Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Monthly archives: December 2005


Bottom Feeder Report
2005-12-30 10:25
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The flow of new Rockies news has slowed to a crawl (unless you're terribly concerned with the ongoing Willie Harris negotiations), so I thought it might be a good time to cast an eye over Colorado's rivals for worst team in baseball 2006 honors. Is it anybody getting better? Does anyone notice? I'm fascinated by this stuff for some reason. I mean, how many other 25-year-old guys do you know whose apartments are decorated by Kansas City Royals foam fingers, Milwaukee Brewers pennants, and framed pictures of Coors Field? I'm a baseball bottom feeder, and I really have no explanation for it. I was raised as a Cubs fan in the '80s, but the '80s was actually a pretty good decade for Chicago. Perhaps it was many years of riding the bench for little league teams that struggled to win two or three games a season. The one year my family went to England and I had to leave early, my team went to the championship. Seriously, what's up with that?

Kansas City (2005 record: 56-106). An interesting (but premium) Baseball Prospectus piece this week raised an interesting question about big spending boosts for really bad teams. Normally, there's not a lot of value in paying an extra $15-20 million to still not make the playoffs, but if your team is getting mentioned in the same hallowed breaths as the Marv Throneberry Mets, it might be worth your while to overpay for dignity. It seemed to work for the Tigers and Diamondbacks, in the immediate short term at least. In any case, as this companion article (which is free) points out, none of the Royals' offseason expenditures have actually made them much (or indeed any) better. The list, if you're keeping track: Paul Bako, Elmer Dessens, Scott Elarton, Mark Grudzielanek, Joe Mays, Reggie Sanders. Grudzielanek and Sanders are fairly safe investments for veteran players, but I rather doubt they'll be worth more than three or four extra wins for the Royals. Dessens and Elarton could actually make them worse. There's not much difference between Mays, Bako, and the random guys off the street Kansas City was trying last year. But on the other hand there seems to be a rational plan circulating to renovate Kauffman Stadium. That won't have much bearing on the Royals' play on the field, which will be bad.

Tampa Bay (67-95). The Devil Rays have done nothing compared to Kansas City, and look better off for it. There's still a pleasant glow attached to the new regime in St. Pete and at the very least Andrew Friedman is determined not to look stupid by trading Aubrey Huff, Julio Lugo, Danys Baez, or Joey Gathright too soon. Of course he could just be miring the franchise in Chuck LaMar redux by outrageously misjudging the market. It's very hard to get excited about Sean Burroughs and Josh Paul. (Wow, few truer words have ever been written.) Friedman seems to realize that to get better sooner rather than later, the D-Rays need a Scott Kazmir-like score in every trade from here on out, and he's setting his sights appropriately high, with names like Andy Marte and Hayden Penn being reported in the Tampa press. Well, why not? If no one will overpay now, someone may at midseason, and the Rays aren't exactly reaching for the brass ring in 2006. Another free BP column notes that their pitching is still pretty bad. The early buzz on Friedman is all positive, but we're going to have to reserve judgement until this team makes some trades. They're probably not going to be any better in 2006, but the Rays' 2006 ought to look a lot like the Rockies' 2005 -- tryouts at every position and all bets are off. They have the management in place to take a developmental season seriously, which wasn't the case before.

Pittsburgh (67-95). Somehow the mind skips over the Pirates when you think of the worst teams in baseball, but they're usually hanging around in that area and they haven't evidenced signs of life in ages. They have a more illustrious history than Tampa or Colorado, but that doesn't mean very much in the here and now. They've already been raked over the coals for the Sean Casey trade, which was evidently made strictly for appearances' sake as the rest of the Pirates' offseason moves have borne out. Other than sitting around thinking of ridiculous Oliver Perez trade proposals, Dave Littlefield has done nothing to make Pittsburgh better. (Except sign Joe Randa!) Their model ought to be the Brewers, who have become at least competitive over the last few years by dealing fearlessly. Instead, it seems to be the last decade of Pirate futility -- get the fourth or fifth best guy on the market at one or two positions, add a "name" every few seasons, stir, rinse, repeat. My least favorite bad MLB team by a wide margin. The firing of Lloyd McClendon makes them even less interesting, which you'd think would be impossible. Jim Tracy is a better manager, but far less likely to throw some entertainingly apoplectic fits.

Seattle (69-93). It seems weird to be listing the Mariners, but look at the record. They spend like contenders, but they sure don't look like one. Their biggest add has been Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima, a risk like all foreign imports, but in all likelihood a solid ballplayer. They gave a market-level deal to Jarrod Washburn, who's not that good, and one-year deals to Matt Lawton and Carl Everett, who aren't that good. They seem to be managing themselves as if they're on the brink of competitiveness, which they're not. The young "talent" core in the Seattle organization, King Felix notwithstanding, is rotten and hollow. Their division is not. At least they're still huge in Japan.

Throw in Colorado (67-95), and who is the most likely of these teams to make a leap forward towards respectability next year? Well, on the face of things I would say Seattle, who has added the most talent. But merely pushing from 69 wins to 75 is one thing. Will any of these clubs win a division title in the next five years? Absent a complete spending binge on the part of the M's, I think the Rockies have as good a chance as anybody. Their division lacks pure liquid spenders, they have a sizable home field advantage, and despite his silly contract they do have a Hall of Famer in the lineup for the forseeable future. As of right now they're not spending large amounts of money on players who don't make them better, which bodes well for their having some dispensible cash if contention does ever appear on the horizon. Your 2006 Colorado Rockies: the best of the worst.

Gil Meche Rumors: Too Frightening to Make Up Pun
2005-12-29 04:36
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Well, I'm back in Colorado. My recent air travel has elicited the usual thought process: what is this country doing to speed along the perfection of transporter technology? Seriously. For people of height like me, this ought to be right up there on the agenda with curing cancer and keeping the Commies down. I for one would be willing to accept the slight risk of being sent into an alternate universe or divided into separate aspects in trade for a certain two days of back pain.

In a later post I will talk more about my time in Illinois, if only to relate the story of my telling the bass player from Fall Out Boy (his mom and my mom are old friends) that Will Carroll liked his record. I also have a decent Loot Day haul to discuss. Most notably, I'll be going to spring training in Arizona in March. I hope to see at least one Rockies game in the Phoenix area if I prove to be unable to make it down to their "home" digs in Tucson. Alas, Jeromy Burnitz will not be playing in the Cactus League next season as he has signed with Baltimore. Why does this sadden me so? Well, I caught a home run that Burnitz hit against the Rockies at Coors last summer and I was hoping to have him sign it. Just my luck that he would sign with a Florida-training team that doesn't play the Rockies in 2006. Perhaps I will console myself by offering the ball to Jeff Francis, who served up the home run. With the number of long balls Francis allowed last year, I don't imagine this to him will seem an unusual request.

