Thursday, March 31, 2005
Minor Dodgers TradeAccording to the New London, CT The Day, former Padre farmhand and outfielder Todd Donovan has been sent to the Dodgers. No word on the compensation back to the Pads, but this one looks like organizational filler.
Opinions Are Like Noses: Projections Here And There
- Tom Tippett at Diamond Mind has his projections up, and he expects the AL and NL Western divisions to shape up as follows:
AL West W L Pct GB RF RA #DIV #WC Oakland 85 77 .525 - 873 817 31.0 1.0 Los Angeles 84 78 .519 1 803 775 29.0 2.5 Seattle 83 79 .512 2 795 778 25.0 2.0 Texas 80 82 .494 5 852 875 15.0 1.5 NL West W L Pct GB RF RA #DIV #WC Los Angeles 90 72 .556 - 811 733 56.5 11.3 San Francisco 88 74 .543 2 853 782 35.0 17.3 San Diego 81 81 .500 9 784 767 7.5 6.5 Colorado 70 92 .432 20 852 978 1.0 Arizona 68 94 .420 22 786 903
The Angels he (rightly) declares "still [lack] power and high-OBP guys" and "three top relievers aren't enough in today's game". Whether Percy qualified as one last year is doubtful: the concensus seems to be that Detroit overpaid for a guy who hasn't pitched 50 innings a year for two seasons now.
Update: Lookout Landing reminds us Tippett also predicted the 2004 Angels to finish third with an 86-76 record, the Mariners to come in second at 87-75, and the Dodgers to finish fourth with a 77-85 record.
- In Salon, King Kaufman projects the NL West (obnoxious advertising required for entry, or else pay for it) as going down "San Diego, Los Angeles, Arizona, San Francisco, Colorado". No projections for the AL West yet.
- Not exactly a ranking, but Ted Robinson at MSNBC picks the Dodgers to finish "no higher than third" and the Angels to not only win the division but go to the World Series for the second time in three years.
Jay Jumps ShipI pass along this Bronx Banter commentary upon Jay Jaffe's recent assessment of the Yanks' prospects at Baseball Prospectus. There certainly is a sense the Yankees have been left onstage a mite too long, and now the garbage needs taking out.
Angels, Dodgers Top Baseball America System Talent List
AL West NL West Rank Team Rank Team ======================= ========================== 8 Oakland Athletics 6 Colorado Rockies 11 Seattle Mariners 13 Arizona Diamondbacks 16 Texas Rangers 17 San Francisco Giants 27 San Diego Padres
What's amazing is how badly the Pads are doing. All indications are they're in "win now" mode with what they've got, and while I can see them taking the division, this team doesn't have enough to capture a pennant.
The One-Way Mirror
But instead of calling up Crosby, their former first-round pick, the Dodgers signed Henderson, who was 44 years old. Henderson batted .208. The Dodgers traded Crosby to the Yankees for Robin Ventura two weeks later, when he was batting .361 at Class AAA.Which, of course, obscures the simple facts, well known to Dodger fans:
"Even though Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest baseball players ever, it was still, to me, kind of a slap in my face that I didn't get an opportunity," Crosby said. "I was a Dodger, and in that organization, that's all they talk about - breeding young talent, moving through the organization. It was kind of like, what else do I need to do?"
Crosby never expected the Yankees, of all teams, to offer him a chance at the majors. He had a few days of service with Los Angeles, but it was nothing like last season, when he spent nearly every day with the Yankees. This week, he made their opening-day roster for the second year in a row.
- His .083/.083/.083 line in 2003 (12 AB) didn't exactly make a "hey, I need to be on this team" statement.
- While toiling for AAA Las Vegas, he hit in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in a very hitter-friendly league.
Newhan: Angels Pushed Out Eckstein
Operating from Wisteria Lane in their desperation to replace Edgar Renteria as the well of available shortstops rapidly evaporated, the Cardinals signed Eckstein to a three-year, $10.25-million contract which, as he observed prior to a recent workout, "would never have happened in Anaheim."So, the littlest Angel scampered off to join the Cardinals. (There's a Catholic image for you.) Lost in all that is Eckstein's increasing fragility, but I still maintain the answer to that was to find a relatively cheap part-time substitute and wait out that talent in the minors.
In Anaheim, where he was the leadoff catalyst for the 2002 World Series winner, respected by teammates for his overachieving ethic and one of the most popular Angels ever among fans, his halo slowly deteriorated in the front office.
During a salary arbitration hearing in February 2004, club representatives denigrated Eckstein beyond the accepted scope of that often acrimonious process.
The Angels compared his range and arm to that of a triple-A shortstop, according to people who have read the transcript, and said that by recording only a .325 on-base percentage in 2003 he had nullified the ability of the club's No. 2 batter, Darin Erstad, to hit with runners on base.
Despite management's belittling, the arbitrators sided with Eckstein. He was awarded the $2.15-million salary he sought for 2004, but beyond his bank account it was largely a pyrrhic victory in that it jeopardized his future employment with the Angels, who were determined to upgrade while avoiding future arbitration with Eckstein.
OT: Economics, The Par-tay Science
Well -- that aside aside, having the other blog has opened my reading up quite a bit. As a result, I had to admit I was utterly pleased to read that the economists, despite their "dismal" reputation, aren't all grim. Mahalanobis, which I discovered thanks to Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem, has a delightful story on the business of data collection on the prices and kinds of services rendered by London prostitutes, by a UK website called PunterNet. Apparently this represents the first data of its kind anywhere, and economists are all a-twitter over its implications. I suppose it's just a matter of getting invited to the right parties...
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
THT Angels Preview
Oh, and the far more reputable Bryan Smith does the honors for the Cubs.
A's Players Plunked Hard
Owners Agree To A's Sale
It was nice having a chance. Beane with money to spend? Ouch.
- According to to reports appearing in both MLB.com and the San Diego Union-Tribune, Dave Roberts has been sidelined with a groin injury that may keep him out of action for as much as a month. Xavier Nady would then be the starting centerfielder, but as my friend Jo says, watching any of the San Diego outfielders is like watching a troup of dancing bears.
- After Hideo Nomo's first set of injuries in the 90's, he toiled for some of the lesser lights of the majors, including the Mets (who were not so bad at the time), the Brewers, and the Tigers. Now he's made the Devil Rays as a fifth starter, thus postponing his inevitable exit from professional baseball another few weeks. I wish him the best of luck, especially facing the Yankees.
- The Rockies have acquired Byung Hyun Kim, the enigmatic former Diamondback, from the Boston Red Sox, in exchange for erstwhile top prospect Jason Young. The Sox will pay in excess of $5.6M of his $6M salary remaining.
