Siberian Baseball

Friday, March 30, 2007

Long toss - getting warmed up for the previews

With the near-zero temperatures fading up here in the frozen north it means a few things - it was time to shave off my winter beard, the stink coming from motorists frozen in ditches is settling across the highways and baseball is ready to start anew.

With a gentle reminder from Frank the Tank doing his season preview, it's time to hunker down and start thinking about the season ahead. Who will take off like a rocket in April and who will almost immediately be dropped from playoff contention?

All of it is a total crapshoot at this point, with Spring Training giving glimpses of what's to come, but not a clear road map, but it's always fun to try and show off how smart you are by picking the divisions before play begins.

As I learned last year, team capsules are pretty time consuming, and are best written by the unemployed and those who write for a paycheck. This year, I'll work up American and National League overviews and maybe try and pick the postseason, hopefully over the course of this weekend.

Here's the rub.

Leading up to the now infamous Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade, there wasn't a soul in baseball who would step up and bet a kidney that the whole thing would end up so lopsided - Check out October 1964 by David Halberstam for more on this.

Brock was a struggling outfielder for the Cubs, while Broglio was supposed to be the last veteran arm to help shore up their rotation. The Cardinals weren't supposed to see much of anything from the trade and didn't expect Brock to explode the way he did, eventually giving them a potent outfield combo with Curt Flood.

As Halberstam tells it, the secret to Brock's turnaround came down to one simple adjustment - sunglasses.

Playing in the Wrigley Field outfield, no one bothered to tell Brock he might want to bring a pair of shades out with him, which turned him from a shaky outfielder at best to a more complete player and one who wouldn't be a total liability if his bat went quiet for a week or more in August.

The point is that trying to pick the breakout stars might be easier today with every stat not only recorded in a box score, but also taped, replayed and available to every team and most fans who want to dig deep enough.

Even now, Kei Igawa is having the same types of problems, coming over from Japan and domed stadiums to the sunny infields of Florida, where he's trying to make the adjustment by pitching with sunglasses on. It seems like such a stupid, small thing, but it could honestly be the difference for Igawa this year and how the Yankees hold up with pitching at a premium in the Bronx.

Injuries, minor wear and tear and other physical problems make it hard enough to figure out who will be standing in October, much less players who wear the wrong sized shoes for years on end - ahem, Kevin Mench, ahem...

We all know by now that the best team doesn't always win the World Series and as Frankie pointed out, the Cardinals were a prime example last year of a team that got hot in October and rode that to a championship.

All of that said, I'll still be trying to cobble together a prediction or two this weekend, while tearing my hair out over fantasy baseball ups and downs all season.

The cure for walking into the office after a long night of AJ Pierzinski-fueled nightmares? The old Lou Brock special.

(Photo from



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