Category Archives: Giants

Guillermo Mota, welcome to the Hall of Shame

Giants pitcher Guillermo Mota was handed a 100-game suspension for a second violation of the MLB’s drug policy. Well done Mota.

LIVINGSTONE: Congratulations, Guillermo Mota, on your recent entry into the history books – of embarrassment.

Not just personal embarrassment, but embarrassment to a professional sport trying to move on from a dark period where the asterisk could be applied to many records and individual player statistical lines for about two decades (see: Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Lenny Dykstra, etc.)

So you’re the third player in baseball history to test positive for a banned substance twice. The other two? Oakland A’s outfielder Manny ‘I’m going to quit baseball abruptly instead of facing another embarrassing moment in my career’ Ramirez and former Detroit Tiger Neifi Perez. Yeah, I don’t really know the latter either, he apparently made some big double play on a Justin Verlander no-hitter in 2007, a month before being nailed for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

So, Mota, you’re now, again, among the most dishonorable in baseball. In fact, you’re among an elite group of players who thought they wouldn’t get caught a second time. You’re 38 years old, so the excuse of ‘I didn’t know what was being injected into me’ or ‘I thought it was just vitamins’ doesn’t really fly. You’ve been around long enough to know when something is wrong and, I’d hope, ask questions when someone is about to inject you with something. However, it’s quite possible you just turned a blind eye and said ‘whatever, I’ve got to keep playing’.

Either way, you are among the embarrassing few in baseball who continue to remove a little bit of what purity in the sport is left. Thankfully, you’re not a big name player, like Rodriguez or Clemens or Manny, who have helped lead teams to the promise land. Well, you did win the World Series in 2010 when you were with the Giants, but you struggled and didn’t really help out in winning that series. Thankfully, you fall into the category of semi-no names like Jay Gibbons and former Colorado Rockies pitcher Dan Serifini who were handed 50-game suspensions after failing drug tests.

It’s sad really. In 2012, after all that has gone on with steroids and performance-enhancing drugs – and watching Roger Clemens drag his whole image through the mud being the stubborn man he is – you’d think players would want to avoid this kind of embarrassment – not only for themselves but for their teams, the players and all of professional baseball. The bad example players like Mota set, the win at all costs way of life, will fall on impressionable young players to seek out the same products to make them better ball players.

Whatever the case may be, Mota is another one of those guys we just can’t wait to retire, disappear into the sunset, never to be heard from again.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

Fantasy update: nothing makes sense right now

Jason Kipnis is off to a slow start - along with much of my under-performing fantasy team, known as Team Beast. Not really a beast right now...

LIVINGSTONE: I made a promise to myself not to spend a lot of my space on this blog writing about fantasy baseball. It’s a big part of my season, wheeling and dealing, looking for sleepers, the whole bit. My wife usually hates it by the middle of the season, especially when I’m trying to move guys into my starting line-up when we’re out on the town.

However, I have to air my frustrations. It’s only a dozen games into the season for most teams and as expected, things are wonky. Wait – not wonky – turned completely upside down. Yeah, that’s more like it.

In one of my first posts on here, I wrote about missing the first 15 rounds of my draft – in a league where I’m the commissioner no less – and how, in the end, I felt my pitching staff would allow me to stay competitive, while I’d have to work to keep a quality line-up of hitters on the field.

If the first 12 games are any indication of what I’m in store for – I might as well give up now. My staff is in utter shambles. I’ve managed to amass four wins all season, two of which came from my bullpen (Tyler Clippard and Johnny Venters), the other two come from Verlander (who really should be 3-0 after two ninth inning meltdowns in his first two starts) and Ubaldo Jimenez (he gave up seven runs in the game, but the Indians put up more than a dozen).

I’m second last or in the basement in five of six categories for pitchers (CG I’m first, but hell, that’s a gimme category), my closers aren’t closing out games. That said though, the guy I expected to pick up saves (Angels’ Walden) isn’t getting the opportunities because his team is under-performing and my other big closer – Drew Storen – is out until at least mid-season. On top, my frankenstein bullpen of Brad Lidge and Hector Santiago aren’t closing games either.

Starters? Oh, well, Lincecum is looking sub-par, I dumped Josh Johnson for a more, seemingly effective Wandy Rodriguez, and picked up sleeper Chris Sale from the White Sox with hopes of bolstering a decent start from Jordan Zimmerman. I also picked up Trevor Cahill with hopes he can bring down my ERA a bit (thanks Johnson, Mat Latos and Lincecum for the 4.50+ ERA).

My bats? Hmmm, started strong, but aren’t staying strong. Cards’ David Freese and Yadier Molina have been hot, along with Giants’ Pablo Sandoval and as of late, Buster Posey. Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer has been a huge hit also. However, Everything else has been a moment in time. Jason Kipnis and Nick Markakis have been under-performing in Cleveland and Baltimore. And losing Michael Morse to the DL is a tough loss after he had a visit with the ‘your season isn’t looking good’ from Dr. James Andrews.

Sigh – I’m ranting now. Hopefully, my team picks it up and gets it going. The thing is, it’s early, it’s baseball, and things can turned around very quickly. It’s what we love about this game, the unpredictability.

Timelessness and Jamie Moyer

Creeping closer to seniors discounts at local restaurants, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a game in the bigs, a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres. Cheers Jamie!

LIVINGSTONE: I’m beginning to look into my future a little bit more these days, especially when it comes to baseball. It coincides with life, maturity, professional desires, life, family, etc. It’s normal, I suppose, so it’s carried over into the ‘what-ifs’ of my sports passions. Will Ben Roethlisberger make it to another Super Bowl? Will The Flyers win a Stanley Cup in the next five years? Will the Leafs ever win one in my lifetime (or my hypothetical child…and their kids.)?

The question that popped into my head last night came on the heals of a new baseball record, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Will Jamie Moyer ever retire?

Moyer, at the young age of forty-nine, became the oldest pitcher in history to win a baseball game. Pitching now for the Colorado Rockies, after pitching for almost every team in baseball (that’s not true, but it seems like it, he’s only pitched for eight) he kept the San Diego Padres’ hitters at bay with his lightning-fast 79 mph fastball and his nasty cutter. The Rockies won 5-3.

Moyer, 49 years, 150 days old to be exact, takes the record held by Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was 49 years, 70 days old when he set the record.

Wait, the Brooklyn Dodgers? Yep, the record was set on Sept. 13, 1932 when a bottle of Coke was five cents and the Second World War was yet to happen.

It’s an incredible feat. To be able to pitch for 25 years, for eight clubs, play with Ryne Sandberg, Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Gonzalez (in three different decades mind you) amass 268 wins and over 2,400 Ks – it’s unreal. Moyer is the third oldest pitcher ever to play in a regular season game (behind Quinn and Satchel Paige who was, get this, 59(!!) when he played in 1965) and is tied for sixth on the oldest player, pitcher or position, to play (he’s tied with the likes of Julio Franco (2007) and Hughie Jennings (1918), among others).

It speaks a lot to not only the longevity of his ability to play – but to the fact he has been able to continue pitching, after 25 years and more than 4,000 innings, without his body, or love for the game, saying that’s enough.

Sure, he gets a paycheck, and a pretty decent one in the grand scheme of life, but at this point in his career, he just seems to want to keep playing the game he loves so dearly.

It’s beautiful.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is it time to worry about Tim Lincecum?

Giants starter Tim Lincecum has been anything but the freak he has known to be. In his first two starts of the season he got pelted and currently has an ERA above 10.00.

LIVINGSTONE: The expectations surrounding San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum have been high since he came into the league.

He’s 69-42 with a 3.04 career-ERA, has won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 and played a pivotal role in the Giants World Series title in 2010. In 1,035.2 innings pitches, The Freak has 1,137 strikeouts.

Dominant? You bet.

And while the season is young and Lincecum has only pitched two games he looks nothing like the dominant slingshot pitcher hitters have feared for the last five seasons. In two starts for the Giants, Lincecum has posted an ERA of 12.91, has given up 11 runs in 7.2 innings, 14 hits and has posted a WHIP of 2.22 (his career WHIP is 1.20). It’s anything but spectacular and one has to wonder if Lincecum is beginning to show signs of fatigue.

It’s known that Lincecum has dropped – or at least diminished greatly – the use of his slider. That slider was one of the filthiest in the league and a big part of his ability to dominate. It’s very early, but there has always been concern that Lincecum’s career would tail off as he aged, much of it to do with his slingshot delivery and his relatively small frame.

As a fantasy baseball nut who has drafted Lincecum each of the last four years, it’s tough to watch him struggle like this. It’s early so patience is key, but one has to wonder if it’s a glimpse into the slow decline of one of the most dominant pitchers in the game over the last half-decade.

Have to hope it’s not likely the case. He gets his third start of the season tonight so much of fantasy baseball players will be watching closely to see just how Freakish Lincecum will be – either good or bad.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

A look at the first week of baseball: Infante, D’backs and Ozzie Castro, er, Guillen

Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante is off to a good start - his manager, however, is struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s a week into the season for the boys of summer. It’s nice to get back into the routine of checking daily baseball stats, deciding the ole fantasy line-up for the day and catching whatever games I can on the tube – especially the late games. It’s my first full summer in Toronto and in addition to all things baseball from my years past, I now get to engage with the Fan590, the great crew of baseball nuts and the spot-on and absolutely moronic baseball fanatics – aka Jays fans – out there.

The anxiety and curiosity that comes with the start of the season is always at it’s worst. Everything is so up in the air. How will so-and-so perform? What pitchers are going to throw gems? Who is going to surprise and rip it up the first week and are they legit? Who is going to tank? When do we worry they may not get out of the funk?

And so on and so on.

So, in honour of the first week of the season, the biggest surprises and whatnots of the week.

1. The first-series sweeps of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1966 (correct me if I’m wrong people) the two powerhouses of the last 20 years in the American League lost their opening series’ in not-so-classy fashion. Four blown saves (Boston had three, including two in one game; Rivera, surprisingly, blew a ninth inning lead to the Tampa Bay Rays). I know it’s early, but it’s surprising. Since then the Yanks have managed some wins against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while the Sox lost two of three to the Blue Jays and sit at 1-4. No blown saves though, so that’s a positive.

That said – Boston has a nine-game homestand starting Friday. Rays (four), Rangers (two), Yankees (three). If they can’t pull it together at home against these three equals/better thans, it’s going to be a long, long season for Sox Nation.

2. Omar Infante

It’s early, but he’s tied for the league lead in dingers. I know, it’s only three, but still, it’s shocking. The guy hit seven total last season in 640 plate appearances (his 162-game average is nine). In seven seasons (2005-2011) Infante hit 35 home runs in about 2,000 at-bats (note: he hit 16 in 2004 for the Tigers). It’s very likely he won’t hit more than his 2004 total this year, his tenth, but the hot start has to be exciting for the Marlins, who rely on him to get on base and provide quality defense at second.

3. Ozzie Guillen

I’m not going to get into his love for Fidel Castro too much, nor the five-game suspension that followed – but holy lord. In the span of a week he told reporters he gets drunk at the hotel after every game and passes out, followed by bro-love for the longest standing dictator in the world in Castro. Well done Ozzie. Thing is, it’s not surprising – he has no filter.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

This team is potent. They’re deep on the bench and can field a solid one-thru-eight, loaded with solid hitters who can do damage if given the opportunity. Pitching? Yep, they have it. The addition of Trevor Cahill to the duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. The comeback against the Giants Saturday shows they can scrape back. Down six runs early, they chipped away and stole the win 7-6 from their division rivals – and biggest opponent for the division title.

5. Minnesota Twins

Six runs in four games – three of those games against the Baltimore Orioles. Enough said.

6. The week of blown saves

Sweet mercy, I don’t know what to think of all the blown saves, walk-off/extra inning wins in the first week. There were enough that it’s cause conversation among the three of us here at Out of Write Field. The AL East is particularly disturbing: Rivera (1), Jays Sergio Santos (2), Red Sox Aceves and Melancon (3) have had it rough in the first week. Watch for Matthew Strader’s piece on the closer issues going on across the majors – blown saves, injuries and everything going wrong in the ninth. As I write this Jonathan Broxton, Royals closer-of-the-day, just blew what feels like the 30th save opportunity in the first week of the season (I think it’s actually 17 at this point of the day with Broxton – but still…17!!? late addition note: Make it 18. Joe Nathan blew the game for the Rangers last night in the ninth to the Seattle Mariners)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Write Fielders unscientific guide to the 2012 MLB season

Matt Kemp for MVP? It's possible, and likely, says Write Fielder Andrew McGilligan.

McGILLIGAN: With the season about to start, what follows are my predictions for the 2012 MLB 2012.

I will either be proven a genius (the most unlikely of scenarios) or, like 99 per cent of others making predictions, just plain wrong.

So with that bit of inspirational writing here are my picks:

American League Division and Wild Card Winners

AL East – New York Yankees

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wildcard – Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox

RATIONALE: The Yankees always find a way to win and I have a hard time thinking this year will be different, however, I think it will be extremely tight in the East. I think all the moves made by the Angels might take a few games to come together, but when they do, its going to be fun to watch. There’s no team in the central that should be close to Detroit. The Rangers should get one wildcard spot, as for the other, it’s a tossup between the Sox and Rays, but I give it to the Sox because, well, I like the Sox (no one said this was going to be scientific).

National League Division and Wild Card Winners

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers

NL West – San Francisco Giants

NL Wildcards – Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins

RATIONALE: I think the Phillies know the clock is ticking and will be fighting tooth and nail with the Marlins for the East, but pitching gives the Phils the division. So many people like the Reds and Cardinals in the central, but even without Fielder I think the pitching and decent but weaker Brewers lineup can still get it done. In the West, its pitching once again for me as the Giants staff will be too good to have the Diamondbacks wrestle the crown away for a second year.

World Series

Detroit over San Francisco in six games

RATIONALE: I’m big on Detroit this year. A solid lineup with two of the most intimidating hitters around combined with a pitching staff led by Verlander should be enough for World Series crown in Motor City.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVPMiguel Cabrera – With Fielder doing the job of Victor Martinez providing protection for arguably the best hitter in the game, I see another outstanding year on the horizon.

AL Cy YoungDavid Price – He’s developed other pitches to go with his great fastball and I think this is the year he puts it all together.

AL Rookie of the YearMatt Moore – I was tempted to go with Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes (honestly either one could have been my pick), but I’m going with the Rays rookie hurler Matt Moore to take the honour.

NL MVPMatt Kemp – Can’t see why he wouldn’t be just as great this year as last. New ownership makes it a more stable place to play, which can’t hurt.

NL Cy YoungRoy Halladay – I don’t ever like to bet against Roy Halladay, so I won’t. Chalk up another trophy for Doc.

NL Rookie of the YearYonder Alonso – I wanted to slot in Bryce Harper, but I decided to go out to the left coast and predict Padres rookie Yonder Alonso comes home with the award.

I also have some random predictions I hope come true this year:

– Ozzie Guillen conducts an entire press conference using nothing but Spanish curse words

– KFC tries all season to make Jon Lester and Josh Beckett their news spokesmen to no avail…..John Lackey offers to do it for bucket of chicken and is turned down

– After being thrown out of a game, Bobby Valentine dresses up as Matt Damon, sits next to Ben Affleck near Red Sox dugout and tries to coach using various hand signals being relayed to David Ortiz.

LIVINGSTONE: Predicting anything sports related is either going to make you look like a genius, a bandwagon jumper or a complete moron who was way off the mark.

I’d like to think I can be the genius, but it’s all a guessing game – so I’ll go with being the moron over the bandwagon jumper out of pure respect of taking a gamble rather than the safe bet.

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista propels the Jays into the post-season for the first time in nearly two decades - and finally, his well-deserved MVP.

With out further adieu:

American League Division and Wild Card Winners

AL East – Yankees

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wildcard – Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays

RATIONALE: The Yankees, while pitching may be a bit of a question mark, have a potent line-up that will likely win 97 games, despite an average rotation with one superstar (CC). Detroit is the sexy pick in the Central, and with good reason. Who else is going to compete with that monster? The West is going to be a shootout this year. I like Anaheim purely for the stronger pitching staff, considering CJ is going to be third or fourth in the rotation after being at the top in Texas. Sox and Jays – I’m calling it. Tampa is going to be in the mix, but the lackluster offense is going to be troublesome down the road. If the Jays can get their rotation woes straightened out, they’ll be strong contenders come September.

National League Division and Wild Card Winners

NL East – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Cincinnati Reds

NL West – San Francisco Giants

NL Wildcards – Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies (odd team out: D’Backs, Dodgers, Braves – all nipping at the heels)

OVER-RATED: MIAMI MARLINS (new stadium, new unis, new players – same whiny Hanley Ramirez. Expect him to bring down the team.)

RATIONALE: My ‘are you f’in’ crazy’ pick. Washington has a strong rotation, a quality bullpen and a strong line-up with young talent ready to breakout (Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and eventually, Bryce Harper). I like Philly, too, but age, injuries and what I predict to be a loss of one of the big arms in the rotation will make them fall short of the division title. Loving the Reds this year. Young, strong pitching, with a solid line-up and an MVP candidate.  San Fran – fixed the top of the order with Pagan and Cabrera and have by FAR the best rotation in the game. Expect a breakout year from Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey to be in fine form after missing last season. Milwaukee – hell, it could be St. Louis again, who knows. Brew Crew have a good rotation (Greinke, Marcum and Gallardo), closer (Axford) and a good line-up, despite losing Prince to the Tigers. Arizona will come up short when the duo of Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy come back to earth.

World Series

Angels over Giants in six games

RATIONALE: The Angels are the real deal. Incredible pitching staff, out of this world line-up. It’ll be a pitching showcase in this Fall Classic, sure to be an interesting one.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVPJose Bautista – Jays make the playoffs for the first time in 19 years on another massive year from Joey Bats. Don’t count out King Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder or Robinson Cano, though.

AL Cy YoungCC Sabathia – Guy just dominates year in and year out. Expect it to be a tight race with the likes of Verlander, Price and Angels’ Jared Weaver.

AL Rookie of the YearYoenis Cespedes – His team won’t make the playoffs, but he’ll have a big year regardless. Matt Moore will be nipping at his heels – and maybe even Yu Darvish.

NL MVPJoey Votto – The kid is going to put together one heck of a year to take his second MVP title. Don’t count out Rockies’ SS Troy Tulowitzki, Dodgers’ Matt Kemp or Washington’s Michael Morse (YEP – I said it!)

NL Cy YoungMatt Cain – Huge contract, huge year. If it’s not Cain it’s Lincecum. Expect dominate years from Halladay, Lee, Clayton Kershaw and Yovani Gallardo.

NL Rookie of the Year Brandon Belt – Originally, I had Alonso here like McGilligan, but I changed my pick once I found out Belt was making the team (see article on Belt from yesterday).

A healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau? Strader says watch out wild card favourites Texas, Tampa Bay and Boston - there is a surprise coming.

American League Division and Wildcard Winners

AL East – New York Yankees

AL West – LA Angels

AL Central – Detroit Tigers

AL Wildcards – Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins.

RATIONALE – Ok, ok, the Minnesota Twins. I know. But here it is. The pitching staff is not impressive, but it’s solid. The lineup is not impressive, but it’s solid. And there is a team every year that surprises all the prognosticators, so I’m sorry, I’m not going, Angels, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays like every other lazy ass out there.

It’s 162 games. Injuries happen. The Twins, I believe, will DH Morneau more than he even needs. I think Ryan Doumit, with some consistency and health, actually has a chance to outperform his career numbers, and there is an ability to do a bunch of different things with the offence (Span, Willingham, Mauer, Parmelee). Who better with a bunch of different parts than Gardenhire?

