Sports Outside the Beltway

Manager Tony La Russa announces retirement

This news comes less than three days after the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series.

Tony La Russa is calling it a career after 16 seasons as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

La Russa, 67, only days removed from winning his third World Series title, made the announcement during a Monday morning news conference.

La Russa had hinted at a possible return during the NL championship series against the Brewers, expressing excitement about the Cardinals’ talent in place.

But apparently claiming his second World Series ring with the Cardinals — his 1989 Oakland A’s team also won it — was enough of a capstone.

La Russa’s 2,728 regular-season victories over 33 seasons as a manager rank third on the career list behind Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763).

Mack stayed on at least a decade too long. Illness was the cause of McGraw’s resignation and he would die two years later The Giants last World Series appearance with McGraw came eight years previously.(But the Giants did go to the WS the year after McGraw’s resignation) La Russa chose to get out while on top, and I think he made the right decision.


MLB First Baseman Frank Thomas retires after 19 years

He said the highlight of his career was being part of the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. From AP-

Saying he’s “at peace” with his decision, Frank Thomas announced his retirement Friday following a 19-season career in which he hit 521 homers and won two American League MVP awards with the Chicago White Sox.

Considering he didn’t play last season, the news was hardly shocking.

“It took awhile to get to this point,” the 41-year-old Thomas said during a news conference at U.S. Cellular Field. “I know I hadn’t played since 2008, but I had to get baseball out of my system before I made this announcement. I’m happy with this announcement. I’m at peace with it. I had one heck of a career. I’m proud of it.”

With his power and ability to hit for a high average and reach base, Thomas figures to land in the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.

AL Back-to-Back MVPs

A five-time All-Star who batted .301 with a .419 on-base average, Thomas is tied for 18th with Ted Williams and Willie McCovey on baseball’s home run list while driving in 1,704 runs. And in an era clouded by performance-enhancing drugs, he was outspoken against their use.

Thomas split his final three seasons between Oakland and Toronto, but he’ll be remembered most for a 16-year run with the White Sox.

He quickly emerged as one of the best players after debuting in 1990, winning MVP awards in 1993 and 1994 and a batting title in 1997 while setting club records for home runs (448) and RBIs (1,465) before a bitter split following the 2005 World Series-winning season.

Thomas was upset when the club bought out his option for $3.5 million that December, and things got particularly nasty during the 2006 spring training. He sounded off in an interview with The Daily Southtown of suburban Tinley Park, Ill., and general manager Ken Williams responded by calling him “an idiot.”

Thomas was angry with the organization for portraying him as a damaged player, although injuries to his left ankle limited him to 34 games and made him a spectator as the White Sox grabbed their first World Series title since 1917.

He criticized owner Jerry Reinsdorf for not calling him before the team decided to let him go.

“We all know Kenny Williams and I had a big blowup,” Thomas said. “We both moved on. When you’re pretty much considered an icon in a city as a player, it’s always hard to let those players go. It’s never a pretty or nice scene. We’ve seen it over the years. You think of a Brett Favre, [Shaquille O'Neal] leaving L.A., Allen Iverson leaving Philly — he’s back in Philly, I’m happy for him. When players get to a certain level, it’s never easy to say goodbye.”

Thomas wound up going to Oakland and hit 39 homers with 114 RBIs in 2006 before signing an $18.12 million, two-year contract with Toronto. The Blue Jays released him early in the 2008 season, a day after he became angry after being taken out of the lineup. Thomas wound up back in Oakland, appearing in 55 games with the Athletics before a right thigh injury ended his season — and, ultimately, his career.

Bagwell was a great hitter and 1st baseman who oddly enough shared the exact same birthday(May 27, 1968) with another great hitter and 1st baseman, Jeff Bagwell. I think Bagwell was the better of the two players but both are likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame in the future.


