Monday, April 26, 2004

Winning Ugly

The Sox took two out of three against Tampa, but were fortunate to win a single game. Friday they won in the ninth when Ordonez reached on an error, made it to second on a balk, reached third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly.

Yesterday they scored three runs in the ninth to win again in their last at bat. Light hitting Kelly Dransfeldt drove in the tying run with a two out, 0-2 single that scored Russ Gload on a very close play at the plate. Three free passes later, the winning run scored on the always exciting walk-off walk.

But the series against Tampa brought back bad memories of two ominous trends of the 2003 season: the prolonged slumps the offense had throughout the year and lack of inspired play against inferior teams, such as Tampa Bay and Detroit. In the 3 game series against Tampa, the Sox only scored 10 runs on 20 hits, with 3 runs and 3 hits coming in yesterday’s ninth.

I suppose I should be happy with the Sox winning the series, but the Sox will need to play better than this to keep up with the Twins.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Early Returns

Bryan Smith has some critical comments of Kenny Williams in his article at The Hardball Times. He mainly criticizes Williams for not making any major moves this off-season for the Sox and not adding any depth to the roster.

The funny thing is main beef is with not having a backup for Jose Valentin who went on the DL with a pulled hamstring. Smith admits, that yes, Juan Uribe, who is taking over short for the interim, is currently tearing the cover off the ball. But it’s only matter of time before he start’s sucking again. So Kenny is a fool to have him as a back-up.

First, I think it would probably be appropriate to wait to criticize Williams until Uribe's play actually merits such criticism. But the guy is hitting .368/.400/.500 and is making a strong case to replace Harris at second when Valentin returns.

Second, even if Uribe regresses back to his career numbers, who exactly is Williams supposed to pick up as his utility infielder? An above average defensive middle infielder with career numbers of .262/.301/.411 is pretty comparable to what other teams have as a backup.

Smyth also blasts Williams for not replacing Colon, Gordon and Alomar in the offseason. So lets take these one at a time.

Williams was certainly restrained by his budget this offseason which made it hard to find a top line starter. With that said, he did offer Colon a competitive contract. I’m actually glad Colon didn’t accept because it most likely would have meant Ordonez would not be with the Sox right now. So the Sox decided to replace Colon in the rotation with Schoenenweis.

It’s early in the season, but Schoenenweis, who has added a cut fastball this year, has pitched well (3.26 ERA). His early numbers are even more impressive considering two of his starts came against the Yankees. I don’t think he will be able to pitch as well as Colon this year, but it looks like he will be able to give the Sox a lot of innings and keep them in games.

If anything, the trade to get Schoenenweis from the Angels for Gary Glover is starting to look like a good move by Williams.

The Gordon loss was no doubt another blow to the Sox. This loss was in no small part due to the move Williams made before the 2003 season that stuck the Sox with Billy Koch’s contract. Again, Gordon was offered a contract that was competitive to what he ended up receiving from the Yankees. After he left, I’m sure Williams decided to leave the closing duties to either Koch or Marte instead of adding another closer's salary. It looks like Marte will get the job and past performance suggests he could be an effective closer.

But Williams did make other bullpen moves with early positive results. New to the bullpen this year are Cliff Politte, Jon Adkins, Neal Cotts, Mike Jackson and Shingo Takatsu. All but Takatsu are off to solid starts. The other four all have ERAs under 3.00.

Lastly, I don’t have much to say about the loss of Alomar. He played like shit for the Sox last year. Harris may not play much better but he comes a lot cheaper. You are going to have some weaknesses with a $60 million payroll and it looks like 2B will be a weakness for the Sox (unless of course Uribe continues hitting).

Now this is not to say I think Williams is a great general manager. He has made some good moves like signing Loaiza and trading for Colon and some very bad moves such as the trades for Koch and Todd Ritchie.

But just because he didn’t make any major moves in the offseason doesn’t mean he did a bad job. He shouldn’t make moves just to look like he’s doing something. Anyway, I’m not "cursing the GM" now that the Sox have had a couple of injuries. I’m actually impressed that the guys he did pick up, such as Uribe, Ross Gload and Cliff Politte, are producing as much as they are.

If and when these moves start to turn sour, I might change my mind. But until then I’ll give Kenny the credit he deserves.


The Cubs got rained out yesterday so I'm surprised they didn't take the opportunity to skip the 5th spot in the rotation. Instead, they will let Maddux pitch today against the Mets.


But seriously, Maddux has a chance to get on track against a Mets team that is only scoring 4 runs a game. Cub fans will go in a full panic mode if he doesn't pitch well today.

And speaking of runs scored, the Expos have scored a pathetic 26 runs in 16 games. Soccer teams score more than that!

