Monday Morning Musings: Trades, Trades, and More Trades

Check out this view from the right field bleachers at Friday night’s Orioles/Yankees game. A little further to the right and you wouldn’t be able to see left field from your seat. That’s because the Mohegan Sun sports bar, that tinted window monstrosity lording over the center field wall, obstructs the view for hundreds of hard working bleacher creatures. What is this, 19 aught 8? A modern day palace that cost nearly a billion dollars to build shouldn’t include an entire section of seats where you can’t see a part of the field. I’ll give Fenway Park and Wrigley Field a pass because they are relics of a simpler day and age where architects didn’t have the luxury of blueprints. But not the new Yankee Stadium which has become a testament to all the commercial trappings of baseball what with all it’s boutique shops and lounges. A perfect place for a $15 roast beef sandwich!

A Quick Trip Around the Bases

1B – Back to Friday night’s O’s/Yanks game for a second, if you look closely you can see Jeremy Guthrie on the mound for the Birds. Two quick reactions: 1) it’s amazing the Orioles won this particular game because usually they saddle Guthrie, who has been solid again this season, with very little offense making him the quintessential tough luck loser. 2) It was a surprise to many that Guts was still wearing a Baltimore jersey on Friday night. Many experts had him booked on the next flight to Boston, Detroit, or maybe even the Bronx as part of a blockbuster trading deadline deal. But the O’s decided to hold onto their veteran “ace” in hopes that he can steward the next crop of young arms in 2012. The Orioles weren’t totally inactive this last week, trading away veterans Koji Uehara and Derek Lee to the Rangers and Pirates respectively.  Coming into 2011, who would have thought that either the Orioles or Pirates would have been buyers and that they would be involved in a deal together? Good for Pittsburgh, not so good for Baltimore.

2B – Did you ever think the trading deadline would pass without the Yankees acquiring a superstar? I guess we’ll have to wait until the end of August, once the waiver wire closes, to fully evaluate who won/lost this year’s version of let’s make a deal. For now, the clubhouse leaders are (in no particular order): Rangers, Indians, Mets, Rockies, and Giants. I could have put the Boston Red Sox on this list if I weren’t staunchly opposed to the whole Erik Bedard experience. When he pitched for the Orioles a few years back he was more than capable of double digit K’s every time he took the mound. The problem for Bedard in Baltimore was that he was equally capable of pulling his latissimus dorsi or, even worse, slowly sulking off the mound in the 3rd inning after being pulled for ineffectiveness. And, are we sure he’s even healthy? Or that he’s ready to take the ball in a big game?

3B – I could have put both the Braves and Phillies on the list of trading deadline winners, except I’m not quite sure how much of a difference Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn will make heading down the home stretch. Bourn to the Braves makes a lot of sense because he adds a tremendous amount of speed and defense to a lineup that was very well balanced to begin with. I don’t really see how Pence to the Phillies makes all that much of a difference. With their excellent starting pitching they were most likely going to win the NL East regardless of the moves they made. All I know about Pence is that he is a versatile player, with power and speed, who also happens to wear only one batting glove. We need someone to compile a list of “Best MLB players to wear only one batting glove”. I feel like Pete Rose should be somewhere near the top of that list. Any other suggestions?

HR – Switching leagues for a second, I’ll have plenty more to come on the NFL free agent madness later this week but for now here are just a few quick hits. 1) What is Bill Belichick thinking? Albert Haynesworth doesn’t enjoy playing football and Ochocinco lost that step two seasons ago. Looks like a couple of desperate moves by a coach driven for at least one more Super Bowl before Tom Brady hands the keys over to Ryan Mallett. 2) Like the Plaxico Burress to the Jets move. Not sure if he still stretches the field like he did before prison but he should help to make up for the loss of Braylon Edwards. Of greater concern to Jets fans should be the loss of Brad Smith to the Buffalo Bills. New York is going to miss the “Swiss Army Knife” and I hope for his sake that Buffalo will figure out a way to take advantage of his wide array of skills.

