Friday, March 30, 2007

'Dan Shaughnessy - a life'
Will Ferrell set to play Dan Shaughnessy in story of Dan's life

As you can see from the below picture, noted thespian Will Ferrell is getting into character as he prepares to take on the roll of legendary Boston sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy, for a project due to be released in 2008. Details so far are sketchy however it appears Ferrell is taking the role seriously, enrolling in the Terrell Owens 'School for political correctness' in order to develop Shaughnessy's particular quirks of character for the part.

Dan and Will, or is it Will and Dan? Who can tell?!
Sleeperville - the top 20
Build the coolest keeper fantasy team in the land
My own personal top 20 sleepers for the 2007 season

As we inch even closer to the Major League regular season so many questions hang gently in the air like a gentle, inviting Kei Igawa fastball. Will Barry Bonds eventually run out of needles? Does Jarrod Saltalamacchia have the coolest name in baseball? Who is Cameron Maybin?

It is hard to build a dominant fantasy team and harder still to build a dominant fantasy keeper team. Not to mention the fact that with the season just days away you are running out of time. I am here to make that task that little bit easier. I was listing the chíc, 'under the radar' picks position by position (see below links) however I have run out of time with the season starting this weekend. Therefore I am going to simply list a few of what I consider the top 20 sleeper picks for the 2007 season. Stun your friends by grabbing these gents before anyone else.

Previously posted: First Base - second base - Catchers

Let's break it down and chop it up.

Remember, you won't find the 'usual suspects' here. Everyone knows about Delmon Young, BJ Upton, Verlander etc. These are the guys you might pick when working 'outside the box'. Each player has the position he was taken in the .406 Club Fantasy Keeper Dynasty League draft just before his name.

53. Felix Hernandez (SP-SEA)
Why am I considering Hernandez a sleeper? Because allot of fantasy team owners may have looked in other directions after his comparatively poor 2006 season. After a 'the sky is the limit' 2005, King Felix suffered a little bout of the sophomore slump. Given a number of factors he could really break out in '07.

Here's what Dan Perry on FoxSports had to say about the man who would be King;

"King Felix" is the best young pitcher to come along in many a generation, and he'll probably prove it this season. He's got four plus-plus offerings, strong groundball tendencies, an ability to make hitters miss and poise on the mound that belies his years — Hernandez has everything you want in a young hurler. With a full season under his belt and an excellent infield defense behind him (important for a pitcher who gets so many groundballs), Hernandez will come up big in 2007. He may not get the run support he needs to win 20, but he'll challenge for the AL ERA title. The best is yet to come for the King.

I would add that Felix can relax a little with slightly less pressure on his shoulders after his somewhat disappointing '06. The bottom line is, if he is available in your fantasy league draft grab him. If you are playing in a 'keeper' league, climb over your friends dead bodies to get him!

57. Brian McCann (C-ATL)
Brian McCann is only 23. He got his big break with the Braves when they traded catcher Johnny Estrada to the Arizona Diamondbacks, basically making McCann the Braves' everyday catcher in 2006. He had shown plenty of promise in 2005, but broke out in style in 2006. He hit a fantastic .354 batting average during the first half of the season and was named to the National League All-Star team. Plus, he is only 23! McCann kept hitting in the second half, batting well over .300 while hitting for even more power and driving in even more runs. Brian finished the season batting .333 with 34 doubles, 24 home runs, and 93 RBI in just 442 at-bats. In case I forget, he is only 23! Stunning numbers at the catching position. By the way, he's only 23.

62. Dan Uggla (2B-FLA)
Uggla is still flying just below the radar although word is starting to spread about the 26 year olds skills around the second base bag, as illustrated by him going at 62nd in my Fantasy Keeper League draft. Uggla lost out to narrowly to his team mate Hanley Ramirez for the 2006 NL Rookie of the year. He finished third behind Ramirez and Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals, who both posted sensational rookie seasons.

68. Matt Cain (SP-SF)
I know all about this next guy because he has become a personal crusade. I have been trying to pry him from his current .406 Club Fantasy Keeper Dynasty League for the last few days and I am getting nowhere. His current owner, Baseball America and Dayn Perry of Fox Sports all agree he could have a break out season in 2007.

First up, Baseball America had him at number 10 in their 2006 top 100 propects.

MATT CAIN, rhp, Giants
"The quality of his stuff has never been a question. The question was his command and ability to make adjustments. Well, he's doing those things now."
--Fresno manager Shane Turner

Dayn Perry on Fox Sports writes;
Cain's second-half numbers from 2006 tell the story. Before the break, he logged a 5.12 ERA, 80 strikeouts and 47 walks in 91.1 innings, and after the break he logged a 3.26 ERA, 99 strikeouts and 40 walks in 99.1 innings. That's obvious progress. There's some concern that Cain's control problems and fly-ball tendencies will keep him from achieving Cy Young status, but he still profiles as an ace.

All that plus he is pitching in Quadruple A, otherwise known as the National League, which pretty much means about a run and a half less on a pitchers era when compared to the AL. Now if only I could convince the guy in my keeper league to give him up!

71. Adam Laroche (1B-PIT)
Laroche is one of those sneaky, slightly under the radar guys who puts up good numbers but plenty of people wouldn't know their name. Adam hit .285 with and impressive 30 home runs and 90 RBIs, all career-bests, in 2006. He seems ready to thrive in Pittsburgh away from the spotlight at Turner Field. Plus, at 27, his best years are ahead of him.

83. Philip Hughes (SP-NYY), rhp, Yankees
An absolute case-in-point example of how potential AL stud pitchers are regarded with more value than their NL counterparts. How do you pick between Homer Bailey and Phillip Hughes? According to the .406 Club draft, they are a whopping 74 draft places apart in talent. That simply is not the case. Scouts love Hughes and he is projected to be in the Yankee rotation soon, however if given the chance to pick between them I feel most would take Bailey in a heart beat, as scouts are absolutely in love with his pure, raw talent and upside. Of course this isn't Phillip's problem, and he should fit nicely into the fourth or fifth spot in the Yankee rotation certainly before the All Star break.

Baseball America had him posted at number 39 in their 2006 Top 100 prospects. Here is the quote they associated with him;

"He throws hard and he throws strikes. That's why for me he's a Mark Prior Lite."
--Charleston manager Bill Mosiello

85. Stephen Drew (SS-ARI)
This from the 2007 Arizona Diamondbacks Preview on goteamsgo.com
''Headlining the infield is Stephen Drew, who was terrific in his half-season debut in 2006. His slugging percentage of .517 might be difficult to maintain, as his extra base hits included a whopping 7 triples in 223 plate appearances. Still, the young shortstop will be one of the better hitters at his position, and he should be about average defensively. He could eventually replace his double-play mate, Orlando Hudson, at the 2-hole in the batting order.''

Baseball America has him ranked 5th on their Top 100 Prospects list and has this quote on him;

5. STEPHEN DREW, ss, Diamondbacks

"He's got power. He can hit for average. He's got instincts. He has all the defensive tools to play an outstanding shortstop. He is one of the most instinctual players for his age that I've ever seen."
--Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo
ETA: 2006

89. Nick Swisher (1B/OF)
Another Jeff Bagwell? Swisher was selected by the A's with the Boston Red Sox first round pick in 2002 as compensation for the loss of free agent Johnny Damon. A cocky, stylish player, Swisher is only 26 and has serious power and an eye for the clutch situations.

86. Prince Fielder (1B-MIL)
The son of former Major Leaguer Cecil Fielder got his break with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 and has grabbed it with both hands, much like the McDonalds triple cheeseburger which he used to actually be official spokesperson for. No, really, he was.

