Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In memoriam

Some of the former big leaguers who died in 2005:

Don Blasingame
Nelson Briles
Chico Carrasquel
Donn Clendenon
Pat Kelly
Al Lopez
Rick Mahler
Gene Mauch
Vic Power
Dick Radatz
Bill Voiselle
Earl Wilson

Friday, December 23, 2005

National Bohemian vs. Budweiser

The St. Louis Cardinals signed former Orioles drunken party boy/starting pitcher Sydney Ponson to a 1 yr deal. Ponson's agreement with the Cardinals calls for a $1 million base salary and allows him to earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses based on starts.

Ponson amassed a 76-91 record with a 4.81 ERA while in Baltimore, presumably on a diet of National Bohemian ("It's crisp, It's cold and we're proud to say..... It's brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay").

Perhaps the move to St. Louis and a switch to Budweiser (King of Beers) will prove to be an upgrade for the sot.

The last drunk to be banished from the Orioles to the National League was Dennis Martinez.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


The Padilla Flotilla is heading to a new port in Texas. As Randy Miller wrote on

"Uncle! Or so Vicente Padilla can comprende: Tio! At last, the Phillies waved the white flag and gave up on a reclusive Nicaraguan pitcher who never consistently transformed his so-called great arm and great stuff into stardom."

Nuff said.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

How about a closer from Houston?

Yesterday's Houston Chronicle tossed out the idea of the Astros trading Brad Lidge to the Phillies for Bobby Abreu. There was no indication this deal was under discussion by the teams, but it is interesting.

Although it seems the Phils are shopping Abreu for a quality starter (Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano have all been sought, reportedly), a deal for Lidge could make sense if Philly can't get a starter and decides to move Ryan Madson to the rotation.

The Phils signed Tom Gordon with the idea of him being the closer, but he could easily slide into the set-up role vacated by Madson. It would seem an unlikely move, but one that might have some merit? I think most fans would feel better with Lidge closing -- despite his World Series meltdowns -- rather than Gordon.

Also, the Phils are reportedly close to signing Braden Looper. Unfortunately, I'm not making this up. Looper-to-Gordon doesn't do much to instill confidence.

Finally, Phils radio host Tom McCarthy will be heading to WFAN to join the Mets broadcasting team. Tom is a fine announcer and classy guy. Good luck to him, although he will be missed in Philly.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Detroit has jumped into the winter signing fray by bringing back Todd Jones to be the team's closer. Jones saved 142 games for the Tigers from 1997-2001 when he was traded to Minnesota for starter Mark Redman. Last season with the Marlins, Jones saved 40 games, just two shy of his career high that he set with Detroit in 2000, and had a career-best 2.10 ERA.

Jones will get $11 million for two years, which looks like a steal compared to the going rate for relievers. He will be the Tigers fifth closer since the start of last year, following Troy Percival, Ugie Urbina, Kyle Farnsworth and Fernando Rodney. Gee, is it any wonder Alan Trammell got fired?

It seems Jones' 2005 season compares favorably to that of Wagner or Ryan, who got wheelbarrows filled with $$$$. Jones converted 40 of 45 save chances, Wagner 38 of 41 and Ryan 36 of 41. Jones had a WHIP of 1.04 while Wagner was 0.84 and Ryan was 1.14. Jones had a K/BB ratio of 3.88 while Wagner was 3.95 and Ryan was 3.57. Opponents had an OPS of .559 vs. Jones, .494 against Wagner and .572 vs. Ryan.

So, Wagner has a slight edge statistically, but I'll take Jones' contract over Wags any day. Ditto for Ryan, who couldn't even match Jones. Plus, Jones actually liked playing in Detroit, which should be a plus.

Detroit also is rumored to be signing Kenny Rogers for $16 million over two years. Here is where the trouble begins. The Tigers want a veteran to help their young guns like Bonderman, Maroth, Robertson, Verlander, etc.

But is a guy who had very public outbursts against the media the dude you want showing the way? A 41-year-old guy, at that. I'm not thrilled with this move, but maybe all Kenny needs is a fresh start. He has averaged nearly 15 wins and 32 starts over the past four seasons.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Quote me

It doesn't seem that time away from the game has dulled Jim Leyland's edge -- which is a good thing. Here is another offering from the Tigers new skipper, who was asked about having veteran leadership in the clubhouse:

"I'm supposed to be the leader," Leyland said. "That's why they hired me. The leaders on the team are the guys who hit .330 with 30 homers and knock in 140 runs. I never saw a guy who hit .200 be the leader. I don't buy that stuff."

Speaking of speaking up, new (and very rich) Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett pulled no punches about the fire sale the Florida Marlins are undergoing: "They'd better teach Dontrelle Willis how to play all nine positions," he said yesterday.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mets appease fans nostalgic for the old days of inexplicable trades

The Mets have acquired catcher Paul Lo Duca from the Marlins for minor league pitcher Gaby Hernandez and another as yet unnamed minor league pitcher. Hernandez had been the best pitching prospect in the Mets' system for a good week and a half following the trade of Yusmeiro Petit to Florida in the Carlos Delgado deal. Hernandez is only nineteen years old and a long way from the majors, but he had put up excellent numbers in rookie ball and low A ball before having some trouble in high A. He had a lot further to go than either of the two top pitching prospects the Mets have traded in the last year and a half. But given that the top honor now goes to either a guy who hasn't signed yet or a guy recovering from Tommy John surgery, this trade has really left the ranks of Mets pitching prospects barren.

And for what? The New York Daily News says that Lo Duca "is regarded as one of the top offensive catchers in the game". I wonder if the people who regard him as such realize it's not 2001 anymore. Last year he hit a dismal .283/.334/.380 and that was the second time in the last three years that his slugging percentage was .380 or lower. Even free agent defensive specialist Bengie Molina has managed to slug .400 each of the last three years. Molina's played in a better offensive environment than Lo Duca has, but when a player needs his numbers to be put in context to explain why he didn't hit as well as Bengie Molina, he's not going to be much of an offensive force in any environment. Lo Duca just isn't a good hitter anymore. And he's never been known as a good defensive catcher. The Daily News also brings up his reputation as "a team leader and positive clubhouse presence," but really, that's the sort of thing you say about a guy who's actual baseball abilities don't merit much praise.

So for this nice guy who's not very good at playing baseball, the Mets gave up Gaby Hernandez. And another pitcher. And, oh yeah, 12.5 million dollars over the next two years. The only thing that made sense about the Mike Cameron/Xavier Nady deal was the money the Mets saved. And now they've given that all away to a guy who didn't even hit as well as Ramon Castro (.244/.321/.435) last year. There is some speculation that perhaps the Diamondbacks want Lo Duca as part of a deal for Javier Vazquez, in which case this may make sense. But if not, this is a really awful trade.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Big news

Just when it seemed the Tigers would fail to make a move, the Free Press reports today that Detroit signed Bobby Seay to a minor-league deal.

Seay is 27, left-handed, and had been sent to the minors on an outright release by the pitching-rich Colorado Rockies. He had an 8.49 ERA in 11 2/3 innings for the Rockies before going 1-0 with 3 saves and a 2.38 ERA at AAA Colorado Springs.

Feel the excitement.

Rumors, rumors, rumors

The NY Post is reporting that the Phillies have moved into the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes, saying that the Fightins would trade Bobby Abreu. The deal is being held up because of the disparity of the players' contracts, the paper said.

This would be a very curious move, regardless of Ramirez's offensive prowess. It would throw the Phils outfield into shambles, presumably with Manny in left and Pat Burrell moving to right. That's two lousy corner outfielders, so I guess we'd find out if Aaron Rowand is truly a Gold Glove in center. He'd better be.

The Post also reports the Mets are talking about sending Kris Benson to the Orioles for Jorge Julio. This, I think, would be a good deal for the Mets. Julio, despite his troubles last season, is only 26 and has produced in the past. We're still waiting for Benson, 31, to blossom into the star he was supposed to be. No one, perhaps in the history of the game, has clung to the "potential" tag longer than Benson.

Of course, the tabloids will regret losing Mrs. Benson.

Tom Gordon reportedly will determine his destination in the next two or three days, his agent said.

A year or so from now, Joe will be disappointed with the Wagner signing. He wasn't as automatic last year as the NY press would have you believe. And he hasn't hit 100 mph on the gun in a while, outside of one game in Washington.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mets spend money wisely for second consecutive offseason

The Mets have had a busy week, plugging superstars into two positions that were glaring weaknesses last year. They spent a lot of money in both cases, and gave up some good young players in one. But unlike the numerous bad deals that got the Mets into their recent mess, they're paying a premium price for premium players. Giving up your best pitching prospect is a lot less idiotic if the guy you're getting in return is Carlos Delgado rather than Victor Zambrano.

Delgado's qualifications require little interpretation. After a down year in 2004 which saw him hit .269/.372/.535 and miss some time due to injury for the Toronto Blue Jays, Delgado signed with the Marlins. He exploded upon the National League, hitting .301/.399/.582 with thirty-three home runs in a stadium that dampens offense similarly to Shea Stadium. Even accounting for the fact that he is thirty-three years old and not that great defensively, he is an enormous upgrade over the guys the Mets were sending out to play first last year. They hit .227/.303/.391, posting an OPS lower than the National League average at shortstop or catcher. A bat like Carlos Delgado's was a large part of the difference between the 2004 Mets and a playoff team.

The Mets did give up some valuable players in exchange for Delgado. Mike Jacobs was far from a proven major leaguer, let alone a star first baseman, boasting just one huge month in the bigs on the heels of a good year in AA. But he is a good young player with potential to be more and could provide real value to a team that doesn't have Carlos Delgado to play first base. Still, Yusmeiro Petit is the real prize of the package the Marlins received. Just twenty years old, he's already mastered AA, striking out more than a batter per inning with great command in each season of his three year minor league career. Scouts have always said he wouldn't be able to maintain that success at the major league level, but I was looking forward to seeing him try. I'm sorry to see him go, but I can't quibble with a deal that gets the Mets an elite player like Delgado.

And then there's Billy Wagner. First things first, the money is absurd. Paying a guy more than forty thousand dollars per out is just silly. But that's just the nature of the closer position these days. If you can prove yourself capable of getting people out in the ninth consistently, you can get a contract wildly out of proportion to your real value. If the Mets hadn't given him this deal, someone else would have. And, of course, they are the New York Mets, so ten million dollars isn't going to break their backs. At least they have a great closer.

