Monday, February 25, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
"It's certainly something I am open to, but I honestly haven't thought about it too much yet," Braun said. "I'm definitely not opposed to considering whatever they have to say." Braun would probably want a deal similar to the six-year, $31 million pact signed by Rookie of the Year runnerup Troy Tulowitzki. However, the Surf might not be willing to go that far. There's one key difference between the two. Tulo, having been up for all of 2007, was five years away from free agency, while Braun still has six to go.
Friday, February 22, 2008
The Spurs will have a younger starting staff this season with the exception of Maddux of course. They say goodbye Kenny 'The Gambler' Rogers who would have been 43 this season and Jason Jennings who will be 30. Now if they will keep drafting younger pitchers that average age will certainly go down. Wait one minute DFW just made their 13th round pick;....starting picher Jamie Moyer who will be 45 this season. Oh well, so much for teaching an old dog a new trick.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Conspiracy theorist point out that Brad Sherlag's fascination with Young began late in the 2006 season when the Chows traded Saloman Torres to Georgia for Dmitri Young and a 6th round pick. Roadkill GM Johnny Miller recalled the trade talks saying "yes a 6th rounder was involved but the Chows were insistent that Dmitri be part of the deal."
When asked about the 2006 trade, Brad Sherlag's recollection was "we traded Torres for a 6th and let Georgia choose which player to send the Chows in return." When we told Sherlag what Mr. Miller said about the deal, Brad got a little defensive "Johnny Miller is a friend of mine and is an honest person. I would never say Johnny isn't telling the truth about this. Perhaps Johnny is misremembering our conversation." When pressed further, Sherlag said "I have never asked for Dmitri Young back in a trade."
Fast forward to the 2008 draft -- in the second round Brad Sherlag selected D. Young. There was instant uproar in Illinois and when Sherlag returned back to draft HQ after a day of leisure (while his staff was busily working the draft), he quickly claimed that he thought he was drafting Delmon. After talks with Commissioner Beard, it was decided the Chows would select Billy Butler instead of Young. But had Sherlag gotten his man all along and bowing to public pressure cooked up the D. Young mistake?
Commissioner Beard has stated that his office will launch an investigation. If Sherlag is found guilty, he could be forced to give up Young, Butler or future draft picks. Is Dmitri Young worth all this?
An angry Sherlag held a press conference and said, "Look we were just trying to get the best pinch hitter on the board in the 8th round. Plus Dmitri, his agents and his attorneys have been calling us non-stop since the draft snafu. That article in Hawaii talking of lucrative roster bonuses has Dmitri's people threatening legal action. We jus wanted the best hitter available and to avoid any litigation. I can't believe what a mess this has turned into. I'll tell you what needs to be investigated -- why can't we have first names on the draft system? This is the 21st Century do we really need to just use first initials
Monday, February 18, 2008
NEW YORK - In an interesting turn of events, the Knights have brought reliever Chad Qualls back to New York by drafting him in the sixth round of the slow-moving 2008 NASBL draft.
Qualls was with the Knights in 2006 and 2007. After struggling in his first year in New York, the 29 year old righthander blossomed in his sophomore term, hurling 81 innings in middle relief, winning 5 games while posting a 2.55 ERA for the contending Knights. He was then surprisingly cut last month.
In a prepared statement faxed to New York sports media outlets, GM Mitch Pak said "Middle relief is critical in a league like the NASBL, since starting pitchers tend to wear down quickly. It was no secret that we hated to let Chad go after the kind of year he gave us. We were surprised and pleased to see that not only was he passed up in the supplemental draft, but he was still available in the sixth round of the current draft. We are very glad to bring him back to New York."
Qualls rejoins old bullpen mates Takashi Saito, Scott Linebrink and Kevin Gregg, while also greeting rookie Manny Delcarmen.
In other Knights news, the club addressed its two most glaring problems - right field and catcher - in the early rounds of the draft. The Knights used their first pick (#8 overall) on right fielder Matt Kemp. Kemp is considered a bit of a hothead whose temperament might not be a perfect fit for the sports cauldron that is New York City, but his hitting prowess is well-known and highly-regarded. At just 23 years of age, Kemp is not a full-time player, however, and will likely platoon with veteran Xavier Nady, whom the Knights drafted in the fifth round.
As expected, the Knights released both Jason Kendall and Gerald Laird last month and started over with a clean sheet of paper at backstop. The team drafted switch-hitting phenom, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, age 22, with its second round pick. Salty, as he perfers to be called will split catching time with veteran Johnny Estrada. The Knights reportedly have already received two trade offers for Salty, but have notified the league that he will not be dealt.
The Mirror's full analysis of the Knights 2008 draft picks and season outlook will appear after the draft's completion.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
The First Round
Tinkers to Evers to Chance -- a poetic threesome from the baseball annals. Illinois GM Brad Sherlag thinks the Chows first round may trump this HOF threesome. "All I can say is Tulowitzi to Johnson to Pena. We are thrilled to fill our three biggest needs in Round 1. Last year when we traded for extra 1st rounders we never dreamed we would feel this good by the end of Round 1. In no mock draft that we completed did we end up with both Tulowitski and Pena. Our line-up is much better than we expected it to be, probably at the expense of our starting pitcing."
Who did the Chows add today:
Troy Tulowitzki -- Tulo is a natural shortstop. His defense is just a notch below that of Everett who Chows fans have become accustomed to seeing in the late innings -- but Tulowitzki also excels at the plate. Last year in the Major Leagues Tulo hit .291 with 24HR and 99 RBI's. He has an outstanding arm and could win a gold glove or twoin the future. Tulowitzki is still just 23 years old and allows Ramirez to concentrate on his hitting as the Chows likely long-term DH. Hanley's days at SS are over and he will probably work on becoming an OF down the road.
Carlos Pena -- Carlos is a run producer who will man 1st base and bat in the heart of the Chows line-up. Last year in the Major Leagues he posted an MVP type season batting .282 with 46 HR and 121 RBI's. He plays a better than average 1B and compared to what Chows fans are used to (with Dunn and Willingham t 1B the last two seasons), Pena will seem like a magician with the glove. He could become the frst Chow Chow to post 100 RBI's and do it in his first season at Illinois. Pena is the oldest of the Chows first rounders and is already 29.
Kelly Johnson -- 25 year-old Johnson is penciled in at the two-hole for Illinois this season batting behind Figgins. He is an on-base guy with a little pop in his bat. Last year in Major League Baseball he had an OBP of .375 while batting .276 with 16 HR. He is patient hitter who can work the count. He is only average defensively and does not have the range we saw with Iguchi, but he should more than make up for it by getting on base.
Second Round Snafu
Chows GM Brad Sherlag made the biggest mistake of his career by clerically marking the wrong D. Youg in the NASBL's somewhat state-of-the art autodraft system. This system, which is designed to speed up the drafting process has a glaring omission in that the players first names are nowhere to be found. Sherlag selected the wrong D. Young (Dimitri instead of Delmon) by carelessly not paying attention to what team the player was being drafted from. The NASBL GM's were generous to Sherlag (probably saving his job) by allowing him to subsequently switch out the pick. Sherlag took Billy Butler a promising young hitter without a postion (don't we already have that in Hanley Ramirez?). He lost out on a great young defensive outfielder with pop.
Filling out the Team
Illinois' later picks include Carlos Marmol who will serve as the set-up man for Nathan in the Chows pen. Illinois then selected Micah Owings, a 25 year-old starting pitcher to fill in the fifth spot in the rotation. Glavine is now the Chows fourth starter since the rotation wasn't addressed until Round 4. The Chows have since added 3B/LF Josh Fields and C Kurt Suzuki -- two more young players they hope to develop.
"We really went younger in this draft than in the past. Not having part-time injured players like Schilling, Harded and Gagne has let us fill in more roster spots with youth. We are also able to go with less platoons this year giving us more flexibility to go young."
However, there is cause for optimism. New Jersey, a team that has traditionally been very conservative with trades, pulled off a big one to leapfrog over the rival Roadkill. With the consensus that GRK was going to draft a pitcher, NJT made Jack Howard an offer they couldn't refuse. Fortunately, there were no horseheads or canolli; only draft picks. To move up 2 spots, NJT gave away their 3rd round pick but received the GCG 6th round pick (81th overall).
While GRK denies it, NJT believes that Tim Lincecum was #1 on their board. The Roadkill PR is smart enough to spin it that Gallardo was #1 on their books so we might never know. With pitchers that talented and with that little MLB experience, there really is no way to determine which one will be better. The Heap just went with their gut .... and the player with an incredible K/9.
Even better for the Heap was the slide of two prospects they had ranked rather high: Delmon Young and Chris Iannetta. There's little doubt that Delmon Young would have been considered for the 1st overall pick last year if he was eligible. However, a non-spectacular 2007 MLB campaign caused Young to slide to 19th overall. NJT still believes in the talented Young. With Iannetta, NJT hopes to solidify a C core that has been anything but solid. Most fans cannot remember the last time NJT kept a catcher from one year to the next.
NJT has dedicated their last 3 drafts to youth and they are hoping it will pay off. The youth core of NJT now includes Howie Kendrick, Ian Kinsler, Chris Iannetta, Jeremy Hermida, JJ Hardy, Delmon Young, Jeremy Bonderman, Chad Billingsley, and Tim Lincecum; all of whom are 25 or younger. All were once very highly touted prospects and now most of them are starting to use that talent to produce.
The relief corps recieved a boost Saturday with the selections of Peter Moylan and CJ Wilson. They along with supplemental draft picks RHers Scott Shields and Bob Howry have bulked up relief innings and we await our autodraft pick sunday morning to complete the staff that once was made up of only former closer Chris Ray.
Jocketty was questioned why he did not fill the other teams need earlier in the draft and especially why did he skip over Delmon Young (twice). Jocketty stated that "OF and Pitching are our primary needs and we learned an ugly lesson waiting on taking the pitching late. Jamie Moyer and Vicente Padilla last year late Griz choices were sent packing as soon as cuts were allowed. As for Delmon - we really wanted the man - he is unbelievable and would have been a better choice than Bannister, who may not even make next years roster - but we felt we needed to address the pitching staff, especially now that we have an infield that can play catch and throw. We can always get an OFer we like and even if we don't we can wait until next years class of rookies which should have some pretty good OFers."
CA Russell Martin does not have an associate yet, but since he provides so many ABs we will wait and fill in our catching AB needs late in the draft (probably). We may take another reliever and if a decent starter is available at our next pick - we may take him and push Greinke into the long role in the bullpen. We are trying to be smarter this year, but we realize we are probably not taking many keepers with the early picks as we have in the past. We do hope to ROAR this season.
GRK- Yovani Gallardo. Got their man and the second best Pitcher.
GCG- BJ Upton. Traded down with NJT. BJ is an Outstanding CF/2B the sky is the limit.
OJW- Dustin Pedoria. Could be starting second baseman of OJW till 2020.
ILL- Trot Tulowitzki. Outstanding SS moving Hanley Ramirez to DH.
PCM- Kevin Kouzmanoff. 3B-man could be another draft day find for BA.
TRY- Hunter Pence. Young OFer who has he gifts to be a 5-tool player.
NYK- Matt Kemp. Great young hitter. Looks to be starting RF for years to come.
MSU- Ryan Braun. Best young hitter in the Draft. Bess couldn't pass on the gift.
LCC- Rich Hill. Young Lefty with the run support of LCC could win 15-20 games.
LVI- Dice Matsuzaka The perfect fit for LVI ballpark, where deep fly balls turn into long outs.
SPL- Alex Gordan. Best young 3B-man in the draft. Minor league POY, could repeat it in the Majors.
ILL-1 Carlos Pena. Hands down the Best power hitter in the draft. Gives ILL want they have lacked.
TRY-2 John Maine. 4th best starter in draft. TRY picked up an outstanding arm.
ILL-3 Kelly Johnson. Young 2B-man who should step in and start Opening Day.
DFW- Jeremy Guthrie. Much needed starter and the perfect age for DFW Staff (32 years young!)
Teams who first picks were in Round 2.
HHA-Jamy Loney. Rd.2 pick 23 Traded down with TRY and still landed their man.
SPL- Jack Cust. Rd.2 pick 29 'EXCELLENT' fit for M. Burns Memeriol Field. D'OH
VFS- Tom Gorzelanny. Rd.2 pick 31 Tall Lankey Lefty. Hoping to help picth Sioux back to playoffs.
1-acquried in trade last year with VFS.
2-acquired this year in Draft day trade with HHA.
3-acquired in trade last year with SPR.
Second round pick Josh Hamilton was unavailable for comment, but management offered this statement: Lehigh Valley is pleased to add Josh Hamilton to our team and is doubly pleased that he agreed to work for something other than money. He will be compensated in various "performance enhancing substances". We look forward to a long, productive and turbulent relationship.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
There is much joy in Troy today, as the Haymakers held a press conference to announce the two newest members of the club, Hunter Pence(shown on the right just before the announcement) and John Maine. The highly touted hitting prospect was drafted 7th overall and should fit nicely into the redesigned lineup that is Troy. "We really had him as our number one hitter on our board," said GM Ken Anderson, "Once Galladoro and Lincecum both went 1 and 2 we decided to take who we thought was the best hitter available." Vernon Wells, a holdover in the new lineup seemed excited by the news, "It's going to be nice to have another threat in the lineup. We won't totally knock you out, but we will score some runs. It should be an exciting season."
The Haymakers were also able to trade for another first round pick and select stud pitcher John Maine. It was well known the Hawaiians were looking to move their pick, and the Haymakers were not the only franchise looking to grab the pick. "We really have a great group of young arms in our rotation, not including the ball-boy," joked manager Davey Johnson, "He can go back to his old job; he was only throwing in the mid 50's anyway. Our rotation is going to be our strength this season." It's true. With guys like Fausto Carmona, Brad Penny, Jered Weaver and now Maine the team looks poised to contend for a playoff spot. But at what cost? The Haymakers moved two early and two mid-round draft picks (albeit receiving two later draft picks) to get Maine. Picks where players are drafted that turn a playoff contending team to a championship team. When asked about trading away all the picks and risking a championship run this season the GM quipped, "Look, we knew about the risk before we made the deal and in the end we are really only losing out on one pick. We saw an opportunity to get who we thought was the third overall pitcher available in the draft and we went for it. I know for a fact our fans will have a lot to cheer about this season in Troy. But it's not just about this season, we want to contend every year." That is true, even with all the picks exchanging hands the fans will be a lot to cheer about this season and in the future.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The Griz move to the 3rd slot - what does this mean to them. Based on discussions with the Trash Heap Boss, it was evident that while the King Griz wanted to chose the same person that Mosco wants, Jack had probably emlinated that person from his final 2 - at least for the moment. Jack's greatest fear right now is that Johnny Miller might have figured out how to pick all the remaining players Jack wants with the second overall pick. That's right - Johnny may have figured out how to claim 13 players with one pick. Oh what a nightmare. Jack knows it isn't possible, Johnny can only take 1 player or pitcher, but the nightmare has been rolling through Jack's brain ever since he accepted Mosco's offer.
Well, we will see. One thing is for sure - the complexion of the draft has changed - or has it???
February 14, 2008
It's time for the annual NASBL Rookie/Free Agent Draft, an event that rightfully so makes us all excited, like little kids picking players in a Phys Ed dodge ball game. That excitement is palatable as evidenced by the numerous literal musings of NASBL's finest bloggers forecasting the upcoming draft. The focus and speculation shines brightest on the best draft-eligible players, an understandable, yet regrettable fact that ignores the 208 names to be called after Jack Howard makes the first selection.
Who are these forgotten players who toil for our affection and long for an article to be written about them. Let me tell you, they do exist. If history is to be a lesson the league GMs would be wise to pay as much attention to the end of the draft as they do the beginning.
This article will go where no scribe has gone before, deep down to the basement of the last round of the NASBL draft. You may need to bring your beer goggles, lower your GM inhibitions and use little or no discretion when finding a mate to "bed" for the year. But, as we have all learned, sometimes one man's garbage is another's treasure.
Enough of the small talk, we now will unveil the history of Mr. Irrelevant (aka the last man drafted) and reveal their successes.
2007 - GRK Craig Wilson; right after being drafted Wilson was traded to Dallas Fort Worth where he aided the World Series winning Spurs with a so-so season hitting .216 in 199 ABs. But the light at the end of the tunnel is the huge ring he wears on his finger. Alas, Craig's career appears to be over at this point.
2006 - ILL JC Romero; Romero finished a respectable 3-4 with an ERA of 3.60, good enough for third best on the team. JC still is serviceable, and may still have some NASBL innings left in his arm.
2004 - NJT Brandon Duckworth; The big fella pitched 40 innings with a 1-0 5.04 mark. He was never able to live up to his expectations; drafted by LCC in the 5th round in '03, he produced a solid 8-6 season for GM Steve Beard in what proved to be his watershed NASBL moment. Currently out of the league.
2003 - GRK Brent Abernathy; Hit a solid .316 for Johnny Miller's boys in 114 ABs. Brent had some promise as a youngster, but he never lived up to it and is now Commish Beard's intern.
2001 - CRR Scott Brosius; Originally drafted by the Chicago Roadrunners, Brosius became a member of VFS midway through the season when Vermont and Grundy County joined the league (replacing two existing teams) and held a dispersal draft with players from the two departing team's rosters. Scott his .255 in 330 ABs and posted OK power numbers of 13 HRs and 35 RBIs in his half season. Brosius is currently on the "Yes, I'm a Real New York Yankee" tour with fellow members from the good days Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill (at right showing Brosius man-love) and Jeff Nelson. A-Rod has no comment.
2000 - WWB Ron Gant; Gant was a producer for the Willoughby Whiskey Benders hitting .296 in 351 ABs. Best known for dreamy biceps.
1999 - WFM Bobby Bonilla; The Benders' crosstown rivals, the Willoughby Fighting Monkeys, made Bobby the Mr. Irrelevant of the 20th century. Bonilla responded by hitting .314 with 9 HRs in 169 ABs; great production for the supposed worst player in the league. Bobby's heyday was the early 90s when he posted big power numbers and either did or did not introduce Barry Bonds (seen here in his innocent days) to Brian McNamee, depending on whom you believe.
1998 - WFM Harold Baines; The Monkeys struck gold again in 1998, drafting Baines and watching him hit .342 in limited action, 79 ABs. The good news for Harold is that 5% of NASBL writers think he's a Hall of Famer and he still has 14 years to add to his vote total.
In summary, it's obvious that if you draft the right player and use them smartly, they will reward a team with production in a limited role; heck, every team could use a .300 bat off the bench. So pay attention folks, you never know when the next one will walk through the door.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
THE BETTER- If you haven't got a chance yet to read the excellent team article '6 Burning Questions', then you are in for quit a treat. Justin did a great job interviewing the managers and it makes me realize how much I enjoy being a member of the NASBL! From the friendship I have made with the others managers, some whom I consider good friends, and wouldn't hesitate to ask you for a favor or to loan me money (don't worry I won't) and I haven't even meet any of you guys!! I was lucky enough to be an original member of the NASBL when it started back in 1985. Now you know why I bring that up-- is because I like hearing/saying it! :) I want to Thank 'The Beard man' for doing a great job as the Commish. You have to be a people person being the Commish and sometimes you have to be a 'hardass' and sometimes you have to a 'babysister' and Steve has done a outstanding job on the Website. Again nice job dawg!
THE BEST- The '07 Draft starts Friday and 15 teams can't wait to find out who GCG will take with the #1 pick. Jack has told us his top 5 choices and after reading that, I still have no clues who it will be. Note to self, never play poker with Jack! Draft time is always fun, however I wish there was more information on picks. Some managers are superstitious about saying a player's name in fear they might be taken. Well we all know that's bunk!! I know that's bunk because that's what my Horoscope said. Besides when I Draft I make sure I always have my lucky Rabbits Foot inside my lucky Horseshoe!! So that being said--let the fun begin!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Delmon Young was the first to be interviewed. Last year at this time - we fore saw that Delmon was a player we wanted and could use. We followed him all season and he was our # 1 choice through July. We owed it to him to bring him in for an interview and ask what happened. We had expected more power numbers and though his batting average was fine - we thought he would do better. He claimed that Brian McNamee was unavailable to train him this season due to McNamee's new gig of preparing models for photo shoots and his combing hospital trash for used swabs and needles. Delmon stated he was new to the league and did not know who to turn to for proper training. Delmon indicated that he was looking forward to a long and happy career in the NASBL. Griz management has lowered Delmon in their rankings for the first pick - although we are sure he will get taken in the 1st round - probably by the Roadkill who just can seem to find enough rightfielders.
Ryan Braun was next to be interviewed. While Griz management heard about him late last spring - Griz management did not figure him to play in the majors in 2007. What are the chances that the Griz would draft Braun? The Griz don't need a 3B/DH - we are stocked with two impact 3B - World Series MVP Mike Lowell and Florida's (now Detroit's) slugging sensation Miguel Cabrera. The Griz reluctantly waived top prospect Dallas McPherson this winter. However, Braun surprised all by winning the NL Rookie of the Year after coming up and hitting more homeruns in 2/3 of a season than any Griz player has hit in a full season at Yellowstone Cavern Field (did anyone ever tell you why the stones are yellow?) Ryan peaked our interest and it is tough not taking his potential. However, we don't need him and he is only adequate against RHP.
Troy Tulowitzki accepted our invitation to Grundy County for an interview after we waived SS Jhonny Peralta. Peralta had the best hitting year last season of our returning SS, and cutting him could open a spot for the dynamic Tools-Guy. Griz management is hopeful however that last years hot SS phenom - Stephen Drew (who was every bit as popular then as Tulowitzki is now) will fulfill his/our dreams and be a big lefty bat with potential power at SS. We probably won't invite Troy to go house shopping in Grundy County.
We brought in former Griz 1b - Carlos Pena for an interview and to meet with the public. He joined us on our fan van as we conducted our wither caravan throughout Illinois. We asked him as a courtesy and to let our fans congratulate Carlos on his fine season last year with Tampa Bay. While we would love to put his bat in our line-up, we just can't justify bringing him back at this time (unless he slips).
So Inquiring minds want to know - where do the Griz go from here.
In the past we have passed on some of the best power hitters in the draft - including Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and Adam Dunn. We have taken pitching in the past - but you couldn't tell that by our current pitching staff. We do not need an infielder or catcher. We do need Pitching, Pitching, and outfield help.
The Knight's recent cut and Griz Free Agent Signing of Mike Cuddyer fills one outfield spot, but he can't cover the whole outfield by himself. Does that put Delmon back in the picture? - Maybe.
We also recently held indoor sessions for the 2 hottest young pitchers available in this year's draft (at least by our estimation) Yovani Gallardo and Tim Lincecum. Both would be welcome additions to the Griz staff and could help get it back as one of the better league staffs.
We also looked at Dustin Pedroia - the only legitimate 2B in the draft. While Phillips had a 30/30 year and received a 2b-1, we have no one behind him. Pedroia could supplement Phillips OBP.
When the Commissioner updated the Draft Site last week we had narrowed our choice to two players, one from the list above and another player who caught our eye recently. We have pondered Pitching vs Hitting without much resolve. We thought we had held the draft up for 3 days and decided to just make a choice and live with it (right or wrong) and went to place the pick. We didn't want to hold the draft up any longer and possibly incur your wrath. Then we saw the draft was on "Hold." We checked two or three times a day each day after that to see if the Commissioner had opened the flood gates of talent - but still sit on our hands and go over our options. We received the Comish's email stating that the draft will begin February 15. we are relaxing. We will be out of town on the 15th, but we will try not to hold the draft up (long).
Best Wishes and Happy Drafting
Saturday, February 9, 2008
The first Saturday home game will will be "Pigs in a Blanket" night. The first 1000 fans through the gate will receive a commerative blanket bearing the Iron Pigs logo.
We will feature several "Pig Roast" nights with a schedule to be determined. Various celebrities will come out and "roast" our Iron Pig players between innings.
"Pork Pull" night promises to be fun for all ages. Come out and watch local talent engage in the classic "tug of war" with Iron Pig players.
Topless Tuesdays will be featured all season. All fans that show up topless will be rewarded with one free beer of your choice.
Alcohol Awareness night. All fans under the age of 25 will be made aware of alcohol by receiving one free beer of their choice.
During all home game rain delays, a wet tee shirt contest will be held. Winners will be included in our 2009 season calendar.
See you at the ballpark!
Friday, February 8, 2008
Thursday, February 7, 2008
GCG took their lumps again, but this year's Number 1 pick should leave their face with a big ole grin. GRK hopes to regain, their Championship form of the 2006 campaign. NJT hopes A-Rod's star is as bright as the sun, so they can make another playoff run. OJW looks for Aramis & Manny Ramirez to lead the way, so Mark can actually say, "Go ahead-- "Make my day"! ILL hopes that year 3 will put them in the playoff mix, they should get a lot of help with '3' 1st Rd picks. PCM didn't finish 1st in the Central for the first time in years, look for their pitching behind Santana to bring other NASBL teams to tears. TRY after a winning first year looks to add to their winning way, by trading for veterans A.Jones and Matt Holliday to lead the way. NYK had their first winning season in a long time, will the young stars like Sizemore & Atkins mature like fine wine. MSU with another winning season under their belt, traded for veterans Delgado & Abreu for leadership help. LCC won 97 games and still miss the playoffs, look for them to have a big year because they are still piss-off! VPI is the new kid on the block, (we sadly say goodbye to our friend TTB) has already made a Block Buster trade the fastest for a new team in league history! SPL hopes to improve on their playoff team in '07 which is key, so they made a 3 fer 1 trade to bring home Ichio Su-zu-ki. VFS won the Central in '07 and are countin', that Pujois & Posoda will lead them to the Top of the mountain. HHA won 103 games last year and lost to the Topes in a tough 7 games series, looks for pitching and a defense to get them back to the W.S. SPR fell short in the World Series left them a little sour, so they traded for Adam Dunn and his much needed power. DFW with the return of Barry Bonds the Sun Flower eater, made winning the Crown a Second time that much sweeter!
Monday, February 4, 2008
Burlington Free Press
NASBL Diamond Notes – 2/1/08
Taste Great East
Despite Honolulu SS Miguel Tejada’s (seen here apparently surrendering to 'roid officials) alleged legal/pharmaceutical issues he will remain an asset to GM Stan Petruska and at 32 figures to benefit from the strong Pacific trade winds for at least the new few years pending an unexpected stint in the California Penal League. SP Brandon Webb, a former #1 draft pick, doesn’t always get the love reserved for NASBL’s elite pitchers, but he remains a top tier #1 starter as he enters the typical prime years for starting pitchers. NASBL’s favorite bridesmaids, the Springfield Isotopes, figure to be in the mix again thanks to C.C. Sabathia, who this past season became the first black pitcher in history to win the NASBL Cy Young. Whatever C.C. starts, figure on Jonathan Papelbon to finish. Everyone’s favorite goggle-wearing River Dance is now the guy in Springfield with longtime SPR fireman Joe Nathan shipped out of town in a deal that brought Adam Dunn’s formidable RHP-mashing bat to he middle of the Springfield lineup. While NASBL Commissioner Steve Beard continues his best Bud Selig impression by serving as the league’s CEO while also being a team owner, (of the Lake Champlain Cannibals), he figures to have more success than Bud’s Brewers. And by success, we mean continuing to win games in the LCC fashion we’ve all become familiar with – 11-9 affairs with little regard to the public health and safety of the league’s (and his own team’s) pitchers. In fact, GM Beard’s roster contains only 3 pitchers (all starters) heading into the draft. In the ultra competitive TG South Beard’s boys will need huge production from their offense to make the playoffs as last years 97 wins kept them on the outside looking in. Now for the good news, with Curtis Granderson setting the table for mashers such as John Kerry’s personal favorite Manny Ortez (er, David Ortiz) and the ageless Chipper Jones, the offense should hold up its end of the bargain and get to 11 runs on a consistent basis. With the abovementioned three teams all clocking in at 97+ wins, simple math dictates this leaves little in the way of victories for the TG South’s remaining team, the Illinois Chow Chows. GM Brad Sherlag’s club did improve 10 wins over their inaugural 2006 season 59 win campaign, but there’s still a lot of catching up to do. Luckily for Sherlag, CF Carlos Beltran still patrols the outfield and anchors the batting order. A solid pitching rotation featuring a quartet of 200+ inning eaters figures to receive even more help via the upcoming draft; Sherlag holds multiple early picks thanks to shrewd trades made over the past year. With Joe Nathan now in tow, the closers spot, which up to now in Illinois has done very little in the way of “closing” and “saving”, is now a strength. Nathan is a steady veteran and Sherlag was smart to bring him aboard.
Taste Great South
First one to 71 wins gets the prize. Last year’s division winner, the now relocated Texas Thunderbirds, racked up 70 wins in route to setting an NASBL history low number of wins for a division winner, an “honor” formerly held by the 80-win 2001 Pocono Woodsmen. But that is history, and this division has a long history of great teams putting up huge win totals, and that is exactly what we expect to see in 2008. The Leigh Valley Iron Pigs (nee TTB) figure to be in the mix again thanks to a retooled lineup courtesy of the big trade pulled off by new GM Kevin Burns. The new addition of Carl Crawford and Chase Utley (along with RP Matt Capps - pictured here for the first time so you know who the heck he is) will go a long way to insuring a repeat division championship for this franchise. While Crawford’s production dipped a bit last year in both the HR and K categories, it’s only fair to mention he was the victim of non-stop trade rumors and with a new, stable environment, expect his production to return to an elite level. There’s not much to say about Utley beyond he is simply awesome and will be very comfortable and familiar hitting in the #3 spot ahead of big bopper Ryan Howard. Outlaw Josey Wales will score a lot and give up a little. The Ramirez brothers (Manny and Aramis) flat-out do their thing and former 1st round selection Adrian Gonzalez continues his natural progression in the power category while his batting average creeps closer to where we expect it to be for the next few years, .300+. The pitching staff is very good and too deep to even mention every hurler. Jake Peavy’s ascent to superstardom is complete; he can now double as a Cy Young candidate and mentor to fellow youngster Scott Kazmir, who is poised for a huge breakout season. In New Jersey, one can only hope last year’s 60 wins was a blip on the radar for this storied franchise. Jeremy Bonderman continues to mix flashes of brilliance with agonizing streaks of inconsistency and at age 25 -- yes, he is still only 25 -- the four-year veteran still has plenty of time to get the Trash Heap wagon moving in the right direction. Alex Rodriguez is, well, Rodriguez and remains one of the most feared sticks in NASBL history. Alex is a FIVE time TG MVP, a number matched only by Barry Bonds; but the big difference is A-Rod has plenty of time to add to that number while Barry was last seen, come to think of it, he hasn’t been seen much at all lately. A-Rod figures to have a career year this year (and that is a scary but true fact) despite the recent increase in his strikeout totals. But to tarnish A-Rod for striking out a lot is a lot like chastising Cindy Crawford for her mole. Johnny Miller’s Georgia Roadkill were just that last year, to the tune of a franchise record 105 losses. Scoring runs won’t be a problem this year behind a downright scary OF featuring Magglio Ordonez, Vlad Guerrero, Alexis Rios and Nick Markakis. They will all take turns driving in lineup sparkplug Jimmy Rollins who will use his 700+ at bats to make a run at the NASBL single season record for runs scored of 183 set by Mr. Bonds in 2002. Perhaps the only thing keeping Jimmy from the record is his OK but not great OBP of .345. For years in Georgia, Rollins followed a slow-and-steady progression curve, lingering for years as a middle-of-the-road shortstop before busting out at age 27 with a huge 2006. He followed it with an even better 2007, and should challenge for the TG MVP. Now at age 29, his is smack dab in the middle of his prime, but he probably won't hit more homers or steal more bases in the years to come, so hop on for a joy ride, as this is sure to be his year.
Less Filling West
Led by two time NASBL World Series winners, Dallas Fort Worth, this is a formidable division that saw all four teams top the 87-win mark last year. DFW leader for life, Red Robbins, will try to milk his aging outfield of part timers (Ken Griffey, Jr., Barry Bonds and Milton Bradley) for one more run at the title. Greg Maddux, while now a hittable pitcher, still brings double digit win potential to a rotation lacking a true ace. The real hurlers reside in the Dallas pen, closer Francisco Rodriguez leads a group of stingy relievers who have been through the wars in Dallas. The ever-reliable K-Rod should deliver again in 2008, as he attempts to pile up 40 saves and return Dallas to the playoffs. A whiz of the whiff, he always lives up to his nickname, he should once again striking out a ton of batters -- a feat Spur fans have grown accustomed to in each of his first three seasons. He projects to have a WHIP and ERA a little higher than usual, but we detect no reason not to excuse that as the wrong side of statistical fluctuation. The 26-year old continues to be one of the top closers in NASBL. The Seattle Pilots were last year’s LF Wild Card team, losing an exciting 7-game series to Vermont. They return just about every key piece to last year’s team, with the big question mark being the starting rotation - a question that could be answered by the continued maturation of “King” Felix Hernandez. Hernandez hasn't lived up to the hype generated by his rookie season. Sure, we expect his win-loss record and his ERA to continue to improve, but the stats less influenced by luck -- WHIP, strikeouts -- actually seem to be digressing. Hopefully for Frank Pennylegion, the 22-year-old can turn the corner, dominate the league, win a Cy Young, and make everyone recognize the talent that made him arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball once upon a time. No doubt, he has electric stuff, and that stuff should translate into greatness sooner rather than later. His is a potential ace, and his production best start to match his hype because his name has outweighed his production to date. Ichiro Suzuki continues to defy age (as evidenced by his stolen base totals) and remains the key to the Seattle attack. If Ichiro can get on, expect Mark Teixeira and Paul Kornerko to drive him in. Rafael Soriano should transition nicely into a bona fide top closer, don’t be surprised if he’s the next big closer in the NASBL in the upcoming years. For the Miami Surf to make a run this year, media darling David Wright must lead the team as he represents the team’s main offensive threat. Wright is coming into his own, and if it weren’t for a certain A-Rod, would be the best all-around 3b in NASBL. The Surf will win their share of close games behind a dominant rotation and crazy shutdown closer, J.J. Putz. Josh Beckett will challenge for the LF Cy Young award, don’t be surprised if his main competition comes from teammates Cole Hamels and Derek Lowe. Ken Anderson’s inaugural effort from the Haymakers of Troy was impressive, to the tune of an 87-win season. This year’s team figures to be even better; the offense will be bolstered by recent addition Matt Holliday, an MVP candidate if there ever was one. The real gem in Troy however, is Fausto Carmona. Ken grabbed Fausto in the 11th round in what has to be the steal of the last 5 drafts. Carmona repaid his owner’s faith and is a 20-win candidate.
Less Filling Central
The NASBL blog is full of reasons why the Vermont Fighting Sioux will face an uphill battle as they try to make their first ever consecutive trips to the playoffs. The offense is solid, how can it not be with Mr. Everything Albert Pujols penciled into the #3 spot. While he remains one of the toughest outs in the league, expect a dip in Pujols’ production this season as he enters camp with a bevy of injuries; the man is a walking game of Operation with his shoulder, leg, foot and plantar fasciitis woes sure to raise their ugly head at some point in 2008. Vermont’s career leader in wins with 43 (against only 22 losses) John Lackey will look to improve his lead in that category over teammate Jeff Suppan (40-25 career). Lackey, 29, developed into a sure-fire ace last season, finishing 2nd in the LF in wins and ERA behind Cy Young winner, Johan Santana. The Sioux hope to be a contender again and Lackey is going to be at the front of it. The right-hander has improved each of the past four seasons and can be counted on among the top 10 starting pitchers in the NASBL. He is not quite the knockout pitcher the other elite starters are, but he is still capable of approaching 200 strikeouts and getting his WHIP under 1.200. For the first time since Moses descended form Mt. Sanai with the 10 Commandments (or 1999 if you’re one of those theory of evolution crazies),
the Pocono franchise did not win the LF Central. In fact, Bill Anderson’s bunch finished in 3rd place. While Johan pitched his team to the league’s 3rd best ERA, the offense was in the bottom half of the league for average, HRs and runs. You can count on Santana to be the top of the heap again; in fact he’s joined in the rotation by an equally formidable duo in Dan Haren and John Smoltz. For Pocono to return to greatness, Prince Fielder will have to lead to offense. His meteoric rise to superstardom seems upon us with a 50-homer season not out of the question. But here's the scary part: he's only going to get better. Hidden beneath all the towering drives and the trots around the base paths was a subtle adjustment in his approach at the plate. His strikeout-to-walk ratio continues to improve. Some of that improvement comes from NASBL hurlers learning not to mess around and pitch him in the zone, the fact remains he doesn’t go chasing those pitches. Understandably, with his adjustment at the plate came a corresponding rise in batting average. Could someday a .310, .315, .330 batting average accompany his 50 home runs? Believe it. If Prince is Batman, then the role of Robin is best played by CF Torii Hunter who is set for a career year at the plate. The long, slow ascension of Mitch Pak’s New York Knights is almost complete. Last year’s 87 wins bested the franchise mark by a whopping 16. The love of every teenaged NYC female, Grady Sizemore is also cause for excitement for NYC’s true baseball fans. Grady’s batting average and homers may drop a bit, but he is now a more complete offensive player, if that makes any sense. He can get on base and is expected to have an OBP near .400. He can also run, 35 SBs is a strong possibility. And at only 25 years old, he is a clear talent on the rise, and his unique combination of power and speed -- we're talking 30-30 potential here -- makes him an elite NASBL CFer. Mitch’s real strength may lie in his young rotation, led by Matt Cain and Adam Wainwright. Pak has drafted extremely well in recent years (see Saito, Takashi for additional evidence) and it may very well pay off big time in 2008. Grundy County GM Jack Howard recently promised his squad would be “Peeking out of the cellar” this year, which is the unfortunate spot they’ve held in the standings for five of their seven years (the other two years GCG finished 3rd). If that is to happen, it will be on the shoulders of Kevin Youkilis, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell and Justin Morneau; a decent quartet of bats and gloves if there ever was one. Unfortunately, none of them can play the OF, where help is badly needed. After years of using high draft picks on pitchers, the current rotation shows very little evidence of that anticipated excellence. It is a decent but ultimately hittable group. GCG does hold the #1 pick in the upcoming draft, so that combined with their solid corner infielders certainly does give credence to their aspirations to ascend from the cellar.
Friday, February 1, 2008
After two bockbuster trades this off-season, the Haymakers' lineup will have a different look in 2008. Gone are the two speedsters at the top of the lineup last season in Carl Crawford and Ichiro Suzuki, and a slugging secondbaseman in Chase Utley. In are the super-slugger Matt Holliday, the power hitting-slick fielding Andrew Jones, useful outfield bat Andre Ethier and scrappy middle infielders David Eckstein and Mark Ellis. Returning to the lineup are corner infielders Conor Jackson, Aubrey Huff, and Chad Tracy, catcher Ronny Paulino and outfielder Vernon Wells.
"I'm excited about the upcoming season," said firstbaseman Conor Jackson, "We have a solid foundation here to build a competitive franchise for years to come. The point is to build on our success from last season." The second season for the Haymakers should be an interesting one, and there are some questions. Mainly, are there enough bats to compete this season? Although Vernon Wells and Andre Jones are gold-glove caliber fielders, they both are set to have down seasons. Plus Chad Tracy will be out half the season with an injury. There is a lot of speculation about production with Jackson and Aubrey Huff at the corners; their projected OPS of .780 for Huff and .833 for Jackson are well under the NASBL league average at those positions.
Here's a look at the 2008 Haymakers lineup by position:
C: Ronnie Paulino
1B: Conor Jackson/Chad Tracy
2B: Mark Ellis
3B: Aubrey Huff/Chad Tracy
SS: David Eckstein
OF: Matt Holliday
OF: Andrew Jones
OF: Vernon Wells
Rotation and Bull-pen:
The recent addition of Jered Weaver is all the buzz at camp this spring, and has the front of the Haymakers rotation looking solid as they try to rebound from a starter ERA of over 5.50 last season. The loss of BJ Ryan to injury and Matt Capps in the Weaver trade hurts the depth of the pen, but Brian Fuentes and Huston Street are a solid lefty-righty combo and should continue to be successful. "We both had really great seasons last year," said set-up man Fuentes, "And we should continue to dominate. Kerry is back for us and should be able to give us a few quality innings. I won't go out and say we are the team to beat this season, but we will be solid." The main question in the pitching staff will be if there will be enough depth for 2008. The Haymakers are going into the draft with only seven pitchers, and as it stands Scott Olsen will be the 4th starter.
Here's a look at the Haymakers 2008 pitching staff:
1. Fausto Carmona
2. Brad Penny
3. Jered Weaver
4. Scott Olsen
5. The Ball Boy ???
Set-up: Brian Fuentes
Closer: Huston Street