- Former Angel futilityman Alfredo Amezega has made the Rockies' opening day roster, leaving us to wonder what kind of brilliant line he will produce in the thin air at Coors Field.
- Dallas McPherson has been sent to the minors after injuries prevented him from playing during virtually all of spring training. The Angels starting third baseman will probably be Robb Quinlan. Also shipped down was pitcher Chris Bootcheck.
- The Angels also reached a contract agreement with Andy Fox after being cut from spring training by the Twins. Fox, a 4-A player, appeared lately with the Marlins, Rangers, and Expos.
- Defying all reason, the Mets picked up Benji Gil from the Mariners, in exchange for an unspecified amount of cash, this after hitting .304 with one homer and an RBI in spring training. He will report to the Mets' minor league camp. Gil hit 8 for 12 in the 2002 postseason as an Angel.
- Update: Padres manager Bruce Bochy's contract extension has been put on hold indefinitely, according to MLB.com. The gun's to his head now; it's win the division or die for the Padres.
- U.S.S. Mariner passes on a report saying that Aaron Sele may have won himself the fifth starter job for the M's.
- Update 2: According to Ken Gurnick of dodgers.com, both 3B Norihiro Nakamura and reserve SS Oscar Robles will likely not make the team. Nakamura would be sent down to the minors, and Robles, hitting .414 in spring training, would scamper back to the Mexican Leagues.
- The Dodgers will also likely pick up a former Houston farmhand, right-handed starter D. J. Houlton, as a Rule 5 draftee. Houlton pitched four scoreless innings in today's exhibition game.
- Also expected to make the team are LHP Kelly Wunsch and RHP Buddy Carlyle. 32-year-old journeyman Wunsch has a long career, and has mainly been used in relief of late, spending 2000-2004 in and out of the Chisox. Last year, Carlyle mainly started for the Yankees' AAA-Columbus club, and played briefly with the Padres in 1999 and 2000.
- Update 3: Philadelphia has offered Rule 5 draftee outfielder Shane Victorino back to the Dodgers. Victorino hit .235/.278/.335 in 200 AB at Las Vegas last year, and .154/.200/.231 line in 52 AB in spring training with the Phils.
- Former Angel RHP Al Levine was released by the Giants, who also let go of LHP Wayne Franklin.
- Update 4: The Cubs have traded IF Cody Ransom to the Rangers. Ransom, you may recall, was critical to the Dodgers winning the division last year. With the Giants up 3-0 at Dodger Stadium and needing a win to prevent elimination, San Francisco brought Ransom in as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. He booted a routine groundball hit by Izturis, loading the bases and setting up a single by Werth to tie the game; Steve Finley's grand slam home run won the game and the division. The Giants released Ransom in the offseason.
Descends To Hell's Lowest Circle Traded To Pirates
Pickoff Moves, Hairy Edge Of Blogger Stability Edition
Administrivia: MigrationSo far, it looks like paying for hosting is the only way to settle the ongoing stability issues. aplus.net appears to be the most likely candidate, seeing as how there's an existing business relationship (they host the images I already have on this site). The technical direction after that remains a bit murky. Stay tuned.
THT On Snakes, Giants, And A'sTHT runs its Five Questions format previews of the Diamondbacks, and the two northern California teams, the Giants and A's. The A's piece reflects a nervousness about Oakland's nerf-ous hitting ("the A’s 2005 offense is what it has been for the last three years: mediocre-to-below average, even when adjusted for their home ballpark"), and not much more optimistic about their pitching ("In a rotation featuring three unproven commodities, the A’s need [Zito] to regain his ace form.").
As to the Giants: "... the 2005 Giants might strongly contend in the National League West, or they might collapse into the cellar. Or they might plod along somewhere around .500. Mark my words!" Such certainty!
It could be worse, though; imagine the plight of the Diamondbacks fan: "... it’s very unlikely we will see this club in the playoffs for the rest of this decade." Ouch.
Dream? What Dream?Aaron Gleeman notes in passing that Blez's spring training adventures represent "the dream of every baseball blogger." Speaking strictly for myself, I have to think that direct contact with gas-emitting stars (and general managers) would pretty quickly disabuse me of that "dream", not to mention the unremittingly low pay. If that's a dream, I'll keep my day job, thanks.
Royals 10, Angels 9One of those late spring games that underscores the erosion of the Angels' bullpen, the Halos gave a start to Evan Thomas, who promptly got himself reassigned to minor league camp. The Angels' list of pitchers -- Thomas, Chris Bootcheck, Dusty Bergman, Von Stertzbach, and Bob Zimmerman -- are all contestants on the game show, "Who Wants To Be An Angel?", with Stertzbach, Zimmerman, and Bergman being semifinalists, Zimmerman despite his bad outing today.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
OT: Spam, The Just Dessert
OT: The Sacrificial Goat
... the justices let stand a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that a newspaper can be forced to pay damages for having reported that a city councilman called the mayor and the council president "liars," "queers" and "child molesters."So the Court, abandoning reason, now makes the press responsible for reporting the facts when politician Smith slanders politician Jones.
The case turned on whether the 1st Amendment's protection of the freedom of the press includes a "neutral reporting privilege." Most judges around the nation have said the press does not enjoy this privilege.
The case that reached the high court began 10 years ago when the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., printed a story titled "Slurs, Insults Drag Town Into Controversy." It reported that the city council in nearby Parkesburg had been torn apart by shouting matches and fistfights. The most outspoken councilman was William T. Glenn Sr.
In comments during a meeting and in an interview with a news reporter, Glenn referred to Mayor Alan Wolfe and Councilman James Norton as "liars" and a "bunch of draft dodgers." He also strongly suggested that they were homosexuals who had put themselves "in a position that gave them an opportunity to have access to children."
Angels Acquire RHP Bret Prinz For C Wil Nieves
Meaning, the Angels were looking for bullpen help when the season began and nobody pitched themselves onto the big club. It's questionable whether the Prinz represents anything other than mopup innings:
Season ERA IP K BB K/9 K/BB ========================================== 2004 5.08 28.1 22 14 6.99 1.57 2005 ST 8.44 5.1 6 5 10.13 1.20
Which is to say, the kid can throw strikes, but he can also walk guys; his career K/BB ratio is 1.32. I tend to agree with Halofan on this one, he's going to see action, but it won't be in close games in the eighth.
Jackie Robinson Biopic In Preproduction
The filmmakers have the blessings of Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel, and "will be working closely with major league baseball". Shooting is scheduled to start in 2006, with a completed film in 2007/2008.
Grumble: I knew about this this morning. Blogger has prevented me from publishing almost the whole damn day. This is gonna stop, real soon now.
