Friday, January 16, 2009

Obscure Signings of the Week

It's been a busy week on the transaction wires. Among the well known names that appeared among the transactions include: David Eckstein, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Kotsay, Bartolo Colon, Dave Bush, Derek Lowe, Fernando Rodney, Chone Figgins, Guillermo Mota, Alex Cora, Jack Cust, Chris Ray, John Smoltz, Russ Ortiz, Trevor Hoffman and Mark Prior. But for all those well known names, there were plenty of other obscure signings from guys still clinging to the MLB dream:

Dan Ortmeier - Left Fielder - Colorado Rockies: Minor League Contract

Ortmeier is a six foot, four inch, 28 year-old born in Tennessee and raised in Texas. After a college career at Texas-Arlington, Ortmeier was drafted in the third round by the San Francisco Giants in the 2002 draft. He got two cups of coffee in 2005 and 2006 with only a handful of at bats in both seasons. He had a great 2005 year in the AA ball with 20 homers and 35 stolen bases. A year later, he had wrist and knee problems but still got called up for a few games.

Ortmeier had knee surgery prior to 2007 but was recovered enough to start the season for the Giants' top farm team. He got into 62 games in 2007 and batted .285 with six homers in 157 at bats. He even had a walk off home run against the Dodgers. He competed for the starting job at first base in 2008 and lost out to Rich Aurelia. He did manage to get 64 at bats and did not hit well.

It seems part of the problem when the Giants kept trying to get him to give up switch hitting. The Giants seemed to win and for the first time since 2002, Ortmeier batted right handed against a right handed pitcher in April and got a game winning double against Heath Bell. But by August, he was back to switch hitting, which apparently led to the team non-tendering him at the end of the year.

Ortmeier will now try to resurrect his stature as a prospect with the Rockies.

Callix Crabbe - 2B - Seattle Mariners: Minor League Contract

Now isn't this a great name? Callix Crabbe is a second baseman who was born in the U. S. Virgin Islands in 1983. After college, he was drafted in the 12th round by the Milwaukee Brewers. To give an idea of a minor league player's life, Crabbe was named the best defensive second baseman in the 2004 California League. Then in 2007, he was the Applebee's Home Town Hero of the year for the Nashville Sounds.

Crabbe made his major league debut for the Padres who obtained Crabbe in the Rule 5 draft in 2007. The slick fielding second baseman promptly made three errors in five games for the big league club. The Padres returned Crabbe (who only posted a .176 Batting average in 34 at bats) to Milwaukee (as part of the rules for the Rule 5) who promptly let him become a free agent.

Now Crabbe hopes to extend his dream with the Seattle Mariners.

John Koronka - Pitcher - Florida Marlins: Minor League Contract

Koronka is the epitome of a man who just wants to pitch in the big leagues and despite lack of success in any of his major league attempts, continues his quest.

Drafted in the 12th round by the Cincinnati Reds in 1998, he made his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2005 and started three games for the Cubs that year. He went 1-2 with an ERA over 7. Not a good start. Nevertheless, his Topps baseball card for the following year tabbed him as a future opening game starter. But it wouldn't be for the Cubs. They traded him to the Texas Rangers in March for the immortal Freddie Bynum.

Koronka started 23 games for Texas in 2006 and enjoyed the kind of success that Texas pitchers always seem to have there. He went 7-7. That part is good. But his 5.67 ERA was...well...Rangeresque. Koronka expected to be on the opening day roster in 2007 but was cut in Spring Training. He did manage to start two games for the Rangers in 2007 but gave up nine runs in ten innings and lost both of them.

Koronka went to Japan in 2008 and is back on this side of the world this year and hoping to get a shot with the Marlins. Stranger things have happened.

Jose Capellan - Right Handed Pitcher - Houston Astros: Signed to a minor league contract.

