Sunday, February 29, 2004

Oscar Update!

Some guy just won something. I think it was the "Official Enemy of the Hall of Fame" award.

Late Edit: Top two baseball movies of all time...

1. The Bad News Bears
2. Bull Durham

Discuss.

Not A Sabermetrician? Cool. Let's Talk Defense.

Tangotiger has had some great ideas, but this one may be the topper. I'm not even sure how long this has been available to the internet-enabled public.*

The Scouting Report by the Fans for the Fans

Do you watch a lot of baseball? If so, you will be interested in this project. If not, why in tarnation are you reading this?

I'll be participating, I know Vinny will, and so should you. If you've found our little page here, you're either passionate about baseball, a relative of ours, or both. Your perception matters, and should be recorded.

Read the project description. I guarantee you will be intrigued.

*I have no idea how I've missed this for so long, but the rosters appear to be from early 2003, perhaps even in spring training. Rondell White is still listed among the Yankees. Go do it anyway. Late edit: I've since been informed that this has only been available for the last couple of days. I'll try to find out why the player/team information is inaccurate.

Another Edition of "News From Mets.com"

No Means No

In response to published reports today the Mets may still be willing to include Scott Kazmir in a deal for Alfonso Soriano, the team reiterated on their web site that the 20-year old lefty is not going to be traded.

I would imagine that the Mets' need to make this statement comes mostly as a result of this morning's column by Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, in which he states that "certain elements of the hierarchy say they're [the Mets] now open to dealing Kazmir.

Looking to extinguish the rumors, GM Jim Duquette had the following to say:

"No one is untouchable and of course situations can change," Duquette said. "But it's just not likely. He's one of those guys that we feel has a bright future in New York and we're expecting him to pitch for us at the Major League level.

"And that [Soriano] rumor has taken on a life of its own and I haven't even talked to the guy [Texas general manager John Hart] in two weeks."


*****


McKeon Says Looper Isn't Intimidating

This is actually kind of a silly article about Braden Looper's reaction to a statement by his former manager and current Marlins skipper, Jack McKeon. Apparently, McKeon told a Florida newspaper that newly-acquired closer and former-Met Armando Benitez is more intimidating as a closer than Looper.

Coming to Looper's defense were pitching coach Rick Peterson and Ty Wigginton:

Peterson:

"Is John Franco intimidating?" Peterson asked. "He only has the most saves in the National League. [Trevor] Hoffman's not intimidating personally. Doug Jones pitched for us and had over 300 saves and he wasn't. Keith Foulke is not intimidating by any means and he had over 40 saves for us [in Oakland]."

Wigginton:

"Looper's stuff is very intimidating," Wigginton said. "He doesn't look as intimidating standing out there on the mound but his breaking ball and sinker are intimidating. Benitez is just a big individual."

Looper had better develop a thicker skin for this type of thing, and do it fast. If he shows any of the ineffectiveness that led to him being replaced as the Marlins' closer by Ugueth Urbina he's going to hear a lot worse things said about him by the fans and media in New York.

*****


It wasn't there when I started this post, but the site now also has a story with more information about the injury to Kaz Matsui.

Other miscellaneous notes from the site include the following:

* Tom Glavine had his hamstring wrapped after today's workout, but it was done mostly as a precaution.

* Sandy Koufax, a friend of Fred Wilpon's, stopped by camp yesterday and spoke with John Franco, among others.

* Joselo Diaz, the hard-throwing righty acquired in the Jeromy Burnitz trade impressed the Mets staff today with his performance in a batting practice throwing session.

Peter Abraham is a busy guy.

In addition to his profile of New York bloggers, Official Friend of the Site Peter Abraham of the Journal News has a column today about Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia. The two former Yankees figure to share right-field duties for the 2004 Mets.

(For those who are interested, I did a writeup of the massive pile of former Yankees who now wear the blue and orange, and sometimes black.)

It's a good piece, focusing mainly on the players as people. Here's Spencer on leaving the Yankees and joining the Indians (by way of Arlington, TX):

"There is always pressure and expectations because the big leagues is the big leagues," he said. "The difference comes from the fans and the media. With the Yankees, even the road games are sellouts and everything you do is magnified. It's a different experience."

And here I was thinking that Cleveland fans were devoted and energetic. Actually, I'm sure they are - although that probably ebbs and flows with the fortunes of the team. As a Yankees fan, I haven't had to witness such ebbing and flowing since 1993 or so.

Karim Garcia made the opposite trip - from Cleveland to New York, without that inconvenient layover in Texas. Abraham has this quote from him:

"It was a great experience for me, to go from a rebuilding team like Cleveland to New York," he said. "I never felt pressure on myself but I did realize what each game meant. Playing the Red Sox in the regular season felt like the World Series. People would come just to watch batting practice."

Are there really places where fans don't show up early to watch batting practice? What a shame. Everyone should do that, at least once. You never know what you might see. Of course you'll get to see the sluggers pound balls about a hundred miles when the pitcher isn't exactly trying to get them out, but you'll also see somebody like Frankie Menechino or Mark Prior hit one 450 feet. It really makes you appreciate how much better these guys are than Fred from down the street, who plays in a recreational league.

You'll see guys hit five balls to left, then five to center, then five to right. You'll see right-handed hitters slapping grounders between first and second base. You'll see professionals working at perfecting their craft. If you love the game, you have to catch BP, at least once.

Does anyone know how to say "use your glove" in Japanese?

Matsui Injures Finger; Out For a Week

The Mets have had their first casualty of the spring and sadly, it isn't Scott Erickson.

According to the Associated Press, Kaz Matsui injured a finger on his throwing hand when it was struck by a grounder. Matsui needed a couple of stitches in his right middle finger and his nail was bent back. He's expected to miss about a week.

In Matsui's absence, the Mets have said that Jose Reyes will not move back to shortstop. Well, duh.

Welcome / The Morning Paper

I'd like to join Vinny in welcoming anyone who might be reading our site for the first time after finding out about us from Peter Abraham's Journal News story. It was a pleasure to participate in the interview process. You should know going in that we can, at any given moment, be realistic, sarcastic, caustic, bombastic, pragmatic or erratic, and that we have cobwebs in the ol' attic.

Feel free to contact one or both of us, and tell us how much you like or hate the site. There's a link to send us email at the bottom of each post, and links to add us to your AIM Buddy List at the bottom of the link-list on the right side of the page. Enjoy.

*****


I spent a little time this morning browsing the New York Daily News Online Sports section, which features a large picture of Alex Rodriguez looking dopey on the front page. In the Baseball section you'll find about a hundred steroid stories. My favorite is Bob Raissman's. I like it when journalists smack each other around, and Raissman gives a backhand to Dan Patrick, Jon Heyman and Rick Reilly here.

You won't have to scroll too far down the page to find out how I feel about the whole issue. Be my guest.

I Guess I Win

As we were chatting last night Scott and I decided last night that whoever wakes up first gets to write about the article on bloggers that was set to appear in today's edition of The Journal News. Well, since I've been awake since around 6:00 I guess I'm the winner.

As some of you know, Peter Abraham of The Journal News contacted several bloggers (including Scott and myself) a couple of weeks ago about a story idea he had. He wanted to write about baseball bloggers, specifically those of us that write about the Mets and Yankees (that may be the first time in the brief history of this site where the Mets have preceded the Yankees). We were all sent a series of questions through E-mail and Peter also interviewed a few people over the phone, though Scott and I were not among them.

The results of Peter's research can be found here:

A Growing Sports Voice

The article contains an admittedly weird quote from yours truly, and the print edition of the paper features a picture of Scott and I posing with a monitor that's displaying the site. I haven't actually seen it yet, but apparently my cousins Camille and Joe have (hi guys!). Even without seeing it I can assure you that I'm much more handsome than the picture indicates. Scott is, of course, much uglier.

On behalf of Scott and myself, I would like to thank Peter Abraham again for his interest, not only in us, but in this great little community known as the baseball blogosphere. And if you're reading us for the first time as a result of the article I'd like to welcome you and invite you to stay a while.

Later!

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Heyman: Can't Second-Guess Mets

I'm pretty quick to point out when sports writers do poorly, so it's only fair that I also point out when they do well. Jon Heyman did well today, for the most part. That doesn't mean I am now, or will ever be a fan of his, but on this occasion I will give the devil his due.

In his column today Heyman acknowledges that the Mets were right not to offer Jose Reyes to the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano. To be fair, that's actually what he's been saying all along. He appeared on ESPN Radio the other day (I don't remember whose show he appeared on) and made similar statements, which prompted me to say to Scott, "Heyman's on ESPN Radio right now...and he's making sense!"

