Siberian Baseball

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny headed west, Bay to Beantown

In what was the big surprise of the day, the Red Sox and Pirates were in on the wheeling and dealing, Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay were moved, just not with the Marlins as expected.

The Dodgers swept in at the (seemingly) last minute and entered the fray, taking Ramirez off of Boston's hands and opening the door to send Bay to New England.


Ramirez, 36, landed in L.A., and Bay, 29, was shipped from Pittsburgh to Boston. For their part in the deal, the Pirates received third baseman Andy LaRoche, brother of Bucs first baseman Adam LaRoche, and Minor League pitcher Bryan Morris from the Dodgers, and right-hander Craig Hansen and outfielder Brandon Moss from the Red Sox. All but Morris, 21, are 24 years old.

Here's where things get interesting for Ramirez and his new Dodger family:

Ramirez, in addition to being granted a trade out of Boston, will also get his freedom. His $20 million club options for each of the next two seasons were dropped, which will allow Ramirez to become a free agent this winter. Additionally, the Red Sox are paying the $7 million remaining on Ramirez's $20 million salary for this year.

Instant free agency? How does this work well for the Dodgers? Unless they think they have the inside track on signing him in the offseason, why make this move?

It makes sense that they wouldn't want to part with Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp when Theo Epstein started working the phones knowing that, but still. Do they really think they're geared for the postseason? Sure, the NL West is weak and it's not out of the question to walk away with the division, but it just seems a little short sighted at first glance.

It appears I'm not the only one.

Before closing out this post, I wanted to save a little space for quiet reflection on the Manny Ramirez era ending in Boston.

As many of the Red Sox blogs are doing this evening, it's not so much a time to throw dirt on the guy, but to say thank you for what he's done for the team in bringing two World Series titles to Boston and helping to power one of the better offenses in the league during that stretch.

Let's face it, there's a reason he was the playoff MVP in 2004 and David Ortiz would not be the hitter he is (at least numbers-wise) without Manny in that same lineup.

Yes, he was bizarre. Yes, he was moody - more than anything, Boston fans will stay angry about the comments that the team didn't deserve him - and yes, he'd run hot and cold, but when he was good, he was very, very good.

Obviously, the team will keep playing without Manny and there are worse options than Jason Bay, but it's going to be a little strange for the next few weeks.

I don't know how I'll deal with Sawx games without that live-action Muppet running around under the Monster.

That said, brace yourselves, Dodger fans - it can be an odd ride.

(Image from Boston Dirt Dogs - Joseph Boucher)


Twin Cities sees uptick in wheelchair thefts

In the land of ice and nice, it's a big deal when people don't act in a manner that would please their parents, so it shocked me to see that a wheelchair was stolen at the Metrodome during last night's Twins-Sox game.

When Danny e-mailed everyone, I saw the Kare 11 web address and knew it was something strange and something from the Twin Cities. I never would have guessed that it would be for this.

I know what you're thinking - Where the hell is the security tape? - well, right here.

Note the helpful stadium attendant who opens the doors for the thief. It just goes to show you that someone stupid enough to steal a wheelchair is also too stupid to operate a door. My guess is that there are too many moving parts.

As for the victim of the theft, he's taking things pretty well, but just wants his chair back.

"It helps me get places. I have much more freedom with it. I can do things with my friends a lot easier," says Sam. "Just no hard feelings. Just bring it back."

I'm at a loss for words. You know, aside from the ones already here. Wow.

(Image from:


Good morning, half your team has been traded

Good morning, campers.

Welcome to the trading deadline, which if the early returns are any indication, will be a pretty busy day.

Last night it was Ivan Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth as the Tigers and Yankees swapped players - this is kind of like claiming a fair trade when swapping a $5 bill for a $1 bill because they're both paper currency - but this morning, Ken Griffey Jr. is reportedly ready to switch into South Side pinstripes.

Pending player approval, Griffey would join the Sox and the Reds will be eligible for competition in the Little League World Series.

Here's Frank the Tank's early slant on it from our e-mail exchange this morning:

I’ll need to see who the Sox would be giving up here. Kenny Williams has long had a fascination with Griffey, so it’s not very surprising. Basically, it gives the Sox the option to bench Konerko (who’s batting barely past .200) and put Swisher at 1B while a bit better offensive production in the outfield (presumably center).

Also, I see it as insurance in the event Thome gets hurt again.

Essentially, it’s a higher profile version of the Cubs have done with Jim Edmonds this year.

Good point.

The Manny Ramirez trade is drawing comparisons to the great Nomar Deadline Dump of 2004, with the Red Sox, Pirates and Marlins each throwing a few players back and forth in an attempt to pacify the manchild.

Never a dull moment with that Manny.

