Friday, July 31, 2009

Canseco's Claim

So, Jose Canseco has made another "outrageous" statement that will unfortunately probably wind up being true. From ESPN...

"And I'll tell you this, Major League Baseball is going to have a big, big problem on their hands when they find out they have a Hall of Famer who's used."

When asked to name who that Hall of Fame player is, Canseco refused to divulge who he believes it is.
It'll probably be someone who played at the same time as Canseco, or shortly before or after. Let's eliminate Ryne Sandberg, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, George Brett, and Robin Yount for a variety of reasons.

Hopefully, this will get our comments section a blazin'... the suspects...

Reggie Jackson
Kirby Puckett
Dave Winfield
Gary Carter
Eddie Murray
Dennis Eckersley
Paul Molitor
Wade Boggs
Bruce Sutter
Goose Gossage
Rickey Henderson

I'd say it was Eck or Boggs. I hope it wasn't Rickey, but he was playing at a very advanced age.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Future Stars & Busts

This will be brief. Late last night, I was watching the Blue Jays/Mariners game and rooting for Marc Rzepczynski, who was starting for our fantasy team last night. A few thoughts came to mind that I needed to share with our brilliant readers...

1.) Rzepczynski looks like a very quality prospect. He may not be a fireballer who looks like the next big thing, but he does look like he can battle and throw strikes. He is the perfect example for why the Blue Jays should trade Halladay. They have more than five young starters who can compete in the Major Leagues. If they can get some hitters and more power arms in exchange for Halladay, how could they not be better?

2.) Scott Rolen looks like he doesn't care about anything except not getting hurt. In the second inning, he dropped a throw at third, when there was a chance to get an out with a good tag. An inning later, he executed a perfect Bill Dorn trot towards the ball only to see the Raul Chavez and the ball tumble to the ground a few feet in front of him.

3.) Please don't get me started on Alex Rios.* With runners on the corners and one out in the sixth, Rios decided to play a fly ball off the wall. The infuriating part of this, besides Rios' salary and attitude, is that the ball landed on the warning track before hitting the wall. In other words, he could have caught it.

*For a couple of years, I've been thinking about the dynamics of the Alex Rios/Vernon Wells era in Toronto. Vernon Wells for a while looked like one of the best young players in baseball. Toronto's GM used to have quotes in the paper about how he would get trade offers for Wells on a daily basis. Alex Rios is another five tool outfielder, playing for Toronto as a supposed younger and more polished version of Wells. They both had immense potential and trade value**, and the Blue Jays showed a lot of loyalty to the fans by giving them both big contract extensions. Now, they've become tremendous disappointments with albatross contracts. Really, Vernon Wells' deal is a franchise killer.

**Remember when the rumor was that the Giants were going to trade Tim Lincecum for Alex Rios? Could you imagine if that had gone through? I've been thinking about giving these guys their own post for a couple of months, but I'm worried about keeping it below 10,000 words.

What am I doing right now? Watching Mat Latos and Chris Tillman pitch against the Reds and Royals, respectively. I can't believe that my fantasy team is competing with this rotation...

Felix Hernandez
Tommy Hanson
John Smoltz
David Price
Rick Porcello
Mat Latos
Chris Tillman

The good news from last night is that Jank the Tank dropped Daniel Bard, and we dropped Marc Repczynski to get him back!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mark? This is Theo...

My written response to this rumor is a bit late, as I first heard it on Sunday... from the very end of Nick Cafardo's lengthy Sunday column...
At this time of year, one takes trade information with a grain of salt, but according to one NL scout, after the Indians turned down Buchholz for Victor Martinez, the Sox countered with a package of Masterson, Michael Bowden, and an outfield prospect. The Indians turned it down.
After waiting a couple of days, I'm just as appalled as I was initially. I cannot imagine passing on an offer of one player (even one as great as Martinez) for two promising young arms like Justin Masterson and Michale Bowden.

From the little that I've seen, these two pitchers have ground ball and strikeout tendencies that lead to long, successful careers. Perhaps neither of them will be on All Star teams, but they would both be valuable, dependable parts of the Indians rotation for years. Normally you don't want to trade stars for depth because of how rare stars are, but pitching is also the name of the game. I think if you can snag two successful, young starters for a hitter who will be a free agent after next season you pretty much have to go for it.

In fact, my reaction to this rumor makes me feel that the Red Sox never extended such an offer. I really cannot believe that Mark Shapiro would reject such an offer from Theo Epstein.

Please understand, I am a huge fan of Victor Martinez. He was on my roto team for the first few years of his career. The biggest Indians fan is a friend of a friend, named Tractor. He got me excited about Martinez during his rookie year by telling my friend, Weino, something to like: "He's been a batting champion at every level of the minor leagues."

Unlike most people, I love hyperbole when it comes to scouting prospects. I remember hearing about the Andrew Miller's exploding slider, Mike Pelfrey's heavy fastball, and of course I'm a sucker for the poise of Rick Porcello. There is something about how exaggerated people can get when touting prospects that just seems like fun to me. Have you seen a minor leaguer or amateur player succeed on a field? Why not envision that the player can transfer those skills at the major league level, to even greater success? Heck, I remember seeing Alex Ochoa in A ball, for the Kane County Cougars, and his outfield arm was probably showcased as a hybrid of Roberto Clemente and Andre Dawson.

Anyway, my point is that this was not hyperbole. Tractor wasn't saying that Martinez was a switch-hitting Johnny Bench, or that he had the balanced swing of Mike Piazza, or that he was the Venezuelan Carlton Fisk. Tractor made a factual claim that sounded a bit exaggerated, yet somewhat believable. Sure, I didn't think he won a batting title at every level, but he must've been a top hitter. By consulting the Baseball Cube, we can that Victor Martinez's Batting Averages in the minors included numbers like this...

2001, High-A, 420 AB's, .329
2002, Double-A, 443 AB's, .336
2003, Triple-A, 274 AB's, .328

His career slash numbers are...

Minor Leagues: .319/.392/.488
Major Leagues: .297/.369/.463

Both of those lines are impressive for any hitter. For a catcher, they are to be treasured and protected. So, I can see the Indians do whatever they can to keep this guy away from the winning organizations that are trying to pry him out of Cleveland. They need to sign him to an extension, and keep him as a cornerstone of their franchise. If they decide to finally trade him while the can, in the next 13 months, I would be very surprised if they get an offer better than Masterson, Bowden, and an outfield prospect.

I guess that's why they play the games, errr I mean follow the rumors?

A few more notes before signing off...

- It was upsetting to see Roy Oswalt take himself out of tonight's game in the second inning. We are hoping for a good diagnosis and quick recovery from whatever was bothering him.

- According to the Astros' TV announcers, tonight is the eighteenth consecutive Cubs game that Koyie Hill has started at catcher. Are they thinking he can start every game until Soto comes back? I don't think he's due back for another two weeks, at least.

- John Danks, of the White Sox, had a great quote in today's Sun Times: ''It would be kind of cool if we got Halladay and to have him here, that would be special,'' Floyd said Monday, ''but if it was for me that would kind of suck.''

- Astros' relief pitcher, Jeff Fulchino, just lost a Kosuke Fukudome ground ball in his jersey.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday's Notepad

Below are a few random thoughts from having free MLB Extra Innings on this Friday afternoon... Starting Pitchers for today's two matinees... Jose Contreras, White Sox @ Justin Verlander, Detroit... and... Aaron Harang, Cincinnati @ Randy Wells, Cubs.