Monday, March 28, 2005
2005 Angels Preview: Part 1, Rotation
IntroductionThe 2004 Angels just squeaked by with a division win, their first in 18 years. Success, goes the saw, has many fathers, and paternity of the 2004 season rested upon
- Arte Moreno spending a wad on quality free agents, in particular, Vladimir Guerrero and Kelvim Escobar.
- On-demand offense down the stretch, most notably by Vlad, whose last two weeks cemented his bid for an AL MVP award.
- Rotation and offensive collapses by Oakland down the stretch. Baseball Prospectus this year noted
Oakland's offense did about as well as expected, even with their decline, but the pitching was the real author of the team's September swoon:
Oakland flat collapsed, and while their September nosed down some from August, it still outshone their April. No, the pitching was the obvious and main culprit, assisted at the last minute by a crucial blunder by then-Oakland bench coach Chris Speier.
To provide a different and sunnier view of the Angels' 2005 chances, I'm pleased as I can be to introduce Matt Welch. Matt is a columnist for Canada's National Post, and an associate editor at Reason. His fine Warblog has been a daily must-read of mine ever since I came across it late last year.
Matt: Hola! And thanks to Rob for having me. As for last year, the Angels would have waltzed to the playoffs had there not been major injuries to Glaus, Anderson, and El Gordo's first-half pitching mechanics. And obviously, Billy Beane's sh*t no longer works in the regular season.... One of my main reasons for optimism in 2005 is that the A's will almost certainly be weaker (unless the teenage pitching squad pulls a '69 Mets), and the Rangers and Mariners have too many glaring holes. The Angels, on the other hand -- and this will be my theme song -- are significantly deeper than they were a year ago, and will ride this depth to an easy division crown.
Rob: Thanks, Matt. After talking this over, we've decided to split this preview into multiple sections, one for each major part of the team, starting with the rotation, followed by infield, outfield, and the bullpen. Today, we'll start with the rotation.
RotationRob: This isn't a crew you have high hopes for. There's nobody even remotely Randy Johnsonesque to be found in the
Matt: Au contraire! This is a group I have high
hopes for. Not Schilling-and-Unit high hopes, or even
Schilling-and-Pedro high hopes, but the kind of
4th-starter-will-have-an-ERA+-of-111 high hopes that seemed to work
out just fine in 2002.
The main sources of recent SP ugliness -- Ortiz and Sele -- have been replaced by a quality innings-muncher (for a fraction of the cost), and there is good reason to expect improvements from most of the other starters as well, especially in light of a sure-to-be-better defense.
PECOTA: VORP: 14.6, ERA: 4.87, IP: 137.2, Similarity: 34
Rob: I've already laid out the case for Byrd's ascent to something other than a tail-end-innings-eater based on the miles between him and a Tommy John surgery, improved velocity, a new sinkerball he couldn't previously throw, and increasing K/9 and K/BB rates. The 34 year old Byrd's not a guy you want to build a rotation around, but he represents the kind of roulette spin Bill Stoneman's made with castoffs (viz. David Eckstein, Ben Weber, etc.) in his shrewder moments. I'm going to suggest PECOTA's similarity score and his recovery from surgery means his projection's a little too conservative, and he'll be worth about two wins, ending the year with a 4.30 ERA or so.
Matt: I'm bullish on Byrd, too, but with one ulcer-inducing caveat -- the Mazzone effect. Since 1991, by my reckoning, 16 pitchers have left the womb of Leo Mazzone's starting rotation (and Andrew Jones' CF play) to pitch for another team the following year. Eleven of the 12 had their ERA+s plummet -- by an average of 30 points, which is pretty impressive considering the league average is 100 -- and the 12th retired after pitching two more innings (all but two saw their IPs drop, usually sharply). Of the four remaining, two performed at essentially the same level (Maddux and Mulholland), and only two of the whole damned lot of 16 showed any improvement at all -- a 24-year-old Jason Schmidt, and 25-year-old Odalis Perez. He's a great pickup, and a terrific upgrade on Ortiz/Sele, but my fingers are crossed.
Rob: Good point about Byrd and outfield defense; in the last couple years his G/F has been under unity by a sizeable amount. Now, some of that may be that he couldn't throw the sinker, in which case we can expect something closer to one, but that just shifts the concerns to the infield defense, about which, more later.
I asked Tom Meagher of The Fourth
Outfielder about collecting the raw data needed to regress
Byrd from Turner Field back to Angels Stadium, similar to what he
Lowe and Dodger Stadium. He couldn't get me the data directly,
but did suggest that Byrd would be hurt by Angels Stadium's smaller
foul territory, but helped significantly by the Angels' home park's
tendency to give up few doubles and home runs.
PECOTA: VORP: 14.6, ERA: 4.87, IP: 137.2, Similarity: 34
Rob: 2005 resolution: I will not make any stupid puns about the large Colon, er, colon. Now that that lie's out of the way, Bartolo's forgettable 2004 supposedly hinged on ankle problems, from which he recovered in July, but he only posted one sub-4.00 ERA month (July) all last year. Nobody's going to mistake him for core training obsessor Steve Finley; last year, Colon showed up to spring training overweight, and this year he dodged the lipo-police in the Dominican. There's plenty of reason for concern about Colon's ability to both stay healthy and pitch well. PECOTA thinks he peaked early, and I'm inclined to agree.
Matt: I expect Bart to revert to his second-half self last year (104 IP, 3.63 ERA, 82 Ks), which is exactly in line with his career numbers. He's pitched 200+ innings six out of seven years, with an ERA+ of at least 111 every but last, and his career year was as recent as 2002. That said, I have the impression that he makes pitching adjustments slower even then he walks on and off the field, which means entire two-month stretches where he's just crap, nibbling himself into hitter's counts, grooving 92-mph fastballs, and yielding fantastic numbers of homers. Last first half was indeed historically pukey, but check out the first halves of 1999 and 2000, and the second half of '98. Hopefully, Black knows how to talk to him now.
PECOTA: VORP: 30.8, ERA: 4.12, IP: 168.0, Similarity: 55
Rob: Another of Stoneman's shrewd signings, I liked Escobar going into last year principally because of his splits on grass; away from the turf, Esky was a pretty accomplished pitcher. Amazingly, he managed to keep that up; his ERA on grass this year was a very respectable 3.81, while his small-sample-sized turf ERA of 6.30 (10 IP) is consistent with his inconsistent old Toronto self. PECOTA's overly pessimistic on him in part because of managerial decisions by the Jays, who could never decide whether he belonged in the rotation or the bullpen. With comparables including Andy Messersmith, Chan Ho Park, Bartolo Colon, and John Smoltz, Escobar's direction could be anywhere, but I'm betting his decline is overstated, and his 60th percentile projection (3.76 ERA, 180.2 IP, 41.0 VORP) is likely.
Matt: All four of his pitches rank among the league's best;
he's indeed off the grass and away from idiot Blue Jay management;
last year he struck out 8.25 per 9 as a starter, and this year he'll
probably enjoy luckier run support. I predict he'll make the All-Star
team, and solidify his role as ace.
PECOTA: VORP: 16.4, ERA: 4.77, IP: 155.0, Similarity: 63
Rob: Lackey's still cheap, which is why he remains in the rotation, but his is a story of unfulfilled promise, not unlike the next guy on this list, Jarrod Washburn. Baseball Prospectus is somewhat optimistic about his chances this year, noting the disparity between his home (3.48) and away (5.72) ERAs, and that he didn't give up a single home run in September. On the other hand, he only gave up three in August and September of his rookie 2002 campaign, so that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Unless something happens this year and Lackey figures out how to reliably make that third out, he'll find himself in Pirates spring training camp fighting for a relief job in three years or so.
Matt: Look at his IP/K/BB numbers from the last two years: 204/151/66, 198/144/60 (and those numbers from last year also include 87 Ks in 90 IP after the All-Star break). That's pretty damned good for a guy at ages 24-25. Especially considering that, at least according to David Pinto, Lackey had the seventh-worst defensive support of any AL starter last year. Given his youth, size, health, peripherals, and better D, I think he's the best bet on staff to improve by 10-20% this year.
Rob: Pinto's not the only one who thinks Lackey got
screwed. Studes says he was just
plain unlucky with line drives in 2004, along with
Shields, and is due for a bounceback season as his luck
normalizes. So maybe I'm being a little harsh on Lack.
PECOTA: VORP: 18.1, ERA: 4.56, IP: 136.1, Similarity: 56
Rob: The older, left-handed isomer of John Lackey, with less upside. Washburn served his purpose in 2002 and has declined ever since, though one interesting development from 2004 was the sudden increase in ground balls, a good thing considering how bad the Angels' outfield defense was last year. A Scott Boras client, he's certain to get too much money for the mound space he occupies after this season. Whether the Angels retain his "services" beyond 2005 will be a function of how terrible the free agency market is, and whether Ervin "The Other" Santana is ready for everyday use.
Matt: He's healthy (unlike last year), has a better defense to catch all those balls in play, is in his walk-year, and he knows the Angels probably won't bring him back. Even when hurt & crappy he was around league-average last year; I'd peg a motivated and healthy Wash for something like 14-12, 200 IP, and an ERA around 4.30. Nothing earth-shaking, but perhaps the best 5th starter in the league.
Depth: The Sixth StarterRob: When you say, "depth", you're talking about swingman Scot Shields, or relative newcomer, Kevin Gregg. Let's take a quick look at both their numbers, shall we?
Gregg: VORP: 14.3, ERA: 4.38, IP: 92.1, Similarity: 45(Sorry, no graphs for Gregg; once he gets three years in the majors, maybe then.)
Shields: VORP: 22.2, ERA: 3.73, IP: 99.0, Similarity: 53
Rob: For a while last year, I thought sure Kevin Gregg would force his way into the rotation. Up through early June, he was arguably the best pitcher on the staff, ringing up an otherworldly 0.59 ERA in April and a still-pretty-damn-good 2.12 ERA in May, but he quickly fell back to earth, only notching one more month (July, 3.72) below 5.00 the rest of the way. As a result, Gregg has a lot to prove this year: first, that his 2004 April and May weren't a fluke; second, that he has some control. His 13 wild pitches placed second in the AL; only Yankee/Chisox starter Jose Contreras was worse (at 17). In a July 25th game at Seattle, he set an American League record for most wild pitches in a single inning. The boy's got some learnin' to do.
Like Shields, Gregg can handle starting. Coming up through Oakland's system at the same time as their former Big Three, Gregg trained as a starter. (Note: the Baseball Cube numbers appear to be wrong, in that they have him coming up through the Angels' system in the mid-90's.) Ultimately, Oakland released him, and he signed with the Angels in 2003. As the season wore on and his WHIP grew like Topsy, the Angels pushed him into mop-up duties. With only three pitches, he's not a complete package, but used somewhat more judiciously, and/or with improved stamina, he has a reasonable chance at improving on his 2004, and might even land a spot start or two.
Scot Shields attracts the phrase "rubber-armed", and no wonder: despite his workload dropping a third from 2003, he still threw more innings in relief in 2004 (105.1) than any other pitcher in the majors. One result: a rising strikeout rate, up almost three full points. Despite April and September struggles, Shields posted three months of 3.00 or below ERAs. With slightly better numbers against lefties than righties, he's one of the big reasons Scioscia has had the luxury of a LOOGYless pen the past two years.
In 2003, Shields started in thirteen games, not so much because the Angels liked him in that role, but because of injuries. Sporting a 4-6 record in 13 starts, Shields' early season starts were strong but they got rougher as the season went on. The Angels did not start him at all in 2004, perhaps due to his lack of a true "out" pitch. Moral: don't expect to see Shields start unless something goes truly, awfully wrong.
Conclusions, Anyone?Rob: In isolation, this staff doesn't impress. Here's overall rank by ERA among AL starters who qualified for the ERA title in 2004:
In other words, a middling bunch. Adding VORP scores of the likely starters, I come up with 131.4 -- versus last year's actual of 140.5. I just don't see them being an improvement over last year's squad. Obviously, with improved health and slightly better defense behind them, this could change, but with Escobar possibly starting the season on the DL, and Colon already leaving a spring training game due to back spasms, it's hard to argue they'll get those kinds of breaks.
Matt: Good thing seasons aren't played "in isolation"!
Let's look at the four AL West starting rotations last year, ranked in order of ERA (unadjusted for park):
The A's lost Mulder and Hudson and Redmond, the Mariners Freddy Garcia, and the Angels ... Sele and Ortiz, who combined for a 5.20 ERA in 38 starts across just 200 innings. I believe the Angels rotation will easily be better than Oakland's this year, by the mere fact of replacing Ortiz/Sele with Paul Byrd, and the A's losing Tim Hudson.
What's a reasonable projection for Byrd? In 2002, he had a 3.90 ERA in 228.1 innings for Kansas City; in 2004 it was 3.94 and 114.1 on a sore arm for Leo Mazzone. So, let's imagine he's good for a 3.96 in 200 innings. Further, let's imagine that the rest of the Angels' rotation is exactly as bad as last year, and the starts missed by an injured Washburn will only be 5-inning, 4.50 ERA jobs from Gregg/Shields. How does that affect the rotation? (And, for the sake of argument, let's assume Byrd will have a 4.37 ERA as well.)
