A painful inning to watch…

March 21, 2008

I call them STIEs.

Spring Training Innings Eaters.

They’re the guys who are in Big League camp just for the sole purpose of moving some of these dreadfully long games along without burning up all the good arms. They’re also there just so people can sit in the stands and have a conversation that sort of goes like this:

Fan #1: “Who’s that guy on the mound?”

Fan #2: “No idea, but but he’s got an interesting delivery.”

Announcer: “Now pitching for Atlanta, Colter Bean.”

Fan #1: “Hmmm. Sounds like an interesting blend of coffee.”

The humor may have failed, but you know who I’m talking about. You’ve got Colter Bean. A John Rocker look-alike named Johnathon Rouwenhorst. Guys like Damian Moss, Jorge Campillo, Matt DeSalvo, Ryan Drese, etc. Bobby hands these type guys the ball and his face says, “Damn it, please throw strikes,” or, “Just get us to Opening Day, please?”

Today was a most dreadful day for a STIE. Ryan Drese probably pitched the most painful inning I’ve watched in the last five years. Get this:

1 IP, 1 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 6 BB, 0 SO, 48 pitches, 15 strikes.

OUCH.

It’s not like he was actually contending for a spot in any capacity in Atlanta. Still painful to watch a blow up like that. At one point, he threw thirteen consecutive balls. After throwing the strike on the fourteenth pitch, the crowd gave a sardonic cheer. I’m sure Mr. Drese isn’t enjoying his evening in Florida.

Spring camp is coming to a close very quickly and I’m looking forward to next Sunday night in DC. It would be nice to rip the Nats in their first game in that brand new park, eh?

I’m looking for a couple of trades sometime between March 26th -28th.

Also, if Yunel Escobar performs as expected, I expect to see Brent Lillibridge being used as tradebait around July 31st. Long-term, Lillibridge really has no place on this club, at least not in an everyday player capacity, and I doubt he will be used in a utility capacity for more than one season perhaps. I think the Braves are wanting to hang on to him in the very unlikely event that Yunel doesn’t perform as expected for an entire year at SS, but judging from his spring, he’s going to have a fantastic year.

Finally, the Augusta Chronicle is reporting that Matt Diaz is going to play everyday in left field this season. Interesting. I figured we would have heard this from Bowman or O’Brien first. I hope it’s true.


Hampton tweaks groin; Thorman being shopped

March 8, 2008

Yada yada yada. Mike Hampton strained his groin muscle during his second outing of the spring yesterday. Summon the naysayers and the pundits to come and roast Mike Hampton about another injury.

You have to remember, Hampton hasn’t pitched in a major league setting in over two years. His body is going to show signs of that for a little bit and he’s going to have to get his body back into the shape it requires to pitch in a major league game. For now, these tweaks and strains are going to be expected. As long as his arm isn’t falling apart on the mound, there should be no reason to worry.

In response to the tender arms of Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan (both of whom are said to only be experiencing normal soreness and/or inflammation for this time of year), it appears that Scott Thorman and others are being shopped in effort to shore up the bullpen after it was trimmed down a bit over the winter. I’d be surprised if you could get a bag of baseballs for Thorman but there are some others that could be exchanged for something worthwhile (guys like Martin Prado, etc.).

Jair Jurrjens appears to be the favorite to earn the fifth spot in the rotation after today’s not so sweet outing from Jo-Jo Reyes (5 BB in 2 innings). Buddy Carlyle and Jeff Bennett were similarly unimpressive.

It’ll be interesting to see how things continue to play out this spring. I’m ready for Opening Day.


Time to catch up and start being regular :)

March 5, 2008

Approaching the three-week mark in Spring Training and so far, so good for the Braves. Almost. Get to that in a minute.

So, far I’m excited about Mike Hampton. He was outstanding in his first GFL start and I’ve heard nothing but positives about the way he looks thus far (from Braves and non-Braves sources alike). I hope it doesn’t prove to be false excitement. If he can go every five days and provide 5-6 innings and take his licks for the first couple of months until he heats up I think the Braves will have one of the best rotations in baseball come the All-Star Break. That is, if Glavine and Smoltz can continue to be above-average to exceptional pitchers, which I believe will be the case. Tim Hudson has been a tad bit shaky in his two GFL starts thus far, but I that’s what this time is about for established big leaguers.

