March 2010

March Radness

Forget what you’ve heard about Christmas, summer or Hawaiian Shirt (and jeans) Day… Thursday begins the most wonderful time of the year.

Thursday, the TinCaps’ Spring Training Brigade flies to Arizona. You’d think that would be enough, but it’s also the first day of the college basketball tournament, also known as National Watch College Basketball At Work Day. You know, if watching college basketball were allowed at your workplace. Sixteen basketball games per day for two days, four of them announced by Gus Johnson. This might be the best combination since someone decided to put melted cheese inside breadsticks.

One other thing I hope you got a chance to see was this: During the selection show for the tournament, Ohio State was announced as a No. 2 seed. That’s not news; the news was that Mark Titus of Club Trillion fame decided he would also be Mark Titus of “raising the roof on national television for what seemed like 20 minutes straight” fame. I can’t think of anything to better celebrate a tournament bid on TV than to resurrect one of the shortest-lived and lamest celebrations of all time for everyone to see.

Monday ramblings:

  • I caught the Indians-Padres game yesterday… Drew Cumberland pinch-ran and stole second base on Carlos Santana (not that Carlos Santana), who has a pretty good arm. James Darnell came in for an inning as a defensive replacement. Between them, Simon Castro, Alexi Amarista (Angels), Gustavo Nunez (Tigers), Kyle Russell (Dodgers) and others, there are a lot of guys who played in the MWL last year who are getting reps in MLB Spring Training games.
  • Mat Latos is supposed to pitch four innings in today’s game. Now’s the time when starting pitchers are starting to stretch out and go deeper into games, which usually means more minor-leaguers get sent to minor-league camp.
  • If you hear about a guy being “cut” from camp, chances are he’s not being released… He’s just being reassigned to minor-league camp, which just means he probably won’t make the major-league Opening Day roster.
  • Pretty good article from Baseball America about what it means when a player is said to be “out of options.” It can be pretty confusing.
  • Ben Sheets had what should end up as the most ridiculous pitching line of the year, and not in a good way: 0 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 0 K. Chris Dickerson led off the bottom of the 1st with a homer, then doubled later in the inning. Maybe nobody cares about Spring Training stats, but when you’re coming off major shoulder surgery, this is a red flag… Unless he was working on a secondary pitch or something weird.
  • Former Astros INF Morgan Ensberg writes a blog and he has an interesting post about what led up to Albert Pujols’ monster home run against Brad Lidge. He’s not really throwing his manager under the bus, but you usually don’t hear these kinds of stories because they can be construed as a shot at somebody.
  • I’m thinking about taking a tub of whale blubber with me to Arizona. Not for fuel, but for sunscreen. After a winter without sun, I’ll be lobster-fied by sundown the day we get there.

I think that’s it for now… Take care!

DW

Simon Castro: Watson Family Favorite

I remember last Opening Weekend when my parents and I were eating lunch at a restaurant across Jefferson Boulevard from the ballpark. We were sitting at the counter facing Jefferson. All of a sudden, I saw a bunch of our players walking down the street. I didn’t know if they could see us through the glass, and being early in the season, I’m not sure how many of them knew who I was, even though we’d already been on the road together for a week. I was telling my parents who these guys were… They were pretty impressed. Then one of the players looked over and waved. My parents thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Now that guy is the talk of Padres’ major-league camp. It’s Simon Castro. One of my favorite people from last year’s team and my parents’ favorite TinCap of all time. Keep your eye on him… He could be on the fast track.

Cooking With Gasoline

Happy Friday!

I spent most of my day today trying to figure out how to get updated stats from one computer in the press box to another, so they can be relayed onto graphics our TV broadcast. We’ve had some breakthroughs. I expect Allan Wertheimer to be paying for several of my lunches over the course of this summer if this ends up working.

While doing that today, I was trying to keep track of the Big Ten basketball tournament. Aside from Evan Turner owning Michigan, the number one thing I can’t get over is how much Wisconsin’s head coach actually looks like a badger. It’s uncanny. I wish every school’s mascot was named after its head coach. That way, we could’ve enjoyed years of the Texas Tech Vince Gills.

