Strasburg, CarGo, Tulo, and Cyclones

September 4, 2010

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Nationals Nation (village?) suffered a huge setback when it was announced that top prospect Stephen Strasburg would need to undergo Tommy John surgery.  The surgery, named for the former pitcher whose career it saved, involves having an elbow ligament replaced with a tendon harvested from elsewhere in the body.  There’s a roughly 90% chance of success, and rehabilitation generally takes a year.  This means that Strasburg will likely be aiming for a return on the opening day of the 2012 season.

Interestingly, some players actually throw a bit harder after the surgery (for a few years) than they did previously – so Strasburg’s fastball might have a bit more kick when he returns.  (Some nut job parents have approached doctors requesting that the surgery be performed on their healthy sons, simply to get this benefit).  While this is obviously a setback for Strasburg, I’m confident that he’ll return as strong as ever in time for the 2012 season. has put together a Tommy John Tracker that will track the progress of those slated for the operation.

If you’re in a “keeper” fantasy league and Strasburg’s owner drops him, I’d suggest snapping him up for the long haul.  Similarly, if you can make a trade for pennies on the dollar, go for it.

My Rockies have been alternating hot and cold streaks.  They faced off against the Phillies on Thursday.  A win would have allowed them to climb within 4 ½ games of Philadelphia in the wild card race.  The Rockies got out to an early 7-3 lead, but ended up losing the game 12-11, slipping to 6 ½ games out of the wild card race.

At this point, there seems to be little hope of catching the Phillies in the wild card – but I’m not convinced that the Rockies are out of the division race.  We’re 7 ½ games behind the front-running Padres – but the Padres have been in a free-fall recently, losing seven straight games.  The Rockies began a 3 games series against the Padres on Friday night (after this article was written) – and a sweep would pull the Rockies to within 4 ½ games on the division lead.  A Padres sweep would likely close the curtain on the Rockies’ playoff chances.

If you haven’t been paying attention to Carlos Gonzalez, this would be a good time to start.  CarGo launched his 31st homer (“car bomb”) on Thursday night.  He leads the National League in batting average (.332) and slugging percentage (.610) and is 5th in homers.  It’s possible that a hot September could push CarGo to the lead in homers and RBI and allow him to be the first NL triple crown winner since Ducky Medwick.

CarGo has dramatic home/road split (.391 with 24 homers at home vs. .275 with 7 homers on the road) but you can’t just point to Coors Field as the source of his numbers.  Overall, Coors has tended to add about 120 OPS points to a player’s numbers – CarGo’s 2010 differential is nearly 500 points.  I hypothesize that a large mental factor comes into player that allow some players to amplify the effects of their home park and other players to consistently underperform expectations (such as Ryan Howard of the Phillies, who has roughly even career home/road splits despite playing in a hitter’s paradise).  Whatever the reason, a player who can be absolutely dominant in half the games provides considerable value to a team.

Gonzalez’s teammate Troy Tulowitzki sports a .319 batting average, but you won’t see him listed among the league leaders.  That’s because an earlier  injury cost him playing time and is causing Tulo to fall just short of the threshold to qualify for the batting title (3.1 plate appearances for each game his team has played).  Tulo is currently 8 plate appearances short, so expect him to pop up on the list soon.

You might wonder what would happen if a player had a much higher batting average than anyone else in the league, but fell just short of the threshold – would he be denied the batting title?  Nope.  In these cases, “empty” at bats are added to a player’s totals to determine if he is the champion.  For example, Tulowitzki has 114 hits in 357 at bats, for a .319 batting average.  If the season ended at this point, we’d add 8 at bats (and no hits) and recalculate – 114 hits in 365 at bats, for a .312 batting average.  If this was the highest batting average in the league, Tulo would be the batting champion.  If someone else had a .313 batting average, he wouldn’t be the champion.  In either case, he would still be credited with his actual .319 batting average.

The Iowa State Cyclones kicked off the football season on Thursday night against Northern Illinois.  The Cyclones looked good at some point and bad in others.  It was a definite must-win game for a team facing the schedule from hell.  We face road games at Iowa, Texas, and Oklahoma – and face Utah in one of our pre-seasons games.  It’s possible that the team would be better than last year’s 7-6 squad, but emerge with a worse record.

