Saturday, March 21, 2009

It's Transaction Time Again

Oh, Golly. Another week has flown by and it's that time again. Mothers, close your eyes. Sons, cling to your mothers. Fathers, grab another Coca Cola and beware of this week's review of the transaction wire. You've been warned it won't be pretty...

- The Twins were hoping for a Goose Gossage and instead got Mike Gosling, so they sent him down to the minors. The "down" was a bonus point if you got it.

- The Tigers' catcher, Ryan, was sent back to the Dusty buses of the International League.

- Another catcher, Ivan-to-play-everyday Rodriguez, signed with the Astros. Rodriguez wanted more money, but the Astros wouldn't pudge.

- The Texas Rangers said, "No Mas" to Duran and sent German to the minors.

- Another Ranger, John Bannister, went down the stairs to the minor league camp.

- Those Rangers, being health conscious, decided to keep their dugout Smoak free and sent Justin to the same minor league camp.

- It wasn't poetic when the Red Sox released catcher Josh Bard.

- Nationals infielder, Brad, was called into the manager's office and got the news he Eldreded and didn't want to hear. He's going to the minors.

- The Cubs told Caridad, their pitcher, that they will be Esmailin his checks and his equipment to his next stop in the minors.

- The Nationals told Gustavo to Chacin with the minor league camp. So he checked out of his hotel room.

- The Royals released Jimmy, but don't worry about him. He's a LOOGY and someone will Gobble him up.

- Cubs' pitcher, Justin, pled his case that the staff had only seen the tip of the iceBerg of his talent, but they were unmoved and sent him to the minors.

- Trevor's dream of making the Twins opening day roster went Plouffe when they told him he was being sent down.

- Bowen to popular demand, the A's released Rob.

- The Royals are hoping that Sidney's ERA will be down under the 5.00 mark and signed Ponson to a minor league deal.

- Cedrick wasn't entertained when the Rockies told Bowers he was being sent to the minors.

- The Rockies also told Michael that they couldn't affort McEnry as an extra catcher on their roster and demoted him.

- The Nationals' Bynum wasn't dancing the Freddie when he was told he was being sent down.

- Cardinal's pitcher Matt had never been Scherer he was going to make the team, but he didn't and was sent down.

- The Nationals told Maxwell to get smart when he got to the minors and work hard.

- Desmond told the Nationals that he didn't Ian get a chance to prove what he could do. They told him to show them in the minors.

- The Cardinals told Charlie that he wouldn't be Manning their bullpen and that they preferred Manning it with more consistent pitchers. He got demoted.

There were many more, but the Fan has run out of steam. Tune in seven days from now when we do it all again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Falling Into the Spring Training Trap

The Fan sure hates acting stupid. But stupid is what stupid is and has to be faced up to. The Fan has been reporting on Spring Training games and after reading back through a whole lot of them, doggonit if this writer hasn't fallen into the same trap as so many already have: Team records have no bearing on relational success into the regular season.

And yet, the Fan has viewed the Astro's, Tigers' and many other won-loss records this spring as a sign of things to come. But that is irrational thinking. Research has shown that a team's success or failure during Spring Training is irrelevant to their won-loss record during the regular season. Want proof? Sure. Check out this link.

Surely, the Fan should have intellectualized such a fact. But we are emotional and instinctive creatures and we are conditioned to view any baseball game as important to a team's overall success. In other words, it's important to win. George Steinbrenner was famous for getting upset if his Yankee teams fared poorly in Spring Training. He obviously fell into the trap as well.

And so the Fan admits his error. The games are exhibitions. Veteran players are rounding themselves into playing shape and youngsters and fringe veterans are scrambling to impress managers and GMs that they belong on the roster. With many players away in the WBC, the won-loss scenarios are even more skewed.

Spring Training games are a good way to get a bead on how specific players are looking to perform. We evaluate and try to predict how a team will fare based on how it measures and fills its roster. But until the games are played and are for real, then stating that the Astros are going to be terrible because they have only won one game all spring is an amateur mistake and one the Fan will try to avoid making again.

Thursday Spring Training Games

The thermometer has reached 30 for three straight days here in northern Maine. It's getting exciting! Stuff is actually melting. The trick is not getting TOO excited. Last year, or was it the year before? Anyway, it was in May and we had two snow storms with ten or more inches of snow. Even so, the sun is higher in the sky and we are more than halfway through March. Yes, baseball is on its way. Looking at today's games, here are some things we might look forward to:

- The Rangers beat Oakland, 8-5. Kris Benson started for the Rangers and gave up four runs right off the bat (literally). But he held on and was scoreless in his final three innings and the Rangers came back an won. Maybe both comeback players of the year will come from Texas. Benson for the Rangers and Hampton for the Astros. Gonzalez, the A's starter was roughed up for six runs. He was relieved by Josh Outman who pitched four strong innings and is having a fine spring. Is there a much better name for a pitcher than "Outman"? That's almost as good as Ryan Longwell, the field goal kicker.

- Clayton Kershaw threw five fantastic innings and the Dodgers beat the Rockies 3-2. Kershaw also hit a homer! Jeff Weaver also pitched for the Dodgers. Apparently, Joe Torre wasn't tormented enough by Weaver in New York, so Weaver followed him to LA to finish him off. The Dodgers won despite getting only four hits. The entire team is not hitting at this point.

