Hot Toast Report: “Would you like some toast?”

It’s December already. Can you BELIEVE it? The temperature is dropping ever lower, but fortunately the hot stove is starting to heat up a bit. Here are a few of the names/rumors that have been poppin’ out of the toaster lately.

Troy Tulowitzki signed an extension that will keep him with the Rockies through 2020. Lots of years and lots of money involved. Also, lots of hair (it’s Troy Tulowitzki, after all. Wait, how did he escape my MLB Worst Hair list?) If this was the Cubs, Mr. Tulo would certainly be plagued by constant injuries and a little something called “I-forgot-what-a-bat-is-itis.” Since it’s not the Cubs, I freely extend congratulations to Mr. Tulo AND the Rockies organization on what is sure to be a long and productive relationship.

Derek Jeter has been causing something of a stir. Supposedly, his representatives have actually been contacted by teams other than the Yankees! GASP! I would be shocked if this amounted to anything whatsoever. Fans and media like to indulge in a little off-season soap opera drama, and I think that is why it’s being played up. Derek Jeter has been a Yankee, is a Yankee, and will be a Yankee. (Did you see the fun that The Beckett Blog had with these rumors? Behold.)

The Cubs… so many names of first basemen and starting pitchers have been thrown around that I find it hard to take any rumors seriously. A few of the crumbs I deemed worth chewing on:

Carlos Pena’s name has come up. I love Carlos Pena. I love him. I don’t think that he is the answer to the Cubs problems. I do think I would prefer him to Adam Dunn. Especially if he would sign for a one or two year deal. Someone half-decent to hold us over for a year or two is what the Cubs should be looking for, in my opinion.

Lance Berkman. Lance Berkman? Lance Berkman. Yeah. That would take some getting used to.

Brandon Webb. Injuries, schminjuries. I’d take Brandon Webb in a New York minute. Unfortunately, I think there are plenty of GMs out there who feel the same way. Mr. Webb will return to glory with some other team and the Cubs will end up with Vicente Padilla or Kevin Millwood. Sigh.

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One last thing. The Dodgers shipped Ryan Theriot to St. Louis. If The Riot had any admirers left in Chicago, he lost ’em when he said: “I’m finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.” Ha. On a positive note, this comment inspired one of the best Twitter hashtags in recent memory.

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R is for Rookie

In honor of the American and National League Championship Series, we’re going to take a fun little stroll down memory lane and revisit what some of the more prominent players looked like as rookies (or, even better, minor leaguers.) Why? Because it’s fun.

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NLCS

Tim Lincecum: Insert your own caption here. My head is about to explode with all the possibilities…

Jimmy Rollins: You know how in some sitcoms they’ll do flashback episodes and give the main characters ridiculous hairstyles to communicate the point that they’re supposed to be younger? It’s the sort of thing audiences laugh at because it is so silly and unrealistic. Yet if you put a braided wig on Jimmy Rollins now… would he not look exactly the same as he does on this card?

Harry Leroy Halladay:

Jayson Werth: I know that I have posted this photo before, but I simply can’t get over it.ALCS

Kerry Wood: Before he lost the baby fat.

CC Sabathia: His baby fat never went anywhere.

Derek Jeter: I could have produced an entire gallery of just amusing Derek Jeter rookie photos. Not even joking.

Josh Hamilton: The face is the same… the forearms, not so much.

Vladimir Guerrero: When Vladdy was but a laddy.

Cliff Lee: Clifton Phifer Lee looks exactly the same now as he did 8 years ago. Ten bucks says that another 8 years won’t change him a bit, either.

Wildcard Wednesday: All-Starry Night

While last evening’s All Star Game was riddled with a million little things that made me want to throw forks and spoons at the television set, it was also the best Midsummer Classic I’ve ever watched. The NL at last ended that 14 year streak, thanks in no small part to lone Cub rep Marlon Byrd, and my favorite major-league catcher, Brian McCann. Kudos and kisses to those fellas.