Here are the other rumors being floated between ESPN, MLB and a few other Web sites this morning:

* Colorado's Brian Fuentes to a host of teams, including Tampa Bay and St. Louis.

* Greg Maddux to the Padres or Dodgers from the Padres or Dodgers (wherever he's pitching these days - it's hard to keep track.)

* Adam Dunn to the Rays to fill a need for a slugger that isn't Barry Bonds. Because everyone is conspiring against him.

* Jason Bay to follow Xavier Nady out of town, landing in Boston or Tampa Bay if the Dunn deal gets sticky.

* "Wood, Piniella both perplexed by blister" - actual headline by the Daily Herald. Nothing to do with trades, it just is an unfortunate string of nouns and verbs.

* Will Ohman is reportedly desired by most of the AL East - Sawx, Yanks and Rays.

* Finally, the Rangers are shopping their four catchers for pitching help. Good for them.

More if things get shook up this morning and hopefully an evening update after work.

(Image from:


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pudge to fill in for injured Posada

It's the big story at the trading deadline outside of the Manny Ramirez "will he, won't he" saga, but Ivan Rodriguez has been traded for Kyle Farnsworth.

Straight up one for one deal. The same kind of deal that would be questioned if it happened in my fantasy league (/Simmons). Commissioner Frankie is quick on the draw for those types of shenanigans.


Farnsworth, 32, was having his best season of his three with the Yankees, pitching to a 3.65 ERA in 45 appearances. He struggled in a setup role his first two seasons after joining the Yankees as a free agent before the 2006 season.

Farnsworth pitched for Detroit in '05, registering six saves before being traded to Atlanta at the July 31 Trade Deadline. He was emotional as he discussed the deal, briefly breaking down in tears as he spoke to reporters.

"Nothing surprises me in this game, but it's one of those things you can't really put your finger on," Farnsworth said, his lower lip trembling.

Girardi said that saying goodbye to Farnsworth -- a former batterymate and a pitcher for who he had lobbied all season long -- was especially difficult.

It strikes me as a little strange that MLB is saying that the Tigers are the ones who initiated this trade. For Farnsworth.

This leaves Brandon Inge as the only one on the Tigers' depth chart as a catcher - and he's listed as a 3B on his bio page, but has 24 games this season under his belt after starting his career behind the plate - which should change tomorrow morning, right?

The bigger question has to be whether or not this is a white flag for the Tigers.

(Image from: Flickr User BostonWolverine - hey I dig that kind of juxtaposition!)

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Is small ball a little white lie?

It's pretty intuitive to write off the big swinging, big missing sluggers in baseball as being more trouble than they're worth some seasons when they put together games where they don't make contact in any of their at-bats until they crush one into the cheap seats.

Run down your mental checklist of players who have had that tag hung on them and it makes a lot of sense to lust after a few players on your team that grasp small ball and can grind out runs and make solid contact each time they grab a bat.

(I am currently having the shakes caused by the final two seasons that Sammy Sosoa spent with the Cubs after weighing this prospect.)

But, is it worth it?

I found this link to Dugout Central from a tip from another BallHype user, BrianDaubach7, which starts plugging in different numbers and seeing what would happen if a few players from Reggie Jackson to Barry Bonds had been playing station-to-station.

Intuitively this seems incorrect. Everyone knows that strikeouts are more damaging than this. After checking (and rechecking) the math, I turned to Reggie Jackson. Reggie created 1,728 runs in 21 seasons. Turn all 2,597 of his strikeouts into pop outs and his runs created climbs to 1,754. The all-time strikeout leader only cost his teams 26 runs through failure to make contact.

It won't make it any easier the next time someone hacks themself back to the bench late in a close game, but it might help a little bit.

(Image from:


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

That's about right

From this morning's Boston Dirt Dogs page - artwork by Meir Weinberg.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Musical Chairs - 2008 Trading Deadline Looms

After catching a break last year on the Manny Ramirez emotional roller coaster, the Red Sox are putting up with his mood swings again this year.

Following the weekend's comments that if it made everyone happy, he'd play in Iraq, Ramirez is stirring the pot with the trade deadline set this Thursday. I can't imagine a single reasonable situation where Boston moves the slugger before the deadline, but it's baseball and stranger things have happened.

Here's a solid breakdown from of who is likely staying and who could be going. I especially liked all of the little smartass comments - way to go Nice to see you not take yourself too seriously for once.

Case in point:

There isn't as much depth, surprisingly, in right-handers. The A's have in Huston Street a proven closer of value, and Billy Beane hasn't made a deal in at least 20 minutes.

Heh. Good one.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ichiro closes in in 3,000 hits... sorta

Not to take anything away from Ichiro, but MLB is trying to hype up a milestone of 3,000 hits split between Japan and the United States.


Heading into Friday night's series opener against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, where he is a .333 career hitter, Ichiro has 2,995 hits as a professional.

But his achievement has an unusual breakdown, with 1,278 during his career with the Orix Blue Wave of Japan's Pacific League, and another 1,717 with Seattle after coming across the Pacific in 2001.

So, five hits from now, we'll have an odd little statistical burp for SportsCenter to mention.

In honor of this, I was trying to find the account of Lou Piniella managing Ichiro in his first Spring Training - after he signed for the low, low price of $14 million in posting fees - when no one knew how good Ichiro really was.

Of course, I'll find this story tomorrow by accident, but the basics are that Ichiro kept slapping the ball to left field time after time during his first few weeks of training. It got to the point that Piniella sat Ichiro down and asked if he could pull the ball or if that was as much as the Mariners could expect from their new bonus baby.

Ichiro calmly explained that he was trying to be as boring as possible at the plate so that opposing pitchers wouldn't be able to get a book on him until the season began.

This is what I love about Ichiro - he's such a talented and mysterious character that stories like that are completely believeable and only add to his legend.

When Wayne Gretzky was still Canada's treasure and was driving to a game with his agent, they were talking about the last game, where Gretzky had scored from an impossible angle. His agent couldn't figure out how the puck got past the goalie and a sleepy superstar told him that it was simple - he just needed to put the puck up on its side to have enough room before drifting off to sleep.

Whether or not Gretzky could actually do that is beside the point, much like Ichiro's ability to seemingly place a ball with his bat more accurately than many players are able to do with their arms.

So, whether or not this milestone causes more than a small stir with fans is irrelevant. It's all about what he appears to be capable of. Personally, I'll just wait a bit for him to hit 3,000 all on one continent - I have a feeling it won't be very long.

(Image from:

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Five ways to make baseball more blog-friendly

When I play the "What's My Perfect Job" game from time to time more often than not that dream job has something to do with professional baseball - go figure, huh?

Unfortunately, the jobs seem to be few and far between and from what I'm told you need some sort of letter of recommendation from your senator to be considered for work as the San Diego Chicken.

Recently, I was wondering if it would be worth a team's time and energy to hire some sort of blogger liaison to try and feed content to the blogs of the nation. Here is my simple five point plan to make the home team more accessible to bloggers.

1.) Provide access to the lower-level players - Any plan to actively involve blogs with the team would have to take care not to alienate the traditional media by undercutting their access. We all know the dangers of cutting beat writers out of the loop or the buffet line.

The simple solution to this is to provide access to the clubhouse bottom feeders to bloggers to help drive content. Not even face-to-face interviewing in the locker room, but once or twice a week via a chat window for blogs that feature the home team. Pick someone other than the team's stars and have them answer questions for 45 minutes or so.

Limit access to a few blogs each time - either at random or based on page views/posts in the previous week/or based on who would be representing the team - so it's not a total free for all and there's an opportunity for real information to get out into the blogosphere.

The blogs get fresh, first-person content in a virtual huddle around the player's locker while the traditional media isn't being undercut for access. Additionally, it drives exposure for younger players and allows them to get used to answering questions in a controlled environment.

Given time, it could even become a minor rite of passage. The unheralded rookies - obviously not the Jay Bruce or Joba Chamberlain level guys - are tapped for basic information and the bloggers are now in posession of fresh content that didn't get filtered through the media first.

Transcripts would be made available for those who couldn't participate or whose blogs are still finding their feet.

2.) Blogger night a few times per season - Much like the Los Angeles Dodgers have done in the past with bloggers they've cherry picked, tab a dozen blogs that cover your team and invite those nice folks over for dinner every now and again.

Make those from the front office accessible for a few innings to answer questions and bounce a few ideas off of some informed fans. Three times per season with a dozen or so bloggers means contact with 36 team blogs per season. Minor risk for major reward.

Again, bloggers get fresh content and at the very least the front office has a captive audience for free focus group work.

3.) Release pregame notes to registered bloggers - The notes sheets passed out to season ticket holders and members of the media before games are already being researched and typed up, why not make those available to bloggers as well?

While some teams do have these online, they are difficult to find at times and not always available to those without a password.

Why is this important? Those sheets are a great resource regarding records that players are on hot streaks or closing in on milestones. All of that information is available other places, but having it all in one place saves a lot of time, especially for the fan blogger who is probably working a 9 to 5 and doesn't have time to be chasing down how many times Jamie Moyer has started against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The team can compile a simple roster of who is writing about the team in exchange for game notes they're generating to begin with. Hey, you can't expect to get something for nothing.