And that is certainly what they have. When Billy Wagner steps on to the mound, he will strike out more than a batter per inning. He will walk about a quarter of the number of batters he strikes out. And he won't give up too many home runs. The only question is how often he'll step on the mound. He missed almost sixty games due to injury two years ago and will be at least thirty-seven when he finishes this contract. As crazy as BJ Ryan's contract with Toronto may be, he might have been a safer bet for the Mets. But if Wagner stays healthy, the Mets will have as good a chance at preserving a ninth inning lead as any team in baseball.

The Mets have spent this kind of money on players in their thirties before. Some of those contracts are just expiring now and some haven't yet. But Billy Wagner isn't Kevin Appier or Pedro Astacio. Carlos Delgado isn't Mo Vaughn or Jeromy Burnitz. And that Roberto Alomar deal really seemed like a good idea at the time. This time the Mets appear to have gotten a couple of great players with a few years left in them. They added twelve wins to their record in 2005. I think they just added a few more.

Konerko back to White Sox

And he said it was in large part to the team bringing in Jim Thome. So I guess that's a vote in Chicago in favor of that trade.

Meanwhile, since the Tigers are off the radar screen right now, we'll entertain with this quote from new skipper Jim Leyland: "It's not enough to play hard, you've also got to play smart. I played hard, too, and I never got out of Double-A."

Bye bye Billy

More on the Wags signing by the Mets: According to the NY Post, Wagner said the Phils made a mistake by trading Jim Thome and are going backwards. So, it sounds as though William probably wasn't returning to the Zen no matter what was offered.

Phillies appear to be hot on Tom Gordon as their closer. I hate this idea.

Pat Gillick looks to have made another solid move by signing Abraham Nunez, who might take the majority of ABs at third base, but can play just about anywhere and is a switch-hitter.

Has anyone heard from the Tigers?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Good times, bad times

Time to catch up on some wheeling and dealing. The Phils made an incredible deal in getting Aaron Rowand and a top pitching prospect in exchange for Jim Thome. White Sox fans seem to be devastated about losing Rowand, which might be a good sign for Phils fans.

On the downside, the Phils lost Billy Wagner to division rival New York. It will be interesting to hear Joe's take on this signing. Personally, I don't think it's a terrible thing for Philly -- did you really want Wags signed until 2009 at $10 million a season? New Phils GM Pat Gillick hates signing pitchers for more than two years.

"I'd almost rather pay two years at $10 million-$12 million [per year] than three years at $9 million," Gillick said. "I just want to have more flexibility, because you've got to be able to change your roster."

Which makes sense, if you can pull it off.

Anyway, the Phils can now focus on other relievers. They're pursuing Trevor Hoffman and Tom Gordon, from reports. They're not talking to Kyle Farnsworth, which makes no sense to me. He would seem a better option than Gordon, who has pitched a good many innings as a set-up man for Mariano Rivera in NY. The Indians, Orioles and Tigers also are chasing Hoffman. Bob Wickman and Todd Jones also are available.

I'd almost rather roll the dice with Octavio Dotel, who is a risk coming off surgery, but might be a great bargain. Especially when you consider Farnsworth is the only pitcher in the previously mentioned group who is under 37.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Nice call Sparky

The York Daily Record reports that the Orioles are in serious negotiations with Angels free agent Paul Byrd for a two year deal worth 10 - 13m.

FYI - Sparky had advised this move several months ago (in private conversations), but I did not realize he had Flanagan's ear.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Well armed

One would have to guess the Red Sox are nowhere near finished dealing, not even counting Manny.

Wells wants out and the team apparently will try to send him west, as he requested. Right now, they’ve got way too many starters – although most of them can’t stay healthy for a full year: Bronson Arroyo, Matt Clement, Wade Miller, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Wells, plus Josh Beckett.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Red Sox wonder, "Who needs a GM anyway?"

A potentially crazy offseason is underway in earnest as some big names find themselves in a glamorous new location while the 2003 World Series Champs really put their back into their latest rebuilding effort. Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell are apparently headed to Boston in exchange for prospects Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez as well as a player to be named later. Somewhere, George Steinbrenner is displeased.

Now, Josh Beckett may be the most unproven star athlete this side of Michael Vick, but that doesn't mean he's not a fine pitcher. The 178 2/3 innings he pitched in 2005 were a career high. But, as has been well documented, his problem has largely been blisters rather than arm trouble, meaning he's made it to his mid-twenties with a relatively healthy arm. He still needs to figure out how to stay on the field for 200 innings or so if he's going to turn into the ace so many have been predicting for years that he would be. But 160 innings of Josh Beckett is not a bad worst case scenario.

A full season of Mike Lowell, however, might be pretty scary. The three-time All-Star third baseman utterly collapsed in 2005, batting a laughable .236/.298/.360. The Red Sox have the sort of budget that allows that to gamble on his bouncing back, but that's far from a certainty. He will only be thirty-two years old, and if he does regain his old form this deal could look like grand larceny, but right now, Lowell is just the salary the Red Sox have to take to get Beckett.

As for the other side, the Marlins get a couple of interesting prospects. Ramirez is a highly touted shortstop whose appeal has always been more "tools" than stats. This year he hit .271/.335/.385 in 465 at bats for AA Portland. His defense gets good reviews, but he's still got some improving to do before he'll start looking like an impact player at the major league level. Sanchez, on the other hand, is rather intriguing. After losing the entire 2003 season to elbow surgery, he's spent the last two years striking out more than a batter per inning at three different minor league levels without walking too many batters. Even predicting that he'd have a major league career as good as Beckett's would be foolishly bold, but if the Marlins are going to seriously rebuild, this is the kind of guy they should be getting in exchange for their high-priced stars.

So the Red Sox made a good deal for themselves that could wind up looking okay for the Marlins in a few years with some luck. As a Mets fan, of course I'm happy to see Florida taking a year off from competing for a division title. Seeing them exchange one of their premier players for a less than exorbitant price gives me some hope about the Carlos Delgado trade negotiations, too. But one thing is for sure. Sportscenter is going to show some highlights from game six of the 2003 World Series tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The 2005 Mets: Season In Review

For the New York Mets, 2005 was a year that felt disappointing as it was happening. They seemed so close to returning to the playoffs for the first time. And then they just fell apart like they always do. But the September collapse obscures how far this team came in one year and all the obstacles they had to overcome to do it. This team had some glaring weaknesses, and some bad luck on top of that. And their manager didn't seem the type to make lemonade out of lemons so much as the type to send the lemons out to pitch to the opposing team's best hitter in the eighth inning of a close game. Still, this team improved its record by twelve wins to go 83-79 and did it in a way that it seems like something they can build upon rather than a fluke.

The Mets' offense scored the seventh most runs in the National League, up from twelfth in 2004. And they did it with just one truly extraordinary hitter in their lineup. And that guy was the least experienced hitter they had. With some holes that shouldn't be too hard to fill and several important hitters still on the right side of thirty years old, the Mets' offense is a good one with some room to grow. Here's what it looks like, position by position.

C: National League average: .250/.314/.388
Mets average: .245/.322/.436
Mike Piazza: .253/.329/.456 (371 at bats)
Ramon Castro: .240/.318/.428 (208)

The Mets have become accustomed to this position being a plus over the years and 2005 was no exception, though the gap between Met catchers and the average NL backstop has shrunk considerably in recent seasons. Piazza's numbers were similar to 2004 but for the startling drop in his OBP. Things aren't likely to get much better for him as time rolls on. I still think he could be a useful part-time catcher in 2006, but it seems he has other plans and the Mets will have to look elsewhere. If this is the end, it's been a great seven and a half years and worth every penny as far as I'm concerned. He has been the greatest offensive player in the history of the franchise and I look forward to his being the second Mets cap to adorn a plaque in Cooperstown.

Castro was an able backup and could fill the same role in 2006. He wouldn't be a great choice to start, but there isn't much on the free agent market this offseason. Putting bats at positions where bats are expected should be more of a priority for the Mets than furthering the Carter-Hundley-Piazza lineage of catchers who can hit. Giving guys like Castro and Mike Jacobs a shot may be the best they can do for now.

1B: NL: .280/.361/.483
Mets: .227/.303/.391
Doug Mientkiewicz: .245/.328/.416 (269)
Mike Jacobs: .296/.364/.673 (98)

Where have you gone John Olerud? A franchise turns its lonely eyes to you. It's been six years since the Mets have had a first baseman worthy of the title, and while they did reach one World Series after the man in the funny hat left town, filling this slot with guys who can't hit isn't a strategy likely to get them back there. Mientkiewicz missed almost half of the season, and that wasn't the bad news. Getting on base is the only thing he's ever been good at offensively and he couldn't even do that this year. Eleven home runs were a nice surprise, but not nearly enough to prevent this position from being an offensive anchor in the nautical sense.

Jacobs had a heck of a month after a late August callup, playing almost exclusively at first base despite his history of catching. Oddly, his profile lists him as a catcher despite the fact that he didn't register a single major league plate appearance as such. One hundred major league at bats aren't a lot to go on--just ask Shane Spencer and Benny Agbayani--but Jacobs could be a useful part for the Mets at catcher and/or first base in 2006, as they're unlikely to fill either position in a particularly exciting way this offseason.

2B: NL: .276/.338/.414
Mets: .251/.295/.338
Miguel Cairo: .254/.299/.334 (287)
Kazuo Matsui: .257/.305/.361 (249)

This did not work out quite like I hoped it would. Instead of adjusting to the major leagues and putting up a big second season like Hideki Matsui did, Japanese iron man Kazuo Matsui alternated between being injured and being awful in 2005. And Miguel Cairo provided Met fans with an example of the old adage about being careful what you wish for. Many called for Matsui to be benched in favor of Cairo, and Cairo eventually did take Matsui's spot even when Matsui was healthy. The only problem was that Cairo was even more useless with a bat in his hand than Matsui.

The Mets should approach the 2005 offseason as though they don't have a second baseman on the roster. Big contract or not, Matsui does not deserve anything more than a shot to compete for the starting spot in 2006, and even that would be generous. And Cairo should not be brought back under any circumstances, lest Willie Randolph decide it's a good idea for him to bat second for a couple more months. Both the free agent market and the Mets' minor league system are basically devoid of serious choices to play second base at the major league level next year, but this is a position where the team needs to upgrade. Finding a league average second baseman would put a significant number of runs on the board for the Mets in 2006.