The regally named Prince has always had pop in his big bat. When his father played for Detroit, Prince would sometimes come along for batting practice; on one occasion, at the age of 12, he hit a home run into the upper deck of Tiger Stadium. After Lyle Overbay was traded Fielder became the Brewers' starting first baseman in early 2006, and he should be good for at least 30 long balls and a decent average in 2007. Plus he has a really cool name.

Here's what Dan Payn on FoxSports had to say about the man who would be Prince;

''We know "Son of Cecil" can rake: .524 career SLG in the minors and 28 bombs in his first season in the bigs. Fielder posted an OBP of only .320 in the first half of 2006, but after the break he authored a batting line of .278 AVG/.381 OBP/.490 SLG. That boost is mostly due to the fact that Fielder did a much better job of recognizing breaking pitches in the second half. Expect further progress in 2007. A 40-homer season isn't out of the question.''

105. Howie Kendrick (1B/2B-LAA)

Anybody who is a regular reader of Sports Guy on ESPN2 knows all about Howard Kendrick. Sports Guy has been high on Kendrick's potential since last year and has mentioned him several times in baseball columns. After destroying minor league pitching to the tune of a career .359 average Howie has made his splash in the majors and qualifies at both second and first base. With Adam Kennedy signing as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2006-07 offseason, second base will be all Howie's for 2007.

Here's what Dayn Perry of FoxSports had to say about Howie in his Top 10 breakout performers for 2007 piece;

''Few hitters can put bat on ball like Kendrick. He scuttled a bit last season after his call-up to Anaheim, but he was a career .361 hitter in the minors. Yes, in 1,475 minor league at bats, Kendrick maintained a .361 average. And all the while he was doing it at every level and generally competing against older peer groups. That's a hitter. He doesn't boast much in the way of secondary skills, but Kendrick could contend for a batting title right away. In fact, don't be surprised if Kendrick in 2007 emerges as the best second baseman in the AL not named Robinson Cano.''

108. Scott Olsen (SP-FLA)
This guy shouldn't be a sleeper, but seeing as he is in the unfancied Marlins rotation plus plying his trade in the NL, he should be available relatively late on in most leagues. What's not to love about a young, left handed starter who had a fantastic rookie season?

Baseball America had him posted at number 34 in their 2006 Top 100 prospects. Here is the quote they associated with him;

"You could see he was oozing with talent. The way he attacked the zone, he stuck it to us. He's a live-arm lefty, works both sides of the plate and throws all his pitches for strikes."
--West Tenn manager Bobby Dickerson

129. Russell Martin (C-LAD)
Russell Martin, or, to give him his full name, RUSSELL NATHAN COLTRANE JEANSON MARTIN JR (seriously), is the starting catcher for the Dodgers at the tender age of 24.

Baseball America has him ranked 42nd on their Top 100 Prospects list and has this quote on him;

"He's obviously one of the better hitters in the league, yet at the most premium position. He basically shut our running game down and said, 'If you're going to run, you're going to make outs."
--West Tenn manager Bobby Dickerson

The only other catcher currently on the Dodgers books is Mike Lieberthal and he is there solely as a backup to Martin, who is set to shine in '07.

138. Nick Markakis (OF-BAL)

Here's what Dayn Perry of FoxSports had to say about Nick in his Top 10 breakout performers for 2007 piece;

Nick Markakis, RF, Orioles Age: 23
Markakis, despite being rushed through the system (in the minors he played only 33 games above the high-A level) and despite being only a part-time position player in junior college (he spent most of his time on the mound), had a credible rookie campaign in 2006. And in the second half he raised his batting average 43 points, his on-base percentage 29 points and his slugging percentage 84 points. Considering Markakis' learning curve, the progress is deeply impressive. His defense in right is an asset, and with the bat he's a future superstar.

Baseball America had him posted at number 21 in their 2006 Top 100 prospects. Here is the quote they associated with him;

21. NICK MARKAKIS, of, Orioles
"Moon shots. That's all I think of when I hear the name Markakis. We couldn't find a way to get him out."
--Salem manager Ivan DeJesus

152. Mike Napoli (C-LAA)
Mike Napoli went 152nd in my draft, and I am delighted to say I snapped him up. Dayn Perry on Fox Sports would seem to agree with me that he's a good pick, putting him in his list of ten guys to watch for break out seasons from in '07. He wrote;

'7. Mike Napoli, C, Angels Age: 25
''The Angels have done a nice job emphasizing Mike Napoli's strengths. Napoli is the prototype of the neglected hitter. He doesn't hit for average, and he strikes out a lot. Those two deficiencies tend to obscure what he does do well - hit for power and draw walks. Credit the Angels for looking past Napoli's weaknesses and giving him a crack at the starting catcher job. He enters camp as the favorite, and if he wins the job, then don't be surprised if he gives the Halos 25-30 homers on the season. Needless to say, that's outstanding power production by positional standards.''

The only issue with Mike is that he is part of a bit of a log-jam at the catching position in Anaheim. They go into spring training with the current crew.
Mathis is another prospect while Molina is one of the 18 Molina brothers worldwide. The word on the street though, is that Napoli possesses the two tools in particular to make him front runner for the position, defensive play and big, sexy, home run power.

157. Homer Bailey (SP-CIN) rhp, Reds
Another one of those guys who would probably cause a bigger splash and have more of a fanfare if he was in the American League. Instead he is being allowed slip under the radar in the NL and the Reds have high hopes for him.

Baseball America had him posted at number 38 in their 2006 Top 100 prospects. Here is the quote they associated with him;

"He'll break off a hammer curve after a 97 mile an hour fastball and there's just nothing you can do about it. Unless your name is Ichiro, you're not going to hit that."
--Dayton outfielder B.J. Szymanski

182. Troy Tulowitzki (SS-COL)
A talented, high-upside young player who recently won the Rockies starting job at short. Sky is the limit type guy. Baseball America has him ranked 25th on their Top 100 Prospects list and has this quote on him;

25. TROY TULOWITZKI, ss, Rockies

"He's better than Bobby Crosby. He could play in the big leagues right now. He can hit, hit for power and he's the whole package defensively with a plus-plus arm."
--anonymous scout

233. James Loney (1B-LAD)
This kid (only 22!) has serious power potential. On September 28, 2006 in a game against the Colorado Rockies, Loney went 4 for 5 with 9 RBI's which tied a 56-year Dodgers franchise record for RBI's in a single game. The problem is of course, Nomar Garciapara stands in his way at first right now for the Dodgers. Loney probably showed enough in limited playing time in '06 though to stick to the big club and would have to fancy his chances of getting good playing time if Nomar went down. Sadly, that's a pretty decent possibility considering Nomar's recent injury troubles.

265. Anthony Reyes (SP-StL)
I was suprised I was able to pick up Reyes this late in the .406 Club Fantasy Keeper Dynasty League draft. People are basically waxing eloquent about him all over the internet, plus he had a pretty solid finish to the 2006 season. This leads me to conclude the following. I think there is much more attention given to young, promising pitchers in the AL than in the NL. Look at Felix Hernandez. The furore that surrounded him in late '06 was almost overbearing. Meanwhile young potential stars like Reyes, Cain and Lowry slip relatively quietly under the radar in the NL. Dayn Perry likes Reyes chances in '07;

Anthony Reyes, SP, Cardinals
Reyes has good stuff — as he proved in Game 1 of the World Series last year — and now he finally gets the opportunity to pitch a full season in the Cardinals rotation. He'll always have injury concerns (his career at USC was riddled with serious arm and shoulder maladies), but Reyes has been reasonably healthy as a pro. In 2007, he'll be pitching in front of a solid defense and with the help of a solid offense. Take those factors in tandem with Reyes' native skills, and you've got a solidly above-average starting pitcher.

Baseball America has Reyes at number 41 in their 2006 top prospects listing

41. ANTHONY REYES, rhp, Cardinals
"He's going to make you put the ball in play and give the defense a chance to make plays behind him. He is always ahead in the count and he is not going to beat himself."
--Round Rock manager Jackie Moore

Basically a solid pick all round, with the added advantage of his position in the pitching friendly National League.

361. Jarrod Saltalamacchia - (C/1B-ATL)
Saltalamacchia, or 'Salty' as he is known amongst his Braves buddies, is a 21 year old first base/catching prospect for Atlanta. Saltalamacchia was selected by the Braves in the first round of the 2003 June free agent baseball draft. Interestingly, when he makes the majors, he will grab the record of having the longest last name in major league baseball history. Jarod is known as a blue chip prospect however the Braves already have Brian McCann (who is only 23!) in that spot, so this means that Salty will either have to learn a new position, become a backup or get traded. Anything is possible, the thing is, the kid has oodles of talent.

Baseball America has him ranked 18th on their Top 100 Prospects list and has this quote on him;

18. JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA, c, Braves "He's got a chance to be Jason Varitek to me. The size, the strength, the power are all there." --anonymous scout



Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rotten rotation
Yankees go into the season with a shredded starting five


With Johnny 'show me the money' Damon running around telling everyone who will listen how the Yankees are the team to beat, I have to wonder how many of his team mates are looking at their opening day starter, Carl Pavano (presuming he hasn't injured himself in the twenty minutes it took me to write this paragraph) and their rotation as it stands and murmuring to Damon to 'keep it down, stop drawing attention to us!'.


Members of the NY Yankees discuss their rotation woes in passionate fashion

I mean, from the news we are hearing from Florida the last few days, how long before we can start calling the Yankee rotation a complete train wreck?

Randy Johnson has run screaming for the comparative safety of the National League. Andy Pettitte's back is acting up. Cranky old man. Kei Igawa looked like the second coming of Hideki 'The Fat Toad' Irabu (Georgie Porgie's words, not mine) in his spring start against the Tigers.

Chien-Ming Wang (Imagine his bullpen coach was the Reds Dick Pole, 'Dick Pole comes out to talk to Wang'), the carrier of hopes and dreams for all in pin stripes, a 19-game winner last year and runner-up for the American League Cy Young Award, will begin the season on the DL and could be sidelined at least a month.

Seeing as the Yankees don't want to rearrange Mike Mussina's schedule this late into spring training (in case he throws a big hissy fit), it's Pavano who has been named by Joe Torre to pitch April 2 against the Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium. This raises a number of questions. Did Torre go out and get steaming drunk prior to being forced to do this? How long before Pavano re-injures himself? How far into the upper decks will Johnny Gomes plant Pavano's fastball? Seeing as this would be Pavano's first major league outing since June 2005, will he even be allowed in the park by security?

So, what I want to know is, how does the average Yankee fan feel about his or her rotation this summer? Good? Bad? Suicidal? Drop me a line and let me know!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Reel Fanatic
Very interesting movie blog and what constitutes a good 'Irish' movie

I recently came across a great little blog called 'Reel Fanatic', created and maintained by Keith Demko. I just read a few posts and his profile and was instantly drawn in. There's plenty of good reviews and indeed news on upcoming features. Keith describes his own blog as such;

''When I was very young, my father brought home a little movie called "Spinal Tap," and I have never been the same since. Along with being a movie junkie and a devoted fan of the hapless Baltimore Orioles, I design the Life & Style pages for the Telegraph in Macon, Georgia.''

Now, while reading through the content, I came across this posting - Favorite Irish movies, which Keith describes as such;

''OK, I know, St. Patrick's Day was two days ago, so I guess I'm a bit late with this. But looking through my DVD shelf, I realized that, next to America, Ireland has produced (or at least figured prominently in), the most movies I own.''

He goes on to list some great movies, amongst them 'the snapper', 'the boxer' and 'war of the buttons'. I then had a look at the comments page, and was suddenly compelled to put all this to pen (well, keyboard).

I was shocked at what some people thought constituted an 'Irish' movie. Keith himself seems to have a good grasp of what is an Irish film, but some of the people who posted comments were coming up with some amazing choices as their favourite 'Irish' flick, so I decided to give an Irish man who loves movies opinion on this!

To preface, this post is aimed at people around the world and the States in particular, who think 'The Quiet Man' is a great Irish movie. I am shaking my head wistfully even typing that. First of all, to start on a positive note, if you want to watch a real Irish movie, try and get your hands on 'I went down'. It stars the wonderful Brendan Gleeson and is basically a comedy/road movie but essentially very Irish. On a side note, I went to school with one of the co-stars, David Wilmot. Great soccer player.

Bunny Kelly in 'I went down': What ever happens over the coming years, you be ready to forgive your man, because sometimes the benefit of the doubt can even save your life, I been learning that.

In my opinion you can split 'Irish' movies into three groups.

Group A: Small budget, generally filmed in Ireland, almost 100% Irish actors, Irish music and Irish content.

Group B: Big budget movies with a largely Irish content, some important cast members from Ireland and other Irish aspects, but generally filmed in the States with American leads and script etc..

Group C: Big budget movies made in the States with American actors loosely based on the Irish experience. Generally completely and utterly useless, erroneous and often borderline insulting.

To kick things off, 'I went down' is a Group A movie. It's budget is lowest of the low however it is an enjoyable, funny and touching little story. Grab it any way you can.

On to some of the comments in Keith's comment section for his piece on his favourite Irish movies.

Question A: ''Would Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch count as Irish?''

NO!! They would not. They are British movies! Enough said.

Question B: ''Have you seen The Devil's Own? I don't know if that's "classic" or not.''

Boy oh boy. The Devils Own, where do I start? Apart from having practically no Irish actors, some of the worst Irish accents this side of the Quiet Man (I'll get to that later!) and some absolutely glaring historical inaccuracies, it also has some of the worst lines I have ever heard in movie history.

Just so you know this is not just me ranting, I saw that movie in the cinema when it came out and people were openly laughing at crucial dramatic scenes because the accents were so bad and the acting was brutal (one of Pitt's worst parts ever.)

I beg of you..
''but after I finish this I'm gonna see if I can Netflix it ...''
Do NOT waste money on this movie! It is about as Irish as The Taj Mahal.

Question C: ''How can you leave off The Quiet Man and The Commitments?''

Second part was a great point, the Commitments is definitely an true Irish great, put it this way, everyone in Ireland loves that movie. Its funny, smart, well written, well acted, and very true to it's subject matter. Plus the music is fantastic. It falls smartly into that 'Group A' category I outlined above.

The quiet man? Boy oh boy, ill get to that shortly!

Question D: ''Intermission is an interesting Irish thriller. A little slow, but intricate and has my 2 favorite Irish actors, Cillian Murphy and Colin Farrell.''

Fantastic point. Intermission, again, a REAL Irish movie. Definitely Group A. Actually, if you want to see what the rougher parts of Dublin are like, and the antics the small minority of local scum bags get up to, great movie! Very funny too. Colin Farrell reels in his ego for two hours and is brilliant in it.

