Posted on: August 27, 2008 4:57 pm
 

Boston bags Kotsay

Following the Manny Ramirez nonsense, the Tim Wakefield shoulder issue, the Josh Beckett numbness and J.D. Drew's back, things finally are beginning to break right for the Boston Red Sox.

Outfielder Mark Kotsay was a terrific acquisition Wednesday, and the road is beginning to take its toll on the Minnesota Twins for Boston's fallback October plan, the AL wild-card slot.

Kotsay is 32 with the back of a 42-year-old (or worse), but he's playing and he's good to go for now. He was hitting .289 with six homers and 37 RBI in 88 games for Atlanta. With Drew's status dicey for the rest of the season, Kotsay is the perfect complement to Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay and Coco Crisp: An experienced hand who is battle-tested, having playoff experience with Oakland in 2006.

The Red Sox have been in the market for an outfielder since the Manny Ramirez fiasco, before Drew's back began acting up. San Diego's Brian Giles declined a trade to the Red Sox earlier this month for family reasons and because the Red Sox couldn't promise him anything more than an extra outfielder's role at the time. Giles wanted to play every day.

What's changed since then -- and increased the urgency for the Red Sox to acquire another outfielder -- is Drew's injury. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they didn't grant Crisp's desire to be traded this spring. Think how thin they'd be in the outfield if they had.

Not only does Kotsay know his way around the outfield, he's a solid guy to have in the clubhouse for a stretch run. Professional, committed, intelligent and no-nonsense (no Manny comments here, please).

So consider this another test passed for Boston as the Red Sox gallop toward another October. This isn't to grant them a playoff spot yet -- there are still many challenges ahead.

But the Red Sox are better today with Kotsay on their roster than they were yesterday. And thanks to Minnesota's four-game losing streak, the Red Sox have some breathing room (a 2 1/2-game lead) in the AL wild-card race.

This isn't a team that has given up on first place -- they trail Tampa Bay by only 3 1/2 games, and they still play Joe Maddon's club six times in September (three home, three away). A lot still can change.

But the way things are shaping up, the Red Sox have two chances to make the playoffs. And the percentages are rising. Minnesota should have won three of four over the weekend in Anaheim and could have swept the Angels. But the Twins lost the final two games of that series and the first two in Seattle this week.

Not a good way to begin a 14-game trip, and even more disheartening for the Twins after they started 2-0. Being that Ron Gardenhire's club has begun a stretch in which they play 24 of 30 on the road, as Yogi says, it's beginning to get late early.

Meantime, Boston has won five of seven, nine of 13 and life without Manny isn't looking as daunting as maybe it once did.

Likes: Colorado has won four in a row and has pulled to within six games of first-place Arizona in the NL West. You don't think the Rockies will stage another September miracle, do you? … Instant replay on boundary calls are fine, but if baseball officials ever look to expand replay, it'll be time to dig in and fight it. … Watching Randy Johnson pitch. … My Weber grill. … Gates barbecue sauce from Kansas City, right in my fridge and then on the chicken on the Weber grill.

Dislikes: Well, I was just saying yesterday how fun the Mets are to watch lately. Not so much after they blew a 7-0 lead to Philadelphia on Tuesday night while falling with a thud into second place in the NL East. … Florida's Hanley Ramirez with a glove. … Sure, I write a feature piece on Arizona this week and the Diamondbacks promptly go into the tank in San Diego. I hate it when teams don't cooperate. … Come on, Tropical Storm Gustav, let's skip right over New Orleans this time.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When I think back on all the crap
"I learned in high school
"It's a wonder I can think at all
"And though my lack of education
"Hasn't hurt me none
"I can read the writing on the wall"

-- Paul Simon, Kodachrome

Posted on: August 26, 2008 2:11 pm
 

Webb's gem on deck Tuesday night

Brandon Webb is good to go tonight in his nostalgic, old-timers' quest to actually do something we once took for granted: Win his 20th ballgame.

No National League pitcher has won 20 since 2005 -- imagine what Hall of Famers Warren Spahn (13-time 20-game winner) and Steve Carlton (six-time 20-game winner) would say about that -- yet Webb tees it up in San Diego tonight at 19-4 (and it's only Aug. 26!).

