Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Down the Stretch

Well, its crunch time and its time to see who really wants it most. I can't remember the last time there were so many uncertainties this late in the year with only the NL Central really looking done.

AL East
Boston are on top at the moment but are looking far from convincing. That pen still looks shaky and the rotation is not what it should be...I'll bet Red Sox fans are really thankful they still have Manny and Ortiz...I couldn't believe it when I heard The Yankees had acquired Matt Lawton as he should be the guy at the top of the order who brings consistency and speed and moves Jeter into the second spot where he excels. Cashman has actually made a move that helps his team...Wang has started his rehab in Columbus and his return would boost a rotation full of big names who aren't living up to reputations...The winner of this division is just going to come down to who gets hot at the right time because both Boston and New York have their strengths and weaknesses in exactly the same areas...Toronto should be happy with the way they've performed this year and while they've hit a bump in the road (common for young teams) and fallen away from the big two, there is plenty here to build on for the future and Ricciardi seems to be eyeing a number of big free agents for the off season...Surprise, surprise Baltimore! It wasn't Mazilli who was losing you games, its that poor excuse for a pitching staff who have come down to Earth. I hope Angelos is happy...Tampa have played some good ball in recent weeks but how frustrating must it be for D-Ray fans knowing they could have bolstered those efforts to claw back the feeble Orioles by plugging in Delmon Young and 'E6' BJ Upton. I guess there's always net year...Scott Kazmir has had a great rookie year covered up by his teams low profile and has looked strong in the second half...

AL Central
Well Podsednik is back in the line-up so The ChiSox should wrap up this division and get themselves set for the post-season and once again prove to everyone that pitching, speed and defence are always a good receipe for a consistent and successful team...Can Mark Buerhle get a Cy and lead this team to The Series?...Kevin Millwood and Jake Westbrook must be wondering why The Indian offence couldn't have hit like this sooner because that might have gotten them the wins their performances deserved. Now Cleveland are hitting they look like a very formidable team with a very good chance at the playoffs...If The Twins want to make the playoffs they better slap Morneau around the head so that he can give another post-concussion hot streak and be the power hitter in the middle of the order that they've needed because right now they just aren't good enough to mix it up with the big boys...Alan Trammell has done a good job getting his players to believe they can be winners...Detroit have some very lively arms brewing in the minors looking to join the impressive Bonderman and with the likes of Shelton, Granderson, Monroe and Rodney emerging and key glue guys like Polanco and Rodriguez signed up for a few years winning teams might be returning to Michigan...I've always like the design on KC's caps...

AL West
Oakland are riding their pitching on a serious hot streak since the All Star break and their offence has been sporadic enough to get them enough runs to win the only question is how long they can keep it up?...Huston Street Rookie of the Year?...I tell you why The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim haven't sewn up this division already, its the stupidly long name. Thats the only reason I can think of because this is a team with so much talent in all areas that they should be abusing the AL. If they can get it going they could win it all but they need to get going very, very soon...Texas seemed to really fall out of the race about the time of the whole Kenny Rogers incident that really seemed to knock them off their stride...I actually think Seattle fans should be optimistic about the near future with The Mariners having spent much of the year dumping aging salary eating players and giving some youngsters a chance to show what they can do at the Big League leve. They could well retool in the offseason to complement the youngsters...I do like Yuniesky Betancourt and that Felix Hernandez is a bit of alright...

NL East
Atlanta might not be safe in first place but they've gotta like their chances. Schuerholtz and Cox just don't seem to ever make bad decisions and its shocking how many rookies they've brought into the team and have produced...The pitching seems to be getting healthy so any playoff run will come down to how much pressure the likes of Smoltz and Hudson can take off the young bats...Its been a funny season in Florida. Their line-up has been nowhere near as productive as was expected, the pen has been severely shaken up (well done Todd Jones) and the pitching has been subject to so much conjecture but somehow The Marlins are still right in the thick of the playoff hunt...Florida has all the tools to beat anyone...Whats going on in Philadelphia? They look good for a while and then suddenly they look likely to crawl under a rock somewhere and then they get back up and make people believe in them again. Why can't they face up to the fact that its just not going to happen?...I have a theory that the horrific clash between Cameron and Beltran was just the baseball gods way of balancing up the fact that Cliff Floyd has lasted a whole year without serious injury...Of course The Mets have more important things to worry about now but they have done great for a team with no bullpen and Mike Piazza...We all knew it would happen and The Nationals have sunk from the top spot to the bottom of the East but thats more to do with the strength of the division...Can people please start mentioning Livan Hernandez as being one of the very best pitchers in baseball today?...