3B: NL: .274/.344/.442
Mets: .307/.389/.520
David Wright: .306/.388/.523 (575)

At twenty-two years old, David Wright was one of the twenty best hitters in the major leagues in 2005. Only Morgan Ensberg even enters the conversation of who the most valuable third baseman in the National League was, and he's seven years older and had thirty-three fewer plate appearances. If it weren't for the guy who plays across town, Wright would be a legitimate choice for the best third baseman in the majors. He will show up at the bottom of some MVP ballots, and rightly so. He'll turn twenty-three in December.

This is the one position where the Mets have absolutely nothing to be concerned about aside from getting the man under contract for as long as possible. He could be a little more consistent defensively, but 24 errors certainly don't tell the whole story. The fact that 24 is the exact number of errors that a twenty-two year-old Scott Rolen made in his first full major league season is just an amusing coincidence. But while Wright could occasionally get sloppy on a routine play, he would also make the best play you've seen all year every once in a while. And then he'd top it.

Tom Seaver is the greatest home grown player in franchise history. Darryl Strawberry is the best hitter to come out of the Mets' farm system. Wright's got a long way to go to top the former, but I don't have much doubt that he's going to give the latter a run for his money before he's done. As long as he's got a uniform on, there will be at least one reason to watch the Mets.

SS: NL: .264/.313/.378
Mets: .273/.300/.385
Jose Reyes: .273/.299/.386 (696)

Of course, Wright isn't the only reason to watch. Jose Reyes is impossible to take your eyes off of when he's at the plate or on the bases, even if his stats don't look like those of a superstar. If you add in the sixty bases he stole (in seventy-five tries), things start looking a little better. But he still hasn't lived up to the promise of his rookie year, when he hit .307/.334/.434 in half a season.

That promise was derailed in large part by injuries, so perhaps Reyes's batting statistics aren't the most important numbers when describing his 2005. Six hundred and ninety-six at bats tell you more than just that he needs to draw more walks. They tell you that Reyes stayed healthy enough to play in all but one of his team's games this year. While he's still got a lot of work to do to solidify his place in the core of this team's future, staying on the field all year was a big step in the right direction.

LF: NL: .272/.348/.457
Mets: .272/.358/.497
Cliff Floyd: .279/.359/.507 (548)

Speaking of surprising bouts of health, here's Cliff Floyd. The Met left fielder played in more games than he has since 1998 and looked good with both the bat and the glove. He got off to an explosive start, posting OPSes over 1.000 in two of the season's first three months before settling into more pedestrian numbers in the second half. He also looked vastly improved with the glove. The difference between his defense this year and in his previous two years with the Mets looked to be night and day, and stats like those of Baseball Prospectus agree. All in all, Floyd was the second most valuable Met hitter.

Still, this is Cliff Floyd we're talking about. Expecting a repeat of this year's health at age thirty-three would be foolish. The outfield corners seem like the place the Mets are most likely to try to upgrade before the start of the season. With Brian Giles the premier free agent and Omar Minaya still dreaming of Manny, rumors are bound to swirl this offseason. Selling high on Cliff Floyd seems like the way to go. Hopefully the Mets trade wisely.

CF: NL: .275/.340/.437
Mets: .271/.334/.429
Carlos Beltran: .267/.331/.416 (580)

Seriously, what the hell? Beltran's OBP was twenty points lower than his career mark and his SLG was sixty-five points off. I don't want to make like a mindless New York beat writer and play the "big city pressure" card, but something unusual happened here. Maybe his early season leg injuries were more serious than we were led to believe, and certainly he deserves some slack for the period of the season after he and his right fielder cracked skulls in mid-air. But even taking into account those extenuating circumstances, this season has to rate as a colossal disappointment.

The only thing to do right now is expect him to bounce back. The only season comparable to this is 2000, when he hit .247/.309/.366 in 98 games after hitting .293/.337/.454 the previous year. After that, he started putting up the superstar numbers we've come to expect from him. We can't draw any conclusions about 2006 based on that. But we can't conclude that he's spending the offseason shopping for coats that will fit around the giant fork sticking out of his back based on one bad season either. Carlos Beltran will be one of the Mets' two best offensive players in 2006. Or they're in some serious trouble.

RF: NL: .269/.346/.456
Mets: .269/.338/.493
Mike Cameron: .261/.329/.456 (272)
Victor Diaz: .264/.333/.487 (261)

The Mets got decent production from right field, but this still seems like a position they're likely to try hard to upgrade in the offseason. Mike Cameron got off to a late hot start, but he cooled off considerably after May and then his season ended shockingly in August. Victor Diaz had a decent season in relief, but didn't really establish himself as an easy choice for a future starting role.

Cameron will likely be dealt to a team that can play him in center field while Diaz reprises his role as fourth outfielder. The aforementioned Brian Giles will probably receive serious consideration from the Mets. He bounced back somewhat in 2005 after a rough 2004 in San Diego's new offense-dampening stadium. At thirty-five years old, he's not going to be the player to put the Mets over the top, but at the right price, getting a solidly above average player who gets on base a lot to play right field could be a good addition.

So the Mets' offense is far from complete heading into this offseason, but there is a lot to make one optimistic. The three most important guys are young enough to improve, as hard as that is to believe in Wright's case. And given the awful production the Mets got out of the right side of their infield, finding average major leaguers to staff those spots would be a big upgrade. The Mets' everyday lineup could undergo a serious transformation before opening day. But as long as its got Reyes, Wright and Beltran at the top of it, there's reason to be excited.

The Mets' pitching also improved significantly in 2005. They allowed the third fewest runs in the league, up from eighth in 2004. The cut more than half a run off the team ERA and walked 101 fewer batters. Unlike the offense, there was no youngster driving this resurgence who can be expected to keep it up for years to come. But they should at least have all the guys who contributed to the 2005 success back. And, also unlike the offense, there could be some reinforcements from the minors on the way.

Pedro Martinez: 15-8, 2.82, 217 IP, 8.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9

Well, at least one of the Mets' big investments paid off in 2005. Pedro Martinez stayed healthy enough to pitch as many innings as he has in seven years--oddly enough, it's the third season since 1998 in which he's pitched exactly 217 innings--and those innings couldn't have been of a higher quality. While his numbers did not compare with those of his best seasons, he still ranked as one of the ten best pitchers in baseball. I think the Mets will settle for that.

There can never be certainty about a pitcher's future health, and Pedro's health is more uncertain than most. But 2001 was the last time he failed to make at least twenty-nine starts and the Mets were careful with him at the end of this season. The fourth year of his contract is still far in the future, but 2006 looks quite promising.

Tom Glavine: 13-13, 3.53, 211.1, 4.5, 2.6

I have to say I did not see that coming. In a season when Met fans everywhere were hoping Glavine wouldn't pitch enough innings to trigger the 2006 option in his contract, he surprised everyone with another solid season. Much like his ultimately adequate 2004, 2005 was a tale of two halves, one excellent and one excrement. The thirty-nine year-old southpaw spent the first half of the season confirming fans' worst fears, posting a 4.94 ERA with a 46:41 K:BB ratio in 102 innings before the All Star break. But in the second half, he rediscovered his 2004 first half form, posting a 2.22 ERA with a 59:20 K:BB ratio in 109.1 innings. As if to illustrate the uselessness of a pitcher's win-loss record in describing his effectiveness, he went 6-7 before the break and 7-6 after.

So what's next? Does Glavine at forty have another half of an great season in him? Probably not. But the Mets are stuck with him. He'd still make a pretty good fifth starter, I think. SO all the Mets have to do to improve their rotation is make sure they've got four guys better than Glavine. Well, Pedro certainly counts as one.

Jae Seo: 8-2, 2.59, 90.1, 5.9, 1.6

This guy would certainly count as number two, if they let him. Despite spending half the season in Norfolk so that Kazuhisa Ishii could make Victor Zambrano look like he had good control by comparison, Seo was the third most valuable starting pitcher the Mets had. He was sent down after just three starts with a 2.00 ERA and when he got called back up in August, he didn't miss a beat. He started eleven games and went 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA. He had the lowest walk rate of any Met pitcher, starter or reliever. One can only wonder where the Mets might have finished had he been in the majors all season.

As big a fan of Seo as I am, even I never expected this kind of season out of him. It's hard to believe he can keep it up much longer, but that's the sort of thing I often thought before his starts down the stretch this season. Maybe it is just as simple as his developing a couple of new pitches. If so, he just may be able to sustain it for a little while longer. Regardless of the improbability of his sudden success, there is no way his name shouldn't already be written in ink on the 2006 Mets' opening day roster.

Kris Benson: 10-8, 4.13, 174.1, 4.9, 2.5

No, really. He's about to break out and become an elite pitcher. I can just feel it. The man with all the potential had another in a long line of mediocre seasons, earning an ERA within a tenth of a run of league average (4.22). Rick Peterson's magic powers did not turn him into one of the best pitchers in the league or even one of the three best pitchers on his own team.

Benson seems capable of being a reliable guy at the back of a good rotation. But usually you can find those guys for less than $7.5 million per season. As he dives headlong into his thirties, Benson will probably continue to be better than most of the guys in the Mets' minor league system. At least if he feels guilty about taking their jobs, he can afford to buy them a nice lunch to apologize.

Victor Zambrano: 7-12, 4.17, 166.1, 6.1, 4.2

And then there's this guy. He got booted to the bullpen before the season ended. Meanwhile, further south...

Scott Kazmir: 10-9, 3.77, 186, 8.4, 4.8


Aside from those five and Ishii, Aaron Heilman and Steve Trachsel each made a handful of starts. Heilman was solid and had a couple of really dominant starts before getting sent to the bullpen, where he excelled. Trachsel returned from injury in August and was inconsistent.

Martinez, Glavine, Benson, Trachsel and Seo will probably be the rotation come opening day. It would be nice if Zambrano were in another uniform by then, but I won't get my hopes up. The Mets could always explore trading possibilities, but there aren't a lot of options on the free agent market. AJ Burnett seems to be the man most likely to be overpaid by a large market team. Hopefully it's not the Mets.

