Frankly, Mr. Franklin 

It is not a day as tremendous as La Liberacion Del Senor Zapata, when Giants fans ran from their kitchens into the dusty streets and banged wooden spoons against metal pots as the church bells rang, rang, rang out with the news!

It is not quite that kind of day, but I'm happy to tell you, my friends, that the Franklins of Wayne have played their last concert at Mays Field By The Bay, leaving the awkwardly-situated stage to the annual Dave Matthews collective yawn-a-thon.

Wayne Franklin got his walking papers today, or maybe in baseball they're called sliding papers, but whatever the case, he's as outta here as a home run when Duane Kuiper is in the broadcast booth.

Also gonzo is Al Levine, which I'm less enthused about, mostly because he's a fellow M.O.T. (Member of the Tribe). Sorry, brother-man, but that's how the matzoh ball bounces, especially if it was like the ones from my Grandma Shirley's kitchen. ("Matzoh bullets was more like it," my mom not so fondly remembers from her childhood.)

So what does this mean for the roster? Tyler Walker looks good for the sixth bullpen slot. Let's hope that with a full year of uninterrupted MLB service under his belt he'll show more consistency.

But wait -- does this also mean Jeff Fassero will be the seventh bullpenner, the long man, with Jesse Foppert sent to Fresno to start every fifth day? Ack. Fassero hasn't had a good year since 2001, although his stats away from Coors Field last year were pretty good (.674 OPS against, 61 IP, only 4 HR allowed, 3.23 ERA) except for a Rueter-like K/BB ratio of 30/23.

I still hope the Giants stick with 11 pitchers, ditch Fassero, and give Dallimore a bench spot.



That Trick Never Works* 

Once again I dazzle audiences with my magic predictive skills -- I've scribed the Giants' preview capsule over at All-Baseball. Check it out here. (And note that I wrote it before we knew about Bonds's second knee surgery.)

Or, since Grant scooped me on the news of my own guest appearance, go to the Venable, er, venerable McCovey Chronicles and link from there.

*Best read aloud in a shrill squirrel-like falsetto.



Roster Construction 

Sometimes we ponder the possibility of painting a large jungle scene, complete with psychedelic tiger, on the side of our house, and sometimes we walk down to the Ace Hardware and spend a half hour browsing through the fine selection of drywall screws.

The talk of media bias, steroid scrutiny, and personalities is like that mural -- full of swirling emotion and grand gestures. But brass tacks, nuts and bolts, and other boring toolbox metaphors are fun, too, so today we discuss the nerdy details of the Giants roster construction.

First, the things we know. Barring trade or injury, these position players will be on the opening day roster:

D. Cruz

Bonds's absence will move Pedro Feliz into the outfield and open an extra bench spot. It's nearly certain that Jason Ellison will make the team as an extra outfielder, and Tony Torcato, who's slugging .636 this spring and is out of options, is probably going to make it, too.

That brings us to 13 position players. There may be room for another, depending on the pitching staff. Given how much Alou loves to use the bullpen, it's a long shot, but candidates for this theoretical last spot are Brian Dallimore and Lance Niekro.

Dallimore isn't on the 40-man roster, which means his promotion would result in someone else getting bumped and possibly snatched up by another team. But if he doesn't make the big squad, Dallimore is free to walk. Use him or lose him.

There's a pretty vocal "Free Dallimore" movement among Giants' fans, and he's a great underdog story, but to me the guy smacks of Jay Canizaro, a former Giants' farmhand who had great AAA numbers but couldn't put it together in the bigs. Would the sentiment of adding him to the team be worth the loss of a younger, brighter prospect such as Brad Hennessey or Brian Burres?

To Dallimore or Not to Dallimore: that will be the most agonizing roster decision regarding position players.

Onward to the moundsmen. Barring injury or trade, these pitchers will be on the team:


Jerome Williams has been behind schedule this spring, and I recently advocated letting him get a start or two with Fresno until the Giants need a fifth starter. The extra bench spot would go to a position player (see above), which will give Felipe Alou more substitutional flexibility. But Jerome pitched five innings Thursday and seems to be on track to start the season with the club.

So let's assume Jerome is ready to roll on Opening Day. That's 10 pitchers. The final question is should the Giants break camp with six relievers or seven? This gets complicated. The candidates for the last one or two spots:

T. Walker

Like Dallimore, Levine and Fassero are non-roster invitees. If they don't make the team, anyone can snatch them up -- and probably will, as both have pitched extremely well this spring. It's the same as the Dallimore Conundrum: Is the benefit of adding Fassero or Levine, old guys having good springs, worth the risk of losing younger players forever?

Walker is on the 40-man, but he's out of options. The Giants can't send him to the minors without putting him on the waiver wire.

I believe Foppert and Franklin have at least an option left -- they can be sent to Fresno without complications.

Today's question: If Victor Conte had incriminating photos of Jose Canseco, a loaded syringe, and your left buttock, and he said he would release them to the media unless you added one or more of the non-roster invitees to the opening day roster, whom would you add, and whom you correspondingly bump from the 40-man? (The entire 40-man roster is here.)

I'll go first: Despite my reservations about Dallimore, he would be my first NRI choice (Fassero and Levine are simply too old and too fungible). To clear a space for him, I would try like hell to trade Christiansen or Franklin to a team desperate for a LOOGY. Barring a trade, I would drop Franklin or Tyler Walker from the 40-man.

Et tu, Brutus?



"A nightmare about this land of Rueters" 

Over on Dodger Thoughts there's a short post on Hee Seop Choi that (d)evolves into a hilarious discussion of Kirk Rueter's genetic stock. Don't hang out over there too long, though. Dodger fans have cooties.



He Went to Get the Hangin' Judge, But the Hangin' Judge was Drunk 

Next time I'm being tried in a court of law, remind my lawyers to knock these three guys out of the jury pool during the voir dire:

"I will not vote for Mark McGwire," Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times said. "It's obvious from his own statements he used some form of performance-enhancing drugs and it's obvious from his statistics he did not become a Hall of Fame-type player until he did so."

"Right now I'm sort of sitting on the fence, but leaning toward not voting for McGwire or Bonds because they cheated," said Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, himself a member of the Hall's writers' wing. "McGwire had the opportunity to say something, but didn't. To me, that's sort of like pleading the Fifth Amendment and not denying he did it."

"[McGwire] had a chance to help himself, help his sport, a chance to help kids and the parents sitting behind him and he just whiffed," said Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times. "It might as well be a guilt admission."

All three spoke in an Associated Press survey of Hall of Fame voters. Here's what the Chronicle's Henry Schulman had to say:

"The Hall of Fame is not a museum for saints. It's filled with racists, philanderers, players who used cork bats and spitters and everything at their disposal to their advantage," he said. "It's hard for me to single McGwire out. Unless he commits a crime, he's on my ballot."


"I think [Bonds] was a Hall of Famer before he had those monster home run seasons. … Even if he were convicted of a crime, I would probably give him my vote to be consistent within myself. I've always felt Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. I'd have to get some damning evidence confirmed on Barry before I would knock him off my first ballot."

Somebody tell Bonds that Schulman is standing up for him no matter how much abuse Bonds heaps upon him. Sometimes it's noble to flaunt the system, and sometimes you're just an asshole. Bonds's problem is he's never learned the difference between the two.



Barry Bonkers 

Not only did Barry Bonds say today he might miss the entire season, he told the media has finally triumphed in bringing him down.

The man himself has admitted in the past that he doesn't even believe half the things he says, so I'm going to take the Dr. Bonds Injury Timeline with a big pinche of salt. It sounds much more like his favorite self-motivation technique: bitch, moan, complain, whine about being tired, beat down, then step to the plate and smash one into the bay. It doesn't win him any sunshine points, but whatever works.

Another note after seeing that he brought his kid Nikolai to the press conference: Can you imagine having a dad like Barry? Paranoid? Check. Persecution complex? Check. Steroid user? Quite possibly. Filthy rich and materialistic? Check. Mercurial? Check. Away half the time? Yep. Someone get that kid into therapy.



Raise a Toast 

Software geeks and baseball geeks alike should check out The Baseball Toaster, a brand new group site that runs on hand-crafted, home-brewed software known as the Fairpole. The site is populated with a raft of refugees from All-Baseball, including some of my favorites such as Will Carroll, Alex Ciepley, and the ever-lovin' Score Bard.


The Jon Miller Classic 

I caught a few innings of the Giants game this afternoon while on lunch break. It was my dream broadcast lineup: just Jon Miller, Krukow and Kuiper. No Dave Fleming, who with his young-guy-with-gravitas voice and Ed McMahonesque suck-up laugh is starting to annoy me as much as Joe Angel did.

But Miller was in fine form. At one particularly boring juncture of the game, he segued from a discussion about Hanchin, the former team of A's pitcher Keiichi Yabu, to an anecdote about his own visit to Japan in 1984. He told Kruk and Kuip about his attempts to pick up women on the subway with his phrase-book Japanese and sentences such as "Shall we meet later at my hotel?"

Every woman, he said, reacted the same way, and to illustrate he made a sound half-way between a demure giggle and a Ringu-scream. "So sorry!" they would say. "Busy!"

Is there any announcer better? Does anyone even come close? You may say Vin Scully, but Vin doesn't have half Miller's sense of humor. Plus he works for the Dodgers.

Dave Niehaus in Seattle? A cretin.

Bill King of the A's is one of my all-time favorites, but his golden years were doing the Warriors of the 1970s.




Nice Thread 

A little news 'n' notes for a Saturday afternoon:

* There's a nice thread about Brian Sabean's draft philosophy over on the McBoofy Chronicles.

* Jerome Williams threw 2 2/3 innings today and struggled with control in only his second spring outing against major leaguers. I wasn't counting pitches and neither was Jon Miller on the radio broadcast, but I'd guess he threw about 60. If J-Rome struggles again in his next outing, the Giants may think about holding him back when the season starts for a couple more turns in the minors. He's missed a chunk of spring training because his dad is seriously ill; Williams lost his mother a couple years ago in his rookie year, I believe.

* Sabean stopped by the radio broadcast booth to answer a few questions. In typical Sabean fashion, he didn't really say anything specific, although it sounds like the Giants will first try internal options to fill Bonds's spot. He also said it's really hard to make a significant trade in spring training, which doesn't mean anything. If he really wants to make a trade, he has the chips to do it.

* Pedro Feliz just blew a play in the outfield. He will be the Giants' left fielder for much of Bonds's absence, which changes the Giants' outfield defense from old and slow to slightly younger, just as slow and far less experienced.

* No word from Sabean whether the Giants will break camp with 11 or 12 pitchers, although the likelihood of Bonds missing April makes one think that Felipe Alou will want more bench flexibility. Jason Ellison seems nearly a lock. Stories in today's papers give Tony Torcato a good shot because he's hitting the ball well and is left handed. When Tucker starts, which he'll do often against RHPs, the Giants would have no other lefties on the bench.

* If Williams needs extra time to get up to speed, the Giants have plenty of options to take his place in early April. They'll need a fifth starter on April 9 against Colorado but have two off-days in the second week of the season, which means Williams could squeeze in a couple starts at Fresno and only miss one big-league turn. This could give them the chance to break camp with four starters, seven relievers (including a long man who would start Apr. 9), and that extra bench guy who'll no doubt be valuable in Bonds's absence.



Truth or Dingers? 

Before the baseball-on-steroids hearings today, people were calling the whole thing a charade, a clown-show, a stand upon which to grand. At least they didn't call it cartoonish.



Let me repeat: Uh-oh.



Itching For Trade 

Spring training has reached the halfway point, and we're starting to see teams with needs. Sure, we've all got needs, but not all of us need pitching. And that's what interests me, because that's what the Giants have to give. Besides love.

I agitate, because all of us amateur wanna-be GMs have been starved of deal fodder since Scott Boras flew home in his private 777 from the Magglio Ordonez press conference. We need trades to discuss.

And now there's even more urgency -- Barry Bonds is having a "typical" exam on his knee. When I hear a baseball executive say, "Relax, it's a typical exam," I run out to Trader Joe's and buy another case of Two-Buck Chuck because I have a sneaky feeling there will be a lot of pain to dull this year, and you never know when TJ's will raise the price to Two-Buck-and-Fitty-Cent Chuck. It's a long season. (Memo to recovering alcoholics: don't take this seriously. I much prefer Bushmill's and a couple Sominex. It's a little something Eddie Money taught me.)

OK, so what if the Giants soon need a bat, not to mention someone big and scary to swing it? They'll have to trade pitching. As we've noted, that's what they have to offer.

And who needs pitching? With the events of recent days, we can hazard a few guesses:

The Cubs might, and not just a Cory Lidle-type rotation filler. Both Kerry Wood and Mark Prior are hurting, and Cubs fans are not feeling their freshest.

The Mets may need a starter. Steve Trachsel has a herniated disc.

The Devil Rays are willing to deal for young pitching.

Seattle could use help in the bullpen and rotation.

Texas could always use a good young pitcher and has lots of good young hitters to part with. (Jerome Williams for Kevin Mench?)

If Bonds is reduced to part-time status in April, as reports suggest, they can probably get by. If he's completely out for a month or more, we're going to see a lot of heds 'n' deks like these:

Mariners stymie Giants
Meche and Madritsch are virtually unhittable

Now, substitute "Rockies" for "Mariners," "Aaron Cook" for "Meche," and "Shawn Chacon" for "Madritsch."



¿Safeway? ¡Se Fue! 

Does this mean we'll see even more of P-Mag at the yard? Maybe he'll now keep a closer eye on the friends hanging out in the Giants clubhouse.

[Props to the Laz for la linque.]


When Prospects Become All-Stars 

As others have amply noted, Baseball America recently released its 2005 list of top 100 prospects. The Giants placed three: Fred Lewis at #78, Merkin Valdez at #58, and Matt Cain at #13, or #12b if you're superstitious.

Our black-and-orange panties are in a collective twist over Cain and Valdez. Fanned by the flames of such lists and breathless reports from spring training, most Giants fans have practically written the pair into the starting rotation at some point this year.

But as we'll see, there's actually very little chance either one will become good enough to be, say, a major-league all-star, let alone a good major leaguer.

Before I get into that, how does the Giants' showing on the 2005 list stack up against other teams? I don't have an intern to do this type of drudgery, so I'll start with a smaller sample that still matters intensely to the Giants: the other NL West teams.

So much for getting excited about the Giants' three prospects. The Dodgers have seven:

5. Joel Guzman, ss
19. Chad Billingsley, rhp
30. Edwin Jackson, rhp
62. James Loney, 1b
74. Andy LaRoche, 3b
89. Russell Martin, c
100. Greg Miller, lhp

Ha! Just one!

45. Josh Barfield, 2b

Four total, three in the top 23.

4. Ian Stewart, 3b
23. Jeff Francis, lhp
26. Chris Nelson, ss
82. Ubaldo Jimenez, rhp

Three in roughly the same distribution as the Giants' top three.

22. Carlos Quentin, of
40. Conor Jackson, of
61. Sergio Santos, ss

Now, back to the larger question: Does inclusion in the BA Top 100 prospect list presage a useful or valuable major league career?

It turns out others have done similar studies. Sorry to kill the suspense, but the short answer is no, especially for pitchers. Here's an article from 2002 by Paul Covert in Baseball Prospectus. Covert examined career VORP (a handy way to estimate a player's value above the baseline of a "replacement-level" scrub) for the top-100 list prospects from 1990 to 1997. (You can peruse all the lists going back to 1990.) I'll quickly summarize Covert: Hitters ranked in the top 10 are at least twice as likely to contribute major-league value than any other percentile. Pitchers ranked in the top 10 contributed an average VORP akin to hitters who rank in the middle of the list, i.e., just barely above replacement level. In fact, top-ten hitters are just about the only percentile that average out to mediocre-at-best major league careers.

(Permit me a slight tangent: This backs up a point I've been making with a degree of obnoxiousness for some time now. Trade Matt Cain or Merkin Valdez for an established major league hitter, dammit. Top minor-league pitchers rarely have useful major-league careers.)

How have the Giants fared over the years? (Grant at The McCovey Chronic has listed all the Giants by year here.)

They've had 44 appearances on the BA lists by 25 players. Only two -- Johnny Ard and Derek Reid -- never made the bigs. Only two have made All-Star apperances: Shawn Estes and Royce Clayton, both in 1997. Five others -- Steve Hosey, Joe Rosselli, Joe Fontenot, Jason Grilli, and Dante Powell -- have had one or multiple cups of coffee in the bigs, but nothing valuable. Five became fringe journeymen: Steve Decker, J.R. Phillips, Eric Gunderson, Calvin Murray, and Salomon Torres (who had a nice renaissance last year). The rest were either cut down by injury (Kevin Rogers, Kurt Ainsworth) or are still a bit young to pigeonhole (Valdez, Niekro, Linden, Cain, Williams, Liriano, Torcato, Foppert).

I like sabermetrics, but I don't like spending hours calculating hundreds of career VORP totals. Instead I'm going to use a very un-saber yardstick to compare the Western Division teams: All-Star appearances.

They're subjective, como no, but over a larger sample size, they're pretty indicative of quality. And let's count each appearance on the list as a type of minor-league "all-star" selection. So with two All-Star appearances and 25 players touted at least once by Baseball America, there's a 8% chance that a Giant in the all-time BA top 100 will have had an all-star year (or half-year) in the bigs. Let's call this the All-Star Ratio.

How does that compare to others in the division?


68 BA appearances by 39 players. Those 39 players have made 26 All-Star appearances. They've also won 4 Cy Youngs and 4 Rookies of the Year. Much of this gloss is thanks to two near-certain Hall of Famers: Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza. But still, whatta farm system. Check out this list of players who at their peaks were (or are) valuable major leaguers: Jose Vizcaino, Eric Karros, Jose Offerman, Raul Mondesi, Henry Rodriguez, Roger Cedeno, Todd Hollandsworth, Chan Ho Park, Darren Dreifort, Paul Konerko, Adrian Beltre....and on. Except for the too-young-to-tell crowd, only Kiki Jones and Dan Opperman never made it to the bigs.

(By the way, I wouldn't have guessed that Eric Karros was never an All-Star.)

All-Star Ratio: 67%


55 BA appearances by 30 players, but not a single All-Star appearance by any of them. This will likely change in the next few years as Jake Peavy, Khalil Greene, Derrek Lee, Matt Clement and Sean Burroughs continue to improve.

All-Star Ratio: 0.


44 BA appearances by 24 players. The Rockies didn't exist before 1993, but they've placed nearly as many players with the same number of appearances on the BA lists as the Giants. Ouch. And thanks mostly to Todd Helton, they outpace the Giants in All-Star appearances, 6 to 2. (Helton is a five-time All-Star, and believe it or not, Shawn Chacon went in 2003. Other notable hardware: Jason Jennings, 2002 NL ROY.)

All-Star Ratio: 25%.


Baby Snakes started appearing on the BA list in 1997 for a total of 23 BA appearances by 15 players. One all-star appearance: Byun-Hyung Kim in 2002.

All-Star Ratio: 4.3%.

So what? As the Dodgers prove, even when your top-rated prospects become major league stars, you don't necessarily benefit. More important is keeping those stars, or trading the hyped prospects (Joe Fontenot) for real major leaguers (Robb Nen). Rebuilding with homegrown talent only goes as far as the talent. Ben Petrick and Alex Cintron should have been traded at their peak of hype before major-league time exposed their weaknesses.

If you want to try calculating All-Star Ratios for other teams or divisions, be my guest. Let me know when you post it. Or send me the data and I'll post it.



Caption Contest: Winner 

If you haven't seen the picture, click the link in the preceding post.

The winner is Bhaakon:

Dusty: "Count the rings, baby."
Sabean: "Let me get Ned, he handles all the numbers."

But a runner-up nod goes to bbstucco:

Dusty - "I'll need a four-year contract."
Sabean - "With your experience, that's no problem. But are you sure you can handle the carom in right field?"

Thanks to everyone who participated. Lefty Malo bobbleheads will be available as soon as I find an overseas manufacturer that abides by my stringent sustainable-practice and fair-labor regulations.



Caption Contest 

I wonder what these guys were talking about. Best caption wins a limited edition Lefty Malo bobblehead.



I've Been a Miner For a Circle-Change of Gold 

It was a fabulous Northern California weekend, the kind that makes the rest of the country, sloshing through dirty snowmelt and suffering the umpteenth cold of the season, find you smug and self-satisfied because you write long tangents on your blog about 10-mile hikes in early March on Mt. Tam through soaring redwood forests, cascading creeks, and the first wave of what promises to be our generation's best wildflower season, all under high blue skies and gentle Pacific breezes.

But far be it from me to rub in anyone's face the soft loamy soil of a temperate rain forest or the salty piebald sand of our Pacific coast, where people on cool late-winter Saturday nights can gather around a bonfire and roast weenies -- until the goddamn cops break things up, because there's alcohol involved, then slather a little insult-mustard on our ego-dogs by asking, "And just how old are we here?"

"We?" I wanted to ask. "How about you go first, young man?" Instead, I used my many years of beach-party-and-alcohol experience to know that weisenheimerism often leads to the citation that the cop at first wasn't really going to write but simply mention as a little fear-of-God-or-at-least-whopping-fines behavioral inducement to keep things alcohol-free on the next bonfire occasion. [NEXT DAY'S ED. NOTE: Wow, that is a truly awful sentence.]

Nor did I answer, "Son, I'm older than Noah Lowry, Matt Cain, Merkin Valdez, and Jesse Foppert combined," because that wouldn't really have been true, though it would have been true to my mindset given how much I was thinking about these young Giant-men this weekend. The real excitement of spring training is not, believe it or not, watching Moises Alou refine the toe-step timing mechanism of his batting stance; no, it's tracking the progress of the much-discussed prospects (despite their ML experience I still lump Lowry and Foppert into that category).

Here's what happened over the weekend to the G's highly touted young arms:

Cain debuted with two shutout innings against the Cubs.

Foppert did, too.

Valdez threw two hitless innings.

Lowry gave up three runs in two innings.

The change-up is a tough pitch to control. It's a "feel" pitch that often feels awkward in one's hand no matter what you do . It's kind of like those days when you can't stop feeling your own tongue inside your mouth, tickling your palate, rubbing against your incisors, worrying the bits of food stuck in your molars. Just as you say on those days, "Argh! Why can't my tongue just be without my having to notice it?" so does Noah Lowry occasionally say, "Foodles! Why can't my circle-change just fit snugly in the warm palm of my young hand without my having to think about it?"

Hi-ho, it's not too early to introduce the greatest intrigue of the Giants' spring other than the annual rate of change in the size of Barry Bonds's earlobes: The Race for the Fifth And Perhaps Sixth Outfielder Spot.

I can't find box scores, so I have to go by what the local papers note at the butt-end of their daily reports. Todd Linden had a good day over the weekend with a couple hits and a nice catch. He's 3 for 9, all singles. Tony Tormato is 3 for 6, all singles, and Jason Ellison is 0 fer 5. Don't forget Adam Shabala, dark horse, 3 for 7 with a double and a game-winning rib.



Over Easy and Range-Free 

Never a dull moment with That Crazy Barry. Bonds reportedly engaged a couple reporters in an impromptu clubhouse chat yesterday that was just as rambling and wacky as his now-infamous press conference of a week ago. He even talked about his huevos:

"They say [steroids] make your testicles shrink,'' he said. "I can tell you my testicles are the same size. They haven't shrunk. They're the same and work just the same as they always have."

If Bonds isn't the strangest guy in MLB, I don't know who is. He doesn't get enough credit for it, the way Mark Fidrych, Bill Lee and other eccentrics do. The difference is, Fidrych et al were nice eccentrics. Barry is, on the whole, a mean eccentric -- a grumpy old man times ten. OK, maybe he doesn't quite size up to The Spaceman. Check out this recent interview Lee gave to NPR's Fresh Air. Of course, Lee's promoting his book and therefore has a stake in playing up his wackiness.

But as you listen, you realize he and Bonds have a little bit in common -- the tortured syntax, the odd oscillations between wild illogic and piercing insight, the wonderful flights of metaphorical fancy, the fixation on family and tough love.

I highly recommend listening to the Lee interview, by the way, but if you can't, here's a sample: "I would rather watch a bunch of Cubans for 10 centavos down in Havana, smoking a beautiful Cohiba that was hand-rolled by a gentleman right there at the ballpark, drinking a cerveza that costs a nickel, and watching the ball game there for eternity. I'd rather go to Cuba and watch a game than watch a game anywhere else."

Señor Lee, eres para la eternidad El Rey de Los Lefties Malos.



Let The Games Begin! 

Spring training games are on the scoreboard. Looks like Georgia Tech may have problems against the NL East this year.

Our aging Gentlemen Giants start play tomorrow, with the game broadcast on KNBR starting at noon. Jon Miller -- He swings, and there's a soaring, majestic drive, sailing high into the blue desert sky...that one's headed for Tempe! -- and Duane Kuiper -- He hits it high...he hits it deep...he hits it...OUTTA HERE! -- ahem, will be on the mike.

(Is this thing on?)

I'm also excited because my ticket partners and I divvied up our booty (no, not THAT booty) last night, much to the envy of two upper-middle-aged women at the table next to us. So much were they staring and smiling, no doubt dreams of Michael Tucker, Fourth Outfielder, dancing in their heads, that we turned and offered them some tickets. "Cheap."

Now that I ponder it some more, perhaps they were checking out my dad, whose wife swears he looks like Billy Bob Thornton, which, I guess, is a good thing if you're two middle-aged women eating dinner at a brew pub.

They declined our offer of cheap tickets, which was good because, well, speaking for myself at least, no way in hell they were going to get my tickets cheap. Face value...maybe. Like the May 11 afternoon game against Pittsburgh. Or a Monday night confab with the Azz-Backs or Rockies in town.

Every year we hold the ticket draft around this time, and every year at least 12 of the last 15 games left at the bottom of the barrel are D-Backs and Rockies games. I think that's a clear signal to MLB brass next time contraction is on the table: unless the Diamondbacks and Rockies are defending World Series champions, no one wants to see them. Nobody. Nadie, Señor Bud, ¿entiendes?

Especially the Rockies. They're like the Brewers without the funny Midwestern accents and sausage. Is there anything more depressing than purple jerseys and gray pinstriped pants? It's not Kevin Millar who needs a Fab Five makeover, it's the entire Rockies' organization. Like, hello! Queer Eye for the Mile High!

Oh please, those scraggly sticks in the bullpen, don't tell me those are supposed to be pine trees? Looks like Father Christmas hasn't been making his child support payments, honey!

As you might expect, the Dodgers and A's games go fast. Last year, thanks to two huge Red Sox fans in my ticket group, the weekend series against Boston were the first games to go. This year, no such signature event, but here are a few highlights to note (promotional giveaways, such as fridge magnets, avocado spoons and vials of Lou Seal blubber, not included):

* opening series Apr 5-7 vs. the Dodgers.
* weekend series May 20-22 vs. Oakland.
* weekend series June 10-12 vs. Cleveland. (Very intriguing young team.)
* good stuff in July: Reds, Cards, Braves and Marlins in town.
* weekend series Aug 26-28 vs. the New York Pedro Beltrans.
* four-game series September 8-11 vs. the Cubs.
* four-game series Sept. 15-18 vs. L.A.

The Giants finish the schedule Oct. 2 at home against the AZZZZes. Fan Appreciation Day -- I want nothing less than to win the big enchilada, the Ford F-150. But I'll settle for a vial of Lou Seal blubber and a division title.

Question: if a genie granted your lifelong wish of playing in the major leagues, but only in a Rockies road uniform, would you accept it? Is there any uniform that's uglier?


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