ESPN analysts take the coward’s way out

espn predictions

The only guy taking the Phillies is the fantasy guy from Philly? if this were the Spanish Civil War, Stark and Crasnick would be lined up against a wall and shot.

In any event, I’m looking forward to comparing this screenshot to the end result. These predictions have a convenient habit of disappearing from the homepage when things don’t work out according to plan.

ozziecanseco says: Phillies in 7.

i asked, chase answered

phillies beatwriter todd zolecki recently invited his blog-readers to submit questions for his sitdown Q&A with chase utley. yours truly submitted a question. not only did zolecki choose my question, it was his favorite

Question: There are two cages over a pit of lava and both are descending. In one cage there are blueprints for revolutionary emissions-free technology. In the other is Shane Victorino. You can only save one. Which one do you save? – Greg G., Washington, DC.
Answer: OK … I’m going to have to save my centerfielder. I’m saving my centerfielder, yes. I have his back. Hopefully he’d do the same for me.

The look on Utley’s face when I asked that question was priceless. If he thought I was crazy before, he certainly thinks so today. But give the guy credit, he rolled with the punches and answered the questions well.

the full transcript of the Q&A is here. audio is here.

seems that zolecki and utley both got a kick out of the question. makes me wonder if i should have sent them my follow-ups:

in all seriousness, i have victorino tied up in my basement. what are you prepared to do to get him back?

also, why won’t your sister accept my facebook friend requests?

i think i made the right decision.

***

note: this post also appears on my personal blog, beisbol, etc. check it out.

Ozzie’s Opening Day Notes (Also Hooray!)

It’s official: the 2007 baseball season is underway. Since I spent all of yesterday at my desk in work three miles from the nearest major league park, I really didn’t get to experience it as fully as I would’ve liked. Did catch the Mets-Cards the night before though, as well as bits and pieces of other games thanks to my mlb.com radio account. A few thoughts to kick off the season:

As it stands, do no trust the Phillies bullpen to hold a close lead or tie for its starters.

Phillies reliever Ryan Madson dropped his curveball this spring in favor of a slider, which he claims to be much more comfortable with. Unfortunately for Madson and Phillies fans (myself included), Edgar Renteria appeared comfortable with it too – the Braves shortstop took a 2-2 hanging slider from Madson and dropped it over the right field wall of Citizens Bank Park in the tenth inning of yesterday’s game, sending the Braves ahead 5 to 3. The Phillies, in case you missed it, did not come back.

Somehow, some way, I convinced myself going into the season that Madson, Geary, Gordon, and a handful of other unproven, less-than-dominating arms in the pen would suffice, at least until the trade deadline when quality relief will start to be shopped. Now, I know that part of me was just living in denial of just how thin the Phillies bullpen actually is. But another part genuinely believed that seven to eight innings of well-pitched ball from the front end of Philly’s rotation would cancel out the bullpen’s question marks over the course of the season, despite what the critics said. Yesterday’s game has me thinking otherwise. The Phillies simply cannot count on the bullpen, as it is, to nail down tight games. At all. Ever. And if Gordon is lost to the DL, which, given his age and soreness issues this offseason, is a real possibility, the Phils might again find themselves in a hole they can’t dig themselves out of early on. Following from that…

Quality relief is rarer than sabermetrics makes it out to be.

Can you imagine plugging Ryan Madson and his slider into the closer’s role in Philadelphia, or anywhere for that matter? He’s not going to spit out 40 saves. Closers don’t grow on trees. They just don’t.

Dear God, if you’re reading this, please don’t let Tom Gordon’s arm fall off.

Tom Glavine will be effective this year, as always.

Glavine did not dominate the Cardinals’ lineup Sunday night, but he pitched well. Very well, in fact. Watching Glavine go 3-0 on Pujols only to work back to 3-2 with two low-and-outside-changeups, then getting Pujols to fly out on a third low-and-away changeup was, in a word, satisfying. It was a High Fidelity outing – “It wasn’t boring. But it wasn’t spectacular either. It was just… Good. Very good.” – the kind Glavine has been turning in routinely now for the past few years. Glavine has his game-plan and sticks to it, which, even as a Phillies fan, I admire. The process is never electric and the results tend not to be spectacular, but the statistics, especially that 291 Wins, speak for themselves. He’ll be on the cusp of 300 by the All-Star break.

