Saturday, April 30, 2005

A New Link

We have added a link on the left hand side for an interesting variation on the bobble head doll - the bobble ankle doll, commemorating Curt Schilling's efforts in the post season last year. We don't think there is any truth to the rumor that when you tap Curt's ankle, his mouth yaps for ten minutes, but don't say we didn't warn you if it does...

The doll raises money for ALS research and the Shade Foundation - ALS is better known as Lou Gehrig disease, so any Yankee fans that want to buy the doll and do terrible things to Curt are also contributing to a worthy cause close to Yankee hearts!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What a difference a day makes!

Ahead of the season both Neil and I identified the potential injury risk that both our rotations carried -– well within the space of a week, and only 20 odd games into the season, 30% of our combined rotations are now on the DL –- Wright, Wells and now Schilling.

In 2004, the Sox starters never missed a turn in the rotation, although spot starts were required at various points to cover for extended A-S breaks, and the various doubleheaders. Knowing that the 2005 team were unlikely to repeat that luck, the Sox built starting depth into the roster, – with the acquisitions of Wade Miller and John Halama providing the necessary depth. Less than five days ago, Sox fans were discussing which starter should be moved to the bullpen to accommodate Miller’'s return, given that four of the five were in form, and the fifth was considered to be only a matter of time.

However,– if a week is a long time in politics…

Assuming that Schilling comes of the DL some time around the 20th of May, and that Miller meets the same sort of timetable, here are the Sox fixtures over the next 20 days – with probable starters;



Probable Starter


@ Texas Rangers



@ Texas Rangers



@ Texas Rangers



@ Detroit Tigers



@ Detroit Tigers


@ Detroit Tigers



@ Detroit Tigers



Seattle Mariners



Seattle Mariners



Seattle Mariners


Oakland Athletics



Oakland Athletics



Oakland Athletics



Off Day


@ Seattle Mariners



@ Seattle Mariners



@ Seattle Mariners



@ Oakland Athletics



@ Oakland Athletics


@ Oakland Athletics


No disrespect intended, but that table doesn’t fill you with huge amounts of confidence. –It is not that the starters penciled in aren'’t capable of winning their starts, I am just not sure that they are (generally speaking) the starters that you look at before the start of each game and say, we will be strong favorites in that match up.

And that leaves possibly three starts that we need from elsewhere in our roster, with– the early 'favorites' appearing to be Lenny DiNardo, a Rule 5 pick up from the Mets in 2004 (who spent a long time on the DL last year with a blister – the Sox weren’t playing fast and loose with the Rule 5 rules were they?), and Jeremi Gonzalez – who pitched for the Cubs in the early part of his career, disappeared (I presume with an injury), then reappeared in the Devil Rays organization - you can find his career stats and an interesting summary at - if you are going to be compared with Derek Lowe, I am guessing his mound presence isn't really the characteristic that you would want first on that list!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sox season so far - the 20 game edition

Well 20 games in to the season seems as good a place as any to have my first review of the Sox season to date.


20 Game Record

1 Run Record

























So what does this tell us about the season ahead – pretty much nothing would be my educated guess. If we repeat our last 11-9 start, we should start preparing early for autumn!

The Sox have had reasonable pitching – a team ERA of 3.87 is the best in the AL East (6th in the AL, 12th in the ML) – the only three pitchers we have who are significantly over that number are Schilling, Wells and Blaine Neal, two of whom we can reasonably expect to improve, the other who you would think is vulnerable when Miller comes off the DL (unless Wells or Mantei’s twists are more serious than they looked last night). On the hitting side, the Sox are second (in both the AL and ML) in runs scored, behind the current Baltimore behemoth, and toward the top in all the hitting categories – but that hides the relative under-performance of Millar, Bellhorn and Edgar Renteria.

The reason for the table is more to bring out the Sox record in 1 run games – I think at this early stage of the season it is too easy to read too much into ‘significant’ events in small sample sizes. Three of those one run losses came after the Sox had clawed there way back to even in the top of the 9th, only to lose the games in excruciating fashion in the bottom half – and the memory of those comeback losses is probably my prevailing view of the season to date.

One other point to make at this stage – I appreciate that the unbalanced schedule does make schedule quirks inevitable, but I really do dislike the fact that we have played 6 games against the Devil Rays so far… and won’t see them again until after the A-S game, that we will play the Orioles 12 times before the break, and only 6 after, and that schedulers continue to create schedules where teams see each other in back to back weeks, where the pitching match-ups are identical in the second set of games – in the last week, Kazmir / Wakefield, Chen / Wells, Lopez / Clement, and then starting May 6th, back to back sets against the Mariners and Athletics on each coast – if you are unlucky enough to play a team when it is hot during that spell… tough luck!

Could the Rocket take off once again from the Bronx?

Well he may have 'retired' and left the Yankees at the end of 2003 after a fine performance down in Pro Player Stadium, but he didn't stay away from the game he loves for too long. Roger Clemens bounced back with the Astros in Houston and went on to an 18-4 2.98 season which was enough to capture a staggering 7th Cy Young award.

However I thought that Roger was ready to walk away - but after getting the largest single-season pitching contract in the history of the game ($18.5m), the Rocket was ready to take off yet again and he has started with a bang. With only one win in four games, you might be disappointed, but in reality his numbers are off this planet.

1-0 with a 0.32 ERA through four starts and 28 innings is the best in the bigs. Rich Harden is next with an ERA of 0.44, not even the Marlins three-headed monster Beckett (3-1 1.00), Burnett (2-1 2.40) and Willis (4-0 1.50) really compare with the great 42 year-old so far in this young season.

Clemens has hooked up in three 0-0 games when he left against Mark Mulder (Cardinals), Tim Hudson (Braves) and Kazuisha Ishii (Mets) and ironically gave up his only run in the game where he got his only win.

It has been widely reported that if the Astros are not in the hunt come the A-S break then they will pursue avenues to trade Clemens to the Yankees. As it stands Clemens would stroll in and be the best pitcher at the club, although Randy Johnson would most likely keep hold of his #1 status for the post season, should the Yankees get there, and that is certainly no given at this time.

Roger Clemens has the chance to go into the Hall of Fame with the highest % of votes ever, a record currently held by Tom Seaver at 98.84%. Not one person could argue against Clemens being a first ballot Hall of Famer, and if he could come back to the Bronx and lead this club back to the World Series, then I for one would gladly welcome him back despite what happened 18 months ago.

This ball club needs great starting pitching, and as it stands he is the best around, and one of the greatest of all time. Not to consider it because of what happened would be cutting off our nose to spite our face.

Monday, April 25, 2005

It is week 3 and we went 4-3

Well an ok week for the Yankees as they split a quick set with the D'Rays before going over to Canada to win twice. A weekend home stand with the Texas Rangers saw a bad Friday and Saturday before a Sunday victory gave the Yankees their first winning week of the young season.


A-Rod has started to heat up. With 9 RBI's and 2 dingers with a .357 BA, they are the type of numbers that the Yankees expect from this guy.

I know this guy only played yesterday but the addition of Andy Phillips to the line-up was massive. A bit of fresh blood always gives a team new impetus and a HR and a double will always help.

My boy Jorge finally hitting a Home Run and finding his stroke. Hitting at .400 for the week is nice going and with Bernie too hitting well but without any power, they are starting to perform how we had hoped.

