Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Oakland A's

I realize I'm not off to the most promising start, at least as far finishing all the teams, but let's keep plugging. Here is installment #2, the 2004 Oakland Athletics.

Lineup


HitterPosPAEqAVGEqOBPEqSLGVORP 04VORP 03
1Kielty, BobbyLF436.262.364.45616.76.9
2Hatteberg, Scott1B431.267.360.4028.86.9
3Kotsay, MarkCF486.284.360.45219.616.3
4Chavez, Eric3B601.289.363.53650.755.8
5Dye, JermaineRF310.249.328.4253.8-20.6
6Durazo, ErubielDH466.262.371.48022.632.2
7Crosby, BobbySS318.262.335.43918.1-2.7
8Ellis, Mark2B500.263.336.39515.48.6
9Miller, DamianC239.235.313.3935.01.8
----------
TOTAL3787160.7105.2


Dayn Perry already did a great job establishing that the A's have, in typical fashion, quietly and efficiently made up for the loss of an MVP. For those of you without a BP premium subscription, or just lacking the inclination to read the article, I'll summarize how. They lost 2 key hitters in Tejada (50.4 VORP) and Hernandez (30.3). Offsetting that are the "losses" of Long (-8.5), Singleton (-2.3), and Guillen (4.5 with the A's). Filling their slots are rookie SS Crosby (18.3 projected VORP), Twins exile OF Kielty (16.7), injury plagued OF Kotsay (19.6) and fossil C Damian Miller (5.0). That only leaves about 15 runs to make up, and simply plugging in a live body for Jermaine Dye's heinous 2003 (-20.6) more than make that up. Some other minor deviations here and there and you have the basically same admittedly anemic offense as last year. However bad it was, it was enough to win them a division and come within a hair of beating the Red Sox in the ALDS. Which brings us to the strength of the team, the pitching...

Rotation
StarterPosGGSIPEqERAVORP 04VORP 03
1Hudson, TimRHP31312153.7445.669.5
2Zito, BarryLHP32312024.2533.549.3
3Mulder, MarkLHP28281843.9735.653.4
4Redman, MarkLHP28271764.6221.933.2
5Harden, RichRHP25191104.5915.29.1
----------
TOTAL144136887151.8214.5


The big 3 are back and despite Will Carroll's misgivings, I think Mulder will be fine. PECOTA's not high on the big 3, particularly Zito and his declining peripherals. Then again, it wasn't high on these guys last year either, and they worked out just fine. Gone are Lilly (20.5) and half a season of Halama (-0.1). A full season of Harden and Redman should beat that easily, and they have Blanton and Duchscherer ready to step in in the event of an injury or trade. Even with PECOTA's dose of skepticism, the A's still project as one of the best rotations in baseball.

Bullpen
RelieverPosGGSIPEqERAVORP 04VORP 03
1Rhodes, ArthurLHP580663.3118.18.4
2Bradford, ChadRHP552753.2820.721.2
3Rincon, RicardoLHP580574.319.414.3
4Hammond, ChrisLHP391533.7712.317.8
5Mecir, JimRHP830384.834.8-2.0
6Duchscherer, JustinRHP2314864.3314.53.4
7Blanton, JoeRHP2115914.6112.50.0
----------
TOTAL3373246692.363.1


Another year, another reliever made wealthy by a successful season accumulating saves for the A's, and another year where they will be just fine after letting the closer go. I like Foulke as much as the next guy (go Monks), but Rhodes has been consistently great when healthy over the past several years. The supporting cast is good, and bolstered by the Yankees' strange gift of effective lefty Chris Hammond. Duchscherer should break camp as the swingman and be effective at it, perhaps even being good enough to elicit notice from a Globe writer or 2 that he was traded for Doug Mirabelli straight up a few years back. Blanton should break when he's ready, and Oakland has shown that they are pretty good at guessing when that is.

Bench
Bench PlayerPosPAEqAVGEqOBPEqSLGVORP 04VORP 03
1Melhuse, AdamC168.241.328.4215.310.5
2Karros, Eric1B291.261.322.4234.912.0
3Menechino, FrankINF195.234.354.3484.50.1
4Byrnes, EricOF456.270.334.46515.019.7
5McMillon, BillyOF202.257.340.4294.28.5


Karros was brought in to relieve Hatteberg and occasionally Durazo against lefties, and despite what side of the plattoon debate you come down on, I think it makes sense to give Ken Macha that added bit of roster flexibility. As far as I can tell PECOTA doesn't weight first half/second half seasonal splits, and therefore might be overreaching a bit on Byrnes. Either way he makes a nice reserve, since he can play any OF slot and hit a little. The other 3 guys are the sort of low batting average, high walk rate guys that you're used to seeing on the Moneyball A's. They ought to do the job nicely, at a low low price.

