The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, April 30, 2004


I don’t care anymore. I simply don’t care. David Samson can comp Joe Arriola as many front row tickets as he wants in exchange for financing for a new baseball stadium, and I won’t care. I won’t think about it; I won’t write about it. Obviously, there’s a business side to baseball; I’m just choosing not to partake in it anymore.

I don’t care if you think that ball players are paid too much money. I haven’t seen a club go out of business because of the high salaries recently. If you’re hear reading this, you’ve probably contributed to it a time or two by paying much more than you used to go to a game. I do it too – all the time, and I don’t have a problem with it. Actually, I quite enjoy it and I find it to be a pleasurable way to spend my disposable income and leisure time.

I also don’t care anymore if you think that $8 for a beer and $4 for a bag of peanuts is too much to pay for food at a ball park. If you were stupid enough to pay your hard earned money to watch me work, I would charge you at least that much for a beer and peanuts. Actually, I would probably charge you more because you’re obviously a sucker and you have plenty of money.

I do have a problem with charging exorbitant amounts of money for water at the stadium, particularly when you are not allowed to bring in your own water, since it’s necessary for people to consumer water when they’re sitting in the hot sun, but I’m letting that go now too.

Baseball is fun and it’s a leisure activity. It’s not life and death. It’s not something that should stress you out or bother you. It’s fun. And I’m going to make sure that it continues to be that for me because I’m not going to let the annoying things off the field issues bother me anymore. I’m probably going to even stop reading about them.

Think of all the benefits this will bring to me: chief amongst these benefits is that when I come upon diminutive Marlins President David Samson in the bowels of Pro Player Stadium next time, I will have much less reason to worry about him approaching me, jumping up in front of me, and punching me in the shin, because I will have eliminated my opportunities to offend him on this site. This alone is of immeasurable value to me. David Samson is one of the most annoying figures in sports that I can remember encountering in my lifetime. Luckily though, he is not the general manager and appears to have little, if any, input into the product that is put on to the field. Yes, I’m sure he plays a large role in establishing budgets, but I don’t think he has much of a say as to who will be called up from AA or AAA, or who should be taken in the first round of the draft. For this, I am grateful.

Instead of wasting my time worrying and wondering about whether the Marlins will receive financing for a new baseball stadium in Miami, or if they will have to perpetuate rumors about leaving town, or if they are able to secure financing which schools and hospitals will ultimately receive less funding because of it, I am just going to enjoy baseball. In case you missed it, there are lots of wonderful things going on this year: the World Champion Florida Marlins have the best record in baseball, Barry Bonds is redefining what it is to dominate a game, new palaces of baseball were opened in Philadelphia and San Diego, and by my estimation, competitive balance is at a relative peak.

There are lots of fun things going on in baseball right now and I’m going to enjoy them. If you want think baseball is “big business” I’ve got news for you. Yes, there’s “big” money involved, but it’s all relative. Relative to real industry, major league baseball is small potatoes. Even to the owners of major league teams, the transactions involved in their baseball organizations are often small change compared to the mega-conglomerates they run and the personal fortunes they manage. If you enjoy reading about the business and politics of baseball, there’s plenty of interesting news to keep up with that includes bigger numbers followed by dollar signs and more intriguing commentary, as these operations are generally better and more professionally run; so, instead of keeping up with business in the sports pages, check out something like this.

Oh, and by the way, in case you missed it yesterday, the Giants did pitch to Barry. Well, sort of. Bonds batted in the second inning yesterday (leading off the inning) and singled). He was also walked twice, once intentionally. During another at bat, with no one on, Bonds homered on a curveball from Brad Penny. Granted, it wasn’t a great pitch, but it wasn’t a hanger either. Penny’s pitch was over the heart of the plate, but Bonds hit it as if he knew it was coming. Hopefully the Marlins will challenge him again tonight. That should make for some exciting baseball.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

More on Bonds

Some of you, who can read as fast as I type, will probably like the title of this post.

Maybe he is human. In his last five games, he has only managed a total of two hits, and both of those were singles. Granted, he only has a total of nine at bats in those five games, and he has been walked ten (ten!) times during that span, but it may be possible to say that Barry Bonds is in a bit of a slump. Well, maybe not a slump, but he has appeared to be mortal over the past week or so. You might be particularly quick to jump to this conclusion if you saw last night’s game against the Braves.

After being intentionally walked in his first plate appearance of the game, Bonds was called out on strikes in the 3rd. This in itself is a rare feat. After being walked intentionally – again – in the fourth, Bonds grounded out weekly in his next at bat in the fifth (yes, he did single later in the game). But that fourth plate appearance last night was the most interesting Bonds at bat that I have seen in quite some time. Bonds is revered throughout baseball for his strike zone judgment (thus taking the called third strike in the third inning was so unusual) and his nearly unflinching discipline at the plate, despite the constant barrage of balls and unhittable pitches that are offered to him. Last night though, Bonds flinched. He swung at two pitches from Antonio Alfonseca that were undoubtedly balls. After the first two pitches missed by a significant margin, Bonds swung at the third pitch (and missed). On that swing, Bonds looked more like me than himself; his hips flew open, his head pointed towards the dugout at the end of his swing, and the pitch was the better part of a foot off the plate. The swing he put on the second pitch he offered at was not much better, but he managed to foul the ball off.

The point here is not to say that Barry Bonds is anything less than the best player of the game; the point is that for the first time in years, Barry Bonds looked last night, at least to me, as if he suffered from a mechanical and mental lapse. His swing looked un-Bondsian and his approach to the at bat was far less than the controlled and disciplined plan that we have so come to expect – regardless of how many unintentional intentional walks he receives. I have been waiting to see Bonds take a few hacks like he did last night for years now. If I were Bonds, I would have started swinging at marginal pitches a long time ago – well either that or I would have seriously considered retiring. But for the betterment of his team, Bonds has not really done that to date. He has accepted his walks and taken his trips around the bases, constantly hoping that his teammates will come through with timely hits. This year though it seems that the timely hits will not come to be very frequently; Bonds is not surrounded by the lineup that he has been in the past.

Maybe that caused Barry to swing at a couple pitches that he shouldn’t have last night. Maybe that has opened up some holes in Barry’s swing that will take a day or two to tighten back up. All of this comes at an interesting time for the Florida Marlins. During last year’s NLDS, the Marlins pitched to Bonds. This came as a great surprise, myself included, as most people expected the Marlins to go by the conventional wisdom and to “not let one guy beat you.” But the Marlins played with fire and won. Barry did a little damage, but did not homer in the series, and the Fish went on to win the series three games to one (you know the rest).

Had the Marlins – Giants series taken place a week or two ago, nearly everyone would agree that it would be best to walk Bonds in just about every circumstance. Yes, I have seen the research that proves that even for the best hitters, it makes sense to pitch to them because they will still get themselves out 60 – 70% of the time, and that walking such hitters only gives the opposition more opportunities to score runs. But that analysis was run with “normal” superstars and assumed they were surrounded by normal major league lineups. Bonds and the Giants are neither – or at least they weren’t a few weeks ago. Bonds looked to be on a tear far more fearsome than anything we had seen before in baseball, and he had a four year hot streak and career long track record to back it up, and make you think it would continue indefinitely. The remainder of the Giants lineup was, and is, inept, at least by major league standards. Thus, walking Bonds nearly every time he came to the plate seemed to be a fairly risk-free proposition. You could pitch around the game’s most dangerous hitter and let those who bat after him make outs.

Padres manager Bruce Bochy put it well though when he said that there’s almost an “obligation” to pitch to Bonds – by not doing so you’re impacting history; he went on to say that “Babe Ruth only became Babe Ruth because someone pitched to him.” While technically Bochy’s statement is not correct – Ruth would have continued to be himself regardless of his success or failure on the baseball field, that’s just basic science – his assertion is correct. By continuing to walk Bonds, be it intentionally or with the now more common un-intentional intentional walk, baseball is potentially being deprived of the greatest show that we may ever see.

And now that he appears to have returned to super-super-star levels from the previous high that he was on, I hope that we see the Marlins pitch to him in the three game set that begins today in San Francisco. Brad Penny, a man whom the Marlins turned off the stadium radar gun for last year – because he always looked at it and tried to throw harder, would surely like to challenge Bonds. That is just him and his personality. Tomorrow night’s starter, Dontrelle Willis, has had a relative amount of success against Bonds. Most of Willis’s experience against Bonds came against the Giants in last year’s playoffs where Willis received one start and also came out of the bullpen, specifically to face Bonds. Darren Oliver will face Bonds in the third start, and depending on how the series has gone to that point, I hope Jack McKeon lets Oliver go after him. I’d rather see Barry really bat than have the Fish improve their chances for a sweep on Sunday. Yes, I’m getting ahead of myself to be sure, and that one game may matter at the end of the year, but I’ll see another pennant race before I see another Barry Bonds. Pitch to Barry.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Books and Books

I suspect that many of you, like me, can read. Because of this, and because I would like to make some extra money, I decided to post a list of some of my favorite books in hopes that you would buy them too. If you do buy them, I get a small cut of the gross price you pay. Plus they are some really great books if I do say so myself. Even if you don’t like these books, feel free to follow this link to Amazon and buy to your heart’s content. I will get money for you doing so.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:

Moneyball – A must have for any serious baseball reader. This is the current generation’s "Ball Four".

