Friday, February 29, 2008

Top 5 Interesting Teams (Part 3 of 3)

The most intriguing team in 2008, in my eyes, is a no-brainer. That would be the Detroit Tigers. They made quite a splash this offseason, acquiring Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, and for about two days, everyone considered them the best team in baseball, by far. Obviously, this is very false, as most people outside of Michigan have realized. They are the second-best team in their division and at best an outside shot for making the playoffs.

Here's the most important part: Dontrelle Willis is not that good. I like the guy. He's charismatic, has a funky windup, throws a lot of innings, and isn't afraid to relieve himself on the side of a bar at 3AM while his newlywed wife slept at home. But he's just about as consistent as Tim Wakefield (not that there's anything wrong with that if you're a 5th starter). His rookie season of 2003 and his Cy Young season of 2005, he went 36-16 with a 2.90 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, and surrendered a home run every 16.5 innings. His other three seasons, he went 32-38 with a 4.35 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP, and surrendered a home run every 8.9 innings.

In the National League.

Obviously, Justin Verlander is good. The rest of their rotation is okay. Rodney is injured and Zumaya might still have Guitar Hero in his house, but despite the fact that Todd Jones is their closer, their bullpen is still pretty good when healthy. Their offense is obviously upgraded quite a bit, with Granderson and Polanco a year older, Cabrera in the lineup, and Ordonez and Sheffield both behind healthy...for now.

Which brings me to another interesting aspect. Edgar Renteria and Ivan Rodriguez. Renteria was terrible--just terrible--in 2005 in Boston. He couldn't hit. He couldn't field. Then he went to the Braves and became a serviceable major league baseball player again. Is this because of the difference between the AL and NL? Whatever it is, it should be interesting to see which Renteria shows up this year.

Rodriguez is another catcher who got a lot of money. Like fellow Boras client Varitek, he's known for his leadership, and he's been very good for a good decade or so. Should be very interesting to see what kind of season he has. Will he become a liability? Will he be another feared bat? Will he stay healthy? Fun to watch.

And while I'm on the topic of Ivan Rodriguez, I feel like this winter's an appropriate time to mention one of the worst broadcasting jobs not involving Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Rodriguez had just been named in Canseco's book a few years ago, and it was still in the time when nobody really knew how much credibility Canseco had. But he showed up that season about 25 pounds lighter than he had been in years past. The guy broadcasting the game on ESPN said that Pudge shed pounds so he could become "more nimble behind the plate." Another guy with a free pass while Bonds and Clemens are going to jail.

But yes, after doing the entire run-down here, I'd say that the Tigers could have a good season or could turn into a complete disaster. Being a Tigers fan in 2008 is like rooting for Kerry Wood or Mark Prior to pitch 200 innings and win a Cy Young Award. The talent is there, but you know the wheels are going to fall off due to injury.

Honorable Mentions:
>Colorado Rockies - They were 64-63 on August 23. They won the NL pennant. Is this team for real?
>Seattle Mariners - They got Erik Bedard. They no longer have Adam Jones. Who's going to commit crimes at Seattle strip clubs now? Oh, wait, it's another Adam Jones?
>Los Angeles Dodgers - What's the deal with Andruw Jones? Will Joe Torre ruin Scott Proctor's career in two different cities? Will Joe Torre hold Andy LaRoche back because he's not yet 30 years old? How many years of 80+ appearances will Joe Torre put Jonathan Broxton through before his career's wrecked?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Top 5 Interesting Teams (Part 2 of 3)

In my comment, I gave away all the suspense by naming the Tigers as my #1 most interesting team for this upcoming season. Whatever; after trying to rank the greatest highlight of all time and watching both "Greatest Highlight" and "Who's Now" both take away from SportsCenter within eight months of each other, I'm trying to stop the suspenseful countdowns.

3. Tampa Bay Religiously-Neutral Rays. First of all, awesome name change. Probably the second-best of this decade, with the first obviously being Colby College's transition from the "White Mules" to the "Multicultural Mules." Way to go.

On the field, there is a lot to watch for. They were busy this offseason, trading Delmon Young away for Matt Garza, who is still a long way from being that good. They still have their full complement of young guys, headlined by Carl Crawford and BJ Upton, who will always live in his brother's shadow. Evan Longoria seems to be generating a lot of hype, especially seeing that he's pushing Iwamura (who was okay last year) to second base. Rocco Baldelli is always hurt, and this will bring me to the most interesting part a little later on.

If you're a Religiously-Neutral Rays fan and you happened to turn up your hearing aid to hear "Scott Kazmir" and "MRI" in the same sentence this week, you're probably nervous. Apparently it's just an elbow strain, but that would really be a bummer if he got a serious, long-term injury.

Bringing in Barry Bonds as a DH/Baldelli injury insurance would make this team by far the #1 most interesting. How would these kids respond to a) playing in the clubhouse with the ultimate anti-Captain Intangible? How would they deal with the constant media/Pedro Gomez presence? What if Baldelli goes down and then Bonds goes to jail? It would be an absolute mess. But it would bring curious butts to St. Petersburg, which may actually create a fan base more effectively than "Raymond." A fan base that can absolutely latch on to a team that will absolutely win their fair share of games against the titans from Boston and NY.

With or without Barry Bonds, there's a lot of talent for the TBRNRs, but they're not ready yet. It's almost like watching a game here at the AA Affiliate. If these guys can stay healthy and stay under contract for a few more years, they'll contend. For this year, I'll go out on a limb and say they will not finish in last place. 77 wins. And at least one bench-clearing brawl against the Red Sox.

2. New York Mets. Pat's favorite Mets fans will have plenty to talk about this season. Willie Randolph kept his job after last year's embarrassing implosion. They're considered the front-runner in the National League, but as far as I'm concerned, the Phillies can definitely give them a run for it. Santana pitching in the National League--maybe Ticket is right, maybe he could win 25 games. Or maybe he's hurt. I read a few days ago about NY having high expectations for John Maine, and they somehow retained both Heilman and Pelfrey despite trading for Santana.

Plus, they still have Pedro. Watching to see how he bounces back, especially seeing that he's saying he feels as good as he did at age 28 should be interesting. Speaking of bouncing back, will Jose Reyes continue to be the September 2007 Reyes, or will he be first-ballot HOF material as Mets fans promised a year go? And how good is David Wright? Those two questions might be answered this year.

This squad seems to be destined for controversy, too. The Pedro/cockfighting thing (though I don't think it's a big deal, as it's legal in the D.R.) kind of blew over, but you know that if Pedro is throwing well and someone looks at him wrong, he'll throw at someone. Billy Wagner said yesterday (and with good reason) that he'd drill a college kid in revenge for a bunt. And this team has to be thinking revenge for what happened last year.

All of those things, paired with the general behavior of Mets fans as reported by Pat, make the Mets the second-most interesting team in baseball coming into this season.

Top 5 Interesting Teams (Part 1 of 3)

I never got it finished last year, but this year I am dedicated to finishing a run-down of the top five most interesting teams in baseball for the upcoming season. I already have written down the five teams and I'm in the process of writing down why. But permitting that nobody wants to buy tickets either today or tomorrow, I should have this done by the end of the week. Here are the top five:

5. New York Yankees. Not trading for Johan Santana is a bigger non-move for the Yankees than for any other team, including the Red Sox. By not trading for Santana, they are putting a crapload of faith into their young trio of pitchers which we've been reading about here all winter long. Other storylines that tie into this would be the following:
>A GM that is in the last year of his contract paired up with a new president who is championship-starved. If those three guys don't pan out and the Yankees fail to make the playoffs, on September 29, Brian Cashman gonna be working in Alaska. So dress warm.
>Where did Jorge Posada's 2007 season come from? Follow-up question: What can you expect of the 2008 version of Posada? Who's going to show up, the guy with the .969 OPS and 171 hits (both career highs)? Or the guy who in 2005-2006 had an OPS of .782 and .866 and was under 130 hits in each of the two years? Another follow-up question: Are there going to be steroid whispers regarding JP?
>Speaking of which, how is Andy Pettitte going to respond to the steroid circus he will be a big part of. The media, the fans, Boston, and possibly a Clemens perjury trial. It's imperative to the team's success that Pettitte pitches well and can be a good mentor to the young guys.
>The new manager. Will Joe Girardi have the balls to bench Johnny Damon, who is flat-out awful? Will he make his bullpen last all season? Should be fun to watch. Should be fun to write about.

4. Minnesota Twins. For a while, it looked like the Twins were shelling out the money to be long-term contenders. They signed Michael Cuddyer to a long-term deal. They signed former MVP Justin Morneau to a long-term deal. They have Mauer for a while. They have Liriano for a long time. They still have Nathan. Keeping Santana, I will continue to say, would have put them in a position where they can absolutely contend with the Tigers and even the Indians. But maybe they know something about Santana that we don't know.

