Monday, July 7, 2008

Evaluating the All-Star rosters

I am not going to be one of the numberless who calls out the all-star selections. For the first time I can remember, while there will always be some deserving players left out I have little argument with these teams. I will however discuss some of the most glaring omissions and also a few different moves I would have made with the roster.

The Final Vote
Fans have a chance to vote for the 30th man on each squad till July 10th. All of the 10 candidates (5 in each league) are possible deserving candidates but I believe two from each league are especially deserving. The situation is the same in both leagues. Each league has a guy I chose to start in the game as well as a third baseman I see as a stronger candidate than the current backup. In the NL, its Carlos Lee and David Wright. Carlos Lee was in my starting National League outfield and despite his defensive shortcomings, his offensive numbers are ridiculous as always. David Wright could have made it over Aramis Ramirez in the numbers department. He is also such a great spokesman for the MLB and a huge fan favorite that his selection always enhances the marketability of this all-star game. In the Al, its Jermaine Dye and Evan Longoria. The case can be made that Dye has had more of an impact on the first place Sox, than already all-star Carlos Quentin. Quentin is absolutely deserving, but why not also reward one of the most quietly consistent guys and players in the game. With Longoria, you have a guy who has just gotten really hot as of late and didn't even start the season with the big club. They should have just replaced the undeserving White Sox third baseman Joe Crede with Longoria. People are just starting to realize he immense potential and his current production, which makes him the Rays first half MVP.

Deserving omissions not up for the Final Vote

In the NL:
As I said, I like the rosters, and I specifically like the NL team, but there are always guys who can make their case. I really think Brandon Phillips was deserving as a 2nd baseman but they had to take both Guzman and Tejada as backup shortstops. There really is not enough room for many of these guys. Both Xavier Nady and Jason Bay deserved similar consideration that their Pirates outfield mate Nate McLouth got. The one grievance where I can legitimately identify a guy to take off the roster to add a player is with Jair Jurrjens. When you have a sub 3 ERA you better be on the All-Star team. End of discussion. Brian Wilson of San Francisco and his over 4 ERA has no business being in New York. It isn't like the Giants are struggling for a representative. They already have Tim Lincecum on the team and he could have started for the National League. Unfortunately, it looks like Jurrjens and a few others got robbed because of the sentiment against rookies that they will "have time to make plenty of all-star teams."

In the AL:
I liked the AL roster slightly less, but if I am comparing it to past rosters, it was picked very well. Aubrey Huff got robbed. Baltimore was able to hang for awhile because of him. I really thought Daisuke should have been there but I have Red Sox fans telling me the opposite, so I guess I am wrong. Jason Varitek is an absolute joke on the All-Star team. If they wanted another catcher it could have been A.J. Pierzynski or they could have just picked a more deserving star. The AL team has way too many closers, but I can't give a definite guy to replace them pitching wise after I was rebuffed by Sox nation on my Daisuke idea. I would have switched out Jeter and Pedroia with Kinsler and Young, but nothing anyone can really do about that. All I have to say in closing on the American League is Joe Crede can't end up being on the team without Evan Longoria.

NL Starting Pitcher
How is Edinson Volquez not starting this game for the National League? It looks like just another example of a rookie bias in awarding any sort of awards in sports. Brandon Webb is a fine pitcher, he has had a great season, and a great career, but Volquez is untouchable. Fortunately, he does get to go to the game and he will probably be the first reliever out of the pen for the NL

Other than that, the home run derby is shaping up very nicely. Lance Berkman, Dan Uggla, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley and Josh Hamilton will be joined by three others. I think they could have done a little better selecting the Futures Game rosters, but it still should be a good chance to evaluate some top prospects. It should be a great all-star week.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fireworks forseeing the Future

Tonight, I watched the various displays that light up the night skies of the 4th every year over my Pompano, Fl home. They made me wonder where I would be watching similar displays in the years to come. I pondered my personal future, the future of our country, and the future of my friends. Pouring over all of this, the fireworks gave me a great sense of comfort and order. After all, I believe, no matter what, those fireworks will always be there on the 4th. Big and small, every shape and every color, and with every sound such explosives have been known to make, they like us and our country, shall press on. In that case, if the fireworks remain in the sky, we should never fail. The big fireworks are big dreams which continue to be fulfilled everyday. The small fireworks are small dreams, equally satisfying to the dreamer and sometimes carrying a greater impact for societal well being. For the fireworks that split off in every direction like a branched tree, they represent the ability of one to touch many. The fireworks that stick together in one solid burst portray the ability of one to strongly affect one. The loud thud of some reveals the power of one to stand alone in the spotlight for change, for freedom, and for philanthropy. The short scream of others shows the grassroots efforts for good that are possible. America, as we know it, is built upon the fabric of all of these fireworks. Francis Scott Key said, "He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not unworthy of the name of a nation." I wish this for myself, all I know and hold dear, and all Americans. I believe if we continue on the road in which Key described, we will always see fireworks in the night sky. The sign of illumination every first week in July will signify that we, as Americans, kept our freedoms, our virtues, and our pride in the previous years' time. I know that wherever I watch fireworks in the future, I will be in a good place. I know that because I plan to always value the worth of being an American.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My NL All-Stars

Here are my picks for the National League All-Star team. The National League has always been my favorite league so these picks will probably be a tad better than what you saw for the junior circuit. Again I abide by all traditional selection rules (Yes, the Nationals do get an all-star, imagine that.)

C-Geovany Soto (.284, 13, 48)
There are a few guys that have had good seasons as far as NL catchers are concerned, but Soto’s season stands out for its uniqueness. No one since Mike Piazza in 1993 has won the NL Rookie of the Year as a catcher. It is such a great crop of rookies and Edison Volquez is going to have something to say about the award, but make no doubt about it, Soto is the best rookie catcher since Piazza. To see a rookie catcher come in and handle a pitching staff like the Cubs that has them in first place is exactly why Soto should see himself starting in Yankee Stadium.

