Sports Outside the Beltway

Former MLB Outfielder Ted Uhlaender dead at 68

I remember Uhlaender both from my extensive baseball watching as a youth, and later through the playing of past seasons of Strat-O-Matic. He was a very good defensive center fielder but offensively he wasn’t all that good. After his playing career was over, Uhlaender remained in baseball working as a scout and coach. RIP.


Former MLB Pitcher Chuck Stobbs dead at age 79

The left handed Stobbs came to the Major Leagues for the first time in 1947 and stayed around till 1961. He won over 100 games, but with a losing record. Mostly because he played most of his career with one of the worst teams(The Senators) in the American League. His one claim to fame or infamy, was giving up a 565 homerun to Mickey Mantle. My memories of Stobbs comes from my playing past seasons of Strat-O-Matic baseball. His luck in most of the games I recreated were no better than Stobbs was in real-life. RIP.


MLB pitcher Scott Baker strikes out 4 in one inning

The last time this rare pitching feat occured was in 2006. From AP-

MILWAUKEE — Minnesota starter Scott Baker struck out four in the third inning of Sunday’s game with the Milwaukee Brewers, becoming the first Twins pitcher to accomplish the feat.

Baker started the inning by striking out Ryan Braun swinging, then got Prince Fielder to strike out, but the ball bounced far away from catcher Mike Redmond.

That allowed Fielder to easily reach first on the wild pitch. Baker then struck out Russell Branyan and Mike Cameron looking on three pitches apiece to end the inning.

The last pitcher to accomplish four Ks in an inning was Brad Penny on Sept. 23, 2006, for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks.

The famous case of a pitch getting away from a catcher on a strikeout happened in the 1941 World Series. In game 4 a dropped strike three by catcher Mickey Owen on a pitch from Hugh Casey sparked a winning rally for the New York Yankees.

No such infamy for Baker and Redmond. In a year they may be the only living people who remember what they combined to do today.


Inside scoop on the Santana deal

from Jon Heyman:

If you can really fault the Twins, perhaps it was for failing to pounce on the Yankees’ offer of top young pitcher Phil Hughes, center fielder Melky Cabrera, pitching prospect Jeffrey Marquez and a fourth undetermined prospect when it was briefly on the table for the first couple days of the winter meetings back in early December. Instead, the Twins pressed for the Yankees to also include another top young pitcher, Ian Kennedy, going for the grand slam. If you want to hit the Twins, hit them for that.

The Yankees’ proposal, however fleeting, may have been the best one. Even the AL scout who defended the Twins thought so, saying, “I think the Yankees’ deal would have been better because those two guys (Hughes and Cabrera) already showed what they can do in the big leagues.”

Even if that’s true — and Cabrera is no world-beater yet (even those who don’t love Gomez say he’s “a tick above” Cabrera in terms of value) — it’s still hard to knock Smith for ignoring Hank Steinbrenner’s quick deadline and pressing for more.

Who could have thought Hank the Yank would actually stick to the deadline this time? In Steinbrenner the Junior’s tenure at the top, he has showed he is willing to change his mind (hence the re-signing of A-Rod), to seal certain deals by giving away the store (thus a fourth year for 36-year-old catcher Jorge Posada) and even to over-rule general manager Brian Cashman (both A-Rod and Posada). So it’s understandable why Smith still hoped for more.

But as we know by now, Cashman made a strong stand, building a convincing case regarding Hughes’ toughness and potential. Then Hank’s younger brother Hal, who controls the purse strings, tightened hard before Hank could loosen them again.

When the Twins made a last pass at the Yankees on Tuesday, it was too late. So when Cashman told the Twins yet again that Hughes was off the table, the Twins went for the gusto, requesting that instead Cashman send them both Kennedy and Chien-Ming Wang to go with Cabrera and Marquez. Why not? By then, it was clear that there was only one place left to go, and that was the Mets.

That’s insane to ask the Yankees for that much. I guess it just shows how badly Minnesota wanted Santana out of the AL.


Santana dealt to the Mets

So Carlos Gomez was pulled from Winter ball as part of a trade. Frankly, Minnesota got screwed here. Both the original Boston and Yankee offers were better. Instead, rookie GM Bill Smith overplayed his hand (a phrase that’s quickly become cliched over the past week) and got a disappointing haul for Santana: Gomez, Humber, Mulvey and Guerra (the Mets 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th best prospects). In early December, Minny had their choice of Phil Hughes, Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury – all better than any of the Mets trade chips. A Yankee offer of Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Melky and AJax destroys that Met offer, so perhaps it really was about the money (for the Yanks). I can’t believe the Twinkies caved and accepted an FMart-less offer. The deal still isn’t 100% done, as the Mets have 72 hours to reach an extension with Santana, but that should merely be a formality. It seems Smith was going to either (1) try to fleece an AL team, or (2) get him out of the league for the best offer he could muster.

Thank goodness the Sawx didn’t acquire him, because they would’ve been nearly unbeatable for the next three years with Santana leading the rotation. They probably could have acquired him for only Lester and Ellsbury – yes, two good prospects, but certainly not studs, and Santana would have locked up the division for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the money seems to have been too much for them too. This is a win for both Boston and the Yanks. A true rarity.

Credit should be given to Brian Cashman for not overreacting to Boston’s (and Hank’s) interest. I’m relieved he didn’t go to Boston and that we didn’t lose Hughes, but also pissed the Mets got him for a considerably inferior offer.

The only real loser is Minnesota. If you want to feel real pity (by reading the disgusted opinions of Twins fans), visit here.


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?


Tribe Acquire OF Kenny Lofton

CLEVELAND — Kenny Lofton returned for his third stint with Cleveland — and another playoff run — on Friday as the Texas Rangers traded the 40-year-old outfielder to the Indians for minor-league catcher Max Ramirez.

Great move by Cleveland! This is a huge boost to their offense and Lofton brings energy to this team. Lofton is said to be playing in either left or right field but doesn’t have the arm for right. He should get most of the playing time in left.

I also think this move will allow the Tribe to possibly send a veteran bat like Trot Nixon to a contender for a reliever. The Tribe need another reliever to sure up the back end of the bullpen.

The Rangers got a good young catcher in Max Ramirez. Ramirez, 22, can be groomed to be the catcher of the future for the Rangers. Ramirez is tearing up high-A ball to the tune of .303/.418/.505 in 77 games with 20 doubles, 12 homers, 62 RBI, 46 runs, a 53/63 BB/K ratio, and one stolen base.

This may be the beginning of a fire sale. Look for others like closer Eric Gagne, 1B/OF Brad Wilkerson, and even 1B Mark Teixeira to be on the trading block. I think Gagne will be gone for sure and Teixeira could be had for the right group of prospects.

*******Other Trade Rumors 7/27/07*******

- Mark Teixeira is almost certain to be traded away from the Rangers, with the Braves considered the most likely destination, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. A likely deal would bring C/1B Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Texas, along with a couple of prospects, perhaps a pitcher and an infielder.

The Angels were the most recent to tweak their offer. The Angels had originally offered 1B Casey Kotchman and a choice of outfield prospects Nathan Haynes or Terry Evans. It is believed they have now added a pitcher to the mix, but the level of pitcher could vary widely from a young prospect with a high ceiling (20-year-old right-hander Nick Adenhart) to an experienced but struggling major leaguer (recently demoted Ervin Santana) to a prospect on the verge of pitching in the majors (lefty Joe Saunders).

The Dodgers, thought to be one of the teams interested in Teixeira, say they intend to go forward with James Loney as their first baseman.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are believed to still be in the hunt for Teixeira, the Boston Globe reports. Teixeira was drafted by the Sox in the ninth round in 1998, but chose to attend Georgia Tech. He then was drafted by the Rangers in 2001 with the fifth overall pick. Currently making $9 million per year and arbitration-eligible next season, he can become a free agent after 2008.

Don’t expect Teixeira to end up in the Bronx. Without giving up Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees have little chance of acquiring Teixeira from the Rangers, The New York Times reports.

Texas wants promising young talent in return for Teixeira, the Dallas Morning News reports.

-Don’t expect the Twins to trade Torii Hunter before the deadline. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there have been indications that the club is prepared to offer him a contract extension after the season.

Larry Reynolds, Hunter’s agent, said Thursday that he hasn’t spoken with GM Terry Ryan lately and is not worried about a possible deadline trade. Hunter, a potential free agent, has a limited no-trade clause that blocks deals to six teams.

“Anything can happen,” Reynolds told the newspaper. “Am I expecting [a trade]? No. Will I be surprised if it happens? Not really.”

Hunter probably could get five to six years and $80 million to $90 million on the open market.

- There are rumblings that the Padres might be interested in Mark Loretta, the San Diego Union Tribune reports. “I haven’t heard anything other than the rumors,” Loretta told the newspaper.

Loretta played three seasons (2003-05) in San Diego, and many believe Loretta would be a perfect fit for the Padres, who have been looking for a right-handed bat to give Adrian Gonzalez an occasional rest at first and help at second.

The Mets, Phillies and Tigers are believed to be interested in Loretta as well.

- Add the Cubs to the list of teams interested in Ty Wigginton, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The Dodgers, Twins, Yankees and Red Sox also have their eye on the utility infielder.

The Devil Rays are looking to improve their beleaguered bullpen, possibly with the addition of several relievers, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Talks with the Yankees have included right-hander Scott Proctor, though the deal might have to be expanded. The Red Sox, Dodgers and Twins all have several young pitchers who would be of interest to the Rays.

Wigginton, 29, is open to signing a long-term deal. His salary is expected to exceed $4 million next season through arbitration.

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The cycle

Last week Aubrey Huff hit for the cycle in a losing cause for he Orioles. He became the third player this year, after Mark Ellis of the Athletics and Fred Lewis of the Giants to hit for the cycle.

The Giants have had players hit for the cycle 24 times. (Lewis’s cycle put them ahead of the Pirates.) Luke Scott of the Astros became the first rookie to hit for the cycle, when he accomplished the feat last year. Gary Matthews Jr. was the most recent player to hit for the cycle in order when he was with the Rangers last year.

The Twins had eight players hit for the cycle between 1970 and 1986 but none since.

Does the name Tyrone Horne mean anything to you? Well he’s the only professional baseball player ever to hit for the home run cycle. Baseball Guru adds

Horne’s four homers and 10 RBI helped the Travelers rout the Missions, 13-4. Horne went on to win the Texas League home run crown with 37 that year, also driving in 139.

But get this: Horne never made it to the majors in the U.S. (He did play in the Korean Major Leagues, though.) I’d add that this isn’t necessarily surprising. For someone to lead a minor league level in HR (or any counting stat) for a season, he’d have to play nearly a whole season, at least, in that league. That would mean that his team never saw that he had progressed enough to go to the next level.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


A’s Designate Milton Bradley for Assignment

According to ESPN, the A’s have designated OF Milton Bradley for assignment, which all but ends his career with Oakland.

The Oakland Athletics designated outfielder Milton Bradley for assignment Thursday, cutting ties with a player who was expected to play an important role on the team this season.

Bradley had been on the disabled list three times this year and was frustrated that the team waited two extra days to activate him this week because of uncertainty about third baseman Eric Chavez’s health.

Asked Tuesday how he was feeling, Bradley curtly responded, “I’m healthy and on the bench.” Bradley was activated from the DL the following day and went 0-for-3 with a walk.

The A’s have 10 days to trade or release Bradley. Because he has more than three years of major league service time, Bradley can refuse an assignment to the minor leagues.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” said Bradley’s agent, Sam Levinson. “Milton is healthy and looking forward to helping some club win many games this season.”

I am sure Milton will land with another team as he is a quality ball player. A team like the Twins who need a real bat in LF would be great, although I am not sure many teams would want to put up with his poor clubhouse presence. Another suitor if he made it to the waiver wire could be the Pirates. Bradley would be a huge upgrade in CF over the current platoon of Duffy/Nady/Bautista.

It is a contract year for Bradley, and he would be playing to earn a great contract if he can catch on with a team (and behave himself) for the rest of this season.


Twins to Pursue Wigginton

Ty Wigginton Tampa Bay Devil Rays Photo There are indications that one player the Twins could target is Tampa Bay infielder Ty Wigginton, a righthanded hitter who is batting .263 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI. Wigginton, 29, is making $2.7 million this season, keeping him in the Twins’ price range. Tampa Bay needs pitching, making the Devil Rays a good match for a team flush with pitching prospects. When asked during his pregame session with reporters if his team needed another bat, Gardenhire said, “I think that’s easy to say with any team. … It’s easy to say, but it’s not that easy to go find. “I think our organization is willing to go out there if it’s the right fit and you don’t ask too much for it. So after the draft now, it gets closer to the time when maybe they can start looking around and talking about it.

As a major Twins fan I find this move very compelling. The Twins recent efforts to upgrade the lower part of their lineup with older veterans (Rondell White, Phil Nevin, and Jeff Cirillo) has been nothing short of a failure. Wigginton is not going to be a star in the majors, but he has done admirably with the two worst teams in the major (Pirates and Devil Rays), especially considering where these teams have batted him in the lineup. I think if Wigginton hits seventh or even eighth in the Twins lineup he could be very productive.

A lineup of

    Castillo 2B (Switch)
    Mauer C LH
    Cuddyer RF RH
    Morneau 1B LH
    Hunter CF RH
    Kubel DH LH
    Wiggington 3B RH
    White/Tyner LF RH/LH
    Punto/Bartlett SS SH/RH

would give the Twins great flexibility against the lefthanders in their division, and a nice RH/LH combo The Twins have played horrible baseball this year, are getting healthy, and are still only 5 1/2 back.


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