Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat about the MLB season.
Jayson Stark has been a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com since 2000. His regular contributions include the newsy Rumblings and Grumblings column and his tilted look inside baseball's numbers and quirks, the Useless Information Department.
Send your questions now and join Stark Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jayson Stark (1:02 PM)
I vowed not to chat again until the Astros won a game. So I guess it's safe to get started. Here we go.
Darin Pardoe (IL)
The NL West is an intriguing division. Can the Rockies win it without Francis and Street, and will the Giants stay in contention without an offense?
Jayson Stark (1:04 PM)
I'm not sure if I totally agree with the premise here, Darin. I'd be surprised if Francis and Street don't play a big role in the Rockies' season. And I don't agree that the Giants have no offense. The Giants needed a middle-of-the-order masher. They didn't get one. But they did lengthen the lineup with Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff. At some point they should add Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey to the mix. I'm starting to think that team might hit more than people think.
Jayson, what do you make of Liriano's start yesterday? Just how good can the Twins be this season?
Jayson Stark (1:07 PM)
I think the Twins can be a win-the-World-Series kind of team if things break right. And one thing that needs to break right, besides figuring out the ninth inning, is Liriano. He's the one pitcher in that rotation who can go through a good lineup with dominating stuff. And that's what he did yesterday. His stuff is clearly back now. The question is whether he has the rest of the top-of-the-rotation package: The ability to get deep in games, save his bullpen and provide that big-game presence. He's one of the biggest X factors in the whole sport, I think.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
I'd love it if you could start this chat off with a trivia question the way you do your segments on 'Mike & Mike.' I love the challenge.
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
That's a tremendous idea. I should think about doing that next week. In the meantime, here's yesterday's Rumblings trivia question. Let's see how you do: Albert Pujols is heading for his 10th straight 30/100/.300 season. Only three other active players even have had a streak of five or more seasons like that in a row. Let's see who can name them first. (No cheating!)
Nats are 4-5 (and have already played two series with Philly!)...any realistic hope for them to finish ahead of at least the Mets in the East?
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
I had a scout tell me this week he really thinks the Nationals are going to finish ahead of the Mets. I don't see it, personally. But the thing to remember is that the Nationals should have a lot different, and a lot better, rotation in the second half than they started the season with. They'll have Strasburg in there. Chien-Ming Wang should be a part of it. Jordan Zimmerman might even be back. And if that's the case, that will be a better rotation than the Mets are running out there.
Jayson Stark (1:12 PM)
Nobody has gotten that trivia question right yet, just so you know.
Thoughts on Heyward's first week? I'm impressed with his ability to go to the opposite field from day 1.
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
We're not allowed to go through a week without discussing Jason Heyward, so thanks for getting it out of the way early this week. I'm with you all the way on this. Clearly, the first thing teams decided after watching him was that the way to pitch him was to work him on the outer half. And he adjusted almost immediately. If you don't get the ball down out there, he has no trouble slapping it the other way. Just one more reason he's the most impressive rookie to hit this sport in the last five years.
Jayson, I'm BEGGING you - I've tried to get this answered in a number of chats recently with no success (you're my only hope, Obi-Wan Stark). Daniel Bard for Wilson Ramos - makes sense for both teams, doesn't it? Sox can "buy" arms to replace Bard, and he immediately provides a closer for a strong Twins team.
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
See? We aim to please around here. But while I'll answer the question, I'm not making that trade. I think the Red Sox clearly see Bard as the successor to Jonathan Papelbon, and maybe sooner, not later. So I don't see him going anywhere because he works so cheap. I have an item about Wilson Ramos in Rumblings this week. The Twins told me they prefer to keep him around, because it will make it easier for them to rest and DH Mauer. And other teams that have checked in heard they'd only trade him in a big, big deal. I wonder if Daniel Bard would be "big" enough.
MANNY VLAD HELTON!!
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
That's the answer. Good going, Josh. Nobody else got it right! The easy guess is ARod, but it's wrong. Never had more than three in a row. That .300 gets him.
Jason (St Louis)
Can we all agree that Alfonso Soriano's contract has taken over for the worst in baseball over Vernon Wells? Wells is hitting a little more this year and at least he can play decent defense, or just catch a routine fly ball for that matter.
Jayson Stark (1:19 PM)
That's a very interesting debate point you've raised there, Jason. I think everybody knew that Soriano contract was way too long when he signed it. But I'm not ready to say it's the worst in baseball yet. Before I answer, I'd love to hear your nominations for the current Worst Contract in Baseball.
I enjoyed your latest article about who is for real. How about Robbie Cano? He is a notoriously slow starter but has been knocking the cover off the ball. Is this his breakout year?
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
He'd have been another one on the FOR REAL list. He's always had impact-hitter kind of talent. What you're seeing now is that he's starting to get to that next level, because you're seeing more day-in, day-out focus and passion than ever before. This guy has a chance to be the best second baseman in baseball at some point. I'm still giving Chase Utley that trophy at the moment, though.
Zito's has to be in the running still
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
We devoted a whole chat last year to whether Zito's contract was the worst in baseball. It's right up there. Because he got paid No. 1 starter, Cy Young dollars. And even though he's pitching better, he's not close to being that kind of pitcher.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Hmm worst contract in baseball. Where's Milton Bradley again?
Jayson Stark (1:25 PM)
Hey wait. You've had two posts, J.B. You've reached your quota, man. Anyway, that Milton Bradley contract didn't work out so hot. That's true. But he isn't in the same financial stratosphere as Zito or Soriano. So I don't think he qualifies.
Mike W (Chicago)
Why hasn't Mike Leake gotten more recognition for what he did? Everyone is talking about Strasberg and Chapman but here is a 22 year old kid who skipped the majors entirely which has happened only 26 times and he pitched well his first time out. ESPN needs to get on this and start hyping up this kid a little more. Agree?
Jayson Stark (1:26 PM)
I devoted the lede of my blog to him Monday. So I'm innocent! I agree. Amazing story. Can't wait to see how he pitches tonight. By the way, one thing I mentioned in that blog is that he's the first American-born pitcher ever to skip the minor leagues and then get two hits at the plate in his first start. You heard it here first!
Worst contract in baseball? How about the guy that Bradley was treded for???
Jayson Stark (1:27 PM)
That would be Mr. Carlos Silva, ladies and gentlemen. But again, not enough money on the line to make it the worst contract in baseball.
Doc (St. Paul)
Settle a debate. If Lincecum wins a 3rd straight Cy Young this year, backs it up with 2 more dominating but non-Cy Young seasons, then blows his arm out in spring 2013 and never pitches again, is he a Hall of Famer?
Jayson Stark (1:27 PM)
No, because he wouldn't be eligible. You have to log 10 seasons to even make it onto the ballot. So I hope you won the debate.
Is Alexis Rios up there for one of the worst?
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
I think he's in the argument. For the record, that deal was 7 years, $69.6 million. That's superstar money, considering where he was on the arbitration ladder at the time, for a guy who is sure no superstar.
Jayson, dont you think the Cubs are Overreacting a bit in regards to Soriano? I mean before last year he had a decent year and last year he was battling a knee injury which he finally got operated on this summer. Not saying he's worth the money but i feel they're overreacting with the early benching. I say let the guy play for a month or so before acting like he's done.
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
First off, I don't think the Cubs would nominate him for Worst Contract in Baseball. Let's get that out of the way early. They've seen his act long enough now that they know he's streaky. Eventually, he'll get hot and carry them for two weeks. And everybody will calm down. But you're allowed to sit a guy who's all messed up, even if it's early, and let him work on his stroke and clear his head. I really think that's all this is.
Worst contract has to be Kei Igawa... the guy can't even play in the majors!
Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
OK, now we're getting into an interesting area. He's tricky because the contract itself was only $20 million. But when you add in a $26-million posting fee, that's $46 million for nothing. Right? They have no interest in ever putting this man in a big-league game. So we'd have to debate that one.
dice-k worst contract
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
No way. The guy won 15 games for a team that won the World Series. Then he went 18-3 the next year. He's no Kei Igawa!
Mike (San Diego)
Oh king of useless info...Before yesterday Albert Pujols had more RBI than the Astros had runs through 8 games. Do you know what the deepest into a season one player has has a higher RBI total than a team had runs? This isn't a trivia question, I'm actually hoping you would have the answer. Thanks.
Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
I don't know the answer. But I'll get on that case this afternoon!
Speaking of Benching. your opinion on the demise of David Ortiz?
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
It's already an official "demise?" How, exactly. Let me point out a stat I've already written about twice. After June 5 last year, David Ortiz led the American League in homers, tied for the lead in RBIs and was third in slugging. Before than, he had the lowest batting average of any regular player in baseball. So how do we know this isn't going to be the same kind of year? If he strikes out in half his at-bats for the next 5 1/2 months, THAT would be a demise. This doesn't qualify yet.
Any met fan will tell you Oliver Perez = worst contract
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
Not enough money to qualify for this competition, I'd say. Nevertheless, bad contract!
Mike (San Diego)
Are we talking current contracts or all time? Darren Dreifort was a doozy back in the day.
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
I've had a bunch of Darren Dreifort nominations. We're just talking current contracts. But if we were talking all-time bad contracts, he's on the list!
At yesterday's Phils-Nats game, Joe West issued 14 walks and the game lasted 3.5 hours. I agreed with him that baseball needs to speed up pace of play, but can't he do something about this in addition to complaining to a newspaper?
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
I noticed that, too! You know, that was indeed one of the ironies in Joe complaining about the pace of games. I looked this up on Baseball Prospectus, and only 10 full-time umpires had a higher walk rate than he did last season. So he doesn't exactly lead the league in strike-calling himself.
The MLB average for swings and misses is 23%; Ortiz is currently at 41%...As much as you want to talk about last year...This stat will tell you it's a much worse situation. Last year is last year...The Sox are wasting their time with much more viable options on the bench...
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
I recognize how bad it's been. But we're talking about a week and a half into the season. Do I think he's going to be the Big Papi of 2004-2005 again? No. Do I think he'll have as long a leash as last year? No. I'm just saying this isn't a big enough sample size to say he's done. That's all.
dale doback (dc)
Speaking of awful. Are the O's really this bad? Seems like the best collection of talent they've had in years and yet theyre as bad as theyve been since 1988. Trembley is probably fired soon, i assume.
Jayson Stark (1:44 PM)
No, they're obviously not this bad. Their bullpen has made their record look a lot worse than the team they're running out there.
I know it is early in the season and it maybe to early to jump to conclusions, but Carp pitches tonight for STL and if he has another start similar to his first two starts and the end of spring training, when should the Cards start to worry and try to figure out if anything is wrong?
Jayson Stark (1:46 PM)
I quoted a scout in Rumblings who said he was already concerned about Carpenter. No velocity. No life. Unusual lack of command. It's early. But it's a situation to keep your eye on.
How long before Jason Heyward gets moved up in the Braves lineup to Glaus' number 5 slot or is it one of those things if its not broke don't fix it kind of deals for Bobby Cox.
Jayson Stark (1:47 PM)
I get the sense Bobby Cox is in no hurry to put a 20-year-old in a high-pressure spot in the order. On the other hand, Bobby did hit him cleanup in his FIRST game in spring training. So you never know, I guess.
I know the Rays were a common pick to go to the playoffs, but do you really think they have the middle relief to win 90-95 games?
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
That's the only significant hole in their team. It might be a fatal flaw playing in that division. But that's such a talented team, I see no reason it can't win 95 games. Even with that middle relief.
Besides their styles being "similar"...do you see Tommy Hanson having a Roy Halladay-like career? I do understand the NL because of no DH, to have less complete games...
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
That's a big name to attach to a guy who hasn't even pitched a full year in the big leagues yet. But I see the similarities. Amazing the movement Tommy Hanson gets on every pitch he throws.
i kid when i ask this, i really enjoy your trivia questions. but do any good trivia questions exist where either helton or oswalt is not one of the answers for questions that deal with active players? keep up the good work jayson
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
Yes. But not many! I tell Mike and Mike every week: When in doubt, guess Helton or Oswalt. Looks like you've been taking notes!
Through 11 games in 1988, the Orioles had 16 runs, and Dave Winfield had 17 RBI. Don't know if that's the deepest, though. That's the Orioles team that started 0-21.
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
I don't know if that's the answer, either. But excellent research! I'll look into that later today.
how troubling is the Brewers' bull pen? Do they decide Hawkins/Hoffman are too old? When? Who takes over?
Jayson Stark (1:53 PM)
Boy, people sure do panic early. Hawkins has been a slow starter for years. Takes him a while to get his good velocity. And the interesting thing about Hoffman's year so far is how few change-ups he's thrown. A lot more fastballs early. I doubt that will be his repertoire all year.
What is your position on the hof viability of Omar Vizquel? And another former Indian, Brian Giles?BP pointed out a fairly amazing point....Brian Giles for his career is in the top 50 in OPS....all time. Bit of a shocker huh?
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
I'm not going to get into Brian Giles. But I built a Hall of Fame case of Vizquel in my "Stark Truth" book. Won't do the whole argument here. But here's the stat that blows me away: As many seasons of five errors or fewer as all the other shortstops in history COMBINED!
I still think that Vernon Wells has one of the worsts contracts out there. They couldn't trade Halladay for a while because no one wanted to take Vernon Wells with him!
Jayson Stark (1:56 PM)
I think we acknowledged he's in the argument. But now that his wrist is healthy again, he might be in the process of removing himself from that argument!
magnum rolle (dc)
Thoughts on Brian Matusz?
Jayson Stark (1:56 PM)
That's my AL rookie-of-the-year pick. This guy is going to be a big, big winner. It sure wasn't his fault he didn't win the other night. He was unhittable for six innings. And there's going to be a lot more where that came from.
How can anyone seriously think Vizquel is HOF worthy? Very good career but there's a difference b/ that and a HOFer.
Jayson Stark (1:58 PM)
Hey CC, look at the other shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and then look at Vizquel's career again. Eleven Gold Gloves and 2,700 hits, man. That's a Hall of Fame shortstop.
With all due respect to zito's contract, which i agree is way too high...I think that at least zito will be more useful in the latter years of that contract then say vernon wells. the type of pitcher zito is, he could become very jamie moyerish and pitch until he's almost 40 and be a serviceable 4th man.
Jayson Stark (2:00 PM)
OK, I guess we need to resolve this since we're almost out of time. I agree that Zito has a chance to be "serviceable." But for $126 million, you should be more than serviceable. I think we decided our prime contenders were Zito, Soriano, Wells, Rios and Igawa. I think Igawa is in a separate category because of the posting fee. So I'm going with Rios, unless that light bulb goes on. But feel free to differ. That's the fun of these debates.
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Sorry, but we ran out of time. It went by fast, didn't it? But I'll be back in Chat Land next week. Thanks to everybody who checked in. And one more time, that trivia answer was: Manny, Vlad, Helton. Thanks for playing!