Siberian Baseball

Monday, March 31, 2008

Ernie Banks has a big day

Like a few hundred other fans without the good sense to stay out of the rain, I was at Wrigley Field this morning with my cup of coffee to stand in the cold, misting rain to be there the day that Ernie Banks was rewarded for his years with the Cubs with a statue at the corner of Clark and Addison.

There was the statue, followed by a media platform with a people pen behind that for the fans to stand and cheer. Those fans hoping to actually see or hear the speeches honoring Banks should have just stayed in the bar at 10 a.m.

I had a very nice view of the back of the platform and local media personality ass. I can only imagine how awful the view would have been if I wasn't at the front near the railing.

Still, it was fun to see the TV folks being babies and stomping their feet when told they needed to walk around the crowd to get to the media pen (a distance of 50-60 feet and certainly easier than jumping the wet railing in the rain). The biggest baby of the day was Jim Rose from ABC who couldn't believe he was being asked to walk around, despite showing up late.

The audio was spotty, but we caught glimpses of the retired players through gaps between legs and the highlight had to be the glimpses we caught of Hank Aaron.

The running joke from the cheap seats was that they could just keep announcing people and we wouldn't know the difference until we got home and saw the news to learn that the corpse of Babe Ruth wasn't really dug up for the occasion.

I also learned this morning that Banks was technically the first black manager in the big leagues when he filled in for Whitey Lockman who was booted from a game against San Diego. It's always nice to know that your morning wasn't a total waste, regardless of crappy weather.

I made it home in time for the pregame ceremony and first pitch, which featured Mr. Cub, Aaron, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams and Jesse Jackson. Yeah, I'm still confused, too.

In any event, the HD for WGN looks great and should look even better in three months when the field isn't covered in fog. The photo gallery from this morning can be found here.

(Image taken for Siberian Baseball)

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Opening Day is finally here... sorta

As the WGN telecast is getting ramped up in earnest - and the Cubs front office tries to put a happy face on the rain and how quickly things are draining with the new system in place under the field - it's officially Opening Day in Chicago.

It's chilly and rainy, but Wrigleyville is buzzing once again, so that has to count for something.

I'll send you over to McSweeney's for a great piece that I picked up in my Internet travels over the winter and have saved until today.

Enjoy Opening Day... or the three hours of Golden Girls reruns, whichever is being aired this afternoon.

(Image taken for Siberian Baseball)


That's not good

OK, if it took a black cat to jinx the 1969 Chicago Cubs, what does this mean for the Dodgers?

A skunk is much, much worse than a black cat, right?


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nats get new home

Nothing groundbreaking, but here's ESPN's tour of the Nationals new ballpark.

So, now that they have a new ballpark, will this team stay in DC? Because that's been a problem for the nation's capitol in the past.

I'm still trying to make up my mind on the high camera angle behind the plate that ESPN is using for the night's broadcast. I seem to remember this being used at RFK at one point when MLB was using the high center field cameras to give a better view of the strike zone, but never from behind the plate. I guess the angle isn't bad, but it confuses me for a second every time they cut to it and I forget to pay attention to the play.


Prior! Where the hell is Prior?

With the exception of those who are actively paid by Major League Baseball, you'd be hard pressed to find people who can rattle off the off-season movement short of the top-tier free agents and players who have hung up the spikes.

Of course, Sports Illustrated is there to help with an annual photo gallery and the player tracker is still chugging along at after months of use.

Feel free to wander around over at the MLB site to see for yourself just how many veteran players are scrambling to call the cable company tomorrow to get their MLB Extra Innings package hooked up so they can catch some games.

In the interest of saving time, here are what Chicago fans of both teams need to know with Opening Day less than 24 hours away.

Cubs fans should know that:

* Wade Miller signed a minor league contract
* Daryle Ward and the team reached a mutual option
* Scott Eyre exercised his option
* Jacque Jones and Omar Infante switched lockers when Jones headed to Detroit
* Craig Monroe is in Minnesota now for a player to be named later
* Kerry Wood signed a one-year deal and is the new closer... for now at least
* Jason Kendall jumped the border and will backstop the Brewers this year
* Will Ohman and Infante were shipped to Atlanta for Jose Ascanio. I need to return my new Infante jersey
* Cliff Floyd is now in Tampa playing with the new-look Rays
* Kosuke Fukudome - once again, Foo-koo-doh-may - signed his four-year deal on Dec. 19.
* Mark Prior is now a San Diego Padere
* Angel Pagan headed to the Mets for two minor leaguers
* Jon Lieber came back to the Cubs from the Phillies
* Steve Trachsel was invited to Spring Training by the Orioles. I was, too. So was Babe Ruth's corpse.
* Alex Cintron was asked to join the North Side/South Side club by coming over from the White Sox - and was then released
* Reed Johnson signed a one-year deal

Also of note in the Central:

Milwaukee Brewers:
Mike Cameron (formerly of the Padres)
Eric Gagne (Red Sox)
David Riske (Royals)

Houston Astros:
Miguel Tejada (Orioles)
Kaz Matsui (Rockies)
Darin Erstad (White Sox)

Adam Everett and Mike Lamb (Twins)
Brad Lidge (Phillies)
Chris Burke and Chad Qualls (Diamondbacks)

Woody Williams

St. Louis Cardinals:
Swapped Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus (Blue Jays)
Cesar Izturis (Pirates)

Cincinnati Reds:
Francisco Cordero (Brewers)
Josh Fogg (Rockies)
Dusty Baker (manager from ESPN)

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Doug Mientkiewicz (Yankees)

And for the White Sox fans:

* Juan Uribe signed a one-year deal (and was waived this week)
* Jon Garland was traded to the Angels for Orlando Cabrera
* Scott Linebrink moves from the Brewers to the South Side
* Erstad headed to Houston
* Nick Swisher joins the team from Oakland... not that he was even on the trading block, but what Kenny wants, Kenny gets. He's a rebel, a gunslinger, just like Brett Favre
* Ryan Sweeny heads to Oakland with two other players in the Swisher trade
* Alexei Ramirez joins the ballclub after playing in Cuba
* Octavio Dotel is signed after pitching in Atlanta
* Mike Myers is invited to Dodgers camp, Scott Podsednik is invited by the Rockies and Craig Wilson heads off with the Reds
* David Aardsma is sent to Boston for two young arms
* Tomo Ohka heads over from Seattle
* Josh Fields will start the season in AAA as Kenny Williams works his magic
* Third base coach Razor Shines is fired for a performance not as awesome as his name

Also of note in the Central:

Detroit Tigers:
Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera (Marlins)
Edgar Renteria (Braves)

Cleveland Indians:
Jason Tyner (Twins), Jorge Julio (Rockies), Scott Elarton ( and Brendan Donnelly (Red Sox) are all signed to minor league contracts
Masahide Kobayashi (Japan)

Minnesota Twins:
Lamb and Everett (Astros)
Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett are sent to Tampa for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris
Livan Hernandez (Diamondbacks)
Monroe (Cubs)

Johan Santana (Mets)
Carlos Silva (Mariners)
Sidney Ponson (Rangers)
Matthew LeCroy (A's)
Torii Hunter (Angels)
Lew Ford (Japan)

Kansas City Royals:
Jose Guillen (Mariners)
Miguel Olivo (Marlins)
Brett Tomko (Padres)

(Image from:

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Friday, March 28, 2008

The freedom of the blog

(Note: I shelved this post for a few weeks as I tried to clarify some thoughts and clean up the overall post for readability issues. The times lines might be a little off on some references, but the meat of the post is unchanged.)

I'll try to keep this short, as it's been covered before and pretty well, but I've had three reminders in seven days that the blogs I read and writers I respect are still seen as some sort of outsider movement, hellbent on forcing their views on other without any research or sense of responsibility, all while throwing the rules of grammar to the wind (um, guilty) and spilling Cheetos into their laptop keyboards.

First was this posting at Goatriders of the Apocalypse, which noticed a new linking policy for the Chicago Sun-Times on Feb. 26. Given the problems at the paper, I'll go the cynical route and assume this is the free way to expand online content while the paper circles the drain.

