March 29, 2005

Even More fun with Links

Superman is a Dick

A massive collection of Silver Age Superman covers which prove... well, just look at the title. This kind of obsession is rather admirable and kinda creepy too.

My personal favorite- Superboy's time machine.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

A film not by Ken Burns

Ken Burns is a man who begs to be mocked. And these guys, The Old Negro Space Program, do a pretty fine job of it.

Full disclosure- I really like Ken Burns' work, as pretentious as it is.

Found at Kung Fu Monkey

Posted by Frinklin at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

Riddle me this one....

I love Lou Piniella and all, but can anyone tell me why BJ Upton is starting the season in the minors and Alex Gonzalez (it doesn't matter which one, they both suck) is starting at third for the D-Rays? What good can this possibly do?

Same thing with Scott Hairston and Craig Counsell in Arizona. When you have an awful team, why bother with veteran spare parts like these?

Posted by Frinklin at 06:10 PM | Comments (2)

March 28, 2005

The Children of Rock stars?

Rolling Stone has never really come close to recapturing its mid-70's, Hunter Thompson-fueled glory, but the magazine can be counted on to hit an important, or at least interesting story now and then. This isn't the case with the issue that just showed up in my mailbox. Yes, the cover is the most perfectly pointless cover story in RS history: the children of rock stars, from Sean Lennon to Harper Simon to Alexa Joel and all points in-between.

If Rolling Stone was your only exposure to modern American music, you would think that Art Garfunkle was a hell of a lot more important than he really is. He's always featured in the magazine, mostly because he's Jan Wenner's pal. That trend continues, as Art's son is dead-center on the cover.

Very subtle, Mr. Wenner.

Posted by Frinklin at 08:52 PM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2005

Getting Religion, Sort Of

Hello, all. Here's something I've been pondering on. As it happens, I observe Lent, the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter for which Christians are supposed to forswear vices and/or fast and/or abstain from meat on Fridays, depending on their persuasion. I'm not especially religious, but I like the ideas of a period of purification... it fits my idea of what a religion ought to be. And having depressingly few vices worth giving up, this year I gave up the drinking of sodas.

In retrospect, given the fact that I don't drink coffee, giving up my sole source of caffeine during one of the most stressful and sleep-deprived periods of my life may not have been the smartest move I could have made. But I stuck to my vow and made it through.

That's not what gets me, though. What gets me is that, about halfway through Lent, I consulted a calendar to see how much longer I had to wait before I could resume consumption of the quicker picker-upper. The answer I got seemed odd, so I started counting more carefully and... there are 47 days between Ash Wednesday and Lent! What a rip.

My initial suspicion was that, somehow, they'd screwed up the placement of Easter this year. But I check a few other years, and every year it was the same: they snuck an extra week into Lent without telling us. Since when did Enron's accounting department get put in charge of holidays?

So I started poking around a little bit to find out what was up, and I discovered that different faiths have different rules about Lent. Those Protestant religions that observe Lent, for instance, insist that Sundays are not counted when you figure the 40 days, which seems like a dodge (they count on the calendar the same, and you still have to live them), but does make the math work out correctly. I'm not sure if this means you can engage in your vice on Sundays or not, but the whole thing seems fishy to me.

Certain Eastern Orthodox religious, on the other hand, seem to have a better grasp of numbers. Their Lent lasts 40 calendar days, from Clean Monday to Easter Friday (they have their Easter on a different day). When I initially discovered the fuzzy Lenten math, I assumed that something like this was the answer, and that I'd simply been mistaken in my assumption that Lent lasts all the way to Easter, and that it actually ended on Palm Sunday. (It would also explain the existence of Palm Sunday, a day I never saw a use for otherwise.) While I admire the logic of the Orthodox formulation, I don't think I could get away with re-calibrating the holidays for this. (Never mind trying to explain to the boss why I need Easter Friday off.)

For Catholics, meanwhile, Lent ends at sundown on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday). There is no way of counting days that makes the Catholic Lent 40 days long, but this doesn't appear to bother them. (Nor does it appear to bother them that "Maundy Thursday" sounds like the name of a horror movie.)

As it turns out, all of this research didn't make me any less cranky about my caffeine deficiency. I wound up complaining about this to my mother yesterday en route to Grandma's house for the weekend. Mom, as it happens, was raised a Baptist, and the Baptists don't observe Lent. She has always been somewhat confused and amused by my observance of it, but she doesn't question it, since she generally believes religious observance to be a good thing. The conversation went roughly this way.

ME: Hey, Mom, I found out that Lent is a big fraud.
MOM: What?
ME: They say Lent is supposed to last 40 days, but I counted and it's actually 47 days. Can you believe that? Forty-seven days.
MOM: Getting thirsty for our sodas, are we?
ME: Forty-seven days.
MOM: Have you ever considered the possibility that you're chemically dependent?
ME: Forty-seven days.
MOM: Poor baby.
ME: [moan]

Throughout the rest of the weekend, I would mutter "Forty-seven days" to myself in a mournful tone, and my mother, in her loving and compassionate manner, would laugh at me. Let's see what she gets for Mother's Day.

Is any of this meaningful to anyone besides me? Probably not, but I don't care. I don't have to. Meantime.... bartender, another Pepsi!

Happy Easter, everyone.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 06:29 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2005

Pumped Up About the Steroid Hearings

I was going to write about something else today, but I make a point of responding to my readers, and loyal reader PG wants my take on a hot topic of, um, a week ago:

Waiting for your input on the steroid hearings. I saw The Crucible last Saturday and there's a faint McCarthyism in Congress on this topic, I think. Jose Canseco as Elia Kazan?

This is, naturally, not the first time I've been requested to comment about this. When you are a very public and reasonably prominent lover of baseball, and a major baseball-related story sucks up all the media oxygen, naturally people want to know what you think.

The truth is, I didn't really want to talk about the steroid hearings, despite the fact that they were such a big deal. (In fact, they'd probably still be all the rage were it not for the Terri Schiavo case, which is even more depressing and which I want to talk about even less.)

Part of the reason I didn't want to say anything is that it was so widely talked about that I didn't think there was much left to say. The hearings were analyzed and chatted up in all media, each witness deconstructed and skewered, each politician's motives scrutinized, each minute endlessly replayed. I try to avoid beating dead horses, and adding my thoughts to the public torrent struck me as the equivalent of spitting into a hurricane.

Also, I didn't watch any of the hearings themselves. This may come as a shock to some of you, but the reality is that as president of the Nats Fan Club, at least in the formative stages, I have very little time to focus on baseball-related issues outside of the Nationals. Besides, I didn't think the hearings would reveal anything I didn't already know, and based on what I've read since, it seems I was right.

But there's no denying that steroids are an important issue in baseball today, and since PG wants to know what I think (and probably some of the rest of you as well), I'll say a few words. (Veteran readers know that "a few words" is a relative term with me, especially given that I've already chewed up seven paragraphs on the preamble.)

You'll forgive me, I hope, if I skip the winners-and-losers-type analysis of the witnesses at the trial. I don't care and, besides, it would be kind of silly given that I didn't actually watch the hearings myself. In fact, I intend to skip over discussion of the individual witnesses entirely (except McGwire, whom I'll get to in a minute). Instead, I'd like to discuss the broader significance of the hearing, particularly PG's reference to McCarthyism.

I'm already on the record as saying that steroids are a real problem, and one that baseball needs to deal with. I've never been in the laissez-faire camp on this. It's reached the point where the clean guys are justifiably pissed off at having to compete with the wonders of chemistry. Baseball can't afford to turn a blind eye to this issue, and it's better that we start dealing with this now, rather than a few years down the road when a wave of ex-players are dying at 45 and 50.

That said, I'm somewhat ambivalent about Congressional involvement on the issue. On the one hand, politically speaking, crusading against steroids is a textbook example of shooting the big target. It's a risk-free stance for even the most careful politician: there's no pro-steroid voting bloc to worry about offending, no partisan issue at stake, and no risk of being nailed for hypocrisy (I don't imagine there are any roided-up members of Congress). It should come as no surprise to anyone that two of the leading anti-steroid voices in Congress (John McCain in the Senate and Tom Davis in the House) have higher ambitions. Davis wants to be a senator, and McCain... well, we've known about him for a while now, haven't we? The idea that grandstanding is involved here isn't going to come as a galloping shock to anyone.

On the other hand... sometimes you need to shine a public spotlight on an issue before anything gets done about it. And it's become quite clear that baseball, owners and players alike, was quite content to sit on their hands and do as little as possible. The greatest service these hearings performed was to expose the appalling chicanery of the much-ballyhooed recent steroid agreement, with the allowance of a monetary fine as a substitute for suspension and the agreement that governmental scrutiny would curtail the testing program altogether. (That must have been a great relief to Don Fehr, who's no longer forced to stand alone in defending the indefensible. No wonder he was always so testy.) Public scrutiny can be a virtue, despite the show-trial aspect of it.

Besides holding shady back-room bargains up to the light of day, the Congressional hearings also made the steroid issue a matter of wide public debate. Prior to the hearing, steroid use in baseball was primarily a discussion for those in the game: owners, players, sportswriters and fans. We've already seen how deeply the owners and players cared about the problem. And the sporting press, by and large, is alarmingly indifferent to steroid use. Maybe they're jaded, maybe they're anti-testing zealots, maybe they're reflexively anti-owner. Whatever the reason, an awful lot of writers seemed to have become apathetic to the issue in recent years. And, perhaps following the writers' lead, fans became somewhat dulled to it as well. Apart from using the issue to pick on people (like Barry Bonds) that sportswriters don't like anyway, steroids were, if not a dead issue, largely shrugged at.

By making it a national issue, rather than a baseball issue, suddenly Congress had placed the steroid mess in front of people who were not familiar with it, and hadn't been dulled into apathy by years of fruitless discussion. For instance, the Gamer Girl. At dinner the other night, she said, "Why don't they just shut down baseball until they figure out how to make sure no one's doing steroids?" While this suggestion is perhaps a tad impractical, it reflects the sense of outrage that this provokes in non-fans. While veteran baseball observers are so sick of the issue that they'd just as soon crawl under the table when the word "steroids" is uttered, the non-fan on the street is still capable of being disgusted by the flagrant cheating at work here.

