Friday, July 31, 2009

2009 MLB Trade Deadline Odds

There has been a tremendous amount of trading leading up to the trade deadline, but make no mistake about it, there are plenty of big names left. I handicapped some of the major players odds of being traded and let the speculation begin: who will be traded and where?

Roy Halladay (15-1): Simply put, the Jays have not been "wowed" by any offer for Halladay so far and talks seem to have died out. However, both the Red Sox, Rangers, and the Dodgers have the pieces to acquire Halladay, but I'm doubtful they're willing to part with their best prospects. The deal that everyone thought would happen, now appears unlikely.

Victor Martinez (3-1): After trading Cliff Lee to the Phillies, everyone assumed that Martinez would be the next to go. However, as I went over yesterday, there is not much of a market out there for Martinez right now and there are very few teams that are willing to part with their top prospects. However, the Indians should be pretty motivated to move Martinez, who could be an interesting fit in Boston.

Jarrod Washburn (12-1): Even though I think it would make sense for the Mariners to try and move Washburn, the Mariners don't seem motivated to move Washburn at the moment. The acquisition of Jack Wilson and Ian Snell hints that the Mariners are not completely waving the white flag on 2009, but the Mariners chances of making the playoffs right now are pretty slim.

Orlando Cabrera (2-1): He would make a great fit with the Twins, who have lobbied for the front office to pick him up. Cabrera is a free agent at the end of the season and might be a type A free agent, which could give the A's some incentive to keep him. However, would the Athletics seriously think about offering him arbitration? I doubt it.

Nick Johnson (8-1): The market for Johnson has never developed like many thought it would. However, Johnson is a productive player and a free agent at the end of the season while the Nationals need all the young pieces they can get. It makes sense for the Nationals to deal Johnson.

Scott Rolen (20-1): Too much money owed and no perfect match in sight.

Adrian Gonzalez (25-1): Unless the Red Sox decide to go all in to get him, I don't see a fit for Gonzalez right now. His salary and power make him a very valuable asset for the Padres. It wouldn't surprise me to see him traded in the offseason.

Matt Capps (8-1): Only because the Pirates have traded away almost all of their commodities already...why not trade one more?

Heath Bell (6-1): Considering that the Padres are going nowhere, it would make sense for them to see what they can get for their all-star closer. The asking price on Bell will be high, but I could see a team like the Marlins or Rays making a move to pick up Bell. Stay tuned on this one.

Others who could be on the move
: Chad Qualls, Joe Beimel, Doug Davis, Jon Garland, Marco Scutaro

Thursday, July 30, 2009

David Ortiz On Alex Rodriguez and Steroids

Probably the most telling quote from Ortiz from this past Feburary when he commented on the Alex Rodriguez's admission to using steroids. As we all know, it was discovered today that David Ortiz was on the list of steroid users from 2003.

Alex Rodriguez has said he used banned substances between 2001-03, when he was with the Texas Rangers.

Ortiz said that at that time, "I would say it was certainly low, the percentage that wasn't using it. Like he said in the interview [with ESPN], that was what was goingaround the league at the time."

He praised Rodriguez for saying he used banned substances and said that after 2003, "he's been playing clean and he still produced and he's still been the best player in the game. So if I'm a fan and I had to judge the guy, I would put that in the past and move forward."

No one knows how long Ortiz has been clean for, but this is a tough pill for Red Sox fans to swallow. Not just Manny, but Papi too. Who knows if these guys were using during their magical 2004 World Series run. Even though, as the kids say, "they were all doing it", there is no doubt that this leaves a sickening taste in the mouths of Red Sox fans. It will be very difficult for Sox fans to simply move on, especially with Ortiz and the Red Sox struggling at the moment.

The Market For Victor Martinez

After yesterday's trade of Cliff Lee, it's widely assumed around baseball that the Indians are now looking to move Martinez, who is signed through 2010. Martinez is one of the premier catchers in all of baseball and has bounced back from a injury plagued 2008 to hit 15 HR with 67 RBI and 56 runs scored.

Obviously its going to take quite a package to land Martinez. What teams should/could be interested in Cleveland's all star catcher? Let's take a look:

Red Sox
: This is where all the hot rumors have been so far. The Red Sox need a quality hitter in the middle of the lineup and Martinez would instantly become one of the best hitters they have. My only question is this: would Martinez catch? Obviously, he's not going to play 1st with Youk and LaRoche there, but will he really supplant Varitek? Is that a smart move even with 'Tek's offensive struggles?

Rays: I would love to see Martinez land here and supplant the struggling Dioner Navarro, but I'm doubtful that this would happen. Martinez would fit in perfectly with this lineup and finally provide Evan Longoria with some much needed protection.

Angels: Complete speculation on my part here. If the Angels don't feel secure with Vladimir Guerrero returning to his top form this season, then Martinez could become an attractive option here. The Angels have been reluctant to trade their top prospects over the years, which makes a match here look even less likely.

The Field: Who else can really make a play for this guy?
The Giants? Nope.
The Mets? I wish.
The Rangers? Doubt it.

Analysis:Unless the Red Sox or another team steps up to the plate, the Indians might have a tough time finding a suitable trade partner for Martinez. Might they be better off waiting until the offseason (when more teams should be interested) to trade Martinez?

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why Cliff Lee And The Phillies Are A Great Fit

If you're a Phillies fan, there are plenty of reasons to like the acquisition of Cliff Lee.

1. He's an ace

2. Keep Kyle Drabek and Domenick Brown

3. He's signed through 2010...

4. a reasonable rate

5. Hamels and Lee are a great 1-2 punch

6. The Phillies are now as good as anyone on paper

7. Keep JA Happ

8. Keep Michael Taylor

9. Ben Francisco is a solid right handed bat (even if he's a weak defender)

10. October

But you know why I like it: because Lee does not give up home runs. In 152 innings this season, Lee has only given up 10 home runs and in 223 innings last season, Lee only gave up 12 home runs.

In addition, according to fangraphs, Lee's flyball % this season is a very manageable 35% and his HR/FB rate is only 5.8% this season.

Why are home runs and flyballs so important with Lee? Because the Phillies play in the hitter friendly Citizens Bank Ballpark, which is a bandbox second to only the new Yankee Stadium. It's vital that the Phillies have pitchers, who are not prone to the longball because that type of pitcher has a high probability of getting hit hard in Citizens Bank Park.

There is no guarantee that these stats will lead to wins for Lee, but this a great risk for the Phillies and gives them a deep rotation to balance out a strong and balanced offense.

Royals Writers Are Not Fans Of Hairy Trey Hillman

Hungry for wins and sick after so many losses and inexplicable baseball, two Royals beat writers have figured out the Royals winning percentage based on Trey Hillman's facial hair in an effort to try and right the ship!

Yes, you read that right.

Here is the article, which will make the fine gentlemen at the American Mustache Institute rather upset:

Moral of the story: clean shave=wins?

It can't be.

Could Four Games In July Change The Mets Season?

It's been really easy to bash the Mets this season. Between all the injuries, the Luis Castillo dropped pop up, the lack of fundamental baseball, and all the chaos in the front office; the Mets have become an easy target for ridicule. And rightfully so.

But don't look now! Because here come the Mets!

Sort of.

After last night's 4-0 victory over the wild card leading Rockies, the Mets now sit 5.5 games out of the wild card in the National League. For a team that has experienced so much during the first 100 games of the season, being this close to a playoff spot is actually somewhat of an achievement.

However, keep in mind that there are still seven teams ahead of the Mets in the wild card chase. Even though 5.5 games is a very manageable total, having so many teams ahead of the Mets greatly decreases the odds of the Mets actually winning the wild card. But hey, anything can happen.

And it's with that spirit in mind that I type this piece. The Mets still have another two games left against the Rockies, who are now tied for the wild card card, can actually pull within 3.5 games of the wild card if everything falls in their favor. Now I'll admit that the odds of this happening are very small, but the idea that this can happen is absurd.

