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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Arms Race

In the newspaper bidness, we called them "space holders" or "plugs." They were stories/pictures that went into the space of stories that were coming for later editions. You basically wasted your time getting them ready because hardly anyone saw the early editions. But you couldn't just leave the space empty.

This is how I view the Nationals' 2010 rotation.

The results of my latest poll surprised me twice. First, we fell short of my stated goal of 100 votes. We got 97. Three short. My heart aches.

Most important, the overwhelming response shocked me. Of those 97, we had 79 voters say that sorting out the rotation was the top priority of the spring. That makes me one of the crazy ones because I don't think the rotation really matters much now.

Work with me here and I'll try to explain. It involves some assumptions. One of my old editors used to say, "Assumptions are the mother of all (screw) ups," and he's right. We can't help but assume a few things when we're talking about so many spaceholders and missing pieces.

Given for 2010: Marquis, Lannan and Olsen (assuming for health)

Given for 2011: Marquis, Lannan, Strasburg (assuming expected development), Zimmermann (assuming health), Detwiler (assuming health). OK, maybe the last one isn't a given. You can make a small case for some others but he's the one of the masses who impresssed me the most, at least in September.

That still leaves you with Wang and Olsen so there's some wiggle room if someone doesn't develop or heal or a major trade offer comes along.

Can anyone argue those are the Nats' top seven starters? I'm sure some could but I'm going to guess most agree. Wang is probably shakiest of the bunch because there's no way to guess what he'll look like coming back. He's the furthest removed from his successful years.

OK, let's say Zimmermann and Detwiler don't pitch in the majors this year. Likely for Zimmermann, less likely for Detwiler. That leaves the Nats with Lannan, Marquis, Olsen, Plug, Plug until June. Then you add Strasburg and you need one Plug.

Does it really matter who does the plugging?

Martis. Mock. Martin. Stammen. Livo (probably the best choice if it's just for a plug). Chico.

Does it make a difference how those starts are divided? Does one give you that much better a chance than the other? Livo because of his experience probably has a better chance of winning more games. Martis has youth on his side and has shown more flashes than the others but, hell, Ramon Ortiz almost threw a no-hitter. Martis needs that ol' consistency thing. Stammen maybe has a chance but how good will he be at his best? Good enough to crack that top seven? I'm about Mocked out, I think we've seen his best and I don't think it's all that good.

I have no idea what to think about Chico. When he pitched a full season what seems like ages ago, he seemed to fit in with this crew. I didn't see anything that put him in the Lannan/Zimmermann/Detwiler class.

Let's go with the top three of Lannan/Marquis/Olsen and, as far as I'm concerned, you can draw the other two starters out of a hat for two months. Then pick the most successful to fill the final plug spot once Strasburg arrives.

I think the bullpen roles are pretty well defined, too. There's some competition for 1-2 spots but at least some capable pieces seem to be there. I also think the middle infield situation will sort out quickly, though I'm guessing my thought (Desmond) won't be the team's thought.

Makeup of the bench strikes me as the spring key. There appears to be better options this year. Harris and Nieves (until Flores is healthy) are givens. Who gets the other spots? You need someone who can handle first to replace Dunn late (Morse). Maxwell, Duncan, Bernadina - who is the extra non-Harris outfielder (Maxwell should be one). Does Eric Bruntlett have a chance? Does Desmond stick as utility (please no - SS or Syracuse). A bench has to be more than spare parts and the Nats have a lot of ways they can go this spring. That's a good thing. It's up to them to make the right choices.

This week's poll will be simple and I hope I get 10 zillion votes Who starts the opener? Lannan because of his history with the team or Marquis because of what he allegedly represents? Tell your friends. Vote early.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Out of town, out of touch

What little business I have these days generally keeps me close to home. Now and then, I do have to travel and this is one of those times. For about 24 hour now, I've been almost totally out of touch. It's an odd feeling in this always-connected world to lose that connect for a while. How did we ever survive, oh, 10 years ago?

Anyway, I did catch up with a few things:

*Livo signed a minor-league deal, I think I heard? Yeah, I'm OK with that. No rational reason. I just love a pitcher who look like me.

*Rain and cold hits Florida. Great, especially since THAT IS WHERE I AM. I'm tired of all precipitation. I'm tired of cold. Even if I was close enough to Viera to sneak a look at spring training, there wouldn't be any.

