Tag:Manny Ramirez
Posted on: April 6, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: April 6, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Ramirez scratched from Rays lineup

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Joe Maddon is giving Manny Ramirez a break. Ramirez will miss Thursday's game for personal reasons in addition to being scratched from Wednesday's lineup.

"I know it's early in the season, but I still think he's pressing a bit," Maddon told MLB.com . "I really think he's trying to carry too much of this load right now. I want him to understand that I'm seeing that, that I think he's trying way too hard. All I want him to do is his part, nobody else's part, that we all can take care of ourselves here."

Ramirez is 1 for 16 so far this season and was booed by the home fans in Tuesday night's loss to the Angels.

The designated hitter will join his teammates in Chicago on Friday, missing Thursday's game against the White Sox.

Johnny Damon is serving as the Rays' designated hitter today against Dan Haren. Damon's just 1 for 13 this season after two hitless at-bats so far today.

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

Posted on: April 6, 2011 12:42 am
 

3 up, 3 down for 4/5: Yovani to rescue



By Matt Snyder


Lots of great performances Tuesday, so remember this is no all-inclusive list. There were also some young arms that excelled -- oh, and don't forget about the lanky toast of Queens . On the flip-side, there were some pretty equally dreadful performances. Basically, we're finally getting settled into a routine regular season. Thank the lord. Anyway, here we go.

3UP

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers. Had the Brewers' ace come through with merely a good outing, so long as it resulted in a victory, it would have been the biggest performance Tuesday. They desperately needed to get a win out of the way. Instead of simply being good enough, Gallardo did what a true ace does: He put the team on his shoulders. The offense hasn't hit well since opening day? No issue. All he needed was one (and, yes, that's all he got). The bullpen keeps melting down? No worries, Gallardo didn't need 'em. The 111-pitch complete game, two-hit shutout was a beauty in so many ways. He was easily the most important player in all of baseball Tuesday.

Melky Cabrera, Royals. Teammates Billy Butler and Alex Gordon had big blows leave the yard, but Melky's walk-off single propelled the now 4-1 Royals to a 12-inning victory. He was 3-6 with three RBI in the game.

Marlon Byrd, Cubs. After beginning the season just 3-18, Byrd went 3-4 Tuesday, his last hit being an RBI double that put the Cubs on top for good after a bullpen meltdown.

3DOWN


Manny Ramirez, Rays. According to various tweets, he's already drawing boos from the hometown fans. It's not like he's in Boston or New York. He's drawing boos in laid-back St. Petersburg. It's hard to argue with the locals, either. Manny B. Manny was 0-4 with three strikeouts and three men left on base Tuesday. That means he's hitting .063 with zero extra base hits, zero walks and a .126 OPS thus far. Let's give him lots more at-bats before sounding the alarm -- small sample size and all -- but it's entirely possible his illustrious career is running on fumes.

J.A. Happ, Astros. Not many more ways to say it. Happ was flat out dreadful against the Reds. He should blend right in with the rest of his team, I guess. In four innings, Happ gave up seven hits, five walks and seven earned runs. He walked in two guys and hit in another -- that's a hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded, not a base knock for his team. The Astros are 0-4 and have looked pretty awful -- though we should point out opening at Philly and Cincy isn't too easy.

Rafael Soriano, Yankees. Mark Teixeira's hot bat and CC Sabathia's lockdown pitching had the Yankees cruising to victory through seven with a 4-0 lead. Soriano entered. Walk, line out, walk, single and strikeout read the line after five hitters. Still, no runs had yet scored and there were two outs. But then Soriano walked Joe Mauer and allowed Delmon Young to clear the bases -- and more importantly tie the score -- with a double. Then, after the game, Soriano pulled a no-no when he refused to talk with the New York media. For a sampling of how the reporters feel about the situation -- and how they believe the other players feel as well -- check out this Twitter feed .

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Posted on: March 30, 2011 12:21 am
Edited on: March 30, 2011 1:58 pm
 

Jeter's 3,000th hit among milestones for 2011

Derek Jeter

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It's hard to believe that in the long, storied history of the New York Yankees, no player has reached 3,000 hits while wearing the pinstripes. Well, until this year.

With 2,926 hits, Derek Jeter is 74 hits from becoming the 28th player in baseball with 3,000 hits, passing such greats as Rogers Hornsby (2,930), Barry Bonds (2,935) and Frank Robinson (2,943) along the way.

Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs all wore the uniform on their way to 3,000, but no Yankee has ever reached the mark. Jeter already holds the record for most hits in a Yankee career, passing Lou Gehrig (2,721) in 2009.

Jeter also has a chance not only to become the first Yankee with 3,000 hits, but also to do it at home. Last year Jeter rapped his 74th hit on June 6. The year before, it was June 12, and in 2008 it came on June 19. This season the Yankees have a homestead against the Red Sox, Indians and Rangers from June 7-16.

While Jeter's run to 3,000 hits will get the most attention of any milestone in 2011, it's not the only one.

Jim Thome Jim Thome enters the season with 589 home runs and is just 11 from becoming the eighth player in history to reach 600. From there, he can move up the all-time list as Sammy Sosa is seventh with 609.

At 613 home runs, Alex Rodriguez needs 18 homers to pass his one-time teammate Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and 48 to pass Willie Mays (660).

Manny Ramirez has 555 home runs, but after a nine-homer 2010 and 19 in 2009, 45 homers this season doesn't seem likely. His career-high is 45, hitting that many in 1998 and 2005.

The 400 home run list isn't quite the feat it once was, but three players -- Paul Konerko (365), Adam Dunn (354) and David Ortiz (349) -- are knocking on the door.

Speaking of 400, Johnny Damon is 15 stolen bases from reach 400 for his career. He had 11 last season. Ichiro Suzuki is 17 stolen bases shy of 400 -- he had 42 last season.

Jimmy Rollins needs two triples for 100 in his career. 

While it won't get much attention, Hideki Matsui has 493 career homers combined between Japan and the United States, putting 500 within reach.

Rounding the Bases

How unlikely is it we see another 300-game winner anytime soon? The career leader in wins among active pitchers (besides the inured Jamie Moyer and his 267 victories) is Tim Wakefield, who has 193. Not only does he need seven wins to get to 200, he only needs to yield 11 hits to have surrendered 3,000 in his career (interestingly, 124 pitchers in baseball history have allowed 3,000 hits).

Javier Vazquez has 2,374 career strikeouts, leaving him 126 strikeouts short of becoming the 30th pitcher to strike out 2,500. Vazquez had 121 last season with the Yankees, so if he's healthy for the Marlins this season he should be close.

And, of course, there's the other great Yankee, Mariano Rivera, who is 41 saves from becoming just the second pitcher in history to record 600 saves.  He's 43 saves away from taking over the all-time lead from Trevor Hoffman, who retired after last season with 601. 

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

Posted on: March 29, 2011 9:05 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 12:28 pm
 

Who will play their final game in 2011?

Chipper Jones

By C. Trent Rosecrans

As we look forward to the 2011 season, we look at some of the players that might be entering their final season in big-league baseball. Few of these players are likely thinking about retirement now -- and some may not be thinking about calling it a career when the season ends.

Players can choose retirement and others will find retirement chooses them. Here's a look at some of the bigger names that could be entering their final season.

Carlos Beltran
Age: 34 on April 24
2010 stats: .255/.341/.427, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB
2011 role: Since playing 161 games in 2008, Beltran played 145 combined the last two seasons. 
Contract status: Final year of a seven-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Beltran still wants to play and still thinks he can. He's the type who will play until he's physically unable to continue. That's probably not as far away as he thinks, and he may not get to make his own decision to retire. Injuries have slowed him the last couple of years and it's tough to see him returning to his former heights. 

Lance BerkmanLance Berkman
Age: 35
2010 stats: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI
2011 role: Not only will Berkman be a regular, but he's going to be the Cardinals' regular right fielder. He hasn't played a full season in the outfield since 2004. He played 49 games in the outfield in 2005, 44 in '06 and 31 in '07, but none in the past three seasons. He was limited to 17 games this spring and hit .189/.204/.264 with one homer.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Iffy. He's one of those guys who will get another chance no matter how 2011 goes, but would his pride keep him from being just another guy or could he welcome a reduced role somewhere?

Mark Buehrle
Age: 32
2010 stats: 13-13, 4.28 ERA, 99 K, 210 1/3 IP
2011 role: For the ninth consecutive year, Buehrle will start for the White Sox on opening day. He's expected to anchor the rotation and help lead Chicago into the playoffs.
Contract status: Final year of a four-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Buehrle seems to have plenty left in the tank, but has talked openly -- and often -- about retiring after this season. He's also mentioned wanting to be closer to home and may compromise by signing with the Cardinals.

