Kris Liakos: March 2009 Archives

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, I'm a screeching eagle out for blood.

  • CAN Matt Wieters possibly live up to his hype?

  • IS Travis Hafner ready for the middle of the lineup now that he's hit his first homer of the Spring is ready for the middle of the lineup? Does he have to be?

  • CAN PitchFX shed any light on the injury problems the Angels rotation has been sustaining for 3 seasons now?

WE ARE DOING A PODCAST TYPE RADIO BLOG SHOW TONITE. Come back here at 10PM 11PMEDT (wrong time zone...oops) or just use this handy dandy link and enjoy the debut episode of the Walkoff Walk Furious Five starring Rob Iracane and Kris Liakos. We wanted to just do a five minute show but Blog Talk Radio is only letting us do a 15 minute show. We'll see how that goes.

(Target Field construction photo, y'all)

Gary Sheffield May Soon Be Enveloped In Brotherly Love

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Updating the Gary Sheffield story, only a few hours have passed but a couple of teams have spoken up to say "no thanks." J.P. Ricciardi said no. The Rangers very succinctly said they'll "Pass" on him. Sheffield stated his preference is to play for those Rays, but those around the team don't see that as likely. If I paid money to ESPN to read Buster Olney, I'd probably find he's saying that Sheff may have trouble finding work anywhere. Which is why I don't pay them money to read Buster Olney.

One team increasingly in the mix as the day goes along is Philadelphia. They cut Geoff Jenkins today, and according to everyone on my Twitter that lives in Philadelphia, Todd Zolecki is reporting that the club is in touch with his agent. Will The Champs be Gary Sheffield's 8th major league team?

Last Minute Roster Move Roundup

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A quick peek around my Google reader (and our own website) shows lots of teams releasing final or near final looks at their rosters. There aren't many real surprises but still a handful of noteworthy moves from today and yesterday.

What'd I miss? Anything still up for grabs?

Hard Hitting, Hog Hunting Hot Corner Hero Hanging At Home

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That orca's getting a workout today. The Braves have signed 3B and Face O' The Franchise, Larry Wayne Jones to a three year contract extension. Financial terms were not disclosed but Bass Pro Shops stock (BAS) just went through the roof. Or tree stand, whatever the proper metaphor is.

Lord knows, Chipper wasn't the happiest dude this offseason after the Braves let Smoltzy walk and he doubted the team's commitment to the 2009 season. But the guy seems pretty loyal and a wave of optimism was definitely palpable in Braves camp. Looks like Ol' Chip wants in on it.

GO SHOOT THAT ORCA WITH A CROSSBOW.

Detroit Dismisses Diminishing and Disgruntled Dude

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Well this is surprising. The Tigers just straight up released Gary Sheffield. No sugarcoating to it, they cut him and they'll pay him $14M to do nothing. That's a lot of money to eat, I hope Miguel Cabrera is hungry.

When asked if this was the end of the line, Gary said "It aint close." For a guy that came into the league in 1987, you gotta think it's pretty close. But he'll certainly land somewhere for this season. We say Tampa, Chicago (NL) or that Barnstorming Birth To Death Exhibition that is the Oakland A's.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, I am over here.

  • WHAT happens when you run 1000 iterations each of 6 different projection systems? You get 6000 AL projections that kinda sorta jibe with Rob's.

  • CATCH the ball or keep the video camera? How about both?

  • REMEMBER Jeff Weaver? Dude is a "lock" to make the Dodgers as a reliever. No word on who will replace him at Home Depot.

  • IS Karl Ravech trying to get on Drunk Jays Fans? I just heard him say that the Blue Jays rotation is "going to get killed."

  • WOULD you like some context for the Paul Konerko quote, "Cox won by four feet, his breasts won by eight"? Well too bad, here you go.

  • EVER snuck out of work early? Sure everyone has but it's not recommended when your job is radio announcer.

  • HEARD the new Dylan track yet? It's pretty raw and good and it's a free download here

Goodnight. See you tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

Update: Gary Matthews Jr. Takes A Timeout

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It was two weeks ago today we discussed Angels' outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. and his displeasure at not being an everyday starter for the team. He's looked pretty healthy this spring after an injury bedeviled 2008 that included knee surgery. He's run the bases well, covered ground in the OF and hit a couple of ding-dongs. But none have that has changed the fact that the Angels have too many guys that play his position and Matthews was told he'll remain the fifth OF. As you may have guesed, this did not make Gary very merry.

Told in a meeting with Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Tony Reagins that he would begin this season as the Angels' fifth outfielder, Matthews did not take the news very well.

Instead of traveling with the team to play the Texas Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., Matthews asked for and received permission to take the day off, a 24-hour cooling-off period apparently necessary.

"Just give me a day, guys, OK?" Matthews said when approached by reporters. "Thanks."

HOLY CRAP CAN YOU BELIE... actually he handled that pretty well. I imagine Gary was a little more steamed behind closed doors with Scioscia and Reagins, but his agent, PR guy and Mama must all be pretty proud with the way he took a step back and cooled off. I guess he still has the potential to return with war paint on a take a crap in the manager's office but he seems to just be using the 24 hours to sit in his Fortress of Solitude and figure out his next move.

Not there are that many moves for him to make. He has a no trade clause in his contract, but he has a huge contract, and unless the Angels give him a chance to prove that he can play everyday, they'll have to eat a big part of it. It's a Catch-22 for them and for Matthews that will most likely just result in them paying a very unhappy man $10 this year to be their fifth outfielder. The Angels have to hope that Matthews continues to have such a cool head about it.

Maybe they can get him to make a couple of spot starts this month.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, simple decisions can take forever to make.

  • WAS Hanley Ramirez so attached to his cornrows that he really demanded a trade. after the Marlins made him cut them off? His rage seemed pretty genuine. Come write for us, Hanley. No dress code here.

  • HOW did Julio Lugo come back from knee surgery so fast? I missed more time after getting my tonsils out in 3rd grade.

  • DOES seeing Tucker Carlson in a Snuggie make him more or less punchable?

  • DO you get sinus infections? Run face first into a wall. Not only was I wrong, Torii Hunter's nose aint borkened, but his collision cured his malady.

  • WANNA read Zach Grienke talk about trucks and his respect for Shea Hillenbrand? Thought so.

  • ARE you surprised that people are finally saying that they don't like playing with Orlando Cabrera? We're clearly not.

  • DID you know Eric Milton was auditioning for the fifth spot in the Dodgers rotation? He got totally shelled yesterday, but still. Eric Milton.

  • REMEMBER that 17 year old girl that pitches in Japan? Her and her knuckleball struck out a dude yesterday. I'm sure he took that well. Japan doesn't have very strict and traditional ideas about gender roles or anything.

  • REMEMBER the girl that sued to try out for her high school baseball team in Indiana? She didn't make it. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. I still salute her.

  • IS this Night Control song my favorite single of the year so far? Yes, I think it may be.

People, this is your final weekend without real baseball games. Next Sunday, it's on. We're almost through another Winter. As long as you don't live in the Northern Plain States, go do something outside. Like move your TV to the patio. Me, I'll be cracking my knuckles and doing a bunch of exercises to get my typing hands ready for the regular season grind. See you Monday. Same WoW channel.

(Tricky Dick picture courtesy of the always amazing If Charlie Parker Were A Gunslinger...)

***PROGRAMMING ANNOUNCEMENT ***PROGRAMMING ANNOUNCEMENT*** ***PROGRAMMING ANNOUNCEMENT*** ***PROGRAMMING ANNOUNCEMENT***

Rob and I will be appearing this Sunday at Noon on The Internet Radio Phenomenon that is The Treehouse Fort to talk some baseball. Tune in. My Clooneyesque voice is deep, smoky and a perfect brunch accompaniment. Like I said, Rob will be there too.

Classic TV Friday: A Double Dose Of Steve Garvey

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Today's Classic TV Friday is more than entertainment. It's a class. Former Dodgers & Padres 1B Steve Garvey was a 10 time All-Star, NL MVP, and a World Series Champ. Guy could rake. But after retirement a tell all book from ex-wife Cyndy pulled the lid off Garvey's womanizing ways and child fathering prowess. In the ensuing years those stories have come to define the Garv almost as much as the stellar years in the prime of his career.

Sure most ballplayers have a way with the ladies, but what really put Garvey over the top? Well to hear him tell it, it was Aqua Cologne!



How did that not become the best selling cologne of all time? Move over Spanish Fly, Papa's putting on the Aqua. That's the stuff that unleashed avalanches of Garvey Gravy all over SoCal.

Hell, it even worked so well that when a Chula Vista millionaire dude (a pandering ninny who is the complete opposite of the Garv) gave his wife a totally over the top birthday gift of a helicopter ride and a Padres game, she couldn't keep her hands off you know who. While the husband filmed it! Kinky!

Please to enjoy the romantic stylings of Steve Garvey, a true Slimeball HoFer.

What's Up, Creampuff: Dudes That Got Hurt

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newstretcher.JPG Only one more week of spring training. Better start eating your steroids, guys! Payday is comin' soon and in this economy owners are gonna lowball any invalid on the roster.

  • Stephen Drew, Snakes: The Year Of The Abdominal Injury rolls on. Florida State Seminole Stephen Drew has one. It's not serious, but still I'm gonna program in a keyboard shortcut for that ailment. ctrl+apple+ribs. Mmm... applewood smoked ribs.

  • Alex Gonzalez, Reds: Gonzalez "tweaked" his hammy in Monday's game. Dusty Baker said he's "scared" but it's "just a little spot. No defect to the muscle." That's good. If there was a defect in the muscle God would have to put out a recall or something. Like he did with the Dodo Bird. Thing was just bursting into flames like a Pinto.

  • Adam Everett, Nate Robertson, Tigers: Both guys got hurt in the same game this week. Everett sprained an ankle, Robertson sprained his thumb. X-rays were negative for both which is good news, especially for Robertson. He's gonna need that thumb to hitchhike if he posts another ERA north of 6. There's always Gum Time!

  • John Lackey, Torii Hunter, Angels: Lackey has elbow tightness and Hunter borkened his nose on a CF wall. Lackey is being shut down which is bad news for a team that'll be missing Ervin Santana when the season starts too. At least Kelvim Escobar is progressing well. They're gonna need him. There's no denying Hunter's injury, his face was all bloody like Lackey's would have been had he accepted my challenge to fight last fall.

  • Chad Billingsley, Mark Loretta, Dodgers: Both Billingsley and Loretta have groin problems. Just because the Dodgers are in LA doesn't mean they have to subscribe to every new Hollywood Fitness plan. Both injuries were sustained during a morning session of Jodie Sweetin's Extreme Meth Pilates.

  • Ryan Braun, Brewers: Braun's intercostal (read: ABDOMINALALAL REGION) keeps acting up. He thinks he's fine then he gets pulled from a game with pain. X-rays are negative but he's still been told not to swing a bat. Teammate Rickie Weeks told him not to worry, he played all last season without swinging one.

