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April 9, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Jayson Stark

Jayson Stark
  (1:01 PM)

Hey, it's great to be back in Chat Land. Nothing more uplifting than the first week of the baseball season, so let's get rolling.

Ray A. (San Francisco, CA)

The Giants are off to a great start, in which the offense came through and the pitching was stellar. Do you think the Giants can keep this up and contend for the NL Pennant this season? I know it's early, but can't I dream?

Jayson Stark
  (1:03 PM)

I know the Giants are built for October. The question is whether they're built for April-September. I don't think three days in Houston tell us much about whether they'll score enough or catch the ball well enough to win the West. But their lineup is definitely deeper. And it's scary how dominating their pitching might be. So go ahead. Dream away!

Jason (St Louis)

Man, where did Vernon Wells come from? Two jacks already this year? Think he can sustain the success?

Jayson Stark
  (1:07 PM)

Uh, make that four jacks in three games. Talked to Vernon in spring training for quite a while, and he was really upbeat. This is the healthiest he's been in a long time, and you're seeing the results. He's getting much better extension. He and Dwayne Murphy have tweaked his swing. And he's a different guy. He never even homred in two straight games last year. And he's at three in a row this year. Definitely a guy to watch.

Johnny Hazeltine (Las Vegas)

I know Heyward is a great story, but the Braves don't even sniff the playoffs without Chipper in the lineup, do they?

Jayson Stark
  (1:09 PM)

I really like their team, but Jason Heyward is NOT the centerpiece of that team yet. That's Chipper's thing. And they need him to be the Chipper of 2008 again. He and Brian McCann have to hit. And the Troy Glaus move is going to have to work for this team to score enough. It can't all be heaped on a 20-year-old's back. That isn't fair. But the Braves are a dangerous, dangerous team.

Kyle (Boston)

Jayson, should parity in MLB be a major concern? Or is Terry Francona right that these things are cyclical?

Jayson Stark
  (1:11 PM)

Parity is always a concern. But at least we've reached the stage, I think, where any team that blames the system for its problems is just looking for a copout. You CAN be in the bottom third in payroll and make the playoffs. It might be tougher to sustain it than it would be for the Yankees. But with nearly a half-billion dollars in revenue sharing moving around, it's not the system's fault if you finish under .500 eight years in a row. Not anymore.

Matt (Philly)

Jayson, just finished your "Worth the wait" book, it was great. I was wondering if you think Ibanez's rough spring and first few games was because of his prepration in the offseason (because of injury) and should the Phillies be worried?

Jayson Stark
  (1:13 PM)

Physically, Ibanez looks good to me. So I don't know that the sports hernia is keeping him from hitting. I do think he lost his swing and lost his feel last year because of that injury and has never gotten it back. But remember, this guy has always been streaky. So while I know he's worried, I think it's too early to draw any major conclusions on him.

Luke (St Paul, MN)

Delmon Young, 2 Hrs and 6 RBIs in 4 games. A mirage or did dorpping that 30 pounds help him that much?

Jayson Stark
  (1:15 PM)

There are indications that the light bulb is really going on with Delmon. He had a rough year, on and off the field, last year, with his mom dying. And he's been a different guy from Day One of spring training, from what everyone tells me. If he truly dedicates himself to becoming great, he has all the tools to make it happen.

JJ (NY)

What kind of a home field advantage should the Twins have in Target Field? Are there any particular quirks about the new ballpark to make note of?

Jayson Stark
  (1:18 PM)

I haven't seen Target Field yet, but I can't wait. In this week's Rumblings and Grumblings, I talked to an AL executive from another team who made a fascinating point: How will the cold weather at home affect that pitching staff? The Twins' rotation is built on strike-throwing more than stuff, and if there's a cold wave this spring (always a good bet) and it's tough to feel the ball the way they did in the Metrodome, could that undo the traditional M.O. of that staff? Interesting story line to watch.

vk (dc)

"...it's not the system's fault if you finish under .500 eight years in a row." Agreed, but the Rays/Orioles/Blue Jays could win 90 games a year for the next decade, more than ANY team in the AL other than the Sox & the Yankees and never even make the playoffs. That is just not right.

