Friday, April 07, 2006

Early Season Thoughts

The first 3 games of the Mets' season have been quite eventful. Last night's little debacle with Washington had plenty of beanballs and a slight altercation between Pedro and Jose Guillen. I understand Guillen's anger as well as those of the rest of his teammates--getting hit 6 times is a bit annoying and painful. But Washington must realize that first of all, Brian Bannister was making his first ML start in 40 degree temperatures. I saw Bannister pitch in a spring training game in late March against Houston and he was all over the place. Curves in the dirt, two hit batters, etc. It was a rare cold day in Florida, and that may have had something to do with it. A rookie in his first ever start is not going to hit anyone. As for Pedro, it must be taken into account that he is not 100%. He pitched 6 innings this spring and is not in top form.

So my thoughts on the Mets? They're just where I thought they'd be. They still have no 2nd baseman. Hernandez can field, but they need a bat in that position. And I don't see Kaz Matsui as being a great improvement when he returns. I feel there's something wrong with Billy Wagner. This is a pitcher who routinely has arm problems, and I can sense that something isn't right. Wagner can bring it up to 100 mph when he's at his peak. He hasn't thrown a pitch past 93 yet. And after giving up Ryan Zimmerman's bomb the other night (1st big league homerun!), Wagner threw 95% curves the rest of the night. Wagner missed 2 weeks of spring training and he may not be where he needs to be as yet. Hopefully that's all it is, otherwise it's going to be even rockier than I expected.

And here's the line I really liked: Kris Benson pitched 7 solid innings in his first outing for the O's. Jorge Julio got rocked in his 1 inning of relief, taking the loss. What the hell was Omar Minaya thinking in that trade? As a result of that blunder the Mets were forced to use a pitcher making his MLB debut in just the 2nd game of the season. Not too many pennant caliber teams have to resort to that. At least we still have Steve "I can't believe I'm still playing" Trachsel taking the hill tonight.

Xavier Nady's off to a hot start, but that's to be expected. Last season he was leading the league in every category the first 2 weeks of the season, but finished at his usual .260BA with 12 home runs. He should start tailing off by next week, but
at least we can enjoy it while it lasts.

And what about Carlos Beltran last night? I've never seen a player looking so unhappy after hitting a home run. I know he's the shy, reserved type of player, but then why the hell did he choose to come to NY? This ain't K.C. He needs to take the boos with a grain of salt. As long as he looks like he's having fun out there the fans will cheer him on. But if he continually looks stoical and reserved, it's going to be a long, bitter war. Beltran is still young and can have a big impact, but this thing may get ugly if he doesn't lighten up.

I enjoyed watching the Braves series in L.A. Their pitching looks atrocious. I have to wonder how much an impact the loss of Leo Mazzone will have on their staff over the course of a full season. I also enjoyed watching the Phillies get swept by St. Louis. I have the feeling the NL East is going to be the Wild, Wild East this year--a 5 year fight for the top most of the season, with no team running away early or even posting a decent record.

As for my fantasy team, my offense is doing quite well but my pitching is a disaster. It'll take some time to get my ERA down, barring any more blow outs this weekend. I'm going to do some extra analysis this weekend to make sure I have a good week next time.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Books and Baseball

I'm reading Capote's "In Cold Blood." It was one of those books I was assigned to read in high school but never did finish. However, I did become obsessed with the story over the years. Looked up the actual events in old newspapers and then on-line when the Internet came around. I'd love to take a ride out to Holcomb one day to visit the site. They were getting about 200 curioseekers a year to view all the paraphenalia, but I'm sure that's increased since the movie "Capote."

I finished reading "The Talented Mr. Ripley" over the weekend. It was interesting noting the differences from the film and the movie. P. Seymour Hoffman's character, Freddie, is barely in the book. But he's the most memorable figure in the film--what a great actor. I liked the movie up until the end. It would have been better had they edited out the last scene of Tom and his new gay lover on the Greek cruise. That scene isn't even in the book and it just causes the film to drag on too long and leave many open ended questions. In fact, his new lover is barely mentioned in the book.

I've been watching "The Office" lately, but mostly for lack of anything better to watch. It has its moments but doesn't even hold a candle to the British version. I can watch those over and over.

Also been watching "The Amazing Race." That's the only reality show I have any respect for. It's fun watching people show up in Moscow in the middle of winter during the night trying to talk to a cab driver. I'd love to be on a show like that.

