Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:40 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 5:50 pm
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Was it the Angels, or were their halos actually glowing a little brighter in the Arizona sun as they convened for their first full-squad workout with Albert Pujols on Monday?
"Absolutely, you can feel his presence," ace Jered Weaver said.
"There's a sense of excitement, with all the big names," second baseman Howard Kendrick said.
There wasn't any real drama to Monday's workout, unless you count the crush of fans down the right-field line near the team's clubhouse entrance that surged forward so intensely when Pujols stopped to sign that a couple of those in the front row were pinned dangerously against the fence. One cried out in pain.
Maybe that's why Pujols didn't stick around very long to sign.
But though there was nothing to write home about on the field, not even Pujols' live batting practice session against journeyman reliever Brad Mills, the Angels were marking this day on their calendars anyway.
And from Pujols' perspective, he didn't appear to lose his bearings at all.
"He was everywhere," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said. "He was where he was supposed to be.
"He ran with us. He stretched with us. He hit in the right group.
"He was following Erick Aybar. Aybar knows where he's going. As long as he wasn't following Howie Kendrick. ..."
Kendrick chuckled when he heard that.
"Torii might be right," Kendrick said.
Following more than a decade of spring training with the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., Pujols said there really isn't a dramatic difference in the way St. Louis and the Angels conduct things. It's not like, say, there's a secret entrance to the infield at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
"Camps are the same," Pujols said. "There's nothing different."
The nuances will come later.
"It's going to be fun once we start right-side defense," said Kendrick, who will play next to Pujols on that side of the infield. "That's when we'll start interacting.
"I've got to figure out what his range is, how he likes to play. I think with the Cardinals, it looked like he went to his right pretty well. It didn't look like he was afraid to go to his right.
"If he does that, then that allows me to play up the middle more. And we can cover a lot more ground."
Weaver said he got to know Pujols some during the 2006 World Series, when Jered's brother, Jeff, pitched for the Cardinals.
"He's a great guy," Weaver said. "He's always been nice to me and my family. Plus, not only can he hit, but he's a Gold Glove first baseman [winning in 2006 and 2010].
"It's not going to take him long to fit in, I know that. It's exciting. This is my seventh spring here, and there's always been talk in the offseason of us going and getting some people, and we haven't always done it. But with him and C.J. Wilson and LaTroy Hawkins. ..."
The Angels did it this winter, and now they can't wait to get going.
And that scene with the fans as Pujols was leaving the field for the day?
"It also helps with the autograph hounds," Weaver said, chuckling. "They all run to him.
"It takes a little pressure off the rest of us."
Sunblock Day? Sure was, for now, at 78 degrees. But by the time the Angels were wrapping things up around 12:30 p.m., the wind gusts were already starting to howl. Strong winds are predicted to sweep through the desert tonight and knock the temperature down to a high of 62 Tuesday.
Likes: Looking forward to being a panelist this evening at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State in a forum discussing spring training coverage. Other panelists: Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Janie McCauley, the AP writer in San Francisco. ... Not only is Bobby Valentine going to be great as a manager in Boston, it's going to be great fun with him at the helm. Ex-Red Sox manager Terry Francona had barely finished calling Boston's clubhouse beer ban a "PR move" on the radio Monday morning when Valentine fired back after the Sox workout. "Remember, you're getting paid over there for saying stuff," Valentine said. "You get paid over here for doing stuff. I've done both." Nice. ... Love Craig Counsell moving from the field to being a special assistant to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. And how about this: The other day, Counsell and Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke went together to scout a pitcher during a game at Arizona State University. ... Dodgers GM Ned Colletti in the crowd at the Oscars on Sunday night, with great seats not far behind Michelle Williams, who was up for Best Actress for My Week With Marilyn. ... Man, with Colletti and Athletics GM Billy Beane both attending the Academy Awards (Beane to support Moneyball, of course), next thing you know, Cubs GM Theo Epstein will become a regular at the Grammys. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday and Friday nights this week. ... Love what I've heard of Wrecking Ball, the new Springsteen record out March 6. Some rock, some Seeger Sessions-style stuff, some gospel, some folk ... great mix.