So contrary to most people's intuition, the stats like Oakland's offense to maintain its level but the pitching takes a hit. My personal prediction is reasonably close to that with a few caveats. One, I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect a few struggles from Crosby. He's got a great minor league record, but so did Blalock and Teixeira. Crosby did hit well at AAA, which is something the other 2 never got a shot at before making the Show. We shall see. Point 2 is that who knows if Kotsay can stay healthy. I don't. I like the pitching more than PECOTA does, but point 3 is that I have no idea how the new team will play out defensively. The big 3 don't have overwhelming K-rates and they will need some pretty good OF defense to sustain their dominance. In the end, I might give the edge in teh West to the Angels, but never count out a Billy Beane deadline deal that pushes them back in front.

(Editor's note: I just scored a free "working late" dinner for writing this. Ha ha. Suckers.)

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Touché

I agree on most counts. Let me rephrase my comment about the organizations that get it:
"I haven't noticed any runs of division championships or even consistent contention from the current Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, or White Sox management lately." On the other hand, the Yankees current management (Brian Cashman, Gene Michael) has 4 world championships, 6 pennants, and a run of 5 consecutive division titles. The Braves under John Schuerholz certainly wouldn't be confused with stat-heads, but their brand of "getting it" has them on an unprecedented streak of - what is it? 11 division titles and World Series? The A's have won nearly as many games as the Yankees since 1999 and have been in the playoffs every year. The Red Sox management has only been around a year, but the results are pretty impressive. Likewise, Cleveland is showing the makings of another perennial contender in a few years and have demonstrated that rebuilding doesn't need to take a decade or more (ahem, Detroit).

I'm not sure if anyone noticed the common element of the teams I picked on. It's not payroll, or even revenue. It's market size. Go ahead and add Philly to the list, cause they are a great example. Competitive advantages that result from a tradition of winning, continuing financial investment in the franchise, development of the farm system, and positive PR with the fans are all things that should be rewarded, not discouraged. These advantages are not the core problem. As much as I dislike the man, George Steinbrenner has been an excellent owner for the Yankee franchise, and he's done a lot of things that have leveraged the Yankees' market size advantage into piles of cash. Unlike scorched-earth owners like Wayne Hiuzenga (sp?) and Disney, he's actually reinvested a great deal of that back into the on field product. Investing in the team, renevating stadiums, and shrewdly negotiating cable contracts are all rewards for running the business well, and these opportunities exist in most markets. I don't see why poor execution means we need to tear down the rules of the game.

Side Note: It's not like we're talking about the welfare system or anything even remotely resembling a basic need or human right. Letting the poorly run teams fold isn't like letting a family of 4 starve to death. Even the most poorly run teams may not make an annual profit, but the return on investment for the reselling owner is still ridiculously high. Do you really think Carl Polhad owns the Twins because he appreciates their rich tradition?

The other key point hidden slightly in the Kahrl transcript was let's not let our memories be too short. Today's monster teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox were bad once and they will be bad again (though the doom seems a lot more impending for one of these two). There's just no way that even Steinbrenner will cough up $200 million by choice to a 70-80 win team. Who knows, in 10-20 years everyone may be clamouring about changing the system cause the Mariners are signing everyone under the sun. Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Getting it....

Just a quick response to something. Colin said the following:

"I think there is an undeniable competitive advantage to any team playing in a major market with a greater population base and more disposable income. The point is that you still need to "get it" and make the right moves. I haven't noticed too many Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, or White Sox world championships lately."

To be fair, I haven't seen the Yankees, BoSox, Braves or the A's (all teams Kahrl noted as "getting it") win a world championship lately either. But both Colin and Chris are right - some teams make hideously bad personnel decisions which often dictate the fate of a franchise for years. But the Yankees aren't exempt from those transactions - they just have the financial means to erase them.

Many of the moves the Yankees have made in the last year would be classified as "not getting it". Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the Yankees can afford to purchase solutions to the those problems, regardless of the cost. Examples? How about trading Ted Lilly and 2 great prospects for Jeff Weaver, only to have him be a complete failure, and then turn around and agree to take on the Dodger's terrible Kevin Brown contract (while giving up only fringe "prospects") to make Weaver go away? Mondesi and the entire right field debacle, which ended with a massive Sheffield contract? "Upgrading" from Ventura to Boone, only to turn Boone into A-rod? Gabe White and Felix Heredia for a pile of cash because apparently Chris Hammond wasn't Yankee material? Just two of these transactions involved prospects of any value - twas all about the benjamins, and its hard to imagine any other team having the cash to make such moves.

Not sure if Colin meant to demean the magnitude and importance of the advantage the Yankees have in this respect (I don't think he did), but I thought it was worth bringing up that being a GM isn't an exact science. Whether you "get it" or you don't, mistakes will be made, markets will change, players will lose their mojo. Ask Billy Beane about Jermaine Dye.

Unfortunately for 29 out of the 30 guys running major league teams, their owners don't have cash band-aids to cover up mistakes.

Chris Kahrl says it well

I was just reading through the Chris Kahrl chat from yesterday and a few things popped out that I really agree with, particularly from an objective fna of neither the Sox nor the Yanks. Rather than just pasting them in an IM window to Nick, here you go:

Thaskins (CT): How can MLB solve its marketing issue with regards to the salery cap? In the NFL you still have teams like the Redskins spending all this money on "established veterens." Stars still get cut as oposed to traded because they make too much. There are still really bad teams every year. Yet, everyone thinks a cap will fix baseball. I don't get it???

