May 2010

Running on fumes

I’ll admit it… 41 games in 42 days to start the season (with a 7-hour bus ride followed by a night game followed by a day game followed by a night game followed by a 6-hour bus ride crossing into a different time zone followed by a night game followed by two day games) has finally caught up to me. Things settle down later in the season when the weather warms up and the games are almost all at night, but this is wearing me out. And all I do is talk. Just imagine the players.

So we’re in Dayton (by God) Ohio. Anytime you visit west/southwest Ohio, it means two things: excellent thin-crust pizza and Skyline Chili. Of course, I got right down to business.

Last night I ordered Cassano’s Pizza, which was good. I had to order two pizzas to bring my total up above the minimum delivery order, then housed the first one in about 10 minutes.

Today I went to Skyline and grabbed two chilitos. Darn good.

Which brings me to my main story, and you bet it involves awkward exchanges and sightings (This is why you’re reading, right?). On my way to Skyline, some dude standing on the sidewalk asked me if I had a lighter, right after a lady carrying a cigarette walked past him. While trying to piece all of this together, I saw an even more-dumbfounding exchange going on in a parking lot across the street. Two guys were standing there talking. One of them was wearing a suit, the other had a golf club. At first, I wondered if I was about to witness some sort of assault, but luckily the answer was no. I was witnessing an impromptu (or maybe for them, completely promptu) post-lunch golf swing lesson. The guy with the club almost fell down one time after swinging. I’ve golfed exactly twice in my entire life. I don’t know anything about the game, nor am I any good at it. But is the parking lot next door to O’Charley’s really the venue to have someone (in a suit, no less) tell you how to cut down on your slice? Is Tiger Woods’ old swing coach really that strapped for cash already, the day after he resigned, that he has to slum it in a parking lot in Dayton? Come on. I don’t see Tom Tornincasa showing any TinCaps hitters how to keep their front side in, unless we’re at the ballpark. Get it together, golf.

If you think golf practice outside of a restaurant is awkward, try this: You might remember from my last post (I wouldn’t remember either if I were you), we had a bachelor auction at the game on Ladies Night, which was Friday. All seven guys made videos meant to entice the ladies to bid their hard-earned cash on us (proceeds went to the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research). While the videos were funny, it’s still just us bozos. Anyway, after the game, somebody told me I had gotten the highest bid. Figuring it was a joke/mistake, I found Abby Naas to double-check, since she was in charge of the whole thing. She told me that yes, I had gotten the highest bid. But there was a catch (it involves me, so of course there was). Apparently someone had bid the minimum ($10), then someone bid $40, then the original bidder came back and bid $50. The catch? The original bidder was a woman who was bidding for her husband, who is a big fan of the blog. So next Thursday, on my second day off in 43 days, I’ll be having a nice elegant dinner in the J. Chapman’s Suite-Level Loft with… a dude. This is my luck. Of course I’ll be nice because I’m not a jerk and it’s just for fun anyway, but it would be nice if this guy has some good-looking single female friends/relatives between the ages of 23-26. I don’t ask for much.

FYI: As we found out when “The Cosby Show” later spawned “A Different World,” the brilliance of “Saved by the Bell” turned into “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” and “Friends” spun off into an entire generation of insane women, you haven’t really made it until there’s a spin-off of what you’re doing. Well, The Watson Files has a spin-off. It’s McCabe’s Musings, written by my old pal Matt McCabe, who I called games with for the Delaware Cows and is now the radio guy for the Binghamton Mets. I just hope his blog includes someone wearing flip-down sunglasses at all times.

Tuesday ramblings:

  • Yesterday’s pre-game interview was performed by The Big Dog (Hayden Beard), interviewing Edinson “The Bull” Rincon. It was easily the best interview we’ve had in the last two years. Think about the language barriers here: Guy speaking Australian to a guy from the Dominican who’s just learning English (and doing a good job, I might add). This is why America is the great melting pot. I especially liked the part when Beard started asking Rincon about his girlfriend back in the Dominican Republic. The words “muy bonita” were used.
  • The bus to the ballpark yesterday was supposed to leave at 2:45 p.m. When I got on the bus at 2:42 p.m., I was given the business by an unnamed strength coach. I feel like I’m in Office Space… If you want me to be there way before 2:45, make the bus time 2:40. Was I also not wearing enough pieces of flair?
  • I’m hearing good things about Iron Man 2. The first one ruled.

That’s all I have for now… Gotta be at least 10 minutes early for the bus or I might be forced to run poles and chug Muscle Milk when I get to the ballpark.

Musical guest, Jimmy Buffett!

Take care!


Skip It

The TinCaps played an afternoon game in Lansing today (and won). After I got back to the hotel, got a workout in and had a chance to sit down and relax, I thought, “You know what? I haven’t written any blogs in a while.” But then I thought, “You vain jerk, you just spent all afternoon talking. Everyone knows you don’t have that much important stuff to say.” Then I put that on the back burner and started checking in on who’s doing what in the Padres’ organization. Then when I saw Double-A San Antonio’s stats, I checked out the guys who were in Fort Wayne last year and skipped a level, going straight to Double-A. That got me wondering about how, in general, the guys who skipped a level are doing this year. Blog topic found.

If you’re not interested in all this baseball-nerd junk, go ahead and skip down toward the end for my random thoughts on life. I won’t be offended.

Obviously, this is a Padres-specific sample, so it’s not completely representative of how players across baseball fare when they skip a level of the minor leagues. Plus, we’re only a little over 20 games into the season, so guys are probably still making the adjustment to the new level. Here we go… If you’re not familiar, the slash numbers for the hitters are batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage.

  1. 3B James Darnell, San Antonio: .207/.298/.366, 3 HR, 6 RBI This technically isn’t skipping a level since he played the second half of last season at Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, but he’s gone up two levels since last season. J.D. isn’t walking nearly as much as he did last year (he was leading the minors in walks while he was with the TinCaps). He has a good approach. To be continued.
  2. 1B Matt Clark, San Antonio: .233/.302/.314, 1 HR, 9 RBI He’s in the same boat as Darnell… Called up from Fort Wayne to Lake Elsinore at the All-Star break last year. Obviously not the start he was looking for. He certainly hasn’t hit for the power we saw from him last year. Another wait-and-see case. We’re only a month into the season.
  3. OF Sawyer Carroll, San Antonio: .247/.320/.393, 2 HR, 13 RBI I only list him in here because he was on the TinCaps’ opening day roster and was called up at the same time as Darnell and Clark. The difference between Carroll and the other two is that he got a 28-game head start at Double-A last year. I’ve heard from people who know a lot more about this game than me that the jump from Advanced-A to Double-A is the second-toughest jump in pro baseball (behind Triple-A to MLB). Maybe next month, Darnell and Clark’s numbers will look more like Carroll’s, meaning they’ll be better adjusted to the level of play.
  4. RHP Simon Castro, San Antonio: 2-0, 1.53 ERA, 5G (4GS), 29.1 IP, 21 K, 9 BB, .200 BAA Castro pitched all of last season with the TinCaps, led the MWL in strikeouts, was the Padres’ minor-league pitcher of the year, breezed through a few appearances in MLB spring training games, skipped over Lake Elsinore and is kicking tail at Double-A. If you saw him pitch last year, you know this really isn’t a huge surprise. A mid-90s fastball, devastating slider and developing changeup will do this. If the Padres wanted to, they could make Castro into another Mat Latos story (prized prospect jumping from Double-A to the big leagues). Very interesting, for sure.
  5. RHP Alexis Lara, San Antonio: 0-0, 0.93 ERA, 6G, 9.2 IP, 4 K, 2 BB, .182 BAA This might be the biggest (and unlikeliest) turnaround story in the organization. In Fort Wayne last year, he went from terrible in the first half to unhittable in the second half. Then he got an audition in a few MLB games late in spring training and got people out while throwing some serious heat. Then he had 2 good outings (and got shelled in the other) to start the year in Lake Elsinore, went to Triple-A Portland to fill an injury, didn’t give up a run in his only outing and has been rolling at Double-A ever since. What if he keeps pitching like this?