As for Fantasy Baseball, I'm having my usual day after Opening Day complaints. Why did I drop David Ortiz at the last minute on Sunday? I knew he'd explode in Texas. And now he's facing Vicente Padilla tonight--should be another big day for Ortiz, and another day of my stomach turning in knots watching. There were just too many first basemen out there and not enough OF's. In another league I dropped Chris Shelton of Detroit at the last minute because I thought he'd be batting 8th. Instead he bats 6th and belts 2 HRs. Dropped Ramon Hernandez because he was batting 9th, and he goes 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs. But I have to remind myself that it's only 1 game out of 162. It should be a long and rocky roller coaster ride this season.

I ordered "Fantasyland" by Sam Walker from the library. I read parts of it in the bookstore on Sunday and was just rolling in laughter. It's about a sportswriter who participates in the most exclusive fantasy league in the country. He tries to use his connections with ballplayers and GM's to influence the performance of his fantasy players. He almost convinces Toronto's GM to trade one of his fantasy players to Pittsburgh in order to get more playing time. Brings charts to Alan Trammell of Detroit showing how to better utilize one of his pitchers; talks to Alfonso Soriano about stealing more bases. Near the end of the season he flies to Los Angeles to picket in front of the hotel where the Angels are staying in order to remove Jose Guillen's team suspension, and has an altercation with Troy Percival while doing so. It looks like a real fun read.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day

I've been debating about whether to keep this blog going. The fact is that my true passion in life, my first love has awoken from a hibernation. And that is baseball. I am a very obsessive compulsive person, but no where is this more extreme than with baseball. I spend countless hours every day pouring over statistics. I am in involved in several fantasy baseball teams as well. So with all my analysis it is hard for me to find time to write here.

At the risk of sounding bold and perhaps a bit pretentious, I am an expert in this sport. I am usually dead on in predicting pennant winners and flops. I scoff at the expert preseason analyses, which usually only proves that most sportswriters really don't know what they're talking about. My team, the Mets, has been chosen by several to win the NL East. They have very little chance in doing so. Pedro Martinez has a bad toe, the type of injury that can only get worse during the season. After Pedro comes the geriatric ward. 40 year old Tom Glavine, just a sad shell of his Cy Young years, followed by Steve Trachsel. Trachsel was never more than a No. 4 starter at best. Coming off an injury-plagued year and adding a few years to his age puts him at a high risk. Then we've got the "great" Victor Zambrano. This a pitcher who's only still with the Mets because they don't want to look TOO bad for having dealt Scott Kazmir away. Not only has Zambrano been a total ulcerous cancer, but he's currently injured. And with all that top of the line starting pitching, management decided to trade quality pitcher Kris Benson to the Orioles for a washed up reliever in Jorge Julio. The suspected reason for this trade? The wild antics of his soon to be ex-stripper wife Anna. Who cares about a quality pitcher--we can't have his sexy wife entertaining us.

For offense the Mets have no right fielder and no 2nd baseman. Their new catcher, Paul Lo Duca, is as inadequate at throwing out baserunners as Mike Piazza, but without the power of Piazza. With Carlos Delgado at first we should see a few more throwing errors from the left side of the infield. Cliff Floyd in left had a career year last season, and by that I mean one in which he was never injured. The chances of his playing back to back injury free seasons are quite remote.

I predict the Braves to once again come out on top--they have the arms in Smoltz and Hudson, and the experience. I predict the Phillies to be their biggest competitor. What should be interesting, however, is their bullpens. Atlanta's closer is Chris Reitsma, far from a sure thing. The Phils are using Tom Gordon, who is past his prime in that position. Florida's winter firesale leaves the team depleted in most areas, but many of their rookie fill-ins will be surprisingly good. Florida may actually have a winning team again in a couple of years(at which point they'll probably be in San Antonio). Washington should also be better than many people think. They've got good starting pitching with Hernandez and Patterson, and a half-decent offense. But Soriano in the outfield will hurt them more than he'll hurt opponents at the plate.

One team that may finally be a bit entertaining is Tampa. They have a lineup chock full of young speedsters, but will suffer with a lack of pitching. Ex-Met Scott Kazmir still isn't mature enough to be a real factor, but he can be exciting to watch.

But all in all this is the day I love the most each year. When all teams, including Tampa and Pittsburgh, have a chance to win. I have my MLB Extra Innings sports package to follow all the games for fantasy baseball.

Fantasy Baseball is what every fan needs when their team isn't looking so hot. And if you can play it well you can make some decent money. I'm involved in large league throughout the country that is very competitive. I've won some small money in the past, but never the big one ($30K). My problem is a lack of patience and making too many trades far too early in the season. But each spring I renew my vow not to trade in April, and this year is no exception.

I'm in another league at work, which I have always come out on top. My experience playing in the more challenging league lets me easily coast past all my clueless co-workers and collect a few hundred bucks each season.

So, as of now, I'm already making plans on what to do with my 30K once I win the big prize. Let my obsession begin.