Therefore, on balance, I think the Congressional hearings are good for the game. I think the McCarthy parallel is largely unfair, since steroid abuse is a real problem, whereas the alleged Communist infiltration of the government (Ann Coulter's opinions aside) largely amounted to boxing at shadows.

The only thing that bothers me is the potential for this to dissolve into a parade of finger-pointing and personal potshots. If all we accomplish is tarring the reputations of a few individuals without creating any change in the system, then we've failed. This is where McGwire comes in, and where the parallel to McCarthyism might hold up.

Let's get one thing straight: If anyone thought before now that McGwire hadn't done steroids, you haven't been paying attention. The difference between McGwire's body shape during his playing days and afterward was quite striking. I noticed it the first time I saw McGwire on the field during the All-Star Game after his retirement. He's quite noticably slimmer. We may not have wanted to believe he was juicing (lest it spoil the memories of the magical Summer of '98), but it wasn't exactly hard to figure out. In fact, the shock that so many expressed at his non-denials at the hearing suggests a sort of willful blindness on our part.

So now we're all pissed at McGwire, labeling him a pariah, because he shattered our illusion. But what was he supposed to do? Lie about it, angrily? Admit it and face criminal culpability on top of public scorn? The poor guy was in a Catch-22. If you gave McGwire truth serum, he'd probably tell you that he did steroids because of the public pressure. Steroid use, as we're finding out, wasn't exactly uncommon, and the testing program was a joke. And everyone wanted him to break the record. Fans wanted to see history. The owners wanted a quick attendance fix after the debacle of the '94 strike. And everyone wanted to put the uneasy ghost of Roger Maris and the asterisk to bed at last. Given the degree to which everyone's hopes rested on McGwire (especially after his near-miss in '97), it's hardly fair to ask how he could possibly juice up. It might be fairer, and more compassionate, to ask: How could he not?

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 07:54 PM | Comments (1)

Does Mix-A-Lot get residuals for this?

After watching the Huskies lose to Louisville, I needed cheering up. And I found it here, with a bizarre Christian re-working of "Baby Got Back".

Posted by Frinklin at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

Happy BlogDay to me!

Well, I made it a year. This is fun, even when I’m not sure anyone is paying attention.

I do wish I had picked a slightly better nom de blog than “Frinklin” though.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:01 PM | Comments (2)

The Clone Wars

I understand that George Lucas has every right (and often uses it) to ignore the Star Wars Expanded Universe (comics, books and games), even when the EU material is quite a bit better than what he comes up with. I have come to grips, deep in my fanboy heart, that Lucas’ version of the Clone Wars has erased a bit of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy, and mucked with the timeline of Michael Stackpole’s Corran Horn character. I deal with it.

It does tick me off though, when two EU sources directly contradict each other. The last Clone Wars novel, Labyrinth of Evil made it clear that Obi-Wan and Anakin are gallivanting around the galaxy looking for clues about the chair Darth Sidious uses to communicate with the Trade Federation, while Mace Windu and Shaak Ti are deep inside The Works searching for the Dark Lord, now that they have proof he exists. On Wednesday’s The Clone Wars animated short, we find that Obi-Wan and Anakin are taking Anakin to some bizarre Vision Quest thing while Grievous attacks Coruscant.

The CW comics and books have been brilliantly tied together, referencing each other and creating a shared continuity. The first animated series fit in somewhat, but this is ridiculous.

The series itself is better than the first time around. I watched the DVD yesterday, and I have to agree with Bill: It gets a bit monotonous watching a fight scene every 2 minutes for an hour. Then again, I couldn’t handle them at 3 minutes every day. The new series, at 12 minute chapters every day for a week, is just right.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

Amateur Book Review: Various Star Wars

This would be a long and probably unnecessary look at three recent Star Wars novels: Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, Jedi Trial, and Labyrinth of Evil.

Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

As with most paperbacks these days, this book seems a throwaway, something easy to ignore. That would be a mistake. Sean Stewart has crafted an excellent Star Wars story, an engaging look at one of the most enigmatic characters in the franchise. Yoda is a difficult character to get correct. Certainly the prequel movies haven’t done so. Stewart nails it, better than anything since ESB. His Yoda is humorous without being a clown, empathetic without being cloying, and wise but approachable.

The setup is a good one. Count Dooku, claiming to be tiring of the war, is holed up on the dark world of Vjun. He’s sent a message to Yoda, wanting to meet face-to-face. It’s a setup of course, but there seems to be an element of sincerity. “He thinks he is lying”, according to an unexpected character. Yoda, along with two other Masters and their young Padawans, head off in secret to Vjun.

While Yoda is the titular character of this book, and is featured throughout, it’s not a Yoda solo story by any means. You could make the case that he isn’t even the main character in Dark Rendezvous. The story actually follows the two young Padawans, both are teenagers, both are human. Both have some issues. Scout, the girl, is not very strong in the Force and is in constant danger of being reassigned to the Republic Agricultural Corps. Whie, a slightly younger boy, is very talented, but troubled by visions of the future. Scout may be the most fully realized minor character in the EU: She’s tough, smart, and outwardly fearless. Whie is obviously an Anakin Skywalker stand-in, but unlike Anakin, he’s a quiet, thoughtful boy.

This book just works on every level. The movie characters are caught almost as perfectly as Scout and Whie. Dooku’s scenes work especially well, whether it is with Asajj Ventress trying to convince him to make her his apprentice, or Yoda asking him to come home to the Jedi. Anakin and Obi-Wan make short appearances, and Anakin is actually likable. There is a recurring moment where Padme watches ships come in, hoping that Anakin is returning. It’s a very nice, very melancholy theme. Considering how poor the romance has been portrayed in the movies, it’s a nice touch. The action flows well throughout the book as well, and it even features some humor, something sorely lacking in both the CW series and the New Jedi Order that proceeded it.

An excellent Star Wars book.

Jedi Trial

On the other hand, we have this mess. The cover of this book, featuring Anakin and Asajj Ventress, is a study in false advertising. The title suggests a look into Anakin’s passage from Padawan to Knight, and it promises a large role for both Ventress and Nejaa Halcyon, father of Corran Horn from the X-Wing series and I, Jedi. Well, Anakin’s trials are briefly mentioned but never explained. The bulk of the book is an attack on the remote world of Praesitlyn. No trials, no Padawan to Jedi. Ventress only appears as a holographic communication to the Separatist leader on Praesitlyn. Halcyon is in about half the book, but never really develops any voice beyond a short passage between him and Anakin about being secretly married.

No, this book is about Odie and Erk. Who are Odie and Erk you ask? Well, they would be soldiers on Praesitlyn. Odie, the single most stupidly named character in SW history, edging out Dooku and Sleazebaggano, is the scout on the ground. Erk, an impressively unlikable sort, is the pilot she falls in love with. Now, unlike Dark Rendezvous, we never connect to these characters, they never show any memorable personality traits. Jedi Trial follows them throughout the entire book. In the end, they end up married by Anakin. And this isn’t dashing, heroic Anakin either, this is why-didn’t-we-leave-this-kid-in-the-desert Crazy Anakin.

Not all is lost with this book though. The battle scenes are excellent, and befitting the authors (David Sherman and Dan Cragg) military background, seem technically correct. When Nejaa is in the book, he seems a decent sort, certainly more interesting than Erk and the dog from Garfield. Still, there isn’t enough in this book to recommend it, and you have to wonder why in the world this was worthy of Hardcover release while the Yoda book was a paperback.

Labyrinth of Evil

This book is only half a story, the first half of Revenge of the Sith in fact. For those who haven’t heard, the next movie will begin halfway through a major space battle; the battle is for Coruscant, the galactic capital. This book covers the events immediately preceding, including the planning and first part of the battle. It also explains just why Obi-Wan and Anakin have to come to the rescue.

The book opens as Obi-Wan and Anakin are on the verge of capturing Nute Gunray, the Nemodian head of the Trade Federation from the both Episode I and II. They fail, but do manage to acquire the device (a chair, of all things) that Gunray uses to receive orders from Dooku, General Grievous and Sidious. Even better, the chair contains a message from Sidious, giving the Jedi their first proof that the Dark Lord even exists. Anakin and Obi-Wan then are off on a wild-goose chase after the makers of the chair. Each clue leads a little closer to the Sith, but takes them farther away from Coruscant. There Mace Windu and Shaak Ti are leading a recon team of Jedi and ARC troopers through The Works, a Coruscanti slum strong in the dark side. It also just happens to border 500 Republica, the LaJolla-like fancy area where most of the planets leading citizens, including Chancellor Palpatine happen to live. Hmmmm…..

There is a lot to like about this book, despite its scattershot plotting. Like Luceno’s most recent SW effort, the New Jedi Order finale The Unifying Force, LoE has almost too much stuffed into it. Just about every character you can think of from the movies shows up, plus several EU types are mentioned as well, like the rogue Jedi Quinlan Vos. He’s from the excellent Dark Horse Clone Wars series. Luceno also finally solves one of the (many) giant hanging plotlines from the movies: just who the hell was Syfo Dias and why did he grow a clone army? And why was Dooku the man who choose Jango Fett as the template? The logic is a bit tortured, but this is as good an explanation as we’ll get. More importantly, we get inside the head of General Grievous. He’s much more interesting than presented previously.

This book is worth reading, and gives a lot of insight to Revenge of the Sith

Posted by Frinklin at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

Frinklin's Second Annual Baseball Preview: AL West


1. Los Angeles Angels
The Good
Vladimir Guerrero, the defending AL MVP, patrols in right. He didn’t have any problem in his first AL season, hitting a robust .337/.391/.598. Despite the yammering about Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad or even-swear to God I read this in a preview mag- Chone Figgins, Vlad is the best player on this team. He’s one of a handful in the majors who can completely take over a game. Vlad does have some support here too. Anderson, though slowed by injuries last year, has been mercifully moved back to left. He should be healthy and productive again. Steve Finley was signed away from the Dodgers to move into CF. Despite being 39 Finley had his best power year, slugging 36 homers between LA and Arizona. The infield will be nearly completely revamped this season. Orlando Cabrera comes over from the Red Sox to replace David Eckstein at short and utility man Figgins will start the season at second due to Adam Kennedy’s injury problems. The big name is rookie Dallas McPherson, who takes over for Troy Glaus at third. McPherson destroyed minor-league pitching last season, and acquitted himself well during his September call-up. He starts the year as favorite for AL Rookie of the Year. On the mound the Angels are a bit erratic. Bartolo Colon pretty much defined the term last season. The portly right hander was awful to begin the year (6-8, 6.38 before the All-Star break), but rebounded and went 12-4, 3.63 after the break. Kelvim Escobar had a very nice year, save for actual wins. K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez, takes over as full-time closer this year.

