Hot Topics: MLB Campaign 2008
Here's who's on our chat schedule for today:
(click on each chatters' name to jump to their debate)
|Education: Who'll be the valedictorian of the rookie class?||Keith Law||Noon|
|Top rookie for 2008 is Kosuke Fukudome, who has the job, the experience, and is going to get RBI opportunities behind Lee and Ramirez.|
|Jobs: Which GM/manager is on the hottest seat?||Jerry Crasnick||12:30 pm|
|Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph. They need to reach the postseason after the Mets' epic collapse.|
|Party Wars: What'll be the best non-Yanks-BoSox rivalry?||Rob Neyer||1 pm|
|You take the Yankees and the Red Sox, and I'll take the three other fantastic pennant races we're going to see this summer.|
|Foreign Policy: Is the Japan Series a good thing?||Jayson Stark||1:30 pm|
|I'm all for globalization, but I'm opposed to the idea of having major-league teams open the regular season in Japan, for all kinds of reasons. We can get into all of them in this chat.|
|Economy: Which small-market team has the best shot?||Buster Olney||2 pm|
|The Cleveland Indians are the best small-market team with the best shot to win -- I've got them winning the World Series.|
|Immigration: Which Japanese player will make an impact?||Tim Kurkjian||2:30 pm|
|Bobby Valentine, who manages in Japan, told me last year that every, everyday player in Japan could make a major league roster. That's how good Japanese players are. It will show this year.|
|Crime: Who's the biggest fantasy "steal"?||Eric Karabell||3 pm|
|I'm here to defend my position on Josh Hamilton being one of the better steals of the fantasy season! Which of your players are steals as well?|
|Health Care: Who's the top injury concern?||Stephania Bell||3:30 pm|
|Pujols is great when healthy, but the elbow will be an ongoing problem, and may result in an early termination of his season.|
Send in your questions now and stop by to talk with our writers starting at noon ET on Tuesday!
Keith Law (12:02 PM)
Welcome to the chat. I'll be here for the next half-hour to talk about rookies, after which, someone else will come in to talk about some other topic. And so on.
Todd (Arlington, VA)
Can Lastings Milledge be considered a rookie? Not sure if qualifies or not. If he does qualify, I think he'll have a good shot of Rookie-of-the-year. How about Dukes?
Keith Law (12:05 PM)
This seems like a good place to start. Neither player is a rookie, and here's why. The cutoffs for Rookie of the Year eligibility are 130 or more career at bats in the majors, 50 or more career IP in the majors, or 45 or more days on the 25-man (active) roster of a major league team. (That last part means 45 days in the big leagues, not on the DL, excluding days after September 1st when the active roster expands.) Milledge has 350 career AB, and Dukes has 180ish, so neither is still a rookie. The Nats have a number of good young players, but I don't see a rookie who's likely to spend much time with them this year. Maxwell could get some PT, but I'm not a believer in his bat. Detwiler should be up at some point, but a half-year in AA would be good for him.
Nice to see the anti-Boston national media keeping things going now with the Red Sox. Anyone who would not predict Jacoby Ellsbury as the potential rookie valedictorian has either 1. not been paying attention or 2. knows nothing about baseball But this is not surprising coming from espn.com. I'm still waiting for the pages and pages of Yankee hatred that all their mid-late 90's juicing up should have brought against them on your site. All the juiced up Yanks helping win those championships was clearly a worse infraction than what the Patriots have been proven to have done. Yet, your writers still slam the Pats on a daily basis and you let the Yanks off scott free. Frankly, your national bias against all sports in Boston is nauseating.
Keith Law (12:06 PM)
I can't tell if this is a joke or not. I did particularly enjoy the complete absence of any argument in FAVOR of Ellsbury.
Keith, Do you think Jacoby Ellsbury can win Rookie of the year?
Keith Law (12:07 PM)
If he gets regular playing time, yes, he can. The one thing working against him is that he won't fare well in HR/RBI, which are typically the key categories for a hitter to win RoY or MVP. Pedroia sneaked through last year because there wasn't a power-hitting candidate or a rookie starting pitcher who racked up a lot of wins. In a typical year, even if he performed the same way, he would have had trouble winning because the voters tend to favor a different type of player.
Harvey, (Portland, Or)
I haven't heard mant people give Adam Jones a chance to win ROY for the AL but I think he may have a better year for Baltimore that Young did in Arizona last year. Any thoughts?
Keith Law (12:08 PM)
He's not eligible - he has 9 AB over the limit.
Ricky (Albuquerque, NM)
Hey Keith! Parra or Villanueva... Who has the better season?
Keith Law (12:08 PM)
Parra. And I hope they give him a rotation slot - they're going to need good production from their rotation, because their bullpen is shaky.
Carl (Manhasset, NY)
Does Ian Kennedy have a chance to win the ROY? Who do you compare him to?
Keith Law (12:11 PM)
Yes, but going back to my Pedroia/Ellsbury answer, he'll have to rack up the wins to do so. I'd say Kennedy's RoY outlook is ahead of his production outlook, because I think he'll win more games than a pitcher of his caliber would win with a lesser offensive club. He's a command righthander, might grade his changeup as plus, but his fastball is fringe-average and his breaking ball is probably a half a grade below that. He repeats his delivery extremely well and throws a ton of strikes. It's not a typical AL formula, but I think it'll work.
Kevin (San Diego)
When do you envision Evan Longoria getting called back up to the Majors? Do you think the Rays made a poor move by sending him down? I understand the financial implications but there is also something to be said about general good will toward your players, especially when you have so many rising stars, IMO. This makes them look cheap and petty.
Keith Law (12:12 PM)
Lot of questions about Longoria. I don't see the baseball argument for demoting him - he's hit everywhere he's played, and if there's a hole in his game that needs closing AND that can be closed in AAA, I haven't seen it. I also disagree with any decision that gives Willy Aybar, who was arrested last month for beating his wife, playing time. I think this is purely an economic move, and I am never a fan of letting economic considerations trump baseball considerations like maximizing the development of a young player.
Aaron (Irvine, CA)
When is baseball going to get real revenue sharing and a salary cap so we can start a year without already knowing that no matter what, a hand full of teams will be in the playoffs?
Keith Law (12:12 PM)
The rules say eight teams make the playoffs. A salary cap isn't going to change that.
Alexei Ramirez, Bench Player or potential ROY? Somewhere in between?
Keith Law (12:13 PM)
Minor leaguer. I think he's going to really struggle to make contact if they start him in the majors.
Bryan (SLC, UT)
Is Soto the catcher for the Cubs over the limit for ROY consideration? If not, what are his odds of winning?
Keith Law (12:14 PM)
He's still a rookie, and he has a good chance. He'll hit behind Lee, Aramis, and Fukudome, so he's going to get many RBI opps. His team will win, which never hurts. And there's always a chance that some writers decide they're going to ignore the rules and refuse to vote for Fukudome because he's a former Japanese big leaguer.
Dan: (New York, NY)
Considering the ever-increasing amount of Japanese imports, do you think an age limit should be put on ROY candidates?
Keith Law (12:14 PM)
No, but I wouldn't object to a rule change that deems the Central and Pacific Leagues as "major" leagues for purposes of RoY voting. The caliber of play over there seems to be above AAA, and clearly the top tier of Japanese players can play here and be above-average.
Jon (Laguna Beach, CA)
Hey Keith, is Andy Laroche still eligible for rookie of the year if he plays enough? Also what is the outlook on Chin-lung Hu?
Keith Law (12:15 PM)
Both are still eligible. Hu could only win if none of the good rookie bats hits - defensive players almost never win. Weiss may have been the last one. LaRoche's chances are probably toast - he'll miss too much playing time, and we all know the Dodgers are just looking for excuses to not play him.
With the cubs having 2 potential ROY candidates in Soto and Fukudome, has a team ever had the ROY and the runner up?
Keith Law (12:16 PM)
I don't know the answer offhand, but I thought someone else here might.
Why does everyone say Kennedys fastball is fringe average? He seems to be consistantly between 88-91 and touches 93mph with movement. (assuming the radar guns on TV are accurate) His average fastball in the bigs last year was 90. Seems like a lot of pitchers would kill for that velocity.
Keith Law (12:16 PM)
Those figures are high. He's mostly 87-89, might touch 91 on a good day.
Dave, ThanksForPlaying, USA
Since we're talking about rookies, which hot rookies from last year are set to take the biggest steps up (Hamilton?) and down (Joba, Pedroia?)
Keith Law (12:18 PM)
Hamilton takes a step forward, definitely. Bannister takes a step back. Pedroia can only stay steady or go backwards - I don't see where he could improve his production. Kyle Kendrick takes a step back. Justin Upton jumps forward. Adam Jones moves forward as well. Joba doesn't step down, but his performance will change as his role does.
There has been much praise of Jair Jurrjens this spring out of the braves camp. With the tutelage of Bobby Cox and the veterans on that pitching staff, do you think he can garner some rookie of the year attention?
Keith Law (12:19 PM)
Jurrjens has an above-average fastball and great command, but his secondary stuff isn't great and he's never missed a lot of bats. The odds are against him.
I don't know if it's been done since, but 1989 Cubs - 1. Jerome Walton, 2. Dwight Smith, baby!
Keith Law (12:19 PM)
I really should have remembered that one. Thanks. That rookie class worked out so well...
Brett (Saint Paul)
Hey Keith how do you see Carlos Gomez playing out this year, he has big holes to fill with the departure of Torii Hunter
Keith Law (12:20 PM)
I discovered in February that Gomez has too much time on the 25-man roster to be RoY-eligible, even though he's under the AB cutoff. I think he'll hit for average, have a mediocre OBP, steal a lot of bases, and play great CF defense.
Brad (Columbus, OH)
Who is your choice for non-Japanese ROY?
Keith Law (12:22 PM)
In the NL, Soto would be my alternate choice, and if Cueto makes the Reds' rotation, he'd be next. Most of my other NL choices have already been sent out. AL, I had said Longoria because I though the Beelzebub Rays would do the right thing by him, but with him in the minors, leading contenders would be Daric Barton, Buchholz, Kennedy, Joba, Ellsbury, Adenhart if he makes that club.
Was Colby Rasmus given the same treatment by the Cardinals as Longoria got with the Rays?
Keith Law (12:23 PM)
I'm a little less disturbed by that one, because he has yet to reach AAA and his routes in the outfield could use some work. So there's some logic to sending him out. Now, the flip side is that he was the best or second-best outfielder they had in camp, so I'd hope he'll be up sooner rather than later.
After a horrible last outing, and a pretty mediocre spring overall, I am at the point where I am permantley lowering my expectations for Mike Pelfrey. Am I the last guy off the bus?
Keith Law (12:24 PM)
Pelfrey's not RoY-eligible, but yes, the velocity drop this spring is a huge red flag.
Why do the Dodgers seem so high on Blake Dewitt? Also, what do you expect from Kuroda?
Keith Law (12:25 PM)
I always forget Kuroda. The Dodgers have a chance to be pretty good, and it's not a bad place to pitch, so he's in the mix. I don't see what they see in Dewitt.
Chris (Dallas, TX)
I thought we agreed in a previous chat that it's the Mephistopherays...geez.
Keith Law (12:25 PM)
That was it - couldn't remember. It's been too long since the last chat.
Mike (Carbondale, IL)
Another 1/2 duo is Alvin Davis and Mark Langston for the Mariners...maybe going 1-2 isn't a good thing...
Keith Law (12:27 PM)
Isn't the RoY in general a mixed blessing? The list has a lot of duds, and a lot of guys who turned out to be good, but didn't live up to the award. Quick example - AL 2002-2004: Hinske, Berroa, Bobby Crosby.
Daniel (Stockton, CA)
If Nate Schierholtz suddenly realizes that taking pitches and working the count are helpful and not scary, will he be a solid, above-average everyday player?
Keith Law (12:28 PM)
If he suddenly draws 50 walks this year, he's an above-average player. I like his swing and he has some serious juice in his bat. But his plate discipline is atrocious. He might swing at a pickoff throw.
Do you feel Kosuke Fukudome will be another Matsui(Astros) first season
Keith Law (12:28 PM)
I like him better than that. Kaz Matsui had poor walk rates in Japan. That seems to matter for guys who come over.
David Price and elbow trouble. How far off if TJ?
Keith Law (12:29 PM)
They're saying muscle strain. So at the moment, it's not a TJ problem.
What do you make of E Velez for the Giants? He's putting up great spring numbers and it looks like he'll get to start everyday for the Giants. Dude can run, eh?
Keith Law (12:29 PM)
He can run, but that's about it. He's pretty erratic everywhere in the infield, and he doesn't walk or hit for any power.
Joe (Park Ridge, NJ)
Keith welcome back! Missed your regular chats....anyways back to baseball, would you say Cueto has surpassed Bailey on the Red's depth chart?
Keith Law (12:30 PM)
Clearly. Bailey hasn't thrown that well this spring, and Dusty is enamored of Cueto (not that he's wrong, since Cueto is pretty good himself). I would think Bailey ends up traded for a shiny middle reliever this year.
Any chance of Brett Gardner contributing to the Yankees this year? In the future?
Keith Law (12:30 PM)
He's Juan Pierre. Even Brian Cashman made that comparison earlier in the week, saying something like Gardner = Pierre + some walks. That's still not a major league regular.
Mike (Carbondale, IL)
It looks like despite Hendry's best efforts, Felix Pie will finally get his shot. What kind of #'s would you project? .270 15 HR 60 RBI 30 SBs unreasonable?
Keith Law (12:31 PM)
Also not a rookie, but I think he'll hit for less average, more power. Not sure on his speed, as I only saw BP but not the game.
Ben (San Diego)
Keith, assuming Headley gets a taste with the Pads this year and looks ready, should they attempt to trade Kouz in the offseason and hand Headley the 3B job?
Keith Law (12:33 PM)
Headley was another RoY contender who was sent out, and I don't get the decision to favor Kouzmanoff over him. Headley's at least average at third base, he's patient, and he's added so much upper-body strength since college that he now projects to hit for power. You move other guys to make room for a player like that.
Keith Law (12:33 PM)
OK, time to hand this off to (insert ESPN.com writer name here). Thanks for coming - I hope to be back for a full KlawChat next week!
Jerry Crasnick (12:35 PM)
OK, folks. Now that Keith has talked up this year's rookie class, I'm here to talk about managers and GMs on the firing line. It's the Grim Reaper chat. Let's get started.
Matt (Hartland, WI)
If the Brewers dont make the postseason this year, is Ned Yost gone?
Jerry Crasnick (12:37 PM)
Matt, Let's put it this way: His performance will be thoroughly evaluated before the Brewers pick up his 2009 option. Ned's become a lightning rod for criticism in Milwaukee, and the expectations are high this year. But we need to at least wait and see how this season plays out.
Josh (Lincoln, NE)
Giants fans can't be happy with Sabean. Why isn't he under more heat?
Jerry Crasnick (12:39 PM)
Josh, The Giants gave Sabean a two-year extension through 2009 in July. I guess Peter Magowan thinks it's only fair to give Sabean a chance to show what he can do post-Bonds. But it's going to be a rocky season in San Francisco, and the fans are going to need someone to rip. I assume Sabean will get blistered on the talk shows if it goes south.
Adam (Fond du Lac)
Jerry, If Joe Girardi from New York does not win the world series this year, will he be one and done?
Jerry Crasnick (12:40 PM)
Adam, Geez, I don't see that. The Yankees have a lot of young arms and the franchise is in a bit of a transitional phase. If they have confidence that Girardi is the right guy, he deserves more than a year to prove himself.
Dan (St. Louis)
What's the life expectancy for Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen?
Jerry Crasnick (12:41 PM)
Dan, It's funny -- Ozzie just signed an extension through 2012, and he's already talking about how Jerry Reinsdorf should dump him if the's not the guy for the job. I don't see him going anywhere unless he just gets sick of it and walks away. As for Kenny, Reinsdorf seems to love him. I think he has a pretty long leash.
Andrew Friedman take a lot of heat for the so-called being cheap moves like the Longoria move, but he doesn't get the credit for being a great evaluator of talent. He's resurrected Pena, Wigginton, Reyes, Harris and maybe Hinske this year. He's also shown commitment by signing Shields and Pena to contracts totaling almost $70 Million. What are your thoughts on the job Friedman has done?
Jerry Crasnick (12:42 PM)
Tommy, I think Friedman has really hit his stride and seems to be growing nicely into the job. Heck, I could barely throw dinner in the microwave when I was 28.
What do you think of former Cards GM Walt Jockety coming to the Reds? Is this the end of the line for current Reds GM Wayne Krivsky?
Jerry Crasnick (12:45 PM)
Zack, It's sure easy to portray it that way. Bob Castellini, the owner, is a huge Jocketty guy, and Dusty Baker certainly isn't going to get fired if the Reds underachieve. That said, I think Cincinnati has a chance to be pretty good this season. Krivsky needs the team to at least hang in there with the Cubs and the Brew Crew to secure his job beyond this year.
Jeff (Dallas, TX)
How do you see the Nolan Ryan/Jon Daniels relationship working out? Did Hicks do the right thing by putting Ryan in charge of the whole franchise instead of just the business side?
Jerry Crasnick (12:46 PM)
Jeff, It's a bit of a strange dynamic. But the Rangers just gave Daniels an extension through 2011, so they apparently feel he can work with Ryan. Plus, Daniels made some nice moves last year to help the Rangers get younger and deeper in the farm system. They needed that.
Josh (Conroe, Texas)
Do you think Sweet Lou is on the hot seat because I don't think that the Cubs will make the playoffs
Jerry Crasnick (12:47 PM)
Josh, No, I don't think Lou is on the hot seat. The Cubs made the playoffs last year, and he's making a lot of money (over $3 million a year) through the 2009 season. He's not going anywhere.
If the Mets miss the playoffs, Randolph would have to be gone, but would Minaya go too?
Jerry Crasnick (12:49 PM)
Dan, Omar is second in line, but if the Mets really disappoint, we might be looking at a package deal. I think Randolph would have been fired after last season if the Mets didn't owe him $4.25 million.
If the Jays can't catch the Yanks and Sox are Riccardi and Gibbons gone?
Jerry Crasnick (12:51 PM)
James, Tean president Paul Godfrey is a huge J.P. Ricciardi fan, and J.P.'s contract runs through 2010. This season would have to be a complete disaster for him to get fired. Gibbons is on a one-year deal, so he's on the hot seat to an extent. But J.P. has already run through Buck Martinez and Carlos Tosca. It's tough to keep blaming managers when the team doesn't play to expectations.
Matt (Wynnewood, PA)
Who will take over for Pat Gillick?
Jerry Crasnick (12:52 PM)
Matt, Well, here in Philly the consensus seems to be either Ruben Amaro Jr. or Mike Arbuckle. Both very good, capable guys. For what it's worth, the Phillies seem to have put Amaro in a little more of an out-front position. But Arbuckle is very respected in the scouting community.
Why isn't Paul DePodesta a major league GM? He essentially has brought in the core of the current Dodger team, but was fired because they didn't win in his only year. I wouldn't be able to count on my fingers and toes how many GM's he'd do a better job than.
Jerry Crasnick (12:53 PM)
Steven, Paul is a very smart, capable guy. But I don't know if he was ever comfortable being "out there" as the face of a franchise, dealing with all the media hits. That's a huge part of the job these days.
Tony (Norwich, CT)
Lou isn't going nowhere, but what about Jim Hendry? He has tons of money to play with, but his teams can't win 90 games and the farm system stinks. With new ownership coming in i can easily see him gone if the Cubs make it 100 years of losing.
Jerry Crasnick (12:55 PM)
Tony, Jim Hendry's contract is up at the end of the year, so 2008 is obviously big for his future. But let's remember that the Cubs did make the playoffs last year. That's gotta buy him a little love, doesn't it?
So Girardi's safe, but what about Cashman? I get the feeling that Hank is just looking for an excuse to get rid of him. Might missing the playoffs be that excuse?
Jerry Crasnick (12:56 PM)
Doug, Who the heck knows what Hank Steinbrenner is thinking? But how many times has it been written that Cashman is sick of the Yankees and wants to walk away, or that he's about to get bagged? I'll believe it when I see it.
Finn (Seattle, WA)
Safe to say that Bavasi has put all his eggs in he Bedard basket? How's it gonna work out for Bill?
Jerry Crasnick (12:57 PM)
Finn, Well, I guess that depends in large part on how Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva pitch this season. Bill Bavasi and John McLaren will both be paying close attention, you can be sure.
Switching gears, which manager and GM have the MOST job security now? I imagine Bobby Cox would be the safest manager (but then who?), but not so sure on the GM, not that a lot of the longer tenured ones have stepped down.
Jerry Crasnick (12:58 PM)
Greg, Well, I'd have to say that Theo Epstein's job security is pretty good, given that the Red Sox went 86 years without a title and they've won twice since 2004 on his watch.
Red Sox fan stuck in Maryland
Since Trembleys O?s stopped playing after he got his new contract, last season, does he have much of a shelf life this year when considering how bad everyone expects them to be? As a side note, MLB.com?s bio of Trembley has NO mention of him being named manager of the O?s, implying that he is still the interim manager. Maybe some wishful thinking here?
Jerry Crasnick (1:00 PM)
Red Sox fan, Dave Trembley has a high energy persona, and we'll see how it plays in a clubhouse that could go south on the way to an 11th consecutive losing season. I'm sure Andy MacPhail wouldn't hesitate to bring in "his guy." But let's at least give Trembley 'til July or August.
Dylan (San Francisco, CA)
I know Brian Sabean is considered a great baseball mind...but the Giants haven't been relevant since 2002...with arguable the best ballpark in the bigs and a decent amount of cash, why hasn't Sabean done anything to make the Giants younger/faster/better?
Jerry Crasnick (1:02 PM)
Dylan, Sabean is a smart guy, but I think the Giants really fell into a rut with Bonds there -- and frankly, Brian seems to have become more disengaged in recent years. He needs to get back to showing some of that old fire and energy to bring the Giants back. And they really have to do a better job with that farm system.
Jerry, how long does Bill Smith have here to prove himself? He's been blistered (Santana Trade) and praised (Morneau, Cuddyer, Nathan) thus far. Not sure which way to go on him.
Jerry Crasnick (1:04 PM)
Kyle, The Twins value continuity more than a lot of organizations -- just witness the lengthy tenure of Terry Ryan -- so Bill Smith will get a while to prove himself. After the initial bouts of bad news with Santana and Hunter, at least the Twins have started to spend some money to keep their own guys. That's imperative as they prepare to move into the new ballpark.
Jerry Crasnick (1:04 PM)
Thanks for the questions, everybody. I'll hand it off to the next chat now.
Rob Neyer (1:06 PM)
Hey, that's me! For the next 25 minutes we'll be talking about the best pennant races of 2008 ... not including the AL East!
Matt (Hartland, WI)
With both teams battling it out in the NL Central, is a rivalry heating up between Chicago and Milwaukee?
Rob Neyer (1:07 PM)
Seems like a natural, right? In fact, this was why, some years ago, Bud Selig wanted his Brewers in the National League. Well, and because he figured Cubs fans would show up in Milwaukee regardless of the standings.
I'm looking forward to the Mets-Phillies rivalry, what with the mets saying that now they are the team to beat!
Rob Neyer (1:08 PM)
Well, they are the team to beat. But after what happened last September every time these teams play it should seem like an absolute war.
Drew (Gainesville, FL)
Best rivalry? How about a budding rivalry out west. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. Still some hard feelings about who said what during the NLCS and these are both young teams with players that will be at their respective teams for awhile. Not to mention they'll be in contention with each other for years to come.
Rob Neyer (1:09 PM)
I think it's hard to consider it a rivalry because the Dodgers and the Padres are in the middle of that pennant race, too.
Ryan (New York, New York)
As far as I am concerned, the Mets are always the team to beat in the NL East. They beat themselves last year, but do you really see the Phillies trumping them again?
Rob Neyer (1:10 PM)
No, I don't. I have the Mets winning 95 games, the Phillies w/87. But you know there's plenty of play within those projections, so the Phillies do have a legitimate shot.
Mike (Charleston, SC)
Hey Rob. With "rivalry" teams playing each other up to 18 times a year now, is there anything really special about these series. I mean, Duke/UNC and Bears/Packers and 'Bamab/Auburn are distinct because they see each other twice a year, but with pro baseball teams playing each other so much, it seems like the "rivalries" have lost some luster. Waddya think?
Rob Neyer (1:12 PM)
No, I don't think so. Not for me. In the old days the Dodgers played the Giants 22 times every season. Didn't seem to hurt that one. I'm not sure you can play a rival too often.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
So glad to see the Braves not being mentioned in the NL East. They may have the best overall rotation and a very good lineup but all of the focus seems to be on the aging Mets and pitching-poor Phillies. Where do you see the Braves for 2008?
Rob Neyer (1:15 PM)
Neck-and-neck with the Phillies for second place, because that's what the numbers say. When I look at their roster I can't figure out how they win 87 games, but if I've learned one thing over the years, it's to trust the numbers.
Everyone is jumping back on the Tigers bandwagon after their big trade with good reason. The Indians have pretty much the same team that won the division last year, but did they shoot themselves in the foot by spinning their wheels and not making a move this offseason?
Rob Neyer (1:16 PM)
Every team should try to improve in the off-season, but the Indians might figure on improving by keeping their best young players. If you know what I mean. They do still look soft in the outfield corners.
Isn't the Tigers pitching staff a huge question mark, relying on Kenny Rogers/Dontrelle Willis plus an injury decimated bullpen?
Rob Neyer (1:20 PM)
Yeah, I sure think so. I do think Verlander and Bonderman will combine for 35 (or so) wins, but after them it looks pretty shaky to me. I say the Tigers are in for their fight of their lives in the Central.
Robb (Pittsburgh, PA)
From a rivalry and competitive stand point, I would have to go with the Cubs-Reds as being a great rivalry throughout the season. Both teams have the roster and coaching to compete all season for the NL Central title. Do you think this could rank up there as one of the top rivalries of the season?
Rob Neyer (1:20 PM)
Sorry, but I just don't see it. Not with Jay Bruce and (probably) Joey Votto in the minors to start the season. The Reds will be lucky to finish within five games of first place.
Cy (Nashua, NH)
Hey Rob, who do you have for this years sleeper teams, in both AL and NL?
Rob Neyer (1:21 PM)
AL: Blue Jays; NL: Braves. Do they count? I'm afraid I just don't see this year's last year's Rockies.
Mariners-Angels figures to be the only rivalry in the AL west for the next few years, doesn't it?
Rob Neyer (1:22 PM)
I think you'll be surprised by how quickly the A's are back in contention. Probably not this year, and maybe not next year. But they'll be a part of the conversation in 2010.
Josh (Canton, MI)
What makes the Tigers starters more shaky than any other team's? They have an ace and two or three guys who will at least eat up a lot of innings with some nice upside from there.
Rob Neyer (1:24 PM)
Any other team's? The Tigers' bottom three are shakier than the Indians' bottom three, aren't they? Because of Westbrook vs. Rogers or Willis? Yes, Willis and Robertson will eat innings, but I have trouble seeing that nice upside.
Robbie Seattle, WA
I think The Mariners and Angels will be an amazing race all the way until September. It will be fun to watch because of the additions both teams have made. Mariners take the pennant
Rob Neyer (1:26 PM)
I believe the M's are terribly overrated, as most projections have them falling short of 80 wins. Granted, that'll change if King Felix and Prince Erik are both Cy Young candidates, which is conceivable.
Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones...best outfield in the National League?
Rob Neyer (1:28 PM)
Nah, not yet. I like Ethier and I love Kemp, but I'm not convinced that either is ready to be a star. How about the Cubs? And the Diamondbacks?
Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, and Michael Bourn is the best OF in the NL, no?
Rob Neyer (1:29 PM)
And the Astros? No, not the Astros. Bourn's not all that good and Lee's merely good.
The Cubs? Have they even picked a centerfielder yet?
Rob Neyer (1:31 PM)
Well, that's a point. I like Felix Pie, but I'm not sure the Cubs do and anyway he won't be good for another year or two. I'm sticking with the D'backs, though. Thanks for all the questions. Now I'm handing you off to Mr. Jayson Stark. Jayson?
Jayson Stark (1:32 PM)
Thanks, Rob. Let's shift the topic across the Pacific. I see in our poll results today that only 17 percent of people responding think we should open the season in Japan. I'm not one of them. So if anyone out there thinks it's a good idea, now's your chance to try to persuade us all.
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
This is a great idea, if you're a tour director or you work in the marketing department. But it's an ill-advised idea for anyone else.
Great idea to play over seas, I love being able to wake up with my morning coffee watching bullpens do all they can to make the game exciting.
Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
I agree this was more fun breakfast programming than the CBS morning show. But I don't think people have grasped how difficult this trip made it for these teams to get ready for the season.
I think it is a disadvantage for teams to play outside of the US and Canada. I think globalization is important, but there are other ways to go go about it. The flight to Japan is a long one and it will just take the players that much longer to get into a regular routine. For what it's worth I am also not in favor of the Cubs playing in the HOF game this year. I can just see something bad happening in an exhibition contest. Maybe that's why this is the final such game.
Jayson Stark (1:37 PM)
Well, we're not going to get into that Hall of Fame game -- not here, anyway. But I agree. The Red Sox will travel 31,000 miles and play baseball in three countries before they play a home game. I don't see how the sport can justify doing that to ANY team in the name of international marketing.
Kevin (Gardner, MA)
Waking up at 6am was miserable enough, but I have a feeling that this trip is going to come back and haunt both teams. The traveling and press events are enough to drain a team in addition to both games being played.
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
I talked to an official of a team that went to Japan in the past. And he said the only fair way to reward a team for going is to give them a full week at home to recover. That's not exactly the way it's going to work for the Red Sox. They have to cross 10 time zones to play three exhibition games in LA. Then they re-open the season in Oakland, then re-cross three more time zones to play another series in Toronto. Too much travel. And for all the Yankees fans out there, I'd say that if this were the Yankees, too. In fact, I did -- when they did the same thing a few years ago.
Kenny (San Francisco)
Why does everyone have to incessantly whine and make excuses about how this trip will have adverse effects, you fly first class with tip top hotels, suck it up and spread the greatest game on earth across the globe, we all have travel frequently at some points in our professions
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
Here's the thing: We don't HAVE to sell the game to the Japanese. They already bought in. They love it more than we do.
Joe (San Diego)
Whats worse, MLB in Japan or NFL in London? At least Japan cares about the sport.
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
That's true. But there's a slight problem with Japan that doesn't apply to England: It's not that conveniently located!
I support the MLB's attempt to reach overseas, but I thought that Bobby V made a great point by noting that these games were taking place during Japan's league regular season. I think the proper way to do things would be a postseaon series between the two champions, but is MLB too afraid to see their champion fall?
Jayson Stark (1:44 PM)
I agree with all of that. It's disrespectful to overshadow their season with our season. And players I've talked to really like the idea of playing the Japanese champion after the World Series. I think that will happen some day, by the way. But it's well down the road on their list of priorities.
Do teams have any freedom to decline these type of trips? Or is there some sort of rule between MLB and its member clubs requiring them to agree to this kind of travel? I would imagine that many teams would say no.
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
They do. That's why these things have to be negotiated. Remember the dispute last week over whether the coaches were going to be paid their $40,000 per man? That was part of the negotiations. These teams only agree to go if baseball makes it worth their while. The A's are being paid off for losing two home dates and a week of spring-training dates, too.
Matt (Fort Collins, Co)
I like the idea of a game over seas, especially in Japan. But the timing is horrific. They play 2 regular season games and return to finish spring training. That makes no sense at all.
Jayson Stark (1:47 PM)
I understand the reasoning behind it, but it's just one more reason this is the wrong way to open a season. Baseball is a rhythm sport, and all this expedition does is throw a team out of that rhythm.
Maybe someday we'll see interleague play (as in MLB and Japan)during the regulare season. What do you think? Maybe around the All-Star break?
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
Nope. I don't see that happening. The Japanese don't want to merge with MLB, and I don't blame them.
Just a thought, but why wouldn't they plan the Japanese trip around the all star break, say two games before the break, and keep everyone on the selected teams away from the allstar game and give them that time off. Wouldn't that type of idea make more sense for everyone involved?
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
That's an interesting idea. And not a bad one. I'm a guy who proposed playing the semifinals and finals of the World Baseball Classic right after the All Star Game, so we could make that International Week. What do you think out there?
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
Jason (Memphis, TN)
The Major League Champs vs. the Japan League Champs in a 7-game series sounds like a fantastic idea. It could be played in a neutral setting like Hawaii, or just rotate it each year from Japan to the US...There would be some issues with the lack of U.S. players rest, the Japan getting rest prior to it...But a series from Nov. 15th - Nov. 25th is all reasonable...We just have to tip the players a bit for them to really get invested. What do you think? Is it possible? Would it be fair? Who would win?--haha
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
I've explored this idea a little in the past. And that's the biggest issue -- when would you play? I think a week or so after the World Series, Nov. 7 or so, makes sense. But those issues haven't been anywhere near resolved. Heck, they've barely been debated.
Josh (NY, NY)
Having attended the semis/finals of the WBC last time (and intending to go again next year) I think it's a great idea - provided that it doesn't become as impossible to get tickets as the All-Star game.
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
I don't want to turn this into a WBC chat, because it's supposed to be about Japan. But my proposal was: Futures Game on Monday, Home Run Derby on Tuesday, All Star Game on Wednesday, WBC semis on Thursday, WBC finals on Friday. Maybe in non-WBC years, we could work some Japan games into that week. Sounds like an awesome all-star break to me.
Nathan (Rochester, Mi)
Why is the World Baseball Classic not enough for MLB? Do we as a country or sport have to continue to pile our ideas onto others who probably dont want Them?
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
First of all, they do want them. If you watched any of that game today, it was clear those fans were thrilled to be there. And i don't blame MLB for wanting to market their sport in a variety of ways, to as many baseball-loving nations as possible. I just don't think this is the way to do it.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
If you wait until November to have a MLB v Japanese League seven game World Series, you are well into football season. Maybe the Japanese market can support it but the U.S. market won't care.
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
The World Series is played during football season NOW. So I disagree. You don't think somebody would televise those games? And if, say, the Detroit Tigers were playing the Yomiuri Giants best of seven, you don't think millions of people would watch? If they'd rather watch Dolphins-Bills, because they have money on the "over," that's their problem.
Hey Jayson, don't let those on the east complain about 6AM, try 3AM!
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
Thanks, Patrick, for mentioning that. Nothing like those 3 a.m. "home" games. Thank heaven for Tivo!
Jeff, New Haven
Jayson, Would there ever be "talent sharing", and have a Japanese league game in the states? I would be interested to see a game, see if the talent really is AAAA compared to MLB.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
I've never heard that talked about, but I'll ask about it next time I get a chance.
If they held a Japan Vs US championship in November, wouldn't free agency get in the way. Why would a member of the WS team, en route to a huge contract with a different club, come back in November for essentially a series of exhibition games. Can't see this happening.
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
That's another issue. Those questions would have to be addressed. And the free-agency rules might have to be adjusted in some way.
Bill (Baltimore, MD)
I agree with JB. The World Series is MLB's peak moment, but immediately following, football is all that matters.
Jayson Stark (2:00 PM)
To you, maybe. I'm not saying this would outrate the World Series, or even Monday Night Football. But to say nobody in America would care is ridiculous.
Michael (Seattle, WA)
"The Japanese don't want to merge with MLB, and I don't blame them." -- Can you elaborate?
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
To play "interleague" games against Japan during the season would imply that those games would count in the standings. And they can't count unless the Japanese leagues and MLB merge in some form. And I don't see that happening. Not for the foreseeable future, anyway.
Jayson Stark (2:02 PM)
OK, we've discussed global affairs longer than the UN Security Council. It's time to turn this over to Buster Olney for a chat on the best small-market teams in baseball. Buster, it's all yours. And I hope your satellite issues have been cleared up.
Jayson Stark (2:08 PM)
Hey, it turns out Buster has been delayed. So I'll pick up his topic until he's ready.
Dana (Athens, Ga)
How long will it be before "small market" is a term of the past, and MLB adopts salary caps and true parity? They just can't ignore what it has done for the NFL, can they?
Jayson Stark (2:09 PM)
There's not going to be a salary cap in baseball. Sorry. Not in our lifetimes. It's amazing to me that nobody has noticed that the current system has changed everything. There's so much money changing hands in revenue-sharing, if a team isn't competitive now, like the Pirates for instance, it's their fault. It's not the system's fault.
Charlie (Dayton, Ohio)
Are the Reds good enough to compete in the very weak NL Central?
Jayson Stark (2:11 PM)
I don't think the NL Central qualifies as "very weak." The Cubs and Brewers are both legit. And I think the Reds have a chance to be better than people think. If their bullpen is better and Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez pitch anywhere near as well as they did this spring, that's an above-.500 team in my eyes. How much above .500 is the question.
Buster Olney (2:11 PM)
Charlie -- I think they have to have some things go right in order for them to compete -- in particular, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto need to pitch as well in the regular season as they have in spring training. That's a tall order.
Millwalkee is best small market franchise, hands down
Ryan: Cape Girardeau, MO
What do you think of Kansas City's chances of getting out of the cellar in the AL Central? The top 3 in the rotation look to be no spectacular but solid and with some time in the Majors Billy Butler and Alex Gordan seem poised to make an impact this year. Do you think the addition of Jose Guillen will be enough to keep KC from being a cellar dweller this year?
Buster Olney (2:12 PM)
Alex: Hands down? I think the Indians and Twins and Oakland have been run pretty well...
Jayson Stark (2:13 PM)
I think the Royals are clearly better. What's tough to figure out is how that's going to translate in the standings. Is there a scenario where they finish ahead of the Twins and/or White Sox? I think there is. I don't know if I'd head for Vegas to back that sentiment up. But it's possible.
Nathan (Rochester, Mi)
Why is it that some folks insist on a salary cap? All it does is support bad teams that should be forced to change to win, not have to do anything and remain "competitive". Small market teams have the same opportunity to win in MLB, they just have to go about it in a different way than opening the pocket book. They must have good scouts and great farm clubs, its not rocket science.
Jayson Stark (2:14 PM)
OK, Buster is ready to jump in here. So I'll pass the baton. Buster, it's all yours, pal.
Buster Olney (2:15 PM)
Nathan: We can talk about a salary cap until we burn out our vocal cords, but here's the bottom line -- it ain' happening in our lifetimes. The game's financial structure is simply too established for something like that to happen. The game would have to have a work stoppage of at least two years for the owners to ever implement a salary cap over the objections of the union.
Do you feel that a statement such as, The Yankees are bad for baseball because all they do is spend money ? is a statement that holds and validity. WOuldn't revenue sharing level out the playing field as much as a salary cap?
Buster Olney (2:17 PM)
Kev: Privately, a lot of execs with other teams love the big-money influence of the Red Sox and Yankees, because of the money they generate. Privately, while they acknowledge that the Yankees and Red Sox create an unlevel playing field, they more than make up for it, in the overall health of the game, with the interest and money they generate for the sport.
The Twins Buster, The Twins.
Buster Olney (2:18 PM)
Ben -- I mentioned the Twins as one of the best-run organizations.
Don Superior, WI
Milwaukee by far, too much talent
Buster Olney (2:19 PM)
Don: The Brewers would trade their talent in an instant for the talent the Indians have, because of the Cleveland pitching.
Tim: (Denver, CO)
Can the Astro's pitching staff be good enough to get them to the playoffs?
Buster Olney (2:19 PM)
Tim: I just don't see it. Roy Oswalt and pray for rain.
Geoff (San Diego)
Padres...they do they most with arguably the least while battling TWO large market teams in LA and SF.
Buster Olney (2:20 PM)
Geoff -- Agree, and they have done it in a very interesting manner -- they really haven't had a great farm system, but they've done a spectacular job plugging and filling and identifying talent in trades. Kevin Towers is regarded by a lot of his peers as being the shrewdest evaluator of talent in the game.
Mike (Brockport, NY)
What chances do you see, for a small market team to make it to the play-offs, and possibly even win a WS? With teams like Boston and NYY always dominating the payscale, is there a clear shot?
Buster Olney (2:22 PM)
Mike: I picked the Indians to win this year because they have the best pitching -- the deepest rotation, and arguably the deepest bullpen. But the clear advantage the Yankees and the Red Sox have is that they have the resources to add more during the season than the Indians, Twins, Jays, etc. add...
Rob from Holland, MI
Will the Tigers win the AL Central? If so, where will the AL wildcard come out of?
Buster Olney (2:23 PM)
Rob: I just don't think the Tigers have enough pitching. My picks -- Yankees to win the AL East, Red Sox to win the wildcard, Indians and Mariners.
Cory Jeff City Mo
Buster are the cards really a small market team
Buster Olney (2:24 PM)
Cory: I don't think of them that way; they own so much of the Midwest, and the northern parts of the South. They've generally been among the biggest spenders in the NL over the last 15 years.
James (Newport, RI)
ok if you pick the indians, then can you see the indians staying as a top team in baseball for the next 10 years? small market teams just cant compete every year like big market teams
Buster Olney (2:25 PM)
James: There's no question that their competitive windows are shorter than those of the Red Sox and Yankees, who can solve problems more quickly with cash. But the Twins have shown over the last decade that you can have an extended window -- so long as you develop pitching, as they have.
What's going to happen to the Marlins franchise...Move or new stadium in South Florida?
Buster Olney (2:26 PM)
John: Looks like they're going to get a new ballpark in South Florida...
El D(Mia, FL)
Do you think MLB would allow/have a team overseas like one in Japan?
Buster Olney (2:27 PM)
El D: Not until they develop travel like they have in Star Trek. The trips would be too brutal for a team to come from the Far East, or in Europe.
WHAT ABOUT THE MARLINS? 2 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS IN TEN YEARS.
Buster Olney (2:29 PM)
Ron -- Depends on how you evaluate success. If you measure it by championships, sure. If you measure if by the health and stability of the franchise, the Marlins certainly wouldn't qualify, given the days when they draw crowds of 175 to 200 actual bodies.
Jason (Scarsdale NY)
Buster, with all the expiring contracts and increased cash from the new Yankee Stadium, what sort of splash(es) could the Yanks make NEXT offseason?
Buster Olney (2:30 PM)
Jason: I think C.C. Sabathia is going to have a very difficult/great decision to make, because the Yankees are going to offer him a staggering deal of maybe $40 million more than any other team.
Buster the early signs in Pittsburgh on the new management have been encouraging, but do you think Frank Coonelly, Neal Huntington, and John Russell really have what it takes to turn this ship around?
Buster Olney (2:31 PM)
Ryan: Depends on their level of patience. From what I hear, there is an increased emphasis on winning in spring training, and the reality is that this is a team that needs another two years of rebuilding. Hopefully, the Pirates won't make some poor free agent decisions and set themselves back next fall. Impatience is not a good thing for a small-market team.
Buster do you think the mets have what it takes to make it to the world series?or at least the playoffs?
Buster Olney (2:33 PM)
Anthony: I picked them to make the playoffs, and if their rotation can stay healthy, they might be a team no one wants to play in October. John Maine seems poised for a huge year, working as the No. 4 starter on this team, working against other teams' No. 4 starters.
And what about my Dbacks?!?!?! they have an awesome chance!! Right?
Buster Olney (2:34 PM)
Jack: I picked the Rockies in the NL West, but really, it's a coin flip; you could make a strong case for the D-Backs, Dodgers, Padres or the Rockies (maybe the case for the Padres isn't that strong, but they have a resiliency gained through their experience).
I actually think what MLB needs is a salary FLOOR, and some way to ensure that a certain percentage of revenue sharing income is put back into the team's payroll, so you don't have owners raking in the revenue sharing and putting a 15 million dollar team on the field.
Buster Olney (2:34 PM)
MJ: Totally agree with you.
Do you think that the Jair Jurrgins trade for Edgar Renteria will pay off in the long run for the Braves
Buster Olney (2:35 PM)
Griffin: To me, that might be the most underrated trade of the off-season, because Jurrjens gives the Braves important depth and as good of a hitter as Renteria is, he simply is not a good shortstop any more because of diminished arm strength.
crowds of 175 to 200 actual bodies. cmon... even thats pushing it a little bit
Buster Olney (2:37 PM)
Brian: No, true story; we had Kevin Gregg on a radio show and he said that during games last year, the Marlins relievers would hear the actual attendance crackle over the walky-talky of a security guard, and in one game, the count was 175.
C.C. (on my way to NY)
Why would that be a tough choice? $40 million more than any other team? Sign me up!
Buster Olney (2:38 PM)
C.C. Because your first choice might be to sign with a team from your native California, and your second choice might be Cleveland -- but the Yankees might make you an offer you can't refuse, despite the fact that you might not really want to play in New York.
Hanley (MIA FL)
Buster will the Marlins be able to afford me after this year...or am i gonna end up back in Boston? Any idea how much cash im going to end up making??
Buster Olney (2:39 PM)
Hanley: You are the next $200 million man, but sadly for Marlins fans, you are destined for the Red Sox or Yankees or Angels within the next three years... With that, folks, my time is up. Sorry I was a few minutes late; I was too stupid to figure out how to get into the moderating room. Talk to you soon.
Tim Kurkjian (2:41 PM)
Thanks for logging on, and thank goodness there was a baseball game today that counted
Jack( Minneapolis, MN)
Do you think Huroki Kuroda can be a impact in the MLB after coming here from Japan?
Tim Kurkjian (2:41 PM)
I do. I saw him pitch this spring and I was around him a little bit this spring. He was completely at ease with where he is and even showed a great sense of humor more than once, including doing an imitation of Elvis Presley at the 'Dodger Idol' show. He throws 92-94 and has a really good idea of how to pitch. He'll be their fourth starter. and will be one of the best fourth starters in the game.
Kaz Matsui I believe will be a big impact considering the way he ended the season. In the astros lineup i believe he might improve. agree?
Tim Kurkjian (2:44 PM)
I agree that he's going to be an important and good player for the Astros. His speed at the top of the order is going to be critical, with three big bangers coming behind him in Berkman, Lee, and Tejada. He's also become a very good defensive second baseman, as he proved last year. The issue with him is always whether he can stay healthy. He's already missed some time this spring. When he's right, he's a good player offensively and defensively.
Are there any huge Japanese stars that continue to resist the MLB. Matsuzaka and Fokudome and Matsui have all come for the money it seems, is there any players that refuse to leave Japan and are on the same level as these guys?
Tim Kurkjian (2:46 PM)
Bobby Valentine has told me for several years now that every everyday player in Japan could make a major league team. He also told me last year that when Japanese players come back from playing in the major leagues, they say, in essence, 'they're not THAT great over there'. Meaning, the best Japanese players can compete on a high level in the United States. So we need to fully expect more and more players to come here from Japan. But interestingly, players from Japan used to come here just for the sake of coming here. Now some of them come also for the money. Players in the United States used to go to Japan just for the money, and it really doesn't work that way anymore.
Dan B (Bridgewater, NJ)
Hideo Nomo back with the Royals? Do you see him in the with them the whole season or being waived midway in?
Tim Kurkjian (2:49 PM)
I talked to a scout in Arizona a week ago who was unimpressed with the way Nomo had thrown this spring. When I told him there was an outside chance that Nomo might make the team, the scout responded with, 'No way!'. He has been gone from the major leagues for a couple of years and it's really hard to come back, especially when he doesn't have anything close to the devastating split that he used to have. The Royals do have a pretty good Japanese pitcher in Yasuhiko Yabuta. I saw him throw this spring in Arizona. He pounds the strike zone and according to his manager, Trey Hillman, he can throw several pitches for strikes pretty much whenever he wants, and always down in the strike zone. He will be a useful guy in their bullpen.
Sean (Sterling, MA)
I think Matsuzaka will take a step down. I don't think he will be able to handle the pressure of being a top starter while Beckett is out.
Tim Kurkjian (2:52 PM)
I disagree. I think Beckett is going to be back the first week of April, so he won't have that pressure for very long. I also think he, like virtually all Japanese players, has the ability to adjust, and I think he'll adjust to anything that was a problem last year. He has got to, of course, start to throw more strikes. He walked five in five innings in the opener. But I fully expect him to. I'm not suggesting he'll win 20 games this year, but I think he'll take a step forward from last year.
Dave (Coal Twp)
If Sadaharu Oh would have had a chance to play over here, where would he have ranked among the leaders?
Tim Kurkjian (2:53 PM)
That's a really good--and difficult!--question. Needless to say, I don't think he would have hit 800 homers here, but obviously he is one of the great talents in Japan. If you hit 800 over there, you'll find a way to hit at least 400 over here, and that would have translated into a very good career.
Do you see Hideki Okajima being as effective this year now that hitters have seen his pitches?
Tim Kurkjian (2:55 PM)
I have a hard time believeing he'll be as good as he was. It took half a year for anyone to figure out how to hit a guy who snaps his head like he does, but what worries me slightly for Okajima is that he wasn't nearly as good in Japan as he was here. My guess is major league hitters figure him out a little more this year, but I still think he'll be an effective reliever in the late innings.
Mark (Bangor, PA)
Tim, have you seen Masa Kobayashi pitch? Do you think he'll fare better than most?
Tim Kurkjian (2:56 PM)
I did not see him pitch this spring, but I was told by those who did that he too has a chance to help them in their bullpen. They have a lot of other relievers there, and he may not get the chance that Okajima got last year with Boston. But let's not forget that all major league teams are scouting Japan very closely. There's just no way they are bringing a guy over here unless they are pretty sure he can play. Most Japanese players who have come have done pretty well.
Sean (Albany, NY)
Up until now, it seems all of the Japanese players coming over to the major leqagues have been established stars or at least established veterans. Do you think we will see a shift in the near future to drafting younger Japanese players right out of high school, or do teams want a higher chance of return on their investment?
Tim Kurkjian (2:58 PM)
I'm not sure how the rules work, but I think it would be very difficult to take a Japanese player out of high school or any sort of similarly young age. It would just seem logical that that player would want to play in Japan, and then eventually come play in this country. Some people have suggested a global draft in which players from Latin America, Japan, and everywhere else are drafted instead of just signed, but I think we're still quite a ways away from that happening.
So, does anyone else think Ichiro is past his best years?
Tim Kurkjian (2:59 PM)
I don't think he's going to get 262 hits again, but I don't think in any way he is very far past his prime. The one thing we've learned about him is his ability to adjust is as good as any player I think I've ever seen. There have been several times over the last seven years where people have said, 'OK, we've got him figured out', and then he hits .400 for the next month. He is going to have another 200-hit season, which will tie Wee Willie Keeler's record with eight straight 200-hit seasons.
Nick (Indianapolis, IN)
Is it too soon to assume Kosuke Fukudome is going to be a bust? He has not had a particularly good spring. He seems to break a lot of bats and ground out weakly. He shows no power and average plate discipline.
Tim Kurkjian (2:59 PM)
He has not had a good spring, and it is way too early to suggest that he is going to be a bust. Keep in mind that Ichiro hit a bunch of soft singles and weak ground balls to the left side his first spring. Lou Piniella privately wondered if he was going to be able to hit in the bigs. Of course, he went on to be the rookie of the year and MVP. Fukudome is no Ichiro, but he is going to be an above-average major league outfielder who is going to hit between 15 and 20 homers, around .280, and will be well above average on the bases and defensively. It's a huge adjustment coming from Japan, he hasn't made it yet, but he will.
Tim Kurkjian (2:59 PM)
Thanks so much for logging in, and I can't wait until every team starts playing on Monday.
Eric Karabell (3:09 PM)
Hi there, let's talk some fantasy baseball steals, shall we? Vote for Josh Hamilton, or something like that...
Dave (Kalamazoo, MI)
Conor Jackson had a very good spring. How well do you think he will do once it matters??
Eric Karabell (3:10 PM)
I think he can be a steal after the first 15 or 20 first basemen in most mixed drafts, and you can definitely get him late. Of course, I have also seen mixed leagues in which Jackson didn't go at all. Can he hit 20 home runs? I think so. I'd take a chance over veterans like Lyle Overbay and Aubrey Huff.
Eric- With the injury to Capuano, do you think Manny Parra will make the rotation? He struggled a bit this spring, how effective can he be in '08? Is he a mixed league player?
Eric Karabell (3:12 PM)
Yes, Parra is going to be a steal for those who take a chance late. The Brewers have a rotation spot open, though they could fill it with Carlos Villanueva. I think either of them would be a steal, really. Parra isn't going in 10-team mixed leagues, but he is a big strikeout guy. He just has to stay healthy. I'd think the Brewers give him a chance to start at some point.
What do you think of Carlos Gomez? It seems like he's going to steal a base every time he gets on.
Eric Karabell (3:14 PM)
Gomez could fit the definition here of a steal in a few ways. He certainly can steal bases, no question. There is 50-steal potential lurking if he can get on base enough. Ultimately this is why I'm not calling him a big steal in terms of draft status. I don't think he'll have a high OBP or hit for much power initially. The Marlins sent Cameron Maybin down, but the Twins decided to stick with Gomez. There's potential here, but I would only take him late.
Kevin (Detroit, MI)
Is Barry Bonds worth drafting? Or should he be a fre agent until he signs?
Eric Karabell (3:16 PM)
Well, this platform I am chatting about is crime, and Bonds does figure into that equation, eh? Is he a steal in fantasy though? I don't think he's going to play at least the first two months of the season. The only way a MLB team will break down and sign him is if they are contending and desperately need production, and a spot opens up on the team due to injury or really poor performance. There's a lot of baggage with Bonds. As a hitter, I'd want him in fantasy. He has power. He takes a ton of walks for OBP leagues. In deep leagues he would be a steal if he plays.
Other than Josh Hamilton, Who is the next big steal in the draft?
Eric Karabell (3:18 PM)
The funny thing is, the more we talk about Hamilton's powerful spring, the more he's not a steal anymore in fantasy. Everyone's figuring out what he can do. I think 30 home runs is the minimum, if he gets 500 at-bats. Another steal from the outfield I like is Jeremy Hermida of Florida. Good lefty bat needed some time, but he's going to knock in runs.
Aaron (Redwood City, CA)
Eric, I think INF Eugenio Velez on San Francisco is the biggest steal. This spring he's batting .296 with 13 stolen bases in 24 games. He gets on base too, as well as very disruptive on the base paths. He is potentially an ideal lead off man.
Eric Karabell (3:20 PM)
Totally agree. And now that the Giants have lost Kevin Frandsen with a torn Achilles', there's more need for Velez to play. He sure can run, swiping more than 100 bases the past two seasons. He can start at 2B or 3B, and who knows, he can be the next Chone Figgins if he's consistent and gets on base. Yes, this guy is moving up my list of steals.
Dan (Bay City, MI)
What are your expectations for Mr Corey Patterson, it seems he won the job, or do you expect the Reds to hand it to Bruce in a few months. Met him in person - he is a great guy!
Eric Karabell (3:22 PM)
Yes, this guy is on my list of big steals as well. We have to separate fantasy and reality for this one. He will not have a high on-base. He never does. But he did have a 24-homer, 32-steal season for Dusty Baker before, and Cincy is a great place for a lefty to hit. Felipe Lopez once hit 23 homers there. I think Patterson is the everyday center fielder and leadoff guy. At worst he goes about 10 homers, 30 steals. At best how about 25 and 40? He's got that ability. Yes, a big steal here. Jay Bruce will play this year, but he needs to be in a corner outfield spot.
Tim, State College
Eric, I feel like I have possibly gotten a steal in the 10th round with Miguel Tejada. How do you think he will play this year? Do you think he will be back to his old self in Houston?
Eric Karabell (3:24 PM)
Yeah, I really do. In the 10th round, now that's a steal! Tejada gets a bad rap. He hasn't been an angel, probably, but he does still have power, and Houston is a very good place for a right-handed pull hitter to swing the bat. I see 25 homers, 100 RBIs and a good average, as Tejada bounces back nicely. He's in my top 50, so for you to get him in round 10, wow!
I think Jacoby Ellsbury is the steal of the draft. Agree?
Eric Karabell (3:26 PM)
I think it depends on where he goes in the draft. If it's late, yes. There are concerns about how he will handle everyday duty, which could be why Coco Crisp remains on the team. Also, what numbers do we expect from Ellsbury? Maybe 10 homers, maybe 30 steals? I'd say he'd have to go real late to be a draft steal.
Jason (New York)
Do you think Scott Rolen is a possibility to have a good year..more importantly a healthy year after he returns from the finger injury?
Eric Karabell (3:27 PM)
I thought he was going to be a steal until he fractured a finger, and now I wonder if it's just more of the same with this guy. What a shame. He was so talented in Philly and then that one great year in St. Louis. I guess he could be a steal, go 17-75 in 130 games, but I don't know how much he can play.
foxtrot; columbus, oh
what in hamilton's history would give you the idea that he's ever gonna get 500 ABs? don't you think your overrating him based on his injury history?
Eric Karabell (3:28 PM)
What history? Is 2007 enough of a sample size? I don't think so. He wasn't injured from 2002-06, he was basically out of the game. I don't assume he is going to be hurt. It could happen, but I choose to focus on the immense power potential.
Brett, Kansas City
I got John Smoltz in the 13 round! I think his age is not a factor for him. Do you agree?
Eric Karabell (3:29 PM)
What a steal! Smoltz is my No. 10 starting pitcher, and I have no moved him down because he'll miss his first start. It's one outing. He'll go into the rotation after the first week and make 30 starts, win 14, have big K numbers and make fantasy owners pleased.
Jake (NY, NY)
Eric, Any thoughts on Andre Ethier's monster spring?
Eric Karabell (3:30 PM)
Yeah, he's looking like a steal for those who got him a few weeks ago very late in drafts. At this point I think most people agree he's going to play quite a bit, so it hurts his sleeper status, but he's got some pop, hits for average. Juan Pierre might not pay so much.
Eric Karabell (3:31 PM)
OK, thanks to everyone for logging in and sending questions on the biggest fantasy steal. Don't forget to vote. Up next is the great injury expert, Stephania Bell. She's a steal!
Stephania Bell (3:32 PM)
Oh Eric: You're too kind!! Well there certainly have been plenty of injury concerns already in spring training this year, with Pujols and the uncertainty around his elbow being a primary concern.
Stephania Bell (3:33 PM)
Pujols is such a key player that he was an easy focus for our injury topic today - but if there are other injury concerns out there, we can certainly dig into those as well. Welcome to the health care portion of the chat!
Joe (San Diego)
Hey there, Stephania... my #1 pitcher John Lackey already went down. Will his injury nag all year?
Stephania Bell (3:35 PM)
Hi Joe: It's a tough question. At this point, the good news is that his injury was identified as muscular (a triceps strain) and not a ligament problem. And - this is a guy who has been notoriously healthy. But - problem with these types of things, is we don't know until they try to come back how serious they are. At this point I would hold out hope that it was just a spring training issue.
Will Josh Beckett's injury be a major problem for him?
Stephania Bell (3:36 PM)
Hi Jon: It doesn't appear that way at this point. Boston did several very smart things. They rested him immediately, they kept him off a long plane trip that would surely have aggravated his back, and they put him on an easy return program to build his work back up slowly. And so far he's doing very very well. I'm optimistic.
Does anyone know for sure what the deal is with Kazmir's elbow? I can't seem to find any solid information.
Stephania Bell (3:39 PM)
Hi Aaron: It was reported as inflammation early on, not very specific which is why you're probably feeling frustrated. Sometimes the team really doesn't have any more specifics than that. They know it's inflamed, but a minor strain doesn't give any hard findings on MRI (his came back normal by the way), and they are forced to treat it symptomatically. For his part, Kazmir said it felt like he hyperextended it when he injured himself this spring, maybe snapped on release a little too hard. They have brought him back slowly in March, mostly catch, particularly b/c they do not want it to be a season long problem. There is nothing to be particulary suspicious about at this point in time. And so far he's pain-free. Now when he starts throwing off the mound, we'll have to see if that holds up.
Jarrod (Holiday, FL)
can bj ryan ever come back to his 2006 form?
Stephania Bell (3:41 PM)
Hi Jarrod: Yes, I believe he can - but it may not be this year. He was already ahead of schedule, now backed off a bit because of the recent arm soreness (a normal occurrence in this rehab I might add), but it often takes two years to get the total command and location back, even if the speed and strength are there. So I always look at the two year numbers - this is when they really should show if they're "back."
Do you think Yovanni Gallardo will be able to be back by mid April?
Stephania Bell (3:42 PM)
Hi Ethan: Yes I do. He has had a very smooth recovery from his lateral meniscus surgery and most importantly has been pain-free as he's been increasing his workload. I have said all along that I expected him to miss the first couple weeks of the season, but then to be back after that.
Steve (Boston, MA)
Hi Stephania, do you think that Brad Lidge will come back at his earliest possible date, April 5th? If so, is this a problem that he can easily re-injure?
Stephania Bell (3:44 PM)
Hi Steve: He's been feeling so good that I would expect him back around that time. Remeber this was his second knee injury (he had a cartilage problem addressed with off-season surgery), then in spring training he caught a spike in the mound and tore the meniscus. After the surgery it was reported that the tear was minor and they were able to preserve the majority of the meniscus, something that is always encouraging in terms of long-term protection for the knee. Of course, it can always be re-injured, but I do not expect that to be the case. I think after more years of pitching, Lidge's right knee will start to bother him more as a result of acucmulated stress. I don't see it being a problem for him this year.
Brett, Kansas City
A broken finger is never any fun. Do you think that Curtis Granderson's will affect him throughout the year or will he rest and put up the same numbers?
Stephania Bell (3:47 PM)
Hi Brett: No, not fun. I'm sure Curtis would agree. He actually broke the 3rd metacarpal which is the bone that forms the knuckle in the hand, so just below the base of the third finger. The biggest potential issue I see for him is potentially getting stiffness in the hand that prevents a solid grip around the bat. Now at this point they are going to splint the hand for a couple of weeks, then re-examin to see how the healing is progressing. If all looks good, he can start doing some baseball activities, maybe returning a week or two later. The less time they have to immobilize him, the better the chances of him avoiding stiffness problems. So let's hope he heals fast.
Sean (New York)
Hi Stefania, What's your feeling on Pedro this year? Is he really healthy and what's his velocity looking at realistically?
Stephania Bell (3:50 PM)
I think Pedro has shown that he can be effective - and that he has really come back in amazing fashion from what was a very difficult surgery. I am impressed with the fact that he is pitching again and pitching as well as he is given the extent of cuff surgery he had. That being said, I think his velocity is topped out pretty close to the max for him. The surgery allows him to function as he needs to, but doesn't take off the effects of years of throwing. Bottom line - it is not a perfect shoulder, but a functional one. He will need to rely on a mix of pitches and controlled innings (you will not likely see him going too deep into a game) to maintain the health of that shoulder.
This is just a curiosity question really, has there ever been a non-pitcher to have Tommy John surgery?
Stephania Bell (3:52 PM)
Kyle: Yes, there has - and at the momet I can't pull the names out of my head - but if Albert Pujols ends up getting the procedure, that will be yet another example. There have been some football players who have had the procedure as well. The reason it so affects pitchers is the obvious nature of the strain placed on the inside of the elbow during pitching. But even other position players who have thrown for years, even adding up what they did before going pro, could set them up for the type of injury that would require TJ surgery.
Stephania: Do you think Zumaya regains his 100mph heat even after the major shoulder surgery?
Stephania Bell (3:53 PM)
Hi Zak: I would be really, really surprised. The AC joint reconstruction, although cerainly something that throwers have come back from, is a serious procedure, and it may affect his mechanics to some degree - not a lot, but even a little tweaking can impact speed. He had the tendon injury last year in the finger, now this - I don't think the speed will consistently be the same.
what have you heard about Billingsley possibly being hurt?
Stephania Bell (3:56 PM)
Hi David: I think when anyone starts having a significant change in his effectiveness (speed, location, etc), the injury question has to be posed. you may remember that last year Jason Schmidt began to have a drop off in speed but denied injury, mainly because he wasn't having any pain. Interestingly, there can be these other effects of injury in the absence of pain which makes it a little tricker to diagnose in the beginning. Also, the problems can be microscopic (so no X-ray or MRI will pick it up) yet enough is going on to prevent normal mechanics and it impacts performance. We will probably find out with Billingsley very soon.
What is your feeling on Ben Sheets? He seems healthy, but that usually seems like the case until he goes down mid season. Will this new 'arm slot' actually fix the stress on his arm, or his injury problems?
Stephania Bell (3:59 PM)
Hi Dan: Well, it's worth a try. Sometimes there is not even a definitive injury yet pitchers will fade as the season goes on because of more vague fatigue related issues. One of the things that is loked at is arm slot because the position of the arm has so much impact on how stress is places at every single joint up and down the chain. So if there is something to tweak, they try it and the only way to find out is to see how the season progresses.
Brett, St. Louis
Stephania, really quick. Do you think that Jon Lester can be okay after coming back from cancer?
Stephania Bell (4:01 PM)
Hi Brett: Yes, I think we saw it last year. The main concern for him after coming back from treatment was weakness and fatigue. The team was very smart in bringing him back very slowly - even when he was chomping at the bit - to avoid any type of setback. With another offseason of rest and time to condition before the start of the year, I think he can only be better.
Stephania Bell (4:02 PM)
OK everyone - thanks for coming to the chat. On behalf of all of us here at ESPN, thanks so much for joining us today. We're ready to play ball!!