February 2008

Jeff & Allen: Getting to Know Us

A few shots to whet your appetite

Not So Fast, Tiger

Gee, Al, why don’t we just crown the Tigers right now and forget about the 162 game season.  Don’t get me wrong, you have plenty to be excited about in Hockeytown (does anyone watch hockey anymore?) but let me remind everyone that since the new millennium, with the exception of the Boston Red Sox, bigger spending does NOT translate into a World Title.

Exhibit A.  The top ten highest payrolls of 2007:

1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox (This position seems to be the exception to the rule. Note to GMs: Be the second-highest spender and win two titles in four years)
3.  New York Mets
4.  Chicago White Sox
5.  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
6.  Los Angeles Dodgers (of Chavez Ravine)
7.  Seattle Mariners
8.  Chicago Cubs
9.  Detroit Tigers
10.  Baltimore Orioles

Six of these teams failed to make it into the post-season all together, two of them ended the season with absolutely embarrassing records and one is cursed by a goat.

Exhibit B.  The other side and their payroll rankings among 30 MLB teams.

14.  Philadelphia Phillies
23.  Cleveland Indians
25.  Colorado Rockies
26.  Arizona Diamondbacks

And let us not forget that since the Evil Empire went on a spending rampage in 2001 they have not won a title; and among the teams that have won (again, with the exception of the Red Sox), the ’01 D’Backs, ’02 Angels, ’03 Marlins, ’05 White Sox, ’06 Cardinals have all had moderate middle-of-the-pack and/or bottom-of-the-barrel payroll numbers.  And don’t get me started on Billy Beane and what he manages to produce.

So, what does this all mean, Al?  It means it takes a lot more than a lineup of overpaid superstars to bring home the ring.  It requires heart, passion, fire.  It requires players who were nobodies.  Players who rise to the occasion.  It requires a Tulowitski, a Valverde, a Carmona, a Wainright, a Crede, a Cabrera, an Eckstein.  For some reason when these teams load up on superstars, they lose this edge, they lose that essence of team and just become selfish numbers-driven Scott Boras drones with dollar signs for eyeballs.  And even with the aforementioned-exception Red Sox, guys like Lester and a cast of idiots seem to light the proverbial fire that gets everyone going, that gets them to overcome an 0-3 ALCS deficit and an ever-rising Yankee payroll.

So let’s not give Dombrowski a key to the city (does anyone live there anymore?) quite yet, Al.  No.  He is by no means a Theo Epstein.  He is by no means a Walt Jocketty.  He is by no means a Bill Stoneman.  What he is is a Brian Cashman.  He’s pulling a page out of the Evil Empire book, going to Daddy, asking for more money and getting it only to disappoint a mob of rich white people from Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills.   He might do better by taking Matt Millen’s job.

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
   

Sams_wedding_nov_3_2007_006_2

(Allen admires himself in the mirror while talking on his cell to Dombrowski, desperately trying to score a FastPass to the amusement park that is Comerica. Click on image for a better look.)

Peace, love and baseball,

Jeffy

Tiger Tiger, Burning bright

In 2004 George Bush won re-election, I left for (what was supposed to be) 2 years in Africa and the Tigers had just completed a valiant attempt at setting a new record for baseball futility. Now, here we are 4 years later and GWB is on his way out (Yes We Can!), the government is sending me back overseas and the Tigers have one of the fearsome lineups in baseball. What happened?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Dave Dombrowski took over at GM at the end of 2002, a few guys came of age in that tragic 2003 season (for instance, Jeremy Bonderman) and owner Mike Illitch sprang for some veterans who could pull the team together. Finally, in 2005, Dombrowski tipped Jim Leyland as his new manager and here we are.

Anyone who follows baseball knows that the Tigers had a monster offseason, picking up a shortstop (Renteria), another outfielder in Jacque Jones and the big move which netted former Marlins Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. Even my friends who are Red Sox fans admit they’re a little worried when they look at that lineup.

