Thursday, November 30, 2006

what did i just say last week

Dear Albert Pujols:

85 is more than 83.

I would LOVE to have the Phils playing in the same division as the Pirates, Cubs, and Brewers. They might've won 90 with those clowns.

Wait! You have a ring and MVP trophy already. You have no reason to complain. Ever. Again.

In conclusion, shut the fuck up.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Passing the torch?

Buster Olney is slowly replacing Peter Gammons as the go-to guy for baseball insider information. He's broken a lot more stories such as all the dirt on the Japanese imports this off-season.

The Cubs and Dodgers are spending like the Mets did last year, which is kind of depressing. I love when a team gets good players right from their farm system, a la Papelbon. Looking at the deal Soriano got, I kind of hate the world.

When it's all said and done, the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers will be spinning their wheels going into the post season in '07 because the AL is simply a better league. The Cardinals won the World Series this year, yes, but that's not going to become a trend.

Tuesday's coming...

I realize that his contract is huge, and that he did give up during the last third of the season in '06, but there is no real trade involving Manny Ramirez that would make me happy. There isn't anyone the Sox could get in trade who could replace his productivity, and there is hardly a batter in baseball that can hit good pitching as consistently and with as much power as Manny.

I sincerely hope all these trade rumors and hearsay involving the Predator look-alike fall through, and that he's back in the shadow of the green monster in '07. As much as I don't like his personality, he's the best thing the Sox have on offense, and while the guys at baseball prospectus tend to disagree with me, Ortiz needs that protection.

Years in the left field at Fenway have honed his skill at playing balls off the monster. Watching Willy Mo struggle in right on the days he filled in for Trot made me realize just how quirky the Fenway outfield can be, and with the defense heading the way of the buffalo this off-season, it's important to make damn sure that whoever is in left can play the monster.

I like Manny, and as long as he puts up 100+ RBI’s and 30+ HR’s a year, I don’t give a crap who he is (Manny or otherwise), or what he’s like in the clubhouse.

Speaking of teams in the AL East, the Orioles sure are going at their bullpen with a chainsaw, which is great. Their pen was crap last season (and has been for a long time.)

I haven’t heard a damn thing about Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt yet this off-season. Strange.

A note: When I said the Phils should sign Adam Eaton in a comment a few posts ago, someone listened. Now if they had retained Randy Wolf, I would have said they had great odds to have the best rotation in the NL East. May still be true, but I digress.

Monday, November 20, 2006

well fancy that

I had a rant planned today for how Ryan Howard should've won the MVP over Albert Pujols, regardless of the Series, for doing great in the second half with Jeff Conine as his only protection, for belting almost 60 in the post-steroids era, for lifting a team that had dumped players and given up into the playoff race, and how it's not his fault his team played in a division with a good team (85 wins is more than 83, morons). But then something funny happened... he won.

Good for you, writers. You escape my wrath today.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Just a thought (edited)

I am glad the Sox didn't bid $42 million on Matsuzaka. HOWEVER, they did bid an inconceivable $51.1 million. I can't even imagine throwing that amount of money away to just TALK to someone. They could have signed Barry Zito for that and been done with it, and still have had all the money they're going to throw at Matsuzaka left to get another pitcher. What a gyp. He'd better be the business or I'm going to be pissed all of next season. Look at that picture. He might as well be holding a chalice filled with diamonds and blow for as much as he's going to rake in.

I really hope the Red Sox didn't bid $42 million on Matsuzaka. Sure, the guy will give you near
200 innings per year, but he's not going to give them the stability that solid defensive player with some pop could. Just thinking about who they have in the docket currently for next season, it seems that they don't need more bullpen help than anything else. I mean, if Lester makes a comeback, then there is also Papelbon, Beckett (who should do infinitely well in his second season in Boston after getting over the Renteria hump) and Schilling. I'd rather see the Sox get a starter that doesn't have the potential to turn into Hideki Irabu part deux.

If they did bid $42 million on him, this is kind of silly for several reasons
1. That doesn't guarantee that the two will even agree to a contract
2. If they wanted to trade negotiating rights to another team, they would want some of if not most of that money back. If teams wanted to pony up for Matsuzaka they would have done so at the bidding.
3. He's going to play in 30+ games a year perhaps. However, a position player is going to play in 100+ games.

I guess we'll find out very soon what's up. It's like buying a hooker from Craigslist. She might be amazing, or she might be male. and a cop. And angry. Oh well. I'm sure they did bid that much, I'm sure they'll sign him, and he'll more than likely have a stellar season. If that happens, check back for my 'buy high/sell high' post.