 

Monday Morning Musings: Sleepless in Seattle Edition

A Quick Trip Around the Bases

1B – Welcome back David Wright, we totally forgot you were missing. The Mets third baseman returned from the DL this weekend after nearly two months away from the game. In his first action back, he helped guide the Mets to a 7-6 win Friday night over the Florida Marlins with a couple clutch RBI doubles, and then allowed with a big home run Sunday afternoon. But the big question is, why wasn’t his return more publicized? Shouldn’t we all have been made more aware that a star like Wright is returning after two months away? I watched nearly 2/3 of the SNY telecast last Thursday when the Mets lost to the Cardinals and I can’t recall either Howie Rose or Ron Darling mentioning a single thing about Wright returning from the DL. You would think it would have been much bigger news. Maybe the strikeouts, and throwing errors, have added up and Mets fans no longer regard Wright, alongside Jose Reyes, as the savior of the organization. A nice ballplayer, but not a superstar.

2B – The Seattle Mariners have now lost 15 games in a row and yet some how maintain a higher winning percentage than the Baltimore Orioles. Adding insult to injury, Camden Yards had been dealing with 100% humidity this past week. It’s so hot and sticky out there that Boog Powell himself set up a dunk tank in front of his famous BBQ stand. Back to the Mariners for a second, how does a team with two stud arms like Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez lose 15 games in a row? I don’t care how anemic the Mariners offense may be, those two studs are natural born streak busters.

3B – C’mon Pirates, don’t fail me now! Having officially jumped on the bandwagon a few weeks back, it was tough to watch the St. Louis Cardinals storm into sold out PNC Park and take 2 of  3 from the Pirates. However, thanks to some marvelous hustle by Pirate left fielder Xavier Paul, Pittsburgh was able to salvage Sunday’s affair in extra innings to remain in a tie a top the NL Central with the Cards and Milwaukee Brewers. Tough to handicap this race. On paper, this is as good a chance the Pirates have had to win a division in quite some time. What is a little concerning is that both St. Louis and Milwaukee are willing to trade for a few quality players before the deadline. But what about the Bucs? Pittsburgh hasn’t been in this position in quite some time, plus has a history of “thrifty” ownership, so it’s really hard to figure what they are going to do this week. With the NFL set to announce an end to the lockout, the Pirates must retain their mid-summer swagger or else PNC Park is going to revert back to an abandoned, broken down iron works while their fans flock to worship at the foot of Heinz Field.

HR – Congrats to Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, and Roberto Alomar on their inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. My favorite Alomar story is where he would purposely bunt a ball foul down the third base line just so he could draw the infielders in a bit, which would then open up the left side of the diamond for one of his patented opposite field seeing eye singles. Those are the kind of stories you tell the grandchildren NOT the whole spitting in the face of an umpire incident which will unfortunately stay with Alomar the rest of his life.

view from Great American Ball Park courtesy of @JamenElbert

Monday Musings: Abby Wambach and Moneyball Edition

Before we delve into our weekly smattering of all things MLB, a few quick notes regarding the gut wrenching conclusion to an otherwise emotionally uplifting, expertly played 2011 Women’s World Cup. I feel for Abby Wambach the most. I couldn’t find anyone on the pitch who played with the same heart and determination as the USWNT striker. Her nose for the ball, literally, led to two of the most remarkable goals in American World Cup history, men’s or women’s. Wambach would be welcome on my pickup basketball team any day of the week. Here’s hoping there’s enough left in those 31 year old legs, and forehead, for her to return for one more World Cup run in 2015.

My absolute favorite part about the Women’s World Cup was that there did not seem to be anywhere near the same amount of on field theatrics/injury faking as there is with the men’s game. The single exception that I witnessed was the Brazilian player Erika whose performance in extra time against the Americans would have made Orson Welles proud. In general, there does not seem to be as much diving in the World Cup as say the English Premier League, or even worse, La Liga. It’s so bad in the Spanish League that I’m waiting for Paul Pierce to have his contract purchased by Barcelona.