The Bad
The signing of Cabrera is a bit of a puzzler, as Eckstein was a serviceable shortstop and the Angels are loaded with middle infield prospects. Erstad is Erstad, offering offense that would be acceptable at a premium position but is way below average for first. The Angels should at least consider moving him back to the outfield, as two of their best prospects, Casey Kotchman and Kendry Morales also play first, and could offer much better bats. The signing of Finley was a bitter disappointment to many Angel fans, as they were hoping for Carlos Beltran. Finley is ageing, and by statistical analysis anyway, his range in center has slipped. The infield defense will be about the same; improved at short, where Cabrera offers better range and a much better arm than did Eckstein, but weakened at third, where McPherson is just an average defender. LA (or Anaheim or California or Whomever) will need Escobar to continue to pitch as well as he did last year, and Colon not to pitch like he did early last season. The rest of the rotation is questionable, as Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey and Paul Byrd all come with questions.

The Bottom Line
This is a very competitive division, as all four teams have their strengths and weaknesses. The Angels are the team best prepared to run away from the other three, but things will have to break right for this to happen. The biggest question, quite literally, is Colon. He needs to pitch like the ace LA pays him to be.

Texas Rangers
The Good
The Rangers are powered by their fantastic infield: Mark Texeria, Alfonso Soriano, Michael Young and Hank Blalock are all All-Stars or close to it. Young was a revelation last season, moving to short after the A-Rod trade, he hit .313/.353/.483 with 22 HR and 99 RBI. He will back down to earth bit, but still should provide above-average production at a premium position. The corners, Texeria and Blalock, aren’t far away from MVP consideration. Soriano might well be traded this season for pitching, clearing the way for prospect Ian Kinsler. The Rangers have the start of a nice power bullpen, led by Francisco Cordero, who broke through with 49 saves, and set-up man Frank Francisco.

The Bad
The rotation is still below par. Kenny Rogers was the ace last season and delivered 18 wins despite an unsightly 4.76 ERA. Ryan Drese solidified his spot with 14 wins and a slightly better ERA. Beyond them there is little, leaving youngsters Joaquin Benoit and Chris Young, plus whatever remains of Chan Ho Park. Prospects Juan Dominguez and Kameron Loe could contribute as well. As settled as the infield is, the outfield is a bit of a mess. Laynce Nix remains in center, and the Rangers think he could breakthrough this season. The corners will be reclamation project Richard Hidalgo and Kevin Mench. Catcher is a soft spot too, with Gerald Laird trying to reclaim his job from Rod Barajas.

The Bottom Line
If you squint a little bit, you can see The Next Big Thing here. The Rangers infield is spectacular, and if the pitching can come around –a HUGE if- this team will be in the playoff hunt all season. On the other hand, if Rogers and Drese don’t match what they did last season and the youngsters pitch like Chan Ho, this could be a lousy year in Arlington.

3. Seattle Mariners
The Good
Everything that’s good and decent in Seattle baseball begins with Ichiro. The right fielder had a season for the ages last year, shaking off a slow start to set a new single-season hit record. If the team had been any good, he would have received some serious MVP consideration. The M’s have improved around him this year, adding Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson to improve a power-deficient lineup. With the retirement of Edgar Martinez, Raul Ibanez should claim most of the DH at-bats, with Randy Winn moving to left and rookie Jeremy Reed in center. The outfield defense still won’t be as good as it was with Mike Cameron, but it will improve. The infield defense is excellent: Beltre and SS Pokey Reese might be the best in the AL at their positions. Bret Boone, looking to recover after a down year at the plate, has won multiple Gold Gloves. On the mound, Joel Piniero is healthier than last year, though still not at 100%. Bobby Madritsch solidified his position in the rotation with a very strong August and September.

The Bad
This is still a team with holes. Its best centerfielder plays in right, but none of the other outfielders could play right if Ichiro was willing to make the switch. Both Beltre and Sexson come with questions. Is Beltre a one-year wonder? Will Sexson prove worth the enormous contract Seattle gave him? Quick answers: No and No. Beltre might slip from last year’s career numbers, but a .275-25-100 would still be better than 75% of the thirdbaseman in the AL. Sexson, though, is a huge risk; a player with “old” tools and a back injury is not the best bet for a long-term contract. In the short term, if healthy he will provide some offense that was non-existent from the 1B position last year. This team is still suffering from some of the contracts GM Bill Bavasi gave out last year. The M’s overpaid for Ibanez, who is at least moderately productive, Scott Spiezio, who has no position left, and Shigetoshi Hasagawa. All three are still with the team, and are virtually untradeable. Past Pineiro and Madritsch the team is really hurting on the mound. Jamie Moyer was pounded last year, and at 42, might not bounce back. Gil Meche was up and down last year. If he pitches like he did after the All-Star break, he’ll be a solid starter. If he pitches like he did to open the season, he’ll be in Tacoma or on waivers. The bullpen is in shambles, as closer Eddie Guardado hasn’t lived up to his “Everyday Eddie” nickname since becoming a Mariner. It might be up to second-year man JJ Putz to close.

The Bottom Line
The Mariners are better than last year. In hindsight, last year’s collapse isn’t shocking at all. This team was old, and made some truly awful moves. This year will be more about individual questions for the Mariners. How will Beltre and Sexson do? What does Ichiro do for an encore? When will uberprospect Felix Hernandez make his debut?

4. Oakland Athletics
The Good
General Manager Billy Beane is rolling the dice. After several years of close-but-not-quite, Beane is tearing down his team and rebuilding it. Two of the Big Three have been traded away. Tim Hudson went to the Braves and Mark Mulder the Cardinals. In return, Beane received some excellent prospects, some ready now, some won’t be for several years. The pitching staff will be rebuilt around Rich Harden and Barry Zito. Three youngsters, Moneyball draft alumnus Joe Blanton, Dan Meyer from the Hudson deal and Dan Haren, picked up in the Mulder trade should round out the rotation. The bullpen is young too, with closer Octavio Dotel joined by Juan Cruz and rookie Huston Street. Two years ago Beane made the decision to build around Eric Chavez instead of Miguel Tejada. Chavez, Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby and 1B Scott Hatteberg are the linchpins of the infield. Jason Kendall, picked up from Pittsburgh, will catch. With Kendall and CF Mark Kotsay, a team that didn’t have any leadoff hitters for years now has two. Top prospect Nick Swisher takes over in RF for the departed Jermaine Dye.

The Bad
This team has very young pitching, with rookies all over the place. They are talented, but they will take some lumps. Other than Chavez and Crosby, the infield is questionable. Scott Hatteberg, a Billy Beane favorite, returns at 1B, but could be pushed by Dan Johnson, the PCL MVP. Second base is a bit of a mess, with former Brewer Keith Ginter, last year’s fill- in Marco Scutaro and Mark Ellis, who’s coming off injury. For a team once built around Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada and company, the A’s don’t have a lot of power. Crosby and Swisher could be good for more than 20, and Chavez should hit around 30, but beyond that they don’t have much.

The Bottom Line
This is a rebuilding year for the A’s, and everyone affiliated with the team knows it. They figure on running in place for a year or two, then contending again behind what could be a terrific rotation in about 2007.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:04 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2005

Frinklin's Second Annual Baseball Preview: AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins
The Good
At times last year, the Twinkies were the only team of grownups in the division. Led by reigning Cy Young winner Johan Santana, Minnesota sports an excellent nucleus. There are some changes though, as several of the teams prospects are ready. Justin Morneau will man 1B. He isn’t the niftiest defender around, but he is a genuine power hitter who should give the team its first 30-HR man since Kent Hrbek. Joe Mauer returns from injury to be behind the plate. There are some concerns he may eventually have to move positions, but for now the sweet-swinging Mauer will catch. Michael Cuddyer, after several abortive attempts, will take over 3B full time this season. All three kids are possible All-Stars. They, plus a talented outfield of Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones and Shannon Stewart, will fuel an explosive lineup. The pitching is the best in the division as well, with Santana and Brad Radke leading the rotation, and an excellent bullpen. Closer Joe Nathan, after being dumped by San Francisco, emerged as a grade-A closer.

The Bad
The Twins have problems in the middle infield. Shortstop Cristian Guzman signed (an absurdly overpriced) contract with Washington, leaving prospect Jason Bartlett or utility man Juan Castro to replace him. Luis Rivas remains at 2B, though the Twins would love to replace him. There isn’t anyone available right now, unless they wish to shift Cuddyer to 2B and find someone for third. While Jones continues to hit for power, his OBP dropped to an untenable .315. He was resigned, but is still in danger to losing his job to prospect Jason Kubel or fourth OF Lew Ford. Ford will also get many of the DH at-bats. This team has taken some steps back defensively. Bartlett doesn’t have nearly the range or arm Guzman did, Rivas can still play out of control at times, and Morneau and Cuddyer are steps down from Doug Mientkiewicz and Corey Koskie.

The Bottom Line
This team has replaced Oakland as the prototype successful small-market team. There is All-Star caliber talent at many positions, and a deep pool of prospects to either use as trade bait or replacements for pricier players. The question is will they, unlike Oakland, be able to take that final step and make it to the World Series.

2. Cleveland Indians
The Good
This is a very young, very talented team. CC Sabathia and Jake Westbrook are a dynamic tandem atop the rotation, and veteran Kevin Millwood has been signed to serve as the third starter, in hopes he can return to his Atlanta form. Cliff Lee, while erratic, is a serviceable 4th man. Catcher Victor Martinez, off an excellent .283/359/.492 season gives the Tribe a quality bat at a premium position to build around. Travis Hafner shook off a mediocre 2003 to provide steady power at the DH spot, finishing with an OPS of .993. Cleveland features a plethora of young outfielders either early in their major league careers like Jody Gerut and Coco Crisp, or on the verge of making the show like Grady Sizemore and Franklin Gutierrez.

