March 2010 Archives

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, I'm committed to building a just, verdant and more peaceful blog.


Goodnight, Pa. We'll have more ish for you tomorrow. Same WoW Channel.

(Photo of DTFT and Giant Griffey Poster stolen from Geoff Baker, obviously.)

wow.count.8.jpg Problem: The Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992. Solution: Bat the pitcher eighth!

In a move to stimulate an offense that ranked at the major-league bottom in most key categories, Pirates manager John Russell posted a lineup for the second time in three days that he plans to use throughout the 2010 season: The pitcher batting No. 8, shortstop Ronny Cedeno behind him as a secondary "leadoff" hitter, Aki Iwamura No. 1 and Andrew McCutchen No. 2.

"I think we're going to look at it and probably go with it," Russell said this morning, after posting a lineup with starter Paul Maholm batting eighth and shortstop Bobby Crosby -- a late recplacement for a scratched Cedeno, who's battling lower-back tightness -- batting ninth. "We tried it a couple of years ago, trying to get the right guys in the lineup. I think we have that now with Aki and Andrew and Ronny and Andy [LaRoche] hitting in front of the pitcher, a patient-type hitter. it sets us up to be able to score more runs and get a couple of hitters in front of Andrew. With the makeup of our lineup, it only seemed to make a lot more sense to get more guys in scoring position in front of AKi, Andrew and [Garrett] Jones and [Ryan] Doumit. I think we have the personnel to do it."

As if things weren't bad enough for Pirates fans. First, they have a gorgeous baseball stadium that's always half-empty (but not on August 7!). Second, they've had to endure 16 straight losing seasons. (For comparison: The Phillies, once the standard-bearers of horrible baseball, have had nine winning seasons since the Pirates' last year over .500. The Royals have even had three winning years since 1992.)

And now, third, the Pirates' fans have to live with their baseball team batting the pitcher eighth. Is losing season No. 17 on the way?

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We at Walkoff Walk pride ourselves with our annual dabble in Division Preview bloggin'. Not that we promise any factual evidence to support our pitiful prognostications, nor do we even double-check our figures to ensure that the projected wins add up to equal the projected losses.

What's the point? We're just trying to throw some syrupy pancakes at the ceiling and see what sticks, and what flops back down on our heads.

Hope you've enjoyed the ride. This is the final installment for 2010.

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The National League East, once a guaranteed gift for the pitching-strong Atlanta Braves in the late 90s and early aughts has become a perennial prize for the powerful Phillies of Philly, with a quick one-year break for the quixotic Queens quagmire. Three straight division championships for the Phils does not equal the eleven straight that the Braves can boast, and yet both teams notched one tidy World Series win. Interesting? Yes. Meaningful? Hard to define. The postseason is a fickle lover, and yet Mets fans would bend over backwards for the mere chance to be jilted in October instead of September, or August, or July...

Also of note: the NL East has not produced a Wild Card winner since 2003, when the Marlins took home the whole pie. I predict that the Western domination of the Wild Card will end in 2010, but in a wacky way that will have young punks everywhere calling for realignment, or redistribution of funds, or both.

Join me now:

5. Washington Nationals

The Good:

  • Stephen Strasburg is the second coming of Tom Seaver, or Bob Gibson, or the Strasbourg Cathedral depending on who you believe. Either way, the young righty is a legend before his first pitch and a prime example of late Gothic architecture. He's a major news story whether or not he even gets called up to the big team later this season. Don't expect him to turn the Nats around just yet, but do expect many, many strikeouts.

  • Ryan Zimmerman is entering the prime of his career. Fella will turn 26 this fall and he's got four years of fulltime ML experience under his belt already. Expect thirty homers, an improved OBP, and some terrific glovework at third base for this Virginia Cavalier. Do not expect him to add an extra 'n' to his last name in a show of solidarity with teammate Jordan ZImmermann.

  • By throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day, President Obama is going to raise the Nationals profile on an international level, that is, if he chooses to participate in a photo op with the racing Presidents. Because that's what a sitting President of the most powerful nation on Earth does: pose with mascots. Failing that, he can settle for a photo op with the African Queen. Now that'll give him the approval rating bounce!

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The Bad:

  • Um, they're still the Nationals, and they still employ Livan Hernandez in their starting rotation. With the aforementioned Strasburg at least a year away from contributing, the Nats will muddle along with not-a-Beatle John Lannan, wormballer Jason Marquis, Livan, someone named Craig Stammen, and my old favorite Chien-Ming Wang starting games. For Stammen and Lannan, it might play in Triple-A; for Wang, it might play in Taiwan; and for Livan, it might play in 1997, but it ain't playing in the 2010 NL East.

  • Ian Desmond, like Strasburg, was a can't-miss prospect and yet he couldn't find his way into the big league lineup until after he already logged six years in the minors. He may very well prove to be a great middle infielder in the near future, but consider 2010 a learning season. Also, he's not a great hitter to slot in the #2 hole ahead of Zim and Adam Dunn.

  • Speaking of Dunn, have you seen these Nats try to field a baseball? Eeee-yuck. Outside of Gold Glove candidates in Zimmerman and CF Tony Plush, we've got some questionable talent here. The Nats obviously didn't get the memo about defense being the new hottness; corner outfielders Willie Harris and Josh Willingham, and the first baseman Dunn will do them no favors.

Predictions: 61-101 record. Manager Jim Riggleman retains his job when no one in the front office has the energy to fill out all the paperwork involved in firing him. Team sets attendance records with tons of new promotions (Bring Your Helper Monkey to the Park! Free Canned Cheese Day!) and turns the Red Porch into an exclusive cocktail club for season ticketholders. Strasburg finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting and buys a Sea Doo.

1. (tie) Florida Marlins

The Good:

  • Hanley Ramirez is one more step in improved defense away from being the best player in baseball. He's increased his OBP every year in the last three seasons, maintained his power, and has not stopped stealing bases. Were Ramirez to make the impossible leap to Gold Glove status, he'd be the quintessential five-tool player and make Albert Pujols take a step down from his well-deserved podium. Or he could make 45 errors and this could all be for naught.

  • They have a terrific twosome atop their rotation in Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. Last year, they combined to go 28-14 with a tidy FIP of about 3.30 and a whopping 10 WAR between them. No two human beings can stake claim to such amazing sliders since Harold & Kumar's late-night culinary adventure. Shame that they'll both be in the AL East within two years.

  • Sassy Senior Jorge Cantu is leading the daily workout program for the Marlins. Now if the team could only persuade him to get the Marlins Manatees in the pool, the fans in Miami might not be forced to endure such a blubbery sideshow.

The Bad:

  • Team owner Jeff Loria is neither FDR nor is he Lorenzo de Medici. Rather, he is a dastardly money hoarder and he can be partially blamed for holding back the success of his team. C'mon, Jeff, throw some sheckels at Rick VandenHurk, those early-morning phone calls back to the Netherlands ain't cheap.

  • Florida re-acquired Nate Robertson to fill out the fifth starter role. Robertson has never posted a sub-4.50 FIP, but hey, the Tigers are paying his ENTIRE $10 million contract this year. Whatta steal!

  • Chris Coghlan's Twitter account is really f**king annoying. I don't know how someone can be so irritatingly Christ-y when he obviously sold his soul to the Dark Lord to win the NL Rookie of the Year over Andrew McCutchen in 2009. Yeah, he can get on base and steal a base and score a run yada yada yada, but how can you root for a guy who tweets crap like this:


Predictions: 87-75 record. See below.

1. (tie) New York Mets

The Good:

  • The top half of the Mets lineup rivals any other lineup in the National League. When healthy and playing together, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Jason Bay could combine to smack a hundred homers, steal a hundred bases, and produce 450 runs on their own. Now, Beltran's knees, Reyes' hammy and Bay's affinity for maple syrup and poutine could spell disaster for the team, but this is still one heckuva lineup on paper.

  • Billy Wagner is long gone yet the Mets have lots of good bullpen depth. Despite the fact that they overpaid for closer Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets can still bring in some no-name relievers like Raul Valdes to strike out the opposition. Value! And if that fails, they can just bring Tobi Stoner back up.

  • His reign is shaky but Johan Santana is still the best pitcher in the National League East. Santana should be in good health this year; give the man 200 innings and he'll strike out the world and get his name back on the Cy Young voting tote board.

The Bad:

  • Like a saline-saddled skanky stripper, the Mets' lineup is a tad top-heavy. Past that fearsome foursome, manager Jerry Manuel must pencil in the tepid quartet of Daniel Murphy, Jeff Francoeur, Luis Castillo, and Rod Barajas ahead of the pitcher's spot.

  • The only way the rest of the rotation could look more like a question mark is if they were dressed up like Matthew Lesko for Halloween. Maybe John Maine can be counted on to be serviceable, but I have little to no faith in Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and youngster Jonathon Niese. Niese is recovering from a hamstring he tore up in 2009; give him 2010 to grow as an MLB starter and I'll be sure to upgrade him in my 2011 preview.

  • The defense will get better less bad. When your best infielder and best outfielder post a UZR of exactly 0, you know your team has the range of an armless, legless motivational speaker.



Predictions: 87-75 record. See below.

1. (tie) Atlanta Braves

The Good:

  • Tim Hudson is healthy. If all goes to plan, the Tommy John surgery will not only have healed his arm but turned him into a bionic pitching machine, unhittable by NL batters and unstoppable by your mere human weapons. Add in Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe and you've got a perfectly good front of your rotation. Nothing too gaudy, but good enough to impress Southern folk.

  • I can't find a weak spot in their lineup. Trust me, I tried. As long as leadoff man Nate McLouth shakes his springtime slump and newcomer Melky Cabrera adjusts to the NL well, expect the hitters between the two to produce above the league average. Much rides on the success of cleanup hitter Troy Glaus: can he stay healthy? If not, can Eric Hinske fill in at first? These are not rhetorical questions, I need answers, people.

  • Young gentlemen Tommy Hanson and Jason Heyward are on the verge of something spectacular. Hanson showed what he could do last year (143 ERA+ in 127 IP) and Heyward currently sits atop everyone's top prospects list. Their combined age is still less than Jamie Moyer's age and their readiness gives the Braves hope not just for the future but for today.

The Bad:

  • Chipper Jones is like 77 years old, give or take a dozen. Some day he'll be in the Hall of Fame but right now, he's somewhat of a defensive liability at third base and a big fat question mark in terms of health. His OBP dipped under .400 in 2009 for the first time in five years and he posted his lowest HR/FB rate in a decade. Plus he's gotta play all those games at CitiField! Chances are Jones will still be a productive hitter in the three hole and if he fades, perhaps Jon Sciambi can give him some pointers to improve his swing.

  • It's Bobby Cox' final season at the helm. You'd think the nostalgia would give the team an extra boost, and perhaps it will, but Cox' farewell tour has the potential to overshadow the team's success. Or maybe it will provide a useful distraction. I'd just have been happier seeing Cox depart in a more organic way, like walking away quietly at the end of the season or keeling over dead in the middle of being ejected for arguing with an ump.

  • The cow is going to become sentient and terrorize the Greater Atlanta area.

Predictions: 87-75 record. See below.

1. (tie) Philadelphia Phillies

The Good:

  • That core of hitters makes your mouth water. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth. To a lesser extent Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez. Their home park only magnifies the tater tot totalling potential. They could score 900 runs if they played with the DH. Plus they all field pretty well; even Ibanez posted a positive UZR last year!

  • Roy Halladay wants to go to the Philadelphia Zoo with you. Big fella is excited to move to a National League contender; not only will his chances of pitching in the postseason for the first time go way up, but he'll get to feast on the pitchers hitting in the nine hole. Twenty-five wins might be a stretch, but expect a spectacular Philly debut with a tidy 3.50 ERA and many, many strikeouts. Expect Cole Hamels to rebound as well.

  • A team-related blogosphere representation that is so formidable and so thorough that someone found 65 of them to participate in an NCAA-style bracket. Like the fanbase for the Brewers, the Phillies fans are a devoted sort who will celebrate every victory and deride every loss with the same amount of passion. We at Walkoff Walk make no apologies for our love of the Phillies blogosphere, even when they get a bit obsessed about personal grooming.

The Bad:

  • Brad Lidge used up all his goodwill and good luck in 2008. When this guy trots in from the bullpen, you can already feel the homers flying off the bat. I'd call him a headcase but that's an insult to mental patients everywhere. In case Lidge completely breaks down and leaves the game to live on a kibbutz, the Phillies have a decent replacement in Danys Baez who spent 2009 recovering from elbow surgery and pitching for the Orioles. Ick.

  • New third baseman Placido Polanco hasn't manned the hot corner for a full season in years. The Phils are basically going from a wildly underrated defensive whiz Pedro Feliz at third to someone who spent the last half decade playing second base. Polanco did it well, but who's to say he won't poison Utley's Tastykakes so he can reclaim his favorite position?

  • No HEIST bump this year.

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Predictions: 87-75 record. Holy crap, we've got a four-way tie for first in the division! How the heck do you rectify that situation?

Via Baseball-Reference, this is the official MLB rule for a four-way tie in a division or Wild Card race:

Scenario #6: If four Clubs are tied for first place in the Wild Card (or Division) with an identical winning percentage at the conclusion of the championship season and the tied Clubs do not have identical records against one another in the championship season, the tie for the Wild Card (Division) shall be broken as follows:

The four teams will be designated Club "A," "B," "C," and "D" based on a draw by the Office of the Commissioner. Club "A" shall play Club "B" at the ballpark of Club "A" and Club "C" shall play Club "D" at the ballpark of Club "C" on Monday, September 29. The following day (Tuesday, September 30), the winner of these games shall play one game, at the ballpark of Club "A" or Club "B," whichever has won the game between the two. The winner of the third game shall be declared the Wild Card.

Well that's about as clear as a unfiltered craft-brewed hefeweizen! Last year, the general managers voted to end coin flips to determine home field advantage and used various other tiebreakers, like best record in one-run night games played in under 2 hours and 55 minutes. So really, let's say the Phillies host the Marlins and the Braves host the Mets for one game playoffs, and then the winners of those two games meet. The winner gets the division, the loser gets the Wild Card, and the fans of the other two teams are left scratching their heads.

Note: the chances of this happening are about 0.000003%, but if we hit on those lightning-striking odds, you'll be prepared. Prepared to be confused, amirite?

For the sake of completeness, let's say the Phillies win the division and the Braves win the Wild Card, with the Braves beating the Cardinals and Phillies losing to the Rockies in the NLDS. The Braves will sweep the Rockies in the NLCS and then go on to lose the World Series to the Yankees, because that is what Atlanta does best: lose World Serieses to the Yankees.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, Thermos just is a brand name for a vacuum flask.


