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Peter Gammons gets some people riled, but I find him harmless and amusing, especially compared to certain local columnists. He's well-connected in several front offices, and can always be counted on to pass along juicy rumours. In his latest, Gammons takes a look ahead at the upcoming season, including some fun lists, based on his personal poll of executives and scouts.

Mark Hendrickson's honourably mentioned as a potential impact rookie, Jason Arnold is named as a freshman to watch in the second half, Vernon Wells "could vault to star level," and Jeff Tam is among the "innocuous acquisitions who could surprise," but somehow the 2003 Blue Jays aren't included as a team that will outperform expectations.

Also on, favourable commentary from Jayson Stark and Jim Caple on the announcement by the Commissioner that home-field advantage in the World Series will be determined by which league wins the All-Star game. What a crock! If an exhibition game is going to matter so much, why not use the spring training standings? (I'm joking.) How about a coin flip? Though I'm against the whole concept of interleague play, doesn't it make more sense to use those results? Actually, nothing's wrong with the status quo of alternating. This is yet another Selig overreaction to yet another mess he created himself.

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_Kent - Saturday, January 11 2003 @ 03:54 PM EST (#99551) #
A plug here for Aaron Gleeman, whose blog (linked in the sidebar) is always entertaining. Smart kid, only 20, and in ten years has a chance to be 30. He agrees with me on Seligula's latest gaffe:

I mean, we already have the idiotic 1-player-per-team rule in place. Do we really want some guy from the Devil Rays and the best player on the Tigers going against the "All-Star" from the Brewers to determine whether or not the Yankees get homefield advantage over the Giants come October?

Aaron, no more politically correct than our PM's press secretary, calls the Commissioner a "moron" in his headline, and concludes, "Bud, don't f@#% with the World Series."
Craig B - Saturday, January 11 2003 @ 05:08 PM EST (#99552) #
Coach, alternating is as arbitrary as you get. I don't see the point of changing, but it can't be any worse.

somehow the 2003 Blue Jays aren't included as a team that will outperform expectations

Since they won 78 games last year, and most people think they will go around .500, I think that's right. They will almsot certainly be around .500. Teams like the Reds, White Sox, and Rangers are legitimately better than they showed last year... the Jays (though I personally think they will do very well) can't reasonably expect to outperform .500.

How the Cubs got on there, I will never know. A lot of people, including me, thought they were a contender last year. They were not; they were a legitimately bad team. Unlucky (VERY unlucky), but bad nevertheless. They haven't addressed their main weakness at all, which was that they can't get on base and can't keep anyone off the bases.

If the Cubs didn't have a strikeout staff, they would probably have given up a LOT of runs, and they were only 12th in ERA as it was. The staff has poor control, and more Carlos Zambrano won't help matters at all. (More Mark Prior should help some). They gave up a lot of home runs, (believe it or not, Wrigley is now a pitcher's park, such is the NL) and Prior won't help with that... he's a pretty extreme flyball pitcher. The three expensive new bullpen guys won't pitch more than 200 innings combined, and one of Beck and Veres is bound to be pretty bad in my view.

The Cubbies' defense stinks. An Alou-Patterson-Sosa outfield might have the worst range in baseball, even worse than Montreal or even San Diego (Nevin-Kotsay-Trammell? Really?). The infield defense isn't great either, with McGriff at first, Bellhorn having to make the throws from third, and possibly Bobby Hill at second. Hill is somewhat challenged at second, though he can hit.

On the offensive side, the OBP problems aren't going away. Getting Karros and Grudzielanek didn't help matters, Patterson has no on-base skills at all, Gonzalez is a joke, and while Damian Miller will be better than Joe Girardi, Mark Bellhorn isn't likely to repeat his superb age-27 season.

I think the Cubs will win 75-83 games... but I don't think that they will challenge. If the young pitchers start dropping (remember, Dusty Baker is in charge and likes to extend his starters) things could get ugly.
robertdudek - Saturday, January 11 2003 @ 06:16 PM EST (#99553) #
I strongly disagree with Coach about the proposed change for the All Star Game.

Games that have nothing at stake are inherently uninteresting. That's what the All-Star Game has become and that is not a good thing. World Series HFA would mean that SOMETHING tangible was on the line.

I think they should get rid of the 1 player per team rule BEFORE they make this change, so that the respective squads come as close as possible to being comprised of the best players in the league. Many of the players on the team will be members of playoff contenders, so there will be ample motivation to actually try to win the game from the players' perspective.

With something on the line, the manager will have to give more consideration to assembling the best squad possible, instead of rewarding his own loyal soldiers.
Coach - Saturday, January 11 2003 @ 09:54 PM EST (#99554) #
I've always considered the All-Star game an exhibition that's supposed to be fun, and inherently meaningless, while the seventh game of the World Series is something sacred. However, Craig's point is valid -- Anaheim got to host Game Seven because it was the AL's turn; had it been an odd-numbered year, maybe Barry would have his ring. Definitely arbitrary.

