The Champion of Ignorance

Hey gang, happy Spring Training!

If you hadn’t heard, and I seriously doubt it if you know me at all, I won my second fantasy baseball championship last season over a determined sportsmanMike squad. It was a wonderful season that ended in a wonderful result for me personally.

Unfortunately, that was about the only thing I got right in 2018. I made bad trade after trade, I played terribly, I made stupid drops, and it was only through pure luck that I manged to blindly flail my way into a title. But I know nobody wants to hear about the “poor little champion who thinks last year wasn’t up to his standards”. That’s arrogant, obnoxious and downright douchey. The real reason I’m writing this post is the biggest regret I have of last season, my horrible treatment of my beloved Tampa Bay Rays.

Last April, after a terrible start to the season, I wrote a downright scathing article on the Rays titled “Ray of Nope”. In said article, I destroyed my team, calling them a “disgrace” and “unwatchable”. I tried to tell you they had no young stars, no good players,and nobody had a jersey worth buying. I said they had no direction for the future, and specifically, I targeted CJ Cron, for some reason choosing to unleash my wrath on him in particular.

Well to recap:

-Blake Snell won the CY Young award and had the lowest AL ERA in nearly 20 years. I went out and purchased his jersey. “No young stars, no jerseys worth buying”

-The Rays traded for Tommy Pham and signed Charlie Morton for $30 plus million dollars. “No commitment to short term winning”

-The Rays dumped sorry Chris Archer on the Pirates for three elite young players, and now have a consensus top three farm system in the game. “No direction for the future”

-The “disgraceful and unwatchable” Rays went on to win 90 games in a division with two 100 plus win juggernauts, and have developed into one of the most interesting MLB teams to watch heading into 2019.

-And just for fun, CJ Cron hit 30+ home runs and became our most consistent hitter.

I’m not proud of the things I wrote, and it just piled onto a horrific 2018 where I threw out bad take after bad take. For somebody who loves and cherishes baseball, and takes great pride in his knowledge of the game, it was a very humbling experience.

This is “Dan The #1 Rays Fan’s” public apology letter to the Tampa Bay Rays. I promise to be more patient in the future. I’ll love you always and forever.

Dan’s Spring Quick Hits

-Year after year the pre-draft rumblings are the person with the #1 overall pick is leaning toward not taking Mike Trout.

-Year after year it continues to baffle me.

-I had a blast at a spring training game yesterday with most of thefoulline.com crew, and it was nice to finally meet Dylan and Trent after all these years. Everyone has crazy baseball knowledge, and getting together and talking about the game in the sunshine is rapidly becoming one of my favorite activities.

-I badly badly badly want Max Scherzer with the #4 overall pick.

-I don’t think Willis fully grasps how badly he’s owned me over the last few years. Nine straight wins at one point! Maybe he’s just too humble to rub it in. He’s a great dude and an even better fantasy baseball player.

-Dylan made a point of letting me know some of my trade offers are “bogus” and was quickly backed up by other league members. One of my biggest goals in 2019 is to change my apparent reputation around the league.

-Every single player in the league seems to have a different take on the state of certain positions, what’s deep and what’s not. This year is going to be fascinating.

-Charlotte Sports Park has the second best cheesesteak I’ve ever eaten.

-After getting nine beers handed to him from Dave, we had to pull over on the side of the highway so Allan could go to the bathroom on the way home.

-I totally support the “Lugo” and the “Drew” division this season. Two legends of thefoulline.com who will live forever.

-Draft day is my favorite day of the year, always. I can’t wait for Sunday.



MLB Offseason Review

Hey everyone, Dan here.

Ever since the San Francisco Giants recorded the final out against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series last year, this date has just been flashing in my head…. April 5th… April 5th….

Despite the winter seeming to drag on forever, the Super Bowl is now over. And that means we are officially on the fast track to baseball’s opening day. But that’s not to say that the winter didn’t produce some real highlights. This was perhaps the most crazy, active, and wild offseason in baseball in the last 20 years. But who put themselves in the best position? Who gutted their team? It’s time for thefoulline.com’s official offseason review!

The Nationals Don’t Need Any More Pitching

So what do you do if you lead Major League Baseball in ERA and get knocked out of the postseason because you scored 9 runs in 4 games? You make upgrading your offense the goal of your offseason, right? Nah, you go out and give Max Scherzer $210 million. The Nationals go with the “you strengthen your strength” approach and it gives them the strongest MLB rotation since the 1995 Atlanta Braves. If they can get anything close to what Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman are capable of, Washington has to be considered the World Series favorite.

The Padres Want to Be Relevant Again

Finish last in the majors in runs? No problem. Add Matt Kemp? Check. Add Justin Upton? Check. Add Wil Myers? Check. The Padres GM gets a gold star for his offseason, taking big steps to rebuild this team and energize a franchise that hasn’t been interesting in a long time. The real kicker here is that they managed to completely rebuild their offense without giving up a single one of their top three prospects. New Padres GM AJ Preller looks to be a rising superstar in the GM ranks.

Cole Hamels Is Still a Phillie… For Now

I expect this to change. The Phillies have nothing to gain from keeping Hamels. They’re easily the worst team in that division, and it would serve them well to get Hamels’s contract off the books and bring in some young talent to fully start their rebuilding process. Add Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon to the list of Phillies players that need new homes in 2015. I still think the Hamels deal gets done. The Phillies will lower their price as the season approaches. Prediction? Hamels is pitching in Fenway Park in 2015.

Billy Beane Has Either Lost His Marbles, or He’s Five Steps Ahead of Everyone

So is Oakland trying to contend, or trying to rebuild? I’m lost here. They trade their best player, Josh Donaldson, for prospects, then turn around and flip their #1 prospect to Tampa Bay for Ben Zobrist. They sign Billy Butler for $30 million, but then flip away Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and Derrick Norris. I know Billy Beane has entered into the Bill Belichick territory of “trust him no matter what,” but even I can’t figure out what he’s doing. I think I’m gonna go watch Moneyball again.

The Red Sox Retool; the Rays Restock

The two best teams in the AL East in 2013 both tanked to the bottom of the division in 2014. The Red Sox rebuilt their entire rotation and the left side of their infield. I’m not a huge fan of Pablo Sandoval, but leaving AT&T Park can only be good for him. I think Hanley Ramirez loses a lot of his value moving away from shortstop, but there’s no debate, if he’s healthy, his bat will tear up Fenway Park. I don’t think the Red Sox are done. In a division that’s really up for grabs in 2015, a Cole Hamels trade could make the Red Sox favorites to take back the AL East crown.

The Rays dealt away several fan favorites, lost Joe Maddon and Andrew Freidman, and hired the youngest manager in the Major Leagues. But this was necessary. Tampa Bay went all out trying to win a World Championship in 2014, and it failed miserably. Now it’s time to get younger, rebuild the farm, and take a new approach to contending. This will be a down year for the Rays, but they’re not quite in full rebuilding mode yet.

What did your team do this offseason? Are they contenders or pretenders? Let us know what you think of how your team’s winter went. Spring training is right around the corner, and I think 2015 is going to be the best year at thefoulline.com in a long time.

Pitchers and Catchers report in 12 days!

The First Days of Spring

Another Spring Training is upon us! The sun is shining. The grass is freshly cut. The birds are singing. Baseball is back!

And I still despise the Tampa Bay Rays.

I feel the need to clarify this, because today I spent yet another morning at the Rays Spring Training facility in the beautiful, historic town of Port Charlotte. My motivation to go see the Rays practice is always the same. I get to spend a few hours in the beautiful weather watching baseball, and if I can trip a few Rays players while I’m there, even better!

Here are my short and sweet observations from Rays camp today:

  • I watched every catcher in the Rays system practice throwing to the bases. Newcomer Ryan Hanigan has the worst arm out of all of them.
  • Grant Balfour was already in mid-season form with his potty mouth. He dropped more F-bombs during practice than the first hour of Pulp Fiction. But he curses in Australian, so it wasn’t that bad.
  • Chris Archer looked great today, and it wasn’t hard to notice that everyone in the Rays organization likes this kid. Brains and talent!
  • It was easy to see that David Price and Evan Longoria have taken a leadership-by-example approach this season. Both guys were the first ones in the drill lines, and would run to the next field during their 15-minute rotations.
  • Jose Molina is still really fat.
  • Not to beat a dead horse, but how does Dave Martinez not have a manager job yet? Even worse, you don’t even hear him being in the discussion anymore.
  • The Rays will win the AL East and play in the World Series this year.

I’m going to go watch practice again later this week. I’ll be sure to bring a few Rays voodoo dolls with me.

Don’t Come Around Here No More

The following is a guest post by long-lost and much-beloved thefoulline.com contributor, Dylan.

The 2013 fan experience for any sport is like no other that we have seen before. 20 years ago, and even 10 years ago, the act of going to a game beat out the experience of watching it on TV at home any day of the week. Nowadays, I can’t help but wonder why someone would want to leave their house to attend a sporting event. (Unless, of course, that game is a windy spring training game with thefoulline.com crew.)

At home, I can keep up with my fantasy roster, stream the game to my iPhone if I need to take a nature break, and pay less than $10 for a beer. Gone are the days of kids begging Dad to drive an hour into the city so that they can get a glimpse of the players they read about or heard radio announcers applaud. This is the 21st Century!!! No longer is a guys’ night out held at the game, but rather a local sports bar that has a TV the size of a wall. Ownerships need to ask themselves what would draw someone back in for the fan experience.

Two teams that equally need new stadiums are the Tampa Bay Rays (obvious) and the Boston Red Sox (gasp!).

The Tampa Bay Rays need a new stadium more than any team in any sport at any point in history. This is a team that, love ’em or hate ’em, has performed very well the past five years and has a marketable cast of players and a unique and popular manager, along with a seemingly intelligent ownership group. So why can’t this team break out of the bottom third of MLB fan popularity and stop having attendance in the gutter year after year?

The stadium.

An absurd contract with the City of St. Pete has the Rays staying in the Trop until what I believe is the year 2095, but I’m not too good at contractual facts. The City of St. Petersburg commissioners are making every attempt to hold the Rays hostage to their contract, and by doing so are slowly eroding away at any chance the Rays have at climbing out of the attendance cellar. Last time I checked, the dukes and duchesses of St. Pete will not let the Rays ownership speak with Hillsborough County officials. If the Tampa Bay region wants to be part of the baseball world, then talks need to open up across the bay in Tampa.

The Tampa Bay Rays need to be in Downtown Tampa. Tampa has seen a revitalization of sorts, with the Seminole Heights District attracting the middle-aged hipster crowd to its 1920s houses, and Cigar City Brewing helping build a Portland-esque artisan crowd. The Rays ownership could capitalize on the renaissance that Tampa is experiencing by placing the team smack in the city, along the water and near the business of downtown that so desperately needs an attraction within reach. A downtown stadium with a view of the bay would celebrate the waterfront that Florida is known for, could spark a new crop of bars and restaurants in a downtown that is a ghost town after 5pm, and could once and for all start a freshening up of inner-city Tampa that has been forgotten to the ugly urban sprawl outward.

Now, to the more controversial topic. The Red Sox need to get out of Fenway!!! In 1998, I too got caught in the hype of Saving Fenway Park when talks first began about tearing it down and building a new stadium. I hated the idea and I couldn’t stand to see Fenway go. Memories were there for me and always will be. The first time someone walks up the ramp and sees the bright green grass and dark green walls, and feels the intimacy of Fenway, it gives goose bumps. The amazing thing about that feeling is it never goes away. No matter the amount of times someone walks into that stadium, the feeling is there. But what I think tied so many to that stadium was the shared feelings of hurt and letdown that bonded all of New England together. Blame it on the blue-collar spirit of Boston, but pre-2007 (no, not 2004), Red Sox fans knew there was unfinished business and couldn’t let the stadium go away until the job was done.

The Red Sox HAD to win the World Series while playing out of Fenway. It wouldn’t have been right if done otherwise, and they had to do it twice. 2004 may have broke the curse, but 2007 cemented the Red Sox atop the heap in baseball. ’07 proved that ’04 wasn’t a fluke and the Red Sox were to be taken seriously. I wrote a piece about how after 2007 I felt different as a Red Sox fan. At the time I thought the piece was a little ridiculous, but looking back I think I was spot on. The Red Sox did change after 2007. No longer was this “the idiots” or the days of reverse the curse. Boston was all of the sudden a town of winners, that for decades had been lovable losers. The persona that so many Red Sox fans, and to some extent, I think, the players took on was over. Things really did change in 2007.

