Riding the Pine

“I beg the league to play three here, and then next year, play three there. Six games is too much for Dusty and me. It’s the biggest headache. I think Dusty only gave me one parking pass last year. I had to park in McDonald’s, and I’m the manager. I know if you come to Chicago, if you don’t go to Wrigley Field, it’s like not seeing the museums. I like seeing the fans having a good time. But to work, no. It’s terrible.”
–Ozzie Guillen on playing at Wrigley Field (Chicago Sun-Times).

There has been some good pitching in the last week, including some prospects being given a chance. This should take away some of the talk that has been generated about the declining home runs total this season.

Before we get going, a few news bits to touch on. 10 Giants were selected this week for a random drug test; not surprising, Barry Bonds was one of them. No word yet on the results. The Players Association has approved the World Cup for Baseball. I think this would be a pretty cool idea. Potential rosters are listed here. Lastly, there have been numerous reports that the Cubs have asked Carlos Zambrano to limit his computer time. They believe it is contributing to his elbow problems. I think this is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard for 2 reasons. First, that the Cubs actually believe this, and second, that Zambrano will spend 4 hours on the internet (I know he speaks to his brother in Venezuela, but for 4 hours a day). I go more into Zambrano later.

The Rumors
Danny Graves designation by the Reds shocked many, including teammates (he was popular in the clubhouse), this week; the Rangers, Cubs, Mets, Marlins, Mariners, Giants and Red Sox are all interested in the struggling closer, who has to be traded or released…Jay Payton’s days in Boston may be numbered; he has an option for next season, but is not getting playing time…Eric Byrnes is drawing interest from teams (Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals among others); he is expendable since Nick Swisher returned from the DL…Jason Jennings may be on the block in Colorado; interest is slim for a pitcher who is 1-4 with a 7.05 ERA…Mike Lowell is on the trading block…San Diego may be interested in a second baseman since Mark Loretta is down; Placido Polanco and Kaz Matsui could be good fits…Barry Zito, according to sources, will not be traded…The Angels are looking for a hitter (Mike Sweeney, Phil Nevin, Aubrey Huff) before the AS break; owner Arte Moreno says there is enough flexibility in the payroll to do it…There are rumors floating around that Greg Maddux could be traded if the Cubs fall out of the playoff hunt; don’t believe them since he is going to get his incentive option (400 total innings in 2004 and 2005) for next season, costing $9 million…

Manager Hot Seats: Jim Tracy could be in trouble with the Dodgers if things don’t turn around by the end of the season; the team was off to a hot start, but has fallen off…The top 4 in the Royal’s Manager hunt are Buddy Bell (who interviewed this week), Jerry Manual (who interviews next), Terry Collins and Art Howe (both should interview next week)…Eddie Murray (hitting coach) may be fired if the Indians don’t start to hit…Brian Cashman is talking with the Yankees about an extension…

The week that was:
The Good
The people of Washington D.C. – The Nationals may have an owner. At least, there is some people interested in buying them. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is part of the most recent group wanting interest. They have placed their $100,000 down payment on the team with the league. There are also 8 other groups that have put down the deposit and first bids are due Tuesday.

Marlins Pitching – Other than the shock of losing a start from AJ Burnett, there hasn’t been much to complain about here. One reason for the success (according to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus): “‘P-TEC,’ the new acronym for ‘pitch to early contact.’ This strategy isn’t new to Mark Wiley and the Marlins, but it’s working. The Marlins pitchers attempt to induce hitters to hit their pitch on the first and second deliveries, keeping their counts down and making use of the defense. After those pitches, they go back to a more normal “missing bats, looking strikeout” mindset. This isn’t the normal pitch to contact plan–the Fish don’t groove the ball and play the odds. This one’s probably going to spread around the league if there’s not some breakdown.” Just for the record, I still don’t like Josh Beckett.

Jake Peavy threw a complete game shut out Thursday night; he is 5-0 and a contender for Cy Young…After blowing 2 early saves, Mariano Rivera is back to form…Eric Gagne got his first save of the season; I would recommend starting him again…I think many wrote Alex Rodriguez off as the best player in baseball; he is leading the Majors in Homers, RBIs and Runs.

The Bad
Carlos Zambrano – I have nothing against Zambrano, but he will not be a great pitcher for his whole career if things don’t get straightened out. First off, someone needs to keep him away from Dusty Baker. Baker is notorious for destroying young careers, either by not giving fielders an opportunity to play (Jason Dubois, Brendan Harris) or disregarding pitch counts for pitchers. He showed this a few weeks ago where he let Zambrano throw 136 pitches in a complete game. C’mon Dusty, the bullpen is bad, but is it bad enough to ruin a good starter. The Cubs need to get Zambrano and Prior on the Marlins plan. It keeps the pitch count down, but still makes the pitcher effective. The second problem is the screw loose in his head. It seems that most time I see highlights, he is getting overly excited or tossed from a game. There is nothing wrong with showing emotion on the field, but he always looks like he just survived a death match. Also, stop throwing at Jim Edmonds.

Kaz Matsui – Little Matsui has failed to live up to the hype. Now the Mets are going to give everyday second base duties to back up Miguel Cairo. Cairo, who took over the Yankee job, will be an average second baseman, but won’t stand out any more than Matsui has. The Mets may try to move the Japanese import, but they would have to eat a significant part of the contract.

Carlos Pena has gone 0-16 in his last 5 games; he is hitting .177 on the season and not worth a roster spot until he does something…Claudio Vargas last week: 0-2, 9 hits, 5 walks, 1 strikeout, 11.81 ERA; this was good enough for his release from the Nationals…Someone needs to let Kaz Ishii know that you aren’t supposed to walk most of the guys you face; 14% of the batters he has faced have been given free passes and 30% get on base.

The Ugly
Johan Santana – Hitters for the Blue Jays are saying that Santana has been tipping his pitches. In 3 games against the Blue Jays this year, Santana is 0-2 with a 7.13 ERA (he also gave up 25 hits in 17 innings). While his stats against the Jays aren’t good, he has been pretty good the rest of the time. Santana also gets significantly better in the second half (check back next month for an article on 2nd half players).

Aramis Ramirez – When did Ramirez and Neifi Perez switch bodies? Actually, Perez is returning to normal, but Ramirez is still missing. After posting a great season, Ramirez has done a complete 180. He is batting .226 with 7 HRs. His OPS (on base plus slugging) is lower than Morgan Ensberg, Jay Gibbons, Craig Counsell, and Chad Tracy. I always felt he was lazy (based off the games I had seen him in), and I think he is proving it this year.

While we are looking for things, what happened to the Padres Bullpen (especially Anikori Otsuki, who was lights out last year); there is no one to bridge the starts to Trevor Hoffman…Richard Hidalgo is starting to hit; he is washed up, but I like his ability in the hitters haven that is in Dallas.

Rookie Watch:
The Brewers top prospect Rickie Weeks could get a brief look in the next week; he won’t see much time, but worth keeping an eye on…Nick Swisher is back from the DL; watch him for a week before using him…Kelly Shoppach is going to get a shot with the Red Sox; he will only be catching for Tim Wakefield and the occasional rest day for Jason Varitek…Kyle Davies has had 2 impressive outings; keep an eye on him, especially in keeper leagues…Brandon McCarthy had a successful debut also even though the team didn’t win…Ervin Santana followed up his horrible debut by pitching a complete game gem (since I dropped him after the first game); his days are numbered before he goes back to the minors…Tim Stauffer has pitched well in Woody Williams place; he should be able to stay with the Padres (as their #5 starter) unless teams figure him out quickly.

Injury Watch:
Frank Thomas (foot) has told the White Sox he is ready to come back now; GM Ken Williams will be in triple A this weekend to evaluate his progress…There is one thing that Curt Schilling can keep his mouth closed on – his ankle; the BoSox have an unofficial target date of the All Star Break…Carlos Beltran (Quad) may not play until the Mets get back home; some are saying it would take 3 weeks to completely heal, but Beltran won’t be out that long…Javy Lopez is out for 6 weeks; he is having a metal plate attached to the broken bone in his hand so he can be back a few weeks earlier than if it were to just heal…AJ Burnett should be pitching next week (Tuesday) after visiting the doctor last week; there is not a tear in his elbow…Roger Clemens will most likely miss his start next week due to his minor groin injury…Rich Harden threw a baseball this week (first time since his oblique problem started); some are saying he is ahead of his time table…Mark Loretta will be out 2 months after having surgery on his finger.

Upcoming 2 start pitchers: (DISCLAIMER: All of these should be checked on Sunday to make sure they are 2 start pitchers. Go to 2 start pitchers link on RotoChamps to check. ATTN: DUE TO SHAKE UPS IN THE NATIONALS ROTATION, MONDAY AND TUESDAY ROTATION SPOTS HAVE NOT BEEN SET.

Must Start
Roger Clemens (Cin, StL), Ted Lilly (@ Sea, @Oak), AJ Burnett (@ Pit, @ Was), Carlos Silva (Cle, NyY), Jake Peavy (Mil, ChC), Carlos Zambrano (@ LA, @SD).

Don’t Start
Jason Marquis (@ Col, @ Hou), Scott Kazmir (@ Oak, @ Sea), Joe Blanton (TB, Tor), Matt Belisle (@ Hou, @ Col), Zach Greinke (NyY, Tex), Dan Haren (TB, Tor).