1B-Lance Berkman (.361, 22, 68, 12 SB)
This is, by far, the most stacked position in either league. Pujols, Gonzalez, Fielder, Howard, Jacobs, Lee, Teixeira, and Votto could all make compelling cases to make the team and not even half of that list will make the team. This position should definitely yield the biggest All-Star snub that will be debated on hours of ESPN programming. Berkman though has stood out head and shoulders in front of a remarkable group. His all around statistical compilation should perhaps have people talking as much about him winning the NL Triple Crown as they do about Josh Hamilton winning the AL version. Add to the Triple Crown category the 12 stolen bases, which for a big man like Berkman, is unbelievable. Fat Elvis is getting it done this year for sure.

2B-Chase Utley (.298, 23, 65)
It is a two man race in the National League at second base, and Utley comes out at the break by a nose. What Dan Uggla has been able to do after struggling to start the year just speaks of his momentous hot streak ability, but Utley has picked up right where he left off last year. We could be talking about the reigning NL MVP had he not gotten hurt down the stretch last year, but Utley is once again bidding for the award his teammates love. I would say that Uggla has a great chance to be the starting DH for the game in the AL home park.

SS-Hanley Ramirez (.298, 20, 41, 20 SB)
Does 20/20 at the break equal 40/40 at the end of the season? It probably does for Ramirez, who is quietly one of the top 5 players in the game. A tremendous speed/power combination, many think he will one day he will be the first to 50/50 in a season. I would say the only barrier to this is the cavernous Dolphins Stadium, where Ramirez just signed an extension to call Miami home for quite a while. It will be great to see this Marlin in his first all-star game this season

3B-Chipper Jones (.393, 16, 46)
With respect to David Wright, this race ended after the first month of the baseball season. Jones has gotten wide notoriety for flirting with .400, and this could be the season in which he has cemented his future Hall of Fame candidacy and induction. Not many think that Jones can actually hit .400 over a full season, but he has kept it going deeper in the season than anyone has in awhile. Most importantly, there is no way he wouldn’t win the fan vote. This guy is the talk of all water cooler/fringe baseball fans this year.

OF-Ryan Braun (.278, 20, 58), Carlos Lee (.287, 18, 63), Ryan Ludwick (.284, 16, 56)
While this wouldn’t be the most aesthetically pleasing outfield in terms of defense, boy, these guys can rake. This won’t be how it works out in the fan voting, so Clint Hurdle won’t have to concern himself with the defensive shortcomings. Braun started tremendously slow, but has shown as of late that there will be no sophomore slump. Mr. El Caballo, Carlos Lee, is always one of the most consistent run producers in the league. And then we get to…Ryan Ludwick? Ludwick has already topped his career highs in HR and RBI and is the first half MVP of the surprising Cardinals. One can only wonder where this guy came from, but for Cardinal fans like myself, it’s just one final testament to the success of Walt Jocketty.

C-Brian McCann (.298, 14, 45)
1B-Adrian Gonzalez (.288, 21, 68), Albert Pujols (.355, 17, 47)
2B-Dan Uggla (.289, 23, 58), Brandon Phillips (.284, 14, 51, 16 SB)
SS-Miguel Tejada (.289, 10, 43), Christian Guzman (.315, 5, 27)
3B-David Wright (.288, 16, 65)
OF-Nate McLouth (.282, 15, 53), Alfonso Soriano (.283, 15, 40), Corey Hart (.293, 14, 52, 12 SB)

Starting Pitcher- Edison Volquez (10-3, 2.24, 113 K)
This guy is just unprecedented baseball history in live action. A rookie who could start the All-Star game and win his leagues’ Triple Crown needs to be watched carefully. Pitchers like Volquez come around maybe once every 20 years. What a swap of Edison Volquez for Josh Hamilton in the off-season. I would have to say both teams should be pretty happy with what they got. Hamilton may be the best hitter in baseball this year and Volquez is possibly the best pitcher.

Rest of Staff
Tim Lincecum (9-1, 2.38, 114 K)
Dan Haren (8-4, 2.85)
Brandon Webb (12-4, 3.21)
Ben Sheets (9-2, 2.83)
Jair Jurrjens (8-3, 2.94)
Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.13)
Aaron Cook (11-5, 3.38)

Brad Lidge (19 svs, 0.82)
Billy Wagner (19 svs, 1.85)
Hong-Chih Kuo (3-1, 1.94)

These guys could make their case: Russell Martin, Bengie Molina, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Mike Jacobs, Derek Lee, Mark Teixeira, Joey Votto, Mark DeRosa, Jose Reyes, Garrett Atkins, Jorge Cantu, Troy Glaus, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Reynolds, Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Matt Holliday, Xavier Nady, Chris Young, Johan Santana, Ryan Dempster, Cole Hamels, Todd Wellemeyer, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Lohse, Kerry Wood

Monday, June 30, 2008

My 2008 AL All-Stars

Well my friends, most teams are officially half way through their regular seasons. With that situation as well as all-star voting coming to an end shortly, I wanted to give my thoughts on who should fill out the 2008 teams. I have felt disappointment for years at the questionable selection of these teams and have always felt I should be the sole nominator of players. I adhere to all the traditional rules of selection such as making sure that each MLB team has at least one representative. My NL team will follow in a few days. Here it goes. Let the ripping ensue.


C-Dioner Navarro (.317, 4, 31)
You can make an awesome case for Joe Mauer to start the game and Navarro is one of many on this list that doesn’t have a chance to be voted in by the fans due to lack of popularity. Like his team, the Rays, Navarro is starting to build believers. The only overachieving hitter on baseball’s best team gets major credit for where Tampa Bay stands right now. His stats are near identical to Mauer’s and you must give him praise for a portion of the success experienced by the Rays’ pitching.

1B-Justin Morneau (.306, 12, 63)
Boston booing commence, but Morneau is my man. The sweet swinging Canadian has led the surprise Twins in their battle for the top of the Al Central. He beats Youk out in RBIs by more than 10 and only is behind his HR total by one. Both have kept their averages above .300 and are comparable fielders. In other words, Youkilis may be close but no cigar.

