I totally fell down on the job in terms of mailbags during spring training. But here we go:
George writes: Curious about your impressions of Ron Villone. I like the fact that Joe Torre accepted responsibility for tiring him out last year. Do you think he’ll fall into the same habits in ’07?
Answer: Whether Villone or Henn makes the team is interesting. Villone was terrific for three months last season before Joe wore him out. But he has been inconsistent this spring. History suggests that Villone will get better and get his velocity once he gets some innings in. Henn has looked great but has no track record in the majors. I think they’ll keep Villone and option Henn because they can. And of course Joe will abuse his middle relievers. They’re expendable.
Jesse writes: Could you maybe provide any more insight on T.J. Beam and what Joe didn’t like in his performance? The guy had incredible stats in the Arizona Fall League, but it’s hard to gleam what was deficient based upon his spring box scores. I always thought he had potential and it’s disappointing to hear that he didn’t impress.
Answer: Beam lacked control and his secondary pitches were not sharp at all, which is why he was sent to the AFL in the first place. They expected a bigger leap forward this spring and didn’t get it. Joe loved him last summer and kind of tossed him under the bus this spring.
Jamie writes: I work in the press box for an NFL team, passing out stat sheets and such during and before the game. I noticed this past season that most if not all of the writers have fantasy football team and participate in fantasy football leagues. Is this the same for the beat writers for baseball? Is it normal for baseball beat writers to play fantasy baseball and be in leagues with either friends or fellow beat writers covering the same team? If so, how’s your team looking this year?
Answer: Fine question, Jamie. I also hope you work for the mighty Patriots. I have several fantasy football teams but no fantasy baseball teams. I see so many games that I have no desire to monitor my own team and if you won’t pay close attention, you can’t win. I am in several home run pools, which I enjoy. I know several writers who do have fantasy teams for baseball but not me.
Jen from NYC writes: There are three things I care about for Doug Mientkiewicz: He must find a way to get on base, utilize and work on his bunting skills and steal bases.
Answer: Jen, the Yankees don’t bunt much and Doug won’t be stealing bases with Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter coming up. But I think he’ll find a way to get on base.
George writes: If Phil Franchise turns out as good as everyone has hyped him to be, makes an appearance halfway through this year and dominates do you think he would supplant Wang as the ace’?
Answer: Let’s hope not, because sales of my book in Taiwan could suffer. I don’t think the Yankees need to have a No. 1. They always have three No. 1 types anway, it seems. Hughes will be here in due time, no reason to crown him anything yet.
Jason writes: Pete, you wrote that Wang had a “tear” while others wrote it was a “strain.” So which was it?
Answer: Good question. Teams in all sports at all times fib about injuries. A strain is a tear. Any hamstring injury is a tear because the muscle is being torn. There are degrees of tearing (Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3) but it’s still a tear. If you read the work of Will Carroll in Baseball Prospectus, he has explained this in the past.
Finally, my favorite question of the week …
Steve writes: What do you do in Tampa with all that time off?
Answer: Time off? Did you say time off? Steve, they played every day except one from March 1 on. There is not a lot of time off. But Tampa is an interesting place. Just down the road from my hotel, for instance, is the Penthouse Club, a combination strip club and steak house. Doesn’t this have to break some kind of health code? I like steak and I like girls in skimpy outfits. But together? Put on some pants and get me another gin and tonic. I honestly have never gone in there. Maybe when we come back during the season.
Thanks for all the letters. Feel free to e-mail me with questions at any time. More mailbags to come once the season starts.