Posted on: October 16, 2008 5:38 pm

Top 15 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

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[Ok, so I have no idea what these "<o:p></o:p>" are, but they aren't too distracting, so please just ignore them]

I’ve created this segment because I love watching young players grow through the system, and contribute at the big league level. Baseball’s minor leagues are the #1 source for most team’s additions. I get the impression that most baseball fans do not have a great understanding of you their team’s next great star is, so, I’m here to clue in.

The impact a great farm system, and great prospects, is currently taking center stage in the baseball universe. The Rays have overcome incredible odds to go from last place, last year, to the cusp of the World Series. How did they do it? The catalysts name is Evan Longoria. The top prospect in Tampa Bay’s farm to start 2008, became the leader of this Rays team, and has come up with big hits all year. Behind Longoria are players like B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, James Shields, and of course Scott Kazmir, all guys among the Rays best prospects few years ago.

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Over the next couple of months I’m going to go team-by-team dissecting the organizations farm system, and pulling out each of their top 15 prospects; starting with the NL East and the Atlanta Braves. Once Baseball America starts to release their top 10 lists I will come back to each team and compare and contrast their list to mine. Come to see an assessment on your favorite team’s future, stay because you are just as interested in prospects as I am. If you ever feel as though I have left someone off, or you disagree with my placement of a prospect, or anything else of that nature, please comment, get your opinion out here, and I’ll consider your thoughts.

**As a disclaimer I just wanted to say a few things. First, I rank players based on their potential talent first and foremost, other factors include: age, what level they play at, their 2008 statistics, team needs, and my own gut feeling. The reason I decided on a top 15 list, despite the fact that many team’s good-decent prospects I can count on one hand, was because some team’s do go 15 or more prospects deep, and I wanted to get to include them as well – the Braves are a great example of this, they go 15-19 prospects deep, and it was tough enough for me to narrow it down to 15, let alone 10. Throughout the offseason trades are bound to happen. I currently have every team’s top 15 lists, but they may be forced to change due to trades. I will try my best to make the appropriate adjustments, and even update lists I’ve already posted as prospects come to and from teams. Also, other than Michael Inoa, I have no 2008 internationally signed players; I also do not feel as though they will be missed. Finally, I would like to say that I am not a professional, I do possess a good amount of information, but I will make mistakes, few, but they will be there. There are also some prospects I may not go into full detail about, but I will hit the mot important players, in my opinion of every organization. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this series, and consistently come here to read it. Good Luck to Everybody’s Favorite Team’s Offseason… go Rays.

Minor League notations in descending order

*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh

*A+ signifies high A ball

*A- signifies low A ball

*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season

*a signifies short-season A ball

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*R signifies rookie league

Atlanta Braves Top 15 Prospects

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1. Jason Heyward OF-RF Age: 19 Minor League Level last year (MLL): A <o:p></o:p>

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Heyward is the letterhead of the Braves farm system. He is only 19, but has already developed excellent plate patience, striking our only 78 times last year, and walking 51 times. Once Heyward arrives at the big leagues he’ll consistently hit .300+, with 30 HRs, and 20 SBs. He plays good defense, but due to the logjam of Braves OFs, many of whom are excellent defenders, he’s likely to settle in at LF.

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2. Jordan Schafer CF Age: 22 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

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Schafer is probably the most well known Braves prospect. Schafer doesn’t hit for a great average, .261 BA in 2008, but also does not massacre his swing by striking out. He has plus power potential, but hit only 10 in 2008. Schafer does have gold-glove defense, and will be the Braves CF as early as Opening Day. However, he is terribly inconsistent on offense, and should spend the entirety of 2009 in AAA.

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3. Tommy Hanson RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AA/A<o:p></o:p>

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I become visibly angry when people rank Hanson lower than third. In AA, and A ball this past season he threw in 138 innings, while posting a 2.41 ERA, and striking out 163 batters, 163! That is a K/9 of 10.6. Hanson throws his fastball in the 92-95 range, and complements it with what I believe to be a plus-plus curveball. He is not going to be an elite ace, but he could be one of the better number twos.

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4. Josh Anderson CF Age: 26 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Anderson is one of my favorite prospects in all of baseball. You can tell he used to be part of the Astros’ system because he is probably a little high on my list, but I do feel he deserves it. Anderson has hit .300 at every level since being drafted by Houston, including hitter .300 in September for the Astros, and again this season when he was with the Braves. He also plays good defense, having great range in center thanks to his elite speed. Anderson has also been one of the minors’ top base stealers his entire professional career. He strikes out too much for a guy with limited power, and does not draw as many walks as you would like from a prospective lead off hitter, but, other than those flaws he is a great player. Last offseason he was shipped to Atlanta after the Astros traded for Michael Bourn. If a major league club ever gave him the opportunity to start, and have consistent playing time, I think he would be a solid center fielder, or right fielder, or left fielder, for that matter.

5. Frederick Freeman 1B Age: 19 MLL: A-

Freeman hit for an average of .316, a slugging % of .521, and an OPS of .899 in low A Rome, and he did it at the age of 18. Freeman also knocked 18 HRs, while only striking out 84 times. Freeman was a second round pick in 2007, and should be Atlanta’s everyday first baseman by 2012, at the age of 22.

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6. Brandon Jones OF Age: 25 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Brandon Jones spent time with the major league club in 2008; he just didn’t get 130 at-bats in. I am not high on Jones; his ranking is propelled by his ML readiness. I think Jones will be a good fourth outfielder, but he is simply not effective enough to be an everyday starter, particularly over Anderson. Others will say Jones is a better player than Anderson, he has a wider range of tools, but Anderson is better at the ones he possesses – speed, defense, making contact with the ball.

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7. Gorkys Hernandez CF Age: 21 MLL: A+ <o:p></o:p>

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Yes, another outfielder. Hernandez has some good tools. He has more power than Anderson, and will probably end up hitting for a better average than Jones one day, Hernandez also has good speed – again less than Anderson, but more than Jones. Hernandez’ greatest tool is his defense, as he may be the best defensive outfielder not at the major league level. I like Hernandez, but it is tough to tell what the future holds for him in Atlanta. He would be graduating to the majors certainly after Schafer, and around the same time as Heyward.

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8. Brent Lillibridge SS Age: 25 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Lillibridge has become a complete bust, or at least with his bat. He remains a great fielder, but had an On-Base-Percentage under .300 in 2008 at AAA, that is not going to cut it in Atlanta. Still, he stays in the top 10 because of his defense, and he’s the best non 1B infield prospect has.

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9. Charlie Morton RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

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Morton is a guy I am really high on. He pitched well at AAA, before pitching some in the majors, accumulating a 2.05 ERA and 72 Ks over 79 innings pitched. Even more impressive to me is that he allowed ZERO, (0), home runs in that span of 79 innings.

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10. Jose Teheran RHSP Age: 17 MLL: N/A<o:p></o:p>

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If I was ranking based upon potential alone Teheran would slide in right behind Schafer, and Heyward. But, he slides all the way back to no. 10 because he has very limited playing experience, and it is so tough to look 5-7 years the road when it comes to pitchers. Teheran does possess ace-like stuff, his fastball hits the mid-90s, and he’s only 17, so as he develops that velocity will probably rise.

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11. Cole Rohrbough LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A<o:p></o:p>

Cole’s is a strikeout artist lefty. In 2008 he K’d 104 batters in 90 innings. He throws two quality pitches a moving fastball, and a hammer curve.

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12. Jeff Locke LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

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Another left-handed pitcher, who happens to be the same age, and around the same level as far as development is concerned. Locke throws a plus fastball in the low to mid 90s, with late movement. He also throws a developing curveball that projects as a plus pitch.

