Kris Liakos: December 2009 Archives

Holiday Questions

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Hey kids, Happy Christmas, war aint over.

Finally, IS there anything more heartwarming than a Christmas card? This year I got one from Curt Schilling. Well, it isn't a Christmas card so much as letter telling me that I'm an idiot for my infocap about Randy Johnson where I mentioned him. To wit:

Kris,

Feelings about me aside, as it's clear you have an opinion of me already, I grew up in Arizona, I loved living and playing there. I 'left' Arizona because after they signed Gonzo to an extension they told me they needed to cut payroll and my contract was how they intended on doing it. I had zero desire to leave there and would have gladly finished my career there.

Curt

So, there you go. I just put that in my pipe and smoked it. I always thought they misspent that money on Gonzo and would have been better off signing Fozzie to a long term deal.

When we return on Jan. 4 it'll be a new decade for whatever that's worth (not much) and Bobby Bowden won't be the coach of Florida State (which no one here cares about but me because this is a baseball blog for people from Boston, New York and Philadelphia). In other words, things'll be pretty much the same. We'll see you then, friends. Happy New Year.

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The imminent end of this decade has already been fodder for about 10,000 blog posts, magazine articles and TV shows. Well, far be it from Walkoff Wallk to let an easy angle like that pass us by. Starting today and running through Wednesday, we're presenting The Walkoff Walk End Of Decade Personality Compendium Infocaps. Divided alphabetically between Kris, Rob and Drew, the Infocaps are our choices for the member of each organization who most defined them during this decade. Often it's the best player, but not always. We hope to inspire reflection, debate and monster pageviews, lady.

Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones
The Braves' Bobby Cox Era spans the entirety of two decades and will be defined historically by starting pitching and playoff disappointment. Funny then, that their defining personality for The Aughts is OF/3B, Larry "Chipper"Jones. One of the finest hitters of any team in this decade and one of the finest switch hitters in the history of the game, Jones hit 25+ HRs in all but two seasons and OPS'd over 1.000 4 times. Like a lot of good things from the South, Chipper's greatness seems underappreciated nationwide. The decade he dominated like few others saw him make only 3 All Star teams.

Runners Up: Bobby Cox, Smolmadglav

Arizona Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson
The World Series Champion 2001 Diamondbacks are remembered for helping the terrorists beat the Yankees and for their 1-2 aces at the top of their rotation. But whereas Curt Schilling treated Arizona like a desert holiday before moving on to a market where he could get more airtime, Johnson made the team his home and, in my mind, will be a Diamondback even more than a Mariner. Excepting his injury plagued 2003, his numbers from 2000-2004 are astounding. He flirted with 400 Ks, won 3 CONSECUTIVE CY YOUNGS, then finished 2nd in the voting in 2004. His two years in New York were forgettable, painting him (unfairly) as a sort of Anti-Schilling, but he returned to Arizona for two more seasons of spotty health that STILL saw him strike out more than 10K/9IP.

Runners Up: Luis Gonzalez, The Guy Who Cleans The Stadium Pool... Look That Stadium Has A Pool!

Baltimore Orioles: Albert Belle
I know I know, Albert only played one season for the O's and it was in 2000. But did you realize that the Orioles paid $50M to Belle for 144 games and 23 HR? Orioles fans have been a whiny lot, what with their walkouts and incessant griping about Peter Angelos, but this move set the tone for an entire decade of mismanagement and lousy spending.

Runners Up: Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, Boog Powell

Boston Red Sox: Theo Epstein/Manny Ramirez (tie)
The team that authored baseball's defining story of the decade benefited from tons of media coverage and thus had plenty of memorable characters. But, with two World Series titles they also had plenty of talent. Success came to Boston by uprooting an entire culture of stubborn and vehemently traditionalist baseball thinking and woe-is-us Eeyorism. The hiring of 28 year old Theo Epstein and the injection of fresh logic that it brought remains one of the boldest front office moves the sport has seen. The bridge that linked the Sad Old Sox and the New Sox also happened to be their best hitter. Despite his all world numbers Manny Ramirez and his 10 year deal were the glaring exception to Epstein's vision of the franchise and as such, for 4 straight years the Red Sox would have given up one of baseball's all time great hitters for just about nothing. That push/pull came to a head with the 2008 soap opera that led to Manny's move to LA. With the exception of the two titles, there wasn't a bigger story out of Fenway this decade.