I'm struggling to find a pitching plus so by default it goes to Carl Pavano for a solid outing in Toronto. Wasn't anything special but it was ok.


This Wright bloke (2-2 9.15), just how awful is he? Off to the DL and I doubt many Yankee fans are too upset. We signed this guy over Jon Lieber (4-0 2.73) and El Duque (2-1 2.50). What more can I say?

Yankee favourite Tino Martinez has a .280 OBP over the past seven days and I can't ignore that. It is simply below par.

Finally for the negatives we'll go with Kevin Brown in the early innings. Once he settles down he's good, but that just seems to be too late. Maybe he needs to alter his warm-up?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Fun and games at the ballpark!

The Sox and D-Rays have always seemed to have a little tension between them - predating most of the players (and both managers) on the current rosters.

So this weekend's series should have come as no surprise - on Friday, Kazmir hit Millar and Ramirez (having been thrown out of one of his early major league starts last season for hitting Ramirez and Millar...), while Wakefield hit Gomes. On Saturday, McClung hit Millar, having missed behind him earlier, and Schilling hit Crawford in retaliation...

And then today...

Let me get things straight - I don't have a problem with pitchers throwing at hitters - one of baseball's joys as an 'outsider' is the unwritten code that players follow. Each side understands these rules, even if they aren't written down, and you quickly get to appreciate what scenarios may lead to what action. In the Bissinger / La Russa book (3 Nights in August), one of the more interesting parts of the book covers La Russa's thoughts on when a pitcher should be plunking a pitcher, and on the negative impact that it can have on a ballclub if a team doesn't feel that its' pitchers are protecting them... but Tony's advice - never throw at a guys head.

When Arroyo hit Huff, I personally felt it fell into the silly category, Arroyo appears to struggle with Huff, so he hit him, low on the leading leg. So when Carter threw behind Manny, I didn't have a great amount of beef with the pitch (though if the umpire's thought it was deliberate, issuing warnings to both teams, why wasn't Carter thrown out of the game at that point?) - though if I was Huff, I would be asking why my pitcher can't hit a fairly large target when required. And Manny had the perfect response - next pitch was hit to deep left center for a HR.

That was when things got a bit silly.

Carter decided that he would send the next pitch at Ortiz's head - not in his general direction, a rising pitch aimed directly at his head. In my opinion, that is lower than a cheap shot. We all know that hitters have very short amounts of time to decide whether to swing, to check or, as in this case, to take evasive action. When you throw at someone's head, the panic factor reduces that time even further, and can lead to a hitter diving into that pitch with horrendous consequences. Needless to say, that pitch lead to the inevitable benches clearing 'brawl' with Brazelton and Nixon the main protagonists.

Then in the bottom half, in a play called from Neil in NY to Neil in UK, Arroyo stayed in the game to hit the next guy up, which, unfortunately for him, was Singleton - but this was done in the right way, hitting him in the ass, but still brought a benches clearing situation (I was looking for an alternative to brawl, but handbags at dawn didn't quite fit) - though I really don't know what the Rays thought might happen... especially with two guys up in the Sox bullpen. If the Rays don't want their guys getting hit, they have to stop their pitchers throwing at people's heads.

Anyway the point of this rant... pitchers have to be allowed to pitch inside... pitchers should be allowed to hit hitters under the baseball 'code'... but in no scenario should pitchers be allowed, or encouraged, to throw at a hitter's head - the suspension has to be significant enough to ensure that pitchers know it is not acceptable, and given the way pitchers are managed, that means a minimum of 10 games.

Friday, April 22, 2005

So far, so good

This week has all in all been a good one for the Yankees this week, splitting a short two game set with the D'Rays before sweeping the Blue Jays in another quick series north of the border.

On Monday the Yankees amassed a grand total of 13 runs in the second inning, with every hitter getting a hit in just that inning, and only Sheffield not coming to the plate twice. Tino finished it off with a Grand Slam and everyone felt the Yanks were back on the right track.

The next night though saw Randy Johnson again disappointing with a poor show at the stadium as the D'Rays leveled up the season series and got their first victory in the Bronx since 2003.

Carl Pavano pitched well as did the Moose against the Jays as the starting rotation looks to step up after a woeful start to the season. They were helped by veteran Yankees Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams who are starting to hit, with the former grabbing his first round-tripper of the young season on Wednesday.

Kevin Brown goes for the Yanks tonight, and whilst many fans were down on him after his outing in Baltimore, I saw rust in the first two innings but a good outing after he had shaken it off. I look to Brown to be a surprise this season and pitch well. He'll be joined by Jaret Wright and Randy Johnson as they take on the hard hitting Texas Rangers in a three-game series in the Bronx over the weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Nomar heading to the DL?

Well it appears that Nomar's injury problems have struck again - he has been carried off the field from tonight's Cubs / Cardinals game with a groin injury, although the photographs on Yahoo, for example, appear to show him in terrible pain.

After a very encouraging spring, Nomar has really struggled, and was dropped to 6th in the Cubs batting order tonight - if Sosa was dropped in the lineup for his numbers last year, Nomar's line of .163/ .236/ .184 was not going to offer much protection.

After a stunning start to his career, incorporating a four year period of absolute excellence, Nomar's career has been seriously hampered by significant injuries - to his wrist, costing him all but 21 games of the 2001 season, and to his ankle, which deprived him of 81 games between the Sox and Cubs last year. The one year deal that Nomar signed with the Cubs this year was supposed to allow Nomar to show the market that he was fully recovered, and able to demonstrate at least 2002 / 2003 levels of production. His start to the season, and tonight's injury, do nothing to dispel the notion that we may have to accept the fact that Nomar's best days are definitely behind him.


Well Nomar officially went on to the DL today, and from all accounts may miss 2 - 3 months - it really does start to get interesting. The incentives that were built into Nomar's deal start kicking in after 125 - 130 games - if he spends that long on the DL he has no chance to earn those incentives.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Week 2 was ugly (1-5)

Well getting swept in Baltimore and nicking one from three in Fenway wasn't in the plan. However that is the record we have to deal with so with only one win they'll only be one positive this week, whilst we'll see five negatives, shouldn't be too hard to fill up those five spots!


The main positive was it is still only April. Plenty of time still to turn it around and maybe this four game losing streak is the type of thing that a veteran team needs, a good kick up the backside.


We'll start sadly with my boy Jorge Posada. I went up and took him in the 5th round of my fantasy draft and he is killing in there and with the Yanks. Doesn't look comfortable at the plate, but he can go on a hot streak and start turning things around. I just hope he does it soon.

Next up is everyday 2B Tony Womack. If anyone can tell me how this guy is an everyday player in the Bronx then please let us know. Can't field, swings at pitches above his head, can't do the simple things like move runners over. All this whilst Robinson Cano is hitting the stitches out of the ball down at AAA Columbus.

Mike Stanton gets in this list due to his failure twice in two nights down at Camden Yards. Brought in for two batters and walked them both, that simply isn't good enough.

A-Rod hasn't started too well and looks horrible at the plate but he was showing signs of turning it around. Still think he looks uncomfortable in this team.

Finally I bigged up his eye last week but Jason Giambi needs to be clever. If they are giving you the whole left side of the infield then take it. If you show you'll go the other way then they'll stop putting a fielder in short RF and you'll be able to get those hits again.

