Posted on: August 21, 2011 9:39 pm
The Angels suddenly are on a roll: Not only have they won four straight to crawl back to within four games of first-place Texas in the AL West, they also struck a multi-year contract extension Sunday afternoon to keep Cy Young-candidate Jered Weaver in Anaheim through at least through the end of the 2016 season.
The Angels and Weaver have agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal, according to sources with knowledge of the agreement, that also includes a full no-trade clause. The club has scheduled a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
The deal came unexpectedly on Sunday afternoon, unexpected because as a client of agent Scott Boras, Weaver was expected to play through the 2012 season and then jump into the free agent market. But Weaver, a Southern California native (Simi Valley), has made his preference for staying at home clear.
While Boras probably could have scored an even bigger contract on the free agent market assuming Weaver remained healthy, the full no-trade clause is evidence of Weaver's desire to extend his career in Anaheim.
The deal Weaver reached with the Angels is comparable to the contracts Felix Hernandez reached with the Seattle Mariners last year (five years, $78 million) and Justin Verlander signed with the Tigers before the 2010 season (five years, $80 million).
Verlander and Hernandez each had two more years of arbitration available to them when they signed, Weaver would have had just one.
Undoubtedly, the deal will be a load off of Weaver's mind in what already is shaping up as a career year. At 14-6 with a 2.10 ERA, Weaver is on pace for a career-high in wins and a career-low in ERA. Weaver's ERA currently is the best in the AL, and he ranks third in opponents' batting average (.207), fifth in innings pitched (188 1/3) and seventh in strikeouts (158).
The contract is said to also include significant award bonuses for Weaver for winning the Cy Young Award, MVP and earning an All-Star berth, among other things.
Posted on: August 15, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 4:11 pm
In hindsight, the highlight in outfielder Delmon Young's tenure with the Twins came in the spring of 2010, his first day in camp, when he arrived in noticeably better shape than he had been in '09.
"We re-signed Carl Pavano, so I know I'm going to be running quite a bit [chasing balls in the outfield]," Young quipped upon arrival.
It was a funny line but, alas, the optimism of even an in-shape Young was never fully realized in Minnesota. And when the Twins finally shipped him to Detroit on Monday, it capped months of quiet effort on their part to move him in a market that never materialized.
So Young joins the pennant race in Detroit for spare parts -- minor-league lefty Cole Nelson and a player to be named later -- in an intradivision AL Central trade that is attention-grabbing for two reasons: One, because it's rare to see division rivals swap players, especially this close to the stretch run. And two, because it's a clear signal that the Twins, a team that never gives up, are cashing in their chips on 2011.
It's another smooth move for the Tigers, adding depth to an already potent lineup (fifth in the AL in runs scored) that can use an immediate boost because it is ailing. Carlos Guillen (sore wrist) is back on the disabled list and outfielder Brennan Boesch (sprained right thumb) has not started in any of the Tigers' past four games. Meantime, designated hitter Victor Martinez has been playing with a sprained knee and Magglio Ordonez has been looking tired, driving in just four runs so far this month.
Also, the Tigers traded outfielder Casper Wells to Seattle last month for starting pitcher Doug Fister.
Still, the Tigers remain in the drivers' seat in a nip-and-tuck AL Central, leading Cleveland by just 2 1/2 games and stuck-in-neutral Chicago by four games. Both the Indians and the White Sox are close enough to make a serious move, especially given Detroit's current thinned-out lineup due to injury and the Wells deal.
Young gives manager Jim Leyland a veteran piece with playoff experience, and maybe the new surroundings will help jump-start a man whose brother, Dmitri Young, is a Tigers alum. Young, after working himself into perhaps the best shape of his life in 2010, batted .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBI. However, so far in 2011, he's hitting just .266 with four homers and 32 RBIs.
Young's diminishing returns and increasing salary has had the Twins open to trading him at least as far back as last winter. He's earning $5.375 million this summer and is arbitration-eligible again this winter. Minnesota now can use that money for any number of things, from plugging in holes elsewhere on the roster (they rank 13th in the AL in runs scored, and their 4.65 bullpen ERA is last in the AL) to perhaps taking a run at re-signing Michael Cuddyer, who is a free agent this winter.
