2009 Baseball Preview

April 1, 2009

baseball

Ok friends, here is my completely uninformed and somewhat uninterested preview of the 2009 Major League Baseball season. I have spent exactly zero time researching this. As a comparison, here are my disastrous picks from last season. There is nothing particularly bold about these picks, though I think maybe the NL Cy Young award isn’t on everyone’s radar:

American League:
East – Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
Central – Indians, White Sox, Royals, Twins, Tigers
West – A’s, Angels, Rangers, Mariners

MVP – Mark Teixeira
Cy Young – Dice-K

National League:
East – Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Nationals
Central – Cubs, Reds, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Astros
West – Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Giants, Padres

MVP – David Wright
Cy Young – Edinson Volquez

Divisional Round:
Red Sox v. A’s – Boston
Yankees v. Indians – New York
Phillies v. Cubs – Chicago
Mets v. Dodgers – New York

League Championship Series:
Red Sox v. Yankees – New York
Cubs v. Mets – Chicago

World Series:
New York v. Chicago – Yankees


Out in Front

February 10, 2009

borasThere’s been a lot of chatter online and on the radio over the past day about A-Rod’s admission of steroid use early in this decade. Lots of ‘experts’ have been on the air suggesting that it might not be a bad idea for other guys who know they used steroids to get out in front of any reporting of them having done so and apologize. There have also been questions about who it was that leaked the information and who it most benefits. Some have said perhaps Barry Bonds’ legal team was involved, hoping to deflect some of the attention and singularity associated with Bonds’ upcoming trial.

Well what if both of those notions, getting out in front and having someone behind the scenes working this thing, are true. And they’re both true in the person of Scott Boras? What if Boras found out about the list, knew A-Rod’s name was on it and got it leaked with just his star client’s name first? Perhaps this was all A-Rod/Boras’ way of getting out in front of something that was looming or potentially bad in the future. They leak it, control what goes out, then apologize, being the first and only person to do so. It soaks up all the chatter about A-Rod/Jeter/Torre from Torre’s new book, it gets A-Rod in on the ground floor of anything that might come forward, and if he ever ends up breaking the home run record in a few years, it’ll be ancient memory by then. Anyone else remember that Andy Pettitte admitted using HGH last year? Does anyone even care?

I have no idea if this is actually how it went down, but can we really count it out as a possibility? Boras is probably the third most important person in baseball behind Bud Seilg and Don Fehr. He’s probably capable of pulling something like this off if he thought it might be a way of getting out in front of something damaging. Or what if it’s all to make people think Manny Ramirez is the only guy out there besides Ken Griffey who never used? Does it make Manny more attractive?

Maybe folks should stop looking at Bonds and all the outside factors and look at the principal players here and see if things start to add up.


A-Rod Tries a New Approach

February 9, 2009

Alex Rodriguez tried a new approach today in his interview with Peter Gammons. Instead of denials, non-denial denials, non-apology apologies and every other non- or unknown known out there, A-Rod said straight up that he used performance enhancers when he was on the Rangers. Maybe he’s A-Fraud or Stray-Rod or A-R*d but at least he’s admitting it right up front.

What will be interesting is if it matters. People always say, well if Bonds or Clemens would just admit it they would be forgiven and life would go on like Jason Giambi. But I think the player’s previous relationship with media, fans, etc. has to play in. No one liked Clemens and everyone hated Bonds. Same for A-Rod, more or less. So does this apology and admission make him a minor hero in the public eye or is his previous reputation for being a bit of a baby suppress the sad American desire to forgive absolutely anyone of anything?

Either way, it’s fascinating to see how quickly this apology came out. I know he’s denied it before but this is pretty fresh. It was a semi-real moment watching the clip. Of course it would’ve seemed even more real if he didn’t look he got his tanning tips from Ken doll.


Total Reversal for the Yankees

December 24, 2008

ccajI try not to comment about the New York Yankees but the events of the past few weeks have made it all but impossible to stand idly by. Yesterday the Yanks signed Mark Teixeria to an 8-year $180 million contract to play first base in the Bronx. That is on top of $80 given to pitcher A.J. Burnett and $160 million to pitcher CC Sabathia. All told the Yankees have handed out $424 million on those three players alone. Granted, they’re all really good and mostly young but this is completely the opposite direction we were led to believe the club was headed, starting last year.

