Posted on: October 22, 2011 7:39 pm
When the Cubs and Red Sox announced the Theo Epstein deal Friday night, they said that they had "reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined for the Red Sox and that issue will be resolved in the near term."
That process, sources with knowledge of the talks said Saturday, will involved Commissioner Bud Selig serving as the arbiter if the clubs cannot agree on compensation. Most likely, that would happen fairly quickly after the World Series.
The two clubs are bickering strictly over players coming back to the Red Sox, one source said. As of now, there are no financial considerations.
Epstein will be introduced at a Wrigley Field news conference on Tuesday, the travel day between World Series Games 5 and 6. As CBSSports.com reported Thursday, Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, one of Hoyer's top assistants in San Diego, will join him in Chicago and the Cubs will send a low-level minor league player (or players) to the Padres as compensation.
Those moves, though, will not happen until later next week. At that point Josh Byrnes, the former Arizona general manager, will be named as the Padres' GM, succeeding Hoyer. Byrnes currently is a senior vice-president for baseball operations in San Diego.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 8:31 pm
The Red Sox-Cubs soap opera spins forward as the clubs haggle over compensation, but the general parameters of a deal that will affect three clubs are in place, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations:
Not only will Theo Epstein take control of the Cubs, he will take Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, one of Hoyer's assistant general managers in San Diego, with him. Josh Byrnes, the former Arizona general manager who currently is San Diego's senior vice-president for baseball operations, will replace Hoyer as the new Padres' GM. Ben Cherington, Epstein's top assistant, will succeed him as GM in Boston.
While Epstein will receive a five-year deal worth $18.5 million, Hoyer, likewise, is expected to receive a five-year contract with a significant bump in pay from his current salary as incentive to move. Hoyer currently is signed with the Padres through 2013, with and the club holds an option on him for 2014.
While Epstein would hold a presidency role, it would be a lateral move for Hoyer. However, he would be reunited with his very close friend, Epstein, and he would have large-market resources at his disposal.
The deal could be announced as early as Friday, though one source says that "a lot would have to happen" for everything to be put in place by then. As of late Thursday, particularly with Boston still holding up the Epstein part of the deal over steep compensation demands from the Cubs, it seemed realistic that these talks could spill into next week before things are finalized.
As of early Thursday evening, the Cubs had neither asked permission from Major League Baseball to hold a news conference on Friday, a World Series off day, nor had they asked permission from the Padres to speak with Hoyer.
Compensation issues are not limited to the Cubs and Red Sox in this elaborate game of executive hopscotch, either. Not only will the Cubs pay Boston for the right to take Epstein -- either financially or via players -- the Padres also are expected to be compensated by the Cubs for allowing Hoyer to break his contract.
That part, however, is not expected to be nearly as difficult a transaction as that which the Cubs are attempting to complete with Boston. San Diego most likely will receive one or two lower-level minor leaguers in return.
As for the Cubs and Red Sox, one source said Thursday night that he thought the two clubs were "getting close" on the compensation issues, though those talks have been ongoing for several days with Boston delighting in holding the sledgehammer.
Both Hoyer and McLeod worked under Epstein in Boston before they left the Red Sox for San Diego following the 2009 season. Hoyer was one of Epstein's top assistants and McLeod was director of amateur scouting for the Red Sox.
Under McLeod, among others, the Red Sox drafted outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, right-hander Clay Buccholz and infielder Jed Lowrie.
Byrnes was one of Epstein's right-hand men for three seasons in Boston, a time during which the Red Sox drafted Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, before the Diamondbacks hired him to become their GM in October, 2005.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:14 pm
Talk about a golden autumn for general managers. Billy Beane goes Hollywood in "Moneyball." Theo Epstein is about to go Wrigleyville in "Cubbyball."
Posted on: August 18, 2011 3:14 pm
Jim Thome. Carlos Zambrano. Discuss. ...
FROM: Jack M.
Re.: Thome's 600th HR, like his career, comes with class, style
I attended a charity auction in the Peoria area in the winter following the 2002 season. The organizers reached out to Thome, asking if he could attend. He said he couldn't, due to a prior commitment, but donated various autographed items to the auction. Then, on the night of the auction, he showed up unannounced about a half-hour before it began, donated a sizable check, and gave a short speech. After this, he went to the airport and flew back to his prior commitment -- being introduced as a member of the Phillies. The guy's whole life was changing, and he made time for a small auction back home. Ever since then, I root for Jim Thome -- even against my favorite teams.
I know there are those who say, bottom line, it's about what they do on the field. And that's true. But watching a class act like Thome join the 600 club sure is more fun than watching a miscreant who can barely squeeze his enlarged head through the front entrance to 600.
Greetings! The difference between the Big Zero and Jim Thome, there is a reason why I cannot support certain players. And for the Union to file a grievance? The Big Zero CLEANED OUT HIS LOCKER. One may say that was done in the Heat of the Moment but, having played COLLEGIATE baseball, do you realize just how long it takes to do that ? The Big Zero has earned his nickname, and I wish the spoiled little child well with whatever he does in life.
You must be hell on wheels at the dart board, your points are so accurate. And very magnanimous to wish Zambrano well, by the way.
FROM: Wayne A.
Scott: If you check the background of Jim Thome, I believe you will find he went through high school at Limestone H.S. in Bartonville, Ill., which is across I-474 from Peoria. Almost everyone says he is from Peoria. If I am incorrect on this matter please correct me.
I checked, and you're right. Apologies to good ol' Limestone/Bartonville. I expect to see a Paul Bunyan-like statue of Thome there one day.
Re.: After yet another Zambrano meltdown, will Cubs learn lesson?
ZOOM-brano -- the Jim Piersall of this decade. Haven't we all seen enough of this emotional infant? A bowel movement with teeth is what he is.
Oh, man ... hold on ... I'm still doubled over in laughter ... I'll get to an answer in a moment. ... hahahahahaha.
FROM: Terry F.
I don't think that Z should be on the DQ List. This isn't really about Zambrano. He is what he is. This is about the Cubs. I agree with you in that they need to pay him whatever they owe him and move on. They supported him in his first fight, which was a mistake. When the second fight occurred, or perhaps before as there were plenty of other incidents like throwing the umpire out, they should have traded him or released him. Zambrano is responsible for his own actions, but the Cubs deserve far more blame than Zambrano this time, because they knew what they were dealing with and they let it happen.
Really hard to argue against those well-reasoned points. Cubs, your move.
Well done. Great article. However, it's not so easy cutting loose a guy making that much cabbage knowing you're NOT going to get ANYTHING in return. Are you forgetting the Cubs had two extensive injuries in their starting rotation this year? They even tried trading Carlos before the deadline. They even put him on waivers. NOBODY claimed him. Nobody wants him. The Cubs best hope is Carlos really does retire so it voids the contract. The very last thing the Cubs will do is let him go via release and by suggesting that, you don't know as much as you think you do.
Yeah, the Cubs never should have extended him in the first place. But if you remember, at the time of his extension, MANY teams would have paid top dollar for him based on his numbers. He was one of the top pitching free agents out there that year. The Cubs best solution is to do what they did. Let him sit for a month and NOT pay him. Let things cool off. See what he says in a month. If he retires? Awesome. If not? Move him to the Restricted list so he doesn't pitch again this year and try once again to move him in the offseason. If by Spring Training he's still hanging around like a snot, THEN you release him.
Cabbage. Love the term. And you're right, Zambrano is making so much cabbage even Peter Rabbit would be exquisitely jealous -- and better behaved.
FROM: Dorothy B.
He should be fired. I didn't watch all the game, but figured with that many home runs against him, he'd throw a fit and he did.
See? If you can see these things coming, why can't the Cubs?
I know he's a f------ nut, but why was he still in the game after giving up five homers?
Legitimate characterization of the Big Z(ero), and legitimate point regarding the Cubs.
FROM: Dan S.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Giants need to fix their puny offense
Understand your column about Giants offense, but on the other hand they have three people in the ERA leaders and one at 3.5. Their game is low scoring, if they keep the opposing team in the game then they have a chance. If they had an offense like Cincy, for example, and score seven to eight runs but the pitchers give up eight or nine, what good is the high scoring offense? Sure it would take pressure off their pitchers to get four runs early.
Valid points, and we see the troubles the Reds are having. But isn't there a middle ground somewhere the Giants could find? The best argument right now is how banged up they are.
You're right on target. As a longtime Giants fan, it's really frustrating to see such futility at the plate. Outside of maybe Sandoval and Schierholtz, all the rest are hitting well below their career avg's. Belt could be a spark...two dingers [the other day] in Florida was a good start.
The Giants need a few new Belt loops.
