March 31, 2006

Frinklin & Fred Baseball Preview 2006: NL West

1. San Diego Padres

The Padres won the West last season with an 82-80 record, just barely missing becoming the first division winner to finish with a .500 record. It will take more than 82 wins to take the West this year. Maybe not a bunch more, but it should be a least 85 or so. This is still a weak division and the Padres a weak team, but there is less wrong with them than any other NL West team.

The Padres made some changes after last season, finally bowing the reality that a team with a massive outfield like Petco Park should trot out Dave Roberts, Brian Giles or Xavier Nady in center. GM Kevin Towers swapped Nady (stole really) for Mike Cameron, merely one of the best 2-3 defensive centerfielders in baseball. That moves Giles to right and Roberts to left. Or Roberts could head to the bench –where he belongs- and prospect Ben Johnson moves in right and Giles to left. Regardless, the Padres have vastly improved their outfield defense.

Towers also gave up on some longtime Padre prospects during the off-season. Disappointing Sean Burroughs was exiled to Tampa Bay for Dewon Brazelton in a swap of failed prospects. Adam Eaton, who never seemed to reach his potential, was sent to Texas for the younger and cheaper Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez. If Towers could ever find a suitor for Ryan Klesko, Gonzalez would start at first. As it is, the Pads will debut one rookie starter, Josh Barfield at second. Aging Vinny Castilla will start at third and even-more-aging Mike Piazza will play as much as possible behind the plate.

Overview: The Padres are the class of this division, if such a word is accurate.

FRED SEZ: Homer! Actually, the Padres are probably as good a pick as any here, and better than some (*cough*Colorado*cough*). I'd completely forgotten that you guys signed Mike Piazza. I suppose he's still got some life in his bat. But you're not actually going to let him catch, are you? I mean, he couldn't catch even when he was good, and now he's old and broken down. Only a complete moron would let him catch at this stage of his career. Ha ha ha! Wait, what's that? He will be catching for you? Oh.

I am sincerely glad that Vinny Castilla has found a place to play. He's a gutsy, hustling veteran, and I'm glad that he's still got a home in MLB, particularly since it's not Washington. Of course, we swapped Castilla for Brian Lawrence, whose arm fell off in spring training, so I suppose the Padres got the better end of that deal, since Castilla is still active, in a manner of speaking.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: I can't be a homer. I don't actually live in San Diego anymore. Yeah, having Piazza catch is ummm.... questionable, but it's him or Doug Mirabelli. I hated the Castilla-for-Lawrence swap then, and I don't like it anymore now. Vinny's going to struggle getting to the warning track at PETCO.

2. San Francisco Giants

Okay, so apparently this Bonds guy is going to be in the news all year. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there will be a bit of a circus around the Giants this year, as long as Barry is healthy. Barry’s health is the difference between contending and Devil Ray-land for this team. Even not considering the 41-year Bonds, the Giants lineup reads like a 1996 All-Star team. Ray Durham is 34, Omar Vizquel is 38, Moises Alou is 39… this team is really, really, horribly old.

That’s not to say the Giants aren’t any good. If Bonds plays 140 games they could run away with the West. San Francisco is the only team in this division you can say that about. The lineup, if everyone stays healthy, is okay, even considering the relative youngsters starting at the infield corners. Pedro Feliz (30) and Lance Niekro (27) are an upgrade from the JT Snow-Edgardo Alfonzo-Feliz combo of the last couple years. Randy Winn came over in a deadline deal from Seattle and earned himself an extension. Winn is slated to start in center between Bonds and Alou, neither of whom have much range anymore. Randy, as any Mariner fan will remind you, is a fine left fielder but doesn’t have the instincts to play center.

The rotation is okay, led by Jason Schmidt and free agent signee Matt Morris, but nothing special. Heralded prospect Matt Cain should be exciting. If closer Armando Benitez can stay healthy the bullpen will be solid. The Giants replaced Scott Eyre with Steve Kline, who was terrible with Baltimore last season, getting killed by lefties at a .317 clip.

Outlook: The Giants window is just about shut, but if they stay healthy they could win the division.

FRED SEZ: Don't this guys have a date on a shuffleboard court somewhere? I don't believe that Bonds is going to play very much this year, and as such I have a hard time believing that the Giants are headed anywhere other than the retirement home. Take heart, though, Giants fans: your team won't be nearly as bad this year as it will be in a couple years when Bonds, Durham, Alou, Vizquel, and Steve Finley are gone and Schmidt's career is disintegrating. Believe me, you'll really be suffering then. This year will be in a walk in the park compared to 2009 or so. For now, enjoy the fish tacos. Oh, wait, that's San Diego.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: If you're a fan of comically bad outfield defense (and really, who isn't?) this is the team to watch. Bonds doesn't even try anymore. Alou hurts himself if he has to take more than four steps in any direction. Winn has all the tools, but he isn't the most instinctual player out there. Randy will have to work so hard he keels over sometime in August.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

Is the head of Paul DePodesta still on a stake outside the LA Times sports desk? One good year, one disastrous year and two years of awful PR killed the DePo experiment. The Dodger Way apparently means working backwards now, as manager Grady Little was hired, then GM Ned Colletti. Colletti reworked the lineup, picking up Rafael Furcal at short, Nomar Garciaparra will man first, and Kenny Lofton pushes JD Drew from center to right. Bill Mueller will try settle in at third. The revamped lineup will feature more speed then before, but like last year, features some serious injury risks.

Colletti also reworked the bullpen, trying to recapture the key to the Dodgers’ success in 2004. Eric Gagne returns from elbow surgery, and Colletti swapped prospect Edwin Jackson to Tampa for closer Dannys Baez and Lance Carter. Both, along with erratic holdover Yhency Brazoban will set up Gagne. The rotation is solid, more a collection of #3 starters than anything else. Brad Penny should be an ace, but his time in Los Angeles has been as frustrating and injury-prone as his time in Florida was. Derek Lowe pitched well despite some self-inflicted off-the-field issues, and Colletti flat stole Jae Seo from the Mets.

Outlook: Any of the top three teams in this division could win it. Of course, they could all just as easily win 75 games.

FRED SEZ: I have no idea what to make of the Dodgers. I never know what to make of the Dodgers. The pitching I like pretty well, the hitting I don't, who knows what will happen? I'm not sure what part of Grady Little's tenure in Boston convinced the Dodgers that hiring him as manager was a good idea, and I'm not sure who decided that Nomar Garciaparra would make a good first baseman. As far as I'm concerned, the best thing about LA is that Randy Newman song. Actually, since I've never been to LA, I have no idea if that's true. Moving right along.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: Every American needs to see LA at least once. Something Vin Scully never tells you: Dodger Stadium is in a really sketchy neighborhood. Chavez Ravine isn't Compton, but it ain't exactly Anaheim either.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

The best news for the Diamondbacks is that they went an off-season without any awful signings like Russ Ortiz. Of course, they still have Russ Ortiz and his contract from last year, now punctuated with a horrific 6.89 ERA and 65/46 walk-to-strikeout ratio. The D’Backs actually traded away one of their lousy contracts this off-season, swapping Troy Glaus to Toronto for Orland Hudson. Hudson immediately improves the defense at second. The move also opens up third for Chad Tracy. Arizona moved Craig Counsell to short, but he should be a placeholder for Stephen Drew.

The best thing about the Diamondbacks is their youth. Conor Jackson takes over at first, and outfielder Carlos Quentin isn’t far behind. Drew should debut in 2006, and teenager Justin Upton became the best prospect Arizona has the moment he signed his deal. That’s the future though; this year will see some running in place. In the outfield Eric Byrnes will man center, despite being a classic fourth outfielder. Shawn Green and Luis Gonzales, both on the back nine of great careers, will flank him.