Congrats once again to the USWNT on their fantastic run to the World Cup finals. Now onto a sport where there’s is no such thing as a fake injury, that is unless your name is Derek Jeter.

A Quick Trip Around the Bases

1B – All of America not named Milwaukee, Cincinnati, or St. Louis hopes the Pittsburgh Pirates will continue to hold on in the wide open NL Central. If there were ever a year for the Pirates to make a playoff since the days of Andy Van Slyke, Chico Lind, and a pre bobble head doll Barry Bonds, this is it. The only question is, will the Bucs be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline? Pittsburgh’s starting pitching has been surprisingly effective and what the team could really use moving froward is another bat. Would Carlos Pena from the Chicago Cubs suffice? Or how about Ryan Ludwick of the San Diego Padres? Whomever they target, it’s nice to know that the Pirates aren’t selling parts at the trading deadline.

2B – Speaking of the NL Central, how bad can it get for the Chicago Cubs? This disturbing picture from @bleedcubbieblue tells you all you need to know about the 2011 season on the Northside. With this many open seats, ownership could probably get away with a few midseason renovations to Wrigley Field as has been previously discussed by the likes of @pgammo. The bigger question raised by this photograph, where have all the Chicago hipsters gone? Usually the bleachers are good for at least a dozen Craig Hodges jersey’s and neon Ray-Ban sunglasses with croakies. Don’t tell me they have switched their allegiances to the White Sox. US Cellular Field is not the type of place for members of the counter culture, unless that independent thinking includes Harley Davidson motorcycles.

3B – Would a member of the AL Central please step up and claim your prize? Anybody? Going once, going twice…I guess we will just have to wait until the final week in September.  And who knows, the way these teams are beating each other up, the division winner may ultimately be only a game or two over .500. And is anyone really surprised by the resurgence of the Minnesota? Just goes to show you that you can never count out the Twins, especially as the summer heats up and the walleye on a stick at Target Field is becomes especially fresh. The Minnesota state government may stay shutdown but that doesn’t mean that the Twins won’t be able to prevail in the AL Central once again.

HR –Moneyball the movie looks terrible. And I know we’re not supposed to judge a film by its trailer – even though I do this all the time – but even still, how can this be an interesting movie? I begin with the casting of Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s GM, and famous sabermetrician, Billy Beane. I don’t know about you but I find Pitt much more convincing when he’s fly fishing in the streams of Montana than when he’s rebuilding a bargain basement franchise by using cutting edge statistical analysis. What, was Billy Bob Thornton not a physically attractive enough specimen to play the role Beane? Also, any movie that has Scott Hatteberg at the center of the story telling is bound for box office purgatory. Which is probably why I’ll go and see the movie the first weekend it comes out.

Monday Morning Musings: Extreme Makeover – All-Star Game Edition

Where’s my invitation to the MLB All-Star Game? At this point so many have turned down a chance to compete Tuesday in Arizona that I’m beginning to feel a little left out. Desperate times indeed and I wonder how many young fans out there are going to enjoy the 8th inning matchup of David Robertson pitching to Miguel Montero. Unfortunately there probably won’t be many young fans watching at that point because by the time the 8th inning rolls around it’s 11pm and most folks have already switched over to either The Daily Show or Keeping Up with the Kardashians reruns.

A Quick Trip Around the Bases (aka 4 simple ways to improve the All-Star game)

1B- Make it a day game. What’s so wrong with a 1 or 4 o’clock start on a Sunday afternoon? Fear of running up against the ratings buzzsaw otherwise known as the final round of the John Deere Classic? If you make it a day game you expose younger fans to the best players MLB has to offer which will surely lead to greater interest in the sport. Which leads me to my second point…

2B – Smaller rosters and eliminate that silly little rule where each team has to be represented. Believe me, I’m a Baltimore Orioles fans and even I don’t think Matt Wieters is an All-Star this season. Baseball fans only want to see the best competing against one another. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated said something really interesting when he talked about how All-Star starters should be left in longer and that playing time shouldn’t be equitable.

