February 2, 2005

Trades, Marriages, and Goodbyes

Taking a break from breaking down the Twins ...

  • I am in two Diamond-Mind keeper leagues that replay the real season that just ended (so we'll be starting the 2004 season soon), one of which has a salary cap and escalating salaries. The league includes Robert Dudek, Craig Burley, Vinay Kumar, and Joe Dimino from The Hardball Times, Kent Williams from Batter's Box, Will Young from Will Young's Minnesota Twins Page, and plenty of other really smart baseball nuts. I consider myself a very good Diamond-Mind GM, if only because I spend an extraordinary amount of time working on my roster. I've won my division all three seasons I've been in this particular league and have advanced to (and lost) the World Series in each of the past two years.

    I don't mean those tales of my success in the league to come across as bragging, but rather it is meant to prepare you for what I am about to admit to: Two nights ago, with the midnight deadline to re-sign/cut players for the upcoming season rapidly approaching, I traded for -- get ready for this -- Jose Mesa, Bobby Higginson, Henry Blanco, and Michael Tucker in three different deals, all in the course of about two hours. Shocked the hell out of me too -- it was like I was channeling the un-dead spirit of Cam Bonifay or something. Of course, before the night was over I traded Higginson, Blanco, and Tucker, leaving me with only Mesa (who was actually quite good in 2004). And yeah, I know there's nothing worse than listening to someone talk about their fantasy teams, but I just had to tell someone.

  • One off-the-field story that got far too many headlines last week was Mike Piazza's marriage. According to ESPN.com:

    MIAMI -- Mets catcher Mike Piazza married former Playboy Playmate and "Baywatch" star Alicia Rickter in a candlelight church ceremony.

    First of all, I think it's funny that in a sentence containing the phrase "Baywatch star," the word that is in quotes isn't "star." But I digress ...

    I'm not exactly in a position to criticize the looks of others (not that it has stopped me before), but the picture accompanying the article (featured to the right) is either the worst one ever taken of Alicia Rickter or ... well, let's hope for Piazza's sake that she has a serious case of the two-face.

    In other words, if the tabloids in New York spot Piazza and Rickter eating at the back booth of some hole-in-the-wall diner on Broadway and 112th Street, you'll know exactly what's going on. (And yes, if you're wondering, all of this was simply an excuse to post a picture of an ex-Playmate and make some obscure Seinfeld reference.)

  • Speaking of ESPN.com ... "Down on the Farm" author John Sickels, who is a fellow Twins fan, an excellent writer, and an all-around good guy, has written his last column there. I've known about this for a little while now and when I talked to John about it last month, he wasn't quite sure what his future plans were. I offered him a spot at The Hardball Times, but sadly we don't have the sort of revenue coming in that would allow us to pay him what he's worth.

    When I read his final column, I was surprised by how abruptly he said goodbye to his readers. There was an "editor's note" as a sidebar to the column, which said, "This is John Sickels' final Down on the Farm column for ESPN.com" and then gave some information about where you can find John's writing in the future. And then there was this at the end of the article:

    Postscript: I want to personally thank everyone who has read Down on the Farm over the years. Thank you.

    And that was it, that was his entire goodbye. Well, it turns out John had a little bit more to say in his farewell column, but apparently the ESPN.com editors cut it out. According to John, here is what he wanted to have published as his goodbye:

    The end of Down on the Farm at ESPN.com is here; this is the last column. But it is not the end of everything that stands, and we have some elaborate plans for the future.

    I began this column in the spring of 1996, so we've had a good long run. I've enjoyed it, and I hope that you, the ever-patient readers, have found it both entertaining and enlightening. Certainly, there is much more good material about the minor leagues available on the internet in 2005 than there was in 1996. I like to think that Down on the Farm has had something to do with that, helping to popularize prospect analysis and the minor leagues in general. The goal all along has been to bring prospect analysis to as wide an audience as possible, and I think we succeeded in doing that.

    There is certainly nothing strange or defamatory in that goodbye, so it seems absurdly disrespectful that ESPN.com would choose to cut what was essentially John's final words to his audience. I will continue to be a big fan of John's writing wherever he goes, and in fact I was a fan of ESPN.com's baseball coverage largely because of John's writing.

    Now John is gone, Rob Neyer is behind the for-pay wall of ESPN Insider, their minor-league coverage consists of reprinting material from Baseball America, Peter Gammons has written like three columns since the World Series, and the bylines of Buster Olney and Phil Rogers appear almost as often as pop-up ads. Thankfully Alan Schwarz, Jayson Stark, and Eric Neel (when they let him write something not for Page 2) are still around or I might forget the page even existed.

    For those of you who haven't already, go to JohnSickels.com, buy his annual book on prospects, and let him know you're looking forward to reading his work at his new home (wherever that ends up being).

  • Today at The Hardball Times:

    - Top 50 Prospects: Year in Review (21-30) (by Aaron Gleeman)

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