In an April 7 story on Page 2 which I remember reading and enjoying thoroughly, Nate Silver says that Matsuzaka is the 50th most valuable player in baseball. He's ahead of both Zito and Schmidt, who aren't on the list. Interesting.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I Can't Stand It anymoremoremore

I apologize for my discourse here, but I have to rant while I still can (i.e. not employed) and I’ve been wanting to make an argument for something that has bothered me immensely for the past few years. And this site is the perfect place for me to finally get it off my chest. In my season previews for both pro basketball

and hockey
, I suggested maybe dropping some teams or just reorganizing things to go back to four divisions, like they both used to be. Six divisions is too much for either league, with crappy teams routinely getting high playoff spots for winning awful divisions. Four divisions means that teams have to do better to get in. And how awkward is it to have four or eight playoff teams in each conference/league with three divisions? It doesn’t add up. Only football, with 16 teams in each conference and a 16 game season set up well, has a mathematically and sensibly perfect format. Everyone else needs to change.

Naturally, I’m going to make the same argument for baseball. Call me bitter, (and make no mistake: I am very, very bitter), but the Phils have gotten screwed the past two years in the playoff hunt. You can say that they didn’t come through in the end, and that’s true, but I’d like to point out that each time they actually had a top-four record in the NL. They lost out, because of divisional arrangements, to mediocre teams winning bad divisions (St. Louis this year, San Diego before that).

Now, I know St. Louis is not giving me any support in this matter after their great postseason. But still, should they have even been there with 83 wins? That just doesn’t seem fair. Going back to the old two division format in each league would let the best teams make the postseason.

Now I know that baseball has an amazing history and that many purists don’t like the idea of a wild card. Two wild cards would have many traditionalists furious. But this is how the game evolved. Sure, in the old days, only one team from each league made it. They just had the World Series and that was it for the playoffs. But, there were only 16 teams playing for the first half of the century.

The original AL: Yankees, Red Sox, St. Louis Browns (now the Orioles), Washington Senators (now the Twins), Tigers, Athletics (in Philly and then Kansas City), White Sox, Indians

The original NL: Dodgers (in Brooklyn), Giants (in New York), Reds, Cubs, Braves (in Boston and then Milwaukee), Cardinals, Pirates, Phillies

So, traditionalists, please don’t fret, because I’m advocating for a league like that. I think 7 or 8 teams in a division is a good number. Honestly, the old system was nice. It’s just that baseball has almost doubled in size since then. And with expansion, it has naturally added more playoff rounds. After the major expansion of the 1960’s, baseball stood at 24 teams, with four divisions of six teams each, and a new playoff round. In 1969, they started the League Championship Series. This made sense because they had gotten much larger.

AL 60’s expansion: Angels, New Senators (now the Rangers), Brewers (now in the NL), Royals

NL 60’s expansion: Mets, Astros, Padres, Expos (now the Nationals, of course)

This is where things stood until 1994, when baseball reached 28 teams with the addition of the Marlins and Rockies (the Blue Jays and Mariners started in the late 70’s). It is during the 90’s, with the extra expansion and the shaky leadership of Bud Selig, that things started to go wrong. After getting to 28 teams, baseball decided to add another round. No harm in that – they had grown in size again, they already were planning on going to 30 teams soon, and they wanted more postseason cash. It’s perfectly understandable.

But they wanted to be cool and cute and go to an awkward six division format. This was odd mathematically, since there were two divisions of four teams and the rest with five. It was unbalanced. It also spread the good teams out, and though it worked most of the time, bad teams still got in. While no team has ever gotten into the postseason with less than 80 wins under this format, we’ve come close (like, say, the LAST TWO YEARS!!!) And it should be noted than it its first year of existence, the six division format produced a division without any team over .500 (the AL west). Of course, we never got to see a losing team in the playoffs because that first year was also the strike year of 1994. Remember the year that the Pirates were leading the NL central at the all-star break with like a .480 winning percentage? The Astros eventually got it by just barely getting over .500. But you see my point. (By the way, I also remember a year, maybe the same one I just described, when four out of the five teams in the NL east had better records than anyone in the NL central.

Of course, the fifth team that didn’t was the Phils.)