So, seeing my point so far? Intermission, I went down, Commitments, the snapper...all fantastic Irish movies. Real Irish movies. Low budget, well written, well acted, no pretensions, just great little movies.

The Quiet Man. Dear oh dear. The Quiet Man is a ridiculous, insulting and boring stereo type, as is the Devils Own, only the latter is slightly more offensive. These fall into Group C. They were possibly written by people that had never actually set foot in Ireland, judging by their pathetic, lazy stereotypical characters and story lines.

I know it is kind of blasphemy to critique the Quiet Man in some parts, but folks, you can do allot better than that! It just really is not as Irish as it makes itself out to be. You want Irish? Check out Intermission or I Went Down. The Quiet Man, however, isn't even half as bad as 'The Devils Own'.

In the February 2, 1997, issue of Newsweek, Brad Pitt called the film a "disaster", and said that "it was the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking - if you can even call it that - that I've ever seen. I couldn't believe it." That almost, almost gets him off the hook for the worst Irish accent in the history of the motion picture. At least he was honest about how bad the movie was.

It is an ugly, incorrect and offensive piece of rubbish, that is about as accurate as a blind man playing darts when it comes to portraying the struggles up North. It should be avoided like the plague, like most 'Group C' 'Irish' movies.

Finally, on to Group B. I totally agree with those who commented and mentioned the Departed, and Millers Crossing, they are Irish enough in content to warrant being Irish, plus they are chock full of great Irish actors. Gabriel Byrne is one of the best.

I would add one more Group B movie though that I am amazed people missed - Gangs of New York. Not only is Irish great Brendan Gleeson in it, the wonderful Liam Neeson is too. There are many other minor roles played by Irish actors, the music is all Irish, the subject matter is true to its Irish roots (emigration, for example portrayed beautifully and with great emotion) but most of all it is an absolute tour de force by Ireland's greatest actor, in my humble opinion, the wonderful, mysterious, enigmatic Daniel Day Lewis.

To sum up..

Get your hands on 'I went down' if you can, and go watch 'Gangs of New York' again and just enjoy Day Lewis at his best, one of the best of a fine group of Irish actors.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Adventitious blog entries 4
ad·ven·ti·tious
[ad-vuhn-tish-uhs]
–adjective
''associated with something by chance rather than as an integral part; extrinsic.''

Schilling fights back
Good to see Curt Schilling come back with a level headed response to Dan Shaughnessy's absolutely ridiculous, childish article which basically took a seriously ascerbic swing at the Red Sox pitcher.

From Schilling's blog:

The only response I have to the Curly Haired Boyfriend is this.
“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win”
Putting his inherent ‘toolness’ on display for all the world to see did far more than I could ever hope to do by trying to explain what a dope he is.

Curly Haired Boyfriend, or CHB, is a nickname for Dan. Shaughnessy is a real paradox. There is no doubt he is a talented, experienced writer, but why must he resort to the asinine stuff he comes out with on Manny and Schilling in particular?

Goosebumps
Well, there they are, the first goosebumps of the 2007 Red Sox season.

All it took was this paragraph from ESPN's Sports Guy.

''And then spring training rolled around and I watched a couple of Dice-K starts. That's all I needed. The guy's great. If you're a Red Sox fan, you'll be checking the paper every day just to make sure you don't miss one of his starts this year -- he's not as overpowering as vintage Pedro, but he has a similar arsenal of pitches (including a ridiculous collection of off-speed pitches) and a real swagger on the mound. You always feel like you're in good hands with him. Same with Papi and Manny. And Papelbon. Lugo and Drew are enormous upgrades over Gonzalez and Nixon. Beckett looks ready for a comeback year. Schilling looks like he has one last good year in him. And so on. And so on. And now that the one question (closer) has been resolved with Papelbon's willingness to take the job back, it feels like we're headed for a monster season. ''

Plus I really enjoyed watching Matsuzaka pitch last night. Didn't even know it was on NASN (Europes US sports chanel) until my Dad sent me a text giving me a heads up.

NCAA mascot hell
Worst College mascots ever

Check out this list of the least inspiring NCAA mascots. Pretty funny stuff

'The Fighter'
I thought this movie sounded pretty cool.

Wahlberg, Damon reteam for Irish Fighter: Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon, who starred together in 'The Departed', are to team up once again for 'The Fighter', based on the life of boxer 'Irish' Mickey Ward.

The film is about Ward's rise to fame, detailing their early days on the rough streets of Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1970s, (Damon's character) Eklund's battle with drugs and Ward's eventual world championship in London. More on the movie here.

Before Wahlberg and Damon's recent rise to fame, it was pretty hard to come across good Boston-Irish/Irish-American movies. Now there's the excellent 'The Departed' and also this one in the pipeline. Before that I guess 'Mystic River' was the outstanding point of reference, along with maybe 'Goodwill Hunting'?

I guess you could say 'The Emerald Diamond' had several scenes shot in Boston! Fenway Park too, no less!
Panic stations!
Matsuzaka a little wild in penultimate spring tuneup


So Matsuzaka walks a couple of guys and then doesn't talk to the media after his start. With noted Calvinistic, optimism-challenged scribe Dan Shaughnessy guiding their hands, Red Sox Nation slams it's finger on the panic button.

For the love of God. Take it easy folks.

A few weeks ago the Globe posted a good piece about Josh Beckett and his hopes for the season. In it, he described how, as a pitcher, you basically go through peaks and valleys in your 30 something starts. He outlined how he felt that for 20 of those starts you feel normal, those are your bread-and-butter starts. For 4-5 you feel amazing, as if anything you throw is going to be a perfect pitch. For another 5 it is simply a struggle. Nothing you do works and you really have to battle to get any result.

Instead of hypothesising injury or other doomsday scenarios can we not just put Matsuzaka's start into the '4-5 games that are a struggle' category, and admire the fact that he didn't even give up a hit let alone a run?

I'll tell ya, it's going to be one long, long season if this is the level of nit-picking the media dig to after each start.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Shaughnessy's enemy - 2
Dan v Curt Schilling's blog

I never thought a post called ''Shaughnessy's enemy'' would become a multi part, repeated post. How wrong I was. Taking a step back...

There is a great Simpson episode which is called "Homer's Enemy" where a Nuclear Plant employee, Frank Grimes, becomes gradually more insanely obsessed with Homer until he eventually gets eaten up by his hatred for Homer's boorish, comical and whimsical ways.

Frank Grimes, meet Dan Shaughnessy.

Shaughnessy's oddball, Quixote like regular verbal assaults on Curt Schilling are becoming the stuff of legend, however it appears Dan is approaching his own exposed power wires, akin to his twin in anger, Frank Grimes.

In the excellent Simpson's episode Grimes gets so upset at Homer's antics he runs around the nuclear plant screaming;

''Accidents have doubled every year since he became safety inspector. And meltdowns have tripled! Has he been fired? No. Has he been disciplined? No, no!''

Before finally accidentally electrocuting himself on exposed wires.

Now, Shaughnessy actually commits to print a childish, painful attempt at a comedic attack on Curt Schilling's recently unveiled blog. Dan takes great time to 'fake' entries from sycophantic fans and pokes fun at Schilling in numerous ways in doing so.

This could have been funny if it had been written by someone else, who spends less than 73% of their time slating Schilling as Dan does. However seeing as Curt-bashing is listed as one of Dan's hobbies, it is basically just Frank Grimes-esque in nature.

