Monday, December 29, 2008

Penny and Bard to Boston

So the Red Sox response to the New York spending binge has finally come out in the way of two great investments. Brad Penny and Josh Bard are two players that have showed themselves as being far better than their 2008 performances and the Red Sox did a nice job in picking up this duo for cheap. While Penny has only pitched in the National League, he will benefit from working with "stuff" pitchers in Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Pitching coach John Farrell has done an excellent job transforming Josh Beckett into an American League starter and I imagine that Penny will receive similar instruction. This is also going to be a rotation of 95+ MPH hurlers with Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lester and now Penny all being able to light up the gun.

Interestingly enough, Josh Bard is back in Boston after being passed over for Doug Mirabelli because of his inability to catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. A season in which Bard hit .338, 9, 40 after the trade to San Diego. This signals to me that the Red Sox may be moving past Jason Varitek or certainly will provide him with less playing time because Bard would probably not be catching Wakefield after the debacle in 2006. If Bard and Varitek do indeed make the Opening Day roster, I would imagine that the Red Sox would also be carrying a third catcher to specifically catch Tim Wakefield. Personally, I would think that this signals the end of Jason Varitek's time in a Boston uniform because three catchers will not work for an AL team. Perhaps Javier Valentin or Gregg Zaun would make a good platoon catcher with Bard.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays to Fans in the Bronx

I have been rather quiet lately about the offseason, but with the Mark Teixeira signing today in New York, I think it is time for me to pipe up.

During the month of December, the New York Yankees and Brian Cashman have agressively been pushing their free agent dollars towards signing the top talent to fill the voids from their 2008 team. I have to admit that I am now very impressed that they have Teixeira. Starting over the summer, I saw the Yankees and also the Mets being big players for the slugger and when the Mets decided to stick with Carlos Delgado after a hot second half, the Yankees were the logical destination for Teixeira. When I heard that the Yankees were not all that interested in him up until today, I have been very critical of their signings of Sabathia and Burnett as it was their offense that really needed that extra bat to push it into a playoff picture again. They get that with Teixeira. The possibility for Manny Ramirez is probably closed now as well, which also makes sense for a franchise with 5 solid major league outfielders on its current 40-man roster.

Teixeira receives top-5 money with this deal, though I will argue that he will never be a top-5 player. Teixeira is a fantastic #3 hitter and his ability to get on base and get into scoring position will absolutely give Alex Rodriguez some incredible RBI opportunities. I love that 3-4 combo, it may be the best that Major League Baseball has to offer in the present, with respect to Braun/Fielder.

With the rest of the month, I expect that the Yankees are still not done. They should be looking for another starting pitcher and potentially be shopping around for a reliever and some assistance on the bench. Now that Teixeira has signed, the true market will determine itself and the bargains should start showing up. The market for Manny Ramirez should be back down to just the Dodgers, as the Angels and Yankees seem to be out. I expect the Mets to make a late run. If the Braves could put the personality aside, he makes a ton of sense in Atlanta. I expect January headlines to belong to the Braves, much like the December headlines went to the Yankees.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day Five

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008
The final day finally arrived. With little sleep, lots of junk food and beer in my system from the social networking portion of the Winter Meetings, it was time to wrap this experience up. On this day, I had a couple more interviews with the Connecticut Defenders as well as my rescheduled second interview with the Portland Beavers. Each of which went very well. Neither position has much appeal to me, but the practice of interviewing is always important to job seekers.

With the remainder of the day at the meetings, I spent my time with the friends that I had made during my time in Las Vegas. By putting so many people under the same roof with similar career desires and motivations, it was easy to make connections and friendships. I really enjoyed my time at the Winter Meetings in 2008 and the people I met and lessons I learned. Patience is going to pay off with this field and being able to make your own luck will go a long way for success. It was very appropriate to have a job fair in Las Vegas that taught these ideals. I will do my best to adapt and adhere to these general rules after this experience and hopefully a job opportunity will present itself in the coming days.

What a ride!

The Winter Meetings: Day Four

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
Just as with Monday, the fourth day of the Winter Meetings provided me with some further insight about how to get into the business of baseball. Tuesday was the big day for job candidates as the interviews were running seemingly from 9:00 AM through the cocktail hour. On this day, I had five meetings scheduled in two different hotels and during four different times meaning that I had a double booking between the Pittsburgh Pirates Video Scouting internship as well as a second interview with the Portland Beavers for their Inside Sales Representative position. In addition to those two positions, I also met with the Chicago Cubs baseball operations department, interviewed with the New Britain Rock Cats and Savannah Sand Gnats. It was an incredibly hectic day that required me to go from the Las Vegas Hilton, where the job fair and many interviews were occurring, to the Bellagio, where the major league teams were operating their sessions for the Winter Meetings and then back and forth once more.

Starting with the Chicago Cubs baseball operations department, the day was off to a great beginning despite the circumstances. I had been in conversation throughout the past week or two with Dave Littlefield, scout to the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Littlefield was kind enough to invite me to this meeting of three Cubs baseball operations employees and about a dozen job seekers. Being one of the youngest people in the room, it was a very exciting moment to hear advice from professionals who have succeeded in the field. Some of the highlights of what Cubs management had to say was that those trying to enter into baseball operations need to realize that the position is not going to come immediately and it may take advantage of many internships and networking opportunities to be able to finally find the right opportunity in the field. The silver lining to what sounds like an insurmountable fiscal challenge was that after enough work and being around the sport, a position will eventually present itself. I absolutely believed these men as none had found their way to their respective positions with the Cubs in a conventional fashion. One was formerly in media relations, not getting his first shot at baseball operations until the age of 39, another a coach and minor league player that worked their way through several organizations to get into baseball operations, and the final a athletic trainer that played college baseball and is currently in the video scouting part to the game. None of these routes follow the paths of wunderkinds like Jon Daniels or Theo Epstein, who were given amazing opportunities right after college and groomed to their current positions as general managers.

Another very important lesson that I gained from this meeting was that being able to take initiative with baseball operations tasks such as scouting in a “bird-dog” type position would be important to those who want to try scout work. Bird-dog’s are unaffiliated amateur and professional talent evaluators that provide feedback to major league scouts when they need assistance seeing other areas of the country. This may be something to consider for a future in scouting. One final tip that I felt was important to note was that greater levels of education were important for making job seekers more attractive to a baseball operations department. Being able to speak another applicable language such as Spanish or Japanese or gaining advanced degrees in the form of a J.D. or MBA would be an excellent way to educate you further for a potential job in baseball. I know that I will seek to do both of these in the coming years.

I have to make a final note that I really appreciate what the Chicago Cubs did that morning with young job seekers, by communicating practical advice. It is also important for me to note that Dave Littlefield is one of the few people in baseball that will take the time to respond to phone-calls and communicate not only with job seekers, but with other general managers around the league. It was quite obvious to me that he has done an excellent job of networking as he exchanged greetings with many current general managers in the few minutes we spoke together. This was an incredible experience and I really have him to thank for this new sense of enlightenment.

After the Cubs meeting ended, I had to take a taxi cab back to the Las Vegas Hilton to make my meeting with the New Britain Rock Cats. This was an excellent interview and I really was impressed with what the team was presenting to me. For just about all of the interviews I had during the week, this was the only one that took the correct approach of both parties selling themselves to the other. The Rock Cats did an excellent job of selling their front office mindset as being a fun and competitive place that was highly results oriented. With a team of three interviewers, I got the sense that the Rock Cats organization was a tight-knit group of friends that worked together and received excellent results as a result. Not to mention, one of the interviewers was an Ithaca College alumna. While the position was not the baseball operations spot I have been looking for, I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with and maybe learn from the Rock Cats.

Of course, the next stop on the journey of interviews this day was to go back across town to the Bellagio again to interview with the Pittsburgh Pirates for their baseball operations video scout internship. This was the big interview that I was able to prepare for well in advance. I brought examples of scouting work that I had done previously and really bared my soul to the team that I was ready to learn and improve myself while working with their franchise. In what became nearly an hour-long interview, the Pirates gave me a glimpse at what working in baseball operations would be like and I have to say that it got me incredibly excited. I watched 30 pitches from as many different major league pitchers and commented as to what the pitches were. Then I took a look at a specific delivery and diagnosed the pitch and for what reason it was that type of pitch. Yes – I can see myself doing this type of thing and being very happy doing it. Overall, I like to think that this was an excellent interview for both parties, and I hope that something materializes with the Pirates as this would be my big break.

