Tag:Dusty Baker
Posted on: April 13, 2011 9:37 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2011 11:24 pm
 

Is Reds' Chapman hurt?

Aroldis Chapman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Could there be something wrong with Aroldis Chapman? Or is he just semi-human?

"We don't know," Dusty Baker told FSN Ohio after the game.

After he walked the first batter he faced on five pitches Wednesday against the Padres, the Reds sent out athletic trainer Paul Lessard and pitching coach Bryan Price to check on him. Chapman stayed in the game, but was then pulled after throwing out Jason Bartlett at third base on Orlando Hudson's sacrifice attempt.

There was no apparent injury, but Chapman's velocity was way down. How far down? His first pitch was 94 mph -- and it was his fastest pitch of the night. The last pitch he threw was clocked at 89 mph. All of nine of his pitches were called "changeups" by MLB.com's Gameday application.

"Chapman wasn't throwing like Chapman," Baker said after the game. "We went out and asked if he was doing OK and he said yes. [Catcher] Ramon [Hernandez] said he thought something was wrong. Chapman said he was OK, which is what they say in Cuban baseball. We took him out because he wasn't throwing like Chapman."

He has shown a tendency to slow down on consecutive nights, but he was also throwing less than 100 in Tuesday night's outing against the Padres. He threw one fastball 98 mph on Wednesday and then everything else was 94 mph or less. Wednesday's outing was his fourth in the last five days.

Before Wednesday's 3-2 loss, Baker said he wasn't worried.

"There's nothing to be alarmed about," Baker told reporters before Wednesday's game (via the Cincinnati Enquirer). "I've been saying the same thing when people want to see him everyday. He's gone three out of four days. If he goes two innings last night, it would have been even worse the second inning. We wouldn't have had him today. And there's a good chance that off day wouldn't help at all."

On Tuesday, Chapman was very good, striking out two in a perfect inning even without his peak velocity. Wednesday he only got one out and was charged with an unearned run. That run was the tying run, which led the to team's 3-2 loss to the Padres.

Maybe there's nothing wrong with Chapman -- who could be seen getting yelled at by Hernandez after a double switch took both out of the game in the eight inning -- and it's just showing his limitations, and perhaps the limitations of the human body. Chapman can throw harder the anyone in the world, but can he do it consistently?

He's already showed a big drop when used back-to-back days, but could he have to be used with even more rest to remain superhuman? That would hurt his chances of becoming the Reds' closer and also raises questions about his ability to start. 

Hernandez said he called out Price and Lessard because he thought Chapman looked tired.

"I told him, 'you know what, I know you want to go through it,'" Hernandez said (via the Cincinnati Enquirer). "I understand that You one of the main guys for seventh and eighth. ... if you have something sore, let them know. They'll give you one or two days off. It's better that you take two or three days.'"

"He was mad he came out the game. He's young. He'll learn. It's better to miss two or three days than a month."

I don't think anyone expects him to be pumping out 105 mph fastballs inning after inning as a starter, but the stark decrease in his velocity on Wednesday was certainly alarming.

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Posted on: April 6, 2011 10:24 am
Edited on: April 6, 2011 5:10 pm
 

Pepper: Royal excitement

Royals

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Are the Royals baseball's most exciting team?

Well, through five games they are, that's for sure. All four of the Royals' victories this season have come in their final at-bat. Tuesday's walk-off winner was Melky Cabrera's 12th-inning RBI single for a 7-6 victory over the White Sox.

In the team's lone loss, on opening day, the Royals' Alex Gordon was just feet short of a walk-off homer in a 4-2 loss to the Angels last Thursday.

"All of a sudden, you just expect us to win and that's it," Royals infielder Chris Getz told MLB.com . "There are plenty of doubters out there, no one's giving us much of a chance, but what do we have to lose? We've got that good feeling and we'll just ride it out."

The Royals have had a different hero each night. In their first win, Kila Ka'aihue led off the ninth inning with a homer to break a tie, the next day the Royals scored two in the eighth inning, capped by Getz's RBI single. The Royals then used a three-run walk-off homer by Matt Treanor (above) in the 13th to beat the Angels in the series finale.

With four victories in their final at-bat, the Royals may not be the best team in 2011, but they're worth sticking around to watch.

Last season the Braves lead the big leagues with 25 victories in their final at-bat.

SEARCHING FOR A WIN -- Another day, another Red Sox loss. Will the Red Sox go winless this season and will the Reds go undefeated? Eye on Baseball's Matt Snyder joins blog favorite Lauren Shehadi with the answers (which, well, are both 'no.')

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS -- Ubaldo Jimenez's thumb is better -- but may not be good enough to allow him to make his start Friday in Pittsburgh. The Rockies' right-hander is expected to throw a bullpen today to test the cuticle injury on his right thumb. If Jimenez can't start, Jorge De La Rosa would start in his spot. De La Rosa will be on regular rest following Sunday's snow-out. [MLB.com ]

SHIFT BE A-GONE -- Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said putting three men on the right side of the infield has never been an effective strategy against him. Last season he had more singles to left field than right. The Indians, though, had good luck with the shift on Tuesday. The Indians used the shift and Gonzalez was 0 for 4 with two groundouts to the right side. [WEEI.com ]

COSTLY ERROR -- Jayson Werth's error was one of several events that led to the Nationals' 3-2 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday. [CSNWashington.com ]

A TRADITION LIKE NO OTHER -- I absolutely love the baseball tradition of giving a guy the silent treatment after his first homer in the big leagues. Tuesday's victim was the Angels' Hank Conger. [Press-Enterprise ]

WELCOME HOME -- Padres starter Aaron Harang looked like his old self in a victory over the Giants on Tuesday. In his first season with his hometown Padres, Harang certainly looked comfortable at Petco Park. [San Diego Union-Tribune ]

CALLED SHOT -- Toronto's Yunel Escobar told teammates Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Encarnacion the team would come back to win, even though they were down 5-0 in the middle of Tuesday's game against the A's. After a four-run sixth inning to tie the game, Escobar delivered on his promise with a two-run homer in the 10th to give Toronto the win. [MLB.com ]