In spite of Willie Randolph's baffling bullpen management, the Mets did get some good performances from their relievers. In addition to Heilman, Roberto Hernandez was excellent all year and Juan Padilla pitched very well after a midseason callup. Expecting a repeat performance from a forty-one year-old Hernandez seems to be asking too much, but he at least deserves a chance to show that he can be useful again. The Mets have some young arms who could prove useful in 2006, but aside from Heilman, there isn't a lot to be confident about here.

One position that the Mets will almost surely attempt to upgrade via free agent signing is that of closer. After a very good 2004, Braden Looper fell to earth hard. He pitched twenty-four fewer innings yet walked six more batters. And his strikeout total was less than half of what it was the year before. His ERA jumped more than a point. He will not be back.

The Mets will likely pursue Billy Wagner to fill this role, which doesn't sound like a bad idea at all. Like any big name closer, he'll get money out of proportion to his real value. But that doesn't mean he won't be one of the best closers money can buy. He still strikes out more than a batter per inning with a fairly low walk rate. At thirty-four with some recent injuries, his durability is a concern, but, aside from perhaps BJ Ryan, there isn't a comparable talent available to fill this position. And as ridiculous as either man's salary might turn out to be, it's not going to financially cripple the New York Mets.

The Mets' pitching success seems a bit more fragile than that of their offense, and not just due to the inherent unpredictability of pitchers. They're counting on some guys in their thirties and one guy with half a great season to maintain their performance or get better. Not being exceedingly patient with guys like Ishii and Zambrano could improve the bottom line a bit, but it doesn't look like the Mets will make any huge strides here. Yusmeiro Petit getting off to a hot start in AAA could be a big help later in the season.

Altogether, the Mets look like a solid team moving in the right direction. Another offseason full of big moves could always backfire, and Omar Minaya isn't one to shy away from headlines. The next few months will likely be sprinkled with tense moments when it seems like Minaya is about to trade away the whole farm system for Danys Baez. But until that happens, I remain cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good news, bad news

On the bright side, Ryan Howard was voted NL Rookie of the Year. Howard hit .288 with 22 HR and 63 RBI in 312 AB after taking over 1B for injured Jim Thome. Those are some nice numbers, especially if you work them out over a full season. One word of caution, though. Howard struck out 100 times. That's a big number, too.

Scott Rolen was the last Phillie to win ROY, in 1997. Many on the list of recent winners have all gone on to further success, like Jason Bay, Dontrelle Willis, and Albert Pujols. So, hopefully, Howard will, too. If he remains with the Phils.

On the down side, Ugie Urbina will be charged with attempted murder for the bizarre incident at his home in Venzuela that involved a group of men allegedly attacking several people using machetes and trying to set them on fire. Urbina said he was sleeping at the time and not involved.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Polanco earns his stripes

Placido Polanco, acquired from the Phillies for Ugie Urbina and Ramon Martinez, was voted the Tiger of the Year by Detroit's media. Polanco hit .338 with 36 RBI in 86 games for the Tigers and batted .331 between Philly and Detroit combined, the second highest average in the majors.

He also led all second basemen with a .995 fielding average and was the toughest hitter in the majors to strike out, with one whiff every 22 at-bats.

In September, Polanco became the first Tiger since Ray Boone in 1957 to get four hits in back-to-back games. Ray, of course, was the father of former Phillies standout catcher Bob Boone.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The rumor mill

The Minnesota Twins reportedly have contacted the Phillies about Jim Thome. But the Phils would have to eat a lot of the remaining $$$ on Thome's contract. From what I've read, new Phils GM Pat Gillick might be more willing to trade Ryan Howard because of his greater value.

I don't know if the Phils will be able to improve their starting pitching much through free agency (Matt Morris, anyone?), but there are a few relievers that could help the squad. Bobby Howry made just $900,000 for the White Sox last year and would be great for the back end, as might Octavio Dotel, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, but is willing to play for an incentive-laden contract.

If the Phils lose Wagner and Urbina, B.J. Ryan ($2.6 million in 2005) and Kyle Farnsworth ($2 million) might be worthwhile, and cost-effective, solutions.

I think the Nationals made a great trade dealing 3B Vinny Castilla to SD for P Brian Lawrence. I think Lawrence should benefit greatly from pitching at RFK Stadium, and he's only 29.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

When I think defense, I think Abreu

My wife always said that Bobby Abreu looked kind of like one of those troll dolls, and I’m starting to think there might be a reason why. I’m starting to think Bobby has magic powers that none of us know about, and he used those powers to somehow win his first Gold Glove award.

Was the NL outfield really that weak out there? Maybe we’ve all under-valued the ability to let fly balls bounce in front of you?

I know Bobby has a great arm and he can cover a lot of ground out there, but this is a guy that uses his reputation as a bad fielder to try and trick people to think he can’t find a fly ball so he can try to throw them out.

When you think Gold Glove you think of guys who would provide web gem after web gem, like 8 time winners Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds. I don’t know if I have ever seen Bobby make more than one or two plays that I would have thought to be a web gem that didn't involve him throwing someone out, thought he did dive for once or twice this year for a fly ball, which I pretty sure was a career high for him and that's worth mentioning.

Either way congratulations to Bobby.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gillick takes over

Well, it became clear over the past few days that Pat Gillick was the Phils' man for the GM job and now it's officially his. While the media and others might have preferred Gerry Hunsicker, it's hard to argue with Gillick's record with success.

Let's face it, Gillick produced winners in Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle. He won back-to-back World Series titles with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 (who could forget?), built the Orioles' last playoff teams in 1996 and 1997, and constructed a 116-game winner for the Mariners in 2001.

Hard to argue with that record. The man wins everywhere he goes. Of course, he's never been to Philly.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Still a Two Horse Race?

Even with Theo Epstein quitting his post as GM of the Boston Red Sox it still looks like the Phillies are picking between Pat Gillick or Gerry Hunsicker. Both are proven winners but would mean different things to the Phillies. Now it’s just up to Phillies president David Montgomery to pick which direction to go.

The front runner seems to be Gillick, with one rumor out there already that Montgomery has already made an offer, and that an announcement could come as soon as today. One line of thinking is that Gillick, who is 68, would only be on for a few years and then step aside for Ruben Amaro Jr., who some think is who Montgomery would have hired if it wouldn’t of caused a huge media and fan backlash. Under Gillick, Amaro’s duties would increase more with Gillick doing the job mostly from his home in Toronto. Given Montgomery’s loyalty to the members of the Phillies organization that seems to be the safe bet, but would it turn out to be more businesses as usual for the Phillies than the change in the organization’s approach that many want?

With Hunsicker it would be a different story. He lives in the area which in my book would be a plus since he would have a better feel for the fan base. Hunsicker would more likely provide the shake up and changes the Phillies the fans and media seem to crave. He’s a bit more aggressive in his style and wants things done his way, as seen in Houston. With Philly being his dream job as well you would think he wouldn’t just want to be a bridge to Amaro and he would want to stay around for a while.

I for one am still hoping for Hunsicker but unless the Dodgers some how swoop in for Gillick I think it’s only a matter of time before he’s named GM

Friday, October 28, 2005

Phils talk to Hunsicker

Team president David Montgomery and Hunsicker met in Philly to discuss the Phillies' vacant GM post, and Hunsicker told reporters that the meeting was "productive."

When I worked for the paper in Williamsport, one year the minor league team there was a Mets affiliate and Hunsicker was the director of minor league operations for NY at the time. He seemed like a good guy. I will use whatever influence I have with him to try to draw him to Philly.

Pat Gillick, the former Blue Jays, Orioles and Mariners GM, also is considered a top candidate.

Also, the Philadelphia Inquirer said Montgomery is committed to changing the Zen's tiny leftfield dimensions in the offseason. That crashing sound you just heard was Pat Burrell's stock dropping.

Wagner files for free agency

Billy Wagner has filed for free agencey yesterday. Peter Gammons said on Sports Center that he thinks Wagner will be back, while Jason Stark, on ESPN 920 yesterday, said he thinks Wagner is a good as gone. I guess only time will tell.

Stark had another intresting nugget on the GM search. According to Stark the top two canidates for the opening were Cashman, who stayed with the Yankees, and Jim Duquette who the Phillies never contacted and headed off to the Orioles. Good to see that the Phillies two top choise was never even given the option to consider the job. Not much that you could tdo about Cashman but it still not the best first step. Still I’d rather have Hunsicker anyway so it just fine with me how how it’s worked out so far.

Markus Hayes had this to add another fun note on Ryan Howard.
Howard has said he would like to try to play the outfield despite a brief, aborted leftfield experiment in spring training
If Howard can play out in left it would open up the possability of keeping Thome, but that would mean some shuffling would have to happen in the out field, whether it’s by trades or by shifting Bobby to center and Pat to right.
I’m just happy to see the Phillies are aware that the off season has begun. I was getting worried there.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

More on the GM search

Actually, I don't know that it can be called a search. The word "search" implies activity, and there seems to be little of that here. Maybe it wasn't all Ed's fault after all?

Dennis Deitch tossed out another name for the GM job -- Philly native Joe McIlvaine, who worked for the Mets when they won the 1986 World Series and was the mentor of Gerry Hunsicker, another candidate(?) for the Phillies job. McIlvaine currently is a special assistant to Minnesota GM Terry Ryan.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The closest blowout of the last 55 years

The poor Astros (yes, I know Philly fans are taking delight). There have been 18 sweeps in the World Series and only one has been more closely contested than the White Sox-Houston series this year.

So far, Chicago has outscored the Astro by 5 runs in three games – winning once in extra innings and once in the bottom of the ninth.

The only series in which the run differential was less than five at this point in a sweep came in 1950, when the Yankees swept the Phillies. It’s probably no surprise to Phils’ fans they would have been involved in such a unique occurance.

New York won 1-0, 2-1 in 10 innings and 3-2 in the first three games. Joe DiMaggio’s homer gave the Yankees the victory in Game 2 and NY rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the eighth inning of Game 3. The Yanks completed the sweep with a 5-2 triumph.

Cahman out. Epstein in?

Marcus Hayes and Todd Zolecki are both reporting that Cashman is staying with the Yankees taking another big name off the GM list, but one might be added on.

Reports out of Boston are saying Theo Epstein has turned down the latest offer from the Red Sox.