Likes: The season Michael Young is having for the Rangers. ... Merle Haggard's take on Texas manager Ron Washington's lovely phrase, "That's the way baseball go." It's now a Haggard song, and you can download it on iTunes. The money goes to Rangers charities. ... Modern Family. Terrific characters and snappy writing. ... Steve Earle's book I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Very entertaining read, with lots of colorful, skid-row characters. Let's just say one of the main characters is a junkie doctor who helped country legend Hank Williams score dope and may have been the last person to see Williams alive (fiction, this book is fiction). Earle's CD of the same name is terrific, too -- especially the track Waiting For the Sky to Fall.
Dislikes: Being a captive audience to merchants on the other side of the airport security screening and paying something like $12 for a small "breakfast" to go at Starbucks. Highway robbery is what it is. In this crappy economy and in these days in which airplanes have scrapped food, that's got to be a great business to go into: Running a food shop between the security screening and the flight gates. I imagine those people all live in mansions, with servants, eating prime rib and lobster every evening.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Kiss a little baby
"Give the world a smile
"And if you take an inch
"Give them back a mile
"'Cause if you lie like a rug
"And you don't give a damn
"You're never going to be
"As happy as a clam"
-- John Prine, It's a Big Old Goofy World
Posted on: July 1, 2011 2:31 pm
OK, here goes: If I were to ask you coming into this season whose save conversion rate since July 31, 2007, is second in the game to Rivera's, whom would you say?
Yes, the answer is Soria, a two-time All-Star whose 92.4 rate since that date is second among all major-league closers to Rivera's 92.9.
Now, here's just one more piece of evidence that Rivera is superhuman: In late May, Soria suddenly fell into a hole and blew five of his first 12 save opportunities. It got so bad that after he blew consecutive save opportunities in late May, he admirably went to manager Ned Yost and essentially removed himself from the role. Something that in all of these years Rivera has never had to do.
Yost handled the situation superbly: He gave Soria a few days off to clear out his mind, eased him back into non-save situations in which he could pitch two innings at a time (to work on his fastball command) and then plugged Soria back into the ninth in early June.
The results, again, have been spectacular: Soria has worked 12 shutout innings in his past 10 games and is six-for-six in save opportunities, while holding opponents to an .098 batting average (4 for 41).
"It was not a big change at all," Soria says. "It was just a mind-set, getting my confidence back. Mechanics-wise, there was nothing to change. I looked at video, and I'm not doing anything different."
Soria isn't a closer with overpowering stuff, nor does he have one lethal weapon like Rivera's cutter. Instead, he throws all of his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change. Because he depends on location, problems can arise if he goes four or five days between outings.
"He's a command-guy closer," Yost says. "Command guys rebound so much better from that than stuff guys do.
"I've never had stuff guys who have gone through this rebound -- Derrick Turnbow, Danny Kolb, even Eric Gagne."
Soria, 27, right now is reinforcing Yost's history.
"Bad things make you stronger," Soria says. "If you've always been good, maybe you don't realize what it takes to be good until you go bad."
As for Rivera, who mostly has been immune to slumps throughout his Hall of Fame career, Soria, like everyone else, just marvels.
"He's the best," Soria says. "He's done everything in his career, and I don't think he's ever struggled."
-- Soria and Rivera have met once, at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium in 2008. But they did not exchange trade secrets. "We didn't talk about the game," Soria says. "We just talked about life."
-- Though they clearly could use reinforcements for a beat-up bullpen, and manager Charlie Manuel wants a right-handed bat (the Padres' Ryan Ludwick? The Twins' Michael Cuddyer?), the Phillies are telling teams that they they're tapped out financially. They're close to the luxury tax threshold and do not want to cross it. Of course, they were also telling rivals the same thing last winter before they shocked everyone by signing free agent pitcher Cliff Lee.
-- Emphasizing Philadelphia's need for a right-handed bat: The Phillies are hitting .196 in their past 13 games against lefty starters.
-- The Red Sox, too, say they do not want to push their luxury tax any higher than it already is, which suggests no pricey mid-season reinforcements. But recent history under general manager Theo Epstein also suggests the Red Sox get what they need and, right now, their internal discussions are centering on a hitter. They're not getting much out of right field, which led to the release of Mike Cameron this week.
-- Mariners officials are scheduled to talk via conference call next week to discuss final strategy leading into the July trade deadline. Though Seattle has done a nice job of staying competitive, the recent 3-7 tailspin could spur the M's to deal Erik Bedard. Though Bedard landed on the disabled list this week with a knee sprain, he could be a very good trade chip.