The six foot, four inch pitcher from Cotui in the Dominican Republic has bounced around quite a bit in his 28 years. The pitcher reportedly throws 100 MPH and was a highly touted prospect for the Braves after he signed with them as an undrafted player. He had a great year in the minors in 2004 and the Braves brought him up for a few cups of coffee. He poured sour milk in that coffee by giving up ten earned runs in just eight innings.

After the 2004 season, the Braves traded him to the Brewers for Danny Kolb. He got into 17 games with Milwaukee in 2005 and was somewhat effective in relief. He struck out 14 in 15+ innings and ended up with an ERA of 2.87. The Brewers then made Capellan a major part of their bullpen in 2006. That didn't turn out nearly as well.

He pitched in 61 games for the Brewers in 2006 and showed signs here and there of effectiveness. But overall, he ERA ended up at 4.40 and he gave up 11 homes in 71+ innings. He had a poor spring in 2007 and the Brewers sent him to the minors. Capellan wasn't happy about that and demanded a trade and threatened retirement. He didn't retire and pitched a few games for the Brewers before he was traded to the Tigers for Chris Cody. That didn't work out too well either as Capellan gave up ten runs in fourteen innings for the Tigers.

The Tigers then traded him to Colorado for Denny Bautista. He pitched once for the Rockies in 2008 and pitched three innings. The Rockies designated him for assignment and he elected to become a free agent. He signed with the Kansas City Royals but did not make it to their big league team, so three innings was his 2008 total.

Now, he's been invited to the Houston Astros training camp and signed a minor league deal with them. When a pitcher has a big arm, there is always some team that will give him a chance...even if that big arm has never proven to have the ability to miss many bats.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Travis Hafner on the Road Back?

There was a news story out yesterday that Travis Hafner started swinging a bat today for the first time since his shoulder operation on October 13, 2008. This must be terrific news for Eric Wedge and for Cleveland fans.

Hafner had been a force in the majors since he broke into the Cleveland lineup full time in 2004. In fact, Hafner posted OPS statistics from 2004 through 2006 of .993, 1.003 and 1.097, figures that were among the leaders in the league.

The designated hitter definitely hit a speed bump in 2007 when his Batting Average from dipped from .308 to .266 and his .OPS from 1.097 to .835. He tried to play through the pain last year but was completely ineffective and shut it down after only 57 games with a Batting Average under the Mendoza Line.

His shoulder operation was performed by the great Dr. James Andrews, who has saved the careers of so many players in baseball and football. That also has to give his manager and his fans a lot of good cheer.

Hafner's troubles, along with pitching woes, certainly hampered the Indians last year. They went from contending in 2007 to a .500 team last year. If Hafner can come back close to what he was, that will go a long way into bringing the Indians back into contention.

For his part, Hafner believes he will be close to his old self and soon. See here for that post and what he says about his injury and where he is now. Cleveland fans, no doubt, are rooting that he is right and so is the club that is paying him $11 million this year to do just that.

Young "Agrees" to Move to Third

Michael Young has come to his senses apparently and will move to third and drop his trade request. The story (see here) gives plenty of indication that Young was well aware of the fan and public opinion concerning his recent stand that caused four days of controversy.

Two things stand out in the post that describes his capitulation. One is that he talked to his agent and, to be sure, his agent wisely made it clear that Young did not have any options. Young says himself that there was no way the Rangers would be able to trade him (thus admitting he is overpaid).

The second thing he stated was just as pointed: "There were a couple of things about this that were tough. One is, the fans shouldn't have to choose between the club and a player. We're all working for the same thing. That's the last thing I wanted to happen." In other words, he heard and understood the backlash coming from the fans. Sometimes reading your press is a good thing.

These statements by Young show some wisdom. But, he admits he is a man of pride and won't apologize for his stand. He may not be sorry for his stand, but bets are being taken here that he is sorry he made the fuss public.

