Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday's Starting Five

1. "Skinny" Rodriguez. He used to be Pudgy. He also used to hit home runs at a fairly prodigious clip. He cracked 20+ a year from 1997 to 2001. And, then all of sudden he wasn't pudgy and didn't have too much power in that bat of his (11 home runs in 2007...). While I don't really wonder too much about the pharmaceutical reasons for the ever-shrinking catcher, I do think today is likely a good day for him. Yesterday he was a Detroit Tiger. He's also been a Florida Marlin and a Texas Ranger. Today? He's a New York Yankee. While he's nowhere near the player that he once was (I mean, just not even in the same ballpark) and has no contract once the season ends there probably isn't a better place to inflate one's value than playing in pinstripes in the Bronx down the stretch of an AL East division race and potentially into the playoffs. For the Yankees, I see this move as bit dubious. Rodriguez's greatest asset at this point is name recognition and last I checked that hasn't helped the Yankees win too many games over the last few years (or helped them defeat Rodriguez's Marlins in '03). His batting average is up close to .300 right now but everything is down. Of course, he's played in two World Series so he shouldn't wither in the face of high-leverage situations. That is worth something. But is it really worth one of most used (albeit least liked by fans) relievers? As much as the mention of Kyle Farnsworth's name brought more red than normal to a Yankees fan's eye, the guy threw 40+ innings already and was second to Mariano in innings pitched. He throws hard and isn't as bad as he feels. Word is that he could assume the closer role in Detroit very soon.

2. The California Angels in the Los Angeles Outfield of Anaheim. They just swept a three-game set from the Red Sox. They did this at Fenway Park. And, not too long after they swept a three-game series from the Sox in Anaheim of California. The Halos have the best record in the Big Leagues at 67-40 and made the best trading-deadline acquisition this side of a potential Manny Ramirez deal when they acquired first baseman Mark Teixeira from the Braves.

3. The Houston Rockets. Next season will be a special one for the Rockets. Either they break the parquet ceiling between them and the second round of the NBA playoffs or the officially become the bestest team never to advance past the first round. In a fairly surprising power-move, Houston obtained one-time-fan-fighting and all-the-time defending power forward Ron Artest from the Sacremento Kings. As much as the guy is potentially a lunatic, I've always thought he was still a great ballplayer. Not only can he defend but he does defend as if that rim were in his mamma's kitchen and you were going to steal it. And, he can score points. The BIG question, looming taller than even the 7'6'' Yao Ming, is the health of the Rockets as both Tracy McGrady and Yao have long injury histories but IF they stay healthy I think they have to be right there at the top of the West next season. Artest is a top-notch third option on offense and he takes even more pressure of guys like Rafer Alston and Carl Landry. And, the Rockets now have two lock-down defenders: Artest and Shane Battier. Most teams don't really even have one.

4. Anyone Who Stands 7-feet Tall and is Physically Fit. For the 84-inches-and-up set, it's been a banner week. You now know officially, without a doubt, that you will always have a job with the NBA. It became official when the Detroit Pistons, whose GM Joe Dumars is considered one of the few savvy fellows who holds such a job, signed former No. 1 draft pick and current draft-day cautionary tale Kwame Brown to a two-year $8 million contract earlier this week. Uhh-waaah? Brown has been nothing but terrible with brief spikes of mediocrity. He is a physically gifted human being. And that is really all he is. He is not basketball player. Every asset he has he was born with. The height, the body, the metabolism. All of it. And for that he is a millionaire. No matter how badly he has failed in his previous stops he still got another chance. Because you can't teach height. So, rejoice all you seven-footers out there. The rest of you? Back to your desk-jobs.

5. Anyone Who Has Springsteen Tickets For Tonight. I know that the waiting for the work-day to end is deadening but how excited are you right now? That first beer in the parking lot of Giants Stadium is going to be perfect. It's going to be a little warm from the ride and you wouldn't want it any other way. What's he going to open with? Radio Nowhere? Night? No Surrender? What's he going to close with? Thundercrack? Rosalita? What will be played that hasn't already been played? I think we'll hear Thunder Road and Jersey Girl and I hope we'll hear The River, For You and Red-Headed Woman.