02 February 2006

March 12, ZiPs-a-Dee-Doo-Da, Klapisch Sucks Major-Time...

So to start off- I've been trying to hunt down the Dominican Republic WBC hat, to no avail. Every online retailer (except one) is out of stock in my size, so I figured I'd look around various sporting good's stores in NYC.


Went to Cosby's at Madison Square Garden- no luck. Modell's, Foot Lockers, Lids... none of them have it, and none of them were sure if they ever were GOING to have it. Maybe I tried hunting them down too early on- but I only did because they'd been on sale online for ever.

Then I went to the Mets Clubhouse on 42nd St.- the guy there seemed to think they'd have the stuff in "by the end of the week," which was reassuring. Then he suggested going to the Yankees Store, further west on 42nd St, because he'd heard they'd gotten their's in already.

So, swallowing my pride, I went in there, and immediately saw all the WBC jerseys on the wall- so naturally, I assumed they were there somewhere. Nope. The dude (scowling- no joke- at my Sox hat) at the register said they weren't going to be carrying the hats.

Makes sense.

Anyway, New Era just started selling them online, so if I can't get my hands on it by the end of this week at the Mets store, I'll just order it from there. I'm an idiot- I don't like to wait for shit like this.

Walking through Times Square, I saw the big billboard there for the start of the new season of The Sopranos, on March 12th. Had to take a picture of the billboard. I get ridiculously excited about this sort of shit. Just wait until The Wire starts back up. You'll never read the end of it here.

So speaking of The Wire, walking over to the Mets Clubhouse yesterday, I ran into none other than Andre Royo, who plays Bubbles on the show. It was sort of awkward, because I recognized him as he passed me, so I had to turn around to say hi- but after telling him how much I loved the show, he was a really nice guy. Stuck out his hand to shake and was really gracious. So that's always a good time.

Back to the original point, however- hope fully The Sopranos picks things up. Save for three episodes, last season flat out sucked. It's made more sucky in my mind going back and watching seasons 1-3 (season 4 comes back OnDemand this weekend), which are better than I even remembered.

The ZiPs projections for 2006 are up over at Baseball Think Factory, and are able to be downloaded on a nice organized spreadsheet. Here are some players of note, and their projections:

First- the good: Schilling looks to have a big bounceback despite a pretty healthy dip in IP (not considering last year). If he can sacrifice some production (maybe his ERA rising to ~3.85) for about 25-30 more IP, we've got an ace. If the innings can be made up adequately though, babying him a bit may be the way to go.

Same situation with Beckett, albeit a slightly higher ERA and lower IP. I really don't know what to think about Beckett. The issues crowed about with his arm struck me as being overblown- Dr. James Andrews, the leader in this field, OK'd him twice. There is wear and tear on every pitcher's shoulder. It's the nature of the act of violently whipping one's arm thousands of times in a calendar year. That being said, the blister issues seem innocent enough- but they're nasty, and they've not been solved for him, and they've eaten into his appearances. I'm not one to brush the concern aside, although the Boston medical staff (even if revamped) at least has experience with pitcher blister problems- Derek Lowe had a similar issue.

ZiPs also likes (most of) the new Boston bullpen- Tavarez, Riske and Hansen (who will likely start the year in AAA) are all projected at 70+ IP at sub-4 ERAs. Ditto that for Timlin and Foulke, who they project to bounce back majorly.

The rest of the Boston rotation- Clement, Wells and Wakefield, are all projected to have solid seasons, with Wakefield leading the team in IP. Arroyo and Papelbon- the "swingmen" if you will- are projected at fairly similar years, though Jonathan's K rate looks strong. Remember, these projections are made in a vacuum, without taking a team's relative roster construction into place. It's hard to imagine how Schilling, Beckett, Wells, Wakefield, Clement, Arroyo, Papelbon and DiNardo all fit on the same roster. We'll see though.

The not so good- Rudy Seanez, although for him to be the worst projected bullpen arm, and have it at 64 IP with 70 Ks and a 4.22 ERA isn't bad at all.

To be honest, I think the Tavarez projection is a little on the generous side, and I think that Timlin will regress a bit more. That said, I really share the confidence in Foulke's knee healing they have, and I think he'll have another really solid season.

The thing that jumps right out at me here is Loretta- if that projection were accurate, he'd probably be the 2 or 3 best 2B in baseball without much problem. There's a lot of doubt on Loretta, which I'm not totally sharing- again, a lot depends on how well he's healed from his injury last year, which completely sapped him of his power. He's always been a good OB player, but moving from Petco to Fenway, getting healthy, and being only one season removed from a near-MVP quality season makes me think this is only slightly north of what a healthy Loretta may do.

Ortiz and Manny are pretty standard, and it's good to see that they like Nixon when he's healthy, but it doesn't appear they have him being particularly so for the entire year. Lowell is the other big projected rebound- one which, I have to be honest, I don't have a whole ton of faith in. They peg him as an 845 OPS player in '06- to me, anything in the 800s is bonus for me. Most important is that his defense really holds up.