Tigers' pitching staff, lead by Justin Verlander, should have a strong day against a presumably hung over White Sox team.

Normally, that would be enough for me to expect the Tigers to probably sweep, and at least split today's twin bill. But, with bullpens being so vital to winning double headers, at least the White Sox have everyone fresh. Detroit used Ryan Perry for 2 2/3 perfect innings and international Taiwanese sensation Fu Te-Ni for a perfect 9th.

Reds @ Cubs starts at 1:20 Central Time.

The Reds lineup looks weak; only Joey Votto looks like a tough out.

Edwin Encarnacion is a shadow of his former self, returning from a debilitating wrist injury.

Dusty Bakers designated base clogger is the #7 hitter, Ryan Hanigan. He looks like the second toughest out the lineup, mostly because Brandon Phillips is so walk averse.

Justin Verlander hasn't been perfect, but he's throwing an easy 98 over the black, from the stretch, in the 2nd inning of the early game in the White Sox/Tigers doubleheader.

I wonder is Jose Contreras and Livan Hernandez get along. They're both famous Cuban refugee pitchers who invent pitches, refine grips, and vary arm angles/release points regularly. I'm not looking it up, but I suspect they both spend their offseasons in Miami.

Maybe they all go to El Duque's house on NFL Sunday's to watch DirecTV. That would be great, but I have no idea. Maybe they have an unhealthy rivalry, filled with jealousy and spite. I like to think that they get along.

Adam Everett just scored the first run of the game on a Sac fly. I love when guys who "can't hit" produce offensively. I always get the feeling that the manager and GM are thinking to themselves, "Cha-ching!" because when someone like Adam Everett helps on offense, it helps turn the lineup over so much more efficiently. This is not meant to be a knock on Adam Everett in any way. We here feel very strongly that Adam Everett is a guy who's defense is so spectacular that it alone warrants him being an everyday shortstop in the Major Leagues.

In the Top of the 4th, Miguel Cabrera just showed why he's considered and elite hitter, but not one of the very best players in the games. He's camped defensively at first base, when AJ Pierzynski's ground ball sends him diving to his right. Cabrera smothers the ball but throws the ball behind Verlander, who's covering first. Detroit may be leading 1-0, but this looks like an opening that Ozzie Guillen teams traditionally capitalize on.

Hasn't the Cubs' game started, yet? Jeeze.

Walt Jocketty on the Reds' pregame, "I'm not gonna trade the future for a guy we're gonna have for two months." He's right. It doesn't make sense for the Reds to do that, but it's because they're out of it. The way he says it just sounds like sour grapes from the Cardinals' Matt Holliday trade.

Jocketty is also saying that he's hoping to get something done before the deadline. He sounds like he's still acting as a buyer. He's riding the fence, saying that they'll do anything that will help his team this season and in the future. Whatever. (Bias alert!) You're still the old Cardinals' GM, Jocketty, so you're not very well liked over here.

Over the Cubs last six games, all on the road, Alfonso Soriano hit .417 with 2 HR's, 4 Runs, and 6 RBI. I think he's getting hot. There have been reports of his demise, and perhaps they've been greatly exagerrated. We'll see. He could go back in the tank with this homestand. With an injured Aramis Ramirez trying his best, but falling short of past skill levels, Cubs fans must hope Soriano can carry them for a couple of weeks, like he used to.

It looks like the wind is blowing out at Wrigley. Maybe Jonny Gomes will make a big impact as a last-minute addition to the lineup.

Randy Wells starts the game by striking Chris Dickerson out looking on a pitch that looked low and outside. The Umpire Effect can have a big effect on this game, if that strike zone continues.

After consecutive singles by Wily Taveras and Votto put runners on the corners, Brandon Phillips grounds into an inning-ending double play! I like to root against him because of the crazy things he's said about On-Base Percentage. Here's a must-read, courtesy of Mr. Joe Posnanski.

Aramis drove a pitch low and away all the way to the right-center field wall. He's alrady said that his dislocated left shoulder, which I can relate to, is about 80-85%, and he won't be back to 100% until next season. This showing of power reminds me that so much of hitting is based on the swing. Even if Aramis can't drive the ball with the same bat speed as before, he still is just a great hitter, with an outstanding swing.

We've just experienced a little gap in analysis, as I got a little busy with some actual work. Regardless, it looks like I missed a 3-run homerun by Aaron Harang. Thank goodness I missed it; those are very upsetting.

In the American League game, Adam Everett just drove in his 28th RBI of the season. Contreras is still battling, with Octavio Dotel warming up, and a 3-1 deficit in the 7th inning. Life long inspiration, Steve Stone, called the pitch that Everett hit a cutter away that got up.

Sorry, more work...

The Cubs tied it up to make it 3 to 3. Fukudome and Aramis stand out with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI's, respectively.

Okay, that was some more work.......

... and I missed the end of the White Sox game. Who cares? They stink.

Back to the friendly confines......

Aaron Heilman's appearance inspires absolutely no confidence. He has some of the worst body language I can ever remember. I don't even mean when he's pitching and has runners on base. I mean, right now, he's warming up in the bullpen and it looks like he'd rather be anywhere else.

The Reds broadcast just showed an old clip of Kent Mercker celebrating his no-hitter with Atlanta. They weren't showing it as a parallel to Mark Beurhle's perfect game, but rather because they were discussing mullets. The color man even said, "business in the front, party in the back."

Wow, leading off the bottom of the 6th, Aramis Ramirez just drove a ball into the left field bleachers in a hurry. It was a breaking ball low in the zone. Replay shows Aramis drop the head of the bat, sending a screamer over Jonny Gomes's head.

Following Aramis's heroics, making it 4-3 cubs, it's nice to see Milton Bradley hit a basehit up the middle. He really needs to get it going, as our patience is running thin with him.

The work responsibilities are tugging at my sleeve, so I'm going to have to post this already... Otherwise, this post may never see the light of day. Enjoy the games tonight and this weekend!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Halladay to Mets?

Peter Abraham is a writer whom I've come to respect a bit recently, since he criticized the Yankees' handling of Alex Rodriguez about a month ago.

On June 20th, he wrote about how the Yankees hadn't rested Alex as often as the doctors had suggested because Alex kept saying he wanted to play. Abraham's take back then:

All of a sudden a third baseman with a high school education knew better than the two best doctors in their respective fields?
I loved that line. It's like, yeah, let's give Alex and the Yankees the benefit of the doubt then look at just how silly it sounds when you read it outloud.

Yesterday, Peter Abraham wrote a post on his LoHud's Yankees blog. He seems to think that Roy Halladay would not accept a trade to the Mets.

His first point:

Why would Halladay waive his no-trade clause to go to the Mets? He has been telling anybody who will listen for a week now that if he leaves Toronto, he wants to go someplace where he can win. That ain’t Queens. The Mets have an injury-riddled, top-heavy roster, no prospects, an inefficient GM and a manager better suited for open-mic night at The Improv. Gosh, what’s not for Roy to love? I’m sure Johan Santana would give his New York experience high marks.

I agree with everything he writes in this post, EXCEPT that Queens is not somewhere to go to win. Sure, the Mets aren't going anywhere this season, unless they pull off a miracle like trading for Tony Danza & the Angels in the Outfield.

