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      If you ever choose to listen to me...
    I'm not going to even start talking about the Red Sox, because I assume nobody wants to listen to me go off on some profanity laced tirade reminiscent of Bobby Knight. I can say briefly that I am offering a reward to anyone willing to claim it. All you have to do is bring me the severed head of Derek Lowe and/or Kevin Millar (freshly styled, see photo if you were lucky enough to miss this embarrassment). I haven't decided which one I want more, so I am offering equal money for either, though I would prefer both delivered at once.

    Now, on to the important stuff:
    Many of those who know me have become adept at ignoring some of my more passionate (and irrelevant) moments. This aint one of them. If you ever read anything I suggest make it the three-part series The Washington Post has put out, detailing the three-ring circus that is MLB ownership.

    Seriously, this is a must-read for baseball fans. It's also a must-read for everyone else, but I can't imagine anybody else stopping by this site. Its a very long read, but its well worth it. Find the time to sit down and read this. In the discussion over at Primer, someone suggested this ought to be considered for a Pulitzer, and I happen to agree. Find the time to sit down and read this.

    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three

    The second and third parts require registering for the paper. I suggest a quick stop to bugmenot.com, but you may like your info circulating around the internet.

    Most of us paying attention already know the story. Bud and his cronies are a collection of sleazy businessmen, used to finding loopholes, exploiting fans, and making money dishonestly. These articles detail exactly how bad it has become. I once thought that I was too harsh on MLB ownership, but I am suprised to find that its actually much worse than anything I could have expected.

    More than anything else, these pieces bring the story to the attention of those not closely following the situation. You dont have to be a baseball fan to realize the impact that a baseball franchise has on an area, especially economically. Maybe, just maybe, these articles will get more people to step up and ask for changes to the way baseball is run.

    Anybody wanting to discuss these in more depth, feel free to drop me an email.
      Because everyone has an opinion.......
    The summer trading season has begun, and it has already produced more excitement than any in recent years. You can thank the Phillies, by the way. In 2002, when they waited until the trading deadline to swing a deal for Scott Rolen the price dropped considerably, and they only got back Placido Polanco and Bud Smith (and two months of Mike Timlin) for the second best (and best healthy) third baseman in the league.

    Teams have started to realize that the extra month makes a huge difference, and are prepared to give up more if deals happen in June instead of the end of July. As a result, we have already seen three pretty substantial trades.

    The Best Pitcher Available??
    I'm not sure if he is the best, but Freddy Garcia is certainly the most talented pitcher available on the trade market. On Sunday, the Mariners traded Garcia and catcher Ben Davis to the White Sox for catcher Miguel Olivo, OF prospect Jeremy Reed, and non-prospect SS Mike Morse.

    Considering there was a lot of talk of the White Sox going after Russ Ortiz, this one came as a little bit of a surprise. The White Sox have a very good lineup, but a weak rotation. This move addresses that. The only question is: did the White Sox give up too much?

    All deals of this type can change dramatically down the road, depending on how the prospects turn out. This one is a little different. Miguel Olivo (right) is a very valuable player, a cheap catcher with great D, who can hit. Something that Ben "replacable" Davis is not.

    The White Sox don’t need Olivo's bat in the lineup. Fine, trade him. What's not fine is that Jeremy Reed (left) was included in the deal. Can everybody go back and look at what 23 year old Jeremy Reed has done to professional pitchers so far in his career. He was only hitting .275/.357/.420 in 276 AAA at-bats so far this year, so maybe Kenny Williams got nervous. Even with his so-so start this year, his career minor league numbers are .332/.409/.483. He's only 23 and already holding his own in AAA, so you shouldn't need Baseball Prospectus (they ranked him #2 in MLB, despite his reliance on high average) to tell you that Jeremy Reed is a big-time prospect.

    Freddy Garcia is a free agent after this year. The only way this deal makes sense for the White Sox is if they can re-sign Garcia and he is the Garcia of 2001, not the Garcia of 2002 & 2003 who gave up 61 home runs pitching half his games at Safeco Field. Otherwise the White Sox just packaged a very good (and cheap) catcher with one of the better prospects in baseball for three months of Freddy Garcia, who now pitches in one of the better home run parks in baseball.

    I know people love ripping on Kenny Williams. I don’t love it. I can't help it so I do anyways. There is absolutely no way that Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed are worth three months of Freddy Garcia. Williams only looks good in this deal if he re-signs an effective Garcia, and Jeremy Reed "only" turns into a .300/.360/.450 type outfielder. Otherwise Seattle just raped the White Sox.

    The Best Hitter Available
    Notice, no question marks. Carlos Beltran was the prize of this years trade class. He very likely is one of the top ten or twenty players in all of baseball. Regardless of how good you think he is, its rare that a player of his caliber gets traded. The Rolen trade maybe doesn't even stack up, you probably have to go back to the Randy Johnson deal of 1998. (Coincidentally, involving Houston and Freddy Garcia)

    Regardless, in a three team deal, the Astros sent Octavio Dotel to the A's and minor league catcher John Buck to the Royals. The A's sent minor league 3B Mark Teahen and minor league P Mike Wood to the Royals in exchange for Dotel. The Royals shipped off Beltran for the three prospects. How did they all fare?

    The Royals
    It was no secret the Royals were going to trade Beltran. They couldn’t afford to re-sign him and besides, they have David DeJesus, a decent replacement. All that was up in the air was the prospect package it would take to get him. The Royals reportedly asked everyone for help at catcher, third base, and pitching. That is exactly what they got in Buck, Teahen, and Wood.

    John Buck is a good hitting catcher, surprisingly hard to find. How good? He's been up and down so it's pretty hard to say. Buck hit .275/.345/.483 in A-ball in 2001. The next year he hit .263/.314/.422 in AA, before fighting injuries and struggling last year in AAA. A catcher with 20+ HR potential will always be a prospect, and Buck is no different. I'm not going to try and make a guess at what he will become, but he could be a very good catcher one day. He also could never adjust to the higher levels and be a backup at best.

    Mark Teahen is a decent third base prospect. He can hit, but he hasn't yet shown any power. His power may develop, but he doesn't really look like a star. He certainly could be a solid big-leauge starter though. Joe Randa anybody? He actually could have a career similar to Randa's and make a pretty adequate replacement.

    Mike Wood is one of those guys who could surprise people, but also could end up as a quadruple-A player. He has put up three consecutive very good minor league seasons at A, AA, and AAA, yet he's a guy scouts won't rave about. Wood has mediocre stuff but has proven he can pitch. He is probablly the wild card in the deal and could end up anywhere from a right-handed Tom Glavine to John Halama, with the Halama-scenerio being more likely.

    So three B-level prospects for Carlos Beltran. Is this what you guys would have asked for? I think I would have asked for at least one A-level prospect (ahem, Jeremy Reed?), although it might have been hard considering it was pretty much assumed Beltran wouldn’t sign an extension. Considering the circumstances, the Royals did o.k. They got three decent prospects, and possibly three decent major leaguers. It's pretty likely that at least one of the three puts together a solid career, in which case the deal is at least defensible. Overall, decent job by the Royals.

    The A's
    It's clear the A's need help in the 'pen. It's also clear that Octavio Dotel embodies "help in the 'pen". Probablly one of the five most dominant relievers in the game, he will do fine stepping into the gaping hole left after Keith Foulke took the money in Boston.

    The A's gave up the afore-mentioned Teahen and Wood. Considering they just locked up Eric Chavez for the next six years, and the A's might be the only team in MLB with too much starting pitching, they really only gave up some redundant parts to fill a desperate need. Pretty decent move overall, with the very outside chance that Wood or Teahen turn into a star and makes it look bad in hindsight.

    The Astros
    I already voiced my over-bearing opinion on the Hidalgo for Weathers swap. To properly look at either that deal or this Beltran deal, we need to consider the end result. I said previously that the Hidalgo deal made sense for three reasons: 1.) The Astros save money. 2.) They lose a guy Jimy doesn't like and is reported to be not liked by the team. 3.) They have a more-than-adequate replacement in Jason Lane.

    With that in mind, the Astros are using the saved money to help pay for Beltran. Good. They still lose a guy they don’t like. I don’t see the value, but, unchanged. The problem is that by bringing in Beltran and re-re-re-re-blocking Jason Lane, they are taking away most of the reason the Hidalgo deal made sense.

    Aside from that, the difference between Beltran and Hidalgo is enough to make the two deals, in conjunction, a win for the Astros. You never really know what you are getting out of the streaky Hidalgo, and recently is has been pretty bad (he was hitting .202 in May and .179 in June). Beltran is a better hitter than non-2000 Hidalgo, and we don’t have to even include his defense or baserunning before we realize its definitely an upgrade.

    This also shifts Craig Biggio (right), who was killing this team in center, to left (Berkman to right). The upgrade in CF defense should not be underestimated, although we can stop referring to Beltran as a "gold-glover" until he actually proves he is any more than a sportswriters stereotype for a gold-glover in center.

    Offensively, we are looking at an upgrade from Hidalgo to Beltran. Pitching-wise, we are looking at a downgrade from Dotel to Weathers. That’s a pretty big downgrade and takes away plenty of the value in upgrading to Beltran. With a decent season from Weathers, the Astros are better this year. With Weathers and Beltran likely gone next year, they look worse (although with some payroll flexibility). The difference betwen Beltran/Weathers and Hidalgo/Dotel isn't really all that great but its definitely an improvement.

    So there don’t look to be any real big winners in this deal. It makes the most sense for the A's, the least sense for the Astros, who may be only marginally better. Overall it’s a pretty decent deal for all teams with the big loser being, well, Jason Lane. I would have done things differently if I were Gerry Hunsicker, but at least he has improved his team. He could have done better, but I also don’t know half of what goes on behind the scenes, so this might have been the best available. If somehow, Hunsicker figures out a way to re-sign Beltran to a somewhat reasonable extension, then the Astros become the winners in this deal, but the chances of that happening look to be about as good as Jason Lane getting a chance to play sometime in his career.
      Gloom and Doom.
    Here's a little taste, for those of you who have never had the privilege and/or misfortune of living in a big-market sports city, home of sports radio insanity and a whole lot of super-aggressive, over-cynical sportswriters. While I usually avoid places like the NY Daily News (I never learn anything new, and just get mad) this article shows a little bit of what it means to be a sports fan in New York, or any other large city for that matter.

    Once you step away from it all, which I have, you quickly realize how people really fail to keep things in perspective.

    It's an article about the Yankees. The first place Yankees. The best-record-in-baseball Yankees. If you had somehow forgot that the Yankees were, indeed, a damn good team, you'd think after reading this article that they were struggling to get out of the basement. For crying out loud, the team is on pace for 103 wins, it can't always be 1998. The Yankees aren't perfect, but I can think of 29 other teams that would love to have their "problems".

    Now the Yankees have no pitching. That’s the major point in the article. They ought to go trade for Freddy Garcia. Okay, but what are you going to trade to get him? No answer, sportswriters don't answer the questions, they ask 'em. "We must have Freddy Garcia, we have run out of bad things to say about John Lieber."

    So the Yankees are in trouble. I've heard this one before. I mean this team doesn't have three #1 starters in Brown, Mussina, and Vazquez. If you take this article at face value, they have pinned any hopes of a pennant on the ass of Jose Contreras, John Lieber, and (get ready for this) Orlando Hernandez. The Yankees clearly need another #1. Because without the best pitching staff in baseball in addition to the best offense in baseball, the Yankees have no chance.

    Seriously, no more east-coast sarcasm. The "plight" of the Yankees is pretty much exactly what rational people everywhere thought might happen to this team. An old team with multiple injury concerns runs this risk. On top of injuries to Brown, Sheffield, and Giambi, the Yankees have had serious declines from Bernie Williams and Mussina. That’s about what we might have expected going into the season. Even with the two-month slump of Jeter, the Yankees are still in first place by 4 ½ games.

    Anybody expecting much out of Contreras or Lieber was deluding themselves. What's wrong with Lieber? Asking what's wrong with a 34-year-old soft tosser trying to come back from Tommy John surgery is a little like asking what's wrong with taking your newborn baby to meet your neighbor's rottweiler. Do you really need to ask?

    Let's do something fun for now. Lets look at the other teams in first place right now. Minnesota, Texas, Florida, St. Louis, San Francisco. Their #4 and #5 guys? Kyle Lohse, Seth Greisinger, Chan Ho Park, Joaqin Benoit, Dontrelle Willis, Darren Oliver, Jason Marquis, Chris Carpenter, Dustin Hermanson, Brett Tomko. Not a whole lot of talent outside of Willis and Marquis.

    Does a team really need their 4th & 5th starters to be anything more than innings eaters? Hell, they're not even going to sniff the mound in the playoffs. So what does it matter? Since this guy's wet dream Yankee rotation, the World Series champ has featured Dontrelle Willis and Mark Redman; Aaron Sele and Kevin Appier; Brian Anderson and Albie Lopez; David (the 6.91 ERA version) Cone and Denny Neagle. With the exception of Florida in 2003, not a whole lot of talent.

    Something tells me the Yankees will be fine. Something also tells me the Yankees won't be standing pat between now and the July 31st trading deadline.
      Why am I suprised?
    The sport of baseball isn't anywhere close to perfect. Theres some serious problems, which I don't pretend to have an answer to. Yet there are some idiocies that could easily be fixed, if only someone was paying attention.

    John Lackey, starting pitcher for the Angels, was suspended for throwing at a batter on May 24th. Fine. What does Lackey do?

    He does what every other pitcher does when suspended. He appeals, continues to pitch, and when it becomes convenient to get an extra days rest, he drops the appeal.

    With Aaron Sele returning to the rotation, Lackey would get an extra days rest anyways. So by serving the suspension now, Lackey doesn't even have to miss a game. Every pitcher does this, as they should. Every pitcher will continue to do this, as they should. It’s a stupid rule, and its something MLB could fix painlessly.

    As it stands, there is incentive for a starting pitcher to throw at people because of a lack of tangible punishment. Suspend a position player, or a reliever the five games. Fine. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to suspend a starter ten days so that he is forced to actually miss one start?

    Is anybody upstairs paying attention? I know, that’s a bad question. Those of us who follow this game already know the answer to that one.
      An American Hero??
    I do not like heroes; they make too much noise in the world. –Voltaire
    I just finished reading Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero from Leigh Montville, an old sportwriter from the Boston Globe. Pretty decent, I'd recommend it, although its not anywhere near any of the better biographies I've read.

    The book pretty much is a large collection of stories about Teddy Ballgame. And boy were there plenty of stories. The guy had such a strong personality that the book must have wrote itself. Montville just retells the memories of the people closest to Ted, most times in their own words. This makes it a great read, since I don’t really care what some sportswriter, a kid when Ted played, has to say. The stories themselves are great. Told by the people who knew him best, you really get a feel for Ted Williams as a person.

    Just a random example, a story from an old teammate, Lefty Lefebvre about a lunch they had,
    He was loud, we sat down at the counter. He said he wanted a chicken sandwich and a frappe. The sandwich came and he started smelling it. He said, in a loud voice, "Is this chicken fresh?" The owner came over and told him it was. Jesus Christ, it was embarrassing. Ted smelled the chicken some more. He'd say things a nine-year-old kid wouldn't say. No control at all. Anyway, he eats the sandwich drinks the frappe in about a minute, and says we're out of there. I've got three-quarters of a sandwich to go.

    We go from there to another sandwich shop. It happens all over again! He orders the same thing, a chicken sandwich and a frappe. He says the same thing. "Is this chicken fresh?" He starts smelling the chicken. Easts the sandwich, drinks the frappe in a minute, and says we have to go. I'd been to two restaurants, seen him eat two meals, and I still hadn't eaten a whole sandwich.
    The guy was crazy, or at least it looked that way. He'd yell: "I got here by myself, I can find the way home," to his minor league manager giving him base-running instructions. He called every woman he met a "syphilitic cunt" and every man a "syphilitic fucken son-of-a-whore". He was a kid who never really grew up and it eventually caught up to him.

    Much of the book isn't easy to read. A lot of the second half of the book is just painful. There is no other way to describe it. Ted's career only spans nine of nineteen chapters, and two of those are on his time in the Marines for WWII and the Korean War. Montville actually tries to sum up the '47—'51 seasons in a couple of pages. The middle section is all about Ted's life primarily as a fisherman. Its interesting if you like to fish, or understand the appeal of untouched nature, but I can see how some people would be bored.

    The end of the book covers in detail his later life, and for those of you familiar with his story, at times it isn't easy to hear about. A lot of the book is about his children, John-Henry in particular, who ended up playing a huge role in Ted's later life. I always knew that guy was a scumbag, but I just never knew how bad he was. Quick point, because I'd rather forget that there are people like that in this world, but after his father had his third stroke, he put Ted into a rehabilitation program that focused on rebuilding his right arm. Why his right arm? It was so Ted could sign autographs and make a little more green for his son who had squandered away most of his fortune. The messy end to Ted's life is also covered, including the controversy surrounding his body. I'm pretty sure its something I wont be reading again.

    I would have rather read more stories from his playing days, and especially from his childhood, but I also realize there are a lot of other Ted Williams biographies out there covering that in detail. This was the story that had to be told, and now it has. Good read, decent writer (different sections dont fit together properly, making the book feel disjointed), definitely worth the time even if you aren't remotely interested in baseball (why are you here then?).

    One thing that I'd like to take from this book, and which people seem to often forget, is to keep our so-called 'heroes' in perspective. Its very easy to remember Ted Williams as the affable old man that his public image took on as he grew into old age. People forget about the bad side of a man who was far from perfect. To his credit, Montville does not shy away from the negatives.

    He could be downright mean; to strangers, to friends, and especially to his family. Ignoring the several times he spit at fans, he went through four "wives" and was faithful to none. He was absent from much of his families life, including all three of his childrens' births, and wasn’t nice to be around even when he was present. Also, his military service is always admired, but actually consisted of training pilots and playing baseball during WWII (pretty much a public relations ploy by the US military). Before he was shipped off for actual combat in Korea, he took the US to court to try and be found exempt from service. He later withdrew his case under public pressure. That’s not to take away anything from his admirable service, but it does put things in a little more perspective.

    More importantly, however, the one thing to learn from such a case as Ted Williams, is that despite all of his obvious faults as a person, he still had the ability to reach people in a way most of us will never understand. Many of the stories in the book are from people who had little contact with Williams, but their lives were forever changed. Ted Williams did a real lot of good in this world, and none of it should be forgotten when remembering the man he was.

    The Jimmy Fund, still today the Red Sox' biggest charity, was pretty much sustained and expanded solely by the good will of Ted meeting all the time with kids. Not just a superficial, "Hi, here's my autograph. Next!" Ted got to know kids, a lot of whom were going through traumatic treatments for cancer or other diseases. Each one of those kids was changed for life because of his commitment.

    Another example. Some time near the end of his career the father of a local family struggling to get by approached Ted with an idea for a Ted Williams Baseball Camp. Not only did Ted go into partnership with this man he hardly knew, but he provided support and friendship to that family, even after the camp was no more.

    Ted was doing a lot of nice things in places where nice things were not asked for or even expected. Things like that go quickly forgotten, and athletes of today could do well to realize how easy it is for them to make a serious difference in the lives of strangers.
      David Weathers?
    A ways back I met a guy who spent some time in the minors with Houston. The guy eventually got hurt and the Astros gave him a job as a scout, which he worked at for some time. In some of my more typical, overbearing arguments with him (just glad to find an audience) he did a very good job convincing me that his boss, Gerry Hunsicker, was one of the better GMs in the game.

    His major point in the matter was that Hunsicker is, if only one thing, completely underrated as a GM. Think of GMs that are generally regarded as good, and his name almost never comes up. His point, and one I happen to agree with, is that Hunsicker's refusal to talk much to the media, or to "leak" information to Gammons like so many other GMs leads to the mainstream media generally ignoring him. Likewise, most people (even more-than-casual fans) also generally ignore him.

    The arguments for Hunsicker are, however, pretty strong. Since he took over in 1995, the Astros have won four division titles and have had a competitive team on the field with only a mid-level payroll. The failure to win a single postseason series doesn't reflect poorly on Hunsicker, it means he was "only" able to build one of the four best teams in the National League. Some people dream for that kind of failure.

    What Hunsicker (and his staff) are most responsible for is creating a player development system that has churned out a considerable amount of talent. I mean it, its hard to find a system that has produced so much in recent years. Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner (not drafted, but developed by Hunsicker), Jason Lane, Wade Miller, Brad Lidge, Morgan Ensberg have all come through their system, not to mention a lot of middle of the road major leaguers Tim Redding, Kirk Saarloos, Carlos Hernandez, Julio Lugo, Keith Ginter. That's a real lot of talent to pass through one organization in less than ten years.

    Hunsicker has also made some deals to bring in the remaining pieces of the division winners. Guys like Octavio Dotel, Moises Alou, and Randy Johnson were brought in for not much in return, with the exception of Freddy Garcia and one year of Mike Hampton. Also, Jeff Kent was signed for much less than his worth. Some very good deals.

    Hunsicker also has some very questionable moves: his insistence on overvaluing mediocre utility players like Vizcaino, Merced, Blum, Lamb, etc; his hiring (and continued support) of Jimy Williams; and the very questionable contract extension to Brad "outmachine" Ausmus to name a few. Today Hunsicker swapped Richard Hidalgo and cash for David Weathers. This one puzzles me.

    I mean Hidalgo can hit. Never mind that he is maddeningly inconsistent, and a bad "clubhouse prescence". He can hit, and guys with talent like that usually fetch more in return than a decent 34 year old reliever who is closer to being "not decent" then he is to being "good".

    So this had to be about money, right? One would think. Hidalgo is making $14M this year, $15M next year (although they would have almost certainly bought him out for $2M). Weathers is making $4M and will be a free agent at the end of this year. But the Astros also shipped enough cash to the Mets that it only saves them $3M overall. $1M in 2004 salary and the $2M buyout. So its only partly about money.

    Was it about Jimy? Could be. Jimy likes to play favorites (ahem, Ensberg can hit Jimy) and its always been pretty well documented that Hidalgo was never liked in the clubhouse, although I'd like to think Jimy's recent benching had more to do with him hitting .202 in May and .179 in June.

    It was Jason Lane, right? Pretty much. Jason Lane has a VERY good chance to be better than Hidalgo, this year, and definitely in the future. And of course he will do this all for a price considerably less than $14M. Check out his numbers,
    LG   ABs   AVG   OBP   SLG
    A 794 .292 .372 .511
    AA 526 .316 .407 .608
    AAA 674 .282 .345 .464
    MLB 156 .276 .349 .532
    Lane is a good bet to hit .270+ with 20+ homers at the major league level. All he needed was some playing time, which he now has.

    To be completely fair, Hidalgo was traded for the combination of all three facots. The Astros have a more than adequate replacement, an organizational dislike for Hidalgo, and now they have an extra $3M. So it makes sense why he would be traded. What I'm confused at is why he was traded for David Weathers.

    I have to think there was some team out there that would have given up more than $3M, a non-prospect, and a mediocre 34 year old reliever for Hidalgo. The Astros have an offensive black hole at catcher, no matter how good his defense is, he's still got a .638 OPS. (up from last years .594, incidentally). They have a defensive black hole in center, and some major injury concerns in the rotation. On top of this they need help in the bullpen.

    Does the acquisition of David Weathers fix any of these problems? You'd think that trading a guy with a career .857 OPS would help you fix at least one of these, but it doesn't. David Weathers is not the answer. Has Hunsicker seen the park factors in Shea and at Minute Maid? The league average ERA was 0.20 higher in Houston last year. Weathers gets a lot of groundballs, so he may not suffer as much from the move, but still. David Weathers?

    Maybe this was the best deal Hunsicker could find in which case I apologize ahead of time. I don’t believe that though, there are plenty of teams with holes at a corner outfields spot (or DH). Hidalgo's RF defense is consistently near the top in the league, and a team would only have to pay him $3M to find out if his two month slump was about to end.

    Anaheim, Baltimore, Florida, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Toronto could all use Hidalgo. Would none of them send off some bonehead like Weathers? Heck, even ask the Mets for more than Weathers, don’t discuss it unless Looper is involved. Or better yet, just make Hidalgo the fourth outfielder and pinch hitter, it’s a sunk cost anyways. I don’t see how Weathers is any more than a replacable part, he's certainly no solution.
      Here is some comedy
    This link ranks athletes by blood alcohol level:

    Bad Jocks

    Welcome back Curt!

      There are no Yankee fans in Tampa....
    I've been a little bit away from the game recently and have only been a casual follower. Well, that’s not really true, I've pretty much checked scores every day, but I haven't been watching or listening to multiple games a day like I usually do. So I've missed some things.

    Ken Griffey is stuck at 499 homers. Blah, I'll be more impressed with 501. Barry Bonds is playing like a mortal once again. Prior is back and the Cubs are playing better, figure that coincidence out as the NL Central slowly goes back to the way everyone originally thought: Houston/Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnatti/Milwaukee/Pittsburgh/Who cares.

    What's going on in the AL East though? The Yankees are 18-3 over their last 21 games and have opened up a 5 game lead on the Red Sox, who haven't yet got the returns on Nomar and Trot's return to help out their slightly above .500 playing.

    But the real story in baseball, in fact, the only thing that should be on anybodies mind and the one thing we think about before we go to bed at night, which hasn’t been mentioned yet:
    What the hell is up with the Devil Rays?
    They've won 7 in a row and are now sitting in THIRD place. I'm really not sure if this says more about them or how much Toronto and Baltimore are underperforming expectations, but the Devil Rays are in THIRD place.

    I thought Baltimore had a chance to be this bad if none of their young pitchers stepped up (which they haven't). I mean just ask Texas. Okay bad example, why don’t we ask pre-2004 Texas what we could expect going into a season with someone like Sidney "career year" Ponson as the anchor of your staff.

    So Baltimore scuffling doesn't surprise me all that much, but I thought Toronto was pretty much a lock for .500 and very likely would be significantly better than .500. Toronto is now 9 games under .500 and 1 ½ back of the Devil Rays. What the hell happened?

    You can look no further than Carlos Delgado, although Josh Phelps and Eric Hinske have been equally bad at the plate. With three guys expected to produce turning into Brad Ausmus-like outmakers, you can't expect a team to win many games. Add to that a bullpen that seems to blow every other lead they are given, and you pretty much have a handle on why they are stinking up the place. The rotation has been solid though, and I can't imagine Delgado, Phelps, and Hinske will be this bad for the rest of the season. Getting Delgado healthy will help, if it ever happens I have to believe they will claw their way back to .500. If not, it makes a lot of sense to ship off Delgado at the deadline for a couple of deep prospects for an already very well stocked farm system. Bide your time Toronto, the New York & Boston implosion is coming soon.

    But what about the Devil Rays?
    Well they're still only on pace for 73 wins, so lets not get all crazy about them yet, but lets also give credit to a young franchise that has never won more than 69 games in a season. If they can keep playing well, and they call up BJ Upton (looks likely) down the stretch, they could finish close to 80 wins. What an improvement that would be. How nice would it be for a young team like that to build off of?

    Well it would be nice, but heres betting Chuck LaMar finds some way to screw this up too. I'm guessing that based on his track record so far, in 2005 he'll go out and sign FA Neifi Perez to block Upton. The he'll trade Delmon Young for the rights to Fred McGriff, who they released earlier in the year. Then Pineilla will forget to play McGriff as he never actually gets to HR #500. In doing so, McGriff refuses to become the second player to go into the Hall as a Devil Ray, which was a special clause in his new 4yr/$35M contract extension.

    But like I said, it would be nice. That fan down in Tampa would really love a baseball team to root for.
      All DL-Team
    While discussing the recent injuries of many great players with my buddy Chris we decided to make a list of guys who have a ton of talent but never seem to be able to play an entire season. Here is how our team shaped out:

    Mike Piazza, Catcher
    -He has had amazing numbers in his career but they would have been even more impressive if he had played more than an average of 124 games since 1999. We would probably be talking one of the best hitters, not just hitting catchers, of all time. Piazza currently has a career .319 average with 372 homers and a .958 OPS.

    David Ortiz, First Base
    -David has never played more than 130 games in a season, yet he was almost an MVP winner last year in the American League. If Ortiz played a full 162 games he would average 26 Homers and 99 RBI, while slugging .497. Great to have in the middle of any lineup.

    Macus Giles, Second Base
    -This was a hard position to choose but I picked Marcus because he plays so hard that it will be a common trend seeing him collide with something or someone. He has great numbers and they seem to get better year by year. Giles unbelievably was a 53rd round draft choice. His averages for a second baseman are amazing with 21 homers, 39 doubles, and a .290 batting average.

    Troy Glaus, Third Base
    -His bat is simply amazing. He was on his way to competing for a second homerun title this season before having season-ending surgery. He seems to have a new problem every year. He finally got his vision fixed and now he will be doing his watching from the dugout till the end of the season. Glaus has only averaged 117 games played in his 7 year career. In 2000 he led the AL with 47 Homers. His season averages would be Hall-Of-Fame worthy with 36 homers, 102 RBI, 92 BB, and a .499 Slugging percentage. Glaus still has time to put up big numbers at only 27 years of age.

    Barry Larkin, Shortstop
    -Barry had great potential to do major damage to many shortstop records paving the way for the new power/speed/defense combination that we see at the position on many teams. Larkin has not played a full season since 1999 and has averaged only 111 games in his 19 years of service. He has stolen base numbers that are incomparable with 379 stolen bases and only 77 times was he caught.

    Rondell White, Left Field
    -Rondell moved from team to team with the hopes of fulfilling his potential. He has a career batting average of .289 which is great and has hit for an average of 23 homers and 86 RBI. Potential is there for him but his time is running out.

    Ken Griffey Jr., Center Field
    -Junior went from comparisons of Willie Mays to comparisons of Tim Taylor from Home Improvement. He has his own coffee cup in the Cincinnati ER. Junior looks to have regained his old form but the possibility is always there for his season to end with any flyball.

    Juan Gonzalez, Right Field
    -Juan Gonzalez is the captain of this team never having played the full 162 games in a season. Early in his 16 years in the league he put up numbers that were amazing by anyone's standards hitting for power and average. His averages for his career are 42 homeruns, 135 RBI, and a .295 average. He currently stands at 434 career homers and nobody knows what will happen with him in the future.

    Pitching Rotation
    Kerry Wood
    Mark Prior
    Kevin Brown
    Josh Beckett
    A.J. Burnett

    Rob Nen

    Familiar words for these guys are Out-For-The-Season!
      White Sox Record = Overrated!
    The Chicago Whitesox record may be deceiving. Their overall record is currently 30-23. What people fail to mention is that the Sox play in the AL Central. They have a record of 11-6 in their division. Against the AL East they are 14-12 and against the West, 6-6.

    The Sox are an average team depending on pitchers like Scott Schoenweis and hitters like Juan Uribe. Uribe was tearing the cover off the ball until this current stretch against West coast teams. He is batting .233 over this span hitting 10-43 in that time. The majority of his hits, six of the ten, came against the Texas Rangers who are not exactly known for their pitching.

    The Sox have also lived on the edge in many of their wins. The have won a total of 13 one run games while losing just 4. If the trend continued I would be amazed given the history of Billy Koch. They have not won a game in the fifth spot of the rotation yet this year and last year only winning 3 times in 34 starts.

    The Sox will need to acquire help in the outfield, maybe a centerfielder with pop, and a fifth starter to possibly compete with the other divisions. I look for them to make the playoffs and then be well overmatched.
      Is It Time To Panic?
    Cubs fans need not worry. The entire division is so bunched up that its like the season starts on Friday with the real team "Ace," Mark Prior, taking the mound. The Cubs have trotted out Glendon Rusch and Sergio Mitre in place of the injured stars, and have kept Chicago in the mix.

    The real problem? Hitting. Corey Patterson was quoted on the Score 670 AM "I am not going to apologize for being aggressive. I would rather swing at a ball in the dirt then strike out looking at a pitch down the middle." Truth is that Corey in his 200 plus plate appearances has swung at the first pitch over 80 times. That is the pitch that is a hurlers best chance in getting the hitter out. Corey has continued to believe he is a power hitter and is not even thinking about becoming a contact-ground ball speed guy that he should be. With his attitude he should be traded for whatever they can get because he is a cancer that cant make his teammates happy. Todd Hollandsworth should be given the centerfield job when Sosa comes back. On June 1st Patterson struck out not one but two times with the bases loaded. The Cubs then dropped the game 5-3 to the Astros. All he needed to do was lift a ball into the outfield and shorten up his swing. Corey MUST go!

    Another problem is the hitting of Derek Lee. He is exactly the opposite of Patterson. Lee gets the backwards "K" more times then he swings in an entire at-bat. He shows flashes of capability and then the next day turns around and loses whatever momentum he had the day before. I have more faith in Lee for that reason. He also cut Aramis Ramirez's error total in half already with his great glove. We'll keep an eye on Lee's progress.

    On the bright side Michael Barrett, Moises Alou, and Aramis Ramirez have hit the ball with consistency all season. The trio needs to be spread out in the lineup when everyone is healthy. My proposed lineup would be as follows:

    1. Grudzie/Walker 2B
    2. Lee 1B
    3. Sosa RF
    4. Alou LF
    5. Hollandsworth CF
    6. Ramirez 3B
    7. Gonzlaez SS
    8. Barrett C

    With this lineup, the run producers are evenly distributed and they arguably have the best players on the field.

    I would grade the Cubs with an "A" for the starting pitching, "C" for the bullpen, "C" for the offense, "A" for defense, and a "B" overall. They have withstood a great deal of injuries and managed to hang around.

    This will be an ongoing story I'm sure.