Joe Morgan will provide banal and incoherent commentary, as always.

I forgot how mind-numbingly incoherent Joe Morgan’s ramblings are, especially about statistics in baseball. Then Sunday night happened.

Don’t draft players from your real-life favorite team’s division rivals for your fantasy league roster.

I’m a Phillies fan that drafted Bob Wickman, Tim Hudson, Jose Reyes, and, as you might have guessed, Glavine. What am I thinking? Wickman didn’t close yesterday afternoon, but he did pitch, and fairly well. How am I supposed to feel about that? How should I feel if he comes in to close tomorrow night? This is my first season doing fantasy. How do other people handle these conflicts of interest? Please, counsel me. The schedule tells me I have 25 to 30 games just like this ahead of me. My heart may very well explode.

Know how the scoring system for your fantasy league works before the season starts.

It doesn’t do much good to have Todd Helton and J.D. Drew in your lineup if you’re not scoring points for walks or OBP. Thanks a lot, Bob. You turd.

I live in the worst market in all of major league baseball.

Washington, DC, ladies and gentleman! We’re looking at a possible 200 losses between the Nats and Orioles. The sad part is I’m only half-joking.

Cocaine for Nerds

Fantasy baseball: to call it a cultural phenomenon would be a gross understatement. With an estimated 16 million participants in 2007, it is one of the top recreational activities in America. More Americans, in fact, play fantasy sports than do yoga. College kids play it. Investment bankers play it. I recently learned that Rush frontman/bassist Geddy Lee plays it, which, if you know Rush, is about as surprising as finding out Kate Moss does coke. So there you have it… fantasy baseball: cocaine for nerds.

I want to let you in on a secret: until last Saturday, I’d never tried fantasy baseball before. Ever. And now, like Geddy Lee, I’m hooked. Thanks to my former college roommate and good friend, whom we will call Bob, I’ve been brought into the fold. Actually, Bob has brought the whole of allswingsconsidered into the fold with his espn.com Roto-league. If you’d like to follow the action, check out our league, the Ugueth Urbina Liberation Front, here. ASC is fielding four teams: Moonlight Graham’s South Jersey Koufaxtion, Costesflamingbat’s Somerville NJ roflstompers, my own Sons of Abramoff, and Thaddeus Ballpheasant’s aptly titled Thaddeus Ballpheasants. No doubt, we face, erm, stiff competition from the likes of Jihad Pen15’s Wild Ride (ESPN is apparently cool with the use of jihad but not with penis) and others, but I like our chances.

Top moment in league action, so far: Bob, owner of the Seattle Ozzie-Ballers, flips Grady Sizemore to Jihad Pen15’s Wild Ride for, get this, Felipe Lopez. Yes, Felipe Lopez of the Washington Nationals. For Grady “the future best centerfielder in baseball” Sizemore. This move was so incomprehensible that not even Bob himself could rationalize it over gmail chat…

Bob: I was pressured
people said things
more like joe said, I need an outfielder
and then I approved the trade before realizing what happened

Congratulations, Bob, we haven’t even started the season yet and you are already a mortal lock for the Bill Bavasi Award for Excellence in Fantasy General Management. The best part is everyone in the league is now throwing out preposterous trade offers to Bob, seeing if he’ll bite. “God, I make one stupid trade and everyone smells blood in the water.” Yep.

Stay tuned for more updates on our fantasy league. Oh, And for updates on that other real baseball league too.

Allswingsconsidered 2.0

Dear loyal readers,

You may have noticed that, as of late, there has been little new content at allswingsconsidered. Actually, there has been NO new content in the last three weeks.

