Tuesday, March 30, 2004

One in the books.

9th inning

Danys Baez enters the game. It's not a save situation, but I'm sure Sweet Lou wants this one slammed shut. Baez strikes out Sierra. Enrique Wilson battles him, then lines out to left field.

Lofton works a walk, there's life...

Jeter grounds out to third. There's also death.

OK, that was a little melodramatic. I apologize. Devil Rays win, 8-3. Joe was slow with the hook on Mussina, but three runs isn't going to win a lot of games.

Now I get to go to work! Hooray!

Things don't improve in the 8th.

8th inning
Matsui fouled out. Rodriguez popped out to center. Hey, Giambi raked a double. That's something. Sheffield worked a walk, then Posada strikes out to end the threat.

Crawford started the bottom of the inning with a groundout against Heredia. Damian Rolls followed with a scorched double to left off the wall. Heredia then walked Baldelli on four pitches, which is really tough to do. Rocco will swing at anything. This gets Gabe White throwing in the bullpen. Somehow, Aubrey Huff strikes out on three pitches. Cruz lined out to right to end the inning.

Even on the strikeout, Felix didn't look good. There was a bad check swing on a ball in the dirt and a questionable strike call to help him out.

It gets ugly.

6th inning
Alex Rodriguez got his first hit, a double down the right field line. I guess he guessed right or stopped guessing.

Then Sheffield pulled off a check-swing double. Two strikes, fastball up around his eyes, outside corner. Sheff tried to hold up and was actually looking at his left foot when the ball hit the bat. He had no idea where the ball was - which is understandable because it was a line drive down the right field line. He cruised into second, scoring Rodriguez. 3-2 Yankees going into the bottom of the 6th.

At that point, Dear old Dad got me on Instant Messenger. As Jose Cruz, Jr. trotted around the bases after crushing a ball to right-center for a long home run, DoD told me he was yelling at Torre to warm somebody up last inning. Woulda been a good idea...

Tino Martinez doubles to right. Stottlemyre gets on the phone. Quantrill and Heredia start throwing.

Julio Lugo doubles over Lofton. Tino scores.

Stottlemyre visits the mound.

Toby Hall doubles down the left field line. Lugo scores.

Torre comes out to hook Mussina.

Now that was ugly. 5-3 Devil rays, Paul Quantrill comes in. Three pitches, three ground ball outs.

What happened? Why wouldn't you have somebody at least soft-tossing in the bullpen to start the inning? Mussina hadn't looked sharp since the first inning and was quite clearly tiring in the 5th, as evidenced by the consecutive walks.

While I'm writing this, it gets worse.

7th inning
Lance Carter comes in to pitch for the Rays, Yankees got nuthin.

Baldelli bunted toward third to start the bottom of the inning. Rodriguez and Quantrill converged on it. Either one of them could have taken it, but Quantrill got there first. Rodriguez screwed up - he didn't peel off the play in time - and he clipped Quantrill's leg. Q came out of the game after that play, Baldelli safe at first.

Felix Heredia came in, and things didn't improve. He tried to pick off Baldelli, and Giambi got beat 5-hole. He just missed it. It went between his glove and his cup. With the huge amount of foul terriroty, Baldelli had no problem making it to third. Aubrey Huff singled to bring him in. 6-3.

Jose Cruz hits a long fly ball, caught by Lofton. One out. Then Tino Martinez cranked the 300th homer of his career to make it 8-3. Congratu-friggin-lations, Tino.

Groundout, base hit, groundout, inning over. I need more coffee. Maybe a couple of shots.

Game Notes - 5th inning edition.

2nd inning
Announcers noted that Victor Zambrano won the bad version of the pitchers' triple crown last year. He led the league in walks, wild pitches, and hit batsmen. I wonder how often that's happened.

Mussina's looking a little less sharp now. He's missing fat - right down the middle. Huff and Tino both ripped fat pitches to right field. No harm done in the end.

3rd inning

Alex Rodriguez got fooled again. This time he was looking curve with two strikes and watched a fastball for strike three. He's not this much of a guess-hitter, is he?

4th inning
Now there's something you don't see very often - consecutive walks from Mike Mussina. After an Aubrey Huff flyout, Jose Cruz and our old friend Tino Martinez got free passes. Julio Lugo grounded out, the runners advancing. Mussina was almost out of it.... and Toby Hall dinked a single to right field. Two runs in, Hall was thrown out going for second after the throw home got away from Posada. 2-2 game.

5th inning
Sweet pickup by Alex Rodriguez on a hard grounder down the line. He ranged to his left to backhand the ball, then pirouetted mid-air (in a more compact way than Jeter does it) to throw to second base, trying for the force-out. The glovework saved an extra base hit and at least one run later in the inning, and the degree of difficulty on that throw was up there. He did about a three-quarter turn in the air and fired a perfect strike to second base.

And they're off!

After one half inning of the 2004 season, I'm grinning like an idiot. Baseball's back for real.

After a Jeter groundout to shortstop, Matsui ripped a double to right-center. Rodriguez got fooled and watched a curveball for strike three.

Giambi came to the plate and the Devil Rays put the shift on, with Lugo playing on the first base side of second. Michael Kay immediately noted that Giambi's been going to the left side a lot this spring (I hadn't really seen that). Two pitches later, J.G. sent a flyball to left field, home run, Yankees up 2-0.

Now I'm definitely in favor of the Yankees opening in Japan. If Giambi hit that same ball in Yankee stadium, Carl Crawford would have been parked under it for about an hour before catching it to end the inning.

Mussina looks strong to start the game. Crawford set the tone for the Devil Rays' season by bunting into an out to start things off. Damian Rolls hit a weak grounder to 2B for out number two, and Mussina K'd Baldelli to end the inning.

Time to put my feet up and watch for a while. Be back later.

Erickson: Left his heart in San Francisco?

Mets infield goes to plan B"

No, I'm not awake this early because I was dying to watch the Yankees play. Believe me, I'd much rather be asleep right now. But since I'm not, might as well get a head start on the day.

In the "Flashes" section at the bottom of the above-linked article the Daily News cites a "Bay Area report" as the source for a rumor that Scott Erickson could sign with the Giants if he doesn't win the job as the Mets' fifth starter.

With bottom of the barrel type pitchers like Dustin Hermanson and Brett Tomko rounding out their rotation, it's easy to see why the Giants would be interested in Erickson. It also looks like their ace, Jason Schmidt, will start the season on the DL, along with closer Robb Nen. Obviously, this is a team that needs some pitching help, so my question is, why wouldn't the Mets try to capitalize on that need with a trade, rather than letting him walk and getting nothing in return?

Barring a total meltdown tomorrow against the Dodgers, many believe that Grant Roberts has the final spot in the Mets' rotation sewn up (if I could do a backflip I would). If that is the case, Erickson has shown enough this spring that he's not going to accept a minor league assignment, so the Mets should act quickly and get something, even if it's a one-legged low-level prospect, instead of walking away empty-handed.

In addition to squeezing out Erickson, of whom I am no fan, Roberts' presence in the rotation has the added benefit of freeing up a spot in the bullpen that the Mets can fill with Orber Moreno, who, according to the same "Flashes" section, continued his impressive performance with another scoreless inning that lowered his ERA to a minuscule 0.56 for the spring.

Well, since I'm awake I guess it wouldn't kill me to go and watch the Devil Rays game for a while.

Enjoy the day and the game, folks.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Oh, almost forgot.

Are you going to be up crazy early tomorrow morning? I am. Want to talk about the game while it happens? IM me at YMtRScott (AOL). I'll set up a chatroom.

G'night, all.

Dammit dammit dammit.

I just got done drafting yet another fantasy baseball team - in Larry Mahnken's league. I feel good about my team there. I just got suckered into yet another league, this one for bloggers exclusively, run by Michael from Mets Ramblings. When will it end? Right after that draft, that's when. Jeez, I'm already in Eric Simon's league too. Vinny's in Eric's league and has pledged to be in Michael's. Expect updates somewhere, whether you like it or not.

Edit: Controversy in the comments!

Time to hit the sack. Gotta get up early, y'know.

The worst broken nose ever?

Angels pitcher hospitalized with severe nosebleeds

Brendan Donnelly is one unlucky guy this month. Quote from him in the linked article:

"They told me I lost half the blood in my body,'' Donnelly said Saturday, adding that he'd lost seven pints of blood. "I didn't realize how serious it was.''

Wow. That's it for tonight. I think I've sufficiently screwed my sleep schedule so that I can crash early on Monday and be awake in time for the Yankees' opening day game.

Goodbye, Joe G.

In all liklihood, Joseph Elliott Girardi just did the last thing you'll ever hear about him doing on a baseball field. Base hit to center, Bragg scoops it up and heaves it plateward in a seemingly futile attempt to gun down the runner trying to score from second base. The runner has the throw beat. Easily.