With the high of the Pirates interview, I had to get another cab to go back to the Hilton to get to a meeting with the Savannah Sand Gnats for their media relations director position. I met with their new ownership and was immediately impressed with what their organization was attempting to do. The Sand Gnats, under new ownership are looking to restructure their front office and I absolutely bought into what they were trying to do. We shared stories about their experience in law and my experiences and abilities with MS Office and being able to be creative with this position that they were interviewing me for. Perhaps this would not be the best fit, but I am very confident that the Sand Gnats are well on their way to becoming a successful minor league franchise with these owners at the helm.

So you all should realize that Tuesday of the Winter Meetings is crazy. Things could have been much better however if Major League Baseball wasn’t pent up in the Bellagio and PBEO was in the Hilton. Two different venues on two different ends of town ended up to be an unbelievable hassle to job seekers. Other than that however, it was an incredible day that taught me precious secrets and also hopefully saw an opportunity open up.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day Three

Monday, December 8th, 2008
Monday was a wonderful change in what seems to be a rollercoaster of a job fair. Monday marked the beginning of the interviews for positions to which I had four interviews with the following positions:

Intern, Las Vegas 51’s
Marketing Trainee, Atlanta Braves
Inside Sales Representative, San Francisco Giants
Inside Sales Representative, Portland Beavers

The confusion that surrounded the day did allow for these four jobs to be possible to interview for. Based on my experience in marketing/sales, I was very pleased to see these types of results with the first day. It was really a wonderful feeling to interview with four of the jobs that I applied for the day before, with several more to come in the future days while in Las Vegas. The second day is supposed to be the big day for interviews and I will look forward to seeing how round two turns out as day one provided a ton of excitement as well as confusion. One of the most confusing parts to the first day of interviews was that the teams decided to select the times for the interviews which led to two overlaps of interviews that did eventually work themselves out, while creating plenty of anxiety. This day also saw new jobs and opportunities present themselves that I did apply for in the following positions:

Minnesota Twins Internships
Los Angeles Dodgers Minor League Video and Baseball Operations Internship
New Britain Rock Cats Ticket/Operations Intern
Salem Red Sox Baseball Operations Internship
San Antonio Missions Director of Public Relations
Augusta Green Jackets Corporate Sales Manager
Amberdeen Ironbirds Corporate Sales Manager
Savannah Sand Gnats Public/Media Relations Intern
Connecticut Defenders Group Sales Internship
Memphis Redbirds Communications Internship
Detroit/Lakeland Tigers Media Relations Coordinator

By broadening my horizons to these new positions, I hope to be able to receive further interview possibilities after a first day. Tuesday promises to be a busy day of shuffling back and forth between the Bellagio, where the MLB winter meetings are being held and the Las Vegas Hilton, where the PBEO (pbeo.com) job fair is occurring. Tomorrow brings a promise to be a fantastic day with second interviews, new interviews with many new teams and hopefully a fantastic opportunity in baseball operations at some point. With interviews with the Pirates, a career conference with the Cubs and hopefully some surprises, Tuesday will be the highlight of the trip.

One thing that I did determine today was that the entry level positions for baseball are a stepping stone for a future career. No matter what job any job seekers accept, baseball is ready to continue its growth. From what I have gathered to this point, the Baseball Winter Meetings will hopefully provide the first of many steps towards a career in the sport for many.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day Two

Sunday, December 7th, 2008
So the honeymoon is over for me today after a day of reality checks and disappointment. For nine hours today, myself and somewhere in the area of five-hundred other job seekers spent time listening to some of the greatest minds in Minor League Baseball talk about the barriers of entry to the business of baseball. What was so disappointing to me was that many of the people talking this afternoon were explaining the barriers to entry to the sport, which I suppose might have helped some people, but I am in Las Vegas because I am trying my hardest to break into a sport that is incredibly difficult to enter – I assumed the risk before I came here and there is not a whole lot that can deter me from my mission. I imagine that most of the other people here this week are also in the same position. At one point, I decided to ask one of the high ranking officials in Minor League Baseball to give the audience a sales pitch as to why we should want to work in Minor League Baseball because at that point, no one had mentioned it. The response that was given was an excellent one – that despite the lack of compensation, the entry level positions are an opportunity to show ourselves to baseball and grow into the executive positions. Even though the majority of the PBEO Business of Baseball Workshop was spent talking about the gruesome details of entry into the sport, this was a silver lining to that event.

The next stage of the evening was the first night with the PBEO job fair, where I waited patiently to look at over 280 job postings with the other five-hundred people. This process proved to be a little disturbing as the job postings included between 15-20 jobs or internships in Major League Baseball. The remaining jobs that were posted were in the minors. With my experience in Tampa Bay and Atlanta, I chose to apply to the major league teams this evening, though I will look much closer at the minor league positions tomorrow. The following are the jobs that I have applied for as of this evening:

Video Scouting Intern, Baseball Info Solutions (Coplay, PA)
Extended Catch Program, Pittsburgh Pirates
Intern, Texas League
Intern, Houston Astros
Video Scouting Assistant, Detroit Tigers
Marketing Trainee, Atlanta Braves
Inside Sales Representative, San Francisco Giants
Clubhouse Assistant, Binghamton Mets
Clubhouse Assistant, Sarasota Reds
Corporate Partnerships Account Executive, Pittsburgh Pirates
Inside Sales Representative, Texas Rangers
Inside Sales Representative, Florida Marlins
Inside Sales Representative, Portland Beavers
Inside Sales Representative, Pittsburgh Pirates
Media Relations Intern, Houston Astros
Intern, Las Vegas 51’s

The most disappointing part to the day however besides the lack of available positions in Major League Baseball was that I learned that the major league and minor league versions of the Baseball Winter Meetings are occurring in different locations. Major League Baseball is being pent up in the Bellagio – perhaps the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen – while the minor league version of the meetings is happening in the Hilton. The distance between the two hotels is 2.5 miles, which will make for an uncomfortable and long day tomorrow and the next, but if I have to be at the Bellagio to get noticed, that is exactly what will happen.

Here’s to hoping that Monday will deal job seekers a new hand.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Winter Meetings: Day One

Saturday, December 6th, 2008
As the sun rose to show itself through the frigid central New York air, I was perched up in the sky looking out onto a new day. It could not have been more appropriate as I finish my career at Ithaca College and am embarking on my journey to find a job at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The trip itself was quite the journey – waking up at 5:00 AM to catch my flight from Ithaca to Newark, and then picking up three hours from Newark to Las Vegas. Baseball never ceases to amaze me with its ability to bring complete strangers together. On the flight from Newark to Las Vegas, I pulled out the Baseball America 2008 handbook to take a quick look and the guy sitting next to me immediately started to talk me up about the Baseball Winter Meetings and I found a person that was in the exact situation that I am in, looking for a job. If that wasn’t enough of a coincidence, when we stood up to get off the plane, my new acquaintance recognized that the person sitting in front of us was a long-time Yankee writer. Yes, I was immediately convinced that coming to the Winter Meetings was the right move for me.

While looking out at the millions of flashing bulbs from my 7th floor room, I have been thinking about what other amazing things are in store with the coming days at the 2008 meetings. What I do know is that all of the hard work and the planning to get to where I am is an incredibly rewarding feeling – only to be matched by getting the job that I have been working towards over the past half-decade.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mid-Market Economic Impact Thoughts

The following is something that was posted on Padres front-office staffer, Paul DePodesta's blog: http://itmightbedangerous.blogspot.com/



Paul,

Thank you for this bit of information, this may be the most insight into a baseball operations plan that I have ever read. I'm actually kind of shocked that there are only 23 comments.

My comment is going to bring us to current issues in collective bargaining. With the San Diego Padres operating income reaching $167 million at the conclusion to the 2007 season (Forbes), it puts the Padres 18th overall in total team revenue, 16 million below the league average (c. 183M). I have seen signs of concern for mid-market teams in the form that you point out in this discussion. The Padres have enough resources to field competitive teams and also develop top prospects; however it requires specific micro-management of talent, not to mention some surprises in player development. The team endured a tough 2008 season at the major league level because these efforts were spread too thin.