The Bad
This is a very young, very talented team. Like most such teams they will play out of control or make stupid mistakes. They were also prone to streakiness in 2004, lurching to a stop with a 9-32 record down the stretch. While Sabathia is a fine young pitcher, he has yet to become as dominant as the Indians believe he can be. Lee was excellent before the All-Star break last season, dreadful after. Millwood has been a thoroughly average pitcher since leaving Atlanta. The bullpen was a disaster in 04, and might not improve much this season. Bob Wickman returns from injury to act as closer, but the Indians could also turn to David Riske and Rafael Betancourt, neither of whom were effective last year. Martinez is an excellent hitter, but might not develop enough behind the plate to stay there. The outfield is unsettled, and the infield is a mess. Ben Broussard went at least partway to removing the “bust” label and starts the season at first. Ronnie Belliard mans second after reviving his career away from Coors Field, and prospects Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Phillips will fight to replace Omar Vizquel at short. Aaron Boone, after as year lost to knee surgery, pushes Casey Blake off of third and into the outfield mix.

The Bottom Line
This is a young team on the way up. They aren’t there yet. Young talents like Lee, Sizemore and Gutierrez will need at least a year or two more seasoning before the Indians can really contend.

3. Chicago White Sox
The Good
Lefty Mark Buerhle and former Mariner Freddy Garcia are a nice right/left tandem at the head of the rotation.
Behind them are Yankee refugees Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras, plus Mr. Mediocre Jon (46-51, 4.68 lifetime) Garland. If everything breaks right, this is a fine staff. Outfielder Aaron Rowand broke through with a 20/20 year in center, though he’ll move to left this season. Paul Konerko continues to provide righthanded power, with an OPS just a tick under .900 in 2004. Frank Thomas will do the same, assuming he stays healthy. New centerfielder Scott Podsednik led the majors with 70 stolen bases with the Brewers last year. Juan Uribe, of all people, had a terrific season at 2B, hitting .283/.327/.506 away from Coors Field. Why Uribe and Ron Belliard didn’t play like this in Colorado is beyond me. The Sox have several people (Shingo Takatsu, Damaso Marte, Luis Vizcaino, Dustin Hermanson) who have been and could be closers for many teams.

The Bad
To get Podsednik and Vizcaino Chicago gave up Carlos Lee. Podsednik did steal 70 bases. He did so on a team in free-fall, with an OBP of barely over .300. Flanking him will be Rowand in left and free agent pickup Jermaine Dye in right. Dye, who replaces the departed Magglio Ordonez, hasn’t been a healthy and effective player for 3 seasons now. The infield is in flux, with Uribe moving to his natural shortstop position. Willie Harris, a utility player last season, will be the full-time 2B. Harris is a bit of an Eric Young/Tony Womack type; Low OBP, lots of steals, erratic defense. Konerko remains at first, despite his awful defense. He is better than Thomas, who is a born DH. Joe Crede is at third, and he seems to be settling into low-average version of Joe Randa. That will not do. The rotation could go south quickly if Hernandez gets hurt, or Contreras continues to be… well, Jose Contreras. While the pen does include several former closers, only Takatsu was any good at it last season, a sort of poor-man’s Trevor Hoffman.

The Bottom Line
This team is not going in the right direction. GM Kenny Williams and Manager Ozzie Guillen have stated very clearly they want a faster, more aggressive team than the collection of right-handed sluggers they’ve featured recently. Hence the move for Podsednik. The direction isn’t necessarily a bad idea. The Sox have been slow, lumbering and bad in the field for several years now. The problem is they seem to be going after Ozzie Guillen-type players: free swinging, no-power types with no patience at the plate. This is a team on the verge of collapse.

4. Detroit Tigers
The Good
This team is a heckuva lot better than it used to be. Ivan Rodriguez joined the team as a last-minute free agent signing and spearheaded an overall team improvement that took the team up 29 wins over the disaster of 2003. I-Rod hit .334/.383/.510 and won a Gold Glove. The other big addition was SS Carlos Guillen, who finally fulfilled his promise and turned in a sparkling .318-20-97 before getting hurt in September. Those two, plus new RF Magglio Ordonez will power the offense. The Tigers also improved at a couple unexpected positions. Omar Infante, freeswining middle infielder, took over for the injured Fernado Vina and hit 16 HR, though his OBP was an awful .317. The pitching started to come around, led by Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth. Bonderman is close to breaking through, and Maroth went from 20 losses to 11-13. They will be joined by youngsters Will Ledezma (who dominated AA ball at 10-3 with a 2.42 ERA) and Nate Robertson, who was solid in his first full year in the majors.

The Bad
This team is still just 2 years removed from a historically bad season. With the dismissal of CF Alex Sanchez, the Tigers are looking at an outfield of Rondell White (who can’t walk), Craig Monroe (who can’t catch) and Ordonez (who was a fair outfielder before the injuries last season). Who plays center in this mess is unknown, but once White goes down with his injury of the year, rookie Curtis Granderson should take over in CF. Beyond Guillen and Infante the infield is set with Carlos Pena at 1B, who still isn’t as good as he thinks he is, and Brandon Inge at third. Inge who caught, played 3B, 1B, and all three OF positions last season, has settled in at the plate. The pitching is still young, and thin. Troy Percival was signed from the Angels to anchor the bullpen.

The Bottom Line
Detroit is looking better, but still pretty lousy. Rodriguez and Guillen should produce close to their 2004 numbers, but Infante should return to Earth unless he improves his patience. Ordonez, if he stays healthy, should provide a big lift. If Bonderman has his breakthrough, this team could contend for .500.

5.Kansas City Royals
The Good
Zack Grienke came up as a 20-year old and quickly established himself as the best pitcher on the staff. GM Allard Baird managed to parlay Carlos Beltran into a starting catcher John Buck and 3B Mark Teahen might not be superstars, but both have the potential to be quality major leaguers. Jeremy Affeldt, if he stays healthy, could be either a good closer or starter. Mike Sweeney is a great hitter. David DeJesus did well replacing Beltran in center.

The Bad
When a 20-year old pitcher is your best thing, you’re in trouble. Right now, the Royals will roll out a starting lineup that includes Tony Graffanino at second, Chris Truby at third, Terrence Long in left, and either Matt Stairs or Eli Marrero in right. That’s just ugly. The pitching isn’t much better, as the Royals have to hope Runelvys Hernandez can come back from injury, and one of their many #5 starter-types like Brian Anderson, Chris George or whomever to pitch effectively. Sweeney is recovering from injury, and is very much on the trading block. After a ROTY season from Angel Berroa, he regressed, and was sent to the minors twice.

The Bottom Line
This is a bad team. Contending in 2003 now seems like some sort of bad fever dream. The moves they made, such as picking up Juan Gonzalez, backfired horribly, and now they start again from scratch. It will be several seasons before this team recovers.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:45 PM | Comments (5)

March 21, 2005

Frinklin's Second Annual Baseball Preview: AL East

1. New York Yankees
The Good
This is the Yankees, so there is a lot that’s pretty freakin’ good. The lineup is solid in most places and spectacular in others, led by RF Gary Sheffield, LF Hideki Matsui, SS Derek Jeter and Catcher Jorge Posada. And despite being derided by various Red Sox as not a “true Yankee” and playing out of position at 3B, Alex Rodriguez is the best player in the AL and could be poised for a monster year. The rotation is completely retooled, with longtime Steinbrenner object of desire Randy Johnson as the ace, followed by holdover Mike Mussina and a couple of free agent gambles, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. The Best Closer Ever, Mariano Rivera, is still in the bullpen.

The Bad

For a team with nearly-unlimited resources, New York has some holes. Trading away Alfonso Soriano robbed them of a secondbaseman, and after suffering through Miguel Cairo last year, they replace him with veteran Tony Womack. While Womack is coming off a career year, he’s also 35, a year removed from being an NRI. The Yankees seem to have issues up the middle defensively. Posada is average, Womack is an adventure, and Bernie Williams has slowed considerably in center. Jeter is either the most overrated shortstop ever or the most underrated ever, depending on who you read. At first Jason Giambi is a question, backed up by Tino Martinez, who is just plain old now. After Johnson and Mussina, the rotation is a question. Wright is a classic Leo Mazzone reclamation case, and those don’t have a great track record after leaving Atlanta. Pavano had one quality season as a starter, and it just happened to be his walk year.

The Bottom Line
Who knows? As it stands this is a team with a thunderous lineup and a rotation led by one of the great pitchers of all time. It’s also a team with defensive holes and questionable starting pitching. The issue of last October has to be raised as well. Even though the Boston-NY rivalry has always been one-sided, to lose the way the Yankees did has to be difficult to deal with. Not only did they become the first team in baseball history to blow a 3-0 lead, they were obliterated in the 7th game. This team will be interesting to watch out of the gate.

2. Boston Red Sox

The Good
The best offense in baseball is a good place to start. The Sox have it all: classic leadoff man in Johnny Damon, thunder in the middle with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and a host of complimentary players like Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar. They also upgraded the SS position by picking up longtime Cardinal Edgar Renteria. The Sox have a genuine ace in Curt Schilling, whose bloody sock performance in the ALCS will be remembered in New England as long as there is a New England. Closer Keith Foulke has been dynamite since coming to Boston, and ranks only behind Rivera and LA’s Eric Gagne. Boston resigned Jason Varitek, widely regarded as the best clubhouse leader in baseball.

The Bad
There is some age here, especially on the pitching staff. Schilling is 38, #2 starter David Wells is 39, and the setup corps, like Mike Timlin and Alan Embree, is ageing. After losing Pedro Martinez to the Mets, the Sox replaced him with Matt Clement, who needs to take his sparkling peripheral numbers and translate them into wins. The defense is an iffy proposition. While Renteria and Mueller form a nice left side, the right side with Mark Bellhorn and Millar is decidedly average.

The Bottom Line

So, do the Red Sox become just another team? Will things be different in New England now that the Olde Towne Team has done what the Florida Marlins have accomplished twice? Of course not, they’re still 26 championships behind New York. This is still a very good team, and they have as much chance of winning another World Championship as anyone in baseball.

3. Baltimore Orioles
The Good
Baltimore will hit, at least for power. Sammy Sosa, who the O’s picked up for just about nothing, joins a team that already had Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmiero and Javy Lopez. It isn’t a total stretch to expect between 120-160 homeruns between these four. Melvin Mora is coming off a jaw-dropping .340-27-104 year, his first as the regular 3B. Brian Roberts set an AL record for doubles by a switch-hitter with 50, and took the regular 2B job from the since-traded Jerry Hairston. Had the Orioles been any good, Tejada would have received serious MVP notice. He’s living up to his end of the 6 year/$72 million contract he signed last year.

The Bad
Pitching is a mess. Sidney Ponson is the nominal leader of the staff, but he was overweight and under prepared last season and may well be again. Rodrigo Lopez ended up leading the team in wins and ERA despite starting the year in the bullpen. Lopez has since solidified his place, though he would be a 4th or 5th starter on a good team. Beyond that, Baltimore will rely on kids to fill the rotation, led by second-year men Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard. The bullpen is in slightly better shape, as lefty setup man BJ Ryan should take over the closer role from erratic Jorge Julio. This team also needs to figure out what it has among its young outfielders. Jay Gibbons can hit, but is coming off an injury-riddled year. Luis Matos is an excellent centerfielder, but has yet to prove he can handle major league pitching. Larry Bigbie does a little of everything.

The Bottom Line
This is an odd team. The Orioles are too old in some places, too young in others. This is a good fit for Sosa, as Tejada is the undisputed team leader, leaving Sosa to just be loved, something he stopped being in Chicago. This team will score runs. Stopping the other team isn’t going to be easy, unless Bedard and Cabrera grow up in a hurry.

4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The Good
The D-Rays are very athletic. They have more young guys who run fast and jump high than any team in the majors. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always translate into baseball. The D-Rays do have a promising young outfield. LF Carl Crawford won the AL stolen base title, and should win many more, barring injury. CF Rocco Baldelli, once he recovers from off-season surgery, is slowly developing. Prospect Delmon Young should be ready soon to finish the trifecta. Speaking of prospects, uberprospect BJ Upton made his debut last season, and should stick for good sometime in 2005. He has an electric bat, but may not be disciplined enough to play short. He may not be disciplined enough to deal with Lou Piniella too. The current best Devil Ray is Aubrey Huff, who has grown into a genuine slugger. First is his.

The Bad

Were do we start? Alex S. Gonzales, the former Cub, Expo and Padre is currently slated to play third. With the retirement of Roberto Alomar, there is no second baseman beyond prospect Jorge Cantu. The pitching staff is led by Toronto castoff Mark Hendrickson and two kids; Dewon Brazleton and Scott Kazmir. Brazleton and Kazmir may someday form the nucleus of a fine staff, but both will have some serious growing pains. Beyond those two and Hendrickson, we have Rob Bell, Jorge Sosa, Doug Waechter and Seth McClung. The bullpen is a tad better. Danys Baez turned into an effective closer, and Lance Carter is a good set-up man. The biggest problems for the D-Rays are youth (Upton and Young are teenagers, Baldelli and Crawford aren’t much older) and the teams propensity to sign vets who just can’t hit. Gonzales, backup catcher Kevin Cash, former Red Brandon Larson… the list is just ugly.

The Bottom Line

Now that the Exponationals have a home, MLB needs to figure out what do to with this team. Actual attendance –as opposed to announced- dropped to the 2,000 – 3,000 mark. Last season’s 70 wins was the best in team history, and attendance is still dropping. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. No team has prospects to match Young, Upton, Baldelli and Crawford. Will there be a team when they’re ready?

5. Toronto Blue Jays

The Good
Vernon Wells and RHP Roy Halladay should be healthy after missing chunks of 2004. That alone makes the Jays a better team. With the departure of Carlos Delgado, this becomes Wells’ team. The centerfielder is a pretty nice building block too, a possible 30-30 man who plays Gold Glove-caliber defense. Halladay will do the same for the pitchers, providing he’s past the injury trouble. Beyond those two, the Jays are thin. The best bet is RF Alexis Rios. The young and skinny outfielder made his debut in 2004. He acquitted himself well, though with no power. Ted Lilly should provide a nice left-handed complement to Halladay. Beyond that there are holes throughout the lineup and rotation.

The Bad
Delgado leaving creates a huge hole in the lineup. It will be up to free agent 3B Corey Koskie to provide protection for Wells. Eric Hinske’s career has cratered, but he is still under contract and in the mix for the 1B and DH jobs. His main competition is Shea Hillenbrand, picked up from Arizona. Rookie Russ Adams is the leadoff hitter and starting shortstop. He’s considered a competent, if low-ceiling prospect. No team in baseball has less at catcher, with Greg Myers and Gregg Zaun battling for the starting job. After Halladay and Lilly, the starters are questionable. David Bush had a good rookie season: He’ll be the third starter. Behind him is Josh Towers or Gustavo Chacin. The bullpen is a mess. Miguel Batista moves to the closer role full time, with Jason Frasor, Justin Spier, and prospect Brandon League setting up.

The Bottom Line

For a disciple of Billy Bean, you would think that JP Ricciardi would be better at this. Signing low OBP guys like Hillenbrand and Koskie runs directly counter to the A’s philosophy, and the best young players in Toronto are toolsy players like Wells, Rios and 2B Orlando Hudson; the type of which Ricciardi shuns in favor solid-if-unspectacular college types like Adams and 2B prospect Aaron Hill. This team doesn’t’ quite seem to know where it’s going.

Posted by Frinklin at 07:22 PM | Comments (3)

March 20, 2005

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down...

... and apparently, you can't keep me down either. Mediocre Fred here. You may have seen my work at the recently retired Mediocre Fred's Mediocre Blog. I decided that I no longer had the time to maintain my own blog, and hung up my keyboard. However, my man Frinklin apparently decided that he couldn't let my voice be lost to the blogosphere, and offered my a guest writing spot on his blog, an offer I gratefully accepted. So thank you, Frinklin, for your belief in me.

For those of you who aren't familiar with me, I'm sort of Frinklin's mirror image. He's a Republican, I'm a Democrat. He's West Coast, I'm East Coast. He's American League, I'm National League. He's married, I'm single. Despite (or perhaps because of) our differences, we've become mutual admirers of each other's work.

In terms of what you can expect from me, expect anything. As Frinklin can attest, I write about just about anything: baseball, politics, history, literature, popular culture, random gripes, everyday occurrences, etc. My busy schedule will probably mean erratic posting, but I promise to be entertaining, informative or at least long-winded whenever I do manage to post.

Now, one last thing... Frinklin, we've got to talk about the title of this blog. Maybe I could get equal billing? "Frinklin and Fred Speak" works for me...

Update @2:49PST Ask and Ye Shall Receive-Frinklin

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 02:13 PM | Comments (1)

Happy Anniversary!!

One year ago today, the Missus and I ran off and got ourselves married.

One year down, the rest of our lives to go.

Posted by Frinklin at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2005

Uh, Yeah... weren't they supposed to lose this one?

The Huskies just KILLED Pacific today.

And Bob Thomason, UOP's asshat of a coach, still doesn't give the Dawgs any credit. Hey, Bob...ya'll never led.

Update Yeah, Wake Forest suuuure deserved a #1 seed over the Huskies.

Posted by Frinklin at 04:41 PM | Comments (1)

March 18, 2005

X3 and Wonder Woman?

I had hoped that Joss Whedon would take over from Bryan Singer to do the next X-Men movie. It only made sense, as he is the current writter on the flagship X-Men comic title. But it isn't to be, as Whedon announced he is writing and directing a Wonder Woman movie.

To make matter worse, Matthew Vaughn has been named to helm the next X-Men movie. Who is Matthew Vaughn? Well, he was Guy Ritchie's best man when he married Madonna. And he's married to Claudia Schiffer. As for his movie credentials, they are pretty close to non-existent. He produced Ritchie's movies, and he directed the only-seen-in-the-UK Layer Cake.

I'm not impressed.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

First Round

My bracket is already shot to hell. Bucknell and Vermont? What? The upsets I did pick, Old Dominion and UCLA didn't come through.

At least only two of my Sweet 16 (Kansas and Syracuse) are dead.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:23 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2005

A blogfriend hangs it up

Seriously bummed today... Fred has called it quits. I offered to guesthost him whenever he wants. I hope he takes me up on it.

Posted by Frinklin at 07:13 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005

The EPIII Trailer

The Revenge of the Sith trailer is now available to non-paying customers at The large screen version is still available only to "Hyperspace" members,but what's available is pretty good. After watching it a couple times, I'm getting into this. There are some flaws though, the biggest of which is Hayden Christensen's bizarrely wooden delivery. Still, the scene where Anakin leads the Clone troopers to the Jedi temple is pretty freakin' cool, as is Mace Windu leading the Jedi to arrest the Chancellor.

If you haven't seen it, check it out.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:46 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

A week before my anniversary, can you believe it?

I lost my wedding ring today. No, I managed to find it, but for about a half-hour I was freaked out. My ring is the only piece of jewelry I wear, unless you count a watch. It was at close of business this afternoon. I had it on all day, but then when I got to the car, I noticed it was gone. I've been having problems with it for a while now. I don't know if it was sized right, or my hand has shrunk or what, but it just falls off now and then. Once, when I was gesturing wildly for some reason it flew off and nearly cracked Ensie in the head. Anyway, I ran back upstairs, and retraced all of my steps throughout the day. I also let the security people know and they promised to talk to the cleaning staff. After a half-hour of searching, I gave up and decided to call the wife. She took it well, better than me in fact. I decided to check one last thing. I had used the restroom right before leaving, and I checked the sink, and... wait a minute. I dried my hands too. So, I went rifling through the garbage in the men's restroom. Not something I'm terribly proud of, but it worked. My right was in the middle of a used paper towel. It must have come off as I dried.

And yes, my first anniversary is in exactly one week. Not the way I wanted to spend it.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

Happy Bracket Day!

My bracket is below. Upset specials are Old Dominion over Michigan State, UCLA over Texas Tech, and Nevada over Texas.

As for the Huskies, I think they make it to the Elite Eight. This is a hellacious bracket for them. A second-round matchup against a slow, pounding Pacific team or Pittsburgh, with their dominant-when-he-wants-to be big man Chris Taft could have the Dawgs home quick.

Posted by Frinklin at 08:08 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2005

A Number 1 Seed??

Wow.... I, and most Husky watchers, wasn't expecting this. Even with the Kentucky loss, I thought UW would rate a #2 or #3 seed. About 95% of brackets around the country will have Washington as the first #1 seed out, and with a matchup against either GT or Louisville starting at them in round 3 -not to mention a very good Pacific team in round 2- that might be a good prediction. I do think the Huskies have earned this, but I'm still not sold on this team. I watched them dismantle a mediocre Arizona State team, then let them so far back into the game in went into overtime. Number 1 seeds don't do that.

The NCAA didn't do the Dawgs any favors. Last week, the Huskies were a darkhorse Final Four or Elite Eight pick. Now, anything less than St. Louis is a downer.

Still pretty freakin' cool though.

Oh, and I'll probably delay the AL preview a week. This is the first weekend of March Madness, which might just be the best sports week of the year.

Bracket Day tomorrow! Have fun!

Posted by Frinklin at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2005

Pac-10 Tournament Champs!


So, where does this team end up? At least a #3 seed, maybe the last #2.

I do love me some March Madness.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2005

Again... impressed even though I don't want to be...

Sorry to interrupt the all-baseball format of FS, but this new ROTS poster is coooool.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:44 PM | Comments (1)

Frinklin's Second Annual Baseball Preview: NL West

NL West
1. San Diego Padres
The Good
The Padres have the makings of an excellent starting staff. Jake Peavy won the ERA title in 2004, and would have been a strong contender for the Cy Young had he not missed a month of the season. Boomer Wells left as a free agent, but veteran Woody Williams replaces him. Williams isn't as effective as Wells, but is slightly younger and less disruptive in the clubhouse. Brian Lawrence finally finished a year with a winning record, and Adam Eaton needs to realize his vast potential. The bullpen was airtight, despite not having a lefthanded specialist much of the year. Trevor Hoffman made a complete recovery from surgery, and Aki Otsuka and Scott Linebrink were terrific set-up men. The Padres have a veteran lineup with impressive sluggers like Brian Giles, Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin. Shortstop Khalil Green probably would have won Rookie of the Year had he not been injured the last 6 weeks of the season. He and 2B Mark Loretta, who had a career year, are a solid tandem in the middle infield.

The Bad
San Diego was completely unprepared for the reality of PETCO Park. The new park features a vast outfield with quirky angles and sits right on the water. Not the sort of place where slow and defensively challenged sluggers are at a premium. The Padres played an atrocious OF of Giles in RF, Klesko in LF and the now-departed Terrence Long or Jay Payton in center. The results were not pretty. To make matters worse, none of them managed to hit well in PETCO. It was obvious from the start, and none of them, Klesko especially, ever adapted. Payton and Long are replaced by Dave Roberts, who split last season between LA and Boston. His speed will help cover ground in center, and lend a hand to Giles and Klesko. The Padres would love to trade Klesko and replace him with prospect Xavier Nady, but so far have found no takers. Next to Greene on the infield, 3B Sean Burroughs was supposed to be George Brett by now. He isn't; his power is non-existent, and he doesn't show much patience or speed either.

The Bottom Line
Despite some small setbacks, San Diego is a franchise on the rise. The ballpark is spectacular, and the club is making moves to tailor the team to it. If Giles and Nevin can continue to adjust to the park, Greene continues to improve and Burroughs can show some of the talent that made him such a heralded prospect, the Friars should have enough offense to ride Peavy and the bullpen to the NL West crown.

2. San Francisco Giants
The Good
The Giants feature an outfielder you might have heard of named Barry Bonds. This year, as Bonds is about 2 weeks away from passing Babe Ruth on the all-time HR list, he has his best running mate since Jeff Kent left. Moises Alou, off a .293-39-106 season with Chicago, joins the team in right. They will flank Marquis Grissom, who has revived his career with San Francisco. This is an old outfield, but a very productive one. There are more vets in the infield, as longtime Indian and Mariner Omar Vizquel and his 9 Gold Gloves take over at short. Omar, while overpaid and aging, is a significant upgrade to the Deivi Cruz/Neifi Perez/Cody Ransom troika from 2004. Mike Matheny, widely considered the best defensive catcher in the NL, comes over from St. Louis. The pitching staff is solid if not spectacular, led by Jason Schmidt, who is pretty spectacular on his own. Kirk Reuter, the #2 man on the staff seems to be slipping though, and will have to rebound for this team to win. The bullpen is solidified with the acquisition of Armando Benitez as closer. Benitez was dominat last year, and the Giants are betting he will continue.

The Bad
This team is really old. The standard Giant lineup of Bonds-Grissom-Alou in the outfield, with Edgardo Alfonzo, Vizquel, Ray Durham, JT Snow and Matheny in the infield will have an average age of 72.2. Okay, it's actually 35.9, but it's still the oldest starting 8 in the game. Alfonzo and Snow will both share time with the younger Pedro Feliz, and Yorvit Torrealba will be the backup catcher. Fourth OF Michael Tucker will get his share of work too, especially since Alou is notoriously injury prone. Benitez was dominant last year, but the previous year the Mets, Yankees and Mariners all couldn't wait to get rid of him, and his playoff meltdowns are legendary. Reuter has to rebound, Brett Tomko has to continue pitching effectively and at least one of the kids (Merkin Valdez, Noah Lowery, and Jesse Foppert) have to come through and solidify the rotation. Lowery, while the least heralded, has the best start; winning his first 6 starts in the majors.

The Bottom Line
This team has the next two years to win the World Series, before everything turns to dust and they wake up with the Devil Rays in a nicer park. Bonds will dominate, that much is a given. The wild cards are Alou and the young pitchers. If Alou stays healthy and gives Bonds some protection, and a pitcher comes through, this team could make it.

Or it could age instantly, like the Mariners did in 2005

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Good
It starts at the back with the Dodgers, as their best unit is the bullpen, led by Eric Gagne. To show how deep this unit was in 2004, LA traded Guillermo Mota and didn't miss a beat. Second-year players Duaner Sanchez and Yhency Brobozan set up Gagne. The rotation is adequate, with no real ace or stopper, but a nice collection of #3 guys. Jeff Weaver pitched very well after being freed from New York and the Dodgers are counting on Derek Lowe to do the same now that he is away from Boston. Lowe was brilliant during the playoffs last year, which is a good sign. At the plate FA signee JD Drew, a dynamic hitter when healthy and Milton Bradley, a dynamic hitter when sane, leads LA. Drew and Bradley are joined in the OF by the improving Jayson Werth. Cesar Isturiz, coming off his first Gold Glove at short, is joined by Jeff Kent at second. Kent isn't nearly the defender that Alex Cora was, but the Dodgers need his bat.

The Bad
The Dodgers signed Adrian Beltre, signed him again after it was revealed he was underage, and then watched him struggle through 6 seasons of injury and inconsistency before exploding last year, leading the majors in HR and finishing behind Barry Bonds for NL MVP. Then he left for Seattle as a free agent. He will be replaced by Jose Valentin, who hit 30 HR despite an OBP under .300, with prospect Antonio Perez (former property of the Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays) perhaps being a righthanded platoon partner. Beltre's bat will be replaced by Jeff Kent. As mentioned, both Drew and Bradley are dynamic talents, but the odds of both staying available throughout the season are high. If Lowe struggles, Kaz Ishii continues to walk everyone and Odaliz Perez can't stay healthy, the rotation just won't be good enough. First base is black hole after the departure of Shaun Green; Hee Siop Choi is the incumbent, but everyone other than Dodger GM Paul DePodesta has given up on him.

The Bottom Line
The Dodgers won their first their first playoff game since 1988 last year, and I've no idea how. Beyond the bullpen and Beltre, nothing much was special about this team. This year they lose Beltre, and they had to downgrade their defense to replace his bat. DePo seems to be running in place with this team.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Good
They can't possibly be worse than they were last year. Bob Melvin, fresh off a 99-loss season in Seattle, takes over a team that decided to retool instead of rebuild. Randy Johnson was traded to the Yankees, with Javier Vasquez the main return from the trade. The Snakes also signed Russ Ortiz to join holdover Brandon Webb. The bullpen is young but effective, built around Jose Valverde and Greg Aquino. The Diamondbacks should improve defensively, replacing Alex Cintron with Royce Clayton, and installing free-agent Troy Glaus at third. Chad Tracy is at first, with Craig Counsell returning to play second.

The Bad
Arizona spent like a drunken sailor, giving Ortiz, Glaus and Shaun Green contracts that were both too long and too expensive. The signing of Counsell was also head scratching, as Matt Kata is basically the same player, only younger and cheaper. Glaus, Luis Gonzalez and Green will comprise the middle of the order, though both Gonzo and Glaus are coming off major injuries, and Green's career has been in free fall recently. Vasquez, the newly acquired ace, is coming off a terrible second-half and has already made it clear he doesn't want to pitch for a West Coast team. Patience is obviously the key against the D'Backs, as Webb led the league in walks last year, and Ortiz averages nearly 5 BB per 9 innings for his career.

The Bottom Line
This team was just stupid over the summer. The Glaus signing is fine if his shoulder is healthy enough for him to play third. Signing Counsell and Royce Clayton though, that's just a sign of making moves solely to make moves. Ortiz and Green are contracts that will bite hard in the very near future. And isn't Arizona perpetually short of cash?
5. Colorado Rockies
The Good
Don't look now, but the Rox are growing a pitching staff. Former ROTY Jason Jennings became only the second Colorado pitcher to win 10 games three years in a row; Joe Kennedy came over from Tampa Bay, changed his motion a tad and was terrific down the stretch; kids like Aaron Cook and rookie Jeff Francis show promise for the future. Todd Helton returns and is always good for a .320-35-110 season. Preston Wilson should be healthy enough to man CF and provide some insurance for Helton, and Colorado has great faith in its rookies

The Bad
They had better have faith, because as it stands, Colorado is planning on 4 first year players in its Opening Day line up. Outfielder Matt Holliday played well the second half of last year, as did catcher JD Closser. Shortstop Clint Barmes and 3B Garrett Atkins will also be expected to start, and perennial prospect Choo Freeman could replace Wilson if Colorado can find a taker for his $12 million contract. As promising as Jennings-Cook-Francis-Kennedy is, this is still Coors Field, where pitchers go to die. The defense won't be anything special either, as Atkins and Holliday are barely average. Barmes and 2B Aaron Miles are okay, but neither has plus range. The bullpen is empty.

