I might as well get this initial statement out of the way, first and foremost.
There is no greater sport than the game of baseball.
There, I said it. Not that I haven’t said it before, but I’ve typed out several different ways to start this out—and that seemed the best way to go about things.
It encompasses all my thoughts and feelings into 10 simple and glorious words.
And with that, let me welcome you to the final part of the 2010 MLB Season Manifesto.
I’m a straight-up baseball junkie. Along with that, I’ve got many of these thoughts that roll around in my head about the game. This year, I decided that I need to compartmentalize them all before I pull my hair out.
There are things that I read that I think more people should know about—and there are things I think that people should definitely gawk at.
Last year, I previewed every single team in the game—way more in-depth than I should have. I vowed after I finished that if I would take on such a task next year, I’d make it less exhausting.
So I came up with this brilliant idea that surely no one else has ever thought of: I’ll preview each division.
But what about all those nuggets that don’t exactly fit into my new preview format? What about all these wacky ideas and thoughts that I may have for one team, but not another?
What about all those deep thoughts or provocative statements that I feel like making, but don’t have a place in a preview format?
What about not repeating myself or stating something twice—making me bored about what I’m typing about—because I already did it once?
Ah, yes—my manifesto.
And because I’m Italian, my ancestors have given me permission to throw around that word however I want.
So what exactly will this final part entail? Just about anything and everything that comes to mind at any time. I started it back in January and have been adding to it since.
During the course of this week, you saw four parts that were a little bit more grouped together. I tackled four central issues and story lines, and then added a secondary issue or feature that related to each one.
Today, you will get all the random crap that was too short or just too random to fit anywhere else.
How Was Your Offseason?
Oakland prospect Grant Desme shocked a lot of people when he announced his retirement this offseason. Desme isn’t some career minor leaguer who had to face the realities of getting a better-paying job after years of hard work toward his major league dream.
Desme was a highly touted prospect expected to be a viable major leaguer one day. He was even the best of the best in the Arizona Fall League, winning the MVP award after leading the league in home runs.
However, as many close to Desme and the A’s organization would soon explain, the young outfielder believed he had a higher calling than baseball. If he didn’t retire now for the priesthood, he eventually would end up there.
Good for Grant Desme in pursuing something that he believes in. It wouldn’t be fair to him or the Athletics if he eventually made the major leagues, then made this decision either.
I would like to take this time to mention that Jose Lima is still alive and pitching. While Desme retired early, Lima may eventually pitch long enough to make up for the career Desme never will have. Lima was doing his thing in the Dominican Winter League this offseason with 31 innings pitched to the tune of a 6.39 ERA.
Andy Martes of the past, take note. I hate when players report to camp out of shape. They don’t have to be at target weight or anything like that, but don’t show up looking like a slob. Jorge De La Rosa not only reported to camp in shape, but he also did it despite the fact that he was dealing with the seven-week premature birth of his twins.
This sort of applies to the previous comment, but do you ever wonder what some players do during their offseason? I can see most of them staying conditioned and working out. It all depends on the player, of course. But Ross Ohlendorf spent the majority of his offseason in Washington.
No, he wasn’t traded to the Nationals—which may or may not be a good thing. Ohlendorf kept in shape and worked out—but before he did that every day, he was a 10-week intern in Washington at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Tim Redding , current Colorado Rockie, accused former teammate Mike Bacisk of purposely giving up the record-setting home run to Barry Bonds. I was impressed with Bacisk’s denial—and even more impressed with the way he called out Redding for being a fool.
Remember when you used to play games like MVP Baseball early in the 2000s—and to this day, there are players who you remember just because you saw them on the game? That was the reaction I had when I saw Ryan Vogelsong on the Phillies spring training invite list.
The White Sox are giving Daniel Cabrera a shot as a relief pitcher. How come no one ever gave the large right-hander with electric stuff but spotty control that shot a long time ago? It makes perfect sense looking at it now—but that doesn’t mean it will work.
Mariano Rivera reported to camp and didn’t throw for two weeks—but when he did, he was up to his usual standards in terms of control. Is it safe to say that Rivera is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a player? Granted, it has taken him a career to get to this point, but he’s still amazing.
There is a great story about the first female drafted by a professional Japanese baseball team. Eri Yoshida is a knuckle ball pitcher—and she got a chance to pitch with her idol, Tim Wakefield , this spring.
Kenny Rogers ’ departure from the game happened relatively quietly, but it’s good to see him back. The former Tiger left-hander is back with the club as a special instructor for spring training. He’s a former teammate of some of the players he’ll be working with, but I’d expect him to command a lot of respect as a coaching figure.
Orlando Hudson is, quite frankly, the man. The “O-Dog” arrives at the ballpark at 5:30 in the morning, every morning. I’m a fellow early riser, so I can respect that. Hudson has been recruiting Denard Span and Delmon Young to his early-bird ways. It would be a wise move on both their parts.
The Red Sox are planning on adding a replicate monster to their new proposed spring training digs. Teams getting new spring training complexes will begin to have fields that replicate the dimensions of their actual home ballpark. It’s the trendy thing to do.
Joe Maddon has always had innovative and different ideas as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. His latest is having a spring training battle among three different players for two different spots—yet only one can win. Infielders Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac are essentially battling for a roster spot against outfielder Matt Joyce. If Joyce wins, Ben Zobrist will play second; if Rodriguez or Brignac win, Zobrist will play right field.
Many are making a big deal about Jason Heyward ’s hitting display during the spring. He hit not one, but two parked cars during batting practice. Chicks definitely dig the long ball, but everyone digs majestic home runs that damage vehicles.
Is Heyward being anointed as the second coming a little too soon? Matt Wieters got the star treatment last season, but it took a while for the Orioles to finally promote the young catcher. The Braves may be in a position to contend, so they probably figure if Heyward can contribute, saving the arbitration clock isn’t a big deal.
Still, I just fear for the worst when guys like Heyward are billed as “can’t-miss” type of players. Sometimes the expectations for these young players are unreasonable.
Odds and Ends
This is one that may get you in trouble with the wife. James Shields says he plans on making a franchise record third opening day start for the Rays this season. The problem is, the due date for his second child is floating dangerously close to opening day. Hopefully for him, the new baby avoids the small window of James’ start.
On the subject of newborns for MLB players, Indians’ slugger Travis Hafner and his wife, Amy, welcomed their first child this offseason. Little Pronk’s name? Blake Lee Hafner, which Travis swears is not homage to former teammate Casey Blake—nor did he lose a bet.
How about that decision by the Milwaukee Brewers to erect a statue of commissioner Bud Selig outside of Miller Park? I know he did a lot to bring baseball back to the city, but it seems kind of corny.
I’ve got no transition into this, so I’ll come right out and say it. Cubs radio analyst Ron Santo made the observation that Milton Bradley impacted the Cubs team chemistry last year. To which I say, “Uh, you think?”
Here is an interesting stat I found in the Dallas Morning News . In 2009, the four playoff teams’ closers in the American League all averaged 65 innings. If that doesn’t place emphasis on needing not just a reliable closer, but a reliable lead-up to that closer, I don’t know what does.
Rocco Baldelli isn’t retiring, but he accepted a role as a special assistant with Tampa Bay. He plans on rehabbing, but what a nice thing to do for the Tampa organization—and what a great opportunity for Baldelli to gain experience while getting healthy.
While Baldelli hopes to return at some point, there is a list of players who look to do the same after missing all or nearly all of the 2009 season.
Oakland has two starters who didn’t pitch a single inning in 2009 slotted into their rotation in Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer . Both were injured and missed the entire season. This should get interesting.
Jake Westbrook, Jeff Francis, Pat Nesheck, Taylor Buschholz , and Chris Capuano join them as pitchers to have not pitched last season. Brandon Webb, Jeremy Bonderman, and Kelvin Escobar might as well have missed the entire year. Together, they threw 19 innings combined.
Then there is the list of players who pretty much had lost seasons because of injuries. Connor Jackson is probably the weirdest case, as he was sidelined with “Valley Fever,” which is when you breathe in spores of a fungus. That just sounds deathly.
Russell Martin and Jose Reyes are two players who struggled last year—and they are now already dealing with injuries that could sideline them for 2010. It’s never good to have those things flare up before a season—especially when you are coming off such a disappointing one.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got players like Jay Bruce and Alex Gordon —young, unestablished players who missed significant time because of injury in 2009. Hopefully, they can stay healthy this year and have a proper chance to live up to expectations.
The new idea to cut down on injuries seems to be from the department of improving equipment. Companies that produce gear have made modifications to uniforms, bats, batting helmets, and now batting gloves. XProTeX has created a high-tech glove that will reduce impact on the hands of hitters.
The hope is that these new gloves will result in a lot less broken bones on the hands of major league players.
Some teams just have brilliant marketing strategies. Count the Colorado Rockies in as one of those clubs that “get it” in terms of putting out a good media product. Their series of commercials for the upcoming 2010 season are brilliant.
It’s nice to see Ken Griffey Jr. back flashing that smile as a pitchman for Dick’s Sporting Goods. Big League Stew revisited some of Griffey’s past commercials, before he, you know, got injured and all that. And for the record, Ken Griffey Slugfest was the first baseball game of my childhood. Manny Ramirez was unstoppable.
While we are on the subject of baseball video games and baseball pitchmen, how about the two cover boys for MLB The Show and MLB 2k10 ? Joe Mauer and Evan Longoria are going to be around for a while—and pushing them as some of the prominent faces of the game is a great move. It’s also nice to see more of Mauer's and Longoria’s personalities in their spots.
Mauer deserves a lot of credit for staying grounded, though. In an issue of ESPN The Magazine a few months ago, there was a feature designated to find the most accommodating athlete in terms of fan mail. Mauer was overwhelmingly the man in this area. He doesn’t exactly write each response, but he takes the time to get with his mother every once in a while to dictate to her what he wants to say in each letter.
That’s a lot of writing that Mauer—or his mother, rather—doesn’t have to do.
Mark Zuckerman doesn’t need to do any writing, either—but he figures, why not? Zuckerman was fired—along with the entire Washington Times sports section—but that hasn’t stopped him from staying on the Nationals beat.
With the Nationals lacking a strong media presence after the Times’ house cleaning and the Washington Post' s beat writer retiring, Zuckerman created his own blog. With help from readers, fellow bloggers, fans, and just supporters of his efforts, Zuckerman garnered enough donations to be in Florida to cover the team. Hats off to you, Mark Zuckerman—keep living the dream.
"2010 MLB Manifesto" is a part of a monthlong series of articles that are previewing the 2010 MLB season. For the other parts of "2010 MLB Manifesto ," other features, and a schedule, click here .