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May 21, 2008
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My Thoughts for May 21, 2008
by Asher B. Chancey,
May 21, 2008

I have been experiencing major writer's block lately. I recently bought a book by William Safire, a collection of his columns from the mid-1990s to the early part of this decade, so maybe I was intimidated.

Anyway, the best way to break through the block is, probably, to write. So, here's some thoughts on paper, if for no other reason than to kick the tires and light the fires.

The Bourn Percentage

Last year I theorized that the Astros killed their lineup by consistently batting Craig Biggio, who was way past his time, in the leadoff spot because it was his last year. This year, Michael Bourn has taken over the leadoff role, and has been performing worse than Biggio did. The result? The Astros are one of the top five offensive teams in the National League. So much for that theory.

Speaking of the Astros, how about that Lance Berkman? Maybe the most suprising aspect of his season so far is the fact that he leads the NL in power-speed number, and his eight stolen bases are one short of a career high.

Speaking of Big Seasons

Here’s a little insight into Chipper Jones’ big season – he is hitting .409 after never having hit higher than .333 over the course of a full season. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Chipper currently leads all of Major League Baseball in singles with 46 after never having finished in the top ten in that category in his entire career.

Did he break his arm again?

The bottom has simply fallen out from under Derrek Lee. On April 23rd, he was hitting .378/.430/.700, but less than one month later, he now stands at .302/.367/.540.

The Detroit Tigers have one of the largest payrolls in baseball and nothing to show for it. Why?

Like the New York Yankees of this decade and the Chicago White Sox after the 2005 championship team, the Tigers did a poor job of paying attention to a) what got them there, and b) what their needs were going forward. The 2007 Tigers were an excellent hitting team with bend-but-don't-break pitching and borderline defense. At a time when the Tigers should have been shoring up the defense and adding a trusty arm, they brought in two excellent offensive players – Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cabrera – whose defensive abilities are either fading (Renteria) or non-existent (Cabrera), plus a pitcher in Dontrelle Willis who hadn't put it all together in a few seasons, and they gave up all of their prospects to do it.

The Baltimore Orioles are currently three games over .500 after shedding their best offensive player and their best pitcher. What gives?

As it turns out, the Orioles' outfield of Nick Markakis plus off-season acquisitions Luke Scott and Adam Jones is one of the best defensive outfields in the league, while replacing Miguel Tejada with Luis Hernandez has dramatically improved the up-the-middle defense. These changes are reflected in the precipitous drop in hits allowed per game by the pitching staff (from 9.2 in 2007 to 8.2 in 2008), and in the re-emergence of Daniel Cabrera, whose WHIP has fallen dramatically.

I was really starting to get worried.

After hitting only five homeruns in the first month-and-a-half of the season, Ryan Braun has hit eight in the last 10 days and now has an OPS of .909. Now if the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers can snap out of it, maybe this team can start to compete. . . . Speaking of the Brewers, Dave Bush finally won his first game of the year last Monday, and failed to yield three or more earned runs for the first time all season. I was beginning to think that Bernie Brewer was using a sniper rifle to pick off one Brewers starting pitcher per season – first Ben Sheets, then Chris Capuano, then Dave Bush. Of course, with Yovani Gallardo out for the year, I could still be right.

Jacque Jones has signed with the Florida Marlins, which means to me that Dave Dombrowski promised to make a call on Jones’ behalf when he cut him from the Tigers last week. Personally, I think Jacques Jones is ready to join the Craig Monroe Hall of Fame, but I am rooting for him with the Marlins, just so the team can continue to one-up the Tigers.

And speaking of the Tigers, here is my new defensive alignment suggestion – put Carlos Guillen back at shortstop, Brandon Inge back at third base, move Edgar Renteria to first base, and put Miguel Cabrera in left field.

Now starting at third base for the Diamondbacks . . .

What ever happened to Chad Tracy? Three years ago, he was the next “it” for the Diamondbacks at third, and now it is 2008, and Arizona is stuck with the supremely less talented Mark Reynolds, who may become the first person to strike out 300 times in a season. Tracy is currently getting back into game shape in Triple-A, and for the sake of the D-Backs offense, I hope he becomes the option of the future again soon.

Pitcher Time for the Phillies

Oh man, I just had a horrible vision – come August, with the Tigers out of the playoff race and the Phillies surprisingly in it in the NL East, the Phillies are going to trade minor league stud J.A. Happ to the Tigers for Kenny Rogers. I just know it.

Reunion Time

I have been hearing whispers about Ken Griffey, Jr., whose career appears to be winding down, getting traded from the Reds, who have nothing going on, to the Mariners, for whom ditto. I am more excited about the idea of Greg Maddux returning to Atlanta to rejoin Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. With Glavine having attained his career goals, Smoltz battling injury and threatening to return from the DL in a reliever only role, and Maddux pitching with minimal effectiveness, this could be the last season for all three of these future Hall of Famers. Seeing them together in uniform one last time would be the best thing since, ironically, the Mariners acquired Ken Griffey, Sr. at the end of his career.

Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at