I worry that the 2001 and 2006 Basic Agreement's have changed the economic landscape of the game so drastically for large market and small market teams and their business plans so that medium market teams may be the most negatively affected by the new spending trends. For those who do not know, the 2001 agreement created meaningful luxury taxation on payroll dollars spent above a particular tax threshold of 49% on each additional dollar spent on player contracts. It also increased revenue sharing from a previous 20% to 34%, which meant that 34% of all local revenues from each team were put into a fund with the Office of the Commissioner and re-distributed back to teams evenly. This effectively gave a significant amount of money back to the small market teams to be able to compete in the increasingly polarized baseball economic climate, but had little effect on mid-market franchises. The small market teams of Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Florida most notably have used these funds to re-invest into their minor league systems and have seen the fourth stage of this plan realized in the production of championship caliber players. Large market teams have also begun to adapt to the economic system distributing their wealth to major league talent and also developing minor league assets.

A significant problem that happened with the 2006 Basic Agreement is that the tax threshold will be increased significantly throughout the term of the agreement (through 2011) from around 135 million to over 170 million by 2011. Also, the percentage of revenue shared was dropped from 34% to 31%. This means that large market teams have the ability to spend greater amounts of money before being hit with a luxury tax and also the amount of money distributed to each team decreased by 3%. In 2007, this 3% drop in revenue sharing meant nearly $500,000 was lost for the Padres under the 31%. Sure, in a game that is about to see at least two players sign contracts in excess to $20 million per season, $500K isn’t much. However, it can go a long way to develop talent if you take a look at the facilities that teams have built in Latin America and the Caribbean Islands.

The problem that I forecast for mid-market teams is that their revenue sharing dollars really do not change that much and they are forced to effectively spread themselves thin in order to succeed. Small market and large market teams have been able to use their resources and develop successful business models through player development exclusively at the small market level or spending money and some player development at the large market level. The Padres and other mid-market teams will have the luxury to sign a few big contracts or retain a championship caliber player or two, but they also have to focus heavily on developing minor league talent with a large portion of their budget in order to be successful. Is this some of the sentiment that the Padres feel while being spread too thin?

While an unpopular statement, when word was spread that the Padres were considering a payroll of $40 million in 2009, it makes so much business sense. With a team comprised of level three developing talent, the Padres will enjoy significantly higher amounts of money to re-invest in their organization for future seasons to the tune of somewhere in the 30 million dollar amount. I believe that the Padres have done this before after Tony Gwynn retired they let the payroll decrease for 2002 and 2003, and then in 2004, they had the money and prospects to pay David Wells and also trade for Brian Giles. This business strategy resulted in two NL West Championships and one season that required 163 games to be played before a winner was determined from the NL West. I do fear however, that success for mid-market teams is going to follow in this load and re-load pattern now until new economic policy is developed in Major League Baseball.

Anyone’s thoughts?

Regards,

Dan Fisher
http://baseballecon.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coco Crisp (BOS) for Ramon Ramirez (KC)

Again, this is another example of Dayton Moore and the Kansas City Royals making aggressive moves to improve some of the weaknesses from the 2008 version of the club. Already this offseason, the Royals have moved two successful relievers from their bullpen to acquire useful parts. With this move, the Royals have picked up a ton of defensive range in the outfield because now the Royals can move David DeJesus back into left-field, where he is best suited and enjoy watching Crisp run down and make some incredible plays in a spacious Kauffman Stadium.

Crisp's time in Boston was forgettable, as he saw his offensive numbers decline from his days in Cleveland and eventually lost the starting job to Jacoby Ellsbury. Now in Kansas City, he will be granted one more chance at becoming a leadoff-type hitter and the Royals should be well rewarded with having a player who has something to prove. While I reference Crisp as being a leadoff-type it is because he does not have a lot of power and does have speed. His .331 career on base percentage does leave him a lot of room to improve with respect to patience. At 29 years old, that is probably not going to happen, but he will probably be the best option for Trey Hillman at this point. I do have some level of expectations that 2009 could be a surprising season for Crisp as he will be in a situation without nearly as much pressure and he can play his game again.

What this does to the Royals now is it makes Mark Teahen or Jose Guillen expendable. If Moore is able to make a trade to move one of those outfielders to acquire some bullpen help, where they are now weak after this and the Mike Jacobs trade we are looking at a 75-87 team that has successfully added power, defensive range and speed without really losing a whole lot. If they add another starter, this team really is starting to look competitive in a weak AL Central. Here is what the starting 9 and rotation currently project after the trade today:

Joe Buck / Miguel Olivo, C
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Alberto Castillo, 2B
Alex Gordon, 3B
Mike Aviles, SS
David DeJesus, LF
Coco Crisp, CF
Jose Guillen, RF* (or Mark Teahen)
Billy Butler, DH

Not to mention two fringe prospects (Kila Ka'aihue, Mitch Maier) and several other useful spare parts (Tony Pena Jr. - Defense; Ryan Shealy - Pinch Hitter (Power); Ross Gload - Pinch Hitter; Joey Gathright - Speed) available to provide the Royals with a fairly impressive bench.

Gil Meche, RH
Zach Greinke, RH
Luke Hochevar, RH
Brian Bannister, RH
Kyle Davies, RH

Righties aplenty, but with Meche and Greinke looking like a formidable 1-2 punch and three other promising younger pitchers, the Royals would benefit from adding a solid veteran to put some pressure on Hochevar, Bannister or Davies to take one of the last two spots in the rotation. Oliver Perez makes sense if the price is reasonable. Paul Byrd could provide some veteran leadership for one season as a lower tiered option.

I will continue to say it...watch this team in 2009. Their major weakness that I see right now is a projected low team on-base percentage, who knows what Moore will have up his sleeve next to solve that issue. Perhaps a catcher that can work a walk? Gregg Zaun? Keep an eye on the Royals.

Mike Mussina

Growing up a Red Sox fan, it would be easy to say good riddance when Mike Mussina retired earlier today because of the amount of respect he earned beating up on the Red Sox as a pitcher for the Orioles and Yankees for the better part of the last two decades. I have nothing but respect for a guy like Mussina, who likely solidified his place in Cooperstown this season, ending his career on the highest of high's, a 20-win season and a Gold Glove. While watching other aging great pitchers such as Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez may have careers that have provided baseball with more scintillating moments in one season than Mussina did in his entire career, yet they did not know when to walk away. Mussina's retirement from baseball after having arguably the best season of his career is so impressive and something that other greats will not be able to claim as their decision to keep pitching when their instincts kept them going as their bodies deteriorated made for some forgettable moments.

I have to admit that I have immediately gone to EBay to find a Mike Mussina t-shirt because when someone mentions the best pitchers of my time as a fan, Mike Mussina has risen to the top as a player with class that crossed the finish line with greater dignity than the likes of Maddux, Mussina, Johnson, Glavine, Schilling, Smoltz and Martinez.

Congratulations on a fantastic career to Mike Mussina.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jeremy Affeldt to San Francisco

While the rumors swirl about how much the Yankees offered to CC Sabathia, the Giants came away with a very good deal yesterday. They locked up a left-handed reliever for two years at 8M. Better yet, he has had an ERA in the mid to low 3's the last two seasons pitching in Colorado and Cincinnati -- two of the most hitter friendly ballparks in the MLB. In past offseasons, Affeldt may have been looking at 3 years and 15M, but this does set a small standard that because of the economy, teams are hopefully not going to overpay on mid range talent. This contract will affect the totals given to other relievers like Joe Beimel, Kyle Farnsworth or Bob Howry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Matt Holliday to the A's

As a baseball fan, you have to admire what the Oakland A's have been able to do in the last decade. They have loaded up on talent, and then reloaded, and now appear to be reloading once again to be a contender. In acquiring Matt Holliday, the A's pick up one of the games best pure hitters, in the final season of his arbitration years. This may be a risky move, but as many will point out, the A's will be well compensated with Holliday's offensive production for at least one season and if they were to lose him, he would give the A's two compensation draft picks. With plenty of money to spend this offseason, I doubt that the A's stop here as they look to build that team back to strike fear into the American League once again. With no real outstanding player in their lineup last season, the A's have been talking about bringing back Jason Giambi, though adding another contact heavy hitter would be the most beneficial to a team that hit just .242 in 2008. I argue that players like Bobby Abreu or Rafael Furcal would make a lot of sense for the A's as opposed to a low contact power guy in Jason Giambi. With Abreu and Furcal, the lineup would project to look something like this:

Ryan Sweeney, CF
Rafael Furcal, SS
Matt Holliday, LF
Jack Cust, DH
Bobby Abreu, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Daric Barton, 1B
Mark Ellis, 2B

While the order does tail off after Abreu, the first five hitters are going to get on base and drive each other in. With the expected development of Suzuki and Barton, the bottom of the order could be looking a lot different by mid-July as well. Abreu is the type of hitter that Beane has liked for so long -- he gets on base and will do a little bit of everything for Bob Geren and potentially get some reps at first-base if Barton or Travis Buck emerge as the talented hitters their 2007 seasons indicated. Furcal makes sense because he also can get on base and create some offense with his speed on the bases and more importantly, it gets Bobby Crosby's bat out of the lineup. Either way, the A's have already become the most intriguing team of the offseason after the big move to acquire Matt Holliday. With their talented young pitching, the addition of a couple veteran bats and potentially a back end of the bullpen reliever, the A's already project to be a contender in 2009.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Offseason Spending

With the season ending just over one week ago, Major League Baseball has already made some big announcement regarding its future with incoming President, Barack Obama's taxation plans. The taxation plan will tax higher incomes at an additional 4.5%, which makes a big difference on the millions of dollars that will be negotiated during the offseason on premiere players such as Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia and Mark Texiera to name a few of the best available. Agents are already discussing the value of receiving signing bonuses at the beginning of the contract to beat out the 2009 tax plan. A move that could save a player anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to a couple hundred thousand. In addition to the projected tax increases effect, MLB commissioner Bud Selig warned General Managers this past week at the GM Meeting to be mindful of the state of the economy. It seems as though there are going to be some competing ideas about what is going to be spent this offseason.


Available Players by Position:
C: Rod Barajas, TOR; Henry Blanco, CHC; Johnny Estrada, WAS; option-Toby Hall, CHW; Adam Melhuse, TEX; option-Mike Redmond, MIN; Ivan Rodriguez, NYY; David Ross, BOS; Javier Valentin, CIN; Jason Varitek, BOS; Vance Wilson, DET; option-Gregg Zaun, TOR.


1B: Rich Aurillia, SF; Ben Broussard, NYY; Nomar Garciaparra, LAD; Jason Giambi, NYY; Wes Helms, PHI; Kevin Millar, BAL; Richie Sexson, NYY; Mark Teixeira, LAA; Frank Thomas, OAK; Daryle Ward, CHC

2B: Ray Durham, MIL; Marcus Giles, COL; Mark Grudzielanek, KC; Orlando Hudson, ARI; Jeff Kent, LAD; Felipe Lopez, STL; D'Angelo Jimenez, STL; Pablo Ozuma, LAD; Nick Punto, MIN; Jose Valentin, NYM; Jose Vidro, SEA.

3B: Casey Blake, LAD; option-Hank Blalock, TEX; Joe Crede, CWS; Morgan Ensberg, NYY; Greg Norton, ATL.

SS: Orlando Cabrera, CWS; Alex Cintron, BAL; Alex Cora, BOS; Craig Counsell, MIL; Adam Everett, MIN; Rafael Furcal, LAD; Cesar Izturis, STL; Ramon Martinez, LAD; Edgar Renteria, DET; Juan Uribe, CWS.

OF: Bobby Abreu, NYY; Moises Alou, NYM; option-Garrett Anderson, LAA; Rocco Baldelli, TB; Willie Bloomquist, SEA; Emil Brown, OAK; Pat Burrell, PHI; Endy Chavez, NYM; Adam Dunn, ARI; Jim Edmonds, CHC; Cliff Floyd, TB; option-Brian Giles, SD; Ken Griffey Jr., CHW; Raul Ibanez, SEA; Jaque Jones, FLA; Mark Kotsay, BOS; Rob Mackowiak, WAS; Kevin Mench, TOR; option-Jason Michaels, CLE; Craig Monroe, MIN; Jay Payton, BAL; Scott Podsednik, COL; Manny Ramirez, LAD; Juan Rivera, LAA: Rondell White, MIN.

SP: Kris Benson, PHI; A.J. Burnett, TOR; Paul Byrd, BOS; Ryan Dempster, CHC; Jon Garland, LAA; Tom Glavine, ATL; Mike Hampton, ATL; Orlando Hernandez, NYM; Jason Jennings, TEX; Randy Johnson, ARI; Esteban Loaiza, CHW; Braden Looper, STL; Derek Lowe, LAD; Pedro Martinez, NYM; Mike Mussina, NYY; Jamie Moyer, PHI; Mark Mulder, STL; Carl Pavano, NYY; Brad Penny, LAD; Odalis Perez, WAS; Oliver Perez, NYM; Andy Pettitte, NYY; Mark Prior, SD; Horacio Ramirez, CHW; C.C. Sabathia, MIL; Ben Sheets, MIL; option-John Smoltz, ATL; Julian Tavarez, ATL; Steve Trachsel, BAL; Brett Tomko, SD; Claudio Vargas, MIL; Randy Wolf, HOU.

RP: Jeremy Affeldt, CIN; Tony Armas Jr., PIT; Luis Ayala, WAS; Joe Beimel, LAD; Joe Borowski, CLE; Juan Cruz, ARI; Alan Embree, OAK; Scott Eyre, CHC; Kyle Farnsworth, DET; Casey Fossum, DET; Aaron Fultz, CLE; option-Tom Gordon, PHI; LaTroy Hawkins, HOU; Mark Hendrickson, LAD; Bobby Howry, CHC; Steve Kline, SF; Damaso Marte, NYY; Tom Martin, COL; Julio Mateo, PHI; Guillermo Mota, MIL; Will Ohman, CHC; Darren Oliver, LAA; John Parrish, SEA; Chris Reitsma, SEA; Dennys Reyes, MIN; Juan Rincon, CLE; Brian Shouse, MIL; Rafael Soriano, ATL; Jorge Sosa, NYM; Mike Stanton, CIN; Derrick Turnbow, MIL; Oscar Villarreal, ATL; David Weathers, CIN; Dave Williams, NYM; Matt Wise, NYM.

CP: Brian Fuentes, COL; Trevor Hoffman, SD; Jason Isringhausen, STL; Brandon Lyon, ARI; Francisco Rodriguez, LAA; option-Salomon Torres, MIL; Kerry Wood, CHC.
Note: Italics indicate players that I project to receive a minimum of $10M/per year.


As you will notice there are a lot of big names and big contracts that are coming from this group of free agents, perhaps the greatest class of talent since 2000 when Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Mike Hampton, Mike Mussina and Darren Dreifort received noteworthy contracts, some that turned out well (Despite "Manny being Manny," Ramirez has been part of one of the most feared 3-4 combinations in the history of baseball and has won two World Series rings as a result, Mussina and Rodriguez have posted excellent numbers and raked in serious dollars) and others that have gone down as some of the worst in the history of baseball (Mike Hampton's time in Colorado was more than forgettable and the last two years of his contract that earned him near $35M, earned the Braves about 15 starts and Darren Dreifort, who started 26 games and appeared in 60 as a reliever during the remainder of his 5-year, $55M contract).

Already, it may be easy to forecast that the 2008-2009 offseason will give teams similar success with Scott Boras, agent for Manny Ramirez (42 years old at the end of the contract), reportedly looking for a six-year contract at $25M per year. If that kind of money is eventually given to a guy that would be 42 at the end of the contract, I may just turn to the NHL (no...never).

In all seriousness though, the NHL does have an excellent new team payroll system that requires teams and players to share team revenues. Player salaries cannot bulge to more than 54% of team revenue from the previous year, effectively creating a salary cap that is dependent on league success. Major League Baseball GM's and owners need to be mindful of this percentage as well as fans and corporate sponsors may become less willing to spend money to be in the stadium given the current economic crisis in the United States.