4.) Provide a liasion to answer strange questions - A few weeks back, I wrote about why laptops are not prevalent in major league dugouts. To get an answer I was comfortable standing behind, I pored over the official rulebook trying to find any sort of ruling on electronics, sifted through a few posts on the web about the subject and eventually found the answer I was looking for.

Like most of the five points here, the basis is predicated on providing a point of contact for bloggers who are big enough to have an established site, but too small to have people directly contacting them with inside information.

Having someone in the team's press office who watches the blogs and lends a hand is a positive step. Having that person provide an e-mail address to make that a two-way street would be indispensible.

5.) Provide perks, any perks - Aside from the top level blogs that produce a ton of content, post several times a day and generate revenue that allows the writers to continue to do what they do, most blogs are run by regular fans with something to say. This, of course, is a double-edged sword.

This isn't the place to open the discussion regarding the relative merits of fan blogs versus the heavy hitters, but at the basest of levels, most fan-run blogs are done for reasons other than money. (Hey, maybe Brett Favre should start a blog with his free time?)

All told, there are very few perks for bloggers just scratching out a few posts a week between work, family and Xbox 360 marathons - why not throw them a bone? Is the team out of town on a road trip? How much would it really cost the club to invite a few out of shape bloggers to come down to the ballpark and fail miserably at batting practice? Or to do a tour of the behind the scenes areas and the locker room when the stadium is closed for the All-Star Game?

Why is this something a team would even consider? - Take a solid mid-level team like the Twins or the Padres and have them employ one guy to operate out of the media office and help out bloggers, watch to keep track of the fans' pulse and what is being said about the team and any ideas that the fans are throwing around the message boards. Pay them a few bucks - hell, it could even be an intern - and see what happens.

It's worth noting that not once have I advocated putting bloggers in the press box, on the sidelines or in the line of fire for any members of the traditional media.

At worst, the bloggers smell blood in the water and try to pummel the poor sap for high-level information (Why aren't the Royals pursuing Barry Bonds? Why? Why? Why?) and the experiment ends as quickly as it begins. At best, the team builds a degree of goodwill, gives a little back to fans who dedicate countless hours over the course of a season to collecting information on their favorite team and essentially promote the home team for free.

Five simple points - what's the downside?

(Image from:


Monday, July 21, 2008

Shut up and announce

It's no secret that I have a pretty short fuse for a handful of announcers in the big leagues.

I have one major annoyance on each end of the city here in Chicago and a few others spread out across the country who drive me totally nuts when they are the featured team on the Extra Innings package.

If I could clone Vin Scully, I totally would. That man could drop kick a kitten from his spot in the press box and I'd just pretend nothing happened and anxiously wait for the next Sandy Koufax story.

There's an interesting take on the Giants' announcers - Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper - who I can admit are a little over the top for some people. Call me names if you must, but I can appreciate two guys in a booth who get a little stir crazy in the middle of August. One the sliding scale of major league announcers, these two are certainly not the worst and don't seem to take themselves too seriously.

In an interesting column, Tim Goodman addresses the issue of what happens when the showmanship in the booth overtakes the game itself. The big piece for me is the idea - which seems pretty obvious now - that it's a conscious decision to make yourself the story when you have a feeling that the team will suck.

But the telecasts? Apparently nobody in Giants management sent a memo to their own TV producers to cut the clutter. With the games more interesting (if not always resulting in wins), viewers are instead forced to suffer through a relentless barrage of inane crowd shots. The camera crew loves people eating (what is it with watching people stuff their faces that can be deemed entertaining?) and often goes out of its way to find shots that Krukow is then obligated to talk about.

Thursday's game had two guys with ties walking - just walking - and that apparently demanded two separate shots. And while it's great to show kids at the ballpark, if only to dispel the notion that baseball is boring to the youth of America, Giants camera operators think it necessary to show every kid with a ticket, often focusing on them long after every member of the kid's extended family has seen Junior on the tube.

All told, it's a smart, thoughtful piece and applies to many of the telecasts being produced on a nightly basis. I'm with Goodman - clear out some of the clutter and let the games start standing on their own.

(Image from:

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Brian Anderson has a dirty mind

From today's Joke of the Day on the Chicago Tribune site is White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson. Guess it pays to preview these if you're going to use them as a warm up for a daily morning meeting.

I hesitate to even link to it, because the Tribune can't be bothered to allow an embedding code, so they obviously have enough site traffic.

I wouldn't want to tax their servers with the extra attention.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sitting, waiting, wishing

Much like Jack Johnson's thoughts about an indecisive lover, I am here at Logan Airport working my way through all three sections of his process. It's much like grieving in some ways.

Sitting on uncomfortable chairs, waiting for flights to clear up so I can catch a standby seat and wishing that I could just be home by now.

With some time on my hands, I wanted to point out a few quick observations from the weekend in Boston - more of the new baseball culture in town than anything else.

* As bad as the Fever Pitch fan phenomenon is in visiting cities (Baltimore, Tampa, Chicago) it's much worse in Boston. As I travel everywhere with a camera, I think in loose terms of photo essays. You would never, ever be able to capture even a sliver of all the Red Sox gear in the streets of Boston these days.

Celtics gear, maybe, but the Red Sox have the town blanketed. I don't remember it being this bad, but then again, those memories are from when I was a kid.

* Another photo essay best left untouched? The "Official Fill In the Blank of the Boston Red Sox."

Why do the Sox need an official florist? Or an official trolley tour?

(Side note: I'm strongly considering referring to the White Sox as "The Sox" and the Red Sox as "The Sawx" after Frank the Tank correctly observed that for a site based in Chicago, there should only really be one "The Sox.")

* Fenway looks great. We were being put up in the Harvard Club across the way from the park and I made the pilgrimage Saturday morning to go down, see Ted Williams, the new banners and touch the walls.

It made for a great morning and the only reason I'd go that long between the alarm going off and getting my morning coffee.

(Image taken for Siberian Baseball)


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The best laid plans

So here's my question after seeing this video - found by Awful Announcing - of Corey Hart being congratulted by teammates in a postgame press conference.

When that first guy came through the door and saw the little girl on his lap, did he have instant second thoughts? I'm assuming that's beer they're dousing him with and that the child is under 21.

If I'm the first one to come barreling through to the table I'm having serious second thoughts, despite the undeniable momentum of a team of guys shoving me forward.


Stache remains unsupported

In the one part of the All-Star voting process that I wholeheartedly endorse, MLB has released the final additions to the two teams.

It's Evan Longoria from the Rays and Corey Hart of the Brewers.

I think this worked out well - I honestly thought David Wright would get the big New York push into the final slot - and think it's pretty interesting that you have representatives from two of the scariest teams heading into the second half of the season.

With the CC Sabathia addition in Milwaukee and the continued success of the Rays, Hart and Longoria are good selections, if for no other reason than the fact that it gives a good jumping off point for second-half storylines.

But first, MLB wants everyone to know that this was a record year for voting. I'm sure that makes things easier for the players that lost to know that they got their asses kicked in record-setting fashion.

Longoria drew a record nine million votes to win a close American League race over outfielder Jermaine Dye, who could have become the third White Sox player in four years to win the Final Vote. Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, despite a high-profile "Support the 'Stache" campaign, finished third, followed by Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts and Kansas City outfielder Jose Guillen -- all of whom finished with impressive vote totals.

Hart, with eight million votes, joined fellow Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and pitcher Ben Sheets on the National League roster, and the way he was supported throughout the process was similar to the way fans pushed Braun from seemingly nowhere into the No. 1 outfield spot. Finishing a close second to Hart was Mets third baseman David Wright, an All-Star the past two years. They were followed by outfielders Pat Burrell of the Phillies, Aaron Rowand of the Giants and Carlos Lee of the Astros.

Let's be honest, folks - Jose Guillen didn't stand a snowball's chance of making it, did he?

(Image from:

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

How technically advanced!

You hear about MLB being on the cutting edge when it comes to technology - to the point that they leased their bandwidth to the NCAA a few years ago for tournament coverage - but I thought this was pretty cool.

It's not so much in the traffic it generates, but in how they seem to be making a legitimate attempt to reach out to the kids.

You know, those crazy kids with their iPods and internets...


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cubs vs. Brewers - Tale of the Tape

A day after Milwaukee officially signs CC Sabathia (sorry, El Capitan Chorizo), the Cubs have returned fire, picking up Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin from the A's for Eric Patterson, Matt Murton, Sean Gallagher and minor league catcher, Josh Donaldson.

The media cycle in Chicago is playing this as an arms race - Get it? Arms race? Because they're pitchers? - where the Cubs are reacting directly to the Sabathia signing by picking up a pitcher of their own.

Certainly Chicago is using this year's current success to trade on a logjam of outfielders - moving Patterson and Murton - and Geovany Soto's All-Star season to send another young catcher on his way out west, but to infer that the move was solely motivated by Milwaukee's acquisition of Sabathia is pretty ridiculous.

Still, for the sake of argument, let's take a quick peek at the tale of the tape.

Key Player:
Milwaukee - CC Sabathia (Vallejo, CA)
Chicago - Rich Harden (Victoria, British Columbia)

Supporting Cast:
M - Matt LaPorta
C - Get: Gaudin; Lose: Gallagher, Patterson, Murton, Donaldson

Years Left on Current Contract / Age:
M - Sabathia is a free agent at the end of the season / 27
C - Harden is a free agent at the end of next season / 26

This Year to Date:
M - Sabathia 6-8 (18 games); 3 complete games; 2 shutouts; 123 K's; 3.83 E.R.A; 1.234 WHIP
C - Harden 5-1 (13 games); 0 CG; 0 shutouts; 92 K's; 2.34 E.R.A.; 1.143 WHIP

Misc. Resume Padding:
M - Sabathia won a Cy Young Award last season; Second in Rookie of the Year voting (2001); Two All-Star Appearances (2003, 2004)
C - Harden has an empty trophy case

History (Recent and Ancient):
M - Sabathia has started no fewer than 28 games in the past five seasons, with a high water mark of 34 last season. He also set a career record of 19 wins last season and has never lost more than 11 games. He has a career ERA of 3.83 and set another career record last year with 3.21. Sabathia has started 237 games in eight years.
C - Harden started 31 games in 2004 (his second year in the majors) but since then has only started 19, 9, 4 and 13 games, respectively. He has been on the DL once this season. His career ERA is 3.42 and is on track for a career year with his ERA currently at 2.34. Harden has started 89 games in six years.

Cheap Joke:
M - (As heard on WSCR this afternoon) So, does the Brewers' team pilot have to stand up before the flights and tell them, "Fielder, on the right side and Sabathia on the left," or is that something that the guys loading the plane have to worry about in terms of weight distribution?
C - Wood and Harden on the same team? Invest heavily in cheap t-shirts and cut-rate silkscreening machines in the Midwest this summer. The frat rats are going to looooooove this. Beavis and Butthead would be proud. Heh... Wood. Huh... Harden.

Final Tally:
Aside from the obvious issue with Sabathia coming off a huge year without any long-term security, there's really no way that the Cubs wouldn't switch places with the Brewers in these trades. Add to that the fact that Ben Sheets is also in a contract year and things could get dicey in Milwaukee if the team doesn't win this season. Then again, they have two shots at retaining a staff ace when the dust settles in November if deals aren't finished before the season ends.

Sabathia has proven to be more durable, has produced better numbers, has been a front of the rotation starter and provides more relief to his new team.

While Harden is a nice pickup and was acquired without any major loss to the Cubs - again, just offloading some jammed positions - he is less than a sure thing. Promising, sure, but only a year younger than Sabathia and with a history of short seasons.

No matter which way you look at it, the Brewers get the better end of the two trades.

(Apparently, I'm not the only one who wonders how the Cubs made out in this deal. Only, he looked at it from the Cubs vs. A's perspective. And spent more energy in looking at the Gallagher angle. I think I mentally blocked that portion until I'm emotionally stronger.)

(Image from:

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sabathia apparently headed to the land of fried cheese

ESPN just spent a few moments to chime in on the C.C. Sabathia sweepstakes and pending deal between Milwaukee and Cleveland.

Nice try guys, but I prefer to get information from a more solid source, such as Tom Haudricourt - oh, and he posted more information a full two hours before ESPN's national broadcast.

OK, I'm done being tired of the Four-Letter Network now.

According to Haudricourt, the Sabathia deal is all but done and as soon as they can stitch his name on the back of a jersey, Sabathia will be on the field to be seen as the savior of Milwaukee's season.

Currently, the Brewers have converted 31 of 45 save opportunities, so maybe they should be trying to scrounge bullpen help while the phones are still hot. Those 45 opportunities are tied for the league lead with St. Louis, which owns a more disappointing 25 saves in the same span.

As bad as those numbers seem, they're not awful when compared the league as a whole when comparing the two sets of numbers - apparently the Brewers are just prone to very public blowouts.

Regardless, here's a slice from Haudricourt's post on the Journal Sentinel site:

I just was told by a reliable club source that the Brewers have a deal in place with Cleveland for left-hander C.C. Sabathia, contingent on the paperwork being done and medical records exchanged.

But believe me, folks, that's a deal. All that other stuff is formality.

Look for Sabathia to make his debut for the Brewers Tuesday night at Miller Park against Colorado.

Matt LaPorta and a few low-level minor leaguers are the names being thrown around as the Brewers' contribution to the trade.

Seeing as fans really enjoy cheering for athletes they can relate to, Sabathia's girth is all upside here.

(Image from:

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Cubs to make up 22% of All-Star Team

The All-Star rosters and final ballot nominees have been announced and to no one's surprise, the teams are pretty stacked with the three teams that draw the most attention from Major League Baseball and the Four-Letter Network.

In an indication of the talent levels in the National League, the Cubs will send seven representatives to New York, including Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster. Starting for the team are Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto.

Soto will be the first rookie to start the All-Star game, with Rusell Martin and Brian McCann backing him up. The seven players selected marks a club record, according to Major League Baseball.

The Cubs ran away from the rest of the NL with their seven players - no other team registered more than two.