Heyman goes on to say that the deal isn't necessarily dead, but that the Mets would surely have to include Scott Kazmir to get it done. Either he wasn't listening when Fred Wilpon declared that Kazmir isn't going to be traded, or he just doesn't believe him. He also says that the Mets would probably do well to wait for guys like Eric Chavez and Carlos Beltran, who both play for small market teams to become available. All indications are that Chavez will re-sign with the A's, and I guess Jon has never heard of David Wright. Beltran is obviously an interesting player, and there would seem to be little chance of the Royals being able to afford him after this season, but who knows if he'd be willing to make the move from center to right field to play for the Mets? And even though the Yankees are committed to Kenny Lofton for next season (something for which they should be committed), I'm sure ol' George will do whatever it takes to get Beltran in pinstripes.

About Soriano, Heyman says that there are "red flags" going up everywhere, even going so far as to compare him to a "Juan Samuel in Training," at one point in the article. If that's actually true, the Mets already have Lenny Dykstra working for them, they just need to lure Roger McDowell back to the organization so they can get a deal for Soriano done (I hated that trade, by the way).

Back to reality: Heyman elaborates on some of the bad habits of Soriano that may have the Mets reconsidering whether or not they want to pursue him:

* He has apparently declined a move to center field or shortstop for the Rangers

* He has a well-known habit of jogging on pop-ups fly balls

* Proved to be a slow learner at 2B

* Likes to swing for the fences - "Someone was filling his head with bad ideas," a Yankees official said. "He thought he could become "elite' by hitting home runs and playing second base."

* Has no understanding of the strike zone

* Likes the nightlife (Thanks, Derek!)

The mere mention of Juan Samuel's name as a comparison to Soriano sends shivers down my spine. I just can't see the Mets taking the risk on having history repeat itself by trading for him. With Reyes and Kazmir out of the picture any further discussion of a trade for Soriano is probably pointless anyway. Let's put this one to rest already.

*****


Klapisch Also Checks in on the Soriano/Mets situation

Two notes of interest from the column:

* Soriano has told friends that he would consent to any position change, including catcher, to get back to New York.

* According to "certain elements of the Mets hierarchy," the Mets may be willing to deal Kazmir, despite Fred Wilpon's claims to the contrary.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Talkin' Baseball and Blogging

I had a fun conversation with Jeremy Heit tonight. Jeremy writes the aptly-named Jeremy Heit’s Blog. He focuses mainly on the Mets, but is not averse to commenting on anything and everything baseball-related. Give him a read if you haven’t already.

The back-and forth was entirely off-the-cuff and unplanned. It has been edited to make it readable by humans. We started out by talking about a report we got describing Scott Erickson’s performance throwing batting practice down in Port St. Lucie. Word has it that his sinker looked wonderful…

Jeremy Heit: It’s nice that his sinker is really good... until his arm falls off in two months.

Scott: Well, it was BP. Unlike Vinny, I can see why the Mets might want to take a look at him. Any sinkerballer has a good shot to do well in front of that infield D.

Jeremy Heit: I've actually been a proponent of Erickson's, mainly because he's a groundball pitcher. If he wins [the fifth starter spot] I won't go crazy. I just like to make fun of him because I'm convinced his arm will fall off by June

Scott: Oh, no, I agree that his arm's likely to fall right off of his body by June. No argument here. I'd like to see the kids get into the rotation ahead of him - I just think it's worthwhile to bring him to camp, just in case Trachsel's head blows up or something.

*Then we moved onto the impact of blogging on the mainstream media. More to come tomorrow on why we started discussing that topic. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs a Mariners blog on their website.…*

Jeremy Heit: I saw an article on Mariners bloggers... I think more mainstream newspapers are starting to recognize them…

Scott: I think they're going to have to recognize bloggers more. I get better analysis from blogs than from mainstream publications. It's just a matter of knowing which to read. Sooner or later, quite a few bloggers are going to be carried in local papers - by way of some cheap syndication agreement. That's my feeling, anyway. I mean hell, for now we're all doing it for free, and many of us are kicking the papers' asses.

Jeremy Heit: Very true. We probably don't write nearly as well, but we make up for it by not fluffing things up and using tired ideas (or not backing ideas up)...

Scott: Right, because we do it in an open forum, and are available to be called out, right in our own space... for those of us who have comment sections. Cliff has poked me a couple of times, and it definitely made me react.

Jeremy Heit: That's absolutely the best part and something people I think, would appreciate more. We are reachable if you disagree...

Scott: Exactly. Vinny and I go out of our way to be reachable, what with the AIM names and such. We need more readers, though, so people will actually take us up on it.

Jeremy Heit: I mean, seriously, where else could you get a ringing endorsement for Homer Bush to be the starting second baseman for the Yankees?

Scott: Hahaha... Pinto at Baseball Musings would like to see it... I really don't care who plays second this year. I'd prefer a glove man, of course, but I hope it's just a place-holder for Jeter.

Jeremy Heit: I think that's the problem with the papers. All they want to do is call for a trade, instead of realizing in house candidates might be decent. Or they just like to bash people like Cedeno and call him disinterested when you can see that most of his problems come from his loss of patience at the plate (and a little bit of a dipping average and lost speed... but the discipline plays a big part).

*Unavoidably, we came right back to the game on the field, somehow tying together Roger Cedeno and Alfonso Soriano.*

Scott: Right, Roger Cedeno used to be a very very very effective offensive player - you're dead on about why he's declined.

Jeremy Heit: Or they would have you think Soriano and Cedeno are the worst defensive players ever at their position while Jeter is good.

Scott: Yeah. According to Avkash's stuff, Soriano is about average. I'm not sure I buy that, but, believe it or not, that may be because I've watched him too much. His underhanded flip on the DP really pissed me off. When he fields the ball, he just looks clumsy. I guess maybe he gets the job done, but it sure looks like he just can't hack it out there.

Jeremy Heit: It's sorta like Cedeno... they look bad, so we think they stink. I think both are slightly below average because they have terrible hands. But to the point they are bad is overrated.

Scott: Now that you say that, I think I sense Billy Beane's ears pricking up ;-)

Jeremy Heit: Why’s that?

Scott: As soon as somebody is undervalued in some way, he's all over it. I wonder if he wouldn't part with a prospect or two in order to pick up a guy like Soriano.

Jeremy Heit: Soriano's defense, though not great, is undervalued. His offensive value is overrated and underrated in different circles, but he [Beane] can't possibly pay him if he wants to keep Chavez. And Soriano would piss him off twice as much as "Mr. Swing at Everything." You also see how much BA [Baseball America] picked on Billy and Moneyball in their opening to their top 25 prospects list on ESPN.com. That's all they do. ELIAS and BA seem to have agendas against all saber teams, but especially Billy (the Productive Outs article mostly spent its time poo pooing on those type teams (especially Oakland) yet endorsing OBP, a thing saber teams like. The “Moneyball isn't about OBP" thing is a whole different rant.

Scott: I know what you mean. However, Soriano has two arbitration years left. I would think the A's would be among the top teams at putting together an arbitration case, and having Alfonso in the Coliseum would drive down his numbers to the point that he would appear to most to be less valuable than he is. As teams wake up to the whole "OBP is important" thing, Beane is going to have to move on to something else to find undervalued players. If he gets into a pitchers' park now, especially given his sudden "aging," I think Soriano is actually likely to be undervalued for the next couple of years. Then Billy can trade him or let him go, getting the draft pick. I'm not saying it's likely, but I have to wonder.

Scott: I also wonder when he's [Beane] going to get around to defense and speed…

Jeremy Heit: I think he's actually bouncing OBP a little bit for defense. Right now I think he's building a team with guys who play good defense and are OBP inclined. Look at Mark Kotsay. Does anyone think he's a top defensive CF? Yet, he ranks 1 run higher than Mike Cameron on UZR (6th overall). I don't know if he'll ever really get into speed, but I think he's building a good defense, great pitching and a decent lineup, hoping for a little out of Dye. I'm very high on Durazo myself, but that's a personal opinion. Then again, according to I believe it was Schwartz, Durazo wasn't helpful at all last year. [Don’t know the reference, sorry. Jeremy – feel free to post the link in our comments. I’d like to see it, and will edit the post to include it.]

Scott: I know what you mean... although I suspect the Kotsay move probably began as "Who will take Terrence Long off my hands" and then evolved into "I can get Kotsay? Sweet." Kotsay, of course, is also a fairly decent OBP guy, much better than Long. Byrnes, though I like him, seemed to show last year that he's stretched as an everyday player. In the same move, he also let Ramon Hernandez go, which isn't awful considering he replaced him with Damian Miller.

Scott: Now I want to check salaries between Miller and Hernandez...

Jeremy Heit: Adam Melhuse, at least in my opinion, will be doing some catching. I think he's got a pretty decent bat

Scott: Miller, $3M gross for one year, Hernandez, $2.38M annually for two years. So a gradual switch to Melhuse actually saves him money, it would seem.

Jeremy Heit: Hernandez gets another year of arby too, right?

Scott: Melhuse was great in 77 ABs last year, that's certainly true... He's been a force in the minors too. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure about Hernandez's arbitration status. I'll believe you if you say it's true, but is that 2005 or 2006? He's signed through next year. (Hooray for Dugout Dollars!)

Jeremy Heit: Oh yeah, Billy signed him. He's the smart one who avoids arby with young players.

So there you have it. We start with Scott Erickson’s sinker and end by sucking up to Billy Beane, with a few departures along the way. You might not find this all that interesting, but I had a great time, so I decided to waste your time with it.

My Friend Misery

Jon Heyman, our first official Enemy of the Site and my pick for "Jackass of the Week" started off his column yesterday with the following sentence:

"Let's all take a break from the stink of spring training and recall simpler days, when baseball's only performance-enhancing drugs were alcohol, coffee and cigarettes, and maybe a greenie or two."

The stink of spring training? Is he talking about the same time of year that baseball fanatics like myself eagerly anticipate once the final out of the World Series is made? Did someone at Newsday play a joke on Jon and send him to spring training in Secaucus, New Jersey?

No, Jon Heyman is just a miserable bastard. It's pretty clear that covering baseball, even his beloved Yankees, is no longer something he loves and has just become a job to him; a job most of us would kill for. Hell, just look at his picture from the Newsday site:



That's not a happy man.

I think maybe it's time for Jon to step aside and leave the sports writing thing to someone that might actually enjoy it. Of course, since he's probably got a family to feed he'll need to find another job, and that's where I come in. I will happily offer my services to Mr. Heyman to act as his career counselor.

Though I haven't had the opportunity to meet with him yet, I've still managed to put together a list of possible new careers for Mr. Heyman where being miserable and rude is not only accepted, but in some cases, probably a prerequisite for being hired.

1) Bridge Toll Collector: Just about any bridge around New York will do. They weren't exactly a fun bunch to begin with, but with E-Z Pass almost making their job obsolete they've taken the hostility to a new level. Heyman would fit right in. Just keep him away from the Bear Mountain Bridge. Those people are actually nice.

2) DMV Clerk: This one's pretty self-explanatory.

3) NYC Subway Token Clerk: I guess I wouldn't be too happy being stuck in that cramped little booth and having to deal with clueless tourists, either. But since Heyman is obviously in his own little world anyway, maybe he'd like it.

4) Cashier at the White Castle on Fordham Rd. in the Bronx: Not only is this one of the slowest restaurants of its kind, but the staff there rarely give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. As an added bonus, Jon wouldn't be too far from Yankee Stadium. However, should he rise through the ranks and become a manager, it's very important that he not be transferred to the White Castle on Northern Blvd. in Queens. The staff there are always friendly and amazingly fast (you can get a Crave Case usually in around 5 minutes!). Besides, we know Jon wouldn't want to be that close to Shea Stadium.

5) Verizon Customer Service Representative: Knowing that you've probably spent at least 45 minutes on hold to speak with them, you'd think these people would be a little nicer. Not so. They lack even the slightest hint of compassion and human decency. Jon could be their king!

6) Elementary School Custodian: Based on his dealings with Gary Sheffield and his persistence in trying to get a "specimen" from the slugger (apparently, gone are the days when getting an autograph was enough), one could surmise that Jon has a bit of a urine fetish. With that in mind, what better job could there be for him? He gets to be nasty all the time, and little kids pee everywhere!

Finally, and I think he's really going to like this one...

7) Yankee Stadium Usher: In his Yankee Stadium report card, Jeff Merron of ESPN.com's Page 2 had this to say about the Yankee Stadium Ushers:

"They screen for ignorant and hostile applicants. Then they hire them."

Too perfect.


*****


If any of you have more suggestions, by all means, put them in the comments section. If we can somehow manage to get an E-mail address for Mr. Heyman I would happily pass them along to him.

Friday, February 27, 2004

BALCO! BONDS! OH MY GOD! HOLY CRAP! BLAHBLAHBLAH!

Vinny noticed this story on Yahoo News about the BALCO situation. The headline is: Figures in Doping Scandal Say Bonds Is Innocent

Since I'm the pro-Bonds voice on this page, it falls to me to write it up. Don't worry, Vinny will be back soon.

Granted, there are plenty of people (notably Jon Heyman, official Enemy of the Site) who will discard this development out of hand, but top officials of BALCO are saying some pretty groundbreaking things:

Bonds got backing Friday from the head of BALCO labs, Victor Conte, whose nutritional firm south of San Francisco is accused of providing illegal steroids to top athletes in baseball, football and track and field.

"He knows of no illegal activity that ever took place with Barry Bonds," Conte's attorney, Robert Holley, told reporters after a courtroom appearance. "He feels that there has been a lot of rumor and innuendo that has been slandering one of the best baseball players in this country."


Let's get this out of the way right now: It is most certainly in the company's interest, and that of its employees, to distance itself/themselves from the single biggest figure (among players) in this story. It's still an extraordinary statement.

"Bonds took nothing illegal ever," said Tony Serra. "He was offered a schedule of what was believed to be legal. Receiving the schedule, he declined to take it."

How monumental is this statement? The official spokesperson for the defense is stating, specifically, that BALCO offered to provide services to a player that were expressly against the rules of Major League Baseball, and that the player declined. What's going on?

Here's a really fun passage from the article:

The burly Anderson [Bonds' trainer], carrying a large carton of grand jury documents presented by prosecutors Friday, declined to say whether Bonds had ever taken steroids. "I am not talking to anyone please," he said.

Now that's comedy. "The burly... carrying a large carton..." Just lovely.

My favorite part of this article is not any of the preceeding material. It's the last sentence, which I'm sure will be corrected at some point:

Conte for his part appeared to be in an unusually gregarious mood. "We were on f

Yep, that's where it ends. Fill in the f-word yourself.

Well, Why Not? News From Yankees.com

Notes: Giambi's trainer in limbo

Barry Bonds isn't the only one affected by the steroids scandal... um, that's not what I meant to say. Trainergate? Personal trainers are no longer allowed into MLB teams' clubhouses, which is silly. For a brief explanation of why it's silly, I'll refer you to this post over at Only Baseball Matters with whose writer, John Perricone, I find myself increasingly agreeing on players'-rights issues. Here's the relevant quote, about Barry Bonds:

Barry Bonds (Jason Giambi, if you want it put into context) puts his ass on the line, day in and day out. He's done it for 18 years (9 years), and if he thinks he needs a guy to stretch out his legs, back, ass or whatever; do me a favor, and get the hell out of his way. If he needs a recliner, a masseuse, a pre-game blowjob, a martini, who's freaking business is it!?

Whose freaking business is it? The player's and the team's. The commissioner's office should worry more about Dusty Baker's children, and less about the pregame preparations of MLB's superstars - unless, of course, they involve kilos or cc's or whatever measure you want to use to describe quantities of illegal substances.

Let's take a moment to read the new rule, shall we?

Only the following groups may be granted full or partial access to the areas listed above: players, MLBPA representatives, managers, coaches, trainers, club physicians, accredited media, commissioner's office representatives, and designated club personnel. Other persons such as friends, associates, agents, attorneys, personal trainers, etc. may not be granted access to the restricted areas. Credentials that would permit access to those restricted areas may not be issued to such prohibited persons.

OK. Where does that leave us?

Authorized personnel: Players, MLBPA reps, managers, coaches, trainers, club physicians, accredited media (leaves me out, dammit) commissioner's office reps, designated club personnel.

Unauthorized personnel: Friends, associates, agents, attorneys, personal trainers, etc.

Areas which require such authorization for admittance: Clubhouses, dugouts, playing fields.

