Hi, folks, hope all is well. Possible topics du jour: Carl Crawford; the Royals' excellent weekend series in Minnesota; Greinke; Big Papi's big slump; Oliver Perez and what the Mets should do with him; the Dodgers threatening to run away with the NL West; Tommy Hanson's strong start in Class AAA; and, of course... A-Rod. Let's get to it.
What's going on with the Jays? They won 86 games last year, can they win 90+ games this year?
Adrian -- you have to have all the respect in the world for what they've done so far, for the improvement in their offense. But their pitching staff is very thin (and they're very aware of this), and they haven't yet played the Rays, Yankees or Red Sox. They desperately need Litsch, Romero and Janssen to come back and be what they could be. Otherwise, it might be tough for the Jays to hold on to the beachhead they have seized in the standings.
What do the Mets do with Ollie Perez? As awful as he's been, i don't see anybody better waiting to fill his shoes?
Ilan: Ben Shpigel had a story today that the Mets might put him on the disabled list because of an alleged knee problem, and that makes the most sense. But there's another thing they should do -- they should bring back Rick Peterson to work with him as personal coach. The mets are paying Peterson for this year, and they might as well try to do everything they can to salvage the $36 million investment that they've made in Perez.
I'd really love to see crawford take a run at 100 but don't you think that's a little outrageous these days?
Justin: yes, I think it's unlikely, because in order to do that, he'd have to stay completely healthy all season. But if he stays healthy, it would not be a shocker -- and keep in mind he is going to get his share (5 to 10) easy double-steals, working on the back end of B.J. Upton's work. Longshot? Yes. Out of the question for Crawford? No.
Worst player in MLB? Felix Pie. When do we expect to see Nolan Reimold become the everydau LF in Baltimore?
Ben: There was a story on Sunday in the Baltimore Sun by Jeff Zrebiec that the Felix PIe experiment is just about over. I defer to Jeff's beat-writer expertise on this one.
A lifetime Brewer fan, pitching contunes to be our issue. Do you see another blockbuster deal like last year to add to the Milwaukee pitching?
Tim: The Brewers are deep in position-player prospects, from Gamel to Escobar, so, in theory, they could talk about trading a Hardy or Fielder sometime in the next two years (and this is complete speculation on my part) for young pitching. But teams cling to their young pitching these days... It almost never happens any more, other than a rare Matt Garza deal, that high-end young pitching talent gets moved. That said, owner Mark Attanasio is aggressive, and he's willing to take some chances.
Buster hey little late if i missed it but earlier someone mentioned on espn that they are worried about grienke and his SAD with all the attention he has started to get again. Are the royals worried? should i be worried?
Derek: I talked to Trey Hillman yesterday and he said that Zack is the same person he has been all along, through the recently burst of increased scrutiny. Hopefully, he can find a comfort zone amid all the hoopla.
did you read the A-rod book yet?
Chauncey: Yes. It left me needing more information, as a reader, before I was ready to subscribe to the allegation that he used PEDs in high school, or that he was pitch-tipping. That's all plausible, of course, but there is not the level of detail in proof that we saw in the Pete Rose betting scandal, for example.
What is up with with Sox and Yanks starting rotations?
Dave -- Brad Penny's outing actually wasn't that bad, and CC Sabathia threw great into the seventh inning on Saturday. I don't know why Beckett is having problems, but his missed-swing ratios are down 60 percent from two years ago, and he's having a harder time throwing strikes. The Yankees' real problem is in their bullpen -- 6.69 ERA, 29th of 30 teams.
Hi Buster, Have you noticed a decrease in Mariano's velocity? Do you think it will come back and should the Yankees be worried?
Eric -- there has been a decrease in velocity and movement, according to scouts. He looked bad a few years ago, as well, at the outset of the season. If he's still having problems in six weeks, that's when I think the Yankees ought to get concerned -- and that all said, he's been OK as a closer this year. Not great, but good enough.
Buster, the Reds have 5 shutouts this year. Can they keep it up? Is Cueto legit?
James: Their pitching is better, without question. And they are racking up shutouts, in recent days, against the Pirates. So, take those recent results with a small grain of salt, but feel good about the potential of Cueto, et al.
Buster, while driving to work this morning I was listening to the guys and listeneres on WFAN hammering the credibility of Selena Roberts for not disclosing her sources for her book on A-Rod, especially regarding the allegations that he tipped off opposing players on pitches. My take on it is that while she wants to sell copies of her book, there is NO WAY that she (or Sports Illustrated, in their upcoming excerpt from her book) would print this stuff unless there is major evidences from reliable sources. And I couldnt believe how many callers have no idea how important it is for a journalist to remain off limits when it comes to any MLB investigation. Care to weigh in?
James -- she cannot disclose her sources, and it's not her responsibility to work for Major League Baseball. She works for S.I. and for HarperCollins, and that's why she won't lay it all out for MLB. But my own read on it, again, was that I wanted to see more information -- more specific stuff tying him to steroids -- before I am convinced he took PEDs in high school, or was tipping pitches. I don't think an increased bench-press total (information that came from A-Rod, by the way, who is otherwise dismissed as someone who lies in most of the book) and weight gain for a teenager going through puberty is enough to convict, in the court of public opinion.
What is the toughest Divsion in Baseball this year
Zach: AL East. The Yankees, Rays and Red Sox all could be great teams, and Toronto is off to an excellent start. The NL East and AL Central will probably be the most competitive divisions, but I don't think their teams are as good as the AL East teams, in general. The NL Central and AL West will be competitive, but there is a lot of mediocrity in those two divisions. And unless the Dodgers suffer some catastropic injuries, it's hard to imagine they won't run away with the NL West.
Buster, what do see LaPorta doing in Cleveland? Can we expect him to play vs right-handed pitchers on a consistent basis yet. And who do you see having a better remainder of the year -- LaPorta or Justin Upton?
Rob: I know they've talked about easing him into their lineup, but you would have to believe that if he hits and produces, he'll play and get more chances. The other Indians talk about his power with awe.
Can we get a mention somewhere about Selena Roberts and the Duke Scandal. That has to be some of the worst reporting ever and yet there is no mention anywhere. Where is ESPN's journalistic integrity. After what she did to those kids, everything she says should almost have to be prefaced with mention of the Duke Lacrosse Scandal
Ben: I know only general details about it, and haven't done research on it, and so unless I did that, I'm not qualified to offer an opinion as it relates to Selena's work on the Duke thing. I have read the A-Rod book and made it clear here that I find it lacking in detail.
Albert or the field for NL MVP?
Shelby: Easy pick. Pujols. Runaway, barring injury. He's easily the best player in the NL (and right now, I think Longoria is the best player in the AL, by a decent margin).
When will Tommy Hanson get the call up?
Billy: Talked to Frank Wren, the Braves' GM, yesterday, and he said that Hanson is ready -- but he feels like that right now, there is no need at the big league level. Eventually, there will be need, Frank said, and Hanson will get called up.
Hey buster, with the AL central so closely knit what are the chances the royals truly do have to come out on top? The royals maybe doing well now but there never seems to be a clear cut winner. I know its early but, as a true royals fan I never give up hope.
Jordan: You shouldn't give up hope. Personally, I think the Royals have as good of a chance as anybody in that division (and the other night, Luke Hochevar had a dominant outing in Class AAA... It stands to reason that if Sidney Ponson doesn't start pitching better, Hochevar might be summoned to start in Sid's place).
Shouldn't Carl Crawford only be credited with 5 steals yesterday instead of 6 since his steal of third was defensive indifference?
Mike -- he wouldn't have been credited with a steal if somebody ruled defensive indifference. The official scorer apparently ruled it a stolen base, rather than indifference.
Whoa, Longoria is the best player in the AL by a decent margin? Is Ian Kinsler or Kevin Youkilis really doing that bad?
Nick -- just my opinion. And I suspect that if you were to ask 30 general managers to hold a draft today of all the AL players, keeper-league style, that most of them would take Longoria.
I really hope you havent been one of the guys on ESPN I have heard say she is a great reporter. You should suggest to all your colleagues at ESPN to look into the Duke case before mentioning how great a reporter is. She is lucky those kids are busy with Nifong right now.
Ben: She and I were colleagues at the New York Times, and she is a friend. But I didn't do any reporting on the Duke story, and I didn't read everything she wrote on it, and so I am not really in a position to give an opinion.
Are the Dodgers legit World Series contenders or do you thinktheir hot start is due to playing mostly against the weak NL West?
Mike: So long as their rotation remains healthy, I think they could easily be the best team in the NL. I'll stick with my preseason pick of the Phillies, and I'm greatly impressed by the Cardinals, but could you make a strong case that the Dodgers are the team to beat in the NL, especially with Billingsley throwing as well as he is? Absolutely. But the rotation must stay healthy. Not a lot of depth there.
What do you think of the Giants so far? Pitching has been great and Zito looks pretty good.
Matt: Opponents are now hitting .220 against Zito, and hey, give him credit for his excellent start. But to be honest, I don't know what to make of the Giants yet, because they've played so much against NL West teams. Hopefully for their sake, they'll get at least one guy stepping up in that lineup and providing some pop as the summer moves along.
Buster, if the Yankees don't make the postseason this year, does Girardi still have a job?
Shane: I would guess that he would be fired if they don't make the playoffs. That's the nature of the beat in the Bronx.
Jason Kendall is quoted as saying that Gallardo can win multiple Cy Youngs. What's your opinion?
Dave: Saw him pitch at Shea a couple of weeks ago and he seemed to just impart his will on the game in a couple of spots, blowing away guys like Delgado and Beltran with his fastball. No doubt, he's a great talent, in the same class as the Lincecums and billingsleys and Hamels.
In your "AL Kepper League" where does A Rod go?
Shelby -- Late first round/early second round. Lots of folks in the game would be scared about all the non-baseball stuff swirling around him, and the distraction that he would be.
Pujols might be better than me, but easily? Keith Law thinks I'm better regardless....
Chase: OK. Keith is a respected voice.
I know I've asked you this several times, but you said that Longoria is the best player in the AL, which is great 'cause I'm a Rays fan. But what about Pena? He leads the league in homers (11) and he has like 30 RBI's. Also, with great numbers that Longo and Pena are putting up, why are the Rays still struggling? I know its early, but I can't help but be worried.
Ace: Pena is excellent, and if you were to hold an AL MVP vote today, probably he or Greinke or Youkilis or Longoria would win. The Rays are struggling partly because of the inconsistency in a couple of spots in their lineup, and because Navarro and Upton have basically added nothing so far on offense. That'll change.
Longoria's plate discipline is not very good. 41 walks isn't completely awful for a rookie but only 9 so far puts him on basically the same pace. I'd take about a dozen players before him. Starting with Sizemore, Teixera, and Upton.
Nick: OK. Different outlooks on it -- I'd take the Gold Glove caliber third baseman who might hit 45 homers over any outfielder, figuring it is harder to find a player of that caliber at third base. Keep in mind that Longoria has been in the big leagues for about 150 games, and he's hitting, what, .350? He hasn't even scratched the surface.
Compared to Longoria, Miguel Cabrera is a better player all across the board
Kev: With all due respect, you're saying Cabrera is a better defensive player?
So say Perez goes on the DL, who replaces him? Also, you gotta get used to saying it "Citi Field, Citi Field" i also keep calling it Shea out of habit
Did I say Shea? My fault...
NL Central...Cubs or Cards?
Matt: i picked Cubs in the preseason, and I'll stick with that. But if I had a mulligan, an eraser, I'd pick the Cardinals. The holes in the Cubs' lineup are disconcerting, and the Cardinals play with as much purpose as any team, on a daily basis, as I've seen in recent years.
