Thursday, March 30, 2006

Transaction Wire

  • LeBron James leaves the Cavs to join the Billings Rims of the new All-American Professional Basketball League. "ESPN kept saying that I was eventually going to leave Cleveland for the big city, and they were right." In this new league, LeBron will face former teammate Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, who plays for the AAPBL's Wyoming franchise.

  • Notre Dame names Bob Huggins head men's basketball coach. Basketball factory! Basketball factory!

  • Jeff Samardzija declares for the NBA draft. He's just that awesome an athlete.

  • Mets trade Jorge Julio to the Indians for Danny Graves. Nobody notices except for Julio Lugo, who thinks the Devil Rays have traded him to Gary, IN's CBA team in exchange for David Graves.

  • Bill Clinton named Paul Tagliabue's successor as NFL commissioner. It's about time someone took one of Chad Johnson's suggestions.

  • Dave and Ellen plan to announce their wedding date during next year's Army All-American Game. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spring Training Weekend in Review

Well, it's about freaking time, isn't it?


My flights (Cleveland-Charlotte, Charlotte-West Palm Beach) were fairly uneventful. I sat next to a young father on the first flight and an older gentleman on the second. The elderly man napped the whole time, only waking up to give his wife death stares and angry mumbles when she turned around from the seat in front of us to pass him something he didn't need. In between flights, I stopped for lunch at a Sbarro's, but convinced myself $5 was too much to pay for a bottle of Heineken. So, what did I do next? Stop by the sports bar and pay $6.50 for a tall Sam Adam's draft. Way too much for beer, but I'll live.
Dave had a direct flight to West Palm Beach, and a few hours to kill before I got there. So, he staked out a spot at the sports bar to watch basketball. While he was there, the bartender made a phone call to his lady friend. The bartender displayed his mastery of pickup lines with the question, "So, are we gonna have sex tonight or not?" Everyone at the bar let out an empathetic groan as the bartender gave a disappointed look to the reponse to his question.
Dave and I next took a shuttle to the car rental office. Of course, we were offered an upgrade from the Cheap Bastard class, and of course we declined. We were still given a sky blue PT Cruiser - an unusual car, or so we thought. It was still a nice car, and the lesson is: never ever pay for an upgrade.
Now, why was the PT cruiser not as unusual as we thought? Because every other Floridian owns one. That, or it's some kind of joke by the car rental companies to help the locals spot tourists easier.
We first went to the Mets-Braves game at the Mets' spring home - Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, FL. The ushers at Tradition Field were all retirees wearing Hawaiian shirts. And you wondered what Notre Dame Stadium ushers did during the offseason. (By the way, if you're looking for Dave or me after retirement, this is what we'll be doing.)

We showed up in time for Braves batting practice, and got to see Atlanta's hitting coach, Terry Pendleton, and their new pitching coach, Roger McDowell. Good times.
Our section was a lively one. Right behind us was an unnecessarily loud speaker. To my right was a new personal hero. Wearing a Southern Illinois U tshirt, he was 30/40-something man who brought his own scorebook and a copy of the Baseball America 2006 Prospect Handbook. As it turned out, he was a Cardinals fan touring the spring training parks on Florida's east coast. Every time a prospect came into the game, he would ask me the guy's name, and then look that player up in his handbook. Good times. Ahead of us was a group straight off of The girl right in front of me had - not that I was staring or anything - the most unusual thong I have ever seen. Basically it was three strings, connected at the tailbone area by a diamond-encrusted silver heart loop (or a clear stone-encrusted silver-y heart loop). Made to be seen, no doubt. A few rows ahead of the convention were Dave's Uncle Joe and Aunt Ann McPartlin, fired up as usual. Unfortunately, since we didn't have our own scorebooks, Dave and I had to make due with the ones in the program - even though they didn't have a space for pitcher stats. The large, dark logos right in the middle of the scoring area didn't help either. Weird.
The game itself was a good one to watch. Of course, how can any game with Julio Franco playing be bad in any way? Jose Lima started for the Mets and started well. Lima Time made it through three innings unscathed, then completely fell apart after giving up a leadoff home run in the fourth. The Mets comeback started when Clifford Floyd hit a monster 2-run home run to center in the 6th. Like my trip to Shea last August, the game ended when Ramon Castro hit the winning single in the 9th.
After the game, we drove to our resting place for the night - the Ft. Pierce Motel 6. We got there around 10 PM, and couldn't check it. Because it was shift change. What? While we were waiting, who should show up looking for a room? Baseball America Handbook Guy. Small world. Checking into Motel 6, once we were finally allowed, required our vehicle's license plate number. So, I went out to the parking lot, and got the license plate number off of the wrong PT Cruiser. Dah.


We woke up Friday morning and walked over to the Cracker Barrel that was next door. Dave purposely picked the Cracker Barrel so we could be the two skinniest people there. We were. Forgetting it was Friday, I ordered a plate that included bacon. Well, let those two extra dollars be my lesson for forgetting. The waitress, who apparently could not understand a New York accent despite working at a restaurant 15 minutes from the Mets spring training facility, gave up on trying to understand Dave's order and just assumed he asked for the same plate I did. Good good.
After breakfast, we had a long drive to Tampa. Little did we know then how long the drive was. The directions said to follow Route 60. Well, it's a cross-state road, right in the middle of the state, passing through Orlando and Tampa, and one of the few east-west roads that go from coast to coast. So, it's a major highway, right? Nope. It's a two-lane country road that passes through every city along the way. Finally we got to a bridge that was heavy on the traffic, and assumed we were close to the Pirates park in Bradenton. We were. McKechnie field is an old-style stadium: carved out of a downtown city block right on the only road that leads in and out of the city. The facilities are a little undersized (read: there was a line for the bathroom), but it was a nice park. So, traffic was a minor concern, as was parking. We drove two blocks past the $8 parking (and the "Cheif Woo Hoo" Parking) and found a $5 lot. Good times. Unfortunately, the volunteers running the lot seemed a little overwhelmed that cars were coming more often than once every five minutes, but we survived.