Guuuhhhhh is this week ever gonna ennnnnnnd???? HURRY UP BASEBALL. Same WoW channel.

("A Crosstown Classic" trailer, and all its lovable jamooks, stolen from the indefatigable Can't Stop The Bleeding. )

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Attention New York area commuters who choose to torture themselves by listening to sports talk radio: you're in for quite a treat! Bloviating marble-mouthed radio host Mike Francesa must be lonely ever since his caffeine-addled partner Chris Russo left for greener pastures a few years back. How else could one possibly explain the invitation Francesa extended to disgraced former Mets GM and disgraced former ESPN "baseball analyst" Steve Phillips?

Francesa hosts the "Mike'd Up: Francesa on the FAN" show from 1 to 6:20 weekdays on WFAN (660 AM) in New York.

Francesa talked about having Phillips in the studio for weekly segments this season during his show on Monday.

Phillips hasn't had much work since being fired by ESPN for embarrassing himself with an intracompany extramarital affair, or what they call "team building" in Bristol. But hey, he'll get the opportunity to telephone a sports talk show once a week and give his expert opinions on a team he wasn't smart enough to run properly, so good for him.

Let it be known: I do not dislike Steve Phillips because he cheated on his wife. I do not dislike Steve Phillips for committing adultery with a mannish young rectangle-shaped girl. I do not even dislike Steve Phillips for salting the fields of the Mets farm system and setting the organization back 20 years. Heck, I hate the Mets! Good on ya, Steve!

Rather, I dislike Steve Phillips for spending years spewing his opinions on ESPN and getting paid actual money to portray general managers in fake news conferences despite his ineffectiveness as an actual baseball executive. I dislike him for making Joe Morgan seem forward-thinking and open-minded in comparison. I dislike him for his well-coiffed shockingly white head of hair and his (occasional) neatly-groomed facial hair. I dislike him for being right about Cliff Lee.

But mostly, I dislike Steve Phillips for setting a precedent that failed general managers can become talking heads in the media, thus giving birth to Jim Bowden on my satellite radio. Yecch.

(we owe a 2 liter bottle of ginger ale to the good people at BBTF Newsblog)

stephenkingfishface.jpg Stephen King was once the Most Famous Author in America. (The current titleholder is Stephenie Meyer.) Now he's just one of many Celebrity Red Sox Fans.

That doesn't mean he hasn't stopped writing. King will soon release a new novella, Blockade Billy, described by King's website thusly:

He may have been the greatest player the game has ever seen, but today no one remembers his name. He was the first -- and only -- player to have his existence completely removed from the record books. Even his team is long forgotten, barely a footnote in the game's history.

Every effort was made to erase any evidence that William Blakely played professional baseball, and with good reason. Blockade Billy had a secret darker than any pill or injection that might cause a scandal in sports today. His secret was much, much worse... and only Stephen King, the most gifted storyteller of our age, can reveal the truth to the world, once and for all.

Since the story that would make the best horror book ever (Phillies win World Series) actually happened two years ago, I guess he has to go with Blockade Billy. Eh, works for me.

There's actually a chance Blockade Billy could be pretty good, especially since it's a novella (a +5 shift in VORK, Value Over Replacement King), is about baseball (+1 VORK) and comes from a small publisher (+3 VORK). There is, of course, also a chance the book will end with the Hand of God helping Blockade Billy hit a homer to win the World Series (-75 VORK).

The book is available pre-order for $25. If I can one day charge twenty-five bucks for one of my novellas, I will consider my life a success.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, play dead and it'll pass right by you.


The number to call in tonight is (347) 843-4807. So join me as people draft imaginary teams and I make fun of them from my house in Boston. Which is ten times more sad.

See you tomorrow, same WoW channel. You too, Arthur Russell.

That's Why They Play The Games: 2010 AL East

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Time for the last AL preview. Rob's got one more coming for the NL East, then it's time to take it to the field. Here are the ones we've already done. His are much better than mine.

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Eat it, objectivity. You know why we save this one for last in the AL every year? It's the Grandaddy Of Them All. The AL East has baseball's two most successful franchises (The You Know Whos and The What's Their Names) and one could make the argument that the three best teams in the league all reside here (throw in Tampa). Not only does the division have more than a handful of marquee starting pitchers, but either the Red Sox or Yankees have led the AL in scoring for 6 of the last 7 years. Don't have 95 wins? Get lost. I will now ascend the steps of the golden temple to suss out a Chosen One.
5. Toronto Blue Jays

The Goodish:

  • Shaun Marcum missed the entirety of 2009 after having Tommy John surgery, but I sure loved his stuff before he got hurt. He's looking strong enough for Clarence to have named him the Opening Day starter. Dustin McGowan was also looking like he was getting ready to pitch his first innings since '08 but just hit a snag. Ricky Romero had a decent 2009 and if he can improve on that K/BB ratio he could be the best second year starter in the league.

  • Adam Lind and Aaron Hill combined for 71 HR last year. That's a ton. They'll remain the heart of the order (with a possible sprinkling of Travis Snider). They also combined for 208 Ks to 100 BBs. That's kinda bad.

The Bad:

  • They lost some guy named Halladay. After Marcum and Romero, the rotation has Brandon Morrow and Marc Rzepczynski, neither of whom have ever pitched more than 70 innings in a season and The Immortal Brian Tallet.

  • Lots of at bats from Edwin Encarnation, Jose Bautista and Alex Gonzalez. Also, Jays fans have to pray for a continuation of the Every Other Year Vernon Wells Is Good thing.

Predictions: 67-95 record, John Buck inherits Rod Barajas' Waverunner and rides it out to the middle of Lake Ontario where he strips down naked to "help free Mumia." The world learns that all Toronto catchers are given Waverunners, but it may not be a good idea for the voluble and viruently leftist Buck.

4. Baltimore Orioles

The Good:

  • How about that outfield? Nick Markakis is the defacto leader on offense, and while he Felix Pie is waiting for playing time. Solid.

  • Kevin Millwood was brought in, and as much fun as we like to have around here with The Kev, he had a pretty good 2010 and pitches a lot of innings. That'll be no small help to a rotation that has seen approximately 81 promising young arms flame out in the past decade.

  • Brad Bergesen and Brian Matusz are two rooks in rotation that everyone seems high on. Matusz, especially, has been dazzling 'em this Spring.
  • Matt Walters? Walker? Fetters? Something like that. Anyway I guess their catcher is supposed to be good.

The Bad:

  • The good things on this team are all real young. Markakis, Millwood, Jones (kinda), Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada are the only dudes with substantial MLB experience. There are lots of growing pains to be worked out on the field for everyone else.

  • Their bullpen will probably suck again.

Predictions: 75-87 record, Following a disastrous stint in Colorado, Melvin Mora retires and returns to Camden Yards opening up an eel on a stick stand next to Boog's BBQ called "More Of Mora's Impaled Morays." It is even more disastrous than his stint in Colorado.

3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

The Good:

  • Longoria-Crawford-Pena-Zobrist can hold it's own against almost any other lineup 4some in the game from a bat standpoint. Bringing in Kelly Shoppach to split time or possibly replace the offensively abysmal Dioner Navarro also looks like a good move. Even Jason Bartlett had pop in 2009.

  • James Shields has been a rock in the rotation for a few seasons now, and 2010 looks like the year that Matt Garza will emerge as an ace if he doesn't have a brain aneurysm first. Jeff Niemann is looking ot build on a career year and year two of David Price Takes The Majors should also be an improvement on the first.

  • The bullpen is very good on paper, as illustrated with colors and numbers by these guys. But there are localized rumblings that JP Howell's recent arm troubles could send the whole thing crashing down.

  • Their defense continues to be one of the best in baseball.

The Bad:

  • With the Rays counting on him for power, Pat Burrell had a lousy year in 2009. But it was his first year in the AL and this is also a contract year. If he was younger you could see it going either way, but as it is he could be toast.

  • If BJ Upton keeps regressing at the plate he may just disappear.

  • Joe Maddon is wicked annoying.

Predictions: 85-77 record, With no production from the DH troika of Burrell, Gabe Kapler and Hank Blalock the Rays sign Dean Palmer, who is promptly suspended for steroids.

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2. Boston Red Sox

The Good:

  • There are several teams making the claim, but The Red Sox probably have the best top to bottom starting rotation in baseball, despite the uncertainty with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Especially if they Do The Right Thing and just make Clay Buchholz the fifth starter when Dice-K returns. Enough with the 6 man rotation talk.

  • Rad Theo had a fine offseason. The Red Sox act like money is a factor when it really isn't. They lost the ability to play that card when they signed a third starter for $90M, just like the Yankees. So with that in mind, the Lackey signing was a good one. After getting by over the past couple years with near death cameos from John Smoltz, Paul Byrd and Brad Penny, Lackey takes that out of the equation.

  • Acquisitions at position player have both offensive and defensive components. Defensively, Mike Cameron is an upgrade in center over Jacoby Ellsbury, Ellsbury is an upgrade over Jason Bay in Left, and Adrian Beltre is an upgrade over the modern day injury plagued Mike Lowell. Marco Scutaro isn't an upgrade over Alex Gonzalez at short, but he's a fine fielder in his own right.

  • Losing Bay's offense can be recouped with a full season from Victor Martinez, and Scutaro coming close to his '09 numbers in lieu of the Lowrie/Lugo/Gonzalez SSThing. Cameron himself has had 20+ HR each of the last 4 seasons.

  • Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia are as close to healthy sure things as the Red Sox have seen since I've been a baseball fan and JD Drew went to Florida State.

The Bad:

  • David Ortiz still holds a key role in this lineup and there is no indication he'll return to his glory days. It's more about him finding the median between his years as an MVP candidate and the futile fanning that plagued him for the entire first half of last year. If Mike Lowell wasn't occupying this strange land where he plays for the Red Sox but no one acts like it, he could be a viable backup at DH. But itseems a foregone he's gone. And he's hurt again. This leaves Jeremy Hermida as the biggest bat off the bench.

  • Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon are solid for the 8th and 9th inning. Ramon Ramirez is also a good one inning reliever. It's getting to those guysin long relief that will prove to be the problem for the bullpen. Manny Delcarmen is inconsistent. Hideki Okajima regressed in 2009. The other spots in the pen will belong to some combination of Boof Bonser, Scott Atchison, Joe Nelson and Brian Shouse. Unless Dice-K comes back and someone has to move. Uncertainty.

Predictions:96-66 record, Jason Varitek takes up knitting while on the bench and makes a wool tarp for rain delays.

1. New York Yankees

The Good:

  • Well, when you win the World Series you have to really try to get significantly worse the next season. Like the Marlins. But the Yankees didn't do that. They added Javy Vasquez to the rotation. Guys they lost, like Damon and Matsui, may significantly improve their new lineups but they don't take much away from the one in the Bronx. Especially when you add Curtis Granderson.

  • Mariano Rivera remains the best closer in baseball. Their whole bullpen had a good 2009 and will be even better if Phil Hughes cuts it as a starter allowing Joba Chamberlain to have a designated role in the bullpen, where he's proven most effective.

The Bad:

  • The Vasquez signing did a lot to calm people who still don't see AJ Burnett as a near-ace and saw a huge dropoff in the rotation after Sabathia. But Vasquez has been in New York before and had one of his worst seasons in the majors. Add that to the fact that even with last season's renaissance in Atlanta he's been inconsistent at best over the past 5 or 6 years. What if he underperforms again? What if Burnett underperforms? What if Hughes struggles and that 5th spot stays unstable all year? Do you see how many hypotheticals I had to come with for something to put in "The Bad"?

Predictions: 97-65 record, Robinson Cano changes his name, and will only answer to, Dookie "Blood Spitting Crocodile Messiah" Crocodilemessiah-Thompson.

Welp, with only a few more days left in Spring Training (and nothing else to write about with the exception of ZOMG Tim Lincecum's finger!) I figure we can beat the dead equine one last time and make some minor improvements to otherwise ordinary Spring Training photos. Without further ado.

Apparently Matt Holliday is still upset about trying to catch that fly ball in the playoffs with his taint.

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This picture is almost too good to be true.

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Pablo Sandoval has a request.

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A new take on a classic.

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Lou Pinella is not happy.

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Did Johnny Damon have Chipotle before the game?

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He had to have learned it from someone...

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Originals courtesy of Daylife. Yours in the comments.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, you can have anybody you want.

  • DO you agree with the Braves' decision to start Jason Heyward on Opening Day thus start the clock ticking on his arb clock? I can see both sides, but it's nice to think that maybe the NL East will be so competitive that the first month of the season may actually turn out meaning something.

  • HOW much air gets let out of the Mariners' excitement baloon after the news that Cliff Lee is being shut down for a week and may begin the season on the DL?

  • WHAT team will Derek Jeter buy after he retires? Not even the Yankees pay you enough money to buy the Yankees.

  • DOES the fact that realignment is being discussed in union meetings mean that this has a chance to be a real, actual, living thing?

  • WHAT will make for better viewing: repeatedly watching that Baseball Samurai video up there or going to check out Greenberg that movie by that guy that we talked about on that podcast?

  • HAVE you read the latest heartwarming installment of the Pitchers & Poets guy coaching his little league team? Adorablog.

Welp, it's the final weekend of Spring Training. Lots of good college basketball on TV and great shows wherever your local live music hall may be, so go and enjoy yourself. Cause next weekend baseball is back. And it's gonna want your full attention for awhile. Same WoWza Woo Woo.

In this vintage McDonald's commercial from the early eighties, Ronald McDonald, Grimace, the Hamburglar, the Fry Guys, Birdie, and some creepy dude called The Professor play a bastardized version of baseball before giving up and heading over to Mickey D's for assorted fried and processed chicken parts. The characters are quite creepy; no wonder my entire generation has grown up to become horrified by clowns and large purple things.

In this fraudulent excuse for 'baseball', The Professor uses a non-regulation bat that totally ruins the game, so obviously this commercial is an allegory for the upcoming steroids drama that haunted baseball for years.

To wit:


For a second, non-embeddable commercial where Ronald McDonald actually plays with his food, check out this clip featuring the McNuggets and a ton of bad baseball puns.

What's Up, Creampuff: Dudes That Were/Got Hurt Pt. 1

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stretcher.JPG Oh, lord. These dudes better get better in a double hurry.

STAY TUNED FOR PART II. IT'S GONNA BE A DARK STAR EPIC!!!!

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A Bucks County, PA jury acquitted infamous female Phillies fan Susan Finkelstein of the prostitution charges against her, but dealt her a crushing blow by finding her guilty of attempted prostitution, a charge that carries a hefty fine and a slap on the wrist.

Back in October, Finkelstein posted a salacious ad on Craigslist promising sexual favors in return for Phillies World Series tickets.

Local police in Bensalem noticed the ad and set up an undercover meeting with Finkelstein where they say Finkelstein referred to herself as a "whore" willing to do almost anything for those precious tickets.

They arrested her, but she still made it to the World Series thanks to a wacky radio stunt, giving up just her pride and not her special gift.

Take it, Suzie:

"I'm obviously disappointed that it didn't come out with both counts not guilty," she said. "I honestly believe it should have gone that way, but there are disappointments in life."

As a Phillies fan, Susan must be used to the many, many disappointments in life, such as losing a World Series, or expecting positive things from Brad Lidge.

In other hooker news, a Braves minor leaguer has been arrested in a massive prostitution sting in Florida as he was participating in spring training:

Atlanta Braves minor league player Deunte Heath is out on bond following his arrest Thursday night near the Braves spring training home in Kissimmee, Fla., Channel 2 Action Sports anchor Zach Klein confirmed.

Heath is facing prostitution charges after allegedly responding to an ad on a classifieds Web site. He was arrested during an undercover sting operation at a Kissimmee townhouse.

Heath offered to pay a whopping $75 in exchange for sexy time, which is equivalent to three whole days of per diem pay. That's a lot of ramen noodles and hot sauce packets to consume just to save up for makin' whoopee.

Dude's a professional baseball player and he's surfing Craigslist for escorts? Don't guys become professional athletes so they don't have to pay for sex anymore? Can't any baseball player, regardless of what level they play on, just cruise a shady Orlando bar and pick up any random skank for free? Isn't this what our Founding Fathers promised us, right alongside the freedom to opt out of health insurance?

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, les temps changent.


That is all for today. See you tomorrow with your Friday favorites, including the triumphant return of Creampuff. Same WoW channel. I love you, Elvis.

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Dodgers owner Frank McCourt obviously doesn't have enough on his plate right now: while going through a nasty divorce and wrangling over team ownership with his politically-aspiring nutso wife, he decides now would be a great time to bring up building an NFL stadium smack dab in the middle of the Dodger Stadium parking lots.

"There's no question L.A. should have an NFL franchise," he said. "It's probably the worst-kept secret in Los Angeles that the NFL would love to be at Chavez Ravine. Other than that, I can't comment right now."

Thing is, Chavez Ravine is not exactly the easiest place to access if you don't have a car. The phrases "public transportation" and "Dodger Stadium" go together about as well as "Bill Plaschke" and "rational thought". You simply cannot get to Dodger Stadium without a car. The parking lots are vast but actually getting there and getting out of there are impossible because of the poor access. Why do you think the stadium fills up late and empties out early?

Taking away parking won't necessarily make anything worse but it can't make it any better. I'm no transportation engineer (although I wanted to be when I watched the movie Singles) but the whole idea doesn't add up. How will they replace those precious acres of parking spots? With difficult to navigate parking garages? Flying cars? A monorail?

Sure, L.A. should have a pro football team. But they've been there, done that. Los Angeles has tried NFL football in Memorial Coliseum and in nearby Anaheim for decades, but the teams left. They even met with McCourt five years ago and what came of that? Nothing. Rumor has it that Paul Tagliabue wanted to put a stadium on top of the Hollywood sign.

Still, I fear the day someone plops a bloated football stadium next door to what is actually a nice, quiet ballpark to visit. Yes, even with all those annoying Dodgers fans.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, got a bottle of tokay.

  • HOW will eliminating the day off between Games 4 and 5 of the LCS affect the playoffs? Dunno, but it's also taking away a day off from beer to drink water. That is going to affect my headache.

  • DO you like baseball movies and/or dreamy Hollywood dreamboats? Then here's a double dose of good news: Owen Wilson plays a baseball player in a new James L. Brooks film and Jake Gyllenhall and Jim Carrey are gonna be in Damn Yankees film remake. I got callbacks for both films but thought they were below me.

  • WHAT is your favorite thing about Spring? Some would say the weather, some would say the vegetation, some would say girls wearing sundresses, others would say Jay Mariotti and Ozzie Guillen bickering like two drunk grammas. I don't wanna know those people.

  • DON'T you wish more ballplayers were as honest as the Rangers' Tommy Hunter about the sleepy little burghs they inhabit during Spring. Something tells me he aint being named to the Surprise, AZ Chamber of Commerce anytime soon.

  • DID you remember to vote for Seattle Mariner Kanekoa Texeira's new nickname? Of course you did.

  • YOU know what that picture (made by DMac) up there means don't you? The Walkoff Walk Furious Five Radio Show is about to storm back into your life after disappearing for months and just expects everything to be fine and dandy. Are you gonna let it just walk all over you like that? Well if so, you can listen live TONIGHT AT 730 or download for all of eternity by going here. It's me and Drew and DMac talking baseball (and a little bit of film) and we'd just love for you to tune in.

So I'm gonna go gargle with some turpentine to warm up the old v chords for that. We'll see you back here on the textual side of things tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

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For most of us, a delightful surprise on a Tuesday morning would be a phone call announcing a bank error in our favor, or an email announcing that our favorite hipster band was coming to town, or opening our car's glovebox to find a perfectly edible Snickers bar we had forgotten about three weeks ago.

It's the little things in life that normal human beings can appreciate.

For former slugger and current steroids gadabout Jose Canseco, however, a delightful surprise on a Tuesday morning is learning that FBI agents are on their way to his house to deliver him a subpoena, and then breaking out his Twitter-enabled mobile device to alert his thousands of enrapt followers of his exciting news:

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OMG, no way Jose! How exciting for you! A chance for you to be relevant again, so soon after last year's massive press conference and book tour! Jose Canseco, having exhausted his baseball skills and embarrassed himself out of professional fighting now craves the media spotlight like a moth to the flame. He's got nothing left in his tank except to be an outspoken loudmouth.

In the past, Canseco actually defended Roger Clemens, telling a Congressional committee that he had no knowledge of Clemens ever using steroids or HGH. He wrote two dumb books and never pointed a finger at his former teammate, despite seemingly throwing every other pro athlete under the bus. I guess Mark McGwire once left the toilet seat up or something.

So, what's this subpoena nonsense all about, Alfie?

"One possibility is the prosecutors want to see if he will stick to his story in the grand jury," said Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School and a former federal prosecutor, referring to Canseco's defense of Clemens in both the affidavit and in statements that Canseco later made to federal investigators in April 2008

"Another possibility is that there are some details of his account that help the investigation even if he doesn't have direct knowledge about Clemens's alleged use," Richman said of Canseco. "He could have pieces that help fill in the picture."

Someone will have the unenviable task of informing Jose that these proceedings will not be televised or even liveblogged by Matt Sussman. No, just like your grand jury testimony (which was probably just as delusional as his daydreams), this is a purely closed-doors questioning. There won't even be cameras and reporters on the steps of the courthouse.

Alas, we common folk will have to rely on Jose's Twitter account to provide us with all the juicy details. Thank goodness boneheaded athletes discovered social media.

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Who's name is that on the big screen up there? Hey, look, it's Pete Rose! Yes, the all-time hit king hosted WWE Monday Night Raw earlier this week, on the week before Wrestlemania no less! In the foreground of this photo is Shawn Michaels, who wrestled at the pay-per-view I attended with my dad at the Spectrum in 1990. (I was seven.)

Also on the big screen in this photo: Pro wrestler Kane, shown hitting a piledriver on Pete Rose at a previous Wrestlemania. Charlie Hustle has been beaten up by Kane every time he's been at a WWF/WWE event, and as guest host tonight ordered Shawn Michaels to face Kane.

That is, honestly, the only thing Pete Rose did. I remembered why I hadn't watched an episode of Raw in like 12 years: It's completely unbearable! The annoying owner of the company a major part of several storylines, there is a lot of interview time taken up by people who can barely talk and now the WWE product is aimed at 10-year-olds now so Vince McMahon's wife has a shot at winning the Republican nomination for Senate in Connecticut. That all adds up to a really boring two hours of television.

Rose did show up one more time, of course, a moment I've captured on video below. After Shawn Michaels defeated Kane, Rose went back to his dressing room to celebrate.

Now there's an actor. You should also note it says "HIT KING" on the one side of his collar.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, mad road driving.

  • ARE they gonna make another Bad News Bears movie? If so, I think they should definitely "rip this from the headlines" and make the team a bunch of crimefighting pervert narcs.

  • DO you know a blog more in tune with the habits and cliches of sportswriting than Walkoff Walk? I certainly don't. This piece on Joe Mauer sounds like it was written just to prove Drew's point from yesterday.

  • WOULD it even be Spring if Albert Pujols didn't have some painful injury to overcome on his way to another MVP award?

  • IS it wrong to weigh packs of baseball cards before buying them in the hopes of getting a fancy subset card? No real opinion on that, but the dude in that picture is about 30, so he's got deeper seated issues.

  • YOU think Manny Acta's laid back Spicoli approach is what the Indians need to compete this year? Me, neither.

  • WHY am I so obsessed with trashing the Indians this year?

  • WHAT Kevin Youkilis facial hair style will YOU vote forM? No Charlie Chaplin? How come no one ever wears that anymore, I think it's fetching.

Fin. See you tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

Catching Up With Your Catchers Of The Future

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Back in December, Drew wrote a stellar piece about the boom and bust that is so prevalent in the catcher market. Whether it's the physical grind or just the extra spotlight on the game's most unique position, it's hard to disagree with his thesis that there are few things in baseball more hyperbolic and mercurial than breathless talk about a young backstop.

Who cares. Let's take a quick peek at a handful of past and present COTFs, both well known (and not that young anymore) and emerging, and their current status in camp.

  • Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, Yankees: Montero is the one with the flashy bat and most of the press coverage but at least one reporter says that Romine is "light years ahead" of Montero behind the plate. Both were just sent down to AAA, but if one gets called up during the season the smart money would be on Montero, the guy with the chance to make the most immediate offensive impact.

  • JR Towles and Jason Castro, Astros: Towles is on the other side of COTF hype. A couple seasons ago he was all hype and potential but hasn't done a whole heck of anything with the big club. Castro is the team's #1 pick from 2008 and most highly regarded offensive prospect. But at the moment, Towles is having the bigger spring and that combined with his relative seniority look to give him the edge for the #1 spot on the depth chart.

  • Adam Moore, Mariners: While starter Rob Johnson has been recovering from hip surgery, Moore has been getting plenty of innings behind the dish and AB's next to it. And Don Wakamatsu seems happy as a clam about the whole development, saying he has a chance to be "a real special player" and pitchers Ian Snell and Cliff Lee have also heaped praise on him. Fine, but whatever you do just don't call him Jeff Clement.

  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden, Rangers: OH MY GOD HOW LONG ARE THEY GONNA DO THIS??

  • Josh Thole, Mets: Thole had a fine season in the minors last year, had a cup of coffee at the end of the season and was optioned to AAA last week. With the motley crew of catchers the Mets currently employ, another strong start down on the farm could bring him back up again. Expect swoony love columns to follow. Not even the immortal Omir Santos is safe from COTF hype.

  • Florida State Seminole Buster Posey, Giants: Conventional wisdom at the beginning of camp had FSSBP starting the year in the minors no matter how well he did, just to delay his arbitration eligibilty. But is Bruce Bochy throwing a wrench in that line of thunkin' by giving Posey reps at first? LET HIM PLAY DUDE, YOU HAVE NO OFFENSE.

  • Wilson Ramos, Twins: Wait, the Twins have a COTF? The same Twins that just signed their catcher to an extension so well publicized that it probably slept with Tiger Woods during the health care vote? Apparently so. Our boy La Velle Neal says the team is enamored with this guy both for his catching skill and the pop in his bat. Gardy calls him "a package deal" and Gardy knows package (stores). So who knows, if Ramos gets the backup spot and sees some time every now and then spelling the not-always-healthy Mauer, he could make a name for himself. After all, isn't one of the dreams for a COTF to become Trade Bait OTF or better yet, Overpaid In Relation To Actual Experience Free Agent OTF?

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, we're strong now.


Today is finished here. Tomorrow is but a small percolating idea in the minds of The Unfreakable Bloggists of Walkoff Walk Inc.™ Tonight is the WoW fantasy league draft. You kids have a good time in there. Email me the best jokes :(

See you later, same WoW channel. You too, weird kid who made that video called "Baseball Fights" that mostly just has still photos of people hitting each other from other sports. False advertising, Brobro.

lifetime.jpgLike Sunday's other major news item, the Joe Mauer extension ranks as a triumph of the downtrodden and signs that all is right in America. Joe Mauer's 8 year, $184 million dollar deal will usher in a new era of homegrown superstars laying root in the ballparks of their arbitration youth, forever dazzling the fans who cheered them as young turks.

You might picture all those zeros and think "wow, that's an impossible amount of money. Good for Joe Mauer" Well you'd be wrong, my chumpish friends. You see, a deal of this magnitude, when signed with your hometown team, isn't just good for Joe Mauer. It is good for all of baseball! Because Joe Mauer took a slightly below-market deal (which is instantly accounted as a hometown discount, not an "8 year deal for a catcher" discount), we're to believe this is the triumph of the mid-market, a sign they can compete for the top talent against the Two Devils of The East.

Interesting that as a full-time Minnesotan (Minnesotan? Land o'Laker? Distant Lapplander?), Joe Mauer himself helped pay for the re-signing of Joe Mauer. The public subsidy pool isn't really fit for swimming, but the Twins build a brand new stadium with oodles of public cash ($372 million of the $517 million total cost, by some accounts), then licensed the naming rights to cuddly superstore for 25 years, netting a cool $100 million dollar cash influx, not to mention all the tax breaks and rebates afforded teams for building new new walleye-on-a-stick stands and presto: off season spending spree!

Let's not hesitate for a second in pointing out w're talking about baseball owners. A more fiendish group of glad-handers you're unlikely to find. I'm confident they're doing their darnedest right now to leverage the Joe Mauer contract into salary cap fodder. "If we could control the remaining contract costs, we'd gladly re-sign Adrian Gonzalez/Andrew McCutchen/Jason Heyward." Hello, baseball's version of the Larry Bird Exception! Teams crying poor isn't going to stop because Joe Mauer signed an astronomical contract with his existing team, just as the massive ticket hikes sure to besiege Target Field in 2013 have nothing to do with the deal he agreed to on Sunday.

