Kicking my heels gently, waiting for Cloverfield to open tomorrow. The theme of a lot of the reviews so far, seems to be Blair Witch meets Godzilla. That somewhat disturbs me, since the former was mediocre horror with a great marketing campaign. Mind you, Mrs. SnakePit's motion sickness during that one, was so bad she ended up staring at the back of the seat in front most of the time. As for Godzilla, whether or not it's a good thing depends on whether it's the Japanese original or the utterly unnecessary remake foisted on the public in the 1990's. But we're going regardless; by all accounts, it's cinematic enough to be worth the cash.
On the D-backs front, things are warming up. We've got the 2008 FanFest, which is now confirmed as being on February 9. Looks like much the same format as last year: photographs, autographs, the yard sale [they likely still have multiple cases of Matt Mantei baseballs to get rid of!], and so on. It was a great experience last year, and we might have to get down there a little earlier this time, as we missed most of the autograph sessions. Mind you, how many Webbagraphs do we really need? :-) At least this time, we should have a decent camera, rather than having to buy a disposable on the day, and enduring the results.
A little bit beyond that, tickets to the Spring Training games down in Tucson go on sale this Saturday. The first game is a rematch of tne NLCS against the Colorado Rockies on Feb. 28 at 1:05 p.m. Of course, other teams are already selling their tickets, if you don't want to brave the I-10 trip. Particularly popular games would be AZ night/weekend games up here. Leading that list, and a likely sellout, is the 8th March one against the Cubs in Phoenix, a Saturday afternoon contest. The Diamondbacks are back in town a week later, to face the Angels in Tempe, though this involves buying seats through Ticketbastard, and we'd rather avoid that wherever possible. Fortunately, the Angels stadium is easily accessible and commonly driven-past, so we may end up going to the box-office direct. Not been to that stadium, so be nice to cross it off the list. The night game on Wed. 17 March against Seattle at Peoria, and Sunday 23rd, when we face the Brewers, are also possible.
They've also announced the participants in the final two warm-up games which, as usual, are taking place at Chase Field. The first game is - and you should probably sit down for this - the Colorado Rockies. Yes, go get your tickets for that one now, in case they sell out... As if we won't be playing them enough in the season. Or even during the previous month of Spring Training. However, the second one is at least a bit different, because Arizona will be facing the defending Mexican League Champion Monterrey Sultanes at 5:10 p.m. on March 29. Actually, more than somewhat different, I think it's kinda unique: but guess which one is being televised? Yeah, the Rockies game. Yawn... I'd be tempted to go to Chase for the Saturday one: except the costs for tickets to those two games are major-league prices, not spring-training prices.
The process has begun of reaching agreement with our six arbitration-eligible players: Juan Cruz, Edgar Gonzalez, Brandon Lyon, Jose Valverde, Chris Snyder and Orlando Hudson. Cruz has signed for one year, at a surprisingly low $1,937,500. He'll be a free agent at the end of this year, and I suspect the D-backs will be likely to let him walk, not least because if he repeats his 2007 performance, he'll be a Type A free agent, and we get two high 2009 draft picks as a result. According to the Elias rankings, Cruz was actually above Jose Valverde - both were Type A, while Lyon and Peña were Type B. Be interesting to see how things change over the next year: I'm wondering if Cruz's performance was skewed by his 6-1 win-loss record, or if that's ignored by Elias for relievers? If Lyon gets saves, he could certainly become a Type A too, and we'd be left with some difficult decisions to make at the end of 2008, with Famine and War both free agents.
Which brings me to this week's poll, our Hall of Fame panel having decided Randy Johnson, at 56%, will be the first player in the Hall of Fame, to have pulled on an Arizona jersey. With half the Four Relievers of the Apocalypse able to ride off into the sunset after this season, what do we do? Should we crack open the piggy-bank and re-sign both of them? Keep one and let the other go? And if so, which one would you keep? Right now, that is - obviously, 2008 performances will come into play significantly, and if Lyon is the closer, his price on the free-market is going to be a lot higher. Or do we let both go, and end up with potentially seven picks in the 2009 draft before the second round starts? [Our own first-round one plus, potentially, three first-round choices from the teams that sign Hudson, Cruz and Lyon, and three additional sandwich picks between the first and second rounds.] The Poster Formerly Known as npineda - and now known as Captain D Bag - talks some more about this in a diary, and floats the idea of Cruz closing.
Back when we were 'discussing' the future with Rox Girl, she linked over to a post-Haren prediction on Replacement Level, which had less than three games separating the entire NL West save the Giants, based on the CAIRO predictions. Stop the presses. The same blog recently ran a simulation using the CHONE predictions, and the results, as published by Nick Piecoro, were radically different: we are a whopping 8.7 wins better, and the prediction is for us to sweep majestically to the division title by nine games. Are you listening, Denver? :-) [Colorado end up in fourth, twelve games back...] Both systems used appear to predict similar years for our pitching, with CHONE saying we'll allow 695 runs, compared to CAIRO's 704. It's the offense where CHONE is much more optimistic, 831-725. Given we scored only 712 last year, I think we are likely to do a lot better this year.
And the obligatory couple of interesting links. True Blue LA comments on the Piecoro Projections, and tends to think AZ and LA will be neck and neck this season. Rox Girl continues her series looking at the divisional matchups, with the rotations. Hey, look at that, will ya? We come out on top, and it seems that only a season-ending injury to Brandon Webb can stop us! Steve Gilbert looks at our middle infield; no real surprises there, and Gilbert is currently off at the D-backs fantasy camp in Tucson, which may explain why that piece feels a bit phoned in. Finally, I enjoyed this Hardball Times piece on Quirky Baseball Rules, such as the mythical Fenway ground-rule triple, and how to hit into a triple-play without the ball being touched by a fielder.