By trading Santana, they got a bunch of unimpressive Mets prospects. But I think I heard on TV yesterday that this Gomez guy, also competing for a center-field job, is getting hyped up more than the Red Sox' Seasoned Veteran of 33 Games. They acquired Delmon Young, and it should be interesting to see if 1) he'll kill at the plate this year or if 2) he'll kill someone off the field this year. At least they didn't trade for Elijah Dukes.

That said, if Livan Hernandez (4.93 in 2007), Scott Baker (4.26), Kevin Slowey (4.73), and Boof Bonser (5.10) are your rotation beyond the injury risk that is Liriano, you might need a minor miracle or a very potent offense to go anywhere. Simply put, they probably needed Johan Santana.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dumb Stupid Boston Voters, They STUPID!

I don't know if you've heard about this, but one of the biggest controversies surrounding the current steroid scandal in Major League Baseball is whether steroid users, whether suspected, implicated, or caught, ought to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Today we found out the stance taken by the committee in charge of inducting people into the Red Sox Hall of Fame: "Mitchell Report? No problem!" Mo Vaughn, whose three checks to Kirk Radomski totaling $8600 showed up on page D-20 of the Mitchell Report, was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, an institution founded in 1995.

Just another example of the world being way too easy on these guys who are compromising the integrity of professional sports. Using Vaughn's famous soundbite describing Boston fans, dumb stupid Boston voters, they STUPID!

Also inducted into the Red Sox HOF was Mike Greenwell, who can easily be featured in your classic "Are you a pink hat?" test. You are probably not a pink hat if 1) you're in your 20s and 2) Mike Greenwell was ever your favorite player. Greenwell was never my favorite player; I saved that distinction for Tom Brunansky. But upon discovering that my brother was a right-handed thrower but a left-handed batter during his first year of tee-ball, the first comparison that came to mind was Greenwell.

I also learned today that Greenwell was the original Coco Crisp. According to NESN's Eric Wilbur, Greenwell was frowned upon around these parts even more than Nancy Drew is today:

"And why? Because he wasn’t Rice. He wasn’t yet another in the lineage of sure-fire Hall of Famers patrolling left field at Fenway. He won’t be headed to Cooperstown with the likes of Williams, Yaz, Ramirez and…um, Rice, a future that was thrust upon him early on in his career by the media and fans."

If I knew back then what I know now, I'd still be bitter about how the Red Sox still haven't used the number 14, 5, or 21, but they already awarded Greenwell's #39 to Creighton Gubanich.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The 2008 A-Rod Story

By "A-Rod Story," I mean the story in New York, inevitably hanging over everything all season, that has everything to do with the following:

1. Will he finally find the success that is demanded of him?
2. Does he want to come back next year?
3. Do the Yankees want him to come back next year?

Brian Cashman's mug is on the back page of Newsday today, and Kat O'Brien wrote an article about how the Headline Machine Hank Steinbrenner want to talk extension with Cashman during the season. This is a pretty big development, given the events of this past winter. A-Rod negotiating his contract moreso with Hank than Cash. Hank repeatedly undermining Cashman's player-personnel decisions by talking about how much he wanted to trade the Yankees' farm system for Johan Santana. Cash seemed to resent how his role had changed in the Yankees' organization after Hank and Hal took over. And finally, Hank saying that heads are going to fly if Santana would have been the difference between winning and losing in 2008.

Fun stuff.

Also in today's Newsday (yeah, I read more NY papers today than Boston papers), Ken Davidoff wrote a great column about how Hank has to shut up, back off, and be a little patient. If I were a Yankee guy, I'd agree with Davidoff and (sorry Bronx) also agree with Cashman's philosophy. Like the 2006 Red Sox, the Yankees might struggle a little bit this year. Yankee fans should be okay with that, because retaining Hughes and Kennedy and friends should make them a better team in 2009. Far from rebuilding, the Yankees still retain a pretty good shot at being competitive this year.

Of course, it seems like Hank, like his father, doesn't really understand that too much. This is the kind of shortsighted philosophy that gets a team to sign a guy like Edgar Renteria for big years and big bucks when Hanley Ramirez is 1-2 years away from being Rookie of the Year material. This is the kind of philosophy that gets a team to sign a guy like JD Drew for big years and big bucks when there is a very highly-rated outfield prospect months away from being Rookie of the Year material. This philosophy is shortsighted and wasteful. Theo Epstein sometimes gets it. The Steinbrenners don't get it. And Cashman does.

Cashman knows that the immediate success of young pitchers is what his job security teeters on in 2008, and so do the NY columnists like Joel Sherman (who seems to be the guy on the Cashman Job Beat this year). Cash is also confident (or arrogant) enough to realize that even if he gets fired, he's doing a heck of a job and is making his potential successor's job easier, as Pat wrote about earlier.

What is becoming more evident the more articles I read, it seems that Cashman might be fed up and not even want to return to the Yankees next year. He would not have to deal with the constant nonsense dealing with Steinbrenner, A-Rod, and those other clowns that make it so easy for a guy like me to continue hating the Yankees. Any other organization would be interested in having him as their GM, and he'd probably do well there as well. Yes, as Bronx has pointed out, Cash has made more mistakes than good decisions in his external acquisitions for major league talent (Pavano, Damon). But his philosophy is a breath of fresh air for most Yankee fans, who must be at least a little nervous that Hank's behavior resembles the "LET'S GO OUT AND SIGN DAVE WINFIELD! NOW! EVERYONE'S GETTING FIRED UNLESS WE WIN IT ALL THIS YEAR!" days of the 1980s.

This should be a fun story to follow all year. To answer the three questions, I sincerely doubt that the Yankees will win it all this year. If Hank gets a clue, he would want to retain Cashman, as he does a lot more good for the organization than harm. But will Cashman want to come back and continue to deal with his job shrinking and deferring to a shortsighted, loudmouthed idiot who uses the media as a mouthpiece? Obviously, if those three big pitchers pan out in an ideal way, he'll be back as everyone will be happy. But if something goes wrong, Cashman should take things into his own hands and tell Hank to stick it.

Col-Owned

Is Theo Epstein really the same guy who went out and acquired Julio Lugo and JD Drew on the same day? Because, all sarcasm aside, the acquisition of Bartolo Colon for a $1.25 million contract (if he makes the team) was a very good move for the Red Sox. Epstein called it a "no-risk, potentially high reward" move, and that's absolutely right. If he sucks, he can get DFA'ed. If he's okay, he can spell the young guys and be injury insurance. If he's good, he's a tremendous reclamation project. The Wade Miller reclamation project was good, but this has the potential to be bigger than Wade Miller. To use a prospect term, Bartolo Colon has a lot more "upside" than Wade Miller.

And for less money.

And as an aside, even if Colon does absolutely no good for the Red Sox, Boston fans can still thank him for Game Four of the 1999 ALDS, which still stands as the single best baseball game I have ever attended. No matter how bad Colon can be, there's no way he can be worse than that day. Solid, solid low-risk move.

TRANSITION TIME: I've said a lot of times before that I am not a Francona hater, but it is oftentimes troubling how he does the three following things:

1) Play the B-Team, giving all the guys who can hit a day off all at the same time--he did not do this in 2007.
2) Wait for Seven, waiting until a starter has already gotten lit up for seven runs and the game is out of hand before he finally yanks the guy.
3) Play guys despite the fact that they are absolutely ineffective.

In transition, I want to briefly address #3. This is something that is a direct reference to the fact that Eric Gagne was not only put into close September games, but somehow inexplicably was put on the playoff roster instead of Bryan Corey or Julian Tavarez. He was being put into games because of things that happened in 2003 and 2004, when he was on more drugs than Ozzy Osbourne.

There is a risk that Colon can be used the same way, with "he won a Cy Young Award" being the validation of giving him starts instead of guys like David Pauley, Devern Hansack, or even Julian. That's a big decision that rests on the shoulders of Francona.

Transition done. On to Francona. He's done a good job. He deserved his extension. The media fawning over him like Tom Caron did in today's Press-Herald is a little excessive. Despite the fact that at times he might be dumber than a hamster, doing the same thing over and over despite awful results every time, the guy won two World Series. He deserves a little bit of job security.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pat F Does Baseball America 2008: Yankees and Red Sox

Anyone who has read this blog for more than two seconds knows I love prospects. I very much look forward to getting the new edition of Baseball America's Prospect Handbook at the beginning of each year. It's filled with all of the information you need to prepare yourself for the minor league season, both your team and the other 29 in baseball. It also gives you a feel for each organization's overall farm strength, as well as who could be that year's impact player at the Major League level, amongst other things.

I was ridiculed by many (Yankees fans and not) last year at the All-Star Break for talking about a kid named Joba Chamberlain, how many heads he was turning, and how he could potentially impact the Yankees 2007 club down the stretch. (Editor's Note: Tim-berrrrrr!) I was drinking the Kool Aid, many said. People didn't believe the Yankees actually had these kinds of kids, and perhaps rightfully so based on their recent history. As it ended, they wouldn't have made the playoffs without him.

This is the reality for both the Yankees and Red Sox in 2008 and beyond. Names that are little known prior to the season are going to make big impacts for their respective Major League clubs. I happen to believe in this way of doing business, especially for large market teams with big pockets. Whether you agree or disagree, you would be well served to pay attention to prospects, as they are going to impact New York and Boston more and more each season.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I rarely argue with Baseball America. They know way more than I do, and are far more impartial than I am. And I am not going to start arguing with them here. But in their 2007 addition, the Red Sox were ranked as having the 9th best farm system in baseball, while the Yankees were at 7th. This year, the Yankees, with another very strong year, move up to 5, while the Red Sox jump all the way to 2.

What did I miss? And I'm not saying this from an anti-Boston or pro-New York standpoint. I could care less if the Red Sox have a slightly better farm system than the Yankees. I just really want to know what happened here. The Yankees were ranked more highly a year ago, and all they have done since then is watch the explosion of Joba, the ascension of IPK at the Major League level (and others like AJax at the minor league level), and another big draft last summer. They also have a plethora of Major League ready talent entering 2008, with Ohlendorf, Melancon, Sanchez, Horne, Marquez, Gardner, and McCutchen poised to make impacts earlier in the summer than later.

Sure, the Red Sox saw Buchholz throw a no-hitter, and Ellsbury looks like he is going to be a good one. They also had a great draft, and have a few players potentially helping the Major League club, like Masterson and Lowrie. But where do they gain 7 places on the list while the Yankees gain only 2? I don't see it. Maybe it had something to do with Theo writing the foreword.

It doesn't matter now. But it will matter in a few months, and it will definitely matter in a few years. The farm systems of these two teams will have a huge impact on who has a better team this year, and every year in the forseeable future. I hope Baseball America doesn't know too much that I don't know.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A-Holes in the Outfield

The top story in Red Sox camp this weekend is that Manny Ramirez has switched agents and his new one is Scott Boras. Now, if Ellsbury wins the spot in center field over Coco Crisp, all three Red Sox outfielders are represented by the guy who has repeatedly degraded the game, embarrassed his clients, and extorted money out of franchises.

I believe it was one of my boys from the AA Affiliate who said that player agents are the only entities in Major League Baseball who take from the game, but give nothing back in terms of positive contributions. Owners give their money, GMs engineer teams, players give their talent, and even the media gives the game exposure and keeps everyone honest. Agents give nothing--just take their commission and (in at least one case) create headaches.

As I've written before, if a player decides to be represented by Scott Boras, he knows what he's getting into: he's working with a guy who, to his credit, works extremely hard to give his clients the top dollar. That's respectable. What is not respectable is the means in which he does it. He has his draft picks hold out a la Terrell Owens if teams do not offer signing bonuses to his liking: Two of his more high-profile clients (Jason Varitek and JD Drew) have held out and played independent ball for a whole year because they did not get a suitable signing bonus.

In 1965, the draft was designed in response to the situation in which the teams with deeper pockets were the only ones who could sign amateur players. The MLB Draft was actually one of the first measures in professional sports to protect competitive balance. Negotiating techniques like the ones practiced by Boras, Varitek, and Drew are ruining the draft because, once again, it is only the rich teams that can actually sign the most coveted amateur talent.

From there, Boras clients tend to reject long-term deals that avoid arbitration (the kind of deals like the ones taken by Robinson Cano, et. al.), and once these clients move to free agency, he is known to embellish the dollar figures on competitors' bids. Maybe he just misremembers. But it's hard to believe that any other team was willing to pay anywhere close to $70 million for Nancy Drew.

You'd think Boras's street cred would have faded a bit in the last few years, as he nearly cost a client (Daisuke Matsuzaka) his chance to pitch in the United States, threatening to take him back to the 4-A leagues in Japan. He was blamed for A-Rod's excessive pressure that came with his $252 million contract. He was chastised for undermining the importance of the World Series by announcing that A-Rod was opting out at that point. Despite his client Kenny Rogers telling him he only wanted to pitch for Detroit, Boras started negotiating with other teams against Rogers's will. He is in an ongoing feud with Gary Sheffield, and was left out of the negotiating room when the Yankees and A-Rod worked on the current contract as a result of his behavior detrimental to the franchise and the game of baseball.

Yet Jacoby Ellsbury and Manny Ramirez, after all of this intense negative publicity, still decide to be represented by Boras this offseason. Though to an extent you can't blame them for wanting to make every last dollar they can as major league baseball players, you can blame them for jumping aboard the bandwagon that has, especially recently, disrespected the game of baseball as well as disrespected the interest of its own clients.

Manny said he wants to finish his career in Boston. He lied: He wants to finish his career with the highest bidder.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bonds: "Pat F's Arguments Are Invalid."

Barry Bonds contacted me this morning and let me know that every argument made by my co-author Pat has no credibility and should be thrown out. This is the case because he made a spelling mistake in this post, written on September 27, 2007. Entitled "13 Strait," Pat mis-used the word "strait." Instead, the post should have been entitled "13 Straight" with a "gh" in the middle of it.

Bonds's attorneys have also alerted me that the word "straight" has been spelled without the "gh" on 24 separate occasions over the last year on How Youz Doin Baseball. Therefore, any argument within this blog is rendered useless.

I'm not a lawyer, and neither is Pat (yet), but I feel like a typographical error made in Barry Bonds's indictment, labeling his positive drug test as one administered in November 2001, instead of November 2000, has nothing to do with the validity of the perjury and obstruction of justice charges rendered against Bonds. If anything, Bonds taking drugs in November '00 is more important in his 73-HR campaign, as he was juicing while preparing for the season and working out for longer than he had ever been able to before. This was outlined in Game of Shadows, a book that will be briefly addressed in the Bud Selig Book Club. Of course, nothing is actually read in the Bud Selig Book Club; the Club will just discuss how to pronounce the last name of co-author Mark Fainaru-Wada. But anyway, Barry and his boys are panicking, the way I see it. There's plenty of evidence to throw him in jail.

In other scumbag-related news, it's scumbag vs. scumbag in this Sheffield vs. Boras situation. I can't wait to hear some of the details about this one. It could go either way, because Sheffield says a lot of things about a lot of people being a "bad person." But between Sheffield, A-Rod, and Kenny Rogers, who all hate the guy right now, it could be some very interesting stuff. Obviously, I'm still looking forward to the fall of the Boras dynasty, and I am holding a grudge against Ellsbury for preventing that. Anyway, I'm loving the Sheffield-style threats, talking about how he's the wrong guy to mess with. With Sheffield's level of 'roid rage, I would mess with any rapper except for DMX before I would mess with Gary Sheffield.

Clemens probably shouldn't have lied about the party. Now that there's a kid who has a picture of Clemens at the party, it looks like Clemens is continuing to sink. He's an idiot. Unless he uses the defense that the Talking Goat used.

That's all I got for scumbag commentary. Have a great weekend.

A-Rod's Drug Speculation: Whose fault?

So A-Rod showed up to camp, and making headlines right now would be the guy's responses to performance-enhancing drug speculations, like the ones in Jose Canseco's upcoming book. He said he was tested "nine or ten" times and passed all of them. The "nine or ten" comment would suggest that he had extra tests, meaning he had previously tested positive for greenies.

It's a shame that A-Rod's being bombarded by this kind of criticism. Why can't they just let him get ready? The most important month of the A-Rod season is only six weeks away!

But this is the life of a high-profile, successful baseball player right now. From here on in, tremendous accomplishments by any ballplayer will be thrown into question. Even if a guy is clean. Is there a way to stop this from continuing? Is there a way to end the "steroid era?" Sure is. But guess what? The people who can do something about it aren't doing a single thing. The people at fault here are...well, you could probably tell once you read the author of this post...the commissioner of baseball and the heads of the MLB Players' Association.

Peter Gammons touched base on this last week. So did Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. But currently, when they are talking instead of actually implementing changes, Selig and Fehr are doing a tremendous injustice to every player in the game right now. Unless the officials grab their stuff and implement an effective, progressive drug testing policy instead of hiding behind the collective bargaining agreement, A-Rod, Josh Beckett, and other elite titans like Ryan Howard and Coco Crisp will have all their tremendous achievements looked at with suspicious eyes.

This is not fair to the players. It is not fair to the game. Heck, it's not even fair to the owners--ask the Yankees and Mets how their franchises look as a result of the establishment looking the other way. As I've been saying repeatedly for the past few weeks, everyone is saying that baseball is making tremendous strides to clean up the sport, but without reliable tests--BLOOD TESTS--and the flexibility to change drug testing as new drugs are detected and better tests become available, this stigma will continue to hang above all baseball players whose achievements are extraordinary.

