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Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:46 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 4:46 pm
 

Players, managers react to new playoff format

By Matt Snyder

MLB Playoff expansion
With the news spreading throughout baseball that playoff expansion is very likely for the 2012 season, some reactions from players and managers have started to trickle out of camps. As one would expect on a divisive issue, the reactions are all over the map.

For a very brief recap to those who haven't read about it yet, it's extremely likely that starting this season, MLB will have two wild card teams play one head-to-head game, with the winner advancing to face the division winner with the best record in the LDS. The second and third division winners will face each other. The new collective bargaining agreement established that this system would begin by 2013, but it's likely it will begin this season.

Anyway, here are some of the reactions we've gathered thus far:

Blue Jays manager John Farrell (CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler)

"I think it's great for baseball. Hopefully, we're in the mix to land one of those spots."

Mets third baseman David Wright (Andy McCullough via Twitter)

"That would have been nice five years ago."

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel (CSNPhilly.com)

“It’s hard to swallow sometimes if you play all year and win a lot of games and somebody who did not play as good as you consistently all year gets in and wins. But that’s the way it goes and that’s the process that we live with.

“I understand everything about that and I’m not knocking that. That’s what it is. But at the same time, I look at it as I’m not a second-place guy or third place or fourth place. Basically that’s the part – for me, personally, you shouldn’t get nothing for second or third. That’s the American system.”

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen (MLB.com)

"Anytime you involve more people, it's good for the game. I think the Commissioner is doing a tremendous job adding people to have a chance to see playoff games, and I think that's great for the fans. This game, we play for them."

Red Sox DH David Ortiz (ESPN Boston)

“One game? That’s kind of crazy. You know how many things we’ve got to move around and pack for one game? It’d make more sense for two wild cards to play at least a two-out-of-three series while the other teams take a break for three days because they won their divisions.”

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (TampaBay.com)

"I think it's exciting. It's exciting for all of us. ... I think the goal was to allow more teams to have a chance in the end, to hold on to those playoff hopes for longer.''

"I think it was pretty unanimous around the league that the more playoff spots the better. Once you get into the playoffs it's more revenue for the ballclub, it's more excitement for the players, so I think it would be a no-brainer for everybody.''

"I don't think anybody's 'comfortable' with [one-game playoff] -- it's an uncomfortable feeling going into any game that you know you could go home, your season could end. But at the same time, it's exciting -- you're in the playoffs now.''

Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (MLB.com)

"I'm not for it. I think the elite teams deserve to make it to the playoffs. Pretty soon, Major League Baseball is going to be like the NBA. There will be more teams that make it than don't. The season is too long as it is. Now you're going to give teams more travel. I don't agree with it, but we're just a piece of meat. We do what they tell us to."

Braves backup catcher David Ross (MLB.com)

"I like the one game for all of the marbles kind of thing because it's either put up or shut up," Braves backup catcher David Ross said. "It's going to be fun. The fans are going to be tuned in. It will get a lot of media attention. It will be a lot of fun."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (ESPN Los Angeles)

"I like it because it forces those two teams to use their best pitcher, so they have to use that guy to get in (to the next round). On paper, that gives the advantage to the team that wins the division because they can line up their rotation the way they want it. It seems fair to me that the team who wins the division gets that advantage.''

White Sox pitcher Chris Sale (ChicagoSports.com)

"Obviously, it’s exciting. Two more teams into the playoffs. At the same time, you want to be one of those teams for sure in there. You want to win the division. "They said it today, you are not playing for second place. It would be great if that did happen, but from here on out, we are going for that No. 1 spot."

White Sox manager Robin Ventura (ChicagoSports.com)

“In the past, when they added (the wild card), it created excitement and even last year, the last day of the season it added fun. You never know. It just depends on how the season goes. But it’s exciting for teams to get in. That’s for sure.”

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 12:35 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 3:37 pm
 

Burnett has broken orbital bone, needs surgery

By Matt Snyder

Embattled starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is off to an unfortunate and quite dubious beginning in his Pirates career. Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla., Burnett was working on bunting and accidentally fouled a ball off of his right eye. He flew back to Pittsburgh to have it examined and the news is not good. The Pirates have announced that Burnett needs surgery Friday in Pittsburgh to repair an orbital fracture.

And there's a YouTube of the errant bunt attempt. Here it is:



It's no laughing matter, but when the injury first occurred, Burnett reportedly said, jokingly, "where did the bone go?" (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

SPRING PROJECTED LINEUPS/DEPTH CHARTS

There's no word yet on recovery time for the 35-year-old right-hander, but I asked SI.com injury guru Will Carroll on Twitter and he said it would be a "couple weeks. Just have to get it stable." So, assuming everything goes well, Burnett should be alright for the start of the regular season.

Fortunately for the Pirates, they have starting pitching depth. Even without Burnett, the Pirates have five starters, in Erik Bedard, Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Morton is recovering from hip surgery and may not be ready for the beginning of the season. If both Burnett and Morton are down -- which is the worst-case scenario -- it looks like Brad Lincoln would get the nod.

Burnett was run out of New York after posting a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and an AL-leading 25 wild pitches last season for the Yankees. Still, he has plenty of talent, with the ability to post a high strikeout rate (8.2 per nine innings throughout his career). He was also a valuable member of the 2009 World Series champion Yankees rotation. The move to the NL Central should benefit Burnett as well, whenever he's ready to take the mound.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 10:57 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 11:00 am
 

No long-term extension for Mike Napoli

By Matt Snyder

While fellow World Series catcher Yadier Molina is soon to officially sign a five-year, $75 million contract extension, Mike Napoli has chosen a different route. The Rangers backstop told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that talks on a long-term extension have been "squashed."

“I’d love to be here, but I’ll test the market,” Napoli said (Star-Telegram). “Every player plays to get to free agency. But it’s not something I’m going to worry about. That’s why I have my agent.”

It's an interesting decision for Napoli. He was long adored by fantasy baseball players and stat-heads for his power, but never really allowed to fully blossom due to the Angels not believing he was good enough to hack it defensively. But with one of the best offensive second halves in baseball (1.171 OPS) and a huge postseason -- both offensively and defensively -- Napoli's value has never been higher.

In 2011, Napoli hit .320/.414/.631 with 30 home runs in just 369 plate appearances. He then hit .350/.464/.700 with two homers and 10 RBI in the World Series. It's often been said the Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series, so in that same light you can say Napoli was one strike away from being World Series MVP. And he's wildly popular amongst Rangers fans, too.

Basically, it's the perfect time to cash in. So why isn't he doing so? It could be the Rangers are weary of paying a guy for his career year and low-balled him. It could be he believes he's going to go out and prove he can hit like he did in the second half all season, every season -- in which case he'll get a gargantuan deal next offseason. It's hard to tell without having heard all the behind-the-scenes discussions.

All we know now is that Mike Napoli will be a free agent after this season.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 29, 2012 9:54 pm
 

Spring primer: Arizona Diamondbacks

A

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers didn't rest on the team's unexpected division title, adding Trevor Cahill to an already strong rotation, anchored by Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Arizona also added outfielder Jason Kubel to a two-year, $16 million deal to help out the offense. The Diamondbacks surprised everyone in 2011, but it's safe to say they won't sneak up on anyone in 2012.

Major additions: OF Jason Kubel, RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Takashi Saito, LHP Craig Breslow
Major departures: RHP Jason Marquis

Probable lineup
1. Stephen Drew SS
2. Aaron Hill 2B
3. Justin Upton RF
4. Miguel Montero C
5. Chris Young CF
6. Jason Kubel LF
7. Paul Goldschmidt 1B
8. Ryan Roberts 3B

Probable rotation
1. Ian Kennedy
2. Daniel Hudson
3. Trevor Cahill
4. Joe Saunders
5. Josh Collmenter

Back-end bullpen
Closer: J.J. Putz
Set-up: David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Takashi Saito

Important bench players
OF Gerrardo Parra, UTIL Willie Bloomquist, 1B Lyle Overbay

Prospect to watch
The Diamondbacks traded right-handed starter Jarrod Parker, named the team's No. 1 prospect by Baseball America before the 2011 season, to Oakland in exchange for Cahill. While top-flight pitching prospects don't grow on trees, it may seem like it in Arizona. With two top-10 picks in last season's draft, Arizona took two right-handed power arms in Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley. Those two, along with lefty Tyler Skaggs, give the Diamondbacks perhaps the best trio of pitching prospects in the game. Of the three, Bauer is the one expected to contribute the soonest. The right-hander was the second overall pick in the draft out of UCLA, won the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur players in the country. While he can throw up to 98 mph, his curveball is his best pitch. The Diamondbacks thought about bringing him up for the stretch run last season, but he stayed in the minors, where he made seven starts. While his ERA wasn't pretty (5.96), he did strike out 43 batters in 25 2/3 innings.

Fantasy sleeper: Jason Kubel
"[The Diamondbacks] play in a hitter's park, much like the Metrodome, and recognize that a 29-year-old like Kubel is still young enough to salvage whatever he lost to expansive Target Field. Given his improvement against left-handed pitchers last year, a full season of at-bats could feasibly return Kubel to the 25-homer range. It's a reasonable enough possibility that he's worth a late-round flier in mixed leagues." -- Scott White [Full Diamondbacks fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Ryan Roberts
"You can't overlook the fact that his breakout season hinged on an unsustainably hot April in which he hit .313 with a 1.007 OPS. He hit .239 the rest of the way. Power and speed numbers aside, if his batting average is lagging right out of the gate, the Diamondbacks have little reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's already 31. It's not like he's any sort of building block. With higher-upside third basemen like Ryan Wheeler and Matt Davidson quickly rising through the minor-league system, Roberts is on a shorter leash than his ranking would have you believe." -- Scott White [Full Diamondbacks fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
After last season, how can you look at the Diamondbacks as anything other than a World Series contender? With Kennedy and Hudson continuing their development and solidifying themselves as legitimate top-of-the-rotation starters, plus Cahill and a Saunders that appears to have figured some things out, the pitching takes the Diamondbacks to an easy division title.

Pessimistic outlook
Last year proves to be an aberration, with all the pitchers taking a step back. Meanwhile, Drew never seems to recover from his injury, meaning a full season of Bloomquist and John McDonald at shortstop. It worked for a while last season, but it's unlikely to work again. Hill plays like he did in Toronto, as opposed to the way he played in the desert. With the offense and pitching struggling, the Diamondbacks could fall behind not just the Giants and Rockies, but also the Dodgers.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:48 pm
 

Mariners' Gutierrez to start season on DL

Franklin GutierrezBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez will once again miss opening day, and he could miss all of April after the team announced he suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle.

The good news is he isn't expected to need surgery. He will need at least four weeks before he is able to participate in any baseball activities.

"At this point, we don't know," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. "Every body responds to things differently. We do't know wwhat he'll be able to do and at this point, we'll probably just ease him into things gradually."

Last season Gutierrez didn't play until May after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome during spring training.

Chone Figgins played center field in Wednesday's intrasquad game. Michael Suanders and Casper Wells, along with Figgins, are candidates to replace Gutierrez while he's gone.

Gutierrez played in just 92 games last season, hitting .224/.261/.273 with one home run.

He left Tuesday's workout with the pectoral injury and had an MRI the same day. He flew back to Seattle on Wednesday to see the team's doctor.

In other injury news from Wednesday:

• Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett was scheduled to return to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to have his right eye examined by team doctors after his bunt attempt hit him in the face.

According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Burnett joked, "Where did the bone go?" after the ball hit him in the face.

Burnett wasn't scheduled to throw on Wednesday.
 
• Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson threw his first bullpen session since suffering a concussion on Feb. 20. Hanson threw 30-pitches and told rpeorters he felt good.

"I think I threw a little better than I had expected," Hanson said (via MLB.com). "I've had some time to think about some mechanical stuff. I was surprised by how well I threw."

Hanson may throw live batting practice on Friday, but he still has to pass one more part of the concussion impact test.

•The Angels' Kendrys Morales is making progress from his 2010 ankle injury, hitting from both sides of the plate, something he didn't do last spring. He also added S-turns in his running -- another thing he never did last season.

"He's in a different position now because he's had nothing but a progression to the point where you can see that he'll progress to playing games in a couple of weeks," manager Mike Scioscia told reporters, including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.

• Keeping with the theme of Angels displaced by Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo was cleared by doctors on Wednesday to return to the field.

Trumbo, who had a stress fracture in his right foot, is attempting to make the move to third base. [Orange County Register]

• Cubs catcher Geovany Soto will miss the start of the Cactus League with a sore groin, but told reporters it wasn't a big deal.

"It's spring training, and there's no hurry to get out there," Soto told reporters, including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. "I want to be there as much as I can, just to play. I've had four months off and you train hard all offseason, so you want to get every game possible to get ready for the season."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 29, 2012 6:28 pm
 

A-Rod, Jeter take high road against Bobby V.

Alex RodriguezBy C. Trent Rosecrans

On Tuesday new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine took two little barbs at the Yankees' Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Wednesday, the two Yankees took the high road when asked about Valentine's comments.

"I'm not going to win many battles here when it comes to words, especially against Bobby," Rodriguez told reporters, including the Associated Press.

Jeter said he was "indifferent" about Valentine's comments about his famous flip in the 2001 ALDS against the A's.

"Why are we talking about this, really?" Jeter told the AP. "He must be bored over there, huh? I don't understand."

He added what was a really good question -- "What do you want me to say? I mean, really. What am I supposed to say?"

Valentine did  back off of his statement that he dind't believe the Yankees practiced that play after talking to Red Sox bullpen coach Gary Tuck, who used to be a Yankees catching instructor.

"He said they do practice it. Total mistake on my part because they do practice it, that's for sure," Valentine told the AP. "It's hard to practice that because why are we going to practice a bad throw? That's not what we're doing here. But I get it. I get it. ... I want it on record that I love Derek Jeter as a player. It was not a slight towards him. I love him as a guy, too."

The Yankees actually practiced the play on Wednesday, which may or may not have been a coincidence.

"Ever since I've been here -- in 1996 -- we've asked our shortstops to kind of float in the infield," New York manager Joe Girardi said to the AP and other reporters. "We worked on it today. It happened to be cuts-and-relays day today."

And then there's Eric Chavez, the current Yankees and former Athletic, who had his own opinion about Jeter's famoous play to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate.

"I thought he was safe anyway," Chavez said, according to the AP.

As for Valentine, Jeter said he was "indifferent" and that he didn't know Valentine well enough to know what he was doing.

It should be noted that since Valentine started talking about the Yankees, he's not had to talk about the chicken and beer collapse of 2011, so maybe that had something to do with it.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:22 pm
 

Luke Scott takes a swing at Red Sox fans

Luke Scott

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Luke Scott has never been one to shy away from his opinions, and Wednesday the former Oriole and current Ray took aim with his tongue, not his 7 1/2-foot spear.

Scott. who was injured and didn't play in the Orioles' victory over the Red Sox on the final day of the season, said his teammates were pulling for the Rays to take the final playoff spot from the Red Sox.

The reason, Scott's not a fan of the Red Sox fans. From MLB.com's Bill Chastain:
"Just their arrogance," Scott said. "The fans come in and they take over the city. They're ruthless. They're vulgar. They cause trouble. They talk about your family. Swear at you. Who likes that? When people do that, it just gives you more incentive to beat them. Then when things like [the last game of last season] happen, you celebrate even more. You go to St. Louis -- classiest fans in the game. You do well, there's no vulgarity. You know what? You don't wish them bad."
He added that the team's celebration went up a notch moments after the Orioles won when the Rays' Evan Longoria homered to knock the Red Sox out of the playoffs.
"Everybody's giving high-fives, then all of a sudden [Longoria] homers," Scott said. "Everybody's in the clubhouse and it's like, Bam! And we're like, 'Go home Boston! Pack your bags. See you next year.'"
Then on his way home, Scott even taunted Boston fans.
"It was like someone shot their dog. I rolled down the window and I'm like, 'Ah, hah, sucks doesn't it, when someone laughs or makes fun of you when things aren't going your way.'"
I'm guessing when the Rays and Red Sox play this year, the Sox fans may ratchet up their "ruthless" and "vulgar" ways.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 2:25 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 3:16 pm
 

MLB playoff expansion for '12 extremely likely



By Matt Snyder


There is "momentum" for Major League Baseball to expand the playoffs to include 10 teams, five from each league, beginning in 2012, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has learned. Nothing is finalized but a deal is "extremely likely" and expected to be done soon. A Fox Sports report says the deal is a "go," also saying that a deal is close but not finalized. 

Michael Weiner, head of the players' association, told CBSSports.com's Scott Miller that a decision is expected by Thursday.

Playoff expansion
The expansion of the playoffs to include two wild cards per league was agreed upon by the MLB Players Association and the owners in the new collective bargaining agreement, but the decision hadn't yet been made whether it would start in 2012 or 2013. Commissioner Bud Selig had set a deadline of March 1 on when there would be an announcement, so evidently he's taking full advantage of Leap Day. Regardless, expect an official announcement by Thursday at the latest. And expect it to be expansion for this season.

The new playoff format is expansion in the number of teams, but it also puts more emphasis on the regular season, in terms of winning the division. With this new format, the two wild cards will play a one-game playoff. The winner will then have to turn around -- possibly after having to use their ace -- and play the team with the best regular-season record in the LDS.

This new format should appease most clubs. The titans will be happy that a wild card can't slip in on equal footing (see the Phillies vs. Cardinals series last season) and clubs in loaded divisions like the AL East and NL East now have a better shot at getting into the one-game wild card round.

One argument some seem to have against the new format is that if this format was in place last season, the magical last day of the season wouldn't have happened. True, but we fawned all over that night because it was one in a million. Most seasons, we aren't going to get anything close to that drama in Game 162. But now, in the new format, we get two head-to-head, do-or-die games the day after the regular season ends.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com