Two days. That's the length of time Paul Lo Duca was able to enjoy as a Washington National before finding out his name was plastered all over former U.S. Senator George Mitchell's Report to the Commissioner of Baseball Into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances.
Lo Duca, introduced to the media with much fanfare this past Tuesday, was among more than 80 current or former players alleged as having used PEDs. According to the Report, Lo Duca made "six or more transactions" totaling over $9000, paid for with personal checks that were attached to the Report, from former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. Radomski provided information for the report as part of his arrangement with federal prosecutors in conjunction with his case involving widespread sales and distribution of PEDs in the 90's. Lo Duca's name, address, and telephone number were in Radomski's address book, seized by federal agents during a search of Radomski's residence in that investigation. Also seized or produced in that matter were the cancelled checks and notes from Lo Duca to Radomski, including a handwritten note on Dodgers stationary that read: "Thanks, call me if you need anything! Paul".
The Report detailed how Lo Duca also funneled more business to Radomski, referring at least four Los Angeles Dodger teammates -- Matt Herges, Adam Riggs, Kevin Brown, and Eric Gagne -- to Radomski for the purchase of PEDs. The report also mentions internal notes from the Dodgers evaluating Lo Duca's performance and trade value, citing "steroids aren't being used anymore on him. Big part of this. Might have some value to trade...Got off the steroids" and implied Lo Duca would "get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year". One of the checks written to Radomski coincided with Lo Duca's trade from Los Angeles to Florida in the summer of 2004.
Lo Duca was offered the opportunity to respond to the allegations in the report by Sen. Mitchell. Like almost all current players named in the Report he declined to speak with Mitchell for his investigation.
Lo Duca is the only current National to be named in the report. Former Nationals named were Nook Logan, Jose Guillen, Mike Stanton and Gary Bennett; none were alleged to have purchased PEDs while with the team.
The Nationals issued this release yesterday afternoon, and have had no further comment on the matter to this point:
"We have just received the Mitchell Report and have not yet had an opportunity to fully review it. It is clear though that, like all Major League clubs, the report includes names of players that have had or currently have an association with the Nats. We will let all comments on this matter come from the Commissioner's office, and we will have no further comment at this time."
BOTTOM LINE: Not good. Lo Duca seems to have been a link between Radomski and many players on the west coast. In his remarks following the issuance of the Report, Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig stated that MLB would look into disciplining players named in the report "on a case-by-case basis", indicating matters of the "integrity of the game" would be his priority. Lo Duca is on a one-year contract and it would be shocking if Selig were able to investigate and mete out any discipline to Lo Duca while Lo Duca was under contract to the Nationals. Nats fans, like everyone else in America, are left to play jury with the evidence they have before them in the Mitchell Report. And with the players -- and Players Association -- remaining silent, fans have only one interpretation of the facts and evidence presented only by one source.
Two days. That's the length of time Paul Lo Duca was able to enjoy as a Washington National before finding out his name was plastered all over former U.S. Senator George Mitchell's Report to the Commissioner of Baseball Into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances.
The Washington Nationals introduced catcher Paul Lo Duca and outfielder Lastings Milledge to the media yesterday in a press conference at their downtown offices.
Lo Duca, 35, signed a reported one-year, $5 million contract with the team to become its new everyday catcher. He is a career .288/.338/.414 hitter in ten big league seasons, with 80 home runs to his credit. Last season for the Mets he hit .272/.311/.379, all season low totals since becoming a full-time player in 2001. "I'm excited to be part of a team that's young and has a chance to win this division," Lo Duca said.
In the introductions, Nats GM Jim Bowden went to particular lengths to make sure why Lo Duca was being brought in. "He's a winner. He has never been with a losing team. Ever," Bowden said. "He wins, that what he does." Lo Duca is a four time all-star who has played with the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers and Florida Marlins. Lo Duca joked about his motivation for joining the Nats, instead of taking a widely speculated offer from the Toronto Blue Jays, was "getting to play the Mets 18 times." He added, "A big part with me was staying in the National League, being familiar, knowing the National League East."
When asked about replacing Brian Schneider, a long-time member of the organization and one of its "faces", he laughed and said, "I've stepped in Mike Piazza's shoes three times now," but being a clubhouse leader is "not my role. This clubhouse belongs to Ryan Zimmerman and Dmitri Young and some of those guys."
Milledge was reserved but eager to prove himself. "We're gonna go out there, we're gonna bust our tail and we're gonna win," he said. He also said he doesn’t feel any added pressure coming into a team looking for him to be part of building a franchise and putting its stamp on the rest of the league. "The opportunity is great here, I have to come out here and win a position and nothing is set in stone," he said.
"I can't wait to play for a team that believes in young talent," Milledge said, and expressed his surprise that the Mets traded him within the division. He also proclaimed his happiness to stay in the NL East where he was "just learning the pitchers and teams." He finished, "Right now I just need the opportunity to play, and that's what the Washington Nationals are going to give me."
BOTTOM LINE: Signing Lo Duca allows the Nats to be patient with Jesus Flores next year, and Bowden and Manager Manny Acta left the door open to the possibility that Flores might start in the minors. Acta said, "That's a decision we haven't made yet. Come spring training, depending on how Jesus comes in and shows his progress, then we'll make a decision. If he shows up to spring training and [Flores] convinces us that the best way to go would be to have him here with Paul…we'll do it."
Lo Duca's numbers are clearly on the downside, but he has always hit for decent average and hardly ever strikes out. His on base percentage isn't what you look for from someone with low strike out numbers, but he can be a tough out at the bottom of the line-up for the Nats next year if his average returns to career norms. Signing a one-year deal at the age of 35 has to be a signal to all, including Lo Duca, that his time here is to hold the spot for Flores until he's ready to face big league hitting every night of the week.
On the last day of Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings, the Washington Nationals signed corner infielder Aaron Boone to a reported 1-year, $1 million contract. Boone, 34, son of Nats Special Assistant Bob Boone, played with the Marlins last season, hitting .286/.388/.423, with 5 homers and 28 RBIs in 69 games, playing mostly first and third base. He should serve as pinch-hitter and back-up at both positions for the Nationals.
In other news, the Nationals selected Matt Whitney and Garrett Guzman in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, which allows teams to select players from other organizations that aren't listed on the team's 40-man rosters. The caveat is that the player selected must stay on the selecting team's roster all season, or be offered back to the original team, or work a deal (cash or trade) to keep the player.
Whitney is a 24-year old corner infielder that hasn't played above Single-A in five minor league seasons. He has some power potential, hitting 63 home runs in 406 minor league games, while hitting .258/.339/.439. Whitney was selected from the Cleveland Indians organization.
Guzman, who will be 25 at the start of the season, missed the 2005 season after breaking his neck in a car accident. He is a utility outfielder who hits left-handed with gap power, something the Nats don't currently have on the roster. He is a career .290/.341/.439 hitter in six minor league seasons. He was selected from the Minnesota Twins.
BOTTOM LINE: Boone will help out, making the bench stronger by replacing Tony Batista. He's also much better defensively than Batista, and provides insurance against Zimmerman feeling any repercussions from off-season wrist surgery. He's also a good defensive replacement for Dmitri Young in the late innings without being a hole in the line-up should he need to hit, something which bit the Nats a couple of times late in games last season. Guzman is a candidate for the left-handed hitting reserve outfielder, along with Ryan Langerhans. Whitney seems superfluous, perhaps a draft and trade or maybe something to be worked out with Cleveland. The Nats did not lose anyone in the Major League Rule 5 Draft, indicative of the dearth of big league ready talent in the system.
Continuing his Winter Meetings trading spree, Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden traded right handed reliever Jonathan Albaladejo to the New York Yankees in exchange for right handed starter Tyler Clippard.
Clippard, 22, was 3-1 with a 6.33 ERA and 1.704 WHIP for the Yankees in six starts. His final numbers were marred by his last two starts as he gave up a combined 11 earned runs against the Pirates and Mets. He has a variety of pitches and is considered a fairly polished pitcher. In parts of four minor league seasons, he was 29-28 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a K/BB ratio of 640/173 in 609.1 innings.
Albaladejo, 25, went 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings for the Nats last year. In six minor league seasons before his call-up he had never pitched above Double-A, compiling a 34-24 record, 3.54 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He was converted from starter to reliever in 2005.
BOTTOM LINE: Clippard becomes an immediate candidate for the starting rotation. His excellent strikeout rate and control shows he knows how to pitch and a move to the NL will only accelerate his progress. Albaladejo has a good make-up and good stuff and definitely benefited from being moved to the pen full-time two years ago, but he was a spare part for the Nats in the bullpen. This is exactly the type of trade Bowden should be making, trading from a position of strength to bolster a weakness.
Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden announced today that the Nats have acquired outfielder Elijah Dukes from Tampa Bay for minor league left-handed pitcher Glenn Gibson.
Dukes, 23, an immensely talented player, is routinely considered one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball. However, his talent is overshadowed by on- and off-field negative incidents that cloud his once-promising MLB future.
This past May he was accused of threatening his wife and child's life via voice message, going so far as to send his estranged wife a picture of a handgun on her cell phone. The police report for that incident stated that police have been asked to deal with domestic violence issues between the two on at least four occasions dating back to 2003.
He was placed on Tampa Bay's Temporary Inactive List in June following the incident, and did not appear with them the rest of the season.
Prior to that incident, Dukes was arrested and charged for marijuana possession in January of 2007. In 2006, he was suspended for 15 games while with AAA Durham for disciplinary reasons and suspended another 5 games by the International League after needing to be restrained after being ejected for arguing balls and strikes. He finally received a 30 game suspension by the Tampa Bay organization for cumulative offenses.
More recently, Dukes was involved in an incident in a Dominican League game just last week. After being called out of strikes, he reacted angrily and was ejected after going after the umpire, once again needing to be restrained by teammates and coaches. He has since left his Dominican League team citing the need to return home for the holidays. Nats third base coach Tim Tolman was Dukes' manager in the Dominican League.
In their official press release, Nationals President Stan Kasten stated, "Let me emphasize that though Elijah's history may be very different from other players on our team, he will very definitely be held to the same high standards. We believe the Nationals clubhouse, manager, organization, and fans give Elijah Dukes his best chance to succeed and grow."
Dukes, a right handed hitter, is a bona fide five-tool athlete. In just 184 at bats last year for the Rays, he hit 10 home runs and drove in 21, despite .190/.318/.391 averages. He was one of just two AL rookies to hit 10 or more home runs last season. In parts of four minor league seasons, his averages were .284/.368/.454, with 45 homers, 225 RBIs and 91 steals in 418 games. Dukes was Tampa Bay's third round selection in the 2002 Amateur Draft out of Hillsborough (FL) High School, which has produced many major leaguers, including Gary Sheffield, Dwight Gooden, Carl Everett and the Orioles' Chris Ray.
Gibson, 19, played for the Vermont Lake Monsters in Low-A last season. He was 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 58 innings pitched. He is a control pitcher with a decent curve and is projected as a back-end starter.
BOTTOM LINE: Nats GM Jim Bowden loves to take on reclamation projects, and Dukes certainly fits the bill. While his talent is unquestioned, there is quite a bit of rehabilitation to do on his public image. The Nats didn't give up equal talent to land Dukes, which goes a long way to describe his unpleasant history in Tampa. Bowden says in the official press release, "The support of our manager, coaches, front office and active players were a major factor in this decision. Our organization is determined to help Elijah turn his life around off the field and continue his development as a player." If Manny Acta, Dmitri Young and others can be a calming influence on this misguided youth, the Nats have added to their more-impressive-by-the-day stable of outfield talent. We eagerly await Bowden's next move.
The Washington Nationals announced today they have traded veteran catcher Brian Schneider and maligned outfielder Ryan Church to their division rival New York Mets in exchange for talented, but sometimes troubled, outfielder Lastings Milledge.
Milledge, 22, has spent parts of the last two seasons with the Mets, compiling a .257 batting average with eleven home runs and 29 RBIs in 350 at bats. In the minors, Milledge has been an on-base machine, reaching at a .378 clip over parts of four seasons, with a .303 average and slugging .473. He is still mastering the art of stealing bases, but he has plenty of speed to showcase, having stolen 73 bases--while being caught 37 times. He is described as a decent-but-raw fielder, and should settle into centerfield in the new Nationals Stadium, between right fielder Austin Kearns and left fielder Wily Mo Pena.
Most in the Mets organization believed he would turn into a potential 30-30 type of player, in the mold of Eric Davis, another Jim Bowden favorite. As recently as February 2006 he was ranked as the #9 ranked prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, and while some of that luster may have worn off, there's still plenty of shine there as well, as Milledge was one of the more popular names bandied about in the hot stove talks around baseball this off-season.
Milledge has had some drama in his short big league career. After his first major league homer, on his way back out to the outfield he exchanged high-fives with fans down the right field line, which did not sit well with the opposition and some teammates. He also cut a rap album with songs lyrics objectifying women, which drew the ire of Mets officials.
Schneider takes with him to the Mets a strong defensive presence at catcher, something the Mets deemed a priority in this off-season. He is the second catcher they have acquired, along with Johnny Estrada from the Milwaukee Brewers. Schneider is a career Expo/Nat and a fan favorite in DC. He was generally regarded as the team's captain and backbone along with third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. In 2007, Schneider hit .235 with six home runs and 54 RBIs. He is a career .252/.322/.377 hitter and turned 31 this past Monday.
Church, 29, never lived up to expectations placed on him by the Nationals organization. While he posted career numbers while playing left and center fields last year, hitting .270/.348/.462 with 15 homers and 70 RBIs in 144 games, be was also bounced between left and center and never really found a home. He also tied for the team lead in doubles, along with Zimmerman, with 43. He should compete with rookie Carlos Gomez in right filed for the Mets, while providing insurance for aging and oft-injured left fielder Moises Alou.
BOTTOM(FEEDER) LINE: This is a potentially HUGE deal for the Nats. Milledge has 30-30 talent, and was in need of a fresh opportunity after some of his problems in New York. He will be the full-time center fielder the Nats have been looking for since their move to DC. The trade will be "just ok" for the Mets. There just isn't that much upside in Schneider or Church, in that they are completely known entities. Schneider will hit .250 and control the running game, something of much importance in the NL East with speedsters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins. Church will be the left-handed part of a platoon and give you some pop and decent on-base average while playing above-average in the outfield.
This opens up the Nats' full-time catching duties to Jesus Flores and puts them in the market to either upgrade or find a dependable veteran back-up. Currently, the other two catchers invited to camp are veterans Humberto Cota and Chad Moeller. For Jim Bowden to have pulled this off without surrendering closer Chad Cordero or set-up man Jon Rauch has to be considered something of a coup.
The other benefit to this trade is that the Nationals will save a bundle of cash, with Schneider under contract for two more years and over $9 million and Church arbitration eligible for the first time this off-season. Milledge will play for near the league minimum. Also, now that they no longer need a centerfielder, they can spend some of that freed-up cash on starting pitching.
Still more embarrassment in Baltimore. In case you missed it, earlier this week 1b/DH Aubrey Huff went on a nationally syndicated satellite radio show and did two spectacularly dumb things. I gotta warn you right off the bat, the links are to WNST, are sloooow to load, and definitely carry a Parental Guidance rating. Very explicit language. First, he said Baltimore was a "horseshit" town. His words. Two, he openly and unashamedly spoke about his practice of drinking late after games, sleeping until 1pm in the afternoon, and laying around his hotel room until catching the team bus watching porn and "keeping himself busy". He went on to describe his sexual conquests and apparent country singing aspirations.
I'm not a prude, but the language in the transcript was shocking and appalling in a public forum, even for a satellite radio shock jock program. And we're not talking about a random unknown person or a porn actor, we're talking about a major league baseball player, one who repeatedly on the show was introduced as "Baltimore Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff". How could he be so stupid and shallow to think this type of action wouldn't speak poorly of himself, and by association, the organization?
But he goes on to say how he thinks video study is unproductive and a waste of time. So his game preparation of sitting around hung over in his hotel room watching porn is the correct way to prepare to play baseball?
As for this week's good news, the Nats unveiled the new playing field at Nationals Park. It looks spectacular from the all the evidence in the media. And Boz was particularly glowing in his assessment.
I love that there are serveral places in the stadium that have views of the monuments and the Anacostia, etc. I also love the way the Nats made the best seats so expensive and allowed some sections to remain very reasonably priced.
there's lots of talk here about what to do with Bedard. what it boils down to, in my esteemed opinion, is Bedard's first half of 2008. i think the FO is hoping 1 of 2 things happen:
1) Bedard is lights out and someone overpays for him at the trade deadline, or
2) he starts slow like he often does and signs a lucrative, but not crippling extension.
if you look at his stats (oh no! STATS!), his lifetime ERA in April is 4.47. that's pretty bad for someone considered to be a staff "ace". he's managed to win ballgames despite that ERA, maybe a testament to the O's not giving up in the season yet. anyway, maybe he struggles a little bit, his agent gets antsy and decides to cut a deal early to everyone's benefit. probably wishful thinking.
also, another thing to take into account, and i guess i knew this but didn't realize how pronounced it was, but he's never really pitched a full season. 2006 he had 33 starts, this year 29. if you look at his appearances broken down by month, it looks like he's good for a trip to the DL every June, September, or both. what happens if he strains a hammy that first week of interleague play in June? how could that affect his value?
while he's got more talent than any lefty not named Santana, he may need to put a full season of dominance up before he'll command the salary--or trade value--that many in the Baltimore media or blogosphere believe he'll garner.
i'm not discounting his talent, or current value to the Orioles as the most valuable piece of the puzzle, whichever way they end up going. i guess what i am saying is i think the first half of 2008 is going to be a chess match between the Orioles and Bedard, and frankly the other GMs, and should be very interesting to watch. i think that there's still something to be proven on many different fronts.
bottom line, Bedard will be 29 at the start of the season. his destiny will be forged very quickly at the beginning of the season.
IMHO, the O's should trade Tejada for the best 2 almost ready prospects they can. a trade with LA for Kemp and Meloan would be IDEAL. then acquire a slugging first baseman (Adam Dunn, anyone), shortstop and legit back-up catcher. i'd let Huff/Millar effectively platoon at DH with the other providing depth on the bench. re-sign Patterson for center, and let Payton be the 4th OF, pinch-hitting and playing for Corey against lefties where he belongs.
contemplate this line-up:
ss Juan Uribe
bench: Millar, Mora, Payton, Luis Hernandez, Toby Hall
then for pitching, there's CRAP available for starters, so i'd concentrate on closer (Nathan? F. Cordero?) and back-end rotation help (Josh Fogg? Jon Leiber?)
SP D. Cabrera
they'd be getting younger (Kemp, Moore, Meloan) and more competitive (Dunn, Nathan) and the only real money would be on Dunn and Nathan, and you'd be off-setting part of that by dealing Tejada's $13M. Uribe, Fogg, Hall all would come at MLB average salaries.
We went to the Nats/Phils game yesterday to watch the Nats try to spoil things for the Phillies, and to say "goodbye" to dilapidated, antiquated Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. I don't see myself going to a DC United game in the next couple of years, so it's probably the last time I step foot in the place.
I'll start off by saying that I've been rooting for the tenants of that building for 35 years, give or take. That's a long time for anything. I have many, many great memories of all the Redskins teams, good and bad but mostly good. The last three years of the Nats, while the product on the field hasn't been the best, it's certainly better than not having them, and RFK has served it's purpose...simply existing so that MLB had an excuse to move them here from Montreal and give the franchise an actual chance to survive.
The day was great, with the Nats actually winning, and we had a great time with some of our baseball friends, during and after the game at the players lot. We stuck around long enough to be treated to the costume parade of the rookies--10 of them in all, with everything from Aladdin to French Maid to Justin Maxwell in a Ladybug Stripper outfit. You had to see it to believe it. They came out to the fans gathered and Jason Bergmann made sure they signed autographs for every fan left that wanted one. When I asked Bergmann for his, he said, "Sorry, today is all about the rookies". Good stuff.
I'm not going to get emotional about the Nats moving out of RFK though. The problems with RFK as a "Major League Facility" are well documented, including the locker rooms being BEYOND substandard, but I'll list just a few here as far as the fans go.
1) Aramark. Perhaps nowhere better to start than the food "services". Hot dogs but no buns. Advertisements for selections not available (salad, anyone?). Warm beer, cold dogs. Money takers that can't make change for a $10. Fewer choices than Republican Presidential hopefuls. Even fewer food stands actually open.
2) Security. There was precious little of it. No lights in the parking lots for the first two years. Players cars stolen out of the "secured" lot. Forget trying to walk back to Capitol Hill.
3) Ambiance. The concourses are narrow, dark and grimy. The few tvs on the concourse looked like they were installed when George Allen coached the Redskins. The bathrooms were unstocked and crumbling, not to mention without audio. If you left your seat for any reason, you had no idea what happened while you were gone. Coupled with long lines for food, this was a real problem.
4) Amenities. Cupholders? Nope. Informative scoreboard? Nope. Supplemental statboards? Nope. Continuous out-of-town scores? Nope. Restaurant services? Nope. Cushy club-level seating? Nope.
RFK outlived it's usefulness, but it was in the right place at the right time for DC to secure a franchise to move here, so that is it's final legacy. But for me, it'll always be the best football stadium in the country.
See you in "Nationals' Park" in April!
The wife and I are on vacation in Alaska; we arrived Sept 1 and are here through next Tuesday, Sept 11. Having a great time. I thought I'd have the time (and required tools) to update on our trip in this space, but we haven't had the internet connections as frequently in our accommodations as we would have hoped. But here is Part 1 anyway.
Saturday 9/1: Rise at 5 am, on a plane from DC at 7:45 am, fly through Chicago and land in Anchorage at 1:15 pm local, which is 5:15 pm DC time. We ate and walked around Anchorage after dinner, then back to the B&B we were staying, and took a soak in our private outdoor hot tub and enjoyed a bottle of champagne. Lights out at 9:30 pm.
Sunday 9/2: Rise at 8 am, breakfast from the innkeeper (fritatta and omelet) and on the road at 10 am for the trip to Seward in the Kenai Peninsula. The drive down was awesome-we checked out the ski resort and took the tram to the top of the mountain. Ridiculous view. Stopped several times at pull-outs on the road to just check things out. Saw a dall sheep ewe and calf on a rock ledge above the highway. Got into Seward around 3 pm and went straight to the fish cannery for a tour. A friend of Cheryl's used to work on a fish boat. After the tour, we checked into our B&B and had dinner on the water.
Monday 9/3: Rise at 7 am, report to the tour company at 8 am and on the tour boat pulling out of the marina at 9 am for our all-day cruise around the Peninsula, out into the Gulf of Alaska, and back in to Northwestern Fjord to see a glacier close up. The trip was indescribably incredible, and we saw whales, orcas, otters, sea lions, seals, bald eagles and dozens of other birds. When we made it to the glacier, we saw a big chunk calve off into the bay. The boat captain actually started the engines to high tail it out if he'd had to. Again, words can't do it justice. Back to the marina at 6:30 pm, and we freshened up at had dinner at The Salmon Bake, a place so cool I had to buy a sweatshirt.
Tuesday 9/4: Rise at 7:30 am, headed back up to Anchorage for provisions, and across the state to Copper Center, in eastern AK. Saw the Matanuska River and mountain range, Matanuska glacier, which is a valley glacier so we got to walk up to and ON it, and Sheep Mountain, where we ate at the lodge owned by one of the top Iditerod sled dog mushers. The rest of the drive was made in the dark, but we got to see eastern AK in the morning. Got into Copper Center around 10 pm and checked into the resort we got for half price.
Wednesday 9/5: Rise at 8:30 am and after breakfast checked out the view at the resort. WOW. Four of the six highest peaks in a Alaska were practically staring at us in the back of the resort. These mountains are part of the Wrangell-Elias National Park. After pics we loaded up for the drive north to Fairbanks. Several hundred miles later and more mountain and river views we go through a small town and come upon several cars alongside of the road. A MOOSE!!! We had out first terrestrial wildlife sighting! We completed the drive and met up with Cheryl's college friends, where we're staying for the next couple of days.
So that's the quick and dirty version. I'll update and add pictures later. And maybe we'll come back. It's going to be difficult. Not like I'm missing out on anything with the O's and Nats.
Guess what? Not two days after I commit space to it here, the Orioles announce Radhames Liz will make his major league debut Saturday night.
No corresponding move has been announced as Manager Trembley has to get through tonight's game. My guess: Rob Bell's back on the bus to Norfolk.
So I'm sitting in the Irish Times last night celebrating the Bottomfeeders second consecutive softball championship, when I glanced up at the tv on the wall and the ticket said: TEX 30 BAL 3 Final. "That can't be right" I said to everyone and no one and went to my cell phone to see what the real score was. Needless to say, my phone said the same thing. Absolutely incredible.
I'll give D-Cab and Brian Burress (B-Burr?) a pass as they have shown previous bouts of adequacy, although Burress is tenuous at best and D-Cab maddening. But what more evidence do the geniuses in the warehouse need that Rob Bell and Paul Shuey don't belong in the bigs anymore? Bell was cut by Tampa, for crying out loud, and Shuey's era now stands at 9.49 in 24.2 innings.
They gave Dave Trembley the extension for next year, an obvious tryout for a good baseball soldier. Good for him and good them. But with 5 1/2 weeks to go, dump Bell and Shuey and bring up Liz and newly signed Fernando Cabrera and let them learn how to get major leaguers out.
Over on Camden Chat, we've been having an exhaustive discussion about the embarrassing display at Camden Yards this weekend, amplified by Saturday's game being on national tv. If you happened to miss it, the O's set a three-game attendance record over the weekend, and the large majority of fannies in the seats belonged to the chowdah-loving, red and blue clad members of Red Sox Nation.
Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anyone from travelling and seeing their team on the road, or for wearing their colors in the opposing team's stadium. I'm the guy that wore my Caps jersey inside the old Spectrum for crying out loud. It's just that when the majority of those in attendance are for the other team, and the "Yous" for Kevin Youkilis are louder that the "Oh" in "Oh Say Can You See", you gotta draw the line.
So I guess this is my open letter to Orioles fans. If you still care about the Orioles, go to these games. Don't bother with Kansas City or Tampa Bay, but go to the games against Boston and New York. I know it's hard. I stopped going. But I was wrong. We were wrong.
Look, Angelos is going to get his money either way since these games sell out. So that excuse doesn't wash. If you want to hurt his pocketbook, don't eat or drink at the games. But still go. You heard Brian Roberts in the newspaper say it was embarrassing. You think that doesn't play on the mind of every potential free agent out there, and for that matter, the guys who will be free agents currently playing?
It's too late this year, but next year, when the tickets go on sale, that VERY FIRST DAY, buy tickets. Buy as many as you can afford. And then use them. Or give them to another O's fan. Or give them to a local school or church. But make sure they wear Orange.
All we know about Barry Bonds is that he's hit 756 home runs in his career and is a seven time MVP. Well, that and the other statistics in the record books.
I might get skewered for saying this, but alot of what we "know" about Bonds' PED use is from an alleged leaked grand testimony transcript (anyone seen a copy?), hearsay, rumors and innuendo from a fired clubhouse attendant (his shoe size grew three sizes!), and comments about illegal money from a jilted alleged former lover who is now posing in nude in Playboy for a handsome sum of money.
I've never met the guy, but from what you can read and see of him on tv, Bonds appears to be a Class A jerk. He was a jerk when he was a skinny 23 year old and now when he's a bloated 40-something too gimpy to play the OF more than five innings. And we all can infer all we want from the "evidence" that has been presented in the media about his use of PEDs. Everyone is entitled to an OPINION of him, his accomplishments and his career.
But to say we know he did this and we know he did that is simply foolhardy. The only people that truly know are Bonds and whoever did whatever to him. And there is absolutely no hard evidence of that in the public record.
He has never tested positive under the MLB testing procedure. He hasn't been arrested or indicted for any of the allegations that have been bandied about. No one has come forward for a payday to say "I gave/sold Barry Bonds steroids." Nothing.
So please don't say "we know what he did", because we don't. We can only form opinions based on the evidence available publicly.
For the record, my opinion is that he's a cheat, a liar and a jerk. I just don't know that for a fact.
Well, he finally did it. Bonds hit number 755 Saturday evening while much of the east coast was either asleep or out at a late movie, such as myself.
How does that make YOU feel? Personally, it makes me sad. Not that an alleged cheater is tied for the most beloved record in all of sport. Only Barry knows what he did, and he's the one that was to live with that. If he's clean or dirty, it's all on him.
What's sad to me is that there are probably hundreds of other players that have taken performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the hope of becoming the next Barry Bonds only to not succeed. And it's also sad that there are so many that wish it never happened, or won't acknowledge that it did.
Let's start by looking at the guys who have been caught so far under the MLB testing policy.
Rafael Palmeiro: He is clearly the most prolific of the players suspended for PEDs. He enjoyed a long and prosperous career. He posted 3000+ hits and 500+ home runs, one of only four players in history to do so, certain Hall of Fame numbers. He tested positive for a PED in the final year of his career, just weeks before gathering his 3000th hit. According to reports, the amount of stanozolol in his system when tested was just a trace. It should be noted that all of his previous tests were negative, and a test he took just three weeks after his positive test was also negative. Regardless, he remains the only All-Star player to test positive under MLB's steroids testing policy. Is this the type of player they wanted to catch? A multiple All-Star and future Hall of Famer? It would still not surprise me to learn there's more to this story that we simply haven't heard yet.
Alex Sanchez, Matt Lawton, Michael Morse and Jorge Piedra: Lawton was an All-Star twice in his 12 year career. Sanchez played with four team in five seasons, despite stealing 122 bases in those five years. Morse has played 93 games spread over two seasons and Piedra 142 games over three seasons. Morse and Piedra are AAAA players, jsut the type someone would theorize would benefit most from PEDs. They have talent enough to succeed in the minors, but not quite in the bigs. Unfortunately, the extra "effort" they took will cost them that opportunity, neither have an at bat in the bigs in 2007.
Juan Rincon, Rafael Betancourt, Ryan Franklin, Felix Heredia and Yusaku Iriki: Notice something similar about all these pitchers? They're all middle relievers, those guys on the fringe who didn't make it as starters and don't have that special thing that could make them closers. Again, if you think about it, exactly the type of guy that PEDs might be an attractive solution for. Heredia and Iriki aren't in the bigs, but Rincon, Betancourt and Franklin are all enjoying success this season after serving their time.
We all know Barry Bonds did steroids. We all know Gary Sheffield did them too. So did Jason and Jeremy Giambi. Jose Canseco. Ken Caminiti. Even Wally Joyner, who in July was hired to be San Diego's hitting coach. And lots of others. What bothers me, I guess, is some folks decrying the stats of these players, demanding asterisks and wiping out record books, etc., like they never happened. Well, they did happen. Bonds hit his homers against lefties and righties, all types of ethnicities, curveballs and screwballs, drunks and god-guys, spitballers and doctors, and steroids users and non-steroids users. Hit them all. Nobody has to like it. But it has to be acknowledged. He wasn't the only one cheating out there. A simple look at the list says as many pitchers have tested positive as hitters. That's all the evidence we have, and it's enough for me.
Much has been written about the Hall of Fame induction this past weekend, especially about the merits of Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. While I obviously share in the admiration for these two baseball greats, I'm not going to go into their stats or speeeches here in any great detail. What I want to do is share with you our HoF weekend and some of the things we learned and experienced while in Cooperstown.
This was our first trip to Cooperstown, and I wish we'd been able to take more time to really be able to soak everything in. Schedules being what they were, we just had the weekend. We left Friday night and made it as far as Scranton, PA. Traffic was an absolute nightmare out of DC and around Baltimore, and what should have been a 2.5 hour drive ended up about six. Absolutely miserable.
We rolled into Cooperstown Saturday around lunchtime, parked at a satellite lot (basically a corn field next to one of the hundreds of little league fields) and took the trolley into town. Once on Main Street, we wandered around open-mouthed at all the people filling the streets and lined up at the various storefronts waiting for autographs from the Hall of Famers. "Look, there's Rollie Fingers!" or "Wow, Yogi Berra". It was really incredible walking down the street and seeing all these HoFers in one place. Here's a pic of maybe next-year-inductee Goose Gossage.
We had lunch at the Doubleday Cafe and watched some of the Nats-Mets game. That's when it hit me that there were ALOT of Mets and Yankee fans around. I completely forgot we were in New York! Actually, we saw hats from all the teams in the bigs, which was neat. We also saw a bunch of anti-Barry Bonds shirts and just a couple Pete Rose support shirts. We also saw Pete himself. Cheryl went into the store looking for something and Pete happened to be there signing! She talked to him real briefly, but passed on the $85 to get a picture signed.
After lunch we headed down to the Hall. Man, was it crowded. We asked the ticket girl what attendance was and she showed us the counter on their computer. When we entered around 3 pm it was just over 12,000. Media reports had the total day just over 15,000, which was a one-day record, surpassing the previous by over 5,000. So when I say it was crowded, you get the idea. First was the Plaque Gallery, which was AWESOME. Just as I've always pictured it, only with many more people milling about. We sought out our favorites, but with so many people it was hard to linger or really soak it all in.
We toured the rest of the museum and saw many cool things, but the highlight for us were the displays from the seventies World Series years of the Orioles and Reds. Seeing artifacts from those WS Champions was awesome for me and Cheryl, as they represent why we are such big baseball fans to beging with.
After the museum we gathered outside the Hall for the "Red Carpet" arrivals of the HoFers. They weren't scheduled to arrive until 9 pm after their dinner banquet, but people were already lining up as early as 6 pm. So we got our spot. Cheryl talked to a security guy and he told us to get a spot in front of the Post Office right across the street from the Hall, that was the best vantage to see the HoFers getting off the trolleys from the dinner. He was absolutely correct in that it was the best vantage. Once they started arriving, they got off the trolleys directly in front of us just like he said. Only problem was we could still hardly see them. For an event that was scheduled to be at night, they hadn't set up any flood lighting. All the light we had were the streetlights.
This could have been really, really cool with only a little more effort from the organizers. As it turned out, it was kinda disappointing and at times health threatening. Combine Ripken autograph-seeking crowds and low lighting and it got scary at times. All they needed was a couple banks of flood lighting, and it could have had all the panache of an Oscar-style event. They certainly had the enthralled crowds!
It didn't stop us though, or the others around us. We met a family from Connecticut, a couple from Toronto and many others, and we all exchanged email address and promises to trade photos from the evening. Part of the coolness of the weekend was meeting the other people that had made the trek there for the festivities. You realize how strong a hold the game has on some folks, and that even with steriods and labor strife and ungodly salaries, people still WANT to love the game.
We obviously stayed to the very end, when they took down the barricades and cleared the streets. That's when we met Brady Anderson and David Segui, who were guests of Cal at the reception. They were the last ones to leave the Hall and signed for everyone that remained. Segui talked with us for about five minutes while Brady finished up. He was perfectly happy just to chill with us. They were headed to a restaraunt around the corner that John Travolta rented out for late-night supper. Cal and John are friends, as is Richard Gere and Lynda Carter apparently, and they were all there to support their buddy Cal.
We were hungry so we stopped at the pizza joint that had been closed for two hours but was still serving anyway. We met Jim Caple of ESPN.com and Scott Miller of CBSSportsline.com there. They were kind enough to put up with my babble for about 15 minutes. Real nice guys.
After all that we tromped out to the Clark Sports Center where the ceremony was on Sunday. We were told that it would be a good idea to set our chairs out that night to reserve our spot. We got out there a little after midnight, and the field was already full of camp chairs and folding chairs and blankets and coolers! Simply incredible. It really was an eerie sight with a full moon breaking through the fog. Imagine a field full of thousands of empty chairs on a foggy-but full moon-night. We finally got back to the place we were staying with friends in Oneonta, about a half hour south, sometime around 2:15 am, with plans on rising at 7:30 am.
We did get up at 7:30 am, only to find one of the friends we were staying with had to go back home. His wife had fallen ill and he needed to get back. I can't imagine that 6 hour drive. All was fine eventually, but still. Anyway, we loaded up our cars and trekked back into Cooperstown for the induction ceremony. We found our chairs unmolested at 10-ish and settled in for the 1:30 pm ceremony. It was a long, hot, typically humid July afternoon, and I must admit I slept a good portion of the next two hours. They played highlights from previous induction ceremonies on the big board, which was nice, but once they started re-running the same ones over and over, that lost our interest. Cheryl spent an hour walking around taking pictures of fans and the signs and shrits they had made.
The ceremony itself started precisely at 1:30 pm, and Gary Thorne handled the emcee duties. After the welcomes, he introduced all the HoFers in attendance, along with video hightlights. What a truly awesome experience. 53 of the living 61 HoFers were there, the largest gathering of living HoFers ever. The crowd was HUGE, estimated at 75,000, 50% larger than the previous record.
The speeches were much like I thought they would be: Gwynn talking about hitting, Ted Williams, San Diego; Cal talking about his responsibility, Baltimore and the future. Both guys got emotional when talking about their families. It was really touching to see both guys break up when talking about their fathers, both of whom have passed on. People forget these guys are human, with all the emotional fragility that we all share. And I will readily admit I wore my dark sunglasses to hide my tears as well.
We left right after the ceremony, carrying our camp chairs, coolers, cameras and memories back to the car parked a mile and a half away from the field. This sign was indicitive of the entrepreneurial spirit of the tiny hamlet of 2,000 folks. And getting out of Cooperstown proper took almost as long to get there Friday night. Only a slight exaggeration. But all would agree worth every last ounce of energy expended.
This ceremony was unique in that both players played for the same franchise their entire careers. They both expressed the great honor and responsibility of playing for the city they played for--their hometowns. And in the era of free agent mercenaries, it was refreshing to hear it come from the players themselves.
As Cal eloquently stated, "As the years passed, it became clear to me that kids see it all, and it's not just some of your actions that influence, it's all of them. Whether we like it or not as big leaguers, we are role models. The only question is will we be positive or will it be negative."
All photos (c) C. Nichols 2007
I'll have much more on our trip to Cooperstown later in the week, but wanted to comment on the Nats resigning Dmitri Young.
Everyone knows I'm in D'tank for D'Meat. We share more than a general body size/type. We both developed Type-2 Diabetes as adults and are learning how to cope and thrive with the disease. So on one hand I'm very glad the Nats offered him the extension he signed over the weekend. There are plenty in the media that are decrying this move, particularly Keith Law, who I tremendously respect, on ESPN.com (scroll down to second story).
What I think this really says is that Nick Johnson isn't coming back, and the Nats have no one in their organization ready to play first next year. I said as much in a blog when we saw Johnson in spring training, now the Nats are saying it with their wallets. Look, if you include this season, the Nats effectively are getting Young for 3 years and $10.5m, an average of $3.5m per. Not too much dough for your starting 1B, especially if--and this is the biggest point--there's no one in the minors pushing him.
No, D'Meat isn't going to hit .330 over the remainder of the contract. But if he hits .280 and keeps a seat warm for Chris Marrero, who will in all likelihood end up at first in 2009 or 2010, or someone else, who cares? His teammates love him. The casual fans love him. He seems to have cleaned up his health, his personal life and his game. His teammates love and respect him. The team can afford it. It's not like his contract is going to keep the Nats from signing any of their draft picks.
On the surface this may be a bit of a head-scratcher. Dig a little deeper though and maybe the logic makes a bit more sense.
While travelling to northern Minnesota to see my wife's cousin get married last weekend, we naturally stopped in Minneapolis for a baseball game. We saw the Twins host the Oakland A's last Thursday in both teams first game back from the All-Star break. The Twins won 6-2, on good pitching by Scott Baker and some uncharacteristic wildness by A's starter Chad Gaudin. It's always fun to see a game in a ballpark different from the one(s) you're used to, but I'm here to tell ya, with the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, I'm not so sure. I guess I am really spoiled by now, living on the east coast and being only a few hours drive from some of the best parks in the country. Baltimore, Philly, Pittsburgh and Cleveland feature the modern classics, and the true classics of Yankee and Fenway are just up the road. RFK is a pit, but at least it's our pit. And most of us can remember back to when it was the best stadium in the NFL. That alone keeps me from complaining too loudly about RFK. And we'll have our shiny new playground next season anyway.
But the Metrodome? There's not one single redeeming feature about the game experience there to recommend it to anyone not looking to simply see a game in every major league stadium. There's only one concourse,
so you have to hike up or down to your seat regardless where you're sitting. If you're at field level, better get all your refreshments and bathroom break out of the way before you go down to your seat. Only the fittest of folks should do that hike more than once an evening, such as "Wally the World-Famous Beer Vendor".
All the seats point toward mid-center field (it WAS build for football), making it tough to watch, oh, I don't know, the PITCHER or the BATTER?!? It's a shock Twins season ticket owners haven't brought a class action suit against the stadium for their collective chiropractic bills.
And you think you've got it bad for food options at RFK? At the HHH Metrodome, you can get Dome Dog or popcorn. There are a couple ice cream stands. There was ONE non-generic beer stand. And there was one stand on the entire concourse to get a chicken sandwich. Nothing was getting grilled while you wait. Everything was pre-cooked and wrapped. Yuck.
The only positive we were able to take away from the Metrodome was the outside activities. Pre-game was like a county carnival. Plenty to see and do and eat. I wish someone had told us to make sure to eat before we got inside the stadium! Early pre-game (between 2pm and 3pm) we were able to get some autographs at the players lot, including from Pat Neshak, the Svengali of autographs. Turns out Pat played high school ball with my wife's cousins. Wish we'd known that BEFORE we met him. We also met our new Twins buddy Waldo, who helped us get Torii Hunter to sign our Gold Glove ball and Twins legend and broadcaster Bert Blyleven to sign for us TWICE. I'm a big Blyleven fan, and it was a big thrill to meet him. Why isn't he in the Hall of Fame???
the question "do the O's have anyone of any real value to trade?" is fair and pointed. the answer, sadly, is "not really".
Bedard, Guthrie, Roberts, Hernandez, Mora and now sadly Tejada are all untradable for varying reasons. Patterson, Gibbons, Baez and Trachsel all have values so depressed the best they could get would be a C-level player. the rest are either unproven (Ray, Burres, etc) or spare parts (Bynum, et al).
the only players that have some trade value that might net more than a c-level prospect would be Cabrera, Huff, Payton, Millar, Walker, Bradford and perhaps Gomez. honestly, the relievers should have the most value to a contender, but even then, the O's are not going to pry away Lasting Milledge or Brandon Wood for Jamie Walker.
the sad reality is the O's, and us, are stuck with most (all) of these guys, and the hope that the young pitching is for real and they can sign a big bat for the middle of the order for next year, or 2009.
just don't expect a firesale July 31. they don't have the kindling.
Well, the 2007 All-Star teams were announced Sunday, and you can read all about them here.
How did my picks turn out? Pretty good in the AL, less good in the NL. Let me tell you one thing though: Tony LaRussa has little idea about how to put an all-star team together. I'm half shocked his picks weren't full of situational relievers, defensive replacements and pinch-hitter types.
Aanyway, in the AL i picked 28/31 correct. Tthe only ones i missed were:
1) the Tampa Bay rep. i took Al Reyes, Jim Leyland took Carl Crawford. fair enough.
2) the Texas rep. i took Sammy Sosa, Leyland took Michael Young. I wouldn't have too much problem with this, but Young apparently bumped Orlando Cabrera. that's a mistake. take three SS if you have too, but Cabrera's having an all-star year, and Young really isn't.
3) superfluous Boston players. Leyland chose to take Manny Ramirez and Jonathan Papelbon. i had Sosa and Al Reyes in those spots. Manny won't go anyway, he always begs out, and his numbers are unspectacular this year (.258/.383/.468, 11-43-0). Papelbon was the guy that got bumped when i took Reyes as the TB rep.
I did have Crawford, M. Young and K. Escobar in the "last vote" player list so Ii wasn't too far off.
Not Deserving: Manny being Manny.
Screwed: O. Cabrera.
I wasn't as successful in the NL, but again, I'm blaming LaRussa. i got 24/31.
1) Back-up C: I took Bengie Molina (.289/.311/.437, 8-44-0), LaRussa took Brian McCann (.261/.314/.427, 7-41-0). The stats don't get any more even. Flip a coin.
2) Third 1B: I took Ryan Howard (.247/.328/.548, 19-57-0), LaRussa took Derrek Lee (.346/.419/.505, 6-41-3).
3) 2B: I took Dan Uggla (.253/.323/.509, 17-50-2), LaRussa took Orlando Hudson (.302/.387/.468, 7-46-3). LaRussa went with Hudson's defense.
4) MI/OF/Pittsburgh Rep: this is where it gets ugly. I took Edgar Renteria (over Hanley Ramirez or Jimmy Rollins, either of whom would have been vastly superior to LaRussa's pick) and Xavier Nady (.277/.329/.480, 13-46-2), LaRussa took Aaron Rowand and Freddie Sanchez (.300/.331/.375, 1-28-0). Look, Sanchez just doesn't qualify. AT ALL. LaRussa took him cause he can play 2B/SS/3B and he can match-up and look smarter than anyone else. But let's get this straight: HE DOESN'T BELONG HERE. That Freddie Sanchez is an All-Star and Hanley and Rollins both get left off is a travishamockery. Rowand is "hard-nosed" and "gritty" and "having just a good year".
5) Pitching: I had Chris Young, Brandon Webb and Roy Oswalt, LaRussa took Billy Wagner and Brian Fuentes, WHO JUST LOST HIS FREAKING JOB!!! Cripes, do we have to do this for him?!?! Young, Webb and Oswalt are all on the last vote ballot.
Not Deserving: D. Lee, F. Sanchez, Rowand, Fuentes.
Screwed: Howard, H.Ramirez, Rollins, C.Young.
With All-Star voting closing at midnight tonight, here are my teams, complete with back-ups and pitchers, 32 players for each league and each team represented. Starters based on fan voting results as of June 26.
AL Starters (8):
1B David Ortiz, BOS
2B Placido Polanco, DET
SS Derek F. Jeter, NYY
3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY
C Ivan Rodriguez, DET
OF Vladimir Guerrero, LAA
OF Magglio Ordonez, DET
OF Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
For the most part, the fans get it right from what they have to choose from on the ballot. Ortiz is no more a 1B than I am, but whatever. Pudge is living on rep, Victor Martinez should be the pick there.
AL Back-ups (11):
1B Justin Morneau, MIN
2B Brian Roberts, BAL
SS Orlando Cabrera, LAA
SS Carlos Guillen, DET
3B Mike Lowell, BOS
C Victor Martinez, CLE
C Jorge Posada, NYY
OF Torii Hunter, MIN
OF Grady Sizemore, CLE
OF Alex Rios, TOR
OF Sammy Sosa, TEX
I know, I know. Sammy Sosa really isn't an All-Star any more. But someone has to represent Texas, and he does have 13 homers and 61 RBIs, despite never getting on base when he doesn't homer. Just missed: Gary Sheffield, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Michael Young, Carlos Pena
AL Pitchers (12):
ST Dan Haren, OAK
ST C.C. Sabathia, CLE
ST Josh Beckett, BOS
ST John Lackey, LAA
ST Justin Verlander, DET
ST Johan Santana, MIN
ST Roy Halladay, TOR
ST Gil Meche, KC
CL J.J. Putz, SEA
CL Francisco Rodriguez, LAA
CL Bobby Jenks, CWS
CL Al Reyes, TB
Meche is here because KC needs a rep. Reyes is here on merit.
Last Vote (1):
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kelvim Escobar, Carl Crawford, Gary Sheffield, Michael Young
NL Starters (8):
1B Prince Fielder, MIL
2B Chase Utley, PHI
SS Jose Reyes, NYM
3B David Wright, NYM
C Russell Martin, LAD
OF Carlos Beltran, NYM
OF Ken Griffey, CIN
OF Alfonso Soriano, CHC
We can pick nits on this if you want. I'm voting for Miguel Cabrera at third, but the guys leading are deserving as well.
NL Back-ups (11):
1B Albert Pujols, STL
1B Ryan Howard, PHI
1B Dmitri Young, WAS
2B Dan Uggla, FLA
SS J.J. Hardy, MIL
SS Edgar Renteria, ATL
3B Miguel Cabrera, FLA
C Benjie Molina, SF
OF Matt Holliday, COL
OF Xavier Nady, PIT
OF Barry Bonds, SF
There's NO WAY they're leaving Bonds off the this team. None. With the game in San Fran? Are you kidding me. We just need to get over it. Just missed: Derrick Lee, Brandon Phillips, Aramis Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Lee
NL Pitchers (12):
ST Jake Peavy, SD
ST Brad Penny, LAD
ST Cole Hamels, PHI
ST John Smoltz, ATL
ST Ben Sheets, MIL
ST Brandon Webb, ARI
ST Chris Young, SD
ST Roy Oswalt, HOU
CL Francisco Cordero, MIL
CL Jose Valverde, ARI
CL Trevor Hoffman, SD
CL Takashi Saito, LAD
Roy Oswalt beats out Carlos Lee as the Houston rep, IMO.
Last Vote (1):
Derrick Lee, Brandon Phillips, Adam Dunn, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Lee
Cheryl and I made our way to the Safeway on Alabama Avenue, SE, Saturday morning for the Dmitri Young autograph session. The event was scheduled for 11 am - noon, and we arrived around 10:30 am, the first to get there for the event. We made our way to customer service, and asked about where the signing was going to be set up, etc. I was on my cell phone talking to a fellow owner in one of my fantasy leagues, so i wasn't paying attention to the conversation. Apparently, the store manager started asking Cheryl about she thought it would be best to set up, what kind of supplies were needed, etc. The the manager asked if Cheryl had brought a tablecloth or something for the signing table. It was at that point Cheryl realized the woman thought I was Dmitri Young and Cheryl was from the Nats! You can tell from the photo that me and Dmitri are practically twins. Pretty funny stuff.
The real Dmitri showed up right at 11 am, and since we were first in line we got a couple minutes to chat with him before he signed out pictures we took at spring training. I gave him a Hank Aaron card from Hank's last season as he's a real big collector and thought he'd appreciate it, and he did. He personalized the picture of the two of us, saying "To Dave, Keep Battling the Diabetes Like Me, Peace, Dmitri Young". Very solid individual. I hope he makes the All-Star team and then gets traded to a team that makes the playoffs, cause he really deserves it after being discarded by Detroit last year. I just can't see how he could have been THAT big a distraction to the club, but i know the clubhouse is a different place.
Pre-game on Saturday, Cheryl was able to get Brandon Watson, newly recalled, to stop over and sing the pic she had of him from last year's opening day. He obliged, inscribing it "43 game minor league hit streak '07". Good stuff. She's a big fan of the slap hitting center fielders. I was able to get Saul Rivera over towards the Nats bullpen. Cheryl had a great pic ofwhat we call the "cingular man" pose, like a big X. He say me holding it up and after ridding his jacket and bucket of balls in the bullpen, came back out and signed for me. He said "Great picture, did you take?" and i said "no, my wife", to which he replied, "She does nice work". Nice work indeed.
After Saturday night's game, we stuck around afterwards to get a couple more autographs before joining friends at the Irish Times. Maybe I'm getting old (no maybes), but it was REALLY LOUD in there. I wonder if it was always that loud. Anyway, we met the girls from the 3 Girls With Heart blog. Really nice girls, and they really know their stuff, so their blog gets added to the list to the right. We got Austin Kearns, Jesus Colome, Nook Logan and Ryan Langerhans from the Nats, and Injuns starter Paul Byrd and OF Trot Nixon, who had a posse of easily 20 people. Cheryl told Nook he needed to get more steals for her fantasy team and he replied "I gotta play to steal". She felt bad cause she didn't mean anything by it. It's true though, you can't steal from the bench. Unless you're Ruben Rivera, but that's another story.
It's taken me a little bit to consolidate my opinions about yesterday's events surrounding the Baltimore Orioles. There was good, bad and ugly.
First, and briefly, the good. The O's took two of three from the Padres in San Diego. Interim Manager Dave Trembley said, "What I saw was guys taking a lot of pitches, working the counts, using the whole field, being patient at the plate. There was just a real good chemistry in the lineup." The key to good baseball is not making outs, and the last two games it's been like a light has gone on. Not that anyone expects this team to be competitive, but just the realization that taking a few pitches and getting on base is important is progress enough.
Now, the bad. Bedard and Tejada are hurt. It sounds like Bedard is the less injured of the two, but if a pitcher doesn't have his legs, he's got nothing. One sure way to hurt your arm is to try to pitch with a leg injury. Tejada is the troubling one, in many ways. First, if his wrist is broken, then he'll have to miss some time, and that helps no one. Doesn't help the team on the field, doesn't help the front office get fair trade value. Just bad all around.
But what's the deal with letting him extend this consecutive games streak by batting second yesterday and laying a feeble bunt, forcing Roberts at second and almost getting a DP out of it? What exactly would he have done if Roberts hadn't gotten on? And Trembley's defense of it was just as weak: "Miguel Tejada is a very special person. What he's done in this game is very special. I believe you walk a fine line between doing what's right for your team and what's right for Miguel, out of respect, because I believe he's earned that. Today, I took him out of the game for the team, but I allowed him to have that at-bat out of respect for him."
This is just further reinforcing the notion that the inmates are running the asylum. HE'S INJURED!!! You want to be the regular the manager, display the fortitude necessary in the interest of the team to stand up to your best player! What self-respecting managerial prospect would come in to a situation like this??? Truly amazing and pathetic. Guys whine in the paper about playing time, they're in the line-up the next day. Guy whines in the paper about not being consulted about a day off, he gets a public apology instead of further benching. Guy BREAKS HIS WRIST and is allowed to make a mockery of himself and the team by taking a feeble bunt attempt and pulling himself from the game for the sake of a consecutive games played streak?
What's worse, the co-GM thinks it's ok: "He said that he was sore, but he could play," Duquette said. "He thinks it is going to feel better. He seems to have a very high pain threshold, but you don't want to risk making it worse."
Again, HE'S GOT A BROKEN WRIST!!!
*Quotes lifted from linked article by Zrbiec and Kubatko in the Sun.com, photo by AP.
I stayed up last night to watch the O's-Padres game. obviously Guthrie is pitching well, and he had a high strikeout total last night, but the thing that really impresses me about him is the way he pitches to both sides of the plate.
Steve Carlton is a nut-job in every sense of the word, but the guy could really pitch. anyway i heard him say one time the key to getting big league hitters out is to make them uncomfortable by moving the ball around in different areas of the plate. he said you can throw a great slider (and by all accounts his was one of the best), but if they know it's coming, and more importantly where it's coming, big league hitters are going to make you pay.
that's what Guthrie is doing right now. next time he throws, watch him. i mean really watch him. don't just look for strikes and balls. inside-outside-up-down. never in the same place twice. that's why he's allowing (much) fewer than one base runner per inning.
he simply can't continue the pace he's on, so we should be enjoying it, but this kid really has something, and shame on the Indians for jerking him around so much that they couldn't see it. he really seems like a creature of habit and he's comfortable where he is now. good for him, and good for us.
you have to read this story, from Mike Burke of the Cumberland Times-News. This is great journalism, and much more revealing about how the Orioles treated and fired Sam Perlozzo, and the front office mind-set coming into the season, than anything else I've read anywhere. Bravo, Mr. Burke.
The Post scooped the Sun on Girardi's comments today.
Here are the telling quotes from that story:
"I think the people, number one," make it an attractive position, Girardi said. "Andy and Mike, it starts there. Number two, the city and the tradition. And the challenge. That's what competition is all about, right?"
Andy referring to the still-unnamed COO Andy McPhail, who was President with the Cubs as Girardi was finishing up his playing career, and Mike being Mike Flanagan, half of the current GM tandem for the Warehouse. I guess Jim Duquette was too busy calling up veteran relievers to replace the rookies that were obviously overmatched the other day.
"Andy was the one who approached me about this," Girardi said. "I know him pretty well. I have the utmost respect for Andy MacPhail."
Again, the same guy who still doesn't officially work for the team is contacting managerial prospects and interviewing them.
Girardi said he did not know a specific timeline for Baltimore's decision, but said, "The Orioles made it sound like it'd be sooner rather than later."
This would be the first time since Peter Angelos took over the team that they made a decision sooner rather than later, if it actually happens that way.
Anyway, the comments sound like he's interested. Nothing like kicking the tires on a 53 year old once-proud baseball franchise.
As you no doubt know by now, Sam Perlozzo was dismissed as manager of the Baltimore Orioles today. I don't think anyone that follows the O's found it much of a surprise. Having three losing streaks of worse than five games will pretty much seal any manager's fate. The O's have alot of problems, and lots of people are talking about all of them today. What makes me wonder is if Peter Angelos really understands any of it.
By all accounts, he's a tremendously successful lawyer. And since I know a little bit about the personalities of some pretty tremendous lawyers first-hand, I'll give you a tip: good lawyers are good lawyers, and need to surround themselves with good business, management and technology people to make their law practice work. Because it takes a tremendous amount of energy to be a tremendous lawyer. There's a good reason that turnover is so high at the biggest law firms. It's freaking hard work. Not many people survive it to have long, fruitful careers. Burn-out is as common as the sun rising and it really takes a particular personality to succeed as a lawyer.
All of which brings me back to Angelos. I think what makes him a great lawyer might be the very things that keeps him from being a great owner, and in turn, keeps the Orioles from being a great baseball team. He is noted for being competitive and involved in all aspects of the team. He is accused of undermining his baseball staff in personnel matters. He keeps his personal business out of the paper, and he never shows his face in public. And recently, has become more controlling of the content being released to the media.
Now at its very core, baseball is a business that needs the public buying a product to show a profit, both monetarily and performance-wise. Teams need people to come to the games. Teams need people to watch games on tv. Teams need people to buy hats and t-shirts. Teams need people to buy popcorn and beer and hot dogs and crab cakes and whatever else artery-clogging food they sell at the ballpark. Anyway, does it seem like it makes good business sense to then limit public exposure, either to your team or, if you're the owner, to yourself? The media likes to criticize Mark Cuban for his sometimes outlandish behaviour. But you know what, every time his face pops up on tv, he's selling the Mavericks.
I guess the point I'm trying to ake is that if Peter Angelos is looking for advice on how to run his ballclub he should surround himself with better people with experience in running a ballclub. I'm sure his sons and Joe Foss were good people and had great intentions, but I hardly think being lawyers made them good candidates to run a baseball franchise. If the rumors are true that Angelos is bringing in Andy McPhail to be the COO, that is a great step. O's fans can only hope he'll have the authority needed to make the important baseball decisions and let Mr. Angelos continue to do the things he's done for so long to become a great lawyer and running his practice of law. Because he has certainly proven, without a shred of doubt, that he is incapable of running the practice of a major league baseball team.
A friend of mine once said, "You can only be so smart, but stupidity knows no bounds." I recall the quote often in the appreciation of sport, since it appears the very genes that makes humans good athletes also seem to rob them of common sense or good judgment. Indeed, the decision to make a career as an athlete often is the product of poor judgment. Consider the sheer numbers of high school and college athletes that decide, "hey, i don't need an education, i'm going to be a pro (fill in the blank)", only to finish their prep career, go undrafted and end up sleeping in their parents' house working at McDonalds, if that.
But that's a larger discussion for another day. Today's Stupidity involved the immensely talented, but immensely troubled, Elijah Dukes. His history of his many suspensions for poor attitude and trouble-making in the minors is well documented, and despite being rewarded for all that by making the Devil Rays this season out of spring training and enjoying some success (10 homers so far), he still doesn't know how to live and interact like a human being.
Earlier this season he made not-so-veiled threats to his estranged wife, and now today a new story comes out about how he impregnated a then 17-year-old foster child in the care of his step-grandmother.
This is, I think, the key quote in the story. It comes from his mother, since Dukes and the team refused to talk for the article.
'Dukes' mother, Phyllis Dukes, said she didn't know about the allegations. "He's doing well on the field," she said. "He's doing so good. It's just every time he turns around there's something coming at him."'
"...something coming at him". As if he isn't bringing on himself, it's being forced on him by outside agents. Incredible. I just don't understand sometimes how people's visions of right or wrong get so clouded. What's the decision making process like. "Hmm, my step-grandma's got this hotty 17 year old foster kid, why don't I just nail her on the living room couch? Yeah, that sounds sweet, man." Instead of indignation or pity, HIS OWN MOTHER brushes this off like he got a damn speeding ticket. He HAD SEX with a 17 year old IN THE CARE OF HIS GRANDMOTHER!!! Where the anger and disappointment from the mother? The only disappointment she seems to show is that her boy has things more things "coming at him".
We're 40% into the season, time to draw some comparisons and rank the teams. I'll rank by leagues, AL today, NL tomorrow. Most of these lists rank overall, which I find to be less helpful. The numbers after each team are (Wins-Losses-Run Differential-Games Back in Division-Games Back in Wild Card), and then some pithy commentary for each.
1) Boston (40-22, 80, 0, 0) Most secure lead in baseball. Only Boston can afford to leave its best major-league ready pitching prospect (Jon Lester) in AAA.
2) Los Angeles (40-24, 56, 0, 0) The Angels have second best home record in AL. Could use some of their home-grown young talent to fetch a middle-of-the-order bat.
3) Cleveland (37-24, 47, 0, 0) We keep waiting for Sizemore to go on that really big tear. Again, it's the pitching. This year is really proving that all over.
4) Detroit (36-26, 67, 1.5, 0) The bullpen troubles so far haven't really hurt the Tigers, but it'll catch up to them. Sheffield is playing possessed right now.
5) Oakland (34-28, 45, 5, 3.5) Given up fewest runs in AL. Kendall is KILLING this team. A league average bat in the leadoff would be a 4-5 game difference.
6) Seattle (34-28, 13, 4.5, 3) Seattle is hot and really showing strides in being a good ball club. Brandon Morrow is dominant in the pen and going to be a stud for them, starting or closing.
7) New York (30-31, 50, 9.5, 5.5) Hot streak recently to coincide with Giambi's latest injury. Injury, or side-effect? Either way, seems they're better off without him.
8) Minnesota (30-31, 2, 7, 5.5) They just can't score enough runs, even with Mauer, Morneau and Hunter in the middle. If they can find someone to get on base ahead of those three, look out.
9) Toronto (30-32, -1, 10, 6) Frank Thomas hasn't hit like last year, they keep getting guys hurt, and can't find any pitching after Halladay and Burnett.
10) Baltimore (29-34, 5, 11.5, 7.5) Win three, lose four. It's the story of their season. Just when they look like they'll get on a roll, the bats disappear. Revamped bullpen not worth the money spent.
11) Chicago (27-32, -51, 9, 7.5) They're not as bad as that run differential (fewest runs scored in AL), but not far off. Podsednick and Erstad are not completely to blame, the mindset to keep sending them out there is.
12) Tampa Bay (28-33, -37, 11.5, 7.5) I'm beginning to think being named after a body of water instead of a city is the problem. Nope, it's pitching. But there's promise there with Sheilds and Sonnenstine. Not sure Kazmir "gets it".
13) Kansas City (24-40, -71, 14.5, 13) Different year, same story. Given up second most runs in AL. Gordon still a year (at least) away. Meche credible but unsupported.
14) Texas (23-40, -60, 16.5, 13.5) Biggest disappointment in baseball. The excuses for poor pitching don't hold up, they're just bad. Daniels has blown three big trades, and Washington has lost the clubhouse in 60 games. A disaster.
Here's what the O's did. Good work.
The Nats took Detwiler, you can see his profile below.
Both teams get A+ for their first picks. Neither team could have planned it any better. The O's get help at a demand position that'll be ready this time next year, and the Nats get a pitcher that should really be an anchor on the staff.
Yes, today is the MLB Amateur Entry Draft, which is quite a misnomer since it does not include any imported talent not from Canada. Anyway, it starts in about an hour, the O's pick #5 and the Nats #6.
They are both looking at a group of players including high school hitters Josh Vitters, Matt Domiguez and Mike Moustakas, high school pitcher Phillippe Aumont and college pitcher Ross Detwiler.
There are two real big wild cards in this draft accoring to experts, and they are switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters from Georgia Tech and NJ high school pitcher Rick Porcello. They are both considered to be the best prospects in their quad (HS Hitter/Pitcher, College H/P). The problem? They are both represented by Angel of Darkness Scott Boras.
The O's have a long-time hatred of Boras, stemming all the way back to the Ben McDonald draft. They are reluctant with him for two reasons: 1) Boras always gets his way, and 2) Angelos always gets his way. We all know how well that's working out for Pete in the baseball arena.
So here is ESPN.com's Summary of Wieters:
Summary: Outstanding offensive and defensive catcher. At the plate, he has an easy, fluid swing; sprays the field with line drives, but can really put a charge into balls, especially from the LH side. Behind the plate, he's got a laser arm, gets up out of the crouch quickly on pop-ups, looks comfortable. Biggest question is whether a guy his size (listed at 6-6) can handle catching long-term. Easily the best college bat in this draft.
Sounds like someone you'd want in your line-up, no? This might as well be the summary of this guy.
I know it's easy to spend someone elses money for unproven talent, but c'mon, HE'S A SWITCH HITTING MIDDLE OF THE ORDER CATCHER!!!
i just looked at the interactive 3-D thingy for the Nats' new park. our seats in RFK are in Sec 422, Row 3, right behind home in the third row of the upper deck. the comparable seats in the new place are Sec 313-314, and they stay the same price. i got those seats the first night they went on sale for 2005.
i will be very disappointed, but not surprised, if things don't work out.
bottom line, the long-time season ticket holders are the one that will end up on the short end. they HAVE us. it's the corporates and law firms they need to get in the expensive seats, and they will. those are the folks that have been staying away from crummy RFK in droves. they are the ones that were there in the first half of 2005 when the team was brand new and was
this will be just like the other new parks. first couple years the attendence will spike significantly. then it's up to the talent to keep it full. Cleveland-still full; Camden Yards-not.
The injury that Brian Roberts sustained at the end of 2005 to his elbow was grisly to watch and probably plagued him all year last year as he tried to regain his swing and power. And while the O's aren't expecting Roberts to hit homers like his double-play partner, he is exhibiting all-around strength in his hitting game and on the base paths as well.
He currently leads all qualifying AL 2Bs in OBP, runs and steals, and isn't that what you want out of your lead-off hitter? Here's his raw stats:
.327/.420/.439, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 38 R, 19 SB.
Pretty good all around. His low RBI totals are a direct result of hitting behind Corey Patterson all year long. Roberts has 73 hits, it's not his fault Patterson only has a combined 51 hits and walks. Patterson seems allergic to hitting the ball again this year, but that's a topic for another day.
So I was doing a little research the other day and came to a surprising and interesting realization. There are 14 players in the AL that have the majority of their games played at DH. In the fantasy context, that means that in most leagues, including the AL-only league I'm in, these players will be eligible to be drafted ONLY at DH. Last year there were eight such players, and they are all on pace again.
Here's the list:
F. Thomas, TOR
D. Ortiz, BOS
J. Vidro, SEA
T. Hafner, CLE
G. Sheffield, DET
J. Giambi, NYY
M. Sweeney, KC
S. Hillenbrand, ANA
S. Sosa, TEX
J. Thome, CWS
M. Piazza, OAK
J. Cust, OAK
M. Cirillo, MIN
J. Gomes, TB
Some of these names are an interesting study in themselves. Sosa has 13 games in the OF, he almost certainly will get enough time in the OF. Will Gomes or Cirillo even matter enough to be drafted next year? When Piazza comes back and Cust is still hitting, does Piazza catch enough games to qualify there, or does Cust have to stumble around in the OF for the A's? Time will tell. One thing we do know is that everyone else on the list will only play on the field during interleague play, if then.
So on to the two points I want to make out of all this.
1) Isn't it time to make DH a position to be voted on for AL All-Star? These guys don't play in the field. Five of the 14 haven't put a glove on yet. Seven have played less than five games in the field. These guys ARE DHs. That's their position. Put them on the permanent ballot. It's ludacris (intentional) that Ortiz is listed at 1B for BOS on the ballot and Youkilis is no where to be found. Youkilis could be hitting .400 and not be voted as an all-star. Who cares that you'd vote for 9 positions in the AL and 8 in the NL?
2) There in one team in the AL that does not have a "permanent" DH. That's right, your Baltimore Orioles. Millar/Huff/Gibbons all have plenty of DH appearances, but only Millar has more games at DH than in the field, and that's only by 4 games. He'll make that up. He is, unfortunately, the O's best defensive 1B-not counting Chris Gomez, which makes me even with Sam Perlozzo. So if every other team is doing it, does that make what the O's are doing wrong? Looking at the numbers, the O's DHs rank 12th in average, 12th in on-base pct, 9th in slugging, 6th in homers, 11th in RBIs and 11th in runs.