Didn't get to write up anything about yesterday's game, so I guess I should start by giving a brief recap of that. It was another back-and-forth contest, which again saw each team blow two leads, before Kansas City prevailed, 8-7. The Royals pounced on Dan Haren for two runs in the first, but the D-backs hit back with consecutive solo homers in the second, from Reynolds and Snyder. The former was a massive blast that left the park; see Foulpole's diary for teammate Robby Hammock's reaction to the shot. He also said, "When you square up a ball like that, you don't even feel it hit the bat. That doesn't happen very often. I can count on my hand how many times I've done it."
Eric Byrnes led off the third with another homer; Kansas scored two off Lyon in the fifth, then Arizona came back once more with four in the bottom half of the same inning. Kansas City got two in the seventh, starting with a bizarre one: John Buck struck out, but Easley, unaware the umpire had ruled it a dropped third strike, rolled the ball back to the mound as Arizona left the field: Buck reached first and the runner on third came home to score. That's the kind of mental lapse that we can certainly do without; one trusts Easley learned from the experience; a shaken Nippert walked the next two batters, resulting in the tying score, though both runs were unearned, being credited to Easley's error. The Royals scored the go-ahead run off Petit in the eighth and restricted the D-backs to one hit in the final three innings.
Overall, a better day for our hitters than our pitchers. Reynolds was 2-for-3 with two RBI, and Hudson also drove in two. Byrnes reached safely twice, with a walk and his homer. Haren wasn't very impressive, scattering five hits and back-to-back walks in his four innings of work, with two earned runs. Lyon loaded the bases in the third before he retired a hitter, and was also tagged for two runs. Qualls pitched a scoreless inning, but even he allowed two hits, and Nippert had to be bailed out of the seventh, walking three. Petit mopped up, and did strike out three in 2.1 innings, despite taking the loss.
In contrast, today was a pitcher's duel, though the result was still the same, Arizona losing by one run as they went down to the A's, 2-1 - the two sides combined for only nine hits in 57 at-bats. Davis had a wobbly first, walking two and allowing a hit and a run, but settled down, not allowing another hit as he finished four innings. Meanwhile, former D-back Dana Eveland [sent to Oakland as a cog in the Dan Haren trade] was looking pretty damn good, fanning seven of his former team-mates over five innings - that's as many innings as he pitched for us last year. However, in 2007, that led to eight earned runs; today, it was zero. "It's kind of typical Doug Davis, I guess you could say" - and Davis did exactly that afterwards. "At the same time, I want to reverse that, especially when my young padawan on the other side is out there throwing strikes. Yes: that is a Star Wars reference.
We did break through against Keith Foulke - wasn't he supposed to be signed by us? - to score in the sixth, though we didn't get a hit after Jackson's sacrifice fly put us on the board. Jackson was wearing #81 and no name for the day, having left his jersey down in Tucson. Edgar Gonzalez was somewhat unlucky, it appears, with a bloop double down the left-field line, followed by a chopper back up the middle leading to his run. Those were the only two hits he allowed, over his two innings of work. Rosales and Murphy put up zeros in the seventh and eighth inning, to end our pitchers for the day, Eric Byrnes had two of our five hits, with Hudson getting a hit and a walk, but bases on balls were sadly outnumbered by strikeouts, to the tune of 2-9.
Scanning the presses, Steve Gilbert points out that "What looked to be a set roster heading into Spring Training has become a little more complicated," and that's certainly true. Uncertainty lingers over at least three members of the roster due to injury (Tracy, Montero and Johnson), while the continuing struggles of Nippert have threatened his apparently guaranteed spot. As well as the usual suspect of Hammock, Nixon (frantically taking groundballs at first in minor-league games) and Medders, left-handed outfielder Alex Romero is now being considered by Melvin. He said, "Romero is a guy that every day comes in there and is getting hits for us... He seems to be a guy that definitely is worth mentioning when we're talking about additional guys that could make the roster." The 24-year old spent all last year with the Sidewinders, and hit .310 there.
Wheels up for Arizona this year? We stole 109 last season, which is a lot less than the 200 put up by the league-leading Mets [78 from Reyes would help any team there], but the early hints and signs are that we'll see more motion this year. Melvin wants Upton to improve his running game, and also picks out Stephen Drew as someone who can do more in this area. [Drew's career 11 SB without being caught is the most since Phil Cavarretta retired in 1955, having gone 65-0, at a leisurely pace, over a 22-year career] On the other hand, the high number of runners getting doubled off this spring, has had Melvin reminding his team of the difference between "aggressive" and "psychotic" base-running. He also said Reynolds, Snyder and Jackson wouldn't be asked to steal more, but...
Looks like "GoJack" might have a different opinion on that. "Conor Jackson is not just stronger from his winter workout regimen. He's faster, too. Scouts have clocked Jackson's time to first base at around 4.5 seconds this spring training...a noteworthy improvement from previous years, when he was in the 4.7 to 4.8 range." He says he's looking to beat out a few more hits down the line, but thinks a stolen base or two could be possible with the right pitcher. The same story also updates us on Tracy's condition: he'll hopefully be off his blood-thinners Friday, and should be ready for game action within a week or so. I'd still say that leaves him very doubtful as far as being ready for Opening Day, even in a limited role off the bench.
We're approaching Fantasy Baseball draft time, so it's been interesting to see ourselves as others see us. Patrick of The Fantasy Baseball Generals takes a look at five D-backs, but seems to find much of concern: Eric Byrnes "will break your heart"; "it wouldn't be a surprise if [Drew] continues to flop"; Reynolds' "contact rate is a big problem"; and as for Lyon, "there is no way he holds on to the closer's job." Five? Oh, yeah: Carlos Gonzalez is included, even though he's now an Oakland A, since Patrick thinks his hitting prowess is, like Drew, an illusion caused by Lancaster. Sheesh. Way to pour a damper on the day, Patrick. ;-)
I probably shouldn't be saying this, but when it comes to the draft, a week Saturday, I will be relying heavily on Rotoworld and their encyclopedic coverage of everything fantasy-related. I'm not generally a fan of paying for content anywhere on the Web [hell, not when there's enough free stuff available, if you know where to look], but I was impressed: their free news service is good by itsel, but is really only the tip of the iceberg compared to what's available after you login. Sign up here. Actually, no; forget I mentioned any of this, especially if you're competing against me in the SnakePit Fantasy League. ;-)
Speaking of which, we've filled up the league for 2008 - sorry to those who didn't get in this year. There was a 75% return rate among managers, which I think is pretty good, and we replaced the departees with some well-known names among contributors here. The presence of Wimb and Muu mean that the league will be spanning three continents this year, which is pretty cool. If only we'd got William K out in the Far East, we'd have been even more dispersed! All participants need to test their systems through the home-page for the league, to make sure it's draft compatible. I'm also thinking about moving the draft back an hour, to 2pm Arizona time; opinions for and against that are welcome in the comments.
Interesting stand by Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, who has decided to ban the Dallas Morning News blogger from the locker-room. It's kinda weird that Cuban - who runs a blog himself - would be such a Luddite here, apparently believing that an online reporter is less a reporter than one whose output appears only on the printed page. I should mention that I have no interest in reporting from the D-backs locker-room. This is covered more than adequately by Messrs. Piecoro and McManaman, and in addition, the acceptance of such a privilege could compromise my independence. But barring someone employed by a daily newspaper, on the basis that his work is delivered through the tubes of the Internet rather than on dead trees? No. I don't think so.
Today's comment starter Las Vegas has come out with the Over/Under for wins by all the MLB teams this year. [Link opens in convenient new window] where would you put your money this year? we need a team, and whether they'll be above or below the projected figure. shoe, we are awaiting your wisdom particularly on these over/unders. :-)