games up of the Reds. It’s interesting that when Derrek Lee went down, everyone talked about how silly the Cubs were for centering their offense around one guy. No one seemed to notice that the Cardinals were centered on the same philosophy. Oh, that’s right. The Cardinals have a strong supporting staff for Albert on the bench, and they also have pitching. Unless the Cubs define Kerry Wood and Mark Prior as ‘pitching,’ there is a difference. Both Pujols and Lee are now back, by the way. However, that doesn’t mean that the Cubs’ season isn’t over, because it still is. The latest news on Kerry Wood – and this is an accurate quote, I didn’t make this up – an MRI on Wood’s shoulder revealed "no significant concerns or any kind of significant issue or injury or anything like that… the MRI, in Dr. Kremchek’s terms, stated it was pristine, that the labia repair looked as if it was completely intact, looked like it had healed nicely and perfectly," said Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal. Yet, ‘there is still no timetable for his return.’ So let me get this straight; Wood went to the doctor, and the doctor told him he was perfectly healthy, and that everything was in order. In fact, it was perfect and pristine. Yet, no one has any idea how much longer it will be before he pitches again. Is this some sort of joke?
Anyway, that’s the wrap up for the divisions. It took me Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to write this, so some of it may be out of date – but I did my best. In any case, I’m going to try to get back into the groove. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I’m mostly running around all day. But we should be completely back to normal in about a week I think. Anyway, that’s it for now. It’d be nice to see some comments but I can understand if we don’t have the readers back yet. See you tomorrow, I hope!
So the bad thing about Sunday is that it’s usually day games. By the time I got home from work, all the games – with the exception of Yankees-Mets – were over. So here are a few various items, from both yesterday and today.
Marlins v. Devil Rays
When the Marlins lost to the Devil Rays again last night, 4-3, they blew their fourth game in a row after leading in the ninth inning. The only other MLB team to accomplish that feat? The 2002 Devil Rays. How special. In fact, the Battle for Florida Supremacy, as we’ve taken to calling the series, was so important that D-Rays manager Joe Maddon was "out of town" for the first two games, leaving his bench coach in charge. But in all seriousness, the Rays got a fantastic game out of Scott Kazmir tonight, to take the series 3-0. Looks like we found the best team in Florida, right? Right? Loser heads to Las Vegas, right? Anyway, Kazmir struck out 11 Marlins, going 8 innings, walking one, and allowing just 4 hits and no runs. Funny, because I just wrote about how Kazmir seemed to be back on track, and more importantly, for real this year.
Cubs v. White Sox
So the Cubs beat the White Sox in game 3 of that big Chicago v. Chicago thing. Uh, that pretty much means no repeat. I know the Cubs have been getting attention for being bad lately, but I don’t think people are aware of exactly how bad they are. One of the worst teams in the league, the Pirates, are in the same division and have 14 wins. The Cubs have 18, and one more loss. And it will get much worse before Lee returns. So basically, if the Cubs played the Pirates in a 4-game set, they’d be likely to lose at least two, if not three, games. Anyway, regarding yesterday’s Throw Down by Michael Barrett upon A.J., a few notes. First, A.J. is known as the biggest a-hole in baseball. I mean, this was something people knew years ago. Here’s a list, basically, of why the world should thank Barrett for punching A.J, from Sporlitics. And let me explain to you, exactly, why
Barrett was so upset after A.J. knocked him around sliding into home. He didn’t just train Barrett. He trained him when there was no play at home. And after that, he got up, pounded the plate, and stared down Barrett. Barrett then gave A.J. a quick hug before coldcocking him. As you can see to your right, A.J. never saw it coming. But, Barrett hugged A.J. so they could have a quick chat – what did he say? "I didn’t even have the f*cking ball, b*tch."
