Sports Outside the Beltway

One Month In – The April Baseball Update

On field performances took a backseat in the final weekend of major league baseball’s first month. The untimely death of Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock cast a pall over a rather extraordinary month of early season baseball. Cardinal fan Wil Leitch of the site Deadspin offered a touching remembrance of Josh, which captures the relationship that fans have to the men who play the games they love.

The relationship that we, as fans, have with the athletes we follow is as genuine as it is bizarre. Not a single day has gone by since Opening Day 2006, when Hancock first appeared on the Cardinals’ roster, that he has not been on our mental radar. We cheered him, we cursed him, we forgot about him, we repeated the process; he occupied a real place in our lives. We did not know him, and we were not particularly curious to do so; if he got batters out, he made us happy, and that was enough. His sudden departure — shocking, horrible, insane — makes us feel as if we have lost something that we never realized we had. We want to go back and cheer harder for him, forgive his mistakes more easily … treat him as human in a way we never did as a mere fan. He shifts from middle reliever to human being only in death; this can drive a fan mad with guilt and confusion.

But we did not know him. Many did, in far more depth than our parents’ fleeting encounter 10 days ago. To those, he was never a middle reliever. He was just Josh, quiet, friendly, reserved, living the contradictory life of a Major League Baseball player who toils in relative anonymity. We cannot pretend to have known him, or to understand the anguish of those who did. We can only know that we have lost something small but real, and hope and pray that those who lost more than that can find some sort of peace.

I encourage you to read the rest.

Returning to the exploits on the field, Mark Buehrle and Troy Tulowitzki both joined very exclusive baseball fraternities. Buehrle hurled the 16th no hitter in White Sox history.

Mark Buehrle became the first White Sox pitcher since Joe Horlen in 1967 to throw a no-hitter at home, and the first in USCF [US Cellular Field] history. He was tantalizingly close to pitching the 18th perfect game in major league history. A 5th inning walk to Sammy Sosa was the lone blemish on Buehrle’s pitching line, and he would erase the baserunner two pitches later by picking Sosa off of first base.

Tulowitzki turned the first unassisted triple play since Rafael Furcal nabbed a line drive touched second and then caught the runner retreating to first base. Only the thirteenth such play in the 107 seasons since 1901, but the fifth since 1992. David Pinto has the details, plus a the link to the list of all 13 unassisted triple plays.

Troy Tulowitzki turns the rare unassisted triple play against Atlanta. His play prevented Atlanta from scoring in four straight innings, and the Braves ended up losing in eleven frames 9-7.

Baseball’s leaderboard at the one months mark has a few surprises. The Brewers, a fashionable spring training pick to win their division are proving to be fashionable, leading the six team division, with the defending World Series Champion Cardinals five and a half games off the pace tied with Houston and the Cubs in the cellar. In second place the Pirates, even with Adam LaRoche and his abysmal batting average. Cincinnati can’t decide who they want to be, contender or pretender. Check back in a month and they may still be a game under .500, and still vacillating on competing.

The new-look Diamondbacks are pacing the field, in the NL West, a division that only two seasons ago almost didn’t have a team over .500. This year only the Rockies have won fewer than they lost. The Dodgers, Giants and Padres are all chasing the youthful leaders.

Atlanta is enjoying a revival in the NL East, with the Mets keeping pace with them. Florida and Philly are off the pace, but both have enough talent to make a run. The Nationals are as bad as advertised, illustrating that just because a team plays in RFK doe snot mean that baseball has returned to the Nation’s Capital.

In the junior circuit, The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, USA, Earth, have won eight of their last ten to sit atop the heap in the West. Oakland’s solid rotation and regular second half dashes keep hopes up in the other city by the bay. Seattle’s collection of aging-veteran-has-beens and youthful rushed-to-the-majors-never-will-bes are keeping Ichiro company in what might be his last season in Seattle. Texas rounds out the field in what may be the weakest division in baseball.

The Central by contrast looks to be the strongest. Kansas City is scuffling, again, for what the fifteenth straight year? Meanwhile Cleveland has gotten off to a good start, showing the promise of the team that nearly hunted down the White Sox in 2005. The Twins and Tigers, last season’s central division post season participants are both a game and a half back. The White Sox are a game further behind. The ChiSox have to worry about the slimness of their run differential at this point. At one game over .500, their record is a little better than it should be with a 95-97 run scored versus runs allowed ratio. And remember Buehrle’s no-no night also feature multiple homeruns from Jim Thome (now on the DL) and a grand slam from Jermaine Dye.

