Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring Training--Quick Darts.

ITEM! The inevitable begins. I see a murder-suicide involving Dusty Baker one of these days. (However, the gunman is going to be Mark Prior.)

ITEM! Baseball Prospectus and CHONE projections are out, and a few things are apparent, if you take these at face value (which, of course, you should not):

1) Holy fucking shit is the AL East a loaded division this year.

The Orioles stand to get better if not win more games, the Blue Jays are a pesky .500ish squad for as long as they choose not to trade Roy Halladay (note: not long), and as for the top three, we needn't say more.

The Yankees and Sox project well in both models, as well as within two games of each other in both models. This could be a good 'un.

2) The NL East ain't shabby either.

Three good teams, one good race, one big problem (it's the National League) which renders them all 91-87 win teams.

3) These ain't your daddy's Angels. Unless your daddy remembers when they sucked.

I saw an earlier version of the BP model where the A's won the division with 82 or 83 wins...did someone just bitch out, or was Bobby Abreu that much of a game changer? (Him and his awesome glove, I mean?)

In any case, the West seemingly ain't what it used to be, but the Angels look just good enough for it, although a Matt Holliday-enhanced Oakland youth movement seems dangerous to me. They do look up to another first-round playoff loss though. The more things change...

4) Best race in baseball: the race for 6th place!

CHONE has the Astros losing a measly 90 games to be their lowest ranked and least-winning team; BP sees something even more exciting, with the 'Stros and Pirates battling all year long to delve the depths, and the Pirates finally losing 98 games to beat Houston out. Woo!

(Additionally, this is why I like BP's model: it doesn't have everything falling or rising to the mean and instead actually takes some chances.)

Also, the Indians are back. Hard luck season last year, no surprise there for me. Will I pick Grady Sizemore for MVP for the 4th straight year? Wait and see.

ITEM! Josh Beckett is KILL! Well, this remains to be seen, but when you consider just how early the misfortunes of 2008 began for my namesake, it's amazing he had the season he did.

If he stays healthy enough, perhaps taking a DL vacation in July, Beckett's 2009 will make up for any problems Jon Lester has bouncing back from a hefty innings load in 2008. If he doesn't, there are problems.

If both are healthy and powerful, and I say this with respect to forces acquired by the New York Blackwaters, there will be no AL East race. That's not so much a big statement as it is a big if.

ITEM! The Boston media, like the rest of us, has no idea how the Bard-Wakefield pairing is going to work out, but hey, one start, so good?

Ideally, I'd like to see Varitek take a few Wakefield starts (partially in penance) and a more flexible, 60/40 arrangement between the two catchers, but we'll see how Tito does making actual decisions about catching for the first time. If anyone can balance 'Tek's ego and pride to the realities of age, it's him.

ITEM! Manny Ramirez will be a Dodger, or Scott Boras will lose clientele ultimately. At some point, you just can't invent more generous offers and bullshit and waste your client's time. $25 million this year, the possibility of $20 million next, but year #2 is on you? Sign. Play problem-free for a season, Manny, and mayhaps you'll get an actual multi-year deal in 2010. Don't, and, see Abreu, Bobby.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Evaluating the Starters. (Starter Jackets, that is.)

Smoothing and spinning the hat I always understood, but why did you have to slam the hat, Jazz? That hurts your scalp, yo. Never understood that. Just for that, get out of my house. Twelve times!

Anyway, with as many starters as the Red Sox are going into this season, what we've got is equivalent to DJ Jazzy Jeff's closet circa 1992...only in some cases, it's circa 1993 but quite clearly 2009. Starter and Reebok Pumps were signs of spoiled youth, clever theft, or just plain "coolness" in my middle school days; nowadays, you can't even pull that look with a straight, or crookedly ironic, face in Williamsburg.

I think the elements of success are in this rotation, but who will be in the front of the closet and who in the back? Let's make the natural comparison


Clean, simple, and reliable for years to come, it would seem. There are definite innings concerns for him next year, but what can't be denied is that he took a major leap forward. Some regression is very possible; a slide is not likely.

As for the jacket, you can wear it for years to come. It's not retro. It is what it is. Mass appealin'.

JOSH BECKETT: Authentic black Los Angeles Raiders Jacket

The cream of the Starter lot, so as with any old school style, it has a chance of appearing played out. Don't believe it. Beckett has been playing a good year-bad year pattern lately, but his BABIP was up last year while his strikeouts weren't significantly down. I'm not saying he'll pitch a 2007-esque season. Just that he will pitch much closer to that. (AND that 2008 wasn't even much of an off-year.)

If his oblique wasn't ripped to shit, we might be celebrating back to back championships right now, and Beckett knows it. You think he's that type? As one cat who wore this jacket would have put it, Don't believe the hype.

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Custom Claw Money Jacket

Is this a great jacket? A hideous swirl of stripes? Something I admire but couldn't possibly wear?

Did Daisuke Matsuzaka have a great season last year? A lucky weird one? Can he actually keep living on the razor's edge? Will he ever become a, gulp, 6-inning pitcher?