Here are a couple of quotes from last night:

“I’m going to host the whole thing. … I’m going to host it—have some fun, smile, kiss some babies.” -Torii Hunter, of the host LA Angels of A

“Catchers know. He can bang. He can flat-out rake, and the reason he doesn’t get noticed very much is because he’s that good of a catcher. Good catchers don’t get noticed. That’s the job, and he’s just out there every year, getting it done and being one of the best in the game.” -John Buck (Toronto)

“Marlon made a good throw to second and it was a great play. It was the only play he had. If that ball gets by him, it would have been second and third with one out. I’m happy for Marlon. He deserves it. I’m proud of him.” -Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati)

“I don’t like the Cubs. And I’m not going to pat anybody with a Cubs uniform on the back.” -Joey Votto (Cincinnati)

Mr. Phillips > Mr. Votto

And now, here are a bunch of pictures. Because I’m lazy and don’t feel like writing any more.

Rays 3B Evan Longoria and family in the pre-game parade thing.

Jose Valverde… shudder. He just looks like a villain.

Peekaboo, Jason Heyward!

How nice that they let this poor little crippled boy onto the field! Oh, wait…

People need to quit booing the Yankees. See? Even A’s closer Andrew Bailey there in the background thinks it’s funny.

The very All-Starriest of All Stars.

Byrd = Wyrd.

He done done us proud.

At last! A happy ending for the National League. Let’s do it again next year, y’all!

Predictorama 2010: Wagons East!

This is the continuance of my 2010 divisional projections… Last week I covered the West, now it’s time to tackle the big East! So let’s giddyup!

National League East – Will the Phillies keep up a stranglehold on the division? Will the Mets hit rock bottom? Will this be one of those strange random years when the Marlins win the World Series? If you’re looking for real answers to these questions, I’m sorry… you have come to the wrong place.

Philadelphia Phillies: Paparazzi will photograph Ryan Howard eating a sub at Quiznos and scandal will ensue. During a game in July, a stray kitty cat will find it’s way onto the field at Citizens Bank Park and Chase Utley will adopt it on the spot. I predict that the Phillies will not be the best team in the NL. Not because I believe it, but because I just really want to.

Florida Marlins: I’ll finally uncover the truth of Taylor Tankersley’s mysterious origins. Hanley Ramirez will learn to wink with both eyes.

Atlanta Braves: Though Tom Glavine has retired from baseball, expect him to soon announce a new deal with the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers. Jo-Jo Reyes will still be the only major leaguer with that first name.

New York Mets: Troubled mascot Mr. Met will run away from home. The health of the Mets’ key players will continue to crumble like a stale cookie. Someone will invent a memory erasing machine (like in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) so everyone will finally be able to forget 1969.

Washington Nationals: The Nats will make the postseason (YES THEY WILL) due entirely to the acquisition of Jason Marquis. Adam Kennedy will pitch. Nyjer Morgan will be my fantasy steal of the year.

American League East – The most frightening league in the Majors. In so many ways…

New York Yankees: Derek Jeter will introduce some exciting new products in his Avon line! Nick Swisher won’t change a bit. I will go on loving Brett Gardner no matter what he does.

Boston Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon’s face won’t get any prettier. The green monster will eat Jeremy Hermida. Tim Wakefield will throw some more knuckle-balls.

Tampa Bay Rays: B.J. Upton will melt your heart. Carlos Pena will sign your taco.

Toronto Blue Jays: Bench coach Brian Butterfield will go on the Brian Butterfield diet plan and gain 23 pounds in the first two weeks. Edwin Encarnacion will be eaten by a garfoose.

Baltimore Orioles: The O’s will sign a member of their grounds crew to a major league contract and he’ll become the ace of their pitching staff.

The happiest of possible words: Pitchers and catchers report

Pitchers and catchers report. To a baseball fan, there cannot be too many four words together that carry more excitement or anticipation (Maybe, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” Maybe.) It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of the reigning World Champions, or the team that lost 100 games the previous year. When pitchers and catchers report, there is always hope.