In the winter meetings last year and through the 2007/2008 winter, Brian Cashman, Yankees GM repeated time and again how the Yankees were going to be building from the ground up instead of signing aging stars for big money contracts. With pitchers Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes as the standard bearers, the Yankees were supposed to be using their farm system to develop young talent and save the club valuable cash. As part of that process, the Yanks refused to trade either Kennedy or Hughes (or both) to the Twins to acquire Johann Santana. Ultimately Santana signed with the cross-town Mets and Cashman was lauded, at least temporarily, for sticking to his guns.

Then 2008 happened and Kennedy and Hughes were either injured or awful (or both) and Santana was amazing for the Mets. I don’t know if that was the straw, as they say, but now the Yankees have returned to their old spending ways. What’s even more interesting is that they may not be done. It’s possible that they could also sign Manny Ramirez to a large contract (though they’d probably only do it on a one-year basis) and add even more power to the lineup.

As currently constituted, the Yankees employ the four highest paid players in the entire league. A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia and Derek Jeter. With money off the books this year from Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina, the Yanks certainly had money with which to work. But this has been really outlandish. We’ll have to see if adding all these high-priced players really makes a difference or if the Red Sox and Rays will again finish ahead of the Yankees in the AL East in 2009.


Red Sox Get in on the Act

December 12, 2008

It would seem that every major league team is doing some tweaking to its uniforms this off-season. One of the most classic looks (apart from those dreadful red alternates) is being altered, for the worse in my opinion, as the Red Sox have introduced an alternate hat, new away uniforms and new home and away alternates.

First, the hat. So so stupid. As Rusty correctly pointed out, hats with logos are ridiculous. But this is especially ridiculous. It’s being made almost specifically for that absurd niche that already wears outlandish baseball caps. I like the logo, just not on the hat.

The logo does look good as a sleeve patch. Boston’s new away unis are kind of a throwback to a 1980s style, though not quite, as you can see. I don’t really like the look because it’s too simplistic. No outlining of numbers or names and no piping. Looks like it was made for a local softball team or something.

Now to the alternates. The blue away alternate honestly doesn’t look all that bad, though it does really resemble a spring training or batting practice look. Paired with the new hat it looks like a joke though. The new red, home alts are even worse than they already were. By removing the piping, these just look like big, red pajamas. Awful.

Anyway, I don’t really see the point in the changes. I understood when Baltimore and Washington made changes earlier because they were correcting inaccuracies, inconsistencies or invoking tradition. This is just change for marketing and merchandising’s sake. Which is lame.


The Sad CC Saga

December 10, 2008

ccThis I find really annoying. So CC Sabathia was obviously the prize of the free agent market this off-season. His tremendous second half with the Brewers catapulted him from wanted to needed by the top teams. But here’s the thing, he wanted to play in California. He wanted to play for the Giants or the Dodgers or even the Angels, because he’s from California. He has a home out there and he wanted to go back home after living in Cleveland and Milwaukee for the past dozen years. But instead he signed a contract with the New York Yankees for $160 million.

The problem isn’t that he signed a huge contract. I’ve got no problem with that. The problem is the reasoning behind his decision. He was pushed by the player’s union and by his agent Scott Boars because of the precedent it sets in terms of player salaries going forward. If the best guy out there takes a $90 million contract when one worth $160 million is out there, it sets a bad example, in their eyes. They want guys to push the envelope and get the best deal possible, regardless of who it’s with, so that other players this off-season and in the future can expect the pay scale to have increased.

Makes total business sense from the union’s side and obviously for the agent, but is it really in the best interest of the player? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes players just want the cash and they don’t give a shit where from. But other guys are more principled than that and want their careers to mean more than just money. Those are the guys who know they’re getting paid no matter where they go so it might as well be somewhere they want to be. I don’t know where exactly Sabathia falls on that scale but it’s just sad to see the understood reasons being an increased pay scale going forward.


