Posted on: March 31, 2008 3:19 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2008 12:49 am

The REAL Opening Day! (Part II)

Here's the link to the first part of this blog written earlier today.

12:49 a.m.
Officially winding down, wrapping up, getting ready to heave-ho. Peavy has allowed just three hits in seven innings, and now big Heath Bell comes in to nail down the eighth inning before possibly Hell's Bell's plays before the ninth.

I went to Petco Park last August for an Astros game, coincidentally. I have to say I fell in love with the city, the people I met and the park, without question, the park. From the pristine seats and walking area, to the great food (Rubio's fish tacos were soooo good. Randy Jones BBQ was good, but the sauce on the fish tacos was fantastic. I even wore some of it.)

The park is based adjacent to the Gaslamp District, which is where all the nice bars and clubs are.

The park has a grass berm just outside of left field where a big screen plays the game for fans to sit and watch picnic-style, while their kids can play whiffle-ball on the tiny diamond. Then, over a little, Tony Gwynn's statue stands erect just outside of center field.

The fans have some great traditions, including hanging up extra K's in right field, just beyond the Petco Porch, for every one of Jake Peavy's K's. They do something for when Greg Maddux pitches too, but I can't remember what it was. Anyone know? Plus, you have to love the "Koooooooz" chants raining down on the then-rookie third baseman. This experience blew away my Dodgers game experience, although that was really nice too.

I'm going to try and hit Nationals Park and Camden Yards this summer I think.

10:11 p.m.
Roy Oswalt is getting his sixth-straight Opening Day start, which happens to be a team record for the Astros. He also owns the longest active streak in the NL, and he's tied with Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays in the majors. He is 2-0 lifetime against Jake Peavy, his opponent tonight, with a 0.60 ERA in those games. (Peavy has an ERA higher than 5.00 in both games.)

9:15 p.m.
Jered Weaver threw 99 pitches in his final spring training start -- and he leaves Monday's game at the Twins after 106 pitches in 6 1/3 innings. He's on the hook for the loss, despite throwing a quality start (3 ER). Livan Hernandez, who has thrown just 85 pitches through seven, is simply having a better game.

8:47 p.m.
Michael Cuddyer rumbled down to second base with a stolen base in the fifth -- the Twins' fourth of the ballgame -- and Napoli's throw was high again. You can tell that Jered Weaver is really starting to get frustrated by his catcher, who has now allowed four runners to get into scoring position.

Carlos Gomez now has a single, a double, a walk, two runs scored and two stolen bases.

8:20 p.m.
NEWSFLASH -- Braves CF Mark Kotsay gunned down SS Jack Wilson at the plate in Monday's game against the Pirates -- and he did not immediately go on the DL with a broken arm. Scotty Blanco later informed me that he heard on the broadcast that Kotsay leads all outfielders in assists since 1998 ... We still would rather see Jordan Schafer in center.

8:18 p.m.
Mike Napoli is having a tough game defensively behind the plate for the Angels. Two runners have stolen second successfully, and both of his throws were high and well off the mark.

8:08 p.m.
Bid Daddy Vladi singles through the left side against Livan Hernandez (one of few hits against the former Marlins/Giants/Nats/D-Backs pitcher) -- and Vlad has now hit safely in his past nine Opening Day games! In that span, he is 18-for-35 (.500) with five homers and 19 RBI!

7:40 p.m.
Carlos Gomez is showing no signs of the strained hamstring that limited him late in spring. He tried to bunt in the first, but it ran foul, then he bunted in the bottom of the third against the Angels, and this time it was a push-bunt up the first base line. He flew up the basepath and dove at first base to reach base successfully. Then he stole second base, as Mike Napoli hummed a throw into center field. Gomez, the prized prospect from the Mets in the Johan Santana deal, is playing well defensively so far also. It's a tough night for him, considering he's facing a team with the center fielder (Torii Hunter) he is replacing. The fans are greeting Hunter with ovations and class, by the way, as they should.

The Brewers, by the way, blew more three-run leads last season than any other team in the majors ... I thought that's why Eric Gagne was brought in as their closer? No?

6:48 p.m.
Hurcomb just tried to talk with Scott White about which games each would cover, and Scott White got Gonossy on him. That's not cool. He snapped like when you mess with a cat that's trying to lick itself. RrrrrAAAAAARRRRRR!!!

Get it together rook, it's Opening Day.

6:22 p.m.
Eric Gagne comes in to close out the game against the Cubs with a three-run lead. He lets two men on, throwing just three strikes on 12 pitches, then the big free-agent pickup, Kosuke Fukudome goes yard to tie it up!!! There was no doubt once he hit it. The fans at Wrigley call for a curtain call, and their new right fielder obliges! Gagne's owners, meanwhile, aren't very happy.

5:51 p.m.
OK, I have to get to some updates now that the boxscores are rolling in, but I'll leave you with this: The Marlins picked up Johan Santan off the Astros roster as a Rule 5 draft pick, then they traded him AND CASH to the Twins for Jared Camp.Johan could be starting FOR the Marlins today instead of AGAINST them.

Here's Emack's Mets predictions: "The Mets traded for and signed Johan Santana to not only erase the memories of 2007's finish but to also dominate through October. The Mets will win 95 games and the NL East and with any luck win 100. Then they get through October as World Champs. Lock it up, championship.

And these are Guerrera's Mets predictions: "The Mets are looking to rebound this year after the historic collapse of last year. They'll make the playoffs (either as a division winner or wildcard) as long as they can stay somewhat healthy. "They're getting old. But as long as Wright, Reyes, Beltran, and Johan stay healthy, they'll be in contention this year. Think the Mets are good for 90 wins and a playoff berth. I’m predicting a rematch of the ’86 World Series. Sox-Mets. Of course, you know who I think is winning."

Tony Fernandez, not to be outdone by the Mets fans, offers this about his Marlins: "They’ll finish 71-91, a few games worse than the Nationals for last place in the NL East. Good offense, even without Cabrera, but the worst pitching in the league, which is compounded by having perhaps the worst defense since they started using gloves. "

5:35 p.m.
Carlos Pena made a great diving stop on a shot down the line, but Dan Wheeler can't make the catch on the flip to first, and the Orioles stay alive on the error by the pitcher.

5:21 p.m.
Melvin Mora gets called out for interference because, while batting, he stepped in front of C Dioner Navarro, who was going to try and throw out Brian Roberts at second base again.

5:10 p.m.
James Shields went seven innings in 20 of his 31 starts for the Rays last season. He's almost the anti-Scott Kazmir in how efficient he has been. He finishes Monday's start with just two runs on five hits and three walks in seven innings. He threw 86 pitches in the outing and he should be plenty fresh for his next start Sunday at the Yankees. Last year, Shields allowed an average of 10.3 runners on base per nine innings, which happened to be third-best in the AL. LHP Trever Miller comes in to pitch the eighth for Tampa Bay. The Rays' bullpen was brutal a year ago, so we'll see if there has been improvement. The lefty then leaves the game to bring in last season's right-handed closer, Al Reyes. Troy Percival's presence at closer allowed the Rays to push Reyes back.

Brett Tresky, another former co-worker and frequent blog reader, gives us his take on the '08 Boston Red Sox and their chances of repeating: "I predict we will win the East and march all the way back to the World Series and eventually go on and beat the Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series. I hear rumors again to watch out for Toronto ... Yeah, right, whatever. It is still a two-horse race with the Skankees. My heart tells me we are still better then them. The Sox should be able to win over 90 games this year. They pretty much have the same team as last year's World Championship team. One obvious question mark is the pitching. After Josh Beckett and Dice-K, it's up in the air. I believe with Jon Lester putting on 20 lbs. this year he will be a pleasant addition to the rotation, able to take us deep into October. And if we can get something decent between Clay Buchholz, Bartolo Colon and Curt Schilling we will be in good shape for another. Back to Back baby!

5:02 p.m.
I'm about to go into a diabetic sugar shock from that piece of cake ... I'm going to have to offset it by eating some more potato chips.

GOOD NEWS FOR V-MART OWNERS -- He's considered day-to-day with a hamstring injury. Considering he hobbled his way to second base and looked like he hyper-extended his knee, that's great news for Martinez's owners. Riethmiller can take his head out of the vendateria microwave now.

Just got done watching my video from this morning -- why does it look like I ate two Dave Richards?

4:44 p.m.
I'm starting to warm up to this Jason Bartlett kid. On Akinori Iwamura's fielder's choice to third base, Bartlett slid high into second bade -- not Shelley Duncan-like, mind you -- but more with his hips high, and Brian Roberts was unable to get the throw off for the double-play. The Rays have men on the corners with two outs and Carl Crawford up.

Leave it to the Rays to screw that one up. They tried the double-steal and Luis Hernandez made them pay with a nice throw home to get Navarro for the third out.

4:40 p.m.
The Cincinnati Enquirer talked with manager Dusty Baker about his Opening Day experiences. He was actually on deck with the Braves when Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974 on Opening Day. "Hank told me he was going to look for that slider on the outside and he was going to hit it over the left field fence," Baker said. "He said he wanted to get it with over. It was packed. Jack Billingham threw him a slider, and he hit over the left field fence like he said."

Jeremy Guthrie gets the hook after another basehit (nine on the day) scores the Rays' sixth run -- he's still responsible for the two runners on base, however. Good, let's get to those Orioles middle relievers.

4:32 p.m.
You know how you always have one guy on your team that you just don't want to see do well? Like, you want him to help your team win, but when he fails, you like to gripe about him? That's Cliff Floyd for me this season. He roped a double into the right-field corner. I don't like it -- unless he ends up scoring, then it's cool.

4:29 p.m.
Emack and I have a running bet on whether Brian Roberts will steal 45 bases or not this season (I have the under), so I was happier than normal to see SS Jason Bartlett make a nice pick of a low throw from Dioner Navarro to keep Roberts from stealing his second base of the day.

4:26 p.m.
You have to love Opening Day when guys like Riethmiller are already walking around with their heads hung low. Between his O's ace, Jeremy Guthrie, giving up a homer to Hinske, and saying Victor Martinez is "going on the DL" before he even saw the injury -- Riethmiller has a loooong season ahead of him.

4:12 p.m.

To check out our video from this morning -- go here and click on the video box on the right side. The crappy pixelated one that makes me look like a bad guy from Super Mario Bros. Emack had been bragging all morning how awesome his SlingBox was, so I asked him during the just before the video started if he used the SlingBox to make the stink from his toilet come out of his mouth. He said no.

Scott White is wearing a T-shirt of himself today. I don't know where to begin. Although, he brought me cake, so he's good there.

4:04 p.m.
Eric Hinske hits a solo shot off Guthrie -- and that signifies me going to eat a piece of Scotty Blanco's cake -- and no, that's not a euphemism.

4:01 p.m.
You thought J.D. Drew sitting out last Tuesday screwed you up? How about Victor Martinez pulling up lame running to second base on a passed ball against the White Sox? He left the game after two innings and Kelly Shoppach is behind the plate in his place. I'll keep you in tune with any news that comes across.

3:50 p.m.
The Cubs unveiled a new statue of Ernie Banks (Mr. Cub) and that made me think back to my trip to Wrigley Field back in 1998, the year after Harry Caray died. They put up a statue of the great announcer, just outside of right field, which is just a block away from a billion bars. But fans kept putting beercans in Harry's open left hand, so they finally had to build a little gate around it. I wonder what they have now. Readers? Anyone?

3:49 p.m.
Guthrie tried to jam B.J. Upton (with the bases loaded, hoping for a double-play) on three straight pitches, then finally got the grounder he wanted -- but it slipped through the hole and two runs were able to score. Here comes Cliff Floyd. Ugh.Something tells me he's going to be a huge pain in the butt all season. He has "Human Inning Ender" written all over the gauze on his injuries. He flies out to center and moves a runner over at least.

3:45 p.m.
Markakis just made a really nice play in right field, taking a ball off the hop and throwing to second base for a rare 9-6 putout to get Jason Bartlett. But the Rays score on the next play when Melvin Mora can't pick up the slow-roller from Crawford's bat. It would have been a very close play at first had he picked it up, but Mora still gets the error.

3:37 p.m.
I'm starting to feel some pressure down below ... Must ... wait ... through ... bottom ... of ... second ... inning.

3:34 p.m.
Interesting point made by Dana Wikiji of the Detroit News -- Verlander has had 1-2-3 innings in both innings after the Tigers have scored. That's a good thing, for sure.