Dislikes: Aw, Johnny Cash would have been 80 on Sunday. Happy birthday anyway to the Man in Black. Got a chance to walk through his tour bus a couple of years back when it was on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Very, very cool. Reading daughter Rosanne Cash's memoir, Composed, now. In turns, a very thoughtful, emotional and introspective work.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I go out on a party
"And look for a little fun
"But I find a darkened corner
"Because I still miss someone"
-- Johnny Cash, I Still Miss Someone
Posted on: December 8, 2011 2:46 am
DALLAS -- High-profile Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish wrote on his blog that he will be posted on Thursday and, thus, formally become available to major league clubs as a free agent.
As such, let's remember two words.
A handful of recent Japanese pitchers have disappointed in the majors. While Hideo Nomo had some very good moments, Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa and Matsuzaka all did not live up to their billing.
Matsuzaka landed with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 following an incredibly high profile chase in which the Red Sox paid a $51 million posting price and $52 million in salary.
He went 15-12 in his first season and helped fuel a Red Sox World Series win, then went 18-3 in 2008.
He's done very little in the ensuing three seasons, combining to win just 16 games before landing on the disabled list last summer and undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in June.
"He was in Florida, doing well, and we fully expect that within the time frame of the surgery, within a year, he'd be back and ready sometime this summer," Scott Boras, Matsuzaka's agent, said.
Boras said the fit with new Boston manager Bobby Valentine should be comfortable. Valentine managed seven seasons in Japan since he last managed in the major leagues.
"Daisuke knows a great deal about Bobby Valentine, he's obviously very well respected," Boras said. "Certainly, Daisuke has a familiarity with him. I think the two have a lot in common. And I'm sure Bobby will take Daisuke to his favorite sushi restaurant, rather than vice-versa."
Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
During the past decade, Bobby Valentine has almost managed twice as many big-league clubs as he's actually managed.
He was ticketed to manage the Florida Marlins two summers ago until that blew up.
Now he's on-deck to manage the Boston Red Sox.
Every indication Tuesday night was that Valentine will be calling the shots from the dugout when the Red Sox open their 2012 season in Detroit on April 5. But hey, when you're romancing Bobby V, as Yogi B. would say, it's never over 'til it's over.
And given the downright shameful way the Red Sox let runner-up Gene Lamont twist into Tuesday night without even the courtesy of a phone call as Valentine speculation became deafening, there were still a few loose ends to tie up before what is expected to be a Thursday press conference to introduce the new manager.
Valentine is charismatic, energetic, whip-smart, passionate, arrogant, enthusiastic, old-school, new-school, inquisitive, condescending, confrontational, sharp-tongued and hard-edged in one blinding, kaleidoscope of a package.
How that mixes with the New York Yankees will be riveting. How that mixes with the rest of the American League -- especially with Baltimore manager Buck Showalter -- will be highly entertaining.
How that plays within the Red Sox's own organization eventually will be the stuff of pure drama. There is no way the egos of Valentine and club president Larry Lucchino won't eventually clash and spark like positive and negative electrical currents. There is no way Valentine won't steamroll young rookie general manager Ben Cherington -- or, at least, try.
Fenway Park isn't nearly big enough to contain Valentine's out-sized ego. It isn't small enough to limit the possibilities of what this man and this team, together, could accomplish.
The process that led the Red Sox to this day was nearly as tortured as their fall-off-the-cliff September. Valentine's personality profile is not even in the same country as the group of candidates the Red Sox paraded through for a first round of interviews.
Three candidates from that first group had zilch for managerial experience: Sandy Alomar Jr., Torey Lovullo and Dale Sveum (OK, so he had 16 games' worth of of interim managerial experience in 2008). One more had just two interim managerial stints under his belt (Pete Mackanin). The fifth, Lamont, actually had experience in managing the White Sox (AL manager of the year in 1993) and the Pirates.
All of those guys are quiet. Thoughtful. Each of them fell under the category described by Cherington when he said of Sveum, "He's somebody we know we can work with."
Then, Sveum picked the Cubs and the Red Sox took a hard right.
No matter how they spin it, clearly, ownership took the managerial search steering wheel away from Cherington.
The only guarantee from here is that the ride will be an adventure neither side will ever forget.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:07 am
The curious case of the Red Sox manager search drags on: Though Boston appears close to choosing between veteran baseball men Bobby Valentine and Gene Lamont, that decision will not come on Tuesday, according to sources with knowledge of the Red Sox plans.
With Valentine apparently flying home from Japan on Tuesday, speculation early Monday centered on the Sox informing the two men of their choice later Tuesday. But Boston is said to not be ready to make a decision by then.
Industry speculation has Valentine, 61, as the favorite to get the job, though he is nowhere close to the parameters of the first group of candidates brought in to interview by the Red Sox. New general manager Ben Cherington appeared to be looking for a solid baseball man without much managerial pedigree, a guy who would grow into the Boston job and may be open to front-office suggestions.
That man is not Valentine, who will do things his own way -- and who was contacted by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino after Dale Sveum accepted the Cubs job. Sveum was among the first group to interview with Boston and appeared to be Cherington's first choice.
Valentine guided the Mets to their last World Series appearance in 2000, managing them for parts of seven seasons after piloting the Rangers for parts of eight seasons.
Lamont, 64, is Detroit's third-base coach, managed the White Sox from 1992-1995 and was named as AL Manager of the Year in '93 when the Sox won the AL West title. He had the Sox in first place again in 1994 when the players' strike occurred and the season was wiped out. He also managed Pittsburgh from 1997-2000.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:28 pm
News that the Red Sox are talking with Bobby Valentine appears to mean one of two things for the flailing Bostons, who now are the only major-league team without a manager:
1. There is a total lack of direction and the Red Sox don't even know what they want anymore.
2. Ownership has seized the steering wheel from rookie general manager Ben Cherington and now is controlling the process.
Either scenario is not good, a far cry from the well-oiled machine that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.
The first scenario is evidenced by the dramatic contrast between Valentine and the initial group of candidates they interviewed: Dale Sveum, who was named Cubs manager Friday, Sandy Alomar Jr., Gene Lamont, Pete Mackanin and Torey Lovullo. Of that group, only Lamont has prior major-league managerial experience (Mackanin was the Pirates' interim manager in 2005 and the Reds' interim pilot in 2007). All of those guys veer toward the quiet and unassuming and, to an extent, could be controlled by management. Valentine is brash, has years of experience and is his own man.
The second scenario is evidenced by the fact that Sveum veered in the Cubs' direction in short order following a lunch with Red Sox ownership on Wednesday. He was the only candidate brought back for a second interview. Clearly things did not click between Sveum and Boston's ownership. What we don't know is whether Sveum told Boston the Cubs were his first choice or whether Red Sox ownership pulled the plug on him.
Either way, it speaks volumes.
Obviously, Cherington did not think experience was a necessity when this process started. Valentine was on the shelf, available, when Terry Francona was let go. If the Red Sox were that interested in Valentine, they could have had him in place weeks ago. Why waste time first-dating all those first-timers?
Unless ... they arrived at Valentine once ownership lost confidence in Cherington.
Now there are more questions than answers:
-- Has aggressive president Larry Lucchino been turned loose by co-owners John Henry and Tom Werner to do his thing after being kept away from baseball operations during Theo Epstein's last few years in Boston?
-- By hiring Sveum, did Theo and Co. sting the Red Sox enough that Lucchino and Co. looking to one-up the Cubs with a splashy hire?
