2007 Balls-to-the-Wall Squad

As I watched Ryan Freel get absolutely owned by Norris Hopper in the outfield last night (by the way, how about showing some props to the Hopper family? Not only does the guy qualify for the “two last names” club, but two last names of well known awesome actors–Dennis Hopper who at any time could be drunk/high/coked out of his gord, and Chuck Norris, the undisputed hilarious martial arts star and TV pitchman–bravo Mr. and Mrs. Hopper) it got me thinking, if I were to make a team of guys who just played balls to the wall hard every game, every at bat and every pitch who would it consist of? The unfortunate thing is I actually have to think about this–in no other sport is there really the mail-it-in mentality so prevalent. Regardless, I give to you by position the Balls-to-the-Wall squad for 2007.

Starting Pitcher: Roger Clemens

Is he an ego maniac? Yes. Assclown? Yup. Do I love the theory he took steroids? Absolutely. Are there any other active pitchers who are as intense as him on the mound? Not many. This is a man who early in his career would put icy hot on his nuts to piss him off on the mound–for those of you scoring at home, on a scale of 1-10 that scores fucking awesome. Not only has this guy has the stuff to bring it everytime he’s evolved with each season–early on in his career he was full blown “The Rocket”–98mph gas, beastly splitter, and a breaking ball that he could pull out if he wanted to. As he grew older he became the smarter (and richer) Rocket–still had the fastball to trip into the mid-90’s but relied on his breaking stuff more, and honed all his pitches until they were fantastic. Now he’s back for another half a season, sharpening his stuff in the minors and you’d better believe his first start he’d be prepared to throw a fastball through anyone’s numbers.

First Base: Albert Pujols

I’ll put my stamp of approval on it now–Pujols is going to go down as one of the three best hitters of all time. The guy is sick on a level we didn’t know about, and he’s only like 24 years old. He’s going to get BETTER. Sure watching him run the bases makes me giggle on the inside but there are few hitters in the league like him. Dialed in on every pitch, every pitcher, Gold Glove first basemen, and an intimidation factor maybe 3 or 4 guys in the league carry (him, Howard, Ortiz, Bonds). What he single handedly did to Brad Lidge serves as a testament to his badass-ity.

Second Base: Chase Utley

Of course I’m a huge Phillies fan, but I dare anyone to question this pick. First of all, this guy is a baseball robot. His life revolves around it. He got married in late-January, and showed up a week early to training camp in Florida with the quote “I’m just really glad to be here”….ON VALENTINE’S DAY! If that doesn’t let your wife know she takes a back seat to baseball I don’t know what does. Stories of Chase hitting in the batting cages till his hands bled as a youth are well known. This is a guy who blames nobody but himself if he comes up short. Workout fanatic, baseball fanatic, and deserving man of a spot on the Balls-to-the-Wall Squad.

Shortstop: A usually big hustle position, we have a slew of possible candidates here. David Eckstein, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez are all very good and solid picks here. But I’m gonna have to go with Derek Jeter. Another guy I’m not too fond of but have mountains of respect for because he’s just so damn good. And getting better. Unbelievably athletic, all-the-time hustle that you’d want in a captain, and baseball sense you just can’t teach. A “real” Yankee? No…a “really” unbelievable player.

Third Base: I had to think long and hard about this one too. David Wright is a very logical choice, but seeing as he violates two of my rules to be on the Squad (must be literate and can’t have any prior arrests of statutory rape) he missed the cut. Therefore my choice is Akinori Iwamura of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, or as he was known in Japan “Japanese Lightning”. Iwamura is quickly becoming known as a player who’d rather commit on-field hari kari before dishonoring baseball. He’s hitting over .300 this year and is tearing up the basepaths–he’s been on the DL lately but not to worry, he’ll be back soon.

Left Field: Shane Victorino

When the Phillies wisely moved Bobby Abreu to the Yankees last year Shane Victorino was the man who stepped in at the outfield and took his place. Once utility outfielder but now a regular, he is becoming known league wide for his speed (tied for 2nd in the NL for steals), his defense (can track down balls at an alarming rate and has an absolute cannon of an arm), and intensity (runs over the catcher at any chance he possibly has) Victorino has quickly become a fan favorite in the blue collar Philadelphia. “Coked out Victorino” has become a new phrase in my vocabulary and with good reason…watch his face from the first inning to the last–always having fun, always going balls out and usually making noise in the game.