When comparing Queens to Toronto, however, things start to look different. (This is true in a baseball sense as well as just about any other sense.) The Mets have a chance to retool and even be favorites to win the NL East, if their offseason improves the squad to a level above Philly, Atlanta, and Florida - which is feasible.

Toronto has no such opportunity. Sure, they can have an '08 Rays type of surprise season, but I frankly think their best chance for that is if they can get a booty's ransom as reward for a Doc Halladay trade.

Their stable of young starting pitchers should be able to give them a solid rotation for years to come. They need a trade to help them solidify the power of the lineup and defense around the field, ala Tampa Bay two winters ago.

The main point is that Mets' fans should get too excited about a Santana/Halladay 1/2 punch because it's just not happening. I still think he ends up staying in Toronto or going to Milwaukee. Besides, as Peter Abraham mentioned in the latter part of his post, neither of us think the Mets have enough prospects to get Halladay.

Still, I think it's more than a possibility that Halladay would prefer the Mets to the Blue Jays right now. Afterall, if he doesn't enjoy his experience with the team that acquires him, he can exercise the Javy Vazquez Rule & demand a trade after the World Series.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Clearing the Notebook

I'm using this Sunday evening explore the evolving trade market & examine the untapped potential of young players like Mat Latos, Brett Wallace, and even Andy Marte... who's fighting to avoid being the Gary Scott of this decade.

In today's Seattle Times, Larry Stone provides his take on who are the "buyers", "sellers", "standing pat", and "could go either way".  His buyers are the following thirteen teams: Angels, Astros, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, and Yankees.  Stone's sellers include these nine teams: A's, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Indians, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, and Royals.  Standing pat, he has just the Cubs and Rays, and his could go either way group are six teams: Braves, Mariners, Marlins, Rangers, Reds, Rockies.

I don't disagree with much, except that I think the Mets will be sellers.  Larry seems to think that because the Mets won't raise the white flag because "the competitiveness of the New York market, couples with an expensive new stadium, almost dictates that they buy."  If that is true, the Mets are even dumber than many Met fans already think they are.

Sorry, Met fans, but this season is without hope.  In our last post, we said they still had a prayer, but they've come out of the break flat... losing the first two games.

Pitching Tim Redding tonight is the last straw.  This past week, we heard he may be released.

Well, what's taking so long?  The only ways Tim Redding could be at a postseason game is if he (a) buys a ticket, or (b) gets a job as a sportscaster.  He may have a future in TV or radio, with quotes like we saw in this David Lennon column: "I'm not an idiot," Redding said.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Milwaukee Brewers acted as aggressive buyers today.  They traded minor leaguers Cole Gillespie and Roque Mercedes to Arizona for Felipe Lopez.  This seems like a logical move, provided that they didn't give up too much.  Lopez is a good second baseman and leadoff hitter.  He will replace Craig Counsell, who was replacing Rickie Weeks.  This is not good news for the Cubs, who will be battling the Brewers and Cardinals, at least, the rest of the way.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Roy Halladay is the grandest prize of all.  I've been meaning to write about him for a couple of weeks now.  It was more fun to discuss the potential suitors a few weeks ago, when the trade rumor was new.  For now, it looks like he will probably end the season with Toronto, and most people think the favorites to get him in a trade is Philadelphia.

I have a different take.  I think the likeliest trade partner is Milwaukee, who could include Alcides Escobar as the centerpiece of a deal.  Bob Melvin, GM of the Brewers, has said that he won't trade Mat Gamel or Escobar, but I think he's posturing on the shortstop prospect.

To give each possibility a percentage, in my own unscientific way, it'd look like this...

Toronto: 51%
Brewers: 20%
Phillies: 10%
White Sox: 10%
Rangers: 5%
Cardinals: 3%
Elsewhere: 1%

One overlooked facet of this opportunity is what I'm calling the Javy Vazquez rule.  As Todd Zolecki, brought to my attention a few days ago, players who signed multi year deals before October 2006 may demand a trade in the offseason after being traded.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Today, we saw the Major League debut of San Diego's Mat Latos.  He lasted on 4 innings and 75 pitches, but 51 of those pitches were strikes, and he only gave up two runs.  Latos struck out four and walked one.  Because of innings limits to protect his arm, I think he has a chance to start around ten more games this season.  He may only win a few of those games, but he should provide excellent peripherals and strikeouts for the Padres.

I'm not a big fan of all those tattoos, though.  He looks like a bit of a freak.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

By now, you've probably heard that Julio Lugo was Designated for Assignment by the Boston Red Sox.  Lugo stinks, but since most middle infielders in the major leagues cannot hit, his .352 OBP will get him another opportunity.  He's recently been linked to the Mets, which is another reason why their competitiveness this season is likely over.

I have to include this quote because it is a bit jarring, when considering the source.  Steve Buckley, of the Boston Herald, spoke with Lugo after the DFA news came out.  Lugo said,  "When you see a good looking girl, you get married and sometimes things don't work out."

I think that was an odd way of describing his feelings, since on April 30, 2005, Julio Lugo put his wife, Mabel, in the hospital after allegedly hitting her in the face and slamming her head into a car hood.

Needless to say, Lugo is not a blog favorite, like the three young hurlers we're bringing up...

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Derek Holland, Daniel Bard, and Aaron Poreda.  These three guys have some of the more electric and unknown arms in the American League.  I've already had an entire post on Daniel Bard, but I would like to say that I was terribly disappointed to see Jank the Tank picked him up in my roto league last night.  I've had him on my team for a few stints this year, but since he doesn't start or close, he hasn't been essential.  Now that he's on someone else's team, I can't wait to get him back.  I guess I only want what I can't have.

Derek Holland is starting for the Texas Rangers, and my team tonight.  It's extremely rare that I start anyone who is pitching at Texas, but I thought it would be fun to roll the dice.  He is a tall lefty who brings throws hard, with movement.  How could he not improve on his home numbers?  As I type this, the Rangers are leading 1-0 in the bottom of the first, as Ian Kinsler belted his 21st home run of the season to leadoff the game.

Aaron Poreda is another left-handed stud who pitches in a hitter's park.  He's on the White Sox, and I think he has a chance to be a front of the rotation presence.  Ozzie currently has him in the bullpen, which makes me want him as a "poor man's" Daniel Bard.  I'm still not over the fact that Daniel Bard got picked up.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

It's clear to me now that Dayton Moore is trying to get fired.  The trade for YunieskyBetancourt made me think he wanted to get fired, but this is now unmistakable.

I'm sure I made a face, when I saw Bard was claimed.  Another face that I couldn't conceal was when I saw that Sidney Ponson is getting another chance to start for the Royals tomorrow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I'll conclude this long, pointless ramble with a discussion on two 3rd basemen fantasy players should keep in mind if they need help at the hot corner.  One player is trying to save his career, while the other is hoping for a chance to get his started: Andy Marte and Brett Wallace.

I likened Marte to Gary Scott in the introduction.  Sorry for the lame Cubs' reference, but that's what I think of when a prospect third baseman is supposed to be good, and his performance is atrocious.  Gary Scott was drafted in the 2nd round, by the Cubs, to be the first really good third baseman since Ron Santo.

Marte was a super prospect in Atlanta's system.  They traded him straight up for Edgar Renteria, and Boston flipped him in a multiplayer deal for Coco Crisp and others.

