Edition No. 9
April 20, 2004
I am still basking in the afterglow of The Draft, for three reasons. First, it is, without question, the best day of the year. Second, I like my team---why shouldn't I, I took mostly the same guys as last year. And third, they are off to a great start, altho the sense of de ja vu is palpable: last year, my first week to pen FTB, the second week of the season, saw the 'Hoos go on a rampage, only to collapse over the next several weeks. Hopefully, the 'Hoos' early strength will last longer than Runzas do at the league draft
I also hope that I can leverage this effort into some $$$$ for the kids' college educations. It is all about distribution in writing. Sure, some talent is required, but you have to get your material out into the mainstream of readers. And, if you have had the occasion to share any written materials with the good folks at Gaines, er Pansing, Hogan, et al recently, you can rest assured that at least 70% of those people with internet access have had a look at your documents/business plan/contract/will/pre-nup/contract on your wife/enemy/annoying neighbor, given that that law firm has spread more computer viruses and contaminated documents than Typhoid Mary and the Canadian AIDS flight attendant guy combined. I am guessing this version of the FTB will be in the hands of the top 5 or 6 publishing houses on Madison Avenue by early tomorrow morning. Word has it that Bob has already signed a lucrative book/movie/talk show deal with Random House/Fox, with thanks to the PHEBLAW IT department, that assures all that there are no viruses . . . tell that to my "Inbox," which probably processed 40% of all the legal filings made in Douglas County in April . . .
That said, let's get to a quick run through of the draft and my (fact-based) opinion on everyone's teams, along with random asides as needed or appropriate.
REDS---how can you not love a team with A-Rod AND Nomar? Heck, I helped Mitch get thru the draft, so if he wins, I should get partial credit, but if he doesn't, that was because the ones he picked without my able assistance were his call, and his call alone. Just kidding. Heck of a team. Zito pitched way better than his record last year, and should win a lot of games this year. Marcus Giles, if he can avoid getting tossed too often, has a lot of pop at second base. Piazza was a nice come-back pick in round 5. Rounds 15-19 are terrific for that point in the draft: Gibbons is solid, young, improving, and will benefit from the added bats around him. Phelps is a stud coming off a slightly disappointing year, again surrounded by a lot of good hitters. Pavano is a nice pitcher in a pitcher's park; Jacque Jones (look for an appearance on Bravo on Sunday nights) doesn't walk, but has pop; and Paul LoDuca in round 19? Larceny. I am a little wary of Chavez (his #'s against LH's are not good) but Jermaine Dye is off to a good start and might provide some protection. If Chavez does well, Nomar comes back by June 1, and Matsui/Edgar/Williams do their thing, Mitch will have a lot of hitting points, and as we all know... IT IS ... ALL ABOUT HITTING. Pavano and/or Padilla need to win 15 for Mitch to win it; if BOTH do, Mitch could have 65 wins between his top 4 starters; over-under on top 4 starters' wins---61.5. I expect a top division finish.
SKIPJACKS---Great team, probably my favorite out of the draft (along with Bone Daddy's, and mine, and mine only because I picked 'em, so I must think they should do ok). Maybe I like them because they have several key members of the 'Hoos' last Championship Team (2000) (boy, that was fun to type!! Let's try that again: "WAHOOS CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM--2000!!!"), including Helton, Kent, Glaus and Percival. Wood was a great second round pick---for 3 years, he pitched better than his record. I think he is a great bet to fan 250-300 and win 20---in the same season. The 'Jacks' first 11 are great, but I doubt the actuaries would let any HMO touch a team with Griffey, Drew, Floyd, and Dreifort with a 20 foot pole, altho that said, if anyone can put that group on their team and get 140+ games from each of the first 3, it is Johnny. Griffey and Burrell are great come-back, big upside picks, and Aaron Guiel could turn into a poor-man's Rusty Greer---nice lefty line drive hitter. I think the ’Jacks will have an upper division finish, especially if the top 4 starters (Wood, Colon, Clemens and CC Sabathia) stay healthy and turn in typical seasons. Over-under on wins for that group: 63. Fun young player upside with Greene, Matos, Guiel and Olivo, altho I would not be banking on Beltre's hot start last much longer than a double dose of Cialis ...
SENATORS---I will stipulate that the injury gods have been rough on the Senators early on, with Mr. Anti-Freeze Wilson, Chipper Jones, and Shawon Green all bagging injury time out of the gate. That said, Wilson was a pretty large injury gamble for a 5th round pick--the guy's spring training ailments looked like an ER episode condensed into 5 minutes (the only thing that wasn't wrong with him was a GSWH). Micheal Young added 600 points to the 'Hoos' cause in 2003, but he doesn't walk, and while he is off to a good start, his error total will be a lot higher at SS. Halladay is a horse, but I'd rate Ortiz, Buehrle and (your choice) Glavine/Ohka (ditched last week?)/Sheets are B pitchers at best. Top 4 starters over-under for wins---59. Graves in round 28 should provide cheap saves. Other Matsui is a wild-card, with possibly great upside, and worst case he is a middle of the pack SS with 400-425 points. I think Victor Martinez will be a good player, but I am not sure he will be worth a 13th round pick this year. I think the Sens will finish in the top division, but "par" for the course would be a 3rd place finish (you pick third, you should finish at least 3rd to make "par"). The 'Hoos’ front office awaits response from Senators' management regarding the wagers proffered on the message board after E's Draft Issue FTB (message #38 at 10:15 a.m. on 4/6/04). Or do you not read the FTB, either?
CUBS---The league's best eater drafted with his typically voracious appetite for quality, established, older players; the Cubs have only FOUR players in their top 21 picks under the age of 30---Hudson 28, Vidro 29, Hidalgo 28, and Doug "I'd like to buy a vowel" Mientkiewicz 29. Old teams, especially older hitters, tend to break down more often and are less likely to have breakout seasons (Dwight Evans, Brett Boone, and steroid-users aside); see also the 2004 edition of the Seattle Mariners. The Cubs seemed a consensus pick to win it all in 2004 in the post draft euphoria (or, in some people's case, alcohol and fast-food induced myopia), but I am not convinced yet. This team is solid, proven, and should have good pitching (er, BETTER have good pitching), but Pedro and Mussina are not off to good starts. Pedro, I-Rod, Smoltz, Sweeney, Gonzalez, and Everett will never be confused with Ripken, Boone, and others who seem to get 155 games and 650 plate appearances year in, year out. Injuries are always the X-factor in the HSL; if the current edition of the Cubs can stay healthy, they will challenge for first, but that is like saying if Johnny doesn't make it to the boats, his chance of losing money is pretty low. That said, the top 4 pitchers over-under for wins is a whopping 68.5, altho the Expos will need to score at least one run per start for Livan to have a chance at any W's, and thus far, that has been problematic for the bastard step-child franchise that sullies Bud Selig's kingdom. Look for the Cubs to try to trade an arm for a 30-40 HR bat. I think they'll finish in the top 6, but not in the top 3.
CHIEFS---Like a 1980's LBO/Merger gone bad, the Chiefs are a study in contrasting styles. What the heck should their corporate logo be, anyway? A guy eating Runza dressed in softball uniform taking a survey on whether U.S foreign policy is working? What IS more important, guns or butter? The team reflects the mixed subliminal messages their management beams out like a malevolent corporate lighthouse: the 2 best hitters this side of the Dominican, Vladimir (huh? why not Pedro? or Xhin Tsao? or Mike, for gosh sakes) Guerrero and Alfredo Soriano can flat out mash. Furcal can play, and Ordonez is way solid. Aramis (who NAMES these guys? Estee Lauder? The Kremlin? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!?!?) Ramirez is off to a great start, but it is unlikely he, Vlad, and Soriano will COMBINE for 100 walks. If Schmidt is healthy, he will be solid; Millwood and Morris are solid and living in alternative universes--the Phils can't score, and all the Cards do is score, but I think Philly's O will come around and give Millwood good support, so he can garner 16 wins to go with his nothing to write home about 4.25 ERA. Can you imagine Kevin Millar and Juan Pierre on a long bus trip together? Mr. Cowboy Up meets the "can a brother buy a Bud light, mon?" guy. Speed to burn, lots of SB's between Soriano, Crawford and Pierre. Over-under on top pitcher wins---60. A team chocked full of enigmatic talent desperately in need of a cogent corporate message that John Q. Public can understand, much less embrace. They could finish 3rd, or 7th. I just hope they don't finish ahead of the...
