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Tag:Prince Fielder
Posted on: November 29, 2011 5:13 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Giants' Sabean: 'I don't anticipate a big splash'

The news peg for the Giants on Tuesday was the ballclub extending the contracts of general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy through 2013, with club options for 2014.

That order of business out of the way, understand this as the Giants charge full-speed ahead -- such as it is -- toward building their 2012 team this winter: Those fabled splash hits at AT&T Park are a far different thing from a big splash free agent signing.

"There won't be a big splash," Sabean said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "We are in concert through Larry Baer [club president] and our partnership that our pitching is our gold standard.

"Whatever we attempt, we have to make sure we take care of that commodity first."

San Francisco's clear goal this winter is to beef up an offense that ranked 29th in the majors in runs scored last summer.

But that also likely will not include another free agent, one who finished 2011 with the Giants: Outfielder Carlos Beltran.

"A lot of conversations," Sabean said. "We're going to have a conference-call update [internal] on where we're at after this call.

"I would say it's a fluid situation, as well as other situations we're in on."

Baer confirmed that the Giants expect to manage a 2012 payroll of about $130 million, up a tick from the $125 million at which San Francisco finished the season. That doesn't leave much wiggle room for normal arbitration raises, let alone free agency.

"The best way to phrase it is, he is a consideration but [length of contract] will be an issue with anybody we pursue," Sabean said of Beltran. "Whether it's him or anybody else. We have a very definitive game plan on each conversation on what we think is a reasonable length."

As they look to upgrade their offense, the logical areas for the Giants -- who already have traded for Melky Cabrera this winter -- are a corner outfield slot or shortstop. One thing Sabean and Bochy will hash out in the coming days is whether they think Brandon Crawford, who started last season at Class A San Jose, is capable of playing there every day in the majors.

Sabean watched Crawford in the Arizona Fall League and was impressed with Crawford's progress, however incremental.

"Around the end of the Fall League, he certainly was impressive," Sabean said. "I was able to see him in person quite a bit. We know what his glove brings. He's trying like hell to make adjustments at home plate. Albeit it's not major league pitching, but he's doing what we asked him to do -- put the ball in play, [swing at pitches] at the belt and below and stay off of the high fastball, which has been his kryptonite."

Crawford hit .204 with 22 runs scored in 64 games for the Giants last season. But unless Sabean can find a hidden gem, it sounds like he may get a real shot this spring. Forget Reyes, Jimmy Rollins right now isn't a fit in San Francisco's payroll.

"It's going to be a function of what's left in the payroll, and what the price point is," Sabean said of Rollins. "Any acquisition is in the eyes of the beholder. A sticker-shock-type, I don't anticipate a big splash. Or let's say a household name, per se."
Posted on: November 9, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2011 7:38 pm
 

Can Marlins convince big guns to wear new unis?

Talk about moving and shaking.

The Miami Marlins have a new manager with a Q rating off the charts in Ozzie Guillen. They've squired free agents Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes around their new ballpark this week on recruiting visits. They've been in touch with free agent Prince Fielder, and sources say they're very active in the relief pitching market as well (Heath Bell?).

Thursday, a Marlins contingent is due in the Dominican Republic to watch Yoennis Cespedes, the flashy Cuban defector who is expected to be declared a free agent within the next few weeks.

Now, poised to unveil new uniforms on Friday, the question is: Will the Fish be able to hook a marquee free agent or two to wear those new threads?

Perhaps a better -- and certainly more direct -- question: Are the Fish really and truly serious about changing their gills and writing jumbo-sized checks? Or is this an early winter blitz to sell tickets that will end with ticket-holders looking around a new ballpark next summer wondering where all those big plans went?

Sorry, two questions there, not one.

But with the Marlins, things are rarely as they seem.

Unquestionably, their early-winter actions have the attention of an industry that has long been accustomed to watching owner Jeffrey Loria do what Mike Ditka once accused Bears owner George Halas of doing: Throw nickels around like manhole covers.

But the Marlins finally have a new stadium and they know they need to fill it. In fact, club president David Samson, during an interview on SiriusXM radio Wednesday, predicted that the club will be "drawing, I'd say, 30,000 to 35,000 every single game."