-- With his outsized personality, how much fun would Valentine be managing the Red Sox mixing with the outsized egos of ownership, the outsized coverage of the local media and the outsized noise from the New England fans?
-- How does Cherington regain his balance after his legs were cut out from under him this week and command authority going forward? Is it even possible?
At this rate, the Red Sox may take until Valentine's Day to have a manager in place. Or maybe (Bobby) Valentine's Day will come early to Boston.
Posted on: June 17, 2011 6:41 pm
From the start of this season, no manager was more disposable than Florida's Edwin Rodriguez.
Hired mid-stream last summer without any prior big-league experience to replace the fired Fredi Gonzalez, the Marlins thought enough of Rodriguez to remove the "interim" tag and make him their permanent manager for 2011 ... but they didn't think enough of him to give him more than a one-year contract.
Now, with the Marlins in their worst skid since 1998, club history tells us that Rodriguez is a dead man walking.
No owner in the game has run through more managers than Florida's Jeffrey Loria since the start of the 2003 season.
Perhaps it's because, the first time he whacked a manager (Jeff Torborg), Jack McKeon came in on a puff of cigar smoke and led the Marlins to their second World Series win in five seasons.
Maybe it's because the impatient and temperamental Loria simply is George Steinbrenner on training wheels.
Whatever, Torborg was gassed in May of '03. McKeon, riding his World Series triumph and gutsy pitch-Josh-Beckett-in-Game-6 decision, managed two more seasons and left of his own accord following '05. Joe Girardi managed in '06 but clashed with Loria and was fired after just one season. Gonzalez made it through three full seasons but was fired last June.
Now, coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Gonzalez bloodletting (June 23), it is Rodriguez who is moving toward the guillotine. His Marlins have lost seven in a row, 15 of their past 16 and 18 of 21.
They already sacrificed a coach, firing hitting instructor John Mallee on June 8.
How'd that work out? They're 1-8 since.
The Marlins have lost close (six of seven losses between June 1 and 9, amazingly, were one-run defeats) and they have lost in routs (the Phillies hammered them by a combined score of 17-2 over two games of a four-game Philadelphia sweep this week).
With ace Josh Johnson on the disabled list (again), Hanley Ramirez producing a career-worst season (.205, four homers, 17 RBIs) and third baseman of the future Matt Dominguez hitting just .190 this spring and then fracturing an elbow, a club that needed everything to go right to contend hasn't come close to either.
With Loria, this usually means goodbye, manager.
And barring a sudden turnaround this weekend against in-state rival Tampa Bay, sometime before the start of Monday's brief, three-game homestand against the Angels is a pretty good guess as to when.
Only question is, where the Marlins will turn.
Loria could go back to old buddy Bobby Valentine, the hot rumor a year ago, and see if their two nations can come together this time around.
He also could wait until this winter and see what happens with Ozzie Guillen. The White Sox manager -- and former Marlins coach -- remains a highly popular figure in Loria circles. And being that Ozzie keeps a home in the Miami area, the Marlins wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for him if things go south on the South Side of Chicago. Guillen's contract runs through this summer, with an option for 2012.
When this season started, the Marlins thought they could win now, and they felt like they had to win now because they needed to build momentum and translate that into ticket sales when they move into their new park next year.
Those plans are now in shambles. And when that happens in South Florida, usually, whatever comes next involves Loria, and an itchy trigger finger.
Posted on: October 13, 2010 3:40 pm
Fredi Gonzalez is smart, he's coached under Bobby Cox, the Braves love him (front office and players alike) and he's got a veteran manager's pedigree.
There's only one thing not working in his favor, and it will be no small obstacle for Gonzalez to overcome: That old maxim, you never want to be the man who follows The Man.
Following Cox in Atlanta? It will be like following John Wooden at UCLA (poor Gene Bartow), Don Shula with the Miami Dolphins (Jimmy Johnson couldn't replicate the success), Tommy Lasorda with the Dodgers (hello Bill Russell, sacrificial lamb).
Not only did Cox guide the Braves to those 14 consecutive NL East titles (discounting the strike-shortened 1994 season) and the 1995 World Series title, but his greater legacy while moving to fourth on the all-time managerial wins list might be this: You never heard any player who passed through the Braves clubhouse over the years utter a negative word about Cox. None. Ever.
What a testament to Cox in the immediate aftermath of Game 4 of the NL Division Series: The Turner Field crowd giving him a prolonged standing ovation, and the San Francisco Giants hitting the "pause" button on their on-field celebration long enough to stop, face the Braves dugout and give Cox a standing ovation of their own. What a show of spontaneity and class.
Into this Grand Canyon-sized opening steps Gonzalez, who was unceremoniously dumped by the Marlins last summer when owner Jeffrey Loria's lust for Bobby Valentine apparently got the best of him.
Gonzalez was the Braves' third-base coach from 2003-2006 and, before that, in 2002, he managed their Triple-A Richmond club.
This is a man with intimate knowledge of the Braves' system -- the players, the way they do things, the culture. Even after leaving to manage the Marlins in 2007, Gonzalez lived in the Atlanta area in the winters and several times a week would meet Cox and other Braves coaches for breakfast.
So, the transition from Cox and Gonzalez should be seamless. Part of that will be because the Braves, as you would expect, handled the entire transition with class. From Cox's retirement to refusing to discuss Gonzalez until after one last, final Cox news conference on Wednesday, the Braves hit all the right notes.
Now, it's up to Gonzalez. We don't know whether Chipper Jones will make it back next year from his knee injury, but we do know the cupboard is fairly well stocked for the new manager, from pitchers Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Tommy Hanson to everyday players such as Martin Prado, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann.
In Atlanta, the prima donnas are at a minimum. Presumably, Gonzalez will not have a petulant Hanley Ramirez problem on his hands. And if he does, we know how he'll respond: In one of his finest moments as Marlins manager, he benched Ramirez when the shortstop resorted to dogging it.
In two of Gonzalez's three full seasons in Florida -- 2008 and 2009 -- he got more out of the Marlins than they had a right to expect. He'll have more resources in Atlanta -- bigger payroll, more tradition and established veteran players.
Replacing Cox will be no easy task, but in so many ways, Gonzalez is inheriting an ideal situation. Let's see what the man can do.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 2:51 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 4:54 pm
There is nothing like a Game 5 (or Game 7) in sports, and nothing like the pitch-by-pitch tension that builds in an elimination baseball game with the October leaves changing and Halloween costumes in the stores.
-- Texas can say what it wants about having Lee on the mound, and there is no question he's The Man. But it would be more of a guarantee if Tampa Bay was pitching some slob not named Price. Unless you're wearing a Rangers uniform, you'd much rather be in the Rays' cleats tonight: Price on the mound, bats coming back to life, the momentum of winning the past two games in your back pocket and what will be a thunderous, sold-out crowd behind you.
-- Crazy how things work out, and how perfect is this: Price, the man who sparked a controversy in Tampa by criticizing the Rays' fans via Twitter for not showing up on a potential clinching game in late September, pitching in front of not only a sold-out crowd tonight, but a crowd that voraciously snapped up those extra 5,000 tickets. This is a chance for burned bridges to be rebuilt, a chance for Price, 25 and as good a pitcher as there is in the game, to stand tall now that Tampa fans have put their money where Price's mouth is.
-- Maybe you don't realize this, but here is how rare a Game 5 is: We haven't had one since 2005, when the Los Angeles Angels beat the Yankees 5-2 in Anaheim to advance to the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox. Not only that, there's been very little drama in the Division Series' since '05, period: Entering this fall, a total of 11 of 20 series since then have been 3-0 sweeps. Last fall, Game 163 between the Tigers and Twins -- not a Game 5, but an elimination game nonetheless, was by far the most exciting game of the entire postseason. It was all downhill after that.
