Al's Ramblings



Thursday, February 27, 2003

(2/27/2003 10:14:00 PM) - Al

Two quick notes:

1. Sadness abounds for anyone who grew up watching Fred Rogers PBS show. He passed away today, and the world truly lost a good guy. I grew up on him, Sesame Street, and The Electric Company, and my penchant for bad TV still leads me to watch Match Game several times a week.

2. I'm not going to dig up the link, but I saw this headline yesterday:

Ordonez may bat 2nd

Honest. TB may take the worst hitter in the game and give him an extra 100 PA's a year. Good thinkin'.

All Lou needs to do is bump his pitcher up to the leadoff spot, and we got a dandy start to a true "bizarro" batting order.


2/27/2003 10:14:00 PM



(2/27/2003 10:09:00 PM) - Al

Yet another draft tonight, but with intelligent Brewers fans, so I got a lot fewer sleepers. I will likely be telling how my Crew projections stack up with BP's and Baseball Forecaster's. Hopefully, those folks will be even more optimistic.:)



2/27/2003 10:09:00 PM


Tuesday, February 25, 2003

(2/25/2003 08:39:00 PM) - Al

Having taken part in several fantasy league drafts over the past few days, I have but one question:

How bad do you think Tampa Bay will be? When Mike Gimbel predicted 44 wins, I thought he was way off. But, no one seems to have any interest in any of their players, with even teams with equally poor '02 marks, like DET & MIL, having more than twice the players drafted than TB. They certainly have all the potential in the world to be hellishly awful.



2/25/2003 08:39:00 PM



(2/25/2003 08:34:00 PM) - Al

From the e-mailbag:

Hello Al,

My idea to improve the schedule would be to eliminate divisions, stop interleague play, and play a balanced schedule.

In the American League, every team would play the other 13 teams 12 games for a total of 156 games. If they wanted to maintain a 162 game schedule, each team would play 7 teams 12 games and 6 teams 13 games.

In the National League, every team would play 9 teams 12 games, and 6 teams 8 or 9 games for a total of 156 or 162. How they would determine the 8 or 9 game opponents would be based on geography and previous year's record. Teams like the Cardinals and Cubs would play 12 games every year. Same for Phillies-Mets, Dodgers-Giants, etc.

With a balanced schedule there would never be another discussion of weak divisions or unfair home field advantage.

The goal of each league should be to get the four best teams in their league in the playoffs-regardless of geography. The only way to accomplish this is to eliminate divisions, discontinue interleague play, and play a balanced, fair schedule.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Thank you,

Ron
Gurnee, IL


Thanks for writing Ron. Ron says he found me during an internet search for "people who write on the schedule". After thanking him for reading and that I'd answer him in the blog, he had to write back and ask what the addy was, as he hadn't written it down. Ron, hope you found it and read regularly from now on.

I don't dislike your schedule, and in fact, find it very fair considering the wildcard exists. That said, I don't find it an improvement over the current arrangement. I still wish MLB could add a couple teams to make 32 total, and have 2 leagues of 16, with 4 divisions of 4. That won't happen for a while, as baseball has a couple teams, namely those in the Sunshine State, that are unhealthy. Hopefully, in about a decade or so, baseball will add a couple teams, and this pie-in-the-sky dream will become a reality.

As many readers will recall (I'd say 2 or 3 of the 5 that visit daily:), the NL considered this arrangement 2-3 years ago. If memory serves, the alignment went as follows:

Mets
Expos
Phillies
Pirates

Braves
Marlins
Reds
AL team


Cubs
Cards
Brewers
Astros

Dodgers
Padres
Giants
Rockies

As you can see, it involved the Diamondbacks moving to the AL, and a team I cannot recall swapping leagues as well. I believe one problem that came up was the uncertainty that MON would be a member of the NL much longer. The big drawing card of this arrangement was the division rivalries that would be enhanced (or created) by playing each other so often, as I seem to remember playing the three in division teams 24 times a season. I loved that idea personally. However, some clubs were unhappy that big drawing cards would NOT be a regular visitor. That, and the MON question mark, led to the decision to "table" this proposal until a later date.

I'm a big fan of promoting rivalry, fictional or not. While the Astros and Brewers are not bitter rivals currently, one year of fighting for a title would change that. It would allow nothing but division versus division games the last month of the season. And it gets rid of the wildcard, which I don't really mind; but the idea of the two great teams each winning 95 games and fighting it out to win the division is quite appealing as well.

Other than that wonderful future option, I guess I'm fine with the current arrangement.


2/25/2003 08:34:00 PM


Saturday, February 22, 2003

(2/22/2003 06:40:00 PM) - Al

OAK signed Ron Gant to a minor league contract. What's funny about that is, Rickey Henderson has been begging for an opportunity to play for the A's, but Beane said he didn't have a use for a veteran reserve RH OF...which is exactly what Gant is.

While I would guess Gant was signed to be a platoon LF/DH, and mainly for his ability to hit for power against LH pitchers, Rickey would have been a better choice, in my view. Rickey still gets on base at a .360 clip, and while his SLG has fallen off, he still hits lefties pretty well.

I find it very surprising that not one team can use a 5th OF who gets on 36% of the time.


2/22/2003 06:40:00 PM



(2/22/2003 10:45:00 AM) - Al

Nick Neugebauer will undergo surgery on his pitching arm/shoulder. It is unknown until they "open him up" the extent of the damage, which seems to be the rotator cuff.

From the JS, telling of the battle for the #5 spot in the rotation in 2002:

Though he was bothered by shoulder soreness and slowed by an upper respiratory virus early in camp, Neugebauer rallied and made two exhibition starts in Arizona. Though his control was inconsistent, he touched 94 to 96 mph on the radar gun. That velocity, coupled with an injury to the other No. 5 candidate, Paul Rigdon, made Neugebauer the front-runner for the No. 5 spot.

Three sources who attended the staff meeting at which the decision was made said there were differences of opinion as to whether the Brewers should take Neugebauer north after just two somewhat shaky appearances and 5 2/3 innings
. Apparently, pitching coach Dave Stewart strongly argued that Neugebauer was healthy enough to start the season with the big-league club. Manager Davey Lopes and general manager Dean Taylor agreed.

Apparently, Dave Stewart is indeed Satan, my friends. We will be suffering the results of his ignorance and ineptitude for at least the next decade. He did nothing except waste a year of our time, as well as a year of his pitchers' career. He watched Ruben Quevedo's velocity fall from the low-to-mid 90's to the mid 80's, and did nothing except sit in the dugout and tell Lopester how awesome he used to be, and how today's pitchers need to "toughen up". He taught Ben Sheets how to pitch around hitters, rather than going right after them.

Dave Stewart should be banned from spending another day in organized baseball. Reinstate Rose, suspend Stewart for life. What a frickin' moron. He is as worthless as a half-price bucket of spit...without the personality.



2/22/2003 10:45:00 AM



(2/22/2003 09:52:00 AM) - Al

Just got an e-mail from Mike Gimbel, saying he has adjusted his win totals for the Twins and a few other AL clubs. To shorten up his explanation as much as possible, Mike said he had adjusted the Twins defense based solely on STATS projections and grading, and he has decided against doing this, as he has doubts about STATS accuracy. Hence, he has MIN now winning 81 games, with BOS, NYY, SEA, OAK winning 2 less, and CWS winning 1 less.

I find it odd he feels defense is worth 9 wins a year, at least anything but horrible vs. great defense.


2/22/2003 09:52:00 AM


Wednesday, February 19, 2003

(2/19/2003 09:20:00 PM) - Al

As you can see below, part 2 of the Gimbel interview has been posted below. I will follow up with some notes to mike. Surprised to see he called Kinney a "non-prospect", as he has produced every year except '03. Enjoy Part 2.


2/19/2003 09:20:00 PM



(2/19/2003 09:18:00 PM) - Al

THE GIMBEL INTERVIEW, PART 2

Al: You didn't seem as excited as I am about Javier Valentin. What do you think of the catching situation?

Mike: Javier Valentin and Mike Sweeney tore up Low 'A' as heavy hitting catchers several years ago. Mike Sweeney only had a short "bump in the road" before living up to that original promise while Valentin has struggled and only now has reached MLB average as a catcher. He still has a high ceiling, but will need to show more very soon. Unfortunately the Brewers may sit him on the bench behind Robert Machado who has never done anything to merit a MLB job. Cody McKay had a decent year last year, but is 28 years old and looks like an OK backup catcher.

Al: Looks like Sheets/Rusch are the top two, and likely Todd Ritchie is the #3 guy. I'm hoping Quevedo and Kinney get the last two spots, as both are talented youngsters, and are out of options. Others in the mix are Wayne Franklin, Neugebauer, Mlicki, even Francisco Campos. Thoughts?

Mike: Sheets and Rusch are the top two and Ritchie should be #3. After that it looks like a real disaster. Ben Diggins and Ben Hendrickson both look like they need more time in the minors although they could both be pretty good. Mlicki is awful. Kinney is a non-prospect and Quevedo took a huge step backwards last year. Neugebauer was rushed to the Majors prematurely and his career was set back and possibly damaged for good.

Al: To the bullpen, Matt Ford was chosen in the Rule 5 draft. Your opinion on him and the other pick, Enrique Cruz?

Mike: Matt Ford is a prospect, but only a marginal one. Enrique Cruz, apparently, did not perform in the full season minors last year.

Al: Would you have added Paul Stewart to the 40 man roster?

Mike: Paul Stewart is a somewhat better prospect than Matt Ford. He's not a front line prospect, but an organization with so few prospects can't afford to lose one of the few it has.

Al: Let's move onto general baseball strategy and players on other teams. First tool to evaluate a hitter? OPS, OBP, something else? Pitcher?

Mike: That's the mistake that almost every team makes! All this "tools" nonsense is ridiculous. That's appropriate when looking for college and high school players to draft, not to evaluate players who have already performed in Minor league or Major league baseball. I evaluate players on performance, period. That's what I do. My evaluation takes in all data and comes up with a tested rating; the RPA. There is no "first tool" that I look at. Plate discipline, power, speed, defense, etc... are isolated items. I do the complete package, not a part of the package. Players don't come with only one item. they are complete packages and have to be evaluated on their entire production, not an isolated item.

Al: How important do you feel defense is? Let's say one team has all average defensive players, another has all very good defensive players. How many games difference between the two?

Mike: I evaluate defense as much as I evaluate offense. I do not mostly emphasize offense. You can win or lose games on defense just as you can on offense. Many years ago, the NY Mets were favored to win the division based on their fabulous offense, but in my annual publication I explained that they couldn't field at all and would likely be "the joke of New York" that year. That is exactly what happened! Even Letterman joked that the Mets, like Michael Jackson, wore a glove no one hand for no apparent reason. Each player, just as with the hitting ability of each player, has to be compared to all players at that position and the number of runs saved or surrendered has to be added or subtracted from the player's offense before giving an overall rating.






2/19/2003 09:18:00 PM


Tuesday, February 18, 2003

(2/18/2003 08:18:00 PM) - Al

Still hoping to get the responses to the last of my interview questions from Mike Gimbel. However, today he e-mailed me his predictions for the 2003 season. If he's accurate, we're in for an interesting ride, my friends.

here's my team predictions for 2003. You'll see that there is a big problem in the AL.

I took a quick look at the upcoming season and was shocked by the incredible imbalance in the American League for 2003. While the NL will be competetive, the AL has a big problem with a couple of teams that would have trouble winning at AAA and powerhouse teams at the other pole.

I'll list my predictions for the NL first, because I don't want you shaking your heads over the AL and never looking at the NL:

NL East:

Philadelphia 90-72
Atlanta 87-75 (WC)
NY Mets 86-76
Florida 82-80
Montreal 76-86

NL Central:

Houston 91-71
St. Louis 82-80
Chicago Cubs 81-81
Cincinnati 77-85
Pittsburgh 70-92
Milwaukee 68-94

NL West:

San Francisco 90-72
Colorado 80-82
Arizona 79-83 (no offense!)
San Diego 78-84
Los Angeles 75-87

AL East:

NY Yankees 109-53
Boston 108-54 (WC)
Toronto 83-79
Baltimore 71-91
Tampa Bay 44-118

AL Central:

Chicago WS 84-78
Cleveland 82-80
Minnesota 72-90 (last year was a fluke)
Kansas City 71-91
Detroit 54-108

AL West:

Seattle 98-64
Oakland 93-69
Anaheim 81-81 ( love David Eckstein but last year was a fluke for the Angels)
Texas 80-82

--Mike Gimbel


First of all, I predicted just the order of finish for a contest a week or so ago, and I agreed with a few Gimbelisms. I also had COL edging out ARI for 2nd place. I would have to agree both BOS & NY have the potential to win 110 games, if all goes well. I also predicted the White Sox would come in ahead of MIN.

But, TB winning 44 games? The mathematics of that must be beyond belief, somewhere in the vicinity of scoring 500 runs and allowing 850. And, perhaps even more shocking, MIN only winning 72? Now, I'll be the first to say that perhaps the Twins overachieved a bit in '02, as their run differential would suggest they'd win 87, rather than 94. They let Ortiz go and kept Doug M, a poor choice at 1B. But other than that, they are still the same club, just a year older. And while I could see a falloff in quite a few offensive players, the fact remains that as of today, Johan Santana is:

1. One of the best young starters in MLB.

2. SIXTH best on the Twins' staff, at least in the eyes of management.

I can't see a team with Radke, Milton, Mays, Reed, Lohse, and Santana as their starters falling much below .500, at least not a team with an offense that's not as pitiful as TB's.

I'm sure many will be surprised with ANA at only 81 wins, but I had them 3rd, and in my mind, are not on the level with SEA & OAK. This is a team who had a fine '02, but did it with many career seasons and excellent health, and added nothing this offseason (of course, ignoring the "gritty and scrappy" sub 700 corner OF Eric Owens). And, my bias toward teams that walk a lot tells me this team that relies on BA will likely not be as likely to match a bunch of seeing eye singles as a team with good plate discipline will equal their BB totals.

One thing about Mike, he certainly isn't boring.







2/18/2003 08:18:00 PM



(2/18/2003 01:03:00 PM) - Al

From BP's Quotes section:

"We're not telling our hitters to look for a walk...But we consider the walk a barometer of a hitter's level of discipline at the plate. The last thing you do is tell a player to look for a walk, but if he's disciplined, he's going to walk at least 10 percent of the time."
--Ben Cherington, Red Sox Director of Player Development


"A hitter with a funky swing but an outstanding mental approach is going to be more successful than the guy with a beautiful swing who has no clue what he's doing at the plate."
--Cherington


I've noticed the one thing that successful teams have is they all tend to be on the same page, same goals, speak the same language. Suddenly now that Theo Epstein is the BOS GM, they are using the same lingo that OAK has used. 10% is a good guideline, but it isn't written it stone. Still, if you keep saying it, and keep emphasizing it, and promote players because of it...your plate discipline will improve. Also, you already see some of the "results, not tools" OAK influence entering into the BOS system. What's that old saying, "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery"?


"When you're down, you don't swing on the first [bleeping] pitch, bro! ... You don't take that 30-percent chance of getting a hit or whatever it is and go with it. I can't take watching these guys [bleep] it up. I can't take it."
--Lenny Dykstrka, former center fielder, on second baseman Alfonso Soriano


"Guy taking swings when the count's 2-0 and they're down by two runs with nobody on, that kills me...I can't believe people don't say anything about it."
--Dykstra


I've always said my dream hitting instructor was Rickey Henderson...we may have a new contender. Lenny even curses like a ballplayer, as most can't utter a thought without an expletive or two. I recall Dykstra was one of the guys who most felt would "cross the line" back in the replacement player era in '95, as he said he would be throwing a good percentage of money by sitting out. Of course, the players union had a chat with him, and he was suddenly as pro-union as a coal miner working 18 hour shifts in unsafe conditions. He seems to have a good grasp of the mathematics of the game, whether discussing money or OBP. Take away the BB, no player has a very good chance of reaching base safely, almost all will reach less than one of three times. Simply put, the more baserunners you have, the more runs you will score, on average, of course.

That's another reason I feel the oft-discussed intentional walk issue will slowly die away. I'm not sure how many times I've seen Barry Bonds put on base and then come around to score, but it's not the way to shut that team down. If you ran a computer simulation walking the extremely dangerous Bonds every time up, thus giving him a statline of .000/1.000/.000, the Giants would score more runs, period. Such simulations have been run for Babe Ruth's stellar campaigns, and they agree with my statement. By taking away the fact that Bonds gets out 50% of the time, you've given SF that many more plate appearances AND that many more baserunners.

That's the key to scoring runs, which is half the success formula to winning games. OAK knows this, and BOS is imitating them. Lenny Dykstra has seen the light as well, as that was a key to his success, back before OBP was cool. Amazingly, you'll still hear former players (albeit, mostly poor hitters like Brewers color man Bill Schroeder) say nuggets of wisdom like:

He has to expand his strike zone here, to drive home the runner from 3B.

Meanwhile, the pitcher is out there, hoping against hope the batter is stupid (and in most cases, selfish) enough to chase the low and outside slider that will result in any easy out. Men a lot smarter than myself have said it, but it bears being said once again.

The most important thing a hitter can do for his team is not make an out. Or looked at in the realm of a full season, make as few outs as possible.


2/18/2003 01:03:00 PM


Sunday, February 16, 2003

(2/16/2003 10:29:00 PM) - Al

Say what you will about the Brewers rather weak (nonexistant?) marketing, but that certainly seems to be improving. First, nothing but great things said about the season ticket event with many speakers and such. Now, more kudos coming from those who attended the Saturday event at Miller Park. Sounds like they made the dugouts and clubhouses avaliable for tours, and had 21 young prospects available for autographs. Things like this can't hurt, and may indeed win some folks over as well.

Now, if we could only get the Journal Sentinel to actually cover the team. I've been very impressed with the reporting of Mark Stewart, who has covered the basketball Badgers the past couple seasons. He's not only filed a near daily report, he's even done features on a walk on who rarely plays, as well as the last man on the bench. I have a hard time believing Drew Olson would even know these guys names if he was covering the team.