On the Rockies front, we'll go with the good news first. Byung-Hyun Kim "is on the verge of re-signing." This comes as a great relief as I do not have a great deal of confidence in either Zach Day or Sunny Kim as starters. Don't laugh, but Cook/Jennings/Francis/BK makes for the best front four the franchise has ever seen. Actually, that's not at all funny.

Also not funny: ESPN Insider reports that Colorado may have interest in trading for Seattle's Gil Meche. This is such a flagrant violation of the "better than Mike Esposito" rule that alarm klaxons are sounding here at BA central. If Dan O'Dowd's thinking here is that Meche will be comfortable at Coors since his ERA at pitcher-loving Safeco Field already resembles that of a Rockies starter, he's crazier than we all think. Dan, free advice: no.

2005-12-25 18:06
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I'm not a big Christmas guy. I'm an atheist, and fairly vigorously so, and have been irritating my younger sisters for several years now by referring to the 25th as "Loot Day." I was here going to celebrate the holiday by listing all of the baseball-related loot I received, but I want a few days to read my Bill Simmons and White Sox books and view the 2005 World Series DVD. Perhaps it will renew your faith in the power of the season (if not mine) to learn that another fine post subject presented itself completely by accident.

While watching the Bears game over at my aunt and uncle's house, I started rifling through a pack of baseball cards one of my cousins had received in his stocking. I paused when I saw the Rockies' name on one of the cards, and again when I saw that it was a Mike Esposito card. I feel strangely connected to Esposito. The one minor league game I attended last season, in Colorado Springs, was started by Mike Esposito. By sheer random chance, I was present for his major league debut at Coors in September. For this reason, I've picked him as a test case for potential free agent pitching acquisitions. If you're not better than Esposito -- and many guys aren't -- then you're probably a waste of money. I like the way the guy works -- he hasn't a single plus pitch in his repertoire, but he gets better results than more talented players through smarts and control. If he played somewhere not 7,000 feet above sea level, he might have a nice national rep by now. But it was his lot in life to end up in the Rockies system.

And to have somebody else's picture on his baseball card. 2005 Topps card number UH273 has Esposito's name on the front, and indeed his unassuming visage on the back, but there's a young (black) Kansas City Royal on the front of the card. I believe it's Ruben Gotay. Alas, poor Mike. Perhaps 2006 will present a better opportunity for making your mark on the world.

The Phenom and the Humidor
2005-12-23 21:51
by Mark T.R. Donohue

I went to see LeBron James and the Cavs in Chicago Thursday night. It was pretty fun. James shot (and made) a lot of long fadeaway threes, but it's strange to see him bothering with long-range stuff when he can basically jump over anybody. There was one particularly memorable moment (mentioned in the lead to this story) when LeBron loudly clanged a breakaway dunk, but otherwise I think this guy is everything they say he is. It will be fun to one day taunt my nieces and nephews with stories of how I got to see LeBron play in person, along with Jordan, Bonds, Brady, and Gretzky. Who says this isn't a golden age?

One thing I have noticed more of lately is local writers on the Rockies beat claiming the Coors effect is on its way out, due to the assorted mad science that is practiced on the baseballs before Colorado's home games nowadays. I don't know whether this is true or not. I would like to see someone more mathematically inclined than I tackle the subject with the appropriate rigor. Sure, overall scoring per Coors game was down last year, but the Rockies pitching staff was slightly better than it usually is, and their offense was far worse. Even if the ball's movement has been deadened a little, the outfield gaps are still pretty huge. I don't know if I'm buying it. Besides, given that the Rockies have always won games at home at an above-average clip, what good what it do to "normalize" their park and eliminate their unusual advantage?

I don't know if I would have remembered to write this last paragraph, which has been rattling around in my brain for weeks, had I not just been watching the newly-released "Simpsons" Season Seven DVDs, which feature the great episode "Homerpalooza" where Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin utters the classic line "I want a walk-in humidor!" That is, in effect, what the Rockies have, I believe. I don't know if the Monforts actually store their cigars in there, but it would be funny if they did. Season Seven also has the episode where Milhouse is cast to play Fallout Boy in the Radioactive Man movie. I hope you read my Toaster colleagues' 2005 music piece, which had nice things to say about Fall Out Boy, the band, and many others. I haven't written my 2005 Top 10 yet, but off the top of my head: Pelican, Kanye West, Sleater-Kinney, Archer Prewitt, The Frames, Broken Social Scene, Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie, Beck, Gorillaz.

I didn't really think Colorado was going to get him, but we have St. Louis to thank for taking Junior Spivey off of the open market. I will feel vastly more confident after Shawn Estes is safely someone else's problem, but Spivey would have been just as much a waste of money as Desi Relaford was last year. (Or slightly more. Spivey signed for $1.2 million in St. Louis and Relaford with his buyout made $1.05 last year.) As penurious as management has become in recent years, they have an odd fixation on spending not insignificant sums to let lousy veterans take playing time away from the youngsters they are allegedly trying to develop. Last year it was Relaford and Dustan Mohr. If Colorado had a gaping hole at second base, it would be one thing, but the inexplicably unloved Luis "N.R." Gonzalez is as good a player as Spivey and vastly more likely to improve. If I were Gonzalez I'd be a little miffed by now that the Rockies are always trying to give away my position. Since we were willing to basically set fire to it a day ago, why can't we now add that million dollars to our Byung-Hyun Kim bid, huh?

It's a Whole Different Game
2005-12-22 08:57
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The recent rash of ill-advised free agent signings (Damon, Washburn, Jones) has reminded me once again of something I hardly like to dwell on: there are some major league teams that have a lot of money, and there are some teams that don't. It's gotten to the point where not only can't a team like the Royals or Pirates afford the actual value for premium talent, but you can no longer even get premium talent for its actual value. Increasingly teams like the Mets are giving guys extra years in their deals for which they don't even expect them to be healthy or good.