Now, in 2013, the team is coming off a terrible year and the image of the Sox has gone from the lovable idiots that wouldn’t give up in 2004 to spoiled grown men that eat chicken and drink beer. This is why Fenway needs to go. The era of the Curse is over. The story of 2004 will live on forever but it’s time for the Red Sox to build a new image, a cleaner image, one that celebrates what Boston is now and embraces a new era. A move out of Fenway could mean a new stadium on the waterfront by either Pier 4 or Long Wharf. A new stadium that could incorporate the North End, Fanueil Hall, the waterfront, and the growing pop-culture popularity of South Boston. Red Sox fans don’t need to look toward a past filled with curses and a broke-down stadium anymore, it’s time to celebrate the team, and to a greater extent, the City of Boston.

You Complete Me

I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m a guy that enjoys talking about baseball and sharing my opinions with a group of educated baseball fans. During the baseball season, I read every article I can get my hands on, and I follow a bunch of baseball writers on Twitter. Of all the writers I follow, there are a handful that are a must-read every day. Pete Abraham & Nick Cafardo with the Boston Globe, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Jayson Stark and Tim Kurkjian with ESPN. But my favorite of all is Buster Olney.

Buster Olney is everywhere… Baseball Tonight, Twitter, Podcasts, SportsCenter, and ESPN’s baseball telecasts. He also writes a daily article on ESPN.com in which he links all the baseball news for all the MLB teams. It’s always a good read. He really is the hardest working guy in baseball.

I had planned on going to the Rays practice today with my buddy Trent (RedRays) and a couple of friends from work. While making our plans, I noticed on Twitter that ESPN and Buster Olney were going to be in Port Charlotte. I relayed this to Trent, who replied, “We gotta get a pic with him for thefoulline.com!” This became our mission.

We arrived at the stadium at 9:30 to a capacity crowd of twenty other fans. The gates opened and we made our way to the closest field to watch the Rays stretch, run 20-yard dashes, and play catch. We were able to score a prime fence-line position in front of the immortal Shelley Duncan (who promptly shouted “Nobody likes you!” to an annoyingly obnoxious fan that has some sort of personal vendetta against Jose Molina) and the enigmatic Yunel Escobar, who for some odd reason got along great with the loud obnoxious jackass. He even tossed the loudmouth a ball. That sounds about right.

We worked our way around the park checking out the different fields. No sign of Buster.

We watched Matt Moore throw batting practice. I know it’s early, but he was all over the place. I only saw him throw a handful of strikes the entire session. We witnessed James Loney making a SportsCenter top-10 catch during fielding drills, and a bewildered Jeff Niemann having trouble keeping the ball down in PFP.

Practice was winding down, and still no Buster. I was receiving texts from thefoulline.com headquarters inquiring on the status of the Buster meet & greet. I had nothing to report.

But as the clock struck 11 am, who do I see walking down the center sidewalk, notepad in hand? It’s Buster Olney!

I walked up to him and told him I was a big fan and enjoyed his writing. He seemed taken aback by this and maybe a little embarrassed. Maybe he doesn’t have many lunatic blog writers bum-rush him at spring training practices? I asked for a quick picture with him. Redrays was Johnny-on-the-spot and snapped a keeper. I thanked Buster for his time and said it was nice to meet him. He replied, “Any idea which field Wil Myers is on?” I just happened to know exactly where he was. “Sure, I’ll show you.” As we walked to the field, we had a quick Q&A:

Buster: so are you a Rays fan?
Me: Nope… I like the Red Sox. This park is just so convenient to watch practice.
Buster: How do you think they’re going to do this year?
Me: They have to be better than last season, right?
Buster: It’s hard to say… They all really hated each other last year. The guys they brought in may make a difference.
Me: They were hard to watch. Hopefully their mojo is better at least.
Buster: Well, gotta go… Good luck with your Sox this year!
Me: You complete me!
Ok, that last part didn’t happen, but this encounter with Buster Olney confirmed my thoughts about him. He’s engaging, friendly, and professional. It was worth the trip to Charlotte County Stadium.