Good gravy, this is one hazy rule. Screw the infield fly nonsense, this one takes the cake and is rivaled only by passed balls not counting as errors. I assume that if you're in the first group (authorized), it trumps one's status in the second group. For example, let's say Mike Mussina heads back to Stanford, gets his law degree, and becomes Jorge Posada's lawyer. He can still get on the field. It also doesn't matter if Mussina's a friend of Posada's, as he's also a player.

Can more than one team hire an individual as a "trainer?" Can the MLBPA "hire" trainers as official "representatives," who would then have access to every major league clubhouse, dugout and playing field? What about the tunnel between the clubhouse and the dugout, or the showers, or the weight room, or the owner's skybox? What's to keep the New York Times from hiring Giambi's personal trainer as a "reporter" and getting him proper accreditation? Edit: OK, I guess the last sentence of the rule takes care of that last one. My bad.

So, yeah. This rule is riddled with loopholes, unnecessary, and a detriment to the game on the field. There will probably be a constitutional amendment to protect it.

Where was I? Oh yeah, using Yankees.com as an excuse to rant.


Matsui bigger, more comfortable

Hmm, which snide comment/lame joke should I go with here?

1. Bigger? Steroids! He's juiced! BLAHABLALBLALAH! *drool*
2. I'm less anxious when I'm "bigger" too. Har de har har har. *drool*

Neither. Fair enough.

This article reminds us that there are fifteen Yankees on whom Matsui has seniority. You read that right: fifteen.

He's been a Yankee longer than Kevin Brown, Tom Gordon, Felix Heredia, Paul Quantrill, Javier Vazquez, Gabe White, Miguel Cairo, Tony Clark, Travis Lee, Alex Rodriguez, Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield and three other guys I'm not going to do the research necessary to identify. Hell, that's what the comments are for. Cliff, I nominate you to fill in the blanks... we seem to be duplicating our efforts anyhow.

Matsui's rookie season is referred to as "stellar," which is kind of a joke. His defense was good, and offensively he was thoroughly average. Since "stellar," etymologically, comes from "star" and Matsui was an all-star, I guess it's semantically true. Whatever. I've changed my mind since last fall, when I supported the choice of Angel Berroa as Rookie of the Year. Berroa brought no real defense to the argument, other than playing a valuable position, and had his hitting stats were inflated (granted, only slightly, and only OBP) by Kauffman stadium. Matsui should have won, but it was not a "stellar" season.

It's mentioned no less than three times in this article that Matsui will benefit from his full-season experience in the American majors. To me, this is not a given. While he's seen most of the pitchers by now, they've also seen him. Every single team and every single pitcher now has a season's worth of experience and video with which to work. It is an entirely open question as to who has the advantage. My instinct tells me that the opposition does.

MLB.com does a fantastic job with its hit charts. I never thought I'd say MLB.com does a fantastic job of anything, but there it is. I found Matsui's hit chart linked from this article, and it's very revealing.

His singles are all over the field. His doubles, however (and he had a lot of 'em, 42) were almost entirely to left field. It would seem that all but one of his home runs were to right- or right-center field. Given that this is Yankee Staduim, this is not shocking, but it reveals that his power is actually about the same to all fields but is limited to about 375' in any direction. Godzilla? Not really. His flyouts, even the shallow ones, are mostly to center and left. His grounders are mostly to the right side. When he misses under the ball, he's behind. When he misses over the ball, he's ahead. This suggests two things:

1. Conventional Wisdom may be true. Has there been a study on this? I've heard it suggested many times that a late swing results in popups, while one that's too quick leads to grounders.

2. Matsui has more of an uppercut than I'd suspected. Most players have (at least) slight uppercuts in their swings, which would seem to support point number one. I'd still like to see a study. If you've seen one, and can find it, please feel free to send a link along. I'm serious - I'd love to see it.

Final Matsui note: Here are his splits from 2003. He was very uneven from month to month. His offensive performance in June was absolutely incredible. I mean, DAMN. Click the link and check it out. July was OK and August was awful before he rebounded to be decent again in September/October. It should be noted that Matsui played in every game last year. Perhaps that's not a great idea, but we probably won't find out if something else will work better this year as there are no other left-fielders on the Yankees' roster right now. Maybe Bernie wouldn't be awful out there, and I wonder if Joe shouldn't stick him out there once in awhile to take a look - and to give Hideki a little break now and then.

Which reminds me - Bernie, get well soon! Godspeed in your recovery. Not just because you're one of my two favorite Yankees (Posada), but because Kenny Lofton can't do a damn thing against lefties.

This has gone on much longer than I expected, and if you've read this far you get my unadulterated thanks and admiration... along with a quizzical stare. As you were.

Way To Go, Phil!

Jason Phillips Named Rookie of the Year by the Ted Williams Museum

I hadn't seen this mentioned anywhere else, but an AP article via Yahoo! Sports reports that on February 15th, Jason Phillips, along with Rocco Baldelli of the Devil Rays were honored as the N.L and A.L. Rookies of the Year, respectively, by the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame.

According to the article, Phillips, who was nowhere to be found in the MLB voting for N.L. Rookie of the Year was selected because, "he reflected the criteria that were originally established by Ted Williams."

Phillips and Baldelli's induction into the Hitters Hall of Fame was also covered in this article from the February 16th edition of the Citrus County Chronicle.

Very, very cool.

Congratulations to Jason.

News From Mets.com

Mets Plan To Keep Weathers

Jim Duquette said yesterday that the Mets are very much interested in keeping David Weathers around beyond the end of this season, when his contract expires.

"We're definitely going to keep an open mind toward re-signing him," Duquette said. "He's had success in New York and he's able to pitch in tight situations. Those kinds of guys aren't easy to find. We haven't talked to anyone about it yet but we'd be anxious to re-sign him this winter."

Despite his name being mentioned in several trade rumors over the winter, Duquette made it clear that the Mets had no desire to move him then, or now.

""There was that persistent rumor going around that we were going to trade him to the White Sox but we wouldn't trade him," Duquette said. "I called him and said that we had no discussions regarding you."

Even I figured that the Mets would look to move Weathers at some point this season, if only because of his salary. As far as his performance goes, he was one of the few bright spots on the Mets last season and performed well in every role in which he was used, so I can't argue with the Mets wanting to keep him around.

Also, Weathers' presence on the Mets assures Randy Keisler of not being the ugliest man in the Mets organization.

*****


The article also makes mention of the fact that yesterday marked the one month anniversary of the much-maligned (not by me) Jamie Cerda for Shawn Sedlacek/Todd Zeile trade. Sedlacek said that he had received no indication of what his role with the organization will be, but the Duke says that they plan to give him a look as a starter first.

"We want to see how he fits as a starter, that's my first thought," Duquette said. "The early reports on him are good and he has a good sinking fastball."

There's really no indication as to whether or not the Mets consider Sedlacek a candidate for the fifth spot in their rotation, but, considering his performance over the past few of years it would take a miraculous performance this spring for him to end up anywhere but Norfolk.

*****


Other topics of note covered in the article are David Mattox and Lenny DiNardo, two pitchers the Mets lost in the Rule 5 draft to the Reds and Red Sox, respectively, and the interest in Aaron Heilman coming from other teams. Both Mattox and DiNardo are currently battling arm troubles, but Mattox is considered a strong candidate to be a part of the Reds' starting rotation this season. As for Heilman, the Mets are reluctant to trade him at this point, at least not until he's had a chance to work with Rick Peterson.

Giving Peterson a chance to straighten out Heilman makes perfect sense to me, but, like I said in my review of the candidates for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, if he doesn't respond the Mets should move quickly to unload him while he still has some value. From the sound of things, that could very well be their plan.

See? I know what I'm talking about.


**** UPDATE ****


Even More (Good) News From Mets.com

You can add Scott Kazmir to the list of Mets prospects that aren't going anywhere. Kazmir, whose name has been mentioned prominently in recent trade rumors, specifically those involving Alfonso Soriano, has been declared untouchable by owner Fred Wilpon, who was looking on today as Kazmir threw batting practice.

"There are only 29 other clubs interested in him [Kazmir]," Wilpon said. "But he's not going anywhere."

It was said that Kazmir had trouble adjusting to pitching from behind a protective screen, but no one seems to be too worried about it, Kazmir included.

"I just felt like I couldn't finish," Kazmir said. "I just have to get past it. I don't know what it was. I felt like the ball was going to hit the top of the rail and come back and hit me. And then when I followed through, the bar was [eye] level."

Tom Glavine had similar complaints about the protective screen.

*****


The same article mentions that Vance Wilson is very impressed thus far with Tyler Yates, who is among the candidates for the fifth starter's job. According to Wilson, "He looks great."

