March 2011

Griffin Benedict: Big leaguer

No, another TinCap did not get traded yesterday. At least not that I know of.

Today when the Padres play the Cardinals (on national television, no less), you’ll want to pay attention when somebody starts throwing in the bullpen. Because one of the bullpen catchers is none other than former TinCaps catcher Griffin Benedict.

The way it went down (according to what I’ve heard from a couple of people) is this: Benedict was called into an office at the Padres’ complex toward the end of Spring Training and was told they didn’t have a spot for him on a minor-league roster. But the Padres like the way he catches, and with bullpen coach Darren Akerfelds fighting pancreatic cancer, they needed a second bullpen catcher. So Benedict accepted, and now he’s traveling with the big club, probably getting paid way more than any minor-leaguer (and I assume he gets tips on top of a salary). From what I heard, a lot of guys on the minor-league side were pretty jealous when they found out.

And that’s the story of how Griffin Benedict made the big leagues.

Random thoughts:

  • We’ve hit a lull in the minor-league articles… Camp is wrapping up and the official rosters aren’t out yet. I’d guess Friday or Saturday we’ll get an Opening Day roster.
  • If you haven’t heard about the TinCaps’ Open House and Meet the Team night, well… you’re just not paying attention.
  • Legendary author Ben Hill has decided to cave into the TinCaps’ demands and feature us (or, more accurately, our 3D glasses) in his MLBlogs profile picture. I’m trying to talk him into coming to Parkview Field this season to join the Bad Apple Dancers. If he plays his cards right, they might even temporarily change their names to the Ben Apple Dancers.
  • The San Diego U-T has (even) more questions about the Padres heading into Opening Day. They caught lightning in a bottle last year, and that usually doesn’t happen back-to-back years. Especially when 60 percent of your starting rotation is either coming off injuries or currently injured. But as Heath Bell says, it sure seems like, over the past year, the organization has put itself in a position to have more long-term success. I saw the 2010 Padres as a band-aid fix to the organization’s problems while the front office performed reconstructive surgery behind the scenes.
  • Former Padres RHP Edward Mujica had a nasty fall and landed on his right elbow/head. Between this and the Jake Peavy injuries, Padres GM Jed Hoyer is looking like the Bill Bellichick of baseball… once he trades them, they go down like flies.
  • Tigers manager Jim Leyland remembers his first day as a minor-league manager; he put his shoes on top of a water heater and the soles melted.
  • Giants 1B Brandon Belt made the big-league team and was so overcome that he cried. Noted rally thong-wearer Aubrey Huff responded with, “”Why you crying? I’m the one who’s gotta play right field every day.”
  • For the Royals, the waiting is the hardest part. Somebody should write a song about that.
  • I wish more writers would share what the Diamondbacks’ beat writer did… Unabridged quotes from unnamed scouts about D-Backs players. Because while media types can watch every game and get into the clubhouse, our primary job is to write articles/broadcast games/etc. The primary job of a scout is to evaluate players. The more perspectives we get, the better chance we’ll get the whole picture.
  • Indians manager Manny Acta talked about his time as a minor-league player, eating fast food every day.
  • So you’re telling me that the six cities hosting MLB games today are Washington, Cincinnati, St. Louis, New York, Kansas City and Los Angeles? Why does MLB keep doing this to itself? Every team with a roof plus the Angels, Dodgers, Padres, Marlins, Braves and Rangers should open every season with a six-game homestand.That leaves three more teams (2 AL, 1 NL) to host outdoor games in northern-ish cities. Figure it out.
  • And then there was the exhibition game played in a near-blizzard in Columbus yesterday.
  • Speaking of Columbus… they have bigger problems than snow.
  • It’s becoming clear that MLB.tv is the greatest idea in the history of sports on TV. Not only can you choose between home/road feeds, you  can also turn the announcers’ sound off and just listen to the natural ballpark audio. Now if they could just shut those TinCaps broadcasters up, we’d really have something…

Musical guest… Michael Franti & Spearhead!

Take care!

DW

Stop me if you’ve heard this before…

Another former TinCap was traded by the Padres. Again. Two days ago it was RHP Erik Davis to the Nationals. Yesterday it was 1B Allan Dykstra to the Mets for RHP Eddie Kunz.

Dykstra, if you remember, was a first-round pick in 2008 and played for the TinCaps in 2009. I thought he was a very nice guy with big-time pop, but also has a degenerative hip condition (meaning, not going to get better) which may or may not have had an effect on him. A phrase I heard at least one scout throw around was “slider-speed bat.” And that’s a tough thing to overcome if true. I’m not sure where he would’ve been assigned this year with 1Bs Matt Clark, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Blanks and Nate Freiman also in the pipeline for the Padres.

Kunz was a supplemental first-rounder in 2007. I saw him pitch in the Eastern League in 2008 and he was nasty. Kunz made his big-league debut later that year, but he hasn’t posted a sub-5.00 ERA since then. I haven’t seen any scouting reports lately to explain it, but guys usually don’t go from dominant at Double-A to struggling the next year without an injury or something weird happening.

Random thoughts:

  • Here’s another “what’s it like to work at a ballpark?” example: Before lunch today, I’ve seen our head groundskeeper knock over a full cup of Mountain Dew while using sweeping arm motions at a staff meeting; watched a demonstration of a paper cutter slicing through a phone book (in front of a crowd of about 10 employees, spellbound as if we’d just witnessed atomic fission); and participated in the minor-league phase of our fantasy baseball draft. ‘Tis the season.
  • Yesterday I ran some tests of our new radio equipment from the ballpark, then went to the radio station to check out how it sounded. It’s crystal clear. You won’t even believe it when all dozen of you turn on your radios. And the streaming feed is fixed – no more volume fluctuations between game audio and commercials. Now if we could find a radio guy whose voice isn’t jacked up, we’ll be in business. Big thanks to Mogan David, the engineer at Federated Media for his consulting work with a complete doofus.
  • Former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos was placed on the DL yesterday and the Padres finalized their 25-man Opening Day roster. Six players from the active roster played here: RHP Ernesto Frieri, LHP Cory Luebke, C Nick Hundley, OFs Will Venable and Cedric Hunter and 3B Chase Headley. Mike Baxter, Kyle Blanks and Mat Latos are Fort Wayne alums on the DL.
  • The Padres won’t be sneaking up on people this year. I fear we underestimated the sneakiness last year, and perhaps the team isn’t quite as sneaky this year with the questions about the pitching staff.
  • RHP Aaron Harang got knocked around by the Brewers yesterday in the Padres’ Spring Training finale. INF Dean Anna, RHP Brad Brach, Jaff and Cody Decker are the recent TinCaps who made the box score.
  • Former Fort Wayne RHP Jake Peavy had a good simulated game yesterday, but is bummed he’s not making the trip north yet.
  • Same feeling for Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg, who is staying behind to rehab from Tommy John surgery.
  • Phillies 2B Chase Utley hopes to be back before the All-Star Break. Uh-oh.
  • Intriguing stuff from Baseball America about prospects, when to bring them up to the big leagues, changing the culture of a team, etc.
  • The Mariners have a reliever who is the classic huge-prospect-caught-for-drugs-twice-retired-bartended-backpacked-around-the-country-returned-to-baseball-jumped-to-the-big-leagues story. We’ve heard it a million times. He pitched in the MWL, for Clinton last year.
  • The Jays put Jose Bautista in right field and Edwin Encarnacion at third. In other words, as Buster Olney says, former MWLer Brett Lawrie won’t be in the minors long if Encarnacion doesn’t figure it out.
  • Former megaprospect Alex Gordon is back, and he’s hitting third for the Royals.
  • Baseball now has a 7-day DL specifically for concussions. Which is nice for the minor dings. Who will be the first team to put a phantom “concussion sufferer” on the DL to free up a roster spot?
  • Changes to Wrigley Field? Blasphemy!
  • One fan would rather eat his tickets than eat lunch with his team’s owner.
  • The Giants will decide where to assign 1B Brandon Belt today.
  • A catcher-pitcher argument followed by a dizzy spell followed by vomiting. And “Jungle” Jack Hannahan starting at third base. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Cleveland Indians!
  • “There is no heat in Cleveland in March! And we like it that way!” – Cavaliers TV play-by-play man Fred McLeod. I don’t care if Miami was tanking the game for playoff seeding or not, that win makes Cleveland’s 2011. Now if the Browns get A.J. Green in the NFL draft, we won’t know what to do with ourselves.
  • Oh, that’s weird: another story about corruption in college football. Read this book and tell me the bowl system makes sense. I dare you.
  • Since everybody else is doing it, predictions for playoff teams: Red Sox-White Sox-Rangers-Yankees, Phillies-Reds-Giants-Braves. I really wanted to pick the A’s and Rockies, but couldn’t pull the trigger. In October we’ll all look back on this and laugh.
  • This is the best idea I’ve heard all day.

Musical guest… Young MC!

Take care!

DW

Another TinCap traded

Earlier this off-season, former TinCaps INF Cole Figueroa was part of a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Yesterday RHP Erik Davis, another member of the 2009 TinCaps, was dealt to the Nationals for INF Alberto Gonzalez.

The trade makes complete sense – the Padres wanted to give SS Everth Cabrera more time in the minor leagues but also wanted a utility infielder who could play shortstop.

As far as Davis, he tied the Fort Wayne franchise record (held by LaTroy Hawkins) with 16 wins in 2009. At one point that season, he won five straight starts, not allowing more than two runs in any of those starts. He had a really nice season last year, topping out at Triple-A.

Random thoughts:

  • Former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos will open the year on the DL. Sigh. He’s supposed to play catch today. In other roster moves, former Fort Wayne OF Cedric Hunter and LHP Cory Luebke each made the big-league team.
  • INF Brad Hawpe had a hairline fracture in his ribs last year, but never went on the DL. He’s looking for a bounceback.
  • The Padres and Brewers combined to hit SIX home runs in a 5-4 game yesterday. Former Fort Wayne OF Will Venable accounted for two. Former TinCaps RHP Anthony Bass served up three of the homers, but give him a break – he was going against the Brewers’ MLB lineup. Ryan Braun hit two, Dick Weeks hit the other.
  • Here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for the new Padres.
  • Former Fort Wayne RHP Jake Peavy is ready to open the year in extended Spring Training… But that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.
  • Fort Wayne alum Michael Cuddyer had an eventful off-season with a couple of health issues.
  • Legendary author Ben Hill tells us about the Tucson Padres’ “Name the Mascot” promotion.
  • Former Midwest Leaguer and now-Rockies OF Carlos Gonzalez took a little while to tap into his potential.
  • Diamondbacks INF prospect (and 2010 South Bend Silver Hawk) Bobby Borchering is soaking up all the knowledge he can this spring.
  • I never thought I’d see Carlos Zambrano described as a “voice of reason” but it actually happened.
  • Peter Gammons reminds us that he’s still the man… by writing an excellent Spring Training update.
  • The Dodgers found Fernando Valenzuela by quasi-accident. If you ever watched the 30-for-30 documentary about Valenzuela you know how key he was to helping the Dodgers win the Latin-American community back after some craziness that happened when they were building Dodger Stadium.
  • O’s manager Buck Showalter is now directing his crotchetiness toward his own players instead of Derek Jeter. But when you swing at a 3-0 pitch in a blowout, you’re asking for crotchetiness.
  • Former Rockies slugger Dante Bichette is now a pretty good tennis player.
  • The Rays think Manny Ramirez has another big year in him.
  • A bunch of Rays had their apartment robbed, and apparently Evan Longoria had an AK-47 stolen. Uh, what?
  • I’m still sick. Voice sounds terrible. Many of you are probably thinking, “But it always sounds terrible!” You’re right, but shut up.

Musical guest… Kenny Rogers and The First Edition!

Take care!

DW

Spring Training story time

It seems like there’s something of a split when it comes to the value of Spring Training. Do the stats matter? Do wins and losses matter? Well, take this Spring Training story into account when you think about it.

This weekend I talked to a well-placed source about minor-league Spring Training games. There was a minor-league game in Florida. Team A, the visitors, had a big lead the whole game, but their pitchers were using a lot of pitches and not lasting very long. Team B was coming back in the bottom of the ninth, two outs and bases loaded. Team A Manager calls time and tells the umpire his pitcher has reached his pitch limit and he’s the last guy who needed to get his work in that day. The umpire tells Team B Manager that the game is over because Team A is out of pitchers.

Then something happened that is completely unheard of in Spring Training baseball:

Team B Manager flips out. Completely loses it.

Says Team A is chicken, doesn’t want to lose the game. He’s furious and isn’t going anywhere.

Team A Manager calls his farm director. Tells him this other manager is a whack-job. This is a Spring Training game, right? Who cares?

So Team A Farm Director calls Team B Farm Director, who is at the complex where the game is being played. Would you please remind your manager that this isn’t the World Series?

Team B Farm Director walks over to the field, tells his manager to relax and that the game is, in fact, over.

The moral of the story is this: Stats mean virtually nothing. If you’re on the bubble of getting released or not making the big-league team, it’s more about how you look. How’s your bat speed? Do you have command of the strike zone? Are you throwing harder than 82 mph on your fastball?

And wins and losses mean nothing.

And so ends today’s Spring Training story time.

Random thoughts:

  • Just heard former TinCaps RHP Anthony Bass is starting today’s big league game.
  • TinCaps manager Shawn Wooten gets some pub in a New York Times blog about disciples of Mike Scioscia. Padres manager Bud Black, Rays manager Joe Maddon and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke were on Scioscia’s staff when the Angels won the World Series. And Wooten played on that team.
  • Usually needles are discouraged around baseball, but Stitch N’ Pitch is an exception.
  • LHP Clayton Richard struggled against the Angels yesterday. Fort Wayne alums OFs Will Venable, Blake Tekotte and Daniel Robertson and INFs Andy Parrino and James Darnell got playing time.
  • On Saturday, former TinCaps RHP Brad Brach was in the middle as the Padres and Dodgers “got spirited” with some beanballs. Mat Latos stopped in the middle of an autograph session and jogged to the field, just in case the jaw-jackers started to get a little more heated.
  • Latos was supposed to start that game, but he skipped it with shoulder soreness and now might be headed to the DL.
  • SS Everth Cabrera is going to make San Diego’s Opening Day roster. When the Padres released Kevin Frandsen on Friday, this looked likely. Also, OF Cameron Maybin is expected to return to the lineup today after a bout with quad stiffness.
  • Former TinCaps RHP Dexter Carter was released by the Padres. I’ve heard he’s already been picked up by the White Sox, the organization that drafted him.
  • The San Diego U-T‘s Padres preview asks if the Padres can catch lightning in a bottle again.
  • The U-T also has profiles of the 2011 Padres.
  • Tony Gwynn is cancer-free.
  • Here’s the 819th prospect ranking list of the year, this one by FanGraphs.
  • The Royals’ loaded farm system is like a really good garage band: They might hit it big as Royals, they might end up with other successful teams, they might flame out completely. You just never know. Just ask the Diamondbacks, circa 2005. They had OF Carlos Gonzalez, SS Stephen Drew, LHP Brett Anderson, OF Justin Upton, etc.
  • Mariners RHP Michael Pineda… He’s good.
  • Mariners LHP Erik Bedard is still alive, and he’s having a good spring.
  • Remember when the Cardinals were toast because they lost Adam Wainwright? Well, since then, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum have had injuries for the Brewers, half the Reds rotation (Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey) has health problems and Carlos Silva, who was kind of good for the Cubs last year, is gone. And that’s just the NL Central… The Phillies are just as depleted with Chase Utley out, Brad Lidge hurt and Jayson Werth gone to Washington.
  • The Red Sox got slammed by injuries last year, but they’re investing big in injury prevention.
  • Well what happened was, Buck Showalter was all like, “Derek Jeter’s a baby and Theo Epstein’s overrated,” and now Terry Francona’s getting all like, “Yo, why you hatin’?”
  • The Indians’ payroll is down for the third straight year.
  • The Cubs hired their new PA announcer after holding a giant PR campaign/dog-and-pony-show/employee search.
  • Did you know there have been 90 space shuttle missions since the Pirates’ last winning season? NINETY!
  • Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman’s translator was the trainer at Triple-A Louisville, but now the trainer got the call to the big leagues. Also in that notebook, Hal McCoy makes an exquisite point: When you’re flying, why is it that the people who play by the rules and check luggage at the airport counter are charged a decent chunk of money, but the people who act completely shocked when their their gigantic bags don’t fit into the overhead bins get to pay nothing? The luggage ends up in the same place, under the plane.
  • Apparently the Canseco brothers are kind of like those wrestlers who dressed exactly the same, right down to their masks, then when one of them got wailed on, they’d both go under the ring. When they came out, nobody knew who the legal man was, so the fresh guy would get back in the ring. You know what I’m talking about, right?
  • Buster Olney told the story of his dogs. When the TinCaps go to Lake County in mid-May, I’m going to hang out with my dogs so much they’re going to get sick of me.
  • America’s Next Great Restaurant” is a decent idea for a show, but it’s almost like they ran out of good contestants. I can’t believe some of the ideas ever made it to the show. A restaurant totally based on meatballs? A fast-casual grilled cheese sandwich restaurant? These must be the William Hungs of the restaurant reality show business.
  • I’m also proud to announce that I made my first omelet yesterday. And it was delicious. My breakfast arsenal is expanding pretty quickly.
  • I picked up a cold and my voice is almost completely gone. This is the radio guy’s equivalent to a pitcher having shoulder soreness two weeks before Opening Day: Better now than during the season.
  • Even though my post from Friday got deleted with the changes to MLBlogs, I do like the new format. It’s MUCH easier to use on my end and I don’t think you have to be registered to comment anymore. So comment away!

Musical guest… Milli Vanilli!

Take care!

DW

Joe Maddon: Pickup artist

By all accounts, Rays manager Joe Maddon is a pretty hip dude. He’s an avid cyclist, taking a collapsible bike with him on road trips. His musical taste ranges from Pavarotti to Bruce Springsteen. He’s a connoisseur of fine wines. His glasses are a fashion statement. It was Maddon’s idea for the Rays to wear crazy costumes on road trips. He’s on record as saying he probably won’t cut his hair all season. He even does commercials for vitamins as if he were some kind of modern-day Hulk Hogan.

What I’m trying to say is, Joe Maddon may, in fact, be the most interesting man in the world. Or at least Major League Baseball.

So when I found a story where Maddon gave advice to all the single guys, you’d better believe I was listening. Here’s what he said:

“I think you kind of need to have that blessing when you walk into a
new place, before everybody feels comfortable with you,” Maddon says.
“You know what I liken it to? It’s almost like the
best-looking-girl-in-the-bar theory. Everybody’s afraid to talk to her
because she’s the best-looking girl in the bar. Well, Manny is one of
the best hitters since — I don’t know — Babe Ruth? So somebody’s
afraid to talk to him about hitting. And if they do, they’re going to be
less than forceful in their opinions because, after all, he’s Manny
Ramirez.

“So it’s no different,” Maddon philosophizes. “For those
who are single, always approach that best-looking girl in the bar [and
say], ‘Excuse me.’
And for managers and coaches, always approach that
potential Hall of Fame player. He might want to hear what you have to
say.”

So there you have it. When in doubt, do what Joe Maddon would do: Suck it up, have some confidence and talk to good-looking ladies.

Now you know. And knowing’s half the battle.

Random thoughts:

  • Before you do anything else, take a moment to bask in the genius of TinCaps head groundskeeper Keith Winter, the Most Interesting Groundskeeper in the World. Aside from Joe Maddon, he may be the top philosopher in all of baseball right now.
  • The Padres got beat by the Brewers by a touchdown (with a former Michigan football player on the mound… surprise), but Fort Wayne alums Will Venable, Jedd Gyorko, Blake Tekotte, Daniel Robertson, Sawyer Carroll and Rymer Liriano all got into the game for San Diego.
  • Sidearming RHP Pat Neshek made his Padres debut and has a decent shot to make the big-league roster.
  • Padres RHP Aaron Harang has been doing a lot of video work, trying to get back to what made him successful with the Reds.
  • Baseball America updates their organizational rankings to reflect some of the trades since the Prospect Handbook came out. The Padres moved up to No. 8 after the Cubs traded some of their top prospects to the Rays for Matt Garza.
  • Padres GM Jed Hoyer is on record saying Spring Training stats mean virtually nothing. Others think they mean something… unless they don’t. As usual, I’m in the Hoyer camp on this one.
  • Former Fort Wayne RHP Jake Peavy played catch and will get the rehab process restarted soon.
  • Midwest League alum LHP Clayton Kershaw is maturing as the ace of the Dodgers.
  • There’s a preview out there for the Giants’ reality show on Showtime. It looks almost exactly like HBO’s 24/7 series, which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it may be the first reason ever to actually subscribe to Showtime.
  • Orioles LHP Zach Britton is having a nice spring. I’m very skeptical of AL East pitching prospects… they get thrown into the meat grinder like nobody else in baseball.
  • Angels 1B Kendrys Morales has some foot soreness. He’s the guy who broke his leg celebrating after a game-winning home run. Apparently the foot issue is a separate problem from the broken leg.
  • The Phillies signed Luis Castillo right after he got released by the Mets, but now nobody can figure out why he was slow to report to Phillies camp. Sigh. Wasting talent is lame.
  • Opening Day in Japan has been pushed back, not surprisingly.
  • The Twins had a couple of beer vendors caught up in a “check-ID” sting.
  • Will Rhymes will be the Tigers’ starting second baseman. They haven’t found a good alternative since Placido Polanco left.
  • Yankees C Jesus Montero will probably start the season in Triple-A. Which is good, actually… Better than sitting on the bench in the big leagues.
  • A Josh Hamilton-like story is unfolding at Marlins camp.
  • The Cubs are getting a look at a former college football star whom they paid good money. And I’m not talking about RHP Jeff Samardzija. Who, by the way, is out of options this spring. If they don’t keep him in the big leagues, the Cubs would have to put Samardzija through waivers to send him to the minors. That whole situation stinks. They overpaid to get him to pass up football, he was rushed through the minors (at least partially because of the money) and now (surprise!) he’s not ready to be who they thought he’d be. Ugh.
  • Don Zimmer is starting his 63rd season in baseball. The stories he could tell…
  • I’m kind of mad that I missed the Supermoon the other night.
  • Last night I got invited to crash a wedding reception. If you’re invited by someone other than the bride or groom, is it still considered crashing? Quasi-crashing?
  • I can’t get enough of this: Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki is asking fans to pick his new walk-up song, replacing “Party in the USA.” If it was me, I’d take the top five suggestions and pick it myself. Right now if I had to pick a walkup song, I’d go with an edited version of “The W.A.N.D.” by The Flaming Lips, “Your Touch” by The Black Keys, “Motown Philly” by Boyz II Men, “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, “2 Legit 2 Quit” by M.C. Hammer or the chorus of “Ice Ice Baby.” And I’d force Tony DesPlaines to alternate songs every single at-bat, and he’d hate every sec
    ond of it, but the crowd would go bananas.

Musical guest, with perhaps the greatest walkup song ever… Ted Nugent!

Take care!

DW

TinCaps: The College Years

RHP Mat Latos got the start on the mound. Then in the 9th inning, Jaff Decker, Daniel Robertson and Blake Tekotte came to the plate back-to-back-to-back. Decker singled, then Tekotte doubled him home.

No, I’m not reminiscing about a TinCaps game from May 2009… I’m talking about last night’s Spring Training game in Peoria, Padres vs. White Sox. It was darn near a TinCaps 2009 reunion.

I can’t help but wonder if the 2009 TinCaps team was like the “Saved by the Bell” heyday era for those guys. Maybe not their most profitable time, or even what they’d consider the most successful of their individual careers (since the point is getting to the big leagues, not winning Midwest League titles). But as far as having fun, winning games and being the toast of the town, they may never be a part of a perfect mix like that again in their careers.

At this point, they’ve all moved on. Some of the players from that 2009 team have gone away, like how Jessi Spano and Lisa Turtle mysteriously disappeared from “The College Years.” Others (Adrian Gonzalez trade pieces come to mind) have come in to fill their place, like Bob Golic as the awkward resident assistant/washed up-football player and Alex as the quirky  weird hat girl. It’s still a decent show/team, but it’s just not the same vibe, even if it’s a higher level and better for them individually.

We said it back then and it still seems completely right: Teams like that don’t come along very often, especially in the minors. So when they do, just enjoy it while it lasts. Like “Saved by the Bell,” the Belding years.

Or maybe I just watched too much TV as a kid.

Side note: “The College Years” did what I thought was impossible: it made college seem lamer and more awkward than high school. If that is actually how anyone’s experience went, I feel horrible for them.

Random thoughts:

  • Latos had a tough beginning to the night, but got it together and finished strong.
  • Fort Wayne alum INF Mike Baxter will miss around eight weeks due to thumb surgery. He tore a ligament.
  • Former Fort Wayne INF/OF Michael Cuddyer has been playing in minor-league games for the Twins and he’ll probably get into a big league game tomorrow. He had a wart removed from the bottom of his foot.
  • Legendary author Ben Hill reports on minor-league teams trying to give their fans healthy options at the concession stand. I’m a loyal customer at the Field of Greens deli wrap stand at Parkview Field. Their wraps are the dinner of champions.
  • Ben also has the story of the Tulsa Drillers’ remade mascot.
  • Nationals megasuperstud Bryce Harper hurt his ankle yesterday, but says he’s fine. With Stephen Strasburg already out, that would’ve been a lot of signing bonus money on the shelf.
  • A beanball battle in Spring Training? Really? And it was a former Nationals pitcher, now with the Cardinals, who was a big part of it. At least Nats SS Ian Desmoond, who is a good dude, turned it into a standup routine: “We were really trying to keep the fans around. Once
    Pujols came out of the game and Carpenter came out of the game, we
    knew they were going to leave. So we just had to add a little
    entertainment for them. It was intentional, but Miggy throws like Miss Iowa. It’s no big deal.”
  • Mark McGwire is trying to keep a low profile as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.
  • Has anybody else noticed the Phillies have caught all bad breaks since signing Cliff Lee? Utley’s hurt, Domonic Brown is struggling/hurt, they can’t find a right-handed hitter and now outfielders are colliding in Spring Training games. Some teams have everything go right, others have everything go wrong, and sometimes there’s no real reason why.
  • Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman is now a part-time model. I can only imagine the verbal beating he’s taking every day in the clubhouse because of it.
  • In Marlins camp, a minor-league lifer is getting a shot at the big club, but his at-bats might dry up when professional butt-kicker Mike Stanton is fully healthy.
  • The Cubs are going to make some roster decisions soon.
  • The Mets already have, and now they have to change the culture.
  • Hey, another story about Mariners RHP (and former Midwest Leaguer) Michael Pineda!
  • I feel like I’m a pretty balanced guy when it comes to stats vs. traditional scouting methods to evaluate players. One thing that can easily be overlooked/undervalued is a player’s work ethic/personality.
  • But on the statistical side, Fangraphs examines the way to make the best batting order.
  • Just for fun, Baseball America went back and (in hindsight) did a redraft of the 2005 MLB Draft, one of the best in recent memory
  • I’m reading “Death to the BCS.” As you might assume by the title, it’s not fair and balanced. A lot of the evidence is anecdotal instead of numbers-based, but it points out just how illogical the current college football system and refutes every one of the BCS’s arguments. It’s a good, quick read. I recommend it.