Johnny Damon
Age: 37
2010 stats: .271/.355/.401, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 11 SB
2011 role: He'll be the team's everyday left fielder, replacing Carl Crawford. That'll be a definite step down offensively and defensively, but he could  still help the Rays score some runs.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Damon has 2,571 hits and would likely need two more years past this season to get to 3,000. The desire is there, but will anyone take him? His chances hinge on how he performs this season.

Vladimir Guerrero
Age: 36
2010 stats: .300/.345/.496, 29 HR, 115 RBI
2011 role: Guerrero will be the Orioles' everyday designated hitter.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Guerrero certainly looked old and his bat looked slow last fall, but he was a big reason the Rangers were in the playoffs. His spring numbers have done nothing to dismiss the notion that he can still compete. He hit .365/.358/.635 with five homers for his new team. Guerrero was the one aging designated hitter that received a contract close to his last one.  

Derrek Lee
Age: 35
2010 stats: .260/.347/.428, 19 HR, 80 RBI
2011 role: He's expected to be the Orioles' first baseman, but injury concerns may throw a wrench in those plans.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Lee didn't play in an exhibition game until March 19 because of his wrist. Then he fouled a ball off his foot in his first game back, which limited his play. He managed to get in just eight games this spring. If healthy, Lee can still play. But if he's not, he may just decide it's not worth it and return home to California to be with his family. 

Chipper Jones
Age: 39 on April 24
2010 stats: .265/.381/.426, 10 HR, 46 RBI
2011 role: Braves' everyday third baseman. He had a great spring, hitting .407/.453/.746 with four home runs in 20 games, a good sign for his comeback from knee surgery.
Contract status: Signed through the 2012 season, with a club option for 2013.
Probability he hangs 'em up: High. Jones talked about retiring last season, but came back when he couldn't finish under his own terms. 

Hideki MatsuiHideki Matsui
Age: 36
2010 stats: .274/.361/.459, 21 HR, 84 RBI
2011 role: A's everyday DH. The A's will be happy if Matsui can replicate his 2010 numbers with the Angels, but he's hitting in a worse park with fewer offensive weapons around him. Matsui had a rough spring -- .125/.246/.179 with one homer through Monday -- and if that continues through the season, it could by sayonara.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal. Probability he hangs 'em up: Good. Matsui's been playing professionally since 1993 when he debuted at age 19 with the Yomiuri Giants. Matsui is now limited to DH and the market wasn't too hot for him this offseason, so a down year could mean there may be nowhere to go but home.

Roy Oswalt
Age: 33
2010 stats: 13-13, 2.76 ERA, 193 K, 211 2/3 IP
2011 role: Oswalt will take the ball every fifth day in what could be the best rotation since the advent of the five-man rotation -- or at least since the Braves of the early-to-mid 90s. Oswalt seemed energized by his trade out of Houston to Philadelphia before last year's deadline, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA in the regular season with the Phillies. He also pitched well in two starts and a relief appearance in the NLDS against the Giants.
Contract status: Final year of a five-year deal, but the Phillies have a $16 million option with a $2 million buyout.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. Oswalt's talked about retirement, but he's still very much a good pitcher and seems to have several good years ahead of him and a lot of money to be made.

Manny Ramirez
Age: 39 on May 30
2010 stats: .298/.409/.460, 9 HR, 42 RBI
2011 role: Ramirez will be the team's everyday DH. Ramirez and Damon are being counted on to help make up for the loss of Crawford and Carlos Pena
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Ramirez seems like he'll keep taking his show on the road until nobody wants him anymore. The fact that he's getting just $2 million this season tells you he wasn't wanted by many. His act has worn thin, but if he bounces back and hits like he can, someone will want him.

Mariano Rivera
Age: 41
2010 stats: 3-3, 1.80 ERA, 33 saves
2011 role: Rivera is expected to still be the best reliever in baseball history.
Contract status: First year of a two-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. He's 41, and that seems old. But tell that to any of the batters who face him. If he had signed a one-year deal this offseason, I could see him retiring after this season, but the two-year deal makes sense for both him and the team. He's 41 saves shy of 600 and 43 from overtaking Trevor Hoffman as the all-time leader.

Jim ThomeJim Thome
Age: 40
2010 stats: .283/.412/.627, 25 HR, 59 RBI
2011 role: A platoon/reserve DH for the Twins with Jason Kubel. Thome had the same type of role at the beginning of 2010 and became more of a regular after Justin Morneau's concussion. Thome is still dangerous against right-handed pitchers, but struggles against lefties.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Good. By the end of the season, Thome will be 41 and will likely hit all the milestones -- he has 589 homers -- he can before the end of his career.

Chase Utley
Age: 32
2010 stats: .275/.387/.445, 16 HR, 65 RBI
2011 role: Ideally he'd be playing second base every day for the Phillies, but who knows when he'll be ready?
Contract status: Signed through 2013.
Probability he hangs 'em up: Low. But injuries haven't been kind to Utley. He doesn't want to retire anytime soon, but it may not end up being his decision.

Omar Vizquel
Age: 44 on April 24
2010 stats: .276/.341/.331, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 11 SB
2011 role: He will once again be a utility infielder for the White Sox. He received more playing time than expected last season due to others' injuries, playing in 108 games for Chicago.
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: High. Although, with another year he has an outside shot at 3,000 hits. He enters 2011 with 2,799 hits, but it has taken him three seasons to get his last 201 hits. It seems difficult to believe he could play until he's 46 and keep that level of production. However, if he did get to the magic 3,000, it would cement his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Tim WakefieldTim Wakefield
Age: 44
2010 stats: 4-10, 5.34 ERA, 84 K, 140 IP
2011 role: Long reliever/emergency starter. It's the same role Wakefield was asked to play last season when he bristled at being taken out of the rotation. A knuckleballer is a tough pitcher to manage out of the 'pen, there's too much uncertainty in the pitch to use him as a late-inning reliever, but he doesn't fit into the rotation anymore and the team can still use him.
Contract status: Final year of a two-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: High. Wakefield will be 45 at the end of the season and his role as a reliever isn't well-suited for the knuckleballer.

Kerry Wood
Age: 33
2010 stats: 3-4, 3.13 ERA, 8 saves
2011 role: Wood will be the main set-up man to closer Carlos Marmol. He thrived as a set-up man with the Yankees last season. 
Contract status: Signed a one-year deal.
Probability he hangs 'em up: 50/50. Wood still has plenty in the tank, especially if he doesn't have to be a closer anymore. He's seemed to embrace the elder statesman role with the Cubs and could still be an effective reliever for several years. He's considered retirement in the past and has already been told he has a job with the Cubs whenever he does hang them up.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: March 29, 2011 9:05 pm
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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.

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:35 am
 

Pepper: Gordon's last shot?

Alex Gordon
By C. Trent Rosecrans

Remember when Alex Gordon was the next George Brett? Royals fans sure do.

Now, though, the former second-overall pick in the draft, is an afterthought in the deep, talented Royals system.

Taken ahead of the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki, Gordon has a career line of .244/.315/.355 in 1,641 plate appearances in the big leagues and has since been moved from third base to the outfield.

While no longer one of the core building-blocks of the Royals rebuilding job, Gordon still has some talent (and a little trade value). He's also starting to get hot in the Cactus League, going 8 for 12 in his last five games. He's also shown good plate discipline, drawing 11 walks.

"The timing was off. I was seeing the pitches good, I was just late and not making solid contact," Gordon told MLB.com. "Lately, I've been getting easy earlier and seeing pitches better and making good contact, and that's what it's all about. So definitely a big change in the last week."

Gordon, 27, spent his offseason working with Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, someone who knows a little bit about living in the shadow of the Royals' lone Hall of Fame player. Seitzer's emergence at third base moved Brett from third base to first in 1987 and even made the All-Star team as a rookie. Seitzer has been the team's hitting coach since 2009.

"I think I've pulled my hands back so I'm loaded instead of trying to find the load during the swing. I'm ready to go right off the bat," Gordon said. "I think that's helped, and I'm not late on pitches anymore, and I'm being aggressive."

With the Royals throwing out a placeholder roster for 2011 before the prospects begin to trickle in later this summer, Gordon may be getting his last chance to prove he's more than a Four-A player. Soon, that Royals influx of talent could make him the next Clint Hurdle in Royals history.

SILVA ON THE BLOCK: Three Nationals scouts, among others, watched the Cubs' Carlos Silva in his latest spring training start, ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine writes.

According to Levine, the Nationals and Yankees have had scouts at each of Silva's outings. Both teams are looking to fill their rotation and could afford Silva's $12 million salary.

Chicago has had good spring showings from Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, making Silva expendable.