On the bowling front, I’m proud to announce that my team has secured a spot in the championship round of the TinCaps Bowling League playoffs after a dramatic comeback victory over the Powder Monkeys. It was a completely historic accomplishment… After we lost the first game, we won Game 2, then Kacie Whitmore rolled four strikes in a row (commonly referred to as a hambone) to start the third game and we never looked back. It was unbelievable. Arguably one of the Top 5 greatest comebacks in bowling history, right there with Roy Munson’s return to the bowling world in “Kingpin,” or at least up until the point he loses to Big Ern McCracken.

Before bowling the other night, I caught some of the Pirates-Orioles game and they had Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington in the booth. He said, and I paraphrase, “March and September are the two absolute worst times to evaluate players.” Which, by extension, means those are probably also the worst times to evaluate teams. Translation: Spring Training stats and records mean nothing. That being said, there are definitely jobs up for grabs, but it’s the more minor decisions (which veteran will get the final bullpen spot) than big ones (will this prospect make the MLB roster). The more I hear about the whole “prospect trying to make the big-league roster” situation, the more it seems like there are only two ways the prospects will start the season in the major leagues:

1. An injury to the MLB starter (i.e. the prospect is a third baseman and the MLB third baseman gets hurt), or
2. The prospect goes completely ballistic in Spring Training and leaves the team no other choice.

Friday ramblings:

  • James Darnell got the start at third base today for the Padres. He was on our 2009 Opening Day roster.
  • Jeff Samardzija’s line vs. the Brewers today: 2IP 5H 4ER 1BB 2K. He gave up two home runs. Of the six outs he induced, two were strikeouts and the rest were flyouts. Sounds like the ball was up. He throws hard, has a pretty good breaking ball and the Cubs are letting him throw his split-finger fastball again, which they didn’t in his first two pro seasons. Don’t give up on him yet, Cubs fans.
  • Matt LaPorta is “that guy” in the clubhouse. Somebody was telling him they were getting their car shipped to Arizona. He asked, “In a box?”
  • ESPN.com’s Keith Law got a look at some Padres prospects who haven’t played above Class-A yet… RHPs Adys Portillo and Rafeal Arias and INFs Edinson Rincon, Jeudy Valdez and Jonathan Galvez. You have to be an ESPN Insider to read, but to paraphrase, Law seems to like Rincon. He wrote things like “he can hit” and that Rincon makes “loud contact with good backspin” in batting practice. Also, he warned not to write off Valdez (who played here in 2009)… The ball comes off his bat well, which I agree with. I thought he got pull-happy last year, which pitchers quickly adjusted to. He’s only 20 years old.
  • Interesting ideas about revamping supplemental draft picks here.
  • I’m glad Tony Kornheiser is back on PTI.

And now, musical guest… Joe Cocker!

Have a great weekend!

DW

Closer Than They Appear

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the message on your car mirrors is correct: Objects in the mirror are, indeed, closer than they appear. Especially when the object is slamming into the back of your car.

This morning on my way to work, a streak nearly 10 years in the making was snapped in completely non-dramatic fashion. I was stopped at a red light. The car behind me was also stopped. I looked in my mirror to see the driver of said car brushing something off the outside of her car. Odd, but OK. I looked forward, then looked back in the mirror. Car is suddenly “coming in hot,” as they say. Oh boy.

To paraphrase Nationals radio guy Charlie Slowes, bang, zoom go the bumpers. After making sure my head was still attached to my neck, I was relieved to find out everybody was OK. Both cars could drive away (after exchanging of insurance information, of course). The Cobalt is getting checked out on Thursday, but all I can see with my untrained eye is a beat-up license plate. I’ll keep you updated.

Oh, yeah… And when I called to schedule my car appointment, the lady on the phone asked me how the team’s shaping up for this season. I’m glad people care, but she’s clearly not a reader of this blog. Sigh…

The more I think about it, the more I’m amazed at how many people get into way-more-serious car accidents and aren’t seriously hurt. In fact, apparently running into other cars is now encouraged in NASCAR. I’m not as into racing as I used to be, but when somebody’s car gets airborne at 100+ mph and the contact is intentional and nobody gets into real trouble, you wonder what it would take for things to be considered serious. Another Dale Earnhardt situation? I hope not.

