National Pastime Archive: March 2009


  • Tampa II?

    In case you were wondering, the title of this post doesn't refer to the Tony Dungy-inspired zone defense, but rather to the tantalizing possibility of another annual bottom-feeder going Cinderella on us like the 2008 Rays, who shocked everyone but themselves by capturing the A.L. pennant. The clock struck midnight on everyone's favorite underdogs in last year's Fall Classic, but it did little to diminish their feel-good turn-around story. Only a downtrodden franchise that hasn't been on the radar for a long, long time could even attempt to pull onto the glory road those pesky Rays traveled last season. By SEAN RAPOSA Published March 31 2009

  • Zimmermann earns rotation spot

    Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann's outstanding spring has earned him a spot in the Nationals rotation, The Washington Times' Mark Zuckerman reported this morning. The 2007 second-round pick will make the jump from Double-A after going 15-5 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 205 K's in 187 minor league innings over the past two seasons and posting a 3.14 ERA this spring. Nats manager Manny Acta said Zimmermann will be the team's No. 5 starter, and since they don't need a fifth starter until April 19, he'll likely begin the season with Triple-A Syracuse. Published March 28 2009

  • Wieters told he'll start year in minors

    Despite a .343 batting average this spring, 22-year-old catcher Matt Wieters was informed by the Orioles on Thursday that he'll begin the season with the team's triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides. According to the Baltimore Sun, manager Dave Trembley informed Wieters of the club's decision after Thursday's exhibition loss to the Marlins. He'll remain with the big league team through the weekend and his reassignment will become official on Monday. Orioles officials say they want Wieters to experience success in triple-A before joining the O's for good, but their true motivation is to keep him under club control for a seventh year. Published March 26 2009

  • Washington Nationals 2009 Preview

    The Nats struggled in every phase of the game in 2008, scoring the third fewest runs in the N.L., posting its third-worst team ERA and committing more errors than any other Senior Circuit club as they slumped to a major league-worst 59-102 record. It was their worst showing since relocating from Montreal prior to the 2005 season, and the Esmailyn Gonzalez age scandal proved to be the last straw for GM Jim Bowden, who resigned under pressure last month. There is reason for optimism, however, as Adam Dunn brings sorely needed punch to the lineup and several promising youngsters will occupy spots in the rotation. Published March 26 2009

  • Baltimore Orioles 2009 Preview

    The Orioles ranked near the middle of the A.L. pack in most of the major hitting categories last season, but horrendous pitching - only the Rangers allowed more runs or posted a worse team ERA than Baltimore's 5.13 - resulted in a disappointing 68-93 record and a last-place finish in the ultracompetitive A.L. East. Andy MacPhail has improved the lineup through free agency and the bullpen is stocked with a good mix of reliable veterans and promising youngsters, but several question marks remain at the back end of the rotation. Help is on the way from the restocked farm system, but most of the team's best prospects are at least a year away. Published March 25 2009

  • Schilling hangs 'em up; Hall bound?

    Curt Schilling hadn't pitched since 2007 because of shoulder troubles, but despite his age - 42 - and the fact that he's already hoisted the World Series trophy on three occasions, he still held out hope of a return - until Monday, that is. Schilling used his blog, 38pitches.com, to call it a career, writing, "The party has officially ended. After being blessed to experience 23 years of playing professional baseball in front of the world's best fans in so many different places, it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official." There's no question Schilling has a place in baseball history, but will he have a place in Cooperstown? Published March 24 2009

  • Ichiro the hero as Japan wins WBC

    Ichiro Suzuki's two-out, two-run single off Chang Yong Lim in the top of the 10th inning proved to be the difference as Japan defeated Korea 5-3 to repeat as World Baseball Classic champions. Ichiro's clutch hit - his fourth of the game - capped an eight-pitch at bat and made a winner out of 22-year-old Yu Darvish, who allowed Korea to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth but used his mid-90s fastball and devastating slider to secure the victory in the bottom of the 10th. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who went 3-0 in the tournament, repeated as MVP of the Classic. Published March 24 2009

  • Japan tops USA to reach WBC final

    Japan capitalized on an error by USA second baseman Brian Roberts to push five runs across in the fourth inning and never looked back, beating the Americans 9-4 on Sunday to advance to the finals of the World Baseball Classic. All that stands between Japan and its second WBC title is Korea, which defeated Venezuela by a 10-2 score Saturday night. Monday's championship game - scheduled for 9 p.m. - should feature a highly competitive matchup between the defending champs and their main rival, which won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Published March 22 2009

  • Pedro still searching for a suitor

    The Dominican Republic fizzled out quickly in the World Baseball Classic, inexplicably losing a pair of games to a Netherlands team featuring Sidney Ponson and only a handful of other players that even the most ardent baseball fan has ever heard of, but don't blame Pedro Martinez. The future Hall of Famer used the tournament to showcase the fact that he's still got some gas left in the tank by pitching six scoreless innings in two relief appearances, fanning six and allowing just one hit. But a week and a half after the Dominicans were eliminated from the WBC - and just two weeks before Opening Day - Martinez remains unsigned. Published March 22 2009

  • Pedro still searching for a suitor*

    The Dominican Republic fizzled out quickly in the World Baseball Classic, inexplicably losing a pair of games to a Netherlands team featuring Sidney Ponson and only a handful of other players that even the most ardent baseball fan has ever heard of, but don't blame Pedro Martinez. The future Hall of Famer used the tournament to showcase the fact that he's still got some gas left in the tank by pitching six scoreless innings in two relief appearances, fanning six and allowing just one hit. But a week and a half after the Dominicans were eliminated from the WBC - and just two weeks before Opening Day - Martinez remains unsigned. Published March 21 2009

  • Fantasy Draft Results & Analysis

    I traveled to Massachusetts on Monday for my fantasy baseball draft and got back in the early morning hours Thursday, which explains my lack of posts the past few days. The draft is one of my favorite days of the year, not only because it's such a blast to hand-pick your team for the upcoming season, but also because I get to see all my friends from up north that I don't get to see all that often. One of the local bars up there lets us have the draft in their function room upstairs, and we all toss back a few, catch up between picks and have some good laughs. It's like a high school reunion, limited to the people I actually want to see. Published March 20 2009

  • Fantasy Rankings - Relief Pitchers

    Don't use high draft picks on closers. The demanding nature of the role causes many hurlers to break down, rendering guys you expected to be studs useless. It's also foolish to pay a premium when saves so often come cheap in fantasy baseball. At least a third of all closers lose their jobs every year - and some of their replacements lose theirs, too - meaning you'll have at least 15 or so chances to snag one off waivers. When drafting closers, talent is your first consideration and chances of keeping the job is a close second. Expected team success is overrated. Published March 13 2009

  • Fantasy Rankings - Starting Pitchers

    Some so-called fantasy experts will tell you that taking starting pitchers early in your draft is too risky. Nonsense. A strong starting rotation is the foundation for fantasy success, and you'll have a much easier time finding adequate bats than reliable hurlers later in your draft. Don't focus too much on wins and ERA when drafting starters, because those stats are determined in part by factors pitchers can't control. Concentrate instead on WHIP, K-to-walk ratio and durability. Expected run support and the home ballpark factor can't be ignored, but they're overrated. Published March 11 2009

  • Dutch repeat upset feat, advance

    Eugene Kingsale singled in the tying run off Dominican reliever Carlos Marmol in the bottom of the 11th inning and then crossed the plate with the winning run when first baseman Willy Aybar couldn't handle Yurendell De Caster's sharp grounder, giving the Dutch their second unreal upset of the Dominican Republic in four days and a berth in the second round of the World Baseball Classic. The loss eliminated the Dominicans, who entered the tournament as one of the favorites to win it all. Published March 10 2009

  • Fantasy Rankings - DH-only

    Most fantasy leagues don't use the designated hitter position, opting instead for a "utility" spot in which any batter can be used. Big leaguers eligible only at DH can be used only in that utility spot, eliminating the flexibility it would otherwise offer and thus diminishing the value of DH-only guys. The bright side is that a couple of them can really mash, and their DH-only status causes them to fall farther than their numbers would dictate. Be sure not to let guys like David Ortiz, Jim Thome and rookie sleeper Kila Ka'aihue get lost in the shuffle on draft day. Published March 9 2009

  • Dutch stun Dominicans in WBC

    The Dominican Republic entered the World Baseball Classic as one of the favorites to win it all while the Netherlands squad would have been happy just to win a game or two. Few gave the Dutch team any kind of shot when the teams met on Saturday at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but that's why they play the games. The Netherlands took advantage of errors by Dominican catcher Miguel Olivo and shortstop Hanley Ramirez and a wild pitch by starter Edinson Volquez to push three runs across in the first inning and held on for a stunning 3-2 win. Published March 7 2009

  • Fantasy Rankings - Outfielders

    Some of the game's brightest stars are outfielders, and there are many outfielders worthy of early-round selections in fantasy drafts. On the other hand, it's by far the deepest offensive position in baseball, and you could choose to concentrate on pitchers and the infield positions early if you trust your ability to find some diamonds in the rough to man your outfield positions later on. Your best bet is to take the best available player, regardless of position, in the early rounds and fill the remaining spots in your lineup in the middle and late rounds. Published March 6 2009

  • Surgery to keep A-Rod out 10 weeks

    ESPN Deportes reported Thursday that Alex Rodriguez will have surgery Monday to remove a cyst on his right hip and will miss at least 10 weeks, meaning he will be unable to be play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and won't join the Yankees until mid to late May at the earliest. The news comes as a huge blow to the Yankees, who opened the vault for free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira this offseason in hopes of reclaiming supremacy in the A.L. East. Published March 5 2009

  • Manny, Dodgers finally reach deal

    After months of very public negotiations, star outfielder Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers have agreed to terms on a two-year, $45 million contract. According to MLB.com, Ramirez accepted the same deal that he had rejected only a week ago. He'll make $25 million in 2009 and and $20 million next year, and can opt out of his contract after the 2009 season if he so chooses. Deferred payments had been an issue in the negotiations, and in the end, Manny will get his $45 million over the course of five years if he stays with the Dodgers through 2010. Published March 4 2009

  • Fantasy Rankings - Shortstops

    It wasn't all that long ago that very little was expected offensively from the shortstop position. Boy, have things changed. Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes are going in the top five in fantasy drafts and 2007 National League MVP Jimmy Rollins isn't far behind. And once you get past the elite options, you realize how deep this year's shortstop crop is. Stephen Drew, J.J. Hardy, Jhonny Peralta and Troy Tulowitzki are good and getting better; Derek Jeter, Michael Young, Orlando Cabrera, Miguel Tejada and Rafael Furcal have been getting the job done for years. Published March 4 2009

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