Tag:Athletics
Posted on: August 31, 2011 5:19 pm
 

On Deck: Ubaldo digs his new digs

OD

By C. Trent Rosecrans


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Ubaldo JimenezHome sweet home:
This season Ubaldo Jimenez was 3-5 with a 5.55 ERA at Coors Field, but he likes his new digs much better. In two starts at Progressive Field, he's allowed just 12 hits and struck out 16 batters with a 0.60 ERA. On the road, he's struggled with his new team, allowing 25 hits and 11.77 ERA in three starts. But hey, tonight the Indians and Jimenez are in Cleveland, so the A's should watch out. Rich Harden (4-2, 4.55 ERA) goes for the A's, who have lost four straight and five of their last six. Athletics at Indians, 7:05 p.m. ET

Nine on the line: The Diamondbacks can extend their season-long winning streak to nine with a victory against the Rockies tonight. Arizona right-hander Josh Collmenter is 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA in his last four starts, giving up just five earned run during that run. Arizona starters have a 0.83 ERA during the eight-game winning streak. Not only has Arizona won eight straight overall, it's won its last 11 at Chase Field, tying a team record set in 2000 and matched in 2003. The Diamondbacks have also won 13 of their last 17 against the Rockies at Chase Field and 10 of 14 in all games against Colorado this season. Rockies at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ET

Felix HernandezDan HarenMarquee matchup: You want pitching? Look west as Felix Hernandez and the Mariners face Dan Haren and the Angels. Hernandez, last year's Cy Young Award winner, has struggled in his career against Los Angeles, going 4-9 with 4.01 ERA against the Angels, but is 0-1 with a 2.40 ERA in two starts in Anaheim this season. Haren, on the other hand, loves pitching at Safeco Field, where he is 4-1 with a 2.26 ERA in eight career starts. He's 9-4 overall against the Mariners with a 2.52 ERA. Angels at Mariners, 10:10 p.m ET

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Posted on: August 31, 2011 2:04 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Trout has career night

Trout
By Evan Brunell

Mike Trout, Angels: Trout authored a game we may be seeing a lot of over the next two decades, slamming three home runs and driving in five, going 2 for 4 with a walk and three runs scored. Trout was responsible for the first four runs of the game, homering in the second and fourth to push Los Angeles to a 4-0 lead in an eventual 13-6 win. The heralded prospect, just 20, absolutely will earn more playing time as a result. Over 65 at-bats on the year, his line is .246/.306/.523, which L.A. will happily take.

Roy Halladay, Phillies: Halladay had another... well, Halladay-like performance, tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Reds, plus tacking on three RBI thanks to a bases-loaded double in the sixth. The rest of the Phillies' scoring was done on homers, with two by Ryan Howard, and one apiece by Hunter Pence and Raul Ibanez. Halladay's ERA got shaved to 2.47, with his record now 16-5. He's a lock for the Cy Young and could threaten to win the MVP.

Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks:
Parra is one of these players who sticks on a roster the entire year, and even plays enough to accumulate significant playing time but is rarely featured in these wrapups. The left fielder enjoyed a 4-for-5 night, scoring three runs and driving in two, stroking a double and triple in a game that raised his overall line to .291/.351/.422 in 358 plate appearances. Parra struggled through a lousy 2010 after opening some eyes in 2009, and the 24-year-old has rebounded this year, mostly appearing in left but also making appearances in left and center field.



Trevor Cahill, Athletics: Life isn't good for Cahill, as Rotoworld.com details: "He's given up at least seven runs in three of his last 10 starts and at least five runs in four of his last 10, causing his ERA to spike from 3.16 to 4.26 ... He entered the game with a 7.00 ERA in 45 innings since the All-Star break ... Since going 6-0 with a 1.72 ERA through his first eight starts of the season, Cahill is 3-13 with an ERA approaching 6.00." Yeah, that's about right. Cahill's latest start saw the Indians paste him for five runs in 5 1/3 innings, spiking his ERA to 4.26. Cahill won 18 games last year, but has pitched wholly undeserving of that mark thus far this season.

