Friday, July 31, 2009

Trade Deadline Rant to begin in 3...2....1...

Alright, perhaps the solution to my problem is to stop listening to talk radio. I’m sure that will keep my blood pressure lower. Forgive me this rant for I am normally a pretty laid back guy. Some might even say a little too laid back, but when I listen to some of the radio hosts and their callers it get’s under my skin.

Yesterday I actually yelled at my radio - loudly. It’s not something I’m proud of and I’m glad I was in the call by myself. Perhaps I should hook my Sirius back up for some nice commercial free music.

So what’s prompting these out of character explosions of emotion? Well Rays fans of course. It’s the trading deadline. The Rays are currently on the outside looking in as far as the playoff races go. That means “Rays Fan” (I.e. the ones who thought they traded Aubrey Huff for Aki!) get to bitch and moan about the team.

All day I’ve heard, from both the radio hosts and the callers, that the Rays have to make a move or the season is done. The problem is - the Rays already made their deadline deal. His name is Pat Burrell. They just did it January instead of July.

Once they inked the deal Stu Sternberg and the rest of nDRO made it clear that they were maxed out in the payroll department. According to a St Pete Times article from April the Rays have raised their payroll over 160% in the last two seasons.

If you had told me in 2007 that the Rays would bump their payroll to $62 million by 2009 I would have laughed at you and then asked what city they had moved to. Let’s get it through everyone’s head that they are maxed out.

I’ve written about it before, if the Rays shell out big money on free agents they can’t afford to make mistakes. I hesitate to call the Burrell signing a failure as of right now. I will say it’s not working out, but you can’t call it a failure until it’s over. Who’s to say Burrell doesn’t bang out 15-20 home runs over the next two months and leads the Rays to an amazing comeback?

What I’m trying to say is that yelling about something that you knew was going to happen is pointless. If I tell you for 8 months that I’m not getting you a pony for Christmas and I don’t get you a pony, why would yell at me?

All I’ve heard for the last 5 or 6 years is “we want the Rays to be competitive”. Well guess what, they are competitive! They are eight games over .500 and still in the hunt for the wild card. Now all I hear is that they’re not willing to spend enough to go the extra step. I suppose that’s easy to say when you’re not the one writing the check, but let’s be realistic. Small market teams like the Rays are always more likely to be sellers than buyers for the big names on the market.

Could they have offered Cleveland more than Boston did for Victor Martinez? Without a doubt. Guess what happens if they do. Carl Crawford gets traded or his option isn’t picked up in the off-season. So then you’re looking at losing whatever prospects they traded and Crawford for Martinez and his $7 Million option for next season.

Also, this organization is built on sustained competitiveness. They didn’t sell out the franchise last year when they were leading the division and they didn’t do it this year when they’re 4.5 games out of the wild card.

The Rays spent 10 years stockpiling their young talent, and it seems this team is more than willing to actually have these guys play for them. That’s in contrast to teams like the Red Sox or Mets who only seem to develop talent in order to trade it for established players.

There are weaknesses on this team (cough, cough Navarro), but not worth making a trade that could have sever repercussions somewhere down the line. The boys in the front office have proven that they know what they’re doing so stop whining at the moves they do or do not make. Seriously, stop it! Go out and cheer for your team instead.

So everyone in the TBA just relax. Sometimes the best deal is the one you don’t make.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Let's Choose Door Number One in Let's Make a Deal!!!!!

George Sherrill is heading back to the west coast.

Andy McPhail traded Sherrill and his extremely flat bill to the Dodgers for third base prospect Josh Bell and right handed pitcher Steve Johnson.

Bell is a switch hitting power prospect whse swing can get a little long leading to strikeouts. It looks like he could be the replacement for Melvin Mora as rumours are circulating that the boys in the warehouse aren't going to pick up the father of eight.

Johnson is the son of former Oriole pitcher Davey Johnson (the pitcher not the second basemman). From what I can find out in my exhaustive (all of five minutes!) he can touch the low 90's and relies on a sinking fastball to get outs.

Sherrill was a bit of a cult favorite in Baltimore during his realitivly brief stay as the O's closer. However, it never seemed he was part of the future as his name was on the trading block almost constantly since his arrival from Seattle.

How well this trade turns out for the O's is yet to be determined. If Bell makes the roster next year and produces this could be a steal. For those quick to call it a bust remember that everyone thought Luke Scott was just a throw in for Tejada, that seems to have worked out well.

A little bit less than 24 hours to go, we'll see if anyone else follows Sherrill.

My leading candidates would be:

Cla Meredith

None of those names would garner much in return, but might provide some young pitching depth.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2010 Hall of Fame Inductees (sure it's early, but it makes up for missing 2009!)