It will be a very interesting offseason as teams like the Yankees, Braves having as much as $80M in salaries coming off the books this year. Other large-market teams like the Dodgers, Mets and Red Sox promise to be contenders as well, driving up the market price on the elite and mid-range players. The way that money is spent in the next few months may be record-breaking as well as back-breaking for the future economic success of Major League Baseball.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mike Jacobs to Kansas City

I noticed earlier today that the Kansas City Royals acquired slugging first-baseman Mike Jacobs of the Florida Marlins for lefty specialist Leo Nunez. I know that Nunez was a very effective reliever this past season, posting a sub-3.00 ERA, but Jacobs has proven himself to be a very effective power hitter, he is a bat that is begging for a good lefty-hitting park. Unfortunately, he won't get that in Kansas City, but I am still very high on a guy like Jacobs and see this move as being a steal for Kansas City. This past year, in 477 at-bats (primarily against right-handed pitching), Jacobs hit 32 homers for the Marlins, also in a very spacious park.

This is the perfect move for the Royals who sorely need power in a lineup that hit 120 home-runs in the entire season and the Marlins lose him as he enters his arbitration years, which is a big help to them as they try to bring that payroll down to less than half of ARod's salary in 2009. Leo Nunez will be an effective reliever with the Marlins, but the Royals had a very solid bullpen in 2008 and addressed two huge issues with their team: filling the hole at first-base and adding power. I wish to give a lot of credit to Dayton Moore, who has been incredibly aggressive throughout his time with Kansas City.

Keep an eye on Kansas City in 2009, they really are looking like a team that is going to be vastly improved.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Congratulations to the Phillies

I have got to hand it to the Phillies. They certainly came to play right out of the gate and won this series, to bring serious sport euphoria to the city of Philadelphia. I do however feel that the story of the Series was more that the Rays lost the series rather than the Phillies winning it. Through poor defensive play, lack of clutch hitting and lack of aggression on the base paths, the Rays did not play their game. Despite pitching performances that kept them in the games, the Rays just could not break through against Philadelphia pitching, which is a credit to the excellent preparation and scouting work that their franchise had done to prepare for the series. I really feel that the lesser team won this series and really, with four of five games being decided by two or fewer runs (Three one-run games), the Rays mistakes that led to a run or not scoring did come back to cost them the series. The best example in my view was the defense of Akinori Iwamura. This is a player that is a serious contender for winning a gold glove and throughout the series, he committed 4-5 errors or misplays by himself. Take some of those back and we could be in Tampa right now.

The Phillies certainly did play as well as they are capable. Cole Hamels looked great in both games and the other starters did what they needed to to keep their games close, two eventually being won by the Phillies. Their offense did what it usually does -- hitting lots of long fly balls. I will give credit to the Phillies, they played their strengths perfectly in this series and Charlie Manuel's use of their bullpen was excellent.

Overall though, this was a memorable series for Major League Baseball, with one of the lowest ratings in the history of the World Series. The play was sloppy and there was a 46-hour rain delay. The Rays made it to the Series after a season in which they had the worst record in baseball. The Phillies won the Series despite being forecasted to not even make the playoffs on September 1st. It was a fantastic season for Major League Baseball for story lines and pennant chases and the World Series was the perfect culminating event for some of the best stories of the year. Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies on their first World Championship since 1980.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Running a 5K

Dear Family and Friends,

As promised, I am deviating from baseball for just one article to include the results from my 5K. I have to admit that this was one of the harder things that I have physically done in a long time, certainly since my knee surgery. For those who do not know the landscape of the city of Ithaca, it is at the tip of Appalachia, which means hills and lots of them. In the picture above, I was off to a burning quick start, in third place of over 200 runners after the first quarter-mile. It was a great feeling. I was thinking in my head that all of the treadmill work I had done in the past two months really had worked. Then, of course, reality set in as I reached the base of a 30 degree hill that quickly felt like from the top, I would be able to see several states away. The effect of this hill was the same as attaching a fifty pound anvil to my waist for the rest of my run. Despite miserable cramps, tired and sore legs and the cold rain falling on me, I managed to finish the first half of the race in 11:50, which put me on pace to finish well ahead of my goal of 24 minutes. Though, lap two presented the same challenge as lap one, that damn hill! As I climbed again, it completely took the air from my sails. I was through and pulled into the grass and walked while trying to stretch the cramps that had engulfed my entire torso into quiet submission.

It was at this point of weakness that I became thoroughly convinced that Uncle Bill was with me on this morning because it was at this time I started to think about the reasons why I decided to torture my body on the hills of Ithaca, New York. I thought that my Uncle Bill was not a quitter and walking my way towards the finish line would just not suffice. He stood for hard-work and constant effort in my eyes and there was absolutely no way that I could allow myself to stay limp in the grass. With the memorable guitar solo from "Free Bird" resounding in my ears through the headphones to my iPod, my legs began to move faster, catching up with Skynard's fingers. I reached the downhill portion of the course and had noticed that I was starting to pass people, rather than the reverse effect. With Uncle Bill pushing, I reached full stride again as the stopwatch hung around my neck ticked to 23:00. The cramps did not dissipate, but somehow they didn't matter. The only thing that did was to accomplish my goal, to beat the 24:00 mark. With the finish line in sight and a supportive crowd cheering me on (probably because I looked as though I was about to pass out), I turned off my music and enjoyed my moment with Uncle Bill. We crossed the finish line 72nd overall at 23:55 and with love and pride in our hearts.

Not long after the race was over, I got back to my car to notice that I received a message from a special friend, who had managed to skip out on a very important meeting just to root me on at the start and take a few photos. She wished me luck and told me how proud my uncle would have been of me. With tears in my eyes, I looked down at my number and it dawned on me -- I was wearing number 75 on my chest, the same as the age of my Uncle Bill.

There is no doubt in my mind that something special happened to me that morning and I have learned from this experience. No goal is large enough when you live like my Uncle Bill did. Through constant perseverance, loving what I do and the people around me, and never letting in anything is possible. All I have done throughout my time without Uncle Bill is try to take from these qualities and become a bit more like him. That day, I realized that thanks to Uncle Bill, I have the strength, ambition and love in my heart to do anything I want in life because I admired those things about him and have made them my own throughout the years of knowing him.

Doing this race was an eye opening experience to receive the amount of support and love from people in my family or close friends. Whether the support was meant to be for me or for Bill, it was appropriately sent because we both were together once more on a rainy morning in Ithaca, New York. Thank you very much to all of those who contributed to my effort to raise funds for cancer awareness and honor my Uncle Bill.

Love,

Dan

Monday, October 20, 2008

World Series Preview

Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays

Alright Las Vegas, you're going to have to pay up big to anyone who picked this match up on opening day. While I have been a constant voice of Rays support, not even I thought that they would go this far with a mediocre offense, a starting rotation all under the age of 26 and a bullpen comprised of scrap-heap pickups. The Phillies have been up and down all season and have gone as their hitters have, yet they are now hot and have led their team to a convincing World Series berth.

I look at the Phillies and I see a lot of offensive talent, that when hot, can dominate teams. Against mediocre pitching in Los Angeles and Milwaukee, that is exactly what happened. The Phillies offense has been firing on all cylinders and really has impressed the baseball world with their maximum capacity. They also have a dynamic starter in Cole Hamels and a better closer in Brad Lidge, yet to blow a save in nearly 50 opportunities (including the playoffs). One thing that I fear for the Phillies is that they clinched their series well earlier in the week and the Rays are still on a high after beating the team of the decade to this point.

The Rays have immense depth in starting pitching, relief and in speed on the base paths. This team is going to win if it can field the ball and run as it has all season. The three games that the Rays won behind their offense are a fluke to me however. With no regular player hitting over .280 in the season, having Upton, Crawford, Pena and Longoria around or above .300 in the playoffs shows me that these players got hot at the right time, but based on the body of work for their season, it will likely not last another seven games. Their pitching is an extreme strength. They had six starting pitchers on their ALCS starting rotation, all of which are under the age of 26 as mentioned previously. Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine all have different approaches to the game and will give the seasoned Philadelphia hitters four different looks. Another thing about the Rays starters is that with the exception of Kazmir, they are durable enough to go deep into games. Their bullpen also will be a strength as shown in throughout the ALCS. Their strength was especially amplified when in the 8th inning of Game 7, Joe Maddon used four different relievers consecutively to retire the Red Sox. Maddon has guys from both sides that can throw gas in Price and Balfour, soft-tossing out getter's in Bradford and Howell, and a seasoned veteran in Wheeler. With those five pitchers the Rays have a lot of ways to mix and match to get 6 outs at the end of a game which may be presented to them with the durability of their starters.