Anthony Vasquez, Mariners: Seattle is trying to get a long look at the right-hander for next season after he posted a 3.57 ERA in 24 starts between Double- and Triple-A, but he now has two straight poor starts that could bump him from the rotation. The 24-year-old gave up eight runs, seven earned to the Angels -- four runs alone to Trout -- in just four innings, contributing three walks against just one strike out en route to shoving his ERA all the way up to 11.57 through two starts.

Tim Stauffer, Padres:  Seven earned runs and seven walks in 1 1/3 innings, giving up just one hit to the Dodgers in the meantime, with everything mentioned ocurring in the 2nd inning sans one walk. It was not a good day to be Tim Stauffer, whose promising ERA spiraled to 3.76 after entering the day at 3.42. It's a testament to how well Stauffer has pitched that his ERA isn't out of control, but it was still a nightmare outing that included walking opposing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda with the bases loaded. Reliever Anthony Bass didn't help matters, surrendering a grand slam when replacing Stauffer that added three runs to the righty's night. According to Stats, LLC, the six walks in the 2nd inning were the most since Daniel Cabrera also surrendered six walks to the Red Sox, this time in the first inning way back on April 7, 2006.

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Posted on: August 28, 2011 2:15 am
 

Verlander's win total depends on number of starts

Justin VerlanderBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Justin Verlander's most impressive stat on Sunday was his 20th victory, a mark no other pitcher has reached this season and just three pitchers reached a season ago.

The Tigers' right-hander now has his first 20-win season in his career, after finishing with 19 in 2009, tied for the most in baseball. As Danny Knobler pointed out, he's the first to reach the 20-win barrier before August since Curt Schilling did it in 2002. Schilling finished that season with 23 wins -- one behind teammate Randy Johnson for the most in baseball that year.

How wins will Verlander have when the 2011 season is done?

At this point -- when he's won 16 of his last 18 starts and eight straight -- it seems like he'll win either 25 or 26 games, depending on how many more starts he makes. The Tigers have 30 more games and two days off in the regular season, so they have the option of giving him either five or six more starts in the season. 

Verlander will get an extra day of rest this week, pitching Friday against the White Sox instead of in five days in a makeup game against the Royals on Thursday. He will then start at Cleveland in the day game on Sept. 7. After that, the Tigers have options because of their first off day of the month, Sept. 8. 

If the Tigers go with pitching Verlander every five days from there, he would make six starts in the last month, his final start in the next-to-last day of the season, Sept. 27 against the Indians. But that option would mean Verlander wouldn't be ready to pitch in the playoffs until Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 3 with an extra day's rest because of the off day on Oct. 2. The team could move him up to pitch on short rest in Game 2 on Oct. 1, but it's not something he's ever done.

What makes more sense is keeping the rotation intact through the first off day, pitching Verlander on Sept. 13 at the White Sox and Sept. 18 at Oakland, before the team's second off day on Sept. 19. From there, they would be able to take stock of the AL Central race and whether they would want Verlander to make one more start or two more starts. After Verlander's victory and the Indians' victory over the Royals and Chicago's win in Seattle, the Tigers led the Indians by 6 1/2 games and the White Sox by 7.

If on the 19th the Tigers think the race will be close, they can pitch Verlander on five days rest and get him a start Sept. 23 against the Orioles and then the last day of the season, on Sept. 28 against Cleveland. If the team does go that route, they will have until the last day to decide if Verlander is needed. If he isn't, he can rest on the last day of the season and let Verlander start Game 1 of the ALDS. If he pitches on Sept. 28, he would be ready for Game 3. That's similar to what the Tigers did in 2009, when they lost three games in a row leading into the last day of the season, needing a Verlander victory to advance to a tie-breaker game with the Twins for the final playoff spot. Verlander got that win, but the Tigers lost the play-in game to Minnesota.

However, if on the 19th it appears the Tigers have it wrapped up, they can keep the rotation intact and have him pitch Sept. 24 against the Orioles and then start Game 1 with an extra day of rest, which is probably the scenario that everyone in Detroit would prefer, even if it means Verlander wins just 25 games instead of 26.