Right now, any baseball player can use HGH and as long as he isn't leaving a paper trail, he will not test positive for HGH. No matter what the effects of HGH, players will be able to use without any accountability, because Don Fehr is standing in the way of blood testing. And as long as players can still use drugs without any accountability, the cloud of suspicion will continue to hang over A-Rod, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, and any elite baseball player.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An OPS+ of 97 Does Not Make You A "Good" Player

That's right, Johnny F. Damon. It makes you below average offensively. Unless you want to argue that your defense made you one of the "good players in the league." You are terrible and a fourth outfielder at best. You and your agent suckered the Yankees into giving you a four-year, $52 million contract, then whined and moaned because the Red Sox made the right decision.

That is, in the opinion of everyone except for the Boston Dirt Dog, who continues to hold his unfair grudge against Coco Crisp. An AP article and a Naples Daily News article continue to uphold the "shadow" I have led a crusade against since last February.

Damon, who was called out this winter by GM Brian Cashman because he showed up at 2007 camp fat and out of shape, is determined to make a big splash in 2008, according to everything I've read coming out of New York today. John Harper of the Daily News chose the best Damon quotes, and also showed the restraint to edit out the "um"s.

"When you talk about the good players in the league now my name hardly comes up, and I don't think that's right", Damon said. Well, let's thing about whether it's right. Barring a hot streak in the last week of the season, Damon's batting average would have been lower than the embattled Crisp, who is likely to lose his job. Damon's home run total was half of his 2006 total. His double total was lower than it was since 1996. His OPS was .747, 15 points under the league average. He has struck out at a much higher rate in the last two years than ever before. And now this guy heralded as an "ironman" can't stay healthy anymore. But somehow he is thinking himself as one of the "good players in the league."

(Note: By comparison, Coco called himself "a guy that's kind of mid-stream.")

NoMaas pointed out a 2005 Herald article where Scott Boras made projections and also made boasts that Damon was better than Rickey Henderson. According to Boras's projections, Damon would reach 3,000 hits by 2012. Now, to do that, he would have to exceed 179 hits per year in the next five years. He has exceeded that mark three times.

And seeing that Damon is not only not one of the best players in the league anymore, but probably the fifth most productive OF/1B guy on his own team, he probably shouldn't be seeing anywhere close to the number of at-bats to get him near 3000 hits.

Damon is really proving the Red Sox wrong after talking about how badly he had been disrespected when the team only offered him $10 million a year. He's been running his mouth more than running the bases, and if he hadn't talked about how disrespected he was for two years straight, the paper industry could have saved a lot of wood on newspapers and instead used it for their emotions toward Jacoby Ellsbury.

Not only is Johnny F. lazy, failing to commit to working out in the offseason--even this year (he's four pounds lighter than last season. That's like saying Schilling is four pounds lighter than last season), but he is also delusional. He probably doesn't deserve a starting job in the major leagues. Arrogance like the "F" comment and the comments he's making in the paper today should be reserved to players who aren't awful at baseball.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fastest Member vs. Seasoned Veteran

As the only guy in Boston who will continue to defend Coco Crisp like most people defend Larry Bird, I kind of want to hibernate and blog about only steroids until April. Because the dominant storyline of this spring in Fort Myers is probably going to be the center field controversy and the battle between Crisp, whose dad once called him the "Fastest Member of Red Sox Nation," and Jacoby Ellsbury, who is a "Seasoned Veteran of 33 Major League Games."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize who Red Sox fans want in center field. They have held an unfair and unnecessary grudge against Coco Crisp since June 13, 2006 because he went 0-6, struck out twice, grounded into a double play, and officially proved that his name was not Johnny Damon. This grudge, of course, was because he happened to be the guy who replaced Johnny Damon. Damon was and still is the best centerfielder and possibly baseball player to ever step on a diamond, if you ask Red Sox fans. He's also a potential Nobel Prize winner, Harvard valedictorian, eloquent speaker, and award-winning nonfiction writer for his "Idiot" memoir. I feel like I've written about this before. But somehow Coco Crisp has been vilified in Boston even more than JD Drew, despite being a better hitter, better fielder, and making about 1/3 of the money.

In the age of websites, blogs, and unprecedented hype regarding stuff that is not only happening in Boston, but also here at the AA Affiliate, everyone knew what kind of performances first-round draft pick Jacoby Ellsbury was putting up about fifty feet away from where I'm blogging. People were talking more about what was happening at the AA Affiliate than they were talking about the torrid summer Coco Crisp had, hitting .357 and posting an OPS of .978 between June 18 and August 3rd despite being injured for the middle part of that stretch. Actually, there was only one blog that was documenting this hot streak instead of talking about Ellsbury taking two bases on a wild pitch.

Of course, as the story goes, the hot streak ended, Ellsbury played a good September, and he eventually replaced Crisp in the lineup at the end of the 2007 postseason. He stole a base in Game 2, resulting in free tacos, and both fans and media have more wood than the Amazon for this guy. These are the same fans who had wood for Michael Bishop, and said that his "spark" should be in the quarterback's position over Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady. Steve Buckley said this offseason that Ellsbury might become a Hall of Famer. He based this off of 33 games. Buckley also wrote a column about the CF controversy this morning as well as an article about how Crisp doesn't want to ride pine all year.

If people were to judge players by their first 33 games in the major leagues, Dustin Pedroia would be at Guantanamo Bay right now. The same kind of turnaround could happen to Ellsbury. He's played a month in the major leagues, and yes, he's been good. To his credit, the rookie said that if Crisp deserves the job, he should get it. But Red Sox fans should stop acting like Ellsbury will hit .350 all season and there should be no question as to who should play center field on this team.

Coco Crisp is a good Major League baseball player, both offensively and defensively. On Boston.com, he raised a good point: "I think I proved myself that I can win healthy and shown that my defense is way better than what people thought. People think that my offense is terrible. Now it's time to show them that my offense really isn't." If Crisp doesn't get a legitimate shot at the job, it's an absolute bag job. He deserves more than a courtesy shot at the job, and if he doesn't get it, he should absolutely be moved to land a starting role somewhere else.

Like in right field for the Red Sox.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eric Con-Yay and Pettitte

I believe that it was Bandi who just said that Pettitte not acting like a "complete dickhead" his entire career" helped his case big time. You could say the same about Brewers' reliever Eric Gagne, who has been pretty reviled in this blog--mostly because Red Sox fans are a significant part of the population on HYD Baseball. But there was an LA Times article written this summer (can't find it anymore) about how fans in LA like to indict Barry Bonds (no pun intended) but want to live in ignorant bliss when it came to Gagne because he was such a nice guy.

Yesterday, of course, was when things changed a little bit. Pettitte came clean (though Bronx raises great points in Pat's last post), and Gagne used the Giambi Defense, apologizing for the "distraction" he caused by being named in the Mitchell Report two days after signing an unconscionable one-year, $10 million contract with the Brewers. Pettitte signed his $16 million deal with the Yankees one day before the Mitchell Report dropped.

This is what I want to address first. I think that if the teams didn't know that these guys were going to be in the Mitchell Report, they were ripped off. Kevin Baxter of the LA Times wrote that Brewers GM Doug Melvin "was aware of Gagne's background" and "has no regrets" for shelling out $10 million on this guy. Two main things stem from this:
>The idea that MLB executives are opposed to signing juice guys, even after the Mitchell Report painted Theo Epstein in a pretty bad light, is false. They are not helping clean the sport up. Obviously the big wigs aren't either, but GMs are welcoming these guys with open arms.
>I said back in December when the deal was signed that Gagne did nothing all year to warrant a $10 million contract, and that he got it through his reputation built in 2003 and 2004. If Melvin knew that this reputation was built on fraud, he's an absolute idiot for signing him to this kind of contract.
>Boras wanted to rush as fast as he could to con a team into signing Eric Gagne before his market value plummeted on December 13th. And Melvin was stupid enough to actually bite.

On to Pettitte. I echo a lot of the things that Pat wrote about him. I also wouldn't be surprised if he's still not telling the whole truth, as he's backpedaled from his original admission. As Bronx pointed out, why would he do HGH again if he didn't like it the first time?

Pettitte was also pretty obvious about what he thought about Clemens. "Read my deposition" is pretty much like saying "he did it, that's what I said, I'm not backpedaling on that." Good for Pettitte for actually commenting on that.

Pettitte also said he wasn't cheating by trying to get an edge on other players. I heard this somewhere else, I don't remember where, but it's true: He was absolutely cheating, even if you use his story. By using, he gained an edge on any other player who was trying to recover clean. Same goes for Rodney Harrison. It's absolutely cheating.

And, oh, by the way, it's still doing something that is against the law. It also means that poor old Mr. Pettitte with the heart problems was a drug dealer.

For my closing statement for the day, I have to go back to Gagne. Gagne said, "since 2004, Major League Baseball has done everything in their power to clean up the game...they've done a great job."