Centerfield: This is a tough one. A very tough one. Aaron Rowand, Jim Edmonds, Torii Hunter…all very worthy candidates. However I’m gonna have to go with Ryan Freel. He posesses a trait from all the above but puts it together in a young package and is only going to get better. Insanity of Rowand, glove of Edmonds, speed of Hunter. I think outfield walls actually fear this guy, because he sure doesn’t fear them. He’s been in the league only a handful of years but has quickly cemented himself as a team-first, who-cares-about-my-body type of outfielder with talent to match. Come to the Phillies.

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki.

God I love Ichiro. This guy is treated as a demi-god in Japan, and with good reason. Blazing speed, bullet-proof fundamentals, howitzer of an arm (does anybody try to take 3rd base on him anymore?), ridiculous hand-eye coordination, unbelievable hitter (think the contact hitting ability of Tony Gwynn but with the wheels of Ricky Henderson), and unparalelled baseball smarts. A ridiculous fitness freak, this man WILL play into his 40’s, there’s no doubt in my mind. Every one of his teammates also says the same thing about him–he could hit for power if he wanted to but he’d rather hit for average. Last year when he realized the Mariners were out of the race for the playoffs he started hitting home runs for the fans–I’m not making this up. This could be the most complete player who has EVER played baseball.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez

I’m a huge fan of this guy. His hustle level is about the same with A.J. Pierzynski, but seing how Pierzynski is a total shitbrick, the edge goes to Pudge. Ridiculously talented (fantastic hitter-lifetime .303), a natural leader (wherever he goes the team immediately gets better), awesome defensively (not many guys will run on him), and one of those guys who’s just a flat out winner. Five foot nine inches of intensity and baseball sense, Pudge brings the hustle and pain in every game day in and day out. I’d kill to have this guy on my team.

Manager: Ozzie Guillen

This guy is the best. If you don’t get excited everytime you hear a sentence that starts with “Today Ozzie Guillen said” you’re probably not a fan of humor, or baseball. He apologizes to nobody, expects everything that his players have and accepts nothing less. An old-school hardass who you know in the clubhouse calls out anybody who dogs it on the field. Not an ounce of political correctness or restraint, and I love it. Ozzie come manage my team.

And there you have it, the Balls-to-the-Wall Squad for 2007. Check back in next week when we go over the Ass-Dragging squad of 2007. Till then, hooooray baseball.

The bat

Alright Philadelphia, you want moves? I got moves.

This is my quick fix solution for the Philadelphia. Stand up, step back, read and enjoy.

1)Acquire Troy Glaus. Lets face it, Toronto is preparing themselves for fire sale mode. To me, this will be the biggest hurdle to overcome (but with Gillicks close ties in Toronto it could be possible). Philadelphia has recently signed Wes Helms and committed him to be the 3b starter. Only one problem–they need power from the hot corner but aren’t getting it. You can do one of two things here-1) Deal Rowand or Helms plus prospects to the Jays or 2) just highly regarded prospects. I’d prefer to get rid of Helms; he’s a decent player but doesn’t bring the kind of clout Philly is looking for. I’d also explore dealing Madson.

2)Trade Pat Burrell. He’s healthy this year and proving he can be a power asset to a squad. This would probably be easier than one might think–he’s a streaky hitter yes but he’ll get his HR’s and RBI’s as well. Deal him for prospects, picks, whatever. As long as he and his salary are gone.

3)Sign Ichiro to a 5 year 80 million dollar deal. Time to break the piggy bank Phillies management. You see that team running away with the division? That’s the New York Mets, and they’re not exactly pinching pennies. Pay to play.

4)Sign Man-Child to a long term deal, worth roughly 18 mil a year. 6 for 110-115 sounds about right.

5)Overpay for some bullpen help. I don’t care who or what, we need it. Drop roughly 15 mil on the bullpen. That should equate to at least two solid arms.

Now, you want defense? How about an outfield of Ichiro-Rowand-Victorino. Want power? The middle of your lineup consists of Utley-Man Child-Glaus-Rollins. Want speed? Ichiro(40 steals)-Victorino(40 steals, seriously)-Rollins(20 steals). Starting pitching? Hamels-Garcia-Moyer-Eaton-Lieber/Myers. Relief? That’s where the FA signings come in. You’re looking at spending 120 mil on a lineup that would make any team wet its pants.