Epstein would make things interesting, but I can’t think there is anyway that Boston lets Theo walk in 5 days when his contract is up or that Theo would really want to leave.. More likely as long as there is high profile opening like the Phillies Theo will use that as leverage for a better deal from the Sox. So I’m going to think that it’s a pipe dream that Young Epstein will be in Philly for an interview in a few days.

Gerry Hunsicker is still out there but there’s this from Marcus Hayes’s latest.

“Meanwhile, former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, who built the team that took the wild-card berth the last two seasons and played in Game 3 of the World Series last night, met in Houston with Tampa Bay baseball development director Andrew Friedman, league sources said. It is the second meeting between Hunsicker and the Devil Rays, who seek an experienced voice to guide Friedman, who is 24.”

One has to think if the Rays offer him a job and he hasn’t been contacted by the Phillies yet, which is what has been reported, than he’ll be off the list soon as well.

It looks like the first wave of interviews won’t start till next week if we’re lucky, starting with Wade’s assistants Ruben Amaro Jr. and Mike Arbuckle.

Amaro Jr. is running the show in the mean time, and doing a pretty bad job so far with the latest news being that Vicente Padilla might be playing some winter ball in Valenzuela which over last two years the Phillies have kept him from throwing in the winter due to his injury problems. The reason I say might be playing winter ball is these two quotes first from Amaro Jr. after hearing that Padilla has already thrown one 6 inning game.

"I'm not surprised he's pitching. We don't have any problem with him throwing,"

Are you telling me the acting GM of the team doesn’t even know what’s going on with one of his pitchers? On top of that the team has no problem with him throwing? So one might guess the Phillies will let Vicente walk off into free agency then, right? Armaro Jr. says… "We do not foresee that happening."

Last bit of news both Burrell and Lofton has some surgery over the weekend. Pat had a bone spur and a “loose body” in his right foot removed. While Lofton cartilage removed from his left knee. Both are expected to ready for spring training, but I doubt Lofton will be wearing a Phillies uniform. What am I saying? I have no idea what to expect from the Phillies at this point.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Thanks for coming, good night!

Scott Podsednik became the 14th player to end a World Series game with a home run, lifting the White Sox to a 7-6 win over the Astros last night. Of the other walkoff homers, many are memorable -- Bill Mazeroski (1960), Carlton Fisk (1975), Kirk Gibson (1988), Kirby Puckett (1991), Joe Carter (1993) and Derek Jeter (2001) quickly come to mind.

What about the rest?

Tommy Henrich hit the first game-ending World Series homer in 1949 to give the Yankees a 1-0 win over the Dodgers in the opening contest of the series. Henrich's homer came off Don Newcombe, who entering the ninth had given up four hits, no walks and struck out 11, and made a winner of Allie Reynolds.

Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the Giants and Indians is best remembered for Willie Mays' over-the-shouder catch. But it was a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes in the 10th inning that gave NY a 5-2 win.

The rest of the list is Eddie Mathews (1957), Mickey Mantle (1964), Mark McGwire (1988), Chad Curtis (1999) and Alex Gonzalez (2003). As you see, the 1988 Series with Gibson and McGwire is the only one in history to have two walkoff dingers.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


It looks like the Phils might have a tough time coming up with a groundball specialist to pitch in the homer-friendly Zen.

The best in the game, not surprisingly, is Arizona sinkerballer Brandon Webb. He recorded 388 groundball outs compared to 116 in the air. No one else even comes close to that ratio. The D-backs have got him locked up and would seem unlikely to trade him. If they did trade him, he wouldn't come cheaply.

Other top guys are Derek Lowe, Jake Westbrook, Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter, Tim Hudson, A.J. Burnett and Kirk Saarloos.

Westbrook is an intriguing talent, but Cleveland's got him signed through 2006 with an option for 2007. And they're too close to being a post-season team to give up pitching. Burnett is the top free agent hurler on the market, and it's unlikely the Phils will have deep enough pockets.

The best pitcher the Phils could most likely sign is Matt Morris, who probably has the right makeup to pitch in the Zen. Jeff Weaver and Kevin Millwood, as we already know, do not. Another option might be Jason Johnson, who pitched for the Tigers. He can go out and throw a 1-hit shutout, then come back and give up seven runs in his next start. A very frustrating talent. He certainly wouldn't be a splashy sign.

If the Phils decide to return Ryan Madson to a starting role, bring up Gavin Floyd for the whole season and get Randy Wolf back, then they might not need to sign a starter, anyway.

Friday, October 21, 2005

In different camps

My brother and I are clearly divided on Abreu and Burrell. He will defend Pat, pretty much no matter what, and I will step up for Bobby.

It's amazing how a misconception can become truth if it's repeated often enough. This is a frequent political tactic, and also one in dissing Abreu. The myth: Abreu chokes. The truth follows.

In 2003, Abreu hit .361 with 7 HR and 83 RBI with RISP. He batted .362-2-25 with RISP and 2 outs. He hit .250 with 9 HR with the bases empty.

In 2004, Abreu was .322-9-77 with RISP and .396-4-30 with RISP with 2 outs. Not to mention he struck out about once every 10 ABs in that situation. He hit .276 with 17 HR with the bases empty.

Last year, Abreu hit .303-7-76 with RISP. He did struggle with RISP and 2 outs, batting .238-2-27 -- so this is where the "Abreu gags" group gathered its ammo. On the bright side, he had 25 AB with a man on third and less than 2 outs, and had 25 RBI. He hit .267 with 10 HR with the bases empty.

If anything, the last 3 seasons demonstrate Abreu is historically a failure with the bases empty, not with men on base. I really think Abreu was hurt down the stretch. There were time when he was clearly limping. He isn't great defensively, but I would only trade him for a proven No. 1 starter, a No. 2 at worse.

Abreu is more valuable in trade offers because so much of Burrell's success has come in the Zen. Burrell hit .286 at home in 2004 and .293 last year. His slugging was .519 and .557 respectively. On the road, he was .231 and .269 for BA and .399 and .447 for SLG. He's hit 34 of his 56 HR the past two seasons at home.

Bowa to the Yankees?

Larry Bowa is talking to the Yankees about becoming a coach.

There are a few openings there including, pitching coach (no way), bench coach, (maybe but doubtful) and third base coach (smart money). Bowa being the bad cop to Torre’s good cop could be just what the Yankees need. One would think that Bowa hasn’t given up being a manager and being a coach on the Yankees seems to be just as good of a place to start if not better than others.

ESPN radio last night said he was contacted by Cashman, which is very interesting if true.

Lieberthal has minor knee surgery.

He should be back by the time pitchers and catchers report. Libby is having the surgery in hope to regain some of his old form. I’m pretty sure he’s one of the Phillies we can count on coming back next year. The team shopped him last year with few interested, but when you throw in he has a no trade clause, and he seems to not to want to go anywhere, we can only hope for a speedy recovery and that the surgery works out well.

Marcus Hayes is my boy with the Phillies info. This came from his article yesterday about the Phillies latest offer to Wagner.

League sources indicate that the Phillies plan to move Madson from the bullpen, where he has spent his first two seasons, and make him a starter, most likely to replace enigmatic talent Vicente Padilla. The Phillies are not expected to offer arbitration to Padilla. Madson probably would join 2001 first-round pick Gavin Floyd in the back of the rotation.

I really like Madson and have thought he could be given the shot to close if Wagner isn't back. But I wouldn't mind if he was the 5th guy in the rotation. With Floyd I would love to see what really could do, but I'd much rather they find at lest one pitcher we know can start and if that meant including Floyd in a trade with another player and keep Lidel as the 4th starter and not move him up to the 3 I'd be all for it. Which brings me too...

If you haven’t heard by now I’m fully on the trade Bobby Abreu for starting pitching train.

There’s been some speculation that the Phillies would trade either Abreu or Burrell and I think you have to go with Bobby as the trade bait for a few reasons.

1) Pat is clearly the better defender.

2) Pat is also the only right handed bat in the lineup teams have to fear. After him it’s Bell and Libby. Not very scary. If you move Pat and don’t replace him with another strong right handed slugger we’ll have to get use to teams bring in lefties to mow down Utley, Howard and Abreu all season long.

3) Pat is younger cheaper and Bobby may even have more trade value.

4) Pat is an RBI machine when healthy, coming off his best season in the bigs, and entering his prime years as a hitter. No matter what my brother says about his swing.

5) Pat actually comes through when you need him two from time to time.

Now I've been all for trading Bobby in the past, and I'll admit that in the past I haven’t fully appreciated how good Bobby really is. But you know it’s become a lot more then a trend that Bobby vanishes when the games really start to count and that’s what frustrates me the most about him. Maybe a change of scenery would help him break out of that.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More thoughts on Wagner

Over the last five years, the only closer with at least 100 saves to appear in more games than Billy Wagner is Braden Looper, with 354. Ugie Urbina and Wagner are next with 332. However, Wagner has far more saves and finished more games than either Looper or Urbina. Only Mariano Rivera, with 214, and Jose Mesa, with 181, have more saves than Wagner’s 177 during that span.

You have to wonder, though, about how much Wagner has left in the tank. He will turn 35 next season. He seemed to have dropped 3-4 mph on his fastball this year, or the Phillies got a slower radar gun. He ranks 11th in saves, with 59, over the last two seasons.

I would prefer to see Wagner go if the Phils can get a solid starter; one who throws groundballs. I’m going to have to research best groundball pitchers and see if any are free agents.

Quick Phillies Notes

First the Phillies made another offer to Wagner.

I’ve seen the theory that Wagner is just using the Phillies to drive up his price on the free agent market. I’m starting to think he is. Right now the Phillies are bidding against themselves to get Wagner. First they say he’s over valuing himself when they gave him the first offer and when he scoffs at it the Phillies with no GM in place blink right away and make a counter offer. Nice.

Urbina might be in a load of trouble.

This is terrible news either way since something like this should never of happened in the first place and from a Phillies point of view it could make a mess of everything if things with Wagner if things fall though. Urbina has said he wants to be a closer next year so it might not matter if Wagner does sign. Of course I wanted to keep Urbina and let Wagner walk. I guess we’ll have to wait this one out.

Leo Mazzone goes to the Orioles in a thank goodness moment for Phillies fans.

And while the Orioles are at it, hired Jim Duquette as vice president for baseball operations.

