November 2010

The Number 49

The MLBlogosphere rankings are out for October. Somehow, this trash heap of a blog went from No. 50 to No. 49! If my calculations are correct, I should hit the top spot sometime around Christmas 2014. So we all have that to look forward to.

Some facts about the number 49:

  • Alaska was the 49th state admitted to the union. We purchased the land from Russia for $7.2 million, or about half of what the Mets are expected to pay Gary Matthews, Jr. to take batting practice next season.
  • The San Francisco 49ers are five-point favorites against the Rams this week. The 49ers lost to the Panthers two weeks ago. The Rams beat the Panthers 20-10 last week. If gambling is legal where you live, don’t say I never did anything for you.
  • There was a movie called “Ladder 49″ where Joaquin Phoenix plays a firefighter whose life flashes before his eyes when disaster strikes at the scene of a fire. Joaquin Phoenix went on to make the most awkward Dave Letterman appearance of all time not involving Richard Simmons or Julia Roberts. He’s not as weird now, apparently.
  • The square root of 49 is 7.
  • This is pretty much everything I know about the number 49.

Random thoughts:

  • Former TinCaps outfielder Wande Olabisi was featured in a story by legendary author Ben Hill. You know how some minor-league baseball players substitute teach or give hitting lessons in the off-season? Wande is into designing medical apparatuses which can be used in third-world countries. As a side job, of course.
  • Our old pal “The Big Dog” Hayden Beard is on the Canberra Cavalry’s roster in the Australian Baseball League. He hasn’t pitched yet, but I can only imagine his first appearance will have all the pageantry of John Rocker, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Ric Flair and a Neil Diamond concert all rolled into one.
  • Here’s more about Australian baseball.
  • I listened to a Bill Simmons podcast with Buster Olney today. Buster thinks the Rangers will be really active this off-season. He even mentioned a potential Zack Greinke-for-Elvis Andrus trade with the Royals if they don’t re-sign Cliff Lee, which would be huge for both teams.
  • Simmons also threw out a scenario of a Cavs-Heat first-round playoff matchup. The world might explode Death Star-style if that were to happen.
  • In another blockbuster deal, I traded Dwayne Bowe to Tony DesPlaines for LeGarrette Blount in the office fantasy football league.
  • Last night my volleyball team beat the other TinCaps’ staff team in both games we played. You’re darn right I tried to hammer one right into Allan Wertheimer‘s face every time I got the chance.
  • Fact: If you didn’t get outside to enjoy the incredible weather this week, you’re not allowed to complain about the bad weather in January.
  • Fact: “Great Migrations” on the National Geographic Channel is the best new show on TV.
  • Fact: The Country Music Awards should be renamed the Pop Music with Twang Awards (although Zac Brown Band winning new artist of the year makes the concert at Parkview Field look like a nice move, no?). George Strait, Alan Jackson or Josh Turner is the male country vocalist of the year every year until they retire or die. Same for Brooks & Dunn as duo of the year. Kenny Chesney doesn’t qualify since he made the decision almost a decade ago to make all his songs about summer, partying or some other cash cow (like that new high-school football song). And don’t act like you’re above country music.
  • Dave Hutte status update: “For all the veterans out there. Thank you.” Agreed.

Musical guest, Ray Charles!

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

DW

Flying coach(ing staff)

In the words of Jack Bauer, I’ve gone dark for a few days. Why? Partly because I’m lazy. But the other part is classified. Well, it was until about an hour ago.

The Padres announced their minor-league coaching staffs for 2011 this afternoon. Your TinCaps’ field staff is:

Manager Shawn Wooten
Pitching Coach Willie Blair
Hitting Coach Kory DeHaan
Athletic Trainer Dan Turner

You can read the press release here. And the Padres’ story here. You should know that every member of the staff has been in the major leagues in some capacity. The coaches all played in the bigs and Turner did an athletic training internship in San Diego (he’s from there).

If you’re wondering about last year’s staff, manager Jose Flores isn’t with the Padres anymore. Bronswell Patrick moved up to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore to be their pitching coach. Hitting coach Tom Tornincasa and his Fu Manchu moved up to Double-A San Antonio, where he will play obscene amounts of golf with manager Doug Dascenzo. Trainer Nate Stewart went to San Antonio as well. I’m not sure if he plays golf.

Also, the Padres added a few more pieces to their staff. Brad Ausmus caught in the big leagues for the better part of a century. I can only assume he’ll be a good addition.

Random thoughts:

  • Went to a Ben Folds concert in Columbus, Ohio last night. His language can become offensive, but there were at least five times when I yelled, “Wow!” That guy is unbelievably talented on the piano and whatever other instruments he decided to play. And anytime someone can give a music theory lesson about tritone substitution mid-concert and people hang on every word (and have someone like me remember it), you know he can work a crowd. Good times.
  • If we just had 60-degree days like this all year, I don’t think anyone would complain.
  • Cleveland still doesn’t like LeBron.
  • Cleveland does like beating the New England Patriots to a pulp. You’d better believe I was talking all kinds of smack to a certain former TinCaps strength coach. His response? “A pig just flew by my window.” That’s funny, because I saw Peyton Hillis fly by about 37 Patriots defenders on Sunday.
  • I should be the last human to point out faux-pas in the men’s fashion world, but this cannot stand: Something weird is going on with the neckwear at ESPN. Merrill Hoge’s ties are bordering on clownish and the style is spreading to everyone not wearing a bowtie. These ties look wider than some scarves I’ve seen, the knots look big enough to tie a boat to a dock and it looks like people’s collars are getting wider to accommodate the giant ties. I saw Hoge breaking down film the other day and his collar was so big, it looked like he was wearing a turtleneck. What is going on here? Would it hurt to change it up with a Blues Brothers-style tie every once in a while?
  • Derek Jeter won a Gold Glove today. Baseball-reference.com says it all: “We can’t believe it either.” That sound you heard was the entire Steinbrenner braintrust’s heads exploding. Good luck trying to use his fielding against him in contract negotiations.
  • The Rays’ top 10 prospect list according to Baseball America is out. Guess what: they still have a good system. The Padres’ list doesn’t come out until February.
  • Peter Gammons wrote something. Read it.
  • Dave Hutte status update: “Full beardage has been reached.” God help us all.

Musical guest, The Blues Brothers!

Take care!

DW

Famouser even than Captain Kangaroo

Just a couple of things today…

  • I don’t have to tell you that some logos just aren’t able to hold their hipness for the long haul. The MWL’s Lake County Captains decided they needed an update and here it is. I think everything looks pretty sharp, and maybe my favorite part about the whole thing is that the actual captain may look more like Classic Park fixture and all-around big-timer Captain Tony than the old logo.
  • My college buddy Dave Hutte loves logos and uniforms more than anyone I’ve ever met. We made fun of him a lot for creating new teams on NCAA Football video games, then spending more time designing uniforms than playing football games. Then again, we made fun of Dave Hutte for pretty much everything.
  • I grabbed lunch at Skyline with two of Dave Hutte’s former roommates this weekend in Columbus. Naturally, the conversation went to tormenting Dave Hutte. Two favorites: when he was out of his dorm room, we’d rearrange all his stuff while he was gone. He hated that. Also, one time two people hid in his room. Dave Hutte sat down and turned on his desktop computer (the tower was on the floor). When the computer started to turn on and Dave Hutte looked away, one of these guys reached out from under the bed and turned the computer off. This happened about three more times before the dude grabbed Dave Hutte’s arm and totally freaked him out. Thinking the threat was over, Dave Hutte relaxed, grabbed a blanket and walked over to throw it onto the back of his couch. As the blanket hit the couch, the guy jumped out from behind the couch and yelled as loud as he could. Dave Hutte almost jumped through the ceiling. And it was hilarious.
  • Are we terrible friends for doing this kind of thing to him on a daily basis? Maybe. Nah.
  • A source tells me that a certain former TinCaps strength coach (and current weightlifting pansy) recently electrified a New England wedding reception dance floor by using a certain Midwest dance crew’s moves. The source also claims he passed out EAS Myoplex protein bars to trick-or-treaters for Halloween.
  • Did I mention you can buy Bad Apple Dancers t-shirts now? Fact: wearing these in public gets women to notice you. Even if it’s only them asking, “Are you one of those dancers?” When you answer that you’re not, they lose interest, but that’s mostly your fault for not thinking of something clever to say. Or just lying and saying you’re one of the dancers.
  • Looks like the Cubs are getting a new spring training facility.
  • Managers get too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose. You can argue the manager hires the rest of the staff so everything ultimately comes back to him, but give credit where credit is due. Underrated coaching move of the off-season so far: Davy Lopes leaving Philadelphia, where the Phillies’ baserunners went nuts with him as first-base coach. (Note: the story doesn’t really factor in player moves maybe being part of the improvement, but the point still stands.)
  • In addition to eating at Skyline this weekend, I also had Mongolian BBQ. And it was fantastic.

Musical guest, Ben Folds!

Take care!

DW

TinCaps 2010 season review (hitters)

To follow up the pitchers’ season review, it’s on to the hitters from this year’s TinCaps team.