Cliff Lee, AL Cy Young

November 13, 2008

As correctly predicted on this blog on August 5, Cliff Lee today won the American League Cy Young Award. Considering he had the best record in the majors this year at 22-3 and had a pretty damn good 2.54 ERA, this really wasn’t a surprise. Roy Halladay, the 2003 Cy Young winner, took second place. This was the second straight year an Indians pitcher won the award, though of course CC Sabathia is no longer in the American League.


Equal Treatment for the O’s

November 13, 2008

o's

So I spent a wee bit of e-ink on the Nats new unis that were produced last week. With that in mind, I’ll waste a few seconds of your time on the Orioles new look.

The first thing the O’s did was change their logo, sort of. It’s still an Oriole and at first glance it’s not really any different. But a comparison of the two shows the slight changes. I still prefer the 60s, 70s and early 80s look for the hat logo though. All in all, you couldn’t care less about that.

The biggest change for the Orioles is that they’re bringing back the old ‘Baltimore’ script for away unis. This is something they haven’t done since maybe 1970 or so and I kind of like it. Or at least the idea. I made reference to the tired look of script unis in reference to the Nats new away shirt but at least the O’s have a history of doing this going way back. I don’t like now it fades from big letters to small but I guess it’s better than having it just say Orioles wherever you go.

So, that’s about it. It’s a good change and fits in with teams like Cleveland and Oakland who spell out their city name for away games.


Sabathia Question Finally Answered

November 11, 2008

timAfter months of speculation, we’ve finally gotten our answer to whether or not CC (neĆ© C.C.) Sabathia would or could win the National League Cy Young Award after the unreal end to the season he had in Milwaukee. Of course the first issue is that I always forget that the Brewers are even in the National League now. The other issue of course was that he was on Cleveland for the first half of the season.

Anyway, the answer is No. Tim Lincecum, the skinny kid with the weird delivery in San Francisco took home the award for the first time (and only the second in San Francisco history, the other being 41 years ago). Brandon Webb of Arizona, last year’s winner, took second while New York’s ace Johann Santana finished third.

So the baseball writers didn’t feel like half a season was good enough for Sabathia to take home the top pitching prize in the league for the second year in a row. Last year he won the AL Cy Young with Cleveland.

It’s strange to be reading baseball stories now that it’s November but there are still several more big awards to be announced. But since we spent some time discussing Sabathia’s chances on this blog, I thought it worthy of mention.


New-Look Nats

November 7, 2008

nats

So the Nationals introduced their new away uniforms yesterday. It kind of hearkens back to both their Expos legacy as well as the old Senators home unis. The Senators often looked like this at home.

The new look is a huge improvement over the previous road design. The script writing is a little bit tired, but it’s better than the garish look they had before. It also corresponds (finally) with the script W on their hats.

The Nationals also issued new alternate jerseys. I really like the red one, especially in this photo. It looks a bit like the Reds’ alternate look, but it’s still pretty sharp.

Sadly, they also put out a blue alternate. It is AWFUL. I cannot describe how ridiculous it looks. It’s like what a minor league team would wear on the 4th of July. It even has its own hat which is equally ridiculous.

In conclusion, I think I like the new road look. It’ll be a nice change for the Nats, who really could use any change at this point. I think the red alts will look sharp though I am generally opposed to Sunday reds (though I don’t actually know that’s what the Nats will do with them). And finally, I hate the Mickey Mouse USA shirts. This is professional baseball.


Why Does Bud Selig Suck So Much?

November 7, 2008

cuban

There are a lot of ways I could go with this but I’m going to narrow the inquiry down to the sale of the Chicago Cubs. Brizz, your comments are welcome…

I just can’t understand why MLB is blocking Mark Cuban from buying the Cubbies from Sam Zell. Apparently Bud Selig doesn’t want a guy like Cuban running a team in his league and especially not one so close to his home team of Milwaukee. What I don’t understand is why this is a decision Selig is able to make in the first place. I always thought that all of the owners vote to ratify a new owner in the league. I realize Selig is technically the leader of the owners but shouldn’t this be out of his hands?

Next, why wouldn’t you want Cuban in the league? Look what he’s done with the Mavericks. When he bought Dallas they were awful. Constantly one of the worst teams in the league and one of the worst run, Cuban pumped money and genuine enthusiasm into the moribund franchise and turned it around in just a few short years. While it’s true that the Mavs have not won the title (though they did reach the finals in ’06) they have become one of the more fun and interesting teams to watch. And I don’t have the time or the space to explain how much better the arena, locker rooms, training facilities, etc are for the players, immediate fans and organization.

So again, why wouldn’t you want that in baseball? And especially in Chicago? It’s not like he’d try to tear down Wrigley Field. Cuban is a true sports fan. He may be a jackass a lot of times but it’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

If I were Cuban, I’d sue. There is no legal reason why a seller shouldn’t be able to sell his product to whichever buyer he chooses. Let the sale go to a vote with all of the baseball owners. If they decide they don’t like him, fine. But at least let it get to that point. And if it’s not allowed to, Cuban should sue Major League Baseball.

Failing that, he should buy the Pirates. Cuban is from Pittsburgh and for the cost of buying the Cubs he could probably by the Pirates ten times over. They already play in a beautiful and fantastic park and are in a city that is starving for a good baseball team. As much as I dislike Pittsburgh (mostly due to the Steelers) it really is a good sports city. Rebuild the organization and start winning (the Pirates have had 16 consecutive losing seasons!!) and you’ll win back over the fans in an instant.


Jeter Confirmation?

November 4, 2008

jeterI love this. Only a nerd like Bill James and his crew could come up with this kind of a story. But I think it’s an important point. Derek Jeter is wildly overrated. He’s always been overrated, or at least since his clutch performances in the World Series dating back almost ten years now. He’s constantly lauded for that catch into the bleachers behind third base or his cut-off throw-out of Jeremy Giambi. But when looking at his actual accomplishments in the field, James’ crew has found that Jeter is the worst fielder in baseball. Period. At any position.

I’m sure Derek Jeter is a nice enough guy. He has dated some hot women and does in fact have those four rings. But again, the last time the Yankees won the World Series was in 2000. And the last time the Yankees were in the World Series was 2003. Amazing as it seems, that was five years ago. Jeter is 34 years old and simply is not the player he once was. But you’d never know that with all the slurping he gets in NYC and everywhere else as a result.

Thank you Bill James for giving us statistical analysis proving that Derek Jeter is not only overrated but is in reality rated dead last among fielders.


Phillies World Series Champs (How Weird is That?)

October 30, 2008

lidge

For only the second time in the 126-year history of the club, the Philadelphia Phillies are World Series champions. 4-3 winners in the truncated second half of Game 5 in Philadelphia, the Phillies scored twice to nudge the youthful Tampa Rays.

As previously mentioned on this blog (and damn near everywhere else on earth), the city of Philadelphia hadn’t had a major professional title since the 1983 76ers and their Fo’-fo’-fo’ team led by Moses Malone. The Phillies reached the World Series in 1993 but lost on Joe Carter’s famous Game 6 walk-off homer in Toronto. So this really is a huge deal not just for the Phillies but for the whole city.

Somehow the Phils managed to stay under the radar for most of the season, despite having the two most recent NL MVP winners, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Philly used another melt down by the Mets to claim the NL East, beat up the Brewers in four quick games, used five games to beat down the Dodgers and now just five to pass the Rays for the title. Pretty amazing stuff when you think about how dominant they were in this post-season. Obviously their ridiculous pitching, mostly in the hands of Cole Hamels and previously ruined Brad Lidge, did most of the damage, really limiting what had been an explosive and exciting offense in Tampa.

I really don’t like the Phillies and I like the city of Philadelphia even less but I’m happy for them for today. I’m glad they finally won it all and I’m glad they were able to do it at home.