That's a blatant lie even more than the ones coming from Clemens's mouth. Or maybe he just misremembered how badly MLB and MLBPA are continuing the prolification of performance-enhancing drug use.

Yahhh Trick Yahhh!

That title is just extending the Curt Schilling/Shoulder Boy thing. Yahhh is no Crank That, but, as you can see here, it is another sure-thing classic.

Schilling addressed the media (and by the media I mean he refused to talk to the Globe...a move I'd say has to do at least 30% with Curly-Haired Boyfriend) in the parking lot yesterday regarding his shoulder, and he finally answered the most important question: how his shoulder health deteriorated between the time he signed the $8 million contract and the time he announced he would miss nearly half the season.

He started working out, already fatigued. He attributed that to being old. He kept working out, and soon he couldn't throw anymore, saying his shoulder hurt like a "toothache" even when he was just sitting around. If that's how he got hurt, I have no problem with that. It doesn't look like he was defrauding the team. After all, he did pass the Red Sox physical (as questionable as it might be) and had an MRI.

I understand that he would never want to just flat-out retire and surrender his $8 million, but I still think him having his surgery, calling it a career, restoring his health for his life after baseball, and getting an early start to the other things he's clearly interested in (38 Studios) would be the best for both parties. The Red Sox would no longer have to worry about whether Schilling can be effective in the second half of the season instead of pulling a 2005, and can plan in a concrete way to move their pitching staff forward.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thoughts on AP's Press Conference

If you're a Yankees fan, and aren't worried about the way in which the steroids/HGH situation may affect the way Andy Pettitte pitches in 2008, you're crazy. The Yankees need Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang to do what they do in order to make the playoffs. Whether or not they make the playoffs, and what they do if and when they get there, depends on the Big Three. But the almost certainly can't do anything without AP and CMW being horses. Having an issue such as steroids/HGH swirling around someone of this magnitude, especially someone who has a history of being sensitive to public scrutiny, is not a good thing.

Today didn't tell us everything, but it told us something. And that something is a good sign for the New York Yankees. Andy Pettitte wants to pitch. I know he wants to pitch because he sat on that stage today prepared to take full responsibility for his actions, which he did. As he said, he doesn't need the money, and he certainly doesn't need all of this attention, most of which is negative. But he is up there taking it, and he wouldn't do so if he didn't want to move on, move on so he could pitch and pitch to win.

I didn't know how he was going to handle this, but if today was any indication, he is going to be more than okay from a mental standpoint. Assuming his physical tools are similar to what he had last year, the mental part of this is all that is going to matter for him. It looks promising. Having his manager, general manager, and most importantly his teammates and long time friends Jeter, Mo, and Posada in attendance only adds to that promise, as his support network is going to be large.

I have to admit my curiosity about Andy Pettitte was primarily selfish before today. I couldn't wait to get a read on his mental state so I could make an initial judgement on whether or not I could mark him down for at least 200 innings and 15 wins, per usual. After today, I will say that I can. I may be wrong, but that is the impression I got.

But as I step back and get off the selfish train, I feel good today because I think AP is okay, personally. He made a bad choice, but his choice was no better or worse than the thousands of other players who were (and still are) using PED's. He has to deal with it, 98% of others don't. But he appears to be dealing with this just fine, and appears to have a great perspective as to where baseball, and his wrongful decision to use PED's, fits into the larger context of his life, and that's great. In fact, that's most important.

Andy Pettitte is a good guy that made a big mistake. Being a good guy doesn't make that mistake any more forgivable. However, making that mistake doesn't make AP any less of a good guy. Further, he is taking a fall for the mistakes of thousands, and he is doing it like a man, with honesty, and without complaint. Commendable, to say the least, and a ray of hope that baseball can clean this mess up.

Getting paid to make the wrong f'ing decisions

SI Truth and Rumors writes that Captain Intangible is looking for a four-year contract extension. Good God. It cites this Boston Globe article that references Varitek smiling at the mention of Jorge Posada's lucrative four-year deal. A four-year deal to a catcher who's turning 36 in two months? You already know how I feel about this, and I realize that if you decide to read on, it's just to see what kind of sarcastic remarks I can make about it.

First, let's examine the differences between Posada, who got the four-year deal, and Varitek, who probably doesn't deserve a four-day deal:

-Posada hit .338 last season, including .395 after September 1st. Varitek hit .255, including .222 after September 1st. Posada's OPS+ was 154; Varitek's was a pedestrian 103.
-Posada's career low batting average is NOT .238. His career low OPS is not .725. His career lows have not been as recently as 2006.
-Posada's team does not have a huge, expendible trading chip (Coco Crisp) that can be easily used to acquire a catching replacement that can be big-league-ready by 2009.
-Over the last four seasons, Posada strikes out every 4.97 at-bats. Captain Intangible strikes out every 3.83 at-bats.
-Posada's agents are the Levinson brothers (the same as Mike Lowell); Varitek's agent is Scott Boras (the same as Nancy Drew).
-Posada has less deadweight on the field, as he realizes this is not hockey and therefore wearing a "C" on your uniform is as stupid as wearing 47 pieces of flair on your uniform. Posada also has never punched anybody while wearing his mask.

Honestly, if I were a real GM and I wanted an antique catcher who hits .210 on my roster for the next four years, at least Doug Mirabelli would give a reasonable asking price. Jim Leyritz might actually be a better deal for the next four years than Varitek. Yup, I went there.

But yes, I do expect the Red Sox to ignore another year of horrific offensive production and poor handling of Matsuzaka's repertoire (hence the name of this post) in the name of intangibles. I predict they do indeed sign Varitek to a multi-year deal, then have a press conference unveiling the yellow, soccer-style "Captain" armband Varitek will add to his uniform in 2009.

You do get paid to make those f'ing decisions

Such as..."couch vs. gym." Maybe because it's what I do myself, but I find that there's no excuse for athletes to ever show up to spring training out of shape. Last year, I ripped Schilling big time for showing up 20-30 pounds overweight, and Schilling said skipping workouts all winter contributed to his being injured in the late spring. Of course, that late spring injury is what he's battling right now.

Of course, a story that has gotten a lot of mileage this week (probably because there is nothing to talk about at Red Sox camp) is Josh Beckett's gut. Maybe the guy didn't gain as much weight as Schilling, but I don't understand how (unless you're David Wells) you get a gut over the course of an off-season. Did he just make the f'ing decision of couch over gym? You're a professional athlete, and there shouldn't even be a decision to be made. Maybe Beckett just hasn't been running, and has done all the workouts he's supposed to be doing. But if he actually did show up out of shape, with a noticeable drop in his production, that's inexcusable behavior.

The "f'ing decisions" terminology is a reference to this, which deserves a place alongside Bill Parcells and Bob Knight in the press conference hall of fame.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Papelbon Getting His Patriot On

Oh, I love this.

From the lips of the Red Sox closer. "If we're not the team to beat, I'd like to know who is." Okay, no argument here.

Then we get this gem. "I think that our No. 1 thing is to stay healthy. If we do that, I don't really know who can compete with us."

Wow! And really? This sounds a lot like "The Giants have a false sense of confidence from Week 17", and "23-17? I wish he would have at least given us some credit for scoring a few points, like 44-41 or something" (again Tom, he gave you too much credit, you zero).

I live for this stuff from an opposing team. This isn't confidence. This is arrogance. The AL is tougher than ever, with the Tigers, Yankees, and Mariners all making themselves potentially a lot better. And all Papelbon is worried about is health? When the team blew a 14.5 game lead due to a MULTITUDE of issues and limped into the playoffs? Health? That's it? How quick they forget.

One thing I always respected about the 1996-2001 Yankees, was that even though they were one of the best teams ever assembled, they always seemed modest and focused on the next task at hand. Sheffield and Company would do otherwise in later years, but I never considered them true Yankees, or winners for that matter. I think Red Sox fans consider Papelbon both, and I do too.

Papelbon has every right to be confident. His team won the World Series. But it was one World Series, and it is baseball, where the team that gets hottest for three weeks wins. That is no reason to be stupid with "I don't know who can compete with us." Much like the Pats were stupid leading up to the Super Bowl. It worked out well for one Boston team, I hope it works out just as well for the other. They deserve it for this kind of arrogant garbage.

I'ma stay druggin til the Feds come get me!

Who had a worse day Thursday: Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds? Turns out Bonds did indeed test positive for steroids, in 2000. (The fact that it was initially reported as 2001 is making bigger headlines than the fact that he tested positive is where all the headlines are turning, and that doesn't make any sense to me.) This test was two years before MLB started its random testing.

The label on the test says "BARRY B," so I am assuming, after reading Game of Shadows, that this test was evidence seized from the BALCO labs. Right now it is notable that Bud Selig probably doesn't understand what's going on because he doesn't read materials relevant to the well-being of his sport. I mean, a lot of these things were already well-documented within that book, and maybe that's why it's not capturing any more headlines. But I'd say there is stuff all over that book and all over that lab that can land Barry Bonds in jail. I'm still surprised that it took so long for the Feds to indict Bonds.