Chris Kahrl: Because 'cap' is a magic word, like 'tax cut,' or 'strategic defensive initiative,' or 'peace dividend.' It has meanings and connotations entirely divorced from the nitty-gritty of economic realities, and as we all know--this non-mathematician in particular--math is hard. Never mind that the NFL players are in a terrible spot, or that caps don't work. People want to believe in easy solutions.

aaron (delmar): why are the yankees so evil? when is the gutting of the farm system and bloated payroll finally going to haunt them?

Chris Kahrl: Are the Yankees evil? I remember the Dave Collins Yankees, the snickerable Yankees, the Oscar Azocar follies, the hopeless hopes inspired by Kevin Maas or Chuck Cary, and I know Yankees fans who stuck with them through all of that. It isn't like they're the Reds these days. That's evil.

(Colin Note: Kevin Maas!! I remember making the Yankees on the NES game Baseball Simulator 1.000. Maas was always my clean-up hitter who would average like 2-3 bombs a game. I remember all the hype when he got to X home runs in the fewest at bats since Babe Ruth, or some such stat. Ah, memories.)

Will (Fredericton): Dear Lord. Chris, please give me one reason to watch baseball with the awesome lethality of its competitive imbalance.

Chris Kahrl: First, there's no competitive imbalance, except between the teams that get it or use their resources to maximum advantage (like the Yankees, A's, Braves, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Indians, all teams at different points, but all working to get better), and the ones who don't. The competitive environment is getting more competitive and more dynamic, and whatever shudders ripple through the game because the Boss is especially nervous in his giggling is more a sign of progress and desperation than of any deeper concern. The core product, baseball, is still tremendously fun to watch.

(Colin Note: I think there is an undeniable competitive advantage to any team playing in a major market with a greater population base and more disposable income. The point is that you still need to "get it" and make the right moves. I haven't noticed too many Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, or White Sox world championships lately.)

News and notes

Reports out of Texas are that Alfonso Soriano is actually 28, not 26, and the Rangers knew it when they completed the trade. (Sorry, the only link I can find to this story is subscription only.) Why this isn't bigger news was initially a shock to me, but I guess most baseball reporters still aren't really hip to the relationship of age to peak value. To me this is a huge story and casts further doubt on the sanity of John Hart. Chances are that Soriano is as good now as he'll ever be, which voids the arguements that his value will catch A-Rod's over the next few years. Generally players who at age 27 have a 130-38 strikeout to walk ratio aren't going to suddenly turn that around. So much for the hope that Soriano would pull a Sosa impression off. Soriano is already past the age of Sosa's breakout. It also makes me wonder even more if Miguel Tejada and Albert Pujols are actually their reported ages.

Maddux signs with Cubs. Scott Boras is pretty amazing. There's lots of things to not like about how he does things and I'm not going to argue any point in favor of greed over the game. Regardless, the man is pretty freaking good at what he does. As if there aren't 1,000 other pieces of evidence from the past, both the Pudge deal and the Maddux deal in this market are surprising, at least to me. In addition to the financial terms, this works out beautifully for Maddux. He gets the warm fuzzies of a homecoming all wrapped up in playing for a contender, in the NL, in a pitcher's park, on a hugely popular team. Good for him and I'm not disappointed in the slightest that the reports of him signing with the Yankees were bullshit.

Paul DePodesta is far less geeky than I pictured him. His resemblence to Theo Epstein is a little unnerving too. Do all these wunderkind come from the same master sabermetric gene pool? I smell conspiracy.

A couple of scruby ex-Red Sox are in the news. Fans in NY are devasted to learn that John Burkett wants to stay retired. Fans in Boston are equally thrilled that Frank Castillo is back in the system. Thankfully he'll be boring fans in Pawtucket and not devaluing my season tickets. I went to about 10 Fenway games in 2002 and I swear Castillo pitched in about 7 of them. Nothing thrills the crowd like the number 85 lighting up the FleetBoston radar gun display pitch after pitch after pitch after...

And finally, props to the Bruins for beating the Maple Leafs in Toronto last night. I don't have any delusions that they are a first place team, but I still have to hope. Winning the division is probably the difference between a first round draw of Montreal and a draw of Toronto. Leafs-Bruins playoffs series aren't good for my home life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Shenanigans

Wow....what a difference a week makes. My apologies for being the derelict blogger - I was away enjoying the great white north (not Canada, but close enough). Sidenote: not even the news of Arod joining the Yankees could ruin a day of powder skiing and hucking airs in the trees. Saturday was a thing of beauty - 6" of new snow, no lift waits, and countless lines for the taking.

Anyways, I don't want to say too much tonight. The A-rod trade came as a shock, but not really a surprise. A-rod's captaincy was a sham, Tom Hicks was losing money, A-rod wanted out of TX, so it was only a matter of time before the most expensive ballplayer in the game ended up with the biggest spenders in the game. The trade makes the Yankees better, but I don't think it makes them unstoppable. The same question marks still exist - no lefties in the starting rotation, questionable back-end to the starting rotation, old players at a majority of positions, bullpen that ranks an 8 of 10 on the Chad Fox questionability scale. You get the picture.

