STATEMENT OF BELIEFS
Thursday my family will celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m not going.
On Friday there is a pre-party for my 20th high school reunion. I’m not going.
On Saturday, my high school reunion itself takes place. I’m not going.
If you want to find me, I’m here at the Pinstriped Bible.
A BAKER’S DOZEN OF HOT STOVE THOUGHTS
1. Five veteran outfield free agents who would should be avoided if the Yankees don’t come to terms with Johnny Damon (hint: there are more than five, but this is just a selection):
(a) Garret Anderson: Overrated in his prime, but an offensive and defensive millstone for four of the last five years.
(b) Marlon Byrd: rates before coming to the Rangers: .263/.327/.373. Overall rates as a Ranger: .295/.352/.468. Rates at home as a Ranger: .309/.375/.522. Rates away from the Rangers’ comfy ballpark: .281/.328/.414.
(c) Randy Winn: Signing a 36-year-old corner outfielder coming off of a .262/.318/.353 season is never wise, especially when the player’s central offensive skill is hitting for average.
(d) Jermaine Dye: Old, defensively challenged, never a great on-base guy, and bats from the wrong side of the plate.
(e) Mike Cameron: Was still very good last year, but he turns 37 in January.
2. One of the most intriguing teams to track this winter is the Marlins. Even after dealing Jeremy Hermida to the Red Sox, they have 11 arbitration-eligible players, and if the Marlins hate anything it’s players getting raises. Any of them could be non-tender candidates, which is to say instant free agents, on December 12. All of them could be dealt at some point between now and then, including ace Josh Johnson, hard-throwing lefty reliever Matt Lindstrom, outfielder Cody Ross, and infielder Dan Uggla. The Yankees would probably have interest in the two pitchers mentioned, and Ross wouldn’t be a bad catch either given the team’s shallow outfield collection.
3. Something I think about every year at this time: I want to see MLB commercials during the Thanksgiving football games. I want to see shots of Derek Jeter standing next to his Christmas tree in a flannel bathrobe, taking practice cuts with a bat over the words, “Spring Training is just around the corner.” Right after the Superbowl-winning quarterback says “I’m going to Disney World!” I want to see another spot with Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer saying they’re going to Disney World too — on the way to camp.
4. It was reported yesterday that Andy Pettitte will take his time figuring out what he wants to do with his life. If you’re the Yankees, how long do you give Pettitte before you move on? He’s a great pitcher and a great Yankee, but you can’t just hold a spot for him until all the Halladays are over.
5. I don’t think there’s anything the Mets can do this winter to be a contender next year, not because they don’t have the money to make real moves — although maybe they don’t — but because they don’t have the kind of braintrust that will allow them to rebuild quickly, the Minor League depth isn’t there to make trades or enjoy impact promotions, and the free agent market is weak. If healthy, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, and Francisco Rodriguez make for a very nice core, but they’re not enough.
6. The Orioles are roughly in the same position the Braves were in circa 1990, and need to do what the Braves did — shore up their defense. The development of their young pitching staff depends on it.
7. Joe Torre has always preferred glove-first catchers — Jorge Posada was an anomaly for him, one he embraced reluctantly. That’s why it’s ironic that Russell Martin’s bat has died on Torre’s watch. The Dodgers have to fix Russell, or deal him to someone who can. Unfortunately, the Dodgers prospect who should be pressing Russell for playing time, Carlos Santana, is now the property of the Cleveland Indians.
8. I understand that one good way to avoid a dry turkey on Thanksgiving is to brine it before cooking. I would like to try that technique on the people who come to Thanksgiving dinner. On a related note, I think I would enjoy Thanksgiving more if the traditional holiday dish was fajitas.
9. How many years will Marco Scutaro get for the best (read: fluke) season of his career, and which team will reap the disappointing returns?
10. Britt Burns was named pitching coordinator for the Astros on Monday. I still wonder how the 1980s might have been different for the Yankees had Burns, who was acquired in December, 1985 for Joe Cowley, Ron Hassey, and a couple of never-to-develop minor leaguers, hadn’t had his career ended by a degenerative hip problem.
11. The really is nothing funnier than singing sheep, at least not to me, right here, right now.
12. If the Red Sox do manage to trade Mike Lowell and pick up Adrian Gonzalez (sliding Kevin Youkilis over to third), that by itself won’t be enough.
13. Contrary to popular superstition, it is not bad luck to feign illness at Thanksgiving time. If more people feigned illness at this time of year, countless uncomfortable and frankly painful family gatherings could be avoided. If you are still uncomfortable feigning illness to avoid Thanksgiving, you can try hiding in a box.
Red Sox 8, Blue Jays 2: A comeback start for Jon Lester, with the lefty striking out 12 in six innings and allowing just one run on three hits and a like number of walks. On May 18, the Jays were in first place, 3.5 games up, with a record of 27-14. Since then, thanks to a nine-game losing streak, they’re 2-10. Reality bites — hard. Next up for the Red Sox: at Tigers. Next up for the Jays: hosting the Angels. It should be another good week for the Yankees, assuming they can win a few. Notice was paid to Terry Francona shaking up his lineup, a cosmetic change that sometimes leads to a seemingly psychological boost.
Tigers 3, Orioles 0: You have to feel for the Rays, who would be far more competitive with Edwin Jackson (eight innings, two hits, no runs, 2.30 ERA) on their team, but they made an economic decision they have to live with. The Rays have enjoyed the highest increase in per-game attendance this year, but that only means they rank ninth in the league instead of 12th. Thus are pennant races determined — it’s not just smarts, but also what you have in the bank, with perhaps the latter outweighing the former. The Tigers continue to allow the fewest runs per game (4.31) in the league, which allows them to win even on days like Sunday when Jim Leyland benched some key regulars. Bonus: Fernando “Caesar” Rodney has been an effective closer. Orioles’ silver lining: two good starts for rookie Jason Berken, though it probably doesn’t mean much in the long term. Luke Scott went 0-for-3, ending a rather ridiculous May in which he hit .432/.479/.1.000 in 13 games sandwiched around a DL stay.
Twins 3, Rays 2: In which the Rays give up the decisive run on a little looping liner over Ben Zobrist’s head. Former Yankee Sean Henn picked up his first hold of the season in this one. The Rays have the No. 2 offense in the AL, the Yankees No. 1. Both found on Sunday that sometimes you just don’t get the safeties when you need them. It happens.
White Sox 7, Royals 4: The Pale Hose are just one game below .500, and with a visit from Oakland up next, they’re likely to get back over in the short term. Define “short term” as until they host the Tigers for five games in four days a week from today. Less than 20,000 in KC to see Zack Greinke pitch against John Danks. Shameful.
Athletics 5, Rangers 4: On October 13, 2002, Adam Kennedy hit three home runs in the fifth game of the ALCS against the Twins. Yesterday he popped two against the Rangers, including the game-winner, bringing his season rates to .390/.462/.622 in 21 games. This from a fellow who wasn’t even in the Majors to start the year after having been thoroughly mediocre for the last six years and for the bulk of the rest of his career. This has always been the mystery of the player was the first-round pick of the Cardinals way back in 1997: on some days, he can be the guy he was in that playoff game, or was yesterday. On most days he can’t, but everyone knows he can. Hence the frustration.
Angels 9, Mariners 8: The M’s had this one in the bag until they actually had to pitch. That part didn’t work out too well. Six unanswered runs in the first three innings should have made the rest academic, but the Angels worked away and David Aardsma buckled in the ninth. Comedy relief included Ichiro Suzuki going 4-for-5 with a couple of doubles and a home run to raise his rates to .354/.386/.454, his 24th straight game with a hit. If Ichiro keeps this up, 2009 will be one of those years where Mr. Mariner lives up to his rep. Average during the streak: .406, three home runs in 106 at-bats.
Mets 3, Marlins 2: It’s not often you see a pitcher exit a shutout because he really, really has to get to the bathroom….
Astros 2, Pirates 1: Sixth save of the season for LaTroy Hawkins, backing Mike Hampton, as the Astros team up for a win out of 2001 or 2004 or any other year when Hampton and Hawkins were vaguely healthy and effective and people had more money than they do now. That would probably rule out 1893, what with the panic and all. Andy LaRoche in May: .330/.411/.457, now hitting .299/.371/.420 overall… The Pirates recalled Steven Jackson today. We’ll see if Joe Girardi erred in not getting the guy into a game before the Yankees cut him loose.
Phillies 4, Nationals 2: Methuselah Moyer wins No. 250, and may he win 250 more. Josh Willingham popped two for the Nats, and it’s hard to visualize his still doing double-duty as a Senate page after the trading deadline. If the Nats play one game above water the rest of the way, they would finish at 70-92. Their next series, at home against San Francisco, offers an interesting contrast, the pitching impaired versus the hitting impaired. My money is on the latter.
Brewers 5, Reds 2: Fifteen games in now and Trevor Hoffman still hasn’t allowed a run, and closing out this one allowed the Brewskis finally to pass the Cardinals and take first place. Mike Cameron popped home run number eleven, and his power is an important component of what’s been working for the Brewers. A bit unexpected, too: Cameron is hitting .284/.379/.550, and he’s never touched those numbers in a full season. Craig Counsell since Rickie Weeks went down: 11 games, 50 PA, .306/.320/.306. Anyone spot the problem here?
Padres 5, Rockies 4: A change of managers is a superficial patch for a team that can’t hit. Adrian Gonzalez blasts No. 20, leads the NL in home runs. If a player from that team in that park leads the league for the season, it will have been a minor miracle — 15 of the 20 have been hit on the road. Since joining the Padres, Gonzalez has hit .268 with a home run every 24.5 at-bats at home, .305 with a homer every 14.9 at-bats on the road. With a contract that calls for $3 million this year, $4.75 million next year, and $5.5 million the year after, he should be the most desirable trade possibility in baseball right now. Not only is he cheap, but if the acquiring team plays in a fair park and gets 250 post-trade at-bats, they could get 15-20 home runs out of the bargain.
Giants 5, Cardinals 3: When the starting pitcher (Adam Wainwright) has an off day, the Cards lack the offensive heft to counterpunch. This team desperately needs a bat. When I see “Wainwright,” I can never help hearing, “General Wainwright is a right guy.” And if you know what that refers to, you’re either pretty old, a history buff, or both. Here’s a toast to General Wainwright’s guys, holding out on that island (and after), real American heroes.
Braves 9, Diamondbacks 3: Garret Anderson hit his first home run of the season, raising his rates to .266/.294/.358. Kelly Johnson has hit in seven of eight games, batting .342 with seven doubles, a triple, and two home runs. No walks, though. Seems like it was at this time last year that I was wondering where Johnson left his walks… The real news of the game was Kris Medlen’s very solid start and a rare poor one by Max Scherzer.
Dodgers 8, Cubs 2: Over in the first inning, with former home run machine Eric Milton holding the Cubs in check. That’s not the feat it used to be, of course. Rafael Furcal is batting .245/.308/.304 with three stolen bases in six chances. When do you think Joe Torre drops him out of the No. 2 spot? My guess is never… As I typed these words, a John Mellencamp song came on the XM and I actually liked it. I’m shaken to my core. I was fooled by the long instrumental opening, I swear! Excuse me while I go look for some strong, abrasive soap….