The one person who is hopefully reading these smaller headlines should be Clemens. Bonds is in big trouble, being defiant the entire time. Clemens is heading down the same road, except at this point Clemens doesn't have such an extensive evidence trail.

They're talking about how President Bush might pardon Clemens if he were to be convicted or indicted for perjury. But (for the first time in maybe a month) the talking heads on ESPN First Take had a good point: If cleaning up baseball was important enough to be part of George W's State of the Union speech, his relationship with Clemens might not be strong enough to undermind his entire "let's clean up sports" credibility. If being the owner of the Rangers during the Jose Canseco era didn't do that already.

Just realized this post doesn't have too much substance. So I'll leave you with this good one from Jason Whitlock.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nobody likes you when you're 23

Happy birthday Pat F. I haven't checked his Facebook, but I'm pretty sure he's 23.

That said, on to baseball. In non-steroid news, I read on Replacement Level that Chien-Ming Wang will not get a long-term deal with the Yankees this year. Why I read more Yankee blogs than Red Sox blogs is beyond me, but that is besides the point. The Replacement Level author doesn't blame the Yankees, and neither do I. We discussed this briefly when Cano was signed to a long-term deal, with most Yankee fans supporting keeping Wang for many years.

Maybe they're tired of this "statistical anomaly" thing, with Wang being largely a product of luck according to sabermetricians. Maybe they think he will command a big-money contract when he reaches free agency instead of arbitration. Or maybe they "misremembered" his troubling performances against Cleveland in the 2007 ALDS.

I'd say it is very difficult to value Chien-Ming Wang in the long-term right now. For all the reasons that have already been discussed, and then some:

>Obviously, as the sabermetricians say, Wang is a ground ball pitcher. He doesn't strike people out. If a guy gives up a lot of ground balls, some of those ground balls will get through the infield. In the last few years, however, those ground balls have found the Yankee infielders' gloves. Sabermetricians would say that he is bound to have some of those balls not bounce his way.
>Wang missed a significant chunk of the 2005 season with shoulder problems.
>Wang sucked really badly in the ALDS, calling into question his mentality in big games.

It makes no sense for the Yankees to commit long-term to a guy who has all these question marks. Why not wait another year to see how this career will play out. If he has another stellar season, maybe there is a flaw in the sabermetric models, and they can value Wang with a larger sample size and pay him accordingly. Again, it's hard right now to figure out what this guy is worth. If he has a crappy year and doesn't live up to his "ace" billing, the Yankees can sleep at night, remembering they're not stuck with a stiff for the next six years or so.

Plus, as I wrote earlier, I'm not arguing that Wang is not one of the best pitchers in the league, okay? But I am arguing that because of those three major concerns (health, sabermetrics, ALDS), other teams will not want to commit big money and big years on Chien-Ming Wang. The Yankees don't need to sign Wang early before he becomes unaffordable. He will always be affordable.

So, in closing, a good, cautious move by the Yankees.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Certifiable Idiot

This hearing is really ugly as it goes into lunch break. So much squirming. So many people taking sides. Attacks on McNamee. Clemens and friends tampering with a witness. Talking about whether a nanny was at a party. Telling Clemens that he's going to heaven. It's so stupid. Here is the stuff that should be addressed, instead of this Clemens witch hunt:

On Tuesday, John Rocker told an Atlanta radio station that he used steroids in 2000, that Bud Selig knew about it, and that the Texas Rangers' organization and the MLB Players' Association advised him, April O'Neil, and others on how to take illegal drugs safely. Yikes. Of course, nobody's going to remember this, because those jackasses are talking about nannies on Capitol Hill. The real people to blame are continuing to slither away.

According to Rocker, Selig "didn't do anything about it." He later said that "Bud Selig is a clown. he should do the world a favor and kill himself. He is a certifiable idiot." Can you really disagree with Rocker?

On this topic, union chief Gene Orza refused comment to the AP about his organization's doctors telling players how to juice. Of course he did. There are lots more important people with stuff to hide than Roger Clemens. These are the guys who should have been disciplining players for using illegal drugs. These are the guys who should have been protecting clean players. These are the guys who looked the other way, and the guys who are rolling in the cash even more than Roger Clemens is. Roger Clemens (assuming he's guilty) only did what he had to do to retain the edge. It's guys like Selig, Orza, and Fehr who should really be going to jail--for conspiracy relating to drug trafficking. I draw no distinction between these guys and Tony Montana. Except for how Tony always told the truth, even when he lied.

Update: Here is another NY Daily News article that gives more detail about how one of the doctors was an MLB doctor. Of course, medical directors for both the MLB and the MLBPA didn't want to talk.

One of the only relevant things I heard in the last 3 1/2 hours in this hearings is related to the story of David Cone taking responsibility for the steroid scandal, as he was a player representative to the MLBPA. Good for him: His union bosses would never do that. In the hearings, I heard that Cone said the owners and commissioner wanted an excuse not to test for steroids and HGH. They're the ones who deserve "oversight and reform" from this committee. It's about this whole high-profile industry, not just what one guy did.

But it's Roger Clemens who's taking the fall here. Should Roger Clemens be disciplined? Yeah, probably. But the people who should really be thrown under the bus are the Major League owners, the Major League Baseball Players' Association, its chief Donald Fehr, and Commissioner Bud Selig.

Missing the Point

I am starting this post as the Congressional juice hearings start on the TV behind me in the AA Affiliate's ticket office. I'm going to hope that it will not turn into a "stream of consciousness/live blog" of the hearings, but I'm bound to have some interjections (not injections). So bear with me.

These new hearings are apparently all about high-profile accusations of inaccuracies in the Mitchell Report. If that is true (and obviously it is, because Knoblauch isn't there, Pettitte isn't there, Radomski isn't there), these idiot Congressmen are totally missing the point. These hearings are about whether or not Roger Clemens juiced himself up. And that is a waste of time, attention, and taxpayer money. It's also diverting attention to what the Mitchell Report was supposed to be addressing.

The Mitchell Report painted a picture of the anatomy of the drug ring around Major League Baseball. If used effectively, officials--either within baseball or within the government--would use this information, find out how and why baseball players used steroids, and create disincentives to using steroids. Including suspensions, heavy fines (to take away the financial incentives), asterisks, effective drug testing for HGH and other drugs, and so forth. Instead, the report has become about who did it, specifically Roger Clemens. With the possible (possible!) exception of Congressman Davis of Virginia, they are more intent on taking down a superstar for what happened in the past than they are intent on fixing the steroid problem.

They're talking about whether Debbie Clemens took HGH. I'm not sure what Debbie Clemens has to do with fixing the drug problem in baseball. This latest round of hearings is a witch hunt. It's about McNamee vs. Clemens, it's about Clemens palling around with Congressmen. Somewhere Don Fehr is smiling because he can continue resisting HGH testing, "protecting" his dirty players at the expense of his clean ones. (More on him later.)

Also reprehensible here is the fact that prosecuting Clemens is falling into the lap of Congressional investigators, and that it is coming to the point that he's going to be thrown in jail for perjury. The person who should be responsible for disciplining baseball players who break the rules would be the Commissioner of Baseball, Mr. Bud Selig. But it has already been proven again and again that Selig is interested in actually doing his job (as opposed to patting himself on the back) just about as much as the Colby College Security Department is interested in doing their own jobs.

The news about Mrs. Clemens this week was obviously the biggest juice-related news story of the week. The story that should have been the biggest story was something different. More on that in my next post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rivalry Pitching: First Edition 2008

It has been a while since we had one of these, and with all of the new developments, now is as good a time as any for the first of the 2008 season.

There has been much chatter about the rotations of both teams on this blog lately, and rightfully so. Between Schilling and the issue of the 600 or so innings the Yankees need to get from three kids with innings limits and a question mark in Mike Mussina, there is a lot to talk about for the teams every 2008 simulation likes on paper to be the top two teams in baseball.

To that end, it has become more and more evident that not just the Yankees, but Red Sox, will be relying on kids this year. Kids with a lot of talent and potential. Kids with innings limits and unknowns.

As I said at some point back in November or December, the AL East, at least in my eyes, is not a forgone conclusion. The Red Sox are the team to beat, being that they are defending division and World Series champs, but that doesn't mean they will win it, because the Yankees have a good team again, probably more competitive over 162 than last year's club. And last year's club lost the East by two games. But after being ice cold, the Sox got hot at the right time, and the rest is history.

That was with Schilling. Some may disagree, but I'm of the mind that losing Schilling matters. At the very least, it puts the Sox in a less comfortable position with Jon Lester and ESPECIALLY Clay Buccholz, just like the Yankees with Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain For both sides it could go great, it could go terribly wrong, but most importantly, it could go just good or bad enough with one or more of the young arms to impact who wins and loses the AL East by a nose (or more).

