To get from my desk here at Yahoo! corporate headquarters to a comfortable seat behind the third-base dugout at a Giants game requires a trip of about 20 minutes and an investment of about 10 bucks. Jealous? Relax, it's not what you think.
Yahoo! Maps says it's 14.3 miles from my cubicle to Municipal Stadium, home of the Class-A San Jose Giants of the California League. You have to tack on an extra 25 miles over one of Silicon Valley's most congested freeways to reach 24 Willie Mays Plaza and SBC Park.
I'm not sure if it's Bonds, the bay or the garlic fries, but when someone here says they're headed to a Giants game, nobody bothers to ask which one. In fact, the only time you'll hear discussion of heading down to The Farm is when the Stanford Cardinal football team hosts the Big Game.
It's a shame, really. Municipal Stadium has always been a great place to watch baseball on a little league budget. It's where fans can connect with players on a level you can't reach when following the parent club. I remember attending games at Muni back when I wore my uniform to the park and thought it was cool that half its scoreboard lights weren't burned out.
To borrow a favorite phrase of my colleague Mike Harmon: Those were good times.
I'm as guilty as anyone. It has been too long. They were still known as the San Jose Bees the last time I filed through the turnstiles regularly. And no, jaded sports fan, my desire to reconnect with the San Jose equivalent of Crash Davis' Durham Bulls has nothing to do with San Francisco's 7-11 start. It's just time.
And I'm starting today by taking a quick tour around the minor leagues to update a few situations that may soon impact your fantasy league. Pack your bags, grab your bus ticket and get ready to hit every greasy spoon along the way. Let's hit the road.
I must admit that I was disappointed to see Minnesota's Justin Morneau sent down after his solid spring. In retrospect, it was the right call. Benefiting from playing every day, something he wouldn't do in Minnesota, Morneau is off to a .397 start at Triple-A Rochester and is second in the league through 16 games with five homers. He'll probably make an impact in AL-only leagues before the year is over.
Few players generated more buzz this spring than Jeremy Reed. Popular opinion was that if he didn't make the White Sox roster out of camp, then whoever started in center field on opening day would just be keeping the position warm for him. He was sent down, but a trip to the minors has done little to silence his bat or the hype.
Through 14 games at Triple-A Charlotte, Reed is hitting .373 with five stolen bases in as many tries. Last year at Double-A Birmingham he hit .409 with 18 stolen bases. With Aaron Rowland stuck on three RBIs and nobody else producing at that position for Chicago, Reed's much-anticipated debut may not be far off. AL-only owners should keep a close eye on his progress.
Las Vegas, NV
It's not a road trip until you've pulled through Las Vegas for a quick buffet, a game of blackjack and a baseball parlay. Remember Edwin Jackson? He was so impressive in three starts with the Dodgers last September that a member of my experts league deemed him worthy of a 23rd round pick. He was cut in the same league on April 12.
It's been a mixed bag so far for Jackson in Las Vegas. He is 3-1, but with a 6.20 ERA and eight walks in 20 innings, it looks like he's a long way from regaining his big league command. Jackson may still make an impact in fantasy leagues this year. San Francisco Giants' Jerome Williams was equally bad this spring but has rebounded nicely with wins in his last three starts.
Chad Tracy is a guy that deserves immediate attention in NL-only leagues. With Roberto Alomar on the mend and Shea Hillenbrand struggling, the Diamondbacks recalled Tracy from Triple-A Tucson to bolster their infield depth. In 11 minor league games, Tracy was hitting an even .400 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
In his first major league start, Tracy collected four hits and a stolen base. This guy is a professional hitter who won't take long to acclimate to big league pitching. The sudden injection of speed is curious. He now has three stolen bases between Triple-A and Arizona this year after going 133 games without a steal in 2003.
He'll still arrive in the Cincinnati rotation sooner rather than later, but Brandon Claussen's last outing at Triple-A Louisville was less than encouraging. Facing a Columbus lineup that included familiar names in Homer Bush and Darren Bragg, Claussen allowed six earned runs and 10 hits in just over four-plus innings. NL-only managers in need of pitching help should jump right on this guy when he gets the call.
Byung-Hyun Kim made his second start for Boston's Triple-A affiliate on Saturday and pitched four shutout innings to run his modest streak without allowing an earned run to 6 ⅓ innings at Pawtucket. If you have Kim stashed away on your disabled list, get ready to clear room for him. There's talk he might return to the rotation as early as Friday in Texas.
Bronson Arroyo completed six innings for the third consecutive start Saturday and performed admirably in his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium, but he's targeted for the bullpen when Kim returns. Keep an eye on him in AL-only leagues, but with Scott Williamson and Keith Foulke anchoring this bullpen, his value in all-MLB leagues is virtually gone.
Just who is this Chris Saenz character who made a Dontrelle Willis-like jump from Double-A to the big leagues Saturday? He's not among the ten best prospects in the Milwaukee system according to Baseball America. The Brewers thought so much of his immediate value this spring that they showcased him for exactly five outs in spring training.
Yet suddenly he's the talk of baseball after baffling the St. Louis Cardinals for six innings in his major league debut. The Cardinals entered play Saturday leading the league in extra-base hits but could muster only two singles while striking out seven times against the 22-year-old.
What's next for Saenz? Quite possibly another start at Huntsville, where he recorded 16 strikeouts in just over nine innings of work in his first two starts. Chris Capuano is due to return from the disabled list shortly which could mean a bus ticket for Saenz. If he sticks, keep an eye on him. If not, I'll update his progress in a future column.
Looks like we've found this year's Rich Harden. His name is Adam Wainwright, he pitches for the Memphis Redbirds and he was the key acquisition for St. Louis in the deal that sent J.D. Drew to Atlanta. He didn't quite match Harden's streak of 39 consecutive batters retired, but he did start the season with 11 shutout innings.
In three starts, he has allowed only 12 hits and three earned runs while striking out 20 in 17 innings. Danny Haren has also been effective for Memphis, fanning 33 hitters in just 24 innings while running his record to 4-0. Either man is a strong candidate to fill an opening in the Cardinals' rotation.
As for the San Jose Giants, they are 8-9 on the young season. One of those wins came courtesy of Jason Schmidt, who was dominant in five innings of rehab work before making the 53-mile drive north to his regular office.
Speaking of road trips, I'm off to San Diego Saturday to check out Petco Park, soon to be known to fantasy owners as the house that killed Brian Giles. At the top of my to-do list upon my return is a trip to Municipal Stadium.
I wonder if all the scoreboard lights still work.