This Cleveland Plain Dealer report, by Paul Hoynes, says the Indians' manager, Eric Wedge, is warming up to the idea of calling up Marte and giving him one more shot.  He is out of options, so if he comes up and doesn't perform, they can't just ship him back to AAA; they'd probably lose him to waivers.  His AAA numbers are good this season.  Hoynes writes that he's hitting .321, with 21 doubles, 13 homers, and 54 RBI, in 73 games.

Brett Wallace is a big time prospect in the Cardinals system.  They have not had the greatest of success with their third basemen this season, as Jimmy Hascup reports in this recent rotoprofessor column.

With Colby Rasmus finally shining in St. Luis, Wallace is now considered their #1 prospect.  He has shown the ability to hit pretty well with decent power, projecting to maybe 20+ HR's in the big leagues.  His biggest red flag is his strikeout rate, which has been too high in the minors.  In fact, his strikeout rate is probably the reason he's not playing for Tony LaRussa right now.  If he can improve his contact rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get the job at 3rd base this season and have the Cards move Mark DeRosa to another spot on the field.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If you made it this far, I applaud you, loyal reader.  Please feel free to add thoughts in the comment section.  As the radio host said in My Blue Heaven, "Fans, what are we gonna do about Wally Bunting?"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Live from New York

This post was spawned from notes taken on my incredibly nerdy legal pad, while I sat in the 500 level of CitiField, directly behind (and above) home plate.

In my opinion, it does not appear that CitiField has very much foul territory. When average fans think about what is a hitter's park and what is a pitcher's park, too often they only consider the outfield dimensions and wall heights. Over the course of an entire season, there are a lot of outs to be had that fall in the first few rows of ballparks where they try to get fans closer to the action. I'm sure there is a website somewhere that measures the dimensions of every ballpark to see if my perception is correct, but my Internet connection at the Bean & Bean isn't the greatest.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Mets' lineup is dreadful. It's even worse after trading for one of the worst everyday players in baseball, I went to the game last Thursday, July 9, 1 day B.F. (Before Francoeur).
More on this later.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Nick Evans is horrible in left field.
More on this in a second.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Casey Blake could be the player who inspires the most apathy of anyone in Major League Baseball. At least in this contest, he was batting 4th, directly behind the game's biggest circus act: Manny Ramirez. For every at bat, in every stadium, Man Ram gets a loud collection of applause, cheers, boos, whistles, and heckles. The crowd gets so worked up for Manny's at bats that when Casey Blake approaches the batters box, you hear silence. I think even the beer guys & hot dog vendors get quite from the almost tangible let down. Casey Blake is an okay player; he's batting cleanup for the best team in the National League. He just does not foster any sort of reaction after the spectacle that is Mannywood.

Manny's presence was certainly felt in Queens. The scoreboard showed his Batting Average this season with runners in scoring position is over .500. He walked up to the plate four times, knocked in runs the first two times, and was walked the next two times. Every time, people were sitting on the edge of their seats. The times he did hit the ball, it was evident that he hit it squarely. I haven't seen Miguel Cabrera hit in person in some time, but after this performance, I would probably rate baseball's best hitters as: (1) Pujols (2) Manny (3) Miggy Cab.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the Top of the 1st inning, Livan Hernandez struck out Russell Martin on some JUNK. The third strike could not have been over 70 mph.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Nick Evans is really, really not good in the outfield. He looks lost out there and has made obvious mistakes, with late breaks on hit balls, and poor routes to fly balls in his area. He misplayed Orlando Hudsun's double in the first inning, though it did lead to a crazy third out of the inning, when Hudson got caught in a rundown, trying to make it a triple. I (again very nerdily) scored it in my scorecard as 7-6-2-5-4, but I have not confirmed that anywhere.

It's a small sample size, as you can tell by "just" six RBI, but the scoreboard gave us a glimpse as to why Evans is allowed to butcher left field. With RISP this season, Evans is/was hitting .417 with 1 HR and 6 RBI.

Personally, I was bummed that Evans was in left field, while Gary Sheffield was in right. I was planning this big blog research project if Sheffield and Manny were to share the same defensive position in the game. I guess I can still do it, since they both played left field the night before, on June 8th. I want to see if this is the most career home runs that one defensive position has ever shared in the same game. Since Sheffield has 509, and Manny hit his 535th in the game, that would be 1,044 HR's shared by one position. I invite any reader to beat me to it and supply the answer in our comments section. Is this the most career homeruns ever shared by one position?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Here are some remarkable Career vs Opponent stats, courtesy of the CitiField scoreboard.

Gary Sheffield, career vs LA Dodgers: .360 Avg, .640 SLG
Ryan Church, career vs LA Dodgers: .341 Avg, .419 OBP*

*the scoreboard failed to mention
his 1 missed base costing his team a win back in May.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

As The Dude would say, with hindsight being 20/20 and all that, it could appear that Ryan Church's last at bat as a Met was the last straw for Omar Minaya. He grounded into a 4-6-3 double play in the 8th inning of a painfully one-sided game.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Watching Livan Hernandez do what he does is still a spectacle. Livan has a legendarily rubber arm that can take abuse and throw pitches and innings start after start, year after year. What I love about him, besides the backstory of how he got away from the Cuban National team, is that he doesn't look like someone who takes great care of his body or even uses his legs very effectively while pitching. My scouting eye is not as keen as it has been in the past, but while he was warming up for the 4th inning, he looked almost comical as he stretched out with six or seven arm windmills before chucking warmup 79 mph tosses, using what looked like "all arm".

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

By the Top of the 4th, it was clear that the Mets outfield defense is embarrassing when they have Sheffield and Nick Evans playing at the same time. In this inning, Sheffield badly misplayed a ball from Rafael Furcal.

I'm quickly losing any confidence in the Mets' postseason chances. Unless they win about fifteen of their next twenty, or play over .600 baseball the rest of the way, they will probably miss the playoffs. One New York columnist, this week, noted that the Mets need to play .640 ball the rest of the way to reach 90 wins. That seams very unlikely, but there is some hope that 87 wins may win the wild card. Regardless, I need to see the Mets get out of the gate quickly after the break, or their season will be over.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Walking through the concourse around the 6th inning, I could hear Keith Hernandez on the tv broadcast. He said something to the effect of: "
You can't walk too many guys, especially in this ballpark."

I like Keith Hernandez. He was great in the '86 season and playoffs. He won gold gloves and hitting titles. And, he was quite charming while macking on Elaine in
Seinfeld.

That being said, I think he missed the point here. Citi Field is a pitcher's park. Granted, you don't want to walk too many guys anywhere. But, the point should be made that you especially don't want to walk guys in hitter's parks, where there is a greater HR/AB ratio.

I realize it's a harmless comment, but I had to bring it up because it was the exact opposite of correct.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

General thoughts on the ballpark include the fact that the ballpark is pretty nice. Of course, it is an incomparable improvement over the landfill that was Shea Stadium. What I didn't really understand is why the Mets wouldn't decide to move further away from the airport. It seemed like there were multiple planes making their presence felt in every half inning.

I always love the way new ballparks allow you to stay close to the action with the open concourse. Older monuments, like Wrigley and Fenway, have their concourses underneath the stands. The way Citi Field's concourse is open reminded me a lot of New Comiskey and Turner Field. The stadium is much nicer than New Comiskey, at least.