Jair Jurrjens has been exceptional in his two starts so far and I believe the 5th spot is his for the taking. Chuck James is not being rushed and I don’t think he’s going to be ready to pitch every five days by the time the camp breaks. Jo-Jo Reyes seems to be the one who’s going to spend more time in AAA at this point, even though he has pitched well thus far. On that note, Richmond (soon to be Gwinnet) should have a great rotation this year.

Josh Anderson, Jordan Schafer, and Brent Lillibridge are all impressing so far. Brandon Jones has been a bit of a disappointment, which I do not find surprising since he was dubbed Matt Diaz’s platoon-mate even before a pitch had been thrown this spring. He’ll be in AAA come the end of camp. Lillibridge is my backup infielder and Anderson my fourth outfielder at this point.

Schafer is also making good early impressions but he’s not in major league camp to make the team. He’ll likely start the year at AA. We may see him in July-August.

Scott Thorman is continuing to show himself to be an occasionally powerful strikeout machine, but he’ll be the second backup infielder again this year. The Braves still want him around in the likely event that Mark Teixeira (who I’m predicting to be the 2008 NL MVP) empties his locker in October (not September!).

On that not so positive I mentioned at the beginning, Rafael Soriano, of which we had heard was battling a “stomach bug”, was revealed to have inflammation in his surgically repaired elbow. Braves officials are not worried and he was not injured when he passed his physical before signing a new 2-year/$9M deal in January ’08. Always makes you wonder, though. Regardless, he is vital to this club’s success this year and I can only hope this inflammation and soreness is only the result of not having picked up a baseball since September.

Jeff Francoeur was renewed again by the Braves after turning down a contract offer. Jeff figures to take advantage of his arbitration years and go for the prize money come his first year of free-agency. McCann gladly took the insurance money as a catchers career is never a certainty; however, if Francoeur can prove himself to have 30 HR/120 RBI power while maintaining a BA of .290-.305 and an OBP of .335-.350, “Frenchy” figures to get something on the order of $90-100M come 2011.

Martin Prado has been getting a good many at-bats this spring and I think he is on the way out. With Yunel Escobar, Lillibridge, and Kelly Johnson, Prado really has no place on the club. Pete van Weiren noted on the radio the other day that he was being scouted thoroughly and that other team scouts had been talking with Braves scouts regarding Prado’s availability. Truth or not, I think it’s a safe bet that he may be involved in a trade in the coming weeks.

I think I’m caught up. It’s time to be more regular with this thing and I think I can now that baseball will be in swing for the next 7 months. Exciting stuff.


Not dead; ST around the corner

January 4, 2008

I’m not dead.

Spring Training and the regular season are just around the corner. I plan on utilizing this blog to a good extent during the 2008 regular season (at least the summer months).

Ciao.


Dusty Baker is not Cincy’s answer

October 17, 2007

As you’ve probably read, Dusty Baker has been signed to a three year contract to manage the Reds, replacing interim manager Pete Mackanin who replaced manager Jerry Narron. Narron was fired at the beginning of July after the Reds posted a 31-51 mark and the Reds promoted from within and hired Mackanin on an interim basis. He then lead the Reds to respectable 41-39 mark to round out the 2007 season.

Another stupid front office decision here if you ask me and I say that with reason. First, Ken Rosenthal reported the Reds were searching for a “high profile” manager to permanently take over the team. (I can think of a number of other potential “high profile” managers who would certainly trump anything Dusty Baker has to offer.) How exactly does a “high profile” manager bring about promise for a brighter future to a struggling franchise? I don’t think it does. Casey Stengel, Sparky Anderson, Bobby Cox, even: a manager is only part of the equation for a winning team.

Regardless, the teams Baker has managed over the years have not typically been “young” (Darren Baker not included) teams and have usually had a stock of seasoned veterans. There are numerous veterans on the Reds at this point (Dunn, Griffey, Harang, Arroyo, Hatteberg) but other than those, this is mostly a young team with plenty of in house talent. Dunn’s return is not unlikely but uncertain, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arroyo traded. Hatteberg has a $1.85 MM club option for 2008 and will probably be picked up for ’08.

So the question here is: how is Dusty Baker going to deal with and handle a team of young players? It’s too early to tell but if I’m a part of the Reds’ front office, I really wouldn’t like the idea of a manager coming to my team and managing a club with a different overall face than most he has managed. The Reds haven’t won a championship since 1990 and have only made 2 playoff appearances in the past 17 seasons since then. This really isn’t a time for the Reds to “experiment.”