At the game we met Dave's friend Steve, who lives in the area. The Pirates/Indians game wasn't much to write home about. Paul Byrd, Bob Wickman, and Steve Karsay pitched well. Scott Sauerbeck and Danny Graves - not so much. Steve got Victor Martinez' autograph. McKechnie Field does win the award for best scoring pencils, as they included full erasers. Tradition Field's were your basic golf pencils, and at the Indians park you had to buy your own full-sized pencils. That's about it.
After the game, we drove to Steve's apartment. It was very nice, and was full of "cool wrestling shit" (says Dave). While waiting for Steve's girlfriend to stop by, we spent some time in the pool, located next to the putting green (both are mandatory for Florida apartment complexes). We had dinner at a seafood restaurant, a rareity for me. I asked all the dumb questions, including whether my salmon skin was edible. I was able to wash down my salmon with a green beer from a local microbrewery. (I was a little bitter, though, that my St Patrick's day drinking didn't start until 7 PM, especially when some people got to start at 5 AM.)
After dinner, we walked to the bar near Steve's apartment. The place's name was BJ's, but the strip mall facade simply read "Bar." I should mention at this point that I ran out of money earlier that day. I didn't think much of it, fully expecting the bar to have an ATM. It didn't. So, Dave became my ATM. Dave started a tab, and we ordered the most Irish-y beer they had on tap - Amber Bock. Dominic Yonto showed up a little later, armed with fresh Yonto stories. As Dave put it, you could tell Yonto had been waiting for someone he could tell his stories to. As Steve, his girlfriend, Dave, Yonto, and I played pool, Yonto told story after story. There were the tales of his rag-tag basketball team nearly beating the best team in the league (Yonto had the perfect play drawn up, but their best player missed a wide open tying layup at the buzzer) to their eventual first win. There were stories of classroom discipline and favorite music styles. When one girl admitted she wasn't familiar with Yonto's favorite music style - polka - she was assigned a research project. (The other version of this story has a student replying, "oh, you mean like Steve Urkel?" when Yonto mentions he likes polka.) Now, Nick is coaching his school's softball team, including a girl who keeps showing up even after she was cut. At the end of the night, Dave cashed in his tab for $22 - or so he hopes. Finally, it was drunk dialing time. Fortunately, we were sober enough not to use the numbers programmed into Yonto's phone. Yonto showed me the names on his list. First, it was the nuns at his school. Next, an entry simply labeled "Bishop." Then, "Sam Sanchez." "Wait, wait," he said, while scrolling to "Mr. Weaver" and "Dr. Dye." Oh, if only a very drunk Meg had been there....
We decided to go with the names in Dave's phone. We started with Klondike, and everyone took turns leaving a 5-minute message on his voicemail. (You might want to check that if you haven't yet, Klondike.) Emily and I exchanged salutations in Slovak. As soon as F-Bomb answered his phone, he gave Dave a new definitition for "jelly donut." Katie Alpha, as student life staff at Michigan State, volunteered to work Friday night. Katie, Katie, Katie.


Saturday morning was the drive to Winter Haven to see the Indians host the Astros. It was back along Route 60, but fortunately we new that road a little better this time. We got to the Chain O'Lakes complex early, but again forgot to buy sunscreen (I'm still peeling as I write this). Since we were there early, I were able to do some souvenir shopping, and pick up a program (the best of the 3 - it had pre-drawn baselines) and media guide. The Indians media guide was Dave's idea, and Dave's money since I still hadn't found an ATM, so I didn't complain.

We got into the baseball stadium itself, and there signing autographs was Bob Feller. The line wasn't too long, and my grandpa is a huge Feller fan, so I knew we had to get him to sign something. Now, "Rapid Robert" still goes all out. He was dressed in a current Indians uniform, but with his old stirrups (blue with red stripes), and old pair of spikes with his number 19 markered on, and an old mitt that also bore his number 19. We got to the front of the line and found that, for $5, Feller would personalize one of four pictures he provided and sign one other thing. All of the pictures were pre-signed the way Feller always signs: "Bob Feller H.O.F. 62" in blue marker. Why blue? In the old days, National League baseballs had their red stitches laced with a few black threads. American League baseballs had blue thread intertwined with the stitches. Feller, who played for the Indians his entire career, refuses to sign with anything other than American League blue. The four pictures each had a different scene - a young Feller at old League Park in Cleveland, one of him at Yankee Stadium, one at Fenway, and one of him pitching in the 1948 World Series. The World Series photo read, in typed letters, "Bob Feller 1948 World Series." Next to "1948 World Series," on each of these pictures, Feller had written in the word "Winners." To put it mildly, Bob Feller is outspoken. But, he could always back it up.
Just as we got to the front of the line, Feller got up and excused himself. "I'll be back in 10 minutes. I need to go get announced." That left his 76-year-old bodyguard/assistant/money man - a former Marine with the tattoos to prove it. The assistant bided the time by performing all of the classic "grandpa" magic tricks for the kids behind us - quarter behind the ear, torn napkin - you get the picture. As he did this, we heard the following announcement over the PA system: "Now introducing, warming up in the Indians bullpen, Bob Feller!" Not only did Feller have to throw out the first pitch, he also had to show up in full uniform and throw out the first pitch. He's 87.
When Feller got back, he explained to the line that he didn't have much time (he wanted to watch the game, of course). He made out the picture to my grandpa, then signed my media guide. Dave stepped up and asked if Feller could personalize his picture. Seeing Dave's Mets cap, "Rapid Robert" gave a rapid, "no."
The game was an amusing one. We sat close to the Astros bullpen, but unfortunately Brad Lidge wasn't working that day. CC Sabathia had another rough outing, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits. The Astros outhit the Indians 12-5, but 6 walks and 3 Astros errors gave the Indians a 6-5 win.

After the game, we drove back to the Motel 6 in Ft. Pierce. When we got there, there was another light blue PT Cruiser in the parking lot. I'd better not park next to that, I thought, or we'd never be able to tell which was which. We checked in (right away this time), and went to the room to watch the NCAA tournament. Or so we thought, as the hotel room didn't get CBS. Waaa? I called mini-Kanka to wish him a happy birthday, and mom informed me that he was very fired up with his new golf bag. At this point, Dave and I were both out of money, so we stopped at a gas station to hit the ATM. Go figure the ATM wouldn't process Dave's card (although we wouldn't be surprised if it still gave him three service charges). We then stopped at the Steak 'n' Shake for dinner. I had a banana shake.
After dinner, we came back to the room with the hopes CBS would finally come in. It didn't, so we were "stuck" watching Japan/Korea in the World Baseball Classic. Dave claims I was secretly happy that CBS wouldn't come in and we were forced to watch baseball. I claim that my happiness wasn't so secret. Peter Gammons was a dugout reporter for the game, so that was a definite must-see.


I don't know what was worse - waking up Saturday with hangover, or waking up Sunday with terrible sunburn. Showering (not together, sorry everyone) was an experience, and I also made the decision to shave that morning. I believe shaving while sunburnt is punishment for shoplifting in some countries. We stopped by St. Mark's in Ft. Pierce for mass on Sunday morning. The church was full to the brim with retirees. Well, it was mostly retirees. The pianist was an attractive young female with a beautiful voice. Dave and I agreed that this girl probably made mass the highlight of many a creepy old man's week. After mass, I picked up a bulletin for my grandparents and we headed to the Mets/Marlins game in Port St. Lucie.
As the usher took Dave's ticket, he asked Dave how he was. "Good," Dave replied. "Good?! You should feel great!" The giveaway that day, the only one that weekend, was a pin commemorating the game. Now, crazy old men with pins in their hats are to spring training what crazy old men in sweaters are to college basketball. So, Dave and I immediately put the pins on our hats. Appropriately, our seats for this game were in (or near, but who's counting) the Auxiliary Press section. Again we were there in time for batting practice and got to see Marlins manager Joe Girardi out by the cages. We also got to witness an usher fight (verbal only) as two ushers argued how a young family should get to their seats.

We didn't keep score for this one, but there are a few things I remember from this game. Starting for the Marlins was Scott Olsen, #3 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list. Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida had a rough day at the plate, and may have played his way off my fantasy team. Jorge Julio showed why he had an ERA of 5.90 last year. Lenny Harris, who will probably make the Marlins, had a pinch hit appearance. Catcher Sandy Martinez showed why he shouldn't make the Mets. First there was a passed ball. Then, Mets top outfield prospect Lastings Milledge threw a perfect strike from left field, but Martinez let the ball go right by him. When Dave got back home, his dad started the following exchange:
"Boy, is that catcher awful!"
"Sandy Martinez?"
"Yeah - I'm pretty sure Omar's [Mets GM Omar Minaya] the only one who would even let him into camp."
After the game, the only thing left was the flight home. On the flight from Palm Beach to Charlotte, I sat between a Jewish woman and her sweet mother - who was flying for the first time. It was an amusing hour and a half, especially when the mother started making faces to her daughter whenever the boisterous businessmen across the aisle from us (each ordered at least 3 mixed drinks on the flight)started talking loudly. I also got to share their snacks with them, so that was nice.

The end.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Laetare Sunday

Today, Kanka's Sports Page unveils its newest award, the KankaNation Laetare Medal. The KankaNation Laetare goes to the KankaManiac "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of Kanka's Sports Page and enriched the heritage of humanity." Basically, this award goes to the best ambassadors of this website. Who better, then, to receive the first KankaNation Laetare Medal, than KankaNation's best ambassador:

Ellen Fitzgerald

Really, need I say more? Congratulations on your award, Ellen.

World Baseball Classic Update

The WBC brought this little site a wealth of search hits from all over the globe. Here are some of the most popular players in the classic, according to my hit trackers.
16Kalin DreyerPSouth Africa
Dreyer was born in South Africa but is currently a high school senior in Georgia. He did not see playing time in the WBC.
7Jared ElarioRPSouth Africa
Even more reflective of South Africa's youth is Elario, a 17-year-old 11th grader from Cape Town, RSA. After getting roughed up for 4 runs off of 5 hits and 4 walks against Canada (some speculate that leaving him in for more than one inning cost South Africa that game), Elario pitched a perfect inning in the loss to Team USA.
6Raylinoe LegitoSSNetherlands
Legito finished with an OPS of 1.171 in the WBC, helped by a single, a double, and two walks. He also scored 2 runs.
6Kyle BothaCSouth Africa
The 17-year-old catcher played two games and had one hit and one RBI in four at bats.
6Bum Ho LeeIFKorea
I'm guessing people liked the name. The Korean infielder was held to three hits in 20 at bats in the Classic.
5Ian ButcherOFSouth Africa
Right fielder Butcher had 1 single, 2 walks, and 5 K's in 8 plate appearances.
4Dirk van KloosterLFNetherlands
In two games and seven at bats, van Klooster tied Randall Simon for the team lead with 3 RBI.
3Tae Hyun ChongRPKorea
Chong gave up 2 runs in 3.1 inning of work, for an ERA of 5.40.
3Bradley ErasmusCSouth Africa
Erasmus had one lone pinch hit appearance. To his credit, he did put the ball in play.
3Paolo EspinoPPanama
Espino finished one of Panama's three games, posting a scoreless inning.
2Davis RomeroPPanama
His ERA doesn't show it, but Romero had a rough outing in his lone appearance. In 1/3 of an inning, he allowed 3 unearned run off of two hits and a walk.
2Luis PoloniaLFDominican Republic
Primarily used as a pinch hitter, Polonia picked up two singles and an RBI in three at bats.
2Jong Beom LeeCFKorea
Jong Beom had 10 hits and led the tournament with 6 doubles, but he may not have even been the best Lee on his team. Seung-Yeop Lee had 8 runs and led the WBC with 5 home runs and 10 RBI.
2Shannon EkermansLFSouth Africa
RSA's starting left fielder had two singles and two runs in 9 at bats.
2Yunieski MayaRPCuba
Maya pitched three games, surrending no runs and recording one win in three innings of work.
2Robert VerschurenPSouth Africa
Verschuren, a wily veteran of Team RSA at the age of 21, also had the best performance of any South African Pitcher. Verschuren gave up three walks, but pitched 1.1 hitless and scoreless innings.
2Duane FeldtmanOFSouth Africa
OF Feldtman did not see any playing time in the World Baseball Classic.
1Osmany UrrutiaOFCuba
Urrutia had an oustanding tournament for Cuba: nine singles and a home run in 29 at bats. Three runs, 7 RBI, and a .345 batting average. Someone had better make sure Urrutia and fellow outfielders Yoandy Garlobo (.480 average) and Frederich Cepeda (.385) actually made the trip back to Cuba.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Spring Training Review
Part I

A full Weekend in Review of Dave and my Spring Training trip will be coming soon. (We don't want to leave anything out.) Until then, here are a few players, primarily non-roster invites, who caught our eye.

Players Who Should Make the Team and Will

7. Matt Treanor, C, Marlins: The backup catcher is having a great spring at the plate. Plus, keeping him on the team allows for many gratuitous crowd shots of his wife, olympic beach netter Misty May-Treanor.

6. Todd Hollandsworth, OF, Indians: Hollandsworth is expected to be the Tribe's fourth outfielder. He didn't do anything spectacular at the plate, but he does have an absolute cannon for an arm.
5. Xavier Nady, RF, Mets: He never lived up to expectations in San Diego. All five of his tools have been working well this spring. Can the Mets projected starting right fielder keep it up during the regular season?
4. Paul Byrd, SP, Indians: It's no surprise that he'll make the team. He should serve as a capable fourth starter. Byrd gave up three hits and no runs in four innings of work against the Pirates.
3. Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: Yet another stud prospect from the Atlanta organization. He hit third in the game we saw. I wouldn't be surprised if he broke camp as the fourth outfielder for the big league club.
2. Julio Franco, 1B, Braves: C'mon, how can you not have Julio Franco on your team?
1. Lenny Harris, PH, Marlins: Dave put it best. Somehow Harris will make the team under the guise of "veteran presence." That, or he'll be Jake Taylor-ed into a coaching position. (Wow, two Major League II reference in one column?)

