Sports Outside the Beltway

Former MLB pitcher Geremi Gonzalez killed by lightning strike

He won 11 of his career 30 wins as a rookie with the 1997 Chicago Cubs. After that arm injuries hampered Gonzalez’ career. RIP.


CARACAS, Venezuela — Former major league pitcher Geremi Gonzalez, who won 11 games for the Chicago Cubs in 1997, was killed by a lightning strike in his native Venezuela on Sunday. He was 33.

Geremi Gonzalez pitched for five major league teams and compiled a 30-35 career record.

Emergency management official Herman Bracho said Monday that Gonzalez was struck by lightning at a beach.

Gonzalez pitched for five major league teams from 1997-2006. The right-hander appeared in 131 games with 83 starts, compiling a 30-35 record.

Gonzalez also played for the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers. He made a combined 24 appearances for the Mets and Brewers in his final major league season in 2006.

The Toronto Blue Jays released him during spring training last year. Gonzalez then moved to Japan and pitched in five games for the Yomiuri Giants.


Steve Bartman not to blame, Moises Alou says five years later

I seem to recall Alou was hopping mad back in 2003. From the Chicago Tribune-

Any holdovers still blaming Steve Bartman should let the infamous Cubs fan off the hook, Moises Alou says.

The former Cubs left fielder, now with the Mets, said he wouldn’t have caught the now-infamous foul ball in the 2003 National League Championship Series that hit the heel of Bartman’s hand in the eighth inning of Game 6, prolonging an inning in which the Marlins later rallied for the lead.

“Everywhere I play, even now, people still yell, ‘Bartman! Bartman!’ I feel really bad,” Alou told the Associated Press. “You know what the funny thing is?” he added. “I wouldn’t have caught it anyway.”

The article went on to say Bartman is still in hiding today. If emotions are that high in Chicago, a great many people had a life.

Chicago blew the game, while Dusty sat on his hands while his starting pitcher that night got tired. Anyone remember the error by the Cub shortstop on a easy groundball? Blaming the loss on Bartman is as irrational as the Cardinals in 1985 blaming the first base umpire’s bad call for their loss.(Like with the Cubs, a fielding miscue happened soon afterwards. Jack Clark missing a pop up) Same sequence of events and an out made, both teams end up losing or at least getting tied. No scapegoats, the teams are to blame.


Florida Marlins sign Luis Gonzalez to a one-year deal

Lugo is veteran, and I’ve liked him in the past, but what will the Marlins do with him? From the Miami Herald-

The Marlins and Gonzalez, a 40-year-old outfielder, have agreed on a one-year contract that will pay Gonzalez $2 million. The contract contains incentive bonuses, ones based on plate appearances, that could raise the total to as much as $3 million.

What is uncertain is how the Marlins intend to use Gonzalez, who has spent most of his 18 seasons in the major leagues playing left field, a position that belongs to Josh Willingham.

But Willingham has been bothered by lower-back problems, which caused him to spend the end of last season on the bench, and the Marlins could be looking at Gonzalez as backup insurance.

Gonzalez’s agent, Gregg Clifton, said the Marlins told him their plans are to use Gonzalez in the outfield and at first base, but did not guarantee a starting job. Gonzalez has played just five of his 2,455 games in the majors at first base, where Mike Jacobs appears set to return.

”He’s happy to do whatever it is to help the team,” Clifton said.

That has to be seen yet. Many veterans can’t handle a smaller role on a team. Especially one that looks not to be very good. Maybe Gonzalez will be different, but I see his acquisition as being of little help to the 2008 Marlins.


Hot Stove Update: Twelve Shopping Days ’til Christmas Edition

Baseball’s hot stove season keeps crackling along with a firesale beginning in Baltimore, a strange signing in San Francisco and the effective release of a phenomenal talent with an arm that was abused.

Dead Team, Dead Team Swapping

Let’s start with the Orioles.

Andy MacPhail is the new head honcho in Baltimore and his primary job is turning around a moribund franchise. It is about time. The Orioles recently woes have resulted in poor showings, fan protests and the dreadful overreach that typifies teams just beyond terrible, but nowhere near good.

