Tuesday May 11, 2004
(8:15 a.m.) Ė OK, after getting about 6 hours of sleep, my stupid alarm clock went off. I hit snooze the traditional 3 times, but fell asleep quick each time. The third time, I was going to roll out of bed, but the wind was howling, and I just did not want to get out of from under the warmth of the covers. I was too tired, and didnít want to go out in the conditions. Finally, I did. Woke up at 7:44 and hit the shower; tired, and a little bit cranky from the idea of leaving the apartment. If I thought I was nauseus during the game, that was nothing compared to how I felt this morning! Left my apartment and found out just how windy it was. But it wasnít just the wind, there was snow on the ground. It was still snowing, but not nice, pretty snow. No, it was pellet-like snow. It hurts. I got to the parking lot at work, out of my car and walked in. The pellets were pounding the top of my head, so I put my hand up to stop them. Well, then I got drilled in the eye by one, and that hurt even more. I was actually happy to get into the office for the first time in a long time. I even punched in early. Checked weather.com, and it is 34 degrees and snowy. Itís May 11! ITĒS MAY 11!!! (No, this isnít unusual for this time of the year, but it was over 70 degrees on Sunday!) Itís supposed to rain/snow all day. Rain tomorrow, and rain/snow on Thursday!! AAARRRGGGHHH!! But, I love my northern Minnesota life. Really, I do! And, when it snows again in late May, I will just grin and bear it! What are my options? Will someone offer me a high paying job in a warmer climate? (anyone? Anyone?)
All that said, and Iím still so glad I stayed up for the whole Wolves game. It was totally worth it!!!
Wow! Those of you who stayed up to watch the entire Wolves/Kings game last night... or, this morning... should consider yourselves lucky. If you went to bed, you missed an incredible game!!! Click here for highlights!
The Demographics Survey will remain for a couple more days. If you haven't e-mailed me yet, please do so.
Have a great day!
Better Without A-Rod?
In 2000, the Seattle Mariners had a record of 91-71. Alex Rodriguez had a monster season. The 24 year old hit .316/.420/.606 with 34 doubles, 41 homers, 132 RBI and 100 walks. The Mariners won the AL Wild Card. They beat the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS before losing to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
In that offseason, Alex Rodriguez became a free agent at age 25. The best overall player in baseball was set to make a lot of money in a very player friendly market. He signed for One-Billion Dollars. OK, not quite, but One-Quarter-of-a-Billion Dollars, in a ten year deal with the Texas Rangers. The move shocked the baseball world. Rangers owner Tom Hicks offered Rodriguez almost $100 million more than any other team did, just to secure baseball's best player.
The result was a 73-89 record for the Texas Rangers. The Rangers lineup included Ivan Rodriguez and Rafael Palmiero to go along with A-Rod, but the pitching was weak. Sure, Rodriguez hit .318/.399/.622 with 34 homers, 52 RBI and 135 RBI.
You would think that the 2001 Seattle Mariners team would have had a bad season, certainly not as good as the 2000 season, right? I mean, they had also lost Hall of Fame caliber superstars Ken Griffey Jr and Randy Johnson in previous seasons. They couldn't continue to be successful, could they? I guess they could! The 2001 Mariners team tied the record for wins in a season. They went 116-46. Using some of the money they had saved in not signing A-Rod, the Mariners went out and signed 2B Bret Boone and Japanese star OF Ichiro Suzuki. They were added to a lineup that still included Edgar Martinez, Mike Cameron and John Olerud. These stars, and others, had incredible years. Here are the stats of some of the Mariners key contributors:
Ichiro - was named Rookie of the Year and AL MVP by hitting .350/.381/.457 with 34 doubles, eight triples, eight home runs, 69 RBI and 56 stolen bases.
Bret Boone had an equally valuable season. He hit .331/.372/.578 with 37 doubles, 37 home runs and 141 RBI.
Edgar Martinez actually had an average year for him, hitting just .306/.423/.543 with 40 doubles, 23 homers and 116 RBI.
John Olerud hit .302/.401/.472 with 32 doubles, 21 homers and 95 RBI.
Mike Cameron won a Gold Glove, and had his best offensive season hitting .267/.353/.480 with 30 doubles, 25 homers, 110 RBI and 34 stolen bases.
David Bell contributed 28 doubles and 15 homers!
For good measure, 2004 NL Rookie of the Year Scott Podsednik had a triple and 3 RBI in six at bats for this team.
Not only did they get good hitting, but a few pitchers had very strong seasons, while some road the coat tails of the Mariners offense:
Freddy Garcia was 18-6 with a 2.05 ERA over 238 2/3 innings.
Jamie Moyer went 20-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 209 2/3 innings.
Aaron Sele went 15-5 with an ERA of 3.60 in 215 innings.
Paul Abbott's ERA was just 4.25. He pitched 163 innings, and his record was 17-4.
John Halama even went 10-7 with a 4.73 ERA.
Kazuhiro Sasaki had 45 saves and a 3.24 ERA. He was set up by a great lefty-righty combination of Arthur Rhodes (8-0, 1.72 ERA) and Jeff Nelson (4-3, 2.76 ERA). The rest of the bullpen was Jose Paniagua, Norm Charlton and Ryan Franklin, who all did well.
2001 was a magical season for the Mariners. There is no disputing that, even if they did lose in the first round of the playoffs to the New York Yankees.
In 2001, the Texas Rangers had a record of 73-89. In 2002, they fell to 72-90. In 2003, they were 71-91. The team has always been able to hit, and A-Rod put up monster numbers each season in a hitter-friendly ballpark. He even finally won an MVP award last year (which is a joke to me since he didn't have a meaningful at bat after Memorial Day, maybe even Easter) in a season where his numbers were nowhere near where they had been in previous years. However, the Rangers pitchers also had to pitch in Arlington, and the fact was that they couldn't keep opponents from scoring more runs than the home nine. Their pitching staff was bad! But I think it was more than that that made the Rangers bad. I will get to my thoughts on that shortly.
Last winter, Alex Rodriguez began to make it known that he was sick of losing. He and Rangers manager Buck Showalter did not see eye to eye. (For an incredible article on Showalter's philosophy and why it didn't mesh well with A-Rod, check John Strubel's Baseball Interactive article from last week.) Normally, a team does not want to get rid of its best player, especially if said player is the best player in baseball (apologize to that Bonds guy). The Rangers wanted to trade Alex Rodriguez and obviously it was for reasons beyond just the money.
There were rumors of him going to Boston for Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra with other trades to follow. The deal was done but because Rodriguez wanted to take less money ($30 million off his contract), the Player's Association had to approve it, and they didn't. So, Boston fell out of contention for the services of A-Rod. A month later, Aaron Boone tore up his knee playing some pick-up basketball. The Yankees needed a 3B, so they traded Alfonso Soriano to the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez and moved him to 3B, leaving Derek Jeter at SS. The Rangers wind up paying Rodriguez about $140 million for 3 years, and the Yankees will pay him $110 million over 7 years, just a great trade for the Yankees.
The term "addition by subtraction" is probably used to frequently. However, this may prove to be a good trade long-term for the Rangers as well. The Rangers now have additional funds that can be used to lock up some better players in free agency. It doesn't have to be big named players for big contracts, but they can get a number of pieces to help the team. So does that explain the Rangers' 19-12 start this season?
It really doesn't. The Rodriguez trade happened after the big free agent signings. So, the Rangers were unable to be a player in much of the free agent season. But, that's not to say that the team is just simply lucky at this point. There could very well be some substance to this start.
Let's take a look at their standard lineup and how those players are doing:
Michael Young SS (.368/.412/.603, 8 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 26 RBI)
Hank Blalock 3B (.321/.372/.573, 11 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 23 RBI)
Alfonso Soriano 2B (.325/.365/.468, 9 2B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 4 SB)
Brad Fullmer DH (.237/.321/.419, 6 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI)
Mark Teixeira 1B (.211/.375/.456, 2 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI)
Kevin Mench LF (.312/.347/.505 with 10 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI)
David Dellucci RF (.325/.376/.571, 4 2B, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 3 SB)
Laynce Nix CF (.333/.380/.653, 6 2B, 5 HR, 16 RBI)
Gerald Laird C (.319/.392/.377, 4 2B, 10 RBI)
The bench has also been very solid. Herbert Perry stepped in when Mark Teixeira was on the Disabled List. Eric Young has played the infield and outfield and hit. Backup catcher Rod Barajas has hit three doubles and three homers in 36 at bats. And, Brian Jordan is just coming back from an injury.
Buck Showalter is 'old-school'. He doesn't like just sitting around waiting for three run homers. This team can hit, and has potential to hit a lot of home runs. But, they also have guys who just get the job done when given the opportunity. There aren't really any excessively highly paid players in this lineup. It is young guys playing for their playing time. It is low-pay free agents just thrilled to have an opportunity to play. It is a team that does not center on its superstars alone.
This team does have some superstars. Despite his pathetic performance in the playoffs last year, we all know that Alfonso Soriano is a star. Hank Blalock was an All-Star last year. Mark Teixeira is going to be an All-Star many times. Michael Young leads the league in hits, and was incredible playing 2B last year. He exemplifies what this team is all about. He could have been an All-Star 2B had he stayed there. However, after the trade, he went to the manager's office and offered to play shortstop. He continues to hit and play great defense and will probably be an All-Star shortstop this year.
Their free agent signings probably did not even make a ripple in their local newspapers, but they have been good. Brad Fullmer has always been an offensive threat... when he says healthy. David Dellucci is the same way. He was always on Web Gems and played strong defense, but given the chance to play every day, he has shown he can hit. Eric Young has not complained and has played well in the infield and outfield. Teammates say he is the leader in the clubhouse. Brian Jordan has been considered a leader wherever he has been. The man can also hit. He just can't seem to stay healthy.
I said earlier that the term "addition by subtraction" is used too often. To say that the team is better because Alex Rodriguez is no longer with them is not accurate. A-Rod plays hard, and that can not be questioned. Let's look at a few other players for which the term "addition by subtraction" may be more accurate:
Einar Diaz was given a big contract by the Rangers. He was always a good field, no-hit catcher, so again, the contract made no sense. He couldn't hit. For some reason, the Montreal Expos chose to trade for him, and he's not really playing much there either. That was a great trade for the Rangers because Gerald Laird was ready and actually can hit. He was another member of the 2003 Team USA Olympic Qualifying team.
Carl Everett was traded before the end of last season, but he's traditionally not a great 'atmosphere' guy.
Rafael Palmiero has continued to hit home runs throughout the past couple of seasons. However, he has really slowed down, almost become a home run or nothing type of hitter.
Juan Gonzalez always comes up with an injury part of the way through the season. I became really disappointed in him last year because he refused to come off the Disabled List to play. Also, he could have been traded to a contending team, the Kansas City Royals. To me, that says more about Gonzalez than his numbers could ever say. The ironic thing is that he ended up with the Royals this season.
There is no reason to believe that this offense can not remain strong throughout the season. There are good hitters throughout the lineup. Some may not maintain quite their current levels, but others like Teixeira and Fullmer should certainly improve as the season rolls along.
The question that will determine if the team will remain a contender, or will slip to mediocrity is "Can the pitching hold up throughout the season?"
The answer, in my mind, is pretty obvious. No! There is no way this pitching staff can maintain a team ERA of 4.40. Its WHIP will increase from its current 1.40. Opponents will hit better than .265 against them.
However, the pitching staff is improved. To know that Kenny Rogers is the teams "ace" has to be a scary proposition for anyone. That said, he may be the perfect pitcher to lead that young staff. Rogers has never been a numbers pitcher. His ERA is not low, he gives up base runners. This year, he is 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA. But he has averaged almost 7 innings a game in his 7 starts. But he keeps his team in the game most of the time. And again, with this lineup, that may be enough. Rather than trying to make too-perfect pitches, they can be aggressive.
RA Dickey has a good 4-1 record. His ERA is 4.58, but he is averaging 6 innings a start. Beyond that, there are many question marks in the rotation. Will Chan Ho Park ever be really healthy, and if so, can he ever get back to his pre-Rangers numbers? Who will fill the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation? Ryan Drese (2-0, 2.25), Joaquin Benoit (1-0, 4.56), and Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.11) have all had a few chances so far.
If they can get six innings out of there starters, giving up four runs or less, they should have a chance to win because of their offense. Also, their bullpen has been decent. They added a couple of nice pieces to the bullpen. Maybe the key to a post-A-Rod team's success is Jeff Nelson???!!! He was a member of that 2001 Mariners team, and is now a part of the 2004 Rangers! He has pitched in 13 games this year, as has another veteran reliever, Jay Powell. These guys are no longer great set up men, but they are the kind who will do will most of the time, and won't let a bad outing affect them. Carlos Almanzar has been a journeyman the last six years, but he is 3-0 so far.
Francisco Cordero has been spectacular as the team's closer. Thus far, in 12 appearances, he has gone 1-0 with 10 saves.
So, do I expect the Rangers to continue winning over 61% of their games? No. Do I expect then to finish the season at .500? Maybe. I actually can see that, but as you see above, it is entirely dependant on their pitching staff. If their pitchers can be just average, the team will be very successful.
The key to the Alex Rodriguez trade is this though. What will the team do with the available funds in the offseason? This year, they didn't have an opportunity to play in the Hot Stove season. Next year, they will be able to. Clearly, they have done a good job locking up some of their regulars, but for them to make the next step, they will need to get a pitcher or four! They do have a couple of decent pitching prospects, but the rest of fringe pitchers at best.
So there you have it, my thoughts on the 2004 Texas Rangers. Are the Rangers "Better without A-Rod?" I say they are a better team this year without Rodriguez, but it is not because of the A-Rod trade. I do think they are better because of some of the other veteran players they let go after the season. For them to be "Better without A-Rod," they will need to use some of the funds available to them next season.
Last year, I wrote about how much I enjoy following Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff. The Rangers are now a fun team for me to watch. I enjoy watching Michael Young, Hank Blalock, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira. They are great players now, and should only continue to improve. If you are a Texan, a Texas fan, or a baseball fan in general, you will want to follow this team.
Any thoughts on this? E-mail me.
The Twins had a much needed off day Monday. After the bullpen had to pitch way too many innings this weekend in Oakland, the team really needs their starters to pitch deep into games. Tonight, they begin a three game set at Metrodome against the Seattle Mariners.
Nick Punto was put on the Disabled List and the Twins purchased the contract of utility infielder Alex Prieto. Prieto was on the Twins roster last year, but after the season, they designated him for assignment and no one claimed him, so he went to AAA Rochester. He started off very slowly, but is now hitting .299, and warrants the call up. However, since he was not on the 40 man roster, the organization had to remove someone from the 40 man roster. They decided to designate lefty Carlos Pulido, meaning that he can be claimed by other teams or traded within the next 10 days. If no one claims him, he could return to Rochester.
Here are the pitching matchups for this series:
Tuesday at 7:10 - Carlos Silva (5-0, 3.43) vs Joel Pineiro (1-4, 7.60)
Wednesday at 7:10 - Brad Radke (2-2, 3.95) vs Freddy Garcia (1-1, 2.11)
Thursday at 12:10 - Johan Santana (1-0, 5.26) vs Ryan Franklin (2-2, 5.05)
The games on Tuesday and Wednesday will be on Fox Sports Net!
Any thoughts? E-mail me.
WOLVES RECLAIM HOME COURT WITH WIN
Last night's Wolves/Kings game was one of the toughest sporting events I have ever had to watch. It was awful. What I mean by that is, if you are just a huge basketball fan and want to see a great, exciting basketball game, it was an incredible game. If you are a huge fan of either the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Sacramento Kings, it was hard to watch!
The first quarter started out quite ruggedly. The Wolves held just a 22-18 lead. Ervin Johnson, with 6 points, again helped the Wolves get going. At halftime, the score was tied at 46. The scoring for both teams were very evenly distributed. KG led the Wolves with 10 points (and 8 rebounds). The Kings had played seven players and all of them had scored between 5 and 8 points. With 3:47 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Kevin Garnett picked up his fourth foul. The Wolves held just a 2 point lead. By the end of the 3rd quarter, the Wolves had a 79-69 lead. Garnett had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks, but it was Latrell Sprewell, Trenton Hassell and Fred Hoiberg who gave the team the lead. Early in the 4th quarter, Spree took over, scoring 10 quick points and the Wolves had extended to a 15 point lead.