One of the comments to the Fan's earlier post on Young's initial reaction was probably correct. Young seems like a decent enough guy. Thankfully, either he or his agent saw the writing on the wall and brought him back to earth.

Anaheim Gives Up

The City of Anaheim finally gave up on their long standing fight for the Angels to remain the Anaheim Angels. Arte Moreno, the most recent owner of the Angels changed the team's name to The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to attract more media attention and a more lucrative position in that area. The city fought the name change and lost twice in court. The city counsel finally gave up the ghost and voted unanimously to give it up.

To someone sitting a continent away in the frozen tundra of northern Maine, the whole thing seemed rather silly to begin with. The Angels were an expansion team in 1961 and in just 48 years, they have been the Los Angeles Angels, the California Angels, the Anaheim Angels and now their latest and most confusing name of all. For an interesting look at the team's short history, a good source is here.

While calling themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim makes about as much sense as the football Giants and Jets calling themselves the New York Giants and New York Jets respectively (they both play in New Jersey), the team now has won the right to call themselves what they want.

Personally, the name, "California Angels" seemed to make the most sense and rolled off the tongue much easier than all of the rest of the names. It felt much like the "New England" Patriots which is a name that has worked very well for that franchise. The most comical take on the whole news story came from a commenter on the news wire story ran on the city's decision. The commenter said: "Doesn't matter what their name is, they'll still win the West and then get swept in the ALDS."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The One. The Only Jack Cust

Some players provoke more response than others. The Fan laughed when the story appeared that Jack Cust signed today for $2.8 million for a year. The laugh wasn't AT Jack Cust. He just provides that kind of reaction. Has there ever been another player like him?

Last year, Jack Cust came to the plate 592 times and did not put the ball in play 308 of those times. He struck out 197 times and walked 111 times. Put those two together and 52% of his plate appearances resulted in a ball not put in play. If you add in his homers (33), then 341 times out of 592 plate appearances, the fielders were not involved in his at bats (except the catcher). That's an astounding 56.7% of the time.

But that percentage did not beat the year before. In 2007, Cust had 500 official plate appearances, struck out 164 times and walked 105 times. So in 2007, he did not put the ball in play 53.8% of the time. Again, if you add in his 26 homers, then 59% of the time, the fielders just stood around and watched.

Cust is a former first round draft pick (by Arizona) in 1997. He was an 18 year old kid from New Jersey. He didn't make it in the Arizona and bounced from there to Colorado. He then caught on in the Baltimore system, then San Diego's before finally winning a starting job with the A's. Cust actually got a few at bats in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 before he had a big spring training with the A's and made the team in 2007.

But what's to be made about a player like Cust? He only batted .231 last year but with his 111 walks, finished with a .375 On Base Percentage. Even so, his Slugging Percentage slipped from the previous year below .500. With his On Base Percentage, he did finish with a respectable .851 OPS.

Actually, there are some similarities with Cust and Adam Dunn. Both strike out a lot and both walk a lot. But Dunn put the ball in play more times. About 41% of Dunn's plate appearances were walks plus strikeouts. How about Prince Fielder? Nope, not even close: 32%. Ryan Howard? He did strike out 199 times, right? Nope, not close: 41%. Mark Reynolds struck out 204 times (incredible!!), but nope: 44%. No again for Pat Burrell (37%). The closest you can come is Carlos Pena of the Bay Rays at 48% (166 strikeouts and 99 walks).

So it is safe to say that of all players with 500 plate appearances, there is no one like Jack Cust. The Fan will leave it to Billy Beane or some sabermatrician to figure out if that is a good thing or a bad thing. To the Fan, it's just amusing.

P.S. - The Fan tried to find out how many times Cust struck out looking, but struck out searching everywhere. Can anyone find that number and leave a link? Thanks!

Mark Prior to Try Again for the Padres

Mark Prior had it all. He was drafted second overall right out of USC in 2001 and the following year made his major league debut. His first year with the Cubs showed promise as he started nineteen games and finished with a 6-6 record and a 3.32 ERA. He struck out 145 batters in 116+ innings. But more than just his early record, talent evaluators were amazed at his mechanics and his command of the strike zone. His only problem that first year was the fourteen homers he gave up.

The following year, Prior (and Kerry Wood) led the Cubs to the brink of the World Series. Prior was phenomenal for the Cubs, finishing second in the Cy Young voting as he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts. He struck out 245 in 211+ innings, while only giving up 15 homers and 50 walks. He had a three run lead in the eighth inning of what would always become known as the Bartman game: 3-2 lead in the series, three run lead in the eighth inning with Mark Prior on the mound. But Cub fans would soon have their hearts ripped out and Mark Prior was a few months away from having his shoulder ripped out.

Today, every big league team seems to protect its young arms. The Joba Rules on the Yankees are a good example. Pitch counts are limited and plans are made to gradually build a pitcher up to a certain physical maturity. There was no such coddling of Mark Prior and maybe that led to his injuries. Here he was just two years removed from college ball, where he may have pitched 100 innings and he started 30 games in the regular season plus those starts in the playoffs. It was probably too much, too soon.

Prior won only 18 games the next three seasons as his injuries and lack of effectiveness mounted. He had shoulder surgery and missed all of 2007. The Cubs let him go. The Padres signed him to a minor league contract last year but his shoulder again blew out and he had to have another surgery and missed all of 2008 as well.

Give the Padres credit though. They signed him again this year to another minor league deal. They believe he has a chance to pitch this year. They believe his last surgery fixed what needed fixing. It's impossible not to hope they are right and that the chance they are taking on Prior rewards both he and them.

It would be great for baseball if Prior could make a comeback. After all, there are not a lot of pitchers who have a lifetime 10.37 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter. There are not many pitchers who have a lifetime strike out to walk ratio of 3.40 (it was an amazing 4.90 in his big year). Let's root for Mark Prior and hope he makes it all the way back this time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Clemens Story is Bad for the Insides

There's been a post building inside for quite some time now but it has been difficult to bring it out because it is painful. Anyone who makes a living writing understands the feeling of having something that needs to come out but makes us cower and cringe until it can't be withheld anymore. Anna Nalick already penned the feeling exactly in her haunting song, "Breathe (2 A.M.)":
"...2 AM and I'm still awake, writing a song if I get it all
down on paper, it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs

The Roger Clemens fiasco is the post and anyone (or you few) who have followed this blog for a long time has an idea of where the Fan had Clemens placed in his iconography. Then one day a little over a year ago, the trophy shelf collapsed and the icon shattered like fine porcelain hitting the dining room floor.

The feeling was exactly the same as the day when we all turned on our television sets and saw that white Ford Bronco in that absurd ride down the California freeway and a whole childhood of worshipping O. J. Simpson vanished into thick, smoggy air. We all knew immediately that Simpson was guilty. We all knew. We still know. And though we mock him and deride him and were all secretly glad his little fiasco in Las Vegas finally put him where he belonged, despite the jeers and the smug satisfaction, there was still a little boy inside sadly wearing Number 32 and remembering the thrill ride of all those runs to glory.

That same little boy inside remains for most of us, even when we are on the other side of 50. That same little boy wonders why Clemens couldn't just come clean and tell his story. This is a country that loves to knock our heroes to the ground. But we love just as much to forgive them, wrap them back up in our arms and cheer them on again. Clemens didn't follow the example of his one-time, best friend, Andy Pettitte. Though Pettitte threatens that forgiveness with his stubborn refusal of $10 measly million, he was pardoned and we could cheer him on again.

Clemens apparently has decided to go down the same road already tread by Pete Rose and Richard Nixon. We knew they were guilty. We knew they were caught red-handed. If they had just drooped their shoulders and copped to their crimes, they would have been forgiven and life would have gone on. But, whether it is because they felt they had too much to lose or because their pride would not allow them to show flaws, they held on to the lies and held on tightly until there was no place for them to go.

And thus, Richard Nixon lost the White House and Pete Rose only shows up at Cooperstown to hawk signed baseballs when a simple little plea of: "Yup, I admit it," would have left them plenty of room for ultimate public redemption. And now, one of the most celebrated pitchers of the last one hundred years is having his name removed from hospital wings and is being banished even by the charities he used to support.

The sorrow isn't for Clemens or Nixon or Rose. They sowed their own seeds as did Simpson, Bonds, fallen Olympians and the Governor of New York. The sorrow is for the little boy who wanted to cry when Clemens gave his Hall of Fame speech.

And while we're on this subject, let's reflect a moment on the last three Hall of Fame votes in which Mark McGwire continues to sink in votes. The magical year in which McGwire hit his seventy home runs came after labor problems and probably did a lot to bring the fans back to the game. For this writer, it was even more personal as McGwire's heroics came right after a gut-wrenching divorce. That stupendous Labor Day weekend filled this writer with tears of joy that were unbelievably needed in those most painful of days. It gave a fallen and disheartened man a reason to be a little boy again. That same inner little boy that baseball has sustained for a lifetime.

And again, the boy is sad as McGwire's heroics are tarnished and discounted even though, by all accounts, McGwire was and is a decent man. The love he shared those days with his son could not be faked by steroids and it brought around the circle of fathers to sons that baseball has always generated.

At least McGwire didn't lie. But if he had just come clean and told his story straight up, he still may not have gotten into the Hall of Fame because some grumpy old men lost their inner little boys a long time ago. But the rest of us would embrace him and feel better about the emotions we let loose on that magical Labor Day Weekend.

And so we will continue to watch the Shakespearean play work itself out. The snake and tempter, McNamee, gets to shriek with glee as he continues to pull the Rocket down while McNamee gets a slap on the wrist. And we may even watch as Andy Pettitte, that old best friend, becomes the man who sends that former friend to prison. It didn't have to be this way. The little boy wishes with a lifetime of emotions that it could end in any other way.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Poor Michael Young

A story that has piqued the Fan's interest concerns Michael Young, the All Star shortstop of the Texas Rangers. Apparently Young is unhappy that he was told he would need to move to third base to make room for prospect Elvis Andrus and has requested the team to explore trade possibilities. Young's biggest gripe is that he wasn't asked to move, he was told he had to move.

Consider that Mr. Young is going to make $16 million for the next five years. Consider that, despite his elevated status as a ball player on a major league franchise, he is still an employee. Consider that most of the new sophisticated fielding measures list Young as a less than stellar shortstop (despite the fielding percentage and the Gold Glove). Consider that a manager and a general manager of a baseball team are paid to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the team's prospects.

Consider all those things and little sympathy can be engendered for Michael Young. The Fan would clean out the Texas Rangers septic system for $16 million. The Fan would be so giddy at making $16 million that he would do just about anything Mr. Washington or Mr. Daniels told him to do.

Tell any one of the 8% that are unemployed in the Arlington area that someone getting paid that kind of money has hurt feelings because he has to play third base and see what kind of reaction the person collecting unemployment or has his house repossessed will have.

It is stories like this that make the little hairs bristle inside the Fan's nose. Please excuse the coming language, but Mr. Young should swallow something quickly and get his nose down on some kind of reality level and quickly retract his asinine whining. And after he does that, he should get his high paid ars over to third and play his heart out.

Post Hall of Fame Thoughts

Rickey Henderson is in as expected, though 28 people did not vote for him. What dotards are they! Jim Rice is in on his last chance on the ballot. Dan Shaughnessy will be throwing a party. Many of the rest of us will continue scratching our heads. And that's it. Just those two were elected, proving once again that the Baseball Hall of Fame is the most exclusive and fickle club of all.