Bad News

Very sad news out of Afghanistan. Pat Tillman, who left the Arizona Cardinals football team to join the army after September 11th, was killed in an ambush.

Everyone who joins our military must make huge sacrfices. Sometimes they must make the ultimate sacrifice. Pat Tillman's death should not be mourned more than other other soldier whose life is taken.

But at the same time, reading about his death does have a greater impact on me than reading about other casualties. That's because I know if I was in the same position he was in, I doubt I would have made the same decisions he did.

Pat Tillman and his brother gave up a life of privilege to defend the country they loved. It was a noble act that is more the exception than the norm in society today. For that I would like thank Pat Tillman and wish his brother a safe return home.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Fantasy Update

We’re a couple of weeks into the season and my fantasy team isn’t doing that bad. I’m currently tied for third in a twelve team league. For the most part, my hitting is carrying me. I’m first or second in the HR, RBI and Runs categories. Fair warning: I’m about t0 bore everyone with the details of my fantasy players to date.

I was doing a little better in pitching before last night. I had Radke starting and he gave up 6 runs and 7 hits in two inning pitched. Ouch! I then made matters worse by trying to be a bit to clever with my pitching strategy. I benched Jon Garland against the Yankees, fearing he might get beat up the Yankees. But he pitched pretty well in last night’s loss, giving up 3 runs in 7 innings. More importantly, I missed out on some sorely needed strikeouts (6).

But the real problem came from my move to pick up Orioles pitcher Matt Riley for one game. He pitched well in his last outing and was facing Tampa Bay last night. I figured I had a good chance to pick up a W, and some strikeouts. He ended up giving up 7 runs, 9 hits and 5 walks in 4.1 innings. I’m not ready to give up on making some situational pitching acquisitions in the future, but I might refrain from doing it for a few weeks.

As for position players, here’s how my guy’s are doing:

M. Ordonez (.316, 9R, 4HR, 13RBI, 0SB). Maggs my first round pick is off to a good start. My draft strategy was to fill in my infield first. But I wanted a Sox player right off the bat and figured Maggs was a good choice. I wasn’t sure how I would do in the league, so I wanted to have some players to root for. So far he hasn’t disappointed.

E. Chavez (.246, 9,2,6,1) Chavez is off to a slow start but he does have my lone stolen base. Second round was probably a bit too early to pick him up with the depth at 3b this year, but I still expect him to come around with some big numbers.

J. Kent (.288,11,2,11,0) I figured 2B was a premium position, so I wanted to take one early (3rd round). I won’t get a lot of stolen bases that other the position usually provides, but he should make up for it with big numbers in Houston’s offense.

Giambi (.227,9,3,7,0) Hopefully he will start to see some pitches with Sheffield hitting behind him. He has 15 walks, which doesn’t count for much in a 5x5 league. The computer picked him in the fourth round so I won’t complain.

J. Lopez (.462,10,3,10,0) Another computer pick. If he finishes .300/100/30/100 I will be very happy.

C. Patterson (.311,12,3,8,0) I picked up Patterson in the 9th round and hoped he would provide power with stolen bases. So far he has only provided the power. There are three factors that may be hurting his stolen base numbers: he is coming off an injury, he is letting Sosa take his swings, he doesn’t walk a lot. I am hoping he could at least get 15 stolen bases this year. If you combine that with the power numbers he gets I think he might end up a steal in the 9th round.

Jose Valentin (.271,10,3,8,0) Picked up Jose in the 10th round. Was off to a solid start before going on the 15 day DL.

Bobby Crosby (.196,5,2,9,0) Man, was I happy I picked up a backup SS in the 12th round when Jose went on the DL. I probably could have picked him up a lot lower, but I was intrigued by the hype and pulled the trigger a bit early. ( I also wasn’t very confident in Valentin). And with the depth in outfielders, I figured it wouldn’t hurt that much to pick up a utility player early.

Crosby was off to a slow start, but was hitting better the last few games. Then he the very first game I start him at short. I ended up picking up Adam Everett as a free agent until Crosby returns to the lineup back (maybe this weekend).

Moises Alou (.377,13,6,16,0). Moises, who I picked up in the 14th round, has been my best overall player. I thought he could have a big year hitting behind Patterson and Sosa, and in front of Aramis and Lee. Of course, I didn’t expect him to hit like this.

Konerko (.294,6,3,11,1) I drafted Paulie in the 15th round and have started him for a few games as a 1B, and as a utility player. Unfortunately he wasn’t playing the day he got his SB. Nevertheless, I think he was a good value pick in the 15th round.

Steve Finley (.182,9,1,4,0) In the 19th round I realized my team wasn’t going to get a lot of SB, so picked up Finley. I started him a few games before releasing him and picking up Rondell White (.309,15,4,13,0). This looks like the year Finley’s age finally catches up with him. As for White, if he stays healthy, he might be the free agent pick up of the year.

