Thursday, March 31, 2005

NL Central

RSN: Ok tonight, the biggest league in baseball! In your prediction you have the Cardinals finishing top again - what are the risks for the Cardinals?

NYN: The main risk is in the rotation, whilst they all stepped up last year, I am not convinced the likes of Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan are really as good as their stats showed last year. Also can Mark Mulder settle into his groove in the NL?

RSN: Where would you rank their lineup - one of the top 3 in baseball?

NYN: Probably yes, Albert Pujols to me is just flat out awesome and knowing he'll be backed up by Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds is quite a heart of the order to say the least.

RSN: Tony La Russa has a reputation of being one of the best manager's in baseball - does a man that has seen his teams swept in 2 WS deserve that tag?

NYN: Just because you don't win the big show doesn't mean you are not a great manager, Bob Brenly won a WS as a manager and I think most would say he isn't very good. La Russa is one of the best managers in my book - period.

RSN: One of the most interesting stories in the Central is the Cubs - can the pitching overcome perceived weaknesses in the lineup?

NYN: Even bad teams will score on average two or three runs a game and the Cubs rotation, if healthy, can hold teams to those sorts of levels. It is all about the pitching for the Cubs.

RSN: In an ideal world, Prior and Wood are healthy and Nomar produces..... In the other world, Prior and Wood have another injury plagued season and Nomar continues his injury aided decline - how bad can this Cubs team be?

NYN: The Cubs can be very bad and finish sub .500 and that is possible.

RSN: In your predictions, you have the Cubs going all the way - clearly you think the probability is in the upside - would the world survive back to back wins by the Cubs and Sox?

NYN: Well sometimes strange things do happen and the world just keeps spinning - just the only day a young lady informed me I was attractive even whilst looking awful in my ultra-slobby home-only clothes and I still woke up the next day to find things were seemingly going on as per usual, it seems as though this planet can take anything thrown at it!

RSN: lol - the Astros lost out on Beltran this off-season how much does that hurt their chances?

NYN: It kills them off for me, Houston were geared to win it all last year and whilst being a year older is good for teams like the Padres where Greene and Burroughs and the like are developing, in Houston it is a bad thing as the likes of Biggio and Bagwell can't keep doing it.

RSN: How does Roger perform this year - and is this his last hurrah?

NYN: He will be lights out again, sub 3 ERA, 200K's 1.15 WHIP, and for the money he's on I expect at least those numbers. As long as he is dominant, he'll hang around.

RSN: I have to think at some point he calls it quits regardless - so are the rumors true, if the Astros are where we expect, does Roger finish his career back in Yankee Stadium....or Fenway?

NYN: Both teams will enquire and as I understand it, he has a handshake agreement with the owner of the Astros that if they aren't in contention, then he'll be allowed to move on to the Yankees.

RSN: Do the Yankees have room for him?

NYN: They'll make room, this is Roger Clemens we are talking about, how about a World Series rotation of Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens and Carl Pavano, how does that sound to you?

RSN: I may have asked this question before.... what do fans of the Reds, Brewers and Pirates have to look forward to?

NYN: The Reds look forward to seeing the best OF in baseball every day, the Brewers have some good young hurlers and as for Pirate fans, well they'll get to eat some nice Hot Dogs.

RSN: Does Griffey Jr. make it to Memorial Day?

NYN: I'm going to stick my neck on the line and say yes. That answer has nothing to do with me picking him in our fantasy league by the way...

RSN: He really is one of those special players, but things just don't seem to have worked out for him there - is he a perfect candidate for an AL team and the DH spot?

NYN: He and Mike Piazza are two prototype DH's. If Griff wants to come to The Stadium then I'll welcome him with open arms.

RSN: Does Dunn need to lower his strike totals to become an elite player, or should we just concentrate on his abilities when he does make contact?

NYN: He does need to lower those K's, put more balls in play. As it stands he is a fine power hitter, but not a great hitter of the baseball. If he can hit .280 then he'd be around where he has to be.

RSN: The Brewers do have Ben Sheets, and quite a lot of potential - can they improve meaningfully in 2005?

NYN: I love the addition of a genuine power threat in the middle of the line-up in the face of Carlos Lee. If things drop for them, they could play .500 ball in 2005.

RSN: Did they make the biggest addition by subtraction - the loss of Bud Selig?

NYN: I don't see that as a big thing if I'm being honest, although come to think of it, if George stepped away from baseball matters it'd probably be the best thing that could happen to the Yankees, so I'll change my answer to yes they did.

