Tag:Derrek Lee
Posted on: March 4, 2011 5:34 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column


SARASOTA, Fla. -- Outtakes from hanging with the team that once went to World Series' with Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer. ...

-- Strong, and interesting, words this spring from veteran second baseman Brian Roberts in assessing newcomers Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Vladimir Guerrero and, of course, manager Buck Showalter: "This is the most excitement, I think, that I've seen in my 10 years here. There's been some good excitement in the past, like when we got Sammy Sosa, but as far as realistic excitement, this is the most I've seen."

-- It's easy to get impatient with catcher Matt Wieters, 24, partly because it seems like he's been around longer than he has. We've been hearing about him for so long, a good year or more before he landed in the majors in 2009, that last year's .249 batting average, 11 homers and 55 RBI in 130 games sure seems ho-hum. Especially given that those numbers are down from his 86-game debut in '09: .288, nine homers, 43 RBIs.

"I don't give a lot of to Matt," Showalter says. "He's going to be as good as he's capable of being. Challenges off the field, physical toughness, mental toughness ... he brings all of those things. Like I was telling him last year, 'Matt, you make between 100 and 200 decisions a night with your fingers. You get four at-bats. You do the ratio of how much you impact this club.'"

As the Orioles' culture shifts into a new year, Showalter also is looking for his catcher to be more of a leader this year.

"I told him at end of year last year, the gloves are coming off," Showalter says. "You can't fool me. I know it's there. As long as you're not asking anybody else to something you're not willing to do yourself, then you're covered. If all of a sudden you go half-assed down the line, don't be saying anything to me about it. I want him to start taking more of a role in what's best for the Orioles."

-- For his part, Wieters should be more comfortable with Lee, Reynolds, Hardy and Guerrero around because it helps shoulder the load.

"It's big from an information standpoint," Wieters says. "It's big in that they've been on winning ballclubs. They let you know, this is no longer a rebuilding phase. It's time to win and win now. This is definitely a different camp this year."

-- And Wieters on Showalter: "He's probably the most prepared manager I've ever been around. You're going to come to the park and have a chance to succeed. That's the biggest thing. Every piece of information is there."

Sunblock Day? So far, there have been no days where you didn't need to slather on the sunblock this spring. Just gorgeous.

Likes: David Letterman's top 10 the other night, things you don't want to hear during spring training. Loved No. 9: "Instead of Tommy John surgery, I had Elton John surgery." For the whole list, check out our Eye on Baseball blog. ... A.J. Pierzynski getting pulled over and ticketed for speeding while wearing his White Sox uniform en route to a Cactus League game against Cincinnati. Classic story. And Pierzynski reports that the Arizona police still have not returned his insurance card. ... Boston's on A1A in Delray Beach, Fla. Great food, great atmosphere. ... Weather warm enough to wear shorts, and drive barefoot. ... Mavis Staples' disc You Are Not Alone, produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. Great, great stuff from a true -- and underrated -- soul legend.

Dislikes: Staying at the hotel in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., next to the Wackenhut corporate headquarters. The hotel is good. But seeing the Wackenhut building just gives me the shivers from a long ago time in my life. Scrounging for work the summer before going off to college, I got a job as a security man -- employed by Wackenhut -- at the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Power Plan outside of Monroe, Mich. Now, here I was, an 18-year-old kid, working the graveyard shift (something like midnight-8 a.m.) making rounds to protect a nuclear power plant. There was a another security outfit, from what I remember, whose employees actually carried guns. Me, no. I just made rounds and reported anything suspicious. Fortunately, I found another job and only lasted, as I recall, about a month in that gig. It helped build character, no doubt. But I sure hope security has improved since those days.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The pretty little raven at the birdbath stand
"Taught him how to do the bop and it was grand
"Start goin' steady and bless my soul
"He out-bopped the buzzard and the Oriole"

-- Bobby Day, Rockin' Robin

 

Posted on: October 9, 2010 2:23 am
 

Glaus sets up Ankiel, Braves and baseball win

One small step for the Atlanta Braves, one giant leap for major league baseball.

Oh, and a belated Merry Christmas to the Braves as well.

