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I can remember that miracle rookie season of 1988, Mark McGwire hitting home runs at a mammoth pace.  Its hard to recall someone coming on the scene and being a slugger like we were witnessing that year.  With his Bash Brother counterpart Jose Canseco, these guys were the talk of baseball.

We have heard the Jose Canseco claims that McGwire participated in steriods as they were slugging home runs together in Oakland. I don’t really believe McGwire saying he did not discuss steroids with any other players, as I believe it was Jose Canseco that introduced McGwire to the steroid lifestyle.

Sure, McGwire had been blessed with the ability to crush a baseball. However, steroids do help you. In the steroid era, the record setting numbers were enhanced like never before. I am puzzled why he took this long to come clean. I believe he did go on an exile, refusing to speak to reporters. Additionally, it’s hard to  believe that  reporters failed to approach him to tell his story.

As McGwire gets ready to start a job in baseball, I find it hard to believe he will not become a distraction to the St Louis Cardinals. It will be a traveling roadshow in every town he enters. Instead of the players on the field being the focus when the Cardinals come to town,  the local press will replay the steroid story.

I wonder at what point McGwire fessed up to LaRussa on the steroids. Was it after he accepted the job as the hitting coach, or is it something that McGwire wanted to get off his chest before starting his new job. In a way, he did prevent alot of the negativity that was sure to come his way, as the last image we have of him is his claiming to congress that ‘We are not here to talk about the past’.

I am sure as a man, its freeing to get this out of his system and to turn the page. We’ll see how this plays out, but he sure has a lot more explaining to do.

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The one source I use each and every season is the LABR draft printed in USA Today’s Sports Weekly. The issue is not out yet, but here is a preview on some of the results. In the NL, Rotoscoop has Corey Hart $30, and Austin Kearns $18.  In the AL  FakeTeams , has the Rotowire covered.

Tape Measure Blast: If you saw my Greener interview early this week, here is more from the Greener Blog at disabledlist blog .

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We are already past “Pitchers and Catchers”, and the exhibition games for the 2008 baseball season are underway. Its that time of the year that baseball fantasy owners are monitoring very closely what is going on in the Cactus League in Arizona, and the Grapefruit league in Florida.

One of the better blogs I came across this off-season is called Greener On the Other Side where they offer Objective Insight to Sabermetrics and Strategy In Fantasy Baseball. Brett Greenfield and I participated in a blog exchange of questions and answers. My responses to his questions appear at Greener on the Other Side. Brett’s responses to my questions appear below in bold.

1. Just like in Major League baseball, after a while you can recognize
the type of players or strategies certain GMs favor. In fantasy baseball keeper leagues, what type of patterns among other fantasy owners do you see pretty often?

Many owners fail to realize mistakes they’ve made. We all do it. For example, those who drafted or kept guys like Alex Gordon or Delmon Young last year are highly likely to keep them again this year.

An intelligent owner cuts bait on his these players and goes for the certain thing. Nobody knew Ryan Braun would be as productive as he was last year and become a first round pick this year. Sometimes it takes guys like Young and Gordon time to develop and other times they never do.

So a trend I see all too often is holding on to a player just because you thought highly of him in the year before. I also see rosters that have players in common. There is usually the owner who drafts all young players and not enough proven veterans to contend. Every team needs a Todd Helton. Other teams only take the older guys who have “slipped” to them because other owners think they are too old to draft in a “keeper league.”

Finding a happy medium usually results in success. While in a keeper league everyone needs to remember that your primary goal is to win this year not in 2010.

2. The saves and stolen bases always seem to be the hardest categories
to fill out on your fantasy roster with. Do you suggest going after the high fliers in those categories and having to pay for it, or go after with several cheaper players that get you the stats collectively?

Saves and stolen bases are the hardest to fill out. This is the case mainly because the players who provide these two categories don’t provide you with any help in other categories. Closers for example help your ERA and WHIP yet only give you that help in about a third of the innings of a starting pitcher.

Even the best closers who strike out 100 still give you a total as low as Chien-Ming Wang. I prefer landing cheaper sources of saves such as Todd Jones and Kevin Gregg. In such a volatile position I hate to use a high draft pick on a player who only provides me with 3 categories at most. Stacking up on high-end SP’s who can get you help in four categories and then drafting late closers works best in my opinion.

The same can be said for stolen bases when a large majority of your SB guys include Figgins, Pierre and Taveras. They rarely provide you with much help elsewhere.

That being said for my first two rounds in the draft I try to target players like David Wright, Carl Crawford, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Alfonso Soriano, etc.