There are a few places to stand in the sunshine and not really watch the game, but it's nice to be able to stand in the sun during batting practice, or when the game is not interesting.

I was mortified at the sight of people playing baseball video games at the 2K Sports stand behind the scoreboard, during the game. Sure, this is me being a young curmudgeon, but I'm telling you, no kid of mine is ever going to play a video game, while there's live action on the field. If he or she does, I will have to seriously reconsider everything.

I started leaving the game, but took another stroll around the stands, in the eighth inning, after Jerry Manuel called on the unwatchable Tim Redding. I thought this guy was in the rotation. He pitched 2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and a walk.

Lastly, the Shake Shack and Blue Smoke BBQ looked really good, but there's no way I'm waiting in those lines. They had partitioned ropes up for the lines, like at airport security. Hundreds of people snaked around these ropes in line for each establishment. In fact, about ten minutes before the first pitch, the lines were completely full and at the opening of the ropes to get in line were globs of people forcing their way in line, like refugees from a war.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In conclusion, it is more than possible that I've been spoiled by having the friendly confines of Wrigley Field as my home ballpark, and I should be more excited about what the Mets have been able to build.

Overall though, I think ballparks are heading in the wrong direction. New Comiskey started the "Ball Mall" phenomenon with activities for kids to do, besides watch baseball. A year later, Camden Yards showed everyone how great it is to make stadiums revert back to old time architecture and quirks. Then, parks like the Ballpark at Arlington and Jacobs Field followed suit with beautiful retro stadiums.

Lately however, teams are electing fore more bells and whistles, bigger Jumbotrons in the outfield, restaurants, museums, playgrounds, video game kiosks, and everything else that makes me cringe - and produces those magic words: "added revenue stream". Give me a ballpark with sunshine, green grass, peanuts, and an organ supplying the audio entertainment, and I'll be more than happy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

All-Star Eve

In advance, please know that this in no way encapsulates all of my thoughts over the past week around baseball. I'll have another post soon clearing the notebook, which will include highlights from my first trip to CitiField and thoughts on the Roy Halladay trade rumors.

The Sunday before the All-Star game has been interesting to me when I first noticed how the break can influence managerial strategies. It's fun, as a fan, to see the unusual, the improbable, to see truly inspired moves by good managers. Of course, the drama of postseason play trumps any of this mid-July nonsense, but I still feel like there is an intriguing choice for the manager to balance two potential philosophies.

We've seen managers use Sunday's game as a chance to rest some players and add a day to the planned break. It's boring to not see your favorite stars, but ever since Lou Gehrig Wally Pipped, well, Wally Pipp*, baseball has allowed understudies chances to shine. I'm not trying to wax poetic about watching scrubs. It's not fun to see Neifi Perez play instead of your team's fan favorite infielder, who's not even wearing a cup or cleats because he knows he's got the day off.

*Did you know that Wally Pipp didn't necessarily famously miss Gehrig's first game, and lose his regular job, because of a headache? I don't know much about this snopes.com website, other than it refuted the recent claim that Tommy Hilfiger is racist.

Anyway, in this article, snopes shows there is confusion to the accurate story and the circumstances that opened the door for the Iron Horse to begin his unparalleled career.

Back to the discussion on the philosophies for the last game before the All-Star Break. My favorite is when a manager adapts an all out "Game 7" philosophy to winning this game with Starting Pitchers in the bullpen and everything. A couple of weeks ago, Jered Weaver got a win for the Angels by pitching in relief of an extra inning game. I love that stuff.

Were there any highlights of this happening yesterday? I honestly don't know. I'm still stuck without a cable or Internet in my apartment. In retrospect, this post would have been way better as an anticipation piece on Sunday morning. Well, you live and learn.

What I saw from last night's Cubs' game was exciting and memorable. From Jake Fox catching to Sean Marshall playing left field, fans won't soon forget that game. More on this later. It deserves it's own post, and I gotta run.

For those of you who will be watching, enjoy the Futures Game. I haven't looked at the rosters, but I heard Keith Law wrote an excellent piece showcasing who's who in the game. I think that Neftali Feliz should be on the team. If you're watching, and he pitches, pay attention to the command and movement on his pitches, while seeing if he looks like he is repeating a nice, clean delivery. The sky is the limit for this kid, and a sneak peak is always fun.

Oh yeah, and Justin Smoak can really hit, too. The Rangers are going to be really good.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Delayed Reaction

Sorry again for the delay between posts. We just moved to a new apartment in Manhattan and do not have Internet, TV, phone, or any of those domestic communication devises.

In the week, since our last post, we've admittedly been out of the loop a bit.

A few notes to keep our minds limber...

Everth Cabrera sure seems like he's for real. The guy has been getting stolen bases and RBI's at a relatively healthy clip. I'm not 100% sold on him being a "must have" guy in every league, but he sure warrants a look if he's on your free agent wire.

Keeping the theme of middle infielders going, Howie Kendrick was recalled a few days ago by the Angels. We expect him to get every opportunity to reclaim his second baseman job. He went 0 for 4 last night, but if he gets it together, we could see him produce a .315 batting average with a healthy number of Runs, RBI's, and 5 to 10 HR's and stolen bases.

Randy Wells keeps pitching like a front of the rotation starter. The guy started his career with very low expectations and some tough luck as quality start after quality start resulted in undeserved no-decisions. His luck has changed and he's been getting wins recently.

With yesterday's news that Ryan Dempster is going on the DL, there is added job security that Randy Wells will get the ball every fifth day for the Cubs.

There is obviously a lot of trade chatter, with the deadline about three weeks away. I'm thinking about writing a post of less discussed names that may be acquirable.

We've all heard about guys like Aubrey Huff, Nick Johnson, and Mark Teahan, who are available. But, I think I want to write a post about other guys who may be out there that can really help contenders. Guys like Alexis Rios and the better-than-ever Russell Branyan.

I hope to get a computer hooked up to the Internet soon. In the meantime, I'll try to come up with some quick hit posts like this as often as possible. Enjoy your Wednesdays, and Go Cubs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Inaugural Power Rankings

In lieu of the traditional format of our 1st of the month look at MLB predictions, we will take an at-a-glance look at each team with our first annual July 1 power rankings.

We will count them down...  There are 30 teams, right?  So, number 30....

#30 Washington Nationals
I was high on the Nats during Spring Training.  The main culprits who have disappointed me are Elijah Dukes and the recently traded Lastings Milledge.

Facebook friend, Bill Chuck, has a running piece on his blog comparing the 2009 Nationals with the 1962 New York Mets, who famously lost 120 games.

I still like the Nationals.  Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam Dunn are very tough outs and an impressive 3-4-5 for any lineup.  Apparently, it takes much more than a solid 3-4-5 to win games.  Did you know that Ryan Zimmerman ranks 7th among all National League hitters in Wins Above Replacement?  Me neither.

They traded Milledge (and Joel Hanrahan) for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett.  Morgan is the best defensive player in all of Major League Baseball this season, according to Fielding Runs Above Average based on UZR.

#29 Cleveland Indians
The Nationals are all alone at the very bottom of the power rankings.  Cleveland, on the other hand, is the first in a motley of muddled teams that will eventually admit and become "sellers" in the market.  The Indians were placed here because of their abysmal wining % (.392), but more importantly for being the first obvious "seller" of the young season.