But let's take a step back for a moment. Let's say the Mets are 4.5-5.5 games out at the deadline; what should Omar Minaya (assuming he is the GM) do? Should the Mets at least explore the trade market? Is it worth it? Or should the Mets simply stick with what they got and hope to the baseball Gods that someone in the Beltran-Delgado-Reyes trio comes back healthy?

The biggest problem for the Mets is that even if they do acquire someone, will the player have a big enough impact to make the Mets relevant in 2009? And what exactly do the Mets have to give up?

Like always, the Mets seem bring about more questions than answers.


Morning Photo: Talkin' Baseball With Kid Rock and Terry Francona

I would pay big bucks to hear how this conversation went down.

Is it weird that Francona is talking to Kid Rock during a game?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Should the Mets Fire Omar Minaya? (Part II)

Only a few days ago, we discussed whether or not the Mets should fire GM Omar Minaya in light of the Mets disappointing campaign so far and dysfunction of Tony Bernazard. While the argument to fire Omar was certainly compelling, I reached the conclusion that the Mets should give Minaya another year to right the ship.
Verdict: I say no. I've been as frustrated by the Mets as anyone, but I just cannot bring myself to fire Minaya with so many injuries hanging over his head. I think he deserves another year (at least) to right the ship.
However, after today's incident with Adam Rubin, it looks Minaya is steering the Mets sinking ship right into an iceberg. Minaya's attack on Rubin was uncalled for, childish, outlandish, repulsive, and downright shocking. I cringe every time I watch the replay of the Mets GM basically accusing the Mets best beat writer of scheming to get Tony Bernazard fired so that he could eventually take the position.

Downright pathetic.

The worst part of this whole ordeal for me is that this is the same old Mets. Another day, another drama. What I liked so much about Omar initially was that he was a breath of fresh air and made me forget about the chaotic Mets of old.

From Willie Randolph last year to Adam Rubin this year, Minaya's behavior and lack of understanding has undermined the Mets performance on the field.

Obviously, the Minaya honeymoon seems like a decade ago. The chaos is back. The fans' embarrassment is back. Same old Mets.

It's difficult for me to make the case right now that the Mets should NOT fire Omar Minaya. The incident embarrassed the franchise and exposed the front office as crazier and more dysfunctional than all of us thought. This is not the way a professional organization should be run. Period. No matter what the Mets do from here on out, it will be difficult for the Mets to justify keeping Minaya around given how much he has embarrassed the organization and failed to right the sinking ship.

(Note: I say embarrased over and over again in this piece. As a Met fan, you get the idea how I feel about this situation.)

Memo To Mike Rizzo: Trade. Trade. Trade

Buster Olney's blog provides us with this interesting quote about the Nationals and the trade deadline:

"Even Washington is under pressure to win as many games as they can. I feel for Mike Rizzo [the acting GM], because everybody in the media wants him to dump major league players, and he's in a position where if he trades Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn, he might be looking at a 42- to 45-win season. That's hard to live down, no matter how you get there. It's hard to give up."
Now look, no one likes to lose. Losing sucks. The 2009 Nationals have made losing an art form. With 60 games left in the season, the Nationals have zero chance at making the playoffs and almost zero chance of salvaging their season. The season has been a disaster, plain and simple.

The Nationals sole focus for the rest of the season should be on finding pieces for 2010 and beyond. Forget about 2009. The season is a wash as is. In the end, almost no one will remember whether or not the Nationals win 42 or 48 games in 2009. What people will remember is that the 2009 Nationals sucked and that baseball in Washington has failed in so many ways.

(Note: Obviously, the Nationals need to avoid losing 120+ games. People WILL remember if the Nationals set a record. They have 30 wins right now, so I would say that the odds of the Nats winning less than 10 games down the stretch is not high.)

Nationals fans need hope that better days are coming. They need to believe that the horror days of Jim Bowden are over. Maybe, just maybe, the Nationals can play quality baseball in the future and actually fill up the new stadium that DC fought so hard to get.

And that's where the trade deadline comes in. The idea is simple: the Nationals need to trade whatever movable veteran pieces they have and in return, get back as many potentially useful pieces as possible. If the Nationals refuse to make a trade because they want to prevent losing a certain number of games, then Mike Rizzo should not be the GM. The focus for the Nationals HAS TO BE THE FUTURE. If the move can potentially benefit the Nationals future, then Rizzo should pull the trigger.

And finally, I don't think Mike Rizzo would have a tough time in the future if the Nationals lose 115+ games. Baseball people will remember this club as the final disaster of the Jim Bowden era and Rizzo cannot and should not be judged on his performance until the end of next season at the earliest.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Middle Of The Mariners Lineup Invokes Fear In No One

Not exactly murderer's row:

3. Ken Griffey Jr .211

4. Chris Shelton .182

5. Jack Hanahan .199

I got my money on Toronto...even with King Felix starting.

Who Ya Got?

Finally! The Baseball version of Billie Jean King v. Bobby Riggs! Sort of.

Who is better at softball? Women or men?

That's the overheated way to look at the "Battle of the Sexes" that will play out Monday night at Alexian Field between the Schaumburg Flyers baseball club, of the independent Northern League, and the Chicago Bandits, of National Pro FastPitch softball. Another way to look at it is that two pro teams that normally toil in the shadow of Chicago's big-time franchises have hit upon a gimmick to attract increased media attention and fan interest.

Ahh, softball. Only in the independent leagues. For me personally, I'd much rather watch this than the Mets right now. Less stressful and much more entertaining.

And did I mention that the girls are totally gonna smoke the dudes? Hitting a fast pitch softball is really, really difficult. Playing softball is just as big of an advantage as Riggs giving Billie Jean King the doubles ally in their male v. female match.

I Swear to God, This Headline Is Not Fake

From today's NYTIMES:

"Mets Continue Hitting And Drop Astros Again"

Wait, what? Mets continue hitting? That's an oxymoron, right?
But in all seriousness, watching the Mets this month has been painful at best. Nice to see the Mets get a couple of wins under their belt this weekend.

The Mariners, Jack Zduriencik. And the Benefit of Losing

Entering the all-star break, the Seattle Mariners were one of the biggest surprises in baseball. No one expected much out of the Mariners this season, especially after they lost 100 games last year, but during the first half of the season, their play had been stellar. By the time the all star break rolled around, the Mariners found themselves only 4 games back of the Angels in the AL West and only 1.5 games back of the second place Texas Rangers.

Now for most clubs, having a solid first half would be a very, very good thing. But for the Mariners, it put GM Jack Zduriencik in a very difficult spot. Do the Mariners play for 2009 and become buyers at the trade deadline or do the Mariners become sellers and try to acquire new building blocks that could make the team stronger in 2010 and beyond?

Zduriencik was stuck in a true dilemma. It would be very difficult to trade away players when the team is competing in 2009, but at the same time, I doubt anyone in the Mariners organization believed that this team has what it takes to compete in 2009.

So Zduriencik did the smart thing and sat tight. And you know what? The Mariners have made the decision much easier for the Mariners GM. After the all-star break, the team has played poorly and now sits 7.5 games back of first place after getting swept by the lowly Cleveland Indians at home this weekend. The M's have drifted out of the playoff race....and you know what that means....


The Mariners biggest trade chip right now is obviously Jarrod Washburn, who is sporting a 2.71 ERA and is having the best year of his career. Washburn, who is a free agent at the end of the season, could be a VERY ATTRACTIVE player for teams, who simply cannot afford the steep price for Roy Halladay. The Mariners could get back a few quality prospects in return, which should help them rebuild even further.

In addition, I know trading Russell Branyan would not be a popular move for Mariners fans, but I think the Mariners must explore the option. Branyan, who is also a free agent at the end of the season, is putting up the best numbers of his career at the spacious SAFECO Field and could help a number of teams down the stretch with his big bat and ability to get on base. I imagine that any team looking to acquire Branyan would have to part with some quality prospects, given how much power is in demand right now.

