Saturday, August 29, 2009

Game Picks - Saturday: August 29, 2009

This picker got smoked. First, the Phillies have a new formula for winning: Start Pedro against the other team's stud. Have it rain after a couple of innings knocking both Pedro and the stud out of the game. Bring in Moyer after the rain and he wins against bad bullpens. That's twice they have done that! Elsewhere, both Florida teams in the wild card hunt lost. That doesn't help their chances. Homer Bailey pitched the game of his life against the Dodgers. The Brewers crushed the Pirates' best pitcher. The Twins' rookie pitcher out dueled the Rangers rookie. The Nationals were just a stupid pick, though they played tough until Pujols ended it with a walk off in the tenth. Bannister was a stupid pick and finally, Lincecum won the rematch against Jiminez.

Add it all up and it was a stinker of a night for picks. Let's hope today's picks are better. The month only has two days left and a series of bad days leave the monthly total pretty close to being even. Ugh!

  • The Yankees over the White Sox: The Pale Hose throw their hands up and start Contreras which offsets the Yankees starting Mitre, or Liquid Mitregen as he is called in the FanDome.
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: Because the Fan really wants Haeger to succeed. Knuckleballers rule!
  • The Mets over the Cubs: Two clubs thought to be contenders find themselves with an empty autumn.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Robertson? Nate Robertson is pitching? Taking David Price instead.
  • The Marlins over the Padres: Nolasco should beat LaBlanc.
  • The Phillies over the Braves: Good match up of Lee versus Lowe. Maybe it will rain again.
  • The Brewers over the Pirates: Gallardo should win despite another four or five walks allowed.
  • Cleveland over Baltimore: Going with Sowers over Tillman, though either is a crap shoot.
  • The Blue Jays over the Red Sox: Romero shoots down Buckholz.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Feldman versus Pavano? The Fan better not get Pavanoed again.
  • The Cardinals over the Nationals: Last night was the Nats' best chance for a win in this series and they didn't get it done. Enjoy the sweep.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: Garland should be better than Norris.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Marquis! Zito has been good lately, but got to go with Marquis.
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Want to pick the A's, but it would be stupid.
  • The Royals over the Mariners: Before you think this picker is crazy, Ian Snell is pitching for the Mariners.

Have a good weekend.

Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 31-36 (Brutal!)
Month: 182-173

Joba Rules Are Meant to Be Broken

"Joba Rules" have become an oxymoron. In a story found on today, it was explained that Chamberlain will go back to his regular starts but be pulled earlier (as if he was pitching far into each game as it was). With his 2009 penchant for running up early pitch counts, what are they going to do now, pull him in the fourth inning after 80 pitches?

First, they were going to send him to the bullpen. Then they decided to keep him as a starter but have him miss some starts to save his innings. Now they have flipped it again in a never-ending game of, "how do we limit his innings without the temptation of exploiting his talent."

The trouble is that Joba hasn't been that great. Sure, there are flashes of what we all expect him to be. But he walks so many darn batters, he is always pitching in trouble and those become what Mike Maddux of the Rangers calls, "stress pitches." According to Maddux, stress pitches are harder on the arm than when pitching with nobody on base. If Joba could focus more on throwing strikes, then he would have less stress pitches and there would be much less concern for his arm.

The stories all seem to focus on how many innings the Yankees would like to limit Joba Chamberlain to this year. It is unknown whether there is an either/or scenario where a limit exists for both innings and pitches. If there is not a focus on pitches thrown, there should be because Chamberlain has thrown a ton of pitches in his weekly five or six innings of work. And again, with his penchant for walking batters and pitching deep into counts, those pitches thrown should be a concern more than the innings are. Things would be a lot easier for the Yankees if Mike Maddux was their pitching coach instead of him doing his great job in Texas for the Rangers. He seems to have a better grasp on how to handle these things.

And so it goes. Another week, a new set of Joba Rules. This Fan would wish that Joba ruled when he pitched a whole lot more often than he has. What he has been doing won't help much in the playoffs.

What Are the Angels Getting in Kazmir?

The Bay Rays, only three and a half games off the pace in the wild card, traded franchise pitcher, Scott Kazmir to the Angels for two prospects and a player to be named later. Manager Joe Madden hinted that he really liked the player not named so that part of the deal must already be worked out. The questions here are: What are the Angels getting in Kazmir and was it worth two good prospects? And: Does trading Kazmir hurt the Rays' chances in their wild card hunt?