Finally, baseball’s overhyped division, the American League East. The Red Sox are off to a hot start, behind a very stingy pitching staff. Their combination of good pitching and acceptable hitting has them ahead of the Blue Jays, Orioles and Devil Rays, oh and the last place Yankees. With the talent that New York has, they are unlikely to remain cellar dwellers for long, but the potential Vesuvius that is George Steinbrenner has let it be known the play of the Yankees to date has been unacceptable. Heads may roll in New York, which would spell the definitive end of the calm years of Yankee success that began in 1995 and produced the great Championship teams of the late 90′s. Teams, that featured homegrown stars and complementary role players and unlike the current Yankee incarnation did not have the bloated payroll, and aging all stars at every position.

May begins with a full slate of games tonight. And baseball’s season continues forward.


What’s baseball got to do with it?

via BallBug

Forbes has an article about the Business of Baseball. Given that Forbes is a business magazine not a sports magazine its list of baseball 10 best general managers will be the subject of some debate.

Being an Orioles’ fan, I hardly think that Mike Flanagan (#10 according to Forbes) deserves to be anywhere near the top of this list (yet.) He works for a difficult owner and as a fan I haven’t seen a good product for an entire year during his tenure. If this year turns out well, as it appears it might right now, there’s still little hope for long term success here. The Orioles have one of the weaker farm systems in MLB and the team isn’t especially young. (Overall that is. There’s Markakis, Cabrera, Loewen and Ray, but most everyone else of significance is 28 and up.) Success this year isn’t likely to extend more than two years unless the team’s scouting improves drastically.

I realize that this ranking is primarily from a business not a baseball standpoint, that’s why stathead favorite GM’s without much success (so far) like Mark Shapiro and Doug Melvin don’t rank. (Forbes does have metrics for evaluating them, but success on the field isn’t necessarily one of them.) Still how can Mike Flanagan make the list but not the likes of Kenny Williams, Brian Cashman, Bill Stoneman or even Tim Purpura whose teams have been in the World Series in recent years. Or Kevin Towers and Terry Ryan whose teams have made the playoffs?

And how does John Schuerholz rank below Brian Sabean or Pat Gillick?

Shouldn’t baseball have something to do with it?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


From Relief pitcher to Horse trainer

That sums up former MLB Pitcher Dan Plesac.

Dan Plesac has turned his lifelong dream into reality. The one-time major league All-Star relief pitcher has made harness racing his new passion after retiring from 18 seasons of playing professional baseball.

“Harness racing has been a love of mine since I was old enough to walk,” Plesac said. “This is what I’ve really wanted to do my entire life.”

Retired in 2004, Plesac, a youthful 45, has turned his hobby into a full-time profession. His Three Up Three Down farm, located in Crown Point, has produced 12 winners who have earned $37,408 under Plesac’s watchful eye. Plesac’s Major League Baseball career started in 1986 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a three-time all-star and finished his career ranked fourth for the most pitching appearances in baseball history with 1,064 games.

“I always hoped to have a career that would lead me to be secure enough to train and have my own horses,” Plesac said. “Training horses is a very difficult job. I just want to start at the bottom and get a feel for what I need to do.”

Plesac’s 40-acre, Hoosier State facility includes a six-stall barn and a half-mile training track.

Plesac’s family — mainly his father Joseph Sr., and his brother, Joseph Jr. — have been involved with harness horses for four decades. The family’s first horse, Baby Hoey, was born in 1968 and earned nearly $100,000 during his career.

In April of 2004, Plesac scored his first training victory when his filly Holistic Hanover won. Plesac also had owned the filly’s sire, Ball And Chain.

“To win a race with a horse that I bought, who was sired by a horse that I owned, was just the greatest thrill imaginable,” Plesac said. “That was very special for me and I was more nervous before the race than I ever was when I was pitching.”

In 1972, I remember watching for the first time one of my father’s horses winning a race. In July of that year I watched Charlie Zam win at Brandywine Raceway in Deleware and Fast Clip at Sportsman’s Park in Chicago. After the race, the winner and its owners have their photos taken. I still have one of those photos somewhere around the house. It’s fun to watch your own horse win.

