Posted on: April 6, 2008 7:53 pm
Edited on: April 6, 2008 7:54 pm
 

Dirt, accusations and Jake Peavy's hand

Video killed the radio star, the song goes ... and it may wind up curbing cheating, too. Or, even thinking of it.

Not that San Diego Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was doing anything of the sort in his brillitant, complete-game win over Los Angeles on Saturday, but somebody saw some brown stuff on his right thumb, index and middle fingers on the postgame Fox television broadcast while Peavy was shaking hands with his teammates, posted the zoomed-in photos on the Internet and, voila. Dirt smeared with resin and sweat? Pine tar? Maple syrup left over from breakfast?

The unanimous Cy Young winner found himself answering questions Sunday that probably won't disppear until after his next start.

Which, as fate would have it, is Friday in Dodger Stadium in a rematch against Brad Penny.

Peavy, manager Bud Black and the Padres say the brown stuff on Peavy's hand Saturday was dirt, plain and simple.

"I laugh, to be honest with you," Peavy said. "Anybody that wants to check me, feel free. There's nothing on my hand that's not supposed to be. I laughed. I thought it was funny."

"You play baseball, your hands get dirty," Padres manager Bud Black said, noting that Peavy often reaches for the resin bag and that the powdery substance is designed to make the hand a bit sticky (to grip the ball better) and, when mixed with sweat, said that dirt can adhere to it.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre acknowledged the possibility that it could be pine tar during his pre-game meeting with reporters Sunday but mostly downplayed the situation. Torre said that if somebody appears to be doing something illegal in a game it should be checked but said that he does not favor "undressing" an opposing pitcher -- that is, asking the umpire to go out and search the pitcher on the mound.

"They're more than welcome to," Peavy said of the prospect of the Dodgers asking the umpires to check him Friday night. "I hope they're worried about my hand. Anytime Joe wants to check me, he can."

The Peavy situation is similar to one involving Detroit's Kenny Rogers during the 2006 WOrld Series. Then, however, television cameras picked up on Rogers' dirty hand during the game and broadcasters were openly talking about it as play continued.

Peavy's dirty hand wasn't noticed until after the broadcast, by someone who apparently saw it on digital video, photographed his television and then sent the photos to a Web site.

And the photo came after the game. If Peavy's hand was dirty during the game, there's apparently no evidence.

Peavy saw the photo when someone showed it to him before the game and, during a conversation after San Diego's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday, expressed surprise -- and skepticism where the photo was concerned -- that his hand was that stained.

"I can't imagine my hands would be that dirty," Peavy said. "But my hands aren't that clean (during a game). I pick up the resin bag, I hit. ..."

 

 

 

Category: MLB
Posted on: April 4, 2008 11:19 pm
 

Edmonds to return Saturday, and other nuggets

The season is only a few days old, but San Diego already is expecting a reinforcement in time for Saturday afternoon's game with Los Angeles. Center fielder Jim Edmonds, following a brief, two-game injury rehabilitation stint at Class A Lake Elsinore, will be activated and manager Bud Black hinted that he will be in the lineup.

Edmonds, who batted only .252 with 12 homers, 53 RBI and a career-low .325 on-base percentage last year in St. Louis, has been nursing a strained calf since early this spring. The Padres sent Edmonds to Lake Elsinore, about a two-hour drive north of San Diego, essentially for a two-game dress rehearsal. They wanted him to get some at-bats, run the bases and field in game conditions before turning him loose in Petco Park.

How Edmonds' early leg problems will play out undoubtedly will be one of the keys to San Diego's season. He's 38, and he's got a lot of ground to cover in one of the league's largest outfields.

Odd man out to make room for Edmonds? Outfielder Jody Gerut is expected to be optioned to Triple-A Portland. The other candidate would be Paul McAnulty, but he was hitting .455 entering Friday night's game and he's out of options. Plus, he's played his way into the Padres plans. For now, at least.

-- Strange to think about now, but there was a time this spring when new Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter was concerned about starting the season in Minnesota. He really was afraid he was going to be the target of boos and catcalls after leaving the Twins as a free agent. Instead, he was exhausted leaving Minnesota for the Angels' home opener Friday night because of all of the attention he received.

