Posted on: July 29, 2011 11:03 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2011 12:50 am
With Hunter Pence now off the board following his acquisition by the Phillies, and with uncertainty as to whether the White Sox will deal Carlos Quentin, everybody looking for a bat is now rushing to ... San Diego, to get Ryan Ludwick?
Not exactly. The Braves continued to show interest on Friday, according to CBSSports.com sources, along with the Indians and the Reds.
The Braves continue to appear to be the main players, but talks did not appear to be hot. Perhaps with Pence no longer available in Houston, Atlanta's efforts will increase toward Ludwick. But as the Padres shop their outfielder in advance of his impending free agency, no deal was imminent as of Friday night.
Part of that, according to sources, is because the Braves are still traveling parallel paths in their quest to obtain an outfielder. They had interest in Pence, continue to have interest in Quentin and Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton, and could turn to Oakland and Josh Willingham.
The Indians, who acquired outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs on Thursday, had several lines out on Friday both for another bat and for pitching.
The Reds, who have had a very disappointing season and were five games under .500 heading into this weekend's series with San Francisco, were thought by many to be veering into "seller" territory after getting pummeled by the Mets earlier in the week. But Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty said flatly Friday that the club is not in sell mode and added that with so many games remaining against NL Central rivals, there is time for the Reds to climb back into the race.
Ludwick, who batted fourth for the Padres on Friday night, is hitting .238 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs. He is a free agent this winter, and the Padres are not expected to make a bid to retain him.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 3:23 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 3:45 pm
Hot fun in the summertime. ...
FROM: Michael S.
Hmm, let's find out if I can see through all of the smoke from whatever it is I'm not inhaling: Berkman has started 62 games in the outfield for St. Louis this season, 19 at first base and two as a DH. So apparently, Mr. Michael, Berkman IS an outfielder. And I'm just high on life.
FROM: Frank D
Great job on your All-Star picks. I agree 100! You are by far the best writer on the site.
Don't tell that to Doyel. He just won a fancy award as the second-best columnist in the country and he might get his feelings hurt.
FROM: Thomas H.
So a team's position in the standings should factor into a player's inclusion in the All-Star starting lineup? These are INDIVIDUAL selections, not team awards. And how do you know that Rickie Weeks has made a better contribution to the Brewers than Brandon Phillips to the Reds? If you are going that route, then also include the contribution in the clubhouse, where Phillips is outstanding.
Your points are well taken. I'm a huge Phillips fan. Both he and Weeks are having great years. But on this one, I'm right.
FROM: John D.
First part of your argument is correct: A Yankee shouldn't be starting at shortstop. However, good as Hardy has been, you lose me with your second part. The correct answer is, Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera should be starting.
FROM: Adam S.
Adrian Gonzalez is the runaway MVP in the AL so far? You may want to take another look at Jose Bautista's numbers. Bautista's OBP is 63 points higher, his SLG is 85 points higher, he has more HR's, over 40 more BB's, more Runs, and fewer K's. Don't get me wrong, Gonzalez is having a great year, but I think Bautista has the edge right now, and I'm not sure it is even close. Other than that one argument, I enjoyed the article quite a bit.
I was overzealous (and careless) with my use of the word "runaway." You, sir, are correct. But given what Gonzalez has brought to the Red Sox, and given how he's propped them up into second place in the division, I'm still gonzo over Gonzo.
FROM: Capt. Hook
I'm not sure about your GM skills, much less your math skills, if you think San Diego's current resurgence will stop them from thinking trade. With 80 games left, if they go 56-24 (.700) and San Francisco creeps along at their current .586 over their remaining schedule, the Padres would win by one game. Well, playing .700 may be just a little far-fetched, ya think? Hmmm. Sell the farm, Padres, as the Fantasy of Mr. Miller is just that: A fantasy.
Come on now, read the entire column, not just the headline. I pinpointed the exact time the Padres will start to deal, about a week after the All-Star Game. All I said by pointing toward the Padres' current "resurgence" is that it will delay their plans to trade until later in July. I never suggested they would get back into the race. That would be silly now, wouldn't it?
How about the suicide squeeze bunt he masterfully called on Wednesday night? Guy is 68 years old and called it for the first time in his managerial career. He's a keeper.
FROM: Josh M.