Minnesota Twins sign 1B-DH Jim Thome

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press-

Jim Thome has 57 career home runs against the Minnesota Twins, more than any other player in team history. For the 2010 season, at least, that number will go static as the 39-year-old slugger works on the number of homers he can hit for the Twins.Twins White Sox Baseball

Thome, who turns 40 in August, agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Twins on Tuesday, pending a physical he will undergo this weekend. The move came one day after White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen announced that Chicago would not re-sign the designated hitter. Thome also can earn up to $750,000 in incentives.

Thome said the Rays and White Sox were his other suitors. Guillen told reporters Chicago would not bring Thome back because the team would have trouble finding enough at-bats for him. Thome said neither Chicago nor Minnesota promised him a certain number of at-bats and that he decided on the Twins for two reasons — Minnesota showed the most interest and he wanted to return to the American League Central, where he is familiar with pitchers he’ll face.

What team guarantees what number of at-bats a player should get? If any do, they’re nuts. If a franchise is serious about winning, you use the players that can most help you do that. A veteran who can’t produce, will be benched by a well run team and in a worst case scenario, released out right.

That said, Thome can still be useful as a role player. He still has some pop in his bat, and that and the length of his contract make his signing look like a reasonable move by Minnesota IMHO.


Colorado Rockies sign C Miguel Olivo

He played for the Kansas City Royals last season. From AP-

The Colorado Rockies and catcher Miguel Olivo agreed to a $2.5 million, one-year contract Monday that includes a club option for 2011.

Olivo will share catching duties with Chris Iannetta. Free agent Yorvit Torrealba wanted to return to the Rockies but the sides couldn’t reach a deal this offseason.

Olivo hit .249 with 23 home runs and 65 RBIs in 114 games for the Kansas City Royals last season, when he served as AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke’s catcher for 31 of his 33 starts. He threw out 18 of 74 base stealers, a 24.3 percent mark that ranked third in the AL.

The well traveled 31-year-old veteran plays good defense and has power which but doesn’t hit for average and has very low on base percentages. I see the one-year signing as a plus for Colorado


Arizona Diamondbacks sign P Bobby Howry

The right-handed reliever spent the 2009 season with the San Francisco Giants. From AP-

Reliever Bobby Howry signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

The D-backs have a club option for 2011, but terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Howry, 36, pitched for the San Francisco Giants last season, going 2-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 63 games. He has pitched in 731 games during his 12-year career, with 66 career saves.

The Diamondbacks have reshaped their pitching staff in the offseason, trading for pitchers Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in a three-team deal with the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers earlier this month. They also expect Brandon Webb to be ready for the start of the season, following his shoulder surgery last summer.

While I am not optimistic about Arizona’s pitching bouncing back in 2010, I do think the acquisition of Howry, who has never started a Major League game, is a good move. He has been a more than solid setup man for over 10 years. Howry limited opposing batters to a .214 batting average in 2009 and was almost equally difficult on both righty and lefty batters. Any MLB team can make use of a pitcher with those skills and numbers.


Kansas City signs OF Brian Anderson

Is the Royals farm system so depleted they can’t come up with something better? From AP-

Outfielder Brian Anderson and the Kansas City Royals have agreed to a $700,000, one-year contract.

The 27-year old can make an additional $100,000 in performance bonuses under Wednesday’s deal.

He hit just .238 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 185 at-bats for the Chicago White Sox last season, then was traded July 28 to the Boston Red Sox for Mark Kotsay and batted .294 with two homers and five RBIs in 17 at-bats.


Selected by the White Sox with the 15th overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft, Anderson has a .227 average in five major league seasons with 22 homers and 80 RBIs.

Anderson was eligible for salary arbitration but Boston didn’t offer him a contract. It is little wonder why. Anderson has a career OPS of .660. A good major league outfielder should have one in the high 800′s. Anderson isn’t even close. He should be playing AAA ball and Kansas City is deluding themselves if they think Anderson can ever be a decent backup outfielder, alone a starter.


