Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who ya got? Game 163

Prediction time...

Twins 6, White Sox 2

and here's why.

-The Twins have faced John Danks 4 times this season and they have won three of those games.
-Mauer and Morneau are absolute beasts...even against lefties.
-The White Sox offense has been terrible without Carlos Quentin (as has my fantasy team). And I just don't think they will muster up enough quality at bats against the Minnesota pitching.
-To be fair though, Twins SP Nick Blackburn has not been great against the White Sox this season, but for some reason, I think Blackburn will go 5.1 IP and give up 2 ER.
-Michael Cuddyer will have a big hit tonight.
-Ken Girffey Jr. will not.

And plus, I cannot wait to watch Dennys Reyes celebrate with Eddie Guardado in a huge dog pile. Could you imagine that? Maybe thats what I'm actually cheering for.

Key to the Series: Brian Shouse

In the grand scheme of things, how many times can we honestly say that one reliever (non closer) could alter the outcome of an entire playoff series? Probably more than you think. And my feeling is that the Phillies/Brewers series will come down to one man: LHP Brain Shouse. Shouse is a submarine style left hander who has been fantastic this season getting lefties out (0.93 ERA against lefties this season). And as you all know, the Phillies are armed with two of the best left-handed hitters in the game: Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Utley has been alright against lefties (.277 BA with 13 HR) while Howard has struggled with a .224 batting average and 14 HRs. I have seen these two look awfully bad against Pedro Feliciano over the past three seasons and I think that Shouse is the key to ending big rallies by getting these two out. If Utley and Howard don't perform (in large part because of Shouse), then the Brewers will win the series. Mark my words.

Final Thoughts on the Mets

Just thought I'd wrap things up after letting the latest collapse linger in me for the past 24 hours or so.

-For all of you who are calling for the Mets not to re-sign Pedro Martinez you are 100% correct. But for all of you who don't want to resign Carlos Delgado, your crazy. The Mets have no one in the farm system who can replace Delgado and to be quite honest, the free agent market outside of Teixeira is terrible. And while Pedro Martinez gave the Mets a look of credibility three years ago, he has become a liability in 2008 and should not be back.

-To semi-quote John McCain, "the fundamentals of our rotation are strong." The Mets bring Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine back for 2009, which is a tremendous nucleus to have. The Mets need to bring in more than two quality starters because the odds of all five staying healthy is zero. Maine is coming off an injury, Pelfrey pitched more innings this year than ever before, and Santana cannot be Superman forever...right?

-The case of Oliver Perez is going to be the most difficult decision for the Mets to make. As I have explained before, Perez can look like an ace one day and a stiff the next. He's unpredictable and unreliable. On the other hand, a 27 year old hard throwing lefty is very difficult to find. So do you pay him $50 million over 5 years? To me, the answer is no. I like Perez alot, but 5 years is excessive. That will probably take the Mets out of the running for his services, but I think in the end, they will be better off without his unpredictability.

-One name to look for on the free agent marker: Derek Lowe. If you can get Lowe to sign a 3 year contract, I would do it in a heartbeat. He's an innings eater who has pitched well in big games before. Even better, he has become more consistent since joining the Dodgers 4 years ago.

-If the Mets want to go after K-Rod, they will have my blessing. This bullpen needs a stopper with Wagner down and K-Rod is a phenomenal option as long as the price and years aren't that ridiculous (probably will be). Besides K-Rod, I would like to see the Mets take a page out of the Kenny Williams playbook and go after guys who could have diminished value: Manny Corpas? Rafael Betancourt? Bobby Howry? Justin Speier? All worth a shot in my eyes. Relief pitchers go through more peaks and valleys than any other position so you never know when a turnaround is right around the corner.

-With that said, Scott Schoeneweis and Luis Castillo have to go. It was obvious that Manuel had no confidence in Schoeneweis down the stretch and he performed poorly when given the shot. He's been a bust so far. Anyone want a slap hitting second baseman who looks like he's in massive amounts of pain doing any athletic activities? No one. Great signing there Omar. Furthermore, I'm torn on Aaron Heilman. I still think he can be effective, but not as a reliever. Let's give him the shot to make a difference in the starting rotation. It can't hurt, can it?

-I love Orlando Hudson. He's a gold glove second baseman who can hit for average and get on base. He'd be a phenomenal fit for the Mets. It's too bad we have Castillo right now...let's hope we can move him.

-Do not trade Ryan Church. Or Jose Reyes. Or David Wright. Or Carlos Beltran. Anyone who suggests any of these is a fool.

-Mr Minaya, please get younger. This year was a step in the right direction, but I beg you cut ties with aging veterans. Youth is the new fad in baseball and you need to follow the trend. Let's give Daniel Murphy a chance to start and let's see what Jonathan Niese, Eddie Kunz, Nick Evans, Bobby Parnell, and Fernando Martinez can do in Spring Training. Open competition, baby!

-Mark my words, 2009 will be decided by three factors: clutch hitting, starting pitching depth, and finding capable (amazing!) guys in the bullpen. With potentially $25 million coming off the books, it looks like another fun filled off season for my Mets. Ya Gotta Believe, right?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why Kenny Williams is a Genius

Buy low. Sell high. It's the most basic of economic principles, but there are many GMs who fail to identify potential buy low opportunities (cough...Ed Wade...cough). And to me, no GM has done a better job buying low than White Sox GM Kenny Williams. In this age of splashy acquisitions and big names, Williams has built the White Sox through shrewd trades and impressive free agent signings. With game 163 right around the corner for the White Sox, there is no better time to highlight the brilliance that is Kenny Williams.

Exhibit A: Gavin Floyd
Anyone remember that Floyd drafted #4 overall by the Phillies in 2001? Neither did I. But obviously Kenny Williams did when he traded for Floyd after the 2006 season. Floyd looked to be a shell of his former self by posting a 7.29 ERA in 11 starts for the Phillies. Despite the ugly numbers, Williams took a flier on Floyd when he acquired him in the deal that sent Freddy Garcia to the Phillies. While he stunk up the joint in 2007, Floyd has been brilliant in 2008 by posting a 17-8 record along with a 3.84 ERA. Williams was able to acquire Floyd at his lowest value and now he has a stalwart in his rotation for the next few seasons.

Exhibit B: John Danks
Lemme be clear, John Danks' value has never been low. After the 2006 season, many insiders regarded Danks as the Rangers best prospect and a potential ace for the pitching starved Rangers in the near future. But in 2007, Williams traded his prized pitching prospect, Brandon McCarthy, to the Rangers for Danks. McCarthy was the jewel of the White Sox system entering the 2007 season, he was expected to be in the starting rotation right away. The Rangers needed immediate results and jumped at the chance to pick him up. Danks on the other hand, was supposed to spend more time in the minors honing his stuff. As it turned out, Danks made the White Sox out of spring training in 2007 and has only improved since then while McCarthy has struggled to stay healthy in Texas. Danks has been dominant this season by sporting a 3.47 ERA in 32 starts. He has the looks of a future ace and will remain a fixture in the White Sox rotation for many years to come. Kenny Williams was able to sell high on McCarthy and pick up an even better pitcher in John Danks.

Exhibit C: Alexei Ramirez
Where would the White Sox be this season without Ramirez? "The Cuban Missile" has been a fixture at second base for the White Sox since June and is one of the main reasons why the White Sox have been so successful this season. Kenny Williams signed Ramirez, a former star of the Cuban National Team, to a 4 year/$4.25 million dollar contract at the end of the 2007 season. Ramirez was expected to play all over the place and use his versatility, athleticism, and quick wrists to play wherever or whenever he was needed. After watching two months of Juan Uribe stink up the joint, Manager Ozzie Guillen finally made the switch to Ramirez. Since then, Ramirez has shined by hitting .290 with 21 HRs (including a huge grand slam today) in only 479 ABs. That's extraordinary for a second baseman, especially a rookie. Yes Ramirez needs to work on his defense and drawing more walks (.315 OBP!), but his improvement will come. Score it as another big move for Kenny Williams, who now has a quality second baseman at a bargain basement price. Great move.

