Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
March 29, 2002
BASEBALL: 2002 Preview

Originally posted on Projo.com

NL EAST

1. Braves
2. Mets
3. Phillies
4. Marlins
5. Expos

The Mets, I've been through already. I'm skeptical of the Braves' starting rotation (heresy!) beyond Maddux, who is ceding ground only slowly and grudgingly to the ravages of time. And the infield corners are shaky at best, disastrous at worst. But this team has baseball's best offensive outfield, its best defensive center fielder, a dynamite young DP combination (if Furcal's healthy) and a catcher who can hit. And a manager who's a whiz at making a good bullpen from scratch. I'm just not ready to write the obit yet; this year's Braves may be different, but they are still a good bet for the 90 wins that are more than enough to win this division.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:24 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 15, 2002
BASEBALL: 2002 Red Sox Preview

Originally posted on Projo.com

I'd give you a thorough appraisal of the current soap opera in Boston, except that (1) there are so many bizarre internal dynamics here that I can't hope to do justice to the situation from my perch in Queens and (2) this column takes some lead time to write, and at this writing, Lord only knows who else will be hired or fired by Friday. Let's do some basics:

1. Was it time for Duquette to go?

Of course it was. First of all, the new guys will usually want to bring in their own people. Second, the "golden parachute" contract given to the Duke is a sign that the outgoing management knew he'd be toast when the sale cleared. Third, I've stressed before that getting along with people isn't a major part of the GM's job -- was any management team more "cold" and "calculating" than George Weiss and the rest of the team that ran the Yankees in the Fifties? -- but in any organization, when the boss is generating open contempt by the employees and the media all at once, he's in trouble. In the age of free agency, that has an impact on the team's ability to attract and retain free agents (although it didn't get in the way of signing Manny and Damon). I don't know the true story of whether Pedro and Nomar really hated Duquette and wished they weren't playing for his organization, but if the new owners had a basis for thinking that the stars of the team might leave some day because of Duquette and the circus that grew up around him, or if they just wanted a fresh start, they were certainly justified.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:41 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 8, 2002
BASEBALL: 2002 METS PREVIEW

Originally posted on Projo.com

Mike Piazza's Mets have found themselves in the same trap that ensnared Patrick Ewing's Knicks and Dan Marino's Dolphins (to say nothing of Pedro's Red Sox, but that's another week's column) for years: the star is so good, and a type of player who's so hard to come by, that you always feel like a championship is a possibility; he's also getting old and banged up, so you can never be sure if he'll last long enough at this level to risk a 2-3 year rebuilding process. So, every year, you give away a few more shots to develop young players, drag in wheezing veterans, and take another shot. Yet, every year it seems to get further away.

It's an unenviable position for a GM, but as a fan there are worse things (ask any Knick fan in the post-Ewing era); the Mets will contend for a postseason berth again this year, and that beats being the Orioles. Whether it also risks becoming the Orioles later will depend on the decisions the Mets make once Piazza starts to lose his edge as a hitter.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:06 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 1, 2002
BASEBALL: Derek Lowe as a Starter

Originally posted on Projo.com

One of the big questions in Red Sox camp this spring is, will Derek Lowe make it as a starter? I've been arguing for over a year that Lowe's high-hit, low-walk, high-ground-ball profile is better suited to a starting pitcher who gets to start his own innings rather than a reliever who comes in with men on base. The history of bullpen-to-rotation switches is a mixed one and hard to generalize, since the least successful transitions usually don't last a full season (Goose Gossage, Steve Bedrosian and Paul Quantrill being egregious exceptions). The most successful mid-career switches have tended to be knuckleballers like Charlie Hough and Wilbur Wood, who are difficult to generalize from.

For a lot of Sox fans, putting Lowe in the rotation after last season may seem like participating in clinical trials to see exactly how much cyanide the body can handle. (As Bill Simmons put it, "Can you imagine going into a playoff series at Yankee Stadium next October with Derek Lowe as your No. 2 starter? I think I just threw up in my mouth.") But it's never wise to panic just because a guy had one bad year at the wrong moment. Lowe wasn't so much a horrible pitcher last season as a mediocre one with dreadfully bad timing, a bad characteristic for a closer. While he was certainly hit frightfully hard at times, there are important signs that he can bounce back. And even if he stayed within spitting distance of last year's form -- a 3.53 ERA in a league where the average is 4.47 -- he can still be useful.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:58 AM | Baseball Columns | TrackBack (0)