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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

AL Predictions

Yes, it's that time again. The time of the year when everybody makes the annual predictions that are usually wrong - except in my case. There's really no point in playing the season. Just look over my predictions and hand over the trophey. I'll start with the American League first. Here we go:


New York- Sure, the rotation is a question mark from Randy Johnson all the way to Jaret Wright. Outside of Rivera, the bullpen is full of guys yet to show they can handle the pressure of New York. But have you seen the lineup. They'll hit with anybody.

Boston- Alot of people are putting Toronto here because of their offseason moves. I still don't think it's enough. Boston still has enough hitting and jsut enough pitching to stay at number 2. And Coco Crisp will make Red Sox Nation forget about Johnny Damon quickly.

Toronto- They'll be in the hunt in September. Halladay will me a Cy Young candidate and Glaus could put up MVP-type numbers, but they're still a couple pieces short and playing in the wrong division.

Baltimore- The pitching could surprise. JC Bradubury at Sabernomics.com calculated The Mazzone Effect to be worth half a run on a pitcher's ERA. I still think the O's are a year away from having those young pitchers develop, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them play .500 ball and still finish 4th.

Tampa Bay- Just the wrong division and not enough money. They've got some great young hitters, but the pitching staff won't give them a chance to win.


Cleveland- Shapiro's done a fantastic job compiling good young players and locking them up long term. After 2 straight strong finishes, this is the year they put it all together in what could be the best division in baseball.

Minnesota (Wild Card)- It would be easy to put Chicago here, but the Twins have a better pitching staff and the offense should be improved. The addition of Luis Castillo gives the Twins their first capable 2nd baseman since Chuck Knoblauch - who happens to be my all-time favorite player. Mauer will prove to be the best catcher in baseball and Morneau has a real shot at 30 hrs.

Chicago- The pitching staff is still one of the best in the league, but you can't expect career years from everybody 2 years in a row. I believe Thome will return to form with 35-40 homers, but it's just not enough to overtake the Twins or Indians. The race between the top 3 in this league will probably be the most exciting in baseball this year - unless your one of those people who only cares about the Yanks and Sox.

Detroit- Their season depends on the health of Guillen and Ordonez. If they play a full year, the offense could be in the top 5. The pitching staff should be improved, but it's still a bit too young. Kenny Rogers might prove to be the worst offseason signing of the year.

Kansas City- The only thing worth mentioning about the Royals is their knack for signing guys with long, strange names. (Grudzielanek, Mientkiewicz, Graffanino, Ambiorix Burgos) It might be worth following Greinke too, though.


Oakland- The pitching staff is the best in baseball. Harden, if healthy, will make a run at Santana and Halladay for the Cy. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Eric Chavez finally put together an MVP-type year. Oakland has the players to finally take that step into the World Series.

Los Angeles- I think this team takes a step back and will no longer be considered a powerhouse in the AL. The offense seems weak to me. They've got to get Vlad some help. Luckily, they've got a great farm system and money to burn. The pitching staff should keep them competitive enough until they add another bat at the midpoint.

Texas- A popular sleeper pick last year didn't live up to expectations. This year they've finally paid attention to pitching. It's a tough park to pitch in, but the additions of Millwood, Eaton, and Padilla should provide a little stability. The offense is actually better without Soriano. I'd have done the Wilkerson deal straight up. The other players thrown in were just bonus. Teixiera is no worse a hitter than A-Rod, Manny, Vlad or Big Papi. Plus, he's got a glove.

Seattle- It's hard to find a truly weak team in this league other than KC and TB. Seattle might be the third worse, but if things fall in their favor they could end up pushing .500. The AL is just too tough this year. Felix Hernadez (F-Her) should be fun to watch.

To wrap it up:

ALDS- Oakland over Minnesota
New York over Cleveland

ALCS- Oakland over New York

AL MVP- Alex Rodriguez (Teixiera, Vlad, Hafner, Chavez, Ortiz)
AL Cy Young- Johan Santana (Halladay, Harden, Buerhle)
AL ROY- Francisco Liriano (Marte, Anderson, Johima, Kotchman)

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Jimmy Rollins 36 Game Hitting Streak...

...is over. It ended on October 2nd, 2005 in Washington. I don't care what sports writers say, or even what the commissioner says; hitting streaks do not overlap from one season to the next. Hopefully, Mr. Rollins and his .273 career batting average goes 0-5 on Opening Day so we can end this madness.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Blogger in the Mainstream

I just read Aaron Gleeman's new post about the Sports Illustrated article about how blogging is changing the way sports are covered. Much to his delight, as well as ours here at Unresticted View, SI put in a piece specifically about Gleeman's Twins site.

I just wanted to personally congratulate him on this remrkable accomplishment. Not only is Aaron a wonderful writer with great insight into the game of baseball, he also provides all of us in the blogosphere with the blueprint and dedication to get noticed in the mainstream media. Whether the media is accepting or not, I think this article shows that bloggers are not only here to stay, but also a necessary compliment to newspapers and sports magazines across the country.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Note to USA Baseball: Wake Up

Well, as Cuba and Japan has just shown the United States (and the World), baseball is a World Wide sport. It also helps when you take it seriously. We are told, here in America, that we care about winning and we have the winning attitude and it's America's Sport so as long as the American team shows up, it's a done deal. Yeah right.

This wasn't supposed to happen. The US was supposed to show everyone how the game is really played, not roll over like the #6 seed (which it was) with the ugliest uniforms on the field (seriously, who designed those things?). Instead, teams (and cultures) that actually DO take things seriously and DO actually WORK HARD got it done on the field and got to the final game. The American team didn't even deserve to serve beer at the final game. Maybe hot dogs, but definitely not the cold ones. Once there, the Japanese team simply played their game well, and held off an impressive run by the Cubans to win the first WBC trophy.

Let's hope that in three years, in Japan (fittingly enough), the US team takes the responsibility like adults representing their nation and actually gives it a 100% effort (all due respect to Derrek Lee). I mean, Chipper Jones, Dontrelle Willis, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez... These are not wimps out there. They should have been ready to play. I know, I know, it's Spring Training for us here in the States, and no one wants to see anyone get hurt. But, after I have had time to look at it, wouldn't it be much more appropriate and refreshing to see people going all out for their country instead of a wad of cash? What's more American, loving your country or loving your paycheck? I think the team answered that for us (for those who didn't know already).

Next time around, I would like to see them get the team together earlier and have some time together before heading to Japan for the 2nd WBC. Get used to each other in the field. Play some games against some college teams, like the Trojans, Cardinal or Longhorns, and get ready to represent your nation with pride. I'm not saying you have to win, for it truly is an international game now (as we just witnessed), but at least give it your best shot. If you think Americans are the type to give it their all and show the world what their made of, then show it. If you think Americans are lazy, rich and pampered, and worry more about their job than their country, then do what you just did. You showed us that just fine.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hell Just Froze Over

I really didn't think I was going to care about the WBC, but I've watched all four games over the last two days. The Cuba/Panama game was as good as you'll find, the Dominicans can simply crush the hell out of a baseball, and the Chinese can't do anything well.

With all that said, I was obviously most interested in watching the US team play. It's tough for me to root for Jeter in any situation, but I try my best when he's at the plate. But to this point, Jeter and the rest of the squad have been nothing less than embarrassing. Sure, I know they won the first one against Mexico, but 2-0 is hardly something to brag about. It's like beating up a girl or video taping yourself having sex with you sister.

Then we take on Canada today. The country who's biggest attribute is being able to compare itself to an outdoor patio over the neighborhood's biggest party. I glanced over the Canadian roster and decided that as long as Jason Bay didn't go 6-6 with 6 homeruns and pitch 5 innings of shutout ball, we shouldn't have much of a problem.