Ironically, the Twins open a three-game series in Detroit this evening. So Young does not have to travel too far to join his new team.
Posted on: August 10, 2011 8:21 pm
I ran cross country for four years in high school. I was OK, not great, for a couple of reasons. One, I was smallish back then and not very strong. Two, hay fever clobbered me annually in Michigan, from August until the first frost in late September or early October. Ragweed pollen choked off my breathing passages, and there were days when it felt like I could get no oxygen into my lungs.
Sort of, I imagine, how the Pittsburgh Pirates are feeling these days.
For four months, the Buccos were one of the best stories in the game. Even Commissioner Bud Selig said that Pittsburgh's was the first score he checks every night. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Bucs were buyers at the July trade deadline.
Then, wheeze, wheeze. ...
Clint Hurdle's club fell into a 10-game losing streak that has all but asphyxiated Cinderella. At 56-60, the Pirates were 10 games behind Milwaukee. Steelers season again is on deck in Pittsburgh.
Well, there are a lot of explanations, but those mostly are just accumulations of pieces of answers from over there and parts of answers from over here. Their pitching suddenly disappeared on them. Their bats went silent. The lowly Cubs and Padres swept them at home, socking the Pirates with their first winless homestand of six-or-more games in their 125-year history.
The Pirates were outscored by 45 runs during the 10-game streak.
Basically, the Pirates confirmed what many believed from the start: They're not quite ready to win yet.
Young legs and fresh arms are as important as ever in the game -- and, with the majority of steroids and greenies evidently expunged thanks to tighter testing, more important these days than at any time since the mid-1980s.
But young talent alone is not enough. Because among the many things the youngsters must develop is stamina -- both physical and mental -- for a 162-game grind.
The story of this year's Pirates is shaping up remarkably similar to that of last year's Padres, who also were the best story in the game until ... yes, until a 10-game losing streak knocked the wind out of them. Only difference was, the Padres skid started a couple of weeks later, on Aug. 26. Pittsburgh's started a month earlier, on July 29.
One common thread is poor Ryan Ludwick. The Padres acquired him last July 31 because they needed more production in the middle of their order. Pittsburgh dealt for him this July 31 for the same reason.
Now Ludwick is something of an unwilling expert on would-be contenders falling into 10-game losing skids and seeing their seasons crumble.
Though the losing streak wrecked their season, last year's Padres did gain a second wind, played in meaningful games all the way to the last day of their season and wound up with 90 wins.
These Pirates are only on pace for 77 wins, and the interesting thing now will be to see how they respond the rest of the way. This is an important stretch. General manager Neal Huntington has built a good nucleus of young players -- Andrew McCutchen, Neal Walker, Jose Tabata (who has been injured), Pedro Alvarez (who is having a miserable season). Pittsburgh is far closer to winning than it has been in a long time.
Still, what they need is some room to breathe, some room to grow. Some air.
That, or some allergy pills.
By my senior year, by the way, we won the league title. I contributed in a few small ways, scoring points here and there, but others did the heavy lifting. Still, it was a great ride and I made some lifelong friends while running over the trails and through the woods.
I still think about those days at this time of year, when school beckons and the baseball season shifts toward its final sprint. Sometimes the trails go uphill. Sometimes they disappear into the woods. The trick is in the persevering.
It would be a shame if things completely got away from the Pirates in 2011. This is an organization that has endured 18 consecutive losing seasons, a record for North American professional sports.
It won't be nearly the same as watching them fight for a spot in October, but if the Pirates can't climb back into the race, watching them battle for a .500 finish will still be pretty good drama.
Likes: Dan Uggla extending his hitting streak to 31 games. ... Sign-stealing controversies. There has been off-the-record chatter about those kind of capers in Toronto for years. It's amusing and entertaining. And my response is, if you think the Blue Jays are stealing your signs, then change your signs. ... The law in the great state of Michigan prohibiting public schools from starting before Labor Day. That's the way it should be everywhere. Summer doesn't end until Labor Day Weekend, does it? ... Here's to Jerry Garcia, who died 16 years ago Aug. 9.
