Friday, March 31, 2006

Fantasy Baseball 2006 & Player Rankings

It's that time of year again. Where all of us "statheads" and wannabe General Managers, put our knowledge of the game and its players to the test to battle it out for bragging rights, pride, glory, and it some cases wads of cash. I do it because it's fun, it makes me more involved, and nothing beats talking trade! That's one of my favorite aspects. In the Diamond Mind league I'm in (the BTTF) I'm a pretty active trader. This is my 3rd full year in the league and my roster isn't anywhere near what it was when I took over the team. The only annoying thing when talking trade is that every league has that group of owners that totally overvalue their talent and will only make a trade if they totally rake the other team over the coals. That's not my MO. I always look to make trades with the teams that have a surplus of what I need and I have something they could use. I think I'm a pretty savvy trader, but then again who doesn't?
I'm a "commissioner" of a league of 14. I don't really want to be the commish, but all the role really entails is registering the league, setting it up, and getting everyone to sign up. It's one of the free Yahoo leagues. It's a head-to-head league based on 15 offensive and 15 pitching categories. It's a private league so I know everyone involved. It's been the same cast of characters year after year with a few new additions along the way. The newbies have been a welcomed addition because some of the oldies just set up a team, don't like how it's going and lose interest at some point during the season. We have 1 team whose strategy is to draft all Yankees. Since we're all across the country and it'd be impossible for us to do a live draft, we pre-rank everyone and Yahoo makes selections for us. Every year, the "Yankee" strategy results in a last place team. Most of the Yankees main talent are drafted in the early rounds, so guys like Tanyon Sturtze and Mike Stanton end up being their early round picks. Not a good strategy, but whatever makes it fun. And that's what we're all about: a fun league. We're not overly competitive and like I said, some lose interest half way through the season, sometimes even earlier. We've added more people that stick it out and add some competitiveness, so it's a lot of fun. 3 newbies from last year made the postseason which i want to say was 6 teams. This will be our 4th year on Yahoo (I think). I'm the defending champ and I've never finished lower than 3rd. I've done pretty well in fantasy leagues. I started playing them back in high school (circa 1990-1991). I won the first won I was in, then the second. I don't think I've ever placed lower than 4th. Not bad.
To expand a little bit on our league, we've been doing it for about 4 years with Yahoo. The first year I want to say the scoring was based on fantasy points. Your players would earn points based on statistical achievements. A single would be 1 point, double would be 2, etc. Pretty much every stat had a point value assigned to it. It was okay but there were ways to work around the system. One guy's strategy was to continuously pick up and drop pitchers. He would try and pick up guys that were pitching twice in a week. It worked as it got him to the championship game, which he won, beating me. The 2nd year we went to the head-to-head format. You would match up against 1 team and the game would last 1 calendar week. Scoring was based on 15 offensive categories and 15 pitching categories. The team with the better total at the end of the week would earn 1 point for each category they won. They keep a running total of points won, points lost, and points where you tied. That made up your Win/Loss record. It followed the standard format where teams were ranked by winning percentage. The top 6 teams make the postseason to battle for the championship in a tournament style format. Top 2 teams earn a bye with the championship lasting 2 weeks. The one drawback of the head-to-head format is that you may be able to win a lot of points with minimal participation by your players, particularly in the pitching categories. If a guy pitched a complete game shutout you were set. We learned that the hard way in our first year as we didn't set a minimum innings pitched limit. We've since put in the rule that you have to have a minimum of 45 innings pitched in order for your pitching stats to count. If you fail to make the minimum, you lose every pitching category (it's happened once). Rosters are set at 30 players. The offensive stats are accumulated by your daily lineup, which consists of 1 player at each position and a "DH," and the lineup can be changed daily. The pitching is 5 SPs, 4 RPs and 2 Ps. We've set a limit on in-season free agent pick-ups at 12 as we find it prevents the first guy to log on from picking up every guy under the sun. This year we'll have a 10 man bench so it shouldn't be a problem.
Now my friend Don has been calling me every day asking "how many people we got now?" I always tell him to check his computer and look for himself. God, he's annoying sometimes. He's called me 4 times already today. But that's because today is the day we "draft." I, being the commish, make the draft "live" tonight at 12am EST, I click the little button to change the draft status and we're a go. The draft order is set to random and he system will make selections based on pre-rankings, which are already set up for the lazy man, but if you're like me, you spend a good while moving guys around (maybe that's why I do so well). I've just finished my rankings and hopefully they land me another winner. I don't know that I really have a strategy. Usually, the pre-rankings are decent enough not to warrant many changes, but everyone has guys they like, guys they don't so some tweaking is necessary. My first step is to look for the guys I don't want and move them to my "don't draft me" list. This year's victims were AJ Burnett, Keith Foulke, Wood and Prior, Piazza, Nomar, Bagwell and a bunch of chumps I don't want to get stuck with like Tanyon Sturtze and BK Kim. The pre-rankings listed A-Rod as the #1 guy. I moved him to #2 behind Albert Pujols. I think Pujols is the man is going to have another MVP-type season. A-Rod sometimes scares me but I'd still take him on my team any day of the week. The rest of my top 10 goes as follows (Yahoo's ranking in parenthesis): Vlad Guerrero (3), Manny (5), Johan Santana (6), Big Papi (7), Derrek Lee (8), Mark Teixeira (4), David Wright (11) and Roy Halladay (27). I knocked Michael Young (9) and Carl Crawford (10) down my list to 16 and 17 respectively. I'm gambling on Halladay. I'm picking him for the AL Cy Young (he better stay healthy). The other player I moved up quite a bit was "Pronk," better known as Travis Hafner (34). I'm high on the Tribe for 2006 and Hafner is going to lead their charge. One strategy i do have is to try and load up on closers. They're more valuable in our league than middle relievers and there are always guys that miss the boat on a closer and I can always use one as trade bait (last year I had Nathan, Lidge, K-Rod and a guy who's name is escaping me -- I ended up trading Lidge for Mark Buehrle. I credit that trade in helping to win it all). This year I've ranked what I feel are the top closers at spots 26-31. Rivera (51), Lidge (62), Street (72), Wagner (65), Nathan (67) and Francisco Rodriguez (63). I may miss out on a few key position players but I think it's a good gamble. My other strategy is to move up guys I think will have good years that the rest of my league will either overlook or not move up in their rankings (some only rank a certain amount). Many are highly touted rookies. I moved Francisco Liriano (204) into the 60s (I'm guesstimating now as it's too many guys to count.) Other guys I'm banking on (in no particular order) are Josh Willingham (234), Paul Maholm (379), Jeremy Hermida (896), Hanley Ramirez (880), Delmon Young (895), Joey Gathright (577), Prince Fielder (154), Zack Duke (151), Matt Cain (150), Anthony Reyes (669), and Jeff Mathis (850), and Ian Kinsler (893). I'm not hoping to get them early but the goal is to land them as back-ups, that way I'm not wasting time waving chumps the system drafts for me to pick them up. Hopefully, that strategy works.
T-minus 5 minutes until the draft is marked as ready. I'm pretty sure it's not instantaneous so I'll probably have to wait until morning to see the outcome. Here's hoping this year I get a high pick (usually I'm in the 9-12 range....stupid Yahoo) and I get a team I'm happy with. I pretty sure I'll be trading into another winner if I'm not happy. I'm pretty confident that "Da Hamburglers" will repeat as champs!! (I live in a town called Hamburg). I'll post my roster tomorrow assuming the draft is done.
Take care and if you read this whole post that means you're either my father-in-law Dave (have fun in Vegas!!), or you really like reading blog entries (like me).

2006 Predictions = AL Central

The Central Division! Home to the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. The team that no one (that I know of any way) predicted would succeed as well as they did in 2005. Much of that can be credited to Ozzie Guillen. Personally, I think the Sox played above their heads last year, almost blowing a double-digit lead and winning the division by the skin of their teeth. But, it was well deserved and they were the best team in the bigs last year. But it's a new year, and the question is can they do it again?
1)Cleveland Indians: The hottest team at the end of '05. Another team made up of excellent young talent. Hafner will have a monster year. Sizemore and Peralta. Jason Michaels will be an adequate if not better replacement for Coco Crisp. Lee, Westbrook and CC are all poised to have big years. If Victor Martinez and Aaron Boone can get off to better starts than last year, the Tribe will be extremely dangerous. Andy Marte will get the call if Boone falters. Either way, he'll likely see some time (just don't get called up until I get your autograph).
2)Chicago White Sox: The Sox have bettered themselves with the additions of Vazquez and Thome. With Buerhle, Garland, Vazquez, Garcia and Contreras as the starting five, the Sox have arguable the best rotation in baseball. I don't foresee the same success for the staff as seen last year in the playoffs. Again, I think the Sox had a magical year where everything went right. They will go the way of the 2005 Red Sox. They'll contend, but won't have the same success.
3)Minnesota Twins: A line-up with some potential if healthy and an impressive staff always make the Twins a dangerous team to contend with. Any team with Johan Santana always has the potential to make waves. Expect rookie Francisco Liriano to have a high-impact rookie season. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Indians and White Sox are in their division so they'll finish in the middle, again.
4)Detroit Tigers: Another team with expanding potential. Bonderman is on the cusp of being Cy Young worthy. They'll need great years from Magglio and Pudge to make the climb up the ladder. Pudge's numbers dropped significantly in 2005 (decline due to the 'roids?) and could be candidate for Comeback Player of the Year . He can't do much worse than his .290 OBP in 2005, his lowest since his rookie season. Will likely finish with similar record to 2005.
5)Kansas City Royals: Even with the signings of Grudzielanek and Sansders, the Royals will still be the Central Division bottom feeders. The big story in KC is the mental stability of Zack Greinke. The only good news for the Royals is that the wife and I will be visiting their park in August.
Tomorrow, I'll wrap it up with the AL East and maybe even finish it all off with postseason predictions and major award winners. If not tomorrow, by game time Sunday.
Stay hot!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

2006 Predictions = AL West

The AL West is pretty much a two team race, much like it has been for the last few years. The cream normally rises to the top and the cream of the AL West is usually the A's and the Angels. This year being no exception.
1)Oakland A's: Quite arguably the league's best rotation resides in Oaktown. They're young and they're good. The only question in the staff is Loaiza. But Zito, Blanton, Harden and Haren should rack up plenty of wins to carry the load. Street will dominate for years to come. Eric Chavez will put up MVP caliber numbers and if the Big Hurt stays healthy, watch out.
2)Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: A good team but the A's overtook them. Colon anchors a rotation that has a lot of uncertainties. Jeff Weaver was a good pick-up but I'm a Yankee fan and can't forget his season in the Bronx. K-Rod's numbers will continue to fall, but he'll still be pretty dominant. The loss of Molina will hurt the offense. GA needs to improve his OBP and I keep waiting for Dallas McPherson to become the great player he's supposed to be. Rumors are floating that he may be traded.
3)Texas Rangers: Greatly improved but still well behind in the talent department compared to Oakland and Anaheim. The offense will no doubt put up good numbers in Arlington, but the pitching staff will feel the hit of playing there as well. They'll miss Soriano's bat but certainly won't miss his defense. Teixieira will showcase his awesome power. Hopefully for Rangers fans, his performance in the WBC isn't a sign of things to come.
4)Seattle Mariners: Expect a big year from Ichiro. I think the WBC has re-energized him and his talents will be showcased this year more so than in year's past. Johjima is a welcomed addition. The bullpen remains the M's Achilles heel. Pitching wins ballgames and the Mariners don't have the staff that rivals much of the league. King Felix will shine if his arm holds up. It'll be interesting to see what effect the increase in innings pitched will have on him.
Tomorrow, the Central.....

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

2006 Predictions = NL West

I noticed on Reid's blog "Baseball is Heaven's Gift to Mortals" that he's not a big fan of the NL West. Maybe if I spent some time in the help file I could create a link his post, but I'm lazy and don't want to put forth the effort. Maybe I'll do it later. My wife gets sick of hearing that phrase when she asks me to do something. This reminds me, the bathroom needs cleaning. I'll do it later. Anyway, the NL West. I agree with Reid that the NL West is a horrible division. I'm all in favor of contracting them into the Pacific Coast League. Unfortunately, that won't happen. So, we're left with allowing a .500 ballclub into the playoffs. Now even though only 1 team in the division last year cracked the .500 mark, which was by the thinnest of margins, that doesn't necessarily mean the division itself won't be a tough division to win. The teams will pretty much beat up on each other and none will really distance themselves from their opponents. It'll come down to wire and somebody has to win the division, only to get beat in the first round of the NLDS. Who will it be? Keep reading.....
1)Los Angeles Dodgers: Adding Furcal, Mueller, and Nomar to the lineup make them one of the division's better offenses. A solid rotation gets better with Jae Seo and the pen is improved with Baez and Lance Carter. If Gagne remains healthy, Grady Little will succeed in his first go-around as Dodgers skipper.
2)San Francisco Giants: The Giants are still a good team and with Bonds in the lineup will challenge for the division. They're an old team which may wear them down a little. The rotation has the potential to dominate with Morris, Schmidt, Lowry and Cain but also has the potential to be very inconsistent. Bonds will no doubt miss time but should put up decent power numbers, assuming he sees pitches to hit.
3)San Diego Padres: Last year's division champs (I'm ashamed to refer to them as champs) will struggle to repeat. Peavy and Park looked sharp in the WBC but not many pitchers didn't. Piazza will add no value. The lone Padre bright spot may be in the play of Josh Barfield, who will make a run at the NL ROY.
4)Arizona Diamondbacks: The offseason's biggest winner was Brandon Webb as the D-Backs acquired Orlando Hudson to gobble up all of the ground balls he gets. Not enough improvements to contend. Will need huge years from El Duquee, Ortiz, Shawn Green and Luis Gonzalez to have a remote shot. Won't happen, but it's the NL West so who knows?
5)Colorado Rockies: There's nothing to see here. Todd Helton, if healthy, will have a great year but hey it's the Rockies.
3 divisions down, 3 to go. Tomorrow brings us to the AL West. We;ll work our way from the west coast to the east coast and wrap things up Saturday with the AL East. Until next time, take care.
Hey look at that! All I had to do was click a button, cut and past a URL and I have a link. That was pretty easy. Maybe now I'll go clean the bathroom. Who am I kidding? I'll do it later.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

2006 Predictions = NL Central

To me, the NL Central is one of the harder divisions to predict as there are a lot of unknowns. Will Clemens pitch for the Astros? Will Kerry Wood's arm fall off? Will the Cardinals have a healthy Scott Rolen? So much to consider. The only thing I know for sure is that the Reds will be the Central division cellar dweller and it will be a close race with the top 3 teams finishing within a few games of each other.
1)Houston Astros: Bagwell's gone but I don't foresee Houston having a problem with the Rocket as I think he'll be back in Houston. The pitching staff remains solid and carries the 'Stros to the top of the division.
2)Milwaukee Brewers: The Brew Crew will surprise everyone and make a run at the top but will come up short. Bernie Brewer will get plenty of exercise and Ned Yost will be candidate for Manager of the Year.
3)St. Louis Cardinals: The loss of Grudzielanek and Reggie Sanders will have a big impact on the offense. Carpenter will lose some run support and the bullpen is weakened with the loss of Tavarez. The variable is Rolen. A healthy Rolen can shake things up.
4)Pittsburgh Pirates: Could this be the year the Pirates get to .500? They'll flirt with it all year and a lot rests on their young arms. J-Bay will have a monster year and get some consideration for MVP.
5)Chicago Cubs: I don't have much faith in the Cubs to crack the .500 mark. Too many questions about the health of Wood and Prior. Maddux is in his 20th year and will continue to see an increase in his numbers (ERA, WHIP, OBA) and probably won't win 15 for the 2nd straight year. If Pierre can increase his .OBP and set the table for Lee, it's possible the Cubbies will win 81. Lee's numbers will be more in line with 2003/2004.
6)Cincinnati Reds: When Arroyo is your number 1 starter, you're in trouble. The Redlegs need to keep Freel off the road and on the basepaths. Reds pitching needs to be greatly improved. Expect to see many moves made around the trading deadline. Could easily lose 100 games.
Tomorrow, I'll wrap up the NL with my NL West predictions. Take care and have a great day. Baseball is only 5 days away!!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

2006 Predictions = NL East

With opening day less than a week away, I figured what better time than now to make my official predictions for the upcoming season. It'll be interesting to look back on this come October to see how right or wrong I am. Hopefully, I have better success with these than I did with my March Madness bracket. George Mason??? If they can beat UCONN than the Devil Rays have a shot at the AL East, right? Unlikely, but then again, George Mason could be National Champs next week. So I guess anything is possible. I'll start with the National League and work my way through the divisions, 1 per day, or more as my schedule allows. Let's start with the NL East.
NL East:
1)Atlanta Braves: Until they get knocked from the top spot I have no reason to pick against them. Cox will find a way to win another, even with Mazzone moving up the coast.
2)New York Mets: Minaya may have done enough to make it a close race but will will fall a little short. May pull off the wild card if health of Pedro and Wagner hold up.
3)Philadelphia Phillies: Howard will likely avoid sophomore slump and have an MVP type season but the pitching staff will falter.
4)Washington Nationals: Soriano's bat in RFK won't help the Nats. Team's second season won't be as successful as first.
5)Florida Marlins: They may have the best record in spring training but that just means they have the best minor leaguers, which is basically what the Marlins are. It doesn't help that Cabrera has no protection in the lineup. Girardi's first year in Florida will be a success if the team wins 70.
You can't pick against the Braves. They've won the division 14 straight years. Until someone unseats them from their throne, they have be the favorite to win the division. Smoltz and Chipper are a year older but they have plenty of youth that has shown they can make an impact. Renteria will be a welcomed addition to the offense. Come October, the Braves will win stake claim to their 15th straight division title.
Tomorrow: NL Central

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Somebody Fill Me In

I was listening to MLB on XM today, which I do all day everyday, and I heard mention of the 3 hit batters in yesterday's Sox/Yankees game. I saw Jeter get plunked in the back, but I missed the other 2 (I was flipping back and forth watching Lost). According to the accounts on the radio, the pitches thrown by Myers and Riske looked like errant throws, and Sturtze's looked intentional (Way to go T!). If anyone saw the game, let me know your thoughts.
It's spring training and already tempers are flaring between the Red Sox and Yankees. I can't wait until they hook up in May. Damon's return to Boston. Should be fun to watch!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Red Sox V. Yankees Round 1

Unless I misread the schedule, today was the only spring meeting between the Red Sox and Yankees. I know it's only spring training and the games really mean diddly, but whether you're a Yankee fan or a Red Sox fan, you don't ever want to lose to the other guy, even if it's meaningless. In typical Yankee/Sox fashion it was a close game with the Yanks eeking out a victory 5-4.
Chalk one up for the good guys! But I can't get too excited. After all, the game ended with Kyle Farnsworth getting Enrique Wilson to fly out to center with the tying run on 1st. Not quite Rivera vs. Ortiz. It'll be a lot different when the teams head north and meet up in early May. It's not too far away.
Here's hoping we see results similar to tonight's game.....
In other Yankee news, Jorge Posada broke his nose during infield practice while playing catch with Kelly Stinnett. Isn't the first thing you learn when you play catch to keep your eye on the ball? The second thing you learn being not to throw it when the other guy isn't looking. "Uh, sorry Jorge. I thought you were looking." Wow, Stinnett really must want to be the starting catcher. Jorge better sleep with one eye open. If you're a Posada fan, you don't need to worry, he'll only miss a few days.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sorry. Ah, No!

"Put me in coach. I'm ready to play, (clap clap) today."
Something tells me that Alfonso Soriano isn't signing that tune. The ex-Yankee second-sacker is refusing to play the OF for the Washington Nationals. Soriano was put in the lineup for Monday's spring training game against in LF, but refused to play, and instead sat out. I like Alfonso but come on, where does he get the nerve? I understand he's in a contract year and stands to lose a lot of $$ if he totally tanks in LF. But, that still is no reason to act like a 4-year old that doesn't want to eat his veggies. The Nationals can place Soriano on a "disqualified list," which means he doesn't get paid and loses his service time, and quite frankly I hope they do that. Why does Soriano think he's above the ballclub? The answer, he's looking out for number 1.
The Nationals had to know what they were getting when they traded for him. He's made it clear in the past that he doesn't want to play the OF. That's part of the reason why he was traded from NY and from Texas. Apparently, Texas wouldn't allow the Nats to speak to Soriano until after the deal was done. If true, how does Nats GM Jim Bowden still have a job? Oh yeah, nobody owns the Nats. If this situation doesn't get better, meaning Soriano doesn't play, Bowden might as well pack up his things now because he's going to get canned as soon as the Nats have an owner. If he doesn't, the Nats won't survive in DC because the franchise is being run by a monkey, and that only works in Beantown.
This is basically going to be a no-win situation for everyone. Soriano looks bad if he continues to pout, which will put a damper on his bargaining position next year because no team will want to put up with that. He also loses if he plays the OF and totally tanks. Any guy in his contract year wants to have the best year possible and Soriano doesn't think that's possible in the OF. The Nationals of course lose if they get stuck with Soriano and he decides to sit out, or if he becomes impossible to trade due to the current situation.
It makes no sense that Soriano doesn't want to play the OF. It is entirely possible that he has a good defensive year out there. Let's face it, he's not exactly a gold-glove caliber 2b, how much worse can he do in the OF? If Tony Womack can do it, Soriano should be able to, wouldn't you think? Perhaps Soriano's biggest worry isn't playing in the OF, but it's playing in Washington. His power numbers will certainly drop due to the size of the park, which will also likely decrease his batting average with those long fly outs, making him of course less valuable in the free agent market come bargaining time.
In the end, Soriano will probably end up filing some sort of grievance with the Player's Union, and then who knows what will happen?? Soriano needs to ask himself a simple question: Do I want to play baseball? If the answer is yes, then take the field, and shut up. If you're as good as you think are, it doesn't matter where you play, whether it be in Washington or in the OF. You're talent should speak for you you.
Soriano needs to take the field when his name is on the lineup card. Especially when your manager is a Hall of Famer. Show some respect. If only I could choose to sit out when the wife asks me to clean the bathroom or my boss asks me to work on something. Too bad real life doesn't work that way.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Woe Is Moose

Mussina got shelled today, getting tagged for 10 runs on 12 hits, 4 of which were the long ball, all in 4 innings. Not exactly a promising start, but it's spring training, the Yankees are 9-12, and we all know what happens in spring training doesn't mean much. Good news is Mussina feels fine so it doesn't appear to be injury related. That would be the last thing the Yanks need. Pavano, Small and Wright have already had setbacks. The success of the 2006 Yankees will likely hinder on the health of the rotation. Lucky for the Yanks, they can manage with 4 starters for the first 2 weeks of the season, which will give some arms a little more time to rest before making start number 1. Maybe Cashman will step up efforts to bring the Rocket back to the Bronx, though I'm sure Roger knows that the Yankees want him. But could it hurt to send the guy a fruit basket or something?
In baseball news somewhat related to the Yankees, the Red Sox traded Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati for Wily Mo Pena. Nothing that should concern Yanks fans. With any luck, their rotation will be in shambles and Arroyo's arm will be missed. Pena's a backup OF who has a poor .OBP and whiffs a lot. Expect more of the same from Wily Mo. I must say though it was nice of the Red Sox to job Arroyo the way they did. Arroyo cuts them a break and gives them a hometeam discount by re-signing for less money in hopes to stay with the club. Arroyo's lower salary makes him a little easier to trade, and it's Bye Bye Bronson. Did the Sox take advantage? Yup, but he cut his own throat.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Leit's Out

Al Leiter's final pitch in the majors was in today's spring training game against the Cleveland Indians. Leiter entered the game in the 7th and got Eduardo Perez to ground out to third. A press release was read during his appearance announcing his retirement, effective at the end of his outing. Leiter, drafted in the 2nd round in the 1984 draft by the Yankees, will retire as a Yankee. Leiter's career spanned 19 years and he was one of the better lefties of his time. Al was a two time world champion, winning with the Blue Jays and the Marlins and sported a career ERA of 3.80. He pitched a no-hitter and was the first pitcher to ever beat every major league team. Quite the accomplishments.
I'm glad I was tuned in to today's game. It was nice to see the reception Al got from his fellow Yankees as he left the field and took a seat in the dugout. I would have thought that Al would have received a better ovation from the crowd as he walked off. I only noticed one gentleman standing and clapping. Maybe the crowd didn't know? I expected to see Al receive a standing ovation. He certainly was deserving. I'm sure his next endeavor will lead him to the booth, where he will no doubt succeed as an analyst. If anyone saw him during his stint on Fox during the World Series a few years back, you know what I'm talking about. Hopefully, we'll see him as a member of the YES team. Best of luck to you Al.
I got to "meet" Al once. Perhaps meet isn't the best word. I got his autograph last year at Yankee Stadium. We were huddled down the right field line hoping that someone would. Shawn Chacon and Mel Stottlemyre had signed right before but I was about 3 feet too far to the right to get their autographs. Al came over after working his arm out. He was kind of funny. People are screaming his name and he was screaming it right back at them, using the same annoying voice that they were using as they shouted. I don't think they got that he was mocking them. Anyway, Al's in front of this kid who is maybe 13 and the kid says "Ay yo Al. Sign my hat!" Al repeats what the kid says in the same tone of voice and the kid laughs. Al then says that there is a better way of asking for things and turns the kid down. Al moves down the line a little bit, signs a lot more stuff (my ball included) and makes his way back to the 13 year old kid he turned down. He asks him how old he is, kid says 13 (or 14). Al says how he remembers what is what like to be 13, trying to act all cool in front of your friends, acting like a big shot. He basically gives the kid a lesson in what respect is and how to treat others with it, especially when asking for something. It was probably a good 2-minute lesson. It ended with Al signing his hat and the kid saying "Thanks Mr. Leiter." It was kind of funny, but definitely a lesson that I think more people need to learn, especially autograph hounds. I usually get to games an hour or two before the gates open so I can try to snag an auto or two, try to being the key phrase. I rarely hear anyone say thank you when someone gives them an autograph. It's amazing. I always make sure to say thanks. Maybe if more people did, then players would be more inclined to stop by and sign something. So if you read this and have the opportunity to get an autograph, say thanks.
As for the game, the Yanks shutout the Tribe 2-0. The Big Unit looked sharp, pitching 6 and striking out 9. Hopefully we see more of the same from the Unit all year long. The line-up included those who participated in the WBC. Jeter goes 1-3 with a double, and RBI and a run scored. It's good to have the band back together.
14 days 'til Opening Day!!!!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

End Of The Road

I'm bummed, but what can you do. The pitching was there, the bats weren't. It has to be pretty tough to get any kind of rhythm going as a hitter when you face a different pitcher every at bat. Pitching has definitely dominated the WBC. If not for the D-Train, the US might be packing their bags for San Diego instead of for Florida or Arizona. But D-Train is one of the country's best, he had to be there. He just didn't deliver.
Congrats to the 4 remaining teams. The games have been awesome and they all deserve to be there. I'm looking forward to Japan vs. Korea round 3. I hope Korea pulls it out and wins it all.

March Madness

And I don't mean NCAA Basketball. I'm talking the WBC.
It's been a while since I've posted. Not for lack of thoughts or ideas, but for lack of an internet connection. I moved recently and it look a little long for my DSL provider, who shall remain nameless, ehh Verizon, to switch my service, just over 3 weeks to be exact. I'd go into more detail but who wants to read that.
I am totally hooked on the WBC. It's been fantastic to watch and I'm pumped to watch the US take on Mexico tonight, hopefully winning and moving us on to the Final 4 in San Diego. With the Rocket on the mound, my hopes are high. I don't know how many of you saw last night's game between Japan and Korea, but it was awesome. Korea has been quite the surprise and they definitely hooked the US up last night with the victory. I had the pleasure of watching it live, which is saying a lot because it ended at 1am, and being on the east coast that didn't leave me with much sleep. I'd stay up again in a heartbeat. A lot of the games have been shown on a local public-access type of channel called WNGS. I'm not sure why they're showing the ESPN feed of games, but I'll take it over waiting for the replay any day of the week. I guess I have Adelphia to thank for that. Finally, they've done some good. I've even watched a few games on ESPN Deportes, which was kind of fun, since the entire broadcast is in Spanish. I was hoping that there'd be SAP, but nope. But it was neat nonetheless.
It's amazing to see how players from other teams are so excited about the WBC. I haven't seen, and don't expect to see, this kind of enthusiasm from the US or its fans. When Jong Beom Lee from Korea stroked the two-run double in the 8th I was pumped. It amazed me to see his reaction. He's running down the first base line with his arms up in the air as if he'd just won the game with a walkoff single. To see that kind of excitement in the 8th inning was mind-blowing. I was on the edge of my seat during the bottom half of the ninth, especially after Japan led off the inning with a solo HR. Thankfully for the US, a second run never crossed the plate. Even the Puerto Rico/Cuba game was chock full of excitement. To see the entire Cuban team standing outside the dugout in anticipation of the final out was something I didn't expect to see. It showed how much these teams want to win. I'd be surprised if the US team showed as much enthusiasm. Quite frankly, it's kind of what I want to see.
The fans of these teams definitely are excited. You can definitely sense their excitement. It's amazing to see so many flags and to hear all the sounds that go along with that nation's culture. I haven't seen an overabundance of US flags at any US games. And attendance definitely looks higher at the other venues. There were 39000 plus on hand for last night's Japan/Korea matchup and I'm pretty sure the Puerto Rico game was a sell-out. It'd be nice if the US fans showed as much enthusiasm for the event. It probably doesn't help that most of the games aren't on TV until 1am. From what I gather from listening to MLB HomePlate on XM, baseball fans are enjoying it, but I don't get the sense that there is any national pride at stake for us. I for one am extremely excited. I've got a USA Baseball T-shirt and hat on order. I had to order it from the MLB shop because no apparel stores in Buffalo stocked any WBC merchandise. I'm disappointed in that also.
Well, it's almost time for Mexico/US so it's time to get settled in front of the TV. When we moved we bought a nice big screen LCD projection TV and ordered the HD pack from Adelphia. The game is in HD, which is awesome!! It's an entirely different viewing experience. If you don't have a big TV with HD, go get one. You're missing out!!