Musical guest… The Temptations!

Take care!

DW

The greatest idea in food history

pizza-cookies.jpgIf you know anything about anything, you know pizza is always good. You should also know that chocolate-chip cookies are my junk food of choice (in moderation, of course – this chiseled physique doesn’t just happen on its own). So you can imagine my excitement when I heard DiGiorno, fresh off the “pizza/breadsticks in one box” revolution, was branching out with its best idea ever: Cookies and pizza, baked in your own oven at the same time. It’s so brilliant, I can’t believe nobody thought of it before now.

Well, consider this idea a complete success. I was more than a little skeptical that the cookies would go from cubes of dough to round cookies, but they did. And they’re outstanding. And the pizza was good, as usual.

So just add this to the list of things I would include in my book, “Good, affordable food any single idiot can make with nothing but a normal kitchen and a Foreman Grill.” But that’s more of a working title… Nothing set in stone.

Full disclosure: KRAFT/DiGiorno Pizza is a sponsor of the TinCaps, so you could make a strong case that this is just a not-so-subtle sales pitch. Guess what… it’s not. I really did eat the food and I really did like it. A lot.

In other food news, I ate French Freedom toast at restaurant this weekend. And it wasn’t as good as the kind I made from “Chef to the Stars” Scott Kammerer‘s recipe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re not putting orange zest in your batter, you’re not only cheating yourself, you’re cheating everyone who’s eating that toast. Everyone deserves orange zest. Also, it’s nice to be able to say you can cook food at home that tastes better than what you’d get at a restaurant.

Random thoughts:

  • It has not been a good weekend for guys who used to pitch in Fort Wayne. Just when they thought RHP Jake Peavy would be good to go for the White Sox when the season starts, he had shoulder soreness bite him. Maybe it’s nothing serious, but when your goal is to be full-go by Opening Day and it’s in jeopardy, it stinks. And it looks like manager Ozzie Guillen doesn’t trust Peavy’s injury judgment anymore.
  • The Mets released LHP Oliver Perez, another Fort Wayne alum. That happened right after they dumped 2B Luis Castillo, with a combined $18 million left on their contracts. That’s a lot of money to pay people to NOT play baseball. But I suppose the new regime (including some former Padres employees) needed to change the guard at some point.
  • In the Padres’ game against the Mariners yesterday, former TinCaps OFs Daniel Robertson and Everett Williams got some playing time. Robertson is one of my favorites: Late-round draft pick, smaller guy, hustles his tail off, good guy. Not as many minor-leaguers are getting into the big-league spring training games anymore, mostly because minor-league camp is underway and the big leaguers are stretching themselves out to play more innings.
  • Positive things in this notebook about former Fort Wayne OF Will Venable, along with RHP Aaron Harang. Also, LHP Joe Thatcher will start the year on the DL, but it doesn’t look horrible.
  • The Padres picked up former Twins RHP Pat Neshek. He throws completely sidearm and may be the only MLB player who is also an autograph collector.
  • Heath Bell (still) wants to stay in San Diego. He wants a three-year deal, according to the story.
  • Padres prospect RHP Casey Kelly threw four scoreless innings in his debut in minor-league camp.
  • Midwest League alum Brett Lawrie has impressed at Blue Jays camp. Just keep him in Triple-A through mid-July so we can see him at Parkview Field, am I right?
  • The Dodgers like former MWLer Rubby De La Rosa a lot. He throws hard.
  • Every year, there are a slew of players who are “out of options,” meaning they either make the major-league team out of Spring Training or get released (as opposed to getting sent to the minors). As Baseball America has found, last year’s crop of “out of options” guys didn’t do much.
  • Twins 1B Justin Morneau is wearing a helmet that can withstand a 100-mph fastball. Makes sense, right? Well, the vast majority of MLB players wear helmets that only protect against pitches up to 70 mph. Unbelievable.
  • One of the legitimately important decisions from this spring centers on MWL alum Neftali Feliz. While the statistical viewpoint is that starters are far more valuable than closers, that doesn’t mean a good closer is easy to find. Rangers president Nolan Ryan has figured out a perfectly reasonable solution: Clone Feliz. Think of all the possibilities, Norm!
  • Rays manager and fashion mogul Joe Maddon has changed his signature glasses.
  • Just about the only pitchers in the world who aren’t on pitch counts are batting practice pitchers. Seriously interesting article about the art of pitching BP.
  • The basketball Buckeyes looked pretty good yesterday. On a Fort Wayne-related note, I can’t get enough of Luers alum DeShaun Thomas jacking up three-pointers with Ohio State up by 18. He knows he’s too good of a player to be getting just 14 minutes a game, but darnit, he’s going to make it rain for those 14 minutes.
  • Today when I logged into the MLBlogs system, I noticed The Watson Files was one of the featured blogs along with
    several far-more-reputable prospect blogs. I can only imagine the disappointment from people clicking here for the first time hoping for in-depth analysis of which prospects to draft late in their fantasy leagues… the first thing they saw was an ode to pizza and cookies in the same box. Sorry, folks. If nothing else, you can still enjoy the music video.

Musical guest… Charles Wright!

Take care!

DW

What’s the opposite of congress?

As of yesterday afternoon, the TinCaps have a podcast (more on that soon). This morning, I drove to work with the windows down for the first time this year. Tomorrow is the first outdoor “get the stadium ready for the season” day. In the words of perhaps the greatest manager of all time, it’s starting to come together, Pepper… Starting to come together.

Random thoughts:

  • We kind of saw this coming, but the highlight (for me) of yesterday’s Union-Tribune chat was when somebody asked about OF Donovan Tate. The answer was, “He will start this season in Fort Wayne.” Barring injuries, etc., of course.
  • The Padres smoked the Rangers last night. I watched it on MLB Network and Cameron Maybin homered and made a really nice catch in the gap in right-center. LHP Clayton Richard worked quickly and pitched four solid innings. RHP Chad Qualls looked really good. Also, the green St. Patrick’s Day hats were hideous. Richard must have a giant melon head, because his hat (which was adjustable, mind you) barely fit.
  • RHP Tim Stauffer will miss his next start because of some hip irritation.
  • The Padres’ move-the-Triple-A-team-to-Escondido effort has just gotten a(nother) jolt of controversy.
  • Former Fort Wayne RHP Jake Peavy may miss his start on Saturday because of a stomach virus.
  • Former MWLer Jerry Sands is apparently the object of “everyone’s man-crush” at Dodger camp. But he’s still going to the minor leagues for a while.
  • Here’s a “10 Questions” feature with Royals OF prospect Wil Myers, who played in the MWL All-Star Game at Parkview Field last year.
  • Rangers RHP Neftali Feliz, who played in the MWL, wants to be a starter, but knows the team might be better with him closing games.
  • The news isn’t good about Phillies 2B Chase Utley.
  • Giants OF Pat Burrell says “it’s almost scary” how well the Giants are playing this spring.
  • If you don’t think this commercial is funny, we’re not friends anymore.
  • Neil Diamond lounging with disinterested kangaroos. Just click it.
  • Dave Hutte Status Update: “It’s close enough to Opening Day. I’m wearing my ’84 Cubs Sandberg jersey.”
  • My love affair with Wofford basketball is officially over. Bad on-ball defense, bad help defense, weird offensive scheme against the zone, poor free-throw shooting… I guess that’s why you shouldn’t pick your bracket upsets based on watching 10 minutes of one game.
  • I know everybody loves March Madness and claims it’s because they love buzzer beaters. That’s a lie. You know the real reason… Gambling. Even if your bracket pool isn’t for money, it gives you someone to root for (at least until Wofford loses).
  • Next time I hear someone rip baseball for being too slow, I want to pull up the video of the Richmond-Vanderbilt game from yesterday. It took literally 15 minutes to play the last 90 seconds of game clock. Daisuke Matsuzaka’s starts are excruciating, but at least he’s out of the game after four innings.

Musical guest… the Ohio State Marching Band!

Take care!

DW

One story, two headlines

Today we’re turning back the clock and doing what I was doing five years ago in my Case Studies in the Media class. You know, aside from daydreaming about the riches and fame of broadcasting professional baseball games, planning my next prank on Dave Hutte and checking out the ladies.

Yes, I’m comparing and contrasting two stories about the same event.

Yesterday, the Padres didn’t have a major-league spring training game, but Mat Latos pitched in a minor-league game just to stay on his throwing schedule.

His line (if you value such things): 3.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 6 K, 76 pitches

Padres.com headline: Latos beginning to turn corner with command

San Diego Union-Tribune headline: Latos rocked in minor league game

Quotes: “I got my work in. I want to get out of here and go fishing. You guys don’t have anything better to do?”

Thoughts:

  1. The people who wrote the articles may or may not have been the ones who wrote the headlines. But you’d think the stories were about two different games if you just looked at the headlines.
  2. Latos doesn’t sound like a guy who is freaking out about a performance on a back field in Peoria on March 16.
  3. Here’s the original thought I can add to this: Anytime I talk to one of the Padres’ roving instructors, their whole focus is on the process. Learning the mechanics, learning the mental side of the game, doing the things that make a player consistently successful over the long haul. Statistics (and winning) are completely secondary. Get the process right and the results will come. That’s in the minors, where it’s all about development. I think the Spring Training mindset is similar: Get your mechanics right, get in shape and be ready to go by Opening Day. The difference between the major leagues and the minors is, once the regular season starts in the big leagues, winning is the most important thing. In the minors, the regular season is still about development first. Just about the only time winning comes anywhere close to first in the minors is in the playoffs, and health (pitch limits, etc.) is still paramount.