Ultimately, this was a decision made by Mauer himself. It's a sign that one guy was willing to stay home for less cash, rather than a willingness of a dozen stingy owners to throw up their hands and say, "nope, can't compete" while pocketing luxury tax payments. Many big name players have re-signed to below market deals before, just as many would step over their own mothers for an extra two mil per annum. This deal isn't any better (or any worse) for baseball than Felix Hernandez's 5-year deal or Vernon Wells' massive extension. Applying any greater significance to the deal because Joe Mauer is extra super-good is foolhardy.

Hooray for progress! The United States House of Representatives passed H.R. Bill 3590 last night ensuring that every peanut vendor in baseball will be afforded an opportunity to purchase affordable health care, no matter how many pre-existing peanut allergies they have. But hey, the MLB folk that we follow on Twitter have their own opinions on Obamacare and aren't afraid to make them known.

Here is a small selection of the past week in tweets by some of our favorite players, managers, and 'other' folks:

The always out-spoken C.J. Wilson registers his complaints about Madame Speaker and somehow manages to construct an actual baseball joke:


Jason Grilli doesn't need Obamacare; he's got the Players Union/Cleveland Indians insurance plan to cover all his medical needs. Thank goodness, that knee injury looks pretty bad!


Red Sox catcher Dusty Brown doesn't need discounts in the prices of prescription medication; he prefers to get his meds over the counter:


Gadabout and gourmand Keith Law capitalizes on the health care debate to ensure that Congress tacks on some pork that'll help out aging ballplayers in the Senior Circuit:


Yankees blogger Jason Rosenberg agrees with Keith's ideas about the Demmycrats slipping in some progressive legislation for the world of baseball:


Aussie Ryan Rowland-Smith comes from a place where everyone gets health insurance and is sick and tired of all this nonsensical television coverage of the health care debates:


Wow, it seems like everyone has an opinion about the health care debates. But, one might ask, what does Ozzie Guillen think about all of this?


Uh, I don't think that's in the bill, Oz.

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As a nation waited on the edge of its seat, something finally happened. No, I'm not talking about the health care reform. I'm talking about Joe Mauer, silly. On the day when most people actually are awaiting the results of the health-care bill, another drawn-out, long-running story (this one from Major League Baseball) finally came to a close. Dude just got paid. Damn alliteration made it take longer for me to get this post out.

AL MVP Joe Mauer has agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension to stay with the Minnesota Twins.

The deal announced Sunday covers the 2011-2018 seasons and includes a full no-trade clause. It's the culmination of a monthslong negotiation between the Twins and their hometown star.

It's hard, nay impossible to say Mauer doesn't deserve that money (8.0 WAR last season as a catcher), so don't even try. Good for baseball too since this means the rich (Yankees and Red Sox) won't be getting significantly richer anytime soon by acquiring Mauer's services in the free agent market. With Mauer, Morneau, and Denard Span under contract for the long term, the "small-market" Twins have a tremendous core and a nice new stadium to show it off in.

Update: Sorry, forgot this. My wholphin virginity is no more.

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I constantly perpetuate my image as a nerd who loves using stats to better look into the game I adore. But there is one set of statistics I simply cannot tolerate. A part of me dies every time someone refers to Spring Training numbers as if they actually meant something. Allow me to explain...

On Thursday evening, the Yankees and Rays engaged in a Spring Training game. Carlos Pena had one hit, wherein he festooned a ball over the fence in the Rays' losing effort. That hit was Carlos Pena's first hit of Spring Training. Going into play yesterday he was a grand 1-for-24 before adding a second hit and an RBI in another contest with the Yankees last night. Yeesh. No doubt there were Rays fans (five of the eight of them that actually exist, zing!) wringing their hands and breathing sighs of relief that Carlos Pena was finally out of his funk. If he gets off to a slow start, they'll probably gesticulate wildly at his preseason performance. Several Yankees fans were thinking the same thing aloud on Twitter with CC Sabathia's documented struggles. This is me unfollowing.

Look, you can take your Jason Heyward bombs and your Dominic Brown rocket arms and your Strasboners, I'll be waiting not-so-patiently for the games that actually matter. Why? Because to believe that someone like Carlos Pena would actually be an unproductive hitter based on his success facing opponents in Spring Training would be nothing short of absurd. We're talking about a guy who has never had a wRC+ below 100 in his career, and who boasts the highest FB rate in baseball the last three seasons. He's going to put the ball in the air, he's going to hit HR, and he's going to get on the other side of the karmic boomerang after posting an abysmal .250 BABIP last season (expected BABIP was .296). One of the lords of the three true outcomes knows no other way to exist, folks.

It's not that seeing Heyward hit balls into outer space isn't fun. Just the opposite. But I don't burn my fandom bridges for a player like CC just because of the month of March for the same reason I don't try to fellate a power drill.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Keith Allison. Righteous indignation courtesy of me!

Weekend Questions

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scullydrive.jpg Hey kids, flip yr lids Okay, that's it for this week. We're ramping up. Can you feel it? More importantly, can you dig it? Bye now. Same WoW channel.


In the spirit of such famous baseball player/surrealist duos as Ted Williams and Rene Magritte, Frankie Frisch and Joan Miró, and Bob Gibson and Marcel Duchamp comes this ad for Braniff Airlines starring former Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford and famed Catalan artist Salvador Dalí. Because when you want to choose an airline, you want to take advice from a highly imaginative, bizarre and quirky character, and also Salvador Dalí.

I shuddered so much at Whitey's last line in this ad that I wished I had a pretzel to throw at him.

Tonight's Questions

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A special late edition of TQ.

  • DID I agree to do Tonight's Questions and then forget about it almost immediately? I'm pretty sure you know the answer to this one.
  • HOW will Ron Washington keep his weight down now that Tom Hicks has decreed "zero tolerance" on cocaine use?
  • WHERE will the Mets and Marlins be playing from June 28-30? That'd be San Juan, Puerto Rico, instead of Miami. Now the residents of the United States' largest unincorporated dependent territory can see the Mets screw up live and in person!
  • WHAT will Cliff Lee be doing for the first five games of this season? Apparently, sitting on the bench, as he's been suspended.

Okay, fellas, back tomorrow for more fun. FREE RON WASHINGTON!

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I hope you turned your clocks back, friend, because it's finally time for us to turn our gaze towards the Walkoff Walk annual divisional previews. Daylight ain't the only thing you'll be saving if you peek back at 2008 and 2009's versions. Boy, did we miss the mark in almost every way possible! But at least we had fun being wrong, no?

Previously, Liakos looked into the plight of the AL Central. It was a hoot. Today, we stay in Middle America but flop over to the National League once again.

If the National League Central was one of your family members, it'd be the oft-ignored doughy 45-year-old male uncle that everyone assumes is gay, only to shock and awe the clan on Thanksgiving when he shows up with a 22-year-old Norwegian model, a Porsche, and a fine Armani suit. And then he leaves before dessert because nobody put out his organic cranberry, mint and tangerine sauce.

What does that have to do with the NL Central? Well, we tend to push our biases towards the coastal teams in the NL, your Phillies, your Dodgers, etc, and just assume that the winner of this flyover division will struggle to the gate with a mediocre record and fade early in the Division Series. But watch out, because you never know when Tony La Russa will show up to your house, wearing a big grin, toting his cranberries.

Make with the previews:

6. Houston Astros

The Good:

  • Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez are good enough to win 20 games. Well, combined, with the lackluster offensive support expected.

  • They probably won't be spending $100 million to field a losing team in 2010. The projected payroll is about $90 million, down from last year's high-priced squadron of squalor. Still, those former Phillies players do not come cheap, Eddie. Would I be surprised to hear Ed Wade convince Dickie Thon and Von Hayes to come out of retirement and don Astros jerseys? No.

  • Houston still has Momma and Poppa Bush sucking face at Minute Maid Park to inspire and arouse the fanbase. Yecch.

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The Bad:

  • Their best player has an ouchie in his knee-spot. Lance Berkman may not make Opening Day. If fans are lucky, he'll be in full form by the Day After Opening Day, but without The Big Puma, the 'Stros offense rests firmly on Hunter Pence. Poor, misdirected Hunter Pence.

  • Leadoff man Michael Bourn will probably regress to a not-very-good on base percentage. Fella overachieved and posted a heady .366 BABIP in '09 to accompany his career-high .354 OBP; chances are he'll revert to his career average of .327. Pair him with Kaz Matsui and the big bats won't have as many runners to drive in.

  • New manager and former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills' resumé is about as impressive as former Astros manager Cecil Cooper, in that they both batted left-handed as players and have never been in my kitchen.

Predictions: 74-88 record. Carlos Lee's daily diet of four steaks and two pounds of spare ribs cause him to have coronary bypass surgery by July. Brett Myers goes 1-0 with a 8.27 ERA against his former team and 5-16 with a 2.83 ERA against the rest of the league; considers his season a miserable success. Team hosts "Jesus Day" on September 29th where every fan dressed in a robe, beard and sandals wins the right to ride a burro around the warning track after the game.

5. Milwaukee Brewers

The Good:

  • Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are monsters. Perhaps the best 3-4 hitter combination in baseball, these two gents could combine to smack 100 homers and drive in 300 runs...if only the Brewers could afford to surround them with talent. Instead, surrounding them in the lineup with Gregg Zaun and Jim Edmonds is like wrapping a Christmas present in rotten garbage.

  • They have the coziest relationship between fans and ownership around. Brewers ownership has provided many, many ticket discounts and deals for Milwaukee fans, who will continue to show up to games despite a mediocre 2009 season. These folks tailgate like champions and aren't afraid to tell you about it.

  • Yovani Gallardo is ready for his closeup. Yo Guy is finally healthy, has a full solid season to build on, and wants the ball for Opening Day. Cy Young worthy? Probably not. But it will be a relief for Brewers fans to see Yo Guy on the mound in the first game instead of last year's choice, Jeff Suppan.

The Bad:

  • Speaking of Soup, here is the rest of the Brewers rotation: Jeff Suppan. Randy Wolf. Manny Parra. Dave Bush. I'm no expert on evaluating pitching talent, or projecting pitching performance, but even I know a group of stinkers when I sees 'em. This stinks. Like your uncle's cranberry, mint, and tangerine dressing.

  • Rickie Weeks misses J.J. Hardy like a fat kid at fat camp misses fat cake. The Brewers traded Hardy to the Twins and will replace him at short with rookie Alcides Escobar. Weeks says he'll "hurt a little because he and Hardy were close and that they've talked during spring training." Stop snickering! Separation anxiety is no laughing matter.

  • Did I mention I don't care for Gregg Zaun?

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Predictions: 76-86 record. Team sells record 3.3 million tickets, sells record 23.4 million beers, and spends a record $59.25 million cleaning the ballpark bathrooms. Corey Hart gets traded to the Diamondbacks mid-season for a octabong to be named later. Trevor Hoffman saves 8 games and retires in August to pursue a career harassing John Smoltz via email.

3. (tie) Pittsburgh Pirates

The Good:

  • The patron saint of my heart: Andrew McCutchen. Sure, he lost the NL ROY award to Jesus freak Chris Coghlan but young Andrew's name will be on the backs of many a shirsey in Pittsburgh this summer. For good reason, too: he's got 30-30 potential and could just as easily fill the #3 slot in the lineup as he could lead off.

  • They've got three good young pitchers. Maybe they're all fourth starter quality on a contender, but Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, and Charlie Morton all possess the stuff to earn their keep and maybe, just maybe, turn the Pirates around in 2010. Don't sleep on Ross Ohlendorf, either. Seriously, don't sleep on him, the WoW office has a day bed if you're tired.

  • Rinku and Dinesh are quietly kicking ass, taking names.

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The Bad:

  • After McCutchen and power-bat Garrett Jones, the Pirates offense consists of cast-offs and question marks. Big things are/were forecast for Jeff Clement, Lastings Milledge, Jose Tabata, and Andy LaRoche, all former Top 100 Prospects. It's going to take a miracle for each of these gentlemen to get their act together simultaneously. But even if that gets delayed until 2011, it's not such a bad thing.

  • Their biggest offseason acquisition was Aki Iwamura. He's an above-average fielder and he'll slot in nicely to the second position in the batting order. But really, Pittsburgh is going to need marked improvements from members of their weak 2009 offense to contend.

  • There exists a myth among certain Pirates fans that ownership is purposely being non-competitive to save money. While the Pirates may have made some questionable moves in their not-too-distant past, there is no question that the current team management is making money-saving moves in order to build a contender from the bottom up, in the same model as the Rays. Yes, Pittsburgh cannot afford to hang with the Bostons and New Yorks and Los Angelesesses of the world, but they can afford to be smart and lock up young talent.

Predictions: 81-81 record. Team rejoices at the first non-losing season since Jim Leyland's butts littered the home dugout at Three Rivers. The Pirates final home date sells out in anticipation of possible .500 record, marking just the third sell out of the year (Opening Day and HEIST). Pirates sign Elijah Dukes next week, release him in May, and re-sign him in July only to trade him to the Mets for a PTBNL. Manager John Russell learns how to quilt.

3. (tie) Chicago Cubs

The Good:

  • Hey, Wrigley Field is a fun place to visit and drink! Sometimes they play baseball there, too.

  • Ryan Theriot has all the makings of a honest-to-goodness leadoff hitter. His OBP tumbled a bit to .343 last season but could easily bring that back up if he stops hacking at pitches outside the strike zone and gets his patience back. Walks good, strikeouts bad, Ryan.

  • Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and Ryan Dempster are a tidy trio of starters. They can strike batters out and could easily each win 15 games (if healthy). They're no Carpenter/Wainwright, but they're capable enough of pushing a team towards a Wild Card.

The Bad:

  • Carlos Silva might be the fifth starter. Give this man 90 innings in Wrigley Field and he might give up 30 home runs. Fella rarely walks a batter, but he also rarely strikes 'em out. Silva is a one true outcome kind of guy: homers, homers, and more homers.

  • Wow, is this offense getting old and crusty. First baseman Derrek Lee and the entire starting outfield are on the wrong side of 30, with Fontenot and Theriot one year away. Time is a bitch, and this group makes the typically elderly Red Sox look like a bunch of whippersnappers.

  • No manager is more on the verge of coronary failure than Lou Piniella. I'm not saying he'll have a heart attack in the dugout, but I'm not saying that he won't, either.

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Predictions: 81-81 record. Odd, isn't it? Were the Cubs and Pirates to both finish with a cousin-kissin' .500 record, we'd have two completely divergent opinions on the concept of a 50-50 split. In Pittsburgh, fans would finally feel a sense of accomplishment, having put an end to nearly two decades of losing. In Chicago, fans would riot knowing that nearly $150 million in payroll couldn't even produce a Wild Card contender, let alone a division winner. Quite the dichotomy, eh?