Now the race begins for the final roster spot, with voting open though Thursday evening.

According to the release:

AL nominees are outfielder Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, first baseman Jason Giambi of the Yankees, outfielder Jose Guillen of the Royals, Longoria of the Rays and second baseman Brian Roberts of the Orioles.

NL nominees are outfielder Pat Burrell of the Phillies, outfielder Corey Hart of the Brewers, outfielder Carlos Lee of the Astros, outfielder Aaron Rowand of the Giants and third baseman David Wright of the Mets.

In an interesting bit of behind the scenes information, the league's site has broken down how the reserves got their ticket to Yankee Stadium punched:

(American League) The players selected these reserves: Bradley, catcher Varitek and outfielder Drew, first baseman Justin Morneau of the Twins, second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Michael Young of the Rangers, third baseman Joe Crede and outfielder Carlos Quentin of the White Sox and outfielder Grady Sizemore of the Indians.

(Red Sox manager Terry) Francona added infielder Carlos Guillen of the Tigers, catcher Dioner Navarro of the Rays and pitchers George Sherrill of the Orioles, Justin Duchscherer of the A's, Joe Nathan of the Twins and Joakim Soria of the Royals.

The AL pitching staff is as follows: Duchscherer is joined by fellow starters Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, Cliff Lee of the Indians, Scott Kazmir of the Rays, and Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana of the Angels. Sherrill, Soria and Nathan are joined by fellow relievers Rivera, Papelbon and Frankie Rodriguez of the Angels.


(National League) The players elected these reserves: catcher Russell Martin of the Dodgers, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, second baseman Dan Uggla of the Marlins, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, shortstop Miguel Tejada of the Astros, and outfielders Holliday, Nate McLouth of the Pirates and Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals.

(Rockies manager Clint) Hurdle selected shortstop Cristian Guzman of the Nationals, catcher Brian McCann of the Braves, first baseman Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, plus pitchers Zambrano, Dan Haren of the D-backs and Billy Wagner of the Mets.

The NL pitching staff is as follows: Zambrano and Haren are joined by fellow starters Dempster, Brandon Webb of the D-backs, Edinson Volquez of the Reds, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Ben Sheets of the Brewers. Wagner is joined by Wood, relievers Brad Lidge of the Phillies and Brian Wilson of the Giants.

The players made all the other pitching selections.

That kind of surprises me that Dempster and Wood were player selections. Their numbers are there - and obviously Wood's performance yesterday came after the polls were closed - but I think this speaks a little more to the talent levels in the NL than to the juggernaut that is the 2008 Chicago Cubs.

God, that's a lot sadder now that I see it written down in front of me.

(Image taken for Siberian Baseball)


Friday, July 04, 2008

And another thing...

In what is becoming a rite of summer, my mind drifts to the All-Star Game and what a mess fan balloting creates with the skewed popularity contest consuming the league for a week or so as the voting window closes.

I'm hesitant to pin it all on being a baseball snob who feels those fans who don't spend inordinate amounts of time feeding a blog don't deserve a vote, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about the impact of fans stuffing the hometown ballot box. On the other hand, I was once a little guy, furiously punching out circles of all the players on the Cubs - even Shawon Dunston - when we'd head to games in the pre-Internet era.

Know what the difference was? Those games didn't matter.

Now with the home field advantage hanging in the balance, the games count and it's a different story. While it's not the end of the world to lose the All-Star Game, especially with the recent World Series drubbings that aren't seeing seven games, it does have an impact it didn't have in the past and it's unfair to shoehorn the fan balloting into this new setup.

How does MLB go about fixing this? Let's take a look at the short list of problems (aside from the obvious of making the All-Star Games exhibition games again).

* Fans pick the starting lineups without picking the best lineups. Favorite players aren't necessarily the best players and no thought is put into picking the best starting nine within the constraints of a team sport. This is strange and counterintuitive.

* How do you solve the DL problem? In a National League ballpark, David Ortiz and his power hitting brothers are listed as first basemen to get them onto the ballots. The effectively cuts the talent pool for the AL when playing in an NL city.

* Every team needs a representative. This isn't summer camp. Everyone doesn't deserve to play. No, I don't care how many All-Star jerseys are sold to fans of all teams. Plus, if you don't have a player who can make the team on his own, chances are no one from that town is watching the game anyways.

* The best players are not always available. Injuries or the fear of injuries always plays a role. Players who need the days to rest should be allowed to take them in lieu of the dog and pony show.

* The whine of fans that the team's manager is out to get their players. Say Terry Francona leaves Mariano Rivera in a little too long. Is he trying to secure home field for the AL, or trying to cook the Yankees closer to keep him benched a day or two? There's no good answer here.

