Compared to the past, how about everybody, here and now?
You know only too well how this particular saw goes: It's hard to find good catching, it's always in short supply, and sometimes it's a matter of stocking the slot with a player familiar with the tools of ignorance, merely as a matter of having enough receivers to go around. Catchers are hard to find, donchaknow.
As a result, there are also are our favorite targets, the symbols of the kinds of catchers you didn't want to be stuck with if you were running a fantasy team, or stuck rooting for if your club had the mixed fortune to wind up employing them. No matter what vintage your fandom dates from, you know who I'm talking about: In the '80s, you were probably making fun of a decision to play Bob Boone daily, in the '90s you were mocking Brad Ausmus, and by the Aughties maybe Dioner Navarro was the target of your informed derision.
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Uncertainty about their first baseman tops the Twins' list of worries for re-winning the AL Central.
Is the news coming out of the Twins' camp good or bad? I suppose it depends on how you want to see it spun, but the easy confidence that the Twins will win because that's what they do has taken its share of hits.
First, there's the case of their first baseman, Justin Morneau, still trying to come back from last season's concussion, still “making progress.” Morneau has been participating in workouts and some batting practice, and that's better than where he was in January or November, and certainly better than where he was at the start of October, when he was shut down as the Twins sailed into the playoffs.
Although the statistical record doesn't do a great job of documenting it.
One of my many nerdy qualities is that I'm always fascinated with players who show up and hang around... but who don't always get documented as fully as some of their more famous teammates. Maybe it was my initial fascination with the Denver Nuggets in the early '80s, because you'd have Alex English and Dan Issel and Kiki Vandeweghe bombing away all night long, and a series of point guards getting rotated in and out, trying to keep up, and then you'd have T.R. Dunn, accumulating... nothing. Not literally, of course, but he started, and he'd log his minutes, but he'd score six or seven points, pull down a half-dozen rebounds, a couple of steals... and that was it. He wasn't getting DNPs, mind you, but in the high-flying Nuggets attack, Dunn just seemed to be there.
Anticipation is part of spring training, but picking a bullpen is an everyday task worth waiting on.
October 20, 1993: It was the end of the top of the eighth, and Jim Fregosi was looking at the smoldering wreck of a winnable ballgame.
David West had already given Fregosi's buggy eyes cause to pop from their sockets in the sixth, when the big lefty had narrowed a five-run lead over the Blue Jays to three. Getting the lead back up to 14-9 with six outs to go seemed to set things right—surely even the ramshackle Phillies' pen couldn't blow this, could they? Hold the lead, tie the World Series, with Curt Schilling slotted for Game Five, and it would be anybody's series to win. But after watching Larry Andersen put three men aboard and surrender a run, Fregosi knew that one-for-one outs to runs tradeoff wasn't going to fly without upsetting this particular applecart.
Some big-league themes deserve big-screen treatment.
So, last night was Oscar time, and no doubt many of you watched intently. Maybe it's because we're in the opening weeks of spring training, and maybe it's because we've come up short on the great baseball movie front for several years now, but my mind immediately turned to the films we'd like to see, not the ones that are getting made.
We already know that the concept of doing a movie about Mike Kekich, Fritz Peterson, and baseball's most infamous challenge trade is a concept already associated with names like Affleck and Damon—not Johnny—in an attempt to try and beat the story into shape. Somehow, I expect there won't be a lot of baseball in what's supposed to be a baseball movie—not least because Kekich's career didn't have a lot longer to go by the time the two men swapped wives and lives. To my way of thinking, that's exactly what I don't want from a sports movie—a film short on actual sports, because without that, why shoot it?
Deleting Adam Wainwright changes the odds on one bid for postseason glory, but not what's to come in the NL Central.
Even before Adam Wainwright was taken out of the picture, the National League Central figured to be interesting. As Larry Granillo noted just a far-off week ago, our initial riff on the team's potential playing time splits suggested that the division's front four figured to be separated by seven games, with the Cardinals out in front with 87 wins, and the Cubs bringing up the rear with 80.
A grouping that tight figured to provide fans in Cincinnati and Milwaukee as well as Chicago and St. Louis every reasonable expectation that this was their year, and that every injury, every acquisition, every role change, and every tactical decision could shift the division's balance of power. Absent Wainwright, though, that proposition just got more interesting still, as it immediately dropped the Cards into a make-believe tie on our depth charts, dropping them to 85 wins and magnifying the importance of the decisions made in the weeks to come in camps in Arizona and Florida.
From the "they also played" gang, those few who have jobs to win and trips to Fresno to avoid.
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitcher(s): Just 11 years, a bad press conference, and all sorts of money since he was last a front-end rotation asset, Mike Hampton is in camp. This has to be one of those bad-penny propositions, where everyone who operates a franchise has to take a turn paying for a Hampton surgery, otherwise you haven't really made the grade as an owner. And they've got Micah Owings back, four years since he gave the Snakes cause to believe he might be a rotation stalwart. Given that this is the team that puts Zach Duke or Hampton in cleats, what's several bad seasons in a row between friends? Hitter(s): I already touched on the most obvious impact NRI, Russell Branyan, on Tuesday, but he's not alone. Wily Mo Pena makes for an interesting platoon possibility in left field with Brandon Allen if Kirk Gibson decides to build something that could bop. And we can always double-count Micah Owings, since he's one of the only active players who genuinely extends a roster to 26 by contributing as both a pinch-hitter—or maybe even a spot starter at first?—and as a pitcher.
Could the Cardinals' quest to re-win the Central disappear with a single sproing?
"Sproing" is the sound an elbow makes when it goes from a ready state to something that helps pay off an orthopedic surgeon's student loans, and the terror of Cardinals camp is that its echo may bring everything in this year's bid to re-win the NL Central to a dead stop. The diagnosis of a potentially devastating injury hangs over the Cardinals' hopes for 2011, and no, we're not talking Nick Punto's sports hernia. Adam Wainwright has flown back to St. Louis to see if the pain in his elbow is bad news or the worst news, and more than his two-year, $21 million nested options for 2012-13 hang in the balance.
There's no way to minimize the implication. PECOTA projected Wainwright to be the seventh-best pitcher in the league via WARP, and at this time of year nobody close to that is available or about to be made available via trade. The Cardinals may look to deal, but that's because the best internal options are far from sure things. The Cards were already in a situation where they already have Kyle Lohse to regret. Jake Westbrook was supposed to fix this problem, converting Lohse into baseball's most expensive fifth starter.