Apparently two writers didn't vote at all in protest of the steroids issue. Get a grip and give up your rights, people, if you think that is appropriate.

Mark McGwire received less votes than last year and only received roughly 22% of the votes. See previous paragraph.

Tim Raines used coke early in his career and apparently is still paying for it (though Paul Molitor cruised through and had the same problem). But Molitor got to 3000 hits (mostly as a DH) and Raines didn't. Raines only mustered 22.6% of the votes. Absurd and...umm...stupid.

Andre Dawson was 44 votes shy of getting elected, which is about right. Poor Burt Blyleven only went up by two votes and is still stuck at roughly 63%. Jack Morris and Lee Smith both came in around 44%. Tommy John finished his 15 year run with 31% and Dave Parker, Alan Trammell and the rest are not even mentioned in most articles on the subject. You can see the full list here.

The Fan has been debating the Raines and Lee Smith votes and Keith Law is probably correct that race might be a factor in both votes. That is a hard position to take considering that both of this year's electees are African American. But one has to wonder why Lee Smith is not worthy and Bruce Sutter is? Or why Molitor got a pass and Raines hasn't.

And it can't be because Raines fell short of 3000 hits. If that was the case, how did Rice get in? It's troubling and...yes...fickle.

Why Football Isn't Baseball

The Fan loves football. It's a great game and fun to watch. But it will always come in second to Major League Baseball. It's the difference between U-2 (insert your favorite artist here) and the Beatles. U-2 is the world's favorites, but the Beatles hold the passion longer and that passion is deeper ingrained somehow. It's definitely a personal preference, but if you see the Fan's friends over at, and sort blogs by sport, there are twice as many baseball blogs than football blogs and three times as many as NBA blogs. So it appears the Fan is not alone.

It would be fun to include a list of differences between the two games. Actually two lists would be better. One list is how baseball is better than football and another in how football is better than baseball. The Fan will strategically list those things better in baseball in the hopes that you will get tired of reading before you get to the bottom and miss the many ways that football is better than baseball. Here goes...

Reasons that Baseball is Better than Football

- Baseball players don't crawl on the ground or do the Hulk flex when they make a great play. Football players will do so even when their team is down by 35 points.

- Baseball playoffs give your favorite teams five or seven chances to succeed rather than a sudden death format where in one three hour blink, your favorite team could be done.

- The umpires are professional and full time instead of part time referees in football. Of course, there is still plenty of bad calls. But at least they are made by people devoted year round to the sport. Poor Mr. Hoculi will never get a break again, will he?

- Baseball records have more magic in them. A pitcher reaching 300 wins has much more glam factor than a quarterback getting to 60,000 yards passing. The only thing close in football is a rusher getting to 15,000 yards or something.

- Baseball has better single performance juice. A player can hit for the cycle or get four home runs in a game or throw a no-hitter or get an unassisted triple play. A quarterback gets 400 yards passing in a game? meh. The only thing close is 200 yards gained by either a rusher or pass receiver.

- Every baseball game (except for rain outs) gives each team an equal opportunity to win. In a typical nine inning game, each team will bat nine times. If the game goes to extra innings, each team will still have equal opportunities. In football, you have that terrible overtime rule where a team winning the overtime toss can be the only team to touch the ball in overtime when they win.

- There are no ties in baseball. As Eagles fans know real well, a football game can still end in a tie. Well, there was a tie in the All Star Game. But that was a once-in-a-century thing and the game didn't count.

- Speaking of All Star Games, the baseball All Star showcase is way cooler than the Pro Bowl.

- Spring Training games are much more interesting than pre-season football.

- The yearly off season or Hot Stove League is much more interesting than off season football (unless you lived in Green Bay for the last five seasons).

- Fantasy leagues give you 162 chances to win instead of 17.

- Baseball cards are much cooler than football cards.

- A Joe Montana football will never sell as much as a Mickey Mantle baseball.