NL Central
St Louis have won the division. Pujols will win the league MVP and Chris Carpenter is looking good for the Cy. I think that covers the Cards...Even with no offence the Astros have hung in with the teams in the East for the Wild Card. There is no denying Houston's arms but how long can they scratch out just enough runs to win?...Milwaukee have come along leaps and bounds this year and with the youth in their team they might well be contenders this time next year...Its all gone tits up for Cubs fans. Aramis Ramirez is done. Wood is done. Lawton is gone. Patterson is back. And they're six games under .500. Derrek Lee has had a great year but even his MVP push is starting to fade...Cincinnati's season seems to have come down to whether or not they keep Junior Griffey...It even looks like Adam Dunn might lose his ML strikeout crown too, thats how uneventful life as a Reds fan is...Pittsburgh had something going for them with Zach Duke taking on all comers but he's likely done for the year...I just found at that the Pirates have a slogan for the year of 'Come Hungry'. Its interesting to see a team market itself on its food rather than the game they play but in The Pirates case it might be a good idea...

NL West
Jake Peavy has practically won this division by himself as he seems to be the only marquee pitcher in the division who can win games consistently for his team...Many people thought that the Padres would win this division but I doubt anyone thought it would be like this...Arizona have undoubtedly done enought to give them some credibility this year rebounding from last years mess and it is concievable that if their bats got hot they could make up the gap to San Diego but at this point if anyone got hot in this division they could make the playoffs...I'm sure you've heard that LA's farm team in Jacksonville have been voted the most talented team in the minors, I guess there's that to look forward to for Dodger fans. Right now Depodestra just doesn't seem to know how to win in Dodger Stadium with a small ball minded manager, playing in a pitchers park with a long ball team. Of course injuries haven't helped but someone needs to look at what has brought success to LA in previous seasons as change for change sake is never a good idea...I wonder if The Giants sit in the dug out looking across the field at the opposition and grumble about kids today?...Looking at San Francisco this year should remind us just how good Barry Bonds is...Todd Helton has gotten his bat going again in the second half and Jeff Francis has had a solid rookie campaign in the rarified air but we still can't ignore that purple is not a baseball colour....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

10 Guys Who Want More Than a Cup of Coffee

10 Dioner Navarro,Catcher, Los Angeles Dodgers - When the incumbent at your position is hitting .238 and is ineffective in the field then you know you'll get a shot. Should give LA a shot in the arm and tide them over till Russ Martin is ready in a year or two.

9 Jon Papelbon, Pitcher, Boston Red Sox - I know its amazing that The Sox have promoted someone from the farm (there is hope for Hanley Ramirez still) but Boston are having serious problems with their pitching and he can definately help.

8 Jason Vargas, Pitcher, Florida Marlins - Everyone was going on about Scott Olsen and he just wasn't ready. Vargas has done well so far since moving to the rotation and is really auditioning well for the post-Burnett era in Florida.

7 Brad Eldred, 1st Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates - Much like The Brewers, Pittsburgh are starting to blood some of their promising farm hands and this is one with some serious pop in his bat and whiffs with the best of them.

6 Edwin Encarnacion, 3rd Baseman, Cincinnati Reds - The top rated hitter in the Reds farm means there is one less hole on that infield.

5 Fernando Cabrera, Pitcher, Cleveland Indians - The Indians had so many problems in their pen last year and now they have this gem come through their system. Soon they won't worry when Wickman will eventually break down.

4 Bobby Jenks, Pitcher, Chicago White Sox - I still can't believe Anaheim let this one slip through their fingers. He might have a reputation as a trouble maker and a history of arm problems but his stuff is downright filthy.

3 Jeff Francoeur, Outfielder, Atlanta Braves - This guy is so much fun. A decent outfielder and one of the most aggressive hitters you will ever see. He comes up there hacking and when you're hitting .350+ you can get away with it. If you manage to walk him then you really need to ask yourself how?

2 Curtis Granderson, Outfielder, Detroit Tigers - The Tigers aren't just a bunch of pitching prospects, they also have this guy. He can do it all and will be the linchpin of this order when Detroit get all those arms up.