I also want to make sure everyone saw the video on YouTube. Actually, MLB already managed to get it taken down – dang, that was fast! Look, I get the whole anti-copyright thing, and it’s cool – I don’t like it, but I can see that if you let people start posting plays on YouTube, it will eventually weaken the fan’s appreciation for the sport, right? Wait… whatever. It’s not about that, right? It’s about something bigger – the principle, right? Look, if you’re going to interfere with the free market that YouTube provides and supports, then you need to provide a better or at least equal service. Which you don’t. If I wrote Bud Selig and asked him if I could post a video from a baseball game on YouTube, would he respond? And would he grant me expressed permission if he did? Alright.
Reds v. Tigers
I was able to attend the first game of this series, which was the only game of the Tiger’s last 10 that we lost. My luck, right. The Tigers won last night on a Felipe Lopez throwing error, and won this afternoon as well – 1-0. Good job. You don’t see a lot of 1-0 games from two clubs which are both in the top 5 of all MLB teams in HR – Detroit at #2, Cincinnati at #4. Anyway, Nate Robertson pitched 7.1 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits and striking out 7, but walking 5. Obviously, he wasn’t lights out – but he was pretty good. Especially considering what Nate Robertson usually is. And, again, the Tigers are one game above the White Sox in the AL Central.
Albert hit another home run today. In related news, the sun came up this morning. Albert’s HR contributed to the St. Louis Albert Pujol’s 10-3 thrashing of the Royals.
Cain one-hit the A’s on Sunday, also allowing just 3 walks. Matt who? The Giants are now 23-21, which means they can pretty much start printing playoff tickets right now. That is, as soon as they overcome the first place, 25-19, Rockies.
The Twins, my pre-season pick for the surprise bad team of the year, remain bad. They lost to Milwaukee today, and are now 19-25, good for 4th place and 10.5 games back from the AL Central Division-leading Tigers.
The Citizen Soldiers of the Kansas City Royals are in dire need of a victory. They’re on a 9-game losing streak. Coming up? A 4-game set with the Tigers, and a pair of 3-game sets with the Yankees and A’s on the road, where the Royals are 2-20 this year. In other words, PFC Mark – who returned to the team after being gunned down on Saturday night, trying to score from 1st base – and Captain Bell will trot an impressive 19 game losing streak onto the battlefield when they arrive in Seattle on June 2nd. They will have won 5 games in all of May – three by one run, one by two runs, and one by three runs.
That’s about all for today. Again, didn’t get to do much baseball stuff today, so that’s why we have the short post. I have tomorrow off, but then I have to work 36 hours, in 5 days of 6 days, with only Thursday off. And of course, they wanted me to come in on Thursday too. After that, I’ll be heading to the Tigers-Yankees game on May 31st, and then it’s down to Cincinnati, where BHGM will be on vacation for about 3 or 4 days. If anyone is interesting in posting some guest writings here, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the liveblog from last night, and lets see some comments too, people.
Tonight we’re gonna focus on Maroths (un)earned run, Dusty Baker wanting to do away with the Base on Balls, why the Cubs and Marlins are sad, upcoming games I’ll be attending, and tonight’s Yankees game.
Maroth came off the ERA leader board today, just as everyone was starting to cash in on him. He allowed 9 hits, giving up 4 runs and 3 walks while striking out 2 in 6 innings against the Angels today. Typical Mike Maroth, really. Now, I obviously didn’t see the game, but one of the runs scored when Chone Figgins stole third and continued home on Brandon Inge’s fielding error. For the rest of the inning, we had a ground out to short, a ground out to third, two walks, and then a fly out to right. So, in order for a run to be termed ‘unearned,’ a reconstruction of the inning without the error would have showed that the run hadn’t scored if the error hadn’t been committed. I’m going to assume that the scorer decided Figgins would have scored on the ground out to short. But still, isn’t a run scored on an error the definition of an unearned run? Scoring can be pretty interesting sometimes, huh. In any case, the Tigers finished the game with 2 hits, 5 walks, 8 K’s, and 2 errors. And no runs. John Lackey pitched the 8 solid innings for the Angels, accounting for the 8 K’s and 5 walks, as well as 1 hit.
