Wednesday, March 31, 2010

AL East Q&A: Daniel Moroz Talks O's

Next up in our AL East Q&A series, we are pleased to welcome one of the best Orioles bloggers on any of the intertubes.

Daniel Moroz is the proprietor of Camden Crazies and a contributor to the excellent Beyond the Box Score. For a sampling of his sabermetric chops, take a look at the five part series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that he did exploring Nick Markakis' drop in walks last year. Daniel is also the man behind the sensational Matt Wieters Facts. Please give him your undivided attention.

Fack Youk: Is it true that saying Matt Wieters is perfect would underestimate his abilities?

Daniel Moroz: One of the more amusing parts of the Matt Wieters Facts phenomena has been that my analysis of his actual performance hasn't been all that complementary. He did well – for a catcher - last year, but I don't think he's going to be a dominant force quite yet. I was expecting him to walk a little more than he did in 2009, though (not that it means much) he has been doing that this Spring. An above average bat in 2010 may not make Wieters an MVP candidate, but it should make him one of the better catchers in baseball already - with plenty of room for more development in the coming years.

FY: Aside from Wieters, what young position player on the O's do you have the most hope for going forward? Is it Adam Jones? Nick Markakis? Nolan Reimold?

DM: I have the most hope for Markakis, because we've seen him play at an elite level before with his .306/.406/.491 line from 2008. If he can return to that echelon - largely by getting his walk rate back up - then that would really help the offense. I don't know that Adam Jones can reach those levels with the bat because of his less than stellar plate discipline, but a .300/.375/.500 peak with plus defense in center-field would also be very valuable. Reimold I'm not quite as high on - though I was one of his biggest fans as he was coming up through the minors - as I think he's more of a role player (above average bat, but average to below defense in an outfield corner - average player overall) in the Luke Scott mold than a star. Honestly, I might have more hopes for Felix Pie, who is already a very good defensive outfielder and who could become an above average player if he improves at the plate.

FY: With Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, Brian Matsuz, Jake Arrieta and Brandon Erbe the Orioles seem to have a fine crop of young pitchers either already in the MLB or reasonably close to it. Do you think Bergesen can duplicate the success that he had in '09? Will Tillman and Matsuz be breaking camp with the club? Will Arrieta and Erbe contribute this season?

DM: I think Bergesen can largely duplicate his success - getting groundballs and limiting free passes - but I doubt he posts another ERA that low (3.43). He's more of a mid-rotation starter to me, which is less glamorous but certainly still valuable. Matusz will definitely break camp with the club, and might already be the team's best starter (and if not now, then by the end of the year). Tillman will start out the season in the minors - he still needs to work on a few things (more K’s, fewer BB and HR) - with David Hernandez getting the 5th starter spot, but he'll be up before too long and should get plenty of innings in the majors. Arrieta and Erbe might see a cup of coffee at the end of the year, but I don't expect them to really contribute unless there is a big wave of injuries to the first 7-8 guys on the depth chart.

FY: With all this young talent, when should we Yankee fans start to worry about the O's becoming a legitimate threat in the division?

DM: Not this season - or maybe even next - but by 2012 I do expect the O's to be contending with the Yankees (and Red Sox and Rays, and maybe Blue Jays, depending on how quickly they can turn things around). If the Yankees get old quickly and the free agent well starts to run a little dry, then Baltimore might be in a pretty good position to capitalize on it. It's a very tough division though.

FY: What are your feelings on the return of Miguel Tejada? What have you heard about his defensive transition to third base? Does he deserve to be hitting cleanup? What are the chances Josh Bell sees some playing time at the hot corner this year?

DM: I like Tejada, so it's nice to see him back. The contract wasn't bad, and the only reason I didn't think the deal made sense was because it pushed Garrett Atkins to first-base (where he's especially overpaid). He's made 5 errors at third this Spring, but I think he'll adjust relatively well to the position and be average to only a little below. He shouldn't be batting clean-up, since he's maybe the team's 7th best hitter at this point and so should be further down in the line-up. Bell - like Arrieta and Erbe - will probably make an appearance later in the year, but everything I've heard leads me to believe that Miggy is the team's third-baseman for 2010.

FY: And lastly, can you list off the order you think the AL East will finish in this season?

DM: Yankees, Red Sox (Wild Card), Rays ... gap... Orioles, Blue Jays. The top three should be pretty close though.

FY: Daniel, thanks for your time.

Humpday Linkaround

This links came up a little short, kind of like Nick Johnson trying to leg out a double last night:
Ben from River Ave. Blues joined Cliff and Alex from Bronx Banter to do a video preview of the 2009 season. The first part (about pitching) is here, the second one (focusing on the offense) is here and the final installment (concerning the competition) is here.

Two of the characters from that series (Cliff and Ben) join Steve Lombardi from Was Watching and Justin Sablich of the New York Times for part one of a written preview over on their dot com.

Good news: Mark Teixeira is scheduled to take batting practice today.

Mike over at The Yankeeist has rounded up the Spring Training stats for both hitters and pitchers. Nothing to get worked up about - we'll have plenty of time to make a big deal out of small sample sizes when the regular season starts - just something interesting to scan over.

Joe from River Ave. Blues cranked out some excellent pieces yesterday including this one on the delicate balance the front office has to find between winning now, winning later and appeasing the media and this one that looks at the back up plans for each position.

The Yanks are set to spend 16 times more than the Blue Jays on their starting rotation this year. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, but that's like, a lot.

I should have done this a while ago, but if you'd like to thank Tom Tango for the excellent sabermetric work he's done over the years, head over here and fill out a playing time forecast for the Yanks. Somehow, they are pretty underrepresented at this point and it doesn't take long to do. If you feel like you are familiar enough with another team, do one for them too.

Add Mike Cameron to the list of Red Sox who is inahguably nawt appreciated for his true talents. When will the rest of the country finally acknowledge the players in Boston for their incredible production and work ethic? It's borderline criminal!

Joe Posnanski is asking for help in selecting players for the Bad Baseball Hall of Fame and the nominations are rolling in. The cut offs are 462 1/3 IP for pitchers and 843 PAs for hitters. Any Yankees come to mind?

Ross from NYY Stadium Insider has the scoop on an iPhone app called Venuing that will have features specially designed for sporting event and concert experiences. It will be live in Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Citi Field and Citizens Bank Park when each of them opens this season.

Time Warner is now offering a package that will allow you to watch all of the 127 games that YES carries on your computer, provided you are in the Yanks' market. I'm sure there are some select circumstances where this would be convenient (you don't have cable, but do have high speed internet, etc), but for most of us it doesn't apply. It does, however, illustrate why is blacked out within local areas - because cable companies want the opportunity to charge people themselves. If there was one price people could pay to watch any game, anywhere, these subscription services would be a lot more popular. Not that I'm going to hold my breath for it...

Will Leitch did an excellent review of the movie Fantasyland for New York Magazine's website. I hadn't heard much about the movie before but I definitely want to see it now.

Man, the Mariners have some good advertising and promohshonz.

Finally, I'm not sure if this guy is still taking emails, but if you left a briefcase with $78,383 on the Lower East Side the other day, you might want to claim that.

Maybe you could use some of it to buy a piece of Yankees/television memorabilia.
That's it for now. Our AL East Q&A's roll on at noon.

Garko A Good Fit For Bench Spot

Good morning Fackers. The Yankees made a few more cuts yesterday. Outfielders David Winfree, whom we touched upon briefly last week, and Jon Weber (pictured to the left) were sent to minor league camp. If you are to believe the story being bandied about in various media outlets, Weber, despite leading the organization in the all important category of Spring Training batting average, was farmed out for the sin of being a left handed batter. And I'm sure that has everything to do with it; the fact that Weber is 32 years old with 11 years of professional experience and zero days of Major League service time assuredly has no bearing upon the decision.

The demotions of Weber and Winfree leave Marcus Thames as the only non-roster outfielder left in camp. Thames, unlike Weber, is right handed batter and that's something specific the Yankees are looking for in their fifth outfielder. With Curtis Granderson's well-documented struggles against left handed pitching, lingering concerns about lefty swinging Brett Gardner's ability to hold down an everyday job, and Randy Winn coming off the absolute worst season of a right handed batter vs. lefty pitching in the past 55 years, the team wants a lefty masher for the fifth outfielder spot.

It's been assumed that Thames has all but won the job since Jamie Hoffmann was returned to the Dodgers last week. But, Joe Girardi said last night that Thames is not yet assured a spot, and Brian Cashman has said repeatedly over the past week that the Yankees would continue to monitor the trade market and waiver wire for other options.

Interestingly enough, another option came available just yesterday. The Seattle Mariners have decided to waive Ryan Garko, whom they signed just last month after he was foolishly non-tendered by the Giants. The Mariners, perhaps the most run prevention focused club in baseball, decided that Casey Kotchman's defense, Mike Sweeney's clubhouse presence, and an open roster spot were more valuable to the team, despite Garko's economical $550k contract, two remaining options, and rather potent bat relative to the rest of their roster.

Garko, like Thames, mashes left handed pitching. His career line of .313/.392/.495 in 485 PA against southpaws is actually better than Thames' .256/.329/.516 line in 691 PA. Garko's also four years younger and has two years of arbitration eligibility left.

The potential fly in the ointment is that Garko isn't really an outfielder, with just twelve games of professional experience there. However, Thames is a poor outfielder as well. And with plus defensive players in Gardner and Winn, the team could afford to sacrifice some defensive proficiency in the fifth outfielder spot in exchange for offensive prowess.

Garko is of some value defensively, as he's a passable first baseman and was a catcher for the first three years of his pro career. While he shouldn't ever again don the tools of ignorance unless it's an absolute emergency, his ability to play first would be of use to the Yankees. Nicks Johnson and Swisher figure to be Mark Teixeira's back ups should he need a day off or miss some time due to something like a hit by pitch square on his elbow. The pitfall with that arrangement is that if Teixeira were to miss more a few games at a time, the Yankees would be shifting one of their regulars to first base and replacing him with an offensively inferior player such as Winn. Garko's presence on the roster would safeguard against that.

Garko projects as a close to a 1.0 WAR player this year and his $550k salary is easily absorbable. With two open spots on their 40 man roster and more than $2M of payroll flexibility following the release of Chad Gaudin, the Yankees would be wise to place a claim on Garko if he falls that far down the waiver wire.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AL East Q&A: Jonah Keri On The Rays

With real, live, meaningful baseballing action a mere 104 hours away, today we begin our quest to survey the landscape of the AL East. Over the course of this week, we'll be asking some questions of smart people who can lend their expert insights into the current state of the clubs the Yankees will be tangling with most often during the regular season.

First up, we are proud to welcome someone who as written for numerous reputable publications about baseball, basketball, football, dog shows, finance and (especially) Tim Raines. He's the editor of the Bloomberg Sports Blog, a consummate Canadian, the father of twins and the future author of the greatest book ever written about the Tampa Bay Rays (or the turnaround of any moribund expansion team into an AL Champ via shrewd financial and statistical maneuvering, for that matter). Folks, Jonah Keri is here to field our queries and kick this series off.


Fack Youk: To some, the acquisition of reliever Rafael Soriano and his $7.5M salary from the Braves seemed a little out of character for the organization. What's your opinion of the Soriano pickup? Important move that could put them over the top or too much to pay for a reliever?

Jonah Keri: No team in baseball has a better understanding of the marginal value of a win than the Rays do. For the Royals, there's no way Soriano would be worth $7.5 million -- not necessarily because the Royals are a small-revenue team, but because the two wins a strong Soriano season gives you don't mean anything in the standings for a lousy KC team. For the Rays, though, two more wins in the standings could mean the difference between going home and playing for their second AL pennant in three years. They needed bullpen help, they gave up virtually nothing to get him (Aki Iwamura, who was leaving anyway, was signed and traded for fungible reliever Jesse Chavez, who was in turn flipped for Soriano), and J.P. Howell's likely trip to the DL, though not something the Rays could have predicted, only underscores how much they needed a strong reliever at the back end of the bullpen.

FY: Considering that Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena are both entering what is likely to be their final year with the team, is there a feeling within the organization that this might be Tampa Bay's best chance to make a deep run into the playoffs for a while?

JK: Not exactly. This is the last chance to win with this particular group of players - that's why the payroll has jumped to $70 million-plus, despite the team's continuing struggles with revenue streams. The good news for 2011 is that the Rays will gain a ton of payroll room with Crawford, Pena, Soriano and a handful of lower-priced veterans coming off the books. They have top prospect Desmond Jennings poised to replace Crawford and an army of great arms in the minors who could be ready by next season to bolster the bullpen. The Rays were lacking for first base options to replace Pena, so they acquired Matt Sweeney as part of the Kazmir deal and signed Cuban first baseman Leslie Anderson to a four-year deal. If both of those options fail, even if they carry a $50 million payroll in 2011, the market for one-dimensional boppers has cratered so dramatically that they should be able to sign a 30-homer guy on the open market to fill the void. The Rays are always balancing present needs with future needs, and they're always acutely aware of how much financial flexibility they have at any given time.