If I have to explain the other four, you’re probably picking the Royals and their young and up and coming lineup right now….

I know the Rangers aren’t there, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a year of injury concerns for a number of their players. And really? Three WS appearances in a row? Come on. They’re not the Bills…

National League Division and Wildcard Winners

NL East – Braves

NL Central – Cincinnati

NL West – LA Dodgers

NL Wildcards – Arizona, Colorado

RATIONALE: The Braves are too complete, and nobody else in the NL East quite matches up to that description. I believe, much like my colleague Livingstone, that Cincinnatti got a raw deal of circumstances last season, they have too much talent on both sides of the ball not to be a turnaround story. And I don’t think one playoff run makes David Freese a comparable replacement to ALBERT PUJOLS!! How did any Pujols bashing even start? I would have paid him double.

The Dodgers, yeah, that’s right, the Dodgers. They did it on the back of Ethier and Kemp before (sprinkled with a little Manny of course), they’re going to surprise and do it again. The question marks are over, those guys are going to be hungry to play ball.

Oh, and Kershaw’s kind of awesome.

World Series

Yankees over Braves in four.

RATIONALE: Sorry, but this feels like one of those years where we all love the season, and the only people who like the playoffs are the pinstripers…

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVP – Jose Bautista – In spring training we saw American media attention for Canada’s only team. During award season, we’re going to see what that media attention can do for your squad.

AL Rookie of the Year – Yu Darvish – Pitchers who win 18-20 games win awards. Plain and simple. (Honourable mention: Lorenzo Cain)

AL Cy Young – Ricky Romero – Maybe I watch the team to much, but look at the progression, the peripheral numbers, and the fact that all this left hander has to do is find his pitches to dominate lefties, and he’s actually one of the most dominant starters in the game.

NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki. I don’t think we’ve ever seen the ceiling. A little health, a little less Ubaldo, and maybe we get to see it?

NY Rookie of the Year – Drew Pomeranz. He’s earned a spot and will start. I love Alonso’s bat, but pitchers get credit for pitching in Colorado more than hitters seem to get credit for hitting in San Diego. So I’m going Pomeranz.

NL Cy Young – Kershaw. I see a Greg Maddux style award dominance here for a while.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The debate is over: Giants settle on Belt

Giants' management made the right call by putting Brandon Belt on the starting squad. His bat is going to be a big addition to an otherwise low-run scoring offense.

Finally, it seem, the debate is over.

There has been a lot of talk about whether or not San Fransisco Giants’ first baseman – and pending superstar – Brandon Belt would even be on the squad to open the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert.

And the Giants’ have decided to put Belt on the roster – and start him at first base, displacing the over-paid Aubrey Huff into the outfield.

It’s been a day and night kind of career for Belt. In the minors he destroys pitching, especially in 2010 when he hit .352 between single-A and triple-A ball in the Giants system – not to mention 23 HR and 112 RBI, while only striking out 99 times in 462 plate appearances. Last year, same thing – in 53 games he hit .320 with 8 HR and 26 RBI to go with 12 two-baggers – this all while missing time due to a fracture in his wrist, requiring him to miss part of the season.

While his numbers in the minors are out of this world – his time in the big leagues has been nothing but disappointment. In 2011 he hit .225 in 168 plate appearances, had 9 round-trippers and 18 RBI – while striking out 57 times. Not the best case for a spot on the starting roster this year.

That said – his spring has been strong, apparently showing the talent he has in the minors during the Giants’ spring schedule. However, there is an overload of quality talent on the team and Belt ended up in a battle with career minor-leaguer Brett Pill (who had a decent last couple months last season in a call-up) and journeyman Gregor Blanco, who was turning heads this spring.

The Giants want to win, and they’ve got the line-up and pitching staff to do it. Belt comes with high expectations, and rightfully so. He should be performing to the number 23 ranking he was given by Baseball America in its annual top 100 prospects list.