Now let's replace Tim Hudson, generously, with a pitcher who takes his 27 starts, and fills them up with number that match the rest of Oakland's 2004 starters in IP per start, runs, and ERA:
Even if Byrd pulls a 4.37 ERA, the Angels have still narrowed the starters' ERA gap from 0.56 or a run to 0.13, and (more crucially?) cut down the IP gap from 66 to 14, giving us better opportunity to deploy our vastly superior bullpen. And that's assuming the best for Oakland, and the status quo for the Angels. I think Colon and Lackey will actually perform better than last year; even if we keep Escobar and Washburn the same, and assume a 4.37 ERA for Byrd, this is how the rotation would shake out:
That would be 21 runs fewer than last year, in 30 more innings, and would compete for the second-best starters' ERA in the league (behind Minnesota), while giving the league's best bullpen more breathing room. I think there's a 50-50 chance that these results will be even better. The rotation is a marked improvement, and a strength. My worry is only that it won't be dominant enough in the post-season.
Rob: Wow, Matt, no compensation for the fact that Escobar had a career year last year? Whatever, I think that about wraps it up for now. Coming up next: the infield.
Pickoff Moves, Too Much Time On My Hands Edition
Eli Wallach Returns To The PadsThe third part of an old western starring Clint Eastwood returns to Petco in the guises of Andy Ashby and Darrell May, according to Ducksnorts. The radar gun clocked May's heater at 84 MPH, explaining his 11-2 shelling by the Snakes. Pads fans hope he's a last resort to be used only when days off don't exist.
All-Baseball NL West ProjectionsAll-Baseball projects the NL West race, with Tom Meagher doing the honors for the Dodgers. I won't say there's a concensus here, but I do think between the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers, anything could happen and any team could win this division; there's no clear frontrunner.
The Sorrowful Life Of The One-Man-WomanLookout Landing informs us that Benji Gil will not make the Mariners' roster this year, something that will warm the hearts of the U.S.S. Mariner crew. No doubt his fan is horrified, but nonetheless has signed up for tickets to whatever minor league club he ends up playing for.
Bringing Up Baby Felix HernandezSteve Nelson, formerly of Mariners Wheelhouse, writes a guest column at Lookout Landing suggesting that there is no evidence that holding a pitcher otherwise ready to play at the major league level will help his career (by imparting health). The import of this attaches directly to phenom Felix Hernandez, he of the Frankie-style slider-from-hell, the endurance to bring it through a whole game, and the babyfaced eighteen years of age.
Pinto's Defensive Graphs For The AngelsDavid Pinto presents defensive graphs for the Angels team defense.
Saturday: A's 8, Angels 6I'm too lazy to answer the question of whether Bartolo Colon ranks among the worst free agency busts in history, though the contracts of Mo Vaughn (as a Met) and Mike Hampton (for Colorado) come to mind well ahead of him, obscuring (for now) Colon's so far dubious addition. Saturday's outing by Colon did nothing to change my mind about his likely ability in the regular season. Despite a still-glossy 2.35 ERA in 15.1 spring innings, El Ladrón remains suspect until he can prove his ace tall dollars, and Saturday's game merely confirmed my low opinion of him. Starting the game with a leadoff walk to Mark Kotsay, the walk turned into a run on Charles Thomas' single. In the fifth, a pair of doubles from 3B Marco Scutaro and Kotsay (again), and in the sixth, 1B Scott Hatteberg got aboard on a throwing error by third baseman Maicer Izturis, subsequently scoring when LF Eric Byrnes whacked another double off Colon. To his credit, Colon managed to get the A's in the second, third, and fourth innings, all in order, though not without the help of a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth.
The problem, overall, was Colon's weak command. Unable to locate his fastball, he sank into deep counts constantly. Though he only surrendered a single walk, he came near to doing so again on many at bats. This was Colon's problem all last year, too. Four strikeouts in six innings against our principle rivals also didn't encourage my hopes, either.
The Angels offensively looked much worse, going down in order in the first and fifth innings, and barely putting up a fight elseways against former Houston farmhand Kirk Saarloos. Some of this naturally can be attributed to inexperience (the Angels had seen him for but five innings prior to the game), but the Long Beach native's 4.93 ERA with the Astros didn't raise any confidence that the lad was about to break through. The 2005 Baseball Prospectus' positively thudding endorsement didn't help, either:
... when you do finally get a look from the one organization willing to look past your limitations, it probably isn't a good idea to hurt your elbow. He's a question mark after elbow surgery, so you can probably toss him into that same mental dustbin as other delightfully-monikered sometime A's, like Joe Slusarski, Will Schock, or Big Bird Birtsas.Saarloos' 3.75 ERA in 12.0 IP, like all spring numbers, needs some explanation, but his strikeouts of Erstad, DaVanon, and Finley aren't smoke. He may not be the second coming, but in a second division like the AL West, he'll be plenty good to keep the A's in contention.
Other general notes about the game:
- Anderson's fielding hasn't improved any in the offseason. He didn't make it to a run-scoring Eric Byrnes double in the sixth that he most likely would have had two seasons ago.
- Esteban Yan was a disaster, displaying the ugliness that I recalled from his days as a Cardinal, giving up three runs. The only positive I took away from his outing was the excellent fielding he made on one play in the 8th.
- UT Lou Merloni bobbled a couple throws at third, thus proving he has almost no business playing the position.
- Izturis bobbled a line drive straight at him, botching a double play and setting up...
- ... a swinging bunt, which Kotchman hesitated fielding. This set up a scoring triple by Jermaine Clark and an RBI single by Mark Kotsay. (So much for the A's having bad luck with players named Jermaine.)
- In the ninth, Izturis struck out on three consecutive pitches.
Sunday: Padres 8, Cubs 6I discovered Al's gripe about the Cubs' spring training park announcer giving incomplete or even nonexistant substitution announcement. Thanks to Blogger Buzz (which I was about to write off as useless, too), we know that announcer is named Tim, and that he has a blog. I left him a comment asking why 'twas so; perhaps he may respond someday.
Was the Cubs' loss to the Pads "dispirited"? Yes, but then, so did I feel watching the game, slathered in sunblock and slowly turning to a raisin in the dry, warm Arizona spring. I'll commend you to Al's delightful recap, and remind the reading audience here that if the Padres' acquisition of Tim Redding was a reaction to Darrell May and his inflatable ERAs, so, too was it in response to green rookies like Justin Germano, whose inexperience and lack of an out pitch is tempered with his age (22).
2005 Spring Training Photos
Baseball Toaster Predicts The AL Division Races... and the concensus is the Angels taking the AL West, the Red Sox taking the East, and a surprising 6-4 split on the Twins and Indians in the Central.
Fire Brand Of The American League Moves To All-BaseballIn case you hadn't noticed. I await an explanation for MVN's so far mostly inexplicable moves, but A-B even when it had Jon et al. could have done with a Red Sox blog; this is not a bad idea.
The Eternal Hope Of The MosquitoProbably stale news, but this Times-Herald piece details the sad decline and sudden irrelevance of erstwhile prospect Joe Thurston -- along with the boosterism of those who hope to make a few bucks managing his fortunes should they reverse. Choice quote from his money manager, Steve Reed: "Joey's best abilities are his intense focus on the task at hand and his calmness." Ironic considering his lackadaisical 2003 spring training.
Duh: Ross Trade RumorsDavid Ross might be the subject of a trade, says the Register. But given Ross's horrible spring training (.105 average), the article now tags him "as a backup in Triple-A." But what are you going to get for him now? A bag of balls?
Grabowski Extends His VersatilityAnd even if somebody were injured, the Dodgers have apparently started seeing Jason Grabowski as a possible emergency catcher. Grabowski, who batted .174 last year in a mainly pinch hitting role, looks to be the Dodgers' main left-handed pinch-hitter this year.
Alvarez To Open Season In BullpenIn that same article, it looks like Wilson Alvarez won't begin the season in the rotation, but in the bullpen, thanks to shoulder tendinitis.
Decompression: Spring Training As Socratic Dialogue
Did you find the female fans comely?
The metropolitan Los Angeles area leads the nation in the aesthetic arts as applied to the human canvas. The outlying areas, upon discovering some of plastic surgery's more esoteric forms, have been known to recoil in horror, but more often than not, they quickly line up at the airline counters for tickets to LAX -- or else send their own local sons to be tutored by the Angeleno geniuses who practice their craft while stirring up business with targeted national promotion.
Naturally, one side effect of this is the local presumption of physical perfection. This leads to all kinds of extremes, for instance, the sales rep for a colo service I encountered a half dozen years ago who looked as though she had exercised every last cubic centimeter of fat off her body, not to mention any resemblance to an actual woman. But if LA women have unreasonable expectations of their appearances, at the same time it often makes them modest in pleasing ways. For instance, no woman in her right mind overweight by thirty or more pounds would wear a bikini in public, and yet this kind of abandon was everywhere in evidence on the lawn at the Cubs' games we attended. Southern Californian ladies all but universally have a subconscious horror of becoming the "before" picture for liposuction ads, and indeed we did not see such at the Angels games. Women of Chicago, I beseech you: look in the mirror before putting on that halter top. The eyes you spare may be my own.
I do not entirely mean to spare the men in this, but since male beauty is a target of comedy rather than gross titillation, it seems redundant to lambaste that which others have already so successfully lambasted. I note in passing the large number of pendulous guts in attendance, but then, men seldom care, though they should. For myself, I hid my own gothic nudity, hoping only to avoid scaring the horses.
What was the effect of the late Easter Sunday upon your writing?
Sadly, 6-4-2 took an enforced holiday Sunday. I had intended to do a writeup of Saturday's game, but owing to the late hour we arrived back at our hotel, I couldn't, and then Easter Sunday had the unfortunate effect of closing Schlotsky's, where I used the free web access for blogging and other illicit purposes.
I'm not much on holidays I don't actually get off, and the only exceptions I'm willing to make are Mother's Day and Father's Day. But get religion involved and -- gag -- colored, hard-boiled eggs, and that's enough to make me sick. I hate hard-boiled eggs -- always have -- and so Easter was always about avoidance so far as I was concerned. I didn't have anything against the actual coloring of the eggs -- that part was fun -- but to the extent that someone, somehow, would actually have to also consume them made the whole process an eensy weensy bit like Itzhak Stern having to remand himself to the Nazis. Dress eight-year-old me in a shirt and tie, and you've got an apostate in the making. Keep me from my blog, shut down one of my favorite restaurants, and you have a full blown heretic on your hands.
How was the drive back? How were Arizona gas prices? Did you encounter any ruffians or traffic?
The price of gas in Arizona temporarily lags that in California, but only just; we paid $2.23 or so in Mesa, and $2.65 somewhere around the eastern outskirts of Moreno Valley. While unpleasant for us in our sedan, it will undoubtedly soar to the top of the list of indignities hurled at the Bush administration by the owners of the supersized, Rancho Suspension-raised trucks used for offroading. At some point between Moreno Valley and Palm Springs, this sort of truck forms the majority of vehicles on the road. Inevitably, they come with large-tread offroading tires, making them very loud on the street. But besides this offense, I level these two charges against them:
- They are impossible to see around. I also curse SUV and even the supposedly innocuous, emasculated minivan owners for this. But I have a special outrage for those who specifically build their trucks for height.
- They encourage their owners to drive like jerks. These are not small, lithe cars, but their drivers weave in and out of lanes as though they were Lamborghinis. Having such an advantage of height encourages these vehicles' drivers to act out their most testosterone-laden videogame fantasies (such as running over other cars, as a recent Jeep ad campaign suggested).
Well, spring training in Arizona sounds very unpleasant. Would you recommend going to others?
Oh, heavens yes. Despite the headaches, it's a great place to see the teams come together. Because the teams are at most only a couple hours' drive away from each other's parks (and more like 40 minutes or less), proximity means it's easy to see many different games. The atmosphere is very convivial. Even in the A's home park of Phoenix Muni, I only once encountered an SUV full of dimwits yelling, "Angels Suck!", and even then, they were safely ensconced in their large vehicle; once in the stands, no one bothered me, and this was universally true regardless of which park we were in. The small parks are a bargain relative to the regular season; to get views as good as we got in the regular season, you'd routinely pay quintuple or sextuple the price we paid for individual tickets. And it's easy to see many teams if you so choose.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Dayside: Angels 6, Cubs 4Escobar's status at the beginning of the year still has everyone wondering how effective he's going to be, or whether he'll even be on the team on opening day. Yesterday's game didn't give me any warm fuzzies that Esky's improved to the point where he's major league ready exactly yet, but he's close, much closer than I thought even a week ago. Giving up three runs (all earned) on six hits, and most importantly, no walks in six innings, Escobar showed signs of returning to 2004 form. However, he did surrender a home run to Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, proving Zambrano is a pretty good hitting pitcher. By contrast, Z had his best stuff, and the Angels got three runs off him, including a two-run shot by Erstad (his first multi-base hit of the season). It was the first runs Z surrendered all spring training. I know, don't read too much into it.
Other than that: the boys in red were pretty sharp, and Robb Quinlan shows signs that maybe his 2004 wasn't a one-month fluke, going two for three and scoring a run. At the very least, he's a valuable bench player.
