" That's just the sort of blinkered, Philistine Pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage!"

John Cleese

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MLB Predictions: AL West

Is there a starting pitcher that isn't injured or likely to be injured in the AL West in 2009?  The race looks to be a battle of attrition right out of the gates.  It's historically been a mediocre to bad division top to bottom and this year is no different.


01  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

"What about the pitching?"

Okay.  Who won't pitch in April according to most reports?  Lackey, Santana and Escobar.  Ugh.  Thank God 13 of the 22 games in April are at home.  Now Weaver has a tweaked back.  This could be ugly early on.  Essentially, they will only have to use what amounts to a fifth starter once in April so it might not be too bad.  Nick Adenhart will get a golden chance to prove he can pitch.  Spring Training has been encouraging. 

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It's probably in the top three in the league.  Shields and Arredondo set up Fuentes.  Jepsen and Speier have had good springs and Darren Oliver has been one of the best long relievers in the league in the last two years.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

The emphasis this spring has been "Take a freakin' walk!"  And while there's been improvement, mostly, this spring has been a hit parade.  No fantasy stars but top to bottom, if healthy, should produce in the top 10 in runs in the league.  Kendry Morales is vastly underrated (.332 minor-league average - power development a question) and a healthy Howie Kendrick challenges for the AL batting title.  Mostly, they have the advantage of playing against a pitching-thin AL West.  Offense won't be a problem.  

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Outside of Jepsen, nobody qualifies for rookie status but if they find a spot for Brandon Wood and he gets regular at-bats, he should hit 20-25 homers (and whiff a lot).  He's had a great spring and the organization has to find an answer regarding his playing time.  Morales has been given the first base job and Mike Napoli, though three years into his career, could easily hit 30 home runs this year.  Loux, Moseley and Ortega will get plenty of opportunities to see if they can pitch.

"Cripes!  Sum it up already!"

With the Abreu signing and the spring development of a slew of guys, the Angels went from having a transition year where they find out exactly what they have to a team that wins the AL West in fairly easy fashion providing Lackey, Santana and Escobar return on schedule.

Verdict:  It's a .500 team in the AL East but a 90-win team in the AL West, they go 90-72.   

02  Texas Rangers

"What about the pitching?"

It's funny what happens to some guys in contract years.  Suddenly, they remember how to pitch again.  Vicente Padilla and Kevin Millwood are pitching for their lives.  Matt Harrison should be league-average but Jason Jennings?  Bleech.  Brandon McCarthy is the guy to watch.  If he is even marginally effective, the Rangers could win a lot of 10-6 games.  

"How icky is the bullpen?"

The bullpen (along with the rotation) was last in the majors in ERA last year.  It's bad.  But Frank Francisco was the lone bright spot in 2008 and will close in 2009.  80 year-old Eddie Guardado is back and is still somehow effective but the Rangers are quickly becoming the equivalent of a scrap metal company, picking up a bunch of journeymen in the hopes of catching lightning in a bottle (see Derrick Turnbow).  The pen's slightly better but only in a relative sense.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

Oh, heck yes.  And this is how they win games this year.  They scored the most runs in the majors by a long shot last year and the lineup is better this year.  Chris Davis, a healthy Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton are going to have a field day provided they all stay healthy.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Everyone has been jumping on the Chris Davis bandwagon and it's legitimate.  He'll hit 40 home runs in 2009.  Nelson Cruz (44 total hrs last year) has also been getting a ton of press but any guy who spent four years in Triple-A and couldn't crack the bad Texas teams' rosters over the last few years might have issues.  But he'll fill the gap left by Milton Bradley productively.  Watch Elvis Andrus at short.  The guy can run and field.  Saltalamacchia and Teagarden split time behind the plate.  Teagarden has more upside.  

"Cripes! Sum it up already!"

The Rangers become respectable in 2009 by getting good enough pitching to allow them to outscore people.

Verdict:  They hang around for a bit and set themselves up for 2010 when their best pitching prospects are ready, going 81-81.

03  Oakland Athletics

"What about the pitching?"

The A's got off to a hot start last year primarily because Greg Smith, Dana Eveland and Justin Duchscherer pitched so well in the first three months.  Smith and Eveland hit huge walls at the 100 inning mark and Duchscherer went down with yet another injury in August (he's injured yet-yet again to start the season).  

That opens the door for Dallas Braden (has pitched over 100 innings exactly once in his career and that was four years ago), Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill (6 starts above A-ball) and Brett Anderson (also 6 starts above A-ball) to see if the moves Beane made last year can pay off.  Too much youth here. 

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It's fine.  Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler had a combined 0.86 ERA in 105 innings last year.  They're flanked by decent veterans in Michael Wuertz and Russ Springer.  No problems here expect for a mild correction with Devine and Ziegler.  It's solid.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

The additions of Holliday, Giambi and Cabrera make this a more legitimate offense compared to last year, though Holliday and Cabrera will end up prime trade bait to a contender by midseason.  They'll score runs.  Chavez is hurt again but Garciaparra (until his next injury) fills in.  Pieces are in place but not enough to survive their extreme rotational youth.    

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

The entire starting rotation.  Is this Daric Barton's year?  The former first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2003 was an integral piece in the Mark Mulder deal.  He was a career .300 hitter in the minors, walked more than he struck out but the power never emerged.  Giambi blocks him now because Jack Cust's even more brutal defense slots him in the DH spot.  

"Cripes! Sum it up already!"

It's another year of prodigious swapping by Beane.  Last year, they got great early pitching from a very young rotation.  It's won't happen twice.

Verdict:  Beane's on the phone by late May and the team goes 74-88.

04  Seattle Mariners

"What about the pitching?"

If Erik Bedard desired to, you know, stay healthy and care, the rotation might be almost mediocre.  Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn are bad at throwing baseballs where people can't hit it.  They're just terrible.  Felix Hernandez is fine, though he had some control problems after the break in 2008.  

"How icky is the bullpen?"

