Ranking the best managers, an incredible draft class, more (cont.)
Redrafting the great 2005 draft
The 2005 draft class, which I highlighted in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, may be the best of all time, and the first round was just ridiculous in terms of talent. Here were the top 12 picks:
1. Justin Upton, Arizona
And here's how I'd re-pick the top 12 now, given the chance:
Braun -- whose 71 home runs in his first two seasons eclipses all but three players in baseball history, all Hall of Famers -- is the first All-Star in the vaunted group, and the surest thing. "It was a helluva draft," recalls Jack Zduriencik, then the Brewers' scouting director and now the Mariners' GM. "Had we picked higher, I think we still would have taken Braun ... He was so athletic we knew he could go to left field if he had to."
Going in, then Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo (who's now the Nationals' acting GM) understood that this draft was a doozy. He also knew Upton was his guy. Even in that draft, Rizzo said Upton's athleticism, determination and seriousness stood out. "He was the clear No. 1 pick, at least to me." It's been an unusual route for Upton, Rizzo conceded, with the ultra-quick start followed by serious slumping. But Rizzo still sees a bright future for the 21-year-old: "I see him flourishing and becoming the player everyone thinks and knows he's going to be." Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes agrees. "I'd be surprised if he's not a star."
Around the majors
The Dodgers really have something special going. It's pretty telling they lead the league in runs, considering they play in a historic pitcher's park. Their young nucleus is as superb as advertised; take a bow, Logan White. And the rotation that looked thin and lost Hiroki Kuroda has gotten by. Jeff Weaver stepped in Wednesday night to beat the rival Diamondbacks, 3-1, the latest indication that maybe this is their year.
Joba Chamberlain put on a nice strikeout display Tuesday night, with 12 K's in 5 2/3 innings in the Yankees' 7-3 defeat to the rival Red Sox. And while the Yankees' bullpen has been "terrible," in the words of one Yankees executive, one reason they say they aren't considering moving Joba to the 'pen is his struggles in the first inning; Chamberlain gave up a four-spot in the first vs. Boston before dominating most of the next 4 2/3 innings.
Johnny Damon said in a recent interview with Boston's WEEI that the Yankees treat their older stars better than the Red Sox, and it's true the Yankees have a much harder time letting go. Hint, hint. Damon seems to hope the Yankees would like to take him back, and he's certainly hitting enough (homers in two straight games vs. his old BoSox). But I'd say the chances for that don't look great. Damon, Hideki Matsui and Xavier Nady are all free agents after the year, and there's no certainty the Yankees will make a strong play to keep any of them.
The Yankees won't say for sure, but Friday looks like the day for A-Rod, barring some unforeseen problem. Saturday is the backup plan.
I know this will sound crazy. But I actually think Ollie Perez will get it back. He certainly has been awful (9.97 ERA). But that's Ollie: periods of awfulness followed by periods of greatness. He's just due for greatness now -- although, he'll have to regain it as a bullpen man for now. He certainly isn't winning admirers in his own organization, though. Speaking of 40-year-old Japanese import Ken Takahashi (who got out of Perez's mess last Saturday), one Mets official said, "At least he competed." Takahashi, the most-likely starter Friday, is a big story back in Japan (several reporters were trailing him even when he was just a mop-up man), but his presence has pretty much flown under the radar here.
It's been speculated that the Nats might again pick University of Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow at No. 10 (their compensation pick for failing to sign him last year) now that GM Jim Bowden isn't around. I haven't written many nice things about Bowden, but he wasn't the reason they failed to sign Crow. Bowden and Rizzo wanted to pay the freight, but club president Stan Kasten drew the line. In any case, there should be a rule against the same team picking the same prospect again. From Crow's perspective, he'd probably rather take the waterboarding option. The Nats, of course, also have the first-overall pick, and that's going to be San Diego State phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
Rizzo, by the way, should get the Nats' full-time GM job. And I think his support from the club-owning Lerners is such that he will get the job eventually.
Joe Mauer hitting a home run on his first swing ... simply amazing.
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