Jim Duquette was on the Phillies list of possible GM candidates, one I didn’t really care for but one all the same. As of now the Phillies haven’t talked to anyone about the opening and seem to be moving in slow motion waiting to see if Cashman becomes available. If they keep going slow though they could end up on the outside looking in because other teams are being active in their searches to fill front office positions.

Can you just see the one by one the top guys taking other jobs and in the end Cashman stays with the Yankees? I can...

What I don’t understand is why the Phillies haven’t brought in Gerry Hunsicker yet. Jason Stark has reported this is Hunsicker’s dream job and his track record is proven. The Astro’s team he built came one game from the World Series last year and is in the Series this year. While Cashman trade Kenny Lofton to us and had center field issues all year and traded Jose Contreras to the White Sox and he’s been amazing helping lead the Sox to the Series this year while the Yankees struggled with their pitching all year. Is that really the guy we are waiting on?

On top of all this the sooner we have a competent GM the more time they’ll have to plan for the rapidly approaching free agent period.

Pack yer Bags for the Windy City

It was 1990 when I first met Jeff Bagwell. He set the New Britain Red Sox franchise record for hits in a season, and he did it in Williamsport, Pa., where I was a sportswriter on the minor league beat. I knew he was a good-hitting third baseman, and he had nowhere to go in Boston because of another pretty good hitter at third -- Wade Boggs. So in August 1990, the Sox traded Bagwell to the Houston Astros for reliever Larry Anderson, routinely considered as one of the most lopsided deals in history.

Anyway, Bags has always been one of my favorite players. Always had to have him on any fantasy team. So I'm glad he will finally get to the World Series, even if he didn't have much to do with the Astros success this season. He's more than paid his dues and, like teammate Craig Biggio and the White Sox's Frank Thomas, deserves it.

It's easy to forget what an awesome all-around offensive force Bagwell was during his prime. From 1996 through 2003, there were only 3 players to accumulate more than 900 R, 875 RBI, 300 HR, 135 SB and hit at least .297. They were A-Rod, Barry Bonds and Bags.

Bags was ages 28-35 for those seasons, usually a hitter's prime years. He averaged .297 with 38 HR, 119 RBI, 121 R and 17 SB during that eight-year span. He was twice a 30-30 guy, which seems ridiculous given his stocky shape.

Enjoy the big show, Bags.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Is Wagner worth it?

Joe pointed out to me a great little blurb by Baseball Prospectus about the whole Wagner situation that I agree with 100%. Basically saying it would be better to use the money needed to sign Wags on some starting pitching and let Ryan Madson close.

I have been on the fence about the whole Wagner thing for a while now and I had thought Madson would be a good guy to give the first shot at closing to. I got scared off a little towards the end of the season when Madson started to stink it up, but I didn’t realize how much Madson had pitched. You have to think he would pitch a few less innings if he were the closer. If nothing else the Phillies could also resign Urbina and have him as a back up if Madson fails. anyway you look at it the team needs to upgrade the starting pitching if they want do more than just make the playoffs.

Either way I think it shows how stupid it would be to sign Wagner before a GM is in place.

Speaking of that whole no GM thing, Marcus Hayes has this to offer.

"The top candidates for one of the most attractive jobs in baseball will be big names with pedigrees such as: former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker (who will interview for a front-office positing in Tampa next week), former Indians and Rangers GM John Hart, also a candidate in Tampa Bay, former Mets GMs Steve Phillips and Jim Duquette, former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette and, if he becomes available, Yankees GM Brian Cashman."

Why is it that Phillips is not the only name that scares me on the list?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

As only the Phillies can

With the firing of Ed Wade one would think that the Phillies #1 priority would be to find his replacement. One would think, but in true Phillies fashion the Phills have started what is probably the most important off season in Philadelphia baseball in recent history by undercutting the new GM before he even set foot in the door.

Yesterday Dave Montgomery with Ruben Amaro, Jr and Mike Arbuckle flew down to Virginia to resume negotiations with free agent closer Billy Wagner. While Wagner may have been the most important Phillies pitcher this last year one would think as Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News has pointed out maybe the signing of Wagner should be left to the new GM since he may think of other ways to spend the 8-10 million dollars it would take to bring Wagner back.

If that wasn’t enough at Mondays press conference where it was announced that Wade was “being relived” of his duties as general manager, Montgomery gave manager Charlie Manuel and his staff an endorsement for a job well done but in his very next statement said the new GM would have the final say in the manager and coaching staff decisions. Nothing like telling all would be candidates that they have a say but you’d sure prefer if they didn’t touch Charlie and his gang just yet.

So how long before is taken?

Steven (terrible) A. Smith strikes again with this gem of writing. Could somebody please just smack him when he turns in anything that doesn’t pertain to his “expertise” the NBA? While we’re at it could someone explain to him that Brian Cashman, who is in Smith’s terms a “real” GM, might not be all that real? Sure over the last 8 years Cashman’s reign over the New York Yankees has resulted in 8 strait division crowns and 3 world titles, but there are 3 things that have to jump right out at you when talking about Cashman’s tenure as the Yankees GM.

1st Most of the core Yankees that won the 3 world titles were already there when he started.

2nd The Yankee pay roll is about 110 million dollars more than the Phillies. Cashman won’t have the luxury of covering up his mistakes by just eating salaries nor will he have the luxury to get the biggest names on the market just because he can. On top of that since his 3 World Series victories the Yankees have become increasingly more and more disappointing and vulnerable despite the pay roll increasing every year.

3rd Cahsman works for the most hands on “Boss” in MLB and during his time the Yankees have made some horrible personnel decisions. It would be foolish to give Cashman full credit for every good to great moves the Yankees have made while it would also be just as foolish to put all the blame on Steinbrenner for all the questionable to horrible moves that were made at the same time.

That’s not to say Cashman wouldn’t be an improvement or that he’s not a great GM, but it shows that there really isn’t any way of knowing until he’s away from the Yankees, and at the cost he will come at is that a chance the Phillies can afford to be taking right now?

Either way the Phillies have to find a way to excite the fan base again. Hiring Cashman would help do that as would Philly area native Gerry Hunsicker, who is the man responsible for the current Houston Astros team.

Weather the Phillies hire Cashman, Hunsicker, one of the other big names or a relative unknown we Phillies fans have come to expect that if there is a way to screw things up the Phillies will find that way. As Joe said to me in an email, “You just know Steve Phillips is available.”

Yep, that pretty much explains the knot in my stomach whenever I start think about this stuff.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Be careful what you ask for…

The rumblings started at the end of last season. A very vocal group of Phillies fans wanted Ed Wade out as the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Now at the end of this season those fans have gotten their wish as Ed Wade was fired yesterday.

Many of them were upset with the firing of manager Larry Bowa thinking he didn’t have the players to win. Many were frustrated by the under performing Kevin Millwood while watching Johnny Estrada blossom in Atlanta. (Even though at the time it seemed like a slam dunk trade for the Phillies) Some were upset that he never made the “big” trade to put the team over the top, (I wouldn’t call the Billy Wagner deal a small trade though) but Wade continued to do his best to put the best team on the field.

Wade never seemed worried about what the fans wanted and maybe that was part of his undoing, but over the last season and a half, many times it seems he was right. If Dave Montgomery kept a score card over the last two seasons it might look like this.

Last season many fans wanted Wade to trade for pitchers Kris Benson or Victor Zambrano. Getting either would have resulted in giving up Chase Utley. Instead of giving up Utley, Wade made a deal a few weeks latter for Cory Lidle giving up much less then the Mets did for either Benson of Zambrano and over that time Lidle has out pitched both of them, at a fraction of the cost. While Utley was voted by the players co-MVP and looks to be a perennial All Star 2nd basemen.

Ed Wade- 1, The Fans – 0

During the last off season many fans wanted Wade to go after one of the top free agent pitchers, namely Carl Pavano. Instead Wade quickly signed John Lieber who has out performed all off the big name free agent pitchers with the exception of Pedro Martinez and showed his ace like ability this pass September, while also coming a lot cheaper.

Ed Wade – 2, The Fans- 0

Fan wanted Carlos Beltran in center, but instead Wade brought in Kenny Lofton, who ended up making almost 15 million dollars less a season and along with Jason Michaels made up the most productive center field in baseball, while Beltran slumped in New York.

Ed Wade – 3, The Fans- 0

Before the start of the season fans called for Wade to move Ryan Howard while his trade value would be at it’s highest. Wade elected to hold on the Howard and when Thome went down to injury, Howard emerged as a rookie of the year candidate with a David Ortiz like flare for late inning heroics and majestic home runs.

Ed Wade 4, The Fans- 0

Wade fired Larry Bowa at the end of last season to a large outcry despite the fact that the players had quite on Bowa for the second strait year. Fans believed that Bowa was a good manager despite young players never developing well under him as well the manager malting down when the pressure of the races became too much for him and the team. Bowa’s in your face attitude even helped chase Scott Rolen away despite being offered more money from the Phillies then he would eventually take from the Cardinals. In Bowa’s place Wade hired Charlie Manuel and though while many of Charlie’s in game decisions left many scratching their heads, the team learned to be resilient (something they never were under Bowa) and they never quit even thought the fans had quit on them. Many wanted Jim Leyland as the new manager but as my brother pointed out, Leyland hasn’t managed since 1999 and his own in your face style may have hurt the Phillies more then help coming down the stretch. At worst you can call this a push at best it was another right call for Wade.

Along the way during this pass season Wade traded Marlon Byrd who would still be sitting in triple A if he was still with the organization and acquired Endy Chavez a player that helped the team all year with his defense and speed a clear improvement. Also when Tim Worrell under performed and then left the team leaving the bull pen in shambles Wade made probably the best deal of the whole season by bringing in Ugueth Urbina while clearing 2nd base full time for Chase Utley by sending Placido Polanco to the Tigers. A move that actually saved the Phillies about 2 million dollars over the course of the season, but Wade was not fired because of all he’s done right over the last two seasons. Wade was fired for his sins in the pass.

Wade paid the price for over paying Mike Lieberthal and David Bell. Wade is being punished for not getting more for Rolen and Schilling despite have his hand forced in both situations and not knowing Kevin Millwood would fold under the pressure of pitching in Philadelphia. Ed Wade may not have been a great general manager (even though the The Hardball Times ranked Wade as the 5th best in the league at the season's start) but Wade was a very good general manager. He made mistakes, but all GMs do, and he made some outstanding moves as well. For the most part he made good moves that made the team better than the year before.

