Thursday, September 16, 2010

The ZOOperstars were onto something...

Apparently, the ZOOperstars knew a little something about the angelic Derek Jeter, inspiring them to create this punnish character.

Last night, Jeter dramatically reacted to an inside pitch, feigning injury after the ball knocked off the knob of his bat.  Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale bought the act and gave him first base.

Included in the linked article is the following excerpted comment:

"...I really think people are making too much of this. Most importantly 1- It had no effect on the game, 2- Players fake injuries all the time in soccer, the most popular sport in the world, and players fake fouls in another sport played worldwide in basketball."

This person is utterly incorrect on the first point -- after all, Curtis Granderson followed with a home run and Jeter scored the game-tying run.  Really, no effect on the game?  You sure about that one?

As far as the second point is concerned, does the commenter really believe that faking injuries -- flopping in order to draw bogus calls from the referees -- is the reason that soccer and basketball are so globally popular?  Soccer and basketball succeed in spite of flopping.  Flopping stinks.  It stinks when Duke's men's basketball team does it.  It stinks when the Italian soccer team does it, it stinks in general.

On the bright side, good triumphed over evil and the Rays beat the Yankees.  Well...

I'm not naive.  I have no doubt that a random Rays player would have reacted in the exact same way as Jeter.  The exact same way.  Baseball, like basketball, like soccer, like a great deal of other sports and livelihoods, is highly approving of "taking liberties."  Baseball loves its cheaters all the way up until the very moment they get caught, at which point everyone either buries the cheater in question or rushes to their defense with the ol' "Everybody does it."

Politics features much of the same.  Same with college football and college basketball recruiting.  Cheat, cheat, cheat... and then scapegoat or declare "Everybody does it."  It's the American way.

And it's darn globally popular, too, just like soccer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2011 Lugnuts Starting Lineup Forecast

This came about because of a terrific question sent in by a fan on the final LugCast of the regular season.

Here are my predictions for the 2011 Lansing Lugnuts...

C Carlos Perez
1B K.C. Hobson
2B Oliver Dominguez
SS Gustavo Pierre
3B Andy Fermin
LF Marcus Knecht
CF Jake Marisnick
RF Michael Crouse
DH Lance Durham

Key question:  Lance Durham and K.C. Hobson are both left-handed hitting first basemen.  They shouldn't both be here, and yet Hobson is a virtual Lugnut lock while Durham has spent the last two years with Auburn.  Where else would you send him?

C Jack Murphy
OF Stephen McQuail
OF Markus Brisker

Key question:  How many struggling 2010 Lugnuts -- i.e., Ryan Schimpf, Balbino Fuenmayor, Eric Eiland -- return for 2011?

RHP Deck McGuire
RHP Drew Hutchison
RHP Daniel Webb
RHP Casey Lawrence
RHP Asher Wojciechowski

Key questions:  This is a prospect-laden rotation, albeit totally right-handed.  Does Sam Strickland slide into the rotation to give the Lugs a left-handed arm?  Will we see talented 18-year-olds Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard sooner or later?

LHP Sam Strickland
LHP Michael Kelly
RHP Scott Gracey
RHP Danny Barnes
RHP Milciades Santana
RHP Dayton Marze
RHP Drew Permison

Key questions:  Once again, these are all newcomers with the exception of Gracey and late addition Barnes.  Who else returns from the disappointing 2010 bullpen?  A recommitted Brian Slover?  A healthy Dustin Antolin?  Aaron Loup or Matt Wright, just to make sure there are some more lefties in the pen?  By the way, the numbers were just brilliant for Marze, Santana, and Permison last year.  Hopefully they'll keep it up.

Top 10 Lugnuts Games of the Year

Here's my ranking of the Top 10 Lugnuts Games of 2010.


Post Season Assessment

The season is now over, and a strange ride it was.

We began the year believing that the Lugnuts might be one of the best teams in the league.  It didn't quite end up that way, due to promotions, injuries, and inconsistency.

 By the end of the year, the Dunedin Blue Jays featured the following 2010 Lugnuts in their starting lineup -- catcher Yan Gomes, third basemen Kevin Ahrens and Mark Sobolewski, shortstops Ryan Goins and Justin Jackson, second baseman Ryan Schimpf, first baseman Jon Talley, and outfielders Chris Hopkins and Kenny Wilson (and, for a while, Brad McElroy).  Chad Jenkins and Ryan Shopshire anchored the D-Jays starting rotation while lefty Evan Crawford was one of the team's finest relievers.

In other words, aside from the injured A.J. Jimenez, utilityman Kevin Nolan, struggling Balbino Fuenmayor and Eric Eiland, and sluggers Sean Ochinko and Brad Glenn, Dunedin received virtually every Lugnuts starting position player.  That's crazy.

Terrific reliever Dustin Antolin blew out his elbow in June.  Jimenez was dogged by injuries from April till September.  Glenn, in the midst of a brilliant start, destroyed his shoulder on a pair of dives and wasn't the same until July.  Starters Matt Fields, Dave Sever, and Ryan Tepera all lost starts due to time on the DL.  It was a simple formula -- when the Lugnuts were healthy, they won; when they were hurt, they lost.

This wasn't a bad bullpen this year, but it certainly wasn't a reliable bullpen.  There wasn't a single reliever to capably count on, week in, week out.  Everyone had their ugly moments, from Steve Turnbull to Casey Beck to Nestor Molina to Brian Slover to Aaron Loup, etc. etc. etc.  They were great -- at times.  They were simply terrible -- at times.  I have no idea who from that crowd will emerge next year as a quality arm and who will bomb out miserably.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Doomed by the Dragons, but on the other hand...

That Dayton series was devastating, with back to back horrible losses on Monday and Tuesday nights.  Otherwise, this West Michigan series would be terrifically dramatic and we might be looking at a playoff push.

On the other hand...

The initial loss to the Dragons on Saturday convinced a lot of folks, especially among the Blue Jays, that the postseason simply wasn't going to happen this year.  Toronto reacted by moving newly-activated A.J. Jimenez along with Justin Jackson and Kevin Ahrens up to Dunedin.

What did that affect?  An energized Oliver Dominguez and Randy Schwartz are now receiving regular at-bats right to the end of the season, along with the hot-hitting Jon Del Campo (and a terrific Balbino Fuenmayor yesterday), to inject some pep into a listless lineup.

Meanwhile, the pitching corps features newcomers Drew Hutchison, Casey Lawrence, and Daniel Webb all wanting to make positive impressions right down to the very end.  Hutch/Lawrence carried that victory last night against West Michigan.

Today, Dave Sever heads to the hill.  Dave (and fellow Opening Day starter Matt Fields) has been pitching better and better as this year has gone on.

Are the Lugs going to make a last-ditch playoff push?  I humbly doubt it... but look:  the crowds are going to be sensational the next two nights.  A three-game sweep of the Whitecaps would make things awfully interesting during the final weekend of the season.