Peter Gammons' take on the competitive, if inferior National League. Entertaining, with great anonymous quotes:
"What will be interesting will be to see what teams are willing to take on payroll to try and win," says one GM. "The Dodgers and Braves are for sale by their corporate owners."
Don't expect the tightwad Marlins, homeless Expos or mortgaged-to-the-hilt Diamondbacks to be spending, either. That's a big edge for the Cards, Phillies, Astros and Giants, who might bite the bullet on a Shannon Stewart or a Kelvim Escobar at the deadline. But I think PG's right -- several very good teams could make it to the World Series, while the three or four best teams in baseball battle it out in the AL playoffs. That should make for exciting pennant races and enthusiam in more NL cities.
"The baseball economy may be very tight," says another GM. "The economy, in general, is poor, a lot of owners have lost a lot of their own money and with the threat of war coming right in the middle of spring training, we may have a difficult time focusing fan interest."
Speaking only for myself, distractions like baseball are necessary to maintain a semblance of sanity when the rest of the world is losing its mind.
Gammons says, "GM Dan O'Dowd is learning that there may be no logical way to build a winner at Coors Field short of allowing them to carry 15 pitchers at home and 17 position players on the road." That's a good line, and marks the first time O'Dowd's name has ever appeared in a sentence with 'learning' or 'logical'. I think Petey overrates the Cubs -- the Angels of 2003? -- and if they are even contenders, I will nominate Dusty Baker for baseball sainthood.
[tangent] Chuck made his point very well on the surprisingly lively Wells thread yesterday -- attacking Griffin and Elliott, when we already know exactly what to expect from them, has become redundant. The same fish-in-a-barrel analogy applies to deconstructing Gammons. There isn't a Batter's Box style guide; every author is on his own, but I'll tone down the criticism. I still think the most inflammatory columns (and the occasional one where a fact slips in) should be linked, not completely ignored, and people can say whatever they want in their comments, but I will attempt to control myself. I was running out of new ways to express my disgust, anyway. Oh, and Chuck -- "probing" and "Russ Meyer" was a wonderful straight line, but after considering a few tasteless responses, I had to pass. :) [/t]
Getting back to the ESPN gang, Jayson Stark has a bunch of "useless information" that some of you may find interesting. He's not the most sabrmetrically-correct columnist, but I enjoy observations like this:
No starting pitcher (with at least 162 IP) held both left-handers and right-handers under .200. And only Pedro Martinez came close (.203 by lefties, .191 righties). Closest by a National League pitcher? Nope, don't look for Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling or Kerry Wood on top of this list. The winner: Matt Clement (.220 lefties, .212 righties). You can look it up.
If you include relievers, the anchors of the Astros bullpen were the two best pitchers in baseball last year, by this yardstick. Billy Wagner (.180 v. LH, .201 v. RH) was better than Pedro, and Octavio Dotel (.190 v. LH, .159 v. RH) should be moved up to a higher league.
Quick hits: Miguel Tejada and his Dominican Republic mates won the Caribbean Series over the Raul Mondesi-led Puerto Rican team. And, because the Mariners start a week early against the A's in Japan, their pitchers and catchers report to spring training today. For the Blue Jays, that's next Saturday, but this still is more significant to me than Wiarton Willie or Punxsutawney Phil; it marks the end of winter. Just 43 days until an ump -- not Bruce Froemming -- hollers the magic words.