Kyle Davies (@ Was, @ Pit), Oliver Perez (Fla, Atl), Chien-Ming Wang (@ KC, @Min), Gustavo Chacin (@ Sea, @ Oak), Gary Glover (@ SD, @LaD), Brad Penny (ChC, Mil).

Other Possible 2 Starts:
Al Leiter (@ Pit, @ Was), Mark Redman (Fla, Atl), Jarrod Washburn (@ChW, @ Bos), Freddy Garcia (LaA, Cle), Rodrigo Lopez (@ Bos, @ Det), Bronson Arroyo (Bal, LaA), Jamey Wright (StL, Cin), Greg Maddux (@ LaD, @ SD), Wilson Alvarez (ChC, Mil), Victor Santos (@SD, @ LaD), Darrell May (Mil, ChC), Jamie Moyer (Tor, TB), Daniel Cabrera (@Bos, @ Det), Wade Miller (Bal, LaA), Pedro Astacio (@ Det, @ KC), Mike Maroth (Tex, Bal), John Smoltz (@ Was, @ Pit), Brett Tomko (@ Phi, @ NyM), Randy Wolf (SF, Ari), Brad Halsey (@ NyM, @ Phi), Victor Zambrano (Ari, SF), CC Sabathia (@ Min, @ ChW), Mark Mulder (@ Col, @ Hou), Jason Jennings (StL, Cin).

League Leaders
Rank, Player, Team, AVG
1, Brian Roberts, Orioles, .377
2, Carlos Guillen, Tigers, .367
3, Miguel Cabrera, Marlins, .360
4, Clint Barmes, Rockies, .341
5, Johnny Damon, Red Sox, .340
5, Derrek Lee, Cubs, .340
5, Cesar Izturis, Dodgers, .340

Rank, Player, Team, Home Runs
1, Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, 17
2, Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks, 13
2, Adam Dunn, Reds, 13
4, 8 Players, Various, 12

Rank, Player, Team, RBIs
1, Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, 49
2, Carlos Lee, Brewers, 43
3, Miguel Tejada, Orioles, 42
4, Derrek Lee, Cubs, 39
4, Pat Burrell, Phillies, 39
4, Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 39

Rank, Player, Team, Runs
1, Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, 43
2, Johnny Damon, Red Sox, 38
3, Brady Clark, Brewers, 37
3, Alfonso Soriano, Rangers, 37
5, Brian Roberts, Orioles, 36

Rank, Player, Team, SBs
1, Scott Podsednik, White Sox, 26
2, Willy Taveraz, Astros, 16
3, ICHIRO, Mariners, 15
3, Tony Womack, Yankees, 15
3, Chone Figgins, Angels, 15

Rank, Player, Team, Wins
1, Jon Garland, White Sox, 8
1, Dontrelle Willis, Marlins, 8
3, Mark Buerhle, White Sox, 7
3, Livan Hernandez, Nationals, 7
3, Mark Mulder, Cardinals, 7
3, Chris Carpenter, Cardinals, 7
3, Adam Eaton, Padres, 7
3, Roy Halladay, Blue Jays, 7

Rank, Player, Team, ERA
1, Roger Clemens, Astros, 1.19
2, Dontrelle Willis, Marlins, 1.55
3, Brett Myers, Phillies, 1.69
3, Kenny Rogers, Rangers, 1.69
5, Mike Hampton, Braves, 1.96

Rank, Player, Team, Saves
1, Francisco Cordero, Rangers, 13
2, Joe Nathan, Twins, 12
2, Trevor Hoffman, Padres, 13
2, BJ Ryan, Orioles, 12
5, Jose Mesa, Pirates, 13
5, Bob Wickman, Indians, 13
5, Brandon Lyon, Diamondbacks, 13

Rank, Player, Team, Ks
1, Johan Santana, Twins, 83
2, Brett Myers, Phillies, 74
3, Pedro Martinez, Mets, 73
3, Jake Peavy, Padres, 73
5, Roger Clemens, Astros, 69

Rank, Player, Team, WHIP
1, Pedro Martinez, Mets, 0.73
2, Jake Peavy, Padres, 0.88
2, Roger Clemens, Astros, 0.88
4, Brett Myers, Phillies, 0.91
5, Dontrelle Willis, Marlins, 0.95

RotoChamps can take care of all your fantasy needs.
Oli’s back.
Patrick gives a new reason to look at his column each week.
Mark’s back too, but things may not be the same for him.
Nick continues his draft recap, and Jenny Finch.
The Forums

I am going to end every week with a trade I made in one of my leagues. Feed back on the trade I made, or one that you have made this year would be appreciated. We’ll start with a small one. I traded away Vernon Wells for Jason Bay. E-mail or post questions, trade scenarios, and comments. Thanks.