Whatever the choice is, he'll face the same teams -- the White Sox, Indians, A's and Orioles, the difference is if he faces the Indians once or twice. Against those four teams, Verlander is 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA. The White Sox have done most of the damage to him, scoring 13 earned runs in 29 innings over four starts, although Verlander was 3-1 against Chicago. The A's beat Verlander on April 16, getting four runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings in Oakland. He is 2-0 against the Indians in two starts this season and also defeatd the Orioles in his lone start against Baltimore.

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 11:39 am
 

No shortage of rumored names in Cubs' GM search



By Matt Snyder


Friday will mark exactly one week since the Cubs announced they had fired general manager Jim Hendry. Cubs' chairman Tom Ricketts asserted he wants to find a GM with a strong track record, an analytical background and with an emphasis on player development. The latter two criteria would seem to point to someone opposite of Hendry -- who had a recent history of big contracts and trading prospects for veterans. The former criterion points to an experienced general manager, not a first-timer.

So many names have been tossed around for what is absolutely an attractive job. Now, this is where the Cubs haters all jump up and down and start screaming about how bad the Cubs "suck." No one in his right mind can deny nearly any general manager would want this job, though. As the Cubs' general manager, one would have the capability to work with a payroll that dwarfs any other in the NL Central. One would have a rabid fan base that is absolutely desperate for a World Series, so residing over one would be the ultimate sports accomplishment. Also, in the present, the Cubs have more than $50 million falling off the payroll next season, so there's a chance to basically start over. No ballclub can compare to the resources the Yankees have, but there's no reason the Cubs can't eventually be the Red Sox of the National League -- and there is no Yankees in the NL.

With this in mind, you'd have to figure almost every name is initially in the mix with few exceptions. And it sounds like that's true. Let's sum up the recent rumors:

ESPN's Buster Olney said earlier this week that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein "could" be a name for the Cubs to consider. What Epstein did under John Henry's ownership group is something similar to what the Cubs want under the Ricketts family, so it makes sense. Of course, Epstein also has very strong Boston roots and is currently in a better situation than what he'd be taking over with the Cubs. Unless he wants a fresh, new challenge or is simply tired of competing with the Yankees, it doesn't seem like he'd have any incentive to leave. For what it's worth, Henry emailed Red Sox reporters about the speculation:

“This kind of speculation happens from time to time to successful GMs and managers,” Henry wrote (BostonHerald.com). “The Cubs have one of the best presidents in baseball. I think this shows how highly regarded Theo is by the media and baseball in general.”

• Speaking of AL East powers, a "long-odds" option is Ricketts calling Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and trying to convince him to head to Chicago as a package deal with manager Joe Girardi. Cashman's contract does expire at the end of the season. (SunTimes.com) This is total speculation on my part, but there's not much more Cashman could accomplish with the Yankees and he could very well be tired of ownership forcing his hand (a la the Rafael Soriano contract this past offseason that he didn't want to give). Also, keep in mind Girardi had two different stints with the Cubs as a player and was born and raised in Peoria, Ill. This scenario makes sense, if Ricketts could convince the two to leave New York. But, again, this was reported as a long shot.

• More AL East: Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman has been named by pretty much every reporter in the business as a possibility. Friedman should be incredibly attractive because of what he's helped do with the Rays. He now has experience building a farm system basically from the ground up and in Chicago he'd be able to sign and keep higher-priced players. He also wouldn't have to worry about attendance or moving. ESPN's Olney wrote about Friedman's tough decision this coming offseason.

• Another small-market guy who might enjoy getting to have a few extra payroll dollars for once is A's general manager Billy Beane. According to Susan Slusser of SFGate.com, Beane "might consider an offer" if the Cubs came after him. Slusser also reports the Cubs are "expected" to talk to Beane. Another reason Beane might want to bail on Oakland is how long it's taking to get the A's stadium situation resolved. Beane is signed through 2014, but the report indicated owner Lew Wolff would let Beane out of the deal if he wanted.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is an option, despite that he's a bit more old-school than Ricketts seemed to say he preferred. In the case of Colletti, one reported benefit would be that he'd bring Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg back to the organization as the Cubs' manager, the job which Sandberg didn't get last season. (SunTimes.com)

• On the flip-side of much of the above notes, SI.com's Jon Heyman reported that the big names -- Cashman, Beane, Epstein, Friedman -- are not likely to take the job. Heyman instead reports it's going to come down to Rick Hahn and Josh Byrnes. Hahn is the vice president and assistant general manager of the White Sox and is considered a true up-and-comer by several in the business. In fact, several outlets have ranked him as the top GM candidate in baseball (excluding current GMs). The issue, of course, is he doesn't have experience as the top dog. Byrnes is the vice president of baseball operations for the Padres and has previously been the GM of the Diamondbacks. He had a hand in putting together the 2007 playoff team, but when things fell apart afterward, he was fired in 2010.

• According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, Cashman is "very unlikely" and the Cubs might have to pay something like $10 million a year to pry Epstein away from Boston.

So there you have it. Several huge names, a hot-shot up-and-comer and lots of things we don't know. We need to keep in mind that initial interest in either side doesn't necessarily mean a job offer -- or acceptance of the job offer -- is coming. We also have to keep in mind that guys presently on the job, especially those in the middle of pennant races, will publicly deny interest no matter what.

Ricketts will likely want a new GM in place very quickly once this season ends, but until then -- about five weeks -- we'll continue to see the names swirl.

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 9:55 am
Edited on: August 25, 2011 10:06 am
 

Pepper: MVP arguments heat up



By Matt Snyder


It's that time of the baseball season. You know, we're nearing September, so in addition to watching the pennant races, it's the time when people start to pretty heavily argue about the MVP of each league. In addition to arguing which players have the best numbers, two fundamental criteria spark discussion as well.

1. Are pitchers eligible? They are. But many believe they shouldn't be (see Evan Brunell's post on this).

2. Are players on teams not in contention eligible? They are. But many believe they shouldn't be.

On No. 2, enter Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays.

He leads the majors in home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He's walked 21 more times than he's struck out. He has a cannon in right field, but can also play third if his team needs it. He's so scary to opposing ballclubs that he leads the AL with 18 intentional walks. And if you like this sort of thing, Bautista is dominating WAR (wins above replacement player), WPA (win probability added) and all other advanced value stats.

Basically, he's the most valuable player in baseball unless you discount him based upon his team.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous believes it shouldn't even be close.

“On and off the field you can’t find anybody more complete than him,” Anthopolous said (Slam Sports). “His work ethic, community work, character in the clubhouse, helping out teammates, they’re all first-rate. And his performance on the field has been as good as it gets ... defensively, offensively, changing positions in the middle of the season. I mean, check off all the boxes.”

It's going to be interesting to see how the votes fall, assuming things remain similar through the next five weeks of play. One thing that always makes me cringe is when people say something like "he plays for a losing team" or "how valuable can he be? They could finish fourth without him."

Look at the standings. The Blue Jays are three games over .500 and simply stuck in the wrong division. They'd only be four games out in the AL Central -- actually closer, though, because the schedule in the AL Central is worlds easier than the AL East. The Jays are most certainly not a "losing team."

And if you took Bautista off the Jays, they'd be far worse. It would be a much bigger hit to the team than if, say, the Red Sox lost Jacoby Ellsbury.

Hustle is bush league now? Evidently the Tigers were yelling at Rays' infielder Sean Rodriguez for ... hustling? Tuesday, Tigers starter -- and reportedly "possibly some others" -- took exception with Rodriguez for running hard on an infield pop out. Rays manager Joe Maddon took exception to that. "For anybody to bark at another player for … hustling is absolutely insane, ludicrous,'' Maddon said (TampaBay.com).

Canseco's life: I'd rather forget about Jose Canseco, but many aren't of that mindset -- witness his 400,000-plus Twitter followers. So if you want to read a lengthly feature on Canseco's "surreal" life, click on through to TheStar.com. It's well written and covers tons of material.

LoMo still in the dark: It was a bit odd when Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison was demoted to the minors a few weeks ago. His batting average is a bit low, but his OPS is above average (115 OPS-plus) and he has 18 home runs and 61 RBI. Many believed he was being punished for being such an outspoken person Twitter and in other circles, though it hasn't been explicitly said. But he's back now and not worried about why. "I haven't talked to anybody. I don't really care. I'm just looking to move forward," he said (Sun-Sentinel.com).

