Tag:Adrian Beltre
Posted on: June 1, 2011 3:45 pm
Edited on: June 1, 2011 4:03 pm
 

AL All-Star balloting update: Bautista tops all



By Matt Snyder


Tuesday, Major League Baseball unveiled the first update on the All-Star balloting for the National League, so Wednesday we found out the American League update. Needless to say, non-Yankees fans won't be happy, but we'll get to that in a second. The big story is that the fans nailed the top overall vote-getter (that goes for both leagues). Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays leads the majors in runs, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS-plus and total bases. You can add top vote-getter to the list for now, because he's gathered 1,261,659 votes. If this holds, he'd become the first Blue Jays player ever to receive the most votes and the first to start the game since Carlos Delgado in 2003.

As things stand now, here are the would-be AL starters: Russell Martin, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson -- yes, those are actually the leaders in votes; I didn't accidentally start listing the Yankees' starters -- Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young (DH).

So, yeah. Six Yankees starters if this was the final version. Here are some observations:

- Asdrubal Cabrera trails Jeter by about 260,000 votes at short. I guess I'm not shocked for several reasons. First of all, the voting began pretty early in the season and Cabrera was a relative unknown when it started. Secondly, you have Jeter and the whole chase for 3,000 hits thing going on. Third, it's the Yankees. If this is a lifetime achievement thing, OK, but if we're looking at just 2011, it's egregious. Cabrera's been the big offensive force for the most surprising team in baseball -- one that has the best record in the AL.

- Teixeira's having a big power year and him starting the game wouldn't be completely undeserved, but I'd rather go with Adrian Gonzalez or Miguel Cabrera there. If you have a problem with Cabrera's off-field issues in the spring, well, vote for Gonzalez or Tex.

- Third could shape up to be a real good battle between A-Rod, Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis -- who were all probably helped by the injury to Evan Longoria.

- Martin is the correct selection behind the plate. Oh, and Joe Mauer's second in voting (tsk, tsk).

- Granderson certainly deserves to start and Cano probably does as well. So Yankees haters need to lay off these guys.

- The outfield voting isn't awesome, that's for sure. Hamilton has been hurt most of the season and sits third. Matt Joyce isn't even in the top 15, nor are Carlos Quentin, Adam Jones, Michael Brantley or Alex Gordon. But Ichiro Suzuki, Nelson Cruz and Carl Crawford are all in contention.

View the full voting results by clicking here.

There are obviously a lot more issues, but it's the initial ballot release and many of the votes were cast when it was released without having a good grasp of how the 2011 season would turn out. Fortunately, there's still time to support your guys and rectify any problems you might have. Voting doesn't end until the end of June.

Click here to cast an online ballot.

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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.

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

Posted on: March 17, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 5:53 pm
 

Beltre contemplated killing teammate (sorta)

Adrian BeltreBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Imagine you had one pet peeve -- say, I don't know, the use of the word "dude" -- and your coworkers thought it was so funny, they never called you anything but "dude." 

And there is one guy who not only took great pride in calling you "dude" but also made sure everyone else knew to call you "dude." Then, even though you got a new job in another part of the country, people on TV talked so much about how you hated to be called "dude" that everyone else in the country not only knew about it, but found it funny.

Welcome to Adrian Beltre's life (well, minus $80 million).

Beltre's well-known aversion to people touching his head has been picked up by his new Ranger teammates.

"He better get used to it," shortstop Elvis Andrus told MLB.com. "He might kick my tail, but I'm going to do it."

Beltre's tick was well-chronicled last season in Boston, with Victor Martinez being the lead instigator.

"Sometimes I thought about killing him," Beltre said. "But I thought about it. … I have family, so I didn't."

That's a lot of head rubbing. Is he serious? Well, in some of these cases, he looks like he could snap (see for yourself here). He's likely just joking, but on the right day...

Beltre said Martinez was the worst offender, but not the originator. The head rubbing began in Seattle, he said.

"It was my fault," Beltre said. "I don't remember, but somebody did it and I told them I didn't like it. That's like telling them to do it again. You know they're going to do it because you don't like it. So they started doing it over and over again.

"It's all in fun. It's not like I enjoy it, but I know guys try to have fun. Some guys overdo it, but it's no big deal."

Until, of course, you get to the point where you contemplate killing your teammate.

Let's just hope Martinez doesn't find Miguel Cabrera's button.