Back to Dave Montgomery’s score card there is one thing I left out. The Fans did have one big thing on their side. They had their money and the fact they were not willing to give to the Phillies any longer. With attendance down close to 600,000 the fans scored big on Dave Montgomery’s score card.

The Fans – 25 Million Dollars, Ed Wade – 4

Now the fans got what they wanted. Wade is gone and the search for a new GM is on, but there in no guarantee that a new GM will solve the Phillies problems or be better than Ed Wade. There is no guarantee that the next GM won’t destroy the young nucleus of Burrell, Rollins, Utley, Howard and Myers to put “his” stamp on the team for the better. So the fans might have gotten what they asked for, but there is a chance that they might end up not liking it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Motown becomes Iron City

Detroit will look more like Pittsburgh when the Tigers take the field next year.

New manager Jim Leyland is bringing over a slew of former players from his days with the Pirates. From what the Detroit Free Press reports, Andy Van Slyke, Lloyd McClendon, Rafael Belliard and Don "Sluggo" Slaught could all be members of Leyland's coaching staff. Plus Gene Lamont, who followed Leyland as manager in Pittsburgh.

Van Slyke, who has never coached, is being asked to be the Tigers' outfield and baserunning coach. Leyland believes Slick is the ideal candidate to teach youngsters Curtis Granderson and Nook Logan how to play in spacious Comerica Park.

If Slick does join the Tiger, it would be funny -- at least for me. Way back during spring training of 1984, I got my picture taken with Van Slyke, who was getting ready to start his second season with the Cardinals. I was in high school at the time. I recall Van Slyke giving me a hard time because I was wearing a Tigers cap. Hopefully, I can find that picture.

Larry Rothschild, who spent seven years in the Tigers organization, is being sought to be the pitching coach. He worked with Leyland with the 1997 world champion Florida Marlins.

Friday, October 07, 2005

California dreaming

Alan Trammell, freshly fired by the Tigers, will be interviewed by the Dodgers for their managerial job. Other candidates include Torey Lovullo -- another former Tiger -- former Astros and Angels skipper Terry Collins, and Jerry Royster.

Lovullo, some might recall, played briefly with Trammell and was highly touted by Sparky Anderson (but, then again, who wasn't?). ''I'll die before he comes out of the lineup," Sparky said of Lovullo. Fortunately for Sparky, that wasn't the case. Lovullo got 108 at-bats over two seasons, batting .168 with 2 HR and 6 RBI, before being traded at the age of 23 to the Yankees for Mark Leiter.

Trammell is a California native who lives in San Diego.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tigers hire Leyland

I hated to see Alan Trammell take the Tigers job several years ago because I knew this would be how it ended. Next up, Jim Leyland. He managed the 1997 Marlins to the title while working with current Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.

Here's what Tony LaRussa says about Leyland: "He is the best manager I have ever been around."

At least he was. He hasn't managed since 1999 when he burned out in Colorado. Hopefully, he can recapture the magic he had in Pittsburgh and Florida.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Fightin' Phils

I will second my brother's post. I write this prior to the final game of the season. The Phillies have taken us this far. You can't ask for anything more. (Other than rhythm and music). If this Phillies team makes the playoffs, it will rival Lazarus. We've kicked dirt on this team numerous times, only to have them come back. You can name any number of games, particularly the collapse against the Astros in the ninth inning on September 7, but the Phils are 14-7 since then. Since the two 1-run losses to the Mets? They are 3-0.

It's mindboggling that this team hasn't generated love for its ability to fight back. This is a team that doesn't have a regular hitting above .290, and only 1 year-long starter with an ERA under 4. Yet they are alive on the final day of the season.

Many people have bashed Charlie Manuel. I must admit, some of his moves are head-scratchers. But I don't think this team would continue to bounce back without him. Can you blame him when the bullpen fails? Madson to Urbina to Wagner is what any manager would do. It is what he was given. If it doesn't work out, what else is there?

If I would have told you the Phils would play the majority of the season without Thome and Wolf and still be alive right now, would it have been believable? C'mon, this is a team that has David Bell -- yes, David Bell -- as its fourth-best RBI man.

The fans of Philadelphia should be embarrassed for not getting behind this team. It represents everything Philly fans ask for, most particularly grit. The Eagles continually disappoint them, yet they love them. The Phils give them a team to rally behind, and they blow it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Best Phillies Team No One Cared About?

For the first time as a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies I find myself completely embarrassed to call myself a Phillies fan. I wasn’t embarrassed when the team was terrible in the late nineties , I wasn’t embarrassed when the teams choked in the wildcard race against the Marlins 2 years ago. I wasn’t even embarrassed when the team flat out gave up on Larry Bowa last year. (Because in a way who could blame them?) I’m not even embarrassed that the team has only one World Series championship in over 100 years of existence.

So now what has happened that has lead me to feel embarrassed for the first time in my life. Last night the Phillies opened up the biggest series of the year (until the next series that is) against the division leading Atlanta Braves, while the two teams ahead of the Phillies, The Houston Astros and the Florida Marlins fight it out for the Wild Card lead, but yet only 21,169 fans bothered to show up to support the team. That’s the lowest attendance in the Zens short life, but when the night was through the Phillies depending on the arm of a 27 year old rookie, closed to being one game out of the Wild Card.

Now granted as Phillies fans we have been down this road before. The team has come close and not made the playoffs, whether it was the team just flat out choking, or giving up, but still the last two season this nucleus of Phillies has been the best Phillies team in the city in 10 years.

Still the fans call for the head of General Manager Ed Wade (who in the fan’s mind has again failed to make the “big” trade or move) or discuses how Manager Charlie Manuel can’t manage a game. (Like letting an over matched Endy Chavez bat against Brad Lidge with two outs and two on in the bottom of the 9th just last week.) The fans say this team has no heart and show no emotion, but is this a fair critic of the team that is 8 games over .500?

Over and over again this team has fought back when it seemed all hope had been loss. The terrible start of the season was answered with a 12-1 home stand that brought the team back into the hunt. The season ending injury to the most dangerous bat in the lineup, Jim Thome, was answered by rookie Ryan Howard’s outstanding campaign. The loss of Randy Wolf has been answered by rookie Robison Tejeda’s 3.19 ERA and 7.65 strikeouts per 9 innings. Even now when Tejeda, the solid Cory Lidle and Vicente Padilla, who has seemed to finally put it all together, all have gone down to injury the Phillies found yet another rookie in Eude Brito to fill in in impressive fashion (1.72 ERA and 6.32 K/9 in 3 starts). It would have been easy for a team with these kind of injuries to quit. After all they sustained lesser injuries last year and seemed to give up, but there they are still fighting and clawing their way through the race.

In fact what may be the most frustrating part of the fan bases’ apathy towards the team is that isn’t this exactly the type of team the City of Philadelphia should love? A team that won’t give up no matter how bad it seems to get, even after being swept by the Astros, the team has answered by winning 3 of their last 4 games to climb back into the race.
And shouldn’t Charlie Manuel’s laid back but confident style be credited to this new team attitude? Hasn’t Manuel created an environment where rookie Howard, Tejeda and Brito could succeed and veterans like Burrell and Rollins could fight out of slumps? Burrell is on the verge career highs in Batting Average (.284 this year, career best .282), On Base Percentage (.391 this year, career best .376), RBI (108 this year, career best 116), Walks (87 this year, career best 89) and his second highest Home Run total (30 this year career best 38). While Rollins is riding an 18 game hitting streak when the team has needed his bat the most despite having a disappointing season.

For the last 10 seasons the fans have asked for a team with grit and heart. Through out the season the Phillies has asked and almost begged for the fan’s support and has played with grit and heart and has been repaid with boos and last night apathy. But just maybe the turning point could be found, in all things, an Eagles football game. Just maybe last night’s defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons that Philadelphia sports fans to decided to watch instead of the Phillies in the mist of a real race, will remind the fans to appreciate what is going on right now. Maybe not, maybe the “wounds” of the last two seasons for the Phillies fans are too deep. But just a year and 7 months since the death of beloved Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw, I can’t help but think that “You gotta believe.” Whether or not this team has enough fight left in them to pull off the wild card, that in no way should take away from the heart and spirit the team has shown all year long. while I’ve never been more embarrassed by the Phillies fans, I’ve never been prouder of the Phillies. No Phillies team in the last 10 years has lived up to the nick name “The Fighting Phils” more then this team has and for me is reason enough that I gotta believe.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who am I?

I am the all time Major League leader in pinch hits with 207.

Friday, August 26, 2005

He's a freak, He's Super Freaky.....

Roger Clemens is 11-6 with a 1.56 ERA. He's pitched 178.1 innings in 26 starts for an average of 6.8 innings per start. He is 43 years old.

In 7 of Clemens 26 starts, the Astros scored a combined 0 runs.
In 11 of Clemens 26 starts, the Astros scored a combined 7 runs.
In 13 of Clemens 26 starts, the Astros scored a combined 16 runs.

This leaves 13 starts where Clemens got something approaching run support.

It is freakish that he has 11 wins.

It is freakish that he only has 6 losses.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Trade talk

The Detroit Free Press today said the Phillies were in Seattle to scout pitcher Joel Pineiro, not Tigers starter Jason Johnson. Pineiro, 26, was 36-20 with a 3.29 ERA from 2001-03. Over the last couple years, he is 9-17 with a 5.16 ERA. He is 3-6 with a 5.77 ERA this season. He went on the DL at the end of last July because of a "strained flexor bundle in right elbow" and missed the rest of the campaign.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A 50-50 proposition

The Tigers are 50-50 and continue to be remarkably unremarkable.

They are 24-26 at home, 26-24 on the road. They are 12-13 vs. the AL East, 21-22 vs. the AL Central and 8-6 against the AL West. They are the only team in the majors to be within 2 games of .500 in all of those categories. Usually, a team has one in which they're really good, or awful. Only Florida comes close to matching Detroit, but the Marlins are 3 games under .500 against both the NL East and NL Central.

But it doesn't end there! I'm not making this up, either. The Tigers are 18-18 during the day and 32-32 at night. They are 45-45 on grass and 5-5 on turf. And they were 9-9 in interleague play.