Not only is he the most underrated player in The Show, he's the Twins most INVALUABLE player. Some really smart guy called that one way back during spring training in this column.
I've been a Dodgers fan since 1960. Every cheap shot you threw at McCourt is well-deserved and earned. However, the parking lot beating had no place in this story. It doesn't hurt me as a Dodgers fan, but, as a compassionate human being, I hurt for the Giants fan and his family. I urge you to post a sincere apology and then refrain from such distasteful attempts of Andrew Dice humor.
Look, it was not a cheap attempt at humor, and yes, I'm sorry to those who were offended by that line. But the tragic parking lot beating this year is part of the overall body of McCourt's shoddy and irresponsible work as "caretaker" of the Dodgers. And I'm offended at being compared to a class-less, trailer-trash comic like Andrew Dice Clay.
MARK CUBAN, all that's right. Baseball don't like his type. Get rid of the CAR SALESMAN BUD SELIG. He did nothing about steroids.
Not sure that Mark Cuban is all that's right. But compared to Frank McCourt, a common house rat is all that's right, so I guess your point is well taken.
Likes: Mid-season, and the All-Star Game. Still, by far, the coolest All-Star Game in all of sports. Not even close.
Dislikes: Super 8. Just because today's technology can produce cool special effects, it doesn't always mean the more, the better. Just sayin'.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"The moon beams we can dream on, when the working day is done
-- Eddie Hinton, Everybody Needs Love
Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Asdrubal Cabrera, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Davey Johnson, Derek Jeter, Frank McCourt, J.J. Hardy, Jose Bautista, Lance Berkman, Los Angeles Dodgers, Michael Cuddyer, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Rickie Weeks, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals
Posted on: May 31, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 10:31 pm
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Yes, Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson was one of the most visible managers Ken Griffey Sr. ever had, and surely is influencing in some way what Griff is doing as a manager today.
But Griffey's most influential manager?
That would be Russ Nixon, whom Griffey was blessed to have come across during his second year of professional baseball, perhaps the most difficult of his career.
It was in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the early 1970s, and Griffey was the only married player on the team.
Worse, Griffey says, "there were not many black folks in Sioux Falls. We were the only black family around."
Concerned over this, Griffey said he phoned his wife at the time, Birdie, and tried to tell her not to come to South Dakota with their five-month-old son -- Ken Griffey Jr. But she already was on a plane.
As Griffey remembers it, the team opened with a homestand of about nine or 10 days, and Birdie arrived on day six or seven. They were rebuffed on a couple of rental attempts while looking for a place to live, Griffey says, adding that he knew it was because of their race.
"I told Russ Nixon that if I didn't find a place to live by the time the team left for the trip, I was going home," Griffey says. "Russ was staying at the team hotel and knew the guy who owned the hotel, and the guy's nephew was in real estate.
"He found us a place to live."
Sometimes in the low minors, managing isn't just about teaching hit-and-run techniques and bunt defenses.
"You learn quick," says Griffey, who was Cincinnati's 29th-round draft pick in 1969.
From Nixon, Griffey learned the value of persistence and the human touch.
From Sparky, Griffey learned the value of aggressive play and the art of handling different personalities.
Over his 24-year professional career, Griffey Sr. also played for many skippers, including John McNamara, Vern Rapp, George Scherger, Yogi Berra and Billy Martin. He hated Martin -- especially when Martin was drunk (he was a mean drunk) -- but still marvels at how shrewd and skilled a sober Martin was.
Likes: The Diamondbacks (!) in first place in the NL West, and Seattle surging in the AL West. What a month. ... Thanks to all with the Bakersfield Blaze. Very nice visit there with Ken Griffey Sr. and so many others late last week. Clubhouse manager Eddie Vasquez rocks. ... Griffey's Big Red Machine stories (George Foster has been in touch the most since Griffey took the Bakersfield managing job). ... Griffey chuckling about how he got along fine with Billy Martin in 1983 shortly after joining the Yankees "until Billy realized I was on the Reds team that kicked their ass in the '76 World Series." ... Mama Roomba Caribbean restaurant in Bakersfield. The salmon with mango salsa, mmm. ... Moo Creamery, also in Bakersfield. Go for the Toasted Almond and Strawberry Shortcake ice cream. ... Merle Haggard. ... The countdown to the final day of school.
Dislikes: Hall of Famer Gary Carter's battle with malignant brain tumors. Colleague Danny Knobler updates Carter's condition here. Prayers to Carter and his family.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I came here looking for something
-- Buck Owens, Streets of Bakersfield
Posted on: April 29, 2011 1:43 pm
-- The Yankees are doing exactly what they need to do in the first few weeks of the season, and that's take advantage of home cooking. They opened with 11 of 14 games at home, and through May 1, they play 18 of their first 25 games at home. So far, they're 10-5 at home, and they've got a chance to continue to pad their home record while they play 46 of their first 79 games at Yankee Stadium. The flip side, and the reason it is important for Joe Girardi's club to build up as much collateral at home as possible: From Aug 1 through season's end, the Yankees are home just 20 times (nine home games in August and 11 in September).
-- Zo-Rilla is back: Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist has crushed four homers in his past five games, including one each in Thursday's day-night doubleheader in Minnesota. He had a monster doubleheader, collecting 10 RBI, giving him 18 over his last five games and 25 for the season. Impressive, yes, but his best moment might have come right after the game when he quipped to reporters, "This must be what it's like to feel like Sam Fuld."
-- Tampa Bay is 13-3 since April 10 which, yes, is the best record in the majors since that date.
-- Kansas City was the last team in the majors to lose a series this season, and now look at the Royals: six losses in a row. The Yankees were the last team in the majors to lose consecutive games, to the White Sox on Monday and Tuesday.
-- Seattle's historically bad offense last summer looks positively Ruthian compared to what the Padres are doing (or, rather, NOT doing) so far this season. San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez-less lineup has been shut out seven times in the month of April. That, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a major-league record. When the Padres score just ONE run, they're 9-9.
-- Yes, it's a different deal this year for the Padres from their 90-win team of a year ago. Ryan Ludwick (.202, four homers, 11 RBI), Brad Hawpe (.143, 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats), Orlando Hudson (.238, .300 on-base percentage) and Jason Bartlett (.231) have gotten off to miserably slow starts, and there are growing questions regarding whether cavernous Petco Park is defeating hitters mentally. That was one key to last year's group -- which included David Eckstein, the Hairston brothers, Jerry Jr. and Scott, and Tony Gwynn Jr. -- the bottom line was winning, and there was no griping about Petco. "You've got to be mentally tough to get through some things," Padres manager Bud Black says. "That's part of being a total player, part of being a total, major league professional player. It works the same way if you're a pitcher in a small park. It works the same way for pitchers in Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Houston."
-- The Dodgers' Andre Ethier takes a 24-game hitting streak into this weekend's series with San Diego, but it could be in jeopardy Friday night. Ethier lifetime is hitting .077 (1 for 13) against Padres starter Clayton Richard.
Likes: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saying the other day he has his closer -- outfielder Brent Lillibridge -- following Lillibridge's great, diving catches in Yankee Stadium. ... Andre Ethier's hitting streak at 24 games. ... The way Brandon Phillips always refers to the "Redlegs", not the "Reds", in his tweets (@DatDudeBP). ... Great casting on Hawii Five-O. Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan (son of James) are really good together. ... First listen reaction to Steve Earle's new disc I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive: Outstanding. The disc might even be better than the title.
Dislikes: If you see me at Fast Five, please come up and say hello. Maybe that would then distract me from my next move: Jumping off of a bridge. Man, summer movie season stinks.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Now listen youngster, be on your way
-- Little Esther, Aged and Mellow Blues
Tags: Andre Ethier, Ben Zobrist, Brad Hawpe, Brandon Phillips, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Jason Bartlett, Joe Girardi, Kansas City Royals, Little Esther, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Orlando Hudson, Ozzie Guillen, Ryan Ludwick, Sam Fuld, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Steve Earle, Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: April 20, 2011 4:48 pm
Some quick mid-week notes:
-- Brandon Belt, who will be back and will be productive one day, made Wednesday's decision easy on the Giants by hitting just .192 with a .300 on-base percentage and .269 slugging percentage. It was a given since opening day that somebody would be the odd Giant out when Cody Ross (calf) was healthy. Belt's ongoing struggles combined with a weak defense with Aubrey Huff in right and Pat Burrell in left made it a no-brainer. The lesson in Belt's demotion to Triple-A Fresno (on his 22nd birthday, no less!): It's just not that easy. Not a new lesson, just one that needs reiterating from time to time. When Belt hit .282 with three homers and 13 RBI in 71 spring at-bats, Giants fans had visions of Buster Posey II. But Posey, who punched the accelerator as soon as he arrived last May, was the rare exception. Belt leaves with just one homer in 17 games (60 plate appearances).