  • Justin Duchscherer, A's: While making his first start of the Spring, Duchscherer's elbow pain returned almost immediately and he's going to start the season on the DL. My sources tell me Duch could be shelved until doctors construct a robot arm capable of pitching a baseball.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, you're only as good as your last check.


Tacos, burritos, madmen and shit. Same WoW channel.

You Cannot Escape Me, Jim Leyland

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It's been a tough week for America's second favorite money pit, the Detroit Tigers. Though they have a very real shot in the very weak Central, recent news out of camp has been grim.

As if all that wasn't enough, it's coming up on the tenth anniversary of Jim Leyland berating me verbally. You think i forgot that Jimmy? Think again. It's still fresh in my mind and apparently I still have my eye on you. When I went looking for dirt on your Ballhype page I was pleased to see my vengeful visage looking at back at me.

Watch your back, Ambertooth.

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Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, I put a saddle on a chipmunk and made that cricket ride.

That's the end of another day. Some sad news mixed in with some silly news mixed in with some educated guesses. A lot like life, I suppose.

Rob has your final Division Preview. He'll be taking the AL East and I'm already sharpening my claws for attack if he picks the Yankees to win. We'll all wait together, ok? See you tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

Curt Schilling Retired To Make A Video Game

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Maybe this is old news, but not to me. I haven't read a Nintendo power since Steve Meli used to give me his back issues in 4th grade. Anyway, Curt Schilling is using his time away from baseball to try and ascend to the lofty throne of Dork King by creating his own video game. A baseball game? Like that one Cal Ripken is involved with? No way dude. Schilling is into that Wizard stuff. His new game is called Copernicus, and here's an interview about it which may as well be in Klingon.

"I lived my life in reverse," he commented. "I spent the first half of my life retired," speaking about how he viewed baseball as what he would have done for fun,"and then 20 years later went to work," referring to the fact that he now has a "real job" -- or something much closer to one, anyway. He claims that he still loves what he does so much that he comes in to work at 7:00 AM because he's so eager to get started on the day. That said, he also realized that working on games is not what he thought it would be like. "I wanted to just design games, but that's not really what I get to do. It's a lot of management."

So can he beat WoW? "That's only the legitimate question if that's the goal," he commented -- which it's not. "I think there's plenty of room to innovate, especially in terms of storytelling." He's confident he can, in his words, create an "industry disrupting product," but it's a lot of pressure on his shoulders right now. "I often wonder, what the hell was I thinking? Why didn't I just make an FPS?"

Hell no, he can't beat WoW. We have a shrimp on a treadmill and an intern. Of course I jest, I think he's talking about that other WoW, the video game World Of Warcraft which Schilling is famous for playing. I don't know what FPS is, but I think it's pronounced "fips."

Although this has "vanity project money pit" written all over it, maybe it will work. I know even less about the video game business than I do about baseball. But he seems to know what he's talking about so maybe Curt Schilling Wizard Games will be the George Foreman Grill of Wizard Games. In any case he seems to have done things in the right order. Proving you're a tough guy athlete before you tell people you're way into video games prevents many unfortunate wedgies.

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Strange story down here out of Florida. I actually saw it yesterday while watching the noon news and eating a Boar's Head Chicken Breast Sandwich. When it first appeared on my TV it was a rather nondescript Amber Alert saying that an infant had been taken from a health clinic in Plant City (Home of The Florida Strawberry Festival) and may be on its way to the Miami area. Well as details came out last night, they were related to baseball! And the baby was unharmed! Jackpot! But parts of the news release were, well, disturbing.

Amalia Tabata Pereira, 43, was being questioned by Florida detectives in Manatee County, where the baby girl was found unharmed Tuesday afternoon, a day after she was taken from the clinic. Plant City Chief of Police Bill McDaniel said authorities are looking to charge Pereira with false imprisonment.

She is the wife of Jose Tabata, 20, an outfielder and one of the top three prospects for the Pirates, who train in Bradenton, which is in the county where the infant was found. In a statement, Pirates president Frank Coonelly said they have received "no indication that Jose is believed to have had any involvement in this matter."

Dude. Jose, why the hell are you married to a 43 year old? I'm all for dating a woman a few years older than you, but you're a highly touted prospect. You're supposed to be out there doing things that a young potentially-wealthy-in-the-future star athlete is supposed to do. Marrying someone the same age as your mother is not one of those things. You don't see Rinku out there dating Bonnie Hunt do you? I mean, that would be hilarious if it happened, but it's not.

I understand you can't comment on the case yet, pending an investigation blah blah blah, but you gotta clue me in on this marriage. Did she have a bangin' dowry or something? And not only is she twice your age... SHE'S ANIMAL CRACKERS!

Jose, we're only telling you all this for your own good. Perhaps her attempted kidnapping of a baby for totally unexplained reasons is a miracle in disguise. An intervention from the Plant City Strawberry Gods. I don't even care if she goes to jail, I just want you to move on and start dating some good looking young lass from Pittsbur... well you know what I mean. You guys travel a lot, she doesn't have to be from Pittsburgh.

In any case, there wasn't anything on today's news about Tabata but there was this wacky courtroom brawl. Noon news rules.

That's Why They Play The Games: 2009 NL East

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The top of the NL East standings in 2008 ended up a lot like the top of the NL East standings in 2007. The Phils won. The Mets did that thing they do where they look like they're gonna make the playoffs, then don't. The Nationals lost over 100 games, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in the division since the 1998 Marlins. The Braves continued their slide further away from their decade of dominance.

The Philadelphia/New York rivalry has become one of the most heated in baseball, and vaulted over Chicago/St. Louis in terms of coverage. So what does 2009 hold for this motley crew of Easterners? Dig it.

5. Washington Nationals
The Good:

  • Adam Dunn makes the heart of the lineup respectable. A Zimmerman/Dunn/Willingham troika should net you about 80 HRs if everyone stays healthy.

  • New closer Joel Hanrahan has some stuff. In fact he made the US WBC team! After like 5 guys got hurt. And he walks too many guys. But still he should be able to handle closing games for this team. It's not like he's gonna be overworked.
The Bad:
  • John Lannan isn't a bad pitcher, but I also wouldn't call him an ace. Unfortunately for the Nats that's what he has to be. #2 starter Scott Olsen has seen his K totals drop every year since an impressive rookie campaign, and the pitching starved Orioles just straight up gave up on Daniel Cabrera. In any case, expect this motley crew to stay fluid.

  • The Josh Willingham pickup was not nearly dramatic enough to pull last year's historically shite OF up to par. That is, unless you believe this is the year that Lastings Milledge breaks out. I definitely do not believe that. And as if the comedic value of Milledge/Pena/and Dukes wasn't enough.... they added Corey!

Recently Rob and I were talking about the offseason moves that Washington made, and there were a bunch, and he said they were "constructing a team the way that a 12 year old constructs her Myspace." I'm not quite sure what that means, but it made me laugh. It was a turbulent winter for this team, but hey, I don't think they'll lose 100 games again.

Prediction: 66-96 record; Wily Mo Pena makes a BLT with Beggin Strips and enjoys it; Manny Acta realizes no one can blame him for losing with this team again so he starts skipping games to go to the beach.

4. Atlanta Braves
The Good:

  • Brian McCann is the best hitting catcher in baseball and is only 24.He says that he can eat 3 funnel cakes in one sitting. That's consistency and wow potential.

  • Yunel Escobar is getting better and better defensively at short and knows how to get on base.

  • CHIPPER JONES CAN STILL HIT AND IF THAT AINT THE TRUTH THEN I'M NOT WEARING A CATSHIRT. Did I do that right?

  • Javy Vasquez, Jair Jurrjens and Kenshin Kawakami have that famous upside in the rotation. Especially the 23 year old Jurrjens. If they capitalize on all of it, this 4th place prediction will be one spot too low.

The Bad:

  • The lineup is mostly devoid of power other than Jones and McCann and the mild muscles of 2B Kelly Johnson. Casey Kotchman's 93 OPS+ isn't going to make anyone forget Mark Texeira and the addition of consummate pro Garrett Anderson is great for the clubhouse but won't put many balls in the seats.

  • Tom Glavine is penciled in for the rotation's fifth spot, but this could come with a silver lining. If he doesn't do well, it could be an opportunity for fan favorite phenom Tommy Hanson.

Atlanta's big offseason move was signing Derek Lowe. I find him a totally underhwhelming #1 starter. He's also a dick. This is Bobby Cox's last year right? Who knows. Even as I type this I feel like I'm probably expecting less of the Braves than they'll actually produce but, the offense isn't any different from last year, and they just don't excite me. So be it.

Prediction:76-86 record; When it is revealed Peter Moylan fathered those octuplets he responds "shit happens"; Tim Hudson suffers setback in his return to the mound after falling in a manhole. He doesn't get hurt, he just refuses to come back up.

3. Florida Marlins
The Good:

    The Fish may not have won this division in a long time but they're once again the "Exciting Young Team To Watch" for like the 34th straight season. OF Cameron Maybin, 1B Gaby Sanchez, SP Ricky Nolasco, SP Andrew Miller and RP Matt Lindstrom are the youngest excitinginest ones.
    They have Arepas at the stadium.
  • Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla are very good at hitting the baseball. Sassy Senior Jorge Cantu also returns from the record home run hitting infield from last year. Only Mike Jacobs went bye bye. He got traded the Royals for Leo Nunez meaning the Marlins didn't wanna pay him or thought last year was an abberation. I mean, Leo Nunez.

  • Anibal Sanchez is looking to pitch a full season for the first time in his career. If his arm stays attached to his body to accomplish that, he could put up some great numbers.

The Bad:

  • If, if, if, if. Young, young, young, young.

The Marlins are still cycling in Muppet Babies for every semi successful player that turns 27. But they're talented Muppet Babies. There just isn't enough continuity or sure things to pick them to finish with the stacked Mets and Phils.

Prediction: 79-83 record; Fredi Gonzalez fired midseason, replaced by Dan Reeves; Jeffrey Loria gets the State Of Florida to bulldoze a homeless shelter and build him a squash court; Two words: mango delay.

2. New York Mets
The Good:

  • The first half of the order is as good as any in baseball, including the crosstown Yanks. Jose Reyes is my favorite SS in baseball and his OBP has gone up every year since he's been a regular. Wright, Beltran and the Delgado from last year's second half will put up a ton of runs behind him.

  • That Johan Santana kid could be good.

  • Omar Minaya addressed the most glaring problem, the bullpen, with two high profile additions in K-Rod and JJ Putz. In fact, almost the entire bullpen crew is different. Whether or not they're the right guys and whether or not they overpaid are real issues, but this goes under the good column because 1. They get credit for working on their biggest flaw and B. They can't be much worse than last year.

  • Tranny manager, Jerry Manuel gets a full season to manage. It's not that he's that great (even though he "draws leadership inspiration from the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy") but shaking off the managerial drama of the past couple years can't hurt.

  • The team is high on 22 y/o LF, Daniel Murphy, even though he recently said that the Mets clubhouse smells like winning. I've been in there. Winning must smell like taint and grilled chicken.

