Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Sunday Morning Muse

This season promises to be a continuation of the exciting baseball we saw in the playoffs last fall. I thought that last year’s playoffs would be the most competitive in years because just about every team, perhaps other than the Twins, had a legitimate shot to get the world series.

This year not only does baseball have the usual suspects listed as favorites in the spring, but some other teams will be strong contenders from day one.

Improving clubs are the Phillies, Cubs, Marlins, Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals, Tigers, Angels, and the Diamondbacks.

Throw these in with the Braves, Expos, Astros, Cards, Giants, Dodgers, Yanks, Red Sox, Twins, White Sox, A’s, and Mariners and you have 23 of 30 teams that can give you trouble in any series.

The also rans aren’t hopeless either see Cleveland, the Rangers, Mets, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, and Rockies.

There is much more balance throughout baseball and you will see it as the winner in the AL East won’t get over 95 wins.

Had an opportunity to see some of the the A’s and Giants players this week in Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Click below and I’ll bring you up to date.Mark Mulder sounds very optimistic and is right on schedule. His biggest problem is that his golf game has deserted him. He’ll be heading to Palm Springs today to play in the Bob Hope Golf Tournament, which is a sure sign that the stress fracture in his hip is healing up. He is participating in workouts at the A’s minor league camp and is very agile. I know things could be different once he gets on the mound, but at least he is working out without any limitations.

Jermaine Dye has lost about ten pounds and must have about two percent body fat. Dye is working out with one of those fitness gurus during the morning and then comes over to Papago Park to hit in the cage. He looks very fit. He even seemed to walk without any trace of a limp, but maybe this is the optimism of spring talking. Anyway, Dye knows that he is the most likely number four hitter and he must handle pitches down and in, because the only pitch he hit with any authority last season was the ball up and over the plate. If you think about it, Dye’s inability to hit the low inside fastball was the reason that Macha hit Melhuse for him against sinkerballer Derek Lowe in game five.

Eric Chavez looks good and is on the same regimen that Dye is. Chavez will take more swings this spring in an effort to avoid the early season slump he invariably falls into. He is slated to hit third and is fully aware that this is his free agent season.

Mark Ellis is devoting alot of time in the cage learning how to hit to right field, sort of the way Ramon Hernandez used to do it. Ellis got married during the off season and is very focused. Ellis is also working out everyday.

Saw Jeremy Brown who is definitely a rookie, the vets don’t pay much attention to him and he works out with the other minor leaguers. He looked thinner than I remember him too.

Eric Hinske from Toronto was around, he has recovered from his hand injury and the ball really jumps off his bat.

The Giants are going to be surprised how strong Dustan Mohr is. He is a college player from Alabama who has gotten valuable experience being part of the Twins last two playoff teams. I thinmk he will be a valuable addition to the SF outfield, more so than Jeffrey Hammonds and Michael Tucker. Mohr knows how to play baseball and his head is definitely screwed on correctly. He has gap power and will try to pull the ball over the Chevron sign in left as he gets acclimated to the park.

He knows Bobby Kielty well and said that Kielty has more power from the right side, but is a natural lefthanded hitter. Kielty had a hamstring injury which really slowed him last spring. Maybe Kielty will be able to play every day, who knows? Mohr was very upbeat about how versatile Kielty’s game is.

Just about everyone I talked to thinks that Anaheim has made the most improvements and with Vladimir Guerrero becomes very scary. Kelvim Escobar is also an unknown because we really haven’t seen him as a steady pitcher for a full season, always bouncing around between the pen and starting.

The Mariners are happy to have Raul Ibanez and feel he knocked them out of the playoffs last year. Ibanez hit about .500 against Seattle and along with Rafael Palmiero just murdered Seattle pitching. There are some who believe Bob Melvin made too many mistakes pitching around Palmiero which cost the Mariners some games at the end of the season. Palmiero just messed up Melvin’s strategy time after time.

The folks in Seattle are most happy that Jeff Cirillo has been moved to the Padres. He was a real nuisance in the clubhouse.

The Giants I talked with told me that Jason Schmidt and Robb Nen both were tossing the ball freely in the outfield. Schmidt seemed happy with his recovery and Nen appeared to be moving along too, about all you can hope for in January. Cody Ransom is a big rangy looking shortstop, but the scouts don’t put much faith in his ability to hit.

If the Padres really want Jason Kendall and the Pirates really want to move Kendall, which they will do before the season starts, how can they let a few million stand in the way especially when they have agreed upon the players involved in the deal (Hernandez and Cirillo).

With the Rocket in Houston how can the Cubs let Greg Maddux get away? Told you Clemens wasn’t ready to spend the off season in a car pool lane picking up the boys from school.

Sidney Ponson gives the Orioles a one two punch with Rodrigo Lopez, now if Baltimore could just catch lightning in a bottle with Kurt Ainsworth and lefty Matt Riley, they might get close to .500. I say Ponson wins between fifteeen and seventeen games this year.

Todd Zeile landed with the Mets so he can keep his buddy Mike Piazza company, sort of like the pony who hung around with Seabiscuit to calm him down.

Karim Garcia just might be the Mets righfielder, he can hit, just keep him out of the bullpen and away from the guards.

Pudge Rodriguez in Detroit? What is Pudge doing looking for another goodwill mission? If Pudge ends up there he will join Fernando Vina, Rondell White, Jason Johnson, and Carlos Guillen which is the reason I think the Tigers will cut there losses by 25.

Doesn’t anyone want Ugueth Urbina, he ain’t that bad?

Ron Villone is still out there too. He pitched well for Houston last season.

Bud Selig, the walking conflict of interest is finally selling the Brewers, this can only be good news for the Milwaukee fans who deserve better.

The A’s are very aware that Erubiel Durazo took the on base thing too far last season, they want him hitting early in the count if his pitch is there. Nothing short of 30 homers will work for Durazo this season, looks like he will hit fifth.

With all the righthanded pitching the Yanks have you would think they would be concerned about the ability of Jason Giambi and Alfonso Soriano to cover the ground on the right side of the infield, if you hit lefthanded and know how to drag bunt, I’d say a hit is there waiting for you.

Arizona is ga ga over Roberto Alomar signing with the Dbacks, didn’t they watch his last two seasons?

Spring Training is right around the corner, seeing the players and the parks in Arizona definitely got me going.


1 Anonymous { 01.18.04 at 12:31 pm }

Hey Marty,
Thanks for the info. on the players. I’m sure Dye is very deterimined to have a good year. I expect a solid season from him. For help with that inside pitch, why doesn’t he wear the shin guard? I noticed he stopped wearing last year. Does he want people to think he is 100%? Even if he is, there’s nothing wrong with wearing it for extra protection and a peace of mind. Who knows what to expect from Chavez. We all know he can’t hit under pressure. Perhaps the A’s should sign him to a contract before the season starts. Hopefully, Ellis learned to shorten his swing. I’m sure he is aware that his solid defense doesn’t insure him a starting job. He needs to hit.
Any more on that Spivey/Hatteberg deal? I hope it happens.

2 Anonymous { 01.18.04 at 2:57 pm }

Marty, thanks for the insight on the players. Very interesting to see how they’re doing. It seems odd that Mulder’s hip is still healing as of now, though he claimed he would have been able to pitch in the ALCS (even if for an inning or two). Is he that tough, or was it just a spook? Also, I don’t know if Huddy is in Arizona or not, but how’s his injury healing up? It seems odd that there was little press about that before and after the injury. Nobody knows if he’s already healed or not, as there was more news about the fight than there was about getting better.
Is Dave Hudgens’ goal to make sure that Durazo hits his pitch when he needs to? Or is Beane finally ceding his “take-two and swing” policy?

3 marty { 01.18.04 at 5:11 pm }

Hudgens absolutely believes that Durazo must swing early in the count as soon as he gets his pitch. Durazo is not being looked at as a number two hitter who takes his walks first. No need to rush Mulder until spring training starts, he seems to be moving well and doesn’t seem the least be concerned aboput the hip injury, his arm is fine. I’m sure BB will keep with his “take two and then try to hit the pitch” philosophy, Kotsay and Kielty fit perfectly into that scheme. A’s biggest problem will be hitting the long ball since they will rely on Chavez, Durazo, and Dye and that is very dicey. Crosby’s defense and Rhodeses ability to pitch back to back days worry me! Hey, everyone has trouble somewehere, I think this division will be a close three team race all the way.