Spring training, after awhile, is always kind of like an h’ors d’oeuvre, or a movie trailer. By the end, you’re ready for the main course, or the real movie. Starting off, though, there is nothing like it to whet one’s appetite after a long hungry winter.

Here are some assorted photos to offer us all a little spring warmth.

This isn’t actually a spring training photo. It was taken in Japan a couple weeks ago, I believe. But when I saw those shorts Ichiro has on, I knew I couldn’t let it pass.

Hey, look! It’s two of the most admirable men in baseball.

John Grabow and Randy Wells, already feelin’ the burn. (Courtesy Tim Sheridan’s Boys of Spring blog)

Big Z hits a monster shot while youngster Tyler Colvin looks on.

2009 Awards Analysis: “I just wanna say, like, ‘yay’ to all of [you] for a really great year!”

This isn’t really analysis. I promise one of these days I’ll do some actual research. Until then here are my opinions on the major award winners of 2009, presented to you in a bit of a jumble.

Rookie of the Year

AL: Some people were cranky over the selection of Andrew Bailey. I’m inclined to think that Elvis Andrus will have the last laugh.

NL: I guess voters were taken with Chris Coghlan’s batting average, a sparkly .321. Fools gold! His secondary average was an unimpressive .250. Andrew McCutcheon or someone was probably more deserving. Again, though… last laughs. On a side note, I may be a trifle bitter on this one as I wanted Randy Wells to deserve to win.

Managers of the Year


This is the least exciting of all the awards. In fact, I almost forgot to mention it at all. It’s just not something that seems to mean a lot from year to year. I doubt Eric Wedge was thinking, “I’ll always have Manger of the Year, oh-seven!” when Cleveland canned him late this season. But, hey! Congrats, anyway, Mike Scioscia and Jim Tracy!

Gold Gloves

Ugh. There are too many variables that go into defense. I don’t know how to evaluate them, and I don’t feel like the Gold Glove voters do, either. Sabermetricians have made strides in solving the defensive conundrums, but I have yet to absorb these newfangled fielding stats (I’m still wrapping my head around BABIP, alright?) The Fielding Bible releases its own awards, the “Silk Gloves.” The 2009 winners can be seen here. These are the deserving defenders. Bill James knows. You can trust Bill James. Here are my own scant thoughts on this year’s winners:

-I don’t care if they’re any good or not. Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins and Torii Hunter are really boring selections.

-Why are all the outfield winners center-fielders? It doesn’t seem fair. CORNER OUTFIELDERS HAVE FEELINGS, TOO.

-My love for the glove of Derrek Lee is unsurpassed. That said, I’m glad for Adrian Gonzalez. He deserved to win something, y’know?

-It’s kind of a shame that Kurt Suzuki has Mr. Mauer to contend with. He deserves a little recognition.

Cy Young

AL: Zack Greinke… what a weirdo (I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.) He deserved the award, but didn’t really want it. He enjoys pitching for Kansas City. Really, Mr. Greinke’s attitude is refreshing and delicious. Not unlike a cold Fufu Berry soda. Mmm.

NL: Little Timmy Lincecum snagged another one! I can’t help feeling that eventually his crazy delivery is going to destroy his legs and hips. And then he’ll have to hobble around on crutches. Unless all that ice cream he eats can save him.

MVP

AL: Joe Mauer doesn’t even seem like a real person. He’s too flawless. Like a Disney movie hero, or something. I mean, a catcher hitting north of .360?!?! Swoon! And look at this press conference! Just look at it! How tickled pink does Joe Mauer look in that video? Gah! It’s too hard to write of this man objectively, so I’m just gonna stop.

NL: Everybody knows that Albert Pujols is the greatest baseball player on the planet and that he was the only choice for NL MVP this season. What everybody doesn’t know is my personal opinion of the man. It was a secret… till now. I’m just going to out and say it and hope my fellow Cubs fans don’t lynch me. I genuinely like Albert Pujols. As a baseball player and as a human being. I think he is awesome. I think he deserves every award that he is qualified to win. I also hope he remains a St. Louis Cardinal for life. There! –Runs off. Hides.-