- The Brewers beat the Indians, 7-5. Manny Parra had a decent start for the Brewers though David Riske got the win in relief (despite giving up a run in an inning. His spring ERA is over 11). For the Brewers, Prince Fielder knocked in a couple, Hardy had a double and a triple and the red-hot, Corey Hart, hit is fifth homer of the spring. Speaking of hot, Sizemore had two more hits for the Indians and is batting .480!

- The Cubs beat a split squad of Mariners with very few regulars on either side playing. Heilman had another good start for the Cubs, but it is hard to gauge that with the amount of talent playing for the Mariners.

- The Giants beat the White Sox, 6-4. The White Sox bullpen wasted a brilliant effort by John Danks, who appears poised to have a terrific year. Giant's starter, Cain was cuffed around a little in his five innings of work. Quentin had his first homer of the spring for Chicago and Konerko hit his fourth.

- The Orioles and Nationals both had great starts from young pitchers. Alfredo Simon was fantastic for the Orioles and Shairon Martis was very good for the Nationals. Washington won the game because their bullpen was better. Willingham his his first homer of the spring for Washington. Nolan Reimold had his fourth homer of the spring for the Orioles and is batting .321. Wieters had another hit today.

- In the Phillies, Marlins game today, starters Joe Blanton and Chris Volstad combined for ten innings and only two hits between them (one each) as both pitched superbly. Marlins' pitchers after Volstad gave up the game though and the Phillies won, 5-1. Howard drove in his fifteenth run of the spring.

- Joel Pineiro got his second win of the spring for the Cardinals today as he beat Kazmir and the Bay Rays. Ludwick and Ankiel both hit their first homers of the spring against Kazmir. Ankiel was 3 for 3 with three driven in and two runs scored. Morgan Ensberg made two errors today for the Bay Rays and already has four for the spring. He is only batting .200, which doesn't bode well for his future there. He has fallen a long, long way from his 2005 season with the Astros.

- The Mets beat the Astros, who have won maybe two games all spring. They sure look bad at this point. Jose Reyes and Mike Pelfrey had great games for the Mets, Reyes with three hits and Pelfrey with six strong innings pitched.

- Lester pitched great for the Red Sox. Arroyo did not for the Reds and the Red Sox won the game 9-1. Jed Lowrie had three hits for the Red Sox and has taken off since Lugo got hurt. Maybe he just needed to feel secure? The Reds young pitching should be a big benefit for the Reds this year, but the team just doesn't have any offense.

- Javier Vazquez pitched great for the Braves and Dontrelle Willis again struggled as the Braves beat the Tigers, 5-2. Poor Willis was even wild to first base and picked up an error on a pick off attempt.

- A. J. Burnett faced his old team for the first time and though he struggled with his control (walking three in three innings), he held on for his third win of the spring. Jorge Posada has been leading off for the Yankees. Not understanding that... Nady had a triple among his two hits. Austin Jackson is having a good spring and it won't be long before he is the Yankee centerfielder.

- Ichiro isn't hitting well for Japan in the WBC. He is now batting .125 for the "Classic."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Things We Haven't Seen for a While...

The Fan is having a good day. Listening to the Oldies station on AOL Radio and just finished binding and trimming 80 books to fill an order and 50 business calendars to fill another one. It's been a productive day while eating Ritz and drinking Coke "But happiness is just an illusion." Oops. That's a lyric to a song now playing. Anyway, while performing these tasks, the mind wanders and the Fan came up with this list of things we haven't seen in a while:

- The hidden ball trick. It's been a long time since we've seen this old ploy.

- A pitcher throwing a no-hitter despite walking seven or eight guys. This used to happen fairly regularly.

- A behind-the-back highlight around the bag at second base.

- A highlight of Ichiro Suzuki throwing a BB to third to nail a runner. The guy should go back to right field.

- A pitcher with 25 to 30 wins in a season. (In these days of pitch counts, it may never happen again).

- A winning baseball team in Pittsburgh.

- A big DH who has had three or four knee operations. Where is Orlando Cepeda when we need him?

- A sharp, crisp game from Dontrelle Willis? [sigh]

- A guy play every position in a game. Where is Zoilo Versailles these days?

- A pitcher get relieved from a game and run out to take a position in the outfield. Always happened in Little League...

- A pitcher throwing a pitch way over every one's head and into the stands or screen.

- An Eaphus (?) pitch. Steve Hamilton was the last one the Fan ever saw.

- A balk called on a left-handed pitcher who steps too far towards the plate on a pick off move.

- A bad promotion that causes a game to be forfeited. Guess the league learned from the Disco Day fiasco.

- A batter seriously harmed from a beanball. Thank goodness!

- A flashy umpire like Ron Luciano. Guess he was a one-of-a-kind. If you ever find his books on eBay or in a yard sale, buy them. They were very funny.

- Catcher interference or a batter being called for falling over the plate during a stolen base attempt.

- An umpire telling a batter to keep his feet in the batting box.

- And last but not least: A World Series win by the Chicago Cubs. Maybe this year?

"One Summer Night" is an example of songs they just don't make anymore. Have a good day everyone.