2B-Ian Kinsler (.323, 12, 50, 20 SB)
Kinsler is just a statistic compiler for a team with one of the better offenses in baseball. He so often leads off for that offense and starts the engine. He leads Al second baseman in every category you see here that I listed. He is the kind of player that makes All-Star arguments easy, but he might not get the nod from the fans due to a lack of notoriety.

SS-Michael Young (.280, 7, 43)
This is a close race and Young gets the nod over Derek Jeter here. It would certainly be interesting to pair Rangers teammates up the middle. Early in the year, Young looked like he would never be in position for this. While the fans will take Jeter, Young should still make the team.

3B-Alex Rodriguez (.322, 15, 43, 10 SB)
You can’t even fathom how close I was to actually putting exciting Rays rookie Evan Longoria. In the end, A-Rod just trumps E-Lo in batting average and consistency. Plus, he has no chance of being voted in by the fans seeing as he was not even on the original paper ballot. Make Willy Aybar an all-star… anybody?

OF-Josh Hamilton (.312, 19, 79), Jermaine Dye (.306, 18, 49), Manny Ramirez (.289, 16, 52)
First, Jermaine Dye is the best hitter on the surprising Al Central leaders. Josh Hamilton is the most surprising performer in baseball and he has emerged as a superstar talent in Arlington. If the Rays would have held on to him, they would be running away with the AL East right now. Hamilton has an outside shot at winning the Triple Crown as well. Manny Ramirez gets pushed for a starting spot by his Red Sox teammate J.D. Drew, but we give Manny the nod because he is the established guy that the team leans on more.

DH-Aubrey Huff (.275, 14, 45)
David Ortiz will definitely win the fan vote to start, but he has been hurt quite a bit this season. Huff is experiencing success he hasn’t seen since his early days in Tampa Bay. I think most people who follow the game wrote him off a couple of years ago. He definitely has a lot to do with a Baltimore team that has a winning record.

C-Joe Mauer (.321, 3, 32)
1B-Kevin Youkilis (.313, 13, 50), Jason Giambi (.262, 17, 46)
2B-Placido Polanco (.320, 3, 28)
SS-Derek Jeter (.284, 4, 35)
3B-Evan Longoria (.270, 15, 47)
OF-Carlos Quentin (.288, 19, 61), Milton Bradley (.323, 16, 49), J.D. Drew (.304, 15, 48), Grady Sizemore (.268, 19, 45), Magglio Ordonez (.307, 12, 50)

Pitching Staff
Starting Pitcher-Cliff Lee (11-1, 2.34)
After a year of great turmoil, Lee has to be comeback player of the year. Lee was demoted to the minors last year, found is command, and now outshines guys named Carmona and Sabathia in the Cleveland rotation. He leads the American League in wins and is second in ERA.

Rest of the staff
Joe Saunders (11-4, 3.06)
Justin Duchscherer (8-5, 1.91)
Scott Kazmir (7-3, 2.28)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-1, 3.21)
Roy Halladay (8-6, 3.12)
Felix Hernandez (6-5, 2.83)

Francisco Rodriguez (32 svs, 2.04)
Dan Wheeler (19 holds, 1.93)
Joakim Soria (21 svs, 1.29)

These guys could make their case: Jose Lopez, Orlando Cabrera, Joe Crede, Adrian Beltre, A.J. Pierzynski, Bobby Abreu, Curtis Granderson, Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Guillen, Luke Scott, B.J. Upton, John Danks, Shawn Marcum, Gavin Floyd, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite, Vincente Padilla, Rich Harden, George Sherrill, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Troy Percival, J.P. Howell, Scott Linebrink, Scott Shields

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Some MLB thoughts in the Quiet Before the Storm

Well I haven't posted anything here in awhile, but really what is there to say these days? Traditionally, the most boring part of the sporting year is upon us. We have just wrapped up the NBA Finals, the Summer Olympics and football seem like a glimmer on a far off horizon. My interest in the College World Series has been nearly obliterated now that Miami, one of the most talented teams of the last 20 years and my personal favorite were shockingly eliminated last night by Stanford. The great U.S. Open has come to an end and with it the drama in golf the rest of the way has died with Tiger Woods' season ending knee surgery. Wimbledon may pacify some for moments in these "dog days". I will occupy a few Saturday nights in the upcoming weeks with some UFC and other MMA samplings. Does anyone care about this soccer stuff going on in Europe? Seriously if anyone pays even moderate attention to it I would love to here about it. So that leaves baseball. Being here in the summer is just one of the reasons "America's pastime" is the greatest sport. It sustains us when our only other sporting activities might be preparing for fantasy football drafts that will happen in the late, late summer. Here are some small thoughts on the season so far to occupy some of your time.

1. John McLaren Fired
For the manager of the MLB's worst team record wise it looks as if this was long overdue. The reason why of course is while they are record wise the worst their talent had the prognosticators saying an AL West title in 2008. I think the major problem was keeping McLaren as the permanent manager after last season. He replaced a burned out but successful Mike Hargrove last year and finished out to some acclaim. Still, the Mariners made little effort to go outside of the organization and mix things up with any of the numerous qualified candidates. Jim Riggleman will take over for McLaren as interim manager. Now despite Riggleman having prior managerial experience, the road won't be easy with a possible fire sale coming for the Mariners near the July 31st trade deadline. While Riggleman may be a fine baseball man, I rarely agree with interim guys getting the permanent job or in-house candidates getting promotion. If the team didn't do well under a coaches' boss, why would you keep the status-quo. Here is hoping the Mariners learn from prior experience and look outside the organization this off season.

2. The Cardinals are sliding
The St. Louis Cardinals just got swept by the Kansas City Royals. THE KANSAS CITY ROYALS! This certainly isn't 1987. Even with a five game winning streak the Royals are still 31-42 and 10.5 games out of a underpreforming AL Central. I fear the end of a great early season start may be ending for the Cardinals. With Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright on the DL along with a host of others it would be unreasonable to expect anything from this team. You can only get by on relievers who were converted to starters for so long. The out of nowhere Ryan Ludwick can only do so much. All that talk of a possible early return for pitchers Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter seem like a cruel joke to Cards fans right now. The truth is this team has ridden some hot players for a great start and with these players now either injured or simply cooled down, I feel the end is near. You may try to tell me they lead the NL wild card and are only 4 games back of the Cubs but I simply say it is not enough consolation. The Cubs started the season out far more talented than the Cardinals and they remain so. Also getting hot and nipping at the Cardinals heals are the Brewers, winners of their last four. They had problems putting the pieces together the first two months of the season, but now they are firing. I would hope this is just cynical pessimism from one doubtful Cardinals fan, but I am too logical to actually buy into that hope.

3. The Rays are impressive and so are the Marlins
It was just a matter of time. I alerted all the doubters that one day this franchise would rise from being a blip of Vince Naimoli's financial holdings. I brag about this team quite a bit and many may be getting sick of it, but this franchise is constructed better than any of have seen. The pool of talent for both today and the future is unparalleled in baseball. They continue to lead in the wild card and hang in the discussion for the AL East division. The Yankees are closing fast, but you have to think no matter how many teams enter the fray of contention, the Rays will be there all year long. Tonight, in a matter of minutes, the Rays will be looking to grab the sweep at home against the Cubs, possibly the best team from the NL. The attendance for this series and last weekend has been phenomenal. We are at the beginning of the monster attendance I have stalwartly predicted since day 1. We are in the first of what I hope will be many seasons watching baseball succeed in St. Pete, Tampa, or wherever they choose to plant their baseball cathedral along the bay. I couldn't be more proud to be able to say that this is the first team I was able to cover professionally. And talk about the Marlins. This is a team I wrote off on this blog a couple of weeks ago and perhaps that is good news for the Cardinals. They have hung in there with a tremendous Phillies team and lie two games back of the division lead. They have had injuries and not always the best pitching and defense but somehow they win. I won't try to act like I know why, I simply do not. I will say while I doubt the long term viability of major league baseball in South Florida, this team needs to receive more attention.

4. Rogers Hournsby must be rolling over in his grave watching second basemen Chase Utley and Dan Uggla placing 1-2 in home runs for the National League

5. I think the off season trade of Josh Hamilton for Edison Volquez is one of the better trades and finest stories we have seen in the last five years in baseball. How amazing would it be if Josh Hamilton would win the AL Triple Crown and Volquez would tackle the NL Pitching Triple Crown. Don't scoff friends, it just might happen.

In due time, I will have my AL and NL All-Star Teams posted on here and of course other ramblings on the MLB as we work through this sports desert together.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert: A man we thought we knew

I still can't even wrap my brain around the fact that he is gone. Loosing the most influential political journalist of the last 20 years at a time of great political uncertainty just can't be. This was my first thoughts on his passing. It became apparent throughout the next couple of hours that we had lost far more than a journalist. Anyone who had watched Meet the Press at least semi-religiously since his assumption of the chair in 1991, got the feeling that Tim Russert was a people's person and a great guy. No one and myself included could have seen the true depth of this man from the vantage point of our television sets. As the night grew darker on Friday, the reports of Russert's genuine care for people outnumbered reports of his acumen as a broadcasting institution by the hundreds. People flooded the airwaves from all areas of politics to tell the stories of Russert the family man, the caring friend, and the man who cared for their own families in almost a supernatural way. He was always there as the helping hand in every area of life and career for his colleagues. We, as outsiders, saw him as both gregarious personally and concise professionally. The extent the viewing public saw his character wasn't even close to the real thing. How a man was able to put so much time into his family, his profession, and his friends is unfathomable and enviable.

Tim Russert is one of those rare unique individuals that when he passes it causes you to step back and examine your own life. I spent the majority of yesterday pondering the comments of the people who were close to him. I thought about how he maximized every day and showed such a concern for others. He put the up most effort into his family, his religion, and his passions. Tim Russert, to me, is the ideal American. I would like to emulate his patriotism and his set of values. If we all could invest a little more into others' lives and be a tad more knowledgeable on the issues that face us as Americans, I believe the country would be much improved. I think Barack Obama summarized my sentiments most when, in his statement yesterday he said, "And I hope that even though Tim is irreplaceable, that the standard he has set in his professional life and family life are standards we all carry with us in our own lives." Barack, that would be an America for Change indeed.

The readers of this blog and myself as sports fans especially relate to Tim Russert the sports fan. He embodied every meaning of the word "fanatic" for the Buffalo Bills and was a enthusiastic season ticket holder for the Nationals when Washington finally received a professional baseball franchise once again. He would travel to big time sporting events around the country most often with his son, Luke. So many yesterday and today and in the coming weeks will recount how they often shared a ballgame and a beer with Russert. For most, that experience was more than just a game, it was a building block of friendship that Russert had remarkably formed with so many. Hearing the statement released yesterday by the Buffalo Bills, I realized how much Tim represented his hometown NFL team. I hope when I see the blue and red on Sundays in the fall from now on I will always be reminded of Tim Russert's story. "Go Bills!"

The road to the Presidential election in November will be rockier now and more clouded just simply because of his absence. He loved the prospects of this upcoming election and we loved his analysis of it. Americans can only hope that someone will be there to be both tough and fair in their political explorations, but they will never be Tim Russert. The qualities that John McCain highlighted in his statement yesterday were his ability to be tough and fair and that he loved his country. These are all the things that made him a great journalist but also a great person. Tim Russert may be gone, but his career and the lessons we can learn from his life, will never leave my heart.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kneejerk Weekend Reactions

I am sorry to my loyal readership, I have been overrun for several days making an update to the blog necessary. I am writing from the Roger Dean Stadium press box right now and I should probably be reviewing my notes for tonight's Hammerheads game. Here are the quick bits of reflection since my last posting.

1. The MLB draft: I was very disappointed there was only one potential draftee in attendance at the Milk House on Thursday. He wasn't even one of the premier prospects. I don't know who dropped the ball on that one but they need it to be more like the first year's coverage next year.

Other than that I think the Rays made a mistake with Tim Beckham over Buster Posey but only time will tell. I hope widely reported financial concerns over Posey did not influence their decision. I was also very disappointed with the Cardinals selection of Brett Wallace. It is a stretch to even see this guy be able to field his position at first and he will most likely be a DH at the pro level. Even if he could play first, it would seem that Albert Pujols has that position on lock for about the next 10 years. I know Wallace is a tremendous hitter and the MLB draft isn't about need, but this is taking that philosophy way too far.

2. I guess the Marlins aren't dead in the water as I have previously predicted. They continue to defy the odds and the numbers with that terrific offense and Josh Willingham has started taking batting practice again. As I am writing this now, it looks as if the Fish have found another gem to buoy the rotation as they recalled Ryan Tucker from Carolina and he looked sharp. By the way, in case you were wondering, the dead in the water reference was a pun intended.

3. Despite all the hoopla that occurred between the Red Sox and Rays up in beantown, it looks as if it only has brought the Rays closer together. They have systematically beat down the Rangers in two games and look to go for the sweep in a couple of hours. You have to love the story going down in the Sunshine State and it will only intensify next weekend when the Marlins travel to St. Petersburg.

4. It looks like the handlers in charge of Big Brown made a desperation move with that acrylic on his hoof. He was out of it all race and just couldn't make his move to the inside. Trainer Rick Dutrow doesn't seem to be the nicest guy in the world either and the way he avoided the press after the Belmont was disgraceful. 30 years and counting...

5. It was another great night down at Mark Light Field last night. A great game and once again a great atmosphere. I would love to see the same enthusiasm for Marlins baseball that is shown at Canes games. I guess for right now, this eternal baseball optimist can still dream.

6. Thank you for finally conceding Hillary. It has been a longtime coming.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The 1st annual Emerging Voice MLB mock draft

1. Tampa Bay Rays: Buster Posey C, Florida State
In a draft with no high ceiling prospects, productivity becomes more valuable. Not many prospects in the draft can say they have been as productive at as high of a level as Posey. Navarro is having a historic season in term of OPS this year for a catcher, but Posey presents more upside. If Posey signs quickly, He could be the starting catcher as Tampa looks to capture the Al East in 2009.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates: Pedro Alvarez CI, Vanderbilt
This is one of the few sure fire picks in an uncertain top 10 and first round. The Pirates have looked to undo their cheap ways of previous drafts with the best power prospect and Boras client. Alvarez is definitely not valued for his defense which is while he will likely be a first baseman for the Pirates.
3. Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage HS
Hosmer boasts some of the best power potential and is one of the best developed players out of high school in recent years. I have personally watched him play since his freshman year and he is one of those guys that the scouts have been following since he was 14. Some people believe Hosmer is as far along as college bats Smoak, Alonso, and Wallace. Hosmer even has the arm strength and athleticism to play the outfield (He hits 98 as a high school closer) but Gordon and Hosmer on the corners for the Royals is just what George Brett ordered.
4. Baltimore Orioles: Brian Matusz, LHP, San Diego
If my mock holds, it will be the lowest a pitcher is taken since 2005, when Ricardo Romero, also a lefty from a California college (Cal State Fullerton), was drafted sixth by the Blue Jays. Many of you with your “who the heck is that” expressions are currently answering how that one has turned out, but there is all the reason to think that Matusz will be the opposite. This guy has been consistently among the best and most highly regarded in college baseball and finished with a strong outing in the regionals. Baltimore needs help but the best way to build a farm system is through college pitching.
5. San Francisco Giants: Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin (GA) HS
Despite some stories, Beckham’s tools aren’t anywhere close to where the Uptons’ were at this point. He isn’t even considered the best high school hitter nor did he have a great high school season. However, unlike the Uptons he should stay at shortstop. Beckham is most importantly athletic and with that comes the upside coveted in any type of draft. The Giants have had a terrible farm system for 10 years. This is the start of a new era.
6. Florida Marlins: Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot (CA) HS
This seems like a poorly executed need pick to me, but they have been following Skipworth for awhile now. Normally a designated “need” player would be a highly developed college player who can be fastracked to the big leagues. He has had a great season and compares favorably to Brian McCann on the next level. Cuban born and UM bred Yonder Alonso would eventually be a marketing coup, but the Fish have played this strategy before (see: Alex Fernandez) and the results have been mixed at best.
7. Cincinnati Reds: Gordon Beckham, SS, University of Georgia
Ultimately, I am a bigger fan of the Georgia college shortstop named Beckham instead of the high school version. Gordon had a huge year that has scouts projecting much more power while he still has the speed of non-related Tim. This is a rather hard choice to predict and while we don’t like to talk about need in the MLB draft, Cincinnati could benefit from some middle infield help in their system.
8. Chicago White Sox: Justin Smoak, 1B, South Carolina
For some reason, Chicago seems hooked on getting a college masher. If I was them I would go for a pitcher in Aaron Crow, but this feels like the man for the southsiders. Smoak hit a ton of homeruns this year and I would rate him above Brett Wallace and on par with Yonder Alonso.
9. Washington Nationals: Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri
I wanted to go with Yonder Alonso here, but the Nationals already have their noteworthy hitting prospect in Chris Marrero. Have any of you seen the Washington rotation this year? Slot in Mizzou’s Crow with last years’ 1st rounder and a lefty, Missouri State’s Ross Detwiler and you have something there.
10. Houston Astros: Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky
I will have to admit I know little about this lefty, but I know that he is hotly rumored throughout the 10-15 pick region and I just don’t see them splurging for the big power bat many think they will. From what I have read his curveball is his top pitch and he is a highly developed arm, perhaps ready for second half big league action. This is a safe organization and they take a college lefty, which is about as safe as it can get.
11. Texas Rangers: Yonder Alonso, 1B, Miami
As you can tell, one of my favorite 08 prospects finally lands in Arlington. Alonso has such tremendous power and patience at the plate. He is also a great leader and comes through in big moments. Hopefully everyone reading this will get a taste of him soon as the 50-8 Canes is in nationally televised Super Regional action this weekend. Alonso could be one of three players from UM selected early.
12. Oakland A’s: Brett Wallace, 1B, Arizona State
Wallace, simply put, is moneyball. This guy may not have a big league body and poor athleticism but he flat out produces.
13. St. Louis Cardinals: Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane
This has been a team that favored collegians at one point, but with recent drafts scouting director Jeff Luhnow seems to go for the HS kids. We will go back with college guy here and draft a desperately needed arm. People were disappointed with his rough end to the year but the stuff is unquestioned. The Cardinals instructors will clean up the command issues and having Shooter thinking fly balls and St. Louis victories in 2011.