Considering the improved defense behind him, Brandon Webb could break through this year. Behind him in the rotation are Ortiz, the ageless Orlando Hernandez, and Miguel Batista, who returned to Arizona in the Glaus deal. The bullpen is young, led by closer Jose Valverde.

Outlook: The Snakes seemed to have learned after last year, concentrating on building the foundation of the club through prospects.

FRED SEZ: While I think Arizona is headed in the right direction, I think the reason they're building with youth is that they have no other choice, given that Jerry Colangelo built the entire 2001 championship team with a giant credit card, and the team owes about $3.8 billion annually in deferred payments from now until 2047. When you're that far in the hole, building hotels on Park Place is not an option for you. You're stuck shopping at the Baltic/Mediterranean end of the board.

Now that the Diamondbacks appear to be stabilizing the business end of things a bit, can you please do something about those hideous uniforms? Real men do not wear purple.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: As a fan of the Washington Huskies, I have to disagree with that remark. That doesn't change the fact that Arizona has 230 uniform combos that range from ugly to so-ugly-it's-possibly-illegal.

5. Colorado Rockies

The Rockies were seriously young last year, starting rookies all over the place. The Rox also lost 95 games, the most since their first year in the league. The two might be connected. Todd Helton, signed to a big-money deal though the 2011 season, will continue to be the only Rockie (Rocky?) you’ve ever heard off. That doesn’t necessarily mean Colorado is doomed. Last year, rookies like Matt Holliday and Garret Atkins posted reasonable numbers, and it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to say that they will improve. Even better for Colorado fans are the kids behind the kids. Prospects like Ian Stewart and Troy Tulowitzki aren’t far away.

Pitching, as always, is a borderline disaster in Colorado. The Rockies do feature a young and reasonably talented big three in Jason Jennings, Jeff Francis, and Aaron Cook, but behind that are scary names like Sunny Kim and Byung-Hyun Kim. Francis will eventually be the best of the lot. A touch and feel righthander who reminds some of Greg Maddux, Francis was beat up at times, but finished well. The Rockies feature one fine reliever and a bunch of question marks. Former Mariner Brian Fuentes moved into the closer role and made the All-Star team. Former… well, former everything Jose Mesa will set-up. Behind those two and free-agent signee Ray King are a lot of questions. The bullpen was pretty awful in 2005 and should be again.

Outlook: The Rockies will someday figure out how to win. It won’t be in 2006, but eventually. I mean, they have to, don’t they?

FRED SEZ: Here's another chronically screwed-up organization. The thin air in Denver has been a real mind-screw for this team, as Rockies management has been unable to figure out how to build a team a mile above sea level. Should they focus on homers? On gap hitters? On fastball pitchers? Sinkerball pitchers? Look for veterans? Build with youth? Play in a pressurized tennis bubble instead of a baseball stadium?

I think the organizational paralysis in Colorado is especially amusing since there are at least three solid team-building ideas that might actually work that, for whatever reason, the Rockies refuse to try:

1. Spend reasonable amounts of money on quality players and try to build a good all-around team, rather than cobbling together a freak-show squad to adjust to the perceived problems of the Denver air

2. Hire people who worked in Denver during the minor-league days and ask them how to build a good team there

3. Spend all your money on hitters with some pop, watch them hit 50 homers a year at Coors, and let someone at sea level overpay them when their contracts are up. Put together your pitching staff at random off the waiver wire, and accept the fact that all your games are going to be of the 15-13 variety. The Rockies actually did try this one for a while, and had some success with it (wild card in '95), but stopped for some reason. Maybe they found the football-esque scores embarrassing. But then they started throwing eight-figure contracts at guys like Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, and it's been all downhill ever since.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: I think they might have something at this point. Jennings, Francis and Cook aren't guys who'll win Cy Youngs, but they're serviceable even at Coors. A couple of their young hitters could be special. Both Stewart and Tulowitzki should debut sometime in 2006


I would pick the Padres to win the division too, except that so far we've picked the same division winners in the NL East and Central, and that gets boring. So I'm going with the Dodgers, even though I think most of their offseason moves were dumb and I find it hard to believe that anyone can win with an offense that bad. I gotta be me.

Assuming I'm right about Bonds not playing much this year, I wouldn't be surprised if Arizona finishes third here, but I'm not picking that way, because I'm a pansy.

1. Los Angeles
2. San Diego
3. San Francisco
4. Arizona
5. Las Vegas (future Marlins)
6. Sacramento (future A's)
7. Portland (future Devil Rays)
8. Vancouver (future Royals)
9. Colorado

FRINKLIN REJOINS: Interesting you think teams might land in Portland and Vancouver. Just watch how Angelosian the Mariner ownership group gets if somebody tries that.

Previously: NL East, NL Central

Posted by Frinklin at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Frinklin & Fred Baseball Preview: NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals

As they move into the new Busch Stadium -the third one actually- the Cards return the same basic team that has won 100 games in each of the past two seasons. Unfortunately for the Cards and their fans, the Cards haven’t been able to close the deal, getting swept by Boston in the World Series two years ago, and falling to Houston in the NLCS last season. This would make St. Louis a team with serious World Series aspirations. Have they improved enough to get there and win?

No, I don’t think they have.

Look, the Cards will be good -maybe great- again this year, mostly due to a core of Jim Edmunds, Scott Rolen and the best hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols. If Rolen is healthy after an injury-plagued 2005, he and Pujols form the best infield corners in baseball, and nobody else is really close. David Eckstein returns at short, but he’ll have the well-traveled Junior Spivey as his new double-play partner. Edmunds has new running mates in the outfield, with Larry Bigbie and Juan Encarnacion replacing Reggie Sanders and the retired Larry Walker. Spivey and Mark Grudzielanek are a wash, but nobody knows how Bigbie will respond to being a full-time starter. The former Orioles prospect might end up sharing the job with So Taguchi anyway.

The Cardinals lose longtime starter Matt Morris in the rotation, he should be replaced by prospect Anthony Reyes or reclamation project Sidney Ponson. Cris Carpenter, defending NL Cy Young winner, and Mark Mulder top a decent rotation. Mulder is on a contract year. Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis are adequate bottom of the rotation guys. The Cardinals picked up former Met closer Braden Looper (to the joy of all Met fans) and Ricardo Rincon to set up Jason Isringhausen.

Outlook: They kept the nucleus, added some spare parts… basically the same team as the last two years. Figure on 90+ wins and a shot at the World Series.

FRED SEZ: Yawn. The Cardinals are the most boring near-great team in recent memory, more boring even than the Braves, who at least have the insufferably boosterish TBS announcers to remind us why we should hate them. I suspect this is because they play in St. Louis, the most boring major city in America. When your most famous landmark is a giant croquet wicket, you know you've got problems. St. Louis also manages to be miserably sticky and hot in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter. It's a plaid polyester leisure suit of a city.

Having offended and alienated every reader of this blog who hails from the Gateway to Hell, as an olive branch I will now list my favorite things about St. Louis:

1. Cedric the Entertainer
2. Whitey Herzog

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure neither of them lives there any more. Oh, well. I'd better move on, so I can finish before a mob of angry St. Louis residents firebombs my house. Also, if I talk about the Cardinals any more, I'm going to need the assistance of No-Doz to finish this preview.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: Are we past the expiration date on this “best fans in baseball” stuff yet? All I need to know about the Cards is they’ve given us Bob Costas, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Plus, Tony LaRussa’s an ass. Please go away.