The Bad:

  • John Maine is freakin' out man. He's getting frustrated at his inability to return to his old form, which is bad news because he's old form was just okay. Add in the rollercoaster pitching of Oliver Perez and a fifth spot that's going to be filled by either Freddy Garcia or Livan Hernandez and you have what is decidedly shaky post-ace rotation.

This Mets team is good, and I think they'll grab the Wild Card this year. However the expensive putty job on the bullpen isn't enough to make me pick them over the WF Champs. I'll let them prove me wrong. Also, I'm not gonna make fun of Mets fans anymore. This year I'm after Cardinals fans. Self-important Snuggie wearers.

Prediction: 90-72 record; Ryan Church gets another concussion trying to figure out how the Nintendo light gun knows where you're pointing; After a two year legal battle Mike Pelfrey's cousin Dale is allowed to defecate on Mike's lawn without repercussion.

1. Philadelphia Phillies
The Good:

  • World Champs bring back almost entire lineup, with the exception of Pat Burrell. Burrell was replaced by Raul Ibanez, who's OPS was just a shade lower than Burrell's last year.

  • Closer Brad Lidge was perfect last year, becoming MLB's Lazarus Of The Year. Only downside here is he can't really get better than he was.

  • Charlie Manuel went from one step from the breadline to one of baseball's most liked managers. Folksiness, a pot belly and a WS ring will do this for you. Also, managers don't really matter all that much.

The Bad:

    • The biggest weak spot in the lineup is backstop. Chris Coste and Carlos Ruiz aren't going to get IBB'd a whole lot.

    • Team will have a close eye on Cole Hamels' arm and Chase Utley's hip all season.

    Prediction: 92-70 record; Jayson Werth gets a pony, Brett Myers punches it in the face; Jayson Werth releases his own line of salad dressings called "Jayson's Garden Fresh Dressing It's Not Just For Ballplayers It's For Anyone That Likes A Delicious Salad, Even You" and label printing costs sink the endeavor immediately.

  • Baseball Before Bedtime: Postmark My Compass

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    Here's what happened in baseball while I was writing songs for you.

    Cubs 13, Rockies 9: Familiar names Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez knocked in some runs and Greg Smith got the start for the Cubs, even though he had explosive diarrhea all week, and won't be in the Cubs rotation when the season begins.

    Yankees 7, Red Sox 1: The only spring game that really matter bro . Tim Wakefield only allowed 1 run in 5 2/3 innings, ensuring he'll be in the rotation long enough to keep some promising young arm in Pawtucket and blow a big game late in the season. AJ Burnett posted an identical 1 ER in 5 2/3 ensuring that his arms is gonna catch on fire. Austin Jackson had a King Dong in the 8th.

    Phillies 7, Blue Jays 6: Chase Utley hit a tater dong proving that his hip is once again strong enough for some horseplay with Clare. Chan Ho Park struck out 7 in 4 innings as he bids to grab the 5th start in the Phillies rotation.

    Giants 7, Diamondbacks 3: Matt Cain worked himself out of a couple jams and Emmanuel Burriss had 3 RBI for the Giants. That fruit Eric Byrnes had two hits as he continues to recover from two torn hamstrings and a sub-literate IQ.

    Tonight's Questions

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    bullpenpitbeef.jpg Hey kids, I'm a thief and I dig it.


  • DID you add Keith Olbermann's MLBlog to your RSS feed yet? Do it, or Rachel Maddow will kick your ass.

  • ARE you following college baseball yet? It's a pleasant diversion if your alma mater was unceremoniously dumped by an inferior team in the first round of the Tourney.

  • MAY I slug the umpire?

  • WHAT is the best way to appease an angry readership? Chico Harlan is going to try an in depth interview with Marquis Grissom. Sounds right to me. PR 101, people.

  • The next two days we'll be wrapping up our division previews so come hungry for provocation, prognostication and crustaceans. Same (analog) WoW channel.

    (Bull Pen Pit Beef pic ganked from the solid Flickrstream of one BCostin.)

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    Andruw Jones, heartbroken and left for dead by two separate teams in as many years may be finding redemption among the tumbleweeds in Arlington, TX. Our favorite plantain loving former All-Star is sort of impressing people in Rangers' camp, avoided two rounds of cuts and now may be working his way into the lineup.

    "This is what I'm considering for today in Peoria," manager Ron Washington said. "Andruw has hit fourth many times in his career. There are going to be plenty of times that Nelson (Cruz) plays and Andruw isn't in there that I'll probably put Cruz in there. Nelson has done a great job in the clanup spot, but I also feel like Andruw can hit there and Nelson can protect him, too."

    While the club still hasn't added him to the 40-man roster, Jones has twice waived deadlines for that move. The most recent deadline was Monday. Now, the club has the next 10 days to examine how he might fit as part of the solution for the Rangers' problems against left-handed hitters. The team was 21-31 against lefties last year; in the AL, only Baltimore had a worse winning percentage against lefties.

    Jones had one of the most precipitous falls of any star player in recent years. We're talking about a guy that 51 and 41 tots in '05 and '06 respectively. But after every number sank like a stone in '07 he was absolutely miserable trying to prove himself in LA last year, making into only 75 Big League games. It isn't that far fetched to think that he must have some pop in his bat, and that a lunching pad like Arlington may help nudge him back towards being a longball hitter.

    In any case, you just hope it works out because he seems so sensitive. I mean he hasn't even commented here in months and we all know how much he used to love that. Give him a shot Ron Washington, even if just for sentimental reasons.

    What Did We Learn From The WBC?

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    Other than when a Mexican guy chants "Japan" it sounds like "Yeah, Pants!" I think a couple of things:

    • There are flaws in the format. The team selection and groupings are pretty arbitrary, and still seem geared more towards spreading the MLB Gospel to prospective markets than crowning an International Champ. The timing does too. Injuries aren't the problem with having the WBC in the Spring. Guys get hurt in regular camp every day. It's the fact that a huge number of your players just aren't in a regular baseball rhythm. It affects the pitchers, it affects the hitters and as long as guys aren't in top form it will always feel like an exhibition for teams primarily composed of Major Leaguers.

      Dumb people that write dumb columns on why they don't like the WBC will probably continue to dislike it until the US beats Russia for the title on some walkoff homerun from Rocky Balboa. I tried chronicling all of these as they came out but there were too many. Formatting changes won't change people that see International Competition as somehow inferior to American Pro Sports. But for people that get some enjoyment out of this tournament (me, and I think most of our readers included), smart formatting changes could cement its big event status.


    • Baseball is a simple game. Lloyd summed it up this morning in this post. Pitch efficiently, play defense, and have some power. It's led Japan to two straight titles. But, I take issue with anyone that calls this "throwback baseball" as if no one in MLB does it. It took the Rays to the World Series last year. Japan's success just reinforces the point.

    Granted I just said that I enjoyed the tournament, yet I watched a single inning of last night's game. The dramatic 10th inning. But on the whole I watched far more of this year's WBC than the inaugural one, and it wasn't even my beat. I give it 3 out of 5 shrimp.

    Tonight's Curt Schilling Questions

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    Hey kids, no.

    • DID you find it appropriate that Curt Schilling announced his retirement today via his blog?

    • IS he the best postseason pitcher of his generation? Here are the stats. Smoltz has a case but it's probably Schill.

    • IF you said yes to that, does that put him in the HoF? I'd vote for him.

    • DID his oft irratating off the field persona skew people's perceptions of his on the field accomplishments? In a media age where the two are often covered in equal measure, I'd say yes. I almost never agreed with him when he strayed from baseball talk, but I give him credit for not being afraid to take a polarizing stance when most athletes refuse to say anything. Also, don't forget all the ALS and skin cancer stuff he and his wife did.

    • WHAT is your favorite Schilling Era? Phils, Snakes or Sox? You can't say O's. Probably depends on where you're from but they all had their moments.

    • DID the Red Sox initial decision for him to not have surgery last year cost him one more year in the big leagues. I'm sure he'll give his take on that in the next couple of days, but one thing is for sure: it didn't help.

    • WILL you watch the Bloody Sock Game tonight at 7:30 on ESPN Classic? It's also the A-Rod slap game. Two seminal moments. I'll probably catch the end. I'm going out for dinner.

    Yes, that's the end of the day for us. Yes, it was a rather good one. Go check out the 8th comment on the Frank McCourt story from commenter Timphilly. Interesting stuff. I wonder if McCourt is sorry he's bringing all this attention on the workings of his Foundation instead of just their work. Oops!

    We should find out about the Marlins Stadium vote any minute now. When we do I will fill it in the blank below. I'll be shocked if it doesn't pass. So happy trails, Curt and we'll see the rest of you here tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

    **MARLINS STADIUM FUNDING DEAL PASSED 9-4 IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COMMISSION VOTE**

    No, Cecil Cooper, The Astros Will Not Win 90 Games

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    Spring is a heady time, isn't it? Every beat writer worth his weight in Splenda makes reference to the optimism of Spring Training, the untouched promise of a virgin schedule and the enthusiasm of new players and newly healthy ones. If all that goes to your head you're liable to do some crazy stuff. It's like hitting the nitrous tank at Bonnaroo. Well consider Astros manager Cecil Cooper fully on the hippie crack. He says the Astros are going to win 90 games this year.

    We should win 90 games, without question," Cooper said this morning. "We have a terrific bullpen. We have one of the best closers in the game. We've got the ace in the National League. We've got three of the best offensive players at their position. We've got, if not the best, then one of the top catchers in baseball.

    "I mean, c'mon. We've got what it takes. You're telling me we're not going to win that many games?"

    Yup. Just told you right up there in the headline. In fact, last week I predicted you'd lose almost 90. And I didn't get a single email telling me I'm dumb. I usually get between 8-10 for every other post I do. So people must be agreeing with me.

    I understand you're supposed to go out there and put the best face on the team's season. Being a manager these days involves a modicum of PR. Just look at what happened to Cito Gaston last month when he said the Jays may be in a rebuilding year. Woops! I mean uh... regrouping.

    So Cecil, I admire your pluck and the gusto with which you hit the big blunt of baseball hope. But yes. I'm telling you you're not going to win that many games.

    (Thanks to BBTF for directing me to the provocatively named Knobler's Blog.)

    No, Jeffrey Loria, No One Believes You're FDR

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    Today at 1 the Miami-Dade County Commission has their vote on whether or not to approve the $359 Million in public funding for the Marlins new stadium. It's the final half of a two headed vote, having received approval from the City Council last week. By one vote. Although the Herald says the "public will be invited to speak at what promises to be a lengthy and, likely, heated affair," I'm expecting the funding plan to clear this hurdle as well.

    I am against majority public funding for projects like this and wish governments nationwide would agree on some sort of resolution about it. But as it stands now, if you try and hold out, your team will move. It's a simple equation. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria knows a little something about it since he was part of the bandit crew that took baseball out of Montreal. So if there is still genuine interest in the Marlins down here, and I think there is some, they're going to have to cave to keep their team. But don't believe Loria when he tries and flip this story and tells you he's doing this out of some sort of civic duty. Emphasis mine.