The thing that blew me away about the trade was how amazing a deal the Yankees were able to work out. For the next seven years they will pay A-rod less than they pay Jeter and Giambi - just $16 million per year. So Texas gave up the best player in the game, but agreed to pay $67M over the life of the contract, and they got a player back who will probably stay with them for a maximum of two more (increasingly expensive) years. They're still stuck with Chan Ho Park and Todd van Poppel, and its too late to do anything with the money they saved for this season. What an awful deal. Further evidence that Jon Hart may be the worst GM in baseball (yeah, I'm including Chuck Lamar, Kenny Williams, you name em).

Pitchers and catchers report in three days. Bring it.

News and notes

The Dodgers have hired Paul DePodesta to act as their new general manager.

Swept up in the A-Rod storm was what may turn out to be a more significant move. Credited by some as the brains behind the A's low payroll success, DePodesta gets the chance to run his own team. Unlike his buddies Billy Beane and JP Riccardi, DePodesta will be working with a substanial payroll. He also inherits a severely flawed team that just had a reasonably solid, if unspectacular winter. It should take a little time to ween the Dodgers scouts off drafting high school pitchers and selling jeans, but I expect good things to come out of LA in the next few years. It's scary what smart people can do in a large market, just look at Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman. How long before Paul LoDuca wears an A's uniform?

Twins signed first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to a two-year, $7 million contract with an option for 2006.

Doh! Last year Terry Ryan brilliantly chose Mienty over David Ortiz. Since that worked out so well, he decided to throw a nice chunk of his low payroll budget at a guaranteed deal that effectively blocks a younger and likely better player in Morneau. While there's a reasonable chance that Mienty will out-hit Moreau in 2004, the chances of that happening in 2005 and 2006 seem to be pretty slim, all for just slightly less than it would have cost them to keep their best reliever. Of course, the arguement is that Mienty adds so much defensively that his value is greater than everyone thinks. Well I don't pretend to understand all the stuff in Clay Davenport's cards, but it looks like Dougy is about 4 runs above average at 1B in each of the last 2 seasons. That hardly seems like a large enough margin to make this deal worthwhile.

Where's that link? Ah, here it is.

I find this latest rumor ot be extremely unlikely, and I can't imagine who would be happy about the signing actually taking place. Maddux is still decent, but he's far from the pitcher that he and Scott Boras still believe he is. I'd be completely shocked if he signs with any team in the DH league, let alone one with such widely reported defensive issues. I think more likely you'll see the return of El Duque, who could very feasibily take Lieber's spot. In lesser news, they are throwing a couple million dollars at upgrading Tony Clark to Travis Lee. Eh. It must be nice to have that much scratch to spend on defensive replacements and back-up plans. The true wonder is how they've never managed to get a useful utility infielder with teir vast resources. I wonder what the Orioles want for Brian Roberts?

Monday, February 16, 2004

Minnesota Twins

Lineup

HitterPosPAEqAVGEqOBPEqSLGVORP 04VORP 03
1Stewart, ShannonRF592.293.360.44317.713.0
2Guzman, CristianSS561.279.321.40420.22.7
3Koskie, Corey3B519.276.377.47638.836.7
4LeCroy, MattDH345.262.325.45810.917.3
5Hunter, ToriiCF540.274.335.50825.69.8
6Jones, JacqueLF532.282.332.47214.815.2
7Mientkiewicz, Doug1B475.284.378.44320.324.0
8Mauer, JoeC331.249.310.3520.70.0
9Rivas, Luis2B463.261.320.39312.11.1
----------
TOTAL4358161.1119.8

The Twins come back in 2004 with a very similar lineup that they fielded in 2003. Notable changes include a full season of Shannon Stewart, and the confidence that uber-prospect Joe Mauer can make the big jump, as shown by the Pierzynski trade. The Stewart move may have gotten some press, but it's not really an improvement from the other internal (and cheaper) pre-trade options: Bobby Kielty (16.7), Mike Cuddyer, Mike Restovich, and Lew Ford. More notably, the Twins managed to win the division with a down year from Torii Kedar Hunter and almost no offense from Rivas and Guzman. PECOTA sees a 44 run improvement in the collective performance of those 3, which should more than make up for the fact that it sees a rocky jump to the majors for Mauer.

Rotation
StarterPosGGSIPEqERAVORP 04VORP 03
1Radke, BradRHP28261674.3927.734.0
2Santana, JohanLHP33201253.6630.550.9
3Lohse, KyleRHP29271734.3527.930.4
4Helling, RickRHP27201234.8412.19.2
5Silva, CarlosRHP359684.718.412.2
----------
TOTAL152102656106.6136.7

Radke and Lohse return, each with a modest predicted decline in performance but still solid. The rotation should benefit from an entire year of Johan Santana, particularly if they use him in the #1 slot. He had some minor elbow surgery in the offseason that from what I've read will no impact his performance. PECOTA, being a computer program, does not realize that the Twins have finally come to their senses and projects another season of being bounced back and forth from the rotation. In my opinion, he'll return as the ace he's proven himself to be, and with a bargain basement price of $1.6 million. In other news, the gambler has moved back to Arlington and the Twins will take a ride on the village Helling with their 4th slot. Speculation is that Carlos Silva, who came over in the Milton trade, will replace the Rick Reed/Joe Mays travelling fireworks display. On the whole the rotation projects to be slighter weaker than in 2003, but PECOTA thinks it could get a big boost from Grant Balfour. Perhaps he'll pull a Johan and force Gardy's hand or perhaps we'll be hearing all too familar speaches about how he's more valuable pitching 1/3 of the innings.

Bullpen
RelieverPosGGSIPEqERAVORP 04VORP 03
1Nathan, JoeRHP405615.145.821.3
2Romero, J.C.LHP450524.488.06.2
3Rincon, JuanRHP3915954.6912.020.2
4Fultz, AaronLHP480514.696.72.8
5Balfour, GrantRHP2612753.4819.55.7
6Pulido, CarlosLHP2111665.493.81.7
7Crain, JesseRHP2310663.0919.20.0
----------
TOTAL2425346675.057.9

Here's where the real damage has taken place. One of the main strengths of the Twins these past few years has been an excellent bullpen which kept them in close games when they were behind and kept them on top when they were ahead. Now with Everyday Eddie closing in Seattle, LaTroy off to Wrigley, and Johan in the rotation, what was a strength is now a big fat question mark. For some reason, Terry Ryan thinks that Joe Nathan is the answer. On the bright side, there is some major leage ready talent right around the corner. PECOTA is most impressed with Canadian Jesse Crain, eh? It also thinks Grant Balfour is ready for the big leagues and Baseball America ranks rightie Chad Durbin above both of them.

Bench
Bench PlayerPosPAEqAVGEqOBPEqSLGVORP 04VORP 03
1Blanco, HenryC159.223.290.336-2.6-8.9
2Morneau, Justin1B366.261.330.46112.3-2.1
3Ojeda, AugieINF194.241.321.3422.0-3.8
4Cuddyer, MikeOF345.275.351.48519.80.0
5Ford, LewOF241.267.330.4257.58.6

The bench is both young and strong, as the Twins well documented depth at the corner positions continues to burst at the seams. Not listed is Mike Restovich, who is losing ground as a prospect but still has the power to fill in nicely. Both Morneau and Cuddyer could be major contributors by the end of this year, quality players who should form the core of a decent Twins team for years to come, at least until Carl Polhad decides to low-ball them.

So in the end, the Twins are treading water, but keeping pace with the rest of the weakest division in the majors. Their youth and minor league depth should make them the favorites once again. Good luck to them in the playoffs when they face the winner of the Yankees vs Red Sox AL East death match.

Hot Stove Reports Introduction

Seeing as I'm incredibly unmotivated to work on a day that most people are joyously celebrating the birth of our founding fathers in their warm and snuggly homes, now seems like a good time to start the team-by-team breakdown of the coming season.

Remember the old ESPN Hot Stove Heaters series where they did a breakdown for each team? Well, the idea is to do something like that, the principle differences being that 1) I don't have access to STATS, Inc. data, 2) I don't have a crack team of web designers at my disposal, and 3) I don't get paid. What I do have is a subscription to BP Premium and the Excel skills to put stuff that I copied off a website in a format that I can translate to this blog. Unfortunately, I lack the data and ambition to run simulated seasons based off of PECOTA, but hopefully Nate Silver will hook us up soon. What I will do is show a chart of each team's probable lineup, rotation, bullpen, and bench, and a narrative of observations and comments. The chart will be comprised of 2004 PECOTA weighted mean forecasts of plate appearances, EqBA, EqOBP, EqSLG, and VORP ("Eq" = park and league adjusted), as well as 2003 actual VORP. For pitchers, I'll show appearances, games started, innings pitched, EqERA, and VORP. While the VORP comparison is not direct 2003 roster to 2004 roster, it should serve to give an idea of players who are expected to either decline or bounce back in 2004.

Some notes and considerations:
-The are only forecasts, so all the usual caveats apply. I happen to think the PECOTA system is great, but that doesn't mean it is (or should be) perfect. Surprise performances, positive and negative, as well as injuries will happen. The system does, however, give us a reasonable expectation of a player's performance for 04. Perhaps most importantly, it's a forecast based on a lot of data and history, not wishcasting or speculation.
-I included PA, G, GS, and IP to give you an idea of how changes in situation might need to be applied to the forecasts. For example, the system sees that Johan Santana (or BK) was used both in relief and in the rotation for the last 2 seasons. Based on that data, it forecasts more of the same for 2004. The reader will have to adjust based on his/her own expectations of playing time and role.
-Again, I didn't take the time to look up last year's roster to compare it to this year's and put a +/- on the # of runs scored/allowed. Analysis of this sort would be dandy, I just didn't take the time to do it. Trust me, it took forever to get the damn formatting for what I did do.
-I've decided to show 7 relievers and 5 bench players for each team, which brings our rosters to 26 players. The simple reason for this is that I have no idea who the team's are actually going to chose for their bench, and whether they go with 11 or 12 pitchers. What I show is guesswork based on my interweb readings and personal speculation.
-It sure seems like I'm going to a lot of trouble for the benefit of (both) our readers. Truth is I was doing a lot of this in my head anyway, so writing it down gives everyone a good chance to tell me how wrong I am at the end of the year. I hope you enjoy it too.