The Twins presenting him with his Gold Glove award on the field before the second game of the series was a class move, as were the several standing ovations Hunter received. It hasn't always been that way in the Metrodome for Twins who have left. Let's just say Minnesotans are world class at distinguishing between the phony and the real (well, other than when they elected Jesse Ventura as governor).

-- Don't pay too much attention to that fancy save Miguel Batista picked up for Seattle in closer J.J. Putz's absence the other day. Not to disrespect something the Mariners really needed after losing Putz to the 15-day disabled list, but it essentially was like throwing on the side in between starts for Batista.

Because he will not be removed from the rotation: He's still on schedule to start Saturday's game against Baltimore. Batista closed for Toronto in 2005,  but while Putz recovers from a rib cage strain, right-handers Mark Lowe and Sean Green and lefty Eric O'Flaherty will share the eighth and ninth innings.

-- Did you see Alfonso Soriano flip back to second base in the ninth inning Friday against Houston? For one inning, and it figured: First ball in play is a grounder to Soriano, who hadn't played second in two years. He fielded it cleanly, after which he flashed a wide grin. He wound up with two assists in the inning -- two of the three Astros to bat grounded to him.

-- Was going to be in Anaheim for the Angels' home opener Friday night against Texas, but Kenny G was going to play the national anthem and Kenny G is just something I can't stomach. See you soon, Angels.

Posted on: April 2, 2008 11:15 pm
 

Tight leash in the coaching box

Base coaches who thought the enforcement of a helmet rule would be their biggest impediment this season are quickly finding out otherwise.

Major league baseball this season has tightened the parameters regarding where coaches can roam in an attempt to keep them safe. And the inconvenience already is rippling through the game.

Not only did Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa receive a three-game suspension Wednesday after his volcanic eruption a night earlier but, a couple of hours south, the San Diego Padres say the enforcement of the little-known rule potentially cost them a run in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Houston.

The issue for both Bowa and Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman on Tuesday was this: With a runner on second base, third-base coaches normally shade down the third-base line toward home plate, so that when the runner on second rounds third, he can easily pick up the coach.

But baseball sent a memo to clubs and umpires this spring notifying them that coaches are expected to remain in the box. It's tied to the helmet rule, which the game's general managers and rules committee installed after Scott Coolbaugh, then coaching first base, was killed by a line drive in a minor-league game last summer.

In the Padres' game, Hoffman, carefully remaining in the box to comply with the rules, attempted to stop Hairston at third on Paul McAnulty's ground ball to shortstop. But when Hairston rounded third, he was already past Hoffman and didn't see the stop sign. Houston shortstop Miguel Tejada alertly threw behind the runner to third, and Hairston was tagged out.

Now, here's where the coaching-box rule became even more chaotic in San Diego: Turns out, in an attempt to preserve the grass, Padres groundskeepers periodically move the third-base box slightly up and down the line. Its positioning Tuesday was too far toward left-field -- the home-plate side of the third-base box was even with the third-base bag, and it extended toward left field. Which is why Hairston never saw Hoffman.

So 30 minutes before Wednesday's Padres-Astros game, Petco Park groundskeepers were redrawing the lines and extending the third-base box several feet to the home-plate side of third base -- where it's supposed to be.

"The idea is that the coaches are not supposed to be any closer to home plate than the near side of the box as a player bats," said Padres president Sandy Alderson, a member of baseball's rules committee. "But the rules don't require that he stay in the box."

According to the rules -- rules that obviously will be enforced this year -- a coach can move out of the box and go up or down the line once the ball is put in play and the ball moves past the coach.

"The whole idea is safety," Alderson said.

That's what got Bowa into a pickle Tuesday evening. Third-base ump Ed Montague told Bowa he was straying too far from the box, Bowa ignored him, and finally, with a Dodger on second and Bowa just about halfway between third and home, Montague warned him one final time.

It's been a tough year already for Bowa, who bitterly complained about the helmet rule this spring.

"The helmets are ridiculous," Alderson said. "They don't provide protection. If they were provided with the same helmets batters and baserunners have worn for the past 20 years, it would be one thing. If they're going to wear helmets, they should wear the helmets with the ear flaps."

Alderson said he did not see replays of the Bowa explosion, and he did have a question.

"Did he throw his helmet?" Alderson quipped.

Posted on: April 1, 2008 6:26 pm
 

Pass the Maalox and somebody finish the game

Morning has barely broken on the new season, and already it's Maalox time for managers.

With two openers yet to be completed, there already have been seven blown saves on opening day. That ties an opening day record, according to baseball-reference.com. Since saves became an official statistic in 1969, only one other time has there been as many as seven blown saves on opening day, and that was in 1994.

Contributing to this historic occasion already are Oakland's Huston Street (March 25 against Boston in Japan), Boston's Kyle Snyder (same game against the A's), Washington's Jon Rauch (Sunday night against the Braves) Cleveland's Rafael Perez, Detroit's Jason Grilli, Kansas City's Brett Tomko and Milwaukee's Eric Gagne (all Monday).

And that's not even counting the Cubs' Kerry Wood, who blew up the 0-0 game in Wrigley Field against Milwaukee on Monday by surrendering three top-of-the-ninth runs. And it's not counting Atlanta's Peter Moylan, who served up Sunday night's bottom-of-the-ninth homer to Washington's Ryan Zimmerman to deal the Braves, who had been tied 2-2, a heartbreaking 3-2 loss.

The three most eyebrow-raising blown games within that group were authored by Gagne, Street and Wood -- for different reasons.

Let's start with Wood, because while that didn't go down as a blown save, it certainly ruined a what should have been a memorable opener featuring the Cubs' newest folk hero, Kosuke Fukudome. For the sake of both the Cubs and manager Lou Piniella, the days of Wood raising the club's hopes and then tossing a banana peel under them must be finished. The Cubs think they're finished. Wood pitched very well in relief late last season and had a very good spring. His final spring test was pitching on consecutive days and working three times in a five-day stretch, both of which he aced.

The biggest question with Wood is whether he stays healthy, and for now, that was answered during the spring. The club believes he will be very successful as a closer. Piniella indicated this spring that set-up man Carlos Marmol would be used as a closer in the event Wood didn't work. But that weakens the club in the seventh and eighth innings.

It's always a mistake to place too much emphasis on one game -- especially if it's opening day, which usually gets an inordinate amount of attention (and, when the cold, raw conditions that were in Chicago make it difficult for a pitcher to grip a baseball). But let's just say this: Wood had better convert his next few save opportunities, or it's going to be panic time in Chicago.

Is it time to panic in Milwaukee with Gagne? I had a long talk with manager Ned Yost about that late this spring as the Brewers were keeping Gagne hidden away on the back fields. And in the couple of 'A' games he did pitch, he looked nothing like his old Cy Young-winning self.

Gagne went 2-0 with 16 saves and a 2.16 ERA in 34 games for Texas last summer before Boston traded for him for the stretch run. Working as a set-up man (and eventually mop-up man) for Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, Gagne was 2-2 with an alarming 6.75 ERA and no saves in 20 games.

Yost said this spring that he is going with Gagne's Texas stats last summer and completely discounting the Boston performance because: A) As a closer, Gagne is a different breed; B) He wasn't closing in Boston, and, C) Therefore, he didn't have the adrenalin and situations he needed.

That works in theory. But here's the reason why I'm concerned if I'm Milwaukee (which is paying him $10 million in 2008): No, Gagne wasn't closing in Boston. But while he regularly was getting lit up and booed out of Fenway Park, you would think a self-preservation mechanism would have kicked in that would have given Gagne the adrenalin he needed. He never could find it. Nor has he been able to find his old fastball. Where he once jacked it up to 98, 99 m.p.h. in his heyday in Los Angeles, now Gagne's fastball tops out at 92, 93. And there's all kinds of suspicion as to why. You can start by finding his name in the Mitchell Report.

Street probably won't be under as intense a spotlight as Gagne and Wood this season simply because Oakland isn't expected to be in contention. But scouts who saw him in the Cactus League this spring were buzzing about how poorly he threw. There's no indentifiable reason yet but, at this point, it seems clear that something could be up with Street. A hidden injury? A simple slow start? Stay tuned.

And, stay tuned Tuesday night. Mariano Rivera (Yankees) and Jeremy Accardo (Toronto), and Jason Isringhausen (St. Louis) and Manny Corpas (Colorado), you're up.

Two more openers yet to be competed. And an opening day blown saves record clearly within reach.

Posted on: March 31, 2008 9:54 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2008 11:52 am
 

Westward ho

LOS ANGELES -- Get ready for a season of memories as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants celebrate their 50th seasons of serving as the trailblazers in baseball's westward expansion. And if the opening day pre-game ceremony staged by the Dodgers serves as any kind of preview, it's going to be some kind of fun.

Sandy Koufax, Carl Erskine and Don Newcombe each threw out ceremonial first pitches Monday after the emotional introductions of nearly 40 former Dodgers. Most of the former players all came onto the field in full uniform and stood where their old positions were. There was Maury Wills at shortstop, Duke Snider in Ccenter field, Ron Cey at third, Steve Garvey at first ... it was the brainchild of Dr. Charles Steinberg, the new Dodgers vice-president of marketing and communications, and it was trademark Dr. C all the way. He staged similar impressive celebrations in Baltimore and Boston.

"It was really cool," new Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "The Dodgers and the Yankees have the histories to be able to do something like that because of their histories of championships.

"I just wish Don Zimmer would have been here. That would have closed the circle for me."

Zimmer, now a special coach for Tampa Bay, was Torre's bench coach for several seasons with the Yankees. Torre said that rarely a day went by when Zim wouldn't mention Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese or some Dodgers-related anecdote in the dugout.

Though Torre grew up in New York, he said that the Dodgers and Giants leaving after the 1957 season affected him in a way far different from other New Yorkers. His brother, Frank, had just broken into the majors with the Milwaukee Braves, and the departures of the Giants and Dodgers meant that Joe would have to take a train to see his brother play. He no longer would be able to see Frank play in New York once the city lost its National League teams.

Being that it was his first game in a Dodgers uniform, Torre said he felt like a bit of an outsider.

"You sort of feel like a duck out of water because you're not a part of Dodgers history," he said. "It was the same way with the Yankees. I'd see Catfish Hunter, Whitey (Ford), Yogi (Berra) and you felt like you weren't a part of it. It wasn't until after six or seven years that you felt like you were a part of it."

The World Series titles Torre managed the Yankees to in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 just might have been a bit beneficial in making him feel a part of it, too.

Monday, Torre caught the first pitch from Newcombe. He was hoping to catch Koufax's, but it was difficult to say whether it was more because of his friendship with Koufax or more because he has a Los Angeles-themed line he was going to use.

"I was going to tell him it was easier catching him here than trying to hit him here," Torre said, chuckling.

Likes: The new Nationals Park looked beautiful on television the other night, didn't it? Can't wait to get there and see it -- hopefully this year sometime. ... As one media-type cracked here Monday, it should be fairly easy to get to D.C. to see it -- just schedule it in the next time Congress hauls in a few ballplayers for more testimony. ... The Cubs' Kosuke Fukudome, 3-for-3 with a homer in his debut. Nice. ... Life just feels different on opening day, doesn't it? ... Love seeing kids like the Dodgers' Blake Dewitt play well in their first major-league game. ... Pretty great Cleveland-White Sox game Monday. ... Four No. 1 seeds in Saturday's Final Four, I've already got a request in for pizza and I ain't going far from the television. ... Two Bruce Springsteen concerts coming up in the next seven days. Opening day, Final Four, Springsteen ... this year may be peaking right now.

Dislikes: Both Kerry Wood and Eric Gagne give up three runs in the ninth inning Monday? Mamma mia. ... The Field Formerly Known as Jacobs having a new name in Cleveland. ... Rainout in Yankee Stadium and raw weather in Chicago. Shouldn't it be nice everywhere on opening day?

Rock-n-Roll Lyric of the Day:

"All the leaves are brown
"And the sky is gray
"I've been for a walk
"On a winters day
"I'd be safe and warm
"If I was in L.A.
"California dreamin'
"On such a winters day"

-- The Mamas and the Papas, California Dreamin'

 


Posted on: March 29, 2008 6:50 pm
 

Big game hunting on opening day

One of the most attractive opening day pitching matchups has Houston ace Roy Oswalt facing National League Cy Young winner Jake Peavy in San Diego on Monday night.

Well, it's one of the attractive matchups if you're not, say, a white-tailed deer.

The two pals have been pointing toward their opening day duel for months now, trash-talking their way through winter hunting trips and the joint purchase of more than 500 acres of hunting property in southwestern Illinois.

"Some of the best hunting land in the United States," Oswalt told me this spring.

Oswalt is from Weir, Mississippi; Peavy is a native of Mobile, Alabama. They live about two hours' drive-time apart.

Not only did they purchase the Illinois property over the winter, they also enjoyed a home-and-home series of hunting trips together.

Peavy and some of his friends traveled to Mississippi to hunt with Oswalt on the Houston pitcher's 3,000-acre property, and then Oswalt and some of his friends visited Peavy's hunting spread in Alabama.

Funny thing is, neither Oswalt (14-7 with a 3.18 last season) nor Peavy (19-6, 2.54) personally bagged anything on their joint hunting trips, according to the Houston pitcher. The group shot three deer on Oswalt's property and "two or three" on Peavy's property.

But that didn't stop the two buddies from carrying on with their running commentary on Monday's opener for the past several months.

"We've got a lot of bets going on," Oswalt told me, grinning, at the Astros' camp in Kissimmee, Fla., in February. "I can't say what we've got going on, but we've been talking a lot of trash on the phone."

When I saw Peavy in Peoria, Ariz., a few weeks later, last year's unanimous Cy Young winner wasn't spilling any beans regarding the side wagers, either.

"We're going to get after it on opening day," Peavy said. "And then we'll go to dinner when all is said and done."

Venison? He didn't say.


Category: MLB
Posted on: March 27, 2008 1:37 pm
 

Get well soon, Preston

Through one of those odd, quirky occurrences that can happen only around the ballpark, one week ago, I sat next to Preston Gomez in the Phoenix Municipal Stadium press box.

The Athletics were hosting the Los Angeles Angels and Gomez, the baseball lifer and one-time manager of the Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres and Houston Astros, now is a special assistant to Angels general manager Tony Reagins. I don't know why he wound up in the front row of the press box that day -- other than it was crowded and he probably took the last chair -- but, just before first pitch, as I plopped down in front of my laptop, he turned, stuck out his hand, smiled and said, "Hi, I'm Preston."

I had never met him before, and this courtly and genteel gesture struck me immediately as one inherent in his generation that, sadly, has been lost on ours.

It was one of the nicest moments of my spring, and a chill ran right through me Wednesday when I heard Gomez, 84, had been hit by a pickup truck at a gas station while driving home from spring training and is in critical condition.

It never gets old in this business, having the privilege of meeting so many baseball old-timers. And the not knowing when and where keeps you on your toes and can turn what otherwise would be a mundane day interesting.

The classic Gomez story, of course, came in 1970, when he was managing the Padres and he sent a pinch-hitter to the plate for pitcher Clay Kirby in the eighth inning with the Padres trailing the New York Mets 1-0. The kicker: Kirby was pitching a no-hitter at the time.

I briefly thought of asking Gomez about it last week in that press box, but I didn't. I figured he'd probably explained it 1,000 times -- he was simply trying to win a game, and in this old-school guy's eyes, the individual took a back seat to the team -- and besides, I was buried in work. I had a column to write, preview stories to work on ... you know. No matter what job we have, sometimes we keep our head down plowing through it and either don't have the time or don't take the time to enjoy the small moments.

After introducing himself, he was very careful to make sure to get my name, going so far as to read it on my media credential to make sure he had it correctly. We exchanged pleasantries -- what a beautiful day it was, how great the spring always is --then I went back to writing and he went back to scouting.

About midway through the game, someone fouled a pitch up toward us that landed in the stands about five or six rows beneath the press box and we exchanged smiles.

"You've got me covered, right, Preston?" I kidded. "Someone scorches a ball into the press box toward this computer, I'm going to let you catch it."

He laughed, eyes twinkling, and said he didn't know whether he could move so fast anymore.

Not long after, my friend Pedro Gomez, the ESPN broadcaster whom I've known since we covered high school sports together in the 1980s, came by to visit with Preston. They're both Cuban, and they chattered away in Spanish for awhile, and once they got back to English, Pedro asked whether I knew he and Preston shared the same name.

Turns out, Preston's given name is Pedro. I quickly told ESPN Pedro that maybe they shared the same name, but it was obvious which Pedro Gomez got the better end of the looks. And it wasn't the TV star.

We all laughed again, and it was real easy to see why Preston Gomez not only remains a respected baseball man, but beloved in the Angels organization. What a gentle, kind and knowledgeable man.

I'm back home writing now, finishing up that 2008 season preview stuff. And while I am, I can't get my mind off of the sudden and horrible twist of fate, Preston now laying in that hospital bed fighting for his life.

What a treasure that afternoon last week was, and how quickly things change.

Here's a prayer for Preston's full recovery, and for the rest of us to have the wisdom to recognize those moments when life hands you a gift, and to take advantage of them.

 


 

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 23, 2008 3:58 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2008 8:39 pm
 

Cabrera deal for the Tigers? Grrrrreat!

Turns out, Miguel Cabrera not only cost Detroit half of its farm system (almost) in this winter's monster deal with Florida, but also a good percentage of owner Mike Ilitch's Little Caesars pizza money to keep him wearing the Olde English D for the next eight years.

So, is Cabrera worth it?

Heck, yes. By all means. Mark this down as a great day for the Tigers: They didn't even have to annex Michigan's Upper Peninsula, or sell the Ambassador Bridge, to pay Cabrera's freight.

It took a lot of (pizza) dough -- $152.3 million over eight years -- but this is the gift that will keep on giving. Cabrera is only 24 (he turns 25 in on April 18), the numbers from his first five seasons in the majors compare favorably to those of Hank Aaron and if he continues at this pace, he's a definite Hall of Famer.

And from what we've seen this spring, there is every reason to believe that Cabrera will continue produce at this level -- or even higher.

What I saw this spring when I was with the Tigers in Lakeland was a new man, which should be scary news for American League pitchers. Remember how tumultuous last season was at times in Florida with Cabrera, when he was overweight and developed a reputation for periodic loafing?

Yes, it's only spring and yes, things could change, but those days seem long gone.

For one thing, you should see Cabrera now: He changed his workout regimen and his diet beginning immedately after last season, and his body is so much leaner now. Plus, there's no question he's in a better situation, and I think that will help him in every area -- starting upstairs, mentally.

Surrounded by Detroit's productive veterans -- especially countryman Carlos Guillen -- Cabrera has veterans to show him the way professionals do things, and to get after him if he takes a mental day off.

Playing for manager Jim Leyland, he will learn and grow under one of the finest minds in the game -- and from a gruff, no-nonsense manager who commands respect and will not tolerate players going through the motions.

In short, as Cabrera reaches the next level financially, he's surrounded by people who will continue to push him to the next level of greatness, and not let him settle. We already know he has the talent.

Only three players will command an average annual salary larger than Cabrera's $19,037,500 this season: The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, the Mets' Johan Santana and Boston's Manny Ramirez.

With Ramirez in the heart of their order, Boston has racked up two World Series wins in the past four seasons.

With A-Rod, the Yankees haven't won, but they've played in October each year he's been there.

Ramirez, now 36, is about to enter his twilight. A-Rod, 32, is in his prime.

Cabrera, based on his age, may not yet even be in his prime.

Considering that he hit .320 with 34 RBI and 119 RBI for the Marlins last season, he's got a realistic chance at becoming baseball's first Triple Crown winner since 1967, when Boston's Carl Yastrzemski did it.

He also helps put Detroit in position to win its first World Series since 1984 -- perhaps even as soon as this year.

That'll be a large with everything, please.

 

 

 

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