Yessir. When the Braves agreed to terms with Troy Glaus last Christmas Eve, they did not exactly envision him playing third base with the season on the line in the 10th inning of the NL divisional playoffs.

Fact is, they did not envision Glaus playing third. Period, end of sentence.

So what was he doing, all brittle and lumbering, starting the Braves' most crucial 5-4-3 double play in years as they seized another game with their last licks and evened their series with the Giants at one game apiece with a 5-4, 11-inning, Rick Ankiel Special on Friday night?

Excellent question.

Short answer is, quite simply, it's the beauty of the game. Sometimes the best-laid plans are forcibly scrapped at the most inopportune times, and the game reverts back to the schoolyard. You play here, you play there, and we'll see what happens.

Long answer? Desperate for offense and with a hole to plug at first base, Braves general manager Frank Wren gambled that Glaus could learn a new position and add the bat Atlanta needed. It was a sizable gamble, too, in that the shoulder surgery Glaus underwent in January, 2009, allowed him to play in only 14 games for St. Louis that summer.

It worked fine for a time, especially in May, when Glaus collected 28 RBI in 27 games. But his production diminished as the summer wore on and then, on Aug. 12, came a season-changer: Chipper Jones was lost for the rest of the year to a knee injury.

So what happens? Wren acquires first baseman Derrek Lee from the Cubs ... and Glaus is such a team guy, such a Bobby Cox devotee, that he's all for bringing Lee aboard and volunteers to play third base while he's at it.

Not that the Braves took him up on it. Are you kidding? He's 33, he's 6-6 and 250 pounds, and Glaus had reached the part of his career where, if he did play third, the odds were far greater that he would hurt himself (and the team) than much good would happen.

Until Friday night became just late and crazy enough that the Braves were left without many options. And Glaus entered the game as an, ahem, defensive replacement in the 10th.

It figured that the first batter in the 10th, Edgar Renteria, immediately dropped a bunt in Glaus' direction. Do you know how many total chances Glaus has had at third in the past two seasons? Nine, that's how many. And just one this year, in the one appearance (two total innings) he had made there.

Renteria reached base, of course. And so did two other Giants.

And there in the bottom of the 10th, with one out and the largest crowd ever to gather at AT&T Park roaring, what should Buster Posey do but roll a 'tweener grounder -- it wasn't hit hard, but it wasn't a soft grounder, either -- in Glaus' direction.

And the big guy came up with it, wheeled and threw to second to start the 5-4-3, and the relay to first barely beat Posey. Said later throwing home for the force out was never an option.

One false move in the play, and Renteria scores and the Giants win.

Instead, Glaus was perfect, in both the plan and the execution.

And next inning, Ankiel blasts a fastball into the water. And somehow, Kyle Farnsworth keeps the Giants off the board in the bottom of the 11th.

Not only did it complete a rousing comeback for a down-and-out team that had seen Cox ejected nine innings earlier, it also breathed life back into a postseason in dire need of mouth-to-mouth.

Six outs from a fourth series going 2-0 when bearded Giants closer Brian Wilson was summoned by manager Bruce Bochy, baseball was edging close to four sweeps, a first round ending by Sunday evening, the next round not slated to begin until next Friday.

So what were we all supposed to do if the game went dark Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?

Convene a national convention to bitch about the umpires?

But enough about a downer of a first round, something that has become an all-too-familiar event and might warrant baseball reviewing the playoff format.

Right now, all the Braves care about is that, somehow, they live.

And bleak as it may look with Jones and Martin Prado (oblique) done for the year -- and, quite possibly, closer Billy Wagner (oblique) to follow after he hurt himself in the 10th inning Friday -- Tim Hudson getting the ball for Game 3 in Atlanta on Sunday looks pretty darned good.

After they scored zero runs in their first 14 innings against the Giants, the Braves finished Friday with five in the last six innings.

They get a couple more Sunday, Hudson steps up and the Turner Field magic kicks in (the Braves' 56 home victories led the majors), who knows? The Giants -- and baseball -- might have a fight on their hands yet.

Posted on: July 29, 2010 5:08 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 7:01 pm
 

Toronto's Downs hot property & other trade notes

Toronto was the focal point of last year's trade deadline, then-Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was the point man and ace Roy Halladay was the bait.