Bobby Kielty (.224,7,0,3,0) I picked up Kielty in the 20th round. I haven’t been playing him and he probably doesn’t have much fantasy value. But I’m not sure who I would replace him with.

So that’s it for my position players. I really need to pick up some stolen bases, but I’m not sure the best way to go about it. I think I might try and trade Konerko or White for a basestealer. Any suggestions? Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Sox News

The Sox have yet to lose a series this year, going 2-0-2. The Sox look to keep the big mo' going against the Yanks tonight.

The Sox open up their 12 game homestand with Mark Buehrle facing Yankee rookie Alex Graman. It's been raining for over an hour here in Chicago and there is a chance the game will be postponed. So it's possible the Yankees will be able to skip their 5th starter's spot in the rotation.

In other Sox news, Jose Valentin is going on the 15 day DL with a pulled hamstring. Hot hitting Juan Uribe will take his place. Even with Uribe playing well, the Sox will definitely miss Valentin's left handed bat in the lineup.

And speaking of left handed bats, did someone say we should trade Carlos Lee and bring up Jeremy Reed from the minors? Sounds like a good idea to me.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Sox Sweep

The Royals were the second most popular choice as AL Central Champs among many baseball "experts". Given that the starting rotation was pretty bad last year, and they didn't do much to improve it, I found their selection a bit puzzling.

Yes, they added Juan Gonzalez, but offense wasn't their trouble last year. It was their pitching. Many Royal fans are hoping the return of Kevin Appier will bring some life (and some balance) to the Royals rotation. But the fact that Royals regard a 36 year old pitcher, coming off the DL and a 2003 ERA of 5.40, as their savior speaks volumes as to how bad their rotation is.

I know the Royal's lefty starters don't match up well with the Sox lineup. But they lost 4 out of 5, and were lucky to get even one win against the Sox. I just don't think they have a legitimate shot at the Central crown.

Anyway, I hope to be able to actually watch most of the Sox game tonight. Weekday baseball is great - if you don't have a job! Fox Sports net has been replaying the games at night, but I have a real hard time watching a game for which I already know what happens. I usually just watch when I know the Sox are about to score. But the 10th inning homer by Maggs was awesome. Hopefully I will be able to watch some dingers live tonight.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

We Need Some Relief

What a crazy game. The Sox blew a big lead in the 9th for the second time in 8 games, but came back with two in the bottom half to win. I know everyone will be asking what the Sox should do with Billy Koch, and for that I have no answers. But I also have a small beef with how Guillen is handling his starters.

Guillen made it known that he will let his starters try to pitch out of jams and will not be quick to yank them. It's great he has wants to show confidence in his pitchers, but he might want to think about a tighter leash late in the ballgame.

Today, Garland was cruising before running into the trouble in the 6th and 7th. Up 6-2 going into the 7th, Garland gave up a home run and then a single. Having thrown over 100 pitches, there was a good chance he was tired, and it probably would have been a good decision to put in a reliever to face Beltran. Not only would it have been a good game management decision, but it would also be a good idea to limit the amount of pitches the starters are throwing this early in the season.

On his 115th, and final pitch, Garland served up a two run homer to Beltran to make it 6-5.

It looked like the non-move would come back to haunt the Sox after Koch gave up 4 in the 9th. But the Sox came back to get the victory. I just hope Guillen's (ab)use of his starters doesn't come back to haunt the Sox in September.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

No Control, No Chance for Maddux

It looks like Greg Maddux’s triumphant return home may not go as well as Cubs fans had planned. But anyone paying close attention to the numbers shouldn’t be too surprised.

Last year, 20 NL pitchers pitched 200+ innings. Of those 20, Maddux yielded the second worst opponents batting average of .268. His opponents slugging % came in as the 4th worst at .420. Not exactly Cy Young numbers.

Only Maddux’s pinpoint control kept him in the ranks of the leagues top pitchers. He only gave up 33 walks in 218 IP, which easily led all other pitchers with 200+ innings.

So far this year he has given up 7 walks in 9.2 innings, so it’s not hard to see why he has gotten off to such a rocky start. Unless he is able to regain his pinpoint control, or have his Atlanta,strikezone imported to Chicago, Maddux will not only fail to reach 15 wins for the 17th straight, but will also have trouble capturing 11 needed to reach 300 for his career.

This was not the homecoming Cub fans were looking forward to.

Friday, April 09, 2004


Garland just gave up 4 walks in the 4th, but because Matsui was picked off (maybe caught stealing?) early in the inning, no runs scored.

