Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 National League East Preview

  • If anyone accuses me of bias, we're gonna have a problem:

Before anything, everyone knows I'm a Mets fan. It has to be understood however that I'm able to maintain objectivity. (For some unfathomable reason, half of Twitter thinks I'm a Yankee fan.) If nothing else, this should be proven by the fact that I had the Mets missing the playoffs last season when they were the consensus pick for National League champions in the pre-season. I had a bad feeling that turned out, in reality, to be nowhere close to the mark in predicting what happened.

Then again, the most negative prophet of doom couldn't have predicted what happened to the Mets last season. The Devil himself (and no that's not me) would've said enough's enough by July. Yet the hits kept right on coming.

Let's have a look.

National League East:
  1. New York Mets----Wins-91; Losses-71; GB ---
  2. Atlanta Braves----Wins-87; Losses-75; GB 4
  3. Philadelphia Phillies----Wins-84; Losses-78; GB 7
  4. Florida Marlins----Wins-81; Losses-81; GB 10
  5. Washington Nationals----Wins-69; Losses-93; GB 22

New York Mets:

The Mets were the butt of jokes from the time the injuries began piling up last season all through this entire winter and part of spring training.

Their minor league system was shot; their doctors were the equivalent of faith healers; the front office was in disarray; the players mistrusted the club from top to bottom; the fans were abused to the point of self-mutilation.

Then, once spring training started, the young players the Mets system----Ike Davis; Fernando Martinez; Ruben Tejada; Jenrry Mejia-----looked great. The team on the whole had an attitude of "Oh, enough of this already".

While the pitching hasn't looked great in the spring, the potential is there and the lineup will be able to score. Jeff Francoeur has made a concerted effort to be more selective; Jason Bay looks like his usual quiet and productive self; and the club has gotten cautiously good news on Jose Reyes after his hamstring surgery and thyroid condition.

The key to the entire season isn't the bullpen nor the lineup, but how John Maine pitches as the number 2 behind Johan Santana. If Maine pitches well, the Mets will contend. If not, they won't.

The season is going to go one of two ways. Either the ridicule is going to galvanize the team into an us against the world mentality to come out swinging with both fists at the naysayers; or things are going to spiral out of control and both GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel are going to get fired.

I think it'll be the former.

Atlanta Braves:

Had the Braves brought in a big basher----that one big bat guaranteed to drive in runs; hit homers; and get on base----I'd have picked them to win the pennant in the National League. Instead, they're rolling the dice on the oft-injured Troy Glaus and made a ridiculous trade of Javier Vazquez for Melky Cabrera.

They're again putting an undue amount of pressure of a young player in Jason Heyward to be that bat.

We saw how well that worked out with the aforementioned Francoeur.

The Braves pitching is good enough and deep enough that they're going to be in the mix for the playoffs; but they don't have enough hitting. Add in that Billy Wagner is completely untrustworthy in a big game----I can promise you he'll blow a couple of ultra-important games in September----and unless they make a drastic trade for an available bat at mid-season, they're going to be on the outside looking in by the end of the season.

Philadelphia Phillies:

I've gone on ad nauseam of what a terrible mistake the Phillies made in the lateral trade of Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay. There are two ways for a club to address their issues. One, they bolster their strengths. For the Phillies, that would've been to keep Lee and trade for Halladay. Two, they address their weaknesses. That would've been to upgrade the bullpen and back of the starting rotation.

They did neither.

Even with Halladay, they're still relying on Jamie Moyer as their fifth starter; they're counting on Brad Lidge returning to form; and getting usefulness from the likes of Jose Contreras and Danys Baez.

The lineup is formidable, but Jimmy Rollins is shot; Ryan Howard absolutely clueless against lefties; and expecting a repeat performance of 2009 from Jayson Werth is insanity.

The one thing I'd be concerned about more than anything is the arrogance that has come with a World Series win and a trip to the classic a year later. It's permeating everything the Phillies do; the mistakes they've made; and is an invitation to disaster and downfall.

And that's exactly what's going to happen.

Florida Marlins:

As much as I admire the way the Marlins do business (and they made a great move to get Nate Robertson from the Tigers for nothing), there's something different this year that could be the catalyst for a step back.

The Marlins have always been cold and ruthless when it came to saving money and mining other clubs for their best prospects in exchange for Marlins veterans who were about to get paid. This off-season was different.

They were taking offers for Dan Uggla; trying to come to agreement with Josh Johnson on a long-term contract; and willing to listen on Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross. Then MLB stepped in and forced the Marlins to put more money into payroll, and the club agreed as if they'd done something wrong.

I don't see how the best run team in baseball had been doing something wrong by saving money and winning, doing it their way----a way that no one else in baseball, stat-based theories or not, has been able to accomplish.

The Marlins kept Uggla, Ross and Cantu; and signed Johnson to a long-term contract. They have the talent to contend and more, but I think there was an energy created by the edge-of-the-seat turnover the club always maintained. It was understood by all that anyone and everyone could be dealt away at a moment's notice.

The energy was important. The basic standing pat will cost them as they fall back out of contention and finish at .500.

Washington Nationals:

The Nationals did a lot of "stuff" this off-season, but none of that stuff was enough to vault them into respectability. Jason Marquis? Chien-Ming Wang? Adam Kennedy? Ivan Rodriguez? Are these moves for a team on the rise?


Their expansion team style moves were to bring in recognizable names to hold down a fan base who's waiting anxiously for ├╝ber prospect Stephen Strasburg. They have some players who can hit like Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman; they have a few decent arms, but they're not good. They're not respectable and their saving grace is going to be that they can't be much worse than the 59-win monstrosity (solid second half play aside) they were last season.

  • 2010 National League Award Winners:

NL MVP----Jose Reyes, New York Mets:

I know, I know.

This was written before the thyroid condition and while manager Jerry Manuel had Reyes scheduled to begin the season batting third.

Batting third and having the opportunity to drive in runs was going to send Reyes into MVP contention. Now, who knows? I'll stick with the pick.

On another note, maybe it's a positive omen. Last year, in the American League, I picked Alex Rodriguez to win the MVP before his hip injury and while he didn't win the award, the Yankees won the World Series.

A guy can dream, can't he?

NL Cy Young Award----Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers:

I had initially picked Jair Jurrjens of the Braves, but his shoulder problems made me back off that choice.

Kershaw's handcuffs are off; he's got devastating stuff; and he's ready to explode. I'm talking about close to 300 strikeouts and dominance. The word potential will be removed from Kershaw early in the season, replaced by brilliance.

NL Rookie of the Year----Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants:

Bumgarner is ruining my aesthetic by getting rocked in the spring and sent to the minors, but considering how he decimated the minor leagues on the way up, it's not a negative for him to face some adversity. If he pitches well in the minors, he'll be back in the big leagues soon enough.

NL Manager of the Year----Jerry Manuel, New York Mets:

Much like everything involved with the Mets this year, it's feast of famine for their manager.

If they play well, he'll get a contract extension and receive post-season recognition; if not, he'll get fired. At least he knows his position. Since I think the Mets are going to play well, I have to believe Manuel will get the Manager of the Year award for running the ship.

My book containing all predictions and in-depth analysis is available on Amazon and I-Universe. It's either going to launch me into the stratosphere or cause me to shatter into a million pieces. Or both. Watch the explosion.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 National League Central Preview

  • Mediocrity rules the day in the NL Central:

It's hard to cram 364 pages into a concise summary, but it's not harder than writing the 364 pages to being with----in 3 weeks! You do it and see whether it's any good and if you're not a raving lunatic by the time you're on page 45.

It's Day 2 of a concise, Sparknotes style overview from my book brings us to the National League Central.

National League Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals----Wins-93; Losses; 69; GB --
  2. Chicago Cubs----Wins-84; Losses-78; GB 9
  3. Milwaukee Brewers----Wins-81; Losses-81; GB 12
  4. Houston Astros----Wins-73; Losses-89; GB 20
  5. Cincinnati Reds----Wins-72; Losses-90; GB 21
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates----Wins-67; Losses-95; GB 26

St. Louis Cardinals:

While teams like the Mets are criticized for being top-heavy, the Cardinals are one of the most top-heavy teams in baseball.

Relying on the best manager of his the generation----maybe the best in history, Tony La Russa----his superlative pitching coach Dave Duncan; two of the best starters in baseball (Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright); the best hitter in baseball (Albert Pujols); and one of the best sluggers (Matt Holliday), the Cardinals plug in filler around their stars and roll.

As long as the core group is healthy, the Cardinals will be in contention.

But that's the trick.

The main issue for the Cardinals health wise is Carpenter.

One of the best pitchers in baseball when he's right, Carpenter has had numerous injuries (many catastrophic) to just about every part of his body. He missed the first month of last season with an oblique problem after missing most of 2007 and 2008 with arm issues and stunningly returned to form to pitch masterfully and almost win the Cy Young Award last season. Carpenter is the key and no one can know whether he's going to stay healthy.

With Pujols and Holliday, the Cardinals lineup is going to score; they've got usable cogs in players like Brendan Ryan; Felipe Lopez; and Yadier Molina who's also ready to blossom into superstar status.

But they need Carpenter.

The biggest salvation for the Cardinals, aside from La Russa, is that the NL Central is notoriously weak. They should roll through easily for another division title.

Chicago Cubs:

The Cubs excised a malignant growth from their clubhouse when they got rid of Milton Bradley, but the window for this group is likely closed.

It's going to go one of three ways for the Cubs:

1) They're going to have great comeback years from all their hitters; Carlos Zambrano will finally fulfill his Cy Young Award potential; Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez will stay healthy; the bullpen will perform; and they'll return to what they were when they looked unstoppable in 2008.

2) They'll be better than last year; get some return to normalcy from their veterans; be competitive, but not genuine contenders (unless the Wild Card drops to 85 wins); and be respectable, but not legit.

3) The whole foundation will come apart, GM Jim Hendry will be fired; they'll clean house of veterans; Lou Piniella will leave after the season; and the Cubs will have to start all over again lamenting the mistakes that sabotaged them in 2008.

I'm not hedging when I say I'd bet on the second option.

I think the Cubs have enough gas left in the tank to be okay, but no more than that. The contracts they lavished on the likes of Soriano will haunt them for years. The best possible thing for them might be to have everything come apart because this current group is never going to be able to make it back to the precipice of a championship. They have movable pieces like Ryan Dempster and Derrek Lee.

Having not improved much at all (their big moves were dumping Bradley and signing Marlon Byrd), the Cubs are hanging onto the hope that a return to normal performance by their mid-30s vets will turn things around.

They won't be terrible, but that doesn't mean they'll contend either.

Milwaukee Brewers:

Trapped in the middle from being a contender and not, the Brewers spent a lot of money on Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins. Regarding Hawkins, you'd think they'd have learned their lesson after the disaster that has been David Riske. The Brewers have a lot of power, but questions at shortstop and center field (Alcides Escobar and Carlos Gomez); declining mediocrity behind the plate (Gregg Zaun); and pitching issues.

Facing the free agency of Prince Fielder after 2011 and that the beefy first baseman is represented by Scott Boras, they're going to have to make a similar decision as they did with acquiring C.C. Sabathia in 2008----go for it now, or look toward the future.

It's going to depend where they are in the standings, but don't be surprised to see Fielder dangled at mid-season and be even less surprised if he ends up in Boston.

Another problem is manager Ken Macha. He's operating on the final guaranteed year of his deal; the players don't like him; and he was almost fired after last year. There's a manager-in-waiting in bench coach Willie Randolph, who I think is a better long term option anyway.

The Brewers are going to have a mediocre year; Macha's getting fired fast if they get off to a bad start and a re-tooling is going to begin.

Houston Astros:

Initially when I started looking at the Astros, I had them in last place even behind the hapless Pirates; but after a deeper examination, they're not good, but they're not that bad. Roy Oswalt is having injury problems again, but if he's back and combines with Wandy Rodriguez, the Astros have two very good pitchers in their rotation.

The bullpen is okay enough with Matt Lindstrom and the shaky Brandon Lyon; along with usable pieces Wesley Wright; Jeff Fulchino; and Tim Byrdak. Their lineup can be productive with a player I've always liked, Carlos Lee, plus Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence.

They have a new manager with a sterling resume in Brad Mills. Mills is a longtime minor league manager and has been a part of a winning club with the Red Sox for years. That doesn't always translate into success, but he looks good so far.

The Astros won't be as bad as everyone seems to think.

Cincinnati Reds:

The Reds are a trendy pick to jump into possible contention.

I don't see it.

They do have a lot of pitching, especially in the starting rotation; but that's contingent on Aaron Harang rebounding after two atrocious years; Jonny Cueto taking the next step; and Homer Bailey maturing. Bronson Arroyo is someone you never have to worry about; the gutty and unflappable righty will win his 15 games and provide his 220 innings.

I'm enamored of Aroldis Chapman. I think he's going to be a superstar, but he's still raw.

The bullpen is serviceable; but their lineup is pockmarked with holes. The outfield is quite possibly the worst in baseball unless Jay Bruce rebounds----a question mark. Expecting Scott Rolen to stay healthy is a iffy at best.

I don't think they're going to score enough.

The guillotine is hanging over the head of manager Dusty Baker. His contract is up at the end of the year and if the club gets off to a bad start, he's getting fired.

The Reds would have to have everything go right to contend and I doubt it's going to happen.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

I published the excerpt of my book dedicated to the Pirates----link.

While they have some talent----I love Andrew McCutchen----they're essentially rudderless. The front office is more interested in payroll slots and floating the idea that there's a plan in place where none is in evidence. They signed relievers they didn't need----Octavio Dotel and Brendan Donnelly----and a second baseman, Akinori Iwamura, who would have use for a good team, but not for the Pirates.

This organization is a total and complete train wreck. They'll ensconce themselves in their familiar position of last place before long and clear out some veterans at mid-season, building for a future that's never going to come until they get someone competent in there to run the place.

Yeah. I'd do it.

And it would get ugly when I start swinging the axe.

  • Mike and The Horn Dog:

A couple of interesting notes from the world of sports broadcasting occurred in recent days. First, "Joe Buck Live" on HBO has been shelved permanently; and Mike Francesa will have former Mets GM and dispatched ESPN analyst Steve Phillips as a weekly guest on his show.

It's easy and cheap to turn the failure that was "Joe Buck Live" into some version of coarseness.

I'll leave that to others.

I saw the the now classic debut with Artie Lange saving it rather than destroying it; and portions of another show with Brett Fav-ruh and Jerry Jones.

It was a hideous idea; Buck is a horrible, smarmy, obnoxious and unfunny character who isn't even welcome in the broadcast booth for baseball and football; so whoever thought he was a solid choice for some semblance of a variety show should be fired. Pulling the plug was an obvious and smart decision.

As for Phillips joining Francesa for a weekly spot, I'm pretty sure I was the first one to come up with the "Mike and The Horn Dog" suggestion for a title to the show. I'm sure I'll be robbed incessantly, but you can check on Twitter for when I said it.

Quite clever it was.

Phillips's sex farm issues aside, I like him as a broadcaster; I thought he added a lot to ESPN and delivered it in a thoughtful and coherent manner, so his addition to Francesa's show will be a positive if Francesa lets him speak and doesn't preach to him with pomposity to show how much he "knows".

Phillips better not screw this up.

My book is available on Amazon and I-Universe. Check it out. 364 pages of frightening calm and explosive POWER!!!!! If you dare.

Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 National League West Preview

  • Let the previews begin!

With the season a week away and my book available and the people that I know have ordered it getting it soon----as early as today----(and I also know who hasn't ordered it----don't let me run into you), let's start with the public previews/predictions. Ordinarily, I'd start from left to right with the American League East, but:

A) It's Passover, so I'll get in touch with my Jewishness (even though I'm now more Sith than Jew) and start go from right to left and start with the National League West.

B) I'm extending the drama. So, while I'm sure many are looking forward to predictions for the American League East, they'll have to wait a few days.

There's no translation required; although some stat zombies might require a blow to the head to get it. I'm here for you guys too.

National League West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers-----Wins-90; Losses-72; GB ---
  2. San Francisco Giants-----Wins-88; Losses-74; GB--2*
  3. Colorado Rockies-----Wins-84; Losses-78; GB--6
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks-----Wins-70; Losses-92; GB--20
  5. San Diego Padres-----Wins-65; Losses-97; GB--25

*Denotes predicted Wild Card Winner

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Much has been made of the divorce between owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie sending the Dodgers into disarray; and it's true to a certain extent. They did almost absolutely nothing this winter aside from signing Jamey Carroll, Reed Johnson and a few veterans to minor league contracts. Obviously the divorce affected the club decisions.

That said, the Dodgers are still a very good team and with their young core of talent and manager Joe Torre's magical ability to steer his club into the playoffs; they're going to be in contention. I doubt the divorce is going to prevent GM Ned Colletti from being able to make a move at mid-season for the playoff run.

They can really hit; Clayton Kershaw's restraints are being removed and he's ready to explode into superstardom. I'm talking a possible 300 strikeouts. Matt Kemp is just about ready to blossom into an MVP candidate; they have excellent, under-the-radar bats like Casey Blake and Andre Ethier ; and I've long ceased to underestimate Torre's skill at somehow, some way getting his teams to the playoffs despite any roadblocks in his path. The divorce of the owners is a small obstacle in comparison to what he had to deal with for the Yankees all those years.

Bet against Torre and the Dodgers talent at your own risk.

San Francisco Giants:

The Giants are still considered offensively challenged and mediocre non-contenders despite a devastating top two in their starting rotation of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. While they don't have the flashy names in their lineup, they have enough hitting to support that pitching staff.

Mark DeRosa is a winning player whose attitude fits right in with Aaron Rowand in the Giants clubhouse. If anything sabotaged the Cubs last season, it was the trade of DeRosa; even though they did get some young talent back in the deal from the Indians, they missed DeRosa terribly as the clubhouse tenor was diminished further by the mercurial (I'm being nice) Milton Bradley.

Pablo Sandoval is emerging into a star; the Giants have a good bullpen; and a manager in Bruce Bochy who, like Torre, gets his teams into the playoffs once they get a smell of the race.

I picked Madison Bumgarner for Rookie of the Year in the National League and he ruined my aesthetic by getting rocked in the spring, but considering how he decimated the minor leagues on the way up, a little adversity is a good thing and he'll be heard from this year.

More than the sum of their parts, the Giants are going to battle for a playoff spot with the Dodgers in the division and a couple of other clubs for the Wild Card and their pitching will get them in.

Colorado Rockies:

The Rockies are a trendy pick to continue their good play from last season (and they were borderline ridiculous after Jim Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle as manager) and win the division. They have an excellent lineup; a workable, though short, starting rotation; and GM Dan O'Dowd has always been good at piecing a bullpen together with random parts. They're going to be missing closer Huston Street for the first few weeks of the season (at least), but I'm not a fan of Street anyway and his absence will be negligible.

Even with Ubaldo Jimenez about to explode as a star, their rotation looks short. Who knows what to expect from erstwhile ace Jeff Francis. It would be foolish to think that Jorge De La Rosa will be as hot as he was in the second half of last season. Truth be told, if you look at his Gamelogs, he didn't pitch much better in the second half during his 14-2 run than he did when he was 2-7. He was okay----that's it----and hung around in games long enough to win. I don't believe that luck is to be discounted as stat zombies do, but De La Rosa is a journeyman lefty.

You can make a case for Jim Tracy as the best manager in baseball. Another brilliant move from Paul DePodesta as Dodgers GM was firing Tracy because he wanted someone "on the same page".

Same page of what?

The Rockies have question marks that won't be nullified by Tracy's excellence this year.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Oh boy.

When a team is built on two Cy Young caliber starting pitchers (Brandon Webb and Dan Haren) and one gets hurt----and is apparently still not right (Webb)----they're in trouble.

And the Diamondbacks are in trouble.

They have some bats----Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds----but strikeout too much.

They have some arms, but are short at the back end of the rotation (Ian Kennedy?)

They have key players returning from injury/illness (Webb; Conor Jackson; Chris Snyder)

They have a young, neophyte manager (brilliantly intelligent) who's still fighting for respect in the clubhouse and living down GM Josh Byrnes's idiotic statement that manager A.J. Hinch would provide "organizational advocacy".

This was a two-fold gaffe on the part of the GM. First, he denigrated popular manager Bob Melvin with the players, implying that the way things fell apart in the past two years were Melvin's fault when they weren't; second, he put Hinch in the position where he appears to be a puppet of the front office.

The Diamondbacks defense is awful; they're oddly constructed. Even with Webb they've got problems; big ones. Without Webb they're going to have a terrible year.

San Diego Padres:

The Padres have many positives including a load of young arms. I really like Clayton Richard. Kevin Correia began to fulfill his potential last season; and Jon Garland is a useful cog. The bullpen is okay too with the impressive Luke Gregerson and closer Heath Bell.

Bud Black is a terrible manager. Period.

Unlike most other teams, the Padres off-field machinations are going to determine the future. New GM Jed Hoyer comes with a great resume having been a major part of the Red Sox front office, but we've seen what can happen when a resume doesn't live up to the hype with Dayton Moore and DePodesta (still a part of the Padres front office).

Hoyer did very little this past winter aside from dump Kevin Kouzmanoff's salary; sign Garland; and collect Hairstons (Scott and Jerry).

Accumulating Hairstons does not a championship club make.

Hoyer will be judged on what he does with megastar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Bell. On some level it's a positive that he'll be judged almost immediately in the first year of his tenure, but such a circumstance is rife with land-mines. If he gacks up such important moves, he'll be screwed. Completely.

  • More trouble for the Indians:

It's going to get bad in Cleveland.

Really bad.

The positives of Russell Branyan (power and walks) are overridden by his streakiness and that he's injury prone. He's going on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his back and who knows when he's going to be back or what the Indians will get from he when and if he returns?

I don't want to hear how the Indians can contend if things go right. They can't. Because they're not any good. In fact, they're atrocious.

  • Viewer Mail 3.29.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE GMs and their egos:

Call me naive, but regardless of what any of these GMs say, I don't think they sit around thinking about their legacies.

The concern for me about Ruben Amaro Jr. is that the implication of him being concerned about a "legacy" is coming from voices other than his. The return on the trade of Cliff Lee for prospects is notoriously questionable. While it may not be first and foremost in their running of clubs, I do think that Billy Beane and Brian Cashman (to name two) are concerned about public perception and how they're viewed. It can't be disregarded.

Peter at Outside the Phillies Looking In writes RE Ruben Amaro Jr.:

Amaro Jr's legacy, almost as absurd as the Howard and Pujols deal also sourced from mysterious insiders. I guess we'll know come October if the Lee move was better for the team, I think it was...

I'm on record as to what I think of that trade. Time will tell. But the idea of a concern over his legacy makes much more sense than the nonsense of a proposed trade of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols.

You can't beat me, so you might as well join me. My book is available on Amazon and I-Universe. I inspire love and hate (sometimes simultaneously in the same people for understandable reasons----don't ask). You can't deny my exceptional skills either way.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Lightning 3.28.2010

  • Surprise players, 2010:

These names have nothing to do----in my addled mind anyway----with fantasy baseball. 99.99999% (a friend told me that's not really a number, but whatever) of my fantasies have nothing to do with baseball (don't ask); and I have no idea how fantasy baseball even works with the value of this stat over another, but I do suppose my mentioning of the following players might make them worthwhile to pick up in a fantasy league.

The following players are under-the-radar in some cases; ridiculed in others, but if I'm right about them----and I usually am----you'll understand what I was saying in hindsight. Personally, I don't deal in hindsight; I deal in foresight...and ruthlessness.

David Robertson--RHP, New York Yankees:

Robertston is probably most known for being the pitcher that Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled for a "favorable matchup" of Alfredo Aceves vs Howie Kendrick against the Angels in game 3 of the ALCS. This was after Robertson looked dominant in retiring the first two batters he'd faced in the bottom of the 11th inning. The matchup was favorable alright----for the Angels as Aceves blew the game almost immediately.

Be that as it may, Robertson has devastating strikeout stuff (he had 63 in 43 innings last season) and could be an option as a set-up man for the Yankees. Bear in mind that Robertson also has quite possibly the worst mechanics I've ever seen in my life, landing on a painful looking stiff front leg and a bullwhipping arm after every pitch.

If he's healthy, he'll be good.

Josh Roenicke--RHP, Toronto Blue Jays:

His big league numbers aren't very good; he could be an odd man out in the Blue Jays overstuffed pitching staff as they reload; and he makes me feel old (his dad's Gary Roenicke, whom I remember as part of the early 80s Orioles as he combined with John Lowenstein for an MVP-quality platoon); but there's something about him I like.

He throws hard; strikes out a lot of hitters; and has closed in the minors. He's a little wild, but worth a look to see if he puts it together.

Ryan Perry--RHP, Detroit Tigers:

Tigers manager Jim Leyland seems to really like Perry; he used him a lot last season as a rookie and the pitcher performed well with 60 strikeouts in 61 innings. He can get wild and gives up a few homers, but Perry's still young and has set-up man potential.

Luke Hochevar--RHP, Kansas City Royals:

Hochevar was a first round pick in two straight years (the Dodgers didn't sign him and he went first overall to the Royals the year after in 2006). He's big and throws hard, but he needs to be bridled. When I first saw him, he reminded me of Roy Halladay in body-type. If I were advising Hochevar, I'd suggest he do what Scott Feldman of the Rangers did and copy Halladay's motion and approach.

As poor as Hochevar's results have been, he's still only 26 and has time to develop.

Joel Pineiro--RHP, Los Angeles Angels:

Pineiro is going to have a better year than the pitcher whose spot he's taking in the Angels rotation, John Lackey.

Much is made of the implication that Pineiro is another in the long line of reclamation projects of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan; but it's easily missed that those pitchers----Jeff Suppan, Garrett Stephenson; Kent Bottenfield----weren't very good before they got to Duncan; and weren't very good after they left Duncan.

Pineiro was a good pitcher for the Mariners in the early part of his career and was sabotaged by a declining team and injuries. The way Pineiro has learned to rely on a sinker and by pounding the strike zone is going to translate seamlessly back to the American League and the Angels. He's going to have a big year.

Ryan-Rowland Smith--LHP, Seattle Mariners:

For some unfathomable reason, the Mariners and the stat zombies have an unnatural interest in Jarrod Washburn. It'd be fine if Washburn was any good, but he's not. They're considering him as a rotation cog if Cliff Lee is out, but Washburn presumably won't be ready until the

end of April, when Lee should be back (they'd better hope he's back).

Smith looked comfortable and impressive as a starter last season; he throws strikes and has the feeling of a winner. His stuff isn't just a little better than Wasburn's, it's a lot better.

Ryota Igarashi--RHP, New York Mets:

Or, as noted baseball expert Mike Francesa calls him, "The Japanese Guy".

If someone goes to the lengths that Francesa does to portray himself as an "expert", is it that hard to learn a man's name? What if it was a black player; or a Puerto Rican player? What would be said then if Francesa referred to them as "the black guy" or "the Puerto Rican guy"?

Be that as it may, I've seen Igarashi a couple of times and while he's struggling with a new slider, he throws hard, popping it into the mid-90s; and he's shown an impressive, strikeout split finger (at least I think it's a split finger).

You never know how Japanese players are going to adjust. Looking at the Red Sox continuing failure with Daisuke Matsuzaka and success with Hideki Okajima exemplifies this. While the media has taken a shine to another import for the Mets, Hisanori Takahashi, I like what I've seen from Igarashi. A lot.

Wandy Rodriguez, LHP--Houston Astros:

He came thisclose to really busting out into the public consciousness last year going 14-12 with excellent across the board numbers. With a better team, he would've won 20 games. There still seems to be a surprised reaction when Rodriguez's performance is examined.

"Oh, I didn't know he was that good."

Well, I've been saying it for a few years, Rodriguez is that good.

Andrew McCutchen, CF--Pittsburgh Pirates:

I saw him run the bases on a triple and he might be the smoothest and fastest baseball player while running I've ever seen.


Luke Gregerson, RHP--San Diego Padres:

Gregerson has closed in the minors and has gobbled up strikeouts everywhere he's been. I was very impressed when I saw him last year; if and when the Padres trade Heath Bell, Gregerson is the best bet to take over as closer and he'll be very, very good.

  • Ruben Amaro Jr's "legacy":

Here's a clip from Bill Madden's column in today's NY Daily News regarding Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and Cliff Lee:

"I'm not talking any more about Cliff Lee," Amaro said when I dared to broach the subject with him the other day. "I said all I'm going to say about why

we traded him. Now if you want to talk about the prospects we got in the deal or the prospects in our system, I'll be happy to."

What has obviously frosted Amaro has been the fan and media criticism he's taken for not keeping Lee so he could team up with Halladay as co-aces and make the Phillies overwhelming favorites to return the World Series for the third straight time. In particular, the criticism has been that they traded Lee for payroll reasons. According to Phillies insiders, however, Amaro is concerned about his legacy and the long term, and is intent on keeping the pipeline of talent coming well beyond next year when the contracts of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge all expire. Scouts agree the Phillies pretty much depleted their system of top prospects with the Halladay deal, in which they surrendered major league-ready righthander Kyle Drabek and outfielder Michael Taylor, and they are only lukewarm on righthander Phillippe Aumont, the key prospect Amaro got from the Mariners for Lee. But they are unanimous in their opinion that outfielder Domonic Brown, the one prospect Amaro refused to even consider trading, is a budding star.

Whether Lee's injured or not----and I do not want to hear Lee's injury used as a justification for that trade from Phillies defenders/fans as if it was predicted----it was a stupid trade and the criticism (first delivered forcefully and cogently by me----link) was all valid.

I'm not here to talk about the past.


The thing that jumped out at me in Madden's piece were the following words:

Amaro is concerned about his legacy...

Concerned about his "legacy"?

What "legacy"?

Ruben Amaro Jr. is in his second year as the Phillies GM; he's 45-years-old and he's concerned about his legacy in what should be a long career as an executive?

This type of garbage is what concerns me about today's GMs. We're seeing it with the Yankees' Brian Cashman; the Athletics' Billy Beane; and now with Amaro. Their rampant egomania is interfering with doing what's best for the club.

If this assertion from Madden is accurate, I'd have very deep reservations as to what Amaro's doing if I were the Phillies ownership. Which is more important? Amaro's self-aggrandizing concerns to preserve a non-existent "legacy" or doing what's best for his club immediately and for the future? If he's confident in his abilities as a GM, he could've kept Lee and worried about later later and rebuilt if he had to.

Rebuilding is the true test of greatness and excellence as a GM/executive. If you look at the true greats from yesteryear----and greatness is timeless----see what Connie Mack did with the old Philadelphia Athletics.

In 1914, the Federal League was competing the Major League Baseball and buying up big league stars. Mack tried to keep the stars from his championship dynasty, but couldn't afford to do so and sold off Eddie Collins; released Chief Bender, Eddie Plank, and Jack Coombs; and sold Herb Pennock and Bob Shawkey.

For seven straight years, the Athletics finished in last place.

Then Connie Mack resuscitated his club and crafted it into one of the best teams ever.

Finding players like Al Simmons; Mickey Cochrane; Jimmie Foxx; and Lefty Grove, the Athletics were a wrecking machine by the late 20s; after being edged out by quite possibly the greatest of the great teams ever----the 1927-28 Yankees---the Athletics went to three straight World Series from 1929-31 and won the championship in 1929-30.

This was due to recognition of talent and brilliance. It's hard to believe that Mack's ego was so involved in what he was doing that he was thinking about history; but his history grew----as most great things do----organically. There was no plot to keep his name in the books as anything; he was doing what was right for his club.

Is that what the likes of Ruben Amaro Jr. are concerned with?

Is the Phillies front office on board with Amaro's selfish interests apparently trumping what was best for the team?

Egos get in the way and that may be what happened in Philadelphia. It was a mistake.

  • Viewer Mail 3.28.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joba Chamberlain and Brian Cashman:

I don't have a problem with Cashman saying Joba is a reliever who can start....or he's a starter who can also relieve. The decision has been made to put Joba in the pen and I agree with it, but it's a luxury to know there's a guy who's had experience in the rotation - as inconsistent as he's been.

The problem I have is the refusal to admit that Chamberlain may be better suited as a reliever in all aspects; and as I discussed in the bit about Ruben Amaro, Jr. it seems to be more of a concession to Cashman's ego than what's good for the club. Dave Eiland has evidently said that Chamberlain's in the bullpen all year and won't be used as a starter; and that's a good thing.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Chamberlain and Cashman:

I think Cashman said that to tell everyone that he's the one steering the ship, and that though Hughes won the competition, Cashman is right and you'll see it during the season, Chamberlain WILL start some games.

I would've thought the same thing before Eiland came out with that statement. That doesn't mean Cashman wouldn't try to force his manager and coaches to use Chamberlain as a starter if someone gets hurt, but since this is now part of the public record, it could get messy if they backtrack on it as it's clear the decision will come from above.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE stat zombies and Vicente Padilla:

Mmmm... BRAINS! *CHOMP CHOMP* Yum, yum....mmm.... BRAINS!

Good for Torre usin' Flopsweat Padilla to start day one. What's more intimidating than a guy willing to shoot HIMSELF!?!?

Brilliant move.

The term "flopsweat" never fails to crack me up.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Chamberlain and Cashman:

We share a brain on the Joba/Hughes debate. The Yankees have proven again they are better at paying the premium for other team's pitching than they are developing their own. In The Boss Era they have developed 4 starting pitchers who've done anything worth speaking of in a Yankee uniform; Guidry, Righetti, Pettitte and I'll be generous and say Wang. There is no other in over 35 years. Cashman is the one who looks bad in Joba's development. I've never seen such a thing. The Yankees were like little spoiled kids who opened their X-Mas gifts too early and broke them all (Joba, Hughes and Kennedy all DL'd). That's what you have minor leagues for. Joba called-up after only 88 minor league innings? C'mon! Yankees are still better buyers of pitchers than producers. And even then, only they can afford to make all the mistakes they've made.

I wouldn't go so far as to say they haven't developed any pitchers. Doug Drabek comes to mind immediately even if he fulfilled his potential for the Pirates. There are probably a few others that they traded away.

I've said I understand Cashman's point of view, but I don't agree with it. He seems to become hypnotized if he's presented with a bunch of charts and graphs that "prove" the optimal use of players; but it's an evaluative process that has to be taken into account when working with human beings and that has grownincreasingly lost on the Yankees GM.

Plus, I don't see why it's all of a sudden a dirty thing to buy other teams' pitchers and players; they've got the money, why not spend it? It's not going into Cashman's pocket!

In case you didn't get the memo, my book is available on Amazon and I-Universe. It's just about the best thing ever and if you all buy it at once on Amazon, the sales rankings will explode into the stratosphere, thereby bringing more recognition to yours truly and increasing the velocity with which my plot for world domination will come to fruition.

Join me and I will complete your training.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


  • Faith vs Delusion:

It's getting to the point where I'm almost embarrassed for Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

So invested in Joba Chamberlain being a starter, Cashman's no longer straddling the line of faith and delusion, but he's leapt over so irrevocably that I have to question his perception of reality.

It's hard to know Cashman's true motivation of having Chamberlain as a starter; of still holding onto this charade that the young righty has the ability mentally and physically to do the job well enough that his presence in the rotation would justify not having him in the bullpen. Even after the decision was announced that Phil Hughes had "won" the competition for fifth starter, Cashman maintained the belief that Chamberlain can article.

The main quote:

A day after handing the final spot in the rotation to Phil Hughes, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he still believes that Joba Chamberlain is capable of being a starter.

"I think he can be that right now, actually," Cashman said.

At first the debate of what Chamberlain is----of where he'd best be suited----was viable. There were reasons on both sides for Chamberlain to get a chance to be a starter and for him to be placed in the bullpen. Initially, even with the clear dominance and swaggering demeanor that Chamberlain exhibited when emerging from the bullpen, I felt that he deserved a chance to start. If there was a small possibility that Chamberlain could develop into a Roger Clemens-style starter, it made sense to give him that opportunity. At his age, it would've been wrong to pigeonhole him as a reliever when he had (and still has----Cashman's right about this) the ability to be a starter.

Ability doesn't always imply what's best for the individual and the team; it doesn't always result in the proper implementation of talent.

Now, two-plus years into Chamberlain's big league career, the club has jerked him around and messed with his head to such a degree that he doesn't know whether he's coming or going; whether he's a reliever or starter. The player himself must want a definitive decision once and for all of what he is; to be allowed to pitch and not worry about being yanked after a certain number of pitches; of being watched by a paranoid, frightened and overprotective parent hindering his evolution into an adult.

And it's enough.

Cashman may truly believe that Chamberlain is a starter; he might be clinging to this fantasy due to stat zombie tenets of a good starter being more valuable than a great reliever----Cashman has avidly embraced those tenets in his remaking of the Yankees positively and negatively.

Or he might simply want to be "right".

As much of an understated, close-to-the-vest character as Cashman portrays himself, he's got an enormous ego; he wants credit for running the Yankees his way. Always chafing at the implication that it was Yankee-money that crafted the dynasty of the late 90s; jealous of the appellation of "genius" bestowed on Athletics GM Billy Beane and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Cashman wants his respect. Why else would there be this desperation to lower the payroll; to build from within; to steer the club as he saw fit? He may believe it's the correct strategy, but he also wants to be known as more than the guy who throws money at his team's problems.

Nothing is exemplifying the Cashman-way than this endless argument of what Chamberlain is; what he could be; what he should be.

It won't stop.

Cashman won't stop.

It appears as if everyone, everywhere can see what Chamberlain is; that his body language is different when he's relieving than when he's starting. That he loves being a reliever; that he's uncomfortable as a starter; with the constraints put on his personality by needing to pace himself as a starter; that his deployment as a weapon is far more devastating out of the bullpen.

Everyone can see it but the GM.

Would Cashman be so intractable with a young righty named Mariano Rivera if he were to arrive now in the era of the stat zombie; in the day of the idea that every pitcher with great talent has to be a starter? It sounds absurd now that Rivera is the best reliever ever-----EVER!!!! But now? I really wonder. Think about it----would he force Rivera to start even it's clear that he's not a starter?

Cashman's skill at judging pitchers has always been wanting. From thinking Kyle Farnsworth could be a set-up man; to Damaso Marte; to Carl Pavano and Steve Karsay, you can't deny the evidence that he's mediocre at best in evaluating pitchers. It takes more than numbers; more than a foundational belief in what's most appropriate in the name of team to nurture and acquire pitchers.

The case of Ian Kennedy was a misreading of talent, plain and simple. He was appraised wrong not just physically, but mentally as well. That mistake was rectified when Kennedy was traded. Now, he's...still...harboring...this...hallucination with Chamberlain.

I can understand the arguments that are being presented to keep Chamberlain as a starter. That he has four pitches; that his 200 innings could possibly be great; that the two years of babying will be wasted if he's sent to the bullpen permanently; but they're all easily batted down.

It's not wasting him if he has four pitches as a reliever; because he can blow people away with his fastball alone is irrelevant; outs are the key; shortening the game and using him in the best possible fashion for the team trumps anything else whether he does it with 1,2,3 or 4 pitches.

Could he be a 15-game winner if he's allowed to start 32 games and left in games to pitch rather than pulled at an arbitrary number of pitches and a chaotic strategy? Maybe. Is he more valuable to this Yankee team as a reliever? Absolutely.

The belief that the "wasted" years of babying justify him still being a starter is specious. Simply fulfilling a "plan" is no reason to compound a mistake; and that's what continuing to shove Chamberlain into the starting rotation does. It's not a matter what's best for the pitcher and team anymore; it's being obstinate for reasons that only Cashman knows. Why make things worse when they're clearly not working?

Cashman's not listening.

He doesn't get it.

And I'm starting to believe that they're going to cling to this ideal for a superior talent even if it destroys him. Someone has to get through to the Yankees GM, but at this point, it may be impossible, because he's got too much personally and professionally invested in Chamberlain being a starter that he's blinded; and when there are ancillary issues in developing a player, the best interests of said player are placed in the background and that's an invitation to disaster that is still being created by the day.

  • K-Rod the mentor:

There was an interesting article in yesterday's NY Times about Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez mentoring the 16-year-old Mets prospect Juan Urbina----Link.

Urbina's father, Ugueth Urbina was a closer for several teams in his career including the 2003 champion Marlins. The father is now in jail in Venezuela for a kidnapping and assault incident and asked K-Rod to mentor and keep an eye on his son as he makes his way in pro ball.

I don't know if I'd suggest that the young lefty mimic everything K-Rod does (the Mets closer does go over-the-top with his celebrations), but as a veteran big leaguer, it's a positive that K-Rod is watching over the youngster. It'll be interesting to see if Juan Urbina makes it.

In case you missed it, my book----Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide----is now available via Amazon and I-Universe. I'm pushing it ad nauseam. Accept it.

A preview is provided here.

People are telling me their orders have already shipped, which is an odd twist of fate and mail as they'll probably have their copies of the thing before I have mine.

No matter.

Order it now. NOW!!!!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Phil Hughes "Wins" The Competition

  • The Yankees make a decision....sort of:

The Yankees have promoted their young starting pitchers (to the extreme); overprotected them (to the point of paranoia); and played this silliness to the nth degree with a "competition" that was said to include everyone from Joba Chamberlain to Phil Hughes to Alfredo Aceves to Chad Gaudin to Sergio Mitre and possibly even Don Gullett, Ed Whitson, Sam Militello and Britt Burns.

Now they've announced that Phil Hughes will be the fifth starter to start the season. How long that lasts; whether there's going to be a series of constraining "rules" for his use; or if he's always going to be game-to-game; pitch-to-pitch; and wobbling on the precipice of a demotion if he has two bad games in a row, remains to be seen.

Clearly Hughes is the right choice. He's got the motion, stuff and temperament to be a starter; while Chamberlain----despite massive ability and a more dominating array of power pitches than Hughes----belongs in the bullpen.

The Yankees will never admit this, but Chamberlain's chance to be a top starter was sabotaged not by their decision to use him as a secret weapon out of the bullpen in 2007, but the absurd rules they placed over his head as they transformed him from a swaggering and frightening force of nature into a brow beaten child, petrified of getting hurt.

This debate was much ado about nothing.

This Yankees team could win 90 games with me as their 5th starter. Of course they're better with Chamberlain in the bullpen as a set-up man; but his true value won't be seen until the playoffs if he's back to his 2007 form. The question that has to be asked is if they've truly committed to putting him in the bullpen and leaving him there; if they're going to let Hughes be the fifth starter even if he struggles.

In most circumstances, I'd say the decision has been made and Chamberlain is finally being placed in the situation best suited for his mental and physical talents; that they've ended the charade and determined that the "Joba As Starter" won't work and has been scrapped once and for all.

I'm still unsure.

The Yankees are maintaining the veneer of challenging their young pitchers; trying to put forth this message that no one's spot is guaranteed and there was a true battle between the group of pitchers considered for the last spot in the rotation. But after everything, is it out of line to think that the Yankees are again going to revisit Chamberlain as a starting pitcher?

Let's say hypothetically that Hughes gets blasted in his first five starts (something not unheard of for a young pitcher); or if A.J. Burnett gets hurt; are they going to turn around and again stick Chamberlain in the starting rotation? Will they jerk him around even more than they already have?

Unless Hughes got tattooed throughout the spring as Madison Bumgarner did for the Giants; and had Chamberlain pitched masterfully from start to finish, Hughes was going to win the job. The question now revolves around the length of rope Hughes is going to get and if they're still trying to force the round peg that is Chamberlain into the square hole of the starting rotation.

The Yankees are still floating the spin that has been a hallmark of the organization as GM Brian Cashman transforms the organization into the brutally cold, corporate entity that he envisioned as he took over as club architect and stepped to the forefront as the boss.

Cashman in command has its benefits and drawbacks.

No longer are there the fits of pique from an impatient owner, George Steinbrenner; everything is plotted and thought out for now and later; but it's also created this mess with their young pitchers not knowing whether they're coming or going. It's added to the perception that manager Joe Girardi is a puppet who has to be watched carefully to make sure he doesn't bring down the whole empire with one stupid strategic maneuver.

If you listen to Girardi's statements regarding the decision to go with Hughes, there's a certain O.J. Simpson "searching for the 'real' killers" quality to the sludge:

"We evaluated the whole spring and we were very excited with the improvement in his changeup."

Um. Okay.

Well, that sounds like a load of junk to me; it's crud that Girardi doesn't even believe is the real reason for the call unless he's been so indoctrinated by organizational hypnotism that he's unable to use his substantial intelligence and experience as a player to admit the reality that Chamberlain is a reliever. Period.

Why the Yankees are so desperate to save face is beyond me. Why they can't come out and admit the evaluative miscalculation in force-feeding Chamberlain into the starting rotation is a flaw in the club's thought process that's on a level of arrogance with Mike Francesa; with seeing the admission of being wrong as a character flaw that can't be faced and would diminish a non-existent credibility.

In fact, it's the opposite. Admitting and correcting a misjudgment or gaffe is a show of strength; not weakness. We'll see if they get it or if they're still screwing up after Chamberlain's role is established, if it's established.

Ordinarily, I'd say that the Yankees will have learned their lessons from mistakes past; but the statements suggest otherwise. I wouldn't be surprised by anything at this point. After the litany of errors they've made in handling their young pitchers, what's another few in the perpetration of the JOBA RUINATION that never, ever seems to end?

  • The Dodgers opening day surprise:

Dodgers manager Joe Torre's selection of Vicente Padilla as his opening day starter has been greeted with everything from bewilderment to rage. It's an understandable and understatedly bright choice. If you think about it, you'll realize the following:

A) Who cares?

B) Padilla pitched brilliantly for the Dodgers last September.

C) It's the smart move considering the rest of the starting rotation.

The opening day start is more of an honor than something with a redeeming value. Over the first few weeks of the season, when there are so many off-days, that a 5th starter won't be needed until the second or third week, the top four starters are all going to get the same number of starts (33 or so) over the course of a season; so who starts the first, second or third game is relatively meaningless, so starting Padilla or Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw makes do difference in the long run.

For all his issues, Padilla pitched great for the Dodgers from the time they signed him at the end of August last season and was in a groove through two playoff starts until the Phillies finally got to him in game 5 of the NLCS. He's always had great stuff with inconsistency being his big sticking point. He's mean too, which got him in trouble with his Rangers teammates because he'd throw at people and place a target on his hitters' backs. That won't be an issue in the NL because if someone wants to throw at Padilla, they'll be able to throw at Padilla when he bats.

The Dodgers are trying to avoid putting too much pressure on young lefty Clayton Kershaw. It appears as if Torre has recognized the mistake he made in starting the youth in game one of the NLCS last year and wants to avoid making him the focal point of the rotation. Although Kershaw is expected to become one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, he's still only 22. Shining an even greater spotlight on him is not needed, especially when the opening day start is a negligible honor.

Letting Padilla start is the right thing to do.

  • The Prince unleashed:
My book, Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide, is now available on I-Universe and Amazon. Purchase it now....if you have the nerve. And the brains.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 Stories To Watch, Part XI

  • Someone less talented would have to stop after Part XIII:

There's a mystical spring (or cesspool; or bog of quicksand) from where this stuff emanates. Some of it is due to me; some of it due to circumstances.

Occasionally sequels are better than the original. Examples are Rocky II; The Empire Strikes Back; The Dark Knight; and you can argue endlessly about The Godfather Part I and II; but my sequels are improving exponentially, much like my rising power.

Soon I will learn to trust my feelings; then I will be unstoppable.

First things first----Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide:

I'm not going to shut up about this from now until....I dunno when.

If you want a story to watch, here's a story to watch. 2010 is the year in which I either blast off into space like Major Tom; or explode and come completely undone, like...Major Tom. And this is in every aspect of my life.

Everyone loves a triumph; or a train wreck; or both.

At least I'm interesting.

Pitchers on the comeback:

There's been talk in the mainstream media about Dontrelle Willis and Fausto Carmona returning from ineffectiveness and mental issues to pitch well. Both are important to their clubs, but unless Willis can revert to his Cy Young Award contending, gregarious 2005 form; and Carmona can pitch as well as he did when he won 19 games in 2007, they're not going to help their clubs----the Tigers and Indians----much, if at all.

I haven't seen Willis this spring, so I can't judge on anything aside from what's been said; but the talk----in this Jon Heyman article----won't be proven one way or the other until the season starts.

Talk of Carmona's comeback comes from the delusional Buster Olney, who appears to have an Indians fetish.

And I'm dubious about both.

The idea that Willis, after being so atrocious and mentally fried last season, is going to be able to revert to the excellence from his Marlins days is a little tough to swallow. Like creative types, players who are so emotional have trouble controlling themselves and regaining their bearings when things go badly; and it can't be forgotten that even before Willis fell apart mentally, he hasn't pitched well since 2006. That was four years ago and he's rapidly gotten worse.

I wouldn't expect much from Willis regardless of how well he's pitched this spring. It may be a "false comeback" and the big lefty might lose it all over again when the games count. In fact, that's what I expect.

With Carmona, his issues were mechanical; and if he straightened them out, he does have a chance to be good again. I admire Carmona's mental toughness. After the way he detonated in 2006 when the Indians tried him as their closer and he was about as bad as bad gets, he returned as a starter and became a Cy Young Award contender just one year later. If he pitches well, he'll help the Indians; but the following statement from Olney is borderline deranged:

There are not many players capable of single-handedly transforming a team's pennant hopes. Carmona has shown he can be one of those guys, if he throws strikes. The Indians will look like a very different team if they get the 2007 version.

Let's just say the Indians get the 2007 version of Carmona. How does that help their woeful bullpen; their pockmarked lineup; and the rest of the rotation that is either questionable or hideous?

So with a good Carmona, they'd win 72 games instead of 65; only in the parity-laden world of PECOTA (where 81-81 is the rule rather than the exception) would that equate with a club being within sniffing distance of a playoff spot.

The best thing for the Indians to do would be to hope Carmona's good so they can trade him and his contract ($11 million guaranteed through 2011) and bring back multiple players before he disintegrates again.

Transforming relievers into starters:

The Royals trying Kyle Farnsworth as a starter is the smartest thing they could do. Farsnworth had success as a starter earlier in his career and was so rotten as a reliever that it makes absolute sense to give him a shot to start simply because his penchant for giving up homers wouldn't be so detrimental as it is coming out of the pen; and he couldn't be much worse as a starter than he was as a reliever.

The Rangers taking a valuable lefty arm in C.J. Wilson and shifting him from the bullpen to the rotation makes no sense.

Wilson was a starter in the minors and wasn't very good once he got past Single A. He gave up too many hits; and his strikeout numbers were unimpressive. As a reliever, he found his groove; racked up the strikeouts; and has the ability to get out both lefties and righties. Add in the fact that the Rangers, playing in a hitter's haven, need Wilson more out of the bullpen than they do as a starter and this is the wrong thing to do.

With the Rangers, they need usefulness from their starting pitchers to keep them close in games; and outs from the bullpen when they get a lead. Strikeouts are the best way to prevent homers and with Neftali Feliz, Frank Francisco and Wilson, they get strikeouts. Unless they intend to use Feliz as a big arm out of the bullpen and to back-up shaky closer Francisco, how are they filling that gaping hole with Wilson in the starting rotation?

He wasn't good at it in the minors; why would they think he's suddenly going to be able to pitch deeply into games now, especially in that ballpark?

Wilson's value is as a reliever. He's a crossover lefty; he strikes people out; he doesn't allow many homers; and he's a free spirited independent thinker with a really big mouth.

Sounds like a reliever to me.

After the way the Rangers and GM Jon Daniels recovered from what was quite possibly the worst trade of all time----Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka----and built an organization packed with prospects ready to contend, the moves he's made this past winter have been highly suspect.

Trading Kevin Millwood to the Orioles for a returning-from-injury Chris Ray and expecting Rich Harden to stay healthy and step up to the front of the rotation (forget it); and now this maneuver with Wilson all have the potential to be disastrous mistakes and will only add to the misery the Rangers are currently enduring with the Ron Washington cocaine scandal and the possibility that the club was blackmailed to keep it quiet.

This latest move with Wilson only adds to the questions; and it's a big mistake.

  • The tragedy of Dwight Gooden:

My capacity for empathy/sympathy is limited to begin with and even then, it's only allocated to those who are worthy.

Dwight Gooden is not one of those people who fall into the category of worthiness.

In case you missed it, Gooden's latest self-destructive foray occurred yesterday when he was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs; got into an accident; left the scene; and had a child in the car with him----ESPN Story.

I'm not an addictive personality. I had a bit of a gambling thing a few years ago, but it was never to the point where I got myself into trouble and I stopped because it got boring. I do understand what Gooden is dealing with though; but at what point is enough going to be enough?

When he was a kid, it was easily explainable to say that he was 19-year-old thrust into big league superstardom before he was emotionally prepared. Add in that he was on a Mets team that was the hardest partying group of the past 30 years in any sport and it was natural for him to partake in everything that his status had to offer. But now?

He's 45-years-old.

He's still revered in New York for what he added to both the Mets and Yankees. There are plenty of people from both franchises who would be willing to help him and give him a job; yet he continues to behave in a way that's not just dangerous to himself, but to everyone around him.

Until he decides on his own to straighten out, it's never going to change; but those that are expressing sadness for Dwight Gooden should look elsewhere and find someone who deserves it, because in his current state, he doesn't.

  • Viewer Mail 3.25.2010:

Peter at Outside The Phillies Looking In writes RE Joe Mauer:

The best and funniest event to come out of the Mauer signing was Joe Maddon publicly thanking the Twins for signing him, so the BoSox or Yankees didn't get him.

I think Joe Maddon needs to worry about his own team and lose the absent-minded professor act to keep his job. If I were the Rays front office, I'd tell him to keep his mouth shut; then again, if I were in the Rays front office, I'd have fired Maddon after last year.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE my book:

Your knowledge is breathtaking, Prince. To have that much detail about the Pittsburgh Pirates is a thing of beauty. I can't wait to read your book to see what you have to say about the Royals. :)



Teams like the Pirates and Royals aren't much of a problem because they're such catastrophes and have so much upon which to unleash that they're easy. The teams that are the problem are the Astros, who aren't contenders; aren't so terrible that they're easy marks; and have more than a few players who are hard to recognize immediately.

As vicious as it seems, attacking the Pirates is kinda fun; plus I don't take cheap shots; it's all right there to bash if anyone wants to bother to look.

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE my book:

BOO YEAH! Time to play the title track to Slim Thug's "THE BOSS OF ALL BOSSES" album.

I'm firmly in charge and leading the troops. Ably assisted by most loyal aides.