But lets all remember that this is the NBA. I don't care what people think about the NBA, but it's the best players in the world. Combine that with the fact that the officials know where the game is being played and want a close game at the end too, and there is no such thing as a runaway win in the NBA playoffs. With 4:13 remaining, Mark Madsen had a big dunk to get the lead back to 14. However, Peja Stojacovik showed why he is the best shooter in the NBA as he started heating up. The Kings made 5 three pointers in 6 attempts down the stretch. Sam Cassell picked up 5 cheap fouls in about 2 minutes of playing time, so at the end, Darrick Martin was in the game and knocked down 3 of 4 free throws. However, with just 10 seconds left, Peja got away just enough and hit a huge three pointer to tie the game at 104. On the final shot, Garnett got the ball up top and proceeded to stand there until there were three seconds. By the time he did something, it was too late and he didn't even get a shot off.
At this point, I was just cold. My hands were freezing. I was just frigid. It was just an eerie, strange feeling.
Another overtime matchup between the Kings and the Wolves. Would we expect any less? Overtime was back and forth. Peja hit everything he put up for the Kings. The Wolves knocked down their free throws. With 2:34 left, Mike Bibby fouled Trenton Hassell for his 6th foul. He picked up a technical for throwing his headband into the crowd in disgust. Fred Hoiberg, who probably is the Wolves most clutch player, missed the free throw. The Wolves just really struggled to grab rebounds on the defensive end of the court, giving Peja and the Kings too many extra shots.
The Wolves got a turnover with 34 seconds to go, and brought the ball down the court. With just 3 seconds to go on the shot clock, Kevin Garnett got the ball at the foul line and somehow hit a turnaround jumper to give the Wolves a three point lead with just 10 seconds to play. (I am freezing!!!!!!!!!)
With 6 seconds to go, Trenton Hassell wisely fouled Peja Stojacovik to give him 2 free throws, instead of a chance at a three pointer. Peja hit both free throws, cutting the lead to 114-113.
Kevin Garnett received the inbounds pass from Latrell Sprewell. The announcers told us that Garnett just fell, that he wasn't pushed. Ummm... yeah he was. That was totally a foul. 4.1 seconds left, Sacramento ball at half court. This is not good! I want to vomit, but I'm too cold!
To make it even, Trenton Hassell played incredible defense on Peja Stojacovik. Amazingly no foul was called. The Wolves got the rebound and won the game.
What an absolutely amazing game! As a huge Wolves fan, it was so difficult to watch. As a working man who needs to be at work at 8:00, I will need to be at work in less than 7 hours! But, as of now, I am saying that it was so worth it (subject to change mid afternoon!), especially since they came out with the win!!!
With the win, the Wolves reclaimed home court advantage! After the Wolves lost Game 1, so many people had said they were done. But now, the Wolves are back in the lead. Game 4 is now Wednesday night back in Sacramento. Game time is again scheduled for 9:30. That is absolutely ridiculous. It is now 1 in the morning, central time. That's 2 a.m. on the east coast. Who can watch these games? OK, I do, but average fans are missing the Western Conference playoffs because of the time. That's really unfortunate!
Anyway, here are some numbers. For the Wolves, Kevin Garnett led with 30 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks. Latrell Sprewell had 25 points, 9 boards and 6 assists. Trenton Hassell had 16 points and 5 assists. He is good at those 15 foot baseline jump shots. Fred Hoiberg played 35 minutes off the bench and scored 14 points.
For the Kings, Peja Stojacovik led with 29 points and 9 rebounds. Doug Christie scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Mike Bibby had 19 points and 10 assists. Chris Webber had 17 points and 9 rebounds.
These are just two great teams beating up on each other. The Spurs and the Lakers will continue to beat up on each other. The team that comes out of the East may have a chance this year because of that.
I am guessing that I am making no sense at this point. My mind is gone. That was too incredible a game!
So, what do you did you think of last night's game? Can the Wolves win in Arco again, can they win the series?? E-mail me.
QUICK DEMOGRAPHICS TEST - I am very much interested in finding out about who reads this website. I would appreciate it if you took just 1 minute out of your day to click here and e-mail me where you are from and your age and how often you read this website. I appreciate your help!
If you have any questions or comments on anything you have read above, or anything at all, please feel free to e-mail me. Have a great day!
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