RSN: The Pirates can't seem to decide when the rebuilding process should stop - will the Pirates be doing their best to get the first pick in the 2006 draft?

NYN: Probably, but they'll still lose out to the Royals, the Pirates can never do anything right.

RSN: I just wonder if they built the stadium with fantastic views of the river and the city because they knew people wouldn't be that focused on the diamond - lets look for good news - is Perez the real deal?

NYN: One year doesn't convince me I'm afraid, I think the jury is still very much out on him, but you've got to like what you've seen so far.

RSN: They also have the 2004 NL Rookie of the Year, what can we expect from Jason Bay in 2005?

NYN: A sophomore slump.

RSN: Ok then, with that depressing sign off on the Pirates, your Divisional MVP, Cy Young and surprise player?

NYN: Albert Pujols is just a class above everyone in the NL Central so I cannot look any further than him. I'll go with Ben Sheets for the Cy Young, because I'm not sure Dusty can keep all his arms healthy and I don't know which one will breakdown, as for a surprise player, how about a massive bounce back year for Morgan Ensberg down in the hot corner in Houston?

On that note, we will get ready for the AL Central – the weakest league in baseball?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

AL West

Next up, the AL West:

NYN: The AL West is arguably the only division where all the teams have a legit shot at the play-offs, why do you think that is?

RSN: It is a strange phenomenon - apart from the last couple of years when the Rangers went from division champ to division chumps, it just seems to be a strong division - I guess they all play in reasonable sized markets, have management that seem committed to putting out competitive teams with reasonable payrolls... maybe it is just the west coast air.... or the fact that there isn't a Yankees / Red Sox monster.... but that wouldn’t explain the AL Central.

NYN: Despite saying that, the Angels are red hot favorites everywhere, what do they have that the others do not?

RSN: I think it is a combination of things - they don't appear to have an obvious weakness - I am not saying there are no weaknesses, but they have a nice rotation, a solid bullpen and enough strong hitting to worry most teams. Did I mention Vlad? He is a genuine hitting superstar, when he hit the Grand Slam against the Sox in the ALDS Game 3, I doubt any true fan of baseball was that shocked, particularly given the pitch that Timlin served up! When key questions surround issues like - will K-Rod be a successful closer? you know your team is in good shape.

NYN: Good enough shape to go all the way to the big show?

RSN: There I am not sure - I wouldn't dismiss the idea, but the way they were swept aside last year does give me doubts. I like the rotation, but in a match up between the Yanks, Sox or Twins with the Angels, I am not putting much money down on Colon against those teams #1.

NYN: When your rotation is headlined by Bartolo Colon you know there might be a problem. Away from the Angels I know you toyed with the idea of the Mariners getting the W/C birth, please explain to me why as I see no love for Seattle fans this year

RSN: It is difficult to explain – oxygen starvation? Do real men apologize for mistakes - I fell into the ‘they added Beltre.... they added Sexson.... Reed looks to have real potential...... the pitching can't be that bad again’..... trap. And then you look at the numbers - the Mariners fell off a cliff last year, and 99 losses is a huge hole to climb out of. Even if they improve at the top end of my expectations they will do well to hit .500 this year.... but they did add Beltre.... and Sexson..... and.... see I did it again!

NYN: Beltre has been extremely hyped up following that breakout season down in LA, how will he cope with switching teams and leagues?

RSN: I think it is largely in his head - I have just finished reading Three Nights in August, and while I disliked an awful lot of what was written, I did like Tony La Russa's insights into a player’s mentality - and JD Drew must just love his role in Bissinger's book . If Beltre wants to prove that last year was not a classic contract year, I really do believe that he has the talent to do so - he shouldn't be significantly hurt by Safeco as Dodger Stadium is no homerun derby park. I think he may regress from last year, but even a moderate decline will stand head and shoulders above the numbers of anyone in the Mariners 2004 lineup.

NYN: Down in Texas, they had a pretty good year last time around after losing the best player in baseball, has this actually helped them?

RSN: You can’t set up a Red Sox fan up with a slow pitch down the middle of the plate like that! I struggle to believe that subtracting the "best player in baseball" from any team helps, but it does appear that way - I think the Yankees should bench him this year to complete the science experiment. I think the Rangers benefited from the continuing maturity of some very impressive young hitters, and pitchers having (by their standards) very good years - I think the big question for the Rangers is, can those pitchers repeat 2004?

NYN: That in my view is their downfall, last up we see the A's who have a great built for the 2007 season and beyond look, 2005 will not be their year, will it?