And now I introduce to you, the 2004 Minnesota Twins.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Shitstorm?

Well I know you'll be getting plenty of that, so I'll refrain. Besides, while I'm not necessarily pumped by the whole thing, I'm not ready to bust out a rifle pissed. The thing that drives me crazy the most is an old arguement: Good lord, the Yankees can spend. I'm not in a position to bitch because the Sox are willing to spend too, but I mean even Yankees fans must admit that having four $100 million players takes it to a whole other level. Someday the Yankees will be in for a long rebuilding process because this win big, win now technique is extremely short term. (I never promised there would be *no* sour grapes in this post, you fuckers.) If anything, I hope this can lead to some change in baseball. I'm not saying we need an NFL level of parity or anything, we just need a little bit more level playing field.

From a Red Sox fans perspective as far as next season goes, I don't really care. I would honestly take our rotation going in to this season over the Yankees', I think our lineups will both be extremely good and I basically think it's going to be one fuck of a season. All Sox fans have to admit, once the Sox lost A-Rod we all knew the Yankees would make a run at him. We got Schilling before them, they got A-Rod after us. Both the Sox and the Yankees have made the best moves possible this offseason while trying to one-up each other. If it is indeed the Sox best year to make a run at fullfilling years of my childhood disappointment, all of us fans want to battle right through the Bronx to do it. Once we get Derek Lowe on the same page as me we should be fine. Derek, you were traded for Heafcliff Slowcome, you should be kissing our fucking asses. Don't make me whip you with a hose.

I've read this a few places but it bears repeating: It really sucks to be Baltimore and Toronto right now.

The bright side of the A-Rod move: I now know who I'm *not* picking first overall in my fantasy draft. Viva la no Yankees rule! Let's get Albert a Bobby Zupcic Wheelhouse uniform right now. Why won't my carriage returns post?

Here comes the shitstorm

So by now you've heard about the trade and you've probably read numerous articles, message boards, interviews, and other media mostly talking about how the Evil Empire ruined things once again. While I understand the frustration, I'd prefer to look at things from a less rash point of view, at least for the purpose of this column. Try to put yourself in these shoes:

Yankees' management

You've been given not just clearance but specifically encouraged to increase payroll to the point where you have a past or current star at every position. You've barely kept ahead of your biggest rivals and only serious challenger to your run at division titles. You're nervous about the extremely high level of competition in your division, but you feel like you've built the framework for another World Series team. All of a sudden your starting third baseman goes down for the season. You start to scramble for any replacement, but all the quality options are already locked up. You make a minor deal with John Hart to try to fill that hole and it comes to your attention that you just might be able to get the best all around player in baseball, and his former team is willing to pay a big chunk of his salary. Palms sweating, you phone up the big guy. He says to go for it. How can you possibly say no?

Yankees fan (typical)

That's cool. Can we sign Nomar next year to play 2B?

Yankees fan (educated)

Wow. I'm still in shock about how high George will go, but damn, how can I criticize a deal that improves the Yankees this much? Of course, keeping Jeter at short will be a mistake, but we'll see how long that will last. Sure we lose Soriano, but A-Rod is probably about 30 runs or 3 wins better on offense, and Kevin Brown ought to be jumping for joy at the defensive implications. Plus now Joe Torre has no choice but to put an OBP guy in the leadoff spot. Really the only negative I can see in this whole thing is the backlash. I'll have to listen to a hell of a lot of whining, but I'm sort of used to that by now.

Red Sox fan (typical)

!&%#&!%$^ dude. I hope everyone on the Yankees, who has been on the Yankees, or who even thought of the Yankees dies a horrible and painful death... immediately.

Red Sox fan (educated)

I suspect this will be answered by my fellow bloggers, but something tells me it will be pretty similar to "Red Sox fan (typical)"

Red Sox management

Externally: "Waaaaa waaa waaa, the Evil Empire, blah blah blah."
Internally: "Damn, if we had only not been such hard-asses with the union, it could have been us ripping off the Rangers. Oh well, I guess we'll have to settle for the Wild Card and rely on having two aces and a great lineup in October."

Rangers management

Duuuuuuuh, what? I think Chan Ho Park is primed for a comeback. Seriously. Now we can sign more Todd Van Poppells. Man, it's hot here. Did I leave the stove on this morning?

