It seems like pitchers and catchers reported to camp just yesterday, but here we are, 219 days later getting ready for Game One of the Fall Classic. We’ve already been well versed in Tampa Bay’s worst-to-first story, and we all know that the city of Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship in the four major sports since the 76ers took home the title during the 1982-83 season, so really all that’s left is to watch the games.
The Phillies have already managed to lose a World Series to the Yanks, Red Sox, Orioles & Blue Jays in their history, and the Rays will look to complete the AL East sweep starting tonight with Scott Kazmir on the mound. The third longest tenured Ray is the fifth youngest player on the team, and hasn’t looked right for a good month now. This is no time for excuses though, he just has to get it done now.
Taken two picks after Kazmir in the first round of the 2002 draft, Cole Hamels looks to continue his superb postseason pitching tonight, except now he’ll be facing a real lineup instead of those wimpy NL offenses. The Phils haven’t played a game in a week, so there figures to be some rust early on. Simulated games and extra BP can only do so much.
The pre-game ceremonies start at 8pm, with the game to follow afterwards. Joe Buck & Timmy McCarver have the call on FOX. Yippee.
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Shane Victorino, CF Jayson Werth, RF
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Pat Burrell, LF
6. Jayson Werth, RF Shane Victorino, CF
7. Pedro Feliz, 3B
8. Chris Coste, DH
9. Carlos Ruiz, C
– Cole Hamels, P (14-10, 3.09)
1. Akinori Iwamura, 2B
2. BJ Upton, CF
3. Carlos Pena, 1B
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Carl Crawford, LF
6. Willy Aybar, DH
7. Dioner Navarro, C
8. Ben Zobrist, RF
9. Jason Bartlett, SS
– Scott Kazmir, P (12-8, 3.49)
I’m going to throw my predicition out here for the record: Rays in 6, with the Phils winning only Hamels’ starts. If the Rays win tonight, get the brooms out. MVP … let’s say … Carlos Pena.
In their illustrious history, the Phillies have had little success in the World Series, garnering just one title in all of their years. There’s an interesting hitch to this history of title losses: The team has faced and lost to the Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays in the World Series. If Tampa wins, the Phillies will become the first team to lose a World Championship to each of the current AL East teams. This historical failure would truly set the bar for a team that has 10,098 regular season losses. (Hat tip to The Big Lead) · (31) ·
In advance of the release of The Bill James Handbook 2009, the venerable baseball analysts has released his list of the top young talent in baseball. James has also put forward a ranking of the Major League clubs by top young Major League talent, and the Yankees aren’t looking so hot with the team ranked 29 out of 30.
According to ACTA Sports, publishers of the Handbook, these rankings include players 30 and younger:
To achieve his inventory, James first eliminates from the list all players who were 30 years old or older in 2008. He employs two widely used statistics—“Runs Created” for position players and “Runs Allowed” for pitchers—as the basis for comparison. He makes several adjustments, including for injuries suffered during the year and the differences in predictability between pitchers and position players, and then takes into account the number of years the player should be at his peak performance.
Of course, it doesn’t take a baseball genius to recognize the Yankees’ young-gun problems. Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano turned in disappointing 2008 campaigns; Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy didn’t meet the lofty expectations placed upon them; and even Joba Chamberlain suffered a lengthy stay on the disabled list.
As the Yankees head into free agency, this list should be a part of their considerations. Five of the top 15 and three of the top ten youngest teams made the playoffs this year, and if the Yanks don’t get marked older, they’ll suffer through some pretty bad seasons over the next few years.
The full franchise rankings and James’ top 25 young players are after the jump.
While Yankee officials are set to appear before a Congressional subcommittee this week to discuss land-valuation concerns, the IRS has paved the way for the team to wrap up the financing of their stadium construction. The Times reports that the IRS will allow the teams to float tax-exempt bonds. The politicians won’t like it, but the new rule should limit this practice of doling out money to rich entities in the future. · (11) ·
In a rather tersely worded missive, the AP reports that the Yanks and Cubs may inaugurate the new Yankee Stadium with an exhibition series during the first weekend in April. The official home opener is set for April 16 when the Indians come to town. I wonder which luminary the Yanks will tab to toss out the ceremonial first pitch at the new digs. · (34) ·
New York is not Tampa Bay or even Philadelphia. In New York, our baseball team — or, at least, the one that plays in the Bronx — features the highest payroll around and is expected to win everything every year. But south down I-95, they do things a little slower and with a different philosophy than we do.
In Philadelphia, the Phillies have long enjoyed underdog status. They have just one World Series title in their 100-plus years of existence. While they drew the fifth most fans in the game this year, they had a payroll of just — just — $95 million, good for 13th overall. They’re not big players on the free agent market.
Rather, this team has succeeded by building up a core of talented players they’ve drafted and filling in around them. With Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard around the horn, they have an infield of homegrown stars. With Pat Burrell in left and Brett Myers and Cole Hamels on the mound, their most important cogs were all Philadelphia draft picks. In a way, this team is constructed in the mold of the 1996 Yankees with Brad Lidge playing the role of John Wetteland.
Tampa, a team with no fans and limited financial resources outside of those given to them through MLB’s revenue sharing system, has taken this model to the extreme. Their team features nearly an entire lineup of homegrown young stars and former top-round draft picks. Their free agent pick-ups — Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Peña — are there because 29 other teams passed on them. And somehow, they’re favored to win a World Series against a team with a payroll more than twice Tampa’s.
These teams are lessons in staying the course as they work to develop top prospects into Major League stars. Unlike the Yankees, these teams are constrained by their finances. The Phillies and Rays can’t go out and sign a CC Sabathia if their Ian Kennedy equivalent doesn’t pursue the path imagined for him. But they can still provide us with examples of what happens when front offices have a plan and are patient.
Over the last 19 months, we’ve tried to preach a New York version of that course. Sometimes, we’ve been right; sometimes, we’ve been wrong. It comes with the Minor League territory. But there’s no reason why the Yankees can’t attempt to rebuild a team in the mold they set for themselves 14 years ago.
Now, this doesn’t mean the Yanks should forego a Mark Teixeira because they have the Juan Mirandas of the world at AAA. One is hardly a suitable replacement for the other. But the Yanks shouldn’t pull the trigger on a trade that they’ll regret. Just ask the Phillies; I’m sure they’d love to have Gavin Floyd back.
For the next few days, the World Series will be the be-all and end-all of baseball. A-Rod has already opted out of his marriage, and he’s locked into his contract for ten years. So just sit back and enjoy the ride. While you’re doing so, appreciate how the Phillies and Rays combined patience and a farm system to get where they are today. If the Yanks can do this, with their resources to fill the holes, they could return to the dynastic levels they enjoyed a decade ago. And with the free agent signing period just ahead, this path could materialize sooner rather than later.
AzFL Peoria (18-11 win over the other Peoria)
Kevin Russo: 1 for 2, 2 RBI, 1 BB – pinch ran for Milwaukee prospect Taylor Green after he was a pitch … you may recognize that name; Green is one of the two players the Indians could have selected as the fourth guy in the Sabathia trade, but they went with Michael Brantley instead
Austin Jackson: 3 for 6, 1 R, 2 RBI – 9 for his last 24 (.375)
Jeff Marquez: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 3-1 GB/FB – 24 of 47 pitches were strikes (51.1%)
HWB Waikiki (7-2 lead over West Oahu in the 5th) all Yanks’ prospects have already exited the game, hence the early post
Austin Romine: 0 for 0, 1 HBP – left the game with an arm/wrist injury after the HBP … not sure how serious it is, but he’s got all winter to get better if need be
Andrew Brackman: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 5-4 GB/FB – 48 of 81 pitches were strikes (59.3%) … his control is slowly coming back, but he threw a first pitch strike to only 11 of 20 batters … he had men on 1st & 3rd with one out in the 3rd, but the guy on third was thrown out trying to steal home, and then the guy on first was tagged out in a rundown to get Brackman out of the inning
AzFL Peoria (4-2 win over the other Peoria)
Austin Jackson: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K, 1 HBP
Juan Miranda: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB – what, no extra base hits?
Kevin Russo: 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 HBP, 1 SB
Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – only 8 of 16 pitches were strikes (50%)
HWB Waikiki was off Monday.
Here’s some highlights for the guys playing winter ball in the Caribbean:
Matt Carson: 2 for 13 (.154), 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 SB in 3 games (DR)
Justin Christian: 7 for 33 (.212), 4 R, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, 6 SB in 8 games (Mex)
Reegie Corona: 3 for 7 (.429), 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K in 3 games (DR)
Victor Zambrano: 11 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K in 2 starts (VZ)- say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?
Check it out. WCBS 880 AM has a gallery of Shea Stadium destruction pictures. While the new Yankee Stadium now has grass, Shea no longer has seats. Objectively, I’ve always enjoyed pictures like this, and I have no emotional attachment to the Mets or Shea. When, however, the crews start tearing down Yankee Stadium, the photos will be bittersweet indeed.
So notes Frank Della Femina. Personally, I’d much rather see Derek Lowe in a Boston uniform than in a Yankee uniform as well. There are bigger fish to catch than Lowe, and Andy Pettitte and/or Mike Mussina can do Lowe’s job for less money and fewer years. Pass. · (43) ·
The rosters for the Rising Stars Showcase, essentially the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game, have been released, with the two most obvious Yanks’ farmhands making the National Team. The game is this Friday at 7:15pm local time (10:15 on the east coast), and Phil Hughes will get the start against the Braves’ Tommy Hanson. There’s a good chance the game will be on MiLB.tv, but we won’t know for sure until Friday comes. It will definitely be available on Gameday, though. · (44) ·