Last year, the Marlins averaged 19,007 per game, last in the National League and 28th in the majors.

"They're trying to sell tickets," one industry source said Wednesday of the Marlins' aggressive early movement. "They're trying to get people excited about the ballpark. If they can do that, good for them."

If they can lure Reyes, All-Star Hanley Ramirez, who underwent left shoulder surgery after playing in only 92 games last season, would slide over to third base.

Buehrle, who has logged 200 or more innings pitched for 11 consecutive seasons, would provide a nice veteran anchor to the rotation -- and his workload undoubtedly would help pick up the slack the next time ace Josh Johnson goes back onto the disabled list.

Certainly, if the Marlins can sign Reyes or Buehrle, that would preclude them from adding Fielder. And despite the early push, one veteran agent said Wednesday he can't see the Marlins adding more than one marquee free agent.

Still, it's the time of the winter for dreaming, and the Marlins right now are dreaming big. Just a year ago, they traded slugger Dan Uggla to Atlanta because they couldn't agree to terms on a contract extension. Just two Januarys ago, the players' union nicked them for violating revenue-sharing rules and not spending enough money on player payroll.

We know the Marlins are moving into a brand new ballpark in 2012.

But are they really moving into a new world as well?

As Samson and Guillen pulled out all the stops with Reyes at the iconic Joe's Stone Crab for lunch Wednesday, they would have us believe they are. They've indicated that they intend to crank up their payroll in 2012 to $80 million or so, from $57 million in 2011.

Fine. But until they finally dress one (or more) of these guys in those new uniforms, it's all sizzle and no steak -- or, as they'd say at Joe's, all shell and no crab.

Until they finally dress one (or more) of these guys in those new threads, the Marlins remain as they always have: Buyer beware.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 12:38 pm
 

Orioles sure don't sound like players on Fielder

Regarding all the industry buzz that has the Orioles in hot pursuit of free agent slugger Prince Fielder this winter?

It might be time to cool it.

Baltimore issued its first public policy statement on Fielder on Tuesday, and in his introductory press conference as the club's new general manager, Dan Duquette sounded like a man more interested in devoting resources to the farm than to Fielder.

"Everybody wants to look at established major league players," Duquette said when asked specifically about big-ticket free agents such as Fielder or pitcher C.J. Wilson. "My success in the free agent market has been more signing players who can compliment the team [once core players are in place].

"When you can sign a player who can get you over the top, that's the time, I think, when it's right to go into the free agent market, personally."

From their perch at the bottom of the AL East, where they went 69-93 and produced the worst pitching staff in the American League, the Orioles do not look like they are ready to go "over the top" anytime soon.

Duquette's strength is in scouting -- both domestic and international -- and player development. He did sign free agents Manny Ramirez (2001) and Johnny Damon (2002) when he was in charge of the Red Sox, though those Boston teams were much further along than the current Orioles.

Duquette added Manny to a Red Sox club that had finished second in the AL East at 85-77 in 2000, then added Damon to a club that was second at 82-79 in 2001. Three years later, his instincts were proven correct: The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and again in 2007.

Speaking in Baltimore on Tuesday, Duquette noted that when you think you're within a player or two of winning, or when you have a chance to sign someone who is "a good value for a long period of time, that's when you should go into the free agent market. I believe Orioles fans understand that."

Sure doesn't sound like an organization prepared to toss a blank check in Fielder's direction.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 8:09 pm
 

Focused Pujols appreciating the moment

ST. LOUIS -- The questions continue to pelt Albert Pujols like the cold rain of early autumn: Has he taken moments here and there during this postseason to soak in the sights and sounds of what could be his final days as a Cardinal?

His answers remain steadfastly the same: No, he isn't thinking about his impending free agency right now, hasn't thought about it since addressing the matter this spring. And can we please talk about the World Series now?

But here's the thing: You know Pujols can't help but be thinking about it because of his incredibly classy gesture in Milwaukee on Sunday.

When Prince Fielder stepped in to lead off the bottom of the eighth with the Brewers trailing 12-6, Pujols called time from first base in an effort to extend the standing ovation Fielder was receiving from the Miller Park crowd.

It was a gesture that got lost in the post-game champagne as the Cardinals clinched, which was too bad. Because it shouldn't have been.