Although this upset me, I figured that having six divisions of five would at least be somewhat sensible in a league of 30 teams. So when Arizona and Tampa Bay began play in 1998, I admitted that it was at least a decent solution, if temporary. But then, Bud Selig continued to be cute and stupid and, I must say, extremely guilty of a conflict of interest. Instead of using the expansion to get to the even format, with five teams in each division and fifteen teams in each league, Bud surprised everyone by moving the Brewers to the NL. Instead of balance, baseball now has 16 teams in once conference and 14 in the other. Now one division has six teams, while another has four, and the rest have five. WTF???

It’s not just the math that bothers me about this move, though seeing those weird standings every day irritates me to no end. And I didn’t even look before how it affects the schedule makers. Let’s see here: the Yankees had 74 divisional games. The Twins had 76. Looks like most of the AL teams had around 75. But in the AL west, they all had 57 games. In the NL, most of the east and west teams also had about 75 divisional games. But the central teams, with their six team colossus, had weird results – Cardinals 81, Astros 77, Reds 84, Brewers 82, Pirates 78, and Cubs 84. Where’s the balance?

But again, like I said, it’s not just about the math. Selig’s reasoning for this was very shady. Instead of doing the natural thing and moving the Tigers and Royals over divisions, he just moved the Tigers and put the Brewers in the NL. He claimed that this would keep rivalries intact and satisfy people. Huh? He claimed, more specifically, that the Royals did not want to move to the AL west, that they had “deep roots” in the AL central, and that fans in Milwaukee had been clamoring for a return to the good old days of the NL, like with the Braves.

Come on, Bud. The Royals haven’t done anything since the new divisions were formed. They haven’t had any significant rivalries, or hell, any significance at all, since George Brett retired. I thought, if anyone, they were rivals in the old days with the A’s and the Cardinals. So I really doubt they cared. And as far as people in Milwaukee go, I can’t honestly say I know, but they hadn’t been an NL city since the mid 60’s. They seemed to support the Brewers pretty favorably for the past 30 years in the AL, especially when they won the World Series for that league.

What was the deal, then? Why create this imbalance and weird shifting for apparently no reason? Well, Selig was owner of the Brewers for years before becoming commissioner. When he accepted the job full-time, he had to sell the team. And he did. But he sold it to his daughter and her husband, so it stayed in the family, and he obviously still cared about baseball there. He knew that moving the Brewers to the NL would create noise/ public interest and opportunity for his beloved team. Most importantly, he wanted to create a rivalry with the nearby Cubs that he knew the team could market. Thus, even though he was a commissioner and not the owner anymore, he changed the baseball format just to get the team more cash. I call that a major conflict of interest, but it happened. And we’ve had that zany sextuplet of misfits ever since.

Well, my plan is going to put a stop to all of this nonsense. I’ll let him have his Brew Crew in the NL, but these divisions will be better off. Since both leagues have an even number of teams, we can simply slice them down the middle. The AL will have two divisions of seven teams, and the NL will have two of eight. Maybe the extra membership will help the NL get back to respectability. Of course, they can always add two more teams… or drop two.

Here’s how I would do it, much like how it was before 1994:

AL EAST: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, D-Rays, Tigers, Indians

AL WEST: White Sox, Twins, Royals, A’s, Angels, Mariners, Rangers

NL EAST: Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Braves, Nationals, Pirates, Reds, Cubs

NL WEST: Brewers, Cardinals, Astros, D-backs, Rockies, Padres, Dodgers, Giants

There. Doesn’t that make much more sense?

I know some rivalries are a little split, but they’ll still play each other. Maybe we can get the displaced central teams in each league to play a few more series. I don’t want to ruin your precious Cubs-Brewers, Bud. (But seriously, we need Tigers-Sox and Tigers-Twins and Indians-Sox and Cubs-Cardinals to stay alive. I’m sure it can be managed.)

Playoffs: Division winners host each wild card; records determine home field advantage (though I suppose wild cards will have to be away every time).

(And let’s dump the all-star game as the way to determine Series home advantage. That’s a whole other topic, but I’m just saying…)

Again, I’m not looking to drop playoff rounds. Maybe they do last too long, and maybe they could finish the season earlier and/or cut the LCS to five games. Who knows. The point is, I think having the best four teams in each league is the most fair. I mean, isn’t that what they want now? Yes, conceivably, a team could finish third in its division and still win the Series. This will piss off the purists, I’m sure. But is it so bad? The other leagues I spoke (hoops and hockey) of have the same number of teams, but twice the playoff participants. And football has 12. Baseball is still the hardest sport to make the playoffs in by far, mathematically.

