Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cocktail Party Ammo

In case anyone has plans to attend a cocktail party in the next couple of days, here are a few conversation starters that are sure to keep your fellow party goers entertained and enlightened.

- It looks like the Yankees have responded to recent criticism about the way they've handled their third baseman.  Alex Rodriguez will be rested at least once a week until the All-Star break.  Special love goes to this link because of the classic Yankee fan comments in the comments section.  Keep in mind that people at your cocktail party may prefer to discuss A-Rod & K-Hud.

- Big news out of the San Francisco Chronicle... Henry Schulman reporting that Giants' super prospect catcher, Buster Posey, may soon get promoted from Single-A to Triple-A.  Their public plan remains for Posey to be in the minors in 2009 and starting next season.  Bengie Molina is a free agent at the end of the year, and I think he'll be looking for more than a chance to mentor the new young, stud prospect who's taking his job.  Since there is always a sucker GM out there, who will fall in love with RBI's, barring injury, Molina will get a starting job somewhere else.

- There was some good news for Aki Iwamura and the Rays, stemming from his recent knee surgery.  Since his ACL was only partially torn, he should be back in about seven or eight weeks.

As a Ben Zobrist guy, I am nervous but hope Zobrist has done enough to still have an everyday spot in the lineup.  He has, right?  He can play all over the field.  If Jason Bartlett and Iwamura are playing the middle infield, I expect that Zobrist can play right field instead of the Gabe platoon of Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler.

Last random note about this topic: the Rays orthopedist is named Dr. Koko Eaton.  I'd wonder if she's related to Mark Eaton, but I doubt Mark Eaton has anyone in his family named Koko.

- The poor Mets keep losing warriors.  They have now lost their MRV, Carlos Beltran, for more than the minimum 15 days his stay on the DL will require.  Whispers are saying he won't even return immediately after the All-Star Game.  Who are the Mets' orthopedists?  They'll probably ask Beltran to do a test on a treadmill that'll exasperate his injury so he can't come back until late August.  David Wright is going to have one heck of a time trying to win with the Mets Triple-A stars hitting around him.

I have a feeling that is hard to describe, but I think this is actually a great time to be a Met fan.  Speaking as a Cubs' fan, I have vast experience knowing what bad times are really like.  My background, watching WGN and going to Wrigley Field has shown me many faces of hardship.  I've lived through teams so flawed, their talent couldn't be repeated often enough to win consistently.  I've seen teams with no hope.  (By the way, rooting for teams with no hope truly is worse than rooting for a consistent heartbreaker.)

This Mets team is actually good.  They're just hurt.  Every team has injuries. The Cubs would be a lot better with a healthy Aramis Ramirez, and the same can be said for a lot of teams.  But, this Mets team stands alone.

The Mets current DL has, among others:

Carlos Beltran, CF
Jose Reyes, SS
Carlos Delgado, 1b
J.J. Putz, 8th Inning RP
John Maine, #2 SP
Oliver Perez, #3 SP

Those are six integral cogs of any team.*

*I find it interesting how the Mets and Cubs depend on offense from different positions.  If the Cubs lost the players they feature at those positions, I think they would still be pretty good.  They would still have Aramis at 3rd base and healthy corner outfielders in Soriano and Bradley.  On the offensive side, they would "only" be losing Derek Lee, Ryan Theriot, and Kosuke Fukudome.  They could survive with Jake Fox/Micah Hoffpauir at first base.  On the pitching side, Marmol hasn't even been good in the 8th inning, and losing Lilly and Dempster wouldn't mean so much if Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden could stay healthy.

Back to my point.  The Mets' luck cannot get worse.  They will get their players back eventually.  (Maybe, they won't get Delgado back, but it's "easy" to trade for a first baseman.)

When the healthy Mets return to the field, they will most likely still be in the race.  I feel this could be like when the 1992 Duke Blue Devils basketball team lost Bobby Hurley for a few weeks.  He was the point guard and floor leader of that team, but someone had to step up.  This being Duke, and all, they had future hall of fame talent, Grant Hill, to step in and play point forward, like a white glove Scottie Pippen.

After Bobby Hurley came back, announcers like Verne Lundquist and Dickie V would say how much better the Duke team was playing because the bench players who had to step up were so much better from the experience they gained.