A few weeks ago, Deadspin brought it to my attention that Bob Costas doesn't like me very much and thinks I'm an idiot. I'm firmly in the camp that thought Costas of all people "got it" and is now very disappointed that it appears he doesn't.

Finally - and oddly enough, the piece of this puzzle that started everything - was a conversation with a friend of my wife's regarding blogging and the blog culture as we were killing time last weekend.

She mentioned that an ex of hers had worked for one of the wire services and we started talking about the pros and cons of traditional reporting versus blogging.

Honestly, I don't mind the blogger side of things as much as I thought I would. Aside from the pay scales (nearly free versus free), the envy of other males (especially your wife or girlfriend's exes) and on-site, immediate access, the positives tend to pile up on the blog side.

I like being able to sink or swim on my own here and not having to go back to the locker room in a few days and defend myself because bruised egos don't want to answer questions after a loss. While the overall experience is positive, there is always someone who gets rubbed the wrong way by something you wrote, even if it's true. If a player hasn't had a goal in five games (a fact) that doesn't make it any easier to deal with when some knucklehead is writing about it in the paper, right?

We talked about the difference in approach between bloggers and reporters and the freedom that comes from not relying on access or being defined by it. Much of what the traditional media is based on is just that - access. When you flip through your local news at night, if one channel has the head coach and the other has the special teams coach, who do you place more faith in? Exactly, it's a popularity contest without anyone really noticing.

In my case access is the furthest thing from my mind and it allows for a lot more leeway. Sure, it allows for bigger, more embarrassing falls, but it's a fair trade.

Additionally, removing that access takes away the stonewall factor that the traditional media is subject to. Let's say I watch the same game on TV or from the stands that a reporter is also covering. We're both bright people when it comes to sports and we both see that the quarterback is off (and that stats obviously bear this out, as the completion percentage is just disgusting) and the reason for that is that his throwing motion is out of whack.

After the game, the reporter catches the head coach and they ask about what was going on with the player during the game. Is he hurt? Was their a problem with his equipment? Here are the numbers, what gives?

In some cases, that head coach is looking to play down an injury or a bad performance to keep other teams off balance or to save his player's ego and either way, it makes for a bad situation for the reporter. The options at this point are to run with the story as it has been neutralized by the coaching staff ("Coach X denied that injuries played a factor in the 10-point loss Saturday, despite his quarterback going 2-for-18 in the second half...") or to raise the red flags and prepare for a possible confrontation in the near future ("After the Knights' quarterback finished the game in noticeable pain, Coach X denied that injuries played a factor in the 10-point loss Saturday despite a 2-for-18 showing in the second half...").

Blogging, while it lacks traditional access, also lacks the traditional punishments by players or coaches revoking access. This an overlooked facet of the sports world, moreso than politics or other beats - while reporters can cry foul in the name of public good when a politician refuses to comment on their actions, sports aren't really governed by the same rules.

Cause a problem, get a flat quote - cause enough problems and don't expect much in some extreme cases. I think this is where some of the traditional reporters get antsy - they don't see the traditional checks and balances in place and view that as a lack of standards.

In reality, how is anything that a blogger speculates on any better or worse than a reporter fighting for access and forced to piece together stories some nights that have weak support from players and coaches? Worse still, how is the quality impacted by a reporter on thin ice who is trying not to piss anyone else off for a few days?

At least the bloggers don't have to fight for parking and risk a speeding ticket getting back to the office in order to hit a deadline.


Where is "None of the above?" has a feature up where users can vote on which baseball games for the next-gen consoles are doing well in recreating the players in digital form.

While some are pretty accurate, others - like Randy Johnson, who has only been in the league since his rookie season with Hippo Vaughn and is pictured at the right - fall very, very short in each of the three games.

So, check out the offerings from MLB 2K8, MLB: The Show and The Bigs and their varying degrees of success. Then think back to the fact that roughly 10 years ago guys in college sat around and played RBI Baseball for the NES and got along fine with players that didn't have much in the way of facial features.

On a moderately related note, it appears that Barry Bonds was erased from the digital world before he was scrubbed from AT&T Park this week, with no mention of his records in MLB 2K8 for the second year that I'm aware of.

