February 29, 2004

Notes from the Weekend

It's almost enough to make me like the Yankees. Almost.

For the few who don't already read Alex Belth's wonderful Bronx Banter blog on a regular basis, let me try to convince you to start.

In preparation for what looks like a mildly entertaining year for Yankee fans, Alex's site is featuring a series of articles previewing the 2004 season. Not just your run-of-the-mill preview stuff either, this is quality and quantity from some of the best writers around.

Alex has called on the amazing assortment of writers who cover the Yankees to each contribute something, including...

- Ben Jacobs of the Universal Baseball Blog Inc. on Mike Mussina.

- Steven Goldman of Baseball Prospectus and the YES Network with a piece "In Defense of Jason Giambi".

- The host of the festivities, Alex Belth, and Rich Lederer of Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat, on New York's Odd Couple, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.

- Cliff Corcoran of Clifford's Big Red Blog on the best shortstop in New York, Alex Rodriguez.

- The Futility Infielder himself, Jay Jaffe, on one of the most underrated players in baseball, Jorge Posada.

- Chris DeRosa on Mariano "Exit light, enter night" Rivera.

And as if all of that weren't enough, Alex has put together an amazing roundtable of baseball writers to discuss some of the most interesting questions facing the Yankees in 2004. Don't believe me? Check out the names he got to contribute to the first part of the discussion (there's a whole new set of guys coming for round two!):

- Larry Mahnken of the The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, who is a buddy of mine, one of my favorite bloggers, and perhaps the most pessimistic Yankee fan of all-time.

- Tim Marchman of The New York Sun, who is doing some of the best work you'll find from a baseball writer at any newspaper in the country.

- Alan Schwarz of Baseball America and ESPN.com, who has worked himself into my inner-circle of guys I "must read" over the past year or so.

- Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, who is simply one of the best baseball writers around, period.

- Joel Sherman of The New York Post, one of the few local New York writers whom I think "gets it."

- Buster Olney of ESPN.com.

- Glenn Stout, long-time baseball author and historian.

If that's not a Murderer's Row of Yankee experts, I don't know what is. Head on over there if you have a day or two to kill, because the writing and discussion is fabulous and plentiful.

Coincidence? Uh, yeah...

Baseball Prospectus had an "interesting" interview with new Seattle GM Bill Bavasi posted this weekend. The interview is part of their "premium" content, so it's off-limits for non-subscribers. However, here's a little piece that caught my eye...

When asked, "What was the thought process and how much do you think you'll lose defensively, moving from Mike Cameron to Randy Winn in center?" Bavasi responds, in part:

We took that left fielder, moved him to center field, and we think we had a real firm upgrade offensively in center. We think people will be real surprised when they see Randy play center field every day. It was the same kind of thing with Darin Erstad in Anaheim. Sometimes you don't really a player's true ability when he's just filling in at a position defensively here and there, the way Darin was doing in the beginning, spelling Jim Edmonds.

But often when you give a player like that a chance to prove himself every day, he will look really good. If he swings through a lot less pitches than Mike, the way we expect, you like that too.

First of all, this is about the 100th time so far this off-season someone in Seattle has chosen to say something negative about Mike Cameron. I have to say, I just don't understand it.

Sure, the guy is no longer on your team, but he was a Gold Glove center fielder in Seattle who, despite his faults offensively, was still a very valuable hitter every year. His overall game made him one of the best 5-10 center fielders in all of baseball while with the Mariners.

Meanwhile, Bavasi is under the impression that Randy Winn is somehow going to be a "real firm upgrade offensively in center."

Randy Winn has a career Equivalent Average of .265 and he had a .278 EqA last season. Mike Cameron has a career Equivalent Average of .276 and he had a .276 EqA last season. If there's a clear upgrade offensively there (or any upgrade), I'm not seeing it.

I'd be willing to bet just about all the money in the world that Mike Cameron will be a more valuable offensive player than Randy Winn in 2004. Of course, he'll also almost certainly strikeout a lot more than Winn, which brings me to the funniest part about Bavasi's response.

"If [Winn] swings through a lot less pitches than Mike, the way we expect, you like that too."

Why is that funny? Well, on the same day Baseball Prospectus ran that interview with Bavasi, they also ran an article entitled "Just Another Out," which looks at whether or not a strikeout is any worse than other kinds of outs.

That article is not part of their premium content, so you can read it for yourself and find out exactly what their findings on strikeouts are. Suffice it to say Bavasi's thoughts and the actual numbers aren't exactly in agreement.

Speaking of Alex Belth (and are we talking Willie Mays 1955 or Willie Mays 1973?)

I came across an article over the weekend in The New York Journal News entitled "A growing sports voice."

It is about baseball bloggers writing about the Yankees and Mets, including guys like Alex Belth, Jay Jaffe, Cliff Corcoran, Doug Pappas, Larry Mahnken and several others.

I started reading the article and thought it was a really good piece. Then I got to the 9th paragraph and saw this:

Belth and many other bloggers were first inspired by Aaron Gleeman, Jay Jaffe and David Pinto, the Willie, Mickey and the Duke of this fledgling genre. They were among the first and are now three of the best-read bloggers.

As you can probably imagine, that's the first time I've been called "the Willie Mays" of anything and I'm quite honored. Now, if I can just get some Minnesota-based newspapers to pay attention to the work I'm doing, my ego-trip will be complete. Anyone know if the University of Minnesota has a student newspaper? Wait...nevermind...

Here is one of my favorite parts of the article (aside from the part that mentioned me, of course):

If Stephen Keane goes a few days without adding to his Mets blog, "The Eddie Kranepool Society," he gets e-mails asking if he feels well.

"That's the greatest feeling in the world," the Staten Island resident said.

I know what Stephen means. It's not often that I skip a day on this blog, but when I do, I feel compelled to explain myself beforehand.

I am often asked if it is difficult to write something new every single day. It definitely is, but one of the main things that keeps me motivated is the knowledge that there will be a couple thousand people wondering why they don't have something new to read if I slack off. As Stephen said, that's the greatest feeling in the world.

One in four, February has one more

I would like to admit to an addiction. No, nothing serious (although I did have quite a few Vodka and Sprites this weekend). I am addicted to checking the number of visitors this site gets.

I check the numbers constantly. From my room, from class, from other peoples' computers. I check the numbers so often that I have figured out what "good" totals are for each hour of the day. For instance, I know that if there have been more than 200 visitors by 2 a.m. the day is off to a good start. If there aren't 1,200 by noon it's probably not going to be a very good day. And on and on.

What's my point? Well, nothing really, although they do say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

I do want to thank everyone who stopped by to read what I had to say in February. It was the 18th month in a row that the traffic for this blog has risen. Despite having just 29 days, February had the most traffic in the 19-month history of this blog, checking in at just shy of 55,000 visitors.

An additional thanks to everyone who has kept coming here every day throughout the long off-season. We've got real, live baseball coming very soon, which is always good news for the content of a baseball blog. In other words, if you're relatively new here and you've been enjoying it, just wait until there is actually some baseball for me to write about!

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

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