* If teams are really out to win, why are players used in an arbitrary manner? Starting pitchers asked to enter for an inning in the fourth and exit by the fifth. Part of the reason starters can't be used as cogs in the bullpen as conditioning - both mentally and physically - to plan for the long haul. Again, this is not summer cap - let your pitcher work a full game. Let the other starters practice their Oscar speeches about how it's an honor to be nominated.

So, are there any solutions? For some aspects, yes, but in the big picture, MLB needs to decide what is more important to the game - a competitive game with a real bearing on the season, or a showcase of the league's talent and an opportunity to sell crappy mechandise.

Here's my bare bones proposal:

* Fans pick their favorite nine players using the current voting system. You then have a record of the fans' favorite players for that season and they can go out and be presented with a plaque or gilded piece of baseball equipment. There's the gold glove, silver slugger, why not a bronze hat?

* Once those nine are picked, it's up to the manager to either sit or start from that list. In theory, fans could vote in three right fielders - currently they vote solely for "outfielder" on the ballot - which obviously doesn't equate to the best team on the field.

* Not every team needs to be represented.

* Pick two possible starters a few days early to allow their home clubs to adjust their rotations accordingly. This allows to Cubs to figure out how to best use Carlos Zambrano and the Diamondbacks to do the same for Dan Haren in case they are "the guy" for the game. The other starters can certainly ride the pine, but it keeps one game from depleting the league's pitching staffs. This also allows teams to load up on relievers for the late innings.

* Always use the DH. No one will complain if the NL's pitchers don't get at-bats. It makes the games more entertaining and we don't need to hear about how the NL manager is a great strategy guy for three or more innings.

* Finally, add at least one more off day for the players after the game to allow the stars to unwind, head home for a day, rest after the circus of the game. With the World Series now dipping into early November, it's not going to kill anyone to wait another day or two before diving into the second half of the season.

(Image from:

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It's not like they're the Steel Curtain

There's an old story about the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s that says in their heyday there were so many players on the defensive team on the Pro Bowl roster that they began calling their own plays on the field and confusing the handful of guys from the other teams.

It was just easier - and probably made for a better story - to call out the plays from the Pittsburgh playbook and let the non-Steelers fend for themselves instead of trying to play off of the same shortened page in the Pro Bowl.

I'm seeing elements of this as the All-Star balloting comes to a close shortly and players from the teams with huge fanbases are in the top three of each position, regardless of ability or this season's performance.

Primarily, I'm looking at the Cubs and how many are primed for a trip to New York. This shouldn't surprise me much anymore, because aside from being shocked that my e-mail client's spam filters let a message through imploring me that, "Kosuke needs your help!" without immediately dumping it to protect me from Japanese pornography, the rest of the experience is a carbon copy of what is becoming a yearly rant.

When the ESPN broadcast ran the graphic with current vote leaders on Sunday night, it was a little disappointing to see the screen awash in Cubbie blue, Red Sox red and the pinstripes of the Yankees.

Not that players who are having great seasons shouldn't be included, but once again, it seems that muscle memory and fan amnesia are helping to steer the ship.

In the National League, the Cubs are churning out votes with three players scheduled to start - Geovany Soto, Alfonso Soriano and Fukudome - if the voting ended today. This is despite Soriano's injuries which have kept him out of the Cubs lineup for long stretches this season.

Mark DeRosa and Aramis Ramirez are second in the voting, despite DeRosa not having a set position on the team, while Derek Lee and Ryan Theriot are in third place in their races.

For those scoring at home, every position has a Cubs player in the top three vote-getters. They're a good team through the first half of the season - last weekend at The Cell not withstanding - but they're not that good.

The American League is even worse. With the exception of Joe Mauer who just overtook Jason Varitek in the race to backstop the AL All-Stars, every leading vote-getter is a member of the Yankees or Red Sox (in most cases the top two are the New York/Boston connection).

Want proof that fans are voting a straight ticket for their team? There's no way that over 600,000 people truly believe Julio Lugo is the best shortstop in the AL.

The biggest oversight to fix is the omission of Carlos Quentin, who isn't among the top 15 in AL outfielders - despite the inclusion of Johnny Damon, Coco Crisp and Bobby Abreu - even though he's been the sparkplug for the White Sox in the first half.

While it's generally accepted that the whole exercise is just a way to make the fans feel involved and is nothing more than a popularity contest, it was nice to see Josh Hamilton make the cut after his hot start. Still, I think MLB could streamline the whole process by assigning votes like the government does in assigning members of the House of Representatives.

Teams with the largest fan bases as determined by merchandise sales and home attendance would receive the most votes for their players, while teams with small pockets of fans would receive the least.

Just think of all the time and energy we'd save not counting votes that would give us identical results.

(Image from:

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