-- Thanks to Milwaukee's road woes, the Cardinals are back in a tie for first place in the NL Central entering the weekend. But one scout who has watched St. Louis recently remains unimpressed. "Colby Rasmus is so inconsistent," the scout says. "Sometimes it looks like he's not even there at the plate." Then there are the times when Rasmus looks like he is there, like when he homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.
-- In St. Louis' defense, the Cards have been so beat up this year, but while Albert Pujols is out, at least third baseman David Freese has returned from the disabled list. "Daniel Descalso was playing third base when I saw St. Louis," the scout says. "And I'm thinking, 'These are the St. Louis Cardinals?'"
-- This is the Phillies' rotation we expected: Philadelphia starters compiled a 1.96 ERA in June. Which, according to STATS LLC makes the Phils the first team since July of 1992 to go a full month under 2.00. Both Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs did it back in July, '92.
-- Quietly, Padres outfielder Ryan Ludwick is resurfacing and showing why he will be in demand on the July trade market. He's at 51 RBIs in 78 games after finishing April with a .198 batting average and a .294 on-base percentage. That followed his miserable debut in San Diego last summer when he hit .211 with six homers in 59 games after his acquisition from St. Louis. There have been differences between this year and last: A calf injury nagged at him last year, while this April he was hitting the ball hard, just right at people. "I played terrible last year," Ludwick says. "I wouldn't say I've been playing great this year, but I've been doing what I've been known to do and what they brought me over to do. Drive in runs. Last year, every time I came to the ballpark I was stressed out, wondering if I was going to be able to make contact."
-- Know what's funny? The cover of Florida's media guide is a collage of small photos of historical highlights in Marlins history. And right there front and center, albeit at the bottom, is a photo of Jack McKeon in uniform. No need for updating there. Well, except he's wearing No. 15, and this time around, he's No. 25.
-- Angels manger Mike Scioscia, by the way, is still marveling about McKeon's enthusiasm for managing at 80. Scioscia and the Angels saw McKeon in his 2011 debut a couple of weeks back.
Likes: All-Star voting results coming soon, with the game soon to follow. ... Derek Jeter nearly set to resume his chase for 3,000 hits. ... Kerry Wood off of the DL and back in the Cubs' bullpen. ... From rocky NFL labor talks to rocky NBA labor talks to ... baseball labor talks still quiet and positive. ... The smell of neighborhood grills over the Fourth of July weekend. ... Modern Family boxed set, season 1. I'm just catching up to a show I haven't watched. Very funny. ... My sister's frozen key lime pie. Delicious.
Dislikes: Missed Jason Isbell coming through my town last week because of work commitments. His latest disc with his band, the 400 Unit, Here We Rest, is outstanding.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Driving in to Darlington County
-- Bruce Springsteen, Darlington County
Tags: Albert Pujols, Boston Red Sox, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago Cubs, Colby Rasmus, Daniel Descalso, Derek Jeter, Erik Bedard, Florida Marlins, Jack McKeon, Jason Isbell, Joakim Soria, Kansas City Royals, Kerry Wood, Los Angeles Angels, Mariano Rivera, Michael Cuddyer, Mike Cameron, Mike Scioscia, Minnesota Twins, Modern Family, Ned Yost, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Ludwick, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals
Posted on: May 9, 2011 11:53 pm
The Florida Marlins are off to the best start in club history, Josh Johnson is pitching like a Cy Young winner and Anibal Sanchez is threatening to re-visit No-Hitter Land. A lot is going right for the Marlins, and it couldn't be coming at a better time. This summer isn't just about this summer for Florida. With a new stadium set to open in 2012, these aren't your typical cut-rate Marlins. They need to stir interest and sell tickets and bring a strong product into their new ballpark to set a solid foundation.
This isn't to say the Marlins are looking to flex their financial muscle. But they're definitely looking to win, and behind Johnson, Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco, they've got three starters going in the right direction. And, in Leo Nunez, they've got one closer consistently nailing things down.
Three thoughts on the Marlins as they tangle with Philadelphia this week:
1. Johnson is incorporating a slower curve with the help of Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire in an effort to work deeper into games. He's thrown more than 200 innings in his career just once, in 2009, and both Johnson and the Marlins would like to get him to that level consistently. Already, he throws a fastball, slider, sinker and change-up. With a fastball that already kills at 94, 95 m.p.h., the curve that is clocked around 77, 78 is leaving hitters with little chance.