Angels and Demons – Dan Brown’s sister work to the more popular "The Da Vinci Code". Both are very similar, I just prefer "Angels and Demons". Both are great thrillers and great reads.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves– Frequent Readers of this blog will surely be able to tell that this is a book that I personally need to read. Well, I have read it, and my grammar and punctuation are still horrendous at times. I like to think that this is because I usually fail to proof my work before it is posted. Still, I regularly fear that Mrs. Reynolds (7th and 8th grade English teacher) or Father Glynn (Sophomore year of High School Religion teacher and summer English tutor) will find their way to my merry blog and find fault with my writing and send me a marked up print out correcting my work. "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" is a great read though – full of funny stories and simple reminders of how to use grammar and punctuation just like we all learned back in school. Trust me on this one, it’s better than it sounds.

Deception Point– another great thriller by Mr. Brown. I prefer "Deception Point" to "Digital Fortress", but again, you can’t go wrong with either.

More to come…

Potty Talk/Environmentalism

One thing that has been on my mind (for more than a year now actually) that I’ve never really spoken of, is the urinals at Pro Player Stadium. Granted, this is a weird subject – probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever written about on this blog (well, maybe the Mr. Google person still wins). Pro Player Stadium has urinals that I think I have only seen in one other place (at the Port of Miami). These urinals are completely flush free, which is a weird concept at best, and a disgusting concept/reality at worst. Others before me have questioned how hygienic this sort of a set up actually is, as evidenced by the lengthy FAQ on JMG’s website (JMG is the maker of this product).

The benefit, of course, to this flush-free set up is that it saves water (there are also other benefits, but you’ll have to check out the FAQ yourself to learn of them). As many of you know (well, those of you who have looked down at a urinal or two in your day), it’s not uncommon for a urinal to use one whole gallon of water per flush. At somewhere like Pro Player Stadium this can add up to quite a bit of water over the course of a baseball game or a football season or a year. But these self-flushing urinals (or whatever the technology is called) proudly proclaim (it’s on the top of all of them) that they save 40,000 gallons of water per year because of their efficiencies. After checking out the website for these urinals (yes, it’s now official – everyone and everything has a website), it appears that this 40,000 gallon water savings per year is their standard estimate. In my mind this is too high. I can’t imagine the average urinal gets that kind of use.

(By now, if you’re still reading, you must be asking yourself why I care. Honestly, I’m not really sure. This is pretty weird. Not as weird as the post at The Hardball Times where the writer admitted to timing player’s times from home to third on triples. Yes, that’s definitely stranger than what I’m talking about here; especially when you consider the fact that the writer of the article admitted that, in order to provide everyone with valid times for each player’s triple speed, he watched each triple nine times and averaged the times using a fairly complicated heuristic. So I’m not so crazy after all, am I? It’s all relative)

40,000 gallons is a lot of water. To me, it seems like this is a preposterous sum of water to assume that switching from a standard urinal to a water free urinal could save you. At a gallon per flush… let me work out the math here… give me a minute… that would mean approximately 40,000 flushes per year. If you break that down by day, the average old-style urinal at Pro Player (or anywhere else) would have been flushed an average of 110 times per day, every day in order for each urinal to be saving 40,000 gallons of water annually. On an hourly basis, that would mean you would have to flush the urinal 4.56 times per hour, or once every 13 minutes. Keep in mind that this isn’t during normal business hours – it’s 24 hours a day, continuously. I suppose there are places like airports and train terminals that see this kind of activity, but I would have to think that it’s rare even at a stadium.

According to this source, there are 218 flush free urinals at Pro Player stadium. Based on JMG’s information, this would mean that Pro Player Stadium could expect to save 8,720,000 gallons of water every year just by using this fantastic technology.

I didn’t look this up, but work with me here. The Marlins play 81 games per year (not counting the playoffs every few years) at Pro Player Stadium; hopefully, they’ll draw 20,000 people per game, which totals to 1,620,000 patrons this season. The Dolphins play ten home games (including the pre-season and not counting their rare post-season appearance), and with 70,000 fans at each, that brings us 700,000 more fans . FAU football has a handful of games (let’s say 5 games with 10,000 people per, for 50,000 annually, and the stadium also hosts the annual Orange Bowl (another 70,000) and the occasional concert or truck pull (let’s call this 10 events at 50,000 people per – or 500,000 total). This brings the total number of patrons at Pro Player Stadium each year to 2,940,000. Obviously, not all of these folks are male, so let’s conservatively estimate that 75% of the patrons are men (this will make the water saving per person more achievable); our total number of annual men at the stadium is estimated at 2,205,000. In order for these 2 million men to use the urinals frequently enough to save the nearly 9 million gallons of water, each man who attends an event at Pro Player Stadium would need to use a urinal nearly 4 times per event they attend at the stadium (3.95 times to be exact).

We should also probably count the folks who work in the stadium and at the games. Let’s say there are 250 people who work year round at the stadium (all 365 days) and that these men use the urinal three times a day (not only are they always at PPS slaving away, but they are truly fascinated by this technology, so they use it as much as possible). By having these folks use the urinal technology instead of the urinal style we’ve all grown accustomed to over the years, almost 400,000 gallons of water will be saved every year. If you subtract those 400,000 gallons from the 8.7 million gallons the fans attending games would need to save in order to live up to the claims on the urinal, the average man would still need to use the urinal 3.77 times per game/event. This is just not going to happen, especially considering that the average event at the stadium is about three hours.

So what’s my point here? Well, I’m not really sure. This water free urinal technology sounds like a great thing. Apparently it’s clean, odor free, and cost effective – in addition to the water it saves. But the claims of saving 40,000 gallons of water per urinal per year seem to be a little outrageous to me. Is there no truth in urinal labeling? I just don't know what you can believe anymore...

Comments Fixed?

Thanks to many of you who pointed out that the comments weren't working again. I had to reset them for a second time now. Hopefully they will work this time and I won't break them again via my bumbling use of HTML code, or whatever all of this is called. I'm going to test it out with a comment or two.

Pitch to Barry

Although it seems that Barry Bonds has come back to Earth a little bit (last night his average fell below .500 for the first time in awhile, and one would think it will remain there for the duration of the season), in terms of how locked in he is at the plate, I’m still hearing a lot of discussion about where the Giants should bat Barry in the lineup. Felipe Alou has chosen to bat Bonds fourth in the lineup this year, which many people think is not an ideal spot. Others argue that since the Giants lineup is so poor without Bonds that it makes sense to bat him there, because in many cases the 4th batter will lead off the second inning and in instances where he doesn’t, there will be at least one runner on base in the first.

Generally, there are four places in the lineup that you could arguably bat Bonds. Most popular amongst people other than Felipe Alou, is 3rd. This is the traditional place for a batter with power, who also hits for average and in ideal cases, who possesses some speed. Bonds may not have the speed that he had in his earlier days, but he is also not the slowest person in the league either. As you may know, Barry is the only player in the history of major league baseball to have hit 500 home runs and to have stolen 500 bases. Actually, he’s the only man to ever hit 400 homers and steal 400 bases (yeah – I know, I would have thought that Mays was a 400-400 guy too, but I looked it up and he isn’t).

Fourth is also a popular choice for Bonds. It’s difficult to argue with the logic of Felipe Alou, who has been in baseball for a long time, and who managed Barry and the Giants to a division title last year. Batting fourth also gives Barry the best theoretical opportunity to come up with runners on base. This can be a good thing or a bad thing though, at least in a sense, because if runners are on second and third when Barry comes to the plate, he will almost definitely be walked – lately even regardless of the situation. But if he is pitched to, having runners on is exactly the situation the Giants are looking for with Barry at the plate. The downside to having Barry bat fourth is that each spot in the batting order gets about 20 fewer plate appearances than the spot ahead of it over the course of a season (I don’t have any data to back this up, but it seems to be conventional wisdom, at least according to the SABR-L posts I’ve read on the subject). Sure, this isn’t a whole lot (maybe one plate appearance per week, give or take a little), but given the pace that Barry’s been on over the last four years, there’s a better than 50% chance that he’ll reach base somehow or another and that gives your team a good chance to score runs. When you are as run deprived as the Giants are and will be (without an acquisition of some sort) this year, increasing your ability to score runs is of paramount importance.

Others have argued that Bonds should bat much higher in the lineup. Some have suggested that he should bat lead-off. This would guarantee Bonds the most possible plate appearances. It would also present opposing managers with an interesting dilemma at the start of every game – whether to walk Bonds and give the Giants a base runner to start things off, or to pitch to him and risk him reaching base anyway or putting the Giants on the board with a run rather quickly. The downside to this strategy is that Bonds would only be guaranteed to lead off an inning once per game; in the other innings, Bonds would likely bat after the 8th and 9th hitters batted, meaning that there would likely be very few runners on base during his plate appearances. Not having a lot of runners on when Bonds bats isn’t ideal either, as it limits his ability to produce runs.

Based on the premise that it is important for runners to be on base when Bonds bats, others have asserted that Barry should bat second, behind speedy lead-off man Ray Durham. On the surface this strategy appears to make sense, as it would put Barry behind a solid hitter who reaches base quite frequently; on the other hand, Durham is capable of stealing a lot of bases, but this skill would likely be negated with Bonds hitting behind him, because Durham would not want to steal second base and have Bonds walked as a result (since there would be an open base behind Durham). The benefit of getting Barry to the plate 40 more times over the course of the season may outweigh the reduction in stolen base opportunities for Durham. I’d have to run the numbers on that to be sure.

Personally, I don’t like that the Giants are batting Bonds fourth. I think it limits his plate appearances and given the bats that surround his in the lineup, I don’t think it offers him any additional opportunities. There are rarely going to be runners on base ahead of him, and when those runners are on base, it still likely isn’t going to be a situation where the opponents will pitch to him. If I were the manager of the Giants, I would bat Bonds third in the lineup; I would bat Ray Durham and Marquis Grissom ahead of Bonds, although I am not sure who I would have bat first and who would bat second. After those three, the Giants lineup is not very intimidating. If the Giants are able to stay in the race this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run at Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Beltran, or another big bat that might be available later in the year. With the start that Bonds is off to this year, it would be a shame to waste a historic offensive performance by surrounding him with inferior offensive talent. So far though this year it looks like that is what is happening.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Mmm... donuts...

In case you didn’t hear, the Marlins had twelve hits on Saturday night, winning a dozen free donuts from Krispy Kreme for everyone in attendance. All you had to do was show up at a Krispy Kreme store within 24-hours of the end of the game to claim your prize (well, and bring your ticket stub too). Unfortunately for the good bakers at Krispy Kreme, there were more than 40,000 people in attendance on Saturday night, meaning that they could potentially be handing out 500,000 free donuts. I can picture dozens of people like the old Dunkin’ Donuts “time to make the donuts” man cringing upon hearing this news on Saturday night. Although today I suppose they get a page or a text message telling them to come in extra early to start baking.

I did not go to try to claim my prize of free donuts, although I heard that many did. Friends of mine went and left after seeing 150 or so people in line. One of the newspapers yesterday showed a photograph of a line around one store at 1 am. It was fun to see folks at the game last night with their boxes of Krispy Kremes in hand (somehow they snuck them past security).

Sadly, that was about where the fun ended for Marlins fans last night. Nearly 30,000 folks were on hand last night to see Marlins’ second year lefty Dontrelle Willis take his 0.00 ERA to the mound on national television against the Altanta Braves, who have won the National League East Division Title every year it’s been awarded in the current form (since 1995) and they also won the last three NL West Division crowns that were handed out (1991 – 1993) – and let’s not get into 1994 for now. Willis was knocked around a little in last night’s game, including a line drive home run that he gave up to Atlanta’s Mark DeRosa. Even before the game started I was worried about Willis, who didn’t appear to be prepared for the long between inning delays due to the television commercials. Before the first inning commenced Willis stood on the hill after completing his warm up pitches for almost a full minute. Soon thereafter he gave up his first earned run of the season. I was surprised that the Fish didn’t hold him in the dugout a little longer before the start of the second inning; Willis was the first Marlin on the field and waited a few moments for Mike Redmond to emerge and catch Dontrelle’s warmup tosses. All in all it was a solid, but unspectacular, outing for Willis, who did not factor in the decision in last night’s loss.

It’s amazing to think that after losing many key players in the offseason that the World Champion Florida Marlins enter the fourth week of the season with a record of 12 wins and 6 losses. While this is a sparkling record – good enough to give them a full two game lead over the second place club in the standings, it is worth noting that the Marlins are 11 – 1 in all games not featuring the Braves and only 1 – 5 against Atlanta. While the Fish are still in first place, they have thirteen games left against the Braves and one would have to think that if they keep up their current pace against Atlanta that they won’t win the division, regardless of how well they play against everyone else.

Traditionally, the Marlins have not played well on the West Coast. While this is hardly a fair predictor of future success, given the roster turnover of West Coast teams and the Marlins, we will all soon see how the Marlins fare against some West Coast foes when they face off against the Rockies beginning tonight and later in the week against the Giants in San Francisco. I am particularly looking forward to Friday night’s matchup against the Giants which should pit Dontrelle Willis against Future Hall of Famer Barry Bonds. During last year’s NLDS Willis pitched well against Bonds both in relief and in starting game four. It will be interesting to see how the matchup goes now when Bonds seems to be as locked in as ever. It also appears to be an interesting week for Bonds as, allegedly, BALCO ringleader Victor Conte may have admitted to supplying Bonds with steroids in the past.

It should be another interesting week. If the Marlins return home with three wins from this road trip, I will be pleased.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Viva Las Vegas

And so it begins. In a surprising lack of keeping up with the details of the story, ESPN is reporting that the Marlins stadium financing deadline is still May 1st. Jayson Stark wrote an article that states that Mr. Loria would like to move the team to either DC or Las Vegas, which the article quotes him as referring to as a "gold mine."

If Las Vegas is a gold mine, why doesn't MLB move the Expos there? Their financial situation is worse. It looks like the politicing has begun. The inevitable is now upon us. The Marlins have put off relocation talk for about as long as possible. Now it begins as we enter the home stretch for financing a new park.

I guess I'm sad about this today for the first time. I don't want to see the team leave by any stretch of the imagination (well, at least as long as I live in Miami). If I was moving (which I'm not) to Las Vegas, I would be thrilled to see a major league team following me out there. But at the same time I'm completely opposed to publicly financing this new park. Unfortunately keeping the team here without public financing is probably an impossibility.

Oh well, I still get to go and see the D-Train in person tonight. I'll keep enjoying that while I can.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

The Mannings are Right

Mercifully, the NFL draft begins today. For baseball fans in Miami this means the sports talk in town can move on from who the Dolphins are going to draft to how far the Dolphins will go in the playoffs, which nickel backs to watch when you take your kids out of school to watch mini-camp, and who the 3rd string middle linebacker will be next year. Occassionally, if there is some free time or extra space in the paper, some coverage might be thrown at the Marlins and major league baseball.

Sadly, in yesterday's Miami Herald it was reported that four UM players who are likely to be drafted in the first round today with the worst scores of all players at their position on this year's Wonderlic test. For those of you who don't know, the Wonderlic is the NFL's version of an IQ test and it is used to measure a prospect's aptitude for learning plays, schemes, responsibilities, etc in their career in the league. Carlos Joseph, Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow Jr and Vernon Carey were amongst the low scorers. Carlos Joseph led the players in futility by answering only 14% of the questions correctly (note to Carlos - next time your odds are better if you pick one letter on the Scantron and choose it every time. If the choices are always A - E, you'll probably come back with a 20% on the test, nearly a 50% improvement on what you scored. I'd explain it in more detail for you, but I don't want to inflict math upon you unnecessarily). At least the low scores explain some of Winslow's immature outbursts and rollercoaster like ride up-and-down performances last season. I'm embarrassed to be a Hurricane today. I'm beyond expecting college football players, and even college athletes in general, to be equals to their peers academically (although Canes LB Jonathan Vilma and former OL Joaquin Gonzalez are notable exceptions), I am ashamed that the University of Miami's football players shake out at the low end of the scale against their football playing peers.

On an unrelated note, I must admit that I wholeheartedly agree with the Eli Manning and his family's decision to refuse to play for the San Diego Chargers should he be selected by them today. I too would refuse a multi-million dollar contract and signing bonus from a professional sports team in San Diego. To think that Manning would even consider it is preposterous. Ok, I can't even type that with a straight face.

Friday, April 23, 2004

White Sox

Readers of this blog tend to fall into one of four camps. First there are Marlins fans who have few other choices when they want to read commentary on their team. Based on the emails I receive, this seems to be the bulk of the readers. Second are people who find this site through The Hardball Times, Sportsblogs, Baseball Musings, or another link. These are some of my favorite readers because, at least in part, it means that other people are referencing what’s written here. Third are people who find their way here through highly unusual entries into search engines (see the “Mr. Google” post). This simply scares me and I wish these people would read and/or click elsewhere. Fourth are people who actually know me personally. Most of these people know me as a life long White Sox fan, which I still am by the way, although that might not come across in much of what gets written here. These people tend to ask me why there isn’t much coverage of the Sox (probably better heard than written – that “Sox” part). Since we’re doing lists today, there are probably two reasons. One, most of the interest of the people who read here is in the Marlins. Second, the Marlins are just easier to cover. I can’t escape it (as much as I want to and despite how many years I fought it despite being in South Florida). The Marlins are on television, the radio, the newspaper – everywhere. I even live about a mile away from Marlins en Miami, which despite my protests to the contrary, is not a typo in the store’s name but the spelling in Espanol.

I still watch and read about the White Sox all the time though. In fact the Sox are the main reason that I buy the baseball package each year. Last night’s game was particularly enjoyable as the White Sox finally beat the Yankees at home (and how fortunate are the Sox that their regular season schedule with the Yankees is now complete? Yes, it’s weird to have played all of your games for the year against one team (two actually by the time the Rays series ends this weekend) before the end of April, but those are some of the quirks of the new unbalanced schedule).

One thing that jumps out at me more than any other in watching White Sox games this season is the dramatic changes to the former New Comiskey Park – aka US Cellular Field. The outfield wall is green again, like in the old stadium (although I must say that the retired numbers with images of the players is not my favorite – numbers only please). The lettering for the eateries in the outfield looks much like it did in Old Comiskey too. Rumor has it that the royal blue seats that fill the stadium will be replaced after the year and replaced with new green seats. Should this be true, I guarantee that I will make my first ever visit to new Comiskey Park. While I attended many games at old Comiskey, I have never set foot into new Comiskey. I haven’t actually seen it in person since it was finished being built. That is partially the result of me having lived in Arizona and Florida during the entirety of its existence but also partially due to me just not feeling right about visiting the place. But with the changes they have made and are making, the thought of it is more tolerable to me. Plus, I haven’t seen a (non-spring training) White Sox game in person in more than a dozen years.

Well, that’s true for now. Come June the White Sox will visit the Marlins in Miami during interleague play, renewing that age old rivalry… well, I can’t even fake that. About the only thing connecting the two teams is that Charles Johnson, former major league All-Star played for both teams (the White Sox briefly and the Marlins in two stints to date). That and that the Marlins and White Sox have two of the most notorious World Series related incidents in history – the Marlins being their post 1997 championship fire sale and the Black Sox 1919 fixing of the series.

When these two teams meet in Miami I fear that I will become like those Dallas Cowboys fans I used to loathe in Phoenix. As much as it is painful to admit this publicly, I am an Arizona Cardinals football fan. I grew up in Phoenix and my dad always had season tickets, well since the time the team moved to Arizona when I was in 6th grade. We always went to the games and despite their profound ineptness I still follow the team to this day (the day will never come that I cheer for the Dolphins). My dad and I would always joke at Cardinals games how many fans and season ticket holders were Cardinals fans for every game but one every year. That one game was when the Cowboys came to town and the people you would see every other week in Aeneas Williams jerseys and Neil Lomax garb would suddenly be sporting Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin paraphernalia. This was not the kind of loyalty that I was raised to exhibit.

But I think that’s how it will be when the White Sox come to town in June. I already have tickets to one of the games as part of my mini-plan. I plan on attending that game in neutral gear and simply enjoying the game. I will in all likelihood attend the other two mid-week games, but in a different section than the one I normally sit in. I think this will make me more comfortable with being a White Sox fan for three games in Marlins territory.

Oh – and by the way – during last night’s game I noticed for the first time that when a White Sox player hits a home run they still shoot off fireworks, but they don’t seem to come out of the scoreboard anymore. Is that right? Where do they come from? Why don’t they use the scoreboard anymore? Drop me a line or leave a comment down below.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Stadium deadline pushed back yet again

Despite Marlins' President David Samson's repeated statements that financing for a new ballpark must be in place by March 15th... wait, let's make that May 1st. Yes, for sure May 1st. It has to be by May 1st otherwise the current ownership will no longer be able to sustain the losses they are currently incurring ($17 million last year, despite the World Series run if you believe the Marlins statements, $11.6 million last year if you believe Forbes). The Orange Bowl location is not acceptable... the Orange Bowl site is the Marlins preferred site.

Well today it comes out that Samson is pushing the deadline back, yet again to May 6th. A handful of extra days is not a big deal, granted. What is a big deal is that the Marlins are pushing back the deadline but even if they work something out with the city by May 6th, they will still be more than $50 million short of the money needed to finance their $325 million retractable roof stadium. This brings up so many issues that I'm not even sure where to start.

To date the Marlins have agreed to throw in $137 million. The county (Miami-Dade) has agreed to chip in with $73 million, which will come from bed tax money (so thank you to those of you who rent hotel rooms on South Beach). That brings the total to $210 million, or $115 short of what's needed. As you probably already heard, the state legislature has thus far refused to give the team an additional $60 million (over 30 years) in the form of tax rebates.

In today's Miami Herald article, it is intimated that the city might sell the Miami Arena (former home to the Heat and Panthers before it was superceded by the American Airlines Arena and Office Depot Center - both publicly financed) to a local parking lot magnate. Somehow the $25 million in proceeds that this sale is expected to generate are already ear-marked, at least in some people's eyes for financing the baseball stadium. The county also funds about $6 million annually right now for the stadium and this money too might be headed to the new ballpark.

While I would probably use the stadium as much as anyone, I am opposed to publicly financing this stadium - even if it does use bed tax money and other such sources and does not cause new taxes to be levied or existing taxes to be raised. It simply doesn't make sense for the city of Miami or Miami-Dade county. Miami is the poorest major metropolitan area in the United States. Mr. Loria feels that stadiums have been publicly financed in other cities, so it should be done in Miami for the Marlins as well. He's right - other cities have come up with the cash or tax benefits for baseball (and other stadiums) recently. Miami (and Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County) have already done this. Less than 20 years ago the Miami Arena was built. Although the city is still paying for it, it is rarely used. Occassionally a second rate circus comes to town or a minor league hockey team tries to make a go of it, but so far nothing has really lasted. American Airlines Arena was built less than five years ago for the Miami Heat just down the street from the Miami Arena. From the AAA's concourse you can see the Miami Arena. The Florida Panthers also play in a publicly financed stadium across town that is about five years old. The City of Miami also owns the Orange Bowl (no, not where they play the annual Orange Bowl, but the stadium where those games used to take place). The OB is used about six times per year by the Miami Hurricanes and a few other times for soccer and concerts. Since the Miami Arena is sucking up funds to the tune of $6 million annually in maintenance and upkeep, I would expect that the Orange Bowl costs at least as much in that it is larger (more than triple the seating capacity), outside, and older.

What I have not seen discussed so far is how cost overruns will be handled. The Marlins have repeatedly insisted (almost as often as they have said that their deadlines are firm) that a 38,000 retractable roof stadium will cost $325 million. Almost everyone else - public officials, others who have built such stadiums - feel that such a stadium would cost more in the neighborhood of $500 million. Since they're having such a hard time coming up with the first $300 or so million, hopefully the overruns will be worked out in advance. Somehow though I suspect I will be funding my share of this through increased tolls or a new tax or that you will be paying it for me when you go and stay in one of our lovely oceanfront hotel rooms. :-)

As long as I'm in Miami I hope the Marlins stay here because I am a fan of major league baseball. I really enjoy being able to go out to the ballpark, watch a competitive team, and see the stars of the league when they come to town. But still, part of me is curious to see what the "or else" that the Marlins are softly threatening with their financing deadlines. I'm not quite sure what the or else could be. The Montreal Expos have been actively looking to move for two years now. There aren't any real suitors. The most logical option is not even under consideration - to move a team or two to the metro New York City area, because doing so would put a big, but needed, damper on the Yankees revenue streams. What are the Marlins going to do if they don't receive a new stadium?

The Marlins have won two World Series titles in eleven years, all while playing at Pro Player/Joe Robbie Stadium. Granted, it is not the most fan friendly, appealing, or otherwise pleasant baseball stadium, but it is functional. The biggest problem for the Marlins is that, because of their lease, they are not able to generate the revenues that other clubs can (a big portion of their parking, concession, ticket, and other revenue goes to Wayne Huizenga and his company that owns/operates the stadium). Maybe if financing for a new ballpark doesn't work out, the Marlins can go after current Red Sox and former Marlins/Yankees owner John Henry (or whomever negotiated this deal) for negligence in regards to the terms he agreed to for the team's current stadium lease.

But this brings up another issue with the Marlins plans for a new stadium. We collectively, whoever the taxpayers are that fund this stadium, are going to throw $200 - $400 million dollars (net of the Marlins contribution) in for this stadium. Sure, some of the money will be in tax incentives and other things that won't directly come out of anyone's pocket, but if this money wasn't given to the Marlins, other taxes wouldn't need to be levied on the rest of us. In the end though, after the Marlins get this stadium, they think they'll be able to afford a $50 - $55 million payroll (in today's dollars). This year that would mean the Marlins could afford what they have on the field. No more, no less. We'll continue to lose the Derrek Lee's of the world when they hit free agency, and let's not even talk about being in the mix to hold onto a Pudge Rodriguez or being able to make a run after a Vladimir Guerrero. Other teams who have had stadiums financed have been able to put more into the product they put on the field (yes, I know the Marlins won the World Series last year so they were at least competitive, but this is also a club that's had two winning seasons out of eleven) and not just to cut their losses which is what the Marlins ownership is trying to accomplish here. Maybe what the Marlins need more than a new stadium is some owners with deeper pockets.

I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

Break out the brooms again

Despite trailing 5 – 1 at one point last night, the Marlins came back and beat the Phillies 8 – 7 in twelve innings. Obviously Mike Lowell was the star of the game – given that he made some sparkling plays in the field and hit three home runs (he also threw one ball away, but that’s largely irrelevant now).

What was interesting was the performance of the Marlins pitching staff. After throwing five shutout innings to open the game, Carl Pavano was roughed up a bit in the 6th, giving up five earned runs in one-third of an inning plus. He was removed from the game and succeeded by six relievers, five of whom appeared before extra innings. While the bullpen did give up two runs (both by usually – at least since the Red Sox released him – reliable Chad Fox), three of the six relievers used by the Marlins last night had ERAs of 0.00 (yes, I know it’s early). Even after giving up two runs in relief, Fox’s ERA is only 3.00. This is encouraging for the Marlins as the bullpen (and for some reason not Alex Gonzalez) was supposedly the team’s biggest question mark coming into the year. So far, the bullpen is a big reason why the Fish are off to a 10 – 4 start.

Rumors have circulated lately on both sides of the fence about the status of Phillies’ manager Larry Bowa’s job security. After a loss like last night’s, I would have to think that his standing with the team is on thinner ice than before. Should the Marlins be able to finish off the sweep against the Phillies today, Bowa’s grasp on the job will become even more tenuous. Unfortunately for Bowa, the Phillies luck with the bullpen so far this year has been about exactly opposite that of the Marlins. After struggling last season with the bullpen, the Phillies went out and acquired an array of arms that offseason prognosticators were sure would be locks to finish out games for the Phillies. But in a performance endemic of their season to date, the Phillies bullpen gave up seven runs (three earned) in six innings last night. High priced acquisitions Billy Wagner, Tim Worrell, and Roberto Hernandez were all roughed up in the melt down. Lost in this performance was a fairly solid outing from Phillies starter Eric Milton.

Pitch Counts – or the Club that brought you AJ Burnett’s arm problems now brings you…
Marlins pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal was interviewed on the radio this morning and when asked about pitch counts and how the club is working to keep their young pitchers fresh over the duration of the season, Rosenthal said that they are being mindful of pitch counts. He was quick to note that in only three of the Fish’s first fourteen games has the Marlins starter thrown more than 100 pitches. He also pointed out that two of those totals were 102 and 107. Rosenthal failed to point out that two of the three high pitch count outings this year were Dontrelle Willis’s and that most who are concerned about young Marlins pitchers getting tired are worried about Willis having a repeat performance this season of his post-All-Star break numbers last year. It’s early though and Willis’s first high pitch count outing was the result of him rolling along through the Expos lineup so smoothly (retiring a dozen in a row at one point). It was simply difficult to take him out at that point, but his pitch count did end up around 120. In the other start where he exceeded 100 pitches, Willis was just being allowed to finish out an inning where he really hadn’t encountered any trouble. That said, one of the other reasons Rosenthal and McKeon have said that they are allowing some pitchers to work deep into games early this year (and in Spring Training too) because many of the Marlins showed up in such great shape this season. Allegedly they missed the banquet circuit that so many World Champions succumb to…

From the around the league…
Oddities from last night… Barry Bonds did not homer. It’s absurd to say, but that’s news. Barry has raised expectations to the point where everyone expects him to homer in at least every game if not every at bat. But that was a difficult thing to do last night. In the Giants’ last two games, Barry saw 29 pitches. Five of those were strikes. Barry swung at only one and hit that for a home run into McCovey Cove. Largely lost in Barry’s homer barrage is that the Giants are 3 – 6 (including last night’s homer-less game) since Bonds started on his most recent tear.

Alex Rodriguez did hit a home run last night, and so far this season that’s as big of a story as Barry Bonds not hitting a home run. The funny thing about’s homer last night was that he didn’t think it was headed out of the park when he hit it. In fact, he seemed to think that it was a foul ball initially. When he realized that it was well fair, took off towards first (it was a low liner and looked like it might hit off the wall). The fact that’s half swing produced an opposite field home run and that he didn’t even realize it speaks volumes both to his strength and also to the depths of the fun that he is in (and possibly breaking out of given last night’s blast) right now.

Trade rumors that I’m starting…
Alex Gonzalez’s play at shortstop has been frustrating of late. Many of you probably remember seeing Miguel Cabrera play shortstop versus the Cubs in last year’s NLCS. I’d like to see a lot more of that sometime soon – like as in this season. Cabrera was signed by the Marlins as a 16-year old as a shortstop. He was moved to third base in hopes that would allow him a quicker path to the majors, as it was expected at the time that Gonzalez would be in his way. But then Mike Lowell developed into as much, if not more, than what people hoped, so Cabrera was quickly converted into a left fielder last season during his stint in AA. Cabrera’s move was also aided by the total lack of production from any left fielder at the major league level. As much as Todd Hollandsworth, Brian Banks, and company are nice people, they simply weren’t getting the job done last year (and that’s starting to sound a little bit like this year with Jeff Conine out there).

But moving Cabrera to shortstop and sending Gonzalez and some prospects to the White Sox for Magglio Ordonez or Carlos Lee or to Kansas City (who would have less use for Gonzalez) for Carlos Beltran would be a huge upgrade for the Fish. The specifics of whom for whom probably aren’t well conceived on my part, I’ll give you that, but the concept is something very intriguing. Even without a trade, moving Cabrera to short might be a way to get Abe Nunez’s bat into the lineup more frequently, which would also likely provide the Fish with an offensive upgrade (or at least limit the offensive offense produced by Alex Gonzalez).

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Fun and Excitement Returns

I talk about fun and excitement regularly in reference to Dontrelle Willis. Some of you probably think I'm just hung up on that, but it actually comes from something Dontrelle said quite frequently in interviews last year. When broadcasters or other media types would ask Dontrelle how he was enjoying major league life, his newfound success, or something similar, he would usually respond by saying something to the effect of how much fun he was having, how honored he was to be there, and how he was going to keep trying to be about fun and excitement - to bring some of that to the ballpark for himself, his teammates, and the fans.

While tonight's start was certainly not his most spectacular of the year, Willis brought the fun and excitement again - and he may have actually brought some of it out of his teammates, although not always in ways we would all enjoy. Well, at least those of us who were cheering for the Marlins.

Willis pitched 6 2/3 innings against the Phillies tonight, giving up 4 hits while walking none and striking out 3. It was encouraging to see Willis walk no one and to post an in game WHIP of less than 1.00, but he did still work deep into counts - throwing 102 pitches (65 for strikes). The Phillies did score one run tonight (while Willis was in the game) but it was unearned, so Dontrelle has still not given up an earned run this year (through 19.1 innings) and is now 3 - 0 on the year.

Coming into the game Dontrelle told the media that "no one wants to be a one year wonder." Willis is on track to prove that he was no such thing last season.

Some of his teammates are starting to make us wonder though. For the second game in a row, Miguel Cabrera lost a routine fly ball which allowed a run to score. Tonight the run was of little consequence (the dropped ball in the previous game cost the Marlins the game), but it also wasn't made difficult by the sun, like the ball on Sunday, although the lighting at Philadelphia's new Citizens' Bank Park may have complicated the issue some.

Alex Gonzalez was particularly dreadful tonight, both in the field and at the plate. Usually the book on Alex is that his glove is so good that if he just fields his position up to the high standards he has set for himself, any offense that he might provide is merely icing on the cake. However, he committed one error on a fairly routine grounder in the hole and made another error in judgment (although not in the scorebook) in throwing to third base in an attempt to gun down a non-forced runner on another ground ball.

Earlier in the game Gonzalez had avoided being hit by a pitch by attempting to swing at it. Miraculously Gonzalez was able to make contact with the ball, although he did fall down while doing so. The combination of athleticsm and total lack of strike zone awareness Gonzalez displayed on that pitch was mind-numbing.

As feared on this site earlier today, Jeff Conine again looked brutal tonight. Fortunately when Willis was removed from the game, the Marlins made a double switch, bringing Abe Nunez into left field (he walked in his only plate appearance). I can already feeling the platoon coming, at least until Conine warms up or gives up.

Despite the performances of Gonzalez, Conine, and Cabrera, the Marlins put together a nice win tonight. Dontrelle didn't continue his Ruthian performance at the plate (he was 0 for 3 with a strikeout, although he looked solid in his at bats). All in all a solid win for the Fish tonight to start out their three game set in the city of Brotherly Love.

Oh, and the D-Train, who didn't deserve the Rookie of the Year Award last year according to many, is 3 - 0 with a 0.00 ERA and a WHIP of less than 1. I suppose I shouldn't say that though because I don't want to jinx the guy.

Off to watch Mr. Bonds tee off against the Padres... But I'll leave you with a parting thought - why do the Blue Jays new uniforms showcase such a minimal amount of blue? I suppose that's like asking why the White Sox don't wear white socks (or why they - and the Red Sox - spell socks as "sox").

The Week to Come

As we enter the third full week of the season some patterns of normalcy are starting to return to the game. Barry Bonds is still Barry Bonds in that he appears to be on track to dominating another season, and possibly much of another decade at this point. Eric Gagne is still dominating opposing hitters, a mammoth blast to Barry Bonds over the weekend notwithstanding.

Other pieces of the baseball universe are still a little out of kilter here in mid/late-April. is in a slump. While many expected he would struggle as he adjusted to the Yankees and the New York media, few expected a one hit performance in a four game set against the Red Sox. Other anomalies include the Detroit Tigers playing better than .600 baseball and that the Devil Rays are tied in the standings with the Yankees (although it’s for 3rd place in the AL East).

Where Miami’s beloved Florida Marlins stand right now is more of a mystery. Entering last weekend’s series against the Braves the Marlins were 8 – 1. They left the series, having been swept, with a still impressive record of 8 – 4, but without the momentum they brought into Atlanta. The Marlins have been helped by their young arms in that both the starting pitching and relief corps has been stronger than anticipated so far this year. However, the Fish’s bats have not followed suit. While the Marlins were expected to struggle relative to last year to some degree after losing the big bats of Ivan Rodriguez and Derrek Lee, some expected contributors – particularly Juan Pierre – have struggled out of the gate. Well that and that Miguel Cabrera lost a ball in the sun on Sunday, costing the Marlins a game.

As games scheduled for the third week of the season come, this week’s slate for the Marlins is relatively huge. Beginning tonight the Marlins play the Phillies three times at new Citizens Bank Park. While the Marlins owned the Phillies last year and opened up the 2004 series with a three game sweep at Pro Player Stadium during opening week, this three game series is important to the Marlins as they attempt to re-establish momentum before returning home to play the Braves over the weekend.

Winning both series – two out of the three games in each – would be huge for the Marlins. They are about to embark on a six game road trip next week to Colorado and San Francisco next week, where the team has traditionally not fared well. Although the Marlins defeated the Giants in last year’s playoffs, their road trip to SBC Park, or whatever they were calling it back then, was not a successful one. And regardless of what you think of the Rockies, sending the fragile egos and confidence of Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, and Armando Benitez to the pinball machine that is Coors’ Field is always potentially devastating to a pitching staff.

Besides, the Marlins, Phillies, and Braves were picked by almost everyone for first, second, and third – in some order – in the National League East this year and the Fish won’t see the Braves until late June after this weekend and the Phillies until late July.

For the Marlins to emerge from these two series with four or more wins, we will likely need to see a few things change. One is the frequency with which Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo reach base. While rumors are swirling that the Marlins just aren’t going to run much this year, the fact is that the team’s two biggest base-stealing threats just haven’t been on the bases much so far. Juan Pierre likely put some of the questions about the running game to bed over the weekend when he stole both second and third in one trip around the bases on Sunday.

The rest of the “up the middle” portion of the Marlins defense is also critical to the success of the Marlins offense. While some could conclude that shortstop Alex Gonzalez started out hot last year while the Marlins struggled and that Gonzalez struggled last year while the team was hot, so it isn’t such a bad thing possibly to see Gonzalez struggle, it’s hard to believe that the club can continue to win with limited or non-existent production at the plate from their shortstop. The Marlins catchers are also critical to their success this week. The key hits Ramon Castro came up with against the Phillies in Miami will likely be needed again once or twice this weekend.

Production or the lack thereof from a left fielder is shaping up to be potentially the Marlins biggest hole this season. Jeff Conine, a traditional slow starter (that little phrase seems to be as much a part of his name as the “rocker” part is of Rocker Tommy Lee), looks old at the plate and in the field. His backup, Abraham Nunez, is not a young rookie (27) but is still unproven. Nunez has many supporters though, particularly after a strong performance this spring, but that came against suspect talent and more importantly, Nunez has never produced in the majors when it counts. Maybe he will. We know that Conine has, but the question there is whether those days are behind him or not.

Outfield production will be an interesting area to watch with the Marlins this year, particularly if they are able to stay in contention through July and if a team like the White Sox or Royals falters by then. Should that happen, the Sox’ Magglio Ordonez or the Royals’ Carlos Beltran may find themselves on the trading block. Being able to acquire a big bat like that would be a huge coup for the Marlins, particularly since the Red Sox, Yankees, and other big budget teams would surely be interested if those players were available for the stretch drive (despite the fact that both will be eligible for free agency as soon as the World Series concludes).

All in all it should be another fun week of baseball. Possibly by the end of the week we’ll have a better idea of where the contenders in the National League East are headed… or we may just have a group of teams muddled together somewhere around .500.

Don’t forget – fun and excitement returns for the Marlins tonight as Dontrelle Willis takes the hill in Philadelphia. If everything keeps going according to schedule, Willis should be back on the mound on Sunday against the Braves (and if you’re not in Miami or otherwise can’t attend, that game will be on ESPN – look for me in the stands).

Monday, April 19, 2004

Where April means something...

In contrast to the Major League Baseball season, college baseball is pretty much in full swing by mid-April. It’s something like the time after the trade deadline (end of July) and the expansion of rosters on September 1st in the majors. Some teams are still fighting for conference and possible postseason positioning. Who will make their conference tournament and who will host a regional is all still up in the air. At the same time, other teams already know they’re just playing out the string.

What also happens every April in college baseball is that the Miami Hurricanes play the Florida State Seminoles six times. Three games in Tallahassee followed by three games the following weekend in Coral Gables. For those of you who aren’t big followers of college baseball, playing six games in a season against a single team is a lot of games. Most teams don’t face each other more than two or three times per year. And when the Hurricanes move into the ACC next year, they will only face the Seminoles three times per season (Miami’s baseball team never joined the Big East, so the 2005 season will be their first as part of a conference).

If you didn’t know that six games was a lot for college teams to play against each other, you might also not know that Miami and Florida State are powers in college baseball much like they are in college football. Actually, the more you think about it, the more similar the teams are to their football counterparts. Both are perennial contenders with long streaks of postseason appearances. As in most every year, both clubs entered this year’s series ranked in the top 20 of the various polls. Also similarly to how things play out in football, Miami’s baseball team has won 4 championships (all since 1982) and Florida State has won none (although they have appeared in the college world series many times, including losing the championship game to Miami in 1999).

Like in football, these programs also turn out future professional stars. In recent years Miami has produced Major Leaguers such as the Phillies’ Pat Burrel and Jason Michaels and the Devil Rays' Aubrey Huff. Florida State has produced Braves’ outfielder J.D. Drew (and after this year, likely his little brother Steven as well), Twins’ first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, and if you didn’t know it already, former Major Leaguer Deion Sanders. The Major League baseball draft, as it exists today, started in 1965. Miami has had a player drafted in every draft and Florida State has had a player drafted every year since 1966. Granted, the baseball draft is longer than those in the other professional leagues, but nonetheless, those are some pretty impressive feats.

Back to the games themselves…

This year’s series was much like those in year’s past. Hard fought, close games that could go either way. The stands are packed and both teams are fighting hard to position themselves for postseason play.

Florida State won the first game on April 9th 6 – 5 after scoring three runs in the bottom of the 8th to take the lead for good. Miami came back to win on Saturday and Sunday in Tallahassee, 17 – 11 on Saturday and 4 – 0 on Sunday. Sunday’s shutout was the first time in series history that the Hurricanes shut out the Seminoles at Dick Howser Stadium.

This past weekend started out much the same way the previous weekend ended, with the Hurricanes shutting out the Seminoles 10 – 0 on Friday night. The Canes were led by a 2 hit, 3 RBI performance by former NFL great Jim Burt’s son, Jim Burt. On Saturday night, the Canes ensured a win of the season series by outscoring the Noles 7 – 3. Highlighting (or low lighting as it were) this game was Florida State Manager Mike Martin’s accusation that the Canes were stealing the Noles signs by watching the game on TV in the clubhouse and relaying the catcher’s signals to the batter. Although the game was interrupted for more than fifteen minutes while the umpires “investigated,” no evidence of foul play was found (although I’m not quite sure how it could have been). Facing a sweep and a demoralizing trip back to Tallahassee, the Noles fought hard on Sunday and earned a 10 – 3 victory and their second win against the Canes this season.

Miami won the 2004 regular season series against Florida State 4 games to 2, but that’s not to say that these two teams won’t meet again this year. Both clubs are on course to earn trips to the postseason (Miami has been part of regional play for a record 32 consecutive years and FSU has appeared in 26 in a row), and it’s not uncommon for the teams to see each other in Omaha (Miami has been in 8 of the last 10 and 18 of the last 26 College World Series and Florida State has appeared in 11 of the last 17). In 2000, after Miami eliminated Florida State in the 1999 championship game, Florida State eliminated Miami in a three game Super Regional.

Hopefully we’ll see both of these two clubs in Omaha come June. Go Canes!

Doom and Gloom in Yankee Blue

While I would like to be amongst the first to declare the Yankees season a failure, it’s still only April and there’s plenty of time for things to shake themselves out. Yes, the Yankees are in 3rd place and have a record of 6 – 7 after losing three out of four games to the Red Sox this weekend.

Going into today’s game against the Red Sox, the Yankees had a team batting average of .212, good for last (14th) in the American League (the league average by the way is .272). The Yankees also ranked 9th in on base percentage (.334 vs. a league average of .347) and 11th in OPS (.711 vs. a league average of .776). The Yankees pitching staff is a more respectable 6th in the league in ERA and WHIP, but a less respectable 8th in batting average allowed (a questionable metric though) as they are allowing opponents to hit at a .280 clip.

The depressing offensive statistics are the result of a collective poor performance by most of the Yankees highest paid hired guns., the Yankees’ most prized off-season acquisition, is off to an incredibly slow start – hitting .156 with an on base percentage of .269. also has more strikeouts (10) than walks (6), and although most of his hits have gone for extra bases, the totals are still small (four of seven). Yankee fans will be quick to tell you that this is to be expected because it takes awhile – two months is the figure I hear most commonly – for superstars to adjust to the big city. While this may be “true” I would think that could afford a sports psychologist or some other sort of professional to prepare him for the rigors of the New York media. Apparently not though. Enough railing on for now. I’ll be a fan of his as long as he keeps donating money to the University of Miami’s baseball program.

Jason Giambi, possibly in response to the BALCO and steroid jeers, is hitting a paltry .226 (although his on base percentage is extremely high due to a continued ability to draw walks). Backup first baseman Tony Clark and Travis Lee are hitting a collective .200 and are not drawing walks at a Giambi-like clip (a combined one walk between the two of them). Newly acquired centerfielder Kenny Lofton, who is now on the disabled list (although some would argue that in reality he was before, just not in actuality), is hitting only .167. The Yankees other centerfielder (not named Bubba), Bernie Williams, is hitting .212, but is reaching base and scoring some runs. Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Gary Sheffield have all had decent starts, although certainly nothing up to their All-Star/borderline Hall of Fame career standards.

