June 18, 2003
If I had a nickel for every...aw, nevermind!
As you may have noticed, Aaron's Baseball Blog went over the 100,000-visitor mark at around noon yesterday. Thanks to everyone who sent me an email yesterday congratulating and encouraging me, I really appreciate it.
I've got to admit that I didn't think I would be that excited about cracking the 6-digit mark, but as the total got closer to 100,000, it started becoming pretty cool.
I started this website back on August 1st of last year and my first official goal was to get someone who was not a member of my immediate family to read the site. It took a few days, but eventually some people I didn't know stumbled across it. My other big goals were to get 1,000 total visitors, and then 5,000. Then I set out for 10,000 in a month, and then 20,000 in a month. And now 100,000 total visitors.
It's really all quite unbelievable to me and it's pretty damn exciting and I am actually very proud of myself. It's hard work writing something new everyday and even harder trying to come up with stuff that (hopefully) a lot of people will find interesting to read. Writing this blog everyday has given me a new appreciation for what guys like Rob Neyer, Jayson Stark and Peter Gammons do on a daily basis.
I excitedly told my mom that the blog had reached 100,000 visitors yesterday and she said, and I quote, "You'd think at least one of those 100,000 people would want to give you a job, wouldn't you?"
I was trying to think of a really cool and original way to celebrate reaching 100,000 visitors, but I couldn't come up with anything brilliant to do.
So, instead of doing something original, I am going to steal an idea I saw on another blog I visit occasionally. Sarah Crabtree, a Michigan State student who runs a non-sports blog called "The Dub Side," had the brilliant idea to create a "Frequently Asked Questions" page about herself.
I figure now that I have reached 100,000 visitors on this site, it's pretty obvious that I am going to be around, writing this blog for a while. At the same time, I get a ton of emails everyday asking me various questions, not only about baseball and this website, but about myself in general. So, not only are you stuck with me for the forseeable future, but there are those of you out there interested in asking me stuff.
Following Sarah's lead, I want to open the floor to "questions from the audience." Ask me anything you want. It can be about baseball, about this website, about my life in general. Whatever.
Now, this whole thing may sound a little egotistical. After all, who am I to presume that you guys care about me enough to a) ask me questions about my life and b) care about the answers. And you know what? You're right, it is a bit egotistical. But so what? Isn't a guy allowed to have an ego once in awhile?
More importantly than inflating my ego, I think answering all the questions (which I will do on this blog, of course) will make for a really interesting/funny/entertaining entry, which is what the real point of all this is.
So, here's what you do:
1) Think up some questions that you want to ask me. I really don't care what they are about, just ask.
Favorite baseball player? Food? TV show? Book? Magazine? CD? Band? Actor? Actress? Supermodel? Website? Pizza topping?
Do I have any pets? If so, what are their names? What kind of computer do I use? What's my dream job? How old am I? What school do I go to? What's my major? Do I have any siblings?
Britney or Christina? Boxers or briefs? Field of Dreams or Bull Durham? Pepperoni or sausage? Magic or Larry? Mantle or DiMaggio? Democrat or Republican?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? If I could be a tree, what kind of tree would I be? So...you come here often?
What places have I traveled to in my life? What's my shoe size? How tall am I? Which superpower would I want if I could have my pick? How many people come to this website everyday? Why don't I get a real job? What weighs more, a pound of sand or a pound of feathers?
The possibilities truly are endless.
Ask me literally anything you want. I mean, what's the worst I could do, not answer them?
Knowing my readers, I bet you guys can come up with some pretty funny questions too. Funny, serious, stupid, completely-useless - whatever the questions are, just ask them.
2) Type them out and send me an email with them in it.
This is pretty self-explanitory. Chances are, if you are reading this right now, you have at least a working-knowledge of your computer. All you need to do, after you think of the questions to ask me, is click here to open up an email addressed to me, type in your questions and hit "send."
3) Wait for me to answer them on this blog.
Depending on how many questions I get, the likely time for me to post the entry answering all of them will be sometime early next week. So you don't even have to wait all that long to get your answers!
Pretty simple, right?
Trust me, it'll be entertaining. Of course, the whole key is that I get some good reader-participation. Because, without the questions, all you have is me with an empty blog entry and a bruised ego - and that's not fun for anyone involved.
Okay, now that I've got all that out of the way, let's talk about some baseball...
You may remember that, a few weeks ago, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark gave me a nice little plug in one of his columns. Well, today's the day I return the favor.
Okay, so the ESPN.com servers aren't exactly going to explode when I send all of my readers over to read Stark's most recent article, and I doubt Jayson is going to devote an entry column to thanking me for the plug (like I did), but I was reading Jayson's latest "Rumblings and Grumblings" and I thought it would be fun to make some comments on some of things he included in the article...
The Rangers seem likely to win the First Club To Make A Deal award. "They're trying to get a jump on the market," says an official of one club that has talked to them. "There's no doubt about that."
The Rangers are pushing Ugueth Urbina all over the map. But the clubs with various degrees of interest (Giants, Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees and Cardinals) don't seem to be in as big a hurry as the Rangers.
Baseball teams are very strange sometimes. This off-season, Ugueth Urbina was available to any team interested in signing him. After being let go by the Red Sox, Urbina ended up signing a 1-year deal with the Rangers for $4,500,000.
And now, just a few months after he was available to be had for less than $5 million and a one-season commitment, the Rangers are in a position to receive actual valuable players in return for trading him to another team, all because they were willing to pay his salary for like three months.
That's not to say that he's not worth trading for, because he is. And it's not to say that teams are stupid for giving up something in order to get him from Texas, because they're not. Just that, if there are so many teams interested in Urbina in June, you'd think a few of them would have been interested in him in January - when they could have had him for just a salary, instead of a salary and players.
There also have been some reports lately that the Rangers are floating the idea of attaching Chan Ho Park -- who still has roughly $50 million left on his contract -- to some of their more desirable players as part of potential deals. But an official of one club that has been talking with Texas issues a flat, "No way," on that idea.
"Can't happen," he says. "Not during the season, anyway. That would have to be like the Mike Hampton deal, where you get three teams involved and everybody's dumping money. Plus, the guy has to prove he's healthy."
If Texas GM John Hart can get some team to agree to take on Chan Ho Park in a deal for Urbina or even someone like Rafael Palmeiro (if the Rangers decide to deal him), he's a pure genius. Park has been awful since coming to the Rangers and his contract is even worse, especially in what now appears to be a less favorable market for long-term contracts than a few years ago.
There may have been more rumors so far involving Ugueth Urbina than any other reliever on the market. But clubs fishing for bullpen help report that the other bullpen guys currently attracting the most interest are Tom Gordon (White Sox), Curtis Leskanic (Brewers), Jason Grimsley (Royals), Mike Williams (Pirates), Buddy Groom (Orioles) and the one veteran the Tigers might be able to trade in the next few weeks -- (surprise) Jamie Walker.
There was some talk during the off-season that the Twins were interested in Tom Gordon, but he ended up with the White Sox and the Twins ended up with Mike Fetters as their official Veteran Right Handed Reliever. Fetters has pitched a total of 6 innings this year and now appears to be out for the season with an injury, while Gordon has been very good for the White Sox.
In fact, Flash Gordon has 45 strikeouts in just 33 innings, which works out to 12.3 per 9 innings - or 3rd best in all of baseball among pitchers with 20+ innings. He's behind only Eric Gagne (whom I discussed in some depth last week) and Mike Remlinger. This isn't the first time Gordon has posted excellent K rates. Since being moved to the bullpen full-time in 1998, his strikeout rates are: 8.9, 12.2, 13.3, 10.1 and now 12.3 this season. That's extremely good and, assuming the Sox deal him, he'll be a big part of some contender's bullpen in the second-half.
The Red Sox continue to be interested in signing Chuck Finley, if they can get his price tag below $2 million. But while teams are being told Finley is willing to play for Boston or in the midwest, an official of one interested club says he's convinced that "this guy really doesn't want to leave California, no matter what he's saying."
Can Chuck Finley just hurry up and sign with the Angels already? They know it's going to happen, he knows it's going to happen, I know it's going to happen - just do it already. I'm sick of reading about him.
Phillies scouts who have shown up at various minor-league outposts are telling people they're hunting for potential down-the-road closers -- but there's still no indication they're looking to depose Jose Mesa at any point in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, they are believed to have some short-term interest in Mike Williams as a set-up guy and an occasional closer alternative. Tom Gordon also is thought to be on their potential July shopping list.
When I first read that opening sentence, I read it as "there's still no indication they're looking to dispose of Jose Mesa..." Which would, of course, make more sense the way he's pitching this season. Michael over at "View From the 700 Level" has a "Mesa Watch" in which he keeps track of how many games it has been since Jose Mesa's last "implosion." Current streak: 2 games.
It also comes as no surprise that shortstop prodigy Jose Reyes has stepped right into the big leagues and made a case for himself to stick around for about a decade. "He's always reminded me of a young Tony Fernandez," says one scout. "Tony, when he was young, had those real fluid actions, and that's what this guy has. Very fluid. Tremendous body control. Great instincts. He's almost like an Ozzie Smith who can hit. To me, he has no limitations."
Jose Reyes is definitely the real deal and probably just about the only reason to watch the Mets for the rest of this year. I ranked him as my #5 overall prospect in all of baseball when I did my "Top 50 Prospects of 2003" article for Baseball Primer back in January. He needs a little plate discipline and some consistency on defense, but he's a hell of a talent.
Clubs that have been in contact with the Yankees continue to report that their only conversation over Ugueth Urbina was brief, came from Texas' end and consisted of an offer by the Rangers to deal Urbina for Nick Johnson. The Yankees said no, naturally, and they haven't spoken since.
Again, if John Hart can get anything even remotely close to Nick Johnson from some team in exchange for Urbina, he is the greatest GM on the planet. For the sake of Yankee fans everywhere, I hope Brian Cashman threw up on the phone when he heard that offer.
Scouts who have seen the Yankees' most advanced pitching prospect, Brandon Claussen, in the last month have done nothing but rave about how spectacular he has been. Since arriving at Triple-A Columbus a month ago, Claussen has faced 120 hitters -- and allowed only 18 hits (a .158 average). The only concern is that he's less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and no one has ever come back this fast and not hit a wall somewhere.
Teams that have inquired about Claussen report that the word they keep hearing back is "untouchable."
I just have a sneaking suspicion that, in the end, Claussen is the guy the Yankees will end up trading in order to make their usual trade-deadline pickups this year. I could be wrong, but they don't have a whole lot of other top-notch stuff to offer. Maybe John Hart is setting them up with the Nick Johnson offer, so that when he says, "Okay, I'll settle for Claussen," the Yankees actually consider it. Claussen missed being included in my top 50 prospects because of his injury, but he's a very good young pitcher.
With Claussen all but off the market, one name you should look for the Yankees to start dangling is Jeff Weaver, who is creating serious doubts about his ability to pitch in New York. But one executive says he would be wary of Weaver just about anywhere.
"He's a slinging kind of guy," the executive says, "and when he tries to pitch up, the ball is flat. With that arm action, coming out of that slot, he can't pitch up and down -- only down. And that creates real problems."
Well okay, I guess besides Claussen they also have Jeff Weaver to offer to teams. I don't think there is anything wrong with the way Jeff Weaver pitches. Whatever he was doing certainly worked okay in Detroit. His current struggles are nothing a few low-pressure innings and a competent defense behind him wouldn't fix.
Okay, so maybe Hart's real plan is to shoot for the moon in Nick Johnson, then take a step down and ask for Claussen and then "give in" to the Yankees and take Weaver off their hands for Urbina.
Bobby Cox has been in baseball for 44 seasons. So when he returns from Seattle saying Ichiro Suzuki is "the best right fielder ever," it's time to pay attention. Besides his bionic throwing arm, Ichiro is also "the fastest right fielder I've ever seen," Cox says. "He's unreal out there." Asked if a team that had Ichiro and Andruw Jones could get by playing just two outfielders, Cox chuckled: "You could play some innings that way."
I have often wondered whether or not it would be a viable plan to play 2 outfielders and 5 infielders when some pitchers are on the mound. For instance, Derek Lowe, who induces about 4 ground balls for every fly ball he allows. It's certainly a radical idea, but I think it just might be decent move in rare situations. Certainly not with a fly ball hitter like Barry Bonds at the plate, but what about someone who hits mostly ground balls, like Luis Castillo or Ichiro! himself?
Plus, how much fun would that be to watch? Can you imagine if a team had a ground ball pitcher on the mound and just 2 outfielders and the batter ripped a line drive into the gap someplace? I'd love to have that game broadcast on HBO, just so I could hear the announcer go, "Awww s%@#!" as the ball split the outfielders.
Are they starters, or are they relievers? In Minnesota, Johan Santana has made three spot starts this year -- and given up a grand total of nine hits and two runs in 18 innings. In Toronto, Kelvim Escobar has allowed one run in 17 1/3 innings over his last two starts, with a strikeout-walk ratio of (gulp) 18 to 1. So we asked a veteran scout how he would use these two if they were on his staff.
"I like Escobar better as a starter," he said, "because he's a little hyper. Starting allows him to get through the rough spots with his control. Santana, I also like as a starter, because he can get hyper, too. Some guys are better off when they start because they come in from the bullpen with too much adrenaline. I'd put both those guys in that category."
Nice to see "The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog," Johan Santana, get a little national attention. I obviously agree that he would be better as a starter, although I am not sure I have ever thought of him as "hyper" on the mound. In fact, he rarely (if ever) shows any emotion out there. He does struggle with his control at times, but I really don't think it's from being hyper.
I do think that he is better off when he gets consistent work and knows when he's going to pitch, instead of sitting in the bullpen for days and then being called into back-to-back games for an inning at a time.
That's it for today. Make sure to come back tomorrow and don't forget to think of some funny/serious/stupid/meaningless questions to ask me and send them to me by clicking here.
Chicago (Prior) -150 over Cincinnati (Wilson)
Pittsburgh (Wells) -110 over Montreal (Ohka)
Arizona (Batista) +130 over Houston (Redding)
San Francisco (Schmidt) -125 over Los Angeles (Perez)
Boston (Lowe) -140 over Chicago (Wright)
Kansas City (Snyder) -100 over Minnesota (Mays)
Toronto (Escobar) -135 over Baltimore (Helling)
Total to date: + $1,240
W/L record: 137-134 (2-4 yesterday for -230)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****