Archive for January, 2011

GirlieView (01/31/2011)

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Good morning! Today (or, rather, last night) officially starts “Superbowl Week”. So what? This isn’t a football blog! Here’s why it’s relevant. Superbowl Week, to me, has always felt like the very, very beginning of baseball. It’s not a football celebration. It’s a “yay football is over now baseball can start” celebration! Don’t get me wrong. I like football as much as the next girlie and I will thoroughly enjoy the game and associated festivities. But once that’s out of the way, it’s full steam ahead to spring training. And I say, bring it on!

Special thanks to Seymour for all the Fantasy Camp play-by-play reports including that “our guys” are looking good and are excited for the season to come. That in turn makes me excited for the season to come! Don’t miss our discussion question at the end. It will take some thought but it’s good to get the mind stimulated on a Monday morning and I might be able to rustle up a prize or three (tiny, don’t get excited) for those who guess best! First, the week in review!

Lizzies

  • Well, now that the Jets have given me the annual letdown, it’s time for to focus on the Cubs annual letd…..I mean World Series drive.
  • Big highlights of yesterday included a double header sweep and a Doc Raker homer (inside the park, very large piano on his back from 3rd to home).
  • I propose a trade. Three prospects to the Todd Hundley Fantasy Squad for Doc Raker. Revised lineup… Raker, Geo, Byrd, Rami, Sori, Pena, Castro, Colvin…
  • Seymour played a very good 3rd base and I think only one ball hit his protective cup after bouncing off his glove, all other cup shot’s were direct.
  • Have fun Seymour. Don’t twist a teste.
  • No twisted mister today.
  • Doc Raker=2006 Mark Prior. Plus or minus $8 million a year.
  • One of the greatest aspects of being affiliated with the Sweet Spot network is the collaboration that takes place with the other writers.
  • I’ve been reading a lot of grumbling about Gorz leaving and it seems like Hendry bashing for the sake of Hendry bashing. I’m not in his corner but this trade doesn’t seem to be the disaster everyone thinks.
  • If you’re not a Garza fan now, you will be soon.
  • Soriano is 34 (maybe), is basically a DH standing in LF, and has trouble staying healthy.
  • Sad thing is, I would have been happy to see the Cubs send $5 million a year till 2014 plus take back Napoli and Rivera to get rid of Soriano.
  • sure one was a lost in the sun pop up to a 64 year old accountant in right field that fell for a ‘hit’, but we take those at the camp, come cocktail hour they are all line drives.
  • it was a day and age when an eight or nine year old could try out and not get selected for a team.  Parents didn’t file a grievance against the league for damaging their child’s ego or accusing the league of elitist behavior.  They just understood that their little Charlie wasn’t good enough and baseball may not be his calling.
  • official scorer’s always been my best position
  • I would love to be a catcher
  • Catcher.
  • CF is my true outfield position
  • 3b.
  • If I were a major leaguer, which, by the way, is as big as a stretch can be, the position that would suit me would be shortstop.
  • Pitching would be my calling. I would hope to use some of my Doc Gooden ability with my Greg Maddux brains to own the league.
  • I would play 2nd base because i’m white, slow, can’t throw the ball far/accuarte, and my bat has no power…basically i’d be the second coming of aaron miles
  • I catch every day
  • I now play a lot of short stop but I think 2b suits me best.
  • I played 2B and OF as a kid, that’s what I would probably do.
  • i love 3b
  • I have great admiration for catchers, but on the few occasions when I’ve played softball/baseball I’m usually at first base.
  • I’d give my left nut to be a bullpen catcher in the bigs for a year.
  • I still fancy myself as quite the defensive first baseman
  • If I could pick, I think I’d like to be in the bullpen.
  • Third is still my favorite position.
  • If I was in the major leagues I would think I’d probably play 1B.
  • You know the saying: “Fool me seven times, shame on you. Fool me eight, shame on me”
  • Why not just put Soriano in the bullpen……we seem to be suggesting moving him like a chess piece.
  • I think Soriano might get killed by a line drive in the face if he played 3B. I’m not a Soriano fan, but I don’t wish death on him.
  • I also had a long conversation with Jeff Samardzija, arranged by a mutual friend. It did not include spelling lessons.
  • This mornings meeting was a real treat. All of camp Colvin came in and fielded questions for about an hour and a half. All are skinnier than they look on TV, except Jay Jackson, who looks like a full back. Colvin showed us his scar, Josh Vitters,Darwin Barney, Demp, Samardj, Russell, Koie Hill, Berg, Adducci, and about 15 others shared stories of their experiences so far. They dished dirt on coaches they had had (notably Davis and Sandberg), and it was a blast. They have a very positive out look on the upcoming season, and are there weeks ahead of the reporting date. Save your dough for fantasy camp, it’s awesome.