However, the one thing I’ve learned is not to count my chickens before they hatch. Yeah, this looks like the team to beat this year but Leyland has his work cut out for him in trying to put this jigsaw puzzle together. Would Willis accept being a #3 starter? Where does Cabrera bat in the lineup? Will former starters like Brandon Inge find a way to contribute? How will Renteria handle the switch back to the AL while Guillen switches from Short to First? Can Zumaya get healthy? And, most importantly, how am I going to score tickets to a game when I have no idea where the government will be sending me and when it’s going to happen? I guess the answer to all of these questions is, "Just wait and see." Luckily, when you’re a fan of a team that averaged a hundred losses a season between 2001 and 2005, patience is a virtue you have in spades.

A

The Audacity of Dope

ClemensExit boyhood hero.  Roger,
you had it all. You were a Yankee and I liked you.   Really. In my book, you were one of four Yankess I’d
always revere despite the pinstripes.  I even
kept myself from cursing you when you became an Astro—a rare feat indeed.  Yes,  I smiled when you’d challenge guys high and
tight, when you’d buckle ‘em with your splitter.  You were an icon who wooed me in 1986 when you
struck out all those Mariners, including Phil Bradley, my Uncle Dave’s friend
and confidant.  You made me turn on Phil, man.

 

And I never looked back, Roger.  I never looked back, until yesterday. I looked back and I thought, gee, all these
politicians are getting together over this?  Isn’t there something better they could be
doing, like giving me a larger tax rebate so I can finally pay off the Chinese
mob and get on with my life?  Then I
heard you speak and I thought, Roger, you really should take a page out of
McGuire’s book: “I am not here to talk about the past.”  Done. Over. Move on. Because if you’d just shut up, and get on
with your life, and go watch your kids play ball in Texas, Roger, we’d all
forgive you and forget about it just like we have with all the rest (except for
Palmeiro who I consider the poster-child of douchebags). That’s true, Roger. Very true. We’re all human. We make dumb
decisions sometimes.  Yes, you are the
Rocket but you’re no exception.  You
screwed up. And now you’re wasting our
time. You have the audacity to think you
can lie to us and get away with it.  Well, your time is running out.  That little boy you swooned with your fastball is all grown up now, and he knows better.

Enter manhood hero:

Barack_obama_official_small

‘Nuff said.

Peace and "Yes, We Can."

Jeffy

A quick comment on Clemens

For most of my life, I’ve never really thought anything one way or the other about Roger. But, unfortunately, it seems that he has decided to let his name go down in ignominy. After thinking about it, though, I’m not all that bothered by this. He’ll always be a Yankee in my mind and this is the type of hubris I associate with the entire Yankees organization.

A

Expectations

Despite the 8 inches of snow outside and my perennial symptoms of seasonal depression, I know life is gonna get good again real soon.  Pitchers and catchers for the majority of Major League Baseball reported today and with that I know that the smell of hot dogs, the aftertaste of Miller Lite and the dizzying effects of indigestion are right around the corner.   Yes, baseball is upon us folks.  Soon I will be at arms with most everyone in this city (Chicago).  I will be banned (again) from many a bar in Wrigleyville.  Yes.  I will live again.

Three cheers for:
WorldchampsWhich brings me to my next point: Expectations.  Despite his inferior team affiliation, Allen is right in that he has something to be excited about.  The Tigers loaded their team with big money bats and big money arms.  And while the Cubs, Astros, Brewers and Reds went out and got big name talent (Fukudome, Tejada, Cameron, Baker and many more), the St. Louis Cardinals, the most decorated team in the National League with 10 World Series championships, led by rookie GM John Mozeliak, did practically nothing.  Oh wait, no…   

I’m wrong. We got rid of Rolen.  That’s okay.  I’m not upset about that (I’m not being sarcastic, really).  Scotty Ro-Ro, let’s face it, will never be the Scotty Ro-Ro of 2004, 2005.  We got the better end of the deal with Glaus, with or without HGH.  Good luck against that Boston pitching staff.

Jimmy Edmonds.  Adios, pal.  It was a good run.  I’ll love you forever for that bomb you hit in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS.  That was heaven, man.  My cousin Holly will miss you very much because she thinks you’re super cute.

Eckstein.  Dude.  You shouldn’t have played us.  We wanted you to stay, but you overplayed your hand.  And now look…you play in Toronto.  Good luck against that Boston pitching staff.

Encarnacion.  Man, I hope your eye gets better.  I hope you can get back in the batter’s box but I’ll understand if you never do again–ever.  I wouldn’t.  At least you have workman’s comp.

Additions?  Welcome to the team Matt Clement.  I think this was a ridiculous move but I thought that about an ailing Chris Carpenter several years ago and was proven drastically wrong.  I hope this is a repeat.  Welcome Cezar Itzuris.  He’s no Ozzie Smith (or Eckstein) for that matter, but he’ll fill a gap until Brendan Ryan is ready to be the Superstar everyone thinks he’ll be.  And at least Cezar isn’t a Cub anymore, right?  I already talked about Troy Glaus.  Welcome, Troy.  Keep the needles outside of the clubhouse and don’t I REPEAT DON’T write a personal check to any of the clubhouse coolies for your drugs like my man Lo Duca. 

When we come down to it, the Cards didn’t do much to excite their fans in the offseason.  Maybe it’s true that we’ve been spoiled for the last ten years, expecting, KNOWING, we’ll finish at or near the top.  We’re not ready to accept an offseason as a ‘rebuilding’ year.  No, not with Albert in the lineup.  But the fact of the matter is, our pitching is scary.  Sure, the bullpen looks solid still, but after Wainwright at the top we run into some major worries.  (Uncle Iggy, get out the beer)  Looper proved to be a pleasant surprise as a starter.  If he does half of what he did last year we’ll be happy.  Piniero has promise.  The National League did him some good last year, but I think that may wear off as hitters get to know him.  Even in the AL, he was a modicum of mediocrity, just what we don’t need.  I hope I’m wrong on this one.  Then we get into really REALLY scary territory: Clement and ???

Matt Clement has a lot to prove.  Having been off for so long, there are a lot of disbelievers (myself included).  I will say that I hated this guy when he was a Cub.  Hated him–almost as much as Zambrano and Neifi Perez, the ultimate Cardinal Killer.  I give Clement until mid May.  If he has a 500 record and a sub 4.50 ERA, I’ll say it was a decent move. 

As for the fifth spot in the rotation, we’re picking at the bottom of the barrel.  In theory, I like Reyes.  But I want the Anthony Reyes who pitched that brilliant Game 1 of the 2006 World Series.  I want the guy who had Sheffield and I-Rod buckling at the knees.  I want the guy who blew us away with his 2005 debut.  I want that Reyes, not the guy who went 2-14 with a 6+ ERA.  Please, not THAT GUY.  I do gotta give props to the guy’s style:

Reyes

So, what else can I say?  Do the Cardinals look like the team to beat in the NL Central this year?  Maybe not.  But I got two words for you: Albert Pujols.  The guy is a rock.  Oh, and  two more words: Chris Carpenter.  He’ll be back by the All-Star game.  Oh, and two more: Mark Mulder.  He’ll be back too.  Oh, and two syllables: YA-DI.  Molina, for his game-winning blast that put us in the ’06 WS, will always be a catalyst for winning to me.   And  nobody hustles more than Taguchi.  And nobody has a better story that Ankiel.  And Colby Rasmus is on the way.  The guy is gonna be perennial MVP candidate.  And Chris Duncan, the ugliest greatest ballplayer in St. Louis since Willie McGee will provide lots of fun. 

So…yes, I’m excited.  We play in the NL Central.  Anything could happen.  I love this *******’ game.

Peace,
Jeffy

The path to victory

Pitchers and Catchers report!

So, this is good news for the Tigers. Because they have Dontrelle Willis and he’s the second coming of Christ. He’s my big, black baby Jesus, all wrapped up in swaddling clothes. And I’m going to love him, and hug him and treat him like he’s my very own. Well, at least until he gets down by five runs in the second inning of his first start. Then I’ll be cursing the day that the Tigers ever thought that a fish could make it. But, on the bright side, at least we did something. What exactly was it that the Cards did in the offseason? I’m just asking. Don’t hate me cuz I’m right, hate me because I’m beautiful.

A

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