    Owner Jeffrey Loria said Sunday that South Florida needs the proposed $515 million stadium because of the economic situation the country finds itself in.

    "The timing for the stadium could not be better," Loria said. "People need jobs, people need paychecks."

    Loria said he was optimistic the votes would go his way.

    "This is a positive thing for Florida and a positive thing for the nation and certainly for the thousands of people who need the work," said Loria, who went back to that theme several times during the interview.

    "I am interested in building something great here for South Florida and for this community and seeing it flourish and we can't flourish without a stadium," Loria said.

    So it's a positive thing for a nation facing huge debt on every level from condo associations to The Fed to be dropping hundreds of millions of tax dollars on a single project? You know what else would create jobs, Jeff? That exact same stadium with more of your or your partners' own damned money in in it. That would be even GREATER for the nation, you retarded social visionary. It's laughable that he pretends to be interested in creating jobs at all when he had a hand in the folding and relocation of the entire Expos franchise.

    If the Marlins want a new stadium to stay economically viable in MLB, then fine. That's what any new stadium is about. Come out and say that, and let the politicians of Miami decide whether or not the local economy will receive a proper return on its investment. You know, even though most economists agree that it won't. But Loria's New Deal Spiel is so transparently manipulative, people oughta be egging his giant house. He's pissing on his $500M retractable roof and telling the people of South Florida it's raining.

    Addendum: The good folks at ShysterBall pass along the truly bizarre news of a "Death Clause" in the stadium deal. To summarize, if Loria dies within 7 years and one of his heirs sells the team, the city and county lose their share of the profits. Um, what? As one commenter put it, maybe it's so "sensible taxpayers won't be tempted to off Loria." Lulz.

    Weekend Questions

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    Hey kids, don't promote yourself. It hasn't worked yet.


    As for us, we're out of here. You've got basketball tonight and all weekend. Right now the top 3 in the WoW Bracket Challenge are a British Guy (nothing wrong with that) a Woman (nothing wrong with that) and BC Twins Fan (what the hell?).

    Tomorrow is all that spicy WBC action that Rob hipped you to earlier. So go forth. Enjoy yourselves. See you Monday. Same WoW Channel.

    Nolan Ryan On A Soap Opera - 1975

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    Today's Classic TV Friday is from a show actually called "Ryan's Hope." A bunch of whiny kids are being led down some sort of corridor when Nolan Ryan appears out of an elevator in a tiny pair of red shorts. I think it's illegal to be that close to children in those pants now, but not in 1975.

    Anyway, make sure to watch the whole thing as Nolan's Emmy moment doesn't come until the end. He's a regular Lawrence Olivier. Please to enjoy.

    What's Up Creampuff: Dudes That Got Hurt

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    newstretcher.JPGThe American WBC team turned out to be LIKE A MASH UNIT. Dustin Pedroia is definitely Radar. In any case, 317 players have now been on that roster and there are still like 5 rounds left, I think. I can't be sure. So what's the deal? As much as your dad would like to, we can't blame the foreigners. They've been in MLB for years now. It's a mystery, Scooby Doo. Since so many of them got hurt down here in Florida I could probably come up with a way to blame Jeffrey Loria. Gimme a couple minutes. On to the complete list of wimps.

    • Melvin Mora, Orioles: Mora sat out Venezuela's game on Wednesday with a sore hammy. He said simply, "it doesn't feel good." He was probably terrible at playing hookie, but no one ever said Luis Sojo would make a good principle. In fact, I'd go as far as to say he's make a terrible principle. He has no background in education, just baseball.

    • Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Julio Lugo, Red Sox: The first two dudes got hurt in the WBC. Pedroia with an abdominal strain (YEAR OF THE OBLIQUE) and Youkilis with a sore ankle. Petey was back at work fielding grounders yesterday, and an MRI on Youkilis was negative. Hopefully the injury woes will clear up for the US. But I'm still not sure why Davey Johnson conducts batting practice under that window with the safe hanging out of it. Lugo had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Uh yeah... get well Julio... but uh... don't rush back! You may aggravate it!

    • Jayson Nix, White Sox: Nix reaggravated a quad strain that will keep him out for the rest of spring and possibly longer. He was in a position battle at 2B with Chris Getz. That's over now. Nix Nix. Getz gets it.

    • Jerry Hairston Jr., Reds: Hairston caught some sort of viral thing in Mexico during the WBC this week and is banned from Reds camp. Apparently he thought the tap water down there was just green for St. Patty's day.

    • Adam Miller, Fausto Carmona, Indians: The hard luck pitcher is facing that possibly career ending finger surgery I told you about earlier this week. He has "altered anatomy" that the surgery will look to correct, but even if it's successful medically he could still be all done. What a way to have a career end. Lousy stuff, gotta feel for him. Fausto Carmona got hit by a line drive and x-rays were negative. You're supposed to get out of the way, stupid.

    • Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: Ramirez has rotator cuff tendinitis in his right shoulder. I saw Ramirez in camp a couple weeks ago and he looked really huge. Definitely the biggest shortstop I've ever seen and considerably larger than I remember him last year. This arm injury is the first mile marker on the road from him being moved from SS to outfield, then to DH. Get your Soriano on, Hanley.

    • Aaron Boone, Astros: Rob chronicled Boone's impending heart surgery earlier in the week. Boone's career may be over but he will still be able to lead a productive and worthwhile life afterward, unlike Bucky Dent. Good luck, Aaron.

    • Cole Hamels, Phillies: Up and down week for Hamels. At first people thought his arm was gonna fall off, then they did tests and it seems fine and he's ready to resume his spring schedule. What a faker. Stop wasting my time. The only good thing about any of this is that I got to keep reading Rich Dubee's name. Hehe. Rich Dubee.

    • Erick Aybar, Angels: Raped by a wallaby.

    • Casey Janssen, Scott Rolen, Blue Jays: Janssen had some shoulder tightness during a start this week. He's trying to comeback from surgery that kept him out for the enirety of last season so this isn't "tight" in a good way like your idiot cousin with the sideways hat always says. Scott Rolen's back hurts. Maybe because he's been lugging that hardcover copy of The Jungle around for two years.

    Tonight's Questions

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    Hey kids, I'm freakin out here.

    • HOW many games have you lost so far in the Walkoff Walk Bracket Challenge?

    • WHY was I so unprepared to blog today? We did this during the Tourney last year right?

    • IF that Cartoon George Steinbrenner is supposed to evoke him in his younger days where are the handcuffs and why is he smiling?

    Tomorrow, no more lazy blogging. I swear. I'll have all your Friday Favorites and Rob will continue to hold up his end of the bargain. See you then. Same WoW channel.

    Manny Being Shahriar Nafees

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    Yesterday Manny Ramirez filmed a commercial to promote DirecTV's new cricket package. They should have had Rinku and Dinesh bowling to him. In any case, our cornfed All-American friend Duk was there for the international-ish festivities. He took some video and I'm stealing it and putting here because I want to watch basketball. Please to enjoy!

    Cheer Up, Cuba

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    Last night the Cuban National team fell victim to the stellar arms and intricate flag of the Japanese. This means they'll miss the finals of a competitive baseball tournament for the first time since 1959. It is not news that baseball is a huge point of national pride in Cuba, and Alan Schwarz of the New York Times tried to capture the mood in the Cuban dugout yesterday as the present finally caught up to the past.

    As Cuba's beaten ballplayers stood quietly on the top step of their dugout, fully aware of their World Baseball Classic life ticking away, you could almost see the ghosts of the national team's legendary past standing behind them. They emerged from the fog like White Sox out of a cornfield.

    "They were much better than us," Cuba Manager Higinio VĂ©lez conceded graciously in a statement afterward. He added: "They do deserve to go on to the finals. So the only thing left for us to do is to continue to fight for our great game, baseball."

    Fidel Castro, or a capable ghostwriter, spoke of the possibility of Cuba losing in the semifinals in his national newspaper column this week. While he actually provided some trenchant baseball analysis it was mostly a screed against the capitalist nations that run the WBC and set up the brackets to stack the deck against the most talented foreign teams.

    The three best teams in the Classics and the Olympics, namely Japan, Korea and Cuba, were included in the same group so that they had to eliminate each other. Last time we were included in the Latin American group; this time we were included in the Asian group.

    That is why in between today and tomorrow in San Diego one of the three teams will be irremissibly eliminated without having to compete first with the team of the United States, the country of the "Big Leagues". That means that, next, two of those three will be left out. We are forced to wage our battle and design a strategy in the face of those vicissitudes.

    Perhaps this was the case but more than anything what Castro's excuses say to me is that an entire country had a lot of emotional capital invested in this tournament. The government needed to reassure it's populace about baseball in the way that other nations have to do the same for foreign threats, or the economy.

    It wouldn't have been any easier for the Japanese to take elimination. But one would think that by comparing the day to day lives of it's citizens and their prospects, baseball is a more important diversion in Cuba. Again this is all American conjecture but Cuba's loss and the emotional impact it is likely having on the Island shines a different light on the World Baseball Classic. Today is a day that the landscape of international baseball changed, and the citizens of Cuba probably weren't ready for it.

    Tonight's Questions

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    heathcliff.jpg Hey kids, one problem is never enough.


    That does it for today. We'll do it to you again tomorrow. Same WoW channel. You too, Surveillance Video Heathcliff.

    Damn The Man: Marlins Deal With NAACP Dead

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    Ah, the salad days of last Friday. Total racial harmony had been achieved for the first time in American history when the Marlins announced a deal with the NAACP to give 15% of all building contracts to black owned business. Today however, the dark cloud of disharmony once again covered the Sunshine State. Well that and public funding laws. The deal fell apart last night.

    Just four days after the team and local black leaders signed the deal, hailing it as a historic breakthrough in county race relations, they agreed to kill it because Miami-Dade County Attorney Robert Cuevas said the pact would violate court rulings prohibiting governments from awarding contracts based on race.

    (NAACP local president Victor) Curry went on to call the entire process ''disheartening, discouraging.'' He said he'd only been trying to make sure ``everyone can come to the table and walk away with something.''

    But nothing is simple in Miami's ever simmering cauldron of race and politics.

    That last part is an understatement in an area where the politics of Little Haiti and Little Havana are more akin to Little Chicago. I said last week when I first reported on the story that as long as the deal still allowed for competitive bidding among firms, it was a good idea. I'm also still pretty sure that the State of Florida awards a certain number of state contracts to women and minority owned businesses. Like the article implies this whole things reeks of the backroom dealing and payoffs so inherent in Miami politics.

    If more people actually paid attention to the Marlins this entire stadium fiasco would be a national embarassment.

    Baseball Before Bedtime: I Miss You Already

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    Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you weren't even gone.

    Cubs 12, Dodgers 3: Carlos Zambrano allowed 3 runs over 5 innings but was like "screw it" and drove in 4 of his own. He had a 3 run Happy Jack and an RBI double. The Cubs just lit up Randy "Air" Wolf. Manny missed the game and the highlight for the Dodgers was a record attendance at their new stadium. Big deal.