On a sidenote, I’d like to remind everybody to pray for a meteor to strike Shea Stadium this weekend. All for now,

The Bat

MLB Stock Report

I’m sure you’ve seen this gimmick before; sports website has rising and lowering stocks of teams/players/situations/whatever the hell they want. Well strap in because it’s happening again.

Milwaukee Brewers: UP

Not much respect was giving to the NL central at the beginning of the year (even though the reigning World Series champs were there, lollercoster). However the Brewers have proven they’re a team worth considering for a late season spoiler. They go four strong in the rotation with Suppan, Sheets, Capuano, and Dave Bush. Francisco Cordero has come out of absolutely nowhere to lead the league in saves. They have a plethora of raw young talent in Prince Fielder, Bill Hall, Rickie Weekes, JJ Hardy and Tony Gwynn Jr.

Toronto Blue Jays: DOWN

Yikes. You gotta feel for this squad because as far as opening day teams go, you had to think they were going to make some noise. However losing your ace (Halladay) big money closer (Ryan) having a banged up 3b hammer (Glaus) and some underperformers equal a season going down the crapper. Only mid-May and fire sale talks are already starting (Pat Gillick, take notice).

Roger Clemens bank account: RIDICULOUSLY UP

Alright…we all knew it was coming. I can usually gauge deals and contracts pretty well before they happen–I was exactly on the dot for Carlos Lee’s contract, very close to Soriano’s (I said 125), and even predicted Gil Meche’s contract (just kidding, no way in hell anybody could’ve guessed that). So when I was on vacation in Myrtle Beach this past weekend and my buddy told me Clemens had been signed, I told him it would go for 15-20 million, max 22. When it came through it would be pro-rated at 28 million…I just laughed. The Yankees are that stupid. Figure this…Clemens will be coming back in roughly mid to late June. Figure he plays the entire season…and the Yankees are paying him 40-45 million dollars. Just stop what you’re doing and think about that for a few minutes.

Reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard: DOWN

From pre-season it didn’t look good. Not going the opposite way, being over-aggressive at the plate, looking like he put on a few extra pounds in the off season. We all figured he just needed 10 games to gain his old form. 10 turned to 15, which turned to 20, which turned to 30, which turned to the DL. Comparing him to Ricky Vaughn from Major League 2 has become somewhat of a hobby for me. Hero last year, then all the press and endosements go his way–loses track of his conditiong and hitting. Season starts and suddenly he’s at the Mendoza line and can’t go the other way (his bread and butter last year). If Howard starts naming his swings when he gets back…we’re in serious trouble. The only possible good thing about Howard being injured is Coste being called up. F’n A Cotton, F’n A.

High Profile Pitcher Injuries: UP

Roy Halladay, King Felix, Chris Carpenter, BJ Ryan, Eric Gagne, Joel Zumaya (tear), Tom Gordon, Bob Wickman, Rich Haren, Jason Schmidt, El Duque…I mean sheesh.

Charlie Manuel’s Chromosome Count: WAY UP

My Baseball picks: UP

While on vacation in Myrtle Beach, while you could measure my BAC more accurately with a Richter Scale than a breathalyzer, I hit 18 out of 22 picks. My calling in life is apparent to me now–become an alcholic baseball bookie and live a lavish lifestyle.

SportsCenter’s new layout: DOWN

We don’t need a column of which stories are coming up in the coming minutes-the new SportsCenter layout is someone with ADD’s worst nightmare (or wet dream?). They’ve already got the bottom line there to momentarily take away my attention. What’s next? Stories they recently covered scrolling along the top and ones they’re thinking of covering next week on the left, to the point where the only real part of the screen we can see is Stephen A. Smith’s mouth construing every issue in sports into an race-related topic? SC-Less is more.

Baseball tonight: UP

Brings it everynight. Sure a team of monkeys could scroll through game highlights and I’d still love it, but the team with which they work is a great panel. Karl Ravich does an admirable job as the head-honcho anchor, handling all the appropriate announcing duties. John Kruk does a great job breaking down the game in many aspects, all with a great sense of humor. Peter Gammons continues his long reign of baseball supremecy providing outstanding insight and more baseball inside information that few can produce. Their special guest hosts are unmatched; Orel Hershiser can be found at least once or twice a week on the show, Tony Gwynn stops by every once in a while. Fernando Vina is a very smart and intelligent person, but just not cut out for TV (but its fun to watch him try). Chris Young strengthens the old addage that alot of baseball players aren’t articulate (hearing him call Chien Ming Wong “Ching Wing” has been the highlight of the year).

That’s all I got for now.