NO MINORS FOR LEAKE -- Reds manager Dusty Baker said sending starter Mike Leake was never an option, even though it appeared that Leake made the team out of spring only because of the injuries to Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. Baker said Leake was overthrowing in the spring and looked like the guy who started the season 6-1 with a 3.53 ERA in Tuesday's win over the Astros. Leake, the Reds' first-round pick in 2009 made the big league rotation out of spring training last season, bypassing the minors altogether.  [Cincinnati Enquirer ]

BELT MAY BE DEMOTED -- When Cody Ross returns to the Giants' lineup, rookie first baseman Brandon Belt could be the odd man out in San Francisco. The Giants say they will base their decision on Belt's play, but sending Belt down would keep the status quo. With Ross back in right field, Aubrey Huff could move back to first. Or if the team decides to keep Belt, Huff would move to left and would make Pat Burrell a bench player. Also, putting Belt in the minors for more than 20 days would keep him from accruing a full year of service time and delay his free agency a year. [FOXSports.com ]

NO FEUD -- Former Met Pedro Feliciano said he was going to strike out Ike Davis when the Yankees face the Mets next month. Davis was uninterested in escalating the "feud."

Davis said it was Feliciano's job to strike him out, and well, last season he struck out 138 times, so "it's not that tough of a feat." [New York Post ]

BANDWAGON ROOM -- Attendance at Yankee Stadium through the first four games of the season is down about 8,000 fans per game. [ESPNNewYork.com ]

YANKS AREN'T ALONE -- As we mentioned the other day, it's not just Yankee Stadium that has its share of empty seats -- Wrigley Field has plenty of seats available, even for the seagulls. [Chicago Sun-Times ]

ON THE OTHER HAND -- Blue Jays fans are excited for their team in Toronto. [Slam! Sports ]

SUNSHINE BALL -- Is there any hope for baseball in Florida past March? [MASNSports.com ]

ROLAIDS ALERT -- The folks over at Big League Stew take a look at the top 10 new concessions at MLB parks this season. 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb  on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.  

 


Posted on: March 30, 2011 2:43 pm
 

Dreaming of a white opening day

By C. Trent Rosecrans

BrewersCINCINNATI -- I just got back from Great American Ball Park where the Brewers and Reds had shortened workouts because of the snow in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, up the road in Columbus, the exhibition between the Indians and their Triple-A Columbus team was suspended after 2 1/3 innings because of snow and icy field conditions.

The good news is that the snow has stopped in Cincinnati and is expected to be dry, although cool, at gametime tomorrow, where it's predicted to be 44 degrees and cloudy for the 2:15 first pitch.

"And you believe them?" Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "If there's one thing I learned about Ohio, it's never count on what they say [the weather will be.]"

Cleveland doesn't start until Friday, hosting the White Sox. According to Weather.com, there will be a high of 42 and partly cloudy for the Indians' opener.

Other forecasts for tomorrow from Weather.com:

Braves at Nationals -- 43 with light rain at 1 p.m. EST
Tigers at Yankees -- 44 with showers at 1 p.m. EST
Angels at Royals --  51 with showers at 4 p.m. EST
Padres at Cardinals -- 54 and partly cloudy at 4 p.m. EST
Giants at Dodgers -- 82 and sunny at 8 p.m. EST

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: March 29, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:51 am
 

Top 20 things to expect from 2011 season

Jeter

By Evan Brunell

The 2011 season is slated to start Thursday, and with it comes no shortage of storylines to watch. Last year brought the advent of Stephen Strasburg, yet another Cliff Lee trade, and of course, the Giants being crowned champions. What's on deck?

1. East Coast hype

An all-too easy criticism of mainstream media or any sports journalist is the dreaded "East Coast bias" label. However, this season, most of the intriguing teams and races will come from both the AL and NL East.

In the senior circuit, the Phillies have a vaunted rotation, but injuries to Domonic Brown and Chase Utley have left the door ajar for the Braves to sneak in. Many seem to be overlooking Atlanta, but the club won 91 games and will add Dan Uggla to the lineup while improving production out of left field. The Marlins, meanwhile, have a strong rotation and enough offensive potential loaded in their young players that they can't be discounted. Add in the mess that is the Mets along with some nice storylines in Washington (Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth to name three), and there's plenty of topics to go around.

Likewise, in the league with the DH, the Red Sox were the darlings of the offseason after importing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, while adding Bobby Jenks to the bullpen, and appear to be the team to beat, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman has admitted. But you can't count out New York, and Cashman has a quality club ready to push for the division. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, underwent quite a remake but can't be counted out, as this is a club that could crack 90 wins with only a smidgen of luck. The Jays are fresh off a surprising year and have Jose Bautista to draw national interest, while the Orioles are hopeful the middling veterans imported will push the team toward the .500 barrier.

That's not to say that other teams don't have compelling storylines, but the concentration of quality and ease of finding compelling storylines for each team means that the East Coast will dominate the news.

2. Breaking records

It will be a banner year for three players set to hit significant milestones, and there are plenty of other players nearing milestones that, while not Hall of Fame caliber, will put emphasis on the productive careers they have had.

Rounding the Bases

Perhaps the most revered milestone for a hitter to reach, 3,000 hits will come into play for Derek Jeter, who is just 74 hits away. He will probably reach the mark in late May or early June, depending on if he's the .270 batting average Jeter of 2010 or the .314-average Jeter of his career.

Jeter isn't the only Yankee poised for a milestone, however. Mariano Rivera is closing in on 600 saves, as he currently has 559. Given that the major-league record for saves is 601 by Trevor Hoffman, Rivera could also make it to the top of the mountain. That said, Mo will need a good year to reach 600 saves as he has not cracked the 40-save barrier in four out of the past five years.

Ivan Rodriguez is also close to 3,000 hits, needing 183. However, given he has not reached that mark since 1999, you can bet I-Rod will need until at least 2012 to reach the milestone. Heck, depending on how much he plays and produces, he may need until 2013, even though that is quite unlikely.

Jim Thome is 11 home runs away from becoming the eighth member of the 600-club. Paul Konerko needs 35 homers to reach 400, while Adam Dunn (354) and David Ortiz (349) would need big seasons to hit the 400 mark.

Closing in on 2,000 hits are Carlos Lee (1,967), Orlando Cabrera (1,948), Scott Rolen (1,944), Jason Giambi (1,914), Albert Pujols (1,900), Adrian Beltre (1,889), Luis Castillo (1,889), Konerko (1,861), Michael Young (1,848), Derrek Lee (1,843), Juan Pierre (1,842), Andruw Jones (1,840) and Placido Polanco (1,836).