Rays-centric Quick Hits:

  • How does Dave Martinez not have a managing job? When he was asked this today by a fan, he replied, “I want to win one in Tampa before going anywhere else.” He’s a class act.
  • Luke Scott is crazy. He hung the boar’s head that he killed with a spear in the Rays clubhouse. He talks to everyone – players, coaches, fans, security guards. Is he the new Jonny Gomes in Tampa?
  • I watched Chris Archer throw some serious cheese. He has an easy, effortless delivery that pops the catcher’s mitt on every throw.
  • Speaking of impressive performances… Juan Sandoval had quite a crowd around him during his pitching session. He looked good, throwing strike after strike. What made this even more impressive? He’s blind in his right eye.
  • I saw Super-GM Andrew Friedman walk into a port-a-potty while chatting on his cellphone, then walk out while still talking. I’m guessing he didn’t wash his hands.
  • Watched super prospect Wil Myers take BP today. He didn’t rake like I had hoped, but RedRays and I both noticed he doesn’t wear batting gloves. This led to RedRays asking, “Do you think he pees on his hands like Moises Alou?”
  • It blows my mind that the Rays don’t have more fans. They have a quality organization, great spring training facility, and legitimate superstars in Price and Longoria, and they compete every year. They deserve better.

We finished the day at The October Boys’s restaurant, Bocca Lupo in Port Charlotte. It’s the best pizza around. It was a perfect ending to a fun day. Check it out when you’re down here for spring training!

Under Pressure

I was planning to write a post after the Red Sox won their 2011 season opener. When that didn’t pan out, I figured I would write something after they squeezed out a victory or two against the Rangers.

Didn’t happen.

The good news was that the Sox were heading to AL Central-doormat Cleveland, and so were all but guaranteed to get this World Series season back on track. We all know how that series went.

So at this point, I figured I should just write something before Boston ends up 0-162.

Am I worried that the Red Sox are 0-6? I honestly don’t think it’s big deal. Yet. They have a great lineup. They have a quality pitching staff with a solid history. These guys know how to win, and they will win this year… a lot.

The Sox players are well aware of how the offseason went, with Gonzalez, Crawford, Jenks, and Wheeler added to an already potent lineup. Every news source from the Boston Globe to the Sheboygan Daily Reader was picking Boston to win 95+ games and cruise towards another championship. The players know they now have a responsibility to live up to their fans’ expectations as well as the owners’ commitment to putting a great team on the field. They’re putting a ton of pressure on themselves to win. Every at bat is critical, so bats are getting squeezed a little too tight. Every pitch has to be a strike, so balls are getting overthrown. All of this is having a negative impact on their performance.

The Sox return to Boston today after being away from their homes since February. I think a little home cooking is just what they need. Of course, if Boston gets swept this weekend by the damn Yankees, I’m going to jump off the Sunshine Skyway.

(On the other hand, I totally think that the Rays are going to lose 162 games this year. They kind of stink.)

Go Sox!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I enjoy watching the NFL for about three weeks, then I’m bored out of my mind.

I couldn’t care less if Brett Favre plays another year or which Manning is going to the Super Bowl. I’m tired of running backs running into the butts of their offensive lineman and quarterbacks with their special “do not hit” rules. I’ll watch the Superbowl, but believe me, I’m counting down the days until Spring Training.

There are people that complain that the baseball season is too long. These people are either communists or Pittsburgh Pirate fans. I’m all for extending the season another 30 games. I’ll gladly take 200 games of baseball over 16 weeks of football.

So here it is, the Top 22 reasons that baseball is the best sport around (in no particular order).

  1. The Boston Red Sox – America’s Team. Some may dispute this, but they are wrong. Boston is the model franchise in MLB – good farm system, an ownership not afraid to spend money, players that stay out of the police blotter. Always in contention. Tradition. Fenway Park. Yankee fans can suck it.
  2. Getting to the park early to watch batting practice.
  3. Manicured fields and the smell of freshly cut grass. Well, maybe not at Tropicana Field.
  4. Fantasy baseball is a thousand times better than fantasy anything else.
  5. Watching the game, eating a hotdog, drinking a cold beer.
  6. Very few face painters in the stands.
  7. If you act like a jackass after hitting a home run, you get nailed in the back your next at bat. Meanwhile, football players celebrate every tackle like they just cured cancer.
  8. Red Sox vs. Yankees
  9. Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer, two great examples of professionalism and loyalty to their teams.
  10. Winning the All-Star game actually means something. Why is the Pro-Bowl even televised? It blows.
  11. Breaking up the double play.
  12. Having the balls to try to steal home.
  13. Walk-off home runs
  14. I know they’re jackasses, but I really like Joe Buck and Tim McCarver calling the Fox Saturday afternoon game.
  15. The Rays going from worst to first in one season.
  16. Players not talking to the pitcher throwing a no-hitter.
  17. Every elite closer having their own walk-in music from the bullpen.
  18. You hit one of my stars, I hit one of yours.
  19. MLB trading deadline, the most exciting day of the year.
  20. Buying a new Red Sox hat every year.
  21. The hit-and-run
  22. The double switch

