Chat with Buster Olney
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN The Magazine MLB writer Buster Olney will stop by to take your questions on your favorite team, favorite players and all the latest news on and off the field!
Buster Olney is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. A baseball reporter since 1989, Olney has covered the Padres, Orioles, Mets and Yankees. Olney, a bestselling author, joined ESPN The Magazine in 2003, after six years at The New York Times.
Send your questions for Olney now and join him Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Buster Olney (1:02 PM)
Hi, folks, hope all is well. We've got a new format in the moderator cue, so hopefully, I'll be able to figure this out at we go; I've got to run at about 1:45, so let's get to it...
Rob Neyer suggested that the diff between AL and NL clubs was about 5 games. Sounds about right to me, your thoughts?
Buster Olney (1:05 PM)
Ian: I completely agree with Rob. The gap between the leagues has closed this year, although I do think that you could make a case that three of baseball's best eight teams -- and maybe four of the top 10 -- are in the AL East. The Phillies are so tough mentally; had assistant GM say to me last week that the Phillies have somehow managed to piece together a team on which they have about eight 'gamers' -- guys who know how to grind through tough stretches of games, and of seasons.
Steve (NY Area)
What's up with Santana? Should Mets fans be worried?
Buster Olney (1:07 PM)
Steve -- we did a thing in the blog today about his fastball velocity, start to start, and his velo is down about 2 1/2 mph from where it was in the middle of April, and he's throwing a much lower percentage of fastballs. Santana mentioned some nagging stuff that he's been dealing with -- blisters, a sore back -- but whatever the source of the problem, there is no question that he is not as comfortable as he was throwing his fastball, which, of course, sets up everything else that he does.
Ben (Lincoln, NE)
Buster, do you think Jose Contreras can keep this recent success going? It sure seems like he figured out forkball issues that were messing him up in April/May.
Buster Olney (1:09 PM)
Ben -- did a couple of things on this last week, after talking with Don Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach. Cooper says that in retrospect, Contreras was in great shape when spring training began, but he probably wasn't as far along in his pitching rehab; he just didn't have the same touch and feel for his pitches, and his forkball, in particular. But now he really has become the frontline pitcher they hoped they would acquire when they tried to get Peavy. Watching Contreras the other day, he was in total command of the at-bats, changing arm angles and using his off-speed stuff expertly. He's a good guy and an incredibly hard worker and it's good to see him get rewarded.
Buster, please, give me some hope for the Braves...anything?
Buster Olney (1:12 PM)
Clay: They are a weird team right now, a hard team to figure. Their starting pitching is arguably the best in the division, and yet... they're just so ragged. Clearly, they need another frontline hitter, but in talking with rival executives, they're not sure how the Braves could get that done unless they were willing to talk about one of their untouchable prospects, like Jason Heyward (and the Braves would never deal him). You keep waiting for the light to go on for Jeff Francoeur, but his problems have continued long enough now that Atlanta obviously has its doubts about whether he'll be a productive player. The Miami Herald reported over the weekend that Francoeur was offered, straight up, for Cody Ross, and in talking with a couple of GMs this morning, they said they would have turned down the Braves' offer quickly, based on what they've seen out of Francoeur this year.
Zach (Dallas )
Royals are heating up even with Grienkie not pitching as strong can they compete all summer?
Buster Olney (1:13 PM)
Zach: I think they can, because the division is so mediocre; every team has a major problem. But Alex Gordon needs to be able to step in and help right away when he comes off the disabled list, and maybe David DeJesus has turned the corner on his early-season slump.
Buster... Does A-Rod look healthy to you? Have you heard anything about his hip possibly still bothering him?
Buster Olney (1:14 PM)
Matty -- no, he's not fully healthy, and he's not going to be this year; remember, he intends to have full-blown hip surgery when the season is over. He looks very stiff in how he moves, and runs, but he's certainly a help to them even if he's at 80-85 percent.
Tanner Athens,TN [via mobile]
Do you see the braves trading away jeff francoeur for a power hitting corner outfielder say a jermaine dye or matt holliday to improve the offense?
Buster Olney (1:16 PM)
Tanner: I think there's almost no chance they can get anything of real value for Francoeur right now, based on what rival execs and scouts are saying. They believe he's one of the worst everyday outfielders in the NL right now, and he's moving up the arbitration ladder, so he doesn't have a lot of trade value.
Buster: What do you think of Adam Lind this year, and do you think he can keep it up? He' been like 0-16 these last couple days.
Buster Olney (1:17 PM)
Joseph: He's legit -- guys with other teams rave about him -- but he's young and as you say, he seems prone to slumps. But I'd bet he'll become more consistent.
Will the White Sox trade Jenks? If so, where will he go and to what ballclub? Could the Yankees be involved?
Buster Olney (1:17 PM)
George: I don't know why they would trade him now. The division is very winnable, and it's still only mid-June, and if they traded him, they'd have to find a reliever.
Dan (Waukegan, IL)
Please say something nice about the Cubs. I wouldn't mind if they blew the whole team up and started over.
Buster Olney (1:20 PM)
Dan -- My own feeling during the winter time was that they overreacted to the playoff defeat, and tried to recast what was a very good team. It's a tough team to change, for several reasons -- nobody will touch Bradley; nobody will touch Soriano, who is owed something close to $100 million; nobody will touch Derek Lee, who has hit better of late but is not the same as he was several years ago, for sure; and you don't want to start dealing from the rotation, because if the Cubs are going to win this year, it'll be on the backs of the pitchers. No, I think they should just hunker down and hope that the division remains close until Ramirez gets back -- and meanwhile, they have to hope that Bradley catches fire.
Charlie (Bored at work)
What would the Dodgers have to give up in order to get Roy Halladay this season?
Buster Olney (1:22 PM)
Charlie -- the Blue Jays have no intention of trading Halladay right now. But if they ever got into serious discussion with L.A., presumably they would ask for at least one -- and probably two -- players from this group: Billingsley, Kershaw, Kemp and Martin. And I don't think the Dodgers would do that, either. No, more and more, I'm becoming convinced that unless Halladay forces his way out of Toronto, I suspect he might be their version of Cal Ripken.
ponco [via mobile]
do u think the dh is a good rule?
Buster Olney (1:23 PM)
Ponco: I don't like it, but I'm way too old-fashinoned. I'd take a summer of 4-3 games over 9-8 games any day, and so I like the strategy that comes into play when there is no DH. In all the Strat-O-Matic leagues I played in, we never used the DH.
You said that Verlander has surpassed Greinke as the King of the Pitching Mountain? Were you refering to young pitchers? If not then you had to of forgot about Roy Halladay
Buster Olney (1:25 PM)
Rick: That King of the Mountain thing is very fluid, and I meant it to recognize the most dominant pitcher currently. Greinke was the King of the Mountain in April, and now in June, Verlander is the king of the mountain -- he is, without a doubt, the most dominant pitcher in play right now.
Jeff (East Bay, CA)
The Giants are currently leading the Wild Card standings...do you think the team as currently constructed can contend the rest of the year?
Buster Olney (1:26 PM)
Jeff: Yes, because their rotation is that good, and their bullpen is pretty good, too. They'll probably have times when they'll drive you crazy by scoring two runs or less in every game for a week, but in general, yes, I think they'll be in the wildcard conversation the whole summer. Cain probably would be a frontrunner for the NL Cy Young right now....
Luke (Saint Paul)
As of right now, if he qualified, Mauer would be leading the Majors in AVG, SLG, OBP and OPS... How long can he keep it up?
Buster Olney (1:28 PM)
Luke: Probably right up until the moment that some hitter whacks him across the wrist (unintentionally) with a backswing, or some hitter fouls a ball off his hand or wrist. I looked this up the other day -- his career average in the second half of seasons is about 36 points lower than in the first half, which is not surprising, considering the abuse that catchers must absorb. If he were a left fielder or a DH or a first baseman, you'd have to think he would have a real shot at .400, considering how well he is swinging.
Mike (Oakland, CA)
How amazing of a story are the Giants? They can't possibly keep this up, right?
Buster Olney (1:30 PM)
Mike: it's interesting, because I've heard that a lot in the last week, about how amazing the Giants are -- and to be honest, I don't find it that much of a surprise. They're exactly what they looked to be in spring training -- a team that would struggle for runs, and a team that would pitch well. They've got some serious starting pitching, and that is always a great equalizer.
In your opinion, who is the frontrunner for the wild card right now? I'm seeing glimpses of Rocktober over here....
Buster Olney (1:30 PM)
Phill: Hard to argue about what the Rockies are doing -- a staff ERA of about 2.60 during the winning streak. But I'd still bet that the wildcard is doing to come out of the NL Central...
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Buster,Starting pitcher or corner outfielder or both - which way does Omar Minaya go?
