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 now and join Olney Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Buster Olney (1:02 PM)
Hi, folks, hope all is well. It feels like this weekend was Moving Day in the AL, and in the NL, it's completely wide open. Lots of good stuff to talk about. Let's get it started... Before the year started, I had the Cardinals as the NL WC, and the Cubs winning the division. If I had a mulligan today, I'd pick the Cards to win the division, and the Rockies as the wildcard. Thoughts? Opinions? Are you buying the Rockies?
Buster, did the Rays make the right move sending Sonnanstine to the minors? Seeing as they are only 2 back of the Wild Card in the toughest division, seems like every game will count from here on out.
Buster Olney (1:05 PM)
Rytor: I thought they did, because given time, Price could surpass what Sonnanstine might give them; he just has a higher ceiling, as he showed yesterday. The one compelling reason to keep Sonnanstine in the big leagues might've been to keep hoping that he bounced back to what he did last year, but his 6.61 ERA kind of speaks for itself. I picked the Rays to make the playoffs before the year started (and to win the WS, for that matter) and I'm not ready to write off that pick; Tampa Bay seems like a sleeping giant, and the pitching of Price and Kazmir over the weekend was a big step forward.
With Mark DeRosa going to St Louis, are they still a contender for Holliday? What are the odds he goes anywhere, and where would you see him going?
Buster Olney (1:06 PM)
Andy: From what I understand, they have very little financial flexibility, and to add Holliday, they'd have to add about $7 million in payroll. Unless they asked the Athletics to eat most or all of Holliday's salary, I just don't see it happening (and if Oakland were to do that, the A's would want Wallace and at least one other player... can't see the Cardinals agreeing to that.).
John (Nashville, TN)
The Rockies have now won 20/23...Rock-une just doesn't have the same ring as Rock-tober did. Can they keep it up? Or are they just playing over there heads a bit while the rest of the NL leaders have fallen back to the pack? And I know one series really doesn't mean much, but how important is it for Colorado to take 2/3 from LA starting tonight to "validate" their hot June?
Buster Olney (1:08 PM)
John: I had a longtime evaluator tell me last night that the Rockies are two middle relievers away from being the best team in the NL -- they've got a deep lineup (since Tulowitzki started hitting), a solid rotation (Aaron Cook could be the pitcher of the month in the NL), an excellent bench, and Huston Street has settled in as closer.
Matt (Glendale, CA)
You have any thoughts on the Ian Snell situation. Veteran MLB pitcher with a good contract requests to go to the minors? Have we seen similiar?
Buster Olney (1:09 PM)
Matt: Jose Contreras did that. And as I'm sure you're aware, Snell punched out 17 in a minor league start last night. Gotta believe that some team might bite there (with some salary relief from the Pirates mixed in).
Oscar (Cairo (Egypt))
BUSTER!!! I've been overseas in Israel and Egypt for the past 3 weeks and have not been able to keep up with my baseball. It's 8pm here in Cairo and I just wanted to thank you for satisfying my fix. Keep up the good work!
Buster Olney (1:09 PM)
Oscar: What, no Baseball Tonight on the hotel tube there? What's up with that?
Bernie Madoff (jail)
Will the Cubs have won a World Series by the time I'm out of jail in the year 2159?
Buster Olney (1:11 PM)
Bernie: I could be snarky and say that you have a better chance of getting out alive than the Cubs have of winning... but I won't go there. No, the Cubs will win. I just don't think these Cubs will win unless they get a baseball version of electric-shock treatment, to get their heads on right. Zambrano's display yesterday was flat-out inexcusable, given the circumstances. He's got to be a leader for them, not just a powder keg that goes off very few weeks.
James (Carrollton, GA)
Have you heard anything about the Yunel Escobar situation? The report is he mouthed off to the Press Box after an error was called on him and was then chewed out by Chino Chadiha and he hasn't played since. Thats a big bat to keep out of the ATL thin lineup...
Buster Olney (1:13 PM)
James: It's a situation being watched in other front offices, because you can bet that other teams would be willing to take their chances on a good shortstop who hits .300 with some pop. The fact that they were willing to deal him in the Peavy trade raised some eyebrows -- and the fact that the Braves benched him at a time when they're starved for hits tells you about the level of their frustration.
Alfredo (New York City)
You wrote a recent article citing scouts that claimed A-Rod was declining rapidly. Shortly afterward, he got two days of rest and has been on a tear ever since. Perhaps reports of his long-term decline are premature?
Buster Olney (1:16 PM)
Alfredo: I did not write that he was declining rapidly. What I wrote was that as A-Rod struggled, a question that was being asked increasingly was whether he is going to be a lesser player since he presumably doesn't use steroids any more. As I wrote in the piece, his struggles might have been based on his hip surgery, or it might be a combination of all of the above; nobody can know the answer to that. He has looked much better over the last five days, no question about it -- but that doesn't change the fact that the question of how much steroids aided him as a player is not going to go away during the last 8 1/2 years of his contract.
thanks for the chat. hearing anything about the Phillies search for pitching? We have no business being up 2 1/2 games right now.
Buster Olney (1:18 PM)
Pete -- only that they're looking, at a time when there's very little quality available. If the Mariners decide to become sellers, then Jarrod Washburn might become the best pitcher on the market. Short of that, they'll probably choose from the Carl Pavanos of the market.
Steve (Blacksburg, VA)
What do you see the Rangers doing before the deadline to make a push to win the AL West?
Buster Olney (1:20 PM)
Steve: Not much, in all likelihood, because they are not expected to be able to take on any salary -- like a lot of teams. There are just a handful of teams willing to take on money -- the Mets, the Red Sox (if they develop a distinct need, like at first or third base, depending on Lowell), the Giants, the Phillies, just a couple of others... The Rangers will have to hope that Derek Holland figures it out in a hurry, and that Josh Hamilton bolsters the lineup quickly (he might return as soon as Saturday, but more likely a week from today).
What was your favorite Michael Jackson song?
Buster Olney (1:21 PM)
Bubbles: Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough. I'm ashamed to say that it was our dorm psyche-up song before we went to play hoops.
Have you heard of any progress on the Strasburg negotiations?
Buster Olney (1:22 PM)
Ricky: No. I heard it did not get off to a great start. I guess we'll know something substantive on April 16, at 11 p.m. I still think the Nationals should put a big number out there in the public, as the Dodgers did with Manny, and sit on it.
Do you see the Mariners making a trade to win the AL West?
Buster Olney (1:23 PM)
Tyler: I don't think they've made that decision... They'll probably wait another few weeks. The fact that Felix Hernandez is so good right now has to have them at least willing to hang in there until the days before the deadline.
Jay (Long Island, NY)
A couple of young pitchers have looked real well. Romero on Toronto
Buster Olney (1:25 PM)
Jay -- yep, talked to him on Saturday. He's got a devastating changeup that he has refined since signing as a pro. Has action like a screwball, darting away from right-handed hitters -- and he's got a 2.36 ERA in June. I am not bold enough to pick the Jays to make the playoffs, but they're better than what people realize, and with Halladay coming back and Romero now throwing so well, I wouldn't write 'em off so quickly. Thirty-five of their final 85 games are against Boston, the Yankees and Tampa Bay.
Jason (Ellicott City, MD)
Are the Dbacks going to shut down Webb?
Buster Olney (1:25 PM)
Jason: I haven't asked this question in the last 72 hours, but I know that the signs are not good, and it seems more likely that he's headed for shoulder surgery.
Jake (VA Beach)
Since ESPN has been showing the "Hip hip Jorge" commercial again, my buddies and I were thinking that was your voice in the last chant. Was it?
Buster Olney (1:26 PM)
Jake: Nope. Not me.
Buster, I saw this item on ebay, do you think its legit: 2009 New York Mets $140 million. Oh yeah, the fine print read: Offense sold separately.
Buster Olney (1:27 PM)
JR: That's awesome. LOL. The good thing is that the whole division is filled with problems and so the Mets are far from in trouble. They have issues, for sure, but so do the Phillies (rotation concerns), the Braves (can't hit) and the Marlins (very little depth). And the Nationals... but you knew that.
Tim (New York City)
What is Tommy Hanson's ceiling and who do you compare him to?
Buster Olney (1:30 PM)
Tim: Scouts who are much smarter than I have some concerns about his delivery long-term -- he's got that motion that makes it seem like he's got the delivery of a catcher. But let's say, for argument's sake, that he's going to be healthy -- he's tremendous. Reminds me of Halladay in that he is not in awe of anybody, and his command of his breaking stuff is excellent for someone so young. The scary thing is that he has a scoreless streak of 20 innings and he really hasn't put together a great start, beginning to end; he's always had some command issues from inning to inning with his fastball, and thrown more pitches than he will in the future. That bodes well.
Buster, it was reported that the Reds finished 2nd in the DeRosa sweepstakes. Do you see them going after another RH bat and if so who would it be?
Buster Olney (1:32 PM)
Mike -- they've been looking for one. If they wanted to back up the truck and get Holliday, they could probably do it -- but it's going to be a buyer's market, and they probably should wait; something will drop in their lap, because there will be teams looking to dump salary and the Reds are apparently one of the few teams willing to take on some money. This is pure speculation: Jermaine Dye would make some sense if the White Sox ever pack it in.
What do you see happening with Clay Bucholz? Call Up in July or Trade...
Buster Olney (1:33 PM)
Jay: I'd bet he'll be up soon -- because inevitably, somebody is going to get hurt, and Buchholz looks like the clear No. 6 starter in the organization.
Derrick (Tulsa, OK)
Have you heard anything about the Padres shopping Heath Bell? Do you agree with others that he could bring back several legit prospects?
Buster Olney (1:34 PM)
Derrick -- as of two weeks ago, rival executives were saying that they sense no interest on the part of the Padres to trade Bell. San Diego has already angered its fans, and the Padres have to keep somebody... It seems like Bell and Gonzalez are to 2009 what Benes and Gwynn were to 1993.
If the Braves are giving up on Escobar, are the Red Sox a good trade partner? Would they give up Bucholtz for Escobar?
Buster Olney (1:35 PM)
Brent -- they'd be a great trade partner. I think that's why the Red Sox were checking out Francoeur -- as possible preparation for a larger deal that might've involved Escobar. That's an educated guess on my part.
Chris D (Capital City)
Buster,You'd have to think Dye will be with the White Sox long term, right? They hold an option, he's been great for them, and Thome won't be back after this year.
Buster Olney (1:36 PM)
Chris D.: I don't know. That option will be overpriced for this winter's market, and if the white Sox could get a decent pitcher, I wouldn't be shocked if they pulled the trigger there (if they waved the white flag on 2009, that is).
Buster, do you think the weekend beatdown by the Yankees will put more pressure on Omar Minaya to acquire a bat sooner rather than later?
Buster Olney (1:37 PM)
Josh: Agree with you. Talk radio is going crazy about this today in New York, and the Mets do tend to react to talk radio...
Buster, Are the Dodgers going to be players on any big trades at the deadline?
Buster Olney (1:39 PM)
Derrick: Unless they have a major injury between now and the deadline, I can't see them making a huge trade -- but they are looking around for a starter and a reliever. Washburn makes some sense -- I just don't know if the Dodgers will make the best offer for him, in a competitive bidding situation against a team like the Phillies.
Andrew (San Diego)
Buster, I'm going to be short and sweet. Who will win the 2009 Fall Classic?
Buster Olney (1:40 PM)
Andrew: I had Rays vs. Phillies before the season started, with the Rays winning. I'll stand by that, for now. The Rays are gathering momentum.
Buster, is there any substance to the Phillies' interest in Chien-Ming Wang, and if so, what might the Yankees ask for in return for the former Ace?
Buster Olney (1:42 PM)
Jake: They would want young pitching in return, unquestionably -- that is what Brian Cashman has been trying to collect. But my guess is that the Yankees will view Wang's value as commensurate with a guy who can win 20 games, and the Phillies are probably thinking they might be able to bottom feed and get him for 50 cents on the dollar.
Jon (San Diego)
What's up with Longoria? He's been cold for a while. Is it just the hammy?
Buster Olney (1:43 PM)
Jon: I haven't asked scouts/evaluators in particular, but something jumps out at me -- the quality of his at-bats, from pitch to pitch, don't seem as high as they were in April. He seems more prone to chasing bad pitches right now.
Jason (Ellicott City, MD)
Biggest reason for Bossman Junior's June surge?
Buster Olney (1:43 PM)
Jason: His front shoulder has gotten stronger, as he continues to recover from surgery.
When do you think the Red Sox will trade Brad Penny? And any chance they can pick up Adam Dunn? Would love to see another big bat in the lineup
Buster Olney (1:45 PM)
Chris: There is no doubt that the Red Sox were willing to deal Penny in late May -- and then Matsuzaka went down, and Smoltz had some spotty results in the minors -- and now I don't think there's any way they will trade Penny unless they were offered exactly what they want. He's been throwing pretty well, with his velocity in the first inning up a good 4-5 mph since the beginning of the season. He was throwing 95-96 mph in the first inning in Atlanta.
Larry Lucchino at a apperance in a baseball musuem commented that all the yankee gear on display was from so long ago obviously taking a shot at the yanks not winning it all since 2000 and couple that with John Henry twitter updates taking shot at tex and co are the red sox getting a little too confident in your opinion? i guess they have confidence now that Big Stein is out of commision.
Buster Olney (1:46 PM)
Anthony -- personally, I think all that stuff was cheesy and classless. I thought it was when Steinbrenner was doing it, and I think it is now when the Red Sox are doing it.
How high does Atkins avg need to be so the Rockies can get something of value for him?
Buster Olney (1:46 PM)
Ryan: He's got to hit for a few more weeks to rebuild his value, but I can tell you some scouts saw him over the weekend and were impressed.
Philip (Boca Raton, FL)
Hey buster so whats the chances of Mauer in pinstripes
Buster Olney (1:47 PM)
Philip -- just a guess -- I'd say 10 percent chance he signs with the Yankees, 10 percent Boston, five percent the Angels, 75 percent the Twins.
Brian (Chicago, IL)
Atkins would be good insurance for A-Rod, don't you think?
Buster Olney (1:48 PM)
Brian -- expensive, though. The Yankees, believe it or not, feel like they have maxed out on their spending for 2009. (That could change, of course...)
George Steinbrenner (Tampa,FL)
Cheesy and classless?, Who are you to talk?
Buster Olney (1:50 PM)
George: But you loved it... and John Henry seems to get a thrill out of it, too. All of that stuff is beneath both of you.
Wouldn't Brandon Wood (LAA) be good insurance for A-Rod (and Jeter)? How about for Hughes?
Buster Olney (1:51 PM)
Greg: I was talking about Wood with a GM Sunday... He's a tough one to place a value on. On one hand, he has hit well in Class AAA, and on the other hand, the Angels have bypassed him time and again. What kind of a big leaguer could he be? I think the answer to that is even more murky than it was three years ago, oddly.
What is going on with the Rangers offense and when will the Rangers finally sit Chris Davis and promote Justin Smoak?
Buster Olney (1:53 PM)
Allyson: I don't think that's an option yet... I think they'd like to get through the year and into 2010 before thinking about that. But then again, desperate times might call for desperate measures at some point this summer.
What's the latest on Mark Teahen?
Buster Olney (1:54 PM)
Ryan: the Royals will listen, but again, it's a matter of what their perception of his value is (high) and what others might perceive him to be (a decent talent who may or may not step in and help you right away). The Royals have several guys like that.
You forgot to answer my Wood for Hughes question. You just posted it.
Buster Olney (1:55 PM)
Greg: I don't think the Yankees will trade any pitching unless they get pitching. They are obsessed with young pitching right now (and rightly so).
Jason (Ellicott City, MD)
AL MVP is _____ .
Buster Olney (1:58 PM)
Jason: Hmmmmmm... Without having given it much thought, some candidates, in no particular order -- Torii Hunter, Roy Halladay, Jason Bay, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer, Longoria... Nice question to end with. My time is up -- as usual, lots of great questions. We'll talk to you guys sometime next week (not sure when, as of yet...)