Archives for: 2011, week 11


Spring Training Spotlight: Seattle Mariners

Permalink 01:14:46 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

Seattle Mariners management, players and fans thought 2010 was going to be a great season. Seattle turned heads after a busy off season acquiring prime time players. Ichiro and Figgins were to be baseball's best top of the lineup 1-2 punch. Griffey was to have one more productive season. Bradley's dugout troubles left behind. A revamped pitching staff to shut down opponents. Instead, just about everything that could go wrong did. Clubhouse fights, backstabbing comments, ineffective manager and poor team attitudes all directly led to a team full of playoff promise crashing and burning. Seattle lost 101 games in 2010. 2011 isn't looking much better.

Seattle ia an AL West afterthought heading into 2011. Division rival Texas, Los Angeles and Oakland are sporting tough playoff caliber rosters. All improved by way of off season wheeling and dealing. Seattle lost money hand over fist in '10. M's remained relatively quiet this past winter instead of chancing duplicating another year of signing non-performing high priced players.

If the Mariners were smart they would dangle superstars Ichiro Suzuki or Felix Hernandez attempting to pull off a Herschel Walker type of trade. Two players at the top of their game could land plenty of talent from draft picks to rising stars. Seattle fans might revolt at first but, in the long run, this type of deal would reap long term results if handled correctly.

What's up for 2011? Starting rotation anchored by Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez. Felix has lived up to all expectations and is far from reaching his prime. Tough knocks probably awaiting remaining starters. Fister, Vargas & Pauley face a daunting task of taming strong opposing lineups. No bullpen help to be found once starters tumble. Seattle's team ERA will be ugly.

It's tough to decipher how Seattle will score runs consistently from game to game. Huge question marks at every single position except for Ichiro in RF. 3B Figgins is coming off a career worst season. 1B Smoak, tagged as a future star, has struggled mightily during early stages of his career. SS is an offensive and defensive disaster with the Wilson's. Anyone's guess as to who will start at 2B. Seattle's around the horn combination is the weakest bunch of hitters and fielders in baseball. None are known for their defensive prowess. Only unproven strikeout artist Smoak offers power potential. None carry high OBA to the dish.

Ichiro's bat and absolutely stellar defense is the long bright spot. Michael Saunders figures to get opening day honors as starting LF. M's have been high on this unproductive kid. He looks lost as a major leaguer. CF sports another underachiever, Franklin Gutierrez. M's need these guys to mature quickly. Hot head locker room distraction Milton Bradley returns after a tumultuous 2010 campaign. He's competing for plate appearances against new DH Jack Cust.

Manager Eric Wedge hopes negatives turn to positives. Good luck. It's going to be a very long season. 100 losses nearly inevitable. A collectively weaker than most hitting, pitching and fielding units equates to doom and gloom. It's been a long time since predicting a team to lose 105-110 games. If ever there was a team suited to challenge Detroit's 2003 record for losses in a single season (119)... this is it.


Spring Training Spotlight: New York Mets

Permalink 03:52:13 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

Is there any magic left in Flushing? The ugliness known as the New York Mets has been well documented in blogs of mine. I've reserved nearly all vitriolic editorials squarely at management. By the way, Mets hierarchy and partners received yet another jolt Friday. The Madoff trustee assigned to recoup victims funds upped the ante to one billion dollars citing too cozy of a relationship between the parties. Plenty of suitors will be ready, willing and able for a shot at purchasing the Mets. Wilpon's have destroyed a proud franchise dragging it down to a laughingstock among those of us paying attention. Bad contracts, Madoff accusations, CitiField, minors in shambles, off field distractions, receiving operating loans from MLB and the list goes on. It's time for this crew to suck it up and step aside.

Enough of the sideshow. Let's talk Mets baseball. Leading off with their negatives. Carlos Beltran cannot be counted on contributing again. His knee is shot. Lost CF duties and can't even suit up to get comfortable in RF. He's done. It's not 2B for recently cut Luis Castillo. A talented player looked lost as a Met. Can Jose Reyes remain healthy for a change? He's a vital key to New York's attack. His certain all star career status has tarnished via considerable time spent on disabled lists. Southpaw supreme Santana's injury rehab has come under microscopic scrutiny of late. Rumors suggesting serious setbacks have been flatly denied by Mets brass never known for preaching truths. Mets bonus babies spent more time off the field than on. Pedro Martinez, Mo Vaughn, Carlos Delgado, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, Johann Santana and then last season's blowup by closer Rodriguez.

Is anyone out there expecting New York to succeed on any meaningful level in 2011? Mets players know the answer. No. This is New York's greatest strength. No one will see them coming. Mets have a great shot at a hot start setting the tone for determining 2011 baseball. Laugh if you must. Yes, they're an admitted long shot and I'm not jumping on their bandwagon yet. Just consider this....

Starting rotation puts fear into nobody. Starters would be wise to use this to their advantage when hitters aren't expecting much of a challenge. Good pitching wins games. Mets pitchers have given away a ton of games by not throwing strikes. Walks, hit batters, wild pitches and balks all contributed to failures. Mike Pelfrey, Jonathon Niese, R.A. Dickey and Chris Young are starters 1 through 4. Not household names by any means. But, they're good. If they can keep counts in their favor, avoid walks, throw strikes and get a solid dose of defense.... ? ? ?

Offense never found consistent rhythm in '10 largely due to injuries. They're supposed to be healthy and ready to resume doing what they do best. All eyes are on the new 2B competition. Castillo was cut opening the door for Luis Hernandez and Justin Turner to compete to become New York's newest second sacker. Reyes, Bay and team leader Wright are their most recognizable national names. Locally, fans should be confident Angel Pagan is quite capable of handling CF. 1B Ike Davis will be a mainstay for many years to come. Biggest question marks are 2B and C. Can Thole and Nickeas handle the load of playing everyday and managing an unproven pitching staff? Mets lineup has the ingredients to create havoc. Like I said earlier.. what makes this team dangerous is nobody expecting them to play well. Hitters might get lucky enough to see better pitches (challenged more often). Mets must capitalize on nearly every run producing situation if they're to have any shot at challenging for playoff possibilities.

There's a new sheriff in town going by the name of Manager Collins. He laid the law down early. 2011 is about on-field productions. Not off field distractions (guaranteed to be plentiful). Captain David Wright made a bold statement on day one of spring training. It's an old phrase with heavy importance for teammates. "Put up or shut up!" By all reasonable estimates, I pin New York's season on being lucky enough to squeak out 70-75 wins. A hot April start could quickly turn losers into believers. There's talent to be found but it must be a team effort. Hitting and running. Good outs which advance runners vs an over abundance of worthless strikeouts. Pitchers must throw strikes and stay ahead of hitters. Pretty much the same philosophy every manager attempts to drill into players heads. Mets have to want it more.

In my book, Mets starting rotation is the single biggest key. NL East is loaded with some the leagues best hurlers. Halladay, Oswalt, Lee, Hamels, Hudson, Hanson and Johnson. Time for Pelfrey, Niese, Dickey and Young to step up and deliver career years. Look for the Mets to be baseball's biggest trade deadline seller's if they fall behind early. Bay & Reyes will be easiest to unload. Wright doesn't want to go. Seaver didn't either so anything's possible. A slow beginning will assure this club of 90+ losses. A long April win streak could transform the New York Mets into baseball's uplifting story of the year. Time will tell.



In Case You Missed It...

Permalink 04:43:36 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

March Madness has arrived. Time for the best of the best in college basketball to rise to the top. Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh & Duke represent this year's tourney number one seeds. Will one of the favorites win it all or will a long shot peel off upset after upset? Thousands of fans entered their predictions in office pools and online forums hoping to walk away with a few extra bucks. Even President Obama, with the world on fire from wars to earthquakes to nuclear meltdowns, found time from his busy vacation schedule to create a self fulfilling bracket selection video. Too bad he's not as energetic when it comes to restoring fiscal stability to the United States!

Phillies players, coaches and fans have good reason to be concerned about Chase Utley's injury. There's a good chance he'll begin 2011 on the disabled list. His achy knee will probably be a chronic problem throughout the year. The Phils are cash strapped and publicly state they're not interested in any trades at this point to fill voids created by injury. 3B Polanco gave everyone a scare when coming up lame (elbow). He'll be ready to go after a few days rest. Utley is the main concern. His injury creates lineup and defensive problems while creating an excellent opportunity for NL East opponents to challenge for division title honors.

One of baseball's all time greatest players retired without much fanfare last year. Just the way he wanted. Ken Griffey, Jr. remained silent on his retirement until today. "I just felt that it was more important for me to retire and instead of being a distraction, it no longer became the Seattle Mariners, it became, 'When is Ken doing this? When is Ken doing that?' and that's something I didn't want to have my teammates, who I truly cared about, having to answer these types of questions day in and day out," Griffey said in Peoria, Ariz. "Second, I gave myself a little bit of a head start. There are a lot of people that are friends of mine that would have tried to talk me out of it. And I just felt that it was best for me and the organization to retire. Through no fault of its own. Things happen. I'm not upset," he told reporters. "I think people thought I was upset about certain things, but that's not the case."

Griffey was one of baseball's good guys on and off the field. His skills were second to none until injury problems started popping up. He always gave 110% every night leading to full speed crashes into outfield walls and torn hamstrings. I think almost all of his fans hoped for one last season of respectability before Griff hung up his spikes. It wasn't to be but shouldn't diminish anything "Junior" accomplished. A certain soon to be first time Hall of Famer.

New York Mets troubles never end. Management is being sued for $1billion, team up for sale, players hurting and ticket sales guaranteed to be way down in 2011. Oft injured Carlos Beltran's knees continue to flare up. He lost starting CF duties (now plays RF). It's now all but official Beltran will begin 2011 disabled. His career will never be the same. Add his name to the growing list of Mets free agent busts. Beltran's been a complete waste of money. Johann Santana and Mets officials continue to deny injury rehab rumors. It's been suggested, and strongly denied, Santana will not pitch this season. He was one of the games most dominant pitchers when healthy. Unfortunately, it appears he's done from live action for a very long time.

It really stings me when professional sports unions and owners do battle. It's absolutely disgusting hearing grown up athletes complaining they aren't getting paid enough? Does anyone know what the minimum salaries are in pro sports? High enough to place them in the upper 1% of world earners. To watch them moan and grown is pathetic. Are the players being treated unfairly by owners? No. Are they compensated at the highest rates in the world? Yes. What more do they want? When is enough enough? They don't deserve their current salaries yet it's not enough. Owners must cringe every time a player gets arrested for beating his wife, rape, drugs, DWI or murder. Coaches cringe when overpaid narcissists don't hustle or give up at key moments. And these guys want more? What is the average price of tickets to any major sporting event? Throw in transportation, food etc and tell me how a middle class family of four can afford a trip to the ballpark? Why are ticket prices to high? So owners can afford over priced players. Do the players care fans have to shell out big bucks? Not a chance. Time for the millionaire cry babies to take stock of how good they have it when the rest of the world struggles to put food on their tables and gas in their cars. Grow up!

NBA push for the playoffs is on. Would anyone have believed me if I told you months ago that the Chicago Bulls would own best record in the Eastern Conference? One really has to feel for Cleveland fans. Cavs basketball was strong. One of the leagues best. Advanced to conference semi-finals in 3 of last 5 years (lost), conference finals (lost) and NBA finals (lost). Star LeBron James toyed with them for much of the off season before deciding for big Miami Heat money. Now Cleveland is in shambles. 13-53 represents the NBA's worst record. Quite a turnaround. Cleveland owner's felt duped. Fans outraged. It will be a long time before Cleveland turns around this train wreck.

Can the Devils do it? New Jersey was left for dead during one of their worst starts in team history (5-13-2 & 10-29-2). Players were puzzled and disgruntled. Superstar net-minder Brodeur was playing terribly. After a 23-4-2 run the Devils find themselves within reach of the playoffs. Coach Jacques Lemaire to the rescue. They've won 24 since he took over a team in disarray. Brodeur's been stellar of late winning 15 of 18 after dropping 8 contests in a row during late December, early January. Devils still have work to do currently 6 points off the playoff pace. However, they're the leagues hottest team and playing exceptional hockey. Go Devils!



Spring Training Spotlight: Atlanta Braves

Permalink 06:23:04 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

2011 marks the first time in 20 years spring training began without Bobby Cox managing the Atlanta Braves. A new era of Braves baseball has begun. Atlanta's new manager Fredi Gonzalez takes over a very talented group of players. The Braves are in somewhat of a transformation stage. GM Wren did a masterful job assembling the 2011 roster. Injuries to key players on division rival clubs leaves Atlanta sitting pretty and ready to play ball.

When National League pitching is discussed most quickly bring up Philadelphia and San Francisco. Little attention has been focused on these four names: Derek Lowe (16-12, 4.00), Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83), Tommy Hanson (3.33) and Jair Jurrjens (2.60 in '09). All are sound. All give deep innings and quality starts. Braves front four will keep games close. Lowe and Hudson are steady vets. The future is bright for Hanson and Jurrjens. Hanson may actually churn out an Cy Young caliber season.