Overall, both clubs looked pretty close to regular-season ready, which isn't necessarily good news for either one, especially the Cubs. Speaking of the Tiny Bears, we hung out in the outfield berms with the voluable, jovial Al Yellon of SPORTSblogs' Bleed Cubbie Blue, his friends John (who draws cartoons at BCB), Jessica (from New York) and her friend Mike (who lives in Arizona), and our two Padre-lovin' friends Jen and Jo from San Diego. One of the great things about spring training is that the fans who show up for it are generally fans of the game, well informed, and almost never boorish. I only got harrassed once -- and then by someone safely in an SUV -- for wearing Angels garb to Phoenix Muni at the A's game last night. Once in the stadium, I saw a number of others so attired, and Giants, Mariners, and many Padres fans as well.
Northsiders continue to worry about the Cubs' bullpen, and with good reason; as Al wrote in his game recap,
Hendry's got to be burning up the cellphone lines after Chad Fox again had a not-so-good ninth inning; after whipping off what looked like a 95-MPH fastball to get Curtis Pride on strikes, the next batter whipped a ball just as fast up the middle for an RBI single -- this after Fox had wild-pitched David Matranga into scoring position after a walk. Fox is maddening -- you can see he has ability, but he drives you nuts with walks and ill-timed wild pitches like this.Frankie's close, but he's back to his bad old tricks with runners on base. He never seems to do well once somebody gets on, so watching him surrender a run on two hits and a walk wasn't too surprising if you recall his 2003. You always want to cut pitchers in Arizona spring training some slack because of the slight elevation, the thin, dry air, and the heat, but yesterday only the elevation was in operation (it actually rained a bit yesterday morning). Frankie just couldn't locate his slider, and as often happens when that happens, he starts giving up runs. Of course, that balances with the three strikeouts he made to finish the ninth, but it's not a record you want for a closer.
Nightside: Padres 6, A's 1Did 2004 ever end? That's the Groundhog Day question for the A's Barry Zito, who got knocked around for five runs, four earned, on five hits and five walks in four innings. Zito struggled with command (again), couldn't locate his curve (again), and generally was a mess on the mound. Woody Williams, by contrast, set the A's down with aplomb and speed, giving up a walk, four hits, and one run (earned).
At this point in spring training, you expect the fielding to actually be major league quality, but then I remembered -- Robert Fick is in camp. Fick is one of my least favorite players in the majors, mainly because he pulled an A-Rod style karate chop on Eric Karros in the 2003 postseason. The episode blew over quickly because, hey, he's not a Yankee. Anyway: Fick bobbled a routine groundball but managed to recover thanks in part to Williams' alert fielding, but it's pretty rare to see that level of ineptness this late in ST.
But the wacky fielding wasn't limited to the Pads' infield. Our season-ticket-holding friends, Jen and Jo, inform us that the Pads' outfield is stocked with players who create adventures where none should exist. For instance: Ryan Klesko. Klesko frequently takes bad routes to the ball, and looks like he has no idea where the ball is going. So with last night, where he kept alternated running and looking over his shoulder. Now, in some fairness, the wind was coming in hard straight down the left field side of Phoenix Municipal Stadium last night, and so balls hit to left would tend to curve back. But -- as this was a night game -- we could reasonably expect a lot of the problems Arizona gives fielders with its high, thin skies wouldn't happen. Uh uh. Still. Not. Too. Good.
The A's bullpen is improved over last year, but I can't decide whether Juan Cruz represents that much of an upgrade. Certainly, if he's found his niche in long relief, it's questionable whether he's learned anything, handing out four walks and one hit over three. Ricardo Rincon in particular had a rough outing, giving up a run on two walks and a hit.
As to the Pads' bullpen, they didn't need to be serious about it, as Williams cruised through six. Thus, in one-inning turns, did we watch Rudy Seanez, green newcomer Randy Williams (2004 ERA 5.79 in 6.0 IP), and Dodger castoff Brian Falkenborg pitch to a diminishing cast of A's regulars, and an increasing band of rookies and wannabes.
Former Dodger Dave Roberts managed two at bats, and accomplished nothing. As much as I like Dave, I have to think DePo made the right move unloading him. But, hey, based on the ads he made while a Dodger, I'd cheerfully predict he's got a real chance at a job behind the mike somewhere.
Friday, March 25, 2005
The Dry, Green Land, And The Trip Out
So now we wait for the games. Yesterday, the trip in: the desert has seen rains as it hasn't seen rains in ages. Death Valley, normally remarkable mainly for its spectacular if alien geology, now erupts into wildflower displays unseen in fifty years. So with the desert ouside: the Sonoran is among the wettest deserts in the world, and we saw sprays of yellow and purple flora all along the drive in.
And with the flowers, the bugs. Of course, the car got pockmarked with bug splatter, but our friends coming from San Diego had it worse: they drove through a migrating swarm of Monarch butterflies, little orangey-red bodies squished in the hundreds on their windshield. At one gas station, they told me of a flat-faced RV just pasted with the bugs, top to bottom. Baseball demands sacrifice, but demolishing beauty of this kind so systematically seems criminal and tragic.
Our friends, Padres fans, are coming to spring training for the first time this year. They've had Pads season tickets for years, and this time, trumped me in the camera department: they've got a very snazzy new Canon, something I've started getting an itch for. So maybe this year I'll actually get some shots worth posting.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Tech Rave: Firefox Google PageRank ToolbarGoogle might not want you to know about this, but there's a Firefox extension that lets you pick up the Google Pagerank of a particular page. This is one of several factors, albeit the largest one, that Google uses to determine where a page turns up on one of their search results. The higher the page rank (on a scale of 0-10, where 10 is best and 0 is shunned), the higher the result appears on the page. In the high-school-locker-room contest comparing Pageranks, some sundry samplings:
|Pearly Gates||5||I haven't been able to find a single blogspot.com blog with a Pagerank over 5, but I have been able to find some zero PR ones.|
|Athletics Nation||5||At least we know Richard and I aren't sucking off a base popularity for all blogger.com domains. It seems most blogs are pretty much middle-of-the-pack when it comes to Pagerank.|
|Lookout Landing||0||Amazing. Just amazing.|
|dodgerthoughts.baseballtoaster.com||0||See what happens when you change domains? It'll take a while for Dodger Thoughts to recover, and so for all these guys at all-baseball.com, and baseballtoaster.com, and MVN.com.|
|Hardball Times||6||Team blogs seem to do pretty well in general.|
|ESPN home page||8||Home pages do better than...|
|ESPN MLB home||7||... internal pages, which do better than ...|
|ESPN story about Barry Bonds||N/A||... individual stories.|
|Baseball Cube||4||Gary Cohen has his work cut out for him.|
Jeff Shaw's M's Preview On THTJeff Shaw of U.S.S. Mariner has his 2005 Mariners preview up at Hardball Times, via his trusty Magic 8-Ball.
Welcome Back, SeanPurgatory Online is back in action, with three posts in one day, and a chronology of the Halosphere. Angels blogdom is a better, and funnier, place with Sean's keyboard engaged. Welcome back.