I'll be sort of out of it for another 24 hours or so. Make my life complete and send another poll over 100 votes. I do it once and I'm getting greedy. We have another day left on the current poll.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The real Jesus (Flores)

My man Chico (the Writer) is on some kind of roll to start the spring. He's already in shape, ready to start the season. Maybe it's because the end is near and he knows he doesn't have to pace himself for a full season. Or maybe he's just plain good.

Whatever, it looks like he's about to hit another one outta the park with his upcoming story on Jesus Flores. He offers snippets in this Nationals Journal.

Yeah, there's some bias here because "Flo" is maybe my favorite player of all time. No particular reason. He just is. I love to watch him catch, love to watch him hit. He is the acorn of the blind squirrel that was JimBow, a significant find amid the heap of whatever that usually makes up Rule 5. He's a real, live keeper.

I'm concerned he'll never be quite right. I'm more concerned about the comments he did make and eager to read the rest of it. Sadly, it confirms what has been one of my fears: Are injuries being handled properly?

The 25-and-under talent on the shelf and trying to come back from something major is considerable: Flores, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler. Does Scott Olsen fall into that class? He's pretty young, I'm just too lazy to go look. Chico (the Pitcher), too.

Could Chad Cordero have been saved with a quicker call on his injury? I'll never forget the night of his final appearance as a Nat, listening to Ray Knight subbing in the TV booth. He saw from the first pitch that "this young man is hurt" and stayed on the case until Cordero sadly threw his last pitch. Knight could see it clear as day from the booth. How come no one else saw that?

Did Ryan Zimmerman need to miss as much time as he did in 2008? Maybe but I can't help but wonder.

There's a lot of money invested in these young folks and your medical staff better be batting as close to 1.000 as possible. The team, from the front office down to the last player on the roster, better have complete confidence in the diagnosis and treatment.

It really doesn't matter what some old blogger in section 309 thinks. It does matter what the players think. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but it doesn't sound like Flores has that confidence.

I wonder what the other players think?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Best quote I've seen, maybe ever

From the Nationals Journal, where my man Chico (the Writer) is determined to go out strong. He had an excellent story in today's fishwrap and had this outstanding tidbit in his online report on The Phenom's first workout of the spring.

Seems Mr. Strasburg has picked up the nickname "Jesus." Probably offends some but I love it and here's why (this is the part I lifted):

Why Jesus? "'Cause what's the first thing you say when you see him pitch?" centerfielder Nyjer Morgan said, excited just to answer his own question. "Jeee-sus!"

So now Morgan brings his speed to the offense AND the defense AND he's the best quote on the team.

Oh, and I can't wait to see Jeeee-sus pitch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Livo

My daughter got me a Sudoku Page-A-Day calendar for Christmas and it allows me to have free access to another calendar online. So I chose the Sports Fact A Day calendar. It also includes birthdays and it informed me via e-mail that today is Livan Hernandez' birthday.

Born in 1975, which makes him 35.

Two questions:

*Anyone believe that?

*Is he worth a low-salary, incentive-laden contract to tide the Nats over until the injured and the phenom are ready?

I can't answer objectively. Any pitcher who looks like me and is in my age bracket is aces.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I need a calculator

Adding up all those votes in my poll requires a level of math above my abilities. Thanks to all who made the push to 100 a success. Now I'm spoiled. I want 100 votes in every poll.

A cool 129 stopped by to vote and 66 think Ian Desmond should be the regular shortstop. That's where my vote fell. No offense to Cristian Guzman but he's a one-year guy now and, if Desmond is thought of in any way as a possible shortstop of the future, now is the time to find out.

More time in the minors was the choice of 52 voters. I think that's what will end up happening, though I'm not sure the guy needs more time - the rationale will be they want him to play every day. Yeah, I get that. There's another place he can do that.

Only nine want to see him kept as a utility guy and two didn't think Ian Desmond was worth another thought.

Sorting out the middle infield situation is one of the priorities of the spring. Give a click on that topic and let's push another poll over 100 votes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

So much for my rotation theory

The news about Ross Detwiler, first reported by fans-fueled blogger Mark Zuckerman upon his arrival in Viera, Fla., pretty much ruined what had been a great day.

I first saw Detwiler in Potomac two seasons ago and he grew on me with his September showing. He was penciled in to the very unofficial NationalsFanboyLooser rotation. Now they say he'll be out about three months but I'm going to guess he doesn't pitch competitively until after the All-Star break, if then. I fear he'll join Jordan Zimmermann on the season-long spectator list.

