Saturday, June 20, 2009

Catching Up on the Babe

One of the great things about the times spent on our Florida sabbaticals is the chance to read. With the business to run and the blogs to write and life in general in the way, little time is left for the pure joy that is reading. Mom lives in a small condo, the type that was built by the hundreds forty years ago to accommodate the middle class refuges from the Northeast that retired down here. It's not a fancy place, but it has a pool that no one uses. The Fan spends every day down by that pool under and umbrella reading good books.

Mom had a book about Babe Ruth sitting on the shelf. There have been dozens of books about Ruth over the years. This one was written by Leigh Montville in 2006. Montville does a really good job and describing just how much Ruth revolutionized the game as it went from a small ball world with strategy to a game of strength. Imagine a player coming up to play now that could do things nobody in the game had ever been able to do. Imagine a player so different with results so breathtakingly new that there was no correlation to go by. Imagine that the 58 homers he hit in 1921 were more than all but two other teams hit as entire teams.

We have no understanding of how he changed the game. We have no understanding of how good Ruth was in comparison to his peers in the early part of his career. Montville also does a great job in not only painting the warts on Ruth, but giving him more credit for his intelligence and innate handling in the art of negotiation that Ruth displayed.

It's a really good book and if you ever want to know more about the myth that is Babe Ruth, search for Montville and Ruth on Google and go find a copy. It's worth the read.

Game Picks - Saturday: June 20, 2009

Hello from Florida! We left Portland, Maine, yesterday and it was 56 and raining and we arrived here and it was 90 and sunny! Cool. And once we arrived, due to the interleague play, the Yankees were on TV playing the Marlins, so it was a great day all around. Rest. The Pool. Warm. And baseball on television. Ahhhhhh.

But the picks must go on. So here are today's:

  • The Cubs over the Indians: Picked the Indians yesterday and the bullpen blew up the game. Again. The heck with that.
  • The Brewers over the Tigers: The Fan Figaros that a rookie pitcher won't beat Bush and the Brewers.
  • The Cardinals over the Royals: Carpenter over Bannister.
  • The Mets over the Bay Rays: Santana has been struggling for him, but he should win here.
  • The Orioles over the Phillies: The Orioles are hot. The Phillies are not.
  • The Blue Jays over the Nationals: Because they should win, should they not?
  • The Red Sox over the Braves: Good matchup with Lowe versus Beckett. Will go with Beckett though.
  • The Twins over the Astros: Like Baker over Moehler.
  • The Yankees over the Marlins: The Yanks are a different team with Jeter in the lineup. Burnett pitched well his last time out.
  • The Reds over the White Sox: Cueto over Richard.
  • The Rockies over the Pirates: The Rockies are on fire!
  • The Angels over the Dodgers: First time ever a brother pitches against brother. Unfortunately, the Angels have the better brother.
  • The Giants over the Rangers: The Rangers won't be Abel to defeat Cain.
  • The A's over the Padres: Two young pitchers. Flip a coin.
  • The Mariners over the Diamondbacks: Two young pitchers. Flip a coin.

There it is. Now for the pool!

Last two days: 13-15
Week: 38-36
Month: 112-117

Halladay Wins the Satchel Paige?

Gordon Edes is a pretty good writer. He tends toward generalizations and the sensational, but overall, he is a solid writer who does his homework. His latest piece advocates changing the name of the Cy Young Award to the Satchel Paige Award. While the Fan is all for recognizing Negro League players, this suggestion seems misguided on more than a couple of fronts.

The first is the downright awkwardness of changing such a high profile award. You wouldn't rename the Stanley Cup to the Martin Luther King Cup just because no one remembers who Stanley was. Everyone knows it is the Stanley Cup and everyone knows it is the Cy Young Award. You just don't mess with iconic names like that.

The second problem is what to do with the past. Do the record books list Cy Young Award winners until 2009 and then Satchel Paige Award winners from here on out? Will everyone always know they are the same thing? It's messy.

The most obvious problem is the notion that Satchel Paige is unappreciated. He is? He's in the Hall of Fame isn't he? He's a legend, isn't he? Every Fan of this writer's generation knows who he was and what he was about. A new book was just released about the man's life. Isn't that recognition? His legend is huge and his reputation is untarnished. He never got to pitch in the majors in his prime, but as an older man, he was still good enough to succeed in surprising and inspirational ways in a suddenly integrated majors.

