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Celtic Pride

Alright, so it may have been roughly a month ago when I promised a Got Mail? blog. I got sidetracked with the NBA Finals, a Hodge Podge blog, some site notes and a sweet Top-10 YouTube clips blog. So let’s not focus on my month old preview, but rather the goodness I brought you since then. And don’t call it a broken promise, just delayed.

So here I am, ready to bring my “A” game. As always, our readers sent in some fantastic queries, but the biggest question is whether I’ll lead with an MLB, NBA Draft, NBA Finals, U.S. Open or Nike Puppets question…

Cory, Inland Empire, CA

Clippers fans, until Blake is actually wearing the jersey, hold your breath. Nothing is a given.

Clippers fans, until Blake is actually wearing the jersey, hold your breath. Nothing is a given.

To ensure the Clippers don’t botch the Blake Griffin pick, I vote we ‘Celtic Pride’ Dunleavy and Sterling. No questions asked. I can make this happen with your help, Benny. Only unlike the movie, we don’t let them go. Ever.

Ben: I’m with you, Cory, even as creepy as you got towards the end there. Though as important as kidnapping Dunleavy is, I say we nominate a pair of stoners to snag Zach Randolph as well. It’s going to be the only way we can pretend he isn’t a Clipper for a year.

It should be against NBA law for top prospects to so much as meet Randolph. David Stern was thrilled when the Clips won the lottery, since theoretically Griffin could help the L.A. market develop a second prominent team. Wait, who am I kidding? Griffin or no Griffin, they will remain laughingly bad.

(Must keep the hope.)

(Struggling to keep the hope.)

(Please dear Lord, help me keep the hope.)

(There is no such thing as hope… for a Clippers fan.)

The only thing worse than forcing Griffin to lose a few years off his life (*Note: I said life, not NBA life. Randolph will actually take time on the Earth off of Griffin.) by playing with Randolph, would be to make him play for Isiah Thomas.

Scratch that. Playing for Dunleavy is every bit as bad.

You wouldn’t know it by this response to Cory’s idea, but I actually am highly anticipating the draft on Thursday. I’m dying to be relevant. DYING. Make it happen Blake. Do it. PLEASE.

Steve H., Austin

I know the secret to getting you to post an e-mail: Ask you to compare MLB prospects. So here’s a two part question. First, Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, pick one. Second if you could have both Stras and Harper (a la the Nationals after next year) or any other two players currently playing in the minors, what would you choose?

Ben: Well done Steve, you definitely piqued my interest on this one. On one hand, all of the premiere MLB-ready prospects (Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen, Matt Wieters, David Price, any member of the A’s rotation, and Andrew McCutchen) have already been called up. So basically I’m left to scrounge either Single-A guys or those promoted to Double-A for the first time, this year. Either way I’m taking a risk on players who are not proven in any way shape or form.

There is no questioning the prospect credentials of Strasburg or Harper, but would they be the best bet to succeed over guys already in the professional ranks.

(You’re right, I’m stalling.)

In the heat of the moment, I’ll pass on Strasburg and Harper. There are still too many really top notch players in the lower ranks. Unfortunately, because pretty much every guy who plays fantasy baseball with reads this site, I can’t unveil any jaw dropping secrets from a strategy standpoint. But since my love for Pirates Single-A third baseman, Pedro Alvarez, is no secret, I’ll clue you in that he’s one of the two guys I’d choose. The other is a Double-A outfielder, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

Give me the field. You can have Strasburg and Harper.

John, WA

Do you think it’s a mistake for Bryce Harper to potentially bypass his senior high school season to enter the 2010 MLB draft? I mean, he’s a, “once in a lifetime” talent, and I’m not sure how continuing to feast on 85 MPH fastballs for another year will make him better. Your thoughts?

Ben: Facing high school arms another year won’t make Harper much better John, but since he also plays travel ball he may miss out on some fine tuning against some of the better prep players who play as well.

In talking to Dan about this subject earlier in the week, I touched on what worries me most about Harper entering the draft early. For me it’s less about missing a year on the field and more about missing a year off the field, in the classroom, around his parents his friends, and (gulp) teachers everyday. He’s going to be playing professional ball in a year which is typically crucial to the emotional and intellectual development of a person.

Harper will be 17 when the Nationals take him next year. 17. Seven-freaking-teen! How developed were you when you were 17? Think about it.

I was driving around with my buddies on brisk winter nights, rearranging moving, electronic, Christmas reindeer in positions on lawns where procreation typically happens. Funny, yes, but not very mature.

No offense to Ben Affleck, but those are reindeer games.

I’m not saying Harper can’t overcome the missed year of development to become a star in the big league. I’m just saying we can’t, or at least, shouldn’t, expect it not to affect him.

His situation reminds me a bit of A-Rod when he had his incredible senior season in high school. More praise and expectations were heaped on him that he could handle. Sure his big league career has gone ok — he’s made more money on the field than any player in the history of baseball — but the last several years we’ve been bringing his name up in conversations with topics such as PEDs, inferiority complexes, ego maniacs, marital cheaters (Though that makes him different than many professional players, how exactly?) and immoral greed mongers.

Those are many of the reasons why I’d rather take the field in the previous question than Harper (or Strasburg). He could turn out just fine and he has all the talent in the world, but combine extreme pressure with other-worldly expectations and you get a recipe for disaster.

Adrian Gonzalez

Adrian, feel free to bring that sweet swing to the Dodgers. They could use a good first baseman.

Give us your All-Star votes. Who’s on the team in your mind. Does Jason Bartlett make your team? Who starts at first base for the NL squad? I’ll bet you never guessed a player other than Ryan Howard would give Pujols a run for his money.

Ben:I typically wait to vote until we are about two weeks out from the break. Too many things can happen, injuries, slumps, trades, etc. This year will be no different, though I will tell you at this point I still have Albert manning first on my ballot by a nose over San Diego Padres first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez.

I’m not going to tell you I saw 23 homers as of June 20 coming from him, but the guy is a heck of a ballplayer. If he didn’t play in Petco he would routinely smash 50 per season. Check out his splits. His career road numbers are no joke.

Greg, Bellevue WA

What in the Hell are the Mariners doing to Brandon Morrow? They’re jerking him around worse than if he went off-roading in a Jeep Wrangler with no seat belt. They are going to ruin this kid, I can feel it.

Ben: For those of you who don’t follow Mariners baseball (I don’t blame you), Morrow went from the 2008 closer, to budding starter in the spring, back to closer (Presumably due to his battle with diabetes.), back to closer, where he flamed out and was demoted to middle relief, only to be told he would be sent down to Triple-A Tacoma, to be stretched out as a starter again.

Mysteriously the next day (June 13), a day in which Erik Bedard had to miss a start against the Rockies, we were informed Morrow would be making a start in the big leagues with a pitch count of about 60 pitches. After that start, instead of then returning to Tacoma, management decided they would just keep him with the big club and stretch him out there.

Sheesh.

Many reports have it going down in the form of Morrow approaching the team about becoming a starter again, but even if that is the case there is no rational reason he should have stayed in the majors to pitch three innings against the Rockies and then four against the Padres on June 18. He should have been sent down, to work on his game in a no pressure situation.

So Bedard went down unexpectedly – that’s what Quad-A journeymen are for.

Jose Canseco, A Casino Somewhere (Unless I’m on house arrest again. It’s hard to keep track.)

Why did nobody watch my PRIDE fighting match? I mean, my press conferences I can understand nobody watching. I’ve rubbed it in everyone’s faces enough already, but I’m still a major sports star/attraction. Women throw themselves at me, even the fat ones try, but I hit them out of the park like a Tim Wakefield fastball. Man where was he when I was still playing? I’d have broken Hank Aaron’s record in my first season.

Ben: I wanted to answer this e-mail because I found the though of a clueless Canseco ranting about his lack of public significance and his ability to hit knuckle balls (Do we have proof of this? I know for a fact knuckle balls hit for homers is NOT a stat the Baseball Reference guys keep track of.) was hilarious to me.

This is what it’s come to for you Jose. Grasping to relevance by pride fighting. You’ll be 45 on July 2. I suggest you go back to ratting out your former teammates. It’s what you do best. Go write a third book. If you write it they will buy it. People most definitely will buy it Ray Jose. People will buy it.

Karim Garcia, Lotte Giants

Hey Ben, what do you think the odds are of me ever making it back into the Major Leagues? No offense but this Korean Baseball League doesn’t offer any of the perks that the MLB does. I mean I haven’t had to jump into the bullpen to beat up Joe Schmoe groundskeeper once here.

Ben: Karim, I hate to break the news to you, but 33-year-old utility guys who haven’t played in the big leagues since 2004, don’t exactly have the best of markets.

In ten MLB seasons you hit only 66 big flys (Just stole that from Joe Morgan. You like it? Don’t steal it. Wait… I already did, I’m so confused.) to go with an on-base percentage of only .279.

Put it this way, I hope your Korean is fluent, because I don’t expect anyone from the states to come knocking down your doors.

Wait a minutes. Why am I answering e-mails from guys like Karim Garcia? My game is slipping a bit.

Kyle, SD

PLEASE answer a Padres question! Do you think…

Ben: No. I will not.

(*Note: I cut Kyle off. That’s as close as I’m getting to a Pad’s question today.)

Chad Riggens, NJ

Can Big Papi make it all the way back? He does look more comfortable…

Ben: I think you meant to send this e-mail to Bill Simmons.

I guess it depends on what you mean by all the way back. Do I think David Ortiz can revert back to his 2004 form? Not a chance. Do I think he can become a productive and reliable player/ fantasy option again? Yeah, I do. He’s been showing signs of life of late, so much so he’s back to fifth in the order for the Sox.

Does that mean you should immediately go out and trade for the guy? Absolutely not. Unless you can get him off the wire, steer clear. You’ve probably missed you chance to acquire him via trade for next to nothing, but make no mistake about it, ABs are still a battle. I need to see him hit .280 for at least three straight weeks before I jump completely on board.

With that said, I’m starting him as a second Util in one of my leagues, so obviously I do believe in his performance of late.

Tim Jacobs,  Anaheim

What kid of twisted society do we live in where Dante Stallworth receives only 30 days in jail for DUI manslaughter, while Mike Vick serves a year and a half for operating a dog fighting ring. I totally grant that he was completely out of line, and his brutal dog slayings make me want to throw up, but still. I’m not sure if this e-mail is supporting Vick or attacking Stallworth, I just think the courts got those two cases backwards.

Ben: I was talking with my father-in-law on Father’s Day, about not knowing exactly how to feel about the Stallworth DUI manslaughter case. On one hand he committed a crime which so many people around the world do, daily, yet is an act so utterly preposterous and preventable, it’s very hard to forgive someone who does, regardless of their remorse.

On the other hand this is America – the land of second chances – and Stallworth did everything right, after getting behind the wheel when he clearly shouldn’t have. Add that to the fact that we can’t be sure he would have avoided hitting the victim, who was jaywalking, completely sober, and you are  left with emotions doing battle over the concept of right and wrong. Is it wrong to feel sorry for Stallworth and be happy he will have every opportunity to turn his life around post 30-day jail sentence? I don’t think so.

In the same breath I don’t think it’s immoral to accept that Michael Vick and served his time and let him move on with his life. I was never a fan of his while he played in Atlanta, but I do hope he gets to play again.

I also don’t think these cases are related enough to cast a blanket statement over the circumstances such as, “This is what is wrong with America” and call it a day. I’m not sure if it is right or wrong for the family of the victim Stallworth hit, to accept a payout in place of a harsher prison sentence. That’s their call. It’s their right under our system of government. What I do know is I think we should be able to forgive those who make amends for their transgressions and offer them a helping hand. Even if that just means offering our support.

You won’t see me in a Vick jersey this season, but I hope he has the chance to wear one.

Stallworth’s situation is tougher, as the crime was against a human being and the wound is still fresh. But he seems to be on the right track.

Charlie R., Fresno

The next SI cover? You tell us.

The next SI cover? You tell us.

I know you don’t want to talk about him, and the fact that I’m resorting to this e-mail to try and crack your blog makes me angry. (Seriously I’m throwing pencils, pens, notebooks and beer cans against my wall in rage.) But you know you have to talk about Favre’s reported signing with the Vikings. You have to. Get it over with. (Crap I think I put a dent in my summer school dorm room’s door with my hiking boot. Look what Favre made me do.)

Ben: You’re absolutely right. And I hate it.

I’m just as trapped in the spider web as everyone else though. About 90% of me just wants Farve to go away. I’m talking on the Lost island away. But then there’s that pesky 10% which really wants to see Favre play this year. I’m not proud of it, I’m ashamed. But I still click on links updating his, “retirement” status, so I can’t say I’m completely uninterested.

For the record I absolutely believe the Vikings should sign him. If Favre doesn’t have it anymore, it’s really no skin off their backs, they’ll still have the same guys they are planning to play now. They aren’t going anywhere. Who would want them?

There, I’ve addressed the Favre situation. Now let me go sit on a stool and stick my nose in the corner in timeout like I deserve.

Matt, San Fran.

Why should Manny or any other player suspended for breaking the substance abuse policy be allowed to play ten games in the minor leagues? It doesn’t seem fair that he should be allowed to play for 10% of his suspension. I’m not crying foul because I’m a Giants fan, I just don’t think it’s fair.

Ben: Something tells me that you do have sour grapes and if it were Benjii Molina or Pablo Sandoval getting warmed up in Fresno with the Grizzlies, I wouldn’t be getting this e-mail from you.

The sick thing is, I actually agree with you.

I know the argument for allowing a player to play his way into game shape in the minors, is that if he isn’t allowed to do so, a 50-game suspension turns into 55-60 games once his minor league stint is up, or if he doesn’t play his way into game shape in the lower leagues, his team will suffer while he tries to get his timing back in the majors.

The problem is the argument is faulty and I expect it to change. Especially with the passing of Donald Fehr, former head of the MLB Player’s Association.

You cheat you sit. At least, you should sit. For a long time. A player – and the team who signed him, likely completely aware of his fondness for syringes, cremes or pills – shouldn’t have any MLB privileges if caught with his hand in the artificial hormone jar.

R.J., CA

Someone forgot to tell the Giants not to score runs for Matt Cain this year. What gives?

Ben: The Earth just isn’t spinning is it? When Matt Cain starts the season 9-1, I start wondering when Nike will make add a Ben Bates puppet to their line.

I’d also like a NotinHd t-shirt for my puppet. If it’s not too much trouble, of course.

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  1. wstuchell
    June 25, 2009 at 10:08 PM

    I say this Benji, but you do realize that a significant portion of your readership, and for that matter commentating base, are Padres fans. Swallow your pride man and write about the good ole boys in blue who provide you with such ample opportunities for sarcasm and ridicule.

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