It’s possible that the above game is the only case where Dusty Baker is right about any in-game tactic. A couple weeks ago Baker said,
I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you
get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps. But the guy
who walks and can’t run, most of the time they’re clogging up the bases
for somebody who can run.
Oh, alright. Well, like I said, this could be the only case where Baker is actually right. If you get 5 walks and only manage one hit in that time, those walks are basically no help to you. Of course, that’s the only tiny part of Baker’s statement that’s correct, and even that’s a one in a million shot. The day Baker made the above statement, the Cubs had just lost to the Cardinals 4-1. In the second inning of that game, the bases were "clogged" after two singles and one of those annoying walks, with Aramis Ramirez up. Ramirez grounded out but managed to knock in the Cub’s only run on the play. The Cubs had 6 hits and 4 walks through the whole game, yet only mustered that one run. See, it’s not that walks are useless, it’s that Dusty Baker is probably the worst in-game manager in the league, and he can’t take advantage of walks. He can’t honestly believe that walks are worthless. He’s gotta be saying that to prove to everyone that he really is "old school," or whatever.
In related news, the Florida Marlins won a game today against… the Cubs. Final score, 7-5. The Cubs and Marlins are two of the saddest teams in the league, but for different reasons. The Marlins are sad because they simply can’t produce anything, and when they do make a play, you’re surprised that they actually pulled it off. But, as much I rag on the Marlins, it’s not their fault. They’re not underachieving. It’s Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins’ owner, who should be held 100% responsible for the disaster that is the 2006 Marlins. Of course, it’s easy to argue that after 2005, when the Marlins were widely predicted as taking the NL East but didn’t come anywhere near the top for the entire season, that he decided to break up the team that wasn’t working and start over. And I guess that works. It’d be more believable if they had brought in just one quality veteran to help rebuild, but oh well. As for the Cubs, they’re sad because every day you look at the box score and you’re disappointed. It never adds up. For example, the Cubs drew 6 of those darned walks today against the Marlins, but managed only 4 hits and struck out 9 times. See, that should never happen. You just can’t see that many pitches and not put up more production, it’s just not possible. And 9 strikeouts? Lord. Look at some Cubs box scores for the next week, and I promise you that you’ll find at least one thing every day that just doesn’t add up.
Additionally, it’s official – Kevin and I, along with another friend of ours, Matt Soifer, will be attending the May 16th Tigers game against the Twins at 7.05pm. This is the first Tiger’s home game after the three of us get back from our respective institutes of higher education. We’ll likely be at the section you see on your right. We’ll also be in Section 103, Row G, in the Bleachers – sorry, the Pepsi Bleachers – on Wednesday, May 31st… for the Yankees; those tickets have already been purchased. We’ll probably make it to another Yankee game and a few games other games between the Yanks and aforementioned Twins.
Albert Pujols is currently the best baseball player in the game. More on him later in the week, or next week.
I’m currently watching the Yankees – Devil Rays game. First off, I’m getting really tired of hearing every broadcaster tell me about how dangerous Gary Sheffield is, and how hard he hits foul balls down the third base line. Now Jeter just singled to juice the bases. We’re down by 2, bottom of the 10th, 2 outs, Gary Sheffield up. 0-1. Sheffield takes 3 time outs, and they meet at the mound. 1-1. 2-1… Sheff grounds right to Wiggington at third, who bobbles it. I yell. Wiggington recovers, throws to 1st. The throw looks high… but it’s not. Game over. No big deal, really. You’re not gonna beat the Devil Rays, Royals, Mariners, etc, every time. And it was an extra inning loss, it’s not like we were never in it.
I was watching Law and Order earlier. Basically the cops busted into this place and found about 60 guns sitting around on the table. What do the inhabitants say? "I understand all those guns laying around doesn’t look good." No, they really don’t.
Well now I’m upset. No comments, from 10a Tuesday until now. That’s probably the worst performance I’ve ever seen. I mean, I don’t know what else to say. Are you freaking kidding me? I’ll be back tomorrow, as usual.
