It Just Feels Dirty…

We all have that team we hate.

There is the division rival that we play against about a billion times every year. The team that has kept us from from going to the playoffs. The team who’s fans are so self righteous and obnoxious, they make you just want to go outside and punch a squirrel.antisoxpropagandaforkids.jpg

For me and every other living, breathing, All-American, Yankees fan we have “them bums from Beantown,” the Boston Red Sox. We hate them first, and everyone else (especially the Mets) second.

But with all the negativity floating around the MLBlogiverse, we must ask ourselves — “is there a silver lining on those teams we hate?”

I recently replied in a comment to GirlyBaseballChick‘s recent blog entry “Hate is Not a Strong Word” about the five players we hate most. It wasn’t too difficult to find 5 players who make me angry. I am an easily angered fellah’.

Anyone who reads this column regularly (and hopefully there are some first time visitors here today) can probably deduce most of my list. For those who are unaware, I’ll give you a quick look at my Stink-O List. (For reasons why, go visit her page after leaving me a comment here!)

joshbeckettdoodiehead.jpg5. John Rocker (Atlanta Braves – Now Retired)
4. Kevin Youkalis (Boston Red sox)
3. Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox)
2. Jonathon Papelbon (Boston Red Sox)
1. Josh F$&#!&% Beckett (Boston Red Sox)

Another MLBlogger (well, frequent commenter), levelboss, pointed out to me the obvious bias of my list. I cannot disagree with him. It is pretty heavily weighted against those obnoxious New Englanders (I hate their football team too. Yup, I said it.).

It made me wonder, is there anything — anyone — actually redeeming about my heated rivals?

I mean, there are players I can tolerate. Even team manager Terry Francona has my respect. I can tolerate him. I don’t mind JD Drew or Mike Lowell. I was glad to see Varitek resign with those bums. He belongs there.

I don’t even have a beef with Dice-K — not yet at least.

I’m pretty impartial against newcoming fogies John Smoltz or the oft injured Brad Penny. The Braves never really had my support, but when it comes to Smoltz and Glavine and that terrific pitching staff they had during their dominant mid-nineties, I can give them their due respect.

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johnrockerisamoron.jpg(Except John Rocker. No offense, but the guy is a moron.)

But are there any players on Boston that I can possibly say that I, *GULP*, LIKE?

Three.

What?

Three.

Three WHAT?

I’ll give you THREE Boston Players I not only respect, but actually LIKE.

(Take a second and regain your composure Julia. I’m writing a blog about your Sox, and I’m being NICE!)

Without further adieu, in no particular order, the three members of the Boston Red Sox that I will stand and applaud for.

ellsbury.JPGIn a sport that has overcome the diversity barriers of many races, and is dominated by good baseball players of various skin tones, dialects, and countries of origin, there is one group still a minority. It is not because of that, that I will cheer for JACOBY ELLSBURY, but because he does not exploit his heritage to draw extra attention upon himself.

He IS a little thief, though. He steals bases as easily as John Rocker says something stupid. He is quick, hard working, and humble. So far.

Humility goes a long way with me.

Finally, he looks like as kid having fun playing baseball. How can you hate kids?

I spent a week last summer in the Dominican Republic. I wish I could tell you I was with some sort of social justice group, or a missionary  team, but I was vacationing at a resort. I did spend a good deal of time outside of the walls of our protected little area, though.

papi.jpgThe people of the DR LOVE their BIG PAPI. I can’t blame them. He seems like one heck of a guy. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has fun playing the game. He respects the game. He is extremely patriotic. He loves his people.

Looking at his early career, he should have never become the giant he is today. Injuries and inconsistencies held him down for years, but David Ortiz never let himself get down.

Papi was picked up by the Red Sox with a minor league deal in late 2002. The Twins shopped him around, but no one wanted him. If only the Yankees knew, the Giambi debacle could have been avoided. The Red Sox debacle could have been avoided. The curse would still live.

But no one is psychic.

It was luck that brought Papi to the 1B/DH role in Boston. It was luck that they brought him up when they did. He has become a leader and an icon in Boston. When he goes to the Hall of Fame, he will do so with a stupid B on his hat.