3. A new labor agreement

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement is due to expire after the season, but both baseball and the players union are already beginning work on coming to an accord. In a year where the NFL has locked out its players and the NBA appears headed down that path, it's important for baseball to work together with players and come to an agreement in short order.

Fortunately, after years of rancor, both sides have a harmonious working relationship and it should not be difficult to come to an arrangement even with sensitive topics such as revenue sharing and draft slotting among what will be discussed. The last agreement was finalized and announced on Oct. 25, 2006, so any announcement may not come until the conclusion of the playoffs.

However, recent word comes from the Boston Globe that any hint of a work stoppage would be a shocker, even with delicate issues such as revamping the revenue-sharing agreement. Also on deck is adding wild cards, an international draft and draft slotting.

4. Giants doing just fine

There are a lot of people wondering if the Giants can possibly repeat their World Series run of last year, doing so with a suboptimal offense and squeaking into the playoffs by the skin of their nose.

However, the offense should be much improved with Buster Posey behind the dish for a full year, Aaron Rowand squarely on the bench and Miguel Tejada replacing Edgar Renteria. While Tejada may have his issues, especially on defense, he should be able to improve on what Renteria gave the Giants last season. In addition, prospect Brandon Belt should be in the majors by June at the latest and will add another dimension to the club.

The rotation is one of concern, even if it's ridiculously deep given how young everyone is sans Barry Zito and the load they shouldered last year to win a ring. Fortunately, the Giants are cognizant of this and plan to give starters a lighter load to start the year. Plus, even if one or two starting pitchers fall flat on their face, there's still plenty of quality starters. One concern is the depth behind the front five, which is extremely thin.

5. Yankees trade for starting pitcher

There's simply no way the Yankees don't strike for a starting pitcher this season, but it may not be Francisco Liriano. The lefty is the hot name in trade circles and while Liriano still stands a good chance of being dealt, it probably won't be until after the year.

But the Yankees need help now. They had enough trouble filling the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation, so imagine what the depth behind them is like once injuries strike -- and they will. Fortunately for the Yankees, they have a solid farm system and a top prospect in Jesus Montero they can dangle for the right pitcher.

Even if the right pitcher doesn't come along to whisk Montero away, there will be no shortage of candidates as the year goes on for the Yankees to grab. What bears watching is who they grab. While acquiring a No. 4 starter would certainly deepen the rotation, it's more important for New York to get a frontline pitcher. Does anyone feel confident with A.J. Burnett following CC Sabathia in the playoffs? Didn't think so, and it would be presumptuous to project Phil Hughes' emergence into that pitcher even if the talent is there.

6. Strasburg recovering from Tommy John surgery

StrasburgStrasburg underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow on September 9, and recovery from such surgeries these days tends to take 9-12 months. Edinson Volquez returned to the majors 11 months after such a surgery. While the Nationals may play it cautious, Strasburg is right on schedule, and given his tremendous work ethic and young age, should have no problem meeting the conservative 12-month estimate.

That means Strasmas could be back just in time to close the season out, where he'll certainly dominate headlines once more. Strasburg would certainly need minor-league rehab starts first, but his timeline should assure him of the ability to get into games before the minor-league regular season ends in early September. Given the club will have expanded to 40 players at that point and will likely be out of the division race, it won't be difficult to get Strasburg back on the roster and in a major-league game.

Could the Nationals play it conservative and hold him back until 2012? Sure, it all depends how Strasburg progresses. But even if they hold him back, Strasburg certainly would play Winterball to get his footing under him. Most pitchers returning from T.J. surgery tend to struggle with command upon return, and the only way to address that is to get on a mound and pitch.

7. Bonds, Rocket dominate headlines

BondsThe trial of Barry Bonds has already started, but is still ongoing. It should be wrapped up before long, but that doesn't mean that Bonds will exit the headlines -- whatever the ruling on Bonds' perjury trial, it will have long-lasting ramifications on the game.

If Bonds is found guilty, many ink will be spilled on how this cements Bonds' exclusion from the Hall of Fame, plus articles on how Bonds is finally getting his comeuppance.

In addition, Roger Clemens will be put on high alert, given the Rocket will be undergoing his own perjury trial in the summer. If Bonds is found innocent, there will be a hot debate once more on whether to vote Bonds into the Hall. You will find those writers who believe that, despite the acquittal of Bonds, he knowingly abused steroids. There will be those who concede that while Bonds likely knew exactly what was going on, the law has deemed him innocent, and thus should be elected. And of course, a broad spectrum of opinions therein.

The Clemens trial, meanwhile, will dominate headlines even more than Bonds given the salacious details that have leaked out about Clemens' career, plus the off-putting way in how Clemens has fought the rumors he used steroids.

Much like the Bonds trial, the verdict will spark debate amid wide-ranging opinions. If both are convicted, there will be those who consider the steroid mess closed thanks to triumphing over perhaps the best hitter and pitcher of the steroid era. If both are innocent, it may open the door for those to wonder openly if they are not truly innocent, that the problem may lie with the system itself if it allows Bonds and Clemens to walk free.

Either way, the Bonds and Clemens trial will spark plenty of discussion that will last for years as they attempt to get into the Hall of Fame.

8. Questioning if Mets stay solvent

WilponsThe Mets are hoping to close a deal to bring in a new investor by the close of July. While it is not yet known what percentage of the team these investors will hold, it is expected to be in the 20-25 percent range, although the Wilpons are focused on acquiring a certain price over selling a certain percentage.

Why? 

They need the money. The Mets have debt to pay off, a $1 billion lawsuit staring them in the face (thanks, Irving Picard) and a ticking clock in which to stay solvent. If the Mets aren't able to bring in a new investor by that time, they will likely need a loan from MLB. At that point commissioner Bud Selig would likely have free rein to do what he wants with the Mets, including telling the Wilpons to sell the entire club.

That's incredibly unlikely, especially since the Wilpons (Jeff pictured on the left, Fred right) and Selig have a long, good relationship, but it bears mentioning.

Most investors are requesting majority control of the Mets -- which won't happen, unless the Wilpons' hands are forced -- or right of first refusal if the Wilpons eventually have to cough up the team. This should be an acceptable compromise to the Wilpons, who need to worry about money more than they do any possible future owner of the club.

9. New wave of prospects arriving

At the beginning of March, CBS Sports revealed its top 100 prospects, and along with the list came information on which prospects could make an impact this season.

Topping the list was No. 3 prospect Domonic Brown, who was expected to start in right field for the Phillies and attempt to replace Werth. Unfortunately, the team is now left scrambling after Brown fractured the hamate bone in his hand. He shouldn't be out terribly long, but may struggle with his power stroke upon returning. Philly may have to wait until 2012 to extract real value from the kid.

Meanwhile. No. 6's Jeremy Hellickson will open the season as a member of Tampa Bay's rotation and could easily replace the statistics Matt Garza tossed up. He's that good, that ready for the major leagues and has to be considered the front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

A fellow pitcher in Kyle Drabek (No. 16) appears on the verge of cracking Toronto's rotation after a successful late-season stint with the Blue Jays. Across the border in Ohio, Aroldis Chapman (No. 9) is readying for a full year in the bullpen and could wrest the closer's job away from Francisco Cordero by year's end.

The prospects keep on coming, as the Braves boast three in No. 19's Freddie Freeman, No. 29 Mike Minor and No. 85 Craig Kimbrel. Freeman should provide a steady presence at first base even if he lacks high-end ceiling. Minor figures to open the year in Triple-A, but should make an appearance before long and have a nice career in the middle of the rotation. Kimbrel is considered by many to be the Braves closer of the future.

There are plenty of other projected starters who will infuse baseball with youth, such as No. 33's Chris Sale, who will relieve for the White Sox; No. 66's Matt Dominguez who is on pace to play third for Florida -- ditto the same for No. 96's Brent Morel for the White Sox; No. 71's J.P. Arencibia is readying for a season as Toronto's backstop; No. 86's Danny Espinosa rocketing through two years of the minors to open the year as the starting second baseman for Washington; and No. 95 Jake McGee's apparent future as Tampa Bay's closer. You also can't discount No. 18 Brandon Belt, who could easily take home the NL Rookie of the Year honors provided he logs enough time for the Giants. Starting pitchers Zach Britton (No. 14, Orioles), Simon Castro (No. 52, Padres) and Kyle Gibson (No. 37, Twins) are on the verge of the bigs as well.

10. Philly thankful Blanton stayed

When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee, the consensus was that Philadelphia would trade Joe Blanton. After all, who needs a No. 5 starter due $17 miliion over the next two years when you have Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels?

Philly couldn't find a fit, however, and will now head into the season with Blanton on the roster. This is a good thing. Just because Blanton is the No. 5 starter doesn't mean he doesn't hold value, and being able to trot Blanton out against the back of the rotation for other teams will give Philadelphia an edge -- one it needs after losing Brown and Chase Utley.

Will Blanton stay with the team for the remainder of the year? Who can say, but even trading Blanton in July for pieces Philly knows it needs for a World Series run -- and to teams who will be increasingly desperate for pitchers once injuries and attrition hit -- is far more valuable than any deal of Blanton in January would have accomplished.

11. Firings

There's no question some managers and GMs will be shown the door in 2011. But who?

Skippers on the hot seat are covered here, so let's take a look at some GMs that could get the axe.

CollettiNed Colletti, Dodgers: Granted, Colletti has been hamstrung by the financial woes of owner Frank McCourt, but Colletti hasn't exactly done a good job with what he's been given. He appears to have learned from his mistakes in signing disasters like Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones and giving away Carlos Santana, but he also hasn't improved the team significantly. This team is simply muddling along, and Colletti looks like the classic "change for change's sake" for McCourt to try to improve morale. Of course, nothing will improve morale more than McCourt taking a hike.

Jim Hendry, Cubs: Hendry has been an up-and-down GM with the Cubs. While he made a bold gamble in trading for Garza and the Cubs may be a mild sleeper, if the team missteps yet again it's difficult to fathom the Ricketts family holding still. Hendry is a holdover from the previous ownership regime and is signed through 2012, but that wouldn't give the ownership pause in firing him. If the Cubs slip, Hendry is highly likely to be given his walking papers, especially since he stuck his neck out by hiring Mike Quade.

Tony Reagins, Angels: Reagins has done nothing but take steps back since taking over for Bill Stoneman, all the more curious given Stoneman was promoted and oversees Reagins. But the moves Reagins has made, such as (obviously) Vernon Wells are head scratching. Similar moves for Scott Kazmir and insisting on playing Jeff Mathis have followed. Manager Mike Scioscia loves Mathis, but it's up to Reagins to tell Scioscia no and take Mathis away if need be. Unfortunately, this team looks lined up to disappoint again and hover around .500. Will that fly for a second consecutive year in L.A.? Doubt it, and Scioscia won't be the first candidate on the chopping block.

Ed Wade, Astros: It's possible Wade could be on the chopping block in his third season with Houston. The Astros are widely expected to slide back and simply aren't successful at the major- or minor-league level when it comes tom talent. That may speak more to the owner than GM, but the owner doesn't get fired. Also, McLane is thought to be interested in selling the team and is reportedly close to selling to Jim Crane, who previously attempted to buy Houston and lost out on the Rangers last season. Should that happen, new ownership would absolutely want to bring in its own leader.

Jack Zduriencik, Mariners: Jack Z's leash is likely long enough to give him at least one more year, but in Year 3, the Mariners simply don't seem to have improved from his tenure. Yes, they surprised many in 2009, and part of it was probably flukish, but Zduriencik took a historically anemic lineup from 2010 and added ... Jack Cust. If he can get a strong season from Justin Smoak and impressive debuts from Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda, he should be safe.

12. Surprise teams

It happens every year. There's always that one team that takes a big step forward and contends for the postseason. Last year was especially notable in this regard, with the Reds, Padres, Giants and Blue Jays all performing better than expected. The one team to keep an eye on for 2011 is Colorado.

The Rockies finished with 83 wins last year, which is a surprise given the talent. Everyone knows the name Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki (pictured) and Carlos Gonzalez, but the rest of the team aren't scrubs either. Colorado has been in the national consciousness the last few years given its Rocktober run in 2007 and another postseason appearance in 2009, but it hasn't been able to sustain that excellence.

TulowitzkiThat could be changing now that Gonzalez has fully matured into a middle-of-the-order hitter and have built out a rotation that should keep Colorado in the game. The Rockies are counting a bit on production from Ian Stewart at third and Chris Iannetta at catcher, but when you look at this team, it's a playoff-caliber club that should challenge the Giants in the NL West.

Unlike Colorado, however, there will also be those teams that crash and burn despite expectations. San Diego is widely expected to slide back, but expectations have also been adjusted due to trading Adrian Gonzalez. The one team that may not be able to live up to its billing is the Brewers.

Like Colorado, the star players are obvious -- Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder are the star names, but Ryan Braun and Shaun Marcum are no lightweights, either. The one area of concern in Milwaukee is the utter lack of depth which will end up a real problem if and when injuries strike. Look at what's happened to the rotation -- without Greinke to start the season, the club is going to have to trot out what will effectively be slop in the No. 5 spot. There's similar stories on offense with little help ready to step in and a complete punting of shortstop defense and center field offense.

The Brewers should finish .500, but they are a popular pick to win the World Series and it's difficult to envision them even making the playoffs unless everything goes right. The odds of that happening are as slim as Greinke accepting a trade back to the Royals.

13. Suffering in K.C ... plus optimism

"The day is darkest before dawn," or so goes the saying. That's certainly true in Kansas City, which will throw out a team capable of losing 100 games. But boasting the game's best farm system in a very long time is just the salve to ease the pain Royals fans will enjoy  watching Luke Hochevar function as the team's "ace."

The Royals have pared payroll, knowing it's pointless to try to pretend they can contend, plus the necessity to keep certain positions open for prospects that are nearing the majors. While Alcides Escobar will start the season in the majors, that won't be enough to excite the masses until the first wave of prospects hit, with Mike Moustakas likely to join the club in June or July.

Fans are going to have to sit through Jeff Francoeur flailing at pitches, Alex Gordon trying desperately to reverse his "bust" label and Jason Kendall struggling to take corporeal form ... but the picture only gets rosier, starting with 2012 where it's possible three of the most heralded prospects could break the year with the club, then an additional three hitting the majors at some point over the summer.

While watching the Royals, at least in the outset, will be an exercise in futility, by September, they may become the hot team to watch for the baseball fanatic.

14. Pirates finish last -- or will they?

The Pirates are poised to register their 19th consecutive losing season, but there is some optimism in Pittsburgh. The first wave of position player prospects have hit, and the club can point to Andrew McCutchen in center field, Jose Tabata in left, Neil Walker at second and Pedro Alvarez at third as reasons to be optimistic with the offense. There are some other intriguing pieces down on the farm offensively that could make an impact such as catcher Tony Sanchez, and with a strong year, outfielder Starling Marte could be knocking on the door.

The club is also building solid pitching depth, with Rudy Owens and Bryan Morris perhaps making their big-league debuts this season, although the cream of the crop in Jameson Taillon (the No. 2 overall pick behind Harper in last season's draft) and Stetson Allie are further away. While the team waits for Taillon and Allie, however, it could pluck Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick in June. Cole has been called by some as the "next Stephen Strasburg." Lofty expectations to be sure, but if Cole is picked and advances quickly, the Pirates could start doing some damage in several years.

In 2011, finishing under .500 is a virtual certainty. But will the Bucs finish in last place? It's possible they could pull out a fourth-place finish. It all depends how well the rotation performs and Alvarez, Tabata and Walker all adjust to a full year in the majors. The Astros may just have enough solid major-league talent to grab a fourth-place finish, but that's in doubt. Hey, any type of progress will be welcome in Pittsburgh.

15. Wild (card) about the postseason?

There seems to be overwhelming momentum toward expanding the playoffs with another wild card likely being added to the fray to battle the other wild-card winner in a best-of-3 series. That means that for the first time since 1995, the postseason would take on an entirely different complexion.

In 2010, the Yankees would have taken on the Chicago White Sox, while the Braves would have had to stave off the San Diego Padres, who lost the division by one game to the Giants.

The year prior, the Red Sox would battle the Rangers, giving the national audience a hint of what was to come in Texas while the NL would have pitted Colorado against the division-rival Giants. Assuming two wild cards can't come out of the same division, the Marlins would have drawn the honor.

Sounds like fun, right? Except that there would be no Game 163s anymore, so knock out the epic Tigers/Twins battle for the division in 2009. Likewise, the Rockies and Padres would never have played Game 163 in 2007.

Should the second wild card be added to the game, an NFL-style tiebreaker will most likely be used to determine outcomes when two teams tie for the wild card or division. On one hand, that's a bit disappointing, because Game 163s are tremendous fun. But on the other hand, that fun would simply be extended to the new wild-card playoff format and happen every year instead of having to wait for the occasional Game 163 scenario to roll around.

Either way, it would be a shocker if there wasn't a new playoff system in place for 2012.

And here's five more things that could happen this season ... 

Ramirez1. In the first game between the Red Sox and Rays, Manny Ramirez forgets he's on the Tampa Bay squad and runs on the field with the Red Sox to begin the game. He asks Crawford what he's doing in left field and why they are wearing opposite uniforms. Crawford tries to explain the situation, but ManRam simply shrugs and heads into the Green Monster.

2. Ozzie Guillen surprisingly releases a book about Jenks (remember when he said he could "write a book on the kid" in the offseason?), full of salacious details about Jenks' time in Chicago, including the revelation that Jenks ate a middle reliever during one game. In his first game against the White Sox in 2011, an enraged Jenks throws at the head of the first two batters, hitting them before Guillen comes out on the field to complain. Jenks then beans Guillen and the two brawl on the field, which leads to a multi-million dollar match between the two in UFC in which Jenks, who hired Mike Tyson as trainer, attempts to bite Guillen's ear off.

3. During one particularly heated Cincinnati-St. Louis matchup, the benches clear, and Johnny Gomes comes face to face with Adam Wainwright. Without a word exchanged, Gomes promptly delivers a crane kick to Waino. "First learn stand, then learn fly," Dusty Baker sagely observes.

4. Joe Maddon, who is already known for using uncommon words, takes things to a whole new level. Witness this quote: "David Price can unequivocally bung. How dexterous is the swain? He's as recherché as Sandy Koufax in his diurnal course." Good luck deciphering that.