Colin

Seriously, I think Red Sox nation is going to be freaking out over this a little too much, as usual. Yes, it sucks that A-Rod will be in NY, particularly since there was a good chance he would have ended up in Boston. Still, the Sox are in good shape to win the Wild Card at the least. A few key injuries and accelerated aging effects could land them the division. Once in the playoffs, they have as good a chance as any other team. Pedro is still Pedro and Schilling is great too. Every aspect of the team is solid. I wouldn't count them out. No matter how much George is willing to spend, the playoffs are still short and subject to random fluctuations. As Billy Beane is (in)famously quoted as saying, "it's fucking luck." Though that's a bit of an exaggeration, I wouldn't start printing Yankees 2004 World Champion t-shirts just yet.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Lazy man's post and run-on sentences

Since I see our blog has risen from its premature grave and again become prolific, I feel that as a founding partner and majority stock holder (wait, can you own stock in a partnership? who cares? stop talking to yourself. ok.)... where was I? Oh yeah, I was saying that I'm going to post just for the sake of posting.

First some reactions:

-We have 2 readers?! Hey everyone, we love you.
-I have no brushes with sports greatness. Zero. Well, maybe 0.000001. I saw Donta Bright in Antonio's pizza once. I'm sure everyone knows who that is, right? At the time he was the starting power forward on the #1 NCAA Men's Division I basketball team in the country. That's right, the Minutemen rule. I think I saw one of the point guards on campus once too.
-Vernon Wells threw me a baseball once after I yelled his name out for about 6 innings. I dropped the ball. Some say I'm not coordinated but I blame the beer.

Looking ahead:

I have been planning a sort of hot stove team-by-team analysis for this web log, but it's been slow going in implementing it. The idea is to show my idea of what the 25 man roster will look like, show some key figures from the 2004 forecasts, and then comment on changes from the prior year and my guess at how this year will be. Perhaps too ambitious for a guy who regularly works 11 hour days, has to study for a WICKED HAHD exam, and has a wife at home who gets annoyed when he's never there. Plus one of our many readers out there (you know who you are) wants me to join his Socom II online clan, which would require time both to not completely suck at the game, and to actually play the online game for hours. So maybe it will and maybe it wont happen, but I'll keep working on it.

Also I got a big kick out of a silly article from yesterday's BP that compared a merged Yankees/Red Sox team with a combined other 28 teams team (read it if that doesn't make sense). I thought it would be funny to post some follow-up on that. Maybe I will do that later.

Blog on, good sir.

My brush with greatness and my love of trash.

Literally one of the biggest disappointments of my young life was when Nick Esasky brought his car into my family's gas station to have it repaired and my dad didn't think to get his autograph for me. Then again, my dad's not exactly 'in the know' when it comes to sports. For example, Darren Banks came in to get gas one day and my dad had no idea that "black guys" played hockey. Nick Esasky was my favorite baseball player at the time, even though he was traded for one of the biggest dorks in baseball, Todd Benzinger. Mentioning that trade is relevent here because I'd like to point out that I have a special place in my heart for both crappy Red Sox players and complete nerds who play baseball (Hell, I liked Jay Bell when he was on the Diamondbacks because he wore those dumb glasses). Anyways, before you get all huffy and send me rediculous stats and charts to illustrate that the 1989 version of Esasky was not crappy (because he's obviously a total stud), I'd like to point out one thing: "Players most similar by age: Phil Plantier". That's right. According to baseball-reference.com, Manchester New Hampshire's own Phil Plantier is listed right along side old Nickey as a "similar player". Your stats now mean nothing. No player can be compared to Phil Plantier and be considered anything more than complete trash. Case and point: On Phil's list, the number 3 most similar player is Bubba Trammell. Yes, the same Bubba Trammell who is suing the Yankees because he sucks.

We play this game on the fourth of July in International Falls Minnesota called "Washed-up Whiffleball", and that's when my love of these players gets to shine. The rules are pretty simple aside from one major addtion: it's homerun derby but before you get up to bat or pitch, you have to "be" a crappy baseball player. Added taste of realness: there's a short left-field porch with a pool that has been dubbed "Ozzie Canseco Cove". The game itself is great fun, plus you get the added bonus of keeping someone's legacy alive. When I dig in as Reginald Jirod Jefferson and am completely overpowered by Justin pitching left handed, I know that somewhere in Japan Mr. DH Platoon Himself has a warm fuzzy feeling inside. You think Pat Rapp wouldn't cry into his fat hands if he somehow found out that he had pitched a gem of an inning a couple years ago?

Remember when we thought that Dwayne Hosey would break the Home Run record once he got a full season in the bigs? Remember when we thought Donnie Sadler would become the next Rickey Henderson? Remember when Morgan Burkhart was going to hit .500 and continue to look like the biggest dickhead in baseball? Remember when we though Jeff Frye was tall? Remeber when the Sox had Mark Lemke period? Those were special times. The most specialest times ever.

Oh and my brush with greatness came when I got Andy Moog's autograph at the Waltham Boys Club. The very same Waltham Boys Club where I was a member of the two-time floor hockey Champions. Sadly enough, that's my greatest sports accomplishment.

Wow, that's depressing. I wonder if this is how John Clayton feels?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I'm back b***hes

Just like Dave Chappelle.