RSN: I have to agree - I don't think the trades were the disaster that some people are making them out to be, but I think gulping Billy Beane flavored Kool-Aid doesn't hide the fact that the pitchers the A's will have in 2005 do not match up with the pitchers they had in 2005. I acknowledge that Mulder and Hudson finished badly in 2004, but I don't understand how a reasonable argument is constructed that says how they finished in 2004 is the new, established level of performance from these guys going forward.

NYN: Lastly we end with the divisional MVP, Cy Young and Surprise package of the year, who are you going with?

RSN: Ok, this is an interesting battle - on pure talent, I am guessing that last year's AL MVP will be introducing himself again - I know we both didn't particularly like that pick last year, but he did put up incredible numbers last year, with a big surge in the voter impressing months. For the Divisional Cy Young, I will go with Rich Harden - I really do think he will help A's fans forget the loss of Mulder and Hudson. My surprise player - I am torn between Ichiro, who clearly won't be a traditional surprise, but I think his extended run at .400 will be, and the A's #3 through #5 pitchers - they have the ability, can they bring it in their first year in Oakland?

NYN: that is a question that will take a long time to answer.

Tomorrow night we are back in the National League and looking at the Central.

A Baseball Tonight rant...

Spring is in the air, the magical strains of ESPN's Baseball Tonight drift out of my TV (for baseball fans from the UK, Baseball Tonight is like sweet, sweet candy for the baseball starved soul) and I hear in the intro that the crew will be reviewing the NL and AL West - useful I think, I can steal lines and impress Neil M with my knowledge (if I had, I wouldn't have owned up - someone could have told Neil in the comments section).

Then Harold Reynolds starts talking... and ripping the "Moneyball" approach...

Can someone please sit down these idiots that want to curry favor with the old school and explain exactly what Moneyball was about? It wasn't about Billy Beane, it wasn't an anti small ball agenda, it wasn't about waiting on the three run bomb - it was about identifying skills that the baseball market was undervaluing (through trades, the free agent market or draft), and paying that low price to allow them to allocate resources elsewhere - what is so damn controversial about that? Those undervalued skills will undoubtedly change over time, and the makeup of the A’s will (is?) change over time to reflect these new valuations.

So when Harold Reynolds rants about how he "just didn't buy into that Moneyball thing" and that the A's may be "terrible without the big 3" - I was left thinking, please, please, please let the A's whip butt this year ....partly to prove these idiots wrong, but mainly to deny them the pleasure of future Baseball Tonight appearances diminishing the A’s achievements over the last few years as a simple product of pitching luck.

If they do fail to make the play-offs this season (hang on didn’t they miss the play-offs in 2004?) it won’t be because of a failing in the Moneyball approach - it will simply be because the 2005 combination of talent and experience is not quite good enough to compete with other teams in the AL West.

Yankee trade news

The Yankees tonight pulled the trigger on a deal with the Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim. Moving to the AL West favourites is Bret Prinz a hard throwing right-hander who had a 5.08 ERA with the big club last year but was out of Minor League options, so the Yanks had to make a trade or risk him being claimed off waivers before he could return to AAA Columbus.

The Yankees get 27 year-old Catcher Wil Nieves, who spent last year at AAA Salt Lake. There he hit .297 and struck out once for every two hits. He has ML experience with the Padres back in 2002 where upon he failed to shine and was promptly shipped out of the club.

The Yankees traded away former #1 prospect Dioneer Navarro in the off season to the Diamondbacks in the Randy Johnson trade. This meant they didn't really have anyone ready in the Minor League system to come in should either Posada or Flaherty get injured.

The Angels are deep in Catching talent with star prospect Jeff Mathis expected to come through in the near future, this meant that Nieves was expendable. The trade is a bit of a nothing one as Prinz wasn't going to make the big club and wouldn't have negotiated his way through waivers back to the Yankees Farm.

So we got someone for him, a decent back-up catcher, better than nothing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Rotation Set: Wright to miss out early on

The New York Yankees have announced their rotation for the start of the season. Randy Johnson will be followed by Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina for the Red Sox series at the Stadium. Against the Orioles it'll go Brown, Johnson and Pavano.

For the Red Sox home opener it'll be Mike Mussina sent out by manager Joe Torre, he will be followed by Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson. Jared Wright will make his debut against the Orioles on April 15.

This to me speaks volumes of sense as it'll give the three most experienced starters the starts in Fenway, in what will be a massive series even this early in the season. Mussina of course was just one out away from perfection at Fenway a few years back and has always pitched well there.

NL West

Our division by division review starts with the NL West. I (Neil H) had picked the Dodgers followed by the Padres, while Neil M reversed the order. In our division reviews we will take turn around using a Q&A style to help explain our views.

RSN: Is the biggest question in the NL West the health of Barry Bonds, and the impact that has on the standings?

NYN: Barry Bonds completely changes the look of the Giants but I do not have it as a major point in the NL West as I have the Giants 3rd with or without big Barry.

RSN: Really, if Barry is back in May, you still see the Giants in 3rd?

NYN: I really do, San Francisco are not a great team yet they have a great player, pitch around Barry and you really won't get hurt too much.

RSN: Will Bonds threaten Aaron this year? Will he get enough AB's to threaten Ruth?

NYN: Look neither of us know what is going on with Barry, if the tax evasion stories do turn out to be true then he may be watching from the state penitentiary. I wouldn't like to make a prediction on Barry but I know one thing, I am starting to dislike him more and more as we hear even more things.

RSN: We both see better things for the Padres, with you tipping the Padres to take the West - what was the deciding factor?

NYN: I think Petco Park will prove to be one of the biggest Home Field advantages in the Majors and I just think they have a nice look to their line-up, Roberts is an excellent addition at the top of the line-up and Greene and Burroughs have oodles of potential to add to Nevin, Giles, Loretta and Ramon H behind the plate.

RSN: Can Peavy repeat his numbers from 2004?

NYN: He can pitch even better in 2004; he is a genuine Cy Young candidate.

RSN: One of the problems with being on the east coast (or the very far east coast where you are!) is that the Padres get very little coverage - who should people be looking out for as difference makers?

NYN: Dave Roberts, if the guy gets on he'll spark that line-up. Brian Giles is one of the most under-rated pure hitters in the game and I really like the look of Greene the SS but look at the Pads 8th and 9th inning guys, Otsuka and the great Hoffman, if they lead after 7 they'll win pretty much every single time.

RSN: You have the Padres losing in the 1st round - are they the best of a weak league or is that more a view on the strength of the Cubs?

NYN: I just think the Cubs and the Marlins have such great SP rotations on paper and you have to go with that in the post season, if Dusty goes and burns out the arms of the Cubbies hurlers, which is extremely possible then the Pads could knock them off.

RSN: I picked the Dodgers over the Padres - I like the Drew pick-up, think that Choi can start to contribute significantly this year, while the rotation and the bullpen still seems a strong point - what would your knock on them be?

NYN: How can a team that made some of the worst Deadline Day moves last summer win in 2005? Drew is a massive injury risk and who knows how Milton Bradley will react to competition for the CF spot?

RSN: I don't understand the worst Deadline Day move tag - the Dodgers still made the playoffs, and if Penny had stayed healthy (and people don't knock the Penny part of the trades) they would have posed a far more serious challenge - is Drew a bigger risk than Beltre remembering that this year isn't a contract year?

NYN: They made the playoffs in a poor division. I didn't understand why they went after Finley so hard and gave up some real talent to get him. Beltre will not be great this year but I'm not sure Drew will enjoy hitting in a big pitchers park.

RSN: I have to ask - are Red Sox fans going to giggle or cry at D-Lowe's performances in Chavez Ravine?

NYN: I think D-Lowe was very lucky he had that awesome playoff campaign, he'll be good in LA but he is not a #1 and he is their #1 which to me spells weakness.

RSN: We both see big things for the Diamondbacks and Rockies this year - at least in the L column - what can fans of these franchises look forward to in 2005?

NYN: 2006 – and don’t the Cardinals and Broncos training camps start soon?

RSN: LOL - what caused your biggest laugh in the off-season - the Diamondbacks initial trade demands for RJ, or the money they gave to Ortiz?

NYN: the latter for sure, to give an average pitcher $33m over 4 years is not great by any stretch of the imagination, certainly when you do not plan to contend, save the money for when you might have a use for it.

RSN: As I asked about D-Lowe, should really ask about Javy - will Yankee fans regret the fact that he was part of the price to get RJ (and don't worry, I am not asking if you will regret the RJ part)?

NYN: I think Javy was masking some sort of injury in the second half of last season, I think he'll go on to have a great career and feel sad that he'll be labeled with the likes of Weaver and Contreras as being unable to handle the pressure in NY as I think he could've if healthy.

RSN: Ok last one - and I am aiming for a theme here - who will be the NL West MVP, Cy Young and surprise player?

NYN: I'm going to go with Jake Peavy on the first two, I can't have an MVP from a non-winning team and think that he'll be a real anchor for them, this obviously leads to him getting the Cy Young. As for surprise player, I'm going with a throw-in from the Weaver/Brown deal of 2004, Yhency Brazoban, hard throwing right hander who will post quite awesome numbers setting up for Gagne.