Bonds has been left out of licensed games for years, creating an odd, developer-created players like Jon Dowd, Joe Young and Reggie Stocker in his place in the past. This poses the question - is Bonds being excluded on the records side because he didn't enter into the MLBPA or because the development teams are trying to make some sort of statement.

Sadly, until Kevin Millar starts making a run for a record like most times hit by a pitch or strikeouts, we may never know.

(Image from


So very cold

Piggybacking on this week's Opening Day in Japan is this link from my dad, wondering if the University of Chicago's games would be televised here in the United States.

My guess is maybe, but probably before the 5 a.m. starts for the live games and most likely a week or two after the games were actually played. I'll be sure to update the public access schedules when they're updated.

I was listening to sports talk in the car yesterday and heard the call for someone in baseball's front office to get a better handle on weather in Chicago, Detroit and New York in late March and early April, which rolls in nicely with the outcry for fairness after the Japanese series.

These are really no-win situations - save for axing the far, far away games outright, which isn't a bad idea - for the schedulers. If you shy away from the cold-weather towns to start the season and schedule for warm weather or domed stadiums, you make it harder on the Cubs, Mets, etc. to get out of the gate.

On the back end, teams like Los Angeles, San Diego and Florida are punished at the end of the season when the home games start to dry up.

Short of cutting down the season from 162 games, I can't see how any of this works out well for people who enjoy complaining about schedules. The simplest answer is to shut up and play your games, but what fun is that?

On second thought, ask me again when I'm sitting at Wrigley for Monday's opener in what is expected to be 35- to 40-degree freezing rain.

Yeah! Outdoor baseball!

(Image from:


Monday, March 24, 2008

Today in closers

Two quick links today as Minnesota kept their closer and the Cubs named theirs.

Joe Nathan inked a four-year, $47 million deal to stay with the Twins, while Kerry Wood is being named the closer in Chicago, despite his little scare from back spasms last week.

I'm currently working on the "don't pay for saves" post as soon as I brush up on Moneyball.

Expect that to follow a sleep-deprived rant after tomorrow morning's 5 a.m. Red Sox season opener, Live! From! Japan!

I'll also point you to numbers 42 and 43 from the Bugs and Cranks listing of the 162 things you need to know about the upcoming season.

42. Sean Casey is inactive for the Red Sox/A’s series in Japan because he got a stiff neck from sleeping in a bad position on the 17-hour flight.

43. Until DeLoreans can transport teams to the Far East in less than 17 hours, trips to Japan are stupid wastes of time for everyone involved.

(Image from

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National League Preview - 2008

After years of sifting though press releases to figure out which were total garbage - and years before that spent transcribing every useless fax to have extra "just in case" copy - I get a cheap thrill by trying to deconstruct news cycles and media blitzes to try and figure out what the angle is.

Case in point is watching commercials for the upcoming season, which are frontloaded with NL talent before getting to the AL East standby reel towards the end. While it's a good idea for the league to hard sell a fighting chance for the kids in the National League, the talent is certainly there.

Where the NL lags is building competitive teams year in and year out. While talent rises to the top, aside from Atlanta's run, no National League team really stands apart as building a team for the long haul. Say what you will about the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels and their spending habits, but their teams are performing most years.

While it's nice that most of the Top 10 Fantasy Players in this year's draft are National League products - I'll refer to the link from the other day - which has its ten best consisting of:

Alex Rodriguez
Hanley Ramírez
David Wright
Miguel Cabrera
José Reyes
Matt Holliday
Chase Utley
Jimmy Rollins
Albert Pujols
Johan Santana

I think it's interesting that the Mets field a trio of Wright, Reyes and Santana and the Phillies have Utley and Rollins (and Ryan Howard) as the National League tries to get a foothold in the dynasty-making business.

While teams like Chicago and New York are proving they're willing to spend for wins and Arizona shocked everyone when their youth movement gained traction last fall, it has to make National League fans feel a little better with multiple paths back to respectability on a national level.

NL East

The Sexy Pick: The Mets have to put things together one of these years and signing Santana to shut down games in the National League can't hurt. While my man crush on Santana is well-documented here (oh, the intangibles this man will bring to Shea!) I truly feel that having that type of impact isn't too much to ask for the premiere pitcher in baseball.

Then again we have the recent history of failure in 2006 and 2007.

The Smart Money Pick: Phillies to repeat, regardless of the Mets and their growing payroll. As someone pointed out on one of my Johan Santana posts, he's just one man on a team and he'll only play every fifth game at best. Brad Lidge is an upgrade on paper, but he's already injured and will miss the season opener.

My Picks:

Philadelphia Phillies (1st 89-73)
New York Mets (2nd 88-74)
Washington Nationals (4th 73-89)
Atlanta Braves (3rd 84-78)
Florida Marlins (5th 71-91)

NL Central

The Sexy Pick: Chicago again this year. Sure, they won the division last year, but were rushed out of the playoffs when the offense fell apart and the Cubs were outclassed from the first pitch.

They've added a Japanese import (Kosuke Fukudome) and have reshuffled the lineup to inject a little youth as they did during last season's push.

The reality is that the bullpen is still a work in progress with Kerry Wood moving in and Ryan Dempster moving out and those questions will need to be answered before the Cubs can be considered a true contender for the Central title, much less as World Series champs.

The Smart Money Pick: Milwaukee nearly took the Central last year and have spent the offseason repositioning their players to put Ryan Braun in left field and Bill Hall at third base. The key pieces from last year return and the bullpen looks good on paper, if not in practice.

There's a serviceable rotation in place that's primed for a mid-season pickup to push them through August and September, but as long as the Brewers' bats don't go into a prolonged slump, the team should have the Central this year with wins to spare.

My Picks:

Milwaukee Brewers (2nd 83-79)
Chicago Cubs (1st 85-77)
Houston Astros (4th 73-89)
Cincinnati Reds (5th 72-90)
St. Louis Cardinals (3rd 78-84)
Pittsburgh Pirates (6th 68-94)

NL West

The Sexy Pick: The Diamondbacks to build on last year's success and repeat as NL West champs with a young, talented team. Add Dan Haren in the offseason to shore up the pitching rotation and Arizona looks loaded for the next few years.

The Smart Money Pick: The Rockies were a bit of a surprise in last year's playoffs, riding a relatively unknown group of players to the World Series. If they can hold off Arizona and to a lesser extent, Los Angeles, there's no good reason that Colorado won't make a return to the playoffs. I'm pretty excited to see what kind of a difference the confidence gained in last year's playoffs makes this year for the Rockies.

For what it's worth, I don't think the Padres are going to be as improved as they're hoping to be in 2008. I guess I have a hard time taking a team seriously when it plans to start Jim Edmonds in center at this point in his career.

My Picks:

Colorado Rockies (2nd 90-72)
Arizona Diamondbacks (1st 90-73)
Los Angeles Dodgers (4th 82-80)
San Diego Padres (3rd 89-74)
San Francisco Giants(5th 71-91)

The Round Up

My best guess for 2008 comes down to the Phillies, Brewers and Rockies with a total shot in the dark for which team will make it in as the Wild Card. I'm going to go with Arizona there, for the simple reason that with the Diamondbacks playing the Dodgers, Padres and Giants all year, they'll be able to fatten up their win totals for October.

(Photo from

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American League Preview - 2008

For the record, I just copied and pasted last year's preview template because I wanted to reuse the formatting that looked so stellar last season, so if this looks familiar, that's why.

The funny thing is that much of the breakdowns from last year are still in place, only amped up a little bit. The Red Sox and Yankees are stacked as usual, only a little more so. The Tigers, who I tabbed as last year's smart pick in the AL Central are the smart pick there again, only more so. The AL West is another murky shootout again this year, with beefed up lineups for the Angels and Mariners.

So, the more things change, the more they stay the same, but with legitimate contenders rising in the West, and perennial doormats in Kansas City and Tampa Bay taking steps to move out of the basement, the refrain I'm hearing in a lot of preview pieces is that the era of easy wins from the usual also-rans is drawing to a close.

Will there be a few teams that completely go in the tank? Sure there will, there always are, but at the base level, the thought process is solid. Maybe teams don't take 75 percent of each series in Kansas City any more, thus dropping the overall win totals for the division leaders. Whether that actually shows up in 85- to 90-win division champs remains to be seen, but on the surface, it's easier for the team-specific bloggers to say nice things this year about all of their teams.

Even those teams that suck.

AL East

The Sexy Pick: Red Sox to repeat as champs. The core and more have been kept together - as opposed to 2005, which saw roughly half of the starting rotation bail out after the World Series - and it's not much of a stretch to say that the team is still upgrading with their youth movement from last October. Even pitching injuries haven't slowed Boston much, with Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester ready to take over as Curt Schilling heals and Bartolo Colon plays himself out of the majors.

(Update: Hey, look, I'm a genius at prognostication!)

The Smart Money Pick: This honestly has to be the Red Sox again. The big divide is whether they will win it in a runaway, or have to fight it out with the Yankees, a beefed up Blue Jays and Tampa Bay, which looks ready to be more competitive than they have been in the past.

Bonus Coverage: This is the division most likely to see the gap in win totals closed, with Tampa and Toronto leveling the playing field with New York and Boston. Tampa has added Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza from Minnesota via a trade and will bring blue chip prospect Evan Longoria in at third base. Garza joins Scott Kazmir and James Shields to provide a viable 1-2-3 in their rotation and their trademark strength in the outfield is in place as well.

This will be the year that teams get nervous when playing the Rays.

My Picks (with last year's final standing and record):

Boston Red Sox (1st 96-66)
New York Yankees (2nd 94-68)
Toronto Blue Jays (3rd 83-79)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (5th 66-96)
Baltimore Orioles (4th 69-93)

AL Central

The Sexy Pick: Cleveland. Budding players, emerging stars and a stunning lack of concern for the problems with their closer position. That's word-for-word what I said last year and it holds true with a small substitution.

The closer situation seems cleaner - somehow Joe Borowski keeps putting up the numbers and this year doesn't feature a last-minute retirement from the consensus closer - but the starting rotation seems weak. The team's official depth chart has seven starters and once you get past C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona you have Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook, Aaron Laffey and Cliff Lee.

This is still the team that put Boston on the ropes in last year's playoffs and held off Detroit to win the division. No reason they can't do that again.

The Smart Money Pick: Detroit Tigers. In becoming the mini-Yankees, Detroit has assembled a serviceable All-Star team and landed one and a half major players in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. It remains to be seen whether or not Willis gets back on track as the young gun he was a few years ago, but with the Tigers behind him in the field instead of the Marlins, he can't do any worse.

Add Edgar Renteria at short and the Tigers are the favorite in the weak AL Central.

Bonus Coverage: The Sporting News has the division picked as Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City and Minnesota. Good for you, Royals, you've arrived. Minnesota fans shouldn't expect much this year as they continue their slide into their new ballpark with Joe Mauer and the Rochester Red Wings. As much as they've proven in the past that they "find ways to win" it's a lot tougher without your signature player and the top left-handed pitcher in the game.

My Picks:

Detroit Tigers (2nd 88-74)
Cleveland Indians (1st 96-66)
Chicago White Sox (4th 72-90)
Minnesota Twins (3rd 79-83)
Kansas City Royals (5th 69-93)

AL West

The Sexy Pick: The Mariners addition of Erik Bedard gives them an immediate ace at the top of the rotation, with Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn filling in at two and three. Carlos Silva and Miguel Bautista should worry Seattle fans at the bottom of that rotation.

The Smart Money Pick: While Seattle is taking the conservative approach of building a winning team, the Angels are trying to win now. Owner Arte Moreno wasn't on board for their World Series run, which has to eat him up and it's interesting to see the team pursing free agents as they make serious runs at the championship each year.

Torii Hunter is a solid pick up, Jon Garland is a big name who has never performed well in his new home stadium (lifetime ERA of 4.94, roughly a half a run higher than his career numbers). The Angels will need to get off the line quickly, despite pitching injuries to start the season.

My Picks:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1st 94-68)
Seattle Mariners (2nd 88-74)
Texas Rangers (4th 75-87)
Oakland A's (3rd 76-86)

The Round Up:

The Red Sox out of the East, the Tigers in the Central and the Angels out West. For the Wild Card, I have to go with Cleveland, based on how well they did last year and the fact that the AL East tends to eat its young with the division beating the hell out of each other. With the gap in the East closing as the Central is widening, I think the numbers will fall in place for the Indians.

(Photo from:

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Well, that's something different

I'm really enjoying watching ESPN scramble as the Red Sox refuse to take the field for this afternoon's Spring Training game against Toronto.

For the quick catch-up, the team is refusing to take the field in Fort Myers and says it won't get on the bus to the airport later today until the coaching, training and equipment staffs are paid for the scheduled trip to Japan.

Jason Varitek is in front of the cameras now and is apologizing to the fans - and promising autographs for those in the stadium - for essentially cancelling the game today as ESPN's broadcasters try to make lemonade with the dead airtime.

At 11:16 a.m., the Sox headed back to the dugout - more later if it's interesting.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Need a free draft guide?

We'll consider this "helping out my fellow man, with the exception of those I'm closest to" as I waited until after our fantasy draft to post a link. No sense in giving anyone in my league a freebee, right?

Check out the impressive work at Sports Overdose as they took the pre-rankings for the major sites, averaged the information and broke it down into handy, bite-sized pieces. What swell people, huh?

That link will drop you off with the first basemen, but you can slice and dice the information by position or the exceptionally helpful mock draft.

As a bonus, the mock draft is structured in such a way that you can stick to your guns by not overpaying for pitching early.

Good luck, don't forget your draft time and never, ever pay for saves.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Thanks for the bobblehead, a-holes

The next in a long line of disappointing releases surrounding Major League Baseball
is apparently Major League Baseball 2K8 for the Xbox 360.

Just a quick glance at the 2K Sports message boards seems to support this perception. Unfortunately, without any competition because of the exclusive licensing deal, there's not a lot of room for gamers to take their dollars elsewhere. As happy as I was to see Electronic Arts get screwed after they locked out competition in the NFL market, it seems that many of the worst case scenarios imagined by angry sports gamers are now here.

I won't get into too much detail right now - in fairness, I've only been able to play the game for a very short period of time so far - but with overhauls of the pitching, batting and fielding mechanics, it's just asking for trouble.

I appreciate the effort made by the developers as they tied all of the essential game functions to the two analog sticks on the controller and are getting away from traditional button pushing. For example, instead of pushing a button to swing, you pull back the stick on the controller to start your step and push ahead to swing - it's an impressive step towards a more intuitive game and I understand that.

Here are my concerns after limited time spent with 2K8:

* In two games with my franchise mode, both have been rained out before the fifth inning, making the game's stats irrelevant by rule. However, the calendar won't advance without the game being recorded. So, I'm back where I started, having to play Opening Day for a third time this evening.

* The printed instructions that came with the game are incorrect. They apparently cut and pasted last year's manual, changed the headings to SwingStick 2.0 and sent off the game. It took combing through the forums to confirm that the instructions were misprinted. Awesome.

* For 60 bucks, I get a free Jose Reyes bobblehead and a buggy game. Luckily, the Xbox 360 accepts updates via an Internet connection, so some of the glitches will be fixed. While I can appreciate the fact that games can now be patched in order to correct problems, you know what's better?

A game that's properly tested and programmed before its release date. That's like 100 times better.


Cubs headed to the South Side?

Just a quick link from this morning to get on record here with the proposal to have the Cubs play at US Cellular Field for a season in order to get Wrigley Field back up to code.

The idea is that if the state buys the property, they might want to have the Cubs share the space with the White Sox to get construction completed in one shot instead of over three years. I guess that's the problem with baseball season being roughly the same length as construction season.

This raises a number of concerns, mainly that while it would be a hometown crowd, it would mean away games all summer for the Cubs and questions about who has priority in dictating the height of the infield grass and the Cubs having short term problems of a team designed to play in Wrigley suddenly having to play in a much different ballpark.

We're not talking about the Bears playing at the University of Illinois here.

Secondarily, how many police are two many when it comes to yuppies and tourists flooding the area all summer? Would individual escorts for each fan be a good jumping off point?

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