Chicago White Sox P Mark Buehrle throws a Perfect game

He did it against the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon. Buehrle struck out six and DeWayne Wise make an acrobatic catch of a struck ball in the 9th inning that was Tampa’s best chance at keeping history from being made.

Buehrle is only the 16th MLB pitcher to throw a perfect game. The last one was done in 2004 by Randy Johnson. Buehrle previously no-hit the Texas Rangers in 2007. This was also the second time the Rays have gone hitless. Derek Lowe threw a no-hitter against them in 2002.


Texas Rangers release pitcher Orlando Hernandez

Is El Duque’s MLB over with? From AP-

El Duque’s comeback attempt with the Texas Rangers has ended.

Texas released Orlando Hernandez from his minor league contract Friday, making the right-hander a free agent just more than a month after he signed.

Hernandez was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in eight relief appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City since being activated three weeks ago. He had 12 strikeouts and four walks in 11 innings.

General Manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers had no plans to add Hernandez to their major league roster by Monday, when the pitcher would have been able to opt out of the contract.

“The reports that we got were about what you would expect, stuff-wise. … The velocity was not an issue or anything like that, just rust,” Daniels said. “With more time and innings, he may very well be ready, but he had the out in his contract and he was going to take it.”

Hernandez last pitched in the majors for the New York Mets in 2007 before toe surgery. Hernandez’s numbers with the Mets in 2007, suggest he should still be able to pitch in the majors. The toe injury could have adversely affected his ability to pitch. Hernandez’s age may also factor into how strong his arm is.

The Cuban pitcher’s age has been questioned at times, and is listed as high as 43 by some accounts. The Rangers said he was 39 when they signed him last month, though Daniels sounded less certain about that Friday.

“Ask the Census bureau,” he said.

No need to. The smoking Gun has a copy of El Duque’s Cuban divorce decree. It clearly says he was born in 1965.


Colorado Reliever Alan Embree’s right leg broken by line drive

The injury has to be considered career threatening. From AP-

Colorado Rockies left-hander Alan Embree is out for the season after a line drive fractured his right tibia on Friday night.

Embree will have surgery Saturday.

“There will be some type of compression screw put in there,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Atlanta’s Martin Prado hit a 3-2 fastball from Embree back up the middle in the seventh inning Friday night. The ball ricocheted off Embree’s right shin to third baseman Ian Stewart.

“It sounded awful,” Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta said. “I couldn’t even track the ball it was hit so hard. It sounded really bad.”


Embree, who signed as a free agent with the Rockies this past offseason, was 2-2 with a 5.84 ERA in 36 appearances.

Embree is 37-43 lifetime in a career that started in 1992. Other than 4 games he started in 92 for the Cleveland Indians, he’s been exclusively a left handed relief specialist for 10 MLB teams. I have always liked Embree, he was a key part of a winning Star tournament team of mine, but his career looked to be in decline before this injury. If he reestablishes himself as a quality pitcher in 2010, I’ll be greatly surprised.


St. Louis Manager Tony LaRussa gets to 2,500 career wins

A Cardinal victory over Kansas City got him to that career milestone.

Albert Pujols comes through Kansas City once a season. The Royals wouldn’t be too disappointed if he never came back.

Pujols finished off a three-day romp in Kansas City with two homers and six RBIs, helping the St. Louis Cardinals rout the Royals 12-5 Sunday in win No. 2,500 for manager Tony La Russa.

Only Connie Mack and John McGraw have won more games as a Manager. Mack’s record is out of reach but LaRussa could surpass McGraw(2762 career wins) in as little as three years. Before taking over the Cardinals, LaRussa managed the Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox.

Albert Pujols also equaled some St. Louis Cardinals records.

Pujols tied Stan Musial’s team record of nine career grand slams and matched the season mark of three shared by Jim Bottomley (1925), Keith Hernandez (1977) and Fernando Tatis (1999).

So far as Grand slams go, Pujols is a slacker. I mean Richie Sexson has hit sixteen in his career.


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