Brandon Morrow (forearm issues, diabetes) moved back to the closer role this week, solving a huge question mark.  But what surrounds him may be the worst pen in the majors.  One guy to watch, though, might be Chad Cordero as he tries to resurrect his career after a torn labrum.  Miguel Batista sets up Morrow.  Ugh.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

Meh.  Adrian Beltre is in a contract year.  The last time that happened, he hit .334-48-121.  That won't happen again but, outside of Ichiro, he's the only real legitimate offensive threat after the departure of Ibañez.  When a team has Ronny Cedeno, Endy Chavez, Yuniesky Betancourt and Russell Branyan see significant time, that is not a good team.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Jose Lopez has quietly become a top-10 second baseman.  Wladimir Balentin has legitimate power, though he's blocked everywhere as the Mariners can't afford his poor defense and tendency to swing and miss a lot.  Jeff Clement, once a can't-miss, is blocked by the unloadable contract of Johjima behind the plate and his poor performance in his call-up last year.  He was sent down again to begin the season. 

"Cripes! Sum it up already!"

This team has $40 million locked up in Silva, Washburn, Batista and Johjima.  For all that money, they got a combined -33.7 VORP.  Ouch.  But a whole crapload of money comes off the books after this year.  The front office is going to give new manager Don Wakamatsu the time and resources to build this team how he wants.  But it's going to be a rough 2009.

Verdict:  It's an open audition all season, both for the young guys and for other teams to take some dead weight, going 70-92.

Oh, No...

New episodes tonight...


Vomit bag? Check. Calculator for Chicago name drops? Check. Fork for eyes? Check.

The ad when they repeat "Dude" over and over again makes me want to pour gasoline over my head, light a match and punch a cat.

And it's beginning it's FOURTH FUCKING SEASON tonight! FOUR!

God, people are fucking stupid.

Monday, March 30, 2009

What's That Smell?

Fourth and fifth starters, guys.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

MLB Predictions: AL Central

Holy Crap!  Who the heck wins this division?  The Wild Card will not be coming from the AL Central so it's winner take all.  Every team in this division could finish close to .500.


01  Cleveland Indians

"What about the pitching?"

The Indians went 44-29 without Sabathia last year.  While Lee was the AL Cy Young Award winner, he'll will come back down to Earth this year.  He's getting absolutely pounded in Spring Training.  Carmona was awful after May last year and the third starter is Carl Pavano.  Not good.  Lots of question marks but Scott Lewis, in his rookie season, was stellar in a short stint and has the minor league numbers to prove that he's someone to watch.  

Mostly, though, the Indians have ten guys that could see starts this year, most of them are at least experienced and should hover around league average as a group.  Some upside with Lewis and David Huff while Anthony Reyes seemed to figure something out after being traded to Cleveland in July.

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It's serviceable.  Jensen Lewis and Rafael Perez are young but throw strikes while Betancourt had a uncharacteristically bad season last year.  he was out of his gourd in 2007 but 2008 was abysmal.  He should rebound.  Kobayashi rounds out a decent core.  But they did sign Matt Herges, just in case Indians fans didn't get enough of Joe Borowski-like badness.  

Kerry Wood closes against a league that hasn't seen him.  He only pitched in four interleague games last year, two against the White Sox.

"But can they strike the ball and score points?"

Yes.  And not because Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner appear healthy.  It's because of Sizemore, DeRosa, Peralta and Shin-Soo Choo.  Choo OPSed .944 last year with 28 doubles in 317 abs.  Impressive.  Once the Indians dump the Ben Francisco experiment and call up Matt LaPorta (the Sabathia chip), this is a very good offense.  They were 7th in runs last year without Hafner and Martinez.  Expect more this year.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Aside from Lewis, Huff and LaPorta, Adam Miller, the star of the Indians' system, is injured again with a weird finger problem.  He's good by all accounts when healthy.  Catcher Carlos Santana (not that Carlos Santana) was main piece in the Blake trade and could make Shoppach expendable this year.

"Cripes!  Sum it up already!"

It's not going to be pretty but Cleveland has enough depth everywhere.

Verdict:  They eek out the Central by four games, going 86-76.

02  Chicago White Sox

"What about the pitching?"

Who knows?  Buehrle will be Buehrle and Floyd, contrary to what many experts are saying, will be just as good this year.  Great hook and his fastball averaged 96 in his last start against the Dodgers.  He's fine.  Floyd threw only 25 more innings in 2008 than he averaged the three years previous.  Danks had one bad month last year (July).  Without that month, he had a 2.92 ERA in 2008.   

It's the rest of the rotation.  This...is the answer?  Colon and Contreras are fat and old, in that order, and both shouldn't be relied upon.  That leaves the rest to fill in when they both go down.  It's Richard, Broadway, Marquez and Poreda.  Having one spot for those four to fight over isn't a bad situation.  Two spots?  That's bad.  Very little depth if the worst-case scenario happens.  

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It's not with qualification.  Nothing's wrong with Jenks.  Heck, he's learning to pitch more now than ever, lowering his velocity to induce groundballs and leave some gas in the tank.  Thorton's quite good.  It's Linebrink and Dotel.  

There's an old axiom in baseball that says middle relief is the most expendable part of a team.  Get a couple good years out of arms in their prime and dump them to a stupider team.  Linebrink is 32 and Dotel is 35.  They could be stretching it a bit this year.  These two don't have rubber arms.  Might be an issue.  But with Thorton setting up Jenks, the pen should be at least average.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

Yes.  Konerko will return to form, Thome's in a contract year and Dye's in a mutual option year.  But Quentin should regress a little, there's no real leadoff hitter and if Josh Fields crashes, huge holes emerge as this team doesn't walk a lot top to bottom.  Getz is the #2 hitter by May and then there's that whole Beckham thing.

The Sox will score runs but it's a precariously put-together puzzle.  The fact is that the 4-5-6 spots in the lineup aren't young.  I'm curious to see what happens with Betemit's raw power in U.S. Cellular.  And Fields is destroying pitching in Spring Training.  While there are issues, the Sox easily could have seven guys hit 20 or more home runs with five of those hitting more than 30.  But a lot could go wrong.  A lot.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Beckham and Beckham with a side of Beckham.  They might need him by June.  It's curious that the Sox haven't really filled the backup catcher role this spring.  Flowers?  Early?  Lillibridge will have a surprisingly good year as a super sub.  Maybe Poreda, though it seems they're waiting on him.