Bruce Bochy – Word Inventor
The more I learn about Chris Young’s ‘injury,’ the scarier it gets. When I first heard about it, I was led to believe that he merely had some pain in his thumb that had been bothering him. Next, I thought there might be some structural damage done, because I heard he was gonna get an MRI today. But now I’m scared. Padres Manager Bruce Bochy said,
I’ve never seen anything quite like this. It is hard to figure out what is going on. It has us buffaloed.
Buffaloed? What does that mean? Stumped? Are you left guessing as to the nature of the injury? According to urbandictionary.com, ‘Buffaloed’ means "to have your spirit broken." Does that mean your chances of finishing on top of the worst division in the history of sports have decreased from 0 to 0, and now you’re depressed? Now, it’s possible that I’m the one under the rock here. Maybe people walk around saying buffaloed to each other all day, and it’s a regular in the American lexicon. Maybe. Why do I bring it up? Because it will probably end up being the most exciting thing that happens to San Diego all season, as they continue to duke it out in their mile-long park and crappy division.
A.J. Burnett and the Info Mask
According to "noted orthopedic surgeon" (Medical Note: these guys tend to be real jerks,) Dr. James Andrews, A.J. Burnett has no structural damage in his arm. Instead, he’s suffered a ‘reoccurrence’ of his Spring Training injury – the whole scar tissue thing, the one that, with some rest, would be good for another two years or so. Interesting. You see, there’s nothing wrong with him. It’s normal to make just two short starts between DL stints. Is this the same Dr. James Andrews that works for Cubs Pitching and Co.? I can understand Roy Halladay being "fine" but still missing two of three scheduled starts, but I don’t understand Burnett having "no structural damage" yet not being able to pitch. Of course, that’s not as bad as Prior having "no elbow injury" but being unable to throw a baseball. Or Kerry Wood being "right on track" but with no timetable for a return. This is why the Cubs will always be my favorite team to take shots at – they make it so easy. In case you haven’t been paying attention, I’ve probably beat up Larry Rothschild and Dusty Baker in each of my last 20 posts.
Bank of America Presents the National League Player of the Week Brandon Phillips
That’s commercial he11 right there. But it gets better. The last sentence of this ‘article,’ or advertisement, was so crowded I had to re-read twice to understand it. And even then, I knew something was wrong, so I read it a couple more times and then finally deciphered it. Here, it’s your turn, codebreaker:
In recognition of this honor, Tourneau, the world’s largest watch
store, is proud to award the Bank of America Presents the National
League Player of the Week Brandon Phillips with a Tourneau luxury Swiss
Ok? Is Brandon Phillips a dude or a corporation? And did you know that Bank of America – one of the largest banks in the world – started out as an immigrants "Bank of Italy," and took off after the Great San Francisco Earthquake, somewhere around 1911?
When I got back from a long, hard day playing Butcher and dissecting little pigs, I decided to flip to The MLB.TV and see what was on. Turns out, jokes’ on me! No games on. I mean, unless you count Cincinnati v. Washington, Colorado v. Philadelphia, and Florida v. Chicago. If you watched or went to any of those games, you’re a real fan. Not to take another shot at Bobby’s Fish, but especially the Florida v. Chicago game. Is there a worse matchup then the undisputed worst team in the league (Florida,) minus their DL-riding "Rookie of the Year" v. the Prior-Wood-Miller-Lee-less Chicago Cubs? Probably not. The only exciting thing about this is Carlos "I’m about to lose control" Zambrano. Despite the fact that he managed to give up 3 runs to the Marlins in 7 innings, he has 12 K’s. This is not as cool as it seems, as one half (yes, .5, or 1/2) of the Marlins 8 starters in the lineup are hitting below the Mendoza line. For those of you unfamiliar with the Mendoza line, it’s .200.
It’s generally accepted that if you hit below the Mendoza Line, you shouldn’t be in the Major Leagues. Then again, that’s irrelevant as the Marlins don’t really seem to be in the Major Leagues anyway. Oh well. And Zambrano has only thrown 116 pitches through those 7 innings. At this rate, he’ll still have enough bullets left at the end of the game to pitch two innings tomorrow. At least, that’s what Dusty tells me. Meanwhile, Marlins starter Jason Vargas held the Cubbies to just one hit, walking four in 6.1IP.