And in my own backyard, the University of Iowa (in-state rivals to my alma mater) locked up head football coach Kirk Ferentz through the year 2020.  His base salary starts at $3,675,000 and he get a longevity bonus that starts at $325,000 and increases each year.  I think Ferentz is a great coach, but this makes no sense to me.  These sorts of deals just give a false sense of security to the fans of the team.  The coach can still bolt for a better job at any time.  The only thing that it really does is make it impossible to fire a coach if things head south – because the school is on the hook for the entire value of the contract.  Hopefully Ferentz will still be around in 2020 and this will be an academic issue.

Will Strasburg Live Up To The Hype?

June 29, 2010

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What is the deal with all the hype? I mean the guy has a .500 record so far in the bigs. What is all the fuss about? Another conspiracy by ESPN to overhype a young player before he has proven a thing?

Of course I am talking, just like everyone else is, about Stephen Strasburg.

I am already getting sick of Strasburg Mania. He is outpitched last night by Tim Hudson of the 1st place Braves, and all you hear about is Strasburg. Never mind the 5 hit gem that Hudson threw, how he surgically dismantled the pathetic Washington Nationals.

Strasburg for the All Star game! Wow, he has what 5 starts? And a 2-2 record? Sounds like all star stats to me. But the idiotic fans, most of which know nothing of baseball will vote, (it normally coincides with the baseball card market and value and popularity of players and has nothing to do with their actual performance on the field) so it will be interesting to see if he makes it in.

So before you all go out and spend all of your hard earned money on Strasburg rookie cards, let’s look at the facts

  1. The Nationals SUCK. They have some nice young talent but they are still a horrible team with no real pitching, very average hitting and average defense. This could change drastically in 3-5 years IF some of their draft picks continue to pan out and the organization would spend some money and get some better players into the house
  2. Strasburg is a pitcher! Why all the hype about a pitcher. I have a few words for all of you. Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Dontrelle Willis, and yes even Carlos Zambrano. All of these guys viewed as super studs and where are they now? All it takes is one arm injury and that is it, it is over. I would lay my money on a hitter any day over a pitcher.
  3. He is 2-2 with a 2.27 ERA. Strasburg can put up great numbers all year but it gets back to point #1. If the club can’t score and can’t play defense, he can’t win games no matter how good he might pitch.
  4. They need to be careful with him. Gone are the days when guys pitched complete games every night out. He will be on strict pitch counts every night and they will not overwork him. The Nationals cannot afford to. Can you imagine the gloss we would all be hearing if he got injured? Man it would make the Tiger Woods saga look like a back page story …

Of course I could be wrong, he could break Cy Young’s record of 511 wins … but I highly doubt it.

Go Nats!

Throw Back The Marlins

June 24, 2010

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The Florida Marlins seem to be in the news a lot this year.  Earlier in the year, All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was benched after showing lack of hustle on a play.  Ramirez accidentally kicked a ball while fielded it, then allowed two runs to score as he ambled after the ball.  Ramirez then lashed out at manager Fredi Gonzalez, as if Ramirez was the victim.  After Roy Halladay’s pefect game, the Marlins announced that they would be selling unused tickets to the game (and there were many of them, as is the case with all Marlins home game) at face value – effectively killing the value of the tickets that had been purchased by die-hard fans who actually attended the game.

On Wednesday, the Fish fired manager Fredi Gonzalez in spite of the fact that the Marlins were actually still in contention – in spite of the ongoing efforts of ownership to trade good players whenever they get to the point of earning a large salary.  It’s not the first time that the Marlins have axed a manager who was producing solid on-field results.  In 2006, the Marlins had a payroll of just $14 million – lower than the salaries of several players, and 1/5 the payroll of most team.  Nonethleless, first time manager Joe Girardi led the team to a 78-84 record and kept them in contention for a playoff spot late into the season.  This was substantially better than anyone would have expected prior to the season, and Girardi was named National League Manager of the year.  By the time the award arrived on his doorstep, he had been fired.  Things worked out OK for Girardi, though.  He’s now the manager of the Yankees.

What got me riled up the most, however, was the news that the Marlins were bribing their fans to cast All-Star votes for the Marlins.  If you case 200 all-Marlin ballots, you get two free tickets to a Marlins game.  If you cast the most ballots, you get access to a suite at a Marlins game.  The Marlins say that other teams also make a push to have fans vote for their player, but Florida is much more aggressive than other teams.  I don’t even like the fact that people can easily vote 25 times online because of how it dilutes fan voting.  Having a team actively encourage ballot box stuffing makes me sick.  I wish Major League Baseball would step up and protect the integrity of the game.  If teams engage is this sort of activity, ban their players from the All-Star game for a year.  Maybe that would put sportsmanship back into the equation.

Maybe this would be a good time to start discussion contraction again?



Two of the most dominant pitchers in baseball toed the rubber on Wednesday night.  Stephen Strasburg face another cupcake team when he took the mound  against the Royals (having faced the woeful Pirates and Indians and the mediocre White Sox in his first three games).  Strasburg struck out nine and walked none, but did allow nine hits (all singles) in six innings of work, allowing just one run.  However, Brian Bannister of the Royals combined with the bullpen for a shutout, giving the Roayls a 1-0 win.

Ubaldo Jimenez was in search of his 14th win when he faced the Red Sox.  Jimenez was rocking and rolling early in the game, but ran into trouble in the sixth inning.  A flare down the right field line by Marco Scutaro put the Sox ahead 6-5 and sent Jimenez to the showers (actually, to the bench, where he watched the rest of the game).  It was by far the worst game of the year, statistically.  In spite of that, my friend Lazy Man at Lazy Man and Money came away impressed with Jimenez.  The Rockies took Jimenez off the hook by rallying against Papelbon in the ninth.  Homers by Ian “Stewie” Stewart and Jason “Jason” Giambi sent Colorado fans home happy with an 8-6 win.  The Rockies go for the sweep tonight when they send Jason Hammel to the mound to face off against Daisuke Matsuzaka.

I’m not much of a soccer fan, but I was following the ESPN Gamecast of the USA game against Algeria yesterday.  I had discussed various scenarios with occasional contributor Fulton Christopher, and when England went up 1-0 against Slovenia, we knew that the US was going to need a win to advance.  A surge of pride went through me when the news of Landon Donovan’s late goal splashed across the screen.

Across the pond at Wimbledon, news of Roger Federer’s near defeat at the hands of Allejando Falla in the first round was the buzz on the first day of the tournament  .  Down two sets, Federer rallied to beat the Colombian in five sets.  The tournament’s top seed struggled again in the second round, with Serbian Ilija Bozoljac taking R-Feds to four sets. 

On Wednesday, the big news was the match between American John Isner and Nicolas Mahut of France.  The match actually began on Tuesday.  It was suspended because of darkness and was resumed on Wednesday.  They played the entire day on Wednesday before the match was once again suspended because of darkness.  At the end of the day, they were tied 59-59 in the fifth set.  For those who don’t follow tennis, you typically play to 6.  The match is demolishing many records, and the length is unfathomable to everyone.  Matches simply don’t last this long, ever.

It will be interesting to see how the winner fares in the next round.  Conventional wisdom would be that they’ll be easy prey for an opponent – but only time will tell.  Both players are also playing doubles, and will play their first round doubles matches shortly after their singles match is completely – assuming that it doesn’t continue until the end of time.

Weekend Wrap

June 13, 2010

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A quick note to the readers – you may begin seeing less content on the weekends.  Health-related issues and other life priorities have caused several writers to be unable to write on a regular basis.  The end result is that I have been writing up to 5 articles per week.  This can be a bit of a drain, and it is probably not viable long term, considering other projects underway and competing life priorities.  In the future, the weekend articles will be a bit less rigorous.  Most weekends are going to have a weekly recap on one of the days – a series of short blurbs about the news of the week.  The other day will feature a question of the week.  I’ll ask a question, give my answer, and solicit responses from readers.  On occasion, I’ll run a fiction story in place of one of these articles.  It might sound a bit counter-intuitive, but many times I can write a fiction piece faster than a non-fiction article of comparable length.

So, without further ado, comments on the news of the week:

Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the disappearance and presumed murder of US teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005, confessed to the beating death of 21 year old Stephany Flores in Peru.  Flores’ body was found in a hotel room in Peru with indications that she had been beaten to death.  If police had been able to find more evidence to tie him to Holloway’s appearance, Flores would still be alive today.  After van der Sloot’s arrest, it was revealed that the FBI had been investigating him for an plot to extort money from Natalee Holloway’s mother.  Van der Sloot claimed to have information about the location of Natalee’s body.  My hope is that the Peruvian justice system will mete out a swift and severe punishment.

I recently stumbled across an email from March of 2009 suggesting that Ford might be a good stock to buy.  The gist of my argument was that Ford’s domestic competitors were in dire straits, and that Ford would be able to swoop in and steal market share, especially from folks who are adamant about buying American.  On the day the email was sent, Ford stock closed at $2.76 per share.  At the close of the day on Wednesday, the share price was at $11.28 – more than 4 times the March 2009 level.  It’s pretty rare that I give stock tips (particularly since I’m a big fan of diversified portfolios), but I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t take my own advice.

Another stock that might be a good buy right now?  BP.  In the last couple of months, the share price has been sliced in half.  Yes, the cleanup will be costly and the lawsuits will be numerous.  However, bear in mind that this is a company with $100 in equity (not assets, but actual equity).  Even after shelling out a hefty amount of money related to the cleanup, BP should emerge on solid financial footing.  Even a post-tax cost of $30 billion (containment, cleanup, and compensation to affected parties) would leave them with net assets of $70 billion – and most independent projection are pegging the cost at less than half this amount.  The stock currently has a PE ratio of 6 – and they pay substantial dividends.  Of course, this ignores all ethical and environmental concerns – obviously, you may choose to ignore BP stock for this reason.  I’m not defending BP – I’m just suggesting that from a pure financial sense, the investment might make sense.  Note: I am not a financial advisor.  This tip is provided for entertainment value only.  Invest at your own risk – I am not liable to losses that may result from investments in BP stock.

Stephen Strasburg lived up to the hype on Tuesday night, striking out fourteen batters and allowing just four hits against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Strasburg and two relievers combined to strike out 17 Pirates.  On the flip side, Pirates pitchers recorded just a single strikeout in the game.  Strasburg faces off againt the Indians at noon today.

Ubaldo Jimenez struggled a bit with command of his pitches during rainy weather on Friday night, allowing 5 hits, 5 walks, and 3 runs through 6 innings.  It was good enough to allow Jimenez to notch his 12th win of the season.  Jimenez typically pitches into the 7th inning, but this game was called because of rain after six innings.  Ubaldo is 12-1 through his first 13 starts, with a 1.16 ERA.

Iowa State’s Lisa Koll (the best athlete you’ve never heard of?) won the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters at the NCAA track meet.  Koll became the fifth fourth woman to ever achieve this historic double.  She conserved her energy in the 10K on Wednesday night, and it paid off in the 5K, as she ran away from the field – winning by 30 seconds (an enormous margin) in the 11th fastest time by a collegiate woman.  Koll will be signing with a shoe company soon, and will be setting her sights on the 2012 Olympics.

Around The World Of Major League Baseball

June 8, 2010

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Strasburg – It is FINALLY HERE
The hype is almost over … well it is still going on for a few more hours until the highly touted pitcher makes his debut for the Washington Nationals tonight at home in D.C. against the Pittsburgh Pirates. You have seen numerous articles mentioning Strasburg here on the Casual Observer, everything from talent to sports card prices. The place is sold out tonight, which is great for the home team. Here is hoping the kid has a good outing and does not get chased early.

Speaking of Nationals …
They also had the first overall pick in the “Live” draft that was conducted on Major League Baseball Network last night. Bryce Harper was not surprisingly taken as the #1 pick. He graduated high school early and spent this past year in Junior College where he tore the cover off the ball. Harper, according to an ESPN article, hit . 443 with 31 home runs, 98 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 66 games, That is video game type of numbers. Looks like we have another super hyped Washington Nationals player to keep an eye on over the next couple years.

Speaking of Draft …
The draft coverage last night was definitely the worst coverage of such a type of even I have ever seen. Of course Bud Selig is about as exciting as reading the white pages in the phone book. The real disappointment was twofold. First of all, the “in studio experts” really did not add anything to the equation at all, and secondly the “ticker” at the bottom of the screen showed more historical information about a team’s draft pick from something like 8 years ago and rarely did they actually show the picks that had made THIS year. For reference when the NFL draft is run, the pretty much have the continuous crawl at the bottom of the screen, so if you happen to run to the fridge or the bathroom, you can come back and actually see who was picked over the last couple of minutes. MLB network only updated this what seemed like 4 times an hour … poor job MLB Network. Maybe you can learn from this next year.

Speaking of MLB ….
It is shaping up to be another exciting year in baseball. We have already had a number of events happen. Griffey Retiring, Ubaldo Jimenez winning 11 games and being pretty much unhittable, and what seems like everyone in the American League East winning most all of their games (except the Orioles)

So for you baseball aficionados out there … grab your favorite beverage, and a snack and kick back tonight and see what the kid can do … a lot of people will be watching.

Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper

June 6, 2010

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Stephen Strasburg will make his major league debut on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Pirates were originally scheduled to have Monday off.  However, a rained out game pushed a game against the Cubs to Monday, meaning that they won’t have the extra day of preparation.

Judging from all the hype around Strasburg, some fans may be disappointed with anything less than a no hitter and 20 strikeouts.  My own expectations are a bit lower.  I do think he’ll win the game, but I also expect some rookie jitters.  After all, he IS a rookie – and is facing immense pressure as the face of the Nationals.

17 year old Bryce Harper will become the second face of the franchise when the Nationals pick him with the top pick in this year’s draft.  Harper skipped his final two years of high school and is attending community college in order to gain eligibility for this year’s draft.  He’ll actually turn 18 in October, so he’s not substantially younger than some of the high school seniors in the draft.

Harper’s high school years were spent criss-crossing the country competing in All-Star tournaments.  This year, he led his school to the Community College World Series.  Harper was ejected from his final game (which his team lost) after drawing a line in the sand with his bat to indicate that a called strike was actually out of the strike zone.

This brings more attention to the issue of Harper’s maturity.  Many observers say that Harper is quite immature and vain.  While I’m not going ton condone these behaviors, it is important to remember that he’s just 17.  Think back to high school – was the star athlete a bit immature and vain?  Did he grow out of it later in life?

Harper has always been the biggest star, and life has been a bit of a whirlwind for him.  On Monday, this will change.  A day after he is picked, he will largely be forgotten as the media flocks to cover Strasburg’s debut.  This should serve to reinforce the fact that he is playing second fiddle with the Nationals, not lead guitar.  Getting into the routine of a minor league system should also help him.  I am convinced that Harper will mature as he ages.

With all the attention given to the top pick in the draft, it can be easy to forget the other 1499 players picked in the draft.  I’ll give a nickel to the first person who can tell me the name of the player picked second in the 2009 draft.

Do you you give up?  It was Dustin Ackley out of the University of North Carolina.  Ackley was an outfielder for most of his career before being relegated to first base during his final season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.  The versatile Ackley is now playing second base in the minors.  So far this season, Ackley is hitting just .244 for Mariners AA affiliate West Tennessee – but he has walked 38 times in 49 games.  I’m sure Ackley’s numbers will improve by the end of the year.  Even the best prospects usually struggle a bit in their first minor league season.

The Changing Face Of The Sportscard Hobby

June 1, 2010

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When I was a younger kid growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, collecting baseball cards was something that most of the kids in the neighborhood would do.  We would run to the local grocery store in my small town to pick up the newest Topps cards of guys like Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, and who could forget the 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson card.

In those days, sports cards packs were still relatively cheap, and most people collected cards for the enjoyment, and of course to maybe make a buck or two.  Starting in the early 1980’s all of that changed as Topps Company had their monopoly broken up and Fleer and Donruss entered the marketplace also producing baseball cards.

Seemingly overnight hundreds of sports card shops and dealers were opening on corners in cities everywhere.  Flea Markets and Baseball Card shows were suddenly happening every weekend.  Weekly magazines started to be published indicating the relative market value of cards.

This simple hobby was turning from one of fun and collecting to one of investment and opportunity.

Fortunately for me, this was also the time that my interests turned to other things in my mid to late teen years and I held onto and then sold most of my Baseball Cards about the time I started college.  I made an absolute killing as it was the peak of the “sellers” market.  Matter of fact a couple of nice Michael Jordan Rookie cards paid for my wife’s engagement and wedding ring with some of those proceeds!

I recently had the chance to read a new book by Dave Jamieson titled MINT CONDITION – How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession.  I would highly recommend it to anyone of you out there who has collected cards at any point in your youth or even now.

The sad story is that sports cards have now really turned into a two horse game.  One for the “middle aged collector”. A guy like me.  Who still yearns to put together some old sets from their younger days, but will often now utilize third party grading companies to make sure that the cards they are collecting are “authentic” and of a “certain grade”

The other side of the hobby has been around for many years and it is much more scary in my opinion.  It is basically nothing more than impulse gambling.

Sports cards store depend on this “impulse gambling” type of buyer.  With Millions and billions of cards produced throughout the 80- and 90’s most of that inventory they have is completely worthless.  While they will occasionally get the “old school” collector coming in looking for some football or baseball cards from the 50-s and 60’s, most of their business is derived from selling of packs costing anywhere from $5-$250 each, with “guaranteed odds” of pulling things such as fancy autographs, “authentic game used pieces” of jerseys, balls, hats, etc that have been cut up and placed onto cards, and even the occasional factory produced limited #’d cards.  Many times which are numbered to 1 of 1 made, thereby implying extra scarcity that you have the only one like it in the world.

This year is a great boon so far in the baseball market for basically none other than Washington Nationals Pitcher Stephen Strasburg.  He has yet to make a big league appearance, but you would not know it based on all of the baseball card industry hype.  I mean it appears this guy is projected to be a multi 30 game winner, pitch 12 no hitters, and have over nine thousand strikeouts.

He has already had a card produced by Topps under the Bowman name, a 1 of 1 numbered Superfractor card, sell for $16,093 just a week or so ago on EBAY (see the auction here).  Various other examples of Strasburg short printed refractors numbered to 25 or even 250 can be seen up for auction for multiple thousands of dollars right now.  Not bad for a guy that has not even played in a MLB game yet.

Of course the lucky ones are the guys who spend $100 for a box of these cards, and essentially hit the lottery.  With other players such as Jason Heyward from the Atlanta Braves having a great year, there is usually more than one rookie to be chasing.  But here in 2010, Strasburg is clearly leading the pack.

Scary thing is that there really has not been that much product released yet from Topps, who is now the exclusive licensed dealer for Major League Baseball cards period.  As Topps produces some of their more “premium” sets later this year, which will include, cards including autographs, actual “patches” from jersey etc, and you can bet there will be more of these one of one cards made….and you can also bet that thousands of potential sports card lottery winners will be out, spending some disposable income in hopes of hitting their big ticket Strasburg card and flipping it for a quick profit on a site such as eBay.

It is just too bad that for every one that gets lucky, there will be thousands that don’t.

Happy Collecting!

When Will The Nationals Call up Stephen Strasburg?

May 29, 2010

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The blogosphere has been chattering about the potential of a Strasburg call up all week.  Strasburg, the top overall pick in the 2009 draft, has been dominating the minor leagues.  Strasburg is 6-1 with a 0.99 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings for the year – while allowing just 22 hits and ten walks.  He actually kicked his game up a notch after being promoted to AAA Syracuse – he has a miniscule 0.39 ERA with the Chiefs.

Earlier rumors had Strasburg in line for a start on June 4th against the Reds.  Later in the week, June 8th against the Pirates was the unofficial date.  The June 4th date made some sense.  It was the first home game after a road trip, and it’s late enough that it’s nearly certain Strasburg would not qualify as a Super 2.  (More on why Strasburg was sent to the minors here).  There’s some confusion on why the Nationals are choosing to push the date back until the 8th.  Strasburg seems to have nothing to prove in AAA, and they have pushed back his arbitration a year, there is no financial reason to keep him down.

The only reason I can fathom for delaying Strasburg’s debut is that he’ll have a better chance at a win.  The Reds are in first place in the NL Central, while the Pie Rats are on pace for their 18th consecutive losing season.  The Pirates don’t have the worst record in baseball yet, but they have by far the worst run differential – so it’s quite likely that Pittsburgh will be picking first in the 2011 draft.  The Nationals – laughingstocks for more years – on the other hand, are in contention in the NL East.  Can the positive energy of a Strasburg promotion push them to a division title?  I’m going to say no for this year, but watch for them in 2011.

How will Strasburg do once he is promoted?  Well, I doubt that he’ll post a 0.99 ERA in the Majors, of course.  In fact, I do think he’ll hit some rough spots during the season, once hitters get a second look at him.  Almost every rookie struggles at some point during their debut campaign.  I do think Strasburg right the ship and end the season with strong numbers – perhaps a 3.50 ERA.


The other member of the “young pitchers who signed big deals” club, Aroldis “Chappy” Chapman has experienced some struggles after a hot start to the season.  I expect the Reds farmhand to get a June call up after establishing more consistency.  It’s important to remember that the Cuban defector is adjusting to a new home country as well as playing baseball.

Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez continues to dominate the National League.  U-Ball gave up no runs in 8 innings on Wednesday night, pushing his record to 9-1 with a 0.88 ERA.  In 71 1/3 innings this year, Jimenez has given up ONE home run.  His only loss on the year was on May 9th against the Dodgers – Jimenez gave up one run in seven innings, but Clayton Kershaw and Jonathan Broxton combined for a shutout for LA.  Jimenez attempts to notch his 10th win of the year on Memorial Day against reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.  The Giants ace has struggled lately, and I’m hoping Timmmmmmmmmmmmmmy has another rough outing.

Speaking of struggles … Charlie Morton of the Pirates picked up another loss on Thursday night.  Morton is 1-9 on the year with a 9.35 ERA.  Morton has allowed 66 hits and 16 walks in 43 1/3 innings.  Morton has allowed 12 homers and has also hit four batters.  Morton’s only win this year was against the Cubs – who are somehow 1-5 against the hapless Bucs.

Where Should LeBron James Sign?

May 25, 2010

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or just don’t care about sports – you know that LeBron James is about to become a free agent.

The 25 year old James is arguably the best player in the NBA. The financial piece of the equation is very easy. Under NBA rules, his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, can offer him more money than any other team. If he simply wants the cash, he stays with the Cavs.  The financial negotiations would not be complex.  The Cavaliers would simply write down the maximum salary allowed by NBA rules and wait for LeBron to sign the contract.

Over the course of the past few years, there has been widespread speculation that the New York Knicks would try to snap up James and some other top free agents. In an effort to gain “cap space”, the Knicks have rid themselves of expensive players. In addition to reducing payroll, this has also reduced wins.  The Knicks finished this season with a record of 29-53.

If LeBron picks the Knicks, he’ll be playing in the media capital of the world, and can become an even bigger star than he is now. There’s also the possibility that the Knicks can throw enough money around to build a championship caliber team.

If I were James, though, I’d be very cautious. Throwing money at players doesn’t guarantee that the team will meld into a championship contender. It’s just as likely that the Knicks will end up with a huge payroll and a crappy team.  The Cavaliers, on the other hand, have already proven that they are able to build a contender around him.  Yesterday, they fired Mike Brown – whose .663 winning percentage is tops in Cavaliers history – apparently to make way for LeBron’s choice of coach.  LeBron has a huge amount of influence over the future of the Cavs organization.

In terms of media exposure, I’m really not sure how much more exposure James can get. He’s already the most popular player in the NBA and a cultural icon. What does he really want – his own late night talk show?  At some point, don’t you get to a level of “global icon” that makes your geographic location irrelevant?

Although James may gain a bunch of fans by moving to another city, he might lose a lot of his existing fans.  Certainly Cavalier fans would leave in droves, but so would many other fans around the country.  LeBron is an Ohio kid (from Akron).  Watching him attempt to lead his hometown team to an NBA title is a great story line for me.  If LeBron is trying to lead the Knicks to a title, I’m not nearly as interested.  If he’s playing for Phil Jackson in Chicago (the Bulls are rumored to be courting Jackson) then I would be actively rooting against him.

As you can guess, my advice to LeBron is to stay in Cleveland.  He may make a few less bucks in endorsements, but he’ll be treated like royalty in Cleveland.  He’ll also continue to be just a short car ride away from family and old friends.  How will he be treated in New York if the Knicks plans to rebuild around him fail?  Sometimes being a big fish in a small pond can be the better choice – especially when that team can pay you better and contend for a title.


The US Supreme Court ruled against the NFL in an anti-trust lawsuit.  The league is being sued by apparel maker American Needle, Inc.  The company alleges that the manner in which the NFL collectively bargains with apparel companies is in violation of anti-trust laws. In the case of American Needle, they had produced hats for a variety of NFL teams before the NFL awarded an exclusive headgear contract to Reebok.  American Needle would prefer that teams could make independent decisions on apparel licensing.  It is important to note that the scope of this case was limited to apparel licensing and does not impact the league’s collective bargaining with players.  The case now goes back to a lower court that had previously ruled against American Needle. 

Former Major League pitcher Jose Lima passed away on Sunday at the age of 37.  In 1999, Lima won 21 games and was named to the All Star team.  In 1998 and 1999, Lima went a combined  37-18 with a 3.64 ERA.  For the rest of his career, he was 52-84.  As an encore to his 1999 campaign, Lima struggled to a 7-16 record with a 6.65 ERA.  His final full season in the majors (2005) was marked by a 5-16 record and a 6.99 ERA.  Through the good times and the bad, Jose Lima appeared to be the happiest guy on the world, declaring it to be “Lima Time” and, in general, acting like a guy who was being paid large sums of money to play a child’s game.  RIP, Jose.  Coincidentally, Lima was on the same Astros pitching staff as Darryl Kile, who died at the age of 33 in 2002.

The Colorado Rockies have been very average so far this year.  After hammering reigning AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke on Sunday, the Rockies went into play on Tuesday with a record of 22-22.  Oddly, they haven’t been more than two games above or below .500 all year.  There are signs that the Rockies could be about to bust out, though.  Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had been mired in a power slump all year.  After hitting 32 homers last year, he had just a single homer during the first 38 games of the year.  In the last four games, Tulo has hit three homers – all on the road.

Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg is on the cusp of being called up to the majors.  Delaying the callup this long will allow the Nationals to push back Strasburg’s free agency and arbitration eligibility by a year.  With the Nationals beginning a road trip today, Strasburg’s debut will likely be on June 4th against the Reds in D.C.

Update From the First Week of Baseball

April 13, 2010

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Kosmo is filling in for Johnny Goodman on the sports beat this week.

The Masters

To call me a golf fan would be an absurd exaggeration. In general, I check to see home local boy Zach Johnson is doing and see who wins. This week – even with the return of Tiger Woods – it was the same drill here. Tiger fell a bit short and Phil Mickelson picked up another green jacket. I can’t help but cheer for Mickelson, who faced the dual adversity of his wife and his mother being diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

Country Joe Sings the Wrong Tune

Baseball umpire Joe West – also a country music singer – ruffled some feathers on both sides of the Yankees – Red Sox rivalry by saying the two teams were pathetic because of the length of the games they played.

This annoyed me for a couple of reasons. First of all, the umpire is supposed to be an impartial observer. When he made these comments, West crossed a line. If these sorts of statements are to be made, they should come from the commissioner’s office (which later did make a comment about the length of games).

Even more annoying, though, is the continued emphasis on the length of games. One of the beauties of baseball is the fact that it is untimed. You can typically estimate the length of football of basketball games. Baseball is an entirely different beast. You can get a two hour game if the pitchers are working quickly and the batters are swinging at everything. On the flip side, you can have a four hour game if the pitchers are working slowly and the batters are patient.

In baseball, a team is never eliminated until the last out is made. This isn’t the case in other sports. You can’t make up a twenty eight point deficit in fifteen seconds in football. It’s a technical impossibility – you wouldn’t have enough time to execute the necessary players. In baseball, though, you can rally from a 10-0 deficit with two outs in the ninth. As long as you keep getting hits, the game will continues.

Have you ever been to a great rock concert and later, complained about the length? Of course not. If the experience is of poor quality, this is a problem. If it’s merely excess quantity, this really isn’t a problem.

The Resin Bag

Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg and Reds farmhand Aroldis Chapman both began their minor league careers with strong performances. Don’t expect either of these guys to stay down very long. Once the teams are assured of having their free agency (and possibly arbitration) delayed, these guys will pop up to the majors.

Meanwhile, Mike Leake jumped into the Reds rotation without any minor league experience. If Chappy is indeed being kept down for financial reasons, then why did the Reds keep Leake with the big club to start the season? They could have delayed Leake’s free agency in a similar fashion. Any chance that the Reds will demote Leake when Chappy is promoted – for just enough time to delay his free agency?

CC Sabathia put up a strong performance on Saturday night, taking a no-hit big into the eighth inning. I love the anticipation of a no-hitter in progress and always pull for the pitcher.

On the Rockies beat, Jorge de la Rosa started off his 2010 campaign strong, tossing seven innings of one hit ball. Keep an eye on George of the Rose. He started last year 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA before rallying to finish 16-9 with a 4.38 ERA. For those of you keeping score at home, that means he went 16-3 with a 3.94 ERA from June 5th through the end of the season. The ERA might not seem dominant … but bear in mind that his home park is Coors Field.

Matt Holliday of the Cardinals is off to a hot start, with three homers in seven games (he is, of course, playing second fiddle to Albert Pujols, who has five).  I have always contended that Holliday’s bat would play anywhere.  Clearly Coors Field boosted his numbers … but not by as much as the raw home/road splits would make you think.  If you compare Holliday’s differential to those of other Rockies, you’d quickly noticed that his differential dwarfed those of the teammates.  Either the park was exceptionally well suited for him … or he’s simply the sort of player who thrives in front of a home crowd.  Hey, guess what – his home OPS was 150 points high than his road OPS last year … despite being in Oakland (bad hitter’s park) at the beginning of the year.  As a point of comparison, across baseball, the typical player has an OPS 30 points higher at home.  I’m expecting a strong season from Happy this year as well.

I made a rookie goof in fantasy baseball and neglected to pay attention to my starting lineup.  As a result, I had a sub-standard lineup in place for week 1.  My Yura Peeins fell to Johnny Goodman’s team 6-4.  I lost two pitching categories and four of the five hitting categories – nabbing the only win in steals.  Honestly, though, even with my A lineup, I would probably have lost by the same score.

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