When I attended the races, I saw or met quite a few people from other sports.(Gordie Howe, Richie Allen, Ron Swaboda to name three) Mostly gamblers, but a few owned race horses too. Good luck to Dan with his new career.


Brewers have two spots open

I do find it remarkably comforting to see the participants in what appears to be the last two spots on the Crew’s 25 man roster. The battles appear to be between Tony Gwynn Jr. and Vinny Rottino for the final position player spot, and Jose Capellan and Greg Aquino for the last spot in the bullpen, assuming there are not any trades or waiver pickups…and with 5 empty spots on the 40 man, I expect to see a couple players claimed, though they may well be Marino Salas types, not major league ready.

If you take a glance at Rotoworld, or other similar sites, you’ll see names mentioned for the 5th starter, and even starting spots that are, to be kind, weak. As long as it is true that both Aquino and Capellan have options left, regardless of who makes the team, they will have the loser of that battle and Dennis Sarfate at AAA Nashville, two players that would probably have made the 25 man roster of over half the teams in the bigs, and probably two of the hardest throwers in AAA that can actually find the plate. My only fear is that Jose is not at full strength and hiding an injury of some sort, suffered in winter ball, as he’s not even been hitting 90.

On the same line of thinking, I think Tony will hit the majors and stay next year, but would prefer he spend ’07 getting 500 PA’s and hopefully, dominating the AAA level, making him at least a platoon option in CF for someone. I do think his overall package is tempting (though as Robert often points out, the 25th man makes little difference), as he would be used as a PR, early innings PH, leadoff PH late, and possible defensive replacement (probably just for Kevin Mench). Rottino is a nice utility guy, as he’s played all 8 spots off the mound, and is decent at 5 of them (all but 2B, SS, CF). He is a nice 3rd catcher, if you’d like to use Johnny Estrada as a PH when Damian Miller is catching, or use a PR for one of them. He’s also a RH bat, he’d actually be the only one on the bench (other than Miller or the switch-hitting Estrada) when a lefty starts. I would go with Vinny myself, but understand that Gwynn may well see more time if he is chosen.

There are probably players that will hit waivers that will tempt the braintrust as well, a RH slugger that could backup 1B/3B is one thing that comes to my mind, as well as that elusive loogy, although I would expect that piece to be added before the deadline in July, and not be a loogy by definition, but rather a solid reliever who happens to throw LH. Regardless, the quality of the 26th and 27th men make me feel pretty good about the strength of the depth that we’ve been hearing about all offseason.


Royals Pick Up RHP Hendrickson From Brewers

The Kansas City Royals traded minor league catcher Maxim St. Pierre to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed pitcher Ben Hendrickson today.

Despite having a kick-ass name, St. Pierre was one of a bevy of backup catchers clogging the Royals minor league system.

Of course, any trade that doesn’t involve the names Emil Brown or Reggie Sanders isn’t likely to make Royals fans happy in the near future, but for now, let’s take a look at what they got.

Ben Hendrickson has been working his way up through the Brewers farm system since 2000. A few brief stints with the big league club in ’04 and last year haven’t gone so well for young Ben, but in the minors, his numbers look solid if unspectacular.

His best talent seems to be avoiding the long ball, giving up only 0.57 home runs per nine innings over his minor-league career. He appeared to wear down over the course of the season last year, his key stats rising with each passing month until September, when every batter he faced looked like Roy Hobbs swinging a magical wood bat.

Hendrickson will start out the season with AAA Omaha, but he looks like another young arm that general manager Dayton Moore is stockpiling for when Jorge De La Rosa continues pitching like he did today.


2007 Fantasy Busts!

This isn’t so much about “all out” busts but more about players that may be getting drafted too high and too early. Again, when you see the name Joe Mauer, don’t freak out. I’m not saying I wouldn’t draft him, I’m just saying that he is going too early and that way too many people are overrating him. Here is a list of some of the “overvalued” players in fantasy right now along with some that you should just stay away from. Again, this is not a list of people I wouldn’t draft, I actually own a couple in some leagues, this is a list of people that I wouldn’t reach too early for.