2. Chicago Cubs

In 2003, the Cubs were an eyelash away from winning the NLCS and perhaps burying their curse. Since then, their partners in misery the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox have won back-to-back World Series. So, are the Cubs about to join them?

No, not really.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re closer then they’ve been, but the Cubs just don’t seem to have enough. The offense was inadequate last season, finishing 20th in runs. The Cubs have retooled the top of the order, importing slap-hitter extraordinaire Juan Pierre from Florida. Todd Walker would be a good second hitter, but Dusty Baker seems obsessed with getting rid of Walker and giving Neifi Perez at-bats. The Cubs are strong on the infield corners with Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, but the outfield isn’t great. Free-agent signee Jacque Jones and rookie Matt Murton will flank Pierre.

The strength of this team is supposed to be the big three of Prior, Wood and Zambrano. Carlos Zambrano has certainly done his part, but the other two have been stricken with injuries. Both could miss the beginning of the season. Ryan Dempster fit into the closer role well and the Cubs overspent (pretty wildly) for set-up men Bob Howry and Scott Eyre.

Overview: 98 years and counting.

FRED SEZ: Wow, you have much more faith in the Cubs than I do. Prior and Wood have already gotten a head start on their annual trips to the DL, as they'll both open the season there. If they were horses, we'd shoot them. And outside of Derrek Lee, there's very little in the lineup to scare anyone. It's shaping up to be a long and miserable season on the North Side. I don't believe in curses, but someone needs to do something about the giant negative force field that hovers over everything this franchise does.

On the bright side, Wrigley Field remains a wonderful place to watch a ballgame, provided that one of the falling chunks of concrete doesn't hit you in the head. Wow, Cubs and Cardinals fans can agree on something for once: their hatred of me!

FRINKLIN REJOINS: I actually think this rough spring could help them. It shapes up well for them. Everything goes wrong, but they hover around .500 for a couple months. Prior comes back in May, Wood comes back in June; after the break they call up Felix Pie… it could happen.

3. Houston Astros

Just think how this team would do if it could start quickly. In each of the past two seasons Houston has stumbled out of the gate and then heated up enough to squeak into the playoffs. Last year they hit a hot streak that carried them all the way to the World Series, where they… well, they were swept. But at least they got there.

I said this last year, but it sure seems this team’s window is closing. The Astro’s offense was pretty close to putrid last year, and the only big off-season improvement was Preston Wilson. They will –or should anyway- have Lance Berkman for the entire year and 3B Morgan Ensberg will try to build on a breakthrough 2005. Craig Biggio has officially entered the “ageless” category, slugging .468 as a 40-year old second basemen. His fellow Killer B Jeff Bagwell isn’t so lucky. His power has been stripped by injury, and he may be released or retire.

Speaking of retiring, the Astros get to play “Waiting for Godot” with Roger Clemens at least until May. Roger coming back would make a good rotation great. Even without the Rocket, the Astros have a top-2 that is the envy of most. Roy Oswalt has won 20 games each of the past 2 seasons, and Andy Pettitte won 17. Beyond those two though, quality drops off a cliff. Brandon Backe is adequate at best and both Wandy Rodriguez and Ezequiel Astacio, the expected 4th and 5th guys, posted 5-plus ERAs. Assuming Brad Lidge is over his World Series meltdown, the bullpen is set.

Outlook: With or without Clemens, this is a team on the way down. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Milwaukee pass them.

FRED SEZ: I agree that this team is on the way down. They won an awful lot last year with pretty much the same team, although at this point it looks like Clemens isn't coming back (although it's always possible that he will return, provided he only has to pitch home games with a minimum of six days rest in months with an "R" in them). I don't think they're wild-card worthy, but they certainly should have enough horses to beat the Cubbies' lame-armed wonders.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: Why is it so easy to forget how good these guys were coming down the stretch? I’ve predicted they’d fall on their asses each of the past two years. I’ve been wrong both times and here I go doing it again.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

Tons of young talent, an aggressive and effective GM, a new owner and the return of classic uniforms: What more could a Brewer fan want? Well, wins would be cool. That’s coming. The Brewers finished with a non-losing record for the first time in 12 years. The leap from .500 to contention isn’t easy, especially with a division like this. The good news? The Brewers are young, and the Astros and Cardinals are older teams. This could be the team a year from now.

This season though, there will be some growing pains. The right side of the infield is new, with heralded prospects Rickie Weeks at second and Prince Fielder at first. Weeks struggled with a hand injury during his rookie year, but flashed an electric bat. Unfortunately he also flashed some awful defense, so a move to the outfield might be in store. Only 21,Fielder takes over 1B for the departed Lyle Overbay. Fielder has awesome power, but zero range at first. JJ Hardy, a second-year player himself, starts at short and Corey Koskie will man third.

Milwaukee is also blessed with a true ace in Ben Sheets. While he’s struggled with injuries the past two seasons, Sheets is a dominant starter. Two soft-tossing lefties, Doug Davis and Chris Capuano return after winning 29 games combined last season. The Brewers also continue to prove the fallacy of the Proven Closer. After Dan Kolb left for Atlanta, Milwaukee watched former Angel farmhand Derek Turnbow turn in a spectacular year. Kolb returns to set-up duties after a disastrous year with Atlanta.

Outlook:Close…. But not quite. This is a team on the rise, but I think Weeks and Fielder will need a year.

FRED SEZ: Thank you so much, Brewers. You ruined my childhood, left me wandering around in the baseball desert for years, muttering to myself about how losing builds character, cheering in vain for Pat Listach and Dave Nilsson and Teddy Higuera and B.J. Surhoff and Chris Bosio. Then Washington finally gets a team, I become a Nationals fan, and suddenly the "rebuilding" program actually pays off. You can just go to hell, Brewers. Go straight to hell.

Oh, yeah, this is a neat young team. They're a year or two away, but there's coming along. The bastards.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: I've always had a weird soft spot for the Brewers. I loved the Harvey's Wallbangers teams. Until my Dad told me they used to be the Pilots and how they raped the city of Seattle. Then I hated them for a couple years, but then it got to be sad, hating something as pathetic as the Milwaukee Brewers.

I don't know what that has to do with anything, but I think the Brewers are going to be really good soon. Sheets going to the DL again is slightly scary though.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates really aren’t any better than last year, but Cincinnati is terrible and that could be enough for Pittsburgh to escape the cellar. While that isn’t really anything to crow about, Pirate fans take wins wherever they can get ‘em.

The Pirates aren’t a total disaster area. They do have a nice potential 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Zach Duke won’t continue to post sub-2.00 ERAs, but he should be a good #2 starter for some years to come. Oliver Perez has the stuff to be an ace, but must rebound from a lousy year punctured with temper tantrums. The third starter, Kip Wells, is one of those aggravating stuff-types who never seem to be as good as scouts say they should be. Wells suffered a very scary - and very odd - arm injury and won't be back until the All-Star break. The rest of the rotation and the back end of the bullpen is up for grabs. Mike Gonzalez, another lefty, should close. Again, he has electric stuff and finished with a nice 2.70 ERA despite a 58/31 strikeout-to-walk-ratio.

The Pirates don’t have much offense. They have Jason Bay, who has turned into a fine hitter. His OPS was .962 last year, and just imagine what he’d hit if he had any protection whatsoever. This season the Pirates import Sean Casey from Cincinnati and free agents Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa to strengthen the lineup. All are excellent makeup guys on the downside of their careers. Casey won’t hit for much power away from the Great American Ballpark, but if he repeats his .377 OBP it should be worth it. Past the three vets and Bay, there isn’t much. SS Jack Wilson came crashing down to earth with a sub-.300 OBP, and his double-play partner Jose Castillo flashed some power potential. The defense up the middle with Wilson, Castillo and CF Chris Duffy is excellent.