Second, Pete Mackanin led the Reds to a very respectable 41-39 mark after being hired to replace Narron. Obviously, over the course of an entire season, this only translates to a slight mark over .500. However, it looks like you’ve already got the foundation for a winning club. Why bring in a new (“high-profile”) manager and create another process of players getting used to working under a new manager (the third in one year). If you leave Mackanin where he is and make some tweaks to the roster through free agency and/or trades, this team could be a contender under a manager who they are already comfortable with and who already have put up acceptable results under.

Problem: Pete Mackanin isn’t a “high-profile” manager. I’ll admit, I never knew who Pete Mackinin was until he temporarily had the Pirates managerial spot a couple years back. However, It’s unfortunate that a name is regarded over results. And, unfortunately, this further reflects the peak of the business aspect of baseball. I’m not saying the results Mackanin’s team produced under him in 2007 are what you expect to get year after year from Mackanin, but it certainly can’t be a bad sign.

Overall, I don’t expect the situation in Cincinnati to change any. Unless some big changes to on-field personnel (increased starting pitching, bullpen fortification, etc.) coincide with the addition of Dusty Baker, they’re probably going to be in the cellar yet again. I cannot see Dusty Baker making an (positive) impact on this franchise.

Who really knows, though. As the Colorado Rockies have proven, baseball is sometimes unexplainable and unpredictable. A world title in 2008 just might be Cincy’s Dustiny.



Firing Joe Torre would be a very myopic move

October 10, 2007

Let me first say this: the New York Yankees will never find a better and more successful manager than Joe Torre. That said, this situation must be looked at from at least two perspectives:

  1. After twelve seasons, is it time for a change in the Bronx? or
  2. Is this just Steinbrenner being greedy old George?

Point #1: Is it time for a change in the Bronx?
After twelve years with one manager, I can slightly see how it may be time for a change. However, with what Torre has done and what Torre has continued to do, I can hardly see how it would be time for a change. Why would an owner want change with what Torre has done?

  • 12 straight playoff berths
  • 3 straight World Series titles
  • 4 World Series titles in 5 years
  • 1,173 wins (.605)
  • 10 division championships
  • 76 post-season wins

Unfortunately for Joe, it hasn’t been 12 straight World Series titles and consequently, the old rich lion upstairs isn’t happy. It’s been 7 years since the last championship parade in New York and someone isn’t happy. How many managers have been faced with losing his job while putting up numbers like this? Thus, point two.

Point #2: Is this just Steinbrenner being greedy old George?
In short, yes. I can’t find any other suitable explanation. Yes, Steinbrenner pours a ton of money into these teams of his and, yes, one would think a team of the caliber that the Yankees put on the field year after year would at least be in the World Series every year, but there are so many intangibles that go into building a champion that cannot be bought. (Luck, too.) It is not reasonable to expect your manager to win the World Series year after year. It’s time Steinbrenner look to the dogs on the field who are under-performing rather than executing a lynching of the man who has arguably been one of the most prolific managers to ever manage a Major League team.

Whoever the Yankees have in mind to replace him (don’t get me started on Joe Girardi), you can bet he won’t be nearly as good or have nearly as much success as Joe Torre.

With what Torre has accomplished in a relatively short time, his departure from the Yankees dugout should be solely on his terms. Of course, this is New York: the unwritten rules of baseball need not always apply.


LCS match-ups official

October 8, 2007

Cleveland just knocked the Yankees out of the pennant hunt so they’ll face Boston starting this Friday in Boston. Byrd over Sabathia makes Wedge look like a genius, now. Of course, Joe Borowski made it a bit interesting.

Is Joe Torre done in the Bronx? If so, does anyone think Joe would consider managing a club like KC, STL, or Pittsburgh (if KC, STL, or Pittsburgh would like to hire him) if he wants to continue managing?

Will A-Rod opt out of his contract? Is Roger Clemens finally done?

Time will tell.

I am pleased with the playoffs so far. I think the four best clubs in the league have made it through the first round:

2007 ALCS


Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox
Game 1: Friday, October 12, 2007, 7 ET (FOX)
C.C. Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett

2007 NLCS

Colorado Rockies @ Arizona Diamondbacks

Game 1: Thursday, October 11, 2007, 8:30 ET (TBS)
Jeff Francis vs. Brandon Webb

 

Go Indians! Go Rockies!


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