Look, the Fan understands the motivation behind such a suggestion. White America, at least the thinking, rational ones, are apologetic Americans. We have guilt about the Native Americans, the slavery and the other ugly moments of our past. We can't undo them. In fact, we are the only conquering nation ever in history that mourns our conquests. So there is a natural instinct to want to undo the horrid ban of African Americans from our National Pasttime until 1947. It is the instinct that led to the recent Jackie Robinson uniform tribute. But to create a messy change in something everyone recognizes and understands is misguided and unnecessary. And in the end, it does more harm to Paige's legacy than it does to aid it.

Satchel Paige is a legend. The legend hasn't diminished. We don't need to smudge it up by making a messy change in a major award to honor him.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Is It Too Early to Think About .400 and Mauer?

The Fan has resigned himself to the fact that he would never see a .400 hitter in his lifetime. Rod Carew came close once. Gwynn flirted with it. George Brett came close once. But nobody has really given it a good run. Joe Mauer has come back from a mysterious back ailment after a mysterious surgery to lead the world in batting. Mauer has always been a good hitter, but he's been out of his mind. Is it too early to start thinking about .400?

The Twins have 93 games left. Mauer figures to play in 90% of them or roughly 84 games. If he averages 4.5 at bats a game, he'll have about 378 at bats. Mauer sits at 68 for 160 for an unbelievable .425 average. If the previous projections are close, then he will end up with 538 at bats. To hit .400, he will need to have 215 hits in those 538 at bats. That means he will need to have 147 hits in his next 378 at bats. That's a .388 average. Hmm... That doesn't seem likely.

Okay, so what if he only averages four at bats a game instead of 4.5 because he will walk a lot. Then he'll end up with 496 at bats. To end up at .400, he'll need 196 hits. Which means, he'll have to go 128 for 336, or bat .381 the rest of the way. Ugh. That doesn't seem doable either.

Okay, let's go by his current at bats per game. He has 160 at bats in 43 games which works out to 3.72 at bats per game. Multiply that by 84 and you get roughly 313 at bats which will give him a total of 473 at bats (with his walks, he will easily qualify for the batting title). To bat .400 with 473 at bats, he'll need 189 hits. So he'll have to go 121 for 313 or bat .386 the rest of the season.

It looks like the Fan is resigned to never see a .400 batter in his lifetime.

Game Picks - Friday: June 19, 2009

So the missus and her Fan drove down to Portland today from our home in northern Maine. Seven hours later, here we are and we are pooped. But as a slave to the FanDome, this picker had to pop out the U. S. Cellular Internet card out of the bag and write the good old Howard Johnson's because this is the only place in Portland that does a park and fly for the length of time we need to park. We have a wake up call for 3:00 A.M. so we can catch the shuttle and fly out at 6:00. Ugh.

Needless to say, the Fan won't be awake long enough to get the results of today's picks. It looks like they are standing at 6-4 so far. Shouldn't have picked against the Blue Jays and what the heck is up with the Nationals beating the Yankees twice in a row? Do they have a pipeline to the Red Sox brain trust or something?

Anyway, with single-minded dedication to the FanDome, here are tomorrow's picks tonight. Though written at 10:21 ET, they won't be posted until 3:00 A.M. so it will look like normal, sort of.

  • The Indians over the Cubs: This is a fantastic matchup of Lee versus Harden. Hate to pick against Harden, but Lee has been terrific lately.
  • The Orioles over the Phillies: The kids are starting to play for the Orioles. Perhaps they will steal one from the Phillies.
  • The Tigers over the Brewers: Like Galarraga over Looper.
  • The Blue Jays over the Nationals: The Nationals can't beat the Blue Jays like they beat the Yankees, can they?
  • The Braves over the Red Sox: In a battle of Japanese hurlers, the Fan can't pick Dice-K at this point.
  • The Mets over the Bay Rays: Like Nieve over Sonnanstine, but have no idea why.
  • The White Sox over the Reds: Contreras has come back on fire. Not sure it will continue or why it's even happening, but picking that it will continue one more game.
  • The Marlins over the Yankees: The Yanks look flat, especially without Jeter.
  • The Twins over the Astros: The Twins are driving the Fan to drink. They always do the opposite of whatever the pick is. Don't think a Twins pick has been correct in a month.
  • The Royals over the Cardinals: The Royals just got their butts handed to them by the Diamondbacks, so why will they beat the Cardinals? Who knows. Interleague play is bats.
  • The Rockies over the Pirates: Marquis is pitching. That is Rule #3.
  • The Dodgers over the Angels: Billingsley is the Dodgers' best pitcher. Saunders is not close to him in ability.
  • The A's over the Padres: Outman will whitewash LeBlanc. Did you get it this time?
  • The Diamondbacks over the Mariners: The Diamondbacks are suddenly hitting like crazy.
  • The Rangers over the Giants: Feldman! Go Feldman!

