Posts Tagged ‘seattle mariners’
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
While Nats bloggers have been going back-and forth about whether the team needs another bat or another arm, Mike Rizzo seems to have made up his mind. They need both. Yeah, okay — that’s the right answer. But if Rizzo was pressed (and trade bait was short), what do you think he’d really want? Given John Lannan’s continued troubles and the uncertainty surrounding the return of any number of potential starters, the answer should be obvious: not only can you can always play Roger Bernadina in right field, but you absolutely need to; we’re never going to find out whether this kid can hit unless we put him in the line-up every day. Which means that the Nats should be looking for a pitcher to supplement their front (and only) two hurlers — Stephen Strasburg and Livan Hernandez. Let’s be honest. You never know what you’re going to get with Atilano and Martin, Olsen is just too tweaky too often to be counted as a stalwart, pitching messiah Jordan Zimmermann is a ways away from rehabbing and Ross Detwiler is still an unknown. That leaves Chien-Ming Wang (who won’t be here until July) and Jason Marquis — who has yet to show the team anything. So . . .
So who’s out there?
There’s Cliff Lee, who will be available once the cratering Navigators figure out that doling out $91 million in salaries for a last place team isn’t going to cut it. Lee is in the last months of a four year deal, and the Nats would have to look to sign him longer term, but our guess is that the Mariners will happily take good prospects for him — including Triple-A pitchers and Double-A position players that have a future. The Nats have either, and both. In exchange, the Nats would get a veteran fastball pitcher who could mentor Strasburg and an absolutely lights out number two starter (number one anywhere else), who can rack up some badly needed wins. The folks in Seattle say they won’t part with Lee without getting a big time power hitter in return, but that sounds like wishful thinking. Lee isn’t going to stay in Seattle after this year, especially to anchor what promises to be a development team of young prospects and remaining big contracts. It’s an ugly but pertinent truth: the Mariners will take prospects — or they can keep Lee and try to catch the fast disappearing Belinskys, White Elephants and Whatchamacallits. They’ll make the trade — maybe Mike will too.
Then there’s Roy Oswalt, but his contract is a nightmare: just over $9 million over the rest of this season, $16 million in 2011, and $16 million in 2012 with a club option buyout of $2 million. The Nats say they have money to up their salary ceiling, but Oswalt’s price might be a little high — particularly if (as expected), the Nats would have to pick up most if not all of the salary and throw in prospects. Bottom line: he won’t be cheap. But then, there’s always Jake Peavy. Don’t laugh: the former Friar has struggled with the Pale Hose and it appears he’s losing patience with wheeling-and-dealing Kenny Williams and the perpetually enraged Ozzie the G. He recently told a reporter that he would rather be traded than go through a rebuilding process in Chicago. Translation? “Get me the hell out of here.”
It’s hard to blame him: Peavy was a part of a rebuilding process in San Diego — and the team only started to rebuild when he left. Then too, the ChiSox probably look at the Peavy trade with some remorse; they dealt prospects to San Diego, one of whom (Clayton Richard) has turned into a front line pitcher — 4-3, 2.71 ERA. That’s a damn sight better than Peavy (5-5, 5.62 ERA). Ugh. The White Sox might try the same magic, trading Peavy for pitching prospects in the hopes of striking gold. The Nats could help. Of course, Peavy sports a huge contract ($52 million, three years), a teensy bit bigger than Oswalt’s which (for paperclip counter Mark Lerner) is always a problem. But in the end (and if you carefully weigh this out), the Nats could find a rental (like Lee) for some front line prospects or they could take the longer view (which is probably what Rizzo wants) and pony up some prospects and some cash. In either case, while none of these pitchers are going to come cheap, bringing any one of them aboard right now (or in the very near future) will probably mean the difference between a club that will continue its slow-but-certain downward spiral and one that might be able to contend — and fill the seats.
Thursday, April 8th, 2010
Jason Marquis couldn’t find the strike zone in his first regular season outing, and when he did the Phillies took full advantage. The Phillies chased the free agent righthander after just four innings and went on to an easy 8-4 victory over the Nats. The Nationals have now begun their season 0-2, and probably can’t wait to for the Phillies to leave town. “The whole Phillies lineup is dangerous, but they all can be pitched to,” Marquis said after the game. “They have holes in their swing, you just have to make pitches against this lineup. There is no letup. I wasn’t able to make as many pitches as I wanted to.” What Marquis meant was: I wasn’t able to make as many good pitches as I wanted to. There’s no desperation just yet (heck, it’s only the second game of the season), but to hold their home fans, the Nats cannot afford another 0-7 start — and are growing anxious to notch their first win.(Well, I suppose if it gets really bad, Stan could bus in some people from Phillie or New York.)
If there’s good news, it’s that shortstop newbie Ian Desmond is hitting the ball — if inconsistently. The rookie stroked a beautiful line-drive home run into straight away center field and a double down the left field line. But the good news is more than balanced by the bad: Desmond notched three strike outs (one looking). The kid can hit fastballs (hell, I can hit fastballs), but he needs a tune-up on anything moving over the plate. The other piece of good news is that Josh Willingham seems in mid-season form: he was 3-5 last night with a walk and he looks tough at the plate. Willingham is hitting .571 to start the season. For Nats fans, the post-game was nearly as interesting as watching Cole Hamels (who wasn’t sharp) wrack up his first win. Callers to the “Nats Talk Live” post game show on WFED were in their football mode, telling Phil Wood that it was time to “blow up the team” and “send a message” to guys like Marquis and reliever Matt Capps. “I don’t buy this ‘the season is 162 games and there’s a long way to go,'” an angry caller told Wood. “We need to do something now.” Yeah, like what? It’s not like the Nats can trade a couple of draft picks for a celebrated slinger, then hold a reassuring press conference to sooth their fans. This isn’t that game.
It’ll be okay. The Nats head to New York to face the already-struggling Mets this weekend and there’s no reason to panic. The team that’s on the field at Nats Park (that is, the home team, not the Phillies) is galactically better than last year’s edition: Adam Kennedy and Pudge Rodriguez will make a significant difference, the Nats are finally playing their young players, and the bullpen is not nearly as shaky as it was a year ago (Matt Capps threw well last night, and would have been out of the ninth if it weren’t for an Ian Desmond error). It’s only a matter of time before Lannan and Marquis hit their stride and the quartet of Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham and Rodriguez put some numbers on the board. Which is to say: the season is 162 games and there’s a long way to go.
In The Land of the White Elephants: The modern version of the double header is to leave Nats Park right after the game (at about 10:45) and arrive at home in time to watch MLB Network’s west coast feed. Without extra innings or fireworks, it’s possible — and rewarding. Then too, you can flip between the west coast game and the thirty minute version of Baseball Tonight and, if the semi-goofy Bobby Valentine isn’t the featured BBT analyst, the games and comments are as entertaining as anything on television (maybe that’s not saying much). Even so, last night’s Navigators vs. White Elephants tilt was a barnburner, a classic match-up between two teams that don’t like each other even a little bit. This is the west coast version of the Boston-New York rivalry and, when the A’s are good (which they’re not, not really) it’s something to see.
While BBT’s on-set announcers go on (and on) about how crucial the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is to the future of humanity, the A’s versus Mariners games have been as entertaining. The two have played two walk-off last-at-bat games in as many nights, with last night’s 5-4 bottom-of-the-ninth victory a model of west coast junior circuit baseball. The hero was Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki, who came up to face Seattle fireballer Mark Lowe with newly acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff (who, honest, played like Brooks Robinson) on first. Suzuki promptly lofted a Lowe fast ball into the left field darkness which, for all the world, looked like it would clear the fence. As Suzuki did his Carlton Fisk routine down the first base line and Seattle outfielder Milton Bradley maneuvered vainly to snag a circus catch, Kouzmanoff (head down) circled the bases for the winning run. Suzuki’s shot hit just above Bradley’s glove and the celebration was on. I swear: even with the ninth inning meltdown of the emotionally impaired Jonathan Papelbon in Boston (it came against the Yankees, after all), the A’s dunking of the Navs in Oakland was the most entertaining game of the night.
