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    The Greg Maddux Watch: Stunning at 355

    Required Reading
    Whats wrong with baseball? Part I
    Part II
    Part III
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      I'll trade my trash for your trash.
    Dodgers trade Kaz Ishii and cash to the Mets for Jason Phillips.

    The Mets needed a fifth starter (which they already had) and the Dodgers needed a catcher (which they didn't get). What's not to like about this trade.

    Phillips had a great rookie year, hitting .298/.373/.442 in 403 ABs filling in at 1st in 2003. That was a great season, but anybody with a brain (and internet access) would have known that Phillips overacheived in David Newham-like proportions. In over 2000 minor league at bats, Phillips only hit .279/.347/.427. So it shouldn't have suprised the Mets when Phillips stunk up the place in 2004. The easy road would be to split the difference between 03 and 04 and say that Phillips is probablly about a .250/.320/.400 hitter in Shea Stadium. Not too bad for a catcher, and its much better than anything the Dodgers were expecting out of the Paul Bako/Cody Ross combo. Only Phillips isn't really a catcher. Or he is, in the same way Scott Hatteberg is a catcher.

    So its a pretty low risk move for the Dodgers, as long as they aren't planning on having a decent glove behind the plate. They also lose Ishii's $3.2M salary in 2005, and they'll now avoid having to buy out his 2006 salary for $2.2M. They didn't need Ishii, and thats largely because Ishii isn't really any good.

    It's true, the Mets have no need for Jason Phillips, so you can't blame them for dumping him when people still remember 2003. The problem is the Mets weren't dumping salary here, the Dodgers were. Phillips was practically free, and Ishii is not. Considering what the Mets will be paying Ishii over the next 1-2 years, they are getting negative value from this trade.

    Not to mention Rick Peterson now has the task of fixing three pitchers this season. Glavine and Pedro will pretty much pitch themselves, but Peterson has already said he will fix Victor "The Wrong" Zambrano and Kris "Remember when I was the #1 Pick" Benson. Now he must take on the ominous task of fixing the only pitcher in Major League baseball who walks as many batters as he strikes out (98 BBs vs. 99 Ks in 2004). I mean at least Victor Zambrano strikes out some of the batters he doesn't walk.

    The other problem I have, and the biggest one really, is the Mets have several replacements for Steve Traschel (out at least three months) that are probablly already better than Ishii. The Mets could run out Aaron Heilman, Matt Ginter, or Jae Seo (in that order) and most likely find 200 league average innings among them. With Ishii, they wont. They're guarranteed to find 200 nail biting innings. Nope, forget that, they wont get 200 innings from Ishii, because he'll be out of the rotation by the All-Star break.
      But they are old.
    Good news. The Giants plan more action on the bases. As in stealing bases. Overly peeved at being dead last in MLB with only 44 team steals, manager Felipe Alou has vowed that the Giants will be running a lot more this year.

    Only two problems:
    1.) Nobody on the Giants can steal bases.
    2.) Barry Bonds

    Check out the Giants lineup and how many steals they each had last season. (Yes Felipe Alou has said Snow will bat third. I know, I know. He sucks.)
    1. Ray Durham, 2B      10
    2. Omar Vizquel, SS 19
    3. J.T. Snow, 1B 4
    4. Barry Bonds, LF 6
    5. Moises Alou, RF 3
    6. Edgardo Alfonzo, 3B 1
    7. Marquis Grissom, CF 3
    8. Mike Matheny, C 0
    Durham and Grissom used to run, but are old and battle worn, and ought to do everything they can to avoid further injuries. Vizquel stole 19 bases, but he'll be lucky to replicate that at age 38. The Giants are just not a fast team. Why try to be something you're not? Shouldn't the Giants just come out and say they're going to try and play more bingo this year, or eat dinner really really early every night?

    And the larger problem is, of course, Barry Bonds. If you run in front of Barry Bonds you are effectively taking the bat out of your best hitters hands. Even if one of the geriatric Giants makes it to second, the opposing pitcher will just walk Bonds. What a waste.

    Let's look at this simply. Assume even in their late 30's Durham and Vizquel can still swipe a bag at a 75% success rate. Bonds moves them up to 2nd 60% of the time anyways, and 12% of the time he moves them past second with an extra-base hit. Even ignoring the times one of those 'speedy' top of the order types will be able to take third on a single, theres not much difference between the frequency Bonds will do the job at no risk to the oft injured hamstrings of Ray Durham. It's certainly not worth the invitation for the other team to walk Bonds.

    Stealing second by a team like the Giants is idiotic. It makes no sense. Teams should play to their strengths. The Giants are an old, slow, mediocre offense with one superstar in the middle of the lineup. Running into outs at second and taking the bat out of Bonds' hands is like a really really smart, but ugly as sin girl (hair on her back and everything) deciding to quit school and marry into money. You have to undertand your limitations.

    Why would people laugh if Luis Castillo (he of the career .354 slugging %) came out to say he was going hit more home runs this year? Or maybe its different, a home run is 400 feet away, while second base is only 90. It looks a lot more attainable, anyone can do it. Right?
      Red Sox, Yankees...Red Sox, Yankees....
    I was reading the March 14th issue of Sports Illustrated on the plane ride home from Vegas yesterday (I practically own that town). In SI, theres some crazy bootleg article about a SI writer participating in a day of Blue Jays spring training. The article was pretty dumb, but it contained this lil nugget from Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi.
    Red Sox, Yankees....Red Sox, Yankees....I don't care about the Red Sox and Yankees. We have to take care of ourselves. This is the most important year in the four years I've been here. This is your chance, from right now, to decide what kind of team you want to be.
    I've always wondered what the leaders of teams tell their players when both players, management, and the fans know a team has absolutely no chance of playing baseball in October. Now I know, they try and cover their own asses.

    I'll translate Ricciardi's statement for you:
    Yeah, the Red Sox and Yankees will finish 1-2, making our chance of picking up even the Wild Card a negative number, but I don't care. I'm not here to win the division, I'm just trying to make this team respectable so they don't fire my sorry ass.
    But as fans, we all know, just like Ricciardi knows, just like the Blue Jays players know: they don't have a chance.

    The Blue Jays lost 90 games last year. The Blue Jays also lost their best player, Carlos Delgado, to free agency. The Blue Jays will attempt to replace Delgado's production with Shea Hillenbrand and Corey Koskie. The Blue Jays don't have a chance.

    Other than Hillenbrand and Koskie, the Blue Jays won't be much different this season. I don't blame Ricciardi for going out and spending millions on free agents when he has to look up every day at the insurmountable obstacle the Red Sox and Yankees have become in the AL East. Ricciardi would get a pass. Would. If. Only.

    Ricciardi would get a pass if only this were his first year at the helm. But Ricciardi has done nothing to improve the big league club since he being hired after the 2001 season. The minors? Too early to pass judgement, but their best (and most major league ready) prospects were drafted before he arrived.

    And what good do the minor leagues do for a team when the General Manager displays absolutely no talent for finding contributing talent (whether it be cheap or expensive) at the major league level.

    And to think, the Red Sox had an opening for a GM right around the time the Worcester native Riccairdi took the "challenge" up in Toronto. Red Sox, Yankees.....Red Sox, Yankees......
      Over-hype, under-appreciation, and the perils of not thinking for yourself.
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    On the eve of my first pilgrammage to the holy land I thought I'd take a look at the upcoming season through the eyes of a bettor. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on point of reference, those eyes are my own.

    The first thing to remember about sports betting is that its illegal and you should never do it. The second thing you should remember about sports betting is that the lines have nothing to do with who is going to win the games.

    That's not entirely true, but its a good rule of thumb to go by. The lines set by Vegas, or anywhere else, are more a direct result of where people are betting. A bookie wants the same amount of money bet on the dog as has been bet on the favorite. That way they make their cut, and no one group of bettors outweighs the other. So the line is set (and adjusted) based on the popular opinion among the betting community.

    Now some people may ask why its a good idea to go against the popular opinion. If everyone thinks the Yankees are the best team in the AL East, then isn't there a pretty good chance that they actually are?

    Nope. If you ask me, popular opinion is almost never right. If you were to ask a more rational person, and one who makes good money betting on sports, they would tell you that it might be right a good portion of the time, but the discrepancy between public opinion and the truth is where the money is to be made.

    To make a path in this world you have to be able to see truth, even when its clouded in a veil of ESPN hype and sports talk radio misinformation. And when I look at the Vegas line and see the New York Yankees futures odds to win the World Series set at 8/5, I have to shiver in my seat over all the millions of people who are so certain the Yankees will win the World Series that they don't even want to double their money with a bet.

    I mean do people really think the Yankees have a better than 2 to 1 chance of winning the World Series? Do people realize how long 162 games is? Do they realize how easy it would be for 41 year old Randy Johnson to break down like he did in 2003, Carl Pavano to get hurt like he has been every year except 2004, and Jaret Wright to just plain old suck like he did in every year except 2004? I'm not saying it will happen, but if it did, or even if some of them happened, the Yankees will have a difficult road ahead of them to even make the playoffs. Is that a sure thing?

    When a bet isn't even going to double my money if I make it, I better be sure that the odds of winning that bet are better than 50%. I wouldn't even give the Yankees a 30% chance of winning the World Series when I look at all the other very very good teams out there.

    On that note, the Red Sox are at 6 to 1 odds. Fair enough, I'm not even sure I like them at that since they play in the same division as the Yankees and have a legitimate shot of missing the playoffs even while being the second best team in baseball. But think about the difference in odds between the Red Sox and Yankees. And then consider the Mets, with the addition of Pedro and Beltran, and the development of David Wright into a legitimate superstar, but still a team full of question marks: tagged at 7 to 1.

    At least we know how many New York fans are betting.

    I'd like to have a site like ESPN.com or something, with millions of readers, whereby mentioning the atrociousness of betting on the Yankees I could influence people to the point where the lines would sneak back up to 3 or 4 to 1 (which is still a wretched bet).

    Think about it, there are probablly 7 or 8 teams that have a legitimate shot to win the World Series in any given year. Some of them we don't know about until after the season (c.f. 2003 Marlins), but the truth is, teams like that are very good, but that reality hasn't been officially "released" to the general public. Those are the teams to bet on, because we don't know about them for a reason: they haven't yet been hyped.

    Popular opinion usually lags behind the truth, much like Omar Vizquel is still considered a good defensive shortstop, people have been slow to catch on to the fact that there are a couple of up-and-coming teams that are very good, right now.

    Those teams I like:
    Braves: 20 to 1.
    Are the Braves really much different from the team that won 96 games and the division last year? Your 2005 Cy Young winner Tim Hudson should have something to say about that.

    Phillies: 22 to 1.
    Are people sick of seeing the Phillies underperform for the last two seasons? This is a really good team that only needs to get consistent pitching from their rotation to be in the playoffs after two relative train wrecks of a season.

    Dodgers: 30 to 1.
    This one I just don't get. LA is a big market, and while they might not be the most dedicated baseball fans in the world, you would think at least some of them would have faith enough in this team to lay some money on the line. LA won the west last year. Drew, Kent, and Choi will make up for the loss of Beltre, LoDuca, and Green. Derek Lowe (as much as I hate him) and Brad Penny will be better pitchers than Hideo Nomo and Jose Lima. They may not be much better, but even if the Dodgers treaded water, they're still a division winner in a weak division.

    Oakland: 30 to 1.
    This ones a little bit of a stretch, a very good team with an improving offense that lost its two best pitchers. I don't like their chances, but remember that Mulder and Hudson only combined for 400 innings of about a 4.00 ERA in a pitchers park. Its entirely possible, if not entirely likely, that the trio of Blanton, Meyer, and Haren could combine to top that. This Oakland team missed the playoffs by one stinking game last year, and could be better this season.

    Indians: 35 to 1.
    I know I've harped on the Indians in this space before, but this is a team that Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner have brought a little bit of hype to Cleveland, and that has brought them down from the 50 to 1 level they occupied last preseason. I still think they are a year away, but that wont stop me from dropping a couple dimes on them once I get to Vegas.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks are 30 to 1 odds to win the World Series, need I say more.

    Note: Please do not use any advice from the mouth of a self-proclaimed blowhard for any decision on betting. I do not want the responsibility for anyone's mortgage on my conscious.
      A graveyard is also a garden.
    And every spring........

    What better way to start off March than a post about baseball. This space has been conspicuously vacant for the past month or so. No excuses needed, its the dead of winter, and college basketball is much too exciting. Thanks to the couple of people who wrote in to ask what was up. Basically to check to see if I was still alive. Which I am. Much to the chagrin of A-Rod, my elderly neighbors, and the U.S. Government

    Back when John convinced me to start doing this, I didn't really expect this
    site to be alive a full year later. But even during the offseason when there wasn't anything new here, the number of people stopping by tells me that its at least worth it for me to keep writing down my semi-sober rants. This confuses me somewhat, but I like it, thanks to everyone. The writing is sure to pick up in the next few weeks with spring training starting, and we might witness the re-birth of John, so keep checking in.

    This will be our second season, and during the first, the Red Sox won the World Series.


    I don't care if it is, I'm not going to take the chance and stop now. And so, to get the second season started, here are a couple of fearless predictions I dare anyone to bet against,
    • The Milwaukee Brewers will not win the World Series.
    • Pedro Martinez will rip both the fans and media in Boston.
    • Neifi Perez will lose the batting title race.
    • Shawn Estes will not win a Cy Young.
    • Red Sox fans will be disappointed in 2005.
    • I will not pay face value for any tickets to Fenway this year.
    • For that matter, neither will you.
    • I will threaten to kill ESPN executives after the two weeks of over-hype leading up to the Cubs-Red Sox series in Wrigley.
    • The steroid scandal will not go away.
    • Neither will Barry Bonds
    • Neither will the Yankees.
    I'd be willing to bet my life savings on any of those (and now that I've got a real job, that savings is almost in four-figures).

    Here's a couple others that I wont bet it all on, but I feel pretty confident on my large stable limb,
    • The AL East will be a two team race by May.
    • Pedro Martinez will finish in the top 3 for NL Cy Young.
    • So will Tim Hudson.
    • Randy Johnson will have a lower ERA that Curt Schilling.
    • Curt Schilling will have more wins.
    • My east coast bias will only grow larger.
    • The Padres and Indians will be in the playoff race the entire year.
    • The Tigers will not.
    • Scott Kazmir will be more valuable than Victor "The Wrong" Zambrano.
    • Mets fans everywhere will be heard whining about their misfortune.
    • The Nationals will suck, change their name to the Grays, Jim Bowden will move the team to Cuba and lead a revolution from the mountains, bringing the tenets of OBP to the Cuban National team.
    Okay, I lost you on that last one. Enjoy March Madness, remember its only good because baseball is in the back of your mind, and go Illini.