So what's a po' team to do? Draft smart, trade often, and load up on free talent. The upshot of a team like Los Angeles throwing money away on Nomar Garciaparra is a player like Hee Seop Choi becomes available. If a team is neglecting its farm system, pick it clean by signing minor league free agents and using the Rule 5 draft. There are underappreciated and underutilized players all over major league baseball. (Can't Kevin Youkilis catch a break?) Of course, it would be a lot easier for the Rockies if they had two hundred million dollars. Come to think of it, me too.

In Praise of Inactivity
2005-12-21 07:08
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The further along we proceed in this strange offseason, the better off Colorado looks for basically opting out. The Rockies probably won't be much better in 2006, but neither will they be much worse, and they're not spending a foolish amount of money to not improve. On the off chance that they remain competitive in the NL West, they have "payroll flexibility" up the wazoo, as well.

One of the small joys you must take in others' failures, as a fan of a profoundly bad baseball team, is when your competitors spend lots more money than your team does and don't finish any better. As far as I am concerned, this is what the Tigers and Mariners are for. The National League is a little lighter on obvious spendthrifts, especially with the Mets beginning to resemble contenders. Thank heavens for the Dodgers.

I mention this because the Rangers, a team of interest for this very reason, made a strange trade with the division rival Padres yesterday. On the Rangers' end, I feel as if I ought to compare their motivations with Dan O'Dowd's in the rather pointless Yorvit Torrealba acquisition. Texas declared they were going to get a real live major league starting pitcher, and Adam Eaton more or less fits this description. The inclusion of Japanese gimmick reliever Akinori Otsuka sweetens the deal for Texas -- the American League mostly hasn't seen Otsuka's weird windup yet, so he's likely to have a bounceback year. And he wasn't half bad in '05, either.

However giving up 6'10" junkballer Chris Young seems like too steep a price to pay given that he was quite a bit more useful than Eaton last year -- in fact, more useful than Eaton and Otsuka combined -- and is also a lot cheaper than either. Yet the Padres don't seem to benefit immensely from the trade either. Young is as pretty much as good as he's going to get now, while Eaton at least had the potential to become a legitimate #2 guy after Jake Peavy. Termel Sledge is a nice add for San Diego only in relative terms. Really, their offense was dire last year. To this end, the other guy in the deal, non-power hitting first base prospect Adrian Gonzalez, is a player singularly unsuited to improve San Diego, a team bereft of pop at the traditional power positions. Plus giving up Otsuka unnecessarily weakens the team's chief strength, a deep and versatile bullpen. I don't know who got better here. Maybe they would have been better off doing nothing.

The Heartbreak and Folly of Misplaced Nostalgia
2005-12-20 05:33
by Mark T.R. Donohue

When I was a lad, my favorite active major league player was Cubs catcher Jody Davis. I have no idea why this was. Perhaps I saw him hit a game-winner at Wrigley Field in person one time; perhaps I just liked his unmanly, non-baseball-like given name. (I also liked Oil Can Boyd.) In any case, toward the twilight of his Chicago career, when he was in the process of being displaced by the likes of Damon Berryhill, Davis was a regular late-inning pinch hitter. Those of you who followed the Cubs during the Reagan administration may recall that WGN Radio had some sort of storklike, cartoon mascot who would appear in these situations on the tiny monochrome Wrigley announcement board and spur on the crowd with a two-frame animation: "Jo-DY! Jo-DY! Jo-DY!" And Davis would inevitably ground out to shortstop.

The point being, despite winning my undivided support, Davis was an above-average player (by OPS+) one season in his 10-year career, and if he didn't necessarily deserve to be replaced by Damon Berryhill, he didn't belong as a starting catcher on a contending team. In the grand scheme of things, it didn't much matter that I was utterly rooked in trading my Eric Davis baseball cards for Jody's. But I wasn't a major league general manager at the time. The Rockies, as an organization in general, have a misplaced affection for guys they used to have. If they can't afford to bring back, say, the actual Juan Pierre, they become obsessed with finding the next Juan Pierre. There's a certain subset of what hardcore Colorado fans there remain who pine openly for the Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette, and (gods help us) Neifi Perez era.

Since baseball memories are formed in large part by seeing games in person and Coors Field is the architectural equivalent of beer goggles, there are people out there, and lots of them, who think Vinny Castilla is a great baseball player rather than an average one who happened to spend his peak years in Denver. Larry Walker was a great baseball player. Vinny and Dante and Ellis Burks were park phenomena. Andres Galarraga -- well, that's a tough call. He was OK I guess.

That as a franchise the Rockies tend to hold their past hitters in somewhat exaggerated esteem is understandable. But what about Dan O'Dowd's odd fixation on bringing back Colorado alumni pitchers? Mike DeJean, Dan Miceli, and Jamey Wright all pitched in return engagements for the Rockies last season. O'Dowd has talked, apparently in earnest, about bringing back the likes of Shawn Estes and Pedro Astacio. What's the story here? Does the Colorado management team score "realistic home field expectations" on the 20-80 scale? Are there really so many fans of Estes' first stint in Denver out there that paying him millions of dollars to be below replacement level becomes a sound business investment?

It's criminally underreported that in the Rockies' only playoff year, when they won the wild card by one game in a strike-shortened season, the team had a league-average offense, league-average starters, and a mighty colossus of a bullpen. Yet the bring-back-Curt Leskanic movement is strangely muted. Look, I'm not saying the Rockies are better off with their current crop of players. It's just they certainly don't need to start bringing back guys who weren't particularly good for them the first go-round. They need a third set of players, who haven't been Rockies before, passionately believe purple is slimming, and only solicit prostitutes with the greatest imaginable discretion. And can play a little bit.

Oh, forgot one: Preston Wilson. He was never that good, either. We don't want him back.

2005-12-19 11:59
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Rockies ownership wants their payroll to be at $45 million next year. Roughly half of that will be consumed by two players -- Todd Helton ($16.6 million a year from here to eternity) and Jason Jennings ($4.4 million for 2006, but then mercifully we are rid of him). $45 million is a small-market payroll. Colorado's peers in that bracket are teams like Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. It's true that they're spending more than Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Florida (take a look at the Marlins' salary breakdown sometime, it's pretty funny), but they're getting readily outspent by teams like the A's, Blue Jays, and (most importantly) the other four teams in their division.