Lets hope we do better against the Devil Rays tonight, 0-0 as we stands as Jeter digs in, in the bottom of the 1st, oh well he's grounded out and I want to concentrate on the game so I'll get on with uploading this and going to the fridge.

Ah in addition Tanyon Sturtze has pulled an oblique muscle and has been put on the DL. Buddy Groom has been called up, not Andy Phillips. Great.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A small treat for any Red Sox readers! Posted by Hello

Game 12 at Fenway Park

Well I made my first trip of the season to Fenway today - a first chance to see this years changes to the Park (the nicest of which is shown above!), and my first visit to Fenway since a very cold October evening in 2004!

A truly stunning spring day in Boston, game time temperature was 67 degrees (18 degrees in ye olde Englishe moneye) and from my seats on the third base side, I had a great view of the game - these were Sox four pack seats, so if they had been bad today, I would have had the same bad view to look forward to in May, July and September!

This was the fourth time I have seen Wakefield start, and it was probably the best I have seen him pitch. He had a number of base runners in the early innings - 4 hits and three walks in his 6IP, but always seemed to be able to get the pitch that he needed - in the 1st inning, the Rays had men on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, before Tim recorded a strikeout, a lineout to 1st and a second strikeout to move safely out of the inning (and maintain the Sox's position as the only team to yet give up a 1st inning run).

On top of his specific numbers today, Wake also continued his steady climb up the Red Sox record boards - he is now 3rd in strikeouts, moving past Cy Young, but still some way behind the Rocket and Pedro (1st and 2nd respectively), and is now 7th in the 'all-time wins' category - there should really be some sort of prize for the person leaving the top 6 in the comments section!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Is it time to panic yet?

After throwing away a four-run lead in the bottom of the 7th on Saturday night, the Yankees fell to 4-7 and the volcano that is George Steinbrenner is starting to show signs of an imminent explosion. Maybe that is an over-exaggeration but you know that this can't go on for too much longer before moves by made by the boss.

The bp looks horrible, only Sturtze and Rivera seem to have Torre's faith and whilst Flash keeps coming in, he keeps giving up runs. Quantrill has been relegated quickly and Stanton walked the only batter he faced last night. As for F-Rod, he has live stuff but needs to harness it before he earns anyone's trust.

The Yankees went 1/12 with RISP last night (A-Rod's ground rule double scoring Jeter) and that quite simply isn't good enough. My boy Jorge has really started off cold but no-one looks awesome at the plate. Matsui is cooling off as he tries to pull everything and as for Giambi, please, please PLEASE push a bunt down the 3rd base line for a bit and then they won't put a fielder in short RF and you'll be able to get those base hits again.

Everyone questioned the signing of Tony Womack and is seems to get worse every time I go to write something about it. Yesterday he made a costly error (although called a base hit) was caught stealing (although to be fair Lopez baulked) and tried to bunt Bernie over late in the game but bunted it straight to Melvin Mora who was hardly ten foot from Womack, giving them the easy force on Bernie.

The home plate umpire (after the horror show on Thursday night that nearly caused Neil to burst several blood vessels) was just as bad. On the Yankee LH hitters the plate was stretched about six to eight inches and he called strikes off the plate all night from Lopez. Considering the Yankees are well known as patient hitters, this is surprising as previous history usually comes into play.

Kevin Brown comes back this afternoon, oh boy, I can't wait!

Friday, April 15, 2005

That game and that incident

First of all, that was probably the more interesting game of the season so far even without the goings on in the bottom of the 8th. Both sides had chances to score, the game was close late, Foulke tried to give it up, I enjoyed watching this game.

However, my colleague said this last night, 'We are going to see a lot of comment (possibly on this blog) that says that if you get hit, you have the right to hit back.' Damn right we will...

What happened in the 8th has caused much debate, not least amongst Neil and myself. The way I saw it was a drunk moron slapped Gary Sheffield who was trying to make the play, and Sheff reacted a threw a punch back in his direction. Now where we disagree is on this basic principle, I think if someone hits you then you he loses his rights not to get lumped back. We argued for a good hour after the game on it and found that we just fundamentally disagree.

The police will no doubt speak to both the fan and the player and probably they'll both face misdemeanor charges, which'll be more a PR exercise than justice but what can you do?

Back to the game, A-Rod really looks lost at the plate. Tony Womack looks worse every time I see him at the plate. I commented last night that 'if the ball is above your eyes then you don't swing,' Tony chose to ignore my advice and proceeded to yet again strike out on a ball around his eye level.

Randy looked distinctly average for me, yet to prove himself as a Yankee with one good outings and two pretty disappointing efforts so far, however he is out pitching Javier Vazquez I suppose...

Loading the bases against Keith Foulke in the 9th, a player who I still contest in vastly over-rated, the Yankees with only the one out were unable to plate a run. Encouraging news for the Yanks though was the fact that we are getting players on base and it is only a matter of time before we start plating them with regularity.

Before the late incident, the big bone of contention was the home plate ump, now he was having a disappointing night anyway, but when he called a pitch to Sheffield ball four instead of strike three you just had to wonder what the guy was on. It was right down the pipe, just above centre, it was so clearly a strike that you couldn't even make an argument for it being ball four, this led to Jackson being tossed and Francona went soon afterwards. This umpire crew was flat out shocking all series, hope we don't get to see them again for a long, long time.

Incident update

Upon listening to the radio commentry on the game this afternoon, the YES cameras apparently clearly prove (which ESPN/NESN did not) that Sheffield was elbowed in the face. Sterling backs me and didn't blame for Sheffield for having a go back whereas Waldman backs up Neil's view, all about opinions isn't it?

Well just another night at friendly Fenway

As you might guess Neil and I have slightly different opinions on what went down tonight at Fenway.

On a baseball level - a nice win for the Sox, marred by a truly awful umpiring performance behind the plate. Jackson tossed, Francona tossed, the Big Unit doing his best Pedro performance questioning the ump from the Mound! He wasn't bad against just one team, but the Sox got the worst of it due to the 4 runs that scored after the missed strike 3 call in the 4th inning (but I am willing to entertain a debate on the what if's of that unbelievable call out on the missed tag on Womack in the first inning). It was also a night when Edgar Renteria showed that he might just be a serviceable SS for the Sox - some nice defense, and some really nice hitting. From the Yankee perspective my only worry at the end of that game would be that RJ got hit hard - again though, I am perfectly willing to accept the awful ump affected his performance significantly.

And then... Sheffield over reacted in my book. We are going to see a lot of comment (possibly on this blog) that says that if you get hit, you have the right to hit back. I really do believe that even if the guy had hit him (and I am waiting to see evidence of anything but the slightest scrape) Sheffield should have put his arms in the air and claimed fan interference - if nothing else he would have saved the Yankees a run. In the last year, we have now had three incidents of fan / player interaction that doesn't involve players signing autographs - in Oakland last year, at Auburn Hills, and tonight, on a clearly lesser level, at Fenway (though as ESPN has just helpfully pointed out, it is the 4th - there was the Milton Bradley bottle incident). I do think that professional sportsmen should be held to a higher standard in these scenarios - their actions have the potential to incite a truly disproportionate response from tens of thousands of people, not the player's fault, but something they need to be aware of at all times.

I guess we will see over the next few days whether baseball believes that it needs to address the issues here, or whether it will be left alone to die a natural death.

