Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
The Notes Column: Last Refuge of the Lazy
2006-05-09 09:09
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Why are the Cardinals America's team? Because they have an old Busch and a new Busch.

If there's one thing I learned from reading Sports Illustrated cover to cover every week in my youth, it's that you can't write an article about an early-season surprise team without focusing on that team's Young Breakout Star. But who is that star for the Rockies? Jim Armstrong: Cory Sullivan. If you look quickly, has Matt Holliday on their MLB front page (and the Rockies 9th in their power rankings). For, Clint Hurdle and his love affair with deliberately creating outs is the story. Somehow they managed to get through the story without quoting Phil Garner.

I watched the entirety of the Devil Rays-Mariners game last night, a real East-West bottom feeder summit. How do you like your bad teams, all pitching, no hitting, or vice versa? Tampa Bay has some guys who can hit, including Jonny Gomes and my old TTO fave from Milwaukee, Russell Branyan, currently masquerading as a right fielder. I have not one but two new favorite Rays after the contest last night. First of all, Casey Fossum. I have an established thing for lefties without fastballs, but Fossum takes things beyond logical extremes. Casey's out pitch, which he has modestly dubbed the "Fossum flip," is a marvel that travels slower than fifty miles an hour and yet breaks like a batting cage curveball. I don't know how it's physically possible to throw the thing. Anyway, Fossum outpitched Gil Meche last night but was hung out to dry by Chad Orvella and the Tampa Bay bullpen. My other new favorite guy is Damon Hollins, because he bats right, throws left. I love guys who bat right, throw left. The Mariners broadcasters went on for a whole half-inning talking about how it's rare for outfielders to to demonstrate the Rickey split because it exposes their throwing arm to being hit by pitches. Not once did it come up that there are scads of guys, including outfielders, who throw right, hit left. In fact, three of the four outfielders on the Seattle roster throw right, hit left. (Ichiro, Raul Ibañez, and Matt Lawton.) The level of common sense being demonstrated by our baseball TV broadcasters could well be at an all-time low.

Seattle's pitching has been very good of late, although it's been Jor-El Pineiro and not Felix Hernandez who's been leading the way. However, the Mariners' lineup is, well, crappy. Kenji Johjima has been as advertised, Ibañez has been solid, and they've gotten a surprising amount of offense from team RBI leader Jose Lopez, but after that, yuck. Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, and Richie Sexson are producing very little for a lot of money. Willie Bloomquist and Yuniesky Betancourt are non-hitters. Mike Hargrove seems to have given up on Jeremy Reed. Combine a weak hitting attack with end-of-the-bullpen issues and you've got a recipe for a long season. As of last night, J.J. Putz is in and Eddie Guardado is out as closer, but Seattle's core problems go beyond what depth chart shuffles can repair. They've got a lot of untradeable contracts, the farm system is Yankees-dry, and with that very game last night, they set a record low for atttendance at Safeco. On the other hand, those dark blue-green jerseys they wear are really nice-looking.

The Cubs' collapse is proceeding ahead of schedule this year. Apparently they've got yet another plan for second base now, rookie Ryan Theriot, continuing one of the strangest ongoing position battle stories in MLB. Why won't the Cubs play Todd Walker, a good-hitting, lefty-swinging second baseman, at second base? I realize Walker is now starting at first in Derrek Lee's absence, but Chicago really ought to be able to find an immobile slugging first baseman somewhere in organized baseball. I would suggest they make a deal for Ryan Shealy, but I don't think the Cubs have anything the Rockies want, and also, what would they do with him after Lee comes back? Well, I'm sure there are teams besides the Rockies who have a good-hitting, positionally blocked first baseman in AAA. Rotating through an endless cycle of no-hit second basemen isn't really helping matters. Ah, confusing motion for progress -- must be springtime in Wrigleyville.