Justin; I don’t really think the Tigers will put it all together this year. They need at least one winning season before they make it to the Big Time. But, if by ‘put it together’ you mean, ‘get above .500,’ then yes, I do believe this is their year. I think their offense is a lot more set than the pitching, however. We could use one more #3-caliber starter, but I’m not gonna push it. One more thing for all you commenters out there – leave your website address at the end of your posts. I want to be able to check out your sites as well, (I really do mean this.)
If I see any games tonight I might be back. But it’s gonna be a busy next two weeks, culminating in a Calculus and Biology final on May 10th. Post May 10th, I’m headed back home. A couple weeks after that, I’ll hope to have to podcast up and running on http://www.baseballradioshow.com. Until then, check out Mike’s Tiger’s Podcast at http://dailyfungo.mlblogs.com.
Four great things about this pathetic Padres v. Marlins game:
1) Marlin’s LF Josh Willingham punted a ball into the corner instead of picking it up and chucking it to 2nd base, which would have held Brian Giles at 3rd and Mike Piazza at 2nd or 1st. Instead, Giles scored, Piazza was awarded a single, and Willingham got the error. This is exactly the kind of thing that will plague the Marlins all year.
2) The broadcasters were talking about The Brothers Marcus and Brian. Now would be a good time to mention that I have Brian’s autograph. Yes, I attended a Padres game last year when they visited Detroit in Interleague play. They were talking about interesting arguments the Brothers would’ve had as children, and one of them goes, ‘there’s one argument that Brian would win – I’m tanner than you.’ Ya think? Recall that Brian once said,
I feel like when I have a tan, my bat speed increases, you know?
I talked about superstitions a little while ago. At first, this doesn’t seem like one, but it is. Think about it. Do you think Giles’ tan makes him a better hitter? No way. But he thinks it does, and so it does. Same thing as the Finley-Erstad Magic Bag, (see above link.)
3) I cannot believe how bad the Marlins are. The Padres won 9-3. The "up and coming" (bad) Marlins managed 6 hits and 2 walks against outstanding Padres pitching studs like Woody Williams, Alan Embree, Clay Hensley, and Scott Cassidy. They struck out seven times. By contrast, the deplorable Padres offense, (and don’t tell me it’s because they play 50% of their games in a park that has a 700ft outfield fence,) managed 10 hits and 7 walks against the Marlins. That means more than twice as many Padres reached base than Marlins. Again, expect more of the same for the next few years if you’re a Marlins fan. Then again, judging by the empty stadium, (I lied earlier when I said it was half full – it was more like a quarter full,) there aren’t many of you out there.
4) The average Giants outfielder, (age 40,) could father the average Marlins infielder, (age 24.) Sure, it’d be a stretch, but 16 isn’t that young.
That’s all for now. I might make another post later tonight – now that I have my MLB.TV back, it’s like a second opening day! Oh and, thanks to Jason, Tiffany, John, and Kevin for the comments. Keep it up guys.
I’ll focus on the two major threats to the Braves this year – the Mets and Phillies. I’m really not an expert on the NL East, so this is really uncharted territory for me. You’ll probably notice throughout the year that I root for the entire AL and the NL Central.
I was pretty sure before the last two seasons that the Braves were through. Uh, no. They’re like baseball’s version of a vampire. You think they’re dead, you start throwing dirt on the grave, and then they come back, again, and again, and again. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no other team in the NL East I would rather see win, with the possible exception of the Phillies, because I’m starting to like them. But how do they do it? I’m not gonna waste my time trying to answer that, so I’ll move on. I think that this may be the year the Braves end this insane run. I’m not sure if it will be the Mets or the Phillies, but… I don’t like the rise of those two teams, combined with the loss of Mazzone and Furcal. Maybe Mazzone was nothing special, and he just had good pitchers to work with – that’s certainly part of it, anyway. And maybe Renteria comes back and puts up some good numbers. I just think the Mets and Phillies are too good for it to matter. I don’t think that the Phillies will steal the division, although it’s certainly a possibility. However, the Braves have 38 games to play against the Mets and Phillies, and that will certainly make things difficult. But before we listen to everyone proclaim the Braves’ demise, let’s examine carefully the supposed threats coming from those two teams.