And at the end of it all... no more Sox / Yankee games until Memorial day, we are tied at 3-3 in the season series, and the growing impression that we should start making plans for ALCS III.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

That'll Mo

He was cheered to the mound by the Red Sox fans but after a line-out and two ground-outs to Tony Womack at 2nd base, Mariano Rivera had earned his first save against the Red Sox since the 2004 regular season.

Curt Schilling had started for the Sox in this one, his first start in the big leagues this season but he was to go one inning too long and give up bombs to Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams that ensured the Bronx Bombers would be victorious.

Jaret Wright threw five innings but was never impressive and got himself into awful trouble by failing to locate the strikezone. A great play by Jeter saved him in the fifth, allowing him to earn his first win as a New York Yankee.

Bernie hit in the 9th spot and went 3 for 4 with his first Home Run of the season. The move will be seen as masterstroke by Yankee manager Joe Torre in the press. I have to admit I like Bernie in that second lead-off spot but Womack leading off is ugly. He struck out to open the game at a fastball he couldn't of hit if he tried it was so high, and nearly swung at one which was at eye-level, yuk.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

On again, Off again - can we have some baseball already?

Well we reach game 8 of the season today, which seems to have taken the best part of two weeks, and now the Sox have only 1 off day in the next 29 - why on earth do you give teams 3 days off in the first 10 days of the season?

But game 8 is slightly more important (what, than game 7?), as we see the return of Curt Schilling to the mound. Given his outing last week at Pawtucket it is probably unreasonable to expect too much from Curt, but then it was probably unreasonable to expect too much from him using an ankle procedure that had only been practiced previously on one amputated leg, and that turned out not too badly! If he makes it through 5, and we are still in the game, I will consider it a job well done - if he only makes it through 1, and gets pounded, I guess my "he was making his first start following injury / slow ST" excuse will see the light of day!

Schilling's return does begin to make the rotation question more 'real' - Wade Miller continues his rehab progress, and once fit, the Sox have 6 starters for 5 spots. Prior to the season, the assumption was that either Wakefield or Arroyo would be sent to the pen, with Arroyo probably the slight favorite to make the trip. While this is a nice problem to have (the possibility of one of these guys going to the pen, and not being recalled to the rotation following a DL stint by one of the other starters seems remote) it is always interesting to see how these moves play out, and are handled by the front office and manager - no pitcher who sees himself as a starter likes being moved to the pen. The early season travails of Wells and the good starts from Arroyo and Wake (did I hear someone mutter sample size), only make these decisions more interesting to watch.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The week that was - 3-3

Well the Yankees have opened up 3-3, beating the Sox by two games to one and going down by the same scoreline in the Orioles series. Every Monday I'll be writing an update concluding the pluses and minuses from the Yanks performances in the previous week, so here goes:


Hideki Matsui. The Japanese slugger has knocked in eight runs with three dingers whilst hitting at an .348 clip. A great start from my early season favourite to win the AL MVP.

Derek Jeter. With an OBP of .552 from the lead off spot, what more can you ask for?

Jason Giambi's eye. I know he's only hitting at .235 but with an OBP of .435, it shows that he can still get on base.


Mariano Rivera. I fully expect him to come back and be stellar but a .400 BA against him is a slight worry, isn't it?

A-Rod. Will he produce the numbers we have all come to expect or is the pressure just too much for this guy?

Bernie. Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, I have bigged you up all off season and you've started off colder than Coors Light. Let's just hope this is your typical slow start.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A good sense of timing

Last night I got in from my trip to Fratton Park, still basking in the glow of a Pompey win at just gone 8PM BST. I turned on my laptop, clicked on and saw that the Yankees were 5-3 down and Tanyon Sturtze had replaced Randy Johnson, not what I expected at all!

However it was still to be the Yankees day as Matsui's proper bloop double tied the game and Ruben Sierra would blow it open by smashing a three-run shot off Steve Kline, a pitcher I was hoping would be in pinstripes. He would go on to imply that Sierra and Eric Brynes (of Oakland) were cheating and stealing the signs.

He thought that Sierra couldn't pull a low and away fastball on to the netting above Monument Park, thing is, he probably can't but Kline missed his target and the pitch was right down Sierra's broadway.

Mo pitched a good 9th to get his first save of the season to equal up his record to 1-1 with one save.

In other news, ex-Yankee Marcus Thames hit a Grand Slam on his return to the majors with the Tigers. David Wells got bombed in his second start for the Red Sox, giving up three dingers on the spin. Jason Giambi got his first Home Run of the season in Saturday's game and Tony Womack got a very important pinch-hit walk, that is something I never expected to type.

One more in the L column

One of the things I love about baseball (and put me in a psychologists chair, play word association, first word... patience) is the fact that there is always another game tomorrow.

In football, you play today, lose and have a week to stew on what went wrong. In baseball, tomorrow is the ideal chance to fix things... except... when you win in football, you have a week to enjoy the high, to glory in what went right, to taste the expectation of all that might go right next week... in baseball that high can be destroyed in a day... like today...

One of the things that takes some getting used to when you have not had a love of baseball born into you, where you develop that love tainted by adult experiences, is the idea that the most succesful player fails more than they succeed, where a succesful team will lose at least 60 games, and a winning team can lose 80 games...

So early in the season, I always seem to fall into an extreme high / low following wins and losses - perhaps because there is no clear idea of how a team will perform over the course of the season, each win may signify season long glory, each loss may portend disaster - that dulls as the season progresses, then rises again as the play-off positions become more real...

Oh well, another game tomorrow

Saturday, April 09, 2005

All tied up!

Well tonight seemed strangely like the first night of real baseball - I don't know if it was the fact that night games kicked in, or that we have moved on from the hoopla of the first Sox / Yankees series of the year, but it just seemed like tonight was a proper baseball evening.

And the net result of it all is that every team in the AL East is tied with a 2-2 record - in intra-division play, the Sox won ugly, with Keith Foulke showing that no lead seems safe at this point, the Yankees lost ugly, and then in the match up of the Devil Rays and the A's, the East won out in extra innings.

Part of Neil and I's online debate last year was the discrepancy between our respective teams records against the Orioles - when they played us, the Orioles seemed to play tough and always gave us a hard game, while against the Yankees, the Orioles rolled over, let the Yanks tickle their tummy and generally forgot how to play fundamental baseball - there was a particular game last year at Camden Yards where (I think) Jack Cust broke for home on a play with the go ahead run, and fell, got up and fell again a yard short of home plate, allowing Posada to tag him out, that typified how the Orioles played the Yanks last year. If the Orioles could even go 7 - 12 against the Yanks this year (following a ridiculous 4-15 record in 2004, and 10-9 against the Sox), it may well be enough to tip the AL East in the Sox's favor.


A comment on Rivera

Wow, 2 appearances into the season and Rivera needs to watch his back. I understand the reaction of the Yankee fans on Wednesday, it is difficult to stand and cheer your closer when he blows a game like that, but wouldn't dignified silence have been a better response?

Neil may not agree with me, but I think the response was a combination of two factors - the truly ridiculous expectations that surround the Yanks this year, and a new nervousness about Stadium fans due to the nature of the collapse in the ALCS next year - any reminders are not particularly well received.

Regardless, the Sox may have gained a slight edge on Rivera due to the number of times they have seen him in the last couple of years, but I can't imagine they are ever that happy to see him come in with a lead in the 9th - perhaps Neil and I should have had an over / under guess on Rivera's blown saves this year. Even with 2 in the first 3 (now 4) games, I am still thinking a reasonable offer for the season would be about 6?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

It's just not Cricket: Sox want Gilchrist

The Boston Red Sox have approached the Australian national cricket team with an offer for vice-captain and wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist. The hard hitting Gilchrist was spotted after a video of his performances were sent to the Red Sox last year.

Jon Deeble, the Red Sox first base coach and Pacific Rim scout was the man who spoke with Gilchrist, saying, "He times the ball as good as anyone I've ever seen, and he is such a great athlete that I wouldn't underestimate his ability [to make it in baseball]." in an e-mail to his manager Steve Atkinson.

"They [the Red Sox] have expressed an interest in exploring the possibility of trying Adam out in the future for baseball, but because he's never played all this is going to depend upon them personally having a look at him," Atkinson said.

"His No.1 priority at the moment is cricket and the Ashes, but we just see it as a great compliment to him to have a scout from the World Series champions saying they want to have a look at him. Maybe one day after cricket, who knows? If he's 35 or 36 and someone offers him a trial, then he'd consider it."

With the important Ashes series between the world's top two test playing nations in England being just months away, there is no chance Gilchrist would consider a move away from cricket just yet. With another Ashes tour in the winter of 2006/2007, it is unlikely he'd quit before then so the Sox may have to wait for the seventh best batsman in the world to join them.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Oh No Mo!

On a beautiful day in the Bronx, the story was all about one man, Mariano Rivera. Given the ball to close out a 3-2 win for the Yanks he proceeded to load the bases with nobody out. After a Trot Nixon K came the big one, a dribbler to Alex Rodriguez at third which looked like an match-ending 5-4-3 DP but the former AL MVP bobbled the ball and everybody was safe.

It was clearly a routine play, he could have come home for the force and then on to Tino at first to get Manny. He probably had time to step on third himself and still throw out Manny but it wasn't to be. Ortiz would plate Bellhorn with an RBI ground-out before Renteria killed the game with a two-run single.

Mo looked pretty awful and just couldn't locate his pitches. When Joe had to pull him he got booed by some sections of the crowd, which I don't like. Yes he was poor today but this guy is one of the greatest, if not the greatest closer of all time so why boo the guy when he is clearly low on confidence? Despite being poor he nearly got out of it had A-Rod not made the error, so I think some people owe Mo an apology.

As for the rest of the game, the Yanks couldn't get much off Wakefield except two solo dingers by A-Rod and Tino. Mussina was getting squeezed by the home plate umpire Mike DiMuro, who had an awful game. Despite this, he hung in there, giving up two runs over six innings, which when all is said and done must be seen as a good outing. Tanyon Sturtze yet again didn't give up a run in his two innings of work and clearly has the confidence of the manager.

Johnny Damon was out at second after stealing on a called ball four but fell off the bag and was tagged and called out. Although this was the right call, you had to feel for him as 2B umpire Joe West gave him no indication that it was ball four. Bernie is showing me up by looking horrible at the plate and Giambi needs to drop a bunt down the 3B line a few times to stop the shift being put on him.

Not much more to say, not the best evening all in all.

Pave the way to October

If Carl Pavano pitches like he did through the first five innings of the Yankees game with the BoSox tonight then everyone will agree it was money well spent. Unlike Mr Hay, I was not at Yankee Stadium, instead in front of my PC 3,500 odd miles away watching the game on NESN. Game time came around and everyone who never talks to me on MSN decided today was the day to catch up, no fewer than six conversations opened up within thirty minutes of the first pitch, not easy to talk and catch every pitch I can tell you!

As for the actual game, Pavano's split looked very good and Manny looked like he didn't care at the plate. The Yanks got their early runs thanks to a Sheffield RBI groundout scoring Jeter and a two-run shot by Matsui. The Sox chipped away with Ortiz going deep and Stanton allowing an inherited runner to score again (He did it all year for the Mets in 2004). Mariano blew the save allowing Varitek to go deep but Keith Foulke would give it straight back. Derek Jeter hit a 3-2 fastball to RF and it sailed out of the park.

I wrote about the Yankee hitters getting hit more than Red Sox ones in their games between each other this year, and so far it's 4-0 as Giambi got plunked today (to go with his two yesterday) as did Jeter on a fastball that tailed in on the Yankee captain.

Matsui is now 6/9 this season with 2HR and 5 RBI. My early season favourite for MVP and I know Neil is getting annoyed by my constant MVP talk surrounding Matsui but he just looks so locked in at the plate. He seems to know what he wants to do in each at-bat and furthermore he seems to know what the pitcher is going to throw, which is always an added bonus for sure.

Mariano blowing the save is a worry as at 3-3 Johnny Damon hit a deep fly ball to RF which was hauled in right at the wall by Sheffield. The lefties seem to be waiting on that cutter and Mariano and Jorge have to either back them off the plate or throw more four-seem fastballs away from the hitters otherwise this could be a real problem for the Yanks.

All in all though, a win is a win and with that result the Yankees go 2-0. Mussina and Wakefield next up at the stadium, should be a good 'un.

Game 2 at the Stadium

Today was my first game of the season - I was at the Stadium to see the Yankees beat the Red Sox on Jeter's 9th inning HR - it is fair to say that just as Jeter walked off, so did I.

What were my impressions of the game - both teams still look a little rusty - the Yankees left a lot of men on base, and the Sox seem to have spent Spring Training working on how to turn the double play... from an offensive perspective, and can I just say, they are getting pretty good at it! From a pitching perspective, Pavano looked excellent early, but seemed to go off quickly, while Clement seemed to have nice stuff, but got a bit down on himself after the Jeter HBP, followed by the Renteria error.

Of more note, I keep track of each game I go to - result, venue, pitchers of record, HR's and any other notable event - and today was my 50th game in the majors, and the first Yankee victory over the Sox in 6 attempts - I guess the streak had to end at some point.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Opening Day thoughts

Well today is really opening day - just some observations from the day's games -

Opening Impressions: Good debuts!
  • Carlos Beltran, 1HR, 3RBI
  • Richie Sexson, 2 HR, 5RBI
  • Pedro Martinez, 6IP, 3ER, 12K
Opening Impressions: Bad Debuts!
  • Javier Vazquez, 1.2IP, 7ER, 2K
  • Jose Lima, 3IP, 5ER, 2K
  • Washington Nationals - an 8-4 loss in first game
Other thoughts:
  • Umpires seem to be calling a nice generous zone on opening days - high and wide is my impression so far.
  • Steroid testing has really impacted the HR - only 29 today, and Dimitri Young on pace for 486 dingers this season!

Monday, April 04, 2005

9th inning

BOS: R: 1 H: 1 E: 0
NYY: -

Final Score: BOS 2, NYY 9

Sox make some noise in the 9th - a Millar walk, a long single by V'tek, a sac-fly by Nixon to bring home Millar, and then Mueller fly's out and Bellhorn strikes out to end the opener.

My divisional MVP - Ortiz - I think he will build on the last two years, while for Cy Young, I go obvious with RJ. Surprise player - I will go with you in Camden - I think Sosa will bounce back in a big way this year.