4 Anonymous { 01.18.04 at 8:21 pm }

Happy to hear that Mulder seems unfazed by his injury. I have felt that Dye has never been able to give 100% because he always feared hurting his leg again. I hope that he has spend some major time with a sports psychologist this winter getting that out of his head. I look for him to have an All Star year. He was so clutch in 2001 and I think we will see that side of Jermaine again. He has everything to gain and nothing to lose by going all out.

I hope that the A’s have the sense to sign Chavez soon. While I would have chosen Miguel over Eric, that was never a choice so now the A’s need to sign him. Yes, the Yankees are waiting in the wings and Eric is smart enough to see that. But I think he does not want the NY life with an unrelenting press. Eric doesn’t do well under pressure. So, the A’s need to sign him in spring training, let him relax and enjoy the fruits of a nice long-term contract. Without the contract over his head, I can see Chavez having a monstous year. Put that with a healthy and motivated Jermaine and the A’s will be in fine shape.

5 Anonymous { 01.19.04 at 3:42 am }

Here’s an interesting thought. Trade Eric Chavez mid-season no matter where we are in the standings. Folks, I’m sorry to say this but Eric Chavez coming back to Oakland is less likely than it was with Miguel.
Its time for A’s fans to stop being so unrealistic about re-signing our stars when the time comes. If people could get out of fantasy land they’d acknowlege the sad fact that Jason Giambi never considered coming back and neither did Tejada. It was all public relations. So you think Chavez really wants $50 mil. over 5 years to play in Oakland over $90 mil through 6 years with a “big boy” franchise? Don’t think so.
Chavez, is young. Already has multiple gold gloves. And untapped, unlimited potential. His price range will be way out the A’s realm. Him bolting is just a formality guys. I’m sorry.
But think about what they could get for him in a trade. A lot. Let’s just put it that way. They’d get good major league talent and top notch minor league talent in a trde for Eric Chavez. I think it really might happen.
Billy Beane knows what I know–that Chavez is gone next year. And he knows what everyone knows–that Chavez chokes in the postseason. So why keep him around past mid season when he could get a ton for him, as opposed to a draft pick.
We’ve seen what Chavez does in the playoffs, and honestly, if he’d had one or two more RBIs we really may have won that series. You can’t blame a playoff loss on one guy, but if he’s your cleanup hitter putting up those numbers, he’s sure gonna take more than his equal share of the blame.
Trading Eric Chavez at some point this year would be sad for A’s fans, yes. But it really would be best for the team.
Look for Eric Chavez to be traded this year.

6 marty { 01.19.04 at 9:51 pm }

Looks like Kaz Sasaki is going to stay in Japan and not pitch for the Mariners again. I was somewhat skeptical of his story last season that he fell down the stairs carrying his luggage breaking two ribs. His family probably doesn’t want him out of their sight again.
Sasaki’s elbow never came around and the hand writing was on the wall that he was a question mark for 2004. Enter Eddie Guardado as the official M’s closer, good timing for Everyday Eddie, someone read the signs correctly, either his agent or the Mariners. Seattle should get on the phone and sign Ugueth Urbina with some of the dough they will save once Sasaki’s nine million dollar contract is rescinded by both parties. If the Mariners drag their heels on adding to their bullpen, it is a mistake. With the Angels much improved and the A’s still a team that can beat Seattle, the M’s need a lefty for their pen plus a decent set up guy to help Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Rafael Soriano is too valuable to mess around with in the a pure set up role, he can spot start and long relieve, which they will need with Freddy Garcia still a huge question mark on the mound.
Big news on a slow news day.
By the way what is Greg Maddux waiting for? If Cubs offer is legit and money is what he is after, then case closed. I think he is still trying to drive the price up in SF or St. Louis before deciding on where he wants to win his 300th game.

7 marty { 01.20.04 at 1:47 pm }

ESPN is reporting that the A Rod – Boston deal is cooking again. No surprise, when money is the only issue and you have what I want, we find a way to work it out, billionaires included.

8 Anonymous { 01.20.04 at 2:25 pm }

So, do you think all the 1 year deals being signed are a result of seeing the Red Sox and Rangers stuck with high priced, long term contracts that prevent them from trading the players involved?

$5 mil for Soriano–but for only 1 year. Guess he better shape up in the field before he warrants a long-term deal.

I actually hope the Arod-Manny deal doesn’t happen. Love to see the Sox stuck with a Manny who knows they don’t want him. He is a real cancer even when happy. Imagine when he is unhappy.

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