Jayson Stark
  (1:20 PM)

Now THAT'S the issue. The top section of Rumblings and Grumblings deals with that issue and what baseball might try to do about it. And there really are no good answers. Any time I write about how much better competitive balance is in baseball, I hear from people like you about those three other teams in the AL East. And that's something Bud Selig's committee is spending a lot of time on. I don't think the answer is realignment. But balanced schedule? Adding a wild-card team? That could definitely happen.

Jason (St Louis)

Which should be more of a model for Pujols' next contract, Mauer or A Rod? Maybe somewhere in the middle? I don't see how he turns down 8 years 200 mil.

Jayson Stark
  (1:22 PM)

This is another issue I wrote about in Rumblings and Grumblings this week. I think you raised the fundamental issue that's currently keeping that deal from getting done any time soon. Albert, I'm betting, is going to ask for ARod money -- something like $270-300 million for 10 years. The Cardinals are going to try to use Mauer's deal as their blueprint. That's a $100-million gulf in the middle. And bridging that gulf is going to take some serious work. But in the end, this has to get done.

Kevin (Kalamazoo, MI)

Was the impact from the loss of Joe Nathan over exaggerated? If Liriano can bounce back the Twins are looking like legitimate World Series contenders.

Jayson Stark
  (1:24 PM)

Lots of Twins questions today. The Twins are definitely legit contenders. And Jon Rauch can get them from now to July, I think. Then, if they think they truly need a top-of-the-line closer, there should be upgrades available at the deadeline. Liriano might be a more important issue than closer for that staff, actually. He's the one guy in that rotation who can dominate with pure stuff. And I think you need pitchers like that if you want to go deep into October.

Tommy (East Bay, CA)

Brett Anderson will be considered elite after this year? (True/False )

Jayson Stark
  (1:25 PM)

I think it's time to consider him elite right now. Buster made note of his 2.86 ERA since July on Baseball Tonight last night. I looked it up. The only AL pitchers with lower ERAs since July 1 than Brett Anderson are Greinke, Felix and Lester. Pretty good group.

Scott Williams (Burlington, Kansas)

Jayson, do you think that the Royals should bring up Aaron Crow and stick him into the bullpen to shore up the bullpen, what player should they get at number 5 in the player draft! Thanks Jayson

Jayson Stark
  (1:27 PM)

No. They're not going anywhere this year. Aaron Crow has essentially no pro experience. And it makes no baseball or business sense for him to be in the big leagues right now. But he had an eye-opening spring, from what everybody who saw him tells me. So midseason isn't out of the question if he does what they think he can do.

Matt (DC)

Hi Jayson: What do you think Ryan Zimmerman's stardom would be if he played in a rabid market like New York or even St. Louis? Under the radar here in DC the argument can be made that he is the best all around third baseman right now

Jayson Stark
  (1:29 PM)

Well, he's definitely on my All-Underrated Team if that means anything to you. He's the best defensive third baseman in baseball, bar none, for me. And he's getting to be a tough, tough out in big spots. Would you put him above Longoria or ARod, just for starters? I don't think he's quite there yet. But he's right below, and getting better all the time. Great player.

Jason (NJ)

But it used to be that if you were in the same division as ONE powerhouse team, you could win 90 games a year forever and never make the playoffs. That's a consquence of divisional play and has been forever. Should the best 8 records make it, no matter where they play?

Jayson Stark
  (1:30 PM)

Hey, the '93 Giants won 103 and didn't make the playoffs. But that's ancient history now. They're never getting to that point, and I don't see how they can unless they completely even out the schedule. And with interleague play, that's impossible.

Nora (St. Louis)

The Cardinals have Pujols under control for both this season and next, so why would they want to rush and sign him now, after one of his greatest seasons to date when his value is highest? Besides that, Pujols has mentioned not wanting contract discussions to get in the way of the season, so I doubt talks will be serious until the offseason. I think those two things are the reason a deal isn't being done now, rather than the Cardinals being unable to meet Albert's "demands".

Jayson Stark
  (1:31 PM)

Well, that's the other element in the equation. There's no rush on either side. I was just trying to frame the arguments. And believe me, you'll be hearing those arguments plenty as we move closer to the point where they have to get this done.

Shawn (DC)

Thoughts on Dontrelle Willis and Austin Jackson so far?

Jayson Stark
  (1:34 PM)

Austin Jackson looks like he's going to be a really good player, probably better than the Yankees even thought he'd be. He's driven the ball all spring better than he did in the minor leagues, after the Tigers allowed him to go back to his old stance. And it's working so far. As for Dontrelle, I'm withholding judgment. He's thrown enough strikes so far. But I wouldn't say he's at the point where he's commanding his stuff the way he did once upon a time. I hope he keeps it up, though. It would be great for him and great for the sport.

sean (md)

Maybe parity is cyclical, but can anything be done to save the O's, Rays, and Blue Jays? Even if those teams do everything right for a decade, theyre unlikely to compete with both the Sox and Yankees in the same division. It's just flat out discouraging.

Jayson Stark
  (1:37 PM)

I got an interesting email from a friend of mine yesterday after he read that Rumblings column, making the point that those three "other" teams share the blame, too. It's not just the system. There weren't ANY years before 2008, for a whole decade, where the Rays and Orioles built teams that could win in any division. So while I feel their pain, they're not totally without blame here themselves.

S.R. (San Francisco)

Will Troy Tulowitzki be the NL MVP this year? He seems to be underrated by the general public since he plays in Coors

Jayson Stark
  (1:38 PM)

If he's so underrated, how come so many of us ESPN "geniuses" (myself included) picked him to win the MVP this year? I agree that the general public hasn't totally processed how good this guy is or how he plays. But there are better kept secrets than him in this game.

Brad (Milwaukee)

Regarding re-alignment, is there any discussion about the inequity of having 6 teams in the NL central? The Cubs and Cards will most likely be at least above average so a team like the brewers not only has to play up to those standards but then also has to hope one of four other teams doesn't have a great year. For a team that can't go out and spend a lot every year, that is very difficult to deal with.

Jayson Stark
  (1:41 PM)

There's no doubt the current alignment, in the NL Central in particular, isn't particularly sensible. But with 30 teams, what's the alternative? The proposal about a decade ago was to go to two 15-team leagues and six five-team divisions. But that would necessitate an interleague game every day, and nobody wanted to go for that. So if you have another, better idea, please let me know -- and Bud Selig, too.

Drew (CT)

Tulo? What about Braun in Milwaukee... That guy is wayyyyy underrated by the media!!!!

Jayson Stark
  (1:43 PM)

He might be my captain on that All-Underrated Team. I wrote a piece last winter about how good he is. It isn't just his numbers that are ridiculous. It's his numbers against good pitchers, great pitchers. Check them out sometime. I quoted a scout in that story saying he always can tell how good a guy is by how the other team approaches him. And teams pitch Ryan Braun like they pitch Albert Pujols. Total fear.

Jake (LA)

Come on Jayson, the reason no one talks up Tulo is his .918 OPS at home compared to his .778 on the road the last three years. Just like Todd Helton (look at his career splits), Tulo is a product of Coors Field.

Jayson Stark
  (1:46 PM)

Hey Jake, you're off base on this one, man. Tulo is a great player, period. Coors Field inflates his numbers. That's true. Coors inflates everybody's numbers. But so what? We're not talking about Dante Bichette here. You're working with a theory that ALL Rockies players are essentially frauds because they play half their games at Coors. I couldn't disagree more -- especially in the case of Tulowitzki and Helton.

Mike (Kennewick, WA)

Is Franklin Gutierrez playing center on that team? I know everyone know he is great defensively but the boy been swinging it since about June of last year!