Players Who Shouldn't Make the Team and Won't

4. Samir Nagganamaketheteam: Let's face it: if you don't have a name on your jersey, you aren't in the program, and the announcer doesn't even know who you are, then you're in pretty bad shape.
3. Kanka, UT: You've seen me play. Would you want me on a Major League team?
2. Todd Self, 1B, Mets: So says Dave.
1. Sandy Martinez, C, Mets: I didn't keep score at that one, but Martinez had something like 3 errors in 2 innings. He started with an errant throw to first on a bunt and a passed ball. Then, on a base hit to left, Lastings Milledge made a perfect throw home - only to have Martinez completely forget to catch the ball.

Players Who Should Make the Team but Won't

7. Joe Girardi, Manager, Marlins: Pretty soon he's going to realize he's better than most of the guys on his team. Can anyone name the last player-manager in the MLB?
6. Edward Mujica, , : Argh, I couldn't find a more recent picture. But picture this guy with a beard and long hair, and then tell me that he's not an intimidating reliever.

5. Jose Lima, SP, Mets: The first three innings of Lima's start went well. He didn't give up a run and was first pitch strike to almost every batter. But, as soon as he gave up a home run, he completely lost all composure. Still, he's Jose Lima - fun for the whole family! (And again there's the gratuitous wife crowd shot factor.)
4. Steve Karsay, RP, Indians: Supposedly he's been inconsistent this spring, but he looked decent in two appearances last weekend.
3. Lastings Milledge, OF, Mets: The #1 Mets prospect has been given an opportunity to play, and he hasn't disappointed. Now the natural center fielder just needs to find a position with Carlos Beltran in his spot.
2. Andy Marte, 3B, Mets: Aaron Boone has been hitting the lights out this spring, but Marte is definitely Major League ready.
1. Brian Bannister, SP, Mets: He's been the best pitcher in Mets camp this spring. Maybe he will make the team after all.

Players Who Shouldn't Make the Team but Will

7. Scott Sauerbeck, RP, Indians: OK, he should make the team. I'll give him that. But he's far too inconsistent to be the team's lone lefty in the bullpen.
6. Anthony Lerew, RP, Braves: The Braves are auditioning closers, and Lerew flopped. He's still a good prospect, but he didn't show it on Thursday. I wish I could give you pitching stats, but the Mets program didn't have space for them.
5. Jeff Keppinger, IF, Mets: Keppinger is expected to be the Mets utility infielder. He may be decent, but he didn't show it filling in for Kaz Matsui on Thursday. Keppinger ended with two groundouts at the plate. In the field, he missed several balls that should be well within a Major League second baseman's range.
4. Preston Wilson, OF, Astros: No batspeed whatsoever.
3. Jorge Julio, RP, Mets: Julio is expected to be the 7th inning man for the Mets. The former Orioles closer had an ERA of 5.90 last year, and he hasn't shown signs of major improvement this spring.
2. Danny Graves, RP, Indians: The strike zone can be a tricky thing to find. On Friday, Graves gave up three walks, a hit, and a run in 2/3 an inning of work. On Saturday the numbers looked better - 1 hit, 0 walks, 1 K in 1 inning - but his control still wasn't there.
1. Kaz Matsui, 2B/SS, Mets: To quote Dave's dad, "We sent five guys to Japan and all we found was Kaz Matsui." Top 10 Mets prospect Anderson Hernandez had better keep his bus pass to Shea handy.

The Best Names

Yurendell DeCaster, IF, Pirates
Dan Uggla, IF, Marlins
Charlton Jimerson, OF, Astros
Felipe Paulino Del Guidice, P, Astros
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Braves: This catching prospect has an outside shot of breaking camp with the team.
Bartolome Fortunado, P, Mets
Lastings Milledge, OF, Mets: The top prospect in the Mets organization has given a decent performance this spring.
Nate Bump, SP, Marlins: Believe it or not, he's one of Florida's top returning starters.
Gookie Dawkins, IF, Pirates
JJ Furmaniak, IF, Pirates: Cause when you're a Furmaniak, you're a Furmaniak 4 Life.

Indians Prospect Report

Jason Cooper, OF: Cooper has risen through the ranks quickly. He just needs to complete the journey.
Jason DuBois, OF: 2 for 2 in the one game I saw. He's shown flashes of MLB competency. Has he finally put everything together?
Ryan Garko, 1B: A very large man. A year or two learning to become a first baseman and honing his hitting skills should be all he needs.
Jeremy Guthrie, P: The supposed burnout looked good in two innings of work. Of course, that was at the end of the game against seven second-stringers.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF: He's got tons of talent. Another year in the minors should do it.
Andy Marte, 3B: He'll start the season at AAA, but it looks like the Tribe got their money's worth.
Brandon Phillips, 2B/SS: Two K's and a walk in one game. He still looks like Willy Mayes Hayes in Major League II. (That is, a line-drive hitter who thinks he needs to be a power hitter.)
Kelly Shoppach, C: Hasn't had a great spring, but it's been attributed to trying too hard. He may still break camp with the team.

Notre Dame Alumni in Big League Camps

Craig Counsell, IF, Diamondbacks: Nursing a sore shoulder, Counsell is 3 for 8 with 3 RBI in two games as a DH this spring.
Aaron Heilman, SP, Mets: Back in the starting rotation, Heilman has given up 1 run in three abbreviated starts (9 total IP). The most impressive stat: 8 strikouts to 0 walks; he has hit two batters, however.
Brad Lidge, RP, Astros: Returning to the Astros after a stint as Team USA's closer, Lidge has pitched two uneventful innings.
Steve Stanley, OF, Athletics: Stanley played five games in the big league camp from 2003-2005. He is not with the A's Major Leaguers this year.
Brian Stavisky, OF, Athletics: In his first big league camp, Stavisky has played one game, going 0 for 2 with a strikeout.
Danny Tamayo, SP, Royals: Tamayo is well-respected in the Kansas City organization. He did earn a start in the Major League camp, but surrendered 5 runs in 1.2 innings pitched.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

World Baseball Classic
Round 1 Update

  • Pool A: Japan and Korea advanced, which wasn't a surprise. The surprising thing was the order or finish. In the final game of opening pool play, with both teams 2-0, Korea relied on an 8th inning 2-run home run to beat the mighty Japanese 3-2. Japan takes great pride in their dominance of Asian baseball, so this loss won't sit well with them.

  • Pool B: As everyone knows, the big news out of Pool B was Canada's 8-6 upset of Team USA. The US responded with a mercy-rule rout of an overmatched South African team. Teams USA and Canada tied with Mexico atop the rankings, but tiebreakers allowed USA and the Mexcans to advance.

  • Pool C: Two things stood out in this pool. One, a Panama team with several Major League stars failed to win a game. Two, Cuba is a legitimate team with legitimate talent. Cuba put up a fantastic effort, and renewed some bad blood with Panama. In the end, though, Puerto Rico proved to be the best team in this pool and was one of three teams to start a perfect 3-0 (along with Korea and the Dominican Republic).

  • Pool D: No surprises here. The Dominican Republic breezed through its games, while Venezuela's lone loss came to the Dominicans.

  • KankaNation has gotten a good surge of hits from people, both American and international, Googling WBC players' names. I'll try to compile search numbers when the Classic is done, but right now the leaders are Kalin Dreyer of South Africa and Jong Beom Lee of Korea. Pitcher Kalin Dreyer was born in South Africa, but currently resides in Georgia. Now that South Africa is out of the WBC, Dreyer, who did not get into a game, will return to his high school baseball team. Yes, you heard me right. Lee's single set up what became the game-winning home run against Japan. Lee is hitting .556 in the Classic, with two singles and three doubles in nine at bats.

  • I was critical of US manager Buck Martinez' decision to bat Ken Griffey, Jr. third and place him in center field. Griffey, no longer "the Kid" by any means, did struggle in Chase Field's spacious outfield against Canada. He misplayed a ball that went for a triple over his head. Later, when left fielder Matt Holliday pulled up lame, Griffey was late backing up on what became an inside-the-park home run. (Although, in Griffey's defense, the ball hit an odd-angled wall in the left field corner before caroming into left center.) Griffey made up for it at the plate, though. He's leading the Classic with a .750 average. Against South Africa, the USA's next game after Canada, Griffey went 4-for-4 with 2 HR and 7 RBI.

  • If I'm a member of the Orioles front office, or if I'm Peter Gammons, I'm very pleased with the performance of Baltimore's pitchers in the WBC. Erik Bedard and Adam Loewen (Canada), Rodrigo Lopez (Mexico), Daniel Cabrera (Dominican Republic), and Bruce Chen (Panama) combined for a 3-1 record, an ERA of 1.80, and 11 K to 8 BB on 20 innings of work. Loewen, who shut out Team USA in 3.2 innings of work, has yet to pitch above minor league Class A. I'm willing to bet he'll move up a class or two (or three) this season.

  • If there's a "Cuba Defection Watch," the leader so far is Yulieski Gourriel. If I had to compare him to someone, it would be Jose Vidro. Gourriel is a muscular second baseman who bats third for the Cuban team. He's only hitting .250 in his first 16 at-bats in the Classic, but it's obvious the experts know all about his ability.

  • The award for Gammonsesque Breakout Star so far goes to Canadian outfielder Adam Stern. Stern, who had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox last year, has 6 hits in 9 at bats so far. That includes a triple and an inside-the-parker against the US.

  • How'd he do that? On a pitch count of 65, Shairon Martis of the Netherlands pitched a 7-inning complete game shutout in a 14-0 rout over Panama.

  • I've suddenly become a big fan of the Japanese style of baseball. Fundamental baseball. Good defense. Speed. Taking the extra base whenever possible - especially when the opposing defense is napping. Quick line drive swings. If you're going to hit a home run, it's going to be a line drive produced by bat speed and body torque, not just by pure muscle. The way baseball is supposed to be played. Fun to watch, too.

  • Indians update (since this is a Cleveland sports site, after all):
    2 BB
    Victor MartinezVenezuela2 H/10 AB.2002 RBI

    Well, not that many Indians got to play, obviously. Maybe next round.

  • Leaders
    RNobuhiko MatsunakaJapan6
    H4 tied 6
    2B4 tied 3
    3B15 tied 1
    HRSeung-Yeop Lee / Adrian BeltreKOR / DOM3
    RBIBeltre / Ken Griffey, Jr.DOM / USA8
    SBTsuyoshi Nishioka / Trent DurringtonJAP / AUS3
    AVGGriffey, Jr.USA.750
    OPSGriffey, Jr.USA2.550
    W25 tied 1
    ERA19 tied 0.00
    SVYadel Marti / Chan Ho ParkCUB / KOR2
    IPJohan Santana / MartiVEN / CUB8.1
    WHIPNaoyuki ShimizuJapan0.00

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bubble Watch

The women's tournament has 33 at-large bid and the men's 34. Theoretically, if you are one of the top 33 or 34 at-large teams in the latest RPI rankings, you should make your tournament. The "bubble magic number" is calculated by taking your current RPI - the number of automatic bids above you - the number of conference leaders above you (for conferences who haven't finished their conference tournaments yet). So, if your bubble magic number is 25, for instance, there are 24 at-large teams with higher RPIs than you.

Notre Dame Women's Basketball

Current RPI28
Automatic Bids with Higher RPI4
Conference Leaders with Higher RPI5
Bubble Magic Number19

This assumes that UConn beats West Virginia in Tuesday night's Big East final. Nineteen is much lower than 33, so the women should be in. has the women as a 9 seed. The women, by the way, beat South Florida - a team with a similar RPI - in the first round of the Big East tournament before losing by 11 to UConn in the quarterfinals.

Notre Dame Men's Basketball

Current RPI87
Automatic Bids with Higher RPI6
Conference Leaders with Higher RPI15
Bubble Magic Number66

Well, it looks like the men will have to win the Big East tournament. They'll start by facing Georgetown at 2 PM Eastern Wednesday on ESPN.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Weekend in Review
"Baby, You Can Drive My Car" Edition

Highlights from the Cleveland Auto Show

I was offered a free ticket to the Cleveland Auto Show at the last minute Saturday. The Auto Show was held at the fabulous Internation Exposition (IX) Center. (Emily, I know I just put the IX Indoor Amusement Park jingle in your head. Best. Jingle. Ever.) Some highlights:
  • There was a general entrance, and an entrance marked "Exhibitors, Employees, and Chrysler Tickets." Chrysler sent out tickets to all local Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge owners, including my Grandpa (a Pacifica owner). Somebody put a lot of money into this car show.

  • I was standing around in the foyer for a bit when I saw Brian Brennan and his wife walk in. He looked at the insanely long line to buy tickets, and walked over to the Exhibitor/Employee/Chrysler line. "Yeah, I know one of the dealers here." He was let in. By the way, I believe his wife is some sort of fitness instructor. Brennan is about 6'0 even, his wife about 5'3, and together they probably weigh as much as I do.

  • I was walking by the Pontiac area when I noticed two cars that looked a little too nice to be Pontiacs. Well, they weren't - they were Lotuses. Loti? Apparently, there's a Lotus dealer in Bedford, OH, one of the nice southeast suburbs of Cleveland. I'll have to check it out some time, or not.

  • I'm sure Klondike isn't surprised, but Jeep had the coolest setup by far. There was a kid's rock climbing wall, complete with a vertically-suspended Wrangler. Also for the kids was a Jeep Power Wheel racetrack. For the big kids, there was the obstacle course. At first I thought it was a roller coaster-type track system, or that a Jeep employee. Nope, it was the regular show-growers who were driving all types of real Jeeps by themselves. There were about seven Jeeps - Wranglers, Liberties, Cherokees, and Commanders - going simultaneously. You started out by going over two sets of logs set up as a bridge. Apparently all Jeeps have the same axle width (assuming that's the correct term). Next was a four-foot hill designed to be taken on two wheels. Then was the big test - a thirty-foot hill. But not just any thirty-foot hill. It was about a 45-60 degree grade, both uphill and downhill, made out of steel grate. Of course, none of the Jeeps had trouble. Finally, it was over a normal wooden bridge and into some water. Then, you turned your Jeep over to the next person waiting in the 30 minute line. (No, I didn't try, partially because of the line.)

  • The Jeep area also featured a road rally-style concept car that you were allowed to take pictures in front of. Grandpa and I stopped in front of the car whilst plotting our next move. The Jeep/auto show employee saw us and asked, "Do you want a picture?" Grandpa explained to the employee that he had no need for a picture of himself, as he already knows what he looks like. However, he said, he would have been more than happy to accept a picture of the employee, an attactive young female.

  • The basement held the "Classic Car Show," populated by cars with private owners. Most cars were from the 50s through the 70s, with one or two from the 30s or 40s. Then we got towards the end of the line of cars. The second-to-last aisle featured a DeLorean. I didn't realize it until then, but the Delorean's exterior is unpainted stainless steel. I also didn't realize that Grandpa got to drive a DeLorean a few times for work.

  • But wait, the Classic Car Show got better. Remember the car Steve Urkel drove? (The one pictured below.) Well, we moved past the DeLorean into the next aisle, and there it was. The car was actually produced, by BMW no less. It's the Isetta, with a motorcycle engine and a chain drive. See, you learned something today.

On Sunday, Emily and I drove up to catch the Bengal Bouts with Dave and his family. Topics of conversation on the car ride up ranged from church to comedian Demetri Martin's appearance on The Daily Show to talk about MySpace (song here) to work to the cranial nerves that cause all of my nerdy medical problems. Also, expecting Klondike to be there, I tried to give Emily a primer on the greatest Klondike stories. (By the way, Klondike, if you don't start your own blog, you definitely need to type your stories up someday so I can post them here.)
When we got to campus, we stopped to eat at Reckers. (Fancy, I know.) We picked a table where we could watch both bowling and the random movie that was on. (I looked it up - it was Shakespeare in Love).
Walking to the JACC for the Bengal Bouts, who did we see but Mr. Schmitt and Mr. Bradley. Mr. Schmitt explained that Dave was stuck in weather and would be late. Mr. Schmitt then asked if I had Dave's cell number. I explained that I didn't have his phone, and that I wrote his number down but left it in the car. I expected Mr. Schmitt to give me Dave's number at that point, but instead he just wandered off. As Dave explained later, Mr. Schmitt is anti-cell phone, and probably doesn't know Dave's number.
We entered the JACC to buy tickets. An usher handed Emily a ticket for a free ringside seat, and I was only charged the student rate for my ticket, so we were both pretty fired up.
We entered the basketball ring of the JACC and walked around looking for Dave. Who did we see again but Mr. Schmitt and Mr. Bradley again. We sat down with them, and Michael, and Dave showed up a few minutes later.
There were some decent fights, but only a handful were spectacular. I'm personally a fan of the fists-of-fury Latino fighters who have been training their whole lives. Unfortunately, there was only one fight that featured two such boxers... and it lasted a whopping one minute and seven seconds. That's right, 67 seconds into the first round, a freshman knocked out a sophomore. Most other fights featured a tall, skinny, awkward guy (usually in the blue trunks, oddly enough) fighting a short, strong, fast guy (usually in the gold). In most cases the short, fast guy won. There was one upset, though. In that fight, the shorter guy had some powerful punches. The tall, skinny guy didn't have much force, but he technically was landing his punches correctly. Tall guy won in a split decision.
The crowd was an interesting mix. There was a rather large and organized Fisher section, and it turns out there were about three Fisher men in finals. There was a small but spirited Morrissey contingent; the Manorites also had multiple finalists fighting. Zahm had perhaps the biggest turnout. But, in true Zahm form, there was no organization - the Zahmbies were split into three sections. I take that back - Zahm might have been only the second largest contingent. The entire section next to us was a single fighter's posse - family, friends, random girls who created shirts and shorts for the fight. Emily said she saw no less than six Facebook friends, most of whom she couldn't remember the name of. As the crazy old man, I recognize no one. I take that back - Fr. Bill Seetch was there. He's everywhere.
During the fights, Emily read a Scholastic article that raised an interesting point. After this school year, Jeff Samardzija is eligible to play professional baseball. (Players are eligible for the baseball draft after their senior year of high school and their junior and senior years of college.) If he does join a professional baseball team this summer, the article pointed out, he would still be eligible to play football in the fall. Why is this? NCAA eligibilty and amateur status is by sport, according to section II.D.2 of this summary document. Samardzija would simply have to take a scholarship reduction equal to the amount of money he makes playing baseball. Why, then, was professional skiier Jeremy Bloom declared ineligible to play football. Bloom was trying to raise money to cover skiing costs by accepting endorsement deals. According to section V of the above linked document, all bets are off once you start accepting endorsements, no matter the sport.
After the fights, Dave and I went to BW3's (an awesome South Bend establishment, right Ellen), while Emily went off to visit friends on campus. Dave and I are both "weak sauce," so we ordered mild wings (just in case you were wondering). Now, Emily had been hoping all week that there would be snow on the ground when we got to ND. There wasn't any snow... until I left BW3's. By the time I met Emily on campus to visit the Grotto, the ground was covered with a decent layer of snow.
We got to the Grotto and of course lit a few candles. I knelt to pray, and when I got up to turn around Emily was talking to a student and two nuns dressed in habits. The nuns asked Emily to take a picture of the three, and she complied. (The camera was digital, and Emily later said that when she turned it on, the previous picture on it was of the two nuns and a priest at the Grotto. Apparently the nuns were a big fan of the place.) Emily handled the camera back to the one nun, and as the nun went to put it back in her back, she accidentally snapped a picture of her face. That's right, she pulled a Klondike, only not on purpose. It almost made up for Klondike not being there.
As we walked back to the car, we passed a priest coming out of Old College. Fr. Jay Steele. Morrissey rectors all over the place.
Reason #1 why I probably shouldn't do the ND round trip all in one day: I completely forgot to refill my gas tank for the ride home. As it turns out, I would have had just enough to make it to Emily's, but I played it safe and filled up at the border. As it turns out, I had 2.7 gallons left, which theoretically would have gotten me 81 miles. Emily's place was about 55 miles away at that point. Now, wasn't that the best anecdote ever?!
When we got to Emily's place, she offered me a drink for the road. Choice one was Diet Pepsi. Now, I normally like Diet Pepsi as much as Dave likes cheese, and caffeine after 6 PM usually means I can't get to sleep. Choice one was half a bottle of wine. Would have made the trip home a lot more fun. Choice three was milk. Considering warm milk is supposed to help you fall asleep, that probably would have been as bad a choice as the wine. Of course, I probably would have kept myself awake by proclaiming, "Oh milk was a bad choice!" in my best Will Ferrell voice every thirty seconds for the entire ride home. I went with the Diet Pepsi, and it ended up being a good decision. As it turns out, I don't hate the syruppy taste as much as I used to, especially considering how thirsty I was. The caffeine also did just well enough to keep me awake for the drive, but not enough to keep me awake that night. In fact, I struggled to stay awake during the Academy Awards. But, then again, I'm probably not the only one.
That's my story the end.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

World Baseball Classic
Pool D


2B Trent Durrington (Brewers)
LF Tim Auty (Mariners)
1B Justin Huber (Royals)
C Dave Nilsson
DH Ben Risinger (Padres)
SS Glenn Williams (Twins)
CF Trent Oeltjen (Twins)
RF Brett Roneberg
3B Brett Tamburrino (Twins)

C Michael Collins
C Trent D'Antonio (Marlins)
C Allan De San Miguel (Twins)
C Andrew Graham (Tigers)
C Matthew Kent
C Joel Naughton (Phillies)
C Joshua Roberts (Indians)
C Andrew Utting
C Ben Wigmore
IF Lachian Dale
IF Gavin Fingleson
IF Matthew Gahan
2B Bradley Harman (Phillies)
SS Luke Hughes (Twins)
IF Justin Humphries (Astros)
IF Timothy Kennelly (Phillies)
IF Brendan Kingman
2B Paul Rutgers (Twins)
1B David Sutherland (Dodgers)
IF Rodney Van Buizen
SS Dean White (Braves)
OF Tom Brice
OF Tom Vincent (Padres)

Australia will be an interesting team to watch. They won silver in the last Olympics, but how will they fare against the big boys? Everyone is pegging Huber the player to watch on this team. The Royals prospect only had a cup of coffee in the Majors last year, but he's expected to be one of the next big things in Kansas City. Nilsson, you may remember, left American baseball several years ago to dedicate himself to his country's team. One thing you may notice about this roster is that there are only five true outfielders (as opposed to 10 catchers). Will that have any affect on the Aussies?

SP Damian Moss (Mariners)
SP Chris Oxspring (Padres)
SP Travis Blackley (Mariners)
SP Craig Anderson (Mariners)
SP Adam Blackley (Red Sox)

RP Jeff Williams
RP Phil Brassington
RP Adam Bright (Rockies)
RP Adrian Burnside (Tigers)
RP Tim Cox (Red Sox)
RP Tristan Crawford (Twins)
RP Kyle Edlich (Twins)
RP Donavon Hendricks (Braves)
RP Josh Hill (Twins)
RP Mark Kelly (Phillies)
RP Craig Lewis
RP Wayne Lundgren (Cardinals)
RP Aaron MacKenzie (Angels)
RP Paul Mildren (Marlins)
RP Scott Mitchinson (Phillies)
RP Peter Moylan
RP Wayne Ough
RP Glen Richards (Braves)
RP Ryan Rowland-Smith (Mariners)
RP John Stephens (Red Sox)
RP Phil Stockman (Diamondbacks)
RP Rich Thompson
RP Brendan Wise (Tigers)

Moss was once a rising star in Atlanta. Now he's trying to resurrect his career in the Mariners system. A familiar face for him is Travis Blackley, a Seattle farm prospect.

Dominican Republic

SS Miguel Tejada (Orioles)
LF Moises Alou
1B Albert Pujols (Cardinals)
DH David Ortiz (Red Sox)
2B Alfonso Soriano (Rangers)
3B Aramis Ramirez (Cubs)
CF Jose Guillen (Nationals)
RF Sammy Sosa
C Miguel Olivo (Mariners)

C Juan Brito (Diamondbacks)
C Alberto Castillo (Athletics)
C Sandy Martinez (Tigers)
C Ronny Paulino (Pirates)
2B/3B Ronnie Belliard (Indians)
3B Adrian Beltre (Mariners)
2B Robinson Cano (Yankees)
IF Pedro Feliz (Giants)
1B Julio Franco (Mets)
SS Rafael Furcal (Dodgers)
SS Julio Lugo (Devil Rays)
SS Jhonny Peralta (Indians)
IF Neifi Perez (Cubs)
IF Placido Polanco (Tigers)
SS/2B Jose Reyes (Mets)
SS Juan Uribe (White Sox)
2B/OF Victor Diaz (Mets)
OF Juan Encarnacion (Cardinals)
OF Wily Mo Pena (Reds)
OF Luis Polonia
CF Willy Taveras (Astros)

Even without Manny Ramirez and Vlad Guerrero, this is a lethal lineup. This team has some options, too. Aramis Ramirez and Beltre are virtually interchangeable, and I'm still not convinced that Guillen and Encarnacion are different people. The 60-man roster has 9 starting Major League shortstops, so it will be a tough task to juggle playing time. In fact, every batter on this team except Polonia saw time in the Majors last year. Polanco led the AL in batting average, and he may not even start. With the thinned outfield, the Dominicans will rely on Pena for some pop off of the bench, and Tavarez for some speed.

SP Bartolo Colon (Angels)
SP Odalis Perez (Dodgers)
SP Daniel Cabrera (Orioles)
SP Jose Lima
SP Claudio Vargas (Diamondbacks)
SP Ervin Santana (Angels)

RP Armando Benitez (Giants)
RP Jose Mesa (Rockies)
RP Yhency Brazoban (Dodgers)
RP Miguel Batista (Diamondbacks)
RP Jose Valverde (Diamondbacks)
RP Julian Tavarez (Red Sox)
RP Damaso Marte (Pirates)
RP Guillermo Mota (Indians)
RP Jose Acevedo (Rockies)
RP Eude Brito (Phillies)
RP Francisco Liriano (Twins)
RP Fernando Rodney (Tigers)
RP Felix Rodriguez (Nationals)
RP Wandy Rodriguez (Astros)
RP Duaner Sanchez (Mets)
RP Jorge Sosa (Braves)
RP Salomon Torres (Pirates)

Like the Dominican batters, everyone on the pitching staff was in the Majors last year. Pedro Martinez won't be participating, so the DR will have to make due with just one Cy Young winner in Colon. Perez has turned himself into a solid starter, and Cabrera is just another member in a long line of young breakout starters in Baltimore. The bullpen features five players with closer experience. Brazoban filled in for Eric Gagne last year, and Batista has both started and closed games in his career. Valverde is the other closer. My advice, looking at those first two names? Build a big lead and use your middle relievers to hold it. With established middle men like Tavarez, Marte, and Mota, and rising starts Liriano, Sanchez, and Sosa, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.