"Cripes!  Sum it up already!"

I was rash with my early optimism.  The lack of pitching depth in the rotation makes this a .500 team.  This could be another Sox year where they get good starting pitching and the pen blows up one game and they lose a football game the next.  If everyone in the lineup plays above their expected output, they could simply outscore teams, but that's a lot to ask.  Mostly though, for the first time in awhile, the Sox have a legitimate farm system poised to pay dividends.

Verdict:  Weeeeeee!!!  The emotional roller coaster continues, going 82-80.

03  Kansas City Royals

"What about the pitching?"

They're starting to get it.  Meche has been more than adequate since arriving in 2007 but has been hampered by terrible run support.  Greinke built on a 2007 bounce-back year to post spectacular numbers last year and finished incredibly strong.  Kyle Davies might have figured something out.  A big prospect in the Braves' system before being dumped, he had a 4-1 record in September with a 2.27 ERA.  

The next two spots are a fight between Luke Hochevar, Horacio Ramirez, Brian Bannister and Sidney Ponson, giving them the option to go with the hot hand.  Ramirez probably gets a spot given he's the only left-hander in the entire group of starters.

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It's not.  Again.  Dayton Moore is the poster child for a guy that will never overvalue middle relievers.  He traded Ramon Ramirez, a guy who basically had one good season, to the Red Sox straight up for Coco Crisp, a guy that solves the leadoff spot and closes the gaps in center field with superlative defense.

It's a new pen with newly-acquired Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz.  Hard throwers, all.  There's a little risk here but if the Royals have one area where there's a glut of talent, it's the bullpen.

The days of force-fitting guys like McDougal, Affeldt and Lightenberg into a closer role are over.  A reasonable argument could be made that Joakim Soria is the best closer in the game right now.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

They will be better at it this year.  They're loaded with guys that are in their prime late-20s years.  If they're going to perform, it's now.  And they improved on the edges.  Mike Aviles had a great rookie year and if Mark Teahen can make the defensive transition to second base, they become a better offensive team.  They're going to strike out a lot but this team is inching its way to offensive relevance.  

"What about the young whipper-snappers?" 

They have two guys that are considered the real deal in Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, both first round picks in the last two years.  Right now, they're not ready but will be by 2010-2011.

Mostly, the whole team is pretty young.

"Cripes!  Sum it up already!" 

The Royals are not this year's Rays.  But they're reasonably good and look more like a legitimate baseball team doing real baseball things this year compared to last year.

Verdict:  They equal the Sox with an 82-80 record.

04  Minnesota Twins

"What about the pitching?"

The big four last year in Blackburn, Slowey, Baker and Perkins are all in their mid-20s.  That's a good thing.  The bad thing is that the league has now seen all of them.  Outside of Baker, the rest saw their first significant action last year.  As a group, they don't walk hitters.  That's a good thing.  As a group, they don't really make people swing and miss, either.  That's a bad thing.  

Because of that and a second turn in the league, it could make for some regression-type issues this year.  With Liriano's TJS, he's become a similar pitcher as the other four.

This is, of course, the strength of the Twins.  But they will need runs to continue the "magic."  And they don't have it.

"How icky is the bullpen?"

No name pen again with upside.  Crain and Breslow are good.  Neshek's out for the year.  Mijares has a live arm but had issues with control in the minors.  Nathan's always good but will be 34 this year.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

I'll beat the horse dead.  They're not hitting .305 with RISP again.  The magic's gone.  Mauer's bad back will take longer to recover from than most people think and the last time Mauer went down, Morneau's numbers went down precipitously with it.  Jason Kubel is the de-facto #3 hitter and that's not a good thing no matter how much people want to love him.

Some talent here, though.  If Carlos Gomez learns about the idea that a strike zone exists and you only hit pitches in said zone, he could have a great year.  Delmon Young's window for stardom is this year.  If he doesn't take it, welcome to the world of journeyman.  Alexei Casilla has some pop and speed at second.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?" 

They're all up with the team.  The chips acquired in the Santana trade almost universally had disappointing progressions last year.  It's not thin in the minors, just nothing in the higher levels that equates to impact guys this year.

"Cripes!  Sum it up already!"

The Twins open the 2010 season in a new open-air stadium.  This could be a dramatically different team by that time.  They don't have enough pop nor do they walk enough with Mauer out to consistently score enough runs to make up for the rotation's mild correction.

Verdict:  Mantras.  Correction, regression and mid-season trades make for a 78-84 record. 

05  Detroit Tigers

"What about the pitching?"

It's ugly.  Will the real Justin Verlander please stand up?  Right now, Edwin Jackson is the #2 starter on Leyland's board.  Edwin Jackson had one good year last year in Tampa.  Why Detroit continues to say yes to such things, I have no idea.  Armando Galarraga had a nice little season in 2008 and saved the Tigers from losing 95 games.  Bonderman is injured again and Nate Robertson is bad at throwing strikes.  It's so bad that Rick Porcello, a prospect with big upside but not ready, might make the rotation simply due to the dearth of options.

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It is.  Icky, that is.  Zumaya?  DL to start the season...again.  Rodney can't throw strikes and Brandon Lyon loves to give up the long ball.  The rest is bleech.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

Maybe.  Granderson, Polanco, Cabrera and Ordoñez are as good a 1-4 in the majors.  And reports are that Sheffield's shoulder is healthy for the first time in two years.  Who knows?

Carlos Guillen's getting old, Gerald Laird's catching and Brandon Inge will continue to be Brandon Inge, a .237 career hitter.  Adam Everett at short?  Ugh.  Great glove, though.

What was one of the most feared lineups just two years ago now looks ripe for a fire sale if things start off slow again this year.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Porcello will see the mound this year.  Ryan Perry has a great fastball but is a long ways off.  Cale Iorg might see a rapid rise through the system when Adam Everett begins to really suck.  The minor league system is just not that good, furthering the fire sale argument.

"Cripes!  Sum it up already!"

