Saturday, February 23, 2008


"That's right," said Scott Hatfield, GM of the defending Eastern Division champion Darwin Finches. "Psychologically, at least, I feel like the Bronx Bombers. When I survey the landscape which is BARB, I realize that it's going to be really difficult to improve my club, which had the league's best record last season. The main improvement going to come from players like Khalil Greene, Aaron Rowand, Kelvim Escobar and Dustin McGowan---all of whom had career year in 2007 and figure to improve."

"In fact," commented Hatfield, "I find it difficult to even imagine a way to improve the quality of my planned lineup, which--interestingly enough---envisions players like Carlos Guillen, Jeff Francouer and Chad Billingsley as role players, rather than regulars. I will be fielding a lineup with five switch-hitters, which will give me a definite advantage in late-inning matchups. With a full year of Chone Figgins shuttling between 3B and LF, I see no reason why we won't score runs, or why my pitching staff, led by the bullpen, will be among the best in BARB."

"That's not to say that I'm guaranteeing a pennant," Hatfield allowed. "Things can happen. The other clubs in my division are very talented, and in a short series anything can go down. But there's no doubt in my mind that my needs are few. Right now, I'm looking for a veteran backup catcher, a fourth outfielder and a lefty reliever. That's it. I don't have to figure out who's going to play third (Frostbite), or who in my bullpen will be able to comb their hair, much less get the ball to the ninth inning (Brooklyn), or whether I can count on three of my projected starters (Bedard, Harden, Young) for a full season(Worcester)."

"Again, that's not to say that other clubs aren't talented. Yuma and Arizona both have better rotations than anyone in my division. Worcester and Brooklyn have a lot more infield depth, and for sheer muscle-bound slugging Las Vegas takes a back seat to no one. But I have a formula that works, and I'm going to stick to it. We're the new sheriff in town until someone else proves otherwise."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

40-40 VISION

What are the chances that someone on the Finches will hit at least 40 HR next season?

Well, not too bad. There's David Ortiz, Lance Berkman, Chipper Jones. They have six 40-plus HR between them, four in the last three seasons, though none last year. Make that about a 12 percent chance of one such season, about 3.5 percent two and about 1.8 percent all three.

What are the chances that someone on the Finches will steal at least 40 bases?

About 75 percent. Chone Figgins has three straight seasons at 40-plus swipes, and he's still in his prime.

What are the chances that the Finches will actually make a favorable deal in 2008?

Not that great. The new 40-man roster rule is going to hamper the club's ability to stockpile young talent for trades, and with a veteran club that went to the Series last year taking another shot at a championship, the Finches don't have that much flexibility. They will no doubt spend some of their draft picks to keep their own players. That makes trading, at this stage or later, a little rough.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Down Under----Faced with over $60 million in red ink, defending Eastern champ and Series runner up Darwin began the sad, difficult process of trimming its roster in preparation for March's 2008 BARB Draft.

"There's no point in waiting for guys we know we aren't going to keep," manager PZ Myers said. "This way, some of these guys could still find a team that needs them, giving them a better chance of extending their career. We just have to trim the fat."

Among the big names granted their unconditional release: 3B Eric Chavez, whose chronic back woes and declining production made his $7.5 million salary dicey; LHP Mark Mulder (whose comeback from shoulder surgery hit a snag in September), and RHP Jose Contreras, whose bad body language and clubhouse demeanor had made him a mid-summer pariah. Contreras, who was due to make $9 million, will instead be looking for a fifth starter's role with any team that can afford him.

Darwin also released pitchers Kyle Farnsworth, Edwin Jackson, Yusmeiro Petit, Jeff Jeffress and Juan Salas. None were particularly effective, and minor-leaguers Jeffress and Salas had earned the ire of team officials when they tested positive for steroid usage. The Finches also let go C Jason Philips, OF Corey Patterson and OF Jose Cruz, Jr.

Myers seemed especially sad to lose Cruz, the club's fourth outfielder and top pinch-hitter who played well in the post-season. "It doesn't make sense to keep Cruisie," Myers admitted, "because he would've made $4 million but never played. We've got Berkman, Rowand and Francouer and Lastings Milledge needs a place to start getting at-bats. If Jose can't hook up with another club, the staff and I have talked about asking him back as an outfielding coach."

Despite all the trimming, the Finches are still over $120 million and want to cut another $20 million in commitments out before Draft Day. "We'll have to float some of our big-salaried guys instead of protecting them all," moaned Myers. "Tough decisions ahead."

Those tough decisions include veteran LHP Tom Glavine, still able to pitch but due to make $7.5 million; RHP Trevor Hoffman, a high-paid ($6.5 million) closer in his 40's; SS Carlos Guillen, a top-notch hitter but a defensive liability who is owed $5 million and might have to move to first base; 2B Jose Lopez, who could start for a lot of clubs but appears stuck behind higher-priced veterans like Placido Polanco, Chone Figgins and Khalil Greene; and whether or not prospects Jarrod Saltalamachia or Jeff Clement can take over behind the plate for veterans Miguel Olivo and Johnny Estrada.