CatcherJoe Mauer, Jorge Posada: You heard a little about why I believe Mauer is overrated above. Sure the guy won a batting title, but 12 other catchers hit 16 or more homers to Mauer’s 13. Four other catchers had more RBI, and 2 others had more stolen bases. This is not to say that he won’t top his power numbers from last year, I just believe he is beong overvalued and that I wouldn’t take him any earlier than the mid-late 3rd round. Jorge Posada is kinda in the same boat. He gets drafted for three reason: his homers, the fact he plays for the Yankees, and his lineup protection. Not bad reasons. But he gets drafted before guys like Ramon Hernandez, Mike Piazza, and Russ Martin. Posada is turning 36 this year and his career .270 AVG is probably in decline and is gonna be a killer and walks don’t help in most fantasy leagues. He’s good but I have him ranked around 8-12 for catchers.

First BaseSean Casey: I love Casey. Nice guy, everybody on his team and the opposing team, loves him. But on fantasy teams… Yes he has topped .300 5 times in his career and hit 20 or more homers 3 times. But those days seem long gone. He should never be drafted above guys like Overbay, Conor Jackson, or even Ty Wigginton. Stay away from him at all costs.

Second BaseRickie Weeks, Ray Durham: I’m not gonna mention Dan Uggla here. He is actually being avoided by everyone and he seems to be getting drafted in a perfect spot. But Weeks is an intiguing player. He has 20-30 potential every year. But he seems to get injured every year. He currently is fighting wrist problem, and his wrists are what generate his bat speed, and he could kill your team AVG (he is a career .257 hitter). You can look like a genius if you get him and he performs, but I wouldn’t draft him any sooner than the 10th round. And if anyone thinks Durham is going to repeat his numbers, let’s please make a bet!

ShortstopCarlos Guillen: Guillen is a guy I could be dead wrong about. He has .300-20-90-20-100 potential but I’ve seen him go in round 3 before. He isn’t getting younger and he is also getting slower (both at SS and in actual speed). I would love to have him on my team but I wouldn’t take his 2006 stats to the bank. I would rest on .300-15-80-10-90.

Third BaseJoe Crede: Two sets of two words for you: Back Problems, and Josh Fields. Crede continues to have back problems and the young Josh Fields is waiting to snag the 3B job. The White Sox need to trade Crede while his value is at it’s highest. If traded, his stats should diminish because he’s most likely headed to a ballpark that is not Chicago’s.

OutfieldWilly Taveras, Dave Roberts, Moises Alou, Gary Matthews Jr.: I’ll start with the speedsters. Taveras is not going to hit for power because he’s in Colorado. He is going to put up numbers around the same as last year’s. Don’t draft him expecting Coors Field to magically bring him power, it didn’t do it for Juan Pierre. Roberts is on a team with aging vets and he himself fits perfectly on that platform. He could easily swipe 40 bags but that’s all you should draft him for. I hear from people that Alou is going to perform miracles because he’s in the Mets lineup. Don’t buy it. He hits lefties like no one else but he probably won’t see more than 400 at-bats. Draft him as your 4th or 5th OF, not one of your starting 3. Lastly we come to Matthews Jr. Do I have to explain here? I’ll keep it simple: No Way he duplicates last year’s stats which were overrated in themselves!

Starting PitchersJered Weaver, Chien Ming-Wang, Orlando Hernandez: Weaver is having some problems with nagging injuries and his season last year was a season in which hitters never saw him before and he took advantage of it. Hitters are wise and they will catch on. Weaver should still have a good year but he’s going earlier than Kazmir, Hamels, and Cain and I think that’s ridiculous. Wang will give you 15+ wins, no doubt. But can he win 19 again? I wouldn’t bet on it. 76 strikeouts in 218 innings is not a sign for good things to happen. Some of those balls in play will drop for hits this year and his ERA won’t be duplicated from last year. Wang, in my opinion, is a one-dimensional fantasy starter. He’s a good #3, maybe #2, but don’t make him your #1. And Orlando Hernandez is just not going to have a stikeout per inning again. His ERA will kill you and you will regret taking him ahead of young guys like Garza, Sowers, and even James Shields of the Rays.

Relief PitchersBob Wickman, Takashi Saito, Armando Benitez: All three of these guys are on this list because they all have a history of injuries. They all also have people behind them (Wickman has Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, Saito has Jonathan Broxton, and Benitez has Brian Wilson) that will step in and may not give the job back if given the opportunity. Don’t be scared to take Wickman though, but monitor the other two closely. Closers are one-dimensional players (saves) and saves can be had in the waiver wire every year (2006: Putz, Saito, Francisco Cordero anyone?!)