Some of the fake entries Dan cooks up show another one of his pet-targets, the average Red Sox fan. Have a read of what Dan thinks of you, the Boston fan;

Lapdog38: Hey Curt. This blog is awesome. I mean, I can't believe it's really you. I'm nervous just typing, knowing you are there on the other end. Let me tell you a little about myself. I am 38 years old (pretty cool, huh, 38?) and I have your jersey in XXL (both home and away versions). I'm living at home, in the basement, rent free, and I've got cable and plasma TV. Domino's delivers. I guess you could say I'm living the dream.

Great, so Dan has us all pegged for overweight slobs who eat poorly and have a nervous disposition. If that isn't good enough, Dan actually questions the average Red Sox fans sanity in the next 'fake' entry;

Suckup38: Curt, you are the best. Thank you for this blog. It completes me. You had me at hello. I have blood stains on all my white socks. I was wondering if you would please consider going back to the negotiating table with the Red Sox during the season. If you leave Boston, I'll be forced to leave, myself.

My word that's hilarious. A joke about suicide in a faked entry on a Red Sox players blog. Dan really earned his pay check with that one. Finally, if that wasn't enough, Frank Grimes, I mean, Dan Shaughnessy, has one last good hard poke at what he describes as the 'sheep like' fans of Red Sox nation and Curt Schilling in the same fake posting;

CHB38: What do you say to those media morons who contend that you are a self-important blowhard with an ill-informed opinion about everything and an insatiable need to be worshipped by sheep-like fans and late-night blog boys who live in Ma's basement?

Maybe today is a good day to send Dan a little note telling him you love him. It looks like he needs a little love in his life. Right now he is just lashing out in all directions. Maybe remind him the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and Curt Schilling was a huge part of that. Let him know that it's okay to actually enjoy the Red Sox this season without resorting to childish, immature rants against players who's educated, eloquent ability to speak maybe threatens him a little? Is that what it is Dan? Really? Ahhh...poor fella.

Previous 'Shaughnessy's enemy' posts

Dan Shaughnessy v Manny Ramirez part 1

Friday, March 23, 2007

How's your Papelboner?
Jon Papelbon is the 'new' Red Sox closer -it's official

Well now that's what you call a news headline. Woke up this morning to this little doozy in my email inbox, sent by the good people at the Boston Globe's website.

Breaking Sports Alert: Papelbon returns to bullpen as Red Sox closer

Jonathan Papelbon and Terry Francona confirmed this afternoon that the Red Sox are abandoning the experiment to convert him to a starter and that he will continue as the team's closer.

This little newsflash was music to my ears on a couple of levels. First and foremost, this instantly makes the Red Sox bullpen one of the premiere bullpens in the Major Leagues. It's not just that Papelbon was simply born to close. The knock on effect through the entire bullpen can not be ignored. With Papelbon ready to come rolling out of the gates in the 9th it means every other reliever knows his role and can relax and settle into less stressful roles than closing. Suddenly the Red Sox have one of the better collection of setup men in the Majors.


Secondly, well, now I have a total shut down closer for my team in the .406 Club Fantasy Dynasty Keeper League. Here's how the famous moment went down at the time;

With the 41st pick of the .406 Club Dynasty Fantasy Keeper League, the Dublin Sharks, of Dublin, Ireland, managed by DaddyMac22, selects Jonathan Robert Papelbon. Thank you.

Finally, I wonder, can I actually claim to have called this move? Is that okay with everyone? I know I suggested Lester over the actual choice (Tavarez) but still, I was close, right?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Adventitious blog entries 3
ad·ven·ti·tious
[ad-vuhn-tish-uhs]
–adjective
''associated with something by chance rather than as an integral part; extrinsic.''

STLtoday.com
STLtoday.com is fast becoming one of the greater online supporters of Baseball Ireland the The Emerald Diamond movie. STL today is the Internet home of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I have to admit I would not have thought there was an enormous Irish presence in St Louis, although judging by his surname STL today journalist Dan O'Neill might have a thing or two to say about that!

Dan penned this really excellent piece on Baseball Ireland and John Fitzgerald's movie 'the Emerald Diamond' the day after St Patrick's day. In all my time in Baseball Ireland this is one of the better articles I have read on our little venture. Plus, Dan included a goofy quote from your author in another one of his regular STL today pieces (read down a little to see it under 'quoteworthy').

Speaking of the Emerald Diamond...
Creator John Fitzgerald keeps a really entertaining, interesting blog on his time making and then 'selling', showing his movie. This weekends entry is an absolute riot, detailing his St Patrick's weekend and his attempts to have the movie shown on SNY.

Top 100 Red Sox blog
The Top 100 Red Sox blog got off to a great start but slowed a little lately, however the designers and creators are giving it an extra push this month in an attempt to finish it off. Having previously posted on the likes of Keith Foulke and Johnny V, I am looking forward to writing up the great Tony C in the next week. Very fun project, check it out.

March Madness
Yes, we are afflicted by March Madness here in Ireland too. Basketball is actually a pretty big sport here and NASN are showing March Madness in full. I was rooting for BC and Connecticut but with them out money talks to I have backed Georgetown (9-1) and Ohio State (8-1). Lorcan Sherlock of my Irish Baseball League club team, the Dublin Hurricanes, set up a bracket-pool for a couple of us off the team. Club Captain Steve Divito, Chris Foy, Andy Martin, Lorcan, Eric 'Vegas' Valkys and myself all joined in. Here is his most recent update which includes a hilarious character bio on each player.

The bio for Eric Valkys in particular is absolutely hilarious.

Name Round1 Round2 Total
Lorcan 28 22 50
Chris 25 24 49
Steve 28 20 48
Cormac 27 20 47
Andy 22 18 40
Vegas 23 16 39

Chris X. Foy
1. Member of the Irish National Team.
2. X stands for eXtra batting practice needed.

Steve Divito
1. From Watertown, so he is intrinsically good.
2. Dyes his hair gray so as to appear wiser and more
experienced.
3. Looks like a cross between Ross from friends and
Inspector Gadget. Unfortunately, he does not have
go-go-gadget-legs, and it often takes him several
minutes to get from home to first.
4. Has pitched at Fenway.

Cormac Eklof
1. All time leader in W's in Irish baseball history.
2. Has never, ever cut to the basket, preferring to
spend most of his time somewhere between the three
point line and half court.

Andy Martin.
1. Andy does not like to be trifled with.
2. Andy has won the Silver Slugger award for the
Irish Baseball League.
3. If you were to twist my arm and ask what animal
Andy looks like, I would be compelled to respond that
Andy looks a bit like a turtle.

Eric Valkys (Vegas)
1. Vegas likes to gamble. Since I've known Vegas,
I've been keeping track of the wins and losses he's
told me about. In the past year, Vegas is up over
seven hundred thousand euro. It hasn't changed him a
bit though, he's still the same old Vegas.
2. Eric has the most impressive resume (CV) of any of
this group. He has played baseball with Mo Vaughn and
John Valentin. He has played basketball against Kobe
Bryant. He has advised Presidents Bush and Clinton,
and he was a weapons inspector in Iraq, reporting
directly to Hans Blix. Vegas once dated Reese
Witherspoon. Oh yeah, and he also invented the cotton
gin, along with Eli Whitney.
3. Vegas is very good at stealing bases on passed
balls.


Previous Adventitious postings

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Ready for some Irish League Baseball?
Season preview for the 2007 Irish Baseball League
Plus a look back at previous seasons in Baseball Ireland League History


Things are starting to take shape in terms of the 2007 Irish Adult Baseball League. This year there are going to be six teams in the 'A' division, with the Spartans attempting to defend their hard won crown from 2006. The Spartans, Hurricanes and Twins United will be playing out of Corcaigh Park near Newlands Cross. The Greystones Mariner's home ground in Greystones is unavailable for the first part of the season so they will take to the road for the first month in search of their first title ever. The Belfast Northstars will be taking part in the league as will the Blacksox, who are based in Shanganah Park, out near Shankill.

Each team brings its own style of play to the competition, and each team is in with a chance to win the 2007 season.

The schedule has not been released as yet but the Irish Baseball Committee are working around the clock to come up with something that suits everyone whilst also being fair to all. umours indicate the 'A' league teams can expect as many as twenty games each, which is the most the league has attempted to date.

All Time Irish Baseball Championship winners
  • 2006 - League Champions Spartans
  • 2005 - League Champions Hurricanes
  • 2004 - League Champions Spartans
  • 2003 - League Champions Hurricanes
  • 2002 - League Champions Spartans
  • 2001 - League Champions Panthers
  • 2000 - League Champions Spartans
  • 1999 - League Champions Spartans
  • 1998 - League Champions Panthers
  • 1997 - League Champions The Dukes *
* The Dukes are no more, they were made defunct in 1998 when the league started from scratch with an all-players draft and total reformat of all teams. Perhaps the Dukes will be seen again when someone makes a playstation game for European Baseball and you can select 'Historic' teams like the 1997 Dublin Dukes!

The Dublin Spartans

The Spartans are built around a solid base of Darran O'Connor, Sean Mitchell, Chaime Cuevas, Bill Beglane, John Dillon and Noel Mitchell. They won the league last season and that brought their league title hall to an amazing five trophies. To put that in perspective, there have been nine trophies handed out to the winners of the Irish Baseball League since 1997 and five of those have gone to the Spartans.

They have a history of scooping up the individual awards too when it comes to trophy time. Last year the Spartans picked up two coveted personal awards. Chaime Cuevas won the 2006 Tommy Bond Best Pitcher Award and Darran O'Connor won the 2006 Andy Leonard MVP Award

Chaime has basically dominated Irish Baseball for as long as he has been playing. He has won the best pitcher award in 2006 and 2003 and also took home the 2002 League MVP award. The Spartans boast Darran O'Connor, Will Beglane, John Dillon, Sean Mitchell and Noel Mitchell, all current or former Irish National Team players.

The one thing that might play against them is their age. At this stage the average age of their starting lineup has to be about 37, possibly even more!

The Dublin Hurricanes


Naturally, I am a little biased seeing as I am a Hurricane, but it's hard not to be excited about the Hurricane's chances in 2007 considering some key additions. Tommy Hernandez, Alex and Woody 'One pitch' Woodburn come over from the Twins United and there are a couple of other suprise additions from the United States in the pipeline. The core of the Hurricanes is back and ready to play. Steve Divito, Andy Martin, Tom Kelley, Chris Foy and Eric 'Vegas' Valkys will all bring veteran experience to the table for the Hurricanes in '07.

The Hurricanes had often finished second to either the Spartans or Panthers in the Irish League but finally broke their barren spell with a dramatic title win in 2003. They followed this up with another title win in 2005. The Hurricanes trophy cabinet is certainly pretty healthy.
  • 2005 - League Champions Hurricanes
  • 2005 - Andy Leonard MVP Award Steve DiVito *
  • 2004 - League Pennant Winners Hurricanes
  • 2004 - League Cy Young Award Cormac Eklof
  • 2004 - Silver Slugger Andy Martin **
  • 2004 - M&M Psycho Invitational - Champs Hurricanes
  • 2004 - M&M Psycho Invitational - MVP Steve DeVito
  • 2004 - M&M Psycho Invitational - Cy Young Award Cormac Eklof
  • 2003 - League Champions Hurricanes
  • 2003 - League MVP Tom Kelley
  • 2003 - Silver Slugger Tom Kelley
  • 2003 - Spring Blitz Winners Hurricanes
  • 2003 - Spring Blitz MVP Steve DiVito
  • 2003 - Spring Blitz Pitcher Cormac Eklof
  • 2002 - League Batting Champion Gordon Ireland ***
  • 2002 - League Gold Glove Mick Manning
  • 2002 - Autumn Blitz Winners Northern Hurricanes
  • 2002 - Autumn Blitz MVP Tom Kelley
  • 2001 - Spring Blitz Winners Hurricanes
  • 2001 - End of Season Blitz Winners Hurricanes
  • 2001 - End of Season Blitz MVP Tom Kelley
  • 2000 - End of Season Blitz Winners Hurricanes
Notes
* Steve's game winning home run against the Spartans that season was recently voted the 'Hurricanes greatest hit ever' by a jury of slightly inebraited individuals.

** Check out Andy Martin's simply unbelievable statistics from the 2004 season

Name Team PA AB R H RBI 1B 2B 3B HR BB HBP SO SB CS BA SLG OBP
Martin, Andy Hur 64 50 36 26 19 17 8 1 0 12 2 2 17 0 .520 .720 .625

In 64 plate appearances he struck out twice, whilst batting an unbelievable .520 with 36 runs scored and 19 RBIs.

*** Check out the below sets of stats and guess which player won the League MVP in 2002.

AB R H RBI 2B 3B HR BB HBP SO SB CS BA SLG OBP
Player 1 - 43 24 23 26 3 2 2 11 3 5 12 1 .535 .837 .649
Player 2 - 47 14 22 15 3 0 1 6 0 0 6 1 .468 .596 .519


Amazingly Player 2 won the League MVP, even though Gordy, player 1, had more hits, RBIs, triples, home runs, walks, steals, a higher batting average and almost double the second players slugging and also a higher .OBP. Gordy had one of the greatest seasons in baseball Ireland history and sadly was not rewarded with the Leage MVP.

Myself and TK (Tom Kelley) have been on the Hurricanes squad since its inception in 1997, and I can honestly say I have never been as excited about thestart of a season or about our chances to take the title since those first few league games in the late nineties. We have a fabulous collection of talent available to us and most of all a great bunch of team mates to take the field with.

The Twins United

The Twins are an interesting story. They have lost a bunch of high quality players to free agency and emigration. They are however entering a team in the 2007 league with JJ Zulaga leading the way. They could be the leagues dark horses for the season.

The Greystones Mariners

Greystones have always been one of the hardest teams to beat in the Irish League. Although the Mariners have never won the league title they have not been short on individual awards and have always preformed well in the annual Spring Blitz tournaments. Shawn Miskiman started 2005 8-0 and although he (and the Mariners) ran out of gas a little in the home stretch he still deservedly took home the 2005 - Tommy Bond Best Pitcher Award. The Mariners also won the 2005 Spring Invitational tournament.

Greystones finished second place to the Hurricanes in the 2004 M&M Psycho Invitational Bitz. They would take home an even loftier award with Darragh Jones winning the 2004 League MVP award. The first award the Mariners ever collected was also an individual award, with Hugh Cahill being crowned the 2003 Irish League Batting Champion.

There is no doubt the talent is there, but can the Mariners put it alltogether and make a serious run at the title in 2007? We shall see.

The Blacksox

The Blacksox have been one of the best teams in Irish League Baseball the last several years, however that team ability has not translated into a packed trophy cabinet. The Blacksox have never won the Irish League although they have always had no problem picking up wins. Their big problem has always been the Spartans, who, when push comes to shove, they simply can not beat.

Their 2007 squad is packed with talent however a big issue for the Blacksox is going to be trying to replace Pat Nolan's superior batting stats in their order. Pat has relocated to the States with his wife Erika and child Bianca. Check out his stats for the last two years.