2. Cincinnati Reds

The Good:

  • Aroldis Chapman has a sinking two-seamer, a 102 MPH fastball, and a wicked good ropa vieja recipe that will make every Cincinnatian forget about Skyline chili. The Cuban emigre may not break camp with the Reds but the tall lefty could whiz through the minors and make his big league debut this year.

  • Joey Votto is the Canadian equivalent of Albert Pujols. He may not have all the bells and whistles but he comes with government-sponsored healthcare and his own hockey sweater. Fella missed 30 games last year due to depression and/or dizziness, which is sad. Let us project a full season of powerful contributions from Votto, because frankly, we like him.

  • Willy Taveras is gone, daddy, gone.

The Bad:

  • Unlike Votto, I am not going to project that the Reds will get a full season out of third baseman Scott Rolen. Probably because he's still trying to get through "The Jungle". Outside of Votto and Brandon Phillips, the Reds have little depth in the infield. Remember, they voluntarily employ Aaron Miles.

  • Edinson Volquez is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto are so young and dainty, I shudder to think of the kind of damage that could be wrought by mismanagement of these fellas. Poor Dusty gets a bad rap for hurting pitchers' arms; he wouldn't be able to do all that damage if he had some higher-ups putting innings limits/pitch count limits on them. Dusty's not a bad leader of men, he's just bad at strategy. You can mitigate the strategy part.
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Predictions: 83-79 record. Bronson Arroyo's band opens for Christopher Cross and UB40 at the Five Thirds Arena. Catchers Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez post identical .270/.338/.397 lines in exactly 352 plate appearances each and both change their name to Frank after the season ends. Reds build on their 2010 success by signing eleven free agents and then losing 100 games in 2011.

1. St. Louis Cardinals

The Good:

  • They are the 'haves' in a division bogged down with 'have-nots'. They have Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwight, Albert Pujols, and Matt Holliday, all of whom stand head and shoulders above any of their counterparts in the division.

  • Colby Rasmus will have a full season in center field to prove his worth. The youngster is ripe for a breakout year and hitting ahead of Pujols and Holliday in the lineup should help out his offense. Defensively, it's at least better than putting Rick Ankiel out there.

  • Tony La Russa is an evil genius. He may come off like a dithering Italian animal rights activist, but he's secretly calculating ways to double switch your ass back to the stone age. Plus c'mon, take a look at the rest of the managers in this division. La Russa would eat them for breakfast but they're not made of tofu.

The Bad:

  • It's almost a guarantee that they are going to trade Albert Pujols for Ryan Howard. I mean, it's a given at this point. The trade just makes too much sense to not pull the trigger. A slam dunk. Yep.

  • Offensive question marks at third base (David Freese) and shortstop (Brendan Ryan). Neither of these gents is going to win a Silver Slugger award, but Ryan is there for his glove and Freese is just a kid with a funny name.

Predictions: 92-70 record. A division title and a chance to win the National League pennant, which they don't. Pujols wins the MVP. Keith Law leaves Carpenter and Wainwright off his Cy Young ballot and causes the city council of St. Louis to publicly denounce home cooking and novels. Skip Schumaker hits five triples in one game and refuses to donate his spikes to the hall of fame, saying they are "forged by Satan" and "impossible to pry off his feet".

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Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, napping is not a valid excuse.

So uh, Happy St. Patrick's Day I guess. This is one of those holidays I stopped celebrating after college. Like Cinco De Mayo. But by all means, you go live it up. See you tomorrow, precious. Same WoW channel.

FREE RON WASHINGTON!

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News out of the Heyman Hole indicates that Rangers manager Ron Washington tested positive for cocaine in July 2009. He has been tested with increased frequency since then and has tested negative every time.

Interesting news, yes, but even more noteworthy is that team ownership did not fire him on the spot; they accepted his apology and retained him as manager of the improving team. Here's Ron explaining why he came clean (even if it was at the last possible moment):

Washington took the unusual step of calling the commissioner's office shortly after he was tested following the 2009 All-Star break to warn it that he might fail the test. Washington told the commissioner's office and his Rangers bosses about his cocaine use before the test results were known, and the team decided not to fire him after the test did come back positive.

"It was the right thing to do,'' Washington said of his decision to come forward. "I couldn't deal with the result to come back positive and be a shock to those who've shown faith in me.''

Some questions I'd like to be answered:

  • Does this explain why former drug addict Josh Hamilton wore that awesome Ron Washington tee last year?

  • Does this explain why Washington and notable straight-edge weirdo C.J. Wilson don't get along?

  • Which teams would have fired their manager had he tested positive for coke? Or tested positive for something worse?

  • Didn't George W. Bush sell the team years ago?

  • How will the reactionary Richard Justices and the Mike Lupicas of the world react to this news?

Most importantly, how long before a baseball blogger photoshops a trail of cocaine emerging from Washington's left nostril, in the style of that dweeb Perez Hilton?

I salute Mr. Washington for admitting his problems in an upfront manner and I salute the Rangers for keeping him as manager. Cocaine is a bad thing and you kids should just say no, yada yada, but let us not crucify a man for such a mistake.

killerwhale.gifAs animated gifs of people shooting whales or dolphins are hard to come by, we'll use a semi-regular wholphin to announce the curious news of Elijah Dukes receiving his unconditional release from the Washington Nationals.

The talented right fielder with a history of off-field problems was a shoe-in for the starting job in Capitol City this year. The temptation to label Dukes as "troubled" is easy and lazy, Dukes kept his nose clean for the better part of two years. Some truant legal fees and an odd incident involving a Little League appearance aside, Dukes played good baseball in between nagging injuries.

Nats manager Jim Riggleman swears up and down this was "strictly a baseball decision", though most of people around baseball lay in wait for the other shoe to drop. If Dukes was cut free for strictly baseball reasons, consider the decision "a very bad one" and move on.

Dukes has value as a cost-controlled outfielder with power and patience. Though his 2009 wasn't what the Nationals hoped out of the 25 year old, he projects well above average at worst at the plate and right around league average in the field. One would think a team like that Nats, fed up with the Dukes sideshow or convinced they can match his production somewhere else, would explore trade possibilities to shore up one of their many, many, many holes. Luckily for the fans of the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, and Schadenfreudes, the Nationals simply let him walk. For nothing.

The one upside to this move &mdash aside from some lucky club acquiring a very talented and potentially motivated ball player &mdash is the increased reps Adam Dunn might see in the outfield! Oh, the fun we'll have!

As you're well aware, Spring Training is still here and in full swing. This is especially true if you're a Braves fan as Jason Heyward has now probably hit your vehicle with a ball regardless of where you are in the state relative to him. A veritable flood of photos are starting to hit the wires as teams countdown towards opening day. I've undertaken this endeavor before on my other site, but my longing for real baseball that actually means something still abounds so I figured it's time to do it again with you fine folks to help pass the time.

Mike Scioscia seems concerned.

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Should Tony LaRussa be worried too?

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Word on the street is Timmy got ahold of some good stuff this past weekend.

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The Phillies teach their players proper classroom etiquette.

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He's not that easy to get rid of, Hanley.

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Because it had to have been an inside job. Really inside.

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How to make it in the Royals organization, a story in two parts...

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Meanwhile...

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Original images courtesy of Daylife. Make them yourself.

Tonight's Questions

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flamingobaby.jpg Hey kids, not it.

Finally a quick belated congrats to FoWoW and occasional contributor Brian MacPherson on his new gig as the Red Sox writer for the Providence Journal. Dude is incisive and forward thinking with his numbers. Great move for the Projo. That's it for us today, we'll see you tomorrow. You too, Flamingo Baby.

031610wow.peterose.kane.jpg That's right, folks, there are two baseball-related professional wrestling stories in the news, and I'm going to cover them both!

First off we have the news that Pete Rose will be the guest host for WWE Monday Night Raw on March 22. Hey, that's next Monday!

Pete Rose has done WWE/WWF shows before, as well as commercials! He was also a guest ring announcer at Wrestlemania XIV in Boston, where he told the crowd, "I had tickets for Bill Buckner, but he wasn't able to bend over to pick them up." He was then fictionally beaten up!

Expect a Cinema Varitek on this, as Rose will certainly be fictionally beaten up again by at least one wrestler. Maybe more, if we're lucky.

In other news, Bob Uecker will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame next week! He was the master of ceremonies for Wrestlemanias III (Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant) and IV (WWF Title Tournament), and apparently the WWE has been attempting to induct him for years, but there were always conflicts. William "The Refrigerator" Perry is also a WWE Hall of Famer, incidentally.

Uecker will, naturally, be inducted into the HOF by Dick Ebersol. Pete Rose is already a WWE Hall of Famer, because I think you get paid like 10 grand when you enter the WWE HOF.

And, what that, we end with video of Andre the Giant choking out Bob Uecker.

Amazing Uecker doesn't drop the microphone through all that.

Rob Jeter Hall.jpgMost general managers shouldn't really speak in public. No benefit comes from your team's GM popping off in the paper, be it in response to criticism or in support of the local star. Dan O'Dowd recently took it upon himself to praise his stud shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the only way our society knows: comparing him to Derek Jeter.

Most Jeter comparisons invariably rush to "intangibles" quicker than a base hit bouncing past Jeter's glove side, O'Dowd thinks Tulowitzki's "innate" leadership abilities class him as a "once-in-a-decade" player.

To be fair to O'Dowd, it's the Times headline that screams TULO = JETER IN THE MOUNTAINS, though the Rockies GM doesn't hesitate to play the small market card when comparing the two shortstops relative levels of fame.

If he played in New York or Boston or for the Cubs, he would be recognized right now as one of the best players in the game -- not young players, but players in the game

Or, had Tulowitzki not responded with a stinktastic sophomore season after bursting onto the national baseball stage in 2007, his five-tooled goodness would have a much higher profile. Once a decade? More like once every other year, amirite??

More troubling than Dan O'Dowd's eagerness to position Tulo as the new Face of Baseball is his tossed-off slam on the great Indians teams of the late nineties, teams O'Dowd helped build.

In Cleveland, we really never had that kind of a player; we had great players. And that's why we didn't win a World Series. I think that's why we fell short. We didn't have one straw that was stirring the drink, taking everybody to a different level.

At the risk of taking a baseball GM too literally, think about this for a second. Those great Indians teams featured some of the best players of their time, including the criminally underrated Kenny Lofton. But O'Dowd believes they failed to win the World Series because they lacked a leader? Didn't they lose the 1997 World Series to the Florida Marlins?

Gary Sheffield. Bobby Bonilla. Moises Alou. Kevin Brown. Who among this group of notorious pricks and mercenaries would qualify as the "straw that stirs the drink?" How could this team, with all the high-priced turnover from the previous year, classify as a cohesive unit with a common goal? They won a 7 game series because of talent and luck. The Indians reached the series and lost for the very same reasons. Leadership is nice to talk about in March with a guy from the New York Times, but really?

Motivating 25 guys every night for six months is tough, no doubt. But isn't it amazing how these mythical leadership qualities seem to grow and improve when surrounded by increasingly talent players? That must be the mark of real leadership: get players much better than you to perform to the true talent level. Then; watch the plaudits and playmates roll in.



Notable Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who was banned from Yankee Stadium because of some off-color remarks about the Jews, has made the expected move and turned over his bald dome and throaty voice to the Boston side. The man who looks like a potato soaked in beer sang his trademark "God Bless America" at the end of the annual South Boston political St Patrick's Day breakfast/wankfest and donned a Red Sox jersey at the behest of one of the hosts.

Will this mean that Tynan will show up for Opening Day in Fenway to sing his signature schmaltz during the seventh-inning stretch? Probably, but it's doubtful the team that cast him off will care. We've still got the disembodied voice of Kate Smith! She's far too dead to make anti-Semitic jokes (anymore)!

Speaking of the Irish, my favorite part about the St. Patrick's Day season is my annual corned beef and cabbage dinner. It's the one time each year I eat Irish food so I can be thankful that I'm Italian and that I have a far better cuisine to draw from over the remaining 364 days.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, your brain is a sponge and the internet is filthy dishwater.

Man, the season is approaching quickly. We better kick this thing into gear. Thanks for sticking with us through This Sleepy Winter Of Our Discontent. Shouts to our hilaripals over at 12 Angry Mascots for the Fernando Perez video. See you all tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

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Hey, did you hear the big news? The Phillies are trading their big slugger Ryan Howard back where he come from, sending him to his hometown of St. Louis in exchange for The Greatest Baseball Player of Our Time: Albert Pujols. Howard for Pujols? Sounds like a win-win-win situation! (the extra 'win' is for Big Ink, who are reaping the rewards for so many column inches wasted on this topic).

But nay, this is just a rumour, and we all know where rumours come from. That's right, exploded from the desk of Buster Olney or one of his chatty cohorts. At least Olney spells out the improbability of such a trade right up front in his ESPN.com piece:

It's the sort of thing that is much more likely to happen in fantasy baseball than in real life, but according to sources, an idea has been kicked around the Phillies' organization internally, with discussions about proposing a swap of slugger Ryan Howard for St. Louis superstar Albert Pujols.

It's not fully clear whether the Phillies actually have approached the Cardinals with the idea, and even if St. Louis were to seriously consider such an offer, executives with the Cardinals would have to swallow very hard before dealing Pujols, a player widely regarded as the best in the sport.

Oh, okay, we're just losing our friggin' minds talking about an idea that was kicked around the organization, not an actual TRADE THAT MIGHT HAPPEN COPYRIGHT BUSTER OLNEY. And Amaro denied that such a discussion has even happened, making this a BASEBALL NON-STORY THAT IMPELS A WALKOFF WALK LISTICLE COPYRIGHT LIAKOS AND IRACANE.

Without further adieu ado, here are several more ideas that have been kicked around the Phillies organization:

  • "What if we installed moving fences that slid in 200 feet when the Phillies are at bat."

  • "We should do a blind taste test between Papa John's and Dominos. Thin crust? Are you nuts?"

  • "Let's give the shortstop a mitt that is 10 feet wide."

  • "I should start dating a movie star."

  • "We can save money if we only get the Phanatic costume dry-cleaned twice a year instead of monthly."

  • "Five simple words: osso buco on a stick. We'll revolutionize concessions!"

  • "It's not too late to get back Feliz and Myers from Eddie Wade. Or Bourn. Or Geary. Or Coste and Michaels. Or my stack of Sinatra 45s."

  • "Hey remember when everyone said we'd have flying car... wait where are you all going? I've got other pop culture jokes!"