- In baseball, you don't have to wait seven days for the next game.

- At a baseball game, at least one player will be somewhat near you no matter where you sit. In football, you could be 80 yards from any action.

- Baseball is played in the warmer months so you don't have to get frost bite to see a game and bare chested guys with letters on their stomachs aren't as necessarily crazy at a baseball game.

- There has never been a football mascot even close to the San Diego Chicken.

- The baseball Hall of Fame seems more meaningful than the Canton equivalent.

- Baseball gives you at least five to six articles a week from your favorite sports writer and not two or three like in football.

- The one on one match up between the pitcher and the batter can only be somewhat matched by the match up of the quarterback and middle linebacker. And the latter match up still depends on 20 other guys to determine the outcome.

- Related to a previous reason, at a baseball game, the fans wear much less clothing than at a football game (except in Tampa or Miami or San Diego) which is better for members of either gender.

- There is no football equivalent to the seventh inning stretch.

- Baseball players seem to have less tattoos than their football counterparts. This is purely a personal difference.

- Only Pat Summerall and John Madden even come close to legends like Harry Carey, Phil Rizzuto, Curt Gowdy, Joe Garagiola, Jack Buck and on and on go the examples.

- Except for Japanese players, you can pronounce most baseball player's names. There are few African names in baseball...yet.

- If you are in a real hurry, a digitally recorded baseball game can be zipped through faster than a football game. Try it some time. Nine innings can go by in about 12 minutes.

- Pitchers can throw 100 MPH or 60 MPH and be just as effective. Quarterbacks (just ask this year's Cowboy fans) cannot have weak arms and be consistently effective.

- Baseball players can get their own drinks in the dugout. For some reason, football players' hands don't seem to work and assistants need to squirt liquid into their mouths for them.

- No baseball player in view will be riding an exercise bike.

- There are no cheerleaders in baseball.

Ways that Football is Better than Baseball

- There are cheerleaders in football.

- There are more 'Oooh' moments in football. There are probably six to ten good hits a game in football and there might be one time a week where the runner crashes into home plate. Big and cool plays happen much more often at a football game than at a baseball game.

- A Barry Sanders run is oodles more fun than a Vince Coleman triple.

- There is no baseball equivalent to a perfectly executed long bomb from from a quarterback to a deep running receiver.

- Half time give you the opportunity to go to the bathroom and still make it back in time. Plus you may get a good act that performs (unless it's Janet Jackson 0r something).

- Baseball doesn't have anything like NFL Films and that guy with the great voice doing the narration to that really great music. The best baseball ever had was Mel Allen saying, "How about that" to a syndicated show on Saturdays. Not even close.

- The World Series never gets really cool and funny commercials like the Super Bowl.

- Really bad teams only make their fans suffer for 16 games instead of 162.

- Football reviews more plays via video tape. It took an act of Congress to get baseball to simply review foul pole if-scenarios.

- Football doesn't have glaring rule weak spots like baseball's strike zones. You may have one out of every five umpires that will call a letter-high fastball a strike, which is terrible.

- You always play football no matter the weather (except for hurricanes and the like).

- The head coach in football can run up and down the field and keep coaching. If the manager did that in baseball, he gets thrown out of the game.

- Officials in football get to throw yellow flag bombs at offending players. How cool is that?

- Football games are probably better television.

More will probably come to the Fan once this blog is published. If you would like to add your own reasons one way or another, drop a note.

The Fan would like to give a big welcome to his first follower, Josh Borenstein. Josh publishes a blog called Jews in Baseball, which is a pretty cool idea. The Fan is half Sicilian and has always theorized that Italians were the lost ten tribes of Israel. After all, our mothers give us the same guilt and we both get blamed for all the crime in America. Nice to have you, Josh, and continued success and fun with your blog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Red Sox Continue Stockpiling

The Boston Red Sox had another busy week and continue to stockpile players like a survivalist family stocks its doomsday cellar.