Girardi set up perfectly. He caught the runner's rear leg on his own left leg, changing the runner's equilibrium and tilting his lead leg upward and away from the plate. The runner (now a slider) curled harmlessly to the side, his front foot in the air and his rear leg folded into his body as Girardi calmly caught the ball and applied the tag. Allow me some redundancy - the runner beat the throw. The tag was applied almost a full second after the runner should have touched home.

See ya later, Joe. I hope you're great in the announcers' booth. I hope you give Kay hell. I forgive you for stealing two years of Posada's career. Peace.

Just watchin' the game

It's 8-5 now after Darren Bragg horribly misplayed a long flyball to centerfield, resulting in an inside-the-park home run (apparently called a "running home run" in Japan) by the Hanshin catcher. Bragg jogged back, sped up, slowed down, sped up, then fell as the ball glanced off his glove or his arm - I couldn't tell which. Man. That was ugly.

That's incidental - here's why I'm posting... There was just a shot of a stadium employee cruising the aisles with a large plastic trash bag, collecting refuse from the fans. Do any teams here do that in their ballparks? I've never seen it. C'mon owners, give some kids some minimum wage jobs keeping the stadium clean - and catching a ballgame in the process.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Yankees Opening Day Lineup Announced

Yanks Drop Lofton to 9th in Batting Order

As I've said before, I like to spread the AP story links around, and that one's from the Duluth News Tribune. Anyway...

Hallelujah! Well, almost Hallelujah. Here's the opening day lineup:

1. Derek Jeter - Yes. Absolutely.
2. Hideki Matsui
.....No no no no no no no no no!*
3. Alex Rodriguez - Doesn't
4. Jason Giambi - really
5. Gary Sheffield - matter.
.....Put 3-5 in whatever order you want, as long as it's these three.
6. Jorge Posada - Great, yes, wonderful.**
7. Ruben Sierra - Fine.
8. Enrique Wilson - No big deal.
9. Kenny Lofton - No big deal, except that he's not leading off.

*That's an overreaction, but here's what I've said before about batting Matsui 2nd:

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.

Ah, the wonders of hyperbole. Anyway, I still dislike batting him second, but it's a tiny bit more defensible with Bernie Williams unavailable. This brings us to a question - where does Bernie hit when he is available?

The optimist in me says that Williams is a tremendous on-base guy with some speed, and that Torre has to realize that. He's also a switch-hitter, which negates any problems Joe might have with batting three right-handed hitters consecutively at the top of the lineup.

The pessimist in me (and I'd kick him out if he weren't also the realist most of the time) says that Torre's not thinking about that because Bernie's a middle-of-the-order hitter. I mean, that's what he's been doing for years and years, right?

**So let's say that Torre reads this post, smacks his forehead, and decides to plug Bernie into the #2 spot upon his return. Where does Matsui bat? Probably in the #6 spot, ahead of Posada, unfortunately. From the same post as the above quote:

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.

Cliff Corcoran, of Clifford's Big Red Blog has made the same point several times, although I'm having difficulty locating a suitable post to link to right now. Call me lazy, call me dumb, just don't call me late for dinner.

In other news, the Yankees are currently getting their asses handed to them by the Hanshin Tigers, 7-1 in the third inning. Edit: Tony Clark just CRUSHED a ball to right-center, longer than Matsui's shot this morning, to make the score 7-5. He hit the Jumbotron, or whatever it's called there. It was estimated at 492 feet. Wow.

An amusing note about Blogger: The spellchecker doesn't recognize the words "blog" or "blogger." I don't know what to say about that.

I didn't see no stinkin' table

Just a quickie before I head out for my hockey game...

Head on over to The Shea Hot Corner where Norm has put together sort of a roundtable discussion of all things Mets that includes commentary from Pete Abraham, Bryan Hoch, Tim Marchman, Doug Pappas, Ed Tsunoda and a host of Mets bloggers, including yours truly. It's a really well done piece, so definitely check it out. And special thanks go out to Norm for including little ol' me.

Now, off I go to hopefully make it through my second consecutive fight-free hockey game. After that, it's an 11pm live fantasy draft (thanks, Yahoo!) for a 20-team league. Now there's something to look forward to.

Later!

Gutierrez a Met

Mets acquire Indians' Gutierrez

As expected by the "people with knowledge of the Mets' situation," the Mets acquired Ricky Gutierrez and cash from the Indians today for a player to be named.

Like I said yesterday, I would have preferred that the Mets go after Jolbert Cabrera, but I can't really complain too much about this one. For the Mets' sake, I hope they got the Indians to pick up a very large chunk of the $4+ million owed to Gutierrez this year. He's got a $5 million option for next season but with a $750,000 buyout, so he's not likely to be around beyond this season.

Japan Exhibition #1

Godzilla leads Yanks over Yomiuri Giants, 6-2

The Yankees beat the Y. Giants tonight... this morning... will have beaten them already later on? Whatever. Matsui, Posada and Jeter all hit homers.

Contreras also had a nice night, apparently. 5IP, 3H, 1R (maybe earned, maybe not).

There was a Tuffy Rhodes sighting!

Posada homered in the fourth to make it 4-1. Jeter connected for a solo homer in the fifth off Randel, and New York made it 6-1 later in the inning when center fielder Tuffy Rhodes dropped Jason Giambi's fly to deep left-center for a run-scoring error.

Inauspicious, but a sighting nonetheless. Here's hoping the pitchers over there pitch to him this year.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Timo Perez era in Flushing has come to an end

White Sox acquire Timo Perez

Thanks to Jeremy for alerting me to the fact that our beloved Timo Perez had been traded to the White Sox in exchange for 26-year old reliever Matt Ginter.

Basically, the Mets traded a player that wasn't going to be of any use to them this season for a player that isn't going to be of any use to them this season. Barring injuries to several of the Mets' relievers, we're not likely to see Ginter until September at the earliest, and even that's no guarantee.

I doubt that there were a ton of people beating down Jim Duquette's door for Timo, but you have to believe there was a better trade out there somewhere for him. At very least, you would think that the Duke would've held out a little longer to see if he could move Perez in a deal for a reserve infielder. Instead, we get a player that doesn't really address any of the Mets' needs.

***


In somewhat related news, the Star Ledger added the Dodgers' Jolbert Cabrerato the Mets' reserve infielder wish list that already includes Ricky Gutierrez, Deivi Cruz and Erick Almonte. The report says that "two baseball officials with knowledge of the Mets' situation" (don't you just love that?) say that the Mets are close to landing the 33-year old Gutierrez from Indians, but are looking for Cleveland to pick up part of the $4 million he's owed next season.

Unless Cleveland picks up a substantial portion of that salary, this trade just doesn't make any sense to me, even without knowing who the Mets would have to give up. The guy was on the brink of retirement after a serious neck injury, he's 33, makes way more than than he's worth and was never anything special to begin with.

Here's a fun, little excerpt from his ESPN.com scouting report:

Picture a slow man running in sand. That's how Gutierrez looked playing defense or running the bases. Worries that the converted shortstop could not turn the double play were unfounded, but his lack of range and speed made every grounder an adventure.

Lovely...

Cabrera is a somewhat interesting possibility, in that he can play just about anywhere, though he's primarily a second baseman. He appeared in at least four games at every position but catcher and pitcher for the Dodgers last season. At 31, he's younger than Gutierrez, makes considerably less than him ($1 million), has a little speed, can play defense (only 1 error in 59 games at 2B) and best of all, was shot in the ass. How many other players in Mets history can say that?

Friday, March 26, 2004

I love fantasy baseball, but just shoot me now.

MLB.com to Deliver Live Webcast of a Fantasy Draft

It causes me to feel layer upon layer of shame to report that I'd probably even watch the damn thing... except I have a fantasy draft at the same time. Pardon me while I go do a headstand in an overfilled bathtub.

It's Official

It may be Yates' turn

In the above-linked article about Tyler Yates and his chances becoming the Mets' fifth starter there is also mention of the fact that Jim Duquette has confirmed his interest in both Deivi Cruz and Erick Almonte. Colorado's Damian Jackson is also mentioned as a possibility, but, according to The Star Ledger, the Rockies' asking price is too high (Translation: The Rockies don't want Timo Perez).

As far as Yates goes, I'm starting to think that I could live with him getting a shot at being the fifth starter. My preference would still be to see Grant Roberts get the job, but part of me thinks that the Mets' bullpen would be much better if he was a part of it. His history of injuries while pitching in relief does cause me some concern, though.

Like I said way back when, I like the idea of the Mets sending out a flame-thrower every fifth day as a contrast to finesse pitchers like Glavine, Trachsel and Seo. Now that Roberts has seemingly cast aside his mid-90's heater in favor of becoming an ugh...pitcher, that leaves Yates as the lone major league-ready hard-thrower that the Mets have.

I love Roberts, but I see potential in Yates. So many conflicting emotions. What ever shall I do?

