Adrian Gonzalez

Your inaugural Power Rankings

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Based on my thoughts about Opening Day, you may not be surprised to learn that, like the hyped-up spectacle of Opening Day, I am less than enamored with other kinds of empty hype too.  Something that is usually empty hype: Power Rankings.

Indeed, any team’s peak power — at least before the playoffs start — is both fleeting and, on the whole, irrelevant. A club may very well break out of the gate starting today winning eight of ten and scoring runs like they’re the 1931 Yankees or something. We’ll all swoon and they’ll rocket to the top of the Power Rankings. And it will mean nothing come July when their number two starter has forearm stiffness, their top slugger is 4 for his last 39 and their left fielder has a restraining order against him.  In short, a little snapshot of how teams are doing at any one moment of the season is probably pointless and almost certainly misleading.

So why even bother with Power Rankings, you ask?  Eh, they’re fun. They’re conversation starters. Coming as they do here at HBT (usually) on Mondays they’re a nice way to recap the previous week after we’ve sort of lost the thread during weekend barbecues and stuff.

But one thing they are not is particularly meaningful. As such, keep your complaining to a minimum. Or at least keep your complaining humorous and light.  I’d much rather see some nice funny commenter snark about how far my head is up my butt for any given ranking I give than I would some sober yet obviously insulted comment about how, clearly, I have disrespected Team X for the following ten reasons. Save it.  I don’t care who you root for. I don’t care who I root for. If you take these rankings personally or particularly seriously, you’re not worth the keyboard clicks it took for you to register your disgust.  This is supposed to be fun, so let’s have some damn fun out here, OK?

With that out of the way, our first — and most likely worst — Power Rankings of the 2011 season:

1. Red Sox: Everyone complained yesterday afternoon when ESPN came out with their four dozen or so individual staff predictions and over half of the predictors chose Boston to win it all. East coast bias, it was alleged. How bloody typical!  But really: even if you have another horse winning this race, how is Boston an unreasonable choice? On what planet are they not one of the top two or three best looking teams heading into the season? And if they’re not, who is better?

2. Phillies: I will not fret about this team unless and until the names Halladay, Lee, Hamels or Oswalt appear on the DL.  Until then, it’s pretty silly to pick against the team that will have a better starter going than the opposition will nearly every single night of the year.

3. Yankees: Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say, but nothin comes out when they move they lips, just a buncha gibberish, and motherf*****s act like they forgot about the fact that the Yankees scored more runs than anyone last year and actually look like they could score more this year.

4. Giants: The addition of Brandon Belt to the roster is encouraging and it’s hard not to love the rotation. But let us not forget that this was a team tailor made for playoff dominance last season, but which struggled through large parts of the regular season. They didn’t make the playoffs until the last day and wouldn’t have if the Padres hadn’t had an epic collapse. They’re better than that now, but not so substantially better that we should crown them as repeat champs already.

5. Braves: They were a trendy pick last year. They’re a trendy pick this year. And most of the people making trendy Braves picks haven’t lived through 25 years of teams that always — always — have one tremendous flaw or another. A flaw that they always come close to working through but which ultimately trumps whatever it was that started those trends in the first place. I don’t know what it is yet here. Could be the outfield again. Could be the back end of the pen. It’s a good team, but it’s a team that always seems more appealing on paper than it does once pitches start being thrown in anger.

6. Rangers: Can’t wait for everyone who thought it important that Neftali Feliz serve as The Established Closer starts screaming about how the rotation is in ruins, seemingly unaware that there might actually be a link between those two things.

7. White Sox: I love Adam Dunn in U.S. Cellular Field, but if there’s an under to bet on his home runs, I’d consider taking it. I haven’t consulted the hit tracker data, but it seems like Dunn’s bombs are always sure things. I don’t know that the smaller park will make as huge a difference in his home run totals as his presence will make a difference for the Sox’ lineup as a whole.

8. Athletics: There is no contending team with a smaller margin for error than the A’s. Everyone needs health to win, but the A’s are depending on young pitching, some of whom have fragile elbows.  This worries me more than a bit.

9. Rockies: What’s the hitter’s equivalent of “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain?”  Because it maybe could work for Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Though, no, I’m aware of no rule or contingency in baseball which would allow for two players to take multiple lineup slots in one game, so perhaps I should just give up this fanciful endeavor.

10. Cubs: Wainwright is out for the year and Cueto, Baily and Greinke are on the DL to start the season. And people think I’m nuts to be picking the Cubs in the NL Central. Whatever, dudes.

11. Twins: Their bullpen was just ripped to shreds in the offseason. They have reloaded on the fly and continued to contend before, but it’s a tall damn order this year.

12. Rays: Their bullpen was just ripped to shreds in the offseason. They have reloaded on the fly and continued to contend before, but it’s a tall damn order this year. No, this is not a copy-and-paste error.

13. Reds: The rotation is hurt or has mono or has looked shaky this spring. And the question must be asked: did they peak last year?

14. Cardinals: Every radio host I’ve spoken with this spring has asked me if the Pujols contract situation will hang over this team.  Question: after the first day of spring training, have you heard anything about it?  Nah, me neither.  I think everyone involved in this little dance is old and experienced enough to where it’s not going to be a problem until long after the Cardinals are out of the running. Or, if they’re in the race all year, until after the season.

15. Brewers: I think Brewers fans are tired of hearing people say that the team is “all-in” or “shooting the moon” this year or whatever. I agree, that’s getting tired. Thus I shall henceforth refer to the Brewers in terms of a group of roguish movie criminals coming together for that Last Big Score.  That always turns out well, doesn’t it?

16. Blue Jays: Like the A’s, young pitching, though young pitching without as high as an upside. As is usually the case, though, the Jays will probably be better than I figured and I’ll have, once again, missed the boat on why. I swear, it’s not a Canadian thing. They just sort of elude me.

17. Marlins: I was on a radio show this week and I started talking about how, at worst, even if he never figures anything else out, which I think is unlikely, Mike Stanton could be one of those really fun all-power guys I tend to like such as Rob Deer or Dave Kingman or whoever. The host was probably 25 and based on his response I’m quite sure he had no idea who I was talking about. I am old.

18. Tigers: Too many positions in that lineup where offense is being punted, I believe.

19. Angels: On days where Mike Scioscia decides to go defense-first at first base and start Howie Kendrick over Mark Tumbo, the Halos may well sport the worst offensive infield in the game.

20. Dodgers: People’s impressions of them are clouded by off-the-field problems, but if they get some offense to complement the rotation, they could be interesting.

21. Mets: People’s impressions of them are clouded by off-the-field problems, but if they get any starting pitching to complement the lineup, they could be interesting.

22. Orioles: This feels too low to me but I’m not sure who to demote. If things break right the O’s — were they not in the AL East — will be good enough to be interesting. Sadly, I can’t see them doing much better than fourth in the division they’re in, and for now I have them fifth.

23. Padres: Someone in the comments yesterday asked why everyone was disrespecting the Padres after what they did last year. I know. Totally unfair. I mean, just because you lose your best player and your number one starter is beginning the year on the shelf doesn’t mean you won’t still be good!  Oh, wait. Yes it does.

24. Nationals: I have traveled to the future and obtained a video of every Jayson Werth press conference that occurred between, oh, June 1st and the end of his current contract.

25. Astros: You know those ESPN “expert” predictions I mentioned above? Well, in those, ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume picked the Astros to win the NL Central. And with that, the season’s lone highlight is over.

26. Indians: The worst part about how this season is going to go will be when people — as they have done with the Cavs this year and as they have always done with Detroit — start to equate the team’s struggles with the city’s struggles and do so in a way that disparages Cleveland in some pretty unfair and misleading ways. No, the city isn’t in great shape, I’ll admit that. But it’s a place where, if you know someone who knows it well, you can have a great time. It’s a city with a lot of local pride. Lay off Cleveland, will ya?

27. Diamondbacks: Kirk Gibson started camp by talking about good defense, smart hitting approaches and playing the game “the right way.” I can’t wait, therefore, until the Dimondbacks’ best hitter is Russell Branyan. Between his iron glove and the fact that he is going to grip it and rip it like John Daly, Gibson is gonna have a coronary.

28. Mariners: Seattle’s first game is at 10:05 PM Eastern time tomorrow. You have until then to put your money down in the “what day will Milton Bradley flip the hell out” pool. I have May 19th.

29. Royals: I have this feeling that this is the year Jeff Francoeur really gets it together, figures out the strike zone and finally blossoms into the perennial All-Star that, by gosh, we all know he can be.

Did I keep a straight face there? What was my tell? This is important because I’m playing cards this weekend and I’m working on my bluff face.

30. Pirates: PNC Park is only three hours from my house. Nice place! It will be great that so many inexpensive tickets will be available for when I take impulsive road trips.

And with that, Gentlemen: start your whining.

Ichiro was happy to see Pete Rose get defensive about his hits record

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Miami Marlins warms-up during batting practice before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.

There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:

I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.

There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.

The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.

There will be no criminal charges arising out of Curt Schilling’s video game debacle

Curt Schilling
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In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.

The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.

As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:

An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”

Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.

Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.