Dave MartinezHAIR CLUB FOR MEN: With Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez now Rays, manager Joe Maddon wants his team to follow the example of his newest stars.

"I encourage the growth of follicles," Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "I want them all to go nuts with their hair this year."

Although Ramirez is known for his long dreadlocks and Damon is now sporting a fauxhawk, the inspiration for his goal of being "the hirsute club" was bench coach Dave Martinez's bushy beard (pictured).

"Sometimes I just go with my instincts, and I just think it could turn into a lot of fun for the group," Maddon said, noting he'll let his hair grow out as much as possible. "So whatever keeps you focused on the field and having fun off it, I'm all for it."

FORMER CUBS OK: The Chicago Tribune caught up with former Cub Micah Hoffpauir, who is now playing in Japan.

"My first earthquake," Hoffpauir told the Trib. "And good Lord willing, it will be my last."

Hoffpauir, now a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters, was in his room on the 26th floor of his hotel in Tokyo when the earthquake hit, approximately 250 miles to the north.

"It felt like someone started shaking the whole country of Japan," Hoffpauir said. "At one point I thought, this building is going to fall down. But I was assured later that [swaying] is what the building was supposed to do."

He said he was evacuated from his hotel and was able to contact his wife in Texas to let her know he was OK. He said he has also been in touch with former Cub teammate Matt Murton, who was training further south in Osaka, and he was OK.

GARFOOSE FUNDRAISER: Author and Rays reliever Dirk Hayhurst will call you up and thank you personally if you donate $50 or more to Mercy Corp Fundraising for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (DirkHayhurst.com)

HIDDEN TREASURE: Investigators found a jackpot of 1986 Mets memorabilia in a  Port St. Lucie storage facility following their case of former Mets clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels.

Samuels is accused of theft and illegal gambling.

Among the treasure found in the storage facility was signed uniforms from the 1986 Mets team that defeated the Red Sox in the World Series. The collection is reportedly worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars." (New York Daily News)

SIZEMORE GETTING CLOSER: Indians manager Manny Acta said he thinks center fielder Grady Sizemore is scheduled to start running bases today and could be cleared to play in games sometime in the last 10 days of spring training. (MLB.com)

D-TRAIN OFF THE RAILS: Dontrelle Willis left Saturday's game with a sprained ankle, tripping on a bat after backing up the plate on Bobby Scales' two-run single. Willis had a rough outing, allowing two hits and two walks while recording just a single out. (MLB.com)

THANK YOU, COME AGAIN: Commissioner Bud Selig said Saturday that the stake in the Diamondbacks once owned by Padres chief executive Jeff Moorad has been sold. Current Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick absorbed the eight percent of the Diamondbacks  for $21 million. Moorad's group owns 49 percent of the Padres. (MLB.com)

HARDEN OUT OF ROTATION MIX: Rich Harden is officially out of the race for the Athletics' fifth-starter sport. Harden could still find a spot in the bullpen, but it's getting crowded too. Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer are still competing for the fifth starter spot, with the losers then looking to make the bullpen. (San Francisco Chronicle)

STATS FOR DUMMIES: The great Joe Posnanski gives you a primer on advanced offensive statistics. (JoePosnanski.com)

LINEUP CONSTRUCTION: Little has more breath and keystrokes wasted on it more than lineup construction. It's a fan's favorite nitpick to show why their manager is an idiot, yet it doesn't really matter that much in the long term. (Although, it makes the most sense to get your better hitters at the the top of the order, because they get the most at-bats). But anyway, Astros manager Brad Mills discusses his philosophy for filling out his lineup card. (Houston Chronicle)

RAYS RESURRECTION: Former top pick Matt Bush is making a comeback in Tampa's training camp. (Tampa Tribune)

BASEBALL PROJECT: If you missed our Ear on Baseball podcast with the Baseball Project, what's wrong with you? Seriously?

Anyway, you can catch up with Scott McCaughey, who says despite touring the world with various rock bands, he's always kept up with baseball because it's a "a sort of zen thing for me" and reading boxscores is "like meditation" -- I think we can all understand that. (Athens Music Junkie)

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

More MLB coverage
Posted on: February 22, 2011 1:07 pm
 

Manny talks about new start in Tampa

Manny Ramirez couldn't be happier to have a fresh start with Tampa Bay. Check out the interview CBSSports.com's Scott Miller did with ManRam:

Want more Rays video? Check out the spring report from Miller. What can the Rays do in the AL East this season?

-- Evan Brunell

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