Denver is not a small city, nor is it a poor sports market. The Broncos have to be one of the most enduringly successful franchises in American sports. The Avalanche's sellout streak was unharmed by the NHL's strike and attendance continues to be great despite some of the highest ticket prices in hockey. The Nuggets...well, you can still see the Nuggets play pretty good teams for $10 some nights. The point is, this region is perfectly willing to shell out to see pro sports, so long as the teams win consistently. The first half-decade of Rockies baseball illustrated that an audience much greater than small market size exists for major league baseball in Denver. During the franchise's formative years at Mile High, I believe they set records for single-game and season attendance that still stand. The first year at Coors, the wild card season of 1995, was wildly profitable as well.

But Denverites don't truck well with losing ugly (just ask Gary Barnett), and the Rockies seem to have been redrawing their estimated market size smaller and smaller every year since '95. That's why Todd Helton (and Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle) got the contracts they did when they did, and now the team squeezes every dollar. The unspoken corollary to the Rockies' Incredible Shrinking Market Size is that were the team every to somehow become good again, people might start coming back. Coors Field has a national reputation akin to a death camp for pitchers, but it's actually a beautiful place to watch a baseball game, and most people in Denver are somewhat aware of this in the backs of their minds. If Dan O'Dowd's latest top secret plan of building on the cheap through the draft ever pans out, the Rockies could be in a position to retain a few of their most valuable homegrown chips when the time comes, and even add a free agent piece or two if they're ever really in position a piece or two away. Assuming it's not too late. Which I don't think it is. I hope. This isn't South Florida.

The Dodgers Steal the Headlines
2005-12-19 03:57
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Nomar Garciaparra to L.A., apparently. I don't have good feelings about this. If Nomar goes to a team like Cleveland and gets hurt or is no good, then, well, that's a "small market team taking a chance." With the Dodgers, Garciaparra has the chance to be part of a disturbing injury perfecta with the likes of Drew, Gagne, Penny, and Perez. No one really noticed or cared when Juan Gonzalez ended up contributing nothing for the Indians last year, yet somehow people seriously suggested that an injury to the profoundly ineffective Jose Valentin is what started the Dodgers on their death spiral in 2005. I guess what I'm driving at is that if the general character of your team is young, healthy, and vigorous, you're more likely to weather these sorts of things. Mixing Nomar with the bone china-armed Cubs pitching staff was a recipe for disaster. With Drew, Nomar, and a 38-year-old Jeff Kent, the Dodgers could become the first team ever to lose their three, four, and five hitters for the season on back-to-back-to-back check swings.

Unrelated addendum: In response to Take Two Interactive buying the exclusive rights to make major league baseball-licensed videogames (itself a response to Electronic Arts' snagging of the NFL rights), EA is developing a college baseball title. That's kind of a cool idea. I end up buying at least two XBox baseball games every year because there's always one that's fun multiplayer and one that has a rigorous franchise mode, but never one with both. At the right price, I would buy a college baseball game. This could end up, quite unintentionally, being a huge boon for the NCAA. I've become a huge international soccer fan due mostly to my enthusiasm for EA's FIFA and Konami's Winning Eleven.

Fuentes Set to Re-Sign
2005-12-16 04:20
by Mark T.R. Donohue

2 years, $5.5 million. It's hard to overstate what a colossal bargain this is. Brian Fuentes is 30 with an injury history and has one of the weirdest left-handed deliveries in the game, but in his two healthy seasons with Colorado (2003 and '05) he's been terrific. Really terrific. He was second in the majors last year in Relievers Expected Wins Added. He was fourth in the bigs in K/9 (minimum 70 innings pitched). (By the way, the Cubs' Michael Wuertz was fifth in this category. Who knew?) Fuentes didn't have a particularly low batting average on balls in play last year so he could potentially be even better in 2006 with a little luck and a little defense. A lot of his value next year will be contingent on whether Clint Hurdle continues to be willing to send Fuentes out in multi-inning and non-save situations. If King and Mesa are pitching in the eighth in one-run games with runners on, the Rockies are not getting the maximum return for their talent.

Colorado would also do well to throw a few low-leverage, righty-heavy save opportunities the way of Mesa and Chin-Hui Tsao. Fuentes is no slouch against righthanders, but he allowed three extra-base hits to lefties (and no homers) all last year. It might annoy the fantasy wonks out there (for whom Fuentes is pretty much the only desirable arm on the Rockies' staff), but the team would be better served having Brian complete fewer saves and throw more innings overall.

The NL West: Early Returns
2005-12-14 06:03
by Mark T.R. Donohue

With two big trades breaking in the division in the last 24 hours, it's as good a time as any to take our first of what will likely be many looks at how the National League West will shake out in 2006. Normally I approach these previews with three questions in mind. What is the team's plan for the offseason, how well are they executing it, and is it the right plan? The NL West was near-historically bad last season, and accordingly this winter is going kind of strangely. So rather than examine how well each of the division's teams are applying their plans to improve, we're going to rate them based on whether they seem to have any coherent plan whatsoever. If this appears a ploy to list the Rockies first, that's only because it is.

Colorado (67-95). The plan: improve the bullpen enough to avoid the early-season ugliness of '05, get a catcher on the cheap, don't spend any money. To this end, they've signed Jose Mesa, traded Larry Bigbie and Aaron Miles for Ray King, and traded Marcos Carvajal and the Rule 5 Luis Gonzalez for Yorvit Torrealba. In order for the Rockies to threaten .500, a great deal of second- and third-year players are going to have to make huge leaps forward. But, they haven't spent any money. If they end up resigning Byung-Hyun Kim, they'll have a better team than last year while cutting their payroll by nearly a third.

San Francisco (75-87). The plan: as for the last several years, acquire whatever veteran talent is necessary to keep the team approximately competitive while Barry Bonds is still playing. They've had a textbook Brian Sabean offseason, signing Matt Morris, Mark Sweeney, Tim Worrell, and potentially Bill Mueller. They also swapped shaky relievers with Baltimore, getting Steve Kline for LaTroy Hawkins. They finally let J.T. Snow go, a move strangely mourned by many Giants fans. Then again, Sweeney, Lance Niekro, and Pedro Feliz are the other options at first. If nobody gets hurt and the likes of Mike Matheny, Ray Durham, and Omar Vizquel don't crater, they have as good a chance as anybody. The chances of that are not high.