Better yet for Webb, winner of six consecutive decisions, he'll do so with minimal trouble from his rib cage. He was drilled there with a line drive in last Wednesday's outing against San Diego in the desert.

"It's still a little sore to the touch, but it's not terrible," Webb says. "There were a couple of days where I couldn't run, but I've thrown every day. I should be fine to go."

The fact that he could win No. 20 so early is not lost on him, though he's not obsessing over it, either. What he's more concerned about is his team's slim three-game lead over Los Angeles in the NL West.

"I've got seven more starts, and I want to win every game," Webb says. "We need every one. Every game for us is pretty much a must-win. …

"It's probably going to come down to the last week of the season, and we need to win every game we can."

Likes: I don't know how the Mets are doing it with that shaky bullpen, but it's fun to watch. Two consecutive complete-game wins for Mike Pelfrey? Great, but with John Maine on the shelf and that Swidd cheese Mets bullpen, I still don't think we've heard the last from the Phillies. Gonna be fun, though. … The Cubs' Ted Lilly, 13-7. … The chicken parmesan pizza at Gregorio's in Carlsbad, Calif. … Michigan State-Cal in prime time Saturday night. … King Burrito down the hill from me, which had the doors locked on Sunday night but still took mercy and made me a great burrito 15 minutes after closing time. … XM radio 49, Big Tracks. … XM radio 20 on 20, great way to keep current with what's popular today (both good and bad). … It may be risking overplay, but I still really like Coldplay's Viva la Vida. Terrific pop hooks.

Dislikes: The Dodgers get 13 hits and still get shut out in Philadelphia on Monday? That's pathetic, and more power to the Phillies for doing it. No major league team has been shut out on that many hits in a nine-inning game since 1928. … Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's Magic tour rolls to a close Saturday in Milwaukee. Life is always better when the band is on the road and the prospect of catching another concert, somewhere, is a distinct possibility. Really disappointing that I could only catch three shows on this tour -- in Paris in December (OK, that one made up for a lot) and two in Anaheim in April.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Writing his memoirs, losin' his hearin'
But he don't care what most people say"

-- Jimmy Buffett, He Went to Paris

Posted on: August 25, 2008 9:28 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2008 1:28 pm
 

Everyday Eddie: The Minnesota Sequel

He's no longer Everyday Eddie. That disappeared with the Tommy John ligament transfer surgery and subsequent rehabilitation.

But Eddie Guardado is recovered and has been productive in the Texas bullpen, and his homecoming to Minnesota can only help the Twins as they sprint through these final 30-some games to keep pace with the Chicago White Sox.

The Twins re-acquired their former closer on Monday, and the fact that it came one day after their bullpen melted down in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels was no coincidence.

Closer Joe Nathan is nails but, lately, set-up men Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Dennys Reyes have been showing some wear.

Overall, the Twins' bullpen ranks eighth in the AL with a 3.95 ERA, and its bend-but-don't-break nature was stretched to the max over the weekend. They easily could have swept the four-game series from the Angels and, at the very least should have won three of four.

Guardado, 37, isn't the menacing closer he was in his last incarnation with the Twins, when he collected 116 of his career 187 saves. He was, though, 3-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 49 1/3 innings for the Rangers. And opponents are only batting .220 against him.

"He gets guys out," one American League scout said Monday. "If you were at a high school game and saw him, you wouldn't look at him first, second or third. But he throws strikes, and he gets guys out."

Overall, the Twins rank seventh in the AL with a 4.16 ERA, while the White Sox are fourth at 3.85. Chicago's bullpen also has been tighter than Minnesota's, ranking fourth in the AL with a 3.62 ERA.

Minnesota over the weekend started a brutal stretch in which it plays 24 of its next 30 games on the road. Of their final 32 games, the Twins play 20 away and 12 in the Metrodome. The White Sox have 19 road games remaining and 13 at home.

