Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

Do you hear it calling?  It’s freedom from the work week, and it’s calling your name.  You’re almost there, champ.  I know it’s been a long, hard week, but the weekend is so close.  All you need to get you through to the final minutes is the latest edition of Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday.

1.  Is there a greater match in all of baseball than Nick Punto and the St. Louis Cardinals?  Learning that the gritty, white middle infielder with the awful on base percentage had signed a contract to play for Tony LaRussa made me forget about all of the disorder in this world and feel as though everything was right for one brief moment.  Hopefully, it’s only a one year deal.  John McDonald’s contract with the Toronto Blue Jays is finished after this season.

2.  Speaking of Nick Punto, sliding head first into first base is never a good idea.  If I was managing a team, and a player of mine did that, I would bench him immediately.  Not only is the player risking injury to himself, he’s also choosing to do something that actually slows him down.  Seriously, by diving toward the bag, you’re decelerating yourself instead of taking advantage of the momentum you’ve built up from your run.  Diving head first into first base is not gritty.  It’s stupid.

3.  Jason Stark has been on Twitter most of the afternoon talking about overrated and underrated players.  It got us talking in the office too.  My boss suggested that certain players can get labelled with an “overrated” tag so often that it actually causes them to become underrated.  I think a good example of this is Derek Jeter. The Yankees shortstop is constantly dismissed as being overrated, but if you look at his numbers, he’s probably the most productive shortstop playing today, never mind that his defense probably isn’t good enough to keep playing that position much longer.  Actually, that element of his game really is actually overrated.

4.  Buster Olney recently listed ten players that he felt were at a career crossroads, and while I agree with all of his selections, it would’ve been pretty hard for me to not include Jose Bautista.  He would have to be considered under a slightly different classification from most of the players in Olney’s list because he’s coming off the most successful season (by far) of his career.  But his value for the rest of his career is going to be directly affected by how he performs this season, which, assuming he doesn’t sign a multi-year deal with the Blue Jays, will be right before his first taste of free agency.

5.  Sticking with the Blue Jays and Bautista, how much does the slugger owe to Paul Beeston for allowing Alex Rios to get picked up off of waivers by the Chicago White Sox for absolutely nothing in return?  I say Beeston because it was widely rumoured, but I don’t think ever confirmed, that when the White Sox claimed Rios off revocable waivers in September of 2009, J.P. Ricciardi wanted to try to work out a deal or else pull him back.  Beeston, as interim president at the time, wouldn’t allow it, and Kenny Williams had to explain to Jerry Reinsdorf why they had surprisingly just acquired a player they’d have to pay $49 million for the next four years.  With Rios still on this team, Bautista never becomes an everyday player and never hits anywhere close to 50 home runs last season.

6.  Beyond The Boxscore put together a graph ranking baseball journalists according to how many stories they broke during the current offseason.  I couldn’t possibly care less about who broke a story in comparison to who offered the best analysis of the deal.  But the rankings did get me to thinking about the term “hotstove.”  Where the [Getting Blanked] did that come from?

A quick internet search revealed that the origin of the phrase is from the late nineteenth Century and originally refered specifically to baseball’s offseason when people would gather around a hot stove to remain warm while talking about the greatest sport on earth.  Another explanation suggests that it’s a direct extension of the question, “What’s cookin’?”

7.  The whole [Getting Blanked] thing is feeling kind of forced, isn’t it?

8.  If there’s one area in baseball that I tend to lack an eagerness toward learning about it’s probably prospecting.  A few moments ago, Andrew Stoeten came into the office and asked me what I knew about Jays prospect Aaron Sanchez.  I said I didn’t know anything.  Apparently, the tall right hander, who was the the 34th pick in last year’s draft, is going to be ranked in Keith Law’s top 100 prospects.

I’m not proud of my ignorance, and I certainly don’t mean to justify it, because it’s something I want to overcome, but I think my hesitancy to get off on prospect porn is rooted in my distrust in those ranking the prospects.  It may just be that I don’t understand it, but there’s so much subjectivity and variance in the rankings, and combined with a seeming lack of predictors for success at the Major League level, I think I’d rather just sit the speculation out and wait until there’s something more concrete to look at.

I’m also immediately turned off by fans becoming passionate about prospects that they’ve never even seen play a game.  Just because a writer at Baseball America collected the opinions of six scouts who all said that Kevin Ahrens is the best player in the Jays system, likely after heavily endorsing Ahrens to the Jays GM prior to the draft, there are fans out there who will attach themselves to that player and imagine him to be far more than he really is.

9.  I’m currently shopping around for a new softball glove.  I’ve been a loyal Mizuno guy my entire baseball life, but I’m open to alternatives.  Any good suggestions?  Also, what do you guys do to break in your glove and further develop its pocket?

10. CNN.com published an article by Jeff Pearlman today in which he confronts people over the telephone who called him bad names on Twitter following his blog post about Jeff Bagwell, steroid suspicion and the Hall of Fame.  It’s about as interesting as stories on CNN.com get.  Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra, who single-handedly analyzes just about everything that happens in baseball so quickly and so concisely that I sometimes wonder if he doesn’t exist in a weird continuum where time is actually slower for him than the average person, uses the article as a springboard to talk about how to properly manage a blog so that you don’t find threats against your life in the comment section.

It’s all good advice, but it’s sort of like apples telling oranges how to be a fruit.  First of all, registration, which Hardball Talk requires for commenting, tends to limit the amount of ridiculous insults being spewed out. Secondly, the format of Hardball Talk, which I like immensely, calls for dozens of posts a day that are usually no more than three or four paragraphs.  The writers aren’t normally baring their souls in a fashion that tends to attract the type of comments that Pearlman received.

Calcaterra’s comments are also somewhat ironic in that his original analysis of Pearlman’s blog post, likely went a long way toward prompting the lesser minds that get confronted in the CNN article to peck away at the spot of blood that the Hardball Talk writer pointed out.