    Astros 1, Tigers 1: Hoowee! A 1-1 tie. I heard Peter Gammons say that players are getting restless and bored during this extra long spring training. They must have been watching this. But hey, the season is getting closer, because starters are going longer. Justin Verlander went 6, and Brian Moehler went 5 scoreless.

    San Francisco 9, Brewers 8: A gentleman named Jesus Guzman won this game with a 2 run tater tot, and Jeff Suppan pitched well. Most importantly Bruce Bochy's mustache is in mideseason form.

    Red Sox 9, Twins 5: The Red Sox wore their St. Patty's green which everyone has since copied including Rob Iracane. Josh Beckett went 4 with a rough second inning. Papi and Jason Bay both went Ding Dong and according to the late news Belinda Carlisle was on TV tonight. She still looks pretty good. Rawr.

    A's 11, Snakes 3: Nazi-sounding phenom Max Scherzer made his spring debut for Arizona. He allowed 5 runs and only got too outs. Oops. Sean Gallagher went 4 scoreless for Oakland striking out 2 and smashing 2 watermelons. Eric Chavez says he'll be ready to play next week, and ready to be back on the DL in 5 weeks. Jumanji!

    8 Reasons Why Baseball Sucks: A Dissertation

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    Let me introduce you to Normalboy64. He prefers NASCAR over baseball and is sick of people talking trash. Some morons, like Steve Czaban, hate baseball because they are Neanderthals whose frontal lobes are dead to anything but extreme violence, flashing lights and loud noise. But not Normalboy64, he's got a list of 8 specific reasons he doesn't like baseball. And they'll really make you think. I may not even like baseball myself anymore.

    With the NASCAR angle you may already be dismissing Normalboy64 as a redneck. But I don't think rednecks listen to French Jazz-Folk. I love this video.

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    During Jonathan Papelbon's formative years as a pitcher it was always a dilemma as to whether or not he was going to be a starter as a closer. I, for one, always was in the starter camp. If a guy had good stuff you'd want him to pitch more. Even Peter Abraham and and I agree on this. But sometimes a guy's physical and/or emotional makeup make them better suited to be a relief pitcher. After a couple years it became apparent that was the case with Papelbon, and it all worked out for the best. The people that thought he should have been a reliever all along felt vindicated, but the reality of the situation was that they just made a lucky guess. Until a guy has proven he's not a starter, you should always want him to be a starter.

    I would think most people understand that but reading some New York beatniks you get the idea that there is a Shadow Moron Cabal of Yankee fans still lobbying for Joba Chamberlain to become a set up guy.

    • Mark Feinsand, Daily News: "I know there are still plenty of you out there that believe he should be in the bullpen, but I firmly believe the Yankees are doing the right thing with him."

    • Poll Questions:

      Where would you rather see Joba Chamberlain?

      "Bullpen, he and Mo would be unstoppable"

      "Starting rotation, he's got ace potential"


    • P. Abes:

      The Joba debate: Why does this still continue in some quarters? He had a 2.76 ERA in 12 starts last season. He struck out 74 batters in 60 innings. He's a really, really good starter and he's 23. Do the math: It's better to have a great pitcher throw 200 innings instead of 70.

      The idea that Joba should go back to the bullpen because the Yankees signed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett is inane. The best, most efficient way to win baseball games is to have as many games as possible started by good pitchers. The eighth inning is not as important as innings one through six.

    So my question (in a Seinfeld voice) is, who ARE these people that want Joba in the bullpen right now? I don't think I've met or talked to anyone that thinks he shouldn't get one more season to try his hand as a starter. Do these people exist or is it just an easy way for writers to win an easy argument?

    If someone actually knows someone that is on the side of Joba going to the bullpen immediately this year, please find them and get them a commenting account so they can explain themselves. Otherwise I'm going to start assuming that when writers are having this discussion they're having it with an imaginary friend or the voices in their head.

    Tonight's Questions

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    Hey kids, 'low mileage' is a relative term.

    • IS Luis Castillo's torrid spring for real? If so it would really change the dynamic of that lineup, but I'm skeptical.

    • WHO said this:

      "I've always been a guy that has gotten stronger the longer the season goes and I don't think that will change. I understand what it takes to go out there and throw 110 pitches a game.

      "I take great care of my body. I eat well. I think I'm in great shape. There might be adjustments I need to make, but I feel if you work smart, eat smart and keep your body strong, I think it will be there."

      Of course it was Carl Pavano!


    • DID you know that baseball writers like burgers?

    • WHAT does Ryan Braun have to do to strenghthen his ribcage muscles? He has his second strain there in as many years.

    • ANY thoughts on Steve Earle's new record of TVZ covers? I'm sure I'll like it, I'm a huge fan of both guys. I just wonder about it's necessity.

    • WILL you join us for our Tourney Bracket Challenge? I know it's a different sport, but we're all CBB fans here so we might as well all be in a pool together. Especially since you won't get in my hot tub. The Group ID# is "132173" and the password is "shrimp"

    Monday. I'm all high. Get me out of FLA. I fooled ya. In school, yeah. Now I know a made a mistake. That's a good song. Hope we helped your Monday speed by. We'll see you tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

    (That incredible graphic of the incredible Dwight Evans stolen from Craicmedia's Flickrstream.)

    That's Why They Play The Games: 2009 NL Central

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    The 2008 NL Central was primarily a two team race between the newly Piniella'd Cubs and the Yostastic Brewers. The Brewers trailed by just two games on June 1. Pitching trouble and manager drama shipwrecked the Brewers, until the acquisition of CC Sabathia and the late late late firing of Yost vaulted them over the Mets in the final week for the Wild Card. The Astros also made a late run at respectability.

    The Central saw a proliferation of stellar young arms, (unfortunately one of them is on a team managed by Dusty Baker) and career years from two of its biggest stars. The divisions most visible team went pretty much to wire to wire but flamed out in the playoffs to a team from the much maligned West. What does 2009 have in store for the heartland? Let's rush to the middle.

    6. Pittsburgh Pirates
    The Good:

    • Catcher Ryan Doumit may be the most underrated hitter at the position. Played in 116 games last year, hitting 15 HRs and OPSing at at .858. Adam LaRoche is also good for about 25 HRs out of the first base spot.

    • Nate McClouth rounded into one of the NLs best all around outfielders last season. He covered a ton of ground in center and popped 26 HRs.

    • Closer Matt Capps is solid on the rare occasion he gets a save chance

    • Ian Snell still has some of the best stuff in baseball. He got off to a lousy start last season and was atrocious on the road all season. He started to show signs of his old self in his last 12 or so starts. Expect him to bounce back fully this year.

    The Bad:

    • The rest of the staff includes the disappointing Tom Gorzellany and Zach Duke, and young Ross Ohlendorf and Paul Maholm. One of the league's most underwhelming.

    • The holes left by power hitting OFs Jason Bay and Xavier Nady are replaced by the decidely less powerful Nyjer Morgan and and Brandon Moss.
    • Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson are nowhere near the hitters they once were.

    Don't be fooled by the fact that I have 4 goods and only 3 bads. We're still talking about the Pirates, a team that lost 95 games last season and made no noticeable improvements to the major league club. Expect a 17th consecutive losing season, by a comfortable margin.

    Prediction: 68-94 record; The team calls up Rinku and Dinesh midseason only to discover they returned to India months ago; 4 fans in section 362 start "Hinske's Pinskys" where they dress like Eric Hinske and recite Robert Pinsky poems.

    5. Houston Astros
    The Good:

    • Roy Oswalt was stellar again last season and has been lights out so far this Spring. He had a a 4:1 K/BB ratio and threw 208 innings. They'll need him to be one of the best in the league again, and barring injury, he'll deliver.

    • Lance Berkman appears to be entering a second prime. He's backed in the lineup by Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, also 25 HR guys. Don't rule out a Miguel Tejada comeback year either.

    The Bad:

    • Not to be redundant, but let's look at the rest of this rotation. Wandy Rodriguez, Mike Frickin' Hampton, Brandon Backe and Brian Moehler. Oof.

    • If Miguel Tejada doesn't have a bounce back year, which could happen since he may be 51, the infield is light on offense outside of Berkman. Miggy, Matsui and the Blum/Boone platoon can all field but will likely lack plate production.

    A lot of people may think this is low, but the Astros pitching is seriously lacking. Besides Pence (who has a predilection for hurting himself), the offensive catalysts are older and a single injury to one of them would be a major setback.

    Prediction: 75-87 record; Cecil Cooper is sued for copyright infringement after debuting his new wallpaper instruction show, "Hanging With Mr. Cooper."; Kaz Matsui loses his virginity; I start pronouncing J.R. Towles' name correctly.

    4. Milwaukee Brewers
    The Good:

    • Walkoff Walk favorite Manny Parra returns for a second year with the big club. I'm expecting 300 IP, with 304 Ks, 6 BBs a 0.0048 WHIP and a 10-11 record.

    • Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are still in the fold. With Mike Cameron and Cory Hart the heart of the lineup is very solid. At the plate, anyway.

    The Bad:

    • Hey look, another lousy rotation after #1. Braden Looper, Dave Bush and Yovani Gallardo, come on down! Sheets, Sabathia say "See ya, suckers." Looks poisonous.

    The Brewers team is pretty much the same as 2008, but without Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia. Those are pretty big buts (and butts). Braun and Fielder can't really play much better than they have and aren't enough to carry a team with a rotation like this. Sorry krautheads.

    Predictions: 79-83 record; Bill Hall buys a marmoset; Ken Macha gets his nipples sanded off trying to refinish a hutch.

    3. St. Louis Cardinals
    The Good:

    • Heart of lineup has a ton of power. After Albert Pujols, almost certainly the best hitter in baseball, they have Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel and (when healthy) Troy Glaus. That's going to net you about 125 HRs.

    • Chris Carpenter may return to help out a patchwork rotation now entering it's second year of patchworkiness. When healthy, Adam Wainwright was stellar.

    The Bad:

    • Two rotation spots are still held by Mssrs. Lohse and Piniero. Lohse had a career year last year that he will need to duplicate just to be a capable #2 starter and Piniero stinks. It's also questionable whether Todd Wellemeyer can duplicate his late season success.

    • New starting SS is Khalil Greene. Most experts are counting on him having a bounceback year but I'm not sold. Skip Schumaker also needs to adjust to 2B.

    I was shocked by the relative success of this rotation last year and will only be a believer if they find success again. Ryan Ludwick's season last year was an outlier, he's going to be 31 this year. Nothing about this team says to me that they'll be much better than last year.

    Predictions: 82-80 record; Snack machine in clubhouse gets Gardetto's Snack Mix; Joe Mather takes pictures of his wang, texts them to you.

    2. Cincinnati Reds:
    The Good:

    • The rotation has the potential to be one of the league's best. Endindson Vozquez has ace stuff, and Johnny Cueto showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie. Barring you know what, that's an explosive 1-2. Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang are question marks (especially after I heard one from one of baseball's most prominent reporters that he thinks Dusty may have permanently killed Harang's arm), but with two highly capable pitchers in Homer Bailey and Micah Owings battling for the 5th spot, they have options.