New York Mets
The Mets have done good things in the last two years, but that ship is still full of holes. It’s afloat, and it’s not sinking… yet. Such a hole can be found at 2B, where the Mets are fielding Kaz Matsui. Matsui used to be a pitcher until he was converted to a 2B by his former Japanese team. However, if you looked at his batting stats, you’d never guess! In 265 AB’s last year, he was able to produce 3 HR, 9 doubles, and 68 total hits. His average was .255, his OBP was .300, and his slugging percentage was .352. Grand. He did a little better in 2004 but not much. I know he’s kinda new to the whole America thing and all, but whatever. It’s possible to win a division with that. Now it’s time for me to include an excerpt from the Rabid Mets Fan, from MLB Radio’s Stayin’ Hot with Seth and Bone last year… or maybe Under the Lights with Casey Stern. Can’t remember.
Well I found this year’s Kaz Matsui trade. Danys Baez to the Mets. For Yusmeiro Petit! Don’t do it Omar! Don’t do it Omar! Why would you do that! I think Baez is the worst closer in baseball! Is he better than Braden Looper!? I dunno, I should, cuz I see him every night, but what, is he gonna take us to the World Series!? No… why would you trade him away for someone who’s working his way up through the system?!
There’s a lot of wasted words there, because that’s how the guy talks. The point is that Mets fans want Kaz out of there, for some reason. I don’t like ever saying that a team’s season depends on a few guys, but for the Met’s I think it’s true. If Beltran comes back to his old form, David Wright has another good year, and Peddy somehow manages to pull it together again, they have a good chance of overtaking the Braves this year. The biggest hole is the Met’s rotation. I still don’t understand it. Let’s lay it up:
1) Pedro Martinez – 5′ 11" dude that frankly, I don’t like. Pedro played Villain too long in Bean Town.
If the Universe turned on it’s skull and Pedro somehow landed in a Yankee uniform, I would go out back and hang myself. In any case, this run isn’t gonna last forever. I’m just waiting for the season to come when Pedro has a 4.20 ERA, strikes out 100, and wins 8 games. Mediocrity. Let’s see how he deals with that.
2) Tom Glavine – Turned 40 today. And he’s exactly 25 wins short of 300. His ERA was only 3.53 last year, but he just got 13 wins. That was a bullpen problem. If he can tough it out for another two years he’ll be good. I don’t see him breaking down too much more this year. One cause for concern is the fact that he’s a lefty, and left handers are batting .323 off him.
3-5) Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano, and Aaron Heilman? – As I said earlier, I’m really no expert on the NL East. I do know that Trachsel is not that good, Zambrano is worse and looks even goofier than Trachsel in his profile picture, and Heilman is a train wreck. The Mets have been trying to start Heilman for years and the experiment has never really worked out. Meanwhile they keep hiding him in the bullpen, but it looks like they won’t have that option this year.
This is what I don’t get. The Mets offense is strong, but let’s go back to the analogy of the Mets team as a ship with a bunch of leaky holes. The offense/defense has a few of the holes, but the ship is still afloat. Add the pitching to the mix and it’s like you just struck an iceberg. I can’t see the Mets making a reasonable run in the playoffs unless they can shore up that rotation and bullpen. The one bright spot is Billy Wagner, (courtesy of the Phillies, ironically enough.) Wagner might be a tiny and goofy looking dude, but he’s lights-out. Much better than Braden Looper. I remember writing this after the Met’s opened 2005 by having their bullpen sabotage their first few games.