I'm not sure what to make of the Dodgers' current struggles. On one hand, I'm mad at the franchise for unjustly firing Paul DePodesta after an injury plague of biblical proportions scuttled L.A.'s 2005 campaign. Is it poetic justice that the same fate is now befalling Ned Colletti? However the season ends up for the Dodgers, I think Colletti did a pretty good job this offseason given the illogical and often contradictory orders imposed upon him by HQ. Rafael Furcal's awfulness defies explanation. The trade for Danys Baez looks smarter now that Eric Gagne has gone down again. I ridiculed the Dodgers for starting Aaron Sele yesterday, but in the long run, it makes sense for them not to needlessly rush their blue-chip arms. Things look worse than they actually are now, but the franchise is still structurally sound. Other than the crazy owner, I mean. As I noted in my preseason previews, most of the veterans the Dodgers have under contract have very reasonable, very movable deals. If the Rockies run away with the NL West (sorry, couldn't help myself), Los Angeles could improve their future prospects even further by selling high on some guys who aren't in the long-term plans. There's already discussion of pawning Odalis Perez off to the Mets.

Carpenter and Fogg tonight in St. Louis, which doesn't bode well for the Rockies' winning streak. That's OK, so long as a Rockies loss doesn't start a streak in the other direction.

2006-05-09 13:09:36
1.   The Boar
"Well, I'm sure there are teams besides the Rockies who have a good-hitting, positionally blocked first baseman in AAA."

Sure there are. But none that teams will give up for fewer than several decent to good pitching prospects. Unless you're completely unfamiliar with the Cubs system, we've parted with enough of those for a while.

As for other options, Pena, Clark, Millar, and Conine seemingly have no interest in Wrigleyville, so there you go. The Cubs have a very good backup 1B man who is inconveniently also injured. So that goes back to your original statement of "confusing motion for progress" -- exactly right, and there's no reason for further motion if it isn't progress.

2006-05-09 13:10:57
2.   The Boar
"a very good backup 1B man who is inconveniently also injured"

AKA Brian Dopirak, by the way.

2006-05-10 03:05:16
3.   Yu-Hsing Chen
LOL nice piece again ;)

I think the Mariner despite it's struggles isn't really that bad off though... for one, the AL West is starting to shape up like the NL west last year and even worse (at least the NL west was and still is loaded with young talents), the Mariners can suck all year and probably still stay in the race...

Ichiro is going to produce sooner or later.. Adrian Beltran reall is upped though... but if they can somehow manage to put one or two more respectable players into that batting order and have both Ichiro and Johijima turning it on... they might still make a run for it.... like I said.. the AL west is pretty crappy this year ... the Rangers is a one man rotation with a lot of good bats.. the Angels are collasping badly.. the As are doing poorly on both ends of the plate... they are feeling a lot like the Marlins last year... stacked with young talents but can still somehow suck bad...

Tampa is actually not a horrible team.. IF it wasn't in the juggernaut division of the AL east... if they actually had Huff and Cantu in the lineup their offense is very explosive and fun to watch, and their defense is good enough to make up for a lot of their defects in pitching....(hard to find a outfield with more legs than Tampa..)

I think the Dogers are still much better off than the Giants and Padres... two team that should be playing in the baseball version of senior PGA tour... though yeah, it's hard to see why they are doing this bad without the injury bugs decending that badly on them yet...

2006-05-10 03:24:21
4.   Yu-Hsing Chen
Intersting question though, would Chin Hui Tsao still have a spot on the Rockies roster when he get back somewhere between June and July? he didn't do too shabby for the Rockies over the last couple of years when they were struggling and had some really shining moments...
2006-05-10 08:23:31
5.   Mark T.R. Donohue
Tsao has crazy-good stuff and I can't see the Rockies giving up on a guy they tabbed to be their closer at the start of last season. However, who in the bullpen would you demote to make room for him? Scott Dohmann has earned the right to stay in the majors, David Cortes and Ramon Ramirez have been terrific, and Jose Mesa and Ray King are making too much money. The obvious candidate would be Tom Martin but Clint Hurdle seems to really love having two lefties (besides Brian Fuentes, of course) in his pen. Don't forget that Mike DeJean and Sunny Kim are rehabbing injuries as well. Tsao will almost certainly see some action with the big club this season health permitting, but it will be later rather than sooner.

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