If I were a Met fan, I would be absolutely certain that the same thing was going to happen for them.  Later this season, I'd look for Alex Cora to become an awesome utility man, maybe the best in the business.  I think Jeremy Reed could really flourish with an extended look in Center Field.  If Daniel Murphy can stay away from bad habits in his swing and off the field, he may be able to contribute with good pinch hit ABs, at the very least.

The final silver lining is that Omar has to make a trade now.  Who are we kidding?  Jeremy Reed and Daniel Murphy are no Grant Hill's, but they can still become part of a strong(er) bench after Beltran and Reyes come back and first base is manned by Delgado or a player to be named later.

- Is anyone else super excited about John Smoltz this Thursday night?  Check out some of these quotes from Braves catcher Brian McCann and manager Bobby Cox...
“He’s one of the smartest pitchers I’ve ever been around, first off,’’ McCann said. “He wills himself to be the best, every single day. Everything he [does] just is at a high level, no matter if it’s playing ping-pong. He’s just so competitive. He’s usually the best at what he does.

“It’s very rare. He’s the best athlete I’ve ever been around. He can do it all. I could sit here and throw a million adjectives. He’s a great, great pitcher, and a great person.’’

-- snip --

“Never doubt him,’’ McCann said. “If there’s a game I want someone to win, I don’t care if it’s John Smoltz throwing lefthanded, I want John Smoltz on the mound. Boston got a great pitcher, a guy who when the postseason comes, you can rely on him to go out there and give you a great performance. I think they got a great pitcher in Smoltzy.’’

That is easy to quantify. In 20 major league seasons, Smoltz has gone 206-141 as a starter, with a 3.33 ERA. As a reliever, Smoltz rang up 154 saves, with a 2.41 ERA. He is the only pitcher with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. But that is hardly the extent of Smoltz’s greatness. Try his postseason numbers: 15-4 with a 2.65 ERA.

Those numbers are exactly why Smoltz is wearing a Boston uniform. Because, as McCann said, “You see Josh Beckett, he’s one of the best postseason pitchers coming up and Smoltzy is the best postseason pitcher, so you put those two together on a staff and they’ve got [Jon] Lester. This team is going to be tough to beat in the playoffs.’’

Smoltz is used to coming back from injury, having reinvented himself before. McCann has seen it. Bobby Cox, who managed Smoltz for all but two of his seasons in Atlanta, has watched the pitcher do everything possible. And sometimes, the impossible.

“He can invent pitches and arm angles when he had to, when his arm was sore and all that,’’ Cox said. “He would drop down, throw side arm, throw knuckleballs, and still win. The genius comes in, figuring things out. That’s what it’s all about, adjusting as hitters, adjusting as pitchers, and figure out a way to get people out.

“I’m not just making this up. It’s all true.’’

Cox has no doubt Smoltz will help the Sox, calling their pitching staff “dynamite.’’ Between his pitches and his presence, Cox predicted Smoltz would have a major impact.

“No. 1, he’s got talent,’’ Cox said. “No. 2, he’s smart as heck. No. 3, he’s a great competitor. Add them all up, you’ve got Josh Beckett and John Smoltz.’’

-- snip --

“He’s done it many times,’’ Cox said. “Never count him out, ever. Ever.’’
Gotta love that last "Ever" that Bobby Cox threw in there.

- I'm pleased to see that Jason Kubel is starting to get more well deserved publicity.  A few weeks ago, we called him a lunch pail masher.  Today, Kelsie Smith calls him Mr. Versatile.  I guess that's good, too.

- An, incredible story is developing for Khalil Greene.  He hasn't been good in over a year.  He went away because of an anxiety disorder.  He's coming back now, as a third baseman.  And, he hit a home run in his first three games back.  Is this a mirage?  Is he going to pop 20 home runs the rest of the season?  Should fantasy owners take a look at him in that Michael Young, er Jhonny Peralta mode of SS/3b guys with some pop?

- Our final note is dedicated to the guy we drafted with the last pick in our draft this season.  Dave Cameron, over at Fangraphs, is giving an A+ to David Aardsma.  My only qualm with his post is at the very end...
I’m not saying Aardsma is going to continue to post a 1.62 ERA all season. With as many fly balls as he gives up, he’s going to surrender a few more home runs along the way. But Aardsma’s a quality relief pitcher, and we shouldn’t be that surprised that he’s performing well for the Mariners. He did this last year too, but no one noticed.
C'mon Dave, what do you mean no-one?  We noticed!

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