FY: Does their optimal starting lineup have Ben Zobrist at 2nd base with Matt Joyce in right or Zobrist in the outfield while Sean Rodriguez plays second?

JK: The answer is, maybe both. The Rays can always opt to start Rodriguez vs. lefties at 2B with Zobrist in RF, and Joyce in RF vs. righties, with Zobrist at 2B. On the other hand, I'm a big Gabe Kapler fan, and he's proven he can mash lefties (.276/.379/.552 vs. LH last year), so the best option might be to send either Joyce or Rodriguez to the minors and let the situation play out naturally. Right now, Joyce is battling an injury, so the smart money is on Rodriguez getting first crack at it with Joyce starting on the DL. The Rays would be the last team to overreact to spring performance, but Rodriguez's big spring performance certainly hasn't hurt his case, especially given his impressive minor league track record. There's also the possibility that Pat Burrell never regains his old form, in which case the DH spot opens up and all of the above can get ample playing time.

FY: Dioner Navarro, Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton all had surprisingly bad years at the plate in '09. Which of those guys do you think is the best candidate to bounce back this year and why?

JK: Definitely Upton. His 2008 shoulder injury was probably more serious than he let on and may well have negatively impacted his performance last season. He should be healthier this season, he's just 25 years old, and he's put up strong offensive numbers in the past. The beauty part for the Rays is that his defense is good enough to make him a valuable player even if he struggles at the plate. But I think he bounces back nicely with the bat this year anyway.

FY: The Rays won 97 games, the AL East and the AL Pennant in 2008 and then finished just three games over .500 in 2009. Which of those results do you think will more closely resemble their finally tally in 2010?

JK: I'd bet on closer to 97 wins than 84, though it might be close to the mid-point. In a lesser division, I see the Rays as having 95-win talent, maybe even slightly better. Andrew Friedman has called this the most talented Rays team during his entire tenure, and with the additions of Soriano and Kelly Shoppach and maturation of young players like David Price and B.J. Upton, I agree. When you play an unbalanced schedule against the two other elite teams in the American League, though, that's going to take a bite out of your record. At least the Jays could offer an opportunity for the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays to all make up for beating on each other all season.

FY: Last one: What do you think the AL East standings are going to look like when the regular season is over?

JK: Yankees, Rays (Wild Card), Red Sox, Orioles, Jays.

FY: Thanks a million for your time, Jonah.

JK: Sure, thanks for having me.

Injuries And Auditions: 4 More Days 'Til Opening Day

Good morning, Fackers. Yesterday wasn't a particularly good one for the Yankees, injury-wise. It was announced that Alan Horne, who already endured Tommy John surgery now needs surgery to repair an 80% tear in his rotator cuff. He hasn't been fully healthy since 2007 and considering that he'll be at least 28 by the time he pitches again, this looks like the official end for him as far as being a prospect is concerned.

More germane to the Big League club, word came out that Alfredo Aceves is day-to-day with a sore back, something that has been bothering him since last September. This comes on the heels of a poor outing against the Orioles during which he gave up 6 runs in 2+ IP. It's possible that the issue could keep Aceves off the Opening Day roster and make way for Boone Logan, but as of now it appears Alf will get another tune up this Spring and be ready for Sunday.

Most startlingly, Mark Teixeira was hit in the elbow by Jeremy Guthrie. He was in obvious discomfort and was removed from the game immediately after it happened. While the pitch hit Teix directly on the bone, tests revealed that the result is only a contusion and he should be back in the lineup later this week. He opts not to wear protection on his elbow because he's never felt comfortable with an elbow pad and feels like he stands far enough away from the plate, but this was one of the rare times that decision came back to bite him.

Franciso Cervelli was hit by Guthrie later on in the night but was able to stay in the game. However, that didn't keep Joe Girardi from angrily yelling at Guthrie from the dugout after the incident occurred. He explained later, "If you’re having a hard time commanding the fastball inside, I don’t think this is the time to work on it". Not in his back yard, apparently. BANANA, others might say.

Girardi will have something to take his mind of his ailing squad today, however. Switch pitcher Pat Venditte will make the trip to Big League camp and pitch against the Braves in a split squad game at 1:05 tomorrow. Eat your heart out, Tony LaRussa.

The manager said he's wanted to see the ambidextrous reliever "all spring". It's as if Girardi has looked over his entire kingdom and commanded, "Bring me this Janus-armed freak so I can see him for myself!" The manager also likened this clip of Venditte maneuvering for the platoon advantage with a switch-hitting Mets prospect to a "Laurel and Hardy thing" revealing that he is either A) significantly older than he claims, B) a huge nerd or C) both.

Venditte is considered a fringe prospect at best but has had unquestionable success at every level of the minors he's been asked to pitch in. He's currently slated to begin the season in High A-ball (where he finished 2009) but as Neyer points out, if Girardi likes what he sees, Venditte might find himself climbing through the farm system faster than he would have otherwise.

He throws over-the-top in the low 90's from the right - which is his naturally dominant side - and takes a lower arm angle from the left, topping out in the mid-to-high 80's. There are plenty of guys that have his stuff like that in one arm at a time and being able to pitch both ways doesn't mean anything if you can't get Major League hitters out, but tomorrow could be a turning point in Venditte's career. There's no guarantee that he makes it into the game, but with CC Sabathia being limited to 75 pitches and Joe Girardi's self-proclaimed interest in him, there's a good chance. (The game will be on Let's hope Venditte faces a few batters, does well and Girardi likes what he sees. If all of those things happen, we might be one step closer to seeing "The Freak" in The Bronx.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mid-Monday Linkaround

Marty Foster originally called this linkaround out, but lucky for you guys he was overruled.
Just before the Yankees and Tigers got rained out yesterday (washing out yet another of Andy Pettitte's Spring Training tune ups) Robinson Cano hit a ball to deep left-center field. It was already raining pretty steadily and Austin Jackson was in pursuit of the ball heading towards the wall. He couldn't quite make the catch but recovered quickly and hit the relay man. Eduardo Nunez was on first base when the play started and was in between second and third when our old pal Marty Foster raised his hand to signal the catch had been made. Nunez saw this and scurried back to first base, passing Robinson Cano - who was standing on second, very confused - in the process. Nunez would have been out but the umps huddled up, acknowledged Foster's error and determined that Cano would be given first base while Nunez could stay on second. It was a pretty egregious mistake that certainly cost the Yanks a couple of bases and possibly a run but Joe Girardi didn't seem too concerned:
Marty said with the rain he just didn’t see it. I just (said), ‘Whatever, let’s just keep moving.’ It’s a judgment call I believe. I said, ‘You can call them both out as far as I’m concerned.’ Just keep going.
Something tells me we won't be hearing that again from Girardi anytime soon.

A.J. Burnett looked good against the Tigers on Saturday, throwing 6 2/3 IP, and allowing one run on 3 hits. It took Burnett 91 pitches to get it done and it would appear that he's pretty much ready to go. Just one final tuneup before he faces the Sox next Tuesday.
Chad Gaudin signed with the A's, joining Edwar Ramirez, Brett Tomko and Dan Geise as hurlers who have been cast off by the Yanks only to be picked up by Billy Beane in the last year. Is Oakland the new Pittsburgh? But there's already an Oakland in Pittsburgh. (/head spins, explodes)
Chris from i-Yankees suggests that the Yanks should trade Joba Chamberlain. In a way it would be the perfect time to flip him before his value diminishes as a reliever, but I'm not sure the Yanks could get enough in return to make it worth their while.
Coach thinks player will have a great year. Not exactly an objective take, but Kevin Long has high hopes for Brett Gardner this season.
Speaking of Mr. Long, he sustained an injury during the paintball outing on Friday illustrating exactly why it was a good idea to have the players go to the arcade.
Detailed in several different places this weekend was the fact that opinions within the organization differ widely on Joba Chamberlain's future. Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, Dave Eiland and Billy Eppler have all had their say in the media in the last week or so and their thoughts on the situation certainly don't all align.
Cliff from Bronx Banter tried to use some Bomber Bucks to buy tickets to a few games this year and was less than pleased the results. Much of the backlash over the economics of the New Stadium has subsided but Cliff ends his post with some strong words about what the Yankees have done at the expense of the average fan. I can't say I disagree, but now that I live 2 1/2 hours away from the Stadium, I care significantly less about the ticket situation than I used to.
Jason added three new authors to the IIATMS brigade and only one of them is a Yankee fan. When you are affiliated with ESPN, you can make those kind of power moves. I'm looking forward to some interesting pieces from Larry, The Common Man and tHeMARksMiTh.
Jonathan Mayo of offers up 10 Yankee prospects to keep an eye on this year. The once-highly-regarded Alan Horne is not one of them because he's going to need surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff.
For some reason, TMZ had the scoop that the Yankees would be receiving their rings during their home opener on April 13th.
Greg Fertel put together an excellent prospect profile on Zach McAllister over at Pending Pinstripes. Greg doesn't think we'll see ZMac in the Bronx until the rosters expand, but he's one of the few legitimate starting pitching prospects in the higher ranks of the Yanks' system.
Nick Carfado of ranked all 30 of baseball's managers. The list is based more on results than tactical prowess to my eye so don't get too offended when you see Terry Francona five spots higher than Joe Girardi.
Steve Slowinski from DRays Bay expresses some frustration about the fact that Spring Training is dragging on but finds some encouragement before the post is over. Hang in there folks, we are inside of a week now.
And finally, for those Derek Trucks fans out there, the members of his new project with his wife Susan Tedeschi have been announced. There are some familiar faces from the dTb and ABB and they'll be making their debut at the Savannah Music Festival this Thursday.

Fack Youk Field Trip: Bell Centre

Bonjour Fackers. Pardon my French; I spent the weekend in Montreal for a college buddy's bachelor party. It will take quite some time for my sleep patterns, liver, bank account, and sense of dignity to recover. The file on this weekend has been permanently sealed, but I am at liberty to disclose that our waiter at the steak house Friday night looked exactly like this guy.

As I've touched upon here several times in the past, I'm a big hockey fan as is the groom to be. So Saturday night naturally entailed a trip to the Bell Centre to see the Canadiens play the Devils. It isn't nearly as historic as its predecessor, but with so many of the NHL's most fabled rinks - the Forum, the Boston Garden, Maple Leaf Gardens, Chicago Stadium - now just memories, the Bell Centre, with 24 Stanley Cup banners and 17 retired numbers filling its rafters, has to be considered hockey's foremost cathedral.

As Yankee fans, we're familiar with having our team play in a historically significant venue. We're fortunate enough that when the new Yankee Stadium opened this past year it was christened with a championship. The Bell Centre is currently in its thirteenth season as the Canadiens' home and has yet to add a new Stanley Cup banner to its collection.

Unfortunately for me, I couldn't even see those banners Saturday night. Our seats were in the third to last row of the arena, and the suspended press box blocked our view of the rafters. No cup banners, no retired numbers (including the #7 of Howie Morenz, distant relative of the Yankees' 1995 #1 pick Shea Morenz), not even the banner commemorating the Expos' retired numbers of Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Rusty Staub, and Tim Raines.

Despite our nosebleed location, the view was still pretty good. The atmosphere was outstanding; the arena was packed and the crowd was extremely into the game; the Canadian national anthem may have been the best part of the night. Just as the Yankees do at the Stadium, the Habs are certain to remind you of their storied history, with an outstanding pre game presentation listing the names of every player in their history interspersed with highlights of the likes of Jean Beliveau, Denis Savard, and Patrick Roy. The fans were extremely friendly, especially considering most of our group were Devils fans. I think the obnoxious Jersey Shore reject in the row in front of us helped in drawing to himself whatever ire may have been directed at us otherwise.

Lastly, because I'm sure friend of the blog Jonah Keri will be curious about it, yes, there was a Youppi sighting. He's so barely discernible in the picture I took that it's not even worth posting, but he was last seen hitching a ride atop a zamboni at the end of the night.

One last hockey note: the NCAA tournament started this weekend, and like its basketball counterpart, it was not without drama and upsets. RIT, alma mater of my good friend Lutkus and my friend Matt's girlfriend Rachel, which wasn't even a Divison I program a few years ago and was one of the bottom two teams in the tournament, upset national powerhouses Denver and New Hampshire to reach the Frozen Four. Meanwhile Boston College beat Alaska Fairbanks 3-1 and then took a 9-7 barnburner over Yale to advance to their fourth Frozen Four in the last five years and ninth in the last thirteen.

Thus concludes my weekend hockey round up. Come this time next week we'll have real live baseball to discuss.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Tier-fall Friday Afternoon Linkaround

These links are dedicated to the memory of the 2009-10 Syracuse Orange basketball team. Their epitaph will certainly mention the 18 turnovers they committed last night.
To their credit, River Ave. Blues is having a "No Joba, No Hughes" day.

Still need your fix? Dave Allen at FanGraphs thinks putting Joba in AAA is the right move.

Around the 17:00 mark on this podcast, Don LaGreca from the Michael Kay Show on 1050 ESPN Radio begins interviewing Dave Eiland. At about 23:00, Eiland explains that the Yankees most likely won't ask Joba to start this season because of the shoulder injury he suffered in 2008.

However, Brian Cashman claims that Joba is a "starter in the bullpen". Which is sort of like saying that someone is a lawyer working as a legal aide.

During his recap of last night's game, Cliff from Bronx Banter dropped this little gem:
Marcus Thames, meanwhile, is hitting .094 (3-for-32) with just one walk and no extra-base hits after going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. Joe Girardi keeps talking about Thames’ track record, and it still seems as though Thames will make the team. That should tell you just how much spring performances really matter.
Marc Carig asks how long the Yankees will wait for Thames to start hitting. Brian Cashman contends that he's "impacted the ball pretty hard", but his 13 to 1 K/BB ratio isn't terribly encouraging. In his defense, he hasn't faced many lefties, something he'll have a chance to do tonight against Jamie Moyer.

Chad Jennings was hoping to shoot Cashman today. With a paintball gun. During a game of paintball. No word on whether Jennings accomplished his mission, but Brian Hoch, Carig and Feinsand all hit the target.

Joel Sherman dares to argue that if A-Rod is found to have used HGH that it will ruin his legacy. Bold, I know, but he also offers up something that you probably didn't know: A-Rod turned down the chance to host Saturday Night Live several times this winter. Probably a good choice. I doubt A-Rod is a very good actor considering he isn't even good at being himself.

NYY Stadium Insider introduced a new author today, and he tells his story of what might be the ultimate Yankee Stadium Insider experience.

Another blow to the notion of "clogging the bases".

Wezen-ball ranks the worst seasons by an Opening Day starter in the last 50 years. Carl Pavano's 2007 isn't on there because Larry's bottom 10 are guys who stuck around long enough to compile a WAR of -2.2 or worse. You know who did make the list, though? Mr. Opening Day, Jack Morris.

Breaking news: Jonathan Papelbon can't grasp a simple concept. To those who think Yankees vs. Red Sox games are too long, he says:
If you don’t want to be there, don’t be there. Go home. Why are you complaining?
They want to be there, dummy, but they probably have to get up for work in the morning and want to see actual baseball instead of an endless parade mound visits, guys stepping out of the box to adjust their jock and asshat revilers who take so long to come into the game they get fucking fined for it. I'm not one to complain about the length of Yanks/Sox games, but can understand why people - especially fans of other teams - are irritated by a 5-4 game that takes 4 hours and 15 mins to complete.

Rob Iracane of Walkoff Walk rounds up two recent and rather pathetic some stories combining prostitution and baseball (attempted prostitution, that's an embarrassing charge to be tagged with). Had he expanded that to actresses potentially playing prostitutes in baseball-related movies, he might have included this. He wouldn't mind her for a rib, but before Megan Fox gets the part our buddy Old Hoss has requested to take a gander at her cat-heads.

And I know it's painful, but via 'Duk's Twitter feed, here is the last tier of the grandstand at the Old Stadium being torn down. Disclaimer: it's not for the elderly, nostalgic or faint of heart.

/sobs quietly on keyboard

The Flexibility Of The 2010 Bench

Good morning Fackers. Late last August, the Yankees rolled into to Fenway park for their final visit to Boston on the season. The Yankees entered the weekend set with a 6.5 game lead in the AL East, so the series was an important one - particularly for the Red Sox. Though the Yankees had lined up Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, and CC Sabathia to start the three games, the rest of the pitching staff was in a state of flux. The plan to limit Joba Chamberlain's innings down the stretch left him, Sergio Mitre, and Chad Gaudin in various states of limited availability.

Given that, Joe Girardi's love of playing the match ups, and the tendency of Yankee-Red Sox games to turn into four and half hour slug fests, the team decided to add an extra pitcher for the series, activating the long-disabled Damaso Marte and sending down Ramiro Pena. The move left the Yankees with a 13 man pitching staff and a three man bench, consisting of Eric Hinske, Jerry Hairston Jr, and Jose Molina.

With Brett Gardner's broken thumb keeping him on the DL and Pena on his way to Scranton, Hairston was left as the primary back up at 2B, 3B, SS, and CF. When nagging injuries took Johnny Damon out of the line up for the series' first two games, the bench was truncated even further, leading to some misadventures for Eric Hinkse in front of the Green Monster.

Complicating matters, the first two games were absolute laughers. The Yankees dropped a 20-11 hurting on the Sox in game one, then the Sox returned the favor wth a 14-1 beatdown in game two. With such lopsided contests taking place relatively late in the season, it would have been nice for the team to be able to rest pivotal, older players like 35 year old Derek Jeter, 38 year old Jorge Posada, and 34 year old Alex Rodriguez, who was just months removed from hip surgery. Instead, the truncated bench left the Yankees with very few options. Posada caught every inning of the two games. With only Hairston on the bench, Jeter played all of game one while A-Rod got the late innings off, while game two saw Hairston sub for Jeter and Jose Molina make his only career appearance at third base so that A-Rod could get some rest.

Why do I bring all this up some seven months later? Because Francisco Cervelli played two innings at third base in Wednesday's game. Unlike Molina's stint there last year, this was planned. All Yankee catchers take groundballs at some infield position (Jesus Montero taking grounders at first created a minor stir earlier in Spring Training), and with Cervelli being a converted shortstop, there was little harm in throwing him at the hot corner during the late innings of an exhibition game.

By the time the 2010 season is over, Wednesday's little experiment will likely be long forgotten, but I think it was important. With older, valuable players like Jeter, A-Rod, and Posada amongst the regulars, it would be nice if the Yankees had the luxury of resting them in blowouts. Last August's series in Boston showed some of the pitfalls of an inflexible roster. Whereas that situation was the result of injuries and a bloated pitching staff, the 2010 Yankees are shaping up to be less flexible by design.

Gone are Hairston and Hinkse from last year's bench, both of whom were capable of playing both the infield and outfield. In their place are Randy Winn and presumably Marcus Thames, who are exlcusively outfielders, though Thames has minimal experience at first base. As such, Ramiro Pena is the lone utility infielder on the club, meaning that only one of Jeter or A-Rod could be rested at any one time. This shouldn't be a big deal, unless some injury should befall one of them in the late innings on a laugher. Giving Cervelli some experience at third might serve the team well in the future.

As for Cervelli, there is value in it for him as well. His lack of a potent bat, even by catcher standards, has him universally projected as a career back up. With Jesus Montero and Austin Romine not far off, and Gary Sanchez, JR Murphy, and Kyle Higashioka behind them, increasing Cervelli's versatility will increase his chances of long term survival with the Yankees and will increase his value overall. Getting him some experience at another position was something we touched upon last year when Cervelli was demoted.

There is a further option still in camp who could also increase roster flexibility. It is all but assured that Marcus Thames will win the final outfield spot. But David Winfree is still in camp. Just 24, Winfree has spent the entirety of his seven year minor league career in the Twins system, reaching AAA last season. Like Thames, Winfree is right handed bat with some pop, averaging nearly 15 HR per season over the last five years. Though he's spent the last two years exclusively as an outfielder, Winfree has extensive minor league experience at third base and first base. From a flexibility perspective, Winfree could offer the Yankees more than Thames, but Thames bat and track record will likely earn him the job.

But Winfree is still young, and former scout Frankie Piliere feels he has a future ahead of him. We may yet see him on the Bronx during the 2010 season.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Joba Is Heading Back To The Bullpen

Joe Girardi wouldn't state it unequivocally when he talked to reporters this morning, but if you listen to the audio that Chad Jennings provided when it became official that Phil Hughes would be the 5th starter, it's pretty obvious what the plan for Mr. Chamberlain is.

At the 5:15 mark in the audio Girardi says, "Obviously, he's moving back to the bullpen, possibly, this year". Listen to it for yourself, but my read is that Girardi has already made up his mind. He awkwardly tags on that "possibly" because nothing has been officially announced yet, but the first part says it all.

As I laid out last Wednesday, I believe the best move for the future of the organization would be to send Joba to AAA to start the year if he wasn't given the 5th spot in the rotation. That way, he'd be able to work on skills specific to being a starting pitcher (controlling his pitch count, 3rd & 4th pitches, etc) and would be available on short notice in case of an injury to someone in the rotation. But that doesn't appear to be the plan.

Here are some relevant exchanges that I'm basing my conclusion on and my reactions to them.
Q (0:43): Joe, is Joba definitely going to be your 8th inning guy?

Girardi: You gotta earn it. And that's what I told 'em, you guys gotta earn your time and what you're gonna do. You don't just hand things over.
The reporter pretty much skips over whether or not Joba will be in the bullpen and asks what Joba's role will be in it. If his role was still up for debate, then would have been a good time to bring it up, but Girardi doesn't.
Q (5:24): Is there a chance [Joba] could go to the minors to start and keep him on the starting path?
Girardi: Umm... We gotta see how he does here, in the bullpen. And I said, there's no guarantees that if you were in that 5 man race that you are automatically going to the bullpen; in a sense you've gotta prove yourself.
So ironically, the better Joba pitches, the more likely it is that he will stay in the bullpen. I'm sorry, but that is ass-backwards.
Q (5:44): Joe, do you still see Joba, long-term, as a starter?

Girardi: You know, I think Joba could do either one. I really do. But now we think Phil's a little bit ahead of him as a starter.
Right now, Hughes is probably the better starting pitcher between them. However, I don't think Hughes being a better option than Joba all of a sudden means that Joba shouldn't be a starter. Girardi didn't address the "long term" aspect of the question and that's not a trivial consideration. I can understand the manager of a team only being concerned with this year, but I'm surprised Brian Cashman would be so short sighted.
Q (7:14): What's going to determine how you are going to fill out the rest of your bullpen?

Girardi: Well, we wanna take the 12 best guys. I think it's important to be best equipped. We're in a very difficult division, we're in a very difficult league.
And that's pretty much what it comes down to. Joba is clearly one of the 12 best arms in the system and the Yanks aren't willing to stash someone in Scranton who could be helpful to the Big League club now. That's a valid viewpoint. With both the Red Sox and Rays in legitimate contention for the division title, the Yanks don't think they can afford to leave one in the chamber. But how much is Joba worth to the Yanks in the bullpen?

In theory, removing Joba from the bullpen should cost the Yanks about one win this year. Is anyone willing to argue those 8 runs above replacement are worth sidetracking his development as a starter for?

The Yanks are certainly putting a lot of faith in the notion that a pitcher's career high in innings pitched is more important than how many they threw in the previous season. Hughes' career high in IP is 146, but that came in 2006. His cap for this year has been estimated at around 170, despite the fact that he threw just 105 last year.

Joba on the other hand, threw 167 last year and would have been free to throw upwards of 200 in 2010, if he could stay healthy and go deep into games. Now, if he stays in the bullpen for the whole season, it's unlikely that he'll end up with more than 70 or 80 IP. It's also unlikely that he'll be utilizing his curveball or changeup very often. He certainly won't be working on the very tough task of being efficient with his pitches over the course of a start, one of the things that held him back during his time in the rotation.

So where does that leave Joba for 2011? What if Javy Vazquez and Andy Pettitte are both gone and there is another opening in the rotation? Joba will be in a worse position to fill that spot than he was this spring.

Why not put Joba in the rotation in Scraton? He'd be a call-up away if the team needed a spot start or someone got hurt. Even if it goes well in AAA and there isn't an opening for him in the Bronx, they could call him up after the All-Star break and put him in the bullpen then. At least he would have a good amount of innings and some valuable starting experience under his belt.

Or perhaps, if/when he's called up, they could insert him into the rotation and shift Hughes to the bullpen. That way, Phil wouldn't run into his innings cap during the season like Joba did last year. Sure, they could stretch Joba out during the season if they needed to, but that didn't go too well for them last time, did it? (nods to the right)

We are still a week and a half away from the beginning of the season and a lot of things can and will change as the pages of the calendar turn. But I can't help but think that the Yankees are making the wrong decision.

The WSJ's New & Unconventional Take On Beat Writers

Via Baseball Think Factory, the Wall Street Journal is adding a fleet of so-called beat reporters to cover the major New York sports teams.
The Journal’s New York sports section will assign beat reporters to the major local sports teams, including the Mets, Yankees, Jets, Giants and the Knicks, sources said. They’ll be credentialed for home games, and they’ll travel to road games.
However, they won't be functioning like regular beat writers:
Sources familiar with the plans said that The Journal will not be covering games in the way that, say, the tabloids do. Instead of rehashing what happened the night before, the Journal sportswriters will be looking for news features and interesting stories from within the locker room.

That would, of course, fit it nicely in competition with — who else? — The Times.

Whereas the News and the Post continue to cover games as if it were 1998—and God bless them for it!—The Times has changed its focus over the past year. Tom Jolly, The Times’ sports editor, has put more of an emphasis on features and trend stories rather than demanding that beat reporters stay with a team every waking moment.
To their credit, the WSJ is providing their staff with the same level of access to the team as other papers, but not the same burdens of reporting every bit of the day-to-day minutiae.

There are a lot of guys on the Yankee beat right now. Fewer than there were, but probably more than there need to be. Not to say that any individual paper should discontinue its daily coverage, but if you read multiple beat writer's blogs, there is a tremendous amount of overlap between them*.

*For instance, the news Chad Gaudin being unconditionally released this morning first came from this tweet from Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger. Soon after, Brian Hoch reported the same thing on Twitter, as did Mark Feinsand. Within a half hour, MLB Trade Rumors was linking back to Carig, Hoch put up on an article on, River Ave. Blues had the news, and Chad Jennings was reporting Gaudin's departure. About an hour and a half later, an AP story showed up on Carig's blog, Jennings had audio from Gaudin, and within two hours, Craig Calcaterra noted it at NBC Sports.

Essentially, the marginal gains a fan gets from following each additional beat writer are hardly worth the effort of reading them. For even a die-hard fan to read (or just skim) the same things in several different places over and over again seems grossly inefficient, especially when you consider that each individual beat writer is going to pick up the most important bits of information for you soon enough.

While it makes sense for papers that already have beat writers to keep them, it would be foolish for an outlet looking to stick its foot in the door to do so via a traditional beat writer.

Not many media companies could afford to pay someone to travel with a team without the expectation that they will provide thorough day-to-day coverage of it. In the days of fuzzy online revenue streams, it might be difficult to tell whether or not the expenditure is justified. The WSJ, however, is willing to take that chance.

Like Bloomberg Sports, this is another example of a financially-focused company allocating a relatively small amount of resources for a sports-related venture. Each appears to have somewhat limited upside when compared to the company's primary focuses, but both BBG and WSJ seem to be applying the practices that made them successful in other arenas to what they are doing in sports. Bloomberg is providing intuitive software for baseball analysis and the WSJ is offering companion-style reading for New York area teams.

By allowing its writers to stay close to the team but focus on producing news features and more substantial analytical pieces, The Journal has created a position with the daily access of a beat writer but the writing requirements of a columnist. By going for exclusive, high quality stories they are aiming for the kind of content that might be of interest to those who aren't fans of the specific team they cover. It seems like a best-of-both-worlds type of arrangement, but it will be up to each writer to deliver top notch content and validate those theories.

The Journal has been producing quality sports content for a while, but they have it stashed away two clicks removed from the homepage under the Life & Style tab. Now, it would appear, they are making a more serious foray into the New York sports media landscape. And by eschewing the traditional expectations of a beat writer, it seems they are on the right track.

Small Decision Made, Big Decision Looming

Good morning Fackers. So today is the big day. We will finally find out the winner of The Most Important Fifth Starter Competition in History, and then everyone will collectively complain about the results. And frankly, at this point, I don't know what the right decision is. I'm just thankful that we're nearing a decision, which means were close to moving on from this for the time being. I just hope that whatever choice is made leaves both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in a position to reach their full potential in 2010 and beyond.

There were some roster decisions made last night, as another round of cuts took place. Pitchers Mark Melancon and Jonathan Albaladejo, infielders Juan Miranda and Kevin Russo, and outfielder Greg Golson were all optioned out. All should start the year at AAA. Russo's departure ensures what we speculated Tuesday: Ramiro Pena will be the utility infielder to start the season. Miranda and Golson had no real chance of making the team.

Melancon and Albaladejo had an outside shot of winning a job in the bullpen. We've seen both before and I'm sure we'll see both at various points in 2010. I'm still very bullish on Melancon's future. Their departures leave left-handed pitchers Boone Logan and Royce Ring as the only legitimate threats to Sergio Mitre nailing down the final spot on the pitching staff, though naming Hughes the fifth starter and placing Chamberlain in the Scranton rotation would leave room for both Mitre and a second lefty in the pen.

We'll be back later with a little more unconventional roster speculation.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Humpday Roundup

It's noon on Wednesday, the apex of the hump. It's all downhill from here. You know, in a good way...
According to Joel Sherman, although the Yanks haven't announced it yet, they have decided to put Curtis Granderson in centerfield. I was initially in favor of Granderson playing left field due to Brett Gardner's superior range, but this post in particular from Rob Neyer convinced me that there are some pretty good reasons for Granderson to play center. And of course, that alignment can change during the season if it isn't working out.

Sherman also says that Phil Hughes is likely going to be the 5th starter when the season begins. Not much of a surprise there. Now they just need to send Joba Chamberlain to AAA (not that I'm holding my breath for it).

Via Jennings, the Yanks have released 9 players from minor league camp. Not to many recognizable names, save for Seth Fortenberry and Chirs Malec.

Cliff Corcoran from Bronx Banter took a detailed look at what the Yankees see in Sergio Mitre. He talks about what happened this spring but goes well beyond the typical stats and takes more of a scouting perspective. I'm important to keep that sort of stuff in mind since was only a year removed from Tommy John surgery when he made his debut for them last season. Now he is closer to 20 months and is supposedly feeling much better.

Remember Jason Giambi's motto: Rake like an All-Star, party like a rockstar and hammer like a porno star. Well he wasn't kidding about at least one of those. (via the B-Ref blog)

Craig asks whether this year will be the one that age finally catches up to the Yanks.

This is a couple of days old, but still pretty hilarious.

Steve Sommer from FanGraphs directs us to a spreadsheet courtesy of Cot's detailing how much "dead money" each team is responsible for this season. They Yankees are paying $4.5M, which is pretty low compared to the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels, all of whom are close to $16M but high compared to the Cardinals, Mets and White Sox, who are about $8-9M in the black.

