The Right Fielder of the Decade. Rob Neyer lays out who will be the top right fielder of the next decade, and we like his rankings pretty well. He makes a few mistakes by saying that Jay Bruce has avoided injury so far, and says that Heyward’s season last year was more impressive than any season Bruce or Justin Upton have ever put together; but altogether it’s a really solid read and makes you realize who the stars of tomorrow really are. [SB Nation]

Dusty Baker cannot help himself with the lineup

Over the weekend you might have missed the post where the Reds are toying with the idea of hitting Jay Bruce lead-off.

You should not be surprised by this. Dusty Baker has been known for handling young players poorly for a long time, and building particularly funny lineups when the obvious answer is hitting him smack dab in the face.

On Bruce leading off: “What’s more important? On-base percentage or 1-0 to start the game?”

“The way Stubbie starts has a lot to it,” Baker said.

Baker also mentioned Bruce as one of the possibilities in clean-up when Scott Rolen is not in the lineup. Baker prefers not to have left-handers back-to-back in the lineup.

“I’d rather not have two lefties in a row,” Baker said. “Unless you have lefties like (Ryan) Howard and (Chase) Utley who don’t have as much trouble hitting lefties. If you’re learning to hit lefties, they can bring in one lefty to take care of two guys. I’d rather split them up. Eventually they might. Jay is getting better at hitting lefties.”

Because Lord knows, you just can’t build your lineup when there is the possibility of a match-up looming later in the game that might occur once or maybe twice. Where did this ignorant thinking come from?

Baker uses the shining examples of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley as who ‘don’t have as much trouble hitting lefties’ (as Jay Bruce and Joey Votto back to back). But a look at the numbers shows that DUHsty is once again incorrect.

Bruce hit .277 with 12 HR against southpaws last season. That is better than Howard who hit only .264 with 12 HR, and Utley was a hair better with less power, .294 with 10 HR.

So go ahead Dusty. Hit Jay Bruce lead off some nights. Why is it so damn hard to hit the kid 4th all year and see what happens? I swear, sometimes fans could manage a big league club better than these so called paid experts. This is ridiculous.

Let’s be honest, Dusty will hit him 6th or 7th, protect him again with the Dream Team of Ryan Hanigan, Ramon Hernandez and Paul Janish and wonder why he gets off to a slow start. At least hitting lead-off he would have the benefit of a capable hitter or two hitting behind him. Moron. Protect your young hitter, you goon.

2011 Team Previews Start This Week

Every day starting sometime this week, we’ll be previewing a new MLB team. We’ll do all 30 teams until not one is left standing. If you think you know a team really well, you can help us out by actually writing a team preview for us. Just shoot us an email at diamondhoggers_at_gmail_dot_com and we’ll see how you do.

This is good because you don’t realize how little you actually know about some of the other organizations until you actually have to write something of substance about them. So it forces us to actually familiarize ourselves with some teams we otherwise wouldn’t be too interested in. I can tell you this: it will be the only time in 2011 that I’ll be doing research on the Florida Marlins.

For Traditions Sake: A Spring training tale from the past

Spring Training is in full session. This post has already ran on Diamond Hoggers, but we wanted to run it again for the sake of the best time of year kicking off. And since we can’t be down in Florida this time of year to enjoy any type of Spring Training, the sunny weather, the intoxicating rum runners–we’ll tell a special story that allows us to gain a gleam in our eye if only for a few moments. In the spirit of Spring Training returning here’s a story from many Spring Training’s ago:

There was just a certain amount of happiness that existed when Spring training rolled around as a ballplayer. And that brings me to a little story for you.

Back in college, we had our Spring Training down in Fort Myers, Florida. Beautiful area. This guy I played with, he liked to drink like most of the guys on the team. The night before our mid-week scheduled off day was always a time for debauchery. Most of the nights were, but all the boys went out that night. When we were in Fort Myers, we went to a place called the Lani Kai Hotel for what turned into one of the biggest fuckin’ parties you had ever seen on a nightly basis.

On this particular night, the boys are all drinking a special Lani Kai traditional drink called a rum-runner. They were these orange-pink colored slushie’s, and for an extra $3 the bartender was nice enough to fill the straw with an extra shot of fuck-sauce. We were all doomed.

So, one of our boys apparently gets thrown out. I don’t even remember why. Things were hazy. Oh, that’s right. This guy was so shitfaced, he walked out the back entrance of the Lani Kai dance club (and there were asses everywhere) and decides he’s going to go bare-assed and piss on the beach which is the Lani Kai’s back yard. Just as he’s finishing up, with teammates from the balcony above cheering him on; a nice officer comes and tells him that he’s going to be kicked out of the club for pissing on the beach.

They snap a Polaroid of the guy, and he’s outta there for the night. Or so they’d thought. I knew this guy well, and you had to do more then that to exterminate this termite. He was quite the bug.

He calls a bunch of his teammates, because they’re his ride back to civilization (the team hotel) which is a half hour away. All of them are inside the club and deciding not to answer his calls. After a few futile attempts and being sent straight to voice mail, he knows he’s got to think of something.

Now when we went to the Lani Kai, we were all dressed in our best. This guy was wearing a brand new Polo. A nice shirt. He has an idea in his inebriated mind that just might work.

He spots a kid passing by wearing a Tony Hawk t-shirt, and he starts talking to him. He barters with the kid and gives him $30 in cash and the polo shirt in exchange for a Tony Hawk shirt that fit the hulking young man like a muscle shirt. It was several sizes too small. He slides it on right there on the street and begins to head back towards the Lani Kai.

He gets back in the club and finds all the boys sitting there drinking, having a good time. They think they’ve seen the second coming to see him back in the club. Things are hazy, but I remember him being asked how in the hell he pulled off getting back in and why in the fuck he was wearing a Tony Hawk t-shirt. You see, the Lani Kai is real strict and they don’t tolerate any monkey-business whatsoever. He was really testing the waters. They eat spring breaker pieces of shit like this guy for breakfast.

He tells them the story and continues buying rum runners. Then that same cop who was stationed on the beachfront spots the young man again, and he’s escorted out again just slightly drunker then he was the time before. This time he knows he’s screwed because they warn him if he attempts to get back in again, they’re calling the cops. Polaroid flash #2 goes off and with that, he’s out on the streets again without food, water, and toilet. And he’s drunk as shit.

The biggest issue here is at some point he’s got to make it back to the team hotel so his family can pick him up bright and early the next day. And no one is headed back there this evening. All the boys were staying at the hotel with some of the girlfriends who had rooms there. He had to think of something. And wouldn’t you know that this idea man of sorts struck again.

Legend has it he was waiting at the corner to cross a street and go into a Waffle House to collect his bearings. He’d just gotten off the phone with his mother and told her the story. He was so hammered he could not tell her where he was. She was worried, and asked him to call her back once he figured that out. Before he could reach the Waffle House, some girls rolled up to a stop light by the crosswalk he was waiting at. Like the little angels they were they asked “hey what are you doing?”

“I’m a baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, and my teammates are in there partying. I need to get back to my hotel and I don’t have a ride” he tells them.

The girls were more then cordial. They tell the kid to hop in and that they’ll give him a ride. One of them was even a Red Sox fan.

They were on a double date. The two gentleman they were with had to move to the back luggage-carrying part of the SUV so that the drunken ‘Red Sox’ ballplayer could sprawl out in the back seat while he was swifted back to the team home base.

The girls start asking questions immediately.

“So what’s Curt Schilling like?”

“I can’t believe you’re a Red Sox player, that is sooo cool. Take me to Fenway!”

“Can I have your autograph or can you get me Johnny Damon’s autograph?”

He clarified that; he wasn’t actually a player, yet. But rather a minor league hopeful who was trying to make the team. And if they got him back to his hotel he promised that he’d have tickets for all of them to tomorrow’s game. You see, the Red Sox back in 2004 were also stationed in Fort Myers for Spring Training. He was a thinking man on his feet, even when he was on his ass. The girls knew that; being the Red Sox fans that they were by chance. There’s Red Sox fans everywhere folks. Thank God for that.

The two gentleman in the back–and if you’re reading this fellas: I know the dude is sorry for ruining your date with these sweet ladies–were just beside themselves telling the girls that the young man was not a Red Sox player but a drunken bullshitting liar. They were right, but the girls told them to shut up and apologized to the ballplayer for their rudeness.

The issue remained that he had no clue how to get back to his hotel and at this point he was passing out in the back seat and when they asked how to get him to the hotel, he handed them his cell phone and said to call his mom; that she’d know where he was staying.

Apparently, mom not only didn’t blow the cover of the Red Sox player but told them how to get him back to Fort Myers in one piece. They carried him up to his room and got him into bed safely. And when he awoke in the morning, those two sweet girls had put their numbers into his phone, and then texted him just so he didn’t forget the tickets.

He went on with family day and had the hangover of a lifetime and a Tony Hawk shirt to show for his troubles.

I don’t know what I did with that Tony Hawk shirt. I don’t know what happened to those girls and their numbers. I’m sorry I never delivered with the tickets. I got a lot of numbers back then, I really did. Enough that I think I deleted them out of sheer shame of being such a dumb ass. But if I still had those girls numbers, I’d call them up today and thank them again for throwing me a life jacket when I was swimming in the rum-runner seas of Spring Training life.

Don’t ever doubt it, baseball players; especially Major Leaguers get treated like kings. Especially during Spring Training in Florida. When they’re at their worst (this is according to David Wells).

As my grandpa would have put it: that was my 3rd trip to the Lani Kai. My first, my last, and my only.

Heyward’s Healthy; and There Will Be Hell to Pay

The AJC’s Dave O’ Brien does a really good job of reporting. He’s a damn good beat writer. That’s what makes following a team who isn’t *your* team fun sometimes. That, and if they are building around a guy like Jason Heyward.

Today, O’ Brien is writing about Jason Heyward from Lake Buena Vista, Florida. He took his first highly anticipated hacks of Spring Training today. And he was straight crushing.

We stood at the cage and watched, and the difference was obvious. He looked again like the guy who announced his arrival on the big-league scene by hitting tape-measure long balls last spring, some of which smashed windshields and sideview mirrors on team executives’ cars parked in a lot beyond right field.

O’ Brien has been selling a huge sophomore season for Heyward for weeks now. I’m buying it obviously. Luckily, I inherited in as a keeper in one of my serious money fantasy leagues. All in exchange for giving up my 12th round pick (coinciding for where he was taken last year). That’s a steal, considering I wouldn’t think twice about taking him higher. Like, 3rd round ‘higher’.

Heyward’s being coy right now. He’s not exactly saying that he feels the best he’s ever felt. He’s being careful. Heady. I’m like O’ Brien. I have a gut feeling that Heyward is just hiding wisely in the weeds to try and catch some guys sleeping in the early going of this season. Maybe guys reading these clippings about thumb concerns feed him a few more fastballs because of it. And I think he’s going to respond in a big way by knocking balls over the wall. He’s going to be ready for them.

Think I’m buying into the hype a bit too much? Then please take Peter Hjort’s word for it. Peter is the head editor for my favorite Braves blog on the net, Capitol Avenue Club. He was a guest on The Baseball Show a year ago, and he knows his Braves for a living. Not a guy known for making statements on an impulse. He had this to say about Heyward recently:

2. Does Jason Heyward have a shot at winning the NL MVP award in 2011?

Sure, if he stays healthy. He was hitting like an MVP-candidate before he injured his thumb last year. If he can put that injury behind him and manage to play 140+ games at full strength, there’s no telling what Heyward will do. Heyward staying healthy for an entire professional season would be unprecedented, so we must temper our expectations in that regard, but, regarding ability, the hype is real.

Peter and I see right in line. Heyward was phenomenal in his first 46 games last season before hurting his thumb. He hit .301 with 10 homers, 38 RBIs, and a .421 OBP and .596 slugging percentage during his 46 games, for a 1.015 OPS that briefly led the league. Then dinged up from July 19 to the end of the season, Heyward hit .306 with 16 doubles, seven homers and 27 RBIs in 67 games, with a .423 OBP and .468 slugging percentage (.891 OPS).

It wasn’t just the numbers. It’s what we saw with our eyes. This guy is the most mature young hitter we’ve seen since Ken Griffey Jr. back in the early 90′s. It’s about the eyeball test  sometimes. And we couldn’t get enough Heyward last spring. Then the injury happened. It’s a shame because he would have finished higher in the MVP voting.

We don’t think we have to sell you on the fact that Heyward is a good to even great player. But we’re trying to sell you on Heyward being an MVP type player and one of the top five offensive players in baseball in 2011 at age 21. Yes, it’s possible. And yes he really is that good and that advanced already.

He’ll probably come out on Opening Day and go 0 for 4 quietly. His first week might even go quiet. But he’s going to go completely off not long after that. And he’s not going to stop all season long. He’ll force Fredi Gonzalez to hit him higher than 6th just like he forced Bobby Cox’s hand last season even with the dinged thumb. We’re calling it right now–Heyward is one of the biggest picks to click in 2011.

We’re Addicted to Fake Bleacher Report

Every once in a while you find an idea on the internet that is so perfect, and so beautiful; you simply cannot express your happiness that it exists. If you own a blog, you write a post on it. This is one of those rare and special moments.

I admit. I’m completely hooked and addicted to Very Fake Bleacher Report. I’m an animal. Ever since Mike Rosenbaum of the Sombrero told me about it after a recent podcast, I Google “Fake BR” every single day and I feverishly look at their new tweets.

Today, I’ve stumbled upon something even better. Fake Bleacher Report has a blog. And the most recent post made me spit out my water that I was drinking while sitting at my desk at work.

SLIDSHOW: 5 Most Important Thigns to Remember as A Baseball Player

It’s so right. So perfectly and eloquently displayed, and so accurate.

For years, I was a guy who didn’t know that any article you find on Bleacher Report is pure horse shit. To this day, I frequent many sports message boards to find up to date news or scoops. Too often, real news is shrouded with a Bleacher Report article talking about “A-Rod being traded for Albert Pujols, TOMORROW”. People who haven’t been clued in that anything written by Bleacher Report is complete crap that was made up by Madden playing adolescents buy into it and discuss it feverishly.

Last summer, I got sucked in for the last time. I found an article where the guy swore up and down that ‘his source’ told him Carlos Marmol was going to the Reds for Chris Heisey. After ‘tomorrow’ came and went without anything the lying sack of shit said coming to fruition I made a promise to myself. I’m not reading their poorly written, construed bullshit one more time.

I don’t care what promises they make. I don’t care if the headline reads that ‘DWAYNE ROCK JOHNSON TO FIGHT JOE TORRE AT WRESTLEMANIA’. I don’t buy it. I won’t buy it. I have been burnt like a child of a father who never makes good on his weekend visits. I’m DONE with real bleacher report.

However, fake bleacher report really is everything I need to turn around an awful and stressful mid-week day. If the numerous ‘SLIDSHOWS’ don’t make you laugh (tell me that isn’t right on, everything on bleacher is about SLIDESHOWS!) then the sheer spelling errors and grammatical follies will get you to grin.

Just read the post I linked. Visit their twitter. Give it a good honest shot. If it’s not your thing, you don’t have a soul. I personally think fake bleacher report could grow to be as big as Aerosmith. They’re that on point. And lets be honest; it’s not like they can screw this up. Just read real bleacher report if you must for a few minutes. They’re breeding new material for fake bleacher report to capitalize on every day.

Life needs more things in it like fake bleacher report. The world would be a much better place.

UPDATE: Chicago Now has beaten me to the punch in discovering my little gems. But I’m telling you they’re going to be huge stars. None of this would be possible without writers like Illya Harrell promising Cubs fans to ‘get use to the site of Chris Heisey in centerfield’ and ‘Reds fans, get ready for Carlos Marmol in your bullpen’.

I know who won’t be my 3rd overall pick in Fantasy Baseball

Miguel Cabrera, when will you ever find what it is you’re looking for? Getting a DUI when he was seemingly on the brink of Pujolsian type numbers (and upper echelon fantasy status).

A deputy reported Cabrera was put in handcuffs after not following orders. Cabrera also “kept running out in the road with his hands up.”

A deputy asked Cabrera to get his a patrol vehicle, and he said, “(Expletive) you.”

Miguel Cabrera pushed off a vehicle into a deputy, who “delivered 3-4 knee spikes” into Cabrera’s left thigh.

So what’s this story got me thinking about?

A) What was Miggy drinking? I’m going with tequila. It’s demon fuel for a lot of men.
B) I’ve got the 3rd pick in my fantasy draft. Guy who drafts second says he’s taking Cabrera, allowing Tulo or Hanley to fall to me at 3. I was for sure taking Cabrera at 3 if he fell to me. I’m probably going to need to re-think this now that he probably is going to some type of Betty Ford center to dry out.
C) Cabrera obviously is going to be called an alcoholic in the days to follow. He probably is one. It’s no laughing matter. I hope he gets the help he needs to still carve out a big time career in this game because I enjoy watching him rake and I think the bottle is the only thing that can ruin a swing that pretty.

Update: He was drinking scotch. Apparently right in front of a deputy officer. If you’re going to go with something though, I’m with Cabrera in drinking scotch. It is a gentleman’s drink, you know. He probably had some Johnny Walker blue label. Maybe aged Chivas Regal.

Pitchers and Catcher Report Rantorium

Has your favorite player reported to his respective big league camp yet? Don’t really know do you?

To us, for the first time in ages; it seemed like the whole cutting of the ribbon and allowing pitchers and catchers and other players to officially report to camp all bled together. We’re not really all that sure when it happened, and to be honest we fully expect to get some comments or an e-mail that it was this past Sunday or Monday. But no. We will not back down from it–this year it was more loosely interpreted than ever before.

So we really didn’t get together to do a celebratory post or anything of pitchers and catchers reporting. So here it is. The Grapefruit and Cactus league are the greatest fucking thing ever known to man. Honestly, my weekend was so lame last weekend I cannot even believe it.

It was so lame, that the highlight (and when I say ‘highlight’ I mean only in terms of excitement or climactic moments) of the weekend was walking outside of dinner on Saturday night at a mall and having a kid get shot up the street. Don’t judge, don’t think I’m a horrible person. It was a horrifying incident that ruined our night. But other than that, the weekend amounted to a whole lot of laying around, watching some NHL Hockey, and pretending to care about NCAA basketball.

Oh and some grocery shopping. Can’t ever forget that exciting event. And I was thisclose to being made to go to the Justin Bieber movie. And if that kid hadn’t of got shot on Saturday night thus delaying our departure from the mall, I would be telling you about what I thought of the Bieber movie.

The weekend was so boring I actually didn’t even give a shit about returning to work. Usually I try and hold onto the last few hours of Sunday like it’s my will to live. But this past Sunday it was like, ‘alright, whatever’. This week is more of the same. What am I looking forward to the week ending for? It’s not like there is anything to do this weekend other than definitely have to see the Bieber movie and exciting chores like laundry, cleaning the house, and moving the entertainment center in my bedroom that the lady has been begging me to do since last baseball season ended.

Hooray weekend!

I’ve got to hang on just a few more weeks and fantasy baseball will be here. March Madness will be here. And March Madness is a perfect bridge to the wonderful life that is baseball season. Life will be equally parts slow down and speed up again. And once I’m reminded what a terrible drag each and every February is; I’m cool with that.

Albert Pujols and the Cardinals shut down talks

Remember this day. This is the day that the St. Louis Cardinals and the greatest player of the modern era shut down talks and began to call it quits.

Speculation ranging from the comical to the wishful to the simply informative (haspujolssignedyet.com) have already begun.

Without use of sources or anything like that–we would like to think that we have a pretty good ‘feel’ for this game and that when the dust settles on this, Pujols will still be wearing Cardinal red. Because let’s be serious–the Cubs aren’t going to give him $300 million. The new Steinbrenner won’t be giving him $300 million.

Even though Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan disagrees, it’s best for Pujols to remain in St. Louis for more reasons than just the dough. And irony rares it’s head mysteriously in sports more than you would think. Don’t think that Pujols hasn’t been made aware that Stan Musial just got a medal for being a prince of a human being. Do you think he would have gotten that medal if he played for three teams?

We’re in the same camp as Rob Neyer on this. It’s not the end of the world–yet.

UPDATE: Since when is a hair less than 10 years a low-ball offer?

Throwing it around

The best of baseball links on the web that we could find–aka, “all the hits that you love without any of the garbage that you don’t”. By the way, another note on this shitty stack of days that are formed together that we call February: it’s awful. You tell me what is the point of looking forward to a weekend? Weekends have momentarily become the most pointless and depressing sacks of shit that could be created. For instance, I might go see the Justin Bieber movie this weekend. Legitimately. Awful.

-Would you bet $100 on 30/1 odds that Jay Bruce is the 2011 Home Run champion? [Business Insider]
-The Atlanta Braves have started Heyward-proofing their Spring Training complex parking lot. [Larry Brown Sports]
-Same channel, previewing the 2011 Cincinnati Reds. [Larry Brown Sports]
-Which teams have a shot at Albert Pujols? [FOX Sports]
-Cameron Maybin is not a fan of Panda Express. [Gaslamp Ball]
-A video of the 1986 Mets? Yeah, we’re linking to it. [Off Base Percentage]

In another life, hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to be locked in Camden Yards

I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been to Deadspin since they transitioned over to a slop blog format. But this time they’ve landed a story that is good enough for our time and your clicks.

This read involves every baseball fan’s dream scenario. Locked in Camden Yards for the evening with nothing to do but play. And as you would imagine these men were reduced back to adolescent stage, climbing the foul pole like it’s a damn jungle-gym and running wild of the place like an immaculate playground.

All day Saturday had been overcast with scattered rain showers. In addition, the weathermen were forecasting constant rain showers that evening during the game which was supposed to start at 7pm. Being the diehard fans that we are, we decided, what the hell. Let’s go to the game anyways and see what happens. We went to the stadium, purchased out tickets and found shelter in the left outfield lower level seats under the overhang. The game was delayed for a few hours, but we were content hanging out and drinking a few of the airplane bottles of rum we had snuck in. After about 45 minutes, the announcer came over the loudspeaker saying that the game had been postponed and would be made up at a later date.

At this point, most people had already left the stadium, but my buddy and I, realizing we still and a decent amount of liquor left, decided to chill in our seats until an usher came by and made us leave. After about 30 minutes, we realized that we were the only fans left in the stadium. After about an hour, we realized that we were the only people left in the ballpark. Immediately we realized that the ballpark was our playground. With a decent amount of liquid courage running though our bloodstreams we decided to leave our comfortable seats under the outfield canopy and go exploring. Feeling that we would immediately be caught as soon as we appeared near the outfield wall we were pretty cautious, but once we walked the entire left outfield, we felt pretty confident that we could get away with making a quick shimmy up the foul pole in left field….

Honestly, we’ve all had the thought to hide somewhere deep in the bowels of the upper outfield seats and have this happen to us as well. Haven’t we? Tell me that you too have fantasized about what these men lived out at Camden. We know we have.