Exhibit D: Bobby Jenks
Anyone know how Kenny Williams acquired one of the most dominant closers in the game? Waivers. Yup, for $20,000 in 2005, the White Sox acquired Bobby Jenks,who has racked up 116 saves and a World Series ring since becoming the closer. Enough said. Score it another huge win for Kenny Williams.

Exhibit E: Carlos Quentin
this is perhaps the most impressive move of the Kenny Williams era. Even though his outfield was already stacked, Williams took a flier on a former first round pick named Carlos Quentin. Quentin, who was once regarded as one of the Diamondbacks top prospects, had fallen on hard times in 2006 and 2007 because of injuries and limited playing time. So the Diamondbacks traded Quentin to the White Sox for 1B prospect Chris Carter because they had no room for him in their outfield. Again, Williams took a flier on a guy who had fallen off the map because the benefit was worth the cost. And boy have the White Sox been thrilled with Quentin. Despite suffering a season ending hand injury, Quentin has hit .288 with 36 HRs and 100 RBI through September 5. Quentin basically carried the Sox through April and May and remained a viable MVP candidate until his injury. Think the Diamondbacks would make room for him now? I think so. Another big score for Kenny Williams.

So hows that for an impressive resume? Williams is the main reason why the Sox are tied for first and deserves to be rewarded for his shred deals. Note to Jerry Reinsdorf: Give him an extension now!

Collapsing Rationality

I'm heartbroken, upset, and I really want to punch something right now. I have been teased and let down all season by my beloved Mets and I'm both physically and mentally exhausted. It's a hard life being a Met fan.

And yes, I was at the final game at Shea Stadium. From my spot in the Mezzanine, Section 7, I couldn't help but wonder about how perfect it would be for the Mets to qualify for the playoffs. But it was not too be. For whatever reason, Shea Stadium has provided more frustration and failure than success and prosperity. The collapse of 2007 just makes this loss all the more painful. It will take a few days for me to realize that this season is truly over, but until then, here are my rational thoughts about the season.

Somehow Rational Mets Thoughts of 2008

-Up and Down and Up and Down
As difficult as it was to watch this team fail again, I can't help but think how fortunate we were to have this team playing meaningful September baseball. Besides all of the injuries (Pedro, Maine, Wagner, Castillo, Alou, Church, Castro, Sanchez, Tatis, etc.) and the inconsistent/horrible play (Delgado, Beltran, Perez, Heilman, Schoeneweis, Castillo, Sanchez), the Mets lacked general consistency amongst personnel and performance in 2008. It is very hard to succeed consistently with a schizophrenic team, which actually makes a 90 win season look good.

-The Big Five
Most of the reason why the 2008 Mets were so good was because of five players: Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Johan Santana. Each of those guys had tremendous seasons and each achieved God-like status at times. Unfortunately for the Mets, this season will go down as the season in these great performances were wasted. You could make a compelling argument for each of those guys to win the MVP award, but not making the playoffs kills their chances. The wasted campaigns is what hurts me the most right now because I was really looking forward to these five excelling in September.

-Mets specialist bullpen theory
So much has been said about how bad the Mets bullpen was after Billy Wagner went down, all of which is true. This bullpen cost us a playoff birth and probably a division crown. If we have a healthy Billy Wagner, there is no way that we lose the division/wild card. Mark my words. But with that said, I have a major issue with the way this pen was constructed. If you simply look at the numbers of each guy out of the bullpen, you will see that each has excelled against hitters from one side of the plate, but has struggled against the other.

-Smith (vs RH): 3.54 ERA, (vs. LH) 3.75 ERA
-Feliciano (vs LH) 2.76 ERA , (vs. RH) 5.63 ERA
-Schoeneweis (vs LH) 2.08 ERA, (vs. RH) 4.78 ERA
-Heilman (vs LH) 8.19 ERA, (vs. RH) 3.30 ERA
-Sanchez (vs. LH) 3.04 ERA, (vs. RH) 5.40 ERA

So basically, GM Omar Minaya left Jerry Manuel with a variety of different options out of the pen. But, there was NOBODY who could get out both lefties and righties on a consistent basis. Every guy that is thrown into the fire has a very limited chance to succeed.

And look, I love specialists as much as anyone. But once Billy Wagner went down, he left a void that could not be replaced. Manuel smartly tried using Heilman Guys like Felciano and Smith were now working later into the games and facing more match ups to which they were not favored. While the Mets were able to slide by from August until the beginning of September without Wagner, it is only fitting that this would catch up to them in September when the rosters expand. Because of the 40 man roster in September, teams are able to play the percentages more against the Mets bullpen by pinch hitting for weak left handed batters or right handed batters.

Twenty-Five man rosters favor the Mets bullpen (as much as a bad bullpen can be favored) because the options are limited. However, in September, anything goes.

-The Kids
Lost in the shuffle of yet another late season collapse has been the play of the young Mets. Guys like Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans, Bobby Parnell, and Argenis Reyes each played vital roles at some point during the season and showed flashes of solid play. Murphy appears to be the real coup of the group here because of his ability to work and a count and drive pitches. He reminds me a left handed Kevin Youkilis. Now lets find him a position Omar. And while I'm not totally solid on either Evans or Reyes, maybe each of them will have a role off the bench or at least add to the organization. And look out for Parnell next year, dude's got a great arm.

Now please keep all sharp objects away from me for the next week or so...then we'll be good.

More on this tomorrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Struggling Organization: San Francisco Giants

Boy they have fallen a long way from the 2002 World Series. No more Barry Bonds moon shots, no more Barry Bonds/Jeff Kent dugout fights, and most importantly, the herds of media no longer cover the Giants. They arent that interesting or that good. Yes Barry Bonds was an out of this world player (with some help from our good friend Mr. Steroid), but how did the Giants fall this fast? I mean, wow, they will finish with 70 wins this season and thats about 10 more than I thought they would. What in the name of Emmanuel Burriss is going on here?

Free Agents
Believe it or not, the Giants history of fiscal irresponsibility started well before the Barry Zito signing. We can go all the way back to the glorious Barry Bonds years to try and figure out how in the world the Giants did not win a World Series with Barroid playing that well? The answer is simple: the supporting cast was never good enough to win a championship. Just take a look at some of these absurd contracts:

2003: Edgardo Alfonzo (4 years/$26 mil)
Michael Tucker
2004: Ray Durham (3 years/$21 mil)
2005: Mike Matheny (3 years/$9 mil)
Omar Vizquel (3 years/$9 mil)
Armando Benitez (3 years/$24 mil)
2006: Matt Morris (3 years/$27 mil)
2007: Barry Zito (7 years/$126 mil)
Dave Roberts (3 years/$18 mil)
Rich Aurilia (2 years/$8 mil)
Benjie Molina (3 years/$18 mil)
2008: Aaron Rowand (5 years/$60 mil)

What do these guys all have in common (besides Zito)? They are all old. Yes, they have had good careers, but they are all past their prime and into their thirties (even Zito looks past his prime). So should it really be any shocker that the post 2002 Giants have been marked by inconsistent play, poor performances, and injuries? I think not. I understand the importance of trying to win now, especially with an aging Barry Bonds, but simply throwing money away on over the hill veterans is not a smart move for various reasons (we'll get to them later). I can honestly say that very few of those guys listed has come close to earning his pay, which is a major strike against GM Brian Sabean. I do like Aaron Rowand alot because he plays hard and is a winner, but is he really worth $60 mil? I dont think so.

And yes, we will devote an entire paragraph to Barry Zito. While the contract is absurd, I actually cannot kill the Giants too much on this one because I, for one, was advocating for my Mets to go after Zito. I would have gladly given him 5 years/$90 mil at the time; and wow am I ever glad that the Mets didn't. He looks like a shell of his former self and there is really no rhyme or reason for it. He's not hurt, which is good. But at the same time, the Giants have no idea why his velocity has suddenly dropped 5 MPH or why his pinpoint control suddenly disappears. Simply put, this is a contract that will kill the Giants for the next 5-10 years if they continue to get nothing out of Zito.

Here's the thing about the Giants over the past few seasons, they make virtually no trades. The only trades worth mentioning are the acquisitions of Russ Ortiz, Dustin Mohr and Shea Hillenbrand. Oh yeah, Mohr and Hillenbrand are not currently playing in the big leagues right now. How could one team make so few trades over a five year period? GM Brain Sabean essentially decided to build his teams around Barry Bonds, some decent players, some free agent acquisitions, and whatever he could get out of the farm/AAAA players. Doesn't sound like a great plan, does it?

Because of the way baseball free agency works, teams usually cannot sign quality players without giving up draft picks in return. As a result of the Giants ridiculous spending, they have given up their first round picks in 2003, 2004, and 2005. It is virtually impossible to add talent to the organization when you give up the opportunity to add high caliber guys. I could understand losing picks if you sign guys like Carlos Beltran or Alfonso Soriano, but do you seriously want to lose draft picks for signing Michael Tucker, Omar Vizquel, Mike Matheny, or Armando Benitez? Not me.

Fortunately for Giant fans, the teams has drafted two tremendous young arms in the first round-Matt Cain in 2002 and Tim Lincecum in 2006. Cain has the makings of an ace even though he has expereinced some problems in his first few seasons. Look for him to develop into a solid 1 or 2 in the next few seasons. The real prize for the Giants has been Lincecum, who since being called up last season has developed into a bonified ace. Armed with a unorthodox delivery, Lincecum combines a 95 MPH fastball with a devestating breaking pitch that makes him unhittable at times. What makes Lincecum even more impressive is that he looks like he is 15 years old and in no way does he look like a professional athlete. But wow is he fun to watch.

And it looks like GM Brian Sabean has finally learned that giving up draft picks is not the way to build a franchise. The Giants have has two very good drafts over the past two seasons by picking up future studs: SP Madison Bumgarner, SP Tim Alderson, 2B Nick Noonan, and C Buster Posey. While they may be years away, hope is on the horizon for the Giants.


(The Giants have a solid future ahead of them, but they will be burdened by the Zito contract for years. I see them struggling over the next two seasons, but by 2011 they have the potential to compete. If Zito regains his form, watch out)

*And please Mr. Sabean, no more ridiculous free agent signings. Build through the farm.*

Part III: AL West Amnesty

Jorge Says No! introduced amnesty earlier and we are happy to present to you our AL Central picks. Which contract would your team want to waive at the end of this season? Lets take a look:

Is there any doubt who the Angels would pick here? Your favorite $50 million dollar HGH filled backup outfielder, Gary Matthews Jr! Since being signed for the ridiculous $50 mil over 5 years after the 2006 season, Matthews Jr. has been terrible and is now lower on the depth chart than Joey Harrington. Matthews is only hitting .240 with 8 HR this season, which is a far cry from his spectacular 2006 campaign (.313 BA with 24 HR). Can we please get this guy some HGH?

A few good options here. We could go with C Kenji Johjima, who was rewarded by Seattle management with a 3 year extension at the beginning of this season. Oh yeah, he's hitting .215 right now AND your best position prospect, Jeff Clement, is a catcher. But Johjima is a draw to the Japanese crowd and we all know how important that is in the Seattle market. And to be honest, SP Miguel Batista and his 6 ERA have no business being in the major leagues right now, but he is only signed through 2009.
So the final choice is obvious: SP Carlos Silva. Why Bill Bavasi signed Silva is beyond me, but the fact that he gave Silva $48 mil over 4 years is downright insane. Is he serious with that contract? Did anyone remind Bavasi that Silva can't strike anyone out and only had one full season with a sub 4 ERA before this season? I guess not. And oh yeah, Silva has a 6.46 ERA this season. Nice investment there Mr Bavasi.

No real candidates here besides 3B Eric Chavez. Unfortunately, Chavez has been injured for a majority of the time since 2007 and has not resembled his 2000-2002 self in a few years. Gone are the days of the gold glove defense, 30+ HR, and 100+ RBI. The Athletics signed Chavez after 2004 to a 6 year/$66 mil dollar contract thinking that he would be the face of the franchise. The Athletics simply cannot afford to pay a guy $11 million dollars who may never produce half of that level ever again especially with a $47 million dollar payroll.

Even though the obvious answer should be Kevin Millwood, I think that SS Michael Young is a much better option. For whatever reason, the Rangers gave him an $80 million dollar extension through 2013, which is about $20-$25 million too much for a player of Young's caliber. Yes he is a great player who hits for a nice average. Yes he is a team leader and a consummate professional on and off the field. But in Texas, where pitching is so scarce, that money could have been spent wiser on pitching. Hitters are not hard to find in Texas, pitching is.
Oh boy.

The Long Sleepless Ramblings of a New York Met Fan

First off, I apologize for yet another Met-centric post. But ladies and gentlemen, this team is absolutely killing me. Not only are the Mets losing, its the way they lose. It's the torturous, pit in your stomach, they cant seriously blow this can they type of loss. The game is right in our grasps before boom, a greater power takes it away from us. It's kinda like the mouse coming so close to getting the cheese before some smelly and angry cat viciously snipes it away from your little paws. And then to top it all off, the cat laughs at you...over and over again.

Maybe thats a slight exaggeration, but thats unfortunately how I feel. With this team no lead is safe because the bullpen stinks and even when the starter gives you a great start, you have to hope and pray that the offense comes through in the clutch. I pray to any higher power who will listen for a few outs from a beleaguered bullpen or for just one clutch hit in a season of so many missed opportunities. How would you feel having a bullpen comprised of Luis Ayala, Scott Schoenweis, and the pitcher formerly known as Aaron Heilman. Two words: Oy vey. Do I have to mention the twenty-five guys the Mets left on base tonight in 10 innings? That's enough to give me an ulcer! (Hopefully kidding!)
And yes, I am obsessed. It runs in my blood from generation to generation. This team making the playoffs after last years collapse and the struggles of 2008 would mean more to me than it probably should. But hey, thats how much the Mets mean to me. The Mets are my team and even though they are falling faster than Wall Street (maybe not that fast) and I will stick with them even if they blow it again in 2008. However, with that said, please don't blow it again guys.

So I'll be grabbing my Peptobismol, Advil and my lucky Met shirt tonight and hopelessly waiting for a miraculous victory or improbable comeback. Until then I will attempting to sleep and hopefully dream of Luis Ayala throwing his glove 500 feet in the air after we clinch a playoff birth. Because hey, these are the New York Mets, Ya Gotta Believe! (Note to self: keep sharp objects away until Sunday)

(Photo: NYTIMES)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


One more Mets' post for the day: does anyone else realize that the Mets have given up two grand slams to pitchers this season. On June 24, Felix Hernandez hit the first grand slam by an AL pitcher in the past 37 years off Johan Santana. And folks, it was an absolute bomb. Then last night, Jon Niese gave up another monstrous granny to Cubs SP Jason Marquis, which killed the psyche of every Mets fan from Long Island to Rochester and everyplace in between. What a weird season for my Mets. To quote my dad, "only the Mets."

Giving up two grand slams to pitchers in one season...that has to be some sort of record right?

Collapse II

Oh boy. Here we go again. For those of who haven't noticed, my beloved Mets are now only 1 game ahead in the Wild Card and 2.5 games back of the NL East leading Phillies. While the Mets have probably played themselves out of a division title, they have to pick it up over the next six games if they want to play meaningful October baseball.

But as a fan, I am dying watching the Mets. Not only I have I not recovered from the collapse of 2007, but this one certainly feels like Deja Vu all over again.

1. failing bullpen.
Check. The Mets bullpen has been so bad that it has taken a few years off my life. My heart cannot take it anymore. Whenever I think it can't get any worse, it does. Notice to starting pitchers: go all nine or else I might drop dead.

2. lack of starting pitching depth
Check. The Mets are currently surviving on 3 starting pitchers, a failing Pedro Martinez, and a promising pitcher Jon Niese, who looks more frightened than I did sitting in the Yankee bleachers in a Mets shirt. How can we survive with that? Anyway Johan can pitch every day?
And speaking of injured starters, in 2007, it was Orlando Hernandez who was too injured to start, but came out of the bullpen for the final few games. In 2008, its John Maine...too injured to start so shove him in the pen!

3. clutch hitting
Check. This has been the main weakness of the Mets for the entire season. However, down the stretch, David Wright has been the main culprit. For a guy with 120 RBI, Wright should have about 140 RBI right now if he has hit in the clutch. With this team, there are no big comebacks or season saving base hits. They perform well in the first few innings before going into Derek Bell Operation Shutdown for the next few innings. And how about last night, two double plays with two guys on and none out. Horrible.

