Sports Outside the Beltway

Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

The MLB trade deadline passed without any “Big” moves other than yesterday’s Teixeira deal. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any winners and losers. Trades were still made. Some were very good trades while others were not so good. Here are my winners and losers of this years trade deadline:


Braves – The Braves got a great hitter in 1B Mark Teixeira. Plus he is a Gold Glover and improves the infield defense right away. He also slots perfectly inbetween Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones. The Braves had to give up a lot (Salty and Andrus) but they already have their catcher of the future in McCann and two shortstops that can play in Renteria and Yunel Escobar. They also added lefty reliever Ron Mahay and Octavio Dotel. Dotel is a great addition. Remember how dominate he was as a set-up man in Houston a couple years back? He is going to be very good here. The Braves made themselves the front-runner to take the NL East.

Red Sox – They got what they needed. Eric Gagne. Gagne had to wave his no-trade clause, especially since he won’t be closing and won’t reach incentives in his contract. The Red Sox made it worth his while. They picked up $2.1M in his performance bonuses while Texas picked up $400K. The Sox also traded away incumbent Joel Pineiro to the Cardinals for a player to be named later. They had to send some cash to make up for the salary but they still save. The Sox are also going to get Curt Schilling back soon plus Matt Clement has started rehabbing. The Sox are the favorites to win the AL now. They have the best pitching in either league.

Rangers – Yes they were sellers. Yes they gave up their best hitter and best reliever. But they werent’t going to win this year and Gagne is only signed through this year and Teixeira through next year. They got a catcher in Jarrod Saltalamacchia that can be a 25-30 homer catcher in Arlington. They also got a 19 year old shortstop in Elvis Andrus that has major tools. Don’t be fooled by his minor league numebrs, he’s faced pitchers 3-4 years older at every level. Plus three more minor league pitchers from the Braves: right hander Neftali Feliz, left hander Matt Harrison (who can be a very good #2-4 starter) and left hander Beau Jones. Plus they got pitcher Kason Gabbard and minor league outfielders Engel Beltre (17 years old) and David Murphy. They also got catcher Max Ramirez from Cleveland for Lofton. The Rangers re-stocked their system and are set to be good for years to come. Great job as sellers!

Mets – The Mets have had a hole at 2B since Jose Valentin went down for the season. They filled it with 2B Luis Castillo. Castillo is a Gold Glover, a veteran that has played in the playoffs, and he is a .300 hitter that can steal bases. He will slot nicely into the #2 spot behind Jose Reyes. He can become a free-agent in the offseason and the Mets have talked about signing him. Even if they don’t they will get compensetory draft picks when he signs elsewhere. Great move. The Mets tried to land a reliever and offer Phil Humber for Chad Cordero and were turned down. I thought it was a very fair trade. Good move by not offering more for Cordero.

Rays – You’re thinking “they didn’t do anything big!” That’s a good thing. The Rays have offense, we know that. The even have some decent starters. They need bullpen help badly. They traded Ty Wigginton (and saved $4M on him next year) for Dan Wheeler. Wheeler is now re-united with former pitching coach Jim Hickey who made him into a great reliever. Under Hickey he had a 2.38 ERA in 158 IP with 146 strikeouts and only 46 BB. The Rays also got Brian Shackelford form the Reds and minor-leaguer Calvin Medlock who is fireball reliever with a good change. The Rays also did the right thing by not trading Wheeler and Reyes. The Rays hold an option on Reyes for about $2M next year and that is a bargain. The Rays are making great strides to compete in the very near future.

Phillies – They added 2B Tadahito Iguchi to fill in for injured 2B Chase Utley. They stole reliever Julio Mateo from Seattle. And they added a 5th starter in Kyle Lohse for an organization arm. They also just got Brett Myers and Tom Gordon back and Jose Mesa has been pitching great of late. It’s going to be hard to reach the Mets and Braves but they can make a serious run now. It will be an exciting September once Utley gets back! What a race the NL East will be.

Padres – They got a veteran utility player in Rob Mackowiack for nothing. They got a 3B with patience and power in Morgan Ensberg for nothing. And they got 3 pitchers for reliever Scott Linebrink while his stock was still high. One of those relievers is in the major league pen now! One (Will Inman) can be a #3 starter in the Majors, especially in PETCO. Good moves yet again by Kevin Towers.


White Sox – They did nothing to help them this year or next year or the next. Nothing! They should’ve traded Dye. They will get the draft picks but I’d rather have proven prospects. I thought Kenny Williams would’ve definitely done something.

Yankees – They got a back up infielder in Wilson Betemit but they had to give up a reliever. They needed bullpen help! They needed pitching help! They did nothing to help the pitching staff. They also did nothing to counter the Gagne move the Red Sox made. I do have to say they did the right thing by not trading Phil Hughes ot Joba Chamberlain though. They also should’ve traded Melky Cabrera while his value is at it’s highest. He is a 4th outfielder in my opinion and some teams veiw him as a regular. They should’ve jumped on something for a pitcher.

Indians and Tigers – Each one of these teams needed bullpen help and neither did anything to widen the gap between the two. The Indians got Lofton earlier which is a great but they badly need a reliever. I guess the Tigers figure Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya will be ready soon because they needed bullpen help badly.

Mariners – Not only did they not get any pitching help they traded away a middle reliever with a mid 90′s fastball in Julio Mateo. I’m glad they didn’t trade Adam Jones for a reliever but I would’ve offered Wladimir Balentin for some pitching help. They also need to call Jones up. This team dropped the ball.

Nationals – They signed Dmitri Young and Ronnie Belliard to extensions. They didn’t trade them for prospects. They balked at Phil Humber for Chad Cordero. Jim Bowden needs to lose his job! The moves he made were not only stupid but they make no sense. This was a team that had no chance of contending and it should’ve been hard for them to make the Loser list but they figured out a way.


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!


4/23 MLB News and Notes

-Alex Rodriguez destroyed some pitching again tonight! 4-5, 4 runs, 3 RBI, and 2 bombs giving him a record tying 14 for the month of April with 6 games to go. It wasn’t enough though as the Rays won 10-8 dropping the Yanks 2 games below .500 (8-10) and giving them 4 losses in a row. He is now hitting .400-14-34 with a league leading 26 runs.

-Akinori Iwamura faced fellow countryman Kei Igawa for the first time in the Majors. Aki went 2-2 with a double, single, and a walk againt Igawa. He drove in the run that knocked Igawa out of the game. Great publicity for the Rays.

-Jose Reyes stole 2 more bases giving him 12 for the season, only 7 teams have more stolen bases than Reyes. By comparison, the Seattle Mariners have 1 stolen base. Reyes also has 5 triples already.

-J.J. Hardy (for those who’ve never heard of him, he is the slick fielding SS for the Brewers) is tied for second in the NL in homers with 6. Jimmy Rollins leads by hitting his 7th tonight. Chipper Jones connected for his 6th tonight as well.

-Matt Holliday has 3 consecutive 3-hit games, raisnig his season average to .400.

-The Red Sox have made it clear they want CF of the future Jacob Ellsbury to spend this year in the minors developing. Well, Coco Crisp might be forcing him onto the Major League roster. Crisp is hitting .214-0-6 with 6 runs and 2 stolen bases and 3 BB against 11 SO. The most shocking number is his Slugging percentage – .304. Not to mention Ellsbury is hitting .438/.491/.688 in 11 games. He has 9 runs, 9 RBI, 4 SB, 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 3 BB against 5 SO in 48 at-bats. If the Red sox can get a good prospect or two for Crisp I would pull the trigger on that deal in a heartbeat. Ellsbury also plays great defense.

-Rich Harden, Felix Hernandez, Eric Gagne, and Milton Bradley all landed on the 15-day DL today. Randy Johnson and Chien-Ming Wang both come off of the DL tomorrow. The Yanks need this help a ton! Uber prospect Phil Hughes is set to make his Major League debut this Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

-Shane Victorino has multi-hit games in 5 of his last 6 games.

-Noteable firsts: First homers of the season for Carlos Delgado (breaking a drought of 118 at-bats) and Hank Blalock. J.J. Putz got his first save. First Big League game for Oakland outfileder Danny Putnam, he went 1-4 in his debut and Brandon Morrow got his first Major League win for the Seattle Mariners.

-Andruw Jones has 3 straight multi-hit games taking his average from .179 to .242 in 3 games.

-Jim Thome dropped his OBP to .553 by going 2-5 tonight! Unbelieveable! He leads the Majors with 25 BB. Another note on walks, Todd Helton has 16 BB and only 3 SO. Now that is truly unbelievable!

-John McDonald went 3-4 for the Blue Jays raising his average to .500 (12-24).

-Here’s a split stat for ya. Rocco Baldelli as a CF: .214-0-3 with 2 BB against 11 SO and 3 runs with 1 stolen base. As a DH: .355-3-6 with 4 BB against 5 SO and 7 runs with 3 stolen bases. This couls mean his legs still need some rest from injuries. Don;t be fooled though, he’s a Gold-Glove caliber centerfielder and his future is in the outfield, but until he is fully healthy look for him to produce as a DH.

-Cleveland DH Travis Hafner keeps on being the best player nobody talks about. He went 4-4 with 2 walks (going 6-6 getting on base) tonight and is hitting .390. He has mulit-hit games in 5 of his last 7. Also, did anyone see the bomb he hit in Tampa the other night? An estimated 442 feet (I tell you, the ball hit the back wall of the dome and had to have gone 475+). Go to the Indians homepage and it’s the 2nd featured video.


2007 AL West Stat Projections

AL West Predictions

1. Oakland A’s
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

Projected Stats
Projected Lineup AVG HR RBI SB R
1. Jason Kendall C .298 – 2 – 54 – 10 – 79
2. Shannon Stewart LF .288 – 7 – 55 – 8 – 62
3. Milton Bradley CF .302 – 18 – 73 – 14 – 81
4. Eric Chavez 3B .278 – 30 – 98 – 5 – 89
5. Mike Piazza DH .286 – 25 – 81 – 0 – 67
6. Nick Swisher RF .277 – 36 – 109 – 3 – 113
7. Bobby Crosby SS .273 – 21 – 78 – 9 – 76
8. Dan Johnson 1B .281 – 19 – 72 – 0 – 67
9. Mark Ellis 2B .285 – 13 – 60 – 6 – 76

Bobby Kielty OF .268 – 9 – 42 – 3 – 40
Marco Scutaro INF .259 – 5 – 30 – 5 – 36
Mark Kotsay CF .279 – 5 – 40 – 4 – 48

Rotation W- L ERA SO
1. Danny Haren 16-11 3.53 182
2. Rich Harden 12- 9 3.16 159
3. Esteban Loaiza 12-12 4.37 132
4. Joe Blanton 14-12 4.21 112
5. Joe Kennedy 10-13 4.26 106

Bullpen W- L ERA SO SV-SVO
CL Huston Street 4-2 2.72 74 38-43
RP Justin Duchscherer 3-2 2.94 66 4-
RP Kiko Calero 4-2 2.96 63 2-
RP Alan Embree 2-3 3.42 41 -
RP Chad Gaudin 3-3 3.82 39 -

Prospect who can impact the 2007 season
1. Daric Barton 1B/DH
2. Travis Buck COF
3. Jason Windsor P


Projected Stats
Projected Lineup AVG HR RBI SB R
1. Gary Matthews Jr.CF .274 – 14 – 62 – 8 – 81
2. Orlando Cabrera SS .279 – 11 – 68 – 26 – 93
3. Vlad Guerrero RF .336 – 34 – 121 – 12 – 103
4. Garret Anderson LF .276 – 18 – 80 – 0 – 59
5. Shea Hillenbrand DH .282 – 21 – 83 – 0 – 76
6. Howie Kendrick 2B .311 – 14 – 82 – 18 – 80
7. Mike Napoli C .246 – 22 – 60 – 2 – 58
8. Casey Kotchman 1B .275 – 9 – 36 – 2 – 24
9. Chone Figgins 3B .284 – 9 – 36 – 57 – 104

Macier Izturis 3B/SS/2B .278 – 5 – 40 – 12 – 53
Juan Rivera DH/COF .288 – 15 – 62 – 1 – 57 (DL)
Kendry Morales 1B/DH .278 – 10 – 43 – 0 – 35

Rotation W- L ERA SO
1. John Lackey 15- 9 3.46 192
2. Kelvim Escobar 12-11 3.87 160
3. Ervin Santana 13-11 4.32 151
4. Jared Weaver 12- 9 3.68 158
5. Bartolo Colon 10- 9 4.36 127

Bullpen W- L ERA SO SV-SVO
CL Fran Rodriguez 3-3 2.16 96 46-51
RP Scott Shields 5-4 2.74 92 5-
LP Darren Oliver 3-5 4.46 55 -
LR Hector Carrasco 5-4 4.02 68 -
RP Justin Speir 3-4 3.92 5 -

Prospect who can impact the 2007 season
1. Brandon Wood SS/3B
2. Eric Aybar SS
3. Joe Saunders SP
4. Jeff Mathis C


Projected Stats
Projected Lineup AVG HR RBI SB R
1. Kenny Lofton CF .305 – 5 – 51 – 26 – 97
2. F. Catalanotto LF/DH .302 – 8 – 57 – 1 – 68
3. Michael Young SS .312 – 19 – 96 – 8 – 112
4. Mark Teixeira 1B .289 – 38 – 120 – 2 – 109
5. Hank Blalock 3B .274 – 23 – 93 – 1 – 85
6. B. Wilkerson DH/LF .256 – 17 – 60 – 5 – 70
7. Nelson Cruz RF .246 – 16 – 58 – 7 – 54
8. Gerald Laird C .279 – 13 – 48 – 4 – 56
9. Ian Kinsler 2B .287 – 18 – 71 – 16 – 86

Sammy Sosa OF/DH .256 – 12 – 38 – 0 – 30
J. Hairston Jr. 2B/3B/OF .249 – 2 – 22 – 8 – 34
Jason Botts 1B/COF .276 – 9 – 36 – 0 – 34
Joaquin Arias INF .275 – 2 – 19 – 6 – 27

Rotation W- L ERA SO
1. Kevin Millwood 16-13 3.92 155
2. Vicente Padilla 13-12 4.46 142
3. Brandon McCarthy 11-13 4.26 131
4. Robinson Tejada 10-12 4.39 119
5. Jon Koronka 8-11 4.96 91

Bullpen W- L ERA SO SV-SVO
CL Eric Gagne 3-3 2.67 60 23-26
RP Akinori Otsuka 4-3 3.11 64 9-
RR Kameron Loe 5-6 4.62 56 -
RP Rick Bauer 3-4 4.12 38 -

Prospect who can impact the 2007 season
1. Nelson Cruz COF
2. Jason Botts 1B/DH/COF
3. Joaquin Arias INF


Projected Stats
Projected Lineup AVG HR RBI SB R
1. Ichiro Suzuki CF .341 – 13 – 60 – 42 – 115
2. Adrian Beltre 3B .274 – 26 – 92 – 10 – 88
3. Jose Vidro DH .283 – 6 – 53 – 2 – 58
4. Richie Sexson 1B .268 – 37 – 111 – 1 – 86
5. Raul Ibanez LF .282 – 25 – 93 – 2 – 91
6. Kenji Johjima C .287 – 19 – 78 – 3 – 61
7. Jose Guillen RF .269 – 17 – 68 – 2 – 60
8. Jose Lopez 2B .276 – 12 – 76 – 6 – 74
9. Y. Betancourt SS .274 – 7 – 45 – 13 – 66

Ben Broussard 1B/DH .271 – 15 – 54 – 1 – 48
Willie Bloomquist Util .264 – 3 – 29 – 18 – 41
Jeremy Reed OF .282 – 7 – 39 – 9 – 46

Rotation W- L ERA SO
1. Felix Hernandez 13-11 3.83 185
2. Jarrod Washburn 12-10 4.09 110
3. Miguel Batista 10-12 4.35 118
4. Jeff Weaver 10-13 4.46 128
5. Horacio Ramirez 10-11 4.20 76

Bullpen W- L ERA SO SV-SVO
CL J.J. Putz 3-2 2.89 92 34-39
RP Julio Mateo 5-4 3.57 46 -
RP Chris Reitsma 3-5 4.40 37 3-
RP George Sherrill 2-3 3.81 48 –
RP Arthur Rhodes 1-2 4.57 31 1-

Prospect who can impact the 2007 season
1. Adam Jones CF
2. Jeff Clement C/1B


Love for Baseball

On Valentine’s Day, the love comes out for the greatest game in the world -

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter: “I think because everybody can relate. You don’t have to be seven feet tall; you don’t have to be a certain size to play. Baseball is up and down. I think life’s like that sometimes, you know. Back and forth, up and down, you’re going through this grind. I think people like watching it. Baseball’s like a soap opera every day.”

Ernie Banks, Cubs legend and Hall of Famer: “It’s just life. When I think about baseball, it’s just life. It’s really the way life is. It requires a lot of mental capacity to be involved in it. It creates a lot of joy for people and memories for people who follow it. It’s a family. You like it because it’s a family. You started with it and know all these people — it’s family, it’s friends, it’s fun, it’s a beautiful game. All in all, baseball is amazing.

Joel Kweskin, 56, White Sox fan based in Charlotte, N.C.: “It’s unique unto itself. Football, basketball and hockey are variations of the same concept — back and forth in a linear progression to score a goal. Baseball, however, is mapped out on the field unlike any other sport. A running back or return specialist can run 100 yards, tops; a baserunner legging out an inside-the-park homer runs 20 yards farther. Baseball is the most democratic of sports — any size can play, and because the ball is not controlled by the offense but rather the defense, every player at any given time is involved in a play. Along with the anecdotally accepted premise that hitting a pitched baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports, so might be fielding a 175-mph line drive or grounder down the line. I love baseball because it is the greatest game ever invented.”

Former Royals star Willie Wilson: “The first thing is, I don’t think there’s any criteria for size, so anybody can play. I think people can relate. A lot of people never played football; basketball, you’ve gotta be tall and be able to jump. But baseball is a game where you pick up a bat and a ball, and you catch it, you swing the bat and you hit the ball. Most people have played softball or some kind of baseball, so they can relate to the sport. For me, that’s why I think America just embraces baseball, man.”

Baseball Blogger Travis G.: Where to start? I think better when I make a list.
1. Players. The requirements to be a good baseball player are very undefined. You can be short, tall, thin, chunky, anything really. You name the greats and you get tall and chunky (Ruth, Ortiz), short and chunky (Yogi, Gwynn), tall and thin (Sizemore, Jeter), short and thin (Reyes, Ichiro). They may not be the best athletes (e.g. David Wells), but when they’re playing the best game in the world, who cares?
2. The Mentality. Baseball requires more intelligence than any other sport (save for NFL QB). Simply put, every hitter that steps to the plate is trying to out-think the pitcher, and vice versa. 4-5 times a game, focus has to be completely on the man in front of him. Will he throw a fastball, curve, change? If you take an at-bat (or even a pitch) off, you’re toast. Same thing with the pitcher. The only other sport that comes close is football, but mainly just for the QB. Baseball requires every single player to have good mental capacity.
3. The Field. Football, hockey, basketball and soccer all use essentially the same type of field/playing surface: a rectangle. Baseball uses a diamond. It’s not only unique in that aspect, but every single ballpark is unique amongst the sport. Each park has its own quirks and intricacies that make it special. Not a single other sport can say that. Yankee Stadium has Death Valley, the short RF porch, and the facade. Fenway has the Monster. Shea has the apple. Wrigley has the ivy-covered brick. Pac Bell (or whatever it’s called now) has the bay in RF. Houston has the hill in center. Imagine if the RCA Dome’s field was only 95 yards; that’s the equivalent of Death Valley or the Green Monster.
4. One on One. Basically the speech DeNiro makes in The Untouchables. Baseball is a team game: 25 men. But each of them takes one turn – by themself – to help the whole team. Then the next batter gets a chance. Because of the batting order, a team can’t simply send its best hitter up every at-bat. You can’t just give the ball to Jordan or Shaq (Pujols or Ortiz) every time. A team’s best hitter will get 4-5 chances a game to help his team. That’s it. You need a complete team to win.
5. Substitutions. Once a player is removed, he’s done. You can’t just sub in the best defenders when you have a lead. You can’t take out Santana for an inning because he’s tired, then re-insert him. Could you imagine the way baseball would be played if there were no substitution restrictions? It would be bedlam. Players don’t get any breaks (outside of the DH) during the game. Even late inning defensive replacements are a gamble if the trailing team comes back. And substitutions play an ever bigger role in the NL.
6. No Clock. No running out the clock. It doesn’t matter what inning and what score it is, you still need 27 outs to complete the game. There’s no easy way to ‘seal’ a win. You still have to face every batter, and record every out.
7. History. When Japanese kamikaze pilots flew their planes into American ships, they would often yell ‘Fuck Babe Ruth!’ No other American sport has the history baseball does. Some of the most iconic figures in our culture are Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Ripken, McGwire, Bonds, Aaron, Clemens, Jeter. It’s goes all the way back to the 1830′s. The ‘Junior Circuit’ (AL) had been going strong for over 45 years before the NBA ever started. The Yankees had already won 20 World Series before the first Super Bowl was ever played. I just love that feeling of history when I watch a game.
8. Summer. What better sport to exemplify the feeling of summer than baseball. The only summer sport we have. Warm weather, kids are out of school; remember the day games with your dad, drinking a soda, eating a hot dog? No other sport lets you enjoy the weather. Hockey and basketball are indoors. And the football season lasts from September to February, nuff said.
9. Connection. This ain’t football where the most ardent fans get to see a maximum of just 24 games (including the pre and post-season). Baseball is 3 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 months. You get a minimum of 162 games. That’s double basketball and hockey, and 10 times that of football. Not only do you get to see your ‘guys’ 162 times a season, but you actually feel close to them. They’re not wearing masks to cover their faces (football, hockey), so you see (and often share) their reactions and emotions. You don’t get that feeling of ‘closeness’ from other sports. And then when you add the fact that baseball plays 162 games, it’s easy to understand where the connection comes from. When the season is over, it’s like you not seeing your family for 5 months.
10. Home-field Advantage. Having the home team hit in the bottom of each inning assures that every team, every season (even Kansas City) will have its share of thrilling, bottom of the whatever, walk-off wins. It’s nothing like football where you squib kick it or have the QB kneel down, or in basketball where you dribble out the clock or foul the opponent 10 times.

Your thoughts?


Mariner’s Major Concern: Keep Ichiro

The sparkplug atop the Seattle Mariner’s lineup has been constant for six years. And if Bill Bavasi has anything to say about it, Ichiro Suzuki is not going anywhere. But the problem of signing him isn’t going anywhere either. At least not yet.

The six-time All-Star will make $11 million in the final season of a $44 million, four-year deal. A six-time Gold Glove outfielder, Suzuki is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series.

Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi would like to work out an extension with Suzuki’s agent, Tony Attanasio. Just not necessarily tomorrow. Or even before the season begins April 2.

“It’s a top priority,” Bavasi said Wednesday. “But the timing is not that important. Whatever he and Tony are comfortable with. And whatever our ownership is comfortable with.”

So the potentially difficult negotiations could drag through the summer.

Ichiro Suzuki has been a marvel in Seattle. His ability to get on base via the base hit, without a corresponding ability to draw walks, is otherworldly. In his six seasons he has posted a line of .331/.376/.438. Sabermetricians are fond of Isolated Discipline (IsoD) a statistic that qualifies a high OBP, like Ichiro’s, that is overly dependent on batting average. Suzuki’s is very low. In comparison, Adam Dunn, who has also been in the majors for six years (though his rookie year was a half season), has a line of .245/.380/.513, and an IsoD three times as good as Ichiro’s. Does that make Dunn a better player? Absolutely not, but it does illustrate the vast differences between the skillsets of a slugger like Dunn who draws a lot of walks and a speedy hacker like Suzuki, who makes contact like its nobody’s business.

Nicely, players tend to develop better plate discipline as their athletic skills begin to deteriorate. And for Suzuki, that time may be drawing near. This season is his Age 33 season. Ichiro’s comparables include players like Ralph Garr, Bake McBride and Ron LaFlore whose major league playing days were over by 35. Also on the list are Kenny Lofton and Ken Griffey Sr., who had long careers (Lofton is still going).

The question for Bavasi to answer is will Ichiro be able to adapt to slower wheels and beating out fewer groundballs. In that sense, seeing what he is capable of this season, as he switches to centerfield, is the wise play. As key as it is to sign Ichiro, it is necessary for a Seattle team saddled with onerous contracts to both Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson to spend their money wisely.

The Mariners meanwhile continue to progress towards mediocrity. Despite Mike Hargrove’s recent comments that the goal of the Mariners is to win the AL West (it should be) the talent just isn’t there to win a division with the likes of Oakland and their young talented pitchers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Mariners will be lucky to sneak into second. The Mariners are not terrible, by any stretch. But the bad deals they signed Sexson and Beltre to crippled their ability to improve holes in their rotation. Instead they have a 21-year old third year player at the front of the rotation and a close who fell into the job when another bad signing flamed out last April.

The Mariner’s have not sniffed the postseason since Ichiro’s rookie season. They improved a little last season, but the nine game improvement wasn’t enough to rescue them from the cellar. They don’t score runs consistently, and they will not have Gil Meche who was effective and hometown favorite Jamie Moyer who was as good in Seattle as he was bad on the road.

Harkening back to a previous post, a worst to first season is unrealistic, without a organizational development plan. The Mariner’s really don’t seem to have one. Their lineup is okay, but it is heavy on players who lack discipline. Middle infielders Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt played well and are young, but they need to improve their batting eye. Sexson and Beltre need to live up to their contracts and the Jeremy Reed experience is coming to an end. Youngsters like Brandon Morrow, Ryan Feierabend Mark Lowe and Chris Tillman need to be given a chance to develop. Former Mariners Gil Meche, Joel Pinheiro and Rafael Soriano, as well as King Felix, all were rushed to the major leagues and suffered as a result of it. For Hernandez, the question is whether his arm can develop properly in the crucible of a major league season. So far so good, but with someone as young as he is, anything can go wrong.

With a mandate from CEO Howard Lincoln that a dramatic improvement is needed, Bavasi and Hargrove may be the two most likely candidates to get axed after a slow start. Times are not nice in Seattle.


Reitsma and Seattle Agree on Deal

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Former Atlanta Braves closer Chris Reitsma agreed Friday to a $2.05 million, one-year contract with Seattle to become the Mariners’ setup reliever.

Reitsma gets $1.35 million this year and can earn additional bonuses based on appearances and games finished. Seattle has a $2.7 million option for 2008 with a $700,000 buyout.

He became a free agent last month when the Braves failed to offer a 2007 contract. He made $2.75 million in 2006. The right-hander began last season as the Braves’ closer but lost his job after blowing four of 12 chances. He was 1-2 with an 8.68 ERA in 27 starts before season-ending surgery on his pitching elbow on July 18.

Reitsma, who made $2.75 million last year, will assume the Mariners’ setup role for closer J.J. Putz. Seattle traded 2006 setup man Rafael Soriano to the Braves for starting pitcher Horacio Ramirez earlier this offseason.

Mark Lowe, a rookie surprise in 2006 who was on track to be Putz’s setup man in ’07, had arm surgery in the fall. The Mariners don’t know when Lowe will return.

“Chris is a proven, quality major league pitcher and his ability and track record show that he can pitch at the end of games,” Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. “When we made our trades earlier this winter, we were confident that setup-quality relief would be available to restock our bullpen.”

Reitsma, who turned 29 last week, has a career record of 32-44 with 37 saves and a 4.58 ERA in 312 appearances, including 53 starts. He pitched for Cincinnati in 2001-03 before joining Atlanta in ’04.

“Chris is a kid who wants to pitch every day,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. “In the bullpen, one of the most valuable qualities a pitcher can have is consistency, both in terms of being available and in the results he provides. Chris gives us the consistency we need as we bridge the gap from our starters to J.J.”

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

Nothing Earth-shattering about this deal. Nothing to get excited about.

Reitsma has good upside, especially now that he won’t have the pressure of closing, or the pressure of closing on a winning team at that.

Cheap, almost risk-free signing by Seattle.


Tigers Offseason Moves — They’re Grrrreat

Their rise from the ashes achieved the penultimate goal of runner up. Dave Dombrowski is gunning for the whole enchilada in 2007, and like a dozen or so Major League GM’s, he thinks he has a legitimate shot at getting that ring. Let’s take a look at the transactions made by the Motor City Kitties.

Detroit’s 2006 success came on the young arms of Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Justin Verlander. The offseason acquisitions that drew guffaws last winter (Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones) paid off big time, and the Tigers find themselves with a surplus of pitching entering 2007. Unlike their Central Division rivals in the Windy City, the Tigers appear destined to hold onto all their starters. Zach Miner can be sent down to Toledo while the club sees if Mike Maroth is capable of returning to full time duty. The only uncertainty surrounded staff ace Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman had been mentioned in connection with the Yankees and a possible Alex Rodriguez deal. Would the Tigers really trade their 24 year old ace? Bonderman’s new contract, finalized this week, should put to rest any possible trade rumors. Bonderman’s deal calls for the young righty to earn $38 million over the next four seasons. Bonderman will hit free agency after his age 27 season, and he will be set for a huge payday, if he builds on last year’s excellent season.

A reasonably priced pitcher is a valuable trading chip, but the Tigers seem content to build with their homegrown talent and competent role players. And whether you believe this or not, Gary Sheffield is a role player to this team. Sheffield’s role will be simple, stay healthy and mash. And mash he still can. The much travelled outfielder/designated hitter posted a .806 OPS last year, the lowest since his last season in Milwaukee, a lost year by any measure, and one that occurred fifteen years ago. It was also the least time he played since his first major league season in 1988. If his injury has healed, Sheffield is a dangerous presence int he heart of a solid batting order.

Another role player acquired for the coming campaign is the ageless Jose Mesa. With Mesa, the Tigers are adding more to a righty dominated bullpen. Mesa allows too many baserunners, but with power throwing Joel Zumaya in the pen, that won’t be as serious a problem. Also taking on a role will be young lefty Edward Campusano. Campusano, originally with the Cubs, was selected in the rule V draft by the Brewers and then dealt to Detroit for cash. If Campusano doesn’t make the Tigers roster, he’ll be offered back to the Cubs. Such is the confusing rule V draft. Campusano is a one year bridge to some of the power arms in the pipeline for Detroit. Most of those arms are righties, so the LOOGY job belongs to Campusano.

The move I am least excited about is reupping Brandon Inge for another four years. Inge doesn’t get on base as much as I would like to see from a corner infielder and strikes out a bit too often. His defense is okay, about league average, but his OPS last year was an unimpressive .776. That was good for 16th of the 21 major league third basemen with 502 plate appearances. His OBP was 20 out of those same 21. They did not overpay for Inge’s production, so the deal is reasonable, even if I wouldn’t make it.

The Tigers have hitting and pitching to spare. By securing their younger talent and adding the spare parts, Detroit is poised to make a repeat post season appearance. They only had to pay a lot for Gary Sheffield. Surrendering Humberto Snachez and Jordan Tata is a big price, but pitching prospects are known to falter. And unlike many teams, Detroit has an abundance of young arms in the pipeline. They also have a few attractive trading chips. Andrew Miller is waiting in the wings and may make Mike Maroth redundant. If Sean Casey continues to get the job done at first base young slugger Chris Shelton would be very attractive to a team looking for a long term solution at first base. With this flurry of moves, the Tigers are ready for pitchers and catchers to report so they can begin the defense of their AL Pennant.

Cross posted at Ennuipundit.


Braves Trade Ramirez to Mariners for Soriano

The Atlanta Braves have traded “injury-plagued starting pitcher” Horacio Ramirez to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Rafael Soriano. As AJC’s David O’Brien notes, Soriano’s “eye-popping statistics include a .212 opponents’ average and 177 strikeouts in 171 career innings.”

A great deal for the Braves, unless Ramirez suddenly gets healthy.

And the Braves are likely not done dealing, either.

Trading for Soriano didn’t mean the Braves would keep first baseman Adam LaRoche, but they did withdraw their offer of LaRoche for Pirates closer Mike Gonzalez. The Braves still need to trim payroll, and LaRoche was at the center of several discussions Atlanta had with teams Wednesday.


Trading for Soriano could help revive talks between the Braves and Los Angeles Angels, who were prepared earlier this week to send utility man Chone Figgins and first-base prospect Casey Kotchman to the Braves for LaRoche, but balked at including a standout pitcher in the deal. The Braves may not demand a pitcher if the deal is revived. Figgins could bat leadoff and replace Marcus Giles if the second baseman is traded. Kotchman could compete with Scott Thorman at first base.

From a baseball standpoint, none of those deals would make sense. But as O’Brien explains in a different piece, the Braves are a mite pressed for cash.

You want to know why the Braves must trade Marcus Giles and/or Adam LaRoche in order to improve their pitching staff and stay within budget? I’ll tell you. Rather, I’ll show you. Because seven guys are eating up 80 percent or slightly more of the $80 million payroll. Yes, seven guys.

“It is what it is,” general manager John Schuerholz said. “We have to make some adjustments, have to be nimble on our financial feet. It doesn’t stop us from doing anything; we just have to be more creative, more patient to find possible fits.”

While $80 mil might sound like a lot to you and me, it’s not much these days. The Yankees are spending $200 million and the Red Sox and others are right behind them. These are not the glory days of the early- and mid-1990s, when Ted Turner would break out the checkbook and sign whoever the Braves need.


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