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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 ESPN.com. [Interjection: yes, I know my recent separation from ESPN.com 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 ESPN.com 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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Thanks to the generosity of Sean Forman, mastermind of Baseball Primer, and the expertise of BB reader Gwyn Price, I am pleased to announce a new "feature" -- that's how Microsoft spells "bug" -- which will make my time in the Batter's Box (and yours, I hope) more enjoyable.

In Netscape (Mozilla) -- but so far, not in Internet Explorer -- the linked word "Comments" will change colour when you have clicked there. But how do you know when a "new" comment has been posted? Until now, you couldn't tell, but using something called a dummy anchor in HTML, Gwyn has magically made the "Comments" link change back to "unvisited" when there's a post you haven't viewed yet, from that PC. I repeat, it does not work (yet) in the World According to Gates, but perhaps someone knows an obscure IE settings change they will share with us. I haven't tried it in Opera or other browsers, but I'm now using Netscape, mostly because this trick is so cool, and I recommend you make the switch.

It will be very helpful, and may keep threads active longer; you will be able to scroll down the entire main page and easily see where "new for you" comments have been posted. It will definitely save time; I've been relying on my faulty memory -- have I read the 26th post in that thread? -- but now, I can skip articles where the link shows "visited", and locate comments I haven't seen before and might otherwise have missed.

Gwyn is a technical guru, who has accepted an invitation to join BB in that capacity. He's working on improving the Hot Topics list to be more current and actually useful, and something called an RSS feed, that will generate some new traffic to the site. We are grateful he volunteered to help.
Though neither Vernon Wells not Eric Hinske is of Irish descent, both appear to be in luck this afternoon. TSN reports that both young stars have been locked up with new contracts.

As of yet, there appears to be no word on terms or contract length, and the Jays' official site has yet to report the story.

It says here that when you have a young third baseman with a great approach at the plate and improving defense, and a young outfielder with great defense and an improving approach at the plate, and both of them are considered by all to be really good guys to boot...only good things can come from keeping them happy. Congratulations from Batter's Box!
The 20 owners participating in the Batter's Box Fantasy League are anxiously awaiting our draft Thursday evening. This thread will be of little interest to anyone else, but it's offered as a place to ask questions about the rules, get advice if you're new to Yahoo draft procedures, and talk a little trash.
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The 20 owners participating in the Batter's Box Fantasy League are anxiously awaiting our draft Thursday evening. This thread will be of little interest to anyone else, but it's offered as a place to ask questions about the rules, get advice if you're new to Yahoo draft procedures, and talk a little trash.
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The 20 owners participating in the Batter's Box Fantasy League are anxiously awaiting our draft Thursday evening. This thread will be of little interest to anyone else, but it's offered as a place to ask questions about the rules, get advice if you're new to Yahoo draft procedures, and talk a little trash.
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Nothing would please me more as a Blue Jays fan than to be wrong in my fantasy advice regarding Cory Lidle. Citing his slow starts the past two years and the wicked early schedule, I suggested passing on the Jays' new #2 starter in your drafts, then trading for him in mid-May. A very good outing today against a strong Cincinnati lineup is changing my mind; Lidle seems ready to go. Here's the game story and box score from MLB.com.

Cory showed hes a baseball player, not just a pitcher, with a hit and some excellent baserunning to score the game's first run - he even looked ready to slide, but fortunately, that wasnt necessary. He pitched neatly out of a second-inning jam, and otherwise had masterful command. Lidle was lifted an inning early, but Im not sure what the supposed problem was, and the pitcher looked annoyed at the cautious decision by his handlers.
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Episode I: Food For Thought
Monday, a new feature will launch on Da Box ... call it Baseball's Hall of Names. Or maybe Name That Team. It's always so tough to come up with a good name for something. In the meantime, here's some background, part essay, part history, part word game.

[Obligatory Confusing Gammonsian Quoted Lyric Lead]:
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I've got a name; I've got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did ...

-- Jim Croce

Like most baseball fans, I grew up talking about the great game with my dad -- yes, per the lyrics above, we have the same name -- who saw DiMaggio at The Stadium and turned 16 the year Mantle debuted. The two Micks (the centerfielder and the psychologist) even share a birthday, though dad is four years younger than the Commerce Comet.

In our conversations -- and they still pop up from time to time -- we would speculate about life's great mysteries. For instance, what current players would eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown? Rose? Obviously. This kid Schmidt? Let's see how he turns out ...

And often, we would spend time trying to create "All-Star" lineups based on arbitrary rules involving names of players throughout the sport's history.

The All-Food Team was a favorite.
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Waymoresports reports here that the Jays have released Pasqual Coco after he allegedly stole between $500 and $900 from pitcher Diegomar Markwell.
While the overall message comes as no surprise -- the A's announced that they will not re-sign Miguel Tejada -- the timing is extraordinary. I can't remember a situation where a team has pre-emptively said it will not retain a player because of financial reasons before the player's walk year has even begun. Political posturing for the A's to get a new stadium out of the city of Oakland? Perhaps. A depressing scenario being replayed again? Definitely.

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On the front page of Baseball Primer, another in the series "Looking Forward to 2003" has been posted. It's an eclectic mix of analysis and commentary. A prediction of 83 or 84 wins for the 2003 Jays? Geez, any poster on this site could have come up with that.
OK, time to readjust those pre-draft rankings. I get a lot of letters from readers of my ESPN fantasy columns, and generally point them here for in-depth analysis, but I've been saying all along that Frank Catalanotto and Orlando Hudson are both good bargains at 2B. In an AL league, the possibility of a trade diminishes O-Dawg's value, but in a MLB universe, he's a solid pickup. Cat, on the other hand, is still bothered by his chronic sore back, and didn't play in yesterday's slugfest. It's not time to panic, but Cat may not be ready to answer the bell as an everyday RF, so the Werth-Ryan-Colangelo-Aven-Wise battle takes on more significance.

By the way, speaking of injured Jays, the box score says it was Justin Miller, but it was actually lefty Trever Miller who pitched (very well) yesterday. The RH, being brought along slowly, is expected to get an inning or two this afternoon; the frontrunner as #5 -- Pete Walker -- starts today in Kissimmee vs. the Astros. Good news yesterday included good AB from Hinske against lefties, and continued hot sticks for Woodward and Hudson.

Plenty of other stuff I don't have time to comment on, like the sad end of Mick Doherty's illustrious career as an ESPN Yankees correspondent. I'm hoping to catch up later tonight; carry on without me. :)