Outlook:The Pirates haven’t had a winning year in 13 seasons. In about nine months it will be 14.

FRED SEZ: The Pirates have some neat young players, and some people might think this is cause for hope in Steeltown, but Pirates fans know better. Years of bitter experience have taught them the same lesson I learned in my wretched childhood of Brewer fandom, namely: There is no heavier burden than a great potential, and hope is a cruel joke that God play on the downtrodden. It's like when you were in high school, and every so often a pretty girl would give you a sweet look from across the hallway, or you had a nice conversation with her after French class, and you began to think you might have a chance with her. Of course, this was not true; there was no way she would go out with you. And you were never going to have a date for the dance. Not now and not ever. For you, my friend, were a loser. A simple fact of life.

If you were popular in high school and have no idea what I'm talking about, I hate you.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: Boy, you find more to like than I do here. Duke and Perez could be great, but then I'm old enough to remember Mets fans screaming about Wilson, Pulsipher and Isringhausen.

6. Cincinnati Reds

This team looks like a train wreck. The Reds have one thing going for them: power. If Ken Griffey, Jr, Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns could stay healthy, the outfield could account for 90-110 homers alone. Add SS Felipe Lopez and his 23 dingers, plus youngster Edwin Encarnacion at third and this could be a good –if slightly all-nothing- offense. Beyond that, the Reds are pretty awful. Only Kearns in right and catcher Jason LaRue are even average in the field, and either Tony Womack (ugh) or Rich Aurillia (double ugh) will man second. The mess with Dunn pretty much encapsulates this team. The Reds traded Sean Casey to the Pirates, opening first for Dunn and LF for Wily Mo Pena. Then they switched Dunn back to left in order to clear first for… Scott Hatteberg?

But wait, we haven’t even talked about the pitching yet. Aaron Harang, Eric Milton, Bronson Arroyo, Dave Williams, Paul Wilson and Brandon Claussen. Somewhere in there you’ll find Cincy’s starting rotation. Milton, in the first year of his free-agent contract, was beyond pitiful, giving up 40 homers and sporting a lovely 6.47 ERA. Harang is the “ace” of the staff after his 11-13 record. The bullpen is slightly more settled, with David Weathers and Kent Mercker setting up closer Todd Coffey.

No, I don’t know who that is either.

Outlook: Awful bordering on horrific. The Reds new owner and GM have a ton of work to do.

FRED SEZ: My God, this team is awful. I thought the Nats had some holes, but man, we've got nothing on this crew. At least you've still got that great chili. And WKRP. And Jerry Springer. And periodic race riots. Um.

Tell you what, Reds fans: You can have Jim Bowden back if you want. In fact, you can have him back even if you don't want, because we're through with him in DC. We'll even pay for the bus ticket to send him back to Cincy.

FRINKLIN REJOINS: Yeah, not even the Reds are dumb enough to take Bowden back. I can't think he could do any worse than what they have though


Even though I think Milwaukee isn't quite there yet, I'm going to be a dewy-eyed optimist and pick them ahead of Chicago and Houston. I wish I knew how to quit you, Brewers. (And since all the teams I pick to do well inevitably crash and burn, when you finish fifth, consider that my revenge.)

Pittsburgh and Cincinnati should have a lively race to the bottom. Call it the Sean Casey Memorial Battle of the Basement. God knows those fans need something to get excited about.

1. St. Louis
2. Milwaukee
3. Houston
4. Chicago
5. The ghosts of Roberto Clemente, Willie's Stargell's Family, the Big Red Machine and the entire decade of the 1970s
6. Pittsburgh
7. Cincinnati

Previously: NL East

Posted by Frinklin at 11:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2006

Slow Period

No, I'm not on a break like my lovely wife. I'm just not blogging all that frequently at this point. Now, that doesn't mean stuff isn't coming. Still working -if slowly- in the rest of the baseball preview.

I will say I feel like a 12-year old right now. Tomorrow is Friday of course, and I'm as excited about this weekend as I've been in good long while. The Missus and I are heading to Emerald City Comicon on Saturday, and Opening Day at Safeco Field on Monday. This will be our first "small" comiccon, since we've only been to the mothership in San Diego.

I also took Tuesday off work, just because I can.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2006

It is apparently unwise to piss off Ted Ruskell

A week after losing Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson to the Minnesota Vikings due to “poison pill” stipulations in his Viking offer sheet, the Seahawk GM is getting a little payback. The Seahawks have signed WR Nate Burleson to a 7-year $49 million dollar offer, which is roughly the same as what Minnesota gave Hutch. You’ll remember that the Seahawks could have and almost certainly would have matched the deal were it not for the stipulation that stated that the entire contract amount was guaranteed if Hutchinson wasn’t the highest paid offensive lineman on the team. While the Seahawks were able to rework Walter Jones’ contract to allow Hutchinson that honor, an arbiter ruled that per the contract, Hutchinson had to be the highest paid offensive lineman on the day the contract was signed. Since this was technically impossible for the Seahawks they let him go.

Today, according to ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli, the Hawks signed Burleson, the young and gifted wideout from Nevada, to a deal with some… ummm, interesting stipulations. According to the contract language, the contract becomes fully guaranteed if Burleson were to be active for 5 games played in the state of Minnesota in any single season. Since the Vikings are based in Minneapolis, that would be pretty easy to meet. The other stipulation states –and this one is so bizarre it’s difficult to think it was for anything other than screwing with the Vikes- that Burleson’s contract is fully guaranteed if he isn’t paid, on average per year, more than all of the team’s running backs combined.

The Seahawks don’t have nearly enough rivalries. This could be fun down the road.

Posted by Frinklin at 01:03 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2006

Mediocre Fred Recommends

I usually avoid the "hey, check this out" style of blogging, but I did want to point you in the direction of this post by loyal Frinklin & Fred reader PG. I liked this post, and she makes some good points. Worth a look.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 12:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

This is SO cold... but possibly true.

Ichiro and the WBC, according to Onion Sports:

SAN DIEGO—In an interview following Japan's 10-6 victory against Cuba in the World Baseball Classic championship game Monday, Ichiro Suzuki called the tournament a "great opportunity to represent anything besides the Seattle Mariners." "Playing alongside my countrymen on the world stage was nice, but the highlight of the event for me was not having to watch helplessly from the on-deck circle as [Seattle outfielder] Willie Bloomquist pops out for the fourth time in one game," said Ichiro, who has been contemplating a return to his non-Mariner roots since late 2003. "Honestly, I would have played for the Netherlands team if it meant 17 days away from the Mariners spring-training camp." Although he said that the legendary Sadaharu Oh did a fine job coaching Team Japan, Ichiro added that "next to Mike Hargrove, any idiot in a baseball cap would seem like a decent manager
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March 20, 2006

Ichiro Defeats Communism


The Japanese team, despite being one US-win away from elimination a week ago, beat Cuba in a rather sloppy game to win the inagural World Baseball Classic. The WBC has some kinks to work out, especially the timing and the rather grumpy reaction many of the MLB clubs had to it. Still, it was always interesting and frequently thrilling. I hope they keep it going.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2006

Amateur Book Review: The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner


Baseball is really, really hard.

It’s difficult to understand, oftentimes difficult to appreciate, and always difficult to play.

This is not shocking news to anyone. It is however, the central premise behind this book. The game in present form is over a century old, and ingrained in the American character. Yet, it seems as much a mystery to us in 2006 as it was to those in 1906. What does it take to throw a baseball 95 miles an hour, to make it curve or slide, fall away or cut in? How does one, to paraphrase Pete Rose, take a round ball and a round bat and hit it square? How do we measure defense? What is the difference between a Gold Glove defender and a should-be DH? Euchner picks the brain of hundreds, from players and scouts to statheads and research scientists to try to find the answers.