And this could be his year to cement himself as the everyday first baseman. Huff is in the final year of a pricey contract – and with his age and numbers slowing down, it’s likely he won’t be back next season, leaving the door open for Belt.

To be honest, the fact the Giants’ were debating over Nate Schierholtz in the outfield, over moving Huff there and putting Belt at first – it’s just mind-boggling to me. Sure, Nate’s consistent at the plate and plays great defense – but in a line-up that didn’t fair well at the run-producing part of the game last season – Belt is needed to bolster the run support to compliment the pitching.

If he can get in some decent playing time this season and put up the numbers he did in the minors over the last two seasons – putting his dismal big league appearance from last year behind him – he will become part of a youthful core in San Fran poised to make noise for a number of years.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vogelsong and the Rudy Effect

McGILLIGAN – There wasn’t one thing I didn’t like about Ryan Vogelsong last season. From his fantasy numbers after I plucked him off the waiver wire to his story that was chronicled in Showtime’s The Franchise TV show. Ryan Vogelsong helped save my fantasy season last year. I had under-performing hurlers and a rash of injuries.

Picking up Vogelsong covered up some of those deficiencies and I rightly or wrongly began to see him as a saviour and believing he did things he may or may not have done.

He was 13-7 with 139 strikeouts, 2.71 ERA and 1.252 WHIP for the San Francisco Giants. Good numbers, but not the kind you would have thought he had if you heard my pronouncements last season. I was openly wondering why he wasn’t getting Cy Young consideration, was sure he would win every time he went to the mound and I was positive he wold be a main stay in my fantasy rotation for years to come.

So when this year’s draft came around what did I do?

Nothing, he was selected by another team and although it pained me to see him go, I believe it was the rational thing to do.

I fell in love with Vogelsong’s story and his above average season cemented him in my mind as a main stay for years to come. I believe this is a problem that can plague people in fantasy leagues. You fall in love with a player for irrational reasons. Perhaps you saw them play in person and they performed unbelievably well, they wore the same number as you, or any other number of foolish reasons to select someone based on anything but sound reason.

Here’s an example: When I was a kid on a trip to Florida my dad took me to a spring training game between the Yankees and Astros. Jeff Bagwell had just come off his rookie of the year campaign and took a few at bats in the contest.

As a youngster, I crowded with other kids for an autograph from the man we were calling out to as Mr. Bagwell. He said he would return to sign things after he changed. We hung by the fence waiting for his return, but when he came out, he got into a car and left. No autographs, nothing.

In the same game, Yankees young slugger Kevin Maas smashed a homerun that landed in a duck pond beyond the wall of the left centre wall that had to be the longest homerun I’ve ever seen hit.

I ended up loving Maas and hating Bagwell and had I been part of a fantasy league I would have irrationally chosen Maas while not even entertaining the possibility of Bagwell playing for me.

Now, how stupid would that have been. Maas couldn’t hit a curveball and washed out while Bagwell was a perennial all-star.

Sure, you say I was just a kid, I wouldn’t do that now. Really, I hate Johnny Damon for going from the Red Sox to the Yankees – to this day it still annoys and I’m a grown man.

When it comes to sports, like many men, I can get emotionally invested and make dumb decisions. Which brings me back to Vogelsong.

His solid play and story of being out of the majors since2006 before making a last ditch comeback that resulted in an All-Star appearance was a great one, truly the kind of Rudy story we all root for.

(NOTE: I use Rudy as the term for any emotionally moving sports story, Joe Montana and his myth crushing be damned.)   

So I had to make a tough decision at the draft. I needed to make sure I thought with my head on Vogelsong not my heart. Here’s the thing, He’ll turn 34 this year and had one good season. Strike one. He’s dealing with some lower back issues this spring. Strike two. He won’t have the Showtime cameras to give him the Rudy treatment, thus taking emotions out of the equation. Strike three, I’m out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against Vogelsong having a good season and proving me wrong. It’s just that I would rather that happen than pick him for my team and have my head proved right and my heart wrong.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,