At this point, Heilman seems like a lock for AAA, as does Baldwin, so it's pretty much a 3-man race for the job between Erickson, Roberts and Yates. Erickson has pitched well enough that he probably won't accept a minor league assignment, so the Mets either need to trade him or release him if they're not going to give him the job. He's shown that he still has value to some team, but I just don't think it's to a team that, barring a miracle, won't be a contender this year and is looking to get younger. Maybe the Duke can work his magic and sell the Rockies on his sinker working in the rarified air of Coors Field and get them to loosen their grip on Damian Jackson. Who knows? I'm just throwin' out ideas here.

With an announcement expected within the next few days, I guess all the months of suspense and speculation will finally come to an end. I, for one, am ready for this damn thing to be over.

Is it April 6th yet?

Never mind the Nets, what about the Jets?

Stadium plan already draws fire

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Thursday threw up the first political roadblock to the multi-billion-dollar city and state plan to build a West Side stadium for the Jets and expand the Javits Center.

Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were in a celebratory mood Thursday in announcing their plans at Javits, but Silver, in his strongly worded statement, said he had serious reservations about the sweeping redevelopment project, especially its reliance on the use of Battery Park City Authority funds to finance it.


Vinny, you'd better get out the "don't care if it gets dirty" wardrobe and prepare to lie down in front of the bulldozers. Prepare to do your Arthur Dent impersonation.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Brady Anderson - Not An Airhead!

I had underestimated Brady Anderson. I had him figured for a vacant prettyboy, so the recent "Week in Quotes," available free from Baseball Prospectus, floored me. The first two sections of quotes are from Jim Palmer and Anderson, respectively. You probably read the Palmer stuff, but if you're like me you missed Anderson's responses. This mofo is capital-A Articulate. I'll just give you one of 'em:

"Because I only hit 50 home runs once, it was, in fact, an aberration. However, it was not a fluke... Nothing can be considered a fluke that takes six months to accomplish. Rather it was a culmination of all my athleticism and baseball skills and years of training peaking simultaneously. This was my athletic opus."

Honestly, how many non-Baltimore fans had any idea that this guy could string sentences together like that? I always thought he was just a couple of pecs on top of some abs.

Check out the rest of the post, which includes a very dumb quote from Dallas Green.

Mike Lamb, we hardly knew ye.

Astros acquire INF Lamb from Yankees

First Erick Almonte, now Mike Lamb has been shipped out. For Lamb, at least, there was a taker - the Houston Astros. Presumably he'll be backup infield insurance for Morgan Ensberg, and maybe Kent and Bagwell. The 'Stros currently have former Met John Valentin and former minor-leaguer Eric Bruntlett to handle those duties, with Kent being Bagwell's primary backup.

In exchange, the Yankees get 23 year old relief pitcher Juan De Leon (or DeLeon, depending on the spelling source). He worked in the South Atlantic league last year, his first professional season, for the Lexington Legends. In 39.3 innings of relief work, he allowed 46 baserunners (only 24 hits) and racked up 46 strikeouts. He could be nothing or he could be anything, although 23 is a little old for A-ball.

A nice little pickup which cost the Yankees nothing they'd planned to use.

Who will be the next Jorge Velandia?

There are a couple of new candidates in the Mets' quest to find a back-up infielder:

I saw this morning on the Bottom Line on ESPN that the Yankees have cut Erick Almonte loose. It wouldn't surprise me if the Mets took a close look at him to be their new Jorge Velandia.

The Daily News is reporting that the agents for Deivi Cruz, who was released by the Devil Rays yesterday, have already contacted the Mets to see if there's any interest in their client.

Cruz would provide a little more pop at the plate than Almonte, but that's really not what the Mets are looking for. At least I don't think it is. Cruz, while hardly an exceptional defender, probably also has an advantage over Almonte in the field, though, admittedly I haven't seen much of what Almonte can do on defense. What little I did see wasn't very good, though.

Almonte's younger (26) and would probably come slightly cheaper than Cruz (31) who, despite having been released by the Devil Rays, is coming off one of the better seasons of his career, at least in terms of his power numbers.

If it came down to a choice between the two (of course, the interest in Almonte is purely speculation on my part), I would probably go with Cruz. However, since the Mets have said that they wanted to add depth at both the major league level and minor league level, they could sign both and send Almonte to Norfolk until he's needed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Let's Celebrate.

I made it through an entire hockey game without getting thrown out or getting in a fight. At this rate, they might actually let me play in the next one.

Hooray!

I'm missing the game.

I am a superb boyfriend.

Not really. I'm banking the goodwill to use in the future. That's not the point. So I'm here with the girlfriend. She's going to bed early, so I'm settling for a couple of minutes of action (baseball action, you degenerate) here and there during the commercials of her show.

A moment ago, she flipped back just in time to see a Red Sox runner (not sure which one) inadvertantly kick a throw from Matsui into Alex Rodriguez's face while sliding into third base. I said something witty to the girlfriend - something along the lines of "Uh oh. Ummmm. Dayum."

She asked who was hurt, and I told her it was Alex Rodriguez. She asked who that was, and I told her it was the best or second-best player in the game. Her reply?

"Oh, that's that A-Hole guy, right? A-Rod? Something like that? The guy from the big trade."

What a woman. Anyhow, Rodriguez came out of the game, but he should be OK... I hope. He has a bruise and is going to the hospital for some just-in-case X-rays. (Edit, 9:15pm: A CAT scan reveals no break.) A little bit later I saw Matsui rip a line drive into center field and leg it into a triple.

Oh! The cat is missing! The girlfriend has to go look for her! You know what they say - while the cat's away, the chick goes too and so I get to watch baseball and stuff.

(One minute later...)

She found the damn thing.

One inning too many?

With the Mets close to making a decision on their fifth starter, Grant Roberts picked a most inopportune time to have his first major meltdown of the spring. After cruising through the first four innings without allowing a hit, Roberts ran into mild trouble in the fifth by allowing a leadoff double to Brad Wilkerson, who would eventually score on a sacrifice fly by Julius Matos. But it was the sixth inning proved to be his undoing, at least for that game, and possibly more. Roberts allowed a walk, four hits and four runs while recording only one out before getting the hook. Also worthy of note is the fact that, for the first time this spring, Roberts didn't strike anyone out.

It could just be a coincidence that this bad outing came on the same day that there was a published report stating that Roberts was going to make an effort to throw harder, but it's a pretty unfortunate coincidence. For his part, Roberts claimed to feel fine during the the sixth inning, so it's unknown if he was overthrowing in an attempt to "bump it up" and tired himself out.

"I didn't feel like I was losing it," said Roberts. "Maybe I did and didn't know it. That last inning I was trying to throw sinkers away and they didn't sink. They just kind of ran."

Hopefully this outing wasn't enough of a setback to hurt his chances of getting the final spot in the rotation. As valuable as Roberts could be in the bullpen, his presence there eliminates a spot that could otherwise be occupied by Dan Wheeler or Orber Moreno, both of whom are deserving of a chance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Arms Race

Much of my focus when it comes to the Mets' pitching has been on the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation, but there's another competition that deserves some attention, and that's the competition in the Mets' bullpen.

Unless the Mets elect to bring 12 pitchers north with them, there are several pitchers competing for two spots, and possibly one if Grant Roberts doesn't end up in the starting rotation.

Let's start with the guys you know are going to be there:

  • Braden Looper: Since becoming the Marlins closer in late 2002, Looper has managed to put up decent but not spectacular numbers by closer standards. Last year was very much a tale of two season for him. Before the all-star break he was firmly entrenched as the Marlins closer, putting up his usual average numbers. After the break, however, was a much different story. Looper was pretty much awful, which prompted the Marlins to go out and get Ugueth Urbina to replace him as closer.

    Fast forward to this spring, and Looper has done little to prove that the Marlins were wrong to replace him. Spring training or not, he's basically gotten pounded almost every time he's taken the mound.

    Unlike most typical closers, Looper doesn't have overpowering stuff. He doesn't strike many people out, and relies on a sinker to get his outs on the ground. Some would say that the improved infield defense of the Mets favors a pitcher like Looper, but I'm not so sure about that. It's not like the Marlins infield of Luis Castillo, Alex Gonzalex (no, the other one), Mike Lowell and Derrek Lee was horrible. Far from it, and yet, somehow Looper found a way to stink up the joint.

    You have to wonder about a guy when a team would rather take their chances this season with cardiac closer Armando Benitez than him. I don't think Looper is closer material. My only hope is that the Mets keep him on a short leash.

  • David Weathers: Let me get it out of the way early and say that David Weathers is an ugly man. With that said, I still think he's a hell of a pitcher, not to mention a workhorse (77 G/87.2 IP in '03). He also performed well in every role in which the Mets used him, including closer.