Runners Up: David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Daubach, Orlando Cabrera

Chicago Cubs: Mark Prior
While I was tempted to praise Derrek Lee for 5 years of fantastic hitting and solid glovework, the Cubs' decade is defined by heartbreak, and no one player epitomizes that better than Mark Prior. The can't miss kid from USC exceeded his lofty expectations in his first two seasons of 02-03 and looked like a perennial Cy candidate in the making. He struck out everybody and didn't walk many (245 to 50 in 211 IP in 2003) and was physically imposing. Until he became a physical wreck. He devolved into Creampuffery with tragic speed and despite being only 29 as I write this, hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006. If you feel like Cubs fans complain more about what happens off the field than on it, well this is one you can't argue with.

Runners Up: Derrek Lee, Kerry Wood, Steve Ba...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle
Mark Buerhle made his MLB debut with the White Sox in 2000 and threw a no hitter with the same team in 2009. Along the way he's pitched at least 200 innings in every single season and threw a CG shutout in his only start during Chicago's World Series sweep of the Astros That's about as complete a resume as you can have for this exercise. Who were you gonna pick, that loudmouth Ozzie Guillen?

Runners Up: Ozzie Guillen, Frank Thomas, Steve Perry, Orlando Cabrera

Cleveland Indians: CC Sabathia/Cliff Lee (tie)
Earlier in the decade, Cleveland was flush with these two All Star caliber lefthanded starters and the conversation was mainly about who would be better. Sabathia debuted at 20 but had a couple middling years showing glimmers of promise before finally finding his control in 2006 and winning the Cy Young in 2007. Lee fell as far as a demotion to the minors in 2007 before his switch got flipped and he won the Cy in 2008. Despite being only the 3rd team in 30 years to have different guys win back to back, the Indians couldn't do anything else right and had to trade them both away. That sums up the decade at Jacogressive Field pretty neatly.

Runners Up: Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Orlando Cabrera

Cincinnati Reds:
All you need to know about the Reds' decade was that I considered Aaron Harang for this spot. Adam Dunn was pretty good, but I'm just gonna post this old video and move on. REDS FANS HOW DO YOU LIVE LIKE THIS?


Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton
The Toddfather wins this one going away. On a team littered with a history of immense offensive seasons from mediocre players, Helton left no doubt that he would have been the best hitter on nearly any team in baseball. 5 times this decade he had 30+ HRs, netting 40+ twice. He's also the active leader in career OBP and 12th all time. Park factors be damned on that stat.

Runners Up: Matt Holiday, Denny Neagle

Detroit Tigers: Dave Dombrowski
No franchise had a bigger wholesale turnaround in the deacde than the Detroit Tigers. A span of just 4 years separated the historically inept, 106 loss 2002 team from the 2006 AL Championship team, a transformation led by Dombrowski as both President and GM. He brought my old pal Jim Leyland out of retirement, acquired numerous big bats (regardless of their final totals) and has made the Tigers a fixture in the topsy turvy 3 way daisy chain that comprises the top of the AL Central. Even with some recent disappointments they're a far cry from where they were 7 years ago and a beacon of hope for miserable franchises across the land from Pittsburgh all the way to Kansas City.

Runners Up: Tilde, Binge, Tigers Fans That Make Up Silly Nicknames, Orlando Cabrera

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Boston made an orca splash yesterday morning when John Lackey was spotted at Logan Airport arriving for a physical in a move that just about no one had been talking about. All indications are that they'll sign Ol' Smiley to a rare-in-Boston 5 year deal right around 82 million, a deal almost exactly that of the one AJ Burnett received from the Yankees last year.

