Friday, March 28, 2008

We Will...Scare your children!

The Pirates' 2008 opening day roster may be damn near identical to 2007 roster, but that didn't stop them from re-taking all of the head shots. Let's meet the 2008 Pirates.

Jason Bay is back. But this time, he's a year older. You can see him starting age here. Every 90-loss season just adds to the crow's feet. It's sad, really. Hopefully, this will be the year they promote Jason to the Yankees, Padres or Dodgers. For his sake.

Ronny Paulino is back, and he's the starting catcher...for now. This year, Ronny's sporting a chin-whisker configuration with some meaning (notice the anchor shape). Ronny's dedicated his performance this season to the Tabb High School NJROTC, because those kids we're brainwashing so we can send them to Iraq are the REAL heroes. He's even adopted his own version of their motto: "I Will Not Steal, Nor Throw Out Any Among Us Who Does."

This is Chris Gomez -- one of the very few new faces you'll see on the Pirates this year, having signed a one-year, $1 million contract in the off-season. Chris brings 15 years of Major League experience, 59 career home runs, a .261 lifetime average, and a career 82 OPS+. You might recognize him as bearing a striking resemblance to no fewer than three of the faces from the children's cautionary board game, Guess Who: Registered Sex Offender Edition.

Ryan Doumit's back, this time with a 26% increase in airbrushed face stubble; an ill-fated attempt to offset his raging drag queen eyebrows.

Jose Bautista returns, and he's out to prove he's a legit big-league third baseman. BOLD PREDICTION: He's not. There's a 46-point differential between his major and minor-league on-base averages, and he's yet to top 20 homers in The Show. He's going to have to put up some monster numbers just to stave off Neil Walker, who will be nipping at his heels from Triple-A Indianapolis, and he's not worth a whole ton on the trade market right now. Oh, also, he'll be 28 this year. But he might very well have a much better season than he did last year, as he's no longer facing the pressure of being the most successful grandchild on his mother's side.

List of things Matt Capps needed badly not to do in the off-season:
Gain weight
Forget how to throw strikes

List of things Matt Capps did in the off-season:
Gained weight
Learned how to use Adobe Photoshop
Grew a goatee
Finally read The Kite Runner
Forgot how to throw strikes (sample size: 1 game)

The thoughts and prayers of everyone here at FTC are with Jack Wilson and his family, as he continues to recover from the stroke he suffered in November that paralyzed the entire left side of his face.

Every year, Tom Gorzelanny looks more and more like Rocky Dennis from "Mask." I mean...Jesus.

I love how uncomfortable Zach Duke looks in this photo. It's as though right before they clicked the shutter, John Russell told him, "If the National League hits better than .200 off you this year, I'll have Mientkiewicz kidnap and kill your parents. Then, Huntington's going to sell you to wherever Jim Colborn works now. Smile!"

This is Rule 5 draft sensation Evan Meek. He's why Sean Burnett and Burnett's 0.90 spring ERA didn't make the team. If Meek doesn't turn into Bill Freaking Landrum by June, he'll be banished back to Triple-A Durham, because he's not good enough to play for their American League parent club, which is located in Tampa, Florida.

Journeyman infielder Doug Mientkiewicz, who joined the Pirates on minor league contract and made the team out of spring training, spent his off-season selling reefer at Phil Lesh shows.

Hey, now! We have a winner. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you reliever Franquelis Osoria, acquired by the Pirates from the 2047 Blue Jays in exchange for some nameless low-level prospect -- who, you have to figure, will turn out to be really incredibly good, since the Blue Jays called from the future and asked to trade for him. But the Pirates made out pretty good on this one, too, as Osoria -- who was born in the Andromeda Galaxy, but grew up in Haiti -- has really crazy glasses. So you know he's sure to be a fan favorite, as long as he pitches on the eight fireworks night when people actually show up to the damn ballpark.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

[Fantasy] Baseball trade banter!

It's that time of year again -- when fantasy baseball geeks get together to draft their fake teams of real players in a grand, pathetic attempt to bring themselves closer to a game that many of them have still yet to accept holds no professional prospects for them.

I am one of these people, and I live every day of my life completely convinced that it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Pirates could call me at any minute to offer me a job as an advance scout or a bullpen catcher. This is neither here nor there.

But quite possibly the only thing worse than a rabid fantasy baseball enthusiast is a rabid fantasy baseball enthusiast who knows nothing about baseball. If you've ever been in a league before, you know what I'm talking about.

Well, I'm in a few leagues online -- just for fun; no money -- and no sooner had our draft ended last weekend than Justin (name not changed for his protection because he doesn't freaking deserve it) began his annual post-draft barrage of trade proposal e-mails.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't know Justin. I've never met him. We've been in the same online fantasy league together for two or three years now -- something we're both a part of through a mutual friend. I don't know where he's from, what he does for a living, or what his hopes and dreams are. If I had to guess, I'd say that Justin is probably from somewhere stupid, like Youngstown, OH, and he's a daytime security guard who sits in the lobby of an office building that tries to appear higher-end than it is. He lives with his buddy Jarrod from high school, probably likes the Cowboys, but owns a Randy Moss Raiders jersey.

Anyway, after the draft, Justin and I had the following e-mail exchange:

Interested in talking trades? You've got a few guys I'm interested in, and I think I could potentially help with your weaknesses in OF and closers. Let me know. FYI, I'm on MSN Messenger and xSlapNutz69x on AIM.
Good luck with the season.

My "weak" outfield includes B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Delmon Young, Lastings Milledge and Steve Pearce (for when the inevitable call-up occurs). Yeah, I'm rocking the youth movement in the outfield, but apart from Milledge and Pearce, who ride my bench, we're not talking about marginal prospects here. These are a bunch of 20-30 homer, 20-30 steal potential guys. My closers are Jonathan Papelbon and Brad Lidge. Certainly, I could use a third. Let's see what this schmuck is after.

Who on my team interests you?

- Matt

Okay, let's keep in mind the question I asked him. It was a simple question; a succinct question. Who are you after? Think he'll answer it?

I think you drafted really well, generally speaking. You're dependent on a number of young guys with good upside, though (Gordon, Upton, Ellbury, DYoung, Milledge). Lidge scares the crap out of me because he's a head case. I took him early last year and watched him lose his job after 2 appearances.

We're going to have to break this up, because he clearly models his thought process after Sean Salisbury's, and he's completely incapable of saying what he means -- possibly because he doesn't know what he means. And what the hell does his opinion of my draft have to do with anything, especially the question of "which players do you want me to trade you?" This is very quickly turning into condescending garbage, as he obviously fancies himself quite the baseball aficionado and is going to commit 14 acts of felony highway robbery on my ass before leaving me bleeding to death on a street corner.

I also get the idea that he buys into all kinds of crap about baseball that's either based on pure speculation or is patently false, like how Brad Lidge is obviously insane because Phil Garner didn't find him fit to pitch in the 9th inning. Fact of the matter is that Brad Lidge is a great reliever who played for a crappy team last year, and fell victim to an overblown media storyline. This year, he'll be pitching in a park of roughly the same size, but for a team that scores a ton more runs. That will quite logically translate to more save opportunities and safer save opportunities. More on Lidge later.
I could use another decent starter, and I like Bedard and Haren best, but I don't really want to pay super top dollar for them.

You'd much rather rip me off, yeah? I understand that. Well, since you don't really WANT to give me equal value for my players...Let me talk to my manager and see what we can do for you. But only because you've got a nice face.

Maybe we can work out a deal for a mid-range starter like Lincecum. I've got closer value in Rivera, Wilson, and Gagne that I'm willing to negotiate over, as well as some decent OF depth with CLee, Markakis, Ibanez, Burrell, Bourn, and Jones.

Mid-range? Closer value? OF depth?
Kinsler and B.J. are also somewhat interesting, but I do already have a decent 2B option with Figgins.

He's not an option, he's the only second base-eligible player you drafted, Johnny Baseball.
Lemme know.

Justin -

The only thing about Lidge that scares me is that he's now pitching in a damn sandbox. The Phils have done a pretty good job upgrading their bullpen, and Lidge is a very effective reliever. He was awesome from 03-05, had a rough 06, and bounced back nicely last year. Look at the numbers. His save total from last year doesn't frighten me because he was playing on a bad team with everyone and their mother just waiting for him to screw up. I don't believe for a second that he's going to be anything other than a solid contributor this year. Not even the point.

It's not that you could use a decent starter, it's that you're in dire need of a starter. A passable starter. Any starter.

I don't think it's fair to call Lincecum a mid-range starter, given that:
a) He's 23 years old with absurd "upside"
b) He worked a slider into his repertoire in the offseason
c) He's unquestionably the best strikeout pitcher -- possibly the best pitcher -- on his team, despite being the third starter.
d) His K:IP is better than that of anyone on your staff from last year, and his 16 quality starts in 24 games is more than anyone else on your staff had last year, except for Ian Snell (22) and Tim Hudson (25). He strikes out more guys than Hudson, and plays on a better team than Snell.

One could very easily argue that were I to trade him to you, Tim Lincecum would automatically become the best pitcher on your team. So let's call this what it is.

- Matt

Matt --
I don't share your optimism of Lidge, but I'm probably unfairly biased because he burned me last year. It's not that he doesn't have the talent, it's that he seems to choke in the clutch.

Oh, beautiful. Our first "choke in the clutch."
You're absolutely right that I don't have a top flight starter. I think Liriano, Gallardo, Billingsley, Snell, and Hudson will all be very adequate, though. I was admittedly hoping that I could take Liriano and sleep on Cain, but Joe snagged him before I got the chance.

I won't BS you.

Too late.

I like Tim Lincecum. He's not Haren or Bedard, though. I also agree with most of your points about him, though I think he and Cain are about on par as far as K's go and Tim is less consistent.

Patently untrue in 97 different ways.

He'd be at least on par with Liriano, Gallardo, and Billingsley though I don't know if he'll be substantially better.

He will. And you're a moron.
I'd be willing to trade Wilson straight up. Mariano is definitely on the table, but I don't know if I'd do that 1:1. I think solid starters come along more often than solid closers, and Mariano is proven and will hold the job all year for sure having just signed a long term extension.

Unless he gets hurt or implodes, which isn't out of the question, given that he's, like, 38 years old.

Perfectly willing to talk about CLee or Markakis, but then we'd have to probably involve Upton somehow. Clearly can't do either straight up for Lincecum.

Seems like having B.J. Upton in your outfield is a waste with Kinsler onboard, since most of his value is in his 2B eligibility. He's just a regular 20/20 outfielder, who are plentiful. Markakis is probably better, so long as they're both playing outfield.

You're not Justin. You're Dave Littlefield. You have to be. Admit it.
Lemme know your thoughts.

Justin -

You, my boy, said the magic word. "Seems." He can only seem to choke in the clutch because in reality, he can't choke in the clutch. He can't choke "in the clutch" because the very idea of "clutch" is a myth.

Same with consistency. A guy who gets 30 hits in back-to-back months (100 or so ABs/month) on the mark is consistent, but at the end of the year, he's exactly the same as the guy who one month gets 10 hits and another month gets 50. They're both .300 hitters. Doesn't much matter how consistent they are, because by the end of the season, you're getting the same production.

Now in the case of Cain vs. Lincecum, you don't have a ton to work with, as Lincecum's major league career is less than a season's worth of work. But for shits and giggles:

Cain: 200 IP, 79 BB, 163 K, 3.65 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 4.44 lgERA
Lincecum: 146.3, 65 BB, 150 K, 4.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 4.44 lgERA

These guys are damn close to the same pitcher. But your issue was "consistency," so let's give that a quick look. Again, this is very rough, as Lincecum has so little ML experience, so let's just look at last year.

ERA by month (April - September)

A - 1.54
M - 5.25
J - 3.27
J - 6.58
A - 2.18
S - 4.08

A - x
M - 3.24
J - 7.71
J - 1.62
A - 4.03
S - 4.50

Who is more consistent? Cain didn't even have two months where his ERA was in the same damn area code, let alone two straight months. Lincecum didn't pitch in April, but he's got two big deviations from the norm -- June and July. The others are right much, much closer to his season average than any of Cain's monthly numbers, save September.

Back to the trade banter.

Are you saying you want Lincecum straight up for Wilson? You want me to take hits in K's, quality starts and WHIP for a guy closer prospect whose CAREER K:BB is 41:28? The guy has been around for two years and still hasn't pitched 60 total innings. That's an awfully big risk to take, especially when you're talking about a guy whose main stat -- saves -- is more heavily dependent on his offense, starting pitching and bullpen building and maintaining leads than it is his individual performance. At least with Lincecum, I'm getting a big-time pitcher who helps me immensely in at least three of five pitching categories. Your Beach Boy hasn't put up decent K:BB numbers since 2005, when he was pitching in AA ball, and at the most, he's giving me saves -- that is, as long as his team is providing him with leads to protect; which, if you look at the Giants' lineup for this year, is much less safer a bet than taking Brad Lidge at The Bank behind the same team that led the league in offense last year.

If you wanted to talk about Lincecum for Wilson and Markakis, I'd listen. If you wanted to talk about Lincecum for Rivera, I'd certainly have to entertain that offer.

>Clearly can't do either straight up for Lincecum.

You could. Nothing's stopping you. In fact, that'd be much more honest and forthright than anything you've offered me yet.

>Seems like having B.J. Upton in your outfield is a waste with Kinsler onboard, since most of his value is in his 2B eligibility

Yes. B.J. Upton is a total waste. I only drafted Ian Kinsler so that I could shoot B.J. Upton in the face out of spite for his general uselessness.

Quick side-by-side comparison time.
Player A: 637 AB, 23 HR, 97 R, 112 RBI, 18 SB, .300 BA, 24 years old
Player B: 474 AB, 24 HR, 86 R, 82 RBI, 22 SB, .300 BA, 23 years old

Player B has done more in less playing time than Player A in all the team-independent statistics, and you've gotta figure that if Player B gets a full season's worth of AB's, he's clearly going to eclipse Player A in every fantasy category.

Player B guessed it! B.J. Upton.
Player A? Nick Markakis.

If B.J. Upton's value is all in his 2B eligibility, that must mean that Nick Markakis's value as an outfielder is akin to that of the sock you use to simulate the presence of a woman as you lay in bed at night.

If you have a real trade idea, a fair trade idea, I'm all ears. But I'm almost certain you don't. Justin, why do you hate baseball?

- Matt

There's more to this garbage, as Justin goes on to show me his personal projections for each of the players we've discussed. According to Justinmetrics, Nick Markakis is much better than B.J. Upton, Tim Lincecum is only okay, and Brian Wilson will save more games than his team will actually win.

Science fever! Catch it!

I don't even care if I'm competitive in this league. From this day forward, my only goal is to finish ahead of this stooge.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beating Your Girlfriend for Jesus > Beating Your Girlfriend Just Cuz

At least, Dan Rooney thinks so. From today's PG:

The Steelers decided to release wide receiver Cedrick Wilson last night, shortly after he was arrested for punching his former girlfriend in the face in a Pine restaurant.

"We're extremely disappointed with this incident,'' Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said this morning. "The Steelers do not condone violence of any kind, especially against women."

First off, it's good that you don't condone violence. Second, I'm glad that violence against men is less not-condoned than violence against women.

"The majority of our players are good citizens and make numerous positive contributions to the community. Unfortunately, these kinds of incidents reflect poorly on all our players and many innocent and good people are considered guilty by association, they get thrown into the pot, so to speak.'

Just think of all the tequila shots Ben Roethlisberger did off of Duquesne girls! That type of contribution to the local alcohol-serving-establishment economy is huge! Not to mention the bump that the Mexican economy got! These guys are princes. Just look at J

Rooney said Wilson, the team's No 4 wide receiver, was released because of the circumstances involved and that they differed from those of Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, who was arrested March 8 for assaulting his girlfriend in Ohio Township.

"I know many are asking the question of [why] we released Wilson and Harrison we kept,'' Rooney said. "The circumstances -- I know of the incidents, they are completely different.

Right, because in one case a guy was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend, and in the other, a guy was arrested for assaulting his former girlfriend. And is terrible.

In fact, when I say we don't condone these things, we don't, but we do have to look at the circumstances that are involved with other players and things like that, so they're not all the same."

Look, when I say we don't condone these things, I mean we don't. Unless the player is really, really, really, really good.

In Harrison's case, Rooney said the player was trying to take his son to be baptized, while Wilson had a previous incident with his girlfriend, although she was charged, but Wilson was not.

(Sidebar: Cedrick Wilson charged his girlfriend for assaulting him? What, is he Stephen Hawking? Could he not defend himself? Is his girlfriend Chyna?)

"What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it," Rooney said of Harrison's initial intent. "He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn't want to do it."

See? He was taking his son to get baptized! It's all okay, JESUS was involved! For example, if, on your way to church, you run over an adorable puppy because you were trying to shove 16 pounds of cocaine up your nose, and then use the dog carcass to beat an old woman to death, then it's okay, because you were going to a holy place. God loves you, and, as long as you love God back and are a pro-bowl linebacker, Dan Rooney loves you, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

poetry slam

hey, diddle-diddle
the cat and the fiddle
Royals' outfielder Joey Gathright jumped over a Mitsubishi Galant


We here at FTC love poetry -- especially haiku, and especially especially haiku about the epistemological flavor battle between the original and vanilla frosties at Wendy's. But we're not picky. Feel free to submit your own poems! Hopefully, the poetry slam will become a regular feature here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A lesson in Oral history

Pitt's first-round opponent in this year's NCAA Tournament is Oral Roberts. I don't care if Pitt doesn't get past the Sweet 16 this year, as long as the Panthers don't lose to a school called Oral Roberts. That'd be ten times more humiliating than their first-round exit at the hands of the school that produced Walt Harris. "What the hell is an Oral Roberts, anyway," you might be asking yourself right now.

We here at FTC realize that not everyone is a walking Barron's Profiles of American Colleges, so we did some background research, and you might be surprised at what we found Here are some Totally Factual Oral Roberts Facts:
  • Oral Roberts University is named for a guy whose name -- whose REAL NAME -- is Oral Roberts. The REAL Oral Roberts -- the guy, not the school -- is still alive. He's 90 years old.
  • Oral Roberts founded his school in 1963 after he claimed that God told him to. In all likelihood, your dad is older than Oral Roberts University. Isn't that lame? What kind of crazy, unique traditions can your college have if it was founded, like, last week?
  • In 1977, Roberts claimed that a vision he had of a 900-foot-tall Jesus told him to build a hospital.
  • In 1986, he told a television audience that if he he didn't raise $8 million, God would "call him home." He's also said that when he dies, he's going to come back to life and rule the world with Jesus. The authors of Free Tank Carter do not discriminate on the basis of religion. That said, when you combine all of the theology classes we took in college, it almost qualifies us as having minored in the subject, and we're inclined to think that Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Satan and Bill Cowher might have something to say about this.
  • I've just been passed a note from FTC's research department. Turns out the students at ol' ORU do have some pretty quirky traditions! All students enrolling at Uncle Oral's House of Learnin' are required to sign an honor code, prohibiting them from lying, cursing, smoking, drinking, gambling, and engaging in a wide array of sexual acts -- ironically, including the one for which their school's divine founder is named.
  • Oral Roberts -- the guy again, not the school -- claims to have raised people from the dead. Again, we at Free Tank Carter don't know if we necessarily believe this.
  • Notable ORU alumni include people you probably hate, like Kathy Lee Gifford, and people you're largely indifferent toward, like former former journeyman utility infielder Keith Lockhart.
  • This one isn't really a fact: Oral Roberts has a really honest face -- a competitor's face; a face that says, "I am synonymous with greatness and achievement in the game of basketball," without actually saying it. You know what I'm talking about.
  • The school's nickname is the Golden Eagles.
  • The Golden Eagles finished the regular season 24-8 in the regular season, including 16-2 in their conference, the Summit League.
  • The Summit League sucks.
  • Sam Young is completely and totally capable of single-handedly defeating the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, 89-14.
  • Sam Young and DeJuan Blair would not only combine for 15 triple-doubles in one half against the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, they would be able to do so while violating every single restriction in the school's honor code.
  • There is a greater chance of a black hole spontaneously opening up in the skies over Scotland and sucking every Highland cow into an alternate dimension with Vigo the Carpathian and all of the vaguely dirty Curtis Enis jokes than there is of Oral Roberts winning this basketball game.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Brett Favre is...

Not content to remain comfortably out of the limelight, making his weekly studio appearances on CBS during the season and having his name tossed around as a possible candidate for every single head coaching vacancy from the Washington Redskins down through Louis E. Dieruff High School (Go, you Huskies!), Bill Cowher has again started sending subtle hints to the particularly adept Pittsburgh media that he's in need of some attention. And he did it the way he always does it: by putting his house on the market.

Bill and Kaye's house in Raleigh, NC is up for sale, fueling speculation that 1) Bill was about to accept a new coaching job, 2) Bill was leaving Kaye, 3) Kaye was leaving Bill, or 4) Bill and Kaye were playing a fantastic practical joke on daughters Meghan and Lindsay, who, if the Pittsburgh media hadn't ruined it, would have come home to find their parents had moved without telling them.

It's a little surprising that Channel 11 broke this story. Since moving into their new, completely dysfunctional, state-of-the-art, all-HD, $30-bajillion broadcast facility has forced them to make certain budget cuts, such as no longer to keeping a remote production team in a van parked on the Cowhers' block.

There are already a ton of good looking mock drafts all over the internet, and if there's a consensus so far, it's that the Steelers will be drafting for the offensive line.

NFL Draft Countdown and NFL Draft Dog both say Virginia guard Branden Albert is the pick. thinks that Pitt's Jeff Otah somehow slips past the Bills, Panthers, Bears, Texans, and Eagles. It's probably worth noting that these guys also have Glenn Dorsey, a consensus top-five guy, going ninth to Cincy.

Draft King thinks the Steelers will wind up with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, largely because the folks at Draft King don't know anything about football.

I can't decide if this is better or worse than the mock draft up at NFL Draft Blitz, which has the Steelers taking Ole Miss super-tackle Michael Oher, as Oher announced, like, two months ago that he planned to return for his senior season.

Okay, I've had enough of this for now.

In honor of the impending deaths of John Madden, Mike Patrick, Paul Maguire, Joe Buck, Frank Caliendo, Al Michaels, Chris Berman, Sterling Sharpe and Boomer Esiason, all of whom would rather jump off of bridges than continue to live in a world devoid of any beauty or meaning, a world without Brett Favre, FTC is proud to bring you this Brett Favre internet meme:

Brett Favre is the best quarterback who ever played.
Brett Favre is back.
Brett Favre is not dead.
Brett Favre is gone.
Brett Favre is No. 1
Brett Favre is like a kid out there.
Brett Favre is one swell fella.
Brett Favre is retiring.
Brett favre is an idol to many people including myself because people can relate to him.
Brett Favre is the top three best quarterbacks I have ever witness from his rookie year to his final season in my opinion.
Brett Favre is done.
Brett Favre is retiring.
Brett Favre is the NFL's Iron Man.
Brett Favre is gone, ending man-crushes across U.S.
Brett Favre is still in limbo.
Brett Favre is all about winning.
Brett Favre is well past his prime.
Brett Favre is a beast.
Brett Favre is a survivor.
Brett Favre is a real person, right down to his thick Southern accent.
Brett Favre is more than just a stellar quarterback in the NFL, he is a genuine folk hero who embodies the grit, tenacity, hard-won skill, and overwhelming success of the American dream.
Brett Favre is going to be Mike Tirico’s guest on ESPN Radio at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday.
Brett Favre is ready to enjoy a playoff run.
Brett Favre is God.
Brett Favre is Jesus.
Brett Favre is the Picasso of pigskin perfection.
Brett Favre is Wisconsin's treasure.
Brett Favre is going to retire.
Brett Favre is about to announce his retirement.
Brett Favre is retiring.
Brett Favre is actually retiring.
Brett Favre is retired.