Braves bullpen is intriguing as they bring a new look staff into '11. Remember the name Craig Kimbrel. He's a flame thrower auditioning to become their new full time closer replacing retired Billy Wagner. A great future awaits this kid if he keeps his head screwed on straight. Good luck getting hits against the likes of Venters, O'Flaherty, Moylan, Linebrink, Sherrill and possibly Proctor. Gonzalez has plenty of options for key late inning match-ups. An injury free staff guarantees Atanta will be in the playoff hunt all season long.

The face of the Braves returns for one more season. Chipper Jones looks great recovering from MCL surgery. How well he holds up against the rigors of everyday play remains to be seen. Braves traded for 2B power man Dan Uggla. I like this move. Uggla's young and Atlanta secured a great lefty/righty power punch coupled with RF Heyward. Unfortunately, sophomore Heyward is battling back issues in spring training. Which McLouth will show up 2011? .190 from one year ago? Or the slick fielding 20 homer, .260 guy? Uggla's arrival shifts Prado to LF which has been problematic in Atlanta for a few seasons. Prado's a perfect fit. All Star backstop McCann hopes to remain healthy. He'll see plenty of RBI situations. 1B is Atanta's unknown. Freddie Freeman (who?) gets a shot to win the job. He's been okay so far during spring games. Veteran Hinske is backing up and main man off the bench in key pinch hitting situations.

I think Atlanta has a great formula for success in 2011. Key injuries most likely hurt Phillies chances of running away with the NL East opening the door for Atlanta. Overall excellent health, solid lineup and excellent pitching gives manager Gonzalez all the tools needed. All he has to do is find a way for the pieces to gel. Atlanta has a serious shot at World Series glory.



Spring Training Spotlight: Colorado Rockies

Permalink 04:50:37 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

Is Colorado ready to become best in the NL West? Rockies baseball isn't for weak heart fans. Late season heroics in two of three past years catapulted Colorado from being afterthoughts and into playoff baseball action. They were 11 games behind on August 21. Rockies then got hot after being left for dead running off victories in 17 of 21 and 20 of 26 contests to claw within one game of first place. Nearly everyone in the baseball world anticipated another late season Colorado baseball miracle. It didn't happen. They proceeded to drop 13 off their final 14 games finishing a distant 9 games behind. What's in store for 2011?

The Rockies are locked and loaded, for better or worse, as they've signed many players to long term deals. Several players recently received lucrative deals: SS Troy Tulowitzki - 7 years $134MM, LF -Carlos Gonzalez - 7 years $80MM, RP Matt Lindstrom - 2 years $6.6MM ($4MM club option for 2013 with a $200K buyout), SP Jason Hammel - 2 years $7.75MM, RP Rafael Betancourt - 1 year $4.25MM ($4.25MM mutual option for 2013 with a $250K buyout),RP - Matt Belisle - 2 years $6.125MM. Rockies gold rush spending could eventually burn bottom line numbers and simultaneously hamstring future rosters. Deals with extra years and dollars guaranteed to Huston Street, Chris Iannetta, and Aaron Cook were less than shrewd.

Colorado's offense is an anything can happen crew. Carlos Gonzalez & Tulowitzki form the new nucleus. Veteran Helton hopes to bring back glimmers of the player he once was. Plenty of question marks for the rest of their lineup. Is RF Smith ready for everyday action? Production and defense from new 2B (Lopez/Young)? Stewart's (MCL) ability to mature and stay healthy. Can CF Fowler step up his level of play? Former catcher of the future Iannetta has never lived up to bloated hype. Ty Wigginton provides plenty of pop and continues his fight for everyday playing time. Jason Giambi is chomping for more AB's. This might very well be Colorado's most powerless bunch of hitters in recent memory.

Another possible team first, pitching could be the Rockies strength heading into 2011. That's a scary thought. Only #1 starter and Cy Young runner-up Jiminez can be counted on to deliver a heavy dose of quality starts. It's a mixed bag for the rest especially if defense falters. De La Rosa, Chacin & Hammel round out 2-4 slots while #5 has yet to finalized. Bullpen will be heavily taxed due to starters anticipated failures to get deep into games.

2011 will be a long year for Rockies players and fans. Offense will have to produce. On paper, it's difficult figure out where runs will come from beyond Gonzalez and Tulo. If either were to miss significant time then this team is cooked. Pitchers need to reach back for a little extra while trying to keep their over worked arms sound.

Outlook. 2011 will be a very challenging season for manager Jim Tracy. Plenty of questions including how to get maximum production from a team hitting 72 points lower on the road than at home.