But this will allow good teams that make a run at the end of the season to get in. People won’t be able to sit on big leads and watch the other teams in their division screw up. This will also put heat on people like, say, the Yankees, who will have to deal with more than just the Red Sox.

And again, this is the only way to ensure that THE BEST TEAMS MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. Eight teams make it; one goes home happy. It’s really not much different from now, in the end, but it makes more sense. I suggest we demand this from the good old American pastime before it loses any more fans. It’s fair, it’s balanced, and unlike FOX news, it won’t make you stab yourself.

Now if we could just get a salary cap and revenue sharing going…..

Meh. Forget it. This is all I’m asking for now.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Heating up

Thanks to Josh Barfield, the Hot Stove is officially 'on.' He says that Cleveland is a 'much better place for him.' He's lying, because the Padres have made the playoffs the past two years (in the weskest division in baseball, but they still made it.)

But forget that for a moment. MLB reports that the Diamondbacks are changing their uniform colors from purple and teal to red and black. Those aren't the technical names for the colors, but that's what they are. They've also changed the typeface for the jerseys to something more angular and sharp.

I like the new uniforms. Now they won't look like the entire team is headed to some horribly creepy easter egg hunt. They're quite overdue for the new look, too, since the whole pastel colors thing doesn't really do much to strike fear into the opposing team. The fact that your team, minus a few players, pretty much sucks too. Oh well.

The new color scheme and font, however, do not excuse the D-backs from their grave mistake of letting Eric Byrnes walk. Like the prodigal son, though, he's back in the desert now. Shame on you too, Orioles.

Seriously though, look at the dude. He's so slovenly. Even during his glorious stint as a commentator on Fox he couldn't pull himself together long enough to say, comb his own hair.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Memo to Pat Gillick

Recent news reports say that the Phillies:

1. Are very interested in Alfonso Soriano.

2. Are looking for another top line pitcher.

3. Are hoping to figure a way, any way possible in the entire cosmos, to trade Pat Burrell.

So Pat, that sounds nice.....

But honestly, there's only one thing I can say as a lifetime Philly sports fan....


Seriously, I'm going to look back at this post in four months and see if any of those three wishes came true. Then, I will be able to easily scale my hopes of the 2007 season on a scale of zero to three. Zero wishes? F--- the Phils, though I guess I should've expected it, and I might just have to endure with the Dodgers and Angels (shudder). Three and I'll be ecstatic, especially since this is the NL and 86-90 wins would easily get them into the playoffs. One and two are meh.... actually two would still be nice.

My money's on zero. Prove me wrong, Mr. G.M.

Monday, November 06, 2006

To the victor goes the gamble on the 29 year old player who may or may not be named Mark Mulder...

Free agent season will officially begin in a few weeks when teams can start looking outside of their own organizations. Lou Piniella is sweating to get Aramis Ramirez to sign that dotted line, I'm sure (and just sweating in general, the man isn't exactly thin.) That said, here is a look at some of the free agents of any worth this off season, and what their market value is based on nothing more than my own, semi-informed opinion.

All of this is based on the ESPN free agent tracker, which at this point indicates that none of those who have filed for free agency have been retained by their current teams.

Also for this post, when I want to put a players picture by their brief, I am going to pick the first or second thing that comes up on Google when I type their name without quotes. Let's start with Ronnie Belliard as an example, and see how this works out...

Ronnie Belliard - So the guy is 31, but he looks and acts like he's still a rookie. However, there are a lot of younger second basemen out there who are decent, so he'll probably be with the Cards next season. He still plays pretty o-k defense. Watching the Cardinals I'm constantly amazed that his pudgy self can move as fast as he does. He'll be a good buy for a mid-market team looking to upgrade their fielding slightly but aren't really willing to invest in a superstar.

Barry Bonds - Hopefully he stays on the West Coast, far far away from any AL team I may have to see play more than once. That said, I like the guy insofar as his talent is concerned, and I think he would be a good fit for an AL team looking for an aging slugger to DH (not like, say, Albert Belle.) However, I think he'll take a one-year with SF to finish out his career. Here's hoping.

Alex Gonzalez - The Red Sox need this guy. He's the most steady fielder they've got, and he wasn't too bad offensively. Should have won the Gold Glove this season at short. He'll probably make a move somewhere else unless the Sox can get him some money. Hopefully out of the AL East if so. I hear Gonzo is pretty sick on drums, too.