A good showing this spring could make the competition interesting since, as the article mentions, and as I've previously mentioned, Yates is a power pitcher with a high-90's fastball, unlike the other candidates (except Grant Roberts) and unlike the Mets' current crop of starters.

Grant Roberts is still the hard-thrower that I'd like to see get the job, but knowing that he's got a spot on the roster regardless of whether or not he wins the spot in the rotation I could certainly live with Yates on the mound every fifth day. Basically, I just want to see anyone but Scott Erickson get the job, since I pretty much consider James Baldwin to be a non-factor.

Even if Erickson does win the job, there's almost no chance that he'll be back next year when the Mets should have a chance to make a run at a division title or the wild card, so what's the point of keeping him at all? Why not get a look this year at someone like Yates, Heilman or Roberts who could become a key part of the team's future success? Let them sink or swim now at the major league level instead of having to do it all over again next spring.



Poking Around The NY Papers

Yesterday's Yankees chatter revolved mostly around two stories, one expected and one out of the blue.

Aaron Boone was officially released. Among others, the New York Daily News reports that Boone will be paid $917,533 of his $5.75 million contract. The Yankees, Brian Cashman in particular, are making noises about re-signing him after May 15th so they'll have him in 2005. Adam Katz, Boone's agent, has a little something to say about that:

"Before they acquired A-Rod, it seemed more likely we could've worked something out with the Yankees to keep Aaron," Katz said. "When they acquired that player, it became less and less practical, so I'm not shocked. We wouldn't rule out (a return), but Aaron is going to have a lot of options."

Steinbrenner, for his part, never misses an opportunity to tweak the Bostonites:

"I'm just sorry Boone played basketball. As good as he was, I'm sorry he took a chance. Boonie did a good job; he did all right. It's like Bucky - those home runs have a way of sticking."

The unexpected news was Bernie Williams' emergency appendectomy. New York Newsday has the best report on the situation, including a rundown of Bernie's injury history. The story begins by describing the unsettling scene as Williams left for the hospital.

With his teammates all in uniform, Bernie Williams was in street clothes yesterday morning as he headed toward the Legends Field exit. If that wasn't suspicious enough, he wore a look of concern and held his right hand over his stomach. Asked if he was all right, Williams said, "I don't know, man. I'll find out."

In light of Aaron Boone's injury, Steinbrenner has a flat-out weird statement quoted in this article:

"I've always liked Kenny Lofton because he's a good basketball player," Steinbrenner said, referring to Lofton's college days at Arizona.

Back to the Daily News, there's a good Bill Madden piece on Kevin Brown. The most interesting nugget in the article is not about Brown, however, but about Javier Vazquez and Andy Pettitte:

...When you talk about who replaces Pettitte, you have to look to (Javier) Vazquez. That was the choice - who would you rather have for the long-term - Vazquez or Pettitte?

Me? Vazquez, and it's not close.

Speaking of pitchers, the New York Crapbag has a quick puff-piece on Jorge Depaula, who pitched for Columbus last year... and not very well. The damning with faint praise is clear. The article refers to him as "a nice insurance policy." Brian Cashman is also, shall we say, diplomatic:

"We're high on Jorge," Cashman said. "He's an interesting player. He's definitely a prospect, and we're looking forward to seeing how he throws."

I'm an interesting player, too. It would be interesting to see if I'd have a non-strikeout at bat in the majors, or if I could issue an intentional walk without throwing a fat pitch or a wild one. At this point, DePaula's actually not that interesting. He's a minor league pitcher with a 2003 ERA of 4.35 in AAA. He gave up a hit per inning, didn't strike out a ton of guys and showed so-so control. It wouldn't be shocking for him to be the PTBNL in the Rodriguez deal, although that'll probably be a younger guy.

Soriano Deal Not Dead, But No Reyes

Daily News: Mets Keep Eye On Sori

John Harper of the Daily News reports that the increasingly popular "person with knowledge of the talks" claims that the Rangers, who obviously like the Mets' crop of young (cheap) pitchers (what's not to like?), are still interested in working out a deal that would send Alfonso Soriano to the Mets.

The article mentions that the Rangers are interested in the usual suspects (Kazmir and Peterson) and also throws in the name of 21-year old righty Bob Keppel, who pitched at Binghamton last year.

In what comes as good news to me, the Mets have serious concerns over Soriano's lack of plate discipline, his rumored poor work habits and wonder if he has the ability to make the transition to right field, which is almost certainly where he'd play if acquired.

The poor work habits are something I hadn't heard about, but the other concerns that were mentioned are obvious, even to an idiot like me. I've already expressed how much I hate this deal (with or without Reyes) so I won't bother with that again. I must say, though, that it does warm my heart to know that the people running the Mets aren't dumber than me and do see the things wrong with Soriano that we all do.

Just say no, Duke!

Q & A: With Jason Phillips

The Daily News also has a quick Q & A session with one of my favorite Mets players, Jason Phillips.

Is Mo Vaughn really faster than he is? Does he change Jason Jr.'s diapers? Read it and find out.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Very Cool Indeed.

David Wright To Write Bi-Weekly Journal For Mets.com

Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out a cool story on David Wright over at Mets.com. Wright, the heir apparent to the Mets third base job, who has drawn comparisons to Scott Rolen, will be keeping a bi-weekly journal on the Mets' official web site this season.

In addition to announcing the journal, the article also serves as the first entry. Wright even includes his personal E-mail address, futuremet3b@yahoo.com - gotta love the kid's confidence.

Back In Action

After what I believe was my first post-free day since we started this thing, I am back and better than ever! Or maybe I'm just back. I was doing some behind-the-scenes stuff for us yesterday, as well as being involved in a web design project for my brother. On top of that, I had a hockey game last night, so I was unfortunately forced to neglect my adoring public.

The first thing I want to touch on, and I know I'm a little late with this, is Turk Wendell's comments about Barry Bonds. In case you missed it (and you probably haven't because it's all over Sportscenter), Turk made some unflattering comments about Bonds and steroid use to the Denver Post the other day. In the article, Turk had the following to say:

"If my personal trainer, me, Turk Wendell, got indicted for that, there's no one in the world who wouldn't think that I wasn't taking steroids," the veteran Rockies reliever said. "I mean, what, because he's Barry Bonds, no one's going to say that? I mean, obviously he did it. (His trainer) admitted to giving steroids to baseball players. He just doesn't want to say his name. You don't have to. It's clear just seeing his body."

I'll be the first to admit that I loved Turk when he was a member of the Mets, but he is way out of line with these comments. Regardless of how you may feel about Bonds, you don't go to the media and shove a fellow player, and more importantly, a fellow union "brother" under a bus like that. Having been a Teamster myself at one time I'm not exactly swelling with union pride, but I do feel there is a need for the members of the MLBPA to show more respect for one another.

I'm no fan of Bonds, but he was totally justified in his expletive-laden response to Turk's Bush League comments.

*****


A couple of notes from Mets.com:

Glavine Gets Opening Day Nod

The Mets have announced that Tom Glavine will get the Opening Day start against the Braves on April 6th in Atlanta. Considering that I endured miserable traffic conditions and froze my ass off at Shea last year on Opening Day, only to see Glavine stink up the joint, you'd think I might be bitter about him getting the ball again this year, but I'm not. I actually think it's the right decision. The Mets are paying Glavine to be their ace, even if the reality is that Al Leiter or Steve Trachsel are probably more deserving of that tag, so he should be the guy that gets the start on Opening Day.

Zeile Plans To Call It Quits

Todd Zeile has said that this coming season, his sixteenth in the major leagues, will be his last.

"This is it," Zeile said "It's this year and home. It was negotiated and a pact was made. It might as well be signed in blood. It's a family pact that was previously decided when I wanted to pursue another year."

Are you sure we can't talk you into retirement any sooner, Todd?

*****


And finally, ladies and gentlemen, even though it's only Thursday the voting for "Jackass of the Week" is closed.

Your winner: Jon Heyman of Newsday:

Sheff Sings a Different Tune

*** Update ***


I knew Heyman was a jackass, but it's quite possible that he's a liar, too.

Heyman:

I wondered whether he called the union and that it forbade him from taking the test. They might have discouraged him, but that's all they could do. Union lawyer Gene Orza issued a statement to me, saying, "I did talk to Gary. He had no obligation to take the test. His only obligations are the ones set forth in the Basic Agreement."