In order, my answers: Yes, Yes, Yes, Almost, Somewhat, Yes, Yes. His worst case scenario is better than the best case of pitchers his age. He's gaining confidence in his stuff, even if that confidence takes a most peculiar form: "You don't want to swing? Take your base. Whatever." Even with all the hard-to-watch starts to come, I delight in three more years of Daisuke and hope Boras doesn't screw us out of more.

TIM WAKEFIELD: Old "Pat Patriot" New England Patriots

Wakefield will end the season in the bullpen. The regular season, that is. And that's my optimistic view.

From his earliest days in Pittsburgh, Wakefield looked like a man out of time, and that was when there were still other knuckleballers in the league. Now? Well, not to say it isn't a physical task, but when your back and shoulder are acting up as you throw 65 mph wobblers in, the end is nigh. I hope he's good enough for the early season. I hope that he doesn't obliterate the catching situation. (Varitek, the day you dreaded has come at last...c'mon, catch the dancing ball.)

This jacket looks cool on a young man, meh on an older man, and just old on an old man. God bless Tim Wakefield, but his time is nigh.

JOHN SMOLTZ: Atlanta Braves Jacket

If he succeeds, as PECOTA seems to believe, it'll be the same old Smoltz. If he fails, it'll be the same old injury-prone Smoltz. He'll give all his has any which way. You have any doubts on this? Who do you think we signed here, Steve Avery? Nah, that would never happen.

BRAD PENNY: Simple, clean San Francisco 49ers Jacket/ Hideous Los Angeles Clippers striped jacket

Penny's 2007 was really good. Really, really good. Like David Ortiz's.

Penny's 2008 was really awful, largely due to injury problems. Much, much worse than David Ortiz's. And he's a starting pitcher, so his concerns are more concerning even than those upon a stout slugger.

What are we going to get out of Brad Penny? Simple. Awesomeness. Or awfulness. What, you wanted a prediction?

CLAY BUCHHOLZ: Three-tone Florida Marlins cap

I like teal, in spite of the 1990s and uniforms. I like black. I like white. The mix on this cap? Not so much. Clay's got three plus-plus pitches but needs to learn the mix. AAA for now, kid.

MICHAEL BOWDEN: This Kansas Jackhawks jacket, as worn by this man.

No self-respecting man would wear this jacket. No self-respecting contender relies on a kid like Bowden when he doesn't yet have two solid pitches to rely on. He might have decent results if forced into action this season, but at what cost?

JUSTIN MASTERSON: Space Cadet Uniform (not made by Starter)

This guy is one of the strangest two-way pitchers I've ever seen, and his future is either as a solid starter or an excellent reliever. For now, his value is in the bullpen; if Saito and Ramirez find their comfort zone, though, and any of the current starters are slipping, everything changes.

It's nice to have a full closet, no?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Better Press Conference: Alex Rodriguez's Answers, Rewritten

Being a good liar is all about being a good truth teller; Alex Rodriguez has failed to learn this lesson over a career where, no matter how he struggles, he's never met the credibility/authenticity.

Think of him defending the slap play.

Think of him accepting, "gratefully," the captaincy of the Texas Rangers in the brief limbo between the death of the Red Sox trade and his move to New York.

Think of any comments you can when he and Boras voided his infamously massive contract in an obvious effort to upstage the World Series. Actually, better still, don't think of that last one. It angers the blood.

And now, think of what you've seen of the Alex Rodriguez story from Alex Rodriguez's own words, between the bullshit 60 Minutes interview, the equally bullshit Peter Gammons interview, and the possibly lesser bullshit presser from earlier this week. Try to connect the story, between those three, without making judgments on what belongs and what doesn't. I did, and here's what I came up with.

Yep. I came up with Cats' Cradle on steroids, my hands hopelessly tied, none of my neighbors are helping me out, and I'm Daniel Day-Lewisin' like a motherfucker to write this post.

You can't untie a Gordian knot, you can only slice it. So I took notes during the presser and came up with better answers to the 26 questions/labors made of Alex Rodriguez. Let's go for something plausible, consistent, and everything else that ol' A-Hole won't be. Let's try it again.

(Note: I took notes, not a transcript. Nothing is exact here.)


Reality: Alex Rodriguez is 20 minutes late to his own hanging.

Rewrite: Do not antagonize the press. A-Rod shows up fifteen minutes early in a very nice suit, with several copies of his resume printed on an excellent, high-stock paper, and a box of chocolates just in case his old friend Selena Roberts is around. That's how you get the job, my boy!

Question 1: Would you have made this confession on your own?

Reality: A-Hab answers, "I haven't thought of it."

Rewrite: Haven't thought of it? Of course not. That's still not an answer, and in the Q&A format, it's not supposed to be that obvious you aren't answering it. Haven't thought of it? Do you have a brain currently attached to your lips, or do those blue motherfuckers flap on their own, like a lizard's tail flapping around after being cut from the body? If there's a brain there, think of an answer! Such as the honest one. "Hell nah. Next question?

Question 2: You said you did it feeling the pressure of being the highest paid athlete in Texas, but in pressurized New York, you discontinued? Why?

Reality: Some bullshit sob story boo hoo I never went to college, I didn't grow up, I had a neck injury (?), "Since then, I've realized that I didn't any of it."

Rewrite: Every time you say, "I didn't need any of it," as you did on the 60 Minutes interview, you increase the possibility of an insane fan stabbing you with a needle 0.95%, Rod. That's more than you think. This is like a rich man embezzling $320 million dollars and then telling the world, expecting forgiveness, "I realized I didn't need any of it." As your PR agent, I can't work with those words.

As for the question, which you didn't answer, why don't we go with something like,

"Over those three years, from my life, and from my mistakes, I learned a lot, and I knew I had to stop what I knew was wrong. New York was just a great chance for me to restart my career the right way in the greatest city on earth. (Cheers from Post and Daily News media, embarrassed applause from Times)"

Kick ass.

Question 3: What was the benefit of taking it, and what did you notice it when you did stop?

Reality: "I'm not sure what the benefit was." (?!) Goes into horrible placebo prop humor. "If you take this glass of water and say you're gonna be a better baseball player, if you believe it, you probably will be.

Rewrite: (Sighs.) If you really didn't know, and it's possible, as some have said you didn't shoot your "Boli" enough for it to have its fullest effects, you've still gotta make something up. Say you didn't feel stronger but you did find you could work out more often. Say it gave you superhuman strength, but only to save people from burning buildings. Do NOT tell us that steroids' primary value is that of a glass of your magic water. We've seen Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa, and we're seeing you through a new set of lenses here too. Say something less than the truth, but say something.

(Although Line 3 says we might be able to market A-Rod's Magic Water. I'll get back to you on that.)

Question 4: Did you take a pill or was it injected?

Reality: "Injected." (Top notch! That reporter should be ashamed to have wasted his one question in a no-followups presser like that, but well-played. No rewrite needed.)

Question 5: Do you consider it cheating?

Reality: "That's not for me to determine." (Repeats some stuff from the Gammons interview)

Rewrite: Let's go back to the question:


You understand this word, I think.

"Do you consider"

This is a question directed to you, now.

"Do you consider it cheating?"

Oh! See, this means it's a question you were asked to determine!

I'm on the verge of taking the motherfucking Varitek job right now rather than continue to be your PR agent, Alex, and that guy is living on 2nd adjustable-rate mortgage borrowed time. We gotta answer the question somehow, although I know we can't say "I do consider it cheating, and I'm sorry." Let's go with, "I don't know about cheating, but I do know now it was wrong, and I apologize to the fans." Eh, good enough.

Question 6: Tyler Kepner of the Times: Quotes Jamie Moyer on A-Rod's lack of cred, trying to get a response.

Reality: "He's entitiled to that opinion. I understand their doubt, but there are things I can control, things I can't." (It's a dodge, but for right now, it's the best we can do, Rod. Good job. Don't forget to get into a brawl with Moyer in Spring Training though if he hits you with that 55 mph fastball.)

Question 7: George King of the Post asks, Was it this cousin of yours who transported the steroids, and what was his name?

Reality: Yes it was, and no, I won't give that name for relevancy reasons.

Rewrite: I can't help you. Wait, maybe I...

(Drinks half a fifth of Cutty Sark.) Remember when we had you sat down with Gammons, throwing you plush softballs? That woulda been a good time to get this info out, the name included. (Two days after, it came out anyway.) "Relevency" is an idiotic excuse in a quasi-investigation where everything is fair game, (Drinks other half of the fifth.)

Question 8: How do you address parents who have to talk their kids about the fact that you profited from this?

Reality: Apologize, point to Don Hooten, make me almost believe you care, just like I trained you. Didn't I tell you that $20K to Hooten would be well-spent? I told you! A-Rod is for the chil'ren!

Question 9 and 10: Did you know it was steroids and did you consider the consequences?/ As someone who monitors everything that enters your body, how could you let something you didn't know in?

Reality: "I didn't know it was steroids. It was over-the-counter, it was pretty basic, and it was amateur hour...we probably didn't even take it right. I wish I knew. I was 24...I was 25..."

Rewrite: (Opens second fifth of Cutty Sark, hyperventilates into tote bag for a moment.) When I was 18, I nearly burned down a dorm stairwell, Rod, 'cuz I was young and dumb enough to leave unattended incense burning over a trash can. Black Cherry, I think. The cops let me go.

You know what I'd do if they came to me when I was 25 and I'd done some shit like that? I'd beg them to arrest me, or at least beat me on the head a few times. Anything to knock the dumb out of me.

25 (your age at that time) is young, but it's old enough to know better.

(Spills some whiskey waving the bottle around) I'm not rewriting this. It's your fault for saying you didn't know like people care, or aren't, in fact, more contemptuous of you for "not knowing." This isn't 1993, and with steroids you can't smoke but not inhale, you lil' bastard.

(Finishes half of the second fifth of Cutty.) What? Did you fill the syringe but only inject half? Did you smoke it? Or did you willfully keep yourself ignorant because you thought it might be handy at a time like this to have deniability? How's that working out for you?

(Douses self in Cutty Sark, pulls out Zippo) I quit. screen capture courtesy of Deadspin.

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