Tomorrow night the AL West – has Billy Beane lost the plot?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Opening night: Johnson v Boomer

So it has been confirmed that Curt Schilling will not be back in time to face his old D'Back colleague Mr Johnson on the opening night of the season at The Stadium. Schilling will open the season for Triple-A Pawtucket and if things go well for the him and the Sox, could make the start on the 12th against the Yankees. David Wells is now all but confirmed as the starter for Sunday's game.

The former Yankee gave up five runs on eight hits over five innings, as he tuned himself up for the big one with his final start of Spring Training against the Phillies on Monday afternoon . Boomer is known as a real gamer and was simply fantastic last season when he pitched back at The House That Ruth Built when he kept the Yankees off the board through eight innings before Hoffman blew the save and the Yanks won in extra innings.

Randy Johnson in pinstripes. I am looking forward to this, if he stays healthy, just wow. If then we can bring back the Rocket for whoever gets injured during the season, Wright? Pavano? Brown??? Then what a 1, 2, 3 punch we'd have for the play-offs. It really doesn't bare thinking about.

2005 Predictions - The Neil M Version

Well Neil H and myself do disagree on a couple of things but we both have an NL team winning it all. I am not clever enough to put this in tabular form unlike my esteemed colleague, I really need to ask him how to do that.

Well here goes...

AL East
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox (W/C)
Baltimore Orioles
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central
Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox
Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals

AL West
LA Angels of Anaheim
Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners

NL East
Florida Marlins
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals

NL Central
St Louis Cardinals
Chicago Cubs (W/C)
Houston Astros
Cincinnati Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West
San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies

Yankees over Twins
Red Sox over Angels

Marlins over Cardinals
Cubs over Padres

Yankees over Red Sox

Cubs over Marlins

WS – AL Wins the ASG


Cubs over Yankees

2005 Predictions - the Neil H version

Both of us will post our standings, and over the course of the week we will discuss what we each think are the key questions that need answered.

AL East

NL East

Boston Red Sox

Florida Marlins

New York Yankees (WC)

Atlanta Braves (WC)

Baltimore Orioles

Philadelphia Phillies

Toronto Blue Jays

New York Mets

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Washington Nationals

AL Central

NL Central

Minnesota Twins

St Louis Cardinals

Cleveland Indians

Chicago Cubs

Chicago White Sox

Milwaukee Brewers

Detroit Tigers

Houston Astros

Kansas City Royals

Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates

AL West

NL West

LA Angels of Anaheim

LA Dodgers

Seattle Mariners

San Diego Padres

Oakland Athletics

San Francisco Giants

Texas Rangers

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies



Twins over Yankees

Marlins over Dodgers

Red Sox over Angels

Cardinals over Braves



Twins over Red Sox

Marlins over Cardinals

WS – NL wins the ASG

Marlins over Twins

While I think many of the divisions will take the same shape this year, I really do believe that there are quite a few interesting battles this year – the AL East, West and NL West have many interesting questions, while my personal favorite this year - the NL East – has so many questions I could start asking them today and still be writing a month into the season.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

20 things for 2005

Well the season is just around the corner so it is time to have a bit of fun. Here are 20 things I expect to happen this year to the Yanks and/or Sox. Am I too optimistic or even possibly pessimistic?

It's your call, let us know.

1) Johnny Damon will hit at least two lead off Homers against the Yankees at the stadium.

2) Godzilla will go deep 40 times

3) Yankee Outfielders will throw out fewer than five base runners all season

4) Colter Bean will pitch one inning and give up a run and will not to seen in the pinstripes again.

5) Mike Mussina will pitch a no hitter

6) David Wells will win more games that Curt Schilling

7) A-Rod will take Arroyo Deep

8) Keith Foulke will blow more than five games

9) Jorge De Paula will start ten or more games as a Yankee

10) The Red Sox will trade Hanley Ramirez

11) The Yankees will make an enquiry over the availability of Roger Clemens by July 31.

12) The Red sox will do the same.

13) Ray Sanchez will start at SS more than 15 times.

14) My boy Jorge will have an OBP above .400 again

15) Jason Giambi will once again become a feared presence in the Yankee line-up.

16) Trot Nixon will have that breakout year and break the 100 RBI mark.

17) David Ortiz will make a big fielding error against the Yanks.

18) Jeter will start the A-S game at SS.

19) The Red Sox pitching staff will hit more Yankees than vice versa.