Part of the reason Lackey hadn't been mentioned much in these parts was due to Boston's perceived lack of offense and the troubles it caused for them down the stretch and in the playoffs. Lackey brings a similar "big game" mentality, pitch profile and somewhat balky injury history as current Sox righty Josh Beckett. Hence the Lackey move begs more questions than it answers. Namely, does this free up Boston to trade Clay Buchholz in a package for a big, nay, Adrian Gonzalez sized, bat this offseason, or does it give them more leeway to walk away from the table if Beckett's free agent negotiations spiral out of control next season?

My guess is probably both. I was nonplussed by the move at first, but a deeper look at the options it gives the team (my aversion to 5 year deals not withstanding) makes it look pretty savvy. Friend of WoW Brian MacPherson is right when he says this signing can't fully be judged until you see its fallout on the rest of the roster. He also called it over the summer.

I guess it's finally time for me to rescind this offer to Lackey. Let's be pals.

Boston wasn't done after the Lackey move and gave a 2 year deal to OF and WoWie favorite Mike Cameron. Cameron was all but handed Jason Bay's LF spot and the defensive upgrade from the move is yooge. It's a two year deal that give the Sox their best defensive OF in years and will drop 20+ homers into the order.

According to Dan Shaugnessy, Red Sox fans can finally stop their hand-wringing about a somnolent offseason. Of course, the thing to remember here, as always, is that most Sox fans that were "worried" about a lack of moves during the first week of December were mostly either talk radio goons or pure figments of Shaugnessy's brain. It's gotta be tough finding an angle in a measured front office which keeps it cards close to the vest, especially with him. So now thanks to Theo's Big Monday, CHB can call a resolution to a problem that he made up in the first place. Nice work if you can get it. I just wish someone else could.

Forget The MVP, 2009 King Of Baseball FINALLY Announced

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Over the weekend, one of sports' most prestigious awards was handed out. No not the Heisman, (suck it, Tebow) the 2009 King Of Baseball! Yes, the King Of Baseball that storied title given out every year since 1955, but that I hadn't heard of until an hour ago. This year's royal recipient was Astros Announcer Milo Hamilton. MLB.com points out that Hamilton joins past recipients like "former New York Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez, who won the award in 1986, and former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, who won it in 2008." These two people are completely unrelated but may be the only two winners most people have actually heard of.

A complete list of winners didn't do much to inspire any recognition in me, but it does offer up some good aliases for checking into a hotel. Although, Hamilton is no slouch, and you better believe that aint his first sceptre. He's been in the booth for 64 YEARS! He's called ELEVEN no-hitters! He called Maris' 61st, Aaron's 715th and Bonds' 70th! LOOK AT THAT PICTURE (it's pretty much why this post exists)!

So yeah, Milo is totally deserving of such a lofty honor. But a title as cool as King Of Baseball really needs to start grabbing more of the limelight. We need household names, headline grabbers. Dude gets a cape, for crying outloud. Dmac and I came up with our own picks for King that would really turn some heads and get all the pundits talking about the newest heirs to this fictional kingdom.

I picked 2009 HoF inductee Rickey Henderson mostly because Rickey Henderson would also pick Rickey Henderson and it would be really funny next year when they had to pick someone else and Rickey wouldn't give up the outfit. I was at his induction ceremony this year, and the only way that speech could have been better was if he gave it from a throne. He would be the greatest King since Randy Savage.

DMac chose the cat that ran across the field at Royals game.

Who's your 2009 King?

Is Nolan Ryan Walking Out That Door A Winner?

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That headline applies only if Nolan Ryan walks out that door at all. For those of you who don't have your fingers on the BBQ stained pulse of Arlington Baseball, there's a touch of drama revolving around a potential new Rangers' ownership group and how it will handle the existing management structure. Current and oft vilified owner Tom Hicks would be downsizing his stake in the team (in order to retain any stake at all) by forging a new partnership with a dude named Dennis Gilbert. Gilbert had tried not only to purchase the Dodgers in '03, but also become their GM. Fears that he'd want that same front office partnership with the Rangers had reports saying that Ryan would be submitting his resignation as soon as the Hicks/Gilbert partnership went into effect.

