Friday, June 15, 2007

Another baseball gabfest

FJM decides to play the role of Joe’s Brain in the latest Joe Morgan baseball chat… On the other hand, I decide to play the role of part-time analyst.

Bart (Hartford, CT): With the Yankees starting to show signs of life, do you think they will be able to maintain their play the remainder of the season? If they do will they have a chance to catch the Sox?

NF: Boston still has a better pitching staff. The Yanks have also had to get very hot just to get back into things; while it’s obviously better to be 8 games back rather than 13, they have a long road to walk. Neither can they play Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all season. Realistically, they should aim for the wild card. Since Cleveland and Minnesota have tougher division games than New York, there’s the chance that they can slip behind the Yanks, who will get to play Baltimore, Tampa, and Toronto instead.

Mark (New Jersey): Do you think it was Bobby Abreu's super-slow start that affected the Yankees early on?

NF: It was the major reason. When you get a lower slugging percentage than on-base percentage from the third spot in the order, you are having a bad time. The real mystery is why Torre wouldn't hit A-Rod third behind Damon and Jeter, and drop Abreu down until he started to get his groove back. That could have mitigated some of the damage from his long slump. But even so, the Yankees have so many hurt pitchers that they’ve had to start guys who weren’t ready – DeSalvo has more walks than strikeouts, Clippard has struggled.

Ryan (Merrick, NY): Do the Mets have to make a trade to hold off the Braves in the NL East with Chipper Jones coming back?

NF: The trouble is, they had a trade waiting for them last season – Lastings Milledge for Barry Zito – and didn’t make it then. Not that Zito has been as good as his Cy Young year, but he’s reliable, and any time you can turn an expendable commodity into a valuable one, you ought to do it unless there is a major objection. In this case, New York may have felt that they could never sign Zito for this year, but can they move Milledge for as good a pitcher now?

Then there’s the big question – who is available that is an upgrade over the Mets’ current starters? Jorge Sosa and Oliver Perez are pitching well, Glavine and Hernandez have been decent; John Maine is having a rough patch right now but is a good bet to rebound. And remember, they’re getting Pedro Martinez back come August. To get anyone superior to them, the Mets would have to move Pelfrey and a better prospect than Milledge. They’re not getting someone like Erik Bedard from the Orioles, and they don’t want someone like Jon Garland from the White Sox.

Nick (Cincinnati): Hey Fly, The talk here in Cincy is that the Reds are shopping Adam Dunn. Would it be in their best interest to unload him to an American League squad looking for a power-hitting DH?

NF: That’s the rumor every year, but he’s their best bat and without him the outfield would be a wasteland. It would make more sense to trade Griffey to a contender looking for one last lefty bat to put them over the top, and try to gain some good outfield prospects in return. The Twins could possibly be persuaded to upgrade short-term, especially if they want to capitalize on Torii Hunter before he begins to decline.

Bryan (Boston): Fly - Why do we still have to watch so many of these pointless Interleague Games? Rangers Pirates, Phillies White Sox, Cubs Mariners - Who Cares? Not to mention the schedules are not fair in many cases. Will this ever be addressed?

NF: Well, you can’t have it both ways, can you? If you want fair schedules – everyone plays everyone else – then you will by necessity see not only Rangers-Pirates, but Rangers-Marlins, Rangers-Dodgers… and Royals-Marlins, Royals-Reds, etc. Are any of those matchups really any worse than Rangers-Devil Rays or Pirates-Nationals? You’re always going to have times when lousy teams with no natural rivalry play a Tues-Wed-Thurs series before 9,000 fans, for no other reason than the schedule said so.

But it does give fans a chance to see some great players in person that they otherwise could only read about. Even if the Cubs are struggling, it’s nice for Seattle fans to see Zambrano face down Ichiro, or King Felix dueling Derrek Lee.

Jon (Phoenix, AZ): Which Pitcher would you rather have this year? Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson?

NF: Johnson for my money. Less expensive, will pitch on the road, causes fewer extra distractions for my ballclub. He can still sling it, too.

Patti, (Wash, DC): Hey Fly - first a shout out because you're one of my all time favorites - on the field and in the booth -

NF: It’s hard to believe you’re that much of a fan of dek hockey, but thanks!

Don't you think it's time for all the naysayers to show the Nationals a little love? They were predicted by most, to be the worst team in history - they're not even the worst team in the National League! Despite two terrible stretches of 1-8 baseball and 4/5 of their starting rotation on the DL the Nats have been playing over .500 ball lately - beating the likes of Smoltz (twice), Peavy, and Santana along the way, they play hard and are competitive - every night ... I think the job that Manny Acta has done with this team is amazing - so how about giving Manny and the Nats a little dap?

NF: I’ll give Manny Acta a lot of love; I think he’s a good manager and has some good ideas on running his club, and they’ve responded. But he hadn’t got much to work with. Christian Guzman is 70 full points over his career OBP and I don’t think that can last; the pitching has been a major struggle, especially with Jerome Williams (hasn’t won since ’05, 7+ ERA), John Patterson (sudden case of Steve Blass Syndrome), and Levale Speigner (1.90 WHIP, 7+ ERA). Those three have each walked more batters than they’ve struck out this season. It doesn’t help to have Hill, Bergmann, and Ayala on the disabled list, as you mentioned.

All told, even with all their competitiveness, there are those two 1-8 streaks. They’re 9½ games off the pace despite getting hot just when the Mets are slumping, and they have four tough teams to catch for a shot at the Wild Card (Philly, Atlanta, and two of the big three out West). Acta can manage but he can’t hit or pitch for them at this point.

So, that's that - big "dap" to Justin Verlander for no-hitting the Brewers on Tuesday. See you later...

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