There it is. Tomorrow it is on to Florida. God willing, the Fan will catch you there tomorrow night.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why Does Ian Kinsler Bat Leadoff?

After watching Ian Kinsler hit two homers in his first two at bats the other night, this writer wondered why this very good second baseman bats first in the batting order. He has a .545 Slugging Percentage over his last 365 days and already has 17 homers this year (despite having an off year at the plate). So as usual, when the Fan gets a thought, he traveled to, that handy dandy stat site.

First of all, he isn't especially adept at getting on base batting in the first position. He has a career batting average when leading off the game of .263 and his OBP is only .322. Secondly, he isn't especially better leading off any inning, batting .278 with a .332 OBP. Next, he is very good batting with runners in scoring position, where over his career, his numbers are: .325/.405/.536. The conclusion then is that he is the perfect kind of guy for batting third or fourth in the batting order, not first.

Kinsler is an excellent base stealer. He doesn't steal a lot and will steal about 25 a year, but he rarely gets caught. So that is a plus for a leadoff batter. He rarely strikes out, which is also a plus. But his OBP is good, but not terrific for a leadoff guy. It's in the .350 range which is lower than Damon and others have been.

Kinsler is a terrific, young player who is only going to get better. This seems a situation much like the Hanley Ramirez situation in Florida where sooner or later, you have to consider moving him to the heart of the order to let him drive those runs in.

Game Picks - Thursday: June 18, 2009

Went to bed last night with thoughts swirling about Sammy Sosa, Mel Hall and the Yankees losing to the Nationals. Not actually sure which is the worst tragedy there. Just kidding. Hall, who will be remembered for his sweet swing peppering the Yankee Stadium right field porch, threw his life away for some lascivious thoughts for girls he shouldn't have had those thoughts for. Why would a guy who has everything and could buy women of most any legal age, risk doing anything that would throw that cushy life away? He deserves the 60 years he got. And Sammy Sosa, we all knew. First, he was from the Dominican Republic. Second, he went from this skinny kid in Texas to this behemoth in Chicago. Third, he hit 60 or more homers three years for crying out loud and fourth, his career took a quick nose dive. We all knew. Now we just know more officially. Joe Posnanski has a great piece about the news by the way. But then doesn't he always?

And then there were the games last night. Former Yankee, Nick Johnson, had the big hit and Lannon, the best of the Nats pitchers, sent the Yanks four games back of the Red Sox. The Yanks would be tied with the Red Sox if they just played .500 against them instead of going zero for the season. Lincecum lost last night because of a passed ball. How many times does that happen? The Fan finally used his head instead of his heart and picked against Micah Owings and he goes out and pitches a gem AND hits a three run homer. The Diamondbacks, who probably haven't scored 12 runs in June, scored that many last night against the Royals. And those were just the logical losses on the Fan's scorecard. Ha!

But today is the first day of vacation. The Fan heads to Florida today for a much needed rest. It's been a really rough year in this household. People look at us and say, " the summer? What are you crazy?" Well, no. First, the Fan's wife teaches and we can't get away until after school ends. Secondly, the Fan's mom lives in a middle class condo down there and there's always a breeze by the pool. So we enjoy it very much. The Fan doesn't expect to miss any days posting, but you never know. It might be spottier than usual.

Here are today's picks:

  • The Braves over the Reds: This gave features two great pitching prospects in Hanson versus Maloney. Let's go with Hanson.
  • The Phillies over the Blue Jays: Like Blanton over Mills in this one. Vernon Wells got a hit last night, which was newsworthy in a sort of pathetic way.
  • The Yankees over the Nationals: Chamberlain should have a good night.
  • The Pirates over the Twins: The Twins are the most difficult team in the world to predict. So we'll go with Zack Duke.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: The Cubs have the advantage of Zambrano hitting over Floyd. Never mind the pitching. Saw a stat the other day that Zambrano has more homers in his last 300 at bats than David Ortiz has in his last 300 at bats.
  • The Rockies over the Bay Rays: Interesting matchup of Garza versus Jiminez. If Jiminez is dominant, the Rockies should win.
  • The Padres over the Mariners: Brandon Morrow is pitching for the Mariners in his first start of the year. That's Rule #4 and a lock even without knowing that the Mariners have really screwed him around this year.
  • The Orioles over the Mets: Weiters hit his first homer and got his first RBIs last night. Congrats, kid. Have fun against Livan.
  • The Red Sox over the Marlins: The Red Sox might never lose another game this year. They are that good.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Brandon is Backe and it might not be pretty.
  • The Royals over the Diamondbacks: Hochever over Haren? What? Well, it could happen if Olivo doesn't make another error. How can a catcher make that many errors?
  • The Tigers over the Cardinals: Like Porcello over Pineiro, who has been like a pinata lately.
  • Oakland over the Dodgers: Have a hunch Mazzero will stifle the Dodgers.