A year later, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt having been traded and Saturday's 4 p.m. EDT non-waivers trade deadline bearing down?

Toronto again is a focal point, first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos is the point man and reliever Scott Downs is getting as much action as anybody on the market.

Now Downs might not pack as much marquee punch as Halladay, but this year's trade market isn't exactly heavyweight, either.

And given the overwhelming bullpen needs of the majority of contenders this summer. ...

"He might be the best guy out there," the general manager of one club with interest in Downs says. "He's owed just a little more than $1 million, he's left-handed, he can close, he can set up. ..."

Among other clubs, the Blue Jays have fielded inquiries about Downs from the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Mets, Dodgers, Rockies, Giants, Reds and Phillies over the past several days.

Clubs also are watching Jays relievers Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor.

-- The Nationals are holding out hope of signing slugger Adam Dunn to a contract extension between now and Saturday's trade deadline, which is why talks remain slow between them and other clubs like the White Sox, Yankees and Giants. If contract talks don't progress, trade talks are expected to.

-- The Dodgers, who obtained outfielder Scott Podsednik from Kansas City on Wednesday, still want to acquire a starting pitcher and worked hard to try and pry Roy Oswalt from Houston until the Phillies finally finished the deal. The Dodgers were given indications that Oswalt would have waived his no-trade clause to go there.

-- The Dodgers have scouted the Cubs' Ted Lilly but are lukewarm on him, particularly given that they'd get only about 10 starts for the roughly $4 million he's still owed. They also have had a scout sitting on Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm, who was blasted by the Rockies in Coors Field on Thursday (five earned runs, seven hits, 4 2/3 innings). The Pirates have not indicated yet whether they intend to move Maholm.

-- GM Ned Colletti thinks the chances of the Dodgers acquiring pitching help might be better in August given the slim pickings right now. Plus, Dodgers under Colletti have made several of their key moves in August. Last year, they added pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland, infielder Ronnie Belliard and pinch-hitter Jim Thome in August. Two years ago, they added Greg Maddux in August.

-- The Twins and Mets also continue to engage the Cubs regarding Lilly.

-- The sinking Rockies want to move starter Aaron Cook, according to one source, but there has not been much interest.

-- Philadelphia scouted Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa as a fallback in case Roy Oswalt did not work out.

-- The Angels, who are just about DOA right now, had been working toward a deal for the Cubs' Derrek Lee for several weeks before Lee nixed it. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter had dinner with Lee in Chicago on June 18 after that afternoon's game that doubled as a recruiting session. Lee must be one of the few people in baseball who can't be charmed by Hunter.

-- Multiple clubs have asked Milwaukee about veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, but Edmonds has told the Brewers he does not want to go anywhere. He particularly would make sense for San Francisco, which is looking for an outfielder who can improve the offense.

-- This shoulder stiffness that sent Washington's Stephen Strasburg to the disabled list on Thursday is something completely new. His college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, said at Petco Park on Wednesday night that Strasburg never had a shoulder or arm problem in three seasons at San Diego State. Not even something minor. "None. Zero. Nothing," Gwynn said.

Posted on: October 7, 2008 6:59 pm
 

NLCS is here, Cubs aren't

PHILADELPHIA -- Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers would have been Tuesday night.

Instead, broken-hearted fans are leaving flowers at a makeshift shrine at Wrigley Field, which has gone dark until next spring.

The NL Championship Series begins here Thursday evening, and while the Dodgers flew east, the Chicago Cubs, despite an NL-high 97 wins, have gone home for the winter.

And their outraged fans are still sputtering.

"I will never set foot in that ballpark again," wrote Brian P. Patke in a letter to the editor published in Tuesday's Chicago Tribune. "I have boxed up everything 'Cubs' that I own and will properly dispose of it in a Dumpster. To pass this collection of misery down to my kids would only be committing the same brutal punishment my father passed down to me.

"I don't believe in jinxes, hexes or curses, but I believe in wasteful spending of money (Alfonso Soriano), God-awful choke jobs and the lack of self-confidence that comes with the fear of losing."

This autumn's three-game sweep wasn't just your normal Cubs-variety flop.