And now I’m back, from outer space….well maybe not that far away, but pretty far from the nearest internet connection. I just spent a long weekend in upstate New York where my parents had rented a cabin on the water. No internet, a TV that had 18 channels (16 of which were PBS) and a paper whose sports section was awesome in its lack of coverage.

There were a few bonuses. I got to see my family (including my niece aka The Greatest Baby in the World) and got to spend a couple of late nights discussing sports, music and movies with my brother in law over copious amounts of beer. The beers of choice for this occasion were LaBatt Blue Light, and courtesy of my uncle lots of Bud Light and…shudder… Busch.

One of the topics discussed was the Hall of Fame. On a similar trip a few years ago the two of us drove over to Cooperstown to see Cal Ripken, Jr. inducted. It definitely ranked in the top five sports moments in my life and will probably be the last Oriole inducted for quite some time. We also agreed that we had to go back some day because we needed waaaaaayyyy more time to look at the exhibits.

During our discussion we talked about the next few years and who would be inducted. It wasn’t an in-depth, fact filled conversation. After all we didn’t have internet access (and did I mention the copious amounts of beer). In the end we agreed there were few sure-fire, first ballot hall of famers in the next few years which might have an interesting side effect - the induction of one or more suspected steroid users.

So for lack of anything else to write about, and to get a jump on next year’s talking heads I’m going to break down the next Hall of Fame class. For fun I’m going to break it down two ways:

1. Gut feeling. This is super unscientific. Looking at the eligible names I will just pull out the ones I think should be on based on what I remember about them.

2. Statistical Evidence. I will then take the players I picked and see if I can find some sort of evidence as to why they should be inducted other than the fact that they had a cool baseball card or seemed to kick the crap out of the O’s every time they played them.

I haven’t seen an official list so I’m basing the list of names I’m using on what I could scrounge up on the internet (I.e. Wikipedia). So here we go!

2010 Hall of Fame Ballot

First Time Eligible Players:

Paul Abbott, Roberto Alomar, Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Danny Bautista, Brian Boehringer, Darren Bragg, Dave Burba, Ellis Burks, Greg Colbrunn, Mike Fetters, Brook Fordyce, Andrés Galarraga, Karim Garcia, Tom Goodwin, Ricky Gutierrez, Jimmy Haynes, Pat Hentgen, Sterling Hitchcock, Mike Jackson, Eric Karros, Ray Lankford, Barry Larkin, Curt Leskanic, Josias Manzanillo, Edgar Martinez, Brent Mayne, Fred McGriff, Mark McLemore, Shane Reynolds, David Segui, Scott Service, Chris Stynes, Scott Sullivan, Todd Van Poppel, John Vander Wal, Robin Ventura, Fernando Viña, Turk Wendell and Todd Zeile.

Gut Feeling Inductees:

Roberto Alomar
Barry Larkin
Edgar Martinez
Fred McGriff

Please note nine of the first time eligible players played for the Orioles at some point in their career. Also, while Manzanillo might not make the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown he should be a first ballot inductee for the gruesome injury Hall of Fame. According to Wikipedia, “suffered a grisly injury while pitching for the Seattle Mariners. Not wearing a cup, he took a Manny Ramirez line drive to the groin that led to an operation to remove one of his testicles.”
Statistical Evidence:

Roberto Alomar - Simply put he was the best second baseman of the 90’s. He was in twelve straight All Star games and was awarded 10 Gold Gloves. Nine seasons he hit over .300 and in two of them he drove in 100 runs (1999 and 2001). During his prime he scored 100 runs six times and swiped at least 30 bases eight times.

Career wise he ended up with 2,724 hits and 504 doubles. Not known as a home run hitter he only had 215 in his career, but he did manage to swipe 474 bases. In the field he had a fielding percentage of .984 in his 17 seasons.

Those numbers should be good enough for a first ballot induction. As much as I would like to see him in the Hall as an Oriole it will probably be a Blue Jays hat on his plaque.

Barry Larkin - This could be more of gut feeling then any other guy I picked. He played forever and he played for one team. He seems like a nice guy. Other than Ozzie Smith he was probably the most recognizable National League shortstop in the early 90’s.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. Starting with awards and accolades: twelve All Star games, 4 Gold Gloves and an MVP title in 1995. Not too shabby, but not great. He hit .295 for his career, racking up 2,340 hits along the way. Only 198 home runs and 960 RBI during his 19 career season make it hard to justify him as one of the elites. Also, take into consideration that he never led the National League in any offensive category in any season.

