Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
Bryan (St. Louis MO): Joe, what's your take on the NL Central? The Cards have a potent lineup but only two reliable SP, the Cubs have just the opposite with the great SP but mediocre hitting, and the Stros have about the same as the Cards, with a better bullpen. What's it going to take for one of these three teams to emerge as the leader?
I'm not sure anyone will put out front. If you have good hitting and all of a sudden you get some good hitting, you have a better chance to pull away. It's kind of a catch 22. All those teams have weaknesses. Whoever can fill that need the quickest will pull away. It's going to be a close race most of the way.
[Mike: Can anyone "put out front"? I think that Mickey told Rocky that that sort of behavior was bad for the legs in Rocky I.
This sentence defies logic: "If you have good hitting and all of a sudden you get some good hitting, you have a better chance to pull away." To quote Buckaroo Banzai (for the first time right here on our big shoe, ladies and gentlemen), "Whenever you turn around, there you are." (And you thought I was going to quote John Lithgow's character from that movie by saying, "Laugh while you can, monkey boy!")
It's not a catch-22 by the way. Here's Merriam Webster Online's definition for the term:
1 : a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule [the show-business catch-22--no work unless you have an agent, no agent unless you've worked -- Mary Murphy]; also : the circumstance or rule that denies a solution
2 a : an illogical, unreasonable, or senseless situation b : a measure or policy whose effect is the opposite of what was intended c : a situation presenting two equally undesirable alternatives
3 : a hidden difficulty or means of entrapment : CATCH
Their situations are by no means Gordian knots that are insoluble by definition. They just need a couple of players to pick it up or to pick up a couple of players.
Anyway, here's the perfect Joe prediction that has enough disclaimers to cover not only his, but the entire Big Red Machine's behind. Whoever fills their "need" and plays best, wins. Great! So who's that going to be? The Magic Eight Ball would give you a better prediction.
Who do I think will win it? I'm leaning towards the Cards. Their record is actually a little worse than expected:
CENTRAL W L Exp W Exp L St. Louis 43 38 46 35 Houston 42 39 45 36 Chicago 42 39 43 38
The Cardinals have by far the best offense and the Cubs have the best pitching.
The Cardinals starting pitching should improve, but any time that Kiko Calero is your best reliever, you have problems. Their bullpen has been atrocious (5.04 ERA) and probably won't improve much without reinforcements. Oh, and Morris injury situation will be very important.
The Cubs offense should improve in the second half with healthy at-bats from Sammy Sosa and Hee Seop Choi. And Jose Hernandez should help. But with Grudzielanek, Miller, and Gonzalez getting plenty of ABs, they will still have holes (and Hernandez has been a sink hole so far this year).
The Astros will suffer while Kent is out. There doesn't seem much chance of their players having a bigger second half than first (maybe Bagwell). Their starting pitching (4.57 ERA) has been suspect behind Oswalt. Miller should improve but Redding is starting to tank. And there is not much but unproven Triple-A tripe behind them. The 'Stros do have a good, deep bullpen (3:38 ERA with Wagner, Dotel, Lidge, Munro, Stone, and maybe Saarlos).
These teams are pretty even overall, but I just think the Cardinals will pull it out. Oh, sorry, "put out front".]
Derek ( WV ): Joe, as always it's a pleasure to hear what you think about all the happenings in baseball. On to the question. Some people say that when you ask who is the best player in baseball it is easy to just say Bonds, or A-Rod....while in other sports like football its harder to pick one solid star. Do you think that's a positive for baseball, or do you think it shows that maybe the league needs to find new ways to promote stars in the league. I know it's a team game, but with the unfortunate drop in popularity of baseball, don't you think only having a few players as the face of the league to most people is not the way to go.
I think it's always good to be able to identify the best in any sport because it creates interest in people to declare who those players are.
[Mike: Or to quote Frank Burns, "It's nice to be nice to the nice."
Again Joe is channeling Coach from Cheers. Whatever he is trying to say is lost one me. Is it that identifying the best leads to declaring who's best? Or is that the better you identify a sport, the more creative the interest people will declare? Or "Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic..."? Your guess is as good as mine.
But on to Derek, do you think basketball suffered when it was ruled by Michael Jordan? Having one or a few players who play exceptionally well and "having a few players as the face of the league to most people" are mutually exclusive. The NBA is a great example. They promoted many players while MJ was universally acclaimed the best, and they were very popular with the fans. Baseball just does not bother to promote its stars. It would rather devalue the players and promote retro uniforms, bobble heads, and home field in the World Series determined by an exhibition.
By the way, "it's a pleasure to hear what you think"-you had better oil the wheel for the hamster before you go non compus mentus.
To be continued...
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