Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baseball Digest | Marlins, Reyes, and the SEC

The newly named Miami Marlins have a new stadium, a new uniform, are this close to a new shortstop, and are newly under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The former Florida Marlins have already been making a big splash this December with the signing of free agent closer Heath Bell to a three-year, $27 million contract as they prepare for life in their new ballpark. The Marlins made headlines this weekend for good and bad reasons as well. First the good, Miami and free agent shortstop Jose Reyes, one of the hottest commedities on the free agent market, agreed to a six-year, $106MM deal that is contingent on a physical. It's a huge deal for the Marlins, who already have an All-Star in Hanley Ramirez at the position ( Ramirez is likely to be asked to be moved to 3rd base according to Marlins beat writer Joe Capozzi, but what if he balks. Ramirez had difficulty with management and faced criticism last year for his work habits.).

But the Marlins may have some choppy waters ahead of them. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that a long overdue investigation by the SEC into the Marlins' ability to get a new stadium is underway.
"The Security and Exchange Commission on Thursday launched guided warheads at the Marlins, requesting the team’s financial records, communications with MLB officials including commissioner Bud Selig, minutes of meetings with local government leaders and political campaign-contribution information, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

While the subpoenas issued by the SEC do not explicitly detail the purpose of the investigation, the feds’ motives are evident: They want to understand how, exactly, a group of county commissioners agreed to fund 80 percent of the Marlins new stadium, which cost more than $600 million, without ever seeing the team’s financial records – and whether bribes had anything to do with it."

One does have to wonder what took so long. Passan and others reported on wrong doing back in August when also revealed the Marlins' balance sheet.
"Miami-Dade County commissioners nevertheless voted 9-4 in favor of taking out loans that will cost the county $2.4 billion over 40 years to help build the stadium in Little Havana, about two miles west of the city. Critics across south Florida panned the deal, which gives the Marlins all stadium-related revenue and imbued the team with a new attitude entering this offseason."

A team that supposedly had financial problems is suddenly pouring out money, hand over fist. First came the 34-yr old Bell's $9MM per year deal and then the nearly $18MM per year for Reyes. And the Marlins aren't done either. Their are said to be ready to make a serious at Albert Pujols', to whom they reportedly made a nine-year offer to in November for somewhere between $200MM and $225MM. Whether they were serious or not, one Marlins' spokesman told reporters the team was hoping to leave the winter meetings with "...4 or 5 new players."

The question is will the SEC come down hard on the Marlins or simply give them a slap on the wrist. And maybe even more importantly, will the fans, who never came to Marlins' games in the old stadium, suddenly start attending them in the new digs. While owner Jeffrey Loria may suddenly field a contender, will fans/taxpayers get over being swindled and show up? It's a question that has no easy answer.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Giants' Season Is Not A Collapse

People keep talking about the New York Giants' season collapsing, but I beg to differ. There is no collapse when a team plays to the level and talent that they are really at. Face the facts, the Giants could easily have been 2-6 rather than 6-2 after eight games. We all knew the schedule was going to become a bear (though they didn't play Chicago outside of pre-season) in the middle of the season. This is a mediocre team that became worse with injuries.

Just look at the way the season has gone. in week 1 they lost to a miserable Washington Redskins team. Eli Manning had a horrible game, which caused many fans to once again doubt his ability. His all-pro type season has changed all that, even if he still makes the occassional poor decision. Then again those bad throws usually come after a Giants penalty, dropped pass, or some other mistake.

Week 2 saw a relatively easy win against the Rams that kick started a three game winning streak. They came from behind, to a lot of people's surprise, myself included, to beat the Eagles and then made a 4th quarter comeback against the Arizona Cardinals. The latter game could have been a loss had the referees ruled Victor Cruz' faux pas as a fumble rather than being down by contact.

Week 4 saw a humiliating loss to the weak Seattle Seahawks. To make it worse they lost to back up QB Charlie Whitehurst after they had knocked starer Matt Hasselback from the game. A second three-game winning streak followed, with all of the games determined in the 4th quarter. Lawrence Tynes' kicked the game winning field goal with 1:32 left to beat Buffalo and the Giants embarrassed themselves for most of their match with Miami before pulling out a 20-17 win. The next two weeks would be two of the best Giants' performances of the season.

There was the 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots that had us all thinking "maybe this team can do something big!". Arguably, they played an even better game against a tough San Francisco team the following week, but fell 27-20. And then the laughter stopped.

First came the terrible loss to rusty Vince Young and the Eagles and the utter blow out by the New Orleans Saints, 49-24. Suddenly a three game losing streak dropped the Giants' record to 6-5, a game behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. Next up? The Green Bay Packers' All-World offense this Sunday.

The prospect of a 6-6 record with four games to go is pretty assurred. However, the Giants could still make the playoffs. It sounds crazy, but it is true. The remaining schedule has two games with Dallas, one with Washington, and the battle of MetLife Stadium vs. the Jets. It would be tougher, but it is possible the Giants could make the playoffs at 9-7 (10-6 should be a definite.). In order for that to happen some things needs to change.

There is nothing you can do about injuries, and unfortunately, the Giants are riddled with them on both sides of the ball.

With the loss of Ahmad Bradshaw, the running game has completely disappeared. Brandon Jacobs shot his mouth off about playing time and criticized the fans, but has done anything with his new found playing time. It hasn't helped that the offensive line is getting overpowered in run blocking situations either. D.J. Ware has had a chance to step up, but has done nothing but drop screen passes. Da'Rel Scott fumbles more times than he carries the ball, or so it seems.

Hakeem Nicks is the only reliable receiver that Manning has to depend on. Victor Cruz has made some huge plays and some huge mistakes, but he looks like he could be the real deal in the long run. Mario Manningham, currently injured, is the epitome of an airhead. Wrong routes, dropped passes, and not knowing where he is on the field are all part of Manningham's reportoire. Ramses Barden could develop into a good wideout, but he's still getting experience. The bloom seems to be off the rose that is tight end Jake Ballard, whose play has been very ordinary the last two weeks.

The Giants pass rush has disappeared and quarterbacks are taking advantage with their new found time. People are quick to criticize the secondary, which has been subpar, but you can only cover a receiver for so long when there is no pressure on the QB. The Giants linebackers are a mess with injuries and inexperience. This seems to be the case almost every year. (Calling Bill Parcells, please draft a load of linebackers for the Giants.)

The kicking game has actually been the most consistent facet of the Giants' game, and that's just sad. Getting back to Eli, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN said the other night that "Eli is an island". No words are truer. He is doing everything he can to get his team to win. Now he needs Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to help him out. The Giants can't run, so throw more screens and slants to replace parts of the running game. Hell, throw some wildcat in there to shake things up. Or go with a 2 minute offense for most of the game.

It's hard to believe with all the bad things I mentioned that the Giants could make the playoffs, but they can. Granted, they won't go far, but they could be playing in the new year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The National Football Classless League

Stevie Johnson is the face of the NFL...not Stevie Johnson per se (and what male adult goes by Stevie anyway?), but classless players like him that the NFL is rife with. Case in point, Sunday's NY Jets - Buffalo Bills game. As we all know, the Jets'/then Giants' Plaxico Burress did something really stupid back in 2008 (almost four years to the day of Sunday's game) - carried an illegal weapon into a nightclub and then things went from bad to worse when he accidentally shot himself in the leg. Mayor Bloomberg made sure Burress was made an example of and off to jail for the gun possession he went.

That brings us to Sunday's game when Johnson caught a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick and began one of the asinine little dances that is so prevalent in the NFL. But Johnson then took it one step further by pantomiming Burress shooting himself in the thigh. Johnson then topped his performance off with a harmless impersonation of Santonio Holmes' jet-in-flight touchdown celebration.

Johnson's actions were disgusting, despicable, and unfortunately, oh so typical. The league should heavily fine the wide out, who wasn't showing off so much when he was dropping passes like crazy last year. It's fine to celebrate that you scored, not everyone needs to just hand the ball to the referee, butover the years things have gone from the fun, high-stepping spike of the Chiefs' Elmo Wright and Billy "White Shoes" Johnson's wobbly leg dance to pre-planned and orchestrated celebrations like Joe Horn's cellphone fiasco and Terrell Owens' Sharpie in the sock ploy.

Those players and other clowns like them (hey cornerback do you really want to pound your chest after the wide receiver dropped a wide open pass?) don't realize how much their actions take away from the game and influence kids. Their lack of maturity and self centered approach to the game does nothing more than give their sport a black eye.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Daily Roundup For 11/18/11

Starting out this Friday morning with some sad news from the college basketball world.

Condolences and prayers go out to the Oklahoma St. community after women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were killed in a single engine plane crash last night. The crash occurred 45 miles west of Little Rock, AK. It's the second such tragedy for the school in the last decade. 10 people associated with the men's basketball team died in a plane crash in 2001.

Now on to some less important stuff.

How the hell do you only score 13 points against the Denver Broncos? That's what you Jet fans must be wondering this morning. That and how you made Tim Tebow's 95 yard game winning drive look like John Elway's "The Drive". One of the first things you notice about Tebow is just how bad his mechanics are throwing the ball. But the next thing you notice is how elusive a runner he is. He completely baffled the Jets on the the Bronco's final possession and especially on the game winning run.

Tebow will NEVER lead an NFL to a Super Bowl let alone a Super Bowl victory. QB is not the position he should be at if he wants a long term career in the NFL. The Broncos could use him as the Jets had done with Brad Smith, but Tebow needs to be utiliized elsewhere. You can say what you want about him, but the guy is tough. Make him a wideout, a tailback, use him in wildcat formations, or have him return kicks. He can definitely be on an NFL squad, just not as the starting or 2nd string QB.

Getting back to the Jets offense though...13 points? Seriously? Mark Sanchez's 60% completion pct and 252 yards are misleading. They're definitely better looking numbers than the game Sanchez had or has been having lately. He threw another killer interception that turned into a game tying pick-six in the 3rd quarter. When the defense gives up 10 points, you HAVE to win the football game.

Perhaps it's time for Rex Ryan to duct tape his mouth for the rest of the season and do some coaching instead. No matter how popular he is, he could very well talk his way out of the head coaching position if the team continues to slide. There's only so long you can make promises and not keep them. Ask any politician.

The Red Sox are talking with Bobby Valentine about their managerial opening. I have not heard the word "interview" used as of yet, but this would definitely be a douchebag match made in Heaven. That being said, how many Yankees fan will automically panic that the "Red Sox have Valentine as their manager..we're in trouble". Valentine is one of the most overrated managers in baseball history. He's a good manager, not a great manager, and I don't give a crap about his success in Japan. The game is not the same overseas.

Valentine, however, is a better manager than he is a baseball color commentator/analyst and I would welcome his exit from the booth. His haughty, Kermit the Frog/Fozzy Bear delivery is unwelcome on my TV set. What Valentine is best at is self promotion and making wild predictions (Hideki Matsui will be a perennial 50-HR hitter in the US).

Finally, if you haven't seen The Daily Show's Samantha Bee's report on the NY Occupy Wall St. movement, you need to NOW.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chavez Wants To Return In '12, Yankees Should Pass

Eric Chavez was well liked by both his teammates and the fans, myself included, last season. He was a great influence on younger players like Eduardo Nunez, played stellar defense as a backup at the corners, and provided another option against right-handers as the DH. He was also excellent with runners in scoring position, putting up a .415/.468/.537 split in 47 plate appearances. But just as those numbers don't lie, neither do Chavez's overall numbers. And the numbers were not good for the five-time Gold Glove winner.

A .676 OPS was well below Chavez's lifetime average, which dipped to .817 as a result of the 2011 season. Chavez had his usual rash of injuries as well and appeared in just 58 games. The number of games played can, of course, be looked at in another way. The Yankees wouldn't expect Chavez to play too much, except to occassionally spell Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

But with Rodriguez's own mounting injuries, the Yankees need a healthier player with more pop to fill in at third base. Nunez did a pretty good offensively (.698) in his first full season in the Majors, but is still maturing as a defender. Chavez hit just two home runs in 175 plate appearances and though he was decent 3-11 (.273) as a pinch-hitter, all his hits were singles. (His numbers were even worse when he entered the game as a sub - .513 OPS).

So while Chavez is a great guy to have around and can be depended on defensively, the Yankees need to find themselves a younger, more durable, and more offensively consistently model for the 2012 season.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Forget Jo Pa, Jo Po Ready To Say Good-bye

With all that's been going on with Penn St., it's time to take look at some Yankees' business. If for no other reason than to escape the sickening madness of the PSU story...

The Yankees haven't made it official, but Jorge Posada told reporters last week that he's played his last game as a Yankee. He still has not decided whether or not he wants to play anywhere else next season. The hope here is that he doesn't, so that he can say he played his entire career in the Pinstripes and not further diminish his career. Posada's legacy and value are things that have been passionately debated by Yankees fans.

The two sides really diverge when it comes to discussing the possibility of Posada entering the Hall of Fame. Those that are in favor of his entry, point to the numbers he put up as a catcher and his World Series rings. Those against the notion point to his catching deficiencies, poor base running, etc. I fall somewhere in between, acknowledging his offensive accomplishments, while shaking my head at some of the things he's done defensively and on the bases over the years.

To me, he has not had a Hall of Fame career. The Yankees have been scouting Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedas, who says he is 26. With Cuban players you never really know where the truth lies when it comes to their age. The Yankees were among the teams that watched Cespedas work out recently in the Dominican Republic.

The teams' scouts have not shared much info, which you would expect, and you have to be careful with any player you haven't had much chance to watch. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez does not come along every day. Another international player that could be making an impact this year is pitcher Yu Darvish. The 25-yr old right-hander has had five straight sub-2.00 ERA seasons and won 18 games last year for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He also struck out 276 hitters in 232 innings this past season.

Darvish could only make his way to the US if he goes through the Japanese mechanism of posting players. Just like with Cuban players, sometimes these things work out (Ichiro Suzuki) and other times they don't (Kei Igawa). The NY Times' Brad Lefton reported that Darvish has not yet decided if he wants to make the transition from the Far East to the West. Darvish recently blogged, "Nothing has been decided. After all games have been played and I’ve had a chance to rest, I’ll think about what comes next.”

Pitching is clearly the Yankees priority this off-season, an off-season in which starting pitching is not in great supply. Lefty Mark Buehrle, who would prefer to remain a White Sox, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt, and C.J. Wilson are the biggest names, but let the buyer beware. Buehrle has always seemed to me to be a pitcher who is not as good as his numbers. And his numbers aren't always good. Even though the Yankees could use a solid left-hander, they need more than an innings eater. I don't see Buehrle being successful in Yankee Stadium.

The Star-Ledger's Jeff Bradley feels Buerhle could bring a "Jimmy Key-esque" quality to the Yankees. The Yankees have reportedly already had contact with agents for all the above except Buehrle. Wilson is the number #1 guy on Texas, but really is more suited to be a two or even a three in the rotation. He's been less than impressive in the last two post-seasons as well. He'll be looking for #1 money, which the Yankees should NOT pay him.

Jackson has good stuff, but is erratic, not to the degree of A.J. Burnett, but not far behind. Oswalt has declined the last few years after a stellar career and is too injury prone. He became a free agent when the Phillies did not pick up his $12M option. Right now the Yankees rotation consists of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Burnett, and Phil Hughes. The Yankees would love to dump Burnett, the two years left on his deal, and some of the amount of the $33M they still owe him.

But who do you plug in? It's not likely that either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances will be ready out of Spring Training to join the staff. No one know what Phil Hughes will bring next year. The Yankees could swing a deal as well with some of their highly touted prospects. The feeling here is that they will go after Darvish, if he makes himself available, with a conservative bid.

The long range deal and posting fee that Boston made for Dice-K has not worked out well and the Yankees have their own issues with Igawa, so I don't see them going crazy. Of all of the pitchers mentioned, Buehrle probably has the best chance to become a Yankee.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yankees Move A Bust

I'm no Young MC and Andrew Brackman is no Randy Johnson. Many an eyebrow was raised when the Yankees selected Brackman with their first round pick (30th overall) in the 2007 MLB amateur draft.

The team already knew that Brackman needed Tommy John surgery, but still felt that picking the former N.C. State Wolfpack basketball player was a slam dunk. Were they ever wrong. Tuesday, the Yankees declined the 2012 option on Brackman, making him a free agent. While there's always a possibility the Yankees could bring him back with a minor league deal, the soon to be 26-yr old is likely headed to a new organization.

It's well documented that it's a difficult transition to the big leagues for exceptionally tall pitchers and the 6'10" Brackman fell in that category. It took Randy Johnson years to perfect the art of pitching, but not everyone is so lucky. The Mariners had another big lefty, 6'10" Ryan Anderson, in their farm system and dubbed him "Little Unit" as an homage to Johnson. It also told just how much the M's thought about Anderson.

Anderson was rated a top 25 prospect by Baseball America for five straight years (1998-2002). He averaged better than 12 strikeouts per nine innings, but injuries and a questionable work ethic ended his baseball career after the 2005 season. He never made it to the Major Leagues.

Will Brackman have the same fate? After rehab from surgery, Brackman pitched for Charleston in 2009 and was, as expected, not very good. He showed a lot of rust and his strikeout to walk ratio was an awful 1.36. He also threw 26 wild pitches and had an ERA above 5.00.

Brackman showed promise the following year at Tampa ('A+') and Trenton ('AA'), excelling after his promotion to the Eastern League's Thunder. Between the two levels he struck out 126 in 146.2 innings and walked 39 with a 3.90 ERA.

But this past season Brackman took a step backwards at Triple-A Scranton. He had a career low in strikeouts per nine innings and set a career high in walks per nine frames, with both figures at 7.0. A 1.635 WHIP, 19 wild pitches, a 6.00 ERA, and just 13 starts in his 33 appearances all added up to his subtraction from the Yankees 40-man roster.

While he is not yet in the category of a Brien Taylor, Brackman's window of opportunity to mak e the Majors is closing fast.

Baseball Digest | The Power Is Back; Time To Crank Up The Hot Stove

This story was orginally written for

The Power Is Back; Time To Crank Up The Hot Stove

The World Series concluded last week with the St. Louis Cardinals capturing their 11th World Series championship. Many of us in the northeast were then pounded by an October-ending storm that was as rotten as any January has to throw at us. For the many of us who lost power, heat, etc…what better time than now, the beginning of November, to crank up the HOT STOVE.
Oh yes, just because baseball is over, it doesn’t mean that baseball is over.

There’s a lot going on already…

Theo Epstein escaped from Boston to try to help another team, the Chicago Cubs, end their long running misery. He also had to get out from under the bus that Boston owner John Henry threw him under. The Cubs still owe the Red Sox compensation for Epstein after the latest deadline to do so passed with no resolution. Epstein is the Cubs’ new president and has named Jed Hoyer as the team’s new GM. Hoyer had been the ass’t GM in San Diego and had worked with Epstein in Boston during the team’s two titles in 2004 and 2007.
Epstein fired manager Mike Quade on Wednesday after just a little over one season in Chicago. The Sun-Times has the story.
The Red Sox quickly replaced Epstein with insider Ben Cherington, a long-time Boston employee. One of Cherington’s first moves was to exercise the $6MM option on Marco Scutaro for 2012. Cherington also said that Scutaro will be the starting shortstop entering spring training. He should face competition from veteran Jed Lowrie and highly touted prospect Jose Iglesias.

The Los Angeles Angels also changed GM’s, bringing in former Arizona Diamondbacks front office employee Jerry DiPoto to fill the role. DiPoto pitched for eight seasons in the bigs and compiled a 27-24 record with the Indians, Mets, and Rockies. He retired as a player after the 2000 season.

The Baltimore Orioles search for a GM continued after Toronto assistant GM Tony LaCava said, “no thanks”.

Winning manager Tony LaRussa retired after 33 years, three world championships, and six pennants. Commissioner Bud Selig said he would still like to see LaRussa manage the 2012 NL All-Star team.

Davey Johnson will be back as manager of the Washington Nationals after the club and he reached an agreement for 2012. The 68-yr old Johnson, who took over the team on June 27, will be the oldest manager in baseball. At least until Jack McKeon comes out of retirement again.

New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman inked a new three-year deal and ownership re-worked ace CC Sabathia’s contract so that the team’s #1 starter wouldn’t opt out of his current contract. The new deal guarantees Sabathia $122MM over five years. In this new technological era, Sabathia was the first to announce the new deal via Twitter. "Yankee fans, I’ll be here fighting for number 28 next year! "

One pitcher who may not be re-joining Sabathia in Pinstripes next season is the inconsistent A.J. Burnett. During the news conference to announce his new deal, Cashman said that Burnett will be in the rotation, “…if he’s with us.” Two Yankees who will be back are outfielder Nick Swisher (though he could be dealt) and Robinson Cano, who both had their options picked up.

The Phillies turned down the option on veteran starter Roy Oswalt, which made the right-hander a free agent.

The Tampa Bay Rays picked up options on closer Kyle Farnsworth and starter James Shields, but have parted ways with catcher Kelly Shoppach.

Embatted LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the team at auction. The Dodgers were building a promising future until McCourt and his wife Jamie engaged in bitter divorce proceedings. A settlement allowed the team to finally be put up for sale.
Dodgers fans are ecstatic that the McCourts are selling. The LA Times has the full story.
The Indians have a new starting pitcher in veteran Derek Lowe. The right-hander was acquired from Atlanta on Monday for a minor leaguer. Cleveland will only have to pony up 1/3 of the $15MM that Lowe is still owed. The 38-yr old is coming off of one of his worst seasons when he went 9-17, 5.05 in 34 starts.

Courtesy of, here is the complete list of 2012 free agents and potential free agents:

Atlanta Braves
Gonzalez, Alex
Linebrink, Scott
McLouth, Nate
Sherrill, George
Wilson, Jack

Arizona Diamondbacks
Duke, Zach
Hill, Aaron
Marquis, Jason
McDonald, John
Nady, Xavier
Overbay, Lyle

Baltimore Orioles
Guerrero, Vladimir
Izturis, Cesar

Boston Red Sox
Atchison, Scott
Bedard, Erik
Drew, J.D.
Jackson, Conor
Miller, Trever
Ortiz, David
Papelbon, Jonathan
Varitek, Jason
Wakefield, Tim
Wheeler, Dan

Chicago Cubs
Grabow, John
Johnson, Reed
Lopez, Rodrigo
Ortiz, Ramon
Pena, Carlos
Ramirez, Aramis
Wood, Kerry

Chicago White Sox
Buehrle, Mark
Castro, Ramon
Pierre, Juan
Vizquel, Omar

Cincinnati Reds
Cordero, Francisco
Hernandez, Ramon
Renteria, Edgar
Willis, Dontrelle

Cleveland Indians
Durbin, Chad
Fukudome, Kosuke*
Sizemore, Grady
Thome, Jim

Colorado Rockies
Cook, Aaron
Ellis, Mark
Millwood, Kevin
Romero, J.C.

Detroit Tigers
Betemit, Wilson
Guillen, Carlos
Ordonez, Magglio
Penny, Brad
Santiago, Ramon
Zumaya, Joel

Florida Marlins
Dobbs, Greg
Lopez, Jose
Vazquez, Javier C.

Houston Astros
Barmes, Clint
Michaels, Jason

Kansas City Royals
Chen, Bruce
Francis, Jeff
Kendall, Jason

Los Angeles Angels
Branyan, Russell
Pineiro, Joel
Ramirez, Horacio
Rodney, Fernando

Los Angeles Dodgers
Barajas, Rod
Blake, Casey
Broxton, Jonathan
Carroll, Jamey
Garland, Jon
Kuroda, Hiroki*
MacDougal, Mike
Miles, Aaron
Padilla, Vicente
Rivera, Juan

Milwaukee Brewers
Betancourt, Yuniesky
Counsell, Craig
Fielder, Prince
Hairston Jr, Jerry
Hawkins, LaTroy
Kotsay, Mark S.
Rodriguez, Francisco
Saito, Takashi

Minnesota Twins
Capps, Matt
Cuddyer, Michael
Kubel, Jason
Nathan, Joe

New York Mets
Batista, Miguel
Capuano, Chris
Hairston, Scott
Harris, Willie
Isringhausen, Jason
Reyes, Jose
Young, Chris

New York Yankees
Ayala, Luis
Chavez, Eric
Colon, Bartolo
Garcia, Freddy
Jones, Andruw
Marte, Damaso
Mitre, Sergio
Posada, Jorge

Oakland Athletics
Crisp, Coco
DeJesus, David
Harden, Rich
Matsui, Hideki
Willingham, Josh

Philadelphia Phillies
Gload, Ross
Ibanez, Raul
Lidge, Brad
Madson, Ryan
Oswalt, Roy
Rollins, Jimmy
Schneider, Brian

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cedeno, Ronny
Doumit, Ryan
Lee, Derrek
Ludwick, Ryan
Maholm, Paul
Snyder, Chris

San Diego Padres
Bell, Heath
Harang, Aaron
Hawpe, Brad
Qualls, Chad

Seattle Mariners
Aardsma, David
Bard, Josh
Kennedy, Adam
Pena, Wily Mo
Rodriguez, Luis
Wright, Jamey

San Francisco Giants
Beltran, Carlos
Burrell, Pat
Cabrera, Orlando
DeRosa, Mark
Mota, Guillermo
Ross, Cody

St. Louis Cardinals
Dotel, Octavio
Furcal, Rafael
Jackson, Edwin
Laird, Gerald
Patterson, Corey Pujols, Albert
Punto, Nick
Rhodes, Arthur

Tampa Bay Rays
Cruz, Juan
Damon, Johnny
Kotchman, Casey
Shoppach, Kelly

Texas Rangers
Chavez, Endy
Gonzalez, Mike
Oliver, Darren
Treanor, Matt
Webb, Brandon
Wilson, C.J.

Toronto Blue Jays
Camp, Shawn
Francisco, Frank
Johnson, Kelly
Molina, Jose
Rauch, Jon

Washington Nationals
Ankiel, Rick
Coffey, Todd
Cora, Alex
Gomes, Jonny
Hernandez, Livan
Nix, Laynce
Rodriguez, Ivan
Wang, Chien-Ming

* Eligible per contract terms.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baseball Digest | Mike Napoli, That's Amore

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had trouble scoring runs the past two seasons, after finishing second to the New York Yankees in 2009. So prior to the 2011 season, GM Tony Reagins shipped catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Vernon Wells. The Halos were counting on Wells’ 2010 resurrection (31 HR, 88 RBI, .847 OPS) to continue on the west coast, as well as provide them with more versatility. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, had no interest in keeping the arbitration eligible Napoli and sent him to Texas for reliever Frank Francisco and cash. Texas is thankful they did.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Baseball Digest | Mr. Holland's Opus

It’s one thing to be told or to know that you need to pitch the game of your life, it’s another to actually go out and do it. The Texas Rangers entered Sunday night’s Game 4 contest with the St. Louis Cardinals down two games to one and were relying on Derek Holland to have his big moment in the spotlight.

Holland has shown glimpses of star potential in his three year Major League career- he threw three complete game shutouts in July- but had come up small in the playoffs thus far. His last two starts came in the ALCS vs. Detroit and lasted only a combined 7.1 innings with seven earned runs allowed. So there was no reason for Texas fans, or Ron Washington for that matter, to have a lot of confidence in their 25-yr old left-hander.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Baseball Digest | Cruz Missile Puts Texas In Command

The baseball post-season is all about do-overs. You can have a rotten regular season and then become a hero in October. You can also wear goat horns in in one series and be the guy who comes through with the big hit in the next clash. Nelson Cruz knows what it feels like. Though his Texas Rangers won their AL division series, Cruz played no offensive role in advancing to the next round. He was just 1-15 and struck out five times against the Tampa Bay Rays. All that changed on Monday though when Cruz, who had homered in Game 1, smacked two more to give his Texas Rangers a commanding two games to none lead over the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

Tigers’ starter Max Scherzer had given up a pair of early runs, but held a 3-2 lead entering the 7th inning, thanks to a Ryan Rayburn 3-run home run off of Rangers’ starter Derek Holland. That’s when Cruz played the hero for the first time, tying the game against Scherzer with a solo blast in the 7th inning. Then Cruz put his name in the record books when he became the first player in League Championship Series to hit a walk off grand slam. It came in the 11th inning after Ryan Perry had allowed three straight singles, and gave the Rangers a 7-3 victory. It was a home run that fit the moment; a majestic shot that simply had to stay fair, which it did.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Baseball Digest | Tigers Need Max Effort From Scherzer In Game 2

Max Scherzer has been here before, in fact less than a week ago. Detroit Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander pitched one inning in Game 1 of the ALDS before rain suspended play and the Tigers lost to the New York Yankees when play resumed the following day. Down 1-0 in games, the Tigers turned the ball over to Scherzer, the “other” hard throwing right-hander in their rotation, for Game 2. The 27-yr old responded with 5.1 innings of no-hit ball as the Tigers evened the series at a game apiece.

Scherzer will take the hill in Game 2 with his team again down a game after rains affected the opener of the American League Championship Series on Saturday. The Texas Rangers edged Detroit 3-2 after a pair of rain delays limited the game’s starters, Verlander (4) and C.J. Wilson (4.2), to less than five innings.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yankees Bats Die In ALDS Finale

Detroit 3 Yankees 2

More tomorrow.

Nova Ready To Shine?

I had faith, albeit blind faith, in A.J. Burnett going into Tuesday's make or break Game 4 of the ALDS. Down two games to one, Burnett delivered and Curtis Granderson played the role of superhero with a very good catch and an amazing catch in the Yankees 10-1 thrashing of the Detroit Tigers.

So now the teams are back in New York tonight for the fifth an deciding game. Remarkably, the game is at 8:05 instead of the usual 8:37. It's a rematch of the Game 1 relievers Ivan Nova and Doug Fister. Of course, both pitchers were supposed to start Game 2 last Saturday, but instead had to pick up Game 1 after rain suspended play on Friday.

Nova was outstanding - he pitched into the 9th inning - and is brimming with confidence at the moment. Fister was outstanding down the stretch for the Tigers and finished with a 2.83 ERA. But in Game 2 he pitched with runners on base in all but one one of his 4+ innings of relief. He left in the 6th inning, down 4-1 and with the bases full of Yankees. His line got worse moments later when Al Alburquerque gave up a grand slam to Robinson Cano that broke the Tigers' backs.

Nova started his work in the 3rd inning and retired the six men he faced before he ran into trouble in the 6th. He got a break though when third base Gene Lamont waved home Alex Avila from second base on a Jhonny Peralta single to center. Granderson relayed to Derek Jeter, who fired home to Russell Martin to nail Avila.

Nova walked Austin Jackson to start the 6th, but got Magglio Ordonez to hit in a double play. He allowed just a single base runner over the next two innings before he tired in the 9th and was charged with some inherited runs allowed by Luis Ayala.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland said he will not use Game 1 and 3 starter Justin Verlander in relief tonight. Verlander said he would try to sneak down to the pen and talk Leyland into using him. Joe Girardi, on the other hand, said that he will use CC Sabathia if needed. As the cliche goes, "all hands on deck". Or in this case, in the batter's box.

Will the little glimpses of life that Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher showed in Game 4 carry over to tonight? Teixeira will be back batting from the the left side, where his OPS is far less than when he's facing a left-handed pitcher. Tex seems to be having trouble picking up breaking pitches from right-handers and the overshift teams deploy against him has not helped him. He's hit some pitches the opposite way over the last couple of games, which is good sign, even if means a single or double rather than a home run.

The Yankees first baseman isn't the only who hasn't done a lot of damage in the series. Tigers' first baseman Miguel Cabrera had a big 2-run home run in Game 2, but has gone just 3-12 overall. Victor Martinez homered off of A.J. Burnett in Game 4, but is just 3-14. In fact, the leading hitters on the Tigers are players you wouldn't expect to be at the top of the list- Brandon Inge, Don Kelly, and Ryan Rayburn.

I feel just as I did before the series started; that either team could win it. And I stand by my original prediction of the Yankees winning the series in five games. I believe tonight will come down to a battle of the bullpens in the late innings...and anything goes.

Hopefully, it goes the Yankees' way.

Baseball Digest | Texas Will Go As Far As Their Arms Will Take Them

When the media and baseball experts talk about the Texas Rangers, they tend to focus on the Rangers’ deep lineup. And who can blame them? With Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and Elvis Andrus, the Rangers can put a big number up on the scoreboard. But if the Rangers are to win their first World Series it will because of their starting pitching and bullpen.

There were a lot of people who didn’t think Texas would get back to the championship after losing Cliff Lee to free agency. But C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland all remained steady, and Alexi Ogando gave the team a big boost in the first half with his promotion to the starting rotation. Texas is now just four victories away from returning to the World Series, which they lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants last season.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baseball Digest | Beltre Powers Texas Back To ALCS

Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre was just 1-11 entering Tuesday afternoon’s ALDS Game 4 match with the Tampa Bay Rays, but by the time the game was over, Beltre had put his name alongside the likes of Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson. Beltre became the sixth Major Leaguer to hit three home runs in a single playoff game to propel the Rangers to a 4-3 victory and a second consecutive trip to the ALCS.

The Rangers other run was their first run, a lead off home run by Ian Kinsler off of Jeremy Hellickson in the bottom of the 1st inning. One frame later, Beltre crushed one deep into the left field seats for a 2-0 Rangers lead. The Rays got the run right back in their half of the 2nd inning when Matt Joyce doubled off Texas starter Matt Harrison to score Sean Rodriguez from first base. Joyce was stranded in scoring position though when Harrison struck out Desmond Jennings for his third K of the inning. (Harrison would strike out nine batters in just five innings and earned the win.)

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Young Homer Puts Season On Arm Of A.J.

First cliche of the day - the Yankees have their backs to the wall. That's because Monday night, the Detroit Tigers' Delmon Young snapped a 4-4 tie in the 7th inning with an opposite field home run to give the Tigers a 5-4 victory. For the second straight night the Yankees rallied against Jose Valverde in the 9th inning, but came up short. So what do we know going into tonight's Game 4.

A. The game rests on the arm of A.J. Burnett. He can a hero or a zero. He came up with a huge game in the 2009 playoffs and he'll need to again tonight to send the series back to New York.

B. CC Sabathia was affected more from Friday's rain out than Justin Verlander. While Verlander wasn't sharp early, he dominated in the middle innings. Sabathia was off from the start. As good as he looked in the first two innings on Friday, that's how bad he was last night. Which plays in the next item...

C. Home plate umpire Jerry Davis was horrendous. His strike zone favored Verlander. Whether this was a case of seeing pitches from a lefty or righty differently or home field umpiring, Davis squeezed Sabathia and stretched the zone for Verlander. The proof is in the pudding via Brooks Baseball. Check out the pitch FX from the game.

D. Rafael Soriano was public enemy number one in New York at the start of the season. But after returning from the DL he pitched lights out baseball. That was until he surrendered Young's home run last night. Back to New York's Not Most Wanted list.

E. The Yankees big guns look more like water pistols. Mark Teixeira (1-11), Alex Rodriguez (0-10), Robinson Cano after Game 1 (1-8), Nick Swisher (2-12)

F. If indeed this is Jorge Posada's last hurrah, he's going out on top as an individual. The much maligned DH has been the most consistent Yankee through the first three games, going 4-8 with four walks (.667 OBP). Yes, he made a bad base running mistake in Game 1, what else is new, but he's shown that he should be moved up in the lineup for the remaining games.

G. Joe Girardi has done a horrible job of managing the series. He seems to be managing to not make a mistake, but he's made a bunch. Some examples - Bring in Luis Ayala in for the second straight day in Game 2. The Yankees were down 4-1 and could not afford to fall any further behind. But instead of bringing in one of his shut down relievers, he brought Ayala, who became less trustworthy as the season went on and had done a terrible job in Game 1. Sure enough the Tigers scored what proved to be a huge insurance run in the 5-3 win.

Girardi also left Sabathia in too long last night; clearly you don't want to go to the pen too early, but the left-hander's goose was cooked in the 5th inning. Yet Girardi sent Sabathia back out for the 6th and didn't pull him until he had given up another run.

Girardi made a smart move by flip flopping Cano and Teixeira in the lineup prior to the start of the series, but he's made no adjustments to the lineup to ride the hot hands.

H. Derek Jeter is overmatched against hard throwers. Though he has four hits in the series, Jeter has looked horrible against the power pitching of Max Scherzer, Jose Valverde, and at times, Verlander.

I. The Yankees are in big trouble.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Baseball Digest | For Napoli, The Price Was Right

The pitcher is tall and lean, fluid and precise; a baseball magazine cover boy. The batter is average looking, the guy next door changing the oil in his driveway. But the batter can mash and today he did. Mike Napoli’s 2-run home run off of David Price in the 7th inning gave the Texas Rangers their first lead of the day en route to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The victory also gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the best of five series.

Price had scattered five hits and a walk through six innings before Adrian Beltre led off the top of the 7th with a single. After a wild pitch moved Beltre into scoring position, Price threw a 2-2 fastball right into Napoli’s wheelhouse and the catcher turned on it and sent it into the left field seats. The Rangers grabbed the momentum by the horns and used their speed to gain another two runs. After Craig Gentry’s two out single knocked Price from the ball game, Brandon Gomes walked Ian Kinsler and the two base runners pulled off a double steal.

When Gomes walked shortstop Elvis Andrus as well, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon brought in left-hander J.P. Howell to face the left-handed hitting Josh Hamilton. But the career .278 hitter against southpaws came through with a line drive single to right to plate two more for a 4-1 Rangers’ lead.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Scherzer Keeps Yankees Offense Below Their Max

It was an ugly day in the Bronx Sunday afternoon and I'm not talking about the two hard downpours of rain that took place during Yankees rallies. Detroit Tigers start Max Scherzer no-hit the Yankees for 5.1 innings and shut down the Yankees big guns in a 5-3 Tigers win. The victory evened the series at a game apiece with Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia squaring off in Game 3 Monday night in Detroit.

Detroit jumped on former Tiger Freddy Garcia for a pair of runs to set the tone for the game. Magglio Ordonez reached on a one out single, the first of three hits he had on the day, and two batters later Miguel Cabrera smacked an opposite field home run.

The Yankees had a chance to come right back in the bottom of the inning when Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez drew two out walks. But Mark Teixeira continued his struggles against right-handers this season (.773 OPS vs. 967 from the right side) and popped up to end the inning. Scherzer retired the next 11 hitters until he walked Jorge Posada with one out in the 5th.

Scherzer than hit Russell Martin in the left hand to put two aboard with one out, but bounced back and retired Brett Gardner on a soft liner to third and and Derek Jeter on a bounce out. Garcia, meanwhile, settled down after Cabrera's home run.

The 12-game winner allowed just a single through the next four innings until the Tigers took advantage of a Jeter error to build some insurance in the 6th. Speedy Austin Jackson hit a soft grounder to short that Jeter played well, but threw into the dirt to allow the lead off man to reach. Ordonez then followed with his third single of the day to chase Jackson to third with no one out.Garcia struck out Delmon Young, but gave up back to back RBI singles to Cabrera and Victor Martinez to put the Yankees in a 4-0 hole and brought Girardi out of the dugout to go to call on the bullpen.

The Yankees finally knocked Scherzer from the game in the 7th when Posada led off with a single and Swisher reached safely on a walk. But the Tigers bullpen and a sudden torrential rain impeded the Yankees progress. Set up man Joaquin Benoit, a free agent bust in the first half before he returned to his 2010 form in the second half, stranded both runners. He retired Martin on a fly out and struck out pinch-hitter Eric Chavez. Then with the rain at it's hardest, Jeter struck out to end the threat.

Curtis Granderson finally got the Yankees on the board an inning later when he ripped a home run into the right field seats, but the Tigers answered right back with a crucial run in the 9th. Joe Girardi, for reasons unknown, went to Luis Ayala for the second straight night despite the game being "just" a three run difference. Rafael Soriano or David Robertson would have been more likely to put up a zero on the scoreboard.

Instead, Ayala hit light hitting Brandon Inge, who moved to second on a sac bunt and scored on a single by Don Kelly for a 5-1 Tigers' advantage. The Yankees hadn't hit all day, but that run proved to be a back breaker when they attempted a comeback in the 9th against closer Jose Valverde.

Swisher greeted him with a home run to right and Jorge Posada followed, improbably, with a triple. Valverde then walked Martin to bring the tying run to the plate. Andruw Jones, who had replaced Gardner in the top of the 8th, ripped a shot to right that Kelly snared for a sac fly and suddenly the Yankees were down two. The rains returned again in time for Jeter and he struck out once again. Down to their final out, Granderson walked to set up a show down between Valverde and Cano. The Tigers closer, who recorded a perfect 49-49 in save attempts during the regular season, won out this time around when Cano grounded out to second to end the game.


The Yankees fans did a horrible job when Alex Rodriguez was booed in the 8th inning after he popped out. I am not a fan who says you don't boo your players, but Rodriguez is playing on one leg and with a bad thumb, and deserves better from the fickle fans. That being said, Joe Girardi needs to move Rodriguez down in the lineup. Other teams see what he's like right now and his name alone will not protect Cano in the lineup.

A.J. Burnett will start Game 4 against Rick Porcello with the Yankees either up or down two games to one.