This list could be a thousand lines long. Baseball is awesome.

Pitcher and catchers report in 20 days!

Perfectly Clear

I wrote a post Monday stating that the New York Yankees are the best team in baseball and are poised to finally land their 27th World Series title. I didn’t get into a lot of the details on why I felt this way, because I thought I was pretty much stating the obvious.

After reading some comments that disagreed with the post, I figured the thing to do was to plug all the players, stats, and information into thefoulline.com’s supercomputer and find out for sure which team is the best. So, I’ve ranked the positions of the three teams that are the cream of the crop in the AL East: New York, Boston and Tampa Bay.

If I were a General Manager, these are the guys I would want.

First Base

  1. Mark Teixeira
  2. Kevin Youkilis
  3. Carlos Pena

This position was pretty close. All three guys are Gold Glove-caliber players with some pop in their bats. Teixeira has more power than Youkilis, Youkilis has a better batting average than both guys, and Pena grew up in the next town over from me. Each guy brings a lot to his respective team, but if I were starting a team and could pick a prototypical first baseman, it would be Teixeira.

Second Base

  1. Dustin Pedroia
  2. Ben Zobrist
  3. Robinson Cano

Pedroia is the reigning MVP and has emerged as a team leader for the Red Sox. All-Star, Gold Glove, Rookie of the Year – this guy has already had a great career and he’s only been around for three seasons. Zobrist has emerged this year as the all-purpose All-Star for the Rays who delivers big hits in the clutch. Although he doesn’t have much of a track record, he’s reliable at any position; I’m still waiting for this guy to play catcher. Cano has had an up-and-down last couple of seasons, but this enigmatic Yankee can hit for average with above-average power. What knocks Cano to third is his inconsistent defense and mental lapses on the basepaths.

Shortstop

  1. Derek Jeter
  2. Jason Bartlett
  3. (Distant 3rd) Whichever has-been SS Boston has thrown out there this year

Derek Jeter wears his pants too tight, but the Yankee captain always delivers in tight situations. Just when I thought Jeter was on the decline, he puts up a monster year and is the AL MVP. Speaking of MVPs, Jason Bartlett was the St. Petersburg Devil Rays Most Valuable Player in 2008. He provides the Rays with solid defense and is among the league leaders in batting average, and he’ll be a top 5 shortstop in 2010. As for Boston: Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Alex Gonzalex, Nick Green… enough said.

Third Base

  1. Evan Longoria
  2. Alex Rodriguez
  3. Mike Lowell

As much as I love Mikey Lowell, this is obviously a two-horse race. Longoria is going to be a Hall of Famer and arguably one of the best third baseman of all time. Meanwhile, A-Rod is a steroid-using, Madonna-dating douche bag that can also play some ball. Not to mention, A-Rod is still owed a billion dollars on his contract and is playing with one hip.

Outfield

  1. Bay/Ellsbury/Drew
  2. Crawford/Upton/Gross
  3. Damon/Cabrera/Swisher

Carl Crawford is the best all-around outfielder out of all these players, and Upton is the best defender, but BJ is still living off his amazing ’08 postseason and has done absolutely nothing all year. The fact that Gabe Gross has a Major League job blows my mind. Boston’s triumvirate is superior as a whole; all three Red Sox outfielders are all-around solid players with base stealing ability. J.D. Drew drives me nuts and is overpaid, but he has the tendency to come up big when it counts. I love to watch the Yankee outfielders play. Johnny Damon makes every routine pop-up an adventure, I’m certain that I have a better throwing arm than Nick Swisher, and who the hell names their kid Melky? New York will upgrade this position in the offseason with either Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.