The Bottom Line
The Rockies rebuilding may finally show some benefits. Francis will contend for Rookie of the Year, Holliday hit well and Atkins ripped apart the PCL last year. Still, anything close to .500 would be an accomplishment for this team

Posted by Frinklin at 06:18 PM | Comments (3)

March 08, 2005

Frinklin's Second Annual Baseball Preview: NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals
The Good
Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmunds are a pretty good place to start. Add in a full season -if he can stay healthy- of Larry Walker, and you have the best 2.5 in baseball. Pujols is the best righthanded hitter in the NL; Edmonds is the ultimate streak hitter, and Rolen is coming off a career year. He was a season-long contender for the NL MVPNNBB award. The pitching is improved over last year, swapping out Woody Williams for erstwhile Oakland A Mark Mulder. The price was steep, but picking up a 27-year old ace is worth it. Mulder should anchor the rotation, and will be followed by last year's reclamation project Chris Carpenter and longtime Card Matt Morris. Jason Isringhausen, while not on par with Eric Gagne or Mariano Rivera, is a quality closer.

The Bad
After their stud 2-5 hitters, throwing in Reggie Sanders, the Cardinals have a vastly changed lineup. The middle infield combo of Tony Womack and Edgar Renteria is gone, off to different sides of the Red Sox-Yankees war. Mark Grudzielanek will replace Womack. This change is a wash really; Womack will steal more bases, Grudzielanek will hit with a touch more power and higher OBP. Neither is anything special defensively. Former LA Angel David Eckstein replaces Renteria, the best SS in the NL the last few years. While a competent player, Eckstein is a serious downgrade from Renteria, both offensively and defensively. Longtime catcher Mike Matheny is gone as well, replaced by prospect Yadier Molina. This seems a wash, as both a quality defensive catchers who don't hit much. The bullpen has been weakened, losing Kiki Calero and Danny Haren in the Mulder trade and Steve Kline via free agency.

The Bottom Line
The Cardinals won't win 100-plus games again, but might be in a better situation to win a World Series. Providing Mulder acclimates to the NL and Carpenter can continue his career renaissance, the Cards now match up in a short series well. The infield defense is a concern though, as Eckstein can't match Renteria's range or arm. There are also some age questions in the outfield.

2. Chicago Cubs
The Good
Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux still make up the best four-deep staff in baseball. Prior is coming off an injury-plagued year, but Zambrano emerged as an ace himself. Maddux merely set a record by becoming the first man in baseball history to win 15 games for 17 seasons in a row. The Cubs should profit from their Red Sox-in-Exile middle infield of Nomar Garciaparra, who may have more to prove this season than any player short of Jason Giambi, and Todd Walker. Both are adequate defensive players, and dynamic hitters when healthy. The key there is "when healthy" for Garciaparra. With the departure of Sammy Sosa, power will come from the infield corners, Derrick Lee at 1B and Aramis Ramirez at 3B. Corey Patterson continues to develop in center.

The Bad
The Cubs, realizing that they needed to get more speed and situational hitting in the lineup, replaced Sosa with Jeromy Burnitz. Wait a minute... The man actually picked up for Sosa, Jerry Hairston, will play all over the field if he doesn't claim the LF job outright from rookie Jason Dubois. The defense was awful last year, and while Ramirez has improved at third, he's still only adequate. Thanks to injury, Nomar isn't nearly the SS he was in Boston. Lee, a former Gold Glover, is the Cubs best defender. As good as the rotation is, the bullpen is as bad. The Cubs will need to settle on a closer. LaTroy Hawkins, Joe Borowski and the now-departed Kyle Farnsworth all took a try last year and all failed, rather spectacularly in Hawkins' case. The best bet may be former starter Ryan Dempster, making his way back from arm troubles.

The Bottom Line
The Cubs were never as good as their press clippings last year. Prior and Wood were ineffective, the bullpen a disaster, and the clubhouse turned poisonous. Still, they finished with a winning record in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 34 years. Now that manager Dusty Baker has the Sosa-free world he craved, they should make it three. But don't look for this curse to be broken this year.

3. Houston Astros
The Good
This is another NL Central team with dynamite rotation. Roger Clemens returns after another Cy Young, Andy Petitte should be healthy, and Roy Oswalt won 20 games last year. Throw in playoff hero Brandon Backe and the rehabbing Carlos Hernandez, and the rotation is unquestionably the strength of this team. The bullpen is solid too, as closer Brad Lidge took over for the traded Octavio Dotel and quickly established himself as a premier closer. The offense is productive, but old and getting older. Adam Everett has proven himself a capable hitter and flashy gloveman in the field

The Bad
For a team with such a large and difficult-to-play centerfield, Houston sure doesn't seem to care about OF defense. With the departure of Carlos Beltran, the 'Stros seem set on playing 3 LF/1 B types. Lance Berkman, the everyday RF and the team's best hitter, is out with a knee injury the first few months of the season. Craig Biggio, who started in CF, then shifted to left when Beltran was acquired, could end up in CF or LF, but right now is slated to start back at second, with 2B prospect Chris Burke playing, you guessed it, LF. That would leave Jason Lane in CF, and utility OF Orlando playing RF until Berkman comes back. An alternate would leave OF prospect Wily Tavares in CF and Lane in RF, with Biggio and Burke swapping places. That would seem to make the most sense. Along with Everett and either Burke or Biggio, Jeff Bagwell will play first. He can still hit, but shoulder problems have robbed him of some pop. Brad Ausmus will continue on at catcher for the foreseeable future, as Houston gave up replacement John Buck in the Beltran deal

The Bottom Line
This is a team close to the edge. The pitching is still there, but at the plate and in the field they are severely lacking. They really need Tavares to step up from AA ball and claim the CF job, or they need to convince the Mets to trade Mike Cameron. Anything to improve that OF defense. Garry Hunsicker left during the off-season. He knew this team's window has closed

4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Good
Looking for a surprise team in the NL? Well.. maybe not surprise as in sneak into the playoffs, but the Brew Crew will be a better team this year and should finish .500 or above. Optimism stems from a young pitching staff led by a legitimate ace, and a bevy of young players ready to come up. Ben Sheets is the ace, and proof positive that a pitcher's won-loss record is not what you need to judge one by. He finished 12-14 despite being third in the NL in ERA. The Brewers posted a grand total of 19 runs in his 14 losses. Doug Davis is an effective #2, and they are followed by prospects, including Jose Capallan from Atlanta. The offense has been seriously upgraded with the pickup of Carlos Lee, stolen from the ChiSox for Scott Posednik. No offense to Podsednik who did lead the majors in steals, but Lee is an upgrade at the plate. Lee will slot in-between lefties Geoff Jenkins and Lyle Overbay. Chad Moeller and Damian Miller make up an effective catcher tandem.

The Bad
With the trade of Dan Kolb to Atlanta, the closer currently is Mike Adams, who went 0-3 in save opportunities. Nothing past Sheets and Davis is set in the rotation. Junior Spivey was hurt most of last season, and his backup from 2004, Keith Ginter, was sent to Oakland for Redman. If Spivey can't make it, either utilityman Bill Hall or prospect Rickie Weeks will take over. A rookie, JJ Hardy, will man short, even though he missed most of last year. Third is a mess, with Russell Branyon, who if given 500 at-bats might hit 50 HR and K 200 times, battling Wes Helms, who hasn't played particularly well at either first or third in Milwaukee. Podsednik will need to be replaced in center, either by utility outfielder Brady Clark or prospect Dave Krynzel Krynzel might not be seen until mid-season, but the Brewers would like him to grab the job and leave Clark available for all three OF positions.

The Bottom Line
This is a team on the upswing, with new ownership and a bevy of prospects in the pipeline. Hardy should start at short by Opening Day, Rickie Weeks should join him by the All-Star break, with Prince Fielder with an ETA of about May 2006. The outlook for this season is good too, surely better than it has been in years. The fleecing of Chicago for Lee is a masterful move.

5.Cincinnati Reds
The Good
The Reds have 4 quality outfielders, providing Ken Griffey Jr. stays healthy. Admittedly, that really hasn’t been an option recently, but the Reds counter with Wily Mo Pena. There has been some talk of moving Griffey to right so Pena could play center full time. While he’s still raw, Pena had a breakthrough last year, finally coming through on some of those Sammy Sosa comparisons. Rightfielder Adam Dunn finished with 46 HR last year and broke Bobby Bonds’ strikeout record. The Reds are solid at the corners, with Sean Casey and Joe Randa. While they lack an ace, the Reds have assembled a collection of #3 starters with Eric Milton, Paul Wilson and ex-Angel Ramon Ortiz.

The Bad
In a division with Mark Prior, Mark Mulder, Kerry Wood, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Ben Sheets, #3 starters aren’t going to cut it. The Reds are also counting on someone from a group that includes Brandon Claussen, Aaron Harang, Josh Hancock, and Luke Hudson to claim the fourth and fifth rotation slots. Danny Graves comes of a shaky year as the closer, and the bullpen as a whole was awful last year, finishing ahead of only the Rockies in ERA last year. They patched the problem with vets Ben Weber and David Weathers, both of whom had lousy years themselves. The Reds also have no real replacement for longtime captain Barry Larkin at short. Former Philly farmhand Anderson Machado was supposed to be the guy, but he’ll miss the season. That leaves Felipe Lopez or utility players Luis Lopez and Ryan Freel as options, or youngster Ray Olmedo.

The Bottom Line
The Reds are treading water right now. They have improved the rotation somewhat, though the idea of Ortiz and Milton pitching in the Great American Smallpark is dangerous. They have to do something to fix the glut of outfielders. Griffey is the wildcard; if healthy, he can still carry this team for stretches.

That’s a big If.

6.Pittsburgh Pirates
The Good
The Pirates are assembling a nice pitching staff. Oliver Perez is emerging as an ace, and Josh Fogg and former A Mark Redman complement him nicely. The key is #2 starter Kip Wells, who seemed to regress last year. A solid four is necessary in this division, and the Pirates might have it. Jack Wilson is coming off a career year offensively with 200 hits. Wilson also lives up to his Jack Flash nickname in the field. Jason Bay is the defending Rookie of the Year, hitting a robust .282 .358 .550.

The Bad
This is a bad team at the plate. Beyond Wilson, Bay and 1B/RF Craig Wilson, there isn’t much that will do much damage, especially against the pitchers in this division. Matt Lawton is slotted to play the OF and lead off, which could help, but there are dead zones at C, 2B, and CF. Rob Mackowiak is a nice utility piece capable of occasional power. The bullpen was better than expected last year, but any ‘pen relying on Jose Mesa has to be suspect.