Random thoughts:

  • As promised, Parkview Field is green(er) for St. Patrick’s Day. A hearty handshake goes to the first person who can tell me what St. Patrick is the patron saint of (no googling allowed). Hint: Green beer is not the correct answer.
  • The Triple-A Tucson Padres unveiled their uniforms, and they could be a sneak peek into what San Diego wears in the not-too-distant future. It’s definitely what you’ll be able to see in Fort Wayne in July.
  • The TinCaps caught legendary author Ben Hill’s attention with the new dress code/flair requirements.
  • I have it on good authority that Ben now signs his e-mails as “Legendary author Ben Hill.”
  • Here’s another Padres’ Top 20 prospects list. I don’t know about you, but I’m done looking at lists… Let’s start the games already.
  • In this week’s minor-league transactions, former Fort Wayne RHP Matt Bush was taken off the Rays’ 40-man roster and re-signed to a minor-league deal. Also, RHP Aaron Everett retired. I thought he might’ve been headed to Fort Wayne after a solid year with Eugene in 2010, but I guess that’s over.
  • Move over, Eater X. Tim Lincecum is here and he’s ready to crush a family-sized meal at In-N-Out Burger.
  • Ken Griffey, Jr., explains why he retired when he did.
  • Giants prospect Brandon Belt is making a strong case to open the year in the big leagues.
  • Yankees RHP Ivan Nova has a new slider and it looked good yesterday. He could be a big boost to that rotation.
  • An Angels pitcher hurt his toe playing with his kids. Well, they’ll just have to put a “no-playing-with-your-kids” clause into every contract now.
  • This kid is living nine-year-old me’s dream: A northeast Ohio kid playing in the Indians’ organization.
  • The Brewers’ new manager wants to know why all of his key players decided to get hurt this spring. Except Rickie Weeks… maybe he’ll wait until the regular season.
  • I don’t know which part of this is weirder: Playing Van Halen’s “Eruption” on violin, that the violin is shaped like a baseball bat, or that it seems like it was played in the middle of a busy elementary school cafeteria (complete with kids hacking like chain smokers).
  • The Braves’ minor-league manager who got smoked by a foul ball had his eye removed. I talked to someone “in the know” about this yesterday and a lot of people around the Braves are just glad he’s alive. Apparently he still wants to manage this year, which would be an incredible recovery.
  • Go Buckeyes. And Wofford. The next two days are two of the best sports days of the year.

Musical guest… Luther Vandross!

Take care!

DW

Firing it through the internet

Here goes another day of just firing things through the internet

Today, Parkview Field will get a lot greener. That’s because our homeboys on the grounds crew, Keith Winter and Rob Dworkin, will spray green turf dye on the grass. And they’re not just painting it to make it look pretty or to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The dye traps heat and helps kick-start the growing process for the year.

We’ll have what local news outlets would call “in-depth team coverage” on TinCaps.com (in reality, it’s just two dudes covering a quasi-story you’ll forget about in 15 minutes, we’re just honest about it). I’ll take a before-and-after photo and KoKo Greer will have time-lapse video. Maybe you’ll even get the treat of a conversation with Keith Winter. You won’t want to miss that, I guarantee it.

Random thoughts:

  • Former TinCaps LHP Colt Hynes pitched another scoreless inning yesterday against the Angels. C Nick Hundley doubled twice, 3B Chase Headley had a rare tough day and LHP Wade LeBlanc had bad results but liked the process.
  • Hynes, LHP Rob Musgrave, RHP Casey Kelly and OF Cedric Hunter were reassigned to minor-league camp yesterday. Hunter is having a really good camp. You know, if a .520 OBP is what you consider good.
  • Padres RHP Chad Qualls was “not healthy” last year. Surprise!
  • Here’s something called a Prospect Smackdown between former TinCaps RHP Simon Castro and RHP Casey Kelly. Anything that includes the name of a second-tier pro wrestling show (and discusses relevant stuff) is first-tier material for this blog.
  • We have the good kind of “you just never know” when relative no-name players make it big. There is also the bad kind of “you just never know” when a can’t-miss prospect, uh… misses.
  • So far, Nationals can’t-miss prospect Bryce Harper is still in the can’t-miss category. Just ask anyone.
  • While Carlos Santana was putting the beat-down of a lifetime on the Brewers yesterday, Grady Sizemore is getting ready to make his spring debut this weekend.
  • A prospect the Diamondbacks found falsified his name, and after his contract was voided, he’s with the Yankees and considered a legit player. Weird all the way around.
  • Now that they’ve signed Ryan Hanigan to a long-term deal, the Reds seem to have some catching depth and other teams are calling to ask about it. In reality, they don’t seem to have a surplus to trade from, they just have a lot of good catchers at different stages of development.
  • The Pirates signed a 16-year-old pitcher out of Mexico and will send him to the Gulf Coast League where he’ll be one of the youngest players in the league. Usually guys like that get sent to the Dominican or Venezuelan leagues.
  • A’s closer Andrew Bailey only has a forearm strain… Which is good, compared to elbow problems. He already had Tommy John surgery.
  • Michael Wilbon says the NCAA Tournament stinks compared to what it used to be.
  • While the rest of the universe is reminiscing about that one time Charlie Sheen was relevant again, I’ll tell you who you should start following on your favorite social network sites: Neil Diamond. Exhibit A: A photo of Neil going through customs on his way back from Australia. You might say his credentials are unlimited. Exhibit B: Where else will you find photos of Neil Diamond eating at In-N-Out Burger?

Musical guest… Neil Diamond!

Take care!

DW

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