20) Finally for my predictions for 2005...2005 will be one hell of season.

Tomorrow both Mr Hay and myself will be revealing our predictions for all the Divisions, Wildcards, Pennents and World Series Champions.

The under / over response

Well I can't possibly let my Yankee optimist blogging colleague get away with that, and hopefully we will revisit these at season's end - we should really have some sort of wager on these!

1) under - JD will play CF for the Yankees in 2006
2) under - are we talking about the real Godzilla...with Godzookie in tow?
3) over - Yankee OF will make 5 outs all season
4) over - he will pitch that one inning, but he will give up more than one run
5) under - Moose will spend more than 20 days on the DL
6) under - he will win 18 games, but Curt will win 21
7) over - Arroyo will plunk him, and A-Rod will go to 1st without a wimper
8) over - Rivera will spend more than 30 days on the DL
9) under - but they will make a trade for a major name pitcher in June
10) under - but if they do..... will trade him for Ben Sheets
11) over - before June 1st
12) under - never, the Sox wouldn't, Roger wouldn't...would he
13) over - Captain Intangibles will move to 2nd, with A-Rod moving to SS
14) under - Posada wont be at the A-S game
15) over - but....JG will be traded in 2006
16) over - Nixon will get a single AB against RJ in 2005
17) under - David Ortiz will not spend an inning in the field against the Yankees
18) under - A-Rod will start the AS game in 2005
19) over - Gary Sheffield will get plunked more times than Yanks
20) over!

and some more insights into 2005

21) Jason Giambi will be jeered louder in Yankee Stadium than in any other ballpark
22) Bernie will hit less than .250 for the season, and again be the worst defensive CF in baseball
23) Nomar will go 11 for 14 in interleague play against the Sox, including 6 HR
24) Javier Vazquez will win more games in 2005 than Pavano and Wright...combined
25) Baltimore Orioles make the playoffs as the AL wild card

Friday, March 25, 2005

Those final roster spots

The Yankees are pretty much set in terms of the 25-man roster:








F. Rodriguez

That is 23 players, Bubba Crosby and Damien Rolls are fighting over that final OF spot, and Steve Karsay has the inside track on making the squad. However that would mean 12 pitchers and certainly in the opening few weeks of the season, you do not need that extra pitcher. We do have a hitter though who is ready for the bigs and is simply tearing it up throughout Spring Training.

Andy Phillips can field at 1st and 2nd and no doubt at a push over at 3rd as well. He is hitting .357 so far and slugging .786 with three Home Runs and a triple in 28 AB's. As it stands the Yankees only really have Ruben Sierra as a genuine bench pinch hitting threat and carrying Phillips would be extremely wise as he has learnt his craft down in the Minors, and is ready for a job in the Bigs.

Most Yankee fans know that Phillips is on his way back to Columbus but he shouldn't be. He is a player who could seriously make an impact from the bench and would, in my view at least, make a more significant contribution to the New York Yankees than Steve Karsay. To have a RH hitter in addition to the switch hitting Sierra, it would really help the manager, giving him genuine options late in a ball game.

As for the final OF spot, I do want Bubba to get it. Great defense, good speed, he can hit and he has youth on his side.

Randy to pitch opener

In a shock move, the Yankees staff announced southpaw Randy Johnson as the opening night starter against the Boston Red Sox on April 3.

41 year-old Johnson came to the Yankees if the off-season and has just about won a spot in the starting rotation. Joe Torre though has yet to name the order behind Johnson, and with the abundence of off days early in the season, they may still go with a four-man rotation for the first fortnight. Mike Mussina is all but guarenteed the #2 spot but the other spots are still unclear.

Johnson pitched superbly yesterday as he dominated the Braves through six innings, striking out eight batters on the way. Mariano also pitched another scoreless inning as he tries to play catch-up after a week on the sidelines with a sore elbow.

The Fenway Experience

One of the true joys of baseball is the experience of sitting in a ballpark, any ballpark, with a cold beer in one hand and the game unfolding at its own gentle pace in front of you.

It is my dream to visit all 30 ballparks, and in the 8 seasons that I have been following the game, I have now been to exactly half – Minute Maid Park in Houston for the 2004 All Star Game getting me half way there.

