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 (1:01 PM)
Hi, folks, hope all is well on your end (which would mean that you are not a fan of the Pirates or Nationals). Only six more hours until Rick Porcello throw the first pitch of the Twins-Tigers showdown... let's get it started.
Buster -Will there really be any teams seriously interested in Milton Bradley? If so, would the Cubs be on the hook for most of his salary?
Buster Olney (1:04 PM)
Steve -- my guess is that he winds up with the Padres, at a cost so cheap to them that if he had a transgression, they could cut him with blinking twice. There has been a lot of talk about the Cubs maybe swapping bad contract-for-bad contract, but I think Bradley's situation takes him out of that realm; rival executives are literally concerned about him having an ugly incident that winds up on the ESPN News reel, and that is why in the end the Cubs will almost have to give him away. I have heard from too many executives who are not interested in assuming the risk of taking on Bradley.
Do the Braves make the postseason? Does Hanson win NL ROY with another win? Thanks
Buster Olney (1:06 PM)
Wes: I don't think they'll make it, and I do think that Hanson will win the ROY. Certainly they have a better schedule down the stretch than the Rockies, but some talent evaluators believe that the Dodgers -- who the Rockies play in L.A. this weekend -- are kind of slopping along mentally right now, and are more focused on getting ready for the post-season. But as with everything else this time of year, the situation can change dramatically in just 24-48 hours. If the Braves win tonight and tomorrow and then the Rockies get beat by the Brewers Tuesday, then suddenly Atlanta would be just a game behind.
I am sick of the Mets and their complaints about injuries. A lot of teams deal with injuries, some handle it better. Because of this I think Charlie Manual should be NL Manager of the Year. He lost Ibanez for a good amount of time, has spent a lot of time without his #2 starter (Myers) his star reliever (Lidge), his best set up man (Romero), most of his relief staff (Eyre, Condrey, Durbin) and lived with Jimmy Rollins 1st half struggles. Why not Charlie, he brought a team home that had a high probability of slumping all year.
Buster Olney (1:09 PM)
Jumpin': I like Charlie as a manager and think he has done a good job this year, but I can't remember a team being quite as devasted as the Mets by injury. Think about it: Seven of their top eight players wound up on the DL at one time or another this year, and six of those had extensive stints. They've got a lot of issues going forward other than health, but I don't anybody who could've worked their way through the problems the Mets. Imagine if the Phillies had lost Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Rollins, and Victorino for six weeks to the rest of the season... that's basically what the Mets have had to deal with. (To be clear, I thought the Phillies would've won this division even if the Mets had been healthy).
Luke (Saint Paul)
Twins need 3 out of 4 in this series. They've been hot and have won 9 of 14 vs DET this season. Can they do it?
Buster Olney (1:12 PM)
Luke: Agree with you -- they have to win at least three of four, because they have Greinke over the weekend. And yeah, they can do it, for sure. Cuddyer and others are swinging great, and they've got a lot of experience with this type of situation. But let's face it -- the turnaround has to start immediately in this series... Can't wait to watch the Verlander-Duensing matchup: One of the best pitchers on the planet against one of the best Cinderella stories of the season.
Mike C (South Orange, NJ)
Do you think the Yankees will go far in the postseason? What do you think they will do with Joba as far as bullpen or fourth starter? Will the Yankees take Gaudin or Mitre or neither?
Buster Olney (1:14 PM)
Mike: They will go as A.J. Burnett goes, I believe, and in his last outing, he was outstanding. Sabathia is throwing as well as anybody is right now. Pettitte looks solid. And they demonstrated that they are poised to exploit Boston's throwing issues with their catchers... Right now, they should go into the post-season as the favorites, because right now, they are the best team, and they're playing well.
It's fun to handicap the postseason, but what do you say to those who think all playoff teams have an equal chance?
Buster Olney (1:16 PM)
Rob: I don't agree completely. Certainly, there is a crapshoot element to it, to quote a phrase that Billy Beane coined; a team can get hot out of nowhere after playing mediocre baseball during the season and pop up to win the World Series (the '06 Cardinals certainly fit that description). But look, the Yankees of '96-'00 won 14 consecutive World Series games, and it would be hard to classify that as luck. The Red Sox of '04 won eight consecutive post-season games, and that would be hard to classify as a roll of the dice. There are some team elements that have a better chance of translating into post-season success.
Admit it Buster, you feel foolish for writing off Derrek Lee.
Buster Olney (1:18 PM)
Tim: Did I write him off? Or did I write that he stopped hitting for power for about a year, which was absolutely true. I don't think I'm smart enough to say definitely that somebody is finished.
Scott Abildgaard (Santa Rosa,)
Buster, who is your choice for NL Cy Young, is it safe to say that Lincecum's out of the race?