Lizard

  • i have seen many championships . problem is , i would trade them all to see my most loved team , the cubs , win one .

Monday Morning Discussion Question

Ok, the table has been set, the non-roster invitees know who they are (and so do we!) So, name your Opening Day 25-man Cubs roster. As I said earlier, I will attempt to rustle up a (small) prize for maybe the three closest to the mark! Only posts from this coming week will be eligible (Monday, January 31 through Sunday, February 6) and we’ll award the prizes as soon as the season starts and we can tally up the results. Good luck!


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Out of the Park 12 (Pre-Order to win an iPod Touch)

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Chilly temperatures can’t shake the warm feelings we get when we realize that not only are pitchers and catchers reporting soon, but the next version of Out of the Park Baseball is getting ready for spring training too. OOTP 12 will throw out its first pitch this spring, and we want to make sure you have the best seat in the house two days early.

How? By pre-ordering the game now for just $29.99. Not only is that 25% off the list price, but you’ll also get to download the game two days before its official release. Hurry, though, because only those who pre-order in January will get the game early, and the special pricing ends the day before OOTP 12 ships this spring. After that, the full price will be $39.99.

With pre-orders for Out of the Park Baseball 12 underway, we started chatting in the office about iOOTP, which is being developed for iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone. And then we realized: Wouldn’t it be great to make sure one lucky OOTP 12 player also gets a chance to experience our other upcoming baseball sim?

So here’s our offer to you: Pre-order OOTP 12 by the end of January and we’ll enter you in a drawing to win a brand new fourth generation 32GB iPod Touch, along with a free copy of iOOTP when it arrives at the App Store. That’s right: you’ll get twice the OOTP fun this summer, whether you’re in front of your computer or out and about. And you’ll even save $10 and get OOTP 12 two days before its official release.

Lineup Improvements in OOTP 12

PC Gamer called OOTP 11 “a no-doubt, walk-off home run no-brainer to become a part of your game collection,” and OOTP 12 is no different. Our All-Star lineup of features gets better every year, and we’ve again improved many of them during this off-season. We’re not done yet, so stay tuned to future newsletters.

2011 Major League Rosters

Here’s a treat: the best roster set we’ve ever produced, from the big leagues’ top stars to the guys making their debuts in rookie leagues. All players are individually rated with updated statistics and realistic contract data. Last year’s top draft picks are included too. Could Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, with the veteran leadership of newly-acquired All-Star Jayson Werth, help propel the Washington Nationals to the top of the National League East in coming seasons?

Revamped Financial System

The Philadelphia Phillies shook the baseball world this winter when they signed top-flight free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, despite expectations that he would opt for the highest bidder. Now you can do the same with OOTP’s improved player contract negotiations, which are more realistic and fun. You can even try to talk your owner into expanding the available budget, letting you squeeze in another All-Star contract. Don’t forget to stay on top of the latest free agent signings and other news in the new off-season center, and keep your finger on the pulse of your team’s finances with an improved view.

Contract possibilities are now more realistic, including vesting options, buyouts, minor league split contracts, signing bonuses and more performance bonus options. You can even now include remaining contract payments as an option in trades with AI-controlled GMs.

Online Leagues

We’re proud to support Official OOTP Online Leagues with a full-featured interface inside OOTP 12. With just one click, you can join a team, and creating a league is just as easy. Commissioners can make their leagues public and advertise open teams, with the ability to accept or deny requests from would-be GMs.

Official OOTP Online Leagues offer several key advantages:

  • League files are patches rather than full-size files, saving plenty of up- and download time.
  • Reports can be saved in MySQL databases, increasing their upload speed.
  • Forget about FTP: team data exports and imports work through the database. That results in improved compatibility and security for the league web site server.
  • An export tracker.
  • The promise of more great features to come, including online drafts and trades.

Greater Immersion and Realism

Historical leagues benefit from improved AI and real life transactions and as-played lineups as optional features. Thanks to OOTP’s sophisticated game engine, you’ll be able to enjoy the most realistic historical simulation results possible. How would the 1927 Yankees fare against their 1961 counterparts?

In addition, storylines have been expanded, and there are new ways to interact with your players. News presentations have also been revamped, making you feel like you’re part of the hectic 24-hour “better stay on top of this” news cycle that dominates today’s sports reporting.

In-Game and Core Engine Changes

Like a manager constantly seeking ways to get the most out of his lineup, we’re always tinkering under OOTP’s hood. Here’s what you can look forward to this year:

  • Recoded parts of the in-game AI, making it the most challenging ever in an OOTP game.
  • Improved in-game sound, adding better quality sound files and more variation.
  • Improved player evaluation AI, resulting in more realistic AI roster moves.
  • Recoded parts of the trading AI.
  • Recoded parts of the scouting engine.
  • Improved injury and recovery system.
  • Added WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a statistic.
  • Added a playoff roster for more realistic team transactions.
  • Greatly enhanced the world database structure, resulting in more realistic fictional league and player creation.
  • Added a simulation module, allowing you to match up two teams from the same league for a set number of games and see the simulation results. This is great for research purposes or just for toying around. For example, how would the 1927 Yankees fare against the 2004 Red Sox?

But that’s not all – the feature list is not final yet and will include even more great additions before the game is released. Stay tuned.

The home team has taken their positions in the field and the first batter is approaching home plate. What will happen next? Find out in OOTP 12. Pre-order your copy today!

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Laugh Out Loud Poop & Fart Stories

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

This may offend some, and I could care less. Sometimes you need a little juvenile humor. I’m a big fan of Deadspin.com. I’ve been a reader for roughly four years. A recent post posted reader submitted poop and fart stories. I laughed outloud, which is rare for me, when I read two of them and I wanted to share.

My parents took me to New Orleans when I was about 12 years old; I spent most of the trip stuffing my face with beignets and complaining about the heat. One day, my parents decide to take me on a trolley ride down St. Charles. We board the trolley only to discover that is filled to the brim exclusively with elderly black women, dressed in their Sunday best, on their way to church. As a nebbishy Jewish kid from the North with bad skin and worse self-esteem, I found this situation to be somewhat intimidating. It started off ok but then I feel a fart coming. There’s no stomach pain, no queasiness, no sign whatsoever that this is going to be a bad one, so I lift up a bit in my seat and let it go: sure enough, it’s just a little guy.

Before I know it though, I realize I have unleashed the beast. I notice my dad’s face tighten and my mom’s eye’s begin to water, but they keep it together out of fear of embarrassing me. Not so the rest of the trolley car. “Whoa lordy,” one lady says, quietly at first, then a bit louder. “Whoooooaaaaa lordy!” she wails. All at once the previously silent trolley erupts into a teeming mass of shouting and activity: the fart had captivated this audience. One woman covered her face with her bonnet, another slumped forward in her seat, feigning death; everyone was laughing so hard I feared for their well beings. “Light a match!” one of them yelled; “no, don’t: you’ll set the whole car on fire!” another responded. I feared the trolley might derail. I made myself as small as possible but to no avail: they all knew it was me. Their laughter continued long after the smell had dissipated; indeed, I can still hear it today.

When I was in sixth grade I spent a lot of time at my friend Alex’s house, who happened to live very close to the local Taco Bell. I can only assume this is what we ate one night before we retired to Alex’s basement to play video games or whatever sixth grade boys do at sleepovers. Around ten or eleven o’clock, I felt a poop coming on. I went up to the bathroom which was across the hall from the top of the stairs. I don’t recall anything spectacular about the poop itself, except I think it may have required more wipes than average. I finished and went down to rejoin my friends. A few minutes later we heard a thud on the floor upstairs. We didn’t think anything of it, as it was about the time his parents were getting ready for bed. About 15 or 20 minutes later, Alex’s dad called down to us: “Uh, hey guys? Did one of you take a dump and not flush? Because the dog was walking past the bathroom and passed out.” The thud we had heard was Alex’s (elderly) Australian shepherd hitting the hardwood floor. Apparently the poop smelled so bad that the aroma migrated to the hallway, where it remained potent enough for the passing dog to actually lose consciousness. I admitted to his dad that I had taken the dump, but insisted that I had flushed (I had). This led to twenty minutes of gasping-for-air laughter from my friends. It happened almost 15 years ago, but I still take pride in telling the tale of the time I dropped a deuce so atrocious it stunned a 60 lb. animal.

Feel free to share your own.

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Five Questions on the 2011 Season

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

This morning I received an e-mail in my box asking me to take a minute to answer a few questions about the team for a fantasy baseball. I’m not a fantasy baseball player, so I did my best. Here is the Q&A for you to look at and discuss.

1) In the minors, Starlin Castro averaged nearly 26 stolen bases per 500 at-bats, but stole just 10 bases for the Cubs in 463 at-bats last season. Why the lack of steals and can we expect him to run more this year?

If you’ve paid close attention to the Cubs, you’ll notice that they never seem to have a guy that racks up a lot of steals. It’s rare to see them with someone among the league leaders in that category. Juan Pierre in 2006 was one of the last times I can remember a Cubs stealing a lot of bases. I don’t see that changing much with Castro. He’s still a very young player that will probably still be lower in the lineup to keep the pressure off him. That doesn’t typically lend itself to steals. I’d set the over/under at 15 for Starlin in 2011.

2) Carlos Zambrano is coming off one of the craziest up-and-down seasons of any pitcher in recent memory. After posting a 5.66 ERA over 55.2 innings from April through June, Zambrano was sent to anger management and returned to the team in August, finishing the year 8-0 with a 1.60 ERA over 73.1 innings. What do you project from Zambrano in 2011?

I’ve kept no secrets when it comes to my genuine dislike of Zambrano. I hate his attitude on the mound and I hate his childish ways. I’m sick of saying things like “He’s got all the talent in the world and this is the year he puts it all together to win the Cy Young”. He’s a low end # 2 starter, at best. More than likely he’ll be the third best guy on this staff behind Dempster and Garza. I’d like to believe that the second half of 2010 was the real Zambrano, but I’ve been burned too many times before. You know the saying: “Fool me seven times, shame on you. Fool me eight, shame on me”

3) The Cubs’ outfield is pretty crowded with Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin all fighting for at-bats. How do you see the at-bats getting distributed between these four hitters?

Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano both have their spots locked up unless some sort of injury occurs. The question then comes down to Fukudome and Colvin. On paper, Fukudome was the better outfielder, but most fans would rather have Colvin in there due to potential. I’m a Colvin guy, but I think his bat has holes that need to be filled before he can really be considered a better option than Fukudome. Combine that with Fukudome’s career OPS+ of 157 in the month of April and it’s hard to justify Colvin getting the job on opening day. In the end, I think he’ll overtake Fukudome, but it may not be until mid-May or later. Proceed at your own risk with those two.

4) Aramis Ramirez missed a little over a month with a bad shoulder last year and while he still managed to hit 25 home runs, he only batted .241—his lowest batting average since 2002. Can we expect him to return to his normal self and hit close to 30 home runs with a .300 batting average?

.300 is a pretty lofty goal at this point. I’d shoot closer to .290. It’s not a big difference, but if you’re playing in a Roto league, there are a lot more guys hitting .290 than .300. That would make him less valuable. I believe, despite the fact that Ramirez denies it, that a big reason for his struggle last year was not his shoulder, but his hand. Things weren’t right for him with that hand all year and I truly believe that affected his play in the beginning of the year. Lack of confidence at the plate set in and the end result was a very disappointing year for Rammy. I still believe he can be the best player in this lineup. Now he needs to prove it.

5) Outfielder Brett Jackson is widely recognized as the Cubs’ best prospect, but his path to the Majors is currently blocked by Soriano, Byrd, Fukudome and Colvin. Are there any other prospects in the organization that could see playing time this season and make an immediate impact?

Brett Jackson will probably not make an impact with the big club this year. I look to 2012 to be the year he gets in there. That said, I’m a big Jay Jackson fan. I think he’s got the stuff to slot into either the rotation or the bullpen if needed. He’s ready for the Majors at this time. It’s just a matter of when the other 15 starters in front of him get hurt.

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Chet’s Corner: What position suits you?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The year was 1983.  I was all of nine years old and playing in a fairly sophisticated under-10 baseball league.  We had tryouts and everything,  it was a day and age when an eight or nine year old could try out and not get selected for a team.  Parents didn’t file a grievance against the league for damaging their child’s ego or accusing the league of elitist behavior.  They just understood that their little Charlie wasn’t good enough and baseball may not be his calling.

The Division or age group was called the “Willie Mays” division.  I was anything but Willie Mays.  The first and only time I played in the outfield was a disaster.  My coaches put me in left field as this is where the least amount of action is seen at this age.  When you have mostly right handed hitting nine year olds trying to hit fast pitch, it is rare that anybody gets out in front of a ball to pull it, hence everything goes to right field.

It was probably about three innings into the game and one of the opposing hitters managed to swing a little early and lined a shot at yours truly (there is a chance it was a can of corn but to make myself feel better over the years it has become a line shot).  I locked in on it, said my best prayer, and just as ball was about to meet glove, I closed my eyes.  What happened next was an absolute disaster involving blood and tears and a black eye.

From then on I stuck with pitching and shortstop with a little first base sprinkled in.  The funny thing, I loved line drives and pop ups as an infielder, it was something about the distance from the outfield to home plate that got me that day.

The other day I started thinking, maybe the outfield position didn’t suit my personality?  Then I read an article here on ESPN.com about Derek Jeter playing center field if and when the day came to make a switch.  I then tried to picture him playing center field, and while it wasn’t a stretch, I did have some trouble envisioning it.  His personality seems to fit the shortstop position.

My question to the readers…..

If you were a major leaguer, no matter how much of a stretch that is, what position would suit you and why?  Also, what position is the furthest from your dream spot on the field?  This can be based on skill, as some of us still seem to play the game to one degree or another (Raker and Seymour), or base it on personality as this is all just for fun.

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The Top Pitching Performances of 2010

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The 2010 season was dubbed “The Year of the Pitcher”, thanks in large part to the six no-hitters (including two perfect games and Roy Halladay’s postseason gem).

Bill James devised “Game Score”, a metric to rate a pitcher’s dominance in a given start.  A Game Score of 65 earns the designation “Gem” as a well-pitched game.  The highest Game Score in recent history was 105, achieved by Kerry Wood in a 20-strikeout one-hitter in 1998.

From the 2011 Bill James Handbook, here are the top Game Scores of 2010:

Pitcher Date Opp IP H R ER BB SO Game Score
Brandon Morrow, Sea 8/8 TB 9.0 1 0 0 2 17 100
Roy Halladay, Phi 5/29 Fla 9.0 0 0 0 0 11 98
Matt Cain, SF 5/28 Ari 9.0 1 0 0 0 9 94
Dallas Braden, Oak 5/9 TB 9.0 0 0 0 0 6 93
Johnny Cueto, Cin 5/11 Pit 9.0 1 0 0 0 8 93
Travis Wood, Cin 7/10 Phi 9.0 1 0 0 0 8 93
Matt Garza, TB 7/26 Det 9.0 0 0 0 1 6 92
Ted Lilly, LAD 8/19 Col 9.0 2 0 0 2 11 92
Anibal Sanchez, Fla 7/29 SF 9.0 1 0 0 1 8 92
Five tied 91

Perhaps surprisingly, the top Game Score wasn’t a no-hitter, but Brandon Morrow’s 17-strikeout one-hitter on August 8.  Morrow’s masterpiece reached the elite 100 Game Score, a level last reached by Randy Johnson in his 2004 perfect game.

The worst Game Score of 2010 belongs to Scott Kazmir, whose -8 Game Score on July 10 included 13 runs (all earned).  Felix Hernandez had the highest average Game Score of any regular starter last season, at 63.4.  Paul Maholm had the worst, at 44.1.

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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GirlieView (01/24/2011)

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Good Monday morning! With Randy Hundley’s fantasy camp in full swing, I’m anxious to hear from our fellow VFTB’ers who are annual attendees. Not sure if they participated in last week’s session or this week’s (or both?) but I’m hoping they’ll share some stories with us! Meanwhile, here’s last week’s best.

Lizzies

  • I’m fine with the idea of juggling lead-off hitters, as so long as Baker and DeWitt are not two of the juggling balls.
  • Our team is built for homers (pun intended)
  • I will forthwith be referring to the Cub leadoff platoon as the itty-bitty-hitty-committee, or IBHC for short.
  • if they are unhealthy (mentally and physically) they can easily sink to 70 to 75 wins and that will get you residence in Piratesville.
  • Raker, a man of your book learning should know the difference between insight and incite.
  • Actually my wife drives an insight.
  • Hey Seymour, I just figured out the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’, these things take time.
  • Seymour’s wife lacked the insight to marry better. Doc Raker is an expert in sight. Cap’t Obvious incited riotous laughter when he finished his last run at Sierra this afternoon cartwheeling ass over teakettle down Lower Main in front of roughly 80 drunken 19 year old snowboarders. End of lesson.
  • If they ask me to have Gorz turn his head and cough, I think I’m busy that day.
  • I find it ironic that the image verification for a review of a Hells Angels book to be “broad”. Only “chopper” would be more fitting.
  • I couldn’t help but day dream about doing a similar video, but it would have to be shot from the point of view of my avatar in the corner. Likely not too appetizing.
  • Take a crack at it Seymour.
  • I feel like I have just seen Norm Peterson’s wife Vera, Dr Niles Crane’s wife Maris , Magnum PI’s Robin Master’s , Mildred Potter of Colonel Potter, Mary Tyler Moore’s Chuckles the Clown, Dick Van Dykes Alan Brady, Wilson the faceless wise neighbor behind the fence of Tool Time’s Tim Taylor, Bob Newharts doorman, Charlie Townsend of Charlie’s Angels, Phylis Lindstrom’s husband Lars, The ugly naked guy from Friends, the Gong Shows unkown comic, the face of the Lone Ranger.
  • Excuses are like assholes, everybody’s got one
  • I don’t think Quade has the crotch taters to put [Zambrano] at number 2.
  • Gee, thanks Aramis, so glad you could stop by and grace us with your presence.
  • how do you replace Ron Santo?  Might be the single toughest decision of the season.
  • I like the idea of Doug Glanville though. Smart, funny, knows the game to actually be able to analyze. I think he and Pat could really do a great job.
  • I forsee a Milton Bradley reality show.
  • Small boy: Mommy gets mad at me because sometimes I don’t wear any underwear.
    Priest: Tell me more.
  • I used to think it was funny to change the channel to The Golden Girls to bug my wife. That was, until, we started liking the old bags. Thank YOU for being a friend.
  • If we’re talking bad TV that you can’t stop watching, I have four words….Saved by the Bell.

Lizard

  • Thanks VFTB, you are the first blog I check every day and you are the classiest!

Monday Morning Discussion Question

I have a rather sacrilegious confession to make. I am not a Bears fan. Had they not been playing the Packers I may have rooted for them not as a fair-weather fan but just because many of my friends are fans and when my friends are happy that makes me happy. However I have a bit of a girlie-crush on Aaron Rodgers so the Packers got my vote today and I’m a happy gal. Condolences to Joe. Didn’t your Mama ever tell you it’s bad luck to flip over the calendar before its time? You started your Super Bowl countdown a few days too early my friend. :-)

As for the evening game (which is in progress as I write this) I’m in a quandary. I like Mark Sanchez however I found the Jets’ antics this year to be offputting. Conversely I like the entire Steelers team and coaching staff however I find Roethlisbergers’ antics to be offputting. In a perfect world Sanchez would play for the Steelers instead of the Jets and I’d have a clear favorite. No such luck, so I’m leaving this one up to the football gods and I’ll be happy with either outcome. How about you? Did the Sunday games go your way? And who will you root for going forward (if anyone)?


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A Look at the Prospects in the Gorzo Trade

Friday, January 21st, 2011

I’ve mentioned it before on the site. One of the greatest aspects of being affiliated with the Sweet Spot network is the collaboration that takes place with the other writers. Harper Gordek, who is ironically my bosses brother-in-law, writes Nationals Baseball and was kind enough to give us the rundown on the prospects we received in the Tom Gorzelanny trade.

Graham Hicks was projected to be a lefty starter when drafted out of high school 2+ years ago. He had the right build and a good fastball. Unfortunately, he hasn’t developed with the speed you want to see. While in the past two seasons he has worked his way up through rookie and low A-ball, neither were impressive showings. In A-ball last year he improved across the board with fewer hits and walks and more strikeouts than in low A, but all that did was get him to a 1.6 WHIP and a 5.00+ ERA. There was some talk that another unimpressive showing in A-ball this year and a change to relief pitcher might be in order. At 21 this year there is still time for him to improve but there’s a lot that needs to be done before he’d seriously be considered on track for the majors.

AJ Morris was a draftee that a lot of people were excited about having a fantastic senior year at Kansas State. Since he came out of college it was assumed he would dominate the lower the lower minors and move up quickly, but he was merely good and a 23 year old good starter in high A is nothing special. Figuring that he didn’t have enough pitches to hack it as a starter, the Nats began converting Morris to a reliever where he showed some promise. He’s probably ready for a AA stint as a reliever, but if the Cubs want to try him again as a starter you’re looking at a 24 year old A-baller.

Michael Burgess is the “key” to the package and is the biggest gamble to give up on for the Nats. He’s got great power (usually among the leaders in his current league) and a fantastic arm, but he hits for a low average (think .250) and more disturbingly strikes out a ton. The Nats organization has been working on him shortening his swing for 4 seasons now with minimal results. He’s also got a stocky body type that may not age well. Last year, after mostly repeating his fair high a-ball performance from the year before, he was bumped to AA to see what he could do. He responded with a nice little 20 game run, the average climbing up over .280, but the strikeouts remaining high. The Nats sent him to the Arizona Fall League to see if there was really a change and he responded with a .244 showing, with only 4 walks and 2 homers all the while striking out roughly every 3 at bats. It was pretty much exactly what the Nats didn’t want to see. The feeling from most in the system at this point is that if Burgess shortens his swing it’ll hurt his power which is where his value lies but if he doesn’t shorten his swing he’ll get eaten alive in the high minors and majors.

Conclusion: If you want to look at the brightside, the Cubs got three prospects in the deal, none of which are throw-aways. They all still have the potential to impact the major league team. On the other hand, there’s nothing particularly special about these prospects. The Cubs probably have 2-3 guys like Burgess and handfuls of guys like Morris and Hicks already in their system. Hicks is too young and too far down in the minors to know where he’s going to end up, but Morris should manage to be a major league reliever (if the Cubs go that route), and Burgess might just be able to hold that average up so he’s a useful lefty power bat off the bench. Expecting anything more than this would be overly optimistic.

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True Confessions: Movies

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

This morning we’re going to take a minute to talk about something that is far from baseball. It’s confession time on VFTB and this morning we’re confessing movies we’re embarrassed to admit we like. Since it’s hard to ask someone to admit something without also admitting something yourself, I’ll start off the discussion with a few of my own.

Shakespeare In Love – This one won the Best Picture award back in the late 90′s. The title alone is what makes me a little Leary of confessing it, but when you really sit down and watch it, it’s a great movie. I would have changed the ended to mirror the Romeo & Juliet ending since he was writing the play based on what was going on in the film. It seems only fitting for that to be the way it would end, but it didn’t. Call me lame, but I like this one a lot.

The Other Sister – I have no way to defend myself with this one. It’s a cheese fest with the premise of the story being a love that develops between two mentally handicapped people played by Giovanni Ribisi and Juliette Lewis. Both play the roles well, I thought, but the movie doesn’t get very good reviews.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – If this one comes on TV, I’m stopping what I’m doing and watching it. I actually saw the sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, in the theaters. I have no idea what it is that draws me to this one, but I love it. I could watch it over and over again.

Now you have a few of mine. It’s time to admit some of yours. What are those movies that you’re ashamed to like?

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