But one ground stands out above all others – no it isn’t the most comfortable park, it doesn’t have the biggest choice of concession stands, and if you are in the RF boxes facing out into RF rather than home plate…. well your neck hurts after 9 innings, but…

and what a but – to be sitting in Fenway in August, with the Boston skyline glowing orange as the sun sets, with a full stadium, all of them fully into the game (well apart from those idiots that have to stand and wave to some other guy 146 rows away, talking on a cell phone, saying “can’t you see me, next to the guy in the Red Sox shirt, I’m waving”) is an incredible experience. It is hard to describe for anyone who has not been there, and enjoys the amenities of a new stadium, but there is no stadium that takes you into the game, gets you so close to the action, as Fenway – if you are reading this in the UK, you have to make the trip to Fenway, no matter which team you support to get that true, all American baseball experience.

When the Henry / Werner / Lucchino management team took over, many, many Sox fans were concerned that this was only a financial investment, and that these guys would not make the emotional and additional financial investments we believe the team deserved. I think they have proved the doubters wrong on all points (though those doubters still exist) – a high payroll, a series of improvements to the old ballpark, and an emotional commitment that is best evidenced by the willingness to indulge in a good old fashioned mental spat with the Yankees at all levels. And now, the Sox management team has announced that they are staying in Fenway for the foreseeable future – no more dalliance with a new stadium, but a true commitment to preserving and maintaining the oldest and smallest major league ballpark in America.

That has to be good news for Sox fans, and good news for baseball fans everywhere.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Moose in the bp by May?

I often read the MLB forum and today I was browsing through and I come to a thread about the Yankees. One guy (agentfish) laid into the Yanks and in particular Mike Mussina.

Mike Mussina - again no doubt that Mussina is a good pitcher, but he's getting on in years and who knows how much his arm has left. I can see him ending up in the bull pen by May. His 4.59 ERA from last season says it all.

These are the people that give us UK baseball fans a bad name, Mussina in the bp by May? What on Earth is this guy thinking?

Mussina is a great pitcher and the best #2 in the AL, a guy who the last time he pitched at the Stadium was 6.1 IP through a perfect game. I expect a huge year from the Moose. He is the most under-rated pitcher in the AL - Yes I said Mussina was under-rated. His performance last year was down but that did have a lot to do with the Japan trip and his first real injury of his career. He looked awesome towards the end of last season and should he be fully healthy, I am expecting a big year without the added pressure of leading this staff.

Mussina has so many pitches that the hitters honestly have no idea what they are going to be served up. His knuckle-curve is one of the down right filthiest pitches in the game. If he can still spot that Fastball and blaze it at 95/96 MPH then he is a premier pitcher who should go early in fantasy drafts, whereas he seems to be providing excellent value in rounds 8-10 at the moment.

A lot of people, including my esteemed colleague Mr Hay think that Mussina is starting his natural old-age decline but I'm far from convinced. Maybe I just have hope that at 36, he can still get that Cy Young he deserves, or pitches a perfect game, he has been a great pitcher for so long but has won nothing except Gold Gloves and he is better than that.

He is a borderline Hall of Famer, but needs those one or two big years at the end of his career to tip him over the edge and get him into Cooperstown. As it stands he doesn't make it, but a Cy Young and it is all up in the air again.

Mussina in the bp? Some people...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Back the Giambino

Jason Giambi's triple in the game against the tribe a few nights back has largely gone unnoticed but think about it, a Jason Giambi triple, it isn't something that you see every day. The fact that he ran hard out of the box is something that should be really uplifting to Yankee fans as it really seems that the quiet, sullen Giambi, who we have witnessed over the past twelve months has gone away and he is ready for the challenge of showing just how good he really is without the steroids.

Jason Giambi is the test case as everyone knows he was on the juice and he is no doubt clean for the 2005 season and I expect him to be constantly tested throughout the year. He had an OBP nearing .500 in both 2000 and 2001 (.476/.477) but whilst reaching those heights in the Yankees line-up where he will not see hardly any free passes is unlikely, getting back to .400+ is possible for the left-handed slugger.

The big question mark though isn't his eye, its his power numbers. Through 1999-2003 he had five consecutive 30+ HR seasons (33, 43, 38, 41, 41) and he'll need to reach that plateau again if he is to prove that using steroids does not help you hit better and further, which is something he needs to do if only to stop youngsters trying it.

Jason Giambi was a borderline HoF candidate until this whole thing blew up and he knows he needs not only to perform for his team-mates, for the franchise and for the fans, he needs to perform for himself. He is 34 years-old and has hit 281 Home Runs, so six season's of 35+ bombs and he'll be around the 500 Home Run mark. There will be those writers who won't vote for him no matter what he does because of his past but he has made a mistake and is trying very hard to rectify it.

I am rooting for Jason all the way, he is a good guy and he needs our support. If he continues to play hard and play well then I have no doubt the Yankee fans will back him all the way, but as long as he is doing his up most I think he should get 100% backing from the bleachers, and so far his attitude in Spring Training has been nothing short of exemplary.

Has he got the Wright stuff?

When the Yankees signed Jaret Wright to a 3yr/$21m deal in the off season, most Yankee fans were less than enthused. However after another good outing last night in Spring Training his lines reads as:

11.0 0.00 8 4 6 1.09 .205

That isn't too shabby is it?

I watched Wright last night and he does have very late movement on his curveball, which is highly encouraging. Also he was confident enough to throw it in a fastball count, another highly encouraging sign. He started off slowly yesterday loading the bases on a hit and two walks before David Bell grounded out to short to end the threat. After the lead off man got on in the second, Wright shut it down retiring twelve straight.

He comes into NY knowing that he is a # 4 or 5 starter so the pressure isn't on him to lead any rotation. He can just concentrate on making his pitches and doing his part, all things being equal he probably will be the odd man out in any play-off rotation. If he can have an ERA of around 4.00 then he'd of had a good enough season, but on the evidence of last night and so far this pre-season, he could be a whole lot better.

A quick ST update

Well after my detailed, in depth, comprehensive, thorough, well researched (ahem) analysis of Adam Hyzdu and his chances of making the 25 man roster, he goes and gets himself traded - that .261 batting average and 5 RBI enough to persuade the Padres to give up Blaine Neal, a 26 year old, 250lb, 6-5" right hander, who made 40 appearences for the Padres last year and put up a 4.07 ERA playing half his games in a pitcher's park - how to get a fan excited ten days before the season, a big name trade!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Spring Training update – 2 weeks to opening night

One thing about the Sox, and Yankees for that matter, is that ST really is a tune up for the real thing, the roster is built ahead of ST, and only a truly exceptional performance will see a guy kept on as the 25th man, or a truly awful performance see an expected roster piece dropped. The last big surprise player out of ST for the Sox was back in 2001 - SheAAA Hillenbrand – of whom Rob Neyer famously stated (in response to Hillenbrand’s assertion that he would be the next Jeff Bagwell) – “Jeff Bagwell was young and had a pretty good chance to be a star; Shea is 27, with a good chance to be 28".

The interesting thing then in Sox camp, are the new guys and the bubble guys – the new guys simply to get a look at them in Sox uniforms, lets face it, David Wells isn’t competing for a roster spot, and the bubble guys to see what the bench and bullpen will look like. Today, the bench -

(I am assuming that Jay Payton, and Ramon Vazquez are the definites – Payton in the OF, Vazquez for the IF)

The Candidates (competing for 1 / 2 spots)









Youkilis - ST
















McCarty – ST
















Petagine – ST

























Hydzu – ST
















Stern – ST







2004 - AA







Adam Stern was the Sox Rule 5 pick from the Braves and with a solid spring would most likely have made the 25 man roster (he is required to be on the 25 man roster all season, or must be offered back to the Braves). However, a thumb injury has put Stern on the DL, and the Sox are allowed to have him complete a 20 day rehab stint before determining whether or not to put him on the 25 man roster.

Robert Petagine, who plays 1B, was an intriguing pick up by the Sox. Having first entered the big leagues with the Astros in 1994, he never really lived up to expectations – but that was in large part down to the fact that he was never given a real everyday position job – perhaps hindered by a ‘common’ dislike of a low batting average / high on base mix in his numbers. He has put up great numbers in the Japanese leagues over the last 6 years – he put up numbers comparable with Hideki Matsui, and indeed replaced Matsui when Godzilla headed to the Yankees. However, Petagine has also had injury problems this ST and will start the season on the DL, though is likely to be called up when he has finished rehab.

Youkilis, Hyzdu and McCarty were all on the roster in 2004 – Youkilis getting reasonable playing time after his call-up from Pawtucket due to the injury travails of Bill Mueller. He has been asked to play some 1B this spring to increase his chances of making the roster, and given Mueller had knee surgery early in 2005 it seemed that Youkilis would be a certain 25 man member – not sure that is still the case. He clearly (doesn’t he?) has a future as the 3B of the Sox, but he isn’t getting any younger and needs to make his mark soon to ensure that he is remembered for his true talent rather than as Billy Beane’s ‘Greek God of Walks’. Hyzdu had very limited playing time in 2004, but provides OF cover, whereas McCarty provides above average 1B defense late in games (as well as the blow-out pitching arm), and given Petagine’s injury may well end up in that 25th man spot, if Youkilis’s 1B is not considered strong enough for the majors.