    • The top of the lineup has two speed guys in Taveras and Hairston and three young guys with power in Votto, Phillips and Bruce.

    • Defense improves with addition of Alex Gonzalez at short.

    • Team had the 8th best bullpen ERA in baseball last year and added the efficient Arthur Rhodes.

    The Bad:



    I mostly kid. Players like playing for Dusty and if he manages to keep this team in the race for a good part of the year he'll get some MoY consideration. People like Dusty, and I like this team. Maybe lightning will strike.

    Predictions: 89-73 record; Juan Encarnacion buys a 1998 Ford Escort just to keep his shoes in; Joey Votto and Jay Bruce compare biceps an NL regular season record 7199 times surpassing Kevin Mitchell and Will Clark's 1989 record; Locusts.

    1. Chicago Cubs
    The Good:

    • The rotation is the best in the division. Zambrano, Harden, Dempster and Lilly are a strong 1-4.

    • Carlos "Nice" Marmol makes the transition to closer. He's succeeded as both a middle reliever and set up guy, and should be good in the 9th.

    • The addition of Milton Bradley to Soriano, Lee, Ramirez and Soto also puts the lineup in elite company and in even better shape than last year when they had the 5th most TBs in baseball.

    The Bad:

    • The productive Mark DeRosa was replaced by the less productive Aaron Miles.

    • Fukudome must improve on last season to fulfill expectations.

    The Cubs seem to have it all to win the divsion by a comfortable margin for the second straight year. I won't comment on anything beyond, but know that I don't believe in curses.

    Prediction: 99-63 record; Ryan Theriot finally throws out his Christmas tree towards the middle of June; Lou Piniella finally sees Titanic and hates it; Team doctor recommends players begin eating actual bear food.

    Gary Matthews Jr: "I Wish To Play. You Have Been Warned."

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    Two years ago, Gary Matthews Jr. was coming off of a career year in Texas and cashed in with a 5 year, $50M contract with the Angels. He was merely average his first year with the club, and after the Torii Hunter signing last year he played sporadically, nursing a bad knee most of the time. Perhaps the someone should have advised the Angels not to give a player $50M after one good season, but in any case what's done is done and now Little Sarge wants a chance to earn his money.

    "My goal is to play every day," Matthews said. "I hope that's here.

    "I don't intend to sit around and play a couple times a week like last year.I sacrificed by changing positions, not making a stink about it and playing when I was hurt, with a pretty significant injury," Matthews said. "I did what I was supposed to do and kept my mouth shut.

    "Now that I'm healthy, I want to go back to playing every day. I don't think anybody would fault me for that."

    GM Tony Reagins said he's "aware" of Matthews request but there haven't been any demands. That's pretty lax treatment of a man with gently simmering rage who everyone is pretty sure used to take HGH. The reality of the situation is that Matthews sits about fourth or fifth on the Angels OF depth chart, and he betrays the truth with that "I hope that's here" line.

    But where would they move him if it came down to that? Mike Scioscia seems openly skeptical that he's healthy which probably isn't the best way to preface a trade. Add in the fact that he's still got $30M over 3 years on that contract and moving him isn't going to be a cost cutting measure for the Angels. Eating part of that deal will balance out any bargain they got signing Bobby Abreu.

    None of this is Matthews' fault. The Angels signed him to an outsized deal, and there are worse things than wanting to play. Just don't think Matthews plans on being this polite about for the rest of the year.

    Mickey Mantle For Post Cereal Trading Cards - 1960s

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    Today's Classic TV Friday brings us into the backyard of a verbally abusive child collecting his Post Cereal Trading Cards. When some cootie covered girl comes over to go swimming, he basically tells her to take a hike. Then when she starts hallucinating looking at a Mickey Mantle card, it's really time for this loopy dame to scram. This kid is my hero. Please to Enjoy.

    Marlins Strike Deal With NAACP

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    The Marlins stadium deal has been on again/off again/on again so many times since we first covered it over a year ago, that it's hard to keep tabs on what exactly is going on. Two major votes on whether or not Miami will sign off and provide stadium funding happen next week. In the run-up to those votes, the team is trying to garner community support and has just signed a first of its kind deal with the NAACP that promises 15% of construction contracts go to black owned businesses.

    The formal announcement will take place during a signing ceremony at the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Annual Business Leaders Luncheon at Jungle Island in Tree Top Ballroom in Miami.

    "This is a great day for black business, not only in Miami, but nation-wide. It shows the strength of collaboration between the NAACP as an advocacy group and the chamber of commerce as an effective economic development organization. This agreement creates a standard for partnerships and how they should work in the Black community across the country," Bill Diggs, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce said.

    On Thursday, the panel approved an item to expand a special taxing district on Overtown. It will generate millions of dollars for infrastructure, improvements and affordable housing in Overtown, NBC 6's Steve Litz reported.

    Diggs said it is important that African-American contractors are involved in the process.

    "We are talking about millions of dollars coming back to black-owned companies that can now take their kids to games because, guess what, their families are now working and they understand the value of that," he said.

    Black community leaders stated initial reservations to the project last month. The Stadium will be built near the site of the old Orange Bowl in a predominantly black neighborhood known as Overtown. The State of Florida allots a certain amount of their state contracts to businesses owned by women and minorities but the Marlins are putting $155M of their own into the estimated $515M project, and have taken this step independently.

    You can chalk much of it up to PR, but engaging community business is a great way for the Marlins to become part of the neighborhood they'll live in (provided this contract doesn't get in the way of competitive bidding). Meanwhile, as he ponders the ever dwindling numbers of African Americans in MLB, Bud Selig is probably wondering why he didn't think of something like this.

    What's Up Creampuff: Dudes That Got Hurt

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    Did you know that Rimadyl, a pain reliever for dogs, was originally made for humans? It proved successful but was later withdrawn on "commercial grounds." You try keeping up with those marketing bastards at Aleve. They never sleep. So now if your dog has arthritis he eats it. Maybe we can ship some to the following fragile pups.

    Tonight's Questions

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    babysnail.JPG Hey kids, jack/stones.

    • WHAT do Rob Iracane and Shane Victorino have in common? Apparently they're both big fans of the TV show "John & Kate Plus 8."

    • WHY is Kevin Youkilis sad? He says Team USA isn't feeling the love.

    • HAS a sentence ever described someone so succinctly as, "When he's not blasting Tupac and grinding his teeth, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon..."?

    • WHY is Tony Jackson one of the best beat bloggers in the country? Because of his no nonsense takes on things like the Pedro to LA rumors.

    • DO you ever lament the fact that you never got to see two dinosaurs get in a fight? Well stop lamenting.

    • WHY can't anyone write a smart take on why they don't like the WBC? I'm sure it can be done, there are real flaws, but I haven't read anything yet that doesn't make the author sound either insane, or like a knuckledragger.

    WBC is off till Saturday. But, people get ready. It's coming to the States. Not that I'd watch it tonight, anyway. CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS ARE EXCITING, Y'ALL! See you tomorrow, same WoW Channel. Vous aussi, Escargot Baby

    A WoW Warning To All Grownup Rays Fans

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    What you see here is the replica AL Champions Ring being given to all fans at the April 14 home game. If you are over the age of 13 years and receive one of these, please heed the following.

    ***DO NOT WEAR THIS RING OUTSIDE OF YOUR BEDROOM***

    First off. You weren't on the team. You wouldn't wear your neighbor's class ring, would you? Or your girlfriend's wedding ring? Exactly. So don't wear this.

    Secondly, it commemorates the fact that the Rays came in second. I understand what an improvement that was for the club. I have not been in a coma. But they didn't win. That makes the already suspect idea of wearing a replica team ring just totally off limits. Don't do it. I'm looking at you, David Chalk.

    If you're a kid and you're a Rays fan, by all means wear this thing out. It probably seems cool. Just beware you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of being happy with almost succeeding. And you know where that gets you doesn't it? Writing a sports blog.

    (Photo by James Borchuck, St. Pete Times)

    Who Wants To Employ Pedro: Baltimore vs. Los Angeles

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    Today I begin a 55 part series on which professional or semi-professional baseball team will pay Pedro Martinez to pitch for them. Today the former Cy Young Winner and future HoFer received endorsements from Baltimore Sun Writer, Peter Schmuck and LA Times Schmuck, Bill Plashke.

    I was in the Orioles locker room yesterday and heard Schmuck going to locker to locker dropping the P word and gaging player reaction. Of course there is still a lot of respect for Martinez throughout baseball, and Schmuck's basic premise is a strong one. Starting pitchers are hard to come by for this Baltimore club at the moment, and if Martinez is as strong as he appeared in the WBC, he's one of the best options out there for plugging a hole. I'd also think that coming back to the AL East would be an attractive option for the always competitive Pedro. So the Orioles are probably players in this, then. Right?

    Orioles president Andy MacPhail said after the game that the team has no intention of contacting Martinez's representatives. The Orioles have brought in a veteran pitcher in Adam Eaton, who has yet to make a competitive appearance, and MacPhail seems willing to gut out a few sore arms to get a long read on the organizational pitching situation.

    "Obviously, our pro scouts are out in other camps, looking at other pitchers," MacPhail said, "but we would have to think it is a meaningful upgrade."

    So much for that. Let's take Baltimore off the big board. Now onto Los Angeles where Bill Plashke makes what can only be called a plea to Dodgers management to bring back Pedro in his usual staccato nonsense style.

    Fifteen years is long enough.

    Two-hundred and fourteen wins and three Cy Young Awards is stuff enough.

    The ghost of Delino DeShields has haunted enough.

    It's time to bring Pedro Martinez home.

    One year after an opening day in which the Dodgers ceremonially connected with their past, they could do it for real by turning a humongous mistake into a homecoming king.

    Bring back the giant they thought was too small. Bring back the fighter they thought was too brittle. Bring Ramon's little brother home.

    Wow, I didn't even know Delino DeShields was dead. How'd I miss that? Anyway, Plashke doesn't like what he's seeing from Jason Schmidt (who I thought was dead) and thinks the Dodgers are one of the teams that can afford to pay a fifth starter the kind of money that Pedro is looking for. Rob's boy, Ned Colletti seems to agree.

    "He's somebody we're curious about," General Manager Ned Colletti said. "We know how great he has been, and we know how popular he is in Los Angeles."

    That quote isn't tantamount to a contract offer, and could even be translated into "Ok, I'm hanging up now, Plashke," but still it's not a flat out denial like the O's and Mets have delivered. So for this matchup, I declare The Los Angeles Dodgers to be more interested in Pedro than the Baltimore Orioles. Join me tomorrow as I pit the Chilean National Team against the Brockton Rox for his services.

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    Hey kids, coming to you from beautiful Ft. Lauderdale Stadium in my old stomping grounds of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It's home to the Orioles and the raddest, most old school open air pressbox I've been in. Was just down on the field and in the clubhouses and it's about 76 degrees, and partly cloudy. A light breeze just blew my hot dog wrapper down on the field but I'll make do.

