Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Coffee and TV
2008-03-25 20:33
by Emma Span

I figure many of you, being sane and intelligent people, probably missed the official start of baseball season--live from Japan, at 6 a.m., Red Sox-A's--but I had to write about something, and damned if I have anything left to say about spring training. My viewing didn’t go quite the way I planned, as I fell asleep on the futon sometime during the second inning and woke up hours later to the grating laughter of Mike and Mike. Fortunately my TiVo knows me better than I know myself.

It wasn’t the game’s fault--this one was highly entertaining, even if the end result, 5-4 Sox, wasn’t ideal. Cliff gave the play-by-play yesterday. Depending on your tolerance for Schadenfreude, watching Daisuke Matsuzaka completely and utterly lose the strike zone in the early going was either fun or somewhat wince-inducing--this was supposed to be his big homecoming, after all--but either way, he made an impressive recovery, and the Sox won a tough one, albeit with a little help from the A's.

Yes, it turns out Oakland isn’t messing around with this whole “rebuilding” thing. I thought I’d been paying pretty close attention to baseball transactions this winter, but I’ve never even heard of a bunch of these guys. I've certainly heard of Emil Brown, though, and in the 10th inning, he proceded to demonstrate how they do things in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. I have a lot of faith in Billy Beane's diabolical schemes, but this particular season . . . well, it could be a rough summer for the Bay Area.

These days, my joy at Opening Day is usually tempered a bit by the knowledge that with it comes Joe Morgan’s ESPN announcing; but we’ve been spared this year, as Steve Phillips and Gary Thorne made the trip instead. I haven’t heard much of Thorne before, I don’t think, and I actually enjoyed him. His use of “Sayonara!” as a home run call was pretty unforgivable, but his perkiness seems to be entirely genuine, and I just couldn’t dislike him, especially since he seemed as punchy as his pre-dawn audience as he rambled on about coffee and cherry blossoms. At one point, he was openly wavering on whether to address himself to East Coast fans just waking up and eating breakfast, or those “west of the Mississippi” who might be arriving home “after the bars close.” I'm still not sure what he ended up deciding, but either way, it was entertaining.

Even Steve Phillips, who regularly rubs me the wrong way on Baseball Tonight, seemed so happy to have baseball back that I couldn’t hold a grudge. Though I did scoff--out loud, just on general principle, even though no one was there to hear it--when he said of Matsuzaka, during his early struggles, “the look in his eyes for his last pitch was the best he’s had yet. He’s competing now, it looks like.” Really? Is that the same "look" you saw in the eyes of Mo Vaugh, Roberto Alomar, and Armando Benitez (twice)? Unfortunately for Mets fans, Scott Kazmir’s eyeballs apparently don't convey that much competitiveness.

Also joining the telecast, considerably earlier in the day than I prefer to see him, was the Commisioner himself. Having just finished up an exciting and historic trip that brought Major League Baseball to China for the first time ever, Bud Selig was his usual charismatic self, brimming with enthralling stories from his travels in Beijing:

“I remember standing on the field with Joe Torre, who I’ve known for about 50-plus years, and he looked at me and I looked at him. And he said, ‘Did you ever think we’d be standing on a field in Beijing, about to play Major League Baseball?’ And I said, ‘No.’”
(Long pause).

A born raconteur, that man.

There’s been much debate recently over how much the additional travel and jetlag will affect the Red Sox. (No one appears to care very much whether or not it will affect the A's). Over at YFSF, Paul makes a convincing case that the trip to Japan has historically had little if any impact on a team’s performance. He’s probably right, though when I flew home from Taiwan last summer I was a zombie for well over a week. Regardless, and despite what you might have heard earlier this spring from Theo Epstein, the complaining has already commenced. I'd say karma's a bitch, but alas, the Sox did win the game.

2008-03-25 23:44:07
1.   Cleveland Steamer
I understand falling asleep in the 2nd inning.

Dice walked alot of batters.

But sleeping until 10 O'Clock in the morning?

2008-03-25 23:46:25
2.   Cleveland Steamer
Gary Thorne is okay--he hates Schilling.
2008-03-25 23:48:24
3.   Cleveland Steamer
Speaking of bitch-y karma, how cool was it that Theo's boy-toy, JD Drew was scratched three minutes before the game.
2008-03-26 03:29:16
4.   RIYank
3 It would have been cooler if Drew's replacement hadn't kinda won the game.

Emma, I love the Selig story. If Garrison Keillor ever needs a vacation, Selig could do the News from Lake Woebegone.