Gene Orza (from today's NY Post):

"I told him there will be no drug test," Orza said. "I told him it would be in violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement if he took the test."

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

It's later now, so here it is!

The Official Yankees Website has a poll up. Ignore the grammar, please: "How should the first five spots of the Yankee lineup look like?" You have the following four choices:

1. Lofton, Jeter, A-Rod, Giambi, Sheffield
2. Jeter, Matsui, A-Rod, Giambi, Sheffield
3. Lofton, Matsui, Jeter, A-Rod, Giambi, Sheffield (6? eh?)
4. Jeter, Lofton, Giambi, A-Rod, Posada

"None of the above" is not an option.

Let's take these in the order that each player is mentioned.

Kenny Lofton
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He could bat leadoff, second, 6-9 or be benched.
Known: Kenny Lofton is not the worst available leadoff option. He gets on base at an acceptable rate against right-handed pitchers, although lefties have had success against him recently. He still has some speed, and can probably still dunk a basketball.
Unknown: How is he going to handle the transition back to the American League? Will he play against left-handed starting pitchers?
Surprise in the stats: I was shocked to discover that Lofton has hit double-figures in home runs seven times in his twelve full seasons in the majors. He's done it every hear since 2000, with a high of 15.
The Roundup: I see Lofton as maybe the second best option to lead off against right-handed pitchers. He shouldn't even be in the lineup against lefties. You might as well live with Bernie's defense in CF on those days, shift Giambi to DH and take the defensive (and offensive, when compared to Lofton) upgrade by starting Travis Lee. When a left-hander is on the mound, save Lofton as a pinch-hitter for the second baseman and/or defensive replacement. When he does play, there's no real reason to bat him second. I'd bat him eighth.

Derek Jeter **Alert! We're ignoring defense today!**
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He could bat first, second or third.
Known: Derek Jeter could bat first, second or third for any team in baseball. He is an offensive force. He gets on base at an excellent rate vs. both lefties and righties. He is consistent offensively within the season - he is not streaky.
Unknown: Nothing much. If anything, it is wondered (mostly by hyper sportswriters) how he will react to having Rodriguez around.
Surprise in the stats: There is no discernible difference in Jeter's home/road statistics. This may be because he goes the other way so often that Yankee Stadium doesn't hurt him.
The Roundup: Derek Jeter would lead off every day if it were my team. As noted above, the handedness of the pitcher doesn't seem to matter at all when he's at the plate. He doesn't have highs or lows - you know exactly what you're getting. He's a patient hitter - moreso when leading off than other times. By conventional wisdom, he is the picture of a perfect number two hitter for these same reasons plus his ability to go to the opposite field, but I'd lead him off anyhow. I couldn't fathom batting him third in this lineup, which would cost Rodriguez, Giambi, Sheffield and Posada at bats as the season wore on, but it's not like he'd suck if he batted in that spot.

Alex Rodriguez
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He could bat third or fourth.
Known: He's the best hitting shortstop in baseball. He's the best player not named Bonds. He makes a whole lot of money. His agent is a sleazebag.
Unknown: How will he react to playing in New York? How will he handle third base? Will he be able to deal with the press-inspired "feud" between himself and Jeter? Will the fans and sportswriters understand when his overall offensive numbers take their likely dip in his new park? (Answer to that last one: No.)
Surprise in the stats: Rodriguez seems to have a rather predictable tiring pattern, at least since he moved to Texas. He has tended to start off hot, then wear down gradually until the all-star break, then mash again, then tire again. The trend is quite obvious in his career numbers, but I wonder how much his few years in the Texas heat influence that. New York is much more temperate than Arlington, but the Kingdome was, well, a dome.
The Roundup: He'll be fine. Rodriguez has always handled the press well, so even though the New York press is at a whole other (boorish) level, I think he (and Jeter) will deal with it without much trouble. It wouldn't shock me to see him get off to a slow-ish start in New York (a la Giambi), but I think he'll be fine in the end (a la Giambi). Believe it or not, I'd bat him fifth. (See Sheffield, Gary.)

Jason Giambi
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He could bat third, fourth or fifth.
Known: Jason Giambi is a devastating offensive player. In most years of their careers, he's been more valuable on offense than Alex Rodriguez. He had knee surgery in the offseason.
Unknown: How's his recovery going? How often will he be able to play the field?
Surprise in the stats: Giambi has the opposite tendency of Rodriguez. Over his career, he's improved from the start of the season to the all-star break, then repeated the process until the end of the season.
The Roundup: The notion that he should bat fifth is sheer lunacy. Even batting .250 last year, his OBP was .412 - best on the Yankees (he edged out Posada by .007). You could lead him off and I wouldn't scream bloody murder. Rodriguez isn't going to be stealing anyway, so I'd bat him third.

Gary Sheffield:
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He could bat fifth or 6-9. (Sixth out of the top five?)
Known: The man can hit. His batting average hasn't been below .300 since 1997 (when he had a .424 OBP), and he hasn't slugged under .500 since then either.
Unknown: Sheffield's another guy who's changing leagues, except he hasn't played on the junior circuit since 1991. How's he going to do now that he has to throw out about two-thirds of his "book?"
Surprise in the stats: Despite playing in serious pitchers' parks, he's hit better at home than on the road. This bodes well, as Yankee Stadium is essentially neutral.
The Roundup: Taking 2003 numbers, Sheffield would have led the Yankees in both OBP and SLG. Discount some for league change and aging. Add some for a better home field. He's an MVP candidate. By virtue of his consistent OBP advantage over Rodriguez, he bats fourth for me.

Hideki Matsui?!?
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He could bat second or 6-9
Known: He was mostly above-average offensively last year, hitting a bunch (42) of doubles. He was second in the American League (and tied for third overall) in GIDP in 2003.
Unknown: Has he learned the pitchers, or have the pitchers learned him? Will he be more comfortable this year, now that he's played a full major league season?
Surprise in the stats: None. He was a complete newbie to MLB last year. Maybe the double plays?
The Roundup: It is absolute insanity, completely unsupportable, to assert that Matsui should bat in the top five or six spots for the Yankees this year. The #2 spot is the worst, worst place you could ever put him. It's noted above, but deserves repeating: Hideki Matsui grounded into the second most double plays of any player in the American League last year. How do you like this scenario: Leadoff hitter walks, double play. I don't like it at all, and batting him second would ensure that it would be a regular occurrence.. I'd bat him seventh, eighth if Travis Lee is playing and hitting the snot out of the ball, which, granted, is fairly unlikely.

Jorge Posada
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He could bat fifth, or 6-9.
Known: Jorge Posada is the best or second best hitting catcher in the major leagues, depending entirely on Piazza's health.
Unknown: There is nothing about Posada's offense that anyone who's paying attention doesn't already know.
Surprise in the stats: Posada's first 400+ at-bat season was in 2000, when he was 28. If that's not absolutely shocking to you, please post in our comments. You're paying closer attention than I am.
The Roundup: He should have been batting cleanup all last year. I just cannot understand why Posada batted sixth and seventh throughout the season, when he was the Yankees' second most lethal power source. Does Torre have a prejudice against catchers? That would certainly be weird, as he was a catcher himself for about half of his career, but how else can you explain the batting order last year, or the overwhelming Girardiness of the starting lineup when Posada was entering his prime? Sure, Girardi was a wizard with the pitchers. Fine. Whatever. He bats sixth.

So, of the players available in the MLB.com poll, my top seven (out of five) looks like this:

1. Jeter
2. The Forgotten Man
3. Giambi
4. Sheffield
5. Rodriguez
6. Posada
7. Matsui

The Forgotten Man
Baseball Reference / BigLeaguers.com lifetime splits
Poll sez: He doesn't exist.
Known: He's had an OBP of .367 or better every year since 1994. Other than last year, when knee was killing him, he's always had some serious pop in his bat. He's a switch hitter.
Unknown: How will his knee be this year, now that he's had it worked on?
Surprise in the stats: There is absolutely no difference, over his career, in his home vs. road performance. None.
The Roundup: Of course, I'm talking about Bernie Williams. He works the count. He can drive the ball. Even with the knee problems he had above-average speed. Offensively, he performed at an all-star (borderline Hall of Fame, even) level from 1995 to 2002. According to the options in this poll, he'd bat no higher than 6th, and that's silliness. Other than Jeter, nobody is more qualified to hit in the number two (or even number one) slot in this lineup.