SS Marco Scutaro (Athletics)
3B Mark DeRosa (Rangers)
1B Joe Vitiello
C Mike Piazza (Padres)
RF David Dellucci (Rangers)
LF Frank Catalanotto (Blue Jays)
2B Frank Menechino (Blue Jays)
DH Jairo Ramos Gizzi
CF Jim Buccheri

C Luca Bischeri
C Matt Ceriani
C Mike DiFelice (Mets)
C Thomas Gregorio (Angels)
IF Phil Barzilla (Astros)
IF Marc Cerbone
1B Vito Chiaravalloti (Blue Jays)
IF Mario Chiarini
IF Davide Dallospedale
IF Maximiliano De Biase
IF Riccardo De Santis
SS Tony Giarratano (Tigers)
IF Todd Incantalupo
IF Seth David La Fera
IF Claudio Liverziani
IF Gino Lollio
IF John Mangieri
IF Nick Mattioni (Athletics)
3B Guiseppe Mazzanti
IF Greg Montalbano
IF Ivan Naccarata (Mets)
IF Giuseppe Norrito (Dodgers)
IF Orlando Oberto
IF Kasey Olenberger (Angels)
2B Jay Pecci
IF David Rollandini
3B Mark Saccomanno (Astros)
SS Jack Santora
IF Igor Schiavetti
1B Vince Sinisi (Rangers)
OF Frank Candela
OF Dustin Delucchi (Mariners)
OF Gabriele Ermini
OF Giovanni Pantaleoni
RF/1B Val Pascucci
OF Peter Zoccolillio

Like the Netherland, Italy greatly benefits from the lax eligibility rules. However, Piazza and Catalanotto aren't young any more, and Scutaro, DeRosa, and Menechino are career utility players. Dellucci, on the other hand, may just be hitting his prime. This lineup, chock full of slap hitters, would be a decent day-to-day team in the Majors, but it will struggle against the talent-laden rosters in the Classic.

SP Jason Simontacchi (Cubs)
SP Ron Villone (Yankees)
SP Lenny DiNardo (Red Sox)
SP Brady Raggio
SP Tony Fiore (Orioles)

RP Matt Mantei (Red Sox)
RP Dan Miceli (Devil Rays)
RP Mike Gallo (Astros)
RP Jason Grilli (Tigers)
RP Marc Lamacchia (Rangers)
RP Alessandro Maestri
RP Mike Marchensano
RP Fabio Milano
RP Sandy Patrone
RP Mattia Salsi

Well, it's not great, but it will have to do. Simontacchi is decent. Villone hasn't started in a decade or so, so it will be interesting to see if he does so in this tournament. DiNardo has only started one game in The Show, but he's put up good numbers as a reliever. Mantei is a former closer, so he should be able to handle that role. Miceli is a cagey veteran that seemingly has been around forever. If he actually speaks Italian, he'll be a good tutor to some of these younger players.


3B Carlos Guillen (Tigers)
SS Omar Vizquel (Giants)
LF Miguel Cabrera (Marlins)
CF Bob Abreu (Phillies)
DH Magglio Ordonez (Tigers)
RF Juan Rivera (Angels)
C Ramon Hernandez (Orioles)
1B Edgardo Alfonzo (Giants)
2B Cesar Izturis (Dodgers)

C Henry Blanco (Cubs)
C/LF Alex Delgado
C Wiki Gonzalez (Mariners)
C Victor Martinez (Indians)
C Eddie Perez (Braves)
C Humberto Quintero (Astros)
C Guillermo Quiroz (Blue Jays)
1B/RF Alex Cabrera
IF Miguel Cairo (Yankees)
2B Jose Castillo (Pirates)
IF Alex Gonzalez (Red Sox)
IF Luis Gonzalez (Rockies)
2B Omar Infante (Tigers)
IF Cesar Jimenez (Mariners)
SS Jose Lopez (Mariners)
3B Victor Moreno
2B/SS Tomas Perez (Phillies)
1B Roberto Petagine (Red Sox)
IF Luis Rodriguez
IF Marco Scutaro (Athletics)
OF Tony Alvarez (White Sox)
CF Endy Chavez (Mets)
OF Franklin Gutierrez (Indians)
OF Richard Hidalgo (Rangers)
LF/RF Robert Perez
OF Alex Ramirez

This is the lineup Baseball America projected. OK, let's go with it. Hernandez is a Gammonsesque veteran catcher with a decent bat. I see him splitting time with Vic Martinez, both for talent reasons and to make sure neither overexert themselves. Martinez could theoretically see some time at first, too. Three MLB starting shortstops in the infield, plus a 3B/2B at first, should be great infield defense. Izturis, Guillen, and Vizquel will have five Major League starters ready to back them up (Cairo, Castillo, both Gonzalezes, and Infante). Scutaro is of Italian descent, but he shows up on the Venezuelan roster as well since he was born in the town of Yaracuy. Where was the big todo over which team he'd choose to play for? The outfield has some options. Abreu isn't a true centerfielder, but Chavez is, and top prospect Franklin Gutierrez is athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. Rivera may also be the same person as Jose Guillen and Juan Encarnacion. Ordonez isn't a textbook example of health, so DH may be the perfect role for him. Hidalgo is money in small ballparks, so he'll be a suitable backup.

SP Johan Santana (Twins)
SP Carlos Zambrano (Cubs)
SP Freddy Garcia (White Sox)
SP Kelvim Escobar (Angels)
SP Carlos Silva (Twins)
SP Gustavo Chacin (Blue Jays)
SP Victor Zambrano (Mets)
SP Tony Armas (Nationals)

RP Francisco Rodriguez (Angels)
RP Rafael Betancourt (Indians)
RP Giovanni Carrara (Dodgers)
RP Marcos Carvajal (Rockies)
RP Jeremi Gonzalez (Red Sox)
RP Felix Hernandez (Mariners)
RP Jorge Julio (Mets)
RP Wilfredo Ledezma (Tigers)
RP Juan Rincon (Twins)
RP Francisco Butto (Phillies)
RP Carlos Hernandez (Astros)
RP Fernando Nieve (Astros)
RP Ricardo Palma
RP Yusmeiro Petit (Mets)
RP Reynel Pinto (Cubs)
RP Anibal Sanchez (Red Sox)

The US will go with a normal starting rotation (minus CC Sabathia, who just pulled out) and then rely on seven closers to finish the game. Venezuela is going with a different approach. Three starters will each pitch three innings in the first game. Then, three more starters will each throw three innings in the second game. Three more starters will handle the third game, and then its back to the original trio. As you can see, this team certainly has the arms to pull that off. They also have just enough of a bullpen to help out, especially with K-Rod, Betancourt, Julio, and Rincon.