Move number one in the now ongoing firesale:

Orioles Give Astros Give
  • SS Miguel Tejada
  • OF Luke Scott
  • P Matt Albers
  • P Troy Patton
  • P Dennis Sarfate
  • 3B Michael Costanzo

It’s an okay haul. Scott compares rather favorably with Trot Nixon at the same ages, giving the Orioles a competent outfielder, who will inexpensively complement and Nick Markakis. Costanzo may end up in the big leagues. He is on his third team this offseason, and is blocked by Melvin Mora. However if Mora is shopped, the Orioles could do worse than the 24 year old with good pop in his bat. Albers and Patton were the top pitchers in Houston’s farm system entering 2007. Neither pitched well with Houston, and both have iffy K rates. But both get groundballs and with a good infield defense have the potential to be respectable at the back of the rotation.

Houston meanwhile adds a slugging shortstop whose defense is declining and who, as an added bonus, has been linked to steroid allegations. For Baltimore, moving him prior to this afternoon’s release of the Mitchell report was an obvious priority. Even if not named, Tejada is tainted by association, possibly unfair.

Other Orioles likely to get moved before the end of this offseason: P Erik Bedard, 3B Melvin Mora, 2B Brian Roberts, OF Jay Payton, and Ramon Hernandez.

Currently, the Orioles need help at shortstop, centerfield and on the mound. Making more moves will yield more potential solutions, while opening more holes. This is the beginning of an about to be gutted franchise.

The Old and the Rested

The San Francisco Giants don’t seem too interested in younger talent. Their starting position players wheezed in with an average age of 36.25 last year. They will be around 34 years old on average next season, unless Giants GM Brian Sabean can find some geezer to play at either the hot or cool corner and thus spare fans the disgrace of having a 26 year old regular (Kevin Frandse) in the starting lineup.

To that mix, the Giants made a big splash yesterday inking centerfielder Aaron Rowand to a five year, $60 Million contract. Rowand will be thirty next year, which makes him the young whippersnapper of the Giant lineup. He also has the job of replacing Barry Bonds in the lineup. But Rowand is not a slugging outfielder like Bonds. Nor is he a prolific on base machine. Aaron Rowand is an outfielder who enjoyed an outstanding season in his walk year.

Let’s go to the numbers

Aaron Rowand ’07 612 .309 .374 .515 .348
Aaron Rowand car 2664 .286 .343 .462 .323

Not familiar with BABIP? Some folks aren’t. It is a very useful statistic to get a gauge on luck. The statistic measures Batting Average on Balls in Play. As a formula:

BABIP = Hits – Home Runs /At Bats – (Homeruns + Strikeouts)

Your league-wide BABIP is typically around .300. Rowand’s career is an exercise in better than average BABIP. It’s less than 10% over league average, but when he is closer to lerague average, as he was in 2005 with the ChiSox and 2006 with the Phillies, almost all of his offensive value vanishes.

Aaron Rowand ’05 578 .270 .329 .407 .318
Aaron Rowand ’06 405 .262 .321 .425 .297

See what I mean? Further, Rowand has always benefited from playing in Homerun helping Parks. Moving to San Francisco may cause his power surge to vanish, as well. But hey, it’s only five years and $12 Million per year. That’s nothing. Which unfortunately for Giants fans will describe what the Giants have for the better part of the next decade. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are nice young pitchers. Noah Lowry is a healthier version of better than league average Aaron Cook, and Barry Zito, is an overrated league average innings muncher. They will have the pitching, but they still will struggle to win seventy games likely for the next five or six years.

Prior Descent

Mark Prior will be 27 next season. He put up remarkable numbers as a 22 year old in 2003. His 18-6 record in 211.1 innings pitched was worthy of acclaim, and we now know a dead canary in a coal mine.

Indians Executive Keith Woolner in his previous line of work at Baseball Prospectus developed a metric for measuring the abuse a starting pitcher takes from being overpitched. This was an expansion of the original Pitcher Abuse Points system introduced by Rany Jazayerli in 1998. Keith’s expansion focused more on egregious abuse of pitchers, instead of the minor tweaking of a young arm by exceeding 100 pitches.

For perspective, Daisuke Matsuzaka led the majors in PAP^3 last season with 116,740 followed by Carlos Zambrano (114,011) and AJ Burnett (97,899).

Mark Prior’s PAP^3 scores
2002 89,046 Age 21 Including a 54,872 PAP^3 138 pitch outing
2003 230,844 Age 22  
2004 36,847 Age 23 Started the season on the DL and did not pitch until June.
2005 102,159 Age 24 with a 25 day stint on the DL mid season
2006 1,000 Age 25  

But PAP^3 is not the only measure of risk to a young arm. The rule of thirty is a way of measuring the damage done to a young arm year by year rather than start by start.

Beginning with his Age 19 season at USC Prior pitched the following innings.
2000 129
2001 138
2002 167.2
2003 211.1
2004 118.2
2005 172.2
2006 62.2

Prior’s buildup with the Cubs went from a reasonable 140 or so college innings to an equally reasonable 170 professional innings from one season to the next. At the young age of 21, that is a little excessive, but, it was also consistent with advancing by 30 innings or less from year to year. The Cubs exceeded that rule of thirty by 15 or so innings in 2003, the year where as a 22 year old, he took almost twice as much abuse as any pitcher in 2007 did. In 2003, however, he
was fourth on in the majors behind Javier Vasquez, teammate Kerry Wood and Livan Hernandez. Another Cub starter (Carlos Zambrano) checked in at 11 on that list. The manager of that team got a new job recently to manage the Cincinnati Reds. Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, consider yourselves warned!

I am of the mindset that pitcher abuse disproportionately impacts arms outside of the 26-34 age range. Keeping young arms on a strict pitch and inning count is an investment in the future, by giving a young arm time to develop properly. As pitcher’s age, they are less reliable because they push themselves to the extremes that their bodies no longer are capable of achieving. The job of a good manager is to recognize when his older pitchers need a month’s vacation and sending
them off to rest and keep their arm fresh for the stretch drive. This essentially is what the Red Sox did with Curt Schilling this past season.

In addition to maximizing the effectiveness of an older arm, it also creates an opportunity for game level mentoring of young arms, removed from the stretch drive. Would giving a younger pitcher with some upside a showcase against major league teams, again strictly monitoring his pitch and inning counts, both groom him for an eventual job and give him the exposure that could potentially lead to a trade for a spare part? Certainly. It also provides an opportunity for
reclamation projects to get a full speed test int he fires of major league competition.

Speaking of salvage jobs, all this is prologue for the question out there, how many clubs will be pursuing Prior? The answer is all fo them. Prior represents the wonderful confluence of high upside and minimal risk. It’s a long shot, on par with the reclamation project called Kerry Wood but with longer odds and more upside. But it is worth investigating, offering and developing a program to ensure the soundness of his arm and the realization of his tremendous potential.

Now the more fact based (will it work) question has no answer. Probably not is the most I will venture. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Umpires vs. technology

As I’ve said before, umpires need help. And I refer you to a piece I wrote over a year ago on this very same subject. Baseball (and sports in general) is far behind the times in utilizing modern technology where it can, specifically to improve officiating.

I’ve thought about this topic for a long time. I think Questec is a good thing. (For those who dont know, it’s a computerized system that measures ball & strikes, and compares it to what the umpire actually called.)

One of the biggest and most frustrating problems in pro sports are bad calls by umps/refs. What I’d like to see is the steady removal of the so-called ‘human error’ from sports; I’ll talk specifically about baseball:

When umps are unsure when a ball is fair or foul down the line, why can’t a system be installed like they use in tennis? They could use technology to determine whether balls are just that, fair or foul.

Also, on disputed HRs, they must use instant replay. There’s no other fair way. An ump should be stationed in the park somewhere near a TV, like in the NHL. He should have the final word, since he’ll have access to the replay.

On balls and strikes, why not use Questec or ESPN’s ‘K-Zone’ (for example) to actually call the strikes? The only problem is that strike zone height is different for every hitter, but width is exactly the same, 17 inches (the width of homeplate). Rickey Henderson had a smaller up/down zone because he was short and crouched, and Richie Sexson’s up/down zone is bigger because he’s 6’8″. But their side-to-side zone is exactly the same. Therefore, computers/technology should be used to tell an umpire when a ball hits the plate or just misses. For the time being, umps will still need to call the up/down pitches (because every hitter is different), but will know for sure when a pitch crosses the corner or not. Or an ump could be assigned to determine the upper limit of each hitter’s strike zone dependent on his stance.

It also sucks when a pitcher throws a strike, but it’s not where he meant to throw it, the catcher has to reach for it, so the ump automatically calls it a ball. It doesn’t matter where the pitcher MEANT to throw the ball, it only matters whether it’s a strike or a ball.

For out/safe calls, when the closest ump feels the play is too close to call, he could send it to the ‘booth ump.’ TV technology is such today that it could be done in 30-60 seconds. Or (ala the NFL) managers should have two replays to use per game.

These steps would help legitimize the officiating and would make for fewer arguments from players and managers. You can’t argue with Questec strikes – it’s 100% consistent and 0% prejudiced (for veterans, or against rookies). Instant replay would also ensure the right call, and isn’t that worth waiting (at most) 60 seconds for – especially in close and/or playoff games?


Former MLB pitcher Bill Henry dead at 83 alive at 79

From Sports Illustrated-

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Bill Henry, who pitched in the majors for more than 15 seasons, has died. He was 83.

Henry died Aug. 27 at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, two days after he suffered a heart attack, his stepdaughter Debbie Lee said.

Born William Rodman Henry in Alice, Texas, the left-hander made his major-league debut in 1952 with the Boston Red Sox. Henry later pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants before ending his career in 1969 with the Houston Astros.

Henry had a career record of 46-50 and pitched in two 1961 World Series games with the Reds.

Since I was born in 1961, my memories of Henry come from playing past seasons with the baseball games made by Strat-O-Matic. Bill Henry, a left-handed relief pitcher, wasn’t really one of those one out lefty relief specialists we see today. In Henry’s most productive years, from 59-62 he averaged over an inning per relief appearance. Even two innings per game in 1959. For 1961, he was the Reds number two man coming out of the bullpen when they went to the World Series. Henry and Jim Brosnan saving the same amount of games(16), but with Brosnan having the heavier inning work load of the two.

What did Mark Twain once say, the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. That applies to Bill Henry. From today’s Miami Herald.

They lived 961 miles apart and never met.

One was a retired salesman living in Central Florida. The other, a big-league ballplayer who pitched in the 1961 World Series before settling down outside Houston.

All they shared was a common name, a square jawline and an affection for baseball.

But for 20 years, Bill C. Henry the salesman purported to be Bill R. Henry the baseball player. His wife and friends believed him — they had no reason not to — and the guy he pretended to be was none the wiser.

Until last week, when the 83-year-old former salesman died of a heart attack in Lakeland. Newspapers across the country ran obituaries announcing the death of the left-handed pitcher, recounting highlights of his 16-season career.

But that Bill Henry is still very much alive.

”I’ve been right here this whole time,” Henry, 79, said Thursday night from his home in Deer Park, Texas. “It was kind of a shock to hear people say they thought I was dead.”

A baseball historian read an obituary for the Lakeland man and noticed the birth dates and hometowns listed were different than what was on his Bill Henry memorabilia. The historian called Henry in Texas, who confirmed he was still living.

I’m glad you’re still alive Bill. People impersonating former major league relief pitchers. Welcome to Florida! The rules are certainly different here.


Al Downing Has No Regrets Over 715

The AJC has a feature on Al Downing, the former big league pitcher and baseball announcer best known for giving up Hank Aaron‘s 715th home run.

Dodgers pitcher Al Downing watches as Hank Aaron, trailed by two fans, runs out homer No. 715.

[I]n an instant on April 8, 1974, Downing became forever linked with Hank Aaron. The Atlanta slugger hit his historic 715th home run off Downing, who was on the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although 310 pitchers gave up home runs to Aaron, Downing is the Jeopardy question, the clue in the crossword puzzle, the answer in a Trivial Pursuit game.

Al Downing Has No Regrets Over 715 “I think people have a tendency to look at me as if that moment defines my career,” said Downing, 66, who retired in 1977 after winning 123 games in 17 years in the major leagues. “I always tell them, ‘That moment was Henry’s moment. It wasn’t my moment. It could have been anybody on that mound giving up that home run. Henry was the common denominator.’ ”

Now the numbers are adding up for Barry Bonds. Very soon an unwitting pitcher — who will it be? — will serve up No. 756 and find his name inextricably tied to Bonds. Downing will empathize with the man on the mound, but he won’t feel sorry for him. “Why should you feel sorry for a guy who’s doing what he loves?” he said. “He’s playing baseball. Very few people get an opportunity to pitch in the major leagues.”


After Tom Glavine gave up Bonds’ 11th homer of the season on May 8, the former Braves pitcher said that if the Mets had to face Bonds again before he got the record, “I can assure you I wouldn’t want to be the guy who gave up the home run.” Downing didn’t have that attitude when he was playing. “You can say, ‘I hope it’s not me,’ but that’s like saying, ‘I hope I don’t have to pitch in a big game,’ ” said Downing, who pitched in three World Series, was the first black starting pitcher in Yankees history and once was compared favorably with Sandy Koufax. “You live for a big game; you live for moments like that.”


Dodgers manager Walter Alston chose Downing to pitch after Aaron had hit No. 714 two games earlier. “He didn’t know I’d give up a home run,” Downing said. “But he said, ‘You’ve pitched in World Series, All-Star Games. … You’re a veteran.’ I was almost 33. He said, ‘I know that you can handle the pressure of that moment.’ ”


Downing is offended by people who say, “You must have grooved the pitch.”

“They’re the people who don’t know much about the sport,” he said. “I say that’s an insult to Hank Aaron. … It’s like saying somebody let Wilt Chamberlain score 100 points on him. He did it because he could; they didn’t let him.”

Downing, who lives in Valencia, Calif., and has retired as a broadcaster, said Aaron has always been gracious about their shared history. When they saw each other at the 25th anniversary celebration in 1999, Aaron asked, “How many home runs did I hit off of you?” Downing answered, “Three,” which, by the way, was 14 fewer than Aaron hit off Don Drysdale. “He [Aaron] said, ‘I wasn’t sure if it was two or three.’ People always act as if I hit 30 home runs off you. I say, ‘No, Al Downing was a good pitcher.’ “

And seemingly a decent, well-adjusted man. He’s absolutely right about one thing: Whoever gives up Bonds’ 756th home run will be some guy doing what he loves. It could be a kid up for his one cup of coffee in the Bigs or a future Hall of Famer. Bonds is a superstar; he can hit number 756 off of anyone. And, certainly, it’s no disgrace to be the victim of one of the best to ever play the game.


Selected list of pitchers surrendering momentous hits or home runs:

1927: Tom Zachary, Washington Senators — Babe Ruth’s 60th homer of the season

1951: Ralph Branca, Brooklyn Dodgers — Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning homer

1961: Tracy Stallard, Boston Red Sox — Roger Maris’ 61st homer of the season

1974: Al Downing, L.A. Dodgers — Hank Aaron’s 715th homer of his career

1985: Eric Show, San Diego Padres — Pete Rose’s 4,192nd hit of his career

1998: Steve Trachsel, Chicago Cubs — Mark McGwire’s 62nd homer of the season

2001: Chan Ho Park, L.A. Dodgers — Barry Bonds’ 71st homer of the season

No Hall of Famers in that bunch but several very good pitchers, certainly including Al Downing.


Phillies 10,000th Loss Most in Professional Sports History

The Philadelphia Phillies have reached a dubious milestone, becoming the first professional team in any sport to lose 10,000 games.

Phillies 10,000th Loss Most in Professional Sports HistoryThrough the last-place finishes, September collapses and every agonizing failure over the past 125 years, no team has lost quite like the Philadelphia Phillies. Futility has followed them since the day they were born, and Sunday night was no different for the losingest team in sports history. Loss No. 10,000 came when Albert Pujols hit two of the St. Louis Cardinals’ six homers in a 10-2 rout.

Not surprisingly, this defeat resembled the thousands that came before. Bad starting pitching, brutal relief and hardly any hitting. And, of course, lots of booing. By the ninth inning, with the outcome inevitable, the boos turned to cheers. Fans in the sellout crowd of 44,872 thumbed their noses at the dubious mark, standing and applauding. One held up a sign that read: “10,000 N Proud” as NL MVP Ryan Howard struck out to end the game.

“I don’t know too much about 10,000 losses,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I try and concentrate on the wins.”

From Connie Mack Stadium to the Vet and Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies have had few moments to celebrate. The franchise, born in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers and briefly called the Blue Jays in the mid-1940s, fell to 8,810-10,000.

Next on the losing list: the Braves, with 9,681 defeats. It took them stints in three cities (Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta) to reach that total. Not even those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, come close at 9,425. And for those counting, it was the 58th time the Phillies have lost by that exact 10-2 score, the Elias Sports Bureau said.

While it’s a somewhat embarrassing record, it’s a bit misleading. For one thing, baseball teams play radically more games than in any other professional sport. Moreover, even the best teams will lose 35-40 percent of their games, amassing 60 loses even in great seasons. And the Phillies have been around longer than virtually all other teams.

Still, not a record to cheer.


Former MLB pitcher Rod Beck dead at 38

He died this morning in Arizona.

Rod Beck, a relief pitcher who wore a bushy mustache while earning 286 career saves, was found dead Saturday. He was 38. Beck was found by police officers responding to a call to his home in suburban Phoenix, according to police department spokesman Andy Hill. Foul play is not suspected, though the cause of death might not be known for several days.

With long hair framing a menacing stare and an aggressive arm swing before delivering a pitch, the outgoing right-hander was a memorable baseball personality and a three-time All-Star who twice led the NL in saves. He spent the first seven of his 13 major league season with the San Francisco Giants.

Beck was popular with his teammates, reporters and fans, but battled personal demons late in his life. He abruptly left the San Diego Padres for a two-month stint in drug rehabilitation during his final season in 2004.

“He was having some problems, and I just knew he went into rehab and joined us later that year,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, the Padres’ manager at the time. “It’s so sad when you see healthy players go at such a young age. This is a bad day in baseball to lose a guy who did so much for the game.”

Nicknamed “Shooter,” Beck played for the Giants (1991-97), the Chicago Cubs (1998-99) and the Boston Red Sox (1999-2001) before finishing his career with the Padres (2003-04). Beck reportedly was living in a camper behind the Iowa Cubs’ center-field fence when San Diego called.

Beck led the majors in saves in 1993, when he set the Giants’ single-season record with 48. He was San Francisco’s career saves leader with 199 until Robb Nen passed him in 2002.

Beck led the majors again in 1998 with 51 saves for Chicago, helping the Cubs win the NL wild card. He had a career record of 38-45 in 704 games, with a 3.30 ERA.

Beck was a solid relief pitcher. RIP.


Cubs ship Barrett to Padres

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs traded embattled catcher Michael Barrett and cash to the first-place San Diego Padres on Wednesday for backup catcher Rob Bowen and minor league outfielder Kyler Burke.

Barrett, batting .256 with nine homers and 29 RBIs, has had problems defensively and also been involved in two dugout exchanges this month with Cubs pitchers — one of which led to a clubhouse brawl.

Barrett and starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano got into a skirmish in the dugout June 1 and it carried over into the clubhouse, where Barrett got a black eye and needed stitches in his lip.

The Atlanta Braves had scored five runs just before Zambrano and Barrett went at it in the dugout. Zambrano pointed at his head and screamed at Barrett, who allowed a run to score on a passed ball and throwing error.

Less than two weeks later, Barrett and pitcher Rich Hill had a verbal exchange in the dugout during an eventual loss to the Seattle Mariners.

“The fight had nothing to do with [the trade],” general manager Jim Hendry said during a telephone conference call. “The Rich Hill situation, that’s normal Major League Baseball every night. It just happened to be seen and blown out of proportion. That happens all the time. It wasn’t even discussed in-house about being an issue. … We just felt like we were trying to shore up the position in a little different fashion, a little bit more defensively.”

An emotional player, Barrett was the central figure in a brawl with the White Sox last season. He set it off by punching A.J. Pierzynski in the jaw after he’d been run over at the plate. Barrett was suspended for 10 games.

Barrett, who signed a $12 million, three-year deal in January 2005, has a $4.5 million salary this year and will be eligible for free agency after this season. Of the $2.2 million he is still owed this season, the Cubs will pay $1.5 million and the Padres are responsible for the remaining $700,000.

“It was an honor for me to put on a Chicago Cubs uniform, and I want to personally thank Jim Hendry, the Cubs organization, and all of the Cubs fans for making the past four years so special,” Barrett said in a statement released through his agent. “At the same time, I’m very excited to go to San Diego and do everything that I can to help the Padres win the NL West.”

Barrett has been known more for his offensive abilities than his ones behind the plate. In 2006, he batted a career high .307 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs.

“We felt he was on his way to becoming a terrific player, an All-Star caliber player,” Hendry said.

“This year he has had a little tougher time defensively, and a lot of it is probably from trying too hard. Maybe some of it is it’s the last year of his deal. He’s been a really, really good offensive player and for the first couple years really showed a lot of improvement defensively, then, like I said, we’ve had a little rougher time the first half of this year. We just felt like we needed to make a change.”

Koyie Hill has become Zambrano’s catcher the last three starts. Henry Blanco, who was supposed to be Barrett’s backup this season, has been on the disabled list with neck problems.

Bowen is batting .268 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 30 games for the Padres this season.

Chicago obtained Barrett in a trade with Oakland on Dec. 16, 2003, one day after the Athletics acquired him from Montreal. Prior to the trades, he had spent his entire six-year career with Montreal.

Hendry said discussions on the trade with Padres GM Kevin Towers began three or four days ago. As the Padres negotiated the trade, former Cub Greg Maddux — now part of the San Diego rotation — was asked about Barrett and gave club officials a ringing endorsement of the catcher.

The trade comes less than a week after San Diego and Chicago got into a bench-clearing brawl at Wrigley Field, one that began when Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee was hit by a pitch and took a swing at Padres’ pitcher Chris Young. Each player is appealing his five-game suspendion.

Burke, 18, was San Diego’s first-round compensation pick in last year’s first-year player draft. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-hander was the 35th overall pick in the draft out of Ooltewah (Tenn.) High School. In 62 games at Class A Fort Wayne, he batted .211 with one homer and 21 RBIs in 213 at-bats.

Information from The Associated Press and was used in this report.

I think this is a great move for the Padres. They get an All-Star caliber catcher for only $700K and they have no strings attached to him as he becomes a free agent this winter. The Padres, if they don’t trade him, will recieve a compensatory draft pick if they can’t re-sign him in the offseason.

This is a great all around move for San Diego. With Bard and Barrett behind the plate they will get plenty of rest and should both put up very good numbers. Beware though fantasy owners, their at-bats will both go down.


-Cleveland cut ties with reliever Roberto Hernandez today. Cleveland is responsible for the remainder of his $3.3 million salary this year and a $200,000 buyout of a $3.7 million team option for 2008. Look for Philadelphia, New York Yanks, and Tampa Bay to give him a call.

-Randy Johnson was placed on the 15-day DL with a herniated disk in his surgically repaired back, making the timing of his return to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation unclear.

-Curt Schilling is having shoulder problems and could miss his next start.

-The Oaklnad A’s brought back OF Milton Bradley from 15-day DL.

-The Cleveland Indians placed OF David Dellucci on 15-day DL.

-Kansas City placed DH hitter Mike Sweeney on the 15-day disabled list and recalled 1B/DH/LF Billy Butler from AAA. If you have room for Butler on your fantasy team then I would recommend picking him up. He plans on sticking with the Big League club and he has to hit to do so. Look for him to mash!


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