    Weathers, who's eligible for free agency after this season, is a very valuable part of the Mets' bullpen; maybe even the most valuable piece. The Mets obviously realize this and have already stated their intention to re-sign him and keep him around well beyond this season. Works for me. Until he proves otherwise, he deserves to be here and should be kept around.

  • Mike Stanton: Because of a knee injury, the Mets never really got to see the real Mike Stanton last season, though he did pitch well down the stretch. The best case scenario for a healthy Stanton would be for him to get back to being a left-handed David Weathers. Like Weathers, he can pitch often and fill just about any role in the bullpen. However, in Royce Ring, the Mets have a younger, cheaper version of Stanton, so I wouldn't be at all surpised to see the older, more expensive version traded off at some point this season, assuming he stays healthy and Ring continues to progress at AAA.

  • John Franco: The captain. It would be easy to say that Franco should just retire, but his performance this spring, however meaningless the stats may be, has been rather impressive and justifies his spot in the Mets' bullpen, at least temporarily. Strangely enough, Franco, who isn't known as a strikeout pitcher is third on the Mets in strikeouts with twelve this spring, trailing only Aaron Heilman (19) and Grant Roberts (16), both of whom have pitched almost twice as many innings as him.

    At 43, Franco is at the end of the line. If he struggles early in the season, I hope he has enough character to bow out gracefully and make room for one of the many capable young arms in the Mets' farm system.

    On the outside looking in:

  • Dan Wheeler: It's probably not accurate to describe Wheeler as being on the outside looking in because he is almost a sure thing to have a spot in the pen when the season starts. He was a pleasant surprise when he came up last season, and has continued to impress so far this spring. You can safely pencil him into one of the available spots.

  • Orber Moreno: The Mets signed Moreno in 2003 as a 26-year old free agent after he was released by the Royals. After a brief but dominant stint in Binghamton, he was quickly promoted to AAA Norfolk where he proceeded to continue his dominance before being called up to the Mets in September.

    Moreno struggled after his call-up and had plenty of critics wondering if he had what it took to be the Mets' closer of the future. Though he's not currently considered a threat to Braden Looper's spot as closer, Moreno is someone to keep an eye on. He's been brilliant this spring, allowing only one earned run in his 12 innings, while striking out nine and allowing only one walk.

    Moreno has definitely earned himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, but may wind up at Norfolk if Grant Roberts ends up in the bullpen. The Mets' love affair with "veteran" pitchers also might give Ricky Bottalico an edge over Moreno if a spot does open up.

  • Ricky Bottalico: The Mets salvaged Bottalico off the scrap heap after he spent the majority of last season at AAA in the D'Backs organization and in pain. Even though there was no risk involved for the Mets, I was admittedly skeptical of the move at first, but so far it has actually paid off for them. Bottalico has been a very pleasant surprise this spring, allowing only one earned run and two hits in 8.2 innings thus far.

    As I mentioned earlier, the Mets favor veteran pitchers who have experienced success early in their careers, then sucked for a while before having one or more surgeries on their arm, so 34-year old Bottalico will fit right in on this team. There was as rumor (OK, so it was the NY Post) that if Bottalico were to make the team it could make David Weathers and his $3+ million salary expendable, but that's just crazy talk. The Mets love Weathers and his rubber arm. He's not going anywhere. Bottalico, if he pitches anything like he has this spring, would be a welcome addition to the Mets' pen, though.

  • Pedro Feliciano: Feliciano's on the outside, and that's where he's going to stay. He's been absolutely brutal this spring, allowing 12 runs (9 earned) in just five innings. Go to Norfolk, go directly to Norfolk. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200. Maybe we'll see you in September.

  • Royce Ring: A closer in college and throughout his career in the White Sox organization, Ring is apparently not considered to be closer material by the Mets (and Braden Looper is?). They see him as more of a Mike Stanton-style relief pitcher.

    He'll definitely start the season at Norfolk, but I would expect him to arrive at Shea before too long, especially if Stanton or Franco goes down, or if Stanton gets traded.

    You have to expect that there will be some kind of movement in the Mets' pen with Scott Strickland scheduled to return from Tommy John surgery some time in late May or early June, barring any setbacks. Weathers and Stanton are the most likely candidates to go because of their salaries (both make around $3 million), but the Mets seem committed to keeping Weathers, and Stanton has to prove he's got something left before any team would be willing to take on his contract. Then again, the Duke has found a way to trade players who were thought to be untradeable before, and gotten good value in return for them. I guess we'll have to see if he can work his magic again.
  • Just give him the job and shut me up already!

    And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the latest installment of "Vinny's Non-Sexual Crush on Grant Roberts"

    Yay!

    Usually these things come the day after Roberts pitches, but we're doing something a little different today. He doesn't pitch until tonight, but still got some ink in the locals.

    First, blogger buddy Pete Abraham of the Journal News takes a look at the new and improved, more mature Grant Roberts:

    Roberts has new maturity

    Also, the New York Post mentions how Roberts intends to "bump it up" in his performance tonight against the Expos, referring to increasing the velocity with which he throws his pitches:

    Roberts wants to turn up heater

    I'm not so sure I like the sound of that. Just the other day, was it not pitching guru Rick Peterson who said, "We don't throw, we pitch."? Roberts is going to attempt this change because he "believes the Mets want to see more velocity out of him." Grant, if no one has actually said anything to you, leave it alone. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    I have a hard time believing that the Mets would push someone like Roberts, who has a history of arm problems, to throw harder, especially considering how well he's pitched.

    Conspiracy Theory: The Mets are so determined to use old man Erickson in the rotation and find a spot for Orber Moreno in the bullpen that they're intentionally trying to get Roberts to blow his arm out.

    Yeah, that must be it.

    Hang in there, Grant! You mustn't let them win!

    Crosby Skilled, Can Mash

    Bubba has grand day

    Bubba Crosby is certainly drawing attention, and from some good people to impress:

    Some of his big-name Yankee teammates - Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada - have been dropping by his locker or pulling him aside in the dugout to tell him how much they've enjoyed watching him play, how much they've admired his hustle.

    That's gotta feel good. Scott Proctor, who came with Crosby in the Robin Ventura deal, is also mentioned as a big-league candidate in the column. He has my full endorsement, as would any other prospect named "Scott." Here's a fun bit from the article...

    Proctor could be the team's 11th pitcher and Crosby could fit as a pinch-runner for Joe Torre, though Darren Bragg and Homer Bush are in the mix, too.

    Sweet Jesus, if Torre gets on base, they had better pinch run!

    One last thing, a fun note about Crosby's inside-the-park grand slam from the other day:

    Crosby determined he'd come to camp this year to show the Yanks he can bunt, steal and run, qualities the team could use. His fourth-inning drive yesterday certainly showcased his speed. Escalona and Hideki Matsui, who was on second, had to hold up to see if the ball would be caught, so Crosby nearly caught Escalona near third.

    He was so close, he thought that third-base coach Luis Sojo was waving him home when, in reality, Sojo was waving Escalona home. Sojo looked shocked when Crosby raced by.

    "He made me look good, that's the important thing," Sojo joked.


    Check out the article. There's more good stuff in there.

    Monday, March 22, 2004

    NY Newsday: Mariano to sign, appreciates Gossage

    Rivera ready to sign Yanks' offer

    Good news. Here's a little detail on the contract from Jim Baumbach's article:

    According to a person familiar with the situation, Rivera is expected to agree Tuesday to a two-year extension worth $21 million, with a vested option for a third year based on games finished.

    That sounds about right, and it's a good compromise. Two years at an average of $10.5 million apiece, and the third year only comes into play if Mariano stays healthy and effective. It's kind of an un-Yankees-like contract in that way.

    A motivating factor for Rivera to get the deal done and out of the way apparently was his dislike for dealing with questions from the press about the negotiations:

    He maintained from the beginning he wanted to reach an agreement "as quick as possible," and he arrived at Legends Field Monday feeling optimistic. "I don't think it will be tough to wrap it up," he said. "I know sooner or later they'll get this done."

    In conversations with reporters during spring training, Rivera quickly grew tired of questions about the negotiations and often tried to change the subject, sometimes even bringing up the Hall of Fame.

    Fully aware of his own statistical accomplishments, Rivera asked reporters why former Yankees reliever Goose Gossage, who amassed 310 saves in his 22-year career, isn't in the Hall.


    That last paragraph doesn't have a whole lot to do with the introduction I gave the quote, but I decided to include it for future Googlers. In my opinion, Goose has a better Hall of Fame resume' than any reliever not already in the Hall. Just a couple of numbers I'd like you to think about for a moment...

    Gossage struck out 1502 batters in his 22-year career, and allowed 1497 hits. Dennis Eckersley struck out 2401 batters in his career - almost exactly 900 more. He did that in nearly 1500 more innings.

    Mariano looks pretty awesome in the K/H ratio, too. 582 strikeouts, 515 hits allowed. Now, if he pitches another 13 years or so at the level he's established, he could tack on another 800+ strikeouts... and almost catch up to Goose. These numbers are all cherry-picked, I'm not going to hide it. But it's not like I'm championing Mick the Quick over The Mick or anything.