What the Angels are getting isn't exactly clear. Kazmir hasn't had a good year and has spent time on the disabled list. But he does have really good career numbers and he has beaten both the Yankees and the Red Sox twice apiece this year. The Angels are sure to face one of those two teams in the playoffs.

But back to Kazmir's year this year. His strikeouts per nine innings statistic is the lowest of his career. His career average is 9.43 but this year, it's only 7.38. His strikeout to walk ratio is also the second worst of his career. He is still walking over four batters per nine innings as he has his whole career. For the first time in his career, Kazmir has given up more hits than innings pitched. The Fan checked the BABIP to see if that was simply a case of bad luck, but he's only been slightly unlucky and as such, his adjusted ERA is still over 5.80. All of these things seem to indicate that he isn't the pitcher--at least for this year--that he has been in the past.

There are three bright spots for the Angels concerning Kazmir (not including the Yankees/Red Sox record). First, he is relatively cheap with a $6 million salary this year, $10 million next year and $12 million the year after that. Secondly, believe it or not, he is only twenty-five years old! It seems like he has been around forever. The Fan didn't realize that he started as a nineteen year old. Lastly, the Angels can't do much worse than the starters they have already been using. Their starters are 24th in the majors in ERA at 4.96. So Kazmir (especially if he pitches like his last six starts) is going to be an upgrade.

The Bay Rays lose a weapon as they have six games remaining against each of the Red Sox and the Yankees. If a prospect is called up to take Kazmir's place in the rotation, those two clubs enjoy feasting on those types of pitchers. Plus, they lose one of the faces of their organization. Six years in that market has endeared him to the fans there and provided a bit of continuity throughout. On the plus side, they free up some salary that can help them keep some of the good young players they have. The team also has quite a few good pitching prospects and received another one from the Angels in the deal.

Kazmir was drafted by the Mets right out of high school, but in (retrospectively of course) one of the worst trades in history, sent him to the Bay Rays for Victor Zambrano. Zambrano went 10-14 for the Mets and is now out of baseball.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Game Picks - Friday: August 28, 2009

Slept in this morning for the first time in quite a while. Needed the sleep badly. But after looking at last night's game results, it still feels like a hangover. After last night, this picker is now in the red for the week and the monthly total is getting closer to .500.

The funny thing is, well at least funny to this writer, the rating on went up because the five games that did come in correctly were mostly upsets. How stupid is that?

Today's picks:

  • The Cubs over the Mets: The Mets are starting a prospect and those kinds of picks never seem to be good ideas.
  • The Braves over the Phillies: The Phillies have won both of Pedro's starts, but they run up against Hanson tonight.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: Surprising how closely matched these two teams are. Probably not what Mark Shapiro was looking for, eh?
  • The Yankees over the White Sox: Sabathia has been great lately.
  • The Bay Rays over the Tigers: Good match up of Garza versus Porcello. Like the Bay Rays talent better than Detroits'.
  • The Marlins over the Padres: The Marlins are hanging tough in the wild card race. They need the wins.
  • The Dodgers over the Reds: Billingsley versus Homer Bailey in a good match up of young guns.
  • The Red Sox over the Blue Jays: Beckett has been a superman after a Red Sox loss.
  • The Pirates over the Brewers: Zach Duke has been one of the better pitchers in baseball this year but gets no wins because of the Pirates offense. Perhaps he'll get a win tonight.
  • The Rangers over the Twins: Two rookie starting pitchers. Hunter has been the better of the two.
  • The Nationals over the Cardinals: The Nats' best pitcher (Lannon) versus Smoltz. This game reeks of an upset.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Astros: Scherzer versus some kid named Bazardo. Bazardo? hehe
  • The Angels over the Athletics: Surely Tomko can't have two good games in a row. Please don't call me Shirley.
  • The Royals over the Mariners: Go Bannister, Go!
  • The Rockies over the Giants: A rematch of Jiminez versus Lincecum. Jiminez won last time.