Gabe Kapler - Bye bye, Boston. Hello NL.

Mark Loretta - As goes Gonzo, so goes Loretta. The Sox should definitely keep this duo alive. If they plan on doing something about their pitching (which they should), they'll need some solid defense on the middle infield behind some young pitchers.

The Cardinals Rotation - I wouldn't sign any one of these guys before taking a long, hard look at what's available in trade. Suppan, Mulder, Weaver and Marquis are all available, and despite the recency of their postseason triumphs, they're not someone I would want on a team I root for (Hi Matt Clement). Maybe a healthy Mulder. Weaver, who seems to thrive on that adversity and tension, could do well playing in a big market where the fans are more aggressively critical than in St. Louis. I'm thinking New York, perhaps... (SIKE!)

Trot Nixon - I'll miss ya, man. Good luck with the Padres. (Boston lite)

Juan Pierre - Lou Piniella would go on a diet if it meant the Cubbies would definitely sign Pierre. He's a light hitter, but ranked 2nd in the NL in steals with 58, started all 162 games in Center, and had 0 errors. I'd say he's worth the money. If he goes back that SWEET moustache I'd be eternally happy. Also, I'm still bummed that Tony Almaeda won't be back for Season 6 of 24. I'll miss his Cubs mug.

Jason Schmidt - He has a huge head. Also, he's kind of overrated, I think. He's finally coming down off of his stellar '03/'04 campaign, but I he's in for a decent ERA next season if he stays in the NL. His ERA has been climbing, but I think at 33 he still has a few good seasons in him. I certainly think he's better than the 3.59 he pitched last year, and the years following 2001 back me up on this (just not 2005). He's comparative to Jack McDowell (who retired at 33) and Kevin Milwood (who just finished off a not-so impressive season.)

Alfonso Soriano - Yeah, he's good, and he's the best player in the Free Agent class this year. Not much to say about him really. He'll be decent wherever he is. I liked him in the outfield this season though, I think it really helps that he's not getting in the middle of double play combinations at second, either, since there's less likelihood of injury that way. You can't afford to have him out of the lineup.

Craig Wilson - Reminds me of the fat kid blonde with the mayonaise stained hawaiian shirt who just wants to tag along. I bet he's still under private contract to clean Torre's gutters or something for putting him on the postseason roster. Doesn't help that he's fat. And blonde. He's not a bad player, he's just slovenly.

Preston Wilson - No thanks. How the hell he did better than the Tigers in the WS I will never know.

Randy Wolf - The Phillies need to sign him if they want to improve themselves for next year. If they don't, they're basically saying 'we know we almost made it, and we could make it with this squad, so let's get rid of a pitcher and see if we can come alllllmost close enough for a third consecutive year.' He's a good pitcher who didn't do so well in '06 because he was coming off of the DL. He should be strong next season, and will make a solid front three with Brett Myers and Cole Hamels. Hopefully other would-be suitors get scared off from his DL stint and lowball him, and he re-signs with the fightin' Phils.

Barry Zito - I am obsessed with his curveball as are most baseball fans. Not just the trajectory of the pitch, but how he throws it. Watch it sometime up close, it's sick. I think Zito (which in German means 'The Toe') is due for another 20-win season if he can get himself into a pitchers park, or the NL (not Colorado). He'll go for big money, probably the second highest paid player in the class. I know it's not really a pitchers park, but I would LOVE to see him in a Red Sox uni. I balk at how he would handle all the variables though, like the fans and the weather. The A's folded like a wet newspaper against Detroit, and he didn't help his cause, with 5 earned runs in 3.2 innings. We'll see. If he goes to the NL his stats wins will balloon (this is called the Arroyo Effect).

So that's about all I have to say about the Free Agent class this year. There are still a few more days for players to file, but anyone really notable has already filed. This years class is really, really weak, but I don't mind.

I like the idea of having a strong farm system brought about by good scouting and recruiting, and improving your team through shrewd trades. More players are signing deals during the year for contract extensions or new contracts, and for longer, meaning that less good players are ever even reaching the free agent market. A lot of people don't like this, but I think it will allow a more old-school type of ball to return, in that teams reward player loyalty, and vice versa.

As a fan, I hate seeing my favorite players get traded or lost simply because of money. That's why I like the fact that this free agent class is weak. Although, that does put more of an emphasis on lesser known but still stellar players like Alex Gonzalez and Mark Loretta who can now hamstring the Sox if they want to. Oh well.