So what's my overall lineup? (I can hear all of you not asking. It's deafening.)

vs. RHP
1. Jeter, SS
2. The Forgotten Man, DH
3. Giambi, 1B
4. Sheffield, RF
5. Rodriguez, 3B
6. Posada, C
7. Matsui, LF
8. Lofton, CF or Whatever, 2B (If you want to be maniacal about alternating righties and lefties.)
9. Whatever, 2B or Lofton, CF

vs. LHP
1. Jeter, SS
2. The Forgotten Man, CF
3. Giambi, DH
4. Sheffield, RF
5. Rodriguez, 3B (You could move Sheff and A-Rod up, with Giambi in this spot, and I won't argue strenuously.)
6. Posada, C
7. Matsui, LF
8. Lee, 1B or Whatever, 2B (If you want to be maniacal about alternating righties and lefties.)
9. Whatever, 2B or Lee, 1B

So there you have it, my 2004 Yankees lineup. Whatever order you put 'em in, they're a serious threat to the all-time team runs record.

Call me a genius or (more likely) an idiot in our comments or via email. I'll happily explain any of my choices further.

Addendum: Results of the silly MLB.com poll, in a landslide:
1. Lofton
2. Jeter
3. A-Rod
4. Giambi
5. Sheffield

Later tonight...

I'll have a look at the first half (or so) of the Yankees' batting order. Brian Myrow will not be mentioned.

*Sigh*

It seems like only yesterday I was screaming his name to the sky as the Yankees' savior at third base. Hmm... he did play a little 2B in AA last year...

Travis Lee 'Rives Late*

As Vinny mentioned, yes, it looks like Travis Lee will be rockin' the interlockin' this year, as the hip-hop Michael Kay might say. It's a one-year deal, which I like. Lee and Boras have to like that too. If Travis goes out and smacks the ball around when given the opportunity, he should see some offers next offseason that beat his asking price this offseason.

The completion of the deal is contingent on the results of a physical. This also means that we'll have a resolution of Aaron Boone's situation this week. As noted previously, the Yankees need Aaron Boone's roster spot in order to bring Lee aboard.

Cashman said there's nothing new on Aaron Boone, who underwent knee surgery nine days ago.

The above quote is from the Notes at the bottom of this Journal News article, which splits its word-count between puffing up Alex Rodriguez and further tenderizing Derek Jeter.


*Yeah, it's an anagram. In the same vein, please don't shed any of those vile tears over, or write any ev'l satire about, this signing. He may not be a versatile player, but the complete lack of interest from other teams is still a little surprising. I guess it reveals how few teams are even willing to talk to Boras.

While Aaron Boone and his relatives may not be happy right now, Yankees fans should be. Jason Giambi should be happy too, and should avoid drawing his new valet's ire. Lee is a good fit to give J.G. some needed time off this year. Yankees fans, even if you're a little disturbed by the so-called "vile rates" the Yankees are paying players these days, don't worry about this one. It's a good deal, even if it draws only lite raves from reporters.

I'd better stop this before I lose my mind trying to find ways to fit in:
A liver set
Vilest ear
Evil taser
...and so on.

(Anagrams courtesy of the Internet Anagram Server. Go knock yourself out - it's fun.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

You Link To Us, We Link To You. That's How It Works.

While clicking through other people's links, specifically Shawn's at The Greatest Game, I happened upon Diamond Daze, a blog by a Canadian chap whose name I do not know. What I do know is that he has a link to us, so we now have a link to him. Stop by and say hello.

Again, if there's anyone out there that we've neglected, don't hesitate to let us know. Pick one of the 43 different ways we've set up to contact us and demand your link.

Are the Dodgers Really This Desperate?

Canseco To Try Out For Dodgers

Let me start by saying that I promise that this post will be 100% free of F-Bombs. Parents, I'll warn you in the future if one of my posts is going to be PG-13 or R-rated so you know to put the kids to bed.

Onto the news...

After a 2 & 1/2 year absence from the game, the first stop on the Jose Canseco '04 Comeback Tour will be an open tryout being held by the Dodgers on March 1st. OK, so it's not desperation on the part of the Dodgers because Canseco actually contacted them. But, according to Matt Slater, the Dodgers' director of professional scouting, "He's welcome to come."

Considering the statements Canseco has made concerning steroid use in baseball and the fact that it has now become a hot issue with no end in sight, you have to wonder what kind of reception Canseco will receive in a major league clubhouse. I dare say it might be a wee bit frostier than the welcome Alex Rodriguez has received from Derek Jeter.

*****


I also want to take a moment to send some love out to Petitio from This Grand American Game for helping out with the purty new logo you see on top of the page. I whipped it up the other day but couldn't seem to get the file size small enough to keep it from taking forever to load for broadband-impaired individuals. Petitio took that sucker, ran it through her Debigulator and now we no longer have that ugly orange thing at the top of the page anymore. Hooray!

Thanks also go out to Seth from Seth Speaks for being a broadband-impaired individual that could test it for us.

Oh, and Travis Lee's a Yankee.

Back to you, Scott...

Letters, We Get Your Letters...

As I was sorting through the ol' mailbag this morning, I came across this letter (OK, so it was the only letter) in response to my "Here We Go Again" post yesterday. For obvious reasons, I am withholding the author's name and E-mail address:

Hello,

I just got done reading Here We Go Again.

Before I go any further I gotta say I’m a Yankee fan. And as such, hold Sori in high esteem.


That's pretty much where I stopped reading. OK, just kidding...

That being said, I still see a strange reluctance throughout the Mets’ universe to include Reyes in a trade for one of the games emerging superstars. We’re talking about a 35 – 35 guy, back to back seasons. Only Hank Aaron and Willie Mays have done that. In the best case scenario, Reyes would evolve into Soriano (offensively) over the next two to three years. Why wait? You’ve got that player within your sights now.

I hate to disagree with you, but I don't see Soriano as an emerging superstar. For one thing, we've recently learned that, at 28, he's older than originally advertised and already into what are considered his "peak years." Assuming he doesn't get traded again, I believe the potential exists for Soriano, who will presumably be looked at as the "Go-to guy" in Texas' lineup, to have his shortcomings as a hitter severely exposed this season. I'm sure there were plenty of A.L. pitchers and coaches watching as Soriano fanned time after time on those low and away breaking balls in the postseason last year, and those that weren't have certainly heard about it by now. I think we've already seen the best of what Soriano has to offer, which is still damn good, but I think it's all downhill from here. How far downhill will depend on his willingness or ability to learn how to lay off those pitches in the dirt.

As for your statement that the best case scenario for Reyes is to develop into a Soriano-type hitter, I have to disagree again. Even though he's only 20 and will fill out some more and develop more power, Reyes is never going to be the kind of player that hits 30+ home runs, but that's not the kind of production that should be expected from a second baseman. Aside from Jeff Kent, Bret Boone and Soriano how many other second baseman hit for that kind of power? Reyes is a top of the lineup kind of guy that's going to get on base a lot, leg out a lot of extra base hits, steal a ton of bases and score a ton of runs. I think Jose Vidro with more speed is a more accurate best case scenario for Reyes, or perhaps Roberto Alomar when he was in his prime.

This isn’t a Phillips quick fix. First, Phillips brought in older players, guys who’ve achieved elsewhere. He took several gambles and lost them all. Alomar, Burnitz, Vaughn. Soriano is not any of the above. 1. He’s proven that he can pay in NYC. 2. He’s younger and has not suffered a major injury. 3. He is still cost-effective. Not as cheap as Reyes, but, again, in the best case scenario, what Reyes will be worth three or four years from now. And as we all know, a lot can happen in three or four years.

The only difference between this and a Steve Phillips quick fix is the age difference. Mo Vaughn was a risk because of his injury history, but that wasn't really an issue with Alomar or Burnitz. No one could've predicted the collapse of Alomar, and, to a lesser extent, Burnitz. Alomar put up all-star caliber numbers year in and year out, and Burnitz put up consistent power numbers (30+ HR/95-100+ RBI) for several years prior to returning to the Mets.

Soriano will not mean the Mets are going to the post season. They need to get younger in terms of pitching as well as power in the outfield before they can be taken seriously. But, Alfonso is a good step forward. He’s young and his time is now.

Finally, I agree with most of what you say here. Soriano would not propel the Mets to postseason contention, nor would he make them a significantly better team. And yes, the Mets do need to improve their pitching, whether it's through free agency, by promoting prospects like Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson, etc. or both. And they do also need to solidify their outfield, which, by not being on the hook for Soriano's salary this year, and the inevitable raise he'll receive next year in arbitration, will allow them the extra financial flexibility they need to attract a player the caliber of Magglio Ordonez. Honestly, who would you rather have; a guy like Ordonez who fills a definite weakness on your team (right field), has good judgement and discipline at the plate and isn't a liability defensively, or Soriano, a guy without a position and with huge holes in his swing? The answer is pretty obvious to me.

