Friday, May 18, 2007

The Diary: On The Way To Philly

Friday, May 18

“I said where’d you get your information from huh?
You think that you can form a revelation cause?”

Back on the bus and heading to Philly for tonight’s game at Citizens Park between the Blue Jays and the Phils. An extra treat last night, because due to a postponement on Wednesday, the Bravos decided to make up the game by having a doubleheader comprised of two seven-inning games (no clue how they arrived at that, but it’s free baseball, so no complaints). The home team swept both games, bringing the home record on the trip to 4-0 (good karma going into Mets vs. Yanks at Shea). Rochester (Twins affiliate) went with Matt Garza in the second game, which was actually nice because he is one of the highest rated prospects in the Twins organization, and we haven’t really gotten a chance to see anyone who was major league ready, so that was a welcomed sight. Garza pitched all six innings, settling down after giving up two quick runs in the first. The Diamond…I dunno…sucks? I guess that about the only thing to describe it. I mean, the first two parks on the road trip were home to class A teams, and they beat the holy hell out of this place. You have to wonder where does the money go? It was like Doc Brown took us in the Delorean back to 1978. I would be kind of embarrassed to play there if I was in AAA. Maybe that’s me, but when you look at a stadium like McCoy, there’s not even any kind of comparison that can be made. So we’re leaving Richmond for greener pastures in Philly (not saying Richmond isn’t nice; I actually went down towards the VCU area last night, and I had a pretty good time). The weather is not looking good though. It’s been raining all day long, and they’re calling for much of the same the rest of the day, definitely not the sightseeing/baseball weather that you would hope for Hopefully, all this will pass over like it did last night, and we can get tonight’s game in. Now, a few other notes:

The Sox swept their own doubleheader, and now, have jumped out in front of the Yankees by 9 ½ games, which I would think is probably the largest margin out front since ’95? In any case, yes, it’s early, I know…but still, when your team is almost ten games out front of the most despised team to ever live, there’s some definite cause to be excited. However, a bit of bad news from yesterday was the announcement that Josh Beckett would land on the DL with that irritation problem he suffered in his last start against the Orioles over the weekend. This is definitely something to be concerned about. Beckett has been arguably the best pitcher in the major leagues this year, so when you lose a guy like that for an extended period of time (someone was telling me two-to-three weeks), there is definitely going to be some adjusting going on. Again, in what remains easily the dumbest move Theo has made so far while he’s been on the job, the Arroyo trade continues to haunt the Sox, when it appeared they had “too much starting pitching” last year. I love Wily Mo, but that trade was so lopsided that even I can’t think of anything positive to say about it. So, it would appear, hopefully, that Devern Hansack will be inserted into the starting rotation in Beckett’s absence. Look, I know that he probably needs some more reps down on the farm, but we’re still in May. Yes, the games count the same as they would in September, but the pressure of a stretch run is a whole lot different than what comes with a game in the middle of May. If they believe that Hansack can fill one of the holes that are about to be left by the departure of Schilling and perhaps Wakefield down the road, then you got to get the kid up and see what he’s made of. Personally, I don’t see Clay Buchholz getting the call yet. It’s inevitable that his time is coming, but right now, I think Hansack has just that little bit more of experience in the majors so that the bright lights won’t be as glowing as they would for Buchholz.

The Bulls put up a hell of a fight against the Pistons, but in the end, Detroit prevailed to take the series in six games. Chicago looked to be rolling along, but I have to say that winning four playoff games in a row, especially while facing elimination in all of them, has to be one of the toughest accomplishments to do in team sports (we needed bloody socks, ghosts from another dimension, and Mark Bellhorn to do it…so it’s definitely not a walk in the park). Honestly, I really think that Ben Wallace’s lack of being an offensive threat was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The guy is a dominating force in the middle in terms of rebounding and defense, but that is all you can count on him for. In the modern era, especially when you have a run-and-gun team like the Bulls, you’re going to need your center to get more than six points a night. True, you have to account for all of those shots that Wallace changes while he’s on defense, but in the case of a streaky shooting team, you need someone down low who can continue to stay consistent when the outside shooting is not there. I’m not exactly sure how well the Bulls did from the field last night, but I’m pretty sure they were unable to duplicate their performance from the first half of Game 5 (73% from the field). The reason the Pistons were able to win their championship was because yes, they worked well as a unit, but when the outside shooting wasn’t there, they were able to go inside to guys like Rasheed and even Tayshaun Prince. The Bulls trot out a very small lineup, and when their perimeter shooting is on, they are a tough team to stop, but if teams force them to beat them down low, Chicago really doesn’t stand a chance. Yes, they have P.J. Brown, who they bring in to help Wallace, but he is almost in the same mold of a defense/rebound first kind of player. We are one Cavs win away from seeing a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal between Detroit and Cleveland. Oddly enough, the Cavs find themselves in a very similar set of circumstances as they did last year. Up three games to one against Detroit, they came undone, losing three straight to the Pistons. If they have a similar showing this year, questions will start to linger about how well LeBron can lead a team. Sure, he’s only 22, but when you have the kind of experience he already has, coupled with the fact that he has basically been able to claim the leadership role of the team, the play of King James will have a 100% effect on how far the Cavs will go. Where he goes, they will go as well. LeBron needs to step it up to a level that he hasn’t quite reached yet in order to topple the Nets. It’s worth noting how absolutely nasty Jason Kidd is by the way. Can this guy seriously get any credit? I mean he is good for almost a triple double a game. Outside of LeBron, Kobe, and perhaps Steve Nash, who else can boast that? So why isn’t this guy mentioned amongst the top players in the league? This is a gigantic mystery to me. As someone who appreciates a guy who is versatile like that, I have always considered Kidd to be in at least the top 15 players in the league, but some people don’t even consider him the best player on his own team. Anyway, that’s just my outlook on things. Kidd is the Steve Nash of the East. There is no way that New Jersey could have gotten as far as they have the past few years without the play of Kidd.

Hope all of your fantasy baseball teams are doing well out there. We’re almost two months into the season, and now, it becomes time to really hawk the waiver wire and look for who’s adding/dropping certain players. I know I was able to strike gold (at least in my opinion) with some of the players who landed on the waiver wire. Also, selling high is definitely where it’s at. It’s basically the stock market, where you look for an investment that has had a good history in terms of performance, to drop in price, then snatch it up just in time for its rebound. Here are five guys you can sell high on, and another five that should be “on the cheap” right now:

Sell High:
B.J. Upton (2B/TB)- Upton has long been heralded as one of the best prospects in the Tampa organization, and so far this year, he has lived up to his billing, with a short stint at the top of the AL’s batting average category. However, from what I have noted in the past, Upton is a wild swinger, and I would say that this is going to catch up to him. I think his average is going to plummet over the next month and change until the All-Star break, and he will end up right around .275-.280. If you need a guy to steal you some bases, as well as add some occasional pop, then you may want to hang on to Upton. But if your team is already pretty stable, and you’re looking to upgrade, this guy is at his maximum trade value right now, so sell while he is still playing over his head.

Joe Borowski (RP/CLE)- Although his ERA is pretty high, Borowski is amongst the league leaders in saves, and has been very effective in his last few outings. However, he seemingly has a knack for imploding every so often, and I believe that one of these times, it will lead to the meltdown of Borowski. Try and get (the guy from the Cubs) or (the guy from the Blue Jays) to get you some saves for now. Borowski is going to be trouble in the coming months.

Al Reyes (RP/TB)- This is almost in the same mold as Borowski, in that you have a guy, who right now looks fairly sharp, but you know inevitably he will revert back to his prior history, and wander into the world of mediocrity. Reyes is a journeyman, much like Borowski, meaning that he definitely has some wear, which is going to start hurting him around July. For now, Reyes has done a very good job in the limited time he gets (being the closer for Tampa doesn’t really put you on a stable work schedule). Still, if you are able to get a younger guy, like the two mentioned above, or even look at a position player who can play multiple positions for help your depth, or even to fill a utility spot.

J.J. Hardy (SS/MIL)- Ok, this is a tough call, because Hardy could very well be one of the better shortstops in the league, and those are hard to come by, so it really depends on how flexible you are in terms of filling that hole. Hardy has gotten off to a torrid start, leading the National League in homers. However, for a guy who hasn’t shown a tremendous amount of power at any level, it almost brings me back to two years ago, when Brian Roberts (Gamecock!) was setting the world on fire in his first couple of months, but cooled off significantly after the All-Star break. I expect the same thing to happen to Hardy. You can’t honestly expect a middle infielder to continue this kind of pace and hit 40 home runs. It’s just not logical. Sure, guys have done it in the past, but when you’re talking about guys like A-Rod and Soriano, you knew they had a tremendous amount of pop, and that they were capable of getting to those levels. I don’t recall anyone saying at the beginning of the year that Hardy would even hit 20. I think he’s a great player and all, but I think his numbers will start to even out, and he’ll return from the stratosphere much like Upton.

Jason Marquis (SP/CHC)- Marquis is a good #3-#4 pitcher, but has looked very good so far this season, posting a 2.22 ERA through the first two months. Marquis is another kind of guy whose past will reflect how he will do for the remainder of the year. I find that this is true when you talk about pitchers. It is incredibly rare to find a guy who will have a breakout season after having a bunch of years with average stats. Marquis also plays for the Cubs, and their offense is up and down, so Marquis’ wins will start to diminish as time wears on.

Buy Low:
Chone Figgins (3B/ANA)- To say Figgins has been off to a rough start does not even begin to describe it. He’s hitting right around the Mendoza line (.200), and his steals have not been worth a lot. However, Figgins is primed to bust out of his slump once he is able to shake his nagging hand injury and return back to full health. Be advised to keep track of his progress, because if this injury is more severe than it has been reported, then you can’t really rely on that coming through for you. But if it is just minor, then Figgins will be poised to have a big second half. He’s probably on a team, and if you’re lucky, he may even be on the wire, so pick him up if you can, especially if you need SBs.

Nick Markakis (OF/BAL)- Markakis is one of the best young players in the AL, and it should be noted that he had a great second half last year. He is still getting used to being an everyday player, but those days are numbered as far as his inexperience. Once he settles in, he is good for around 30 homers a year.

Erik Bedard (SP/BAL)- This guy may be a little more harder to get than Markakis, but this Oriole shouldn’t be too tricky to obtain. The key to Bedard is that he thrives on making people swing and miss, and although he is close to the lead in the AL in strikeouts, Bedard’s record and ERA have not reflected how potentially dominant he could be. Never underestimate the power of a power left-handed pitcher.

Bronson Arroyo (SP/CIN)- Yes, this guy again. Arroyo has a minuscule 2.87 ERA on the season, and is easily good for 15 wins this year. His wiry frame is cause for concern in terms of health, but he has done it before, and I believe health will not be an issue for Bronson. His record doesn’t look to hot right now, so if possible, try and take advantage of a more inexperienced fantasy player, or one that is quick to drop players who don’t have eye-popping stats. Arroyo is the real deal. He has one of the best sliders in all the majors.

Kyle Davies (SP/ATL)- He’s off to a rough start, but hang in there, because this guy showed a lot of promise last year, and I think the sky is the limit in terms of what he can accomplish in the Braves’ system. Although Leo Mazzone is no longer the pitching coach there, I see Davies really settling in and making a name for himself in the NL East.

That’s all for now. I’ll be giving you a wrap from Philly tomorrow, and then, big day on Saturday, as I will be first touring Madison Square Garden, then going on over to Queens and Shea Stadium to watch the Subway Series with the Mets and Yankees, and after that, taking in a bit of the NY nightlife. Thanks for reading as always. Take care. Peace.


No comments: