January 28, 2005

Raul resurrected

Could Raul Mondesi become the latest Braves resurrection project? Braves general manager John Schuerholz thinks so.

Of all the environments clubhouse cancer Raul Mondesi could best benefit, Atlanta is the ultimate sanctuary for the 34-year-old outfielder to untangle.

John Shuerholtz structured a fine, low-risk deal with the much traveled clubhouse drama queen on Jan. 13, a one year, $1 million contract with $700,000 in performance bonuses.

Mondesi began 2004 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the team terminated his contract on May 19 after he abruptly left the team to return to his native Dominican Republic and fight a lawsuit.

In June, he was signed by Anaheim to fill in for injured players, played 8 games, and was released after failing to show up for a rehab assignment. His AL career also includes a fractured relationship with the Yankees and manager Joe Torre.

Horrid work ethic aside, on the field, Mondesi draws comparisons to Reggie Sanders, who Mondesi replaced in Pittsburgh to start 2004.

Sanders has assembled a good, but much traveled career so far, and produces about 30 home runs a year. He rarely gets signed for more than a year, but the Cardinals kept him around for 2005.

Sanders stepped into the spot J.D. Drew left open in St. Louis and hit .260 with 22 HR and .797 OPS. He was available the previous two offseasons, and in hindsight, would have been a fine spare part for the Phillies in 2003, the year Pat Burrell bottomed out and the team just missed the playoffs.

Sanders finished 2003 hitting .285 with 31 HRs and a .902 OPS, all for the bargain price of $1 million.

Sanders is a good spare part, and Schuerholz has a great knack for finding spare parts, better than any GM in baseball. It will be interesting to see if Mondesi can straighten it out and make it through an entire season without incident. Veteran leaders like John Smoltz and Chipper Jones, who play to win, are unlikely to have the kind of patience the Yankees were willing to give him.

Mondesi has always had a gun for an arm, and to go with Andruw Jones in center, it's a formidable addition to the outfield. Schuerholz acknowledged that left field is still "a work in progress." But the good news for Atlanta is Mondesi passed his physical with flying colors and arrived in excellent shape.

So the question is, which history will win out: Bobby Cox's track record of turning eggs into egg salad, or Mondesi's idiocy?

Open up your wallets
Here's an interesting bet: Which player will finish with a better EqR, Pat Burrell or Raul Mondesi?

January 27, 2005

Attention NL East writers

You’re invited to weigh in on the latest poll posted on BPF: "Which offseason move will have the biggest impact on the NL East?"

When you’re finished, leave comments and your Web site URL in the comments section below this post. I am assembling links for an all NL East blog section before the season gets underway.

Nationals bloggers are encouraged to leave comments most of all. If you feel another acquisition, such as Jose Guillen, will mean more to the success of team, by all means state your opinion.

If you are undecided, you are permitted to vote for more than one selection.

Results of Phillies pitching poll

According to readers of BPF, Vicente Padilla has the greatest chance among Phillies starters to improve next season.

Padilla received 53 percent of the votes (8 total). Jon Lieber was next with 27 percent (4 votes), and Randy Wolf, Brett Myers and Cory Lidle each received one vote.

New poll: NL East offseason moves
No division was overhauled more than the NL East this winter. On the heels of the Florida Marlins signing first baseman Carlos Delgado, BPF asks which offseason move will have the greatest impact on the NL East next season?

For space reasons, each team gets two moves. Here they are:

-Phillies hire Charlie Manuel as manager
-Phillies sign RHP Jon Lieber
-Mets sign CF Carlos Beltran
-Mets sign RHP Pedro Martinez
-Nationals relocate from Montreal to Washington
-Nationals sign RHP Esteban Loaiza
-Braves trade for RHP Tim Hudson
-Braves trade for CP Danny Kolb, move CP John Smoltz to rotation
-Marlins sign LHP Al Lieter
-Marlins sign 1B Carlos Delgado

Readers can vote in the green box at the right side of the page and are invited to comment on their selection in the comments section of this post. If you are undecided, you may vote more than once.

Phila Killa

When the Marlins won the World Series in 2003, a trendy choice for NL MVP was leadoff slapster Juan Pierre.

Pierre has become the poster boy for productive leadoff men since becoming a Fish, and is often credited, along with No. 2 hitter Luis Castillo, as the keys to Florida's recent success.

They're important pieces no doubt, but the biggest NL East killer in Florida's outstanding lineup is third baseman Mike Lowell, the most dangerous and certainly the most underrated offensive weapon in the division.

Though his bones are becoming brittle with age, no divisional advisary has earned the respect of NL East pitchers more than Mike Lowell. And with the addition to Carlos Delgado, historically one of the best run producing first basemen of all time, the meat of Florida's lineup now includes Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Delgado and Mike Lowell, good enough for the best three, four, five hitters in the division.

It would be hard for Mike Lowell, the team's franchise player, to improve on the havoc he's already caused in the NL East. Though he faded late last season, against the Phillies, Lowell crushed the ball, posting a Bonds-like 1.130 OPS including 7 of his 27 home runs. His 18.2 runs created tied J.D. Drew for the most from division foes against the Phillies.

Comparatively, the heart of the Phillies order – Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome, and Pat Burrell – posted OPSs of .832, .854, and .768 respectively, with Abreu having the most runs created with 11.7. If the Phils want to beat the Marlins, they need to get better production from their big three.

The addition of Delgado moves one of the AL's best hitters onto a team that already hits the Phillies extremely well from top to bottom. Even shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who only seems to hit against the Phillies and Mets, had about as many runs created (10.6) in Phillies-Marlins games as Jim Thome (10.9).

With Delgado, the three, four, and five hitters will go right-left-right. Mid-summer four-game series will be marathons for visiting bullpens.

But it hardly matters with Lowell, who's good for a homer every 26 at bats against right-handers, one in 11 versus lefties. And with the game on the line, few hitters have been more clutch in recent years.

Off-season chaos meter:
In order of individual moves that will make the most difference in shaping the NL East, I’d put Tim Hudson to the Braves first, followed closely by Delgado to Florida.

With Lowell hitting behind him, and with Pierre, Castillo and Cabrera ahead of him, Delgado could easily drive in 140 runs.

January 26, 2005

Winning is bad radio

Will Philadelphia sports radio stay viable if the Eagles win the big one?

Three days since the Eagles sealed a spot in Super Bowl XXXIX and the number one topic on sports radio isn't how great this once in a lifetime event is, but a debate on how best to celebrate.

In Philly, the fun can't just happen, it must be debated and scrutinized.

Philadelphia fans, in large, have been conditioned to search for better ways for their teams to succeed, and now that the Eagles have, they don't know what to do about it. For example, here at work, people are already scheming ways for the Eagles to get a running back next season, when the winning formula is already there in front of them.

Radio is Philadelphia's No. 1 forum for sports debate, and lords over one of the most viable sports markets in the country. But if the Eagles bring home a championship - the biggest story in decades - I wouldn't be surprised if a good portion of listeners tune out.

The number one reason listeners pick up the phone and call is to bitch, and listeners actively work out solutions in their heads. It's as engaging as it gets, but when the riddle is solved and the game is won, what's left to hypothesize?

A trend I noticed this season was how little discussion there was on the Eagles, especially when they were blowing out opponents. The Phillies, missing the playoffs once again, were discussed more this winter than I ever remember. Ryan Howard, ten big league at bats and counting, was discussed about as much as Jevon Kearse.

Since Sunday, the Eagles are everywhere; on every station, in every newspaper, and not just in Philadelphia, in every market. A Super Bowl could be a major blow to a station structured on figuring it all out.

Reading Eagle TV book preview
The fruits of J. Michael Weitzel's day job includes designing the Super Bowl cover for the Sunday Reading Eagle TV book. Here's a preview:

I like to think of it as one part Peter Max, one part fire company wrestling poster.

January 23, 2005

Moreno signing tops weekend headlines

The Phillies claimed RHP Edwin Moreno off waivers from the Texas Rangers. Aside from that, the Philadelphia sports world has been whisper quiet.

Eagles march on to Jacksonville!
OK, so Edwin will have to wait until spring to get some press. Tough town.

Starting Monday, BPF will pepper in some unconventional thoughts about Super Bowl XXXIX, along with commentary on the Phillies offseason.

The big news is the Eagles finally did it, and for many of us, Sunday marked the team's biggest accomplishment in a lifetime of waiting. Now they face a New England team that's absolutely stone cold. The Patriots don't make mistakes. On the field, it starts with quarterback Tom Brady and the perfection spreads through the ranks. On the sidelines, Belicheck can work you over like Bobby Fischer.

For Andy Reid and the Eagles, this is the ultimate test and I'm glad they'll be matched against the league's standard-setter. I’ll talk more about the task at hand some time tomorrow. Until then, good luck trying to find stories about the game, because from now on, it's all Edwin, all the time.

Media darling Edwin Moreno