30 May 2007


With the Thin White Dukes floundering from 3rd place down to 8th place, due in no small part to the mysterious hand injury which has befallen my 3rd baseman, I decided to pick up someone to cover for my aching Chipper.
Casey Blake. An Iowa baseball legend, right up there with Cal Eldred & Mike Boddicker.
Casey Blake graduated from Indianola the same year that I did, 1992. Growing up, I knew who he was. All of my sporty friends knew who he was.
You see, Iowegians, along with Alaskans, are the only high-schoolers who play their baseball in the summer, meaning that even if there was decent talent, MLB teams wouldn't really bother. The MLB draft is in June & we barely started the season by that time, so why would some team draft an Iowa high-schooler before they had played their senior season? What if he regressed in his senior season? What would happen if the kid got hurt? Or got busted drunkenly running naked through a cornfield? Sometimes, teams would hold try-outs for Iowa players. I remember hearing about a few guys I knew who went to a Braves try-out. All they did was run 10 40's & throw home from center field. No hitting, no fielding, no pitching, nothing. The Braves figured that if you could run & throw, they could teach you how to do the rest. Needless to say, the guys who went were seriously bummed. So, hardly anyone from Iowa got drafted...
Except Casey Blake.
We didn't play Indianola. They're a class up from us & were in the center of the state, but we all knew that Casey Blake got drafted. And not in the 40th round or anything, just some team fishing. He went in the 11th round, where actual college players & stuff went! Wow! To me, you couldn't make movies, or be in a good band, or do anything really other than middle-management for some hog slaughtering outfit in Cedar Rapids. I remember thinking how unbelievable it was, the notion that a kid who shared the same geography that I did could actually have a chance to play big league ball...
Blake didn't sign, instead opting for a full-ride scholarship to Wichita State, which was equally as cool, since the Shockers were a baseball powerhouse at the time. He hit .360 with 22 HRs & 101 RBI his senior year at Wichita State & got re-drafted by Toronto in the 7th round, just behind Chad Moeller & ahead of Mark DeRosa.
By then, other things were going on in my life, so I figured I'd leave Casey Blake to his eminent super stardom & try to find a job with health insurance...
Of course, that's when the fun really begins...
Blake, hero to all similar-aged Iowa high school baseball players, turned into an organizational failure. He struggled his first two years in the minors at Hagerstown in the Sally League & Dunedin in the Florida State League, which is bad news for a college senior draftee, since you only really have until you're 25 tops before the organization deems you "roster fodder" & has you fill holes until they release you.
That's exactly what happened to Casey Blake. He bounced around the minors for 4 years before The Blue Jays finally gave him 39 major-league AB's in 1999 & then put him on waivers. Minnesota claimed him, bounced him from AAA to the majors & back again before putting him on waivers in September of 2001, where he was then claimed by the Orioles. He got 15 more AB's with them before they put him back on waivers, to be claimed by the Twins AGAIN. He was finally released by the Twins after 20 more meaningless AB's in 2002 at age 29.
Blake's major league career numbers up to that date goes like this:
112 AB's; .232 / .309 / .339; 2 HR; 7 RBI; 3 SB.
The end.
To be honest, I'd forgotten all about Casey Blake by 2002. Since there was no news of his dominance of the American League up to that point, I'd figured he'd gotten hurt or wanted to be a veterinarian or something. Whatever. I had chicks to ogle at! And besides, there aren't too many chances out there for guys who are about to turn 30 with major league numbers like that...
Thank you, rebuilding year!
The Cleveland Indians, coming down hard after a brilliant stretch from '95 - '01, decided to do what many teams do after the torch has burned out on a great run, shed payroll & throw in the towel for a few years.
Enter Casey Blake, who was given the 3rd base job for the league-minimum salary of $330,000 & led an admittedly bad Indians team in games played, hits, runs, & doubles among other things, with an OPS+ of 95, so just below league-average. Not bad really. And the best thing about 2003 is it put Casey Blake back into my consciousness. By then, I was married to The Wife & living in Chicago & trying to cope with being an adult & here's Casey Blake, still plugging away, making the dream come true.... Wonderful.
Blake kept his job in 2004, when he led the Indians in total bases & hit 28 HR's, tied with Pronk for the team lead. By the end of 2004, the Indians, with Sabathia & Hafner & Martinez already in place, were beginning to resemble the club we're seeing today atop the AL Central, so some thought that guys like Casey Blake might be thanked for taking one for the team & then shown the door. Well, GM Mark Shapiro decided to reward Blake's 2-year league-minimum term with a fresh 2-year deal worth a little over $5 million. Awesome!
Move to today. Blake was just named AL player of the week.
And, more importantly, he's representing the hopes & dreams of every Iowa kid who loves baseball. Or more to the point, every kid who grew up in Iowa playing baseball & never thought a fellow Hawkeye could succeed on the biggest stage.
Thanks, dude.
He was also just named starting 3B for the Thin White Dukes.
(The picture above is of the baseball field in Cascade, IA. I played there & seriously thought I might be able to hit it over that monster in center field....)

26 May 2007

The Cell.