Their only hope is to cobble together a bunch of pitchers that throw above their ability and hope that Guillen and Sheffield milk one more good year out of their bodies.  It won't happen.

Verdict:  Yet another thing for Detroitians (ites?) to be down about, the Tigers' 75-87 record.

MLB Predictions: AL East

It's time! In exactly one week, we get to watch real baseball games with meaningful meaningfulness (it's a little odd that meaningfulness makes it past the spell checker).

And this is going to be a long season. Game 7 of the World Series this year is scheduled for November 11 this year thanks to the World Baseball Classic. November 11! By that time, the Iowa Hawkeye football team will have played 10 games.

Looking back, Christo's predictions for the 2008 season had some howlers. My personal favorite was my prediction that the Tigers pitching will be historically brutal but they'll still win 94 games. How Phil Rogers of me.

Speaking of which, Phil Watch is still going strong. Recent editions include further proof that Phil is auditioning for a job at the Star-Tribune. Mauer and Crede are like Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers playing on the same team. Phil has turned into a screaming teenage girl.

So here we go. One division a day through Saturday.

AL East

01 New York Yankees

"What about the pitching?"

It's safe to say the Yankees won't have to resort to giving a Sidney Ponson-ish type 15 starts this year. Sabathia, Burnett, Chamberlain, Pettitte and a healthy Wang (Whaaa??!!) give the Yankees the best rotation in the American League. No question.

This will be a team that doesn't have to score a bunch runs to win like last year. And they're still going to score a bunch of runs. Every slot in the rotation has a guy in it that pitches above the slot average.

"But how icky is the bullpen?"

Kind of. Damaso Marte takes over the setup role with Chamberlain's move to the rotation. That's not going to be good for anybody. The rest is a bunch of guys in their mid-to-late 20s with limited upside and have shown to be quite unremarkable. And that's no way to go through life.

But with a 40 year-old Rivera, they'll be good enough because they don't have to be good. And with chips to trade, they'll shore it up by mid-season.

"Can they strike the ball and score some points?"

Most certainly. Yes. Alex Rodriguez is out until late May. But they swapped Giambi with Teixeira. Posada's moderately healthy, meaning the Jose Molina Reign Of Terror is over. Nady, Swisher and Matsui rotate through the RF and DH slot. Cano hit 40 points below his career BABIP last year, meaning he could bounce back to form.

They'll be fine and when Rodriguez come back, they will eat people up in June and July.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Won't need them. Brett Gardner is a 25 year-old slap-hitting center fielder that runs fast. It looks like he'll start in center over Melky Cabrera, who is now a prime trade candidate for bullpen help early into the season if Gardner is hot out the gates.

Ian Kennedy and Phillip Hughes, once the jewels of the system and untouchable just last year in the Johan Santana talks, could see spot starts if injuries crop up and to showcase them for potential trades.

"Cripes! Just sum it up already!"

They're good and good with a side of mediocrity. They're going to score a ton of runs and prevent a bunch of runs from scoring, which is what a really good baseball team does.

Verdict: They win the division by ten games, going 101-61.

02 Tampa Bay Rays

"What about the pitching?"

It might be their achilles' heel in a relative sense this year. Andy Sonnastine and Edwin Jackson, in the fourth and fifth spots last year, went a combined 27-20 with a 4.40 ERA. Essentially, it was a pleasant surprise. They got league-average pitching out of the back end of the rotation, letting the front end determine the team's success. And they delivered.

But James Shields is coming off consecutive 215 inning years, making him a possible question mark at the top w/r/t durability. And his 4.53 ERA last year on the road brings more questions. Kazmir might have to really break out to make up for some deficiencies/regressions here. David Price, the prospect of all prospects has been sent down to Triple-A so Jeff Niemann, a mediocre minor league starter and has started exactly two games in the majors, has the fifth spot until Price is promoted.

They have the arms but there's a lot of 'what ifs.'

"But how icky is the bullpen?"

It's good. J.P. Howell, Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour are just fine. Actually better than fine even with an expected amount of regression to the mean. Watch the closer spot, though. When Percival breaks down, which he will, everyone moves up the ladder with Wheeler in the closer spot. Isringhausen and Joe Nelson? Meh.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

Sure. They have great balance and a lot of guys with a combination of power and speed. Upton has a shoulder issue (he did last year as well) but he's on track to be back by mid-April. In Longoria, Pena, Burrell and Crawford, they have a great core with oodles of platoon and peripheral guys that significantly contribute (watch Iwamura and Willy Aybar).

There is an issue here, though. The middle of the lineup has feast-or-famine types. Pena and Burrell are the definition of that and Longoria does swing and miss a lot (12th worst in the majors last year), opening the door for a possible sophomore slump. In fact, as a team, the Rays struck out the 5th-most times last year.

Their saving grace, though, may be the fact that they were 3rd-worst in hitting with runners in scoring position last year yet still scored oodles of runs.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

It's Price. After being #1 in most rankings in terms of minor league talent, the big names have graduated to the majors and talent is thin in the upper levels. Price might be the X factor. If he comes up, works his way into the number 3 spot in the rotation and moves everyone down a notch, pitching could be fine. It's the AL East, though. Nothing's easy.

"Cripes! Sum it up already!"

Won't sneak up on anybody. Given. But they're built for the long haul. If Upton gets his power stroke back, they could beat teams into submission on power alone, though it could get a little whiffy in Tampa Bay.

Verdict: Good enough everywhere with a good bullpen equals wins, going 91-71.

03 Boston Red Sox

"What about the pitching?"

Nobody knows. Beckett, frankly (who's Frank?), wasn't that spectacular last year. Matsusaka is the new ace. Jon Lester threw 210 innings. Jon Lester has never thrown anything close to that many innings in his professional career. After that, it's Wakefield and Brad Penny. Bleech!

Sure, Penny could return to form but do you count on it in the AL East?