Likes: The dog days of August fading into the intensity of the final 30-game sprint toward the finish line. What fun September is as the playoff races take shape and the college football season begins. … Eddie Guardado in a Twins uniform again. … The apparent return of the 20-game winner. Arizona's Brandon Webb is at 19 wins and Cleveland's Cliff Lee is at 18 with a month still to play. … Blueberry season. … Fresh blueberries and raspberries over vanilla ice cream on a hot summer's night. Can't beat it (OK, that was me impersonating Larry King). … My old school, Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High, coached by classmate Jack Giarmo, kicking off its football season Friday night at Erie Mason. Go get 'em, boys.

Dislikes: The final Red Sox-Yankees series in Yankee Stadium begins Tuesday night. Will the intensity remain the same in the new Yankee Stadium? You'd like to think so, but it's difficult to imagine it will be as loud there as at the old joint. … Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto: Strained elbow. … New York Mets' John Maine: Bone spurs. Ugh.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Time to love every man, woman and child
"Just forgive and let live for awhile
"Shake my head and wonder how much more
"The bells are tolling on the streets of the world
"What time is it, help me understand
"Why war is in the heart of man"

-- Buddy Miller, This Ol' World

Posted on: August 19, 2008 1:26 am
 

Padres send Dodgers a gift out west

San Diego trading Greg Maddux to the hated Los Angeles Dodgers is Exhibit A in how the grand ol' game has changed over the years.

Time was when the Padres would have rather ingested a few gallons of WD-40 motor oil than do anything to aid the hated Dodgers in their quest to win a NL West title.

Now? Whatever. The Padres primary goal now is to cut payroll -- for the rest of this year and for 2009 and, possibly, depending on owner John Moores' divorce, beyond -- and if that means helping out the Los Angeles friggin' Dodgers, well, that's just the way it goes.

And beyond that, it's simply a matter of professional courtesy: Maddux deserves far more than the Padres are able to give him, given the lousy decisions they've made and the embarrassing team they've fielded, so they figure the least they can do is place him in what could be the final pennant race of his illustrious career.

It's a move bound to help the resurgent Dodgers, who are brimming with confidence in the days since Manny Ramirez' arrival. Picking up both Ramirez from Boston and Casey Blake from Cleveland were huge boosts that have helped Joe Torre's club climb into a first-place tie with Arizona, setting up one final sprint toward the finish line.

Maddux won't have as significant of an impact as Ramirez or Blake, but he'll help. Especially if, as expected, Brad Penny is finished for the season. Los Angeles needs pitching, and Maddux, even into his 40s, remains pretty darned good at providing five or six quality innings every fifth day.

And as for the Padres? Maddux's departure simply means there's one less reason to bother watching them the rest of this season. And there weren't that many left to begin with.


Posted on: August 18, 2008 3:11 pm
 

Red Dirt and infield dirt

Slow past month for Bull Pennings, largely because I was having some significant computer issues that essentially kept one hand tied behind my back. It was all I could do to get my laptop to cooperate enough to get my regular columns written, let alone blogs and other things.

Now that I'm cruising along on my new laptop, and before the summer heat dissipates, I want to make sure to pass these comments along from … singer Emmylou Harris?

You bet. Not only does she have an incredible voice and a new disc out this summer (All I Intended To Be), not only is she still amazing at 61, but, best of all … she's all this and a passionate baseball fan.

While talking summer tour with the San Diego Union-Tribune a few weeks ago, she was absolutely charming on the subject of baseball.

"How could you not  be a baseball fan?" she asked. "It's such a great game. All I do during baseball season is watch games. I was so pumped the other night when Greg Maddux stole a base! My team is the Braves, but they don't stand much of a chance."

Harris has sung the national anthem at numerous games, and she sang God Bless America at the 2001 World Series. She's a National League fan, is rooting for the Cubs this summer and, from the sounds of it, could use a few more baseball fans in her band (Red Dirt Boys) and traveling entourage.

"We don't really have any baseball fans, except for my stage manager, who is a Cubs fan, and my road manager, who is a Red Sox fan," she said. "Unfortunately for the guys in my band, they have to sit and watch the games. As soon as the show is over, I get on the (tour) bus and watch Baseball Tonight."

Likes: The dog days of August, with fewer than 40 games to play, the stretch run right around the corner and kickoff to the college football season on deck. … The AL Central race, and the total contrast between the home run-dependent Chicago White Sox and the pesky, little-power Minnesota Twins. … I haven't heard their music yet, but I sure do like the idea of The Baseball Project. … The Brewers in a short, post-season series with CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets. … Meatballs, on DVD. A blast from the past, but Bill Murray is a crack-up. … Looking forward to seeing the HBO special on Helen Thomas, Thank You, Mr. President. … Jamba Juice.

Dislikes: "Back-to-School" this and "Back-to-School" that. We need to figure out how to implement that title to the old Beach Boys album, Endless Summer. … The AFLAC goose. Or duck. Or whatever that annoying, flea-ridden bird is.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I used to rule the world
"Seas would rise when I gave the word
"Now in the morning I sleep alone
"Sweep the streets I used to own"

-- Coldplay, Viva La Vida

Posted on: August 15, 2008 6:51 pm
 

Mariners continue reviewing GM candidates

Seattle Mariners president Chuck Armstrong phoned Friday to dispute my report in this week's Short Hops that he's been telling people that interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas will not be a candidate for the permanent general manager's job.

"We have assured Lee that he's a candidate for the job," Armstrong said. "We think he's doing a great job."

I've heard otherwise, of course, regarding Pelekoudas' candidacy. But out of respect to Armstrong and the Mariners, here's the latest from the Seattle president regarding where the GM search stands:

Just back from the owners' meetings in Washington, D.C., Armstrong said he intends to hone in on the club's list of potential GMs this month. He's already compiled, at ownership's request, a "comprehensive list" of qualified candidates that the Mariners might want to consider.

"For the rest of August, I'm going to whittle that list down and do my due diligence," Armstrong said.

The basic time frame, he said, would be to seek permission from other clubs to interview any candidates who are currently employed elsewhere during the month of September, and then conduct interviews in October.

Assuming no major surprises, Armstrong said, "our goal is to have the selection in place by the end of October."

That would have the Mariners up and running by the time of baseball's annual GM meetings the first week of November -- and in plenty of time for personnel decisions and free-agent decisions as the winter progresses.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 13, 2008 11:52 pm
 

Carl Crawford: See you in October?

No need to wait until season's end. We've already got a winner in the Most Unfair Moment of the Season.

It'll happen Thursday, when Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford undergoes hand surgery that will likely sideline him for the rest of the season.

How about that one?

Guy plays his guts out year after year for teams that, if they weren't going to lose 100 games, they sure were going to give it a try.

He's a two-time All-Star, a four-time AL stolen base champion, an all-around good guy.

And now, just when things are finally starting to get good in Tampa Bay, Crawford must leave?

You know what I think of when I think of Crawford? This spring, making the rounds from camp to camp, I was talking with the Angels' Torii Hunter when the subject turned to players who are pleasures to watch.

"Know who I really like to watch?" Hunter asked.

"Who?"

"Carl Crawford, because he plays all-out all the time."

"Do you know him pretty well?"

The answer came back quickly: No. Not at all.

That really registered. To me, that's one of the highest compliments a guy could ever offer. Many players around the league will say good things about their friends.

But for a player to volunteer how much he enjoys watching another guy play … and he doesn't even know that guy? That's as pure as it gets.

I don't know whether the Rays will hang onto their AL East lead, but I do know this: These next three or so weeks are as crucial as any three-week stretch in franchise history.

Because not only is Crawford out, but the Rays have placed rookie smash Evan Longoria on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured bone in his wrist.

The Rays think Longoria can return to the lineup by Sept. 1 -- thus, my three-week assessment. But if Longoria is out longer, the Rays' task only gets more difficult.

As Rays manager Joe Maddon said earlier this year, "We're not just trying to be a member of the standings. We're trying to be at the top."

For Crawford's sake, after the season they've put together, the Rays deserve to be there. That way, Crawford can re-join them for some October fun.

