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So spring training got under way yesterday, and in case you missed the thrilling news, the Washington Nationals won their “first game.” Never mind that the Expos, or the Team Formerly Known as The Expos, played a few thousand games. Real ones, even. Worse, I have actually seen the Nationals referred to as an “expansion team.” Granted, some of their players are expansion-esque, but that is another matter. On the other hand, are they really expansion-esque? Yes, they are.

No, that’s still glib. But their roster is a random assemblage of has-beens, never-weres, were-supposed-to-have-beens, actual baseball players, and various permutations of such types. Have a peek at a selected few:
Vinny Castilla
Jeffrey Hammonds
Nick Johnson
Livan Hernandez
Cristian Guzman
Esteban Loaiza (get over it, Jays fans; I’ve gotten over Jeremy Gia . . . wait, I haven’t)
Antonio Osuna
Jon Rauch
Wil Cordero
Alex Escobar
Jose Guillen
Brad Wilkerson
Jose Vidro
Termel Sledge
Gary Bennett
John Patterson
As you can see, that talent, while it would not rival the Red Sox or even the White Sox, is superior to a real expansion team. But some of those names are exactly who you’d expect to see on, say, your 2007 Mexico City Altos or Portland Tenors. I can't say exactly why I feel this way about the 2005 Washington Nationals and not about, say, the Brewers, but all-in-all this is a fascinating collection of players.

This brings me to—remember these?—today’s QOTD: What team is going to be the most interesting in the majors in 2005? I don’t mean “best” or “worst” or “could win the division if things break right.” I simply mean . . . interesting. As in, which team will lead the league in pointless, but often genuinely amusing, off-field anectodes? (And feel free to post any Jays link you'd like, and other general baseball news for that matter.)
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
gv27 - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 03:14 AM EST (#104256) #
I'll take the Orioles as the source of summer-long mini-dramas. If Sidney Ponson was driven to smack someone around on a beach in Aruba because he's tired of being the national focus, wait till he starts the season 0-and-7.

That Lee Mazzilli demands to hear as much Dean Martin as 50 Cent in the clubhouse won't go over well with Sammy, especially when Sammy demands a quarter of the space in said clubhouse.

By mid-season, Bruce Chen will wish he could find employment with a 10th major league team, Erik Bedard won't mind throwing for the Ottawa Lynx (hey, it's close to home!) and Carlos Delgado will be happy he chose Florida.
CaramonLS - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 04:02 AM EST (#104257) #
Giants: Barry will be a continuous source of entertainment. Look for more to come from his beak: It doesn't get much better than starting a press conference with "you are all a bunch of liars".

Dodgers: Milton Bradley. Probably a good bet for 2-3 blowups this year.

Baltimore: Sosa and Ponson.

Texas vs. Oakland: "The Chair".

Gerry - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 09:01 AM EST (#104258) #
The Mets could be interesting, if Pedro does not pitch well to start the year the NY media could get on his case quickly.

The most interesting on field story will be the A's, can the revamped rotation of kids challenge in the division?
Marc Hulet - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 09:22 AM EST (#104259) #
I agree that the A's will certainly be interesting this year... their whole identity for about the last five years has been linked to Hudson, Mulder and Zito. Now it's Zito and some other guys. The A's have put a lot of faith in their bullpen and starting lineup, because their rotation - even with Zito and an up-and-coming Harden - is not going to dominate game in and game out.

As well, the Marlins will be a team to watch if their young pitchers hold up to the grind of a long season. The offence is the best it has been in Florida since about 1997. The National League East race should be more open this year, with Atlanta's offence getting older and a totally revamped starting rotation.

The Mets have some more talent but I am not sure the chemistry is going to be there. Also Beltran only hit .267 during the regular season... how well will he do under constant scrutiny for 162 games?

I previewed the National League East at my Washington Nationals blog site if anyone is interested.

Named For Hank - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 10:00 AM EST (#104262) #
Ben Jacobs of The Hardball Times ranks the Jays 20th out of 30 on their offseason dealings. Well, that's better than I'd expect after most of our moaning here.

I'm personally more optimistic about Hinske's potential this year than he is, but he mostly echos the chatter at the Box: too many third basemen, none of them hit well enough to be DH or 1B.

Oh, and I heard on the radio that Billy Koch nailed an umpire in the chest with a fastball at the intersquad game yesterday, in the middle of giving up five runs. Ow!