And finally, if the Mariners can find a taker for Johjima and his contract, they should make the move IMMEDIATELY.

While it sucks for the Mariners that Erik Bedard is hurt, the benefit of falling out of playoff contention is that management can now work towards building the Mariners into stronger competitors in the future. Zduriencik now has the freedom to explore his selling options on the market without the backlash from the fan base. For a 1st year GM, it's a blessing that he did not have to sell when the team was in contention and now he has the opportunity to advance the Mariners even more.

Are the Cardinals The Team To Beat In The National League?

Entering today's game, the Cardinals offense has ranked in the middle of the pack in the National League. Despite having the best offensive player in the game, the Cardinals offense ranks 10th in OBP, 11th in batting average, and 8th in OPS. In part because of the Cardinals offensive struggles, the team has been unable to develop a big lead in the NL Central.

Luckily for the Cardinals, GM John Mozeliak recognized the Cardinals offensive deficiencies and decided to do something about it. This is a team that has a real opportunity to do some damage in the National League this season, but only if the right pieces were put into place.

And Mozeliak was ultra aggressive in putting the right pieces in place. He went out and acquired Mark DeRosa from the Indians, Julio Lugo from the Red Sox, and slugger Matt Holliday from the Athletics. On paper, DeRosa and Holliday should become the impact bats the Cardinals have been longing for to surround Albert Pujols and Julio Lugo should see significant time at shortstop, especially if he's productive at the dish.

This is what we know for sure: the Cardinals lineup should be much better. Adding DeRosa and Holliday to this lineup should make Cardinals pitchers ABSOLUTELY GIDDY. This pitching staff has carried the team for the most part this season. Led by Chris Carpenter and Ryan Franklin, the staff ranks 5th in the NL with a 3.86 ERA, 12th in runs allowed, 3rd in WHIP (1.31), and last in walks allowed in the National League (289). Those numbers are above and beyond what many baseball people thought the Cardinals pitching staff (Joel Pineiro, Ryan Franklin) would be able to produce this season.

What we don't know is how these moves will impact the Cardinals for the rest of 2009. While the National League is not exactly loaded with impressive teams, it remains to be seen if the Cardinals stack up with top teams like the Phillies and the Dodgers. And as we all know, the Cubs and the Brewers aren't going away anytime soon in the NL Central despite the Cardinals aggressive dealing.

In the end, if I'm a Cardinals fan, I have to feel good about where this team is headed. It remains to be seen how far the Cardinals will go this year, but it's obvious to me that the Cardinals have gone from a somewhat surprising contender to a team that the entire National League should fear. Even with all of this offense now on the Cardinals roster, the most important player on the Cardinals not named Pujols is by far Chris Carpenter. Without him, most of the Cardinals 2009 luster is lost.

I know the Cardinals have gutted most of their farm system with these moves, but acquiring another quality arm would certainly help the Cardinals.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Should the Mets Fire Omar Minaya?

Since he became the Mets GM in 2005, Omar Minaya became one of my favorite GMs in baseball. This is not just some blatant homerism; I genuinely enjoyed the way Minaya handled his business. I admired Minaya's ability to find low cost players off the scrapheap that every other team seemingly passed on. Between Fernando Tatis, Endy Chavez, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Duaner Sanchez; Minaya seemed to have this unique ability to find low cost production.

But over the past few seasons, Minaya's Mets have not been successful. For the past two seasons, the Mets have missed out on a playoff birth on the last day of the season in excruciating fashion. And in 2009, the Mets have been decimated by injury and currently sit in fourth place.

So with the team struggling in 2009 after two seasons of missing the playoffs, the question lingers: should the Mets fire Omar Minaya?

Let's take a look at both sides of the spectrum.


-During his tenure with the Mets, Minaya has failed to find an adequate supporting cast for his bevy of stars (Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Santana, etc). Minaya has such a good core to build around, but the rest of the roster has been insufficient.

-Minaya has the luxury of having an owner, who is willing to spend what it takes to win. However, in recent seasons, Minaya has spent Wilpon's loot recklessly. He handed out a 4 year extension to Luis Castillo, which looked excessive at the time and now looks crazy (even with his productive 2009). And Minaya gave the unpredictable Oliver Perez a 3 year/$36 million dollar extension after missing out on Derek Lowe.

-The minor league system has produced very little depth. Yes, the Mets have been ridiculously injured this season, but the Mets have very little in the minors that can adequately soften the blow of losing so many players. As a result, the bleeding has not stopped and 2009 looks like a waste.

-Not spending $$$ on draft picks. This is probably more Wilpon than Minaya, but given the Mets financial strength, there is no reason why the Mets should adhere to MLB's slotting system. If they used their financial muscle, they probably would be able to acquire better talent. Even if the decision is made by Wilpon, I would hope that Minaya is doing everything in his power to get the owner to open up his wallet for draft picks like he has for free agents.

-The organization is a mess. The whole Tony Bernazard situation is embarrassing and makes the Mets look dysfunctional. This chaos happened under Minaya's watch and that's got to count for something.


-No matter what you think of Minaya and the Mets, there is not a GM out there that could solve the ills that currently plague the Mets. A good portion of the Mets core has missed significant time because of injury this season, which would have decimated any team. Minaya gets lots of grief because the Mets have a $140 million dollar payroll, but the injuries to star players has made his job nearly impossible. It's tough to fire a GM under these circumstances.

-Don't forget that the Mets lost alot more than just Delgado, Reyes, Beltran, and Putz to injury.

Here is my unofficial list: Oliver Perez, Brian Schneider, John Maine, Billy Wagner, Tim Redding, Angel Pagan, Ramon Martinez, Fernando Martinez, Ryan Church, Fernando Nieve, and Billy Wagner.


-The Wilpons love him. Seriously, love him.

Verdict: I say no. I've been as frustrated by the Mets as anyone, but I just cannot bring myself to fire Minaya with so many injuries hanging over his head. I think he deserves another year (at least) to right the ship.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mark Buehrle: Perfect

Wow. Holy crap.

Perfection. And Dewayne Wise. Jesus.

Buehrle No Hitters (2), Mets (0)

Random Video of the Week: Roy Halladay Solves Everything

Omar Minaya Agrees: The Mets Will Not Be Sellers

As we wrote here last Friday, the Mets will not be sellers at the trading deadline:

"Right now we do not envision [being a seller]," Minaya said. "If we're 6 ½ [back] in the wild card with a couple of teams in front of us, we are still kind of trying to find out how we can improve this team, if we can improve it through trades."
This, of course, makes all the sense in the world. The Mets have nothing of value right now on their roster that could bring back anything of true value in return.

What doesn't make sense right now is Minaya's logic that "the Mets will not be sellers because we think we still have a chance to win the wild card." No. That thinking is wrong. With 7 teams ahead of them for the wild card and no realistic return date for Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Maine, etc; how can Minaya honestly think that the Mets still have a shot at the wild card. Right now, the Mets are missing too much to compete for the playoffs.

Unfortunately for Minaya, the Mets will not be sellers either. 2009 is looking like a waste for the Mets.

Hypothetically Speaking: Rickey Henderson and the HOF

Random thought of the day: Let's say in the year 2011, the Athletics call Rickey Henderson and offer him a spot on the 25 man roster because they are in dire need of speed and Rickey-isms. Now, we all know that Rickey would not turn that offer down no matter how old he is and no matter how many years he has been away from baseball.

Does the hall of fame have any rules against this? Would Rickey Henderson be kicked out of the hall of fame?


Jim Parque: Why I Used HGH

Hands down one of the most interesting pieces I have read all year. Former White Sox starter Jim Parque pens a piece where he admits why he used HGH and offers his reasoning for doing so. There is simply too much good stuff for me to just cherry pick his words, so I encourage you to click on the link and check it out.

What I came out of the piece was this: the decision to use HGH was a totally rational decision for Parque. After injuring his shoulder in 2000, Parque feared for his career. After working for so many years and putting in so many hours perfecting his craft, baseball was all Parque knew and was the only way he knew how to make a living. The thought of being forced away from baseball put Parque's future in doubt and left him wondering how he could support his family.