'Cry-babies:' The Mets don't win more games because they are "cry-babies," according to former big-leaguer and current Phillies broadcaster Gary Matthews. "Tell them Sarge said it - the Mets are crybabies," Matthews said (NYDailyNews.com). "That's why they lose."

Bell has more on mind than possible trades: Padres closer Heath Bell has heard his name in trade talk for quite a while now, but that's not the foremost thing on his mind. Specifically, his Dad has been battled cancer for a few years and just underwent open-heart surgery Wednesday. “It’s kinda helped me get through all the trade and waiver stuff,” said Bell (signonSanDiego.com). “Everybody’s talking about that and I’m thinking, “Man, I’m just glad my dad’s doing well.’ ”

No relief yet: White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy has been pretty good in short doses this season, but he doesn't believe that means he's in need of a switch to the bullpen, as he's still technically recovering from a rare surgical procedure. "I've had people tell me, 'Oh, you look good in short stints, Have you thought about going to the bullpen?'" Peavy said (ChicagoTribune.com). "To me, that's not a thought process of mind, simply because I haven't got to where the doctors told me you're as good as you're going to get. They told me from a year to 18 months, you are where you are."

It's opposite day: Did you ever think you'd hear a player talking about feeling less pressure playing for the Yankees than the A's? Yeah, me neither. But Eric Chavez has extenuating circumstances. He went from being one of the best third basemen in baseball to never being able to stay healthy on a consistent basis, thereby creating pressure for himself when he did get on the field. He was also being paid a pretty penny. Now, as a Yankee, he's feeling fine.

“All of that [pressure] is completely gone,” he said (NJ.com). “It was so refreshing going into spring training. I don’t want to say I had to change myself as a ballplayer, but I am, I’m different now. And I’m okay with that because I don’t have that big contract on my shoulders. There’s tons of hitters in here that will produce and you just have to be part of the team.”

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 2:08 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Rays walk-off on fielder's choice

Sean Rodriguez

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Sean Rodriguez, Rays: Rodriguez didn't get the big hit -- or any hit for that matter -- but after walking as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, his sprint to second on a grounder gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory over Detroit. In a perfect example of how hustle helps a team, Rodriguez was on first with bases loaded and two outs in the 10th inning when Elliot Johnson hit a grounder to Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge. Inge went to second to try to end the inning, but second baseman Ramon Santiago couldn't get to the bag before Rodriguez, who was safe, allowing Ben Zobrist to score the winning run on a fielder's choice. 

Coco Crisp, Athletics: Crisp went 4 for 4 with two homers -- one from each side of the plate -- in the A's 6-4 victory over the Yankees in 10 innings. His three-run homer in the top of the 10th off of Rafael Soriano was good for the game-winner. Crisp finished with five RBI. Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher also hit two homers (both from the left side) in the losing effort.

Tim Lincecum, Giants: Forget his usual dominating performance on the mound -- eight innings and four hits with five strikeouts is pretty much par for the course for the Giants' ace. No, it was his bat that made Wednesday night different. While the struggling Giants have been looking for offensive help, Lincecum answered the call with an RBI single in the fifth inning on a high chopper over Padres first baseman Jesus Guzman, scoring Brandon Belt from third. It was Lincecum's first RBI of the season and proved to be the game-winner in the 2-1 San Francisco victory.


Aneury Rodriguez, Astros: With bases loaded in the 10th inning, Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Troy Tulowitzki to score the winning run for a 7-6 Colorado win. Rodriguez walked Tulowitzki with one out in the inning and after allowing a single to Jonathan Herrera, a wild pitch allowed Herera to move to second, taking away the double play possibility. With first base open, the Astros chose to intentionally walk Kevin Kouzmanoff to get to Eliezer Alfonzo. With a 1-1 count, Rodriguez bounced a ball well wide of the plate, allowing Tulowitzki to score easily.

Jaime Garcia, Cardinals: After walking the first two batters he faced in the third inning, Garcia allowed six consecutive hits, good for six Dodger runs. The left-hander went on to take the loss as Los Angeles added another run off of him in the fifth inning and two more off of Kyle McClellan in the sixth inning for a 9-4 victory as the Dodgers finished off their first sweep in St. Louis since 1993. Garcia hasn't won in his last six starts and lasted just five innings in four of his last five. Since going 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his first 10 starts of the season, Garcia's gone 5-6 with 5-6 ERA in his last 16 starts.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers have now lost three of their last four games and have been outscored 34-7 in those three losses, including a 13-2 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday. Starter Matt Harrison gave up seven runs on 11 hits to earn the loss for the Rangers, while the offense wasn't too hot either -- the Rangers trailed 6-0 before they picked up their first hit, a solo homer by Mike Napoli in the fourth inning. With the loss and the Angels' victory, Los Angeles moved to just 2 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West with their sixth consecutive victory.

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Posted on: August 24, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 9:08 pm
 

Irene could impact several series this weekend

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Reds and Marlins doubled up with two games Wednesday in an attempt to get ahead of Hurricane Irene (and away from the eyes of pesky fans, by the looks of the photo to your right from today's early game), which is on its way to the United States this weekend. While the Reds should be safely back in Cincinnati tonight, the Marlins may not be able to avoid the storm that is projected to hit much of the east coast of the country, as they head to Philadelphia for three games.

TBS has already changed its nationally televised game on Sunday from the Yankees and Orioles in Baltimore to the presumably dry Milwaukee, where the Cubs will face the Brewers.

Boston manager Terry Francona said the Red Sox and Major League Baseball are "trying to brainstorm" contingency plans and could schedule a doubleheader either Friday or Saturday in an attempt to play all three games against the A's at Fenway Park, according to the Boston Herald.

Along with the games in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, the Mets' series against the Braves at Citi Field could be affected by the storm, which is currently expected to reach land on Saturday and could hit run up the coast through Monday.

"The weather reports are all different, so we'll see what path it takes," commissioner Bud Selig told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But we are trying to make as many contingency plans as we can. We're trying to figure out what we could do in case we have the one really bad day of rain."

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Posted on: August 24, 2011 10:30 am
 

Pepper: Quade's excusing of Castro a mistake

Castro

By Evan Brunell

Lighten up: Much has been made of Starlin Castro missing a pitch in Sunday's game, with his back to the plate while playing in the field. Understandably, many people -- including ESPN announcer Bobby Valentine -- were outraged, with Valentine excoriating Castro on air.

Also unsurprisingly, Cubs players are rushing to Castro's defense, with Aramis Ramirez the latest to tell everyone to back off. And Ramirez has a pretty good idea what it may be like to be Castro, who is 21 years old. Ramirez made his big-league debut at age 19.

"People need to realize that he's only 21 -- he's going to make mistakes," Ramirez told MLB.com. "He's going to make mental mistakes. ... I made it to the big leagues when I was 19, and I made a lot of mistakes. That's part of [the game]."

Ramirez added that Castro has apologized to the team and everyone's moved on.

"I think [such a big deal was made] because it was an ESPN game, a nationally televised game," Ramirez said. "[But] that stuff shouldn't happen. Starlin would be the first one to tell you that shouldn't happen. Even when you're a veteran, you make mistakes."

Here's the problem, though: Mike Quade had something to say, and it was the wrong thing. Castro was benched Monday in a pretty clear response to his not paying attention to the pitch, but Quade passed it off as a mental day, missing an opportunity to show everyone -- including owner Tom Ricketts, who may fire Quade after the year -- that he's the boss. He missed another opportunity by excusing Castro's behavior for the limelight of being a Cubs player.

"I may agree that too much was being made of it but this is the world we're in and this is the spotlight we're under," Quade said. "You can think what you want, but when you're playing in a market like this at a level like this, you can expect this kind of attention, and you can expect to be under a microscope like this."

Since when did a player's uniform affect attention span? Not paying attention during the game is not paying attention, period.