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

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 10:22 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 11:52 am
 

Pepper: Injury bug biting Brewers



By Matt Snyder


Whether it's Zack Greinke's rib injury, Yuniesky Betancourt's quad or Carlos Gomez's back, things generally haven't been feeling physically well at Brewers camp. They seem to have at least a minor malady for everyone on the team -- even two guys with an intercostal injury, which I didn't even know was a thing. Apparently they are muscles on the rib cage that help contract the chest.

Chris Dickerson is someone who has that issue. He hurt his Monday against the Giants, when he had an ugly collision with Pablo Sandoval. It wasn't exactly a Casey-level beatdown, but Dickerson seemed to have lost. The collision prompted a somewhat humorous/somewhat realistic quote from Randy Wolf.

"Thank God Sandoval lost 30 pounds or that might have been a decapitation," Wolf told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel . "I thought he dislocated his shoulder. It sounded bad."

Wolf later added he's afraid to walk to his car, and he may not have been kidding.

The Brewers can take solace in the fact that it's only spring and they haven't lost anyone for the season yet, like their division-mate Cardinals.

DREW'S MOOD HATS: Potential Nationals closer Drew Storen had struggled this spring, but put together a solid outing Monday. If you peered inside the brim of his hat, you'd have seen: "Down." "Precise." "Focus through the target." The youngster followed his own advice, setting the Tigers down in order in his one inning of work. Writing reminder messages in his hats isn't new for Storen, as he's already cycled through four this spring and has countless left from last year.

"It's kind of like a mood ring, it's a mood hat," he told the Washington Times . "I keep them all. Since there's so much going on, I'll be the first to admit, you get caught up in thinking about throwing things and try to do too much. It's just a nice, easy way to bring your mind back into it."

If a quirk like this seems weird, you've never been around a baseball locker room. In fact, this is relatively normal. Hey, whatever works.

STRASBURG PROGRESSING: Speaking of Nationals pitchers drafted in the first round in 2009, Stephen Strasburg is reportedly making good progress as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. He's now throwing 90 feet off flat ground and eyes a September return. As you might remember, he had the surgery last September and the normal recovery period is 12-18 months. But just because he has high expectations doesn't mean he's impatient.

"I have to no choice [but to be patient]. I can't just wake up the next morning expecting to get on the mound. It's a slow gradual process. It's about the slow steady progress. It has to take its time and let the body heal naturally." (MLB.com )

IN OR OUT? Luis Castillo might win the second base job for the Mets out of camp because they have no better options. But manager Terry Collins reportedly doesn't really want Castillo around -- only he hasn't officially said as much. Some believe the higher-ups on the Mets would rather Castillo start, but J.P. Ricciardi backs Brad Emaus. Basically, no one really knows what is going on. (ESPN New York )

BELTRE BACK:
Monday, Adrian Beltre made his spring debut, and it went off without a hitch. The third baseman -- who had been sidelined with a strained calf -- played five innings, going 1-3. His only issue had nothing to do with his calf and should be completely expected under the circumstances. "I felt a little bit rusty," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram .

PLAY IT AGAIN, RICH: In the least surprising news of the spring, Rich Harden needs to see a doctor. He hasn't thrown a bullpen since February 15, but felt an issue in his lat muscle Sunday and it looks like he's going to be shut down again. (MLB.com ) It's sad to say, but even at age 29, it's hard to see him ever regaining form for an extended period of time. That sparkling 2008 season -- 10-2, 2.07 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 181 K in 148 innings -- will likely go down as his best. With the kind of stuff he has, when healthy, that's a shame. UPDATE: Susan Slusser reports Harden will throw Wednesday and he hasn't suffered a setback.

WHAT IF ... : MLB Trade Rumors has put together a list of what the free agent class might look like at the end of this season if no one had signed extensions. It's worth a look for entertainment purposes.

IT'S ONLY SPRING, BUT ... : ... the Diamondbacks suck. The always-great Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic points out the Snakes would have a record of 4-13-3 if you only count the first five innings of every game this spring -- which is when the major-league starters are still in the game. Perhaps nothing could be more telling than a quote from manager Kirk Gibson: "I'm ready to be impressed, I can tell you that." Such a statement in the spring is troubling, because most of the time optimism is in the air.

