Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The State of Baseball (and some other stuff)

Hey Folks,

It's the beginning of summer finally. That means no more school for a few months and plenty of Inn Marin bullshit. For those of you in summer school. Well that sucks. But, at least you know you'll be thrust out into the real world faster than me.

Just a quick note, I shot and killed 3 squirrels and caught countless largemouth bass at Nate's ranch, including one that we both judged to be between 3 and 4 pounds-- monster fish. You are all so jealous.

Anyway, I've been meaning to write a sports column for a while, and have been basically unable to follow NBA or the NHL since the Sharks and Warriors got bounced, so I'm going to talk about some MLB.

If you were to tell me prior to the season that after two months the Yankees and the Devil Rays would have the same record, the Brewers were in first place with a 5.5 game lead and the Giants would have one of the top 3 rotations in baseball, I'd have said.... RIGHT ON BABY! SWEET!

Yeah, there are some good scenes out there, but there are some bad scenes. I'll start with the good scenes. (non baseball fanatics and fantasy nuts should just stop reading).

Good Scene #1: The Milwaukee Brewers in 1st place.

The Ned Yost-led Brew Crew is finally coming into their own. After years upon years of religious drunken misery and Cub-like losing, the Brewers have a decent lead in the grossly disappointing NL Central. The years of stockpiled #1 draft picks and recent wise trades have paid off big time.

With the recent call up of 3B Ryan Braun from AAA-Nashville, the Brewers have one of the most disgusting young infields in recent memory. I think the only one better was the short lived Texas Ranger infield of Mark Teixeira (that's right, I spelled his name correctly from memory), Alfonso Soriano, Michael Young, and Hank Blalock.

The Brewers, although relying on their streaky, powerful bats, have sustained their winning ways this season with an equally solid rotation and a near-dominant bullpen. The rotation of Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Claudio Vargas has been consistent, other than a few rough outings here and there by Bush and Sheets.

In order for Milwaukee to finally make the playoffs (think Golden State Warrior-like drought), they will need consistency, if nothing else. They also need more out of converted outfielder Bill Hall, who is struggling with a .253 average, and young 2B Rickie Weeks, who seems to struggle 2 weeks for every 1 week that he does well. Major bright spots are lights-out closer Francisco Cordero (18 SV, .43 ERA), 1B Prince Fielder (17 HR, .978 OPS), and SS J.J. Hardy (15 HR, 44 RBI).

Unless the Cubs decide to pull their collective overpaid heads out of their collective overpaid ass, I see the Brew Crew taking this division, and drinking Miller until the cows come home.

Good Scene #2: The NL Worst is now the NL's Best

I can't remember the last time that this statement was true. It didn't even register to me until I actually looked at the standings. I mean, I heard it last night on ESPN's telecast between the Giants and Mets from Dusty Baker.

At least, I'm pretty sure I heard that from old Dusty. You really have to listen hard because of all the nonsensical interjections and stuttering of players names. The guy fires more blanks than the A Team. I seriously have never heard anyone in the booth struggle to name Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes more often. The fucker was senile when he pulled Russ Ortiz against the Angels in '02 and he's much worse now. My dad could do a much better job in his old-tyme Vin Scully/Bob Uecker knockoff novelty announcing voice. But, I digress...

Top to bottom, this is the best division in the National League and I think it's up there with the AL Central and AL East. It's a really pitching-heavy division, and even the Rockies, who can't pitch other than Aaron Cook and Brian Fuentes, "...could still really hit the ball," as Dusty said.

Just think about this, the Giants, with an outstanding 5 man pitching rotation are now tied for last place in the division with the surging Rockies, who have won 7 in a row, including a recent 3 game sweep of Los Gigantes. Their 24 wins make them the best last place team in baseball by 3 full games. It proves that they simply cannot hit, because their starting rotation has a paltry ERA of 3.40. Wild, wild stuff.

It's also amazing that the surging Diamondbacks (8-2 in their last 10) are doing so well with a no-name roster and the most hideous fucking uniforms I've ever seen in my life. Their new red unis have "D'Backs" written in Mexican gang lettering across the front. What a disgrace. What isn't a disgrace is how good Brandon Webb is. Man, that guy should be arrested for abusing the infield dirt the way opposing hitters pound his sinkers into it. However, I simply cannot see them staying in 2nd place that much longer. Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis won't have sub 4 ERAs forever... will they???

Unfortunately for society, the Dodgers have been consistently winning with a combination of timely hitting and solid pitching, even with their sonofabitch traitor free agent acquistion Jason Schmidt on the DL with a twisted nutsac, a sense of worthlessness, and a bad case of overpaiditis. It pains me to say it, but unless the Giants and/or Padres acquire another consistent and proven bat (Adam Dunn or Ken Griffey anyone?), the piece of shit degenerate Dodgers may win this close division with the 2nd place team picking up the Wild Card over either Atlanta or the Mets.

With every two good scenes, there are two bad scenes.