Yesterday: 6-9
Week: 25-21
Month: 99-102

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Game Picks - Wednesday: June 17, 2009

Lots more surprises last night. The Blue Jays got a great game from Romero and jumped all over the Phillies' bullpen, which issued eight walks in four innings of relief. The rain delayed the Braves/Reds game after only two innings, which scuttled the game's starters giving the Reds a chance to win the game. The Cardinals pimp slapped the Tigers and starter Justin Verlander. And the Rockies winning streak finally came to an end.

Today's games feature more interleague mayhem and some interesting matchups. Let's jump right into the picks:

  • The Cubs over the White Sox: Only a rainout saved the White Sox from what should be a certainty.
  • The Giants over the Angels: Lincecum should be an easy pick over the Angel's Palmer. "Should" being the operative word.
  • The Blue Jays over the Phillies: Richmond should be a younger, fresher pick than the aged Moyer. There is that "should" word again!
  • The Orioles over the Mets: The Orioles are a good hitting team that should smack Tim Redding around.
  • The Yankees over the Nationals: The best Nats pitcher is going tonight, but the Yankees wear down the starter, get him out of the game and then feast on the relievers. Wang is going for the Yankees though. hmm...
  • The Brewers over the Indians: Really don't like picking Suppon to win. But really can't see the Indians winning either.
  • The Braves over the Reds: The Fan loves Micah Owings, but Vazquez is simply the better pitcher.
  • The Marlins over the Red Sox: Just like the idea of Miller overpowering the Red Sox hitters.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: This is a tough game to figure. Harrison was horrible to start the year, then was great and then went on the disabled list with a bum shoulder. But the Astros are starting Ortiz. Ugh.
  • The Pirates over the Twins: Like Snell over Liriano, who just isn't the pitcher he used to be.
  • The Royals over the Diamondbacks: Greinke has slipped a little since his great start. And Scherzer has been great at times for the D-backs. Can't see Greinke losing this game though.
  • The Tigers over the Cardinals: Despite the Cardinals having the best player on the planet.
  • The Rockies over the Bay Rays: Cook has been cooking and Price is still unproven.
  • The Padres over the Mariners: Garrett Olson can't have another good game, can he?
  • The Dodgers over the Athletics: Kuroda is one of the best pitchers who can only seem to pitch ten times a year.

Another beautiful day in Maine. Have a good one wherever you are.

Yesterday: 7-7
Week: 19-12
Month: 93-93

Who is Vernon Wells Really?

One of the neat things about being a baseball Fan in the modern age is the ability to read a diverse amount of writing from all over the country. Growing up in Jersey, the local papers such as the Bergen Record and the New York Daily News were the sole providers of information except for the then wonderful Sporting News that gave a more global look at teams around the country. But now, there are wonderful writers around the country and a unique thing happens when reading them regularly: The reader gets wrapped up and involved in their passions as well as the ones already in place. For example, Josh Borenstein's, Jews In Baseball, has given this writer a whole new bunch of players to root for. Why? Not because this writer is Jewish. Although, this writer does have a theory that Italians are the ten lost tribes of Israel (the same guilt, etc.) No, it's because reading Josh's post regularly gets the reader caught up in the players he follows every day and they become players you root for too. It's inexplicable in some ways.

Another really good writer out there goes by the moniker of "eyebleaf" and has a blog called Sports and the City. He (think it's a he) is a diehard fan who lives and dies by the Toronto Blue Jays. The first thing his blog does is make the Fan want to sing, "Eyebleaf I can fly...Eyebleaf I can touch the sky..." The second thing his blog does is give the Fan some sympathy and pathos for the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays? For crying out loud, this Fan always HATED the Blue Jays. While living in New Hampshire, and before the advent of cable, the only signal we could get was a Channel 9 from Manchester, NH, which did not show any baseball and Channel 6, which was a CBC channel that showed Blue Jays games. They had an announcer named Tommy Hutton who was the smarmiest, homiest announcer who ever lived. He now does color for the Marlins, though that is a misnomer as he still lacks color of any sort in how he goes about his business. Anyway, that was during the World Series years and only lately has the Fan understood how good a manager Cito Gaston was and is.

