Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 Stories To Watch, Part VIII

  • This could be compared to several tiresome or unintentionally funny sequels:

If Sylvester Stallone decided to combine Rocky and Rambo to craft a nearly unintelligible and senseless mass of egomania in which he battles.....Mother.....Nature (Rockbo--Earthquake? Ramrock--Tsunami?) it would come nowhere close to the quality and relentless return to the same theme that I continue to perpetrate on an unsuspecting public.

At least I have a sense of shame.

Let's take a look at some more 2010 Stories To Watch, Part VIII.

Milton Bradley:

Despite the repeated reference to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik as a "genius", the Mariners are an iffy contender this year. They have two of the best pitchers in baseball after getting Cliff (Stone Cold Killer) Lee from the Phillies, and they made a lot of noise this off-season without necessarily improving themselves all that much from the team that won 85 games last season.

Rather than call Zduriencik a "genius", I prefer to call him ballsy. He's in on anything and everything and willing to discuss any player on his roster if he thinks he'll make his team better. Even with that, the Mariners offense is going to be a question in 2010.

That's where Milton Bradley comes in.

Will the Mariners be getting the Milton Bradley that behaved himself well and was an MVP candidate with the Rangers in 2008? Or will they be getting the raving lunatic he's been everywhere else he's been; always ready to explode at the most inconspicuous slight that any and all professional athletes or public figures have to endure as a matter of course due to their station.

It's a trade-off. If you want the advantage of being famous and wealthy, sometimes you have to listen to heckling and accept what Bradley would refer to as "disrespect", walking away and eating it. Bradley's never been able to do that and there's no indication that he's a changed man. It's far more likely that something's going to happen to cause a problem based on little more than history.

The problem for the Mariners is that they need Bradley. They need him to hit; they need him to hit the ball out of the park; they need him to stay healthy; and they need him to behave. The first two are very possible; the latter two are not.

If the Mariners think their defense and pitching is going to carry them through in a very rough division, they're following the lead of their GM and rolling the dice hoping it comes up sevens. It's either going to work or it's not and the main actor in the show will be Bradley.

Amid all the noise the Mariners made----Chone Figgins; Casey Kotchman; a long-term extension for Felix Hernandex; Lee----they also may have made a season-wrecking mistake in re-signing Ken Griffey Jr. to be the primary DH. I can't imagine that someone as rational as Zduriencik was enamored of the move that probably came as an order from above----they would've been far better off with Jim Thome----but this is where they are. The deal for Bradley allowed them to get the sunk cost of Carlos Silva off the team in an exchange of two players who needed a change-of-address.

Bradley was one of the main reasons for the Cubs collapse last season because his acquisition also predicated the trade of club leader Mark DeRosa. The Cubs chemistry was shot from that moment on and all indications are that they're not going to recover.

So which Bradley are they going to get?

Who knows? But if the Mariners think they're going to contend, they'd better hope they get the well-behaved and productive Bradley and not the out-of-control maniac. Their season rides on it.

A Reds housecleaning:

In certain circles, the Reds are seen as a darkhorse contender.

I don't see it. They have one of the worst outfields in baseball and don't hit enough; but if their deep starting pitching performs, they could hang around respectability; that alone could keep them in contention if the number of wins for the Wild Card hovers around 85 or so.

If they're playing poorly into May/June, you could see a drastic and wide swinging of the axe by GM Walt Jocketty to reload. Bronson Arroyo; Aaron Harang; Francisco Cordero; and manager Dusty Baker could all be caught in the crossfire and moved. Arroyo and Harang have contract options for 2011, but could be free agents at the end of this season; Cordero's guaranteed $13 million for 2011.

Depending on what's coming back, the Reds might be willing to eat some of the money to get better prospects in the deal. All three would be attractive to a contending team. I've never been shy in my admiration for the gutty and unflappable Arroyo; Harang's been horrible in the last few years, but isn't far removed from being one of the best pitchers in baseball that few knew about; and Cordero would either be a fine set-up man to bolster a bullpen or a closer for a contender.

With Baker, his contract is up at the end of the year and his reputation in recent years has taken a brutal beating. I don't think Baker is a bad manager and he's been a historic winner; but unless the Reds contend, he's not getting a contract extension, so he could go and go early.

The Reds have a lot of talent, but even in the weak NL Central they might not have the horses to be in the race. They'll make sweeping changes if things aren't going well.

And I don't think things are going to go well.

How bad are the Indians going to be?

Some of the projections have the Indians winning as many as 81 games (unless they've been changed again, and they might've been; I haven't checked). Where this came from, I have no clue.

The Indians are awful.

They have absolutely no pitching and their offense, while serviceable, won't be good enough to account for the starting pitching that includes Jake Westbrook (returning from Tommy John surgery and immediate trade bait); Fausto Carmona (the right-handed Oliver Perez); two soft-tossing lefties (Jeremy Sowers; Aaron Laffey); and youth (Carlos Carrasco; David Huff).

The bullpen ain't that great either.

Unless Travis Hafner suddenly finds a magical potion to stay healthy, they're a work-in-progress at the plate and a disaster on the mound. They're not going to be bad. They're going to be superbad.

One big question I have is whether Mark Shapiro will put it out there that Grady Sizemore is up for discussion in trade talks. I think he might and that would be a feeding frenzy if Sizemore's healthy and playing well.

  • Nationals release Elijah Dukes:

You can't argue with the decision in the context of on-or-off-field issues.

Supposedly it had nothing to do with off-field stuff and Dukes, despite his absurd talent, has yet to put it all together apart from flashes and towering homers. The Nationals are a weird amalgam of young players; useful journeyman (and that includes their manager); and veterans on their last legs. It makes no sense to play Dukes if they don't see him getting any better than he is; if he's never going to fulfill his limitless natural gifts; and if they're intent on playing the best eight every day, then a benched Dukes could cause trouble; trouble they didn't need.

I might've let Dukes play for the first month, hoped he hit and behaved, then traded him; but I understand where the Nats are coming from.

Who might pick up Elijah Dukes?

His talent is alluring and if a team has a strong support system with a manager he'd listen to and respect, he's worth a shot with a no-tolerance policy for on-and-off field behavior. If I was running a team, I'd sign him and make it clear that he wasn't going to get away with anything with me.

He'd be at the plate with one strike and I'd be egotistical enough to think that he might listen to me for no other reason than that I wouldn't be afraid of him.

It might work.

  • Viewer Mail 3.17.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Cliff (Stone Cold Killer) Lee:

Totally agree on Cliff Lee. Stone cold killer. He just has that Patrick Bateman like gaze in his eyes (and I know you're no fan of Ellis but ya gotta admit Lee has that gaze).

Lee's persona is what a pitcher's persona SHOULD be! It gives me goosebumps knowin' such a player still exists, as it is surely a thing of beauty.

Players get so angry when someone like Lee does what needs to be done because they're: A) not used to getting out of the way of a thrown ball because so few pitchers are willing to brush them back at any level; and B) are so buddy-buddy with opposing players that they expect everyone to give them that courtesy.

Lee wasn't trying to hurt Snyder; it was a message. Nothing wrong with sending a message. It says something about the receiver of said messenger's fortitude based on how they react. If they retract into their shell or out-and-out run away, you can pretty much get a gauge on where they stand and if you want them with you in a dark alley.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE the insipid idea of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols and Ruben Amaro Jr:

Could Amaro be so angry because the news leaked far earlier than they could've wanted?

I think Lee's trade to the Phillies revitalized him, and he now means business. So glad the Jays don't face him regularly.

Amaro's reaction was so visceral; so incensed that I can't imagine that to be the case. He was mad because he, as the front man of the Phillies, was undercut by a story that may or may not be true and is something that he wouldn't have wanted to deal with now even if it is accurate.

With Lee, the move from the fading Indians to the Phillies and his first chance at post-season participation did wake him up and spur him to another level. He's going to have a massive year with the Mariners. Then he's getting paid.


Jeff said...

"Fausto Carmona (the right-handed Oliver Perez)"

AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I can't stop laughing at the truth of this statement!

Larry said...

So if my twitter persona, HeartyLarry, sees the Prince as a borderline psychotic whom HeartyLarry likes to tweak and provoke and play with, my Larry persona, a lifelong baseball fan who loves watching the game, loves in-game strategy but has never had the time or patience to follow every team closely enough to have a considered understanding or opinion about teams other than the NYY, respects and enjoys your blog about it. No shit, Sherlock; no punchline here (except maybe that I'll pay attention to you even though you are a Mets fan). Thanks!

She-Fan said...

I think it'll be interesting to see which Milton Bradley shows up. Maybe he's had therapy in the off season. On second thought, probably not.

Gabriel said...

How do you think Lee's presence in the clubhouse will affect Bradley? Will he beat the crap out of him and tell him to behave, or cause a major breach on the clubhouse damaging the club?