I am writing on behalf of the ASC staff, all three of us that is, to apologize to you. Like Jason Giambi, we feel as if we’ve let you, the media, and our fans down. We know you’d like to know more, but because of pressing legal matters, we can’t get into specifics at this time. Some day, we hope to be able to. But for now, let’s just say we’re not here to talk about the past.

Just know this: Opening Day 2007 is less than a week away and there will be plenty of posts between now and then. Expect in-depth analysis. Expect a new-and-improved news section. Expect an updated Ugueth Urbina Liberation Front. Expect comprehensive drug-testing. Well, maybe not comprehensive drug-testing.

From now on, our mission is to bring you deliciously fresh baseball content every day. Impossible, you say? A lot of people said that a Jason Giambi comeback was impossible. I think we all know how that story turned out.

I guess what I am trying to say is, from this day forward, allswingsconsidered will stop at nothing to be the best at what it does. Even if that means injecting ourselves with the undectectable Human Growth Hormone and pretending to eek out an honest living as First Baseman/Designated Hitter for the New York Yankees.

Affectionately Yours,

ozziecanseco

This Just In: Yadier Molina is a Craphead

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is refusing to part with the ball that struck out the final Tigers batter in the World Series, despite the fact that he promised to give it to Adam Wainwright, the pitcher who delivered the final strike.

From espn.com:

“He [Wainwright] was trying to get that ball from me, I know,” Molina told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Tuesday’s edition. “He deserves it. He does. But that’s the one thing I have from a long season. I hit .216. It was a tough year. I didn’t earn much else, but I have that ball. That’s my reward.”

Let’s break down the Molina line of reasoning piece by piece. Maybe then it will make more sense.

Molina concedes that Wainwright deserves to have the ball.

So why not give it to him?

Because Molina had an atrociously bad season at the plate and therefore deserves a reward.

Okay, I still don’t follow. I can only conclude that one of the following must be true:
1. Like Pujols’ comments about Ryan Howard winning the MVP, this English-language translation went horribly awry and Molina actually plans to give the ball to Wainwright.
2. Molina is feeble-minded, like, Flowers for Algernon feeble-minded, in which case it’s best just to let him keep it.
3. Molina was accurately quoted and is just a total craphead.

My gut says total craphead, as does the smug look on Molina’s face in his player card.

***
Been sick for a solid five days now, but a long post is coming soon. In the meantime, here are a few random thoughts to ponder:

Conventional wisdom dictates that, short of a god-like season, starting pitchers do not deserve MVP consideration because they only play in thirty to thirty-five games per season and thus are less valuable to their club than position players that play nearly every game. Why then, did clubs jump at the chance to throw 10 million dollars a year plus at mediocre pitchers like Ted Lilly and Gil Meche but paid-out less, substantially less in some cases, to All-Star calibur position players (see: Joe Mauer)? What does this say about “value” in baseball?

There hasn’t been a great two-sport athlete since Bo Jackson, or even a passably good one since Deion Sanders. Suppose there was one playing today. Suppose he was really, really good. Then suppose that it was discovered that he was a steroid-user. How would Americans react? That the NFL and its athletes gets a free pass from the press and public on performance-enhancing drugs while baseball players these days find themselves guilty until proven innocent is a disgrace. I have no idea how such a situation would play out, but I pray for one like it. Maybe then, we would all start to realize just how hypocritical the way we deal with steroid use in this country is.

Rumors of a Scott Linebrink for Aaron Rowand deal have died down in recent weeks, but I got to wondering: How does Mike Cameron feel about the prospect of playing alongside a guy like Aaron Rowand, a man known for smashing his face and running into teammates while in pursuit of flyballs? Cameron has to be thinking, “I am the unluckiest man in the world.” My advice to Mike: invest in one of those Richard Hamilton facemasks now, just in case. You can never be too safe.

Three Questions Worth Caring About Heading into 2007

Will Roger Clemens pitch again? Will Barry Bonds eclipse Hank Aaron in all-time homeruns or will he be indicted before he gets the chance? Will Matsuzaka and his gyroball live up to the hype? These are, without a doubt, the most talked-about questions of the offseason. But honestly, is there a single person out there that gives two shits about baseball and wants to hear anymore about Clemens, Bonds, or Matsuzaka? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited as any other shmo for the MLB debut of the Demon Miracle Pitch. But can we please slap a two-month moratorium on all questions relating to these three? Pretty please?