So other than being a victim my first traffic accident as a driver in my life, we have a new website, as promised. It’s our third of the off-season and should last much longer than the last two. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday ramblings:

  • I got an e-mail yesterday that Colin Lynch signed with the Brockton Rox of the independent CanAm League. He pitched for the TinCaps in 2009 but was released by the Padres after the season. Now he’ll pitch for the Rox, about an hour from his home in New Hampshire, presumably hoping to impress somebody enough to get back into affiliated baseball. Here’s hoping for the best.
  • Fort Wayne alum (and darn good closer) Jackson Quezada is trying to come back from injury which wiped out his entire 2009 season… He gave up a grand slam to Grady Sizemore today, trying to clean up a messy 4th inning against the Indians. Aaron Poreda gave up 3 hits and 3 walks and didn’t get anybody out and Quezada tried to bail him out. No dice.
  • Simon Castro pitched two scoreless innings against the Indians: 2IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 2K. Cleveland had pulled most of their starters by then, but impressive nonetheless for a guy who was in Class-A last year.
  • Josh Judy, who went to Indiana Tech, pitched a scoreless inning for the Indians.
  • As I type this, it looks like the Indians are going to be 4-0 in Spring Training. Is there any way we can institute a “win rollover” program, like my cell phone plan has? I hope I’m wrong, but I think the Indians will need all the extra wins they can get this year.
  • Kyle Russell, who was a co-MVP in the Midwest League last year for Great Lakes, just sliced an RBI single for the Dodgers in a major-league Spring Training game.
  • The Browns are cutting quarterbacks like they’re going out of style. And Derek Anderson is a real idiot. Complain about the fans being “ruthless” after you have a 9.9 QB rating in the 4th quarter. Makes sense, right? Fact: Fans boo when you play poorly. Then you get cut.
  • Here’s a column about Cleveland fans being tough on QBs. The gist is that Browns fans have an obsession with the backup quarterback. Of course, they do. So do the fans of every other team with a horrible offense. Not that a new quarterback would suddenly make the Browns good… They need upgrades all over the place.
  • Fans, in Cleveland or otherwise, will cheer if you play well. Example: Albert/Joey Belle. He was an idiot, but he was our idiot, and he was awesome in the mid-90s.

That’s all for now. Barring any delayed head injury symptoms, I’ll be back on Friday.

Take care!

DW

Saturday School

Happy Monday!

Saturday was a work day at Parkview Field. Some people headed up an orientation session for seasonal workers, some people were on cleanup/painting duty to get the ballpark ready for the season. I cleaned up the TreeTops area and helped paint the green batter’s eye beyond the center-field wall. Let’s just say this: if any batters are distracted, it won’t be because of the background behind the pitcher. It’s green, and it’s spectacular.

On a related note, I can’t explain why, but after six hours of manual labor, I was more tired than a normal 9-6 work day with a workout following work.

Monday ramblings:

  • Several former TinCaps have gotten playing time so far in MLB Spring Training games. James Darnell is playing quite a bit at third base and Simon Castro pitched a scoreless inning on Saturday.
  • Randy Ready, former Fort Wayne manager, wants to be a long-term answer as the Padres’ hitting coach.
  • Muhammad Ali visited Padres’ camp.
  • One of my friends was at the Braves’ game today and saw Jason Heyward launch his first Spring Training home run. It might not have landed yet.
  • The Indians are unstoppable. Too bad the 3-0 record doesn’t transfer over to, you know, games that count.
  • While watching the Orioles game on TV Sunday, the broadcast cut out because of something called a solar outage. Hmm.
  • Brent Harring spent most of Saturday talking trash about his Milwaukee Bucks beating my Cleveland Cavaliers. He took it all back when he found out LeBron didn’t play. If LeBron spraining his ankle by stepping on Jason Maxiell’s foot isn’t the worst possible way of getting hurt, I don’t know what is. Jason Maxiell makes $5 million a year to put up 6 points and 5 rebounds a game. The NBA: Where ridiculous contracts happen.

That’s all for now!

DW

Training Day

Happy Friday!