Well, I saw him play.
Elijah Dukes.
3 - run homer.
I was peeing. That's right.
I saw that Dukes was up 5th in the top of the inning, so I decided to go have a smoke & pee. And if you haven't been to US Cellular in the 500 section & NOT stepped out for a cigarette, I truly suggest that you do so. When you step out of the concourse onto the outer walkway, you get a phenominal view of downtown Chicago from the south. It's all there. It's such a beautiful skyline at night or during the day for that matter.
So, after said smoke, I go into the bathroom to pee. I then hear Ed Farmer over the radio say, "and here's Dukes".. AAAARTRRRHRHGGHH!
I push & shake & run for the field.
I got to see it. Barely. But I got to see it.
The best part of the home run was his follow-through after the swing. After using maximum effort, he almost jumps backwards, like the force of the swing had thrusted his monsterous body back... and to the right. Wow. Great fun.
I also got the see the Ego last night. Not so good. He was getting pounded all over the park & was fortunate that his defense, especially the outfield, was up to par last night. He was off with location, which is key for him, and was about 3-4 MPH slow on the fastball. Well, I guess you could say that even without his best stuff, he still got 21 outs with only allowing 4 runs & left with a tie game. Terraro's HR was a monster shot, almost to the walkway behind left field. The biggest Shields highlight was his strike out of Thome, when Thome was fooled so badly by the vaunted Shields screw-change that he lauched his bat out into the field, nearly hitting an obviously frieghtened BJ Upton out at second base. Upton saw the bat coming & took those few hesitent baby steps backwards before launching into a full sprint! AWESOME!
All was well. Good ballgame. Home team wins in the 9th.
Screw Wrigley. Go to the Cell.

23 May 2007

Oh boy.

The Wife & I just got done watching "Thank You For Smoking" on the DVD machine.

Now it's my turn to spin, or more to the point, The Devil Rays turn to spin things. Picture Kid Friedman & Ole' Boy Hunsicker trying to figure out a way to do damage control on this one. You may recognize the gentleman in the picture, as his photo also adorns this lovely website.

Elijah Dukes, or more to the point, the Saga of Elijah Dukes, is bar none the story that attracts me most to this baseball season, especially with the Cardinals fighting for a high draft pick next year...

I first became aware of Elijah Dukes from reading this post 18 months ago. It was love at first sight. Here is a baseball story I can sink my teeth into. Now, most baseball players, at least the ones we get to here about daily, knew they were headed in this direction from the time they could think. Their parents arranged every possible advantage for them (proper instruction, proper spring / fall league, proper exposure, etc) & these guys tunnel-visioned their way to the wonderful career they know hold. Baseball, as a learned discipline, is not to be trifles with. Ask Michael Jordan. Well, Dukes was set to play football at NC State, when his hometown ballclub drafted him in the 3rd round & offered him 500K to sign as a raw toolsy outfielder.
You know the rest.

Do you think Robert Plant has any concept of middle-class adult reality? Dude was in Led Zeppelin when he was 18. How can you possibly expect him to behave in a "rational" way when his rationality was formed by Jimmy Page & Pamela Des Barres? People need to remember that we accept the reality with which we're presented (thanks, Cristof). Elijah Dukes's reality is this:
Grows up in Tampa with crack-head mother & homicidal father.
Shows promise as a athelete at an early age, which always brings out the most noble of intentions in the people that he's surrounded by. Remember "Hoop Dreams"? "Pimps" show up, spewing bullshit & promising the world, cause not only does this kid play baseball, he plays football, too, which means a hell of a lot more in the state of Florida than where you live.
So, surronded by phony yes men & given carte blanche to do whatever he wants to do, Elijah decides to NOT go the easy route, which would be college football which is set up to coddle and protect sociopaths. He decides to play baseball, where the spread of information is not nearly as controlled & he gets some up-front cash just for signing. Hell, if he makes the bigs, he gets to go back home! Can any of us really relate to that sort of reality? I certainly can't. I have no idea how I would see the world if that's how the world were presented to me.
Would I threaten violence to those who diagree with me or just rub me the wrong way? Maybe.

Baseball has a long line of jerks, for sure, & I hear Dukes get compared to Albert Belle alot, especially recently. The similarity that rings out the most to me is that they are both loners. Read this & tell me that Elijah Dukes sounds like he's just hangin' with the guys, lookin' for slumpbusters & poundin' back the beer.. What did he say when confronted with this latest allegation? "I've got to go finish my video game."? Seems apt. The problem with the Belle comparison is that Belle seems more like a true sociopath; he's clearly an intelligent guy who's decided that he's living in a paranoid world. I don't know that I can make the same case for Elijah Dukes. He's 23.