Jayson Stark
  (1:48 PM)

Another great name. Clearly the best defensive centerfielder nobody knows about. I think the jury is still deliberating on what kind of offensive player he'll be, but he's certainly a lot more than a late-inning defensive-replacement kind of guy. He has a chance to be a star. I don't think I would have said that a year ago.

Ryan (NJ)

How many times did the Yankees and Redsox make the playoffs in the same season? I don't know the number, but I sure it wasn't every year! smaller market teams need to focus on the draft and giving free agent smart deals, like the Rays did 2 years ago. They may not be able to sustain 95+ wins every year, but they will open their contending windows wider...

Jayson Stark
  (1:51 PM)

OK, this is another fact that you can find in this week's Rumblings and Grumblings. The wild-card era has been around for 15 years. In the first eight of those years, they both made the playoffs only twice. In the last seven years, it's happened five times -- but in only two of the last four. So it's not safe to assume they'll both make the playoffs every year for the rest of time. That's why it would make no sense to build a major realigment just around them.

Jake (LA)

We can agree to disagree on Tulo, but Todd Helton career splits - .361/.458/.642 and .295/.396/.490. Guess which is home and which is road...

Jayson Stark
  (1:54 PM)

I don't want to turn this whole chat into a which-Rockie-is-a-fraud debate. But how can you imply that a guy with a .396 on-base pct. and .490 slugging pct. on the road is some kind of stiff? In my "Stark Truth" book (sorry for the shameless book plug), I had a list of guys whose road numbers weren't as good as Helton's road numbers. Bobby Abreu is one name I recall off the top of my head. So can we agree to disagree on him, too? Coors helped him. I concede that point. But it's not his fault that's where his team plays.

Jamaal (Marlton, NJ)

Hey Jayson, Matt Wieters is off to a nice start...do you anticipate him really coming into his own this year?

Jayson Stark
  (1:56 PM)

Well, I don't think Matt Wieters is going to be Joe Mauer -- because I don't think anybody is. But he looks like he's starting to get it at the plate. Still haven't seen the power people anticipated. But 6 for 12 this year, with only one strikeout, tells you he has a plan up there now.

Jason (St Louis)

Where will Manny Ramirez end up next year?

Jayson Stark
  (1:58 PM)

This is my honest answer: I'm not convinced Manny will still be playing in the big leagues next year. Remember, there was only one team bidding on him last time he was a free agent. So if he wants to keep playing, this is a big, big year for him -- and not just at the plate.

Mitchell (Milwaukee)

Prince Fielder for Brain Matusz. Possibility in the making?

Jayson Stark
  (1:59 PM)

I don't see it. Brian Matusz is a legit No. 1 starter whom the Orioles can control for six years. Prince is an awesome masher, but he's a Scott Boras client, so his free-agent clock is ticking. Sorry. Good try!

Jayson Stark
  (1:59 PM)

I regret to announce we've reached that time again. There's only time for one more. Sorry.

al (dc)

The point about the Rays/Orioles/Jays is that you put them in almost any other division and they can compete. The AL Central has been a joke for years. the National league is a huge joke (look at any SP switching leagues). Basically put the Rays in another other division and they would be the prohibitive favorites. The Orioles might be a sleeper as well, esp in the NL West? Come on.

Jayson Stark
  (2:01 PM)

I agree that the Rays would be the favorite this year in the AL Central or AL West. I agree there have been years where the Blue Jays would have been favored to win the Central. But in general, those three teams haven't beaten out the Red Sox and Yankees because they haven't been good enough. I sympathize with them. I hope baseball can address their issues in some sensible way. But all I'm saying is that those teams bear some of the responsibility, too. It's not just about The System.

Jayson Stark
  (2:02 PM)

On that note, thanks to everybody who checked in. Great questions. And if you want more realignment fodder to ponder, check out this week's Rumblings and Grumblings. Seeya here next week.