At the moment, that partnership looks to be on the rocks which would put Ryan's departure on hold. But the rumors presented us with an opportunity to grade his stated objective of improving a Texas staff that has been maligned for... well, ever. He not so subtly intimated that he was less concerned with pitch counts than current trends dictated and was trying to make a "tougher" pitching staff. My colleague, Mr. Iracane was skeptical, mainly of the personnel. Despite noting that Ryan was trying to inject some "badassery," he continues:

The pitchers stink. Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla might be the worst one-two punch in baseball, while the rest of the rotation would be lucky to post a sub-5.00 ERA. It's hard enough to pitch in the humid bandbox of Arlington, y'all, but the collection of arms assembled by the Rangers in the majors and the minors is stinkeroo.

How droll, Anti-Clooney. In fact the Rangers did post a sub 5.00 ERA. 4.38 to be exact, down from 5.37 the season before. That's an ERA+ improvement of 23. A significant improvement to say the least. The team got 30+ starts from 3 of its starters, and the other two were Uber Creampuff Brandon McCarthy and noted sociopath Vicente Padilla. Can't expect too much from them.

Was it really Ryan's tough talk and his wholesale access to Advil that improved the teams standing on the mound? Elvis Andrus was a huge defensive addition at short and the team as a whole improved there. And if the team is indeed "pushing" their pitchers past the generally accepted limits of a modern arm, then short term results will only be half the story. We could see stray ligaments chicken fried and gravy smothered all over the park next year.

But for now, Ryan did what he said he was going to do. He drastically improved the pitching staff. Rarely do results so clear come so quickly. And not only that but he's still more recognizable than any current player on the team. From both a results and PR standpoint, whoever takes over the Rangers oughta do their best to keep Ryan around for the near future.

Bat Attack Roundup: December 4, 2009

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The holidays are a time for mirth, reunion and, if you're lucky, the sharing of bounty. And if you're not lucky it's a time for getting rapped in the head with the ol' hickory stick. It's still too early to tell if the following assailants really have what it takes for a long career in crime or if their high HEBIP (Heads Bashed In Play) is just an abberation. Again, the following incidents are all non-critical and non-fatal, so laugh it up and forward these on to Gramma!

  • It's easy to see how the relationship between a lawyer and client could get contentious. And when it's a criminal case, the expectation for violence could also be somewhat... expected. But you'd think it's the client taking a few rips at his counsel, right? Well it's opposite day in Charleston, WV where a lawyer chased a client off his porch and rained blows upon him with a bat"

    (victim, David Lee) Gump, who spoke with the Gazette at his house prior to his arrest on Thursday, said he didn't break in to (lawyer Joshua) Robinson's house. He said he was knocking on the door and standing on Robinson's porch, trying to confront him about a $1,100 check that he said belongs to him.

    "All the sudden he comes busting out of the house with no shirt on and a baseball bat," Gump said. "I knocked on the door and he comes out just like a madman."

    Wow! Former law school classmates say that Robinson had the same intensity when looking at bank statements or telling people at the bar that he was in law school. Feel the madness, all you weasly aspiring attorneys!


  • Wait did I say all these attacks were non-fatal? I meant non-fatal... UNLESS YOU'RE A PEACOCK. A woman in Makaha, HI is on trial (!!) for ripping the NBC logo to the power alley because "the piercing cries of peacocks, which roam free in the area, deprived her of sleep and drove her to take desperate measures." Her lawyer is arguing that animal cruelty laws don't apply to peacocks. Logical.

  • How fired up were Michael Jackson fans about the passing of their hero earlier this year? They're bat attacking paparazzi for filing defamation lawsuits against Jackson's ex "wife." Oh, well that makes perfect sense.

    The photographer, Ed Frommer, says one of the men began "pushing me with a bat through my window," while the other men told him to "stay away from Debbie." No word on whether any of the suspects are named Tito, Blanket or Captain Eo.