So I'd like to throw this out there to DV and all of our readers/commenters (the comments section in the last two weeks has been better than ever...people are ready for baseball!): knowing how important the Yankees Big Three and Lester and Buccholz are now going to be to the 2008 season, in what order would you select the pitchers to pitch for you in 2008? And how about for the next decade?

My lists:

2008:
1. Ian Kennedy
2. Phil Hughes
3. Jon Lester
4. Joba Chamberlain/Clay Buchholz

The next decade:
1. Phil Hughes
2. Joba Chamberlain/Clay Buchholz
3. Ian Kennedy
4. Jon Lester

Let's try to focus on 2008, because beyond, we just don't know, even more than we don't know for 2008. I'm really interested to get everyone's thoughts for this season. My assessment is honest. If I could choose one pitcher from that group for the 2008 regular season, to help the Yankees win the East, it would be Ian Kennedy. It's a combination of innings readiness, poise, and consistency more than anything.

Your thoughts? Would you take Ian Kennedy (or one of the other two) over the Red Sox guys if you're a Boston fan? Would you take Buchholz or Lester over all three of the Big Three if you're a New York Fan?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Shoulder Boy Up In This Ohhh!

Yikes. Not very good news on Curt Schilling's shoulder. I don't even know where to start. There are a lot of things to address, including Schilling's contract, the Red Sox trying to void said contract, the causes of this injury, surgery, and whether Schilling should retire. Shuffling the pitching staff is something that can be tackled another time. Same with Schilling's HOF candidacy.

First, I want to talk about the causes of this injury. Obviously, I'm not a doctor. Even if I was, I'm still not Schilling's doctor. So I know nothing. But I still can't help to wonder if it had something with the fact that Schilling was flat-out lazy during the winter of 2006-7. Schilling before had taken responsibility for showing up to camp out of shape last year and that it contributed to him not being healthy for the entire season. And for that I say good for him.

That said, if that has any bearing on him becoming injured this seriously, I'm pissed. Not at anything new. But because he was putting baseball on the back burner. He was getting paid $13 million last year to keep himself in shape, but instead he was sitting on his computer for countless hours, working on 38 Studios and 38pitches.com. That is not acceptable behavior. And maybe now he's paying for it.

Also, it's weird because in his most recent post on 38 Pitches, Schilling talks about how things "changed" between the end of the season and when this shoulder news broke. What happened? I'm curious.

Also in this most recent post, Schilling said that he passed all of the Red Sox' physicals, despite going through what he went through during the "entire 2007 season." Nothing new there. The Red Sox kinda love to acquire guys after giving them incomplete, perfunctory, or nonexistent physicals (and Mota's not the only example). It's called not being negligent and throwing around millions of dollars on damaged goods. Goodness gracious. How could the Red Sox not try to void this contract. I'm not sure if it has something to do with Schilling keeping a dirty little secret during his heartfelt dance with the franchise and the first-person electronic media or what. But if there was a communication breakdown, shame on Schilling. Either way, shame on the Red Sox medical staff for not knowing better in the first place. It's the 21st century; you'd think they could detect a tear in Schilling's shoulder.

Finally, what should Schilling do? The guy is 41 years old. He has a whole life ahead of him outside of baseball. If not having surgery means he's going to live with a kinda-busted shoulder for the rest of the life, he should have surgery, miss the entire season, and retire. His Presidential running mate already has problems lifting his arms. Schilling shouldn't be subject to that too. This is what respected doctors, including the guy who operated on him before, say: Have surgery. Obviously, the Red Sox want him to skip surgery and try to get a few more innings out of Schilling's busted arm before it falls off.

And that's stupid. Remember how well Schilling did last time he missed half a season trying to rehab a critical injury? I don't expect the Red Sox to be so far ahead in the AL East to start experimenting with this kind of crap again.

Plus, in the last year or two, has Schilling's attention been divided away from baseball in a big way? You bet it has. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But he's doing all this video game stuff, and he's devoting a lot of his time to it. He's planning hard on making 38 Studios a very successful business. Why not have shoulder surgery, retire, and give that process a bit of a head start.

Finally, Schilling retiring would be the right thing to do. Making the Red Sox pay $8+ million for half a season of shaky performances is ripping off the organization--an organization with whom he has a tremendous relationship and for whom he has tremendous respect. Schilling is not Albert Belle. He's much better than that. If he really loves the city and organization as he has said on his blog and elsewhere, it would be best for him to retire. He's been an integral part of the history of this team. Nothing can take that away from him. His 2007 season, after I for one wrote him off completely, was an underrated ballsy performance. But at this point, it would be best to ride off into the sunset.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to HYD Baseball. One year ago today, DV wrote the first post letting everyone know what to expect. Hope it has been enjoyable for everyone. It has been awesome for me.

Quick note, Joel Sherman had a great article on Brian Cashman in yesterday's post, comparing he and long time, and recently retired, Giants GM Ernie Accorsi (It's funny that one year in I still don't know/am too lazy to learn how to link. I'm sure it takes two seconds. UPDATE: The article is available here.). I won't bore everyone by recapping it here, because you can just read the article, and it is well, well, well worth the read.

But one quote I have to point out. In regards to his long term philosophy on building a baseball team, Cashman says, "You want to make sure it is sustainable for the next person."

In a sporting world where team execs are under incredible pressure (especially in the Bronx), and often make moves to save their jobs, a comment like this from Cashman, backed up by actions, is truly impressive. Entering the last year of his contract, and with increased scrutiny from HankSteinJr., it would be easy for Cashman to try to make the 2008 team as good as it can be, regardless of the price the Yankees, and likely another GM, will pay in the future.

He could have easily either packaged or traded seperately Yankees prospects to fill the rotation with Johan Santana and Dan Haren (yes, both). Santana, Haren, Wang, Pettitte. He could have had that roatation, and with relative ease. Never mind it would have cost him Phil, Joba, IPK, Betances, Horne, Marquez, McCutchen, White, Melancon, and Melky to do it. Who cares about them. Santana, Haren, and Pettitte in the playoffs? Cashman will be back in 2009.

But Cashman doesn't care about him being back in 2009. At least not as the most important thinig. He says as much in the article, talking about the responsibility he feels to Yankees fans, and to win long term. This is a truly remarkable and admirable thing. Caring about the team more than your job? Can you imagine?

The Mets wish they had that when Duquette sent Kazmir packing to try to save his job for Victor Zambrano (the deal stunk and he lost his job anyway). Countless other teams undoubtedly wish they had a type like this when their GM made a bonehead move to save his job.

The Yankees have Cashman now. I like Cashman more and more by the day, but I haven't always been this way. It may come across that way on this site, but really I was always up and down with Cash. Until he started buiding like he is building now. Regardless, like him or not, you cannot discredit that he has the team's best interest at heart, and that is awesome. He would rather set them up to win long term, at some other GM's gain, than win now at his own. That is a tough quality to find in an era where GM's are constantly looking to save their jobs with move that don't make sense even six months down the line. Not Cash. He wants to dominate long term. Not win, dominate. I'm glad we have him and this quality this year, and hope we have him and it for many more to come.

Angelina: Billy Bob Did Steroids

Honestly, how messed up can you possibly be if you keep bloody gauze pads for eight years? When Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie wore each other's blood around their necks, they were generally considered crazy out of their freakin' minds. Which is true.

But that is nothing compared to the reports that Brian McNamee kept syringes and bloody gauze pads from the times he injected Roger Clemens with the juice, especially if those occasions ended 7 1/2 years ago. McNamee's credibility took a pretty big dive here, continuing the trend of "every time I make a move, I'm going to make myself look worse and worse." Both parties have done that pretty well.

If McNamee actually did keep this stuff and it's legit, he pretty clearly had it out for Clemens for a long, long time. If not, he's just one really f'ed up dude. But if he had it out for Clemens so badly that he would keep bloody gauze pads for seven and a half years, he would also have it out for Clemens so much that he would plant false evidence to get the pitcher in trouble. I have been pretty convinced all along that Clemens is guilty and that he's stamping his own ticket to jail by continuing to deny these charges. Everything that he's said, ESPECIALLY the taped phone conversation with McNamee, has proved his innocence just about as well as "If I Did It" proved OJ's innocence.

I still think he did it, but this makes things a lot more interesting. And a lot more screwed up.