The Mets bullpen is not good. They’re 0-2 now in holds and saves. Their bullpen consists of Manny Aybar, who said that parts of his family are unaware that he’s an MLB pitcher even though he’s been in the Majors 8 years. Felix Heredia is a lefty specialist who can’t get any lefties out and had an ERA of 6.28 in 39 innings last year. Mike DeJean is about 90 years old. Dae-Sung Koo is 36 and made his MLB Debut just this year. Roberto Hernandez is 41 years old. Mike Matthews had an ERA of 6.30 in 30 innings pitched last year. And Braden Looper, the one supposed bright spot, has yet to get a single batter out this season, although he has given up 3 runs. Bunch of firestarters.
But that was last year. This year, Chad Bradford and Duaner Sanchez will do their best to hide a bunch of 5.00+ ERA stars. Bradford and Sanchez are actually 3.50-.75 ERA gems themselves. All this team really has to do is make it to the 9th inning with a lead, and they’re good. The problem is, with that weak rotation and that 2-man pen, how many times will that happen? Last year, Pedro was terrified to leave any game before he had to because he knew that bullpen would screw it up. Hopefully – for the Mets – this year will be different. I doubt it. But if they were able to finish 83-79 last year – enough to beat that entire West Coast League – and they’ve only gotten better, it seems they have a legitimate chance, somehow.
The Phillies’ main if is their pitching. The Phillies are trying to re-tool Tom Gordon back into a closer. This is unlikely to work out. I’m making this statement based on one fact – Tom Gordon’s own admission. About two years ago, I was listening to an interview of him and he said he didn’t believe he could ever close games again, because he only had two pitches. I’ll tell you what’s happening here. He was sick of winning, I mean, playing for the Yankees. First, he obviously thinks he can close; he left because he wasn’t ever gonna close in New York unless a lighting bolt struck down Mo. He would not have taken a closing job if he thought he was just gonna make a fool out of himself. That being said, the last time I checked, age 38 wasn’t the best time to turn a guy back into a closer. Let us not forget, he has 116 career saves. But only 18 in the last 4 years. He’s been putting up great numbers; from 2002, his ERA has dropped per the following: 3.38, 3.16, 2.21, 2.57. But he’s been away from the job for too long, I think. I’m not sure what it is I don’t like, because if you just look at his numbers he almost checks out. But the numbers are all over the place. Of course, the craziest part is where he saved 46 games for Boston in 1998. That was 8 years ago. In any case, it doesn’t matter that he just isn’t as good as Wagner. What I’m concerned about is his ability not to totally flop. You know the Phillies would’ve preferred to sign someone a little more solid, but they couldn’t. They’re just as nervous about Gordon as I am.
Other than that, the Phillies have a lot in common with the Mets. A mostly-experimental infield, an
anchored (Bobby Abreu) outfield, and a shaky rotation. The Phillies rotation looks much more solid than the Mets’, but I’m not even sure I can break it down because I don’t even know that much about it. It looks like Ryan Franklin, Cory Lidle, Jon Leiber, Ryan Madsen and Brett Myers will form it up. With the exception of Madsen, all have career ERA’s between 4.20 and 4.50. This typically translates into a reliable, albeit not lights-out, rotation. Brett Myers appears to be the leader (read: opening day starter,) of this little band after he pulled together a reasonable 2005 campaign, but it’s likely that Leiber – 10 years older than Myers – will likely be doing most of the actual leading. Madsen has only started one MLB game; he made 51 appearances in relief for the Phillies in 2004 with a 2.34 ERA, and 78 in 2005 for a 4.14 ERA. In any case, he’s filling in for Randy Wolf, who’s out recovering from a Tommy John-er and will be back by the middle of the season, hopefully. The problem is that if any of these guys go down, there’s no one to fill in. The bullpen is already weak with the departure of Madsen to the rotation. And Arthur Rhodes, Robinson Tejeda, Aaron Fultz, and Tom Gordon are your big men. Tejeda and Fultz? Arthur Rhodes is one of the sketchiest guys in the league, and we already talked about Gordon. There’s simply no one there if a starter goes down or if (when) Rhodes/Gordon do something weird.