Revisiting the Crystal Ball Post

On New Year's Eve, the FanDome featured a post concerning a crystal ball the Fan found in the basement. Since it is now almost two and a half months later, it's time to look at those predictions after a month of Spring Training games and see if those still look good. Of course, the Fan has since learned that this crystal ball was the Fan's old bowling ball. A mental block must have prevented the Fan from believing he used to wield such a sissy ball. Anyway, the original post is in regular text and revised comments are in italics:

The Fan was cleaning out his basement and tripped over a round object covered by a felt sheet. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be a long forgotten crystal ball. After dusting it off, the Fan was amazed to see the following images:

- President Obama will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals' home opener to enthusiastic crowds. Security at the game will make El Al look like amateurs.
This one will come true.

- Manny Ramirez will sign with the Dodgers and have the following numbers: .312/33/115/.400/.550/.950, the Dodgers will win the NL West and Ramirez will be back in Buster Olney's good graces.
Not sure Mr. Olney has good graces in him for Ramirez, but so far, this seems dead on.

- Kerry Wood will save 38 games after a slow start.
This one still looks good. Wood is throwing 95 MPH gas this spring.

- Sabathia will end up with a 17-12 record for the Yankees.
Still sounds about right. Most Yankee fans should take this kind of performance from the big guy. Since the original post, PECOTA came out and projects a 16-8 record for Sabathia, so the Fan is in the ballpark.

- Raul Casanova of the Mets will have a chance meeting with Romeo Crennel and they will discuss their strategy with women.
The Fan wasn't even drinking on New Year's Eve. Honest!

- Ben Sheets will sign with the Texas Rangers and will later credit Nolan Ryan with conditioning tips that helped him overcome his history of injuries.
Uh. Well. It was a bowling ball after all.

- Rickey Henderson will be voted into the Hall of Fame, but some bone-headed writers will leave him off their ballot so he won't be unanimous.
This one came true already.

- Dan Shaughnessy will write a 10,000 word diatribe when Jim Rice fall short of the votes needed to gain entrance to the Hall of Fame. The diatribe will include at least one Rob Neyer reference.
Rice didn't fall short as we all know. Only the bowling ball fell short.

- Jayson Stark will actually write another baseball post for and finally remove his headline that the Braves have the best chance of signing A. J. Burnett.
Stark did finally come back from vacation and is back to writing very fine posts. However, the Fan doesn't get this "Three Strike" thing he is using as a writing device.

- David Wright will win the National League MVP.
Sticking to this one. Write it down.

- Alex Rodriguez will win the American League MVP and bloggers from coast to coast will complain about the New York media bias.
The bowling ball wasn't hip to A-Rod's medical condition. It's still a long shot to be possible.

- Randy Johnson will win his 300th game by June 15.
This one sounds good.

- Five more minor league pitchers from the Dominican Republic will be suspended for doping and yet the major story of how draftees from that country are mistreated will stay as dead in the headlines as they are now.
There have already been two suspensions, but the major story woke up a little bit with the Jim Bowden thing. But the story has died again...for now.

- The American Team will be bounced early from the WBC and American baseball fans will yawn and pop open another coke.
The American Team has hung around for a while, but most American fans still don't give a hoot.

The standings at the end of the year will be:

- AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays
Sticking with this one.

- AL Central: Indians, Twins, Tigers, Royals, White Sox
Still sounds good. But the Tigers might be where the White Sox are listed and vice versa.

- AL West: Rangers, Mariners, A's, Angels
Yeah. Sticking with this one. Nobody is impressive in the West at this point. But Seattle should finish in last place.

- NL East: Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Braves, Nationals
This one sounds good except the Braves might be better than both the Marlins and the Phillies. Depends on how much Chipper plays.

- NL Central: Astros, Reds, Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers
What? Fan? Are you a lunatic? Oh yeah, it's not the Fan's fault. It was a bowling ball.

- NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres
Yup. Sounds good.

- The Wild Card teams will be the Red Sox and the Marlins
Yes on the Red Sox. Doubtful on the Marlins.

- At least ten homers or non-homers will be overturned by replay.
Can we count the one we already had in the WBC?

- There will be two no-hitters thrown during the year. One will be against the Padres.
Sounds reasonable.

- Phil Hughes will win more games than Chien-Ming Wang
Nope. Not going to happen unless you count AAA statistics.

- Jon Lester will win more games than Beckett.
Still buying this one.

- Mike Hampton will win fourteen games and win comeback player of the year.
This one is looking better all the time.

- Adam Dunn will hit 40 homers.- No one will hit 50 or more homers.
Yes and No. Dunn will hit is 40. Howard will probably hit 50.

- Barry Bonds will finally be convicted and the story will finally be over.
It will NEVER be over. This story will hang over our heads until at least until the Republicans win the White House again.

- Ozzie Guillen will have at least four major meltdowns.
Can still see this happening. Also pencil in that Pierzynski will get into at least one fight.

- Russell Branyon will play for at least two more teams in 2009 and hit home runs for both of them. He's played for eleven teams in the last six years and had at least one homer in every stop.
If Branyon starts well and a contender needs a bat, this very well could happen.

All in all, not bad for a bowling ball.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

For Howell and Boone, Real Life Interrupts Baseball

We baseball fans are always shocked when our boys of summer are mortal after all. We watch them play and whether we cheer or boo, most of us average guys place our major league baseball players a little higher than ourselves and can't imagine that problems like ours would ever beset them. But they are mortal men with the same chemistry as us and sometimes, like us, their chemistry has a flaw.

Both Aaron Boone and Ken Howell were faced with a flaw this week. But "flaw" is too shallow a word for the seriousness of their situations. Howell, who pitched for the Dodgers and Phillies from 1984 through 1990 and is currently a coach on Joe Torre's staff in Los Angeles, has diabetes and due to complications of that disease, he has had his second toe amputated in as many years.