Year Name Team PA AB R H RBI 2B 3B HR BB HBP SO SB CS BA SLG OBP GIDP
2005 Nolan, Pat BSx 32 31 11 17 12 7 0 1 1 0 5 8 1 .548 .871 .563 0
2004 Nolan, Pat BSx 48 36 21 16 14 3 0 1 9 1 3 9 0 .444 .611 .542 1

They are not going to easily replace his 33 hits over the last years and whopping .548 batting average too easily.

Pat has also been prominent in the Blacksox trophy cabinet over the years

2005 - 'Dirty' Jack Doyle Silver Slugger Award Pat Nolan
2004 - Dublin International Tournament - Cy Young Award Mike Kindle
2003 - League Gold Glove Pat Nolan
2002 - League Cy Young Award Eoin O'Connor *
2002 - Spring Blitz Pitcher Patrick Baerner

* Eoin O'Connor had a fantastic 2002 season on the mound for the Blacksox but has largely switched to playing in the field while Glen Poor and Niall Rowen have taken the pitching mound for the Sox. Check out Eoin's stellar if short 2002 season pitching stats.

Name Team IP H R ER BB SO SO/BB HB W L Sv ERA OBA
O'Connor, Eoin Bsx 27.0 20 21 8 19 41 2.158 2 4 0 0 2.07 .196

The Northstars

The Northstars decided in the offseason to re-merge with the Wolves, forming one team under the 'Belfast Northstars' famous name. This should hopefully give them a stronger base of players to help challenge for the 2007 season. They certainly have plenty of bats in the order. Check out some of their top players statistics in 2005. Neil Anderson batted .571 while Steve Van Houten smacked the ball to a tune of a .481 average. David McCullagh batter .412 and stole 12 bases. Sean Shackley hit .360 and Gordon Cuthbert hit .360.

The Northstars are clearly not going to have a problem scoring runs in 2007, and they will prove once again to be a tricky team to beat, particularly on their home turf up in Belfast.

The season is shaping up to be one of the best in Irish baseball's ten years of league play. To find out more about getting involved in Irish Baseball at any level at all click here.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Emerald Diamond update March 2007

What is the Emerald Diamond? Glad you asked. The Emerald Diamond is a documentary following the history of Baseball Ireland and the Irish National Baseball team. Director John Fitzgerald financed the film almost entirely on credit cards while working freelance at various jobs in the TV and film industries. Find out more in this piece here and also here at the official website of the movie

Here are a few updates on the movie to note as we approach St Patrick's Day

1.) "The Emerald Diamond" is now online!

The films director, producer and owner, John Fitzgerald, has put a shortened version of the film on the Internet to help spread the word. Here is a link to the video and it includes an introduction by John himself.

2.) SportsNet New York (SNY) - Television Premiere

"The Emerald Diamond" will air on SportsNet New York (SNY) on St. Patrick's Day (3/17) at 5pm. SNY is the official network of the New York Mets and can be seen in NY, NJ, CT and PA. If you are in the States and aren't sure what channel it is on your cable system, go here

SportsNet New York is available outside its regional broadcast territory through DIRECTV on channel 625 and through DISH Network on channel 438. DIRECTV customers who live outside SNY's region must subscribe to the DIRECTV SPORTS Pack, which is available a la carte throughout the United States to all DIRECTV customers. DISH Network customers, who subscribe to America's Top 60+, DishHD Silver or any higher package, now have access to SNY on channel 438.

A message straight from the 'Emerald Diamond's director John Fitzgerald:

''Now, I know many of you won't be home at 5pm on St. Patrick's Day - I can't blame you! But if you're at a party or a bar, ask them to turn on the movie. Even if the movie is playing with no sound on a bar that has 20 TV sets, the movie will still be seen by many people. It will help spread the word about the movie and about the Irish National Baseball Team.''

SportsNet New York (SNY) - St. Patrick's Day at 5pm

1.) Set your VCR/TiVo
2.) Ask your bartender to turn on SNY at 5pm
3.) If you'd like SNY to play the movie again, call them at 212.485.4800 or email them at sportsnetnewyork@sny.tv

3.) Media Appearances

It looks like there will be stories about "The Emerald Diamond" in several newspapers and possibly on some TV stations across the United States. Keep an eye out for it and feel free to call your local sports talk radio show to mention the film. If you need any further information before you make the call contact John at the Emerald Diamond website.

4.) SupportIrishBaseball.com

John recently started a charity to raise money for the Irish National Team and youth baseball programs in Ireland. You can learn more at www.SupportIrishBaseball.com; - there are also some outtakes from the movie on that website. Spread the word about this by emailing on this blog to your friends.

5.) Additional Screenings

"The Emerald Diamond" will be playing at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on St. Patrick's Day at 3pm. It will also be screening at the Newtown Theatre in Newtown, PA on March 24 at 1pm.


One final message from John;

''Thanks again for all your support. It's been a long year of screenings and promotion but I'm glad to have had the chance to tell this story to all of you. Keep spreading the word and if you have any questions, please let me know. ''

More on the Emerald Diamond


Sleeperville - the second basemen
Build the coolest keeper fantasy team in the land

As we inch closer to the Major League regular season so many questions hang gently in the air like an inviting Kei Igawa fastball. Will Barry Bonds head eventually simply implode? Does Jarrod Saltalamacchia have the coolest name in baseball? Who is Ryan Spilborghs?

It is hard to build a dominant fantasy team and harder still to build a dominant fantasy keeper team. I am here to make that task that little bit easier. I am going to list the cool, chíc young/unheralded players that might not be obvious choices in your fantasy baseball draft. Stun your friends by grabbing those sleeper picks before anyone else.

Previously posted: First Base Catchers

Let's break it down. On to the second baggers. A list of potential sleeper second basemen and where they were picked in the .406 Club Forum fantasy keeper draft I took part in last month.

Remember, you won't find the 'usual suspects' here. Everyone knows about Adam Kennedy and Robinson Cano. These are the guys you might pick when working 'outside the box'.

62. Dan Uggla (2B-FLA)
105. Howie Kendrick (1B/2B-LAA)
119. Ian Kinsler (2B-TEX)
187. Dustin Pedroia (2B-BOS)

62. Dan Uggla (2B-FLA)
Uggla is still flying just below the radar although word is starting to spread about the 26 year olds skills around the second base bag, as illustrated by him going at 62nd in my Fantasy Keeper League draft. Uggla lost out to narrowly to his team mate Hanley Ramirez for the 2006 NL Rookie of the year. He finished third behind Ramirez and Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals, who both posted sensational rookie seasons.

105. Howie Kendrick (1B/2B-LAA)

Anybody who is a regular reader of Sports Guy on ESPN2 knows all about Howard Kendrick. Sports Guy has been high on Kendrick's potential since last year and has mentioned him several times in baseball columns. After destroying minor league pitching to the tune of a career .359 average Howie has made his splash in the majors and qualifies at both second and first base. With Adam Kennedy signing as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2006-07 offseason, second base will be all Howie's for 2007.

Here's what Dayn Perry of FoxSports had to say about Howie in his Top 10 breakout performers for 2007 piece;

''Few hitters can put bat on ball like Kendrick. He scuttled a bit last season after his call-up to Anaheim, but he was a career .361 hitter in the minors. Yes, in 1,475 minor league at bats, Kendrick maintained a .361 average. And all the while he was doing it at every level and generally competing against older peer groups. That's a hitter. He doesn't boast much in the way of secondary skills, but Kendrick could contend for a batting title right away. In fact, don't be surprised if Kendrick in 2007 emerges as the best second baseman in the AL not named Robinson Cano.''

