I read an article today by Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com about the process by which the Boston Red Sox scouted Carl Crawford both on and off the field before signing him to a $142 million contract this winter. Carl was quoted as saying he was “creeped out a little bit” by Sox GM Theo Epstein monitoring his off-field activities from time to time.
The snow is still melting here in PA, but I can still feel spring in my bones. Pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. The Phillies will have their new-look rotation together at last, poised for what will hopefully be a historic run.
When I was a kid, it was right around now that I would be signing up for little league and just a couple weeks before I’d play my heart out in the freezing cold at try outs. I’d beg my mom and dad for a new mit, new cleats, new batting gloves, anything that I could show of for the new season.
I learned baseball by watching Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk, Curt Schilling and Mickey Morandini on their run to the ’93 World Series using my livingroom sofa as a backstop, and an old hockey mask as a catcher’s mask (I still claim to have invented the idea!).
Baseball is in my blood and although my 2010 season ended in disappointment, there’s no feeling quite like the promise of a new year.
A new spring.
It’s baseball season, baby!
I’ve only been to Cooperstown, NY once in my short life. It wasn’t for an induction or a special event. It was just a chance for a father and son to experience the heart of the game we’ve enjoyed for as long as I can remember. He and I have shared countless baseball games, and we can say that we saw 6 teams play the year the won the world series [1995 Atlanta Braves – 1997 Florida Marlins – 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks – 2005 Chicago White Sox – 2006 St. Louis Cardinals – 2008 Philadelphia Phillies].
We live in a strange time in sports where every detail of a player’s contract is analyzed by experts before it’s even signed. TMZ seems to have cameras and smart-phones everywhere just waiting to catch a player, coach or Jerry Jones saying something off-color. It seems we live in a sports era dedicated to tearing down our most beloved sports figures, or at least watching with a bucket of popcorn as they implode on themselves.
It’s 10:14am here in the east and I’m three days removed from my college graduation. So this is what “the real world” is like, huh? I’ve heard about this for what seems like forever. Colleges, these days, pride themselves on preparing us for the great wide world that is going to crush us if we’re not ready.
My opinion.. honestly? Kinda boring.
Okay, I don’t have a “job” yet, but I do have several things going on. I’m attending the Allentown Bartending School after the new year. That should be fun. My ultimate goal would be to get a job in a nice sports bar where I could talk sports all day long. I do that already, but my fiancee is not very receptive unless it about the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I’m also working in a new web series that I’m trying to pitch. It’s called Guys With Girl Problems (cheap plug) and I think people will find it funny. I’ve spent the last 4 1/2 years in college working my tail off toward something I have little interest in. If I’ve learned anything in that time, it’s that I need to be working toward something I believe in.
Wait a minute. This is a baseball blog, right? Sorry. On to baseball!
To quench my winter thirst for baseball in the wake of the Roy Halladay trade, I’m fixed on mlb.com eying the next big moves. One of today’s headlines was regarding the fan voted “all-decade” teams. So I thought I’d weigh in.
Now I don’t know all the rules here. From what I gather, this is like an AL/NL all-century team except just the 2000-2009 decade. So here goes.
1B: Albert Pujols – No surprises here. They don’t call this guy a machine for nothing. since breaking into the league in 2001, Pujols has hit .334 with 366 dingers and 1,112 RBI on his way to 3 MVPs and a World Series. Some guys would sell their soul for the career this guys has had in 9 years. If Ryan Howard had come into the league earlier than 2006, this might be a more difficult discussion, but Pujols is just undeniable right now.
2B: Chase Utley – Here comes the homer! Okay, yes I’m a Phillies Phanatic but you really can’t argue with Utley at all. I don’t even need to throw out numbers with him. He’s going to go down as the greatest second baseman of all time, even better than Ryne Sandberg.
3B: Chipper Jones – This was a little tougher decision. Chipper has battled some injuries which kept him out the better of one or two seasons and he’s getting up there in age. But I’ve been following his career since he was a rookie in 1995, A lot of people want to shy away from him but at the end of the day you can’t deny what he brings to the plate. Yes, he moved around position wise, playing LF for a couple years, but he’s always been a third baseman.
SS: Jimmy Rollins – This was by far the toughest decision because SS seems to be a forgotten position anymore. It was sexy in the 90’s with Ripken, Jeter, A-Rod and Garciaparra but now I can only name maybe 5 starting shortstops in all of baseball without really thinking hard. For me, it came down to Jimmy Rollins and Rafael Furcal. I went with Rollins because he’s been consistent and clutch and he’s got an MVP trophy and a World Series ring. Furcal has neither. Plus, Rollins and his club have come up victorious in the last 2 NLCS of the decade.Compelling.