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13. Kala Ka’aihue 1B Age: 23 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

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Not to be confused with Kila, his not twin brother with the Royals – although I do believe they were born on the same day, just different years, or so the legend goes. Kala has a very advanced approach to the plate; he walked 88 times in 2008 posting a .417 OBP, despite only hitting a .274 BA. Kala also has some power hitting 14 HRs, along with the resulting 119 strikeouts. Kala will be ready for the major league team some time in 2009 pushing him one spot ahead of another first basemen…

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14. Cody Johnson 1B/LF Age: 20 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

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Johnson is one of the most intriguing prospects in Atlanta’s system. Atlanta has considered putting him in the outfield, but due to quantity of future major leaguers there in the organization, Johnson will most likely stay at first base. The thing to like about Johnson is his unmatched power numbers. He hit 29 HRs in low A in 2008, unfortunately accompanying that power are the predictable strikeouts, 177, and low average, .307 OBP. If Johnson learns some patience at the plates, and learns to hit for contact as well as power, he could shoot up this list, much like Lars Anderson of the Red Sox – that is a pretty big if though.

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15. Brett DeVall LHSP Age: 18 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

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DeVall is Atlanta’s 2008 top draft pick. He throws three pitches, and can command all three, as a player out of high school. His fastball only clocks at about 91 mph, but could increase as he matures, and fills out. His curveball, and change up could both develop into above-average to plus pitches.

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Strengths: Depth. The Braves have five or six guys who could become more than reliable starters at the major league level. They also have three great first base prospects, a position of weakness in Atlanta. Biggest of all is their outfielders, who possess a diverse collection of tools. The Braves are also not lacking in talent with two of the best prospects in baseball in Heyward, and Schafer.

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Weaknesses: The infield. There are not many capable infielders in this organization other than first basemen; there is the aforementioned Lillibridge, and the not mentioned Van Pope, who is a great fielding third basemen. This is especially troubling seeing how Chipper is soon to retire – 2-3 years maybe, but soon as far as raising capable replacements is concerned. There also will not be much depth behind Kelly Johnson, and Yunel Escobar, neither of whom inspire visions of a World Series anyway – or at least in my opinion.

Next up: Florida Marlins

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 29, 2008 2:47 am

The Chronicles of Ed Wade

Well, Houston Astros fans... there are still Houston Astros fans, right? It is at this point in time when people are talking about how this season is a wash, and Drayton McClane (the owner) won't spend money on quality free agents, and the like. There are many other's who wish Houston to hold a Marlin's style fire sale, and many others want Ed Wade's (the GM) head on a pole (which makes Shawn Chacon somebody's hero). I am not one of those fans, but I certainly think Ed Wade has made terrible trades from the very beginning of his reign. I'm here while the dust is still unsettled to talk about those deals, and maybe make a point. If you're a "what if" person, I think you're going to like this blog. When I say like, I mean you're going to lie awake at night trying to think of ways to prevent these trades from happening.
I do not count Kaz Matsui's signing a mistake by Wade. Although injured at times Matsui has done well, and is playing very well from the lead spot. Is worth the 16 million he signed for? No, he's a little overpriced, but it isn't my money, so I don't care. What I do care about is the three trades that have turned Houston from a playoff contender to a last place team with a 2-7 record vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Trade # 1: Brad Lidge to the Phillies for Michael Bourn, and Geoff Geary... and a prospect later part of the Tejada trade
What did Houston give up? Well, right now he's the best closer in the National League. How this is an acceptable trade is beyond me. I think Wade saw an opportunity to get a guy he really liked, Bourn, and pulled the trigger. I think Houston could of, and should of gotten more in this deal. But, as it stands Houston received a good middle reliever, and a center fielder who has spent most of the season leading off with a sub-.220 BA. Another thing I'd like to point out is how J.R. Towles was sent to AAA when he was struggling at the plate, but Bourn has been given a much longer leash.

Trade # 2: Chad Qualls, Chris Burke, and Juan Guitierrez to the D'backs for Jose Valverde
Houston sent Brad Lidge to the Phillies, and he goes from head case to all-star. They replace him with Valverde who does the opposite. Valverde is still a decent closer, but he has blown too many saves, and always is giving up runs. I don't remember the last time I saw him go an inning without an Earned Run.

Trade # 3: Luke Scott, Houton's top pitching prospect and three others to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada... the day before the Mitchell Report came out
I have nothing negative to say about Tejada. He has been pretty good offensively, and has been well above expectations defensively. But, Houston gave up way too much to get him, and this will make more sense when I show the "bigger picture"

Big Picture # 1: Brad Lidge out, Jose Valverde in
This isn't even close. Brad Lidge is the best closer in the NL, while Valverde has accounted for more losses this year, than Lidge ever did, Lidge just did it in bigger games.

Big Picture # 2: Luke Scott out, Michael Bourn in
Luke Scott has hit 17 home runs, and has a better BA than his counterpart. Obviously Houston would lose some defense with Hunter Pence in center as oppose to right, and Luke Scott in right, but the offense would be more than that much better.

Big Picture # 3: Chad Qualls out, Geoff Geary in
Ok, so this one is about even, but I would prefer Qualls because I think he is one of the best setup man in baseball, and could fill in at closer fine.

Big Picture # 4: Houston's farm system out, Miguel Tejada in
The entire farm system is not that much of an exaggeration either. Troy Patton, Matt Albers, Juan Guittierez who were three of Houston's top five, or six pitching propects. Plus Chris Burke, Eric Bruntlett, and Dennis Sarfate. This one goes in favor of Tejada.

I really think Houston would've been much better off had no deals been done. Of course I say that as there are talks about Tejada going to Boston. I am personally hoping it happens with either Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden coming to Houston with rookie shortstop Jed Lowrie. I really want this to happen.

Now, back to Wade. I previously stated that I don't want Ed Wade fired. My reason for this is because Houston was headed in this direction regardless, and I admire the fact that he he stuck his limbs out there and tried. Last offseason there were no quality starting pitchers available, so Wade did what he could. He took gambles, and they didn't pan out. I think he should keep his job, and give it another go this offseason. There are an abundance of starting pitchers available, and more importantly Wade is notorious for rebuilding the farm... look at the Phillies today, that's what this guy can do. So, I ask you all to put this season into perspective, and please stop paying Astros players to attack Ed Wade.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 4, 2008 2:37 pm

MLB Draft

Twenty four hours from now the MLB draft will start. I get the impression that many baseball fans, from the casual to die-hard fans don't know all that much about the draft. So, I have created my very own mock draft to give fans a better idea of the prospects that may called upon by your favorite teams tomorrow. I'll be back this weekend to recap the draft.<o:p></o:p>

1. Tampa Bay Rays: Buster Posey C Florida State <o:p></o:p>

This pick could easily be either Beckham or Posey. Posey is a catcher who can hit, and will be able to field well behind the plate time. Beckham may be the best overall player in the draft. He’s a toolsy SS, who will be able to stay at that position in the MLs. In so many words, he’s B.J. Upton with less power. I think the Rays will choose the slightly less talented Posey, because they need a catcher, and he will move to the big league much quicker than Beckham and the Rays are ready to win now (see the AL East standings). I think Posey is the final piece to their puzzle.<o:p></o:p>

2. Pittsburgh Pirates: Tim Beckham SS Griffin HS Griffin, Georgia<o:p></o:p>

Word from the Pirates is they are taking Pedro Alvarez, the best overall hitter in the draft. But, if Beckham falls to them I don’t see them passing up the best player in the draft. <o:p></o:p>

3. Kansas City Royals: Eric Hosmer 1B American Heritage HS Plantation, Florida <o:p></o:p>

This pick comes down to two Boras advisees. Hosmer is a great high school hitter who is likely to develop plus power, he makes great contact. Alvarez’s bat is major league ready, but he has some injury history, and it is likely he will have to shift to 1B eventually. Hosmer could play in the outfield, and could surpass Alvarez’s bat in time. <o:p></o:p>

4. Baltimore Orioles: Pedro Alvarez 3B Vanderbilt <o:p></o:p>

Alvarez was the suspected first pick up until the past couple months, where Posey has played his way into consideration. He will probably play at first in the MLs, but he could stay at third, his bat is ready to play now. The Orioles won’t hesitate to take Alvarez here, although he won’t be cheap (he’ll sign for the highest bonus in the draft, Boras, of course), but the Orioles can’t pass up the prospect of having Matt Wieters, and Alvarez in the heart of their lineup as soon as next year. Matusz could be the pick if the
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5. San Fransisco Giants: Justin Smoak 1B University of South Carolina<o:p></o:p>

The Giants are jumping out of their socks with the possibility of Posey or Alvarez dropping to them, but they probably won’t. Justin Smoak is a switch hitting first basemen. He is a good fielder at first (but, limited to first), and has plus power. He could be the first player from this class to make the big leagues. The Giants will take a college bat with this pick.<o:p></o:p>

6. Florida Marlins: Brian Matusz LHP University of San Diego <o:p></o:p>

Much like the scenario in Pittsburgh, the word out of Florida is the best catcher available. That’s Kyle Skipworth, he’s got the most power in the draft, and can field behind the plate with a plus arm. But, with Brian Matusz falling, the Marlins will grab the best pitcher in the draft. He’s a left hander, with four pitches, including a great fastball/curveball combo.<o:p></o:p>

7. Cincinnati Reds: Yonder Alonso 1B University of Miami<o:p></o:p>

Any name could fall in here, including Aaron Crow and Skipworth. Casey Kelly the SS/RHP/QB has been the hot rumor here, but it’d be a big reach. Yonder Alonso is a great overall hitter, with great plate discipline. <o:p></o:p>

8. Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham SS University of Georgia<o:p></o:p>

I hate the White Sox, and I would love to see him drop, but Beckham seems to be the easy choice for Chicago. He’s a good hitter with pretty good power. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but will be able to steal a few bags. He is a pretty good fielder, but may have to slide to second in the big leagues. Brett Wallace or Kyle Skipworth are other choices.<o:p></o:p>

9. Washington Nationals: Kyle Skipworth C Patriot HS Riverside, California <o:p></o:p>

The way I see this draft, there are ten guys who are significantly better than the rest. They should be the top ten picks. I think the Nationals will take the four tool high school catcher in this scenario. Brett Wallace or Shooter Hunt are other options. <o:p></o:p>

10. Houston Astros: Aaron Crow RHP University of Missouri<o:p></o:p>

The Astros need help everywhere in their organization, and they’ll likely take a college player with this pick. Shooter Hunt, Christian Fredrich, and Andrew Cashner are all options. Going with my ten best theory the Astros will take whoever is left of that group. In this case, that is Aaron Crow. He may have the best stuff in the draft with a mid 90s fastball and a power slider. He could easily be taken earlier, but if he falls this far, Houston should take him, or else their fans, led by this guy [me], will have Ed Wade’s head.<o:p></o:p>

11. Texas Rangers: Shooter Hunt RHP Tulane<o:p></o:p>

12. Oakland Athletics: Christian Fredrich LHP Eastern Kentucky<o:p></o:p>

13. St. Louis Cardinals: Aaron Hicks OF/RHP Woodrow Wilson HS Long Beach, California<o:p></o:p>

14. Minnesota Twins: Ryan Perry RHP University of Arizona<o:p></o:p>

15. Las Angeles Dodgers: Zach Collier OF Chino Hills HS California<o:p></o:p>

16. Milwaukee Brewers: Andrew Cashner RHP Texas Christian<o:p></o:p>

17. Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Wallace 1B/3B Arizona State<o:p></o:p>