3B – USA vs World. Call it an appetizer to tide you over before the next World Baseball Classic. (By the way, when is the next World Baseball Classic?) The NHL tried this for years and I seem to remember it working out quite well. Of course, if you really wanted to up the ante you could pair countries together like USA/Japan/Korea vs Dominican Republic/Puerto Rico/Venezuela. The only problem with this model is that you would then need to alter the current All-Star Game stakes where the winning side is crowned the home team in the World Series.

HR – Shorten the length of the home run derby. Do we really need 3 rounds? Also limit the number of competitors to 4, 2 from NL and 2 from AL, and make sure only the best power hitters are invited. Instead of having captains choose their squads, why not have the fans vote to determine who participates in the derby?

I would also add a skills challenge to the derby festivities, sort of like what the NBA does before the slam dunk competition. You could have a bunch of skilled 2 hitters likes Placido Polanco and Dustin Pedroia going through a round of “mission” hitting where they are awarded point for successfully executing a hit/run, sacrifice bunt, etc…. You could also organize a relay race of sorts where you have 5 competitors from each side competing against one another to see who can record the fastest time. Things like this could add an exciting element to the All-Star Game festivities.

view from AT&T Park courtesy of @MF_FOXDOG

Monday Morning Musings: 4th of July Edition

There is not a straightforward way to reach the quiet hamlet of Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Google maps will send you past every dairy farm in upstate New York. I think at one point we even passed the Bubble Boy’s house.

It might not be the easiest place to find, but Cooperstown is certainly the perfect spot to spend a Friday afternoon in early July.  We didn’t go through the actual Hall of Fame museum, choosing instead to walk around and snap a few photos of Doubleday Field, a place where I was fortunate enough to play a couple of baseball games back when I was in high school. It had been quite a while since I last visited Cooperstown and in that time I had totally forgotten how short the right field porch is. Only 312 feet down the line is a very tempting distance for a left handed hitter.

It was also nice to see that Doubleday Field is used regularly as the homefield of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes, a New York Collegiate Baseball League summer team. Fields as historic as Doubleday need to be kept busy, otherwise they become overgrown relics of yesteryear.

A Quick Trip Around the Bases

1B – Call it what you like. Grade 1. Mild strain. Day to Day. But however you choose to diagnose Jose Reyes’ latest hamstring injury, one thing’s for sure, the timing of this latest setback couldn’t come at a worse moment for the Mets or Reyes. Everyone involved is saying that the All Star shortstop could be back in the starting lineup as early as Tuesday in Los Angeles but for a player like Reyes, who has a long history of hamstring issues, the Mets will most likely be airing on the side of caution. This injury does once again raise questions regarding whether Jose Reyes is durable enough to command the type of long term contract he had positioned himself for after his historic first half to the 2011 season.

2B – So who is at the top of the 2011 All-Star Game “snub list”? CC Sabathia? Victor Martinez? Andrew McCutchen? How about  White Sox 1B Paul Konerko? Many consider Konerko a top 3 MVP candidate and he has certainly more than made up for Adam Dunn’s  historic first half incompetence.

3B – Recently, the most subtle move up the standings has been the ascension of the Angels out in the AL West.  Anaheim has won 8 of 10 games and moved into a tie for first place with reigning American League champions the Texas Rangers. Here on the East Coast we don’t hear a lot about the Halos but should probably start paying more attention to players like Jered Weaver, he of the 1.92 ERA.

HR – Derek Jeter played 6 innings of pain free baseball for AA Trenton and is now scheduled to return to the Yankee lineup Monday vs the Indians in Cleveland. Upon hearing this news, thousands of Yankee fans packed up their SUV’s and headed out west on I-80 hoping to reach Progressive Field in time for Jeter’s 3000 hit. Do you think manager Joe Girardi holds Jeter out of the lineup if he inches a little closer to 3000 just so he can reach the milestone at home in Yankee Stadium next weekend? Stay tuned.