2/16/2003 10:29:00 PM


Friday, February 14, 2003

(2/14/2003 10:57:00 PM) - Al

Peter Gammons is reporting that Kevin Millar will be sold to BOS for about $1.4 million. Theo gets his man, and all the other GM's look like crotchety old fellas who are a step slow. It seems funny to me no one has talked to FLA about offering money AND a player for Millar, but I assume they fail to see the value in the big RH bat of Millar. I see Kevin as possibly being the guy that puts BOS on even footing with the Yankees. At the very least, I think they'll score 900 runs in 2003, probably more than that. Could they average 6 runs per, or 972? With good health from Nomar and Manny, I think they can.


2/14/2003 10:57:00 PM



(2/14/2003 10:51:00 PM) - Al

Rob Neyer and Jim Caple have an e-mail discussion about whether DC or Portland deserves to have the Expos when they eventually move. You can read it here . As with nearly all issues having to do with common sense, Mr. Caple is squarely on the wrong side, in my opinion. Giving DC its 5th or 6th chance to fail miserably makes no sense to me, and they still can't even decide if the stadium is going in the DC area or in Northern Virginia. Meanwhile, Portland is a booming, prospering city, with a good size population and high per-capita income.

I also like the idea of putting another team out West, for balance if nothing else. You could then have Portland in the NL West, with Colorado moving to the NL Central, and Pittsburgh moving to its rightful place in the NL East. It would add another "real" interleague rivalry, SEA/PORT. The advantage I see in putting a team in DC? Hmm, it would knock someone else down to the 2nd most ghettoish area to have a MLB club...that's about it.


2/14/2003 10:51:00 PM


Wednesday, February 12, 2003

(2/12/2003 12:14:00 PM) - Al

Word is Kevin Millar will be released by the Japanese team who purchased him a couple weeks ago. In theory, this would take Millar back to the Marlins, who would then probably sell him to the Red Sox. If this does indeed occur, it would make the waiver claim Theo Epstein made seem brilliant in hindsight.

As I've said many times prior, this type of "thinking out of the box" is exactly what a GM needs to do to build a team...work your plan by any and all means necessary. Every team had the exact same opportunity to claim Millar, and every single one of them passed, except BOS.


2/12/2003 12:14:00 PM


Tuesday, February 11, 2003

(2/11/2003 05:37:00 PM) - Al

I find it difficult to believe Rickey Henderson is reduced to having to beg for a job. I realize he has seen better days, but his OBP the past 3 years has been between .365 & .370. His SLG has fallen off a cliff, but damn it, Rickey still gets on base. I find it odd neither OAK or BOS sees him as a potential platoon partner/PH/5th OF, especially considering he's willing to play for the minimum, or thereabouts. For any team that sees itself as a contender, Henderson should be a guy you want on your roster.


2/11/2003 05:37:00 PM


Sunday, February 09, 2003

(2/09/2003 02:53:00 PM) - Al

MIKE GIMBEL INTERVIEW: PART ONE

Because of my plethora of questions, and how much he puts into each response, Mike has so far made it through the first 7 questions I sent him. I have decided to post his responses thus far, as they have a ton of info in them. Without further adieu...

Al: For those who are not familiar with your history, can you briefly tell us about your background, first in your player evals, with fantasy baseball, then working with Boston under Dan Duquette in Boston.

Mike: I was only involved in fantasy baseball after publishing my annual books and long after being hired by Dan Duquette in Montreal. I was approached by John Hunt of "Baseball Weekly" to join their "experts contest" in their LABR league that would be covered by his newspaper. Hunt had to email me the rules so that I could get an idea about what Fantasy Baseball was all about. I participated in LABR for a few years, but the fantasy baseball "professionals", i.e. those that were making money at it, once I was no longer employed in MLB, felt my participation wasn't an asset any longer. I can't say that I blame them, and I can't say that I really enjoy Fantasy baseball much, either. I really enjoy one aspect of Fantasy baseball, however. It really forces you to watch every player and every team on a day by day basis. The accounting "bean counter" aspect of Fantasy Baseball", however, is a real drag.

My player and team analysis was built around a tested formula called the "RPA method". Batting averages, fielding averages, ERA's, etc... are nowhere to be found in the RPA (Run Production Average) method and the method was open to the public because I gave a full description of the method in my books. Duquette subscribed to the first two edition of my annual player ratings book and when Dave Dombrowski was about to become the first GM of the expansion Marlins Baseball America said that Duquette was going to become the new GM in Montreal. I contacted Dan and arranged to meet him in hs hotel room in Philadelphia around the beginning of September, 1991. He agreed to hire me and when he became GM in October he hired me as "consulant on player evaluation" for the Expos. After we had immediate success in Montreal, Dan became a "hot product" and soon was offered the Bosox GM position. He had to sign an agreement to take no one with him from Montreal but got a verbal agreement that he could take me since the Expos ownership really didn't know that I was his "secret weapon". As a compromise, Dan agreed that I could continue to work for the Expos at the same time as I worked for the Bosox. For the next 2 season I worked for both the Bosox and the Expos, but Expos GM Kevin Malone never "got it" and never really used my info seriously.

Al: Do you feel you would be "accepted" more so today, as sabermetrics have gained a place in the game, and other talent evaluators, including Bill James, have taken jobs in MLB?

Mike: Hard to say. Perhaps, but most organizations are still in "the Sone Age" in this area. More sabermetricians are employed in MLB but none (perhaps with the exception of Oakland) have anywhere near the influence that I had over player moves. If anything, the media in Boston did an incredible disservice to all sabermetricians when they drove me out of Boston. In other words, even though more are employed in MLB, they are too restricted in influence. I doubt that even Bill James has the amount of influence that I had over player moves. That is a setback, not an advance.

Al: All right, onto the Brewers and baseball. I sensed a bit of optimism when you dicussed the '03 Crew the other night on Milwaukee radio. What's your initial reaction of the moves Doug Melvin has made thus far since taking the GM job?

Mike: Simply Awful!!! I think you were too sensitive to my optimism. I've been very critical of the Brewer moves (or lack thereof) this winter, but I wanted to present a "balanced view" so I looked at the team and sought out the areas where the team could improve in 2003. The acquisitions of Javier Valentin and Todd Ritchie were OK, but these were minimal efforts. The liklihood of these moves to substantially improve the Brewers is very slight, while the acquisition of Royce Clayton is simply awful. I watched, week after week, as inexpensive players who have even more value than Valentin and Ritchie were being signed by or traded for by other teams, and the Brewers were simply "sitting pat". Ughhh......... This team has a real chance to be even worse than the 2002 variety. Keith Ginter and Geoff Jenkins are the only regular players whose "high ceilings" could make this team substantially better (although Ben Diggins could also be included but he probably needs time at AAA and not be rushed the way Neugebauer was prematurely rushed to the Majors, damaging his career as a result). Richie Sexson is just an average player at 1st base. It is unlikely that he could raise his game enough to substantially improve the Brewers.

Al: Let's say you would have been named the Brewers GM. What would you have done differently? Is there something that you would have done that you doubt was even considered by Melvin. What type of timetable, plan of attack, etc?

Mike: Every single MLB team has the possibility of contending immediately, even the worst organizations. I think that was proven both in Montreal and Boston when I was a consultant to Dan Duquette. There were numerous players available to fill holes. The first step is to decide what players are valuable and what players might have more value in trade than actual value on the field. All other players are expendable. The only two players that I would have considered "untouchable" were Geoff Jenkins and Keith Ginter. Ben Sheets is almost in that category as well.

Richie Sexson is the only tradeable player who had more value in trade than on the field. Trading possibilities, therefore, were limited for either the "hypothetical moves by myself" or Doug Melvin. That isn't to say that a trade wasn't possible. Two players with fabulous hitting ability (much, much better than Sexson) were easily available for low cost: Erubiel Durazo & Jeremy Giambi. In Giambi's case the Phillies had to get rid of him for next to nothing after signing Thome. Any half awake GM should have immediately contacted the Phillies.

Shortstop could have been solved in numerous ways. The best solution would have been to trade with Toronto for Felipe Lopez. Lopez was available relatively cheaply in terms of what was needed to be given up in trade because the BlueJays had given the Job to Chris Woodward. Felipe Lopez has a very high ceiling and has a chance to be a star. Worse comes to worse the Brewers could have signed free agent Desi Relaford as an interim, stopgap, shortstop with the thought of taking a look at Steve Scarborough in spring training. and seeing if he could beat out Relaford. The worst thing to do was sign a horrific player like Royce Clayon. yecchhh........

As far as catcher goes Mike Rivera, Ramon Castro, Todd Pratt, Sal Fasano, et. al. were all probably available pretty cheaply. Javier Valentin was a good acquisition but I would have picked up at least one of these as well since they are all higher rated catchers. In addition to Durazo and Giambi at 1st base, Greg Colbrunn was available fairly cheaply. Also Travis Hafner was available fairly cheaply!

The Cubs are totally clueless. The acquisition of Karros and Grudzielanek proves it. I would have been on the phone immediately after that trade tryng to get Mark Bellhorn and/or Bobby Hill from them. I'd even have inquired about Hee Seop Choi, but I doubt that even those dummies can't be that clueless (or are they?). Valuable outfielders who would have likely been available cheaply include Adam Hyzdu, Rontrez Johnson (in rule V draft), Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Ben Broussard, Aaron Rowand, Brandon Berger, Aaron Guiel, etc... Inexpensive pitchers possibly available: Terry Adams, Jeff D'Amico, John Thomson, Albie Lopez, Cory Lidle, Orlando Hernandez (with Yankees picking up most of salary), Steve Reed, Jeff Tam, Mike Fyhrie, Cory Bailey, Aquilino Lopez, Lance Carter, etc.....

Al: Eric Young, Royce Clayton, Wes Helms...what kind of infield is this for any team, never mind a rebuilding club? Any options that jump right to mind for these spots?

Mike: See above. That isn't even a good AAA infield! The Brewers are likely to be horrid in 2003.

Al: Why are you so high on Keith Ginter?

Mike: Keith Ginter has torn the cover off the ball for much of the last 3 years in the minors, including doing very well at the Major League level. Pay no attention to the batting average! Even 4 years ago he did very well. Here's the major League equivalent RPA's for Ginter for the last 4 years (.115 is Major League avg):

1999: played most of the year at Kissimmee (high A) with a very respectable .112 RPA. Stepped up to AA Jackson and had a huge .171 RPA in just 40 plate appearances. Went to the Arizona Fall League against other top prospects and had a very, very good .131 RPA. Appears to have begun his minor league "breakout" late in the 1999 season.

2000: A huge combined .171 RPA between Round Rock (AA) and the AFL. WOW!!!!!!!! Was 24 years old. If the Astros didn't have Craig Biggio at 2nd base he should have been the starter for them the following season. A .171 RPA, especially for a 2nd baseman, marks a player as a possible "superstar".

2001: Goes up to AAA at New Orleans with a .146 offensive RPA as a 2nd baseman. That was the highest rating for any middle infielder in AAA in 2001.

2002: Repeats AAA at New Orleans and has a very respectable .120 RPA at 2nd base (3rd best for a 2nd baseman at AAA). That .120 is still a lot better than Eric Young could hope to produce! In 2002 is promoted to the Majors and gets 99 computed plate appearances wth a very good .132 RPA. Ginter has been consistenly better than most MLB 2nd basemen over these years. Looks like he should be given the second base job, no questions asked!

Al: You didn't seem as excited as I am about Javier Valentin. What do you think of the catching situation?

Mike: see above. Other than Valentin, the rest of the catching crew is pitiful.




2/09/2003 02:53:00 PM



(2/09/2003 02:33:00 PM) - Al

Nice article in the JS today on what Doug Melvin has done. It mentions that the payroll for '03 will likely be about $43 million, and that Melvin tried to sign some mid-tier FA's, but the players decided to sign elsewhere. He also mentions that many younger guys need to play, because they "aren't that young". It seems pretty obvious to me that he is solidly entrenched in Year 1 of a rebuilding project that he chooses not to say to the public. Good for him.

The entire article can be seen here.


2/09/2003 02:33:00 PM


Friday, February 07, 2003

(2/07/2003 04:46:00 PM) - Al

The 2nd part of Robert's e-mail from the other day:

Also, topic 3, the Marlins offense:

I'll agree with that, but have to ask the accompanying question: What makes anyone think the Brewers are going to score any runs this year. Especially considering that Sexson is the only player on the team that posted an OBP over .350 last year and they've arguably downgraded the worst offense in the league by replacing Hernandez with Clayton and Houston/Loretta/Belliard/Ginter with Helms?

Robert


I never said the Crew had a good offense, but I do think FLA's has a chance to be awful. MIL's was either 15th or 16th (of 16) last year, so they need to upgrade just to be anything but terrible. Let's go to the tale of the tape, in which I project both clubs and add up the runs:

Valentin/Machado/McKay--.250/.310/.410, 720 OPS, 127 OXS, 57 runs produced
IRod---------------------------------.300/.340/.525, 865 OPS, 179 OXS, 80 rp

IRod is a catcher, but he hits like a 1B. No comparison.

Sexson--.280/.360/.545, 905 OPS, 196 OXS, 118 rp
Lee-------.275/.380/.490, 870 OPS, 186 OXS, 111 rp

Surprised to see it this close, but I bumped Lee up a bit entering his season of 27, and kept Richie near his career norms.

Young----.280/.335/.375, 710 OPS, 126 OXS, 75 rp
Castillo--.295/.375/.370, 745 OPS, 139 OXS, 83 rp

Luis gets on base, but has little or no power. Still, a good bit ahead of EY.

Clayton----.255/.300/.375, 675 OPS, 113 OXS, 68 rp
Gonzalez-.250/.300/.370, 670 OPS, 111 OXS, 66 rp

Yuck, and I can't believe how close these two are. This is the best they can do? Cripes.

Helms---.240/.310/.440, 750 OPS, 136 OXS, 82 rp
Lowell---.280/.345/.470, 815 OPS, 162 OXS, 97 rp

A tad surprised to see Mike only 15 runs ahead of Wes. I still feel Ginter will be playing either 2B or 3B by the end of June.

Jenkins----------.285/.350/.530, 880 OPS, 185 OXS, 111 rp
Hollandsworth-.280/.330/.430, 760 OPS, 142 OXS, 85 rp

I can't believe how good Todd was in COL, and how average he is everywhere else. FLA has 3 CF's playing OF, and they will wonder numerous times why they keep losing 3-2 and 4-3. If Geoff is healthy, he'll likely top my projection.

Sanchez--.280/.355/.385, 740 OPS, 137 OXS, 82 rp
Pierre------.270/.310/.360, 770 OPS, 112 OXS, 67 rp

I bumped Alex a bit, and slid Juan down a notch or two from his career, as he won't play 81 in Coors this year. Again, I'm stunned by the difference.

Hammonds---.270/.330/.425, 755 OPS, 140 OXS, 84 rp
Encarnacion- .275/.330/.475, 805 OPS, 157 OXS, 94 rp

Juan 's a pretty weak corner OF, but Jeff is worse, and is unlikely to be healthy enough to do much better, especially in SLG. Both are out of place out of CF.

Totals you ask?

MIL: 677
FLA: 683

Seems as if FLA's addition of IRod put them over the top. I got this e-mail after posting my BOS/NY comparison.

Hey. Shouldn't you take into effect the fact that the bench players will play a portion? Maybe only multiply the starters by 550, or something like that.

Jonathan


Yes, I could, but choose not to, and as Robert pointed out, guys who have more walks also have fewer AB's, meaning they will produce fewer runs, using my simple formula of AB x OBP x SLG. This is not an exact science, and my 45 minute mathematics certainly isn't meant to be considered foolproof. Since 6 runs is almost nothing in the giant scheme of things, I'd be willing to say FLA & MIL's offenses look equally crappy at this stage.


I would have guessed both would finish at about 640, as the Brewers only scored 627 runs last season. Looking back, the '02 Brewers put together a .253/.320/.390 statline last year, and my representation does NOT include pitchers.

Going by the simple formula, the Brewers "should" have had 676 men cross the plate last year, based on 5415 x .320 x .390. Why didn't they? I would blame bad luck, with a mention of the horrendous (some would say ultra aggressive) baserunning the team endured. 627/676 = 92.7%, almost as bad as any team the past three seasons, as I believe the farthest off has been just under 91%. Therefore, considering my estimate assumes good health of all starters (supposedly, the best players), 677 is mighty close to 676.


2/07/2003 04:46:00 PM



(2/07/2003 07:05:00 AM) - Al

From ESPN, the headline says it all:

Rays add 1B Lee in an effort to bolster offense

The horror. A couple years ago, I know ARI discussed trading Lee and I did mention that the Brewers could take a flyer on him. I would have been incorrect, as Travis has never developed into even an average 1B/LF. Not to waste to much time on this benchwarmer, but...

Travis----.255/.340/.402, 742 OPS, 137 OXS, 82 runs produced
Ave 1B--.272/.361/.461, 822 OPS, 166 OXS, 100 rp

A quick look at Baseball Reference tells us that among the former major league players whose numbers are closest to Lee's are Randy Milligan, Glenn Braggs, and Todd Benzinger. Funny, but I just named a reserve/platoon 1B, a reserve/platoon LF, and a reserve/platoon 1B/OF. You almost get the feeling that Travis is exactly that...hmmm.

Travis Lee is a 28 year-old who is unlikely to improve to the point of mediocrity. He still has value, just like those fellas mentioned above had value. He actually would have been a bit better signing for the Crew than John VanderWal, as he's younger and better defensively, and while having limited upside, has a lot more than the 37 year-old VanderWal. But, to think that Lee is going to "bolster" anyone's offense is pie in the sky.

The idea Lou Pinella could field a lineup with Lee at 1B and Rey Ordonez at SS is painful to consider. After watching the Mariners the last few seasons, the '03 162 game campaign may seem of infinite length to Lou.


2/07/2003 07:05:00 AM


Tuesday, February 04, 2003

(2/04/2003 08:48:00 PM) - Al

I'll be working and traveling to the Twin Cities tomorrow night, as I have a meeting there Thursday, so I'll either be back late Thursday or Friday. See you then.


2/04/2003 08:48:00 PM



(2/04/2003 06:27:00 PM) - Al

E-mailman has arrived:

A couple of topics of interest to me, so I thought I'd forward some comments.

As much as I like what Boston has done this offseason, I would not overlook the Yankees. They had the number 1 offense in the AL last year and have likely improved it with the addition of Matsui. Breaking it down by position for OBP:

C Posada vs. Varitek - Big edge New York
1B Jason vs. Jeremy - As much as I like Jeremy, big edge New York
2B Soriano vs. Walker - Edge Boston
SS Jeter vs. Garciaparra - Slight edge Jeter
3B Ventura vs. Mueller / Hillenbrand - Mueller's a plus, but can't stay healthy, so expect a lot of Hillenbrand. Edge New York
LF Ramirez vs. Williams - Ramirez has the edge, but Williams is no slouch.
CF Damon vs. Matsui - Damon is a fine player, but he's not a .400 OBP guy, more in the .350 to .380 range. Most projections have Matsui in that same range. In my mind, it's a push to maybe favoring the Yankees.
RF Nixon vs. Rivera/Mondesi/White - Edge Boston, although the less the Yankees play Mondesi, the closer it gets.
DH Nick Johnson vs Ortiz / Millar (?) - Nick Johnson had a higher OBP than Ortiz last year and was an OBP monster in the minors. Millar was a little better, but he hasn't signed yet. Probably a slight edge New York.

I don't think anyone else in the majors is close to these two offenses, but that's how I'd break it down. The breakdown by the number of positions is probably close, but New York has the bigger edges, IMO. New York probably has the power edge as well and Soriano and Jeter are capable of adding runs on the basepaths with Soriano stealing at a 76% success rate and Jeter at over 90% last year. The beauty of what Boston has done is that they've upgraded their offense a lot while cutting payroll, subtracting the 2002 salaries of Clark and Offerman.

Robert


Robert, thanks for reading and for the well thought out letter. I'll put Part 2 of his note on another post, as it deals with another topic. While I can't disagree that NY had the better offense last year, just glancing at the lineup, I would put my money on BOS. Looks like a projected runs produced rundown is in order. Settle in with a carbonated beverage and a bowl of unhealthy snacks, this is not going to be a short one.

C: Posada--.260/.350/.450, 71 runs produced
Varitek-----.260/.325/.420, 61 rp

With Doug Mirabelli and maybe Dave Nilsson as reserves in BOS, I have to say this is almost exactly even, very slight edge NY.

1B: Jason--.300/.400/.530, 127 rp
Jeremy------.270/.380/.475, 108 rp

I could have predicted Jeremy higher, as I think he'll breakout in Fenway and with support from above, but chose to keep him about the same as the last 2 years.

2B: Soriano--.280/.310/.470, 87 rp
Walker--------.290/.340/.420, 86 rp

Surprised to see Robert give BOS an edge. Soriano is still improving, in theory, but I just can't figure out why teams still pitch to a guy who never walks. Even from here.

SS: Jeter-----.310/.380/.450, 103 rp
Garciaparra--.320/.370/.550, 122 rp

How can Derek be so good, yet so overrated? At this point, teams are all but the same.

3B: Ventura----.260/.345/.420, 87 rp
Mueller/Shea--.280/.350/.390, 82 rp

Even with Robin's decline, he should equal the high OBP man Mueller. Theo just said he doesn't dislike Shea because he rarely walks. Of course not, he doesn't like his .313 career OBP. I don't care if you ever take a BB, if you have a .400 OBP. Shea doesn't, and I think Theo is trying to build Shea's value back up to teams who still believe BA means something.

LF: Matsui--.300/.375/.500, 113 rp
Ramirez-----.310/.400/.575, 138 rp

Manny is no smooth fielder, but he can flat out hit. Most folks feel Matsui will play LF, as far as I can tell, though Robert put him in CF, not that it makes much difference.

CF: Williams--.295/.375/.475, 107 rp
Damon----------.285/.350/.430, 90 rp

Even with some declining stats, Bernie is a stellar CF.

RF: Mondesi/et al--.275/.330/.500, 99 rp
Nixon-------------------.275/.360/.475, 103 rp

I chose to use Mondesi because I figured whoever ends up in RF will likely do about as well as Raul, whose numbers are mediocre for a corner OF. Trot could have a nice year as well, at 28 and now used to playing nearly every day, but I projected almost dead onto his career.

DH: Johnson--.260/.350/.425, 89 rp
Ortiz-------------.270/.350/.470, 99 rp

Nick is going to get better every year, and I'd expect 2004 or '05 to be his first very good season. Right now though, RUT member Dave Ortiz is better, and is entering his year of 27. He's never played in a park that suits him as well as Fenway either, but again, I did not project much higher than career.

NYY--889
BOS--889

Wow. Couldn't do that if I tried, my 9 main position players are dead even. To me, with the solid reserve catchers, two solid 3B, and the fact Kevin Millar may end up in Beantown, that gives them a slight edge. Will both of these teams score 900+ runs? Enter in the extra 150 AB's from the backup backstops (I use 450 AB's for catchers), I'd expect them both to top 900. It may be my Theo bias, but I expect BOS to score a few more runs, perhaps because of Fenway and the OBP emphasis.



2/04/2003 06:27:00 PM



(2/04/2003 04:43:00 PM) - Al

John Sickels also wrote the minor league report on the Brewers. If you want, you can first read John's review, filled with specifics, then go over to BA and read Drew Olson's, full of cliches and such. It makes Drew's seem even worse...though I doubt if it's possible to outcrap Drew's chat.


2/04/2003 04:43:00 PM



(2/04/2003 04:39:00 PM) - Al

John Sickles wrote the Hot Stove Heater for ESPN. A very fair eval, and if the process of rebuilding the right way sounds familiar, you've been reading it here since inception.


2/04/2003 04:39:00 PM


Monday, February 03, 2003

(2/03/2003 10:27:00 PM) - Al

More e-mail:

Al,

Love reading the site, read it almost daily. One quick question. What is runs produced? I haven't seen it on stats before. On a related note, you often use 600 in your projections. What does that represent?

Brad


Thanks Brad, I write it almost daily, so I'm glad you enjoy it. My "runs produced" is simply a compilation of individual OXS (OBP x SLG). On a related note, 600 is an approximation of AB's a player can expect to get if healthy and playing just about every day. It could just as easily use 550 or 575, it's just a nice round number I use for its simplicity.

The reason I use OXS is because it has been about 98% accurate in predicting the amount of runs that will be scored in MLB. On a team level, and then an individual level, it will be a bit less accurate, but is my preferred eval method, as it takes seconds to figure out a player's offensive worth. The only number I've seen that is supposedly better is EQA (Equivalent Average), which is as difficult to figure as OXS is easy.

Another thing I have got questions on is "the 10 run rule", which is NOT a mercy rule ending the game. It simply states that, on average, for every 10 runs more you score (or 10 less runs you allow), you will win one more game. Hence, why Pat Burrell is worth 2 wins more than the average LF.

Any other questions on terms or definitions, let me hear them.


2/03/2003 10:27:00 PM



(2/03/2003 06:50:00 PM) - Al

Excuse me, I'm not feeling so good.

Drew Olson, Chronic Underachiever (sounds like a WB teen sitcom, doesn't it?) strikes again. Since Drew is basically the only reporter (term used loosely) who covers the Brewers, I suppose he was an obvious choice for Baseball America to ask to do a rundown of the team's top prospects. Little do they know Drew is not interested in such things as research, knowledge, and anything but casual observations.

I realize that this is going to sound like a satire or farce, but these are all actual comments Drew made today on his chat. Really.

Any list like this is subjective---Huh, whenever I type up something, I actually put a lot of time and effort into it...and it's not even my job.

A lot of times, placement on the list comes down to a coin-flip type decision.---Is this guy for real? My criteria is heads or tails? Christ.

Cruz probably does belong in the top 10.---Brainiac, you wrote the list. If he belongs in the Top 10, put him in the damn Top 10.

It's hard to gauge that---Especially when you're a flamin' idiot.

I don't have enough time to study other team's systems beyond maybe their top draft picks. It's hard enough to cover the Brewers---Especially when you're a flamin' idiot. Repetitive, but true.

I don't know if he's a sleeper any more---Maybe you could call someone who does...

See you at the ballpark.---Or, maybe some day I'll use the restroom in the JS offices during a game..I'm sure I'll see ya there.

The freakin' horror.

For any of you who aren't quite suicidal, this might just push you right over the proverbial edge.


2/03/2003 06:50:00 PM



(2/03/2003 05:50:00 PM) - Al

From the e-mailbag:

Al,

Thought I'd tell you about my experience at the open house (Saturday) at Miller Park. I've been a season ticket holder since '84, and a full season man since '97. This was by far the best time I've ever had at any type of function. It was great to hear Ned Yost talk about how he is so excited about the upcoming season, acts like a kid on Christmas Eve. He makes me think of Treb, who once visited my daughter's team, and spoke happily to 10 kids for half an hour about teamwork, education, and such. I'm pretty much in your mind that things like hustle and 110% effort don't make much of a difference in the W/L column, but there's no excuse not to give a good effort every day either. Lopes used to talk about it, then brings in thugs like Lenny Harris who did nothing except start fights and tell the boob in charge how awesome he was back in his day. I realize this is likely to be a long year, but I couldn't help wishing the opener was tomorrow. My daughter said it was an excellent time. She noted how everyone seemed to be smiling and having a great time. They may not finish .500, but my optimism is as high as it's been in a while. Keep up the Brewers writing.

Jon


Jon, thanks for reading and writing, and for the recap of Saturday. I've heard a couple other good reports from others, and I hear attendance was much more than expected.


2/03/2003 05:50:00 PM



(2/03/2003 05:28:00 PM) - Al

Pat "The Bat" Burrell signed a 6 year, $50 million contract today. Great nickname, by the way. He'll make $1 million in 2003, $4 million in 2004, $7 million in 2005, $9.5 million in 2006, $13 million in 2007 and $14 million in 2008.


I like this deal more than I do Torri Hunter's, but I still feel PHIL overpaid. So far, Burrell has been a .360 OBP/.500 SLG guy, so he's a very good hitter. BUT, Pat plays either 1B or LF (poorly, FYI), where the average hitter is a .355 OBP/.460 SLG. Granted, Burrell is still just 25, so this deal will take him through his years of 26-30. I have no problem with the length of the deal, and I expect Pat to have stunning success in the next 3-4 years, I'd project him to be a .300/.375/.540 guy in '03. He walks a ton, and will likely improve his BA as well as he matures. But, just using the simple calculation of how many runs he will produce over the "average" LF, we get:

Pat-------122 runs
Ave LF--98 runs

Pat will be worth about 24 more runs offensively, so using the "rule of 10", he'll win Philly a couple games over Joe Mediocre.

Is it just me, or is $50 million guaranteed a lot to pay for a couple wins per season? Personally, the idea of giving Pat security (and likely locking him up for less than he'd get in arby) is a good one. Why Philly didn't just stop at 4 years is beyond me. Paying a 1B/LF $13 & 14 mil at ages 30 & 31...in 2007 and 2008...seems to me a franchise busting, not well thought out idea. If Pat was a SS, or a C, I'd say he was well worth it, despite the obvious risk of injury. But he's not...and he's not.


2/03/2003 05:28:00 PM


Sunday, February 02, 2003

(2/02/2003 09:10:00 PM) - Al

Three topics I'll have to comment on soon are:

1. How many runs will BOS score this year? Are they the best OBP team in baseball?

2. Are the Mets better than last year, when I correctly predicted they were extremely overrated?

3. Do the Marlins really think they can score runs with that offense?

Also, thanks for the questions for Mike Gimbel. Hope to have the interview up soon.


2/02/2003 09:10:00 PM


Saturday, February 01, 2003

(2/01/2003 09:18:00 PM) - Al

Glad to see 600 folks...the most since 1989, attended the Brewers Diamond Dinner last night. Not sure whether this is a sign of better marketing of the event, or what, but it was a nice surprise. I'm sure there are quite a few fans who are extremely dedicated, and are happy to move up to better seats, and/or have a less crowded stadium to get through. But, let's be honest, there are many more casuals who are taking a "wait and see" attitude.



2/01/2003 09:18:00 PM


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