August 31, 2003

The Big Move

So, I moved back to school over the weekend. This is now the third year in a row I have moved into the dorms at the end of the Summer and the experience is always a bad one. Not only because I get depressed when I have to begin school again (which I discussed last Friday), but because my mom and dad always help me move and the situation causes a lot of tension and crankiness, in me at least.

Every little thing my mom said while we were moving seemed to annoy me. Not to mention the fact that she did a few really boneheaded things. First of all, when we got there on Saturday afternoon she dropped me off in front of the dorm so that I could "sign in" while she parked the car in a ramp. After I signed in, she met me in the lobby and we got a laundry cart and went to the ramp to get the stuff out of the car. She leads me to "Level C" at which point I am staring at a gigantic parking lot full of cars. I can see she has a strange look on her face, so I say something like "what spot did you park in?" She gives me another strange look and says, "I parked on Level C."

For the next 20 minutes or so, we tried to find where my mom parked the car. She even managed to convince two girls working on the "U Crew" (people hired to help you move in) to walk around the parking lot with her looking for the car. I'm not sure how three women walking around together looking for the same car is any better than one, but they eventually found it...about a mile away from where she thought she parked it.

The strange thing is that what happened is extremely unlike my mom. I have never been somewhere with her where she has parked the car without writing down the exact location. Sometimes she'll even remember the exact coordinates, complete with longitude, latitude and surrounding landmarks.

Another wonderful moment from the weekend involved an adventure with my "U Card," which is basically my student ID. At this point, I was pretty much all moved in and my parents and I decided we would go get some lunch at the student union. We were about to step out the door when I realized I didn't have my U Card. This is a big deal because I need to use it to get in and out of about 10 different doors within the dorm.

So for about 15 or 20 minutes, three people searched through 10x12 room for a little card with my picture on it. We searched in the trash, under the desk and in places where the card could not possible have been. Midway into our search, I began to take out my frustration on my mom. You see, while my dad and I were installing the cable box, setting up my voice mail and taking apart the bed loft, my mom was busy basically moving all of my stuff to various locations in the room. She was making stacks of papers and putting stuff in the closet and filling drawers up. Because of that, I was convinced she was responsible for the missing U Card...and I told her so.

The whole moving-me-into-school thing is no doubt just as stressful on her as it is me, so after a few minutes, my mom had enough and she went out into the hallway to get away from her jerk of a son. My dad and I continued to search the room, while I repeatedly said things like "I don't f@#$%* believe this" and "I guarantee she moved it" over and over again. I decided I'd go see if somehow the card got dropped in the hallway or in the lobby or something, so I went to look. When I returned to the room a few minutes later, my dad was holding the U Card. He found it on my bed, underneath a bunch of shirts my mom had unpacked and put there in her effort to reposition everything in the room as many times as possible.

I mentioned that my dad and I took apart the loft for my bed. When I first got to the room, the bed was lofted about 7 feet in the air, like the top bunk of a bunk bed. It had a ladder attached and a desk and a small dresser were underneath. Now, I am a pretty big guy. I'm about 6'2" and two hundred and...well, let's just say I'm well over two-bills. Anyway, there was no way I was going to live an entire school year in a place where I have to climb up a ladder every time I want to get into bed. Not only is that a pain in the butt for me, but I don't think the ladder would be too happy about it either.

So, we went to work on taking apart the loft, so that the bed would be only a couple of feet off the ground. Once we got some tools, the job wasn't too difficult. And not only did I get my bed fixed the way I wanted it, I got the chance to see someone use a rubber mallet for the first time in my life. Trust me, it was a real thrill.

The ladder came hooked to the bed, but I had to unhook it and move it so I could pull the desk and dresser out. I unhooked the ladder and leaned it up against the other side of the bed. A few moments later, my mom found her way under the bed, in what she claims was a search for the phone jack. Anyway, she knocked right into the ladder, which then fell right into the newly painted white wall, knocking a pretty good sized chunk out in the process. My mom told me it wasn't her fault, because she "didn't know the ladder was there."

It was at this point that I asked her if I was on Candid Camera. I have to say that, between the pounding of a rubber mallet, me yelling at my parents and my mom continuously asking me "where do you want to put this," my neighbors must have gotten a pretty good show.

There was one interesting thing that my mom didn't have anything to do with. I have lived in a "regular" dorm room the last two years, first with 3 roommates and then by myself. This new room is more of an apartment/dorm combination. There is a little kitchen in each room and instead of having to share a bathroom with the entire floor, I share one with just one person. It is sort of like adjoining hotel rooms, with a bathroom in the middle. There is my single room, with a door connecting to the bathroom, which then connects to my neighbor's room in the same way.

I wasn't sure exactly how the whole bathroom sharing thing worked, but I figured it wouldn't be a big deal. So I get there and I start checking it out and I see that there is a lock on each side of both the doors. So, in theory, I could lock my neighbor out of my room and I could also lock him out of the bathroom while I was using it - and vice versa. I say "in theory" because that's not quite how it works.

Much to my amazement, the locks appear to be completely useless. They don't keep anyone out of the bathroom or out of my room. If I lock either, the door can be opened by simply turning the handle, at which point the lock clicks back into the "open" position. I found this to be extremely strange (and so did my dad), so I went to the front desk to ask. When I described the problem with my locks to the guy at the desk, he told me that it wasn't a problem, it was the way the locks "work." Basically, you can't actually lock someone out of your room or out of the bathroom, because, according to the guy at the desk, that would break some "fire code."

I took this information in for a moment and then asked, "So, you're saying the locks don't actually serve any purpose, they are just there to look at?" Without even considering the ridiculousness of that question, he told me that yes, they are useless, but that, and I quote, "They give a sort of warning that someone is in the bathroom." The warning that he is talking about is apparently the extra 2% of pressure you need to apply in order to get the door to open when it is "locked."

I did a few "test runs" on the locks and I honestly couldn't tell the difference to opening the door when it was locked and when it wasn't. So not only is there a very good chance of me walking in some guy in the bathroom and him walking in on me, there is absolutely nothing keeping the complete stranger living next to me from coming into my room at any time. Absolutely nothing, not a single thing. He just turns the nob and he's in. I have to say, this fact is absolutely mind-boggling to me.

I mean, it would be different if this were a roommate that had complete access to my room. But it's not, it is just some guy named "Matthew" who I have never met in my entire life and whom I only am aware of because we have been randomly assigned to the same bathroom. And don't get me wrong, it is exactly as strange for him too. I mean, I know I would never go into his room without being invited, but he certainly doesn't know that.

And aside from the possibility of someone coming into my room uninvited or while I am not there, there is also the fact that I could, at anytime, walk in on some guy while he's on the "throne." Let me assure you, that is not going to pleasant for anyone involved.

I know my mom and dad typically read this blog everyday, so I want to say thank you to both of them for what they did over the weekend. They not only helped me move into my dorm room, they did so while taking a verbal assault from me the entire time. I want to appologize for that, because there is no doubt that I was a jerk during almost the entire process and they certainly did not deserve that (I mean, aside from parking lots, U Cards and ladders).

I am not sure what it is, but I just can't help myself from turning into a real jerk during the moving process. I know beforehand that I am going to do so and I even warned both of them. Yet I can't stop myself. I think mainly it comes from me being a little sad and a lot stressed out, and I tend to lash out at the people around me when I feel that way. It's a horrible habit and even though I recognize that I do it, I don't have any way to control it.

But we got the job done. All my stuff is in my new room and I am ready to begin school tomorrow morning. The good news is that I don't have to go through this again for another 8 months or so. The bad news is that the guy living next to me has access to my room 24/7 and there's a good chance we are both going to see some things in the bathroom that we have absolutely no interest in seeing. I'll make sure to keep you updated on the bathroom situation, since I know you are all very interested.

Finally...

Some of you may have noticed that I recently put a small link to "Paypal Donations" up on the upper left-hand corner of this page.

I really hope this doesn't offend anyone (I tried to make it as small and unintrusive as possible), but I figured it wouldn't hurt to give some of you the option of sending a few bucks my way. I know some other blogs have similar setups and, believe it or not, I have actually gotten emails from several readers interested in sending me something because they enjoy this blog so much (trust me, it shocked the hell out of me too).

Anyway, I just wanted to bring the issue up, since it seems foolish to ignore something that I have added to the page and that you probably saw. If you like the blog and all the free articles I have written over the last 13 months, I would certainly be very greatful if you decided it was worth making a small donation. And if you don't feel that way, don't feel bad. I can't say that I would make a donation to someone like me if I had the money to do so, and I definitely do not want to make it seem like you are obligated to do so in any way whatsoever. That said, any donations will certainly be appreciated by me (and by the University of Minnesota too, no doubt).

I want to thank "Dave", who was the first person to make a donation, as well as "Steve" and "Craig" - who also sent a few bucks my way over the weekend. Thanks to you guys, buying my books yesterday afternoon wasn't such a horrible experience and, amazingly, the balance in my checkbook doesn't read "$0.00" yet.

Link of the Day:

Major League Baseball Graphs - One of the best sites on the web contains graphs tracking team performances throughout the season in a bunch of difference areas, and also has up-to-date 2003 Win Shares for all players. Flat out one of the best baseball resources available.

Today's picks:

San Francisco (Ponson) +140 over Arizona (Schilling)

Total to date: + 2,700

W/L record: 221-219 (2-2 on Friday for +40)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

August 28, 2003

After the boys of Summer are gone

You are now reading my last entry as a free man. I will moving out of my mom's house and back into the University of Minnesota dorms over the weekend, and I begin my Junior year of college Tuesday morning.

One of the things that I am always confused about is how people I know, people I respect and admire, can tell me with a straight face that they enjoy school. I just don't get it. Ever since I can remember, I have hated school. Whether it was elementary school, junior high, high school or college. There weren't more than maybe 2-3 days every year when I woke up happy that I had to go. Heck, in my last year of high school there weren't many mornings when I went...period. But that's a story for another day.

I don't mind the social aspect of school and I really don't even mind the academic part of it. What I hate is that I have to wake up early every morning and do something I have no real interest in doing, and I have to do it over and over and over and over again.

Now, you might be thinking that I sound like some dumb kid and...well, you'd be right. After all, getting up early to repeatedly do something you have no interest in doing is what many people call a "job." My mom gets up every morning at 6 am and is at her desk by 7:30, ready to put in a 9 or 10 hour day, and she's been doing that for the better part of her life. That is very admirable and it is the reason I have had such a nice house to live in this Summer. At the same time, that lifestyle is not for me, or at least it is not for me right now. I don't know what to say, other than I guess I am just not the type of person who responds well to having to do something that I don't enjoy, every day of the week.

It is for that reason that I become extraordinarily depressed during the final days of August each and every year. The only difference this year is that the end of the Summer sort of snuck up on me. Usually I spend the last couple of weeks of Summer dreading the inevitable start of school. For some reason though, I have only started to become sad about the end of Summer during the last couple of days this year.

Every year since I have been about 14 or 15, people have asked me what I am going to be doing or what I have done during the Summer. And every single year, I tell them "absolutely nothing." This astonishes people and I often get a reaction that borders on pity, as if they think doing nothing is something being forced on me. But I love doing nothing, and I especially love doing nothing during the Summer.

Take this Summer for example. It has been perhaps my most empty Summer yet. I don't have a real job, I haven't been on any extended trips and I have essentially been a bum living off of his mother for the last several months. Yet, I would have a hard time thinking of anything better.

I go to bed late and wake up later. Maybe I watch a little baseball or play a little Playstation. Maybe I take my dog for a little walk or maybe I read the newspaper. Maybe I write a new blog entry or talk to one of my friends. Or maybe, if I am lucky enough to be able to, I just go right back to sleep.

Now, I understand that this lifestyle is not one that can be realistically kept for any substantial length of time. For one thing, if this went on for more than 2-3 months at a time, I think my mother would kill me. For another, at some point there would have to be some income coming in, which would likely require at least a few changes in routine. So, I know I have to stop doing (or not doing) what I've done during the Summer, but that doesn't mean I have to like stopping.

In addition to having never enjoyed any level of school, I have always had a very hard time adjusting to new things. I suspect those two qualities blend together to cause the depression I have at the end of each Summer. It shouldn't be that way though. I mean, for one thing, this is going to be my third year at the U of M. I am at the point that I am used to the academic expections, I am used to the whole living on my own thing, and I am just used to the overall routine of living on campus and going to school. And yet I dread going back just as much as I dreaded going to college before my Freshman year. Whereas then I was afraid of the unknown, now I am fully aware of what I will have to do for the next 8 months, which is even worse.

I have written about school and said similar things to what I am saying right now in the past, and I have received a ton of email from people telling me that school is supposed to be fun and that it is the best years of my life and that it is important and all that other stuff. I understand what those people are trying to say, but there is not a bone in my body that either agrees with it or understands it.

College is, as almost everyone will tell you, supposed to be for learning things that will help you in life. For me, it is certainly about that, but it is also about getting done with school and moving on in life. I want to finish college so that I can hopefully find something in life that I enjoy doing, and then do that thing for many years.

There are millions of people in this world who went through college and are now working at jobs they hate. I feel extremely sorry for these people and I want to do everything in my power not to end up like them. I simply cannot imagine spending a massive part of my life in a job I hate. I cannot imagine waking up each morning for 30 or 40 years to go work at something I take no enjoyment in whatsoever.

Right now, that is what college feels like for me, and school in general has always felt that way. The only reason I am able to get through it is that hopefully, at the end of the rainbow, is the possibility of a job I enjoy. Something that I can wake up every morning and feel excited about doing.

I typically don't write new blog entries on the weekends, so it is very likely the next time you hear from me I will be living in a very small room on the campus of the University of Minnesota. I will have moved all my stuff into that room, I will have stood in line to buy books at the bookstore and I will be getting ready to embark on yet another year of school. I'll probably also be pretty depressed, so if you're going to send me an email between now and then, you might want to make it a nice one.

Of course, this blog will continue during the school year. I will write a new entry every weekday, just as I have for the past year and change. It'll mostly be about baseball, but they'll be some stuff about my life at school and they'll be some stuff like this entry, simply me spilling out the contents of my head onto the page. I hope you don't mind, because...well, I actually enjoy doing this, perhaps more than anything I have ever done in my life. And certainly a whole hell of a lot more than going to school.

Have a good weekend. See ya Monday...

Nobody on the road

Nobody on the beach

I feel it in the air

The Summer's out of reach

Empty lake, empty streets

The sun goes down alone

I'm drivin' by your house

Though I know you're not at home


--- Don Henley, "The Boys of Summer"

If you came here looking to read something about baseball and not me complaining about having to start school again, please feel free to read my other (100% baseball-related) entries from this week:

Monday: Making me look good

Tuesday: Just some notes while watching a ballgame

Wednesday: Let's make a deal! Done Deal!

Thursday: Fallen Angels

This Week's Featured Links:

Monday: Contractor Peon

Tuesday: Baseball Prospectus interview with Rickey Henderson

Wednesday: Batter's Box interview with J.P. Ricciardi

Thursday: Eisenberg Sports

Today's picks:

Colorado (Vance) +230 over Los Angeles (Brown)

Tampa Bay (Kennedy) +250 over Oakland (Hudson)

Philadelphia (Millwood) -130 over New York (Trachsel)

San Diego (Eaton) +140 over Houston (Robertson)

Total to date: + 2,660

W/L record: 219-217 (1-0 yesterday for +110 with two "no actions" because the schedule starters didn't go.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

August 27, 2003

Fallen Angels

It is August 28th and the defending World Series champions are down and they are out. After finishing last season 99-63 on their way to a magical post-season run that ended in the franchise's first championship, the Anaheim Angels are now 64-69, and find themselves 14 games back in the American League West.

For me, this is not all that surprising. Prior to the season I, like many other sabermetrically inclined baseball fans, predicted a substantial drop-off for the Angels. Of course, this is the same group of people who predicted Anaheim would be nowhere near the World Series last year, so we shouldn't get that much credit.

Here is exactly what I said about the Angels in my pre-season preview/prediction:

"Anaheim fans, I anxiously await your angry emails. I'm really sorry to put a buzz kill on your championship, but I just don't think the Angels will be able to repeat what they did last year. But don't worry about it, it's not like I have the authority to take away the World Series trophy or anything.

Anaheim's offense was almost entirely based on batting average last year, which is great when it is all clicking and the whole team gets hot like they did last year. The Angels led the AL with a .282 batting average and were 11th in walks and 10th in homers. I just don't think they can keep that up.

I see the Angels' offense as sort of like a house of cards. It can be very good, while being completely unstable at the same time. But once it gets disrupted in any way, it could all come crashing down."

While the Angels have certainly had some other problems this season, namely injuries, the volatile nature of the thing they are so heavily dependent on, batting average, is one of the big reasons why they are 5 games under .500 and completely out of the playoff picture before September.

Anaheim ranked 11th in the AL in walks last season and 10th in homers. This year it is much of the same, as they currently rank 11th in walks and 9th in homers. The big blow to their offense and to their season is the fact that they are currently 8th in the American League in batting average, after leading all of baseball in that stat last season.

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG     RS/G

2002 .282 .341 .433 5.25
2003 .271 .331 .423 4.71

Their batting average is down about a dozen points and it has taken both their OBP and SLG down with it. Overall, they are scoring 0.54 runs per game fewer than they did last season, which is a decrease of 11%. Of course, to be fair, their pitching-staff is also allowing about 10% more runs this year than last, but I want to talk about the offensive struggles today.

Another interesting thing about their offense is that the "little things" they did last year so well and that drew so much praise from media across the country, aren't quite working as well this season - or at least that is what you'd think.

Last year, Mike Scioscia was the king of the hit and run, the king of the stolen base, he was setting guys in motion and "making things happen" - and we all know how much baseball writers and announcers like that. That part of Anaheim's offense and the impact Scioscia had in that area were praised constantly as one of the main keys to their World Series run.

And this year? Not so much. I haven't heard a single thing about how brilliant Scioscia's managerial tactics have been when it comes to the running game and aggressive baserunning this year. Yet, look at these numbers:

Year      SB       SB%

2002 117 69.6%
2003 126* 66.9%

*Projected total for full season

The Angels are actually running slightly more often this year than they did last year. They are on pace to steal about 10 more bases. They are also getting caught at a slightly higher rate, which isn't all that unexpected when you are running more often.

Yet, I don't think I have heard a single broadcaster bring up the Angels' work on the bases as a reason for their record this year and I don't think I have read a single article opining that Scioscia's fondness of running and hit and running is the cause of their current place in the standings. I find it interesting that they are essentially doing the same things on the bases that they did last year and they are even doing it a little more this season, yet somehow it is no longer the reason for their record and their success (or lack thereof).

Of course, in reality, Anaheim's work on the bases was pretty far down on the list of things that caused them to win a World Series title last season. When seemingly everyone on the team is having a career year with the bat, hitting .300 and smoking balls into the gaps everytime there is a runner on base, it makes a lot of other things look good and important.

Same goes for the dominant bullpen they had last year and into the post-season. The fact that Scioscia's managing led to a successful stolen base or a nicely executed hit and run appears to be really key to victory when the offense is lacing hits all over the field and scoring runs in bunches, and then bullpen comes in and shuts down the opponent for multiple innings at a time. But when the pitching-staff isn't quite so stingy and the offense isn't on fire, the botched hit and runs and unsuccessful steals aren't so easy to swallow, and the fact that you were able to move up one base successfully 66.9% of the time doesn't seem like such a wonderful and impactful thing anymore.

No, the real reason why Anaheim won last year is not that they did any "little things" well, it is that almost all of their offensive players had career years, or at least extremely good years. And once they got into the post-season, the entire team was on fire, hitting a combined .320 in the playoffs. You add in a very good bullpen, some decent starting pitching, a nice defense and yes, some good baserunning, and that's the recipe for a championship, or at least it was last season.

Almost all of the everyday players on last season's team had significantly higher batting averages than they had the year before. Here are the difference between everyone's 2001 batting average (when the Angels went 75-87) and their 2002 batting average (when they won the World Series):

             2002    2001     +/-

Salmon .286 .227 +.059
Kennedy .312 .270 +.042
Erstad .283 .258 +.025
Anderson .306 .289 +.017
Fullmer .289 .274 +.015
Spiezio .285 .271 +.014
Eckstein .293 .285 +.008
Glaus .250 .250 .000
Molina .245 .262 -.017

Those are the 9 starters from last season's team. 7 of them had higher batting averages in 2002 than they did in 2001, one had an identical batting average in both years and one was worse in 2002. Not coincidentally, Anaheim's team batting average rose from .261 in 2001 to .282 last season, and their runs scored per game jumped up about 19%.

Now, take a look at the same comparison, but with 2002 and 2003, instead of 2001:

             2002    2003     +/-

Kennedy .312 .270 -.042
Eckstein .293 .254 -.039
Erstad .283 .252 -.031
Spiezio .285 .261 -.024
Salmon .286 .270 -.016
Glaus .250 .248 -.002
Fullmer .289 .306 +.017
Anderson .306 .325 +.019
Molina .245 .275 +.030

Not quite the complete opposite, but it's pretty close. Of the 9 starters (all of whom have remained with the Angels all three years), 6 of them have seen their averages drop this season, while 3 of them have had higher averages this year than last. That decline isn't quite as dramatic and widespread as the increases were from 2001 to 2002, but then again, the loss of teamwide batting average and runs scored isn't quite as dramatic as the gains in 2002 were either.

When I have commented on Anaheim's success in the past, some people have taken my comments as me saying they somehow don't deserve the championship they won last season. That could not be further from the truth. As someone who not only watched every game of the Angels' post-season run last season, but also had the unfortunate experience of being a fan of one of the two AL teams they demolished on the way to the World Series, I can say without question that the 2002 Anaheim Angels that were playing in the post-season were one of the best teams I have ever seen.

Now, maybe they got lucky that everyone got hot at the same time and maybe the 2001 Angels weren't that good and the 2003 Angels aren't that good, but what difference does that make? The 2002 Angels were good enough to win 99 games in the regular season and 11 more in the post-season, and that's all that matters.

Still, coming into this season, the foundation of the team's success was, as I said before, like a house of cards. Batting average fluctuates more than almost every other important offensive stat and the fact that the team's success was largely based upon extremely good batting averages by the entire team...well, it's not a big shock that the house came crashing down this season.

Link of the Day:

Eisenberg Sports - "A seemingly regular rant on baseball, college football, anything else that gets my attention, and the home of BAP"

Today's picks:

Milwaukee (Obermueller) +110 over Cincinnati (Wilson)

Colorado (Jennings) -110 over San Francisco (Hermanson)

Chicago (Buehrle) +155 over New York (Mussina)

Total to date: + 2,550

W/L record: 218-217 (2-1 yesterday for +235)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

August 26, 2003

Let's make a deal! Done Deal!

Earlier this month, I devoted an entry to the ongoing trade discussions between the San Diego Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the potential trade would have sent Brian Giles and Jason Kendall to the Padres, in exchange for several young players.

I expressed my surprise at the lack of media attention this potential blockbuster trade was receiving and then went on to give my opinion of whether or not the deal was a good one for the Padres. Here is a little of what I said back on August 19th:

"I really think that if the Padres can get Brian Giles and Jason Kendall without giving up too many members of their future core, they should jump at the opportunity. It isn't often that a team gets a chance to add someone like Giles without having to fork over a huge part of their future. And, with the team moving into the new ballpark, the ownership seems willing to add some payroll, which makes adding Jason Kendall and his contract even easier to handle."

Well, the Padres and Pirates finally completed their long rumored trade yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't quite the deal everyone thought they were working on. Instead of having to take on Jason Kendall and his huge contract in order to get Brian Giles, the Padres were able to swing a deal with Pittsburgh that did not involve Jason Kendall at all.

Here is the trade...

San Diego receives:

Brian Giles

Pittsburgh receives:

Oliver Perez

Jason Bay

PTBNL

If you were like me and thought that the Padres giving up a similar package for Giles and Kendall was a good move to make, then you must also be like me and think that giving up that package for Giles, without having to take on the burden of Kendall's contract, is a brilliant move for San Diego.

I really like Oliver Perez. He is young, he is left-handed, he has tremendous "stuff" and his major league strikeout rate has been extraordinary. In 103.2 innings with the Padres this season, Perez has 117 strikeouts, or 10.2 per 9 innings. For his major league career, he has 211 Ks in 193.2 innings pitched, which works out to rate of 9.81/9 IP.

That's awesome for any left-handed starting pitcher, but for a 22 year old lefty it is extraordinary. Of course, he has a ton of problems with his control (113 walks in those 193.2 innings) and he has had a problem giving up too many homers so far, but those are both things that are not unexpected from such a young pitcher.

I would have no problem placing Oliver Perez among the most promising young pitchers in all of baseball right now and I think he has a chance to be a #1 starter for a lot of years. That said, he is still just 22 years old and he is still a pitcher, which means there is an awful lot of stuff that can happen between now and the time he becomes a dominant pitcher that would keep him from ever reaching that level.

There aren't a lot of guys in baseball right now that I would be willing to include Oliver Perez in a deal for, but Brian Giles is certainly one of them. Jason Bay is the other player that we know the Pirates are getting. Bay has really increased his prospect status this season, with an excellent season in Triple-A. He was called up to San Diego earlier in the year and may have been given a shot at sticking in the big leagues, but he got injured almost immediately, breaking his wrist.

At 24 years old, I don't think Bay is an upper-level prospect, but he is certainly a nice one. He is potentially a leadoff hitting centerfielder, with good on-base skills, nice speed and solid defense. He is hitting .303/.410/.541 in 93 Triple-A games this year, with 20 homers, 23 steals and a very solid 55/71 walk/strikeout ratio.

Bay can definitely step into the Pittsburgh lineup immediately as their starting centerfielder and leadoff man. I have not heard anything about who the "Player to be Named Later" might be. One name that has been talked about as being involved in this trade the entire time is outfielder Xavier Nady. If he is the PTBNL, the Pirates get themselves another good, major league-ready prospect.

Basically, a package of Oliver Perez, Jason Bay and a PTBNL (Nady or someone else) is not a horrible one for Brian Giles. If I were the Pirates, I certainly would not have accepted it, but then again, I wouldn't be actively looking to trade someone like Brian Giles in the first place. As I said earlier this month:

"Brian Giles is and has been one of the best players in all of baseball and, at the same time, one of the most underrated players in all of baseball. Maybe I'm crazy, but if you get a player like that, you don't trade him away. You stick in the middle of your lineup and do the best you can to build a team around him."

Depending on who the PTBNL turns out to be, I think I would probably give the Pirates a "C-minus" grade on this deal, and I would definitely give the Padres an "A." Not only were they able to acquire one of the top 5-10 hitters in all of baseball, they were able to do so without having to take on Jason Kendall and his contract, and they were able to do so without completely wiping out their stock of good, young players. Trading a similar package of players for both Giles and Kendall would have been a great move, trading a larger and more valuable package of players for just Giles would have been a great move. Trading this package of players for just Brian Giles...well, I think it's brilliant.

So, the big question now is what does this mean for the Padres? Obviously, it is too late for them to do anything at all this season, as they are currently 51-81, 28.5 games back in the NL West, and owners of the worst record in the National League. It may seem as though next season is even too early for a team with the worst record in the league to do any serious damage and normally I would agree with that, but I think this case may be a little different.

First of all, the Padres have been hurt by injuries to several very key players this season. Trevor Hoffman has yet to pitch a single inning in 2003, Phil Nevin has played in just 29 of the team's 132 games, and guys like Mark Kotsay and Ramon Vazquez have missed significant chunks of time as well.

I know this is a cliche and I hate those as much as the next guy, but this Padres team is really not as bad as its record this season. Or at least this Padres team, completely healthy. So really, not only are they adding Brian Giles to the team for next season, they are also adding Trevor Hoffman and Phil Nevin. Of course, whether or not those last two guys will be healthy next season or not is an entirely different issue.

As it stands right now, this is what San Diego's lineup will most likely look like next season:

1B   Ryan Klesko

2B Mark Loretta
SS Ramon Vazquez
3B Sean Burroughs
LF Brian Giles
CF Mark Kotsay
RF Phil Nevin
C Gary Bennett/Miguel Ojeda

That is a very good lineup. The only real "hole" is the catcher spot, where the only real options San Diego has right now are a couple of light-hitting journeymen. I suspect that the catcher position will be addressed in the off-season and a quality player will be added, making that lineup solid, from top to bottom.

Another possibility is that Khalil Greene, their first-round pick a couple years ago and a guy whom I rated as the #28 prospect in baseball prior to the season, steps in and plays SS in place of Vazquez. Greene has hit .291/.349/.440 between Double-A and Triple-A this season, with 13 homers and 34 doubles in 128 total games. I suspect Vazquez is safe for at least most of next season, but Greene is going to play somewhere eventually and SS is the most likely and most upgradable spot right now.

What I particularly like about that potential lineup is that there are several good options for the leadoff and #2 spots, so that there will be no problem finding guys to get on base and set the table for that extremely dangerous 3-4-5 of Giles, Nevin and Klesko.

Mark Loretta, Ramon Vazquez, Sean Burroughs and Mark Kotsay could all be mixed and match into the top two spots in the lineup and they would all do a very nice job there, getting on base in front of the big boys. I think I would probably go with Loretta leading off and Kotsay batting second, but you really can't go wrong with any combination.

Just how good could that middle of the order be? Well, it's tough to say, especially after what they have all done this year. All 3 of them are having poor seasons by their standards, and Nevin and Giles have each missed time with injuries, with Nevin missing over 100 games.

Here is what they are doing this year:

           AVG      OBP      SLG      EqA

Giles .299 .430 .521 .322
Nevin .259 .308 .375 .246
Klesko .248 .355 .451 .284

First of all, Nevin's numbers should be taken with a gigantic grain of salt, because he is coming back from a very serious shoulder injury and has barely over 100 plate appearances under his belt. With Giles and Klesko, all I can say is that you know you're a very good player when a "down year" means a .322 EqA or even a .284 EqA.

Giles' slugging percentage is down about 70-90 points from his established level since going to Pittsburgh in 1999, yet he still ranks 8th in the National League in Equivalent Average. Klesko's on-base percentage (.355) would be his worst since 1997 and his slugging percentage (.451) would be the worst of his entire major league career, which began in 1992. Yet, he still has a .284 EqA and his 17.0 Runs Above Replacement Position (RARP) rank him 7th among NL first basemen.

If you set aside what they've done this season and instead look at what they did over the previous 3 seasons, I think you get a better picture of why this lineup could be extremely good:

2000-2002


AVG OBP SLG EqA
Giles .308 .428 .601 .335
Nevin .299 .371 .524 .307
Klesko .290 .388 .531 .318

That's pretty nasty and it gets even better when you consider Nevin and Klesko have been putting up those numbers in a severe pitcher's park. All of them hit for good batting averages, all of them take walks and get on base and all of them have huge power.

The only teams that have 3 guys with .305+ EqAs in the lineup this year are Atlanta, Boston and St. Louis. Those three teams rank 1st, 2nd and 3rd in team Equivalent Average, which means, adjusted for their home ballpark, they have the three best offenses in all of baseball. That's not saying having three .305+ EqA guys in the lineup guarantees a team one of the top offenses in baseball, but it's a damn good start.

You throw in solid offensive contributors like Mark Loretta (.292 EqA this season), Mark Kotsay (.289 EqA last year, .288 in 2001) and Sean Burroughs (.277 EqA this season as a 22 year old), and I think this is potentially one of the top 2-3 offenses in the NL for next season. Of course, if they fill the catcher spot with a free agent like Ivan Rodriguez (.312 EqA), that bumps them up to a whole different level and things could get really interesting.

Of course, offense is only half the story. The Padres pitching-staff does not look nearly as promising for next year, but it is also not a disaster by any means. If the team's management is really going to open up the purse-strings a little bit this off-season to sign some free agents, I would think a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher would be the #1 priority. If they could sign someone like Kevin Millwood or Sidney Ponson or Bartolo Colon, the rest of the rotation would fall into place quite nicely...

#1   Free Agent

#2 Brian Lawrence
#3 Jake Peavy
#4 Adam Eaton

Brian Lawrence, Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton are not having great seasons this year, but they are all having reasonably good ones and they are all young enough to make significant improvements.

Lawrence is the oldest and most experienced of the bunch. He is 27 and in his third major league season. After posting a 3.45 ERA in 114.2 innings his first year, he won 12 games with a 3.69 ERA in 210 innings last season. He has regressed this year (4.54 ERA), but there is no reason why he can't be a solid #2 guy that is able to eat tons of innings.

Peavy is a guy I really like. At just 22 years old, he already has 257 major league innings under his belt and he hasn't embarrassed himself either. He has a 4.41 career ERA, including 4.35 in 159.1 innings pitched this year. He has struggled with his control and with giving up too many homers, but he has a very nice strikeout rate for such a young pitcher (7.49/9 IP in his career) and he has had stretches of dominance, both this season and last.

At 25, Adam Eaton is the middle-child. He missed part of the 2001 season and almost all of the 2002 season with an injury, and is just now rounding back into form. Eaton has a 4.19 ERA in 144 innings this season, with a very nice K rate (7.44/9 IP) and solid control.

After those three and whatever free agent the Padres can find, all they need to do is stumble across one other guy who can give them some innings in the #5 spot in the rotation. Whether that is a veteran like Kevin Jarvis or a prospect like Dennis Tankersley, who knows.

Of course, another option is that, instead of signing a free agent starter to anchor the rotation next year, they could go out and trade for one. Assuming Nady isn't part of the Giles deal, he would seem like the odd man out in the outfield/first base mix. I would guess Nady could fetch a pretty nice veteran starter, and if they really want to get serious, they could sign a veteran starter as a free agent and trade Nady for another starter.

I realize this season hasn't even ended yet and the Padres are almost assuredly going to make several more major moves before the start of next year, but I am officially jumping on the "Padres in 2004" bandwagon. I'm not saying they are going to make the playoffs or that they'll win 90 games, but the addition of a player the quality of Brian Giles, along with the nucleus of players they already have and their potential for off-season acquisitions, make next year's Padres team a very intriguing one and one that could definitely contend for a post-season spot.

And for those of you who are thinking that isn't saying all that much, it is. The Padres haven't won as many as 80 games in a season since they last made the playoffs (and the World Series) in 1998. For the first time in quite a few years, it looks like it's a good time to be a Padres fan.

Link of the Day:

Batter's Box interview with J.P. Ricciardi

My good buddies over at the Batter's Box, the best place for Toronto Blue Jays information and discussion you will ever find, recently were granted an interview with Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi. The interview is very interesting and it got me extremely jealous that not only would the GM of the team they love and write about be willing to sit down with them for an extended chat, but that he would be so publicly supportive of their website. I highly recommend you all check it out and, Terry Ryan, if you are out there, drop me an email sometime and maybe we'll chat!

Today's picks:

San Diego (Lawrence) +205 over Arizona (Schilling)

Chicago (Colon) +130 over New York (Wells)

Baltimore (Hentgen) +190 over Oakland (Zito)

Total to date: + 2,315

W/L record: 216-216 (2-2 yesterday for +135.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

August 25, 2003

Just some notes while watching a ballgame

The Summer is ending for me in just a few days, as I head back to school this upcoming weekend. That means I'll be living in a dorm room instead of in my mom's house and, sadly, it means no more DirecTV and no more MLB Extra Innings package.

So, from now until then, I have promised myself that I will watch every possible baseball game, day or night, rain or shine, Yankees or Brewers. With that in mind, I woke up yesterday morning (okay, afternoon) and immediately thought to myself, "Is there a game on?" And wouldn't you know it, not only was there a game on, there was a great game on!

The Boston Red Sox versus the Seattle Mariners. Two of the four teams (with Oakland and New York) fighting for just three playoff spots. And, as if that weren't enough...

Gil Meche (13-9, 3.92) vs Pedro Martinez (9-3, 2.32)

Nothing beats a little Pedro to start your day!

[Pre-Game]

This set of notes is coming to you LIVE! from my room in my mom's house, located in beautiful Minnetonka, Minnesota. I'll be joined this afternoon by my Boston Terrier, Samantha (who is a big Red Sox fan, obviously), several cans of Sprite, and a jumbo-sized bag of Cheetos. I'll be watching the game on the New England Sports Network (NESN) and our announcers today are Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo.

The big news in the pre-game show is that Pedro Martinez is in a bad mood. This happens quite often, or at least it appears to from the way the media portrays him. This time it seems to be over the way the team treated him this past week when he was sick. He skipped his last start and I guess some people were mad that he didn't show up at the ballpark or something. I really don't know, because I really don't care. I think Jerry Remy just said it best: "I hate this part of baseball, just tell me about what happens on the field." Amen Jerry, amen.

I was just informed by Don Orsillo that, "as we all know, Pedro Martinez has never lost to the Seattle Mariners in his career." Wait a minute, did everyone else know this? Because I certainly had no idea and that actually is pretty amazing (if it's true). I'll look up the stats when the game is over.

[Sure enough, coming into yesterday's game, Pedro Martinez was 11-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his career against Seattle. Absolutely amazing.]

When they display the "Red Sox defense" right before the game, they show a big graphic saying that Boston is "5th in the AL in defense" because they have the 5th-best fielding percentage. It boggles my mind that, in the year 2003, with all of the advancements in baseball analysis and statistics, some people are still of the belief that the best way to judge a defense, as a team or in a individual, is to look at fielding percentage.

Here are the lineups for the game:

Seattle                    Boston

RF Ichiro! CF Johnny Damon
DH Mark McLemore 2B Todd Walker
2B Bret Boone SS Nomar Garciaparra
1B John Olerud LF Manny Ramirez
CF Mike Cameron DH David Ortiz
LF Randy Winn 1B Kevin Millar
3B Carlos Guillen RF Trot Nixon
C Ben Davis 3B Bill Mueller
SS Rey Sanchez C Jason Varitek

Boston's lineup is pretty much their everyday lineup. You'll notice the name "Edgar Martinez" is absent from Seattle's lineup. Edgar is apparently nursing a sore foot.

[First pitch: Pedro to Ichiro!]

You know how your little league and high school coach kept yelling at you not to "step in the bucket" and all that stuff? Did Ichiro! just ignore all that when he was a kid or what? The guy isn't just stepping in the bucket, he's halfway out of the batter's box on every single swing. It's amazing.

Just as I was marveling at his swing, Ichiro! smoked a liner to Johnny Damon in CF, who made a full-out diving catch for the first out of the ballgame. So, it took exactly one play to see why errors are a stupid thing to judge a defense by. If Damon doesn't make that play, there is no error, but it is a hit and not an out. See my point?

[Mark McLemore up]

I have Mark McLemore on both of my Diamond-Mind teams (hey, he was good last year!), and I have been checking Seattle's boxscores all season long, waiting for him to reel off a little hot-streak to get his numbers into the "respectable" range, so I can keep him for next year. No such luck of course, although I guess there is still time.

He just got plunked by Pedro. Maybe that'll jump-start him for the rest of the year. At least it helps his on-base percentage, right?

[Bret Boone singles to left]

Why is Bret Boone getting zero talk for the AL MVP while Ichiro! is getting a ton? I don't get it, I really don't.

Remy: "Pedro's velocity is not top-shelf. That fastball was about 90 MPH."

Uh oh. By the way, before I forget, I want to mention that Jerry Remy is one of my favorite announcers.

[John Olerud up]

John Olerud's numbers are way down this year. He's pretty old, so maybe this is just a swift decline. I wouldn't bet against him bouncing back next year though, because he did have a "down year" in his first season in Seattle and rebounded from that.

[Olerud flies out to RF, Mike Cameron up]

Remember when I wrote the really long and in-depth entry about "The Most Underrated Player in Baseball"? No, you don't? Well, maybe you should check it by clicking here.

By the way, did I mention Mike Cameron is up?

I don't know about the exact velocity yet because I have missed a few of the radar gun readings, but Pedro's control is definitely a little "off" right now. Nothing is particularly sharp and he is missing way out of the strike zone on a lot of stuff. He just blew a 88 MPH fastball right by Cameron though. On 2-2, Pedro threw him a fastball up in the zone and Cameron popped it up to first base for the third out.

[Bottom 1st, 0-0 - Gil Meche pitches to Johnny Damon]

I had Johnny Damon on one of my Diamond-Mind keeper league teams, but I also had Andruw Jones, which made Johnny a left fielder and not a center fielder. That took away a lot of his value, so I decided to deal him. Of course, right after I did, he went on a huge hot-streak that is still ongoing. I don't remember the exact date that I traded him, but it was around the time he was hitting about .260/.325/.400 or so. He is hitting .319/.400/.461 since the All-Star break and has his season-totals up to .276/.349/.420, which is pretty close to last year's numbers (.286/.356/.443). If I had it to do over again, I think I would have kept him and maybe tried to deal him in the off-season.

[Damon flies out to CF, Todd Walker up]

While Damon has been hot, Todd Walker has been cold for quite a while. He is hitting .217/.264/.317 since the AS break and .179/.243/.224 this month. Walker is a nice player and a very solid hitter though, so I wouldn't be overly concerned. I haven't heard much about his defense is Boston and I wonder what Sox fans think of him defensively. When he was in Minnesota early in his career, he took a TON of heat for his D - from his manager, Tom Kelly, from the media and from the fans. He was never great defensively (and still isn't), but I never felt he was that bad.

[Walker grounds out, Garciaparra up]

Gil Meche is throwing 96 MPH according to NESN. I didn't think he threw that hard. He goes 3-2 on Nomar and then throws a fastball outside that Nomar smacks right down the RF line. Ichiro! races over to pick it up and Nomar stops at 1B, slamming on the breaks after rounding the bag hard. I wouldn't run on him either, Nomar.

[Manny Ramirez up]

If Todd Walker could get going again, this lineup could be incredibly scary. Heck, it already is incredibly scary, so I guess it would be whatever a step up from "incredibly" is.

Meche threw Manny Ramirez an almost identical pitch to the one Nomar just singled on and Manny did the exact same thing, smacking it through the hole between 1B and 2B for a single. That's just very good hitting by two very good hitters.

[David Ortiz up]

As a Twins fan, I miss David Ortiz. He was a lot of fun to watch and seemed to universally well-liked among his teammates. Plus, the season he is having right now would make him the best hitter on the Twins. I can't say that I blame the Twins for letting him go though and I am pretty sure I said here and in other places that I agreed with the move at the time. Still, it'd be nice to have his bat in the lineup, although I don't know where they'd play him. Ortiz pops it up to SS for 3rd out.

[Top 2nd, 0-0]

Randy Winn grounds out to 1B and Carlos Guillen lines the first pitch he sees from Pedro into RF for a single.

[Ben Davis up]

Ben Davis drives one deeeeeep to straight-away CF on the first pitch. Johnny Damon runs under it, catches it about a foot from the fence, and then smacks himself right into the wall. See, now there is no way that play is ever an error, but if Damon isn't as good, that is an extra-base hit and not an out.

[Rey Sanchez up]

Rey Sanchez is batting .350 for the Mariners and he has a .386 OBP and a .375 SLG. Example #1,256,365 why batting average, by itself, is completely worthless. Sanchez grounds out to SS for the third out.

[Bottom 2nd, 0-0 - Kevin Millar up.]

Kevin Millar smokes the first pitch from Meche (fastball, up) to the gap in left-center. It rolls to the wall and Millar goes for a double. Mike Cameron (did you read that entry on "The Most Underrated Player in Baseball" yet?) sprints over, picks it up, and makes a perfect throw all the way in the air to Bret Boone at 2B, to get Millar for the out.

The ball beat Millar to the bag by about 3 feet, but after seeing the replay, I think Millar got his hand to the bag before Boone actually tagged him. I do hate the idea that someone can be called out if they weren't tagged before they touched the bag, but it seems to be accepted by almost all umpires.

[Trot Nixon walks]

Orsillo: "A beautiful day here at Fenway Park on 'Vermont Day.'

Okay, I'll ask. What the heck is "Vermont Day?" Nevermind, Orsillo just explained it. It just means people from Vermont are at the game today, at least that's what I think he said.

Mueller drives one deep to left center, but Randy Winn races under it to make the catch right up against the wall.

[Jason Varitek up]

Can you imagine Jason Varitek has been batting 9th all season long and he's hitting .282/.355/.539 with 21 homers and 27 doubles in only 358 at bats? Crazy. Meche strikes him out swinging to end the inning.

[Top 3rd, 0-0 - Ichiro! up]

I really hope Rafael Palmeiro got a lot of money for those Viagra commercials. I really don't have anything else I want to say on the issue, just that I really hope he got paid well at least.

My dog has been sleeping all day. She just got up, did the full dog "shake" and then went back to sleep. That's some life she has. At least I'm awake and writing notes while watching a baseball game!

Ichiro! flies out to left and then McLemore laces one down the RF line, but Trot Nixon makes a nice running catch, robbing him of a hit. I guess that hot streak won't be starting just yet for McLemore.

[Boone up]

The Mariners are going up there hacking, that's for sure. I'm not sure what my strategy would be against a potentially not-quite-right Pedro. He just went way up and way in on Boone, pushing the count to 3-2. WOW! Pedro Ks Boone on an absolutely wicked 3-2 curveball that came in at 71 MPH and missed Boone's bat by about 10 feet.

[Bottom 3rd, 0-0 - Damon up]

Damon is 23/28 on steal attempts this year and he was 31/37 for the Red Sox last year. And they don't even run. I wonder how many he could steal on the Marlins? It'd be fun to watch. For his career, he is 237/302 (78.4%).

Meche is pumping fastballs in at 93-94 MPH pretty consistently. For a guy who lost basically two years to injuries, that's impressive and so is his season. Damon walks on a very close 3-2 pitch. If that wasn't on 3-2 and it was a 2-0 or 3-1 pitch, I think the ump would've called it a strike, without hesitation.

[Walker up]

Orsillo: "The Red Sox have had at least one baserunner in every inning so far."

So, basically, for 3 innings? Right. I know announcers have to find things to say for an entire game, but...

Meche throws a wild pitch past Ben Davis and all the way to the screen, Damon scampers to 2B. Walker swings at ball four on 3-1 and grounds out to Olerud at 1B, advancing Damon to 3B. The announcers praise him for "moving the runner over," but I'd rather he just took the walk so Nomar and Manny could bat with two men on and none out. But hey, what do I know.

[Nomar up]

Nomar wastes no time and drops a looper into CF, in front of Cameron. Damon scores from 3rd for the game's first run.

[1-0 Red Sox, Manny up]

Meche throws Manny a huge curve for a first-pitch strike and then throws it again for strike two. I guarantee if he throws that again in this at bat, Manny will hit it very hard. Well, he threw it again on the very next pitch and it was at least three feet outside. The ump rings Manny up on a pitch that wasn't particularly close to being in the strike zone. Maybe Manny should blame this on Questec like all the pitchers do.

[Ortiz up]

Ortiz is the type of guy that makes me wonder why in the world the A's would give Scott Hatteberg a 2-year contract extension for several million a year. I just don't get it. There are guys like Ortiz and Brad Fullmer and Travis Lee and Robert Fick available for peanuts every year and Hatteberg stinks this season. Maybe Billy Beane knows something I don't (very, very, very likely), but I don't understand the move at all.

As soon as I get done writing that, Ortiz smokes one past Ichiro! and into the stands in right field to give Boston a 3-0 lead. That's his 20th homer of the year, which ties his career-high, set last season with the Twins. He's on pace for about 25 homers and 40 doubles in just 420 at bats this year and he'll cost the Sox $1.25 million. Great, great move.

[3-0 Red Sox - Millar up]

To the Twins credit, they didn't have a chance to get Ortiz for $1.25 million. If they had gone to arbitration with him, they likely would have had to pay upwards of $3-5 million, which is a whole different story, although he has certainly been worth that much this year. Millar pops out for the final out of the inning.

[Top 4th, 3-0 Boston - Olerud up]

Olerud laces the first pitch from Pedro into shallow CF for a leadoff single.

[Cameron up]

Pedro's last two fastballs have been 87 and 88 MPH. He is behind Cameron 3-0 now. Cameron takes an 87 MPH fastball outside for a four-pitch walk. This is the definition of a guy "getting by without his best stuff."

[Winn up]

Pedro gets ahead of Winn 0-1 with an 82 MPH curve right over the plate. Another 88 MPH fastball that Winn fouls off for strike two. Up and in with a 90 MPH fastball on 0-2. Good pitch. Down and away next? Nope, back inside with a fastball that Winn yanks foul. 90 MPH heater outside, Winn fouls it off again.

Tough at bat from a guy who was 0-2 against Pedro Martinez. Winn smokes a 78 MPH curve right over the plate to right field for a "double."

Olerud, for some crazy reason, didn't break immediately from 2B and ended up stopping on 3B. Cameron had to stop at 2B with Olerud planted on third, so Winn, who would have had a standup double without a problem, runs to 2B before realizing Cameron is standing there. Nixon tosses the ball into the infield, at which point Winn is just standing about 5 feet from 2B, with his hands on his knees, waiting to be tagged out.

Olerud really messed that play up. Instead of a run scoring and runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, it is still 3-0 and there is one out and men on 2nd and 3rd.

[Guillen up]

Guillen yanks one down the RF line, with home run distance, but it goes just foul. Pedro then strikes him out swinging on the best fastball he's thrown all afternoon.

[Davis up]

Davis flies out to RF for the 3rd out. Olerud ends up costing the Mariners at least 2 runs. I like John as a player, so I won't be too harsh, but if you're going to be really slow, you better be a smart baserunner at least.

[Bottom 4th, 3-0 Red Sox - Nixon up.]

Nixon lines the 0-1 pitch up the middle and it looks like a single until it hits the mound, slows down and is very playable for Sanchez at shortstop, who throws Nixon out. Mueller then lines the first pitch deeeep to CF. Mike Cameron sprints back and easily makes the play. The camera shows Mueller rounding first and he says something to himself that probably sounded like "@#$%!"

By the way, did you read that "Most Underrated Player in Baseball" entry yet?

[Varitek up]

Varitek shows bunt on two straight pitches. Remy thinks he trying to give Pedro some extra time between innings, since the first two at bats were quick ones. I think I agree. Varitek lines the next pitch to RF, where it drops about a foot in front of Ichiro! I'm kinda of surprised he didn't try to make a diving catch.

[Damon up]

Remy: "With two outs, Varitek may try a delayed steal. He's done that several times this year, including once this series."

On the very next pitch, Varitek tries a delayed steal, but Damon fouls the pitch off. Not bad Jerry, not bad at all. Damon grounds to 3B for the third out.

[Top 5th, 3-0 Red Sox - Sanchez up]

This game is moving very fast. We are only an hour and 5 minutes into it and already through 4 innings. I like it! Plus, it gives me a chance to work on my "speed notetaking skills," which I will need next week (well, not really, but you know...).

Pedro goes 2-2 on Sanchez and then strikes him out on a 88 MPH heater up and in. His third K of the game.

Ichiro! grounds to 1B for the 2nd out.

Pedro goes 2-2 on McLemore. Fastball up and in? Nope, slow curve over the plate - McLemore slaps it foul. Another curve, this one low. 3-2 now. 78 MPH changeup that McLemore swings right through for strike three. Pedro is at 72 pitches through 5, which isn't too bad.

[Bottom 5th, 3-0 Red Sox - Walker up.]

Walker lines the 2-2 pitch into left-center for a single and Mike Cameron bobbles the ball as he picks it up. Walked decides to go for two and, despite another strong throw by Cameron, he makes it into second safely. Cameron gets an error on the play. But don't worry, you should still read the entry on "The Most Underrated Player in Baseball."

Nomar dumps one into RF in front of Ichiro! for a single. Walker stops at third with absolutely no thoughts of testing Ichiro!'s arm. 1st and 3rd, no outs.

[Manny up]

Did I mention I love this lineup?

Manny works the count to 2-1. If Meche comes with a fastball here, watch out. He doesn't and Manny takes a curve in the dirt to push the count to 3-1. Fastball low for ball four. Bases loaded, no outs.

[Ortiz up]

Seattle pitching coach Bryan Price comes out to chat with Meche. Kaz Sasaki (no longer the closer) starts warming up in the bullpen. I'm gonna guess this is the earliest he has ever warmed up in a major league game before.

First pitch strike on a 84 MPH "fastball." Ortiz complains on the second strike call and homeplate ump Larry Young yells right back at him. I am of the opinion that the umps shouldn't try to escalate confrontations. 2-2 to Ortiz now. Ortiz loops a single over 3B on an "inside-out" swing to score 2 runs.

[5-0 Red Sox - Millar up]

Meche's 100th pitch of the game is pulled foul by Millar, bringing the count to 1-2. Millar pops the 1-2 pitch up to SS for the 1st out.

[Nixon up]

Gil Meche's day is done, as Kaz Sasaki comes in to relieve him after 4 1/3 innings pitched, 5 runs in and 2 more on the bases. Sasaki goes 2-0 to Nixon on back-to-back 88 MPH fastballs. Nixon smokes the 2-0 pitch to CF, but Cameron makes the catch for the 2nd out.

[Mueller up]

Mueller comes out of his shoes on a 2-2 pitch and lines it deep to RF, but it slices foul. He then smokes one off the top of the Green Monster in left-center, for a 2-run double.

[7-0 Red Sox - Varitek up]

This lineup is like a machine. Everyone has long at bats, everyone fouls off pitches, everyone shows good discipline and everyone can flat out hit. Add in the fact that there is a huge green wall like 275 feet away in LF and it's almost not fair. Varitek pops up the 1-0 pitch to 3B for the 3rd out.

[Top 6th, 7-0 Red Sox - Boone up.]

Boone smokes the first pitch right up the middle for a single to CF.

Pedro runs it to 3-0 on Olerud, as Bronson Arroyo (just called up from AAA) starts warming in the bullpen. Pedro throws a 86 MPH fastball well inside, for a 4-pitch walk. 1st and 2nd, none out.

[Cameron up]

Cameron swings over a 78 MPH changeup on the first pitch. Pedro gets ahead 0-2 on 87 MPH heater. Cameron hits the 0-2 pitch very hard, but grounds it to Mueller at 3B, who goes to 2B for the force. Todd Walker tried to turn two, but he got absolutely nothing on the throw to 1B, getting it there in like 12 bounces.

[Winn up]

Pedro goes 2-1 to Winn with a 87 MPH fastball in the dirt. Winn lines the 2-1 pitch to deep left-center, but Johnny Damon runs under it to make the catch. The runner tags and scores from third easily to make it 7-1 with 2 outs. Johnny Damon may throw like a girl, but he sure can go get it.

[Guillen up]

Guillen takes a home run cut at a first-pitch changeup and misses it by 3 feet. Pedro throws him the same pitch again and Guillen loops a single over Walker's head and into RF. 1st and 3rd, 2 outs.

[Davis up]

Pedro gets a visit from Boston pitching coach Dave Wallace. I'd say it's very likely this is Pedro's last batter, regardless of what happens. Davis swings at the 2nd pitch and grounds out to 2B for the final out.

[Bottom 6th, 7-1 Red Sox - Damon up]

Pedro is getting handshakes and hugs in the Boston dugout, so he's done. Not a bad outing from a guy with less than his best stuff. 6 innings and 1 run, with 4 Ks.

Damon lines one to LF and Winn appears to be in position to make a leaping catch and gets his glove on it, but can't make the play. Damon runs into second for a double. I think Winn thought he was closer to the Green Monster than he actually was.

[Walker up]

Walker muscles one into the gap in left-center and it rolls to the wall. Damon scores from second and Walker glides in with a double. I was just informed that the Sox have 316 doubles this year, which is amazing. I think the Red Sox and Twins tied for the MLB lead in doubles last year with like 350.

[Not bad Aaron, they did tie for the MLB lead, but with 348.]

[8-1 Red Sox - Nomar up]

Sasaki falls behind Nomar 3-0. I'd like to take this time to point out that 9 runs have scored since the last time my dog moved. Don't worry though, she is just fine. I can tell because she still manages to pass gas like clockwork every 5 minutes or so.

Sasaki comes back to get the count to 3-2, as Larry Young has a confrontation with Nomar. Nomar walks on a very close 3-2 pitch, certainly a better pitch than was called a strike on 3-1. Sasaki doesn't like it at all and even Nomar paused a little before heading to 1B.

Bryan Price comes out to visit Sasaki and the Don Orsillo sends it to some sideline reporter guy who is interviewing kids from Vermont. After about 5 questions to two different people, the only thing I learn is that they are from Vermont, the Red Sox are treating them nice and they drove some sort of boat on a "Duck Tour." Hard-hitting journalism at its best!

Sasaki gets ahead of Ramirez 0-2 and now Manny is pissed at Larry Young. Sasaki throws a fastball way outside, at which point Manny gives Young a look and says something to him. Manny lines the 1-2 pitch to RF, where Ichiro! makes a nice running catch for the first out.

[Ortiz up]

Sasaki goes 0-2 on Ortiz and throws him a nice splitter in the dirt, which Ortiz just spits at. Seems like Sasaki racked up tons of strikeouts with that pitch on 0-2 in the past. I wonder if it isn't as sharp or maybe his fastball isn't as fast, making the split less impressive?

Ortiz fouls off a 1-2 fastball away and then takes another splitter in the dirt. Ortiz didn't even check his swing on either of the splitters. Sasaki gets him swinging on a splitter in the strike zone for strike three. So much for that theory, I guess, although I would assume most of the strikeouts he gets on splitters aren't from pitches that end up in the strike zone.

Millar flies out to center for the third out of the inning.

[Top 7th, 8-1 Red Sox - Sanchez up]

I just took Kerry Collins over Tom Brady in my fantasy football draft and I am having buyer's remorse like 30 seconds later, which has to be a record of some sort.

Bronson Arroyo comes into the game to replace Pedro. This is a nice spot to get him some work in his first appearance in the majors this year. I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes the game, pitching the 7th, 8th and 9th.

Sanchez pops up the 0-1 pitch to Nomar for out number one.

[Ichiro! up]

Ichiro! is first-pitch swinging and he grounds one between 1B and 2B, which Millar makes a nice play on, flipping it to Arroyo covering 1B, to beat Ichiro! by a step.

Arroyo pitched a perfect game in AAA earlier this month, but McLemore breaks up his perfecto today by lining a single into RF.

[Boone up]

Bret Boone has to have the largest forearms in the major leagues. It is freakish looking.

Dog update: She just woke up, did the big "dog shake," hopped out of bed, went into the kitchen, got a drink of water and then hopped back into bed and went back to sleep. That means she is officially done moving for the day. For the week maybe.

Arroyo appears to have pretty good stuff. I don't remember ever seeing him pitch with the Pirates. He gets Boone to pop the 2-2 pitch to RF for the third out.

[Bottom 7th, 8-1 Red Sox - Nixon up]

Some woman from Vermont is singing "God Bless America." I'm not a big fan of God Bless America being sung during every 7th inning, in every game, but there is something sort of cool about hearing it in Fenway, you know?

Okay, I think I'm ready to make my official AL playoff predictions. I said last Friday that I thought the Twins would win the Central and I'll stick to that. I'll also say the Yankees will win the East, the A's will win the West (even without Mark Mulder) and the Red Sox will win the Wild Card, narrowly beating the Mariners.

Arthur Rhodes is in the game now, replacing Sasaki. Nixon gets a rare at bat against a tough lefty and grounds weakly to 1B for the first out.

Nixon is sort of like Boston's version of Jacque Jones. They both have simply never been able to hit lefties, even after being given hundreds of at bats against them, year after year after year. The Red Sox are a whole lot more willing to bench Nixon against southpaws now though, while the Twins keep running Jones out there like they have no idea what's going on.

[Mueller up]

With Mueller, Millar and David Ortiz, the Red Sox sure made some great, cheap pickups for the offense this year. They didn't have to give up anything to get those three guys and they paying them a total of $6 million this year. Okay, so the Jeremy Giambi acquisition didn't work out so well, but Theo Epstein isn't perfect.

Bill Mueller sure does foul off a lot of pitches. He takes the 10th pitch of the at bat for a 3-2 walk. It was pretty close and Larry Young definitely flinched behind the plate. Surprisingly, Arthur Rhodes didn't get upset.

[Varitek up]

The Mariners have a very interesting bullpen. They have 4 power guys in Sasaki, Rhodes, Armando Benitez and Rafael Soriano, yet they have a soft-tosser in Shiggy Hasegawa doing the closing now. Any of those 4 power guys could definitely close for a lot of teams and I actually think Soriano is the next Johan Santana.

Varitek loops one into RF and it drops right in front of Ichiro!. Mueller thought Ichiro! was going to catch it, so he was halfway between 1B and 2B. Ichiro! picked it up on the hop and fired a strike into 2B to force out Mueller and to rob Varitek of a base-hit.

[Damon up]

Damon slices a liner down the LF line that is called foul. The crowd boos the 3B ump loudly, despite the fact that he clearly made the right call and also the fact that the Red Sox are up 8-1. Damon grounds to 2B for the 3rd out.

[Top 8th, 8-1 Red Sox - Olerud up]

I just checked in over at the Twins message board that I frequent and there is a lengthy thread entitled "FIRE GARDY!" This is very amusing to me for some reason.

Arroyo is back out to start the 8th and Olerud laces a liner to LF that Manny Ramirez makes a very nice leaping grab on to rob him of a hit and probably a double. In one of the funnier things I have seen in a while, Manny then receives a hug from Johnny Damon, while standing in left-center.

Cameron singles to right-center. Did I mention you should read my entry about "The Most Underrated Player in Baseball"? Oh, I did? Nevermind.

[Winn up]

Winn hits the 2-0 pitch hard on the ground to Millar, who scoops it up and fires to 2B for the force play. 2 outs and a Winn on first.

I just got the news that the Royals traded two minor leaguers to the Indians for left-handed starter Brian Anderson. Anderson has had a nice year, but this isn't exactly a move that scares me as a Twins fan. I guess he's better than Kevin Appier, who appears to be on the verge of trying to pitch left-handed in his next start, just to try something that might not hurt his elbow.

Arroyo strikes Guillen out swinging on a nasty curve down and in.

[Bottom 8th, 8-1 Red Sox - Walker up]

Hasegawa is in now. So the Mariners will have used Sasaki, Rhodes and Hasegawa to finish out a blowout loss. I hope they have a day off tomorrow. (mental note: check on that after the game).

[Nope, no off day. They begin a 3-game series against the Devil Rays, in Seattle. I am a little confused as to why they would use three of their best relievers like that.]

Walker grounds out to SS for the first out.

Nomar hits a very hard grounder to 3B, which Guillen makes a very nice play on, fielding the ball off to the side and then making a nice spin and throw to 1B for out number two.

[Manny up]

I'm a little surprised the Red Sox didn't pull Nomar and Manny and put in Damian Jackson and Gabe Kapler or someone. Manny works the count to 3-2 and then lines the pitch to deeeep CF, where Cameron glides under it for the final out of the inning.

[Top 9th, 8-1 Boston - Davis up]

I just saw a local Boston ad for a "Seatbelt Law." There are lots of things to say about this commercial, but the thing I liked the best is that the commercial ends with a state trooper saying something like, "Buckle your seatbelt, it's the LAR." Gotta love those Boston accents.

Hey look at that, the Red Sox just yanked Manny for Gabe Kapler. Do you think Grady Little and I are on the save wavelength? Boy, that's a scary thought.

Davis grounds out to 2B, where Walker makes a nice to play for the first out. Arroyo is still in and it looks like he'll finish the game, just I suspected earlier. Another example of Grady Little and I thinking similarly (oh no!). Arroyo falls behind Sanchez, 3-0, tosses a "get me over" strike and then gets Sanchez to pop the 3-1 pitch up to 1B.

[Willie Bloomquist pinch-hits for Ichiro!]

Well, Ichiro! avoids any chance of a rare 0-for-5 day by being pinch-hit for. Arroyo gets ahead 1-2 on Bloomquist and then strikes him out swinging on a slider low and outside for the final out of the game.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to wake my dog up and take her outside, because my mom says she needs to go out during the day. I say that it is obvious that not only doesn't she need to go outside, she doesn't even need to move or breathe for large portions of the day.

It was fun, we'll have to do this again sometime...

Boston (76-55) 8

Seattle (76-55) 1

W: Pedro Martinez (10-3)

L: Gil Meche (13-10)

SV: Bronson Arroyo (1)

Link of the Day:

Baseball Prospectus interview with Rickey Henderson

An excellent interview with one of my all-time favorite players and one of the most entertaining personalities in baseball, by BPro's Will Carroll and Nate Silver. A must-read.

Today's picks:

Philadelphia (Padilla) -100 over Montreal (Day)

Colorado (Oliver) +140 over San Francisco (Schmidt)

Chicago (Loaiza) +155 over New York (Clemens)

Detroit (Cornejo) +180 over Cleveland (Traber)

Total to date: + 2,180

W/L record: 214-214 (0-2 yesterday for -200.)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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