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 (12:56 PM)
Hi, folks -- I have to take off at 1:45 Eastern Time, so I was going to start a little early. Really surprised how little juice we have this year with the pennant races... who would've guessed that with three weeks to play, everything is well on its way to being settled. The good thing with that is that all of the pitching staffs will probably be rested, and all the rotations will be aligned, as we head into the playoffs. For example, Detroit vs. the Yankees will be a fair fight, if the Tigers wrap up the Central -- Verlander vs. CC in Game 1, presumably, both rested and ready to go.
Kirby (New York)
As a lifelong Braves fan, I find it really frustrating that they played poorly against the Astros and Reds when it mattered and then looked sharp against the Cardinals when it didn't. Can you figure this team out? Is it as simple as so goes Soriano and Gonzalez so goes the team?
Buster Olney (12:58 PM)
Kirby: No, their offense has been erratic this year -- flat-out awful until Martin Prado started to get it going in June, and then good for awhile, and now lately Chipper has looked terribled (I think David O'Brien wrote today that he is hitting .136 in his last 84 at-bats, or something like that). They could be an interesting team next year, with Hanson and McLouth presumably around all season, and with Heyward in the mix at some point. I wonder if they'll talk with Chipper about moving to first base, or if they'll try to retain LaRoche. We'll see...
Justin (New York)
Buster,Is Brett Gardner eligible for the post season roster???thanks!
Buster Olney (12:59 PM)
Justin: Yes. Anybody who is in the organization on Aug. 31, whether on the DL or what have you, is effectively eligible for the post-season (some machinations have to be done for guys not on the 40-man roster, but that's easily taken care of with one guy on the 60-day DL, like a Nady).
Justin (Redlands, CA)
Hi Buster, is this the year the Angels finally get over the hump and knock Boston out in the first round?
Buster Olney (1:00 PM)
Justin: Put it this way -- they're much better suited to do it this year than in past years, because they have more power in their lineup. But let's face it -- the bullpen is going to be the Angels' greatest area of concern in October. We'll see if Kazmir (who presumably will be lined up to pitch Game 3 in Boston, where he has had some success) can make a difference.
Any chance the Nationals sign a couple of decent Free Agents this offseason and actually finish close to .500 next year?
Buster Olney (1:04 PM)
Ricky: It depends on which direction they go. Personally, I think they're too far away with their pitching to spend big dollars on free agents this winter -- that really won't help 'em that much. It'd be better for the Nationals to wait until they are closer to building a decent pitching staff before they spend any money on free agents. I know there was speculation about the Nationals and Billy Wagner, but unless he was very, very affordable (say, two years/$8-9 million total), I don't see how that really makes a lot of sense. It'd be like pouring paint down a hole... they'd be better off just saving the money for when they're closer to contending, and then go get a closer or a good free agent position player, if that's what is needed.
Justin (New York)
(I ask because of his injury - he joined the active roster after the sept. 1 cut off date for being eligible)
Buster Olney (1:04 PM)
Justin: OK -- yeah, he's definitely eligible.
In today's blog, you used the word "effectively" to describe how Beckett-Lester-Buchholz are currently pitching. That seems to discount Lester, and to a lesser extent Buchholz, fairly materially.
Buster Olney (1:06 PM)
Bruinsinruins: I hear you... A stronger word there might've been more appropriate. There's no doubt that the big question for the Red Sox, the Yankees and Detroit is the same -- how much quality depth will they have in their rotation. A.J. Burnett is a mystery right now, and so is Edwin Jackson, and I'm really curious to see how Buchholz responds under the bright lights, and whether Beckett keeps the ball in the park in October. Some fascinating matchups on the horizon (and we might have 3 1/2 weeks to think about 'em, sadly).
Daniel (San Francisco)
With a strong outing tonight, will Tim Lincecum become the NL Cy Young favorite again?
Buster Olney (1:07 PM)
Daniel: I think he will. I think Carpenter hurt himself with that outing yesterday, because his big advantage in this thing was ERA. If Lincecum were to have a poor or mediocre outing, and then Wainwright were to throw well and win in his next outing, I think Wainwright would be the front-runner. It's that close.
I think it is a real shame that Ichiro's accomplishment is not a big deal with MLB and ESPN. When a network spends a whole week lead up to Jeter overtaking Gherig but runs an afterthought highlight after teh Red Sox and Rays game highlights on a record that has stood for over 100 years you know there must be bias. Do you agree that this is being overlooked?
Buster Olney (1:10 PM)
Steve: I'm not in position to speak for all of our coverage, but I know I've done a bunch of stuff on it on TV and radio; we talked about Ichiro on Mike and Mike this morning, but didn't talk Jeter, despite the fact that it was M
Jeremy (Displaced Ranger fan in NYC)
Hi Buster. I have two questions: (1) Are the Rangers actually building a contending team or did they just play over their heads this year; and (2) What do you make of Hicks' statement that MLB didn't stop them from signing Purke or blocking the Kazmir move?
Buster Olney (1:11 PM)
Jeremy: No. 1: I think they've put together a great core of players that could be really, really good for 2010 and 2011, at least. And No. 2, I think the Rangers' financial problems are serious, moreso than what Mr. Hicks said the other day.
So your gut tells you that Prince will be playing in Boston next year? That seems to leave the RS with a lot of 1B/3b/DH types. I presume that means that you think the Sox either eat Lowell's contract or Ortiz' contract. Or both?
Buster Olney (1:12 PM)
Don: It was just a guess, and you know what -- I'm thinking there could be a better fit with the Brewers for a Fielder trade, anyway: The San Franciso Giants. Pure speculation: Fielder for Cain makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons, which I'll write about in Tuesday's blog.
Has there been anything new with Jason Bay? Do you expect him to return to the Red Sox next year?
Buster Olney (1:13 PM)
D-Rath: It's still early to know exactly what off-season plans will be, but my guess today is that the Red Sox will get involved in the Bay/Holliday bidding, playing the two guys against each other in negotiations.
Who do the Sox have to offer? I would think the Brewers would not move him for anything less than a #1 starter and some. They still have two years of service under his current contract, he's their only left hand batter that plays everday with his power, and is a big draw.
Buster Olney (1:15 PM)
Nate: This is why I think the Red Sox and Brewers might have a tougher time working out a deal than the Giants and Brewers... With Beckett's tenure with the Red Sox possibly nearing a conclusion after 2010, Boston isn't really in a position to trade Buchholz -- and I'm not smart enough to figure out how they can put together a trade without Buchholz involved, as you mention; the Brewers have to get pitching back. Cain for Fielder is a pretty good start, a good solution for the issues facing both teams.
Will it be Pedro or Happ as 4th starter in the playoffs?
Buster Olney (1:16 PM)
Bob: If Pedro keeps throwing like that, he'd be the No. 4 starter. He is tied for second in generating missed swings, behind Vazquez, since the beginning of August... that's pretty darned good.
Liam (Pleasanton, California)
Do you think Cain straight up would be enough for Fielder? How do you think he will do with AT
Buster Olney (1:20 PM)
Liam: To repeat, this all pure speculation, and based on nothing other than seeing how parts might fit. My guess is that the Giants would have to kick in a little something extra into a Fielder/Cain deal. What makes the Cain/Fielder think intriguing is that Cain has an unbelievably affordable contract for 2010 and a great and affordable option for 2011 -- over the next two years, he is signed to earn a total of $10 million. Fielder, alone, will make $10 million next year, and could make $15-18 million in arbitration in 2011. The Giants would get the slugger they need for their lineup, a perfect guy for their franchise, and the Brewers would get an elite pitcher with a great contract; Cain and Gallardo could be the backbone of a strong rotation. And the Brewers could try Gamel at first base. Again, to repeat: ALL SPECULATION.
Given Burnett's pitching woes the last couple of months, do you see the Yanks shuffling Pettitte into the number 2 spot for the playoffs? It might not hurt to have 2 lefties pitching in their "sandbox" (I stole that term from you) with homefield advantage?
Buster Olney (1:20 PM)
Alex: No question. Absolutely could see it, for the reasons you cite.
Stewie Griffin (Quahog)
What series do you think the Yanks will pick.
Buster Olney (1:21 PM)
Stewie: The sched that allows them to use only three starters...
Predictions for the Giants series? I'm hoping you say Rockies will sweep.....
Buster Olney (1:22 PM)
Alex: I picked the Rays to win the WS this year, so you if you are a Rockies fan, you'll want me to say the GIANTS will sweep. Lots of momentum for the Rockies, and I'm curious to see what Lincecum brings to the table tonight. I'd guess that Giants would take two of three in their home park.
Buster:Are we looking at a Red Sox/Yanks ALCS again.
Buster Olney (1:24 PM)
Brian: If Beckett pitches well down the stretch, I'd probably predict that would be the ALCS matchup. But to repeat: I will never be confused with Nostradamus.
Wait- why would the Giants have to kick in something extra if Cain is so much more affordable?
Buster Olney (1:25 PM)
Rich: I ran this by a couple of talent evaluators today about all this, and they agreed with my thought that Fielder might have a touch more value as a player than Cain. Again, we're not talking about a huge difference, where the Brewers would demand Buster Posey or something like that.
As to your Cain/Fielder trade idea, you are forgetting that Sabean is involved. Fielder is much too young, being he's under thirty. Based on Sabean's love of veteran character guys who really can't play well I would think a Cain/Posey for Cameron/Kendall is much more likely.
Buster Olney (1:26 PM)
Jason: Sarcasm noted...
the 2009 angels look like clones of the 2002 team--what's your take?
Buster Olney (1:27 PM)
Gary: Sort of. But that '02 team had a young and dynamic reliever named Francisco Rodriguez. Who will be that guy this year? You have to respect the way the Angels play, and they have a better offense... but that bullpen. That's what would concern me if I were an Angels fan.
Elmer (San Diego)
Hey Buster: What do you think about the Padres youth? They have 6 straight series. I believe they have won 11 out of the last 13 series with the only 2 losses to the Cardinals. Will 2010 be better for the Friar Faithful?
Buster Olney (1:28 PM)
Elmer: Wrote about 'em last week; GM Kevin Towers says he thinks they have a chance to be pretty good next year, and since July 28, they've won about 60 percent of their games, a lot against contenders. They'll probably pursue an outfielder this winter...
So if Fielder goes to SF, where does that leave Pablo Sandoval? Not 3B...
Buster Olney (1:30 PM)
Tony: He's not great there, but I could see starting him there for a couple of years, and then moving him over to first if Prince were to walk away after 2011. In other words, I think that with a pitching staff that has Lincecum and Baumgarner, you'll have some missed swing pitchers that'll make it easier to carry a supbar third baseman.
The Critics (Jersey)
as a lifelong fan of all things anti Yankee how long can MLB withstand the notion that year after year there's only 4-5 teams that have a chance to emerge World Series champs?
Buster Olney (1:31 PM)
The Critics: There is a lot of talk among club executives about what they believe is a growing disparity. I think there will be a lot of discussion about find ways to tweak with the economic structure, whether it's through the draft or the schedule or the luxury tax, before the next labor negotiations start.
Buster, what do you make of the recent Rays' slide? Seems like a lack of motivation to me.
Buster Olney (1:32 PM)
Greg: Some of them looked terrible, no question. I know the Rays are saying B.J. Upton was hurt in that game against the Yankees last Wednesday, but I thought that was one of the worst things I've seen in baseball this year (and there are guys inside that clubhouse and outside who agree).
Buster-you just mentioned Bumgarner...does he crack the starting rotation for the Giants in 2010?
Buster Olney (1:33 PM)
Brian: Yes, now that his service time clock has started... Same with Posey; I think he'll start the 2010 season with them.
Luke (Saint Paul)
As the twins are likely done, i got to thinking. What is Mauer going to get in either an extension with the twins this summer or free agent next fall? $20 - $25 million a year sound about right?
Buster Olney (1:34 PM)
Luke: I think Mauer will sign a long-term deal, for something in the range of $18 million a year. It's an educated guess, given his history and some of the Twins' history with their best players.