San Diego (82-80). The plan: keep the division champs intact! They didn't overpay to retain Ramon Hernandez, but other than that all their major moves were resignings: Trevor Hoffman, Brian Giles, Eric Young. They were big winners in the lopsided Mike Cameron-for-Xavier Nady deal and big losers in the lopsided Mark Loretta-for-Doug Mirabelli deal. They brought Vinny Castilla on board for Brian Lawrence, which not only gives that weird subsection of Rockies fans who still love the guy multiple chances to cheer for him, but also (somewhat amazingly) improves the Padres at third base, where they were almost unspeakably bad last season. There also seems to be a bring-back-David Wells campaign mounting. They're still not very good, and I don't get why they got rid of two of their best hitters in Loretta and Sweeney. Then there's the all-bad feelings trade, Sean Burroughs for Dewon Brazelton. They had a head start in seizing control of a bad division by being slightly less bad than everyone else, but they've squandered it.

Los Angeles (71-91). The plan: salt the earth. The changes in management are probably more important than the changes in player personnel, ironically because the last two Dodger regimes have left them with an absurdly rich farm system. The weird Milton Bradley deal (when was the last time you remember two major league-established guys being swapped for one prospect?) is symbolic of their overall offseason goal, which seems to be to sweep away all of the bad feelings associated with the '05 season. But then they sign Rafael Furcal, no Boy Scout. They can't trade the owner. If the goal was to avoid controversy in the clubhouse and boneheaded behavior on the field by guys wearing the uniform, was Grady Little really the most natural choice for manager? As strange as a lot of their short-term moves have been, the overall health of the organization is pretty good, and absent further meddling from Frank McCourt I trust Ned Colletti not to foul it up. Best case scenario, they become the new Braves; worst case, the new Orioles.

Arizona (77-85). The plan: ??? Honestly, I have no idea. They trade Javier Vasquez for El Duque? Having signed Troy Glaus to an utterly pointless contract last year, they now want to trade him and pay part of his salary somewhere else? Damion Easley? Johnny Estrada? The suits have new names, but this still seems like the organization that traded Milwaukee their entire bench for 90 Richie Sexson at-bats. They seem to have a lot of difficulty resolving the age difference between their current core and the next generation; whenever they do trade an old guy it seems whatever they get back is either too far away or too close to free agency. It's as if they're trying to be the Giants and the Rockies at the same time. Well, Chris Young's supposed to be good.

As we get closer to the season, I'm sure I will dedicate full posts to each of these teams. Depth charts are for February; right now it's time to ask if your team has a plan.

Catch and Release
2005-12-13 07:36
by Mark T.R. Donohue

On the subject of my weird fascination with the MLB's unloved St. Petersburg expansion franchise:

I have no idea why I started watching Devil Rays games on TV last season. Not a clue. I work from home, and I'm the sort of person who utilizes the Extra Innings package to watch three games a day during the season (and TiVos games on the rare occasions I actually leave my apartment). Even though I broke up acrimoniously with the Cubs after the 2003 postseason, I still end up watching a ton of Cubs games because, well, they play during the day. With the spread of digital cable, live Internet streams, and satellite radio, a smart small-market team could boost its national profile immensely just by scheduling more midweek day games. Of course, money from these sources is pooled among the 30 teams and ticket revenues and local media advertising money aren't, so there's little to no short-term benefit involved. Still, the Devil Rays could do it. I don't think they could possibly go any lower as far as attendance and regional TV ratings are concerned in a market where local radio still broadcasts many Yankees games. There are a lot of bizarre things the Devil Rays might as well try, since it can't possibly get any worse. Or can it?

Maybe that's the source of my interest in Tampa Bay. While the remaining Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Lions fans know that bad basketball and football teams are simply hideous to watch, baseball gone wrong has a car accident, "Twilight Zone"-like quality to it. Year before last I went to a Marlins-Expos game held at Comiskey Park due to hurricane activity in South Florida. There were maybe 5,000 people there. It was eerie. Every Devil Rays game, except when they play Boston or the Yanks, is like that. Plus there's the field itself. Tropicana has the worst artificial turf since the Vet in its heyday, with these unsettling dead grey spots. It looks for all the world like one of the obviously indoor planet surface sets of the original "Star Trek." I can't not mention the uniforms, either, which change slightly every year yet only manage to inch ever closer to a pure, idealized ugliness. Teams can transcend outdated stadiums and ugly uniforms. The Metrodome used to be a cool place to be. The Diamondbacks won a World Series donning a color scheme that looked (and still looks) like a laundry accident. In St. Pete, however, the pockmarked "lawn" and neon lettering only serve to throw a truly dire competitive history into sharp relief.

There was the expansion draft period. The desiccated slugger period. The "all young players are not necessarily prospects" period. And, most recently, the Lou Piniella period, which definitively settled an age-old question: Can you get all the way to third place utilizing only a) the stolen base and b) yelling? (No.) Astoundingly, this entire history was overseen by one singular figure: Chuck LaMar. The new breed of thirtysomething GMs tell their nieces and nephews horror stories about this guy. For the longest time, though, it was comforting to have LaMar in place, because no matter how many thorny baseball issues there were that kept you tossing and turning during the dark nights of your soul, you knew there was one question that always would be a total softball when lobbed out at cocktail parties: "Who's the worst GM in baseball?"

So, somehow drawn to this bizarre legacy as to those bioluminescent lures certain deep-sea fish use to attract prey, I started tuning into Tampa Bay games last year at 5:00 mountain time, after the Cubs finished but before the Rockies usually started at 7 or 8. I began to appreciate the low-key D-Rays broadcast team, who have no illusions whatsoever about their team's immediate prospects for contention. (Unlike the Royals' guys: "If the R's take 3 of 4 here, they pull within 19 1/2!") Tampa, perhaps due to LaMar's obsession with drafting players right out of junior high school, has a lot of guys who "look good in a uniform," as my dad would say. If you watch one of their games beginning to end, it's likely you will see a spectacular catch in the outfield. And you'll also see several singles played into triples, misplayed hops off the surface of Iotia Prime, and airmailed cutoff men. Hey, that Scott Kazmir is good, though.

Not sure what exactly inspired this lengthy reflection on one of the few teams in baseball with a less impressive portfolio than Colorado's. It does give you a certain insight into the psyche of this page's author, who claims to be only the person in attendance at Wrigley Field wearing a Devil Rays hat on June 3rd, 2003. It also will prepare you for what's to come here. Readers of my page last year may remember my occasional digressions on the subject of the Brewers, who I had tabbed in the preseason to finally snap their long-running streak of losing seasons, which they did, hitting .500 dead smack on the nose. With new ownership and management (and free parking) in St. Pete this year, I think I'm going to likewise adopt the Devil Fishes as my 2006 Third Favorite Team, after (of course) the Rockies, and the A's, who I have been rooting for intently since reading Catfish: My Life in Baseball in 1988 and don't plan on abandoning any time soon. It's a new dawn in T.B. You can't see it, because of the roof, but it's rising, and it's as many-colored as that famous logo.