Yesterday: 5-8
Week: 25-27
Month: 176-164

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Throwing Strikes - Part One

The major league average for walks per nine innings sits at 3.5, the highest it has been since the year 2000. And in this (supposedly) post-steroid era, that's hard to figure. The home run rate per nine innings is up slightly from last year and the year before, but not nearly as high as the Helicon days of 1999 and 2000. So why not throw more strikes? Why do some pitchers and some teams get it and others don't? When everyone is concentrating on OBP these days, shouldn't pitchers be concentrating on not allowing that to happen?

Some teams do get it. The Twins and the Cardinals focus on throwing strikes. And, as is easy to see, the Cardinals seem to throw more effective strikes than the Twins. But the Twins have always concentrated on limiting walks and they are very good at doing so. The Cardinals are the same way. The two teams are one/two in being the stingiest teams in baseball on giving a free pass. The Cardinals average of 2.98 per nine innings is more than a full walk a game less than the Mets who are the worst in this category with over four walks per nine innings.

The top five teams at limiting walks:

  1. Cardinals
  2. Twins
  3. Diamondbacks
  4. Rockies
  5. Phillies

The five worst:

  1. Mets
  2. Nationals
  3. Brewers
  4. Padres
  5. Dodgers

The top five are all pretty darn good teams. Four of the five worst are bad teams. The Dodgers making this list is problematic for their post-season adventures. The Yankees, for all their prowess, are not good in this category. Two of their starters, Burnett and Chamberlain, are in the top five in the American League for walks per nine innings. That's pretty scary.

There are eleven starting pitchers in the majors with a walk per nine innings ratio of less than two. They are (in order of stingiest): Pineiro, Halladay, Haren, Carpenter, Buehrle, Pavano, Baker, Cliff Lee, Ted Lilly, Zack Greinke and Javier Vazquez. Every one of the eleven have winning records (yeah, even Pavano). That is not a coincidence.

There are twelve starting pitchers in the majors with a walk per nine innings higher than four per game (100 innings minimum). They are (in order of wildness): Jonathan Sanchez, Kershaw, Parra, Doug Davis, Joba, Suppon, Gallardo, Burnett, Zambrano, Meche, Tallet and Liriano. Only five of these twelve have winning records, which again is no surprise. Liriano must be driving the Twins crazy!

Seven of the twelve pitchers just mentioned have ERA+ figures above league average because they have the stuff to get out of trouble. Guys like Kershaw, Gallardo, Zambrano, Burnett and Joba can all get themselves out of their own jams with their stuff. But you have to wonder how good they could all be if they could just throw more strikes more effectively. Their wildness leads to high pitch counts which gets them out of games quicker, leads to more no-decisions and taxes the heck out of their bullpens. Again, when Chamberlain, Burnett and Kershaw get their teams in the playoffs, their ability to throw strikes will seriously effect the outcomes of those games.

It is also no coincidence that the bottom twelve starters in this category get decisions in only 67 percent of their games started while the top eleven guys get decisions in 79 percent of their starts. Joba Chamberlain and Jeff Suppon have only had decisions in half of their games started.

It is hard to understand why some pitchers throw more strikes than others. Those that walk a lot of batters only make it harder on themselves to succeed. Those that can limit the walks have a much better chance at winning. Just ask Carl Pavano.

Game Picks - Thursday: August 27, 2009

Our weather went from low 80's and high 70's (delightful) to downright chilly (high 40's this morning) and that reflects the success of the picks last night. But just like this picker's stubborn refusal to ever get a Twins' pick correct, the picker also has his shorts on. Stubbornness runs in the family. And oh, those giddy Mets who have now lost Oliver Perez for the season too. Well, that might not be that big a loss this time.

There are quite a few games on the slate for a Thursday this week and that's a good thing. And since it is "get away day," many of the games are day games. Cool! No, downright chilly.

  • The Yankees over the Rangers: Nippert has been good, but it's the Yankees...
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Sanchez looked good his first start back last time and Tim Redding, well, is Tim Redding.
  • The Reds over the Brewers: The Reds get another Lehr report and the Brewers are starting Bush. Remember him?
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Carpenter could win the Cy Young with three or four more wins. How cool would that be after missing two years?
  • The Cubs over the Nationals: Wells is the Cubs designated winner.
  • The Rockies over the Dodgers: De La Rosa versus Vincente Padilla, another pitcher to give Torre some grey hair.
  • The Phillies over the Pirates: Happ beats the Happless Pirates.
  • The Indians over the Orioles: Laffey versus D. Hernandez. Not a pitching match up made in heaven.
  • The Padres over the Braves: The White Sox should not have given up Richard and the Braves are fading.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Still not convinced this Tazawa is as good as he looked against the Yankees.
  • The Mariners over the Royals: Fister should beat Davies in a battle of bad offensive teams.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: When the pitching match up is even, go with the better offensive club.
  • The Athletics over the Angels: Because we need at least one upset today.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 20-19
Month: 171-156

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Has There Ever Been a Season Like the Mets' Season?