-- And they don't even get paid overtime: Kansas City has gone extra innings in five of its first 16 games. At that pace, the Royals would play 48 extra-inning games this season. The major-league record is 31, held by the 1943 Boston Red Sox.
-- Into Wednesday's series finale in Oakland, the powerful Red Sox remained historically impotent: 0-7 on the road, their worst-ever road beginning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, surpassing 0-6 in 1927. It's not historically bad by major-league standards, however: The Nationals started 0-8 away from home just two seasons ago.
-- The Padres were confident that they had a better-balanced lineup even without Adrian Gonzalez's bat, but they were shut out in four of their first 16 games. At that pace, San Diego will be blanked 41 times this season. Yes, that would be a record. The current NL mark for being shut out in a season is 33, held by the 1908 St. Louis Cardinals. The AL mark is 30, owned by the 1906 Washington Senators.
-- Yes, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp is off to a sensational start, leading the NL with a .438 batting average and ranking second with a .514 on-base percentage. But before declaring that he's turned it around from a disappointing 2010, let's let things play out another couple of months. Kemp ALWAYS plays well in April: Coming into this season, his career April numbers were a .312 batting average, .362 on-base percentage and a .538 slugging percentage -- his highest numbers of any single month all season.
-- That said, my favorite Kemp moment so far this season occurred in the second game against the Giants. At first base and running on the pitch, Kemp read a ground ball to third baseman Pablo Sandoval perfectly. Not hesitating, he blew around second base as Sandoval was throwing to first and easily made it to third. It was a great play that involved athleticism, talent, instincts and smarts. When Kemp is on like that, he's as electric as anuybody.
Likes: The Farrelly brothers are moving along with plans to bring The Three Stooges to the silver screen, bringing in Sean Hayes of Will & Grace to play Larry. Better news would have been coaxing Sean Penn to change his mind on Moe, but, alas, no such luck. Curly is Will Sasso of MADtv. But with filming supposedly set to begin in Atlanta soon, still no Moe. Speculation: Hank Azaria, who voices in The Simpsons.
Dislikes: Rented Wild Hogs the other night. A couple of pretty funny moments but, overall, not so good. Strong cast, though: William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"As I walk on
-- Nick Lowe, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
Posted on: April 12, 2011 2:06 pm
Being entrenched as Cincinnati's shortstop means something else for Paul Janish: Perhaps his pitching days are finally finished.
"Ideally," he says, chuckling.
In two big-league mop-up appearances, Janish has fashioned a not-so-stellar 49.50 ERA.
Two innings pitched (both in 2009), nine hits, 11 earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts.
He says he's been informed by my friend and curator of "Useless Information", Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, that he owns the record for most runs given up by a position player in the last 50 years.
"So that made it pretty good," Janish says.
He says college recruiters projected him as a pitcher out of Houston's Cypress Creek High School. But at Rice University, the pitching staff was loaded, including Jeff Niemann (first-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2004), Philip Humber (first-round pick by the Mets in 2004), Wade Townsend (first-round pick of the Orioles in 2004, then first-round by Tampa Bay in 2005) and David Aardsma (first-round by the Giants in 2003).
So he remained an infielder at Rice, and helped the Owls win the College World Series in 2003.
Now, as the Reds starting shortstop, and two years after his last appearance on the mound, Janish no longer is being recruited as a pitcher -- by universities, or by Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker.
"No," he says. "And I don't think I'm going to be able to take [the 49.50 career ERA] to arbitration."
Likes: Friday Night Lights back for season five beginning on Friday (for those of us who don't have DirecTV). Can't wait. Mixed emotions, though: I hate that it's the final season for one of the best television shows ever. ... Win Win, the new film featuring Paul Giamatti as a dispirited attorney who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach. Really good. ... The Joe Mauer/Troy Polamalu commercial for Head & Shoulders. Well played, Mauer ... and Palamalu.