My gut reaction (and Aaron's) was that it's just wrong for the outcome of the Series to be determined by Aubrey Huff or Dmitri Young striking out with the bases loaded three months earlier. I'm also annoyed that the subject came up only because Bud got caught with his pants down in his home town; the proposed change isn't necessary, but I will concede it isn't any worse. It will obviously make the July game more exciting, as the outcome will matter to most of the players, and certainly to the managers. If MLB adopts Robert's suggestion so D-Rays and Tigers and Brewers won't have an impact, I can live with that.

I've stated elsewhere that I abhor interleague play, which taints each league's pennant races (ask the '02 Red Sox) because the matchups are so imbalanced, but since it's not going anywhere, interleague results would be a far better indicator of which league "deserves" HFA in a given year. Even with both All-Star teams trying, the result of one game is about as meaningful as throwing scissors-paper-rock, but it could be the tiebreaker if the "real" interleague games were evenly split.

What I'd really like to see is the White Rat's idea -- a neutral-site Series, with no days off, so your whole 25-man roster matters and it's hard to win with just two good starters. Best-of-nine would make it even better.
_ten42 - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 12:54 AM EST (#99555) #
The change was first proposed before the all-star game.
robertdudek - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 01:36 AM EST (#99556) #

The D-Rays, Tigers and Brewers play inter-league games so they would have an impact on who gets the HFA for the World Series if it were determined by inter-league record (unless only the Series participants' inter-league results count - but that would be double counting those games). The team with the better record? Different schedules, so that's unfair.

The proposal doesn't really impact the "fairness" or lack thereof of deciding HFA. Alternating seems to be "fair", but only in the sense that both leagues get the HFA an equal number of times.

What the proposal does do is make the All-Star game much more interesting, and that is something of value. I think the fans would be paying for a better product, and therefore be more interested in the ASG (a game with a lot of tradition behind it), if there was something on the line.
Coach - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 07:33 AM EST (#99557) #
Robert, you make a strong case, and while I haven't completely changed my mind, I no longer feel that this is a huge mistake. The effect of the weaker teams in 200+ interleague games still seems more valid than calling one of their mediocre players an all-star and having him possibly affect the WS outcome.

In the big picture, this is a relatively small issue. Since schedules are unbalanced, there's no obvious, fair way to determine HFA based on league or team performance. Using the results of interleague play isn't an ideal solution, I just think it's "less wrong" than using one game. On the other hand, the status quo isn't perfect, so I will stop defending it. (Upon further reflection, my initial outrage stems from Selig, who I loathe, trying to "fix" something he helped to "break," nothing more.)

I agree that a more meaningful ASG is a positive step, but I wonder -- if one league happens to win four or five straight Midseason Classics and parlays that into Fall Classic success, what kind of outcry will arise from fans, and teams in the other league?
robertdudek - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 10:55 AM EST (#99558) #
"if one league happens to win four or five straight Midseason Classics and parlays that into Fall Classic success, what kind of outcry will arise from fans, and teams in the other league?"

Well, then they ought to try harder to win the game :-)
Coach - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 01:38 PM EST (#99559) #
I'm really only including this Art Thiel column (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) because he begins it with the same joke I used above:

"Incredible as it seems, Milwaukee, the home of the office of baseball's commissioner, has run out of paper, scissors and rocks."

Another cute line:

"My preference would have been to award home advantage to the league of the Home Run Derby winner."

Thiel isn't just a wisecracker; he mentions one of Robert's points:

"The All-Star Game is already faulty by design: Mandatory participation by each team. Until baseball loses its dubious distinction of having every team represented on the rosters, it isn't a true game of stars. It's a game of marketing."

Hear, hear. That should be central to any changes.
robertdudek - Monday, January 13 2003 @ 11:25 PM EST (#99560) #
I'm going to pick a pair of 25-man squads - and I dare anyone to tell me that they wouldn't find a game between these two teams interesting if there was something on the line.

AL: (P) Pedro Martinez, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Derek Lowe, Mariano Rivera, Troy Percival, Keith Foulke, Arthur Rhodes; (C) Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada; (INF) Jason Giambi, Carlos Delgado, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Kennedy (for defence) Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez; (OF) Bernie Williams, Magglio Ordonez, Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Ramirez, Torii Hunter (defence).

NL (P) Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux, Roy Oswalt, Bartolo Colon, Octavio Dotel, Byun-Hyun Kim, Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, Billy Wagner; (C) Mike Piazza, Paul LoDuca; (INF) Todd Helton, Jim Thome, Jeff Kent, Edgar Renteria (not many shortstops to choose from), Scott Rolen, Edgardo Alfonzo (useful utility infielder); (OF) Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Brian Giles, Shawn Green, Lance Berkman, Chipper Jones,

I had to leave Sosa and Abreu off the team because there were too many outfielders.

Those are my choices. Many other players could be considered (feel free to make your own teams).

I'd guess that at least 80% of these players would be playing for legitimate contenders at the mid-season point.
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