Bad scene #1: The Yankees

I actually think that this is technically a good scene, but I'll take it from a non-Yankee hating perspective.

Naturally one would think that a hitting heavy lineup of veterans and a $189M payroll (plus 18.5 million for Clemens, and God knows how much extra in luxury tax) would be a first place team... or at least competitive.

The opposite is occuring in the Bronx, where the Bronx Bastards (I just made that up...sweet) are languishing in the cellar of the AL East, currently tied for last place with the Devil Rays--- THE BLEEPIN' DEVIL RAYS-- with a 21-29 record, good for 14.5 games back of the otherworldly Red Sox.

I used the word disgrace in conjunction with the Diamondbacks' uniforms; let me take that back. Arizona's unis are ugly; The Yankees' season has been a disgrace, a debacle, purely disgusting, and it has been incredibly disturbing.

Here are some nauseating statistics and some not-so-fun facts:

1) They have used 12 different starting pitchers this season (13 on Monday with Clemens). Among the starters were Tyler Clippard, Darrell Rasner, and Jeff Karstens. Who? I wish I knew.

2) The Yankees have a grand total of 3 saves on the year. Count 'em, 3 saves. Unbelievable.

3) The once invincible Mariano Rivera is 1-3 with an ERA near 6.00.

4) Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, and Jason Giambi account for a combined 9 HR, 58 RBI, and .250 average with a whopping 103 strikeouts. By comparison, the Tigers' Magglio Ordonez has 12 dingers, 48 RBI, with a ridiculous .358 average. He has struck out only 23 times.

5) Damon, Abreu, and Giambi make a combined $51.43 million. Ordonez makes $13.2 million. The Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have a combined payroll of $54.6 million.

6) The Yankees and Devil Rays have the same record.

7) The Yankees payroll is roughly $208 million and the Devil Rays' is $24 million.

I really could go on and on. However, I only work an 8 hour shift, and I'm running out of writing time.

The point is, the Yankees are in a bad way, and it's only going to get uglier. Pretty soon their obnoxious, "what-have-you-done-fore-me-lately?" fans are going to rebel and stop going to games. Then Steinbrenner will land in the hospital with loss related heart problems. He will then fire Brian Cashman who has tried his best to stand firm with his free-spending buffoonish benefactor. Steinbrenner wishes that there was a dollar amount that could be spent on winning, and he truly believes that the past 6.5 years have been flukes. Cashman has signed some of these people reluctantly-- ahem... Carl Pavano ($43 million, 19 starts, Tommy John surgery), and has tried to focus on building the farm system and developing young studs like Robinson Cano and Phillp Hughes. However, signing all these free agents and losing top round draft picks is not going to help; neither is trading away top draftees for overpriced old-balls outfielders.

I think this is great for baseball. ESPN, whether the Yanks are beasting around or sucking sac from the bac, always has 5 minutes of must see tv dedicated to them. Other teams will look at New York's recipe for failure and back off these crazy salaries for aging veterans, hopefully promoting the parity so desperately needed in baseball. Also, it's nice to see teams like Toronto finally getting a chance to compete for the playoffs in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox. It's good for baseball and bad for the Yanks. That's just fine with me and it's fine with Mets fans too.

Bad scene #2: Armando Benitez


2 balks in one inning, and a no-doubt-about-it dinger in the 12th.

What a piece of shit he is.

Signed two years ago, Armando Benitez has been nothing but a disaster. Even when you think he's settling down and pitching well, he blows two saves in less than a week. Serving up home runs, walking batters, throwing wild pitches, balking home runs on a crucial road trip, and blaming everyone else are just some of the things I hate about him.

I hate his bad attitude. I hate his nose. I hate what he says when his mouth opens. He is truly a waste of perfectly good space, and a terrible closer.

Despite the misleading statistic of only 2 blown saves this year, he has been truly awful. He's been bailed out several times by rare clutch hitting, and he just seems to give up runs and walks on a regular basis.

This 10 day road trip may be a make or break road trip for the last place Giants. If they lose like they have been lately, they may slip farther and farther away from the pack in the NL West. It seems crazy, but their inconsistent hitting, unreliable bullpen, and piece of crap closer Benitez keep fucking them late in games.

I think that these problems can be fixed. Benitez is a cancer that must be cut loose. I don't care if they have to eat 8 of the $10 million that that slug is owed this year and give him to Kansas City or Florida or Cincinnati, but he's gotta get out of the Giants' clubhouse and out of my life.

I'd like to see a trade to Cincinnati for Adam Dunn. How about Benitez with an eaten contract and Fred Lewis for Adam Dunn. That sounds nice. I don't know if they'd bite or not, but it's worth looking into. Then we should give Hennessey a shot at closing, and then stop trading away Jeremy Accardo and Joe Nathan every 4 years. I think we could get by that way.

Maybe I'm just living in a dream world. Either that, or an alcohol induced stupor following another Benitez debacle.

Until next time....

PS: Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals is on tonight: Ottawa @ Anaheim. If a hockey crowd cheers in the forest, does it make a sound?