Again, some things to keep in mind:

  1. I’m not a scout and I don’t claim to be one. But I did see 143 games from this team. And, to quote a one-time MLB manager when I deferred to him on a player evaluation, “Your eyes are as good as everyone else’s.”
  2. Some guys are in here, some aren’t. It could be because they weren’t here long enough to form a good opinion, maybe injuries were part of the deal, I don’t think it’s right burying somebody or none of the above. If you have a question, ask in the comments.
  3. As any worthwhile MiLB review goes, this is player-oriented, not team-oriented.
  4. I’ll try to mention it when talking about individual players, but just because a player didn’t have a great year doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player. Scouts usually grade players on “present” and “future” ability. Potential is a huge part of this level of the game. College players usually aren’t considered to have as much untapped potential as high school or international players.

And now, your 20-o-10 TinCaps hitters review!

1B Nate Freiman: It seemed like every time I asked a scout about this guy, the answer I got was, “He’s going to have to produce everywhere he goes.” Well, everybody has to produce at some point, don’t they? Just because he’s a four-year college guy, that works against him. Right or wrong, it’s part of the deal in player evaluation. The fact of the matter is, he’s a 6-foot-8 first baseman who darn near hit .300 and hit more doubles in a season (43) than anybody ever has for our franchise while getting about four games off during his first full pro season. I thought the old adage was, doubles turn into homers as players fill out physically. Anybody who’s seen him take batting practice (or saw him in the Home Run Derby) knows he has incredible power, but he was more concerned with having a good approach and using the entire field. Sometimes it seemed like he would overthink at the plate and end up indecisive. If he decided to hit 25-30 homers in a season (with the expected dip in batting average as a side effect), I think he could. He works hard, cares about the game (almost to a fault) and is an incredibly nice guy. Then there’s the Nate Freiman Book Club, which deserves its own post.

INF Jonathan Galvez: A tough one to figure. He was barely 19 when the season started, which makes everything tougher to evaluate, and I know he was getting tired at the end of the season (who isn’t?). The big number that sticks out is 43 errors from a shortstop. That has to get better, or you have to move him. But where? He’s a rangy guy, not really someone you’d see as a corner outfielder. He had a decent on-base percentage (.360) and the vast majority of his home runs came late in the season but he struck out 121 times. His month of August was encouraging: best month in terms of runs scored (15), OBP (.398) and hits (28). To be continued.

3B Jedd Gyorko: The highest-drafted Padre from this year’s draft to sign (second round). Was here for almost two months. Hit .330 in Eugene, then .284 here despite being at the end of a season which began in February for him (at West Virginia University). I’ve heard people mention the hitch in his swing, but he still gets it done. I think he’ll end up hitting for some power. Mostly because he has forearms like sewer pipes. Glove looked really good – he was a second baseman and a shortstop in college but moved to third base as a pro.

C Jason Hagerty: Had a 31-game on-base streak to raise his OBP by 57 points. Then just for fun, he went on maybe the longest, hottest streak I’ve seen from a player in the minors since I’ve been working. From the MWL all-star break through the middle of August, he had one of the best OPS (on-base plus slugging) in Minor League Baseball. Splits? How about hitting .249 before the all-star break, .351 with 9 homers after? And he was catching just about every day. And it was hot. Defensively, I thought he was fine. Threw out 28 percent of runners trying to steal (and I don’t count pickoffs where the catcher doesn’t touch the ball as caught stealing).

OF Rymer Liriano: This is what I wrote in a previous entry: He had an odd year. Came in the No. 14 prospect in the San Diego organization. Skipped short-season ball and made the opening-day roster in Fort Wayne at the age of 18, struggled (hit .191, struck out almost 29% of the time, had a 1-for-44 stretch in May but showed some flashes of power, speed, arm) and didn’t look like he was quite ready for this level. Went back to extended spring training to get ready for Eugene’s short season.  Went to Eugene and went nuts (was hitting .319 on August 1 before cooling off), stole 17 bases but didn’t hit a single home run while still striking out 25% of the time. Sent to Lake Elsinore in late August around the same time Jaff Decker got hurt. Got off to a good start, slowed down late, ended up hitting .220 (respectable for a guy who turned 19 during the season). Obviously he did enough in Eugene to impress the managers and scouts. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk much (although he was a little better with the walks in Eugene and Lake Elsinore). When he was here, he had a tendency to lunge toward the mound when he was swinging. He’s really strong physically and can throw the heck out of the ball from the outfield. We’ll see what happens with him next year. He’ll still only be 19 on Opening Day.