    Your lineups and timestamped impressions of today's game, below the jump. Join me, because you're not really working anyway.

    Tonight's Questions

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    Hey kids, I need sweets as soon as I wake up from a nap.

    • WOULD the Red Sox, or any team, use a six man rotation

    • WHO knew our Canadian friends were so whiny?

    • SO who's wrong about Francisco Cervelli: Mike Piazzam who loves him or the Yankees who gave their old one armed catcher that big extension last year?

    • IS it possible that the year's worst baseball column has been written before the season even starts? Because whatever this is, it's really terrible.

    • SERIOUSLY what is that guy's point?

    • EVER wanted to know what Jonah Keri thinks of Strat-o-Matic baseball? Too bad, here it is anyway.

    Watch some WBC tonight. I'd tell you to turn on the Liverpool-Real Madrid match but it aint much of a match so far. Also, because this isn't a soccer site. But hey, I'M SUPER PRIMED FOR INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION. See you tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

    (We owe a coke to semi-literate commenter Phony Gwynn for the ESPN flub video.)

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    Here in the Xtreme Depression every job opening is a precious one. Seasonal jobs are being treated like full-time positions in the hopes of holding people over until the economy bounces back. And what's more seasonal than baseball? Well fine, foliage is but it's hard to get a job as a leaf. As minor league baseball stadiums around the country begin to come to life, the story is the same at many of them. Huge turnouts for job fairs and dozens of resumes for each open position.

    • The AAA Tacoma Rainers, held a job fair for about 300 seasonal positions. 775 people turned out, almost 4 times as many as last year.

    • The Kannapolis Intimidators (who I'm 99% sure are named after Dale Earnhardt which is awesome) are also seeing about triple the applications as last year. Scott Todd a former CFO is trying to see it as an opportunity to get into sports, a field he loves. It doesn't say which job he's applying for but his healthy attitude seems like it would go along way in this market.

    • The situation is even more extreme in Buffalo. 800 people showed up for 90 positions with the Bisons. Not surprising in a town where unemployment just hit the 9% mark. It's just a shame there are only 90 jobs. Rob was right. We need expansion.

    • On a more lighthearted note even The Bowling Green Cave Shrimp Hot Rods are seeing a huge surplus in people available to sing the anthem. In a scene that sounds like a cross between American Idol and a tractor pull, they had 130 people try out for the 60 home dates.

    All of this is to say that hey the economy is bad but baseball has some work for some people. This Spring, I've learned firsthand the economic impact a team, even staying for just two months, can have ona small town. The repercussions are felt all year. Let's just hope people have enough money to actually go out to the games and keep these people employed.

    But hey, enough of the doom and gloom. Let's end all this unemployment talk on a happy note. No one wants to hire anyone from the Bush Era Justice Department!

    Rinku And Dinesh Vs. Topps

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    Checking my Google Reader over coffee this morning I saw the headline "Very Bad Thing Happen To Us." I wondered why Geoff Baker would be referring to himself as "Us" so I investigated further. To my surprise the post wasn't from Smilin' Geoff but in fact, Rinku and Dinesh. Who done you wrong, guys?

    Yesterday locker room man coming to us from company Topps. He saying we sign contract. We telling him we not reading this english. we say he have talking JB sir. He saying he talking JB sir and JB sir say OK signing.

    So we signing this thing and he give me and Dinesh $5.00. Then we finding out JB sir not knowing this. Man from company Topps lying to us. he very bad man. This very bad company. We having good deals with upper Deck and Playoff. We not liking Topps. We never be Topps if they ask us signing again. They bad man and say lying to us.

    We hoping no people buying Topps cards. Peoples who liking us only buying Upper Deck and Playoff.

    Wow. A boycott. I say DAMN THE LOCKER ROOM MAN! In translation it appears this guy needed Rinku and Dinesh's signature to make Topps Cards of them, and he paid them $5 to grease the skids. Quaint. I'm not sure how much Company Topps usually pays guys for their signatures, but I always assumed it was covered in the MLBPA contract, and not taken care of with wads of small bills in the locker room.

    Then again, what's the big deal here? I completely understand R&D's reluctance to sign anything without consulting JB Sir. He has taken them this far and shielded them from a bunch of unsavory characters, I'm sure. But signing an exclusive deal with Upper Deck for your baseball card seems kind of wrong too. As the guys learn more about the role baseball plays in America, someone oughta tell them how cool it is to have a baseball card, and that they don't need to sell every single piece of themselves to the highest bidder. It seems that everyone involved, including JB Sir, could stand to loosen up a bit. These guys have a lot more to learn about pitching before they get caught up in marketing.

    If this ends up voiding their contract with Upper Deck or something, I'm sure it can be worked out the old fashioned American way. With the threat of litigation. That will be yet another learning experience. But until then, R&D oughta cool out and go spend that $5 on some Five Guys. I've seen the one in Bradenton.

    (Awesome graphic stolen from the talented Blair Kelly)

    Tonight's Questions

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    baby-lobster.jpgHey kids, if you don't tie up your horse at night it might leave you.


    Ta-da. All done for today. We've got more stuff tomorrow, we've got more division previews later in the week. You'll like most of it. Probably. Same WoW channel. You too, Lobster Baby.

    That's Why They Play The Games: 2009 NL West

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    Hey remember THESE? One of our first acts as co-mayors of WoWville were our laughably offbase division predictions. While the guesses were bad there are still some good jokes in there. I urge you to check them out. In any case, it's a new year and we've got a brand new inscrutable crystal ball. I'm gonna kick things off with the NL West. After this we'll review a division with real teams in it.

    5. Colorado Rockies
    The Good:

    • Troy Tulowitzki says he's healthy and ready to be a leader. He, Garret Atkins, Brad Hawpe and an aged Todd Helton can all produce runs.

    • Chris Iannetta gets a full season behind the dish. He went off yesterday in the WBC and hit 18 tots last year.
    The Bad:

  • Jeff Francis, out for the year, surgery.

  • Matt Holiday, gone to the A's.

  • Brian Fuentes gone to the Angels and being replaced by... Huston Street? Eep.

  • The Holiday trade brought little back to the table for the Rockies, something they can't be happy about when dealing with the A's. The rotation has guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Marquis and the truly mediocre Greg Smith locking up spots in it. For a team that went 77-84 last year and lost their best hitter and starter, it's impossible to see how they'll score nearly as many runs as they'll give up.

    Prediction: 67-95 record; This year's "Exotic Game Clint Barmes Injury" will involve cobra meat; Manny Corpas changes his first name to Habeus.

    4. San Diego Padres
    The Good:


    The Bad:

    Their offseason additions include Emil Brown, Cliff Floyd, Henry Blanco, and David Eckstein. It's not like they paid any of them a ton of money but even as value moves their ceiling is pretty low.

    Any Padres improvement this year relies on a pretty simple formula. Getting better and healthier seasons from their players then they did last year. No radical remake here. Keeping Brian Giles out of the pokey would also help. Well, the team. Not that lady he pounds on.

    Predictions: 74-88 record; Club gets into a legal battle over name with Chicano Priest Association and has to change their name to the San Diego Rectories; "Bud Black's Big Butt Bonanza," a hidden camera voyeur film, debuts between innings at a home game in May. Fans initially horrified, eventually aroused.

    3. San Francisco Giants:
    The Good:

    • The Giants are putting together one of my favorite rotations in the league. Defending Cy Young winner Timmy! and face of the franchise Matt Cain create a formidable 1-2. Noah Lowry, when healthy is a solid pitcher, though he's not healthy at the moment. But the guy I'm really interested in is Jonathan Sanchez. He struck out 157 guys in 158 innings last year in his first full season. I think he'll be even better this year.

    • Oh yeah and they got Randy Johnson, who's 2008 was his best year since his original stint in Arizona.

    • The bullpen is also decent. Friend of Rinku Dinesh, Brian Wilson, had 41 saves but wasn't exactly dominating. If he can keep more guys off the basepaths in the 9th he'll be nearly untouchable and set up guys Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt are solid.

    • Edgar Renteria joins the team. Dude has been in the league for about 13 years and lost more than a step, but this is one lineup that actually improves with his addition.

    The Bad:

    • That lineup. The Giants were the only team in baseball not to break 100 home runs last year. Aaron Rowand and Bengie "Benji" Molina are the biggest power threats.

    • It could be argued that it's more of an "unkown" than a "bad" but the infield around Renteria is being filled out by a bunch of guys that spent last year in Whoville. Pablo Sandoval showed some pop in limited time last year, but until we see how everyone pans out, this group has to be thought of as punchless till they prove otherwise.

    I'd have loved to make some waves and push the Giants up a little higher, but as good as their pitching is, they're going to have to be flawless with this offense. But remember now that I'm hedging my bets just in case Old NL Renteria and one of the young infield guys really break out and get this team somewhere even close to league offensive averages again.

    Predictions: 81-81 record, Benji Molina's stellar blog continues to get better until he eventually ousts me from WoW in a bloodless coup; To make the best of bad economic times Randy Winn and Fred Lewis augment their newly opened seafood restaurant to include a pawn shop. "Fred & Randy's Pawn n' Prawn" becomes Bay Area hotspot.

    2. Arizona Diamondbacks

    The Good:

    • Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and to an extent, Max Scherzer.

    • Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson and to an extent, Chris Young.
    The Bad:

    • I think the Diamondbacks would rather have Micah Owings third in the rotation than needing so much our of Scherzer already. Especially seeing as how they gave him up for 2 months of Adam Dunn. Scherzer blew people away in limited action last season (68 Ks in 56 innings) but says he still feels "far behind" in terms of rehabbing from an arm injury last year. Doug Davis and Webb have both missed starts this spring as well.

    The Diamondbacks came flying out of the gate last year before pulling up lame towards the end. The competition in the NL West is roughly the same as last year, with the Giants being better and the Rockies being worse. Accounting for natural improvement from those young bats the Diamondbacks look to have a similar record this year. It will come down to steps up in that third rotation spot.

    Prediction:84-78 record; "Bring Your Diamondback to the Diamondbacks Game" promotion results in 11 poisonous snakebites and 36 mountain bikes.

    1. LA Dodgers

    The Good:

    • When he resigned we said we wouldn't talk about you-know-who so I won't. But he's good that guy.

    • The rest of the outfield seems to have solidified with regular playing time for the young guys that should have been in there all along. No more Pierre, no more Jones. No word on how much kicking and screaming it took to get Joe Torre to acquiesce.
    • Clayton Kershaw is back for a second go round. Lloyd thinks he'll put it together and I agree. Chad Billingsley didn't look so great in the playoffs but had a good enough 2008 to make him a not ridiculous top of the rotation guy.

    • A full season of Rafael Furcal and his airtight defense will take some pressure off of said rotation.

    The Bad:

    • Kershaw better be good. Without a solid campaign for him this is barely the 3rd best rotation in the division.