Over the weekend, they traded Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals for Chris Perez and an allegedly valuable player to be named later.

Perez (pictured) made, possibly, the worst first impression on the Indians in my lifetime.  You should read the linked article for the amazing details, but basically Perez's debut included two hit batsmen, a walk, failure to cover first base on a critical play, two RBI hits, and a run-scoring wild pitch.

From Paul Hoynes's memorable piece...

Perez, who joined the team Monday from St. Louis in exchange for Mark DeRosa, took the mound in the ninth with the Indians trailing, 2-0. In rapid fashion, he hit Alexei Ramirez in the head, Jermaine Dye in the hand and walked Jim Thome to load the bases.

Paul Konerko popped out to second, and A.J. Pierzynski sent a grounder between first and second that Ryan Garko stopped with a dive. Garko, from his knees, threw to second to force Thome, but Perez was late getting off the mound, and shortstop Luis Valbuena had to hold the ball at second because first base was uncovered as pinch runner Jayson Nix scored.

Chris Getz followed with a run-scoring double to bring in Dye. Then Perez threw a wild pitch to score Pierzynski and send Getz to third. Finally, Gordon Beckham singled home Getz as Perez was removed.

In two-thirds of an inning, Perez allowed four runs, two hits, hit two batters, threw a wild pitch and made a mental mistake.

"Not the first impression I wanted to make," Perez said.

#28 Arizona Diamondbacks
Losing Brandon Webb evidently means a lot.  In Spring Training, we thought Felipe Lopez's performance was critical to their success.  Meanwhile, he has been productive (15.8 Runs Above Replacement), but the team has struggled mightily.  Mark Reynolds has also produced (career high 22.2 RAR), in spite of his mammoth strikeout numbers.  However, the struggles of Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Eric Byrnes, Chris Snyder, and even Augie Ojeda's inexplicable 160 plate appearances have the D'Backs ranked below...

#27 San Diego Padres
My preseason pick to finish the season ranked 30th on all power rankings has probably inspired an inkling of hope in the handful of Padres fans who actually know more guys than just Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez AND aren't surprised that Khalil Greene isn't on the team.

On the bright side, Bud Black and Heath Bell have solidified the bullpen.

#26 Pittsburgh Pirates
For some reason, I don't see trading Nate McLouth to the Braves as a blatant "seller" move.  I mean the Pirates are perennial sellers,  but this was a sound move because McLouth was blocking rookie sensation Andrew McCutcheon and McLouth's value was at an all-time high.

Perhaps, they didn't get as much in return from the Braves as fans would expect for a Gold Glove center fielder & team leader, but most GM's probably knew that his defense was wildly overrated because last year, he was actually a below average center fielder.  McLouth's Fielding Runs Above Average based on UZR was -13.8 runs. (minus!

#25 Kansas City Royals
I'm not really embarrassed to say that I'm kind of a Royals fans.  My two favorite baseball writers right now, Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer, have allegiances to the KC Royals.

Joe Posnanski has really given us cherished moments from following the Kansas Royals on a day-to-day basis.  Among them...

I saw the Royals lose once when a pitcher, attempting to start an inning-ending double play, slipped on the resin bag and threw the ball into centerfield. … I saw the Royals begin a game batting out of order. I mean, batting out of order is one thing, but the FIRST BATTER was out of order? … I saw a Royals baserunner literally fall off of first base on a pickoff attempt. He got back to the bag safely and then, almost in slow motion, he just fell off the base and was tagged out. … I saw the Royals lose a game when, with the bases loaded, a batter hit a ball back to Mike MacDougal. He threw home — literally. The ball had to be at least 5 feet over the catcher’s head. I remember it being 10 feet high. … I saw the Royals release a pitcher IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME … I saw a Royals prospect, with two runners in scoring position, look so frightened that, even though the opposing pitcher threw three batting practice fastballs right over the heart of the plate, he never even thought about swinging. … I saw the Royals try out a professional softball pitcher … I saw a Royals pitcher get hurt during spring training SLIDING practice (you might recall, the Royals are an American League club) … I saw Esteban German get hit in the face with a fly ball because (1) he was playing centerfield, (2) he’s not a centerfielder, (3) the sun was out and (4) he was not wearing his sunglasses. Fortunately, Esty was wearing his sunglasses on the flight home after the game so no one could see his shiner … I saw Tony Pena lose a ball in the sun because he wasn’t wearing sunglasses. After the game, Pena explained that he had ordered his sunglasses but “they had not come in yet.” … I saw Royals pitcher Miguel Asencio throw 16 consecutive balls to start off his major league career. … I saw the Royals draft the first high school pitcher who ever officially threw 100 mph. Apparently, nobody noticed that he did not throw strikes.

Of course, there’s the Ken Harvey oeuvre. Once, he lost a battle with a tarp. Once, as the cut-off man, he turned his back on an outfield throw and got hit in the back. Once he threw a baseball into his own pitcher’s face.*

*Harvey, you will note, was the Royals All-Star in 2004. He then played in 12 games for the Royals in 2005 and he hasn’t played a big league game since. A little while ago, he was released by the Kansas City T-Bones Independent league team.

There was the time a Royals pitcher complained because he could not get any no-decisions. … There was the time the Royals decided to call up a pitcher named Eduardo Villacis to pitch at Yankee Stadium because … well, no one knew. No one on the team had ever even heard of him. Villacis gave up 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings, walked four, struck out none, and the Royals sent him back down and then released him. He never again pitched in the big leagues.

I should have probably included less from his post, but these memories are pretty fun to reread.

#24 Oakland A's
Losing Josh Outman to Tommy John surgery is not the reason the Athletics are ranked this low.  I don't even think I had ever heard of Josh Outman when I foolishly picked the A's to win the division on Opening Day.  I shouldn't, but let me at least try to guess why they've failed to win more games...

1.) The pitching staff is too young and inexperienced.
2.) Off-season acquisitions Orlando Cabrera, Jason Giambi, and Nomar Garciaparra have been unequivocal busts.
3.) Jack Cust's OBP should be upwards of .380 and currently resides at .316

At this point in the rankings, we start discussing teams, besides the Orioles & Blue Jays, with at least a slim chance at the post-season.

The Orioles and Blue Jays, don't really have a chance at the playoffs because they're in the AL East, but the have more competitive rosters than the previously mentioned franchises.

#23 Houston Astros
At least Tim Purpura is not in charge anymore.

We received an email a couple of weeks ago from brilliant reader, Osh.  He asked: "Will you please write a blog that discusses how bad of a deal the Astros  got in the Aubrey Huff for Ben Zobrist swap."

Okay, brilliant reader Osh.  Done and done.

On July 26, 2006, Tim Purpura traded Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Aubrey Huff and cash.

The Astros had Huff just for the remainder of the 2006 season, in what amounted to 68 games and 261 plate appearances.  Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot have remained with the Rays since the trade.

We can measure performance or value a number of ways.

Using Bill James' Win Shares, Aubrey Huff's performance in an Astros uniform was worth 5 Win Shares.

Up until this season, combined Win Shares for Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot equal 7.

That would make it appear to be a relatively balanced deal, until you consider Zobrist's breakout campaign this season.  I don't believe Win Shares can be calculated midseason, so we can look at WAR (Wins Above Replacement) again.