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
Here’s a pretty good hunch: Mike Morse is a Jim Riggleman favorite, and it was only a matter of time before he got his shot. That hunch might well be confirmed on Wednesday night, as Morse is reportedly slated to take the field against the Phillies, a move that could mark the end of the it-will-never-ever-work one-day platoon experiment in right field. And why not? If you’re going to get beaten 11-1, why not get beaten with your kids on the field? Of course, Mike Morse is hardly a kid. The former Pale Hose draft pick (82nd overall in 2000), Morse was traded to the Mariners, where he became a utility infielder behind the now-faded Yuniesky Betancourt (et.al.). He was up-and-down in Seattle and never quite settled in, though everyone knew he could hit. There were high hopes for Morse, something that usually comes with a hitter who’s 6-5 and 230 pounds.
The high hopes for Morse were sidetracked after a nasty knee injury. And things didn’t get better when he returned. After a short stint as a starter, the Mariners decided Morse wasn’t the answer for them at third base and he was traded to Washington for Ryan Langerhans (who remains in a career long slump). Shipped by the Nats to Triple-A, Morse played in only 32 games for the Nats in 2009, but he showed some power, with three home runs in 55 at bats. Riggleman likes Morse’s work ethic, which he saw up-close when Rigs was managing in Seattle. The hard work has continued in his tenure as a Nat. “Mike is always ready to play,” Riggleman said of Morse during Spring Training. “Mike took about 10 days or two weeks off after the season last year. He started hitting in October, and he’s never stopped hitting. He’s a year-round guy, looking for somebody to throw him batting practice, take swings. He’s dedicated to his profession. He’s in mid-season form.”
The final decision on Morse will apparently be made on Wednesday afternoon, when the Nationals’ brain trust will meet to discuss the right field situation. The platoon of Willie Harris and Willy Taveras was the first option for the Nationals, with the rationale that the team needed defense more than offense. But you don’t lose much with Morse in right and, after the Opening Day fiasco, it’s obvious the team needs a little more at the plate. If Morse is promoted to a starting role, it could also mark the end of Mike Rizzo’s search for a more permanent solution. Most recently, Rizzo has reportedly inquired about a number of available right fielders, including Kosuke Fukudome, Corey Hart and B.J. Upton. The Nats would undoubtedly have to give up some pitching to get any of the three — which is something that Rizzo would find more than a little distasteful.
Monday, September 7th, 2009
Sometime this next week, Seattle Mariners’ right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will break William Henry “Wee Willie” Keeler’s record for most consecutive seasons with 200Â or more hits. Keeler registered eight consecutive seasons of 200-plus hits from 1894 through 1901 while playing for the Dan Brouthers-John McGraw Baltimore Orioles of the then 12-teamÂ National LeagueÂ and American Association.Â Barring an unexpected injury, Ichiro will eclipse Wee Willie’sÂ record — one of the oldest and most legendary in the game — when he plays this week against the Belinskis in Anaheim. The Mariners, and all of baseball, are aware of the moment: the Mariners’ website features an Ichiro hit counter and the MLB Network (and undoubtedly, “Baseball Tonight”) will tune in to capture the famous moment. Ichiro’s streak began in the first year he was in the majors, in 2001, and comprises a run that includes seasons of 262, 242 and 238 hits.