All that said, I have to give the edge to the Rays in this series. They just beat a team in Boston, with far better pitching than the Phillies and a similar offensive approach. I expect Maddon to keep running and putting pressure on Philadelphia throughout the series. The Rays will ultimately win this series behind their speed, great defense and strong relief adaptability. It should be very obvious by this point that they are not scared of the magnitude of the situation and it is expected of them to continue their success. The Phillies will have to shake off any rust that 6 days of rest may have given them at Tropicana Field, where the Rays have looked great all season. The Phillies could very easily find themselves in an 0-2 hole, even with their true ace (Hamels vs. Kazmir) on the mound in Game 1. I expect this series to provide baseball with the fairytale ending to the best story written in Baseball in the last half century.

Prediction: Rays in 6

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Joe Maddon's Game 2 Decision Making

While staying up until 1:30 A.M. on the east coast, Rays fans were well rewarded for watching the game well past their bedtimes of 8:00 and witnessed what great postseason moments are made of.

In an epic 5 and a half hour game, the Rays and Red Sox matched great bullpen performances after their starters let them down. After the offenses cooled, Joe Maddon's bullpen pitched great, led by Dan Wheeler. Wheeler, the Rays closer, threw 3.1 innings and 48 pitches in his effort and kept the Red Sox lineup quiet in extra innings. I will give credit to Maddon for being so agressive with his best relief option to put him out for a fourth inning of work. Of course, there is reason to question using his closer for 48 pitches in Game 2, but it really was a must win situation. Time will tell if Wheeler remains effective with the coming games at Fenway, but I have to say that I like the move for now.

The other Maddon move that I wish to discuss was in the bottom of the 11th when he sent Fernando Perez to steal 3rd base with Jason Bartlett hitting. Bartlett grounded to third, and without the run on, Youkilis had a sure thing double play, which would have left a runner on second and two down and the inning would have been over with Upton's flyout. Instead, the Maddon led Rays were agressive and it eventually paid off, evening the series at 1-1. Looking at Jon Lester, who has yet to give up an earned run in two postseason starts, the Rays needed Game 2 and got it thanks largely to the management of Joe Maddon.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

LCS Preview


National League Championship Series:

Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies

This promises to be a very good series. Each team offers very similar style and are playing the best baseball of their season right now. They have two managers in Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel that have been in the postseason a great deal in their day, and they each have offenses that can mash the ball, with a slight advantage to Philadelphia if Pat Burrell is indeed getting his stroke back (2HR's in Game 4 of the NLDS vs. Milwaukee). The Phillies and Dodgers both have the offensive talent but the Phillies offer something that Joe Torre cannot counter with, a bonafide ace in Cole Hamels while the Dodgers counter with one of the best postseason hitters in baseball history in Manny Ramirez. In the playoffs however, good pitching beats good hitting most of the time and the Phillies absolutely have an edge with Hamels in potentially three games if necessary. In the battle of late inning relief, Brad Lidge has been amazing this season and Takashi Saito is not on the Dodgers roster because of an elbow injury which will weaken their bullpen greatly. Those two factors are going to make the difference in this series -- Hamels and a dominant closer in Philadelphia countered by average starting pitching and relief pitching. Whichever team makes it to the World Series will have their hands full with their American League opponent.

Phillies in 6

American League Championship Series

Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays

Oh how great it feels to type Tampa Bay Rays in for another playoff series. This is a team that has amazed all season and now things are getting serious. They are 8 wins away from the right way to end such an incredible story of worst to first while having such a low payroll which is doubled (Jays), tripled (Red Sox) and quintupled (Yankees) by teams in their own division. The Rays are going to have to really test their mettle with this series against defending champion, Boston. The Red Sox bring a better offense, better rotation and better closer than the Rays, yet they need to be afraid because the Rays have found a way to get to 100 wins (including post-season play) on clutch hitting and solid pitching performances, they also outmatch the Red Sox with a deeper bench and better middle relief. The bottom line to this is that the Rays and Red Sox make a great match up with the Rays taking 10 of 18 in the regular season.

It will come down to the starting pitching match ups from my point of view. The Rays will send James Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine out in the first four games of the series countered by Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield. I thought that the Rays had a great chance to take the first three games of the series or at least be up 2-1 on Boston with a rotation of Shields - Garza - Kazmir because the first two games would give an advantage to the Rays as Shields is far more consistent than Matsuzaka and Garza has been much better at home than the road versus an uncomfortable looking Josh Beckett. Then Kazmir, who has not looked comfortable with a 5.19 ERA in September and an ugly win versus Chicago could come out of nowhere and be the dominant pitcher that he is capable of being and take on Jon Lester head to head. I really think that with that rotation, the Rays were just about guaranteed 2 or maybe even 3 wins.

Instead, with Kazmir against Beckett in game 2 and Garza and Lester in game 3, I now think that the Rays will be down 2-1 in Boston, which can mean death for some teams. Kazmir/Beckett looks like a match up that will become a battle of the bullpens, though either or both pitchers can be scintillating. Then Jon Lester should be able to continue his playoff dominance in Game 3 as a pitcher who is better at home against one who is far worse on the road. Despite the 2-1 advantage that I predict Boston to have, I think that the Rays will take one of the next two games in Boston with Wakefield's knuckleball in cold weather and Matsuzaka's erratic nature, though I do not expect Matsuzaka to lose to the same team twice. This means that the series will be going back to Tampa where the Rays have lost just two games all season with sellout crowds. Facing Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, Boston's two best pitchers, I have to think that the Red Sox will take this series. I can guarantee one thing here though, this series is going to be phenomenal and the best moments are going to happen in Tropicana Field, I hope Bud Selig joins in on the fun. Enjoy fans...

Red Sox in 7

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reflecting on the Angels/Red Sox

To start, these were four of the best consecutive games in a playoff series perhaps ever played. These four games were hard fought for each of the 39 innings and there was doubt as to who would win the game until the final out was made. This series can best be described as being intense.

In the end, it came down to the Angels not being able to come up with the clutch hit while the Red Sox taking advantage of the uncharacteristic sloppy defense that the Angels played, particularly in the outfield. While the Red Sox did not play great, they did play well enough to win this series. I will give this credit to the nature of their regular season play. The Red Sox (and Rays) play in arguably the most competitive division in baseball and most competitive division in the past decade with four playoff capable teams. The nature of play in the American League East prepared the Red Sox for the playoffs better than that of the West, where two of the worst teams matched up with the Angels. Since much of September is played against their division, it makes sense that the Red Sox were better prepared for this series than the Angels were.

The Red Sox are now preparing to play in their fourth ALCS in six years, firmly allowing the Red Sox to take grasp as the team of the decade to this point. As Jerry Crasnick points out on ESPN.com (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs2008/columns/story?columnist=crasnick_jerry&id=3630312), the culture that surrounds the Red Sox franchise has changed to that of confidence and I fully expect this to continue to be a factor against the Rays, as they play in their first ever ALCS.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cubs Swept

The Cubs will be back next year, their nucleus is just too good not to in such a weak National League. Though, I'll bet that Lou Pinella does not bench his all-star starters for the entire final week to the season. I'd say that it threw off their timing just a bit. I will give credit to the Dodgers, they put on pressure and kept it on, but the Cubs have now been swept out of the playoffs in the Division Series three times in the last six years. It may be time to get a high OBP, lead off type to take over in center field for Jim Edmonds and Reed Johnson and push Alfonso Soriano down to a lower spot in the lineup. Either way, you kind of have to feel bad for the Cubs. On the cover of Sports Illustrated and ESPN's choice for World Series champions, they fell hard and their fans have got to be feeling the pain.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Angels Woes Versus Boston

Sports analysts across the country have been screaming since Boston's 7-5 defeat of the Angels last evening about the post-season dominance that the Red Sox have over the Angels. Last nights win marked the 11th consecutive win for the Red Sox over the Angels in post-season play, a streak that spans back to the 1986 LCS. While those games seem unimportant, the Red Sox domanince of the Angels in October baseball is unusual and at least the 8 consecuitive victories (sweep in the LDS in '04, '07; and a 2-0 lead in '08) are relevant. This is unlike any other matchup that I have seen in my time as a follower of the game, while the 2008 series has provided some incredibly hard fought games, the Red Sox have still been winners.