Back at it
: The next outing for Stephen Strasburg will come on Saturday, which will be his fifth rehab start since returning from Tommy John surgery. It's also the first one that will be at a higher level than Single-A, with Strasburg heading to Triple-A, which should allow Strasburg to lock in and focus on executing pitches against advanced competition as he prepares for an early September return to Washington. (Washington Times)

Will Wandy go? Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle says that how the Astros handle the Wandy Rodriguez waiver claim situation will go a long way in determining how new owner Jim Crane will handle things. " Is he really about trying try to build things the right way for sustainable success, or is the endgame nothing more than to dump salary for dumping salary’s sake?" Campbell writes. "If the Astros do nothing more than a salary dump, however, then fans have reason to be afraid — very afraid — for the future. Houston is too big and too good of a market to become the National League’s Kansas City of the South — perpetually turning over the roster with young, cheap players without committing the resources necessary to build a winner."

Best scooper: Eric Hosmer wasn't called up to the majors until May 6, but his 27 scoops at first base (yes, this really is measured) is just one behind Adam Lind for most in the AL, while Carlos Pena leads baseball with 52. Three additional AL players have 27 scoops. “What I had to learn when I got here,” Hosmer told the Kansas City Star, “was, when you pick it, you’ve got to stay through it (with a sweeping motion). You have an imaginary line on where you think the ball is going to bounce. Before, I was just working up and down. Then I learned to go through the ball.”

Capping the draft: There were plenty of big paydays to high school and college players once the dust settled last week on the signing deadline for drafted players. The money is so exorbitant, that it's only deepened commissioner Bud Selig's resolve to introduce a hard-slotting system. But is that good for baseball? (Kansas City Star)

Moneyball: Before long, the blockbuster movie centered around the book that made so many waves in baseball will premiere, with Brad Pitt as A's GM Billy Beane. New York Magazine has a great story out about the movie and how it had to jump through hoops to get made... and what, exactly, Hollywood is taking away from Moneyball.

Game changed: But Billy Beane says the game is different these days, and the gap between the big- and low-money teams is even more pronounced, with the window for small markets to compete that much smaller than just a decade ago, as Oakland has been reduced to taking fliers on players as their only options.  “Sometimes, you’re relegated to buying that lottery ticket,” Beane told the New York Times. “Anybody will tell you that the lottery is not a great way to invest your money. But sometimes, you don’t have a lot of options.”

Window closing? Since the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, they have yet to win another postseason game. With Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols and others only getting older and reaching free agency, is it possible St. Louis' window of competition has closed? It seems like it, but how did the window get missed in the first place with strong teams over the last four years? (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Brave injuries
: Tommy Hanson, one of Atlanta's best pitchers, keeps experiencing setbacks while sensation Jose Constanza is hobbled by a right-ankle sprain. Constanza is day-to-day and could be back as early as Wednesday, but Hanson is a different story. He threw a nine-pitch throwing session on Monday, the first time throwing from the mound since Aug. 6, but the report was sobering enough that his Tuesday bullpen session was canceled. Hanson will now wait for his condition to improve. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Say-Hey Kid: Cameron Maybin received an honor by spending time at the home of baseball great Willie Mays, and Maybin was understandably bowled over by the meeting. Mays has been impressed with Maybin this season and invited him over when San Diego was in San Francisco before Tuesday's game. The Giants said while Mays has been known to go out to dinner with young players, they can't recall an invitation to go to Mays' home ever being extended to a player. “I took him my jersey, signed it for him,” Maybin told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Think of that. My jersey’s in Willie Mays’ house.”

Starting Greinke: The Brewers considered delaying Zack Greinke's next start so he could face the Cardinals, but manager Ron Roenicke may not go that route. Roenicke believes that Milwaukee should focus on winning every game, while Greinke isn't keen on starting a game on eight days rest. Nothing is decided yet, but the outcome appears obvious. (MLB.com)

Web Gems: Last season, Sam Miller of the Orange County Register found an East Coast bias in Web Gems, which may have been in part due to fan voting. This season, though, with tweaked rules, there is no such bias. The top five teams with the most Web Gems in 2011 are the Indians, Rangers, Rays, Brewers and Royals.

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