That said, if the Phillies somehow make it through 2006 with their fragile pitching intact, they too have a legitimate chance of overthrowing the Braves. I didn’t delve into their hitting because I don’t think that will be their problem; it’s average and you’ve been reading long enough.
Baseball in the District. Fantastic. Jim Bowden in the District – catastrophe. Frank Robinson will have a fun time battling through the trash that Bowden through in his lap – mainly, Alfonso Soriano. That said, the Nationals have too many holes in their ship to keep afloat for the entire season. As if that wasn’t enough, Tony Armas Jr., Pedro Astacio, and Ramon Ortiz comprise 3/5 of your rotation. At least they’ve got horse Livan Hernandez to anchor it; the Phillies have no such ace. Without stretching it out, the Nationals are still too much of a puzzle team for the big time. Too many ifs, and too many potential problems. I don’t see them playing through the entire season and ending on top. Furthermore, I think the NL Wild Card will likely go to a Central team, or the Phillies/Mets/Braves – not the Nats.
Someone needs to alert GM Larry Beinfest that he needs to field a Major League Baseball team in less than two weeks. 50% chance you’ll catch him unawares. After the Pokey Reese defection/escape, the Marlins line up like this, from the 1-9 spot on the defensive depth chart.
1) Dontrelle Willis will be leading this band of unknowns – SP
2) Josh Willingham? – C
3) Mike Jacobs? – 1B
4) Dan Uggla? – 2B
5) Miguel Cabrera – 3B? They finally shifted the bus to the infield.
6) Hanley Ramirez – SS. I know the name… but his MLB experience is 0-2, with 2 K’s.
7) Chris Uguila? – LF
8) Reggie Abercrombie? – CF
9) Jeremy Hermida – RF. Rookie of the Year candidate.
Manager – Joe Girardi. Rookie Manager.
The question marks are because, lets face it – six of those eight position players have less than 100 AB’s at the major league level. Chris Uguila has 123, and Miguel Cabrera has played 63 games at 3rd Base. The rotation is more of the same.
The Marlins aren’t a major league team. They’re a team of unknowns.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.
I’m not gonna make a big deal out of this yet, because frankly no one knows the whole story. The Marlins recently terminated the contract of newly acquired veteran Pokey Reese. Reese was expected to compete for the starting 2nd base job this year, and the 32-year-old was apparently having a pretty good first two weeks of camp. That is, until he went AWOL.
Apparently, Reese just disappeared. Reese left camp Wednesday, missed the exhibition game against University of Miami, and no one heard from him until Friday, when his agent notified the club that he was "safe," but offered no other details. When is it ok for you to skip out on your employer for two days and leave them wondering "whether he was all right." Well, I can think of one case – if you no longer wish to be employed, and that’s what happened.
We think that the 72 hours that have passed was more than a reasonable amount of time for him to offer some sort of explanation for his unexcused absence. We still do not have that explanation and we’re moving on. He will not be with the Marlins in ’06.
That comes from Marlins GM Larry Beinfest. Hold it there Larry. One year ago, people were predicting a playoff appearance for your team. Now, you just had a liquidation sale and your team is going to be awful for no less than three years. You have two star players left, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Cabrera runs like a bus, and Willis has endorsed every organization and product he can find. On top of that, you have the most ridiculous stadium this side of the Astrodome, you can’t get a new one, and your team is gonna get booted out of Florida. Finally, the clincher: you attempted to retool Pokey Reese as a 2nd baseman and he skipped out on you, leaving you with Dan Uggla, Alfredo Amezaga, Mickey Lopez, Scott Seabol and Lenny Harris. Have a fun season, Larry.
Wait, there is an upside. The Marlins do have Sergio Mitre and Hanley Ramirez. I saw Sergio Mitre pitch in Chicago last year, and he didn’t put up great numbers, but he had one absolute lights-out pitch, a curveball if I remember correctly. This has no bearing on the Marlins status as doormat team the next three years.
Thanks for reading.