Here's why I make a pretty lousy baseball writer: I'm not fiercely, illogically judgmental enough. Confronted with a situation that in no way requires the application of ethical or moral tenets -- say, filling out a Hall of Fame ballot upon which Mark McGwire's name is etched -- I usually cede to common sense.
|Matt Murton may become obsolete when Cliff Floyd joins the Cubs. (Getty Images)|
I won't be able to look myself in the mirror if I don't stress, in terminology usually employed by pre-apocalyptic preachers, that you avoid Orioles hitters not named Nick or Miguel. I will uphold my personal honor, and that of anyone tangentially related to this space, by refusing to endorse Freddy Garcia and his predilection for slightly misplaced fastballs. I will spare my unborn children, as well as those suffering in nations far away, irreparable harm by taking a stand against those who'd have you believe Mike Piazza will replicate Frank Thomas' numbers from last season.
In short, I will be your dogmatic roto beacon of light and hope. I will reflect all relevant information through the same refined moral and ethical prism that liberated me, only days ago, to take a leak on the side of the road when I had to, you know, go. Onto the severe, exacting judgments ...
Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angaheimcramento Angels: The Angels needed guys who can get on base and an uppity lefty bat to provide some protection for Vlad in the lineup. Instead, the team overpaid -- by about $37.5 million -- for one-year wonder/OBP sieve Gary Matthews Jr. and handed a regular gig to manager-undercutting jackass Shea Hillenbrand. To recap: Vlad will rarely find guys on base when he strides, on a balky knee, to home plate. When he gets there, he won't see much in the way of good pitches, because not even the Royals' pre-kindergarten arms will fear any of the hitters behind him. Vlad's got a pretty solid malpractice case against GM Bill Stoneman about now.
Matt Murton, Chicago Cubs: He won't be officially marginalized until Cliff Floyd formally comes on board; team and player are apparently finalizing a handful of contract details, most of which involve the placement of MRI machines in and around Wrigley. Barring a Jacque Jones trade, then, Murton will be left as position-less as a newly de-limbed yogi (rim shot!).
Given that the Cubs don't project to have too many patient guys in the everyday order, Murton's deliberate exclusion would seem to fly in the face of common sense ... in other words, it's business as usual in Cubland. His only possible salvation? Crazy-eyed manager Lou Piniella has always played the guys who give him the best chance to win, contracts be damned.
Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs: When occasionally mildly OK setup guy Danys Baez got three years and $19 million from the Orioles, some people labeled Dempster and the $10 million he's owed over the next two seasons as a "bargain." Me, I'm not so sure. The whole walks-and-dingers thing would seem to remove him from consideration for a prominent role in most bullpens. For roto purposes, be wary of Dempster's current closer tag, as Kerry Wood's new contract boasts all sorts of incentives for things like finishing games. Granted, that assumes that Wood will remain healthy, an assumption on par with "Natasha Lyonne will live to see the ripe old age of 35."
Brandon McCarthy, Texas Rangers: One day, you've been freshly installed in the rotation of a fundamentally solid team playing in a mild hitters' park. The next, you're sent a-packin' to the pitcher's equivalent of Darfur, accompanied by whispers that you mentally decompensate when the heat gets subtropical. Ain't that just the way. Give him 200 innings and he'll lead the AL in homers allowed.
Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates: At this point, he deserves to be the protagonist of a children's book, The Loneliest Superstar. An excerpt from chapter three: "The Loneliest Superstar approached the slow-blinking Ollie Ogre and said, 'Littlefield, dude, you've got an excess of cheap young arms, only one of which projects to be anything special, in a market where such individuals are prized like Rapunzel's hair or a technicolor dreamcoat, or something. Would it kill you to up our offer for Adam LaRoche, who only fits our primary need -- a powerful, relatively inexpensive lefty hitter at a position where there's no organizational depth -- to a T?' And Ollie Ogre smiled sadly, his ill-fitting suit pinched at the hip, and said, 'Jason, we're considering a wide range of moves that will strengthen this franchise in both the immediate and long-term future.' Downhearted, The Loneliest Superstar left to chase some Princess tail."
Minnesota Twins pitchers: I do not dispute the notion that Johan Santana exists on a higher plane than the rest of us puny mortals. Still, the team lacks a functional third baseman, seems ready to go with the bleached-out remains of Rondell White at DH, and likely won't get the same level of production from second base and catcher that they did in 2007. (I say this as the biggest Joe Mauer booster outside of Mrs. Mauer's breakfast nook, but the shoulda-been MVP ain't hitting .347 again).
Fewer guys who can make contact with a pitched ball = fewer runs. Fewer runs = fewer wins. Factor in that they operate in a division with three potentially monstrous offenses -- I've got a shiny nickel that says the Indians outscore the Yankees this season -- and low WHIPs/ERAs should be hard to come by in Minnesota town.
Geoff Jenkins, Milwaukee Brewers: There's no real reason to include him in this piece, actually. Rather than as a result of some personnel move or moves, Jenkins has likely lost his job due to the combination of recent underperformance (2006 marked the first season in a while during which his first-half plodding wasn't offset by second-half fireworks) and a crowded outfield (Bill Hall moving into left or center, Corey Hart being promised the first shot in right). I just couldn't find anywhere else to speculate that Jenkins' longevity in Milwaukee has been at least partially attributable to his faint facial resemblance to Brett Favre. If Jenkins looked like Jay Schroeder, he'd have been jettisoned two seasons ago.
All position players under the age of 26, Los Angeles Dodgers: With Nomar's new deal, James Loney finds himself buried deeper than a stoolie; with Luis Gonzalez's arrival, Matt Kemp will get more "seasoning" in AAA (truth is, he could probably use it). Andre Ethier would seem to have the inside track on the right-field gig, but could just as easily wind up in one of those nobody-wins platoons with Jason Repko.
It's not like they're being shunted aside for appreciably better options: I still look at the Dodgers roster and think, "Goldarnit to heck, who's going to provide the power?" I can't see them getting more than 40 dingers and/or a collective .450 slugging percentage from the aging trio of Nomar, Gonzo and Jeff Kent.
B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Devil Rays: A real organization (and the new Tampa regime might qualify by the time the season is out) would probably have some idea what to do with The Talented Mr. Upton. Here's what we know: One, he is an astounding athlete. Two, he has a Belle-quick bat. And three, when a ball bounces his way in the infield, it is just as likely to connect with his shin, temple or Adam's apple as with his glove. Ergo, one would suggest a shift to the outfield ... but three years after the prospect groupies started that speculation, Upton remains a defensive nomad on a team with 26 DH candidates. At some point, you figure that either he or another of the Tampa outfielders (Rocco Baldelli?) has to wind up in Marlin teal as the key cog in a deal for young pitching.