Baltimore Orioles' stars: (standing) Wee Willie 'hit em where they aint" Keeler and John McGrawÂ and (seated) outfielder Joe Kelley and shortstop Hugh Jennings
Keeler was built to hit singles: he stood only 5-4,Â weighed 140 pounds, was the master of the drag bunt and was fast to first. Baseball gets enough of its traditions from him to fill a small pamphlet: he authored the phrase “hit ’em where they ain’t” and was the inventor of the “Baltimore Chop
” — defined by our friend Paul Dickson
as “a batted ball that hits the ground close to home plate and then bounces high in the air, allowing the batter time to reach first base safely.” The tactic, perfected by Keeler, was used by the O’s of the 1890s to win three pennants. Keeler’s biggest fan might well have been Pittsburgh great Honus Wagner
, who was in awe of Keeler’s skills and viewed him as one of the toughest outs in baseball: “Keeler could bunt any time he chose,” Wagner said. “If the third baseman came in for a tap, he invariably pushed the ball past the fielder. If he stayed back, he bunted. Also, he had a trick of hitting a high hopper to an infielder. The ball would bounce so high that he was across the bag before he could be stopped.”
Keeler’s “hit ’em where they ain’t” quoteÂ is a perfect reflection of the man. While the Orioles of the 1890s were a rowdy bunch — body blocking and trippingÂ their way to some of the best records in the game prior to 1900 — Keeler remainedÂ one of the team’s quiet players. He didn’t have a lot to say. He batted sixth in a line-up of dead-ball era speedsters that included hall of fame first baseman Dan Brouthers
, second baseman Heine “gapper” Reitz (who once had a season where heÂ hit more triples than doubles) and the inimitable John Joseph McGraw
, who held down third, and whose train wreck personality would laterÂ make him one of baseball’s best managers: and assure him of a place in the hall of fame. The Orioles of the 1890s were a great team: Joe Kelley
would later go on to enter the hallÂ (playing for a time with Keeler in Brooklyn before ending his career in Cincinnati and with the Braves in Boston), as would Hughie Jennings
, a slick fielding shortstop and lifetime .311 hitter. In 1896,Â Keeler, McGraw, Kelley and Jennings satÂ for a portrait (slicked hair, parted in the middle, the style of that time — and all the rage) that belied their trade: young men (friends all) who just happened to be ball players.Â It was his legendary ability to “hit ’em where they ain’t” that made Wee Willie Keeler a legend in baseball, but breaking his record will put Ichiro in the Hall of Fame.Â
Monday, July 20th, 2009
The Chicago Cubs got healthy in Washington, taking four games of a four game set, the last an embarrassing blowout with seeming ramifications for both the starting staff and the bullpen. Julian “Coo Coo”Â Tavarez was designated for assignment after the game and Logan Kensing was recalled from Syracuse. The Tavarez decision came several games too late; Tavarez had a habit ofÂ walkingÂ first batters and was particularly ineffective in his last three outings.Â The well-traveled Tavarez (eleven stops in 17 years) was optimistic about his chances of catching on with another club: “Tomorrow I’m going to be running and throwing balls, waiting for someone to give me a phone call. I’ll be back.” Maybe: but Tavarez, who has worn out his welcome,Â won’t be back in Washington. Logan Kensing, late of the Marlins, was recalled from Syracuse and will be given another chance with the big club.
It’s unlikely the NatsÂ are finished shuffling. After a pre-All Star Game letter apologizing for their first half antics and the firing of Nats good guy Manny Acta, the Nationals and Jim Riggleman are in the midst of a mid-season slump that belies Riggleman’s promise that “We will turn it around.” It was hard to feel that during the Nats’ collapse on Sunday — the combination of a stadium half-filled with Cubs fans, an Alberto Gonzalez booted ball, the unraveling of Garrett Mock andÂ “Coo Coo’s”Â antics combined to send Nats’ fans home early. The stadium started emptying in the top of the 6th (it almost reminded me of Shea), leaving fans of the North Side Drama Queens to celebrate their victory. The Slugs are now rollingÂ towards the Redbirds, whom they trail byÂ two games. The Cubs head north to face the Phuzzies, while the Nats will square off against the Chokes, who are coming in from Atlanta — where they lost three of four.
