Monthly Archives: March 2009

ESPN tells you everything you need to know about OUR beat

by Andy Paschen

So I’m sitting on the couch watching Baseball Tonight (at 2:54 PM Central) while recovering from Influenza (the real kind, the kind that you are supposed to get a vaccine for. Let me tell you one thing, there is a reason that people get a vaccine, holy crap it sucks!) and they are doing the preview for the N.L. Central. Hey! The N.L. Central is our beat, get off of our turf ESPN!

Here are some important things to note from the gang over there in Bristol:

Tim Kurkjian thinks this is the year the Reds take the leap. Timmy thinks that without Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. the younger players can step up and be leaders. They can run, they’re young — but they have Jerry Hairston Jr. in the outfield, so I would be cautiously optimistic at best.

Other things of note:
Buster Olney’s N.L. Central Cy Young winner: Chris Carpenter
Olney’s MVP: Albert Pujols
Olney’s division champion: Chicago Cubs
N.L. Central winner according to “the computer”: Chicago Cubs at 92-70, followed by the Brewers, Astros, Cardinals, Reds and Pirates

Finally, they named their top five fantasy players:
1. Pujols
2. Ryan Braun
3. Carlos Lee
4. Lance Berkman
5. Alfonso Soriano

I’m ok with that top five for the most part, but is everybody else? Who do you think are the five best fantasy players in the N.L. Central? Personally I would put Aramis Ramirez in Soriano’s slot, but that’s just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking.

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Filed under Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals

The Bullpen just got awkward: Gregg the closer

by Andy Paschen

greggmarmol1

Color me surprised. Lou Piniella has named his closer, and it is no flamethrowing Domincan. Kevin Gregg, thanks to his nifty 0.00 spring ERA, has been named the Kira Sedgwick of the Chicago Cubs. I did not see that coming. Not because Kevin Gregg is a shabby pitcher – he’s not – but because I wasn’t sure Piniella would want to hurt the psyche of Carlos Marmol.

I know, I know, they are professional athletes and hurting their feelings should be the last thing coaches have to worry about when naming starters and reserves, etc., but Marmol certainly has a track record (albeit brief) of having some mental fragility from time to time. I really would have thought Piniella would have named Marmol the closer first, because Gregg would, mentally, be able to handle the set-up role better than Marmol.

On a personal note, having drafted Marmol in my fantasy league, this information could have been useful BEFORE THE DRAFT! I didn’t pick Mr. Marmol to be a God-damn 8th inning pitcher! Come on, Lou! Throw me a freaking bone.

Now there will be speculation all season long, especially if Gregg struggles at all and Marmol turns in the 1-2-3K innings time after time, whether or not Piniella makes a switch, but it’s my opinion that a player really has to blow hard for Sweet Lou to do so. In sum: expect Gregg to be the closer for most of the season, if not the entire she-bang. But, it will be curious to see if Marmol gets more opportunities to spell Gregg and get some saves of his own. Time will tell.

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Filed under Chicago Cubs

Villa to close until Hoffman’s back

80323109JD034_San_Francisco

By Danny Mehigan

It’s unofficially official that Carlos Villanueva will be the Brewers’ closer to start the season. It was assumed once Salomon Torres retired over the winter that Chuck V would take his spot, but the signing of Hoffman bumped Villanueva to a regular bullpen role. But then Hoffman’s injury sent Villanueva back into the closer’s role. An den, an awful start to the spring (seven appearances, 7.94 ERA) re-opened the conversation as Seth McClung and Todd Coffey were considered for the spot.

But after a few strong outings in the last week by Villanueva, Ken Macha has pretty much given him the job. It helps that McClung might be needed in the starting rotation thanks to lingering injuries to Braden Looper and that Todd Coffey just isn’t very good anymore. However, just to make sure that nobody knows what’s happening, there’s a chance Dave Bush will close on Opening Day if the Crew have a late lead. That’ll be due to the weird opening week schedule in the majors, as spring training ends and teams have an unusual amount of off days, so Bush will need to get some work in before pitching on April 11 against the Cubs.

So even though the news about Hoffman has been timidly good this week – he played catch for the first time in ten days, he still hasn’t actually pitched since March 13. He’ll probably spend the first week or two of the regular season in AAA Nashville or in Appleton with the single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to get some rehab work. That, and filling out AARP paperwork for his old ass. Anyone still hype to hear “Hell’s Bells” for the first time at Miller Park will have to wait just a bit longer … but as they say, good things come to those who wait. I think.