WAHOOS---Consistency being the hobgoblin of simple minds, I figured what the heck, I'll just take the same guys this year, and hope for a little mean reversion, which as we all know, is only slightly less reliable than gravity in the real world. The problem is timing. If my guys mean-revert THIS year, the 'Hoos will contend. Dunn, Contreras, Texeira, Spivey, Burrough, and Dye all had either horrible or disappointing years in 2003, and/or are relatively young players with upside. Schilling missed a zillion starts last year due to broken appendices, bursting fingers, and an untimely IRS audit. He is a gamer, the personification of "Cowboy Up" and "No Excuses, just Results." And no, he did not learn that approach from his new pal, Manny Ramirez. If Berkman can improve a smidge from last year toward his 2000-2002 form, and if Posada and Thome maintain in the area of their average performances, the 'Hoos have a core of good players supplemented by some talented guys with upside. JAMIE MOYER WILL LOSE 15 GAMES THIS YEAR. Got that out of the way. Over-under on top 4 starters' wins---62.5. Top division finish, with luck a top 3. With lots of luck . . . I'd be the Skipjacks!
BOMBERS---If the Cubs' drafting approach was defined as "West," then the Bombers adopted "East," snagging big sticks in the first three rounds--Ramirez, Sheffield and Giambi. Manny is a nice pick, coming off of a down year in 2003 by his standards. Giambi remains potent, but looked mortal in the playoffs (people are talking about steroids, but last October I'd say the problem was vision-related, and an inability to catch up with high heat when he was behind in the count). Sheffield comes off a career year, but should have ample RBI opps in the line-up, especially after Steinbrenner adds Bonds, Helton, and Pujols around Memorial Day, running the Yanks' payroll past the GDP of most third world countries. Konerko in the 20th was savvy, and I like Joel Piniero. Jimmy Rollins, 13th round pick, dumped in the first FA draft? Sheeesh, I wouldn't want to be on the bubble at Truck-Freezers Inc. and see Mouse sidling over to my cube . . . Mouse played the "Old Players Juicing Stats at Coors" theme to the hilt, snapping up Burnitz and Castilla (neither of whom were identified in Larry Walker's pasture). The BB's Pitching lacks a horse (funny how those are all gone after 2 rounds); over-under on top 4 hurlers---57.5. Mouse needs solid years from Hampton and Woodardo Williams to bolster a staff that is not long on star power. But he has the always likable Raul Mondesi patrolling the outfield. He is good people, a lot like the guys you see on "Blind Date" ... long odds for an upper division finish. 8th or 9th might even be a stretch (no pun, Blongo).
RED BIRDS--- (or is it "REDBIRDS"?)---either way, a team with some trendy picks---Johan Santana ("Johan" sounds like someone who is Finland's best hope in the 2,000 meter speedskating medley at 2012 Zwerschingshausen Winter Games, not an MLB lefty----maybe Johan's Mom knew he'd be drafted by the Twins and spend a few years pitching in front of a bunch of guys named Paul Carlson and Swen Peterson in Minneapolis), Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Crosby ... young talent, but probably not enough to get to 4th, much less 1st, unless OUTFIELDER SF, whoever that is, stays on track to hit 137 home runs. Which could happen. Oswalt, Dotel, and Zamboni throw gaaaaaaassss, so the Red Birds should pile up the K's. Reggie Sanders quietly is having a nice little mercenary career, hitting 25-30 tates for a different team each year. I liked the Fullmer pick at 18. Who is "B. Anderson" (see the HSL website draft recapitulation page) in the fifth round? Brian Anderson? Brady Anderson? I am going with Garret Anderson, who is solid. Todd Walker keeps jabbing his Grudz voo-doo doll in its groin with a red-hot stickpin, so he should see more At Bats than most initially thought (and yet on the Cubs pre-game the other day, he said all the right things about being a team player, not caring if he EVER plays, etc. … hmmm, a duplicitous player with less range than a parking meter). Over-under pitcher wins---60.5. Lots of upside with the pitchers, tho. 65 wins not out of the question, in which case the R.B.s would contend. That said, I'll guess L.D.
PIRATES---the problem with drafting 9th, as opposed to 4th, is that you can have a creative, outside the box drafting strategy, but if the guy in 4th is doing the same thing (say, that guy was . . .Chuck!), you are likely to be behind at least him from the git-go. The I-rates might go with a "Cubs Lite" moniker. That said, Vazquez/Mulder/Webb should be pretty solid, altho V changed leagues, Mulder had a hip fracture last year (about 2 weeks after I gave up 50 home runs to get him from Johnny, costing me 9 or 10 precious starts, but, hey, I'm not bitter), and Webb is young. But he is good. Blalock is George Brett to Glaus' Mike Schmidt. I like Blalock long term better. A top 5 hitter in MLB in my book. Sexson will mash. The hitting points may be a little tougher to come by after those two ... Jenkins needs to stay healthy, and Game Boy Bradley needs to attend the Dennis Rodman Studio of Manners and Civility, or the LA cops will have his ass trashed faster than you can say Rodney King. Bradley may be the biggest risk to not make it thru a whole season since Lyman Bostock. Maybe a trade with the Bombers for Raul Mondesi is in order; Mondesi spent a few productive years in the San Fernando valley, and I am sure knows all the right places and people for Milton to hang out at/with. I like Nevin at 14, altho no one is confusing Petco with Coors after the first two weeks of play. Brad Penny is a stealth Cy candidate; let’s go with an Over-Under wins line of----65. Not quite the Cubs, but lots of win potential. But, as Mitch will tell you, you can draft Randy Johnson in round 1, watch him saw his right leg off at the knee cap with a chainsaw, and still waltz to the promise land of HSL nirvana to the ethereal strains of "Bulls on Parade" (by Rage Against the Machine---maybe Linda can post some random great tunes on the website under "Random Great Tunes," right under "Hall of Victory" or whatever that category is. Category ... category ... category ... "Alex, I'll take "Never Agains", for $50." ... "The answer is ' ... These players enjoyed star quality status, until they toiled for (insert your team name here) in (insert year here)' .... beeeeepzzpt ... "Yes, Bone Daddy?" "Who are Mo Vaughn, Darryl Strawberry, and Carl Everett?" ... "No, BD, I am sorry, they are the answer to the "Good People, Overpaid Slugs/Drug Addicts" category on yesterday's show ... beeeepzzpt ... "Yes, BabyTPhish?" ... "Kelly Gruber, Mike Heath, and Jose Lima?" "Correct, continue . . ." All this is to say, I give the Pirates A for creativity, C+ for Draft Awareness (Chuck was already heading down the pitching thing highway), A+ for Balls, and D for not knowing that while pitchers are fun and all, this league is ALL ABOUT HITTING. Averages out to B-, which means if all those pitchers win 17 games, or more, Denny will be enjoying watching Bob performing a myriad of household tasks (for Denny, just so we're clear on this one) for 6 months immediately following 10/1/04 ..
TRIBE---Bob, on the other hand, was NOT asleep at the wheel (draft awareness grade--A+)----he craftily aimed Denny down the "pitching is everything" highway, pointed him in Chuck's direction, and dashed off in the opposite direction in his pick-up truck, union hall songs blaring, looking to kick some major hitting backside. And kick he did. Delgado. Wells (those at UNL's law school, circa 1982, get a tad squeamish at the mention of guys with the first name of "Vern(on)" ... don't ask, don't tell ... but in my book, not many folks will confuse Vern Wells with Vern Daniels, unless Vernon Wells is partial to tight fitting chinos and shirts with sassy colors and patterns, nattily attired and such)... B. Giles (Love him, but not in a Vern Daniels kind of way). Pitching on this team is a tad sketchy. Pettitte and Miller echo an Astros theme... Austin Kearns ("D. Kearns" on the website, but at this point, who cares) can flat out rake. The hitting will be fun to watch---but like the Miller High life ads, yeah, I guess that old guy's voice makes the beer seem appealing and all, but you keep asking, where is everyone else? No skanky girls, no macho baseball pals watching the game, no young studs cramming alcohol down their gullets and hitting on gals in the bodega, the subway, the trendy night club ... The food sucks (overcooked hot dogs in a boiling pot--is this symbolism?) ... there are no other people with this High Life guy ... you start thinking, what kind of guys actually drink THIS kind of beer, alone, muttering about "the High Life" in their squalid kitchens? If the weird old guy talking about Miller High Life actually lived on your street, you'd call the County Sex Offenders Registry ASAP, get the crack firm of G, er, PH et al to slap a restraining order on the old coot so fast it would make his head spin, and warn the kids that under no circumstances are they to trick or treat within 100 yards of his trailer ... no WONDER Bud is kicking Miller's butt. These ads are downright WEIRD ... anyway, the hitting here works, but there are no pitchers. To speak of. Over-under on pitcher wins---43.5. Maybe. But at least Bob gets it. It IS all about hitting. To coin a phrase.