In other Clemens-related news, I still don't know why the heck he decided to keep denying steroid use to Congress. It has to be one of three things: 1) he's stupid and he is willing to go to jail, denying these allegations for years and years like Pete Rose and undoubtely Barry Bonds, 2) he doesn't think there is enough evidence to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that he was juicing, or 3) he didn't do it. Option 2 is probably the most realistic, and a theory I've heard a few times is that these hearings have been postponed because he feels that way but his lawyers don't. They keep telling him to admit it, and he keeps on refusing. Call it Option 1 1/2. When these hearings finally happen, it's going to be some ugly stuff going on in Washington.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday...Again

I am not religious, but Ash Wednesday is now a big deal after giving up bashing Coco Crisp for Lent last year. Today is Ash Wednesday again, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do (it's not giving up bashing Nancy Drew, because he is still terrible). But my Lenten promise to stop bashing him was an eye-opening experience. I realized how much of a bad rap the guy got in Boston, and--though it was hard some times--I defended him when nobody else was.

I said the day before Ash Wednesday last year that the problem I always had with Coco was because he was going to keep Jacoby Ellsbury out of a job. It made no sense in the first place for the Red Sox to sign him to a long-term deal with Ellsbury being drafted in the first round at age 22. Since then, Coco got cold, hot, and really cold while Ellsbury got white-hot then became dead to me.

Conversely, the reason everyone else hated on Coco Crisp, notably one prominent alternative media outlet in Boston, was because he wasn't Johnny Damon. That is bogus.

Now a year has gone by and the organization, the AA Affiliate, and the fans are all in love with Ellsbury, who has spent as much time on a Major League roster as Sam Militello (Bronx, that reference is for you). He will almost certainly win the starting CF job, and Crisp, who can start for at least 2/3 of the teams in this league, said he would not be happy with a backup role. The Red Sox just re-signed backup OF Bobby Kielty, so that is an indication that my boy is gonna get traded.

Important things to figure out here: What is his trade value? With whom is his trade value worth the most? In return for a serviceable CF who, at least in my opinion, is still very much a work in progress, as his swing was being adjusted all year long, what can they get? After further research, the answer is probably not catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia anymore. I must have missed the headlines over the holiday, but the Rangers traded for big bat/former Red/drug addict Josh Hamilton to fill their center field void. But Hamilton is also not exactly a seasoned vet, having played 90 games in his major league career.

In a Jerry Crasnick chat on ESPN.com this week, an emailer wondered whether the Red Sox could get Mariners catching prospect Jeff Clement, who put up sick stats in AAA Tacoma, for Crisp. Straight up, the answer is hell no. But if memory serves me right, the Red Sox do have a pitching prospect who grew up an M's fan in Seattle. If this solves next year's catching dilemma and finds a logical place for Crisp to start. You gotta think he's a better asset than Brad Wilkerson's .234/20/62.

Other possibilities that have been thrown around include the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland A's. I hope that one of these teams would give the Red Sox something for this guy, because he will definitely be able to make an offensive impact on either team in addition to the obvious defensive benefits. But the Cubs...you could say their minor league system is less than stellar. The A's have a mid-level catching prospect in Landon Powell, ranked by scout.com as the #7 catching prospect in the minors.

I will continue to defend Crisp, and by doing so, I am hoping that the Red Sox can put together a very beneficial deal with Crisp. Wherever he goes (except maybe Minnesota), Crisp is lucky in the fact that he won't get the raw deal he got in Boston.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Champions Recap

There is a lot to say, and I'm not going to cover it all, so let's start with this. February 3, 2008, from now on marks one of the most special days in the history of New York sports. Teams like the 2007 Patriots don't go to the Super Bowl to lose. At least that is what the history of the NFL would tell us. Teams that good finish it off. And they were good, one of the best ever.

But the Giants just would not have it, pulling off one of the great, if not greatest, upsets the Super Bowl has ever seen. And they didn't steal it. They dominated the football game. It would have been great either way, as wins are wins are wins are wins, and I'm as big an advocate of that as you'll find. But dominating the game the way the Giants did, leaving everyone with the feeling that if Brady to Moss had ended the game the Pats would have been the ones stealing it, makes it all the more special.

Simply put, the show the Giants defensive line put on last night was one of the greatest performances you will ever see, any sport. Spags is a genius, but a lot of that was just wanting it more. From Strahan to Tuck to Osi to Alford (who I played high school hoops against many a time, and who delivered the final bone crunching blow to Brady), they were the key to the game. Brady was lost for all but one magnificent drive in the fourth quarter, and even then he wasn't able to do anything special, just simple. Simple doesn't win the Super Bowl.

Special does. And that was Eli Manning. While the defense was incredible, the Giants didn't win this game because of them. If not for Eli, the Giants defense gave up the game winning drive, Brady to Moss, like many thought they would. Eli wouldn't have it. Just would not have it. That is why his name now exists only with Montana as quarterbakcs to throw two TDs in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl and win, and only with Broadway Joe and Phil Sims as New York quarterbacks who win the big one.

He needed lots of help, as any quarterback does, and he got it. But he put the game winning drive together. When it mattered most. On the biggest stage. That's what great quarterbacks do. And Eli Manning, now, after last night, after this entir e playoffs, is great. One of the best in the NFL. Tremendous move by Ernie Accorsi making the move on Draft Day 2004 to get him. The Giants would not have won this game last night with any other quarterback in that draft.

The Patriots, quite frankly, were not the same Patriots we have seen in previous years going into this game. Comments like "The Giants have a false sense of confidence" and "I wish he would have given us some credit for scoring more points" (actually Tom, he have you too much credit, you loser) rang out all week. That isn't for the 18-0 team. At least it shouldn't be. That should be for the underdog with a chip on their shoulder. The team that is 18-0, one game away from being the best ever, shuts up and plays. Not these Patriots.

The fans were in a similar boat. You expect talking, but I had never seen anything like this. Patriot fans, to a person, were POSITIVE they were winning this game. So much so they didn't even come out and say it in most instances. They just sort of laughed when talking about this game. Even when trying to act like the Pats could lose, you could tell they were sure they were winning.

Bad. Bad. Bad for them. Good for me, good for New York. Shutting down 2nd Avenue until the wee hours of the morning, buying beers for people I didn't know and getting beers bought for me by people I didn't know, watching the highlights on repeat with my boys in the bar and cheering like they were just happening, giving high fives to everyone within half a mile, it's a night I will never forget as a sports fan, and I'm sure the same goes for many people.

In regards to the 2004 comparisons, there are similarities and differences. I would agree with many, including our own Ross Kaplan, that winning last night under the circumstances eases the blow. A regular Super Bowl win against the Pats would have done little, if anything. But this was everything but regular. 18-0, Bill Bellichek, Tom Brady, the recent Super Bowl success, even Spygate, this was a crushing blow. Most importantly though, the Patriots were the better team. If they play 10 times, I have a tough time the Giants are winning five. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

In that way, while 2004 was worse for the Yankees, it softens the blow even more. At best, those teams were even. At worst, the Red Sox were a better team. Schilling and Pedro was a considerable 1-2, Mike Mussina (despite all of his efforts) and any combination of Jon Lieber, El Duque, Javier Vazquez, and Kevin Brown were not them. The Yankees were so much without a complete lineup that Jeter lead off and A-Rod batted two, just to maximize their at bats and hopefully runs scored. The Red Sox had what was the best leadoff hitter in the game, as well as the most feared 1-2 in baseball. The Yankees should have won that series five times over, but they were not the better team. They won't live it down until they win another World Series, but DV is right, as long as it doesn't send them into 79 more years of losing, they will live it down.

The Patriots will live this down too. But the Giants made sure last night they had something to live down. Like the Red Sox snapping 86 years of losing in 2004, giving the Yankees something to live down along the way, that's as special a thing as you can accomplish in sports.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Champs!!!!!

I'm outta my mind tonight!

Eli Manning!

THE NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS SUPER BOWL CHAMPS!

A lot of people eating a LOT of crow...........

GIANTS FOOTBALL!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Low Cost, High Reward

I love this Morgan Ensberg deal. Love. Maybe it's because St. John's has been so embarrassing in the Big East, the Giants haven't played in two weeks, and I'm starting to go through baseball withdrawl that I could get so excited about a deal like this.

Or maybe I took a look at the numbers, and saw that since 2005 Ensberg has hit 25 homers with a .409 OBP and .950 OPS (whoa baby!) in 333 AB's vs. lefties. Then I turn around and see that since 2005 Wilson Betemit has hit 31 homers, 39 doubles, and 100 RBI in 661 AB's vs. righties. Yo! on both counts.

I think the Yankees have something to be legitimately excited about here (without getting into Duncan and Giambi). Betemit showed us in a few short months last year what he can do from the left side (and how incompetent he is from the right). It appears Ensberg has the same thing going from the right (albeit not having as big of a falloff against righties). Based on the numbers a platoon here doesn't just look okay. It looks like the Yankees would be getting WAY above average production offensively from first base if these two combine to get 500-600 AB's at the postition.

This is the kind of subtle move that can take a team up a level, specifically in terms of matching up against top flight starters. I think the Yankees just did that, especially considering the low cost of the players involved, not to mention their versatility. Great, great pick-up here.