Saturday, March 28, 2009

Aggie Baseball In Focus: Alex Wilson

This is the first in a series of posts where I'll talk about the Aggie baseball team. They started the season ranked first by Baseball America, but have stumbled in non-conference action. After seeing them some last season, I was a little surprised to find them ranked so highly. This series will look at exactly which players are making an impact for the team and whether that will translate to success down the road.

Let's talk about Alex Wilson.

The Texas A&M junior pitcher transferred from Winthrop University before last season. However, he had Tommy John surgery previous to his transfer and redshirted for his first season (2008).

Simply put, Wilson is a strikeout machine. Last summer in the Cape Cod league, Wilson didn't have his full velocity back, but still struck out 36 batters in 29 1/3 innings. This spring, he's pitched in 37 innings and struck out 58 batters while walking 11. Twice he's struck out 14 batters in a game with just one walk in each. He does have four wild pitches on the season, but isn't particularly wild. Instead, it speaks to the movement on his pitches more than a control problem.

His numbers are sparkling, but what's troubling is his usage patterns while at Winthrop, which probably directly led to his Tommy John surgery. As a freshman, Wilson threw 138 innings in 19 starts, averaging seven innings per start but striking out 9.3 batters per 9 innings. Wilson also set a career record by striking out 16 batters against High Point. In his sophomore campaign, Wilson threw 111 innings in 16 starts, averaging 7 1/3 innings per start and striking out 97. He walked 39 batters in 2007 and 50 in 2006. His walk rate fell slightly from 2006 to 2007, but so did his strikeout total. What that suggests to me is that he was injured at some point during the 2007 season, he hurt his arm. He still went on to pitch through the conference season, raising his strikeout rate slightly but pitched sparingly in his foray into the Cape Cod League that summer.

I know nothing of the Winthrop baseball coach. I don't know how talented he is, what his background consists of or anything. I do know that Rob Childress, head coach at Texas A&M, came up as a pitching coach at Nebraska. During his time there, he produced Joba Chamberlain, another great young pitcher who has good strikeout rates and has not gotten injured as of this writing. Childress clearly has a plan to limit Wilson's pitch count and innings thrown to keep the stress on his arm to a minimum. Here is a breakdown of Wilson's first six starts as an Aggie.

  • First start: 14 strikeouts, 1 walk, 99 pitches, 6 2/3 innings
  • Second start: 9 strikeouts, 3 walks, 101 pitches, 6 innings
  • Third start: 14 strikeouts, 1 walk, 103 pitches, 6 innings
  • Fourth start: 8 strikeouts, no walks, 105 pitches, 6 1/3 innings
  • Fifth start: 6 strikeouts, 3 walks, 104 pitches, 6 2/3 innings
  • Sixth start: 9 strikeouts, 3 walks, 95 pitches, 5 1/3 innings

Two things stand out about his time as an Aggie. Already, he has struck out 14 batters -- TWICE. Each time, he only walked one batter, which is equally huge. At no time has he pitched a full seven innings, and Childress has pulled him before he tops 105 pitches. Now, the modern pitching philosophy among stat geeks is that pitchers lose performance exponentially once they cross the 100-pitch mark. I'm not sure whether this is Childress' plan, but it is a sign of a conscientious coach. Equally impressive is Wilson's walk totals. In two years at Winthrop, he averaged around 3.25 walks per 9 innings. So far at A&M, he's averaging around 2.5, which is very significant. Pitchers who pile up big strikeout numbers with no walks have a name. Number One Starter.

Wilson seems on his way to being a high draft pick if he can continue his early success. He was drafted in the 10th round by the Cubs last season but didn't sign. If he can keep up this success in 2009, he'll be drafted much higher than that this June.

I have no idea what pitches Wilson throws or whether he lights up the radar gun. I'll try and scout him at one of his next starts and write a follow-up post, but he's definitely one of the brightest young arms to come through Aggieland in quite some time.

In my next Aggie post, I'll break down the Aggie's swiss army knife player Brooks Raley, who is in his second season here. So far, he's become the Friday night starter and plays right field when not on the mound. Put aside the fact that I love his name, I'll discuss more about why his hitting makes him unusual and whether it's ultimately a liability for the Aggie team.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Billy and the 'Cats

Billy Gillispie won 18 games his first year and 22 in his second. At Kentucky. When he won 21 and 22 in his first two years at A&M, students and fans wanted to build a statue of him outside Reed Arena. How different things are in the big time, eh?