It could be fuel for a new poll (thanks for getting me over 100 votes, by the way): Do we see Detwiler or Wang first?

Disappointed as I am because I think the kid was ready to do good things, the Nats will find a body to fill the slot. There's no shortage of potential candidates out there, I just don't think any of them beyond the big two or maybe three (Marquis/Lannan, maybe Olsen) are as good. Detwiler excites me. The laundry list of Stammen, Martin, Mock, Martis, Balester, Chico (the pitcher), otherrandombody does not though Stammen could at least make me change my mind. Not listing Strasburg because I'm convinced he isn't part of the season-opening plans unless he is ridiculously lights out this spring. He excites me.

I also hope this doesn't make something think signing Kris Benson is suddenly a better idea. It's not.

My bigger concern is the continued injury hex that seems to hang over this team. Is it JimBow with a voodoo doll? Is it a clueless medical staff? Is it players being afraid to speak up? It's darn sure something.

Did Detwiler get hurt during a recent workout or has it been a problem for a year?

We all know the list, but here's a partial reminder: Zimmermann has a sore elbow, he'll be back in September (yeah? of what year?). Flores will be active in Philly (but on a MUCH later trip and we've signed Pudge, so who knows when Flores be back). Zimmerman is day to day with this shoulder thing (for a couple of months). It goes on and on and on and on to the point where the fanbase has a right to wonder what the heck and legitimate fear of what could be next?

All teams deal with injuries. With this team, it always seems to have a Keystone Kops feel to it, except it isn't at all funny.

Chien-Ming Wang's shoulder just started hurting again and he doesn't know why.

At least Zuckerman is down there telling us what's going on. Money well spent already for those fans who helped pay his way.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The push to 100

My poll closes tomorrow morning. I'm like eight votes away from hitting 100 for the first time. Tell your friends, and I promise I'll shut up about it. I don't know why that magic number sticks in my craw. It just does. I'd like to hit it one time. Help a brother out here.

In the meantime, Mark Zuckerman is on the way to Viera (he should be passing my exit on 95 about now), some other media members are already there and many of the players are, too. It's time to start reading tons and tons and tons of stuff about the Nats.


I notice Dave Sheinin is handling early stuff for the Post. I wonder if he'll stay until Adam Kilgore arrives and then move on to his "rest of the baseball world" duties? Kilgore, by the way, is 26 years old today. Wish him a happy birthday. I hope he has a grand celebration, Viera style.

Later this week, I'll add a post of things I want to see this spring. Magic Mike and No More Interim Jim haven't called yet, so I'm going to let them know here. I want my opinion heard!!

Vote early, vote often. NationalsFanboyLooser thanks you.

Sadly, one guy who won't see spring is former major-leaguer Jim Bibby, who died Tuesday.

In 1993, I did one of those "week in the life of" stories about the Class A Lynchburg Red Sox. Bibby - everyone called him Bibby and everyone knew him - was the pitching coach and an interesting character. Sad to hear of his passing. I could listen to his stories for hours and fondly remember the times that I did.

Friday, February 12, 2010

News about the Post - Welcome (back) Adam Kilgore

Adam Kilgore will be the new beat writer, if this Web posting is to be believed.
And I think it is to be believed.

(late add - it IS to be believed, I've had it confirmed independently)

I've known Adam a while. He's a former intern at the Post who used to cover Virginia Tech. He once used this very computer to file a story because his computer had some issue.

Great, great, great, great guy. Did I say great enough? Strong reporter and writer. After the Post didn't renew his internship, he went to the Globe and covered the Red Sox and the Patriots.

It's a very good hire but I'm biased. I warned him earlier when I heard he'd interviewed that he'd have to put up with crazy fanboy loosers like me.

He was the intern who went out and covered one night and touched off a mini-debate in the Natsmosphere about using interns to cover the team.

I'd heard rumors the Post wasn't going to be able to go outside and make the hire. They have a couple of inside candidates who would have been good choices. I also was hoping Goessling/Zuckerman would get a look. But I'm not going to complain about this choice.

Adam is another in a long line of strong sports writers produced by Syracuse University in recent years. Yes, Chico Harlan is in that group, too. So is Darryl Slater, the young man I hired to cover Virginia Tech at the Times-Dispatch. And Eli Saslow, who does fine work at the Post. There are many more.

Anyway, welcome back to D.C. Adam. Now get your ass to work and give me something good to read.

Ian Desmond

My daughter attended a high school that did not have much of a field hockey tradition. In the five years before her arrival, I think the school won a single varsity game. They'd get beat by scores like 18-1 and 14-0.

She was part of a group of about a dozen that had some talent. They had a good junior varsity season as freshmen, even beating their biggest rivals for the first time in about a zillion years.

The next year was decision time. The group could stay at the JV level and probably dominate. Or it could be elevated to the varsity, take a few lumps but learn what it was like at that level. It's a faster game, a little more rugged. The coach made what seemed like a no-brainer decision. Up to the varsity they went, where they had a decent season. The next two years were very good. The program qualified for the district tournament for the first time in ages and then the regional tournament for the first time maybe ever. The year after my daughter's group left, the team made the semifinals of the state tournament.

There is a point to all that. If Ian Desmond has some iota of a chance of being more than a stopgap shortstop, isn't this the year to find out? I don't think too many expect this team to be a contender, so what would it hurt to see if Desmond can handle the job?

I've never been a Guzman hater. Good bat, I can live with him in the field. He's far from the biggest problem the Nats have. If he's the SS, I'm fine with that. Does anyone think he's in Washington beyond this season, that he's the SS when this team finally gets good?

So why not give Desmond a full-time chance? If he is the answer, great. If he's not, fast-track Danny Espinoza or get started on a search for another shortstop.

I just don't see what more time in the minors is going to do at this point. I'd hope for a utility role over that, so he can at least be exposed to major-league level baseball. Just keep him out of right field.

My current poll asks for your opinion on the whole Desmond scene. I'm eager to see what everyone thinks.

My previous poll drew a paltry 34 voters and I think that was a false total. We had 14 voters (me included) who thought Mike Bacsik grooved the record home run pitch to Barry Bonds and 20 who thought he did not.

Odd thing, though. The first few votes came in at a normal pace, a trickle. They were evenly split. Then there was a sudden rush of about 10 votes, all declaring no. I smell a rat.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Le Cause de Zuckerman

Pardon my French - congratulations to Mark Zuckerman, who has crushed his goal of raising money through donations to cover spring training for his new blog, He did it quickly and he's raised enough that he won't have to cut corners. No tent and KOA, he can stay in a real hotel. No Golden Corral buffet, he can eat at Outback. Good work by all who contributed.

Mark's quest has drawn lots of support and commentary in the blogosphere and elsewhere., a site populated mostly by, well, sports journalists, has a thread on it. The quest has been getting some mainstream love, too, and some of Mark's unofficial publicists (who, me?) are pushing for more. This is a fairly unique idea that speaks to a broader issue about the modern media today. It deserves coverage.

The big question some seem to have is whether it is worth it to hit spring training. How about using the money on the regular season instead? Go to some games that count? Too much sameness in spring coverage anyway.

Valid points all. Ideally, money will continue to come in or someone will step up and pay Mark for some in-season coverage. But despite some of the sameness, spring training coverage is required for any journalist who wants to be taken seriously as the long, long, LONG regular season progresses.

I never did full season baseball, though I did cover short stretches of the spring a couple of times. I did plenty of college football, where preseason is about as long and about the same from a coverage standpoint minus all those exhibitions.

First, it's a place to get acquainted or re-acquainted. You haven't seen or talked to most of these people in ages. It's a new year, no one hates you yet because you haven't written anything (lately) to hack them off. Smiles all around. Firm handshake, how was your winter? Heard you got a 10-point buck! Congrats on the new baby. Family well?

It's called building relationships and it is vital to success as a reporter. You don't become friends with the people but you better be comfortable small talking with them.

Yeah, there's some sameness to the coverage. I assure you we will see plenty of stories, even from Mark, that fit into several categories.

*I'm in the best shape of my life. I'd find some tubby lineman who'd lost 50 pounds and write about it. We'd later learn he still couldn't play but it made for a good preseason story. Top candidates to utter those words for the Nats are Elijah Dukes, Scott Olsen, Cristian Guzman and Pudge Rodriguez. Guzman has never seemed too media friendly but I bet we see a little different side this spring as he tries to spread the word that he can still be a viable shortstop.

*Overcoming tragedy. I'm dedicating this season to (fill in the blank) after death, injury, major illness. I'm not trying to be flip or make light of that, just trying to point out that it happens to every team in every sport every year. There's always one story like that. This year with the Nats, the obvious is Dukes after the death of his father.

*Position transition. Bigger in football where guys are moved here and there all the time. You'd find some guy who would say, "I should have been a cornerback the whole time instead of wasting three years at receiver." Probably true. Instead of being a fifth-string WR, he becomes a third-string CB. Another great preseason idea because you won't do it during the season. I can definitely see this lead coming out of the Nats camp: "It worked for Tyler Clippard. He gave up his dream of being a 20-game winner and saved his career by moving to the bullpen. Now (Mock/Martis/Stammen/Balester/Detwiler/Martin/any one of a number of others) are hoping they can sing the same tune."

*It's a fresh start. A brand new leader and it sure is a different atmosphere. We'll get a quote, probably from Zimmerman given his stature and tenure, that goes something like, "No offense to Manny. We all loved Manny. But there's a different feel this year. Things are more serious. We're better organized and more of a unit." Book that one. You'll probably read the same story out of Cleveland, where Manny is the new face. "You can tell he learned a lot from his time in D.C. and he's come in focused. We have a plan. This is going to be a great spring," some Indian will say.

I'm sure we'll also get a dozen or so variations of the Jim Riggleman life story, maybe as a setup to camp. He's jacked about getting another chance, with lots of quotes from people who knew him in the seventh grade. That's the type of story you can work on all winter.

This year's Nats also provide a lot of unique story lines, another reason why it is important for Mark (or anyone covering the team) to be there. Among them but certainly not all of them:

*Nyjer, was last year some fluke or can he really keep that up over a full season?
*The remade bullpen and how does Drew Storen figure in there?
*The remade rotation.
*I seem to recall a lot of fuss being made over a pitcher on draft day and then again in August. Name escapes me now *** oh, yeah. Strasburg. How's he factor into all this?
*Dunn, the extension and the work at first base.
*The Desmond thing. A utility role? Really?

I'm also convinced something major is going to happen this spring, a trade or signing of some sort that changes the lineup projections we've all been making. If that happens, Mike Rizzo is going to be plenty busy and media wanting a chunk of his time had best be on site.

Spring training goes by quickly. If a reporter has done his/her job, they're ready for the season just like the players.

I hope Mark keeps pulling in the cash and makes enough to cover everything AND get some actual pay out of the deal. But it has to start in the spring.


Get your minds out of the gutter people. The Nats' newest pitcher spells it Wang but says it Wong. Hmmm. Guess that's not much better.

Pete Abraham's twitter feed says the deal is done, that Chien-Ming Wang (Wong) will sign with the Nats. Could be in the rotation by May.

Almost no risk, potential high reward. Why not give it a shot?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Screw Mark. Send ME to Florida

Jiminy. If I'm going to raise money for someone to go to spring training, it is going to be ME. I'm stuck in Nome, Alaska here with all the daggone snow and I'm hating every minute of it.

Some time in the sun, some baseball, some good food and drink at night - your money will be put to good use.

Only one problem. All you'll get out of me is sincere appreciation and some warm fuzzies.

Mark Zuckerman? He'll actually cover the team. So your money is probably better spent with him. Read his current post at his blog and click to donate.

Then if you still have money left, send some my way. If you have lots left, send all the bloggers to Florida. We'll make sure to have fun while Mark works his tail off.

Your money will be in good hands with me. It will be in better hands with him.

Friday, February 5, 2010


That didn't last long. The cardinal is long gone, taking shelter somewhere, I trust. The view out the bay window is not one of melting snow but rather one of falling snow. Falling hard snow. NOT a thing of beauty in my mind. I have braved the grocery store and we're stocked and loaded for the weekend but the depression that snow brings on is back in full force.

Plus Orlando Hudson is a Twin.

That really shouldn't bother me so much. It really shouldn't bother me at all. Several of my blogging colleagues, all armed with a greater understanding than yours truly, have written solid pieces in the past week about why Hudson would be an OK but not exceptional addition. I get that. Something about the guy I liked anyway and I saw him as a pretty good fit for 2010 (and maybe 2011).

The paperwork must have been in Adam Kennedy's hands because I don't recall ever seeing such a quick turnaround. "A-Dog, this is Rizz-Dog. O-Dog dogged us. He's a flippin' Twin. Sign that thing, dog, and send it back."

Several million saved, since Kennedy goes for 1.2 million or so (less than the Nats paid Johnny-Dog Estrada). Is the dropoff from Hudson to Kennedy real steep, semi-steep, just kind of a slight downhill grade or not a dropoff at all? Should Kennedy on top of snowfall depress me further or cheer me up a bit?