Numbers that make up a very good career, but upon further review he doesn’t make it in on his first try. Maybe later on down the line.

Edgar Martinez - A most interesting case. There are two glaring facts that people like to bring up when his career is discussed - he played in obscurity in Seattle and he was just a DH. I say poppycock! After all he did play 563 games at third base in his career. Granted his .946 career fielding average isn’t garnering any Brooks Robinson comparisons, but at least he tried.

He was one of the elite right handed hitters in baseball during the 90’s. He never had 200 hits his detractors cry out! What about his .356 average in 1995 and his .343 average in 1992, I retort. In 2000 he drove in 145 runs and hit 37 home runs. He is a member of the 300 home run club and the 500 double club (309 and 514 respectively).

Let’s see who has 500 doubles and isn’t in the Hall of Fame:

Pete Rose (746) - banned
Craig Biggio (668) - not eligible
Barry Bonds (601) - not eligible
Luis Gonzalez (596) - active
Rafael Palmerio (585) - not eligible
Ivan Rodriguez (538) - active
Al Oliver (529) - didn’t have 300 home runs
Dave Parker (526) - Why isn’t he in the Hall?
Manny Ramirez (520) - active
Ken Griffey, Jr. (515) - active

That’s two eligible players that haven’t made it. I feel comfortable that the voters will do the right thing and vote him in. Bonus for voting him in - he would be the first player to done the Mariners’ cap on his plague.

Fred McGriff - The Crime Dog! All I have to say - 493 home runs. Everybody around him on that number has been voted in. He has been anointed as a “clean player” by those who have that power to anoint players as such. I will ignore that simply compare him to someone with similar numbers who is already in - Willie Stargell

McGriff vs. Stargell

Seasons 19 21
Hits 2490 2232
Home Runs 493 475
RBI 1550 1540
Average .284 .282
Stolen Bases 72 17

It seems cut and dried to me. The only question should be under what hat is he inducted. There is an outside chance he goes in as a Ray, but I have a feeling it will be the Braves or Blue Jays that get the nod.

So there we have it. On final review three first ballot hall of famers get in next year. That’s bad news for the holdovers like Mark McGwire and Andre Dawson. Perhaps in 2011 (maybe I’ll get around to doing that this week as well!).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Congrats to Mark Buehrle

Sweet Jesus, I leave town for a long weekend and the Rays get shut out, no wait they got no hit, no wait they got perfected(?). I like that word. Congrats Mark Buehrle. No one wants to see a team they follow on the wrong end of a perfect game, but you have to tip your cap to him.

update 7/28/09...Fixed the spelling of his I can't spell real good...any disrespect to the Buerhle family and their ancestors was unintentional.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mandatory Allen & Ginter Post

So it’s been about a week or so since I posted. Looks like I’m falling back into some lazy habits. I blame it on the Tour de France (fantastic time sucking TV), house projects, and the joys of living in Florida during the summer.

Now it’s time to jump back on the horse and see what’s going on in the world. It looks like the entire blog-o-sphere is infected with Ginter-fever, and I’m not immune. As a reward for completing the floor installation of our bedroom (only 3 more rooms to go!) I stopped by the ol’ card shop to see if had any boxes.

Not only did he have three boxes, he also had a price that was comparable to the on-line dealers. As a matter of fact I might have come out ahead, I won’t bore you with all the base cards, but I will list the parallels. All of these are available for trade except for the Cabinet card. Here we go:

Cabinet card: The South Concedes the War

Excellent card for a history major who had quite the fascination with the Civil War as a kid. I think I might have to frame this up, it almost counts as “art".

Baseball Highlight Sketch Cards:

Albert Pujlos
New York Yankees
David Wright (x2)
Francisco Rodriguez
Ichiro (x2)

Wow that’s a lot of sketch cards for one box you might be saying to yourself. Well a couple of them came from blasters I bought over the weekend. I really like these cards, too bad the O’s haven’t done anything in the last few years to be included.

The “Hits”:

Ryan Ludwick Jersey
Grady Sizmore Jersey
Magglio Ordonez Jersey

Well I guess they’re not horrible, but they are the three players that I have no problem trading away.

Black Bordered Mini’s:

Art Pennington - #97
Chris Duncan - #99
Roy Halladay - #123
Chase Utley - #165
Lastings Milledge - #252
Chris Young - #344

Nice looking cards. I also have a bunch of regular and A&G backs available for trade. Send me an email for the ones you need and I’ll see if I can help you out.

Mini National Hero’s:

Winston Churchill - England
Toussaint L’Ouverture - Haiti
William I - Netherlands

Hoaxs, Hijinks, Ruses, etc…:

Cold Fusion
James Reavis
Anna Anderson

Creatures of Legend, Myth and Terror:


Crack the Code Parrallel:

Jered Weaver - #134
Jeff suppan - #135
Jim Thome - #167
Scott Rolen - #223

The code might have been cracked, but they’re still nice cards to have.

So let me know if you need any of these. As always I’m looking for Carl Crawford cards (including the base for this set as I didn’t pull one in my box), help with uncompleted sets and random O’s and Rays cards. Oh and if you a spare Chupacabra card you can send me, you might be considered for induction into the Wasteland Hall of Fame.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Card of the Year! Well last year....

So it’s a little late. About seven months late, but I figured better late than never. The idea well has been running a bit dry of late. Looking for a job is consuming a lot of online time and fixing up the condo has been taking care of the rest of it. New floor in the bedroom should be finished on Tuesday!

So without further adieu here it is:

The Tampa Sports Wasteland Card of the Year (2008)

B.J. Upton Upper Deck Masterpiece Captured On Canvas Auto

What’s not to like? A future All-Star/ Gold Glove winner/ Silver Slugger. A small piece of fabric. An on-card autograph. Its own built in frame! It’s cardboard perfection!

I picked this up from a box of 2008 Masterpiece that I bought late last year from Dave & Adam‘s Card World. While it’s not Carl Crawford, it’s just as good.

Young Melvin Emmanuel Upton (the B.J. comes from the nickname Bossman Jr his father being the original Bossman) had a rough regular season in 2008. He failed to improve on his 2007 season finishing with fewer home runs, RBI and total bases. He did lead the league in one category - he was thrown out trying to steal more than anyone else.

The talk shows and the cowbell fans couldn’t complain about him long enough or loud enough. He was lazy, he didn’t smile on the field, he didn’t run fast, he struck out too much, he walked too much, the list was endless. Of course plenty of people used the catch all “he sucks” without backing it up with anything.

All the while Upton kept his mouth closed. No longer was he the hot headed youngster who ran off at the mouth about his displeasure. When Joe Maddon benched him for lack of hustle he didn’t complain, “I didn’t run it out - but it’s over, done with, you move on. Learned a lesson”.

That’s what 2008 was for Upton. A 162 game learning lesson. He learned how to be an everyday player. He learned how to play centerfield. He learned the strike zone. It wasn’t until September that everyone learned that the former number one pick had been playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

The pain wasn’t great but it altered his swing and sapped him of the power that had displayed itself in the 24 homeruns he hit in 2007. Since May he had dealt with the injury, with the boos and the negative comments from the fans. Never a peep, never a rant, never an outburst.

Then the playoffs came around. With no need to hold back, knowing that the season was almost over he let it go. The result, seven home runs and sixteen RBI in the three playoff series. The fans that had demanded that he be run out of town in July were embracing him with open arms in October. All was forgotten.

Off season surgery slowed the start to his 2009 season. The grumblings began again. Zero homeruns and a .177 average in April. He managed 2 homeruns and a .218 average in May. The angry fans returned. He needed to be benched, he was overrated, move him down in the order. A strong June quieted some of the voices, but will he manage to continue to improve?

One of the big questions is how this love/hate is going to affect his career with the Rays. When free agency comes a callin’ (after the 2012 season) he’s gonna get paid! Will the Rays offer the big bucks, even if they do will he accept it? As far back as 2006 he has mentioned that he wouldn’t mind playing on the same team as his brother, Justin.

What if he looks into the stands and sees all of the Pena, Kazmir and Longoria jerseys and decides that the TBA has enough superstars as it is? Does he say thanks, but no thanks and takes the money to play somewhere else? Does he take the time then to blast the fans for booing him, for turning on him when it was bad and then cheering him when he was winning games with his arm or his bat.

The good news is that those questions are for the future, for now I can enjoy the card as the best card I pulled in 2008. What does 2009 hold?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quick Hits - Hockey Free Edition!

Sooz from A Cardboard Problem interviewed the only member of The Wasteland Hall of Fame - Michael Taylor. Check it out.

Pat Burrell hit a walk off home run Tuesday night. It seems his power is starting to come back a bit. If he has a strong second half perhaps the Rays can outhit their inconsistent pitching and make a run at the division.

Just for Fun:

Jon Gomes 34 games 5 HR's 16 RBI .317 BA .406 OBP .992 OPS $600,000
Pat Burrell 52 games 4 HR's 25 RBI .222 BA .337 OBP .658 OPS $7,000,000

Best part of being unemployed part 5 - The Tour de France. Peleton might be one of my favorite words. Is it the crashes, the dulcet tones of announcer....., the indominatable spirit of Lance Armstrong? Who knows, but it's better than watching Sportscenter 15 times in a row.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Free Agent Frenzy. Yea Another Hockey Post!