In Mitch Talbot's only three Major League appearances, all in 2008, he amassed a WAR of -0.3,   Ben Zobrist, including this season has a career WAR of 3.6.   So, the Rays have received a combined WAR of 3.3, and the number is growing as Zobrist continues to shine in the #5 spot of the Rays' lineup.  In fact, as I type, he's on first base in the Top of the 5th, having so far gone 2 for 2 with a double and a single.

What did Aubrey Huff deliver in WAR for the '06 Astros?  As Dean Wormer could have easily said, 0.1, yes that's Zero point One.

We should keep in mind that Aubrey Huff left as a free agent, and the Astros received draft pick compensation after he signed with the Orioles.  Aha!  I achecekd the history, and Tim Purpura really botched this one because he failed to offer Huff arbitration, so they didn't get any compensation picks.  Tim Purpura.  What a boob.

#22 Atlanta Braves
Today (July 1st) PECOTA gives the Braves about a 30% chance to make the playoffs... much higher than the 12% chance it gives the Mets.  I suddenly feel a little foolish for having the Braves this low on my list and the Mets where they are.  Regardless of what the the computer says, I will blindly choose to believe that the Braves will not score enough runs to finish ahead of 3rd place.

On the brightest of bright notes for the Braves, how about that Tommy Hanson?  In his first five Major League starts, he's gone 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA.  He is also currently riding a 20-inning scoreles streak.

We are only five appearances into the Tommy Hanson Era, and it looks for certain that this 22-year old will never have to carry his bags again.

#21 Baltimore Orioles
The aforementioned Orioles are certainly in a building mode.  They have an exciting amount of youth in the lineup, headlined by Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters.  Their pitching prospects are not as ready as the young hitters, but the reports from minor league camps about guys like Chris Tillman are more than encouraging.  I think the Orioles have a very good chance to contend in 2011 and 2012.

#20 Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have what appears to be one of the sharpest new front office brain trusts in the league.  From what I've been reading mostly by Neyer and USS Mariner, General Manager Jack Zduriencik has assembled a talented team that refreshingly and throughly weighs sabermetrics with scouting reports.

It's a far too simplistic way for me to summarize this, but the two most pressing questions that are staring the Mariners in the face are "Is this a winnable division?" and "Can we extend Felix Hernandez's contract right away?"

#19 Cincinnati Reds
As a Cubs' fan, I still don't view the Reds as much of a threat.  (Perhaps, I should also forget about the Cubs being a threat to anyone.)  The Reds have too many unreliable arms in the pitching staff and are too dependant on guys like Wily Taveras and Jerry Hairston.

We know Dusty doesn't want anyone "clogging up the bases", but the OBP's of Paul Janish, Lance Nix, Alex Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, and those other two guys are embarrassingly low.

#18 Chicago White Sox
The White Sox tried to be big buyers earlier this year, in the failed trade for Jake Peavy.  Since Peavy's on the DL, and Aaron Poreda is shining in the Sox bullpen, I'm sure they are more than thrilled that Peavy doesn't want to pitch for the cruddy White Sox.

Perhaps, my biases have the White Sox, Cubs, & Cardinals ranked inappropriately.  I do believe the White Sox have a good chance to win the AL Central.  Ken Williams has shown the ability to get the right pieces in place to make the playoffs.

#17 Chicago Cubs
Speaking of the Cubs, I probably would have had them ranked 3rd, 4th, or 5th, if I'd done one of these at the beginning of the season.  They have been so horrendous that I should probably have them right next to Houston.  At least the Astros have Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman.

The Cubs' best hitter of late has been Jake Fox, who doesn't even have an everyday spot etched out for him on the field.

Carlos Zambrano has been so bad, that a recent poll on the Chicago Tribune's website showed over 55% of Cub fans wanted Big Z placed on waivers.

#16 Florida Marlins
The Marlins are underrated anywhere outside of the presence of South Florida's most passionate fans.  We are probably doing the same.  I'm just unsure about how I feel about them.  There is a lot I like about them, and some things that don't appeal to my senses.

I like the entire starting rotation, Cody Ross against lefties, of course Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Chris Coghlan, Leo Nunez, Dan Meyer, Kiko Calero, and Renyel Pinto.  I even like Cameron Maybin, who's shining in Triple-A.

I do not like Matt Lindstrom, Emilio Bonifacio, Ross Gload, or Alfredo Amezaga.

That should clear everything up.

#15 Texas Rangers
The greatest achievements, to date, of Nolan Ryan's career in my opinion have been...

1.) The seven no-hitters
2.) Five thousand something strikeouts
3.) Humiliating Robin Ventura by pummeling his cranium with viscous uppercuts, during a headlock.

As amazing as it may seem, I think Nolan Ryan can surpass those Hall of Fame achievements if he rebuilds this Rangers franchise.

His influence has improved the culture of the clubhouse and instituted his own training and throwing program for all of the pitchers in the Rangers' system.  The Rangers were a non-competitive mess when Nolan Ryan became team president.

With quality performances from young pitchers like Scott Feldman & Matt Harrison, plus young fireballers like Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, and hopefully Matt Purke could get the Rangers near the top of the AL West year after year.

#14 Colorado Rockies
Here's a team that I didn't count on hearing much from.  They, of course, became the hottest team in June and are five games above .500.  They were in the World Series just two years ago, so anything truly is possible.  I just don't feel confident ranking a team that is so prone to extended cold streaks anywhere higher than this.

#13 San Francisco Giants
This may be the most surprising team to many people around baseball because very few people expected them to be eight games over .500 on July 1st. That being said, most procrastinators were correct that this team would have solid starting pitching and very little hitting.  I guess the surprise is that this combination of effective and reliable starters, with little to no offensive thunder have combines for such a good won-loss record.

We'll see if Lincecum continues to dominate, Cain shines all year, and the Big Unit's back can hold up for another 12 to 15 starts at least.  It'll be very interesting if the trade rumors we are hearing about them acquiring a big bat come to fruition.

#12 Milwaukee Brewers
Most of the teams ranked between fifth and nineteenth could rise or fall quite a bit in the rankings based on how injured players return from the DL as well as how the trade market unfolds in the next thirty days.  The Brewers have done more than just hang in there this season, as they are currently in first place of the NL Central.

They won't be trading for CC Sabathia this season, and they have their eyes on recently released Brandon Backe, which does not bode well for the future.  If they can trade for someone more valuable than that to start every five days, they could be very tough to surpass for the Cardinals, Braves, Cubs, Reds, or Astros.

Live update: Tom Hardricourt quotes Brewers GM, Doug Melvin: "We talked about it and decided to pass."

#11 Detroit Tigers
Jim Leyland's team is in first place, but they have some issues at the back end of the rotation and very little production from their corner outfield positions.  Their bullpen is not where Leyland wants it to be, either.  I don't know if they can keep grinding out wins at this pace, to make the post-season.

Given our affinity for Jim Leyland, I'd expect to have more faith in their chances.  Something is telling me that the Twins will be at the top of the AL Central in the end, but I can't really express what the something is.

#10 Los Angeles Angels
The window of opportunity for this current nucleus of Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, John Lackey & Company is closing.  The question is if the Angels have enough young contributors among the likes of Kendry Morales, Jered Weaver to win the unbelievable weak AL West.

their ranking in the Top 10 is a little bit of a speculative position because I truly believe they will drastically improve their team with a trade.  Just this morning, I was reading that they had even been exploring a trade for Dan Haren.  He probably won't end up in Anaheim this summer, but the fact that they checked in on him means that they are not shy of looking for players with high price tags.