Anyway, to make these long paragraphs get somewhere, this blog writer named, "Eyebleaf," has made a long-time hater of the Blue Jays actually kind of root for them. Halladay has become a rallying point on all fronts. This Fan actually felt sad when he was hurt. The Fan was actually rooting for Tallet the other day. Say what? And it's all this blog writer's fault.

One of the continuing lines of thought on Sports and the City is the plight of Vernon Wells. Boy, it took a long time to get to the point, eh? The "eh?" is a Canadian thing. Get it? Anyway, you can tell that eyebleaf is conflicted by Vernon Wells. He writes that he believes in him, but at the same time, he has this hilarious feature on his site called the "Vernon Wells Hatred Advisory System" which resembles the forest fire hazard system. It's so funny! Well anyway, that Vernon Wells Advisory System has been on "Extreme" for most of the season. It seems that Vernon Wells has pretty much gone zero for June. He has also spent the entire year batting either cleanup or lately, third, despite having putrid showings for clutch stats with men on base and in scoring position.

And so, this blog by someone hundreds of miles from here, has made this Fan curious about someone who was never really given much thought. The Fan knew of Vernon Wells, remembered him as a pretty good player, but never thought too much about him, until now. And as the interest is piqued, so is the curiosity. So old Vernon was looked up on And the information found there is strange indeed. The guy has been playing for eleven years even though he is only 31. A former first round draft choice by the Blue Jays in 1997, he really started playing regularly in 2002. His first full year, he batted .275, hit 22 homers and knocked in 100.

The following year (2003), he was incredible. He led the league in hits (215), doubles (49) and added 33 homers. He scored 118 runs and drove in 117. The two years after that, he was ordinary. Then he had another really good year in 2006. He was less than ordinary in 2007, good again in 2008 and has been terrible this year. Who is this guy and why is he all over the board?

How all over the board? His OPS during his eight years as a starter: .762, .909, .809, .783. .899, .706, .840 and this year's horrid .665. Wow. That's a lot of ups and downs. His fielding has also been all over the place. He's had years where his RTOT was -10.5 and other years where it was 20.1. In 2007, it was 9.6. Last year it was -11.7.

With most players, you can get a feel for where they will settle in as far as the end of the season. Look at guys like Dunn. The same numbers nearly every year. Beltran is the same way. That's the whole way projection systems like Baseball Prospectus operate. How do you project a guy like Vernon Wells? He's all over the place. Perhaps eyebleaf, or another good writer that eyebleaf has turned the Fan on to such as the blog called TaosforSteib (or something like that) would have some insight into why Wells has been so spotty.

As for this writer, he has no idea. All he knows is that, thanks to the Internet and its ability to showcase writers all over the country, the Fan now cares about Vernon Wells and will be checking him out regularly. Geez. How did that happen?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pitch Counts

For the few of you that follow this blog regularly (and thank you very much), you know that this writer is not a big Fan of pitch counts and all the pitching changes that occur on a daily basis. Rob Neyer is one of this writer's heroes and is very much admired. But his take on a piece by Bill James and Joe Posnanski is wrong. Neyer's statement: "(though the last I checked, leads were being blown roughly as often as they have always been blown)." As you read here in a recent post, blown saves are up sharply in the last two years.

Here is the data I compiled as of May 27. Granted, that was two weeks ago, but it is still relevant:

2005 - American League Save Percentage: 68%, National League: 68%. There were only two teams in the entire major leagues that had a save percentage less than 60%
2006 - American League Save Percentage: 68%, National League: 64%. There were five teams that had a save percentage less than 60%.
2007 - American League Save Percentage: 68%, National League: 67%. Again, there were five teams that were successful less than 60% of the time.
2008 - American League Save Percentage: 67%, National League: 62%. The number of teams that were successful less than 60% of the time jumped to eight.
2009 - American League Save Percentage: 63%, National League: 61%. An amazing 14 teams are currently under 60%. And four of those teams have been successful less than 50% of the time: Washington (37%!!), Houston (41%), Cleveland (47%) and Minnesota (46%).