Dislikes: The dancing woman in Cleveland behind the plate in that crazy Indians-Tigers game that ended at 2 a.m. the other night. Can't you just sit still and watch a ballgame? As if she wasn't distracting enough (I was home watching on television), she trended on Twitter. Now I can just see dozens of other wackos following suit looking for their own publicity. Please, no.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well the first days are the hardest days
"Don't you worry any more
"'Cause when life looks like easy street
"There is danger at your door
"Think this through with me
"Let me know your mind.
"Oh, oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?"
-- Grateful Dead, Uncle John's Band
Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:41 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:54 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino declined Monday to address his three-game suspension for his role in Friday night's brawl in San Francisco.
But he was happy to discuss the latest test the Phillies passed with phlying colors, winning three of four games over the weekend and beating the Giants at their own game, pitching.
Naw, let's not go there Victorino said. But as the weeks roll by and the Phillies blaze on toward what is shaping up to be another very special season, let's just say that leaving the Giants in ruins over the weekend just reinforced what some folks have been believing for a long time.
"Best team in baseball," one scout says.
"I don't want to use the word 'statement'," Victorino said. "But it shows we can do it. Not that we ever doubted that we can, but they're the champs. To be the champs, you have to beat the champs.
"In October, it's all about 5-7-7 [the round-by-round best-of series']. We tip our caps to the Giants for beating us last year. But I think this was a test for us, and we're good.
"I think people are understanding how good we are. We won in San Francisco because of our pitching. And they didn't even face our No. 1."
Instead, Roy Halladay was slotted to pitch the series opener against the Dodgers here Monday night, and the Phillies are making Jimmy Rollins look conservative. It was Rollins who predicted in February the Phillies would win 100 games.
It made headlines at the time because, well, in February, any sort of bold statement makes headlines.
But all you can say as the Phils maintain a pace to win 103 games is, the season is playing out just as many thought it could for them.
Winners of nine of their past 10 heading into this Dodgers series, they owned the game's best record at 74-40. Last time they had played at least 113 games and suffered only 40 losses, it was 1976.
Charlie Manuel's club is an equal opportunity outfit, shredding left-handed starters (against whom they're 21-9) and right-handers (53-31) alike.
Though they're only seventh in the NL in runs scored, their pitching is so dominant that their run differential (+127) is third-best in the game, trailing only the Yankees (+167) and Boston (+144).
Phillies starters lead all major-league rotations in wins (55), ERA (2.96), strikesouts (640), complete games (14, six from Halladay), quality starts (76) and fewest runs allowed (261).
Are the Phillies reaching their potential that, as far back as spring training, was set in the stratosphere?
"It's hard for us to say because we're striving to get to the World Series and win it," starter Cole Hamels said. "It's definitely a good question for when we're in the World Series.
"We definitely like our chances. We're confident. Guys are at their peaks. In '08 when we ended up winning, we were trying to find it and we ended up finding it."
As for the San Francisco series, Hamels said, "We're playing the right type of baseball. That's what you have to do in August. It's very tough for teams. It's 100 degrees, you've been pitching for 22, 24 starts [Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 24 starts], your body's fighting it, and you have to keep pushing.
"It's the countdown."
He meant for stretch-run baseball in September, and playoff ball in October.
But for the Phillies, there's a lot of counting going on right now.
And the numbers are adding up impressively.
Likes: GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland extended in Detroit. They've earned their keep by keeping the Tigers relevant. ... A few days off in early August right after the trade deadline, summer sun still warm, the days long and free. ... Sandy Point in Ferndale, Wash., quarterback Jake Locker's land, right down there on Puget Sound. Beautiful. ... The oh-so-fresh halibut and salmon at Barlean's fishery down the road. Few things finer on the grill with the sun dropping behind the ocean water. ... The burritos at Chihuahua's in town. ... Jimmy Buffett's Encores disc. ... The new disc from John Hiatt, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. Not as good as Slow Turning or Perfectly Good Guitar, but that's setting the bar awfully high. Check out I Love That Girl, Detroit Made and Adios to California.
Dislikes: All the best to Colorado right-hander Juan Nicasio. One minute, you're pitching in the majors. The next, you've got a broken bone in your neck after being hit by a line drive, and you don't know if you'll ever pitch again. Tough summer for the Rockies. Hope we see Nicasio back soon.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Wrote a note, said 'Be back in a minute'
"Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
"Don't think anybody's gonna miss me anyway
"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishin' my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"Now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowin' wind thru my hair
"Only worry in the world
"Is the tide gonna reach my chair
"Sunrise, there's a fire in the sky
"Never been so happy
"Never felt so high
"And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise"
-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep
Posted on: July 30, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2011 3:31 pm
Maybe Rafael Furcal will be the only Dodgers player asked to waive a no-trade clause, maybe not.
Little more than 24 hours before Sunday's 4 p.m. EDT non-waivers trade deadline, three clubs continue to seriously engage the Dodgers in conversations regarding starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, according to CBSSports.com sources: The Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers.
It is not known if Kuroda will consent to a deal if traded. A source close to him told CBSSports.com earlier in the week that he still seems a "little apprehensive" about leaving Los Angeles, the only major-league organization he's known since leaving Japan following the 2007 season.
Kuroda is just one of the starters available in a fairly weak starting pitching market at the 2011 trade deadline. The biggest target remains Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, who will make what could be his final start for the Rockies tonight in San Diego. However, it remains unclear whether Colorado will deal him. The Yankees and Red Sox both are interested.
Detroit acquired Doug Fister from Seattle earlier Saturday, taking him off the board. Other starting pitchers who could go include Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara, San Diego's Aaron Harang, Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann and Seattle's Erik Bedard.
Kuroda this season is 6-13 with a 3.11 ERA in 21 starts for the Dodgers.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 1:28 pm
Five clubs continue to engage the Dodgers in talks for right-hander Hiroki Kuroda in trade discussions that probably present the biggest wild card between now and Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Indians and Tigers all continue to push the Kuroda talks as the weekend nears, sources with knowledge of the discussions tell CBSSports.com.
As they do, there is still no indication as to whether Kuroda will waive his blanket no-trade clause. One source close to Kuroda says he continues to "seem apprehensive" about doing so, which is where the wild-card part of it comes in this weekend.
Several industry sources believe Kuroda will only accept a deal to the Yankees or Red Sox, but that has not stopped the Tigers, Rangers and Indians from positioning themselves to attempt to swing a deal.
As colleague Danny Knobler wrote Thursday, in a summer in which no clear ace is available at the July 31 deadline -- unlike, say, Cliff Lee last year or CC Sabathia in '08 -- the handful of mediocre starters has only muddled the trade market picture.
The Tigers have been tied to every pitcher this side of Walter "Big Train" Johnson, and the Red Sox and Yankees are expected to have a scout in Seattle on Friday night when Erik Bedard makes his long-awaited exit from another disabled list trip to start for the Mariners.
Jeff Niemann? Jeremy Guthrie? Jason Marquis? Aaron Harang?
You can see why Kuroda, who is just 34-43 with a 3.50 ERA in four big league seasons, is being hawked like a field mouse as contenders scramble to pick up any scrap of starting pitching they can.
Because of the glut of mediocrity combined with the high prices being asked, guys like Kuroda, Bedard, Harang and Co. probably will be last minute deals on Saturday or Sunday.
But one thing to remember about Kuroda: Because of his no-trade clause and the fact that he appears reluctant to leave Los Angeles, this one will take longer than others to put together. The process will involve the Dodgers putting a deal together (if they decide to pull the trigger), then taking it to Kuroda, then Kuroda taking time to decide on the no-trade clause.
In other words, this process for the Dodgers is going to have to begin with more lead time than, say, an hour before Sunday's 4 p.m. EDT deadline.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:38 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 8:49 pm
Aaron Harang does not want to be traded.
No. I mean, the Padres' starter REALLY does not want to be traded.
"You hear the rumors and hope it doesn't happen," says the native San Diegan, who signed with his hometown Padres as a free agent last winter.
His wife just gave birth to a twin son and daughter seven months ago. Three uncles, two aunts, both of his grandmothers and six cousins all live in San Diego. Two of the cousins have children the same age as Harang's oldest daughter, who will turn 5 in October. Not only do Harang's parents live in the area, so, too, do his wife's parents.
No, this guy wants nothing to do with a deal.