3:31 p.m.
Cliff Floyd takes the first pitch he sees from Jeremy Guthrie -- and immediately goes on the DL with a strained eye, knee, shoulder and uterus.

3:30 p.m.
Did you know? The Mariners were 49-33 at Safeco Field in 2007 despite being outscored 406-386, according to the Tacoma-News Tribune.

3:22 p.m.

Orlando Cabrera stole a base and Jim Thome hit a homer for the White Sox already at the Indians today. Here's my co-worker, and White Sox fan, Dave Richard's take on the White Sox this season: "Short of a miracle, the White Sox will be lucky to finish .500. I’m a die-hard fan of the ChiSox but their pitching staff is brutal. I love the lineup – the Sox might finish in the Top 10 in baseball in runs scored – but they’ll lose a lot of games 11-10. It’s 1997 all over again."

And now counterpoint, here's my other co-worker, and Indians fan, Chris Soblotne's view on the Indians in '08: Tribe 94-68, 1st-place AL Central -- While the Tigers made significant offseason improvements to strengthen their lineup, at the end of the day (corporate cliché No. 1), the Tribe's superior pitching depth will carry them through the regular season and lead them to a playoff run. The Tribe defeats BOSOX in ALCS and advances to defeat the Phillies in 6 games to win their first World Series since 1948. Following Phillies defeat, Victor Guss finally gives into Rubio’s advances." (That's what we call -- an inside joke that will never end.)<o:p></o:p>

Crawford dove for the bloop single by Nick Markakis, but he couldn't get to it. Then both Markakis and Brian Roberts pull off a double-steal to perfection. Then Crawford had a chance at Kevin Millar's bomb to left field, but it bounced out of his glove when he leaped up to grab it at the wall. Two runs score for the Orioles and James Shields' owners hold their head in their hands.

3:18 p.m.
Carl Crawford smacked a single up the middle and eventually stole his first base of the season, when O's catcher Ramon Hernandez decided not to even throw the ball. Carlos Pena blasted a shot to the deepest part of the park in center field, but Adam Jones was there to catch it a foot away from the wall. That loooong out gets you nothing in Fantasy, but it's good to see from a guy people are wondering might have been a fluke in '07.
Posted on: March 29, 2008 11:00 am
Edited on: March 29, 2008 11:57 pm

Saturday Baseball Blog

It's the last Saturday of spring without regular season baseball. Things are winding down in draft prep mode and gearing up for in-season help. You'll notice our player updates are starting to change a little in their language, going from "Draft him in the later rounds as a sleeper" to "Don't feel bad, J.D. Drew is already killing my team too."

So since this is the last sane Saturday, I thought today's blog would be in honor of "The Bugs Bunny, Road Runner Show" -- the all-time greatest Saturday morning cartoon ever. I'd wake up at seven in the morning on a non-school day, wearing my footy pajamas, get a big bowl of Sugary Sugar O's, or whatever colorful cereal I could find with a cartoon on it, and settle in for the greatest few hours of the week. And that was just two Saturdays ago, when I watched "The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume I" on DVD.

"I say, I say, I'll reluctantly take Aaron Harang!"
The Sporting News pointed out an interesting fact about Aaron Harang last season. (Doesn't he kinda look like Foghorn Leghorn, at 6-foot-7, 275? Does that make Bronson Arroyo the Chicken Hawk?) The Reds' brutally bad bullpen blew five saves that would have been wins for Harang. Even if they just save three of those five games, that give Harang 19 wins to lead the NL! He's an innings-eating beast that somehow gets away with allowing a flyball for every groundball he induces, yet keeps an ERA under 4.00 in a tiny ballpark. Only six other 15-game winners last season walked fewer batters than him, and he has gone over 200 strikeouts for consecutive seasons.

Those facts haven't gotten past the eyes of Fantasy owners, as they made him the 10th-highest drafted SP in Head-to-Head leagues this season (12th in Rotisserie). But let's be honest, owners are reluctant to make him their ace because of the Great American Ball Park, and the fact that he has allowed 28 home runs in each of the past two seasons. When it comes time to trade for an ace for your team -- or better yet, a stellar No. 2 -- see what you can dangle in front of him for a trade. "You gotta keep your eye on the ball. Eye! Ball! Eyeball! I almost had a gag, son. Joke, that is."

The Bugs Bunny Delivery
I've always thought that Francisco Rodriguez's crazy, Bugs Bunny whiplash delivery would be the cause of injury for him at some point. He's definitely proven me wrong over the past three seasons, going on to save more games (132) than any other pitcher in the game (Trevor Hoffman is just one behind at 131). The Angels' pitching staff is a little banged up this season, but the addition of Jon Garland gives them another innings-eater that can reach the bullpen. Setup man Scot Shields had some tough outings last season in one of his worst years in a while. The Angels went from the 7th-best bullpen in 2006 (with a 3.78 ERA), to 20th-best in 2007 (4.24 ERA).

The Angels have always produced solid setup pitchers throughout the 2000s, from K-Rod (who was behind Troy Percival for a few seasons), to Shields, to Brendan Donnelly to J.C. Romero. But what's interesting is that the Angels' bullpen dip last season comes in the first year of Mike Butcher's tenure as the Angels' pitching coach -- or should I say, the first season without pitching coach Bud Black, who went on to manage the Padres in '07.

Either way, you can pretty much write in K-Rod for another 40-save season in a contract year. The team hasn't locked him up and they are bracing against possibly losing him and his goggles (eat more carrots to improve your vision!) to another team next year. That sounds like incentive for the best closer in baseball over the past three years.

By the way, if you get a chance to read this column about Baseball Bugs, I highly recommend it. It ended up in the 2007 Best Sports Writing Annual.

One Dozen ACME Off-the-Table Curveballs

San Francisco's ace, despite what Barry Zito is being paid, will be Tim Lincecum this season, make no bones about that. In a steady drizzle, Lincecum did his best Wile E. Coyote impression by crafting a plan to strike out nine batters in five no-hit innings. This Giants team will not offer him much run support, that much we're certain of, and his bullpen is going to be below-average again (4.10 ERA ranked 18th lst year, despite pitching in a great pitcher's park), but Lincecum could approach 200 strikeouts this season, depending on how many innings the Giants let him throw (he's just 23). He was sixth in the majors last season with a 9.23 K/9 average among pitchers with at least 100 innings thrown. He's going to climb into the top five in the strikeouts-per-9 innings category this season. Here's who he'll have to surpass:
  1. Erik Bedard, SEA: 10.93
  2. Scott Kazmir, TB: 10.41
  3. Jake Peavy, SD: 9.67
  4. Johan Santana, NYM: 9.66
  5. A.J. Burnett, TOR: 9.56
Three reasons why the '08 Dodgers Make Me Feel Like Pepe LePew:
  1. I have to admit, I'm starting to get a man-crush on Jonathan Broxton. I'm 6-foot-2, 290, and I can't reach the Oreos without pulling a hamstring. So I have to show some love for this right-handed fireballer that weighs in at 288 and stands 6-foot-3 coming into his second full season as the Dodgers' setup man. He picked up his first spring save Friday, but considering Takashi Saito is 39 years old with little injuries starting to take their toll (calf and buttocks soreness this spring already), Broxton could be a great sleeper for saves. If you're in a mixed Rotisserie league, he can be a great help in strikeouts (second only to Bedard in K/9 among pitchers with at least 80 innings in '07) and the Georgian's ERA and WHIP will help you more than some of your starting pitchers. He has a mean attitude that totally befits a closer -- and Dodger Stadium is awfully pitcher-friendly.
  2. Chad Billingsley had just 20 starts last season, but he struck out seven or more batters in five of those games. He struck out seven in Friday's spring game against the Red Sox also. Among all 140-innings-plus '07 pitchers with a dominance (K/9) number of 8.00 or higher, no one had a better command (K/BB) ratio than his 2.20. He was top-15 in ERA as a starter (3.31) and the Dodgers have a much-improved offense this season. He could finish the season as a top-20 SP.
  3. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp could become top-40 outfielders in an outfield that has plenty of potential if Andruw Jones can return to his former self. I've grown up as a Dodgers hater all my life, until I went to a game at Chavez Ravine last season. These youngsters give this club a new look that have little cartoon hearts coming out of my chest.
I ended up blogging more about Saturday Morning Cartoons HERE!
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com