Aaron Boone has lived with an abnormality in his heart for a long time. But recently, doctors have stated that his condition has changed and that he needs to have an operation to remove a faulty aortal valve and replace it. Boone was rather low key in his press conference today, but this is no little surgery. This is a big, life-changing and life-threatening surgery. Boone stated that it wasn't an emergency situation but that it needs to get taken care of.

Ken Howell wasn't that bad a pitcher. He was a reliever for all of his career with the Dodgers and it wasn't until his last two years with the Phillies that he became a starter. The Phillies probably had little other choice as these were two seriously flawed teams in 1989 and 1990. 1989 was the worse of the two and the team only won 67 games. Mike Schmidt only got into a few games and was out most of the year. Even so, Howell had a good year and finished 12-12 with an ERA of 3.44. The Phillies weren't much better in 1990 and still Howell finished at 8-7.

That was Howell's last year in the majors and he went to coach in the Dodgers' organization. He was promoted to the major league club two years ago. He returned to the team as a full time coach after his first amputation and is going to do the same after this one. Anyone who has seen a friend or loved one through the course of diabetes knows this will be a constant struggle for Howell for the rest of his life. Our hearts go out to him.

Of course, everyone will remember Aaron Boone for his walk off home run against Tim Wakefield in 2003 that eliminated the Red Sox and sent the Yankees to the next level of the playoffs. It was the last time the great Yankee teams beat the rival Red Sox and will never be forgotten.

Boone has had a fairly long career that has had its ups and downs. But he seems to be one of the good guys and to prove that point, nearly all his teammates showed up at his news conference to support him. Of course, someone asked him if he would play again. What an absurd question. His first priority is to get through this surgery so he has the rest of his life, never mind his baseball life. His career is secondary at this point to giving him a future with his family.

The Fan should be speaking for all fans of baseball in wishing both of these men God's grace and comfort and that they will both be granted a good long life beyond these current situations.

Some Notes on Monday's Spring Games

It's doubtful that any of the Phillies have ever made it here to the FanDome. But it sure is coincidental that a day after calling Brett Myers, "league average," he goes out and pitches five innings of four hit ball while striking out seven. "Heh! Take that Mr. Fan!" And after savaging Ibanez and Ruiz, they go out and get two hits a piece. "Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Old man!" Well, at least Feliz went 0 for 3 and is hitless this spring, so the Fan doesn't look like a total dope.

Elsewhere, the scintillating Tigers and Astros played to an eleven inning, 1-1 tie with ten total hits. Don't know if Verlander, Mohler and company were that good or whether these two teams just can't hit at the moment. The Tigers are missing most of their players in the WBC, so they have an excuse. It's a good thing that Sheffield has his bat speed back and is still in camp. Where would they be without his .214 average?

To make matters worse for Houston, one of their few decent players, Pence, came up lame today.

Boston beat the Twins today. Since Baker got that big contract the other day, he's pitched five innings and has given up six homers. To be sure, the pitcher would rather not be called, "Home Run Baker" at this point. Varitek had a good game for Boston. Haven't been able to say that in a while.

Jair Jurrjens had a great day for the Braves as they beat the WBC-depleted Mets. He pitched six shut out innings.

The Yankees had a great pitching day as Sabathia pitched four strong innings. Mariano Rivera made his spring debut and struck out two in an inning of work. The man is incredible. Matsui had a good day with a homer and the Gardner/Cabrera competition is still in full bloom as both got a hit today.

The good news for the Padres is that they are still scoring a lot of runs. The bad news? They lost to the Angels 12-7. Hampson, Geer and Patterson all got thumped for the Padres as did Fuentes for the Angels, who at least got a good start from Lackey.

Poor fielding and bad pitching combined to sink the Diamondbacks as they lost to the A's today, 11-3. Gallagher had a great start for the A's. Nomar Garciaparra has been leading off for the A's for the last few days. Wonder if that is a sign of things to come? The A's seem to be leading the lead in Irishmen (since it was Saint Patrick's day) with Gallagher, Doolittle, Cunningham and Hannahan all were in the lineup today.

The other half of Arizona's staff played the White Sox and beat them, 7-6, in ten innings. Haran had a good start for the Diamondbacks and then the bullpen got a little raggedy before getting the win. Pierzynski is having a great spring for the White Sox.

Carlos Zambrano pitched five decent innings and went 2 for 3 with a homer as the Cubs clobbered Randy Wolf and the Dodgers. Soriano is still leading off for the Cubs. Thought the Cubs were going to change that? The Dodgers aren't batting very well this spring.

Cliff Lee gave up nine earned runs in 2.2 innings of work today as the Rangers bounced all over the Indians 11-5. Feldman got knocked around a little bit himself for the Rangers but got the win. The Rangers' bullpen was very good today. Hamilton looks like this year will be much like last year. Young made his first error of the spring at third base. That's much better than expected.

Once Suppan a time had a great start for the Brewers, but Villanueva and Riske ruined that outing and the Brewers lost to the Giants, 7-5. Pat Misch pitched very well for the Giants. Sandoval is having a great spring for the Giants and Corey Hart continues to rake for the Brewers.

Neither Jiminez for the Rockies nor Davies for the Royals had a good start today as the teams finished in a nine-all tie. Tulo is starting to hit and Helton is showing more power this spring than he has in a long time.