Warning Signs
2005-12-12 20:14
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Just when all of us (or at least Clint Hurdle) were gaining at least a feeling of resigned acceptance about the Rockies' slow offseason, two scary bits of news popped up. No, we're not talking about popular cowboy-hatted Tool of the Establishment Tracy Ringolsby being elected to the Hall of Fame. (Although that is alarming.)

First (in the footnotes) we have an ominous ending sentence: "[Brian] Fuentes' representatives said they are not interested in a third-year club option on a multiyear deal, which [Dan] O'Dowd has said is a potential deal-breaker." It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, least of all the Colorado organization, that Brian Fuentes doesn't want to sign a long-term below-market deal. If he can pitch two more seasons, remain healthy, and accumulate even a modest number of saves, he could cash in wildly as a free agent in 2008, when he'll still be a relatively hale 32 years old. O'Dowd should be willing to go down to a two-year deal if that's what it takes, or even spend some of the $25 million or so the club has pared off its payroll since last season. The reasoning behind this is two-pronged: as of right now, who on the current roster could possibly take Fuentes' place, and does it occur to anyone what trade value a "proven closer" might carry in midseason '06 or '07? It's true that they can take Fuentes to arbitration and trade him this year if they care to, but how often do really good major league pitchers express any interest at all in committing to multiple years in Denver? Not often. Let's see this one through, Dan-O.

Also, as reported by our blogging colleagues at Rox Head, Matt Holliday has hired Scott Boras as his agent. This means as soon as Holliday becomes a free agent (which is a ways off, he's entering his third year), he's gone. I don't know if this is a big deal or not. You would hope by the time the organization has to make a decision about Holliday, they would have generated some more options in the corner outfield internally. Colorado really needs a young, inexpensive player who can hit tons of homers behind Todd Helton in the lineup; Holliday isn't likely to become that guy. If he ever does, he won't be inexpensive for very long. I don't think that Holliday was destined to become a lifelong Colorado fixture anyway due to his limitations as a power hitter; the only upshot of the Boras signing is that he is now likely to be traded sooner rather than later. Accordingly one of things that needs to be on O'Dowd's mind next season as he considers deals for the likes of Jason Jennings and Fuentes is finding some slugging minor league talent. Come to think of it, that really should have been on the agenda last year when he traded Shawn Chacon and Preston Wilson.

One more Byung-Hyun Kim thought courtesy of his player card at CBS SportsLine: his 4.50 mark last year was the fourth-lowest home ERA in franchise history for pitchers throwing at least 81 innings. For what it's worth.

2005-12-11 19:37
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Top Rockies pitchers by VORP in 2005:

1. Brian Fuentes, 20.4
2. Aaron Cook, 13.9
3. Shawn Chacon, 12.2
4. Jay Witasick, 10.8
5. Byung-Hyun Kim, 8.9

First of all, there's no use crying over Chacon or Witasick. Chac was traded to the Yankees for two guys who in all likelihood will never play in the majors. It happened, it's over with, let's move on. Witasick on the other hand was dealt to Oakland partly to get rid of Joe Kennedy's contract, partly to land the possibly useful Omar Quintanilla, and partly with the notion that Colorado might turn around and resign him at season's end anyway. The A's gave him an extension, as it so happened. Still, it's nice to be rid of Joe Kennedy.

The top two guys, at least, will be back for the Rockies in 2006. Fuentes, obviously, is a reliever, and Cook only played half a season in returning from his blood clot surgery. Chacon was traded in midseason, and Witasick was a reliever who was also traded in midseason. The upshot of this is that Byung-Hyun Kim was the only Rockies pitcher in the top five by VORP who pitched more than 100 innings (148, precisely). Considering that he was initially another organization's problem whom the Rockies only acquired so that they could rid themselves of a problem of their own (catcher Charles Johnson), 148 innings of basically league-average pitching was a pretty good showing for Kim.

Kim's raw stats mix the good with the bad. A 4.86 ERA is not necessarily bad for a Rockies starter. 6.99 K/9 is pretty good. But a WHIP of 1.53 and 17 home runs allowed, not so much. If you subtract his disastrous 22 1/3 innings as a reliever, things look better -- 4.37 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 6.80 K/9. Byung-Hyun's no superstar and he certainly wasn't worth $6.575 million last year. But at the right price he's a vastly better option than, say, Shawn Estes. Intriguingly, Kim was better at Coors last season than on the road -- .781 home OPS against vs. .860 on the road. Among starters he led the team in strikeouts per nine by a healthy margin, and compared to the likes of Kennedy, Jeff Francis, and Jamey Wright he was actually pretty stingy when it came to allowing home runs.

As of now we know that Colorado has offered Kim arbitration with the understanding that this is only a manuever to allow negotiations between the team and the pitcher to continue. The rules state that a player can't make less than 80% of his previous year's salary coming out of arbitration (with an exception that doesn't apply here). The Rockies have no intention of paying Kim five and a quarter million next season. However, a thorough search of local headlines around the league show not many other teams have declared an interest in acquiring the submariner, or at least not publicly. The only team I've seen linked to BK by name is Kansas City, and that's just idle columnist speculation. Reading between the lines, two other teams that would seem to be desperately in need of affordable free agent starters are Houston and Washington. (The Phillies, interestingly, have decided to move their left-field fence back rather than pursue better starters.)

Fresh Digs
2005-12-10 13:53
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Welcome to Bad Altitude. It's The Good, the Bad and the Barmes only with a shorter name.

My name is Mark Donohue. I'm originally from Wilmette, Illinois and I live now in Boulder, Colorado. I'm a UC Berkeley grad, freelance writer, and bass player. I've followed the Rockies on and off ever since my father bought me a T-shirt during the expansion year of 1993, and since relocating to Colorado, they've become something of an obsession. Will this team ever be good? Will they ever even settle on a single strategy long enough to see whether it pans out or not? Can they make the playoffs before Todd Helton's contract expires (in 2011)? Will they ever wear the black alternate sleeveless jerseys with the purple undershirts again, and if so, will I be forced to gouge out my own eyes?

