January 2011

Snow-mageddon 20-o-11

I don’t mean to alarm anybody, but The Weather Channel reported this morning that this snowstorm headed our way will be, and I quote, “Armageddon.”

So, you know… Just start panicking. And hope a cavalcade of stars led by Bruce Willis can think of a way to save us before it’s too late.

Random thoughts:

  • TinCaps in Winter Ball update: Edinson Rincon is 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts in the Dominican Winter League… “The Big Dog” Hayden Beard is 0-1 with a 3.12 ERA in the Australian League.
  • One of the San Diego papers talked to the prospects acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez trade.
  • The 2011 Midwest League All-Star Game logo is out, says legendary author Ben Hill.
  • Fort Wayne alum RHP LaTroy Hawkins says he feels good as he rehabs from shoulder surgery.
  • In other buzzcut news, Bob Uecker feels good too. About several things.
  • As expected, the Royals are moving one of their top hitting prospects from catcher to the outfield.
  • The Braves’ pitchers start voluntary throwing sessions today. Oh baby. Baseball’s almost here.
  • The latest addition to the “Who Wants to be the Rangers’ Fifth Starter?” competition is Dave Bush.
  • Former Ranger Vladimir Guerrero has talked with the Orioles. Baltimore signed RHP Justin Duchscherer, who the Yankees were looking at.
  • The Yankees HAVE to be working on a trade for a starting pitcher, don’t they? Maybe Ivan Nova can make the jump to the big leagues, but Sergio Mitre and Big Fat Bartolo Colon would just freak me out as No. 5 starters.
  • Twins pitcher Brian Duensing had a terrifying day this off-season.
  • GMs are getting active away from the office this off-season… Yankees GM Brian Cashman has dressed like an elf and rappelled off the side of a building for charity, then bartended for charity. Astros GM Ed Wade ran a marathon. He’s 55 years old!
  • A retired pitcher is working at a fish market. And he loves it.
  • Last week we read about a book that claims umpiring is different depending on the venue. Another viewpoint says not so fast.
  • The Sunday Night Football crew proves that sometimes, even when there’s a mic in front of you, it’s best if you just shut up for a while.
  • To kill time while sick this weekend I decided to start cooking things. In a two-hour period I made blueberry pancakes (incredibly good), banana nut muffins (ehh) and lasagna (solid). I’m anxiously awaiting an invitation to try out as a celebrity cook in Scott Kammerer‘s kitchen.
  • Dave Hutte Status Update: “It’s nice to wake up to your tax refund being in your checking account.”

Musical guest… Donavon Frankenreiter and John Oates!

Take care!


Book review: BA Prospect Handbook

It’s probably not a good idea to review a book without reading it cover-to-cover, but I’m so jacked up about the Baseball America Prospect Handbook being here that I’m about to lose control and I think I like it. If you’re new to keeping track of minor-leaguers, checking out the handbook is the best way to get up to speed and stay there throughout the season. It has scouting reports on each organization’s best 30 prospects, ranks the top 50 prospects in the game, the top organizations, breaks down each team’s draft from the previous years, etc. No single prospect guide is perfect, but this one is probably the best there is.

So far, here are some things that have stood out:

  • The biggest addition for 2011 is including the scouting grades for each team’s No. 1 prospect. Scouts rate players on a 20-80 scale on a variety of tools and the book includes those for the first time. Example: the Padres’ top prospect (RHP Casey Kelly) received a 60 rating for all three of his pitches and 65s for his command/control and delivery. I like it because it allows readers to compare top prospects organization-to-organization. If you want to know how the Astros’ top prospect compares to the Royals’ top prospect, you can do that. You know, if you’re into being depressed.
  • The Indians “may have had baseball’s best draft” in 2010. Thank goodness.
  • Seems like the biggest issue for the Padres’ younger prospects has been staying healthy. OF Donovan Tate’s problems have been well-documented, RHP Keyvius Sampson had a tear in his labrum which led to changed mechanics which led to elbow trouble. Both were allegedly healthy as they left the fall instructional league.
  • Jeudy Valdez looked good in the few games he played at shortstop last year; according to the book, that’s where the Padres see him long-term.
  • RHP Brad Brach finally made the Padres’ top 30… barely. He’s ranked 30th. Apparently people don’t believe in his off-speed stuff or his ability to continue dominating at the higher levels. The numbers so far are insane: 140 career appearances, 9-6, 1.90 ERA, 78-for-83 in save chances, 189 K in 151.2 IP, .196 average against. Is that good?
  • Top 30 players listed as potential TinCaps in 2011: Tate, OFs Everett Williams and Rymer Liriano (again), Sampson, RHP Zach Cates and maybe RHP Adys Portillo. All very young/inexperienced. Of course, everything could change during spring training.
  • Mets RHP Jenrry Mejia didn’t play baseball until he was 15, and he only started because he saw how much money Dominican prospects could make. He had been making $8 a day shining shoes until he got $16,500 to sign with the Mets.

Random thoughts:

  • Former TinCaps swept the Padres’ minor-league awards for 2010. Geoff from Ducksnorts was at the awards dinner and reports that Jeudy Valdez made “the shortest acceptance speech ever” after winning the Baserunner of the Year award. Without hearing any more, my guess is he said, “Thank you,” and walked away. He’s a quiet guy when he’s speaking Spanish, let alone English.
  • Padres GM Jed Hoyer says the roster is more balanced in 2011 than it was last year. He’s concerned about the bullpen, but I think most GMs are. It’s the toughest area to predict from year to year.
  • Uni Watch hammers the Padres’ logo/uniform decisions. I think the unis look decent.
  • A Midwest League alum is spending his off-season making artificial limbs for amputees. In his debut with Bowling Green (at Parkview Field), he went 4-for-5, hit two homers and doubled.
  • The Indians aren’t looking to trade Grady Sizemore. Good thing, because it doesn’t make sense to trade one of your few trade-worthy players when his value is at its lowest point ever.
  • A book examines home-field advantage and why it exists. The main reason might surprise you.
  • Here’s analysis of which teams are the best at winning arbitration cases. The Rays are undefeated (5-0). Also, I’m a little surprised there have only been about 13 cases per year.
  • The Rays are installing new turf at their dome. It doesn’t seem like anybody actually knows how it’s different from the old stuff (aside from being “the most advanced” and able to “remain upright longer” which sounds it’s taken straight from a Jimmy Johnson commercial), which seems like lame reporting.
  • The Marlins are getting hosed out of a home series by U2. One of the downfalls of not owning their own park. Also, they’re changing their name to Miami Marlins next year? Who knew? Now they just need to change the mascot to Gators, move to the American League and lose to the Cubs in the 2015 World Series and the “Back to the Future II” writers will look like geniuses.
  • The prospect handbook’s arrival pushes back my reading of Ghost Wars, which is about Afghanistan, the CIA, terrorism, etc., from a historical perspective. So far, it’s been excellent.
  • Aaron Rodgers is officially my favorite quarterback in the NFL. First the championship belt celebration when he scores touchdowns, now this.
  • I recently went shopping for clothes, trying to use some of the gift cards I got for Christmas. Maybe I’m only noticing this because I go shopping for clothes about twice a year, but when you’re in any store (with few exceptions such as the sporting goods store), women are clearly dominant, regardless of what part of the store you’re in. I was trying to look at some shirts and about three women came rolling in (to the men’s section, mind you), getting all up in my personal space, pulling hangers off the racks, showing their control over the clearance rack. It was like one of those nature shows where lions protect their territory from a marauding band of slightly-hesitant hyenas. It was like they could sense I had no idea what I was doing. Utterly intimidated, I still escaped with three shirts.

Musical guest…Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood!

Have a great wee


Watching the watchers

ESPN’s Keith Law published his Top 100 prospects list today… The Padres on the list are:

19. RHP Casey Kelly
38. 1B Anthony Rizzo
46. OF Jaff Decker (TinCaps ’09)
64. RHP Simon Castro (TinCaps ’09)

Along with all the player-specific prospect rankings that have been trickling out this week, several outlets are ranking how the 30 MLB organizations stack up against each other. The Padres haven’t gotten a lot of love lately. Their year-by-year rankings according to Baseball America are…

2008: 12th
2009: 29th
2010: 20th
2011: 9th

In fairness, Keith Law has the Padres ranked 16th, but it seems like they’re going in the right direction. The question is, what do these rankings really mean? Tough to say, especially since the rankings are based on subjective evaluations, but it’s the best system we have.

Prospect ranking tends to be a top-heavy venture and for good reason. The goal isn’t to develop a bunch of big-league utility players who can win Midwest League titles; it’s producing good everyday major leaguers, whether that’s in the form of trading prospects for proven MLB players or letting the prospects graduate to the big leagues. Let’s take a look at which organizations have been ranked highly recently and the bigger-name players they’ve produced.

1. Rays (Longoria, Price, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson)
2. Red Sox (Buchholz, Ellsbury, two pitchers traded for Victor Martinez)
3. Reds (Bruce, Bailey, Votto, Cueto, Stubbs)
4. Rangers (Andrus, Feliz)
5. Yankees (J. Chamberlain, A. Jackson, J. Tabata, I. Kennedy, J. Montero, B. Gardner)

1. Rangers (Feliz, D. Holland, Andrus, two players traded for Cliff Lee)
2. Marlins (Maybin, Stanton, L. Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan)
3. A’s (Brett Anderson, Cahill, Gio Gonzalez)
4. Rays (Price, Wade Davis, Hellickson, Jeff Niemann)
5. Giants (Bumgarner, Posey, Sergio Romo)

1. Rays (Hellickson, Wade Davis)
2. Rangers (Feliz, two Cliff Lee trade pieces)
3. Indians (Carlos Santana)
4. Giants (Posey, Bumgarner)
5. Phillies (Domonic Brown, three Roy Halladay trade pieces)

Notice who’s in there most often: Rays, Rangers, Giants. All playoff teams last year. The Reds and Phillies made the most of their farm systems in different ways (Reds used their own players; Phillies used theirs to trade for Roy Halladay).

Again, the takeaway from this exercise is this: The true measure of a club’s minor-league system isn’t how many games the Fort Wayne TinCaps or Lake Elsinore Storm win (although, obviously, teams with good players do tend to win). It’s how many individual players would be regulars on a playoff-type MLB team. Any good organizational rankings should try to reflect that.

Random thoughts:

  • The Padres handed out their organizational awards yesterday… Former TinCaps were all over it. C Jason Hagerty (’10) was the Offensive Player of the Year, C Luis Martinez (’07-08) was Defensive Player of the Year, RHP Brad Brach (’09) was Pitcher of the Year and INF Jeudy Valdez (’09-10) was named Baserunner of the Year. Former Fort Wayne manager Gary Jones (’03) was named minor-league Coach of the Year. Maybe this is what it’ll take for Brach to get some headlines. You’d think going 78-for-83 with a 1.90 ERA, more strikeouts than innings pitched and an opponent batting average under .200 for his career would do it, but what do I know?
  • Jorge Cantu’s signing with the Padres is a done deal. By the numbers, Cantu looks like a league-average hitter who has versatility and he’s coming cheap as a backup. Another solid move by the Padres.
  • Padres GM Jed Hoyer did a radio interview in San Diego and discussed a cornucopia of baseball-related subjects.
  • Will Venable models the Padres’ new road jerseys, now with no sand color!
  • The Reds locked up another homegrown player in RHP Johnny Cueto and their GM reiterated the importance of player development.
  • Folks in Dodgertown aren’t too pleased with the production of their minor-league system since the big crop of 2006. Help should be on the way, as long as they don’t make any more Casey Blake-for-Carlos Santana kind of deals. We’ve seen SS Dee Gordon, OF Jerry Sands, LHP Aaron Miller and RHP Ethan Martin in the MWL over the last few years.
  • Big Fat Bartolo Colon signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees. I get that it’s a tiny investment on their part, but doesn’t this make their hesitation on Carl Pavano look really bad? They have one guy in their rotation who I’d feel completely comfortable with (Sabathia), then a bunch of question marks in Phil Hughes (inexperienced), A.J. Burnett (head case) and whoever else they’re running out there… Ivan Nova? Sergio Mitre? Bartolo Colon? Apparently they’re still looking at Justin Duchscherer and Jeremy Bonderman, but those don’t sound much better. If I were a Yankee fan, I’d be freaking out and praying Andy Pettitte stops Brett Favre-ing them.
  • Derek Jeter has been spotted in the batting cage. And there was much rejoicing.
  • The Blue Jays have been the talk of January so far as they rebuild. I’m pretty sure their GM has Jedi mind powers, because that’s the only way anyone can explain how he found somebody to take Vernon Wells’s contract in a trade.
  • Peter Gammons says the Rays have had a nice off-season as they move on from losing several key pieces.
  • MLB players get a smaller percentage of their teams’ revenue than players of any other major sport. Which could change with the collective bargaining agreement expiring after this season.
  • Baseball America has the pre-season college Top 25 rankings. From what I’ve been told by experts on the subject, this year’s draft class has the typical high-school talent, but it’s the college talent that makes it deeper than most drafts. Also, how about Oregon? They just restarted their baseball program a few years ago and they’re already in the Top 15. Also, Cal at No. 17 is interesting… the school could cut the baseball program following the season due to budget concerns. St. John’s and UConn are the only two teams on the list from what I’d consider “northern” schools.
  • Most of the SportScience piec
    es have been decent, but this one is hilariously bad. And I love bears. Not the Chicago Bears, though.
  • I saw this commercial in passing last night, but wasn’t really watching it. I can’t decide if it’s funny or creepy.

Musical guest, as a tribute to the Fort Wayne winter weather… Dave Matthews Band!

Take care!


The good, the bad and the embarrassing

There’s nothing that can break the monotony of a cold, gray off-season like watching a sporting event on TV and uncontrollably cackling like the Bishop in “Caddyshack”. That was me last night when the basketball Buckeyes put the beat-down of a lifetime on Purdue. The shots they were making, the Zubaz pants in the OSU student section… Everything about that game was sensational.

Also last night, MLB.com revealed its Top 50 prospects for this year. There were no former TinCaps on the list (RHP Casey Kelly was the only Padre and he came over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade), but there were plenty of guys you may have seen in Fort Wayne over the last few years:

1. OF Mike Trout, Cedar Rapids ’10
7. 3B Mike Moustakas, Burlington ’08
8. 1B Eric Hosmer, Burlington ’09
13. RHP Michael Pineda, Wisconsin ’08
14. LHP Mike Montgomery, Burlington ’09
15. RHP Jacob Turner, West Michigan ’10
16. C/OF Wil Myers, Burlington ’10
20. RHP Shelby Miller, Quad Cities ’10
28. 2B Brett Lawrie, Wisconsin ’09
29. RHP Jarrod Parker, South Bend ’08
34. LHP John Lamb, Burlington ’10
37. RHP Jake Odorizzi, Wisconsin ’10
38. SS Nick Franklin, Clinton ’10
39. OF Aaron Hicks, Beloit ’09-10
44. SS Dee Gordon, Great Lakes ’09
46. OF Brett Jackson, Peoria ’09
47. RHP Chris Archer, Peoria ’09

The first thing that jumped out to me is how much better last year’s top-end prospects were. Here’s why: On MLB Network, it seemed like everybody agreed that Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (the No. 2 prospect on the list) would end up as a No. 2 starter in the big leagues (which, like anything else, is debatable). Meanwhile, check out the Top 10 from last year:

1. OF Jason Heyward, Braves
2. RHP Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
3. OF Mike Stanton, Marlins
4. C Buster Posey, Giants
5. LHP Brian Matusz, Orioles
6. OF Desmond Jennings, Rays
7. RHP Neftali Feliz, Rangers
8. 3B Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
9. 1B Justin Smoak, Mariners
10. LHP Madison Bumgarner, Giants

You could make the case that last year’s No. 2 prospect, Stephen Strasburg, was good enough to be the Nationals’ ace when he was pitching at San Diego State. Heyward and Stanton look like stars in the making. Same for Posey, Bumgarner and Feliz who were key players on World Series teams. In fairness, it was an unbelievably talented group last year, but I think it’s easy now to look back and see how spoiled we were when it came to prospects last year.

Now all there is to do is wait for the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. When it arrives in the mail, baseball season is officially coming up.

Random thoughts:

  • We’ll know in a few years just how good the Adrian Gonzalez trade was for the Padres. Also in that column, it seems like folks are frustrated by the economics of small-market baseball in 2010. The Padres weren’t going to get Jacoby Ellsbury or any other MLB-ready young players in that trade, but they did get Boston’s top hitting and pitching prospects. The days of undervaluing young players in trades are over. When you’re an MLB team in San Diego (one of the smallest local TV markets in baseball) that’s fallen on hard times, rebuilding is just part of the deal. The new Padres’ regime is trying to put a sustainable system in place that is constantly building through the draft, but it takes time for that system to pay off.
  • The Padres’ camouflage jerseys got a redesign, and they’re more… camouflagy. In the article photo, players/models Mat Latos and Will Venable are Fort Wayne alums.
  • The Triple-A Tuscon Padres’ new logo is now public.
  • The Padres’ chairman/former principal owner had his divorce case settled. Which is good, compared to the messy divorce of the Dodgers’ owners which seems like it’s hampering the baseball operations budget.
  • In this week’s MiLB transactions, we see RHP Dirk Hayhurst, a Fort Wayne alum and now big-time author, signed with the Rays. There are a TON of former Padres with the Rays now.
  • The Giants’ Top 10 Prospects are posted at Baseball America.
  • Jayson Stark points out today that the last two pitchers to lead the American League in saves aren’t expected to be closers in 2011. I’m not sure if that says more about the uselessness of the save statistic or the value of a good setup man.
  • The Blue Jays traded the just-acquired Mike Napoli to the Rangers for RHP Frank Francisco. So, essentially, that means they traded Vernon Wells (and $5 million cash, allegedly) for Juan Rivera and Francisco. If the Jays were in any other division, they might be the favorite “surprise team of 2011.” But if your aunt had a… never mind.
  • Which was a worse decision (on paper): The Barry Zito contract or the Vernon Wells trade? Fangraphs investigates.
  • From the Rangers’ perspective, Napoli crushes lefties. Which is good when you play against Oakland a lot.
  • Here’s a sports contest Cleveland has a chance to win… Who’s tougher to trade away: Vernon Wells at $23 million a year or Travis Hafner at $13 million a year?
  • Here’s an article trying to predict MLB salary inflation. Hint: It’s about seven percent per year. BUT, that could change with a new collective bargaining agreement probably coming before next season.
  • What could have happened if we’d had the two-division, two-wild-card system over the past decade?
  • If you’re having trouble deciphering what some of the new sabermetric stats mean and figuring out what a good OBP or OPS is, you need to read this.
  • So what you’re telling me is, Derek Jeter doesn’t have enough range to play shortstop, but he does have enough range to play center field? What am I missing here?
  • Meanwhile, Vladimir Guerrero hasn’t had range in years. He doesn’t have a job right now, and Texas is making less sense for him than ever.
  • The Pirates announced higher day-of-game ticket prices for the first time in nine years. I’ve always said, when you want to bask in the brilliance of .38 Special, you’d better be ready to shell out a few extra bucks.
  • If appearing in an MC Hammer video makes you a record mogul, well… Jimmy Rollins has been a mogul since he was 13 years old.
  • As lame as the college football bowl system is, stories like this make it seem less and less likely things will change. Which is a shame, really.
  • Speaking of shames… Sigh. Just embarrassing.
  • You know it’s been cold when it’s 27 degrees outside and it feels warm.
  • Team president Mike Nutter says the only way the OSU-Purdue game could have been better was if Gus Johnson was calling the game. I disagree, simply because I would have been petrified of a Purdue comeback the entire second half. Fact: Gus Johnson only calls close games.
  • Fact: The only way this isn’t soul-crushingly lame is that Ohio State basketball is 21-0. When you’re undefeated and destroying top-15 opponents, you can do whatever you want. You know, as long as it’s within NCAA rules.

Musical guest… The Raconteurs (and friends)!

Take care!


The etiquette of ripping someone off

Since the Padres’ Top 10 prospect rankings came out yesterday and dominated things, I had to wait to discuss several funny things that have happened lately.

1. The Vernon Wells trade. I caught a discussion of the trade last night on MLB Network and the analysts weren’t all that tough on it, saying the Angels picked up a valuable piece in Wells. The problem is his salary, which he may never be able to fully “earn” by the new-fangled definitions. People are scrambling for explanations for why the Angels would make this trade and tie up crazy money in a good-but-not-great aging outfielder. It’s being called one of the most inexplicable trades of all time.

I’d like to know this: If you’re the Blue Jays’ GM and you’re negotiating this trade, do you have to act like you don’t want to trade Wells, just to keep the Angels from realizing how crazy they are for wanting him (and his contract)? Is speakerphone off-limits so the Angels don’t hear the high-fiving going on at Blue Jays’ HQ when they agree to the trade? Do the Jays force the Angels to sign a binding document to hold them to the trade, just to make sure they don’t change their minds after a good night’s sleep? Would that idea set off a red flag with the Angels? What’s the etiquette here?

2. Elaine LaLanne. Obviously it’s a bummer that fitness guru Jack LaLanne passed away yesterday. But it was only while reading the stories about Jack that I heard about his wife’s name: Elaine LaLanne. Why was this not a bigger deal? She’s the real-life Julia Gulia!

3. The Mark Sanchez incident. Caution: You’ll only find it funny if you have the sense of humor of an eight-year-old. Which I do. If you haven’t heard about it, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. Keep in mind, this is the same guy who was caught eating a hot dog on the sideline, so it’s not like it’s his first rodeo when it comes to sideline paparazzi. Also, if you watched “Hard Knocks,” you’ll remember the Brunell-Sanchez relationship is kind of like an old, grizzled dog being prodded by a mischievous puppy. Brunell said Sanchez is his teenage daughter’s favorite player, which means she’ll never get to meet him.

4. “Autographed” pictures of pro wrestlers. I found this in my mailbox when I came into the office yesterday:

If you can’t read it, it says “Dan, the Winnipeg Arena was on fire!” with the “signature” of one Jerry “The King” Lawler. You’d better believe it’s already posted on the insulation/cork board in the radio booth.

5. Imagine seeing this, unannounced, when you’re shoveling appetizers onto your plate at a wedding reception:

Random thoughts:

  • The Padres are close to picking up INF Jorge Cantu. This is a legitimate surprise. I thought they might consider him earlier this off-season, but after signing Bartlett, Hudson and Hawpe, I figured San Diego was finished bringing free agents in. Signing Cantu makes sense in a lot of ways: He’s a right-handed power bat (which fits Petco better than lefties), he’s versatile and he grew up in Mexico (a significant fan demographic, especially for the Padres, especially after losing another native of Mexico in Adrian Gonzalez).
  • Picking up Cantu renders this article a little… overly optimistic?
  • Tonight at 9 p.m., MLB Network reveals the MLB.com Top 50 prospects in baseball. Which is the same time as the Ohio State-Purdue basketball game, but this is why the DVR was invented. Work, work, work, work, work.
  • Former MWLer Jerry Sands did an interview with MiLB.com. He’s good, as TinCaps pitchers found out far too often over the past two seasons.
  • Former MWLer (and AL MVP) Justin Morneau isn’t going to the Twins’ Fanfest as he continues to recover from a concussion.
  • The Reds have six pretty good pitchers competing for a five-man starting rotation. And that doesn’t even count Aroldis Chapman.
  • Flava Flav has opened a restaurant, and it’s in Clinton, Iowa, home of the MWL’s LumberKings. Everything about this story sounds made up.
  • More prospect rankings, this time on the Seattle Mariners. If you’re interested in that kind of thing.
  • If you thought being a sports fan in Northeast Ohio made you feel bad for hours at a time… Try it after eating this two-pound burger-hot dog mutant hybrid.
  • Why 3D video just doesn’t work, according to someone who knows way more about it than normal humans.

Musical guest… The White Stripes!

Take care!


Padres. Prospects. Paintball. Pinheads.

A month ago, we were getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Today, we have another kind of Christmas. The Padres’ Top 10 prospects list is posted over at Baseball America, and it looks like this:

1. RHP Casey Kelly
2. 1B Anthony Rizzo
3. RHP Simon Castro (’09)
4. OF Reymond Fuentes
5. RHP Matt Lollis (’10)
6. LHP Cory Luebke (’07, ’08)
7. OF Jaff Decker (’09)

8. OF Donovan Tate
9. INF Drew Cumberland (’08, ’09)
10. C Jason Hagerty (’10)

That’s six of the top 10 who have played in Fort Wayne. Kelly, Rizzo and Fuentes all came over in the Adriian Gonzalez trade and are past this level already, while Padres officials have been on record multiple times saying Tate will be a TinCap in 2011 barring anything crazy happening.

As far as other Baseball America stuff, they have the Padres’ projected lineup for three years from now. They think Hagerty, Cumberland, Decker, Castro, Luebke, 3B Chase Headley, RF Will Venable and RHP Mat Latos will be in there. That would be nice.

The Top 10 list is a little tough to comment on since I haven’t seen any of the Red Sox guys. I thought Kelly would be No. 1 and Rizzo would be high, but I didn’t think Fuentes would be as high as No. 4. I assume people believe his power and OBP will improve, since he will be only 20 and probably playing at Advanced-A on Opening Day 2011. I LOVE the Matt Lollis ranking at No. 5, since I didn’t think that many people were on his bandwagon. Everything else seems about right.

In other news, 19 Padres prospects were invited to the team’s inaugural Winter Development Program at Petco Park. From what I can tell, most teams are doing this now to get their prospects’ feet wet; the front-office guys who came over from Boston had been doing it there for a few years. Every day, it’s about two and a half hours of on-field work, plus meetings to discuss off-field issues like how to dress, how to deal with the media, etc. Being invited means the Padres think you’re going to get to the big leagues at some point, so it’s kind of a big deal for the players.

Of the 19 invited to the camp, 14 have played in Fort Wayne…

RHP Simon Castro (’09)
RHP Jeremy Hefner (’08)
RHP Matt Lollis (’10)
LHP Juan Oramas (’10)
C Jason Hagerty (’10)
1B Matt Clark (’09)
INF Drew Cumberland (’08, ’09)
INF Jeudy Valdez (’09, ’10)
INF James Darnell (’09, ’10)
INF Jedd Gyorko (’10)
INF Edinson Rincon (’10)
OF Jaff Decker (’09)
OF Rico Noel (’10)
OF Blake Tekotte (’09)

For what it’s worth, another article says Fort Wayne alums RHP Brad Brach and C Luis Martinez were also invited to the camp. Which would make 16 of the 21 attendees Fort Wayne alums. Bonus.

Random thoughts:

  • The Jays traded Vernon Wells to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Which, strictly talent-wise, might be OK for the Angels, but Wells has one of the worst contracts in baseball. From what I’ve read, the Jays aren’t picking up ANY of the tab on Wells, who’s making over $20 million PER YEAR for each of the next four years. This looks like the Angels panicking over missing out on Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford. From Toronto’s perspective, they just won the lottery. The money they’re saving can be spent on a big-time bat — I’ve heard Prince Fielder or (shudder) Albert Pujols, should he reach free agency.
  • The Padres have a great relationship with the military. The guy who did a lot to make that happen is retiring.
  • Here’s a review of a book about the lives of minor-leaguers.
  • As a graduate of a Division-III college, I have a soft spot for the small-school baseball scene.
  • Fort Wayne alum and now-Twins good-guy Michael Cuddyer has had a busy off-season.
  • The Brewers’ No. 1 prospect wasn’t even on the radar a few years back because shoulder trouble wiped him out.
  • The stakes are higher now for the Nationals. Which they brought upon themselves when they spent way too much on Jayson Werth two years before they’re ready to compete.
  • The Reds are spending money too, but the headlines aren’t as big because they’re locking up their own guys to long-term deals. Cueto, Bruce and Votto are three guys to build around and they’ll have Edinson Volquez at a relative bargain this year.
  • I almost forgot Grady Sizemore is still with the Indians. They need him to come back strong (and bring women back to the ballpark) in the worst way.
  • New nickname: Rockies RHP Jhoulys “The Machine” Chacin. Better than most.
  • Somebody thinks Josh Hamilton could finish 2011 outside of Texas. That sounds like fairly wild speculation.
  • While football and basketball could have lockouts, MLB looks like it’s sitting pretty… and baseball is being held to a higher standard.
  • It’s Neil Diamond’s 70th birthday today. He is secretly one of the best songwriters around — The Monkees may have bombed without him… And Smash Mouth definitely would have been out of our lives five years earlier, which would have been fine with me. Neil is also secretly a national champion fencer in college. Not-so-secretly, he’s one of the greatest showmen there is. Well-deserved Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in 2011. Assuming you think he’s a rock and roller. If ABBA is, he sure is.
  • I don’t care if Jay Cutler was really hurt or not… When people are burning your jersey, you can’t really play in that town again, can you? The relationship is past the point of no return. In “Back to the Future III”, the point of no return was the windmill when the DeLorean (being pushed by a locomotive) was on its way toward the yet-to-be-completed bridge over Clayton Ravine. The only difference between Cutle
    r and Marty McFly was that the DeLorean got to 88 mph and safely made the jump back to 1985. Bears fans only wish it was 1985.
  • Also, how many people knew the rule about not being able to put your
    starting QB back into the game if the third-stringer has played? Does it seem to anybody else like NFL rules are unnecessarily complicated?
  • NFL quote of the day from Bears lineman Olin Kreutz, about players from other teams ripping Cutler: “They should turn that [expletive] Twitter off.” Preach on, preacher.
  • Worst Cooks in America” story of the night last night: The same girl who claims she undercooked meat so badly that her boyfriend got food poisoning says she once tried cooking on a gas grill but it blew up and burned every hair off her face. For months, people thought she was angry all the time.
  • I had no idea Fort Wayne had a huge underground paintball scene, but a couple of my high-school buddies were in town for a tournament so I went up to check it out. I felt like Forrest Gump when Bubba was telling him everything there was to know about the shrimpin’ business. They knew everything and I knew nothing. I guess paintball is kind of like “Assault” on American Gladiators, except the bad guys can move and they have the same weapons you do (and those weapons shoot balls of paint, not tennis balls). At one point Sunday, somebody got shot in the forehead to the point of bleeding and possible concussion. And he kept playing after that. Somewhere, Roger Goodell was frowning and shaking his head. And then asking the guy to play two additional games.

Musical guest… Neil Diamond!

Take care!


I heard the news today; oh boy

I think the cold weather has shrank my creativity for the day, so let’s just go right into what you’re really here for.

Random thoughts:

  • Tim Kurkjian writes a REALLY good article about a Royals scout in Colombia. Fun fact: This scout signed Sugar Ray Marimon, who was in the MWL last year.
  • MLB.com rates the top 10 outfield prospects in the minors. I guess I’m mildly surprised former TinCap Jaff Decker didn’t make it, but he was injured last year.
  • The Dodgers’ Top 10 prospects list is up at Baseball America. Lots of recent MWLers on that one.
  • A 23-year-old college infielder who, in his spare time, is the mayor of a Minnesota town. Yawn.
  • Jayson Stark has the All-Underrated team. Which may lead to them ceasing to be underrated.
  • This is at least a year away from being decided, but here’s another suggestion
    to realigning baseball’s divisions and changing the playoff selection.
    Two divisions in each league, take the division champions and the next
    two best records in each league. Fine.
  • Any article that graphs Brian Wilson’s beard-to-awesomeness ratio is good by me.
  • A few Detroit Tigers were in an awkward-at-best dance-off. Fact: Jose Valverde is enormous.
  • Justin Verlander’s shaking things up this off-season to try to change his early-season luck.
  • A few Mets hung out with the New York Fire Department.
  • I’m starting to think MiLB.com publishes these mailbags to make fun of their own fans. Well, not their own, but you know what I mean.
  • I stumbled upon a Fangraphs article about the role of sports reporters and the difficulty of doing their job well. Objectivity is an issue in the era of dying newspaper/radio/local TV sports coverage and media companies paying teams/leagues for the right to broadcast. I think the most common problem for reporters on any medium is when they forget how difficult it is to play sports at a high level, which is why I love it when coaches invite reporters to a day of training camp. When you’re fair and give the athlete the benefit of the doubt, chances are you’ll do just fine. Now, if you want to talk about the retired athlete-turned-analysts… That’s a whole other discussion. But at the end of it all, it’s just reporting on kids’ games. This isn’t Watergate we’re talking about.
  • How blown out of proportion would this get if it happened in the U.S.?
  • Maybe a challenger to ESPN? Interesting.
  • A grown man playing with legos isn’t nearly as lame as you’d think it would be.
  • A grown woman falling into a fountain while texting, on the other hand, is exactly as lame as you’d think it would be. What are we doing with our lives when we have to talk about the dangers of texting while walking? I don’t think I’m a bad person for thinking it’s funny, but the Mystery Science Theater narration on the actual YouTube video is pretty mean-spirited.
  • “Chef to the Stars” Scott Kammerer asked me yesterday how many times he has to appear on the blog before he achieves Alec-Baldwin-on-SNL status. I hope he meant pre-Will Ferrel leaving SNL, otherwise that’s about as nasty of an insult as there is.

Musical guest… Neil Young!

Have a great weekend!


Four good dudes looking for work

Remember a couple days ago when I mentioned how the movie “Sugar” did a good job of portraying the meat-market nature of professional baseball? Well, today we see a real-life example of that in Baseball America‘s minor-league transactions:

San Diego Padres
RHP Eric Gonzalez, RHP Matt Irsfeld, C Matt Combs, C Brandon Fowler, 1B Joe Agreste, 2B Kevin Hansen, SS Chris Ahearn

Gonzalez, Irsfeld, Agreste and Hansen have all played in Fort Wayne within the last two years. All seemed like decent dudes.

As much as I try to stay objective about baseball-related stuff on here and on the air, this one stings. Gonzalez and Hansen were both here for substantial amounts of time in 2009 and were two of the nicest guys you’ll find in baseball or life in general. Neither of them were high-round draft picks (Hansen wasn’t drafted at all). They both understood that the odds of making baseball a long-term career weren’t good, but that bred the mentality that playing pro baseball was a fun opportunity and they’d make the most of whatever came out of it. It’s the old “we’ve got nothing to lose” way of looking at things. Both of them are college-educated and I’m sure will do just fine away from baseball, but it’s a bummer to see two good guys who truly appreciated baseball heading out the door.

Random thoughts:

  • San Diego finalized the signing of RHP Chad Qualls. Prediction: Bounce-back city. More favorable division (he came from the Rays), pitcher-friendly park, an off-season to get completely healthy, not being asked to close.
  • Fort Wayne alum C Nick Hundley will be handed the Padres’ starting big-league job this year. The whole premise that he won’t have a safety net might be a little overstated now that Gregg Zaun signed a minor-league deal with San Diego. Zaun will turn 40 early in the season. The Padres are the tenth MLB team he’s played for and he says his arm is rebounding nicely from injury. Between Zaun in camp and Brad Ausmus in the front office, the Padres are assembling some serious catching experience and IQ to teach Hundley and any other young catcher who might be listening (I’m looking at you, Jason Hagerty).
  • Fort Wayne alum RHP Jake Peavy is (still) efforting to come back from a pretty nasty muscle tear. He’s already throwing off a mound, which he wasn’t supposed to start doing for another month or so.
  • The Indians and Royals are trying to help fans keep the faith for the future. A cautionary tale comes from the Rangers, who now have “a weak spot” at the catcher position. I remember when everybody thought they were loaded with young catchers like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Max Ramirez and Taylor Teagarden. Oops (so far).
  • Baseball quote of the year so far goes to Yankees GM Brian Cashman to an indecisive Andy Pettitte: “Don’t Brett Favre us.” Given recent developments, this could mean any number of things, some downright disgusting.
  • Cashman also wasn’t against bringing Carl Pavano back to the Yankees. I never completely understood the opposition to signing Pavano, especially with how desperate the Yankees should be for starting pitching. Just by pure mathematical odds, wouldn’t it be incredibly unlikely for his injuries to burn them again?
  • Carlos Zambrano: Not an idiot off the field?
  • Highlights of the Matt Anderson story: Hard-throwing closer struck by the curse of an octopus looking to revive his career. Yawn.
  • ESPN’s Jim Caple ranks the MLB logos.
  • Todd Coffey signed with the Nationals. Which means this will almost never be on national TV this year. A sad story, indeed.
  • The Phillies are (already) putting a new video board into their ballpark, and it’s huge. The old one is going to their spring training park in Florida. I say it’s not the size that counts, it’s how you use it.
  • Oh, baby. Fantasy baseball is almost upon us. For those of us dorks looking for the next big steal, check it out. I’ve heard a decent amount of Drew Stubbs love lately.
  • Coming soon to The Diamond in Lake Elsinore: Wacky Weenie Wednesday. Free, all-you-can-eat (as far as I can tell) hot dogs, every Wednesday home game. Having (painfully) experienced Dime-A-Dog Night with the Columbus Clippers, I urge caution to any Eater X‘s-in-training.
  • Last night I watched three riveting hours of food-related TV: Worst Cooks in America (Food version of “The Pickup Artist”), Restaurant: Impossible (Food Network meets any of the 500 HGTV shows about renovating a nuclear waste dump in 48 hours on a shoestring budget) and Conviction Kitchen (“Worst Cooks in America” with people accused/convicted of serious crimes — if this were on HBO, the obscenities would make Rex Ryan’s “Hard Knocks” performance look like an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood). I was this close to sending out an application to culinary school until I saw one of the convicts almost chop his index finger off.
  • Coming soon to TinCaps TV: “Kammerer’s Kitchen,” where every unmarried man on our staff gets turned into a world-class cook by “Chef to the Stars” Scott Kammerer. Just imagine the devastation when Kammerer berates Justin Shurley‘s homemade chili because the vegetables aren’t cut evenly. Once every round (while preparing the meal, mind you), you have to fight off Tim Burkhart, who tries to raid the kitchen for a snack. The final test is making a meal for the entire front-office staff, and the judges
    are food boss Bill Lehn, Burkhart (who, in addition to being the maintenance guy, is the designated Parkview Field food tester) and a mystery judge who is revealed to be veteran semi-pro baker Karen Schieber — until we see a winded Allan Wertheimer sprinting onto the set, clotheslining Karen out of the way and taking her seat at the judges’ table, claiming he smelled free food all the way from Minnesota. Every episode ends with a zoomed-in shot of Michael Limmer sitting at a table eating. As the shot zooms out, we see that everyone else has finished their meal and he’s sitting at a big table by himself with 15 plates of food around him in an otherwise empty room.

Musical guest… Phil Collins!

Take care!


Arbitration: the awkward-maker

Over the last few days, most baseball stories have revolved around arbitration. I would guess most casual fans don’t know what arbitration is all about. So, if these two articles don’t clear it up, here’s my best shot at describing it for non-baseball nerds:

When a player gets brought to the major leagues, he’ll probably make the
league-minimum salary (around $400K) until he has accrued three years of MLB service time. Once he gets his three years in, he’s eligible (following the season) to get a pay raise from his current team through arbitration.

Arbitration, by definition, is the hearing of a case in controversy by an objective authority. In baseball’s case, arbitration decides what a player will be paid the following year. So a player’s agent submits what he thinks the player should be paid, the team does the same, and they argue their respective cases in front of a judge-ish person who decides which side wins (once the case goes to arbitration, there is no bargaining – it’s one number or the other, no middle ground). Obviously, the awkwardness level in salary arbitration is incredibly high. The team, which probably drafted and developed the player and still wants him to stay long-term, runs down a list of reasons why a player isn’t worth the money he’s asking for. The agent tries to convince the judge-ish person why the player IS good enough to be worth the money. This is kind of like taking your girlfriend to court over custody of a dog you adopted, telling the judge why your girlfriend shouldn’t be trusted with caring for another living being, then continuing to date your girlfriend with the possibility of her eventually being the mother of your children.

Under normal circumstances, players can go to arbitration for three straight off-seasons, then they are eligible for free agency.

Obviously, teams try to avoid arbitration if they can, and they usually do so by giving the player a modest pay raise on a short-term contract (which explains why Josh Hamilton made only $3.25 million last year despite being awesome). This is the baseball equivalent of settling out of court. Really good players get fairly reasonable long-term deals and avoid arbitration altogether (like Carlos Gonzalez and Joey Votto have done this off-season).

Some players get the right to go to arbitration a year early — if they’re an elite player with 2-3 years of service time, they’re labeled a “Super 2” and are eligible for arbitration.

Teams try to delay this whole process as long as they can, since players get paid more the longer they’ve been in the major leagues. Usually they do so by holding players in the minors until around mid-season, a practice referred to as “waiting to start the arbitration clock.” It makes sense for the team in the long term, since it theoretically keeps the player with the team at a cheap price for an additional year.