I find it hard to believe in professional athletes allowing for a postseason losing streak that spans two decades to get into their minds, but it does seem unreal that the best team in the playoffs may go down tomorrow night to the same team. I think in this case, the Red Sox are the only team to win two World Series championships since the millenium. The experience of winning in the playoffs is in favor of the Red Sox and that may be the difference. Anchored by Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox do not get fazed by adversary and look for them to go in for the kill on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Game 1: BOS @ LAA

It is the 3rd inning in Los Angeles this evening and already this game is shaping up to be a battle of two of the greatest and most successful managers in Major League Baseball today. Whatever happens, this is going to be an incredible series. Also, tonight is the first time I recognized Howie Kendrick's improved defensive prowess. Thanks to Buck Martinez, the stat of one error in 70+ games is a huge improvement in just one year (9 in 86 games last year).

ALDS Preview

Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels
I don't know where to begin with this series because defending champion, Boston, has history of defeating the Angels in the Divisional series in 2004 and 2007 though these teams appear to be in different situations. The Angels finished the season as the best team in the American League and did it with a solid lineup from top to bottom and great starting pitching. The Red Sox have won two championships with teams built on that premises, which is why I say that the winner of this series will be World Series champion in 2008. I said Boston back in July and I am going to have to stick with that choice here. Either way, this is going to be a great set of games and probably the best match-up in the first-round of the playoffs.
Pick: Boston in 5

Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Oh the satisfaction that it gives me to write Tampa Bay Rays in a divisional series preview. The 11 year wait for postseason play is over for the Rays, winners of the American League East. I don't think that the winning is over for the Rays. They won the East, where four teams were viable enough to take the NL West crown and the Yankees would have been AL Central champions, without a play-in game. The bottom line here is that the Rays were winners of the deepest division in baseball, so respect that. They excel in pitching and clutch hitting, which is the formula for playoff success. Also, they are getting healthy at the right time with Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria coming back to their lineup within the last two weeks of the season. This series may be the most one-sided because the White Sox energy has got to be running low and they have the worst overall team of the 8 playoff teams, while the Rays are rested and ready to continue their miracle story.
Pick: Rays Sweep!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NLDS Preview

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies
In this series I favor the Phillies, though not nearly as much as the rest of the country. The Brewers will still get two starts out of CC Sabathia in a five game series and the way that he has been pitching, that could mean that they just need one win in one of the other three games. Despite all of that, the Brewers have really pushed Sabathia about as far as any pitcher can go in the day of the pitch count and five-man rotation. I see this series going to 5 games with the Phillies getting it done against Sabathia.
Pick: Phillies in 5

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs
While I see Lou Pinella's strategy of benching his stars during the last week of the season, he runs the risk of having their bats cool down and not be ready to go. The Dodgers have been playing very good September baseball and have gotten healthy at the right time. Even with that said, the Cubs are just so deep and have been baseball's most consistent team all season largely because of a deep pitching staff. I like the Dodgers in game 1, but the Cubs to take three in a row after that.
Pick: Cubs in 4

Monday, September 29, 2008

Royals Talk

While the Chicago White Sox tied the small-market Minnesota Twins this evening for the AL Central lead at the end of regulation play in 2008, there was one bright ray of sunshine for me as an Ozzie Guillen team took another breath for this season. The 2008 Kansas City Royals finished with a 75-87 record, beating the Detroit Tigers by one game for fourth place in the division. While playing their best baseball in September the Royals finished ahead of pre-season World Series favorite Detroit. This is a small victory that will most likely go unnoticed outside of the Kansas City clubhouse and this blog, but I think that is quite an amazing feat. Let's compare the lineups towards the end of the season:

Kansas City:
C - J. Buck; 1B - R. Shealy; 2B - A. Callaspo; 3B - A. Gordon; SS - M. Aviles; LF - M. Teahen; CF - D. DeJesus; RF - J. Guillen; DH - B. Butler

Detroit:
C - D. Ryan; 1B - M. Cabrera; 2B - P. Polanco; 3B - C. Guillen; SS - E. Renteria; LF - M. Thames; CF - C. Granderson; RF - M. Ordonez; DH - G. Sheffield

It is unreal that the Royals put together a team to beat that offense, however it may be because the Royals offense is improving steadily. With a strong September from Alex Gordon, Ryan Shealy and Mark Teahen, the nucleus to the offense may finally be growing together. While it is someone in their lineup steps up and becomes their big bat, the Royals will be serious contenders in 2009. Alex Gordon has been tabbed as having five tool potential and Billy Butler has put up some amazing numbers in the minors. Each player has a great chance to become offensive stars next season. With the average age of 27.11 years old, the Royals are a young team that obviously took large strides from 2007 (.261) to 2008 (.269) offensively. While more work is necessary, this team has the look of the 2008 Rays with a great closer in Joakim Soria and 3-4 quality starters. An early warning -- watch out for the 2009 Royals.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Brian Giles Declines Trade to Boston


Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, the big trades are done with and the media found the Red Sox waiver claim of Padres outfielder Brian Giles to be newsworthy this week. The Padres and Red Sox were working on a deal to send the former All-Star, Giles, to the Red Sox before the deal was quashed by the veteran slugger. Giles has a limited no-trade clause in his contract with Boston being one of the teams that he could not go to. I was more than just a little bit surprised to hear that Giles did not accept the trade because he did not want to play a limited role with the club. In his thirteen-year career, he has been in the postseason only once and with his power numbers on severe decline, it does not seem likely that he is fit for a starting role on many teams. Due another 3 or so million dollars for the rest of the 2008 season and a 3 million dollar buyout for the 2009 season, this trade would have cost the Red Sox quite a bit for an insurance policy and depth addition. While I don't really know why the Red Sox were so willing to pay 6 million dollars and players for Giles, who might not give them 100 at-bats down the stretch, it absolutely shows that the Red Sox are still trying to be very agressive to add to their offense down the stretch which should be of note to American League fans.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Toast of the NL