5. Pujols announces the team he has chosen to sign with during the last homestand of the season -- against the Cubs on Sept. 25. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded, down three runs with a full count and the division title in the balance for the Cardinals, Pujols watches strike three right down the middle. As the crowd groans, Pujols rips open his jersey, revealing a Cubs home jersey underneath and dropkicks Tony La Russa as the announcers scream "NOOOOOOO!" And fade to black.

OK, so these five things won't happen, but one can dream. The rest you can expect.

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Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:26 am
Edited on: March 22, 2011 11:16 am
 

Pepper: After death of child, Cordero persevering

Cordero

By Evan Brunell

WORST NIGHTMARE: After midnight the morning of Dec. 4, former Nationals closer Chad Cordero got the worst news one could get: his three-month old daughter was dead from SIDS, otherwise known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Cordero was once one of the best closers in the game, saving 47 games for the inaugural season of the Washington Nationals after coming up with the Mariners. Cordero's been a non-entity for years now, struggling with injuries amid stints with the Mariners and Mets. He is now in camp with the Blue Jays, but first had to go through a horrific experience. His daughter, Teyta, was staying with his grandparents and was put to bed to sleep, but was checked on regularly. The last checkup came around midnight before Cordero's mother, Patti, discovered Teyta had passed at 12:45 a.m.

It was, like, so hard -- for weeks," wife Jamie Cordero said. "Like you didn’t want to go to sleep, because you just felt that much further away from her, like it really happened. But looking back right now, I’m just glad those first few weeks are over, because it’s just like hell."

Cordero is slated to appear in his first major-league game on Tuesday and will do so with Teyta near him, as he had her face tattooed on his left forearm. It's not clear how realistic a shot Cordero has at the big-league roster, but there's one person in Toronto who believes in him.

"If there was anybody who would fight back, it would be him," Toronto scouting director Dana Brown said, who drafted Cordero when with Montreal. (Washington Post)

STAKE IN METS TO DEPEND ON MONEY: The reports of the Mets selling 20-25 percent of the club are technically not true. While that could end up being the percentage of the team sold, the goal for the Wilpons is to sell whatever share meshes with a specific amount the team is looking for. While this amount would be nowhere near what's needed to gain majority control, it does mean that the new owner could own as much as a third of the company, if not more. It will all come down to what the Mets are valued at. (New York Daily News)

WHO WILL START? The Brewers are having trouble finding a solution to replace Zack Greinke, but the team continues to insist that it will fill the spot internally, with Marco Estrada the latest candidate who will draw the start Tuesday. The club is keeping an eye on the open market, though, and while they won't bring in someone making significant dollars, there will be some intriguing names that could be available. If the Cubs release Carlos Silva, he could head to Milwaukee. The same goes for the Yankees and Freddy Garcia, who may have lost the No. 5 spot to Bartolo Colon. (MLB.com)

UPTON GLAD FOR SUPPORT: B.J. Upton wasn't really paying attention to racial remarks an Orioles fan yelled out during a spring-training game Sunday, but manager Joe Maddon certainly was -- and so were other members of the team who spoke up. Upton, for his part, says he hears these type of  comments constantly. "There's 30, 40,000 people in the stands; you're bound to hear it. It's 2011, you know what I mean, but it is what it is. Freedom of speech, I guess." (Tampa Tribune)

THE BEST WEAPON: Manager Terry Francona doesn't have any interest in returning to a closer by committee, which Boston tried the year before Tito arrived. However, he clearly recognizes the value of having a top set up man to deploy where needed, calling Daniel Bard "the best weapon you can have. ... Sometimes you wait to get to your closer, you’ve already lost. With guys like Bard, it’s bases loaded, seventh inning, you’re going to win or lose right there."

I JUST PLAY: Jake Peavy would love to stay on schedule and be ready for opening day, but he realizes that manager Ozzie Guillen is the man that makes the decisions. Peavy took care to make clear he wasn't interested in calling the shots and has not done so all spring. In light of Peavy's recent setback, the team will exercise caution in working the righty back into the rotation given how close he is to returning to action. (ChicagoBreakingSports.com)

PICK-TO-CLICK: Devin Mesoraco won't be making the Reds' roster, but he's caught the eye of manager Dusty Baker, who called the backstop his "pick-to-click" player. He could be the first option up from Triple-A if Ramon Hernandez and/or Ryan Hanigan get injured. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

ROAD TO THE BIGS: South Korea said no. Japan said no. So Tim Redding returned stateside and is now on the verge of making the major-league roster for the Dodgers as Vincente Padilla and Jon Garland have both been knocked out by injuries. You don't see that kind of story often. (Los Angeles Times)

BACK IN CENTER: Grady Sizemore will clear another hurdle Thursday when he plays center field for three innings for the first time since having microfracture surgery on his left knee in June. He served as DH in a game Sunday and will likely fill that capacity again on Thursday. (MLB.com)

LEAVING VIERA? The Nationals have been rumored to be looking for a new spring-training destination for quite some time. And now, from the mouth of owner Ted Lerner, it's confirmed that Washington is looking to move out from the east coast of Florida to cut down on travel time. While they would like to stay in Florida, Arizona is not being ruled out. (Washington Post)

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: March 17, 2011 1:50 pm
 

Pepper: Chavez was on Hall of Fame path

Chavez

Eric Chavez was once headed to the Hall of Fame.

At least, that's what Athletics GM Billy Beane believes.

"If you take a look at those seasons, understand that he was just 26 and extrapolate it to a 12-, 13-year career, you are talking about a guy who is going to end up with 400 or so homers and 10-12 Gold Gloves," Beane said.

Up through the 2004 season, Chavez was one of the better young third basemen in the game with three Gold Gloves on his resume along with a career .277/.354/.502 line with 163 home runs in 3,507 plate appearances -- posting a career-high 29 home runs in 2004 despite playing in 125 games. Chavez was extremely durable at the time, appearing in over 150 games from 2000-03 and would hit 160 games played in 2005. Beane studied data that showed players who hit the majors early and produced (such as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter) would go on to have a long career.

Thus, Beane inked Chavez to a six-year, $66 million deal and eschewed long-term deals for Miguel Tejada or, later, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito

"Up to that point, he had been very healthy," Beane said. "And if you take away the injuries, he would have been in the conversation [for the Hall of Fame]."

Now, Chavez is looking to extend his career at age 33, a shell of his former self and one who had to turn down more playing time with the Dodgers for fear that his body wouldn't hold up. He is currently on track to make the Yankees' roster as a bench player. (New York Post)

White Sox PICK WINNING: ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf revealed that Chicago chose to spend money in free agency rather than rebuild. "We just could not see where the players we would have remaining were going to bring us the talent we needed to get better in 2012,"  Reinsdorf said. "So that just left us looking into what do we have to do to get better than Minnesota." (ChicagoBreakingSports.com)

I'LL STAY, THANK YOU: It's not often you hear of a star indicating he wants to stay in Kansas City, but that's exactly what 26-year-old Joakim Soria wants to do. Even the prospect of a brutal 2011 doesn't faze him, with the closer indicating he believes in what the Royals have done so far and sees a bright future. The Royals, for their part, have no interest in trading a player expected to be a linchpin of the next contending K.C. club. (Kansas City Star)

A MAN AMONG BOYS: Joe Posnanski spins a story of the best offensive players on a World Series team, and it isn't close. George Brett tallied up 8.0 wins above replacement for the 1985 Royals, with the offense as a whole contributing 8.9 WAR. Also: Should Brett have won 4 MVPs instead of one? (Joe Blogs)

MUSIC TO BASEBALL'S EARS: Check out this really cool picture (and video, if so inclined) by a musician in the National Symphony Orchestra. What's cool about it? The musician is playing a violin made out of a baseball bat. (Fangraphs.com)

SNEAK PEEK? This season, the Tucson Padres will adorn what may eventually be the San Diego Padres' uniforms. The Padres president indicated in the past that the club may go to a more retro feel in the future, which Tucson certainly has while keeping San Diego's current color scheme. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

BE REAL: That's what Dusty Baker says in an interview, Esquire-style. A great look into the mind of one of baseball's more successful managers of the past two decades. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

TEN MORE YEARS IN PALM BEACH: A deal has been reached that could keep the Marlins and Cardinals in Palm Beach, Fla. for the next 10 years provided the spring training stadium is upgraded. Both teams can opt out of the agreement in 2017 if less than four teams remain in Southeast Florida, which would complicate travel. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW: The Royals' reassigned top prospects Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to minor league camp in order to get at-bats and turn the focus at the major-league level toward getting Mike Aviles, Wilson Betemit and Kila Ka'aihue ready for opening day. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 9:53 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Pepper: Big Puma struggling through spring

Lance Berkman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cardinals came out of the offseason sacrificing defense for offense, but that offense may have a hard time even getting on the field.

Lance Berkman, inked in as the team's right fielder going into the spring, was scratched from the team's lineup on Thursday because of a sore left calf. Berkman had already been limited to designated hitter work because of a bad left elbow.

It's just the first week of games, and Berkman has been limited to play in the field. On Thursday, Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was "perfectly fine" and would still go to Kissimmee, Fla., on Friday to face his old team, the Astros.

Friday morning, Berkman wasn't on the bus, missing another game.

Prospect Zack Cox filled in for Berkman at DH on Thursday and knocked in a run, but he's not ready to fill in full-time for Berkman in the field and the National League doesn't have the DH.

Sure, it's early, and several players are battling bumps and bruises, but not all of them are 35, coming off a down season, moving to a more demanding physical position, blocked at their old position and being counted on to remedy a team's offense. That's a lot on the shoulders of the Big Puma, and it's looking less like he can shoulder that load.

WAKE-UP: As if stepping into the box against a guy who can sling the ball 105 mph wasn't enough to get your attention, the first pitch ending up somewhere near the bull certainly got Dodger Trent Oeltjen's attention. Thursday night, the first pitch of Chapman's inning of work went over the catcher's mitt and over the umpire's head. His next three pitches to Oeltjen were strikes, including strike three looking.

"If it was at my face, I wouldn't have had time to move," Oeltjen told the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez. "It woke me up. He sent a message he was throwing hard."

Said new manager Don Mattingly: "Jeez, huh? He was Randy Johnson-ish. It gets there quick, doesn't it?"

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: Carlos Zambrano didn't fight anyone in his Thursday start for the Cubs -- not only that, he threw three scoreless innings. However, he did complain of arm fatigue after the start.

"I was just tired," Zambrano said to the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's normal. I wasn't feeling power in my arm, but I guarantee you I will work hard and feel good in my next start."

Zambrano note he typically feels a "dead-arm" at least once a spring.

JUST BAD NEWS: Yesterday the question was if Astros' catcher Jason Castro would miss the beginning of the season. Today, it's if he'll play at all this season.

Thursday night, Castro was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Castro was scheduled to have surgery this morning, and general manager Ed Wade said he could return "by mid-September." (Houston Chronicle)

WAIT FOR JUDGEMENT? Matt Cain said he hasn't thrown a ball since coming down with elbow inflammation on Sunday and will likely miss multiple starts this spring. 

However, Cain's not too concerned, even after taking an MRI.

There is a history -- and this is something to watch -- of pitchers going to the postseason one season and having trouble the next because of the increased workload. While Cain's not worried, it'll be something to monitor with all of the Giants' pitching staff. (San Francisco Chronicle)

ANOTHER WART: Hopefully Orioles starter Brian Matusz won't tweet a picture like Michael Cuddyer, but he'll also be having a wart professionally removed.

Matusz's wart is on the middle finger of his pitching hand. Still, he threw two scoreless innings on Wednesday even with the wart. He had it some last year, but pitched through it. He said it bothers him some on his breaking ball. (Baltimore Sun)

WAS THAT REALLY A CONSIDERATION? Oliver Perez has been the New York media's favorite target for a while, but is this really necessary? The New Your Daily News' "breaking news" from "a source" is that the Mets have internally decided Perez will not be a starter during the regular season.

The Daily News' Andy Martino wrote that the day after he wrote the team would cut Perez (and his $12 million salary) if he didn't perform well in his start on Thursday. Well, he threw two scoreless innings against the Cardinals, so Martino didn't get his wish. Instead, he had to find a new way to pile onto Perez.

Hey, it's not to say Perez doesn't stink. He does. Or that he's not overpaid -- he is. It's just, this breathless reporting seems almost like piling on. Sure, the Mets have said he's in contention for the rotation, but the Mets say a lot of things, and it's not like we believe those.