Does he? Is it even possible?

Maybe and… probably not.

Eucher uses the drama of the seventh game of the 2001 World Series as a backdrop. That series, between the Arizona Diamondbacks, a young team of old men and the New York Yankees –shooting for a fourth championship in a row- came just six weeks after 9/11, and it was both cathartic and ridiculously exciting. It wasn’t the best series of the past 25 years, but coming after the horror of 9/11 and the wound inflicted on New York and America, it may have been the most important. The Yankees had won games 5 and 6 in dramatic fashion, with game-winning homers off Arizona closer BK Kim. The Last Nine Innings switches between a narrative of the final game and exploration of baseball itself.

This is both the strength and the weakness of this book. The game, whether it leads to a examination of Roger Clemens’ perfect pitching form or a discussion about whether Derek Jeter is one of the best fielding shortstops or the one of the worst, always grounds the more esoteric or technical discussion. It can also slow the narrative of both. While the author does a fine job of connecting the two, say a introduction of Roger Clemens and his insane training regiment which leads to a possible explanation for his late-career success and then picks up on the mound near the end of his start in game 7. But it can also meander, and the in-game action is sometimes absurdly slow.

This book, despite clocking in at a mere 288 pages, is neither a quick or easy read. It requires concentration and it helps to either have some understanding of modern statistical analysis or at least an open mind to it. In that respect, I’m probably the perfect audience: a baseball fanatic who understands the importance of modern stats, but has neither the brainpower nor wish to create my own. Meaning: I get what DIPS and OPS and VORP are, but please don’t make me do the math.

The Last Nine Innings is very much a worthwhile read for both the serious fan and the semi-serious. It would serve as a primer, I think, for those wanting to make the jump from one to the other.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006

Good News, Bad News

The Good news is that the Huskies beat Utah State pretty handily. The game wasn’t always pretty –both teams started so cold it was 2-0 five freakin’ minutes in - but it never seemed that UW was in any trouble. Brandon Roy just dominated, finishing with 28 points and 6 assists.

The Bad? It was so damned late (nearly 1:00 AM on the east coast) that it guarantees that nobody East of say, Nevada, will have any idea how good Roy was. Saturday’s game against Illinois will be different. If Roy plays like he did tonight, the Huskies will win.

Of course, I think UW wins anyway.

Lost among the thrilling finishes (Winthrop - Tennessee, UNC-Wilmington – George Washington, Pacific – BC) and the upsets (Montana, Alabama and UW-Milwaukee all beat higher seeds but sure looked like better teams) will be just how bad San Diego State yacked all over themselves. What? A Steve Fisher team having problems in pressure situations? Shocking, ain’t it? First Brandon Heath mistakenly thought he would have been called for backcourt violation after getting the ball slapped away from him. Then, on the ensuing Indiana possession Marcus Slaughter deflected a pass… right to a wide-open Robert Vaden, who immediately hit the go-ahead three. To finish it off, Mohammed Camara pulls a Ryan Leaf and send the desperation in-bounds past the Indiana backboard.

It was not pretty.

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March 15, 2006



If you didn't enjoy this game, you can't be a baseball fan.

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At least they do this right

The Mariners might not have bounced back on the field, but the team's commercials are back up to par. Far better then last year's....

Available here.

Still nothing compares to the mid-90's though. The Mound Visit, with Norm Charlton getting stuck on Boutros-Boutros Ghali's name, and the Joey Cora hand puppet are my personal favorites. I'd give a bright, shiny quarter to anyone who could locate those.

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March 14, 2006

Frinklin & Fred Baseball Preview: NL East

1. Atlanta Braves

I picked the Phillies in 2004. I picked the Marlins in 2005. I don't have the blog to prove it, but I've basically picked against Atlanta every year since about 1997.

I give up. You win, Atlanta. Never again will I doubt the power of Schuerholz and Cox and the Joneses. This team was basically the Richmond Braves plus Smoltz and Andruw Jones last year, and they still won the damned division.

So the hell with it. I will go with Atlanta despite wondering how the pitching staff will react to losing Leo Mazzone. I will pick the Braves despite thinking that Andruw can't hit 50 homers again this season, or that Jeff Francoeur will never be the player everybody thinks he is until he starts taking walks.

Outlook: The Braves will win the division for the 15th straight year, and there isn't anything anybody can do about it.

FRED SEZ: Like Frinklin, the Braves have worn me down. Clearly, they're just winning to spite me at this point. So this year, I'm picking them, loudly and enthusiastically. Hell, I say they'll win the World Series! Reverse jinx, you say? I've never heard of it.

Also, is it just me, or does "Jeff Francoeur" sound like someone who should be playing in Montreal? I'm almost willing to support the rebirth of the Expos just to see this happen.

Frinklin Rejoins: I hate this team. I can't even express how much I do. I'm so tired of the Chop and Jimmy Carter in the stands and 3/4-quarter full stadium for the playoffs. I'd give anything to make them go away.

But they won't.

FRED REPLIES: Agreed. Shouldn't Jimmy Carter be off building houses or stabilizing a Third World country or something?

2. New York Mets

Had I not come to accept the Braves, I might well have picked these guys. I don't like everything that GM Omar Minaya has done. I think giving up Jae Seo for a couple of relievers was a mistake, and while I like X Nady, he isn't worth Mike Cameron.

This is a team going in the right place though. Carlos Beltran –who will bounce back in his second year in New York- David Wright and Jose Reyes are a nice nucleus to build around. Carlos Delgado proved he could handle both NL and a gigantic home park last year in Florida. Kaz Matsui has been a disaster, and if either Anderson Hernandez or Jeff Keppinger can catch the ball he may well be headed to the bench.

I'm not sold on the rotation. While Pedro had a very nice first year, his troublesome toe is, well… troubling. Tom Glavine is coming off a very Tom Glavine-y year (13-13, 3.53) and Steve Trachsel is still the slowest worker alive. Victor Zambrano, who is not and never was worth Scott Kazmir, and Aaron Heilman should round out the rotation.

Outlook: The Mets will compete for the Wild Card and throw a scare into Atlanta.

FRED SEZ: On paper, Frinklin's right... the Mets have the raw stuff to be a playoff team, and go toe-to-toe with Atlanta. However, as the Mets have been proving annually for about a decade running, championships aren't won on paper. To me, the Mets increasingly resemble a baseball version of the Knicks, with two notable exceptions: (1) Unlike the Knicks, it's not immediately obvious that the Mets will be bad, and (2) the Mets spend like drunken sailors because they have to compete for media attention with the Yankees, while the Knicks spend like drunken sailors because... their GM has some financial version of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He sees a massively overpaid head case, and he has to own the guy. Why Isiah Thomas is still employed in any job higher than janitor is beyond me. Oh, are we talking about baseball?

Frinklin Rejoins: While the Mets are spending like drunken sailors, I don't think the Knicks comparison is quite apt. If the Mets signed nothing but LF/DH types and forced half of them to play out of position, then it would make more sense. Of course, they did that about 15 years ago. Remember Vince Coleman in CF and Howard Johnson at short?