Down On Half Street: It takes time to assess a trade, but Mike Rizzo’s acquisition of Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett is looking more and more like a steal. Morgan has gained the most attention, but Burnett (who should have been on the mound for “Coo Coo” on Sunday) has continued to impress. His ERA has dropped nearly half-a-point since his arrival in Washington. But Burnett has been used sparingly: logging less than nine innings in eight outings. During that same period, “Coo Coo” faced double the batters ofÂ Burnett, while his ERA rose by the same rate as Burnett’s fell. I don’t get it . . . MLB Network showed Ryan Langerhans in left field for the Mariners the other day. The former Chop and Nats’ outfielder’s BA has ping-ponged with the Blue and Teal. MeanwhileÂ Mike Morse, the player Rizzo obtained for Langerhans, is hitting the hell out of the ball in Syracuse. Morse, a third round draft choice for the Pale Hose has been haunted by injuries and the Mariners seemingly ran out of patience with him. Morse has played short and third, but he’s now holding down second for the Chiefs. Morse is big, toughÂ and hits the long ball and he has a good glove. He could be in Washington soon . . .Â
Around the NL Least: Kingman over atÂ The Real Dirty Mets Blog loves the Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur trade and says he has not yet given up hope on the Mets’ season. Readers of CFG know we have no brief for Francoeur, but we would probablyÂ take the swap. Francoeur was smiling all the way through the Mets’ loss to the Chops on Sunday in Atlanta, while Church looks like the same old Ryan Church that once playedÂ for the Nats . . . Braves Baseball Blog, meanwhile, makes a plea to Atlanta’s front office: “Another bat would be all I want. With offense strugglingÂ [the Braves] are in dire need of a legitimate bat to give support to McClouth, Chipper and B-Can . . .Â Iâ€™m very optimistic that it will happen, but some players I wouldnâ€™t mind getting would be Holliday, Teahan, Jeremy Hermida, and or Alex Rios. But I donâ€™t want the team to be trading away any potential future studs just so they can win nowÂ . . . not worth it in my opinion . . . ” The newest addition to nleastchatterÂ is Fish Guts. This’ll be the last time I agree with a Phish fan, but he’s right about the new stadium andÂ plans to replace the Marlins’ uniforms:Â “my dream is that they keep the home whites with pinstripes, as I think those are some of the classiest threads in all of baseball.”Â That’s true . . .
Monday, July 13th, 2009
As tradition would have it, 1997 was a fairly typical year for the Chicago Cubs. The Also-Rans boasted a power-packed line-up of potential Hall of Famers (Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa), a handful of on-base guys (Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston) and a few young faces with great potential — like starting pitcher Geremi Gonzalez and outfielder Doug Glanville. Which is why the season caught so many Cubs fans by surprise: the team started losing in late April and didn’t stop until September. Their final numbers reflected their futility: they were dead last in the NL with only 68 wins, which tied them with the even more hapless Phillies. If the arc of the Cubs’ ’97 season was ever downward, then the arc of Cubs manager Jim Riggleman was upwards — a reflection of hisÂ increased irritation and angry outbursts. By the end of September, the Chicago baseball press were following Riggleman around like a pack of hounds. He was “good copy” — questioning the team’s attitude and criticizing unnamed players for being “selfish.”
The 1997 season is emblamatic of Riggleman’s style: he’s not above criticizing players, speaking his mind, or making tough decisions. In the middle of the ’97 season, in an effort to provide some spark to the Cubs’Â line-up (and to signal that no one wasÂ above being called out for not producing)Â heÂ benched Ryne Sandberg, then defended his decision in publicÂ as lynch mobs formed on Michigan Avenue.Â Riggleman then confronted outfielderÂ Sammy SosaÂ in the Cubs clubhouse, when the outfielder insisted on playing loudÂ Latin music on his boombox, even after a Cubs loss.Â Sosa regularly ran through Riggleman’s signs and seemed so intent on hitting thirty homers that he remained unphased by the Cubs’Â play. By July, the Cubs were two teams: a Latin team clustered around Sosa and an increasingly disaffected core of veterans who were tired of losing.
The betting for the ’98 season was that if it came to a choice betweenÂ Sosa or Riggleman,Â the Cubs skipper would be gone. Which makes the ’98 season that much more of a surprise: not only did Riggleman stay on, he patched up relations with Sosa, united the Cubs’ clubhouse, and re-jiggered the Cubs line-up, batting Sosa ahead of on-base hitting machine Mark Grace. The result was a Cubs’ revival that surprised even the most die-hard Cubs fans, earning the team a spotÂ in the National League playoffs. “I treat players the way I want to be treated,” Riggleman said in the middle of the season, an admission, perhaps, that his ’97 irritability was misplaced, but also a signal that hisÂ policy of discipline had not been forgotten.Â In ’98, Sammy Sosa began to take instruction, turned down his boombox and yielded to Riggleman’s signs. Riggleman even had a bounce in his step when he went to the mound. At one point, he admitted that team losses fed his irritability.Â “It know it eats at me daily,” he said.
Riggleman’s reputation as an outspoken disciplinarian followed him to Seattle, where he took over as the Mariners’ interim-manager in 1998. It didn’t take him long to become the darling of the Seattle media, who learned that he was as good a copy for the Post-Intelligencer as he had once been for the Chicago Tribune. Coincidentally — or perhaps not — the kinds of divisions that had plagued him in Chicago were present in the Mariners’ clubhouse. When some of Seattle’s players (including some of the team’s more medicre pitchers) criticized Ichiro Suzuki, Riggleman (an Ichiro defender) lit into them. Why were players criticizing Ichiro? His answer was blunt to the point of being painful: “Pettiness, seventh-grade mentality, just pettiness of whatever jealousy, pointing fingers, deflecting responsibility, lack of accountability, just a lack of a character. These things happen when youâ€™re losing; youâ€™re not seeing that happen with winning teams now. But those winning teams go out and lose a couple games and youâ€™ll see it.”
A tiger doesn’t change its stripes and Jim Riggleman will remain Jim Riggleman — he’s an outspoken disciplinarian with a good baseball mind, but he cultivates controversy and isn’t above leveling criticisms not only at players, but also at owners, scouts and general managers. If he is given a poor product he’ll say so, as he did in Seattle (“the deficiencies start at the top,” he said), where his off-the-cuff remarks made him fanatical supportersÂ amongÂ Mariners’ fans, but few friendsÂ in the front office. Which is why Don Wakamatsu is now in Seattle and Jim Riggleman is in Washington. He will “tighten the ship,” impose discipline and shake things up.Â If being bad-temperedÂ will make the Nats hit, field, pitch and run better, he’ll be a hero. But if that doesn’t work, don’t be surprised if “Gentleman Jim” trains his sights on Mike Rizzo and Stan Kasten. When he does, they’ll wish they were somewhere else — or they’ll wish he was.
Friday, July 10th, 2009
MASN commentator Rob Dibble was even more outspoken than usual during the second half of Houston’s pasting of the Nats last night. “I think some of these guys are mailing it in,” he said during the seventh inning of Washington’s 9-4 embarrassment. “It’s pathetic,” he said at another point. Dibble’s comments are now the talk of the blogosphere, including a long article onÂ his comments on D.C. Sports Blog — which reviewed color analyst Ray Knight’s post-game response to some of Dibble’s charges. At first, it seemed, Knight was unwilling to associate himself with Dib’s criticisms but, after hearing him out, issued his ownÂ blistering attack. “You know what I would do? I’d clean house,”Â Knight said. “When guys don’t make plays defensively I’d sit ’em on the bench. I’d give a guy a chance to play. And I’m talking about for a week, I don’t care if you’re hitting .320, I don’t care what you’re doing, I’m tired of seeing it too. We’re just two former players that busted our butts, and we’re here working for a company that you expect a fine product.”
Neither Dibble nor Knight blamed Manny Acta or the team’s coaches for the team’s weakness.Â “I know Manny Acta and I know these coaches are busting their butts to get the most out of these guys, but the players, they don’t expect that out of each other in that locker room,” Dibble said. “That’s what I’m saying. Somebody needs to point a finger in there and say, ‘Enough’s enough. You guys are on my team, you’ve got to go out there and back me up.’ John Lannan deserved better out of his bullpen, he deserves better defensively, and he definitely damn well deserves better offensively after what he’s done the last six outings on a bad ballclub . . . So for me to watch a guy like John Lannan, who I think has a huge heart, and he goes out there, he never mails it in, I think there’s a lot of guys who should apologize to him.”
In retrospect, while Dibble’s and Knight’s comments seemedÂ aimed at the entireÂ team, they came in the aftermath of a yet another particularly sloppyÂ game by Washington shortstop Cristian Guzman, whoseÂ year long indifferent fielding continues to hurt Nats’ starters. This is the second time that Dibble hasÂ focused his attention on the Nats’ shortstop — the first being in Colorado when Guzman booted a ground ball that hit his ankle. Knight didn’t need any more clues: “I don’t know who exactly you’re feeling it about,” Knight said. “I’m feeling it about certain people. But Manny has to make that decisions, or [Mike] Rizzo. If you think that there’s a player out there not defining the position . . . Take shortstop. Balls are going up the middle, knocked down, erratic type play. It looks like, to me, Goozie’s mind is somewhere else. He’s the guy I’m most disappointed in.”
Dibble and Knight’s comments are significant. Both men are not only former highly regarded ballplayers,Â bothÂ feel a part of the Nationals’ organization. Dibble regularly refers to himself as a part of the Nats’ team (“we’ve just got to do better”) and Knight has gone out of his way to get to know players and coaches. Unlike former MASN analyst Don Sutton (who departed when a broadcasting slot came openÂ elsewhere), neither are looking at their MASN work as a launching pad to stardom. More specifically,Â while the new “nasty boys” tandem of Dibble and Knight have said that “Manny has to make that decision, or Rizzo” — their comments areÂ a direct challenge to theÂ Nats’ front office: if you’re going to get rid of lazy players, you might want to start withÂ “Goozie.”
It’s not hard to figure out who might need Guzman. The ten year veteranÂ has a sharp bat and has been in the thick of a pennant race before — with Minnesota inÂ ’02, ’03 and ’04,Â years in whichÂ the Twinkies reached the off-season. Guzman seemed to feed off theÂ Twins’ success, registeringÂ just 12, 11, and 12 errors respectively during that time.Â Teams in contention and shopping forÂ a shortstop are likely to see Guzman’s glove work in Washington (where he’s accumulated twelve errors already) as a result of playing for a last place team. A team like the Seattle Mariners, for instance, might find Guzman’s bat a plus in any run-to-the-division title. While the Mariners’ claim they’re satisfied with Ronny Cedeno’s play up-the-middle, the former Cub is hitting just .149. Cedeno would do better with full time work: he only saw action while subbing for regular shortstopÂ Yuniesky Betancourt, who was rehabbing a strained left hamstring.
Even if CedenoÂ stays in Seattle,Â Betancourt isÂ available. After returning from his rehab, Betancourt was shifted to second (he had never played there before), before being put back on the bench — fueling rumors that he was headed out of town. A straight-up swap of dissatisfied shortstops might appeal to Seattle, whether theÂ trade involved Cedeno or the 27-year old Betancourt. It is well-known that the Mariners’ have been discussing Betancourt with the Pirates, but given the Knight-Dibble rebellion, the Nats might think about getting into the mix. While Dibble thinks that Guzman should be benched in favor of Alberto Gonzalez, the young Venezuelan has not proven he’s a slick fielder,Â with six errorsÂ inÂ 21 games this year. Either Cedeno or Betancourt would be a step up — even if the Nats had to fork over some extra dollars to swing the deal: Guzman is owed $8 million for 2010 while Betancourt (a better and younger player) is in the second yearÂ of a four year $13.75 million contract.
Thursday, March 27th, 2008
When I was a kid I spent an inordinate amount of time each Spring assessing the relative worth of each team and its players and making predictions for the coming summer. It was easier then: there were only eight teams in each league — and only one league really mattered. Even so, my predictions were uncannily the same, year after year. This team always finished first. Now that Iâ€™m older (and here, by the way, is what I look like) â€¦
â€¦ anyway, now that Iâ€™m older Iâ€™m more mature in my picks. That is to say, no matter what, I always pick these guys last. Why? Because after I assess VORP values and OBPs, and walks per inning, I come down to the same thing: I hate â€˜em. And I mean, I really hate em. But itâ€™s a mature hate: if it werenâ€™t for this showboat Iâ€™d probably think the Arizona Assholes (and so, they will always be) are just alright.
Which is to say (as I told me droogs last week when we had our first organizational meeting — er, well, as I forgot to tell them), we should all take some time to make our predictions and then (because itâ€™s really fun) see how we do at the end of the year. But weâ€™ve decided to add a wrinkle. This year in addition to me and me droogs making predictions, weâ€™re going to add another wholly fictional picker (weâ€™ll call him Ernie, after this guy) who will make predictions at random — from a hat. And weâ€™ll see whoâ€™s better: the three of us brilliant analysts, or Joe Shit the Ragman.
So Iâ€™ll start with the junior circuit, because itâ€™s the junior circuit: itâ€™s not really baseball over there (they have the DH), one of its franchises is call the Texas Rangers (I mean, who really gives a damn) and it doesnâ€™t have your Washington Nationals as one of its premier teams. Now, you can follow along at home and make your own predictions, and because we have a comment box here, you can write in to tell me just how full of beans I am. Oh, and in case you think thereâ€™s no accountability here, you should know that thereâ€™s a column beside each team that gives the reason â€œwhyâ€ the prediction was made as is — ooooohhhhhh.
So, as a bow to Igor hisself, hereâ€™s my annual Rite of Spring, for the American League:
American League West
American League Central
American League East
My sage comments?
This is pretty simple: the premier league in baseball is no more. After Boston, the Angels, Indians and Tigers, the rest of the league is either in a free-fall (like the White Sox) rebuilding (like the Royals), or still two pitchers away from contending (like Tampa Bay). The Mariners may squeeze into the top tier, but not by much — and they’re an injury (to this guy) from last place. That said, the Cleveland Indians are still the class of the league, if they can get over their PTSD from last year’s playoff collapse to the Red Sox. I just don’t see how anyone gets pass “C.C.” and Carmona — and then there’s Westbrook and a strong bullpen. I know, I know: Manny and Dave and Jacoby and that unbelievable line-up. Yeah, you’re right. You’re absolutely right. The Red Sox are a fricking hitting machine. But they’d better be, because their rotation is a mess. It’s Beckett and Dice-K and a prayer — and Beckett’s not healthy. And even with Dice-K it’s a prayer.
So, knowing this — why didn’t the Indians improve over the winter. Here’s my answer: they didn’t need to. If it weren’t for Vlad, the best player in the junior circuit might be Grady Sizemore, who could hit 40 home runs, easy. And Travis Hafner is no Jacoby Ellsbury: he’s better. A lot better. Hell, Travis hit 24 dingers last year and everyone was disappointed in his “off year.” Yeah? Trade him to the Nats. We’ll give ya Ryan Langerhans and a player to be named.
What about the Tigers? Well, what about them? Dontrelle can’t hit the strike zone, Ordonez has seen his best years, Bonderman is jittery, and Leland is a walk-with-the-bases-loaded away from a stroke. I love Polanco, the great untold story of the team, but he’s not a Jimmy Rollins and once you get past him and Granderson and a 280 pound (headed to about 340) very rich Miguel Cabrera you have a second place team. Even with Verlander. Hmmm. Still (granted) who wouldn’t want to have a second place team with the likes of these guys? As for the Yanks: these are not your Granddaddy’s Yanks, hell they’re not even your daddy’s Yanks. So that’s it: Vlad is the MVP, Gil Meche wins the Cy Young, and this time the Indians go to the Series — after sweeping the Red Sox.