A guy like Ryan Howard in the first round gives you zero SB and his .261 AVG is a lot more real than his .300 AVG from the year before.

In targeting SB I prefer to get an all-around player and when targeting saves I prefer to wait until rounds 17-20 and grab lesser values closers much like Al Reyes and Kevin Gregg last year.

3. It seems you always hear to spend a certain percentage of your team
on offense and certain percentage on pitching. Why is it that offense is always at a premium percentage of your overall budget when both offense and pitching both contribute to five categories?

Generally speaking, offense usually comprises a larger portion of a fantasy roster. In addition, hitters suffer far less injuries than pitchers and are more reliable because of that. Lastly, even the best pitchers like Peavy and Santana don’t provide you with 5 categories since they won’t be getting any saves. A hitter like David Wright provides above average assistance in all 5 categories.

So in rotisserie leagues, its always worth spending the big bucks on the guys who provide you with help in the most categories as possible.

4. We have seen some teams make bold moves with a player they acquired
this off-season either through trades or free agent signings. Which move in particular strikes you as a move that we can call the “Fools Gold” transaction of 2008?

The fool’s gold transaction of the 2008 offseason was the White Sox and A’s trade involving Nick Swisher and Gio Gonzalez. Last year, Gio led the minor leagues in strikeouts and sported a 3.18 ERA to go along with a 1.15 WHIP. He was blocked in Chicago by a slew of pitchers that they’ve had including Vazquez, Garland, Contreras, Buehrle, Danks and Floyd. Now moving from an extreme hitters park to a pitcher’s paradise with a great chance to log 150+ innings, expect him to be the “Fools Gold” of 2008 as Billy Beane has done it again.

5. The Houston Astros Roy Oswalt was one of the top pitchers in many
draft boards last season. Tell me why I should avoid or go after
Houston Astros Pitcher Roy Oswalt in 2008?

Roy Oswalt has seen his stats decrease over the last few years. His strikeouts have decreased at a clip of 20 per year over the last 4 seasons and his strikeout rate dropped to a career low 6.5/9. His ERA, while still at 3.18 has risen over the last three years and his WHIP was a career high last year. For those interested in Sabermetrics, Oswalt’s Component ERA was 3.72 and his DIPS ERA was 3.51, both higher than his 3.18 ERA looks on the surface. His two back to back 20-win seasons are in the past as his run support has dwindled over the last two seasons. Avoid Roy Oswalt.

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Even before their was the legend that is growing in David Wright, just about every publication was calling Andy Marte the best overall prospect in the land. But, there was this sleeper prospect named David Wright. He slugged his way through the minor leagues that year, and has gone one to become one of the stars of the game. Aside from his NL title of time on base in 2007 (that he shared with Todd Helton) , his off the field leadership does not go unnoticed. What he has accomplished on the field thus far, sure says Superstar. He knows batting average, slugging, getting on base, and stolen bases. The gold glove that he added last year continues to add to the resume.

This post on Ryan Theriot by Fire Joe Morgan is exactly why we visit the site. I could see Joe Morgan making similar claims in a broadcast that John Mutka does. Seems like Mutka should be up for deadspin’s “why your hometown columnist sucks” award.

John Rocker on Roids? His behavior on and off the field never fit the profile .

Seems Athletics Nation has a new look. But, seems other bloggers now getting a chance to interview Billy Beane.

I loved Kiner’s Corner growing up ON Mets in 1970’s.

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It’s preview season at Beyond the Boxscore and people are taking notice . I had the opportunity to ask R.J. Anderson, Columnist at Beyond the Boxscore and DRaysBay a bunch of questions. Anderson has also appeared at Deadspin and just completed a book on the Tampa Rays called Lamar-itis.

With the loss of 40 year old Tom Glavine to Braves, how much of an impact to the Mets pitching staff of the Mets be affected? To what extent will this help or hurt the Braves in the N.L. East?

It won’t hurt or help either team as much as his name would suggest, last year he was below average and I’m not sure I really can see him responding like he did in 2004 with a 119 ERA+, but who knows, maybe he has one last run in that left arm. It certainly can’t hurt the Braves to have him as their third starter at least it’s not someone like Mark Hendrickson.

The Mets are rumored to be considering surrendering a ton of minor league minor league talent to the Twins to land Johan Santanta. The package of Fernando Martinez , Philip Humber , Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, and Mike Pelfrey to land the Ace of its staff. Would you make this deal to win now?

No, the deal reeks of short-sightedness and frankly I don’t trust either Omar Minaya’s prospect valuing skills or the idea that Johan will simply re-sign with the Mets without at least fishing on the open market for a few days. Do I think the Mets will end up with Johan? Wouldn’t surprise me, this is the same general manager who went for a “win now” approach with the Expos and Bartolo Colon, how’d that end up?

Chipper Jones has been a household name for the past decade for Braves. Would you consider him a Hall of fame player. Is he worthy of a gold glove at this point of his career?

I really don’t get into either the Hall of Fame or Gold Glove arguments since both are pretty arbitrary, but at first glance I’d assume he’s pretty close to being a HOFer, I’m not sure if he is or not though.

The Royals have made a alot of moves the past few years. How do you see the moves working out this upcoming season?

Dayton Moore has done a solid job, but I didn’t really like the Jose Guillen signing, it seemed like he was their third choice – at best – and they decided to write a large paycheck to get their “man”. I’d like to see them finish in front of the White Sox, but even that might be a bit of challenge.

How much of an impact offensively will Mike Cameron be aided by his move to the Brewers ?

I’m not sure how much it’ll help him with his bat – although moving from PETCO elsewhere can’t hurt. If nothing else it gave the Brewers a reason to move Ryan Braun to left.

The Mets obtaining a defensive minded catcher Brian Schneider and Ryan Church for youngster Lastings Milledge, how sweet of a trade was this for an up and coming team like Nationals?

Very sweet in a vacuum; the market for “troubled” young outfielders is non-existent and the Nats took advantage in both the Milledge and Elijah Dukes deals. If neither work out people will mock the Nationals, personally I don’t blame them for either deal, consider they essentially acquired two players who would be top prospects in their organization for a top 10 in their system and two major league players who I don’t think they’ll miss too much given their glutton of outfielders.

Is Rockies Chris Iannetta worthy of playing time in Colorado or should Torrealba be given most the work at catcher?

I think they should give Iannetta more playing time, it’s not like he could do much worse than Yorvit Torrealba did with the bat last year.

Tell me about Michael Bourn and what he may be able to do now that he gets a starting job in Houston . Is he Juan Pierre II?

He’s a young lefty bat who went to the University of Houston and was actually drafted by the Astros in 2000 but didn’t sign. I suppose he’s Juan Pierre like, and I don’t doubt he’ll produce better than Willy Taveras as soon as next year.

Who got the better end of the Troy Glaus / Scott Rolen Trade?

I think the Cardinals, Glaus is younger, lately a little more consistent, and not nearly as volatile. He has his own issues, but at least he’s not gun powder waiting for a spark.

Is Josh Hamilton going to stay healthy and break out this year?

Didn’t he break out last year? Health wise I have no idea, two seasons in a row ended by injuries, eh it’s a trend that can be broken at least.

When Dan Haren was last in the NL, he was not special the way he is today. Why was he successful in Oakland and not under LaRussa?

Well he barely had over 100 innings in St. Louis , and remember Oakland ’s ballpark dimensions include a ton of foul room, there probably isn’t a correlation between Haren’s success and his departure from St. Louis.

Tell me about Brian Barton who came to St. Louis in Rule V draft. Was he the best talent made available in the Rule V draft?

He’s a rocket scientist, seriously. I’d like to think he wasn’t the best talent in the draft because he slipped and I’d like to believe the teams picking would’ve taken the best talent. Speaking of the Rule V isn’t it a bit amusing that the purpose is to prevent farm system monopolies yet in theory the teams with the highest potential to have a good farm system – bad teams with high draft picks – are the ones who pick first?

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This is the second in the series of the baseball bloggers who have had a great impact on the vibrant baseball blogosphere that you see on the web today. In the first installment , Aaron Gleeman was profiled. Now, on to the story of baseball blogger Rich Lederer.

This blogger I am about to talk about is big time now and a household name. But, there was a time when he was first starting to make his mark in the baseball blogging world. I received this email way back then on his first blog entry ever, featuring Rocco Baldelli:

Hi, David. I am writing to introduce myself and my new baseball blog.

The title is Rich’s Weekend Baseball BEAT. The BEAT stands for Baseball Editorials, Analysis, and Talk. It is a blog for baseball fanatics, sabermetricians, and students of the game’s history.

The first article is about Rocco Baldelli (Is Rocco Baldelli The Real Deal?) and the rookie’s fast start, recent slump, extraordinarily high SO/BB ratio, and player comparisons. Check it out. I hope you find it informative and thought provoking.

That was the start of many great articles Rich Lederer would go on to write. That first article was one focusing on a player of the present. But, most his focus and expertise has been on players of the past. His passion has been educating people of the great baseball players of the past, including the unappreciated players like Bert Blyleven who has not been given his due by the traditional media.

The interviews you see throughout the blogosphere nowadays, I first saw this concept on Rich’s blog. The idea that any person with a home on the web could perform these Q&A dialogues with the baseball experts in the world had never crossed my mind. Now its mainstream, as you see beat reporters, current players, owners and GMs getting interviewed on blogs all the time.

Rich would go on to join an all baseball blogging network on all-baseball.com which recruited some of the best writers in the blogosphere. The network now exists as mvn.com , but alot of the heralded bloggers of all-baseball would go on to greener pastures before that merger took place. Most of these writers from all-baseball would go to start baseballtoaster. But, Rich went out and started his own site that still exists today. It is titled as Rich Lederer & Friends that includes articles by Rich and some of the biggest names in the baseball blogosphere.

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You have have probably seen Marc Normandin‘s work at places like Beyond the Boxscore, Baseball Digest Daily, and Baseball Prospectus. Mr Normandin was nice enough to take some time out to answer a few questions

The Upton dilemma has been played out for years whether he can play SS in the Major Leagues. If you were making the decisions based on their personnel, what would you do with him?

Upton clearly is not a shortstop, at least not defensively. His bat plays best there, but he’ll need to move over to third base, as his bat isn’t that special in the outfield. Upton would be one of the players I would attempt to move in a deal for starting pitching help, as he has more value to other teams than he does for the Rays, a club deep in the outfield and now the infield.

Jim Rice : Is he going to end up in the Ray Lankford wing of the Hall of Fame or in Cooperstown? Does he meet the criteria of the Keltner List?

I think Rice should be a member of the Ray Lankford Wing myself, but it’s possible he may just sneak in before he falls off the ballot. Oftentimes, players receive a few more votes in their last seasons of eligibility, and that might be enough to push Rice over the 75% threshold. Even as a Red Sox fan, I don’t think he’s a legitimate candidate. If the BBWAA does happen to elect Rice, it will lower the standards for outfielders, which isn’t a good thing.

Out of Rice, Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy, I think the most compelling case lies with the former Brave. Of course, Tim Raines, who joins the ballot for the first time in 2008, is better than all three by a significant amount.

The Yankees seemed like they could not wait to move Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield. Why do you think they were in such a rush to move these players and not getting much in return other than financial constraints?

Now that Brian Cashman is running the Yankees without interference from owner George Steinbrenner, his plan to add young talent and field a cheaper team has come together somewhat, at least as a start. I haven’t seen much of anything that suggests the minor leaguers the Yankees picked up were of any significant consequence, but it gives the Yanks a few more viable pieces in their system to play with. The Sheffield deal at least gave them an arm they very well may use in 2007 in Humberto Sanchez — if he can hold up over a full season, anyways.

There isn’t much distance between the Red Sox and Yankee payroll any longer, and I have a feeling that there will be less disparity as time goes on.

Brandon Webb, Jason Schmidt, and Jake Peavy. Some of the best arms in the National League. If you were starting a team and could choose any two of these pitchers, who would you choose and why?

Jake Peavy and Brandon Webb, easily. Schmidt is on the wrong side of 30, and isn’t the same kind of dominating force he was in his earlier days with the Giants. Peavy and Webb are two of the best pitchers in all of baseball, nit just in the NL.

I worry about Schmidt in Dodger Stadium. Not a lot, but I don’t have the same confidence I would if he was still in San Francisco. Dodger Stadium is fairly neutral nowadays instead of the pitcher’s park it used to be, with homeruns allowed being the significant problem. Schmidt is an extreme flyball pitcher with homerun tendencies, and pitching half his games in San Francisco helped to mask that somewhat.

Peavy and Webb are two of my favorite pitches to watch, along with Ben Sheets. If you could guarantee me that Ben Sheets would be healthy for a full slate of starts, I’d take him over anyone else in the National League, I think.

The PrOPS numbers from 2006 say David Wright and Hanley Ramirez are highly overrated. Thoughts on this metric? Do you think they will match their 2006 performance in the upcoming year?

Wright was .035 points above his expected batting average on balls in play (line drive percentage + .12) in 2006; unless he hits a few more line drives than he did in 2005, he might take a step backward in his rate statistics, but he’s also only 24 years old and may develop more as a player in 2007 anyways.

Hanley was only .015 above his expected BABIP, and his line drive percentage was around the league average, so I don’t expect a dramatic drop-off from him. By the way, I love J.C. Bradbury’s work, but I don’t know enough about PrOPS to criticize or praise its claims.

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