    Harold Baines: Bench Coach

    White Sox pick Harold Baines as bench coach

    Our sole Saturday post was about the White Sox bench coach situation, of all things. Luckily, I think Guillen's going to run the team directly into the ground, so I had something to say, kinda.

    Well, they're going with Harold Baines. Here's a thought: other than a bench player, who better to be a bench coach than a longtime DH? He sure has practice doing the "bench" part, at least.

    "You wouldn't know it on my face, but, yeah, I'm pretty excited about it,'' Baines said. "I think we have a good team, and we have a great coaching staff. If we can work together, I think we'll be fine.''

    Raise your hand if you can remember seeing Harold Baines excited about something. Better yet, tell us when it was. I remember a poker face and a weird beard.

    Sunday, March 21, 2004

    Return of the Slacker

    Let me start by thanking Scott for holding down the fort while I've slacked off a bit for the past several days. The combination of a lack of news, fantasy drafts and some family commitments have contributed the my sporadic posting schedule over the past week.

    Today's distraction came in the form of a family reunion of sorts. Forty or so members of my family gathered at a restaurant called Venice (great food - stop in if you're ever in the neighborhood) on Williamsbridge Rd. in The Bronx, which is actually just around the corner from where I was born. I don't know how it ended up that a kid that a kid from The Bronx, especially being from an Italian family, ended up a Mets fan, but that's my story. Try and figure that one out. Fortunately, a couple of my cousins married Mets fans, so I usually have at least two allies who can help absorb some of the abuse that would have otherwise been directed only at me.

    As always, sports (baseball in particular) dominated the discussion amongst the guys in attendance. Surprisingly, quite a few people mentioned to me that they were aware of the site from the Peter Abraham article last month, which was good to hear.

    As far as actual baseball news goes, there's finally some good news coming out of Mets camp:

    Reyes continues to improve

    It looks like Jose Reyes is doing well in his recovery from the hamstring strain that's had him sidelined for the past week. From the sound of things, Reyes should be ready to go by Opening Day, and there's even a chance that he could get in a game or two before the Mets leave Florida.

    In some other health-related news...

    NY Post: Ailing Toe's No Problem For Cameron

    Mike Cameron seems to be suffering no ill-effects from the bone spur in his right big toe, which is obviously great news for the Mets. Cameron claimed that the pain was gone and that the injury was not causing him any problems, then went out and proved it in yesterday's loss to the Dodgers by stealing a base and making an impressive play in the outfield.

    And maybe the best piece of positive health-related Mets news...

    Baylor back after beating cancer

    In a spring that's been marred by the Karim Garcia/Shane Spencer incident, as well as injuries to several players, bench coach Don Baylor winning his battle against cancer is easily the best story to come out of Mets camp, if not all of baseball. It may not get nearly as much press as the other things - positive stories rarely do - but that doesn't diminish the significance of it at all. I've seen enough of the effects of cancer on my own family to be able to appreciate a story of survival like this.

    Congratulations, Don.

    Yankees 7, Devil Rays 2

    I picked up today's game in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Yankees leading 3-1. That means I missed Jorge DePaula's encouraging outing and Matsui's home run. I'm not one for full-game recaps, and you'll those all over the place anyway. So, like I have before, I'll just talk about a few things that made an impression on me as I watched the game.

    Expect the timeline to jump around a little bit, because I want to mainly discuss things by player rather than chronologically.

    Jesus Colome was on the mound for the Devil Rays when I tuned in. He didn't make it through the inning. He walked the first two batters (Giambi and Sheffield) as the announcers noted the unusual amount of movement on his fastball. It actually looked like a screwball sometimes. A few batters and four runs later, Jeter was up. Toby Hall set up on the outside corner, which is where the pitch seemed to start out... before turning out to be a hellacious fastscrewball that hit a Jeter on his left forearm or elbow. There had to be a one-and-a-half or two foot break on that ball. Colome was completely ineffective, but intriguing to watch. He came out of the game after that pitch.

    During Gary Sheffield's at bat in that 6th inning, I wanted to know how his thumb felt. If it was bothering him at all he didn't show it. He took his practice swings normally, shook the bat around while waiting for the pitch like he always does. He didn't look at the hand.

    Same inning, Hideki Matsui got into a two-strike count, then blooped a low-and-away pitch to left center for a hit. That didn't happen much last year, when that situation would invariably produce a grounder to second base.

    Homer Bush looked absolutely terrible at the plate in the two at bats I saw. The first one was in the sixth, like everything else I've mentioned so far. He took strike one, then waved at strike two, low and away. Colome (he was still in) then threw the exact same pitch, low and away, and Bush pulled the ball foul. It was a little bouncer that made it about halfway up the third base line. He finished up by hitting a soft grounder to first base. He batted again in the eighth and it was even uglier. He struck out on a curveball that was two feet outside and in the dirt.

    Bush did make a great play in the field, at least. Fred McGriff hit a pretty hard ground ball between first and second. Bush turned immediately and sprinted five steps to his left (counted 'em on the replay) and made a lunge for the ball. He picked it up cleanly, kept his balance well, and got the super-slow McGriff at first base by about three steps. Watching that play, I thought back to Soriano. Ranging to his left was the one thing I remember him doing pretty well, but I doubt he would have made that play.

    Bubba Crosby had a nondescript base hit in the first at bat of his that I saw - little blooper to center. The good news is that it brought in two runs to give the Yankees a 7-1 lead in the 6th. In the 8th, he clubbed a fat pitch from Lance Carter off the wall in right field for a double. It was never hard to root for Crosby, and it gets easier every day.

    Jose Cruz, Jr. looked great in the two at bats I saw. In the 7th inning, he worked Felix Heredia to a 3-1 count, then crushed a high line drive to left field for what appeared to be a long home run... except that it was a couple of feet foul. He kept himself under control and accepted a walk on the next pitch. In the 9th, he smacked a first-pitch double down the left field line off Mariano Rivera.

    Mike Lamb played 3B from the 7th inning on, but didn't bat. I saw him make three plays, two good and one less so. The first one was nice - hard ground ball to his left, Lamb gets down in the dirt to cut it off. He showed good footwork getting back up and made a good throw to first for the out. Later, he made a bad throw on a routine grounder that pulled Tony Clark off the bag toward the runner. Clark made the tag. Rocco Baldelli came up next and hit another grounder right at Lamb, who made a good throw.

    Minor rant: How often do you see a first baseman seem to come off the bag early on a throw from an infielder? All the time, right? I have a nagging feeling I've seen a runner called safe for that at some point, but for the life of me I can't remember it. I bring it up because, on that last ground ball to Lamb, Tony Clark clearly came off the bag before catching the throw. It was blatant.

    This is the first-baseman version of the "neighborhood play." You know the neighborhood play - double play ball, middle infielder takes the throw at second base and kind of dances around the bag while firing the ball to first without ever actually putting a foot on second base. I hate the neighborhood play. The rules say you gotta make contact with the bag while holding the ball, so you should have to make contact with the bag while holding the ball. I don't care what base it is, the umpires should call the game based on what actually happens, not on what usually happens or what they expect to happen. End of minor rant.

    Baldelli fought the sun on two fly balls in the 7th. It looked like a serious battle each time, and each time he won. On the second one (hit by Mike Vento) he actually dropped to one knee; it was like the sun exerted downward force on him. Good concentration on both balls.

    Tino Martinez also made a very nice play on a hard grounder to his left by Posada. Cast your mind back to a pinstriped Tino giving a step and a dive, getting dirty, scrambling to his feet and leading the pitcher to the bag flawlessly. It was just like that, but without the pinstripes.

    Mariano closed the game out, and Cruz was the only hitter he didn't embarrass. Julio Lugo led off, got his bat broken, and whiffed on a cutter. Tino made the final out, getting his bat broken as he grounded out to second base. Aubrey Huff batted in between and made it through with his bat intact. This may be attributable to the fact that it never left his shoulder as he struck out looking.

    Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo both sat out with minor injuries. Wilson twisted his ankle the other day, and Cairo has a tight hamstring. Each is expected to take a few days off, then get back to work.

    Spring Setbacks

    Here's a little AP piece via the Tucson Citizen with some injury information you may or may not have gotten wind of.

    Garciaparra and Nixon: Nomar's got a creaky achilles tendon, but may yet be ready for the opener. Nixon's going to miss at least a month of the regular season due to a mildly herniated disc in his back.

    Result: We're likely to see some of Pokey Reese's glovework at short and Mark Bellhorn's, um, batwork (?) at second for a few games. Pokey is kind of the new Mark Belanger, save for his nomadic ways. Actually, he's probably not even the offensive "force" that Belanger was. I've always kind of liked Bellhorn, but his only shot at playing time in Boston is if Reese, Nomar or Mueller misses significant time.