Right off the top, let’s discuss the movie “Training Day.” I am a huge Denzel Washington fan. His best roles have been as the smart guy… see “Crimson Tide,” “Inside Man,” etc. In “Training Day,” he played a crooked policeman. I didn’t like that, and therefore it’s the worst movie he’s ever been in. Fact.

Now for the good stuff. I’ve acquired photos of The Brain Game from last weekend… If you haven’t kept up (shame on you), The Brain Game is a fund-raiser for the Fort Wayne Center for Learning. Basically a quiz bowl for grown-ups meets a costume party. Well, our team might not have won, but we looked darn good.

Brain Game Web.jpg

I took some liberties with some eye black, in homage to these guys…
Three Amigos.jpg

All in all, probably one of the better costumes ever concocted.

Now for some Friday ramblings…

  • Sean Rodriguez cannot be stopped. He was traded from the Angels to the Rays last year in the Scott Kazmir deal and nobody can get him out through the first two games of Spring Training. The Rays have a pretty good eye for talent, Rodriguez torched Triple-A last year and if he’s anywhere near this productive for the rest of camp, he’ll make it tough for the Rays NOT to take him on the big-league roster.
  • Matt Stairs hit a home run yesterday. I was so pumped when I found out, I felt like I had hit it myself.
  • James Darnell replaced Stairs in the lineup yesterday and got a base hit. He played for the TinCaps last year and yes, he’s good.
  • Mat Latos gave up a run in two innings today, but it seems (without watching the game) that he did a good job. Scoreless one inning, then gave up a leadoff walk to Ken Griffey, Jr., a double to Jose Lopez, then gave up an RBI groundout, struck out the next guy and got the third out without further damage. Lesson: Don’t walk the leadoff guy, even if he was the best player in the game when you were growing up. Not too shabby, all in all.
  • The Brewers suddenly have a lot of speed. Alcides Escobar will start as a rookie at shortstop (saw him play in ’07 in Advanced-A), Carlos Gomez is fast in the outfield and if Rickie Weeks ever stays healthy he could have a big year. They all stole bases today, but it was against Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki, who threw out 25% of runners last year (30% is considered to be about average). Even so, if those guys can get on base, the Brewers will score some runs. The question is if they’ll be able to pitch beyond Yovani Gallardo.
  • I know winning a Spring Training game means nothing, but after a Reds fan friend gave me the business about the Indians this morning, a Tribe win is a perfect start to the weekend.
  • A different buddy is the public address announcer for UCLA baseball. The Bruins played Waseda University from Japan this week. Leading off for Waseda, second baseman, Hiroki Matsunaga. For a PA guy, this is a living nightmare.

And now, musical guest… The Blues Brothers!

Spring Loaded

Happy Wednesday!

I can’t decide which I’m more excited about: The box of thin mints on my desk or MLB Spring Training games starting. I suppose it’s the baseball, because everybody who knows anything knows thin mints are best enjoyed after being in the freezer for a while.

While it’s fun to check out box scores from Spring Training, be careful putting too much stock in anything. Especially with the early games. First of all, we’re a month away from real games and sometimes it takes a while for players to get into the swing of things. I’d put a lot more emphasis on how someone is playing on April 3 than May 3. Second of all, make sure the box score includes the pitcher who gives up the extra-base hits. There’s a big difference between hitting a home run off Tim Lincecum and hitting one off somebody named Willie Collazo. Not that hitting homers is ever a bad thing, but stats can mean different things depending on who the opposition is.

I talked with Tom Bradley (TinCaps pitching coach in 2009) yesterday on my way home from work… He’s heading to Spring Training in a few days and can’t wait. I asked him how the off-season went and he used the words “terrible,” “awful” and “horrible,” all in one sentence. Apparently he wasn’t a fan of the Washington, D.C. area turning into a scene from the movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” TB is the pitching coach in Eugene this year, so hopefully he’ll give some scouting reports on the guys who get promoted to Fort Wayne later in the season.