So in a last ditch effort to revive his career, Parque turned to HGH, which was not banned by MLB at the time. Even though Parque only used the drug a handful of times, the aftermath of using HGH (being mentioned in the Mitchell Report) has not been easy to deal with.

I can't help but feel sorry for Parque. The decision to use HGH was a choice that he made because his options were dwindling and he needed to support his family. If any of us were put in Parque's situation, I think we would have a tough time not using HGH.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baseball Managers Are Old And Gray

Ever wonder where all the older folks have gone? The answer: in the dugouts of major league teams.
"You wanna win at baseball? Easy. Hire an old guy to manage your team.

In this youth-dominated world, it's old-timers day everyday at the top of the baseball standings. The National League in particular is like an advertisement for AARP.

The National League also boasts three other graybeards in their 60s. You could hire the whole bunch to do those interminable sales pitches for old people's remedies that dominate the network news commercials every night — fixing their dentures, going to the bathroom at their leisure and taking the right medications to ward off dementia.

The average age of National League managers is almost 57 and, hey, that's supposed to be the league where more brain power is required because there's no designated hitter. They don't call it the Senior Circuit for nothing.

Not that the American League managers are all spring chickens, either. The Central Division leader is Detroit, managed by Jimmy Leyland, who is 64. That means that by the end of the year, four of the six division-leading managers will be eligible for full Social Security benefits."

I have no idea how these guys survive a 162 game season. I'm only 19 years old and the wear and tear of watching 162 baseball games on TV is too much for me. Lord knows how these guys deal with the brutal travel, the media, big egos, agents, front office people, and oh yeah, their families. Jesus, that sounds like an action packed life.

It's hard to believe that we don't see more managers falling asleep in the dugout during games. One of my favorite baseball moments was watching Frank Robinson fall asleep in the dugout while the Nationals, the team he was managing, was playing.

In the end, it's all about the love of the game. You have to admire these baseball lifers, who put in their dues in the minor leagues and other various roles in the hopes of getting a shot to manage at the highest level.

Trivia Question: Who is the oldest manager in baseball history? How old was he?

Should the Athletics Trade Justin Duchscherer?

Yesterday, ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney outlined why Justin Duchscherer should be an attractive alternate for teams looking for a top flight starting pitcher.
"Pitcher B is Justin Duchscherer. Those are his numbers from 2008. He has not pitched in 2009 after undergoing an elbow cleanup, but he is set to begin his minor league rehabilitation assignment and could be ready to pitch in the big leagues within a couple of weeks. The right-hander will be eligible for free agency this fall, and with Oakland in the process of trading off usable parts Duchscherer could be an intriguing alternative for teams that are looking for pitching help.

He has been often hurt in his career, but when Duchscherer is active and pitching, he usually fares pretty well, whether as a starter or a reliever. The 31-year-old has had four seasons of 55.2 or more innings, and his ERA has never been higher than 3.27 in those seasons. Twice he has made All-Star teams: once as a reliever, and once as a starting pitcher, most recently in 2008."
All that information is well and good, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why the Athletics would want to trade Duchscherer right now. Sure Duchscherer is a free agent at the end of the season, but can the Athletics really get anything meaningful for Duchscherer at this point? Here is a guy who has not pitched at all this season and at 31, represents nothing more than a gamble for a contending team? Why would any GM give up something meaningful for Duchscherer?

There is simply not enough time left before the deadline for Duchscherer to regain his ace status and shed the label that he is an injury prone player. From the Athletics perspective, trading Duchscherer offers a very limited potential for a valuable return.

It's unfortunate for the Athletics because if Duchscherer was able to make a few quality starts before the break, the potential return on Duchscherer would have been much higher. At that point, it might have actually made sense for the Athletics to trade him.

I honestly think the best way that Duchscherer can help the Athletics this season is for him to take some pressure of their young starting rotation and overworked bullpen (most IP in AL).


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What Could Have Been: Rafael Furcal to the Braves

For a few days last winter, the baseball world believed that Rafael Furcal was set to return to his original team, the Atlanta Braves:

"The Braves appear on the verge of bringing back shortstop Rafael Furcal, a move that would likely send Kelly Johnson to the outfield if he’s not traded. Two people familiar with the situation confirmed Furcal, a free agent and former Braves All-Star, tentatively agreed to a three-year contract that could be finalized after he takes a physical Wednesday in Atlanta."
At the time, I thought Furcal was going to be a great fit for the Braves. Even though he was coming off an injury plagued season in 2008, I believed that he could provide the needed spark at the top of the Braves lineup.

Furthermore, signing Furcal would have given the Braves flexibility to make the big move and trade for ace Jake Peavy. The addition of Furcal would make Yunel Escobar expendable and potentially help the Braves land one of the best pitchers in baseball.

However, the deal with Furcal never came to be. And instead, Furcal decided to re-sign with the Dodgers.

But you know what, sometimes the best deals are the ones that are not made. In this case, the Braves certainly got the best of this deal, even though they did not wind up with Rafael Furcal or Jake Peavy.

In 2009, Furcal has hit just .253 with the Dodgers to go along with 4 home runs, 5 stolen bases, and a .328 OBP. Those numbers are obviously well below what the Dodgers expected from Furcal when they handed him a 3 year/$30 million dollar contract over the winter.

Also, it seems as though the Braves lucked out by NOT acquiring Jake Peavy. When healthy, Peavy is a very good pitcher, but the problem has been that Peavy cannot stay healthy. The Padres ace has only made 13 starts this season because of an ankle problem and he could very well miss the remainder of the season.

And finally, by not trading for Peavy, the Braves were able to keep Yunel Escobar, who most baseball people assumed was going to be included in any deal for Peavy. Through the first half of the season, Escobar has probably been the Braves MVP as he is hitting over .300 with 9 home runs, 52 RBI, and a .369 OBP. Sure, Escobar may not be Bobby Cox's favorite player, but his talent and ability is unquestioned.

While Furcal's last minute defection might have hurt the Braves at the time, there is no doubt that the Braves are happy that the Furcal deal did not go down.

Would Roy Halladay Have Accepted A Trade To The Mets?

Lost in the shuffle in all of this Roy Halladay to the Mets nonsense, is the fact that Roy Halladay has a no trade clause. Even though there seems to be no life for this deal anymore, I can't help but wonder if Halladay would have actually waived his no trade clause to come to the Mets.

On one hand, these are the Mets. This team just opened up a brand new ballpark, has a huge payroll, has Johan Santana/David Wright/Jose Reyes/Carlos Beltran, has an owner who is willing to spend money (we hope), and is located in a huge market in New York City. Even though the team is struggling right now, the benefit of playing in a big market with a team that has the pieces for a legitimate title contender would have been very appealing for Halladay.

However, on the other hand, these are still the Mets. It's looking more and more like 2009 is going to be a wash for this team in large part because of the injuries to Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, JJ Putz, John Maine, and more. Would Halladay have been willing to accept going to a team that probably will not compete in 2009? Hard to say.

This situation would have presented a very interesting dilemma for Halladay if the trade went down because he would have been banking that the Mets were almost guaranteed to win it all in 2010.

If Halladay was indeed traded to the Mets, I think he would have been completely torn about waiving the no trade. But in the end, I bet he would do it especially if the Mets gave him some kind of extension. Money talks. However, it would be difficult to fault him for turning the deal down because of how bad the Mets are right now.

But for now and probably forever, we will not have to worry about this scenario playing itself out and we can still with all the hypotheticals and what ifs.

Get Your Pitchforks Ready, Royals Fans

Because apparently, Trey Hillman, manager of the last place Royals, thinks you have no idea what your talking about.

"KC Royals manager Trey Hillman apparently doesn't suffer fools gladly. Especially Royals fans who, he thinks, don't know what they're talking about.

"There’s a lot that people don’t know," Hillman told The Star recently. "I’m not going to bang my head against the wall defending things I do or do not do in trying to educate the masses about things that, quite frankly, I can’t educate. There’s just too much.... That’s not me getting my violin out. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me. I love my job. But there’s a lot of moving parts to being a major-league manager that people don’t get."
I'm sure there is lots that comes with being a major league manager that the public has no idea about because hell, a large majority of the public has never managed at any level in professional baseball.

But Royals fans are not stupid. They can recognize when a ball club is moving in the right direction and there is no doubt that this team is not performing well at all. One can make the case that Trey Hillman is one of the worst managers in the American League. Others would argue that the Royals struggles are all because of Dayton Moore.

No matter where you stand, it's clear that both Moore and Hillman deserve blame (and lots of it) for the Royals this season.

If challenging the fans makes Hillman believe somewhere in his mythical world that the Royals are not a mess, then so be it. No matter how the Royals finish in the standings in 2009 (and beyond), there is no doubt that the patience and sanity of Royals fans has to be waring thin.

Only one thing's for sure: thank God for Greinke.

(Side Note: After a year and a half of Trey Hillman, I'm sure 99.9999% of Royals fans out there have no interest in being educated by the Royals skipper.)

Morning Photo: Yoga With Andre Ethier

Yup, that's Andre right there in the center leading some women from DodgersWIN in some yoga exercises. If yoga is the secret to the Dodgers success, then I suggest that the Mets take up

(photo: LATIMES)

Monday, July 20, 2009

What Could Have Been: Derek Lowe to the Yankees

Anyone remember way back in December that Derek Lowe was almost a Yankee? Well, according to Jon Heyman, Lowe and the Yankees were almost a match.
The Yankees' new rotation is starting to take shape, as they are also in serious negotiations with free-agent Derek Lowe. An agreement with Lowe appears likely to be finalized in the coming days, as well. The sides were discussing a contract for four years and about $66 million late Tuesday.
If the Yankees did sign Lowe as Heyman suggested, then I assume the Yankees pursuit of AJ Burnett would have been up in the air. It's hard to suggest now that the Yankees would have been better off with Lowe as opposed to Burnett, but the argument that the Yankees should have signed Lowe in addition to Sabathia and Burnett is very valid given the struggles of Joba Chamberlain and Chien Ming Wang this season.

In addition, if Lowe did sign with the Yankees, then I would have expected the Atlanta Braves to explode into a full blown out panic mode. In my opinion, it's completely feasible that the Braves would have either thrown tons of money at AJ Burnett or gave up the farm to San Diego for Jake Peavy.

However, because the Braves signed Lowe, they were never forced to make the panic move to get a front line starter, and as a result, the Braves were able to use their vast trade chips to acquire Nate McLouth from the Pirates this season.

In the end, I think both the Yankees and the Braves are satisfied with their acquisitions. However, Yankee fans have to be wondering what a rotation of Sabathia-Lowe-Burnett would have done for the 2009 Yankees, especially now as the Yankees possibly plunge into the Halladay market.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Mets Will Not Be Sellers At The Deadline

As my good friend Craig pointed out last week, the Mets are not likely to be serious buyers at the trading deadline because owner Fred Wilpon lost $700 million in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Obviously, it looks like it will be very difficult for the Mets to pick up a hefty salary when the owner of the ballclub is experiencing so much financial difficulty.

And at this point in time, who knows if the Mets will even be close enough in standings to warrant trying to acquire more talent. After last night's game, the Mets are 7.5 games back of the Phillies in the NL East and with no help in sight, there is little reason to believe in the Mets in 2009.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that if the Mets fall out of contention in 2009, then Omar Minaya should begin to shape the roster for 2010 and beyond through trades. The idea of becoming a seller is certain to not be popular in New York, but it makes sense for the future of the franchise.

But the sad reality is this: even if the Mets fall 15 games out of first place in the next week, there is just no way this team will ever become sellers. It's not that the Mets don't care about the future, but who exactly does this team have to trade?

-The Mets are not trading David Wright, Johan Santana, K-Rod, Mike Pelfrey, Bobby Parnell or Jeff Franceour.
-Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, JJ Putz, and John Maine are all injured.
-No one wants Luis Castillo or Oliver Perez.
-And on top of that, I doubt the Mets would look to deal the quality relief pitcher they have left: Feliciano, Green, Stokes

So who does that leave us with to trade?
-Fernando Tatis
-Jeremy Reed
-Alex Cora
-Gary Sheffield
-Livan Hernandez
-Brian Schneider
-Daniel Murphy
-Tim Redding

Obviously, that list of players is not going to yield many quality players in return. Sheffield is the only guy on this list, who could actually get the Mets back something decent in return. And when I say decent, I really mean mediocre.

So as you can see, there is just not much there for the Mets to deal. When/If the Mets finally decide to pull the plug on 2009, there is no chance of a huge firesale dismantling this team. The personnel is just not there.

What Could Have Been: Ken Griffey Jr to the Braves

For a short period of time back in February, it looked like Ken Griffey Jr. was on his way to playing with the Atlanta Braves.

As David O'Brien wrote:
Ken Griffey Jr., one of only six players to hit more than 600 career home runs, has decided to play for the Braves, a person close to the veteran outfielder and familiar with the negotiations told the Journal-Constitution.
The Braves were obviously looking for Junior to be a productive outfielder, who could put some fannies in the seats at Turner Field. Even though Griffey is well past his prime, the Braves figured that Junior would be somewhat productive and on top of that, he would bring in enough revenue to justify the signing.

However, as we all know now, Junior did not sign with the Braves. Instead, he went back to his old stomping grounds and signed with the Seattle Mariners. Everyone in Seattle rejoiced while Braves fans were left stranded at the alter without Junior.

But as we look at the signing now, it appears as though the Braves were lucky that they did not sign Junior. In 234 at bats with the Mariners, Junior is only hitting .218 with 10 HR and a measly .337 OBP.

Despite Junior's poor performance, the Mariners have admirably stayed in contention in the AL West this season. However, a possible dilemma could be on the horizon for Junior and the Mariners. If the Mariners continue to stay in contention and Junior continues to struggle at the plate, the Mariners will have no choice but to either bench the living legend or at least move him down further in the batting order. The Mariners don't have many options in the middle of the order, but they need to find production for somewhere.

As for the Braves, their outfield production has been a source of concern all season. If the team had signed Griffey, their outfield production would have been even worse and Bobby Cox would have been put in a difficult situation with regards to Griffey and playing time. While Garret Anderson, the Braves current left fielder, is far from his prime, he is still an upgrade over the aging Ken Griffey Jr.

The Value of a Nickname

Good news for Big Papi, A-Rod, the Melk Man, the Freak, and the Big Unit:

"When baseball dubbed shortstop Harold Reese “Pee Wee” and first basemen Fred Merkle “Bonehead,” they probably weren’t trying to lengthen the players’ lives. But according to researchers at Wayne State University, major-league players who have nicknames live 2½ years longer, on average, than those without them."

I have absolutely no idea how this information makes sense, but if was a baseball player, I'd be clamoring for a a completely random and utterly ridiculous nickname.

Who needs vitamins and proteins when you have a nickname!

Morning Photo: The Manny Ramirez Craze Lives On

It's amazing and somewhat shocking to say this, but Dodger fans love Manny the cheater as much as they loved Manny when they thought he was clean. Despite a nasty contract dispute and the HGC scandal, it's safe to say that Dodger fans love Ramirez...and his antics.

And by the way, when did dressing up like Manny Ramirez become a socially acceptable thing to do?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Your Favorite Baseball Team Is Probably Not That Popular

Unless your the Yankees or Red Sox, that is:

The Harris Poll asked 2,100 U.S. adults last month to name their favorite baseball teams. The New York Yankees were the most popular team, followed by the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals.
The only surprise there is the Atlanta Braves. I know the Braves have a very loyal following in the South, but I was unaware that the Braves were that popular. Wasn't it just a few years ago that the Braves couldn't sell out playoff games? Perhaps the old TV contract with TBS gave the Braves some national notoriety and a bigger following outside of the South.

And now for the fun part: the least popular team. Drumroll, please....

The Toronto Blue Jays

What? The Roy Halladay backlash must be very strong already.

Actually, the poll is somewhat flawed. No Canadian residents were asked so take the Blue Jays last place finish for what it's worth.
Besides the Blue Jays, the three lease popular teams (in order) were the Nationals, the Angels, and the Royals. I can understand the Royals and the Nationals because quite frankly, both of those teams stink and have probably alienated the fan base with their horrific play.

But the Angels? How can they be this far down? Wasn't this the franchise that was recently ranked by ESPN the magazine as the best organization in sports? Well, I have two theories.

1. Where was the poll conducted?
-If this poll was conducted solely on the east coast, then of course, the Angels won't receive such a tremendous response.

2. It's the Dodgers world, and the Angels are just living in it
-No matter how successful the Angels are, they will always be overshadowed by the Dodgers in the baseball world.

Other interesting tidbits:
-the Mets have fallen to #11 on the list, which is their lowest ranking since 2004.
-the Indians dropped from #7 on the list last year to #25 this year. Ouch

So take this poll for what it's worth. There are so many different things to consider when talking about polling that these rankings are far from definitive. But nevertheless, they are fun, and sometimes, quite revealing.

Barry Zito: Worst Pitcher Contract Ever?

When the Giants signed Barry Zito in 2006, they thought they had just locked up their ace for the next seven years. The team believed that Zito had the goods to lead the Giants in the post Barry Bonds era by consistently taking the ball every fifth day and giving the Giants a quality start.

However, Zito's tenure with the Giants has been a disaster. His ERA with Giants has ballooned upwards of 5 as Zito has not come close to looking like a top flight starting pitcher. His velocity and control have deteriorated to the point where his once devastating curveball is no longer as effective as it once was. At this point, the only reason Zito is still in the starting rotation is because of his huge contract, not because of his ability.

Unfortunately, the Giants are still on the hook for another 4 years of Zito at a whopping $76 million bucks. In addition, the Giants gave Zito a full no trade clause, so for the time being, it looks like the Giants are stuck with Zito.

There is no doubt that Zito's contract is one of the worst in baseball right now. Ant Giants fan will tell you that. But can this contract become the worst contract ever handed out to a pitcher?

Perhaps. There have been many horrible contracts given out to pitchers over the years (Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle, Chan Ho Park, Darren Driefort, and Kevin Brown all come to mind), but in my opinion, Zito is in a completely different category than those four pitchers.

Unlike so many pitchers who sign big contracts, Zito has not gotten hurt during his time with the Giants. His durability remains his biggest strength (or weakness, depending on who you ask) that allows him to take the ball every fifth day. The issue at hand is that Zito's performance has declined so much, so quickly that he looks like a completely different pitcher than the one the Giants signed.

And here's the thing: the Zito contract is absolutely killing the Giants. The Giants have a fantastic pitching staff without Barry Zito and there is no doubt that right now Zito is holding the pitching staff back. In addition, if the Giants did not sign Zito, then they would have been able to use the funds to go out and acquire a few bats to shore up their pathetic offense. However, Zito's contract limits the Giants payroll flexibility and very well could hold the Giants back from seriously competing in the wide open National League this season.

And that's a shame. If the Giants make the playoffs this season or go deep into the playoffs, it will be in spite of Barry Zito, not because of him.

Barry Zito's contract has the potential to hold this franchise back from the promised land for years to come. It's not often we can say that about one player, but this contract and his performance are that bad.

I suppose that there is still time for Zito to turn it around with the Giants, but he has shown nothing over his two+ years with the Giants for me to believe that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Review: Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain

I'll be the first to admit it: my perspective on Thurman Munson is much different than the average Thurman Munson fan. For starters, I am not a Yankee fan. Quite the contrary actually, I am a die hard Mets fan, who bleeds orange and blue. In contrast, the Yankees have always been a hated rival because of their passionate fan base and decades of excellence.

In addition, I never had the opportunity to see Thurman Munson play. My generation does not have the same connection to Munson as my father's generation did because we did not bear witness to his leadership and vast talents. We remember Munson not for the life he lived, but for the way he died.

So I guess it's fair to say that I'm not exactly the most qualified candidate to read a book about Thurman Munson. But boy am I glad I did.

In Munson: Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, author Marty Appel documents the life of Thurman Munson, which was tragically cut short in 1979. Using various sources and new information, Appel takes an in-depth look at Thurman Munson, both on and off the baseball diamond.

On the field, the book touches on all the points that made Thurman Munson a Yankee legend. Between winning becoming Yankee Captain, to winning the AL MVP in 1976, to winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978; Appel leaves no stone unturned in his quest to bring the reader into Munson, the baseball player.

However, it's Appel's description of Munson off the field that gives the readers a different look at Thurman Munson, the man. Munson's upbringing was especially difficult as he coped with an abusive father, who eventually left the family after Munson's mother suffered a stroke. His traumatic upbringing shaped the way Munson treated his wife and children is his later life. Despite his difficult childhood, Munson was a devoted family man, who decided to take up flying so that he could spend more time with his family back in Canton, Ohio.

But there is so much more to Munson that just his family life. On one hand, Munson fought with George Steinbrenner about his contract, fought with Reggie Jackson through the media, gave Yankee fans the finger, and was unable to deal with the media towards the end of his career.

But on the other hand, Munson comes off as a typical, fun loving average guy. Munson adored the three stooges, ate Oreos for breakfast, was an aspiring businessman, and developed a serious interest in aviation. In short, Munson was a modern day Renaissance man.

Thurman Munson was a painfully complex man, who lived a life that is very much worth reading about. There are so many different facets to the man that I found the book difficult to put down as Appel beautifully outlines one of baseball's most intriguing figures.

No matter how old you are or what team you root for, this book is a must read for any baseball fan. I knew next to nothing about Munson coming into the biography, but by the end, I felt as though I knew Thurman Munson, both on and off the baseball diamond. And for this baseball fan, what a treat that was.

Trading For Vernon Wells Is Crazy

Over the past few days, I have read in newspapers and listened on NY sports radio as commentators discuss the idea of taking Vernon Wells' absurd contract as the springboard to land Roy Halladay in the Bronx. The idea in theory makes some sense. Instead of giving up a number of top prospects to the Blue Jays for Halladay, the Yankees would instead take the absurd Vernon Wells contract from the Blue Jays and not give up the farm for Halladay.

However, if any team does decide to trade for Vernon Wells and the more than $90 million owed to him, they are crazy. This is not the Vernon Wells from 5 years ago. This is the 2009 Vernon Wells, who is not performing well in nearly any aspect of the game right now.

Wells' offensive struggles have been well documented as his batting average has fallen to .263 and his OPS has plummeted down to a putrid .723, which is unacceptable for a supposed "power hitter." Wells still hits plenty of doubles (23), but he only has 9 home runs this season, which is a far cry from the glory days where Wells hit 25-30 homers.

But how about defense? Wells has always been a good defensive outfielder, even winning a gold glove for three straight seasons ('04-'06). However, Wells' defensive prowess seems to have evaporated this season. According to my new favorite site Fangraphs, Wells' UZR (which measures the number of runs a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined) is by far the worst in the majors at -21.3. Even worse is Wells' UZR/150 games, which is -31.9. The problem for Wells centers around range, which scores a pathetic -22.4, by far the worst among players who qualify. Those numbers place Wells as one of the worst, if not the worst, center fielder in baseball.

Teams should avoid Vernon Wells like the plague. I'm sure the Blue Jays will throw his name out there over and over attempting to rid themselves of his contract by linking him to Roy Halladay. But teams, should not, and cannot, take the bait. For all the benefit Halladay would bring to a roster this season, the potential risk/headache of taking on Vernon Wells and his contract is far too high and could potentially harm a franchise for years to come.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ian Kinsler: Home Run Derby Controversy?

Did Ian Kinsler lose out on the all-star game because of the home run derby? Conspiracy theorists unite!
Here’s another possible explanation. As recently as four days ago, the American League had only one confirmed participant for Monday’s Home Run Derby, the unlikely Joe Mauer. Defending champion Justin Morneau begged off. So did Hamilton, the unquestioned star of last year’s event. And since no one but Mauer had signed up by Friday, it’s a reasonable assumption that every other AL All-Star said “no thanks” as well.
Interesting. We have heard about the negative effects of the home run derby from one source or another and whether you believe the claims or not, you can't fault the players for taking notice of the negative trends.

Here's the question at hand: did the negative trends prevent players from taking part in the derby. Probably. And for the American League, it would have been a huge embarassment if they could not find 4 reasonable entrants to the home run derby....which leads us to this:

"Let’s put all of this together and see what we’ve got: (a) AL hitters refusing to swing in the home run derby + (b) Cruz and Pena selected over more obvious candidates Lind and Kinsler = (c) theory: replacement candidates were informed that their selection would be conditioned upon agreement to participate in the derby, and Lind & Kinsler either declined, or didn’t accept quickly enough to give the league comfort. They have 19 and 20 home runs respectively, more than enough to justify entry in the derby had they been willing. The league didn’t have to select Cruz and Pena with their slightly higher HR totals (22 and 24) to give the derby credibility. But they did need to select players willing to take part.

Sure, it’s a conspiracy theory, and like most conspiracy theories it is based more on conjecture and circumstance than actual evidence. But it has something else in common with other conspiracy theories: it arises because official explanations are lacking. There is no good reason that Lind was not picked to fill in for Hunter, or Kinsler for Pedroia, unless a desperate AL needed derby entries and couldn’t get assurances from Lind or Kinsler that they would play ball."

Is it possible that the American League became so desperate for home run derby contestants that they based their all star selections on who would compete in the derby? The idea doesn't sound all that crazy and actually makes quite a bit of sense. The mere thought of this pisses me off though because Kinsler and Lind were far more deserving candidates and something as meaningless as the home run derby should have no impact on the all star game, which is supposed to count.

And note to MLB: shorten the home run derby. The contest has become tedious and drags on far too long. Where's the excitement????

Do You Know Who Andrew Bailey Is?

Because Mariano Rivera sure doesn't.

Jeter knew little of Lincecum and Rivera knew nothing of one of his own All-Star teammates.

Asked if he had heard of Andrew Bailey, Rivera said, "Andrew Bailey? No I haven't."

Rivera was told Bailey is an All-Star closer representing the A's.

"He's on the West Coast."

But he's in the AL.

"Same league, but I haven't heard of him. Maybe I heard about him, but I'm not too familiar. I don't follow or watch. But personally, I don't know who he is."

On the bright side, now I have something in common with Andrew Bailey. Mariano Rivera has no idea who am I either.

Hopefully Bailey, one of the best stories in the all star game, will get a chance to show Rivera who he is tonight and come out with his best stuff.

2009 Stache All Star: Joel Pineiro

The St. Louis Cardinals need to get some kind of award for first half mustaches.

Ankiel. Kinney. LaRue (picture needed). Carpenter.

And how bout this bonus: Ryan Franklin and his under beard thing.

Calling the American Mustache Institute....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Interview With Matthew Tymann (Part 2)

And we're back! Here is part 2 of the interview with Matthew Tymann. Enjoy!

***** *****

Jorge Says No!:
In your opinion, are the guys on the Riversharks playing to get back in affiliated ball or are they playing for the love of the game/money?

Matthew Tymann: It's two out of those three. First and foremost, they're playing to get back in affiliated ball. To a man (with the possible exception of Felix Rodriguez, as I referenced earlier), they'll all tell you that they're #1 goal is to get signed by a Major League organization. For guys like Davey, Brazelton, Knott, Leon, and Bryant Nelson, the goal is to get back to the Majors; for others, the goal is to get there for the first time. Not one of the players I've talked to on this team has lost sight of that dream, no matter how realistic or unrealistic it may be for some of them.

At the same time, though, they're definitely playing for the love of the game, too. One thing that strikes me about non-Major League baseball players is how many different teams they play for over the course of their careers. Quite a few of them have played for more teams, in more cities, than the number of seasons in their career. Brian Burgamy, our starting third baseman, has played for ten different teams in eight seasons...and he's only been a part of three different Major League organizations. Bryant Nelson, our shortstop, has played for sixteen different teams over sixteen professional seasons. Sixteen teams! And that's not uncommon at all in this league. These guys are like mercenaries, and I don't see how anyone could keep playing for that long, moving around the country that much, if he didn't have a deep love for baseball. So, I'd say every one of the guys on the 'sharks roster is playing for the love of the game.

Money would have to be a distant third to these two other reasons, except in the sense that a Major League contract would obviously generate some income. Players are not making a ton of dough in the Atlantic League. They play to get noticed by Major League teams, and they play for fun. Those are definitely the two main reasons.

Jorge Says No!: What do you like best about writing about and working with the Riversharks?

Matthew Tymann: Working with the Riversharks is great, on a lot of levels. To be perfectly honest, my first priority is the broadcast side of things, not the blog or the other writing I do. I do play-by-play for about 75 of the 140 games, and color commentary for another 40. I'm an aspiring broadcaster, and so getting that much experience is my personal favorite aspect of the job. But to answer your question in terms of the spirit in which I think it was asked...the best thing about working for the Riversharks is simply that they're a baseball team, and one that plays in such a talented and competitive league. Working for any baseball team, especially in a broadcasting/writing capacity, is bound to be fun, but I honestly didn't realize before I got here how high the talent level in the Atlantic League is. I can rattle off a list of guys in the league who were not only Major Leaguers, but well-known Major Leaguers: Keith Foulke, Armando Benitez, Carl Everett, Jacque Jones, Junior Spivey, Marlon Anderson, Shawn Chacon...and the list could go on. Then there are notable names like Anthony Manuel (Jerry's son), Jeff Nettles (Graig's son), and of course P.J. Rose (Pete's son). Oh, and lest I forget: the league has some collection of famous managers too. Here's the full list of eight: Butch Hobson, Chris Hoiles, Joe Ferguson, Von Hayes, Sparky Lyle, Tommy John, Tim Raines, Gary Carter. Pretty cool to be working with, and interviewing, those guys.

But it's not just about the notable names. The best players in the league are guys who aren't all that well-known: Garcia and James Shanks of Southern Maryland, Miller, Magrane, Josh Pressley and Matt Hagen of Somerset, Brandon Sing of Bridgeport, and our own Tom Davey. And there's good depth all around, as well. People who haven't seen an Atlantic League game would almost certainly be impressed with the level of play, the competitiveness of the games, and the high interest of (some of) the fan bases.

Jorge Says No!: What kind of attendance do the Riversharks draw? In your opinion, is the fan base passionate about the team?

Matthew Tymann: The Riversharks are currently sixth (out of eight teams in the league) in attendance, averaging 3,483 fans per game. But teams like Long Island, Somerset, Lancaster, and York all regularly draw 5,000+ fans to their games, and the people that come out are generally a passionate bunch. In Long Island and Somerset especially, the fans really care about the team, and provide great energy in the stands. Unfortunately, we don't really get that in Camden. We have good fans, but they're much more interested in having a good time with their families than cheering on the team. If the food is good, and the promotions are good, and the video is good, and the weather is good, and the team loses 10-0, the majority of our fans go home happy. I'd like to see that not be the case, but it's the way of life in a market like this. Any fans who want to be die-hards about a baseball team root for the Phillies, who play 5-10 minutes away. There just isn't the baseball void in Camden that there is in a place like Somerset, Lancaster, or York. So, the short answer to your question is: no, Riversharks fans are not generally passionate about the team. But, fortunately, there ARE passionate fans around the league, and that helps to make things more fun.