Billy is not a happy man on the basketball court. Whether it's practice, a game or a press conference, Billy is usually upset. I never got to sit in on a press conference with him, but from what I've heard, he was not pleased even after wins. He also liked to party a little (since he's a bachelor, that can be excused). After all, when you're around a game for so many years, part of you stays a little kid. Focus on all his negatives and you can see why he'd be fired. However, overlooking these points ignores the mountain of good his system can bring.

Just look at some of the places his assistants have landed. Buzz Williams took Marquette to the Dance this season. Doc Sadler has Nebraska pointed in the right direction. All this and Billy has only been a head coach for six years. Playing basketball for Billy is trouble, that's for sure. You have to give over any unselfishness you might have. You have to totally and completely commit to being a cog in a bigger machine. Do you really think DeAndre Jordan would have sulked as much last season and gotten away with it? Under Billy, he'd have transferred after the first fall practice. After all, Acie Law (a.k.a the most celebrated Aggie player in history) almost quit after going through a week of Billy's off-season boot camp.

Billy gets results. Because of that, he can recruit. He also knows which players he wants to recruit and gets them. Did anyone believe Dominique Kirk would be a four-year starter when he came out of high school? He found a guy that worked in his system, much like Coach K does at Duke now. The transition Billy didn't have time to make was one of finding the top players in the country that are also good fits for his system. He'll figure that part out. It's now a matter of where.

Am I surprised that Billy got fired? No.

Am I convinced he'll have success somewhere else? Absolutely. That's why I'm terrified of him ending up somehwere in the Big 12. I don't want to face his teams three times a year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Winning Streaks

So the Astros beat the Cardinals today for their sixth straight win, which was highlighted by another home run by Pudge and 5 strong innings from Russ Ortiz. This will no doubt inspire many people to pronounce signing Rodriguez was just what the Astros needed to contend this season. Forget the first 16 losses this spring. They're ready to go!

Except that the starting second baseman Kaz Matsui is batting .105 right now, the starting centerfielder has an on-base percentage lower than his batting average (!!!), and the starting rotation is older than dirt. They may be fine in March, but will they hold up in July?

It's all about managing expectations people. Don't get overly excited by a good stretch but don't think the world is caving in either. The Pudge signing means the Astros should end up at around 80 wins. They get a little lucky? That could be 85. They get a little unlucky? They could be looking at a 90-loss season. So just remember...this is just spring training. It gets real in 12 days.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Which Rookies Should I Take?

It may be early to be discussing Fantasy Football (since the Fantasy Baseball season hasn't even started yet), but I wanted to look at some of the prospects in the 2009 NFL Draft to see who might make an impact come fake draft time in August. Of course, this only counts for a small number of prospects, as only the skill offensive players can make a big impact fantasy-wise. Sure, Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe might help out immensely, but no game of fantasy football has blocking stats...Yet...

The thing about this draft that's different from 2008 is that there are as many as six receivers who could be drafted in the first round. Last year, no receivers went in the first, though 10 were drafted in the second. There is only one receiver really rumored to go in the top 15 (Crabtree) while a ton could go in the second half of the first round. This is good from a fantasy football perspective, as talented receivers landing on good teams usually leads to production (not 1,000 yards, but still production). The quarterback class is also weaker than normal. The top three prospects are juniors, and generally juniors take a season or two to get the hang of the NFL. There are no Matt Ryan's this year.

1) Knowshown Moreno, RB, Georgia -- From what I've read and seen of his play, he's more of a slasher than a downhill runner. He also catches the ball out of the backfield very well, so he's better suited for teams running either Denver's zone blocking scheme or a West Coast offense. His value is directly tied to which team he ends up on. As a feature-type back in Tampa Bay's offense? He's a top-20 pick. As a backup to Brian Westbrook in Philly? Take a flier on him late in the draft.

2) Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina -- In an interview with NFL Radio, Nicks compared himself to Anquan Boldin and Chad Johns, er, Ocho Cinco. He bulked up a bit from the combine to his pro day, which some teams saw as a red flag, but from listening to him, it sounds like he added muscle, not fat. If this kid can play at 225-230, he can definitely be a David Boston/Anquan Boldin type. That's why I think he can have an immediate impact. Boldin's rookie season numbers? 101 receptions, 1,377 yards, 8 TDs.

3) Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech -- The foot injury Crabtree suffered in the Cotton Bowl will keep him out of workouts, but it's unclear how that will affect his draft status. I don't see him falling out of the top 10, but it could send him falling past team's with proven quarterbacks, such as Green Bay, Cincinnati and Seattle. From what I'm hearing, Al Davis likes him, so going to the Raiders at 7 is a definitely possibility, which also depresses his value on fantasy draft day (JaMarcus Russell is a work in progress).

4) Chris 'Beanie' Wells, RB, Ohio State -- I'm personally down on Beanie. I think he has Ron Dayne written all over him, except Ronnie wasn't injured as much as Beanie was in college. In the right system (Kansas City? Cleveland?), he could be very productive as a smash-mouth, in-line brawler. With someone like Jerome Harrison or former Kent Stater Josh Cribbs as a change of pace back, he could do well in the Browns offense. I'm still skeptical.

5) Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland -- Another top prospect I'm not sold on at all. What did he do in college? He may have loads of potential and that size-speed combination some teams love, but I see a lot more bust potential here than the next Larry Fitzgerald.

6) Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia -- Stafford reminds me somewhat of David Carr. Strong arm. Big body. Great prospect on paper. Can he play? Did he ever win in college? These are all things that I question about Stafford. Plus, if he does go to the Lions, he's going to get killed for a year or two if he starts right away. The best thing for him and for whichever team drafts him is time on the bench. Which means his value fantasy-wise is pretty slim.

7) Mark Sanchez, QB, USC -- Sanchez has been touted as the most NFL-ready of all the QB prospects. If that's the case, why hasn't he jumped Stafford for the top QB spot. Why aren't the Lions looking at him with the first overall? Sanchez doesn't have the physical tools of Stafford, and while he makes most of the throws and played in a more pro-style system, he still doesn't have much experience on the field. Whichever team drafts him (Jacksonville? San Francisco?) will want him to sit for a while just to get some experience reading defenses. Again, not much value fantasy-wise here.

8) Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State --He didn't run well at the combine. There, I said it. That's out of the way. A long time ago, in a league far, far away, guys like Shannon Sharpe, Ozzie Newsom and Kellen Winslow roamed the field. They were huge, man-beasts who could block the heck out of whatever poor linebacker or defensive end lined up across from them. Then, on third down, they could sprint up the seam or out into the flat and catch a pass for first down. That's what Brandon Pettigrew is. He's an old-school tight end. He's not as fast as those basketball-playing Antonio Gates-types, but he's as solid a player as you'll find. Remember how productive Martellus Bennett was down the stretch for Dallas last season? That's what Pettigrew will do, except he will win a starting job based on his blocking. So, that's what you'll get. A top-10 tight end next season.

9) Percy Harvin, WR, Florida -- Harvin is another guy I like, in the same way I liked DeSean Jackson last season. Sure, Harvin isn't going to be your prototypical wideout. He's not Andre Johnson, so don't use him like Andre. Throw him screens, get him out on the edge and let him do his thing. This kid is fast, has the shiftiness to make people miss, and can score 5 touchdowns easily next season on the right team. He wouldn't fit with the Bears, but if he goes to, say, Indy? He'd be a star.

10) Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri -- I like Maclin less than Harvin, but for the same reasons. I think Maclin's biggest contribution his first season will be on kickoff/punt returns. He can be a game-changer in that regard, but I'm not sure how effective he'll be as a receiver out of the gate. When I saw him last season, he struggled to get good separation at times, and may need to refine his technique before he makes a big impact.

11) Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State -- Robiskie is a guy who I personally like quite a bit as a second-rounder. I have not seen many draft pundits talking him up so far, but I liked what he did in college. It also helps that his father played and coached in the NFL, so he's been around the game. I think he'll be one of those sneaky guys who catches 60 balls for 800 yards his first season after winning a spot as the No. 2 wideout in preseason.

12) Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina -- Cook's testing numbers at the combine were off the charts. That alone should get him on the bubble for a first-round pick. If teams miss out on Pettigrew, they'll look to Cook to fill that athletic, Gatesian tight end spot. His blocking could have been better and might hold him back at first in the league, but he's got the athletics ability to make an impact in the passing game. Probably safer as a mid-season addition than a draft-worthy player.

13) Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut -- Another late-riser in this draft, Brown and Moreno both came out of high school at the same time. While Moreno has been hyped for some time, Brown has suffered the stigma of playing at a school not known for its football prowess. I didn't see Brown play this year, but from what I hear, he's a solid, dependable back who does everything well. That doesn't mean he excels everywhere, but in Cincy or Philly, he'd be a great backup.

14) Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers -- Britt has been linked to the Giants more times than Lily Allen has been in the tabloids. Hailing from the school just down the road from Giants Stadium, Britt is a big, physical wideout who can stretch the defense a bit. Sound like anyone you might know? The Plax comparisions are inevitable and Britt may be the best choice for the G-Men at 29. My concern is whether or not they have other needs to address. If so, Britt would fall to the second round and probably end up on a less talented team. His destination will control his value, but I don't see him going much earlier than the 12th round.

15) LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh -- McCoy has great potential. He's just never been able to convert that to his play on the field. If Dave Wannestedt can't get anything out of him at Pitt, I'm not sure NFL coaches will be able to do the same. Still, he should go to a team in the second or third round, making for some intriguing possibilities. If he lands with, say, the Packers as a backup to Ryan Grant, could he have value? What if the Chiefs take him as insurance for Larry Johnson? His talent gives him value, but I'm not sure it's more than as a late-season add.

I know there are more guys out there worthy of this list, but I decided to stop at 15. Guys like Southern Miss TE Shawn Nelson, Rice TE James Casey, Oklahoma WRs Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson or Texas A&M RB Mike Goodson could make an impact next season too but it's all depending on where they end up. After the draft, I'll do a more thorough rundown of the rookie difference-makers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Thoughts on the WBC

Predictably, while I like watching the World Baseball Classic, I cringe at the thought of the Astros' best pitcher hurting himself for the regular season by pitching in it. Roy Oswalt did himself no favors in his four innings of work on Sunday, but he certainly didn't hurt himself either.

Everyone is used to the idea that it takes time for pitchers to get into shape. They may be able to throw, but they may not have the control or feel for their pitches that they do in June. While I don't think that was quite the case on Sunday, I do think Roy got a taste of playing a team with a completely different style than he usually sees.

Did you see some of those hits? Balls out of the strike zone, low, away, up and in, no matter where Roy put the ball, those pesky Japanese hitters managed to slap them for hits. Even Ichiro's double in the gap late in the game to seal the victory was slapped.

Isn't that what Major League Baseball wanted to see in this event? Many people are against it. Heck, some people have even claimed it's just a ruse to scout international players on American soil. That may be the case, but every so often, you get to see two completely different styles of play come up against each other, elevating this to actual, meaningful heights. So many of the MLB teams are built on the same model: home runs, pitching and defense. Isn't it refreshing to see that philosophy go head-to-head with a completely different view of the game? And to do so with (most) of the world's best players competing against each other? At a time of year when there is normally NO viewable baseball?

Again, I've said it before here, but I like the WBC. I think it works as a concept and in its execution. Even if it is an elaborate ploy to steal other countries' best players.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Minor League Preview

Today I'd like to preview which players I'm most excited about tracking once the season starts. The Astros minor league system has been stocked by Old Mother Hubbard for quite a while now (h/t to Tim Purpura). Still, they do have some talent down there, even if it is pretty sparse. Here are my favorites:

Most Excited to Follow
Name, Position (Year Drafted)

1) Jason Castro, C (2008): Castro may not be a star, but is one of the few prospects in the system who should be a solid starter. He's the best catcher prospect in the organization since Mitch Melusky. Hopefully, this ends better than Mitch. At the very least, Castro should be in the bigs sometime next season.

2) Collin DeLome, OF (2007): DeLome was drafted out of Lamar, so I already have a soft spot for him. Throw in his good power numbers in his 1+ seasons on the farm, and he's definitely intriguing. He still strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough, but he could make a leap this season.

3) Jay Austin, OF (2008): The high schooler out of Georgia didn't just hit under the Mendoza Line in his brief stint in the Appalachian League, he nearly hit under the Bob Uecker Line, striking out 69 times in 212 at-bats. He has all the tools to get better, and maybe as he matures, he'll make better contact with the ball. He ended up playing in left field mostly last season, but his skill-set projects as a centerfielder who could hit 15-20 homers a season.

4) Phil Disher, 1B (2008): Showed great power in short-season ball and a pretty good batting eye, but still struck out way too much. His bat has some good potential, and hopefully he'll keep it up this season.

5-tie) Jordan Lyles & Ross Seaton, P (2008): Both young pitchers were drafted in the first three rounds last season, but neither got much burn in the minors after signing. Teams are doing this more and more, bringing young guys along slowly. Pitching is such a tough commodity to actually capitalize on, though, as injuries and ineffectiveness doom most guys before they have any big league success. I'm still excited to see how they do.

Biggest Question Marks

1) Brian Bogusevic, OF (2005): When he was drafted, most scouts liked him more as an outfielder than as a pitcher. I was really disappointed when the Astros kept him on the mound, even as he struggled the past few years. However, he has hit fairly well, especially since transitioning to OF full-time. His age and lack of experience are big question marks, however, and I wonder if there's room for more Rick Ankiel's in this world.

2) Koby Clemens, C (2005): He hit better in his first stint in the Carolina League than in his previous two season in Lexington, but Clemens the Younger still struck out too much. He's walking at a pretty consistent clip and even hit for some power in the Astros' toughest farm ballpark. Unfortunately, he's got work to do behind the plate, as he allowed 31 passed balls and gunned down just 33 percent of would-be basestealers. I don't know whether the Astros will start him in Corpus or back at High A Lancaster, but he needs to step up his defense this season.

3) Bud Norris, P (2006): Norris has been getting a lot of burn this spring training, with many of the Astros pitchers either old, infirm or in the WBC. However, Norris is coming off an injury of his own last season that stole a good two months from his schedule. He strikes out a ton of batters, and his numbers last season were more indicative of a higher than normal BABiP than of any problem with his stuff. Still, having your most advanced pitching prospect with injury concerns can't be good. He'll probably start the season in Round Rock.

4) Brad James, P (2005): James has the exact opposite problem that Norris has; he can't strike anyone out. In 95 innings last season, he struck out 45 batters. That's not great, and it was just at Double-A. Very, very VERY few pitchers survive without missing bats, and James appears to be doing fine, as he finished his season with a 6-6 record and an ERA of 4.45. He's still got some big question marks on whether he can be effective at the next level if he doesn't start striking more people out (even if it is fascist).

5) Tommy Manzella, SS (2005): After a good 2007 season, Manzella started out okay in Corpus with his bat. His defense has always been great, so he's going only as far as his bat will take him. Whatever success he had with the Hooks was taken away by the stink bomb he laid in Round Rock, batting .219/.273/.294 in 223 at-bats. The other disturbing trend was his speed seemingly disappearing. After stealing 15 bases in 2007 with a success rate of 79%, Manzella only attempted 8 steals at Corpus and none at Round Rock. He'll have to bounce back on the basepaths to see time with Houston this season.

Most Intriguing

1) Eli Iorg, OF (2005): Iorg is old as a prospect, but isn't without talent. He's never shown much power, but has decent range in the field and a good eye at the plate. If he could ever stay healthy for a whole season, he might have a job as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

2) Tim Torres, SS (2006): Torres had a good year in Salem, which I've already mentioned is tough on hitters. He's 24 now, which is old for his level, but fits the profile of a guy they Astros typically are conservative on promoting. I could see Torres becoming sort of a Ben Zobrist type player.

3) Mitch Einertson, OF (2004): Einertson was very, very young three years ago when he hit the cover off the ball in short-season. The past few years, he's struggled with is consistency and his power swing, but is still relatively young. At 22 in Double-A, he hit 11 homeruns in 105 games. His batting average and OBP both suffered from an early season slump, but he could very well pop back into the picture with a strong 2009.

4) Leandro Cespedes, P (2007): Cespedes killed the Appy League two years ago, but fell back to earth a little at Lexington last season. He still struck out over a batter per inning and had a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. He's very young, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to being promoted this season.

5) T.J. Steele, OF (2008): In 146 at-bats, Steele struck out at TON (51) and only walked six times. He's got some power, some speed (6 SB), and pretty good tools in the field, but will need to produce more in his first full season of pro ball.

Happy Trails to: Fernando Nieve, P -- The righthander was claimed by the Mets after the Astros put him on irrevocable waivers. Nieve always seemed on the cusp of breaking through to the big leagues, but Tommy John surgery followed by an asthma condition first diagnosed last season cut down on his productivity. I wish him the best of luck with the Mets.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mock Drafts

Since the new mock drafts from Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay just came out on, I thought I'd take a crack at analyzing what we know about the Texans pick. First, Mike Lombardi made a very good point in one of his recent columns at the National Football Post. Lombardi said that the more consensus there is about a certain pick, the more likely that pick is wrong. Teams routinely give out false information and if everyone's saying the same thing, that team is probably going a different direction.

So, what does that mean for the Texans? Here is a rundown of what a number of mocks are saying:

National Football Post’s Wes Bunting - Robert Ayers, DE Tennessee

NBC Sports - Vontae Davis, CB Illinois

Sporting News – Brian Cushing, LB USC

Lance Zierlein – Brian Cushing, LB USC

Todd McShay - Robert Ayers, DE Tennessee

Mel Kiper, Jr. – Brian Cushing, LB USC

John McClain - Clay Matthews III, LB USC

The Vontae Davis pick was made in early February, while the rest have been written about in the past month. McClain actually said the pick could come down to Matthews and Peria Jerry, the defensive tackle out of Ole' Miss. So, now that we know who the experts like, let's look at those players specifically.

Ayers: Only started two games before his senior season in 2008. Started nine games in 2008, recording three sacks. Has nine sacks in his career at Tennessee. Was considered a second-round pick before the combine, but has snuck into the first round since. Is one of the few 4-3 defensive ends at the top of the draft.

Davis: Stock has fallen faster than the Dow Jones since the combine. Did not run well and scouts are concerned about his overall athleticism. Is probably the fourth- or fifth-best cornerback in the draft.

Cushing: Played defensive end as a sophomore and started for the past three seasons. Came in as the safest linebacking prospect in the draft but has really fallen off in the workout phase of the scouting process. Was going through drills back to back with Aaron Curry at the combine and was not close to being as athletic or explosive. Fits better in the later parts of the first round.

Matthews: Son of long-time NFL player Clay Matthews, only became a starter three games into his senior season. Most scouts view him as a 3-4 outside linebacker, who can rush the passer and hold up against the run. His workouts have jumped him over teammate Cushing as the second-best OLB prospect.

All indications are that the Texans will go for a defensive player at the 15 spot in the first round. With what's going to be available there, however, I could see them trading down to a team who might want Sanchez if he slides or quarterback Josh Freeman, who seems to be jumping up draft boards lately. Another possibility is the Texans take Michael Crabtree, if he falls that far. I'm not sure he makes it past the 49ers at 10, but it's possible. Also possible is them drafting a banger like Beanie Wells or Knowshown Moreno, though I don't think they want to commit that kind of money to a running back.

If I had to guess right now, I'd say they trade down and take Cushing. If they stay put, I wouldn't be surprised at Clay Matthews being the pick or getting either Everette Brown or Aaron Maybin.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

World Baseball Classic, Anyone?

I really don't understand why the World Baseball Classic is so divisive with fans. Sure, I understand why organizations don't want their pitchers competing at such a high level without their arms being in shape. I also understand why some players wouldn't want to compete in it, given the increased chance of injury hurting their financial outlook.

HOWEVER, why on earth fans can be ambivalent is something I just dont' get, but then, I'm a different sort of fan. I enjoy listening to meaningless spring training games, because it's baseball is back in my life. I enjoy listening to a whole album of songs about baseball (The Baseball Project...check them out). Why wouldn't I like watching real baseball on TV two to three weeks before the real thing? At this time of year, games are few and far between on TV. When I have a chance to watch something on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, isn't it better to be watching baseball than the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinals? Please...who could forget Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson for god's sake? (Sorry, wrong rant)

So what if you don't find yourself rooting for Team USA to win this thing? You're not going to be rooting for most of the players in the league either, if you're like many fans who have one favorite team they care about. I just don't get it, but I don't need to. I'll happily watch Pudge ground out or a kid from Canada strike out the side any day of the spring, waiting for the real thing to begin.