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It's not. In fact, this is where their strength lies. Masterson, Saito, Okajima, Delcarmen and Papelbon make for the best bullpen in the league, better than the Angels and the Rays.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

Maybe, but probably not. There is no way in hell Youkilis and Pedroia repeat last year's career years. Lowell's old, I don't get the Jed Lowrie love and J.D. Drew is hurt...again. But even with an expected moderate decline of Ortiz, Bay's swing will continue to fit nicely in Fenway and he's in a contract year, making the offense just above league-average. They have the money. Look for a move.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

It's mostly Buccholz. He had a dismal May last year, was sent down and came back to be even more dismal. Great arm but his window might be closing. The acquisitions of Smoltz and Penny signal that the Red Sox want to give Masterson and Bowden one more year before giving them spots in the rotation.

Cripes! Sum it up already!"

It's a M*A*S*H unit. Drew, Baldelli, Smoltz, Penny, Lowell, Lugo and heck, even Beckett all have significant injury histories. It's a transition year. They'll have to keep games close to get to the bullpen in order to win.

Verdict: Even with their depth, it's a rough year in Boston, going 85-77.

04 Baltimore Orioles

"What about the pitching?"

Two words. Adam. Eaton. He's the 4th/5th starter right now. It's bad and could be worse than last year. Jeremy Guthrie has the makings of a good #2 starter but he's forced into the ace role right now. The 34 year-old Japanese import Koji Uehara sits in the #2 slot. He won't strike out many but had good peripherals in Japan, especially with his low walk rate.

Rich Hill may become relevant again as he's been reunited with his minor league pitching coach. Who knows? Nothing good can come out of this rotation.

"How icky is the bullpen?"

Jim Johnson and Chris Ray are good. Danys Baez and Jamie Walker are not. And George Sherill, who started off incredibly hot last year, was incredibly not the rest of the way. He was named the closer early in Spring Training but that will change. Ray regains the spot, throwing the rest of the bullpen into moderate chaos.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

Heck yeah. It's Earl Weaver ball in Baltimore again. Sit back and wait for the three run homer. But this team has a sneaky amount of speed with gloves to match. The lineup has seven guys that could hit 20-25 homers in Markakis, Huff, Scott, Wigginton, Wieters, Jones and Mora.

They also have five guys that could steal more than 15 bases in Roberts, Jones, Pie, Markakis and Izturis. It's an odd compilation of power and speed but it equates to runs in bunches. Too bad they're going to give up runs in spades.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Wieters, Wieters, Wieters. I have a man crush on Matt Wieters. In his first professional season last year, he hit a combined .355/.454/.600 with 27 hrs and 91 rsbi. He walked 82 times in 437 abs while striking out only 76. He was sent down in Spring Training to delay his service time clock but will be up by May. His defense needs work according to most but by this time next year, he will be considered the best offensive catcher in baseball.

"Cripes! Sum it up already!"

Fun to watch when they're hitting. Stomach-turning to watch when they're not.

Verdict: On the wrong end of a lot of football scores, going 75-87.

05 Toronto Blue Jays

"What about the pitching?"

Most think it's ugly, and it is. Halladay should see a bit of regression this year as he threw just a crapload of innings last year. With his injury history, he'll be more like 2007 Halladay, which is still good. But after that...ugh. Litsch has the stuff to be solid but significant injuries to McGowan and Marcum leave the rotation in shambles. In short, nobody's going to be picking the Blue Jays as their sleeper this year. And thank God for that.

"How icky is the bullpen?"

It's not. Downs, League and Accardo are solid middle relievers setting up a newly-rejuvenated B.J. Ryan. No problems here. Move along.

"Can they strike the ball and score points?"

In a sense. Much relies on the expected emergence of Travis Snider and Adam Lind. Both have superlative power and can hit for average. If both start hot and stay hot, it takes pressure off Wells and Rios to produce outside their ability, allowing them to do what they do well. Watch Aaron Hill. Everybody has been waiting for him to become a top-tier second baseman. But there are a lot of 'ifs' here.

"What about the young whipper-snappers?"

Outside of Snider and Lind, the last three spots in the rotation are loaded with them in Purcey, Richmond and Janssen. But when it comes to true-blue prospects, Brett Cecil is the guy to watch. A 21 year-old left-hander, Cecil is said to have electric stuff and moved rapidly through the system.

"Cripes! Sum it up already!"

J.P. Riccardi is a Billy Beane kind of guy and his approach went from acquiring a bunch of softball players to building completely from within. It will pay off soon but not this year.

Verdict: It will be exciting to watch the young 'uns lose a lot of games, going 73-89.

AL Central tomorrow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Heads Up

The Cedar Rapids Gazette is covering Lickliter's press conference in a live blog.

Should be some real news here.

Kelly, Peterson, Palmer and Davis are officially gone.

Friday Isn't For Thinking

In a race to see how quickly it can burn out and die, the Sun-Times has revived it's idiotic and sophomoric "Hottest Fans" contest. It's like watching a wounded squirrel slowly suffocate. You wanna do something but it's probably best if you just let nature take it's course...
Ok, Jerry Owens was never, will never and can't be a lead off hitter in the big leagues. A reserve? OK. A decent lower end of the lineup guy? Eh...maybe. But a lead off guy? Nope.
The wife and I are seriously considering getting a second dog? Are we nuts? Probably but there are tons of dogs out there that need homes and we have the room and the ability to do it. Gotta be a non or very little shedder, though. The one we have is part Beagle and part mohair sweater. -----------------------------------------------
Went to Woodfield Mall briefly on Tuesday. I used to work in a store there called "Field of Dreams". I was fired. Why? Because I was "difficult". That's manager code for "dared to state his opinion". See, it was a sports memorabilia store (T of A participant) and I was the only guy in management (I was asst. manager) that actually knew a fucking thing about sports. (I was such an ass I actually gave my boss a quiz on which baseball player played for which team. he got like 3 out of 50. And it wasn't marginal names either-- it was guys like Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen) So, I had a crazy idea to get rid of the Miami Dolphins autographed football and actually bring in stuff that , y'know, people in CHICAGO might want.
Guess what? The store is exactly like I wanted it to be now. Yet I was fired.
Bosses of corporations are kinda like a bad husband or wife--they will completely ignore you yet listen to some stranger giving the same fucking advice you've been saying for a year!
God, that pissed me off.
Met a guy named Bernie Hamburger yesterday. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

10 Things I Hate About the Cubs

I was gonna save this for Opening Day but I wanted to get the shit flying early. There's only so long I can pretend to care about basketball.
I take the liberty of speaking for Christo on this. And this will be reposted on Opening Day.

1.That Dopey “Hey Chicago Whaddaya Say?” Song- I have 4 or 5 very good friends who are Cub fans and not a single one of them enjoy this trite piece of crap that they bellow through the speakers at Wrigley. Then why play it? No idea. Burn the acetate and be done with it.

2.Unconditional blind love of a decrepate, aging outdated stadium: I’ll paraphrase the general from Star Wars standing up to Darth Vader: “Your sad devotion to that ancient stadium hasn’t conjured up a World Series trophy or given you clairvoyance to find the secret to winning on a consistent basis (urghhhh)…”

3. Racist asshat t-shirts: Hey, the Sox fan base has their share of dopey t-shirts but this one should embarrass anyone who has a pulse. Yet they sold like hot cakes. Yep.

4. Frat Boys Everywhere: Am I at a ball game or the local asshole Alpha Delta convention? If I had stock in weave belts, backwards hats and droopy cargo shorts I’d be able to retire judging by the bleachers. Seriously guys, get an identity. And how many of them do you think will kiss each other in a moment of homoerotic joy when the Cubs finally DO win a World Series?

5. Tired ass attendance arguments: They do not give trophies for having MORE fans. It doesn’t happen. And just because there are more of you doesn’t give you the self appointed “Best fans in baseball” mantra. And up until Harry Caray started doing games at Wrigley Field and turning it into a circus it was a half empty dinosaur. Look it up.

6. John Barleycorn. That’s all. Burn it down. Now.

7.The fact that grown ass people refer to their team as “Cubbies”: I can’t think of another fanbase that gets such perverse pleasure in infantalizing their team. Can you? “Go Cubbies” is usually followed by a drunken “Woooo!” by a dime a dozen blonde Trixie from Lincoln Park who “totally went to DePaul and plans on sucking off Todd at his apartment tonight after we go to Cubby Bear"

8. Take Me Out To the Ball Game: Harry’s been dead for over 10 years. Let him rest. Quit wheeling his corpse out every 7th inning for some perfunctory song that nobody likes anyway. When you're trotting out “celebrities” like William Hung it’s time to put it to pasture. Seriously. Bury it.

9. Ron Santo: Hawk is a homer no doubt and if I wasn’t a Sox fan I would, admittedly, hate him. BUT you can’t rail on Hawk for that and then conversely LOVE Ron Santo and think he’s cute.

10. That Fucking Basket: Take that goddamn thing off. It’s not a fucking homer if it doesn’t LEAVE THE FIELD OF PLAY**. God, I hate that fucking thing. I know you need something to catch the drunken bozos but…
** (yes, I know you can hit an inside the parker. But you know what I meant)

Lesson: Don't Let J.R. Angles Bring Your Program Down

I had a feeling this was going to come back and bite him.

I understand that Iowa was trying to give a rare near sell-out crowd a good show at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Penn State on Senior Day.  And it was a good game.  In fact, it was one of the few that I got to/wanted to catch live.

J.R. Angle had no business playing Division I basketball and there were rumblings on boards that he didn't really care anymore.  I get it.

But for Lickliter to not play him one minute?  The season was over.  No excuse.

BlackHeartGoldPants today talks about this, along with the inexplicable absence of Palmer after two huge games, being an impetus for the strange jumping-of-ship happening en masse in the Iowa program right now.

And I have to say.  I kind of understand it.

Lickliter can talk about doing it the right way, the Butler way, with integrity, but is this?

Most importantly, though.  In life, if things are going to go to shit, you make damn sure it happens in the hands of decisions made to improve your team.

In short, you don't let an incredibly small decision involving J.R. Freakin' Angle cause massive tremors.

What are players supposed to think?  If Lickliter can't start a senior on Senior Day, give him his ceremonial four minutes to begin the game, then sit him and see how it plays out, what's Jermain Davis supposed to think?  For that matter, what's Jeff Peterson supposed to think?

Now, there are substantial rumors that three guys are transferring to programs I didn't know existed anymore.  They're all possibly transferring to rivals of Gil Thorp.

Peterson to Missouri State?

Davis to Minnesota State?

Kelly to Indiana State?

I would feel better about such things if the team showed improvement over the course of the season.   Scratch that.  I would feel better if, as the season become hopeless this year, I understood the roles of key pieces coming back next year.

I know Matt Gatens could be a pretty good player.  That.  Is.  It.  Right now!

It's been two years.  I should know more.

I'm supposed to like Lickliter.  And I do.  

When he was chosen, it was obvious why.  The changing landscape of college basketball necessitated a guy that could build from within the confines of a limited recruiting base.  And after Alford, a high character coach became a requirement to get the fans back.

His Ed Mundane press conferences don't bother me.  His lack of real excitement on the sidelines doesn't bother me.  The fact that his only emotion seems to be mild disgust doesn't bother me.  

His lack of articulation w/r/t a real game plan kind of does.

Like a President that takes over an absolute mess, at some point, it becomes your mess, Todd.

The decisions made and the repercussions of those decisions become part of the fabric.

(Side note:  As I'm writing this, a woman walking with her crying child just went by my window.  She told her daughter, "If you don't stop crying, you won't have any boobs."  Wow!)    

Pwease, Mistaw Fwanders....

A little kid and her mother came into our office just now trying to sell candy. And since I’m the first guy you see when you walk through the door I had to deal with it. Of course, I had to be nice and whatnot but I a) really don’t eat candy b) had no cash and c) didn't know this kid from Adam . So, I very nicely told her that I wasn't carrying any cash only to hear back “Oh, we take checks”. Jesus. A little Willie Lohman.
I fucking hate when people do this.
Of course, it doesn’t really work on me because I am not a big fan of children. I know this makes me sound awful but I’ve got to be honest. Like everyone, I think little babies can be cute (usually, the drooling is disgusting) and children in my immediate family or of close friends are different. I get to know these kids and therefore, can have a fairly enjoyable time playing or doing stuff with them. And when I have one of my own, of course, I’ll be a doting father and love my kid(s).
But strangers kids? Don’t care. They do nothing for me. And when they start getting loud and hyper I neither find it funny or charming. It’s irritating. I know that you think your kid is the most amazingly cute ,irresistible little thing on the planet but to me it’s a screaming, obnoxious little snot factory. So, spare me the “isn’t she adorable?” looks and put the kid in the car.
I don’t actively dislike children but I’m not one of these people that get all apoplectic and gooey when a random 8 year old comes into my office asking for money in her most precious put upon voice. Their powers are useless against me.

Going Well Isn't It?

Jesus. Can Iowa basketball be more of a clusterfuck the last 4 years? None of this makes me feel confident in any sort of a turn around.
Davis leaving is kind of a "whatever" but the other stuff is red flag shit. I'm willing to give Lickliter a chance but he seems to be losing guys. The kid from Marshalltown was a lifelong Hawk fan. Come on. Why is he reopening his recruiting?

Something smells.

Thank God for Ferentz.

Iowa basketball: Davis leaves program; prep who committed re-opens recruitment
RICK BROWN and JOHN NAUGHTON • Register staff writers • March 25, 2009
On a day when questions swirled around the Iowa basketball program at fast-break pace, Jermain Davis put an end to some of the speculation — and Chanse Creekmur added to it.

Davis, a 6-foot-4 guard, said he will transfer to Minnesota State, a Division II program in Mankato, Minn., for his senior season.“I really was not happy,” Davis said. “I didn’t really understand my role on the team. I don’t think I was able to use my athleticism.”Creekmur, a 6-6 junior at Marshalltown who committed to Iowa in August 2008, said he is now considering other options.“Chanse Creekmur is opening up his recruiting, but Iowa is still at the top of the list,” said Marshalltown coach Ron Ginapp, reading from a statement issued by Creekmur’s family.Ginapp said the family would have no further comment, leaving unanswered the reasons behind Creekmur’s decision. Creekmur moved to Marshalltown from Mason City in the sixth grade. He grew up an Iowa fan and looked up to former Mason City player Jeff Horner, who played for the Hawkeyes. In an interview earlier this month, Creekmur said playing for Iowa would fulfill a lifelong dream.“That’s what I always wanted to do,’’ said Creekmur, who averaged 18.1 points and 6.5 rebounds as a junior. Davis, from Plymouth, Minn., played at Southeastern Community College in Burlington as a freshman and Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids as a sophomore. He originally committed to Northern Iowa, but and signed with the Hawkeyes.He played in 30 games for Iowa this season, starting 11 times. He averaged 4.5 points and 3.0 rebounds. He scored a season-best 16 points against Iowa State.Iowa was 15-17 overall and was 10th in the 11-team Big Ten Conference at 5-13.Davis said he told Iowa coach Todd Lickliter of his decision on Monday. Iowa spokesman Steve Roe said Lickliter would not provide immediate comment on Davis’ departure. Earlier Wednesday, Lickliter declined to address questions surrounding several players in the program, including guards Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson.“I’m not sure,” Davis said when asked if Kelly or Peterson would return next season. “I think you’d have to talk to them.”Neither Kelly, an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection, nor Peterson could be reached for comment.Kelly, however, was reached by WHO-TV: “I wish I could tell you something, but I can’t. I’m not allowed to. Call me back later in the week.”This month, Kelly told reporters he thought about transferring after his mother, Julia, died in an airplane crash last June in Florida.“I considered it, but I’m here, and this is where I’m going to be,” Kelly said March 9.Kelly, a 6-6 sophomore from Carmel, Ind., was Iowa’s top returning scorer last season at 11.6 points a game. Peterson, a sophomore guard from Springfield, Mo., was the No. 3 scorer at 10.6 points a game and recorded a team-high 106 assists.Peterson missed the final seven games after injuring a hamstring.Kelly moved from shooting guard to point guard in Peterson’s absence and played so well that he was twice named Big Ten player of the week. He averaged 19.4 points over the last eight games, had 11 rebounds in one game and had 11 assists in another.Twice in that stretch, Kelly scored career highs with 23 points — in an overtime victory against Michigan and a loss at Northwestern

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two Things

There's something almost Pythonesque about this:

Prague's Franz Kafka International Named World's Most Alienating Airport


It doesn't get better than this.

It's a freakin' Fellini film but better.

I'll Never Mock the French Again...

Perhaps the French Rick Santelli whipped them into a frenzy.
Taking hostages? Can't say I condone it but I'll bet the fuckwads at AIG would've thought twice if they knew this was a possibility.
So, I think I'll just turn...over...here..and...look..at..this..uh, thing over here that's not...over..there.

French strikers hold 3M exec hostage amid talks

By SCOTT SAYARE, Associated Press Writer Scott Sayare, Associated Press Writer –
PITHIVIERS, France – Striking French workers for U.S. manufacturer 3M held their boss hostage amid labor talks Wednesday at a plant south of Paris, as anger over layoffs and cutbacks mounted around the country.
While the situation at the 3M plant outside Pithiviers was calm, worker rage elsewhere boiled over into an angry march on the presidential palace in Paris and a bonfire of tires set alight by Continental AG employees whose auto parts factory was being shut down.
While France has a long tradition of labor unrest, the latest wave of hostage-takings, marches and strikes has echoed across Europe, as the global slowdown fans job fears and leaves many workers skeptical of their leaders' ability to solve the crisis.
The French division of 3M — a diversified U.S. manufacturer known for Post-It notes and Scotch tape — recently announced layoffs and job transfers among its 2,700 workers at 13 French sites. Among those targeted are 110 of the Pithiviers factory's 235 workers.
A few dozen workers at Pithiviers took turns standing guard Wednesday outside factory offices where the director of 3M's French operations, Luc Rousselet, has been holed up since Tuesday. The workers did not threaten any violence and the atmosphere was calm.
A few police officers stood outside, while workers inside exchanged jokes and worries about their future amid heaps of empty plastic coffee cups and boxes of cookies.
Talks among 3M workers and management resumed Wednesday mediated by a local labor official. Rousselet was not taking part. Workers want better severance packages for those being laid off and better conditions for those keeping their jobs.
In France, it is not unheard-of for striking workers to hold company executives as a way of winning concessions from management. The hostages are almost never injured. A similar situation ended peacefully earlier this month at Sony's French facilities.
"We don't have any other ammunition" other than hostage-taking, said Laurent Joly, who has worked at the Pithiviers plant for 11 years and is angry that he is being transferred to another French site.
"I really have the impression that we no longer exist for these people," Genevieve Camus, who has worked for the plant for 35 years, said of the company's U.S. management.
The Maplewood, Minnesota-based 3M is also planning job cuts at facilities in the United States and other developed nations.
The 3M workers at Pithiviers have been on strike since Friday. Hamon said Rousselet was blocked from leaving the factory Tuesday after arriving from 3M France headquarters near Paris.
Store owners in Pithiviers were shutting down early on Wednesday to support the factory workers.
When Rousselet came out of the guarded office to go to the bathroom Wednesday, workers booed him while reporters asked how he was holding up.
"Everything's fine," he said.
Workers planned to bring Rousselet mussels and french fries for dinner if he was still there Wednesday night.
In Paris, an acrid plume of black smoke from burning tires wafted mere blocks from President Nicolas Sarkozy's Elysee Palace. It was a clear signal that French labor unrest over the state of the euro zone's second-largest economy had taken an ugly turn for the worse.
Faced with what it calls the collapse of the European auto market, Germany's Continental recently announced plans to close the plant in Clairoix, northeast of Paris, in 2010.
"We shouldn't let this company close down, otherwise it means that all these robber bosses can do whatever they want to," said Antonio Da Costa, a union representative.
Rising public outrage at employers also surfaced in Scotland.
Vandals attacked the home and car of the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, smashing windows early Wednesday at the house of the ex-CEO who resigned in disgrace but walked out with an annual pension of about 700,000 pounds ($1.2 million).
Three windows were smashed at Fred Goodwin's sandstone Victorian house in one of Edinburgh's wealthy suburbs. The rear window of a black Mercedes S600 car parked in the driveway was also smashed.
AP writers Greg Keller in Paris and Ben McConville in Edinburgh contributed to this article.

And The Boobies Go A Flyin'

Warned by B&B yesterday not to attempt to watch this video, I nonetheless disregarded such advice.

After you've seen this, I bet you can't un-see it.  It stays.  Forever.

Still there?

Aaaand I'm Transferring....

Practicing after you lost in the tournament huh? It's nice to know that men's sports isn't the only side that has grandstanding asshead coaches and stupid rah rah bullshit. Seriously, I would've flipped her off and went to the bar. Oh, and the tv cameras were there to pick it all up. I'm sure that had nothing to do with the decision to do this either...
And who will lap this up with a big spoon more? Christine Brennan or Carol Slezak? I'm betting on Brennan. But can she follow up with something equally horse shit after this pile of garbage yesterday? Yes, she's serious.

God, in three days I've posted about wrestling and women's basketball! Can you tell baseball season hasn't started yet?

There's supposed to be a video on this but I can't get it to embed so here's the link: http://www.wbir.com/video/default.aspx?aid=77618

Lady Vols back on the court
Steve Phillips Updated: 3/24/2009 6:14:45 PM

If you wondered how upset Pat Summitt was with her team's first ever first round NCAA loss to Ball State, the answer came Tuesday in a one hour practice at Pratt Pavilion.

Summitt had her team back on the practice floor for a number of reasons, but mainly to let her young players know that losing a first round game at Tennessee is unacceptable.

Under NCAA rules, the players can practice and do conditioning work until April 15.

Sunday, the Lady Vols lost to Ball State 71-55, their first ever loss on the opening weekend of the tournament after 42 consecutive wins and 27 straight Sweet 16 fields. It was also the first time the women's NCAA defending champion had lost in the first round of the tournament.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Get. Older.

Christo is on hiatus until later today or tomorrow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some Random Entertainment Thoughts

1. Improvisation has gone from being a tool for an actor to use to being a full blown expectant right. It really doesn’t matter whether or not the actor is any fucking good at it. I’ve read 345 straight interviews on the Onion AV Club with an actor and/or director and every goddamn time the interviewer will inevitably ask, “How much was improvised?” or something to that effect. Jesus. I got news for you folks, 9 times out of 10 it was in the script. Improv is like a nice spice. When just enough is put on it can absolutely make it better but when it is slathered on it tastes like shit and bogs the whole thing down. “Knocked Up”and that genre of film are all fine and good up to about the 85 minute mark and then I lose interest. Why? Because we wasted time with bits so they could indulge the actors on some bullshit comic riff. BORING.
It needs to be spliced in and seamlessly fused with the dialogue within the frame of the scene. Not some stupid ass comedy bit Seth Rogen made up about pot in the fucking trailer.
And “Anchorman” and "Dodge Ball"sucked. Deal with it.
For the record, I say the same shit about writers who try to wow you with extra verbiage and pretentious soliloquies. And directors who worry more about an image than the story. It's all equal ego driven over indulgence.

2. I will not go see your play if there is a chance of audience participation in any way, shape or form. Sorry if this makes me an ass but I fucking HATE watching a show and wondering whether or not I’m going to get dragged up on stage to do some dopey bit. I can't enjoy it! I'm too worried about being part of the show. I PAID to have YOU entertain ME. Got it? Now dance, Monkey!

3. Can NBC turn up the volume on their commercials just a TAD bit more? I think I still have some hearing in my left ear. There’s nothing I enjoy more than to be sitting in my living room and having my ears fucking BLASTED for a commercial trying to sell me a car or deodorant. I guarantee some asshole in a suit thought “Hey, let’s make the commercials louder so people will HAVE to take notice!”….And his name was probably something like Hunter or Roderick.

4. What is the fucking deal with the HD feed of “Family Guy”? Is anyone else having this problem? It's all small and has 2 arms sticking out the top. Am I the only one?

5. STOP WATCHING REALITY TV!!! It's all fixed. At least with sitcoms you know someone wrote it. Or "How much did they improvise?"....

That is all.