***** *****

A huge thanks goes out to Matt for giving us such in depth responses. This was an eye opening interview for me, and I hope everyone enjoyed it as well. Feel free to leave your comments in the comments and check out The Deep End!

Matthew Tymann: The Interview (Part 1)

One of the best parts about baseball blogging is finding out information that you never thought you'd ever have the chance to find out. With this interview, I sought out to do exactly that.

I have always been interested in the Atlantic League and in my opinion, the league is very under reported.

But luckily for me and hopefully you, Matthew Tymann is one of the best at covering the Atlantic League, specifically the Camden Riverharks. Matthew runs a fantastic blog on the Riverharks called The Deep End and was kind enough to give us a very in depth look into life in the Atlantic League.

So please, take some time and read Matthew's thorough responses. Trust me, it's worth the good that there will be a part 2 later today.

Jorge Says No! Interview With Matthew Tymann

Jorge Says No!: Are there any players on the Riversharks that MLB teams should be keeping an eye on?

Matthew Tymann: Until last weekend, I would have pointed you right toward starting pitcher Nate Bump, who has previously spent some time with the Florida Marlins, including in their championship season of 2003. He was phenomenal for the Riversharks this season, racking up an 8-2 record, with a 2.49 ERA. But last weekend, the Detroit Tigers' organization figured all this out, and signed him. He's now playing for their AAA affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens.

There are a few other guys on the team who have the talent to really help a Major League organization, but no one I'd recommend as wholeheartedly as I would have Bump. Dewon Brazelton might be first on the list, but that's primarily because he's a former first-round draft pick (3rd overall) of Tampa Bay back in 2001. It also doesn't hurt that he's just 29. But at the same time, while he's pitched well for us this year, he hasn't exactly been overwhelming. Tom Davey (8-2, 2.25) has awesome numbers, but he's 35 years old, and doesn't have great velocity anymore. He does have experience at the highest level (with the Blue Jays and Mariners in 1999, and Padres from 2000-02), but I'm not sure how much sense he makes as a Major League prospect at this point in his career. Jose Leon and Jon Knott are two guys who can really hit, but each is limited defensively and in terms of speed. Given that they're not going to be middle-of-the-order guys on Major League teams, I don't know how attractive they'd be either.

One guy who has really played well for us, who is young enough that he should at least be in an organization somewhere, is catcher Jason Jacobs. Catcher was the one spot on the roster that was probably the biggest question mark heading into the season, but Jacobs has really solidified the position. He's only hitting .258 now, but he's gone through some stretches where he's hit the ball very well, and his eight doubles are pretty impressive for a guy without great speed. He has also been a standout defensively, which is obviously paramount for a catcher. Perhaps most importantly, he's just 25 years old. Given that the Mets let him go after last year, and that he's never even been to AA ball, I do question my judgment on this one (or the potential flukiness of his good season). But at the same time, I can't imagine this guy isn't good enough to find a spot somewhere in affiliated ball, and considering his age, I would think he's worth a shot.

Jorge Says No!: Are there any players in the Atlantic League right now who you believe could make an impact this season at the major league level?

Matthew Tymann: This question is tough to answer. I see every Riversharks' game, but I don't see enough of the rest of the league to really feel like an expert on every other team. There are definitely players that have impressed me, but the possibility always exists that they've gone through their best stretch of the season against the 'sharks. Plus, a few of the guys I really like around the league aren't the type that could make an impact THIS season. And beyond that, there are guys who probably could make an impact, who almost certainly will not. In this last category rests a player like Carl Everett, who can still hit at age 39. And I mean, really hit: he's got a .947 OPS, and might be the scariest player to face in a key spot in the entire league. I'm pretty convinced this guy could at least be a Matt Stairs-type in the Majors, but I wouldn't find it at all likely that he'd get signed...or maybe that he'd even want to get signed at this point. I might also throw Felix Rodriguez of the Riversharks in that group...he's a long-time Major League veteran, and can still throw a fastball in the mid-90s. I would think he's good enough to be in the bullpen for a team in the Majors, but I don't think he has much interest in that lifestyle anymore. He's 36, and lives with his family near Camden. I honestly think he'd turn down a Major League offer to stay with the 'sharks.

Josh Miller and Jim Magrane are two pitchers who could potentially make an impact. Both guys play for the best team in the league, Somerset, and both have been in AAA within the past two years (Miller with Round Rock in 2008, Magrane with Columbus in 2007). Miller is 8-3 on the season, with a 2.47 ERA, and Magrane is 9-2 with a 2.52. But I'd be lying to you if I said I was going more on personal viewings than on stats and pedigree. Each has been good when I've seen him, but I've only seen each guy once, and neither completely blew me away. Still, the numbers all suggest they can make an impact, and they certainly have been good. Both guys are 30, by the way.

Before I move on to the rest of the questions, let me mention two players around the league who I really like, who probably don't fit into any of these categories: Travis Garcia of Southern Maryland, and Salomon Manriquez of Newark. Garcia is a shortstop who doubles as one of the best hitters in the league. He needs to be more patient at the plate (as his 10 walks in 279 plate appearances evidence), but his .562 slugging percentage tells you what he can do with the bat. He's in the top-5 in the league in average (.338), home runs (12), and RBI (53). He's also looked good at shortstop every time I've seen him, though he does have 15 errors in 66 games. At the same time, he's been out of affiliated ball since 2004, and there has to be a reason for that. He's just 27 years old, so there's still hope, but it's probably the case that I'm missing some major flaw that the scouts aren't. Still, he's fun to watch, and easily one of the most valuable players in the league. Manriquez is another guy who hits from a position where players often don't: catcher. He's leading the league in hitting with a .367 average, and he currently sports a .974 OPS. Most impressive of all (and maybe a hindrance to his potential Major League career): he's just 6'0'', 170, tiny for a catcher. He certainly seems capable of doing the job, but I'm always impressed when I watch him play so well behind the plate (both with the glove and the bat), with such a slight frame. Manriquez has reached AA with four different organizations, most recently with Binghamton (Mets) in '08. I don't think he'll be making an impact on the Major Leagues this season, but I'm definitely rooting for him down the line. Oh yeah, and he's just 26.

Jorge Says No!: What type of payroll do the Riversharks operate with?

Matthew Tymann: The maximum contract in the Atlantic League is $3000 per month. Two guys on our team make the max, though I'm guessing I'm not at liberty to say who they are. Other than that, I know very little about our payroll. I know some guys make more than others, but I'm not really sure what our total payroll for the 25 players is. If I had to guess, I'd guess around $60-$65,000 per month.

Jorge Says No!: How does the Riversharks management lure top talent to play in the Atlantic League?

Matthew Tymann: Players generally want to come play in the Atlantic League. It's regarded as the best independent league in the country, so anyone not playing in affiliated ball would have to consider playing in the AL, especially those living close geographically. I don't get the impression that any of the teams have any difficulty finding willing and very talented players to play in the league every year, or mid-season (as there are a lot of roster moves mid-season).

With regard to the Riversharks specifically, a lot of our players have been garnered through connections. If you look up and down our roster, you'll find quite a few guys who played for the San Diego Padres organization in the early 2000s. That's because Joe Ferguson, our manager, worked for the Padres during that time. He developed relationships with players like Brian Burgamy, Tom Davey, and Jon Knott, and that's a huge part of the reason they're all playing in Camden this year. Some of our other players had some prior baseball relationship with Jeff Scott, our pitching coach, and that's why they're here. Others, like Vito Chiaravolloti, Val Majewski (since signed by the Angels' organization), Felix Rodriguez, and Mike Flannery, live close by, and saw Camden as the most logical and convenient place to continue their baseball career. And in some cases, the 'sharks sign a player through sheer dumb luck. Dewon Brazelton, the former third-overall pick by the Devil Rays back in 2001, showed up completely unexpected to our open tryout in early April. He paid his own way, and even brought a paper resume and everything. Joe and Jeff recognized him for who he was, and signed him on the spot. He's been a staple in our rotation ever since.

Stay tuned for Part 2 later today!