And that, my friends, is why the Cubs are the Cubs.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
10-8-2 on the season. Had a couple of good weeks, let's keep it rolling. On to the picks!
Friday, October 3, 2008
You must be kidding me.
13-13-1 on the season. Need a good week this week to get a jump. To the picks!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
As anyone who knows me or reads this blog regularly knows, i grew up in iowa. Northwest iowa to be specific. Growing up there, you had three choices of baseball teams to root for: The Royals, the Twins, or the Cubs.
A few days back i wrote a (lengthy) piece on the 2008 Diamondbacks season, with a promise to write a follow-up post about where the Dbacks go from there. This is that post.
That 2008 column ended with a line about the Dbacks facing a mountain of questions going into the 2008 off-season and into 2009. While an admittedly cheesy wrap-up to the post, it was nonetheless true. The Dbacks have a ton of questions they need to answer, and i'm not sure where they (or i) will even begin.
Let's start with a big one: The Big Unit. Randy Johnson is sitting on 295 wins, just five short of they mythical 300. There's no denying it would be a great accomplishment for him, and based on the way he pitched the second half of this season he will get it next year. But will he be in a Diamondbacks uniform? Hard to say.
The Dbacks aren't going to pay Johnson a lot of money. They still owe him something like $41M for his last contract with the Dbacks (no, not this one. The one from before. You know, back from when he won the World Series here?). It's hard to tell what Randy will do; He's always been a bit of a selfish player, but i wonder if he recognizes he should stay here and win 300 with the team he's going into the Hall of Fame with. If he does re-sign here, look for it to be around only $4M, even though he could command upwards of double that in the open market.
Staying in the starting rotation, you have Webb and Haren as the unquestioned leaders. Behind that? Murky. Doug Davis is a crap-shoot as to whether he will be back or not. Max Scherzer will be your number 4, probably regardless of who is here and who isn't. A rotation of Webb, Haren, Johnson, Davis and Scherzer isn't bad. Webb, Haren, Scherzer, Petit, and a started to be named later not as much.
The bullpen is even worse. Depending on who you listen to, the Dbacks need to either get rid of everyone or everyone had an off year and will be better next year. Realistically it's somewhere in the middle. I don't know how you bring Jon Rauch back after his trainwreck of a season here. Chad Qualls is the 2009 closer, mark it down now. He will be fine in that role. Move Lyon back into the 8th inning, i think he will be fine there as well. Either Tony Pena or Juan Cruz are likely gone; Make the other the 7th inning guy.
Billy Buckner and Leo Rosales will be the long-relief guys. What the Dbacks are in desperate need of, and what they have been in desperate need of for years, is a left handed reliever. Sorry Doug Slaten, you are not the answer. Will Ledezma, a late season pickup, could be it. He pitched fairly well in admittedly limited action.
Looking out into the outfield, there is a logjam. Chris Young is the starting Center Fielder. His bat suffered this season, but his defense is gold-glove-worthy. Justin Upton is the Right Fielder. His defense is suspect, but he's only 21. And his bat became electric the last month of this season. In left-field you have some issues.
After the way CoJack adjusted to the switch and how he started to hit once out there, you are basically forced to leave him in left. Problem is you're paying Eric Byrnes $10M a year to be the left fielder. And i know not many people remember this, but when healthy Byrnes isn't a bad player. He hit .276 in his two full season with the Dbacks, 2006-2007, and has some pop in his bat. Not to mention he's the best base-stealer on the roster, something the Diamondbacks sorely missed this year. From the things Bob Melvin and Derrick Hall have been saying, it sounds like Byrnes will go into 2009 as the 4th outfielder. Hard to put $10M on the bench, but in this case it looks like the best option. He'll get plenty of chances to play.
On the infield you have a total disaster. Shortstop is the only position locked up with Stephen Drew. Drew really came around the last month and is poised to have a seriously good breakout season in 2009. The rest of the infield is completely up in the air. Mark Reynolds will be there, though there's no telling where. Third clearly isn't the best place to put him (though he played pretty well there in 2007). There are a lot of rumors about him moving to second, which is where he played in the minors, to replace Orlando Hudson, who will be gone. Just in the last week there has been some talk of putting Reynolds at first as well.
Where Reynolds plays will depend largely on what the Dbacks do in the offseason. If they can get a good third baseman, Reynolds moves to the right side of the infield. If the Dbacks get a stud second baseman, Reynolds may stay at third. The Dbacks do have some options already here. Augie Ojeda and David Eckstein wouldn't be a bad combo at second for the year. Both are good with the glove and good enough from the plate. If the Dbacks go that route, i could see them going after a third baseman in free agency or through trade, and putting Reynolds at first.
Either way, there are a lot of choices and decisions to be made. The Dbacks could also bring Jamie D'Antona up; He can play either corner infield spot. And, of course, all of this is assuming Adam Dunn is gone as well. There has been talk of the Dbacks trying to re-sign him, but i don't think it will happen. Dunn strikes out too much in a lineup filled with people who strike out too much, and is a defensive liability pretty much everywhere on the field.
The last position is catcher. Unlike every other position on the Dbacks, catcher is locked up. Chris Snyder is the starting catcher, he can play almost every day, and he brings a decent bat to the order. Behind him could be interesting. Miguel Montero has been rumored to be working out at third base in the offseason. If that's the case, Robby Hammock would likely be the back-up catcher.
No matter how you shake it, the Diamondbacks will be a very different looking team in the 2009 season. It would not surprise me to see 8-9 players from this season's team gone next season. And while that is a lot of change, it is not necessarily a bad thing. As we saw down the stretch this season, something needs to be done. Let's just hope the Dbacks can pull the right strings...
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
We have another NFL firing today, the second in two days following Scott Linehan's departure from the St. Louis Rams. This one surprises no one, except for maybe how long it took for the actual firing. Lane Kiffin was fired from the Oakland Raiders today. Finally.
Now i actually don't think Kiffin is a bad coach. He didn't have much to work with last year, and while the team hasn't had much success this year yet either, they're been playing fairly well for him. And, you know, it doesn't exactly build continuity or goodwill when you fire a Head Coach after just 20 games...
The Raiders are turning into a complete joke of a franchise, and as one local sports radio host puts it, "The Raiders will never win anything again until Al Davis is dead". Well alrighty then.
Oh, and just for good measure, Davis is claiming he will not be honoring the remainder of Kiffin's contract.
Al Davis: You Have Failed At Life
Now that the season has come to a whimpering end for the 2008 Arizona Diamondbacks, it's time to take a look back at the season that was. This will be part 1, with part 2 coming later this week in which i take a look at the Dbacks going forward.
First things first: No matter how you slice it, this season was a disappointment. Coming off a year when the Dbacks made the 2007 NLCS, this team was expected to compete for the NL West crown and return to the postseason. Contend for the crown they did, firmly planted in first place in the NL West for 136 games of a 162 game season. Unfortunately those other 26 games just happened to be at the most critical time of the season: The end.
Other than a fast start in April, the Dbacks played sub-.500 baseball all season long, though managed to finish 82-80. It just so happened they were in a historically bad division, which allowed them to remain in first place through most of the season. Which became a rallying cry for this team: "We're still in first place". No matter how bad they looked, no matter how many games they lost, no matter how many errors committed and games blown by the bullpen, the answer always became "Hey, at least we're still in first place".
Ultimately, i believe this is what led to the Diamondbacks demise. The Dbacks never took control of their situation. They never showed a will to win the games they needed. They never showed that killer instinct to step on teams throats when they could have. They were content to sit back and just scrape by.
The Dbacks, and admittedly Bob Melvin was behind this, showed an amazing knack this season for giving away games. This manifested itself in many ways, all of which were destructive. In a three-game series, if the Dbacks won the first two they would invariably trot out their b-team for game 3 as if it did not matter. 2007 was all about winning each series. While a good mantra, it just did not work for 2008. This season we needed more wins, more games. This Dbacks team could not afford to start 3 or 4 bench players at a time.
And don't get me started on giving away games by the bullpen. In 2007 this team had one of the best bullpens in the Majors, which is ultimately got them to playoffs and was the difference over the Cubs in the NLDS. With only one move, trading Jose Valverde to the Astros, the Dbacks thought they would be ok. Move Lyon from the 8th to the 9th, move Pena from the 7th to the 8th, and put Chad Qualls, who they received in the Valverde trade, in the 7.
Despite Lyon blowing two saves in the first 5 games, all seemed fine with the bullpen through April. That was, until it completely imploded, a disaster so complete that not only did every pitcher there go through stretches where they couldn't get an out, but you never knew who was going through the stretch and when. Each pitcher had times when they were completely awful, but it would come and go from week to week, game to game. How do you decide which relief pitchers to run out there when you never know which one is gonna suck, just that one of them definitely is going to?
Just so we don't place all the blame on the bullpen, we must also look at the offense. Arizona finished 27 out of 30 teams in Batting Average, with a paltry .251. They finished with the second highest number of strikeouts in the Majors. And for a team that played virtually no small-ball, you would think they would rely on the home run. Problem is, they finished 19 out of 30 in home runs hit this season.
With the exception of Conor Jackson, Orlando Hudson when he was playing, and Stephen Drew in the last month, the rest of the team could be described only as struggling. If you look at our 'core' 13 starters (Snyder, Montero, CoJack, Dunn, O-Dog, Ojeda, Eckstein, Drew, Reynolds, Tracy, Byrnes, Young, and Upton), 8 finished with a .250 BA or below. Only 3 finished above .290. That's not getting done.
Honorable mention goes to Mark Reynolds, who admittedly i am a fan of and will defend to the death, to his season that is a complete and total statistical oddity. Taking away Adam Dun, who played only 44 games with the Dbacks, Reynolds managed to: Lead the team in HR's, lead the team in RBI's, lead the team in Walks, 2nd on the team in Runs Scored, 3rd on the team in Total Bases, 2nd on the team in Stolen Bases, and lead the team (and set a Major League record) in Strikeouts. Oh, and just for good measure, he lead the team (and the Major's) in Errors as well. His season is on par with one of the most bizarre, inexplicable seasons by a single person in MLB history.
And as long as we're talking about fielding, let's not forget that the Diamondbacks finished 26 of 30 in team fielding percentage, and 6th in most Errors committed.
So to review, the Diamondbacks finished in the bottom 10% in team batting, and the bottom 20% in team fielding. At least we have pitching, right? Right?
Well, actually, in this case they are right. The Diamondbacks did have pitching, despite their horrific bullpen. Did you know the Dbacks had more Quality Starts than any other team in baseball? And gave up the fifth-fewest home runs in all of baseball? It helps when you have Brandon Webb (22-7, most wins in the Majors) and Dan Haren (16-8, tied for 7th most wins in NL). Every other person that started a game for the Dbacks went a combined 27-39. The Bullpen went 17-26 in case anyone was wondering. Special mention here goes to Jon Rauch, who the Dbacks traded for to be their closer, and managed to go 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA.
There are many other items i could get into regarding the 2008 season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. For instance the strange, almost complete refusal to attempt a running game (only 2 teams had less stolen bases than the Dbacks), and Bob Melvin's decision on pretty much everything. In 2007 Melvin was dubbed the Mad Scientist because seemingly every decision he made worked perfectly. 2008 was the exact opposite, as seemingly no decision he made worked out and was second-guessed by everyone. He may not be as good as the NL Manager of the year award he won last year, but he can't be as bad as he was in 2008 can he?
Regardless, everything that happened with the Dbacks resulted in one thing: An 82-80 record, and watching the playoffs from home. In the end, it wasn't enough, which amounted to a massive hill of disappointment for the Diamondbacks and their fans. Not to mention an even larger hill of questions going forward into 2009...
Monday, September 29, 2008
Now that's what i call a good week, for the second week in a row. I was 1 point scored in the Denver-New Orleans game from being 4-1; instead i finished 3-1-1. Which puts my season record at 10-8-2. Two good weeks in a row have got me rolling, another one good put me in good shape...