With pitchers and catchers reporting to camp in a little more than two weeks, here are, in no particular order, three genuinely intriguing questions to ponder as the 2007 offseason draws to a close:

1. What are the Devil Rays going to do with all that young talent in the outfield?

Carl Crawford: 25 years old

Rocco Baldelli: 25 years old

Delmon Young: 21 years old

Elijah Dukes: 22 years old

Count ‘em. Tampa Bay has four very cheap, very talented, very young outfielders. Wait, did I mention Jonny Gomes and B.J. Upton? Because they’re pretty good too and might find their way out to the outfield for the Rays this season.

Tampa has a surplus of young talent in the outfield. Both Jerry Crasnick and Buster Olney (baseball gods before whom this penitent man kneels KNEEELS) addressed this recently, but I couldn’t resist taking it on myself. How could I? We’re talking the D’Rays here!

In all seriousness, this is a fascinating situation. The Rays are in desperate need of pitching. Tampa “ace” Scott Kazmir has yet to recover from shoulder and elbow injuries incurred last season. According to espn.com, Kazmir was throwing at just eighty percent velocity in a bullpen session as of four days ago. Behind Kazmir, the Rays’ opening day rotation looks like this: Casey Fossum, James Shields, Jae Seo, TBA. Never heard of any of them? You wouldn’t be the first. If you have, then you know they’re not exactly Cy Young material (Casey Fossum, James Shields and Jae Seo, listen up: if any of you wins the Cy Young this year, I will print out this blog, eat it, and kneel before your Alexandrettan death wheel too).

Lackluster starting pitching. Tons and tons of outfielders. Smell a trade? Olney and Crasnick do. Busta Bus thinks the Rays might ship Baldelli for a young hurler, which would make a lot of sense. Although he’s cheap and essentially locked up until 2011 with club options, Baldelli has been plagued by knee and elbow issues as of late. Because of his affordability and in spite of his injury issues, his trade value remains high, as does interest in him. Crasnick agrees on Baldelli, but while Olney foresees a possible deal with the Red Sox, Crasnick is thinking the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley or the Angels’ Ervin Santana.

The likelihood of the Rays moving Baldelli or another of their outfielders strikes me (and Olney) as relatively low. After all, what’s the point in trading away one of your affordable rising stars for pitching help when you still have to compete against Goliath (New York), Goliath II (Boston) and Goliath Lite (Toronto) in 2007. Still, if a deal does go through, it deserves attention; Baldelli, Crawford, Young, and Dukes are four of the best young position players in the game, and stand to make an impact on any team they might be traded to.

Moving on…

2. What exactly is Kenny Williams up to in Chicago?

First, he dumps Freddy Garcia for Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzales. Now I’m not exactly the biggest Gavin Floyd fan, but I see the logic of the move. It creates flexibility in the payroll, opens up a spot in the rotation for the up-and-coming Brandon McCarthy, and, assuming you can get into Floyd’s head and turn him around, provides you with a potentially solid starter for the not-so-distant future (not to mention Gonzales, a surer bet, in the slightly-more-distant future).

Then, he trades away McCarthy. Alright… McCarthy gave up a lot of homeruns last season–his first real season in the majors, by the way–and the Cell isn’t going to get any bigger. In return, the Pale Hose get John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner–three young pitching prospects that use their sinkers and power-arms to keep the ball on the ground or out of play. Okay, I see the logic of this one too, even though I don’t agree with it.

The moves Kenny Williams is making this offseason aren’t crazy, or dumb, but they are unorthodox, especially when compared to the free agent-splurging of clubs like the Giants, BoSox, and that other team in Chicago this winter. From the trades he’s been making to the words coming out of his mouth, it is clear that Kenny’s number one priority is to ensure that the Sox can compete in years to come. But will they be able to compete this season?