Buster Olney (1:19 PM)
Scott: I've got 1. Wainwright, 2. Carpenter, 3. Lincecum.
Dean (LEFT COAST)
Angels-Sox, WHO YA GOT???
Buster Olney (1:21 PM)
Dean: A week ago, I would've picked the Red Sox, but now I'm leaning toward the Angels, after seeing how Boston struggled to contain the Yankees' running game. The Angels will be even more aggressive than NY -- and of course Boston can win (and would win) if Lester and Beckett have shut-down performances, and if Buchholz can ignore the baserunner drama and just focus on pitching in the lower half of the strike zone.
How do the Twins do this every year? Who are these pitchers they have? As a Tiger's fan, I find this annoying. Year after year, they are always there. I guess this is my way of complimenting them, but boy, they can be irritating.
Buster Olney (1:23 PM)
Marshall: I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but year in and year out, the Twins play good baseball. They'll probably never be a great team, because of the financial restrictions, and their well of deep pitching is getting more shallow, according to executives with other teams. But they always -- always -- give themselves a chance to win because of the consistency of their effort and their execution. You usually have to finish them off, because they usually won't beat themselves...
Who is your favorite baseball writer?
Buster Olney (1:24 PM)
Noonan: My favorite writer of all time is David Halberstam. Brilliant stuff, anecdotal, put you in the room, whether he was writing about rowing or baseball or war.
Jeff (NY, NY)
Do you think that there is anything that Boston can do at the point to deal with the issues that they have behind the plate?
Buster Olney (1:26 PM)
Jeff: They probably have to ask the pitchers to do more to slow the baserunners, which isn't usually their style (and this might make it hard for them to ask the pitchers to do) -- whether it means holding the ball longer, or throwing to first a few times. If they have the pitchers ignore the runners completely, the only way they won't be run on time and again would be if they get shut-down outings from their starters.
Buster- I keep hearing that even if the Braves make the playoffs, they have no chance with their hitting. I think the Braves are loaded with great pitching, and I would think no one in baseball would want to face that staff. Do you agree?
Buster Olney (1:27 PM)
Barry: If the Braves make the playoffs, I think I'd pick them to play in the WS. They have dominant starting pitching, experienced relievers and a decent offense -- and they are playing great, a la the '07 Rockies.
What has surprised you most this season? Every season has it's ups and dows but what stands out to you most this year?
Buster Olney (1:28 PM)
Ryan: Given that I picked the Rays to win the WS, I'd say the demise of Tampa Bay. I thought they'd be better ... and I thought their esprit de corps was stronger than it turned out to be. They need some veteran leaders in their for next season.
Halberstam ......good pick but that isn't just a nod to the Nashville roots you two share, is it?
Buster Olney (1:30 PM)
Bruinsinruins: No, I actually started reading his stuff when I was 17 and read Breaks of the Game -- the best basketball book ever, in my mind. And from there it was The Powers That Be and The Best and The Brightest, etc. It wasn't until I got to Vanderbilt that I really became aware that he had worked at the Tennessean (I worked at the now defunct Nashville Banner)...
Buster Olney (1:31 PM)
Hey, guys -- I've got a call I have to take, I'll be back in five.
Buster Olney (1:43 PM)
Sorry, guys... I had to take that call. Back to the chat...
Alan (Champaign, IL)
I keep hearing about Barmes's catch last night (and it was great, no doubt), but very little about the horrible missed call two at bats prior. If the ump had gotten the right call, the cards would've had men on first and second, with Pujols batting and no one out. Instead, there's a man on 2nd, and one out, so of course, Pujols gets walked. To me, that's the play that changed the complexion of the game, and am frustrated that I've heard so little about it.
Buster Olney (1:44 PM)
Alan: I hear you, no doubt, it was a terrible call, and you could see it in La Russa's face when he came out that he basically was telling the ump: You know you blew it. And the ump was telling him: That's what I had. Which is code for: You might be right.
Shouldn't LA be EXTREMELY concerned that they only have 1 consistent and healthy starter right now? All down hill after Wolf.
Buster Olney (1:46 PM)
Anthony: Thye are a weird team right now; hard to gauge them. Kershaw is fully capable of throwing out a 6-inning, 12-strikeout game, or 2.2 innings, 5 walks, 5 runs game... And they have a lights out bullpen, although Broxton seemed oddly reluctant to throw his slider Sunday. I'm curious to see how Kershaw and Billingsley throw this time around.
Buster, I think that there is no clear evidence either way that a small market team can or cannot compete on a regular basis with the larger market teams, but I've been hearing a lot of grief about the small market teams being unhappy with the economic realities in baseball. Do you think a small market team can be a perennial contender, and do you think anything is going to change?