If this year is written off as being a transition year, what does it hurt the Mets to wait until the offseason when they can improve their team through free agency and not have to sacrifice their young prospects?

BTW: It saddens me that Wilpon has seemingly sold Mets’ fans on this notion of building from within as the only way to win a pennant. It’s cheap and wrong. Phillips took some long shot gambles. In that light I can understand passing on Vlad, but Sori doesn’t have the health issues that sunk a player like Vaughn. The Mets are a BIG market team, capable of turning a profit with a 100 million payroll. I don’t want to see it come to another fan boycott like it did with Piazza.

This is where you really lost me. In a roundabout way, what you're basically saying is that if you play in New York, the Yankee way is the only way. That, too, is wrong, my friend. Remember, the World Series was won last year by a team with a payroll that was roughly 1/4 of what the '04 Yankees will be paid.

Building from within isn't the only way to win a pennant, but if you can do it that way and do it on the cheap, why the hell wouldn't you? The Marlins didn't do it from within, they did it with speed, pitching and defense, and that's the philosophy the Mets are trying to emulate. Why would you follow the example of the bridesmaid when you can follow the bride?

Pardon my brain fart, but I'm not even sure what you're referring to with Piazza and the fan boycott, which I actually find to be sort of an oxymoronic term. Real fans don't boycott over trades that weren't made and free agents that weren't signed. And if they do, pardon my French (or is it freedom?), but fuck 'em. Better seats for me and I don't have to sit next to them.

Shut Up, Ratto

Bonds' State Of The Me address

This article has me angry enough that I can't coherently comment on it right now. I'll keep it brief.

First of all, what's up with that headline? It makes it sound as though Barry assembled the reporters in order to speechify about himself. Bonds sits down with a couple dozen reporters, which he'd certainly rather not do, and Ratto wants to turn it into a Barry's Ego Event.

Bonds covered a wide variety of subjects, including how hard it was for his mother to convince him to start training again, how hard it was for him to deal with the crushing absence of his father, how he spoke with both his godfather Willie Mays and Hank Aaron about his approach to the home run records still before him, and even how the baseballs were slightly softer in 2003 than in prior years.

Sounds like a pretty good interview session, right?

The 30 or so medioids who bracketed him in the first base dugout at Scottsdale Stadium, the Giants' spring training facility, knew the rules of engagement: BALCO, the 10-ton invisible wolverine, was "a legal question," and therefore to be given no answer, or if an answer, a brief and grudging one.

OK, I'm with you... Now let's skip down a couple of paragraphs.

But BALCO, and his as-yet wholly circumstantial role, wasn't dealt with directly. That's why God made federal courts.

Let's leave the moronic "That's why God made" device out of this for now. In the first statement above, Ratto's complaining that Bonds won't discuss the case. In the second, he's giving you the eminently rational reason why. Goon.

Yeah, Ray Ratto is a goon. All he's doing here is taking a normal spring training event - Star Makes Self Available To Reporters - and turning it into a hit piece - Bonds' State Of The Me address. Shove it, Ray.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Meathead And The Rabid Terrier Revolutionize Sports-Talk Radio

New York Newsday has a profile of Mike and the Mad Dog today. For you non-Tri-Staters, that's Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. Some of you foreigners may remember Francesa from some inauspicious appearances on CBS NFL pregame shows. None of you know Russo... except for any San Franciscans who might be reading.

Let me get this out in the open right now: I can't stand these guys. Russo's voice makes me want to kill. I don't mind his opinions that much. Francesa, however, causes me to destroy all nearby objects every time he opens his mouth.

Francesa also admits that his least favorite part of the show is taking calls from fans ("I consider it a part of the job," he says, "but they need to remember that we're the experts here"), and that he has little use for players ("Except for stars," he says, "they're mostly interchangeable parts").

I have two things to say about this.

1. I don't have a problem with Mike Francesa disliking the call-in segments. That's his prerogative. Fine. What gets my goat is just how condescending and disrespectful he is to anyone who disagrees with him. A typical exchange will go like this:

Caller: Joe Torre is not a genius. He's great at-

Francesa: What's your problem with Torre? He's a graaaaaaate manager! Four championships in five years, you got a problem widdat?

Caller: No, I don't have a problem with the championships. What I have a problem with is-

Francesa: Gimme an example!

Caller: Well, I don't really agree with his lineup deci-

Francesa: Awwwww, Ohhhhhh, you don't know what you're talkin' abaht! Gimme an example! Tell me why Joe Torre is dumber than you when it comes to making out a lineup!

Caller: I'm not saying he's dumber than me, but I wouldn't bat Soria-

Francesa: Oh, you got a problem with Soriano now! Aw, jeez, watch a game sometime!

And so on.

2. "Except for stars," he says, "they're mostly interchangeable parts"

Karim Garcia is Raul Mondesi is Juan Rivera is Jesse Barfield is Clay Bellinger is Dan Pasqua is Ron Kittle is Steve Balboni is Dave LaPoint is Charles Hudson is Mel Hall.

Yeah, well, they're not interchangeable to me, and I doubt they are to you. I have specific memories of all these guys. They all brought something to my baseball-watching experience. They are also definitely not interchangeable as players. They each brought their own collection of attributes and tendencies to every game in which they played. All the hitters on this list have gone 0-for-4, all the pitchers have given up 3-run homers, but they're not interchangeable.


Anyway, the article is an interesting look inside the evolution of this marriage made for radio. You have your love-hate relationship. You have your petty spats. You have Will Clark vs. Don Mattingly. (A draw, in my opinion.)

Interested in a career in radio? Read this piece to find out what you might be getting into... if you're successful.

Final note:
Mike's salary: A cool mil.
Mad Dog's salary: $700K.

Yeah, it's probably worth it, even if you have to work with a jackass who makes more than you do.

Anyhow, gimme Steve "Captain Midnight" Somers any day... but put him back on the overnights, please. If you have the time, click the link and listen to some of his stuff. This guy could do 24-hour sports talk by himself.

And I'm out.

Wilpon says, "No way, Jose"

Reyes Isn't Going Anywhere

We can all breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that Jose Reyes is not going to be traded for Alfonso Soriano, or anyone else. Fred Wilpon put the rumors of such a deal to rest today by stating simply, ""No way Jose" to a group of reporters. He also made a point to go and speak to Reyes personally to assure him that there was nothing to the rumors and that he wasn't going anywhere.

Urge to kill fading...

According to the same piece on Mets.com, Jim Duquette has spoken to Texas GM John Hart, but the conversations were just routine and not specifically about Soriano.

It's good to know that the Mets are committed to Reyes, but that doesn't mean that they still wouldn't consider dealing from the group of promising young arms they have in the organization. That, to me, would be as big, if not a bigger mistake than trading Reyes.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Here We Go Again

Newsday: Mets Talking to Rangers About Soriano

According to David Lennon of Newsday, the Mets are talking about a possible trade with the Rangers that would land them Alfonso Soriano. The Rangers apparently covet Jose Reyes, but it's not clear whether or not the Mets are willing to part with him. A team official said yesterday that it's "unlikely" that Reyes would be included in a trade.

We all know what happened the last time I doubted a Newsday story on a trade rumor, so I won't comment on the likelihood of this deal happening. But I will say that I would be totally opposed to any package for Soriano that includes Reyes.

By their own admission, the Mets are not just "one player away" from playoff contention. A trade like this wreaks of the quick fix mentality of the Steve Phillips era. To acquire the newly 28-year old Soriano, the Mets would obviously have to sacrifice some of their future for the present, be it pitching prospects, a player like Reyes or both.

According to the Star Ledger, the Mets and Rangers have had only one discussion and came away with an agreement to keep an eye on each other's camps. In addition to Reyes, the Rangers are also believed to be interested in top prospect and native-Texan, Scott Kazmir, Matt Peterson and flame-throwing Tyler Yates.

Being an extreme longshot for the postseason, the Mets would be wise to ride it out with the roster the way it is and look to upgrade their outfield (right field) offense on the free agent market after the season when names like Magglio Ordonez, Garret Anderson and Carlos Beltran become available. Their organization stays intact and all it costs them is a buttload of money.

If I'm crazy, I'll shut up. Is there anyone out there that likes this proposed deal?