Jordan - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 10:08 AM EST (#104263) #
It's a long shot, but the Diamondbacks' attempt to buy their way out of the cellar with $70M worth of B-level players should be an interesting roadside attraction. I think they're trying to emulate the 2004 Tigers, and while that's not exactly a lofty goal, at least it's a goal.

The Indians look like the next breakout team. If their pitching catches up with their hitting sooner than expected, they could be quite a show.
Pistol - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 10:47 AM EST (#104264) #
You know, I think the Indians may be a team this year that takes a step back, just like Toronto did last year. There's quite a few parallels between those teams.
Mike Green - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 11:04 AM EST (#104266) #
The major differences between the Indians of 04 and the Jays of 03 are:

-Cleveland has a much deeper offence, and much stronger major-league ready hitting talent, and
-Cleveland plays in a much weaker division.

The major similarity, I suppose, would be the shared miserable bullpen performance.

I expect the Twins and Indians to fight it out for the division title over the next few years.
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 11:05 AM EST (#104267) #
There's a good Fordin piece on replacement players at It sheds a little light on Ligtenberg and Menechino's specific situations.
John Northey - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 12:12 PM EST (#104273) #
Very nice piece. Points out the benefit for Ligtenberg and the problems for Menechino and how crossing the line will always be something they have to live with. A lot more even handed than I'd expect from given the fear I have about what happens when the current contract runs out.
Mike Green - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 12:20 PM EST (#104275) #

Here is a fascinating look by THT's Tom Meagher at the source of home-field advantage. It turns out that it mostly revolves around home plate, Ks and BBs. I wonder if the same phenomenon was observed under Questec.

Craig B - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 03:00 PM EST (#104287) #
My pick for most interesting is definitely the New York Yankees. I think the Yankees are going to be pretty ordinary for at least a good chunk of the season, and I wonder if the team isn't ripe for a collapse into finger-pointing and scapegoating should they struggle at any point.

If not the Yankees, I think the big story might be Detroit. I expect the Tigers to challenge the Twins this year (there's a sneak peek of my upcoming Detroit preview) and for once we might see a team hitting consistent headlines for good reasons, rather than bad.
Gerry - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 04:15 PM EST (#104304) #
Speaking of Canadian topics (hows about that segway?), congratulations to Jamie Campbell who was appointed Blue Jay play by play man for Sportsnet broadcasts. A lifelong Blue Jay fan gets to be the play by play guy, what'll they think of next?
Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 04:21 PM EST (#104306) #
Here's the news on Jamie Campbell: "Jamie Campbell joins Jays team". I'm excited to get someone in there who is a fan of both the game and the Jays, as shown by this quote:

"It may sound a little cliché, but this opportunity is a dream come true," said Campbell. "I spent much of my youth traveling alone on the Go Train from my home in Oakville to Exhibition Stadium to watch the Blue Jays from the cheap seats (they were $4 at the time) in right field. Now I get the best seat in the house!"

Congrats, Mr. Campbell!

Named For Hank - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 04:39 PM EST (#104307) #
Hey, I didn't know Campbell lived in Oakville. Well.. he doesn't shop at my store.

But neither do any of the rest of you, so I guess I'll cut him some slack.
Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 04:40 PM EST (#104308) #
Why would I shop at your store? You don't sell coffee! :)
Named For Hank - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 04:45 PM EST (#104309) #
There's free coffee at the back for regulars, you dolt. :D
Pepper Moffatt - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 04:49 PM EST (#104310) #
That's precisely my point! You don't sell coffee, you give it away! That doesn't help me any if I want to buy a coffee, you goofball!
Lefty - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 06:16 PM EST (#104316) #
Was it a called strike?
King Ryan - Thursday, March 03 2005 @ 08:58 PM EST (#104325) #
(And feel free to post any Jays link you'd like, and other general baseball news for that matter.)


Spencer Fordin article from Yesterday.

It's mostly about Billy Koch getting beaten up by the Dave Bergs of the team, but I found the second part interesting, where Reed Johnson discusses how he's worked on his ability to draw walks. I thought this was supposed to be a skill that you couldn't develop at a later age, so it'll be interesting to see if Johnson displays more patience this year.

gv27 - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 12:27 AM EST (#104336) #
Hey Aaron, what is your store called? One of the '77 Jays (starting pitcher) lived just steps from Sheridan College during his time in Toronto. Name him, and I will personally drive to your store for a cup of that free coffee.
perlhack - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 09:41 AM EST (#104344) #

In today's Toronto Star, there's a story about Dustin McGowan. Apparently, he'll start in A-Ball (presumably Dunedin), and will be promoted to AA when the weather turns warmer. I think most Bauxites expected McGowan to start the season in AA.

