- Thus ends the pre-season stories to watch...or does it?
Just when you thought it was over, the man who brought you the 2010 Stories To Watch eleven times before...brings them to you.....again....
Here are the final pre-season (even though it's technically not anymore) Stories to To Watch for 2010.
Cliff Lee's injury:
With the Mariners being as top-heavy as they are and relying on Cliff Lee as the centerpiece for their intention to contend (or as an inordinately valuable trade chip if they don't), the one thing I don't believe anyone counted on was Lee getting hurt again. He had an abdominal injury that sabotaged his season in 2007 with the Indians and he pitched so poorly when he returned that he wound up back in the minors.
After the Cy Young Award winning season in 2008 and his brilliance last season in the playoffs, it was believed that his dedication to fitness would prevent this from happening again; but now he's started the season on the disabled list for the Mariners and it's not like a hamstring or calf; abdominals are tricky and were an issue beforehand.
I know I've discussed this before, but now he's actually on the disabled list. If the Mariners----top heavy and attached to the required greatness of Lee and Felix Hernandez to contend----are in deep trouble without Lee.
The collapsing world of Billy Beane:
How many more passes is Athletics boss Billy Beane going to get?
I can't stop asking because no one seems willing to give me a sensible response.
The Jack Cust mess has been baffling from the time Beane resurrected Cust's flagging career until now. Cust----a former first round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1997 who bounced from the Diamondbacks; to the Rockies; to the Orioles; to the Padres, before joining the Athletics---failed in part because he didn't produce when he was in the big leagues and in part because he never got a fair shot until he got to Oakland.
Beane deserves credit for that. In fact, this type of maneuver----the low-risk/high-reward of players who were out of chances----was a huge part of the Beane legend. With Cust, however, it came down to a case of diminishing returns. Despite being inexpensive and developing into a "known" quantity from whom a team would pencil in what they're going to get (homers and walks), when Beane cleared out the veterans Dan Haren and Nick Swisher, it made sense for him to move Cust as well. Cust was never going to be more than what he was; and there was always a chance for regression.
Instead, Beane held onto him.
Then after last season, Cust was due for a big raise and Beane non-tendered him only to re-sign him at a cheaper rate. Again, at least the A's knew what they were getting----until Beane cut Cust last week. Now, rather than getting the production at the big league level, the A's are going to be paying Cust $2.65 million to be Triple A insurance and won't get anything for him in a trade.
The players like Cust; like Eric Chavez have had enough of Beane's self-serving and floating machinations. Having treated anyone and everyone as if they're disposable entities, either on the bus or under it, the scrutiny is growing.
I'm on the record as saying that Beane's star is reaching white dwarf status; that his time in Oakland is drawing to a close. Admittedly, I thought it wouldn't begin until the season was in full swing. Even with the bizarre signing of Ben Sheets; the haphazard and desperate construction of a team that is inexplicably expected to contend in certain circles; I didn't see it starting this quickly.
The Cust move is another thread in the unraveling.
If this were Dayton Moore or Omar Minaya making these decisions, what would be said?
If the A's get off to a bad start, this is going dismantle piece-by-piece like a plummeting satellite; and it's gonna be an event that's painful to watch, but too fascinating to look away.
Bottom line, if the Mets get off to a bad start, ownership isn't going to be able to withstand the barrage that's going to accompany it.
After a horrific 2009; a shaky off-season; and relentless abuse that went so far over-the-top that it was absurd, the Wilpons can't sit by and let things spiral without doing something. Whether that would be to fire manager Jerry Manuel or both he and GM Omar Minaya is the question.
My guess would be that Manuel would be the first to go to see if a switch to Bobby Valentine or Bob Melvin would spark an awakening. After that, Minaya would be next. (And don't expect any big name taking over. It'd be John Ricco and only John Ricco taking over as GM.) Expectations in almost all circles are so low that the Mets could play under-the-radar in a similar way as they did in Valentine's first year in 1997.
They got off to a bad start; Valentine stayed positive; kept working hard; and before anyone knew it, they looked up and saw the Mets in the middle of the pennant race until late in the season.
If they hold their heads above water until Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran return, the management team should be safe.
The Phillies bullpen:
Those lusting after the Phillies and uttering the ridiculous "100 wins" mantra are ignoring that horrible bullpen. As much as it can be denied, the club did not address their weaknesses this off-season. Period.
They needed pitching help.
Danys Baez is okay as a 7th inning man; Jose Contreras isn't. They can't expect the Chad Durbin from 2008 ever again; and Brad Lidge is having physical issues to go with his general mental/confidence problems. J.C. Romero looks like he's going to have recurrent aches and pains with his arm. Now, Joe Blanton is on the disabled list with an oblique strain.
They're looking at Tim Redding and Nelson Figueroa.
That says it all.
Wouldn't it a be a kick----six years after the fact----if Rick Peterson was right about Scott Kazmir? That his motion is too stressful and his bone structure too frail to be a long-term durable innings-eater?
In every start the lefty is at risk for getting hurt. This is not, under any circumstances, defending the Mets idiotic decision to trade Kazmir for Victor Zambrano in 2004; in fact, it's conceivable that had they held onto Kazmir, they could've packaged him to the Athletics for Tim Hudson after the season or later.
The deal is what it is; but we can separate the reason for making the move with the move itself.
As dominating as Kazmir can be, he's always an injury-risk. Always.
The Angels have never shied away from pitchers with funky motions (Jered Weaver); or small frames (Ervin Santana); and they made a bold move for Kazmir. I can't get away from the feeling that he needs to be a closer; that he's never going to be able to start long-term. This latest trip to the disabled list might be evidence of that.
Talk about needing to get off to a good start.
With the Ron Washington cocaine disaster seeming to have died down a little, they must-must-must-must get off to a good start. The worst possible scenario for the Rangers is to have Rich Harden walk off the mound with a strained...something in the third inning tomorrow. Plus with C.J. Wilson, a reliever, being inserted into the starting rotation, there could be trouble in Texas sooner rather than later.
Washington's demise will be facilitated by a bad start; and it would take the team off the hook from any allegations of blackmail as the reason for keeping him on after the positive cocaine test last year. There's always the excuse of "the team wasn't playing well" to get rid of the manager.
It would be the best thing for them.
Of course, after one appearance, the debate of Joba Chamberlain is going to start up again.
Much was said about Chamberlain's shaky performance last night; but what I liked was his improved demeanor. His velocity was down in the low-90s, but it's early in the season. Not something to discount entirely because one would think he'd be fired up for opening night in Boston, it's not a concern yet. If it continues into the season, it might be something to worry about. (Could he be demoted?!?)
That said, I liked his swagger; that he appeared more confident relieving. The problem was location more than stuff. One thing the Yankees cannot do is to jerk him around more than they already have by panicking if he stumbles a bit in the transition back to the bullpen.
But I think they will.
It's history talking.
- Viewer Mail 4.5.2010:
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the White Sox:
You really do like those White Sox. Guess I'd better take another look at them.
They're really, really good. Dunno if I should be concerned that Ken Rosenthal apparently picked them as well, but I made my call first. I'll live with it.
John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) writes RE Billy Beane and Jack Cust:
As you can imagine, I'm on a real Jack Cust-inspired emotional rollercoaster. The season hasn't even begun, and my favorite brainless slugger has been DFA'd...help me, Prince, help me...I'm having nightmares about the zombie corpse of Eric Chavez shuffling its way to first base...
It's insanity what they're doing over there.
As an somewhat objective observer (although I love being right), the best case scenario for the A's at this point would be for everything to implode. Then they can move forward. I don't think you need to worry about Eric Chavez; he'll be shuffling to the disabled list shortly after completing the shuffle to first base or third base or to the urinal.
When are you getting on Twitter, John? The Family is growing, but I need more management-type reinforcements. I'm still working on that psychopath in Arizona with an offer of control of his own fiefdom (partially because I need to distance myself from what he might do and believe it or not, he's more unstable than I am); and the Canadian pimpmaster.
It's lucrative for all!!!
- The hypnotic sound of my voice:
My podcast appearances are available for your listening pleasure. Or anger. Or hatred. Or rage. Or lust. Or all of the above.
First, I was on with Sal at SportsFanBuzz. The Podcast links are available here---- Part I and Part II on Friday; then yesterday with Mike Silva at New York Baseball Digest for his Podcast. The link is here: NYBD Podcast. Fast forward to 1 hour and 36 seconds if you quite literally can't wait to hear me.
No, I'm not saying that as if I'm shocked.