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I stopped buying USA Today's Sports Weekly when it became a football publication. I miss reading the old Baseball Weekly, but still visit the Web site. Fantasy guru John Hunt has published his best guesses for AL regulars, complete with batting orders. He loves your Toronto Blue Jays:

It probably won't take long for the Jays to drop Hinske down to the sixth spot and put Catalanotto at No. 2, but the Jays were clicking with Hinske in that second spot last year. No matter where Hinske ends up, this could be the best lineup in the league, and you should bid accordingly.

On a college hoops weekend, this is mainly for those who are still drafting, but I'm curious -- among the many Internet sites featuring depth charts and lineups, which are the best? Hunt makes some guesses I don't agree with, and misses some injuries; Dan Wilson won't be the M's #1 C for a while, and I suspect Greg Vaughn's going to be released. ESPN disappoints, as it's not updated often enough to reflect last-minute changes, and often has stale -- Dewayne Wise? -- info. Roto Times isn't bad, but I've yet to locate the definitive (free) source. Any suggestions?
The Hall of Merit is a fascinating project being run by my friend Joe "Scruff" Dimino and is being hosted by Baseball Primer. We are re-voting for the Hall of Fame "as it ought to have been done", and are beginning with a first vote in 1906.
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The Saskatoon Legends of the Canadian Baseball League have announced that former MLB star Ron LeFlore will be their manager this season.

With LeFlore in Saskatoon, and Willie Wilson managing the London Monarchs, the CBL may have more basestealing talent in the dugouts than on the field!
Josh Phelps played nine "uneventful" innings at 1B in yesterday's 4-3 "B" team loss to the Twins. Carlos Delgado is having a scar tissue problem on his knee, "nothing major" according to his manager. Phelps walloped a pitch the opposite way for a HR to put his team in front, but after four solid innings from Doug Linton, Corey Thurman, Aquilino Lopez (5 K in 2 IP) and Scott Wiggins couldn't seal the deal. Here's the box score.

The O-Dawg played five innings the night before, but is nursing a tender wrist, also not considered serious. Frank Catalanotto walked twice as the DH and says he's feeling great after missing more than two weeks:

"I'm just happy because my back felt great. There was no pain at all," he said. "I think we're on the right track. Hopefully, tomorrow, I'll get 3 at-bats and progress from there. Maybe even start playing the outfield soon. If it's not tomorrow, I think it will be the day after. I don't think I'm far away from getting back in the field."

Excellent news, unless you're Rob Ryan or Bruce Aven. Finally, while checking out the latest spring stats at USA Today, I noticed a headline: "Broad seeking Dodgers." Kind of a man-bites-dog story, don't you think?
From Baseball America -- the free part -- here's a brief synopsis of all MLB front offices, according to their player development philosophies. BA has lumped the Texas Rangers in with Oakland, Boston and Toronto as the teams relying most on the statistical model. At the other end of the spectrum, relying on traditional scouting practices, are a couple of successful teams (the Braves and the Dodgers) with deep pockets, and a few disasters.

That's just a sidebar to "The Great Debate" -- a fine look by Mike Bernardino at the infiltration of sabremetrics into baseball management. It's met with great resistance from plenty of skeptics:

"You can talk all you want about this newfangled OPS bull****, but I just sit there and laugh," one old-school personnel man says. "Look at Miguel Tejada and (Alfonso) Soriano and what their OPS is. If thatís the answer, donít talk to me about the exception."

That could have been a former Blue Jays scout talking, and it's scary to think it could be the "logic" of a high-ranking decision maker in any number of organizations. However, it explains why not all of the old-fashioned teams return phone calls from the more enlightened -- I sense a lot of resentment.

Rob Neyer's latest column--at the Vernon Wells and Eric Hinske signings. It's worth a read, but I'd have to say that it doesn't break new ground or contain any special insights. In particular, the John Hart analogy in my opinion weakens the piece, because holding Hart up as a good role model while saying that Cam Bonifay made poor choices as the GM of the Pirates obfuscates the context of the Jays decision-making.
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Gwyn made Vladimir Guerrero the first pick ever in the BBFL a few seconds after 9:55 pm last night, and a mere three hours later, Spicol took John Stephens to end the proceedings. We drafted 500 players and cracked a few one-liners along the way. I hope everone had as much fun as I did. The file bbfldraft.xls is on the server, and if you can't download it, e-mail me for a copy.
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The baseball content on just improved dramatically with the latest column by Darren Rovell:

A very good columnist who writes about the business of sport, and baseball in particular, he hasn't succumbed to laziness or poor research in his latest effort (please note the plethora of quotes from good sources like Dave Dombrowski, president and GM of the Detroit Tigers; Jerry Colangelo, managing partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and Larry Baer, executive VP of the San Francisco Giants). Rovell appears to be, based on what I've read of his work so far, an acceptable mainstream writer delving into the same material so ably analyzed by Doug Pappas (at Baseball Primer and SABR).

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The New York Yankees are talking about signing Pasqual Coco. Derek Jeter needs someone to play hide-the-glove with.

