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 29, 2005

Milton Bradley - I'm cheering for you

There is a nice feature in the current edition of USA Today's "Sports Weekly" about Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley (unfortunately, I can't find a link to it). As you know, Bradley has had a tumultous career, which has led him to bounce between the Expos, Indians, and now to the Dodgers. He is uber-talented, but has historically had a temper to match.

After his incident last year at Dodger Stadium (which isn't worth rehashing here), Bradley apologized to everyone and actively sought help.

So far it seems, he's genuinely made use of that help and is a changed person. What's even more fortunate for Milton is that the Dodgers stood by him. It would have been easy for them to sever ties with the outfielder - either to trade him or release him, but they didn't. And now they are reaping the rewards for this - as they have a happy and productive Bradley in their lineup.

I think there's a lesson in that for a lot of us. Maybe not - time will tell. In the mean time, I'll be cheering for Milton Bradley.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Marlins Stadium Issue - Talk to Someone

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Week of 4/25: College Baseball Projections

Boyd's World has new pseudo-RPIs up, so I thought that based on that (and my opinions) I'd make my first predictions for the field of this year's College World Series:

1. Texas
2. Tulane
3. Florida
4. Baylor
5. Oregon State
6. Miami
7. Louisana-Lafayette
8. Arizona State

The first two spots are gimmies. Those would have to be pretty much consensus picks. Florida seems to be for real too - although I'm always skeptical of the Gators.

Baylor and Oregon State aren't traditional powers, but they're having great years this year and I think they'll hold up.

While I don't think this is Miami's strongest team by any means, they seem to be holding up well in the rankings and ratings. That will probably buy the Canes a national seed, which likely means hosting a regional and a super regional. That could be what propels the Canes to Omaha this year, as my hopes for them are much dimmer if they have to go on the road.

I don't know much about Louisana-Lafayette, but I keep reading good things about them. So they're my darkhorse.

For the 8th team, I really struggled. This could have been any one of a number of teams. I picked traditional power Arizona State, but I'm not sold on it. You could easily make cases for at least three ACC schools (North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and NC State) and you could probably put Clemson into that fold as well. From the SEC, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, or LSU could also take a berth.

Barring injury or something else unexpected, Texas and Tulane are virtual Omaha locks. The last six spots though are up for grabs, and there are twenty clubs with legitimate shots at grabbing them.


Monday, April 25, 2005

Canes vs. Noles - Baseball just like Football

While the Seminoles were able to salvage something from the weekend with a 13 - 1 blowout win yesterday, it was a tough weekend for the young Noles - as they lost two out of three games to the Hurricanes in Coral Gables.

I carefully chose to say that the Noles lost two out of the three games - instead of saying that the Canes won two out of the three. To say that the Canes won the Friday and Saturday night matchups would be factually correct, but not entirely accurate either.

Honestly, this weekend's baseball series was much like the script that has played out so many times in recent years between the Canes and the Noles on the football field. The Noles dominate the Canes for much of the game, but eventually the Noles (usually via their kicker) find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Friday night's game was essentially decided in the bottom of the 8th inning. It appeared that the Canes had squandered their third bases-loaded opportunity of the night, but when Noles shortstop Ryne Jernigan tried to make the play at second himself to start what should have been an inning ending double play, he failed to reach second before the runner. As a result, the runner at second was safe and the Noles were not out of the inning. Jernigan later made an error on a routine grounder, which allowed the Canes rally to continue. To make things worse for poor Jernigan, he even fouled out to the catcher to end the game in the 9th.

How bad of a night was it on Friday for Jernigan? On Friday night, he wore number 8. By Saturday night, he had switched to number 56 - which was so new that he was the only player not to have his name stitched on above his number.

Fortunately for Jernigan, the number change was enough to shift the bad luck away. Unfortunately for Florida State, the bad luck didn't move to the Canes dugout - instead it shifted to the Noles outfield.

Seminoles' right fielder Ruairi O'Connor played the role of Florida State's kicker on Saturday night, as he dropped not one - but two - foul balls in the early going. Those drops ultimately led to baserunners and runs. O'Connor was replaced and the Canes went on to win the game.

Overall it was a good series for the Canes, as they won two out of three games and inched closer to the top of the conference standings (as Georgia Tech was swept by Virginia - who Miami will face in a few weeks). The wins for the Canes were not dominating though, and questions still loom as to how far this team will be able to go in the post-season.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How do things look for the Canes?

There has been much consternation in Hurricane Baseball land this year. Coming into the season, expectations were high. Most everyone was returning from last year (and even the year before's) College World Series team, so folks felt this year the team was primed not only to reach Omaha, but to make a serious run at the national title.

Then injuries started to plague the team, and there are the unexplained, indefinite suspensions to Gaby Sanchez and Marcelo Albir which further robbed the team of needed depth (as we watch former contributors like Joey Hooft - at Arizona State - and Greg Dini and Matt Barket at Tulane fill major roles for other clubs).

That was followed by a typically sluggish start to the season, which included series losses (with one win and two defeats in each series) against non-conference, but arch-rival nonetheless Florida, and new conference foe Georgia Tech. Gloom and doom set in amongst the Hurricane faithful. It seemed that all was lost and folks started to talk of not only not making it to Omaha this year, but the likelihood that the Canes might not even host a regional this season.

Recently though, the tide has turned. Fueled by a sweep over lowly Virginia Tech (who the Canes struggle to beat in seemingly every sport), the Canes traveled up to Chapel Hill last week and won two (and tied another) against North Carolina and their vaunted pitching staff (which entered the weekend with a team era under 2.00).

Now it's mid-April and the Canes are in second place in the conference and ranked highly in all the major polls. In my favorite rankings, Boyd's World's Pseudo-RPI (Boyd's World is a great place for college baseball information), the Canes are ranked 5th this week.

Two of the teams ahead of them are Florida and Georgia Tech. Maybe those early season series losses weren't so bad after all. The other two higher ranked teams are Texas and Tulane - both of whom had higher expectations than the Canes coming into the year, so everyone knew that a trip to Omaha would run through them ultimately anyway.

The moral of the story is that it's mid-April and things look pretty good for the Canes right now. There are 12 regular season ACC games left (and three more non-conference games). Winning each series is critical - but winning each conference game might be more so, as each loss makes a regular season conference title less likely (although the regular season ACC doesn't count for much, other than better seeding in the conference tournament - where the winner receives an automatic tournament bid).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Canes - Seminoles Set to Square Off

This weekend presents an odd first in college baseball, as the Miami Hurricanes will meet the Florida State Seminoles, as they have every year for some time now, but this year will be the first time they do so as conference rivals. So in that sense there's more on the line than their used to be, as these games count in the conference standings. But on the other hand, because of the ACC affiliation, they'll only meet three times per year from now on, instead of the six they used to.

What's also odd are the hats they're selling for this series. I'm not sure who a split Miami/Florida State hat appeals to, maybe other than Ken Dorsey's mom, as her other son went to FSU.

Like in nearly all recent years, both teams are playing well and are ranked. Miami is riding a hot streak, having won two games last weekend in North Carolina against the Tar Heels - including beating the Heels two most highly touted pitchers. FSU is hot too - having beat highly ranked Florida (which took two of three from Miami earlier this year) just last night. And the Noles did that while using one of their regular infielders as their starting pitcher (he'll also start on Sunday, after his strong showing last night).

This should be a great series at Mark Light this weekend. Friday night's game is already sold out (and features a giveaway). Saturday and Sunday's affairs should draw big crowds too (if only to see the Noles loud Sunday uniforms).

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Refocusing on College Baseball

As we've talked about ad nauseum here for the past two weeks, all of the Marlins content that we previously wrote here is now appearing at our new site – Fish Stripes. That hasn't left a whole lot of content to appear here. Instead of letting the site die a slow death and instead of writing about mundane personal things, the new direction for this site is going to involve college baseball.

Long time readers of this site know that we are Miami Hurricane fans here. And, as usual, the Canes have a pretty good baseball team again this year. Long time readers also probably know that we like college baseball just as much as we like major league and professional baseball.

So college baseball it will be – well, at least until football season rolls around.

And now's a good time for any baseball fan to start getting into college baseball. Not only are conference races heating up, but there's much more college baseball on television. This has been made possible because of the hockey strike, which has freed up a lot of hours of programming on ESPN – which has resorted to showing things like curling on the weekends.

Tonight's television coverage features Tulane and Louisiana State on ESPN2 at 7. While LSU isn't living up to its reputation as a national power this year, Tulane is more than fitting the bill.

Canes fans will also find some familiar names dotting the Tulane lineup, as catcher Matt Dini and outfielder Matt Barket are key contributors for the Golden Wave. Neither was receiving adequate playing time for Miami, and that ultimately led to both players transferring elsewhere.

Tulane also features one of the best players in the nation in Micah Owings (formerly of Georgia Tech). Owings is hitting .325 on the season and has an ERA of 3.75.

Owings is one of the reasons to watch college baseball – even if you don't have a favorite team. He's a guy who's likely to be a high draft pick this year, and there's probably still considerable debate as to whether he'll be drafted as a pitcher or a position player. Watch the game tonight and you can draw your own conclusion.

You can check out ESPN's full slate of college baseball coverage here (and you may want to check back often as they seem to still be adding games).

Friday, April 15, 2005

Finally - A Break from Red Sox - Yankees

For the first time in what seems like forever, all of us non-Red Sox and Yankees fans get a break from what seems like perpetual Boston - New York coverage on television. We now have more than one month before the teams meet again.

Unfortunately though, Gary Sheffield getting half-punched and then half-retaliating will probably keep this rivalry in the headlines.

I only hope it will help limit the number of replays we see of Doug Flutie catching a foul ball, and the apparently necessary showing of the clip of his Hail Mary pass to beat Miami twenty years ago. Actually, I hope Doug Flutie outlives me, because I can only imagine how many times we'll see that clip when the man passes.

Anyways, no more Red Sox - Yankees for the time being. That will allow the rest of us to focus on the other 28 teams. And it will allow Harold Reynolds to spend more time dissecting President Bush's technique when throwing out opening pitches (apparently it's something he knows more about than telling Carl Pavano to do a better job of getting out of the way of line drives).

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Once in awhile last year I posted links to some of the more unusual things that generated hits here at The Book. Lately there have been some really interesting ones, but many of them were so weird that I wasn't even comfortable linking to them.

Yesterday though I came across this one, which I found to be pretty interesting. Apparently a college class is studying the Marlins efforts to get a new stadium (I'd say "where were these classes when I was in school?" but I majored in Sports Management as an undergrad). As part of their coursework the students were given a link to a story that I wrote about the incremental sales tax (found here).

This is one of those things that worries me some times about the blogosphere. The particular post of mine linked to above was something I just threw together, didn't even proof read, and then left out there for the world to enjoy. Usually when I do something like that, hardly anybody reads it. But in this case (and last year too when I wrote about the water conserving urinals at then Pro Player Stadium - you'll have to scroll down to the Potty Talk/Environmentalism post) the post generated something of an audience and a following.

Maybe I should mess with the students who don't read the post until later in the semester. I could go back and change it to make it seem as if I'm very-pro publicly funded stadiums and that I think the Marlins incremental tax assumptions are conservative.

I won't really do that of course, but the possibility of it exposes a flaw of blogs. In this particular case, what I wrote may serve to provide some interesting insight into the public perception (albeit my personal take, which hopefully for these students is representative of some percentage of the population) of the situation. But it also can't ever be considered as something as legitimate as the news articles and other materials linked to on the course syllabus (see first link).

Ok, I'll go back into my hole now and stop stating the obvious.

P.S. If you're here looking for Marlins content, go to our new site - Fish Stripes

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Remember the New Site?

I don't think everyone's found their way to the new site yet. If you don't like it, you obviously can't be forced to read there, but you should at least check it out. It's the same as whatever you've found here in the past - it's all just in a new place now. Here's some of the more recent material:

Marlins Broadcasters and Announcing in Baseball Overall

How worried should you be about the Marlins 3 - 4 start? I know, I know - the Sox are 5 - 2, leading the AL Central and *clearly* on their way to going wire-to-wire with the division.


It looks like the Marlins could be staying at Dolphins Stadium for some time to come

Monday, April 11, 2005

Misc Update

The major league baseball season is one week old and the White Sox are leading the AL Central. Not only that but they took two out of three games from the Indians (the chic pick) and the Twins (the three time defending champs) during opening week. I know it's early, but things are looking promising for the South Siders.

Things haven't been so rosy for the Marlins so far, but they're at .500 and Beckett and Willis (all of the pitching staff really) has looked great.

The Hurricanes swept Virginia Tech in baseball over the weekend. That was something that should have been a given going into the weekend, but given the Canes struggles to date this year, it wasn't. Still, it was good to beat the Hokies in something this year at least. Maybe it's a sign of things to come for football.

Speaking of football, I made it out to the Spring Game on Saturday. I got this impression when I attended practice one day this Spring, but the game solidified it: James Bryant is going to revolutionize the fullback position at the University of Miami. He seems to take joy in hitting people. And he has pretty good hands too. He's going to be fun to watch.

Well, that's all for now. I promise there will still be regular, actual content here. Until that becomes fact though, please consider trying out FishStripes. It's all still written by me (well, Grover too), so it's pretty much exactly what you've been reading before - just a little different now.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Announcement: New Site

As some of you may now by now, I have a new website: Fish Stripes. All of the Marlins content which I normally used to blog over here, will from now on be found exclusively at Fish Stripes.

The Book of Mike will still exist, and I'll still be posting here regularly, but the content will be about general baseball, the White Sox, the 'Canes, and possibly even stuff about me and my life. All of the Marlins content though will be on Fish Stripes.

The past year and a half here at this little piece of the Internet has been a lot of fun for me. I've met a lot of people (well, virtually at least) and I've learned a lot. I hope that you have enjoyed what you've found here too - at least for the most part.

And hopefully too you'll find your way to the new site, or you'll keep checking in here once in awhile - or maybe you'll even check out both. Either way, thanks for the past year and a half or so. At first I didn't think that anyone would read any of these things that I've been writing, but I've been really pleased to have found something of an audience. I hope that audience will continue to grow over at Fish Stripes.

Thanks! And as always, feel free to drop me a line.

EDIT: This will probably be the last post here for a few days, just so that it stays at the top of the page and that people see it.

Huizenga Kills Hopes for New Marlins Stadium

Although his motives may not have been pure, Wayne Huizenga's recent statements - both in public and apparently in private - seem to have put obtaining the remaining funding necessary for the Marlins new ballpark in jeopardy:
"This has all been pursued on the predicate that we're going to lose baseball in southeast Florida if we don't find a home for the Marlins," Senate President Tom Lee said of the tax subsidy. "[Huizenga] told me he has absolutely no intention of kicking the Marlins out after 2010. If they want a home, they will have a home ... I just want to make sure we're not stuck in a box canyon here when there might be more options."

If nothing else, Tom Lee is usually good for a quote. Here he's not calling anyone a terrorist, but I'll probably need some help in understanding what a box canyon is.

At least this recent development helps to shed more light onto the stadium financing situation. Apparently the state's interest in the project is not driven by the alleged economic benefits of building the ballpark, but instead the interest comes from a desire to see the team remain in the state. That's not necessarily a better reason to throw somewhere between $60 and $420 million at the project, but it's at least a little reassuring to see that they're not being wooed by the implausible financials that have been bandied about.

We'll see where this goes from here, but it seems that the Marlins could be playing in Dolphins Stadium for some time to come.

Early Observations from Around the League

Many of the Opening Series for the 2005 campaign wrap up today and already I’ve enjoyed a lot of different things. Some of those things even involve non-White Sox or Marlins things…

Miami Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy was featured prominently during last night’s Marlins broadcast. Van Gundy is a baseball fan and can often be seen at Marlins and Canes (baseball) games when basketball doesn’t keep him away. While yesterday’s television coverage was a little over the top (let the man enjoy some privacy!), it was fun to see Van Gundy out looking like the rest of us think we would if we were the coach of the Heat and had a free evening.

I caught Huston Street’s debut for the A’s last night. Striking out Sammy Sosa to end an inning always makes for a nice way to register your first major league strike out.

Speaking of Sosa, I found this interesting: Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro are the first members of the 500 home run club to be teammates after they hit their 500th homer. Even more interesting is that Sammy hit his first home run as a Texas Ranger and his 500th as a Chicago Cub. Palmeiro, of course, did just the opposite – hitting his first with the Cubs and his 500th with the Rangers. Now both hope to hit their last with the Orioles.

Between the XM coverage and MLB Extra Innings package I’m starting to form some (surprise!) strong opinions on broadcasters around the league. As we get farther into the season I hope to provide some commentary on this.

Speaking of broadcasters, Bert Blyleven likely didn’t do any good for his Hall of Fame chances with his birthday shenanigans yesterday. I’m just playing, but “Circle-me” Bert looked a little funny with a kid’s birthday hat on his head and a colorful ley around his neck.

The Reds are fun to watch. Offensively their lineup includes Ken Griffey, Sean Casey, Austin Kearns, and Adam Dunn – in order. Wily Mo Pena’s on the bench. There’s a lot of potential for offense there, and the Reds pitching staff promises to provide much of the same – even if it’s in the wrong direction.

The Cardinals lineup promises to be equally fun to watch. Fortunately for Tony LaRussa, they have better pitching.

Does anyone recognize the Astros this season? Biggio and Bagwell we all know, but the rest of the guys seem to be fresh off the train from Round Rock.

The opening series between the Rangers and Angels has been fun even if you were only able to catch Alfonso Soriano and Vladimir Guerrero. If you’ve read this blog for very long you know that I’m a huge Vlad fan. Soriano is one of those guys who’s fun to watch too – and you have to respect the high pants.

Well, I think that covers about half of the games that I’ve watched in the past two days, but I’ll leave it at that because I’m probably scaring people by now…

Marlins Drop a Tough One in Extra Innings

Normally I don't like to do game recaps, so you won't see a lot of that here throughout the year. But last night's game was an interesting one.

The knee-jerk reaction after the opening day, blowout win was that McKeon and the players were right - that the lack of offense during the Spring wasn't really a concern. It's tough to make any real kind of an assessment after just one game though.

Not that you can make any better of an assessment after two games.

Juan Pierre's pop-up bunt was not something we're likely to see again for a long time. It came at a critical juncture in last night's game, so that's unfortunate, but in the long run, Juan's good bunts will far outweigh the bad. Some have said that the Marlins shouldn't have been looking to bunt there and others have said that Juan was trying to pull the ball down the first base line and just missed. I think he was trying to punch it between the pitcher and third baseman - going for more of an infield hit than anything else. Regardless, it didn't work, but it isn't the single event that cost the team the game either.

It was encouraging to see Leiter look good in his first start of the year. Like Trader Jack forewarned when setting the rotation during the spring, Leiter didn't make it deep into the game. That got the Fish into the bullpen early, and while they didn't cost the team the game last night (yes, Bump gave up the home run, but by that point they were on their 7th inning of relief work), the extended work from the staff could prove to be detrimental as there's still more than a week until the first off-day of the season.

Last night's attendance - announced at a little North of 20,000 - was also encouraging. Hopefully that will keep up. (I don't know why I hope that - other than to keep the out-of-towners who talk about how the Marlins aren't supported quiet)

So, we're two games in and the Fish are at .500. Two completely different ball games so far, and that's part of the beauty of the game. This is a sprint and not a marathon folks, so don't get too high over the opening day route or two low over last night's heartbreaker. There are 160 more games to go and so far things have been pretty encouraging.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Open Thread: Game 2

The Marlins will take the field for game number two of the 2005 season later today.

Tonight will mark Al Leiter's return to the Marlins. As you probably remember, Leiter's last start (in a game that counted anyway) was in the Fall of 1997 - game 7 of the World Series. Games don't get much bigger than that. Hopefully tonight's outcome will be the same as in Leiter's last Marlins start.

Leiter will be opposed by another former Marlin, well at least technically he was a Marlin for a short time (he's still on the payroll). Mike Hampton takes the hill for the Braves in what gives us a matchup of lefties and former teammates from the Mets 2000 National League Championship team.

If you're in attendance at tonight's game, try to ask Hampton how his kids are doing in Colorado's excellent public school system. As you may remember, Hampton eschewed New York as a free agent to sign with the Colorado Rockies, largely because of the educational opportunities available for his kids - at least that's what he said at the time.

Marlins Opening Day Photos

Courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel:


Four, three, two, Juan - gone:

Dontrelle greets his teammates (Antonio Alfonseca is the pictured lucky recipient):

Have you ever been to a game without Duke Johnson selling something? He's always in the elephant hat. If you have, it was probably a long time ago. I've seen this guy at a day game in Ft. Lauderdale and a night game in the Gables - all in the same day. He's something else:

Another view of the pre-game, this time from the upper deck:

NL East Roundtable: 1st Edition Available

As we mentioned last week, we were fortunate enough to be invited to participate in a roundtable discussion of the NL East with some other bloggers who follow the "other" teams in the division.

The full transcript of the first edition of this discussion is now available on this page at Mets Geek. Check it out and leave a comment over there about what a fool I am.

Opening Day Success

Well... that was a pretty good start for opening day now, wasn't it?

Here I was worried for the past week or so about facing the mighty Braves on opening day, particularly with all-world John Smoltz taking the hill for the perennial division champs.

But then Smoltz gave us all another reason to discredit spring stats. Despite a scintillating spring, Smotlz was rocked by the Marlins, lasting less than two innings and giving up seven runs (six earned).

A 9 – 0 win like the Marlins had yesterday is always a great thing, but it's particularly sweet on opening day. As they take the field tonight for game 2, the Marlins will bring in a .350 team batting average.

Most impressive of all was Juan Encarnacion's grand slam in the first inning. Sure, he didn't do anything else offensively for the rest of the game, but his homer not only set the tone for the day, it also gave hope that his bat might be a little livelier than it was in 2004.

But most importantly, like I hinted at before the game yesterday, opening day is just one game. For the fans – and the players – it's special because of what it signifies, but in the standings it counts exactly the same as any other game.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Announcement Coming Soon

Yes, this time - I promise - it will be for real. No more faux engagements. Expect something within the next 24 hours or so.

And no, I'm not getting engaged or anything like that this time.

Marlins Game Thread: Opening Day

Opening Day Starters
Florida Marlins: Josh Beckett
Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz

Braves Lineup
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Marcus Giles
3B Larry “Chipper” Jones
CF Andruw Jones
RF Raul Mondesi
1B Julio Franco
LF Brian Jordan
C Johnny Estrada
P John Smoltz

Marlins Lineup
CF Juan Pierre
2B Luis Castillo
LF Miguel Cabrera
1B Carlos Delgado
3B Mike Lowell
C Paul LoDuca
RF Juan Encarnacion
SS Alex Gonzalez
P Josh Beckett

I’m not very confident that the Braves will actually use that lineup today, but it’s my best guess. I’m hoping that Julio Franco gets the start – or at least that he makes an appearance today.

For those of you who are interested in such things, the Marlins are 6 – 6 all time in opening day games, which includes a 6 – 4 mark at Joe Robbie/Pro Player Stadium (and as of today Dolphins Stadium). Today will mark Josh Beckett’s third consecutive opening day start for the Fish, which is a franchise record.

This will be the first of our open game threads this year. They’re very popular on other sites, so we thought we’d give it a try. Feel free to leave your comments throughout the game – or even afterwards.

To give us a topic to discuss too, I’ll give a suggestion: What are your expectations for the Marlins this year?

Bold Predictions

If you’re at all like us, you’ve been inundated with spam for sports betting services for the past few weeks. We’re not sure where this came from, because we’ve never visited any of these web sites or bet online. Our guess is that it came from an online NCAA tourney pool for bloggers that we participated in (finishing 35th out of about 350 entrants).

Regardless of the source, that spam has prompted us to one-up the touts and make some of our own fearless, guaranteed, 100%, stone-cold, lead-pipe lock picks for the 2005 season. Feel free to take these to your favorite Vegas (or other legal) sports book. They’re definite winners.

  1. The White Sox won their opening game yesterday 1 – 0 against the Indians. While this does provide the Sox with the chance to go “wire-to-wire” in first place, we guarantee that they will not finish the season 162 – 0. We’ll also go on record as saying that we have a strong hunch that the Sox won’t shut out their opponents in each of their wins.
  2. Dmitri Young hit three balls yesterday that would make Joe Buck say “slam-a-lama-ding-dong”. This puts him on pace for 486 home runs for the year, which would eclipse Barry Bonds’ single season record by 413 long balls. He’s not going to do it though. Young would be lucky to hit 20% of his current projected pace. Take that to the bank.
  3. On a related note, should Jose Lima – who gave up two of Young’s home runs – continue to put up performances like he did yesterday (3 innings pitched, 5 earned runs and three homers allowed), Lima-time will not be such a hip thing in Kansas City this year.
  4. New Yankees’ ace Randy Johnson earned his first win in pinstripes on Sunday night. Depending on how you do the math, that puts him on pace for somewhere between 30 and 162 wins for the season. If he keeps it up, Johnson would become the first pitcher to win 30 games since Denny McClain did it in 1968. The pick here is that Johnson falls short – even of the low end of the current win projection – but that he has a less tumultuous life after he retires from baseball than McClain. Not sure where you’re going to get odds on that though…
  5. Former Miami Hurricane and current Phillies’ slugger Pat Burrell went 3 for 3 yesterday at the plate and committed one error in the field. Something’s going to give here eventually though. Burrell isn’t going to hit 1.000 and commit an error per game all year. If he keeps up with the defensive miscues, Charlie Manuel will show Burrell to the bench – even if he is hitting 1.000. Have you ever heard the phrase “defense wins championships”? Well, Pat the Bat might be hearing that sometime soon.
  6. Adam Dunn hit a home run yesterday off of Pedro Martinez that is probably somewhere in the stratosphere at this moment. Contrary to what you may have seen reported on television, the ball will ultimately return to Earth. Gravity always prevails in these situations. If we’re wrong on this one, well, I’m guessing their will be larger consequences for all of us than merely the fate of Adam Dunn’s ding-dongs.

Those picks alone should make you a pretty penny. Still, if you’d like some more advice, feel free to drop us a line. For only $99.95 per topic, we’ll be happy to give you more guaranteed “picks of the year.”

Marlins' Samson: Season Tickets Down, Revenues Up

I was disappointed to read this in today's Miami Herald:
Samson said ticket revenues have increased from a year ago, but the actual number of season tickets sold have declined. The Marlins raised ticket prices this season, but Samson said he still expects total season attendance, which hinges greatly on the team's record late in the season, should hit 2 million. The Marlins attracted 1.7 million fans last season. They haven't hit 2 million since the 1997 season

Hopefully Samson will be right and the Marlins will hit the 2 million mark this year. It would require nearly a 20% attendance increase (on top of last year's 30% increase over 2003).

What bothers me about it though is the overall philosophy the team is taking here. Yes, by selling fewer tickets at higher prices the Marlins are most likely maximizing their short term profits. But they're also likely forgoing a long term fan base at the same time.

By keeping prices lower this year and doing everything that they can to get everyone out to the ballpark, the Marlins could start to dramatically grow their fan base. Combining that with the success on the field that they should have this year, they could build a huge demand for the tickets in future years.

Assuming that the new ballpark comes through, they could leverage the demand for tickets with the new ballpark and go for the kill with higher ticket prices then. By that time, they'd stand to make a fortune, as they'd likely be able to fill their new ballpark and also charge higher prices.

In the short run though, they can do neither. And for some reason they've elected to go after short term profits (which should allegedly be small since such a large percentage of every dollar goes to Mr. Huizenga) instead of looking at the big picture, the long run, and the future potential for this franchise.

Opening Day is Finally Here

Marlins season opens today, with the first pitch from Josh Beckett set to be thrown a few minutes after 4 PM.

In case you were wondering, which you probably weren't, I won't be there today. I'm still enforcing my self-imposed ban on attending Marlins games until the David Samson led regime makes some changes. There was an ugly ticket related episode last summer, but I won't recount it here because it's opening day and that's a happy time.

There's a lot to look forward to this year with Marlins baseball. Expectations are high, and rightfully so. On paper, this is probably the best team the Marlins have put together since the 1997 club - the 2003 team included.

But that's just on paper. This year's club has to get it done on the field. And in order for the Marlins to achieve the results that everyone's hoping for this year, they'll have to catch a lot of breaks (they're not the only really good and highly improved team in the division this year - there are three other contenders).

Here are some things to watch for this season if the Marlins are going to be successful:
  • Team Health - there's not a lot of depth here and a lack of injuries will help to mask that
  • Starting pitching - again this is dependent on health. 60 or more starts combined between Beckett and Burnett will lead to good things. Keeping Leiter and Valdez, both of whom are older, off the DL would be huge. And I hate to say it, but people who follow such things worry that Dontrelle's funky mechanics will sooner, rather than later, lead to injury.
  • Paul LoDuca - hopefully Matt Treanor's main role this year will be carrying LoDuca's bats and equipment to the dugout. Treanor's not the worst major leaguer of all-time, but LoDuca is a really good one and his health will help determine where the team goes.
  • Don't get your hopes too high for Carlos Delgado. Yes, he's instantly the biggest left-handed power threat in franchise history. But Dolphins Stadium is not very forgiving to lefties. The deep fences will likely turn at least a handful of balls that would have been home runs elsewhere into long fly balls. Hopefully they'll advance runners and not just be outs. Regardless, Delgado should have a really good year, just don't expect a runaway MVP type season.
  • Miguel Cabrera could have that kind of a year though. He's still extremely young (turning 22 later this month) and his best years are definitely in front of him. With the lineup that's surrounding him, this could be the start of his ascent to baseball super-stardom.
  • Can Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo incorporate their old speed back into their game this year? Both were relatively reigned in last year, with decreases in their stolen base totals. Add to that Pierre's injury this spring and doubts abound. If they can run though, or at least create the threat of running, that will mean even more fastballs for Cabrera, Delgado, and Lowell to feast on.

Most importantly, whatever happens today, don't let the results affect the outlook for the year. Yes, it's opening day and this is a big game against a divisional opponent, who's putting a likely future hall of famer on the mound. But it's just one game. One small fraction of the season (1/162). A win doesn't clinch the division and a loss doesn't mean elimination. There's always tomorrow, and next month, and the month after...

Baseball is back.

(And, as an aside, at first I was disappointed about how opening day is now spread out so much - particularly with all of the off days that are part of the opening series. But now that I look at it, it's actually kind of nice. Things are spread out and you can take more in. Plus, it helps you ease back into the flow of the season, without going from 0 - 60 in less than one day's worth of games.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Braves at Marlins - Opening Series Preview with Braves Perspective

One of the new features here at The Book of Mike this season will be a preview before each and every series that the Marlins are about to start. Some will be more in depth than others, particularly as the Fish start to face their NL East opponents multiple times.

Making our previews better than those that you'll find anywhere else (at least those that relate to the Marlins) is that each and every preview will include insight from a team “insider.” How we have secured the opportunity to work with an insider from each of the Marlins opponents will not be discussed here, because – quite frankly – we're hoping to retain some exclusivity with this.

For the 2005 Opening Series, we have been fortunate enough to enlist the services of former Atlanta Braves mascot Chief Noc-a-Homa. Despite the Chief's immense popularity, he hasn't technically been a part of the Braves in stadium experience since 1990s. Still, he's a Brave through and through and he still follows the team very closely. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that the Chief has been replaced by two furry creatures, which are allegedly more kid friendly and less politically incorrect (while we won't show these two here, you can find them at this site – just click on the Braves logo).

For our interview, we avoided topics such as furry mascots throughout the league and the pain of his banishment from the reservation that is Turner Field, but we hope to get into those topics later in the year, once we've established a deeper relationship with the Chief.

The Matchup
Game 1 (4/5): Smoltz vs. Beckett
Game 2 (4/6): Hampton vs. Leiter
Game 3 (4/7): Hudson vs. Burnett

From the Insider
The Book Of Mike: First of all, what's your outlook for the Braves this year?

Chief: I know the Marlins are much improved this year, as are the Mets. The Phillies are a real contender too. But we, the Braves, are the champs, and we've been the champs for a long time now. If any team wants to take that title away, they'll have to go through Atlanta first. And I'm not sure we're going to see that happen this year.

TBOM: Fair enough. What do you think about Smoltz being back in the starting rotation?

Chief: I'm very excited about it. We really won't know how well it's working until later in the year, but for opening day, I think it's good news for the Braves and bad news for the Marlins. Smoltz has looked dominant this spring – he didn't give up his first earned run until his last outing – and I expect him to continue that dominance throughout Opening Day and the early part of the season – at the very least.

TBOM: What's up with the starting rotation? When will we get to see Tim Hudson?

Chief: I too initially expected to see Smoltz and Hudson back to back in the rotation, but the Braves are employing a strategy similar to the Marlins (who are separating Beckett and Burnett in the rotation) and are changing it up a bit in between their hard throwing starters.

TBOM: How do you feel about the Braves bullpen this year?

Chief: Well, putting Smoltz into the rotation downgrades the bullpen about as much as it upgrades the starting unit. The 9th inning won't be quite as intimidating for other teams. Having Danny Kolb as the closer is definitely not a bad thing, but he's not Smoltz either. I just hope that Leo Mazzone can teach Kolb how to make hitters swing and miss more often. He doesn't generate enough strikeouts for my taste.

The rest of the bullpen is much like Kolb: lots of names that you recognize, but none that make you say “uh oh, I hope we don't have to face him.” But like we talked about in the opening, we're talking about the Braves here and Leo Mazzone always seems to pull magic out of nowhere. I guess we're depending on him to do it again this year.

TBOM: Who do you expect to have a big year this year?

Chief: It's tough to draw any conclusions from Spring Training for a variety of reasons, but if I had to pick just one guy I'd go with Andruw Jones. Jones positively mashed the ball all spring. He nearly hit .500 and was in double digits for home runs. For the first time he's showing the power that many thought he would develop. And it doesn't just seem like a spring fluke; he's made significant changes to his approach at the plate, much of it driven by advice he's received by some guy named Willie Mays. Yes, that Willie Mays. The guy you've heard about.

Whether he sustains the power or not throughout the regular season, you at least know you'll get hall of fame caliber glove work from him in the outfield. That's always reassuring for the pitching staff.

TBOM: Do the Braves have any prospects that we should keep an eye on?

Chief: Well, you won't see him in this series, but you'll probably see him later in the year. Andy Marte is the future for the Braves. He's a third baseman by trade, but he could see some time in the outfield if not at third this year. Many regard him as the top prospect in all of baseball.

TBOM: You've been affiliated with the Braves for more than 50 years – that's even more time than they've been in Atlanta. So who's older, you or Julio Franco?

Chief: Honestly, I don't know the answer to that. But I do know that Julio can still hit and I can't.

TBOM: Thanks for all of your insight, Chief Noc-a-Homa. I'd wish you and the Braves luck, but we Fish fans are kind of hoping for a sweep to start the year off right.

Opening Day Wishes

Here are some random things I'm hoping for this season:
  1. That Jason Giambi has a great year. I didn't expect to, but I was rooting for him last night.
  2. That Andruw Jones hits 50 homers and wins another Gold Glove.
  3. That the White Sox are more competitive than I fear they will be this year.
  4. That Juan Pierre steals 75 bases.
  5. That Dontrelle Willis wins 15 games, hits three home runs, and is a legitimate pinch hitter for the Marlins when needed (hey - he had the highest average of all Marlins pinch hitters last year)
  6. That Barry Bonds comes back earlier than most people think and gets at least thirty home runs this year.
  7. That the financing for the new Marlins stadium doesn't go through.
  8. That someone wakes up and decides to put this stadium funding in front of the people for a vote.
  9. That if those two previous things don't happen, someone asks to see the justification for the numbers that are being bandied about.
  10. That the Devil Rays finish higher than last place.
  11. That the Devil Rays don't ruin Justin Upton.
  12. That two Miami Hurricanes are taken in the first round of the MLB draft (Ryan Braun and Cesar Carillo) and that the Marlins or White Sox get at least one of them.
  13. That the green seats they added at New Comiskey Park look as cool as I think they will
  14. That the Nationals aren't ruined permanently from the ownership issues of the past few years (their international scouting department has been literally non-existent - down the road that means no more Orlando Cabrera's or Vladimir Guerrero's in the pipeline).
  15. That the great division races that seem probable really shape up - particularly in the AL and NL East and West.
  16. That the tight division races don't give us some flukey Wild Card team (i.e. the AL West and East teams beat each other up so much that a less deserving team from the Central sneaks in).
  17. That the Cubs suffer from another inglorious choke job.
  18. That the White Sox drought of championships gets some recognition.
  19. That Carlos Beltran doesn't become the next Mo Vaughn just because he went to the Mets
  20. That Carlos Delgado gets credit for being a stand-up guy (for things like choosing the Marlins because they treated him like a man and a ballplayer and not just a Latino) and not for knee-jerk reactions to his failure to participate in "God Bless America". You might not agree with his stance, but at least he has one.
  21. That the steroid issue goes away. We don't need to hear about it every inning from everyone like during ESPN's Opening Night broadcast. Yes, fix it, get them out of the game - but don't detract from the game for them.
  22. That if the Tigers are going to make a move for the AL Central that they do it this year, when it won't affect the White Sox playoff chances too significantly.
  23. That more people start to get the point about Moneyball. It wasn't about OBP and stats. It was about finding what's undervalued and buying that. Think of it like the stock market.
  24. That more people start to get what Bill James meant about closers. He wasn't against the role of a closer. He was against how a closer is used. With the bases loaded in a one-run game in the 7th, you might be better off using your closer than when you're consequently down two runs in the ninth with no one on.
  25. That Tony LaRussa, who I used to think very highly of, gets called to task on a number of things. For one, his stance on steroids. Backing up Mark McGwire and attacking Jose Canseco because of personal preference isn't right. The assertions made in his book (written with Buzz Bissinger) are sometimes laughable. He knocks sabermetricians left-and-right, but at the same time also thinks it's "playing the numbers" to make a pitching change or move your lineup around because one player is 3 for 6 or 2 for 11 against a particular pitcher. That, Tony, is a small sample size and not really everything you should be considering. Maybe a sabermetrician could explain it to you one day.

Marlins Predictions Tracking

In case you're scoring at home, I updated the "experts" predictions post from a few weeks back this morning. In all, I found predictions from 18 folks so far. Generally, the sentiment is that any one of four teams in the NL East (between the Marlins, Braves, Phillies, or Mets) could win the division this year.

Because of the relative parity (or question marks, depending on your perspective), many folks are going with the Braves to win the division because they always seem to. It's the easy way out, but hey - it's what I did too.

Of the 18 (not including my picks, as I'm no expert), 3 picked the Marlins to win the division and 5 more picked them for second place. Six more have them in third and four have them as low as fourth place. No one has them in fifth, and most are reserving that spot for the former Expos (I already miss the Expos).

Opening Day: Features from the Herald

Opening Day is finally upon us. Sure, it's spread out over three days across the country, but that's definitely nothing to complain about. There's baseball that counts once again. Yesterday marked the official start of the season. Although the year kicked off with a night game in cold weather (which all around just seems wrong, although because of the opponents, I guess it all makes sense), the results do count though and 2005 is off and running. If nothing else, the result indicated that normalcy has returned to the game.

The Marlins have another day to rest though. And that's probably a good thing as it gives Juan Pierre an extra day (although he reportedly looked quite good in yesterday's exhibition).

In case you didn't see yesterday's Miami Herald in print, they ran their baseball preview and many of the articles are still available online. Check them out before they go behind the passworded wall. Here are some you might find interesting:

Comparisons to the World Championship Clubs - it may be premature for this, but it's interesting

Ten Questions Facing the Team

Dynamic Duo