  • "Let's write a new clause into Cole Hamels contract that forbids him from being photographed in bed for money."

Well, not all the ideas being bounced around the think tank in Clearwater are necessarily bad ones.

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When we were last talking about baseball video games on this here site, the general tone of several worthwhile comments demonstrated malaise with a hint of ambivalence towards the current offerings available to folks who adore America's pastime. A few weeks ago, I couldn't have agreed more. The last baseball video game I bought was MLB 2K7, due to the wholly underwhelming reviews that dominated the subsequent releases in the 2K franchise and the fact that I didn't own a PS3, and thus, couldn't play The Show. After jettisoning my 360 onto a willing friend, I found myself owning a PS3 and wanting to get back into the baseball video game market. Of course, I gravitated towards the series that I had never played before, and bought the game featured in the title of this post. I have not been disappointed in my brief experiences over the course of four days. This game is nothing short of amazing.

Others have spoken about the ridiculous graphics that this game offers, so I won't try to elaborate on their musings, save to remark that they are absolutely right; the game, from the menus to the actual gameplay itself, is visually impeccable. If you need further confirmation, just got check out some of the videos of gameplay on Youtube. Rather, I'd like to deal with what I feel really, truly sets this game apart.

Immersion Is Your Friend (But Also A Very Cruel Mistress)

To put it plainly: this game is hard, folks, and that's what makes it awesome. Based on a very limited first impression, I'm fairly certain you can toss out the undefeated-with-a-guy-who-hits-95-HR-season that you often get in other video games. This game has no qualms about treating you like an unruly spouse at times, but if you can get past the frustration, you'll find the successes in the game that much more rewarding. Huh, that's almost strangely like real-life baseball! Spooky.

This is the game's strong point: it's unbridled ability to have you, the player, wholly invested in what's going on in the virtual game via a remarkable attention to detail that can be traced all the way back to the game's development. The pitching meter, pictured below via my hilariously inadequate attempt to attain a screengrab by taking a snapshot of the TV with my cellphone, is no small potatoes. Like a real pitcher's delivery, it is incredibly sensitive to timing. Miss the ideal yellow sliver (not pictured, but trust me, it's tiny, check out the videos above) and you'll miss your target. Sometimes you'll get away with this, other times you'll throw a ball... or your opponent will punish your mistake without remorse. The emphasis on timing is equally true for hitting, although the game does constantly offer feedback on your swings to tell you what you're doing wrong. I was flat out terrible at hitting in my first few games. What'd I do? I went to take BP off virtual Roy Halladay until I got better, of course. "Art" mimicking life? Just a tad.

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Mastering the pitching meter doesn't guarantee success. No sir. Not when the umpires decide to constrict the strike zone, which they seem to do with reckless abandon. Why the virtual umps feel the need to be such cruel mistresses is like my right hand on a Friday night, it beats the fuck out of me. But you will know what it's like to be a major league pitcher getting squeezed by an umpire. Guess what! It's totally frustrating! And damnit all if the game is making me care! I've leaped out of my chair slinging profanities at an AI ump that doesn't even know who I am... and that's when I realized that this game has accomplished something, and it's done so in a fun, challenging way. Well played, Sony.

Update! My Photoshop started functioning properly again. Thus, I was able to add the Walkoff Walk Seal (and some other friends) so you know it's official!

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You can take your Nomar tributes and stick 'em where the sun don't shine, Red Sox fans. Other, more interesting people are retiring, too. Former Indians, Pirates, and Padres outfielder Brian Giles has called it a career after failing to impress the Dodgers or make his balky knee work right in Spring Training. Giles leaves the game with a career OBP of .400, good enough for 59th place all-time.

Giles' poor 2009 outing (.191/.277/.271 in 61 games) is fresh in our memories but let us not forget his 137 OPS+ at the age of 37 just the year before. Sometimes when 'old man skills' show up, they don't gradually ease their way in. In Giles' case, they burst right through the bar door and beat the productive career right out of him.

Fella is hanging up his hat after 15 years of making highlight-worthy catches, drawing walks by the boatload, and devoting countless hours to personal care. From his 2002 ESPN the Magazine interview with Dan Patrick:

DP: Best tan in baseball.

BG: Me or Jason Kendall. He's started on my tanning program. In fact, we just got back from the salon. We got our tips frosted, then we went for a couple of rounds in the tanning bed.

DP: I can just picture it.

BG: Don't knock it. We have a lot of fun. Our big thing is, after they get the foil in our hair for the frost, we sit under the dryers and gab.

DP: Like old ladies?

BG: Sure. Cracks us up.

One other tidbit from that interview: Giles mentions that his ideal post-career job would be either 'chef' or 'meteorologist'. Good choices, indeed, but I wouldn't be surprised if MTV announces in the coming weeks that Brian was joining the next season of "Jersey Shore".

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Sadly, this is not an open call for all beloved readers and lurkers of Walkoff Walk to join in the WoW league fun. The head honcho keeps a tight rap on all the fantasy comings and goings in order to maximize his cheating collusive competitive advantage.

As always, it is important to take a holistic look at your fantasy baseball experience. Chances are you simply aren't going to win anything this or any other year. If you're playing fantasy baseball for real money, chances are you're a degenerate with precious little keeping you from loitering in airports wagering on arrivals. The point is, fantasy baseball is supposed to be fun. So is Walkoff Walk, despite our occasional self-seriousness and absenteeism. In that spirit, allow me to present a few tips for making your fantasy draft strategy and experience a little more shrimp-friendly.

  • Whatever you do, don't draft a Met. Not only is showing mercy or affection to any or all New York Mets anathema to the Walkoff Walk ethos, it isn't sound fantasy baseball strategy. What good is first round pick whose joints and tendons could spontaneously combust at any time? Sure, picking up a five tool center fielder seems like sound strategy, but the egg will be on your face when he's sucked into the intake a passing jetliner.

  • Be mindful of players switching leagues. Let us not understate the impact of moving from the American to National league and vice versa. While so-called experts will point to the difference in ballparks, the DH rule, and artificial turf as key factors, the bigger issue is the change in scenery. Jake Peavy swapped multiple jaunts up the Pacific Coast highway for 9 nights a year in Minneapolis. In baseball parlance, that's known as a fate worse than death. Javy Lopez may have dominated in Atlanta, but how will he fare after 3 or 4 good cavity searches at the Canadian border? Don't think the RCMP forgot about "The Incident" in Montreal, I know that girls rugby team certainly hasn't.

  • Douche Will Be Served. Cheering for undesirables is a major part of fantasy sports. The mental aerobics and circular justifications can be exhausting. "So long as Roy Halladay pitches a complete game, giving up 2 unearned runs and Chase Utley hits a solo shot with three walks against my home team, I'm cool." It's ugly. This also applies to rooting for wholly unlikable goofs like Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, or any player under the employ of one Mike Scioscia. They're necessary evils, part of the social Roto contract. Make your peace during the draft process, lest you spend the summer admiring how nice a guy Jason Bay must be after 15 strikeouts in 2 games.

  • Prey on the predictable weakness of others. Know which end of the fanboy scale your fellow poolies lie. You know the Southern gentleman in your midst is going to draft Brian McCann in the second round, so plan around it. The Canadian guy is going for Halladay three rounds too soon, the guy that types in all caps without the petty intrusion of punctuation has his sights firmly set on any and all Red Sox. You can exploit these market inefficiencies to your benefit, freeing up some draft equity for a two-round-reach for "guy from your hometown" or "guy who said that one awesome thing that one time."

  • Come prepared for the draft. Prepping for the draft is key. Read your magazines, buy your fancy draft kits, or pre-rank your players, of course. However, the draft is likely the only time all the members of your pool will be in the same place at the same time. So ready your barbs and daggers, your memes and screenshots. Between 12 and 20 people stand poised to rush to the same joke as you at any time, don't hesitate to get it out there as quickly as possible. Feel free to jump all over the fatalistic manager who renounces his/her team in the fifth round. Applaud good picks so long as it serves your master plan to steal every juicy prospect porn item three rounds later. Should you lose out on a long-term target two picks before your turn, it is fully acceptable to weep on your keyboard and pick the first available name out of sheer frustration.

Go forth and dominate, friends. Draft your team, set your lineup, and then promptly ignore your team for the remainder of the season. One of two things will happen: you'll have drafted an unstoppable juggernaut or 60% of your team will find themselves in Dr. Andrews' waiting room. Precious little is within your control! Enjoy!


Tosh.0
Web Redemption - Phillies Fan
www.comedycentral.com
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Last night on the Comedy Central "let's collect hilarious clips from the web and make snarky comments about them" show Tosh.0, comedian and host Daniel Tosh presented a video clip featuring that little Phillies fan who threw back her dad's foul ball. It's part of an ongoing series called "Web Redemption" in which Tosh and his people give the stars of infamous web videos a chance to make up for their embarrassing missteps.

Maybe one day, Tosh will have me on the show to redeem myself for a humiliating Bon Jovi karaoke video. Maybe.

Mike Schmidt's Keys to Susan Dey

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In addition to Larry "Bud" Melman, another early sidekick of David Letterman was Michael Jack Schmidt.

Thanks Chrissmari for looking up Susan Dey videos on YouTube and finding this. The full clip, if you're interested.

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The New York Daily News' Jesse Spector recently interviewed Nick Punto, and got a pretty awesome answer to one question:

What is one product that you would like to do a TV commercial for?

Nick Punto: A product... I don't know. I would... that's a tough one, man. Can I get some help?

TB: Sure.

NP: Matty! What product would you like me to do a commercial for?

Brian Duensing: Extenze.

NP: Extenze.

You think this is the only Extenze (sorry, "ExtenZe") reference in professional sports? Please. Kevin Conway drives the #37 ExtenZe car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

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True, the Corey Haim Watch doesn't evoke the same wistful memories as the Corey Patterson Watch, but that doesn't mean we can't re-run the above photo in a timely manner. Corey Haim dead at 38.



To a Cubs fan, hearing Harry Caray's voice evokes memories of summertime baseball, not unlike Marcel Proust eating a Madeleine and remembering that he left the oven on back en sa cuisine. To any baseball fan, actually, hearing the disembodied voice of the late Harry Caray stimulates all our senses: we can already feel the warm breeze in the ballparks, smell the peanuts roasting in the concourse, and taste the hot dogs.

Well, maybe the reason I can taste the hot dog is that I ate one on Saturday and it's still repeating on me. But you get the idea. Baseball's on its way!

(We owe French pastry to 'Duk and waxpaperbeercup.)

That's Why They Play The Games: 2010 AL Central

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Oscar season is officially over, which it means it's finally time for us to turn our gaze towards the Walkoff Walk annual divisional previews. Do yourself a favor and look back at 2008 and 2009's versions for a chance to wander down the hallways of silly predictions and hack jokemaking.

Previously, Rob checked out the exciting National League West. Today, we flip back to the AL to run down the flyover states where people eat a lot of potatoes.

Even if you were in a coma for the whole 2009 season, (I'm looking at you, BJ Upton) last year's AL Central standings has an anomaly that's impossible to overlook. The Twins and Tigers played 163 games. And that only happened after the Tigers blew a 7 game lead in the final month of the season. The champion Twins pretty much stood pat, using their offseason to lock up Joe Mauer and Nick Blackburn, while the White Sox and Tigers did some significant dealing. And the Royals got Rick Ankiel. At least Indians fans are optimistic! Even more so than last year when Rob picked them to win the division. To the picks!

5. Kansas City Royals

The Good:

  • Reigning AL Cy Young winner and most popular player in baseball Zach Greinke is geared up for another big season, the second of a five year deal. Despite a down year in 2009, #2 starter Gil Meche has done a mostly admirable job in KC.

  • Billy Butler lived up to some expectations last season and is as legitimate a run producer as other more highly touted divisional infielders like Justin Morneau or Miguel Cabrera.

  • Joakim Soria.

  • Despite being something of a major league reclamation project for '07 and '08, Scott Podsednik actually represents an upgrade at leadoff over last season's injury necessitated twosome of Coco Crisp and Willie Bloomquist. Wait, maybe this should be in the bad column.

The Bad:

  • Rick Ankiel fell off an offensive cliff last year and is projected to hit 2nd. Alex Gordon spent most of last year injured and is starting this season off with a broken thumb. Couple that with Jose Guillen still getting a huge share of the at bats in the 5 spot and it's hard to see where any production outside of Butler is going to come from.

  • Infield defense.

  • Brian Bannister is now coming off of two disappointing seasons and along with the underwhelming Ho Shaver and Kyle Davies round out the staff. Not enough arms.

Predictions: 60-102 record, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes remake "Love Lift Us Up" as "Back In The Basement Where We Belong." It becomes the 7th inning Jam O' the Year at Kauffman.

4. Cleveland Indians

The Good:

  • Coming off of career years, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin Soo Choo fit nicely with Grady "Teacup" Sizemore at the top of the order.

  • Indians people are chomping at the bit to get Matt LaPorta some at bats. He's a Florida alum, I am rooting for abject failure, but by all accounts he's a natural hitter and decent fielder so I'm probably out of luck.

  • Kerry Wood entering his 3rd season as a viable major league closer. He's averaged over 10/K per game since moving to the back end.

The Bad:

  • Eesh, that rotation. Westbrook, Carmona, Masterson, Laffey and something named Mitch Talbot. At least Westbrook is in the last year of a terrible contract.

  • Travis Hafner nee Travis Hafner is shouldering the burden for a full season in the cleanup spot. He showed flashes of his old self in limited AB last season, but how much has he really lost? This actually belongs somewhere between the good and bad.

Predictions: 69-93 record, Hot prospect catcher "Lou Marson" turns out to be an 82 year old nymphomaniac chainsmoking woman.

3. Chicago White Sox

The Good:

  • Jake Peavy is on the Southside. What seems like it was a 25 year struggle for the Good Ol' Boy to escape from San Diego lands him as the 1a starter with Mark Beurhle. Formidable top of the rotation.

  • A full season from 2B Gordon Beckham should produce some big numbers at the plate.

The Bad:

  • Too much riding on Alex Rios and Juan Pierre both in the outfield and in the top half of the order. Rios's had a .296 OBP in 2009 and Pierre had a feel good season in LA but getting an entire's season of ABs in the leadoff spot could make Chicago fans forget that quickly.

  • Defense up the middle from from Beckham and Alexei Ramirez is error prone and not all that rangey.

  • Carlos Quentin is now one and a third injury riddled seasons removed from proving that his MVPish season in '08 was no fluke.

Predictions: 77-85 record, Ozzie Guillen leaves his wife and moves in with his mistress, a 450 pound lion. Gavin Floyd buys a pogo stick.