BLUES---it only took me 10 or 15 years, but no team name more aptly captures the ambience (learned that word on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) of their owner than the "Blues." And what better pick for the League Eyeore to launch his 2004 campaign than ... Mark Prior. Who prior to about March 20th, seemed destined to post a season that would make Bob Gibson's '68 campaign seem pedestrian by comparison. Prior was going to be Orel Hershiser, circa September 1988, only all season long. My only question is---what was Prior doing in the offseason? Playing on the Scout Team at Fort Benning, being the Washington Generals to some Delta Force outfits' training regimen? The injuries are just showing up NOW? Nomar must have given him the 2001 Nomar game plan---hide a critical injury until just before your team breaks camp, leaving about 2.6 million clueless fantasy owners slumped over the card table in their squalid kitchens, pondering a pot of overcooked hot dogs, slamming Miller High Life, yearning for better days down at the asbestos plant, and wishing they had blurted out "Mike Heath" or even "Esteban Loaiza" instead of damning themselves to another cursed summer of scanning the internet and the agate type in USA Today under the "Injury" column, because they had the misfortune of uttering "Mark Prior" with the 11th pick of the Draft.
That said, all is not lost for the Blues. If this team doesn't pan out, he can still fall back on an exciting job, a torrid sex life, and season tickets at the House that Wal-Mart Built watching the best collection of left-handed pitchers this side of Denver work their sinister craft, while Juan Gone, Mark Sweeney and the rest of the gang do crossword puzzles in the training room whirlpool.
Beltran-Rolen-Abreu. The BRA team. Has a catchy ring, but that ring does not connote "manly." Unfortunately, there is no acronym for BALLS, JOCK, CUP, or SLIDING SHORTS on the rest of the Blues roster, but Nick Johnson and Mike Lowell can hit. Altho Johnson has a rather dicey injury past. Taking Prior out of the mix for the moment, or perhaps for a couple of months, the next 4 pitchers O/L win line is---40. Beckett will get at least 17 ... Willis maybe 16 ... it gives Angel Berroa and Blongo migraines just thinking about what a 23-5 Prior season with 320 K's would have meant to the Blues’ chances.
Lee-squared (Carlos and Derrick, or Derek, or D-jam Lee-bop, or Vladimir, or whatever he is going by) will hit. So that helps. Just so we are clear---I love Beltran/Rolen/Abreu, but they do need a better acronym.
TIGERS---an upside surprise waiting to happen. I want to like the Tribe----Bob is a sentimental favorite to win, while the Tigers have swilled Miller High Life from the HSL cup (altho it has been a while)... but, coming out of the draft, this team, with nowhere to go but up (or out to the garage) looks dangerous, solid, fun, and, dare I say---trendy. RJ's knee seems healed from the chainsaw incident, Gagne and Brown are proven (altho Brown had best stay healthy), and there are some pretty good sticks. O/L p-wins----64. Javy Lopez show no signs of last year's once in a century performance, and he is surrounded by some other bats. Bone Dad's infatuation with Luis Gonzalez is hard to figure--if Gonzalez's arm does not come flying off this season, he may put up large #'s. Nomo may be no more, but he is not critical to the Cats' success. Alou seems to have no ill-effects from l'affair Bartman (Queer Eye says to impress acquaintances thru the timely use of French phrases), but Erstad needs a better year at 1B----his star has dimmed, but unlike Jim Edmonds, at least he didn't diss me in Baltimore in May '98, and as Husker, I want to see him succeed. I think the Tigers will crack the Upper Division.
So there you have it---trenchant thoughts, incisive analysis, witty and clever analogies, but it is all sound and fury, signifying very little. You can cut it any way you want, but to win in this league you need: 1) solid hitters that stay injury free, and have above average years all in the same year; 2) 2 Cy Young candidates; 3) 2 free agent draft pitchers that no one cared to draft, or even knew, to have career years; 4) Luck. Lots and lots of luck. Like, pitchers who pitch well, leave, and have bullpens that preserve their wins, instead of setting them on fire like crazed pyromaniacs at a kerosene convention. Jake Peavy could tell you all about it . . . 5) other things too numerous and ponderous to mention.
If you have any of these guys, enjoy it now. Ain't gonna last---
1B--Craig Wilson, Travis Hafner, Hee Seop Choi (that said, all fine young hitters)
2B--Ron Belliard, Tony Womack
RF--Pass (or, 1 no trump)
1B--Jim Thome (.372 average, but only 3 RBI's, 2 of which are on his own HR's)
RF--the GAK team (Giles-Abreu-Kearns--all currently below the Mendoza line)
Chapter 2 will be out in paperback in a week, if the good people at PH law do their thing and inadvertently e-mail the pictures, descriptions and accounts of this draft to several million households and businesses ...
Enjoy the season, and take each at bat one pitch at a time. Savor the moment, and go play some pepper in your yard with your kids...TB
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