Brewers Roster Projection

Since we’re halfway through March, I thought I would take a minute to project the Opening Day roster for the Brewers, for both MLB fans and fantasy players alike.

All But Locks (22)

    Ben Sheets
    Chris Capuano
    Jeff Suppan
    David Bush
    Claudio Vargas
    Francisco Cordero
    Derrick Turnbow
    Matt Wise
    Jose Capellan
    Brian Shouse

    Johnny Estrada
    Damian Miller

    Prince Fielder
    Rickie Weeks
    JJ Hardy
    Tony Graffy
    Craig Counsell

    Geoff Jenkins
    Bill Hall
    Corey Hart
    Kevin Mench/Brady Clark
    Gabe Gross

I still feel very strongly Mench will be traded before April 1st, as the need for RH power is a common one. I took a glance at AL rosters looking for something else the other day, and Mench would be an upgrade on the 25 man roster for almost every one of them. His salary is not prohibitive either, especially in today’s market, though teams like MIN may hesitate to add a $3M reserve/platoon player. If he is not, and there are no injuries, I suppose the possibility exists that Gross could be sent down for a while (as the only reserve with options left), but I doubt it.

Near locks (1)

    Greg Aquino

Hope you didn’t stop after the “all but locks” and go make a sandwich, thinking the next section would be lengthy. Greg’s a solid middle man, and fits the Melvin mold as hard throwing and inexpensive relief help. No options left for Greg, so he’s close to a lock.

Favored (2)

    Carlos Villanueva
    Vinny Rottino

Carlos seems to be the braintrust’s choice to take the final pitching spot. Honestly, he probably deserves it, though I’d prefer he start every 5th day in Nashville, at least until someone falters or is banged up.

Vinny is a near perfect choice for the 25th man, he hits decently, can (and has) play anywhere on the diamond, and let’s face it, he’s scrappy, an undrafted free agent signed after a tryout or a tryout camp, who has had to prove himself at every level.

{Quite refreshing actually, especially when you consider guys like Dave Krynzel get every opportunity and still can’t figure out how not to suck at AAA.}

Unless the team chooses to go with Braun as the starting 3B (extremely unlikely), or 6 OF’s, the in-house choice right now would be Rottino.


    Ryan Braun
    Mike Rivera
    JD Closser

    Ben Hendrickson
    Grant Balfour
    Dennis Sarfate
    Chris Spurling

Spurling is the only one who has pitched well enough to be considered, granted, in a tiny sample. Both veteran catchers, Balfour, and Ben H are out of options. If an OF is dealt, look for one of these to be packaged with them. Closser could make it through, and Balfour could, especially if he’s not ready to pitch. Rivera would almost surely be claimed, as would Hendrickson.


NL Fantasy Sleepers

You already got a look at my American League Fantasy Sleepers with my last blog, now it’s time to move onto the National League Sleepers.

Nation League

– Chris Iannetta: Iannetta should easily win the starting catcher job in Colorado this spring. His best competition is aging veteran Javy Lopez. Iannetta has the ability to hit for a good average (.303 career in the minors) and produce double digit homers. He is well worth a late round pick and should be a top 10 overall catcher very soon. Plus he hits in humidor-less Colorado this year.

First Base – Conor Jackson: With the perfect combination of discipline and strike-zone judgment Conor Jackson could put up huge numbers in the middle of Arizona’s lineup. He makes consistent, hard contact. His gap power could produce 25 homers and he could easily drive in 100 runs while batting over .310. Jackson goes in the last 3 rounds and sometimes undrafted. Grab him, especially if your league has CIF in addition to 1B and UTIL.

Second Base – Chris Burke, Kaz Matsui: While Burke is currently blocked at 2B by future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio the Astros are going to find him playing time in CF. He could bat at the top of this order and produce 100 runs and 12-15 homers with 20+ steals. Kaz Matsui is more of a longshot. He has to first win the 2B job in Colorado. Then he has to hold onto it if he wins it. In 113 at-bats in Coloroado, Matsui hit .345 with 2 homers, 22 runs, 19 RBI, and 8 stolen bases. Incredible numbers! Monitor him closely and if he wins the job grab him out of the free agent pool.