119. Ian Kinsler (2B-TEX)
Kinsler won the Rangers' starting second base job in spring training, 2006. He was hitting a ridiculous .476 before he dislocated his left thumb sliding into second base on April 11, 2006. On May 25, 2006, Kinsler came back after being on the 15-day disabled list. He went 3-4 with a single and 2 home runs, to lead the Rangers to an 8-7 victory over the Oakland Athletics. He finished 2006 with a .280 batting average, 11 home runs, 10 stolen bases, and 48 RBIs in 378 at bats. He showed an eye for clutch situations by batting .300 with runners in scoring position, and managing healthy .333 when the game was 'late and close'.


187. Dustin Pedroia (2B-BOS)
When finally called up, Red Sox prospect Dustin Pedroia struggled a little during the first few months of the 2006 season. He did however start to put it together in terms of on base percentage and showed enough potential and moxy to be given the nod for the starting job at second in 2007. Whilst Pedroia should be a useful infielder for the Red Sox next year, the hope is that he could soon develop into an above-average infielder if he stays healthy.

His defence should help the Sox mightily. This from Baseball Prospectus;
''But the main source of change is none other than Dustin Pedroia. Mark Loretta’s defense was fairly brutal last year (feel free to check David Pinto’s work for some independent confirmation of this), while we’re expecting Pedroia, who has spent most of his baseball career at shortstop, to be a spry defender at second base.''

Of course, some like Pedroia even more than others.



Previously posted: First Base Catchers

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sleeperville - the first basemen
Build the coolest fantasy team in the land

As we inch closer to the Major League regular season so many questions hang gently in the air like a Mike Mussina fastball. Will Barry Bonds head eventually simply catch fire? Does Alberto Callaspo have the coolest name in baseball? Who is Clayton Kershaw?

It is hard to build a dominant fantasy team and harder still to build a dominant fantasy keeper team. I am here to make that task that little bit easier. I am going to list the cool, chíc young/unheralded players that might not be obvious choices in your fantasy baseball draft. Stun your friends by grabbing those sleeper picks before anyone else.

Previously posted: Catchers.

Let's break it down. Starting with the first basemen. A list of potential sleeper first baggers and where they were picked in the .406 Club Forum fantasy keeper draft I took part in last month.

Remember, you won't find the 'usual suspects' here. Everyone knows about David Ortiz, Jason Giambi and Carlos Lee. These are the guys you might pick when working 'outside the box'.

71. Adam Laroche (1B-PIT)
89. Nick Swisher (1B/OF)
86. Prince Fielder (1B-MIL)
105. Howie Kendrick (1B/2B-LAA)
136. Adrian Gonzalez (1B-SD)
166. Conor Jackson (1B-ARI)
204. Mike Jacobs (1B-FLA)
233. James Loney (1B-LAD)

71. Adam Laroche (1B-PIT)
Laroche is one of those sneaky, slightly under the radar guys who puts up good numbers but plenty of people wouldn't know their name. Adam hit .285 with and impressive 30 home runs and 90 RBIs, all career-bests, in 2006. He seems ready to thrive in Pittsburgh away from the spotlight at Turner Field. Plus, at 27, his best years are ahead of him.

89. Nick Swisher (1B/OF)
Another Jeff Bagwell? Swisher was selected by the A's with the Boston Red Sox first round pick in 2002 as compensation for the loss of free agent Johnny Damon. A cocky, stylish player, Swisher is only 26 and has serious power and an eye for the clutch situations.

86. Prince Fielder (1B-MIL)
The son of former Major Leaguer Cecil Fielder got his break with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 and has grabbed it with both hands, much like the McDonalds triple cheeseburger which he used to actually be official spokesperson for. No, really, he was.

The regally named Prince has always had pop in his big bat. When his father played for Detroit, Prince would sometimes come along for batting practice; on one occasion, at the age of 12, he hit a home run into the upper deck of Tiger Stadium. After Lyle Overbay was traded Fielder became the Brewers' starting first baseman in early 2006, and he should be good for at least 30 long balls and a decent average in 2007. Plus he has a really cool name.

Here's what Dan Payn on FoxSports had to say about the man who would be Prince;

''We know "Son of Cecil" can rake: .524 career SLG in the minors and 28 bombs in his first season in the bigs. Fielder posted an OBP of only .320 in the first half of 2006, but after the break he authored a batting line of .278 AVG/.381 OBP/.490 SLG. That boost is mostly due to the fact that Fielder did a much better job of recognizing breaking pitches in the second half. Expect further progress in 2007. A 40-homer season isn't out of the question.''

105. Howie Kendrick (1B/2B-LAA)
Anybody who is a regular reader of Sports Guy on ESPN2 knows all about Howard Kendrick. Sports Guy has been high on Kendrick's potential since last year and has mentioned him several times in baseball columns. After destroying minor league pitching to the tune of a career .359 average Howie has made his splash in the majors and qualifies at both second and first base. With Adam Kennedy signing as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2006-07 offseason, second base will be all Howie's for 2007.

136. Adrian Gonzalez (1B-SD)
Those Texas Rangers aren't very good at the whole 'trading' thing are they? Adrian Gonzalez was part of a 2005 deal that saw himself, outfielder Termel Sledge and Chris Young go to San Diego in return for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuska. The Padres got the better of that one by a long way.

Once Ryan Klesko went down to injury the first base job was all Adrian's. With the bulk of the playing time at first base in 2006, Gonzalez continued to improve his hitting, and showed flashes of gold glove caliber defense. In his first full season, he led the Padres in batting average (.304) and home runs (24). He is only 24 and will probably shine in San Diego for years to come.

166. Conor Jackson (1B-ARI)
Another one of a new breed of young, exciting players hitting the major leagues, Conor Jackson is only 24 but projects to be the starting first baseman for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007, a position he laid claim to after an excellent spring in 2006. Conor played the vast majority of first base for the D-Backs in 2006 and showed alot of potential. He is only 24 years old.

204. Mike Jacobs (1B-FLA)
I know the Mets got Carlos Delgado in return, but how on earth did they let this Mike Jacobs guy go? Aged 27 Jacobs burst into the public eye in 2006 with a stellar season for the Marlins.

The power threat was there from an early stage in Jacob's major league career. In making his major league debut with the Mets on August 21, 2005, Jacobs hit a stunning three-run pinch-hit home run against Esteban Loaiza of the Washington Nationals. He went on to hit three more home runs in his next three games, setting an all-time major league record for the most home runs by a player in the first four games of his career.

In only 30 games and 100 at-bats, Jacobs hit a very impressive 11 home runs and 23 RBI. Many people penciled him in as the Mets' first baseman for the future. However, on November 23, 2005, the Mets traded in exchange for Carlos Delgado. Worked out pretty well for both teams but in a couple of years when Delgado retires and Jacobs is still bashing long bombs, well, ask the Mets fans then who got the better deal.

233. James Loney (1B-LAD)
This kid (only 22!) has serious power potential. On September 28, 2006 in a game against the Colorado Rockies, Loney went 4 for 5 with 9 RBI's which tied a 56-year Dodgers franchise record for RBI's in a single game. The problem is of course, Nomar Garciapara stands in his way at first right now for the Dodgers. Loney probably showed enough in limited playing time in '06 though to stick to the big club and would have to fancy his chances of getting good playing time if Nomar went down. That's a pretty decent possibility considering Nomar's recent injury troubles.


Previously posted: Catchers.



Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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