Of course, that was assuming that a bunch of MLB All-Stars could hit a Single A pitcher. It also assumed that last year's Cy Young runner-up could get out the likes of Pete Orr, Stubby Clapp, Aaron Stern, and a few other guys with French sounding names. I know you should never assume anything, but I felt pretty safe on this one. Now I've got to move to Canada. Not because I'm embarrassed, but because I actually made a bet with my roommate that if we lost I'd move to Canada.

Is it true that weed is legal in Vancouver? How's the weather in Montreal this time of year? The Twins play in Toronto a couple times a year. Maybe I'll go there. Thanks a lot US team. You've forced me out of the country. What do you think about that, eh?

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Monday, March 06, 2006

We'll Miss You, Kirby

I wrote yesterday about how Kirby Puckett, and athletes in general, have a way of bringing people together. Seth picked up on it and linked to this site in his post about the death of Kirby. I don't have much to add at the moment, but due to the new traffic coming over I felt I should put some type of update after learning that Kirby had indeed passed away.

I'm quite sure of the fact that I could do Kirby and his fans no more justice than Bat Girl already has.

I do see some irony, or perhaps destiny would be a more appropriate word, in the fact that Kirby's death has seemed to bring us all together even more than his life. I live in Texas, have my whole life, and it may sound silly but part of me feels similar to how I did when my grandfather passed. All of my family was up in North Dakota and Minnesota except for my parents and I. In a way, I again feel seperated from my family - only this time it's my Twins family.

I've read suggestions of trying to set up some type of memorial at the Metrodome. Although I would not be able to attend, for obvious reasons, it would please me a great deal if that could some how be organized.

My thoughts go out to the Puckett family, as well as my Twins family. It's funny how you don't fully grasp the effect an athlete you've never known personally can have on your life until they're gone.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

My First Sports Hero

As I stated about a month ago, I've had difficulties finding things to write about now that neither the NFL or MLB is in season. I presume Graham feels the same way. Although with recent surgery for Kerry Wood, the Cubs televised exhibition game this afternoon, and and his complete obsession with March Madness, I expect his postings to return to normal frequency.

There was one story that I feel is worth mentioning. As a life-long Twins fan, I was extremely disheartened to hear the news of Kirby Puckett's stroke. I believe the earliest childhood memory I have is the '87 World Series between the Twins and the Cardinals. At that time I was not yet 6 years old, but still have vivid images of my sister and I sitting at the foot of my parents bed until the games finshed just before midnight. Back then sports seemed to be the only reasonable excuse for a 6 year old boy to be up past his bedtime on a school night and I suppose that remains true today.

The point is that I can say with complete honesty that Kirby Puckett truly was my first childhood hero. And while he's been out of the spotlight for many years now, I'm still reminded of the joy he brought me as a child everytime I look at the baseball I have autographed by him sitting atop my dresser. To me that's what sports is all about - bringing people together. I recently found a '87 Twins World Series shirt at a thrift shop for $7. I suppose this is where I should remind everyone of the old cliche, "One man's garbage is another man's gold". Back to the point of bringing people together though, I wore the shirt last time I was at my parent's house. My dad and I have very little in common and often struggle to find things to talk about, atleast between October and April that is. But on this particular February day, my father and I had an hour discussion about that series and the Twins in general. That's what sports can do for people. I have more than a handful of friends who likely would not be considered that without the presence of sports. Bonds like these are commonplace among men. They are directly tied to a shared love for a certain baseball team or an equivalent hatred for all things Yankee, Duke, and Notre Dame.

That's why this story matters. It's why Kirby Puckett matters. There are few players with both the physical talent and the charisma it takes to legitamitly become the "face of a franchise". These are the players whose name evokes the image of a certain team and vice-versa. Kirby Puckett is as much a Twin as Brett Favre is a Packer or Mickey Mantle is a Yankee.

Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman offers some insight as to how a stroke in the family can effect loved ones. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Kirby is a part of all Twins fans' family. So illness in the life of Kirby is an illness in the life of all Twins fans - including that of my father and I.

All of my thoughts and prayers go out to the Puckett family.

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