There's also an article about Delgado, in which he vents some frustration at certain organizations that tried to acquire his services, namely the Mets and Orioles. It appears Carlos was very interested in playing in Baltimore.

Mike Green - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 09:44 AM EST (#104345) #

John Brattain weighs in in today's THT on the baseball implications of the NHL strike, a subject close to our collective soul.

He will be doing a Jay preview later this month, and it appears that the phrase "lost opportunity" might be part of it, judging from all the time he's spent banging his head against a wall.

Gerry - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 10:29 AM EST (#104352) #
If I may toot my own horn, check this thread where I say "Dustin McGowan should be back and ready to go. I would start him in Dunedin to take advantage of the better weather"
Gerry - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 10:31 AM EST (#104353) #
I almost forgot, Its GAMEDAY!!! Yippee! Five months of waiting over.
Named For Hank - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 10:53 AM EST (#104359) #
gv, the store's called Photographic Solutions, at Cross and Trafalgar (in the plaza with Licks and Taco Bell). And I spent the morning trying to cheat out the answer to your trivia question without success... d'oh! Rotten Google!
gv27 - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 01:34 PM EST (#104439) #
I know exactly where you are. Not far from the Go Station! The answer is Jesse Jefferson, and I'm coming to visit anyway!
Named For Hank - Friday, March 04 2005 @ 03:47 PM EST (#104555) #
Woo! Gimme some notice so I can have a fresh pot of coffee on for ya.
binnister - Thursday, March 10 2005 @ 12:41 PM EST (#105416) #
(Still no idea where to put 'Off topic' stuff/inquires)

Subject: Rick Ankiel --> Pitcher turns Outfielder

Just read an article at THT that outlines the trials and tribulations of this once 'can't miss' blue chip. The article goes on to speculate that this conversion may be a ruse of some sort, in that Ankiel is now out of options & would likely be snaped up if he had to clear waivers.

Question: If you were the Blue Jays brass, would you claim Rick Ankiel off waivers, if the opportunity arose?

I honestly don't know the in's and out's of waiver claim's, but there are some real positives that would work in the Blue Jay's favour:

1) If, as the article speculates, Ankiel's colapses are due to extreme pressure, Toronto is about the lowest pressure situation that you can get in the Major Leagues.

2) Recent positive press on the Blue Jays in SI. Toronto is now (perhaps) on the radar as being a desirable spot to land.

3) Recent positive press on the Blue Jays pitching coach. Might the "Angesburg(sp?) Effect" be a intriguing draw for a talented ex-pitcher to give it one more try?

On the negative side, someone would have to lose there spot on the roster (I think) and monetary cost. Money would be the stumbling block (with the recent commitment by Rogers), but what might be problematic is who the Blue Jays would (potentially) lose.

Craig B - Thursday, March 10 2005 @ 02:54 PM EST (#105428) #
If you were the Blue Jays brass, would you claim Rick Ankiel off waivers, if the opportunity arose?

Ankiel's frustrations with pitching have now completely boiled over, and it was entirely his decision not to pitch anymore.

I'd be hesitant to claim him and say "Rick, we want you to pitch again". Ankiel probably doesn't really need the money; I'm wondering if he mightn't just retire if someone tried to make him pitch, in which case you've completely buggered his career for no good reason.

On the other hand, if you're willing to give him a shot as the 25th man while he tries to learn to be a position player on the fly, well go for it - the possibility that he might change his mind later is positive. Certainly a team like Toronto, where there's a fair amount of young talent pressing to get in the team, isn't the right fit there. Even more so, if you can manage to get him and pass him through to the minors, I think you have to take a chance on him. Send him to low-A, give him an outfielder's mitt, and let him forget all about pitching for a few months - in the hope that he'll come around and start up again.

Personally, I bet that Ankiel lasts about ten weeks in the minors as an outfielder before he starts throwing again. Just the process of having his young teammates talk to him about pitching (who wouldn't talk to a former major leaguer about these things to soak up what he knows?) might light his fire again.

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