Check in with Joe Sheehan as the pennant races heat up or cool down.
Joe Sheehan: Thanks for coming out today. We're going to run a little shorter than usual...wedging this in between radio spots and working on the next column. I'll run longer next Friday, but for now, let's get started.
ted (media,pa): What are the Phillies to do for a closer?
Joe Sheehan: Let's ask the bigger question: what are the Phillies to do for a bullpen? The focus on Brad Lidge in the ninth--and he looked terrible last night, seemingly unaware of where his slider would go and unwilling to use the fastball--has hidden the issue that there aren't very many good pitchers in that pen. Madson is a good pitcher, but then...Chad Durbin? Really? Will they get Eyre or Romero back, and if not, is Sergio Escalona now a key guy? I'm not sure the Phillies can get to four good relievers, and that's assuming Pedro Martinez slides into a multi-inning role.
Steve ("Work"): Sheehan, Klaw and Poz all chatting Thursday afternoon?! You guys need to coordinate better or ;)
Joe Sheehan: You're here, and for that, I heart you.
ekanenh (Capitol City): Shouldn't a clear-eyed Yankee fan be concerned about starting pitching in the playoffs?
Joe Sheehan: Absolutely. Andy Pettitte's quality start Monday certainly makes everyone breathe easier, but A.J. Burnett is a dice roll, and they have apparently screwed up Joba Chamberlain something fierce. (The lesson here is that very-low-pitch-count starts are apparently not the way to manage workloads for young starter.) Only CC Sabathia is someone you can expect to be healthy and effective throughout October...and he's the guy who'll be facing Verlander and Lester. The rotation is the Yankees' biggest concern, and at that, they're the postseason favorite.
Hawkeye (Grafton, ND): Taylor Teagarden ran over Ron Washington's dog, right? We have proof of this don't we?
Joe Sheehan: Teagarden is awful, just hideous, with a bat in his hands. I think he might eventually be Ron Karkovice.
Saburo (Honolulu): I really enjoyed the "Fantasy 411" roundtables during the 2007 postseason at MLB.com. Any chance of something similar going on with you and the same gang?
Joe Sheehan: I did, too, with Vinny Micucci, Will Carroll and the late John Marzano. I don't believe they're doing that feature again in 2009--the studio segments all seem to be produced by Turner and the MLB Network people now, and you have to have a page on b-r.com to get on TV for those guys.
Reed (Rochester, MN): Every time you write for Sports Illustrated, there's a letter to the editor in the next issue against whatever you wrote. Care to comment on that?
Joe Sheehan: My editor over there likes to shame me.
jschmeagol (college park, md): Okay, so I will be the 5,786th person to ask this: Chamberlain or Gaudin for Game 4 of the (possible) ALCS? I still say Chamberlain as I can see him handling anyone on his day.
Joe Sheehan: Well, I choose Chamberlain, in part because the Yankees have a fair amount of effective relievers, so Chamberlain wouldn't be a high-leverage guy. If this were the Phillies, it'd be different.
Mostly, I think the debate is silly. The #4 guy starts once a series, throws maybe six innings, usually less. The 1996 Yankees used...what was it, Kenny Rogers?...three times, got no good starts and won the World Series. David Weathers seemed to pitch great in all three games. Hell, with the additional off days, you should probably use a three-man rotation, anyway.
thelaird (Memphis, TN): I've been having a debate with a friend over a sacrifice bunt in Sunday's Cardinals/Cubs game. Quick recap: bottom of the 9th, tie game with no outs, a runner on first, DeRosa at bat, and Pujols on deck. A sacrifice bunt takes the bat out of Pujols' hands, so the question is this: is it better to have Holliday and Ludwick bat with a runner on 2nd or DeRosa, Pujols, and Holliday bat with a runner on 1st?
Joe Sheehan: Because DeRosa is a slow right-handed batter who puts the ball on the ground, a bunt is defensible, even though it takes the bat out of Pujols' hands. My problem comes in when the bunt is laid down by someone like Johnny Damon, who isn't going to hit into two. Swing the bat.
JC (Hoboken): Some love for KT and his young guys in San Diego? You saw them at 60 wins this year.
Joe Sheehan: Yeah, they've played better than I expected them to. They play the park well, finding relief pitchers who can be effective there. Chase Headley has started to come around, and Everth Cabrera isn't that bad. I'm just wondering how many guys responsible for the decent season are good enough to contribute to a real contender. Is Will Venable or Kevin Correia someone you build around? I doubt it.
dscala (manchester, NH ): what do you think Lance Berkman's trajectory is going forward? Is he the type of player who won't age gracefully?
Joe Sheehan: No, I can see a very slow decline, comparable a bit to Jim Thome's very graceful long goodbye.
ndubby (sfo): Is Lidge worth a postseason roster spot? If left off, will Manuel be able to cope without a *C*loser?
Joe Sheehan: Again, when you compare him to the available options, he has to be on the roster. If you just made him someone who was used in situations where a strikeout meant more than a double--runner on third, less than two outs--I guess you could find spots for him. He's high-risk, high-reward, with more of the former right now.
Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Has Felix Pie built a case for playing every day, obviously not over Jones, but maybe somewhere else? Seems to be good trade bait for the O's, and lots of teams could use a CF.
Joe Sheehan: If I were the Orioles I'd go into next season with a Pie/Reimold platoon, since I'm not sure either is an everyday guy, and that would give me coverage for injuries. My other choice would be trade Reimold for middle-infield help, as I think he's been a bit above his head.
jalonzo (NYC): Do Dave Duncan's pitching philosophy, and every St. Louis pitcher behind Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, lead Secret Sauce to underestimate the Cards' playoff chances?
Joe Sheehan: I think the idea that any team is better than an 18-20% chance to win the World Series overestimates everyone's playoff chances. Secret Sauce is what it is, a formula based on the track record of successful teams. Everyone's favorite team not rated well by it is the exception.
John (NJ): Well, it didn't take long for MLB Tonight to morph into Baeball Tonight. Seriously, I can't differentiate between the two at this point. Bobby V's return should help out the former a bit. Any chance we live to see BP TV?
Joe Sheehan: Running this comment for accuracy.
And probably not.
dtwhite (Toronto): What are your thoughts on Torii Hunter's career? It seems he's played much better the last couple years than anyone expected - how do you see him going forward?
Joe Sheehan: I believe the idea is that players with a broad base of skills age better than those who have one skill above others. Hunter has generally done everything but walk, and he even does that well enough sometimes. He's hit for a better average the last couple of years. I'll say that he's outperformed my expectations, but the the back end of the contract still carries some risk.
sprechs (Brooklyn): How would you construct the Yankees' post-season roster? Girardi seems pretty set on having both Guzman and Gardner--does that make any sense?
Joe Sheehan: Think of it the way Earl Weaver would...how will I use each player? If Girardi wants to start Gardner, which he should, he'll want an extra set of legs on the bench to pinch-run tactically for Posada, Matsui and maybe Swisher. Facing a RH reliever who doesn't hold runners well--like Papelbon, for one--Guzman could be a key element. Given that the Yankees need somewhere between zero and one backup infielders, Guzman could be a good weapon to have. I'd certainly rather him than a seventh (or EIGHTH) reliever.
I love this stuff, by the way, probably disproportionately to its effect on the games themselves. Roster construction, really thinking about player usage, is a huge hole in the games of modern managers, even some very successful ones.
Drungo (SoMd): Do you think there would ever be any traction for ideas to keep more fans of teams out of the races interested? I'm thinking non-league competitions/cup tournaments, or... I don't know... something. It's almost like we're back to the 1930s Browns and Phils, where the Pirates, O's, Jays, and a handful of other teams are basically mailing it in by mid-June.
Maybe this is just the embittered O's fan in me, but isn't there something they can do so Oriole Park isn't a wasteland for three months of the season every year? Don't tell me in year 12 of sub-.500 performances that all they need to do is build a better team. They're trying, but in the meantime it's all pain.
Joe Sheehan: I think the next idea to take hold will be expanding the playoffs, probably by 2020, at which time I'll go write about college basketball or teach English or get a Master's in history or something. It's the one decision MLB could make that would chase me away; we've already damaged the regular season enough.
The NFL has really ruined sports in lots of ways. Making all fans think their team should contend every year is one of them.
Beau (San Francisco): Free Buster Posey! Viva la revolucion!
Joe Sheehan: No, he likes living in Vermont. It's not a prison sentence. He's from...
Oh, wait. My mistake.
cdmyers (Jersey): What's the chance that the Tigers will outpace the Rangers and avoid the slightly awkward situation of making it into the postseason as the fifth best team in the league.
My mom and I are Tigers fans and my grandfather is a long-suffering Rangers fan, so unless the Tigers pick it up Thanksgiving could be a little awkward.
(And yeah, the Twins still have a good shot, I know.)
Joe Sheehan: They might make the playoffs and be the seventh-best team in the league. I'm not convinced the Rays, Rangers and Twins aren't all better. The Mariners have a case.
Joe V. (Washington, DC): Joe: Are you sure that the Yankees screwed up Joba? Isn't it possible that he's out of shape/hurt/tired/something else? I think laying the blame on the Yankees is a little tricky since he wasn't pitching all that great even before they started shortening his outings.
Joe Sheehan: I'm open to other ideas. I do think the well-intentioned idea turned out to be unhelpful, getting him thinking way too much about things other than "get the guy out."
Bill (New Mexico): Same question as your first one here, but this time about the Cardinals. How should TLR manage the pen for the post season, now that Ryan Franklin is turning back into a pumpkin?
Joe Sheehan: Stop asking my questions about the file September 24_09, open on my desktop and mocking me openly as I chat with you people!
dtwhite (Toronto): If you were in charge of the Blue Jays, what would be the 3 best moves you could make this winter?
Joe Sheehan: 1) Trade Halladay for a Teixeira package, built around the best shortstop I can get.
2) Convince the Mets to take Vernon Wells for no talent back.
3) Avoid the temptation to sign Marco Scutaro to a three-year deal.
William (Mobile, AL): Should the Rays cut ties with the arbitration-eligible Bj Upton ? Desmond Jennings has the ability to be Carl Crawford + more patience.
Joe Sheehan: Oh, hell no. First of all, he won't do well in arb. Second, he has WAY too much talent to just cut loose that way.
phatcat (New York, NY): So we all know Greinke deserves the Cy Young. Will he actually win it?
Joe Sheehan: Yes.
Dan (Denver): If the Rockies reach the playoffs, how do you set up the rotation? Do you go with Hammel over Marquis?
Joe Sheehan: Assuming Cook is available, that's the fourth-starter slot, and as I said earlier, it just doesn't matter that much. If Cook isn't available...probably Marquis third, just because Hammel has a little more relief experience.
Nick (nyc): Where can the Mariners' find another foundational player or two? Will Felix/Ichiro/Ackley be enough, or should they consider something drastic like trading Felix for the Ray's farm system?
Joe Sheehan: Is Felix a foundational guy? He's an FA after '11. Is Ichiro? He's 36 in four weeks.
Is there ever going to be Ichiro/Ackley, given the age difference?
andy (san diego): Is Adrian Gonzalez a left handed hitting Evan Longoria? Who would you build a team around?
Joe Sheehan: The third baseman who's a lot younger.
XXpo (DC): Is Elijah Dukes still an unresolved question? Do the Nats have any better choice than playing him next year?
Joe Sheehan: I'd like to see him get one year as the everyday RF to answer that question, because I honestly don't know. He never seems to be the same player in consecutive seasons. It's frustrating. The Nationals need upside, and he has enough to warrant the job.
Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Understanding it would be a very off the cuff answer, give me one guy from each of the 8 playoff teams you'd bet on to greatly exceed their expected performance in the post-season.
Joe Sheehan: Ask me this next week. It's 11 teams right now, and I can't think of that many during the chat.
brianpekrul (San Francisco): Do you think Buster Posey will be the Giants opening day catcher next season? If so do you think he and the Panda could be Morneau/Maur lite?
Joe Sheehan: That's not a bad upside comp, although it may be a little underselling just what Joe Mauer is, how far above Posey he is. If Posey isn't the Giants' catcher next year, starting 120 times, it's a pretty big mistake. Bring back Bengie Molina if you have to, but in Jose's role.
Fred (NJ): Can you see the Mets and Brewers discussing a Fielder trade this winter? Should they?
Joe Sheehan: You have to be pretty high on the Mets' prospects to think there's a deal there. Also, are the Mets better off trading for Fielder, or focusing on the outfield and pitching staff and wishcasting Ike Davis into a second-half role?
Will (Michigan): Can the Tigers hold of the Twins now that they are done with the dreaded Royals?
Joe Sheehan: They hold the key, with four games against them next week. I think a split would get it done.
Two years ago the Tigers finished like this. Then they went 7-1 and played in the World Series.
Ira (North Texas): With this scenario: Rangers win their final 11 games: Angels go 3-7 (meaning that they go 3-3 in games which they don't have in common)
In those final 11 games, Scott Feldman pitches shutouts (or, more likely, typical Scott Feldman 6+ innings, <2 runs) in his 3 remaining starts, winning all 3 of them to get to a record of 20-5. How much Cy Young consideration will he get?
Joe Sheehan: More than he will deserve.
Bless you, Ira. Seriously.
Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): This seems a slight year for interesting callups, Bumgarner's spot start and the Posey-drama aside.
Have any of the youngsters called up since, say, the ASB caught your eye? Hudson, Avila, Young, someone else?
Joe Sheehan: Neftali Feliz is the obvious one. Very fun to watch, although he may be tiring. I'm a Drew Stubbs fan, too.
tonipeluso (Oakland): Should Oakland try for a Fielder in a trade?
Joe Sheehan: You have to build a roster from the middle out. No team with that kind of up-the-middle should spend prospects and cash on a first baseman, and in retrospect, I should have said that about the Matt Holliday trade.
mgibson (DC): Do the Giants make bad decisions because they're ignorant, or because they aren't really trying to win? I burst a blood vessel every time they needlessly leave Tim Lincecum out there for a meaningless extra inning.
Joe Sheehan: As an organization, they seem to value speed, contact and power, and they don't pay much attention to on-base skills independent of batting average. This is how you choose Nate Schierholtz instead of Fred Lewis. Let's not forget that they have drafted and developed some very good pitching; it's in constructing an offense that they've failed, and I think the presence of Barry Bonds clouded that it's been the case for a while.
kcboomer (kc): If you're Jim Hendry and have had enough of Milton Bradley for this life time do you cut bait and and accept Jose Guillen in an even up swap and congratulate yourself on saving $8M???
Joe Sheehan: Then you still have no CF, and you're too righthanded again, and you dropped 60 points of OBP in the swap, and you've traded for the last guy before Bradley to take a big suspension at the end of the year for being a [noun].
So no, I don't.
Lightning round starts now.
kcboomer (kc): Is everybody ready to concede that the only two bona fide contenders for the AL CYA are Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez??
Joe Sheehan: If that many. Greinke should have it locked up.
dtwhite (Toronto): Derek Jeter retires in 20__? At that point what position is he playing, if not SS?
Joe Sheehan: 2015, left field.
PS (New York, NY): Does the Red Sox defense keep them from winning in October?
Joe Sheehan: No, and it's been better with Gonzalez. Underrated trade given what they had there.
Joba (NY): What will my job be next season?
Joe Sheehan: Starter. Maybe not in New York.
William (Mobile, AL): Who is your rookie of the year for both leagues ? I have Happ in the NL and Gordon Beckham in the AL.
Joe Sheehan: Hanson chasing down Happ, and I've flip-flopped Beckham and Andrus a couple of times. Leaning Andrus right now.
Ethan (Berkshire County): Buchholz or Ubaldo Jimenez over their careers?
Joe Sheehan: Buchholz. The fact that we even have to ask is a testament to Jimenez and what he's done.
Eli (Brooklyn): Too early for post-season picks?
Joe Sheehan: Yup, that's why I'm coming by next Friday, and I think Christina has me chatting every week next month.
Joe Sheehan: Thanks a lot, everyone...I'll be back next week for more. Check back late today for a new column.