After a couple of days the smoke is finally beginning to clear on the frenzy that is free agency in the NHL. There were plenty of players changing uniforms, luckily for Lightning fans Vincent Lecavalier wasn’t one of those names. In fact, only David Koci decided to leave. He traded the sunshine and beach for the snow and granola in Colorado. Now that I’ve gotten those clichés out of the way lets take a look at how the Lightning faired on their trip to the free agent flea market.

Shortly after the gates opened at noon the Lightning made their first signing. Looking to plug a whole on their blue line and unable to afford the big names (Jay Bowmeester or Mike Komisarek) they went after Mattais Ohlund. Seven years and $26.25 million was enough to lure the 11 year veteran to the TBA. A lot of money, not really. A long time, definitely.

However, as the deal breaks down it’s not as bad as it looks at first glance. Most of the money will paid out in the first five years of the contract. Those years should be the most productive of his career. Ohlund won’t be an offensive force from the blue line, but he brings solid play and his veteran leadership.

For the first time in two years the Bolts will have an acknowledged top two veteran defenseman on their roster. Ohlund on the ice for twenty minutes a game will be much more effective than Marek Malik or Josef Melichar for the same amount of time. The Swede won’t bring Dan Boyle-like offense because that isn’t his game. What he will bring is steady play in his own zone, calmness in leading the attack out of that zone and that vague term “veteran leadership”.

By the time he plays out the end of the contract he will be 40. Ten years ago that would have been a huge red flag,. These days, with athletic conditioning allowing players to perform at top levels for longer, it isn’t unusual to see blue liners skating into their late 30’s. Also, with the front loaded contract the Lightning would be able to cut Ohlund loose after five years and not absorb too much of a cap hit.

The other big signing for Tampa Bay was Chicago’s Matt Walker. Another addition to the defensive corp Walker is another large (6’3 213 lbs) defense first player. A former third round pick by the St Louis Blues, Walker has only lit the lamp two times in 240 NHL games. By all accounts he’s a nice guy who plays with a bit of mean streak. That is something that has been lacking a bit from the Bolts backline for quite some time.

Walker’s addition gives the team a lot of depth in defense. Younger players like Kevin Quick and Ty Wishart can spend another year in Norfolk playing instead of shuttling back and forth to Tampa to sit on the bench. It also creates competition in camp for the seven spots on the roster.

The top four will be Ohlund, Paul Ranger, Andrej Meszaros, and newcomer Victor Hedman. The next three players will be out of a pool that includes re-signed Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby, Noah Welch, Mike Lundin and Matt Lashoff. There is a chance that they could sign another free agent or make a trade to bring someone else in, but with where they are in regards to the cap it looks like they will settling it with the players already on the roster.

What’s left for them in the next few months before camp starts? GM Brian Lawton would like to add a top six forward and a back up goalie. The goalie position shouldn’t be difficult to fill. While the fans may have clamored for one of the top free agent goalies (Craig Anderson, Scott Clemmensen, or Nik Khabibulin) financial restrictions wouldn’t allow that. Look for them to settle for a player along the lines of J.S. Aubin or Joey McDonald.

Finding a top six forward will be a little more difficult. The free agent market is pretty desolate at this point. Past their prime players, third line role players or former Lightning wingers dot the landscape. One thing that the Bolts might want to keep an interest in is the tender offer debacle in Chicago.

TSN is reporting that Chicago might not have submitted the qualifying offers to their restricted free agents in time, thus making them unrestricted free agents. One of those possible free agents is young winger Kris Versteeg. The 23 year old netted 22 goals last season with the Blackhawks. He would look nice skating alongside Steve Stamkos.

As far as currently available free agents and intriguing name would be Maxim Afinogenov. The Russian born right winger is an unrestricted free agent with potential. He is only 29 (turning 30 before the season starts) and seems to have faded off of the national radar over the past two seasons. Beset by injuries last season he only appeared in 48 games, scoring only 6 goals.

The groin injury that sidelined him last year may sap some of his world class speed, but as a cheap reclamation project he might be worth a two year contract. He’s never been a prolific goal scorer (his career high is 23 in 2006-07), but paired with a playmaker like Stamkos or even Lecavalier could help his numbers.

So far the Lightning have had a successful offseason. The fixed their most glaring need - defense and can now focus on filling the rest of the holes on their roster. If they can obtain another scorer and have a healthy season from goaltender Mike Smith there isn’t any reason why they couldn’t compete for a playoff spot in the upcoming season.