Well the opener is over and done with, and if truth be told, can't say that I am overly surprised at the outcome - the Yankees win an easy one behind RJ. I guess the only mildly concerning thing for the Sox were some seemingly sloppy plays - Damon, Renteria and Halama on the D, and Manny at the plate, but it is hard to get to upset about any loss on day 1, even if it is to the Yankees.

8th Inning

BOS: R: 0 H: 0 E: 1
NYY: R: 3 H: 2: E: 0

As the rain starts to fall, A-Rod sparkles with the first play of the 8th throwing out Renteria on a well hit ball to 3rd. Manny lifts a lazy deep fly to Bernie before Tanyon overpowers David Ortiz. Six up and six down for Tanyon Sturtze, a really nice outing from your favourite Worcester native.

Matt Mantei makes his Red Sox debut up against Sheffield, Sierra and Matsui and gives up a lead-off walk to Sheffield in a pitch Jon Miller thought was close, Sierra disappoints with a lazy fly to Yankees 2006 CF Johnny Damon. Matsui steps in with his nice new gloves and smashes the first long ball of the season to drive Sheffield and himself home. It was a line drive shot to Center-field, wow. Posada is out somehow (I was busy arguing about Matsui winning the MVP with Neil). Tino gets a great standing O and walks, he'll walk around to 2nd after Bernie earns a walk. Terry Francona walks in and tells Matt Mantei it is time for a shower and calls in John Halama. Womack gets on with a single but needs to thank Bubba Crosby for hussling down to 2nd to beat the force. Jeter is up with the bags loaded, he hasn't gone deep with them loaded in his career and he doesn't start now but reaches on a terrible error by the pitcher Halama, Tino scores from 3rd. A-Rod grounds out on a bang bang play and we'll end it at 9-1 in the 8th.

As for your questions, as you know i think Matsui can win the MVP in the AL so in the East you have to like him. As for pitching I will go with Mike Mussina just to be different and the surprise player will come out of Camden in the form of Jay Gibbons.

Same questions back at you for the 9th Mr Hay.

7th inning

Well the Jays weren't exactly a great hitting team even with Delgado - cleary he was a very specific threat, but given the lack of quality in that lineup, you always felt you could pitch around him. Without him, the Jays will struggle to score regularly.

BOS: R: 0 H: 0 E: 0
NYY: R: 0 H: 1 E: 0

Score: BOS 1, NYY 6

Worcester Native Tanyon Sturtze - I have now heard that phrase so often, I really do think his parents named him Worcester - is in from the bullpen - a nice first outing from RJ. Not overpowering in traditional RJ way, but very effective. And as with RJ, Sturtze gets a quick 1, 2, 3 highlighted by a nice diving stop by defensive replacement Tino Martinez.

and then in comes ... the man with the biggest ears, and slowest rendition, of God Bless America in the world - Ronan Tynan - can't the Yankees find an American to sing GBA? (and no that isn't this innings question)

Timlin is in - Williams is down on K's, a base hit by Womack on another strange play by Renteria - a long overthrow - and then takes second on an effectively uncontested steal. Jeter grounds out to third, holding Womack, and A-Rod pops up to right to finish the inning.

Well as the 8th may be your last post of the night - unless you want a bonus post to comment on the win - give me your Divisional MVP, Cy Young and surprise player?

6th Inning

BOS: R: 0 H: 1 E: 1
NYY: R: 2 H: 2 E: 0

Look at strike 3...thank you Manny. Ortiz will ground out to Jeter. Millar got on somehow, I am told a walk but I was busy talking fantasy baseball and missed it. Varitek shatters his bat but bloops a double just over Giambi, that is Giambi's downfall in the field, his actual fielding is poor but he holds the bag so well. No harm done as Jay Payton does nothing special.

Jeter gets on with a walk against untested Blaine Neal and Jeter promptly steals second. A-Rod drills a single to CF and will collect an RBI. Damon is charged with an error for allowing A-Rod to get to 3rd which is the right call as Johnny parried the ball 30 foot away. Sheffield flys out and A-Rod tests Manny's arm and wins as he gets to 3rd.

Neal leaves and in comes Alan Embree and on the first pitch Sierra smokes a double right down the line and A-Rod will stroll home. Matsui fouls out but Posada will draw a walk to bring up Giambi with two on. He swings at ball four only to see Manny catch it in LF.

The D'Rays are stocked up, my good friend Peter tells me Delmon Young is just amazing and is the star of their minor league system. Chris Singleton, Ken's son is also meant to be pretty good. BJ Upton, Jorge Cantu are two more and then look at the outfield of Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Aubury Huff.


Not even mentioned Kazmir but I don't think I even need to. As for the Blue Jays, how big is the hole that Carlos Delgado leaves?

5th Inning

mmm... I think... no I fail the Camden test. I really don't think the D-Rays will make it out of the basement again this year - I think the Jays are a poor team, but the return of a full year of Halladay is probably enough to lift them up above the Rays. Those Rays have potential - Crawford, Baldelli, Upton, Kazmir and Young - all will contribute in a meaningful way, but not together in 2005.

BOS: R: o H: 1 E: 0
NYY: R: 0 H: 1 E: 0

Score: BOS 1, NYY 4

Well another decent inning by RJ, despite another double, this time by Bellhorn. The Sox early success of running his pitch count seems to have disappeared. The highlight of the inning was Giambi's nice stretch at 1st to get the final out on a hurried throw by 'gold glove' SS Jeter.

Will Wells make it out of the 5th? Well a nice K on Matsui to start the inning so perhaps he has settled down. Of course Posada then smokes a double - raising an interesting question - do catchers who have caught a pitcher have an advantage when they hit against them? Well a 2nd HBP for Giambi, he isn't exactly jumping out of the way of these pitches! And the answer to my question was no - Francona goes with the early hook - the LOOGY is in! And the LOOGY turns a very, very nice DP - thank you Tony Womack!

The YES guys just revealed a nice story - this is Bob Shepperd's 55th season announcing at Yankee Stadium. In his first year, the first opponents were... the Red Sox - first name he announced DiMaggio... Dom Dimaggio - but it was also the only year that Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio started together.

Do the Rays have the best collection of young talent in the AL East?

4th Inning

BOS: R: 0 H: 1 E: 0
NYY: R: 0 H:2 E: 0

Oh David Ortiz just looked at an 0-2 slider just down the pipe, oh i enjoyed that. Millar would pop out and we'll look at the Millar 2nd inning out as Matsui brought back a Home Run, that was really quite an awesome catch. Jason Varitek grounded a nice double past A-Rod but Jay Payton would ground out to Short after swinging at a pitch over his head, as Neil H commented, 'I think we may have found a hole in his swing.'

Tony Womack leads off the 4th with his first hit as a Yankee, a bloop single to centerfield. Damn Jeter is retired and is back down to .667 for the season, I mean how poor is that? A-Rod drills a single to LF and Womack scampers round to 3rd, nice running by Womack, got to give him credit there. Sheffield lines out to Renteria and up steps our clean-up hitter for the night Ruben Sierra, now will he strike out? No but a weak ground out to Short, Sierra batting at 4? Yuk.

Baltimore are a great hitting line-up as we both know, adding Sosa is quite a coup I think and I like Jay Gibbons a lot and think he could bounce back and be a productive performer for the Birds but pitching wise, they suck. BJ Ryan, Jorge Julio and Steve Kline is a nice bp but can you name me a good Starting Pitcher who'll call Camden home this season?

If you can't, answer this question instead, will the D'Rays make it out of the basement this season?

3rd Inning

Certainly seems a 'generous' K zone so far - but at least it is generous for both sides.

BOS: R 0 H 0 E 0
NYY: R 3 H 4 E 1

Score: BOS 1, NYY 4

Quick 1, 2, 3 for RJ after the DP - interesting to see A-Rod playing in so far, perhaps expecting a bunt from the least sacrfice hitting team in the majors.

Well a lot of trouble in that inning for Wells - Jeter, Sheff, Matsui, Posada all hit - a balk with the bases loaded - and now the Sox are in a 3 run hole. It really looked like Varitek and Wells were struggling to get on the same page with runners on.

So we have looked at the other divisions and clearly both of us have high hopes in 2005 for our teams - what about the rest of the AL East - I think the Orioles have the hitting to be troublesome, but not the pitching to be a contender, would you agree?

2nd Inning

I miss Vazquez, he hasn't given up a run in the regular season unlike that Randy guy...

BOS: R: 1 H: 2 E: 0
NYY: R: 1 H: 3 E: 0

Right Ortiz nailed a double on his first ever pitch from Randy Johnson, he would have scored on a Kevin millar Home Run if it wasn't for a great catch by Matsui. A groundout followed moving Ortiz up to 3rd base and he scored on a Jay Payton line drive single to LF on a 1-2 slider. A generous strike three call ended the inning.

Godzilla drills a single to open up the inning after falling behind 0-2. A pop up by my boy Jorge and then Giambi gets a standing O, class act from the Yankee fans. He responds by lining one to RF moving Matsui up to 3rd. In comes Bernie 'Everyone says I'm washed up' Williams. He delivers with a Sac Fly scoring Matsui. Womack grounds into a fielders choice and we are all tied up at one after two innings.

Neil, what about this strike zone eh?

1st Inning

Well baseball is under way for 2005, starting where it seemed to finish with the Sox and Yankees - do non Sox or Yankee fans get fed up with the hype? Some of us are forced to watch this on YES, as ESPN is blacked out in New York for today's game. Which as Neil M knows, means I get my favorite commentators... not!

Highlights of the pre-game - Kruk revealing he really is an ignorant oaf - I hope DePodesta has that pregame taped - Wells getting a friendly Bronx welcome!

BOS: R 0 H 0 E 0
NYY: R 0 H 1 E 0

Johnson threw the first pitch at 8.11pm, a foul ball by Damon, accompanied by 50,000 flash bulbs! And first at bat leads to a ground out to Womack, and the Yanks have won the World Series - on no that was just the commentator reaction! Well RJ is perfect through 1, with the aid of a big plate - Renteria seemed to be out on a high pitch, Ramirez on a low, and inside, pitch.

Wells in Red Sox, wearing #3 - doesn't quite seem right. My first Sox / Yankee game at Fenway saw Boomer start for the Yanks and pitch well - fingers crossed! Jeter gets a nice blooper to start off his season, A-Rod flies out, Sheff forces Jeter at 2nd and Wells gets uber-clean up hitter Sierra to make an ugly swing for a K.

Well it may be opening day, but my stomach butterflies say it is a lot more than that!

So Neil, how does RJ look in real live pinstripes for ya?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

NL East

I said at the start of the reviews that the NL East was my most intriguing league - the number of impact free agents signed, the change of managers in Philadelphia, the Expos / Nats, the Braves.....

So here was our discussion;

Well the NL East added the most impact players over the close season - which one would you say stands out?

NYN: That is a toughie, Raul Mondesi has been a 30-30 guy before, but I'm going to have to pick against him because he's shit. It has to be Carlos Beltran, the premier free agent on the market, was on fire throughout the playoffs, I don't think you could argue for anyone else, could you?

RSN: I don't know - I think Pedro is the most intriguing because he has such incredible ability when he is on, it just seems that 'on' isn't what is used to be. I also have a feeling that Tim Hudson kind of slipped under the radar because of the Mets signings. However, given he has a day to day role, it probably has to be Beltran - is he as good as the media have anointed him, or is it simply hitting at the right time, with national spotlight in the play-offs?

NYN: I think its a bit from column A and a bit from column B, his post-season hot streak probably added $50m to his contract, he is an awesome defensive player and a very good switch hitter, but he is not a great hitter, do you think the switch to the NL and NY will hinder him?

RSN: If I am being honest, the thing that I think will hinder him is the NY Mets - I still don't think that this is a good team - certainly better than in 2004, but that isn't exactly glowing praise! He will also be slightly impacted by Shea, which is, at least slightly, a pitchers park - people shouldn't forget that when he moved to the NL he suffered a slight adjustment affect, but he may well be over that process already - the Mets might at least get a break that way. After signing Pedro, the media instantly gave them the title the best rotation in the NL - is that deserved - is it even the best in the NL East?

NYN: I like what Florida has, I really do. Beckett, Burnett, Dontrelle and Al Leiter match up well against anyone, I would go with them ahead of the Mets, Victor Zambrano is no Scott Kazmir that is for sure. What do you think of the Mets new manager, is he capable of turning things around?

RSN: Well he has an impressive reputation given he has never managed at this level. He is clearly trying to instigate a Yankees style atmosphere in the clubhouse, with many of the clubhouse rules being imported from the Bronx. I guess we will get a better idea of his management style - both in-game and out of game - once he has his first Pedro 'incident' - which I think is inevitable and when we see his approach on the bases - will he be aggressive, will he be a quick or slow hook - it just adds to the interest. The Marlins certainly have an impressive rotation, how much does Delgado help?

NYN: He helps in a big way, Deldago, Cabrera and Lowell hitting in the heart of the line-up has got to be scary for opposing pitchers. With Pierre and Castillo running around like they have ants in their pants on the bases, you can be sure the Marlins will score a lot of runs this year, however in close games in the 9th they'll be handing the ball to Guillermo Mota, could this be their undoing?

RSN: He is another of the power set-up to closer transformations that seem to be increasingly popular - I guess the other example this year is K-Rod in Anaheim. Looking at his numbers, he has the peripheral numbers you would like in a closer, high strike out numbers, low walk numbers - I think he will succeed. What about the Braves - a new closer, and the return of Smoltz to the rotation does he pitch 200 innings?

NYN: Simply put - no. Feel sorry for Smoltz to be honest, the chances of him getting an arm injury are quite high and as much as I'd like to see him return to the rotation and dominate, I just can't see it, his new pal though Tim Hudson, he's being tipped for Cy Youngs left, right and centre, is this unjust pressure?

RSN: maybe not unjust, but don't know that it is realistic either - Hudson hadn't won the AL Cy Young, and it is not as if there is a dearth of decent pitchers in the NL - Schmidt, Clemens, Pedro, Sheets might have one or two things to say about that. He has also broken down the last couple of seasons, and while I don't think that should be held against him, he perhaps has to show that he can sustain it for a full year. Is this the year? The Year that the Braves finally fail?

NYN: Yes. I just think the others are now ready to strike, the era has to end someone and lets be honest, the Marlins have the talent to win it all this year, whether they do or not we'll have to wait and see but the Braves are not the favorites in most of the pundits eyes, c'mon the added Raul Mondesi to the OF, surely they deserve not to win just for that?

