Monday, 17 March 2008

Morning Roundup

In contrast to the more triumphal back-slapping at, Geoffrey York does an illuminating feature on how the first China Series was received in Beijing over the weekend. York has been my favourite Canadian journalist since he was on the Globe's Moscow desk years and years ago and he's capable of providing a sober, sports-cliche free look at the Herculean effort of selling a foreign, alien sport to the world's next superpower.

The average Chinese spectator found the sport incomprehensible, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Both spring training games between the Padres and Dodgers were sold out or nearly sold out, but it would seem that a good number of tickets were handed out free. Visiting Korean fans were clearly the most-chuffed about the whole thing, mostly because their hero, Chan Ho Park, was there with the LA contingent. Andruw Jones was was either enthralled or baffled by the Chinese cheerleaders, none of whom appears to be bigger than a size two.

I find the MLB's Chinese strategy simultaneously weird and cool, so I do hope they repeat it again in the future. If the Jays are involved I'd gladly volunteer to go along and help translate or serve as a tour guide. Call me!

Back in North America... that I fully agree with Richard Griffin is probably a good indication that the apocolypse is upon us, which is kind of sad since I was looking forward to a massive St. Patty's day hangover tomorrow.

Uncle Griff implies that we shouldn't be worried by The Big Hurt's Manitoba cold spring (2 for 28 so far), because he's been working hard, getting more ABs than usual, and is fully healthier than in recent years. Griff writes:

"They don't need to be worried about me," Thomas said. "They have other things to be worried about than me. I've been down this road many, many times before. I've had slow springs. I know exactly what's wrong and I'm speeding up everything right now. I'm being a little bit overly aggressive and not getting enough balls in the sweet spot."

As if a reminder is necessary... spring training is a time of experimentation as much as it is one of preparation. Guys are tinkering with their swings, trying out new pitches, and so on. Spring stats are pretty meaningless as a result. Moving along.

Mike Rutsey of the Sun is the worst kind of hack sports journalist and I only mention his name to let you all know that I'm ignoring anything from him in the future. He first drew our attention a week ago when his lede for a piece was: "Brandon League has the best set of teeth this side of Silken Laumann." What that little attempt at humour had to do with baseball I don't know. Purple prose of the flamboyant sort runs throughout his work.

Today Rutsey writes that Shannon Stewart has the edge on Reed Johnson in the battle for a spot in left field as Matt Stair's caddy. Ok. It's the Sun, so it's not like we should be expecting anything intelligent, but this throw away line is positively Griffin-esque:

Then there is Ricciardi's never-ending lust for offence and Stewart is a career .298 hitter with more pop. His defence isn't as good as Johnson's, but defence has never been a major issue with the GM.

Is there something wrong with offence? Doesn't scoring more runs than the other team help win games? Stewart is indeed a career .298. The only problem is that he's 34 and hasn't exceeded his career norms since an injury-shortened 2004 campaign. If the club needs a right-handed hitting platoon partner for Matt Stairs, shouldn't recent splits against lefties be of greater relevance than overall career numbers? And JP doesn't care about defence? Are you serious? After acquiring Scott Rolen? Leaving Aaron Hill at second when he proved himself a gold glove-calibre defender there? Because he's given J-Mac's starting job to David Eckstein so we don't have the equivilant of a National League pitcherin the lineup? Really?

I bite my thumb at you, sir.

On a related note, Reed Johnson is still a Blue Jay.


* Anyone in Yankeedom expecting the right of primae noctis with CC Sabathia when he becomes a free agent at the end of this season is getting ahead of himself. The big lefty is non-plussed about the idea of playing in New York and really, who can blame him with the scoundrels and miscreants running roughshod through that organization?

* Ex-Jay Kevin Cash is the Bosox backup catcher this year after Doug "I catch knuckleballers" Mirabelli got cut. Cash has been a pretty miserable hitter as those of you who remember him know, so any long-term injury to Jason Varitek means the Beantowners are basically inserting a National League pitcher into their lineup. This of course brings us back to a pretty atrocious early season 2006 trade by Theo Epstein that sent Josh Bard, a good-hitting catcher, and Cla Meredith, a pretty solid young reliever, to the Padres for, hrrrrrm, Doug Mirabelli.

* The Cubs still believe they can pry Brian Roberts away from the O's before the end of camp. We thought Giants GM Brian Sabean was slow on the draw, but the McPhail/Angelos regime is absolutely glacial. Each veteran dump brings the O's closer to a 100-loss season. Earl Weaver would be spinning in his grave...

-- Johnny Was

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