"I've been in that situation here with the best fans in baseball, and I wanted Prince to have the same feeling that I have here, and the same chills," Pujols said when I asked him about it as the teams worked out Tuesday preparing for the World Series opener Wednesday. "I wanted him to have almost the same tears that I have when I have the standing ovation from our fans in my last at-bat, at least they thought that was going to be my last at-bat here in Busch Stadium at that time.

"And I wanted to make sure that Lance [Lynn, St. Louis pitcher] gave Prince a really good opportunity. I think what Prince has done for the organization and for the city of Milwaukee, what he's done in turning the organization around, is amazing. I just wanted him to have his moment. That was his moment.

"At that moment I didn't look at the scoreboard, I didn't look at who was winning or losing. At that moment, I was looking at the person, at the guy who deserved that standing ovation. I wish it would have been a little bit longer. I tried my best. That's how much respect I have for him and the Brewers and those guys."

In a rare philosophical mood Tuesday, Pujols continued.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," he said. "It didn't matter what uniform you were wearing. Things like that, seeing Jeter get his 3,000th hit, seeing the standing ovation that the Yankees fans gave him, those are moments you can't replace. Those are moments that you always are going to take with you and I wanted him to have that opportunity just like I have here."

I still think Pujols will re-sign with the Cardinals this winter.

But if not, this is one of the longest goodbyes on record. Busch Stadium fans cheered for Pujols on the final Sunday of the season when it appeared as if that would be his final home game of 2011.

Then they cheered him in Game 4 of the Division Series in case the Cardinals were eliminated by the Phillies in Game 5.

Then they cheered him in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series in case the Cardinals didn't come back alive from Milwaukee.

Now, the next potential Pujols' farewell at-bats in Busch could come in Game 2 of the World Series here Thursday ... or in Game 6 or 7 here next week.

For now, Pujols is just concerned with attempting to win his second World Series ring in his third Fall Classic appearance with the Cardinals. They were swept by Boston in 2004, then they beat Detroit in 2006.

The big question is how the Rangers will pitch Pujols, who has taken six walks -- including two intentional passes -- so far this postseason.

"I don't know," said Pujols, who is hitting .419 this postseason with two homers and 10 RBI. "Hopefully, I can have the same series I have against Philadelphia and Milwaukee. I'm very patient at the plate, I know that I have great players in front of me and behind me who are going to be able to do damage.

"My main goal is to go out and if I get a good pitch to hit put my best swing on it. And if not, try to take my walk. That's something I've been doing the past two months that I wasn't doing earlier in the year."
Posted on: October 9, 2011 7:41 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 8:37 pm
 

Brewers too quick for Cards in Game 1 win

MILWAUKEE -- What would have happened had Cardinals manager Tony La Russa summoned reliever Octavio Dotel two batters earlier in the fifth inning?

We'll never know. But after the Brewers cracked open this NLCS with a 9-6 bruising of St. Louis, we do know this:

The manager who invented the modern day bullpen was a step too slow for Milwaukee's lighting-quick thunder. His team owned a three-run lead in that game-turning fifth, but Jamie Garcia had allowed the first two batters of the inning to reach base and Dotel was ready in the pen.

Up next: Ryan Braun, just 2-for-8 lifetime against Dotel (single, double) with six strikeouts.

Following Braun: Prince Fielder, also just 2-for-8 lifetime against Dotel (two singles) with six whiffs.

Yet La Russa made no move to the mound. Not even for a chat.

Quicker than you could scream "MVP!", as the sellout crowd chanted to near-deafening proportions, Braun sent the first pitch he saw from Garcia rocketing into the right-field corner for a two-run double.

Then, quicker than you could say "Beast Mode", Fielder sent the first pitch he saw screaming over the right-field fence for a two-run homer that lifted Milwaukee into a 6-5 lead.

It was as quick and brutal as a TKO.

How quick? Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled, Braun doubled and Prince homered on three consecutive pitches.

Not quick enough for you? Try this: As measured by ESPN Home Run Tracker, formerly Hit Tracker, the homer traveled at a speed of 119.2 m.p.h. off of Fielder's bat -- the highest speed for any homer hit in 2011.