Dislikes: Ken Griffey Jr. in the commercials. Junior, I love ya, but that Dick's Sporting Goods ad is just awful. ... Speaking of which, MLB's newest ad campaign, Always Epic, has a clunker of a television ad taking us "inside" Brian Wilson's beard. Creepy.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
-- Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine
Posted on: April 11, 2011 9:07 pm
Stubbs has struggled out of the gate this year with a .237 batting average and a .310 on-base percentage.
"It's spring time," Reds manager and part-time weatherman Dusty Baker said before Monday's series opener. "To me, spring means you're a little confused whether it's winter or summer.
"This is what happens in the spring. If everyone stayed hot in the spring, it would be summertime. He's getting today off. He's missing pitches. He's staying [in the] air too much."
Stubbs already has 11 strikeouts in 42 plate appearances after establishing himself in the Reds' lineup in 2010. Last year, Stubbs became only the ninth player in Cincinnati franchise history to collect 20 or more homers and 30 or more steals in a season. He finished 2010 hitting .255 with 22 homers, 77 RBIs and 30 steals.
Baker said that Stubbs was being given a day off to "observe and simplify things. When you're a smart person like him, sometimes you think too much."
As Baker noted, sometimes in this game it's better not to think at all.
"Then nobody can think along with you," Baker said. "That make sense?
"He's a smart young man. He's always trying to figure something out. He'll be fine."
Posted on: March 9, 2011 4:30 pm
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It is not a stretch to say that rookie Mike Leake was a key spark that helped light Cincinnati's baseball Renaissance during the first half of 2010.
So how could it be, then, that the young right-hander is scratching and clawing for a rotation job here this spring ... and has a better than 50/50 chance of opening the season at Triple-A Louisville?
Well, circumstances broke just right for Leake last year at this time and he completely skipped the minor leagues, jumping from Arizona State to the bigs. He was the first starting pitcher in the majors to accomplish that since Jim Abbott with the Angels in 1989.
But a couple of things are at issue this year: One, the length of last season eventually wore him down and the Reds wound up pulling him from the rotation late in the season. And two, behind Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto, the Reds have a growing number of other good young arms.
Essentially, it's a three-person battle for the last two slots in the rotation among Leake, Homer Bailey and Travis Wood. One disadvantage facing Leake is that Bailey is out of options (meaning, the Reds now have to place him on waiver and risk losing him before they can send him back to the minors). Consequently, Bailey probably has a job won unless he turns in an absolute clunker of a spring.
At roughly 5-10 and 175 pounds, Leake, who went 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) last year for the Reds, remains a wisp of a guy.
"You hope he's getting stronger," manager Dusty Baker says. "He was a little kid [last year].
"I was always told there are kid muscles and there are man muscles, and he don't have his man muscles yet."
The Reds still value Leake, 23, and appreciate that he helped launch them early in 2010 toward their greatest heights since 1995. But like other very young pitchers, he still hase some developing to do.
"He was our best starter over the first eight or 10 weeks and he was on the worst schedule," Cincinnati pitching coach Bryan Price says. "Because we were trying to limit his innings, he wasn't on an every-five-days schedule."
Whenever the Reds had an extra off day, they pushed Leake back, and he often started with five or six days' rest, rather than just four. As Price says, those are not optimal conditions for a starting pitcher.
"I think we have a chance to start [the season] with Mike because he's a winner," Price says. "We have a good problem [with many talented, young arms], but it's going to be a bad problem for one of the guys."
There is a chance the odd man out among Bailey, Wood and Leake could pitch out of the bullpen, but those circumstances would have to be extenuating. The Reds' first choice would be to send whomever does not make the big league rotation to Triple-A Louisville so the kid can continue to develop.
Sunblock Day? SPF 50, baby. Warmest day yet in Arizona, in the 80s, with the 90s right around the corner.
Likes: Eric Davis in uniform as an instructor in Reds camp. ... Joe Morgan visiting. ... The fried chicken and biscuits at Culinary Dropouts in Scottsdale. ... The Fennville, Mich., boys high school team winning an emotional district tournament opener after the unspeakable death of one of its players last week following a game-winning shot to cap a 20-0 season. Former colleague Jeff Seidel captured the heartbreak and the optimism nicely in this story.
Dislikes: None today. How can there be any after reading the gripping story above? Just prayers and thoughts.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
-- Warren Zevon, Keep Me in Your Heart