I'm also torn because, as much as I wanted Hudson to sign, I'm not sure I like what it does to Desmond. That's a post for another day. It doesn't look like I'm going anywhere for a while.

I may move to Key West. Do they get DirecTV down there?

UPDATE - A friend who knows his baseball posted this on a forum where I posed a Kennedy question. Made me feel a little better. Now, if he can only warm it up about 60 degrees:

Kennedy's a bargain at the reported price and a good fit for the Nats. Whenever he plays regularly, he hits. Last season after coming up with Oakland: 11 HR, 20 SB, .289/.348/.410 and he batted .307 vs right-handers. His range isn't what it used to be when he was with the Angels but he's still just 34 and had a 4.48/9 innings in '09.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Waiting on Spring

A cardinal just landed on my deck. I love cardinals (not the St. Louis variety). They make me happy and I can use a little of that because snow depresses me. I'm sitting here staring out my bay window, watching this snow melt and hoping it never, ever returns. That would make me happy.

You know what else makes me happy? Pitchers and catchers report shortly. My brother got in touch yesterday, he got his season ticket package along with my sister and their spouses (I still haven't done that, must expedite). Another sign that the wait is almost over. It's almost baseball season.

This is one of my favorite times of the season, when it isn't acually here yet and there's nothing on the field to refute your reasons for optimism. I stay pretty jolly and upbeat through the spring. It usually takes a couple of games into the regular season before reality hits and I turn into a grump again.

I honestly think it is going to be different this time. No really. This isn't snow-melting-in-early-February talking. This is real. This isn't a pennant year. I voted for 2012 over at my pal Mark Zuckerman's new blog ( But this is the "take a big step year." I just know it.

Here are a few reasons why. Disagree if you must but please don't throw cold water in my face until at least April 8. I'd like to stay happy until then.

*The team WILL be better managed. I said this out loud before Jim Riggleman was named non-interim manager (no manager is permanent). I would have said this regardless of the managerial choice. Yeah, we all love Manny and I wish him well in Cleveland and all that. But all three of his teams got off to slow starts. Only the 2007 team recovered. All three seemed to come out of spring training ill prepared. His personality is his personality and he's to be commended for it, but I'm not sure it fit this team. Were the Nats all that much better under Riggleman last season? Not by a lot but there was something there, something in the approach, something I'm not smart enough to define. I felt better about the man at the wheel, let's leave it at that.

*Nyjer. In fairness, Manny might have looked better with a legit speed guy in CF and at the top of his order. Was it really Manny who thought Lastings Milledge was a leadoff guy and a CF? Doesn't really matter now. Nyjer Morgan is both and while he may not be an all-star, he's at least legit and adds something on offense and defense that's been missing. A full year of a healthy Morgan will make a big difference.

*The bullpen won't look like it was thrown together from Toys-R-Us on Christmas Eve. This bullpen looks like it has the potential to at least be at the major-league level. It is not an All-Dumpster Diving crew.

*There's a law that a team can't lose 100 three seasons in a row. It's from the same law book that says a three-colored cat has to be female (who came up with that one). Or is it male? Yeah, I know, the Royals put up a three-straight-100s not that long ago. This law is very new.

*I'm not sure playing Josh Willingham all season in 2009 would have made too big of a difference but I'm willing to guess it may have helped. Pretty good hitter and no worse than what's been in left field. I cancelled a stress test the day after I saw Manny send up Alex Cintron when Willingham was sitting right there.

*Pudge of 2010 ain't the Pudge of old and I don't think anyone in the front office would claim that. I'd hope not. But Pudge of 2010 is a better option at catcher than Josh Bard (no defense, little offense) and Wil Nieves (solid defense, no offense). The offense is better with a Pudge/Flores (please be healthy) combo and so is the defense. Pudge's ability to help the pitchers is a bonus, if that comes to fruition.

*The middle infield situation is *** oh wait, that one goes on the other list. Sure wish I knew who was going to be the SS and who was going to be the 2B. I bet Jim Riggleman does, too.

*One of the "S" guys will emerge, maybe both. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much for Stephen Strasburg in 2010 but that's hard to do in February. I'm equally excited to see what Drew Storen brings to the bullpen. My prediction is one of them becomes a standout. This season.

OK, the cardinal just flew away. Some work has landed in my inbox. Time to stop thinking of baseball for a couple of hours. Let me know your reasons for optimism, if you have any. We'll do pessimism in another post, probably this weekend if we get more snow.