–Stephen Drew, Felipe Lopez: Stephen Drew came out of the gates swinging last year. He hit .316 in 209 at-bats with 5 homers, 13 doubles, and 7 triples. Drew is going to be the Diamondbacks’ starting SS this year and should get 550+ at-bats. He could provide great punch with a stat line around .285-15-80-10-90. Felipe Lopez is playing on a team that is going to try and get wins by using grit and letting players use their God-given talent. This is good news for Felipe Lopez. Lopez stole 44 bases last year. More importantly he learned how to take walks, 81 of them to be exact. He will be on 1B a lot this season and the Nats will need to find any way they can to score. Lopez is a sleeper to get 50 steals. He should also improve on his .274 AVG a bit. Don’t expect him to top 20 homers again though, look for 15-17 tops.

Third Base – Morgan Ensberg, Wes Helms: Get past Ensberg’s .235 AVG and 387 at-bats from last year. Look at his other numbers: 23 homers in 387 at-bats and 101 walks. Ensberg has improved his eye and has the protection of Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman in front of him now. Ensberg could put up huge numbers this year. Wait and grab him late. You’re probably thinking to yourself right now “Wes Helms? Why in the world would I want this guy?” I’ll tell you why. He’s the starting 3B for the Phillies (meaning he gets to hit in one of the 5 best hitters parks in the league, not to mention in a lineup with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins), he hits lefties with the best of ‘em (.336 in 107 at-bats), and has hit .316 over the last two years. Put him on your watch list because he most likely won’t go in any draft. Grab him out off of the free agent bin once you get a roster spot open. Oh yeah, he’s eligible at 3B and 1B too.

Outfield – Brad Hawpe, Luke Scott, Chris B. Young, Barry Bonds: Brad Hawpe put up good numbers last year (.293-22-84) and was available in the free agent pool. He won’t be available via free agency this year. He is going somewhere in the 14-18 round range and I’ve even gotten him in the last round in one draft. He is quite the uncommon by posting better numbers away (.303-16-48) than at Coors (.282-6-36). Don’t look for that to happen again. The humidor is gone and Hawpe proved that he can hit away from Coors. He could easily approach .310-30-100 this season. Luke Scott put up huge numbers in his major league stinit last season (.336-10-37 in 214 at-bats). He should win the starting job but will sit against lefties. If you are a competitive fantasy leaguer I would grab him in the last two rounds and sit him when the Astros face lefties. He’ll produce against righties. Chris B. Young is gonna be in the rookie of the year running all season long. He has 20-20, even 25-25 potential right away. Be careful though, his average will be in the .260-.270 range but if you can make up for it then grab young in the last 2 rounds, he seems to be going undrafted in almost every mixed-league. Bonds is Bonds. You know he can hit if healthy. Grab him, but don’t reach for him.

Starting Pitchers – Dave Bush, John Patterson, Tim Hudson: Dave Bush, if you haven’t read any other fantasy blogs, is the talk of the fantasy sleeper world. Everyone, including me, expect him to break out in a big way this year. Sure his ERA was 4.41 last year and he went 12-11. He’s 27 now and his secondary numbers suggest he is ready to bust out. He only gave up 18 homers and more importantly posted a WHIP of 1.13. His “converted” ERA, according to Bill James Handbook, was 3.47. The youngsters in that Brewers team are going to hit and they are going to field. Bush should put up 14-16 wins, an ERA below 4.00, and 160+ strikeouts. John Patterson has ace stuff. John Patterson also needs ace bandages everywhere. Grab him in the mid-late teen rounds and watch his progress. If healthy he can be amongst the league leaders in ERA, SO, and WHIP. Tim Hudson has worked out like a horse this offseason. He said he is putting his “horrible season” of last year behind him and working hard to get back to where he was when he was in Oakland. Look for Hudson to be somewhere in the middle of where he was in Oakland and where he was last year in Atlanta, which means great numbers! Grab him in the mid teen rounds.

Relief Pitchers – Jonathan Broxton, Tony Pena, Bill Bray: I don’t care if Saito is the closer in Los Angeles, Jonathan Broxton will likely get double digit saves and record over 100 strikeouts while posting an ERA below 3.00. Grab him late and laugh at everybody who missed out on him. For keeper leagues this guy is the closer of the future for the Dodgers. Tony Pena is someone to simply keep an eye on. Watch Arizona closer Jose Valverde and see if he struggles. If Valverde struggles and so does the team look for Arizona to trade Jorge Julio and put Tony Pena in at closer for good. Same can be said for Bill Bray in Cincinnati. Mike Stanton and Dave Weathers are supposed to split all the saves but young Bill Bray is the future closer. Watch the closer situation in Cincinnati and grab Bray if he gets the job midseason.