2. Minnesota Twins

The Good:

  • Boy, that Joe Mauer aint too shabby. Morneau, Kubel and Cuddyer also have their moments. We have yet to know anything about park factor at Target Field, but a nearly identical lineup produced the most runs in the division last year and 4th overall in the AL.

  • Francisco Liriano is healthy and out of minor league options. 200 innings out of him could significantly boost this rotation.

  • Ron Gardenhire looks like this.

The Bad:

  • Baker, Pavano, and Slowey all gave up around 10 hits per game last year. This doesn't bode well for new 2B Orlando Hudson.

  • Joe Nathan is hurt!

  • Without a significant contribution from Liriano that puts 50's country star Glen Perkins back in the rotation. Not optimal.

Predictions: 82-80 record, JJ Hardy cries himself to sleep each night because he misses the tropical climate of Milwaukee, Delmon Young puts out a record of droney shoegaze on Drag City.

1. Detroit Tigers

The Good:

  • You'll notice that the Tigers are the only team in the division that didn't land in the bottom five of last year's UZR ratings (The Royals were 30th, the Twins 28th, the White Sox 27th, and the Indians 26th). The Tigers were 5th and that ranking wouldn't have suffered dramatically without Curtis Granderson's 1.6.

  • Granderson's replacement in CF, Austin Jackson, has tremendous potential and along with 2B Scott Sizemore could make up the best rookie tandem in the league.
  • Verlander is a near ace, Rick Porcello is emerging as one and with the young Max Scherzer on board, there is enough upside (shoot me) to this rotation to potentially smooth over the bad old times of last year's Dontrelle Willis debacle, and non-seasons from Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson.

  • There are still plenty of home runs in the dusty old bats of Damon, Guillen, and Cabrera (who isn't even old). And possibly Tilde.

The Bad:

  • Robertson and Bonderman are penciled into the rotation again. Drastic improvement is needed.

  • A long losing streak, a wave of tough injuries or other varied misfortunes could really send Smilin' Jim Leyland packing for retirement midseason. After last year's collapse I imagine his last working, coffee colored nerve to be near extinction.

Predictions: 84-78 record, Gerald Laird takes his pants off in the DMV claiming that his vision is fine but his butt needs glasses.

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Park factors. We all have a general idea of what they are and why they're important. For Padres' fans it explains why their team sees almost no offensive production via the long ball. For Mariners' fans it's an occasion to celebrate the acquisition of Cliff Lee and his minuscule HR/FB ratio. For Mets fans, always looking to blame something, it's the reason why David Wright only hit 10 HRs. But for a lot of people, this is where the analysis stops, and park factors simply become this weird, intangible force that exists without a greater understanding. Worst of all, they can be used as a quick and dirty way to write off legitimate performance on the part of some players: "Oh, Ryan Howard only hits a lot of taters because he gets to play in that bandbox in Philly." False.

As the baseball world embraces more advanced measures of ability, statements like these should raise a few more eyebrows than in years past. Yes, Citizens' Bank Park is tiny, and yes, it does undoubtedly allow a few more HR because of this fact, but to denigrate performance simply based on this general set of circumstances is more of a jumping to a conclusion than an actual substantive claim. Well, fear not, because the advent of hit tracking may be taking a lot of the uncertainty out of statements like these. And we're all going to be better off for it. Come with me after the jump to see a great example.

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Nice job Photoshopping a Seattle Mariners jersey on to Cliff Lee, Topps. I didn't know the Seattle Mariners would be honoring Harry Kalas this year with a patch on their jerseys like the Phillies did last year!

Okay, I'm actually impressed with the Photoshop job putting Lee in the Mariners jersey. And this has nothing to do with Topps' exclusive deal with MLB. But, whatever, who expects me to write a post about Topps and not mention that?

Thanks, Uni Watch and Kieran Kelly

Joe DiMaggio's Dugout - 1950

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Well this Classic TV Friday had me enthralled for the full 13 minutes, even if I had to look at Phil Rizzuto for some of it. "Joe DiMaggio's Dugout" ran for one season on NBC in 1950. Joe quizzed kids on baseball and gave playing tips while the show made liberal use of the relatively new technology of slow motion. Don't let the long run time on the video turn you off. I can't think of a better way to ease back into the season than to watch stuff like this.

I'm a huge fan of Steve, the kid with the glasses all the way to the right. Go Steve. Go.

Professional baseball players get hungry, too, and when they're at their home away from home each spring, they tend to switch from a clubhouse 'gatherer' to a vittles 'hunter'. Some find a single restaurant and stick to it unfailingly for weeks. Others wander the grocery store aisles stalking protein bars. Join me now as we examine the peculiar species as it roams the deserts of Arizona and the swamplands of Florida, sending out 140-charactered electronic dispatches in search of its next meal:

Mark Teahen (or his dog, I'm still not sure who is supposed to be writing these tweets) is pissed that someone ran over his old lady's foot at the Piggly Wiggly. Seriously though, a size 11? You know what they say about chicks with big feet.



Chris Coghlan cares not for your neighborhood rules and regulations. If he wants to char some meats with his Jesus freak friends, he'll do it, consarnit! (Oddly enough, Chris neglected to use multiple exclamation marks in this Tweet)



Either Matt Antonelli's per diem can't cover a $9 burrito on a regular basis or his insides are rejecting the hellish nightmare a constant barrage of pork shoulder, spicy salsa, and pinto beans brings. I guess I just feel bad for Matt's roommate.



Australian import Ryan Rowland-Smith isn't one of those Crocodile Dundee Aussies who sells out and does the whole "that's not a knife" game. Nope, he's more like one of those self-hating Aussies like Heath Ledger that hides his shame behind either hard drugs or a Bloomin' Onion.



Brad Ziegler is either a man after a quality hamburger or trying to get on the board in the Colonel's Scarfing Scribe contest. As an aside, is there any worse compound word in the English language than "lunchmeat"? Can't we all just agree to call them "cold cuts"?



Hippie doofus C.J. Wilson refuses to put any of that processed garbage in his body, maaaaaannnn. No sir, he'll shop at the local crunchy health food store, waste his hard-earned dough, and buy 100% completely natural garbage. Then he'll insult the rest of the clientele. Because he is a horse's patoot.



Either John Baker is referring to Leftovers Cafe, a popular dirty spoon joint in Jupiter, Fla or he's following in the footsteps of Bruce Bochy Bud Black and is embracing the freegan movement.



I don't know who Angels pitcher Rich Thompson is but he seems to enjoy hoagies and grinders made by a former teen tennis sensation. I wonder if that sub shop substitutes oregano with marijuana.



Manic manager Ozzie Guillen has a much more fancy palate than these young, inexperienced, boring ballplayers. When Ozzie's stuck in the middle of a desert for three weeks, he'll do the only thing that makes sense: track down some raw fish.



Lol yessss, indeed.

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Above: Jayson Werth's beard (attached to Jayson Werth), Nick Swisher (from How I Met Your Mother) and autograph-seekin' Rob Iracane (from Walkoff Walk).

Hey, baseball's back! Well, okay, not really. It's just spring training, but Roy Halladay and C.C. Sabathia will be squaring off to start the game! This is a legit World Series preview, people, and so I've decided to liveblog it today instead of running errands or working or whatever.

Join me after the jump for liveblog goodness at 1 p.m.!

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Spring training games are officially underway, which it means it's time for our annual divisional previews. Feel free to look back at 2008 and 2009 to reminisce about bad predictions and worse jokes, and to determine how little you should trust us.

Previously, Kris looked at the American League West. Today, we flop leagues and check out the Senior Circuit.

The National League West forgives you if you have trouble remembering their last World Series win. Since the Wild Card era began in 1995, the NL West has produced just one champ, the 2001 Diamondbacks, and three other pennant winners.

In fact, if you look at the three California teams in the NL, they've produced only five World Series winners since West Coast baseball started in 1957: all by the Dodgers. So much for manifest destiny. But there's one thing this division does well: win Wild Cards. Three of the last four NL Wild Card teams have emerged from the West, partly due to the Rockies late season successes and partly because of the Mets inability to win September games.

What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. On with the irrational predictions!

5. San Diego Padres

The Good:

  • They won't give up too many tater tots at home. Petco has ranked near the very bottom among ballparks when it comes to runs scored for its entire existence and only once (in 2006) did the park not come up at the bottom for homers hit. It's the ultimate pitchers park, and possibly part of the reason Jon Garland took a one year deal to be a Padre.

  • They can close out wins. Shutdown closer Heath Bell is full of strikeouts and, again, he won't be giving up the home runs at home. Fella is real telegenic and will do yeoman's work to save 40 wins for a team not expected to win 80. Plus, Heath is a real snappy dresser:

    heathbellpants.jpg

The Bad:

  • They probably won't hit too many tater tots at home either. Sure, the Padres can pencil power hitters Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks into the lineup every day (at least until Gonzalez gets traded) but no one else in that lineup strikes fear into the hearts of men. Well, maybe professional pinch hitter and newly slimmed-down Matt Stairs, but still: this team employs David Eckstein.

  • The Petco outfield needs athletic outfielders. With a 295-lb Kyle Blanks slated to be the Opening Day left fielder, the Padres are sacrificing range for the dude's big bat. In an ideal world, Blanks would play first base but that won't happen until Gonzalez gets traded. Perhaps the Padres best fielder is Scott Hairston but he's going to spend too many days trying to pry that World Series ring out of his brother Jerry Junior's grasp.

  • Yorvit! (whose name must always be accompanied with the exclamation mark) is simply too fabulous to be a backup catcher.

Predictions: 69-93 record. Gonzalez gets traded to the Cubs in June for Derrek Lee, twenty-five prospects and Ron Santo's therapist. Manager Bruce Bochy Bud Black leaves the team in mid-May to open an organic freegan bistro in Salinas that serves table scraps gathered from local Panera dumpsters. Tony Gwynn Jr. changes name to Tone Gwynne.

3. (tie) San Francisco Giants

The Good:

  • Oh that starting rotation! Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain head up a five-headed monster that would make Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale shit terra cotta pots. Despite the heady contract tied around Barry Zito's tattooed neck, he's actually not bad. Fourth starter Jonathan Sanchez threw a consarned no-hitter last year. And if it's in the tea leaves, stud pitcher Madison "Bum-Bum" Bumgarner will enter the rotation sometime this spring to turn heads and make pitching starved teams do a wolf whistle.

  • There is going to be a mini-Walkoff Walk Heist at AT&T Park this summer. It's a proven fact: the home team never loses during Walkoff Walk Heists.

  • Pablo Sandoval may improve his on-base percentage to match up with his ability to collect extra base hits. Unfortunately, the OBP increase will mainly derive from the opposing pitchers' desire to pitch around Kung Fu Panda. Because...

The Bad:

  • The Giants have no offense of which to speak. Their lineup stinks, and its old, and its overpaid, and it makes Wilie Mays cry to think that this team will struggle to score 600 runs in 2010. You cannot build a proper MLB team using spare parts like Aubrey Huff, Mark Derosa, and Freddy Sanchez, while re-signing Bengie Molina to block Buster Posey. There is literally nothing of value in this lineup, and it pains me to call an offense that scored just 657 runs in 2009 "worsening".

  • Brian Wilson is really, really, really, ridiculously hungry.

  • Tim Lincecum, like every human ever, looks ridiculous in a Snuggie:

    lincecumsnuggie.jpg

Predictions: 81-81 record. General manager Brian Sabean considers his off-season moves to be dramatically great successes and dubs himself Crown Prince of San Mateo County, only to lose the title on a technicality when Eugenio Velez produces the proper documentation. Lincecum wins third straight Cy Young Award despite amassing a 11-12 record thanks to a record low 1.08 runs of support per game. Barry Zito abides.

3. (tie) Los Angeles Dodgers

The Good:

  • Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are studs. Entering his age 25 season, Kemp has the potential to knock 30 homers and steal 30 bases, and maybe even snag some MVP support. That is, unless Ethier hogs it all with his walkoff magic: fella hit four walkoff home runs in 2009 and six walkoff hits overall. Pick up the walkoff walk in 2010 and we'll send you a cooler full of Maine shrimp, Andre.

  • Russell Martin will probably not wear his mother's name on the back of his jersey this year. If the Canuck catcher can rebound his OPS+ over 100 again, the Dodgers will reap the benefits of having an above average hitter at every position. Except second base, because Ronnie Belliard is a bum.

  • Manny Ramirez is nothing if he's not a constant source of entertainment. Sum Poosie, indeed.

The Bad:

  • They didn't get make a big splash in the free agent market. Past Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, their starting rotation is sketchy at best: Vicente Padilla doesn't exactly inspire anything except a shrug for a team with lofty annual expectations. Dodgers Stadium may be a pitchers park, but it ain't no Petco.

  • They won't have Juan Pierre to push around anymore. If, by some bizarre twist of fate, Manny Ramirez joins the circus and can no longer play left, the Dodgers must choose from a pool of Reed Johnson, Xavier Paul, and newly signed Garret Anderson to fill his shoes. Yes, this is a huge if, but would you really be that surprised if Manny joined the circus?

  • The team can't hit the postgame buffet spread until Tommy Lasorda has sampled all the food. And then has had seconds. And then has made inappropriate comments about the waitress.

    lasordachef.jpg

Predictions: 81-81 record. The Germans invent a word to describe the feeling one gets when one's favorite team and most hated rival finish tied with a perfectly mediocre .500 record. Reed Johnson plays all nine positions in a late September game, then manages the eighth inning after Joe Torre gets ejected, then sells peanuts in the ninth to earn some extra dough to cover his Webkinz habit. Jonathan Broxton changes his last name to Papelbroxton.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Good:

  • New rotation acquisition Edwin Jackson eats innings well enough to allow his former manager Jim Leyland to take a break:

    "Leyland joked with (D-Backs manager A.J.) Hinch that he can insert Jackson into the rotation, go have a smoke and return six or seven innings later."

    Can you blame him? Leyland needed all the relaxation he could get with that horrid Tigers bullpen under his command. Hinch also has Will Carroll's favorite Cy Young candidate Danny Haren and shell of his former self Brandon Webb at his disposal. If the D-Backs catch a break and Ian Kennedy pans out, they've got something.

  • Justin Upton is ready to break out. Expect 30 homers, 100 RBI, and some top of the lineup fun from a dude who won't even turn 23 until August. Put three-true-outcomes guy Mark Reynolds behind him and you'd expect Upton will feast on fastballs.

  • Chad Qualls is a worthwhile closer, but the reliever whose poster we all want to hang in our bedrooms is Clay Zavada. Maintain that moustache, sir, and you'll strikeout batters with your swagger alone.