Wednesday ramblings:

  • The headline on this story is about maple bats being outlawed in the minors in 2010, but that’s not the big story to me. The bigger deal is that a limit on the diameter of the barrel of all bats is going into effect. Think about it this way: if you’re used to using a modern tennis racket and then have to start using an old one, wouldn’t that be a huge difference?
  • Here’s a story about Northern Ohio being a baseball haven. I grew up there and had no idea the Christmas Story House or the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame were in the area. Road trip!
  • Here’s the latest from Padres’ camp… Simon Castro threw in the first simulated game, Lance Zawadzki hurt his ankle and Donovan Tate might get some time in big-league camp.
  • If you think you know anything about MLB’s revenue sharing, read this and be ready to feel dumb. I did a research paper on this stuff for school a few years ago and things have changed completely.
  • More Baseball America… One of their player/writers is retiring. Key sentence: “The sheen of my career is gone, and I love my wife too much.” I’m not even married and that puts things in perspective.
  • The AL East is going to be REALLY good this year. Everybody knows about the Yankees and Red Sox, but the Orioles and Rays have unbelievably good talent in the high minors and the Blue Jays have two good starting pitchers coming off major surgery.
  • I spent $20 on the MLB Gameday Audio package today. Best $20 I spend all year.
  • I had lunch with some family members today… It’s not every day you hear a nickname you’ve been called as long as you remember.
  • Tony Kornheiser being suspended from Pardon the Interruption for two weeks is a bunch of malarkey.

That’s it for now… Take care!

DW

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Happy Monday!

So it’s March 1st, it’s sunny and non-arctic outside and the snow is mostly melted at Parkview Field. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was getting close to baseball season. In fact, the first Spring Training game is Tuesday. In the words of Joey Lawrence, whoa.

As I previewed last week, a group of us from the office competed in “The Brain Game” this weekend. Our team was in the first preliminary group and we were tied for first place with two questions left, but the last two questions stumped us. The first asked what Ken (as in the Mattel doll)’s last name was (it’s Carson). The second asked which actor appeared in only one James Bond movie (it’s George Lazenby, whoever that is). So out of the seven teams in our group, we finished fourth. It made us feel a little better when the team of parents and teachers, who won our group, ended up winning the whole thing in the final round. So while we were close late in the game, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. And sometimes other things, but mostly horseshoes and hand grenades.

I think the biggest news of the whole night was when four professionally-trained dancers jumped up on the main stage during the final round and did a pretty phenomenal dance to an 80s classic. This is a story for several reasons. First, when the question was asked, “Who were those guys?” nobody knew. Someone answered, “the TinCaps’ grounds crew,” which isn’t the answer anybody was looking for. It’s the Bad Apple Dancers. Remember the name.

Secondly, and more funny, one of the guys told me later that when it became clear they were going to dance, a bunch of women at a table near the stage could barely contain their excitement and yelled a muffled “Oh yeah!” as they started dancing. They even have a logo now, which made its debut at the Brain Game. You’ll see more of it soon.

I spent most of today working on the new TinCaps.com. It’s not ready yet, but when it is, you won’t know what hit you. It’s amazing how much the Internets have changed in the last few years… The new site will incorporate a lot of the new stuff.

Monday reading:

  • “Scout X” checks in with this piece. It’s pretty good, and I know you can’t name scouts when they’re your source in an article, but it would be pretty sneaky for a writer to just write what he thinks and attribute it to Scout X, wouldn’t it?
  • Doug Dascenzo was introduced as the manager in San Antonio. If you never got a chance to meet him when he was in Fort Wayne, yes, he’s as good of a guy as everybody says he is.
  • Donovan Tate, the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s draft, is in camp early. Good. Prediction: Tate starts the season in extended Spring Training, unless he absolutely goes bonkers in Spring Training games. Think Jaff Decker’s late arrival last year. This is purely me speculating, no inside info.
  • More Padres Spring Training: Wynn Pelzer has a tight hamstring, and Bud Black owes Matt Stairs dinner. Which should be a lot less expensive this year, if all the “Matt Stairs is skinny now” stories are true.
  • Kyle Blanks looks like he could beat a grizzly bear in a Greco-Roman wrestling match.
  • I’ll work on uploading the picture of our Brain Game team. Our get-ups were pretty good.
  • Tuesday is senior night for Ohio State basketball. I hope ESPN televises the pre-game festivities just so I can see Mark Titus of Club Trillion hit Thad Matta with the most awkward one-arm embrace in sports history.

I think that’s it for today… Take care!

DW

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