Sunday, July 30, 2006

He Killed The Younglings!!! Darth Marc Visits Keyspan Park

I wanted to write this post a while back but got distracted as my ADD ass often does. Thankfully the baseball gods have given me a chance to redeem myself.

Being a Brooklyn resident and a baseball fan, I decided that it was my duty as a baseball to visit Keyspan Park and watch the Brooklyn Cyclones play. Even though they're baby Mets and technically infidels, I remembered how much fun I used to have at Durham Bulls games when I lived in NC so I put my prejudices aside and made the trek to the Island of Coney.

I wasn't disappointed. I was expecting a smaller version of a modern major league ballpark. What I got was a modern minor league ballpark. And for those of you who have never gone to a minor league game, there's a huge difference. And I'm not just talking about in the play either. There are certain things that are appropriate to the Minor Leagues (silly sing-a longs, silly mascots, Hot Dog races etc.) that when I see in the majors I cringe. In the minors, it more about families, more about entertainment. So when I see a giant Eagle dancing on the dugout, throwing T-shirts into the crowd...I smile, instead of feeling the urge to throw up in my mouth.

The team, however, was a different story. When I saw them earlier this month against State College, they were horrible. They pitched and fielded the ball ok, but they couldn't hit a lick. That's why the amusement park atmosphere (appropriate, since it's next door to one)works in the minors. You're watching kids, who in some cases, are still growing into their bodies and their games. Sometimes it's not pretty to watch. If you paid your good money to just watch baseball, you might get pissed and walk out some days. So in this instance, it's good to mix in a baseball wedding or fireworks to keep you from becoming suicidal.

Watching minor league ball is akin to watching College sports. To paraphrase George Orwell, all men may be created equal, but it's clear that some men are more equal than others. It caught me off guard a bit the size difference between Cyclones and their opponents. State College and Staten Island's players looked like grown men whereas the Cyclones looked as if they could be playing for nearby Lincoln High. You forget sometimes that these kids would be in college if they weren't playing in the minors.

Saturday however, I saw a very different Cyclones team. Their bats actually touched the balls and they even scratched out a 3-0 lead against cross-town and division rival Staten Island Yankees. But the Yankees powered by two mammoth homers by Francisco Cervelli and Chris Kunda managed to stay close and eventually tie the game. That's when I and my buddy Detroit Rich had to leave to attend his birthday drink-a-thon. But I wasn't surprised when I found the Cyclones beat the first place Yankees 5-4. It's the reason why baseball is the perfect game. You can have a team full of runts beat a team of goliaths on any given day. Something that would never happen in football or basketball.

So if you get the chance, I'd highly recommend visiting Coney Island for a game. I'll have a full report when I head to Staten Island.

While I'm still a little skeptical about the Abreu trade, there a couple of factors that are putting me somewhat at ease.

The first is that Cashman managed to pull this off without losing any of his top prospects, Proctor or Cabrera to get this done. Not one of the prospects traded today will be on an All-Star team anytime soon. Outside of Smith, it will be a couple of years before any of them will be on a major league roster for anything more than a cup of coffee. That gives Abreu plenty of time to justify making this trade. If he makes a couple of all-star games and helps us win a World Series, then the trade is a good one regardless of how good these kids might become one day.

Second, Abreu is an on-base machine. He's not hitting for the same average or power that he has in the past, but he's still getting on base, driving in runs and stealing bases. He's a much better fit with this lineup than in Philly because of the way he takes pitches and works counts. Plus, the change of scenery could do him some good. Larry Bowa said today, that the Philly fans might be tougher than the ones in the Bronx because they haven't won in so long. There, he would get the brunt of the abuse because the team would fail to make the playoffs. Here, he wouldn't have to be the man, so maybe he'll relax and play the way he knows how. Plus having played in this intense Northeast environment, he won't need the adjustment period that Carlos Beltran needed when he came here from Houston. That short porch in right might help him to rediscover his power stroke as well. If he's right, it definitely lengthens and hardens the soft underbelly bottom of the lineup. When Cano gets back, you have a solid 1 to 7 along with whatever get from Cabrera and Phillips. A much harder lineup to navigate. Your outfield gets a little crowded if and when Sheff and Matsui get back. But that's a nice problem to have.

Third, you get a proven pitcher in Corey Lidle in the deal. You already have a proven 1-2-3 in your rotation. Lidle gives you a legitimate four. It enables you to move either Wright, Chacon or Ponson to the bullpen and gives you another option there.

Finally, you replace Sheffield with a younger player for next year. I loved Sheff's fierceness and intensity. But his age and need to create drama where none existed wore me out. I wrote before that I would've liked to replace Sheff with Andruw Jones, move Damon to left and Matsui to right. But I can definitely live with Abreu if he plays the way he's capable. Another left handed bat in the lineup doesn't hurt matters either. Damon, Jeter, Giambi, A-Rod, Abreu, and Posada at the top of your lineup is a nice thing to have.

My friend Yankee Mark is hearing that since Abreu has gone to the Yankees, that this might quell interest in Soriano by other teams. The theory he's hearing is that the Yankees would sign Soriano, put him back at second and trade Cano for a front-line starter. Interesting theory, but why would you sign another expensive bat when you have a younger player who hits .300 that you have locked up every year. Cano is also better defensively (although neither of them will remind you of Robby Alomar) and strikes out less.

In theory, you could trade Cano anyway for a front line starter, get someone for defensive purposes at second, and spend a lot less money than you would locking up Soriano. Plus, you fill a more pressing need with starting pitching than offense. We'll see how things shake out this winter.

From Mo'Nique to Moose. Today's win wasn't like going to bed with Halle Berry. Maybe Stacey Dash or Gabrielle Union. But anything's better than waking up with Mo'Nique like yesterday. Anything. Thanks a lot, Unit.

Moose is the ace of this staff and he pitched like it today. Damon and company were able to scrape enough runs together for a 4-2 win. Now it's payback versus Toronto hopefully on Tuesday. The Halos beatdown of Boston combined with the O's ninth inning comeback against the Chi-Sox puts us back in the driver's seat. A half game back of the Sox and half game ahead in the wildcard.

Abreu wanted a change of scenery, how he's got it. Hopefully he survives the experience. Should be an intense two months.


Blogger George said...

I think that Abreu will be a great fit in the Yanks lineup not to mention the fact that I think the short porch and gaps at the stadium won't hurt. I am just glad the Red Sox did nothing. I don't even see them making the wild card with the way the Twins and White Sox have played this year.

4:14 PM  

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