18. New York Mets: Ike Davis OF/1B Arizona State<o:p></o:p>

19. Chicago Cubs: Brett Lawrie C/3B/LF Langley, B.C. [Canada]<o:p></o:p>

20. Seattle Mariners: Josh Fields RHP University of Georgia<o:p></o:p>

21. Detroit Tigers: Tim Melville RHP Wentzville Holt HS Missouri<o:p></o:p>

22. New York Mets: Jason Castro C Stanford<o:p></o:p>

23. San Diego Padres: Daniel Schlereth LHP University of Arizona<o:p></o:p>

24. Philadelphia Phillies: Ethan Martin RHP Stephen County HS Toccoa, Georgia<o:p></o:p>

25. Colorado Rockies: Jake Ordorizzi RHP Highland HS Illinois<o:p></o:p>

26. Arizona Diamondbacks: Casey Kelly SS Sarasota HS Florida<o:p></o:p>

27. Minnesota Twins: Brett DeVall Niceville HS Florida <o:p></o:p>

28. New York Yankees: Anthony Hewitt Salisbury School Connecticut <o:p></o:p>

29. Cleveland Indians: Jermile Weeks 2B University of Miami

30. Boston Red Sox: Reese Havens SS University of South Carolina

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Category: MLB
Tags: MLB Draft
Posted on: February 12, 2008 11:23 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2009 1:37 pm

Get Congress Out of Baseball!

What business does a congressional committee have in baseball affairs.  'Roids driven or otherwise?  Are they bored?  We don't have any wars, tax problems, illegal immigration, nagging lobbyist, etc?  I suppose I could raise a ruckus outside of the capital building.  Would that keep politicians away from the sport that i love?
    As I know, you all are aware, Roger Clemens is testifying that he has never taken steroids and the allegations by Brian McNamee in the "Mitchell Report" are undeniably false.  Brian McNamee, on the other hand, claims to have injected Clemens with steroids, several times.  More over he claims to have blood evidence.  Evidence that was not originally disclosed, when McNamee's accusations first came into the limelight.  Did Roger Clemens take steroids?  I don't know, and in all likelihood, I will never know for certain.  More importantly, I don't care.
    Regardless of how this situation shakes out, it will not make a large impact on the approaching season.  Furthermore, Roger Clemens is a Hall of Famer, either way. Say he took HGH/steroids in 2002 or whenever after.  He still has his years in Boston, with the Blue Jays and a couple of Championships with the Yankees.  Take away 2000-2004 and what is... a Hall of Famer.  No one, not a congressional committee, not Brian McNamee, and in a somewhere down the road, hundreds of sportswriters can take away from him.
    A day before the "Mitchell Report" came out Miguel Tejada was traded to the Houston Astros.  Many fans complained it was a mistake to trade for a player who may be named in the report, a day before it came out.  Their fears were confirmed when Tejada's name appeared the following day connected to steroids.  The question asked was, "How long will his suspension be?" But, no, no suspension was announced, a suspension remains to be unannounced.  However, Congress is now investigating into whether or not Tejada lied to them.  When he told a congressional committee a couple of years ago, that he was unaware of steroids in baseball, and he himself had never taken steroids.  Fans are no longer worried about a suspension hindering him from playing.  We are now wondering if Tejada will be in jail for the start of the season.  Jail? For what?  For lying to a committee of politicians, who are meddling in affairs they should not.  Essentially, they are threatening to imprison a man, and I do not believe Tejada's a citizen, for allegedly taking steroids.  This same situation could befall Clemens following his testimony.  Congress is baiting Clemens into testimony, so they can turn around and convict him (or McNamee) of perjury.  That is ridiculous.  Meanwhile, Congress has no intention of charging Rafael Palmeiro with perjury, who famously sternly pointed his finger at congress declaring, "I have never taken steroids."  Congress needs laissez-faire their role in baseball, and go back to what they are good at  -  like  -  increasing the deficit.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or