What’s the point of all of this? Well, the Yankees are 6 – 7 now and two games back in the East. They are struggling – struggling mightily from a collective offensive standpoint, at levels that it is not realistic to expect them to sustain over the course of the long season. What does this mean for the rest of the American League East? Beware. The Yankees are lurking and no one has been able to put much distance between themselves and the Yankees. At likely their lowest point of the year, the Yankees are only one game below .500. It’s nearly impossible to even conceive that a lineup comprised of Jeter,, Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, etc, etc, etc, will hit a collective .212 for the entire season. They’re going to hit better. They are going to score more runs. And when they do those things, they are likely to win more games – whether Mike Mussina gets back into the swing of things or not.

The Weekend that Was

This past weekend’s slate of baseball games was more hyped than any other mid-April weekend in recent memory. Red Sox – Yankees headlined the weekend (with that series set to come to a conclusion with a Patriots’ Day morning matchup today). In addition, two West Coast powers – the Angels and Athletics squared off, with the A’s sending their triumvirate of aces to the mound (to mixed results).

There was another big West Coast series between two teams that started out their rivalry on the other coast. Giants versus Dodgers is always an intense series, regardless of what the standings say. While the Dodgers got the best of the series this weekend, Barry Bonds had a weekend to remember. The numbers he’s putting up right now are completely ridiculous. Aaron Gleeman had a great post on “Pace Fors” going into the weekend. Then Bonds went off and hit four home runs in three games, while hardly getting pitched to – including one blast to right centerfield on a wicked 3-1 curveball from Jeff Weaver yesterday.

The Cubs and Reds also surprisingly put together a great series all weekend. It started on Friday when both managers were ejected from a game that the Cubs (much to my chagrin) ultimately came back to win in extra innings. Cubs fans littered the field with beer cups and other debris following Manager Dusty Baker’s ejection. On Saturday, Kerry Wood was pitching a gem and Dusty left him in the game in the 9th. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Wood tired and may have been squeezed on a few calls, resulting in a walk that ended up having a big impact on the game. Wood spewed some heated words towards the home plate umpire and it wasn’t quite clear who was being held back from whom for a moment. Eventually Dusty lifted Wood from the game, but on his way back to the dugout, Wood exchanged words with the home plate umpire and was, somewhat unnecessarily, ejected from the game. Cub fans took this as reason to litter the field with beer cups and debris. The Reds went on to win that game to even the series. Yesterday in the rubber match, Reds catcher Jason LaRue looked much more like me than Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate. A few balls in the dirt got past him and a belt high swinging strike whiffed at by Derrek Lee completely eluded LaRue and could have cost the Reds the game. Greg Maddux was again roughed up for the Cubs and it was so windy at Wrigley that even Gold-glove caliber outfielders like Ken Griffey Jr. looked foolish on a fly ball or two. Although the game was not interrupted yesterday to remove debris from the field, at least one fan did attempt to shower Griffey with a cold one when he went back on a fly ball to center (fortunately for Ken, it looked like the beer missed him – on a random note though, why are Griffey’s new Nikes blue? Not exactly a Reds color. Seems random to me – maybe he was supposed to be traded to the Royals or Mariners by now).

I was also happy to see this weekend that the White Sox took two of three games from the Devil Rays in Tampa. Actually, I was only mildly pleased with this. Winning the series – any series – is good, but a sweep against Tampa would have been better and was almost expected. Loiaza looked good yesterday though, so that’s encouraging.

What was less encouraging over the weekend was the Marlins performance versus the Braves. While over the years the Marlins have usually performed well against the Braves in head-to-head matchups, they have never finished ahead of the Braves in the standings. After starting out the season 8 – 1, “fans” in Miami were starting to feel that this year might be the year. But the Braves swept the Marlins and in all likelihood killed the que of fans waiting to buy playoff tickets in Miami – or maybe those were just people who were waiting for the much anticipated, but to date only rumored, second distribution of replica world championship rings at the Pro.

Of the three losses, yesterday’s extra inning loss was far and away the most difficult to take. While the Fish’s bats were quiet all weekend, they still had a chance to win yesterday’s game until Miguel Cabrera inexplicably lost a ball in the sun. Cabrera was not wearing sunglasses and he said after the game that he never does because he finds them uncomfortable. I wish that a reporter in the locker room had followed up that response with a question about what looking directly into the sun without sunglasses on, like Cabrera did in the 10th yesterday feels like. I would suspect it’s slightly worse than uncomfortable. Particularly when the lost fly ball rolls up to your feet. Hopefully the good people at Oakley will talk Cabrera into an endorsement deal right away. It’s not exactly Oakley’s style, but you could work up some pretty funny advertising around the lost fly ball in the sun.

Overall what caught up with the Marlins this weekend was a lack of hitting. Since the Fish have a team ERA of less than 2, it went under the radar for the first week plus that the Marlins haven’t really hit well this year. Truth be told, they’re not going to hit as well this year as they did last year. Derrek Lee and Ivan Rodriguez are gone. Mike Lowell likely had a career year – despite the injuries. Juan Pierre, as much as I like and respect him, probably played a little over his head. But at the same time the slump that Pierre is in is just that, a slump, he’ll break out of it and when he does, the Marlins will be a different team. With Pierre on the bases, opposing pitchers have to be more aware of him than an average base runner and that likely means better pitches for Castillo, Cabrera, etc to hit.

Unfortunately though for Marlins fans, I think Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine may be done. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be proven wrong and this will turn out to be just another of Conine’s traditionally slow starts, but this year I’m not so sure. Conine looks old and slow in the field and at the plate. A platoon with Nunez may not be such a bad thing at this point. Nunez was hot all spring and appears to be on the road to becoming a malcontent if he’s left on the bench. Not that I advocate playing someone just because he’s a whiner, quite the opposite actually, but it’s going to be hard to develop him on the bench and they can’t send him to the minors without risking losing him through waivers either.

Still though, a month ago if you’d told me that the Marlins would be in first place after twelve games with an 8-4 record I would not have believed you, particularly if you’d told me that Mike Lowell would be tied for the team lead in stolen bases and that Juan Pierre would have none. All in all, a great start to the year for the Fish.

It was a good run...

The Marlins are starting to get some respect. Despite getting swept by the Braves in Atlanta last weekend, the Marlins are still getting respect from the national media (also see CNNSI's power rankings) and even from the blog community. A big thank you to the unsolicited plug from Studes and The Hardball Times today. Hopefully we'll get some hits and I'll have some commentary that's worth reading.

And oh by the way, for those of you in town who haven't figured it out yet, Dontrelle Willis's 4th start of the year and second at home will most likely be on Sunday night against the Braves. It's a Sunday night baseball game of the week. I've been holding off on telling people this until I secured my own tickets, but now that I have some decent ones, I wanted to spread the word. Go out and get your own now because I'm sure PPS is filling up fast...

Friday, April 16, 2004

Playoff Like Atmosphere

Count how many times you hear that phrase said this weekend. There are some big baseball games slated for this weekend, well as big as games can be considering that it’s mid-April. Oh and there’s also, allegedly, playoff hockey and basketball too (I’ve only noticed as it interrupts ESPN’s baseball broadcasts – tonight’s double overtime hockey game brings us to the Padres and Dodgers already in progress in the fourth inning).

For this entire weekend we get to see arguably the two biggest powers in the American League face-off in what could be an ALCS preview (as division foes are forbidden from meeting in the Divisional round). One club will send three aces to the mound this weekend to face off against the other club’s offseason acquisitions, which include one of the biggest bats in the game.

And that’s just the Angels – A’s series. I haven’t even mentioned the little Red Sox – Yankees set.

In the National League, the highlight (in my possibly slightly biased opinion) is the Marlins – Braves matchup in Atlanta. While the Marlins have won two World Series in their now twelve year existence and have opened up strong, the Fish have never finished ahead of the Braves in the standings, although they have played well against the Braves head-to-head. Going into last weekend, I felt that the series against the Phillies could be a major test for the Marlins, particularly for their bullpen and new bats. The Marlins came through that test with flying colors. It was at home though, and this series against the Braves is their first real test on the road.

Much of the talk in Miami lately – at least on sports talk radio – has been about how the Marlins are not getting much respect, particularly nationally. If you follow the University of Miami much, like I do, you’ll know that this is a common theme in sports. Miami sports fans tend to think they’re being disrespected by default. Going into the season, prior to the Marlins 8 – 1 start, this was an easier argument to buy. Many prognosticators and pre-season publications picked the Marlins to finish third in the National League East, usually behind the Phillies and Braves. But that’s harder to say now. But what the media portrays doesn’t really matter anyway. Baseball is decided on the field, or as Kenny Mayne would say, by those little men who live inside your television.

The media may be coming around though on the Marlins. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing though as the Fish seem to have thrived as underdogs. Who knows how they might react as favorites, as implausible of a thought as that might seem. I read this account today on CNNSI in their power rankings (which at first glance appear to be upside down, but then you realize this is the first power poll of the season). The Marlins are rated at the top of the major leagues currently according to this source.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I was trading emails today with the proprietors of Dugout Dollars (a fine site for team and player payrolls if you haven’t been there already) and in the process of determining how much salary Ivan Rodriguez had deferred last year (which turned out to be $7 million of his $10 million contract), I found this little nugget from Rob Neyer (who I respect tremendously and who’s writing I thoroughly enjoy):

“In a specific sort of way, signing Pudge Rodriguez to a one-year contract -- with a no-trade clause -- for $10 million seems like something of a strange move for the Marlins. They apparently have designs on the National League East, and it's certainly true that stranger things have happened; after all, the Angels just won a World Series. But unless Florida's rotation suddenly emulates Oakland's rotation -- and Pudge has never been known for his brilliant work with pitchers -- the Marlins aren't going to win anything. Not with Alex Gonzalez at shortstop and one of the least productive outfields in the game.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see it coming for the Marlins last year. I was excited about the potential of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, both of whom I had read about and seen in Spring Training. But I never imagined that they would step up and contribute all the way through the World Series last year. I also vehemently disagreed with the ownership’s decision to hire Jack McKeon last year. At the time I felt the team would be better served to bring in someone new who had not had an opportunity to manage before. But I was proven completely wrong about that.

So what’s the point here? Pre-season and early season predictions are all well and good. Trust me, I enjoy the debate and discussion as much as anyone else. But in the end, rarely if ever are even the experts amongst us right. That’s why they play the game and we all enjoy watching it so much. It’s not scripted and you never know what’s going to happen.

Enjoy the weekend!

Summer Topics
Awhile back I swore (even on this blog) that I would attend the 2004 College World Series in Omaha. While it still looks like the Canes have an excellent chance of making it there, I don’t think that I’ll be making the trip this season. I can’t find anyone willing to go with me for more than a week and I don’t feel like spending a full week’s vacation time to hang out by myself in Omaha. But I received an email today with details on how to buy general admission tickets to the games. You can buy a ten pack of tickets for only $50. That’s an outstanding deal for some outstanding baseball.

Instead of going to Omaha this year, I am going to go to the SABR convention in Cincinnati. I missed last year’s convention and regretted it all year. So this year I’m going (it will be my first). Many of the topics, particularly the discussion of the 1919 Black Sox scandal and Marvin Miller’s keynote address are of interest to me.

I wonder if many bloggers are SABR members who will be attending the session. If so, we should set up a side session to talk about blogging and other such things. If you’re a blogging SABR member, drop me a line and let me know. Maybe we can set something up.

For those of you who don’t know much about it, SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research. This year the convention in Cincinnati will take place from July 15th through 18th and will include presentations of research, panel discussions, Reds games, tours of Great American Ballpark, other ballpark tours and visits to a minor league game or too. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for passionate baseball fans.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Batting Practice and Infield

ESPN's Buster Olney wrote an interesting piece today about Andruw Jones and his defensive abilities. While I know that many of you like to debate this ad infinitum, it's hard to question that Jones is an outstanding defender. The debate lies in how great of a defensive player Jones is.

I've always enjoyed watching Andruw Jones play, particularly in person. On a few occasions I've made the trip up to Atlanta to see the Braves in person and whenever (wherever too) I see them I like to arrive in time for batting practice (actually I like to do that regardless of who's playing). Most teams don't take infield anymore, but if they did I'm sure Jones would be a pleasure to watch. One of the fun quirks with Andruw during batting practice though is that he occassionally takes ground balls at shortstop. To my untrained eye, Jones always appears to be a fluid fielder with abilities that could make him a gold glove infielder if he were ever given the opportunity. That's not a move that I'd expect to see the Braves make anytime soon, but you never know. To see him as a defensive replacement sometime or to be shuffled around like Miguel Cabrera was for the Marlins in last year's playoffs would not surprise me in the least.

So if you're ever going to a Braves game, do yourself a favor and show up early. Just make sure to keep your eye on Jones when he's in the field and not just at the plate.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Are you kidding me?

Dontrelle Willis had his second start of the year for the Marlins tonight in San Juan against the Expos. In his first start, Dontrelle shut out the Expos for 7 2/3 innings while also going 3 for 3 at the plate and scoring one run. Willis had a highlight reel quality head first dive into home plate to score his run and another head first dive nearly into the dugout in an attempt to catch a foul ball.

Few, if any of us, saw tonight's appearance live - in person or on television - because the Marlins aren't broadcasting this series from San Juan (apparently expenses are high there, or so the rumor goes). But it sounds as if we missed a heck of a ball game. The Marlins won tonight 9 - 0, improving their record this season to 7 - 1. In addition, the Fish have shut out the Expos for 30 consecutive innings. When I heard this in the car tonight (on my way home from the Heat game), I figured that Dontrelle must have pitched another gem. I was really happy to hear this because I was worried that Dontrelle could pitch himself out of the rotation by the All-Star break, particularly if A.J. Burnett is able to return from Tommy John surgery earlier rather than later. However, the next thing that I heard was that Willis was removed from the game after only 5 innings. Here's what I thought the possibilities were:

1 - Willis was injured. Obviously not a pleasant thought.
2 - Jack McKeon removed Willis from the game in an act somewhat like a Little League mercy rule since it was becoming apparent that the Expos couldn't hit the D-Train.

It turns out that it was probably something else. Willis walked four batters in five innings (hopefully not a sign that the wildness is back) and threw 94 pitches. Given that Willis through nearly 120 pitches in his first start last week and that this game was well in hand after five, I'm glad to hear that McKeon took Willis out.

Well, I was until I realized that Willis was 3-for-3 at the plate tonight with a single, a double, and a 3-run home run. So after just four innings (Willis was pinch hit for in the 5th), Dontrelle was three-fourths of the way to the cycle. I'm not sure if a pitcher has ever hit for the cycle, but I'm sure it's been done, but probably not in a long time (maybe someone would be kind enough to look it up on Retrosheet and email me with what they find).

This performance at the plate comes on the heels of his 3-for-3 performance in his first start. After two games, yes - I know, it's only two games - Dontrelle is 6-for-6 at the plate with two extra base hits, three runs scored and three RBI. For those of you who are SABR-metrically inclined that's 1.000/1.000/1.667. For those of you who aren't so SABR-metrically inclined, that means Dontrelle has a batting average and an on base percentage of 1.000 (both perfect), and an slugging percentage of 1.667 (better than anything Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth ever put up over the course of a season). This adds up to an OPS (on base + slugging) of 2.667 (see SLG comment). Yes, I know they're not really "percentages" but if you've read this far, you probably know that's how they're referred to.

The only real knock on Dontrelle so far is that he doesn't walk when he's at the plate and that he walks too many when he's on the mound. Still, Dontrelle Willis is two-for-two this year in delivering his trademark fun and excitement to baseball fans.

Juice anyone?

While surfing around tonight I clicked on the "random blog" button on Baseball News Blog (I'm not savvy enough yet to steal this code and add this fun feature to The Book of Mike, but keep your eyes open for this change coming soon. Today I was fortunate enough to be taken to Only Baseball Matters which in addition to being a very nice looking blog also has plenty of good commentary (and cool features - like the visitor map, which I was able to steal - see far below on the right).

I found this post about Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and how they are being treated about using steroids and similar substances to be very interesting. There's also a link on Only Baseball Matters to an article by Steven A. Smith (requires free registration with to view) about the same subject.

I have to say that I agree with both writers. Bonds doesn't seem to be getting a fair shake in all of this. McGwire admitted to taking andro, which although legal in baseball at the time, was banned by every other reputable sports governing body - even the IOC which isn't so reputable. McGwire never admitted to taking steroids, but neither has Barry. And honestly, as much as I think this is still wrong, if McGwire took anabolic steroids in 1998 and Bonds took them in 2001, it's largely irrelevant. Well, at least to me. It doesn't make sense to go back and put an asterisk next to a record that someone set because they took a substance that was not illegal at the time. Yes, it's illogical that steroids weren't banned in baseball until after both men set their records, but that's just how it is. We aren't going back to adjust the records of Gaylord Perry and other spitballers, so we shouldn't do that to Bonds and McGwire either.

Sacks Full of Sox

In another apparent attempt to build the struggling reliever's confidence, Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen bravely inserted former fireballer Billy Koch into the 9th inning of today's game against the Royals. At the time this seemed like a fairly safe move. The White Sox had an 8 - 5 lead at the time and the bottom two hitters in the Royals lineup would be leading off the inning. Here's what Koch accomplished - 2/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 HR.

Koch earned an ERA (I know it's not a great statistic but since the scoring came mostly via home runs, it's pretty fair today) of 54.00 today, bringing his total for the season to 11.25. Sometimes I wonder if I could rival such numbers in the major leagues.

Luckily Ozzie Guillen had saved Jon Adkins in the pen. Adkins came on and, after walking a batter, struck out alleged BALCO customer Benito Santiago to end the inning.

Today the White Sox were fortunate enough to face Curtis Leskanic and Nate Field in the 9th and they were able to come back with three runs to win the game (without so much as making an out). I doubt that this luck will carry through for the Sox throughout the year (particularly when faced with the Yankees and Mariano Rivera or the Angels and Troy Percival), but they got lucky today. Koch seems to have run his course though and is a danger to have in any game. I'm not sure what the Sox will be able to do about it exactly, as they're saddled with his contract and it's unlikely they'd be able to get anything of value - or anything at all really - for him at this point. Don't be surprised if a mysterious arm ailment develops for Koch in the near future and he's forced into a long rehab stint in Birmingham until he returns to form.

The Sox have to do something. They can't be looking up at the Tigers in the standings all year.