OF Daniel Meeley: I talked to a scout who called him a sleeper. Love his approach at the plate. He keeps his hands inside everything. And I mean everything. I kept waiting for him to drop the bat head on an inside fastball and yank one about nine miles, but he never did. That doesn’t mean he never will, though. Eight errors in the outfield could stand to improve, but he doesn’t turn 22 until July 2011.

3B Edinson Rincon: Somewhat similar to Galvez in that he’s a tough one to figure out. He was 19 years old on Opening Day. Entered the season as the No. 9 prospect in the Padres’ system thanks in large part to a season at Eugene, where he hit .300 with decent pop and good plate discipline. The glove may always be a trouble spot (36 errors this year), but I’m not sure you give up and put him in the corner outfield before his 21st birthday. He showed quite a few flashes with the bat (35 doubles, 13 homers despite a .250 average). Also keep in mind he played in 132 of the 140 games in his first full year. Not easy. Another “to be continued” guy.

2B/SS Jeudy Valdez: He’s now played parts of three seasons in Fort Wayne, but this was really his first full season (132 games played) in pro baseball thanks to injuries. The 25 errors are tough, but he has a really good arm, especially for a second baseman. He also struck out 115 times. If he can maximize his speed (34 steals this year) and cut down on the strikeouts, he’d jump up the prospect lists. It’s a big adjustment, but he’s 21 years old.

OF Everett Williams: Maybe the most frustrating player to watch on the entire roster this year, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Here’s why: He has incredible talent. I mean, hit a 400-foot, opposite-field bomb one at-bat, then beat out an infield hit and easily steal second the next time. When he got hot, he went nuclear. It just didn’t happen consistently. He turned 20 on October 1, so there’s plenty of time. When it clicks for him, look out.

Random thoughts:

  • Adrian Gonzalez, 2011 San Diego Padres. It’s official and everything.
  • Whoever wrote this should win an award (Part 2)… It’s an evaluation of the results from the “best minor-league system in baseball” according to Baseball America over the last ten years. You always hear about how “Team A is loaded,” but a lot can happen between top prospect and major leagues. Example: In 2001 White Sox were rated the best farm system in baseball. Here were there top 10 prospects: Jon Rauch, Joe Borchard, Joe Crede, Matt Ginter, Danny Wright, Lorenzo Barcelo, Brian West, Aaron Rowand, Josh Fogg, Jason Stumm. These guys may have an impressive array of unnecessary consonants at the end of their names, but the position players have combined to have about five good seasons in the big leagues (mostly from Rowand) and there’s a setup guy/closer at the top. There isn’t a single franchise-type player in there. So the point is, just when you think you know it all, it’s proven otherwise. Royals fans waiting for their wave of prospects to get to the major leagues in 2011-12 may have just set themselves on fire.
  • First, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert goes on a scorned ex-lover rant about LeBron. Now, the new owner of the Rangers rips Yankee fans. Personally, I kind of like that they care. Just keep opening up the checkbook and letting the GMs do their jobs and it’s a perfect world.
  • Speaking of LeBron, Bill Simmons shared his thoughts on the Heat and the awkwardness that was their first couple of games. Jerks.
  • Stay tuned to TinCaps.com for a big announcement, maybe as soon as the next few days.
  • Here are the lists of Type-A and Type-B free agents. I realize they’re based solely on this year’s stats compared to others at the same position and don’t factor in injuries, but wow. A team signing Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada or Ted Lilly may really have to give up a draft pick to get him? AND they’d have to pay him? Kevin Millwood and his 4-16, 5.10 signing elsewhere could give the Orioles a supplemental pick? Where am I, 2002?
  • The Big East wants to add two more teams for football. Want to make a splash? Make it TCU and Boise. In the words of former Indians owner Rachel Phelps, that oughta shut these people up.

And now, musical guest… O.A.R.!

Take care!

DW

Two dudes, four stores, one vest to rule them all

As you are no doubt aware (due to strange children knocking on your door demanding candy), Halloween was this past weekend. I won’t tell you what my costume was. You’ll have to guess it through clues provided in the following story. An epic, really, about two men who ventured into places they didn’t belong for glory they didn’t dream of. It’s the story of two uncool dudes looking at clothes they ordinarily have no business wearing. But that’s how legends of Halloween are born.

Last Wednesday, Brent Harring and I were milling around the office at around 5:05 p.m., figuring out how to waste 90 minutes between the end of the work day and the start of our World Series party for season ticket holders and other assorted VIPs. Brent said he had no idea what he was going to do. I, on the other hand, had an idea: acquire a key piece of my Halloween costume. I asked Brent if he would like to accompany me on a quest for said outerwear. He said he would.

