Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Kind of Town

Shorter Rick Morrissey: I am waaaaayyyy objective when it comes to covering the Cubs. To prove it, I will imply Cub Fans drink a lot and aren’t good fans. Then I will say that the Cubs are Charlie Brown-like losers that will never overcome the unbearable pressure of their history to actually win a World Series. How much more objective can I be? Oh, and the White Sox are great because they got Jim Thome, but the only way Chicago will become a White Sox town is if they keep winning and the Cubs don’t. And did I mention that Cub Fans drink beer?

Morrissey’s inanity is another example of how slow the baseball news is these days. Just as Baseball Weekly dusted off the Trip to the Louisville Slugger Factory last week, Morrissey pulls a tired old When Will Chicago Become a White Sox Town column out of his…uhhh...lower back area. Yeah, down there somewhere.

I’m not against the idea, mind you. I, a lowly, uninformed Cub Fan, am all for the Windy City becoming the White Sox City™. It’s all good for me, because it would mean (a) it would be easier for me to get tickets, and (b) I wouldn’t have to hear the incessant “nobody loves us” blather from the Sox and their supporters.

What's all this, then?

I feel so much more special, now. Bob and I are no longer just two guys in their basements with a web site, now we're bloggers! Besides, I don't have a basement.

So what do we plan to do with this shiny new toy? Pretty much the same crap we did with our dull, old toy...spout off our mostly-baked ideas about baseball. But now, as an added bonus, you can reply, rebut, rehash, or reguritate to your heart's content.

Even better, for me, now I can copy-edit Bob's stuff. Expec't t'o se'e lot's o'f apostrophe's.

We know that you're out there, so if you want to grovel like sycophants at our feet, point out the errors of our ways, or just sit in the corner and heckle, feel free. It's the democratic process in action!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Team Previews

Each year, Jim and I have made the effort to take a team-by-team tour of the Major Leagues.

We started our 2006 pre-season tour back at our old site. You can find the following previews there:

Chicago White Sox – posted 12 January 2006
Cleveland Offensive Stereotypes – posted January 2006
Saint Louis Cardinals – posted January 2006
Houston Astros – posted January 2006
Minnesota Twins – posted 19 January 2006
Detroit Tigers – posted 19 January 2006
Milwaukee Brewers – posted 19 January 2006
Chicago Cubs – posted 19 January 2006
Cincinnati Reds – posted 26 January
Pittsburgh Pirates – posted 26 January
Kansas City Royals – posted 26 January
Los Angeles Angels – posted 26 January

We will post the remainder of the previews here at the Palatial Baseball Blog.

Oakland Preview: (Big) Hurts So Good

The punditocracy nearly gasped itself into a coma last year when Billy Beane broke up the A's rotation. He traded Mark Mulder to the Cardinals, sent Tim Hudson packing to Atlanta, and all he got back was a bunch of prospects.

The punditocracy usually gets in a good gasping fit no matter what Beane does. Beane's been on their hit list since Moneyball came out, and these moves gave the pundits hope that they could finally have the last laugh on Beane. After all, you can't just trade away your best two starters and expect a bunch of nobodies to pick up the slack.

As usual, Beane had the last laugh. The rotation didn't fall apart, and the rest of the pitching staff didn't implode. Instead, it posted the fourth-best ERA and second-best BAA in the league.

But as good as the pitching was, the offense was just as ho-hum. And that lack of support resulted in a second-place finish for the A's.

1. What has Beane done to kick the offense up a notch?
For starters, Beane's made a couple high-risk, high-reward moves.

A few weeks before Christmas, he pulled the trigger on controversial Dodgers OF Milton Bradley. Bradley's strengths and weaknesses are well known. If he can keep his nose clean, he will be a welcome addition to the lineup.

More recently, Beane signed Frank Thomas to a contract chock full o' incentive clauses. If Thomas is able to run, he will be a key contributor this year. Even in his limited action last year, Thomas showed that he can still hit (.590 SLG in 105 AB). And judging from the swipes he took last week, he's motivated to stick it to his former team.

But motivation won't help keep Thomas off the DL. About the only guy to spend more time in the trainer's room the last three years is Juan Gonzalez. If you're in Vegas, I'd take the "under" for Thomas in the Games Played category.

2. Anyone other new guys A's Fan can look forward to?
Uhhh...not really. At least from the offensive side of things. But Thomas isn't the only player who needs to stay healthy this year.

Let's start with the middle infield combo. Mark Ellis made a solid comeback from a lost 2004 season (good enough to earn an extension). Bobby Crosby was hurt almost half the year, and it was no coincidence that the A's played better after he came back. Keeping these guys healthy all year would go a long way to solving the offense's ills.

First baseman Dan Johnson and outfielder Nick Swisher were also banged up last year. Both these guys got their share of rookie hype, and both took their share of heat because they weren't the second comings of Reggie Jackson. Look for some improvement from both of them.

The additions of Thomas and Bradley, and the health of Johnson and Swisher, could lead to a bit of a logjam in the A's lineup. There could be as many as seven players vying for time in four positions.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Given Beane's MO, we can expect one or two of these guys packaged in a June deal to fill a mid-season need.

3. What about the rest of the team?
It still looks good. All five members of the rotation are back (Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Danny Haren, Joe Blanton, and Kirk Saarloos). They're joined by Esteban Loaiza, another free agent pick up.

In the bullpen, Houston Street showed he was more than adequate in replacing Octavio Dotel. The set up crew (headed by Justin Duchscherer and Kiko Calero) are also more than adequate.

Last, but not least, is Eric Chavez. With the departures of Giambi, Tejada, et al, this is pretty much his team. He just turned 28, and should be in the prime of his career. Look for another All-Star year from Chavez.

As you may have guessed, I like the A's chances this year. With a little luck last year, they may have faced the White Sox in the ALCS.

While I won't make any predictions about luck, I can say with some confidence that they'll be in contention come September. And if Bradley and Thomas are everything Beane hopes they are, the A's might get that World Series title they've been waiting for since 1989.

It's Fun Until Someone Snaps a Ligament

In an unsurprising move last week, the powers that be at the World Baseball Classic announced that pitchers would be on a strict pitch count throughout the tournament. They also announced a mercy rule, which evidently will also help protect the pitchers from unnecessary abuse.

These actions were offered as a compromise to those who believe that players will be joining the DL in droves because of the WBC. You've heard their argument: it's too early in the year for pitchers (and players) to play in meaningful games. It's all fun and games until someone snaps a ligament.

Other people have made the logical counter-argument, but it's worth repeating: players get hurt in spring training, too. It doesn't matter if it's a meaningless Cactus League game or an allegedly meaningful game in the WBC, injuries happen.

That's not to say that the officials of the WBC should not try to prevent injuries as much as they can. Until we can get CGI ballplayers controlled telepathically by real players, there will always be risks anytime real players take the field.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Just What the World Needs…Another Baseball Blog

Greetings, and welcome to Jim and Bob’s Palatial Baseball Blog.

You may remember us from the classic Geocities-hosted page Jim and Bob’s Palatial Baseball Web Site. We put in five good years with Geocities, and we have nothing but fond memories of our time with the folks at Yahoo. But, as a wise man once said, things change. So we decided to make the move to the blogosphere.

For the benefit of readers who may be new to the Jim and Bob team, here are our FAQ, updated slightly from our original page:

Who are these guys?
Jim grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A life-long Chicago White Sox fan, Jim has lived through a lot, including artificial turf at Comiskey Park, uniform shorts, Jimmy Piersall, Ribbie and Rhubarb, New Comiskey, and Jamie Navarro. After one too many snow storms, Jim moved to California, where there is no such thing as a late game.

Bob was born and raised in suburban Chicago. Cubs fandom beckoned at a tender age, and soon the siren song of Jack Brickhouse had ensnared another young soul. Bob now lives in Wisconsin, where he listens to Ron Santo on WGN radio and concedes that trading Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee may not have been a bad idea after all.

Wait a minute -- Jim's a Sox fan and Bob's a Cubs fan! Can
you guys share a blog without driving each other crazy?
It’s been over five years now, and we’re still on speaking terms. So it seems to be working.

What makes you guys think you're experts, anyway?
We've spent many years playing, watching, and talking baseball. We’ve also spent years watching the talking heads on ESPN and Fox Sports, and reading the blather of guys like Phil Rogers and Bob Nightengale. So we figured, we know just as much as those guys (if not more). But the only thing we needed was an outlet. Thanks to the good folks at Google, we have one.

Oh, so you think you’re smarter than us, huh?
Heck no! But we do think that the vast majority of you readers are smarter than the baseball punditocracy. We started posting our thoughts on the web because we got tired of the pundits insulting our intelligence. We all deserve better than that.

So what are you guys doing this winter?
Same thing we do every winter – stare out the window and wait for spring.

That’s it in a nutshell. Feel free to drop us a line, or post a comment, or otherwise let us know what you think. Spring training’s a mere three weeks away, so there will be plenty to talk about!