That’s all for now (fantasy-wise), I hope you enjoy the Fantasy Sleepers and good luck in your leagues!


Love for Baseball

On Valentine’s Day, the love comes out for the greatest game in the world -

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter: “I think because everybody can relate. You don’t have to be seven feet tall; you don’t have to be a certain size to play. Baseball is up and down. I think life’s like that sometimes, you know. Back and forth, up and down, you’re going through this grind. I think people like watching it. Baseball’s like a soap opera every day.”

Ernie Banks, Cubs legend and Hall of Famer: “It’s just life. When I think about baseball, it’s just life. It’s really the way life is. It requires a lot of mental capacity to be involved in it. It creates a lot of joy for people and memories for people who follow it. It’s a family. You like it because it’s a family. You started with it and know all these people — it’s family, it’s friends, it’s fun, it’s a beautiful game. All in all, baseball is amazing.

Joel Kweskin, 56, White Sox fan based in Charlotte, N.C.: “It’s unique unto itself. Football, basketball and hockey are variations of the same concept — back and forth in a linear progression to score a goal. Baseball, however, is mapped out on the field unlike any other sport. A running back or return specialist can run 100 yards, tops; a baserunner legging out an inside-the-park homer runs 20 yards farther. Baseball is the most democratic of sports — any size can play, and because the ball is not controlled by the offense but rather the defense, every player at any given time is involved in a play. Along with the anecdotally accepted premise that hitting a pitched baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports, so might be fielding a 175-mph line drive or grounder down the line. I love baseball because it is the greatest game ever invented.”

Former Royals star Willie Wilson: “The first thing is, I don’t think there’s any criteria for size, so anybody can play. I think people can relate. A lot of people never played football; basketball, you’ve gotta be tall and be able to jump. But baseball is a game where you pick up a bat and a ball, and you catch it, you swing the bat and you hit the ball. Most people have played softball or some kind of baseball, so they can relate to the sport. For me, that’s why I think America just embraces baseball, man.”