Well, we have reached the end of the road in the 1st annual Emerging Voice MLB mock draft. I stopped at 13 so I could get to my team, the Cardinals.

One final note: I may elaborate further tomorrow morning but if I don’t have time, I like the Lakers in six.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

This is where the MORE comes in

While there wasn't too much interesting sports news last night, there was plenty of political news. Sure we found out John Smoltz' season is done, Joba can't start, Pedro is back, and the sunshine staters both lost but the ramifications of last night politically mean much more than anything else.

With a majority of pledged and super delegates Barack Obama clinched the Democratic Presidential Nomination. Naming the first ever African American candidate for President should have been remarkable enough last night, but the actions of Senator Clinton unfairly overshadowed a groundbreaking day for Americans. Senator Clinton spoke in front of supporters back in New York shortly after the South Dakota primaries had been partly tabulated. She might has well been in Istanbul instead of New York. No it was even more like the crowd assembled had just been stuck in a time warp from about two months ago. Announced as the next President of the United States, there was no give in Clinton's rhetoric or the enthusiasm of her supporters. There was no change in her speech than the speeches we have been hearing for weeks. She gave her half-hearted congratulations to Senator Obama and then proceeded with a speech more focused on her for the next 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this put Senator Obama in a very tough position as he had to declare victory in front of 20,000 in St. Paul without the traditional concession from his opponent. As always, Obama rose to the occasion. Instead of focusing on the historic achievement of the night, Obama kept the focus on the rest of Americans and the task at hand. He was humble in victory, speaking admirably of Senator Clinton and his new opponent Senator McCain.

Within the context of one night, we saw why Senator Clinton is on the outside looking in. She obviously doesn't care about the healing of her party and it has become more about her than it has been about America. Barack wouldn't even allow one minute of public reflection on his achievement because he is geared and focused towards winning the general election and affecting change. After last night we can put to rest any Vice Presidential talk. She just simply doesn't deserve it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Yesterday, Today, and Tommorow

I have to start out the entry today by taking issue with the sports media out there. It is the jobs of radio show hosts, print journalists, and the guys on all-sports ESPN programming to know about every sport. The MMA debate raging on now is a debate only because the mainstream media has know idea what real MMA is. There is no excuse for well-rounded sports journalists to say during a MMA discussion, "oh I forgot the fights were on," or "I decided to watch something else." What is wrong with recording the fights or looking them up online and watching it later? Kudos to Jim Rome for being one of the few responsible ones out there and coming to the table with his facts...PHE-NOM-IN-AL.

On to the rest of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

1. Stanley Cup Game 5: How awesome was three overtimes last night? Marc-Andre Fluery gave such a valiant effort. He blocked 55 shots which was double his counterpart, Chris Osgood. Despite that disparity, I still have this Penguins team winning the Cup. I haven't heard anyone say that, so I am probably crazy and you should probably cease at reading now.

2. The John Smoltz experiment: I was interested to see that they brought John Smoltz straight off the DL and into relief Monday night. Smoltz didn't fair well blowing a save even though the Braves did rally to beat the Marlins. Two earned runs off of three hits doesn't sound good, but I will hold out judgement on Smoltz until I see more. I will say you have to wonder if relief work really makes that sore shoulder feel any better than starting would.

1. Rays-Sox: Wow a huge AL East showdown in the beginning of June. The pitching match up will be the hot Matt Garza facing the hot shot prospect Justin Masterson. Masterson was impressive in a call up earlier in the year al beit against the Royals. The more important thing to note is that David Ortiz was just put on the DL so the Red Sox won't have his clutch bat here. I say the Rays have nothing to loose here and all the pressure is on the Red Sox. Even if the Rays drop 2 of 3 in this series they will retain first place.

Other than that go Lady Sun Devils and close out a great College World Series tonight!

Wednesday won't have much intriguing sports action, but here is the tentative blog schedule for the rest of the week.
Thursday: MLB Mock Draft & NBA Finals Prediction
Friday: NCAA Super Regional Talk and Predictions along with gut reactions from the Draft
Saturday: Triple Crown talk, NBA Finals Talk
Sunday: Weekly Wrap up

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Stadium Review: Mark Light Field

Right off of US 1 and Ponce De Leon Blvd. is the tradition filled Mark Light Field or Alex Rodriguez Stadium at Mark Light Field if you prefer. You can just feel the greatness of 'Cane baseball, Ron Fraser, and 4 national championships. Baseball is alive and well in the front corner of the University campus and in the diverse mish-moshy Coral Gables neighborhood. The only thing holding back the grandeur of this baseball hotbed is the current construction and remodeling of the facility. While this may make the exterior and the walkways a bit cluttered or not as aesthetically pleasing for the time being, it is worth it to enjoy the jewel that is Mark Light Field.


There are three different seating areas around the field: the main grandstand, standing room/lawn chair seating down the left field line, bleacher seating down the right field line. This allows for a capacity of 5,000 and probably more with standing room which is plenty for even an elite college baseball program. The main grandstand has 3-4 rows of chairback seating behind the backstop and then the rest of the main grandstand seating is a combination of chairback and cement benches. I would recommend getting tickets in advance when the crowd is expected to be large, as the chairback seating is much preferred to the bench seating. A view from anywhere in the grandstand is good. There is also a suite area in between the main grandstand and the bleachers. The bleacher view and the views down the left field line aren't great but that is to be expected and they are at least very close to the action.


I realize I visited the complex at a peak time, seeing that is was a NCAA regional matchup where Miami is the #1 team in the nation featuring another top 25, but the fan environment was electric. Whether it be a little "C-A-N-E-S" or the fans coreographing some dance moves with the players in the dugout, UM fans are on top of it. I was not a big fan of the PA announcer, but I am told he is a Hurricanes sporting legend. If feel like you need to blend in with the Orange and Green there is a nice fan shop steps away from the entrance to the field. I think one of the coolest traditions of the Miami baseball team is that they have their own mascot, the Miami Maniac. I think I like the Maniac better than the Ibis and he kind of remindes me of the Philly Phanatic. The only negative is that the fanbase may not be the most knowledgable, however this is to be expected from larger crowds. Large crowds make it harder for the hard core, baseball junkie group to stand out. Regardless, I was pleasantly pleased that baseball fandom and atmosphere could actually feel genuine in South Florida.


This is where "the U" separates itself from the pack. There are an unprecendented number of dining options available for a college baseball environment. Personally I went to the left field line where the more specialized food items were being sold. The Chicken Bourbon over rice with plantains was a great cultural sampling. Coupled with the traditional frozen lemonade, it simply can't be beat. Under the grandstand is where they sell the more traditional park fare. Everything I saw that came out of there looked great and they have anything you could ask for at a ballgame. The unique feature of the grandstand area concessions is that they have a separate window which is a great ice cream/milkshake spot. A wide variety of ice cream along with a long list of fixins to throw into either ice cream or milkshakes make it a favorite for young and old. Also, to combat the intense summer heat, they had set in place water coolers with cups to combine with the water fountains as a way to keep hydrated for free.

In conclusion, I cannot wait to see what this place looks like come next spring when Phase 3 of renovations are done. If you were to be dropped down out of the sky onto Ponce De Leon Blvd., you would know exactly where you are and that aids to the atmosphere. There is nothing like being among the sun, the palm trees, and wrapped closely into the fabric of an urban landscape. I don't know what it is, but this ballpark just makes you feel good abou the game of baseball. I know I will make it a point to go down next weekend and enjoy some exciting Super Regional action.

Final Grade: B+/A- after final renovations

Saturday, May 31, 2008

General Ramblings

I don't have much to say today as I am quite busy getting ready to head down to Coral Gables for Miami-Missouri. It should be a great game, but I wish Mizzou ace Aaron Crow was on the hill today. Oh well, more will be said about Crow and other 2008 prospects in the 1st edition of my MLB Mock Draft on Thursday morning. Here are my rapid thoughts on sports and more.

1. I am really happy Sameer Mishra took home the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He was the kind of kid that actually flashed a little personality during the bee and how could you root against a kid who actually thought he was given the work numbnut to spell.

2. I think this weekend series with the Phillies could be the end of the Marlins great run. It feels to me with the Fish already knocked out of first last night the only way is down. The Rays however just continue to deflect possible slumps and obstacles and after last night it looks like Cliff Floyd may have found his stroke.

3. Lakers-Celtics Wow this matchup gives all you NBA conspiracy theorists plenty of amo, so fire away. Personally, my interest has waned in and out of hoops this year, but these finals are a league and network dream and I will be captivated. Kobe Bryant is at another level right now and I don't think anyone can argue that, at this time, he is the best basketballer on the planet.

4. I am really getting tired of all the talk on whether we should count the Michigan and Florida democratic primary delegates, and I am a Florida voter. In the end, the difference it will make is push things a little closer and increase party devisiveness with six months to a general election.That is all for today.

I will be back with thoughts on the Coral Gables regional, EliteXC, and Stanley Cup Game 4 tommorow. For now, I leave my UCF freinds with a poll on a question I have been pondering. Who would you like to see as the next head baseball coach of the Knights.

Who would you like to see as UCF's new head baseball coach

Craig Cozart
Jeff Johnson
Rod Delmonico
Pat McMahon
Frank Viola
Raymond Laval

(View Results)

Create a Poll

Friday, May 30, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Sports Weekend

Lets just say I hope there isn't a curse on the blog, as I watched the Rays fall to the White Sox 5-1 last night. On tap today my thoughts on the sports action due up this weekend.

1. NCAA Baseball Regionals
I know this may not be the most popular thing going this weekend, but I am quite exited to watch the #1 national seed Miami in action on Saturday. It will be my first trip down to Mark Light Stadium and I know a couple of the Hurricane starters. The NCAA didn't do the #1 team any favors as they stacked the Coral Gables regional with preseason top ten Missouri and Ole Miss along with the team that boasts the national ERA leader in Bethune Cookman's Hiram Burgos. Anyways, for those of you with ESPN U you get the privilege of keeping tabs on this and the Cal State Fullerton regional so enjoy some great college baseball this weekend.

2. NHL Finals, Game 4, Red Wings at Penguins, Saturday 8:00 PM, NBC
The first two games dominating blow out Detroit victories. I don't have anything against Detroit but there was no intrigue. Game 3 was tailor made for NBC, as the Penguins and Sidney Crosby (2 goals) fought to a 3-2 victory at home to get back in the series. If I had to guess, I think we will see more of this in game 4. Sidney can't do it by himself though. Hossa is starting to come alive, but they haven't gotten anything out of Malkin so far during the Cup. Ah it is great to actually have hockey back on a network I can find.

3. College Softball World Series-ESPN all weekend
Has softball always been this interesting? I guess it has been all my good friends over at UCF that have got me into it this year, but I have never really found it that interesting in the past. I have been hooked to ESPN coverage so far and by the end of the weekend the pairing for the World Series will be decided. Oklahoma City is one of those unique corners of the world this weekend where you can find the reasons you like sports in the first place. It's all about hard work, determination, teamwork, and the purity of the sport with these girls. Side note on Softball: Congratulations to Allison Kime, the UCF ace, for inking a deal with Rockford in the NPF. She starts her first game for the Thunder this weekend.

4. MMA
No this will not be another Kimbo Slice bashing routine. Kimbo Slice is pretty irrelevant to the sport of MMA right now. How can a guy be part of the feature fight on the first network broadcast of his sport be irrelevant? The reason is a secondary MMA organization, EliteXC, decided to buy their way on to CBS. What the mass public aren't realizing is that their is an organization called the UFC that is leaps and bounds over EliteXC. Unfortunately, it does more harm to this sport then good. Kimbo becomes the poster child and people's ideas of MMA skew more towards the line of John Mccain's famous "human cockfighting" reference to early MMA instead of seeing the great controlled sport that it has become. The rest of the card is truly sad as well and just looks to please the mass audience with setup stand-up brawls. Actually even though it is not a UFC event, the WEC's featherweight championship between Jens Pulver and Urijah Faber is the bout of the weekend. With Faber being the current titleholder in the WEC and Pulver being the one time lightweight champion of the UFC, this has the potential to be one of the biggest fights in the smaller weight classes of all-time. My MMA experts tell me the rest of the card has some quality bouts as well. Both events start at 9 on different days with EliteXC being on CBS this Saturday and the WEC being on Versus this Sunday. While I admit that even I will probably watch Kimbo's fight, it has to be watched from the right perspective. Watch it for entertainment but not to critique the sport.

An Extra Note: While the Scripps Spelling Bee isn't exactly a sporting event, I will be watching. The kids always make it interesting and with Erin Andrews on the "sidelines" this year, it should only enhance the broadcast.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Those notoriously hapless Rays

Change is upon us emanating out of St. Petersburg Bay. Some of you reading this may not have a clue about this "change", but if you have only a mediocre pulse following baseball, this story is etched into your corneas. Much like Barack Obama's politics of "change", this is a movement of a new, fresh player to the scene who is ready to take over the National Pastime. Yes, at 32-21 the Tampa Bay Rays have woken up to the 16th morning of the season that sees them in first place. At 1.5 games ahead of the mighty Boston Red Sox in the AL East and with baseball's best record so far, the Rays have smashed as many team records as Dan Uggla is smashing balls over the Teal Monster to the South. THIS TEAM HAS NEVER BEEN IN FIRST PLACE. They have already swept the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and took 3 out of 4 from the Yankees this year. Who are the Rays you ask? It is not a crazy question. They have been a hard team to spot throughout their 10 seasons of dismal bottom feeder performance. Names like Kevin Stocker, John Flaherty, and Damian Rolls don't exactly jump out at even some hardcore baseball fans. Now the Rays stand as undeniably the most exiting team in baseball and the best part is they haven't even hit their stride yet. Here are the things both good and things yet to arrive in 2008 for the Rays.

The Good

1. Pitching
The Rays currently boast the 9th best ERA in baseball. Throughout the years, the Rays have had to send out to the mound every fifth day the likes of Ryan Rupe and Jae Wong Seo but this year is different. Even with loosing ace Scott Kazmir for the first month of the season, The Rays work was among the best in Baseball. James Shields (4-3, 3.38) played ace in the beginning of the year throwing both a two hitter and one hitter along the way. Now Kazmir is back with a 4-1 record and an ERA of 1.50. The best thing about this stacked rotation? It is perhaps the greatest collection of young pitching baseball has ever seen. Kazmir (24), Shields (26), Matt Garza (24, 4-1, 3.78), Edwin Jackson (24, 3-3, 3.47), and Andy Sonnastine (25, 6-3, 4.98) form an unprecedented group. Even the notoriously weak bullpen has been solidified by veterans in closer Troy Percival and setup man Dan Wheeler. Al Reyes has returned off the DL to aid successful stop-gap relievers J.P. Howell and Trever Miller.

2. Evan Longoria
The phenom finally arrived on April 12th and quickly made everyone forget his controversial demotion to AAA Durham during Spring Training. Since his arrival, Longoria (.252, 7 HR, 28 RBI) has had the flair for the dramatic with game winning hits and big-time home runs. What goes overlooked is his Gold Glove caliber defense so far, he just committed his first error the other day. The Rays were smart to lock Longoria up to a long term deal his first week in the majors. With his future guaranteed, the heavy favorite for A.L. Rookie of the Year just has to go out, produce, and continue to lead the culture change for the Rays.

3. Andrew Friedman's Personnel Moves
The wizard GM behind all the complimentary pieces has softened some of the blow left by Chuck Lamar. He traded away negative clubhouse influences in Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes and brought in positive veteran leaders in Cliff Floyd and Troy Percival. Signing Eric Hinske to a low risk contract before the year has paid off as the corner outfielder is on his way to 30+ HR. Furthermore, Friedman has added to the stability of the franchise and clubhouse cohesiveness by locking up Carlos Pena, James Shields, Evan Longoria, and Scott Kazmir all to long term deals. Friedman's job is never done, but get a long term agreement done with B.J. Upton, and this GM will be able to sit back and watch a well tuned machine he built in action.

Things yet to arrive

1. The pitching prospects

The number one overall pick from last year's draft, David Price has finally arrived to the Rays Minor Leagues. So far the 6-6 lefthander is 2-0 and in two starts he has struck out 13 in 11 innings and has yet to allow a run. Some think he could arrive to St. Pete in the late summer. Wade Davis, Jake Mcgee, and James Houser are three others on the horizon and among the top prospects in all of baseball. Not to mention the Rays have the first pick in the 2008 draft next week.

2. The hitting

How can a team have the best record in baseball and not yet even have the offense that was predicted for the team? I really can't answer this question and it amazes me every day. The only players exceeding their expectations at the plate so far for the Rays are Dioner Navarro and Eric Hinske. The main offensive cogs Carlos Pena, B.J. Upton, and Carl Crawford have not even come close to their ceilings yet.

3. The fans

Much has been made of the attendance issue at Tropicana Field. While the Rays contend the sparse crowds at the "Trop" do nothing to aid their proposal for a new waterfront stadium. There is even a great article in today's St. Pete Times about this issue written by Gary Shelton that I have linked below. My only advice on the fan issue is give it time. Wait till the dawn of summer and if the Rays prove they are competitive the fans will start to arrive. It takes time for a city to warm up to a franchise that has been nothing but a disappointment for 10 years. Fortunately they have never done any franchise killing trade-offs such as their Citrus Series mates, the Marlins. The fans will clamor for success they just need to see it sustained into the summer, and they will make the 20 minute drive from Tampa to St. Pete. Tropicana Field is actually a very good place and fan friendly environment to watch a game in, contrary to popular belief.

So the moral of the story kids is if you are in the Tampa area be sure to catch the tides of change rolling through the St. Petersburg Bay and take yourself out to a Rays game.

Link to the Shelton article