As usual, while watching the ESPN show 1st and 10 this afternoon, my mind started working off of the arguments between Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. When the two weren't arguing their views based on their ethnic composition or when Smith didn't call out ESPN for being too gracious to Brett Favre (it's about time someone said it), they discussed the question as to whether or not the Brewers were the best team in the National League. I also want to talk about this question now too.
To me there are three teams in the National League that should be in this conversation and they are all in the NL Central: the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals. I also wish that the NL West would be disallowed of having a team in the postseason since these three are all so capable.
1.) The Chicago Cubs Cubs; 59-42 (Division Lead)
The Cubs started off the 2008 season showing that they are a very strong team. With their strong start and unexpected contributions from Ryan Dempster, they had a very deep rotation before the addition of Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin from the A's. Now with Harden in the rotation, the Cubs have Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis in their starting rotation. It is so deep that Chad Gaudin has been moved to the bullpen despite having a very good season as a starter with Oakland and is pitching in relief for the Cubs. Now, Gaudin can bridge the gap between starters and Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood when healthy at the end of the game. They say that pitching wins, and this team is full of it.
Offensively, the Cubs have seen Ryan Theriot become one of baseball's best contact hitters this season with his average presently at .324; he has been a great surprise for this team and has really helped be a catalyst to the lineup. More importantly with Alfonso Soriano coming off the DL yesterday, this team gets much stronger contributions from wherever Lou Pinella decides to place him in the lineup and now the bench gets deeper with Reed Johnson no longer having to play everyday. Other starters Jim Edmonds, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Geovanny Soto and Kosuke Fukudome have all been all-stars in their careers and provides the Cubs with excellent veteran prowess throughout the lineup.
2.) The Milwaukee Brewers; 58-43 (-1 Behind Cubs)
Milwaukee made the biggest move of the season in acquiring CC Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians prior to the all-star game. Sabathia has paid immediate dividends; sending the Brewers into a hot streak of 9-3 since the trade pulling them to within one game of the division lead. Between Sabathia and Ben Sheets, the Brewers have the best 1-2 punch of starting pitching in the National League. After that, the pitching does get more difficult to defend with Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Manny Parra in their rotation. Suppan won a ring with the Cardinals and has a veteran presence while Bush had been inconsistent throughout his career and Parra has been good, but is still largely unproven with only 21 career major league starts. It is a shame that Yovanni Gallardo went down to injury, otherwise this would be a fantastic starting rotation. At this point, it is certainly still above average and will get the Brewers far behind Sabathia and Sheets. Their bullpen has been downright awful at points during the season, especially with Eric Gagne and they are looking to address the depth in the bullpen potentially with a trade, but the Brewers have found a secret with Salomon Torres as their closer. He has not been lights out, but he has converted 18 of 22 save opportunities this season. Eric Gagne has looked better since returning from the DL and Brian Shouse, David Riske and Seth McClung also around to provide some help in the middle innings. This isn't a great bullpen, but it might hold together through September.
Offensively they have had inconsistent production from everyone except Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, yet they are still very talented offensively. JJ Hardy has caught fire over the past month and has really led the offense. If things continue with that trend Hardy-Braun-Fielder-Hart is as good as it gets 2-5. Outside of that, Jason Kendall has really been a good addition to this club. He plays above average defense and has been a veteran leader for the pitching staff. After a hot April, he has cooled down to .257, but he still is a very valuable player to have around. Third-Base is an ugly position with Russell Branyan and Bill Hall splitting time there. The two should combine to provide good power, but not a great average. Hall can play some stellar defense no matter the position that he is in. They have a deep bench after acquiring Ray Durham to back up the underwhelming Rickie Weeks at second-base.
3.) St. Louis Cardinals; 57-46 (-3 Behind Cubs)
The previous two teams have added starting pitching via the trade in the last month of the season. The Cardinals have not added anyone, yet in August when Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainright it will have the same effect as the Cardinals adding two top end of the rotation starting pitchers. At the onset of the season, I told friends that the Cardinals starting rotation was going to perhaps be the worst in baseball, Joel Piniero, Braden Looper, Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer have been the glue that has kept the Cardinals together. In contrast to what I thought, the Cardinals pitching has the potential to become one of the best down the stretch with Carpenter-Wainright-Lohse-Looper-Wellemeyer. Much like the position that the Cubs are in, the Cardinals will have extra starting pitching, which can mean that Piniero can go to the bullpen and help out with an extended arm in the pen. While Jason Isringhausen has not been the same this year, Ryan Franklin has been effective enough as closer. Russ Springer and Kyle McClellan have also been great in the setup and middle relief roles, both with ERA's under 3.00. It may be ugly right now, but the Cardinals will have a lot to look forward to down the stretch.
Besides Albert Pujols this offense has no other huge names, but there has been some great contributions coming from everyone throughout the Cardinals lineup. Ryan Ludwick was an all-star this season and absolutely deserved the role hitting .294, 23, 69. Troy Glaus has had a better season hitting near .280. He has experience in the playoffs with the Angels and should be valuable to the Cardinals down the stretch. Rick Ankiel has been inconsistent this season, but he has been hot lately and has 22 home runs now. Mark McGwire did once say that Ankiel had 30 home run power, it appears as though he was right, not to mention his cannon from center-field. After looking at the statistics, Pujols, Ludwick, Glaus and Ankiel have combined for a better average and power numbers than the four best hitters for the Cubs or Brewers. They couldn't have done so more quietly. With those facts in mind, the Cardinals will be right there in September.
Overall, I love this division. Watching the Cardinals and Brewers last night was great. The fans in the NL Central have received a gift of some great competition in 2008 and have really supported their teams. I honestly think that the Cubs and Brewers will be the two to make it to the playoffs from this division. The Cubs are just so deep and the Brewers just are playing hungry. If the Brewers can pull ahead of the Cardinals by 4-5 games now, the Cardinals just won't be able to pick it up in September. This division will most likely be decided by 5 games or less between these three teams. Watch the NL Central!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Here Come the Yankees

Uh-Oh! Here it is -- the end of July, and the Yankees are now just 3.5 games out of the AL East lead. It is scary to imagine that a team with Sidney Ponson in its rotation can be doing so well, but the Yankees are simply rolling their way up towards the top of the division. What has been a very inconsistent team throughout the season has started to show signs of consistency. Their offense should be set, even without Hideki Matsui. It is their pitching that worries me. Andy Pettite and Mike Mussina have been great so far this season, but they are both old and could be in for a hard end of the season given their age and recent history. Chien-Ming Wang is out until September and Joba Chamberlain has not recieved run support. It will be interesting to fololow this team. With their resources, it would be silly for them not to acquire a starting pitcher for the stretch run. There has been talk of Jarrod Washburn. If that is the best available starter, perhaps Sidney Ponson may work out just as well however. Keep an eye on this team.

What's Going on in Houston?

Yesterday, July 22nd -- The Houston Astros traded Chad Reinke for Randy Wolf. This is a guy that has an ERA of 6.63 away from Petco Park and will now be pitching inside one of the most hitter-friendly parks in Major League Baseball. If that isn't bad enough, the Astros are playing in the same division as the three best teams in the National League (Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals) and are in last place in that division, twelve games out. What do the Astros think they are accomplishing by making this trade? Ed Wade must be desparate at this point to save the Astros from the bottom of the division. At best, Wolf is a .500 pitcher and has an ERA close to what it is presently at 4.74. Realistically, if Wolf doesn't get hurt first, he will struggle mightily pitching in the NL's strongest division and will be a wasted 2.5 million dollar investment. I can't see any positives from this trade for the Astros.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

2nd Half Predictions

With the New York Mets defeat of the Colorado Rockies this evening, the non-mathematical first half of the 2008 Major League Baseball season is now over. With all of the hype that the All Star Game will bring the city of New York over the next couple of days, yet while this one does count, I am very excited to think about Thursday and the start to the 2nd half of the season. To honor what promises to be an exciting end to the season, I would like to make some off the wall and bold predictions.

BOLD The Red Sox will win the World Series
The reason why I think that the Red Sox will become the first repeat World Series winner since the New York Yankees went for three in a row 1998-2000. The Red Sox just are dominant at home and have been able to roll with every injury that they have endured throughout the season. They play 16 of their final 25 games in September at home and because of their trip to Japan back in March, the Red Sox receive extra off days in September to re-work the rotation if need be. To be in first place now without David Ortiz or a consistent bullpen, the Red Sox will be aligned to succeed in the second half with a potential trade to add a solid bullpen arm or Justin Masterson's presence as a converted reliever in another couple of weeks.

OFF THE WALL The Texas Rangers will be in the race for the Wild Card on September 22nd
Alright, so the Rangers can't pitch. The good news though is that division rivals the Angels, A's and Mariners can't hit while the Rangers have perhaps the most dynamic offense in all of baseball (1st in runs scored). With the anemic offenses that plague their division rivals, I really do not see a reason why the Rangers won't continue to contend until the final week of the season with 18 games against the AL West in September. The Rockies didn't have much for pitching in 2007 and made it to the World Series, stranger things can happen when a team gets in a groove.

BOLD The Tampa Bay Rays will make the ALCS and lose to the Red Sox in 7
Alright, well this is incredibly bold with the team in the midst of a 7 game skid, limping their way to the All Star break. The Rays offense has been inconsistent and their pitching has overachieved, but I firmly believe that with the teams three biggest offensive stars: Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, and B.J. Upton not hitting to their potential, that the Rays will receive more of a contribution from that group in the second half, coupled with the emergence of their pitching staff. Plus with wunderkind David Price as well as the #1 minor league system waiting to help the big league team. I expect this team to make a small move at the trade deadline to help add consistency to their lineup.

OFF THE WALL The Pittsburgh Pirates will finish above .500 for the first time since 1992.
The Pirates are really looking like an improved team as of late and have avoided long term losing streaks. Remember that last season Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny were the Pirates best two starters, well this season things have changed. Each have WHIP's approaching 2.00 and ERA's at or above 6.00. I do not think that these guys are truly that bad and I expect that one of them can be productive in the second half of the season with the Pirates as they push towards the .500 mark. One other thing to note is that if the Pirates do trade off Xavier Nady or Jason Bay, their loss will be met by the emergence of Andrew McCutchen in their place. Also, Adam LaRoche is a notorious second half hitter and the offensive production may not fall too far off -- if at all.

Playoff Picks:
AL East - Boston Red Sox
AL Central - Minnesota Twins
AL West - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
AL Wild Card - Tampa Bay Rays

NL East - Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central - Chicago Cubs
NL West - Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Card - Milwaukee Brewers