Now you know all there is to know about arbitration. And knowing’s half the battle. Right?

Random thoughts:

  • If there’s ever a “Watson Files: The Movie,” this quote will go on the posters and trailers: “…one of the most entertaining team-affiliated blogs out there… chock full of witty and concise observations…” – Legendary author Ben Hill
  • Some nights, fans might wonder where the heck these MiLB umpires come from. Well, here’s your answer.
  • The Padres avoided arbitration by signing contracts with five players, including key relievers Heath Bell and Mike Adams and OF Ryan Ludwick. Say what you want about the save as a statistic, but did you know Bell has the most saves of any closer in the game in the last two years (89)? And he’s done it with a 12-5 record, a 2.32 ERA, FOUR home runs allowed(!) and a lot of strikeouts. It’s not smoke and mirrors.
  • Seemingly everybody’s favorite to be this year’s Padres and surprise everyone? The A’s. But if everybody writes things like that, isn’t it ruining the surprise?
  • Biggest names who are expected to go to arbitration: Josh Hamilton, Francisco Liriano, Johnny Cueto, Carlos Marmol, Edinson Volquez, Jered Weaver, Rickie Weeks, Delmon Young. They can continue negotiating with their teams right up to the day of their actual arbitration hearing, so there’s still some time for them.
  • Gil Meche retired, leaving the remaining one year and about $12.4 million from his monstrous contract on the table. Even if it’s mostly injury-related, it’s a pretty noble thing to do. I bet a lot of guys would mope around, go on the DL, collect their paychecks and then leave. The Royals must be doing backflips right now, pocketing that money. If they can use it later to go get a key player when (if) their prospects make an impact, Royals fans may, against all odds, thank Gil Meche.
  • The Rockies’ Top 10 Prospect list is up on Baseball America.
  • If rankings are fun, wouldn’t rankings of rankings be… funner?
  • Hey everyone! The Reds can develop their own pitchers now!
  • One day after we read a story about a former college wide receiver being a “bust” at age 25 with the Cubs, what happens? The Cubs pay a lot of money to sign another college wide receiver.
  • Dodger fans might be worried about who will play left field for them this year. Prediction: Former MWLer Jerry Sands will get an opportunity sooner than later.
  • The Zac Brown Band (who played at Parkview Field in 2010) has made it big. Now they want to start doing their own food service at concerts.
  • Chuck Norris is everywhere, despite reports to the contrary. They say he’s NOT on the side of a building in Fort Wayne. Non-believers had better be on the lookout for roundhouse kicks.
  • The Onion Sportsdome show is now 0-for-2. It needs to be “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” meets “The Mayne Event,” with jokes about real stories, but it’s not, and I’m not sure why. A true head-scratcher, indeed.

Musical guest… Wanda Jackson and Jack White!


You’re watching Thunder on the Mountain Feat. Jack White. See the Web’s top videos on AOL Video

Take care!


Film review: Sugar

I finally got around to watching “Sugar,” the movie about a Dominican minor-league baseball player and his transition to the U.S. I thought it was good to very good, but non-baseball nerds will probably rate it as average. Here’s why:

  • It’s not your typical rags-to-riches sports movie. It’s so lifelike/documentary-ish that it’s easy to classify it as a niche movie. If you’re not especially into the subject matter, you’ll be bored because it’s based mostly around the day-to-day survival of a quiet athlete in a foreign country. It shows how these guys go from the family celebrity in the Dominican, building a house for their family, to just another nobody when they come to the States. It shows the awkward exchanges that can happen with a language barrier, the range of hospitality from Americans (from an accommodating host family to not-so-subtle racism), the meat market nature of pro baseball and the pressure on Dominican players to succeed — for many of them, there’s no fallback option if baseball doesn’t work out.
  • They couldn’t use real team names because of copyrights, but the main character gets assigned to a team in Iowa called the “Bridgetown Swing,” also known as the Midwest League’s Swing of the Quad Cities (now known as the Quad Cities River Bandits). Most in-game scenes were shot at Modern Woodmen Park, one of my favorite parks in the league.
  • I’m surprised there was no mention of the cold weather in Iowa in April. I’ve seen a lot of Latin players in their first experience with snow (they usually look like they’ve seen aliens). I think it’s another major change they have to account for.
  • When the main character’s baseball career starts to come apart, we see how fragile things can be. His best friend gets released, his other friend (an American) gets promoted, the main character gets hurt, he gets sent to the bullpen, he gets yelled at by his manager who speaks little-to-no Spanish, he’s in a place where nobody completely understands what he’s going through. It’s an incredibly tough spot.
  • I won’t ruin the end for you, but while the ending isn’t what I would consider realistic, it’s not so outlandish that it ruins the movie.

Grade: Solid B (maybe B-plus) for big baseball fans. C-minus for normal people who have lives.

Random thoughts:

  • Fort Wayne alum Dirk Hayhurst was profiled on MiLB.com. It’s probably safe to say he’s more famous as an author than as a baseball player, and I bet he’s OK with that.
  • Fangraphs discusses Cameron Maybin and why he’s probably a better gamble for the Padres than Tony Gwynn, Jr., despite his struggles in the big leagues so far.
  • Norwell HS product Jarrod Parker is still the No. 1 prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system, despite missing 2010 thanks to Tommy John surgery. Baseball America thinks he can still be a staff ace in the big leagues.
  • How in the heck do they come up with their prospect rankings, anyway?
  • The Cubs sent Chicago native Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals for three minor-leaguers. Looks like a good trade for the Nationals. It seems like they’re just trying to put some semblance of a respectable product on the field while they wait for 2012 when Stephen Strasburg gets healthy and (they hope) Bryce Harper is ready (not likely). Gorzelanny is a cheap, non-old, serviceable starter, and those are tougher to come by than you might think.
  • Jayson Stark has a piece about weird clauses in baseball contracts.
  • As someone who watched entirely too much football this year, I was interested to read this NFL broadcasting breakdown. Hint: CBS’s announcing crews destroy FOX’s.

Musical guest… The Beatles!

Take care!