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New York Mets Hall of Fame and Museum: Behind the Scenes

If you thought ‘Shea’ was just the name of a stadium, or you don’t know your Jay Payton from your Joan Payson, a trip to the New York Mets’ Hall of Fame and Museum may be just what the baseball doctor ordered.

When Citi Field opened its doors to 41,007 baseball enthusiasts on April 13, 2009, the one thing Mets fans wanted more of was history.

There weren’t enough memories of former greats who patrolled the Polo Grounds, there was precious little mention of the World Series victories from 1969 and 1986, and, on a more superficial level, there simply was not enough orange and blue.

The Mets listened to fans’ suggestions and after ensuring the stadium was ready for Opening Day last year, they put in hours of work throughout the off season to make Citi Field feel like home this year.

Over-sized baseball cards of historic Mets now line the concourse down first and third, the home run apple from Shea takes pride of place outside the ballpark right next to the No. 7 subway stop, and a new museum branches off from the Jackie Robinson rotunda to the right of the main entrance.

I had the opportunity to meet with Tina Mannix, the senior director of marketing with the Mets, for a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum to learn a little more about the newest addition to the stadium. Putting it all together, it seems, is much more than just getting some game-used jerseys and balls and displaying them for a year or two.

Relative humidity in cabinets has to be maintained around 50 percent, UV filters need to line the windows, and every aspect of the storage and recording of each item is determined ahead of time.

“This was all built as part of the game day experience,” Tina said. “The goal was to house and pay tribute to Mets history in the right way and to build it in a way that it can stay here for a long time.

“We wanted to honor our history, whether it’s players or managers or members of the team that made a mark­—we kept using the term ‘an indelible mark’ on the franchise. We wanted it to be a great place for fans to learn a little bit about the history that they may not have known, and for a generation to pass along to another generation.

“We wanted it to be a place people would be proud of. We will have been around 50 years in 2012 so it’s not like we’ve been around that long, but our history is very unique and very different, and we clearly wanted to celebrate those great moments.”

While the two World Series trophies are the first thing you notice in the Ring of Champions when you enter the museum, the Mets hit all of the right notes with their displays.

The busts commemorating all 21 members of the Mets Hall of Fame that were on display in the Diamond Club at Shea Stadium have been replaced by Cooperstown-esque plaques, and there are fantastic displays dedicated to the history of Mr. Met and defining moments of the franchise.

Add that to one of Keith Hernandez’s 11 Gold Gloves, Tom Seaver’s Cy Young award, an original record of Meet the Mets , Benny Agbayani’s bat from the Subway Series, and John Franco’s FDNY cap that he wore after 9/11 and you leave the museum full of nostalgia and pride.

Even Casey Stengel’s handwritten notes saying Ed Kranepool “should block more grounders at first base” and that Bobby Klaus was a “fair bunter and good hustler” are pure gold for fans of an older generation.

The Mets have a rich broadcasting heritage too, and it seemed only fitting that Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, Howie Rose, Gary Cohen, Billy Berroa, and Juan Alicea were represented in the museum. You can hear four famous calls from each broadcaster and watch the corresponding footage on an overhead monitor, reliving the moments these personalities brought into your living rooms.

Tina said: “Interactive displays are part of the whole experience and they are important especially with our younger fans because they help them learn about the team and its history…about where the team came from.

“We are very proud of the Jackie Robinson rotunda and we realize that we are a product of the Dodgers and the Giants. It’s fact. We wear the NY symbol because of the New York Giants and we wear orange and blue because of the blue of the Dodgers and the orange of the Giants.”

History and story-telling is a theme throughout the 3,200 square-foot museum, and nothing tells a better tale than the ball that Mookie Wilson hit that trickled through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series, on loan from private collector Seth Swirsky.

Swirsky, a songwriter and long-time Mets fan, said he was more than happy to loan the ball to the museum.

“I’m a die-hard longtime fan and I went to Shea Stadium,” he said. “I went to the World Series at nine years old in ’69, and I really grew up with it. So for me to end up with this ball was a tremendously humbling experience and I was glad to be able to lend it to the Mets. I’m so, so happy that fans are getting a good feeling from it.

“I was completely thrilled to help the Mets in any way I could. They have given me so many thrills and they’re my team, you know. The way the Mets have done everything is very professional.

“I’m happy to give back to the Mets. The more that see it, the merrier.”

The ball is housed next to the timeless photo of the ball getting through Buckner’s wickets in the Defining Moments exhibit, inscribed with the message to Mets traveling secretary Arthur Richman: “To Arthur. The ball won it for us. Mookie Wilson, 10/25/86.”

Tina added: “We all knew this ball existed, the Mookie ball. This is the ball. We knew Seth was a big Mets fan and he wanted to make sure it was protected.”

To read a special article on the history of the ball and an in-depth interview with its owner click here.

While the ball is one of the higher-profile artifacts at the museum, there are more than 60 items in total, many on loan from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and private collectors.

The museum was specially designed by Populus, formally HOK Sport Architects, who helped create the Royals Hall of Fame at Kauffman Stadium, and there are a number of controls in place to make sure everything stays in pristine condition.

“The National Baseball Hall of Fame has been amazing to work with and they were one of the first people we called. We have a great relationship with them,” Tina said.

“These display units were built to Cooperstown’s specifications and we wanted to make sure we did everything the right way. They’re trying to protect what they loan, and so it if meets with Cooperstown approval we should be good.

“We had talked about a museum for a long time. It was something that had been part of the conversation and it was really just a matter of priorities and finding the right space and allocating the right amount of time to do it the right way.”

Temperature and humidity monitors, called thermographs, gauge conditions inside the cabinets and staff members record the totals every week before reporting back to Cooperstown every three months. The exterior windows all have UV treatments to limit the type of light entering the museum, and the exhibits are strategically arranged so that sensitive items are not exposed to direct sunlight.

In addition, the museum staff has to reach a consensus on the appraisal of every item on display, and loan agreement forms have to be exchanged and signed between the Mets and every exhibitor.

When I spoke with Erik Strohl, senior director of exhibits and collections at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, he said it takes years of experience to put a museum together successfully, but that he was excited to be able to help the Mets highlight their own heritage in Flushing.

“We have had a couple of staff members visit the museum and they have said it is fantastic. From the pictures it looks like they have done a really good job and the visitors seem to enjoy it,” he said.

Erik worked with the team to determine everything from security measures and cabinet temperatures to where the Mets store items that are not on display to where they check new artifacts in when they come to the stadium.

Most of the items on loan from Cooperstown are hardy and durable—Tommy Agee’s glove from 1969, Mike Piazza’s batting helmet, Agbayani’s bat that drove home the winning run in the Mets only Subway Series victory—and that is important because they generally require less stringent care than items like documents or photographs.

“It’s hard to maintain levels exactly in a museum where members of the public are. You really want the temperature around 68 degrees, but for relative humidity it depends because each type of artifact needs a different type of humidity. In this case where you are talking about things that are made from all different types of medium you really just try to pick a happy point in the middle, somewhere between 45 and 55 percent relative humidity.

“The most important thing is not necessarily what the actual temperature and humidity are, but that they maintain a standard and that they don’t fluctuate. That is more dangerous than having it a little bit too high or low.”

There is a fine balance between invaluable and priceless at the museum, and I think that is one of the things that makes it intriguing.

The original scouting report on Darryl Strawberry is a remarkable artifact, but it actually came from the Mets own human resources department, and the paper mache head of the Mr. Met mascot is one of the originals from the mid 60s that was just stored away until now.

Strawberry’s original free agent player report, taken by Mets scouts in 1980 when Straw was an 18-year-old kid playing out in California, is actually one of my favorite pieces in  the museum.

Scout Roger Jongewaard observed that although Straw had below-average hitting ability, power, speed, fielding, range, and aggressiveness by Major League standards, he had the potential to be an above-average power hitter with an accurate, strong arm.

He estimated that Strawberry was worth $60,000. The Mets took him as the No. 1 overall pick two months later, Strawberry collected Rookie of the Year honors, and he went on to become one of the best power hitters in Mets history. Within five years of being at the Mets, he was earning $516,000 a year. When he signed with the Dodgers in 1991, he received $3.8 million. Well, scouts can’t be right about everything.

Wherever you look, there’s a story to be told. That is one of the reasons behind replacing the Hall of fame busts, like what you would see at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, with the plaques which provide an insight into their careers and contributions. Four more will be added on Aug. 1 when Strawberry, Doc Gooden, Davey Johnson, and Frank Cashen are inducted.

“We knew we wanted to do something different with the busts because they don’t really tell a story. We felt like we wanted to tell a little bit about the person and what their impact was,” Tina said.

“It’s not that the Hall of Fame wasn’t a priority, but we decided we needed to bring it back. We needed our Hall of Fame to actually have a home, otherwise you have these members but what does that really mean? It’s just something on paper as opposed to a place where people can really learn about it. You want people to know about who Joan Payson and Casey Stengel were.”

They will join the famous icons of Mets history, which include Bud Harrelson, Jerry Koosman, Ed Kranepool, Gary Carter, and Tom Seaver—someone who is featured prominently throughout the museum.

Speaking about the Seaver jersey on the uniform display wall, Tina said: “A lot of the collectors have different items, and it was just about what tells the best tale.

“Collectors have game-used Seaver jerseys, some have signed Seaver jerseys, and others have jerseys from the ’69 season. But this is a Tom Seaver game-used 1969 signed World Series jersey. That’s pretty special.

“Could we have filled a wall with Tom Seaver stuff? Sure, but we wanted to show unique stuff and and we also wanted to show more current stuff which is why you’ll see a Jose Reyes jersey or a Carlos Beltran jersey or a Gary Carter bat. We didn’t want it to be just about guys in our Hall of Fame because our history’s more than that.”

As Tina moves along the display she stops at a smaller jersey that evokes a completely different emotion. “I can stand here and look at Mookie Wilson’s jersey and think ‘Oh my God, I remember when he wore that, look at how small it is. Look at the different fashion through the years.’”

If the jerseys were an expected element of the museum, one little collection which was not was the set of four World Series press pins.

“The press pins are a baseball tradition if you will,” Tina said. “They end up being collectibles and you have to work with MLB on the design.” In the past, say in 1969, only a small number of pins were made for the press. As more and more credential were handed out, clubs decided not to date the pins with a specific year, allowing them to be created in advance when a trip to the World Series loomed.

“More recently the pins will say ‘Third World Series,’ ‘Fourth World Series,’ etc. They’re not dated like they use to be.”

While there are obvious benefits to this in ensuring the pins are ready, it also leads to disappointment when they have to be locked away. As for the Mets’ “Fifth World Series” pin, it has been safely locked away since 2006 when Carlos Beltran struck out against the St. Louis Cardinals with the bases loaded in Game Seven of the NLCS.

Tina added: “It takes a while to create a pin and we were one inning away in Game Seven from going to the World Series, so our pin was already made. That is the world of baseball. There were t-shirts in my office saying ‘National League Champions 2006’ which we had to mail back to MLB.

“You can’t have thousands of pins made overnight. You have to prepare a little ahead of time.”

And when history moves on and the need for the press pins leads to the Mets bringing home a third World Championship trophy?

“You bring me that problem and I’d be very happy,” Tina laughed. “I don’t think anyone would mind having to move parts of the museum around to deal with that.”

The Hall of Fame and Museum is open to all ticket holders on game days. Individuals and groups can also visit the museum as part of the newly-announced Citi Field tour which opens on Memorial Day next weekend. For more information, click here or call 718-507-TIXX.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Andrew Cashner: Coming Soon to Wrigley Field?

Last night for the Chicago Cubs Triple-A affiliate in Iowa, one of the less heralded potential superstar prospects in baseball had another good night.

Andrew Cashner, the Cubs first round draft pick in 2008, dominated for seven innings as the Iowa Cubs won 1-0. Cashner was an elite closer in college, but the Cubs are trying to make him into a starter.


Since being promoted to Triple-A, Cashner is putting up numbers that could easily be confused for those of super-prospect Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals.

In three starts, Cashner is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. He has allowed only 13 hits and walked just two while striking out 14 in 19.0 innings pitched.

These numbers come after he earned a promotion in six starts, going 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 36.0 innings.

So far this year at two levels, Cashner’s allowed 35 hits and 15 walks while striking out 56 in 55.0 innings. In nine starts, he’s 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA.

Perhaps the only position group (infield, outfield, bullpen, starters) that’s exceeding expectations on almost a daily basis is the starting rotation for the Cubs. Despite his inability to get a win, Tom Gorzelanny has been solid and Carlos Silva’s five wins lead the staff.

With Ted Lilly returning to form from injury and Ryan Dempster continuing to post solid numbers, the rotation is almost too full to consider Cashner a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation. As it is, Randy Wells is fighting to keep that spot over Opening Day starter Carlos Zambrano right now.

My recommendation, and prayer, is that the Cubs do not screw up Cashner’s development the same way they did that of Jeff Samardzija. Do not bring the kid up and stick him back in the bullpen “for experience.” If he’s going to be a starter, leave him in the rotation in Iowa so he can get more innings on his arm.

The numbers Cashner’s putting up make it hard to imagine Wrigley Field is too far away for the 23-year-old. The Cubs pulled the trigger on bringing up 20-year-old shortstop phenom Starlin Castro, and he’s been fantastic. Could Cashner be next in line?

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Starlin Castro: Should the Chicago Cubs Trade Their Budding Young Star?

Let’s start by being honest: the 2010 Chicago Cubs are awful.

The bullpen is thin, the bench is soft, and the bats are taking turns being stone cold. It’s bad enough that your Opening Day starter is being paid almost $18 million to throw two or three innings a week in the bullpen in early May, and Carlos Zambrano isn’t even doing that very well.

The national media is now picking fights for the Cubs to deal with internally. Fox’s Ken Rosenthal decided that Cubs GM Jim Hendry should fire Lou Piniella, and the Cubs have spent a long weekend telling people “everything’s going to be ok.”

Meanwhile, they’re dropping five of six to the Pittsburgh Pirates and are staring up at four teams in the Central Division.

It’s time to blow this thing up, people. Why prolong the pain of this ridiculously underwhelming roster when Hendry could, for once, be proactive in building a winning team?

Now for the million dollar question: if the Cubs are going to tear this thing down, who is, and more importantly, isn’t available?

The only thing Cubs fans have had to be excited about has been the promotion of 20-year-old super prospect Starlin Castro. And, other than a couple errors in his first home game, the kid’s been everything he was sold as being; he’s hit the ball to all fields, has shown better range than Ryan Theriot at short, and stole his first base of the season on Monday night.

Castro should be the future for the Cubs.


And this is a big, Beyonce-sized but folks. There’s a huge “what if” on the horizon that must be discussed if you’re the Cubs, and now is the time to do it.

In Miami, all hell is breaking loose in the Marlins’ clubhouse. After fouling a ball off his shin last night, superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez didn’t exactly hustle after booting a ball later. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez yanked Ramirez off the field, and a war of words began.

Gonzalez said anything less than 100 percent is not acceptable, and Wes Helms said he thinks Ramirez needs to apologize to his teammates for his lack of effort on Monday night.

Ramirez’s response to his manager?

“It’s his team. He does whatever he (expletive) wants,” Ramirez said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s brutal.”

When asked about his ankle, Ramirez added, “That’s OK. [Gonzalez] doesn’t understand that. He never played in the big leagues.”

Them’s fightin’ words!

Ramirez is a 26-year-old shortstop who has already been an All-Star and won the 2009 National League batting crown. In his four-year major league career entering 2010, Ramirez hit 103 home runs, had 313 runs batted in and stole 164 bases.

The cliff notes of Ramirez’s scouting report is “second coming of A-Rod.”

Ramirez received the richest contract in the history of the Marlins organization in May of 2008, a six-year, $70 million deal (his annual salaries from 2010-2014 will be $7M, $11M, $15M, $15.5M and $16M). When his current contract expires, Ramirez will be 31.

To truly frame any consideration of the Cubs making a move for someone like Ramirez, we need to place Ramirez into some context. The Florida Marlins acquired Ramirez as the centerpiece of a trade that sent Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. Indeed, if you examine the history of the Marlins, they have a great track record of trading players before they cost the franchise too much money and getting exceptional value in return.

Now let’s circle back to the question at-hand: if you’re Jim Hendry, and you’re trying to save your job during the 2010 season… and if you’re the Ricketts family, trying to turn 101-plus years of misery into something special… what expense is too great? And what players aren’t touchable?

Tom Ricketts has made his feelings very clear publicly that he wants to build the organization from the bottom up, using home-grown talent to supplement the stars (and concrete contracts Hendry couldn’t sell to his own parents) on the major league roster. One would have to think the poster child (and I mean “child”) for this philosophy would be Castro.

Here’s your Kardashian-sized but : but what if Starlin Castro could get Hanley Ramirez to Chicago?

The Marlins might be intrigued by some of the contracts the Cubs have on their roster, especially expiring contracts of veterans. The Cubs cherry-picked Derrek Lee away from the Marlins for Hee-Seop Choi in the winter following the epic disaster of 2003, and also acquired Juan Pierre, Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca from Florida in a series of moves that sent, among others, Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins current No. 2 starter, Ricky Nolasco, to Miami.

A history of dealing between Florida and Chicago exists in the recent past.

There’s one more point to consider when considering any move involving Castro. There’s another kid in the system named Hak-Ju Lee who also happens to play a very, very good shortstop. Some scouts have whispered that, when Lee is ready, Castro see a similar fate to Theriot and move to second base because Lee is a superior defensive shortstop.

However, Lee won’t turn 20 until November this year and is a couple years away. In those same few years, the Cubs could be turning third base over to Josh Vitters, another of their top prospects.

So the Cubs are an organization that has a future shortstop playing the position at Wrigley Field right now, but they have a player that might be better in the minors. What to do?

Consider the following offer: Castro and Aramis Ramirez to Florida for Hanley Ramirez.

There are some in baseball circles that believe Ramirez’s comparisons to Alex Rodriguez run deeper than his astounding production at a young age. Because of his size and power at the plate, many believe Ramirez will eventually make a permanent transition to third base.

So what would the progression be for the Chicago Cubs if this deal went down?

My proposal would be that Ramirez stays at shortstop and Theriot at second for the remainder of the 2010 season. This winter, however, Hanley Ramirez would replace Aramis Ramirez at third base and Theriot would move back to short for one more season, or until Hak-Ju Lee is ready. The Cubs would then move Vitters permanently to first base in Double-A; one of the biggest negatives about Vitters’s game has been his defense at third base, so moving him to first may have eventually happened anyway.

While some Cubs fans might scream that giving up on Aramis Ramirez makes no sense, there is no guarantee that he will be in Chicago next year. He has a player option for 2011 worth $14.6 million that, if Derrek Lee and Ted Lilly are gone, he wouldn’t necessarily have to exercise.

Ramirez will be 32 in late June, and the Marlins could put him at third base for the next two years at comparable cost ($30.6M) to Hanley Ramirez’s deal ($26M). Adding Aramis Ramirez in Florida would allow the Marlins to move Jorge Cantu to first base full-time, which would be an improvement for them as well.

If Aramis Ramirez doesn’t pick up his player option for 2011, then the Marlins save $26 million in the deal. What’s most important for the Marlins, though, is that replacing Hanley Ramirez with Castro at short falls in line with their historical pattern of turning a peaking young star into a younger, cheaper version of the player.

With the apparent chasm growing between Ramirez and his manager and teammates in Florida growing, the Marlins might be willing to make a deal soon. If the Cubs want to start rebuilding for the future, considering a deal that brings him to Chicago could be the right blockbuster to consider.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Phillies’ Closer Brad Lidge To Visit Team Doctor, Who Will Replace Him?

Knee and elbow surgeries during the off season delayed Brad Lidge’s 2010 debut. After recording his first save of the season on Monday, it appeared as though the Phillies’ closer was finally back.

Following a light game of catch at Coors Field on Tuesday, however, Lidge is heading back to Philadelphia to visit the team doctor.

“It really didn’t go as well as I would have liked,” Lidge said, speaking of Tuesday’s throwing session.

Lidge will be unavailable for the next few days as he’s being examined by team doctors in Philly. It’s not yet known if another DL stint is in Lidge’s immediate future.

Ryan Madson would normally fill in as the team’s closer in Lidge’s absence. A broken toe, however, will keep Madson on the shelf for the next two months.

Jose Contreras has been the Phillies’ most impressive reliever thus far, making him the favorite for saves. In 11 2/3 innings this season, the 38-year-old has a 0.77 ERA and 0.60 WHIP with 15 strikeouts and one walk. He may be unavailable for Wednesday’s doubleheader, however, as he pitched on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Phillies management hinted on Tuesday that Danys Baez may get a chance to close as well. Baez is 1-1 with 6.43 ERA and 1.36 through 14 innings thus far, but has the most closing experience with 114 career saves to his name.

Chad Durbin’s performances makes him a candidate to close as well, but Contreras is the guy to add for now. Keep an eye on this situation as more information surfaces. If Lidge is forced to the DL again, Contreras becomes a must add in all leagues.


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Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight, May 10: Who the Heck Is Brennan Boesch?

After a brief Mother’s Day weekend break, Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight is back with everything you need to know from Monday night’s action…



Hitter of the day: Carlos Ruiz (4-for-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI)

• Lost in the potent Phillies lineup is the hot-hitting Carlos Ruiz . The 31-year-old catcher extended his hit streak to six games Monday night, going 4-for-5 with two runs, a HR and two RBI. Through 27 games this season, Ruiz is batting .350 with two homers and 12 RBI.

Ruiz’s unsustainable BABIP (.393) explains the inflated average, but his excellent plate discipline (21 walks compared with 16 strikeouts) suggests he can be useful in 14-team leagues this season.

Mark Teixeira went 1-for-5 with a HR Monday night, his fourth in the last three games. After a lowly April which saw the Yankees’ first basemen hit .136, Teixeira has raised his average to .202 with six dingers and 22 RBI in 31 games this season. The window to buy-low on the perennial 30-HR, 100-RBI slugger has likely closed.

Victor Martinez also appears to breaking out of his early-season slump, as the Boston catcher/designated hitter went 1-for-5 with three RBI Monday night. Through 10 games this month, Martinez is batting .275 (11-for-40) with two homers and 12 RBI. Don’t let his slow April fool you; 2010 should produce Martinez’s fourth career 20-HR, 100-RBI season.

• Brennan Boesch has been a pleasant surprise for the Detroit Tigers  in place of the injured Carlos Guillen. With his 2-for-3, three RBI performance Monday night, the 25-year-old right fielder raised his batting average to .340 (16-for-47) with two homers and 14 RBI in 13 games this season.

Unfortunately for Boesch owners, Guillen is likely to begin a rehab assignment sometime this week. His return could force Boesch back to Triple-A, where he hit .379/.455/.621 with three bombs and 17 RBI in 15 games before his promotion.

Alex Gonzalez continues to impress, as the Toronto shortstop went 2-for-4 with two runs Monday night against the Red Sox. In 34 games, Gonzalez is batting .270 with 10 HRs and 27 RBI, and has a hit in eight of his last nine games.

Gonzalez’s unreasonably high HR/FB rate of 18.2 percent (career 8.2 percent) explains his lofty HR total. This makes the 33-year-old an obvious sell-high candidate, as he owns a career .248 batting average and hasn’t topped 16 HRs in a season since 2004.

Ivan Rodriguez continued his surprising start to the 2010 season Monday, going 4-for-4. The Nationals’ catcher is now batting .393 with 13 RBI in 25 games this season. Pudge’s batting average will falter as his current .400 BABIP evens out, but he should still remain a decent option in deep leagues.

Nyjer Morgan owners were treated to two hits and two steals Monday night, as the speedy center fielder snapped his 10-game stolen base drought. He’s not the most efficient runner (57 percent this year, 68 percent career), but the 29-year-old  is a career .298 hitter, and is capable of approaching 90 runs and 40 steals this season with the Nationals.

Rod Barajas leads all catchers with nine homers, but has flirted with the Mendoza Line all season. The 34-year-old backstop went 2-for-4 Monday night, however, raising his batting average to .244.

Barajas has proven pop in his bat (21 HRs in 2005, 19 HRs in 2009), but his ridiculous FB rate (71.1 percent) and HR/FB rate (16.7 percent) are unsustainable. He might finish the season with 20 homers, but that equates to less than three per month the rest of the way. Barajas is a decent sell-high option.

Chris Coghlan is starting to show signs of life, as the 2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year recorded his first extra-base hit and his fourth steal of the season Monday night. He now has a hit in each of his last four starts.

Alfonso Soriano extended his hit-streak to nine games Monday night with a three-hit, two-RBI effort against the Marlins. Fonzy is now batting .340 with 17 runs, seven homers, and 20 RBI, but will continue to receive routine days off as the Cubs try to find playing time for Tyler Colvin.

Martin Prado ’s recently quiet bat awoke Monday night, as the Braves’ second baseman went 2-for-5 with a HR and five RBI. Through 32 games this season, Prado is batting .315 with 20 runs, two homers and 12 RBI. He’s making a case to be considered as a top-10 player at his position.

Casey McGehee went 2-for-4 with two RBI and his second homer in as many days Monday night. The 27-year-old third baseman is now batting .310 with seven homers and 30 RBI in 30 games this season.

While McGehee’s 162-RBI pace is unsustainable, he will continue to get plenty of opportunities batting fifth behind Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. It’s time to start taking this guy seriously, as he’s making a push for top-five status at a declining third base position.  

Andre Ethier continues to tear the cover off the ball, as the Dodgers’ right fielder went 3-for-5 with a run and two RBI Monday night. The N.L.’s triple-crown leader is batting .393 with 10 homers and 34 RBI in 30 games thus far.

The 28-year-old, coming off a breakout season is very good, but he’s not this good. Ethier’s .373 BABIP and 29.4 HR/FB rate will gradually drop, making him a decent sell-high candidate. Even still, Ethier is likely to post his second straight 30-HR, 100-RBI season.



Pitcher of the day: Tommy Hanson (W, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, BB, 8 K)

Tommy Hanson dazzled the Brewers Monday night, tossing eight scoreless against the N.L.’s most potent lineup. The 23-year-old second-year pitcher allowed just four hits and one walk while fanning eight. Through seven starts (43 innings) this season, Hanson boasts a 2.83 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 46/16 K/BB ratio.

Hanson’s early success does not make him a sell-high candidate. In fact, he’s a buy-low option if anything, as the young hurler is only going to get better. A 3.00 ERA and 200 strikeouts are both definite possibilities this season.

• After receiving a pounding last week in his third career start, Luis Atilano bounced back with 5.1 shutout innings against the hot-hitting Mets Monday night. The 25-year-old birthday boy allowed five hits and two walks, lowering his WHIP to 1.57. His ERA after four starts, however, stands at a respectable 3.57.

Atilano is now 3-0, but his peripherals (12 strikeouts, six walks in 22.2 innings) serve as a warning to fantasy managers. Don’t add him in 14-team leagues just yet, as Atilano is scheduled to pitch at Colorado this weekend. If all goes well, you can then safely graduate him from “watch” status. (For more on Atilano, click here .)

• The Angels roughed up Matt Garza Monday night, scoring four runs on seven hits in Garza’s seven innings of work. The Rays’ right-hander struck out seven, improving his 46/15 K/BB ratio through 50 innings thus far. Despite Monday night’s outing, the 26-year-old sports a stellar 2.49 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Garza has benefited from cupcake matchups thus far, so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds against tougher lineups as the season progresses.

Joel Pineiro continued his roller-coaster season Monday night, shutting out the Rays on five hits and one walk in 6.1 innings. The 31-year-old, who owns a mediocre 5.58 career K/9, also fanned seven.

Pineiro has five quality starts this season in which he’s posted a 1.65 ERA in 32.2 innings. In his other two starts, however, he’s been tagged for 15 earned runs in 9.1 innings.



• Miguel Batista picked up his first save of the season Monday night in place of closer Matt Capps , who was unavailable after pitching on Saturday and Sunday. Capps should be back in action if needed Tuesday night against the Mets.

• The ninth-inning favorite following Franklin Morales’ recent struggles, Manuel Corpas was shelled Monday night, allowing four runs on two hits and a walk in one inning. Corpas has now allowed six runs in 5.2 innings this month. Franklin Morales may get Colorado’s next few save opportunities until Huston Street ’s expected return in two weeks.

Be sure to check back for Fantasy Baseball Insiders Tonight updates all season long!


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What’s Wrong With Josh Beckett?

Red Sox ace Josh Beckett got rocked—again—Friday night, allowing nine earned runs in 5 1/3 innings to the Yankees, marking the third time he’s given up seven earned runs or more in a start this season.

Through seven starts (41 innings) in 2010, Beckett is 1-1 with a despicable 7.46 ERA and 1.66 WHIP.

Two of his three quality starts have come against Kansas City and Baltimore, both of which are in the bottom four in runs scored among A.L. teams. Beckett’s beat downs have come against the Rangers, Blue Jays and Yankees (twice), which on the surface might explain some of his troubles. Still, the former World Series MVP shouldn’t be this bad.

So what should Beckett owners do?

This Insider says hold him—for now.



Here’s why


Beckett’s unusually high .365 BABIP explains his .311 BAA and sky-high WHIP. His current strand rate (56.9 percent) is a ridiculously low number, one that is sure to approach Beckett’s career mark of 71.5 percent by season’s end.

His 4.47 FIP is three full runs lower than his current ERA, which also points to tough luck.

The factors Beckett can control, however, aren’t necessarily encouraging. His strikeout rate (7.46) is down from his career mark of 8.51. Likewise, his usually stellar walk rate (2.76 career) currently sits at 3.51.

Beckett’s average fastball velocity is down to 93.5 MPH this year from 94.7, 94.6, 94.3 and 94.1 MPH in season’s past. This gradual decline isn’t as concerning. In fact, it’s to be expected.

What’s most discouraging is Beckett’s curveball use (or lack there of) so far this season.

Since joining the Red Sox in 2006, Beckett’s yacker has accounted for nearly one-fourth of the pitches he’s thrown. In 2010, however, he’s tossing his curveball just 18.7 percent of the time.

This is worth keeping an eye on.

Beckett’s struggles thus far have relegated him to spot-start status in fantasy leagues, as he can’t be trusted with starts against the Blue Jays, Yankees and Phillies on the horizon.

Despite this, keep in mind fantasy baseball is all about value. Dumping a pitcher of Beckett’s caliber at this point would not be wise. In fact, Beckett, who owns a career 2.96 ERA during the month of September (a.k.a the fantasy playoffs) is a decent buy-low option for the audacious fantasy manager.

Beckett, who turns 30 on Saturday, should become more valuable as his luck begins to even out, though his upcoming matchups will make this an especially tough task. If you can afford to stash him away until he turns the corner, do so. Just don’t rely on him anytime soon.

FBI Forecast: 190 IP, 13 W, 170 K (8.05 K/9) 4.60 ERA, 1.27 WHIP


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Prospect Report: Does Cubs’ Starlin Castro Have Fantasy Value in 2010?

Cubs GM Jim Hendry called up highly-touted prospect Starlin Castro Friday morning, a move that’s been widely speculated for the past week.

The 20-year-old Castro was hitting .376/.421/.569 with 14 extra-base hits, 20 runs, 20 RBI and four steals in 26 games at Double-A Tennessee this season. In 127 games last year between High-A and Double-A , Castro hit .299/.342/.392 with 32 extra-base hits and 28 stolen bases.

The Cubs view Castro as an elite shortstop prospect, as the 2006 signee from the Dominican Republic “has drawn comparisons to Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada—and even Derek Jeter” according to Baseball America .

Castro makes adjustments at the plate, and doesn’t struggle against breaking pitches like most young hitters. BA notes his ability to “consistently put the barrel of the bat on the ball,” adding that scouts believe his gap power will develop as his young body physically matures.

Though he doesn’t take many walks, Castro works deep into counts and is a very good contact hitter. His plus speed makes him a threat on the base paths, adding to his value in fantasy leagues.

Castro’s presence in the Cubs’ lineup will likely bump Ryan Theriot to second base, effectively diminishing any fantasy value Jeff Baker or Mike Fontenot had. The young phenom is expected to play every day at shortstop, though his spot in the order is not yet known. Chicago may slot him in the seven or eight hole to start, and move him up near the top as he gets comfortable.

Despite the hype surrounding Castro, expectations should be kept in check. Braves’ outfielder Jason Heyward is the rare exception, not the rule. 20-year-olds normally shouldn’t be counted on as fantasy options, but Castro’s speed should give him value in 14-team leagues.

He’s a must-add in dynasty and keeper formats, as young Starlin Castro has all the tools necessary to become the Cubs’ first all-star shortstop since Shawon Dunston 20 years ago.

FBI Forecast: 400 at-bats, 60 runs, five HRs, 45 RBI, 20 stolen bases, .260 batting average



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NEWS: Starlin Castro Called Up By Chicago Cubs

The “stuff” has hit the fan for the Chicago Cubs.

In breaking news late Friday morning, the Cubs have recalled their top prospect, 20-year-old Starlin Castro. Castro will reportedly bat eighth in the Cubs lineup and start at shortstop, moving Ryan Theriot to second base, as the Cubs face the Reds in Cincinnati at 7:10 pm EST.

If you haven’t heard of Starlin Castro, here’s your introduction.

Castro, who turned 20 on March 24, had a fantastic run in the Arizona Fall League that brought him national attention. Now his presence in Spring Training has some people in the Chicago media asking Ryan Theriot how soon he’ll be playing second base.

As the Tribune’s Paul Sullivan wrote, “Over the last eight months, Castro has gone from unheralded to untouchable.”

Many prospect rating groups are now releasing their baseball prospect lists, and Castro is prominently featured. On every list, Castro is now the Cubs’ top prospect, and he has jumped into the top 20 on most national rankings.

Cubs VP of player personnel Oneri Fleita recently told MLB.com , “He is the type of player I would pay to watch play.”

Baseball America , the largest and most respected minor league baseball information source, ranked Castro the 16th-best prospect in all of baseball. ESPN ‘s Keith Law ranked him 12th overall, and had some wonderful things to say about the young man. MLB.com ranked Castro the lowest of the three, at 22nd overall.

“Castro is one of the most exciting position player prospects in the minors as a quick-twitch player with an electric bat and a hose for an arm at shortstop,” said Law. “As a shortstop, he’s quick on his feet with good range in both ways, especially to the hole, but it is his arm that really stands out…He’s going to be an impact bat in the middle of the diamond.”

In this post-Moneyball world where on-base percentage is king, Castro’s tiny walk total from last year isn’t very popular. His strike out rate, though, indicates that he puts the ball in play. Castro drew only 29 walks, but struck out just 53 times in 469 total at-bats last year.

MLB.com said, “[Castro] could be ready to take over in Chicago sooner rather than later, with all the ingredients to be an elite, All-Star caliber shortstop.”

Castro has shown some speed on the bases as well. In 127 games in 2009, he stole 28 bases in 39 attempts. He has not yet shown much power, but there aren’t many 19-year-old shortstops that do.

So it sounds like Cubs fans have the next Derek Jeter headed to Wrigley on his golden chariot in time for Opening Day, right?

Not so fast…

FanGraphs did some interesting homework with help from BaseballReference  on young players breaking into the majors and came up with some intriguing information.

From 1954 to 2009, only 12 middle infielders crossed the rookie threshold as a 20-year-old. That group, which includes familiar names like Roberto Alomar, Jose Reyes, Garry Templeton, and Elvis Andrus, batted only .261 in their rookie seasons. Indeed, all of the youngsters struggled in their matriculations.

It won’t be long until we see the Starlin-O-Meter in the bleachers. He’s the best home-grown shortstop since Shawon Dunston, and now that he’s in Chicago the world will be watching.

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