The Bottom Line
Twelve straight losing seasons, and about to be 13; Pittsburgh and its fans deserve better than this. They may not get it soon, as this team can pitch but really can’t hit. Bay was old a rookie, so he might not get much better, and Wilson will almost certainly come back down to Earth.

Posted by Frinklin at 07:46 PM | Comments (3)

March 07, 2005

Frinklin’s Second Annual Baseball Preview: The NL East

This should be a daily occurrence, but I make no promises.

1. Florida Marlins
The Good
The acquisition of 1B Carlos Delgado strengthens an already potent lineup. The lefty Delgado will slot in-between righties Miguel Cabrera and Mike Lowell in a 3-4-5 that compares favorably with any in the National League. This lineup also features speedy slap hitters Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo at the top. Both should come close to the 200-hit mark. The rotation, led by Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett, has the potential to be one of the best in baseball.

The Bad
The key word there is potential. For all his talent, Beckett is a .500 pitcher in regular season action, and Burnett is never healthy. Former Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis struggled most of 2004. In addition, Guillermo Mota will be handling the closer role with the departure of Armando Benitez. Mota has never held the closer role in the majors. Offensively, while Pierre and Castillo may hit singles, they never walk and seldom -if ever- hit for extra bases. Add in SS Alex Gonzales and his league worst .271 OBP, and the Fish have on-base issues.

The Bottom Line
There are a lot of "ifs" for this team. IF Pierre and Castillo can keep hitting singles and keep their stolen base success rate high; IF Delgado can adjust to the NL; IF his defense doesn't drive the pitching staff and his fellow infielders crazy; IF Beckett, Willis and Burnett can pitch an effective entire year; IF Mota can handle closing...The Marlins hit on half of those they win the division. All of them break right; this team is a serious World Series challenger.

2. Atlanta Braves
The Good
Hudson-Smoltz-Hampton isn't exactly Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz, but it is closer than the Braves have been the last couple of years. Hudson, having signed a long-term deal with his hometown team, should serve as Ace. The rotation is rounded out by John Thomson and,- exciting youngster Horacio Ramirez. Dan Kolb comes over from Milwaukee, off an All-Star year to replace Smoltz as closer. The offense, with Rafael Furcal, Marcus Giles and the Joneses, Chipper and Andruw, will be potent. Catcher Johnny Estrada hit better than anyone could have anticipated in 2004.

The Bad
Smoltz hasn't pitched 200 innings any season this century. Hudson is the type of small-build right-handers that scouts have coronaries over and he did have some injury trouble last year. Hampton will never be his pre-Colorado self again. Kolb has exactly 3/4 of one good year as a closer. The offense will be fine, but the defense, with Chipper returning to third, Giles being nothing more than average at second, and Furcal continuing to be maddeningly inconsistent, is bordering terrible. The Braves actually expect Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi to play alongside Andruw Jones in the outfield until heralded prospects Andy Marte and Jeff Francoeur are ready. Estrada hit well, but his defense was below expectations.

The Bottom Line
The Braves are either the easiest or the hardest team to predict. You have to think that eventually they won't win the NL East. They shouldn't have the last three years, but they did anyway. This team has noticeable flaws, but they always do. I could see them finishing first again, but they're just as likely to finish fourth.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Good
This team will certainly be less combative than recent years, as the low key Charlie Manuel takes over for the totally insane Larry Bowa. This clubhouse has been toxic, and Manuel, while not the best tactician in the game, should help repair that. On the field the Phils are a mixed bag. In Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome, they have a quality middle of the lineup, though Pat Burrell needs to shake his 2-year slump. Chase Utley, an offensive second baseman will start, and Jimmy Rollins is now the best 55 in the NL. The new ace is Jon Lieber, a groundball pitcher who should fare well in Citizen's Bank Park, assuming (and you know what assuming does) he stays healthy. This team has a very effective, albeit old, bullpen

The Bad
This team has to rely on a two rapidly fading veterans up the middle. Kenny Lofton, acquired from the Yankees, will play center and bat second, despite his fading skills. Catcher Mike Leiberthal has been slipping for two years now, and at 33, should continue to do so. Thome finished with solid power and OBP numbers, but hit a dismal .203 with runners in scoring position. After Leiber, no sure thing himself, the rotation is filled with question marks. Will Randy Wolf and Vincente Padilla rebound after mediocre, injury-plagued years? Is this the season that Bret Myers turns it on? How soon will we see superprospect Gavin Floyd? As previously mentioned, the bullpen is effective, but old.

The Bottom Line
The Phillies are a mystery team. How well they adapt to life without Bowa is the key. If the players were correct, and Bowa was the problem, then this team should contend. These do seem to be some holes though, and they don't have enough to catch the Marlins or Braves.

4. New York Mets
The Good
Well, they're a damned sight better than last year. How much better is the question. Carlos Beltran is the real deal; a franchise player just entering his prime. If he can handle the New York spotlight after stints in Kansas City and Houston, he'll deliver with a .300 30/30 season with just below Gold Glove caliber defense. The man he pushes to RF, Mike Cameron, is better. The other big pickup, Pedro Martinez is less important on the field, but perhaps more important off it. Pedro is, obviously, not just any pitcher, but instead a legendary figure near the end of his career. He's also enough of a character to pull the spotlight to him, and allow the teams younger players to mature out of the spotlight. On the field he's a dynamic pitcher won’t clear the 6-inning mark with any regularity. More important in the long run are 3B David Wright and SS Jose Reyes. Both are dynamic young players. Wright is a slugger who evokes Scott Rolen, and Reyes is an Anfonso Soriano-type electric bat. The Mets also vastly improved their defense by moving Kaz Matsui to second and Reyes back to short.

The Bad
Matsui, last season’s big pickup, struggled with his first season in America. This year he has the added stress of playing second, an unfamiliar position for him. The move makes sense though, as Reyes has significantly more arm and range. Matsui will stay in the number 2 hole in the lineup. He is an excellent situational hitter and fits there. Mike Piazza will stay behind the plate, as the firstbase experiment has ended. His defense has further slipped, and is now well below average. His bat is still dangerous, though not as it was a few years ago. Behind Pedro, Tom Glavine continues to wind down his career. The big questions are 2004’s midseason pickups. Kris Benson, he of the tabloid ready wife and quality stuff, has to prove he’s worth his off-season contract extension. Victor Zambrano, for whom the Mets inexplicably sent stud prospect Scott Kazmir, was injured in his short New York tenure.

The Bottom Line
Every year the Mets make one or two big free agent pickups. Every year the team's fans think they're catching up with the Braves and Yankees. Every year they're wrong. Will this year be any different? Maybe... The development of Wright and Reyes are more exciting than any FA pickup. The Yankees did this in the early-90’s. Players like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, coupled with smart FA moves and trades, sparked the Yankees renaissance. The Mets have a chance to build something similar. Manager Willie Randolph has already started the Yankee-ization of the team. He and GM Omar Minaya just might pull this off.

5. Washington Nationals
The Good
You mean, beyond the fact they have a home and actual fans? That, of course, is the biggest difference between last year's Expos and this year's Nationals. The move to DC from Montreal,
San Juan and all points in-between has to be worth a win or two in 2005. On the field the Nats will be marginally better. Livan Hernandez is the one sure thing on the mound. He may never be spectacular, but he's a 200-inning, 15-win workhorse. Behind him is a mix of Esteban Loaiza, Zach Day, Tomo Ohka, Jon Rauch and about a half-dozen others. The one to watch out for is Armas. He’s blessed with a spectacular arm and is about to enter his walk year. If he manages to stay healthy, he could have a big year. The Nationals feature three quality hitters and several question marks. Jose Guillen comes over from the Angels. He’s a power-hitting RF who left Anaheim under a cloud. Despite his year being cut short by suspension, he managed a .849 OPS and 27 HR. Jose Vidro, a longtime Expo and a perennial all-underrated pick, is a switch-hitting 2B who should benefit greatly by leaving Olympic Stadium’s awful turf behind. Brad Wilkerson, who can play anywhere in the OF and 1B, rounds out this troika. He’s far more athletic than he looks, and can hit anywhere from first to sixth in the lineup. While not more than a mediocre hitter, Catcher Brian Schneider deserves mention. He’s considered one of the best defensive Cs in the game.

The Bad
Vinny Castilla, Cristian Guzman and Esteban Loaiza would make a terrific NRI list, but to give these guys big-money contracts is a, to put it charitably, lousy idea. Castilla, while still and excellent defensive third baseman, is a product of Coors Field. His OPS was nearly .200 points higher in Denver. Guzman is an overrated defensive SS who defines the slap-hitting middle infielder. The Nationals also have questions up and down the line-up. Will Nick Johnson stay healthy enough to play 1B every day? If so, does Wilkerson end up in CF with Termel Sledge in LF or in left with Endy Chavez in center? Sledge is a legitimate hitter with some defensive liabilities, while Chavez is bad at both. The rotation is a mess too. Beyond Hernandez, Armas and possibly Loaiza, the rest are a tossup. The bullpen is better, led by young closer Chad Cordero and Luis Ayala, who managed to lose 12 games despite an ERA under 2.70.

The Bottom Line
The Expos were a team nobody wants to play the last couple years. Despite some trying circumstances and middling talent, manager Frank Robinson has them ready to play every day. They play hard too, and while they usually lose, they do make it difficult for opponents. The trick is to keep that attitude while improving the talent.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:12 PM | Comments (3)

March 04, 2005


Another terrific episode that raises even more questions. Such as, what is up with Baltar and the Cylon-detector? Is Tigh’s wife a Cylon? Has Boomer 2 really gone rogue, or was this part of the plan?

Whenever I watch this show I have to spend at least 20 minutes or so wondering if I have it all straight. I do the same thing with Lost

Posted by Frinklin at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

A new Padre blog

The ever-expanding Sportsblogs family has... well, expanded again. After sucking up the former Leone for Third and John Sickels, we have a brand-spanking new Well-Liked Padre blog. Welcome Gaslamp Ball to the party.

So, are these guys gonna quit when they have every team, or just keep going?

Posted by Frinklin at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2005

Welcome Back to Spring


I wonder what Fred and Wonk were doing this afternoon?

By the way, I still don't like the name, but I do like the National's unis. Just may have to adopt this team.

And the Mets' spring uniform just looks retarded.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:16 PM | Comments (4)