Catcher

  1. Victor Martinez
  2. Jorge Posada
  3. Dioner Navarro

Martinez is a great hitter but a defensive liability behind the plate. Posada can still hit, but he’s getting old and dinged up. Navarro is hitting .221 and has fallen off considerably in 2009. This is the weakest of all the positions. I’ll take V-Mart.

Starting Pitchers

  1. Josh Beckett/Jon Lester/Tim Wakefield
  2. James Shields/Matt Garza/Jeff Niemann
  3. CC Sabathia/A.J. Burnett/Andy Petitte

This was the toughest choice for me. I ranked this one on who I thought I would want to pitch in a five-game series. I’m obviously unsure who would be in each team’s rotation, but I’m guessing that this is pretty close. Boston has the best big game pitcher in baseball in Josh Beckett, the best left-hander in the the AL in Jon Lester, and an oft-injured 50-year-old knuckleballer in Wakefield. I would have felt better if Dice-K had been better this year, but I like this threesome. As for the Rays, Shields has the “big-game” moniker but has taken a step backwards this season. Garza was lights out last year in the playoffs but has become average. Jeff Niemann is a rookie, but he shows the poise of a veteran and has been Tampa’s best pitcher. If Garza takes his psychiatric medication and Shields regains his form, these guys could be tough. New York has the most money committed to their pitchers, but with the exception of Andy Petitte, no one has had post season success. Until CC and A.J. can prove themselves in the playoffs, they’ll bring up the rear.

These three teams are going to beat each other up for a long time. But with the playoffs right around the corner, I think Tampa will be odd man out. It’s close, but here’s how I rank them:

  1. Yankees
  2. Red Sox
  3. Rays

Congratulations, I Hate You

I took the family to the Tampa Bay Rays open house in Port Charlotte today to check out the beautiful new Charlotte Sports Complex.

What a difference from the old Charlotte County Stadium. There’s a boardwalk that goes around the entire field that allows you to watch the players in the bullpen. There’s a playground for the kids to climb on. Non-traditional grass berms line the field for families to enjoy the game. There’s even a tiki bar in left field.

Beautiful fields, friendly people, tasty hot dogs.

Too bad the Rays still suck.


Start Me Up

Baseball season is finally back, and although the offseason for the Boston Red Sox didn’t go the way I’d hope it would, I’m still optimistic for a successful 2009 campaign.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Theo Epstein and Terry Francona don’t read thefoulline.com. If they had, we’d be watching Mark Texiera and Derek Lowe gearing up for the season in Fort Myers, while watching the enigmatic Julio Lugo and overrated Jason Varitek packing their bags to destination Anywhere But Boston.

But after my initial disappointment with the lack of big name signings, I’m starting to really like the additions of Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and especially future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. These guys are low cost, with potential huge rewards for Boston. Even though Smoltz won’t be ready until June, he could be the big addition to the lineup that usually takes place at the trade deadline. If Boston makes the postseason, a lineup with Josh Beckett and John Smoltz would be scary.

Before we can talk about the playoffs, there are a lot of questions about this team that could severely affect their post season chances. Will Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell rebound from their 2008 injury-plagued season? With Coco Crisp shipped off to Kansas City, is Jacoby Ellsbury ready to be the everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter? Can a full season of Jason Bay make up for the loss of Manny? Who will be the Red Sox catcher of the future?

To make matters worse, rivals Tampa Bay and New York revamped their already dangerous lineups. The Yankees decided to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on big-game choker CC Sabathia, the oft-injured A.J. Burnett, and current thefoulline.com public enemy #2 Mark Texiera. Will this high priced talent lead to a return to the postseason for the Bronx Bombers? Or will these guys wilt under the pressure of playing in the Big Apple like Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano? Let’s hope for the latter.

As for the Rays, I really like the additions of Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce to fill the right field and designated hitter spots. This is a big upgrade of the Gabe Gross/Cliff Floyd combo. I’m interested in seeing whether Evan Longoria can duplicate his rookie season, and if the Rays can repeat their success with their closer-by-committee bullpen.

The good news is baseball is back.
The competition  for the AL East crown promises to be fierce.
Let the games begin!