Albert Belle has gotten old on us

My uncle Frank is response for my deep love affair with the game of baseball from the onset of my childhood. He had one favorite Cleveland Indians player, Albert Belle.

I took to rooting for Belle to struggle as we bet monetary amounts that kids bet and and never intend on paying with my horse in the race being my own favorite, Dodgers Darryl Strawberry. It wasn’t smart, and Albert Belle always finished with better numbers from those 1991-1993 years that we held those bets. My uncle never made me pony up.

You don’t realize how long ago that was until you learn that Albert Belle is now 45 years old. One of the most prolific power hitters of my childhood was in camp with the Indians yesterday.

We’re all getting older, I guess.

Here’s a video of the 1995 Cleveland Indians playing a scrimmage with the minor league affiliate in Buffalo. All of the regulars like Belle, and Eddie Murray look thrilled to be playing in the 30 degree April weather. If you didn’t have an appreciation for how long ago the Albert Belle era was, you will after watching this for a few minutes.

Why I can’t trade Mike Stanton for Jay Bruce

Jay Bruce is my favorite player and the Godfather of Diamond Hoggers. Often times when I am in a fantasy league where the participants know me, they try to exploit me for this.

In one of my more prominent fantasy leagues, there’s an owner of a team called Boca Da Beppi. That is the team for which Jay Bruce is owned by.

In that league, the owners are lining up one by one to acquire one of my prized assets, Mike Stanton. It’s for good reason, as we’ve already discussed.

Lately, the owner of Boca Da Beppi has been barking up my tree for you guessed it; Stanton. And he’s dangling Jay Bruce. He knows my weaknesses. He knows how badly I would love to have Bruce under my control in this keeper style format for a few years, giving me more reason to live and die with every Bruce at-bat this summer. But I can’t do it.

I can’t do it because Mike Stanton is a 22-year old OPS’ing monster about to come into his own and become the sole reason that I’m going to go from 9th place to the top three in this competitive league where pride means more than cash prize.

I can’t do it because Mike Stanton is the hottest thing going right now, and I knew it that Saturday afternoon last March that I snagged him just a hair sooner than the next guy. For all the things I did wrong last year, this was the biggest thing I did right.

And irony has a mysterious way of working. FanGraphs recently weighed on the subject of Bruce vs. Stanton, and they did it in terms of fantasy value for us:

Mike Stanton has a ton of power, and if component hitter aging curves are to be believed, the 22-year-old should be able to improve his strikeout rate — and therefore his batting average. With power down across baseball, he’s a stud.


And then you can return to the ages of the respective sluggers. In a keeper league, the two years that Stanton has on Bruce are absolute gold. If they are similar now, and Stanton is two years younger, that means you definitively want the massive Marlin. He’ll give you two more years of production and he’s two years further away from his peak (on the good side). His peak will be much better than Bruce’s peak.

I’m going to ride this out with Stanton. I’ll pair him together in an outfield that will have Jason Heyward and eventually Bryce Harper, and I’ll hope for the best. And no matter how bad I would like to own Bruce, I’ve already accepted the fact he’s owned by an owner that believes more in one-sided than good old fashioned win-win business.

Chipper on Jason Heyward: “He’s 90 Percent Back”

The significance of us sponsoring Jason Heyward’s Baseball Reference page could mean only one thing: we felt that the man was a generational talent ready to blossom in front of our eyes last year.

He wasn’t just rewarded with our admonishment. There was another Opening Day home run. There were SportsCenter comercials. A twitter account created solely to track when he hits a home run. He became Nike’s new ‘Swingman’.

But then the struggles came, and the injuries lingered. Heyward’s sophomore campaign became one continuous desolate ruin.

By reading an article focused on the reconstruction of J-Hey by Paul Newberry, we learn that Chipper Jones seems to think the worst is behind Heyward.

“He’ll get it done. He’ll get it back. He’s 90 percent back,” Jones said.

I hope Chipper’s right. This guy has a chance to be the crown jewel of the entire league if he’s right. There’s some other interesting points in the write-up–like Heyward coming off a bit ‘snarky’ when asked about childhood memories of David Justice and Fred McGriff.

There’s also a bit where new Braves hitting coach Greg Walker mentions this:

“We went back and looked at 2010, when he was really good,” Walker said. “We said to him, ‘OK, this is what you did. You’ve done it before, so that’s you.’ We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We’re not trying to change Jason Heyward. We’re trying to get him to maximize his potential. We showed him. We filmed him and showed him what he looks like now, and how he looked in 2010. He saw the difference. To be honest with you, we haven’t made a lot of changes. We’re just trying to clean him up and get him back to where he was.”

So if you’re keeping score at home, Greg Walker and the Braves do not want to change Jason Heyward. But they want him to hit like he did in 2010.This idea is absurd, because if you saw him at the plate for much of last year, of course the Braves would like to change Jason Heyward. But you must be careful with the treatment and wording of such things around young potential stars.

And my mind shifts back to that rumor we heard way back when–when someone had said that the legendary Bobby Cox had said that Heyward was like a Ferrari: you have to be careful with them, you don’t want to dent them.

Cincinnati Reds 2012 Over/Under: 87 Wins

I was talking with a co-worker this morning about the Reds 2012 win total. I boasted that I saw it easily between the 90-100 range. Yes, I said 100 wins.

We quickly began guessing at over/under totals. He guessed 84, I said 86. Remember with the O/U, Vegas isn’t trying to predict anything. They’re simply trying to create the most action possible.

According to our friends over at Vegas Watch, the Reds are at 87 wins for 2012’s over/under. This is the same mark as the St. Louis Cardinals are entering the season at. While we’re busy comparing, the Phillies come in at 95.5 and the Giants are at 87.5, those are the only teams ahead of Cincinnati and St. Louis.

How did we get thinking about 2012 win totals? Well the Reds signed Sean Marshall to a 3-year extension today. Everything is coming together nicely for this team to start going off in April. And make papa some money would you? I am all over the over right now.


Gary Carter is gone.

In the first baseball video game I ever played–the Original RBI Baseball on the NES–Gary Carter was the clean-up guy for the New York Mets. They were my team of choice. That GCarter guy could really swing it back in those days. I wanted to learn more about him. As I collected all the Darryl Strawberry Mets items I could find, Carter was a good Robin to his Batman for me.

In one of the first baseball books I ever remember reading–a book about the ’86 Amazin’ Mets in my school library–I read all about the heart and soul of the Mets team. It was not Strawberry they spoke of as I wished, but this Carter character.

Ironically it was Strawberry today who said the following about his former teammate:

“I Wish I Could Have Lived My Life Like Gary Carter…He Was A True Man.”

A sad day for baseball. Gary Carter, gone too soon.

The Jay Bruce MLB2K12 Commercial

Cool commercial, and I’m hoping for a decent game out of 2ksports. I can’t stop playing NBA 2k12. I just unlocked the Larry Bird ’84 Celts the other night and I am running the point with Larry Legend. If they got anywhere close to their basketball rendition with the baseball game, then we’re onto something.

This is coming from a guy who understands all about ‘finger mechanics’.

Is it baseball season yet?

In 1990, Pay Phones were our only bridge to the live baseball world

I love stuff like this. Seeing where we’ve come from and how far we’ve come.

Baseball Prospectus reminds us of a nice little project that Pepper Hastings, the senior editor of Beckett Baseball Monthly; set out to complete. Pepper wanted to obtain a working pay phone number for each of the 26 stadiums in Major League Baseball.

This wreaks of the same kind of classic retro workflows without automation like the score-keeping of fantasy baseball leagues (I still know of one guy who does it that way for traditions sake) and All-Star voting being done solely on the paper ballots that were handed out at the ballpark.

I miss early 90’s baseball, and the innocence we all had back then. There are times when I wish we didn’t have the convenience of a few taps of our smartphones to know a guy’s complete stat line for the night, how many fastballs he threw, and every team’s score in the league for the evening.

It reminds me of the days of missing box scores because my parents didn’t get the paper except on the weekends. If my grandma didn’t save the daily sports page, I would have to catch up on what Eric Davis and Barry Larkin did on certain nights in a two week old edition of Baseball Weekly.

Yet, for some reason I want to go back to the payphone era.

The Baseball Show: Hamilton, Memoribilia, Mickey Mantle Racing Limousines and more!

Business is about to pick up in the sport of baseball, and business picked up last night on The Baseball Show, Mike Rosenbaum of The Golden Sombrero and M.J. Lloyd of Off-Base Percentage and Halo Hangout discussed the following with me:

-The latest chapter in the Josh Hamilton relapse saga
-M.J. tells a Mickey Mantle story about racing a limousine
-We talk memorabilia, baseball cards, collectibles (who remembers Fleer Ultra?)
-PECOTA Projections, top 5 in each league, Gordon Beckham, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, etc.
-Top Prospects List

As we always do, we cover a variety of subjects in between the main melody line. Another great installment of The Baseball Show awaits you.

Questions Surround Yankees, Red Sox Heading Into Spring Training

Since the turn of the century, baseball fans have pretty much assumed that the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox would be serious World Series contenders. In many cases, both contended and made their way into the playoffs. With the two marquee American League East teams looking at some roster turnover heading into 2013, this might be their most collective down season in some time.

The biggest issue for the Yankees continues to be age. They are still reliant on Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who have all been with the Yankees since the beginning of this reign. While still productive players, Jeter and Rivera will be coming back in spring training from a serious injury, while Pettitte only threw 75 innings total a year ago.

Then, of course, there is the Alex Rodriguez fiasco. That will continue to grab headlines during spring training, when reporters have little else to talk about. He is not prepared to play anytime soon, but as their highest paid player, he will always be in the news as this new PED scandal continues.

There were no huge signings, nor were there any star players who left the Yankees, but Nick Swisher will have to be replaced. Ichiro continues the “old” theme for the Yankees as they, and those who own him in their fantasy baseball leagues, are hoping he can play every day in the outfield at his advanced age.

While the Yankees have a problem with too much old talent, the Red Sox just have a talent problem in general. After last year’s mid-season fire sale, Boston looks to be ready to go through a rebuilding phase. They shed a ton of money to focus on building within thanks to a solid farm system. Most of those younger guys won’t be available at the big league level this season, so what should the Red Sox be looking for at Spring Training?

It all starts with their pitching, and right now it looks to be a bit shaky. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz figure to headline the staff, but after that, they are hoping to find other reliant guys to take the ball every fifth day. Ryan Dempster and John Lackey are veterans looking to prove they still have it, while Felix Doubront and Rubby de la Rosa showed signs of a solid future at times a season ago.

After shedding all that money, the Red Sox went out and picked up what appears to be some stop gap players to fill the holes until the minor league stars are ready. Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ross are all relatively well-known around the league, but few see any of those as more than replacement level players. It will be interesting to see how these guys do in Spring Training with a lot of pressure on them to perform.

With Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox still have a core that will prevent them from being downright dreadful. However, there is not a lot of optimism in Beantown this season. It could be a long summer in the Northeast for both of these AL East powers.

If Josh Hamilton is Like the Rest of us, I Forgive Him

There are some salacious rumors going around right now about Josh Hamilton.

I really, really hope that they’re not true. But if they are–I forgive the guy.

For Christmas I came across Hamilton’s book Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back at the book store and decided it would make a great Christmas gift for my wife. Hamilton is her only athlete crush and I think the book probably has some really good life lessons about overcoming adversity that she could apply to her own life. Besides, when she’s finished with it I could definitely use the lessons that Hamilton has learned to apply to my own; I thought.

Before we even crack the book open and start turning pages, the Hamilton relapse story broke. It wasn’t the first time that Hamilton had slipped up. Any addict knows there is a better than even chance that it won’t be the last time. It’s unfortunate, and I hope it goes away quietly and the guy is only involved in subjects pertaining to his play soon enough.

But if Hamilton really was guilty of the things that are being rumored–and I’m not making any excuses for him–I sympathize and feel sorry for him in the same way that I do a figure like Darryl Strawberry.

In so many ways we are nothing like super-human athlete Josh Hamilton. He can hit a ball like only a few people that have walked this earth could. He can abuse his body and still be in absolutely freakish shape. He hits home runs in the World Series that should clinch championships. But in one way, we’re all like Josh Hamilton. We try, and we try again; and yet we fail because we are weak, because we are imperfect, and because we are human.

Try as we may to push the heavy rock up the hill–we will most certainly fall many times before reaching the top. Many of us sit there at the bottom of the hill and we look at the rock, wondering how we had came so close to reaching the top but we lacked the strength to gain the proper footing to get the rock all the way up to the top. We sit there for a while, and we might even sit in misery; disgusted with ourselves that we have failed. But I know what I will do–and I think I know what Hamilton will do. That rock will be picked up again and when the time is right he’ll head back up the hill in search for the top, hoping one day he can find the perfect route to get there, carrying the full weight on him.

I still admire the guy because in one small way I see my own struggles within his. Anyone who doesn’t is either a better person than I am because they’ve never fallen back into habits they wished to escape or never had them to begin with. I’m simply not that fortunate. And there’s no rhyme or apparent reason as to why we are not successful no matter how much we desire to be.

I’ve always been a big fan of Josh Hamilton the ballplayer. Right now I’m really pulling for Josh Hamilton the person.