2008-03-26 03:30:23
5.   RIYank
Oh, but I'm pretty sure the final score was 6-5, not 5-4.
2008-03-26 03:36:54
6.   williamnyy23
Rich Harden looks great so far. Of course, he is always one pitch from being shut down for the year, which is kind of sad considering his talent. If healthy, I don't think there is any question that Harden would be a top-5 pitcher, and very likely he'd be the best in the game. I remember watching him pitch last year in the game he got hurt against the Yankees and thinking that he was as close to unhittable as any pitcher since Pedro in his prime. of course, a few innings later he was hurt yet again.
2008-03-26 06:13:55
7.   TokyoTom
Regarding the jet lag, it's certainly a factor , but it's worse going back. I noticed that ESPN in two stories wildly exaggerated the flight time to Tokyo as 17 and 18 hours. It's a 14 hour flight to NY or Boston, which I've taken 25-30 times over the past 17 years. It's 12 hours to LA. How did they come up with 18? Sure it's a long flight, but too much is made of it. Are these guys professional athletes senior citizens?
2008-03-26 06:33:09
8.   RIYank
I could get used to these morning games. It really brightens the day when the Sox lose before 9:30.

Varitek has struck out 6 times in the first two games. Hm, since he's a catcher he'll get a lot of games off and probably won't reach 400 Ks for the season.

2008-03-26 06:45:43
9.   mehmattski
Emil Brown seems to have made up for his transgression, though.
2008-03-26 07:10:27
10.   OldYanksFan
Off topic: I used to have some respect for Rob Neyer, but is there any excuse for this:

Now I don't follow other teams much, but it seems there is something very wrong with that list. Melky is on the list but not Phil, Joba or IPK. Maybe I'm just totally ignorant.

2008-03-26 07:18:57
11.   JL25and3
10 I think it's just that those three haven't done much in the majors yet.
2008-03-26 07:20:39
12.   Andre
7 Not arguing, just curious, if it's 12 hours from Tokyo to LA, and 5-6 hours from LA to Boston, doesn't that equal 18 hours?
2008-03-26 07:27:07
13.   mehmattski
For some reason, Chien-Ming Wang is batting today against the Phillies. PeteAbe says he has been instructed not to swing...
2008-03-26 07:29:54
14.   mehmattski
12 I'm guessing they take a different trajectory to go straight to NY or Boston, one that utilizes the jet stream a lot more. I would guess that both flights to Japan are a lot longer than flights from Japan.

Of course, I may be completely making this up. Did you know that there are two days between Tuesday and Friday, but three days between Friday and Tuesday? ;-)

2008-03-26 07:30:10
15.   Simone
Steve Phillips makes me want to stick needles in my eyes. Every time he open his mouth, it is clear why he hasn't gotten another GM job.
2008-03-26 07:34:14
16.   williamnyy23
10 In Neyer's defense, trying to determine who will be the best 50 players over the next 5 years is a very difficult task. Because pitchers are so fragile and unpredictable, I don't mind him leaving off Hughes, Joba and Kennedy. In fact, after a quick look at the list, it seems as if NO young pitchers are included.

As for Melky, well, I think there is good reason to think he will be better than most of us here seem to think. Knowing Neyer, he probably ran a report showing players as young as Melky who have produced in the majors at his level, and concluded that Cabrera has been pretty unique. Unlike most Banterites (it seems), I am pretty high on Melky and look forward to seeing how he develops this season.

2008-03-26 07:37:14
17.   williamnyy23
13 I think the Phillies are tired of getting pummeled in their spring games against the Yankees.
2008-03-26 07:37:14
18.   williamnyy23
13 I think the Phillies are tired of getting pummeled in their spring games against the Yankees.
2008-03-26 08:13:18
19.   tommyl
Nice little article about the big three:

Best quote is when Kennedy points out that his dad is 45 and Moose is 39. That's hilarious.

2008-03-26 08:21:51
20.   ChrisS
16 That list is horrible. He completely ignores talented young pitchers (with the exception of those that have already won a cy youngs - way to go out on a limb, buddy and Dan Haren and Justin Verlander.)

If it's so difficult to predict the best 50 players for the 5 year, why bother?

"I think it's just that those three haven't done much in the majors yet."

And he does say he won't include prospects, except Evan Longoria. But it doesn't take a rocket scientists to think that Clayton Kershaw has a chance to be an incredible pitcher - moreso than perhaps a Josh Beckett - over the next five years.

Do you think that Dan Uggla will be a better ML baseball player in 5 years than Kershaw or Hughes?

Another player is Carl Crawford who keeps being bandied about as the next big thing just around the corner, but in reality he's just not improving as much as people give him credit for. Sure that .800 OPS and 50 SB is nice, but for LF? His OBP is pretty atrocious.

I just think it's a poorly thought out list with shoddy execution.

In other news, it was nice to see Lester get beat up a little today. I think that his hype is a bit unwarranted.

2008-03-26 08:42:37
21.   Seaver
"His use of "Sayonara!" as a home run call was pretty unforgivable"

Not as bad as that clown Michael Kay, who said after Hideki Matsui hit his first HR as a Yankee, "Seeya-nara".

2008-03-26 08:48:09
22.   williamnyy23
20 I am not sure if "why bother" is the best response to a difficult task. Judging by the 700+ comments on the post, I'd imagine that's why ESPN wants Neyer to "bother" with topics like this one.

I think you missed the point of the list. Neyer wasn't trying to go that far out on a limb...he was trying to determine who would be the best players over the next 5 years. As a result, 24-29 year old established stars are likely to trump pitchers with little or no major league experience.

Now you may be comfortable predicting who is going to be the next great pitcher or position player, but Neyer apparently isn't. To answer your question, yes, I think at least one of Kershaw/Hughes/Buccholz/McGee/Price/Bailey/etc. will be better than Uggla, but I am not sure how many more will, not to mention which one. The same goes for position players...the list of highly touted prospects who fizzled is pretty long.

As for Crawford, the key that you are missing is he is still only 25 years old! And yes, he has improved, albeit gradually, each season (OPS+ of 111, 113 and 117). There is nothing shoddy about thinking Crawford will be among the best 50 players as he reaches his 25-30 prime.

2008-03-26 09:05:12
23.   mehmattski
I think discontent over Neyer's list would be less vocal if he had left out pitchers entirely. The careers of hitters are much easier to imagine given a small sample, as there are well-established trends... and a hitter really only has to do a few things. The projections for pitchers, meanwhile, have to do with their age, their previous workload, injury history, their repertoire (junkball pitchers project differently than power pitchers).

This list was compiled in 2003 regarding the top 50 position and pitcher prospects. It's just one man's opinion, but look how many more success stories came from the hitters:

On a related note, Yankees fans- especially those likely to fall for hype- should repeat the following phrase over and over until they mutter it in their sleep:

2008-03-26 09:28:36
24.   ChrisS
"Judging by the 700+ comments"

I'm not sure that's a good thing in the long run if the article in question is poorly done.

"As a result, 24-29 year old established stars are likely to trump pitchers with little or no major league experience."

Not the point, he skipped over a lot of pitchers with MLB experience in favor of position players with little or no actual success. Not listed: Felix Hernandez, Fausto Carmona, Francisco Liriano*, Scott Kazmir, Bedard, Cole Hamels, Papelbon, hell even an argument can be made for Daisuke and more easily, IMO, for CMW. And those are the more obvious ones.

"but Neyer apparently isn't"

Then why make a list with some obvious holes in it? Other than to prove that he can look on the BR leader board and do query based on age and OPS, with a few can't miss hitters (e.g., Longoria) and a couple of guesses (e.g., Melky) on there? I just don't think a whole lot of thought went into his list, which renders it rather pointless - and that, IMO, is what's generating the comments (in addition to the standard, "you left off my favorite player!" and I read at least 1 that complained about A-Rod not being on there, despite him being #10, I think).

Dont' get me wrong, I don't think Crawford is a bad baseball player or hitter, I don't see him blossoming into an MVP, which is what the hype about him suggests ("He'll soon have a breakout year!"). He's already an all-star and a top 50 player. He doesn't walk enough and doesn't have a lot of power to make that next step into an elite MVP-type player.

* granted, he had surgery, but I think an argument can be made for him.

2008-03-26 09:29:38
25.   ChrisS
"I think discontent over Neyer's list would be less vocal if he had left out pitchers entirely."

I could agree with that. Or even a separate list of pitchers.

2008-03-26 10:47:44
26.   YankeeInMichigan
CHANGE OF TOPIC: I haven't heard much recently regarding Duncan and Melky's appeals. When a suspension is issued during the regular season, players often use appeals to delay the suspension to a more convenient time. I was under the impression that MLB was planning to rule on the appeals before Opening Day, so the Yankees face the possibility of playing their first 3 games without a backup outfielder.

Why not option Duncan and call up Lane for 10 days (or maybe Gardner if he's cheaper -- then again, if they are planning on keeping Gardner in Scranton all year, they won't want to blow one of his options). They can make room on the 40-man by putting Cervelli on the 60-day DL. Then DFA Lane (or option Gardner), call up Duncan and let him server his suspension.

2008-03-26 11:09:15
27.   williamnyy23
24 Carmona has one good season under his belt, while Kazmir, King Felix, Hamels, Liriano, Bedard and Papelbon all have had arm troubles in the past. The pitchers Neyer included are much safer bets than the ones above. I know I wouldn't wager on any of those names staying healthy for 5 years. Again, I think Neyer was playing it safe and, while clearly not an exhaustive study, I think the piece was a fun read and worthy conversation starter.
2008-03-26 11:24:26
28.   williamnyy23
26 Watson has been in China and Japan, so was unable to hear the appeal until after the Yankees return to NY. Both will play on Opening Day as a result.
2008-03-26 12:36:02
29.   YankeeInMichigan
28 Great. Then they can time their appeals so as to prevent simultaneous suspensions.
2008-03-26 15:42:28
30.   tommyl
Chris Woodward was just released (hat tip to PeteAbe). Wow, the correct decisions just keep on coming. Guess that last bench spot is now down to Lane, Ransom and Ensberg. Here's hoping Ensberg gets the nod.
2008-03-26 22:40:58
31.   Jimmy Clark
Steve Phillips was not a very good GM but he didn't not trade Scott Kazmir. That happened after he was fired when Jim Duquette was GM.

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