Ah, spring training. Jose Reyes gets picked off twice, Kaz Matsui makes an error (scored a hit) at second, and everybody's pleased. On February 28, sure. On April 28, no.
I know it counts for nothing, but it was nice to see the real lineup (minus Cameron) assembled. Switching Cameron and Diaz, it looks like this (sub Galarraga for Mientkiewicz against lefties):
1. Reyes 5 BB/31 K in 220 AB, .271 OBA, .644 OPS
2. Matsui 40/91 in 460, .331, .727
3. Beltran 92/101 in 599, .367, .915
4. Piazza 68/78 in 455, .362, .806
5. Floyd 47/103 in 396, .352, .814
6. Wright 14/40 in 263, .332, .857
7. Cameron 57/143 in 493, .319, .798
8. Mientkiewicz 48/56 in 391, .326, .676
Anyone who's really good at baseball's new math will laugh at my pathetic efforts, but hey, I'm trying. That middle of the order's better than one might think — Beltran, Piazza and Floyd had better years than their BA would indicate. The lineup seems better if you flip-flop Floyd and Wright, which I bet will happen by late July. Mientkiewicz (who had an .843 OPS in '03) will have a better year. Piazza might.
But the top, Jeez Louise. Someday must teach Reyes to draw a walk — he's on pace for Bonds to outwalk him in a week, off-day included. This is a Ryan Thompson level of plate discipline.
Not to bring up phenoms past or anything. Remember Ryan Thompson's profile in New York magazine speculating that if he fulfilled his promise, he could be mayor? Back in our days on the AOL board, I bet someone I'd do some outrageous thing if Ryan Thompson saw Ball Three twice in one week. I'm pretty sure I won.
Still, Ryan Thompson did leave me with an entertaining memory, the following retelling of which is guaranteed to be 50% true: I was still living in DC and up here visiting Emily for the weekend. The Braves were in town, as were some of my DC housemates, who were going to the game with my friend Chris and his girlfriend. The perfect weekend, except I wasn't going – Emily had signed me up to paint a mural on the wall of some elementary school as part of some Junior League thing, something I'd probably agreed to while not paying sufficient attention and then promptly forgotten about.
But the game! The Braves! Tickets! Uh-uh.
Off to the elementary school we go, me fuming and whining and insisting on buying a $5 AM radio from a street vendor so I could listen to FAN. Being me, I then vindictively insist on giving poor Emily game updates, picking of course only the parts that would be worth seeing from the stands.
So the game's grinding along, and the Junior Leaguers are doing their usual thing of souring new recruits on the entire idea of charity by being alternately officious and disorganized, sanctimonious and petty. (One proto-matriarch excoriated me with spots in her cheeks for painting the whale in their incompetent undersea mural cobalt blue instead of steel blue, or some damn thing.) Ryan Klesko drops a ball in the outfield to extend the inning. Then, with the bases loaded, Ryan Thompson (mired in a hideous slump even for Ryan Thompson) naturally manages to dig himself into an 0-2 hole against John Smoltz.
All Smoltz had to do at that juncture was throw Thompson a pitch he couldn't have hit with an oar — fans always say crap like this, but I really think you or I could have struck Thompson out at that moment. But Smoltz was both mad at Klesko and young and stupid back then, so he threw one right down the pipe. CRACK! Grand slam, and I'm racing around the schoolyard whooping and trailing paint droplets and squawking Junior Leaguers, while cowed boyfriends look on in horror. And then Smoltz promptly hits John Cangelosi in the back, sending Cangelosi out to the mound to administer a savage beating to every part of Smoltz he can reach (i.e., feet to lower ribs) with Charlie O'Brien in hot pursuit.
We won the game. I learned to listen when asked about plans. (At least for a while.) Emily ditched the Junior League in favor of better charities. Ryan Thompson became a Cleveland Indian instead of the mayor. And my $5 radio lasted for years. In other words, it all worked out OK.