This data seems to indicate that blown saves are on the rise and rethinking the magic number of 100 pitches is worth looking at.

The Art of Throwing Strikes

It seems that every game this viewer watches this year features pitchers, particularly relief pitchers, offering up free passes in bunches. Perhaps it was the vomitous performance by the Indians' relief corp last night that put the Fan over the edge, but it has become epidemic in the major leagues to offer up walk after walk. So this writer decided to look at the numbers and see if it is really as bad as it appears. And yeah, it is.

According to, in the National League, the walks per nine inning rate is the third highest in the modern era. Only 1999 and 2000 were worse. And to top it off, the wild pitches rate is the highest in history! Meanwhile, over in the American League, the difference isn't as dramatic as the National League, the walks per nine inning rate is the highest it's been since 2000.

The Fan doesn't remember 1999 and 2000 being that bad for pitching, but it seems it was. The pitching stats were awful those two years. It makes you wonder if that was because it was just before the umpires became more accountable for their strike zones or was it a factor of the steroid era? Who knows.

One other interesting thing about looking at league stats on that wonderful stat reference site, each league has the highest strikeout per nine innings in history. Looking at the year by year data, strikeouts per nine innings have been on a constant march upward every decade. And that seems to be a generational change. The strikeout totals by guys like Cust and Mark Reynolds and others seem to be tolerated and accepted. It is amazing that today, a batter can strikeout 200 times in a season and still be a major leaguer. Back in Reggie Jackson's day, he led the leagues with 145 or so.

But getting back to walks, it may not seem like much statistically when the National League's walks per nine innings increase from last year's 3.43 to this year's 3.67, but over the course of 2588 games, that is an increase of 621 walks! That's a lot of walks! The American League is on pace to have 340 more walks than last year and 1103 more walks than in 2005. That's a ton of extra base runners, is it not?

Game Picks - Tuesday: June 16, 2009

This game picker can finally say that yesterday was a perfect day. There were no incorrect picks while finishing a major contract order for hardcover books. What a job that was. Been working from early in the morning until midnight for weeks now. But it is finished and in two days, this old-feeling picker is heading to Florida for some much needed rest. Eighteen days of sitting by the pool reading a good book. But have no fear, the laptop will come along and the FanDome will not be empty of the blarney you have come to expect.

Watched a little of the Indians - Brewers game last night. What a horrible display of baseball. How can so many major league pitchers not throw strikes? It's been bloody awful. But that grand slam swing by Prince Fielder was one of the most beautiful swings this viewer has ever witnessed. And besides, it made that pick correct, so viva la walk.

Okay, on to today's picks:

  • The Mets over the Orioles: To show you how poorly the Mets have sunk in the eyes of baseball fandom, most of the pickers at are predicting an Orioles' win tonight. Hmm.. Don't think so. The Mets aren't THAT bad.
  • The Brewers over the Indians: The Indians are a mess. Just a mess. Gallardo should shut them down and the Brewers should score against Sowers.
  • The Phillies over the Blue Jays: Since getting to know several Blue Jays' fans via eyebleaf's blog, it pains this picker to go against the Blue Jays, but realistically, they are really stuggling. Lind isn't doing any better in the cleanup spot than Wells and Wells is still clogging up the middle batting third. He has really struggled.
  • The Yankees over the Nationals: No more complaining about the Bay Rays' interleague schedule. It is the Yankees' turn to kick the poor Nationals while they are down. What did the Nationals do to tick off the scheduler getting all these interleague assignments?
  • The Braves over the Reds: It's hard to pick against the Reds when Harang is pitching, but Jurrjens is pitching for the Braves and that is Rule #5.
  • The Marlins over the Red Sox: Just a hunch here.
  • The Cubs over the White Sox: The Cubs are the home team, so no Thome unless he plays first.
  • The Rangers over the Astros: Great matchup of Millwood versus Wandy Rodriguez. Will go with the Rangers at home.
  • The Pirates over the Twins: Need to stick with Maholm. He is the best pitcher nobody knows about.
  • The Royals over the Diamondbacks: Two teams with terrible records squaring off here. Will go with the Royals after Gil (ga) Meche's last strong outing.
  • The Tigers over the Cardinals: The Cardinals have fallen on hard times and get the hard fastball of Justin Verlander to add to their woes.
  • The Rockies over the Bay Rays: The Rockies winning streak goes one more game.
  • The Mariners over the Padres: Got to go with King Felix to get the win here.
  • The Dodgers over the A's: The Dodgers almost never lose at home and the A's won't catch up to Kershaw.
  • The Giants over the Angels: Sanchez has been pretty good for the Giants. The Angels are really scuffling.