2. The Marlins are off to their best start with All-Star Hanley Ramirez off to one of his worst, which bodes well for them for later this summer. Because, as one scout says, "Hanley will hit. He always hits." The man who has hit the most home runs of any major-league shortstop since 2006 started the season with none in his first 23 games. He's currently hitting just .195 with one homer and 13 RBI. While the Marlins wait, first baseman and team leader Gaby Sanchez, plugs along as one of the game's most underrated players.
3. Without question, the biggest difference in this year's Marlins is at the back end of games. Florida's bullpen is second in the NL with a 2.59 ERA. Last year's Marlins ranked ninth in the league with a 4.01 ERA and ninth in saves (39). This year, Nunez's 11 saves (the Marlins' total) are tied for third in the NL. Brian Sanches, Randy Choate and Ryan Webb have been instrumental in the improvement.
-- The Marlins are expected to pursue a third baseman at some point this summer, but veteran Greg Dobbs has been outstanding there in the wake of the fractured elbow prospect Matt Dominguez suffered late in spring training. Dobbs' steady glove and .359 batting average and .411 on-base percentage have eased some of the Marlins' pain.
-- One scout, who was in Seattle for this weekend's White Sox-Mariners series, on Milton Bradley being designated for assignment Monday: "He was going through the motions. Good for Jack [Zduriecik, Mariners' general manager]."
-- Among the reasons to believe Cleveland is for real: On Monday, the Indians' +48 run differential was best in the majors. Next-closest in the American League: The Yankees, at +38. Next-closest in baseball: St. Louis at +44, followed by the Phillies, who were even with the Yanks at +38.
-- Those watching closely the final two months of last season know that Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson's 5-0 start is no fluke. Masterson's 2.86 ERA from Aug. 4 through season's end in 2010 ranked ninth in the AL. Currently, his 2.11 ERA is fifth in the AL. "The last six weeks last year, he was able to repeat his delivery more often," Indians manager Manny Acta says. Part of that is, pitching coach Tim Belcher has helped him institute a series of checkpoints in his windup and deliver, which allows the 6-6 Masterson to be more efficient at making in-game adjustments. It's also allowed Masterson to reduce his walks. Over 47 innings pitched this year, he has 34 strikeouts and just 13 walks.
-- One scout on the Cubs: "They have no speed, and not much power."
-- The Padres have been shut out a stunning eight times in 34 games, twice as much as anybody else (the Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox and Athletics each has been shut out four times). Indications are, Petco Park is getting in the heads of newcomers like Brad Hawpe (signed over the winter) and Ryan Ludwick (acquired at last July's trading deadline) and others.
-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on Petco, where he's also managed several games as Colorado's skipper: "I think the worst damage it did when it was first built was to the home team. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth you could hear from across the other side when this thing was first built. I think it's been tinkered with since. I think perception is so huge in this game. The first thing hitters look for are flags and distances. Actually, I just try and get them focused saying, 'Look at all that grass out there. There's room for all kinds of hits. Let's focus on that.'"
-- More Hurdle on Petco Park: "I've got to believe if you put Tony Gwynn in here, you know what? He'd get a lot of hits in here. I do believe that, unfortunately, there's this thing called the male ego, and if that number's big out there [on the outfield fence] and you think, 'I’m still going to hit it out', before you know it, you're doing more grunting and manipulating your swing just to try and hit it out rather than just hit it hard."
-- Outstanding: Angels outfielder Torii Hunter's at-bat music for his first trip to the plate at home each night is the theme from Sanford & Son, the old television show. It started as a joke last week when Hunter was in a slump.
-- Great line from Larry Stone, the excellent baseball writer for the Seattle Times, on the rise of Justin Smoak: "The Mariners are trying to coax Pat Meares out of retirement so they can do it with Smoak & Meares."
-- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on counterpart Mike Scioscia earning his 1,000th win managing the Angels on Sunday: "You manage for 100 years, you will have 1,000 wins." Seriously, Guillen added, "I think it's a great thing, especially when you manage the same ballclub."
Likes: The "20 Greatest Games" on MLB Network is a cool feature. Watched the network's treatment of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris' 1-0 classic for the Twins over Atlanta, with Morris and John Smoltz in studio. It's worth seeing. ... White Sox outfielder Mark Teahen says he still keeps in touch with some of his ex-Royals' teammates -- the few left from when he was there. ... Glad to see LaTroy Hawkins (shoulder surgery) back in Milwaukee's bullpen. ... Latest CD rave: The Sound of Love: The Very Best of Darlene Love. Man, that woman can sing.