#9 Toronto Blue Jays
Sure, the Blue Jays are in 4th place of the toughest division in baseball, but they are one of the reasons the division is as such.  Time after time, the Blue Jays have been able to summon quality pitchers from their farm system, as they lost every pitcher in their initial 5-man rotation at one time or another.

Maybe this team will finish 4th and not even be better than Baltimore the next few years, but I would be doing our friends from Canada a disservice to have them ranked much lower than this.  We'll see what happens, but if they finish ahead of the Rays, we may see some Cito Gaston for AL Manager of the Year campaigning out there

#8 St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals pulled off a big splash in the trade market last weekend, getting Mark DeRosa from the Indians.  If not, they would not be ranked this high.  Again, at least a dozen teams are in tenuous situations where acquisitions and injuries have substantial implications.

Speaking of which, Mark DeRosa was removed from last night's game after experiencing pain in his wrist.  Results of today's x-rays will determine if the Cardinals will slide down a few pegs in the rankings.

The Cardinals have a solid manager and the best player in the game.  Given Albert Pujols' consistency, the most important uncertainty for the Cardinals' season probably rests on the shoulders of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainright.  If these three guys stay healthy, I think they'll win the NL Central.

#7 Minnesota Twins
PECOTA gives the Tigers a 60% chance of making the playoffs and the Twins a 22% chance, yet I'm going with the underdog.

Call me crazy, but the Tigers concerns are clear and present dangers to their first place standing in the division.

I believe, without any evidence to support any of these claims, that Mauer and Morneau are the best 3/4 hitting punch in the league... at least when Jason Kubel isn't hitting between them.  In my eyes, they took the crown from Manny/Big Papi last summer.

I also think that Joe Nathan is the best closer in the game right now.  Who knows?  The argument is splitting hairs between him, Papelbon, Rivera, whomever.  The point is he's outstanding, and is a primary reason why the Twins have been competitive in recent history.

If they could get someone to take away Nick Punto's at bats, I think more people would agree that the Twins are the AL Central's team to beat.

#6 Philadelphia Phillies
The defending World Champions are aggressively searching for pitching.  They will be within striking distance in the end, to defend their title, so there's not really much to say about them.  They are not separating themselves from the competition of the Mets, Braves, and Marlins, but they are the Champs.  I'm giving Ruben Amaro, Jr a chance to get a very good arm on the market before I rank them ahead of the...

#5 New York Mets
This is an extremely frustrating time to be a Mets' fan.  We've documented here before how much injuries to three of their four best hitters, two starting pitchers, and their 8th inning reliever have debilitated their competitiveness.  It is maddening to watch a team that cannot hit.

Currently, Mike Pelfrey is battling against Yovani Gallardo with a 1-0 lead in the 7th inning.  The Mets have struck out 12 times against Gallardo today.

At least the Mets are winning, but it's impossible to get excited when your team strikes out that much.  It's demoralizing.

Just as bad as a team's psyche can be when they lose a leading player to injury, a true leader can inspire tremendous hope and confidence upon a healthy return.  No, this isn't me waxing prophetically about the Mets for no reason.  Again, in a month we will know so much more.

For now, we know the Mets will at least be getting Beltran, Reyes, Maine, and Putz back.  Oliver Perez will probably get a chance to earn his massive contract.  Carlos Delgado could probably come back with a noticeable limp for the end of the season.

Those are some very meaningful additions without trading any prospects.  Even if they decide to save their top prospects for better trade chips next season, like the Indians' Victor Martinez, we have to figure the Mets will do something at least as significant as the Yankees addition of Eric Hinkse.

#4 Tampa Bay Rays
Last season's Cinderella fell on some discouraging times early this season but has recently steadied the ship in the thick of the AL East/Wildcard race.

We value to process in which they achieved success last season and believe they maybe desrve to be ranked #3 in this poll.

The brightest spots for Rays fans to consider, in my opinion are...

1.) Pat Burrell, Dioner Navarro, and David Price should play better than they have.
2.) Ben Zobrist is not a fluke, but rather a good & dependable player.
3.) Carl Crawford & BJ Upton have been stupendous on the field and in the box scores.

Concerns for the defending AL champions include doubts that something is wrong with Burrell, Navarro, Price, and also Scott Kazmir, whom I do not expect great success the rest of the way.

#3 Los Angeles Dodgers
In a few days, the Dodgers get Manny Ramirez back.  They have been coasting to a division championship all season, and I think that cushion will do them well as they should have no qualms about resting regular players constantly.

I think the Dodgers also have the best balance in the National League between a flexible, veteran, dependable offense and very strong pitching staff headed by Chad Billingsley and another "arguably" best closer in the game: Jonathan Broxton.

Joe Torre knows what he's doing, so I feel as comfortable categorizing them as the class of the NL now as I have since the Cubs sputtered immediately out of the gate.

#2 New York Yankees
To hear Yankee fans talk about it, this team has dozens of problems and most of those are of the pitching & defense variety.  I think it is easy to forget the difference between a team in the Summer versus that same team in October.  Pitching rotations shrink, so Joba Chamberlain can take back the eighth inning.

Perhaps, I'm making too much of that posssibility.  But, the only way I can see the Yankees triumph over their nemesis in the ALCS is if they have a bullpen that rivals Boston's.

The Yankees are most likely not done shopping after acquiring Hinske.  I think they will at least do something to solidify the bullpen.  Whether they acquire Heath Bell, Kerry Wood, or Nuke LaLouche is beyond the horizons of my crystal ball.

#1 Boston Red Sox
My preseason, May 1, and June 1 pick to win the championship remains as the favorite to win it all this season.  I think there team is good enough right now to win the World Series.

I guess it's defensible to think that Theo Epstein should acquire someone to fill-in for the re-injured Mike Lowell.

All in all, I see a team that, last night's game notwithstanding, has as strong an offensive attack as anyone in either league and an artillery of power arms in the rotation, bullpen, disabled list, and on the Triple-A Pawtucket roster.

We've talked about Buchholz, Bowden, & Bard here before.  We haven't given Josh Beckett enough credit for his spectacular performance since a trying April.  Adding the Pawtucket roster to the foursome of Beckett, Jon Lester, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia would probably be enough to win the AL Wild Card.

Postseason & Awards...
*Please note: we will always honor our preseason predictions for record keeping.  The forecast below simply shows how we are "feeling" on July 1, 2009.
NLDS
Dodgers over Cardinals
Mets over Cubs (ugh)
NLCS
Mets over Dodgers

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, Giants
NL R.O.Y.: Tommy Hanson, Braves
NL Manager: Jerry Manuel, Mets

ALDS
Red Sox over Twins
Yankees over Angels
ALCS
Red Sox over Yankees

AL MVP: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
AL R.O.Y.: Elvis Andrus, Rangers
AL Manager: Cito Gaston, Blue Jays

2009 World Series
Red Sox over Mets

If you've hung in this long, congratulations and thank you.  That was a rather circuitous route to get back to where we've been on the 1st day of every month this season.  As a Cubs' fan who thinks there's still hope, I wish that I'm wrong and the Red Sox won't win it all.