There was a blurb in "Moneyball" concerning Scott Hatteberg's selectivity at the plate; about how that's just how he hits. He doesn't make a conscious effort of it, that's just how he sees hitting. Dukes is the same way & that's the kicker to this whole story. No one taught him that, it was all just there, Jimmy Chipwood style. Like Tom Hulce in "Amadeus", Dukes is a novice at everything in life except what happens between the lines, where the structure of the game limits the static of everyday life & reduces reality to simple guideline & at this, he's a master. He seems to have been born to play the game & that's it. He can't perform mundane tasks, like form a meaningful relationship with anyone or even finishing a video game. But his skills show him to possibly be a baseball genius & as a baseball Salieri, that's what I want to see. I want to see a better Carlos Beltran who may actually kill the opposing pitcher during the game. Wow. True human tragedy. That's what Elijah Dukes was bred to become. This guy has the stuff of legend written all over him, so I hope the Devil Rays call Bobby Bowden, so they can learn every possible way to coddle this guy, because there is a huge pot of something at the end of this rainbow.

The wife said today that her co-worker is taking her to the Sox - Rays game tomorrow night. I'm going. Hell, the Ego is pitching!
She also asked me this.
"Is that scary guy you really like going to be playing?"
God I hope so....

21 May 2007

AAAS Update: Whither Dmitri?

What have I done? How could I forget? How short-sided of me?..
A little while ago, I talked about the AAAS, one of my favorite parts of the baseball season & I had mentioned that we, the baseball loving public, should vote Ronnie Belliard onto the all-star team, whatever whatever whatever...
Well, in my haste to name a worthy representative, I neglected possibly the greatest AAAS currently playing in the major leagues. A man so flawed & so colorful that he would absolutely dominate the all-star experience.............
You want to talk about an all-star experience? Crack & floozys for everyone! Oh boy. You know either Belliard or Dmirti would be a fantastic choice for this year, but we'd have to apparently write them in, so get to work! Who cares about Derrek Lee & Chase Utley? They're going to go regardless!
Let's get Belly & Dmitri there... now.
Here's the updated Nationals stats... Yeesh. They haven't gotten any better..
Hey, while we're talking about the all-star game, am I the only one who hopes that Biggio doesn't get some sort of honorary thing? I hate that guy... Berkman = Howard Roark; Biggio = Ellsworth Toohey...

20 May 2007

A Fellow Panc.

Every pre-season is the drive to pick up the girl on the first date, when the libidnous hold of anticipation is the strongest. "Is this one the one?".... Lots of stories pop up in pre-season, cause no matter how many first dates you've been on, no one knows how it will turn out. The faithful will always just assume the best, regardless of the circumstances, but the cynics, like me, tend to look for patterns that will help determine the course of events & hopefully prepare you for any sort of situation that may arrive during the date to make it a success, however you may determine .. uh-hum.. "success"...

And every "girl" has their own backstory. With the Marinrers, you throw out certain words & phrases to conjure up what sort of chick you're going to spend time with. "Nintendo"; "Ichiro"; "Bavasi"; "Hargrove"; "young pitchers with arm injuries"; etc. Give you an idea?

Well, one of my favorite first-date stories of the spring involves said Mariners & their decision to have Brandon Morrow pitch in the bullpen to start the year, which set off a firestorm here on the Ebays. This is the kind of story that I really eat up with a bib. First, it's regional, meaning that no one outside of the Sea-Tac area really even knew what was happening. Second, it really resonates with "scientist" fans & their Prospectus subscriptions, as opposed to your "religious" fans and their sports talk radio. Third, and most importantly, it deals with a major ethical quandry that all organizations must deal with carefully & hits to the heart of the unknown abyss that we fans stare at daily, "What do we do with the kids?". The future of all MLB organizations is really a study of how they find & develop young talent, wheter it's to play them on the field or trade them for established players they can use right now. The future is literally now. Life or death depends on decisions like this one. WOW! Perfect.

In Morrow's case, the 5th overall pick in last year's draft who's only consistent amatuer performance was in his last year of college & who's also only logged 16 innings in pro ball against A ball hitters... AWESOME! The Scientists among us will point to numberous examples as to why this is a bad idea, especially for a pitcher who they envision at the top end being a #2 behind Felix Hernandez for the next 10 years or at the very least, a reliable strikeout reliever & potential closer. And since the Mariners are really neither built for today OR tomorrow, they really need their kids to not end up as criminals or lay-abouts. The Mariners also have have an extensive history of rushing prospects &, with pitchers, injuring them. You with me? This is a big deal! Of course, now that the season has started, the anticipation has faded somewhat since Morrow has pitched pretty OK.

Here's his line as of today.

He walking too many guys, but he's striking out his fair share & hasn't given up a home run yet. That's it.
Unfortunately, there's no Liriano-like dominance that leads to the starting rotation & a Marniner charge towards the playoffs. But, there's also no Gavin Floyd-esque meltdown, where the walks & home runs pile up until the kid is bused down to the minors, seemingly never to recover again.. At this point in the story, Brandon Morrow is just another relief pitcher trying to get outs, hoping to get a break, trying to locate his fastball just like everyone else.
No. 20% into the season, this first date is just ok.
But, us scientists can't wait for the second date... especially since we learned on the first date that our date is diabetic....

16 May 2007


I got the call today. Sometimes, work-a-day life can become a Zen-like haze of phone rings & hellos where time loses it's scientific worth & becomes like signposts on a trip. 10:30 AM = North Platte, 2:30 = Omaha, 5:00 = home. But, on occasion, you'll get a call during the day that throws the continuum out of whack & anything seems possible.

