March 27, 2007
I have the second best job in the world. The best job, of course,
is being Stephen Colbert. How cool would it to be to chat with
likes of Randy Newman, Ken Burns, Richard Clarke, Steve Wozniak, Mark
James Woolsey and Daniel Ellsburg on a daily basis? Or to sing a
with Barry Manilow or Willie Nelson, guitar jam with Peter Frampton and
Nielsen or to have a light saber fight with George Lucas? Or to get a
and Jerry's ice cream flavor named after you? Or better yet, to
expose the likes of Dinesh D'Souza and Bill O'Reilly for the buffoons
they are by feeding them their own garbage on national TV? That's
the best job in the world.
Some might suggest that Jon Stewart has the same job, but as much as I
the dialogue he brings to the national stage, he's really just a late
version of Kermit the Frog. Listen to his voice the next time he
a guest, and also after each guest segment concludes... and then
how Kermit sounded at the beginning of each Muppet Show introducing the
sound familiar? I have enjoyed Stewart's work on the Daily Show
and I think he's brought issues to the forefront in a responsible
that otherwise might not have garnered much spotlight. But being
just doesn't rank in the top two best jobs... maybe third.
OK, enough chatter. Here are some observations from spring
Sosa's bat speed looks as slow as it did in Baltimore. He's still
plenty strong enough to knock a few out of the yard but the other
of his game look unchanged. I expect maybe double digit homers
a low batting average this year.
Likewise Bonds is getting a lot of attention, and he has hit a few
homers this spring, but what is different about this year is the very
thing that seperated Bonds from most hitters: his walk to strikeout
rate. Even in spring in previous years he always had more walks
than strikeouts and for the past several years those totals haven't
been particularly close,
always in favor of the walks. This year, just the opposite.
has opened up his swing in an effort to get those homers and I think
will be able to pitch to him. Notice he has 12 strikeouts in 35
at bats (only 2 walks) and that's in the thin air of Arizona where
pitches don't break as much and where pitchers are still trying to get
feel for the ball. I know a lot of people are predicting him to
passed Aaron by July or August, but I think it's going to take him much
longer and it's not going to be pretty, on the field or off.
Leo Mazzone must feel like he's back in Atlanta circa 1991. He's
got three starting pitchers on the verge of stardom plus an improved
Erik Bedard will be playing Tom Glavine, Daniel Cabrera as John
Adam Loewen as Steve Avery and Steve Trachsel in the Charlie Liebrandt
and Jaret Wright as the Beaver. The parallel works on several
as Bedard should have won more games last year for as well as he
Cabrera, like Smoltz, has taken a while to take to understand what
wants him to do and Loewen, like Avery, is a precocious young lefty
with lots of
upside who comes up huge in big games, like last year's WBC tilt
against Team USA. And like Charlie Liebrandt, Steve Trachsel has
given up a famous
home run - Liebrandt gave up Kirby Puckett's game winner in Game 6 of
1991 Series and Trachsel gave up McGwire's #62 in 1998. The O's
have a pretty deep offense and the bullpen will be better than it was
last year. John Parrish has been lights out from the left side
this spring. I
know I sound crazy when I say this but just hear me out... the Yankees
an old, injury-prone rotation, the Jays have questions in the #4 and #5
the Red Sox have their own share of questions - bullpen depth, can Drew
stay healthy, etc... it's not inconceivable that the Os might actually
Another surprise team will be the Royals. No, they won't come
close to winning the
division, and their rotation is terrible even if Gil Meche manages to
healthy enough to make 30 starts, but their bullpen has some guys who
looked really impressive this spring. Octavio Dotel, Joel Peralta
Joakim Soria have been lights out. They still need a lefty but
is a bullpen that can actually keep a lead if they can get it.
year that just wasn't true.
Likewise, the Nationals have a pretty solid bullpen, perhaps even
dominant once Luis Ayala gets completely healthy. With Cordero
closing it out and Jon Rauch, Ryan Wagner and Ray King setting him up
this is another team that will be able to keep a lot of leads.
Getting those leads will
still be a problem, though, especially in that division.
I really like Salomon Torres as the closer in Pittsburgh. Well,
let me rephrase that - I like the direction of Torres' statistical
trends. His K/BB rate, K rate, G/F rate and pitch efficiency are
all increasing in a
good way, and last year he was incredibly unlucky when it came to balls
play. My concern is that he pitched in 94 games and that kind of
workload can really grind down an arm. I suspect his poor
spring is as much due to lingering fatigue as anything. If that's
all it is and he just needs some extra rest, then I think he'll be a
closer for the Pirates. However, if last year's workload has
an injury then the Pirates will have to find someone else. If
happens, I know a lot of people are looking at Matt Capps as the guy
will step in. But he pitched in almost as many games as Torres
and is also
having a rough spring. Plus, his best pitch is a fastball that's
as straight as an arrow. Damaso Marte has some experience closing
cracked under the pressure last time and he's a lefty, two factors that
him. It might come down to whoever has the hot hand if Torres
struggles, which could mean someone who is not even on the radar at the
moment ends up with the job.
And my final and craziest prediction is that Justin Upton will finish
season as the D-backs starting centerfielder. It's not that I
think Chris Young has talent but he has some pretty big holes in his
swing and Upton, who is three years younger, already
has a better plan at the plate than Young. The D-backs don't have
enough bullpen to contend, nor does their rotation have enough quality.
They can trade Eric Byrnes at his peak value for prospects and
Young to left. Upton has been compared to a young Ken Griffey
but I think that comparison is grossly unfair to both players.
First, Griffey was/is truly a once in a lifetime talent. He
was 19 years
old when he played his first full season in the majors and had it not
for injuries we certainly would be watching him passing Ruth this year.
During his peak seasons from 1993 (age 23) to 2000 (age 30), he
47 home runs per season when healthy. Because of injuries, he's
21 per season the last six years. Those extra 20-25 home runs per
could have put his total in the neighborhood of 700 for his
career. As for Upton - he doesn't have Griffey's sweet swing or
his power but he
has better speed so maybe a better comparable would be Eric Davis.
still plenty good and as calm and relaxed as he looks at the plate it
be at all surprising to see him in the majors by the end of this season.
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