This week, they signed Takashi Saito, the 38 year old relief pitcher who had great statistics with the Dodgers but also came up with a bum elbow; Rocco Baldelli, the once great outfielder with the Tampa Bay Rays, who has a new diagnosis for his mysterious disease; Brad Penny, the former all star pitcher from the Dodgers who came up with a bum shoulder and had a bad year; and Mark Kotsay, the thirty-three year old outfielder/first baseman, who has stayed healthy and bats pretty well in an otherwise nondescript (apparently the Fan's new favorite word) career.

With the exception of Kotsay, it seems the Boston medical staff should be on red alert this year. Saito is also the fourth Japanese player on their roster.

Obscure Signings of the Week

Once again this week, a few well known names found themselves on the transaction wire such as Pavano, Giambi and Milton Bradley. But as always on the weekend, this blog searches the same transaction wires for those obscure signings of marginal players just trying to keep their MLB dreams and careers going.

Claudio Vargas - Pitcher - Dodgers: One year contract

The six foot, four inch, thirty year old, Vargas was never drafted and didn't play any college ball. He comes from Mao and this will be his sixth team in seven career years. Mostly a starter, Vargas has started 114 games in his career and pitched in relief 50 times.

He has a winning record (46-40), which is surprising considering his less than stellar statistics. His lifetime ERA sits at 4.94 with a career WHIP of 1.45. That means that you are not going to see a whole lot of 1-2-3 innings from this pitcher. And that is not good news for this pitcher when looking at his situational stats. He has a lifetime ERA of 2.05 with the bases empty, but his ERA balloons big time as soon as someone gets on base. But the biggest problem for Vargas? The long ball. He has given up 121 homers in just 703+ innings.

That figure should be better with the Dodgers in that pitcher's park.

Royce Ring - Relief Pitcher - Cardinals: One year contract

Royce Ring, now there's a great name for you. And he was drafted with high expectations. A lefthander from San Diego State, the 28 year old Ring was drafted in the first round by the Chicago White Sox in 2002. He made his debut in the majors in 2005 and has 91 appearances in the big leagues in parts of four seasons with three different clubs.

A first round draft pick became one of those situational lefties and Ring has only pitched 65 and two thirds innings in those 91 appearances. The problem for Ring has been his control and he's walked 40 batters in those innings. Ring got away with that control problem in limited appearances in 2006 and 2007 and had decent ERA figures for those two seasons. But last year, he was dreadful for the Braves who ran him out there 42 times for a total of 22 innings in which he gave up 42 base runners good for an 8.46 ERA.

Despite that dreadful year, the Cardinals signed him to a major league contract. The Cardinals love these kinds of projects and who knows, they could turn Ring and his career around. Getting him to throw strikes consistently would be the first step.

The Hairston Brothers, Scott and Jerry Jr. - Padres and Reds respectively: One year contracts

It was a good week for the Hairston family as both brothers received one year contracts this week after nondescript careers. The sons of former big leaguer, Jerry Hairston, Senior, the family goes back to the former Negro Leagues and Sammy Hairston, one of the first African-Americans to play for the Chicago White Sox. Oh, and oddly enough, they are Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jerry Hairston, Jr., 32, is in his eleventh year and is listed as a shortstop, though he will play other infield positions. He only started one year of his eleven and has a lifetime BA of .260 to go with a .330 OBP.

Scott Hairston is an outfielder, who was first drafted as a second baseman in the third round in 2001 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They brought him up in 2004 to play second, but he has played part time and mostly in the outfield since then. He has more power than his brother and has 41 homers in 900+ at bats. But his Batting Average (.246) and lifetime On Base Percentage (.303) don't give much to write home to dad about. But then again, Jerry Hairston Senior had a long and nondescript career himself.

One has to wonder sometimes how marginal players like the Hairston family members have such long careers.