Moving on…

3. Ichiro (?)

An Unrestricted Free Agent come October, it is very, very possible that 2007 will be Ichiro’s last season as a Seattle Mariner. The M’s have yet to work out a contract extension with their all-star right fielder, and the likelihood of his departure at season’s end (or even sooner) only grows with each passing week.

My guess is that the M’s will ultimately make a competitive offer to Ichiro sometime before the trade deadline. The real question is, will Ichiro accept?

Ichiro has openly expressed dissatisfaction (albeit tempered, ever-respectful Ichiro dissatisfaction) with the management and general management of the organization and with the work ethic of his teammates in recent years, something he never did in his first four seasons in Seattle. The Mariners have finished at the bottom of the heap in the AL West three consecutive seasons now, avoiding a third consecutive season of 90-or-more losses by just six games. Given the moves–and by moves, I mean missteps–made by GM Bill Bavasi this offseason (more on this below), it’s hard to believe the M’s will be any better in 2007, much less 2008 or 2009. It’s also hard to believe that a player as driven as Ichiro isn’t seriously considering cutting ties and moving on to a more competitive club.

Let’s also not forget that Ichiro’s future, at least for the time being, is in the hands of the worst, most incompetent major league GM in Bavasi. In terms of totally boning over his organization in the short and the long term, he’s only about a half step behind Isaiah Thomas and the Knicks. This is the man who is doling out a combined $27 million dollars in 2007–nearly a third of the M’s payroll–to Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre.* This is the man who traded away a young power-arm in Emiliano Fruto who could have been a role-player in the bullpen this season and another prospect for the privilege of watching Jose Vidro’s kneecaps disintegrate over the course of the next two seasons. And guess what, Mariners fans? He’s paying near-full admission–13.5 million of your baseball team’s dollars over the next two years–to the disappearing knee show! This is the man who is going to give Jeff Weaver 8 million plus just to pitch like Jeff Weaver (in case you forgot just how bad he is, please see my esteemed colleague Mike’s column). The point is this: if there is a way to screw up the Ichiro deal and make his own organization worse in the process, Bavasi will sniff it out and make it a reality. And rest assured, failing to re-sign Ichiro (assuming it’s not A-Rod money or years) will make the Mariners worse.

The best part is that Bavasi has said he’s not even in that much of a hurry to address Ichiro’s situation. “It’s a top priority,” said Bavasi, “but the timing is not that important.”

Honestly, if you were Ichiro, what would you do?

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens with Ichiro. And in Chicago. And in Tampa’s outfield.

Stay tuned.

 

*Food for thought, Phillies fans: Pat Burrell was paid $9.75 million to hit .258, slug .502, and get on base .388 in 2006. In 2006, Beltre was paid $12.9 mil to hit .268, slug .465, and get on base .328. And he’s under contract through 2009! Life ain’t so bad, right?

 

 

 

Unrelated Note: Was reading a Gammons (third and final baseball god in the Holy Trinity) column on espn today when I noticed this tidbit in his bio:

A gifted musician, Gammons’ debut CD, “Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old” was released on Rounder Records. With the assistance of a crack band of Boston rockers, Gammons trades in his typewriter for a Stratocaster and delivers a rousing set of vintage classics, originals, and rock obscurities — all to benefit Theo and Paul Epstein’s Foundation to be Named Later, a charity which raises funds and awareness for non-profit agencies serving disadvantaged youth in the Greater Boston area.

“Gammons’ vocals and guitar are featured, along with guests such as Theo Epstein, Juliana Hatfield, George Thorogood, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, Kay Hanley, and an all-star chorus consisting of Red Sox players Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, Trot Nixon, Lenny DiNardo and Tim Wakefield, former Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo, and NESN broadcaster Don Orsillo. Get more information from Rounder Records.”

What??? This album actually exists! Check it out here. Kevin Youkilis, Theo Epstein and George Thorogood guesting on a Peter Gammons rock record. Words… can’t… even describe… so sooo happy. And bewildered.