Nothing too Earth-shattering anywhere else. Coco's line looks solid, and a nice step forward. Interesting to note, of course, that the ZiPs spreadsheet listed all pitchers by ERA and all batters by SLG. Coco was 130th in SLG at .448- right under him? Damon, at .421. Crisp is projected at an 801 OPS, Damon at 778. Both seem a little low- I think Crisp's SLG will pop up a bit more in BOS (his projection was done while he was still an Indian) and I think Damon hitting LH in NY will help him.

That said- they're the pros, not me.

I thought you guys should hear this from me.

The Jason Giambi "angle" has been decided upon. Here it is: Giambi is more or less absolved of his sins because he hit so well last year, and is now back to being a "premier player."

Bob Klapisch is one of those writers that puts blinders on and writes for the Yankees. Fine- he's made a great career of finding the positive spin on nearly everything Yankee-related, and that's his gig. He couldn't pick a Cincinnati Red out of a lineup, but he knows how to make Yankee fans feel warm and fuzzy. Thought A-Rod choked in the 2004 ALCS Vinnie in the Bronx? Check this out- he gets up before every other player and... works out!

Want to be coddled and told things about Jason Giambi that you can stuff in the part of your brain that stored the "he took steroids while a member of my favorite team" information? Well, he's your guy, hermano.

Put the data into the blender, and the Yankees are convinced Giambi's darkest hours have passed.

"As far as we're concerned, Jason hit our best-case scenario," Cashman said this week. "Now we're back to business as usual; to me, Jason is back to being one of the premier players in the game right now."

Is it me, or can Jason Giambi not take two steps without falling over at 1B? I'm not even kidding on that, this is a more or less accurate description of him as a defender, right? OK. Just wondering.

But at least the black cloud that followed Giambi in 2004 and early 2005 will be gone.

In other words: we, the writers, have stopped caring about the fact that Giambi cheated, so you, the readers will too. Prepare for the whitewash. Giambi was the "good-guy" and Sheffield is the "one that never gets mentioned for some fucking reason," and Bonds is the "angry guy that we always mention when the subject comes up."

Got that?

The stage was set for an ugly ending. Even Torre seemed braced for a struggle. "Jason's going to have to understand even in his home ballpark, he may not get the response he wants," is what the manager said.

But Giambi never wavered in his belief that getting healthy -- ridding his body of the parasites and the tumor -- would rebuild his career, if not his reputation. He spent less time at his locker and more time with hitting instructor Don Mattingly, as well as Azra Shafi-Scagliarini, his friend, consultant and spiritual adviser.

Spiritual advisor? For the guy with his own personal parking space at every night club in Vegas? Awesome.

The first line of the second paragraph is laugh-out-loud funny though. Yes, Giambi's striving towards healthiness is such a key part of him as a person, and his recent actions. And it's good to know that simply getting healthy (after the diseases that invaded his body from the removal of a hormonal drug his body was dependent on) was enough to magically wash away all that nasty "cheater" talk. And just to clarify- when Bonds' knee injury is finally healed- an injury likely cropping up from strain on tendons and cartilage from steroids- he'll have rehabilitated his reputation, right? No one will mind when he passes Aaron, correct?

It didn't hurt Giambi, either, that the steroids scandal eventually shifted its focus to Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, both of whom performed disgracefully before a Congressional hearing. Palmeiro jabbed his finger at the committee members while insisting he "never, ever" juiced, while McGwire stonewalled the nation by repeating, "I'm not here to talk about the past."

This is one of those classic sportswriter moves, where they comment on media coverage that they were themselves a part of. The only reason people stopped thinking about how bad Giambi had behaved is because they stopped covering him and his situation on the level they did McGwire's (and nice bit of manipulation here, too- no one found Palmeiro's testimony disgraceful at the time, because everyone believed him) and Bonds'. The media decided who was a good guy and who was a bad guy, and columnists everywhere- like Klapisch- told us all how "at least Giambi admitted it," and "at least Giambi (sort of) apologized."

It genuinely worries me that history will record Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro as "disgraceful cheaters" (which they may be) and show Giambi and Sheffield in a different light. It probably shouldn't, but the simple idea, and the message it sends, that Jason Giambi is given a relative "OK" because he came back to smacking HRs is such an infantile way to judge things. Reminds me of high school when a hockey player would vandalize something, get in some trouble, score a hat trick that night, and all was forgotten.

(It's also pretty funny to look at the Klapisch article, with a chart detailing Giambi's skyrocketing numbers, and a pat assumption that he's not back on anything.)

It's all part of the way the media interprets modern athletes. Like when Dan Shaughnessy gives different sets of moral rules for guys like Pedro and Nomar than he does for guys like Clemens and Trot Nixon.

I should probably just get over it.

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