Baseball Blogger Travis G.: Where to start? I think better when I make a list.
1. Players. The requirements to be a good baseball player are very undefined. You can be short, tall, thin, chunky, anything really. You name the greats and you get tall and chunky (Ruth, Ortiz), short and chunky (Yogi, Gwynn), tall and thin (Sizemore, Jeter), short and thin (Reyes, Ichiro). They may not be the best athletes (e.g. David Wells), but when they’re playing the best game in the world, who cares?
2. The Mentality. Baseball requires more intelligence than any other sport (save for NFL QB). Simply put, every hitter that steps to the plate is trying to out-think the pitcher, and vice versa. 4-5 times a game, focus has to be completely on the man in front of him. Will he throw a fastball, curve, change? If you take an at-bat (or even a pitch) off, you’re toast. Same thing with the pitcher. The only other sport that comes close is football, but mainly just for the QB. Baseball requires every single player to have good mental capacity.
3. The Field. Football, hockey, basketball and soccer all use essentially the same type of field/playing surface: a rectangle. Baseball uses a diamond. It’s not only unique in that aspect, but every single ballpark is unique amongst the sport. Each park has its own quirks and intricacies that make it special. Not a single other sport can say that. Yankee Stadium has Death Valley, the short RF porch, and the facade. Fenway has the Monster. Shea has the apple. Wrigley has the ivy-covered brick. Pac Bell (or whatever it’s called now) has the bay in RF. Houston has the hill in center. Imagine if the RCA Dome’s field was only 95 yards; that’s the equivalent of Death Valley or the Green Monster.
4. One on One. Basically the speech DeNiro makes in The Untouchables. Baseball is a team game: 25 men. But each of them takes one turn – by themself – to help the whole team. Then the next batter gets a chance. Because of the batting order, a team can’t simply send its best hitter up every at-bat. You can’t just give the ball to Jordan or Shaq (Pujols or Ortiz) every time. A team’s best hitter will get 4-5 chances a game to help his team. That’s it. You need a complete team to win.
5. Substitutions. Once a player is removed, he’s done. You can’t just sub in the best defenders when you have a lead. You can’t take out Santana for an inning because he’s tired, then re-insert him. Could you imagine the way baseball would be played if there were no substitution restrictions? It would be bedlam. Players don’t get any breaks (outside of the DH) during the game. Even late inning defensive replacements are a gamble if the trailing team comes back. And substitutions play an ever bigger role in the NL.
6. No Clock. No running out the clock. It doesn’t matter what inning and what score it is, you still need 27 outs to complete the game. There’s no easy way to ‘seal’ a win. You still have to face every batter, and record every out.
7. History. When Japanese kamikaze pilots flew their planes into American ships, they would often yell ‘Fuck Babe Ruth!’ No other American sport has the history baseball does. Some of the most iconic figures in our culture are Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Ripken, McGwire, Bonds, Aaron, Clemens, Jeter. It’s goes all the way back to the 1830′s. The ‘Junior Circuit’ (AL) had been going strong for over 45 years before the NBA ever started. The Yankees had already won 20 World Series before the first Super Bowl was ever played. I just love that feeling of history when I watch a game.
8. Summer. What better sport to exemplify the feeling of summer than baseball. The only summer sport we have. Warm weather, kids are out of school; remember the day games with your dad, drinking a soda, eating a hot dog? No other sport lets you enjoy the weather. Hockey and basketball are indoors. And the football season lasts from September to February, nuff said.
9. Connection. This ain’t football where the most ardent fans get to see a maximum of just 24 games (including the pre and post-season). Baseball is 3 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 months. You get a minimum of 162 games. That’s double basketball and hockey, and 10 times that of football. Not only do you get to see your ‘guys’ 162 times a season, but you actually feel close to them. They’re not wearing masks to cover their faces (football, hockey), so you see (and often share) their reactions and emotions. You don’t get that feeling of ‘closeness’ from other sports. And then when you add the fact that baseball plays 162 games, it’s easy to understand where the connection comes from. When the season is over, it’s like you not seeing your family for 5 months.
10. Home-field Advantage. Having the home team hit in the bottom of each inning assures that every team, every season (even Kansas City) will have its share of thrilling, bottom of the whatever, walk-off wins. It’s nothing like football where you squib kick it or have the QB kneel down, or in basketball where you dribble out the clock or foul the opponent 10 times.

Your thoughts?


Hall, Brewers Agree to 4yr $24M Deal

MILWAUKEE — Bill Hall and the Milwaukee Brewers agreed Monday to a $24 million, four year contract.

Hall, who is slated to play center field for the Brewers, gets a $500,000 signing bonus, $3 million this year, $4.8 million in 2008, $6.8 million in 2009 and $8.4 million in 2010. The Brewers have a $9.25 million option for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout.

“We are pleased to know that Billy has made this commitment to the Brewers’ organization and to the fans,” Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said. “His mentality for accepting the team concept, his work ethic to get better every year and his improving performance gave us the confidence needed in committing to this multiyear contract. Billy has worked hard to deserve this kind of contract and we are looking forward to having him lead our club to the next level.”

Hall made $418,000 last year and had asked for $4,125,000, and the Brewers had offered $3 million. His agreement was first reported on the Web site of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“The timing was just right,” Hall told the newspaper in a telephone interview from Phoenix. “I always wanted to stay in Milwaukee. We’ve got a good thing going there. Now, I know I’ll be there for a long time.”

Hall took over at shortstop last season when starter J.J. Hardy injured an ankle and finished with a .270 batting average in a career-high 148 games. He compiled 78 extra-base hits and 297 total bases, also club highs.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

In my opinion this deal works if Bill Hall finds a permanent position.

He is slated to start in CF for the Brewers in 2007. He has been a utility man for his entire career and a move to CF doesn’t seem to be permanent, not with top prospect Ryan Braun (who is currently at 3B) possibly moving to the OF and most likely CF.

Hall’s best position is 3B and it is currently occupied by Corey Koskie. But we all know that Corey Koskie carries a 90% cahance of getting injured. This creates a problem, or does it? I think Bill Hall will eventually end up at 3B or LF. He is not a CF and the Brewers can’t afford to have a utility player averaging $6M over the next 4 seasons.

I expect Hall to be at 3B and to have a good career there.


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