So in their first League Championship Series game in 29 years, the Brewers set a land-speed record in leaping out to a lead over the Cardinals, in retaining their all-important home-field advantage and in convincing their fans that the World Series is just three victories from returning to Milwaukee for the first time since 1982.


Posted on: October 7, 2011 8:54 pm
 

Brewers thrill Milwaukee with 10-inning win

MILWAUKEE -- This might be a beer town, but they will take champagne. Oh yes they will. Especially when it's the first postseason champagne they've sprayed in 29 hard, lean years.

Especially when it's a team as free-spirited and beloved as this year's Brewers, who drew three million fans to Miller Park this summer and, with a scintillating 3-2, 10-inning Game 5 win over the Diamondbacks on Friday, earned the privilege to draw several thousand more over the next 10 or so days.

National League Championship Series, here they come.

First time ever.

Not since 1982 have the Brewers moved to within one step of the World Series, and back then, they were in the American League. And yes, they advanced to the Fall Classic, where they fell to St. Louis.

Since then, it's been 29 Octobers of raking the leaves and cheering for the Packers.

Until now.

What a game, what a season.

To hold on and win, Milwaukee's bullpen had to face down an Arizona team with 48 come-from-behind wins, most in the majors this year. But the Brewers' bullpen is so good, it hadn't blown a lead after the seventh inning since July 4.

There was tension, there was sweat, there was nail biting.

And for the first time since 1982, the result was a win in a postseason series.

The Brewers won this last winter, when they decided to keep Prince Fielder and swing for the fences in 2011. They won it when the acquired Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. Won it in July, when they landed closer-turned-setup-man Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets the night of the All-Star Games.

And they won it with one out in the 10th when Nyjer Morgan drove a 2-2 pitch against Arizona closer J.J. Putz up the middle, scoring Carlos Gomez from second.

Miller Park immediately went crazy, blue and gold confetti papering the place.

What a game, what a season. Next stop: NLCS.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:13 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 1:20 pm
 

Brewers' last playoff manager looks to go deeper

MILWAUKEE -- If Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke needs any sort of reference points for the last time the Brewers were in the postseason, back in 2008, he doesn't have to travel far to find the manager from back then.

In a testament to the family atmosphere that surrounds this fun bunch of Brewers, Dale Sveum continues his work with the organization as hitting coach, his time in charge largely forgotten in the dustbin of history.

When the Brewers nearly folded down the stretch in '08, they fired manager Ned Yost in a shocking move in mid-September, with just 12 games left in their season.

Sveum took over on an interim basis for those 12 games, then managed in the playoffs as the Brewers were eliminated in four games by the Phillies.

After that, Sveum was considered as full-time manager but didn't get the job. The Brewers instead hired Ken Macha, who ran the club in 2009 and 2010. When they didn't renew his contract, they plucked Roenicke off of Mike Scioscia's Angels staff.

So here we are, three years later, and there's Sveum, working behind the batting cage, offering this bit of advice to Prince Fielder, that bit of help to Ryan Braun.

Surely, he had to swallow some pride when he was passed over as manager. Why did he stay?

"It was a very unfortunate situation at the time," Sveum, 47, told me when we spoke here a couple of weeks ago. "I only managed for 12 days and then the playoffs. It wasn't like I was there for three months or something. It wasn't the norm where you think you deserve the job."

Given that feeling, the strange circumstances and his affinity for the young core group of players in '08 -- most of whom will play this afternoon in what could be Prince Fielder's final game as a Brewer -- Sveum never gave serious thought to leaving. Maybe others would have walked away in a huff, but not this guy.

"I've been with quite a few organizations, but the Brewers have been great," said Sveum, who played for the Brewers, Pirates, White Sox, Athletics, Mariners and Yankees during his 12-year major-league career. "I love it here. I love the city.

"There would be nothing more gratifying than winning one here. I played here. I coached here. We have a great owner [Mark Attanasio] who is not afraid to spend money and keep guys. We drew three million fans this year.

"This is not a bad place to be. And these jobs don't come around very often."

While Sveum said the run in '08 with CC Sabathia was a whole lot of fun, he said this year has been better because "we have a complete pitching staff, and whenever you have a complete pitching staff, you have a chance to go deep into the playoffs."

"The fans are not stupid," Sveum said. "They know there's a window here to go deep into the playoffs, and that's what brings electricity."

Those fans, on edge since Arizona evened this series 2-2 on Wednesday night in the desert, only hope the window to go deep into the playoffs doesn't slam shut prematurely later tonight.

Likes: Three Game 5s. How great is this? ... Fabulous Tigers-Yankees Game 5, and what a job of managing in that series by Jim Leyland. ... The folks who work for Southwest Airlines are some of the friendliest and most helpful in the business. The other day, a little portfolio-type thing I carry that has a ton for frequent-flier cards, numbers and receipts in it, fell out of my workbag on a flight. I didn't notice until I got to the baggage claim area, and a terrific lady for Southwest in the baggage claim area jumped on the case immediately, phoned the gate and had it back to me within 15 minutes. The folks cleaning the plane had found it and, phew, what a relief. ... Mo's steakhouse in downtown Milwaukee. The "McAlpine" Horseradish Crusted Prime Ribeye, white cheddar mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach ... now that's a meal. ... Culver's frozen custard, a Wisconsin staple.

Dislikes: Another week of great baseball, 75 degrees in Milwaukee today, beautiful sun, sailboats on Lake Michigan ... what's not to like?

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Reading departure signs in some big airport
"Reminds me of the places I've been.
"Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
"Makes me want to go back again.
"If it suddenly ended tomorrow,
"I could somehow adjust to the fall.
"Good times and riches and son of a bitches,
"I've seen more than I can recall
"These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
"Nothing remains quite the same.
"Through all of our running and all of our cunning
"If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Posted on: August 31, 2011 8:35 pm
 

Big vote of confidence from M's to Z

Jack Zduriencik, who one year ago was an embattled general manager, now is an extended general manager.

No longer is he on a short leash in Seattle, where the Mariners clearly think 2010 was an aberration.

The club awarded Zduriencik a "multi-year extension of his existing contract", declining to announce terms, which really isn't necessary anyway. The deal alone speaks volumes.

One year ago, the Mariners suffered through one of the most agonizing seasons in club history. Not only did they lose 101 games, but they acquired a relief pitcher at the trade deadline who a year earlier had faced rape and sodomy charges and later pled no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with violence.

At the time, Zduriencik said he did not know of Josh Lueke's ugly past, which meant one of two things, neither of which were admirable: Either the Mariners didn't do nearly the homework they should have done before the deal (which sent Cliff Lee to Texas and also brought back first baseman Justin Smoak), or Zduriencik simply wanted Lueke so badly he lied to the front office about his lack of knowledge.

The Mariners embarrassed themselves on the field, and off. It was a total train wreck, and a classic case of an executive going from genius to dunce in the blink of an eye.

Because, see, nobody in the game appeared smarter than Zduriencik during his debut season as GM in '09. Thanks to a flurry of moves in the winter of '08-'09, the GM dragged the Mariners out of the depths of -- yes -- a 101-loss season in '08 to an 85-77 record in '09.

That the Mariners have regained their balance from last year's 101-loss debacle to extend the GM not only is a good thing for Zduriencik, but for Seattle baseball. This is a smart man, with a sound plan, who knows players. The best way to position yourself for long-term success in this game is with continuity, and if the Lueke incident or more cost Zduriencik his job and moved the Mariners off course from his plan, it would have been disruptive for the next several seasons.

The Mariners are 20 games under .500, really not awful considering the freakish 17-game losing streak they endured earlier this season and given the fact that 12 of the 25 players on the current 25-man roster are rookies (and that 10 players have made their major-league debuts for the Mariners this summer).

No, things aren't anywhere close to perfect yet in Seattle. But in kids like Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Trayvon Robinson, the foundation has been set. Keeping Felix Hernandez remains smart, despite what several armchair GMs in the national media might think.

Somehow, Zduriencik has got to find some bats, or this will be the last contract extension he receives. But I'm sure he already knows that. And I think he'll figure out a way to accomplish it.

Hey, one of the best draft picks he made as Milwaukee's scouting director is headed for free agency this winter.

Prince Fielder, anyone?
 
 
 
 
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