    Nixon's absence makes for a more interesting situation. According to the Yahoo! Sports Depth Chart for Boston, Gabe Kapler and Dave McCarty are next in line for playing time, with David Ortiz DH'ing and Kevin Millar remaining at first base. I dunno about that, mostly because I'm not at all a fan of Kapler. I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense to move Millar back to the outfield, stick Ortiz at first base, and let Ellis Burks get his hacks in as the regular DH for a month. I know, that weakens the defense. Maybe it's the Burks fan in me talking.

    Moving on to the Expos, Tony Armas Jr. has strained his right deltoid. The Tucson Citizen article that led to this post is vague on that - it just says he "strained a muscle on his right side," which doesn't even begin to describe the situation. After a good start to last season, Armas went under the knife to repair tears in his labrum and rotator cuff. Here's a quote from that link:

    During surgery, an incision is made over the top of the shoulder and the deltoid muscle of the shoulder is opened.

    It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to see a connection. There isn't a timetable for Armas' return yet, but I worry. Not least because he was my last-round "steal" in a recent fantasy draft, but not only because of that, either.

    A.J. Burnett isn't thrilled these days, either. He's had nothing but trouble since getting Torborged early in his career, culminating in Tommy John surgery last year. He felt pain in the elbow. It was hoped he'd be back by May 1st, but that's now in jeopardy.

    There are also brief notes on Jason Schmidt's shoulder tightness and Josh Hamilton's tendency to get a little loose... or something. Schmidt was scratched from his last start, but is scheduled to pitch in a game again next week. Here's a quick AP writeup on Hamilton's one-year suspension for violating MLB's substance abuse policy - twice in two months. Now that takes some doing.

    Saturday, March 20, 2004

    Joe Nossek, Carlton Fisk, Hal Baines and David Pinto. Oh, and Ozzie Guillen.

    David Pinto talks a little, and quotes a lot about Joe Nossek leaving the White Sox. Head over there for the link to the actual story.

    Nossek was supposed to be the White Sox' bench coach this year. The article points to Jeff Torborg, Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines as candidates to replace him. Pinto favors Torborg:

    My feeling is that Torborg would be the best choice of the three. Fisk or Baines would be so popular that they would overshadow Ozzie.

    I couldn't disagree more. Well, I guess I could, but I don't have the strength. In my opinion, it would actually be good for Guillen to be overshadowed. For the ChiSox sake, anything that hastens his departure would be a good thing. In the spirit of laziness, I'll just pull out my thoughts from the comments on the fantasy baseball post below. My remarks are in response to a question about Willie Harris' value, fantasy-wise:

    Ozzie Guillen is looking at a 2B platoon between Harris and Juan Uribe. If one of them takes the position outright, he'll be valuable in fantasy for stolen bases.

    I think Guillen could flame out as fast as any manager in the game. His first action after being handed the job for no reason was to piss off Frank Thomas, for one thing.

    For another, he's got a team with Magglio Ordonez, Frank Thomas, Joe Crede, Jose Valentin, Carlos Lee and Paul Konerko... and Ozzie has said he intends to play a lot of small ball.

    Small ball! With that lineup and one-third of a pitching staff, he wants to play for one run a lot. Good thinkin there, Ozzie.


    Put succinctly, I think you or I might do as well managing this team as Ozzie will.

    Friday, March 19, 2004

    Greek God of Outfielder/First Basemen: TravisLees

    The headline points out a particularly bad example, but there's a new game going around at work: The Greek God game. To play, just take an existing word that sounds like it could be a Greek God and give it an explanation. Very minor word-alterations are allowed. Greek God-like pronunciations are enforced.

    A few examples to get you started:

    Greek God of improved vision: Spectacles (Spec'-ta-clees, etc.)
    Greek God of frozen stalactites: Icicles
    Greek God of hundred-legged creatures: Centipedes
    ....................thousand-legged creatures: Millipedes (Mi-li'-pi-dees)
    Greek God of enforced restraint: Menacles

    ...and so on. Have fun trying to forget about this game. It can drive you insane.

    Greek God of losing one's mind: Insanitees.

    Anyhow...

    According to the AP, (via Yahoo!) Travis Lee is likely to start the season on the DL.

    Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Lee is not expected to be ready until mid-April. Lee will rehab for two weeks before probably spending another two in minor league games.

    Long-term, this won't affect much. But what does it do to the Yankees' roster right now?

    We'll continue to assume that, post-Japan, the Yankees will carry 11 pitchers. That leaves space for 14 hitters. We'll assume that the starting lineup looks like this:

    C: Posada
    1B: Giambi
    2B: Wilson
    3B: Rodriguez
    SS: Jeter
    LF: Matsui
    CF: Lofton
    RF: Sheffield
    DH: Williams

    That brings us down to five bench players. This number is certain to include:

    C: Flaherty (Greek God of Backup Catchers: Flahertees? Anyone?)
    1B/OF: Clark
    OF impersonator/DH: Sierra

    Now we're down to two from among Miguel Cairo, Homer Bush, Mike Lamb, Darren Bragg and Bubba Crosby. Cairo is probably there, and the Yankees aren't going to carry another infielder if he comes along. That leaves a competition between Darren Bragg and Bubba Crosby.

    Whoever plays better defense between the two should come north, and I don't know who that is. I'm rooting for Crosby, though. The world needs more Bubbas in prominent positions.

    More injuries

    Mets.com: Tough break for top pick

    The Mets' top draft pick in 2003, Lastings Milledge, suffered a broken bone in his right hand on a bunt attempt yesterday. He will miss the rest of the Mets' minor league camp, and could miss up to six weeks.

    Mattox done for the season

    Mattox expected to miss season after surgery

    According to the AP, by way of Yahoo! Sports, David "D.J." Mattox, whom the Reds picked from the Mets in the Rule V draft this winter is likely to miss the entire season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.

    The Reds are placing Mattox on the 60-day DL, which apparently means that they intend to keep him. If the Reds chose not to keep him, he could've been offered back to the Mets for $25,000.

    Here's a recent scouting report on Mattox from Baseball America:

    A converted infielder in college, Mattox didn't have much mileage on his arm when the Mets originally drafted him out of Anderson (S.C.) College in the 11th round in 2001. He looks like a polished pitcher, though, as he operates with four quality pitches, including a low-90s fastball and a plus changeup, and command. "His arm works good, he has a good delivery and four pitches," Mets scouting director Jack Bowen said. "On the right night, he has four average to above major league pitches and an outstanding change."

    Just-as-obligatory Fantasy Baseball Post

    Vinny and I are in a fantasy baseball league together this year. In fact, it's the one that Eric Simon of SaberMets set up. The two of us have competed against each other for the last couple of years, but have never once been able to work out a trade... until today.

    I won't give you all the details, because that would be no fun. You tell us who got ripped off, or just agree that it was a fair deal.

    Jason Varitek for Randy Wolf. Discuss. If it's at all interesting, we'll talk about the silly circumstances that led to the trade.

    Obligatory Grant Roberts Hype

    Daily News: Mets' Roberts starting over

    NY Post: ROBERTS MAKES HIS PITCH; GRANT'S CLOSING IN ON 5TH STARTING JOB

    Newsday: Grant him that

    All of this comes a day after another strong outing for Roberts, though certainly not his strongest of the spring:

    IP: 5

    R: 2

    ER: 2

    H: 4

    BB: 2

    K: 4

    HR: 1


    And a small piece of bad news...

    Blister doesn't faze Roberts

    Roberts developed a small blister, or as he described it, a "hot spot," on the middle finger of his right hand in his fifth and final inning yesterday. It doesn't seem to be too much of a concern, and Roberts expects to make his next start on Monday or Tuesday. The only other time Roberts had a problem with blisters in his career was back in 1997, while he was a member of the Capital City Bombers of the South-Atlantic League:

    "That was a bad one in '97," Roberts said. "It ripped the whole middle of my finger off. I missed a month because of that. This is just more of a hot spot. Not a big deal."

    I hope he's right.

    Thursday, March 18, 2004

    Chavez Signs With A's

    Chavez gets richest deal in A's history

    Yup, they got it done. Six years, $66 million. Not bad for a 26 year old, top-level 3B who already has five full major league seasons under his belt. Eric Chavez was one of the most valuable properties in baseball and the A's just got him at a bargain price... which means he remains a very, very valuable property.

    I'm certainly not knocking Chavez or his agent, Dave Stewart. $11 million is a lot of money, and Chavez gets to play where he wants to play. Objectively, however, it's a better deal for the A's than it is for Chavez. While he makes a good buck, his age and salary keep him tradeable to a decent number of teams throughout the term of his contract.

    Now Beane can move on to in-season improvement - and then figure out what to do with his pitchers.

    All payroll information used from this point on is courtesy of Dugout Dollars, which is an absolutely fantastic resource.