Likes: Six weeks left, and five of the six divisions remain up for grabs (I'm taking a wild leap here and awarding the AL West to the Angels). It's dizzying attempting to keep up with who's in first in the AL Central. Minnesota and the White Sox have traded places for five consecutive days. … San Diego reliever Heath Bell's T-shirt: "I'm in Shape … Round is a Shape." … Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, ejected again during Wednesday's doubleheader with the Cubs. … Milwaukee's starting pitching. CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets back-to-back in the rotation? The Brewers get to the playoffs, it's not going to be any fun for opposing hitters in a short series. … My new laptop. The old one was so virus-ridden after five years it was like trying to run through quicksand. It's been forever since I've updated Bull Pennings, partly because I took a week off following the All-Star Game and partly because the old computer had become nearly unworkable. … Kid Rock's All Summer Long. Never thought I'd be saying this about Kid Rock, but what a great, great tune.

Dislikes: Foreclosures and gas prices dominating the newspapers each morning.

Rock-N-Roll Lyric of the Day:


"Splashing through the sand bar
"Talking by the campfire
"It's the simple things in life, like when and where
"We didn't have no internet
"But man I never will forget
"The way the moonlight shined upon her hair

-- Kid Rock, All Summer Long

Posted on: July 28, 2008 8:02 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2008 11:17 pm
 

Monday's trade talk

Three days until the July 31 trade deadline, and it was mostly quiet on the talking front on Monday.

The latest:

Jarrod Washburn: The New York Yankees still have not acquired the Seattle left-hander, and though it still could happen, one source close to the talks said Monday that the Yankees appeared to veer off in other directions in their search for pitching. Talks between the Yankees and Mariners, for now, have "cooled", according to the source.

Though the Yankees would agree to pick up the remaining $14 million or so owed Washburn this year and next, it would be with the understanding that Seattle would receive only a lower-level prospect in return for Washburn. The Mariners so far have been demanding an upper-level prospect, along the lines of an Ian Kennedy. The Yankees, who don't have any upper-level pitching prospects aside from Kennedy and Phil Hughes, view that as exorbitant -- especially when they would pick up the salary.

The Mariners would like to deal Washburn -- and outfielder Raul Ibanez (the Mets, perhaps) -- but interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas is being very deliberate. His next trade will be his first, and with his job on the line, he knows first impressions are crucial.

Mark Teixeira: The Braves met internally Monday, sized up their situation, and immediately decided, it's ugly. Then they put word out to rivals that they intend to trade Teixeira.

Much as the Braves despise giving up, the decision essentially was made for them. They had to place both Chipper Jones and pitcher Tim Hudson on the disabled list, they were beaten by Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday despite scoring 19 runs ... it's over in Atlanta.

Now, shopping and actually trading, are two different things. But the Braves appear determined, and Teixeira immediately becomes the plum prize this week. Arizona already has moved into the favorite's position, especially if the Diamondbacks do agree to move Chad Tracy and a prospect.

Most difficult thing for Atlanta will be playing multiple teams against each other because, among contenders, there isn't a lot of need for a first baseman. The Mets' Carlos Delgado is playing better, the Angels are happy with Casey Kotchman, Boston has Kevin Youklis and David Ortiz, the Dodgers have James Loney, the list goes on.

Manny Ramirez: Come on. Boston general manager Theo Epstein has tried hard in past off-seasons to deal Ramirez, with no luck. If he couldn't do it over three months, is it realistic that he does it in three days? This is a team with its sights set on another World Series win -- not only can precious few teams afford Manny, but Boston is going to need pieces in return that will be at least the equal to Ramirez in lineup production.

The Red Sox may be tired of him, but they can't afford to get worse on the fly.

Gerald Laird: Texas has received several inquiries -- catchers are hard to find -- but the asking price remains high. Florida continues to troll for another catcher, and the Marlins' need has deepened in the past several hours given Matt Treanor's hip condition. Treanor is scheduled to see a hip specialist, and the Marlins are bracing for bad news.

They like Laird, but Texas general manager Jon Daniels right now is asking for a top-level pitching prospect in return. So far, that's a no go for the Marlins and others.

Greg Maddux: San Diego would like to trade both him and outfielder Brian Giles, according to sources, because the Padres right now are interested in dumping salary. So far, however, the silence on the other end of the telephone is deafening. There isn't much interest in either player.

Maddux has no-trade powers and has pitched far better than his record indicates, but his preference is to pitch for a West Coast team. The Angels are set -- odds are Maddux wouldn't approve a trade to an AL club anyway -- and the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are the only other two western clubs in contention. And they each have other needs.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com