NOW HE COULD BE IN A ROTATION: Neftali Feliz wasn't too happy with his first start of spring. Still, he threw two scoreless innings, so it wasn't bad. He also threw three different pitches, but struggled with his command and rhythm.

The Feliz story may be one of the more interesting ones of spring, and certainly something to watch as the month goes along. He'll throw three innings next week. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

VISA TIME: Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati's opening-day starter, could pitch his first spring training start because of a visa problem, but he should be able to make his next start after a quick trip to his native Dominican Republic.

"Everything is set," he told the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay. "They're just waiting for me to pitch it up."

He was unable to pitch in games at which admission is charged because he came to camp on a travel visa, not a work visa. His work visa was held up because of his failed drug test and suspension last season.

COCO CONTRITE: A's outfielder Coco Crisp said he's embarrassed about his DUI arrest on Wednesday morning. (San Francisco Chronicle)

GO METS OR GO HOME: Former Cardinals and A's closer Jason Isringhausen is back in camp for the Mets, after starting a comeback last season in the Reds system.

Isringhausen played in Triple-A last season, but says his bus-riding days are over. If he doesn't break camp with the Mets, he'll just go home and call it a career. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

OR JUST GO HOME: Boston's J.D. Drew says he's considering retiring after this year. It's been one of those things he's hinted at before and is hardly a surprise. (Boston Herald)

SO WHO IS A-ROD? According to Wikileaks, a U.S. diplomatic cable on the 2009 Iranian election called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the "George Steinbrenner of Iran" when talking about his influence over the national soccer team.

I'm guessing that wasn't a compliment. (Associated Press)

WHAT'S A WORLD SERIES WORTH? How much are World Series starts worth to a Hall of Fame discussion? Or, even more words about Jack Morris from Baseball Prospectus.

Honestly, I used to be a Morris for the Hall guy, I'm not anymore. I used to not be a Bert Blyleven guy, but I am now. But I'll certainly never change my feeling that I never want to hear another Morris-Blyleven debate.

A BETTER SCORECARD: An interview with Bethany Heck, the designer of a new, better, scorebook. Heck's 20-game scorebook is like "if Moleskine made a scorebook…" (Bugs & Cranks)

WHAT TO WATCH: Jake Peavy will make his first start since July 6 today against the Angels in Tempe, Ariz.

"Hopefully, we'll see some of the hard work we've done pay off," he told the Chicago Tribune.

QUARTERBACK SHOWDOWN: There's a Groundhog Day aspect to spring training, so Padres manager Bud Black found a way to break up the monotony -- a quarterback combine.

While Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert (seriously, could you draft a quarterback named "Blaine") did this in Indianapolis last week, Black had his former quarterbacks -- top prospect Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke, Orlando Hudson and Nick Hundley -- go through their own competition Thursday morning.

According to MLB.com's Corey Brock, the three went through several drills, including hitting a moving target. Luebke, a high school quarterback in Ohio, upset Kelly, who signed a letter of intent to play QB at Tennessee.

"We're here for six weeks," Black said. "… We try to do some things to keep the guys going."

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The Reds have announced the front-runner for the year's best bobblehead. On July 2 against the Indians, fans will receive the combination Dusty Baker bobblehead and toothpick holder. The bobblehead even has Dusty with a toothpick in his mouth (and, of course, sweatbands on his arms). So far, it's the best bobblehead I've seen on tap for this year, with the Reds also getting second place for their Jonny Gomes bobblehead and arm, mimicking the way Gomes tugs at his helmet before every at-bat.

Dusty Baker

IF YOU'RE NOT ALREADY BEARDED OUT: The literary journal McSweeney's is selling a "How to Beard Yourself Like Brian Wilson" poster.

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Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 4:03 pm
 

Baker reveals disturbing Cubs story

Baker

When Dusty Baker's departure as manager of the Cubs was all but certain, he had to deal with a truly abominable act.

"At the very end, somebody took a dump right where I stood in the dugout every day," Baker told FOX Sports. "That was the low point. The grounds crew guy cleaned it up. He said, 'Oh, I think it’s dog crap.' I said, 'No it ain’t. That’s human crap.'"

That would be bad enough if that incident was isolated, but Baker also had to deal with threatening phone calls and letters that all too often skewed into the racist category. No one knows if the two incidents are connected, but the overall message is the same of intolerance.

Say what you want about Baker's managerial tendencies -- and people have, including this author in this very space when talking about Baker's wrecking of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior's arms along with Aaron Harang in Cincinnati (more on this later), but such actions are unacceptable, no matter the setting or situation.

Baker inherited a tough job in taking over Cubs manager and it only got worse after the infamous Bartman game during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. (And it must be pointed out that Steve Bartman does not deserve the blame for the Cubs blowing that game.) In fact, Baker and successors included, only Jim Riggleman has managed the Cubs for more than four full seasons since Leo Durocher's firing in mid-1972.

"They turn over their managers pretty quick," Baker said. "They don’t stick with anybody for a period of time, because everybody’s counting -- Year 100, Year 101, Year 102. There’s no such thing as a four- or five-year plan. It’s a one-year plan."

And yet, while plenty of other Cubs managers have had to deal with the outrage of Cubs fans, it's Baker that has to deal with human feces exactly where he stands in the dugout. Yeah, the groundskeeper cleaned it up, but that doesn't get rid of the figurative (and perhaps even literal) stink.

No one deserves that. But that's not all that happened to Baker in Chicago. Since his experience in Chicago, he's been saddled with a reputation that he perhaps does not deserve.

"It really hurt my reputation," Baker said of managing in Chicago, especially after disappointments in 2005 and 2006. "Ever since then, all of a sudden, 'I don’t know how to manage. I don’t know how to handle pitchers. I don’t like young players.' … They don’t even have a clue about it. I never heard that in San Francisco."

Baker had his missteps in San Francisco, most notably yanking Russ Ortiz with a lead in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series and attempting to give Hernandez the game ball, but it must be noted that there were no complaints about Baker's pitcher usage in San Francisco. It's tougher to defend his actions with Prior and Harang, but consideration must be given to the fact it would have happened regardless.

And there's certainly no defending the actions of whichever spineless person chose to take a dump at Baker's feet.

(Was this an inside job? Certainly no fan could get access to the field before the gates even open.)

-- Evan Brunell

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Category: MLB
Tags: Cubs, Dusty Baker
 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com