Twenty more days!

Pitchers Sure Are Finicky Creatures

The art of pitching seems to require an almost perfect aural sphere. The pitcher's football counterpart, the quarterback, faces no such expectation. Does he have bruised ribs? Is his knee wobbly? Does he have a concussion? Well, wrap him back up and put him back out there. But not the baseball pitcher. The smallest of ailments can derail the most perfect physical specimens. Uh oh, he has a blister. Whoops! Look out! He's got an earache!

Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But check out this story. It seems that Josh Beckett, the big, powerful right-hander for the Boston Red Sox has a messed up callus on his toe. The Fan is not making fun of Josh Beckett. Heck, he's a lot bigger than this old writer. But this is the same pitcher who has missed a lot of starts because of blisters in the past. Now, wait, that is understandable though. After all, if the act of throwing a baseball is ripping the skin of your fingers, that's a problem.

There has to be some sort of solution to that problem, shouldn't there be? Golfers wear golf gloves. Even some quarterbacks wear gloves. Why can't pitchers? A doctor can perform a highly skilled operation with gloves on. It shouldn't be that difficult to throw a curve ball. The Fan can see it now though. If some pitcher tried it, Billy Martin would rise from the grave and protest the game. There is probably some sort of rule. The batters can wear a full suit of armor and go up to the plate looking like Sir Lancelot, but a pitcher better tuck in that Jesus medallion he has hanging on his neck.

Anyway, the Fan keeps getting off track here. Blisters are weird, but understandable. But now we have a callus on a toe? Granted, when those suckers rip off, that's painful and aggravating. But it's almost comical. To Beckett's credit, he went back out there and pitched two more innings. Good for him. Many other pitchers would have acted like a foot was falling off and would ask for an MRI.

Doctor: "Yes, you have a second class laceration that may require constant cleaning and daily fresh bandages. You might want an antibiotic to stave off infection."

Pitcher: "Maybe I should have a second opinion. I don't think I should pitch with an injury."

Doctor: "Well, if you were a race horse, we wouldn't even need to shoot you. You'll be okay in a few days. Get some Dr. Shoals or something."

Pitcher: "Well, thanks, Doc. But don't be offended if I get a second opinion. I don't want to risk my career with this injury."

Doctor: "No skin off my...oops. Sorry. Poor choice of words."

But Beckett is a tough guy and he could be the Fan's quarterback any day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ivan Rodriguez Makes Sense for the Astros

Give Ivan Rodriguez and his agent credit. They landed in the one situation where Rodriguez, at the age of 37, has a chance to get significant time behind the plate for a team that desperately needed a catcher.

Rodriguez has not backed off his stance that he is not a backup and that limited the interest in just about every other team. Rodriguez is a Hall of Fame catcher, no doubt about that, but his On Base Percentage has been under .300 for two of the past three years.

He never had much patience as a batter, but what little he had is totally gone. Who can forget that the last four years, he has walked only 69 times in over 2000 plate appearances. That boggles the mind a little bit. Especially considering that in two of those years, he combined for just 20 walks in 1000+ plate appearances. Wow!

But a diminished Pudge is far better than anything the Astros already had. J. R. Towles might be a nice guy, but he's batted .188 in 180+ at bats. The other contender they had batted .234 last year. If Pudge can bat .270 and push is OBP over .300 at least, it will be a significant upgrade and he's still not a bad defensive catcher.

There has been some hints that pitchers in Detroit and New York did not enjoy throwing to him behind the plate. The Fan isn't sure what that is all about, but it's not like the guy has never done this before.

The bottom line is that Rodriguez is no longer a starter quality catcher. But he's better than anything the Astros had and for that, Pudge will get one more year to perhaps put a bookend on his HOF career back in the state of Texas where he should be comfortable.

Phillies Won't Repeat

Even before Cole Hamels revealed he has a sore shoulder, question marks abound for last year's World Series champs. The jury is still out on whether Chase Utley will be as good after the hip operation. Raul Ibanez is not a major upgrade for Pat Burrell and the team still doesn't have a decent catcher or third baseman. At a casual glance, it does not seem likely that 2009 will be as successful as 2008.

The starting rotation has too many question marks. We all know Jamie Moyer's history. But we also wait for the inevitable, where he falls off a cliff and succumbs at last to his age. Blanton doesn't inspire a lot of confidence coming from Oakland where so many ex-A's seem to falter once they leave the Bay. And Chan Ho Park is a crap shoot at best. Sure, he resurrected his career a bit with spot duty out of the bullpen. But can anyone forget the Rangers years and the last time he was trusted as a starter? If Cole Hamels misses any significant time, then that makes matter worse for this rotation. Brett Myers is league average at best.

The Phillies may be comfortable with their catching corps, but the collection seems weak at best. Carlos Ruiz, who gets the bulk of the duty seems more of a backup kind of guy than a starter. And base runners had more success last year with him behind the plate than the year before. The rest of the catching corp hasn't hit at all this spring and the two young kids they had in camp seem a year or two away.

The Fan isn't real impressed with Philadelphia's outfield either. Werth had a nice year last year, but there have been some injury murmurs with him this spring and he seems more suited to a platoon situation as he doesn't hit right-handers nearly as well as left-handers. Shane Victorino is a Roy White type of player: Good, but not quite good enough, though he can go get the ball pretty well out there in center and runs well on the bases. His batting average is just league average though and he has little pop.