Buster Olney (1:33 PM)
Harry: I'll be honest with you -- if I were Omar, I'd do nothing, because the team has so many holes (due to injury and ineffectiveness from the likes of Oliver Perez) that I almost think that trading for a veteran like Brad Penny might be a waste of assets. Better to just ride it out, until they get through this rough stretch of games, and if they play close to .500 between now and the All-Star break, then they'll be in contention, and if they don't, well, then you keep your prospects. At some point, the Mets have to really lock it down and focus on player development, and part of how they need to do that is to keep their prospects.
James (Kettle Hollow, PA)
How about a PIRATES question, Buster! Specifically, what was it that Pitts asked for Jack Wilson that made the Red Sox run in the opposite direction (or did the Sox want the Bucs to take Lugo in return)?
Buster Olney (1:35 PM)
James: I don't know for sure what they asked for, but I'm sure that they, like everybody else, is eyeing the Boston pitching. And from what I understand, Boston's approach in trade talks has been to tell other teams that while they might be willing to take on a significant salary, like that of Wilson, they aren't interested in giving up a good prospect AND taking on money. My guess is that unless Lowrie gets injured before the deadline, the Red Sox might just go with the shortstops they have, unless the Pirates just decide to move Wilson to get rid of the money.
Hunter (JAX, FL)
Kei Igawa? Can we put him in the pen or rotation? He is pitching well right now in AAA, any trade value?
Buster Olney (1:36 PM)
Hunter: I'd bet that he has minimal trade value. I could see him being move in a deal at some point where the Yankees take on a lot of his salary.
Pete (Washington D.C)
Nick Johnson is a Red Sox by ______? How would that impact the Sox?
Buster Olney (1:38 PM)
Pete -- if Ortiz keeps hitting the way he did last week, I don't know if the Red Sox will trade for a DH/1B type like Johnson. Boston owes Ortiz something like $13 million for next year, so if he progresses, they're happy to go with him. If he stops hitting, a deal between the Nats and Red Sox makes a whole lot of sense.
If the Nationals don't sign Strasburg this season, they would have the 1st and 2nd overall picks in the 2010 draft. This means they could potentially keep him out of the league for two years if he refuses to accept a hard line, 10-15M offer. Isn't this sufficient negotiating leverage?
Buster Olney (1:41 PM)
Max: If he doesn't sign this year, then the Nationals can't pick him next year without his permission. But there is some leverage here, nevertheless. The team that picks third next year will make it clear to him that while he is a superlative talent, the fact is that he's the No. 3 pick in the draft and this is going to affect an offer to him somewhat. That's why I don't understand when I read a lot of folks writing that Boras has all the leverage and the Nationals have to give him exactly what he wants. I think the Nationals have some leverage here, too, because they're the only team that can offer Strasburg a chance to start his professional career (under the umbrella of MLB) in the next calendar year. This is why I think he'll sign for something in the $17 million range, in the end.
Before you go, do you think Pablo Sandoval's gonna keep it up?
Buster Olney (1:41 PM)
JD: Absolutely. There is no question about how good of a hitter the guy is -- the only question is what position will he play if he keeps getting bigger (and hopefully he won't; he's a fun guy to watch).
Buster Olney (1:42 PM)
Chad: I think the Rangers will sign Sheets and I'd be surprised if he has any impact this season. We'll see...
Mike (San Francisco)
With about 100 games to go, from a perspective of who has a better chance to make the playoffs, would you rather be the over achieving team like the Giants or the underachieving team like the Cubs or Mets?
Buster Olney (1:43 PM)
Mike... Hmmmm... I'd probably like to be the Cubs; they know they're capable of a lot more.
Can the Nats afford Strasburg and Bryce hunter in back to back yrs?
Buster Olney (1:44 PM)
KC: Yes, if they deem Bryce Harper to be a top pick in the draft. A lot of folks in the game are fretting about him accelerating his timetable, and what effect that may have on his maturity as a player and a person.
Tanner Athens,TN [via mobile]
Do you see the braves getting a good power hitting outfielder before the trade deadline or are they even going to do anything before the deadline cause their offense needs help?
Buster Olney (1:45 PM)
Tanner -- it's going to be hard for them to do that, because of financial restraints. Rival GMs think that the Braves don't have a lot of payroll flexibility, now that they've added McLouth.
Evreyone around here is raving about the Rockies' draft. Are you as impressed?
Buster Olney (1:46 PM)
Seth -- if they sign their first-rounder, yes...With that, folks, my time is up. Thanks for all the great questions. Have a great week, and I'll chat with you next week.