Yet ... with the Padres out of the race, Detroit is interested in Harang. Boston is watching. So, too, are several other clubs.
Somebody is not going to land Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Somebody is going to miss on the Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda. After that ... well, there's just not a lot out there this summer in the starting pitcher department.
"I'd like to stay here," says Harang, who has bounced back from back, appendix and forearm issues over the past three seasons to go 9-2 with a 3.45 ERA over 17 starts this season. "I want to stay here.
"It's been nice for me. My family is here. It's a comfortable fit. I like the guys in the clubhouse.
"I feel like this is where I'm meant to be."
Over the next four days, we'll see whether the Padres feel the same way.
In his favor to stay: He and the Padres have a mutual $5 million option for 2012. That's very affordable, even for the Padres, for a starting pitcher.
Working against him: The Padres need a major influx of talent and are not exactly overloaded with trade chips. And there is no reason why they can't trade Harang while at the same time telling him they'd like to re-sign him as a free agent this winter.
Amid the uncertainty in the Padres' clubhouse, Harang has plenty of company with whom to discuss things. Closer Heath Bell, set-up man Mike Adams, reliever Chad Qualls and outfielder Ryan Ludwick all are in play at the trade deadline.
"We talk about it a little bit," Harang says. "We're all in the same boat. We don't know what's going on. Until we get told something ... we hear all the rumors. We get family and friends texting us telling us, 'We hear this' or 'We hear that.'
"There's nothing we can do to control it."
The bright side for Harang is, hey, at least he's healthy and productive. That's the whole reason he's in this fix.
"Obviously, people who are seeing me know I've been throwing well," Harang says. "I had a little fluke setback with my foot, but that had nothing to do with my arm or my back."
Posted on: July 11, 2011 9:07 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:12 pm
PHOENIX -- You know what would really throw some gusto into this All-Star Game?
Except, as you may have heard, because of a new rule instituted last year, starting pitchers who work on Sunday are ineligible to play in the All-Star Game.
So Verlander is here, watching the game just like you. Only difference is, Verlander gets to dress in uniform and hang out in the clubhouse.
It is a well-intentioned rule, and the spirit in which it was instituted is right (and no disrespect to the Angels' Jered Weaver, who will start for the AL and is pretty darned good himself). But it needs to be revisited.
In most cases, a pitcher throws in the bullpen two days after a start.
So there is no reason why, say, Verlander, can't contribute one inning in Tuesday's game (in what effect would be akin to a post-start bullpen session).
NL (and Giants) manager Bruce Bochy disagrees.
"I think it's a good rule," Bochy says. "I was caught in this back in '99 where a couple of pitchers pitched on Sunday, and I was actually told that they would be available for an inning. Then once they got there, [I was told] they would prefer them not to pitch, so it puts the manager in a tough spot.
"I think that takes care of that. If he throws on Sunday, he can't pitch. And that way you don't come out short-handed. We need to have all 13 pitchers available."
There you have it, same as designating a closer and refusing to change: It allows a manager to cover his rear end and shut down all critics with an easy answer along the lines of, "That's the way it is, I didn't have a choice."
No question, managers are put in tough positions at the All-Star Game, especially in regard to pitching.
A manager's first responsibility is to return pitchers healthy to their respective teams. You can't blame clubs for getting jumpy about it. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly planned to ask Bochy to only use Clayton Kershaw for one inning Tuesday night because the Dodgers have slotted Kershaw to start their second-half opener Friday in Arizona.
Still. They can't contribute one inning on Tuesday?
AL (and Rangers) manager Ron Washington said "I'm all good with it."
The Sunday rule -- and other All-Star issues -- is being discussed by players and owners as they work toward reaching a new Basic Agreement (the current one expires after this season), according to sources.
It's too early to say whether there will be a change for 2012. But certainly, the trend has been to protect players more, not less.
Verlander, who beat Kansas City on Sunday, is enjoying the scene here and said Monday he understands why the rule was put into place -- and supports it.
"I think it's probably a smart rule," he said.
Yeah, but if his Tigers advance to the World Series this year ... but have to open on the road because the NL won the All-Star Game when Verlander couldn't pitch?
Wouldn't he be angry then?
"I probably would be, in that case," he said, grinning.