Saturday, February 27, 2010

Traffic Jam

This semi-regular column will be Trenton's counterpart to The Cat's Mewlings, with updates on the state of the Trenton Traffic.

It's been an interesting start to the season, as we currently sit 18-15, 3 games back of the vaunted Atlanta Bandits. Management contemplated setting dynamite and hitting the plunger, but opted to re-tool for what could very well be one last run, as many key players are in the final year of their contracts (notably David Dunwoody and Dwight Salmon).

Most of the veterans spent the entire offseason on the trading block- reactions have been varied. In the lineup, Stephen Mills and Vasco Lopez have come out swinging in the middle of the lineup (Lopez already has more homers than he did all of last season), but Cap Herrera is struggling in the #3 hole. The other veteran off to a slow start is LF Rico Valdes, who may finally be starting to slow down after jumpstarting the offense last season when he was plugged into the lineup.

The pitching staff has been another story- that story is Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Dunwoody hasn't looked as good as he did last season when he placed second in the Cy Young voting, but he's been solid. Salmon is having a bounceack season, and Jason Sprague has been solid. On the other hand, free-agent signing Woody Hiller has been bad (1-6, 5.05). I have had to come out and publicly state there is no truth to the rumor circulating Trenton that the first 5,000 fans to show up for our first home game after the road trip (against Fargo) can try out before the game to take Damion Mays's spot in the rotation. The bullpen is a similar story- Bernie Corino regained the closer's role after Quinton Hughes left and has done a great job, and Matty Eusebio and Dan Linden have been solid. But usual stalwarts Pablo Rojas and Karl Coleman have been shaky and the Will Piper experiment appears to be blowing up in our face.

All in all, fan reaction has been mixed to the start. Some fans look at the bright side, saying that essentially the same group struggled early in the season and then turned it on a little after the All-Star break. Some fans aren't happy that we seem to lose some games we feel we should win, especially when we jump out to an early lead. Hard to say where this season is going. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One on one with Salt Lake City GM plague

We recently caught up with the GM of the defending world champion Salt Lake City Shakers, plague, to get his thoughts on how he will defend his crown, his opinion on the great "splits vs. pitches vs. control" debate and some Miami Dolphins talk. Here's what plague had to say:

You currently run eight HBD teams. I can barely keep up with four. So what am I missing here? How do you do it?
You're not missing anything. The more teams you run the more shortcuts you take. It's just a question of can you win taking shortcuts. If you can't then you need to cut teams until you can give them enough attention to win.

Which of the 8 teams is your favorite and why?
Los Angeles Crushers in Bryant world. It was my first team. I think most people's favorite team is the first team they created.

You’re the defending world champion of The Bigs. How did you take this franchise from one that lost 114 games in the inaugural season to world champions in season 8?
I can't take credit for that 118 loss season, and I don't want credit for that horrible season. I took the team over about 115 games into season one. The one thing I did have going for me when I took them over was I had prospect money left, and who pops up but Vic James, so I got a stud Intl player my first season. I got the benefit of the previous coach drafting Che Bong, and I was given a team with the 2nd pick in the draft. From that point on I worked the draft, traded veterans for youth, and grabbed a few good Intl players.

What adjustments if any have you made going into this season and what will you need to do to defend your title?
My offense is probably the best in the league, my starting staff is equal to last season, but my bullpen is questionable and if I want to repeat my bullpen will have to perform like it did last season or I will have to look to make some moves.

If you could draft one current player from any franchise in The Bigs and add them to your ML team at no cost, who would it be and why?
That would be easy. Javier Henriquez. I am already loaded offensively, but come playoff time with all the days off, a stud starting pitcher becomes more valuable. He can pitch every 3rd game in the playoffs compared to every 4th or 5th game during the season. I love having 1 dominant pitcher come playoff time and my current team does not have that.

When it comes to what makes a good pitcher in HBD, different GM’s will give you different answers. So, for you, which of the following ratings is most important in determining a successful HBD pitcher: splits, control, or pitches?
I think you need all 3, I don't care how good your splits are you will not win with a 10 control, same goes with splits, if your control is 100 you wont win with 10 in splits. If I could pick any of the 3 with 100 and the others with 50 I would take 100 splits with 50 control and 50 pitch, however because of the 50 pitch I dont think he would be a great pitcher..

So you’re a football fan from California. Don’t tell me you’re a Raiders fan…
Dolphins fan. I have liked them since I was about 6 years old. Cowboys were playing the Dolphins in the Super Bowl, I did not know football but my dad and his friend were rooting for the Dolphins, so I rooted for the Dolphins and I have been a fan ever since.

Dolphins fan!? That's what I'm talking about! I knew there was something I liked about you, as I am also a Miami fan. What positions do you think they need to improve going into next season and how do you feel about Chad Henne as the savior?
I watched every Dolphin game last season. Chad Henne has the physical tools to be a NFL quarterback. He is the best QB since Jay Fiedler. His problem is he throws the ball too hard, but so did John Elway when he first started. Chad Henne overthrows everyone on deep passes, he will need to learn to take a little off his passes when he goes long. He will also need to learn to not throw the ball through a wall on short passes. Short he needs to learn touch, that is going to take a season or 2.

The Dolphins need a lot. They need 4 new LBS, a NT, and a free safety on defense. On offense they need a WR and a TE. I like Brian Hartline as a up and coming receiver, he has the potential to be a #2 WR. Devone Bess is a good receiver but you are hurting when he is your best. Ted Ginn JR cant run a route and he is never open because of that, and when he is open he drops a lot of balls. He started to hang onto the balls last season near the end, but he still never got open. Dolphins also need a pass catching TE.

The draft will most likely go something like this.

First pick will either be a Outside LB or NT. Dan Williams, Ricky Sapp, or Serigo Kindle. The Dolphins will almost surely take one of the borderline 1st round pick LB with their 2nd round pick if one should drop to the 2nd round. I would not expect to see the Dolphins pick a receiver until the 3rd round or later, they will most likely build their defense first, the exception would be is if Dez Bryant somehow falls to the 2nd round or maybe if Tate falls to the 2nd round. The Dolphins will probably fill their TE need in free agency. Most likely targets for free agency will be Antrel Rolle, who I think the Dolphins will probably make a big push for. Karlos Dansby, the Dolphins had maybe the worst ILB crew in the NFL last season and will probably look to shore that up through free agency and not the draft. The other guy they might sign would be Tully Banta Cain. I don't think the Dolphins sign any of the restricted free agents, they would lose their first round pick if they did that.

If you could change one thing about HBD, what would it be and why?
I think scoring is too high. I would look to make changes to bring scoring to a more realistic level. We see way too many double digit scoring games.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Cats Mewlings II

Ok, I said I would do this at a later time but a big trade occurred between the Cats and Bandits. I was one surprised GM when the trade came across the wire. I had to pass this one by the Bipster, you know how owners are. I was confused by the trade for a while until I realized it was a salary dump by under-performing players. I guess some GM's might get a little antsy when high priced players are performing well below the Mendoza line in all offensive categories. Pete Duvall was moved to LF after a little confrontation between me and Bob Koplove. Pete was actually complaining that he wasn't getting enough playing time as the coaches and I were trying different approaches with the outfield and 3B in general. Then of course, Alving Infante went on one of his joke playing tirades at the same time. I told the Bipster that this trade could be a blessing in disguise.

Atlanta sent over William Bolling and Tony Burnitz with Davey Sherman as a dangling participle. It seems they wanted Pete Duvall in the worst way. I assume they wanted his power bat in RF. Davey Sherman was more or less a throw-in as his health is not very good. But one never knows and could be destined to being a very good short reliever at the ML level.

After the trade we had to drastically reconfigure the lineup. First we sent Alving Infante to AAA, good riddance! We put Bolling in LF to Koplove's diappointment, he is such a cry baby. Burnitz became our new RF to a little bit of disappointment to a couple younger players. But they soon found out they were not forgotten and were overjoyed at the situation. Boomer Robinson and Jay Hegan are going to split time at 3B. Boomer is also the backup to Kevin Kim at SS and Paul Ingram at 2B so he will be seeing a lot of action, of course Jay will see the most action 3B. Richard Gabriel will be splitting time resting the COF and maybe a little 3B thrown in. Bob Koplove may seem like the forgotten one, but we decided if he quit his disruptive ways and gets out of the dog house, he could spell Wally Harvey at 1B.

We actually had a good series in Buffalo taking two of three. Now it is home to face Monterrey and the new line for a four game series. 6-13 is not a good start to the season and our 1-7 record in 1-run games is the culprit. Normally, I can look over things and tell you the root cause of the 1-run problem, but this one actually defies normalcy so far. When you look at the team stats and see the best two hitters are your non-hitting catchers, you know something is amiss. I just think things will settle down here shortly and right itself and I think the trade will help achieve that goal.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Cats Mewlings I

This is the first installment of "The Cats Mewlings" from Las Vegas. Maybe this will generate some interest by other owners to get some perspective on their teams in the blog. If there are questions about my actions just leave them in WC and will try to answer them in the next edition, 20 games or so.

The first 10 games have been very trying and the empty bottles of Pepto is filling up the recycle bin quickly. Our opening series in Seattle was more or less a fact finding mission as the coaching staff really didn't know what to expect of the retooled offense as well as the pitching staff. As it turned out, we felt we should have won 3 games in the series. Scoring runs in Safeco is not easy and Seattle is a good team but that 1-0 loss was hard to swallow. As a coach I committed a cardinal sin in the fourth game, or at least I think it is. I started the opening day tandem, low and behold they got shelled.

Yes, I set up the pitching staff as tandems for the first 10 games but forgot to insert Louie Martin as the #1 starter for the fourth game and it cost me. Really, I didn't trust the abilities of the two rookies in the rotation to go deep into games. The intention was to have a rotation of three tandems and a #1 starter as my pen was outstanding last year. Of course that in itself is a problem because I don't really have that proverbial #1 starter. But the idea was to be able to get to the 7th inning and let the pen take over to close the game out. I think it was/is a sound idea personally. It actually worked in my opinion but not sure about the pairings. The starters did outstanding jobs but their seconds didn't hold up their end of the bargain all that well. I have abandoned the tandem rotation for the time being, it may be re-institutionalized at a later date.

The advanced standings will show you the telltale woe of the team at the moment, we really haven't been blown out of any games. However, the 1-4 record in 1-run losses says it all along with the runs scored. The retooled offense just isn't getting the job done! Is it them though or the tough early schedule that is the problem? Seattle, Boise and New York shows to be not as easy as one thinks. In Vegas, you have got to put the ball in play and run like the wind or hit it over the wall. So far none of that has happened to my and the rest of the coaches liking.

So what is up with the offense? Well putting the ball in play doesn't really seem to be the problem. 71 strike outs in 357 AB's isn't all that bad but could be better. The power offense is nowhere to be seen, 18 doubles and 7 taters is all they have to show so far with a total of 92 hits. Ok, so Seattle and Vegas isn't exactly the hitting mecca of the World but where was the offense in Boise where they only had one decent game? The stolen base department has been a problem also, not sure what to make of that.

It is still early in the season and I am not jumping into any unwarranted decisive moves as of yet. About the only thing I have done is shifted the batting order around trying to find a combination that works. Still trying to find a lead off hitter that gets on base is a top priority at the moment. Another 20 games I should be able to make a better analysis of what to do.

Meanwhile back on the farm. The Bipster and I have kept a close watch on the AAA team, especially Zeke McDonald as we think we will need him later in the season. Also the three prospect pitchers we are high on who have gone 5-0 combined in 6 total starts so far. Last years #1 pick, Benji Pena , is blazing a trail in Low A ball so far. Of course we have our eyes trained on a couple other future stars also.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A No-hitter and a Milestone

Anaheim got its first win of the season (a 1-0 win) in dramatic fashion, as reigning Cy Young Award winner Mateo Batista threw a no-hitter against Seattle and former Cy Young Award winner Miguel Benitez. Benitez gave up only one run in the eighth inning for the complete game loss, but the story was Batista, who walked 3 and struck out 3 for his first ever no-no and the 7th in the history of The Bigs (Ajax Drabek, Duffy Parnell, Perry Herman, Matty Eusebio, David Dunwoody, and Turner Darr are the others). "I was so focused on trying to win the game, as it was close the whole way, so the answer is no", said Batisita when asked if he was thinking about the no-hitter. "I was focused on making my pitches where Cesar (Trevino) called for them. But I do know it's a short, fairly exclusive list that I'm now on. It's a good feeling", continued the Anaheim ace.

As for the milestone, this update marks the blog's 500th post. The Trenton office of TBDN has stated they are planning a celebration to mark the occasion, but aren't stating exactly what they were planning on doing to celebrate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Boise S8 Wrapup / S9 Opener Press Conference

Well, the Shadow Wolves made their first ever playoff appearance last year after finishing with their best season ever at 84-78. Unfortunately it was a short lived celebration as the Monterey Sultans beat us in three straight games. It was however a learning experience for us. It was only the first playoff appearance for Boise, and we expect to see many more over the next decade. Every year we’re improving, and this year will be no different. Speedster Hal Ball and Derrek Bedard have left via free agency, as has Ralph Wilkins who was picked up by Los Angeles. Pete Rubel was expected to sign with another club in the off season, but is still undecided about where he wants to play. There is a possibility that the Shadow Wolves could make room in the rotation for him to return for another season.

The Monster made his big league debut to fanfare and fear, raking his way to the rookie of the year title. He is expected to challenge for the MVP this season. Santiago Martin had a slow year in the long bomb department, but still finished the season with a very respectable .308 average and just under a hundred RBIs. Spooneybarger, Lee, and Hammil all had twenty plus HRs, with the latter two hitting over eighty RBIs. Spooneybarger, along with Stone and Brogna all hit over seventy RBIs, with Stone adding 35 stolen bases. Victor Neruda made the jump to the big leagues last season as well, and though his bat was disappointing, his play in the field was impeccable, earning him a golden glove at 3B. Hal Ball led the team with 52 stolen bases. The Wolves made an off season deal that saw three prospects that were getting fed up with remaining in AAA being dealt to Scranton for solid 3B Jay Walker. With the addition of Walker, added to AAA players Caruso, Mendoza, Huang, and Carrasco all ready to be called up, there will likely be a trade or two coming in the near future for the Shadow Wolves.

Armando Lopez had a great season for us last year at long relief, leading the team in both ERA and WHIP. Weaver was solid in the set-up role as well. Victor Soto made the move to the bigs, and looked decent in his seven starts. Hector Manto also made a late season move to the major leagues. Dong Wang was decent at closer with 37 saves, but could still improve his game a little. The rest of the Shadow Wolves pitching was adequate, but not great. Wilkins has already been declined a new contract, and Delgado is in the final year of his current contract and needs to improve if he wants to return next season. Gandarillas and Medrano’s positions on the team are questionable after last year’s performances with Pete Rubel still available and some great pitchers coming up through the minors including Bruce Stairs, Russel Dixon, and Mandy Wall playing in AAA and looking ready to make the move onto the big league roster at any time. For the time being, we’re going to leave them in the minors for a little added experience, but shake ups aren’t out of the question down the road. We do feel we have a stronger pitching staff this year with Soto and Manto full time starters. If Stairs doesn’t make it to the show this year though, we will definitely see him next year, with Einar Crespo right on his heels.

We already feel we have one of the best lineups in the bigs. We can compete with any team at the plate. With our young pitchers gearing up to take over, we will soon have the pitching staff to match it. The Shadow Wolves got a taste of the playoffs, and we aren’t planning on going away. Ryan Hammil has handed over the reins of the team to Barry McEnroe, and the Monster is driven. He wants a WS ring on his finger, and he’s ready to lead the team to the WS. Is this the year the Shadow Wolves win their first playoff series? Can the Wolves make a deep push into the playoffs? Do they have what it takes to not only make the world series, but to win it? Watch your Boise Shadow Wolves on Wolves TV and find out.

Thank you from Wolf Industries and the Shadow Wolves management team.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Champs and 15 others Start Their Season

Highlights from the other half of the league on Opening Day, including both World Series combatants from a season ago and four other defending division champs:

National League

We'll start in Salt Lake City with the champs, where the Shakers unveiled the championship banner and received their rings, but Vancouver's rookie shortstop Jim Gibson crashed the party. Gibson drove in 3 in his major league debut as the Golden Otters beat the Shakers 6-2.

In San Juan, the Austin City Limits opened their NL South defense with a resounding win over the hometown Dead Bunnies. LF David Cortes hit three homers to drive in 4 and SS William Satou scored twice and swiped two bases to help lead a 12-2 assault.

In Atlanta, opening day provided another NL East pitchers' duel. This time Santiago Perez and the hometown Bandits hooked up with David Dunwoody and the archrival Trenton Traffic, and the two combined for 15 scoreless innings (Dunwoody went 7 stellar innings; Perez was just as good over 8). The game stayed scoreless until the 11th, when Watty Miller hit a solo shot for the Traffic to provide the only offense in a 1-0 Traffic win.

In Kansas City, highly touted starter Ozzie Acker threw a complete game shutout for the Scouts against the visiting Pittsburgh Land Sharks. 2B Albert Castro had two hits and drove in a pair.

American League

In Seattle, the American League champion Killer Whales made it 0-2 for last season's World Series participants. They dropped a 10 inning 2-1 decision to their archrivals, the Las Vegas Sand Cats. Wally Harvey had the game winning hit in the 10th, a 2-out single. Bob Koplove homered in his first game as a member of the Sand Cats.

In St. Louis, River City Rage ace Yogi Anderson pitched a 2-hit shutout over seven innings and
Frank Pritchett drove in 3 to help lead the Rage over the Cincinnati Simpletons 11-1. Placido Sanchez and Rico Guevara each drove in 2 for St. Louis.

In Monterrey, the Sultans jumped out to a 8-0 lead on the Jackson Vipers and hung on for an 8-5 win. Albert Gonzalez pitched 5 scoreless innings for the win and CF Del Lopez drove in 3 runs. Rookie 3B Steve Lofton drove in 3 for the Vipers in the loss.

And finally, in New York, Boston's Tommy Jordan led the season off with a inside-the-park homer and went 3 for 4 in a 7-4 Boston win over the Knickerbockers. Daryl Cashman went 6 innings to grab the win for the Bambinos.

News From Las Vegas

Glen Bush and Adrian Hendrickson did win jobs with the the ML club. Although Phil Satou and Placido Bravo actually performed better in Spring training. It was decided after a lengthy discussion that both would be better served pitching at AAA this year.

When the Bipster heard that B.C. Stone was on the market in Boise, he wanted to jump on a deal. It took three days of convincing him that although it might be a good move in a couple aspects, that it may not be a good move overall. Like hell yeah, we would love to have B. C. in a Sand Cats uniform! Like yes, there is no secret that we would like to move Alving Infante and Richard Gabriel, but where do we find another player or maybe two we are willing to give up? Besides that, B.C. would be hard pressed to accept a backup role or as an insurance salesman. After all that, he still wasn't convinced but caved to our way of thinking. We had to watch him and make sure he didn't try something behind our backs though, you know how owners are.

Paul Ingram was outraged with the antics of Alving Infante so far this season. Paul held his temper in check though but you could tell it affected him on the field. Simmy and Alving think he is the starter in Las Vegas, but the Coaching Staff has other ideas and maybe 30 or less games into the season both will see the light.

Strange Spring Training news in Las Vegas concerning the Long Ball. We hit 17 fan favorites in Spring Training. Out of those, only 4 were hit by the power guys. That left the Coaching Staff a bit on edge, especially Ron Carson who was scratching his ass and sucking his thumb more than usual. Pitching wise, we gave up 19, 9 of those by two veterans that know better. Buzz Sullivan was mystified at that also but thinks it could be catcher interference, as we did start two very young ones most of the time. On the bright side of things, only the aforementioned Paul Ingram laid an egg at the plate as the rest of the starters hit very well just not in sync as the run production indicated. Defensively, only Jay Hegan had problems handling the ball the most and we are not exactly sure why either. We did try some stick-um, but the ball and his hand got stuck in the glove. We even thought it could be sweaty palm syndrome, we tried rosin but when he went to throw the ball it flew into the stands behind him.

With Spring Training out of the way, the Sand Cats are thrilled to get the season under way. Our annual outing to Arch Rival Seattle is first on the agenda with an opening 4 game series. Last year we went 1-3 in the opening series and desperately seek to change that fate. Yeah, the Sand Cats may be full of surprises this year and then again might run back to Helena with our tails between our legs to find that comfy Grotto we left behind to hide in.

Season 9 Opening Day in The Bigs

Opening Day for Season 9 is upon us, and another exciting season is in the works. As usual, half the teams open in the afternoon session, and the other half will open tonight. Here's what happened in the opening session:

National League

We start in Washington D.C., where the Blue Coats hooked up in a pitcher's duel with Norfolk. Cy Young award winner Carter Leonard was spectacular, but Norfolk's Bobby Davenport matched him pitch for pitch over 7 innings. The game was won in the tenth, when Willis Biddle hit an RBI double with two outs to give Washington a 1-0 win.

In Fargo, Philadelphia's Bernard Robinson struck out 12 Dirtbags but took the loss, as Javier Henriquez pitched 6 shutout innings and Alex Lim (2-run inside-the-park homer) and Ricardo Martinez (solo shot) provided the offense in a 3-1 win.

In New Orleans, Huntington pitcher Lonny Gates gave up 4 runs in seven innings, but made up for all four with a fourth inning grand slam to chase opposite number Jerome Oliver and help fuel a 7-4 Riverdogs win.

In Salem, Los Angeles starter Enrique Gutierrez outdueled Salem ace Sammy Garrido and catcher Yeico Solano drove in three to give the Poseidons a 4-1 victory over the Salem Sacrifices.

American League

In Louisville, surprise starter Cookie Camacho pitched seven shutout innings for the Scranton Janitors and SS Dante Shumpert drove in four as the Janitors thumped the Legends 10-1.

In Boise, Anaheim Chiles Cy Young award winner Mateo Batista was outdueled by Shadow Wolves starter Hector Manto and Barry McEnroe finished a triple short of the cycle as Boise won 3-0.

In Milwaukee, Buffalo Blue Cheese starter Miguel Hernandez threw a complete game, giving up only one run and 1B Sammy Lee drov in a pair to help pace Buffalo to a 5-1 win over Barry Rader and the Manic Maulers.

In Charlotte, Mel Messner and Tony Stieb each drove in a pair of runs and the bullpen pitched 7 1/3 innings, yielding only one run, to lead the Lions to victory over the visiting Montgomery Alibamu.

Doors to the Hall Remain Closed

Our first ever Hall of Fame voting session is over and the result is: no one was voted in.

Scot Hutton: 3
Eli Jacquez: 1
Mike Henderson: 0
Paxton Coleridge: 0

This was not much of a surprise, as most of the voters expressed a lack of excitement over this first class of candidates even before voting started. I don't think anyone expected any one of these four candidates to make it on the first ballot, and I doubt any of these four will ever make it- I don't see any of them "picking up steam". Next season should make for an interesting vote, as there are now a lot more eligible players, some of whom could be considered borderline candidates.

Season 9 AL West Preview

Our last stop on The Bigs Magical Mystery Tour lands us out west in the home of the 2-time AL champion Seattle Killer Whales, who again fell short in the World Series. Helena (now back in Las Vegas as the Sand Cats) and the Boise Shadow Wolves both made the playoffs in perhaps the best division in baseball (the NL East denizens might take issue with that statement). Can Seattle win the division again and go back to the series? Does Las Vegas still have enough to make another playoff run? Is Boise on the way up? Can the Anaheim Chiles make some elbow room playing with the big boys?


Seattle (last season- 1st in AL) has a nice core of hitters with veterans 1B Osvaldo Johnson, 3B Denny Moss, and C/DH Kris Olson and young stars LF Jacque Puffer and 2B Jack Hunt; these five should have the Killer Whales among the leaders again. They are still waiting for RF Candy Kreuter to reach his potential, and it remains to be seen how much losing RF Pete Duvall to division rival Las Vegas will hurt.

Boise (last season- 5th in AL) should have a solid lineup. LF Barry McEnroe is entering his second season already known as one of the most feared hitters in the league, but he's got help in C Hiram Spooneybarger, DH Santiago Martin, 1B Michael Lee, and SS Ryan Hamill. With Hal Ball gone, IF B.C. Stone will likely be counted on to provide the speed in the lineup. They picked up 3B Jay Walker, which should add even mor depth.

Las Vegas (last season- 11th in AL) made some bold moves to try and upgrade the offense. They had only two consistent run producers in 1B Wally Harvey and 2B Jeremy Glover and Glover left for Fargo in free-agency. So they signed RF Pete Duvall from Seattle and dealt for struggling LF Bob Koplove to provide some power. SS Kevin Kim will be responsible for getting on base ahead of these guys.

Anaheim (last season- 12th in AL) does boast some dangerous hitters. 3B James Dixon, LF Pedro Candelaria, and 2B Bob Stewart are all quality run producers, although Candelaria saw a precipitous drop in his average. Chiles fans are hoping for big seasons from those three- if that happens and they get production from young hitters like RF Dweezil Milligan, SS Vic Mercado, and CF Kyle Ramirez, this could be a dangerous lineup.


Anaheim (last season- 5th in AL) has at least the top of the rotation figured out. Ace Mateo Batista (17-4, 2.43) finally put everything together and won himself a deserved Cy Young award. He'll be backed by young starters Peaches Thompson and Gaylord Matheson (both all-name candidates) and veterans Zephyr Palmer (can we just declare Anaheim the winner of the best names contest?) and free-agent signee Steve Clay. L.J. Jordan was up and down as the closer.

Seattle (last season- 6th in AL) has a deep, solid staff. Marty Lane won 20 and Kane Grahe won 18, although their ERAs were over a run higher than Batista's. Junior Bennett had a nice season and former Cy Young winner Miguel Benitez can still provide innings, although he's not even close to what he once was. But the best of the staff maybe young starter Slash Ruffin. The bullpen still has ace closer Quilvio Sanchez at the end (hard to believe he's only 25- seems like he's been in the league forever), but there could be some question marks leading up to him.

Las Vegas (last season- 2nd in AL) has solid veteran leadership. York Burnett, Coco Hines, and Louie Martin will lead the staff- none are stars, but all are solid. Rookie Adrian Henderson is likely to get a shot at a starting spot. Dave Stewart, last season's closer, went to Cincinnati as a free-agent.

Boise (last season- 15th in AL) disproved the theory that you need pitching to make the playoffs. They will turn the rotation over to 1st and 2nd year players like Pedro Limon, Hector Manto, and Victor Soto. The decidedly average Mitch Foster and the awful Pedro Medrano round out the rotation. Don Wang was inconsistent as the closer; Jaime Weaver and Armando Lopez were solid in the setup roles- they'll be helped by veteran lefty Alex Cornejo. They won't be much better than last season.


1. Seattle should have enough to repeat.
2. Las Vegas and Boise both have holes, but so do all the other wild-card contenders. They'll be in the mix. I'll take Boise for second.
3. Have to think whoever takes second should get in the playoffs.
4. Don't count Anaheim out completely. If their offense comes around they could be in the mix.

Season 9 AL South Preview

Last season was an interesting one in the AL South, as the ascension of the Jackson Vipers into the league's elite came to a crashing halt; the Season 7 division champs fell back to .500 and watched a resurgent Monterrey Sultans team win 98 games. Oklahoma City (which will be playing this season as the Montgomery Alibamu) also slid back out of the playoffs. Can one of those two make a move past Monterrey? And what of the struggling Charlotte Lions?


Monterrey (last season- 7th in AL) made by far the biggest move in the offseason by grabbing perennial MVP candidate LF Sean Simpson from Chicago. This will upgrade an offense that ranked in the middle of the pack last season. Simpson will join C Vin Logan, CF Del Lopez, and 2B Nate Cox to form a formidable middle of the order. They'll be even more dangerous if RF Trot Turner could get on base more and if DH Tony Escuela comes back from an off year offensively.

Montgomery (last season- 6th in AL) return a core of young stars. 25-year-old CF Thurman Allen and 26-year-old 1B Brant Belle lead the way for this offense. LF Vladimir Rodriguez and 2B Bartolo Barcelo will be counted on to lengthen the lineup. Nobody hit more than 25 homers but they had 5 guys steal over 20 bases. It will be interesting to see what 3B Matty Clemens can provide in his first full season.

Jackson (last season- 8th in AL) also has talented young hitters. 1B Kevin Nakano (.304-31-105) had a breakout season and he'll have CF Raul Vallarta, LF Dennis Tamura, 2B Tony Johnson, and veteran C Chan Suh around him. Jackson brass is high enough on rookie 3B Steve Lofton that they felt they were able to trade Brook Teut to Trenton.

Charlotte (last season- 14th in AL) needs depth. C Tony Stieb is still a very dangerous all-around hitter, but he and DH Mel Messner were the only consistent RBI threats. For that reason, the Lions signed 1B Andre Eckenstahler to see how much he has left. LF Luis Melo is a solid table setter.


Monterrey (last season- 3rd in AL) has no standout starter but has excellent depth in the rotation. Albert Gonzalez, Patrick Clifton, Jocko Keats, Luther Brush, and Johnnie Reagan are all solid starters and all will return to Monterrey this season. Pablo Rijo had a solid season as the closer and Tony Merced will be the main setup man. It remains to be seen if they will miss Dennys Fox out of the bullpen.

Jackson (last season- 9th in AL) doesn't have the depth Monterrey has, but they do have some young talent. Fausto Almanza and Alex Samuel seemed to have finally figured things out last season. Ivan Webster and Jimmy Cole are the other main starters; they struggled last season. Garry Wright is one of the top closers in the game and Vic Molina is a solid setup option.

Montgomery (last season- 14th in AL) has major question marks in their rotation. Sadie Witt won 16 games but had an ERA of 4.11- he's the opening day starter. He'll be followed by the inconsistent Wayne Wilson and the unknown commodity rookie Bo Langerhans. On the plus side, J.D. Wilkinson didn't have quite the season he had last season (would have been tough to duplicate 38 for 38 with a 1.84 ERA), but going 37 for 41 with a 2.51 should prove he's not a one-year wonder. Trevor Watson and Leonardo Lloyd will be counted on to set Wilkinson up.

Charlotte (last season- last in AL) will try to get it done with retreads this season. Felix Comer (10-11, 3.83) did about as well as could be expected with this team last season- he'll lead the rotation again. After him, the options are highly questionable. Alfredo Veras had an ERA of 7.22, Kenneth Stafford had an ERA of 8.60, and free-agent signee Jerry Terry struggled in Scranton last season. Dante Buckley struggled to close games last season and may not win the closer's job back.


1. I like Monterrey to repeat. The Simpson trade was huge.
2. Jackson should be in contention this season, as their offense should rebound a little.
3. Montgomery is solid, but not playoff-worthy.
4. Charlotte is still in rebuilding mode.
5. Look for teams to ask Charlotte about Tony Stieb near the trade deadline.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Season 9 AL North Preview

We quickly approach Opening Day and still 3 divisions remain. St. Louis was the undisputed king of this division last season, winning 110 games (and winning the division by a staggering 46 game margin), but their postseason performance likely has River City Rage fans deeming last season a disappointment. Can they claim a third straight division crown and rebound in the playoffs? Or will the rebuilding of the once-great Milwaukee Manic Maulers, the relocated Cincinnati Simpletons, or the playoff-starved Buffalo Blue Cheese come to fruition this season?


St. Louis (last season- 2nd in AL) doesn't have a big home run threat in the middle of the lineup, but they have plenty of good hitters who get on base. 1B Nick Hernandez may be the best leadoff man in baseball; he and LF Placido Sanchez are atypical corner position players but their strengths are getting on base and scoring runs, which are good strengths to have. C Pep Woo led the team with 24 homers and 104 RBI; CF Gary Nelson and 2B Rico Guevara are also good major league hitters. Scouts around the league are saying this may be DH Rex Kent's season to break into the category of big-time run producer.

Milwaukee (last season- 9th in AL) is undergoing a facelift on offense. Long known as a power-hitting team, they seem to be trying to load up on speed for this incarnation of the team. Gone are the familiar names- Stevenson, Martinez, Eckenstahler, and Cox- they left via trade or free-agency, as did second leading run prodcuer from a season ago Benji Barcelo . RF Harold Lewis is the holdover from the salad days of the franchise, and he's still a bonafide run producer- he and 1B Julio Silvia will be counted on to provide the thump in the lineup. But the talented young players- 2B Lorenzo Santana, IF Bobby Ferguson, and CF Tony Delgado- lack power but have a lot of speed.

Buffalo (last season- 13th in AL) has some talent in the middle of the order but needs help at the top and with its depth. 1B Julio Diaz is always a threat to go deep, and Buffalo added highly touted rookie RF A.J. Leonard, who put up eye-popping numbers in the minors which didn't quite translate to the majors. Although it's hard to label any rookie season that includes 31 homers and 101 RBI a failure, Buffalo hopes he can improve on his .230 average. These two need guys like IFs Alex Saenz and Tito Martin to get on base more consistently and give them more RBI opportunities.

Cincinnati (last season- 15th in AL) has some holes to fill. They have some talent in RF P.T. Lee, C Willis Petrov, and 1B/DH Peter Sosa, but the only player to steal a base for them last season, Miguel Baez, has gone to Philadelphia. The top of the lineup is a huge question mark, as is the depth after these three.


St. Louis (last season- 1st in AL) has the talent and depth to stay in any game. Young ace Yogi Anderson went to his second All-Star game in 3 seasons, and he'll have veteran arms such as 19-game winner Billy Nation, Antonio Perez, and a resurgent Russell Newson behind him. The inhuman run of Carlos Carrasco came to an end last season, as he posted a 4.30 ERA despite a 1.09 WHIP by giving up too many extra-base hits, but Lloyd Freel, Tino Okajima, and Vic Macias were all outstanding- all four will be back.

Syracuse (last season- 8th in AL) has a decent rotation but issues in the bullpen. They have a nice mix in the starting rotation, with veterans Stephen Michaels, Louie Bolivar, and Tony Rowan and young guns Lonny Hernandez and Andres DeLeon, who still can't have a beer with the team after the game. The bullpen was addressed somewhat in the offseason, with the signings of veteran arms Dave Stewart, Achilles Hume, and Clay Bell- one of those three is likely to win the closer's job.

Milwaukee (last season- 11th in AL) still has a veteran presence on this side of the ball, but they struggled collectively last season. Veterans Alex Calvo, James Morton, and Joe Gleason remain-Woody Hiller left for Trenton in free-agency. They picked up starter Barry Rader as the main component in the Luis Martinez/Burt Stevenson deal- he's a promising young lefty who will start this season in the rotation. They have Paul Saarloos and King Burns as the two best arms in the bullpen, one of which will likely close.

Buffalo (last season- 12th in AL) had three starters all go through the sophomore seasons with varying success. D'Angelo Martin (11-13, 3.78) had a solid season, Miguel Hernandez (8-14, 4.78) struggled a bit, and George Hurst (7-18, 5.24) was awful. Veteran Billy Spencer (2-19, 5.71) was worse- he may get dropped to the pen this season. The bullpen is as much of a question mark, with the highly flammable Archie LeCroy (6.56 ERA) as the closer and swingman Steve Clay gone to Anaheim.


1. St. Louis should win in another landslide, as in Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont Stakes or Reagan vs. Mondale in 1984.
2. I'd have to see Cincinnati's final roster before picking second- if they fill some holes, they're good enough for second place in this division. We're not talking anywhere near a playoff spot, however.
3. Milwaukee is good enough for third, but they may decide to deal some of their veterans, such as Lewis, Calvo, and Morton for prospects to rebuild the franchise.
4. Buffalo misses the playoffs for a ninth straight season.

Season 9 AL East Preview

With Houston losing the AL South to Austin, Louisville now stands alone as the only 8-time division champion. They took the division by ten games last season. Can they make it 9? Can Boston avoid the late season collapse this time and overtake them? Can Scranton or New York contend this season?


Louisville (last season- 4th in AL) has talent up and down the lineup. LF Albert Martin and 30-30 3B Amp Palmer both drove in 100, and the always consistent C Ernest Montgomery came close. 1B Ismael Polanco and 3B Orlando Franco are good bats and they will add IF Miguel Cerveza and CF Dewey Greenwood to the mix this season.

Boston (last season- 3rd in AL) got big seasons from RF Ryan Snyder (.328-33-128) and 1B Wilton Petrick (.282-28-126) in the middle of the order, but the lineup is deeper than that: 2B Tommy Jordan, SS Daniel Koch, DH Ricky Beech, and C Rick Anderson all drove in over 80 runs. RF Brian Saitou was a disappointment.

Scranton (last season- 10th in AL) need help for superstar CF Turner Dolan. LF Chief Pearson led the team in RBI with 94, but they will lose 3B Jay Walker (traded to Boise). There is a big talent dropoff after that, as guys like 2B Ricky Martin, 1B Jackie Howard, and SS Dante Shumpert haven't proven they can hit big-league pitching consistently and RF Randall Fisher had an off year last season.

New York (last season- last in AL) will struggle mightily for runs again. They have DH Karl Benes, but they will be relying on second year players 3B Marcus Goldman, 1B Mule Mulholland, LF Mark Friedrich, and rookie CF Albert Dale. All are nice players, but they all have limited ceilings and have yet to prove themselves.


Louisville (last season- 7th in AL) got it done with their offense, but they have solid starting depth as well. Hipolito Maradona and Danny Little both had good seasons, helping to make up for the fact that Albert Herzog had a second straight bad season. Claude Jacquez provided solid depth at the 4 spot. Buddy Titan (30 saves, 3.51 ERA) was pretty good- he may end up setting up Jamey Dwyer this season.

New York (last season- 4th in AL) should expect a drop-off this season. Vin Espinosa and Benito Madura both had solid rookie seasons, but I expect the league to catch up with them this season along with innings-eater Marv Starr. Getting Dixie Reynolds from Washington should help, but not all that much. On the upside, Jason Franco had a great year as the closer.

Boston (last season- 10th in AL) just couldn't get enough pitching to take a playoff spot. Daryl Cashman will keep them in just about any game he is in, but he needs help. Victor Sierra was a nice find, and B.C. Santiago and Christy Castillo provided decent innings. Dan Daley had a nice season as the closer (20 of 24, 2.43 ERA) after coming over from Houston.

Scranton (last season- 13th in AL) has little depth to work with. Journeyman Jesus Estrada had maybe his best season (17-9, 3.65 ERA) at age 34- it's hard to believe he can duplicate that. Former highly touted prospect Michael Giambi finally started more than 30 games and the result was not pretty (11-17, 4.78). Jerry Terry (now with Charlotte) and Steve Elster were both awful. They brought in veteran arm Dennys Fox to try and provide some innings. The bullpen is in flux- expect either young Eugene Ward or erratic veteran Jose Torrealba to get the closer's role.


1. I'd say Louisville is the odds-on favorite to win as the rosters currently stand.
2. Boston should be fairly close and could really give Louisville a good run with a trade or two.
3. I think Scranton and New York should be close for third, miles behind the other two. I'll take Scranton- normally I will pick the team with pitching, but I think New York made the top 4 with smoke and mirrors last season.
4. I would nominate Chief Pearson to be the most likely veteran to be dealt.
5. Not exactly touting him as a ROY lock, but Albert Dale should be a solid contributor as a rookie.

Season 9 NL West Preview

This is the division housing the World Champions. Last season, Salt Lake City dethroned 2-time champion Atlanta to win its first World Series. Can they repeat? Will they get competition from the rest of the division in L.A., Vancouver, and Salem?


Salt Lake City (last season- 1st in NL) had a dominant offense last season and there is no reason to expect any drop-off. OF George Lowe (128 runs, 36 steals, .319 avg.) and OF Vic James (.348-21-106) both got MVP consideration, and somehow 1B Ruben Hernandez (.301-44-171) didn't. In addition, they will return IFs Che Bong and Carlos Batista, who both scored 100 runs and Jordan Newfield, who drove in over 100. This lineup is downright scary.

Los Angeles (last season- 8th in NL) is going to be counting on its veterans quite a bit. With the departure of 3B Wendell Durrington to division rival Vancouver, veterans LF Placido Tejada and 2B Lynn Abernathy are the only returning power threats. They signed 33-year-old IF William Nomo and 32-year-old CF Dewayne Castillo in the offseason. On the down side, RF Steve Sweeney and 1B Rick Forster had disappointing seasons after both had a big Season 7 and IF Bud Klein is a $12.5 million albatross. They could sure use a good season out of any of those three.

Salem (last season- 12th in NL) could struggle to score runs regularly. IF Reggie Ducati is probably the best all-around hitter and RF Melvin Taylor is solid as well. But the league seemed to catch up with slugger LF Juan Valdes (.258-24-93 following his rookie season of .301-40-112) and he needs to cut down on the strikeouts. CF Albert Duran provided stolen bases but needs to get on base more. They do have a pair of rookies who scouts seem to like in SS Danny Wilson and 2B Albert Nunez (Rule 5 pickup). They also picked up veteran IF Greg Burkhart from Fargo, but I wouldn't count on him for much production.

Vancouver (last season- 15th in NL) knew they needed to get help for their big two hitters. C Clarence Hartman and LF Donte Webb were the only two consistent threats in the lineup last season, so they went out and got 3B Wendell Durrington from L.A. and picked up IF Jim Gibson in the Rule 5 draft- both should help the offense. Rookie outfielders Roscoe Rigby and Jerry Powell should provide depth. Last season was a terrible one for RF Vin Foulke (.236-8-42).


Los Angeles (last season- 9th in NL) has a strong bullpen but question marks in the rotation. They had 5 pitchers win at least 10 games, but 2 (Christopher Siddall and Kenneth Schalk) did so out of the bullpen and 11-game winner Earl Biddle is pitching in San Juan this season. So that leaves Buzz Linden and Mark Bong to at least duplicate what they did last season, and Enrique Gutierrez (9-16, 5.92) needs to be much better. The bullpen is in much better shape, with the aforementioned Siddall and Schalk setting up a good closer in Paul Schwartz.

Salt Lake City (last season- 11th in NL) blurs the line between starter and reliever- 8 pitchers pitched over 100 innings but no one reached the 200 plateau. Therefore, there is less importance on the starters. At any rate, they'll trot out Alex Sanchez, Rob Cepeda, and Gary Jackson in all probability as starters, and the relievers like Happy Taft, Albert Valdez, Shawn Jacobsen, and Cliff Miller are likely to grab the bulk of the decisions. Closer Felipe Calles was subpar last season.

Salem (last season- 15th in NL) used 20 pitchers last season. The best of the 20 was 23-year-old ace Sammy Garrido (15-11, 2.59). He'll be followed by solid starters Benji Stewart, Nick Davis, and Tito Mercedes. The bullpen is a mess, as Arthur Gates, Wally Sanders, and Jamey Dwyer all tried to close and failed- Dwyer is now in Louisville. Trent Bollea was signed by Seattle and will be given a shot to nail down the role.

Vancouver (last season- 13th in NL) was not helped by its offense or bullpen, as evidenced by the stats of some of their starters. The Golden Otters had some starters have good ERAs but fail to get wins, like Osvaldo Astacio (10-10, 2.83), Glenallen Wehner (11-14, 3.87), and Jose Merced (4-16, 3.93). Ted Reese blew 8 saves and had an ERA of 5.94, which didn't help. They signed Wesley Cora and Quinton Hughes, both of whom were with Trenton last season, to help out the bullpen.


1. Salt Lake City should easily take the division again.
2. I like L.A.'s veterans to carry them to a second place finish again.
3. I think Salem's pitching should enable them to take third.
4. Salt Lake City gets the only playoff bid.
5. Look for the two Rule 5 guys (Nunez and Gibson) to be big contributors.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Season 9 NL South Preview

Last season saw the dethroning of a champion, as Austin came seemingly from out of nowhere to win 102 games and knock off Houston for the first time ever. Houston won 90 games but couldn't nail down a playoff berth. Can the Riverdogs, now playing in Huntington, reverse the standings and retake the division from the City Limits? What about the New Orleans Voodoo and the San Juan Dead Bunnies?


Austin (last season- 2nd in NL) was defined by its balance on offense, and that should continue this season. 2B Julio Rosa and RF Ken Keagle both had breakout years, joining 1B Jimmie Williams as 100+ RBI producers. The table is set by all-time stolen base champ SS William Satou, who scored 124 times. They're adding former Norfolk 3B Justin Gordon to the middle of the lineup to add even more depth.

Huntington (last season- 6th in NL) has a nice mix on offense. MVP 3B Monte Duvall and C Cy Hughes are the big run producers, but they also have table setters in LF Bret King and RF Abdullah Dillon. They'll add former Cheyenne (now L.A.) 2B Willie Scott to the lineup and are looking for big things from OF Butch Russell.

New Orleans (last season- 4th in NL) finished in the top quarter in the league in spite of a few key pieces having disappointing seasons. As long as they have 2B Ray Cepicky and 1B Matty Matos, they will always have a dangerous middle of the order. Even though Cepicky and Matos both drove in 100, one could argue the team MVP last season was really LF Bryan Christiansen, who hit 28 HRs, stole 56 bases, and scored 117 runs. On the down side, IF Carlton MacDougal only had 14 home runs, SS Alex Suh had an OBP under .300, and OF Gregg Black had by far the worst season of his great career, failing to even hit 10 home runs- he may be done.

San Juan (last season- 7th in NL) didn't fall off the map offensively even after dealing their franchise player last season. Calvin Chang may be gone, but 2B Derrin Hernandez, CF John Baldwin, 1B Hipolito Gonzalez, and RF Tony Gonzalez formed a nice middle of the order, even if they tend to strike out a bit too much. If 3B Tony Kwon hits like he did in Vancouver and LF Shane Fletcher realizes his potential, this could be a dangerous lineup.


Austin (last season- 2nd in NL) took a giant leap forward in this category last season. A big reason for the jump was Carlton Fleming, who was excellent in his first season in Austin (15-4, 3.23). He helped solidify a young, unproven staff (Louis Feliz, Delino Colon, Miguel Castilla, Vladimir Bibby- all 25 and under). Matt Skinner was acquired last season from the Riverdogs to close, and he'll be joined by former closer Eduardo Moya and former starter Manny Christians to form the back of the bullpen.

Huntington (last season- 7th in NL) has a solid front four in the rotation but could struggle after that. Lonny Gates (16-7, 3.27) is a borderline ace and he'll have Perry Herman, Ivan Castilla, and Juan Cabrera behind him. After that there are question marks, especially in the bullpen. The loss of Skinner opened the way for Cristian Price, who struggled mightily as the closer. Sal Cole is a solid setup guy, but after that there are more question marks.

New Orleans (last season- 14th in NL) lacks the depth of Austin and Huntington. Veteran Jerome Oliver has been a good starter for years and Kevin Pong had a breakout season, but there's little behind him. Stu McLaughlin was OK and Rich Gibson was dropped from the rotation after posting an ERA near 6. They signed former Shakers starter Rene Alexander and traded for Pittsburgh starter Mateo Guerrero to add some depth. In the bullpen, Tom Hernandez's Wild Ride continues, as he saved 35 of 40 games but had an ERA over 5. Setup man Vance D'Amico took a big step back last season.

San Juan (last season- last in NL) is very similar to New Orleans. Hipolito Pujols (13-9, 3.11) is not an ace, but he's good and the best they have. Bert Pierre finally flashed his potential, going 10-5. J.C. Green is a decent back of the rotation guy. The bullpen is a big question mark, as Jim Clyburn has yet to prove that he can handle the closer's role and setup man Mel Salmon pitched more than some of the starters.


1. I like Austin again- too much depth.

2. Huntington should be in the playoff mix if they don't sell off some of their players.

3. New Orleans and San Juan will race for third, far behind Austin and Huntington.

4. Look for a breakout year from Austin LF David Cortez.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Season 9 NL North Preview

It's hard to argue against the NL North being the worst division in baseball last season. The division titlist, Philadelphia, only won 79 games and didn't win a playoff game. Can they repeat? Can Fargo return to its usual place atop the standings? Can rebuilding Kansas City or Pittsburgh reemerge?


Fargo (last season- 9th in NL) will sport a far different lineup than last season. Fargo management felt OF Ricardo Martinez and RF David Rushford needed some help, so they re-signed LF Alex Lim, then went out and got prized free-agents 3B Calvin Chang (Trenton) and 2B Jeremy Glover (Las Vegas). Gone is the disappointing William Bolling (traded to Atlanta). Their lineup should return to the top half of the league again.

Philadelphia (last season- 11th in NL) could use some help in the lineup. 1B Yuniesky Batista is the only home run threat, and outside of LF Manuel Bautista and IF Doc Bowen, there is little else. Sophomore 2B Brian Sweeney needs to improve to keep Philly in contention offensively.

Pittsburgh (last season- last in NL) has already traded its best hitter by far. CF Neifi McBride and LF Bernie Soriano return, but nearly perennial MVP candidate Sean Simpson (.335-33-96) has been shipped to Monterrey. It's time for 2B Evan Smith to step up.

Kansas City (last season- 13th in NL) will struggle again. Only 1B Fernando Ibanez topped 20 homers, and veterans like LF Kevin Yamakazi, 3B Orlando Diaz, and 2B Alberto Castro are being paid handsomely for little production.


Fargo (last season- 4th in NL) returns the normal cast of characters, like perennial Cy Young candidate Javier Henriquez, Orber Marin, and Sammy Pierce in the rotation. Joining them will be free-agent signing York Watson (Trenton). They lose Manny Christians (free agent- Austin), however. The bullpen is anchored by Bert Price, and Chris Jennings and Kevin Li form one of the best and one of the highest paid setup crews.

Philadelphia (last season- 8th in NL) finally saw what a deeper rotation can do. Stalwart Bernard Robinson finally got some help in the form of Albert Herzog (14-10, 2.85) and although Harry Lee and Turner Darr both finished under .500, they provided innings. The bullpen is a little thin, although Kid Johnstone had a very good season.

Pittsburgh (last season- 3rd in NL) has traded its best starter (Kenneth Graves) and its best reliever (Graham Rivera) this offseason. Returning are average to above average veterans like Orber Halter and an aging Babe Broadhurst. Expect former Syracuse closer Jared McMahon to get first shot at the closer role in Rivera's absence.

Kansas City (last season- 12th in NL) has some pitching talent. Scouts are high on Ozzie Acker, who had a nice rookie season last year, but Rob Cather may have a bigger upside. Those two will join veterans Willis Casey and Jeremi Gant to form a decent rotation. The bullpen could use some work, as close Mark Ott disappointed last season. Heath Rollins was good in his setup role.


1. Fargo should climb back to the top of this division.
2. I like Philadelphia for second.
3. I think Kansas City's pitching can hold on for third.
4. Philadelphia could be a popular team for other GMs to call at the deadline if they fall out of the race- veteran pitching is highly valuable.

Season 9 NL East Preview

It's time for another season here in The Bigs, and spring training time means season previews. Let's start where we always start, the NL East. Three teams made the playoffs last season, with Washington making a surprise run to the NLCS. So who takes down the title in the hotly competitive NL East this season?

For all previews, offensive rankings refer to runs scored. Pitching rankings refer to ERA.


Washington (last season- 3rd in NL) had its pitching get most of the ink last season, but its offense in the top quarter of the league last season. 2B Willis Biddle (.289-23-108) had a breakout season, and the midseason acquisitions of CF Luis Martinez and LF Burt Stevenson added to the middle of the lineup. IF Vince Salazar (98 runs, 55 steals) had a nice season setting up for the middle of the order.

Trenton (last season- 5th in NL) is hoping to maintain last season's output. They lose MVP candidate 3B/RF Calvin Chang to free-agency, but they return OF Magglio Perez, 2B Cap Herrera, and CF Watty Miller, all of whom drove in 90 runs or more. They hope a full season of leadoff man LF Rico Valdes and SS Ignacio Diaz (.273-21-71 with Norfolk) lengthen the lineup. A return to form from 3B Enrique Park would help greatly.

Atlanta (last season- 10th in NL) has some good table setters but felt it could improve the middle of the order. Last season they got 86 steals out of the trio of 2B Jason Walker, 3B Albie Torres, and CF Paul Turnbow, but LF Trever Russell was the only player to drive in more than 70 runs. As a result, they dealt for former Fargo slugger William Bolling, whom Atlanta fans are hoping can regain the form he had back in seasons 2-4. Losing 1B Stan Starr to a catastrophic ACL tear hurt-how much he can provide is questionable.

Norfolk (last season- 14th in NL) fans might need a scorecard to recognize the starting lineup. Gone are veterans SS Ignacio Diaz (traded to Trenton) and 3B Justin Gordon (left via free-agency). 1B Al Cruz is the only returning Destroyer currently on the ML roster to have driven in more than 50 runs last season. Expect rookies CF Dave Hodges and IF Joey Hartman as well as sophomores Cruz and 3B Kenneth Perkins to be forced to carry most of the load.


Atlanta (last season- 1st in NL) has depth in the rotation and the bullpen. Fred Carter was a Cy Young candidate, and young starters Santiago Perez, Stone Curtis, and Kazuhiro Whang are all very good. Tex Howell was very good as closer, and they get former Chicago closer Graham Rivera to set up. He'll join Emmanuel Nunez, who won 11 games in relief last season.

Trenton (last season-5th in NL) needs its output to catch up to its talent. David Dunwoody almost won another Cy Young, but Dwight Salmon and Damion Mays are both too talented to pitch to below .500 records on a 90 win team. Jason Sprague had a good season, and this season they'll be joined by Woody Hiller to form a very deep rotation. Trenton will go back to Bernie Corino as the closer after Quinton Hughes departed in free-agency. The signing of Hiller sends Will Piper to the bullpen as a setup guy- he could be a question mark. Pablo Rojas and the underrated Karl Coleman both had solid seasons.

Washington (last season- 6th in NL) doesn't quite have the depth in the rotation as Atlanta and Trenton, but only they can boast a 23-year-old who has already won a Cy Young award. Carter Leonard was a big part of the reason they won 95 games, and he'll try to build on his ROY/Cy Young season from a year ago. He'll be joined by fellow young lefty John Balfour, who pitched well despite only winning 7 games. Veteran Graham Costello will likely occupy the third spot, while tall young righty Alex Javier should take spot #4. Alex Javier may be the best closer in the game, while Mark Hogan and Ozzie Ishida were both solid out of the pen.

Norfolk (last season- 10th in NL) has a decent rotation, but can't keep up with the big boys. Bobby Davenport had a 12-12 record but a 2.63 ERA, which is about as good as one can pitch on a last-place team. He'll be joined by veterans Rod Walters, Malcolm Lawrence, and Ariel Lee. Del Aquino is a solid closer, and Nick Sierra is a good setup man.


1. Going to take Washington to take this division.
2. Atlanta and Trenton should be close and should be in wild-card contention.
3. If either the Bandits or Traffic falls out of contention, it could get interesting. Both teams have plenty of veterans with trade value.
4. Norfolk will finish far in last place. The success/failure of their season will be determined by the development of their young players and prospects.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sand Cats Revamps Lineup Also

After last years miracle season, management didn't have much choice but to revamp the lineup in an attempt to keep the rest of the division at bay and compete with Seattle. Yes, the West could be the toughest division in the AL this year. The Sand Cats were busy in the off season as you would imagine. The double snub from Jeremy Glover was a total disappointment but he seems happy with the extra $9M he got in FA. The Sand Cats organization wishes him well playing 2B (definitely not GG material at that position) in Fargo. Thinking like Fargo in FA, the Cats went with a similar economical approach without the risk. Meanwhile back at the horse ranch, the coaching staff has been pouring over the data and came to this setup early in the season.

Wally Harvey is excited about the 1B assignment this year. Pete Duvall quickly snapped up the Cats offer to be the new RF and adds the missing power in the lineup for a cheap 4 year deal. Willie Sierra also quickly snapped up the Cats offer to become the DH. The Cats did a lot of research before offering him a cheap 2 year deal and should easily out perform last years DH. The Bob Koplove deal that sent Jimmie James to Trenton was debated by management for a long while, but decided he could fill the hole created by the departure of Glover. Kevin Kim will be sharing duties at SS and CF, he doesn't like the idea as he wants to play one or the other and he may get his wish. As it stands for now, Will Weston will play CF against lefties only and Boomer Robinson is scheduled to play SS against righties. But things could change in this aspect pretty quickly. Jay Hegan is penciled in to be the starting 3B but Richard Gabriel could push him for the job. Paul Ingram will be the starting 2B. While Alving Infante plays the handyman. Patsy Hegan and Preston Weathers will share duties behind the plate for another season.

Players that could have an impact this season as to management decisions at fielding positions are:

Johnny Guerrero, Zeke McDonald, Dave Cosby, Edwin Corey and Oscar Phillips.

Coaches all think they need another year to hone their skills but one never knows and could be called upon at any time.

The Pitching front is up in the air a bit as management couldn't find a starter they really liked in FA. We do however return a fully stacked long reliever pen.

Chances are that Adrian Hendrickson will be the opening day starter and the only sure lock at a starting rotation job.
Glen Bush has a very good chance to be in the starting rotation provided spring training restores his late season injury. Walter "Red Herring" Ewing may not have a shot at the starting rotation but may make the pen along with Benny Walters. Coaches have decided that Phil Satou will remain in the minors another year to hopefully hone his pitching skills further. All five will host the spring training starting rotation and will either win or lose a job at the end. All five have had distinguished minor league careers and can't be discounted just because their ratings don't look Major League.

Long Relievers/Starters:
Wilfredo Redondo
Octavio Calles
Randy Stull
Bob Delaney
Anthony Hall
York Burnett
Louie Martin
Vic Chavez
Geronimo Bennett

With the departure of Dave Stewart to Cincinnati in FA, Coco Hines will take over as the closer. We hope the off season rest and rehab has healed his arm as it still appeared weak in the playoffs.

The Coaching Staff:
Ron Carson returns for his 6th year as the hitting coach.
Dewey Burroughs was hijacked from AA Vancouver to be the 1B coach.
Javier Franco returns for his 2nd season but as the 3B coach.
Harry Lopez returns for his 6th season and 3rd as the pitching coach.
Buzz Sullivan was promoted from AAA to be the Bull Pen coach, after a heated hostile takeover attempt. This will be his 8th season with the organization.
Art Bishop returns for a 2nd season as the Bench coach even though I don't like paying this position for vets.
King Kozlowski returns for his 3rd season as Fielding Instructor.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dirtbags spending spree revamps lineup

Chang and Glover join Fargo as Lim re-signs

The Fargo Dirtbags experienced quite the fall from grace last season. Just three seasons removed from a World Series title, the Dirtbags finished six games under .500 and out of the playoffs for the first time since season 1 despite a $96 million player payroll.

The main reason? Their offense was putrid. Knowing that the offense had to be overhauled, Fargo traded long-time Dirtbags William Bolling and Stan Peterson to New York for the expiring contracts of Orel MacFarlane and Dewayne Castillo late in the season in an effort to clear cap space for season 9. And during the free agency period they also dealt long-time 2B Greg Burkhart to Salem to give them even more cap space. It was cap space they would use to make quite the splash in the free agent pool.

Fargo's top priority was to re-sign star LF Alex Lim, while Lim's top priority was getting paid. Lim told Fargo management last season that he was going to test the free agent market and get as much money as he could, feeling that he had been previously underpaid. The Dirtbags were more than willing to pay Lim his fair share and though Lim held out about as long as he could for a better deal he eventually re-signed with Fargo for 3-years, $31 million.

While they waited for Lim's decision, the Dirtbags took aim at Jeremy Glover and 6-time All Star Calvin Chang. Chang quickly inked Fargo's 5-year, $60 million+ offer and it wasn't long until Glover signed his 5-year $59.5 million deal to join him in a Dirtbag uniform. Glover will replace Burkhart at second base while Chang will take the reigns at 3B, moving David Rushford into RF where Bolling previously roamed.

Lim, Chang and Glover may have been the three big offensive signings for Fargo this offseason, but they weren't the only ones. The Dirtbags also signed former St. Louis centerfielder Henry Turner and SS Hector Nunez to 2-year deals. Turner replaces Peterson in CF while Nunez will take over at short for the departed Tomas DeJesus.

In addition to the moves Fargo made to bolster their offense, the Dirtbags also sought a replacement in their starting rotation for Manny Christians, who signed a 2-year deal with Austin. They locked up former Trenton starter York Watson with a 5-year $27.2 million deal, solidifying the fourth spot in their rotation in the process. And for good measure, the Dirtbags added long-time Monterrey setup man Vern Baez to their bullpen with a 2-year deal.

Only time will tell if the wads of cash spent will return Fargo to the elite of The Bigs. The spending spree is, however, a clear indication that the team isn't going to lose the prime years in the careers of Javier Henriquez and Sammy Pierce to a rebuild period that could last several seasons. The time to win in Fargo is now, and the team will apparently spend whatever it takes to contend.

Calvin Chang
Age: 32B/T: L/R
Born: Kobe, JP
Position(s): 3B/1B/SS/COF
View Hardball Dynasty Profile

Hall of Fame Voting

The first Hall of Fame vote in the history of The Bigs will occur tomorrow. We have six players nominated for the Hall:

Paxton Coleridge: Played 6 seasons in The Bigs for 5 different teams. Topped 40 home runs in four different seasons and hit 50 home runs once. He won a Gold Glove at 1B in Season 5 with Scranton. His best season was probably Season 4, his only season in Chicago where he hit .271 with 50 homers and drove in 101. Finished his career with 254 home runs and 590 RBI.

Mike Henderson: Played 5 seasons in The Bigs, four of them for San Juan. Made 3 All-Star teams and won 2 Silver Slugger awards at SS, all in San Juan. Scored 100 runs three times and stole 40 bases three times. Finished his career with a .275 average, 513 runs scored, and 197 stolen bases.

Scot Hutton: Played 5 seasons in The Bigs, three of them for Trenton. Drove in a career high 124 runs for Colorado Springs in season 1. Accomplished a rare feat: winning a Silver Slugger (Season 1 in CSP at SS) and a Gold Glove (Season 2 in Fargo at 3B). Finished his career with a .273 average and 456 RBI.

Eli Jacquez: Played 6 seasons in The Bigs for five different franchises. His best season was season 2 for Toledo, when he hit .302 with 18 homers and 98 RBI while scoring 115 runs. Made the All-Star game during Season 2. Finished his career with 415 RBI and 526 runs scored.

Alex McClain: Played 6 seasons in The Bigs with seven different teams. Made the All-Star team in Season 5 with Louisville. His best season was season 4 with Houston, when he hit .298 with 18 homers and 95 RBI, scoring 104 runs. Finished his career with 522 runs and 399 RBI.

Haywood McDonald: Played 5 seasons in The Bigs, all with Monterrey. Drove in over 100 runs 4 times and scored over 100 twice. Made the All-Star game in season 3 and won a World Series ring in Season 2. Finished with a .287 average with 187 homers and 545 RBI and 485 runs scored.