FRED REPLIES: Sure, I remember that. Not coincidentally, the Mets were one of the worst teams in baseball then. Ah, memories... I suppose the late-'90s Orioles are a better comparison to the Knicks, but they were going to revoke my blogger's license if I didn't make the obligatory Isiah joke.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

Missing the playoffs by one game and producing the NL Rookie of the Year wasn't enough to keep Ed Wade around as GM. He's replaced by ex-Mariner, Oriole and Blue Jay GM Pat Gillick. Gillick moves into a relatively good position. He was able to spin Jim Thome into Aaron Rowand and a couple of nice pitching prospects and open up 1B for Ryan Howard. The Phils were also players in the Manny Ramirez Derby this off-season, apparently offering Bobby Abreu.

The Phillies are wise to keep Abreu. Despite his post All-Star break slip, he's still one of the best pure hitters in the NL. Add that to Philly's young core of Howard, 2B Chase Utley and SS Jimmy Rollins, and you have a lot to work with. There are some issues on the field though. Both David Bell at third and Mike Lieberthal at catcher have slipped, and Lieberthal is at the age (34) where catchers can fall off a cliff. The Phillies are weaker on the mound than the Mets or Braves. After a rehabbed Jon Lieber and Brett Myers, Philly will run out some question marks. Cory Lidle and former Mariner Ryan Franklin practically define the term "fifth starter" and neither Gavin Floyd nor Ryan Madsen has proven themselves. Tom Gordon, who hasn't closed in years, replaces Billy Wagner at the head of an average bullpen.

Outlook: Unless Floyd or Madsen can solidify the rotation, Philadelphia won't have enough pitching to overtake New York or Atlanta.

FRED SEZ: Philly better hope they can wind up on the right side of the 11-9 scores they're going to see a lot of, because this team is turning into Colorado Rockies East. (In fairness, I'm referring to the mid-'90s Rockies, back when they were good. Or at least didn't suck.) Citizens Bank Park is certainly small enough to sustain the bombs-away approach, but in the long run, teams with great hitting and iffy pitching tend to crap out. Also, the Phillies have been underperforming expectations for a while now. I blame this on the Philly Phan Phactor. The negativity of Phils rooters poisons the team, kind of like lead in the drinking water. If I were Malcolm Gladwell, I would do a study on this and write a book that would sell a zillion copies, and use the royalties to buy a tropical island, install myself as king, and use my oceans of wealth and sickeningly well-written prose to get women to date me for a change. But then, I'm sure Malcolm Gladwell has no trouble getting women, so I have no point. What were we talking about again?

Frinklin Rejoins: I think on the days that Leiber or Myers have off, 11-9 could be wishful thinking. I can't wait to see Franklin in Citizen's Bank. He's really a rather whiney jerk who gave up longballs at a ridiculous pace in Safeco. He could be really dangerous in CBP.

And I think Gladwell (or the Freakanomics guys) could write quite a book on Philly.

FRED REPLIES: Thank you for finding the topic again.

4. Washington Nationals
It shouldn't surprise anyone that 18 months after moving to DC, the Nationals still don't have an owner and just last week settled on a stadium plan. Oh yeah, they may have to change the name too. This is actually the most stable this franchise has been in about 15 years. On the field, things aren't going so swimmingly. Jim Bowden, recognizing his team's need for offense, traded outfielders Brad Wilkerson and Termel Sledge, plus pitching prospect Armando Galarraga to Texas for electric second baseman Alfonso Soriano. Now the Nats already have a very fine second baseman by the name of Jose Vidro. Since Vidro is the superior fielder, and a team cornerstone, the plan was to move Soriano to the outfield where he most certainly belongs.

Except he won't do it. Soriano, apparently deluded enough to think himself even an adequate fielder at second, has so far refused outfield duty. It's his walk year, and Soriano knows a power/speed combo at second is worth more than a power/speed combo in left. The fact that he's well below average in the field doesn't apparently matter. Soriano also moves from a premier hitters park in Arlington to a premier pitchers park. He could be in for a rough year.

Bowden did make a nice move swapping the unnecessary Vinny Castilla to San Diego for pitcher Brian Lawrence. The idea was to open third for uberprospect Ryan Zimmerman and strengthen the rotation. Then Lawrence blew out his arm. He's out for the year.

Then Jose Guillen, the team's best returning hitter, came down with arm problems of his own. He could miss a few games, a few weeks or a few months, depending on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 137th opinion you follow.

It's not been pretty. The Nats do return a fantastic bullpen, which is undoubtedly the strength of the team. The question is how important will that be.

Outlook: The Marlins should finish last, but the Nationals will be closer to Florida then Philadelphia.

FRED SEZ: Diehard Nats fan though I am, it's hard to argue with Frinklin's analysis. We just don't have the horses to keep up with the big boys. Were it not for Jeff Loria's Travelling All-Stars and Motor Kings, we'd probably occupy the basement by a comfortable margin. That said... if some of the retread arms in the rotation can pull a Loaiza and make RFK's Yellowstone-esque dimensions work for them, and if Zimmerman breaks out, and if we find the right answer in center field, and if we can keep more than half the roster off the DL at any given time, this team could be a lot better than people realize.

Oh, and about Soriano. I see where he's on a nasty 0-fer in the World Baseball Classic, and he's fielding the ball at second like it's a live hand grenade, and I laugh my ass off. I realize that a large portion of my team's fortunes depend on him getting his head together, shutting up and having a solid year in the outfielder, and yet, in the blackest corners of my soul, I'm rooting for him to spend his run-for-the-money contract year with his whiny ass nailed to the bench. On merit.

Frinklin Rejoins: Yeah, who does play center? Is it Church, cuz I've been under the impression he was corner guy. And if Soriano refuses to play OF, what do you do with him? At $10 million, he's not an easy trade.

The good news? Ryan Zimmerman, Face of the Franchise, and my pick for Rookie of the Year.

FRED REPLIES: At this point, it's either Church or Brandon Watson in center, unless Marlon Byrd suddenly revives his career. Church is more of a corner man, yes, but he can play center. Watson is basically Willie Mays Hayes at the beginning of "Major League." Here's hoping he follows Willie's story arc during the season.

5.Florida Marlins
While it's fun to bash Jeffrey Loria for stripping this team yet again, it must be mentioned that South Florida has built two basketball arenas and a hockey-only arena in the last 15 years. He has reasons to feel unloved. The biggest question around this team is where will it end up? Vegas? Portland? San Antonio seems the frontrunner at this point. The second biggest question is what happens to Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Both will be arbitration eligible in 2007, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that won't happen in Florida. Both or either of these two could mean a pennant for about a half-dozen teams.

As for the actual Marlins? Well, who the hell knows? Beyond Cabrera and Willis, this is basically a Triple A team. Rookie outfielder Jeremy Hermida could be a star. So could SS Hanley Ramirez and LHP Scot Olson. Or they could suck. At this point the Fish are looking at an all-rookie outfield, plus rookies at first and short. With Pokey Reese's bizarre disappearance, 41-year old Lenny Harris is in the mix to start at second. Miguel Olivo might start at catcher. Beyond Willis and journeyman Brian Moehler, nobody –seriously, nobody- has more than a few months experience as a starter in the majors. If Joe Borowski can come back and serve as closer, he could conceivably have more major league innings than the rest of the bullpen combined.

This team is like a MVP 2005 or High Heat franchise. Did you ever do that? Pick an awful team and trade everybody, just to see how long it would be until you got good? That's what this is.

Outlook: Just live through it and hope for better days. I wonder what they'll call themselves in San Antonio? I always loved the Gunslingers name from the USFL.

FRED SEZ: I feel bad for the Marlins fan base. Last year's team was a genuinely neat and exciting team on the rise, and yet it was embraced by no one because, well, they figured this would happen. Jeff Loria is clearly King Midas in reverse (a great song, by the way), and he's bent on destroying the franchise just like he ruined Montreal. If Loria ran Wal-Mart, they'd be bankrupt within a year.

Also, I have to call foul on the San Antonio reference. As a fan who's all to aware of how fragile a team's future in town can be, it's demeaning and cruel to entertain such speculation. However, "San Antonio Scorpions" has a certain ring to it.

Frinklin Rejoins: Yeah, I'll admit to the cheap shot. I should be more sensitive, considering I have the Oakland Blackhawks, Anaheim Seahawks, Tampa Bay Mariners and Virginia Fury in my past. Hell, the Sonics nearly switched leagues back in the ABA days.

FRED REPLIES: The Virginia Fury... thank God we dodged that bullet. And now that the Nats have their stadium, I can only hope I've heard the last of the "Las Vegas Nationals" references out of my dad. Damn Yankees fans.


There are other, non-reverse-jinx-related reasons to pick Atlanta to win the division title for the 4,367th straight season (or whatever they're up to now). Each of the other teams has serious question marks. It's an open question whether the Mets' latest crazy spending spree has actually made them better. It's an open question whether, if you put the '27 Yankees in Phillies uniforms, they could finish higher than third. It's an open question whether Washington will be using me as the fifth starter by June. And it's an open question whether the Marlins can draw higher than three digits a night this year.

So, with a cosmic shrug of the shoulders, my picks:

1. Atlanta
6. Philadelphia
7. NY Mets
8. Washington
12. Miami (U. of)
16. Miami (Ohio)
18. Miami-Dade Little League All-Stars
20. Miami Sound Machine
25. Florida

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2006

I'm a Believer

Okay, it's official: I'm a supporter of the World Baseball Classic.

Prior to yesterday, I wasn't one of the ones who've been piling on the WBC all winter, talking about what an idiotic disaster it would be. But I was largely indifferent to it, made no real attempt to see the games, barely kept up with the results.

What changed my mind? It wasn't the thrilling Japan-USA tilt yesterday, though I did see the ninth inning, or enough to be able to call my dad and congratulate him on A-Rod once again coming through in a game that doesn't matter.

No, what changed my mind was the Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico clash, broadcast live from San Juan. If you saw that game, saw the passion of both fans and players, and still came away hating the WBC... well, I don't know what to say to you.

American sportswriters have, by and large, been harrumphing at the WBC since it was conceived. "The players aren't ready to play yet! A major star could get hurt! None of the stars will play! The games will be boring! It doesn't mean anything! Selig's done it again!" These criticism were, at bottom, founded on the idea that the MLB regular season is what really matters. The players will show up for the regular season because that's what they're paid for, the thinking went. They'd treat these games as glorified exhibitions, the play would be sloppy and indifferent, and anyone who was even thinking of trying hard would stop the minute someone got hurt. In other words, it would be like the NBA regular season.

Well, I hope those harrumping sportswriters were watching the game last night. If everyone was supposed to be going half-speed, someone forgot to tell these guys. Jose Valentin of Puerto Rico hit a slow dribbler toward third base. Albert Pujols of the Dominican made a hot bare-hand grab and fired the ball over to first in one motion... but Valentin beat it with a headfirst slide, then took second when he saw no one covering. Moises Alou of the Dominican smacked a hanging slider into the left-field corner, and tried to stretch it to a double... but was gunned down when Ricky Ledee fired a bullet from the corner, right on the mark. If this is how they play when they aren't trying, I'd love to see it when they are.

In the end, the plucky Puerto Ricans, missing Carlos Delgado from the heart of their order and relying on a largely obscure pitching staff, thumped the mighty Dominicans, 7-1. (By the way, even though Delgado has tendinitis and doesn't figure to play in the WBC, he was in uniform in the Puerto Rico dugout, cheering on his teammates. Probably because he doesn't care.) The "road" team, Puerto Rico, benefited a good deal from a very vocal crowd at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, but both teams were hustling and playing all out.

I figure that the writers who scoffed at the WBC figured that because they didn't care, the players also wouldn't care. They figured the players were motivated mostly by money. Well, after last night, I can say that love of country is a pretty powerful motivator for these guys. Orestes Destrade, broadcasting the game for ESPN (he made part of a fine three-man booth with Orel Hershiser and the largely useless Gary Thorne), related a story from Alex Cora, playing second for Puerto Rico. Cora told him that there were things he'd do in the WBC that he might not do in America, a little extra flair, hustle, and razzle-dazzle.

Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico is some of the best the WBC has to offer: two rival countries with a storied history that brings out the best in the players. I loved the game for much the same reason that I love the Carribbean Series: players out there giving their all for their country and for the game, showing a fire and a style that isn't quite matched in the American game.

And the crowds! The baseball fans in the Carribbean have a passion and vigor that matches the best American crowds. The color, the noise... it's a feast for the senses. After seeing the fans in San Juan, the crowd in LA for the Mexico-Korea game (or Japan-US, for that matter) seemed subdued and a bit drab. Before I die, I want to experience a game in Puerto Rico, or the Dominican, or Mexico, just to sit in the middle of the raging cauldron and feel it first-hand.

As far as I'm concerned, the WBC is a winner. Sure, it's not without faults (what business do countries like South Africa and Italy have in the tournament?), and I'd like to see more games played outside our shores (how about Estadio Monterrey? Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo? Maybe even Havana, after Castro dies?), but I give the venture two thumbs up, and I can't believe I'll have to wait until 2009 for the next one.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 01:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 11, 2006


The Seahawks have lost WR Joe Jurevicius as he's reportedly signed a 4-year, $10 million deal with his hometown Cleveland Browns. The Hawks have also apparently lost S Marquand Manuel to Green Bay.

Steve Hutchison is meeting with the Vikings this week.

Free agency isn't getting off to a great start here.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2006

Tell me again why I should take this league seriously?

After the ludicrous "controversy" that forced the Houston MLS franchise to abandon the very cool "1836" name for the boring, uninspired and KGB-ish "Dynamo", the New York franchise has been purchased by the makers of Red Bull and yes, you guessed it: the team is now Red Bull New York.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 08, 2006

Go Buy This


I don't ask for much. This is Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, the new album from Tacoma's own Neko Case. It's brilliant. She's classified as "alt-country" which basically means anyone making country music that doesn't sound like an Eagles outtake from 1976. Classifications don't matter though. You'll hear a hundred different things, and her voice will break your heart.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2006

What an ugly week for baseball

When Emperor Selig's beloved World Baseball Classic starts up in earnest this week, it's been overshadowed. First by sad death of Kirby Puckett, and now the SI story and upcoming book about Barry Bonds' steroid use.

Somewhere, Bud is silently weeping.

Posted by Frinklin at 08:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2006

Two Major Purchases

Okay, so the first doesn’t qualify as “major”, but it is deeply cool. Last week, I persuaded the Missus to take Monday, April 3 off, which is Opening Day of course. Despite my lifelong obsession with baseball this will be the first Opening Day game I’ve ever attended.

So, cool for me.

Now, the second major purchase didn’t actually happen. Almost, but it didn’t. The Missus and I have two cars, a fairly new VW Beetle, and a very old, beat-up Ford Ranger. The thought has been that we’ll replace the truck -since we don’t actually drive it much- once the Beetle is paid off. This is about a year away. We’ve decided on a small SUV. Stuff like the Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty and such. We were doing errands today and saw that the Kia dealership is running a $2000 rebate on the Sorento.

What the hell, we’ll take a look.

The look turned into a test drive.

The test drive turned into two test drives.

Now, we made the decision that we couldn’t afford two car payments at once. With two payments, plus the mortgage… just not going to work.

“Well,“ our intrepid car salesman say, “We could always pay off the reminder of the Beetle and lump it into the Sorento’s payment.”

They do that?

