Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Assignments and other fun stuff

Monday night the University of San Diego somehow beat #22 Gonzaga to win the West Coast Conference tournament - and secure an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. This was cause for some celebration here in the hometown. Being the casual local sports fan, I picked up Tuesday's sports section to read the summary and reaction to the game. All positive. Even though USD will probably be first round fodder for a #3 or higher seed.

Underneath the Tuesday sports section was the Wednesday section (today's paper to me, tomorrow's by the time you read this). In there I found this little tidbit:

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (NL)–Optioned RHP Mark Worrell, RHP Blake Hawkesworth and INF Jarrett Hoffpauir to Memphis (PCL). Assigned RHP John Wasdin and INF Josh Phelps to their minor league camp.
Most of the names on this list didn't surprise me, but Josh Phelps' name did. Here's a guy ostensibly picked up as insurance for AP; if AP's elbow exploded, at least we'd have a right-handed guy with some pop to step in for him.

If he's in minor league camp, and therefore on his way to the minors when the team breaks camp, that isn't going to happen.

So who backs up AP at first? Here's a thought - Chris Duncan.

Lets face it - Duncan tries hard, but he ain't the best defensive outfielder in the league. But he worked his way through the system as a first baseman. Moving him to first as a back-up removes one name from a still crowded field of guys vying for the 3 starting spots - and it gives the team a good power bat off the bench.

The downside is that his LF spot will probably be inherited by... Juan Gone. A minimal upgrade (in my mind) in power, and probably a wash on bad defense. Interesting.


A note about today's big brawl between the Rays and Yankees. This was allegedly started with Elliot Johnson (2B prospect for Tampa) collided with Francisco Cervelli (C prospect for New York American) on a play at home, and Cervelli caught the worst of it, breaking his wrist. There were some things said in the paper by Yankee manager Joe Girardi and Rays advisor Don Zimmer, and then today's events (Longoria hit by a pitch, Duncan sliding in at second with his cleats up).

First, Johnson is trying to make the team. You make the team by making an impression, by playing hard. So for a guy trying to make the majors to come charging around third when there's a play at the plate and make an aggressive move for the bag is part of the game. Cervelli breaking his wrist is unfortunate and tragic, but sometimes that's the way it goes. Rabbit Maranville broke HIS LEG in a play at the plate during a spring training game; it ended his career.

It would have probably died this weekend if Girardi hadn't called the play bush. He's responsible for what happened today. His comments fanned the flames, and then Zimmer had to chime in, and the next thing you know some guys are getting thrown at and other guys are sliding into people's legs with their spikes up. Nice call, Joe.

I'll tell you what - if it's me, and I'm trying to make the team, I'm playing each inning like it's my last. Because it definitely could be. And if that means I've got to run someone over to make the roster, banzai. [clarification note: playing hard does NOT include trying to stick your nails into someone's knee. If Girardi wants to complain about something, there's a good topic to start with.]


Final college hoops thought: Today's Syracuse/Villanova game was touted as a NCAA Tournament play-in game; winner would go, especially if Syracuse won. Well, the Orangemen got crushed by 19. Now the talking heads are saying, well, Villanova improved their chances, but they really need to beat Georgetown tomorrow to lock it up. Bastards.

You know tomorrow if Nova beats the Hoyas, they'll say, well, Villanova really improved their case, but they probably still need to beat Connecticut.

Go Cats. [Update 3/13 2100: Hoyas 82, 'Cats 63. So much for that.]

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