-- The home team has yet to win in this series. Only once before has a team won the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series on the road and then gone on to lose: the 2001 Oakland A's, who played the New York Yankees. Texas will do everything tonight to make sure that changes, and don't be surprised to see manager Ron Washington call on starter C.J. Wilson if, for some reason, Lee is off.
-- This either works in Tampa Bay's favor -- or in Texas', if you figure odds are that this eventually will change: Never before in major league baseball history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, has there been a postseason series in which the road team has won every game in a best-of-five series.
-- In Game 1, Lee threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 27 hitters, and threw 76 strikes out of 104 total pitches. The Rays ranked third in the AL this season with 802 runs scored, but only 13th with in hits -- only Seattle, in the AL, had fewer. That partly explains why the Rays were no-hit twice this summer. And it explains how steep their challenge is tonight: They cannot expect to get extra runners on base via walks. They must be aggressive in swinging at Lee's strikes -- but it's a fine line between being aggressive, and coming too far out of their game.
-- From Texas' perspective, taking an early lead is a must. That would take the Tampa crowd out of the game, it would allow the Rangers to settle in and it might give Lee all he needs. "I think it depends on how many runs is put on the board when you score first," Rangers manager Ron Washington said Sunday in Texas while looking toward Game 5. "If you put one run on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. You put two runs on the board, you figure you can catch up with that. As long as it doesn't get past a grand slam, I think you're in good shape."
-- More Washington: "This was a five-game series when it started, now it's a five-game series. They proved they can beat us on our field, we proved we can beat them on their field. This is what it's about now. They have the right person they feel that's going to be throwing ... and we certainly feel the same way. So it's a matter of going out there, getting Cliff some runs, and if we get him some runs, he'll take it to the finish line. That's what it's all about."
-- Great stuff from Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler on Game 5: "Everyone understands it's just one game now. It's the same game, there's just more cameras. The bases don't eject out of the ground. Guys aren't throwing 150 miles an hour. There's a little more intensity." Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena agreed that there will be no ejecting bases in Tropicana Field tonight, but, as he said, "I can't deny it, it's going to be pretty exciting. It's not as easy to control your emotions. It's fun. It's fun to be a part of it."
-- Tampa Bay's attitude? "We came here facing our elimination," catcher John Jaso said as the Rays dressed after Game 4 to fly home to St. Pete for Game 5. "And we still are facing our elimination." So far, so good with that.
-- The Rangers, for one more day at least, remain the only team in baseball never to have won a playoff series. Someone asked Lee the other day about pitching for a team with such a "sorry history." "I've heard something about that," Lee deadpanned during a post-Game 4 news conference the other day. "But that really doesn't matter to me that much, to be honest. This is a different team than has ever played here. It's a whole different set of circumstances."
Likes: Game 5, for "all the marbles" (as Texas third baseman Michael Young says). ... Bobby Valentine in line to manage again, either in Florida or Seattle. Great fit in either place, but especially the Mariners with their Japanese ownership and Bobby V's ties to Japan. ... Sandy Alderson interviewing with the Mets as a potential general manager. I disagreed with many things Alderson did as president of the Padres, but he would be a great fit with the Mets, who need an adult to run that sorry franchise. Allard Baird, who interviewed Monday, would be a very fine choice as well. ... The Jim Joyce Twitter controversy that erupted on Tuesday. Suddenly, the umpire showed up with a new Twitter account and several tweets that looked authentic -- until MLB-PR tweeted that it was not the real Jim Joyce. ... Baseball working with Stand Up 2 Cancer. ... I don't plug a whole lot of things like this, but if you have a minute to vote in this Pepsi Refresh Project, Gabby's Ladder is a terrific organization for bereaved children in Michigan and Ohio that could really use a helping hand.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"If the businessmen drink my blood
-- Arcade Fire, Ready to Start