LF: Barry Bonds – I’ll take the 2001-2004 Bonds who hit a billion home runs and won 4 consecutive MVPs. Not the 2005-2007 Bonds who played every other day and walked more than he ran. Literally. Steroids or not, the games count so he counts. He never could win a championship but he was playing in San Francisco. Gary Sheffield was a close second, but he spent a lot of the decade in the AL with New York and Detroit.
CF: Jim Edmonds – I had three choices for best CF of the decade. Edmonds, Andruw Jones and Carlos Beltran. Beltran only came to the NL at the trade deadline of 2004 so he’s out. That left Jones and Edmonds. Both of these guys were staples in CF for one teams nearly the whole decade. There was a time where no fly ball was safe in St. Louis or Atlanta. I gave the nod to Edmonds because his numbers were a bit more consistent whereas Andruw Jones was more of a bell-curve.
RF: Gary Sheffield – Yes, I know I mentioned him in the Left Field discussion, but Sheff really did spend more time in Right than Left until recently. I re-thought his career and despite spending 2004-2008 in New York and Detroit, he is still hands down better than the youngsters that have been in right for the rest of the decade. A shout out goes to Will Ferrell, i mean, Adam Dunn.
C: Mike Piazza – Even though he retired in 2008, Piazza still stuck out as the best of the unsung heroes behind the plate. He was one of the few to be feared at the plate and meant a lot to the city of New York following the tragedy of 9/11. Russell Martin, Brian McCann and the Molina family are all great catchers, but Piazza is up on the pedistal in my book.
P: John Smoltz – Picking just one pitcher out of, I don’t know, A MILLION is a tall order. In the end, I went with Smoltz because he was part of what could be the greatest 1-2-3 rotation (Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz) of all time. AND he did what his team needed and stepped into the closer role and was nothing short of a lock. He was the Mo Rivera of the NL for 3 seasons.
1B: Paul Konerko – This is tricky because the 1B/DH designation is typically one and the same. You can throw around names like Jim Thome and David Ortiz, but they were typically DH. Many First basemen in the AL are there for defensive purposes. Konerko played a lot of 1B in the decade and is one of the most overlooked players of the decade. So I’m going to show him some love in this blog at least.
2B: Alfonso Soriano – It’s hard to remember his time in the AL since his astronomical contract in Chicago and his move to LF, but he was once considered the next great Yankee. After losing the 2001 and 2003 world series respectively, New York traded him away and teams have been overpaying for him ever since. Gotta give it up to a guy who looks like he weighs 150lbs but can power it to China.
3B: Alex Rodriguez – He still seems like he doesn’t know what he’s doing at 3B but what he’s done at the plate greatly overshadows it all. A lot of his great work of the decade was done at SS but its undeniable who belongs at that designation, I had to give 3B to Rodriguez.
SS: Derek Jeter – In my book, he’s still the last true great Yankee. I think he can be mentioned in the same breath as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. I spent most of my life loathing the Yankee organization, but I always liked Jeter. He’s a classy, old fashioned ballplayer. I really don’t think I need to say anything else.
LF: Manny Ramirez – One of the many great products of the Cleveland Indians organization to experience success somewhere else. Manny has been Manny this whole decade and while his antics on the field have been somewhat comical, he been the best and most consistent hitter we’ve had outside of DH.
CF: Torii Hunter – Center Field used to be a premier position with guys like Mantle and Griffey Jr., but now teams usually want a speedy defensive center fielder and are lucky to find one that might be able to put the bat on the ball well enough to lead off. Hunter has done all that and more and he’s done it year in and year out.
RF: Ichiro – He largely stays out of the media because he doesn’t speak much English and he plays in Seattle. But Ichiro has started almost every All-Star game since he came into the league in 2001 from Japan and he’s the one guy you DO NOT want to see when you’re looking for a safe out. Many fans also discount his defense which is amazing. I remember watch
ing him throw out a tagging runner on a frozen-rope strike from RF to third.
C: Jorge Posada – Consistency is big in my book. There are a lot of players that are hyped up because they have 1 or 2 big months, but I like the players who get it done day in and day out. Posada is one of those players who can hit almost anywhere in the lineup from either side of the plate and put the barrel of the bat on the ball. What more do you want from a catcher?
P: Roy Halladay – Yes, I know, I’m excited to see him in Philadelphia, but he was the workhorse of the AL for the entire decade. A Cy Young in 2003 doesn’t begin to describe what he did for Toronto who otherwise had to think back to Joe Carter’s series winning home run, but Mitch Williams and I don’t want to talk about that. You could make a good case for Roger Clemens or even Andy Pettite, but both of them abandoned the AL for the NL in 2004, and Clemens has been baseball’s version of Brett Favre ever since. So I had to take points away. Halladay has pitched around 200 innings a year in 6 of the last 10 seasons on his way to winning 139 games.
So there it is. My all-decade teams for the AL and NL. Of course there are arguments to be made and I’m open to any of them.
WELL HELLO THERE!
Just logged into the Blogosphere for the first time since the great Harry Kallas passed away early last season. It’s been a hectic 8 months since my last post and I’m sorry I haven’t been around to take part in all of the interesting stories that have been going on in the world of baseball in 2009.
I got engaged down in good ol’ Disney World last May. I’m very excited about the wedding which will be this coming July 10th. I wish I could invite everyone. I also just finished up my last semester at Penn State and will be graduating on Saturday. So needless to say, I’ve had a lot going on and unfortunately my blogging had to take a back seat.
But it’s time to end the silence. I’ve got so much to say and wouldn’t rather say it anywhere else. I had some bad experiences during this past world series on facebook, and before I get into the sadness in my heart over the loss of Cliff Lee, I’d like to speak my mind very briefly.
Personally, I thought this had all the makings for one of the greatest and most competitive world series of all time. You couldn’t have put 2 more evenly-matched, equally competitive franchises if it had been written by Bill Shakespeare himself. Unfortunately, the greatness that was the 2009 world series was tarnished by the thousands of New York and Philadelphia fans on facebook, running their mouths in the most vindictive, sadistic and downright awful ways. As if it had any effect on the game itself.
This is sports, people. It’s a game. I loved the Phillies from the day I put on my first red cap, and as much as I may disagree with the Yankees’ front office philosophies, or disagree with their impact on baseball, I’m never going to root for them to fail. I just don’t believe in that anymore. There may have been a time in my young life when I did, but I’ve grown. And so should the rest of the world.
We all love different teams, but we should all love the game more. So let me take this opportunity to congratulate the New York Yankees on their World Series victory in 2009. It was well deserved and I hope to see a rematch in 2010.
Now, on to the 2009-2010 off-season.
I’ve been glued to ESPN and ESPN.com the last two weeks waiting to see what would happen with Roy Halladay much like I did mid-season when the possibility first rose. This is something Yankees fans might not be able to identify with since this is common occurrence in NY; but in Philadelphia, the possibility of acquiring someone like Roy Halladay is like Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. It just doesn’t happen that often. If at all.
It didn’t happen in July, but we ended up with Cliff Lee and he was nothing short of amazing in red pin-stripes. From the first time he put on that #34 jersey against San Francisco, Philadelphia was in love. The rest speaks for itself.
Now the rumors came up again regarding Halladay and again, this isn’t something I’m used to. Late Monday afternoon I saw the ESPN ticker go across the screen that the Phillies had agreed to a trade, time stood still… Then, the ticker completed, and I found out that Cliff Lee was then traded to Seattle. My heart sank.
We went from having arguably the best 1-2 rotation in baseball, to the Roy Halladay we’ve coveted since last June. Since late October, there has not been a bigger celebrity in Philadelphia than Cliff Lee. He’s everything the city wants in the pro athlete. He doesn’t talk smack, he doesn’t make empty guarantees, he just plays. If you’re not sure, go search YouTube for a clip of Lee catching a Johnny Damon pop-up in game 1 of the world series and watch him calmly step back onto the rubber and prepare for the next pitch.
I’m not going to lie… man-crush.
Now he’s a Mariner. He literally could not be any further away from us.
It’s awesome to have Roy Halladay who is widely considered to be the best pitcher in baseball by everyone who has an opinion. His stats in the last 2 seasons are marginally better than Cliff Lee and he’s been doing it in the AL East against the Yankees and Red Sox. He has the makings to be everything Cliff Lee was and more, but still, Philadelphia is left wanting.
I don’t like the position he’s in now. Philadelphia does not quickly forget. Lee was only a Philly for 3 months but it felt like he belonged. He was one of us. I have the eerie feeling that every pitch Halladay makes will be compared to Lee’s. That’s Philadelphia.
I’m not Reuben Amaro, and I suppose it’s a good thing because I’m much more impulsive. I would have looked at the opportunity to have Lee and Halladay in the same uniform and not given a crap how bare the cupboard was. I would have done everything possible to sign Lee to an extension and keep Cliff and Doc in Philly for the next 4-5 years. Lee-Halladay-Hamels. That spells unstoppable.
Reuben said that his job was to put a championship caliber team on the field every year beyond 2010. I agree. But Reuben, your tenure as GM of the Phillies will not be measured in how many years your “could have” won the world series, it will be measured in how many years you did. 2008 belongs to Pat Gillick. You had the opportunity to, in essence, lock in a trip to the 2010 series, and have a great shot at winning it, and you balked. All because you wanted a couple of guys who might be good players 4 or 5 years from now.
In my book, that’s a bad trade. I see your reasoning and I don’t disagree with your job description. I’m glad you want to win year in and year out. But in Philadelphia, we don’t just want to be competitive, we want parades down Broad Street.
The Yankees gave Joe Girardi number 27 because they wanted a 27th championship and they got it. Roy Halladay will wear 34, which happens to be the number of the guy he’s inevitable replacing. They should have given him #3.