If the Mets have insurance policies for some of their bigger stars, the insurance company is probably reeling as bad as the Mets are. Has any team in history lost so much talent for so long in one season like the Mets have this season? And it keeps getting better and better. David Wright got concussed a while back and now Johan Santana, one of the most expensive pitchers in baseball history, has blown out his elbow and is headed for surgery.

Remember when everyone skewered the Yankees' general manager because he failed to trade Hughes and others for Santana? The Steinbrenners should kiss the guy now because he saved them a pile of money. Santana always reminded the Fan of a more-skilled Mike Hampton. They have similar body types and deliveries. And Hampton, after more time on the DL over the last five years than off of it, could be what the Mets are looking at with Santana.

Rob Neyer, among others, have publicly wondered about how the Mets have abused Santana by sending the great pitcher out there to pitch for the last month when everyone apparently knew he was hurting. The point is valid and you have to wonder why the Mets would have risked their biggest prize in such a lost season. But you have to put some of the responsibility on Santana too who allowed himself to pitch when he obviously wasn't right.

And now the pitcher will be out for a long time as he has to undergo surgery. Nobody has said yet whether it will be Tommy John surgery, but that's what will probably happen. If it does, you're looking at a year or more until we see Santana again.

Meanwhile, the Mets have to be wondering what the heck is happening. Let's add it all up again: Beltran, Delgado, Reyes, Maine, Putz and now Santana. That's a lot of talent shelved for a long period of time. The result is predictable and the team has now gone 29-47 since the end of May. That .383 winning percentage during that time is more like the Royals than the team that was supposed to win the division this year.

But injuries only appear to be part of the story for this club. Minaya has been erratic from the GM seat and Jerry Manuel is not inspiring as a manager. Manuel's record since taking over for Willie Randolph is now 57-68 and he has been roundly criticized on his handling of David Wright's concussion and now Santana's elbow. Perhaps that is justified and perhaps just as much of Manuel's record is justified by all the injuries. But it still seems that the Mets would be well served to clean house and start over.

Perhaps Bobby Valentine is available?

Game Picks - Wednesday: August 26, 2009

The Rockies are amazing. That's all there is to it. Once again, they rattled the Dodgers cages and are now within two games of their rival. This picker needs to get on the ball and remember which team is playing better at the moment. Besides that bit of a picking problem, the Rangers toasted Joba Chamberlain but the Yankees almost came all the way back to win and fell a run short. The Blue Jays were a stupid pick. The Braves have no discernible offense and keep screwing up those picks. The Brewers have become one of the worst teams in the National League and this picker still can't believe it. The Diamondbacks' Haren couldn't stop the Giants. The Athletics were a stupid pick and the Wandy/Wainwright duel was everything this picker thought it would be, but the wrong team won. There were six total hits in that contest. Pujols, though, was the difference.

And so, it was a below average night of picks but because the Fan correctly picked the Pirates, the Nationals and the Tigers, a lot of points were picked up at good old, screwy At least there was a silver lining to that cloud even if it's a stupid one. Let's get to Wednesday's picks:

  • The Royals over the Indians: Hochever versus Huff. This is not an inspired pick.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Jackson should beat Saunders.
  • The Phillies over the Pirates: Maholm is a good pitcher but the Phillies should win. Hamels has been very ordinary though this year, so the pick isn't a comfortable one.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: This one should be fairly low scoring after last night's offensive show.
  • The Bay Rays over the Blue Jays: Kazmir seems to be back to his old self while the Bay Rays are gearing to make a run at the wild card.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Kawakami versus Stauffer. Consider this pick your stocking Stauffer.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Josh Johnson should have his way with the Mets in this one.
  • The White Sox over the Red Sox: Wakefield is back, but the wheezers of Chicago should enjoy his slower stuff.
  • The Nationals over the Cubs: Livan lives! And he's back in Washington! hehehehehehehe.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: The Reds are starting Kip Wells. Oy vey.
  • The Orioles over the Twins: Guthrie was good last time out. And he has probably suckered this picker again.
  • The Cardinals over the Astros: Pineiro out duels Oswalt.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: This picker is a slow learner, isn't he?
  • The Mariners over the A's: Really like this French kid.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Does anybody still think the Giants have a chance in the wild card? Nope.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 20-19
Month: 171-156

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Game Picks - Tuesday: August 24, 2009

Just a little behind today. No doubt you have noticed. Picked correctly six out of nine last night, which is better than things have been lately.

Since it's late, let's get right to the picks:

  • The Pirates over the Phillies: Yeah, this is a stupid pick. But Ohlendorf has been like an incredible Strat-O-Matic baseball player. Have to stick with him.
  • The Yankees over the Rangers: Yankees at home spells trouble for the Rangers and Millwood.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Toronto is at home and Shields has been unreliable.
  • The Braves over the Padres: Latos has been good, but Jurrjens should win.
  • The Marlins over the Mets: Don't like either West or Figueroa. But somebody has to win.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: The White Sox are starting Freddie Garcia again. They are kidding right? It's the worst return of Freddie since the horror movies.
  • The Brewers over the Reds: The Brewers hit homers. Arroyo is prone to them.
  • The Nationals over the Cubs: If the Fan is correct on this one, the Cubs are surely dead.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: Matusz versus Gambino? Who? Sounds like a mafia fight.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Can Greinke get some support? Maybe against Masterson he can.
  • The Astros over the Cardinals: Wandy versus Wainwright in a great match up.
  • The Dodgers over the Rockies: But Kershaw has to come up big for this to be right.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Washburn can pretend he is still in the AL West for this one.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Anderson versus Rowland-Smith. Two good looking young pitchers.
  • The Diamondbacks over the Giants: Haran versus Cain in another great match up.

Yesterday: 6-3
Week: 13-11
Month: 164-148

Phooey on the Salary Cap and Other Assorted Complaints

[[switching to the first person]] Toronto is home to one of the finest bloggers in the blogsphere. He is also a notorious and self-described homer for his home town sports teams. And my blog bud's problem is similar to a small man's complex. The Yankees and the Red Sox are the "haves" and the Blue Jays are the "have nots." Understood. Today, this fine blogger linked another blogger on money being the root of all evil in baseball. I could say this politely, but, we might as well be frank: Phooey.

Let's go back in the time machine and peer into the world of the New York Yankees in the 1960s. I was there and this was the world I grew up in. Born and bred in New Jersey (please don't hold that against me as I have been gone from there for 35 years now), the Yankees were the home team and they were our world...and they stunk to high heaven.

Back then, the team was owned by CBS, the media giant, and were run by a flamboyant former mayor of the city by the name of John Lindsey. I don't really know how good he was as a mayor but it is hoped that he was a better mayor than he was a baseball man. CBS simply ran the grand old team into the ground. After decades of Ruths and Gehrigs, DiMaggios, Yogis and Mantles, the Yankees became a team filled with the likes of Tom Tresh, Dooley Womack, Mike Kekich, Horace Clarke, Thad Tillotson, Lindy McDaniel, Mike Hegan and Roger Repoz. I don't suppose you have ever heard of any of them.

In 1967, the New York Yankees batted .223 as a team. That's right. .223. They were tenth in a ten team league in runs scored, doubles, and slugging percentage. They had a .613 team OPS. The year after that, they batted .214 as a team. Yeah, .214. Can you imagine? They make the Giants look like a hitting team. That year (1968), their infield consisted of Mantle at first (in his last year). He batted .237. Horace Clarke batted lead off and hit .230 with a .258 OBP. He was the second baseman. Tom Tresh played short. He hit .195 in 507 at bats. Bobby Cox (yup, the same guy sitting as the great guru of Atlanta) played third and batted .229. How's that for an infield?

The point of all this? The Yankees were a dead franchise. Tickets were so cheap that after my dad died, my mom would send us to the Stadium as her way of babysitting us when she had to work on Saturday. She gave my brother and me $5 each and that was enough for the bus to the city, the subway to the stadium, entrance to the bleachers and we had enough left over for a coke. The Yankees, if you can imagine it, barely drew over a million fans. My brother and I would wait until the ushers left after the fourth inning and then go down to the empty box seats behind the Yankee dugout. We saw all our heroes (what did we know?) up close for $5 round trip. One of the only reasons that the attendance figure was as high as it was came from two unique events: Bat Day and Old Timer's Day. Those two events brought in 65,000 people. The rest of the time? Nothing.

The Yankees had only a public television deal with WPIX (channel 11) and a radio deal with WCBS, a powerful station that sent Yankee broadcasts far and wide around New England. George Steinbrenner bought the team for a song. Really. He paid $10 million for the team. You couldn't buy a minor league club for that amount. That's how badly the Yankees' mess had become.

And love him or hate him, Steinbrenner knew what he was doing. He hired good baseball people and they started developing players like Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Ron Guidry and others. You've heard of them, right? When free agency broke, Steinbrenner jumped on it and got players like Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and guys like Oscar Gamble. The team started winning and George created the Billy Martin soap opera and put the Yankees on the front page of the New York papers. The Stadium started hopping again.

The team later put together the YES network, the most successful sports channel and money maker in baseball. Now the team is an event in New York. Four million people come to see them play despite astronomical seat prices.

Want another example? From 1960 t0 1966, the Boston Red Sox went 499-624. They came in next to last place three times during that stretch. In 1965, the Red Sox drew only 654,000 fans to come see them play. Now everyone is mad at them because they and the Yankees are the "haves" in baseball and it's not fair and we need a salary cap.

What people don't understand is that both the Yankees and Red Sox have built their empires on smarts and shrewdness. They started with nothing and built what they have become today. Why are they vilified for their success? Why should their success be punished with a salary cap because other teams weren't as smart or as shrewd?

It wasn't too long ago that the Blue Jays were the cream of the American League. They drew over four million fans in their second World Championship season. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to keep that ball rolling and as such, have fallen behind in payroll. That's the way it is.

What the Yankees and the Red Sox (and the Cubs for that matter) have done is build a brand. It's a good old American tradition that still works. Grind your teeth if you will at the "Red Sox Nation" but it has worked in spades. The Cubs were, along with the Braves, the original pioneers of cable television. That brilliant stroke still pays off today as the Braves and the Cubs are in the top ten in road attendance. The Cubs are third and the Braves ninth. Toronto is 29th. They haven't built their brand.

And don't you think that road attendance isn't beneficial to all those teams the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Dodgers play? Say that the average ticket price is $15 (yeah, as if). Then the Cubs bring a gate on the road of $533,000. The Royals average gate at that price would be $410,000. All teams split the proceeds of MLB merchandise. The bonanza is somewhere around $65 million a team. Don't you understand that most of that merchandise is sales of Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs jerseys and hats? Yet all teams reap the same benefits.

Of course we all get tired of nationally televised games always being these big teams. Understood. But that's where the money is and again, all that money the networks pay the teams is shared equally. Do you think the Nationals sign Strasburg without that money? Not likely.

The "haves" in baseball have earned it. In 1966, the Cubs drew only 623,000 paying customers. Last year, it was 3.2 million with almost the same amount on the road. They successfully built a brand and thus can afford a higher payroll. That's the model folks. Build it and they will come.

And there is one other thing that works against the "have nots" and that is the union. MLB players have the strongest union in sports. There is no way they will ever agree to a salary cap. No way at all. It's not going to happen.

This Fan believes that a salary cap is nothing but an easy out for teams that just don't do business correctly. Some teams aren't smart enough to build a brand (or a good team for that matter) so let's do the salary cap so they can be rewarded for their lousy work. The sad truth is that they are already rewarded for their lousy work.

A commenter on the blog that started this opus warned that salary caps have led the NBA off season to become a fiasco as most teams make moves based on the cap instead of on what's best for the team. Besides, the salary cap hasn't done much for the Clippers and the Bengals has it? A badly run franchise is a badly run franchise and teams like the Royals have only themselves to blame.

Money isn't the root of evil in baseball. Bad personnel decisions and bad business models are.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Game Picks - Monday: August 24, 2009

Another day, another blah day of picking results. The games are all over the place so it's hard to figure out what is going to happen. This picker accurately picked that Lincecum wouldn't beat the Rockies, Sabathia would beat Beckett, Feldman would beat the Bay Rays and Pedro would beat the Mets (sort of). But those were the highlights to a mostly kerfuffles day.

Monday features only nine games as some teams get a rest. Perhaps this little mediocre streak will get a rest too.

  • The Phillies over the Mets: Cliff Lee goes to 5-0 in the NL.
  • The Brewers over the Nationals: The suddenly awful Brewers should get a win here as Gallardo should beat Balester.
  • The Blue Jays over the Bay Rays: Halladay should win at home versus Niemann.
  • The Red Sox over the White Sox: It doesn't appear as if the Red Sox will catch the Yankees, but if they want to keep the wild card, they better get going.
  • The Royals over the Indians: Going with Gil (ga) Meche over Sowers.
  • The Twins over the Orioles: The Orioles spanked the White Sox yesterday, so who can figure them out. The Twins are even harder to figure out. Time to Eeney Meeney it.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: The Giants lack of hitting is going to give the Rockies the wild card. Besides, Marquis is pitching.
  • The Tigers over the Angels: Verlander needs to throw strikes, but if he does, he should win this one against Weaver.
  • The Athletics over the Mariners: Ian Snell has to prove he can pitch again in the majors. This Fan doesn't see it happening.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 7-8
Month: 158-145

Another Red Sox - Yankees Series in the Books

Another chapter was written in the long, sordid history that is the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. For the time being, the Yankees have the edge in the match up as they have won six of the last seven meetings. There was some hesitation at writing this particular post because about 90% of the country have had their fill of this particular story and are nauseous from hearing about it. And that sick feeling would be worthy as only the last game was remotely close as a contest.

In game one of the series, the Yankees played butcher and the game was basically over by the fourth inning. In Saturday's game two, the Red Sox had basically iced the game by the third inning. At least there was a smidgen of drama in the last game.

In the finale, the Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead on solo homers by Jeter (on the first pitch of the game) and Hideki Matsui. But the Red Sox roared right back to tie it off of Sabathia with two runs of their own. But the suddenly gopher-plagued Josh Beckett couldn't keep the ball in the Park and the Yankees scored all their eight runs on homers to win the game. Sabathia wasn't brilliant, but he held down the Red Sox long enough to get to Hughes and Rivera. Sabathia wasn't helped by two stupid errors by Robinson Cano, who showed he still isn't totally beyond his tendency to fall asleep at the wheel at times.

That's probably enough of the details. You probably watched the game or if not, have seen plenty of news wire stories with the details. The remainder of this post is probably best served by a few observations from watching the fairly ugly series.

- For those 90% of you that are sick to death of the Red Sox and Yankees, you probably got sick to your stomachs by another nationally televised love-fest for Derek Jeter. Sheepishly, this writer has to admit that Jeter is his favorite player, but stating that fact makes the Fan pretty squeamish as you 90% have probably had your fill of him and the Fan can't blame you. Jeter is probably the third best offensive shortstop in history. It is obvious that he has the respect of his peers around the league and his own players. And that's well deserved. The guy has been a terrific player for a long, long time, but the announcers paint him as god-like and chiseled from some immortal cloth and face it, nobody is THAT good. Every time the Fan hears the announcers go all googly like that, there is much squirming in the seat as the Fan knows how that is sitting around the country. It's no wonder that Jeter is one of the favorite targets in the blogsphere.

- That said, Jeter sure is hot right now. The guy is piling up hits in huge bunches.

- The Burnett/Posada flap is a concern as is some building problems with the Red Sox' new catcher and his pitchers. Apparently, Burnett doesn't believe in Posada's pitch calling and was pretty demonstrative about it during his pounding. Joe Girardi has to step in here even if it means stepping on Posada's toes. Posada is on the down hill run of his career but Burnett is a healthy investment for a few more years to come. Girardi needs to step in and bring the pitcher and the catcher to the table and explain that Burnett should call his own game for a while.

- Pedroia is the kind of player you root for. He's a little guy and a bit of the Everyman. It seems evident though that last year was his peak as a player and though he'll be a useful and good player for years to come, he isn't going to repeat his MVP type season again.

