Several clubs gearing up for long seasons
Updated: Wednesday March 21, 2001 6:21 PM
Throughout spring training Sports Illustrated senior writer Jeff Pearlman will field your baseball questions. Click here to submit a query and check back next Thursday to read more of his answers.
Upon visiting Brewers camp a week ago, I ran into Brian Lesher, No. 75. Nine years ago, when I was writing for the University of Delaware student newspaper, Lesher was the Blue Hens' star. He was big and powerful, a homegrown (Newark, Del.) product with a warm smile. Everyone knew the guy would be a Major League stud. It was a lock. A given. As teams begin cutting down rosters, it seems most certain that Lesher will find himself with a one-way ticket to Class AAA Indianapolis. He has spent all but 79 games of his 10-year pro career in the minors, a long, winding trek through McDonald's drive-thrus and Super 8 motels. He is a good, solid player in a profession of great, superb players. When you see him this year, in Indy or Columbus or Toledo, wish him well.
On with the questions:
I'm a lifelong Padres fan and I'm worried that this season might be a very
long one. Any chance of San Diego having a winning record or, better yet, making
a playoff appearance? Also, with their stadium fiasco, and their small market
status, do you know if the Padres have been mentioned as one of the teams that
could be part of Bud Selig's contraction
San Diego is terrible, and here's the proof: Rickey Henderson. A few weeks ago, I asked an NL general manager if he thought anyone would sign the 679-year-old leadoff hitter. He immediately shook his head. "If you're a developing team, you don't want him messing with your chemistry," he said. "And if you're a contender, he's not good enough anymore." The Padres are sort of in the middle of nowhere -- they're clearly the worst of the NL West (100-plus losses seem likely), but their roster isn't exactly chock full of Grade-A prospects, either (the best of the bunch is third baseman Sean Burroughs, who could be called up as soon as the team unloads Phil Nevin - - a likely scenario). All that said, the Padres are clearly NOT a part of any contraction plans. Even with a bad club in crusty Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego drew 2,432,149 fans in 2000. That blows away Montreal (926,263), Florida (1,218,326), Tampa Bay (1,549,052), Kansas City (1,677,915) and Oakland (1,718,888) -- the oft-mentioned contraction candidates. Mark, enjoy the Bobby Jones Era. If we're measuring long seasons in leg size, the Padres will be, pelvis-to-toe, Manute Bol.
Do you think the Mariners' pitching staff can carry them a division title? And
do you think they will be able to trade for a No. 3
Honestly, I don't think the Yankees' pitching staff could carry the Mariners to a division title. They are a .500-ish team, waaaaaay behind Oakland. You can't just lose the game's two best players, sign Ichiro Suzuki (who, word says, can be exposed by high inside heat) and expect greatness. As for a No. 3 hitter, Nevin is eternally mentioned as a future Mariner.
It looks like it's going to be Dodger Blue atop the NL West this year. Am I
right? Are the Dodgers primed for
Greg, I know there are lots of pressures, living the high-flying, Boogie Nights, L.A. lifestyle. But maybe you should lay off the crack. I'm not a huge believer in chemistry, but the Dodgers? When a team's best player decides to rip every teammate, bad things happen. L.A. has a nice rotation and the Gary Sheffield-Shawn Green-Eric Karros trio is powerful, but the Dodgers? The Dodgers? Your catcher is Paul LoDuca (or Chad Kreuter or Angel Pena). Your third baseman, Adrian Beltre, is out indefinitely. All you've added is Marquis Grissom. The Dodgers atop the NL West? No way.
Yes, I live in Montreal, and yes, I actually attended several Expos games
last season. It's not so bad when the ushers know all the fans by name. Question
#1: Can you guarantee that the Expos will remain in Montreal? Question #2: When
will the rest of major league baseball recognize Felipe Alou as the finest
manager in the game? Question #3: If the pitching staff stays healthy, can the
Expos contend for a wild-card
1. Simple -- no.
With a weak bench and an aging Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, not to mention
John Smoltz coming off surgery, do you really think the Braves are going to run
through the league like they have in the last
Every year we say the same things: The Braves' pitchers are old, their bench is weak, their long relievers are shaky and Bobby Cox can't handle the playoffs. Yet Atlanta remains the class of the NL East because it has great defense up the middle (Rafael Furcal, Quilvio Veras, Andruw Jones), a solid lineup and four all-world starters. Glavine and Maddux are still dominant. Smoltz has looked fantastic this spring. And if anyone will benefit from the altered strike zone, it's Kevin Millwood. Last season his groundball-to-flyball ratio was 0.71 -- terrible. With umpires calling the high strike, there's no way he avoids 15-18 wins again.
Hey Jeff, I'm curious why everyone is always underestimating the Mets. I
understand that they couldn't re-sign Mike Hampton, but I never considered him
to be a fab pitcher anyway -- he blew too many big games. I realize Kevin Appier
and Steve Traschel aren't Hall of Famers, but I think they can do a reasonable
job. What's your opinion? Also, what do you think of the Mets' offense, and why
do they keep trying to trade Glendon Rusch -- first it was for David Wells, and
now I'm hearing something about Garret Anderson.
Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. Unless it's written right here, don't believe everything you read. Rusch's name comes up in trade talks because he's an inexpensive 26-year-old left-hander who's on the verge. New York is not shopping him around so much as teams are inquiring about his services. The Mets have a solid offense that should amp greatly with Robin Ventura's improved health. Last season Ventura played through some serious pain and never complained. I'm also something of a Timo Perez guy. I know, I know -- he was terrible in the World Series. But like Johnny Damon in Oakland, it won't hurt the Mets to have a gnat-like speed guy on top of the order. As for the new arms, be concerned. Appier is 33 years old. He still has decent stuff (a mid-80s fastball, slider, splitter), but most Hampton starts are -- win or lose -- quality starts. Appier will take his lumps every now and then.
Why has John Hart never been able to bring a big-name pitcher to Cleveland?
It would appear that with the Tribe's potent offense and defense, Cleveland
would be a perfect fit for a top-shelf hurler. Wouldn't a Pedro Martinez or
Randy Johnson-type almost lock up a championship for Cleveland? Hey Mr.Hart,
good pitching beats good hitting every
Hart has been ripped for years for two things: Trading away young outfield talent (Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles, Richie Sexson, etc .) and never signing an ace. Clearly, the first criticism is fair. The second, however, is semi-bogus. The good folk of Cleveland wanted Chuck Finley, the good folk of Cleveland got Chuck Finley. The good folk of Cleveland wanted Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina and none of those guys were options. In these days, you really can't force a stud to play in a city he's not interested in, and neither Johnson, Clemens nor Mussina wanted anything to do with Cleveland. It's funny. Not so long ago, the Indians were pathetic . Now they're perennial World Series contenders and Hart gets pounded. Not so fair.
Do you think the platoon of Eric Davis and Armando Rios can offset the loss
of Ellis Burks in San Francisco? To me, it seems that each player is capable of
hitting .285 with 15 homers and 50-60 RBIs while sharing time in right
It's possible, Dennis, but Burks was a really, really, really key part of the Giants. He was the clubhouse glue -- the guy who represented everyone's interests; who could deal with Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent with the smoothness of a water slide. Every team needs one or two Burks', David Cones, Joe Randas, leaders, more or less. Can that quality be replaced? Who knows.
I was wondering where you stand on the best catcher in baseball argument. I
am the world's biggest Mike Piazza fan and I just can't believe it when people
try and pawn off Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge has spent most of his career playing
second fiddle to Juan Gonzalez on a team full of stars that goes nowhere. Then
there is Piazza, who has been the heart and soul of his team, making everyone
around him better, and carrying his team to the World Series. Maybe I am a
little biased, but what is your thought, Piazza or
Chris, you are one of three members of the world population (the other two being Piazza and my older brother) who believe Iron Mike is a better all-around catcher than Pudge. Look, both guys put up great offensive numbers. If this was first base, you'd have to take Piazza -- easy. But with Rodriguez behind the plate, an opposing team's running game shuts down. It just doesn't stop -- it dies. More and more people are suggesting that Piazza move to first, and it's not such a horrible idea. His bat is lethal and he wouldn't wear down so much late in the season.
Is it just me or does every coach and player spew the same nonsensical
phrases during spring training? It leads me to wonder, what do you think are the
five most gut-wrenching cliches you've heard during spring
1. "I just wanna
Click here to send a spring training question to Jeff Pearlman.
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