Understand this: Brent Harring and I are two of the biggest geeks in human history. Brent told me that a documentary about two Yugoslavian basketball players was the best 90 minutes of television he’d ever seen (which gives you an idea of his expectation level for the 90 minutes we were about to encounter). I consistently avoid shopping between the hours of noon and 10:00 p.m. The two of us shopping at the same time could produce a force like when Hulk Hogan became “Hollywood” and the nWo was formed. Except that’s wrestling and we’re just nerds.

Anyway, we went into three different stores in one shopping center, scouring for the piece of clothing that would set my costume apart from any other: a vest. I’m not talking about one that completes a three-piece suit or a vest that train conductor would use to hold his pocketwatch. I’m not even talking about a leather vest a biker or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would wear or a sweater vest, because those (obviously) are stylish. I’m talking about a stand-alone vest, worn as outerwear. Preferably with dragons embroidered onto the back. The closest thing we found was a quasi-see-through shirt (for men, mind you). Tempting, but no dice. So we went to the mall. Better known to people like Brent and I as “the most awkward place in the universe.”

First came the task of finding the store we wanted to get to, which was tough enough. Then, inside the store, we had to figure out where people with style would put vests, a foreign thought. Once we found the right section, I thought we had something close enough: pinstriped vest, but one you’d wear with a suit. No dragons on the back, but it was solid.

Then, on the way to the cash register, I saw something familiar: a Cincinnati Reds shirt. But not just any Reds shirt. This one said, “Big Red Machine 2010.” Utterly preposterous, since it could be interpreted as comparing the Bench-Rose-Morgan-Griffey-Foster Reds to the Ramon Hernandez-Orlando Cabrera-Drew Stubbs Reds. The dweebs we are, we walked over and discussed the shirt. Then, like Charlie Bucket seeing the Golden Ticket for the first time, Brent Harring glanced over to the next rack and found it:

Black vest
Embroidery on the right side of the chest
Quasi-stripes

It was the perfect vest. I immediately put the other vest back, bought the “yes, I’m shameless enough to wear a vest as outerwear” vest and we hustled out of the mall like MacGyver running out of a building seconds before it exploded.

And that’s the story of how two dudes defied the odds and put aside their unfamiliarity with shopping to succeed in a key Situation. It was a Halloween miracle if I’ve ever seen one.

Also as part of the costume, I used a can of spray-on tan. Probably should’ve read the directions before I put the first coat on. When I didn’t see an immediate difference, I slathered on almost the whole can. Which may not sound like a great idea. But I’ll tell you this: three hours after I put that stuff on, I looked real good. The problem is, I came into work today still looking like the worst bodybuilder who ever lived.

Random thoughts:

  • Bryce Harper, this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, hit his first home run in the Arizona Fall League. Who’d he hit it off of? Erik Davis, who pitched for the TinCaps in 2009. Small world.
  • Rob Neyer, who I like, is catching a lot of heat for keeping track of “breaks” the teams are catching in the World Series. You know, umpire calls which could’ve gone either way, bad hops… the randomness that is baseball. His theory is that the 162-game regular season can mostly be explained by numbers, but the turning points of a seven-game series can oftentimes be traced back to “the breaks.” Unfortunately, this series seems like it’s all about the Giants deciding they’re not interested in giving up runs. Which sort of refutes Neyer’s point, but that doesn’t mean it’s always wrong.
  • Every team tries to be as good as possible in every aspect of the
    game. But how long is it going to take for everyone to get it? GOOD
    PITCHING WINS. PERIOD.
  • I’ve heard a lot of people act like Madison Bumgarner came out of
    nowhere. And I suppose it’s surprising that he’s this good this soon,
    sort of. He’s thrown over 200 innings this year, he’s barely 21 years
    old and pitching in his first World Series. But it’s not like he’s some nobody. Aside from a short period where his velocity took a nosedive, he’s been sensational since he was drafted in the first round in 2007. This is when you realize who follows the minor leagues and who doesn’t.
  • Is it weird that everyone in the state of Texas has these t-shirts with “the claw” and “antlers” on them to make a big deal out of the Rangers’ team chemistry, while the Giants might have even better team unity and all you see are homemade beards and Panda suits? I suppose it’s good business sense by the Rangers’ staff. And a bit of weirdness from the Bay Area, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.
  • Apparently talking to yourself in front of the media gets you released. Sorry for giving you the idea, Randy Moss. Although mailing it in for a new team probably didn’t help.
  • While not in costume this weekend, I saw this video in 3D. Dogs flying right at people. Be jealous.

I may have posted this video already, but I don’t care. It rules… OK Go!

Take care!

DW

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