We've already mentioned Ibanez. This signing seemed strange at the time and after the way the market played out, the Phillies jumped the gun far too early and got too little for way too much money. He's way past his prime and he's just okay at the plate. The outfield spare parts aren't inspiring either. John Mayberry Jr. seems more suited as a first baseman than an outfielder and Matt Stairs...well...what is this DH doing in the National League anyway? Geoff Jenkins is spurty at the plate and can help when he gets on a roll, but he's not much of a fielder.

Who is going to play third? Dobbs? He's played more at first this spring than third. Youngster, Jason Donald has had a nice spring, but will they open the season with him at third? Couldn't hurt.

The rest of the infield is set with Rollins (who looks terrific in the WBC) and Utley around second and the thumper at first. But Howard has to improve his defense and all indications are that he has worked hard in the off season to do that. Last year, he made Giambi look good over there.

All in all, it doesn't feel right and it doesn't seem to all fit correctly. Granted, those are uneducated and non-analytical responses. But the Braves are better, the Marlins are better, the Mets are better and Washington...oh yeah...forget that. Anyway, the Phillies will be hard pressed to win the division, never mind the pennant or a repeat performance at the World Series.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Baseball as a Social Network

If you wanted to read about baseball fifteen years ago, what you had were a bunch of newspaper writers and a handful of magazines such as The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and Sports magazine. And then after January, there were a handful of preseason magazines that would give news about teams and how they looked for the coming season. Today, there are not only dozens of mainstream media outlets on-line, but also thousands of bloggers out there, most of whom are pretty darned good at what they do.

The Fan has been ahead of the curve, behind the curve and sometimes along side it. Please don't scoff, but the Fan was an early pioneer of the heady AOL days. The Fan joined that network and ran a music trivia site there and was chatting as far back as 1992 when all we had was 1200 baud connections. Basically, you would click to start the program and then go eat dinner. The site was probably up by the time dinner was finished.

Even in those early days, whatever baseball news on places like AOL was "powered" by networks already established. The Fan was also into IRC and bulletin boards, which were the early days of content based discussion. Bulletin boards catered to specific tastes and interests as did IRC groups.

The Fan got behind a bit because of work stresses and marital situations and kid situations no different than many of the sea of humanity. And then as a senior executive in charge of customer service for a software company, the Fan read an article on something new called blogging. The Fan approached the software company founder and asked if it was something that might work with our customers. He gave the green light and our company blog was created, the first in our industry and one of the first anywhere.

As the software company got larger, pressures were induced to squash customer comments and politicize the blog in such a way that the company couldn't look bad. The Fan fought the good fight and resisted until resisting was futile about two years ago. But the customers loved the site so much and were so angry at losing it that they went out and created their own where the company couldn't mess with them. Good for them!

A little after that blog was created, this site was born. The first year was fun and posting was faithful. But again, life pressures interfered and we humans only have so much emotional energy and blogging requires quite a bit of it. So it was give the blog up or melt down completely. Sanity won out. Occasional attempts were made to resurrect, but usually sputtered away.

Then our little software company that could became the bulldozer that still could but could no longer turn on a dime. A bigger fish bought us out and swallowed the littler fish and moved customer service to Georgia. The Fan was offered the chance to move along and continue what he started which was a gratifying offer. But the Fan has a little girl, now thirteen, who lives with her mom. Moving meant leaving her and the Fan couldn't be an absentee dad. The grown up son didn't want Dad to leave either. Thinking that being a dad was more important than being financially comfortable, the Fan politely declined during the worst economic time since the Depression. Good timing there, Dad.

And so, there is time for blogging. And you know what? It's fun again and different. Different how? Well, for one thing, the big boys like and Yahoo Sports discovered blogging and pros are doing it now. Plus, thousands of others have sprung up around the country and around the world. The Fan has joined a few link sites like and and it is hard to make a dent. alone has links to over 3000 baseball blogs and BallHype about two thirds of that. The Fan is now ranked something like 1813 on BallHype. Heh. And the Fan can occasionally crack the first page of posts on

It does matter, but it doesn't. The Fan didn't start this site because he wanted to be noticed. The Fan started this site because he loves baseball and always has. Sure, we all have a little ego and want to be respected and important, but here, that is a goal but not an obsession.

The cool thing is, just like in the old days of AOL and IRC and bulletin boards, social networks start developing. Who would have thought a Sicilian from New Jersey, now shivering in northern Maine would develop a social "hello" relationship with a much younger kid whose site features Jews in Baseball. And it matters because he has a unique perspective, writes well and is thoughtful and provocative. The Fan has made other "friends" from other sites and the social network is growing.

There are some sites that the Fan is just too unhip to join. Those that feature open swearing are just not places the Fan will choose to go. No big deal and no judgement here. It's just a choice, right? But there are so many unique points of view and interesting ways of looking at things. And underlying it all is a love for our sport. Baseball is special and there is just something deep about it that cuts through the crap and puts us all on equal footing. It's why national figures like Neyer and Gammons and others recognize and support bloggers they find interesting. Where else would established "stars" support a medium that might some day replace them?

Talent is more widely spread than most realize. The Fan always thought the only difference between this writer and Michener was that Michener was more focused and more organized. That certainly has some truth to it. But mostly, it's that few in previous generations had the opportunity. It's not like the Renaissance where families like Di Medici would sponsor all talented artists. You needed to get a break...a lucky break. The Fan remembers sending a poem to a well-known magazine and receiving a very nice letter back praising the poem. But the Fan was told that thousands of submissions were received every month and only a few would be published.