Buster Olney (1:47 PM)
Andrew: I think the window for small market teams is getting smaller and smaller, and although we saw improved parity after the 2002 labor agreement, the problem is front and center again, borne out by the quick retreat of the Cleveland Indians... There will be a major internal fight among the teams to get an acceptable labor/competitive structure before the next labor agreement.
Jamie (Utica, NY)
CC for Cy Young after Saturday's performance given the fact that his ERA is 3.12 in the AL East and he has completely dominated for months now all while playin in NYC?
Buster Olney (1:49 PM)
Jamie: CC has been incredible of late, and yes, he pitches in the AL East, which is different than pitching in the AL Central. But Greinke has been the best pitcher in the AL this year, to date; his ERA is a full run lower than that of Sabathia. If you gave him Sabathia's run support, he might've won 23-24 games. He's been that dominant.
Luke (Saint Paul)
Is Ron Gardenhire one of the most underrated managers in baseball? Sure he has Mauer and Morneau but after that their lineups have generally been very thin. He keeps putting a competitive team on the field and they are in it every year.
Buster Olney (1:50 PM)
Luke: Gardy is consistently one of the best managers in the game, and certainly one of the most underrated, agree with your premise.
Scott (Springfield, MO)
Cards fan or not, I think it's clear to most that the Cards have what it takes this year to win playoff series'. But, as a Cards fan, I have fair concern about their offensive inconsistency, especially against lefties. What's your take?
Buster Olney (1:52 PM)
Scott: I agree with you that the Cardinals have what it takes to win in the post-season; as of today, I'm leaning toward picking the Cardinals. We don't have to make our picks until next Monday, but right now, with Carpenter and Wainwright and their deep lineup and bench, that's the way I'd go. Your concern might be about the lefties (and I'm guessing that you are thinking Hamels/Lee/Happ), but I'd be more concerned about Franklin. Rival scouts say his margin for error is very small and that he is just not throwing the ball as well lately.
Dwight (Tulsa, OK)
Simple question: Zack Greinke, your thoughts?
Buster Olney (1:52 PM)
Dwight: He's the Cy Young Award winner.
Mike (Long Island)
Buster, I wish people would stop throwing around terms like "small market" without thinking what that means. Does small market mean small attendance, small population to draw from or owners that are not willing to invest at a "reasonable" level to compete with teams with bigger payrolls? Remember that Toronto in the 90s draw 4 million 2 years in a row....
Buster Olney (1:54 PM)
Mike: I think that it's one of those terms that gets used now to describe payroll, because it's a term that casual fans understand. It's technically not accurate, though, you're right -- we probably should say "teams with mid-sized payrolls or small budgets."
Regarding the Sabathia in the AL East comment... who cares? The only other good team in that division is Boston, the other 3 are all mediocre at best. That shouldn't get him any bonus points
Buster Olney (1:57 PM)
Brent: The overall quality of the teams in the AL East is consistently better than in most other divisions. The Rays' lineup right now, for example, is better than that of the Rangers and Athletics. I'd bet that if you polled 20 scouts/talent evaulators, 20 would agree that it's tougher to pitch in the AL East than in any other division (which is why so many folks have so much respect for Roy Halladay).
No one has the courage to answert his question:Jeter or Ripken Jr. Who would you rather have had/have on your team for their entire careers?
Buster Olney (1:57 PM)
Ben: Jeter. I covered both players.
I don't believe ERA should be a deciding factor, but Greinke does have a lower ERA than CC against eight of their eleven like opponents. Granted, in most cases, it's a SSS.vs Angels-Greinke .56, CC 6.08vs Baltimore-Greinke 2.08, CC 2.88vs Boston-Greinke 0.00, CC 2.22vs White Sox-Greinke 2.31, CC 4.50vs Indians-Greinke 2.16, CC 2.84vs Detroit-Greinke 1.00, CC 2.40vs Minnesota-Greinke 1.29, CC 1.29vs Oakland-Greinke 3.86, CC 4.57vs Seattle-Greinke 0.00, CC 3.85vs Rays-Greinke 5.25, CC 4.35vs Toronto-Greinke 5.25, CC 2.25
Buster Olney (1:58 PM)
Matt: Thanks for contributing that...
Whos the better pitcher Buster, Greinke or Lincecum? And who will you have for the next 4 years?
Buster Olney (1:58 PM)
Tim: Wow, tough question. I'd go with Greinke.
What are your feelings on the suggestion that Happ could be a replacement for Lidge as a closer in the playoffs?
Buster Olney (2:00 PM)
Matt: If I were running the Phillies, I'd start trying it tonight. Why not try it? Heck, we saw Wainwright step up and dominate in October three years ago... Maybe Happ could solve the Phillies' biggest problem.With that, folks, my time is up. I'll be chatting again in two weeks. Sorry that I had to stop in the middle of it...