It wouldn’t happen any other way.

But there is one player I admire, respect, sometimes fear, and will cheer for every few days that I see his goofy face.

wakefieldhuntin.jpgThat gosh darned knuckle ballin’ hick, TIM WAKEFIELD.

Since that strike in 1994, Tim Wakefield has been a member of the Boston Red Sox. He has seen everything through his weathered eyes. He has experienced the ups and downs of Beantown baseball. He has watched players come and go. I’m sure he was glad when battery mate Roger Clemens walked out of his life.

What I like most about the knucklehead is his contract situation. Wanna talk selfless?

On April 19, 2005
Wakefield agreed to a $4 million, one-year “rolling” contract extension
that gives the Red Sox the ability to keep their longest-tenured player
for the rest of his career. He has no negotiating to worry about. He has no “testing the free agent waters.” As long as he wants to play, and Boston wants him playing — he’s there.

He is also widely regarded as one of MLB’s most charitable players. He’s a simple man with a big heart and a scary freakin’ pitch.

If you can’t root for a guy like that, who CAN you root for?

If Wakefield ever decided to retire, I hope his last game he can play in camo. I think it would be fitting for the knuckleballer to go out like that.

But don’t be fooled. The bad in Beantown outweighs the good. I’m not getting soft. These guys are going down like … well, I’ll save you from that one. But they’re going to eat it this year.

The Bronx is Burning!

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Help Me Have a Happy Birthday

chihuahua-in-a-birthday-hat-thumb256931.jpg

Okay, here’s the plan. My birthday is on Sunday. We’re going to get
Yankeeology on this list for next week. Right now I’m holding a Choose
Your Own Blogventure
. I want to know what you would like me to write
about. I’ll also be covering the LET THE GAMES AND BLOGS BEGIN topic.

So far the only response to my open casting for ideas was a pair of requests
to know about my pro wrestling days. I’m trying to figure out how to
craft that into a baseball story, and I have a few leads. But I need
more blog entry ideas. I don’t want to spit the same stats and
predictions that everyone else is.

I like to be a little different.

So
let me know what you’ve got! I don’t care how bizarre, wacky, or ordinary (which is wacky in of itself) the ideas may be.

If I don’t get any ideas or suggestions, I’ll end up posting clips of Gonzo shooting himself from a cannon. You don’t want THAT do you? (Well, maybe you do. It would make ME visit the page at least.)

gonzo_cannon.jpg

Choose Your Own Blogventure #1

cyoa.jpgI want to give this a trial and see how it works. Hang with me, kids.

I spend a lot of time working with my school’s newspaper. As Managing Editor, I usually find myself in meetings with other editors coming up with story ideas. These brainstorming sessions are great, but they have the tendency to tap me out of ideas.

I’d like to try my hand at a Choose Your Own Blogventure.

Many of you are either too young, or maybe too old, to remember these treasures. I’ll admit, I cheated reading them. If I died in the story, I’d go back to the last part and make the other choice.

So here is my idea.

YOU tell ME what to blog about next.

Give me some scenarios you’d like to know my opinion on.

satan.jpgShow me a different, or unusual, angle that you would like to read about.

I’m for just about anything.

I would just rather not talk about THIS guy —>

I’ve seen some cool ideas floating out and about, so help me out by providing me with some of them.

Maybe I’m a jerk enough to cover something you would rather not.

Maybe I am Georgia Peach sweet enough to write something too kind for your words.

Maybe you just want to know what I would do if elected to Bud Selig’s post. Maybe you would like to know how I would handle baseball salaries. Maybe you would like to hear about my days as a professional wrestler.

The point is, I want YOU to tell ME what to write!

CHOOSE YOUR OWN BLOGVENTURE!

Fire away!

melancon.jpg

The Heroes of Children

My brother was always a big fan of Don Mattingly. How can you blame
him? Mattingly is a class act with a lot of talent who should be
inducted into the Hall of Fame. He had character. He played with an
intensity second to none.

As a Koch boy, you were raised to be a
Yankee fan. The Yankees are what we knew, who we loved, and what
defines the pinnacle of excellence in baseball. I have always been fond of my Bronx Bombers.

However, there was a certain player who
never played for Yankees that I became a big fan of. I have the two
Starting Lineups they made for him. I have a small album of his
baseball cards, even still today.

whileyouwereout.jpgElation
may be about the only word that could accurately describe what this eight year old felt
the day that an envelope arrived in the mail. Inside the envelope was
a hand written letter on the back of a pink “while you were out” slip
and an autographed baseball card of my favorite player.

In a
time when baseball cards were an industry, and a highly successful one
at that, I had grown up in a home that also housed such a sports cards
and memorabilia store. While my friends would have to wait in lines
hours long to get autographs from these megastars and heroes, I only
had to send my hero a letter.

For his kindness and humility in
responding to a kid who couldn’t have been much more than eight years
old, I will always remember Kevin Seitzer.

Who?

Let me tell you about my childhood hero.

seitzer_card.jpgAfter
the 1997 season, Kevin Seitzer retired from baseball with a .295 BA in
12 seasons of major league service. He had offers from several teams,
however he wanted to coach his two sons and spend time with his family.

After spending four years in the majors, Seitzer accumulated a
batting average of .318 and was called up to the Kansas City Royals in
September of ’86. He so impressed the Royals that they gave him the
full time First Base gig in 1987.
 
His rookie season offensive
numbers were staggering. He went .323 with 15 home runs, 83 RBIs and
207 hits, tying a major league record for the year.
He was thirteenth on a list of rookies who collected 200 hits or more.
He would have been a shoe in for the Rookie of the Year nod if it
hadn’t been for a certain Oakland A’s player who belted out 49 home
runs, Mark Mcguire. He was voted to the All Star game that year.

seitzer_getty.jpgIn
1988 he swapped sides of the infield with George Brett and became their
everyday third baseman. He was well known for his patience and his
batting eye, which kept his on-base percentage to over .400. He was
never known as a power hitter, but his eye helped him to be one of the
best placement hitters of the late 80’s.

Over the course of
the remainder of his tenure with the Royals, he saw a continuing
decline in his offensive stats until his release in spring training of
’92. Although he was released, his average had never dipped below .265
and he had become one of the top offensive producers in Royals history.

Leaving Kansas City was hard for Seitzer, who had spent 9 years within the organization.

Well, let’s put it this way. If your mom and
dad told you that you weren’t in the family anymore and to pack your
bags – that’s about how it felt,”
said Seitzer in
a July 4, 2007 interview with Scout.com. “It was a crusher man, because you sign
with somebody, you spend that long with them, and they were family.
They were your employer and they were everything, and you felt like you
were part of the whole family. And then when they let you go, man its
rough, and that was the worst one. Guys change teams all the time, and
the first one is the worst one, lets put it that way
.”
kevinseitzer.JPG

Seitzer
spent the rest of his career bouncing around Milwaukee, Oakland, and
finally Cleveland. After losing confidence in his hitting ability
during the middle of his career, Seitzer found his groove, finishing
his career with three .300+ seasons and a final year in Cleveland
posting a .268 in 64 games as a spot starter and pinch hitter.

In
1995, he was again selected to the AL All Star team, although his best
year was in ’96 when he posted an average of .326, with 187 hits, 85
runs, 87 walks to 79 strike outs, with a total on base percentage of
.416.

He posted some incredible
numbers during his major league career. He tasted the post season in in
’96 and in ’97, his final season, played in seven games of the World
Series, and was voted to two allstar games.

In 2007, Seitzer
was hired by the Arizona Dimaondbacks as a hitting coach. In 2009, he
became Kansas City’s Hitting Coach, bringing him back to the
organization where he began his career, and hoped to someday end it.

seitzer_coach.jpgAs an 8 year old following baseball, those numbers all meant nothing to me. I just knew that he was a pretty good ball player who was kind enough to send a letter to a kid who sent him one first, and to sign and return my baseball card.

As
an adult, the numbers are impressive, but to see a father who could put
his career aside to spend time with his children is heart warming. To
know that he is a man who is not afraid to share his faith in
inspiring. To see him continue to serve baseball through his training
facility, and now as a coach at the major league level, is admirable.

To me, Kevin Seitzer will always be a hero.

Information for this blog is courtesy of:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/seitzke01.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Seitzer
http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200902103815198
http://royals.mlblogs.com
http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Kevin_Seitzer_1962
http://royals.scout.com/2/656436.html

Nady and the Swish

swish.jpgWhen the Yankees announced the acquisition of Nick Swisher from a trade with the Chicago White Sox for Wilson Betemit, I was curious. With the impending loss of Bobby Abreu to free agency, I was looking for any way that the Bombers would bring back the patient hitter. I figured Swisher would play first and Bobby would be brought back to platoon with Damon and Nady. (Photo: Getty Images)

I was excited at the prospect of having baseball’s most patient hitter in 2008 in a lineup with Abreu (another of baseball’s top three most patient hitters) and the Yankee elite. I was stoked on Swish’s almost immaculate defense guarding the right corner bag. I was excited for another switch hitter to be in the every day lineup.

I was, as is now apparent, wrong.

Instead, Brian Cashman ignored my pleas and signed Mark Teixiera for first base, ultimately letting Abreu join our west coast nemesis (The Yankee devils HAVE to hate Angels) for a steal.

No one is going to complain about Tex being on the team. I’m glad he’s here (and not in Boston). He will make Mattingly proud, for sure. His bat and glove will fill both offensive and defensive voids for the next several years.

xaviernady.jpgSo now we come back to a dilemma. Forget about Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner for a few minutes and look at the contest being fought for Bobby’s Right Field Roost between Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady.

I’m pretty unoriginal when it comes to making strong arguments based on anything but stats, so here are a few factors for Joe Girardi to consider when making his decision for the everyday right fielder position.

THE EVIDENCE THAT DEMANDS A VERDICT:

Nady hit 25 HR’s last yea; Swisher hit 24. But in six full seasons, Nady has only hit 87 HRs. In only four full seasons, Swisher has amassed 104 homers.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER

But in batting average, we see Nady’s .280 career AVG (.303 in ’08) overcome Swisher’s dissapointing .244 (.218 in ’08). Nady also struck out less, had a higher OBP, and pulled in more RBIs. He also had many more hits (but somehow less runs?)
ADVANTAGE: NADY

Swisher stole 3 bases last season, Nady stole two. Whoever is going to replace Bobby needs to be able to gank some bags. Bobby stole around 20.
ADVANTAGE: ABREU

Both have commendable defensive percentages. Swisher has a near immaculate career record of .990 (.975, 5E in OF in ’08) to Nady’s .984 (.985, 4E, in OF in ’08).  Bobby Abreu carries a career .984 (.993, 2E OF in ’08).
ADVANTAGE: YANKEES (You can’t go wrong any which way here.)

The White Sox have won a world series this decade. The Pirates, well, they existed this decade. Kind of.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER

Nady was born in 1978 and is 30. The much younger Nick Swisher was born
in 1980 and is 28. The free agent market dictates that Nick Swisher,
being in his twenties, is automatically better than the 30-something
year old Nady.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER

Swisher throws left handed and bats as a switch hitter. Nady is right
handed all the way around. Being right handed in right field makes for
an awkward throwing situation.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER


Nick Swisher has a website. Xavier Nady, does not. Hey Nady, get with the 20th century  21st century.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER

Two words: Swish’s Wishes. You cannot get much cooler than that.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER

Nady used a pink bat on mother’s day to promote breast cancer
awareness. Nick Swisher dyed his facial hair. Nady had a weapon that he
can carry over to the Yankees. Swisher had to lose his pink with the
clean cut. 
ADVANTAGE: NADY (unless Swisher grows a pink moustache.)

Swisher has only played in the almighty American League (A’s, White Sox). Nady has played almost his entire career in the National League (Padres, Mets, Pirates). Yuck. The National League is gross.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER

Nady’s agent is Scott Boras. He’s a jerk.
ADVANTAGE: SWISHER

 swisher.jpgI believe the evidence here is overwhelming. It is time to put Nick Swisher in the corner pocket and let him play every day baseball. Keep Nady around for damage control when/if someone goes down. You never know when Matsui’s knee may implode or Johnny Damon needs to be put in protective custody from his hairdresser, who is obviously trying to kill him.

johnnydamonshair.jpg

The Biggest Threat

This is a blog I never wanted to write, but I feel it is important to address. For those of you who may have read my early winter rantings, you know that I made predictions — many of which ended up being wrong.

