The Gray Pages

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Farm Team

The Post reports that we have no farm system. This piece from last year's Baseball America is also useful.

I have to admit that I'm really confused about this. For years, all I've been hearing about is how the Expos were forced to trade away their most expensive talent and just receive prospects in return. As part of a multi-team deal, the Red Sox traded for Orlando Cabrera last year because the Expos wouldn't be able to resign him, and Montreal got Francis Beltran, Brendan Harris, and Alex Gonzales in return. Gonzales is now a Devil Ray, but the other two remain with the Nationals. Really, I don't know a thing about Beltran and Harris, but after years of doing deals like this, shouldn't Washington be full of young talent? (In fairness, Cabrera was batting .246 at the time of the trade with an on base percentage of .298, so he wasn't exactly a hot commodity.)

But we aren't full of young talent.

Baseball America reminded me that in 2002, Omar Minaya -- in a no-win position -- nevertheless traded away Jason Bay, Cliff Lee, Donald Levinski, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Matt Watson and Justin Wayne to try to win the Wild Card that year. Part of my bias in this comes from never being a believer in Bartolo Colon; Montreal sent Sizemore, Phillips, and Stevens to the Indians for Colon and Tim Drew. It didn't work out.

Hell, I don't know who half of those guys are, but Bay just won the National League Rookie of the Year and Cliff Lee now an Indian, and is the best young pitcher on that staff. The Giants wound up winning the Wild Card in 2002, and the Indians made themselves a contender in 2004. It was a perfect trade for Cleveland, who had no hope of contending that year or the next.

Somehow, Washington is presently left with very little in its farm system. I really can't add much here, because the Post article neglected to mention the AGES of any of the top prospects. I don't believe anything I read about a pitcher under 22, so forgive me if I'm not excited about Clint Everts.

It's going to be very, very hard to say, "Wait 'til next year" with a straight face.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


I've only been running this here blog for a month or so, and I've got less than a dozen posts to my record. That will take care of itself in time, but my three loyal readers will have to believe me when I say that I used to be more than skeptical about the issue of steroids in baseball. Whether there were those who were cheating really didn't bother me, and regardless, baseball's problem was nowhere near that of football where pituitary cases reign.

(Am I truly to believe that there are literally hundreds of muscular men who weigh more than 250 pounds? Why don't I ride the Metro with anyone who looks like this? I mean, in real life I've met plenty of people over 6' 6" tall -- my sister dated one -- and didn't play professional basketball. But I've never met anyone who looks like he could play in the NFL but doesn't. But I digress. Go Patriots.)

All that changed at some random point that I can't recall. See, this is where my lack of a record is a hindrance. If The Gray Pages were three years old, then I'd be able to link to the game story of whatever game it was when a second baseman, I assume someone on the Sox, hit a homerun that I witnessed and thought -- and I might be paraphrasing here -- "Yeah, right."

When one cannot believe what one saw with his own eyes, an event ceases to be live history and becomes a magic act. Now, I like magic. My minor obsession with cheating the system -- not actually cheating it, mind you, just looking for the loophole -- has always meant that I'm dying to know just how they did that. (Man, that special on NBC with the masked wrestlers explaining how each move is choreographed -- good television.) (And yet I didn't watch the specials about magic tricks themselves. This is what makes me so interesting.)

But, unlike a magic act, we don't watch baseball to wonder what we just saw, but to believe it. As Keith Foulke tossed that ball in slow motion to Doug Mienktiewicz -- time enough for my phone to ring five times and terrible possibilities to emerge in my mind -- one thought to pervaded: "So, that's what it looks like." I had always wondered what it would look like if the Sox won. Now I knew.

I need to believe that a home run is really a home run, and not a fly ball assisted by whatever comprises the next generation of artificial muscles. Without some sort of steroid policy -- however tepid -- baseball threatens to become theater.

So I'm pleased that the forces that be figured out some sort of plan to test for steroids, to give a little bit of credibility back to the sport I love. From what I've read thus far, it seems adequate. Tough it isn't. Tough isn't making the punishment fit the crime, but deterrence. And a chance at a ten-game suspension isn't a deterrent. But it's a start.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Randy Johnson

One of the interesting things about going abroad for a couple of weeks (especially if you include five days near Orlando as foreign travel) is the news that one misses. I was heading to a bar in Montezuma, Costa Rica, when I passed by a television set, turned to ESPN, showing an NBA game between Philadelphia and someone else. It dawned on me that I had gone all that time without wasting a moment hearing news about entire categories of stuff I don't care about.

In an era of twenty-four hour newscycles (an era that I can't imagine will ever end), something has to fill the thousands of hours of programming weekly on this collection of stations. Almost by definition, we can look back on many of these so-called events and realized how unimportant they are. Or were. Being abroad, I got to miss out on this stuff entirely. It was great.

Which brings me to the current saga of Randy Johnson. That he's established himself as a jerk of the first order is now beyond question. That it matters is simply amazin'. In a just a few months, he'll be pitching the opener against the Red Sox, a team that was largely dependent upon lefties Johnny Damon at the top and David Ortiz in the middle of the order for its offensive punch. Whether the Big Unit (and his horrible nickname) can silence those lefties and Manny Ramirez will say a lot about what happens in game one of the 2005 ALCS.

In the meantime, I'm going to return to John Adams as much as possible, and try to stay focused on the big picture, and not the big pitcher.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

I'm back ... in blog form

Wow ... actual readers visited while I was gone. This is just stunning news to me.

Anyway, eleven days in Costa Rica were a truly wonderful way to spend my honeymoon. I brought David McCollough's John Adams with me, and I think it was a great inspiration for this blog. Only time will tell if I'll have anything worthwhile to say, but it made a tremendous impression on me that there's so much of a record of Adams's thoughts thanks to his letter writing to Abigail and others, and his keeping of a journal. I wouldn't be surprised if I stray from baseball thoughts regularly, but it's a goal of mine to write more often, and this is a great vehicle for me to do so.

I have practically nothing to say about baseball, because I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks to the three visitors who stopped by. Please keep coming.