    Jermaine Dye will certainly be gone after the 2004 season. He and the A's have a "mutual option" for $14 million for 2005. It's more likely that the A's will decide to field an all-woman team than it is that they'll pick up that option. In fact, if Dye remembers how to hit and remain healthy this year, it's unlikely that the A's will even have to make that decision. He'll probably be traded at the first opportunity.

    Since Dye makes $11 million in 2003, that's the figure that the A's will consider available for their payroll to remain constant. That might be enough to sign one-and-a-half of Hudson, Mulder and Zito.

    Tim Hudson is signed through 2005. He's scheduled to make $4.55 million this year and $6 million next year.

    Mark Mulder is also signed through 2005, but the A's have a $7.52 million option for 2006. His salary to that point is almost identical to Hudson's.

    Barry Zito is the lowest-paid of the three. In 2004 he'll make $2.9 million, then $4.8 million (plus incentives) in 2005. The A's have a $8.25 million option for 2006.

    So who do they keep, if they don't keep all three? At this point, Zito's got to be the most likely one to go. It's not because of that big option year, either. Check out his K/9 numbers for his three-full-year career:

    2001: 8.62
    2002: 7.14
    2003: 5.67

    Yikes! He's losing 1.5 K/9 each year. If he starts out hot in 2004, you might see Zito headed out of Oakland quicker than just about anybody expected. Something tells me that Beane does not want to see where this trend levels out.

    Bernie and George (No, not that one.)

    From NY Newsday:

    Bernie takes BP, champing at bit to get back in game

    Bernie Williams got back in the batting cage yesterday and reported no problems. He was working on taking nice easy swings and going to the opposite field. Don Mattingly supervised.

    That's wonderful to hear but that's not why I posted this. Check it out: "Champing at bit..." Somebody actually used the right phrase! A headline writer, at that! This is an absolutely stunning development in the world of journalism. "Chomping at the bit" is no more correct than "stomping grounds." It's "champing" and "stamping," as pointed out by national treasure George Carlin and English teachers everywhere. Read the relevant excerpt from "Brain Droppings" right here.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    Yankees 7, Reds 3

    I saw the first four innings and the end of tonight's Yankees-Reds game. Just a few random observations:

    Austin Kearns: The Reds are very protective of Austin Kearns' right arm. Tonight was his first playing time in the field since last August, when he seriously discombobulated his shoulder. From the above link:

    Kearns underwent surgery on August 14, 2003 to repair the torn posterior and superior labrum, torn rotator cuff, and damaged AC joint in his right shoulder...

    Ouch. He was under orders tonight to hit the cutoff man no matter what the situation. He wasn't allowed to throw to bases.

    Jose Contreras: He looked great tonight. He went four innings, striking out eight. Granted, this is the Reds we're talking about here. Nobody strikes out more than they do. However, this is the second straight appearance in which Contreras has struck out two batters per inning. He whiffed six in three against the Astros last Friday. Tonight he did it by mixing a mid-90s fastball with his where'd-it-go splitter.

    Derek Jeter: Saw him scoring from second on a base hit early in the game. He beat the throw, but he looked slow.

    Hideki Matsui: In the bottom of the 8th he looked as bad as I've ever seen him on his first two swings. His front shoulder flew open both times. The second time, he was so off balance he ended up backpedaling across the plate and through the opposite batter's box. He flew open yet again on his third swing... and crushed a home run to right-center.

    Tom Gordon: Came on for the 9th inning and made the Reds look helpless. He was in the mid-90s with his fastball. The curve wasn't great, but effective as an offspeed pitch. It was all he needed.

    I missed about half the game, but those things stuck out.

    More re-assignments

    The Mets re-assigned pitchers Jason Roach, Royce Ring, P.J. Bevis and Bob Keppel to minor league camp today, which leaves 37 players in major league camp. The 38th spot on the roster is occupied by Mo Vaughn.

    On the field today, the Mets flashed some leather and gave up 9 unearned runs to the Tigers in a 9-1 loss. The first two unearned runs came in the fifth inning as a result of an error by the soon-to-be-departed Timo Perez. Later in the game, Karim Garcia was kind enough to help out his former team by making two errors at first base that led to a seven-run eighth inning.

    Is it safe to end the Karim Garcia at first base experiment now? You have Jason Phillips, Todd Zeile and Mike Piazza all somewhat capable of playing first base, what the hell do you need Garcia there for?

    On a positive note, Braden Looper finally made it through an inning without giving up a run, and Orber Moreno and John Franco continued their fine spring performances with a scoreless inning each.

    Moreno may have a tough time making the Opening Day roster, but if/when one of the members of the "Old Guard" in the bullpen goes down, I'd have to think that he would be at the top of the Mets' list of replacements. He got beat up pretty good in his brief stint with the Mets last season, but he's looked very good so far this spring.

    Bobby V. makes some [Orix Blue]Waves

    TOKYO (AP) - The season hasn't even started yet and Lotte Marines manager
    Bobby Valentine is already getting hot under the collar.

    The former New York Mets manager, known for his fiery temper, got into a
    heated exchange Tuesday with Orix BlueWave manager Haruki Ihara in the
    seventh inning of Lotte's 2-1 pre-season loss at Chiba Marine Stadium.
    According to the Nikkan Sports newspaper, Valentine used language
    "unsuitable for publication," to express his displeasure over Ihara's
    decision to manage the game from the third base coach's box, something which
    the former Seibu Lions skipper does on a regular basis.

    In addition to the foul language, Valentine reportedly told Ihara to "Get
    out of there," and "Hurry up."

    Ihara responded by telling Valentine to "Speak Japanese."

    After the game, Valentine told reporters that Ihara is just trying to get
    attention and that his presence in the third base coach's box puts pressure
    on his pitchers.

    Valentine, who guided the Marines to a second-place finish in 1995 - the
    team's best finish in the past 19 years - is back for his second stint with
    the Pacific League team.

    According to Nikkan Sports, Valentine holds the major league single-season
    record for the most ejections after he was thrown out 18 times in 1985 as
    manager of the Texas Rangers. Valentine was ejected from Tuesday's game.


    The question is, did he return to the dugout with a fake mustache this time?

    When you're Wright, you're Wright

    Greetings from Port St. Lucie

    The second entry in David Wright's Mets.com/MLB.com journal has been posted. The entry is actually from March 12th, but seems to have just been posted today.

    He talks about some of the moments that have really stood out in his mind this spring, like the spring opener that was televised on ESPN and playing against one of his role models, Scott Rolen. He also answers some E-mail questions from readers, which is pretty cool.

    In reading his response to one of the questions and quotes I've seen from him elsewhere, it seems like Wright places a lot of emphasis on the "five-tool player" tag, which, in a lot of cases ends up being the kiss of death for young players. Upon hearing that Wright considered him a five-tool player, Scott Rolen recently had this to say:

    "Tell him [Wright] that five tools are nice, but that it is a scouting term. At this level everybody is really talented and it is he sixth tool - the ability to learn and understand the game, and be prepared to apply what you've learned that separates people."

    Alex Ochoa was a "five-tool player," and even though he carved out a nice little niche for himself as a hired gun off the bench, he ended up playing for eight different organizations in his relatively brief career and was was out of baseball by the age of 31. Alex Escobar was another player who got the dreaded "five-tool" tag, and look how well that's turned out for him so far.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2004

    Hartford? That's just silly.

    You know what's scary? This bid might have an advantage over the others because of two key words: "privately funded." As far as MLB is concerned, that stadium would build itself. More headaches come from begging the public for stadium funding than all other sources combined when it comes to luring a team.

    I agree with you, Vinny, Hartford would be an awful place for a team. Slightly over one million people live in the metro area. That ranks last when compared to other existing and potential markets. The entire state of Connecticut has about 3.5 million residents. That's about as many as metro-Monterrey. Imagine that.

    Of course, baseball fans in those parts have formed bonds with the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets. I daresay that only those who are actually in Hartford might be persuaded to change their allegiances in any measurable numbers.

    It's a silly idea. I still favor the MexposTM.

    Well, at least it ain't Mexico

    Connecticut group enters Expos sweepstakes

    According to ESPN, The Alevizos Group, a "development and acqisitions group," is very interested in trying to lure the Expos out of limbo and into central Connecticut.

    John Alevizos, a former Red Sox vice president and the head of the group of potential buyers, said that a privately-funded 34,000-seat stadium would be built for the team and that they would be re-named the Connecticut Colonials. Because of the smaller size of the stadium, Alevizos predicts that demand for season ticket would be higher(?).

    "I think Connecticut is the perfect location," said Alevizos. "If [baseball] does their homework, they'll agree."

    The article claims that the sites being considered for a stadium would not infringe upon the territory of other major league teams -- specifically the Yankees and Red Sox (isn't there some other team in New York that's actually closer to Hartford than the Yankees?) -- but I'm not so sure about that. Hartford is less than 2 hours from Boston, and even though the Colonials would be a National League team, the bid could run into opposition from the ownership of the Red Sox, much the same way Peter Angelos has done everything in his power to keep a team out of of the Washington D.C. area.