Now is as good a time as any to rechristen my Rockies page, as the team leaves the winter meetings with more or less all of its major roster moves for 2006 completed. Dan O'Dowd made three moves in Dallas, two harmless (if not slightly beneficial) and one more troubling. Trading Larry Bigbie and Aaron Miles for lefthanded reliever Ray King is one of the benign deals. O'Dowd never wanted Bigbie in the first place (received from Baltimore for Eric Byrnes in mid-2005, he was supposed to have been flipped for Boston catching prospect Kelly Shoppach until the deal fell apart under cloudy circumstances on the Red Sox end). Miles and his .306 OBP (8 walks in 347 PA) lost even the support of Clint Hurdle late last season and his departure paves the way for Luis "No Relation" Gonzalez to play every day at second, which he should have been doing in the first place. It's possible that O'Dowd could have received more value for Bigbie if he'd waited the market out a little, but not much more. Last year after swinging and missing at several free agent relievers the Rockies entered the season with the plan of stocking their bullpen with minor league "up and comers." I could come up with any number of stats to illustrate that this didn't work, but so could you with a minimum effort. Only by scavenging Mike DeJean and Jay Witasick (later traded to Oakland) did O'Dowd manage to stop the bleeding. The trade for King, and the signing of venerable "proven closer" Jose Mesa, are an obvious overcorrection. Extensions for DeJean and breakout '05 star Brian Fuentes demonstrate sounder reasoning.

Strange, then, that the Rockies' other big winter meetings move involved sending off one of their best relief pitchers from last season for a 27-year-old catching "prospect" who doesn't hit or defend any better than Colorado's previous starter-by-default, Danny Ardoin. O'Dowd said going into the offseason that he was definitely going to get a catcher, and Yorvit Torrealba is a catcher. But Marcos Carvajal is a pitcher, a 21-year-old pitcher at that, who throws in the high 90s and was at least reasonably good during a full major league season with Colorado (5.09 ERA, 7.98 K/9, 1.38 WHIP). Originally a Rule 5 pick from the Dodgers organization, the Rockies had big plans for Carvajal, whom they intended to send to the minors to gain seasoning as a starter in 2006. The Rockies face a huge cliff when it comes to acquiring pitching talent. They have essentially given up on signing free agent starters after the Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle debacles. The policy of generating starters from within has had mixed results so far. Aaron Cook after returning from injury has shown tantalizing signs of becoming the first true ace in franchise history. On the other hand Colorado has perhaps been too loyal to Jason Jennings after his Rookie of the Year 2002. The jury's still out on Jeff Francis. In any event 21-year-old potential starters who can strike major league hitters out are somewhat rarer than good-fieldin', poor-hittin' catchers, and the "upgrade" from J.D. Closser to Torrealba is hardly going to mean playoffs in 2006. But by gum, Dan O'Dowd was going to get a catcher.

So we know what our starting lineup is going to look like. It's not terribly pretty, but seeing as all three of our best offensive players (four if you count Brad Hawpe) spent significant time on the DL last season, a better record than 67-95 ought to be in the offing. Ought to be.

1B, Todd Helton. You know this guy. He's good.

2B, Luis E. Gonzalez. Pegged as a utility guy for no particularly good reason when he initially came up, Luis "N.R." is a decent hitter for a second baseman and not necessarily a downgrade from Aaron Miles defensively. Omar Quintanilla, slicker afield but not a hitter, could see time here as well.

SS, Clint Barmes. Listen, we all realize that Barmes' magical beginning to the 2005 season was a huge outlier. However, if he "regresses" to hit .270 and 15 homers, that's still pretty good for an NL shortstop. Defensively Barmes has a bit of a scatter arm; a healthy Helton at first should help with that.

3B, Garrett Atkins. Some of the more relentlessly upbeat Rockies fans felt he was shorted as a ROY candidate last year, but Atkins was useless on the road and at 25 he's not particularly young. He was handed the job in 2005 but should feel plenty of organizational pressure on his back this year. For whatever reason Colorado has a lot of talent at third base in the minor leagues.

C, Yorvit Torrealba/Danny Ardoin. Hooray, a defense/defense, righty/righty platoon.

LF, Matt Holliday. He is what he is. Not a lot of homers for a corner outfielder, shaky defender, could stand to take a few more walks. But for the forseeable future he's the team's cleanup hitter. They could do worse: he hits lefties and righties equally well, and he's not completely useless on the road.

CF, Cory Sullivan. The best of a bad lot for most of 2005, Sullivan really came into his own down the stretch. He's miscast as a leadoff hitter but his defense is good enough to inspire some interesting questions. With those vast outfield gaps at Coors Field, is it not worth sacrificing some offense to get a real old-school flychaser out there for your team? The Rockies have some interesting potential for a big outfield/small outfield platoon situation, with Jorge Piedra slotting in at center on the road and converted first baseman Ryan Shealy attempting to play left here and there. At this point they're really hoping for more production from second, short, and third than from center, which could be the right way to go.

RF, Brad Hawpe. Another '05 rookie, another '05 injury. Hawpe like Holliday doesn't really hit homers as often as you'd like to see but he hit a bit on the road and he's an actual rightfielder, unlike many who manned the position for Colorado last year. Even with the Bigbie trade the Rockies still have about a gazillion tweener outfield candidates milling around in Colorado Springs so if Hawpe doesn't lay a strong claim in for the job, someone will.

As for the starting rotation, we know Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Zach Day, and Sunny Kim will be back. We're still waiting to hear whether Byung-Hyun Kim, an unsung hero for the '05 squad, will be resigned. The bullpen will mix the old (Fuentes, DeJean, David Cortes, Chin-Hui Tsao) with the new (Mesa, King, Jaime Cerda). I'm not expecting much from Mesa, but if King is any good then he, Fuentes, and DeJean make for a pretty solid back three. It's no Shields/Donnelly/K-Rod or Gallo/Wheeler/Lidge, but this is the Rockies we're talking about. Baby steps. We'll delve into the subject of pitching a little further when we find out BK's ultimate fate.

Remember, this is a Rockies page first and foremost, but hopefully it will prove of interest to fans of baseball in general. In addition to the Rockies, I follow the Brewers, Cubs, White Sox, and A's fairly intently and I keep an eye on the Mets, Devil Rays, Giants, and Royals as well. And like any baseball fan worth his salt I do enjoy taking a potshot at Bud Selig here and there. Even when I am going on and on about the Ryan Speiers of the world, I think every close baseball observer should have at least a passing interest in what goes on with the Rockies. They play half their games in the most bizarre laboratory man has ever devised for the game of baseball. And they have solid purple alternate jerseys.