Ray Ratto On BarryI already linked to it above, but I thought it would be useful to mention this Ray Ratto story on Barry Bonds explicitly. Like me, Ratto doesn't necessarily take Bonds' projection of his return date all that seriously, but the knees aren't the problem here. It's Barry's head that will make or break him:
He is athletically mortal now, a realization that must have hit him particularly hard. For the immediate and foreseeable future, he has lost the outlet that was both his identity and refuge, and now he has all the more time to think about his other problems.
The new, physically vulnerable Bonds is no longer a lock to just pick up where he left off last year. History, which he has been laughing at these past four years, suggests loudly that the end does not come gradually, but in one great rush, and with all the extra side dishes on Bonds' plate, that rush may be a headlong one.
In short, what we took as likely (Aaron) is now doubtful, and what we took as a given (Ruth) may be taken away.
Guest Analyst Eric Neel On Vin ScullyEric Neel, who normally writes for ESPN's Page 2, today makes a guest appearance on Baseball Analysts, on the subject of growing up with Vin Scully. He even mentions this humble blog in passing.
Away To ArizonaAnd while my wife is pestering me (gently) to make sure she packed everything suitably in our suitcase, I mention now that I'm going to be in Arizona for the next five days, at the Angels' spring training camp. Reports to follow, as last year.
PECOTA Projects The AL
About the Angels in particular, Silver has this to say:W L PCT RS RA A's 88 74 .544 834 760 Angels 83 79 .515 787 763 Rangers 79 83 .490 868 885 Mariners 77 85 .477 754 791
I agree and disagree. D-Mac is certainly a worry, being a rookie, and the Angels have put a big burden on him to produce by plopping him at the hot corner. There's significant reason to think Byrd is going to much better than some people think (which I will get to presently in my preseason review) despite the Mazzone Affect. But I absolutely agree that the Angels' production at catcher will be the worst in years. And obviously, I agree that the Angels are going to have a tougher year than a lot of people think -- unless their rookies step up.
I don't quite understand the hype over the Angels. There are a several obvious soft spots in the lineup, like Ben Molina and Darin Erstad and Orlando Cabrera, who according to PECOTAs WARP projections, will be just the ninth-best shortstop among the 14 projected American League starters this year ....
PECOTA likes Dallas McPherson a whole bunch, and is relatively sympathetic to Steve Finley, but they're replacing positions that the Angels have generally gotten good production from in the past. Kelvim Escobar is a good breakout candidate, and Bartolo Colon should almost certainly better last year's numbers, but I don't see how you can get that excited about a pitching staff that will involve Paul Byrd taking his turn every fifth day. Yes, Vladimir Guerrero is very good, but it seems to me that the burden of proof lies with the folks that are making more optimistic projections than the one we have here.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Eric Gagné minus his name on the back. This is just wrong.
And I'll Bet Blez Isn't Even Gay
Alabama, Sweet Home Of The Differently Alphabeted
The report states DuBose informed [Sarasota County Sheriff's deputy David Clark, Jr.] he had "a couple" drinks at the Cafe Gardens and Daquiri Deck in Sarasota. When instructed to recite the alphabet, DuBose allegedly said, "I'm from Alabama, and they have a different alphabet."
All-Baseball's AL West Previews
Thanks to Christian Ruzisch for inviting me.
Ducksnorts Joins All-Baseball
An impression: A-B just went from having blogs about the Yankees (Bronx Banter), Dodgers (Dodger Thoughts) to having blogs about the Chisox (Exile In Wrigleyville, a great name for a blog), one kinda, sorta Dodgers blog (no knock on TFO, but Tom didn't really want to write about the Dodgers, it just happened that was what he needed to acquire an audience), and the Padres. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you'd think they'd want representatives more fully covering the Dodgers and somebody of quality writing about the Yanks. And then there's MVN itself: a blog following the game's hallmark franchise regularly has zero comments? Come to think of it, why isn't there a Red Sox blog at any of Baseball Toaster, All-Baseball, or SPORTSblogs? Come to think of it, how comes it that SPORTSblogs has no Yankees blog, either?
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Halofan Moves To SPORTSblogs
Not only was the plane used to send Omar to Egypt (where, he claims, he was brutally tortured), but its log showed 51 flights to Guantanamo Bay, and 82 visits to Dulles International Airport. The plane also stopped at Andrews Air Force Base, the air bases at Ramstein and Rhein-Main in Germany, Afghanistan, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic. Some of the itinerary came from
the worldwide cadre of aviation aficionados who call themselves "planespotters"--not because of its possible connection with the U.S. government, but because planespotters pride themselves on keeping meticulous records of every aircraft that comes and goes at their chosen airports.Assembly Point Aviation, a "religious organization" according to Dun & Bradstreet, actually owns the plane; its sole officer and director is Phillip H. Morse. The CIA leased the plane through a third party, Richmor Aviation. Morse refused to answer questions regarding "the customer" who organized the Egyptian outing, and further said, "I don't ask my customers why they go anywhere, whether it's West Palm Beach or the moon."
Though we don't know what happened to Omar or any of the others who may have been rendered, the Tribune story recounts this version of one:
The only eyewitness account of how rendition targets are prepared for their journey comes from a veteran Swedish police inspector, Paul Forell, who was present when such a team arrived at Stockholm's Bromma airport on the night of Dec. 18, 2001.
Forell told Sweden's Channel 4 last year that those arriving at the airport included eight Americans wearing hoods and two others in business suits who introduced themselves only by their first names and said they were from the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm.
"They were very professional in their way of acting. They acted very deftly, swiftly and silently," Forell said, adding that he had the impression the team had carried out many previous renditions.
The two Egyptian-born suspects, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, who had been arrested earlier in the evening by Swedish security police, were handcuffed and their clothes cut from their bodies.
Suppositories apparently intended as a sedative were inserted into their anuses, and diapers were put on both men, followed by dark overalls, blindfolds and hoods that completely covered their heads.
The prisoners were put aboard an unmarked Gulfstream that had flown to Stockholm from Washington's Dulles airport.
The Stockholm Gulfstream, a later model 5 that bore the tail number N379P, also has been spotted in Karachi and Gambia during other renditions.
After the plane landed in Cairo at 2:35 a.m. the next day, al-Zery and Agiza were taken to Masra Tora prison. According to Swedish government documents made public by Channel 4, when the two men were visited by the Swedish ambassador five weeks later they told him they were being tortured.
Neither man was found to have any Al Qaeda connection, and al-Zery was released without charges. Agiza, who previously had been convicted in absentia of membership in an Egyptian Islamic radical organization, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Former Army Intelligence officer Phillip Carter has more on the subject of extraordinary rendition at his excellent blog, Intel Dump.