It's a gorgeous day here in Maine. Hope your day is good too. Enjoy something fun today.

Yesterday: 2-0
Week: 12-5
Month: 86-86

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weighing in on the K-Rod - Bruney Flap

The Mets played the Yankees in what has become the new interleague marquis matchup. The series the past few years has been interesting. The Mets and the Yankees have both been in contention and the series has featured controversy in the past with the Clemens/Piazza thing. Now a new flap has occurred thanks to comments by Brian Bruney concerning Francisco Rodriguez or K-Rod as he is known to fans. Bruney called K-Rod's celebrations at the end of a save a "tired act."

There are several facets to this story. The first to be dealt with is K-Rod's celebrations. After each save, he thrusts his arms to the sky, he lets out a roar and he stomps around a bit. He is not the only pitcher to celebrate after a win or a save. Joba Chamberlain, Bruney's own teammate has been called out by other players for the same reasons that Bruney has called out K-Rod. Recently, in a game with the Orioles, Aubrey Huff hit a home off of Chamberlain and did a parody of Chamberlain's antics as he circled the bases. This Fan feels the same about Bruney's comments as he did about Huff's antics: They are inappropriate.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating success. When a team has a walkoff hit, it has become customary to have a big party at home plate. Isn't that a celebration? When Torii Hunter makes another homer-saving catch over the wall, doesn't he celebrate? So why then is it so wrong for a pitcher to celebrate when he is successful? Why do all those other celebrations appear to be okay, but when a pitcher celebrates, it's a slap at the opposing batter?

Let's focus on other sports for a second. When Tiger Woods does something miraculous to win, like he has done so many other times, does his celebrations slap other players? When Federer throws his tennis racket and gets down on his knees in delight, does that slap the guy he just beat? When a football player is excited about scoring a touchdown, does that show up the other team?

Some people would say yes to all of the questions in the preceding paragraph. But all that "proper way to play the game" crap is just that. Crap. To be sure, when Barry Sanders used to simply hand the ball to the referee after a touchdown, that was a class act. But to this Fan and casual observer, enthusiasm for succeeding is never a bad thing. It's fun and exciting and most of the time, it seems spontaneous and real. K-Rod's antics never seemed scripted. They seemed like genuine expressions of joy at succeeding at something he obviously cares a lot about doing.

Another facet of this story is Bruney calling out K-Rod in the media. If he was to do this correctly, he would have said what he said to K-Rod's face and not to the press. That would have been the classy thing to do. Instead, he took the Papelbon school of class and ended up being totally without class. The proper way for Bruney to handle his feelings about K-Rod's antics would have been to lodge a complaint with his team captain, Jeter, who would then relay those concerns to a Met's captain or team leader.

The bottom line here is that Brian Bruney was wrong in what he did on several levels. First, his belief that K-Rod was showing other teams up by celebrating saves is misguided and overly sensitive. The guy beat you. Let him celebrate and then you go out and try to beat him next time. Secondly, Bruney took the coward's way out by expressing his comments to the press when he could have handled his feelings personally or through his team captain.

Joba and K-Rod should celebrate when they do well. If that's what they feel, that's what they should do. It's not a tired act. It's an act of celebration. And that is what everyone should do when they succeed at something that they worked hard to achieve.

Time to Say Goodbye to Dontrelle Willis

Dontrelle Willis caught the interest of baseball fans when he burst onto the scene as a Florida Marlin. His high leg kick, his obvious enthusiasm and fun when playing baseball, his smile, his cap slightly askew all led to finding a new hero to root for. It also helped his cause that he could hit pretty well for a pitcher and pounded out a few homers and doubles.

Willis had one really good year in Florida and followed it up with a poor one. He was traded along with Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers in one of the biggest trades of this decade. The Tigers signed Willis to an extension that made him a millionaire. But the parade never happened. Instead what has happened is the sad collapse of a major league career.

The Tigers have tried everything. They gave him several opportunities to pitch his way out of his problems. They gave him time on the DL for what has been diagnosed as a mental problem. They tried him again for quite a few games now and they have to do the right thing and pull the plug.

It's long been obvious that the Tigers will have to eat the big money they paid Willis. While the contract seems foolish in retrospect, if it had all worked out and Willis pitched at least somewhat like he did before his last bad year in Florida, then the Tigers would have had a tremendously likeable young hero for its fans.