The Bad:

  • We still have no idea who A.J. Hinch is. I'm almost convinced he doesn't really exist and is merely a hologram projected onto the field by a devious Josh Byrnes. Either that or it's Eric Byrnes in disguise. There's gotta be a Byrnes behind it.

  • They imported an underperforming infield duo from the Braves. First baseman Adam La Roche had a decent 2009 but second baseman Kelly Johnson looks to rebound from disappointing season in Atlanta. Can't blame him, really. You'd have a disappointing season, too, if you just realized you had a girl's name.

  • Brandon Webb may never get his sinkerball back. Fella had shoulder surgery last summer to clean out his rotator cuff and labrum; I'm no Doctor Andrews but that doesn't sound like a pleasant experience to me. One time I saw one of them medical shows on Discovery Health where they scoped out some dude's knee and I passed out for three hours only to wake up in my bathtub missing a kidney. True story.

Predictions: 84-78 record. Team enters September in first place with an 84-55 record and then loses 23 straight games to close out the season. Nobody in Arizona notices. Augie Ojeda and Tony Abreu become the first pair of teammates to get married. Nobody in Arizona notices.

1. Colorado Rockies

The Good:

  • Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez want to set your table. Both of these dudes could score 100 runs batting in front of Todd Helton and a resurgent Troy Tulowitzki. If Fowler and CarGon can both maintain an OBP of .350 or better, my basic knowledge of probability tells me that Todd Helton will have approximately 957 plate appearances with men in scoring position this season, and should get at least 839 RBI.

  • Chris Iannetta, the pride of Providence, Rhode Island, emerges as the best hitting catcher in the National League. You simply cannot go wrong with an Italian-American dude whose last name starts with the letter "I".

  • The Rockies need two things to win games in Coors Field: a good-fielding outfield and pitchers who can strike dudes out. Jorge de la Rosa and Ubaldo Jimenez can handle the strikeouts. If they keep their walk and homer totals down, they can be the best one-two punch in the division. The bullpen, led by Huston Street, will also strike out many gentlemen.

The Bad:

  • Other starters Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook cannot strike dudes out. They'll need to count on inducing groundballs, a skill that asks a great deal from the infielders behind 'em, and also a bit of luck.

  • Jim Tracy is a bum. This is his team now and he won't have the honeymoon period of an interim manager to fall back on in 2010. Roxtober is a cute idea, but if one's team is foundering in late May, there are no kitschy words to save one's job.

  • Brad Hawpe couldn't field his way out of a soggy paper grocery bag. Remember this familiar sight at the NLDS last year? Brad Hawpe mishandled more balls than an arthritic hooker in that series against the Phillies; in a yooge ballpark like Coors Field, you simply cannot afford to have such a liability game after game. But hey, fella's got a bat and that's why Baby Jesus invented the late inning defensive replacement.

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Predictions: 89-73 record. A hideous purple and black NL West Division Title banner to hang from the upper deck in Coors. Team gets swept 3-0 in the NLDS. Troy Tulowitzki finishes second in the MVP voting. Clint Barmes nearly executes the unassisted triple play but gets distracted when an adorable puppy dog runs on the field.

mr.belding.night.wow.jpg The Reading Phillies have unveiled their Top 10 Promotions of 2010, and one of them is a karaoke night with Mr. Belding. Sorry, I just had to get right to it. Actually, Meech spotted this first, but flagged the Ryan Howard garden gnome (August 3) as his lead. That's pretty good, but Mr. Belding is the one who will get all the real Internet traffic. Quoting the R-Phils' website:

Dennis Haskins, better known and loved by fans as Mr. Belding, will be on hand for a special Mr. Belding Schools Out Teacher night on Wednesday, June 23. The lovable principal on one of television's most popular teen shows ever, Saved By The Bell, will treat fans that enter through the turnstiles for the 7:05 p.m. game against the Bowie Baysox, to an event like no other. Fans will have the chance to meet Mr. Belding during an autograph session, presented by Berks Technical Institute, and will even have the opportunity to hear Mr. Belding sing karaoke, during a pre-game karaoke party beginning at 5:00, presented by Rock Hits Y102.

Did you catch that? There is a school advertising itself with the principal1 from Saved by the Bell. Also, yes, you can hear Dennis Haskins sing karaoke. I'm not quite sure what the draw of that is. Karaoke is mostly fun when you sing yourself2, not when you get to watch celebrities ("celebrities") doing it. Unless Mr. Belding is going to sing "Friends Forever" by Zack Attack.

It's not all garden gnomes and 59-year-old actors in Reading this year. April 23 is Jerry "The King" Lawler night; fans over 21 get a Pabst commemorative cup of the pro wrestler. There are also several beer tasting nights, multiple insane-sounding Mascot Band Pre-Game Concerts, 26 nights of fireworks, all-you-can-eat Gluttony Nights, something called "'Yo Pimp My Ride' Clunker Car Give-Aways", a chance to meet Clifford the Big Red Dog, two nights for Deadheads, Food Allergy Awareness Peanut Free Night and probably 40 other kinda funny things I skimmed over.

I dunno. I kinda think I could go to the Reading Phillies every night this year.

1 I think there's an episode where Mr. Belding reminds Zack that "the principal is always your P-A-L." Only it's not a mnemonic device, it's a legit attempt at a poignant moment. If this episode didn't exist, it should, so I'm really not wrong.
2 I tend to rap, usually "Regulate" or "Lose Yourself," though I'm working on Ludacris' "Stand Up." One time I made my then-girlfriend's ears bleed with a rendition of Lisa Loeb's "Stay."

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If there is one idea that defines "New Media" more than any other, it's that news can be a two way street. Hey, you're not just a reader, you're a part of the story. On any major media site you can bear witness to the higher intellectual plane to which New Media has helped us to ascend. It seems like the more popular the publication, the higher the level of discourse. The more "blue collar" the site, the more insightful the voice of Joe The Whatever becomes. It's almost like to really understand a story you should skip it entirely and just read the comments. I dare you to prove me wrong.

If holding the shell of internet comments to your ear is to hear the full swell of the zeitgeist's rising tide, then the water in Cleveland is um... sad? I'm bad at metaphors. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is featuring an Indians Comment Of The Day allowing people from such far flung locales as Boston or Philadelphia to take the pulse of the Tribe's loyal followers. And it's only taken a week of Spring Training for them to plummet from "Cautious But Not Fatalistic" to "This Is The Worst Team That Ever Teamed." The pathos is breathtaking and the Plain Dealer's selection of comments hits all the right notes. They're artists.

Camp started on 2/22 with the following optimistic, but clearly delusional, pick me up from jamesoncurry1

To all the whiners and crybabies - Give this team a chance. We have far better prospects and more pieces in place then when we rebuilt in 2003 and 2004. Most Clevelanders don't understand that Shapiro is very respected nationally. 2008 and 2009 we had big payrolls and things just didn't go our way. That's all.

Slow down there jameson, and quit making blanket statements about Mark Shapiro being respected. Other than that, you're right. Things didn't go your way in the past, but it's a new season SO WHO'S COMING ALONG FOR THE RIDE!?

Bipolar commenter extraordinaire wahoojoyce. that's who! Don't hurt your neck trying to follow Joyce's mood swings from this comment on 2/24.

Stop already. This team will not lose 100 games! They won't beat the Twins because the Twins have a viable rotation, but the other teams in this division are no better than the Tribe. That said, .500 is the reality. Geez, I would rather have the Yankees talent like we did in the 90's, but we don't. This team is young and will be fun to watch. Give it a chance.

But it wouldn't take long before the miserable insurrection implied in Joyce's "Stop already" swallowed everything and began what I'm sure will be a wild ride dominating the ICOTD. One day, in fact.

On 2/25 the paper spotlighted a comment from chuckheston, someone who certainly doesn't respect Mark Shapiro and, unfortunately for Shapiro, is most likely a gun enthusiast.

Typical Shapiro move. We'll move LaPorta, the centerpiece of the CC trade and likely a better 1B than OF, to LF so we can squeeze some fringe MLB veteran into the lineup. And yet these clowns that own and run this team wonder why there is so much apathy with the fanbase.

Well what about the Indians rotation? What about Fausto Carmona, that guy's good right? southernbuck says "shit no".

My opinion is Fausto never threw strikes. He had the sinker from Hell and in 2007 everyone swung at pitches that would have been balls. The Major League hitters figured him out. They lay off that pitch now. That's how Boston beat him in 2007. Everybody does now.

Well, geez. Is this the most depressed fanbase in baseball? The paper of record has decided to put the voice of the fans on record and before the FIRST SPRING TRAINING GAME has started these cats are raining tears on the Cuyahoga. New Boo Hoo Media. Take us home, linky8.

I got my husband opening day tickets for his birthday. He said I don't know if that means you love or hate me. Pretty much sums it up.

Sums up the Indians or sums up your marriage? Who cares. Something tells me this is going to be a recurring feature on The Plain Dealer AND on WoW.

jim.bunning.batman.jpg I assume a majority of the Walkoff Walk audience is, in addition to being highly educated and attractive, reading about baseball on the Internet in order to kill time at work. A great American tradition! But, especially with the recent economic trends, I figure another significant portion of the site's audience is unemployed slackers.1

Well: Welcome to our unemployed visitors, possibly on a library computer! You already know by now that Hall of Fame pitcher, perfect-game tosser and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning is holding up an extension of unemployment benefits! He's also forcing the government "to furlough workers", apparently some kind of sex act, and is also disrupting COBRA and Medicare payments. The government's taking away my money! Finally, I know what it feels like to be a rich person.

And he's the mad one, because blocking this bill made him miss a Kentucky basketball game. He also, Salon reports, has a fraud of a charity.2 Geeze. It almost makes you want to wish SuperAIDS on the guy, even if he does look a bit like Adam West.3

Who knows, maybe Jim Bunning will eliminate the deficit and UK will win the National Championship with his grandstand. I don't really understand, or care about, politics. But what I do understand and care about are videos of people acting like hilarious jerks. Hey! What do you know, when CNN's Dana Bash and ABC News' Jonathan Karl went to ask Bunning a few questions, he flipped out!

Apparently, players in the 50s and 60s were just as full of themselves as players are now. Excuse me!

1 Here's a tip: Call yourself a "freelance writer." No way you're picking up somebody in a bar if you say you're unemployed.
2 Even worse, Jim Bunning is making me agree with something in Salon! This is the deepest cut of all.
3 Sweet! Adam West mentioned in back-to-back posts!

That's Why They Play The Games: 2010 AL West

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It's almost go time, which it means it's time for our annual divisional previews. Feel free to look back at 2008 and 2009 to figure out how much stock you should actually put in these.

Last year's AL West race was, once again, about as exciting as listening to your coworker tell you what she did this weekend. The Angels won, your coworker and "the boy" just stayed in and chilled on Sunday. Watched a movie. The Rangers kind of made it interesting for a minute before they dropped completely out of even Wild Card contention, your coworker thought about going to that cool flea market but they hardly get the time to sit around and veg like that you know? Sometimes you just need it. She says all this as you remember that she said the exact same thing about spending last Sunday in front of the TV. Weren't the Angels supposed to regress or something? Dammit, I'm going on break.

But this year should be different. The Rangers and the Mariners are both ascendant and the Angels will almost certainly be in the running for awhile. They always are. I think this may be one of the most exciting races of the year.

4. Oakland A's

The Good:

  • The young pitching staff gets a nominal leader in free agent acquision Ben Sheets. Yes, Sheets hasn't exactly pitched in the recent past but impressed teams in offseason workouts and is tailor made for the imaginary role of veteran/teacher that people like to write about so much.

  • The rest of that staff containts two good left handers in Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden and possibly another emerging southpaw, Gio Gonzalez. Who you can watch get a haircut here:



  • OF Rajai Davis had a quiet breakout season in 2009, getting on base at a .360 clip and stealing 41 bases. He'll be moving to the top of the order (ahead of new CF Coco Crisp) and you can expect that SB total to rise. He could be the league leader.

The Bad:

  • The A's sat in the bottom half of the AL in runs scored and primary offensive additions Kevin Kouzmanoff and Crisp won't do a lot to signifcantly increase that number. They'll be relying on significant improvement from the rotation to up their win total. With the injury histories of both Sheets and Justin Duscherer, that's a can miss proposition.

Predictions: 77-85 record, Eric Chavez plays a total of 6 games and wears a catheter in each one. Bob Geren eats his weight in rocks and sticks.

3. Anaheim Angels

The Good:

  • Even with the departure of 3B Chone Figgins, their infield is one of the most talented in baseball. Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood and Kendry Morales all put up career years at the plate in 2009 and were all on the plus side in UZR.

  • The additions of Brian Stokes and Fernando Rodney should shore up the pen and bring it closer to the level of its mid decade heyday.

The Bad:

  • The Angels lost John Lackey to free agency and didn't do anything to replace him in the rotation. The rotation of Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro shouldn't strike fear in the hearts of anyone else in the division. Spring training optimism notwithstanding.

Predictions: 83-79 record, Mike Napoli grows a transcendent coke nail.

2. Texas Rangers

The Good:

  • Last year's team allowed an astonishing 250 fewer runs than the 2008 incarnation. 2010 may lower it yet again. The addition of Rich Harden and the maturation of the accountanty named Scott Feldman should make the rotation even better. Elvis Andrus at short helps too.

  • Count healthy Josh Hamilton, healthy Vlad Guerrero and healthy Ian Kinsler as one of the more powerful cores in the league and certainly the division.

The Bad:
  • The Rangers faded hard down the stretch and Dallas News writer/Cheeseburger Enthusiast Evan Grant has a great look at the challenges facing this offense besides potential injury. Better plate appearances are crucial to getting this team over the hump and into the playoffs, but you're not exactly dealing with malleable rookies here.

Predictions: 92-70 record, Frank Francisco goes on Antiques Roadshow to get his toothbrush appraised, The Marriage Ref gets canceled.

1. The Seattle Mariners

The Good:

  • Most people are in agreement that Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee are the best 1-2 in all of baseball. Teams with the best 1-2 in all of baseball usually fair pretty well.

  • Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman and Jack Wilson are all additions that bolster the defense and a healthy Milton Bradley could make up for some of the power lost when Russell Branyan departed.

  • The Bad:

  • Despite the aforementioned defensive upgrades it comes as something of a wash after losing Mike Cameron (in 2003) and Adrian Beltre.

Predictions: 94-68 record, Jack Zduriencik (Daddy Warbucks) dons a toupee made out of empty soup cans for entire second half of season.