    We picked them to win last year before the Mannyquisition, and they did. If you've learned one thing reading this preview, it's that this division hasn't changed all that much, so why not pick them again. The outfield is improved and while Derek Lowe had a good year in 2008 his loss can't be called devastating by any stretch. Another down year in the NL West, but another title for the Trolley Dodgers.

    Predictions: 88-74 record; Andre Ethier tests positive for tasso ham; Joe Torre changes the spelling of his name to Joat Orry; Russell Martin goes around clubhouse every single day telling people "My sleep number bed is stuck on 69."

    Weekend Questions

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    Hey kids, leave a trail of crumbs.

    • WHAT brand of smokes do you think Scott Olsen likes? Mustangs? 305s? It's gotta be something cheap until the new stadium is built.

    • DON'T you think it's kind of weird that Nomar and Orlando Cabrera have crossed paths once again?

    • NOW that MLB has banned "A-Fraud" jerseys what will the most uncreative person you know where to their next baseball game?

    • SINCE Florida State athletics have to forfeit a bunch of wins in baseball, football and other sports will Bobby Bowden finally realize he's not going to retire as the all time wins leader and just go home quietly and let us move on with our lives as FSU football fans pretty please? And yeah, the baseball team!

    • AM I going to be disappointed by the Watchmen? I sure hope not. Like many others I've been looking forward to it for a long time.

    Hey we got some weekend programming scheduled for you! Rob will be here during tomorrow's USA/Canada WBC game hosting a discussion thread that you can all get in on. You all have a good weekend no matter what you end up getting into. See you Monday. Same WoW channel.

    Letterman week continues on WoW with today's Classic TV Friday. Here we find the convergence of two of my all time favorite people, Dave and Warren Zevon, joined by an adorable miniature horse in a baseball cap. The horse is only in the clip for about 10 seconds around the 2:40 mark but that's pretty much all the baseball I needed to justify posting this.

    Please to enjoy this clip, and every sandwich.

    What's Up Creampuff: Dudes That Got Hurt

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    The hardest part of writing Creampuff is this witty opening paragraph where I call everyone a nancy. So instead I present this paragraph from AJ Burnett's wikipedia:

    The Toronto Blue Jays took a chance by signing Burnett to a five-year deal due to his history of injuries, and the 2006 season began with him going on the disabled list when a piece of scar tissue -- remnants of his "Tommy John" surgery -- broke off in his pitching arm. However, some baseball commentators like RotoWorld and Tim Dierkes sill considered the signing worthwile, since many of the other free agent pitchers that year, like Matt Morris and Paul Byrd had less impressive career stats, even though they had fewer health risks.

    Oh, that's rich. On to the fragiles.

    Tonight's Questions

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    Hey kids, you have 9 minutes. Concentrate.

    • WHAT is the deal with Florida State Seminole JD Drew's back? Let him tell you.

    • ARE you familiar with MORP? I wasn't until today, but the Royals seem to have a pretty good one. There's an indictment of Sabermetrics for all you old schoolers.

    • HEY Chipper, what kind of pitch did you hit out today?

    • CAN you think of a worse worst case scenario for A-Rod than Bo Jackson? Me either, but the language of this injury is eerily familiar.

    • HOW mad at me are you for putting that stellar old Juicy Fruit song in your head? Best jingle ever. Take a stick sniff. Pull it out. The taste is gonna move ya when you pop it in your mouth.

    Tomorrow. All your Friday favorites. Hey baseball players, be on the lookout for wallabys. Same WoW channel.
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    You know what is not an underexplored angle? The plight of the washed up baseball/football/hockey/basketball/foosball/tetherball player that feels they've got "one more in them." I think the reason it keeps being written about is that it's such a relatable emotion, and as such is probably the single quickest way to humanize an athlete.

    My reaction to these is almost always a silent "don't do it" followed by a twinge of pity. Especially when a player has a legitimately respectable legacy, like that of our newest Comeback (Not) Kid, Bernie Williams. His return with the Puerto Rican WBC team a couple weeks back was immediately gratifying, as long as we felt it would be a spring time victory lap and nothing more. But of course, we knew that wouldn't be it. From Jack Curry's stellar piece in today's NYT:

    "After doing this for 16 or 17 years, you get some of that baseball thing back in your system," he said. "It's like, 'Whoa, maybe I can do this for a couple more years.' I guess that's part of the fantasy that I try not to allow myself to live."

    Williams insisted that he was practical about how remote his chances were of playing in the majors, but he did not dismiss the notion. He spoke about it longingly, even suggesting a situation in which he played superbly in the W.B.C., then received an offer to be a reserve outfielder.

    Of course, that was Bernie the dreamer talking. That was the one holding two bats near the cage at Charlotte Sports Park, about to play his second game in 29 months and apparently ready to sign a contract immediately.

    Bernie is realistic later in the article noting we're currently in a free agent climate that has been harsh to ballplayers that are still in the league, and still producing at that. But Curry's framing of the article paints him as really, truly believing he could do it. It's a sentiment of faith in oneself, and perhaps moreso just a general wistfulness for days gone by. A wistfulness shared by all, athlete or not. His response to Don Zimmer's remarks that he "looks like he's 30" (to be fair, Don Zimmer said that to John Wooden last week) sums that feeling up perfectly.

    An excited Williams smiled and said: "Really? I wish, I wish."

    You and the rest of us, Bernie. Here's to a place where none of us get older.

    Bob Uecker, Master Of The Cough Button

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    Artie Lange was on the Late Show Tuesday night. Among other things, he regaled Dave with a tale of being in the booth with Norm MacDonald and the immortal Bob Uecker. Best three man broadcast team ever.

    Anyway, Uecker is apparently still chasin' skirts at his advanced age. Of course this is no surprise if you were around for this post last year. At least we can now be certain what Ol' Bob is staring at out of frame there. Also, a couple weeks ago Rolling Stone told me that Artie Lange goes on frequent heroin benders and is an attention starved loonball. He seems to like baseball though.

    Manufactured Manny Melodrama Mercifully Moot

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    I was driving in my car listening to something called the Petros and Money Show when they announced that ESPN was reporting that The Dodgers were going to sign Manny to a 2 year $45M contract.

    I pondered the informational disconnect and I pondered why on earth I was listening to sports talk radio. I pulled into my destination. I made some popcorn with shakeable Cholula seasoning and I reveled in the fact that we don't have to talk about Manny or Frank McCourt for the rest of the Spring.

    Tonight's Questions

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    Hey kids, don't put me on.


    That's all for today you whippersnappers. We'll be back tomorrow. It's gonna be wilder than Taz in here. Same WoW channel.

    (Photo of the 1912 Brooklyn Dodgers team stolen from the Library of Congress' Flickr page.)

    Rocco Baldelli: The Walkoff Walk Interview

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    On my Florida excursion I've been interviewing a handful of guys in each home clubhouse. While most of them won't make it up here, that's mainly due to me asking uninteresting questions. If an interview hasn't worked so far it has been almost always my fault for not having pressing questions or following up correctly. It's been a learning process but I feel like I've improved leaps and bounds over the past week.

    This morning I was in the Red Sox clubhouse doing my very best not to be a homer and everything went well. I had a long and wide ranging conversation with Mike Lowell that touched on a number of subjects besides baseball. Unfortunately my voice recorder was messing up so I just have some hand scribbled notes. Although in some way that may have contributed to the casual ease of the conversation. It was definitely the highlight of this whole thing for me so far. Jason Varitek said he couldn't talk today but he could tomorrow, then he took his shirt off. That was a little uncomfortable.

    But the conversation I've deemed best suited to be the next Walkoff Walk Interview was with Rocco Baldelli. This is only partly because it will make me look cool to Lloyd. I interrupted him doing a crossword puzzle.

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    Kris Liakos: So I'm sure this is the first question everyone always asks you. How are you feeling?

    Rocco Baldelli: Yes that is the first question everyone asks me. I was joking last week that I'm going to make a sign that says "Feeling Good" and put it on my locker.

    KL: I saw that. Let's make it and put it up now.

    RB: Haha. No, but I am feeling pretty good. Tito has been great with me. We talk everyday. DH some days, play the outfield some days. Just be ready for everyday.

    KL: It already looks like Drew won't be coming out of camp 100%, that may open a spot right away in the outfield. Are you ready to go immediately when camp ends?

    RB: I think ultimately everyone wants to see JD out there as much as possible. We know we what he can do. I'm going to try and bank on that for now and hopefully just be ready to do whatever I have to do. Left, Right, Center, DH one or two days... I'll be happy doing whatever.

    KL: So I'm a New England guy, like yourself. I have to try and be impartial when I'm doing this kind of stuff. And you obviously coming up in the Tampa organization, did you ever have one eye on the Red Sox just to see what they were doing? Was there a part of you that remained a fan?

    RB: Well I grew up about an hour from Boston, but I always busy playing the game. I was never a big fan of any team. Obviously the Red Sox were close to my house so I'd go see them but I never felt a huge attraction to Boston as a fan. I always looked at it more from the other side, as a player.

    KL: So you had that outlook as a player even from early on. Interesting.

    RB: Yeah.

    KL: You have a better perspective on this than maybe some other guys, do you think (The AL East) is the best division in baseball?

    RB: Well, as a player it's tough to say. I wanna say yes.

    KL: I guess I shouldn't say "best" I should say "toughest." Do you think this is the toughest division in baseball?

    RB: Well yeah, last year we had 4 teams that were playoff caliber teams. 4 teams that if the right scenario happened could have been World Series caliber. So you take 4 teams like that and you have them play each other 19 times a year, you beat up on each other. But there's no use complaining about it. I learned that a long time ago in Tampa. We weren't very good and we'd get beat up on by this division. It made it difficult, but that's the reality. Complaining isn't the way to go about it. You just grit your teeth and deal with it.

    Tonight's Questions

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    DAMN YOU LIAKOS
    Hey kids, your body has to conserve energy when its core temperature drops.


    That's all for today. I'm at the Reds/Red Sox game tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for a Dusty Baker interview and all kinds of other good stuff. Jimmy Fallon starts tonight but I'm gonna be snoozin. See ya. Same WoW Channel. You too, Chimp Cowboy.
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    Hey kids. I'm here at sunny but windy Dunedin Stadium in quaint Dunedin, FL. Home of the Blue Jays and the $6 Media Lunch. What the hell Blue Jays? Stop being so desperate for American dollars. Anyhow, I just left the Toronto clubhouse where I had conversations with Lyle Overbay, Kevin Millar and Cito Gaston. I interviewed Millar when I was in high school and he was a Marlin. I mostly interviewed him today for closure and to have a look how far I've come life moment. He called me Big Dog. I was also stood up by Doc Halladay. I forgive him though since he is my favorite non Red Sock. And was legitimately busy in the Conditioning Room.

    I'll try and put together more than 3 innings for you today. I have lots of stuff to talk about from my weekend trips, but the Phillies only do in-game interviews, so I'll be leaving you every couple of innings as their starters come out. I really wanna interview Ryan Howard. So here we go. World Champion Phillies and Blue Jays. After the jump.