    Something else to consider about Connecticut, more specifically, Hartford, is that they had a professional sports franchise once -- the Hartford Whalers -- and they didn't support them, so they lost them. That's something that has to factor into MLB's decision when considering the offer from the Connecticut group. As much as the owners would probably love to be unburdened by the Expos, I'm sure they don't want to be dealing with the same situation 5-10 years from now.

    Much like José Maiz from Monterrey, I think this is just wishful thinking on the part of Alevizos. There seem to be too many obstacles that would stand in the way of the Expos/Colonials making a home in Hartford. The team wouldn't just be stuck in the middle of three other major league teams (that's right, I'm including the Mets, too), they would be stuck in the middle of New York and Boston, both of which boast some of the most rabid sports fans anywhere. Their only hope would be to lure new fans to the team, because they wouldn't be likely to get many defectors from the other teams.

    I would actually be more optimistic about Connecticut's chances if the bid were coming from a group that was looking to put the team somewhere near the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos. Even though it's about the same distance from Boston, you could draw not only fans from Connecticut and nearby Rhode Island, but also tourists staying at the resorts. That, to me, would be a much more desirable situation than Hartford, which is actually kind of a dump. I would imagine that area, with its tie-ins to the native American culture, could also produce a better name than the Colonials.

    More Injury Talk

    The verdict is in on Jose Reyes and his strained hamstring. The diagnosis is a "Grade 1" strain, which, thankfully, is the least severe kind. But there's still uncertainty as to how long it will keep Reyes out of the lineup. It sounds like the Mets are expecting to be without him at least for the rest of spring training, with a chance that he won't be ready for Opening Day on April 6th in Atlanta.

    Now that the Victor Diaz outfield experiment has begun, Joe McEwing and Danny Garcia will see the majority of the time at second in Reyes' absence. If Reyes isn't ready to start the season, McEwing will probably take his place with Garcia likely headed to Norfolk.

    ***UPDATE***


    Mets.com: Reyes on the mend

    Mets.com now has a story up about the diagnosis on Reyes' hamstring (I rule! I had mine up before they did).

    A couple of notes of interest from the story:

  • Jim Duquette said that the Mets will re-evaluate Reyes' stretching and conditioning program to see if there's anything he's doing (or not doing) that could be causing all of these leg injuries.

  • Duquette confirmed that he is looking to add another middle infielder to come off the bench. He was quoted as saying, "We aren't looking for an everyday second baseman."

    In other words: Mr. Klapisch, Mr. Sherman, I'm Sori to inform you that your dream trade's not going to happen.
  • Monday, March 15, 2004

    Lieber's Groin

    Overly dramatic headline courtesy of the Daily News: Lieber in pain, Yanks in panic

    Another day, another spring ouchie. Jon Lieber's going to miss the remainder of the spring, and at least one regular season start*, due to a groin injury. Hey, it's not his arm, right? At least he's got a sense of humor about it...

    "Maybe that's what it is, maybe it's something they took out of (the elbow) and they're going to have to put it back," Lieber said yesterday with a wan smile.

    Orlando Hernandez won't be ready for a couple of months yet, at the minimum. Jorge DePaula reportedly has back woes. Perhaps all the pivoting and twisting to get out of the way of balls being rocketed back at him is taking its toll. This leaves Donovan Osborne as the most likely #5 starter to begin the year. Osborne has pitched well this spring, although he's only been out there for 5.3 innings.

    On the bright side, the Yankees don't need a fifth starter for the first time until April 10th. Thanks to off days, they won't need to use the #5 spot in the rotation until the 20th, and might not use Lieber then even if he's ready.

    Here's the relevant portion of the Yankees' schedule, Boston games in bold. You'll see why.

    10th - Osborne
    11th - Mussina
    12th - off day
    13th - Vazquez/Brown
    14th - Brown/Vazquez
    15th - off day
    16th - Contreras
    17th - Mussina
    18th - Vasquez/Brown
    19th - Brown/Vazquez
    20th - Osborne again... look for the bold...
    21st - Contreras
    22nd - Lieber
    23rd - Mussina
    24th - Vazquez/Brown
    25th - Brown/Vazquez
    26th - off day

    The first Yankees - Red Sox series of the season begins April 16th and lasts four games. None of the Yankees' top three starters will have enough rest to start game one, but that's no big deal since they line up nicely to start games two through four.

    Then they get the White Sox for three midweek games. I can definitely picture the Yankees going Osborne, Contreras, Lieber in these three. Running Osborne out there one more time allows Contreras to start on his normal rest. Lieber gets to make his first start for the Yankees in a low-pressure situation. And...

    The Yankees now have the Big Three ready to start the Friday/Saturday/Sunday series in Boston. That's how I see it playing out. Come to think of it, if Lieber were making his scheduled starts from the beginning, it would be more difficult to rationalize running Osborne or somebody out there in order to line up the top of your rotation for your toughest (and intradivisional) opponent. Viewed in this light, Lieber's groininess is actually kind of convenient.

    *I misread.

    Lieber said he is not worried about losing his job, but Torre said it's "doubtful" Lieber will be ready to pitch by April 10...

    If he misses the rest of the spring, then I'd agree with Joe (who is, of course, in a lot better position to make judgments than I am) that Lieber probably will not be ready by the 10th. There's no real reason to rush him back.

    *****


    I've been away from the blog since late Saturday night, and it's nice to be back. I spent yesterday helping the girlfriend transport horses and barn stuff, and as a reward I received a head full of allergy-juice and about thirty seconds of online time. At dialup speed. There's an oxymoron for you. It's good to be home, and horseless.

    A quickie...

    Since I missed The Sopranos and the Curb Your Enthusiasm finale last night , anything else posted tonight is going to have to come from Scott since I'll be watching the encore of both shows tonight. But before I retire for the evening, I found something worth sharing on my "My Yahoo!" page...

    New York Mets Minor League System Overview

    The name of the link says it all. Tony Lee from SportsTicker takes a look at the Mets of the future.

    Later!

    Knocked for a Loop

    The Mets got home runs from the "Pizza Pals" and Kaz Matsui who made his spring debut at shortstop, but it wasn't enough to overcome the bad performances turned in by Jae Weong Seo and Braden Looper. Seo allowed 8 runs (5 earned) and 3 home runs in his 4.2 innings, and Looper, who has been pretty shaky all spring, allowed another 3 runs (all earned) on 4 hits during his one inning in the Mets' 11-9 loss to the Dodgers today.

    Matsui made his first start at short the day after the Mets lost Jose Reyes to a strained hamstring. He played half the game and had only two chances in the field, both of which he handled cleanly.

    *****


    I was pretty indifferent to the move when the Mets signed Braden Looper, but I have to say that he's starting to scare me now. What is it about this guy that had the Marlins believing that they'd be better off with Armando Benitez?

    Prior to today, in official "A" games Looper had pitched 4 innings and allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits. I'm pretty sure that I've heard about him getting knocked around in a couple of "B" games, too, but since they don't keep stats for those he gets sort of a free pass. The only good things I can say about him is that he hasn't walked anyone yet or allowed any home runs.

    With today's excercise in suckitude, Looper's "official" spring numbers look like this:

    Games: 5

    IP: 5.0

    Runs: 7

    Earned Runs: 6

    ERA: 10.79

    Hits: 10

    BB: 0

    HR: 0

    K's: 2

    Spring training or not, that...that's just not good.

    In pitchers like Tyler Yates, Orber Moreno, Royce Ring and Jason Anderson the Mets have enough impressive young arms that have experience or potential as closers that they should keep Looper on a very short leash this season. Grant Roberts, assuming he doesn't make the starting rotation, was once considered a strong candidate to become a future closer and could also become an option if Looper struggles. Kole Strayhorn and Jose(lo) Diaz, both acquired from the Dodgers in the Jeromy Burnitz trade, could become options down the road, but neither is ready for the majors just yet.

    The Mets don't figure to be an offensive juggernaut this season and will probably play a lot of close games, so the last thing they need is a "gas can" closer blowing all the one and two-run leads he inherits.

    Well, at least he doesn't soil himself at the sight of Yankee pinstripes. I guess that's something, right?

    It Could Be Worse...

    Bere sets sights on fifth spot in rotation

    If the competition for the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation has you banging your head against the wall, imagine how fans of the Cleveland Indians must feel when guys like Jeff D'Amico and Jason Bere are among the leading candidates for their fifth spot. Chad Durbin and Jason Stanford are Bere and D'Amico's main competition, but Durbin is just awful, and CBS Sportsline had this to say about Stanford:

    "Stanford wouldn't be a bad AL-only choice if he officially lands the spot, although D'Amico has better upside.

    Ouch!