October 2005

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Book Review: Bill Simmons Now I Can Die In Peace

I just polished off Bill Simmons's new book.  It's called Now I Can Die In Peace: How ESPN's Sports Guy Found Salvation, With a Little Help From Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank and the 2004 Red Sox.  Yep, that whole thing is the title - it's a little much. 

I didn't know much about Simmons until recently.  I had stumbled across his column occasionally, and it always gave me a chuckle.  His new book kept popping up on my Amazon recommendations, so I gave it a chance.  Also popping up on my list: Lord of the Rings Platinum Series Special Extended Edition.  That three hour creation would actually be my own personal version of hell, so you have to take Amazon recs with a grain of salt.

Not being too familiar with Simmons's past writing made the book far more enjoyable for me.  I definitely didn't feel cheated out of my $15.37 after I finished this book.  If I were a regular Simmons reader, I may have been pissed.  It's just a reprinting of his more interesting and relevant columns as they pertain to the Red Sox eventually winning the 2004 World Series.  Then again, Simmons more than throws his regulars a bone - he includes five hundred lovingly crafted footnotes with his musings and factoids.  Loved the footnotes. 

Bill's style is a breeze to read and never gets boring.  His columns read like a barroom conversation, only more pithy.  The book is mostly Red Sox baseball, but with plenty of amusing digressions.  For example, Bill missed Pedro's 17 K one-hitter to attend a friend's wedding in 1999.  His adventures during the wedding are more entertaining than any description of Pedro's game could've been.  A hilarious Life Goes On reference is the icing on the cake. 

My favorite chapter/column of the book was Bill's breakdown of the ESPN documentary Outside the Lines as they covered the Manny Ramirez free agent negotiations.  I laughed out loud as Simmons described the incredibly awkward interactions between antisocial Boston GM Dan Duquette and man-child Manny.  Another recurring reference that was always effective was The Derek Lowe Face.  This is described as the face you make when you're on the toilet and you realize there's no toilet paper.  I actually laughed out loud more than five times while reading this book.


Honestly, that's all you really need to know.  It's laugh-out-loud funny, packed with pop culture references, and doesn't pull any punches.  Now I Can Die In Peace is probably one of two worthy Red Sox books in a sea of quickie writeups.  The other is Baseball Prospectus's Mind Game, and a review is on the way.

Today's pick: (1-3, -$170)
Paul Byrd (+210) over Randy Johnson (-250)

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Mark Gonzales Interview

Mark Gonzales is the Chicago White Sox beat writer for the Chicago Tribune.  This week Mark was kind enough to do an interview for RotoAuthority.com.  Check out Mark's well-informed, sometimes surprising answers below. 

RotoAuthority:  Should the White Sox use Brandon McCarthy as a starter or a reliever for the playoffs?

Mark Gonzales:  I believe McCarthy should have been on the roster. Simply, he deserved to be on the roster. If the Sox plan to add him to the ALCS roster should they make it that far, he will have no game action for at least nine days and probably two weeks.

RA: Does Carl Everett deserve his reputation as one of baseball's biggest jerks?

MG:  Speaking for myself, Carl Everett has treated me very well. He's good with his teammates. Sure, he has strong opinions on certain topics. But he knows how to play the game. He slides hard and clean into second base to break up double plays. He once pointed out to us early in April that Tadahito Iguchi would have to learn quickly that base runners aren't as gentlemanly as those in Japan and would have to adjust accordingly. All I can tell you is that Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News liked covering Carl, and Shea Hillenbrand appreciated learning from Carl during his days in Boston.

RA: Anything interesting about Ozzie that the general public might not know?

MG: He's very committed to his charity work, yet he doesn't let the whole world know about his efforts.

RA: Can the White Sox lineup score enough runs to succeed in the playoffs? Why do you think the team doesn't recognize the importance of OBP?

MG: Even after a 14-run performance in Game 1, the jury is still out on the offense. But they seem more relaxed and confident now that Scott Podsednik is getting on base more often. The White Sox are what I call a tools organization. They'll take their chances with Juan Uribe, A.J. Pierzynski and Joe Crede because the upside is so great.

RA: Your 2005 White Sox MVP and why?

MG: Paul Konerko is the granite of this team. His defense has gotten better, but his bat is the biggest plus.

RA: Will Ozzie really retire if the Sox win the World Series?

MG: I don't think so. Ozzie is too young to step away from this (as well as three more years guaranteed).

RA: What is the chance of Frank Thomas returning for 2006 at a reduced rate?

MG: It all depends on Frank's ankle. If it heals by spring training, I think you'll see him back. But keep in mind that the Sox have to find a spot for Brian Anderson somewhere in the lineup. He's done enough at Triple-A Charlotte, and Carl Everett also is an option (perhaps at a reduced rate).

RA: Has Bobby Jenks shown enough to be anointed the full-time closer in 2006? Or do you think Ozzie will just play the match-ups and the hot hand when choosing late-inning relievers?

MG: A lot depends on Bobby's ability to put some tail in his fastball and Hermanson's health. Ozzie hasn't been afraid to use the hot hand, so this could be a work in progress again.

RA: Let's say you replace Kenny Williams. What size and length contract would you offer Paul Konerko this winter, if any?

MG: Four years, $44 million. The man deserves it, based on his production and durability.

RA: What free agents do you expect the Sox to pursue this offseason? Will A.J. Burnett or Nomar Garciaparra be in the mix?

MG: Ken Williams realizes the free agent market is thin. It might be best to re-sign Konerko and add a "swing" pitcher who can start and relieve.

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Jake Peavy Owes Me $20

I'm not kidding.  I want Jake Peavy to send me twenty bucks.  He made $750,000 this year, so that would constitute about .0027% of his paycheck.

Peavy's undisclosed, idiotic injury is probably what caused the odds to be so heavily stacked in St. Louis's favor before yesterday's game.  The money line for that game ranged from +160 to +180, meaning a $10 bet would win you $16-18.  Pretty good odds for one of the best young pitchers in the National League.  So I threw down $10 for Peavy to win the game.  My guess is that oddsmakers already knew about the injury before setting the line.

I also bet the under on the number of hits Peavy would allow, which was set at 6.  In a typical game this year, Peavy allowed less than six hits in his start, so it seemed like a solid venture.  Of course, Peavy surrendered 246 hits yesterday. 

In case you weren't aware, Peavy fractured two ribs during the Padres group hug or pileup or whatever it was.  Maybe this will start some momentum towards putting an end to annoying hopping group hugs.

At any rate, Jake, you owe me at least $20 for not telling anyone about your injury and trying to pitch through it.  Did you really think it was noble to get through four innings and give up 82 runs?  Oil Can Boyd could've done that.  Now the Padres chances of getting past the Cardinals went from somewhat possible to a snowball's chance in hell.  So much for that Padres-Angels World Series I was envisioning.  Jake, I'll take that in two tens.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka Gyroball Video

Today I have highly sought-after video of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japanese phenom, throwing his mysterious gyroball. 

Read more about Matsuzaka and the gyroball here.   The video is below.

Download gyroballvideo.mpeg

Also, I have some new information concerning the "gyroball revolution" here in the U.S.  Seems that Baseball Prospectus injury guru Will Carroll has taught the pitch to an Indiana high school kid named Joey Niezer.  Will mentioned to me in an August interview that he is the only person who knows how to teach the gyroball.  I thought he was just messing around, but it might be true.  At least in this country.  It's an interesting interview so check it out if you haven't already.

Bonus:  The Juice blog has a QuickTime video up of Niezer throwing the gyroball during practice, filmed from behind a chain-link fence. 

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San Diego Padres to Upset Cardinals

Yeah, that's right.  The Cardinals are going down in the first round.  I finally have something in common with Buster Olney, who also picked the Padres to defeat St. Louis.  (OK, we have two things in common - my first name is also Buster.)

Buster and me aren't the only ones picking against the winningest team in baseball.  David  Pinto of Baseball Musings won't come right out and say it, but he does hint at a possible upset.  Pinto mentions that the Padres have "five pitchers that can blow batters away."  Which brings me to my first reason for Padre victory:

Deep Bullpen That Misses Bats

In a five game series, this goes a long way.  Having four dominant relievers lessens the load on a team's weaker starters, and the Padres have plenty of those.  The Hoffman-Seanez-Otsuka-Linebrink beast can turn a game into a four inning affair.  I call it Hofbrinksukanez.  If Adam Eaton puts all of his energy into throwing four or five solid innings, that may be enough for a victory.  The Cards have a nice bullpen, although they just lost top strikeout artist Al Reyes

Jake Freakin' Peavy

Peavy was awesome this year.  His 9.58 K/9 was second only to Mark Prior among starters.  Plus, Peavy should have some gas left in the tank after throwing forty innings less than Chris Carpenter.  He's coming off a dominant mean streak for the last two months.  Remember why the Marlins won in 2003?  Josh Beckett.  Peavy can be this year's Beckett.  I think the 24 year-old can carry the team and win two games in the NLDS.

Chris Carpenter Looks Shaky

Admit it, Cardinals fans - you're worried about Carpenter now.  No doubt he had an incredible season, but the 5.73 September ERA is no small concern.  He's never pitched so many innings in his life.  If Carpenter reverts back to his good but not great 2004 form, the Cards will lack the ace that every playoff team needs.  Much like the White Sox, their rotation is built for the long haul, not a five game series.

Overrated Cardinals Hitters

Pujols is a superstar, and Edmonds is very good.  Edmonds is fighting a strained shoulder at the moment however.  Larry Walker is on life support, relying on cortisone shots.  Some combination of the three will be formidable, but this isn't Manny/Papi by any stretch.  The Cardinal lineup is fully capable of being subdued by Jake Peavy.


That's right, good ole' Lady Luck makes a Padre win plenty possible even if their team were blatantly inferior.  Check out some of the streaks this Mystery Team conjured up:

  • Won 2 of 3 from Angels in April
  • Swept 3 from Yankees in late May/early June
  • Took 2 of 3 from White Sox in July
  • Won 2 of 3 from Oakland in August
  • Won another 2 of 3 from Boston in August
  • Beat the White Sox 2 of 3 again in September

Of course, I'm talking about the Kansas City Royals.  Absolutely anything can happen during a short series.  That's why you should get some money down on the Padres to win the NLDS.  You'll get 3 to 1 odds on that.  As World Series Champs?  30 to 1.  You could turn $20 into $600.  If Peavy's on his game, it could happen. 

Today's pick: (1-2, -$70)
Jake Peavy (+160) over Chris Carpenter (-200)

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2006 Chicago Cubs Schedule

The Cubs are usually the last team to put out their schedule, and it's not out yet.  I guess they want to build suspense.  Nonetheless, Al from Bleed Cubbie Blue took on the project of determining the Cubs 2006 schedule based on ones that have already been released for other teams.  Reminds me of one of those word problems from 4th grade.  Man, I hated those.  Anyway, thanks Al!  Follow the link to check it out.

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MLB Free Agents 2006: Konerko and Other 1Bs

Wondering who's going to fill your favorite team's bottomless first base hole?  Desperate Mets fan wondering what Plan B is if you don't get Manny? 

Worry no more, as the 2006 MLB Free Agents - First Basemen column is now posted over at Addict Fantasy Sports.  Get the lowdown on Paul Konerko and all those other big lumbering power hitters.  Let me know what you think.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena

Awful Reds GM Dan O'Brien finally caught up today, realizing that he had a surplus of outfielders about a year after most casual baseball fans.  Will he trade the right one?

Almost certainly not. The Cincinnati media seems to have helped O'Brien narrow the trade candidates to Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena.  In reality, dumping Ken Griffey Jr. for any formidable prospect would've been a major win for the Reds.  If the rumored White Sox offer of Brandon McCarthy and Chris Young for Griffey was true, the Reds missed a huge opportunity.  I'd pull the trigger for just one of the two.  Young could approximate Griffey's production by 2007. 

But it seems the Reds want to hold onto Griffey and wait for his next devastating injury.  Hopefully, O'Brien will have the common sense to look past Adam Dunn's batting average and strikeouts and realize that he's a franchise player.  If it comes down to Kearns and Pena, which should O'Brien deal?

Wily Mo Pena had a disappointing 2005, hitting .254 with 19 home runs and a terrible .304 OBP.  Nagging injuries followed Pena this year.  Even in limited playing time, Pena's awesome power was evident. 


It's very possible he'll be a 40 HR guy for many years to come.  The poor plate discipline and burgeoning power...Pena looks a lot like a young Sammy Sosa.  Pena boasts Albert Belle, George Foster, and Dale Murphy as other comparables.  Former Sosa hitting coach Jeff Pentland is out of work; the Reds should bring him in as a consultant and hang on to Pena.   

Austin Kearns hit .240 with 18 home runs and an average .333 OBP this season.  This was disappointing to Reds management but should have been expected.  Kearns is still living off his flukey 2002, when he hit .315.  Kearns can still be a very good player one day, but he doesn't have quite the superstar potential of Pena. 

Similar to Michael Barrett getting out of Montreal, a change of scenery could actually help Kearns realize his potential.  The Reds should deal him to Oakland for Barry Zito.  If everything falls into place on the West Coast, Kearns could become Lance Berkman on the high end.  If things don't work out, you're probably looking at another Ron Swoboda.  Either way, the Reds should extract some affordable pitching before Kearns's market value declines further.

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