BARTMAN MOVIE OUT SOON: Catching Hell , an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary about the infamous Steve Bartman foul ball (Cubs, Moises Alou, Marlins, 2003 NLCS, Game 6 ... c'mon, you know this) will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place April 20-May 1 in New York City. The one thing that's amazing to me in the years since that inning is how much people -- non-Cubs fans, to be specific -- seem to enjoy pointing out the loss wasn't Bartman's fault. The insinuation behind this is that all Cubs fans blame the loss on Bartman, which couldn't be further from the truth. Go talk to a group of educated Cubs fans and Alex Gonzalez's name is much more blasphemous. I'll reserve judgment on the movie until it comes out, but I can't help but think some myths are going to be further perpetuated because a few jerk fans threw things at Bartman -- which was reprehensible. In fact, expect a further rant from me on the subject when the movie is released. (Chicago Tribune )

"BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE!" We've all heard it in spring training. We've all mocked it. But a sample of players the past few years who have declared they are in the best shape of their life have actually outperformed expectations more than players who didn't make such a declaration in the spring. It doesn't mean there's always merit behind the claim, but it's certainly an interesting query. (Baseball Prospectus )

THE GREEK GOD OF JOKES:
Kevin Youkilis walked and then struck out to Yankees 20-year-old prospect Manny Banuelos Monday night. So, naturally, Banuelos is a stud, right? "He's going to be a Hall of Famer," Youkilis told reporters (New York Times ). He made it clear he was kidding, but didn't want to go overboard. When he got serious about the potential phenom, he was respectful.

"He's got three pitches he can throw pretty good, now he has to learn how to pitch," said Youkilis, adding: "If he figures it out, he'll be all right. Being left-handed and throwing hard, if you throw three good pitches and you're left-handed, you don't even have to throw 90."

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Posted on: March 5, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 2:24 pm
 

Beltre to take field Sunday

By Matt Snyder

Newly-signed Texas Ranger Adrian Beltre is expected to return to the field Sunday for batting practice and some light drills, reports the Star-Telegram .

Beltre strained his calf Feb. 24 and was said to be out 10-14 days with the injury at the time. Sunday will be 10 days since the injury, but he won't be ready to return to game action just yet. The activities -- which include fielding some grounders and running -- will simply be the next step in the process of returning to health.

The 31 year old signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason. The move caused an issue in camp, as Michael Young was moved off third base and was then disgruntled over the situation. But the coincidence here is that Beltre's injury simply reinforced the value Young can hold for the Rangers, as he could fill in at third. He's also been working out at first base and is expected to DH some, too.

Beltre hit .321 with a .919 OPS last season for the Red Sox, easily his best offensive season since his last (healthy) contract year, 2004. Young, 34, hit .284 with a .774 OPS in a season when he saw a six-year string of consecutive All-Star appearances broken. Beltre is a far superior defender by nearly every metric.

Expect Beltre to be brought along slowly here. Young provides insurance. Even if the lineup is best with both healthy, there's no reason to risk anything longer term in early March.

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 10:38 am
 

Pepper: Bunting fit for a Prince


Posted by Matt Snyder


For years we've seen teams shift their defense greatly toward the right side of the infield for left-handed sluggers like Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome and Prince Fielder. Just as often, you'll hear someone -- be it a fan, blogger or announcer -- mention the hitter at bat should drop a bunt down the third base line. If placed properly, it should be an easy base hit. Yet we rarely see the sluggers actually try it.

This year could be different for Fielder. In fact, he successfully did it Sunday during an intrasquad game.

"They've always encouraged it, I've always been a little stubborn," Fielder told MLB.com. "I've given it a half [hearted] try, maybe. Not that I'm going to be [former big league speedster] Brett Butler, but why not? ... Especially against a tough pitcher. When you have a tough pitcher on the mound, and you have a shift, and you smoke a ball to the right side, you get defeated at times. If I can help the team, I might try [bunting] a couple of times."

The 26 year old also noted he's been getting help on his bunting from speedster Carlos Gomez. (MLB.com )

EXTENDED POWER OUTAGE:
James Loney hit 15 homers in 344 at-bats in 2007. Since he took over as the everyday first baseman for the Dodgers, however, his home run power has disappeared. In the three following seasons, he's hit 36 home runs in 1,759 at-bats, and never more than 13 in a season. He actually regressed back to 10 last season. The Los Angeles Times notes manager Don Mattingley is not going to push Loney to hit more longballs, but Loney himself wants to. He's even slightly altered his swing and put in some extra work with hitting coach Jeff Pentland in order to increase his power. (LA Times )

HE'S BACK ... AGAIN: Josh Beckett was good in 2005, bad in 2006, outstanding in 2007, mediocre in 2008, great in 2009 and awful last season. So, if the pattern is to be followed, we're looking at a lights-out season from the 30 year old -- yes, he's still only 30, though it feels like he's been around forever. Early reports from spring training show Beckett as being determined as ever this season. It's a pretty good bet he's going to have a great year. (MLB.com )

CONFLICTING REPORTS: Adrian Beltre has gone down with a calf injury. Early indications were that he would miss around two weeks, but then there were some reports saying it would be much longer than that, even up to month -- which would have put the start of the regular season in jeopardy. Those reports are false, he says. The third baseman also said he'd be playing through the pain if it was the regular season. (Star-Telegram )

THREE HOLE: Adam Dunn has prodominantly hit fourth or fifth in his major league career. Over 4,000 of his roughly 6,000 plate appearances from come from those two spots. He's only garnered 689 at-bats from the three spot, but that is where Ozzie Guillen will be hitting him for the White Sox. Here's why I like it: Dunn is one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball. He's hit at least 38 home runs in each of the past seven seasons. People may have been reluctant to hit him third in the past due to his high number of strikeouts or low batting average, but his OBP over those past seven seasons is .381. He's patient enough to take pitches, and with a cleanup hitter behind him, there won't be tons of bad ones to avoid. In a launching pad like U.S. Cellular Field, that's huge. Look for him to challenge his career high (46) in bombs. (Chicago Sun-Times )

ZOOMIN' AGAIN: Joel Zumaya has had a rough time keeping his dynamic throwing arm healthy, including last season when a fractured elbow ended everything in late June. He was able to throw a scoreless inning Sunday and says he feels "great." That's music to the ears of baseball fans everywhere, because it's quite exciting to see Zumaya light up the radar gun and incredibly sickening to see how often his arm cries uncle. Hopefully that doesn't happen again anytime soon. (Detroit Free Press )

VALENTINE'S DAY: We all know the Mets (and Dodgers, but that's a different conversation) ownership situation is a mess. In a bit of a surprise, former manager Bobby Valentine is reportedly looking into buying a stake of the Mets. The team is looking to sell up to a quarter of the ownership, so Valentine's stake would certainly not be a majority, but it would still be quite the popular move among Mets fans -- many of whom still love the man. (ESPN New York )

ARIZONA COVETS YOUNG: Michael Young has not withdrawn his request to be traded, but he's not talking about it either. So it's still a possibility the Rangers retain his services -- especially if the spring injury to Beltre is an eye-opener as to Young's value. But there are still a few teams after the All-Star. The Rockies, Dodgers and Marlins have previously shown interest and we can now add the Diamondbacks to the mix. Young would be a good fit there, as the DBacks only have Melvin Mora at the hot corner. Of course, the Backs would need some financial help and Young's OK to get the deal done. (FOXSports )

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Posted on: February 25, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: February 25, 2011 11:26 am
 

Report: Beltre Strains Calf

Maybe Michael Young will get some work at third base early in the season after all?

Adrian Beltre, who the Rangers signed as a free agent to take over at third base for Young, has gone down with a mild strain in his right calf, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports. Multiple reports have him missing 10-14 days.

Now, the regular season doesn't start for about five weeks. The issue is the amount of time Beltre will need to work himself back into game shape once he returns from the minor injury. If he misses the full two weeks, he'll be basically starting over from scratch with baseball activities with just under three weeks to the regular season. We all know a shortened spring training can prevent a player from getting off to a good start.

This is where Young enters the equation. He will enable the Rangers to transition Beltre smoothly into the regular season, and they have other options for DH anyway (Mike Napoli, anyone?).

Beltre, 31, played for the Red Sox last season. He hit .321/.365/.553 with 28 home runs, 102 RBI and a career-high 49 doubles.

-- Matt Snyder

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Category: MLB
Posted on: February 18, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Beltre hopes Young stays

Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre showed up at Rangers camp Friday, and took batting practice with a group that included Josh Hamilton. Position players are required to report Saturday, and presumably Michael Young will be among them. The signing of Beltre displaced Young, the Rangers' all-time hits leader, from third base into a super-utility/DH role. Young doesn't like the move and has requested a trade, creating a potentially awkward situation.

"There's nothing I can do about it, but if you want my opinion, the ballclub is better with him on it," Beltre told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . "I thought I was going to be with him. These guys in here have a lot of respect for him, and I hope everything will work out."

-- David Andriesen

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Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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