No, this was a devastating defeat that will hang like a cement anchor on this franchise throughout the winter. General manager Jim Hendry must re-evaluate things from top to bottom, even after constructing a team that won more games than any Cubs club in 63 years:

-- Alfonso Soriano's inept performance during his two postseasons with the Cubs (3-for-28, eight strikeouts, no extra-base hits) at the very least suggests the Cubs need to find another leadoff hitter (resurrect those trade talks for Baltimore's Brian Roberts again this winter?) and slide Soriano down in the order. At worst, it may signal that the eight-year, $136 million deal -- Soriano just completed his second year -- was a mistake. In 44 lifetime postseason games dating back to his rookie year with the Yankees, Soriano is hitting .213 (37-for-174). October, which brings with it the game's best pitchers, is not a friendly time for undisciplined, free swingers. See Guerrero, Vladimir, over in the American League. Soriano's contract makes him virtually untradeable. At this point, the Cubs at least should investigate the possibilities.

-- Third baseman Aramis Ramirez is 2-for-23 with no RBIs during the past two Cubs offseasons. He looks as lost as Soriano.

-- Kosuke Fukudome, at three-years, $38 million, right now appears to have been a colossal mistake. The Cubs are going to have to look hard at him in spring training and early in the year and, maybe, swallow hard and eat the contract (or, at the very least, ship him to Triple-A Iowa and see if he can be salvaged).

-- The Cubs' culture must be changed. Manager Lou Piniella and the players deflected questions surrounding the curse and the 100-year drought since the club's last World Series title (1908) all season. Then club CEO Crane Kenney hauled out a priest to sprinkle holy water on the Cubs' dugout before Game 1 against the Dodgers. It was uncalled for, demeaning to those in uniform and an open invitation to further ridicule.

-- After the Cubs lost Game 1 to the Dodgers, second baseman Mark DeRosa called Game 2 a "do-or-die" game. Though manager Lou Piniella publicly disavowed that, privately, according to sources, he asked front office officials whether the roster could be changed (it can't, except in the case of injury, once a playoff series begins). Signs of panic were evident just one game into the postseason.

When normally placid first baseman Derrek Lee slammed his helmet to the ground in the fifth inning of Saturday's Game 3 loss, it seemed the universal signal of utter frustration and inability to do anything about it.

It's not unusual for players to become upset and slam helmets around.

It is unusual for it to happen in the fifth inning. Normally, that kind of behavior is reserved for the eighth or ninth inning.

Probably, it was an accumulation of frustration. Over the past two postseasons -- two three-game sweeps by Arizona and Los Angeles -- the Cubs have combined for a grand total of 12 runs.

"You have to score runs," Piniella said. "We had opportunities and you have to take advantage of them. This is six games I've managed now in the postseason (with the Cubs) and we have scored just 12 runs. That doesn't get it done. If you want to win a World Series or go deep into the postseason, you have to score runs."

Among other egregious transgressions, the wild-swinging Soriano not only swung at the first pitch of the game, he also swung at the first pitch after Dodgers manager Joe Torre summoned reliever Cory Wade with two Cubs aboard, one out and Chicago trailing 3-0 in the seventh inning of Game 3. That he didn't make the new pitcher at least throw a couple of pitches and make sure he had command of the strike zone was inexcusable.

The honeymoon long since had ended for Fukudome. At O'Hare airport on Friday morning following the Cubs' Game 2 loss, those in the United Airlines terminal heard an announcement come over the public address system: "Attention Kosuke Fukudome. Attention Kosuke Fukudome. Please report to the Cincinnati Reds. You've been traded for a player to be named later."

The honeymoon for everyone else pretty much had ended before the final pitch of Game 3 had even been thrown.

"So Long" read Sunday's headline in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Wait 'till ... whatever" sighed the headline in the suburban Daily Herald.

Patke, the letter-writer Tuesday in the Tribune, was only getting warmed up.

"This type of misery deserves no more company of mine," he wrote. "With more than three million bozos showing up annually for the circus, I know I won't be missed one bit, but the feeling is truly mutual.

"Good riddance, Cubs. I wish I could say it's been fun, but that would be like saying multiple minor heart attacks are no big deal. Eventually you have to change your habits and evil ways to avoid a predictable and most certain premature death."

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
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