Posted on: August 18, 2010 5:06 pm

How crazy ...

How crazy ould it be if:

1. The Boston Redsox acquire Manny Ramirez and come back and get into the playoffs. Not only through a Wild Card, but they are crowned the division winners. That would be nuts.

2. The San Francisco Giants come from 5 back in the NL West, where the Padres have led pretty much ALL Year. None of the Giants 5 starters have worse than a 3.62 ERA. Pat Burrell has been lights out for them since his arrival. His batting average is currently .50 points higher than it was earlier in the season.

3. No one has made any mention of Neftali Feliz for a possible Rookie of the Year candidate, but his 29 saves and that 9.2 K rate have got to get some respect. The only thing hurting him would be his 3.48 ERA. Then you look at his .987 WHIP.... This could hinge on the Rangers finish, but if this kid gets just 6 more saves he would have 35...in his rookie year.

4. What if the Cincinnati Reds can hold off Pujol's St. Louis Cardinals? Do the Cardinals miss the playoffs? Right now they are behind two other teams in the Wildcard chase. The best player in baseball watching playoffs?

5. Ubaldo Jimenez DOESNT win the NL Cy Young. Honestly, this guy's team win % in games he's pitched is .792 . Adam Wainright is the only other player with 17 wins, but he has twice as many losses as Jimenez's 3. Consider Ubaldo also has 4 no decisions.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 10, 2010 4:52 pm

Separation of Sports and Morals. . .

  I'm sick and tired of hearing athletes skewered for their personal indiscretions. Rarely do you see a athlete both on top of his sport AND being vilified. It's because we as human beings all have our faults. Deep down, consciously, we all are aware of this. Yet, when a player, no matter what sport he or she plays, is caught doing something wrong OUTSIDE OF THEIR sport, we immediately start comparing them to school teachers and clergy. These people are not brought in to be role models. They did not play their sport as children with the sole hope of changing peoples lives. Many athletes choose to do the 'nicer'  things, because some feel it truly is their calling or maybe they just want to give back.

   Let's start with baseball and take it back a few decades. Was Babe Ruth considered a great role model? The beer guzzling and hot dog eating? Was DiMaggio and his womanizing cool? Ty Cobb, biggest racist in maybe all of sports, was a great ballplayer, all of these guys great ballplayers, but for the most part beloved by fans then and fans now. The most recent former home run king was basically a speed user, as were many players in his time- and they did it to perform during games. Is that not performance enhancing? Where are all those asterisks? Consider it this way, as this is my own opinion:

Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, (Insert PED user here) were simply trying to get the upper hand in their careers. It's not as though they popped magic pills that made them Superman. They were dedicated in their work ethic, they were talented since childhood, they were often the first ones in and the last ones out at the end of the day. It was a commitment they made to themselves, whether selfishly or not, that in turn, made their team better. Early on, before the drugs were tested for, can you fault a player for using? Really? I mean, if you had an office job and I told you that you could use this certain program that would improve your quality of work, make your 'team' (your peers or your underlings) better, and possibly increase your rate of pay...would you do it? Of course. We all do. Now, once they make it illegal to do it, will you continue  do it? Look, I don't like the slant that these PEDs put on some of our favorite players of our generation. I hate having to compare what "so and so's numbers" look like next to "PED user's numbers." I'm just saying that when some of the earlier users were juicing, I doubt they were behind closed doors, ringing their hands in excitement, thinking " shoot this and I'm Superman!"

  What about football? Why don't we go crazy when they use steroids? I'll bet over the years, maybe twice as many football players have used the drugs. A QB can't throw further, a receiver can't run faster, a lineman can't get THAT MUCH STRONGER? Do steroids make you throw more accurately, as people think it makes you hone in on a baseball easier? Does it give you the ability to catch a ball with ONE HAND and three fingertips? Rarely do we see steroids being a big issue in our favorite football players. And then there are players like Terrell Owens. I listened to sports radio today and heard the host call T.O. a fraud. A Fraud? No steroids, no wife beating, no tabloid headlines...certainly not a lack of statistics. I looked into his stats once and I'm pretty sure that T.O. (at this time two or three years ago) was already in the top 5 (maybe 3rd?) in most 'important receiving statistics'. People treat this guy like he is terrible. Forgive me, but even with all of his prima donna acts in the locker rooms and on the sidelines, the guy can BALL. He can catch, he can run, and he can score some touchdowns. Not to mention, for all the griping about T.O....he's pretty darn entertaining. If you were still playing football out on the street in front of your house and T.O. is on the sidelines, you'd want that guy on your team. Anyone who says they don't is a flat out liar. I could talk about Ben Roethlisberger, who was America's Sweetheart early in his career, only to be lynched in the media for a night that we don't completely know about. We weren't there, how do WE, the fans know? Think of it this way, in court, you can't say what someone else said. It's called "hear-say". Well, guess what the media does?

 The last point I'll make here (simply to keep it short, because I could hit every sport, really) is about Tiger Woods. As a human being, a father, a husband, and the face of many products, Tiger Woods is a complete failure. We came down so hard after Tiger Woods, because he lifted us up so high. Early in his career, his smile and humble demeanor helped bring interest to a dying sport. It also merged a big gap between African American's and golf. Tiger said all the right things, did all the right things, and damn it - HE WON! He amazed people that didn't even PLAY golf. He had a beautiful wife, wonderful children, blah blah blah. Who cares? Did Jack Nicklaus' wife ever putt one in for him? Did we follow Arnold Palmer from the course to the bar and count his drinks before he drove home? Who cares what these people do in their personal lives. What's a shame is  that the media is primarily to blame for all of this.

  Throughout the years athletes AND celebrities like actors and singers have all done their fair share of dirt behind the scenes, but because of today's media, we are all privy to the details. It should not change the product that we see on the field or the love we have for them AS athletes. It's time that we started to separate athletes and role models. Looking for your fair sure of role models in sports, is like looking for your future wife in a bar. These players are all paid to entertain. We should live and die by the things they do on the diamond, within the hashmarks, on the fairways, the rinks, and the courts - not the things they do off of them.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 19, 2010 10:41 am

Insurance Policy

Last year the Tampa Bay Rays were looking for certain things in the off season that they assumed they had when they picked up Pat Burrell's 26 HR per season average and 90 RBI's. They knew his batting average would be low, but would accept the offensive production. Unfortunately, as local fans know all too well, Pat Burrell did not live up to his expectations last year. For various reasons his numbers dropped and due to injuries he had his fewest at bats since his rookie season. So what can a cash strapped team like the Rays do? They have to hold on and put their faith back in a driven Pat Burrell and they have to keep in mind they can't afford another season of low production. Basically, the Rays need insurance. Say hello to Hank Blalock.

    Hank Blalock was easily the Rays biggest free agent acquisition. He is still relatively young and he has put up Pat Burrell-esque numbers. Blalock's career .269 batting average is better than Burrell's .254. Blalock has hit for 25 homers or more 4 times in his 9 year career. His RBI aren't as high as Burrell's but Blalock has cracked 110 RBI in a season. In the same amount of games last year both players had similar numbers. Low batting averages, high strikeout rates, 60-70 RBI range. Where they differed were the home runs. Burrell had 14, nearly half as many as the 30 the season prior. Blalock had 25, more on par with his better career years. He had his prior two seasons shortened by injuries as he played a combined 123 games batting .290 22 HR's and 71 RBI. In a lineup this potent, those home runs can add on a lot more RBI.

 Should Hank Blalock crack the roster on Opening Day, there is a great chance he could be counted on to fill roles shared through the years by Eric Hinske, Gabe Gross, Gabe Kaplar and at other times, Ben Zobrist. Similar to how Zobrist found his way into the starting lineup, Blalock is capable of handling platoons throughout the corners of the infield. On days when Carlos Pena or Evan Longoria would need to catch a break, he could fill in and still replace some of the power in the lineup. Another example, although extreme is today's projected lineup of Blalock at first, Pena at DH, and Burrell at right. The more realistic lineup would involve either Blalock or Burrell at DH.
    It's important that at least one of these two fulfill their expectations and ideal that BOTH would perform up to par. The addition of Blalock could once again make Matt Silverman and Andrew Friedman look like genius' if it were to pay off.
Posted on: February 27, 2010 6:24 pm

In a 2010 Baseball Fantasy World....

I've tried as hard as I could to not start drafting fantasy baseball teams until a week before the season kicks off and I just couldn't hold out anymore. I've already done three mock drafts and drafted two real teams.

I spent a lot of time on different sites seeing where players were projected to go and I tried to look into 'fluke' seasons. For example, was Ben Zobrist a fluke last year? Yes, to some degree. I don't expect him to put up as good a batting average and I don't expect him to get nearly as many RBI's this year. He may still pop somewhere between 15-20 homers, but you aren't going to get the production from him that warrants taking him earlier than the 5th pick. There I think he is a nice sleeper and he could play a big role as a utility player for your team. (20 homers is pretty nice out of the 2B slot). Another type of fluke is the complete opposite. It's where a player like Pat Burrell, had a career worst year and I expect he and many other players similar to him, will rebound back to their career par numbers. I see him being a steal, sometimes even undrafted. He has a potent lineup around him and he will have plenty more opportunities to knock in RBI's. Playign in the dome of Tropicana he should be able to power the ball out with little wind resistence. Locally there has been plenty of talk of his re-commitment to working out.

Continuing on, I will say my strategy this year is to pick up speed and batting average early. These are the two categories that are most difficult to overcome. You can have one player that is leading the league in either of these categories, but if others on your team aren't hitting well or stealing bases, you might as well nto have anyone for these reasons at all. I like the idea, especially if you are in late position in a serpentine draft, to take Jacoby Elsbery and Ichiro Suzuki 1-2. This gives you a good foundation for your batting average (.325) and could bring you over 100 steals. Once you get these two off the board, there are few players left who will get you a package deal of steals AND other categories. Carl Crawford is a good choice to mix up with Elsbery or Sukuki too.

Now you have to focus on power and keeping that batting average up. If you have a strikeout penalty league you might want to avoid guys like Ryan Howard, Carlos Pena, or Pat Burrell. With your third pick you should be able to still locate Justin Morneau, Mark Texiera, and Adrian Gonzalez. These guys can give you the .300AVG -30HR- 100 RBI's you are looking for. If you want to wait a round Kendry Moralez should be there for your 4th pick. You can use that slot to take a 3B. The top two studs are Alex Rodriguez and Evan Longoria. I don't think David Wright deserves as much credit anymore and he doesn't provide enough of the power we are looking for. At 3B 30 HR's is ideal, but at first base we are looking for 35-40. mark reynolds, Kevin Youkilis, and Ryan Zimmerman. Those are about 7 names listed that you can use for power on your corner infields, rather deep if you can afford to wait a round and take a powerful 2B/SS.

Troy Tuluwitzki, Ian Kinsler, and Aaron Hill. Also, consider Rickie Weeks, who at the time he injured his wrist last year, was leading all middle infielders in home runs.

What you want to accomplish with your 3rd and 4th picks is get an unusual amount of power out of an unusual position. 2B/SS/3B.

As I said earlier, Zobrist may be a nice addition with the 5th pick, providing good pop from the 2B position, or you could lean towards solidifying your pitching staff. I've seen Johan Santana, Josh Beckett, Adam Wainwright, and Justin Verlander fall this far. I would even go as far as to say draft two pitchers in succession here. Dan Haren, Jon Lester, Chris Carpenter, Cole Hamels.

It's important that you try to maximize your picks. You don't want to be stuck drafting a guy late who doesn't offer more than one stat. ( Nice amount of home runs, but few RBI's, and terrible batting average). Or taking a guy with a Mendoza batting average, no pop in his bat, but he will steal some bases for you. The exception to this rule is when drafting Closers. All he really does for you is puts up saves. A lights out fireman like Mariano Rivera or K-Rod will bump up your K's, but only elite closers will produce "stellar starting pitching like strikeouts" on a weekly basis. It might be wise to take a closer as your third pitcher drafted. Take two more starters, and then seek a second closer.

The least important position here is catcher. Joe Mauer is the only legit option behind the plate. He will keep that batting average of yours up, those homer runs up, and your RBi's up. He is the most consistent catcher in The Bigs and he gets the most work (when not injured) than other rotating catchers in other places. If he is available around the middle of the draft, it's a good idea to try to nab him with the number one, and then continue as planned.

1. Batting Average
2. Speed
3. Power. (Home Runs, RBI)
4. ERA
5. W's
6. S
7. K's (They will come with the wins and saves)

The reason I consider batting average and ERA to be so important is because if you are lacking these stats in your season, it is much more difficult to a player who will bump these averages up for you, without having to sacrifice something elsewhere. On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to lead the league in average and/or ERA, you can afford to add a batter like Carlos Pena who can give you great power from the corner infield spot, but will hit your batting average. Or you can take a chance on Ricky Nolasco, who can K 12 guys in a game, but will give up 4 or 5 runs as well.

If you just sit and draft players who you like because of big names, or familiar faces, you are in trouble. If you just take the best guy on the board each time, you will suffer at other positions, because you may have just drafted three straight first baseman. Just like in live action baseball, hitting the ball and limiting runs are the two keys in the foundation for winning baseball games.

I'd like to use a poker example to help me explain my idea; remember I said this strategy works best in late position and in a snake format draft. It's easier to pick a strategy when you can take two players close together. I say go for speed because at a later point in the draft, the power will already be off the board. Once the first 1B is gone, people will start jumping in to take Ryan Howard's 40-45 bombs, sacrificing average and taking on unnecessary strikeouts. Use your position in the draft to take what you can. If you have a top 3 pick in the draft, speed is not the only option.

With the top 3 pick you could knab Hanley Ramirez. Extremely valuable for his 5 tools, he can give you big numbers in all the prime offensive categories. Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols will get you AVG, HR, RBI's, and a few stolen bases. Once you draft one of these two players, you can stay in your power zone for your second pick, maybe completing your opposite corner infielder. Or you can just go back to the original strategy.

I'd love to hear anyone else's ideas or input.
Posted on: January 25, 2010 9:13 pm

Not a Solution.

I read an article today hinting at the possibilty that the Rays will be relocating out of the Tampa Bay area. Apparently, someone is making a push for an Orlando, Florida baseball team. Apparently, Tampa and Miami , as well as the many Spring Training MLB teams, are not enough of an attraction for baseball enthusiasts. Despite the poor attendance of the  two time World Series Marlins and the World Series runner up Rays, Orlando feels that Florida has a strong local following for consistent baseball. The problem that no one seems to understand, is that there is no market in Florida for any "hometown" team. There IS NO hometown team! Florida is a great baseball market for out of state teams. Florida is considered the retirement state and often the climate brings down many young northerners. I myself have gone from Florida to California and back, and I have had three friends move to the very city I live in. Neither are Tampa Bay ANYTHING fans. Don't get me wrong, they like Tampa Bay and they root for them when "their team is not playing" but they are not going to be scooping up season tickets anytime soon. If the team is winning they may go to a few more games, but if things are a little tight they will cut back. If the team isn't playing so well, why show up to watch a stinker? They aren't 'their' team anyway, right? It took the Buccaneers nearly 25 years to get the loyal fan support and with the last playoff win coming in 2002, Bucs fans aren't exactly rushing to the gates. The Tampa Bay Rays organization came in with a great business plan and it (thus far) has worked their way on the field. Unfortunately, they didn't anticipate a terrible economy paired with a long drive, a tin can of a "ballpark", and transplant fans. It seems no one takes the time to consider that Florida is unlike ANY OTHER state in the sports market. Pittsburgh baseball fans don't show up because they haven't had a wining product in decades. Detroit football fans don't show up because their team has never even sniffed a Super Bowl appearance. The JACKSONVILLE Jaguars' fans are souring over a franchise that hasn't seen a Pro Bowl in thier existence. It's Florida. Come for the beaches, come for the weather, come for the low taxes. The Ray's are probably going to move at some point or another. It sounds like a general comment, but successful states, like Dallas, Washington, New York, and California have always had a good fan base. Of course, all these teams have multiple championships in various sports. Is it possible both go hand in hand? Yes, of course, but which comes first? I think consistent and prolonged success brings the fans and ultimately, keeps the fans interested. One Super Bowl, One World Series APPEARANCE, one Stanley Cup. Those are the Big Three American Team Sports. Our teams have been in existence for less than 40 years. It will take another 10 years and/or multiple championships for the Buccaneers to gain a diehard fan base. It will take longer for hocket and baseball fans. It is what it is and in reality, it's possible that sports slowly trickle out of Florida and into states with their own identity.
Posted on: September 8, 2009 12:16 pm

Winning in losing. . .

I hope that Tampa Bay Rays fans today are content with the results of this season. I've noticed the past few weeks, that the new Rays fanbase is becoming much more demanding than previous years. It seems the success that the Rays have had the past few years has gone to our heads. Even 4 or 5 few years ago, could you ever imagine that the Rays would arrive in the World Series and follow up with another playoff race? We should be proud of the direction this team has gone and enjoy as the moves of the past all come fruition and manager Joe Maddon's portrait is seen by all. With what the Rays were doing a few years ago, ownership could be moving pieces like Pittsburgh. They could continue to complain about the lack of funding compared to the division. Instead, the new ownership has emptied their pockets, changed a losing image, hired the perfect manager for the job, and brough in STRATEGIC baseball minds. The Rays have retained pieces like Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Evan Longoria, and they have added quality young players. Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza. They have thrived in the draft and have consistently carried tons of prospects in the minors. They have brought them up at good paces and the players have thrived. The team made some moves this offseason and no, Pat Burrell hasn't quite pan out YET, the team freed up some space by parting with longtime Franchise Face Scott Kazmir. The team didn't "give up" when they made the move, they made smart decision, yes, for the future, but realistically, the team DID have players they felt were ready. (How 'bout that Wade Davis!). Our lack of fan support may soon be the demise of a Tampa Bay Franchise and we may be rooting for our team from afar. I won't continue the dreaded "New Ballpark-Attendance" conversations, but the two go hand in hand. There are still games to be played and statistically the Rays are still in the playoff hunt, but realistically, with Carlos Pena's injury, it's time to watch some of the future players for next year, it's time to relieve some baseball arms, and it's time to take a moment to smile. We're here. We will continue to play above .500 baseballl. We will have All-Stars and we will be featured more on national television. We will wear our Rays gear and we will support our baseball team. As our counterparts know of so well, there's always next year.
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com