What's interesting is that the Internet has become the new Di Medici. We are all sponsored by this great free and freewheeling universe that allows us to create whatever it is we want to create. If it makes a difference or if it gets noticed, fantastic. But don't those with an artistic bent just want to create? Isn't that the real reason we do this?

Sure, the Fan would like to figure out how to make money at it. Sure, the Fan wants to be featured someday on Wednesday Wangdoodles {smile}. Sure, the Fan even dreams of being the next Big League Stew. Why not? But the reality is that it's just fun to write every day about something you are passionate about and the ability to make a few friends along the way. That's cool enough in its own right.

Speaking of that curve again, what the heck is Twitter?

Finding Humor in Spring Training

Baseball can be a very funny game. Heck, Jayson Starks has made a career out of pointing to its oddities. But it can also be funny for a lot of different reasons. Though the players are certainly more business-minded then they were in years past, we still get players being interviewed get a pie in the face from a rowdy teammate. And there are still plenty of highlight reels filled with bonehead plays. Humor is just another way baseball is set apart from, say football, where the main object is to kill somebody.

It's this sense of humor that lends to looking at box scores in odd ways and how transactions can turn into pun-fests. For example, there was this little box score blurb: "Errors: Fields 1 (fielding)." So Josh Fields got an error for...fielding. Or Seattle, which got blasted again today, has a pitcher named, Vega, that pitched like a Pinto (you may have to be old enough to remember those cars to get that one).

How about after hearing Scott Boras tell everyone who would listen that Manny Ramirez, at age 36 was just as good as 26 and was no risk signing for four to six years. Then, today, when Manny got hurt in today's first spring training game in the field for him, told reporters that he isn't as young as he used to be. Oops.

There is even humor in seeing someone like Russell Branyon, who at one time was the perpetual phenom. If he had played more, he would have been this generation's Dave Kingman (without the being a jerk thing). Branyon has a respectable lifetime slugging percentage of .485, but has a lifetime batting average of .230. He has hit homers for seven different teams in the last six years including multiple stops in Milwaukee and San Diego. This year, he is sure to hit homers for the Mariners, making it eight in the last seven (want to lay odds on him hitting a homer for a different team some time later in the year?)

Yeah, baseball is fun. For many different reasons.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fantastic Link to Yankee Stadium Pics

The new stadium looks great. At the same time, it looks pretty unfinished. In either case, the link is here. Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday Is the Best Day of the Week

Sunday has always been the best day of the week for baseball fans. All the games, except ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball game, start early in the afternoon which means that you can look at a flood of box scores at 4 P. M. and 7 P. M. And then, after or during leisurely strolling through those, you may get Chris Berman doing the baseball highlight show before the telecast. Berman doesn't do much live television anymore (does he do much of anything anymore?) but he is always a treat when we can get him. And then we can spend a leisurely evening watching a game with old friends, Jon and Joe.

Sunday has been a great day for baseball as long as the Fan can remember. All the special events at the stadium took place on Sunday, whether it be Bat Day or Old Timer's Day or other special things like that. It was also a day when the big Sunday papers would be full of stories back when big Sunday papers weren't just big excuses to load up on lots of advertising. The Sunday Boston Globe was a perennial favorite because that's when Peter Gammons' column would be available as well as other decent writers from that part of the country.

But it goes back further than that. Sunday was the only day off for many of our parents and it would be a day for playing catch or romping around and having barbecues. The Fan is a bit fuzzy on whether it was Saturday that was the big double-header day or whether it was Sunday. It seems to have been Saturday...not sure.

Sure, there are still Sunday papers, but, unfortunately, the Fan is like most of this generation that would rather hop on-line and read the news than fight with over sized newspapers and get black ink all over our hands. Times change and unfortunately, the days of newspapers seem numbered. But one aspect has changed a little bit. Many of the old writers saved their best stories for the big Sunday paper. Now, most of the big on-line writers take the weekend off and so that charming part of Sunday has worn a bit thin.

But all in all, the enjoyment of watching, studying and reading about early Sunday games in this age of prime time television events for all those sports networks keeping you up past midnight, is still with us and hopefully, the almighty dollar won't change that any time soon. Because Sunday truly is the best day of the week for a baseball fan.

The FanDome's 500th Post - A List of 500s

Seemed just a little while ago that this space reached its 400th post. The Fan needs to get a life or a job or something. To celebrate the 5ooth post of this here site, the Fan diligently presents a list of 500s for your amusement. All stats from Enjoy.

Players With At Least 500 Career Doubles:

Tris Speaker 792. Pete Rose 746. Stan Musial 725. Ty Cobb 724. Craig Biggio 668. George Brett 665. Nap Lajoie 657. Carl Yastrzemski 646. Honus Wagner 640. Hank Aaron 624. Paul Molitor 605. Paul Waner 605. Cal Ripken 603. Barry Bonds 601. Luis Gonzalez 596. Rafael Palmeiro 585. Robin Yount 583. Cap Anson 581. Wade Boggs 578. Charlie Gehringer 574. Jeff Kent 560. Eddie Murray 560. Tony Gwynn 543. Harry Heilmann 542. Rogers Hornsby 541. Joe Medwick 540. Dave Winfield 540. Al Simmons 539. Lou Gehrig 534. Al Oliver 529. Frank Robinson 528. Dave Parker 526. Ted Williams 525. Ivan Rodriguez 524. Willie Mays 523. Ed Delahanty 522. Joe Cronin 515. Edgar Martinez 514. Mark Grace 511. Rickey Henderson 510. Manny Ramirez 507. Babe Ruth 506. Tony Perez 505. Roberto Alomar 504. Andre Dawson 503. Ken Griffey 503. Goose Goslin 500. John Olerud 500.

Players With At Least 500 Career Homers:

Barry Bonds 762. Hank Aaron 755. Babe Ruth 714. Willie Mays 660. Ken Griffey 611. Sammy Sosa 609. Frank Robinson 586. Mark McGwire 583. Harmon Killebrew 573. Rafael Palmeiro 569. Reggie Jackson 563. Alex Rodriguez 553. Mike Schmidt 548. Jim Thome 541. Mickey Mantle 536. Jimmie Foxx 534. Manny Ramirez 527. Willie McCovey 521. Frank Thomas 521. Ted Williams 521. Ernie Banks 512. Eddie Mathews 512. Mel Ott 511. Eddie Murray 504.

Players With a Career .500 Slugging Percentage:

Babe Ruth .6898. Ted Williams .6338. Lou Gehrig .6324. Albert Pujols .6238. Jimmie Foxx .6093. Barry Bonds .6069. Hank Greenberg .6050. Manny Ramirez .5934. Mark McGwire .5882. Joe DiMaggio .5788. Alex Rodriguez .5780. Rogers Hornsby .5765. Vladimir Guerrero .5746. Todd Helton .5736. Larry Walker .5652. Albert Belle .5638. Johnny Mize .5620. Juan Gonzalez .5607. Jim Thome .5605. Lance Berkman .5600. Stan Musial .5591. Willie Mays .5575. Mickey Mantle .5568. Frank Thomas .5550. Hank Aaron .5545. David Ortiz .5543. Chipper Jones .5479. Ralph Kiner .5479. Ken Griffey .5466. Carlos Delgado .5462. Mike Piazza .5452. Hack Wilson .5448 . Chuck Klein .5430. Mark Teixeira .5410 . Miguel Cabrera .5408. Jeff Bagwell .5403. Duke Snider .5397. Frank Robinson .5370. Al Simmons .5349. Jason Giambi .5338. Travis Hafner .5338. Sammy Sosa .5338. Dick Allen .5336. Earl Averill .5336. Mel Ott .5331. David Wright .5328. Babe Herman .5319. Lefty O'Doul .5319. Ken Williams .5304. Willie Stargell .5286. Jim Edmonds .5280. Mike Schmidt .5273. Chick Hafey .5260. Chase Utley .5257. Nomar Garciaparra .5245. Mo Vaughn .5231. Wally Berger .5216. Hal Trosky .5216. Harry Heilmann .5205. Kevin Mitchell .5198. Magglio Ordonez .5195. Dan Brouthers .5192. Adam Dunn .5182. Alfonso Soriano .5180. Charlie Keller .5177. Joe Jackson .5174. Jason Bay .5162. Gary Sheffield .5158. Moises Alou .5157. Edgar Martinez .5155. Willie McCovey .5147. Jose Canseco .5145. Rafael Palmeiro .5145. Ty Cobb .5120. Brian Giles .5106. Ellis Burks .5104. Eddie Mathews .5094. Fred McGriff .5091. Jeff Heath .5088. Harmon Killebrew .5085. Richie Sexson .5069. Bob Johnson .5059. Bill Terry .5059. Darryl Strawberry .5054. Ed Delahanty .5051. Sam Thompson .5047. Carlos Lee .5045. Joe Medwick .5045. Jim Rice .5020. J.D. Drew .5019. Aramis Ramirez .5019. Dave Orr .5017. Scott Rolen .5014. David Justice .5003. Ryan Klesko .5003. Tris Speaker .5003. Jim Bottomley .5002.

Managers With a Higher Than .500 Career Winning Percentage:

Bill Terry .555. Billy Martin .553. Mike Scioscia .551. Ron Gardenhire .549. Charlie Grimm .547. Sparky Anderson .545. Hughie Jennings .543. Charlie Manuel .543. Tris Speaker .543. Joe Cronin .540. Leo Durocher .540. Fielder Jones .540. Danny Murtaugh .540. Joe Torre .538. Herman Franks .537. Jimy Williams .535. Tony LaRussa .534. Danny Ozark .533. Whitey Herzog .532. Ned Hanlon .530. Tommy Lasorda. .526. Bill McKechnie .524. Dusty Baker .523. Hank Bauer .522. Cito Gaston .522. Clark Griffith .522. Jerry Manuel .522. Red Schoendienst .522. Lou Piniella .521. Mayo Smith .520. Dick Williams .520. Bill Virdon .519. Terry Francona .518. Jack McKeon .518. Johnny Oates .517. Birdie Tebbetts .515. Frankie Frisch .514. Ralph Houk .514. Buck Showalter .514. Harry Walker .511. Alvin Dark .510. Bobby Valentine .510. Chuck Dressen .509. Casey Stengel .508. Don Zimmer .508. Paul Richards .506. Felipe Alou .503. Mike Hargrove .503. Buck Rodgers .503. Pinky Higgins .502. Fred Hutchinson .501.