For those in the NYC area, 12 Angry Mascots (the folks behind the hilarious Fernando Perez video) doing a show with former Yankee Jeff Nelson this Saturday, March 28th at Comix (14th St & 9th Ave). You can check out some of their stuff on YouTube and buy tickets here.
From around the league and beyond:
Surviving Grady has a video of Youk discussing the options for his facial hair contest with some of his fellow Sawx in the locker room. Judging by Terry Francona's reaction to "clean shaven", (the current leader in the clubhouse) I think we made the right choice with our donation. However, with John Lackey throwing his weight and newfound financial might behind the mustache, the race is far from over.

Do wOBA and linear weights in general undervalue Ichiro by treating all outs the same? Tango, referencing RE24, says yes. In-depth stats not your thing? I think we all can enjoy this awesome catch Ichiro made yesterday.

Elijah Dukes' wife defends her husband on New York Baseball Digest.

David Pinto's Baseball Musings turns 8 years old today. That's like 150 in blog years.

Our friend Josh Levitt, formerly of Jorge Says No!, has moved to the new He joins It's About The Money, Stupid, Wezen-Ball, Pending Pinstripes, NYY Stadium Insider and many others on the Bloguin Network.

Similarly, for hockey fans, Rob from Bronx Baseball Daily has started up Broadway Hockey Daily.

Bad news for Doc Gooden and anyone else who might have been on the road in Franklin Lakes, N.J. last night.

Matt Sussman runs down some farcical ideas that baseball could adopt to prevent marathon extra innings contests.

In that same vein, Josh Zerkle from KSK collects some of the options that the NFL rejected for its new overtime rules. Noticably absent are the sudden death coin flip; one time through the card game War; rock, paper scissors; a punt, pass and kick competition; and a four on four mixed martial arts match in an octagon in the middle of the field.

10 (Bad) Reasons Spring Training Is "Better" Than The Regular Season

I've never been to Spring Training. I wanted to make the trip this year, but couldn't really find anyone to go with and didn't have the gumption or disposable income to go down by myself as a strictly blog-related solo adventure. But I'm sure it would be a lot of fun.

Whether you are in Florida or Arizona this time of year, you are treated to a unique kind of baseball experience. As a fan you're much closer to the action and you get to see a lot of the team's prospects who will be distributed throughout the farm system when the season rolls around. You're there for the batting practice and long toss and all the other stuff that you don't usually get to see from April - October, especially from your couch. The weather is obviously much nicer than it is here in the Northeast which a considerable benefit after being subjected to three months of temperatures around or below freezing. Blog friends Kevin Kaduk and Craig Calcaterra both made the most out of their time hopping around the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues and produced some great material when they were down there.

So Spring Training is cool. It's different. But no one would actually say that it's better than the regular season. Would they?

Ladies and gentlemen, Ron Chimelis of would:

Once these teams head north, the air will be deflated out of my baseball balloon. In July, when others are setting their watches to the trade deadline, I will long for the carefree days of March, when the sport was at its most special and most pure.

Special? Yes, it's different than the regular season. Pure? Sure, if you're referring to the fact that it's not clouded by things like "competition", "excitement" and "anyone actually giving a shit". Being 8 years old was "carefree" and "special" and "pure", but it also sucked because you had no money, couldn't drive a car, your parents told you when you had to go to bed and no one really listened to what you had to say.

1. The ballparks. Not only are they cozy, they are named for people who have evidently done something worthwhile in their communities... It's much better than visiting stadiums named for multi-national corporations that were in the news when the nation's economy started going down the port-a-potty.

You get to see Major League players in what is typically a minor league setting, that's cool. But I assume you are referring to Citi Field? Well, the Mets just renamed their Spring Training facility "Digital Domain Park". I'm sure Mr. Domain has done some fantastic work in the Port St. Lucie area.

2. When a slugger hits a 440-foot homer, we can say it's because the pitcher was a 19-year-old kid who was buying a tux for his prom last year, not because the hitter was juiced.

Is that what you say when a person hits a massive home run, Ron? That they are "juiced"? I usually say something like "Wow, that was a bomb". Instead of trying to divine whether or not a player is taking performance enhancing drugs based on the distance of their home runs, I would recommend just trying to enjoy the game all year round.

3. The fans are universally nice. Most patrons, including those who line up at 8 a.m. to see what tickets are available, are either living on retirement money or on vacation.

Well... good for them? I don't attend baseball games to interact with courteous people. I go to see baseball players play baseball. And I definitely don't care how nice the people at the park are if I'm watching at home.

4. Lineups where the lowest uniform number is 67. I'd love the scorecard concession for these games.

If I wanted to watch a bunch of minor leaguers play, I'd watch a minor league game.

5. Parking for $5.

It's Florida and Arizona, parking should be free. In New York, thanks to the subway and the Metro North you don't even have to drive. You can even park your bike at Yankee Stadium now! What about the cheaper tickets and concessions? Sorry folks, Ron's in the press box so he doesn't care about what might matter to you the reader/fan. THIS IS RON'S LIST, SUCKERS!

6. Common sense. The umpires called a Red Sox-Astros game in the eighth inning Sunday after a 16-minute rain delay.

Common sense? Well in the regular season, it's sort of important that everyone plays the same amount of games, you know, for the playoffs and stuff. If it rains, they aren't just going to call it quits because the beat writers want to go home.

7. Fans who gloat about the Florida weather. This really annoyed me at first, but now I find it rather entertaining.

Nothing could be more relevant to a game of baseball than the fans talking about the weather. And everyone loves repetitive gloating about something they are not in any way responsible for!

8. Parking for $5. So good, I'm listing it twice.

It's much more likely that you couldn't think of another flimsy point to support your weak premise and instead of billing the piece as "9 things...", you copped out and repeated yourself.

9. The delightful contradiction over how much performance matters.

This is actually the worst part, by far, about Spring Training.

10. Interleague games that don't offend purists' sensibilities, split-squad games, games against Northeastern University and Boston College. You don't get this variety once the real games start.

There are plenty of good reasons that you don't get split-squad games against college teams when the regular season starts. No one wants that kind of "variety". If you want to see Bahston Cawledge and Nawtheastahn, then go down to fackin' Chestnut Hill.

I get what Ron is trying to get at here. He had a good time down in Florida and doesn't mind mailing in a hacky column proving just that. The problem is that most of his readers likely didn't go down to Florida and don't give a shit about the $5 parking, the nice weather, friendly people, or the ballpark names. They just want the season to start and the games to matter.

11 days.