The wife called me around Noon today & asked if I knew that the Sox got rained out last night. I interrupted with a "yes" & added that they were playing a day-night double header today & maybe she could take the kid to the early game. She hadn't finished yet. She hates it when I don't let her finish. She added that her friend with Sox season tickets couldn't make it the the night game tonight & wondered if we would like the tickets. All she would have to do is go by her friend's work & pick them up! For one second, I was ecstatic. Then, being a respectable business owner & father, I begin to look practically at the situation, which is a rather new & mostly welcome sensation for me & things became muddier. Game starts at 7:10, store closes at 8, so I'd have to close the store early which is always dicey. I've got the cellphone, so how would I be able to coordinate our arrival at the park? Speaking of getting to the ballpark, I've got the car at work, so The Wife would have to take the train down. Would she be into that? And speaking of public transportation, how would The Wife get up to her friend's work to get the tickets? And hey, the game's going to end a little late for The Child, so should we even take her? If not, will The Wife's mother or father be home to watch The Child & would they be ok with that? Hey, wait... I've got a lot of stuff to do around the store here. Can I afford to not get it done? Plus, it's kind of cold out today & I have shorts on. Won't I get cold? And well, Danks & Vazquez are the only Sox pitchers I really want to see & Vazquez is off today & Danks threw the opener.... So, I told The Wife that I didn't know if I could make it, but see about picking up the tickets & I'll get back to her....

Who thinks that way? Almost immediately after hanging up the phone, I began typing up a "Hey, we're closing at 6:30 tonight. Sorry." sign at work & working out possible logistics to make the plan a success. I'd close up early & just tell The Wife to meet me at the gate on the NW side of the Cell & we'd be golden! And you know what? It's Wanger & Contreras tonight! That will be fun. The Wife will get to gawk at Damon, while I heckle Melky (I'm sure no one else does, so why not me?). And really, is there anything better than being at the park?

NO! So we're going! Until The Wife calls at 4 & says she can't make it up to her friend's work to get the tickets...

Oh well. Back to the haze...

14 May 2007

Joe Wroblewski asks....

"What are the Cardinals going to do with their team for the rest of the year?"
Nothing. They're not going to make a move at the deadline. They're not going to have a firesale. They're not going to bring up the kids. They're going to do nothing. This could be a long two-year stretch.
"Where is Adam Dunn gonna sign after this year?"
The Reds should pick up his $13 million option for next year, but they could just as easily pay the $500K buyout & Dunn would then go to Texas... Maybe. I sure would like to see him on the Cardinals. Could you imagine the outfield defense with Dunn & Duncan? Hey, that kind of like Dumb & Dumber! Wow, I'm good..
Some note on baseball watching today:
  • Since El Presidente was starting tonight, I watched the Brewers - Phillies closely. That is, until Ned Yeast decided to pull D.B. after throwing just 70 pitches in the 6th inning. At the time he was pulled, there were runners on 1st & 3rd with one out & Utley at the plate. El Presidente, up to that point, was cruising, his only blemish a 2-run bomb to Burrell in the 4th. Now, I understand that so far this year, Bush has had real trouble past the 6th inning, but to pull him in the 6th? I'm glad the Brewers lost tonight. Serves them right if they want to jerk around the POTUS!
  • Fun to watch the Braves almost-comeback against the Nats, since watching the game sparked more discussion on who will be the Nationals' All-Star...
  • Watched some of Gorzo's start against the Marlins. He throws harder than I thought he did. Ugly dude, but should be a good one with Ian Snell. Too bad they're in... forget it.
  • Gil Meche is good, dude.
  • Great to see the Cubs blow a 4-run lead, especially with Marquis de Sade on the mound. I don't care if his ERA is 1.12 at the All-Star break; LaRussa is NOT putting him on the All-star team! Haha!
  • I got home from work as quickly as I could to catch the Cardinals - Dodgers game. I knew all of this, but Larry spells it out so well, it just made me more depressed about Applesauce & the rest of the Birds.. I guess JEd ripping them did something, as I turned on the computer to see them up 7 - 0 ! Of course, nothing again from Albert. The way I see it, he's swinging at pitches he used to take, especially breaking stuff low & away. That's fine, but he's trying to pull them instead of shooting them the other way. It's been this way for a month & 1/2 now. No change. Saw a stat during the wonderful Vin Scully broadcast that showed Pujols numbers from last year at this time. I'll leave it with the most bumming part: 2006 HR's on May 14th = 19. 2007 RBI's on May 14th = 19. Trade him. For Dan Haren again!
  • It's the top of the 9th & we're up by 5, so I'm going to bed.... sweet dreams, Applesauce.

13 May 2007

Thanks Sweetcheeks.

It's kind of pathetic that this sort of sappy introspection had to come on Mother's Day, but we don't select the days when our cliches become truths. They just happen. Like when you leave a waitress a big tip & you then find a $20 in an old pair of jeans.
The fantasy baseball league that I spend most of my time worrying about is called the Hyde Park Rec League. There are 10 teams. 12 hitting categories (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks, home runs, hits, runs, RBI, stolen bases - caught stealing as positives & fielding percentage, strikeouts, & grounded into double plays as negatives) & 12 pitching categories (wins, quality starts, holds, saves, strikeouts as positives, batting average against, walks allowed, home runs allowed, blown saves, earned run average, walks + hits / innings pitched, and losses as negatives) are scored in this league. We keep players here, although the method of keeping them is changing as we speak. Each team has 11 hitters (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, LF, CF, RF, U) & 11 pitchers (5 starters & 6 relievers), with 8 reserves slots & 5 minor league slots. Aside from all of that, it's fun & occupies a lot of my free time.

That free time today was spent mostly thinking about replacing Torii Hunter.

Liking guys in fantasy baseball & liking guys while watching baseball are two very different things. I, as well as anyone who's not a White Sox fan, love watching Torii Hunter play baseball. He plays, in the best way, running & jumping & all of that. He plays, which is pretty rare in MLB. He jumps over fences for catches, he plows into catchers at home plate, he makes awesome bets with other teams & he's probably a really great guy. But I hate him in fantasy baseball. He's exactly the type of player who doesn't equal out in the stats, who is drafted way too early because "Hey, I've heard a that guy!".... Champs don't take guys like Torii Hunter. Let the suckers pick him up & laugh when they can't figure out why they're in last place. HA!

Torii's my center fielder. I didn't want him to be. I wanted someone who walks more, who doesn't get hurt as much, who hits a few more home runs & steals a few more bases, and when I say that, I mean I wanted someone who projects to walk more, hit more home runs, etc. Regardless, I was disappointed that while other guys get to play with the expensive toys (Sizemore, Beltran, Soriano, Ichiro, Wells, Damon) or their brand new toys (Bill Hall, Chris Young, Curtis Granderson), I got stuck with lumpy old Torii Hunter, too old & hurty to be new & lacking the excellence in statistical diversity to be expensive. Just Torii Hunter. 20 home runs; 75 RBI; .270 / .330 / .470.; 15 SB's. That's it. No MVP-talk. No "geez, he only 24 & look at how he's destroying the league!" comments. Just the hope that he'll play more the 2/3 of the season without spending too much time on the DL because I only have JEd to back him up & that would be a disaster. As an example of just how much I didn't want Torii Hunter to be my CF, when someone else out-bid me for Mike Cameron, I became internally despondent, sick with the knowledge that my CF would be easily the worst in the league. But, hey, I took my chances & I win these damn things all the time, so I'll just bide my time with Torii & see what sort of blockbuster I can pull off to obviously replace him by May 15th.
That's what I thought.
Here's what Torii Hunter has done so far this year (& in his career as well).
Pretty good, eh? .313 / .345 / .565 is pretty much everything I could ask for, right? 6 HR's? 7 SB's? Perfect! Thanks, man! That's performance at the 90% range of his PECOTA projection! This can't last...
No way.
You know it. I know it.
So, since the rest of my outfield is a minefield (Moises Alou & Chris Duncan, anyone?) I figured it was time to look for an upgrade out there & Torii Hunter would be the first to go. I really didn't want to be on the bad end of a Torii Hunter slump, so I thought I'd use some of my young pups (Felix, Cain, Delmon & Howie) to lure a better CF for the rest of the year. So I thought about Ichiro (you know, fast, gets alot of hits, you know).... then Chris Young (young guys = exciting!).... then Bill Hall (I just really like Bill Hall).... then Grady Sizemore (no way.).... Then Vernon Wells (like a younger, better Torii Hunter!).... No.. I just couldn't get it to work out... Nobody wants to trade with me! It's collusion! What am I going to so about my horrible outfield? I'm going to lose & it's all Torii Hunter's fault, that nice man with the sweetcheeks... I guess I'm just stuck with Torii Hunter for one more day...
(Torii Hunter's line for tonight's game v. Detroit)
Boy, my second baseman really sucks....

12 May 2007

Tommy Hanson is coming....

Of the Big Three, only baseball rewards the individual for discovery. It gives fans an opportunity to watch players go from nobodies to somebodies in a way that basketball & football, with their "bland national" over "quirky regional" attitudes would never dream of doing. There's something in the human psyche that craves spotting the needle in a haystack, convincing yourself that YOU knew where the money was, while others looked elsewhere.
Basketball & football seem to not want you to have this feeling. You used to get some semblance of this when you watched college basketball, watching players for four years, seeing them grow up from teen awkwardness to professional prospect. I mean , Jesus, Acie Earl got drafted & played in the league & I watched him for all that time & still can't explain why... That's all gone now. Last year's final was a perfect example of what's happened to the "Joy of Discovery" in college hoops & I didn't even watch the game. Hell, Lebron James was known to all before he was an upperclassmen in high school. Football is even worse & has never made an attempt to allow fans to witness a full-blooded, rags to riches, "I made myself better, so I could be a star" story. Both of these sports market players who haven't even played in the league yet against any kind of professional competition whatsoever. Your draft position, which is known to 90% of the team's fans since the event is arguably the second most important day of the sporting calender, guarantees you a large amount of money & prestige & if you want, play out the contract, invest well & start playing Punch-Out for the rest of your life.
Not like that in baseball.
How many fans do you think can even name one player that their favorite team selected last year? 5%? Sure, baseball doesn't televise the draft (which will change this year!), but that's not the real reason why people don't know draftees. Baseball is set up to make young players prove they can play against like-minded competition before they allow them to become stars. Isn't that wonderful? That's just what Darwin wanted to happen, weed out the weak & over-hyped & let the strong decide the future of franchises. There aren't really any 1st round catastrophes in baseball (although this one may be close..) because teams know that some "bad-faced" chubby 18 year old SS / 3B whom they took in the 13th round & gave a $60,000 signing bonus to, as a favor to one of their scouts, may turn out to be this guy. Could you imaging JaMarcus Russell signing for $60,ooo & absolutely no guarantee that he'll ever play a down of professional football? Do you think Greg Oden would live in Burlington, IA for a year, especially when there is a chance that he may have to stay there for awhile if he doesn't produce? Baseball doesn't reward false idols until they are 34 year old left-handed relievers, but at least those LOOGY's have proven at one point or another that they can do the job assigned to them.
I can go to Midland, MI, pay the $8.50, & watch this guy before he might turn into this guy.
I like this Tommy Hanson kid.
Here's why. Hanson didn't make Baseball America's top 10 Braves prospects this year & Sickels gave him a C+, but did tell folks to watch out for him. I'm watching...

Go down to Rome, GA & check him out while it's still cheap....

11 May 2007


On the #152 en route to Wrigley yesterday for the kid's first game of the year, I struck up a conversation with a kind, middle-aged man from Schaumburg named Bob. After exchanging pleasantries & anecdotes about raising a daughter, Bob asked if I was a Cubs fan. Bob had noticed that my daughter was holding a teddy bear with a Brewers shirt on, which her father had procured from Miller Park during the Indians - Angels series up there. I love it when people ask me if I'm a Cub fan. Without a word, I took out my wallet & showed Bob the worn "birds on bat" sticker that I keep handy for just such a situation. Bob laughed & replied, "I don't like baseball myself. I thinks it's boring. I'm more of a football guy." Since Bob was a nice guy, I didn't want to get into it with him about how professional football is easily more tiresome than baseball, but I did want to ask him the obvious, "Then, why are you going to a baseball game?" I didn't ask the question, as Bob followed his comment with maybe the most honest & thoughtful reason for someone not to like The Game. He said, "I'm not in statistics & if you can't follow the statistics in baseball, you got nothing." Fair enough.
Wrigley Field should be a great place to go if you would simply like to watch a baseball game. God knows the place is not kid-friendly at all, but you already knew that. Since the Tribune Company's product should prevent fair-weather fans, there should be plenty of available seating. Lots of afternoon day games should mean less people at the games. There is nothing electronic provided by the stadium that demands your attention. There's easy access by public transportation. Every other ballpark in the league goes out of it's way to entice non-fans with exploding scoreboards & swanky restaurants & kids areas & good food & clean restrooms & wide concourses & trivia games & kiss cams & cheaper tickets & plenty of parking. Wrigley has none of these things & yet perversely it's a terrible place to watch a ballgame.
The kid & I managed to wrangle 12th row - behind home plate seats for $20 apiece from a kind man outside the park who was just asking anybody who walked by, "Do you need tickets?" Generosity knows no bounds in Chicago. We headed back across Addison & took a short walk to our seats, after checking in the stroller with guest services, of course. I had failed to remember that El Toro was starting yesterday, so by the time we got in to see the scoreboard, the Pirates were already up 3 - 0. Good. Since our seats were in the middle of a row occupied by many, many old people, our nice attendant named Pete let us sit in some unused seats on the aisle a few rows back. We went to get some Connie's pizza from the concessionaires & sat back down to watch the ballgame. Now, going to a game with my daughter is not unlike going to a game with an adult at Wrigley. Neither of them really know what is going on on the field. They both just want to eat, drink, & cheer loudly when everyone else does. It was great to hear my daughter continue the overanxious Cub fans clapping after Jack Wilson robbed The Riot of a sure base hit. Thanks, honey.
We were soon joined in our row by 2 guys & 1 girl who were the perfect embodiment of Cubdum & pretty much sum up "The Wrigley Experience" for me. All three of them were in their mid-late 20's, the boys dressed in their updated Tau Delta togas (backwards hat, lewd t-shirt, khaki shorts) & the girl was dressed in short jean shorts & a tight tank-top. Sound familiar? Anyway, things started off fine enough between us. One of the boys, named Jeremy, tempered his obnoxiousness with genuine kindness towards me & the child & the other 2 smiled, texted, talked on the phone, ate nachos, drank beer, & yelled at Zambrano to throw strikes. They persistently trade to sneak down a few rows, causing a beleaguered Pete to spring into action. Jeremy apologized for yelling "WHAT THE HELL?", which, of course, my daughter repeated verbatim, but that didn't bother me. As it is with baseball games, things began to deteriorate around the 5th inning. Pete the usher became visibly upset with our neighbors, not just for their juvenile attempts to move from 13 rows behind home plate to 9 rows behind home plate, but also for spilling a full beer on a guy sitting in front of us. Ugh. Jeremy's requests for hi-fives now became belligerent demands & I couldn't wait for the 7th inning stretch so the child could stand & sing. She did, we did & settled in for the final 15 outs. By now, our neighboring trio had coaxed some friends down to our section & they stood through the entire 8th inning, obstructed the views of 3 southern couples sitting directly behind us... I was noticing all of this peripherally, since my first & only obligation for the day was to make sure the child didn't die, but my ire was raised. See, I really enjoy public drunkenness. I hate event drunkenness. Jeremy & crew were finally asked to leave in the top of the 9th by Usher Pete, which, to no one's surprise, raised an immense ruckus. The kid & I braved through it, saw The Phantom pick up a well-deserved save in the bottom of the 9th & headed for home. I got to partially quell my baseball fix & the kid got to marvel at how the seats lifted back up by themselves. That's it. I could go on about how I think Zambrano is finished or how much I love the Phantom, but I'll save those for later.. Somehow, even with everything stacked against them, the non-fans still rule at Clark & Addison.
Wrigley Field should be a great place for a baseball fan to watch a baseball game.
I am a baseball fan who went to Wrigley Field to watch a baseball game.
Wrigley Field sucks.