Our two test drives turned into “running the numbers”.

We were so close. With the addition of the reminder of the Beetle payments we were about fifty bucks over our budget -which was already $100 over our current payment- and about a thousand over on the down payment. We could have done it, rather easily actually, if we’d skimped on the options for the new car. I’m rather proud that the Missus and I didn’t do that. At this point, we know what we want.

Dammit, I just wish were driving it now.

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

March 02, 2006

Run Away! Run Away!


Fans of the Washington Nationals and readers of Deadspin will recognize this creature as "Screech", the Nationals' mascot. This horrifying melding of man and bird is not named after this Screech, but rather the noise that come from terrified children he will eventually consume.

I can't get on the Nats too much for this, because Seattle teams don't do much better.


The Mariner Moose has been at this for over a decade now, and while still essentially scary in that mascot-y way they all are, he's harmless.

Squatch dunking.jpg

Here is where things begin to go horribly, horribly wrong. This is Squatch, the Sonic mascot. He's supposed to be a Sasquatch, in case the name and the bigfoot logo on his jersey didn't give it away. Like all NBA mascots, he's just a poor shadow of the Phoenix Suns Gorilla


Yeah, I know. Just.. just move on, it's for the best.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I have become the Black Death

Death for my workplace anyway. Last December, despite fine business and growing returns, the mothership that controlled the office I worked for closed it down. Considering our office was the only one even remotely connected to the business we did, and we were the only remaining office in California, I had to admit it makes sense. Damn coporate synergy.

Cast out into the world again, I landed with the Coporate Behemoth. They were nice enough (and large enough) to let me transfer from San Diego to Seattle when I moved. Last month they announced that the San Diego office is closing.

That would make me 2 for 2.

Today, everyone in my office got an email requestion (demanding, actually) our presence for an emergency meeting. It seems that we’re on the verge of losing our major client for this office. We might end up facing closure.

Will I go 3 for 3?

I really need to get in a more stable industry.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

The Boone


You hate to see it end like this. Bret Boone may have left the M's under difficult circumstances, but it must be remembered that without Boonie, the 2001 season never happens. For that one shining year, he was the best player on the best team. I hope to see him on the M's TV team soon. For now, I'll remember him like this.

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Happy Ash Wednesday!

(I actually heard that today. Somebody is clearly missing the point.)

In recent years on Ash Wednesday, I've used this space to pen one of my Cranky Scolding Diatribes, chiding our decadent society for failing to appreciate the spirit of Lent (and, in particular, for venerating Mardi Gras and shunning Lent - as always, we Americans love to party but avoid sacrifice like the plague). However, I am forced to change my writing habits this year, after reading an article in Slate suggesting that observance of Lent is spreading, particularly among Protestants (historically, most Protestant denominations did not observe Lent). This most unusual bit of good news is so heartening to me that, just this once, I'll abandon my Eeyorish view of the modern world.

The article's author, Andrew Santella, suggests two reasons why more Protestants are observing Lent. The first is that, with people changing faiths more often now than in the past, many Protestant denominations are heavily populated with former Catholics who brought Lenten traditions with them. The second is that many evangelicals are turning to older rituals (including Lent) as a way of strengthening their faith.

Both explanations make sense, to be sure. But I think there's something more to it. For instance, I'm not an evangelical, and I've never been Catholic, but I've been observing Lent ever since I was a kid, even in times when I wasn't particularly religious. And I notice that Tainted Bill and his wife, who aren't religious, are observing it too. How come? Well, I can't speak for everyone else, but I'll tell you why I observe Lent.

I came up with the Baptists, who traditionally have not observed Lent. My church didn't encourage the practice, and my parents never did it. When I announced, at age 8, that I was giving up chocolate bars for Lent, they were equal parts amazed and entertained. (I think they're still at least faintly amused by my observance, but they respect it. Mom always asks me what I'm giving up; I'm not sure if she's motivated by curiosity, or if she plans to smack my wrist if she sees me breaking my promise.) At first, I did it because it sounded like an interesting thing to do. It was a distinctly religious thing to do, and since my family didn't attend church with any great regularity, we were pretty short on religious traditions.

As time went on and I entered adolescence, I began to view it (with the typically testosterone-fueled worldview of a teensage male) as a personal challenge. Could I really make it 40 days without whatever I'd promised to give up? Had I grown up a few years later, I suppose I might have started calling it "Xtreme Lent" or something, but that was after my time. But I liked the idea of challenging myself to go this length of time without one of my pleasures. For me, it was of a piece with my desire to drive too fast and sneak into buildings I didn't belong in: it all came down to the question, "Are you man enough?" I'm pretty sure that no major religion views Lent this way, but it worked for me in those days.

As I went into college, I began to consider spiritual questions more seriously. I knew that I was through with the Baptists, but I wasn't sure what religion I planned to adopt instead. One week, I'd think I should give the Catholics a try; the next, I'd visit the non-denominational church; then I'd think of myself as spiritual but not religion; then I'd contemplate abandoning belief in God entirely. Through all this searching and considering, the one thing I held to was Lent.

I'm not entirely sure why; some of it may have been inertia. But it was more than that. I liked the purification aspect of the Lenten ritual; I always felt like I was doing something good, even if I wasn't thinking of it in explicitly religious terms. And it was a cultural statement for me as well as a religious one; in a consumer culture that worships acquisition and self-gratification, it was refreshing to try some self-denial for a change. (I guess this is the theory behind Buy Nothing Day as well.)

After I left college, I had more or less decided not to participate in organized religion, but to maintain faith at a personal level. I was turned off by a couple of trends in organized religion.

I didn't (and don't) care for the faith made popular by televangelists such as Joel Osteen, what I like to call "Faith Lite." This brand of theology basically boils down to Tony Robbins with a cross around his neck. "God wants you to be happy, and rich, and driving a fancy car home to your big honkin' house, so embrace Jesus and he'll make you rich!" Oh, spare me. My friend the Mad Prophet calls this the "Cosmic Gumball Machine": stick your belief in the slot, and out pops a happy, wealthy life.

On the other hand, I also don't care for the narrow exclusionary version of evangelical faith. I have little patience for those who preach that homosexuals are all going to Hell. I have equally little patience for those who insist on strict creationism. Where religion stands for intolerance, bigotry, and rejection of the finidings of science, I stand opposed. I believe that religion should celebrate the brotherhood of man, and those who practice divisiveness in the name of religion will find no friend in me. Or as Tom Lehrer once said, "I know that there are people out ther who do not love their fellow human beings, and I hate people like that!"

As I noticed the increasing prevalence of the power-of-positive-thinking churches and those that celebrated narrow-mindedness, I became burned out on organized religion. But still I held onto Lent. The self-discipline and self-denial inherent in it flies in the face of the Cosmic Gumball Machine. And anyone can participate and receive the spiritual benefit, so it's not exclusive. As I explained in my post on the subject last year, Lent fits in well with my conception of faith, even if it actually contains 47 days, rather than the 40 commonly advertised. (Looking back, my complaint about the length of Lent strikes me as considerably less than holy, particularly when I started calling it "Fraudu-Lent" around my friends. I blame this on caffeine withdrawal.)

In the last year or so, I've been moving toward a renewal of my faith. After some research, I discovered a denomination that fits well with my belief system, the United Church of Christ. My church has Ash Wednesday services, but appears to be agnostic on the concept of Lent: if you want to observe, great; if not, that's fine too. This year, I'm giving up candy, which might not be quite as severe a test as last year's vow to abstain from soda (which I kept, barely), but it figures to be a sacrifice. Maybe it isn't "Xtreme Lent" any more, but it works for me.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 07:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack