The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Jerry Crasnick would like to ramble for a while

Care to indulge him?

Here’s the deal. It’s an article nominally about Stephen Strasburg — you remember him — but it ends up just kind of being a random mini-profile of a whole bunch of different top draft picks. And, I guess, some guys who weren’t top picks. Really, it’s just about a bunch of different guys who were all drafted. So, like I said, he’s just rambling. But at least he takes some time out to make no sense now and then.

Stephen Strasburg has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues, and he’s already standing on the steps of Cooperstown, thanking his parents, his Little League coach and the clubhouse attendants for their support.

That’s a good opening. Get the biggest, silliest hyperbole out of the way right up front.

There’s a statue outside Nationals Park in his honor, and his new cologne, energy drink and sports apparel line are flying off the shelves.

Or you could go a different route, and just stretch the damn joke until it snaps. Really, Jerry, just make the joke one time. That’s enough.

This is how it works in the modern era: Strike out 195 batters in 109 innings in your final college season, flash 102 mph on the radar gun, hire Scott Boras as your "adviser" and sign for a record bonus, and 10-15 years of greatness are laid out neatly before you, like a freshly pressed suit.

This… this is still the same joke. This isn’t even the same paragraph, but Jerry’s still just repeating this one joke. We get it, man. Though I do like how you imply that signing for a "record bonus" is, like, the norm these days. Like every new player gets a record bonus.

All that’s left now is for Strasburg to actually perform.

Right. Which is why the first bit of your article was dumb. Remember Mark Prior, Jerry? You just described him to a T. How’s his Hall of Fame bid looking these days?

The Nationals assigned him to Double-A Harrisburg on March 20, but it will come as no surprise to anyone if he’s in Washington soon to make a run at the rookie of the year award.

This will come as a mild surprise to me. What do the Nationals have to gain by rushing Strasburg to the majors? They aren’t winning anything with him this year, either. Maybe they should wait, make sure he’s ready, and pay him a bit less money while they build up some more good players.

The kid is a heck of a gifted ballplayer — when he’s not rescuing kittens from trees, helping out at the soup kitchen and doing his part to save the world from nuclear proliferation.

Okay, see, that’s the same damn joke yet again. Dammit, Jerry, we get it already. Do you really have nothing else to say?

"His makeup is outstanding," said Washington manager Jim Riggleman.

"And his hair? Fabulous!"

His biggest challenge now is ending up on the right side of history.

Well, also there’s the pitching. That is a challenge too.

No player chosen first in the draft is a Hall of Famer yet, but Ken Griffey Jr. is a lock, Chipper Jones is close, Joe Mauer is well on his way, and Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Upton certainly have the potential.

Griffey’s overrated. I mean, he’s definitely going to the Hall, but he’s not as good as people think he is because he’s always hurt. He’s been active for 21 years and has only played anything resembling a full season ten times.

Chipper Jones, now; there’s a goddamn lock for you. He’s been ridiculously, stunningly good, and hasn’t spent 2/5 of his career on the DL. As long as he doesn’t have an anxiety attack and quit in the middle of this season, he should be a shoo-in.

Mauer is well on his way? Joe Mauer? Joseph Wentworth Mauer III, O.B.E.? He’s only played six seasons, has only really been outstanding for three, and is hurt all the goddamn time. How about we wait a bit before we induct this guy?

And, yeah, Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Upton do "have the potential," a thing they have in common with all Major League baseball players except Joey Gathright.

Alex Rodriguez will also make it to Cooperstown provided the voters don’t hold that little steroids transgression against him for eternity.

They will. Or, more to the point, you will, Jerry Crasnick. Aren’t you the same guy who wrote, back in 2007: "I took a pass on Big Mac last year, and I’m planning to give him the thumbs down again. We’re still smack in the middle of this steroid controversy, and if I have reason to be skeptical about the contents of a man’s medicine cabinet, I’m commitment-phobic?" Then later you said that his career OBP of .394 doesn’t count because he walked too much, which makes me want to ram my Filet-O-Fish right up your nose.

In addition, lots of top picks have enjoyed solid, productive careers. Harold Baines made six All-Star teams and amassed 2,866 career hits. B.J. Surhoff and Monday played 19 seasons in the majors, and Shawon Dunston stuck around for 18. Pitchers Floyd Bannister, Mike Moore, Tim Belcher and Andy Benes were durable, reliable and occasionally spectacular while combining for 596 wins and 598 losses. And Jeff Burroughs, Bob Horner, Jeff King, Phil Nevin, Darin Erstad and Pat Burrell all had their moments.

One of these things is not like the others! Darin Erstad was bad. Bad at baseball. A bad first pick who was bad at baseball and played badly. I know you still have a giant boner for him because he’s scrappy and lunch-pail-y and super fucking white and he played football in college, but he wasn’t good at baseball. Also, wait, most of those dudes aren’t dead yet, Jerry. Maybe it’s a bit too early to be judging the whole of, say, Pat Burrell’s career, since he’s only 32.

But the landscape is also strewn with players who, for a variety of reasons, failed to live up to their potential. Brien Taylor hurt his shoulder in a fight and never pitched in the big leagues. Matt Anderson allegedly hurt his arm in an octopus-throwing contest. Al Chambers, Danny Goodwin and Matt Bush were busts. And the Mets used their five No. 1 picks on Darryl Strawberry, Paul Wilson, Tim Foli, Shawn Abner and Steve Chilcott.

Once again, one of these things is not like the others. You’re really going to give the Mets a bunch of shit for drafting Darryl Eugene Strawberry? He was really really good, Jerry. Not quite Hall of Fame-good — he had a huge, ridiculous early peak followed by a lot of seasons of injuries, much like stone cold lead pipe Hall of Fame lock Ken Griffey Jr. — but come on. You’re putting Erstad in your "good" category and Straw in "bad?" You’re a lunatic.

Long before Strasburg arrived on the scene at San Diego State, there were Floyd Bannister, Ben McDonald, Kris Benson, Paul Wilson and Mark Prior (who went second in the draft behind Joe Mauer in 2001). They were all hailed as the Next Big Thing.

Oh, right, this article’s about Stephen Strasburg. I remember that now. Fortunately, Jerry doesn’t feel the need to burden it with too many words about Stephen Strasburg, and no sooner does he remind us than he launches into another list of people. This time they’re not all top picks, even. They’re just… dudes. Who Jerry wants to talk about in his article nominally about Strasburg, I guess.

McIlvaine was in charge in New York when the Mets drafted Wilson out of Florida State in 1994. As McIlvaine recalls, the Seminoles’ coaching staff had Wilson throwing from a slightly lower arm angle so that he could induce more ground balls in the team’s smallish home park. When Wilson made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League at age 21, the Mets wanted him to throw from a higher angle in classic power-pitcher mode.

That’s really interesting, Jerry. No, it is, but I just have one question for you: what the dick does what the Mets’ coaches thought about Paul Wilson’s arm slot back in 1994 have to do with Stephen Strasburg?

Wilson underwent shoulder surgery in 1996, and was never the same. McDonald, Benson and Prior were also sidetracked by arm trouble.

To say that Mark Prior was "sidetracked" by arm trouble is completely insane. Mark Prior was obliterated by arm trouble that was inflicted upon him by this man (pictured kissing his son goodbye before sending him off to be trampled to death by J.T. Snow).

College pitchers making the transition to professional ball have to adjust to wood bats and the challenge of pitching every fifth day, rather than once a week. Factor in the physical duress from throwing “stress” pitches with all that arm speed and torque, and teams have every reason to be careful.

Other things college pitchers have to adjust to when they move to the big leagues: Throwing 757 pitches in one month because your goddamn idiot manager has you make six starts and runs your pitch count to 130 in five of them. What were we talking about again? Oh, right, Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg dominated Mountain West Conference competition at San Diego State, but it’s a quantum leap from facing Air Force and New Mexico to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Hanley Ramirez.

A quantum leap — just so you know, Jerry, since articles sound better if you know how to use words correctly — is defined as a change that is sudden. It doesn’t refer to magnitude, which I think is how you’re trying to use it. And did the Phillies pick up Hanley Ramirez sometime while I wasn’t looking? Because I think you mean Jimmy Rollins, who is pretty goddamn easy to get out.

Tim Lincecum deftly handled the transition from the Pac-10 to the big leagues, but even he made 13 minor league starts before graduating to the Giants’ starting rotation.

Whew, I agree with Jerry: I am all Strasburg-ed out for now. Time to ramble about somebody else for a while.

Lincecum has two Cy Young Awards in his back pocket at age 25. But what happens if his velocity dips 3-4 mph and he starts getting whacked around a little bit? He’ll be entering uncharted territory.

Jerry. What. The fuck. Are you talking about. Tim Lincecum’s velocity has dipped by 3-4 mph. Here you can find an article from one month ago by a gentleman named Tim Brown — who actually appears to know something about baseball — which is entirely devoted to that subject. And here’s Tim Lincecum himself talking about it: "I’m aware my velocity wasn’t where it was. I don’t feel like it’s anything to be scared about. I’ll just learn how to pitch better." Do you follow baseball much, Jerry?

Times have changed since 1990, when Jones signed as the top overall pick with the Braves. Baseball America, the Atlanta papers and Jones’ hometown media in Jacksonville, Fla., were in a frenzy, but it was nothing compared to Strasburg mania.

I dunno. Jones mania appears to be in full swing here in 2010, when articles about Stephen Strasburg are still pretty much about Chipper Jones.

"The microscope is a hundred times bigger now," Jones said.

That is my new favourite athlete quote of all time, displacing everything that ever came out of John Rocker’s mouth.

"I had some print press, but everybody knows this kid’s face. Everybody knows his whole bio. In the information age, with ESPN and the MLB Network, it’s impossible for you to go under the radar anymore. His starts from now until he’s 10 starts into his major league career are all going to be on TV."

Says a dude currently being interviewed about a subject that has nothing to do with him just because he’s famous. Incidentally, is it just me, or does Chipper really take the wind out of the S.S. Strasburg Mania’s sails by ending that paragraph the way he does? Whoa, this dude’s going to be on TV for ten starts? There’s just one word for that: holyshit!

Of course, the information overload isn’t confined to baseball phenoms. Tim Tebow can’t simply leave the University of Florida campus and enter the NFL draft. He has to rework his throwing motion, unveil it for scouts at the Senior Bowl, perform at the NFL combine, have the results of his Wonderlic test leaked to the media, watch his college coach verbally attack a reporter while defending his honor and then debate whether he wants to actually attend the draft in New York.

Wait, when did we switch to football? Tim who? Come on, Jerry. That’s unfair. You know I’m out of my depth now.

With the exception of a Tiger Woods here and a LeBron James and a Brett Favre there, few athletes can generate sustained interest of that magnitude. If this comes as any consolation to Strasburg, the attention will wane a bit unless he’s incredibly good or amazingly bad.

There is no information contained in those words. I checked them over and over again, but what Jerry has written is "athletes don’t get famous except when they do. And Strasburg won’t get famous unless he’s good or not." It is perfect fluff. I wish I got paid by the word.

No player symbolizes the pressure that a No. 1 pick faces more than Georgia high school catcher Mike Ivie, baseball’s top pick in 1970.

Funny, I was just thinking that — wait, what? Who? Not even Erstad? He was a gamer! And he hustled!

Shortly after the Padres drafted him, Ivie visited San Diego for a workout. When he made an errant throw to the pitcher’s mound during batting practice, veteran Chris Cannizzaro responded with a snide comment at his expense. Ivie, mortified, developed a case of the yips similar to what Mackey Sasser, Dale Murphy and several other catchers later experienced. He went on to play 11 seasons in the majors, but gave up catching and was generally regarded as a disappointment.

I don’t know about this mysterious "yips" disease. I looked this shit up — I do research for this crap; you should try that, Jerry, it’s why I knew that Tim Lincecum’s velocity is down — and Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

"The yips also affects other sports, including Australian rules football (Nick Riewoldt, a StKilda AFL player also suffers from the kicking yips.), baseball (Mike Pelfrey) and Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher (Steve Blass) who was sent down to the minors to rid himself of the yips, i., e., "Steve Blass Disease" diagnosis is applied to talented players who inexplicably and permanently seem to lose their ability, basketball (Chuck Hayes’ free throw shot) and tennis (Guillermo Coria and Elena Dementieva are examples)."

I am going to assume this disease is bullshit until I find a description that wasn’t written by a pack of especially illiterate dingo dogs. It does sound like the exact disease that sportswriters would love to pretend exists, though, since it indulges their favourite fantasy: that athletes are fragile little flowers, and any unpleasantness or adversity immediately and irrevocably ruins their ability to perform.

Andy Benes, drafted first overall out of Evansville in 1988, logged 21 starts in the minors before joining the big club in August of ’89. In hindsight, Benes feels fortunate that he pitched on a staff with Bruce Hurst, Ed Whitson, Dennis Rasmussen and Craig Lefferts — veterans who had his best interests at heart, welcomed him to the fold and helped ease his comfort level.

Yeah, I know about that "ease his pain" thing in baseball. I saw Field of Dreams too.

The Nationals have to hope that veterans Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez can provide a similar service to Strasburg in Washington.

Let me say this about that: it is very, very funny to me that the Nationals’ pitching is that bad. Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez?

If Benes has any counsel for Strasburg, it’s this: Don’t allow the money and the fame to change you.

That is the most generic counsel ever. I hope Marquis and Hernandez can do better. I mean, it’s never a good idea to bet on Marquis and Hernandez being better than anybody else at anything, but it’s what I have.

Even if you fail to meet everybody else’s expectations, you can eventually walk away with no regrets.

Except that maybe you’d regret the failing. You know. At baseball.

"My advice to him would be, ‘You can’t be everything to everyone. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect the game, your teammates and the opposition. Do what you can do, work hard to be prepared physically and mentally, and you can put your head on the pillow and sleep at night.’ That’s the way I always looked at it."

You, sir, are every coach in every sports movie ever. For this, I salute you. Now do you have anything to add that isn’t a meaningless cliché? No? Okay. Take us home, then, Jerry:

Combine old-fashioned values and a pitching arm for the ages, and there’s no telling what might happen. Stephen Strasburg’s professional journey begins shortly in Harrisburg, Pa. Where and when it ends — and how he’ll be remembered — is strictly up to him.

The only thing I have to add to this uplifting ending is my own inspirational team quote that I picked up from chat once in a game of Alterac Valley: "We’re gonna go inside, we’re gonna go outside, inside and outside. We’re gonna get ’em on the run boys and once we get ’em on the run we’re gonna keep ’em on the run. And then we’re gonna go go go go go go and we’re not gonna stop til we get across that goalline. This is a team they say is… is good, well I think we’re better than them. They can’t lick us, so what do you say men?"

I think there’s a lesson in there for all of us.

March 31st, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

Most Overrated Games #3

Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 (N64, 1996)

Blah blah blah changed the face of gaming. Yeah, it sure did. Specifically, it changed it to a face that was all about open-world scavenger hunting dotted with stupid racing minigames. Thanks a lot, Mario 64!

Okay, let’s be fair for a minute. When Mario 64 came out, it was legitimately revolutionary. So all the praise it gets for that is, I guess, warranted. But all the praise it gets for being one of the best games ever made is, in a word, not. In two words: fucking not. And in four: fucking not, ’nuff said. I’m using 362 words, though, so I suppose I can’t just leave it at "’nuff said." Here’s the deal. Mario 64 had some good moments — specifically, the Bowser levels, when the game was about running and jumping and stomping on turtles and mushrooms. But, in between those levels, it had an awful lot of running around in huge open arenas trying to find stars. Is that what anybody bought Mario 64 to do? Run around hunting for hidden objects? Did you think you were buying Waldo 64 instead?

No. Nobody wanted that. What we wanted was something that was more about, you know, jumping than it was about trying to navigate the ice slide and staying ahead of the fat penguin. But Mario 64 just taunted us, providing us with glimpses of the gameplay we actually wanted, and then hiding it behind doors that said we needed to go play scavenger hunt 15 more times before we could go to the next fun part. When we weren’t playing scavenger hunt, we were doing even less fun things like awful flying courses and awful race courses and awful lava surfing courses and absolutely not, for any reason, jumping on any damn mushroom men.

The worst part, of course, is that ten years of 3D platformers did nothing but copy Mario 64. How lame was that? It took ten damn years before somebody finally put out a 3D platformer that was actually about platforming (which, ironically, was also a Mario game). Every Banjo-Kazooie, Spyro the Dragon, Jak and Daxter, or what-have-you was just trying to be Mario 64. The bad part is that, mainly, they succeeded.

March 31st, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | one comment

This week in Ozzie Guillen

I think the people from Twitter owe me money, I make them so famous.

That’s right, myopia fans: Ozzie Guillen believes himself to be more famous than Twitter.

March 30th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | one comment

Close Encounters of the Brown Kind

Maybe I shouldn’t go with that title. It probably has some pretty poor connotations, and the joke isn’t very good. Yeah, I’ll change that later.

Sexy, sexy Scott Brown was in today for lunch. I think we embarassed him with our endless Cosmo jokes. The whole experience made me nostalgic for my old restaurant; I wish a Republican senator had come in there once, where I had a batshit insane co-worker who was convinced that everything that ever happened to him was a Republican plot. This includes, by the way, one time when I was enduring an evening of karaoke, and he was expounding to me at length how the reason he hadn’t been called to do his song yet was because the karaoke guy got a call from president Bush, and the president instructed him not to let this dude sing. He was totally on the level with this, too.

It also made me glad that Ted Kennedy never came in, since he’d have drunk all the beer and left without paying for it. And there’s a bridge not five hundred feet away. Recipe for trouble, mark my words.

March 29th, 2010 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

Welcome to Castlevania

Hey, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood is available on the Virtual Console. If you’re not familiar with Rondo of Blood, it’s the game that most obnoxious game snobs consider to be the best of the Castlevania series, which is almost definitely because nobody’s goddamn played it. It was only ever released in Japan, and only on the PC Engine system. The PC Engine was released in North America as the TurboGraphx-16 — which is a terrible name — but without the CD-ROM peripheral, which meant Rondo of Blood never made it over.

I’ll tell you this: the best Castlevania game it ain’t, but it’s pretty good. It has a lot of "homage" moments where you pass through areas reminiscent of other Castlevania games (and then some that would later be reincorporated into Symphony of the Night), and those are fun to watch for. It plays like Castlevania 3 on the NES, with the same old stiff Belmont movements and all the whips and such, and uses the same linear platform level style with choice of paths. And it’s hard.

The mobs don’t flinch when hit. That bugs me. Richter, on the other hand, sure damn does — frequently flinch-launches right into damn pits. Which is odd, since there don’t appear to be altogether very many pits in this episode; maybe there are more later where I haven’t been (since the game’s hard and I’m bad).

The menu screen music is the same as that used in Circle of the Moon. I support this.

March 27th, 2010 Posted by | Games | no comments

Darien’s totally worthless baseball predictions: 2010 edition

A little more than a week before opening day, and rosters are mostly set. So let’s do this!

AL East

1) New York Yankees — The pitching is suspect, and the defense is poor, but the Yankees still have the most ferocious offense in baseball, and that will probably be enough. Sabathia’s decent, but Vazquez is unreliable, Pettitte and Burnett are expensive and average, and Philip Hughes… eh. The bullpen is crummy until you get to Joba and Mo. The big offseason acquisition of Curtis Granderson probably won’t be a very big deal; defensively, he’s about equivalent to the dear departed Melky Cabrera, and his ridiculous platoon split (his career OPS against RHP is .897, but against LHP is only .484 (!)) saps a lot of the offensive upgrade. The Yankees can probably make last year’s division win hold up, but they’re headed rapidly toward the same place they were a few years ago: a team full of expensive old players who aren’t producing anymore and can’t be moved.

2) Tampa Bay Rays — The Rays got a ridiculous season out of Ben Zobrist and Jason Bartlett last year. I’m expecting both of them to drop back a bit (though Bartlett may not have been all fluke; his BABIP was a career-high .364, but that actually underperforms expectation by about 25 points — fucker’s LDr was 27% last year. 27%!), especially if B.J. Upton still can’t remember how to play baseball. Defensively, Tampa is probably the best team in the AL (if not in the whole baseballings), but their pitching is suspect. If new closer Rafael Soriano figures out how to get left-handers out, that’ll be a step in the right direction.

3) Boston Red Sox — I look at the moves the Red Sox have made, and I don’t like them. John Lackey isn’t anywhere near as good as they’re paying him to be, but he’s still decent, and the pitching should be a highlight for the Sox this year. Offensively, they’ve taken a major step backward, and even moreso if David Ortiz continues to be as bad as he was in 2009. Mike Lowell being old and broken and dead leaves them with a big hole at 3B that sucky Adrian Beltre has to try to fill. Replacing Jason Bay with Mike Cameron will cost the Sox dearly on offense (though the defensive upgrade may make it worthwhile). Shortstop is still a hole; Marco Scutaro is lousy, and I don’t care how scrappy and full of grit and hustle he is. Lunchpail.

4) Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles are much-improved over last year. They’re not ready for prime time yet, but I don’t expect to see them last in MLB in everything anymore. Catcher Matt Wieters did a decent job in his half-season of work last year; he didn’t set the world on fire like he was predicted to, but he put up some tolerable rookie numbers. I don’t know about the big Kevin Millwood acquisition; he’s been decent in the past, but he’s also been really bad. Reminds me a bit too much of the birds’ flirtation with Sidney Ponson. And the absence of George Sherrill is going to hurt.

5) Toronto Blue Jays — Don’t worry, Blue Jays fans — Roy Halladay may be gone, but you’ll still have Vernon Wells chewing up payroll for another three years!

AL Central

1) Minnesota Twins — With Joe Mauer locked down for the next hundred years, the Twins can now set their minds to the task of actually winning some baseball games. They have the best offense in the AL Central (which isn’t saying much), and their defense is fine, but their pitching is weak. Losing Joe Nathan for the season (Tommy John’s revenge) isn’t helping matters any. Still and all, the division’s weak, and the Twinkies should be able to hold on.

2) Detroit Tigers — The Tigers, against all odds, look to be pretty competitive coming out of spring training. Their pitching is surprisingly strong — behind Verlander and Porcello they have the recently-acquired Max Scherzer, and, wonder of wonders, it seems like Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman are ready to be big-league pitchers again. If both Bonderman and Willis can regain some semblance of their old form, the Tigers will have a truly frightening rotation heading up to actually-good closer Jose Valverde. Offensively, they still look to be mainly the Miggy Cabrera show, though Mags looks better than he has in a few years. Will the addition of Johnny Damon help the Tigers at all? He was good last year, but New Yankee Stadium’s contours are perfect for him, and transformed his doubles power into a shitload of bombs. Not sure that’s going to happen in Comerica.

3) Chicago White Sox — As much as I want to put the White Sox in last place, I just can’t. Not in this division. The White Sox have, as is their wont, listened to their idiot manager and gotten worse in the offseason. They added Jake Peavy, which will buoy the pitching staff that bails them out year after year, but it’s not clear that they have enough going on to survive the legendarily terrible outfield of Pierre, Jones, and Rios. But at least they finally let go of Scott Podsednik!

4) Cleveland Indians — Let’s face it, facing-it fans: the Indians are primed for another season of muddling along and not doing very much. At this point, they’ve traded away pretty much the whole team as they continue to labour under the burden of Travis Hafner’s albatrossic contract. How’s that for a dude who signed a big damn contract and then immediately went into the tank? Positively Vernon Wellsian.

5) Kansas City Royals — Zack and the Muppet Show will continue to bumble along at the bottom of the world doing a whole lot of not-much. Will this ever change? Not until the ownership does.

AL West

1) Seattle Mariners — The Mariners look to have dug themselves out from under Bill Bavasi’s shitstorm of bad contracts, and holy moley have they returned to contention in a big way. Capitalising on a weak division, they’ve added Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Cliff Lee, and Casey Kotchman. The downside, of course, is that Lee is already hurt and Bradley is unpredictable. They’ve had a lousy spring, but if they can get their shit together, this team should be fantastic. The only real hole is that they don’t have much power; on the flip side, they can get on base like sons of bitches.

2) Texas Rangers — The Rangers have some fragile players, but, if they can stay off the DL for ten damn minutes, they should be as effective a team as we’ve ever seen them. Rich Harden will bounce back from his terrible 2009, and I don’t think Vlad Guerrero is half as done as everybody said. Should be enough for second place in a soft crowd.

3) Oakland Athletics — The A’s have the same problem year-in and year-out: everybody gets hurt. If I had to guess, I’d say that’s because injury risks are cheaper than healthy players. Ben Sheets was phenomenally bad a while ago, when he gave up ten runs and didn’t get a single out against the awful Reds, but that’s looking like a fluke, so the A’s should get good value from him. If he stays healthy.

4) Los Angeles Angels — Uh. Huh. Well. It’s not common for any non-Marlins team to get so much worse in the span of just one offseason, but the Angels have found a way. Letting John Lackey go was a good move, given the huge overpay the Red Sox handed him, but… Joel Pineiro? He’s bad at baseball, guys. Hideki Matsui is not as good as Vlad Guerrero, either, and Vlad was pretty much the sole provider of offense for the Angels teams of recent years. Not expecting much from these guys except lots of gratuitous out-making thanks to their brilliant manager.

NL East

1) Philadelphia Phillies — The Roy Halladay deal should keep the Phillies on top a bit longer, but the division’s catching up pretty quickly. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to do something about that gaping black hole at short — I know he’s popular, and he seems like a cool guy, but he makes tons of outs. That .296 OBP from last season really needs to go.

2) Atlanta Braves — The Braves Rebuilding Project continues. Chipper should be better than last season (so quit your crying already), Billy Wagner is dynamite if he can manage to stay healthy, and the pitching staff, even Vazquez-less, should be pretty strong. The big question for me is theoretical four-hole hitter Troy Glaus — yes, Troy Glaus, who you probably forgot about since he only played 14 games last season. The Braves are taking a gamble on him, and, if it pays off, they should have one of the more formidable lineups in the NL.

3) Florida Marlins — The NL’s mystery team. The roster is always so young and so full of high-celing players nobody’s ever actually heard of that it’s really hard to tell what they’ll do any given season. But they still have Dan Uggla, they still have Hanley Ramirez, and they still don’t have any pitching whatsoever. Bottom line: better than the Mets, but not going anywhere this year.

4) New York Mets — What the hell? Last year’s Mets got completely exploded by injuries, which was sort of completely hilarious. In the offseason, Omar Minaya picked up an awful lot of backup catchers and reserve outfielders, and sort of ignored the fact that his team has exactly one pitcher. So, hey, good luck out there, Johan! As long as you can manage 162 complete games this year, the Mets should be fine.

5) Washington Somethings — A bad team with bad pitching. Will they be bad? Impossible to predict!

NL Central

1) Ft. Louis Fatinals — The Fatinals look strong, but they’re placing all their eggs in very few baskets. In Albert Poopholes, they have the best overall player in baseball, which is a big advantage as long as he’s healthy. If he goes down, they’re in trouble. Matt Holliday is also excellent, but I don’t expect him to be as good as he was down the stretch last year, when he was actually better than Pujols. On the pitching side, they have the hugely overrated Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and not much else. Really, this is a team that’s riding on its four superstars to an almost lunatic degree.

2) Chicago Cubs — The Cubs, if they stay healthy, will give the Fatinals a serious chase this season. Derrek Lee was a monster in 2009, and probably won’t be that good again this year, but should deliver 150-or-so games of 130 OPS+ goodness. Aramis Ramirez is still awesome. The real keys on the offensive side are: is Marlon Byrd any good outside of Texas, can Geovany Soto not be awful, and can Kosuke Fukudome solve his Granderson-like platoon issues. If those questions all shake out the right way, the Cubs should be a force, especially with pitching like they have. Zambrano – Lilly – Wells – Dumpster – please God make it Tom Gorzelanny and not Carlos Silva is as good a rotation as anybody’s, and Carlos Marmol is amazing when he can find the plate.

3) Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers signed hundred-year-old Jim Edmonds this offseason. That’s funny to me. Since they still can’t pitch their way out of an old hat, I expect Jim and Prince will be sharing meatloaf recipes in October rather than playing any postseason baseball.

4) Cincinnati Reds — Aroldis Chapman, you are next in line to be sacrificed to the dark god. Bring me more young arms! I am mad with power!

5) Houston Astros — Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, and… do the Astros have any other players? It is a mystery.

6) Pittsburgh Pirates — Hey, remember when Barry Bonds used to play in Pitt? Maybe they should sign him again. Even at 46, he’d be better than anything else they’re putting out there. And plus, he’s hot.

NL West

1) Colorado Rockies — It seems a little bit crazy, but the Rockies are starting to turn into a pitching team. If Ubaldo Obamanez can keep bringing his walks down, and Jeff Francis can remember what end of the baseball to hold, and Aaron Cook can make it through a whole game without a nap, and Jorge De La Rosa can make it through a whole season without a season-ending injury… well, it all seems pretty good. The Rockies also somehow managed to keep Jason Giambi, giving them a dedicated pinch-hitting monster. That’s quite a weapon to have available in late innings. And he comes with his own magical golden thong! Which he’ll even share. He’s dreamy.

2) Los Angeles Dodgers — The Dodgers have materially improved their offense by replacing Juan Pierre with a cardboard box. They still have Manny, and they still have the best bullpen in baseball, but what they ain’t got is a trustworthy rotation. Mediocre crap-basket Randy Wolf carried them last season with his fortuitous career year. Will they get another lousy veteran to have a lucky break this year? It is a mystery.

3) San Fransisco Giants — It’s funny to me how thoroughly Barry Zito is kicking this team’s ass. I mean, he’s been decent, but they’re paying him way ridiculous money. As a result, the Giants weren’t able to make any moves in the Matt Holliday or Jason Bay sweepstakes. So they still have exactly no offense to go with their amazing pitching. As we learned last year, best pitching + worst offense ~ .500 record.

4) Arizona Diamondbacks — The good news? Eric Byrnes is gone. The bad news? The Diamondbacks are so terrible he was actually one of their best hitters.

5) San Diego Padres — Do these guys still play? Huh. Adrian Gonzalez is good, I guess.

March 27th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

And this was Jason Giambi

He [Todd Helton] is a pitcher’s worst nightmare with runners on. You could throw a pitch behind his back and he’d find a way to foul it off

That, to me, makes him sound like a pitcher’s best friend, yeah? You know, since that was going to be a ball, and he just magically transformed it into a strike and all. So don’t do that, Todd Helton. Not even if Jason offers to let you wear his magical good-luck thong.

March 25th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

And this I heard from Yahoo sports

Newcomers such as third baseman Adrian Beltre have transformed the Red Sox into a team that emphasizes defense and pitching.

I’m assuming the others in the "newcomers" crowd this is referring to are Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron, yeah? "Transformed… into a team that emphasizes defense and pitching" is a pretty awesome way of saying "holy shit the Red Sox just signed a lot of dudes who can’t hit."

March 25th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

I swear they said this too

The big play of the game, offensively, for the Angels, was when they got Vlad.

So the big offensive play — you know, the key thing the Angels did offensively, with their offense — was snagging a hard Vlad Guerrero liner. You know, a defensive play.

This was after about five minutes of the colour man talking about his car.

March 25th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments

I swear the Rangers announcers just said this

He [Eddie McKiernan] gave up a single, a home run, and a walk.

Eddie McKiernan had given up a double, a home run, and a hit batsman. So good work, guys!

March 25th, 2010 Posted by | Baseball | no comments