Buster, do you think the Red Sex should consider moving Ortiz down in the batting order? One month into the season and O home runs? I think the Red Sox are the only team in the league where the DH hasn't homered.
Mi: I'd give Ortiz another week, including these two games in the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium, to figure it out. And if it doesn't happen, and if I had Terry Francona's job (and I don't and never will), I'd bat Ortiz sixth, behind Bay and in front of Lowell.
Aren't we forgetting about Nick Markakis if we are talking about tops in AL? I know his team isn't good enough for him to be considered an MVP candidate, but his stats are pretty gaudy.
Jeff: Markakis is great. Longoria is an impact offensive and defensive player at a position that is relatively sparse in talent. It's a no-brainer, I think (and in working on a Longoria piece that will run in the magazine this week, I spoke with a number of GMs who agreed).
ARE YOU SERIOUS KEVIN YOUKILIS AND IAN KINSLER MAKE LONGORIA LOOK LIKE A TRIPLE A BENCH WARMER
Brian: And let me know where you can find a Triple-A bench warmer hitting .365 with 30 RBI in 24 games and a 1.129 OPS (Longoria's numbers so far), while serving as one of the two or three best defensive third basemen in baseball.
Is .400 possible in this era?
Mo: I don't think so. The travel and late-inning relief specialists really hurt the odds, I'd venture to say. That said, I was covering the Padres in 1994 when Tony Gwynn hit .394, and I will go to the grave convinced he would've done it that year, if the season had continued.
IM SAYING COMPARED TO ALL THE OTHER PLAYERS IN THE AL HE DOESNT MATCH UP
Brian -- are you serious? And if you're a Red Sox fan, is there something you haven't seen from him this year in his 30 at-bats against Boston -- 13 hits, four doubles, 4 homers, 13 RBI, and a 1.390 OPS?
Top 3 defensive 3rd basemen in the AL; Beltre, Inge, and Longoria. No contest!
Todd: Would agree with you completely. I know David Wright is really good, but I don't think he's in the class defensively of those three right now.
Tigers pitching thus far???
Shawn: Stunning. Of all the predictions/prognostications/expectations going into this year, the supposition (of mine) that the Tigers would have terrible pitching has been... well, terrible.
Buster....I can't stand when baseball guys use numbers to support their case (in terms of Longoria) and then disregard numbers when defending someone's slow start.....which is it??
Jason: Who are you referring to? Because I'm not sitting here telling you that David Ortiz or Derrek Lee is going to shrug off their slow starts and will start killing the ball.
Can we have the Washington Nationals back?
Anthony: There are folks in Washington who probably would give 'em to you. But once they draft and sign Strasburg (presumably), that attitude might change. It should be a big-time show when he pitches.
Whose hitting core would you rather have for the future? Jones/Markakis/Weiers/Robers, Longoria/Pena/Upton/Crawford, Arod/Tex/Jeter/Cano or Bay/Youk/Pedroia/Ellsbury?
Alex: Hmmmm, great question. I'd take the four Orioles, because I don't think Crawford will be with the Rays past 2010, and I think we've seen the best years of A-Rod and Jeter in the past.
Buster, if you were going to watch one game today which one would it be? I personally will go watch Greinke continue his dominance.
Greg: Totally agree. I'm going to be curious to see what the walk-up is for his start tonight. I hear the weather is supposed to be excellent.
If Ortiz doesn't come around, how much trouble are the Sox in? In other words, how important is he to their overall success or is there someone else more important to them making the playoffs?
Mo: If Ortiz doesn't hit, there will be time for the Red Sox to figure out/find a solution. Internally, they're hoping that Ortiz bounces back the way that Carlos Delgado did for the Mets after sleep-walking through April and May of 2008.
Is it remotley possible that Joe Mauer could make a push at batting .400 for a whole season if he could stay completely healthy?
Adam: he's a great hitter, but inevitably, the catchers get so beat up, especially with nagging little hand injuries. It's hard to imagine a catcher taking a run at that number. With that, my time is up -- thanks for all the great questions. See you next week...