Pitching Questions

The Sox lost yesterday. But the good news is that Scott Schoenewies wasn’t a complete disaster. He didn’t pitch well, giving up 7 hits and and 4 walks in 6 innings. But he only gave up 3 runs to a loaded Yankees lineup. If the Sox can get 180+ innings from Schoeneweis with and ERA under 5.00, they will have a good chance to make a run at the division title.

Another question mark in the Sox starting rotation, Jon Garland, starts today. He is coming off of two mediocre seasons and as Simon Cowell would say, he needs to "raise the bar" on his performance. He had solid spring in Arizona (2.28 ERA) and is still only 24 years old. So there is still hope he can become a top starter in the big leagues.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Sox Split

I didn’t feel like writing much after Monday’s 9th inning debacle. I was hesitant to follow the game today. Fortunately, Koch came in for the ninth and saved a one run game to wash away some of the bad memories of Monday.

I know it’s a long season, but blowing a four run lead in the ninth always hurts. Doing it on opening day hurts a lot. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to blow game six of the NLCS like that!

Anyway, the Sox managed a split to open the season, but wasted a solid opening day performance by Mark Buehrle. Maggs and Carlos Lee are off to strong starts while Jose Valentin is having a trouble making contact.

As you may be aware, Jose has decided to give up switch hitting and will now only bat from the left side. The Sox have started the year against two lefty starters and the early results of this experiment are not promising. So far Jose is 1-9, with six strikeouts. His one hit came off of a righty reliever in Monday’s game. At this rate, the Sox might be better going with his .131 average (2003) as a righty. Or maybe they should platoon Valentin with Uribe instead of platooning Harris at 2B.

Monday, April 05, 2004

A Good Start

It looks lie I am going spend (waste?) a lot more time on baseball this season thanks to fantasy baseball. I probably would have watched the Baltimore- Boston game last night anyways, but having Ponson and Javy Lopez on my team actually gave me a rooting interest. Last night Ponson came through with a W against Pedro, and Javy homered off him. Not a bad start.

My auspicious beginning continues today with Patterson already hitting a homer for the Cubs and Alou driving in 3 runs with a double. Unfortunately, I picked up three Cubs for my fantasy team, Patterson, Alou and Zambrano. Now I have pull for them individually while rooting against the team. What did I get myself into?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Asking For Trouble

I just don’t get it. Why the big uproar over Paul Hornung’s comments? I don’t see anything racist about what he said. He was speaking the truth about one of the reasons Notre dame is having trouble competing in college football.

He did not say that blacks could not get not get into Notre Dame. He said, somewhat awkwardly, that Notre dame should lower standards to be able to recruit the black athlete.

So first you have to ask, does Notre Dame’s academic standards hurt them in recruiting? I think every one would pretty much agree that this is the case. Second, you have to ask, what type of player is not going to Notre Dame because of these restrictions? The answer is the type of blue chip recruits that separate the haves from the have nots in college football. For whatever reason, many of these positions, such as wide receiver and cornerback, are dominated by the black athlete. So it’s pretty irrelevant to talk about how many black athletes Notre Dame already has. No one is saying that blacks aren’t capable of getting into ND. But Notre Dame is certainly having problems getting those top blue chips who often happen to be black.

So while it’s never very wise for a white person to talk about race and sports, I don’t see anything racist or even anything necessarily untrue about what Hornung said. (It may be untrue – I don’t follow recruiting close enough to know for sure).

In fact, this is the same exact case the Black Coaches Association made when they consistently derided Proposition 48, forcing students who don’t qualify academically to sit out their freshman year of sports. They argued that this restriction fell disproportionately on black athletes who could not meet eligibility requirements. So if Paul Hornung is racist I guess the BCA is too.

It’s also funny to note that for all the condemnation Hornung is receiving, there was only a small protest from some conservative writers over comments from Bob Ryan that were truly racist and ignorant. He said that Vanderbilt would surely lose to NC State because they were too white (and of course they ended up winning).

Now if he said that black athletes are better than whites as a group I wouldn’t have given it a second thought (those these types of generalization going the other will get you nailed by the PC crowd). It’s hard to argue with the fact that the best college basketball players are for the most part black.

But he said a team was going to lose because it had too many white people. That’s saying white people don’t have the ability to compete with blacks as individuals. A comment like this becomes racist once it takes traits that may pertain to a group as whole and forces them on to individual people.

It’s also not supported by the facts. A very white team from Utah just made it too the championship game a few years back. Indiana made it to the championship game with a diverse mix of players and Kansas made it last year led by two white players, Hinrich and Collison.

But I guess you can say as many stupid things you want about race as long as its aimed at white people. But say anything involving blacks, even if it's true, and your in for loads of trouble. Like I said, I just don’t get it.