Team Preview Time!

Team previews run amok at this time of year, so at first it seemed pointless to run such a series on The Baseball Critic. After further consideration, though, I determined the following:

1) Most team previews are garbage.
2) I need to come up with more original material.

To demonstrate how The Baseball Critic team previews differ from the rest, here is a list of what you won’t find:

Keys to success
These are utterly pointless. They usually contain tidbits like, “if Player X stays healthy,” or “if Player Y can step up,” and an idiot on a glue-sniffing binge could come up with them.

They real keys to success: having your offense score more runs than your pitching allows. Staying healthy isn’t a key for one particular team; it’s a key for every team.

Score runs. Don’t allow runs. Those are the keys to victory.

Everything else is fair game. We’ll open tomorrow with the Houston Astros. A little preview: it won’t be pretty.

Le Sigh

I’m not one for posting boring baseball news. Or news that has been covered by every major media outlet in the country (sorry, A-Rod).

That’s the reason for a lack of updates. This site started right as baseball hit a lull, as evidenced by the dropoff in content. The reason, really, is that I became too reliant on mainstream newspapers for material. That changes tonight. New material, all original. The links to absurd stories may will still appear, just not with the same frequency (truth be told, the baseball news market is quite saturated).

Another smart move by the Brew Crew

Not even Jay Sherman could really complain about the Brewers new deal with Bill Hall. He’s an athletic player who has compiled two straight quality seasons. He’s 27 years old. The deal is backloaded in a manner that would be, given his steady performance in the future, commensurate with the arbitration dollars he’d earn. And he’s moving to center field, where his power bat will rank him among the top offensively at the position (though the same could be said of his playing shortstop).

The Brewers look like they’re a bullpen away from making a serious run at the NL Central. Their starting rotation projects strongly if Ben Sheets stays healthy, with Chris Capuano, Jeff Suppan, Claudio Vargas, and David Bush pitching behind him. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, and Corey Koskie represent a fine infield that may become stronger should Ryan Braun fulfill his potential and man third base. Johnny Estrada is an enormous offensive upgrade over Damien Miller behind the plate. And then you have the outfield of Bill Hall, Geoff Jenkins, and Kevin Mench. Not overly intimidating, but they can get the job done, especially with an offensive infield.

Among the teams picked as early-season sleepers, I feel the Brew Crew have the best shot. They play in a weak division that has, with the exception of the Cubs, weakened further over the off-season. Their problem, however, is depth, and an injury to any key player could easily cost them the season. Not that it’s much different elsewhere in the league.

Colts win. Colts win.

Just a quick post to let you all know that The Baseball Critic will be slow today, due to the overwhelming football coverage and a heavy day at the office. With football out of the way, the content here will only get stronger.

Around the league

This week has been nothing short of a disappointment for a guy who loves to read and write about baseball. We got some minor blips: the Rockies tried to trade Todd Helton to the Red Sox, Curt Schilling made himself the center of attention by publicly requesting a contract extension, and Barry Bonds can’t find even ground with the Giants.

Obviously, the NFL is to blame, with the Super Bowl comprising the bulk of sports coverage this week. That’s fine. They can have their week of glory — which will surely spill a bit into next week. We’ve got eight months ahead of pure baseball, though. Activity will pick up accordingly at the Baseball Critic. For now, though, let’s explore the tidbits from around the league.

Jim Bowden actually made a smart move (!!) by inking Austin Kearns to a three-year, $16.5 million contract, buying out his last arbitration year and two years of free agency. He’s a good bat, and certainly worth more than his salary. Jim Bowden makes an astute move…no cliched joke follow-up.

Dave Littlefield, who joins Bowden among the lower echelon of GMs, picked from the free agent tree, locking down Tony Armas for a year and $3.8 million. You have to wonder why, with the well below average Shawn Chacon already on the roster, they would want to ink an even lesser pitcher?

Want to make $25 million? Punching your wife in the face in broad daylight in Boston is the first step. At least according to Bretty Myers, who is now signed for three years.

Bernie Williams got an invite to Spring Training earlier this week, and Ken Davidoff of Newsday reports that he may accept. He might have some skills left with the stick, but he can’t run, can’t play defense, and, well, could very well be walking with the assistance of a cane by September. Good luck, Bern!

Finally, Giants catcher Mike Matheny retired yesterday, stemming from chronic post-concussion syndrome. The upside: you’re no longer Barry Bonds’s teammate.

And the Bonds saga continues

For those of us hoping for an ultimate failure in Barry Bonds’s deal, our dreams have stayed alive for at least one more day. Monday, the situation looked grave, with Bonds in San Francisco to take his physical prior to contract signing. Late Tuesday/early Wednesday, the situation became slightly more optimistic, with the commissioner’s office rejecting the deal. Still, one had to assume it would be done within the next few days.

This morning, Bonds’s agent, Jeff Borris, announced that Bonds will not sign the revised contract. While I love the sound of that, it may be a non-issue:

After several disputes, lawyers for the union and the commissioner’s office agreed last fall that no additional appearance provisions would be accepted in future player contracts. It was not yet clear Wednesday whether Bonds must sign a new contract or whether the one he already signed would be accepted with the troublesome language eliminated.

It makes sense, then, that if Bonds doesn’t sign a new contract, MLB will take the latter action described in the above paragraph. Then again, the MLBPA would certainly file a grievance given that situation — they’d file a grievance if the contract gave Barry a paper cut.

The language regarding termination in the case of indictment also came to light this morning:

Player acknowledges and agrees that an indictment for any criminal act under (that section) … is proper grounds for termination of this contract.

Player also acknowledges and agrees that he will not grieve, appeal or otherwise challenge any club action to terminate this contract as a result of player’s indictment for any criminal acts (specified) … nor will he cause or authorize any third party, such as the Major League Baseball Players Association, to grieve, appeal or otherwise challenge any club action to terminate this contract as a result of player’s indictment for any (specified) criminal acts.

That language seems a bit tighter than the articles mentioned in the Monday round of Bonds articles. However, Jeff Borris believes it’s meaningless:

“Although it is not my policy to comment on the specifics of an individual player’s contract, the reporting that Barry will allow the Giants to get out of his contract if he is indicted on the federal steroid investigation is inaccurate,” he said. “The collective bargaining agreement governs the work relationship between the owners and players, not the Giants’ unilateral assertions.”

If the collective bargaining agreement “governs the work relationship between the owners and players,” I wonder what that means for injury out clauses. If J.D. Drew’s arm falls off, would the Red Sox be able to void the deal, or would the players’ association step in and cry foul? If this holds up, it’s going to be a rough road ahead for teams with players whose contracts contain special provisions.

Slow news day: let’s talk about Sammy

Only in the weeks leading up to pitchers and catchers can a player who has seen a steady decline in OBP and SLG over the past four years he’s played garner so much attention.

Yes, I understand that Sosa’s deal is of the low-risk minor league type. You know what, though? I stopped when I saw a yellow light the other day instead of speeding straight through it. It was a low-risk move. Why don’t you write an article about me?

It may not be the most accurate analogy, but it makes my point. We make low-risk, high-reward moves everyday, but few are met with the hype of Sammy. This is not 1998. Sammy has proven he was in a severe decline, and that was before he took a year off. The odds are greatly against this working out for the Rangers.

Don’t worry, though. Ron Washington plans to bat him fifth.



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