Okay, fine, make up your own punchline, then:
The Cat came back, the very next day... Frank Catalanotto would have been the DH tonight against the Phillies if it wasn't NL rules; he'll be in the lineup tomorrow. Speaking of sore backs, it's getting harder every spring on an old coach's body to run two-hour pitching, catching and bunting clinics, but the 2003 Ursula Franklin Academy Flames are looking good. Thanks to UFA alum James Tran, a former captain who played eight positions for us, now the 3B at York, for dropping by to help. Needing to quench my thirst and "treat" my various aches and pains after practice (I recommend ice to my players) I headed to a downtown pub, where Jordan -- conveniently in town for the day -- and Craig joined me in an important BB summit. We decided we're having fun with the site, and agreed to continue doing so. Meeting adjourned, we ordered another round. There will eventually be a Batter's Box night at a game, but we're still not sure of the best time to do it, so stay tuned.
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According to Jeff Blair in the Globe and Mail, the Blue Jays could open the 2004 season in Japan. Paul Godfrey says there's been no formal invitation from MLB to be Ichiro's designated opponent next year, and points out the Yankees, featuring Matsui, would provide the best matchup with the Mariners from a Japanese perspective. My guess? Plans to have a Jays-Yanks series in 2004 leaked out, but soon that will be changed to Seattle-New York, and Toronto may be involved in the European MLB games also being discussed.

The cancellation of this year's mini-series in Tokyo is actually good news for A's fans. Two "home" games that far away, in front of 55,000 fans passionately supporting their opponents, will now be played in front of the Oakland faithful. The rush to prepare and inevitable jet lag might have affected both the A's and M's in the early part of the season. The schedule is back to normal in baseball's best division. Am I the only one who has a hunch that the Mariners weren't as good as their 2001 record or as bad as their 2002 finish? They still look like a 100-win team to me; a healthy Edgar and Randy Winn are nice additions. I'm predicting the World Champion Angels, my darlings as recently as October, to win over 90 games but miss the playoffs.
All organizations have periods when it seems their top performers all fade away or retire at the same time. The Tigers of the early 1970's, the Reds of the early 1980's, the Diamondbacks of 2005.

This year, it seems to be [Interjection: yes, I know my recent separation from might seem impetus for this comment, but I was kicking around a version of this idea in e-mail more than a month ago ... ask any of the Lineup.]

While we are forced to endure the (admittedly entertaining) work of Peter Gammons, Fiction Writer; of Jayson Stark, Stand-up Comedian; of Tim Kurkjian, Boy Math Genius; and of Rob Neyer, still gifted but struggling through an extended slump of can-he-come-back-from-Mexico-like-Ruben-Sierra proportions, we are at least still delighted by the consistent excellence of Jim Caple. A single star on an aging, underperforming team, sort of the Willie Horton of those Tiger teams. The supporting role played by John Sickels, good at what he does but one-dimensional, makes him more of an Aurelio Rodriguez or Eddie Brinkman.

And now, perhaps a rising star. Have you read today's article by Alan Schwarz? Entitled "The best of the best ... by position," it's not Pulitzer material, it's not earth- shattering, it's not backed with inordinant statistical insight, it's not even terribly original.

It's like all of Schwarz's work for The Worldwide Leader. It's just good.
I was indulging in one of the great pleasures of spring training yesterday ... flipping through a brand-new copy of the greatness of Who's Who in Baseball? ... when a thought occurred to me. (And no, before anyone asks, it didn't die of loneliness.)

Note that this was after previously skimming another Joe Morgan chat wrap on in which the increasingly outspoken Morgan again essentially lamented that the guys he played against would have just dominated in today's game (" ... no doubt in my mind Stargell would hit 60 HRs in today's game").

So I started wondering ... are there any position players active today who are unquestionably the greatest ever in the history of the team they are currently with? All the player movement of the post-Messersmith era makes that last qualifier espeically important. I mean, if we take as a given that the greatest player in the game today is Barry Bonds, can we comfortably say that he's the greatest Giant ever? No, of course not; Willie Mays would have something to say about that.
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That's what J.P. inherited, according to Richard Griffin, commenting on a previous batch of multi-year contracts for Blue Jays of questionable value, including Chris Carpenter, Homer Bush, Joey Hamilton, and Esteban Loaiza. The Star columnist (and I checked twice -- it's Rich, not Perkins) seems to like the Hinske and Wells deals, and there's nary a sarcastic barb at Ricciardi, even a bit of praise:

To his credit, Ricciardi made sure he approached starting ace Roy Halladay, assuring him he was next in line for the club's multi-year reward program.

Meanwhile, we're getting bored with spring training games (so are the players, I'm sure) but yesterday was a nifty little 4-0 blanking of the Tigers, if you ignore Scott Cassidy's meltdown. I saw Delgado's doubles on a TV recap, and the one in the opposite-field gap was a thing of beauty. Aquilino Lopez was good in relief of Hendrickson, who has a 1.50 ERA through 12 IP, but isn't in the September groove yet. Also impressive: Tam, Politte and Thurman, who is doing everything he can to pitch himself into a job with the big club, giving the brain trust another pleasant "problem" to solve.
Baseball's Hall of Names: Episode II
What's This All About?

Remember, even if you lose all, keep your good name.
For if you lose that, you are worthless.

--Irish Proverb

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, when we celebrate Ireland's patron saint driving all the player agents -- er, snakes -- out of the old country, this week's Hall of Names nominees come with the ruddy look of a hard day's work, a pint of Guinness, and an afternoon in the bleachers at Fenway.

The question: What caliber of major league team can we assemble using only players who bear the most common Irish surnames?
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