  6. RHP Jorge Reyes, Lake Elsinore: 2-1, 3.54 ERA, 5G (4GS) 20.1 IP, 19K, 5 BB, .280 BAA The Padres drafted Reyes out of Oregon State last year in the 17th round, signed him at the deadline and sent him to short-season Eugene, where he was in command going 1-1, 1.38 ERA in 5 games (4 starts). He skipped over Fort Wayne and went straight to Lake Elsinore and has had two excellent starts (5 shutout innings his last time out) and two so-so starts. All in all, the numbers are very good, especially considering how tough the Cal League can be on pitchers. Five walks is a pretty good total.
  7. 1B/DH Cody Decker, Lake Elsinore: .273/.326/.432, 1 HR, 8 RBI You could make the case he skipped two levels, since Decker had all of 18 ABs in Fort Wayne last year after winning Arizona Rookie League MVP honors. He’s held his own, alternating between first base and DH with Allan Dykstra. He has struck out 25 times in 88 at-bats, which he could stand to improve.
  8. 1B/3B/DH Jon Alia, Fort Wayne: .256/.396/.282, 0 HR, 2 RBI Alia played in the Arizona Rookie League last year and you wouldn’t expect an undrafted college signee to play two short seasons in a row. He had three straight multi-hit games until I put the Watson Hex on him by interviewing him before a game here in Lansing. My bad. Still, you like the 8 walks in 12 games to drive up the on-base percentage. He’s mostly played DH.
  9. SS Jonathan Galvez, Fort Wayne: .259/.411/.328, 0 HR, 7 RBI Galvez is 19 years old, playing a premium defensive position (although he’s struggled with the glove), playing his first full season and adjusting to the cold weather and he’s still managed to do a good job of getting on base. He’s missed the last few days after getting his wisdom teeth removed. Poor guy. Galvez is in the same boat with Edinson Rincon, Rymer Liriano and Jeudy Valdez: Young, high-ceiling and multi-talented. He has some pop, can run and flashes a strong arm. Be patient with him.
  10. OF Rymer Liriano, Fort Wayne: .216/.271/.386, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 7 SB The youngest player on the team at 18 years old, Liriano has, at one point or another, shown incredible power, good speed and an above-average arm. It’s pretty clear he’s still learning the game (aren’t we all?) and has a lot of potential. Here are his strikeout rates from the last three years: 2008, 46%. 2009, 26%. 2010, 23%. And that’s playing at higher levels each year, and he broke out to hit .350 last year in the AZL. And he’s on a six-game hitting streak as I write this. He still has some mechanical things to iron out, but watch out when the weather warms up.
  11. OF Wande Olabisi, Fort Wayne: .304/.373/.478, 1 HR, 6 RBI He has been sharing time with Bo Davis in left field and just hit his first home run today, a missile just to the left of center field in Lansing (a 400+ foot shot). He played three years at Stanford but is kind of like the younger players in that he never was a full-time starter in college. Another guy who’s just scratching the surface.
  12. OF Everett Williams, Fort Wayne: .241/.339/.352, 0 HR, 6 RBI Williams missed about a week with an illness and is just now getting on track. He’s gone 5-for-10 in this series in Lansing with 3 doubles. He has struck out 18 times in 54 ABs, but give him time. He was the Padres’ 2nd-rounder last year, only played 10 games between the AZL and Eugene and watching him turn on the jets on extra-base hits is one of my favorite things to watch with this team.

So what do we have here? It seems like the position players who have skipped a level have been average (at best) while the pitchers have been anywhere from above-average to dominant. Interesting and I think I’ll look back at this again at the All-Star break to see if things change as guys get more accustomed to their new leagues.