Dislikes: Gatorade used to be so easy. You worked out, you sweated, you rehydrated. But now, there's Gatorade for before your workout (Prime), during/after your workout (Perform) and post-workout (Recovery). What if you drink them in the wrong order. Then what happens? ... So now Kate Hudson is in this Something Borrowed? Does she choose her roles, or handlers? And to think, there was such hope for her after Almost Famous.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You're the reason I changed to beer from soda pop
-- Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, (You're the Reason) Our Kids Are Ugly
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: March 6, 2011 12:30 pm
TAMPA -- The corner locker in a big-league clubhouse is the perfect location for a player who enjoys sitting back and observing.
Here to win a job in the club's bullpen, Prior knows there is every chance he may open the season in Triple-A. And that's OK by him, as long as his troubled right shoulder stays intact and allows him what probably is this one last chance to finish a career on his terms, and not those of his shoulder.
Adding a touch of nostalgia to the spring is that Prior is reunited with new Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The two worked together for five seasons in Chicago, nearly helping to push the Cubs into the World Series in 2003.
"So far, he's been good," Rothschild said. "Arm-wise, he's feeling good. ... We need to go in progression to build him up.
"The bullpen is where he's going to be, I think. It's what his arm can handle."
In two spring innings so far, Prior has allowed neither a hit nor a run. He's struck out three, and walked one.
"If he's right, he's going to win some games for the Yankees this year," one big-league scout who saw Prior pitch last summer said.
From his perch at the corner locker after another morning of work recently, Prior was pleased with the way things are going. His latest comeback started in earnest last summer pitching for an independent league team in Fullerton, Calif., where he showed enough that the Rangers signed him to a minor-league deal. He pitched one minor-league inning in a Triple-A game near season's end, and then one inning in a minor-league playoff game.
"I think it's there," he said. "Like everybody, there are things I need [work on]. I'm trying to find the release point on my breaking ball."
"I feel like the ball's coming out of my hand free," he said. "I'm not pushing it."
Since cranking it up in Fullerton last summer, Prior said he's throwing the ball "a lot better. I'm more efficient. I'm not on top of the ball."
Prior, still just 30, has not pitched in the majors since 2006. Rothschild believes his shoulder has never been the same since his '03 collision with infielder Marcus Giles. Then, in '05, he suffered a compression fracture in his elbow when he was drilled by a line drive comebacker by Colorado's Brad Hawpe.
"Not to get melodramatic, but after '05, I was just battling to get out there every fifth day in '06," said Prior, who made only nine starts that year. "Then, '07 was a nightmare [exploratory surgery by Dr. James Andrews revealed structural damage to the shoulder]."
He could have packed it in -- he's earned nearly $13 million during his career, according to baseballreference.com -- but, well, a pitcher pitches. Until, at least, he no longer can. And despite his checkered injury history, Prior still wasn't ready for a life of "what could have been?".
His time on the mound last summer confirmed that in his mind.
And where he once pitched in All-Star Games and NL Championship Series' (2003), now he gauges his progress differently.
"I saw that, steadily, things were getting better and better," he said. "When I faced St. Louis' farm system in the playoff game, St. Louis always has great hitters and I held my own. I was thinking, 'Hey, I can do this.'"
This spring, he's still thinking the same thing.
"I think that my starting days are definitely on the back burner," he said. "From what I know of my shoulder, and from what they know of my shoulder, this is my best situation to come back."
Sunblock Day? Surely, you jest. More great weather this spring. Keep the Banana Boat well-stocked.
Likes: Mark Prior as healthy as we've seen him in several years. I don't know if his shoulder is going to last, but it would be a nice chapter in his career if he can stay on the field and pitch out of the Yankees' bullpen. ... Our Ear on Baseball podcast featuring C. Trent Rosecrans with two members of The Baseball Project, Scott McCaughey (most famous for his work with REM) and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3). The Baseball Project has just released their second disc and will be touring, including a handful of Cactus League ballpark shows the latter half of March. Good stuff musically and good listening. You can get it here. ... Clarence Clemons, sax man for the E Street Band, playing on a new Lady Gaga song. What a combination they must have been on recording day. ... As far as fast food pizza goes, I'll take Papa John's.
Dislikes: That I left Tampa right before a special theatrical screening of Smokey and the Bandit at which Burt Reynolds was to appear. Now what a hoot that would have been. No word whether the Trans-Am was going to show.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"James Dean in that Mercury '49