4. repetition
Check. As a fan, this is what kills me the most. Over the past two months, it has become evident that guys like Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, Nelson Figueroa, and Duaner Sanchez have not been effective, but for some reason, Jerry Manuel continues to use and abuse them. Manuel doesn't just use them, he uses them almost every day. Seriously its not bad enough that these guys stink, but now we have to see them all the time? Remeber Jerry, this is September, you have other pitchers (Rincon, Parnell) who are at least worth a look in a big spot. Try something new Jerry, please. This bullpen is horrible...it won't hurt you try something new.
Furthermore, can we please get away from Luis Castillo? The guy is an absolute stiff who has no business playing 2nd base for the Mets right now. And having him bat 7th is just embarrassing. I would take Argenis Reyes/Daniel Murphy at 2nd any day over this guy.

*So to sum it up, the next few days have the potential to be brutal for me. All prayers/condolences are gladly accepted. Lets go Mets.*

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mini Bathroom Reads: Yankee Stadium Edition

-Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, Welcome...to Yankee Stadium. Bob Sheppard, what a run of longevity at the Stadium! You will always be the Voice of the Yankees and to me, the Voice of October Baseball.

-So this isn't the real Yankee Stadium. For all of those who don't know, the original Yankee Stadium was refurbished in 1973 because it was an absolute dump. So I wonder how much of the original Yankee Stadium lives on in the current Yankee Stadium? And how much of the original idea will be going into the new Yankee Stadium? From what I hear, it appears to be based on the 1923 model. Major plus in my eyes.

-The Boss speaks! Errr...writes! And he talks about his favorite memories at the Stadium and makes a point of telling us how amazing this new Stadium will be. While I don't doubt the Boss, I'm sure there are bitter Yankee fans out there who can't fathom why the Yankees would tare this piece of history down. Others will see this as a simple attempt to maximize profit and to charge albatross ticket prices. I think there are some truths to both.
(Photo: NYTIMES)

RIP: Yankee Stadium

When the season began, I never thought the Yankees would be closing down Yankee Stadium in September. These are the Yankees. They always find a way to pull it out. I've seen it before so many times; for some reason, the Yankees seemed to be able to make the impossible happen at Yankee Stadium. And as a Mets fan, I knew this. No matter how far out the Yanks were, no matter how big the deficit was; I always thought the Yanks would pull it out.

And what a feeling of dread it was. Could you imagine sitting in front of TV praying to any God who will listen, that whoever was playing the Yankees would pull it out. Most of the time, this never happened. And boy did that infuriate me because boy did I hear it the next day at school. As the lone Mets fan in my school, a Yankee playoff victory was like euphoria for everyone else and torture for me. "Those damn Yankees won again...ughhh." My parents vividly remind me about how I would chuck all Mets shirts down the stairs after the Mets lost each game during the 2000 World Series. True story.

And it happened sooo many times. Between Jeter, Tino, Brosius, Bernie, O'Neill, Aaron Boone, Rivera, Pettitte, Clemens, Posada, Matsui, Jeff Nelson, Stanton, Mussina, and even Chad Curtis; the big moment never seemed far from reality. And as much I as cheer against the Yankees, I will miss that feeling because the Yankees over the past twelve years exemplified the impossible and defined the improbable. They taught me to never turn off the TV because the next Yankee rally was only a pitch away.

So as we close Yankee Stadium tonight, I wonder if the Yankees will still be the Yankees next season. While this might just be wishful thinking on my part, the Yankees are defined to me by Yankee Stadium. Between the facade, Bob Sheppard, Monument Park, the Bleacher Creatures, the grounds crew YMCA, and all of the Yankee Stadium ghosts; Yankee Stadium served as a unique, fun, and intense place to watch a game. I will always appreciate it for that. No new Stadium can provide the lure or aura that this Yankee Stadium was able to provide. While the Yankees might be the main attraction, Yankee Stadium served valiantly as a treasured backdrop for so long.

Yankee Stadium, we have had many tough moments throughout the years. I can honestly say that my childhood was partially defined by the Yankees' greatness. As much as I should want to cheer to watch you go, it will still be tough for me. So enjoy this final night, and for once, I'll let myself say: Go Yankees (FOR TONIGHT ONLY).

Random Thoughts

-As far as frustrating players goes, Hank Blalock and Eric Chavez are high on my list. Each was at one point though of as a franchise 3rd baseman and perennial all stars for many seasons to come. The fiscally conservative Athletics were so confident in Chavez that they gave him a 6 year $66 million dollar contract through 2010 while the Rangers extended Blalock to a 5 year/$15 mil dollar extension in 2004. However, both players have seen their careers derailed thanks to injuries. Chavez has missed most of this season with a shoulder injury while Blalock has missed most of this season with various ailments. I can't express how disappointed I am that both of these guys got hurt because I was really looking forward to watching their careers blossom. Now, all I can hope for in a healthy 2009 for both. Go get 'em guys

-Congratulations Rays on your first playoff birth ever! You guys sure know how to celebrate even though your kind of new at this.

-I watched some of the Cubs game today and couldn't help but wonder if Carlos Marmol will have some shoulder problems down the road. That delivery looks awfully stressful and awkward and lets hope for the Cubs sake that he holds up.

-Get well soon Shaun Marcum. You were fantastic on my fantasy team for about 3 months this season and I became a huge fan of yours along the way. While Marcum doesn't throw that hard, he has wonderful control that allows him to strikeout lots of hitters and get lots of weak ground balls. See you in 2010 sir.

-And seriously this is the third major injury to a young Blue Jays starting pitcher. Actually the fourth if you count all the injuries to Gustavo Chacin. Casey Janssen, Dustin McGowan, and now Marcum have all undergone major operations to their arms and have missed/will miss significant amounts of time. Is there something in the Blue Jays water? Or is this just a coincidence? I'm not sure, but I hope that GM JP Riccardi looks into it this offseason.

-I am going to miss Yankee Stadium alot. Even though the Yankees are one of the Mets most hated rivals, I can honestly say that everytime I stepped foot into Yankee Stadium that something magical could happen. What a remarkable place. More about this from me tomorrow.

-And how about those fading Brewers...what happened? Well, it seems as though the offense has collapsed at the worst possible time while the brilliance of CC Sabathia/the health of Ben Sheets has faded away. And to make matters worse, the bullpen has still been terrible (see Torres, Solomon). And Mr. Melvin, c'mon, firing Ned Yost with 12 games left in the season reeks of panic and desperation. If that didn't doom the rest of the season, then I don't know what did.

-Finally, how amazing would a Cubs-Rays World Series be?
Pretty good, but I want my Mets in there.

Go Mets.

Who do you trust? Brewers Edition

I would like to personally thank the Milwaukee Brewers. I have been weak over the past few days partially because of the Mets offense, but mainly because of the Mets anemic bullpen. I seriously thought that no team could have it any worse than the Mets. I mean, they have NOBODY who can gets outs on a consistent basis. Lucky for me and the Mets, the Brewers bullpen can't get anyone out either. They accomplish a rare feat by having both (post steroids) Eric Gagne and Guillermo Mota in the same bullpen! Their gonna party like its 2003! Wooooo!

Solomon Torres: Newsflash to myself, Solomon Torres has not been half bad this season. Armed with 27 saves and a 3.20 ERA, Torres has been a God send for the Brewers this season. Without Torres, the Brewers never would have sniffed the playoffs this season. Another plus for Torres, anyone else notice that in 2006 he appeared in 94 games! Wow!
Trusted (with major caution)

Eric Gagne:
There is no way any Brewers fan could trust Gagme (yes Gag-me) after witnessing his abysmal performance this season. GM Doug Melvin gave Gagme $11 million to close for the Brewers and Gagme was terrible. He has been horrible for a year and a half now and should not sniff the late innings of a ballgame.
Not trusted

Brian Shouse:
Here's another submariner that I absolutely love. Not only does Shouse have a ridiculous delivery, but he consistently gets the job done. Shouse has a .95 ERA against lefties this season and would be perfect in a big spot against a David Ortiz, Carlos Delgado, or James Loney. That's high praise right there.

Guillermo Mota: Ladies and Gentlemen, its time for me to deal with my demons from the 2006 NLCS. GUILLERO! why did you throw a fastball to Scott Spiezio on a 0-2 count? You realize that Spiezio was not going to get a good swing off any changeup you threw right? And c'mon Guillermo, could that pitch have been any more down the middle? Ughhhhhh.
Anyway, Mota has actually not been bad for the Brew Crew this season. But I warn Brewers fans, Mota is a hostile and volatile arm who can explode at any moment. I would hate to see him in a make or break big spot because I am sure he would crumble. I have seen it before (in both 2006 and 2007)
Not Trusted

Carlos Villanueva:
Villanueva is a strange breed. And no, its not just because he has a beef with Albert Pujols, but because he is a right handed relief pitcher who can't get righties out. Amazingly, Villanueva has a 2.84 ERA against lefties this season while righties have crushed him to the tune of a 5.53 ERA. I'm sorry, but you cannot have a right handed relief pitcher who has no ability to getrighties out. That won't work.
Not Trusted.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Oliver Perez

No pitcher..err player has frustrated me more than Oliver Perez has during these past two seasons. When he's on, he's as good as anyone, but when he's not, its ugly. Case in point: I have been to multiple games where Perez has pitched. I have seen Oliver pitch great games at the biggest moments (vs. Yankees) and I have seen him look like he has never thrown a baseball before in his life. You never know what your gonna get from this guy. (Note: Oliver...we need you. If you deliver down the stretch, I will be forever greatful). Even with his inconsistency, I know that some team will pay Oliver tons of money at the end of this season because hey, if Gil Meche can get $55 million dollars, then why can't Oliver?

The Case for Perez
He's left handed.
Finding a stud starting pitcher is hard enough, but when he is left handed, teams go ga-ga for it. I have seen Oliver Perez single handedly take away the best hitters in a team's lineup because no one wants to play lefties against him. Lefties are only hitting .150 against him this season and I have seen more than my fair share of horrible swings against Perez from the left side. If the Mets and Phillies are forced to play game 163, I would feel very confident that Perez could shut down Howard and Utley. That's high praise.

The K's!
Perez strikes out just under one per inning (162 K in 178 IP), which expresses how dominant Perez can be when he is on. Teams value guys who have the ability to strike out hitters because it completely eliminates the chance of an error or a dinky hit. Armed with a dominant fastball and an absolutely filthy slider, Perez is your classic left handed strikeout artist. He could easily strike out 8-10 guys per game. All he needs to do is maintain control. Teams always seem to overpay for guys who can get the strikeouts en masse and Perez should be no different.

He's a youngin.
Even though Ollie has been around for the past six seasons, Perez will only be 27 on opening day next season. Most 27 year olds do not become free agents because they lack the service time, which makes Perez even more valuable. As a GM, you know that if you sign Perez, you will have him during his "prime". That alone could make Perez one of the most coveted free agent pitchers.

The Case against Perez
The Walks.
Oh boy...Ollie and his walks. There are times when Ollie looks like he is cruising and then he will mysteriously lose it and walk two or three guys in a row. And then there are other nights where Perez simply doesn't have it and will walk six or seven. You never know with Perez, who has walked a horrific 94 guys this season. Anywhere close to 100 is unacceptable for a major league pitcher. But Perez's stuff is so good that he is still able to maintain a 1.37 WHIP.

He's been really bad.
Coming into 2005, Oliver Perez was looking like he was on his way to becoming one of the best left handed starters in baseball. After having a fantastic 2004, Perez was looking to maintain his success by having another quality season with the Pirates. However, Perez floundered badly in 2005. He wound up with a 5.58 ERA in only 20 starts before being demoted to the minors. To make matters worse, Perez continued his struggles into 2006 by posting a 6.55 ERA before being turned around by Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson. Any GM who signs Ollie has to acknowledge his history and not be caught off guard if Perez flounders.

The longball.
In addition to his wildness, Oliver Perez will give up his fair share of home runs. Part of that is because of his aggressiveness, but Perez does have a tendency to live up in the zone. I'm not saying to avoid Perez because of this, but if I don't think that the Astros or Phillies (teams with really small parks) should make a push for Perez.

CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets are Perez's prime competition. However, teams will be scared away by Sabathia's price tag and others will shy away from Sheets because of the injury concerns. So Perez could actually wind up becoming the lower cost option to either one of those guys and given his age and ability, he should have no problem developing a market.

(5 years/$60 million)

Despite his inconsistency, Perez will get his loot from someone. His agent, Scott Boras, is a master of getting two teams to compete against each other so I expect him to do his best to develop a strong market for Ollie. If I were Boras I would say, "how many 27 year old ace lefties are out there on the market right now?" After that, I would see who bites. Because quite honestly, there are no other guys that combine both Perez's ability and age on the free agent market. With that said, I don' think the Mets will make a strong play for Ollie. Boras should look at the following contracts:

Gil Meche (5 years/$55 mil)
Kevin Millwood (5 years/$60 mil)
AJ Burnett (5 years/$55 mil)

To me, Perez is better than all three of those guys. None of them strike me as #1's, but they are good #2s, which is where I think Perez is. And for all of you who think that pitchers no longer get long term contracts, welcome to 2008.
Wherever he lands, Oliver Perez has been a fun/interesting/frustrating Met to follow and I wish him the best of luck. But before you go Ollie, pitch us into the playoffs, por favor!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Down with the Schedule Maker!

Mets vs. Phillies!

Twins vs. White Sox!

Rays vs. Red Sox!

Hows that for excitement? After more than 145 games played, each of these three divisions is as close as can be. Especially the Mets and Phillies, who are currently only separated by .5 game. And given the fact that the Mets and Phillies battled until the final game of the season last year, you would think that the Mets and Phils would be playing each other for at least one series during the final 21 days of the season, right?

Well, you would be wrong. Unlike the Rays and Red Sox who played a series at Fenway last week and are currently playing a series at the Trop, and the White Sox and Twins, who are scheduled to play three games against each other next week, the Mets are Phillies are nowhere to be found on each others schedule.

Seriously MLB, how can this be? I know schedule making is a crap shoot, but the Mets and Phillies were huge rivals last season and were only separated by one game. How could they not have the Mets and Phillies playing a game over the final two weeks of the season. Think about how exciting/torturous that would be for the Phillies fans? Or how about how excited/emotional I would get if my Mets beat the Phillies on the last game of the season to clinch the NL East?
Positive thought...One can dream...can't he?

The Rest of the Way: American League

Yes, I have officially been on the Rays bandwagon now for the past three months and I am loving every second of it. Even though they have had a tough stretch as of late, look where they are in the standings today? First place. Even without Longoria, Crawford, Percival, and most recently Upton; the Rays have found a way to compete in the loaded AL East. If their pitching holds up down the stretch, the Rays will win their first division crown ever. The Rays are playing the Red Sox for the final time tonight, so lets go Rays!

Everything in my mind is telling me that the Twins will pull this off. They have great starting pitching and a surprisingly good offense, but outside of Joe Nathan, their bullpen is pretty terrible. It's not bordering on Mets terrible, but its bad. Not too mention that the White Sox have had more injuries than my fantasy team (which is sliding fast by the way). Some of which include: OF and MVP candidate Carlos Quentin, 1b Paul Konerko (who just returned yesterday), and 3b Joe Crede. The injury to Quentin is especially devastating to the White Sox, but they have still played well because of their rotation and relief pitching. More proof that it is all about the pitching folks.

AL WEST: Angels
I think that the Angels will....oh wait, they already clinched! Are you serious? Every other race in the AL is close except for this! Oh man...Well considering how bad the division is, I'm surprised that they didn't clinch sooner. Could you imagine if Oakland had played this poorly all season? We could have seen the Angels clinch in August. I'm serious.

No question about this one as the Sox are up seven games with only eleven left to play. As much as I would love to see the Sox choke their seven game lead away, I have come to the understanding that these are the Red Sox and not the New York Mets. The Red Sox don't do that kind of stuff anymore.
And in case you were wondering, yes I am a depressed Mets fan this morning. Only Bill Buckner can cheer me up right now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Rest of the Way: National League

Last September, there was no doubt in my mind that the Mets would make the playoffs. Obviously, I was very very wrong. I don't think anyone could have seen the Mets blowing a seven game lead with seventeen games left. But that why you play the games. (Note: the Mets collapse still kills me to this day) So without further ado, here's how I think it will go down the rest of the way.

I really can't explain why I think the Mets will finish ahead of the Phillies because my opinion really defies logic. The Phillies have a much better bullpen, a tremendous offense, and most importantly, two aces (Brett Myers and Cole Hamels). But there is something about the 2008 Mets that gives me confidence. Maybe its Jerry Manuel; maybe its Argenis Reyes, Daniel Murphy, and Nick Evans, or maybe its the fact that we can't really collapse again...right?

The Cubs have been the NL's most consistent team throughout the entire season and they don't appear to have a weakness. Great starting pitching, a prolific offense, and a great bullpen have led the Cubs to one of the best seasons in Cubs history. But beware, the Cubs are still the Cubs, and crazy stuff is bound to happen.

NL WEST: Dodgers
While the D-Backs probably scare me more, the Dodgers have played some great baseball in September after struggling most of the way in August. Their success will depend on a few things:
1. Can Manny keep up his torrid streak with the Dodgers?
2. How effective can Brad Penny be out of the bullpen?
3. How effective will Saito be?
4. How will Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley hold up in the playoffs?
And I must say that I am very disappointed by the D-Backs. They had a real shot to win this division, but they have been terrible down the stretch, especially in close games.

NL WILD CARD: Phillies

Here's where it gets dicey. Two weeks ago, I would have said the Brewers in a runaway with the wild card, but I'm not so sure right now. The Brew Crew have lost 11 of their last 14 and fired Manager Ned Yost yesterday. The Brewers are now tied with the Phillies for the Wild Card and only have a 2.5 game lead over the previously streaking Houston Astros. I think the Astros are done, they have played over their heads for the last two months and I don't think they will keep it up during the last two weeks. So that leaves the Brewers and the Phillies. And in the end, I think the Phillies heart will lead them to the wild card. The Phillies are not scared and have come back before, while the Brewers have been marred in another September slump and lack the "killer instinct."

Part II: AL Central Amnesty

Jorge Says No! introduced amnesty earlier and we are happy to present to you our AL Central picks. Which contract would your team want to waive at the end of this season? Lets take a look:

White Sox:
To me, there is only one option for the White Sox. 1B Paul Konerko, 32, has been a huge disappointment this season (.244 average with only 16 HR) and is owed another $24 mil until 2010. Konerko's power has never been an issue, but Konerko only has 33 extra base hits for the entire season. Obviously that is way too low for a middle of the order bat. Furthermore, the Sox have Nick Swisher who could play 1B, which would open up a spot in the OF for either Brain Anderson or Jerry Owens. Get younger White Sox!

I have to give the Twins credit. Yes, they do make stupid signings (Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb, Craig Monroe), but the difference between the Twins and most of the other teams in the MLB is that they actually cut these guys when they don't perform. The Twins don't give out many bad contracts (especially big ones) so I don't think they have any true candidates for amnesty.

Even though he has been a quality starter, the Indians would love to rid themselves from the 2 years/$22 mil that is owed to SP Jake Westbrook. Westbrook, 30, has been a mediocre pitcher at best for the Indians even at his prime (4.31 lifetime ERA). Westbrook only appeared in 5 games this season for the Indians before undergoing Tommy John surgery, which could cost him most of the 2009 season. Finally, the Indians only have a $78 million dollar payroll and they cannot afford to have 1/7 of that committed to a mediocre pitcher coming off a major injury.

While this one might be controversial, I'm going to go with OF Jose Guillen here. And I'm deciding on Guillen not just because he has underperformed this season and is not worth the $12 per season he is owed, but because he is a head case and a cancer in the clubhouse. Guillen has proven that time and time again. I would hope that with the money saved, GM Dayton Moore would invest the money smarter in either free agents or the draft.

There are so many options here. On the pitching side, we can go with SP Nate Robertson or SP Dontrelle Willis because they have both been massive disappointments. Robertson, who is owed $14 mil over the next two seasons, has been horrible this season with his 6.08 ERA and was actually moved to the bullpen during the season. But at least he's been in the bigs unlike Willis, who has actually spent a majority of the season in the minors. Between injuries and a mysterious lack of control, Willis, 26, has gone from ace to disaster as he has struggled to simply throw strikes. Between the $20 mil the Tigers have invested in him and the prospects they traded to get him, the Tigers have too much invested to give up on Willis right now.

On the hitting side, the Tigers would love to get rid of a declining Gary Sheffield, who at 40 is only hitting .222 with 17 HR. Sheffield is not only taking up a spot that could be better used by Jeff Larish or Matt Joyce, but he has continued to be a head case for the Tigers. The Tigers have another year at $14 mil invested in him, so he is definitely a candidate. You can also make a case that 3B Carlos Guillen could be a good candidate considering the $36 mil owed to him and his frequent injuries, but I still think he can perform well for the Tigers.

To me, the best choice for amnesty is Nate Robertson. There is no doubt that the Tigers need all the pitching they can get their hands on, but Robertson is definitely not the answer. He has only had one good season and has continually produced an ERA in the high 4s. The Tigers can do better and they would be helping themselves by cutting their ties with Robertson.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who do you trust? Sox Edition

At points during this season, the Red Sox bullpen has struggled to find its groove, but as the season winds down, they have developed into a solid unit. The Red Sox won the championship in both 2004 and 2007 because of their great bullpens. As fans, you knew that if you saw either Foulke, Okajima, or Papelbon, the game was over. We'll see if the 2008 bullpen can repeat the success of those championship teams because they certainly have the talent to do so.

Papelbon: He's one of the most dominant closers in the game today. Papelbon proved his dominance and ability last year during the playoffs and there is no doubt that he will repeat that in 2008. Oh yeah, Papelbon likes to dance, alot.

For some reason, hitters have not been able to pick up Okajima in the two years he has been in the majors. Armed with a sneaky and deceptive delivery, Okajima has been equally tough on both righties and lefties (2.45 ERA vs. LH, 3.23 ERA vs. RH) which makes him enormously effective in the eighth inning. Okajima had a bad June, but has been fantastic again this season. If the Sox are to go anywhere this season, Okajima will be a big reason why.

This guy could wind up making or breaking the Red Sox season. Who woulda thought that at the beginning of the season? Masterson, who is one of the Sox best pitching prospects, has been tremendous out of the bullpen for the last three months of the season. Masterson has dominated right handed hitters this season with a 1.76 ERA against them, which has made him a primary option in the bullpen. But Sox fans, do you trust Masterson against Vlad Guerrero in a big spot? For now, I say yes.

To me, Manny Delcarmen is the right handed version of Hideki Okajima for the Red Sox. Delcarmen can get both righties and lefties out, but is not nearly as consistent or effective as Okajima (3.98 ERA vs. LH, 3.25 ERA vs. RH). Delcarmen throws hard and strikes out lots of hitters so the Sox will need Delcarmen at his best in October.
TRUSTED (for now)

Lemme start off with this: I love submarine pitchers. Especially lefties. For some reason, I think think they are used effectively, they are phenomenally useful. But for some reason, I have never really thought much of Lopez. I always saw him as the guy who could never make the clutch pitch or the one who could not get a tough lefty out in a big spot. Granted he has been great this season (lefties hitting only .192 against him), but I'm not sure he can get it done in a big spot. Prove it to me Javier.
NOT TRUSTED (for now)

Timlin has been a quality relief pitcher for the Red Sox for what seems like the last decade, but at this point he is clearly past his prime. Timlin has a 5.96 ERA this season and should not be put in during a big spot.

Here's a guy who throws hard and will strike out lots of guys (a la Delcarmen), but has too high of an ERA to be a major factor in the playoffs (4.70 ERA). Aardsma's main problem has been the walks (32) even though his strikeouts are tremendous. I don't think this guy will help the Sox out much this postseason.

As of right now, how many teams can say that they have 4 or 5 guys that they can trust out of the pen? Not too many. This bullpen could actually wind up becoming a strength for the Sox this post season and Sox fans should feel great about Papelbon and Okajima. Those two guys can turn a game into a 7 inning game because of their dominance. We'll see how they perform.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bathroom Reads

-Absolutely fascinating article on Barry Zito. His demise has been somewhat shocking, but this article paints a picture of the 2008 version of Barry Zito. Anyone remember what Zito was like in 2002 and 2003? The laid back, surfer dude who seemed like he didn't have a care in the world. Nowadays, Zito's attitude has changed as his performance has declined.

-Wonderful article about K-Rod's season by Tim Marchman. He outlines why he believes that while K-Rod is having a legendary season, the saves record is a by product of the Angel's small ball mentality and lots of close games. K-Rod has been the beneficiary of lots of chances to close, which is why the saves record is not an accurate judge on Rodriguez's ability or dominance.

-Within this piece, Bill Shakin talks to Alex Rodriguez about the Angels and his apparent love for Arte Moreno. Rodriguez continually praises the Angels and Moreno even going as far as to that "If the Yankee thing would not have worked out, I definitely would have considered the Angels." And this is exactly the type of thing that could frustrate Yankee fans about A-Rod: the Yankees have had an abysmal season (by their standards) and here is A-Rod raining praise on one of the Yankees top rivals.

-And finally, we have another interesting article from the NY SUN, this one about the Yankees GM Brain Cashman. Steven Goldman determines that Cashman acted too slowly in when dealing with both Melky Cabrera and Jorge Posada's injury. While I agree that the Yankees waited too long to remove Melky, I completely disagree with Goldman on Posada. I just don't think that there were any catchers on the market worth trading for besides Pudge. The real problem here is the lack of organizational depth within the Yankees. They struggle to find AAAA players who can fill in for a period of time and produce.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What to do?

Mariners 3B Adrian Beltre must love playing on a last place team. Beltre, who has a torn ligament in his thumb, is contemplating whether to cut his season short and have surgery now or play out the rest of the season. My question to Adrian is this: what's the point of continuing to play this season? Your team has already been eliminated and you could potentially do more damage to the thumb by playing through it. Don't you want to be ready for 2009? That's when the Mariners could actually have a shot to contend and not too mention, you sir are a free agent at the end of 2009. So please Mr. Beltre, you have already hit for a cycle, shut it down.

On the other hand, White Sox 1B Paul Konerko suffered what looked like a horrific knee injury, but turned out to be simply a sprained MCL. Konerko's White Sox are currently in a dog fight for the AL Central crown and have already lost Carlos Quentin and Joe Crede for (presumably) the season. So basically, the White Sox need Konerko back. They need Konerko to be the force in the middle of the order that he has been so far in September (.359 BA with 3 HR). However, are the White Sox a better team with Konerko at 50%? IS it worth it for him to rush back if he is not ready? To me, they need him; maybe not to play everyday, but the White Sox depth has been somewhat depleted by the injuries and whether he is at 80% or 8%, Konerko is still a force at the dish. Get back real soon Paul, please.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


As a native New Yorker and American, today is a very tough day for me as it probably is for most of you. I vividly remember sitting in my seventh grade Spanish class and watching my teacher break down crying when she heard the news. Even though I was young, the images from 9/11 and that day will stay with me forever.

Another lasting image I will have of 9/11 is the Mets first game back at Shea Stadium. For all of those who do not know, the Mets were down 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Piazza came to bat against Steve Karsay with one on. Piazza then proceeded to crush a fastball over the left center field fence to give the Mets the lead. Piazza's homer could not have come at a better time. As I watched that ball going over the fence, I immediately started jumping up and down like I had so many times before and for a moment I felt good. How amazing is that? So every year on this day, I thank Mike Piazza for that momentous homer because for the first time in ten days, I felt like me again. Cheering for my Mets. Thanks Mike.
Anyway, I will be taking a step back from the blogoshere today to spend some time thinking about 9/11. I ask all of you, no matter what your faith, race, or creed, to say a prayer for those who are no longer with us, and to say thank you to the brave police, firefighters, and rescue workers. And finally, hug your family and the ones closest to you and thank God for every day we have on earth.

The blog will be back tomorrow.
In the meantime, here's some U2 (circa 2001).

God Bless America.

The 2008 Baltimore Orioles: A Successful Last Place Season

Since when does last place equal success? Usually the answer is never because who wants to come in last place...well, no one. But here's the thing about the Orioles, even though they will finish in last for the first time since 1991, there have been many bright spots for the Orioles this season. At the beginning of the season, the Orioles were expected to finish in last place while Orioles fans watched in disgrace as a team full of overpriced veterans, scrubs, and promising youngsters tried to piece the season together. You have to remember that Orioles teams of the past ten seasons have been constant disappointments as Owner Peter Angelos continued to dish out millions of dollars to aging veterans who continually disappointed fans. The franchise seemed lost and to me, 2008 has turned around the Orioles. And here's why:

1. Bedard and Tejada
When new GM Andy McPhail took a look at this struggling franchise last season, he identified these two players as his best assets for a trade. Bedard was considered to be one of the top left handed pitchers in the majors last season and McPhail knew that moving Bedard now could net the Orioles a few promising pieces to help the Orioles in the future. When the Orioles finally moved Bedard to the Seattle Mariners, they received four players back, three of whom have shown great promise.
The Orioles got back OF Adam Jones , RP George Sherrill, and SP Chris Tillman in return for Bedard, who has been injured for half of 2008. Jones, who was the Mariners top prospect, has looked fantastic for the Orioles this season and appears to be their CF of the future. Sherrill was the Orioles lone All Star this season by converting 31 saves before injuring himself in August. His rise has been a major plus for the Orioles, who control Sherrill's right for the next few seasons. Furthermore, Chris Tillman has been fantastic this season for AA Bowie and he looks to have "ace" stuff. Tillman has struck out 154 hitters in 135 innings, which could translate into big things in the majors.
The Tejada trade could also prove to be a boon for the Orioles. Tejada, who was named in the Mitchell Report this offseason, had began to show signs of decline during the 2007 season. But that didn't stop the Astros from trading for Tejada in the hopes that he would recover his 2004 form. However, Tejada has underperformed this season to the tune of a .287 batting average with 13 HR and 63 RBI. Considering how much the Astros gave up for Tejada, this move was not worth it.
The Astros got five players back; P Matt Albers, P Dennis Sarfate, P Troy Patton, 3B Mike Costanzo, and the coup so far, OF Luke Scott. Albers and Patton have dealt with injuries for most of this season while Costanzo has remained in AAA for the season. But Scott and Sarfate have been impact players on the Orioles this season with Sarfate pitching great out of the bullpen (3.38 ERA in 64 IP) and Scott has put up some great numbers in LF (22 HR, 60 RBI). Scott, 30, could be the Orioles LF for the next few seasons or potential trade bait. This trade will be judged in the future primarily on how the pitchers perform-but I say that Orioles have already won this one.

2. 2008 Offseason (Huff, Roberts, Mora, Hernandez)
Perhaps the best part of the Orioles 2008 season is that Mora, Huff, and Roberts have played some great baseball. Just look at these stats:

Roberts: .297 BA, 9 HR, .377 OBP, 37 SB
Huff: .314 BA, 31 HR, 104 RBI, .369 OBP
Mora: .284 BA, 23 HR, 99 RBI, .344 OBP
Hernandez: .261 BA, 15 HR, 64 RBI, .313 OBP

Those are essentially career bests or at least career averages for each of those guys. What a gift for the rebuilding Orioles. Especially when you consider that after the 2007 season, all four of these guys had diminished their value to the point where the Orioles were basically stuck with each of them for this season. While it should be noted that the Cubs made a valiant effort to acquire Roberts before this season, McPhail recognized that Roberts' value was not at its peak and that Roberts had the potential to have a great 2008 season. It is important for us to note that each of these guys will be a free agent at the end of the 2009 season, which leaves the Orioles with two (or three) options:

1. Put them on the auction block and trade them to the highest bidder
2. Let them play out the 2009 season and perhaps try to move them in the middle of the season
3. Re-sign them!

If it was up to me, I would take advantage of the career years that each of these guys has put up and try to move all three. Huff and Mora have been inconsistent as Orioles and are aging while you can make the case that Roberts is one of the best 2nd baseman in the game. Ramon Hernandez's fate with the Orioles might already be sealed depending on the development of C Matt Wieters next spring. The kid is a stud.

McPhail has to recognize that rebuilding is his goal and that there will be no better time to move these guys than right now. The Orioles could actually be competitive again in 2010 or 2011.

Random Thoughts

-Troy Percival, you sir have no business being the Rays closer right now. Your best days are behind you and you are a liability in the back end of the bullpen. Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour are much better options. I know Percival has a history of success in the playoffs and he means a ton to the team, but if they Rays keep him as closer, he could cost them a few games down the stretch.

-It had to end sometime right? The Jays lost to the White Sox tonight, which ended their 10 game winning streak. Even with their long winning streak, the Jays are still a long ways away from the playoffs, but are actually looking good for 2009. They have gotten large contributions from Joe Inglett, Marco Scutaro, Rod Barajas, Scott Downs, Jesse Carlson, and Jesse Litsch; all of whom should/will be back for the Blue Jays in 2009. I am saying this right now...the Jays are my sleeper pick for 2009. Obviously the Jays need to pick up a bat or two, but they have tons of pitching depth, which could lead them into the playoff hunt.

-Speaking of streaks, how bout dem Astros? They are making me look stuuuupid. And to think, they are winning all of these games without Carlos Lee because of the starting pitching. Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Randy Wolf, and Brain Moehler have stabilized the bullpen while the offense has continued to produce. I still think that they will miss the playoffs and I think they will be awful in 2009 because they have a bunch of aging veterans and an incompetent GM. But we'll see.

-Totally going against the norm here, but Manny Ramirez for MVP? Has any one player had a bigger impact on a team this season. Manny is hitting .396 with 14 HR and 40 RBI with the Dodgers in less than two months. Unbelievable.
-And finally, congratulations to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for clinching a playoff berth already. I mean, wow, the rest of the league is feeling pennant fever, but the Angels have the luxury of sitting this one out. And with all the injuries they have, taking the next three weeks off is not a bad idea. They look dominant on paper and should be the favorites to win it all, but I don't think they will. Just a hunch. I hope that they don't bring back the damn rally monkey. Anyone else hate that thing?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Struggling Organization: Kansas City Royals

Oh boy, where do I begin here? The Royals haven't been relevant since 1985 and they can't seem to break the awful string of mediocrity. The days of George Brett, Dan Quisenberry, Bret Saberhagen, Frank White, and Willie Wilson are long gone. Over the past two decades, the Royals have failed to produce quality talent and they failed to retain the little talent they had. Too many times the Royals have wasted at bats with guys who have no business being on a major league roster instead of frontin' the dough for some talent. Only in the past two seasons has new GM Dayton Moore finally convinced the Glass family to open their wallets. This really is a shame because the Royals have some of the greatest fans in baseball and quite frankly, they deserve a lot better than what the Royals have given back to them.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Royals over the past 5-8 seasons is the way they have handled their pitchers. The Royals relied heavily on scrub pitchers (Darrell May, Jimmy Anderson, Dan Reichert, Jose Lima) while rushing up their young starters (Zack Greinke, Jimmy Gobble, JP Howell) before they are ready. So how did this happen? Well after years of refusing to sign any pitchers of note, the Royals would go into spring training with many holes in their starting rotation. The young guys and the scrubs would battle it out for the chance to get beat up with a 5+ ERA for the season. That is certainly not a strategy for winning baseball and set of two corresponding negatives: the Royals lose 100 games/respect around baseball and the development of the young pitchers is set back. To make things simply, this is just horrible baseball decisions by the men in charge.

Free Agents
Let's start this off on a semi-positive note: the Royals are actually spending money. In each of the past two offseasons, the Royals have made one big free agent signing by paying way over market value for mid level free agents. While Gil Meche has been good, he is not a $55 million dollar pitcher. He simply isn't that good. But I understand his signing because he gives the Royals consistency at the top and he'll eat 200 innings every season. For the Royals, that is valuable.
And Jose Guillen? Seriously Dayton, your gonna give $36 million dollars to a clubhouse cancer who is 32 years old? Sure he had a good 2007 campaign (41 HR), but the Royals are no where close to competing for anything right now. Spending that much on Guillen right now was absolutely foolish. And Jose has done nothing but support my claims this season (.254 BA, .290 OBP with 18 HR).

And as we look into the Royals past, boy is it ugly. Their biggest free agent signings prior to 2007 were Mark Grudzielanek, Joe Randa, Paul Byrd, and the aging Juan Gonzalez in 2004. Not exactly the greatest list of free agent signings. Anyone notice a trend with these signings? All of them are aging veterans who were past their prime (or approaching it) by the time the Royals picked them up. Furthermore, all of these guys were signed to cheap contracts for a year or two, which is just further proof of the Royals failure to spend on free agents. There are quality free agents out there, but going after aging veterans, who are well past their prime is not going to speed up the rebuilding process.

This is the section that really kills me. Ladies and gentlemen, the Royals have done a terrible job by trading away the few talented players they have and not getting any value for them in return. The Royals have traded away the following players in their players in their primes: Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, and Carlos Beltran. Their rationale for trading them away was that they simply could not afford them. Fair enough, but at least get some return on these guys! Take a look at what the Royals have gotten back from 3 all stars in their prime.

Dye: Neifi Perez
Carlos Beltran: Mark Teahen, Mike Wood, John Buck
Johnny Damon: Angel Berroa, AJ Hinch, Roberto Hernandez

So basically, the Royals traded away the 3 best players they have had in a long time for some spare parts and lots of junk. Perez and Hernandez are retreads while Teahen, Berroa, and Buck have had very very mild success in the bigs. Hinch and Wood never did anything in the bigs. Simply put, that is a terrible job by Royals management to butcher all three trades so badly. These three deals set the Royals back years because the level of talent in their organization went down so greatly after making these deals.

I hope the Royals have learned from these three deals by signing their young players to extensions while they are still cheap and affordable so that they don't have to trade them off. I already see that this is exactly what they have done with David Dejesus (5 years/$13.8 mil) and Joakim Soria (3 years/$8.75 mil) and hopefully Zack Greinke is not too far behind.

The Royals have actually drafted many of quality young players over the years: Alex Gordon, David Dejesus, Zack Greinke, JP Howell, Billy Butler, Jeremy Affeldt, Mike Sweeney, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Luke Hochevar. This is exactly the way the Royals need to be building their team because it is the only way the Royals are able to bring in quality young talent and affordable prices. However, it should be noted that the reason why most of these guys have been available to the Royals in the draft is because the Royals have consistently picked in the top 10 or even the top 5 in almost every amateur draft of the past 10 seasons. Even the Royals are bound to hit on a few when your picking high all the time.
the one problem that I see here is that the Royals need to start drafting some pitchers. Sure they drafted Hochevar in 2006, but he has not been good so far and Howell and Affeldt are currently with new teams. You would figure that with all these high draft picks the Royals would take some quality young arms because the Royals have never really recovered from trading away David Cone and Bret Saberhagen. But maybe former 1st rounders Mike Stodolka and Colt Griffin (2000 and 2001 respectively) have scared the Royals away from drafting any more pitchers in the early rounds. Still, pitching is the key to winning in the majors and the Royals must make it an organizational priority to draft and develop more quality young arms.

*The Royals have shown some definite signs of pulling themselves out of the cellar. However, I think the Royals will continue to struggle until they are able to develop some quality young pitching to go along with the young hitting they have. The Royals need to remain active in the free agent market, but they need to target guys in their prime, not aging veterans.*
-No playoffs until at least 2011, probably later than that-

The Royals need to look at how the Rays were able to pull themselves out of the cellar and into the pennant race. Here's the formula: draft quality young players (and sign them), don't afraid to be bold, and sign guys for modest prices who will serve a role or purpose to the younger players (Cliff Floyd, Troy Percival). The Rays have had a fantastic season and have shown the baseball world that a worst to first turnaround is possible. There is the hope Mr. Moore. Now please, draft some PITCHERS and do not sign anymore aging outfielders with your newfound surplus of money.