I hate being wrong.

That being said, I think it is time to address our biggest American League threat, and no, I’m not talking about those bums from Beanville. Let’s take a trip across the country to the pollution capital of the United States, Los Angeles. Because our number one threat in 2009 is those stinkin’ Angels.

I’ll give you three reasons why we need to keep our eyes on these guys not only for this year, but for the next few years.

#1 – The Angels in the Outfield.
Sorry for the cliche’, but seriously. What more of an offensive threat to boast in your outfield than Vladimir Guerro, Torii Hunter, and our former Bobby Abreu?

We should be familiar with Bobby’s abilities already, but for those of you just now tuning in we have one of the most patient hitters in baseball. Bobby can make a pitcher throw many times. He isn’t afraid of taking a walk. (73 times in 2008). He knows how to steal (22). He has a career .300 average (.296) and he plays very cautiously, which gives him full season endurance (156 games). Bobby is a very talented player, an offensive force, and will make a great #2 or #3 hitter.

Before coming to the Angels last season, Torii Hunter wasn’t much to worry about. The Minnesota Twins were never a real threat to anyone. They had their streaks, mostly built on the back of Hunter’s bat. (I’m editorializing pretty hard here, I know.) But put a potent hitter on this Angels team and you have a reason to swallow the lump in your throat. In 146 games, he collected 551 AB and 153 H, giving him a hearty .278 BA.  All total, he carried 60 extra base hits, 21 of which got him around the bases. Oh, and there’s the whole 1.000 FPCT.

I can’t even say his name with conjuring up images of burning villages, but this dangerous trio is led by 32 year old Vladimir Guerrero. The 12-year veteran is like Yogi Berra — he’ll swing at, and typical hammer off, anything. He is difficult to pitch to. I recall a scene where a pitcher attempted to walk him, so Vlad stepped across the plate and cranked the ball into the field anyway. He is a career .323 hitter (.303) who brought in less than 100 RBIs off of his 164 H for only the second full season in his career(91).

But these three men do not stand alone as an offensive threat. Chone Figgans and Howie Kendrick. I get chills thinking about these five members of a very potent Angel lineup that has dominated the American League over the span of the past few years. It is no wonder, to me, why the Angels did not persue some of the more costly free agents. They have no need to. Which brings me to my second point.

#2 – They Go Deep
And I’m not talking about just the offensive hitting ability either. Take a look at the Depth Chart. RIDICULOUS. It’s like a circus of talent, competing for every position. 

Infield depth has three guys, Izturis, Wood, and Quinlan, with a great deal of talent being availible to back up at every infield base position with a near perfect FPCT and mostly respectable batting averages (.269, .200, .262).

The offensive weakness may come from their catchers, but they have two guys have can handle the backstop with Napoli and Mathis (.273, .194). Napoli is yet another 20+ HR guy, of which the Angels have too many (4).

The outfield has protection for their big three if an unfortunate injury would occur. G. Matthews and Juan Rivera have acceptable BA’s and can fill in as needed and help to platoon either Vlad or Bobby in the corners with the DH role.

I’m not even going to address their pitching. It is sufficient and deep. The Angels are an island unto themselves with their throwing programs. Their farm system has made them almost entirely self sufficient and will be a model many other teams follow for the future.

#3 – 3-7
The Yankees and the Angels played each other ten times. Of those ten times, the Yankees only mustered up three wins. If the Yanks could have pulled those seven losses, the post season would have been written differently. But the fact remains that in that ten game series, the Yankees were outplayed by the Angels. the lineups look different now, so only time will tell how 2009 plays out.

Those are the reasons why I see the Angels as the team to beat for the New York Yankees. The rest of the AL West is still weak, despite a growing strength this year. 2009 will undoubtedly be a great year for baseball.