First off, kudos to our newest blogger Nick for cracking me up with his inaugural post. I suppose I should change the title to say something about the fact that three guys are now blogging? How about "Two guys who know it all and one guy who has an unhealthy obsession with scrappy, ill-tempered, washed-up wingers"?

I've been absent from the page for almost two weeks, and what happened during that time? Well, not much I guess. Certainly nothing worth writing about. Except for things like: the Patriots won the Superbowl; the Bruins have won 6 in a row and sit just a point or two out of the top spot in their division and the Eastern Conference; the Sox brought back Ellis Burks on the cheap to solidify their bench and lineup vs LHP; NHL general managers agreed to proposed rule changes. Yeah, nothing happened at all.

Theres not much to be said about all these events that hasn't already been said, but I do have a few comments.

I went to the victory parade for the Patriots - I stood outside in the cold for an hour, then watched gleefully as the entire Patriots team passed by in the span of about 120 seconds. Can't say I was that impressed or pumped up. In fact, I didn't feel drastically different than when Derek Lowe walked by me in Logan Airport the day after the 2002 baseball ended. Actually, he walked by me three times. How cool is that? How cool am I?

Bruins are rolling, but I'm not buying what they're selling. They've been hot and cold the last 3 years, and I don't want to get my hopes again only to get steamrolled in the first round by a lesser opponent (e.g., Canadiens, 2001-2002 season). They'll go as far as Big Joe and Ray-zor take them I guess. Can we trade Samsonov for a power forward centerman? I realize Sammy is the Magical Muscovite, and he weaves incredible tapestries of logic-defying cuts, zags, and cycles in the offensive zone, but hes SOFT. Call me crazy, but I think a large centerman to put on the second line would complement Bergeron, and give the Bruins two very physical, tough lines to handle - I like that idea alot.

The first line has been red hot lately, which is great for both the team's playoff hopes and the fans to watch. I still don't agree with having Knuble on that line - I think he's a junk player that does nothing to open the ice for Joe or Murray. But, with Murray reverting to Tom Berenger-like sniper form, and Joe consistently taking the puck to the net and shooting, Knubs is an after-thought. Anyone remember that goal last year when Joe Thornton beat two NJ defenders and then Brodeur? Man, that was unbelivable. (end of Chris Farley impression).

On a semi-related note: the B's are running a contest where the prize is..............wait for it...............lunch at Friendly's with Knubs. Is there a more lame contest out there? I challenge all 2 of the readers to find it if there is. I can't wait for the "Breakfast at Bickford's with Tony Womack" contest to roll around this June.

Until next time....

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Hijacked!!!

Being a loyal reader of this blog's two+ week existance is tough work. I check and I check and I check, still no updates. That's why through the power of internet wizardry, I have sliced in to the pipeline of this blog and am now set to deliver a much needed kick in the pants. Much like an extremely useless A-Team, I will break in and erradicate the blogging blockade, after which I will drug myself with a sandwich that I tricked myself in to eating.

Helpful Tips for Red Sox "fans" during the upcoming Season:

Number one: If your summation of this year's Sox team is "This is the year!!LOL!" (Take extra points off if you say it while pulling on your freshly purchased Nomar jersey), please move over to the line of people waiting to be told the names of the "non-sexy" Red Sox players.
Number Two: Just because you think a player is hot doesn't mean you know why he shouldn't be sitting against left-handed pitching. If you tell me your favorite player is Trot, it better be because he plays balls out like a talented Darren Bragg on every pitch, not because you want to pop out his little Jesus babies.
Number three: Unless your name is Dan and you fart hundred dollar bills anytime someone mentions the word "Bambino", shut the hell up about the "Curse". Curley Haired Boyfriend can keep saying it because I pretend he's lost all ability to communicate with people not named "Delusions of Gradure".
Number four: The 'Yankees Suck' chant's time has passed. Next year's suggestion: Pen- sion Plan *clap clap clapclapclap* or maybe "15-Day Dee El". Not as "clever" I know, but the Yankees suck chant just doesn't hold water anymore. Side note: The "Take your rings and shove them up your ass" t-shirts are commendable. I never thought the "Sucks" t-shirts could be outdone, but I have been proven completely wrong. Congrats on taking it to a whole new level of classlessness. Also New York, forget the "1918" thing. The correct counter for Yankees' fans would be something like "Jo-hn Harrington", because trust me, the true curse of the Sox has been *SHOCK* horrendous management. I'll just let you in on that because I know it's tough to like, research and stuff, what with keeping track of all those rings.
Number Five: I swear, if anyone says "Blah Blah, the Sox can't win the World Series or else we fans won't know what to do anymore, huddalah huddalah!", I will snap. I'm not even kind of kidding. Attention Newspeople: If you use this as a story lead because you're completely bankrupt of ideas, expect a brick to come through your window with "Dave Stapleton" hastily scrawled through tears on it around the end of October.

This is about where I drive off in my Ford Tempo (which, using a roller and house paint, I painted black and slapped a red sheet metal spoiler on) to wait for the posts of my success.