Buster, I didnt get an answer for my Rays question. Not sure if it didnt show up.
Buster Olney (1:34 PM)
Greg -- I thought I answered that. It looked awful, no question.
Mike (Fitchburg, MA)
Hi Buster,Do you see any scenario in which Cleveland is willing to trade Asdrubal Cabrera? I feel he would be a great fit for Boston if they choose not to purse Gonzo. He is by all accounts a good defensive player with some versatility (SS/2B). He also appears to be at least above average offensively with doubles power and some speed on the bases. He's young and cheap so it would probably take a top level prospect or two, but I believe Boston has the chips.Your thoughts?
Buster Olney (1:35 PM)
Mike: No, Cleveland will keep Cabrera. Wrote a short thing about him today; Mark Shapiro is thrilled with his development.
Buster, my friend Jordan at the Marriot asked you this for me once but, if Don Mattingly used HGH to heal his back injuries do you think he would've been the 1B on the 1996 World Series team?
Buster Olney (1:38 PM)
Tyler: Hmmmm... If it had healed him, yes... But Mattingly felt like his back was completely spent after the 1995 season, and he felt, too, that his standing within the clubhouse was beginning to ebb because he wasn't as good as of a player as he had once been. I'm not sure if I would agree with that -- even in the years that I covered the Yankees (1998-2001), Mattingly was viewed as a living god by the players -- but I think Mattingly felt, very definitively, that it was time to walk away, and that his body had had it.
Will Mattingly ultimatly b in the Hall
Buster Olney (1:38 PM)
Joey: No. Not enough in the way of numbers.
Mr. Olney, how do you see the Reds finishing next year? I think the have a great bunch of young players and veterans, what young player (position or pitcher) do you see breaking out next year?
Buster Olney (1:40 PM)
Scott: I'm not seeing a lot of progress in the Reds, to be honest with you. And they are set up to have a very odd salary structure -- about 40 percent of their payroll for next year will probably be devoted to Harang, Arroyo and Rolen. Their best hope might be that Homer Bailey shifts into an elite level (as in Wainwright level) type of starting pitcher.
Buster,How much of the Astros' woes are actually Cecil Cooper's fault? An outsider's opinion of how good or bad of a manager he actually is would be helpful. Thanks.
Buster Olney (1:42 PM)
Jim: And I am an outsider, for sure -- I think you really don't know for sure unless you are around the team every day. But I do know this: There are players there really unhappy with that situation. I don't know if John McGraw could've managed that team to the playoffs, though, given the way that their salary structure is skewed, with the huge contracts locked in for older players and given that they ignored player development for a few years.
Joe (Bx, NY)
Mauer's long term deal would be with the Twins, in your prediction? If so, how much of a hometown discount would that be? Thanks.
Buster Olney (1:45 PM)
Joe: If Mauer wanted to get a $120-$140 million deal, I think he could push the envelope and get that from the Mets/Yankees or Red Sox down the road. Again, it's just speculation -- but I just have a sense that the Twins and Mauer will work it out, because the two sides respect what the other side offers, and I don't think Mauer is devoted to squeezing out every nickel of every deal he ever makes. (And if he is, well, that's his prerogative, but I can't imagine the Twins being able to keep him under those circumstances. Santana went for the dollars, as is his right, and the Twins just couldn't keep him).
do any of you guys on Baseball tonight actually hang out afterwards
Buster Olney (1:46 PM)
Brian: A few guys do. Because of the blog, I'm pretty early to bed and early to rise. But we actually get a lot of hang-out time while watching the games. We'll have a 4:30 meeting for a 10 p.m. show, so we'll usually have dinner and then watch the 7 o'clock games together, and then hang out between 11 and 12, as we wait for the midnight show.
Is the AL Cy Young now down to Grienke and Felix?
Buster Olney (1:46 PM)
Nick: Right now, I think that's right. Still time for it to change...
Buster Olney (1:47 PM)
With that, folks, my time is up... Thanks for all the great questions. We'll be back at it here next week....