1 Casey Kotchman, 1st Baseman, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (they're the Anaheim Angels, who are we kidding?) - I was waiting all the way up to the trade deadline to see this guy dealt but he's up and showing the power Anaheim have been waiting for him to develop. This guy has been touted as one of baseballs next big things by many an expert and now he's going to be given a chance to show why.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

BJ Upton - Bust or Next Coming

For a few years now BJ Upton has had his name at the top of several high profile lists of the best prospects in baseball and the principle building block of a promising Devil Rays team being built through the farm.

So far this year he is hitting .304 with an OBP of .390, a slugging percentage of .498 and you can throw in 37 steals to boot which is pretty damn good at any level and is exceptional for a 21 year old.

I have a slight problem with the 106 strike outs in 474 at bats but it seems K's aren't the big deal they used to be.

So why do I feel he might be a bust? The number 46 is all I need say.

Usually 46 is not a bad baseball number. Good for home runs, doubles, stolen bases and a few other things. Not good in errors though. Like I said to Neil M of 3,079 Miles..., I never thought anyone could commit that many errors until someone actually did...not even Cano!

46 errors is a ludicrous amount for a whole year and he's still got time to make more. Hitting more triples than K's is one of baseballs Holy Grails but more errors than doubles is not. The only way you could do worse is to have more errors than RBI (his 64 RBI would be a tall order to top, even for him).

They figure this guy will be the starting shortstop for a number of years and they hit the ball a lot harder and more often in The Bigs so I doubt that will happen, but where do you put such a natural athlete? The outfield is stacked and you wonder about a guy who commits 46 errors (46!!!) spending time at any infield position. Its possible he could DH and it looks like the best option but not what Tampa were expecting I'm sure.

Of course he still is 21 and has plenty of time to develop but you wonder what effect all this fallibility will have on the guy? If he is driven it will drive him nuts and if it doesn't then you wonder about his drive. This guy has serious talent but he could end up doing more harm than good if he doesn't sort out his D. Anyone remember Jose Canseco?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Only in New York - Flying Fans

Anyone with a daughter in their mid to late teens and lives in or around Armonk, New York should remember this name, Scott Harper. He is 18 years old and a total spack.

This young man is the sort of person who sits in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium and looks at the netting behind home plate and not only thinks about whether the netting could hold him but actually goes out to test his theory by jumping onto it.

This boy is dangerous and needs serious psychological help and if your daughter brings him home do your best to keep him busy whilst you wait for some friendly folk who will suit him up in a fetching white jacket with long sleeves and buckles on the back.

If ever there was a kid who needed a good slap to the back of the head its Scott Harper.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Angelos is an Idiot

Lee Mazilli has been dumped by Baltimore amidst the best season they've had in ages. If they had some quality in that rotation they might well be in first place still. Admittedly there have been some grumblings amongst the players in the clubhouse but they were still playing well (maybe not recently but...).

For a franchise that has made so many bad decisions we shouldn't be surprised. I'm just waiting to see what happens now but I wouldn't be surprised if they remain mired in 4th place and Lee Mazilli gets a shot somewhere else in the not too distant future.

Rafi the Drug Fiend?

Well, it couldn't have come at a worse time in many regards. After becoming the fourth guy to hit 500 homeruns and collect 3000 hits, Rafael Palmeiro has been found to be in breach of the MLB drug policy and will serve a 10 game ban. Of course everyone is asking if this will harm his Hall of Fame chances or even if this means Canseco was right and he's been juiced his whole career?

I have always been inclined to assume the best and think that maybe Palmeiro might have just taken the wrong cough medicine or something and this is just a mistake. The reason you have a three strike policy is to cover such eventuallities.

The really big question is what will Congress do? Unlike many of those fingered by Canseco, Palmeiro didn't take the fifth and stated quite clearly that he did not do drugs and in light of his recent failed test, Congress have begun investigating potential perjury charges and if they can prove that he actually took steroids before (I find the chances of them proving such a thing remote to say the least) then it really won't look good.

Of course we wouldn't need to be double guessing all this if MLB had instituted a drug policy sooner but as it stands I can still see Palmeiro making The Hall, albeit under a dark cloud. He's had a great career and there is some ambiguity as to any long term steroid use and a lot of writers seem to be able to look past such transgressions with certain players. Personally, I'm still bitter that Palmeiro stole a Gold Glove from David Segui and that Joe Carter was well and truly snubbed by The Hall so no one should ever be allowed in until that is sorted (I can be so petty sometimes).

We shall see what happens.