Why the World Series Has Sucked So Far

October 28, 2008

tarp

This World Series has sucked for a couple of reasons. But let me say the things I’ve liked about it first:

The schedule has been good. Unlike the NBA Finals, the World Series is moving along at a nice clip. One travel day between the sections of the 2-3-2 and games on all the other days.

The teams seem reasonably evenly matched. While the Phils might still win it in 5 games, it hasn’t been like the blowout sweeps by the Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals and Red Sox of the past four title series.

Ok, now that all that’s out of the way, here’s why it sucks:

The umps/MLB offices have blown several calls. I’m not sure any of them qualify on the level of the Royals-Cardinals series in ’85 but there have been a number of tags missed and terrible strike zones employed through the 4.5 games. Replay, which exists only for home run disputes, could’ve been implemented for wider ranging options but shamefully was not. So we end up having to hear about multiple official apologies from the umpires. Terrible.

Also, calling off the game last night and the super late start to Game 4. Cold rain sucks but it’s a fact of life in a place like Philadelphia in late October. You can’t have a game start as late as Game 4 did and expect the teams to be at all coherent in the game the next day. Apparently Game 4 was a good, close game but it’s not like I saw it because it was still the fifth inning when I went to sleep after midnight!

grounds crewAnd last night’s game was just disgraceful. Very few baseball games have ever gone through that kind of rain storm. I have no idea how BJ Upton was able to slide in the mud that was the basepaths in scoring the tying run in the top of the 6th. But beside just that, I completely understand why Phillies fans have it out for Bud Selig today. Were they really waiting for the Rays to possibly score a tying run before postponing it? Why didn’t they do it at the end of the fifth inning (if not far earlier)? They knew they had an open day today to work with, why not just push the whole damn thing back once it started getting nasty. Better to play six or seven or eight innings a day later than three. The Phillies will also lose the services of Cole Hamels who undoubtedly would’ve stayed in the game to continue pitching. With the change of days, Hamels is done and relief pitching will have to carry Philadelphia through. I don’t want the Phils to win, but if they end up losing due to poor bullpen work, it’ll really be a disgrace.

Additionally, the Rays have been a huge let down, and for the most part, so have the Phillies. The Rays were really fun to watch all year and even more so in the playoffs. They ran a lot, hit homers and pitched well. Well they haven’t done any of those things particularly well in the World Series. Obviously lots of credit goes to Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton for shutting them down but it still makes for a less interesting series when one team just doesn’t play as well as they should.

Finally, I’ve been annoyed by the announcers once again. I hate Tim McCarver (though he is preferable, slightly anyway, to Joe Morgan) and don’t really have anything good to say about Joe Buck. They make the game boring and insufferable and mostly I’ve had to listen on mute. Also, I hate having to tune into Fox, especially during an election year.

These are probably not all especially rational thoughts but I just hate when there is something good to look forward to and for many reasons it lets me down. It hasn’t quite been as bad as that USC-Oklahoma title game in football a few years ago but still, I was hoping for quite a bit more from all parties involved and instead it just hasn’t been that interesting.


The Day-Nighter

October 24, 2008

An interesting phenomenon will take place on Sunday as the World Series reaches Game 4 in Philadelphia. Right next door, at Lincoln Financial Field (that is such an awful name) the Eagles will be hosting the Falcons at 1pm. The Phils will take on the Rays at 8pm, literally across the parking lot at Citizens Bank Park (again, weak).

This is not something that happens very often. It did turn out in 2004 when the Patriots and Red Sox both had home games during the World Series. The major difference is that the Patriots play way the eff out in Foxborough while the Sawx play right in between BU and Northeastern. That’s a 28-mile drive! In Philly, the entire sporting complex is in one huge parking lot. The football, baseball and basketball arenas are right next to each other, not to mention the Spectrum.

As if the Philly fans weren’t going to be awful enough, there are going to be thousands of fans who tailgate for the Eagles in the morning, get drunk at the Link in the afternoon, take a nap in their cars in the early evening and get drunk again watching the Phils at night. It’s going to be a disaster.

Can anyone think of any other instances where the city hosting the World Series also had an NFL game on the same Sunday (or Monday)?