Now for some Sunday ramblings:

  • If you don’t read this Tim Kurkjian article, I’ll fight you. Some of the rookie mistakes he mentions are unbelievable. They might be MLB rookies, but guys usually have played a few years in the minors and have grown up playing the game. How do some guys not know the mental side of the game they get paid millions to play? I don’t care what level they’re at, they’ve been playing the game long enough to know more.
  • Speaking of rookie mistakes, why am I only getting into Ben Folds’ music now? I’ve been listening to it all night and I’m thoroughly disgusted with myself for not appreciating it sooner. He’s REALLY talented. Wish there was some steel guitar in his version of “Tiny Dancer,” though.
  • Friday is Women’s Night Out at Parkview Field. There’s a bachelor auction planned. Apparently someone thinks women will pay money (which will go to charity) to go on dates with male members of the TinCaps’ front-office staff. This is quite possibly the worst assumption I’ve ever heard. Anyway, there will be videos to convince the ladies to bid on the guys. Videos kind of like these, only better. Even if you don’t bid, just come to the game and watch the videos. They’re the funniest thing we’ve put on the video board in a while. Example: Tony DesPlaines as The Most Interesting Man at Parkview Field.
  • You know you’re too into fantasy baseball when you’re sitting around watching GameTracker and screaming at the computer when your team can’t buy a hit on the last day of the week, torpedoing your chances at a big win. Not that I’ve ever done any of that.
  • Last night it rained a bit during the game in Lansing, but we lucked out. There were dark clouds surrounding the ballpark and apparently some force field kept the heavy stuff away.
  • I’m not at all excited about an 8-hour drive from Lansing to Bowling Green. I hope we put the Hot Rods through some pretty serious hazing before deciding to let them enter the league.
  • LeBron can have my elbow if it means the Cavs win a championship. But only if I get my elbow back when he’s done with it.
  • TinCaps RHP Hayden Beard would like to be referred to as “Big Dog” from this point forward. I probably dropped 18 Big Dogs during his one inning of work on Friday. He said he couldn’t stop wondering if I was calling him Big Dog on the radio while he was pitching. That’s probably not a good thing, but Beard is quickly cementing his place as the funniest dude on the team. It’s a fact that Australian accents makes people 73% funnier. Also, it’s around 9 a.m. the next morning in Australia when a 7:05 p.m. game starts. Crazy, eh?
  • I’m going to be the charter member of the Nate Freiman Book Club. I need a good book to read on the bus, preferably American history and Nate was a history major in college. He’s supposed to give me a recommendation soon. I’ll keep you updated.
  • I don’t care if it’s Jon Miller or some bum off the street, if I were an MLB manager or coach, there’s no way I’d do an in-game interview during a regular-season game. Those guys have a job to do, they’re in the heat of the moment and might say something they’ll regret. They can answer questions when the game is over. But what do I know? I’m just the radio guy.
  • RHP Daniel Sarria looked pretty good in his pro debut (three scoreless innings). Fastball topped out at around 90-91, nice slow breaking ball. He was born in Cuba but now lives in the Dominican Republic. The Padres signed him in November and he opened the year in extended spring training.
  • I’m sitting here watching the Phillies-Mets game and Chase Utley is batting. One of my friends from high school lives in Philadelphia and told me he took his friend’s dog to the park. The dog started playing with another dog. The owner of the other dog was this big dude and he and my buddy stood around shooting the breeze for about an hour while the dogs played. He had no idea until the end of the conversation that the guy was Chase Utley. Small world.
  • I just saw a commercial that said that people will be smarter when everyone has the internet. That’s fairly ridiculous… We have spell-check and nobody can spell, we have the internet and all people want to do is look at Facebook and read blogs about celebrities, we have the greatest communication system in human history (texting, e-mailing) and messages still get misinterpreted and nobody can hold a face-to-face conversation.
  • I’ll get to see at least two old friends during the season this year. That’s at least one more than I saw last year. If there’s one rough part about working in baseball (and maybe it’s just part of living away from home in general), it’s losing touch with so many people during the season, even with cell phones and e-mail. It’s absolutely not the same as hanging out in person.

And now, musical guest Ben Folds!

I think that’s all for now.

Take care!