- Kevin Youkilis needs to tone it down a bit. The guy got where he is by being a fiery player of immense drive that fuels his assault on the game. There is no doubt that his temperament helped get him from being a soft-tools guy and building his career until he is one of the best players in the game. But after his charge to the mound a couple of weeks ago and his loud swearing on national television after he struck out in the first inning, he needs to reel it in a notch for the sake of the fans, particularly the young ones. The Fan doesn't want to come across as a goody two shoes, but Youkilis has become a bit of a boor lately.

- This must be one of those generational things, but Sabathia's tattoos are gross.

- Back to Jeter for a second (yeah, yeah, the Fan hears ya), his homer on the first pitch was important psychologically for the Yankees. They just got their butts wiped the day before and Beckett has owned them going all the way back to the Marlins' World Series. For Jeter to start the game with a homer had to give his team a boost and showed them that there was hope in getting to Beckett, and that is exactly what happened.

- This series isn't the same without Tim Wakefield. He seriously messes with the Yankees' heads and Boston could have used him in this series.

- Wakefield has some company. That Haeger that pitched that gem for the Dodgers on Saturday is a knuckleballer. If the Dodgers get to the series and play the Yankees, they should seriously consider getting Haeger on the WS roster.

- Much was made during the telecast of the way that Jason Varitek moves at the last minute to keep the location of the pitch a secret until it is delivered. But one question comes to mind about that after watching him. When he moves, it's a very noticeable jump either outside or inside. Wouldn't most batters see that in their peripheral vision? One other question that people with more knowledge than this Fan might know: With such a late jerky move that occurs during the pitcher's wind up, wouldn't that make it just that much harder for the hurler to find his target?

- Gardner is missed on the Yankees. He does a lot of little things that help the team and his absence makes Melky play more often and Melky is better in shorter doses.

- The Fan is getting seriously tired of Swisher. And geez, man, get a new batting helmet. That Manny Ramirez look-a-like with all the pine tar on it is gross. One of these days, a lizard is going to crawl in that ooze and die and the fossil will be found a thousand years from now.

- A bad-hipped A-Rod is still a lot better player than most of his peers.

- Rocco Baldelli had a good game. You have to root for him. You just have to.

- And finally, in a "Duh" comment, the Yankees look better than the Red Sox these days for the first time in a very long time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: August 23, 2009

Yesterday could have been a disaster. The Yankees lost big time. The Angels beat the Blue Jays (what was this picker thinking on that one?). The Dodgers beat the Cubs (ditto). And the Pirates beat the Reds. So before this picker could blink, he was down 0-5. But the later games rallied and the final results were at least almost even. The results could have climbed over .500 but Jim Leyland decided he didn't want to win his game against Oakland and put Zack Minor in the game in the ninth. Yeah, like that was going to work. NOT.

Perhaps Sunday will be better. At least it's the start of a new week:

  • The Mariners over the Indians: King Felix should take care of this one against Carmona.
  • The Blue Jays over the Angels: Like Romero over Bell, but of course, the Fan is crazy.
  • The Phillies over the Mets: Pedro versus Oliver Perez. Ick.
  • The Pirates over the Reds: The Pirates have won six in a row. Please make it seven.
  • The Nationals over the Brewers: This pick shows how little faith the Fan has in Parra.
  • The Marlins over the Braves: Nolasco over Lowe. Lowe can win those if he gets these Marlins to chase.
  • The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Things haven't been good for Texas in this series. Perhaps Feldman can save it.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: The Stros have taken the first two and Norris has been pretty good so far.
  • The White Sox over the Orioles: Buehrle should beat Berken.
  • The Royals over the Twins: Just can't bring the will to pick Pavano to win. Just can't do it.
  • The Rockies over the Giants: Best match up of the day with Jiminez versus Lincecum. Predicting that the Rockies can scratch out a run or two while the Giants can't.
  • The Cardinals over the Padres: Smoltz goes out and proves that it is much easier to pitch in the National League.
  • The Tigers over the Athletics: If Porcello can't beat Tomko, there is something wrong in the world.
  • The Dodgers over the Cubs: Billingsley as the Cubs' season continues to go with the Dempster.
  • The Yankees over the Red Sox: This had better be the brilliant Sabathia and not just the so-so Sabathia because you know Beckett will be good.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 53-43
Month: 151-137