2005-12-08 19:11
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Ray King, Jose Mesa, and Yorvit Torrealba in, Aaron Miles and Larry Bigbie (and possibly Marcos Carvajal) out. With the exception of Carvajal (and that's just speculation at this point), the Rockies are getting something for nothing here. King (trade with the Cardinals) is cheap and left-handed. Mesa (free agent signing) is old but not a huge risk as a one-year signing with no attached draft pick cost. Torrealba has shown some flashes in the past with the Giants and in any event a platoon with he and Danny Ardoin will give the Rockies excellent defense at the catcher position. With Aaron Miles gone, one would assume Luis "N.R." Gonzalez will be the regular starter at second and perhaps Colorado can afford to get no offense out of their catchers. Or maybe Torrealba will hit, who knows. It's not impossible.

In any case, the Rockies seem to working their way through the offseason without losing anybody major, making potentially helpful little additions here and there while not laying out any ridiculous salary commitments. There are worse strategies. Byung-Hyun Kim has been offered arbitration, so we're still at least in the running there. I haven't heard his name in connection with anybody else...yet.

Meeting Rumors
2005-12-06 12:00
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Crazy stuff coming from everywhere on the first night of the winter meetings. I'm going to try and start with the stuff we know for sure and work downwards into the hearsay.

Nobody seems to know for sure, but A.J. Burnett seems to be headed for Toronto. The last I heard was 5 years, $55 million for everyone's favorite career .500 starter. The Cardinals are the other team in the running but I've yet to hear anyone claim that St. Louis is willing to go that high in either years or dollars. Of course, you never know -- I could have sworn that Rafael Furcal was going to the Cubs, and then he reversed course and went to Los Angeles. It's good news for the Rockies, anyway, as the Dysfunctional Dodgers (I think it says that on their uniforms now) will pay cleanup hitter money to a guy with a .757 career OPS.

Oakland has allegedly sent a pair of spare pitchers, Kirk Saarloos and Mario Ramos, to Los Angeles for Milton Bradley. If the A's also add Frank Thomas as is rumored, they're going to be pretty good next year. If they get those two bats without trading Barry Zito, they could keep him, or they could turn the Cy Young lefty into Alfonso Soriano or Hank Blalock. They already have Esteban Loaiza in the fold, who by the way was better than A.J. Burnett last year. In any event the A's are dealing from a position of power while their division rivals in Seattle (who missed out on Burnett), Anaheim (runners-up for Paul Konerko), and Arlington (losers of bidding wars for both free agent Kyle Farnsworth and Florida fire sale chip Josh Beckett) are not.

Another good tidbit from the must-bookmark MLB Trade Rumors: Cincinnati's Austin Kearns (who they should have traded about three years ago) for Cubs Jerome Williams and Ricky Nolasco. After losing out on Furcal Chicago GM Jim Hendry is desperate to make some kind of splash and he certainly doesn't lack for young talent (which Dusty Baker won't play, anyway). Kearns would be an upgrade from Jeromy Burnitz in any event. Although Johnny Damon remains the sleeping giant on the free agent scene thanks to demented agent Scott Boras (who apparently wants 7 years and $84 million for the 32-year-old Damon), I think he'd be a good fit for the Cubs if his price comes down any. Better than Julio Lugo or Joey Gathright, anyway.

And it never ends: Kevin Millwood to Seattle, Paul Byrd to replace him in Cleveland. Trevor Hoffman's name has also been mentioned in connection with the Indians. The Marlins sent Luis Castillo to the Twins and Paul Lo Duca to the Mets and are weighing offers for Juan Pierre. The Florida fire sale is, no way around it, embarrassing for baseball, but the Fish have done a better job than the last time around in securing promising prospects in their salary dumps: Yusmeiro Petit, Travis Bowyer, Gaby Hernandez. The very fact that there was a last time around, though, is pretty awful.

One kind of weird thing that's new on me: in its AL offseason report cards indicates the Mariners are after Jason Jennings and/or Aaron Cook. Jennings, fine. He makes a lot of money for a Colorado pitcher and he's not getting any better. But the Rockies would be completely insane to deal Aaron Cook, the closest thing to an ace they've ever had and a relative bargain as an early arbitration-years player. Also, Seattle doesn't have anybody the Rockies want besides Yorvit Torrealba, who's not worth Cook or Jennings, and Felix Hernandez who I assure you is not for sale. Anyway Dayn Perry turns right around and in his NL report cards claims that Colorado has no interest in trading either of their starters, which begs the question of why exactly he brought it up in the first place.

One team to keep an eye on at the winter meetings is the Devil Rays, who are under new management and have a lot of chips to deal. Hopefully the evil spectre of Chuck LaMar won't haunt them into overplaying their hand and walking away with nothing from one of the hottest sellers' markets in recent memory. Another small-market story is developing in Milwaukee, where the smokescreens are already up regarding the status of Lyle Overbay. He's going somewhere, folks. The weirdest rumor involving Overbay that I've heard has him going to Boston for Matt Clement, which seems odd since Clement's contract is ludicrous and the Red Sox already have Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis to staff the infield corners. If Boston doesn't want to start Youkilis they should really trade him, because he's been ready to be an everyday player in the big leagues for two years now. Milwaukee fans still recovering from the three-headed Russell Branyan-Wes Helms-Jeff Cirillo monster at third would certainly welcome the Greek God of Walks appearing in those sassy retro uniforms, and it would free up TGTBATB fave Bill Hall to go back to his natural super-utility role.

This is but the first day of the meetings! Tomorrow will probably be crazier still. Yikes.

Eve of the Meetings
2005-12-03 16:30
by Mark T.R. Donohue

My father just called to say he was listening to the radio in Chicago and he heard a real whopper of a trade rumor: Barry Zito to Chicago, Kerry Wood to Texas, assorted young guys to Oakland. I haven't seen it repeated anywhere else yet, so I'm just going to go ahead and mention it so I can feel smart if it turns out to be true.

Meanwhile, the latest news on the Rockies is both good and bad. They're definitely talking to Byung-Hyun Kim, which is good. But they still want Shawn Estes, which is bad. Esteban Loaiza's contract has effectively removed mentions of Colorado in connection with Matt Morris. Oh well, that was a pipe dream. Cubs reliever Todd Wellemeyer is mentioned as a trade target, which is interesting. Wellemeyer is affordable and changes speeds well.

Hooray for Colorado losing 70-3 in the Big 12 Championship Game!