RSN: lol - I agree, I appreciate that almost everyone says every year that the Braves fall out of first, but I do think that they look weaker this year - although I have them 2nd in the NL East, it wouldn't surprise me to see them 3rd, or shock horror, 4th! What about the Phillies - when they don’t succeed this year, they won't be able to use the Bowa excuse, what excuse will they use?

NYN: That Bowa spell a gypsy curse over the whole ball club, or that Rocky Balboa's latest comeback took away the fans or that Earth is round...I could go on, they just simply aren't good enough, I like it when teams just own up to this, still we have a new team this year, over in the capital, how do you fancy their chances?

RSN: in much the same way that I fancy cold cabbage - not much. I think it is a shame that a team moving to a new environment is being mismanaged in this way - MLB have had three years to find a new owner and a new city for the Expos and now that they have one part of the equation, there is no new owner to generate enthusiasm for the franchise. Crying shame - what about you, you don't fancy switching from the Yanks to the Nats?

NYN: I fancy it as much as watching Southampton win the Champions League. Going out and giving big contracts to Guzman and Castilla amongst others, how excited can you get?

RSN: It does stretch things - I thought people in areas of the Amazon jungle who have yet to meet Western civilization know that you can take the man out of Coor's Field, but.... you take away any value he has in the process. So in summing up who is your Divisional MVP / Cy Young and surprise player?

NYN: I am going to go with a Marlin 1, 2 punch with Miggy C and AJ Burnett taking honors and as for the surprise player, if Mondesi goes 10-10 I'll be stunned but I doubt you'll allow me to have him so I'll go for...Randy Wolf for a nice comeback year, where do you stand?

RSN: Nice choices - I will take Mets 1, 2, 3 - Beltran will live up to the hype, and the hype will be aided by the East Coast coverage that he will get, for the Cy Young I will go with Pedro - the combination of a nice pitcher's park, a pitcher to face in the #9 spot and his own pride will see him as the NL Cy Young, not just the divisions. As for the surprise player - I am going with Mike Piazza he will bounce back with no pressure to perform at 1b, and far less pressure to be the main producer in the lineup

NYN: I have to admit I love the Piazza pick, he could see some very nice pitches to hit this season and may well return to some real form. AL East tomorrow...should be quite a debate.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Bits n bobs from Yankee Land

Mike Mussina looked sharp in giving up just one (albeit very loud) run against the Devil Rays in his last outing of the spring. Josh Phlelps took him very deep but the Moose shrugged it off and kept the D'Rays off the scoreboard through his seven innings of work. Scott Kazmir took the ball for the D'Rays and looked like the stud prospect everyone knew he was, Kazmir for Victor Zambrano...oh dear.

Kevin Brown however sucked against the Tigers today and cited a bad back for his early departure after laboring through three innings of work. He threw just 49 pitches as he tuned up for the opening game of the Bartimore series and gave up four runs, he looks like he'll be a real hit or miss guy this season.

Alax Graman cleared waivers and will be assigned back to AAA Columbus. The highly touted LHP looked woeful in Spring Training and seemed to do his very best to make sure he didn't interest any watching scouts. He needs to sort himself out if he wants a gig at the big league level.

Jason Giambi looks set to DH in the home opener against the Red Sox on Sunday night, meaning that Ruben Sierra will not match-up against David Wells. Tino Martinez will start at 1st and the batting order is believed to look like this:


In 48 hours Randy Johnson will be throwing down his first pitch to Johnny Damon. We are about to play ball.

It's time for the ever so exciting AL Central

My apologies for not getting the AL Central preview up yesterday. I had some issues in my private life that seemed to reach a head last night and was therefore unable to conduct my interview with Neil. However the ever thoughtful Mr Hay has e-mailed me with a preview of that division this evening, so over to you Mr Hay...

Minnesota Twins: Well the Twins provided my introduction to the world of blogging thanks to Aaron Gleeman so I guess I should say nice things! To my shame, and to the detriment of my league position, I traded away Johan Santana in one of my fantasy leagues last year for… Ken Griffey Jr – I hear your laughter, just feel my pain. Just after I traded him Santana went on an incredible pitching run, piling up quality start after quality start. If 2005 Santana gets close to 2004 Santana, then the Twins have a strong foundation. But this team is not simply reliant on one pitcher, Radke was almost a warmly welcomed Red Sox, the bullpen was very strong, and on the hitting side the team has a slew of young names that will surely be impact hitters for a number of years to come – Mauer, Morneau, Ford chief among them. It then comes down to – is this team good enough to beat the AL East in the first and second round of the AL playoffs? As you would see from my season predictions, I think the answer is yes. I was at Yankee Stadium to see the Twins in Game 2 of the ALDS, and it was a game the Twins had the chances to, and should have won – it is tough sitting in Yankee Stadium, as a Sox fan, watching a non-Sox team appear to repeat the Sox’s mistakes. In a 2005 repeat, I think they have the team to beat both the Yankees, and Red Sox in 5/7 game series – though my belief on the Sox result is shaped by how poorly the Sox have performed recently in the Dome.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians showed last year that GM Mark Shapiro hadn’t been stockpiling talent in vain – there were a lot of impressive performances in that team. But given that the Indians were generally considered to be competing ahead of schedule, I do think that 2005 may see a slight regression from that level. They have added some interesting names – Aaron Boone coming back from injury and Kevin Millwood coming off a down year are nice pick-ups, but starting the season with CC on the DL can’t help.

Chicago White Sox: The Sox are in a funny place – from an outsiders perspective they really should be able to dominate the AL Central on an ongoing basis with the resources they should have, but don’t ever seem to do so. The 2005 experiment is the ‘need for speed’ – with the trade for Posednik a key example. The team’s MLB site states that Posednik was recruited to “get on base and score runs, forgetting about trying to do too much offensively” – the only problem is that getting on-base last year was an offensive challenge for Posednik - .313 isn’t really a great number for a lead-off man, and while 70 SB in 83 attempts is great when he is on-base, surely any team would rather he was standing at first a few more times to begin with?

Detroit Tigers: Well the Tigers rebounded fantastically from the almost historically awful 2003 season… and won 72 games. So a further 29 game improvement in 2005 makes a nonsense of my Twins prediction and sees them safely into the play-offs – that is how these statistic things work isn’t it? The Tigers have picked up some nice talent the last two off-seasons, but have been required to overpay to attract that talent. The future hopes of the franchise are probably better reflected in the ages of the starting rotation – clearly youth doesn’t necessarily mean talent or end-results, but in the Tigers case, patience with Bonderman, Robertson, Maroth and Ledezma may be the best hope.

Kansas City Royals: Opening Day Starter – Jose Lima – and with those five painful words, the hopes and fears of the Royals franchise rest? I tend to make a point of looking for the upside, so lets swiftly move from Lima (who is the baseball player I have been most intimate with – a Houston hotel elevator, July 2004…”which floor” – it doesn’t get much better) on to Zach Greinke. Greinke has been much heralded – in his 24 starts last season, his ERA of 3.97 was inflated by three rough starts – remove those and you drop that ERA by almost a full run (a selective approach, but removing his three best and three worst still reduces that ERA to 3.61). Most commentators note his excellent control and ability to phenomenally change speeds on pitches – some 30 mph between his fastest and slowest pitches – quite a combination!