The only places where the Tigers break from this bizarre tendency toward .500 is in extra innings (6-1) and one-run games (12-17).

Wheeling and dealing

The Detroit Free Press reported that Phillies scouts were at the Tigers-Mariners game, possibly to check out Tigers pitcher Jason Johnson. The paper also reported that the Braves might be interested in Rondell White, provided White is healthy enough to play the outfield. Right now, he's got a bum shoulder.

I also noticed the paper had a note about the positive steps taken by the Tigers minor league system. I guess I haven't lost my journalistic instincts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Minor miracle

The Tigers continue to avoid prosperity, losing to Seattle after taking 5 of 8 from the White Sox and Twins to get back to the .500 mark. Detroit won’t contend for the wild card if it can’t take advantage of the weaker teams on the schedule.

Anyway, in recent years, the Tigers were recognized for having one of the worst farm systems in the game. That might be changing, if the standings in the minors mean anything.

Toledo is 64-38 and has the best record in the AAA International League; Erie is 53-48, good for the second-best mark in the Double-A Eastern League; Lakeland is the best team in the A Florida State League; West Michigan is above .500 in the Midwest League; and Oneonta is 19-12 in the short-season New York-Penn League.

With that much winning going on throughout the organization, you would have to think it should mean some good things for the Tigers in the future.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rick Ankiel

For those who are interested, former Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel is batting .287-11-39 in 43 games with the Swing of Quad Cities (Class A) as he attempts to return to the majors as an outfielder. He has walked 21 times and struck out 32.

It's still hard to believe how the wheels came off for that guy. At the age of 20 he was 11-8 with a 3.46 ERA (which was more than a run less than the NL average). Then came that awful 2000 postseason. After that, he was unable to throw the ball over the plate. The next season he only pitched 24 innings and walked 25 batters. His ERA was over 7. How does that happen?

Anyway, I had him on my fantasy team -- traded Vinny Castilla for him when Ankiel was still in the minors -- so I'd like to see him make it back.

More innings, Les Mueller

On this date in 1945, Detroit Tigers right-hander Les Mueller pitched a record 19 2/3 innings of one-run baseball, yet still came away with a no decision as the Tigers and Philadelphia A’s played to a 1-1 tie in 24 innings at Shibe Park.

Mueller, according to The Baseball Biography Project, estimated he threw 370 pitches. He got the first two outs of the 19th, then walked two and was lifted in favor of Dizzy Trout, who finished the game.

Detroit loaded the bases in the 24th, but the A’s turned a double play to escape. The contest was called due to darkness at about 8 p.m. because American League rules prohibited turning on lights for a day game.

Mueller was 6-8 with a 3.68 ERA for the season, his only full year in the majors. He threw 6 complete games and had 2 shutouts. He appeared in 26 games, 18 starts, and tossed 134 2/3 innings, meaning he threw nearly 15 percent of his innings for the year in that one game against Philly.

Nonetheless, Mueller got a World Series ring as the Tigers beat the Cubbies 4-3 for the championship.

Time to move

The Tigers begin a 5-game series (doubleheader Saturday) tonight at home against the wild card leading Minnesota Twins. Detroit trails the Twins by 5 in the wild card chase, so, obviously, this is a huge series. This series will determine whether the Tigers will be contenders or pretenders the rest of the way. They must take at least 3 and, really, need to win 4 to make up significant ground.

Detroit is 10-8 since Maggs came off the DL, and 9-4 in its last 13. The Tigers are coming off winning 2 of 3 at Chicago, and should have swept. They need to keep the winning going and make up ground on the Twins this weekend because if they don't, I think they're pretty much out of luck. There are just too many teams in contention for the wild card that they would have to fight over.

Maggs is hitting .365-3-14 with an OPS of 1.016 since coming off the DL. A lot of people around him have been hitting, too. Chris Shelton is batting .373-5-16 with a 1.047 OPS during that span while Ro White is at .345-1-7 and Pudge is .316-3-7. Dmitri Young is batting just .208 but has 4 homers and 9 RBI in 12 games.

The Tigers have been playing without Placido Polanco (hamstring) since the All-Star break, but he is supposed to return to the lineup for this series. That should really solidify the lineup, which has been at full strength for only about 10 games this season.

Of course, the bullpen is in trouble after hearing Troy Percival might be done for the year. With the trade of Urbina, that leaves Kyle Farnsworth in the closers role. The Tigers went from being loaded for the 7-9 innings to having little depth. Jamie Walker, Fernando Rodney and Franklyn German have pitched well (although German's last 3 outings have been disappointing) and will need to step it up. Chris Spurling also had done the job, until his 3 HR implosion in Chicago this week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ryan Howard

The Phillies look like they're between a rock and a hard place with Jim Thome and Ryan Howard. When the Phils signed Thome as a free agent, it was hailed as a great move, and rightly so. Now, however, with Thome's injuries and lack of production, plus Howard's improved hitting, it looks not so great.

Howard started this season by going 2-for-21. Since then, he has hit .288 (17-for-59) with 5 homers and 14 RBI. He's hitting a homer every 11.8 AB and has a .951 OPS.

Now, what to do? The Phils need pitching help. It would be great if they could deal Thome, but that's unlikely for a few reasons -- his contract (he's in the third year of a six-year, $85 million contract) and no-trade clause being foremost among them. So, should they trade Howard? His value might never be higher, but he is turning into something of a fan favorite. Still, there's no room for both Howard and Thome, unless you plan to use Thome as a $14 million pinch-hitter.

There are two deals that might make trading Howard worthwhile. The first would involve sending him to San Fran for pitcher Jason Schmidt. The Giants have JT Snow playing at first, and he's in the final year of his contract. Lance Niekro is Snow's back-up, and has put up some decent numbers, so the Giants might need more in the deal.

The second deal would send Howard to Colorado for pitcher Jason Jennings. This seems perhaps more doable on paper. Plus, Jennings is signed through next season, which is better than a rental.

I'd rather see Thome go at this point, but the best place for him to land would be the AL, where he could DH. With so many teams in wild card contention in the AL it might be hard to pry away a pitcher.

Wild ride

As of today, only 3 of the 14 teams in the AL are more than 2 games below .500, which seems rather remarkable. Those teams are Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Seattle. Those 3 also are the only teams out of the playoff chase.

There are 8 teams within 5 games of each other in the wild card standings -- Minnesota, NY, Baltimore, Texas, Oakland, Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Vin Scully

Over the last few days, the Extra Innings digital cable package has been on for free as part of a promotion. This gives me a chance to watch quite a number of games. One thing I noticed while watching the Dodgers -- Vin Scully still broadcasts alone. And it is awesome.

Sure, Scully can get a little too poetic at times, but this is proof -- just as it was in Detroit when Ernie Harwell worked alone on radio -- that you don't need a multitude of voices in the booth. All you need is a good broadcaster, a good storyteller.

No one is butting in or pointing out the obvious. Scully can tell the story of the game at his pace without worrying about someone stepping on his lines. It is quite enjoyable. To make me want to watch the Dodgers, it must be.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Homer haven

There was a story in the Detroit Free Press about the home run contest, and it pointed out how people still regard Comerica as being unfriendly to power hitters. But, the article stated, in the two full seasons since Tigers management moved in the fences, Comerica has finished ninth and sixth in the 14-team AL in yielding homers.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Who am I?

I'm the only player in history to play in the Little League World Series, the College World Series and the Major League World Series. My LL team was second in 1973 and my other two teams won the titles.

A couple things that baffle me

Vlad Guerrero. How does this man hit so consistently well with that swing? Not counting his 9-game stint with the Expos in 1996, his first trip to the majors, the guy has never hit below .300 in the bigs and has a career .326 batting average. Entering this season, Vlad's lifetime average trailed only Todd Helton among active players and he was 40th all-time. He's hitting .344 this year and might win his first batting title. And he doesn't strikeout much, either. He entered this season with the 13th best OPS (.979) in history. He is scary.

The Atlanta Braves. Year after year, they torment the NL East. Considering that they're getting back two-fifths of their rotation shortly -- Hudson and Hampton -- they might now be the favorite to win the division. Again.

Tigers talk the talk

Now it's time to walk the walk.

Detroit has teased us with its potential, but done little more than hover around .500. That's not bad considering where the Tigs were a couple years ago. Now the pitching staff has come around and the Detroiters finally have their full lineup, with Maggs smacking the ball around pretty well.

All of which has led Pudge, the man probably most responsible for the Tigers turnaround by signing with them as a free agent last year, to say: "This team is going to be the biggest surprise in the second half, I'll tell you that right now. We're going to be the team to talk (about) in the second half. ... We're a good team.''

Time will tell if he's right. If the pitching remains as solid as it's been, he might be. Getting Dmitri Young's bat going would be a big help. He's been the heart and soul of the Tigers the past couple seasons. The biggest surprise has been Chris Shelton, who replaced Carlos Pena at 1B. Shelton has played 33 games and hit .336 with 6 homers, 24 RBI and 20 runs.

Cabrera the Infuriator

Daniel Cabrera is a 24 yr old right handed starting pitcher for the O's with a great fastball. In most of his starts this season, he has brought overpowering stuff to the mound. When he throws strikes, he reduces the game to "pitch and catch". The infuriation is that he throws strikes consistently - to right handed hitters only. Cabrera's stats this season versus right and left handed hitters is as follows:


Of course, everyone in the ML knows this as well and thus, they load the lineup with left handed hitters for all of Cabrera's starts.

Two starts ago, Cabrera took to the mound against the Indians with a new windup. The Indians had 7 left handed hitters in the lineup. Cabrera threw 7 innings of shutout baseball with 2 walks and the O's won 4-0. Hope arose (among the O's faithful) that Cabrera might be past his aversion to throwing strikes to left handed hitters, however, that hope was dashed in his next start.

Last night, against Boston, Cabrera did get a 3-1 rain shortened victory, however, in 5 IP, Cabrera surrendered 3 hits (all to left handed hitters), 5 walks (4 to LH), one hit batsmen (LH - rule 5 rookie w/no chance to hit Cabrera's stuff) and several wild pitches (to LH). The Red Sox lone run came in the 3rd inning on the strength of 3 walks and a wild pitch.

If Cabrera ever starts throwing strikes against lefties, he'll dominate hitters ala Bob Gibson. If not, I suppose he'll end up in someone's bullpen specializing in getting out right handed hitters.