But it's not to be. Like others in the Rick Ankiel for example, Willis simply cannot throw strikes. His last outing featured eight walks in three innings. It's all so sad and bewildering. How can a pitcher who has probably done what he does since he was a little kid, simply not know now how to do it anymore? Why couldn't Chuck Knobloch throw the ball to first base? We'll never know.

All we do know that as painful as it is to state, the Tigers owe it to their team and their fans to pull the plug and say a sad farewell to Willis. To run him out there even one more time would be a disservice, not just to the fans and his teammates, but to Willis himself. Why embarrass anyone further?

The Tigers have a chance to win the American League Central division. In order to do so, they have to put the people out there that will give them a chance to win. This isn't a time to try and salvage a big contract or even a nice young man's career. It's a time to do all they can to win as many games as they can. They cannot strive for the wins and still continue to put Willis out there.

It's a sad story and there doesn't appear to be a happy ending. It's time to turn out the lights and admit what is plainly evident. The career of Dontrelle Willis is over.

Game Picks - Monday: June 15, 2009

A change of attitude sometimes means a world of difference. This daily feature has been a lot about whining about game outcomes and blown saves and lost opportunities. This picker has begged and cajoled and cried about bad outcomes. Starting last week, with the help of a faithful reader, this picker decided to have a better attitude. After all, this isn't life and death and no money is riding on the outcomes. Yesterday's post was not about the mediocre results from the day before, but was an ode to Sundays in the summer. The attitude adjustment just might make a difference.

Or, this picker is just downright superstitious and it's all a coincidence. Either way, the sun is out strong again today and only two games are on Monday's MLB schedule. So this should be a walk in the park.

  • The Brewers over the Indians: What's to make of one Mr. Pavano? The Fan picked against him for weeks as he continued to win game after game. Okay, well, maybe this is something the Fan should be a man about and get real about Mr. Pavano. So his last time out, the Fan picked him to win. Mr. Pavano then goes out and gets absolutely pounded. Pummelled is probably the better word. So since the Fan can't seem to figure this out, we'll go with the Brewers.
  • The Angels over the Giants: Lackey versus Zito in what looks like a good matchup. Lackey seems like the better pick.

That's it!

Yesterday: 10-5
Week: 10-5
Month: 84-86

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Game Picks - Sunday: June 14, 2009

It's a beautiful sunny day in northern Maine and weeks after the rest of the country, the flowers are beginning to bloom, the grass is nice and green and the trees are all wearing their coats. It's a beautiful time to be alive and breathing the clean country air. To top off what is already going to be a great day, there is another slate of interleague games all around the country with interesting matchups to explore and then see how they play out. Is this a great country or what?

Here are today's game picks:

  • The Yankees over the Mets: Burnett finally pitches a good game for the Yankees, Santana allows two scratch singles and the Yankees score two earned runs to win, 2-1.
  • The Marlins over the Blue Jays: Already down two games in the series and losing ground to Boston, the Blue Jays waste another good effort by Tallet as they are blanked by Josh Johnson.
  • The Pirates over the Tigers: With Ohlendorf versus Willis, there is not a lot of hope on either side, but at least Ohlendorf has shown flashes of okayness. At least Willis should get one at bat.
  • The Red Sox over the Phillies: There is no way you can pick against Beckett at this point. He has been brilliant lately.
  • The Braves over the Orioles: Bergesen has shown promise for the Orioles, but Derek Lowe will show him how a true major league pitcher pitches.
  • The Bay Rays over the Nationals: How fortunate for the Bay Rays to right their ship against the poor Nationals.
  • The Brewers over the White Sox: Buehrle will neutralize Fielder, but not Braun.
  • The Reds over the Royals: Cueto will blow away the free swinging Royals.
  • The Cubs over the Twins: Lilly has been great all year and is a nice lefty against Mauer, Morneau and company.
  • The Dodgers over the Rangers: The Rangers have played the Dodgers tough this series but run up against Billingsley today.
  • The Rockies over the Mariners: You cannot stop the Rockies at this point. They are rolling down hill and picking up steam.
  • The Angels over the Padres: Whatever happened to the great pitcher Young was supposed to be?
  • The Giants over the A's: There are not too many tandems better than Lincecum and Cain.
  • The Astros over the Diamondbacks: Can it be? Can the Fan be picking Moehler to win?
  • The Cardinals over the Indians: Carpenter is pitching for the Cardinals and that usually means good things.

Yesterday: 7-8
Week: 47-49
Month: 74-81