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Filed under Milwaukee Brewers

The WBC Finals and My Reaction

japanwbc

By Danny Mehigan

As the Japanese celebrated their second straight WBC championship with a extra-inning win over Korea, approximately 13 Americans were captivated by the thrilling finish. It was a great ending to a great tournament, but I wasn’t the only one who barely watched. And that’s too bad, because this thing could be awesome.

No, it’s not the World Cup. No, it’s not the Olympics. But it’s still in its infancy – I doubt the second World Cup was the great sporting event it is today. I think the WBC could benefit from a qualifying tournament to get more countries involved, and a better time slot. The argument has been beaten to death already, but I still don’t have a very good idea of when it should be hosted. A late fall tournament wouldn’t be good because it’s getting pretty cold, it’s early football season (and soccer season everywhere else) so people are likely a little tired of baseball. Taking an extended break in the summer near the All-Star break could work, but not enough players are involved in the tournament for that to be worthwhile.

The problem is, as always these days, money. Soccer players and fans embrace the World Cup because they want to represent their country. The pride is definitely something to play for, and that’s probably because they aren’t all filthy rich (although that doesn’t apply to everyone). Now I can see why someone like Alex Rodriguez wouldn’t want to risk his $25 million per year self to play for one of the nine countries he wants to represent. So maybe to get the best players, and thus the best tournament, the WBC needs to dish out some cash. Hopefully, as the tournament continues to grow and fans become more invested, players will want to step up and rep their countries. As I step off the hastily-erected soapbox, here’s a look at the only two players from the Reds and Brewers to make the final round.

Ramón Hernández, C: The Reds catcher went 1-for-4 and ended the Venezuelan dream with a groundout to third to complete a 10-2 loss to Korea in the semifinals. He stroked his way to a .368 average for the tournament.

Ryan Braun, OF: The Brewers leftfielder went 1-for-4 with a double in a 9-4 semifinal loss to Japan. His strained oblique/ribs/whatever held him back a little bit, but a recent MRI showed no damage and he should be no worse for the wear come regular season time. Braunie finished the WBC with a stellar .381 average.

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Filed under The Rest

Skip Starting at Second (say that three times fast)

YOUR starting second basemen for the St. Louis Cardinals

YOUR starting second basemen for the St. Louis Cardinals

By Josh Mosley

The annual free for all that is “Who is playing second base for the Cardinals” is at least over for now Skip Schumaker has been designated as the man at second when the Cards open up against Pittsburgh according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

If you aren’t a miserable chode like some fans tend to be, you’ll realize that there is good and bad to putting the Skipper at the 2 bag. He says he wishes to be an “average” player at the position. That would be par for the course when compared to the some of the yahoos La Russa put in there the last three seasons but I think he can be more. MUCH MORE!!!! Let’s delve into the reasons why because that’s why you continue to read the Swing:

Pro’s: When was the last time the Cardinals had a legitimate bat at second. Skip appeared in 153 games in 2008, batting .302 with eight dingers and 46 ribby’s. And that was as a part-time starter and utility man. He’s averaged .299 in four seasons in St. Louis, which is a stat I’ll take as manager and Bird observer. Adam Kennedy started half 87 of 162 games at second last year and batted a respectable .280. Aaron Miles, the one that Johnny Mo let go to those tools on the North Side of Chi town, batted .317 in 49 starts at second and would have been the likely heir apparent to the starting slot had he not bolted for the Cubs.

I liked Miles. To be more accurate, I preferred him to Kennedy for the simple fact that he was a less flaky bat. I know the other part of baseball is fielding, but this guy believes that one of the main reasons the Cards find themselves addressing this issue every winter is that they can’t find anyone to hit as effectively as they field. It’s like frat guys preying on sorostitutes. They want to find the girl who is equally hot and also less likely to squeal to her friends when said guy tries some sketchy shit. Got to cover them bases, baby!!!!

Either way, it’s a two-way game fellas, so if you got leather you should be able to handle the stick when you’re called on. And from what I can see, Skip has done an admirable job of trying both this spring. After a four error debacle a couple of weeks ago, dude has been steady with the glove and continued his reliable hitting. Plus, he’s not totally foreign to the infield. He played mostly the outfield in his last four seasons, but he was recruited to college ball as an infielder. Now comparing college and pro ball might not be valid but he comes in with a working knowledge of the spot. Count me in as a temporary believer.

Cons: It’s second base. And it’s the Cardinals. And over the last few years, those two have not mixed well. The last guy to play this position at any level above mediocre was Tony Womack in 2004 when they ran into the Red Sox buzzsaw. Womack batted .307 and swiped 26 bags that year but wasn’t much the same after. Before him it was Fernando Vina who, despite the fact that he admitted to shooting up on butt candy during his playing days, was a nice player. There hasn’t anyone like him since then.
He could fail miserably and the Cards are back at square one, which isn’t much to be proud of. But this could also be another one of “Tonic” Tony LaRussa’s grand experiments that works out for the best. As a player, I’ve always appreciated what Skip brought to the table. Let him on the field and get him some everyday PT and see what transpires. It could be worse.

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Filed under St. Louis Cardinals

The Man takes some pity on Miguel

Is that a fart?

Is that a fart?

By Josh Mosley

In the latest case of Celebrity Justice (irony right?), federal judges gave Miggy Tejadaa break as they sentenced him to one year of unsupervised probation, a 5G fine and some community circuit according to the Houston Chronicle.

Tejada would be rubbing his wrist right now if in fact the law gave him anything resembling a slap in that area. I’m not saying that Tejada did anything that warrants time in the clink or that he needs to be put any place where the word “shiv” is thrown around so freely, I think the real story here is just how far out of jurisdiction I think the federal government has come. It’s really grinded the hell out of my gears the fact that federal government feels they need to have any say in what the MLB does with their drug program. It would be like me wanting a say in the bigotry protocol of the KKK. I care to a certain extent about what they do because they, you know, persecute. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go over there and tell them how to fix their way of hating different people. I’d just let them look like jabroni’s all on their own because you know they do a good enough job of it by themselves.

Either way, Tejada got no deportation, no jail time and nothing even remotely restrictive. Proving once again that all of us that put our effort into school, being good people and living good lives were clearly wasting our time. If you can throw a ball, crack a joke or sing on key, it’s as good as being bulletproof. Well unless you’re Ricky Clemons. GO TIGERS!!!!!!!!

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Filed under St. Louis Cardinals

So the WBC is over: What did we learn?

by Andy Paschen

wbc

So Japan can call themselves the real World Champions after winning their second WBC championship. That’s 2-2 for those keeping score at home. But what have we really learned from this Sophomore sporting event? Does it work? Can it be on par with the World Cup or Olympics years from now? Or is it a failure on par with Paris Hilton’s singing career?

Personally, the timing of this thing is all wrong. You can’t play the WBC during the MLB season, baseball is much too precious to ever cancel games during the season or break the season up. So that leaves the winter which, considering that almost all of the games are held in warm weather cities or domes, makes me wonder – why do it during spring training? Why not move it up earlier? I understand that owners and coaches don’t want their players gearing up just to shut it down just to gear it up again, but you cannot have your cake and eat it too. That’d be just plain silly.

Really, when the WBC is played will always pale in comparison of who is playing in it — and I have an analogy that the MLB might want to look at. The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in, well, the world. Sorry Olympics, the World Cup is the King Kong of sports. “But how?” you ask, “The Olympics has soccer in it!” In the Olympics, there are restrictions of who can actually play on the team, so instead of superstars (and their ridiculous wags) you get young no-names. And guess what, nobody cares about Olympic soccer. Because if Christiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the rest of those sweet, sweet footballers ain’t playin’, then no one will care. Until the best talent baseball has to offer get into the WBC, it will be treated with indifference for ever. FOR EVER. FOOOORRR EVVVVEERRRR. (That’s a Sandlot reference)

But some people did play, so let’s quickly find out how they did.
Note: These are the WBC stats for all players who made it out of pool play for the Cubs and Pirates

Cubs:
Kosuke Fukudome, Japan – OF — .200, 7 singles, 7 BBs, 0 Ks
That line is so Fukudome. Walks, no extra base hits, low average. It’s looking like that scorching start last year was nothing more than Japanese snake oil.

Ted Lilly, USA – LHP
0-0, 2 GS, 6.1 IP, 5.68 ERA, 5 Ks, 3 BBs
Meh.

Geovany Soto, Puerto Rico – C
.231, 2 RBIs, 5 BBs
Double meh.

Pirates:
John Grabow, USA – LHP
4.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 5 K
Those numbers are better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Ian Snell, Puerto Rico – RHP
0-1, 8 IP, 2.25 ERA, 10 K, 3 BB
It’s good to see numbers like that for a guy who started so strong last year only to fade as the season wore on. He’s better than his numbers said last year, but he better get used to crooked numbers in the loss column.

Ramon Vazquez, Puerto Rico – 3B
3-19 (.158), 2 RBI, 5 K
No me gusta.

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Filed under Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates