Since the hot stove's been cooking over the past few days, and I’m bored of watching the Navy-BC bowl game (with 14:20 left in the first quarter), here are a few random observations from the world of MLB:
-First thing’s first—I’m kinda getting worried about the Cardinals. So far I like the signing of 2B Adam Kennedy, who not only is generally good for a .350 on-base percentage every year and plays solid defense, but who also forms the “whitest double play combination in baseball” with David Eckstein, which should be good for about 500 jokes or so between my brother and I this summer. I also like re-upping staff ace Chris Carpenter for a few more years at what now seems to be a reasonable rate after the insane Barry Zito deal (more on that later).
That said, it doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence in you when your number 2 starter is some asshole who wears high socks and a flat-billed hat (Anthony Reyes), your number 3 is your lights-out closer from the playoffs who has struggled as a starter at lower levels (Adam Wainwright), your number 4 has a shoulder and leg held together with bubble gum and rubber cement (Kip Wells), and your number 5 is…who? Oh yeah, the team is talking about having Braden Looper be the fifth starter. Yes, that last sentence isn’t a typo. Braden Looper. Starting. If that happens, I think I just might try to jump the
-The Red Sox and Cubs are spending money right now like a couple of feuding families of hoosiers who try to one-up each other. I can just see Theo Epstein. “Oh yeah? $136 million for Alfonso Soriano? Well we’ll pay $51 million just to negotiate with a guy who’s never pitched in the majors before, AND we'll give J.D. Drew $70 million for 5 years! That oughtta show ‘em!”
-Speaking of the Cubs, I can’t wait for the avalanche of “This is the Cubs year” articles that should be popping up after the Super Bowl. I like to call this the “Arizona Cardinals syndrome”. There are several symptoms of AZ Cards Syndrome. They include:
1. Going out and spending money on the biggest name available in the off-season to generate some buzz. The Cards went out and got Edge James. The Cubs got Alfonso Soriano. This gets the fans interested in buying tickets and the media sniffing for a story or two.
2. Making sure that the big name acquisition is in direct conflict with the biggest weakness of your club. As many Gridbirds fans know, the problem with Edge James, other than he has more miles on him than the Indians’ plane from Major League, was that their o-line is absolutely horrific, thus giving Edge no chance to succeed in the first place. The Scrubs didn’t realize that, even though Soriano can put up huge power numbers, THE REST OF THEIR LINEUP ABSOLUTELY CANNOT GET ON BASE! Soriano doesn’t even get on base at a very good clip. So even if Soriano can keep up his monster numbers from last year, he’s going to be trotting around the bases on his own a lot.
3. Signing some more marginal, overpaid free agents to “complement” the big signing. See Marquis, Jason, Lilly, Ted. In the case of the Cardinals, this was done through the draft, where Matt Leinart was hailed as the immediate savior, even though he clearly needs a little time to adjust to the pro game.
4. Throw a bone to a few hungry writers wanting to make headlines going into the year. I mean, if you’re Denny Green, and you’ve offered Sean Salisbury the position of quarterbacks coach in the past (why in God’s name any sane human would, I don’t know), and you give him a call saying, “Hey, we’re looking pretty good in practice here”, you don’t think Salisbury is going to flap his big trap on NFL Live about how the Cards are a “sleeper team” this year? You don’t think Salisbury’s going to beat John Clayton within an inch of his life in the ESPN break room and threaten to take his lunch money if he doesn’t (or even does) pick the Cards as a sleeper team? My point is, these things become self-reinforcing, and before you know it, everybody and their brother is touting the Cards as a great team.
Well, in the case of the Cubs, you can already see it coming. Old Gravelly-Mouthed, “Please don’t take my wallet” Lou Pinella probably is already working his media contacts (except Steve Lyons) to tell them “If this kid Prior comes back, and I can get Marquis and Lilly straightened out, and we can score some runs, then look out”. It is going to be a disaster.
5. Have a horrendous first month. Check and check.
6. Writers recanting their earlier words and writing pieces about how the “gravitational pull of the culture of losing is too difficult to overcome.” Basically, we were wrong and stupid, but we have secure jobs so long as we don’t criticize our employers so it doesn’t really matter how much we know or whether we actually put time in to things like "research" and "original thought".
7. Rinse and Repeat. Wait 'til next year.
-The Yanks have to be sweating a bit. They’re like the big-time high school quarterback who’s just finishing up his senior season, but for whatever reason can’t get a scholarship to even a 1-AA school. Before you know it, they’ll be marrying the head cheerleader, knocking her up, becoming a cop, handing out traffic tickets and investigating TP'd houses for ten years, and then one day, all of a sudden, they’ll wake up and think “What the fuck happened? I was the fucking star high school quarterback, dammit!” Well, the Yankees are right on the cusp—a little too old, have enough to compete right now, but who knows if they can make it to the next level with this team? And what the fuck happens if they don’t win in the next year or two? It could get ugly…
-Congratulations Gil Meche! You’re the winner of the annual “D.B. Cooper Award” for stealing money outright from a team without getting caught. It’s almost like Royals GM Drayton Moore (Yes, that’s his real name. I know, it sounds like a porn star name—and a chick porn star name at that) looked at his team and thought, “Shit! Mike Sweeney’s $11 million per year contract is about to expire! I have to fill that slot quick with another overpaid underachiever who we’ll be trading for pennies on the dollar two years from now, if there’s a stupider GM than me out there” (Bill Bavasi in Seattle, anyone?).
-Jeff Suppan’s headed to the Brewers. Good for him. There’s no way I would have come close to 4 years and $42 mill, especially when the team offering it is the Brewers and the most marketable skill that Supp offers is being able to pitch in big games in the playoffs. That's like a farmer in Kansas buying a lot of volcano insurance. I mean, he might be able to use it, but it would be a lot more valuable to a guy in a place that has a chance in hell of seeing a volcano erupt. What’s even worse is that after his brief detour to spend a little time being a successful starter on a winning team, he’s going right back to the same formula that produced this line:
9-16, 5.32 ERA, 68 BB, 109 K, 32 HR, 208 IP (with the Royals in 2002)
In other words, he’s back to being an innings eater on a shitty team, even though the innings that he’s eating are pretty horrible-tasting.
-Vernon Wells has to really be buying into what the Blue Jays are peddling. 7 years and $126 million is a lot of money, to be sure. The only problem is, are the Blue Jays really ever going to have a legitimate shot at winning the AL East, let alone a World Series? I mean, they’re maybe going to have a year or two while the Yanks try to reload in the next few years, but they’ll still have to fight off the Bosox, as well as the building Rays (don’t laugh. They are stacked in their farm system like Carmen Electra). He could have probably pushed for close to $200 million next off-season from the Yanks. Still, as long as he’s happy, he really shouldn’t give a fuck what some jaded law student thinks.
-I think Brian Sabean has the inside track on winning the “race to see which West Coast GM is completely bat-shit crazy”. I mean, Barry Zito’s a very nice pitcher, maybe even a number 2 on a Championship-caliber team if he gets his massage and meditation break (with happy ending), or whatever the fuck he needs to do to get ready on game day. But still, paying him the same amount as a cornerstone franchise centerfielder (Vernon Wells)? That’s just insanity. Let’s see, he’s a lefty, and right-handed pull hitters just need to somehow find a way to drop one in between Barroid and Dave Roberts in the cavernous gap in Pac Bell or whatever the fuck it’s called these days. I mean, so long as he can stay away from right-handed hitters at home, and if he can stay healthy, then it should be an ok deal.
That’s it for now. Back to bowl-watching.
Until next time…