10 May 2007


It's not even the middle of May & yet I'm beginning to get really excited about one of my all-time favorite MLB rules: EVERY TEAM GETS ONE ALL-STAR! I love this rule for many, many reasons. First off, I love to hear the national media who apparently only watch "highlight film" baseball bemoan the fact that an Affirmative Action All-Star (to be known as AAAS) made the squad instead of (more deserving) Player X. Well, this isn't 'Nam, this is baseball. There are rules, Smokey. This usually leads to the all-star manager having to uncomfortably explain his decision to put said player on the team since he really can't come out and say, "Well, duh. I had to.." (although I think Ozzie was just dying to do just that last year...). Another cool thing about the rule is that I'm sure the AAAS gets an unintended boost in salary due to an "all-star" clause in his contract! YES! Just another way to screw bad teams. Let's also not forget that we baseball fans get a 3-month grace period to openly make fun of the AAAS while watching his games (example: "What is now? 6 - 0? Oh. I forgot. That AAAS is an all-star. I'm sure he'll pitch his way out of this..) Now, you only get 3-months because after the season is over, the joke really isn't funny. In fact, almost all baseball fans will have no memory of the All-Star game whatsoever at that point. Anyway, here's a list that I picked of some of the biggest, juiciest AAAS's of the last 10 years:

1997 - Jose Rosado - KC - SP (out of baseball by 2000 at age 25!)

1998 - (bad year; everybody at least has a plausible excuse to be there...)

1999 - Makes up for '98 by having 2 easy ones: Ed Sprague - 3B - PIT & Ron Coomer - 1B - MIN (both guys sucked during the year & were relegated to part-time roles immediately following their AAAS selection.. Picture perfect.)

2000 - Shane Reynolds - HOU - SP (only pitched in 15 games that year; has probably pitched for your favorite teams' AAA-affiliate at some point)

2001 - Paul Quantrill - TOR - RP (a perfect AAAS, a middle reliever who lucks his way to an 11-2 record, useless enough that they'll never have a chance to see the field.. Brilliant selection by Joe Torre)

2002 - Randy Winn - TB - OF (had a standard Randy Winn year, which means there is not way he should have even been watching the all-star game on tv. Also, he got to play! Remember... The best all-star game of all-time. Mark it, dude.)

2003 - Mike Williams - PIT - RP (the Phillies' trade-deadline savior! another classic AAAS move, take a bad closer from a bad team because people will see that Williams had 28 saves that year! (also an ERA over 6)

2004 - Ken Harvey - KC - 1B (one of the greats; out of baseball after 2005! I think you'll see a trend here...)

2005 - Mike Sweeney - KC - 1B (look, but I had to include him here because A) both teams were selected fairly well & B) Sweeney is a legacy AAAS, the safe pick for years from a team that is bad for years. That's how a guy who plays 2/3 of every season gets to be a 5-time all-star..)

2006 - Mark Redman - KC - SP (how could we forget you, Mark?)

Ok. The real reason I'm bringing this up now is because this year is another great year for AAAS, thanks to our friends, The Washington Nationals. Look at these, if you dare. WOW! Let's see if any of these guys fits into any stereotypical AAAS modes...

"Pretty good player who's been with the club for awhile & will smile purdy-like when ignored during introductions"? - Nope. Vidro left.

"Bad closer racking up the bad saves"? - Cordero should own this, but he's been beyond bad this year. BTW, do you think his agent is tipping all those "Cordero to the Red Sox?" stories? There's no way they want him in Beantown....

"Easily hidable middle reliever with some gaudy win totals"? - Hey! Jesus Colome is 2 - 0! He also has 12 K / 15 BB in 21 IP... ugh. But definitely a possibility..

"Youngster that we can Sweeney-ize early & not have to worry about picking a National for 5 years"? - Well, it should be Ryan Zimmerman, but how can you take a guy who is the 4th best 3B in his own division?

See what I mean? This is going to be great!

And now for the real kicker... I say we vote in a National as a starter! It happened in hockey (kind of....) Now, I'm going to ask you a question & answer truthfully..

Who doesn't want to see Ronnie Belliard in the 2007 All-Star game?

Think about it. Belly could be the first AAAS to truly BE an ass during the game! The hair; the amiable trots down the 1B line; the gut, the extortion!

We may have to write him in, but that would be even better!

Wouldn't it be nice? Belly for AAAS! Take up the cause!

Do you really want to see Austin Kearns in the All-Star Game? No way, not if I know ya...

COME ON! Belly for AAAS!

The guy barely got a major-league contract this year, for cryin' out loud!

Let's do this.

Belly for AAAS! Belly for AAAS! Belly for AAAS!

But wait a minute...

If he's voted on as a starter by the fans, that means he's not an AAAS...


WAIT! Even better! That way, we can get Belly to start AND an extra AAAS to take his place!

Everything's comin' up Ronnie Belliard tonight folks.

Stay tuned on this one. We've got the time to right a crime.

I'll keep you posted..

09 May 2007

Tonight, Tonight...in Fantasyland..

  • Ugh. I hate it when I'm right & it still doesn't work...
  • Tyrus Wiggyman? 3 KO's tonight & didn't help Jamie on bit.. buttface.
  • Good to get the Big Gorilla back & clickin'!
  • Berkman loves the Reds.
  • Only had 1 0-fer tonight (thanks Ray Durham!)
  • We'll see how the Polish Pudwhacker handles Chairman Mauer's jock...
  • Currently in 3rd. Poised & ready to strike...

Scouting Report - Lowe, James

I found this......... The Cubs are dumb... For a closer look, click on the obviously legitimate document.
Oh, here's Sage hitting home runs for charity. Sounds like he won...

08 May 2007

Tonight, Tonight...in Fantasyland..

  • Matt Cain is now suddenly VERY hittable...
  • I wonder what El Presidente's numbers would look like if you deleted the 1st & 7th innings...
  • Albert is not out of his slump. 2 GIDP's tonight.
  • Bubba Berkman hits a dong. Is the power coming back? God knows Clemens isn't...
  • Nice starts out of Gaudin & Vazquez. Too bad for Mac the Eighth..
  • Izzy is back. How many 4-pitch closers have there been since Eckersley?
  • Goodbye, Jose Lopez. Hello again, Tyrus Wiggyman.

07 May 2007

Jamie Shields as the ego ace.

The world is made up of diametric opposites that balance out in the wash. Ying v. Yang; Heaven v. Hell; Liberal v. Conservative.. Baseball, pitching in particular, is no different. For every Texas-bred fire balling strikeout-getting thrower, there must be a crafty trickster who gets by on guile & deception. Clemens needs Maddux. One represents the full-blown male id, fueled with testosterone & whiskey, destruction by alpha-fastball, what we all want to be. The other creates his own destiny through his intelligence & wits, like Fresh, a super ego of slop with a lunchbox full of angles that may not be able to run fast, but man, he gets the job done, what we all want to be. These archetypal pitchers seem to arrive fully formed from out of the cornfield, getting outs & fans from the get-go.. But a true ace generally toils in a mound version of limbo, that grey area where they reside for longer than most think, coldly mixing the strikeouts with the control to make a concoction called..um.. batter death?.

Virtually all of the best pitchers on each individual team did not arrive as an ace, the most obvious exception to me being C.C. pick up that guitar & talk to me & probably Roll Peavy. Think of the best around: Johan? um... Rule 5 to the Gardy's pen... Halladay? Took him 3 years in the majors & a trip to A-ball to figure it out.
Jamie Shields is becoming the Grey, the ego, making sense of the two & synthesizing it into something new. And better... And the best part of it is he has one perfect example of the "heralded fire baller" on his own team! And he even has a New York connection for added hyperbole! While Zep struggles with his 6 IP / 4 HA / 5 BB / 7 K / 110 PC standards, Jamie keeps terminating jerks. When the topic came up over on John Sickels' minor league site about how the Devil Rays might look in 2008, I was surprised at just how maligned Jamie is amongst the technocrats. Devil Rays fans know, but I think maybe the rest of baseball has yet to come up to speed. Let's dispel something right of the bat. Jamie Shields has always been good. Don't believe me? Here are his minor league numbers. Everything you see there is what you are seeing today. Hit rate a little high? Check. Doesn't walk anyone? Check. Gives a few too many HR's? Yep. But does he miss bats? Uh-huh. Guy throws a right-handed screwball, for Christ's sake! How many of those do you see? I know it's technically a change-up, but the thing is 10 MPH slower than the heat (coming at 91-94 MPH, BTW) & tails down & away from lefties (check the cool reverse splits!) Ask Fernando. He'll tell you, "¡Eso es un screwball, hombre!".. Plus, he looks just like everyone's favorite school-teacher lovin' drunk! I'm guessing this continues as long as Jamie can lift his right arm.... He pitches tomorrow v Bedard & the O's if you want to see what I'm talking about.
I've got a good feeling about this one. Granted, I've been wrong before....